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Chapter 4 : Dumalis
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Disclaimer; the plot belongs to Murray Bail. the canon to JK. the chapter title is a species of the genus Rosa.
Like the vase in which roses have once been distill’d –
You may break, you may shatter the vase if you will,
But the scent of the roses will hang round it still.’
The beauty of this rose, the Dumalis, lies in the smooth, clean-looking petals. They are shed every now and then in irregular patches, leaving small gaps through which the head of the flower can be glimpsed. The stem is symmetrical and thick, holding aloft its pretty prize. They are quite normal looking, I think, it is the petals that ensure the this rose stands out.
A certain Mr Finley Cave, a 7th year Hufflepuff was the dark horse by far, but his knowledge of Roses was intense. In conversation he employed with lip-smaking relish terms like ‘petiole’, ‘inflorescences’, ‘falcatiousness’ and ‘fusiform’. Rose, who had learned the flowers by sight, touch, smell and (when she was younger) taste, had never bothered with technicalities and sometimes secretly wondered what on earth he was talking about.
Dumalis was first really described in the late 17th century by a botanist who loved to cross breed. There was a garden full of it in the grounds of the Tudor castle Hampton Court, where they climbed up statues and spilled over hedges haphazardly. Finley Cave had once been there when he was a young child, and he had plucked one of them from the ground, holding it close to his nose and inhaling deeply. His father, a gardener himself, had sat down next to him and told him all about it.
Finley Cave was a relative unknown in the world of hogwarts. He was in Hufflepuff, and was relatively ok at school. He didn't play quidditch and wasn't on any of the teams like gobstones or duelling club. He hung around with his other hufflepuff friends talking about comic books and the new Matt Damon movie. He was a muggle born. He was kind.
When Finley heard of Rose’s challenge he was intrigued, but he did not think he should enter. He thought his knowledge of Roses inadequate. But when it became clear that no-one in the whole of Hogwarts seemed to know more than the simple dichotomy of Damask and Genunsus, he put himself forward. In his pocket he turned a thimble, a gift from his mother, around and around. It was hard to imagine a more unsuitable name than Cave for someone so straight and tall.
What interested Rose was his hair. She had thought it was just blonde, but then she remembered a pair of shoes she had as a child, golden slippers bright and shiny and a little stiff to the touch. That was probably why she looked upon him favourably. She wanted to touch it, but had to bite her lip to stop herself. It wouldn’t be right, not now anyway.
Instead she would offer him a rock cake that she had made herself from a special recipe her father and mother had hidden deep within the folds of a recipe book. Rose could tell it was one of Hagrid's recipes from the spindly handwriting.
‘How are your teeth?’ She would ask, a slight smile on her lips, ‘Try a rock cake?’
Food as a therapeutic offering between strangers has never been satisfactorily explained. It is an ordinary action, mundane even, but it goes deeper (oh much deeper) than mere hospitality. By producing food, slaving in the kitchen over hot stove and cold refridgerator, and then presenting this food under the harsh light of day to a stranger a woman is offering an extension of herself. Here, you may enjoy a rock cake, but not me. All a man may enjoy is a taste, a mere morsel of the final prize. A fragment. She is one step removed.
If Rose’s cakes were anything to go by, then she would be a hard prize indeed.
Finley took one, and chewed on it thoughtfully. ‘Did you ever come across a rose, it had the name of an English town....’ He brushed the head of a quill against his chin thoughtfully.
Rose smiled. She liked him for saying that.
Finley stretched out on one of the great squishy armchairs that adorned the universal common room. He hadn’t even begun to name one flower and already he was making it look easy. He had no nerves, no sweaty palms, no shifty eyes. He was at ease, making Rose and himself comfortable. Saskia grinned to herself. Finally, she thought, finally we’ve found the guy.
‘Roses line the streets of Otley, it’s a small town in Yorkshire. The things are everywhere. I grew up there, and we had a cosmophylla bush growing rampant in the garden, a thick thing with stiff leaves. I liked it though, the colour was engaging. When we were younger we were taught to recognise them by length and the size of the heads of the flowers, and if we got one wrong dad would hit us hard with the back of a ruler.’
Rose gasped then and he smiled at her. 'It was just me dad, he's a little intense. He's a gardener, see, that's what got me interested. What made you interested in them?’
‘It was my name.’ Rose said, feeling a little stupid. Here was a man with a true history of roses, and the only reason she liked them was because of her name.
‘Just your name?’ He asked politely.
‘Well,’ Rose said, blushing a little, ‘I think they’re beautiful. Some of them are so small, tiny little things, and others are great ambitious curling things, with thick petals and curving stems that seem neverending. I just always thought it was so wild that one genus could have so many different species, and so different as well. Like people, I suppose.'
‘They grow on you.’ Finley said, smiling at his own joke.
At three in the afternoon, after identifying just over 20 roses he said he was finished for the day, and smiling at Rose he picked up his book satchel and sauntered off.
‘What do we think of him, Rose dear?’ Audrey said late at night when it was all dark and Rose’s red face could not be seen.
‘I don’t know.’ She said uncertainly. ‘He seems confident enough.’
‘Screw that, do you like him?’ Saskia asked impatiently.
‘I don’t know.’ Rose echoed. And then she repeated herself. ‘He seems confident enough.’
‘You are infuriating sometimes, did you know that?’ Saskia said and Rose could hear her turn around in her bed.
‘I don’t need to think about this now, he’s only named 20 roses. He’s got hundreds left, and besides, he might not even make it.’
Audrey sighed. ‘Yes, but like you said, he seems confident.’
'I think he's rather good looking, you know.' Saskia interjected, her voice taunting Rose. 'What do you think, Rosebud?'
Rose rolled onto her back and looked up at the hangings of her bed. There, in the tapestry, as if the bed had been made especially for her, was a single Rose. She didn’t know why it was there, but it was comforting to see something that she loved so dearly every night before she fell asleep. She had often thought it was your average Damask, but tonight it looked like a Dumalis.
Finley came the next day and identified a further 20 or so roses. He would laugh with Rose, tell her jokes, make some bizarre anecdote about a particular rose, or merely say the name quickly and move on. People flocked to watch him sit, cross-legged in front of Rose as she flicked through the pages, and hear his voice pronouncing each one.
There were some that he thought beneath him. As if he didn't think he should have to name that common ground variety of Damask. Rose would have to stop him, and remind him the rules of the task, and he would sigh, a sheepish grin on his face, and he would say 'Well of course, that one is Damask Anthropia, anyone can see that.'
On the third day he bought her a pressed Rose, dried out and paper thin. He handed it to her, smiling.
'Thought you might like it, it's a Dumalis, you know.'
Rose nodded, touching her fingers carefully against the vulnerability of the pressed Rose. She didn't think that she did like it. It was so unlike a real rose, so lifeless. A proper Rose, alive and blooming, seemed to shine with the vibrancy and promise of a sunny day, this dead, pressed thing seemed constricted somehow. As if someone had strangled it, and pushed all the air out of it.
Rose didn't like it at all. It was not what she thought Roses were supposed to be liked. But she smiled at Finley, and said it was beautiful, and after he left Saskia and Audrey cooed about how lovely and romantic it was for him to get her a gift, and only three days in. She could tell they were already rooting for him. She hadn't made up her mind, not yet anyhow.
She sighed and slipped the flipbook of rose pictures into her drawer, settling down at her desk to do work. But she couldn't think. She couldn't concentrate. All she could see in her mind was the little Rose, shrivelled and unrecognisable as the grand Dumalis that it once was.
As they say, tall trees breed taller stories. There was once a woman named Cornflower. If a man touched her on any part of her body his skin would turn blue, permanently, and so everyone would know that he had touched Cornflower. Her father would then hunt them down and give them a dressing down so that the situation was never repeated.
There was a man in Scotland who would never talk to anyone who was less than 6 feet tall. Once upon a time he fell in love with a woman who was so short she could fit inside his pocket watch.
There was a woman who made a necklace out of lavatory chains and swore that she could hear the flush when she wore it to bed.
There was a girl at school who was so beautiful that if people even saw one of her many freckles they would go insane.
The tallest Roses have the smallest seeds. From tiny little specks they grow into great climbing things that creep and curl through the air until they reach the sky. The biggest seeds, bulbs and the like would make Roses that bloomed wide, but stumpy. The flower itself would be quite large but the stem short.
What is that to teach us, I wonder? Is that to teach us that we should not judge books by their covers? Or that from little things, big thigns grow? Or are we simply to learn that it is the odd that make the best stories, and that we are always apt to listen.
We like stories, it is in our nature. That is how we are, and we can’t change that anymore than we can change the wind. But sometimes it is good to acknowledge that, and to remember that it does not bode well for the mind to dwell in dreams and forget to live.
A/N; I know this chapter is really short, and i apologise. the next chapter is going to be very long, ive already written it, and i will update it as soon as i update on some of my other fics. im just overwhelmed with the kind comments ive gotten from everyone, and all the people who think this story is great, thankyou to everyone who is reviewing, and i hope you enjoy the introduction of finley cave. Oh, and i wasn't sure if i cleared this up or not, but Scorpius is making his grand entrance next chapter. !!! Enjoy!
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