Chapter 5 : Chapter Five
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Chapter Five : Why Must They Wink?
“Turn around, turn around
And fix your eye in my direction
So there is a connection”
- Stranger by Secondhand Serenade
Claire clung to my arm with a death grip. It was surprising that my blood was somehow able to travel through her hold and continue circulation effortlessly. It was a physiological phenomenon, to say the least.
“Ooh la la! How exciting!” she exclaimed.
The students of Beauxbatons carefully watched the horizon for any signs of Hogwarts and Durmstrang’s arrival. Fifth through Seventh Years were comfortably waiting on the largest of the palace’s several balconies. First through Fourth Years were crammed onto the second-largest gallery, which just so happened to be marginally smaller.
Stars twinkled in the sky, winking playfully. Below us, I could see the Beauxbatons Garden of Grandeur. Faux stars realistically mimicked their celestial cousins, shimmering brilliantly, illuminating the garden clouds with a spectacular show of variegated lights. It was certainly more spectacular than any botanical garden on earth.
Suddenly, my peers erupted into cheers. I could see a large ship off into the distance. The vessel slowly grew larger as the minutes past by. Soon it was close enough for us to distinguish that it was, in fact, the Durmstrang ship.
“I hear that it was mandatory for all eligible Durmstrang students to partake in vigorous exercise this summer in preparation for the games.” Jacques divulged.
A slandering of Durmstrang Institute pursued his comment, each rumor far worse than its predecessor.
A Sixth Year girl decided to be the first to one-up Jacques’s pathetic excuse for malicious gossip. “That, and their Headmaster trained them during school last year. All this year’s candidates had to pass a series of tests, or face expulsion to avoid the Goblet of Fire selecting any unworthy students.”
Claudette and I exchanged glances, rolling our eyes in unison.
A usually nice boy from my year, Harvey Guillaumes, took the next stab. “They even had meetings with Victor Krum and Albert Spitznogle of the past two Tournaments to strategize.”
“I know from a respected source that on top of all those ridiculous practices, Odin Byelbog also infuses his students with Anabolic-Androgenic potions to enhance masculinity,” Christian said with a rapacious glint in his eye. “He even forces it onto the girls.”
A few shocked gasps escaped our friends, even Claudia and I had to cringe with sheer abhorrence. Christian’s prospect, though most likely untrue, was simply too ghastly to not wince. Our disgust signified that Christian had succeeded in dishing out the most indisputably horrendous tale, and his triumphant smile advertised his absolute satisfaction in winning that round of rumor spewing. Christian’s parents would have been proud had they watched him making the fictional character Pinocchio seem like the patron saint of truth telling.
“Igor Karkaroff was held responsible for Durmstrang’s devastating loss. Odin Byelbog has to do all these things to keep his reputation among those filthy northern barbarians,” Claire spat. “They’re disgusting.”
“Too right, Claire.”
She beamed as Christian agreed with her, giving him a generous serving of undiluted praise for his win while basking in the glory of having someone agree with her, as well. Jacques seemed to take particular notice regarding her reaction toward Christians victory. He tried to keep a straight face and look elsewhere, but I saw a little pain seep through the façade and paint his face with dismay.
Poor guy. He wanted Claire so bad, and no matter what he did, he wouldn’t have her. I’m sure the only reason she gave Christian attention was because she intuitively sensed our inevitable break-up was rapidly approaching. Although, she could at least have been coquettish with the one who loves her for whom she is – a bubbly blonde – rather than the one with the second-largest wallet.
I was glad it was not my problem.
The younger students broke out into a striking salvo below us. Inquisitive, we frantically searched the coast for the Hogwarts delegation. Finally, the prefect from the train pointed out a barely decipherable figure flying toward the palace. As it got closer, we saw that it was an airborne carriage. Better yet, it needed no means of pulling; the carriage flew independently.
We were so captivated by Hogwarts’ arrival, that no one noticed the Durmstrang ship anchoring. A girl on our balcony shrieked when the carriage got near enough for us to see the intricate details of a typical carriage. Her pallid face made me almost believe she saw a ghost. But that was ridiculous. She’d probably just gotten over-excited by our archrival, or something similar.
Henri’s attempt to begin another round of fatuous speculations, this time about Hogwarts was futile. Everyone was too excited about the upcoming feast to care about stupid rumors. Our vilifications could wait.
Madame Lapis wore her best dress robes, as did we, to welcome the other schools’ contenders. Her cerulean robes complimented the blue and gray uniforms of her pupils. Fine laces usually reserved for the fairest of queens lined her robes. The lapis lazuli gems – which adorned her neck, ears, fingers and wrists – were of the purest shades of blue.
The excessive use of blue tones may have been over-done had the woman wearing such an ensemble been anyone other than the one and only Madame Lapis. On her, it was breathtaking, not tacky. Claire radiated envy, unable to help being jealous that – though wearing more blue would compliment her eye color – she would forever be unable to wear anything like Madame’s outfit for it would look cheap on her. The various professors standing at the table behind her looked moderately dreary in comparison.
The table had almost certainly been set up for the professors and headmasters to eat at because Madame Lapis did not trust that the barbarous northerners could handle eating unsupervised by authorities. It was so typical of Madame Lapis to think that her students were better than those of other schools were. It would have made me laugh had she not told me to keep Christian, Jacques and Henri under control throughout the entire year. I’d yet to warn them against any misdoings. Could I be blamed for “forgetfulness”?
She cleared her throat to stop the chatter.
“Today, my dear students, we welcome two of the finest educational establishments in Europe to our beautiful abode, here at Beauxbatons Academy of Magic. So, without further a due, let us greet our foreign guests to our school.
“Allow me to introduce our friends from the north, Durmstrang Institute for Magical Learning and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”
Our adversaries entered the Dining Chamber, each erect with the pride one can only feel when representing his or her school. These students obviously took themselves quite seriously.
The Durmstrang students’ attire primarily consisted of dark, heavy furs. Most of them were perspiring, and some looked like they would faint from heat exhaustion. Evidently, those philistines didn’t have enough sense to dress appropriately for southern France.
We applauded them accordingly, representing our school well. However, when a Durmstrang boy – rotund instead of muscular like his peers – with flushed cheeks and soaked hair wavered in step, younger Beauxbatons students couldn’t stop exchanging glances and subtly snickering. Even Claudette and I had some difficulty with stifling our laughter.
Then, I turned my attention to the boys and girls of Hogwarts. They were uniform in woolen black cloaks, a few looking uncomfortably heated but none on the verge of fainting. They were noticeably more laid-back with their pride, determination and confidence than Durmstrang; they stood straight and could even be written-off as pompous fools, yet none of them could manage to emulate the same severity and intimidation of their furry counterparts.
Despite this slight deficiency, I knew Beauxbatons took the Hogwarts competition much more seriously. Many of us shot the Hogwarts students our dirtiest looks – which I can assure were truly weapons of mass destruction as far as the receiver’s self esteem was concerned. After years of living in high society France, we all were practiced in our field of disgusted facial expressions. In fact, it could have been said that we had perfected derogatory look-making to an art form.
One boy caught my eye. He was definitely not trying as hard to daunt us. In fact, if I knew better I’d’ve said that he was making no attempt. He embodied nonchalance. Or maybe it was his way of conveying that he didn’t have to try to be better than everyone else; he just was. No point in trying to be something you already are. But, there seemed to be something more to his casual demeanor. There was something different about him that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
I stared, unashamed of my interest. I looked at it as scouting this kid out for Beauxbatons, because I would’ve bet my parents’ lifesavings on that he would be the Hogwarts entrant. Staring wasn’t a crime, and it especially wasn’t when there was a worthy purpose behind the act.
It was completely justifiable.
He was fairly lanky, most likely the seeker for a Quidditch team. His square jaw, though somewhat harsh, had a bit of a softening effect. His handsome baby face was a misleading feature for sure, and he was going to use it to his advantage. I almost wanted him to turn in my direction, so I could scrutinize him properly...
And then it happened. While I was calculating how much of a threat he was to Beauxbatons, he glanced directly at me, as if he knew I was sizing up the competition he offered.
I tried to make it look like I wasn’t watching him, stupidly pleading innocence when I’d been caught red-handed. I knew he knew what I was doing. He did the weirdest thing, too. He smiled. It was one of those genuine smiles, too. Not the fake kind my friends and I had mastered. It was a really real smile.
Unable to resist reciprocating such sincerity, I grinned back.
But then he did something truly unexpected. Something which baffled me to my very core.
He winked at me.
After, he turned his attention forward, leaving me to have a nervous breakdown in as much privacy as a jam-packed Dining Chamber could allow.
He winked. I couldn’t believe it.
What the hell did a wink mean?
Was it supposed to intimidate me? Was he assuring me that he was going above any expectations I could have? Was he going to surpass everyone’s expectations? The wink could’ve been him giving me the old guarantee that his relaxed attitude was just his complete confidence in himself as far as competition went.
Or was it his way of making friends with me? I wasn’t glaring at him. I was the only French kid who wasn’t glaring. Maybe he saw that as me trying to offer friendship, and winking was his way of accepting. Did he think we could break the frigid prejudices between the schools? If he came up to me sometime after the ceremony or something, that could be it.
But what if it wasn’t that?
What if he was just trying to freak me out? That could be it. He was just winking to make me go insane and analyze everything like a freak. I was such a freak.
Yeah, that had to be it. It had to be the answer. It simply had to be the answer.
Who the hell did I think I was kidding?
However, I didn’t want to consider any other possibility to the smile-and-wink reaction I’d received. It was too disturbing, and just got me worked-up and worried. It wasn’t worth the headache.
Apparently I’d gone all lackadaisical again and missed part of Madame Lapis’s important speech. Oh well.
She aimlessly blathered on like a politician, introducing various members of the Ministère d’Magie. After insignificant introductions; more rambling; the head of some “important” department explaining rules; even more monotonous blabbering on Madame’s behalf; a boring description about how we should consider ourselves “warned” and take caution in submitting our names; some more meaningless, incoherent prattling; and nearly an hour of unjustly wasting a good portion of my life, she finally shut up – even then, I suspect it was not because Madame was finished or had run out of words to say, but had grown parched after continually lecturing for such an extensive period of time.
She took a breath and paused for dramatic effect on the grand ending of her address. “And at this time I wish you all happy eating! Bon appétit!”
A great feast appeared before us. Some of the foods were foreign; the borsch clearly Durmstrang’s delicacy and the undecipherable dishes most likely those of our British enemies.
“Why did they make British dishes?” Claire asked.
Claudette poked a fork at one of their dishes apprehensively. Open-minded as she was, their food was quite frightening. “Ummm, because they are from the United Kingdom and would feel more comfortable here with familiar foods…”
I decided not to test the meaty Shepard’s Pie and filled a small bowl with some borsch, a vegetarian dish that I was more than pleased to replace my usual salad with. I’d unquestionably get seconds.
“Familiarity won’t help them in competition, that’s for sure,” Christian interjected.
“Especially if it contains so much fat!”
Jacques chortled, but quickly went back to his supper. He didn’t want Claire to figure out he liked her. I thought that that was stupid. Not only would that rid me of her, but it’d also save her from Christian and give Jacques the girl of his dreams. Quite the winning situation, if you asked me.
“Excuse me,” one of the Durmstrang boys approached us. He’d taken off his furs, revealing a ridiculously fit body. His biceps were huge and toned, even without flexing. And his well defined six-pack showed through his tight turtleneck. How fair was it that he was built like a god, where as I among many others suffered a severe lack of bulky muscles?
Not very, that’s for sure.
Claudia immediately sized him up. She must have liked what she saw, too. “What can we do for you… I’m sorry I must have missed your name.”
“Oh, sorry. I am rude. I am called Emmett Romanov.” He reached out to shake her hand, a polite gesture when you took his massive hands out of consideration. The man – for this was no boy – could have broken her arm with a simple handshake.
I tried to send Claudette a message telepathically, telling her to avoid physical contact with this beastly figure at all costs.
She either didn’t get the memo or ignored it for she shook his hand. Thankfully, this Human Muscle did not crush every bone of hers and seemed relatively friendly. I would have had to beat him up if he’d done anything to her, and I doubt that little old me would have caused him any damage.
“Nice to meet you, Emmett. I am Claudette Noelle, and these are my friends: Damien Darquette, Christian Devereaux, Jacques Bessette, Henri Mercier and Damien’s girlfriend, Claire Laurent.”
I thought it was hilarious that she refused to introduce Claire as a friend.
The Human Muscle nodded and smiled. “Hello, it is very nice to meet you.”
Claudette’s grin brightened and widened. It was a wonder how the hell that thing fit on her petite face. However, it did and I don’t think I’d ever seen her that authentically happy to meet someone. Sure, she was always nice to new acquaintances, but never completely genuine. She hated opening up to people as much as I. This guy, for some reason or another – and I suspected his disgustingly fit anatomy had a lot to do with it – she liked him.
“So, what can I do for you?” Claudette’s long eyelashes fluttered flirtatiously.
No! My eyes must have deceived me. I did not bare whiteness to Claudette flirting with someone she’s only known for a grand total of five seconds. Nope, that could not have happened. Claudia would never do that. Not my Claudia! No way in hell did the blonde one seat away from me just do that. I was imagining things.
Or that wasn’t really Claudette. Aliens could have taken over her body. That was a definite possibility. And that was only if I wasn’t hallucinating.
Maybe I was dreaming…
“My friends need more borsch. Could you spare some?”
She nodded dreamily, totally oblivious to the fact that borsch was the only thing I could eat at our table due to mine being a vegetarian and whatnot.
But what did she care? Not like I had biceps the size of the Eiffel Tower! No, I was just Damien Darquette, her best friend since First Year. It appeared that that didn’t count for anything. Nothing at all.
Emmett beamed and took away my dinner. “Thank you very much, Claudette.”
He winked before turning around, returning to his friends with some freshly stolen borsch.
He winked at her! What was it with foreigners and winking? Or did they all have twitches?
Whatever their problem was, The Human Muscle had Claudette blushing up a storm. Worse yet, she was a much deeper red than Claire whenever I’d do some chivalrous deed for her earlier in our relationship.
While the others carried on a standard discussion about riches or Hogwarts, I started questioning my dear Claudia.
“Excuse me,” I said waving my hands in front of her face. “Earth to Mademoiselle Noelle!”
She instantaneously snapped out of it. “What?”
“Why are you whatting me? I should be the one asking you the questions!”
“Why?” I was mistaken. She was not completely out of dreamland, and was still somewhat delirious.
“Let’s see, maybe you should start dishing about The Human Muscle!”
“The Human Muscle?”
Was she completely daft? “Yes, dearest Claudette. The Human Muscle. You went completely gaga for him. I normally do not use such vocabulary as ‘gaga,’ however in this situation I firmly believe it is the only appropriate word.”
“Yes gaga! You were falling all over The Human Muscle!” I exclaimed, outraged by her ongoing idiocy. I wondered how long the trance he’d had over her would last. Maybe he was wearing Amortentia as cologne. That would explain the enchantment.
“Damien, what the hell is up with the nickname, The Human Muscle?”
I was getting impatient. She was evading answering and was irritating with the dumb pretense. I knew her better than that; no boy would ever be able to morph Claudia into a babbling schoolgirl.
“Did you not notice those massive biceps of his?” I asked incredulously.
“No, Damien,” she replied curtly. “I did not.”
“Don’t lie, Claudette. I’m not blind. I saw you staring.”
“I did no such thing.”
I rolled my eyes. “Really, Claudia. What did you see in this ‘Human Muscle’?”
Her anger flared at a moment’s notice. “Damien Maurice Darquette! His name is Emmett Romanov, thank you very much. Not ‘The Human Muscle.’ How on earth did you come up with that anyway? He was so nice…”
I interrupted her, “Again, must I point out his sheer brawn? Or are you going to lie again and say that you ‘didn’t notice.’”
“Emmett is a very polite person, Damien. I suggest you take advantage of his staying here and learn a thing or two about proper manners from him. Unless you’re going to succumb to the despicable prejudices everyone else has.”
“I only pointed out he had muscles,” I sighed. “Anyway, it’s not like I said he wasn’t nice or whatever. I just…”
“You just judged him before you got to know him, you intolerant oaf!”
With that, Claudette marched out of the Dining Chamber for the second feast this week.
I was the oaf in the situation?
“‘Intolerant oaf,’ eh?” I heard from behind me. “I’ve been called a lot in my day, mate, but never an ‘intolerant oaf.’”
“Yeah, well she’ll get over it,” I said.
Turning around to see who I was talking to, I damn near gasped with astonishment. It was the blonde boy who’d winked at me! I wanted to die right there. Die!
“Maybe, maybe not, mate,” he shrugged. “She’s quite the catch, I wouldn’t take any chances with her.”
“I’m not… we’re not…” I stammered. Quickly trying to collect my cool I sputtered out, “What I mean is, we’re not an item. She’s my best friend, not my girlfriend.”
He nodded. “Either way, don’t let go of her.” His intonation was serious, yet almost hopeful at the same time. Why would he be hopeful?
A short, however tremendously awkward silence pursued. It largely consisted of him staring at me and me avoiding eye contact, wishing he’d stop… and yet somehow almost enjoying it. I was also wondering why he thought Claudette and I were together.
He shook his head suddenly, as if he were making an effort to shake off a daze. “By the way, I’m Tristan. Tristan Edwards.”
He nodded again, his twitch having moved from his eye to the pivotal joints in his neck.
A slightly shorter awkward silence followed. That time I didn’t elude his eyes, but sort of looked at him like a normal person. It was more like staring, but I swear I wasn’t staring intentionally. It just happened. My heart flopped around in my chest, praying we would soon resume our dialogue and continue with normality. I quickly realized that any time spent with Tristan was going to be weird, for some reason.
“Believe it or not, I actually came over here with a purpose,” he started, choosing his words carefully. “I mean, other than chewing your arse out about that girl.”
I nervously laughed. “What can I do for you?”
“Well, you wouldn’t happen to be able to spare some éclairs for dessert. It look as if your chefs think we British actually enjoy eating things like ‘Spotted Dick.’”
I let out a real laugh this time, maybe even a smirk. “Spotted Dick?”
Tristan nodded, again. “Yeah, well don’t blame me. I’m not the bloke who named it that! At any rate, I think it’s the most nauseating dessert. That is, if you can call it a ‘dessert.’ The word generally implies that something is sweet and delicious, and Spotted Dick accomplishes neither, trust me.”
“You’ve got to admit though, it’s an interesting concept,” I argued, defending his nation’s delicacy while offering him a plate of my own.
“Too right you are, mate,” he grabbed the dish, nodded – yet again, and winked before disappearing into the sea of Hogwarts students.
He winked at me. I could not believe my luck.
I was going to kill the next foreigner who winked, nodded or performed any gesture resembling either one, or even a combination of the two.
A/N: Reviews are appreciated. Thanks!
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