“I fancy her,” he said, staring at the bottom of his butterbeer glass like he’d just lost all faith in mankind.
“Oh do you really
?” I said, trying not to laugh. Freddy was unnecessarily theatrical; it always occurred to me that most of the problems in his life were self-inflicted. He was impractical in the highest sense of the word.
Albus rolled his eyes and went back to downing his dinner with haste. I watched him, trying not to let my eyes linger too long, but it was difficult. He was pushing down so much food so quickly that it was hard to believe. “Just ask her out.”
“Ask her out?” Freddy waved his fork. “If you took a look at her, you’d know why I can’t just do that! She’s gorgeous
Al looked at me. “Who is she?”
“A coworker. She just came over from Egypt a few months ago.”
“Nubia. She’s half-French.”
“Odd combination,” was all he managed before he reached for the chicken. I knew it was Quidditch season and all, but Al was just a Seeker – did they really eat so much? But I’d never really been one for Quidditch, so I supposed I wouldn’t know.
“When I said I’d be buying dinner,” said Freddy, looking wary, “I didn’t realize you were planning to empty my Gringotts account in one go.”
Al shrugged. I reached for my own plate and began eating. There was a short silence between us. I knew Freddy and Freddy knew Albus, but I didn’t know Al. The combination of the three of us lead to short pauses and stilted conversations. I knew Al played Quidditch and was single. Al knew that I worked for Freddy and wanted something more with my life. And that’s where our familiarity of each other ended.
“I think you should just talk to her. She can’t be that
– ” Al said.
“You have no idea,” Freddy said darkly. “I go two feet near her and start sounding like an idiot.”
“I don’t think that’s as much her as it’s you,” I said lightly. It earned me a scowl.
“What do you know about her, anyway?”
“She has five sisters. And she was married.”
Freddy, who’d been glugging down butterbeer began choking. “Married?
“She told me that she married when she was eighteen, but she divorced him a few years ago.”
“Sounds like a high maintenance type,” said Al.
Freddy ignored that. His jaw was dropping lower and lower by the second. “Why’d she chuck him?”
“Marlene told me he cheated on her. She won’t say much about him.” It wasn’t entirely true; Nubia had mentioned her ex-husband a few times, but it was always followed with a very colorful string of words, some of which were still in Egyptian.
Freddy visibly relaxed.
“How’re things with you and Scorpius?”
“Fine,” I said as quietly as I could manage.
Al spat out the drink of firewhiskey he’d been taking and gave me an alarmed look. “What did you say?”
“F- fine. We’re fine.”
“There’s a ‘we’, is there?”
“It’s not like that!”
Al flushed an angry scarlet and adjusted his glasses. “Nicky, he’s a Malfoy. D’you know what you’re getting yourself into?”
“Yes, thanks,” I said coolly, “but we’re just friends.”
“Yeah, just friends who’re going out to dinner soon,” said Freddy smugly. I smacked him on the side of the arm, but regretted it immediately under Al’s intense stare; it was as good of a confession.
“You do know what you’re getting yourself into?” Al repeated himself. His green eyes were slits. “Did you know that Molly – “
“Yeah, I did, actually,” I snapped. I’d spent the last few days regretting my decision to go out to dinner with Scorpius – the guilt had finally set in. Victoire had told me to let things happen as they happened, which wasn’t much of an answer at all. All I could do was hope that Molly wouldn’t mind too much. It was selfish, perhaps, but it wasn’t like there was much else I could do after I’d said yes.
Albus frowned. Really, it was like he was trying to look over me when I was older than he was!
There was a tense silence. Albus turned his gaze back to his dinner, but I knew he hadn’t forgotten.
I turned to Freddy, eager to change the subject. “Maybe you should just talk to her.”
“I – can’t,” he said helplessly. “She’s so hard to talk to, if you know what I mean.”
I didn’t. Talking with Scorpius – even though I didn’t think of him like Freddy thought of Nubia – was always easy and soft and pleasant.
But I nodded.
Freddy perked up. “Hey, maybe you could talk to her for me?”
“I…” I really didn’t want to.
He looked like a kicked puppy. “If you don’t want to, I guess it’s okay…”
I sighed. He was such a frustrating prat sometimes. “Fine.”
Merlin!” His breath came out in a rush. “Then maybe my mum will stop setting me up on those damned blind dates!”
We all burst out laughing – even Albus, whose moody expression disappeared immediately. We all knew too well the fate of the single and the unmarried in our family and the painful blind dates that followed. Before I’d left for France, Maman had tried to set up me up with a few “respectable” boys here and there. But since I’d been back, she’d thankfully let me be. It looked as though Freddy hadn’t been so lucky.
I was convinced the blind dates were all part of the Weasley family tradition to fill the magical population with our own kind. But the evening faded away and we laughed and I went home, exhausted from a day’s worth of work.
I arrived home through the rainfall, umbrella held against the sky. When I finally fumbled through the flat door and flopped onto the sofa, I realized that there was already someone next to me.
“Hey, watch it, will you?”
He moved jerkily, nearly pushing me off the sofa in the process.
“Oh, hi Louis.”
My younger brother bobbed his head in response. I smiled at him, wondering when he’d gotten so tall. Even though I lived with Victoire, I hadn’t seen him around much – his work kept him busy as mine did. I moved forward to embrace him and he brushed me off, looking preoccupied.
“What’re you doing here?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Vic's been writing me nagging me to stay with her.” I felt a small flush of guilt – I didn’t write to my brother much past the occasional hello. “Your flat’s as small as I remember.”
“It's not going to get any bigger, you know,” I said, smiling. My mood felt slightly uplifted that he was here. Louis was as carefree as Victoire was bossy. "And what do you mean 'stay'?"
“My flat flooded yesterday.”
“Don’t want to go stay with Maman, do you?”
He scowled. “Definitely not. She still tries to make me go to bed at nine!”
We both laughed at this. I marveled at how I’d been gone for three years with little contact with my brother, yet I could return abruptly and things could be as smooth as ever. That was Louis. Easy to talk to.
I strung my fingers through his hair. “And when’re you going to get a haircut? Trying to grow it out like Dad?”
“No, I’ve just been busy.” He turned to me, his eyebrows lifting. “By the way, Freddy already told me. What’s going on between you and Malfoy?”
“Nothing.” At the sight of his disbelieving expression, I rolled my eyes. “Really, it’s nothing
. I can take care of myself, Louis!”
He held up a palm. “Alright, alright, I know. You can handle yourself.”
There was a moment of brief silence. The lamp that was nearest to the sofa flickered slightly, casting ripples of darkness on the books it was balanced on.
“You know I can tell, right, Nicky?”
“Yes, I know.” I sighed. “It’s – Molly fancies him.”
He shrugged. “So it’s either you or Molly?”
“So why should it be Molly and not you?”
“Louis!” I smacked the side of his arm.
“What?” He leaned away from me, looking alarmed. “What’d I say?”
“That’s – that’s so – inconsiderate!”
“Well, so what?”
“I – it’s not very nice,” I finished lamely.
He snorted. “Right. Because Molly’s the epitome of nice
“Vic says I should just wait and see what happens.”
“That sounds like something Vic would say. Look, Nicky, just do whatever you think is right.”
“Everyone’ll kill me if I fancied Scorpius.” He opened his mouth, so I quickly added, “If
. Which I’m not saying I do.”
He began pulling out a stack from the table onto his lap. He filed through a sheaf of parchment before pulling out a blank canvas and some paintbrushes. I watched him expressionlessly.
“I…don’t know. He’s…nice – to talk to, I mean – “
“Well, looks like you’re in a fix,” he said, twirling a paintbrush in his hand. He didn’t look back up at me and I rolled my eyes, taking it as my cue to leave him to his painting.
“Guest room’s yours, Louis. Paint there. We don’t need a mess on the sofa – it’s new.”
“Yeah, fine,” Louis said, rising along with me, materials in hand. We both began walking down to the corridor, each to our own rooms, before Louis gave a look backwards at the sofa. “That thing’s new
? Maybe in the last century it was.”
I opened the door to my room. “It cost twenty Galleons, I’ll have you know! You know how Victoire is about those rubbish antique things.”
His full, familiar laugh floated in from his open door. I looked outside my window – at the rainfall, at the plants waxing a bright green in the water, at the flowers breathing in the water. The reassuring patter of raindrops filled my evening and I fell into the comfort of my bed, feeling warm.
A few moments passed in a gentle silence. I could feel my eyes slowly closing when there was a sharp click against the windowpane. I pulled back the curtains and –
Freddy’s owl hopped in, looking distinctly ruffled by the rain. He gave me a dignified hoot as I pulled the letter from his leg, his large eyes watching me carefully. I unfolded the parchment, only to be greeted by Freddy’s characteristically messy scrawl.
Hugo came by after you left and saw Nubia and just about died. Can’t have him beating me to it. Bloody Hugo.
Talk to Nubia tomorrow, will you?
Oh, I think Scor’s going to write you soon. He just asked me for your flat address.
As soon as I finished reading his letter, there was another knock. A white owl soared through the sheet of rain and landed on my desk gracefully, shaking the wetness out of its feathers. Cauldron gave an annoyed hoot and moved aside.
Would Saturday night work for dinner? I know you mentioned Friday before, but we’ll have family visiting.
Hopefully, that’ll be okay.
I could feel a smile tugging slightly on my face. His handwriting was much neater than Freddy’s…clean and legible where Freddy’s was a serpentine jungle of ink…
I pulled out two different sheets of parchment and sent them off with their respective owls, though both carried the same message.
I awoke early next morning with little occasion. It was one of the rare days that I woke up by myself without needing my sister to peel me off my bed. I’d spent much of the night before lazing around my flat, reading leisurely. Both Marlene and I got the coming weekend off since – according to Freddy, we had few orders coming in and still less work to do. We all knew that Freddy wanted some excuse to spend time alone with Nubia, but I wasn’t complaining.
The morning came around and it was a rare blossoming of sunshine. My flat walls were filled with dawn light and I arose, rubbing my eyes and feeling around my room. I left the swathed cocoon of blankets and felt around, shivering in the dawn chill. Outside, the sky looked like a watercolor painting – in light blues and yellows. An early morning frost clung to the grass outside our flat, dimming the vivid greens to muted tones.
Dawn really was beautiful.
I left my room, inching along the side of the wall, my arms wrapped around myself, when I bumped into someone.
I covered my eyes immediately. If it was Teddy Lupin again, I was going to kill –
“Nicky? Why’re you up so early?”
“Yeah, it’s me.”
Louis swam into view, looking exhausted. His pale skin was a light shade of grey under the darkness and his eyes were ringed. He had a simple white shirt on and he was carrying a paint palette in one hand and brushes in the other.
“I went to sleep early last night. I can’t sleep anymore. Why’re you awake?”
He shrugged. “Can’t sleep.”
To my surprise, he looked neither angry nor doubtful. Instead, he looked mildly disgusted. “Your flat has bloody thin walls, you know that?”
“Ted came over last night and honestly, I don’t really think I need to say much more.”
“They’re so bloody loud
. You wouldn’t even believe – “
I groaned and covered my ears. “Don’t say anymore.”
We all knew what happened when Teddy snuck over to our flat. I’d been dealing with it for about a month now, so I supposed I’d gotten used to it. But nothing quite beat the initial shock I’d gotten after moving in with my sister.
In the next room, we could both hear a shout and a scuffle, followed by a sudden burst of giggling.
Louis passed a hand over his face, looking irritated. “Thought I’d just get out a bit if I couldn’t sleep.”
I pointed to the materials in his hand. “What’re you working on?”
Our conversation fell to a small death. I didn’t know much about art or painting, so I stared at the walls. He walked down the hallway and descended on to the sofa. I followed, unsure of what more to say or do. He stared out the window blankly for a few seconds, before setting up his canvas on his lap. He held his paintbrush with his teeth and furrowed his brow, obviously disconcerted by the half-empty canvas in front of him.
Finally, I ventured a word. “Who’s it of?”
“The portrait. Who’s it of?”
I tried not to roll my eyes. Lisette was Louis’s ex-girlfriend. According to Victoire, they’d had a big fight about something ridiculous and she’d chucked him about two weeks ago. They’d been dating for a good three years when it all happened.
Everyone – even our Maman, who was determined to make sure Louis wasn’t stolen away – had said it had been such a shame. Lisette had been around so long, everyone had considered her a Weasley.
I’d met her only a few times on those rare occasions that I visited home. She was a petite girl with a sweet face and soft brown locks that rested on her shoulders. She was soft-spoken and reminded me a rather lot of a quiet breeze.
It was hard to imagine what Louis must’ve done to make her mad.
“You’re not still on about her, are you?”
Louis looked at me, his eyes darkening. “You don’t understand.”
He tossed a piece of parchment at me. The first few words were suspiciously smudged, like he’d spent the better part of his time running his hands over them.
-- since I’ve moved out, I think I should come pick up the last of my stuff. If it’s not too much trouble, keep your flat unlocked on Sunday and I'll drop by.
You can keep the cot, but I’ll be taking the sofa since I paid for it. And don’t worry about the rubbish bin. You can definitely keep that.
Also, for future reference: I’m staying with someone else right now, so you should stop sending your letters to my mum. She’s getting annoyed – you know how she can be.
Below that, she’d signed her name in a swirly stroke and listed her new address. I stared back at Louis, confused. “What?”
“Didn’t you read it?”
He grunted, the angry expression not leaving his eyes. “So?”
He grabbed the letter back from me. “Didn’t you read it? She’s with someone else now! It even says so – look – I’m staying with someone else now.
It’s been two bloody weeks since she chucked me and she’s already moved on!”
It was hard to take him seriously. “Louis, she could mean anybody.”
He slammed the parchment down, still looking angry and grabbed a paintbrush with a murderous energy. He began painting wide brown strokes forcefully, still refusing to meet my eyes.
I sighed. From the room next door, there was a squeaking of bed springs and Victoire emerged, wearing a pair of robes that dangled haphazardly on her thin frame. She eyed the both of groggily, yawning.
“What’re you two up to?”
“Not sleeping,” said Louis decidedly. “And tell Ted I said hello.”
Victoire rolled her eyes and made a beeline back to her bedroom. She turned to call over her shoulder, “You should be getting ready for work, Nicky.”
Louis gave an irritated laugh and I arose, feeling tired even though the day had not yet begun. “I know.”
I entered the store (still groaning from the morning), when Freddy accosted me immediately. He was wearing flowing silver robes today which gave him the resemblance of glass.
I interrupted him before he broke off into one of his tirades about my punctuality, when he shook his head. “No – no, it’s not about that!”
He bobbed his head behind him. I followed his gaze. Nubia was sitting in her desk, her hair in a short braid, her arms filled with parchment. She looked distinctly ruffled.
“What about her?”
His eyes were pleading. “You promised to talk to her!”
“I didn’t know you meant now
“Come on, Nicky! Please!
I sighed. Despite his immaturity, Freddy really had done me a lot of favors. He kept me in this job even though it was painfully clear I was only mediocre. He tried to make me feel at home around my cousins. He made me laugh. And after all, he was my favorite cousin. “Okay.”
He brightened up immediately. “Good! Now, go on!”
“Fine, but you have to leave. Nubia’ll think something’s strange if you’re hanging around for no reason.”
“Alright,” he said, looking disappointed. He heaved himself away in a blur of silver and swishing cloth.
A wind flew in through the open windows and I relished the feeling of being refreshed. I always preferred the feeling of being slightly cold.
“Um. Nubia?” It came out as a question. She was sitting at her desk, her willowy frame making her look as though she’d sprung out of an oil painting. I cursed at myself for being intimidated – it was completely childish of me but it was hard not to be.
She turned. “Yes?”
“Could I talk to you for a minute?” I gestured to a small space between some bookshelves. “Over here?”
She looked puzzled. I rarely talked to anybody besides Freddy and much less with her. She was a nice, confident type of girl, but I generally didn’t have much of a reason to talk to her. She nodded. “Yes, of course.”
She followed me to a circle between a vast array of books and smiled faintly at me. When she swam into a closer view, I could make out faint lines across her face like she hadn’t slept properly in a few days.
I looked at her, confused. She rarely looked out of place. “Is – is something wrong?”
“You look tired.”
“Is this what you have called me for?” She laughed, waving a hand. “No, no. My sister Odette has been sick for a few days now. I have been taking care of her.”
I nodded, feeling embarrassed that I’d gotten worried for no reason. “Oh – um – I see. Actually, I wanted to talk to you about – um – “
I paused, unsure of how I could phrase this.
Do you fancy anyone?
worked. Or was it too forward?
I took a deep breath. It was silly getting so worked up over something of such little importance.
I smiled at her and as casually as I could, said, “How do you feel about Freddy?”
She let one hand feel down her glimmering gold robes. “Why do you ask for?”
That was a good question. “Oh, I was just – “
“He is very nice,” she said. A small tinge of color appeared on her tan cheeks. “This job is very necessary to me, so I hope you will not be telling – “
“Oh no, it’s not like that.”
“I see,” she said, staring at me. “Well, he is very kind. He gave me this job and I am able to provide for my sisters because of it.”
“Oh okay,” I said helplessly. She hadn’t given the answer I’d needed at all. “But how do you feel about him?”
She was blushing fiercely. “I am still not sure why you are asking.”
I wasn’t sure either.
“It’s – uh – part of a review. To see if you’re satisfied with his performance.”
“Oh,” she said softly, nodding, as if what I’d said wasn’t a complete fabrication. “Yes, I think he is very nice. This job has good benefits and he makes it very – how do you say it – amusing – and – “
It would be so easy – I just wanted to shout it out and end all the awkwardness between the conversation –
“Do you fancy Freddy?”
It was out before I could control it. It burst out – a seemingly innocent spasm of words – that would signify the end of my life as soon as Freddy found out.
There was a pause.
Nubia’s eyes widened. “What?”
“Never mind I said that.”
“Who has been telling you that?”
“No, just forget it – ”
She turned an angry shade of red. “Who has been telling you that?” she demanded. “I have not been – was it Marlene? She has never liked me – ”
I sighed. There was no way around this, was there? I’d been hoping she hadn’t heard me clearly, but it was obvious she’d understood. “No, it’s not that. Freddy – he fancies you. That’s why I’m here, actually.”
A small, dazzling smile broke on her clear features. She grinned, her perfect teeth shining like pearls. “Oh, is that so?”
Was there any point in trying to distract her anymore?
“Yes – um – I’m afraid so.” It was unfortunate, really, that someone like her had to be burdened by an idiot like Freddy.
She bent down to fix her robes into place and picked up a few stray books that had toppled over. She put them back where they belonged – in a straight pillar of tomes – and went back to her desk, humming softly to herself.
She left me standing there among the vast sea of books. I could feel myself sweating lightly even though the rain outside had not yet brought light.
That had gone horribly wrong, hadn’t it?
I’d mucked up something relatively simple again. Even worse – she knew. Nubia knew
. I hadn’t just mucked it up this time. I’d turned it completely and horrifyingly backwards.
If she had half a brain in her, she’d pack up and head straight back for Egypt just to avoid Freddy.
I stood in the midst of a thousand or so books, feeling my anxiety reach its crescendo. Entire orchestras seemed in tune – glass tinkled, books swayed in the winds, voices blended into the swirl of air, and I forgot what it was to breathe.
He’d murder me and dig me a grave and I’d lay unmarked and dishonored – an eternity wasted for the simple reason that I, at times – I had to admit it, though I ritually pretended I wasn’t – could be ridiculously insensible.
I walked back to my own desk, still quivering at the thought of what I’d say to Freddy. Beyond a row of bookshelves, he shot me a curious, but excited glance and I felt guilt flush through me. That idiot didn’t know yet.
I let my hands graze over the top of my desk until I reached a piece of parchment unfamiliar to me. I stared at it, trying to decipher its origin. There were only three words, but the realization dawned on me in shades of blue and green, laughter and cafes. A new swatch of wind blew through and I forsook the spring chill for a blossoming of warmth.
Until Saturday, then.
Author's Note: It was a long chapter, yes? Hopefully, it didn't bore you too much, even if it was a bit filler-ish. No Scorpius in this one, but Nubia now knows! :-) And we've also met Louis, even if he is a bit moody in this one (though for a good enough reason). Please don't forget to review! I love all my reviews and reviewers! ^___^