Chapter 5 : Wingman (or Woman) Knows Best
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5. WINGMAN (OR WOMAN) KNOWS BEST
The deadliest weapons in the world were a pair of long legs.
Fred smoothed out his copy of the Daily Prophet. He had waited so long for Bea that he had read it all the way through. Besides a Muggle stumbling into the Ministry looking for the loo, not much was new.
Scorpius' offer and his irritating mannerisms were still stuck in his head, and it might have led to Fred working out the costs and profit margins that morning... and convincing himself that it'd be enough to sway Bea. The transistor was too expensive without outside help and she wouldn't refute numbers, right?
Bea would understand more if it were her wallet hurting. She paid for most of the supplies, but ever since her family hit trouble, she'd been borrowing more and more of the Wheezes money, not to mention Fred's time. His family might have been well off, but it was getting pretty darned irritating.
Scanning the Great Hall for a third time, he sighed. Definitely no Bea. He wouldn't miss her frizzy hair in any crowd.
Anjali caught his eye as she strode in through the west entrance alone. She was always with Scorpius, so where was the odd-blazered boy?
His stare lingered a second too long and now Anjali was staring back. Merlin's beard. Fred dove into his food, trying to look preoccupied, but she started toward him. A shudder ran through his body. The Great Hall was big enough to literally hold the skies—it was drizzly today, making the candles flicker—but he was as good as cornered.
She slid into the seat across from him, hands clasp together, eyebrow raised. "You were looking at me?"
"I was looking... behind you."
Fred wasn't usually so nervous, but he was ill-prepared for ambushes. That was the point of ambushes. He cleared his throat, trying to jostle himself into the proper mindset. Think clean lines, a well-tuned piano. Be suave and sharp, Fred Weasley. As long as he didn't have to open his mouth again.
Anjali took a plate from the stack, which immediately conjured up a small salad.
Oh Fawkes. She was staying.
"I suppose you're wondering why I'm here." When she glanced up, Fred couldn't help but notice how long her lashes were. Pretty girls were always the most lethal, with their slender black widow legs and hazy perfume. Being pretty was certainly useful if they were in the profession of entrapping poor blokes who had something they wanted.
"Well, are you or are you not?" Anjali set her fork down and rested her chin on the back of her hands. "Or are you going to keep staring at me?"
As much as Fred was about to do the latter, he managed to answer, "I'm not interested in what you're offering."
"Circe, it's like you're on repeat," she said, fingers drumming against bored lips. "What, not the least bit curious?"
Oh no, he was plenty curious and likely plenty interested in whatever offer she had—that was the problem. All he wanted was a simple deal with Scorpius to get some funds for Bea's transistor project. No need to throw in twisty femme fatales plots into the mix. "I'm not interested in trouble."
Anjali reached for her glass, taking small sips as her gaze continued to bore into Fred. She looked as if she could devour him any time she wanted to; she certainly had the resources. Prefect, Quidditch captain, and a powerful family to back it up. "As much as I hate to share an opinion with your little girlfriend, you really are no fun."
"Bea's not my girlfriend," Fred declared for the umpteenth time and sipped his glass as well.
"Good on you. That makes the fact that you're clearly attracted to me a lot less inappropriate."
He sputtered out pumpkin juice. "What—no!" His mind betrayed him, however, as it filled with legs and lashes and perfume. Clean lines bent askew. The piano played cacophonous jazz that sounded like cats in heat, or whatever Louis called post-modern expressionism.
Fred found a tenuous rope to shore as his fingers smoothed up the comforting silk of his tie. "Miss Davies, whatever you're trying to pull, I can assure you it will not work. Intimidation is yesterday's game. Try something new."
"Yesterday, hmm?" Her finger slid down her cheek and under her lips. "But why waste new tricks when the old ones still work so well?"
Anjali leaned back. A finger twirled around her hair, like an aimless puppeteer winding her string. "I suppose I'll get to the point. All I want to know is how I can help convince your little friend to work with Scorpius. You didn't look like you had qualms about this deal."
"It's not about qualms." Fred tried to get his breathing back to a normal pace. "I don't have much of a choice. I can't keep paying to replace everything she explodes all the time."
A chuckle rang in her breath. "Practical man. I like that. But I don't think you understand the power that families like mine and Scorpius have. You're still thinking small. With his backing, her inventions could go global."
It was yesterday's speech all over again, but she was convincing the wrong person. "Bea's never thought about that." Bea never looked beyond her own little sphere. "I'm already trying to tell her this, anyway. She's a lot more stubborn than you think."
Anjali stopped him with a hand. "I've dealt with Scorpius my whole life. Don't talk to me about stubborn."
"Interesting verb choice for your boyfriend."
"Not my boyfriend."
"If you say so." Fred supposed she meant they were on the off section of their on-and-off relationship. Technicality.
Awaiting some artful comeback, he was unprepared when it came in the form of her leg brushing against his, tracing up to his knee.
"Not. My. Boyfriend," she repeated. Her voice lowered to a whisper. "Makes this a lot less inappropriate, too."
His mouth was suddenly searing hot and too dry to reply as it hung agape. A single conversation and she already had him wrapped up in her web. If he could have a coherent thought, it would be on what a shoddy job he was doing as point man, but all he could do was stare from the deep brown of her eyes to the arc of her neck, down the gold chain of her ruby locket nestled between her...
"Oi really, Fred? She's way out of your league."
Roxanne's voice cut across his trance. Fred turned his head and groaned. Sure enough, there was his sister, chewing her Gobble Gum. She blew out another pygmy puff bubble that wriggled in the air before it popped on a candle.
"Shut it, Rocks," Fred muttered, scratching his leg. The tingle hadn't left yet. Anjali had resumed picking at her salad, her expression covered by her fork.
Roxanne slouched to her side, ever the petulant adolescent. "Hmph, I will if you stop calling me that."
"Then stop being dumber than them."
"Oi." Her face scrunched up. "I'm going to stay now just 'cause you said that."
She sat herself down, leaning forward so much that she was nearly laying on the table. Roxanne liked being annoying for the sake of being annoying. It was, according to her, a 'sibling obligation'. But Fred was at least thankful that his sister's idiocy had cut the tension cleanly in half.
"So Anjali, how are you? My brother boring you?"
"Not at all." Anjali uncloaked her smile. "He's quite charming."
"Nah, you're obligated to say that. Prefect rules or something, am I right? It's okay, I won't tell anyone if you insult him."
"No, I do think he's very sweet." Anjali's lashes danced up and down at him, not quite winking, and Fred's palms begin to sweat again.
Roxanne didn't notice and simply sighed, smacking the gum between her jaws. "You're so nice." She turned to him. "She's so nice."
"That's one way to put it," he muttered. The clock struck noon, and Fred took the opportunity between his desperate hands. He rose from his seat, keeping his eyes on the table. It was all right until he opened his mouth. "Well, lunch has been great, but I've got to hurry and sultry—study!" He flushed red. "I've got to study," he repeated in a mortified breath.
Hastily picking up his books, Fred let the house elf whisk his plate away and shoved Roxanne's head down as she giggled.
"Have fun, Weasley," came the voice floating behind him.
He'd take Scorpius' wheedling overtures over this girl any day.
Scorpius pulled his towel tight around his middle as he walked toward his bed where he laid out his new clothes. After buckling the belt around his trousers, he heard a soft knock. The door opened slowly, delicate fingers smoothing down the side of the frame. In swept Anjali, who shut the door behind her. Her brow lowered disdainfully, but she said nothing as she sat herself on the end of his bed, fingers curling idly around a bedpost.
"Hey," said Scorpius, shrugging on his shirt. He cleared his throat. "Sorry about the skirt. Found out for myself it's not fun getting doused in potion."
Anjali smoothed over the rough bumps of emotion so cleanly like a fresh wash of paint. She drew near and her fingers crept up his chest, buttoning his shirt. "What happened? You smell like a toad."
He frowned, sniffing. "Still?"
That made her smile. "A little bit."
"Maybe if you kiss me, I'll smell like a prince."
But she placed a hand over his lips. "What did I say?"
"Every time you say it's over..." he murmured.
He shut his eyes. She was so calm—not even a jump or a flush of heat. Perhaps that was the sole source of his discontent. For all their history, she certainly never showed much of it.
Anjali finished buttoning his shirt and then slipped out of his reach, wandering the room. "I was thinking I should go after Fred. He listens to reason. It'll be easier to convince him."
Scorpius shook his head. "It doesn't matter. I'm done with it."
She crossed her arms. "I think an explanation is in order. Considering."
Considering that he had been so insistent about the whole idea in the first place. The time he took to orchestrate it, his father’s wishes...
"Bea's never going to agree to it," Scorpius muttered. "Nothing's going to convince her. And I don't even know why. It's her fault I smell like a toad—her and Potterpuff. Dumped a bucket of cleaning water on me."
"As charming as you think you are, I'm going to guess that it was actually your fault."
"...I might have been looking through her things."
"You need to apologize."
"She won't care. Besides," he said, gesturing toward his soiled shirt draped over the rubbish bin, "I don't think I should be the one apologizing."
"You have twenty of those. And how do you know if she'll care or not? You just don't want to do it."
Scorpius flung the towel at his chest of drawers. "Do you know that she's broke? Family's completely broke and she still doesn't give in at all. Am I that bad?"
"She has pride."
So did he. "Her pride can go to hell."
"And you threatened Fred."
"Intimidated. You know, like marking territory."
Anjali's eyes lifted skyward. "Apologize. Or if not, focus on Fred and leave the girl."
He shook his head. Anjali was the most clever girl of their year, and perhaps that was why she saw the appeal in sensible Fred Weasley. "He's just the sidekick. What's a Watson without a Sherlock? Crazy or not, Bea's where the money's at."
"Watson still knows some of Sherlock's secrets." Her hands were on her hips, waiting for a better retaliation. "You're putting all your bets on one girl. One girl who doesn't even like you."
"When you find an idea like hers—" His voice softened. Though he knew the boys were at lunch, his eyes flicked around the room anyway, self-conscious of his sudden turn in seriousness. "When you find someone crazy enough to even attempt a Muggle-magic converter... I know so many people are going to brush it off as nothing more than a bundle of wires. But this..." The photos that Louis took were the winds that swept the excitement from the pit of his stomach. He hadn't expected to see the actual prototype—he hadn't thought it was possible.
"So apologize." Anjali pulled him to his feet and began fixing his cuffs, turning them straight. "Do what you have to now so you don't regret it later. Give her a cake or something." She stood on her tiptoes, oh-so-close to meeting his lips. "And I'll take care of my end."
Scorpius leaned in but she turned away, heels toward the exit.
"Tease," he called.
When the door shut, he was left to himself once more. His gaze wandered to the Elbow Grease sitting on the nightstand and he picked it up, twisting it open. The product debuted last winter, marketed as an easy-fix cauldron scrubber and trophy polisher. His mate Xavier bought a whole box on the first day. Bea had said that making these sorts of things couldn't be learned from a book but she had to have learned it from somewhere. It was such a small thing, and yet so marvelous—the same vein of innovation that Malfoy Co. needed.
He raked his hands through his hair and calculated his odds. He was up against an erratic, hotheaded, sweets-loving, money-hating nutcase and all he had were... galleons.
Time for a new plan.
Sherlock + Watson are of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's creation
A/N last edit 3/25/12, formerly chapter 6 part 1
Oh, this dastardly duo, whatever are they up to? Julia compares them to Team Rocket, which I approve of highly.
Coming Soon: Ridiculous plans. Less ridiculous plans. Ridiculous Rose (but when is she not?)
He should have known the promising direction of his mood was indeed too good to be true. "We're not robbing Gringotts."
"They just make it seem hard. I've got a great plan -- we don't even have to break into the vaults!" Albus gave a squeak as Bea wrenched him by the sleeve and pushed back his fringe. "Just draw on a scar, call him Harry, and we can walk right in!"
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