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Chapter 1 : Somewhere in Brooklyn
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Theodore Nott wasn’t easily perturbed, but right now he was frustrated. This shacking up together thing was harder than he thought it would be. First off, there was the dirty bathroom. Hair in the gutter. Hair on the toilet seat. Hair on his bloody toothbrush.
He never knew Seamus Finnigan was this hairy. That was one thing they hadn’t told him about the Irish. Theodore just counted himself lucky that Seamus didn’t have any hair on his back.
And the dishes. Those damned dishes. Stacks and stacks of dirty plates, brown glasses and mould-infested cutlery. One thing Theodore hated more than hair was dirty dishes. These were things he used to prepare and eat food. They had to be clean. Theodore just wanted everything in his house to be clean. In fact, it wasn’t only dirty dishes that he hated. He disliked dirtiness in general. Seamus, however, seemed to be dirt incarnated.
Seamus’ clothes were another point of irritation for Theodore. They were a plague. Kitchen counter; dining table; telly; toilet seat; Theodore’s bedroom: they were everywhere. And for some reason they were always dirty.
Perhaps this all wouldn’t bother Theodore much under normal circumstances. He had a high tolerance level. After all, he had shared a dorm with Draco Malfoy and Goyle and Crabbe at Hogwarts. One learned the true meaning of tolerance then. As long as Theodore had a moment to himself, he could handle most that was thrown at him. And that was exactly the problem.
Theodore never had a moment to himself.
Either Seamus was there, or Seamus and his mates were there, or even worse, Seamus’ guests were in the apartment while the man himself was conspicuously absent. This evening had brought Theodore two bare-chested female Muggles, an intoxicated Seamus and a History of African Wizardry exam to prepare for. The three didn’t mix well.
And so at two AM in the morning Theodore found himself extremely perturbed and in a cosy little coffee shop near his apartment. It was raining outside and Theodore was glad to have found a warm table near the fireplace.
Surprisingly, the coffee shop was quite busy; a bumbling place of a dozen conversations but all on an acceptable level for Theodore, without any nudeness - and bouncing boobs for that matter - to distract him. Theodore was grateful.
He took another sip of his steaming hot mug of coffee and sighed contented. It was then that someone pulled back the chair opposite of him and sat down.
Blue eyes and a smile in an oddly familiar face greeted him. A velvety purple bag was plunked down on the table, rocking both his coffee and Theodore.
‘Just hiding from the rain.’
What the ..?
‘Is it good?’ the girl asked. She looked at the coffee. When Theodore didn’t response, she grabbed the mug and took a sip. She nodded. ‘I understand.’
Theodore’s eyebrows rose.
‘I just came from McHeighley’s down the street, but their coffee tastes like flobberworms’ dung. I can know. I used to eat it on a daily basis. It’s very healthy. Vitamins and such. I don’t eat it anymore, though. It has such a foul smell. Even after brushing my teeth three times, I’d still smell it. Didn’t bother me. But the people around me. You know how that gets.’
Theodore could only stare.
Who was she?
She hadn’t let go of his coffee yet. He wondered whether he should order one for her or just ask for his back. Would that be rude? Wasn’t she being rude? Before he had the chance to say something, she continued speaking.
‘I went to this party last night.’
She cocked her head.
‘Or the night before last night. Could be three nights ago. Not really sure.’
She was quiet for a moment, thinking it over, but not long enough for Theodore to gather his wits.
‘It doesn’t matter when. I just went to a party. At night. There were vampires there. No one believed me when I told them, but I have proof.’
She pulled up her sleeve and showed him two tiny puncture wounds. He smiled politely, not sure what else to do.
‘I asked one of them to bite me,’ she explained. ‘He didn’t take enough blood to kill me.’
She laughed. ‘Obviously.’
When she saw Theodore looking at her strangely she patted him on the arm reassuringly.
‘And I’m not going to turn into a vampire anytime soon, Theo. It was just an experiment. You know I like to get my facts straight.’
Was she one of Seamus’ girls? That explained how she knew his name. And why she looked familiar. He took her in. Long hair pulled back in a messy bun. A green and blue hairband with what looked like grasshoppers on it. Radish earrings. He felt like that should ring a bell, but it didn’t.
Shabby shirt, probably not washed in several months, though it didn’t look particularly dirty. Not the way Theodore’s apartment was dirty anyway. Long, black skirt and fiery red shoes that Theodore was sure she had made herself. He decided she looked like a hippie. Albeit a handsome one.
He smiled to himself. She was definitely not Seamus’ type. He could rule that out then.
She was silent. It wasn’t an uncomfortable silence, Theodore noted with some satisfaction. He did wonder whether he should say something to her. Ask her where she knew him from. Where he knew her from, but somehow it didn’t feel right to break the silence. He continued reading his book on African Wizardry while she continued drinking his coffee. It all happened in agreeable silence.
He subtly looked at her from time to time, trying to remember her. She looked so familiar. He wished he’d pay more attention to beautiful girls around him. He was used to them all flocking to Seamus, who wasn’t particularly better looking than Theodore, but certainly had a better way with women. He knew what to say to them to catch their attention, while by the time Theodore finally got the knot out of his tongue the girls had already moved on to someone who was able to verbally express himself.
This girl, however, didn’t seem to mind. She had done most of the talking. All of the talking.
Theodore took a deep breath and got up. She didn’t notice. She looked entirely engrossed in something on the table. Theodore followed her gaze, but he saw nothing of interest.
He walked to the coffee counter, where he ordered two coffees.
‘The same as I had before,’ he told the boy behind the counter.
He felt oddly proud of himself as he walked back to his table. Their table.
‘Here,’ he said, immediately scolding himself for how rude he sounded.
She smiled up at him and took one of the mugs from his hand. Her fingers brushed his, causing a spark. She smiled wider at this.
‘There were orange snails here,’ she said, pointing at the spot on the table where she had been staring at earlier. ‘You can see their slime trail.’
She waved for Theodore to sit down again.
‘Don’t you think it’s strange?’ she asked. ‘We’re always running here and there, while these animals probably travel no farther than 10 mile in their whole lives.’
He had no idea what she was talking about, but he nodded.
‘And they only travel to find their soul mate,’ she continued. ‘Once they find their mate, they stay in one place forever. Entwined with their lover, seemingly as one. Isn’t that romantic?’
It sounded stupid to Theodore, but he didn’t say so.
‘Just like dragons, who only have one mate,’ she said. ‘And silk spider females, who after mating eat the males just to ensure they’ll never have another female.’
She grinned. ‘It’s extreme, but I do believe it’s a romantic concept.’
She looked at Theodore expectantly. When he finally realised she expected him to give his opinion, all thought failed him. He opted for a safe, ‘I don’t know.’
She smiled at that.
‘What are you reading?’
He held up the cover, not trusting his mouth to betray his sudden unease. Her eyes were blue. Really blue. And so completely focused on him.
‘I’ve been to Africa,’ she exclaimed excitedly. ‘To search for Streelers.’
Theodore was tempted to ask what they were, but she already started explaining.
‘Huge snails that change colours,’ she grinned. She had a dreamy expression on her face, like she was thinking of something she was extremely fond of. ‘They leave a trail of venom when they move and it kills all vegetation.’
She jumped up excitedly. ‘I keep one as a pet. You should come by sometime to see him. I call him Harry.’
‘After Harry Potter,’ she said when he didn’t react. He had to grin at that.
‘Anyway,’ she went on. ‘I know a lot about African Wizardry. The voodoo and stuff. I’ve lived with a sangoma for seven months.’
Theodore was silent.
‘We performed an exorcism on a Nundu, a gigantic leopard, and created communicational water puts,’ she grinned. ‘I had such a good time there.’
Theodore held up his hands before she continued.
‘That’s okay,’ he said. ‘I don’t have to know that kind of stuff. Just the history of the countries. Facts and such.’
She seemed disappointed but shrugged it away.
‘You don’t believe in Witch doctors and hoodoo, don’t you?’ she asked. His silence was telling.
‘They’re not so different from our own Healers,’ she said. ‘Just because you don’t know it or haven’t seen it, doesn’t mean it isn’t real.’
‘First see, and then believe,’ was all he managed. He coughed lightly. Perhaps he should speak more often, use his voice more.
‘Have you ever seen love?’ she asked him.
‘Yes,’ he answered immediately. He lived with Seamus Finnigan, for Merlin’s sake. He saw love on a daily basis. Sometimes multiple times a day. To proof his point he motioned for her to look to her right. A young couple sat there, cuddled close together, watching the rain through the window.
But the girl shook her head.
‘That’s not love,’ she said. ‘That’s two people who are in love. But can you actually see the love. Can you feel it? Hold it? Is it something substantial?’
She didn’t need him to answer.
‘It’s not,’ she said. ‘But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. That’s doesn’t mean it’s not real.’
She smiled. ‘Maybe it’s not real to you, but it certainly is to them. So who’s the one missing out?’
He had no answer to that. They continued to sit in silence. She leafed through his book while he pondered her words. She had a point.
‘But if you can’t see it,’ he suddenly said, ‘how do you know it’s there?’
He grinned and asked, ‘Do you smell it?’
She grinned too. ‘You feel it, Theo. You feel it in your heart, in your bones, in your soul, in everything that you are.'
‘Once it’s there,' she continued, 'even just the hint of love, or the promise of it, you’ll feel it. There will be laughter and songs, blue skies and sunshine, sparks and stars. All the cliché things that you read about in books, will be there. And then you’ll know it’s love. Because you’ve felt it.’
Theodore stared at her. He had to stare. In that moment she seemed inexplicably beautiful to him.
‘You’re kind of like an orange snail, aren’t you?’ he heard himself ask. When she smiled, he added, ‘Not like a silk spider, I hope.’
She laughed aloud at that, softly touching his arm as she did so.
‘Maybe,’ she said, but with such a comical smile on her face, that Theodore couldn’t help but to laugh too.
He noticed the rain had stopped. The wet streets now reflected the stars. A romantic scene, had Theodore been of the romantic sort. He wasn’t.
‘It stopped raining,’ he stated.
The girl looked out of the window, disappointment crossing her face. But then it was gone again. She smiled.
‘I don’t normally do this,’ she said.
‘Neither do I,’ Theodore replied. ‘I don’t even like coffee shops. But I’m glad I went to one today.’
She looked at him strangely, but still smiled.
‘I wasn’t talking about visiting coffee shops,’ she said. Then she bent forward and kissed him tenderly on the lips.
She was gone before he knew what had happened, out the door in a flash of red and green and other colours. He opened his mouth to call something after her, but he knew not what and he knew not why. He just sat there, with three empty mugs of coffee, a history book and tingling lips. From a distant he heard laughter and a song. He envisioned blue skies and bright rays of sunshine. He suddenly felt alive.
He touched his lips, remembering her words.
‘… All the clichés will be there.’
He wanted to run after her, but was afraid of the attention he would attract. He wanted to call out, do something foolish but heroic, but Theodore was neither foolish nor heroic. So he just remained seated, lightly touching his lips and wondering what had just happened.
He couldn’t wait to go home and tell Seamus. And maybe, just maybe, tomorrow night he’d be slightly foolish, but heroic. He’d come back here and buy two mugs of coffee. One for him and one for her.
He grinned. As he stepped outside and breathed in the heavy night air, he felt like the king of the world.
So this is what it feels like, he thought. I can get used to this.
Stars and sparks, she had said, and he felt them throughout his whole body. And as he walked home he knew she was out there, everywhere, anywhere. Just somewhere.
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