"...through the whirlwind which your eyes stir up inside me. But now, in this blessed darkness, I feel I am speaking to you for the first time."
- Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Act 3
“I need your help.”
Perry looked at his friend askance. He was slicing sausages for breakfast – several of his musician friends had been over last night boozing it up and wound up crashing on his couch and floor, so now he had an accordionist and two fiddlers to feed – and the pan was sizzling on the stove. “With what, mate? Want some breakfast?”
“What?” Hilarion appeared to notice the pan for the first time. “Oh. Sure. With Roxanne.”
Perry's stomach constricted. He kept his tone even and his eyes on the food preparation as he said, “I already helped you with her, I thought.”
“Well, yes, but it's not working any longer. She's... I don't... I need you to tell me how to talk to her.” Hilarion threw him a pleading look.
“Just be yourself.”
“Myself isn't smart enough for her,” Hilarion said quietly.
Perry set the knife aside and turned to face his friend. Hilarion looked rather dejected, actually, now Perry got a good look at him. Having spent the better part of a day in Roxanne's company, he rather thought he understood the problem. She was too sharp, in more ways than one, for the gentle-hearted Quidditch star. But knowing the problem and finding a solution were two different things, and beyond what he'd already told Hilarion, he wasn't sure what more he could do. He wasn't entirely sure what he ought to say to his friend.
“I just need some help,” Hilarion went on after a few moments' silence. “If you could listen in when I take her out, and tell me what to say-”
“How?” Perry asked, frowning. “I can't exactly tag along. Bit of a downer on a date, that'd be.”
“No, I mean...” Hilarion paused in frustration. “With an Extendable Ear, or something, I don't know – you listen, and tell me what to say so I can talk to her.”
“You want me to feed you lines.” Perry shook his head. “That's ridiculous. Insane. It'll never work.”
“Of course it will. Help me out,” Hilarion pleaded. “We're best mates. You always help me.”
Perry hesitated. He had always been there for Hilarion, who had always been there for him as well. He didn't want to admit why he was resisting helping him this time, though. This was absolutely mad, and it was going to fail, but that wasn't the full reason he didn't want a part of it.
He wanted Roxanne for himself.
But she seemed very taken with Hilarion. Perry didn't want to come between his best mate and his girl. Maybe it was just an infatuation, and Perry would get over her in time. Love at first sight wouldn't dare strike two men for one woman, would it? And she clearly hadn't felt that 'love at first sight' feeling for Perry, only for Hilarion.
He knew, in a dispassionate sort of way, that he was not as good-looking as Hilarion was. Women always fell for Hilarion. It was sort of a given. Women rarely looked twice at Perry when he was around his friend.
And now he was going to have to woo the woman he really wanted for himself into falling in love with his best friend. He would be able to tell Roxanne all the things he wanted to say to her but couldn't, but it would be Hilarion's face using his words, Hilarion who got the credit, Hilarion who got the love. Seemed damned unfair to both of them, thought Perry. Could anyone have devised a more exquisite form of torture? He doubted it. But looking at Hilarion's expression, hopeful and pleading, he knew he was going to have to do it, torture notwithstanding.
“All right,” he said, trying to keep the regret from his voice. “I'll do it. But you have to promise me you won't tell her it was me, if you get caught out.”
Hilarion breathed a sigh of relief. He hadn't really thought Perry would let him down – Perry never let him down – but the thought that he no longer needed to panic over his next date with Roxanne took a weight off his mind. The memory of how slow-witted he'd felt with her still embarrassed him. But Perry would fix it. Perry was smart like Roxanne.
“How are we going to do this?” Hilarion asked hesitantly. He didn't entirely feel he should leave the entire thing up to Perry, but this was about as far as he'd thought it out.
“Dunno.” Perry flicked his wand at the pan and the sausages all flipped over and went back to sizzling. He tucked his wand over one ear and leaned back against the counter, crossing his arms and looking thoughtful. “I don't think an Extendable Ear will actually help. I'd be able to listen in, but not tell you what to say.”
“Maybe we can stop by Weasley's Wizard Wheezes and see if there's anything else to use?” Hilarion suggested.
Perry gave him a look. “Isn't that her dad's shop?”
Hilarion winced. “Oh right.”
“I was just messing with you,” Perry told him, grinning now. “I doubt they'd ever guess what we were planning even if her dad recognized you. We'll go over later. I can't think of another shop likely to have anything helpful anyway.”
“It's not a big rush, I don't have a date with her until Friday evening,” Hilarion said. “She had to go to her cousin's house tonight or something.”
“Plenty of time to find something, then,” Perry agreed.
A tall man Hilarion recognized as Perry's accordion-playing friend stumbled into the room. He had a tablecloth wrapped around his waist as a makeshift shirt, and every inch of visible skin was charmed blue.
“Aargh,” Cornish Dan mumbled.
Hilarion blinked at him. “What on earth...”
“Don't ask,” Perry said.
“What about this?” Hilarion asked, holding up a brightly-coloured cardboard box. Perry turned to him, and Hilarion tossed the box to his friend.
Perry examined the back of the box and shook his head. “No, mate. This is sort of like a two-way radio. It would do what we want, yeah, but she'd be able to hear everything we said.” He tossed the box back and Hilarion replaced it on the shelf, feeling rather discouraged.
They had both been carefully avoiding saying Roxanne's name inside the shop. Hilarion hadn't seen her dad – he knew exactly what Mr. Weasley looked like – but he still didn't want to chance being overheard. That seemed to be tempting fate rather too much. Hilarion, like most professional athletes, had a healthy respect for luck and chance.
They had been in the shop for nearly forty-five minutes, poking around the shelves in hopes of finding just the right device for what they needed. Nothing had yet suited their admittedly vague plans, and Hilarion was starting to worry that nothing actually existed in this vein.
“Maybe an Extendable Ear combined with some sort of charm for you to hear my voice?” Perry suggested, moving a few boxes aside to peer into the recesses of the stock shelves.
“I don't know any charms like that,” Hilarion said.
“Me either, but there must be something.”
“Can I help you find something?” asked a voice behind them, and Hilarion turned to find a young man with the same coffee-with-milk-coloured skin as Roxanne, and curly brown hair with a reddish tone standing behind them dressed in the magenta robes of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. His stomach flipped a bit as he read the name on the employee robes.
“Cor,” said Fred Weasley. “You're Hilarion Winston-Fisher, aren't you?”
“Er, yes?” Hilarion winced a bit. He had never really enjoyed being recognized everywhere he went, and this was certainly the last sort of errand where he wanted his presence known. The attention made him feel a bit stupid and awkward.
But the Weasleys seemed to be mercifully different in that arena – all of them that he'd met thus far had been quite blasé about his fame. Possibly this was because they were closely related to one of the most famous wizards of all time, one that even celebrities went potty for. Hilarion had to admit, he wouldn't mind meeting the legendary Harry Potter himself.
Roxanne's brother grinned at him and held out a hand. After handshakes and introductions had been given all round, Perry returned to the matter at hand.
“Actually we could use a little help,” he told Fred, smiling in that easy and confident way Hilarion had always envied in his friend. “We need something that will let one person eavesdrop on a conversation between two other people and be able to communicate with one of those people without the other person knowing.”
Hilarion had rather a hard time following that, even though it had all been his idea in the first place, but Fred only nodded.
“Legal purposes?” he asked mildly.
“Quite possibly,” Perry said.
Fred didn't look at all surprised. No doubt working in a joke shop, he'd heard it all. “We have something like that, but it's in our stock we sell to the Ministry, not in general merchandise. You won't find it out here on the shelves. Follow me.” He motioned to them and set off toward the back of the shop, ducking behind a purple curtain that covered an arched doorway.
Hilarion kept on Fred's heels and found himself in a storage space much bigger than he'd been expecting, where all the merchandise had much more sedate packaging.
“This is the Defense Against the Dark Arts line from early on when the company started,” Fred told them as they passed a shelf of bowler-style Shield Hats that Hilarion recognized from Magical Law Enforcement and most of the security guards he'd ever seen. “It's expanded since then so it's not just defensive magic anymore, but the name hasn't changed. The Ministry eats it up. Dad always says they pay the bills here so we can do more fun stuff out there.”
Fred plucked a small box off the shelf. “We developed this when my uncle Ron became an Auror, to help with some of their undercover operations. This way one Auror can hear a conversation the other Auror is participating in. Helps with getting backup there faster and such, and getting information without blowing the operation, all that good stuff. Should do what you want.” He handed the box over to Perry, and Hilarion peered at it.
The Wire, it said in small, tasteful lettering across the black box. Range of up to half a mile. Do not immerse in liquids. Keep away from small children and animals. Not responsible for any magical shocks experienced while wearing.
“Don't worry about that,” Fred said, noting Perry's raised eyebrow. “That hardly ever happens. The lawyers made us put it on there. Look, all you do is put one bit in your ear and clip the other to the end of your wand – that's the speaker, it draws its power straight from your wand's magical energy – and you're set. It works best if you can set your wand out somewhere close, or hold it in your hand, but even if it's still in your pocket you'll be able to hear just fine.”
“Sounds great,” Perry said. “Except the magical shocks bit.”
“Paying cash?” Fred asked brightly.
Roxanne got to her cousin's house earlier than she'd meant to. She stood on the street and stared up at the brightly lit windows of Dominique Campbell's row house, and decided she didn't want to face the rather pretentious Dominique on her own. She sat down on the steps, reckoning she'd wait for Molly to turn up. At least they could face it together.
Not that she didn't love Dominique, of course. They were cousins. Dommie was family, so Roxanne would always love her. It was just that they had very little in common. And Dominique was a bit pretentious, no one could deny that. She'd married a Ministry barrister, and they were both what Roxanne's mother sometimes called 'upwardly mobile' and Roxanne's father more often called 'social climbers'.
Roxanne had some sympathy with the social climbing, since she also wanted bigger and better. Just not in the same way Dominique did. Roxanne wanted her life to be full of fascinating things and genuinely interesting people. Dominique was the sort of person who sometimes affected a faint French accent, just to sound more interesting than she actually was. That told one rather all one needed to know about Dominique.
Molly turned up ten minutes before the appointed time. Roxanne had not been expecting things to start on time – they never did with Weasleys – and was not at all surprised that Molly was early. Molly was early to everything. Being exactly on time was actually late for her. Lucy was at her sister's side, and Roxanne smiled at the contrast between the two sisters. Molly was dressed in head-to-toe black dragonhide, and Lucy wore a tweed pencil skirt and crisp white blouse. Molly's green mohawk was spiked straight up, and Lucy's hair – a natural Weasley-red – floated rather romantically around her face. If their facial features weren't so similar, one wouldn't even believe they were related.
She kept her chuckles to herself, though, and stood up to greet them.
“Too chicken to go in alone?” Molly inquired before Roxanne could say anything.
“Absolutely. You know what Dommie's like.”
Molly draped an arm around Roxanne's shoulders. “Well, now you've got us to back you up. Let's go in.”
They led the way up the stairs arm in arm, with Lucy trailing behind them.
“What do you think she wants?” Roxanne asked as Molly knocked on the door.
“Who knows. Maybe she won the lottery.”
Lucy sighed heavily. Whatever Dominique was up to, it wasn't a lottery winning. Her cousin probably considered playing the lotto to be beneath her. Dominique had always been that extra bit taller, thinner, and prettier than Lucy was. Not smarter – Dominique's marks at school had been about the same as Lucy's. Lucy had always wished to have the edge over Dominique, somehow. Over any of her cousins, really. They all had something interesting to recommend them, but Lucy felt left out of the eccentricities of her family. She was so bloody normal compared to the lot of them.
Dominique swung the door open, dressed in a perfectly draped teal wrap dress that showed off her figure, which, despite having had a baby less than a year ago, was smaller than Lucy's. Lucy had, sad to say, inherited the short-and-stocky Weasley gene, while Dominique was tall and thin like her father. Lucy cherished the thought that Dominique would one day develop the Weasley potbelly that the tall-and-thin gene seemed to come with past age fifty. At least, Lucy reflected, her chest was fuller than Dominique's.
“Welcome,” said Dominique cordially, as if they hadn't all grown up together, dashing about naked in the paddling pool. “Thank you for coming.”
“Stuff it, Dommie,” Molly told her affectionately.
Dominique bustled off to bring them drinks, and Molly made a beeline for the wireless, where a few of their other cousins were already sitting. Lucy could hear the sounds of a Quidditch match coming from their corner, and the Potter boys suddenly let out a roar that sounded as if a foul had been committed.
Molly shoved Hugo Weasley aside to get a seat in the middle. Dominique was watching them as she brought glasses of wine to Lucy and Roxanne.
“I better get them coasters,” she said almost absent-mindedly, and rushed back to the kitchen.
“She's ridiculous,” Roxanne remarked.
“I suppose.” Lucy glanced over at the corner with the wireless, then looked back over to Roxanne. She was surveying Dominique's living room décor, and smiled at Lucy when she felt her looking.
“How are things going with Hilarion?” Lucy blurted out, and regretted it immediately. She hadn't meant to ask, and wasn't sure she wanted to know the answer.
Roxanne beamed. “Very well. He's so sweet, and so handsome.”
Lucy's heart sank a bit. She'd been half-hoping Roxanne would say they weren't clicking, but she might have known it was a futile hope.
The last time Lucy had seen Hilarion, he'd turned up at her shop for no particular reason, and her heart had soared that he'd come to seek her out. But then they'd walked in the park, and he'd mentioned ever so casually that he had a date with Roxanne that night. It had been a slap to the face for Lucy: he hadn't even thought twice about telling her about his date. Apparently they were friends. She didn't want to be just friends with Hilarion.
But she didn't have much choice, she realized as she watched Roxanne's bubbly smile. He was meant for Roxanne, and Lucy just couldn't steal that happiness from her cousin. It made her feel quite bad-tempered, though.
The door opened, and Dominique's older sister Victoire Lupin walked in with a bottle of wine tucked under one arm, followed by Rose Weasley carrying a second bottle of the same label. The two of them were surprisingly close friends, though Lucy had always thought they were quite opposite personalities. Victoire had been an earth mother even before she'd had children, and Rose didn't get up before noon except under threat of death. Dominique fluttered over to greet them, exchanging a cheek kiss with her sister.
“Oh bugger,” Roxanne muttered, eyeing the wine bottles. “Were we meant to bring something?”
“I have no idea. Probably.”
Lucy never thought of that sort of thing, but Victoire did. It was the sort of person she was – bringing gifts to the hostess, even if the hostess was the sister she probably saw twice a week. Dominique had likely expected them all to bring something, now Lucy thought about it. It was the sort of person she was.
Victoire was shorter than her sister, with round cheeks and red hair that tumbled in waves down to her shoulders. She'd cut it a bit since Lucy had last seen her. She didn't go to Victoire's very often, though not because of Victoire. Victoire was lovely. It was Victoire's children Lucy was avoiding, at least until Johnny Lupin stopped head-butting her whenever she saw him. She still had a bruise on her hip from the last time she'd been round the Lupins.
Rose was looking over at the little crowd around the wireless, obviously not paying attention to Dominique. She seemed a bit distracted, but Rose often seemed distracted. She was wearing a purple t-shirt with cartoon baby hippogriffs prancing across the front of it on a rainbow. Lucy shook her head at this. Rose had been wearing twee t-shirts as far back as Lucy could remember, and she seemed to have no intention of ever giving them up.
Rose handed her bottle of wine to Dominique (Lucy suspected Victoire had brought it for her to give, since Rose hadn't even managed to dress appropriately for a dinner party), and Dominique shut off the wireless.
Everything went fine, or at least as fine as any gathering of a dozen Weasleys could reasonably be expected to go, until the pudding was finished. Dominique got to her feet with a somber expression and told them all, her voice strangely flat, “I wanted you lot to be the first to know, but you mustn't tell anyone else just yet.” She paused, and Lucy got a feeling it wasn't just for dramatic effect. Dominique was gathering her courage.
Lucy frowned. Dominique never had to gather her courage.
When she spoke next, the announcement seemed to fall on the gathering like a lead blanket. “Andrew and I are getting a divorce.”
Lucy felt her mouth fall open.
She was so shocked by the announcement that she nearly missed Dominique's admission that her husband was seeing someone else, but she couldn't have missed the shouts that followed. In the midst of the swirl of threats and plots of bodily harm that her male cousins shouted back and forth to each other, Lucy sat back in her chair and chewed on her thumbnail.
She had never liked Dominique's husband much, but she'd tried to accept him into the Weasley clan because Dominique had seemed so happy with him. Everyone had thought the two of them perfectly suited – ambitious, pretty people who wanted to make their way into the upper echelons of society.
Dominique and Andrew had been married for three years. That was hardly any time at all. What sort of man cheated on his wife? And with a baby at home. Their son, Thornton, was not even a year old yet. She wondered how long Andrew had been cheating. What sort of man could lie like that to the ones he loved? She didn't know how anyone could do that. Lying every day, right to Dominique's face... It was horrible to think about.
Lucy watched Dominique crying on her sister's shoulder while Victoire stroked her hair and tried to comfort her, and decided she could never stay with a liar. That sort of calculated deceit had broken many relationships, and now it had broken another one.
Poor Dommie. She and Lucy weren't close, but they were cousins. She wished she could do something to help.
Victoire lifted Dominique to her feet, saying briskly, “You'll come stay with me a few days, all right? Go and pack a few things for yourself and the baby, and come home with me.”
Dominique nodded, her face still streaked with tears, and Lucy stood quickly. Dominique took her arm gratefully and Lucy led the way toward the master bedroom. Roxanne fell into step on Dominique's other side.
The room still showed evidence of Andrew's presence – clothes, a pair of dress shoes next to the armoire – as if he had only gone out to work, not abandoned his family. Lucy exchanged a glance with Roxanne, who had frowned when she saw the shoes.
“You help her pack,” Roxanne whispered. “I'll gather up his things.”
Lucy nodded. Dominique began pulling clothes out of her dresser without appearing to be aware of what she was doing. Lucy conjured a large purple tote bag and packed as Dominique tossed clothes onto the bed.
Roxanne had conjured a bag of her own – a garbage bag – and was gathering up anything masculine into it. Shoes, robes, a watch, it all went into the bag. Dominique didn't seem to notice; she might have been in a daze for all her apparent awareness of her surroundings.
“I can't believe he's doing this,” she said as she tossed clothes at Lucy. “How could he throw away everything we have?”
Lucy shook her head and opened her mouth to speak, but Dominique interrupted her.
“I was good to him. I helped him with his career. Do you know how many boring Ministry dinners I've been to? How many officials and judges I've schmoozed with? I only ever tried to do what was best for us. And he cheated on me.”
She tossed a pair of shoes onto the pile of clothes. Roxanne glanced over at them; Lucy was going to need an Undetectable Extension Charm on that bag at the rate Dominique was going.
Roxanne paused in her purging of Andrew's things when she saw a glint of gold on top of his dresser. His wedding ring. “I don't know how he could do that to you, Dommie,” she said, and snatched up the ring. When she threw it in the garbage bag, it was swallowed up by his clothes and lost. Good riddance, she thought. Roxanne had no tolerance for cheaters.
“He took me to Venice on our anniversary,” said Dominique in a voice that was half-bewildered and half-angry. “How could a man take you to Venice and then cheat on you? Venice is so romantic. We rode in a gondola.”
Roxanne tied off the filled garbage bag and set it in front of the armoire where Andrew would be sure to see it. It wasn't all the things he'd left behind, but it was quite a lot of them, and would certainly send him a message.
She hoped it made him angry.
“Need some help there, Luce?” she asked, regarding the large pile of clothes Lucy was sorting through and folding into the purple tote.
Lucy nodded, and Roxanne came over to stand next to her, grabbing a few things to fold. Dominique seemed to realize she'd emptied half her dresser, and flung herself onto the bed next to the pile of clothes.
“That bastard,” she muttered, staring at the ceiling. She held up one hand then, and Roxanne realized her cousin was still wearing her wedding band and engagement ring. “What the hell am I going to do with these?”
Dominique sounded much less posh when she was angry. Roxanne decided she preferred the angry Dominique to the crying one, but they were both preferable to the increasingly pretentious Dominique she'd got to be since getting together with Andrew.
“Sell them,” Roxanne suggested.
“Melt them down,” muttered Lucy.
“I'm not giving them back to him,” said Dominique mulishly. “He gave them to me. They're mine.” She tugged the rings off and clutched them in her fist, breathing deeply through her nose.
“I don't think he'd ask for them back,” Lucy told her. The tote bag was full – Dominique had enough clothes packed to stay at her sister's for a fortnight – and she zipped it shut.
“I'll be damned if he ever sees them again.” Dominique sat up. “I'll go pack a bag for Thornton. Thank you both. I'm sorry the evening turned out like this. I hope you enjoyed the dinner.”
Roxanne rolled her eyes. “Oh, Dommie. Dinner was delicious. Come over to my flat if you want to get stinking drunk and badmouth your bastard ex-husband, all right?”
“Ex-husband,” Dominique repeated, rolling the words slowly. She blew out a long, slow breath. “I never thought I'd have one of those.”
“All the best women do,” Roxanne assured her, and Dominique cracked a small smile.
Victoire was shuffling everyone else out when Roxanne and Lucy emerged from the bedroom. They met Molly out on the front steps.
“I think the lynch mob just headed out,” she told them. “Off to find Andrew and perpetrate a few criminal offences on him.”
“Well-deserved,” Roxanne said. “I wouldn't mind joining them, actually.”
“Me too,” agreed Molly. “But I think they've got it taken care of. Besides, I haven't got a chance to hang out with you in ages, Roxy. You're always with Hilarion now whenever I've a free night.”
Roxanne grinned smugly. “The course of true love, and all that. Don't be jealous.”
“Who could be jealous of you?” Molly needled her.
“Well, I am dating a very handsome and famous Quidditch star.”
Lucy tried to hold the frown off her face, but she was beginning to feel rather annoyed. Roxanne had been joking, yes, but the way she'd only described Hilarion as handsome and famous – two things he really couldn't help about himself – instead of his other good qualities, the ones that made him who he was, pricked her temper. It wasn't fair.
It wasn't fair that Roxanne got to have Hilarion when she clearly didn't appreciate him properly. Lucy was sure she understood him better than her cousin did, but she was stuck being his friend while Roxanne got everything else. And it wasn't bloody fair.
“You only like him because he's good-looking,” Lucy told her, feeling a little wild and reckless for saying it out loud but pushed beyond her endurance to hold it in any longer.
Roxanne's mouth dropped open, and her cheeks turned a dull red. “That's not true!”
“You haven't anything in common with him.”
“We both like Quidditch,” Roxanne pointed out heatedly, on the defense now.
“Hilarion doesn't like Quidditch the way you do. It's just something he's good at.”
“That doesn't make any sense,” Roxanne snapped.
It did to Lucy, though. And she knew it did to Hilarion as well. She didn't know why she was arguing with her cousin over this, when it wouldn't change anything, she thought grumpily. It wouldn't make Hilarion fall in love with her instead if she fought with Roxanne. She drew in a deep breath. Her heart was fluttering madly. She wasn't used to picking fights like this. She'd always been the quiet one, really. But she had the urge tonight to claw someone's eyes out for letting Hilarion be wasted on Roxanne.
“Come away,” Molly said, tugging at Roxanne's arm. “We'll go have a drink. Lucy, go on home. It's been a long night, and you're both going to say something you'll regret if you keep talking.”
Lucy stomped down the street a ways while Molly led Roxanne off in the other direction. She stopped under a spotlight and thought about giving it a kick, but turned on the spot and Disapparated instead.
Friday night found Roxanne arriving at the restaurant Hilarion had invited her to with a rather nervous feeling. She was still thinking of what Lucy had said after the dinner party.
You only like him because he's good-looking.
It wasn't true, she told herself. All right, it had been at first, when she'd had such a raging crush on him without ever meeting him, but now they were actually getting to know each other and she did truly like him. It wasn't only because he was good-looking.
She'd never seen Lucy behave that way before. Lucy hadn't had a fight like that with anyone but her sister, and then only when they were teenagers. Lucy didn't pick fights on street corners. It had been so odd for her that Roxanne wasn't entirely sure what to make of it. She rather thought the announcement of Dominique's divorce had affected her cousin more deeply than she'd let on, since Lucy had started looking a bit strange as soon as Dominique said her husband had left her for another woman. Roxanne tried to forgive her this, then, since Lucy had always been a good friend and cousin to her.
After all, she'd helped Roxanne finally get to meet Hilarion.
Lucy had just been in a temper, that was all. Roxanne told herself to brush it off and enjoy her date. But she could still see Lucy's face in the dark street, angry and maybe a little bit hurt, too, spitting out those words.
You only like him because he's good-looking.
Hilarion was already at the table, and he stood to help her with her chair. Roxanne smiled at him, pleased by his chivalry, and waited while the waiter opened their bottle of wine and poured two glasses, allowing herself a moment to just look at him.
His hair was combed neatly, a bit of curl at the edges, and his blue eyes seemed to sparkle in the finely chiseled planes of his handsome face. He was extremely pretty, Roxanne thought, but now the thought made her feel a bit strange.
As soon as the waiter departed, she jumped into conversation, eager to prove to herself and the phantom Lucy haunting her conscience that she liked Hilarion for more than his looks.
Hilarion almost jumped out of his skin when she started talking. It was time to put their scheme into play, and he was a ball of nerves now hoping it wouldn't go awry.
“Relax,” Perry's voice said in his ear, and he watched Roxanne's face closely as she talked about the morning's news of a new appointment to the Department of Magical Games and Sports. She hadn't heard a thing, clearly. It was really working.
The knot of fear in Hilarion's stomach disappeared immediately. He had been afraid they'd be caught out at once. But she couldn't tell, he thought, elated. He could do this, with Perry telling him what to say.
And it really did work perfectly. He repeated back everything Perry said, and tried to time his laughs when he heard Perry chuckle, since he didn't always understand what Roxanne was saying. It was hard to fake a laugh, but he was so relieved that it was going well that his own chuckles seemed as real as Perry's.
When Roxanne finally got up to use the ladies' room after a solid hour and a half of conversation, Hilarion turned in his seat and found Perry sitting in a corner of the restaurant, a book propped on the table in front of him. There was a charm around him to keep anyone hearing him having an apparently one-sided conversation, invisible to the eye. Hilarion gave his friend a thumbs-up and a relieved grin.
Perry's smile back seemed oddly tight, as if he wasn't as happy about their success as Hilarion was. Hilarion didn't have time to think about it though, because then Roxanne was back and he was back on.
Roxanne pleaded an early morning work schedule, and left the restaurant half an hour later. Hilarion had not seen her home, but she wasn't concerned. The date had gone swimmingly, she reflected with satisfaction as she walked up the stairs to her flat.
Their last date hadn't been quite as stimulating conversation-wise, but this time Hilarion was much wittier. He'd probably grown more accustomed to her now, she decided. He was rather shy sometimes.
It was quite clear now though that they were very well-suited indeed. Roxanne thought smugly about how he'd laughed at her jokes, and he'd made some quite funny remarks as well. He was smart, and witty, and she liked him more than ever now.
No longer simply because he was good-looking, she thought, wishing she could crow about it to Lucy. She liked him. Not his looks. Him, the man. Hilarion Winston-Fisher.
Roxanne gave a loud sigh, the smile still wreathing her face, and went to bed.
A/N: The dinner party scene is, of course, from "A Weirder Shade of Midnight", where we saw it from Rose's perspective. Much different seeing things through Lucy and Roxanne's eyes.
Also: 'naked in the paddling pool' is a nod to Bridget Jones' Diary.