Chapter 2 : Tempest Outside
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Rain had poured for almost a week, ricocheting off the windowpanes like recklessly determined bullets sent from the impassioned, indigo clouds. It had flooded the streets and created massive puddles that even the most skilled of maneuverers couldn’t seem to get around without soaking their ankles and thighs.
In a surprising turn of character, Lysander had left his blinds open after the dazzling stranger had left, and he stood to watch the downpour abuse the pedestrians that were brave enough to scuttle along the sopping sidewalks. Schoolboys with their ties thrown over their shoulders sprinted down the street while shoppers covering their hair with plastic grocery bags scolded them for running so quickly.
He stared, hands buried deep in his pockets, and thought about nobody and nothing while the torrents of rain slid down the windowpane.
The office was, in all technicality, closed. Doors were locked, lights were smothered, and the herbologists it employed were sent home to care for the plants sitting on their own windowsills and countertops. Lysander had remained behind, tired as the workday weighed upon him but not weary enough to seek out the warmth of his bed.
Finally, he turned to make his way out the door, his gaping shadow shifting on the wall as it followed him out.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, eight-and-a-half footsteps to the lobby, another three to the lift. Four to the front door when he was on the first floor, and one to make it under the awning outside.
A coworker stood with her collar turned up, glancing at the raging skies while remaining under the safety of the roof. “Going to brave it?” she asked as she heard Lysander approach. “I was thinking of Apparating but I don’t quite feel like making a scene at the pub.”
Lysander laughed, joining her gaze to the sky. “I’m just going ‘round the corner,” he said. “A little rain won’t bother me.”
“It’s not really little…” But her voice was lost in the downpour as Lysander bolted away from her and through the cascading water.
He passed the vagabonds huddled under windowsills, the elderly ladies waiting in the shelter of boutiques, the dog-walkers and the joggers and the poor individuals soaked entirely against their will, until he slowed to dig a tiny, brass house key out of his pocket.
His flat sat happily atop a small bookstore, and the scent of musty novels frequently stemmed through the cracks in the floorboards to saturate his kitchen. Today, however, his countertops smelled of the olive oil he had spilled a few dinners ago, and Lysander momentarily forgot that there were copious amounts of used books underneath him when he walked through the front door.
There was a note pinned to his wall, the thumbtack keeping it there wobbling as the rain thundered against the roof.
SEE YOUR BROTHER
He misses you and he may or may not have
stopped by while you were at work because
all-powerful-Merlin, why do you stay at that office all
the bloody time? Come home, for once in your life!
Also, I have news. Big news. But good big news.
Floo me? Actually, no, I’ll Floo you. Again. In a bit.
He could see traces of ash gathered in small, almost undetectable piles around the edge of his fireplace, indicating that his brother had, in fact, made an appearance. Sighing, Lysander pulled the note from the wall and set it carefully on the counter, glancing at the fireplace again before shuffling down the small hallway into his bedroom.
The Shrivelfigs he had planted after the illustrious Mr. Malfoy had paid him a visit sat still on his windowsill, drooping so that their leaves touched the soil because of the current lack of sunlight. Lysander was supposed to keep them at the office, and he had. Mostly.
They had initially decided to plant fifteen, as each plant would wield about eight figs (nine if the plants forgot their finicky production schedule and decided to be generous). Lysander had kept twelve of them under the enchanted lights, letting his fellow herbologists tend, observe and care for them as much as they would for their own children. Three, though, came home with him.
When asked about it later, Lysander would not be able to say why, exactly, he kept them. Perhaps it was because the plants were beautiful: when fully grown, the Abyssinian flowers were a bright violet that seemed to glow when they sensed a human being was near. Perhaps it was because his bedroom was mostly empty, save for a few lamps and curtains his brother had bought him, and the figs added the little sparks of something interesting that the room was so desperately lacking.
Or maybe, just maybe, it was because the Shrivelfigs, with their tiny clay pots and their little mauve blooms, reminded the slightly lonely and slightly not-OK-with-being-lonely Lysander of the strange, enticing Scorpius Malfoy. But this was just a theory, and nobody dared to ask him when the time came, and the plants would sit on his windowsill until he couldn’t bear to look at them anymore.
Lysander crept toward them, eyeing the tiny shoots that had felt their way out of the damp soil, before hearing a boisterous crash in the adjoining room.
“Lorcan?” he asked, his voice barely emerging at all as he continued to study his plants. “Is that you?”
“Who else would it be?” came the disgruntled answer.
Lysander poked around the corner, craning his neck to see past the doorframe. “Are you OK?”
There was a cough, a sputter, and a short bout of profuse swearing before he saw his twin enter the hallway, his ankles and knees covered with dark, thick ash. “I told you I would Floo,” Lorcan said. Another cough. “Did you get my note?”
“Very eloquent,” Lysander quipped, and left the comfort of his bedroom to welcome the fellow Scamander fully. “You look… different.”
“I can’t quite place my finger on why, though. I’ve got guesses.”
New (better) job.
Moved flats. Closer flat?
Dumped girlfriend. Or was dumped by said girlfriend.
Is now bilingual. (Unlikely.)
Is now bilingual simply to impress a woman. (Less unlikely.)
Invested in new wardrobe.
Decided to get haircut.
Partaking in a very expensive and highly lucrative yacht race.
“Any of them worth mentioning?” Lorcan asked, entertaining an amused smile before brushing past his brother and sitting on the edge of his bed.
Lysander considered this for a moment, following without question to the bedroom he had just left. “Not really.”
“Well, I’m not surprised I look a bit…” He trailed off, looking at the plants sitting on the windowsill. “What are those?”
“Shrivelfigs,” the herbologist said, tracing the outline of one of the petite pots with his fingertip. “They’re for a work project.”
“How old? Two weeks?”
“They look lovely,” Lorcan noted, and he bent down to inspect the tiny plants further. “I bet they aren’t happy with all this rain, though.”
“They should perk up a bit after it clears.”
“I bet-” But Lorcan stopped sharply, as if the words he was about to say would somehow scald his tongue, and stepped backwards. “Sorry.”
“Are you feeling alright?”
His brother buried his hands in his pockets and looked to the hallway like he was willing himself out of the room. If possible, the ever-unflappable and gregarious Lorcan had suddenly been reduced to what his twin could only describe as sheepish. “We couldn’t both be the scientist,” he sighed, his coat creasing around his shoulders as he shrugged.
A silence settled, blanketing the room like heavy wool, and the rain rattled against the windows with the wind as its wayward sidekick. Dull, muffled voices from the bookshop below rose to slip between the floorboards, accompanied by the occasional scuffle of a novel being perused and set back on a shelf.
“Do you want to tell me why you look different?” Lysander asked, the quiet suddenly broken.
Lorcan nodded, almost as an afterthought, and shuffled out to the hallway and into the kitchen. Lysander followed, counting his steps.
“I’m engaged,” the former announced, turning abruptly and presenting his biggest, brightest, you-love-me-because-you’re-related-to-me smile.
“Engaged!” Lorcan laughed, and he stepped forward to clap his brother on the shoulder. “You know, that thing where two perfectly lovely people decide they want to spend the rest of their lives together in what can only be described as terrific at first and miserable at the end.”
Lysander raised a hand to rub at his cheekbones. “Engaged?” he said again. For whatever reason, the word didn’t seem to quite make sense, as if it had somehow leapt from his mind and scuttled along the floor to attach itself to a new meaning.
“You’re stuck in a rut, dear brother. Say something else.”
“To… who?” he was finally able to stutter.
Lorcan paused, considering something for a moment before the smile returned to his face. “I don’t think you’ve met her, actually. Lovely Muggle girl. Very pretty. Very rich.”
“Muggle girl? Does she… know?”
“Know what?” Lorcan said. “Know that my brother and less-handsome twin makes little lists in his head while at the same time attempting to have perfectly decent conversations with unsuspecting normal people? Know that my mother is off in Scandinavia somewhere with her equally-mental husband looking for Merlin-knows-what? Know that I, her fiancé, went to a school that is basically a very large and very old castle and learned all sorts of magic that she’s probably never even heard of?”
If nothing else, Lorcan was a notoriously fast speaker, and when he finally did pause Lysander could only nod at him. “I suppose so, yes,” he finally replied.
“Well, no,” Lorcan said, and laughed again while the rain cast dripping shadows down his cheeks. “No, she doesn’t. But I’m planning to tell her. Sooner or later.”
“When’s the wedding, then?” Lysander turned to look out the small window, watching as the wrathful rain smashed against the sidewalk.
“A month,” the twin replied. “I know it’s short notice, but she’s very lovely and weddings are fun, anyway. Lots of people, lots of alcohol!”
Lysander sighed, running a hand through his hair and looking out over the sopping pedestrians outside. “Well, congratulations. I always knew you’d get married before me.”
Lorcan stepped away, traipsing toward the front door and whisking his hand-written note off the counter as he passed it. “I’ll put it down as you plus one. I have faith you’ll find a nice woman to bring along, eh?” He laughed again, jubilant and noisy, before Apparating away with a resounding crack.
His brother was left standing alone in his kitchen, watching the rain slide by.
“Man,” Lysander corrected to nobody in particular. “Find a nice man.”
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He did, eh?