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The Middle Man by academica
Chapter 8 : eight.
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 2


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“Where are we going?” Rose asked, folding her arms over her chest.

“Just down the corridor,” Dominique replied, smiling at her cousin over her shoulder. Her heels clicked on the floor as she walked down the long hallway, leading Rose, Lily, Albus, and Darcy along behind her. They passed a section where cover girls were plastered on moving posters on either wall; Lily giggled as she pointed to a woman who was blowing them kisses.

Darcy kept her distance from the girls, instead paying attention to the way they walked naturally. Rose had a pretty sort of swing in her step, but Lily was much too eager, using strides that were too short. Darcy made a mental note to coach both of them before the fashion show. Before the winners of the cover contest were announced, all of the entrants would have to walk the catwalk, and Darcy wanted to make sure that the effort put forth by her and Dominique was not wasted.

Albus slowed, glancing over at her. “Do you think we could talk later?”

“Do you have something you want added to the story?” Darcy replied idly.

“No, I just… I wanted to talk with you about something.”

“Oh,” she said, looking over at him. “Well… not today. I’m too busy.”

“Maybe before the show tomorrow night?”

“Sure,” Darcy said, smiling at him, trying to ignore the butterflies in her stomach.

“Okay,” Dominique interrupted, coming to a halt before a set of double doors. She grasped the handles, pulling them open. The quiet hallway was suddenly filled with a raucous noise, a mingling of chatter and hair spray and the changing of clothes.

The girls entered, following their escort. Darcy smirked as she watched Albus peer into the doorway, his eyes opening wide.

It was nothing short of chaotic. The table in the center of the room was strewn with make-up. Some of it looked brand new, like it had barely been touched, while other tried and true varieties were almost fully used. Darcy frowned, stepping over an eyeliner brush that had been separated from its tube and a broken bit of pink lipstick. The make-up might be free to the models, but certainly not to the magazine.

Along the opposite wall were several sets of chairs and tables, each placed before an expanse of mirror. At the far end of the room, a beautiful young girl was posing before a magical camera, making faces just like those on the pin-up models from the hallway. A girl who looked barely older than sixteen moved in front of them, pushing a rack filled with dresses. Darcy’s eyes followed her path, spotting an equally pretty young model and her team of escorts and stylists waiting for their turn in front of the camera.

“Here, this one looks free,” Dominique said, ushering them over to a table in the back corner. Lily watched her curiously as she began to set up the make-up that had previously been selected by the girls. Darcy waved over another intern, writing down the number of the rack on which Rose and Lily’s clothes could be found. The girl scurried off to a back room with the bit of parchment in hand.

“What is all this?” Lily asked.

“We ended up going with the black dresses and smoky make-up. The prints from today will be given to the board of judges, and they’ll use them to decide which of the Witch Weekly teams will win the cover contest for the beauty issue.”

“Isn’t that what the fashion show is for?” Rose cut in.

“Strictly speaking, the decision is supposed to be made before the fashion show. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the standings changed slightly after they see all of you walk. We have to really take this thing seriously from start to finish,” Darcy replied.

“So this is our competition?” Rose remarked.

“Don’t worry, you’ll get to meet them all properly soon. We’re going to have lunch with the others after we finish with the shoot,” Dominique said.

The girls changed into their outfits and Darcy began to apply eyeliner to Lily while Dominique took care of Rose. Albus settled himself onto a chair, looking as if he wished he’d brought a book. Pretty soon, the pair of redheads was in front of the camera, laughing, posing and pouting their red lips. Darcy couldn’t help but smile as she watched them, proud of how she and Dominique had really brought the girls to life. As if in reply, Dominique gave her hand a friendly squeeze, grinning as well.

Lily and Rose were brainstorming for other poses to try when Darcy saw another team move into place beside them. She glanced over, meeting the gray eyes of a handsome young man with a strong jawline and blond hair. He looked at her for a moment, and then his eyes drifted over her head, toward the pair of redheads.

Dominique paused while adjusting Lily and Rose’s hair. The latter gazed toward the boy, looking quite strange with her brow furrowed and her mouth slightly open. “Darcy, come on, is that camera focused and ready?” Dominique called, frowning.

“Right,” Darcy said, and she noticed that Albus was watching her, too. “Sorry, girls.”

“It’s okay,” Lily answered, not seeming to have noticed the blond boy.

Before too much longer, the photos were finished, and Darcy and Dominique had assured the girls that they had a good chance at landing the cover. The group returned to the main area of the magazine’s headquarters, where an elaborate feast of finger foods awaited them in the conference room. After making sure her guests were settled, Darcy immediately began working on a sandwich, feeling exhausted.

“So who is he?” Rose whispered impatiently, sipping some water and watching as the blond boy and his team came in and took their seats.

“To be honest, I don’t know,” Darcy admitted with embarrassment.

“How can you not know?!” Rose shot back, frowning. “Dominique?”

“Oh, that’s Scorpius Malfoy.”

“As in, the son of Draco Malfoy?” Lily asked, trying to keep her voice down.

“Mmm-hmm,” Dominique said. “I heard his mother put him up to this to try to get their family some good press.”

“They must have been outbid in Edinburgh,” Rose said, smirking.

“Well, I think it’s a good idea. I mean, those cheekbones…”

Darcy laughed softly, exchanging a glance with Albus.

“Who else are we up against?” Rose asked Dominique.

“There’s a Russian girl, and a Beauxbatons seventh year, and him, and you two.” Dominique replied.

“What are the names of the two girls?” Rose pressed.

“I don’t know! Ask Darcy.”

“How should I know?” Darcy shot back playfully.

“And you wonder why you haven’t yet been promoted.”

Darcy rolled her eyes, sinking back into her seat.

“I’m going to go talk to him,” Rose said, putting a bit of celery into her mouth.

“Why?” Albus asked.

“I just think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get to know the competition. Maybe it’ll weaken their nerve,” Rose explained. “So I’ll take him, and Lily, you deal with the girls.”

Lily sighed, reaching toward the center of the table for some crisps.

At this point, Lorcan entered the room, picking up the water glass at the only empty place. “Welcome, all of you,” he said, offering a smile to the contestants that reminded Darcy very much of a salesman from Knockturn Alley. “I hope you’ve enjoyed working with your stylists, and I wish you all good luck in the cover competition. The judges, including me, are excited for the show tomorrow night.”

Darcy noticed Rose leaning forward slightly, attempting to keep her posture straight and plastering a smile worthy of Gilderoy Lockhart across her face. Darcy elbowed Dominique gently, and the two found it hard to conceal their giggles, though both of them straightened up as Lorcan’s eyes moved their way.

After Lorcan had settled in, several of the others got up and began moving about the small room, shaking hands and introducing themselves. Rose stood up, blotting at her lips with a napkin, and strode over to where Scorpius was still sitting and eating.

“Hello,” she said sweetly.

“Hello,” he replied, his tone flatter.

“This—this is really a lovely setting for lunch, wouldn’t you say?”

Albus nearly spit out his water.

“It’s fine, as conference rooms go,” Scorpius remarked.

Lily leaned over, whispering in Darcy’s ear. “Think Malfoy Manor has a conference room?”

“Obviously no home is complete without one,” Darcy whispered back, smirking. It occurred to her that watching Rose and Scorpius was the most fun she’d had throughout this whole torturous process. Selfishly, she hoped they’d keep it up.

“Well, I’m certainly looking forward to tomorrow evening,” Rose added airily, seemingly unperturbed by his disinterested response.

“Mmm-hmm,” he said, putting a piece of his club sandwich into his mouth.

“Perhaps after the show, your agent could contact mine, and we could set up some collaborative work. I think your complexion would look very nice next to mine.”

Darcy’s stomach was beginning to hurt from holding in laughter. Okay, okay, stop!

Scorpius paused, swallowing his sandwich and looking up at her. Rose quirked a brow as his eyes traced past her hair and eyes all the way down to her shoes. Finally, he dabbed at the corner of his mouth with a napkin, removing a smudge of mustard. “Have your agent owl mine, Miss…?”

“Rose Weasley,” she said.

“I see.” He leaned back a bit in his chair. “I’m—”

“I know who you are,” Rose said, putting her shoulders back and haughtily returning to her seat. She looked up to find the others watching her with amused expressions.

“What?!” she snapped quietly. Then, she tucked into a roast beef sandwich.

**

After the luncheon, Darcy and Dominique were charged with cleaning up. Darcy was sort of glad to be in here with her friend instead of having to go tidy up the photo shoot room. She knew the other teams were probably gossiping about one another and shooting catty remarks back and forth, and she had had enough discomfort for one day.

“I think that went well,” Dominique said, stacking empty water glasses on a tray.

“Yeah,” Darcy agreed. “I think we have a good chance, you know.”

“You do?”

“Sure. I mean… Rose and Lily have personality. They aren’t stiff like the others.”

“I hope you’re right, Darcy.”

“No matter what, it’s been fun working with you on this. I’m glad we were a team.”

Dominique couldn’t hide her smile. “Right. Fun.

Darcy moved over to the other side of the table, stacking empty plates from the guests and staff members on top of the platter that had held all the sandwiches. After a few moments of quiet, Dominique spoke again, looking at her friend.

“Do you and Albus have a thing going on?”

“What do you mean, a ‘thing’?”

“Well, you went to dinner the other night, right?”

“Oh.” Darcy would have laughed if the memory of that awkward evening wasn’t still so fresh and painful. “I mean, it was more of a business meeting.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s weird. I totally thought he fancied you.”

“Are you serious?”

“Sure. I mean, he always looks at you whenever we’re working with the girls, and it seems like he’s been making more of an effort to talk to you lately.”

“Well, I haven’t gotten that impression.”

“Do you like him?” Dominique paused, leaning against the door.

“I don’t know,” Darcy admitted, stacking a few half-empty bowls on top of each other. “I thought so, but we don’t really seem to have much of a connection.”

“Well, give him some time. He doesn’t open up that easily.”

“Yeah.”

“I’m just saying,” Dominique added, hoisting the tray of glasses up and opening the door with her knee. “If you ever did want to go out with him, I guess it wouldn’t be the worst thing ever. Just make sure you consult me before attending any Weasley family holidays, okay?”

“Gee, thanks,” Darcy replied, laughing. Despite the tone, though, it meant a lot.

As she tried to figure out how to balance her stack of bowls and stack of plates, Darcy couldn’t help but feel relieved that this whole process was almost over. Just a fashion show and a decision, and she could go back to her regular day-to-day job.

Then she remembered her impending conversation with Albus, and a tiny part of her—the one not juggling Witch Weekly’s china—didn’t want it to end so soon.


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