Chapter 3 : Of First Dates and Toasts.
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I sighed, checking my reflection in the mirror. My dress robes laid beside me waiting to be adorned, the bright red color beaming with pride. While the dress robes my childhood friends and I wore for their parties on holiday were never this flashy, within Hogwarts it was usual.
The girls went and bought dress robes their mothers would be scandalized to see them in and their fathers would be less than amused. I could only imagine what some of my pureblood friends would chose to dawn this evening.
The lot of my friends I had grown up with always had this party at the beginning of the year but I had only been invited twice. Once this evening and then another time with that Crabbe fellow when we had a thing, and that was a rather horrid night. I had watched him knock back drink after drink and he hadn’t even had the decency to ask me to dance. The only thing that kept us an item was the desire to please my mother and also to prove that I was still a pureblood to my friends, just simply in another house.
Drawing my wand up the thought of a spell passed through my mind and with a flick the mane of thick blonde waves was tamed but still voluminous. I squinted at my reflection, the mirror hovering off the ground of the dormitory. My make-up was rather dark, but I had intended to look a little more dangerous tonight. Evan was a brave and crazy fellow, being calm and smile-y Claire would hardly keep his attention.
“Oi, Claire. We’re going to all go study in the libra-,” came the delightful voice of Anabelle, stopping short when she spotted me.
“Oh, curses. Sorry, Anabelle. I meant to tell you and the others that I wouldn’t be there tonight, Evan asked me to go to a party with him,” I said with a smile.
A small smile upturned on Anabelle’s lips, “Well. That’s lovely Claire. I hope you have a lovely time.”
I could hear the disappointment etched in her voice, and felt the smile on my face disappear. I could feel the thought of letting Anabelle down drown my mood and suddenly not even the lips on Rosier seemed enough to leave my friend.
My eye’s cast over to her robes beside me. This might be my only night to make an impression with Rosier, and possibly make a good match.
How could I give that up for Anabelle? How could I not?
Anabelle had been there since first year. Hardly anyone in our house associated with me because of my last name, and those that did I had turned my nose up at in my own pride. But one evening when a couple of older students had thought it fun to pick on a little first year Hufflepuff, Anabelle had attempted to save me. In the end the bullies had just humiliated us both and turned our hair bright red, but somehow I had made a friend. As soon as my mother permitted me to be friends with Anabelle, we were inseparable at Hogwarts.
My mother would ream me for days and probably send me howlers for a month if I didn’t go out with Evan tonight. If my mother got even one whisper that I had stood him up or asked to reschedule then she would surely come down on me. My mother’s temper was rather fierce.
“Tomorrow, I’d love to hang out with you all tomorrow,” I said sincerely, earnest in my voice and pleading etched into my face.
Anabelle’s face softened and she gave me a gentle smile, “I’ll let them know.”
Anabelle turned to leave but peeked back for a moment, “You’re going to give Rosier a heart attack in those robes.”
I could hear Anabelle’s laugh as she turned from me and made her way to the common room. My cheeks pinked slightly at the thought of Evan thinking I was stunning. It was enough to make a girl dizzy.
I flicked my wand and the mirror returned to her trunk for safe keeping, and checking my pocket watch to see that I was precisely on schedule.
I checked my watch again, Evan had told me he would be by the kitchens to get me around 7. Currently my pocket watch read 7:01, but I refused to step out of my common room until 7:05. My mother always encouraged me that being late was fashionable.
I stared down at the face of my pocket watch and I could feel the ticking of the seconds passing. I flipped the face over the see the back where my great great great grandfathers had his initials etched into the back: TCN. I passed my thumb over the cursive engraving. When I turned 17 over the summer holidays my mother had given me this as a request from my father, traditionally only males received watches while the females in my family received a strand of pearls from some ancient relative. I had gotten both, but the watch was my favorite.
I turned the watch back over and watched as the minute hand flicked to point at the one. Precise.
I moved toward the tunnel that lead out off my dormitory and crawled through, surfacing on the other side between the barrels. As soon as I had cleared them they magically reassembled themselves into their proper order, and I made my way up the corridor to the kitchen’s entrance.
I turned the corner and almost collided with a tall form.
“Ah!” I cried, stumbling a little bit and backing away.
The form turned around revealing the face of…
“Crouch?” I said quizzically my eyebrows furrowing.
Where was Evan?
Bartemius Crouch Jr. stood before me. His straw blonde hair slicked back and his skin looked almost sickly against his all black robes.
“Ah, Miss Nott. I was asked to come fetch you for Evan,” Crouch said with a little bow, his smile almost maniacal.
I squinted a bit in suspicion, “Why might I ask?”
“Because he is in charge of the party this year, Miss Nott.” Crouch answered, confusion crossing his features at what seemed to him an odd question.
I nodded quickly and mentally pressed my hand closer to where I had stowed my wand on the side of my robes.
“Well, we best not keep him waiting,” I said, a smile pulling across my face and I tried to make it a warm one.
Admittedly Crouch made me increasingly uncomfortable. I had noticed that he had started trailing around Evan and his group of friends, and now they had gone about using him to fetch their dates. Bartemius’s father was some sort of big shot in the Ministry, in Law Enforcement I believed. Throughout the summer I had intercepted the Daily Prophet before my mother in the mornings and had read enough to know about the dealings of the Ministry.
Crouch offered me his arm, and I curled my hand on the crook of his elbow with a small smile.
“So, Mr. Crouch how is your father?” I asked politely as we strolled to the staircase to take us downward to the dungeons.
“He’s well and please, call me Barty,” He said stiffly, prickling at the question.
I touched his arm reassuringly as they started down the staircase, “My apologies, Barty.”
I was just too nice for my own good.
Barty glanced over and eyed my other hand on his arm, at which I snapped back. That maniacal grin returned to his mug and I felt the hairs on my neck raise a bit.
The rest of our journey was made in silence, me in fear of receiving more smiles from Barty and Barty in sheer awkwardness. Finally we made it the entrance for the Slytherin common room, the large dungeon doors seemed dark and vast. A certain chill came with these dungeons, one I could never quite shake. Barty eyed me suspiciously and whispered the password to the door. I bristled at this. That horrid little urchin thought that I was not trustworthy enough to know the password? I could feel the insult poised on my lips.
I bit my tongue softly, and mentally relaxed my shoulders. I would not let anger overtake me. The doors pulled open scraping slightly on the dungeon floor.
“Well, thank you ever so much Mr. Crouch,” I said with a smile plastered on my face and a slight curtsy before striding forward through the small corridor that lead to the common room.
Admittedly, letting my anger out felt better than holding it in. Somehow the Nott traits were too hard to shake for me at times. As I neared closer to the dim glow of green light that always emanated from the common room I noticed it was a lot more muted than usual. I stepped into the common room to see it all draped in black and instead of it being crowded with people a lone figure sat perched on a couch. The person turned to see the intruder, and that’s when I met Evan’s eyes.
A smirk etched onto his lips, one that made my cheeks redden.
“Claire, darling, I’m so glad Crouch got you here,” Evan said standing up, his robes were jet black with streaks of silver cleverly placed to draw your eye to his well-built frame.
Then something rather obvious dawned on me to ask.
“Where is everyone?” I asked, stepping closer to him, the black marble floors revealing the sound of my footstpes.
“Oh, the party doesn’t start until around half past eight or so, I wanted to spend a little time with you, Nott,” He said, striding the distance between us.
I felt a silly sort of huge smile rush over my features, but I quickly looked down, reminding myself to be a little more mysterious than a giggling schoolgirl. After regaining my composure, I looked up at him, the smirk still on his mouth.
“Why would you want to do that dearest Rosier?” I said in mock seriousness, my eyelashes flickering up at him.
“Ah, how cheeky there, Nott. And who said a Hufflepuff couldn’t have wit?” His smirk deepened at exploiting my house.
I felt that take a little stab at my pride. Hufflepuffs were regarded as this house of little goody-two-shoes who are nothing but nice and rainbows. But it was so much more than that. If that were our only attributes then why would I be in that house?
I couldn’t let Evan know he had struck a chord with me, I didn’t want the beginning of the evening to start with discord. So I did what my mother would instruct me to do, and let out a small tinkling giggle and touched his arm.
It was quite ridiculous how easy it was to fool a man into flirtation.
“So why all the black this evening, Evan?” I asked, eying the darkly draped room.
A thick black material covered the walls, and every sitting area was covered as well, the only thing really saved was the floor. Though a few of the candelabras that stood alone were saved, but a thin veil of black covered even the fireplace.
“Black is power and strength of which our pureblood lines are sure to regain,” He said eying the black draping with a hungry look.
I knew where this conversation could turn and talking of a coming conflict was not proper etiquette.
“Well you do look rather dashing and powerful this evening, Evan,” I cast a glance at him, still admiring the decoration of the room.
“And you, Claire, you’re bound to give any man a reason to look twice this evening,” Evan said, wrapping an arm around my waist.
I smiled, slidding my arm around his as well as we strode over to a deep and plush couch to sit on.
Evan and I talked most of our hour away, discussing things from the ridiculous amount of work we had in Transfiguration this year and talking of the atrocities we had to endure in society functions over the summer.
When the party began to bloom Evan had taken to circling the room and asked me to attend alongside on his arm. It was admittedly an ego boost to see Alex’s jaw drop when we encountered her and Goyle as well as the downtrodden look on several girl’s faces when I was introduced as his date that evening.
The ladies dress robes were even more a spectacle this year then when I had come three years prior. While the older girls with either a settled relationship or a good blood status tended to go for brightly colored or a touch more revealing, it was increasingly obvious what girls came from lower quality bloodlines because they exposed more of their chests and had slits up their legs that were particularly in bad taste.
Finally, when the majority of the older students were there Evan found his Quidditch fellows and I took to chatting with their dates. Many congratulated me on such a fine date for the evening and some I swore said it with jealous tones. I found Alexandria among them at some point, and we embraced.
We rarely saw each other at school, mostly because our class schedules were incredibly adverse. She had opted to take all of her classes with Goyle who was on course to either work in the Ministry or some other political office establishment, and my course of study had always leaned more towards possible healing for the sake of my charm work.
When she pulled away I couldn’t help but spot a sparkling point on one of her fingers. Her left hand ring finger precisely.
“Alexandria! Have you gone and gotten yourself engaged?” I asked grabbing her hand to gaze at her ring.
“Oh! I forgot to tell you! Chance proposed to me in the very same spot that he asked me on our first date by the owlery,” She said gushing, the beam of happiness radiating off of her.
It had never occurred to me that one day I would see my friends engaged. I mean, we were all instilled into that marriage was the life to seek after but it had never been put in front of my face. I could try to imagine it though. After Hogwarts we would all get married at various times and start having children and attending to our home and husbands. We would drink tea together every afternoon and chat about the latest gossip and our happy marriages. But somehow I couldn’t place myself there. I couldn’t seem to fit myself into this image of how I was supposed to turn out. I returned back to reality and to Alex who was waiting for my enthusiastic reply.
“Oh, that is so lovely, darling!” I exclaimed catching her in another hug, “Chance is a lucky gentleman indeed.”
I didn’t think the man who would marry me would be so lucky. Something inside of me would die in the lifestyle of a pureblood wife.
As I pulled back I could hear the swell of the conversation of Evan and his friends, and I watched as Evan crossed the room pulled himself up onto the dark oak table that was clustered with drinks. The room grew quiet as all eyes trained on his form.
“My fellow housemates and guests, my brethren and pureblooded friends I am so honored that you would all come tonight. It is in this year, my final year, that I can gladly declare that our proper time of power is coming,” Evan said cheerily, his words however sending a deep silence of anticipation over the crowd.
“One day these halls will be walked by our children free of those who are a disdain to the title of wizard or witch, and I intend to see that day through,” Evan pulled up his left sleeve to reveal his Dark Mark and a murmur travelled through the crowd, “Long live our bloodlines and long live Lord Voldemort!”
At this he raised he plucked a glass from the table and raised it in the air, slowly others followed suit and when Evan drank so did everyone else. I snapped myself out of my reverie and grabbed a flute of something and tipped it back with everyone, only now becoming aware of how white my knuckles were from clenching my fists.
Evan ambled down from the table amidst claps on the back from his friends and handshakes, the common room now buzzed with more energy and noise. The girls had gone back to chatting about engagements and their social calendars.
I felt someone slip up beside me.
“Ah, Nott. Your boyfriend gave a lovely speech there,” came the smooth tone of Regulus Black.
Seriously, he was bloody everywhere.
“He is rather remarkable, isn’t he? All the things a girl wants in a man,” I said, refusing to look over at him, slightly set on edge from his warning the other night.
“Then why is your hand still clenched, Claire?” Regulus chided tapping my arm with his index finger, and drawing my attention to my other hand which was clenched in a fist still.
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