Chapter 4 : Of Good Nights and House Elves.
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I stared up into Evan’s gorgeous green eyes, his lashes far too long to belong to a boy but his jaw set much like a man’s. In this moment it was easy to forget the way his toast had turned my stomach and set me on edge, but in the end my true opinion on it mattered little.
“Good night, Evan,” I breathed softly, because for some time we had been saying good night.
We had waltzed a lot that evening and spent a lot of the latter part of that evening in close quarters. As the alcohol began to set in many other couples had paired off. I swore I even saw Alex blatantly snogging Goyle on one of the couches. Although, she was engaged now so she needn’t worry about that as much. It still wasn’t especially proper of her.
Evan reached up and stroked my cheek, his smirk gone but replaced by a playful half smile.
“Good night, Claire,” He said softly, pulling up my hand to kiss my knuckles like he had on the evening he asked me to go to the party with him.
We broke apart, my cheeks flushing at the sheer intimacy I felt in that moment. Evan left me with a quick flash of his white teeth and then made his way back to his common room. I sighed, leaning back on the portrait that leads to the kitchens. Entirely blissful and in a dreamland of my head.
Evan and I would surely have more dates. Then that would lead to us going steady, and our families would be thrilled. My mother had always been fond of Evan for his good looks. My father would simply be happy that I liked him enough. I couldn’t say I would have the life I wanted if we married, not one where I could actually work or do something besides sit in my home and socialize. But Evan would be good to me. He had a good bloodline and a well off fortune. In a year or two I would start having our children and spending my time with them, and I would be content.
My mother would be proud.
I smiled widely at Mary Lou, a seventh year in my house, and laughed along with the others at her story of encountering MacArthur Bones outside of potions on Friday. Apparently it had been “a moment of destiny” and Mary Lou was practically already naming their children. She went rather nuts when she had a crush. But I had watched how MacArthur had been around her since her crush had bloomed last term and I couldn’t deny that he might find her charming as well.
I checked my pocket watch and bid adieu to my fellow housemates and in haste left the common room to retrieve my things I had left in the library earlier. Curfew had already dawned, but my housemates never questioned why I always went out after curfew and was never reprimanded for it. I was glad that Anabelle had let me know that they’d all wanted to go do homework in the library earlier; I had missed my housemates. My mother wasn’t fully aware that I hung out with people she did not approve of, but I never saw it to be a major infraction of her will for me. I didn't let them too close.
After first year and my growing close with Anabelle the girls had come around a bit. I made it a purpose to never bring up my family or my political views if the conversations arose. It was nice to be around normal people from time to time, around girls who were able to make their own decisions for the most part. I envied them most of the time.
I fetched my things from the library quite easily and quietly. My years of expereince in padding softly along marble floors helped me slip easily around the stone flooring of the castle.
I had made it to the kitchens on my way back and my stomach seemed to think now would be the best time to make a very unladylike groan. I had forgotten to eat that evening, from forgetfulness from a rather fun evening. So I decided that the kitchens were in as good a place as any and I reached up to tickle the pear, the portrait swinging forward to reveal house-elves scurrying about rather cheerfully. A few turned as I entered.
“Oh, Misses Nott! How can we help you?” came their ever-cheerful chorus of voices.
I had been coming to the kitchens since about fourth year when I had been out past curfew with Crabbe to snog in some dingy broom closet, disgusting, and I returned to my common room to see a few Gryffindor fellows stumble out of the portrait with arms laden in food. In fact I think it may have been the Marauders, as they took to the kitchens quite often. But since I had seen that I had found my way to getting food in the late evenings.
“Yes, I would love if you could fix me up some warm carrot and ginger soup. I need a bit of warming up,” I said, beaming at my little comrades.
Although it was customary to treat house elves with such disdain or even harshness, it was hard to. They were so readily happy to do one’s bidding, and honestly my only companions at home when I was younger. Father would leave for business and mother would go to social events, which would leave me with Finky and Tinky. They were wonderful childhood friends for they always let me play the parts I wanted to in pretend games and would put on magic shows for me. I had had a soft spot for house elves since. And it had transferred to the ones at Hogwarts. I went to remove the cloak I had put on to ward off the evening chill that seemed to loom in these lower parts of the castle and a smaller elf took it from my hands. But as I entered the more formal part of the kitchens I could tell I wasn’t alone.
Regulus sat on a stool amidst a tall table and a gaggle of elves, and he was laughing. He was laughing as the house elves began to pull minor magic tricks with glee. I had never quite seen his eyes crinkle at their corners or the way his eyes lit up when he truly smiled, but it was enchanting. However, when he saw that I had entered his face fell a bit and he turned from his entertainment to his food.
“Black,” I said acknowledging him, “what brings you here?”
It was particularly odd for a pureblood to be in here, considering most had little to no respect for house elves. Regulus’s family was especially known for their loyal house elves that they treated rather severely.
“Just getting a quick bite before my rounds, Nott, it is past curfew,” Regulus said, arching a brow at me as if to question why I was here.
It was past curfew and since I had been the one to question his being here, it was even more obvious that I should not be. I felt my cheeks pink slightly for being in the wrong.
“Well, yes. But would you really send a lady to bed hungry?” I quipped, taking the seat opposite him that the elves had brought up. I set my studying supplies next to me on the table.
Regulus’s eyes matched mine and I swear there was a hint of a smirk on his lips, and what could I say; I was rather witty.
An elf appeared at my side holding up a bowl of steaming orange colored soup and I smiled gratefully.
“Your soup, misses,” He said as I picked it from his hands and set it on the table in front of me. Another elf brandished a spoon and napkin for me to use.
“Thank you all very much,” I said, taking in the warmth that the smell of the soup brought to my bones.
“I should have guessed you would be kind to even house elves,” Regulus said as he picked a small bite of the tart in front of him.
Something inside of me burned at the comment, like I was just the type to be nice to everything. It was so frustrating.
“I didn’t see you exactly shunning the house elves earlier, Black,” I said flashing a glare at him as I took a spoonful of soup to my mouth.
He shifted a bit before eying me oddly, “My intent wasn’t harsh, Nott. It was a compliment.”
I froze in mid soup-to-mouth action. Did Regulus Black just pay me a compliment?
I could see the same thing work through the mind of Regulus and dawn on him that it wasn’t something mere acquaintances said of one another. I swear on Merlin’s beard I saw his cheeks pink in the slightest and he took to breaking off more pieces of his tart and devouring food as a way to escape the sheer awkwardness that was now settled among us.
I let it go. I couldn’t be bothered to think of why he all of the sudden felt the need to comment on my personality or actually stand to be in my presence. The last social interaction I had had with him was at my formal introduction to society some years ago. My mother thought it was particularly devious to have each boy there dance with me at least once, and when Regulus’s turn had come it was severely awkward. He was a fantastic dancer, but he hardly looked me in the eye and held me as far away as possible. It was almost like I was as low as a Muggleborn to him. The git.
I kept eating my soup as Regulus neared the end of his tarts and we sat in silence. It wasn’t an uncomfortable one, it was just calm I suppose. I couldn’t remember the last time I had sat in silence with a male in which he hadn’t been trying to find some way to flirt with me, this summer had been full of it. My mother thought flinging men at me was the only way I would find someone suitable, but she wasn’t exactly picking from the most noble of gentlemen. It seemed until I was out of Hogwarts and far from being a Hufflepuff that most of the purebloods in England would find me suitable. Like I had some say in what house I was ultimately sorted into. Well, the hat had asked. But the hat had made the decision.
I looked up at Regulus, the curiosity of being out of his life for years gnawing at my stomach. I knew about the outward side of his family. I knew his mother and father were very outwardly political and that his brother had chosen the wrong side and that Regulus was the perfect son now. But, was that what he really wanted?
“So, you saw my father this summer?” I said, bringing up our brief run in after the carriage ride at the beginning of the term.
Regulus wiped his mouth and nodded, keeping his lips sealed.
“And he was well?” I said raising an eyebrow, trying to get more information.
“Yes, Claire, he was well,” Regulus said softly, sighing at my prodding.
I wasn’t about to bring up that he had just called me by my first name. But I was getting somewhere.
“When did you start seeing threstals?” I asked finding any information I had acquired lately to just get him to talk.
“After last Christmas holiday,” He answered, looking me in the eye now with his elbows resting on the table.
I nodded a bit, taking more soup as it was starting to chill and I was rather famished.
“Why did you tell me to be wary of Evan?” I said looking up to stare at him straight in the eyes.
At this he sighed once more, pulling his hand through his thick dark hair and messing up the neat way he had combed it back.
“Well?” I said setting down my spoon to sit up straight and stare him down for an answer.
I could be rather stubborn; it was another trait of the noble family of Nott. We are stubborn and angry people. It’s probably why we had long ago been so concerned with blood lineage and now with the oncoming political movement.
“Because, Nott, Rosier is a spoilt brat who acts rashly and without thinking. And in our line of work that will get you killed, you’d be a widow soon enough if you ended up with him,” Regulus said snidely the muscles in his arm clenching visibly when he mentioned their line of work.
Rosier did act rashly. It made him crazy good at Quidditch, but it cost him in injuries. I couldn’t imagine Rosier in that line of work. He was too beautiful, and his eyes too alive with life. I remember looking at my father before leaving for my sixth year and seeing that the life in them had gone, and I understood. That’s what death and anger and hate does to you, it takes away the life inside of you.
But I was angry at the root of it all. Regulus had no idea what it was like to be me, or why I had chosen Rosier or even agreed on a date with him. He had no idea how much serving the Dark Lord scared me and that marrying and having children seemed to be my only escape. I would grow up to be my mother, surely, but at least I would be safe. At least I wouldn't have to see the coming war up close or participate. Regulus had no idea.
“Well, he is a good match for me. I’d rather not be a disappointment to my family or lineage. I can’t die an old maid, Regulus,” I said softly, my voice tight in emotion.
I gave him a curt smile and descended from the high chair with my materials. A house elf then scuttled up to me with my cloak and I put it back over my shoulders and left Regulus there in the kitchens.
I wouldn’t let Regulus see me cry. He’d probably think I was just a hormonal mess, but he didn’t know. No one knew how much I had seen and how hard it was to pretend I hadn’t.
I needed Anabelle, she would understand even if I told her nothing. She would comfort and ask no questions, because she had many times before.
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