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The Art of Small Talk by patronus_charm
Chapter 8 : April Fool's
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 6


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Chapter Eight - April Fool's

‘Audrey, do you mind telling me where we’re going?’ Draco’s nerves are practically oozing off me as we step onto the tube at King’s Cross. I know that we’re in walking distance of where we’re going, but I think the whole experience of riding on Muggle transport will give him a greater appreciation of the day (or one which will end in him wanting to kill himself. I seriously hope that isn’t the case.).

‘No, I do mind about telling you where we’re going. It’s a surprise, Draco. As you’ve guessed it probably has something to do with the Muggle world given how we’re getting there, but no more than that can be said.’ I end it with a smug grin and wink. Ha, keeping secrets is way too much fun.

He glares at me before moving from the woman who is stood near him, and further into the carriage, keeping a cast iron grip on the ceiling rail as the train wobbles on. I hope this semi-crazed (yes, only semi-crazed, it’s not on the full on crazed level yet), idea of mine to help integrate him into the Muggle world and make him perhaps sort of like it isn’t too mad.

I watch him eye the various tube maps, the dark blue of the Piccadilly having its own squiggle before it joins the masses of the red of the Central Line, the black Northern line and the other greens, yellows and blues merged in with them creating a maze of colour. Ah, Muggle London, Draco really is in for a treat and deciphering the tube map is just the first bit of fun he’s got.

The voiceover promptly announces our arrival at Russell Square after two minutes of getting on it causing Draco to jump up.

‘Did a voice just come out of the ceiling?’ he asks, that apparently being weird but magic is perfectly normal.

‘Yes, it did, and this’s our stop so get off.’

My words take a while to register with him so I end up yanking Draco off the train and pushing him down the multiple corridors, round the numerous bends and up the endless escalators. Perhaps this is all a little too over-whelming for him, I wonder.

‘Do Muggles really have trains underground or am I imagining it?’ Draco asks, his face taken on a sickly grey pallor, as we finally emerge onto the street.

‘Definitely real. They’re rather a big thing in the Muggle world. Aren’t you keen on them?’

He shakes his head slowly before turning to the floor as if he’s about to be sick. I try and remain bright and cheery, and give him a punch on his arm but he just winces. I really thought the breezy feel of Bloomsbury would bolster him on as it always does it for me, but I guess it’s all a little too much for him right now.

I guide him through the streets, watching his every step in case he throws up or runs away. Neither one will be a great surprise to me, because he did use to be a Death Eater and opposed to everything like this. The fact that he made it here is something to applaud. Fortunately the rather imposing building that is the British Museum slowly slides into view, its many pillars dominating the structure with the British flag flying high above it all.

It’s odd how we don’t really call ourselves British or even English, simply magical. It makes me wonder what it will be like to feel my nationality like Verity feeling Chinese. It’s rather lonely now that I think of it, we’re just magical, nothing else.

‘Draco, we’re here.’

He lifts his head slowly, surveying the building from its first step right up to the flag pole. No immediate reaction is given, and I take that as a good sign. After the tube incident, anything is fine as long as he doesn’t look like he’s going to throw up the entire contents of his stomach.

‘It looks like Gringotts in a way.’

Even if it’s one small remark, it’s something. I smile at him and he returns it. We edge further and further towards the building itself. Jemima mentioned that she and Astoria would be waiting beside the steps it’s just where…

I spy Jemima giving me a coy wave, barely lifting her hand to do so, with a rather tall woman standing beside her. It’s a wonder that Jemima gets on well with Astoria because from one look at her floaty Muggle dress, crystal necklace and sandals, it’s hard to find something to link to Jemima’s own outfit of tight fitting purple robes and hair pulled sharply to one side of her face.

‘Hi Jemima,’ I greet her cheerily. ‘Hi Astoria. I’m Audrey, Jemima’s friend and I work with Draco in the potions department of St. Mungo’s.’

Astoria smiles at me before holding out her hand. I shake it, wondering whether this formality will continue or not before she begins to talk. ‘I’ve heard all about you, and how you support equality. I think it’s absolutely wonderful because why not strive for something like that. Though don’t tell my father, he’ll murder me in the night otherwise.’

She lets out a chuckle, and I notice faint splodges of red and green in her hair enhancing her hippy image even more. Somehow, I have a feeling she’ll be perfect for Draco. She’s so different, so unlike anyone else, that she might be able to sort him out.

‘And Draco,’ Astoria continues, ‘It’s been so long, too long really!’

‘Yes, it has, how are you?’

‘Very good thank you.’ Oh dear, stilted conversation, I hope this works out well. ‘Shall we go in?’

Draco gives a little nod of his head while Jemima and I withdraw. I don’t think Verity will be too pleased if she hears that we accompanied them.

‘See you later Draco.’

We give him a small wave and it’s only then that he really realises what’s happening. Before he can say another word, Jemima and I have turned away from them, ready to explore the Muggle shops nearby.

*


It’s the day of George’s birthday party, and I’m currently sitting with Verity and Angelina who are attempting to put the finishing touches to it without the help of the birthday boy who clams the whole hosting a party thing is too complicated for him (even though he owns an international business which he set up with his brother and no other help…).

‘So the burn proof fire will be positioned by the entrance to the garden allowing people to be warm outside?’ Angelina confirms, shaking her head a little as she does so.

‘Yes, it will, hopefully it is actually burn-proof because I dread to think what will happen if it’s not,’ Verity adds on, causing Angelina and I wince to it at the prospect of it.

‘Does George have a theme to this party then?’ I ask, gazing around his living room which is currently cluttered up with mounds of brown boxes all varying in size.

The pair of them look at me as if I’m stupid.

Angelina finally gives a small laugh before speaking. ‘George has a mental age of two year old at times like this. He has no clear theme. Anything goes with him. It’s safe to say that I will refuse to organise it next year, because dealing with the Ministry over whether a Sphinx, an elephant and a dragon can be imported for the party or not is far too much hassle for me right now.’

‘Then his guests are complicated too,’ Verity sighs, lifting up sheaths of parchment with people’s names, addresses and dietary requirements. ‘They all seem to be living in crazy places like Nepal and are gluten free vegans. I just hope this is some prank of his as it is April Fool’s Day today, after all.’ Lowering her voice, Verity almost hisses out the next part, ‘Mark my words, if this is a prank, George will pay.’

‘Verity, pulling the scary Chinese threats on me won’t work every time you know?’ George’s head appears around the door to the living room and he smiles at us all. ‘There is a genuine person coming from Nepal. It’s a wizard who became a monk who is apparently very good at enchanting water to act in mysterious ways so I thought it would be rather fun to invite him. As for the gluten free vegan, that’s Katie Bell. She’s on some sort of new fad diet thing.’

Angelina laughs. ‘Trust Katie to do that. What are you doing back here anywhere? It’s April Fool’s Day so the shop must be going crazy, and then we’re meant to be planning in secret so the party’s a sort of surprise for you but you’ve gone and ruined it now.’

‘Ron and Bill are looking after it,' George replied. 'Both of their female halves are annoying them, or children too in Bill's case, so they're hiding out the shop.’

Oh yes, the multiple siblings of the Weasley family. I almost feel that I need to consult a family tree when anyone mentions them as there are so many with all their children and partners it gets confusing at times.

‘Yes, yes, but that does not give you a legitimate excuse to be here. Out, George! I shan’t have all of my plans for your birthday ruined by you wanting to know what the surprise is. The point of a surprise is to be shocked. I know that you already found the preliminary ones, but they were merely faked as you knew would do that, so don’t think you can get the better of me, as I have you sussed out.’

Angelina arches her eyebrows at her boyfriend, daring him to carry on their verbal duel. She can be rather intimidating now she’s standing (about 1.75m high, terrifying for a midget at the best of times) with her eyes glowering and face taught.

‘But, it doesn’t matter if I find out a few hours earlier-‘

‘Yes, yes it will,’ she continues, even more determined that Verity. ‘Now and go to the Holyhead Harpies’ training ground. We’ve arranged it with Ginny that you can sit in on their training session. Of course they refused to let you play but watching them should still be fun.’

‘But, I’ll be with girls all day,’ George whined.

‘I don’t care, as you don’t want to work and you can’t be here, you have to go there.’

‘But-‘

George is cut off by Angelina forcing him towards the fireplace. She shoves floo powder in his hand, pushes him into the flames and he’s gone in an instant. Wow, in a way, I’m glad that Oliver’s so chilled, because dating someone like that would make me terrified for my life.

As his body disappears in a twirl, Angelina turns towards us, looking triumphant.

‘And that’s how it’s done.’

*


Oliver and I are walking towards the party, hands clasped together against the April chill. I tug at my cloak so it protects more of my skin. Why does England always have to be so bloody cold?

As we walk away from our official Apparation point, and I can see a stream of people all edging towards George’s house with suspect qualities about them. Said qualities include pointed hats, cloaks and the furtive appearance of wooden sticks before they are quickly folded back into the depths of people’s cloaks. Magical people don’t really know how to act normally in Muggle areas now I think about it.

I feel my arm suddenly be wrenched back, and I turn to see Oliver standing still in the middle of the street.

‘What is it?’ I ask, curious about him stopping.

He wraps his arms around me before placing his lips on mine (cue insane levels of tingling) and kisses me. I respond accordingly, feeling his hands roam up and down my back. Fortunately, he paid attention to my rant about how long it took to get my hair until some sort of chignon and his hands stay firmly away from that.

Oliver breaks away from my lips before smiling at me, ‘That.’

I smirk at him, before hitting him lightly on his arm. Public displays of attention like this one are rather strange for me. I mean, I have a had boyfriends before, but my only proper one, one like Oliver, was at Hogwarts and having teachers hounding you down the corridors did put a damper on any romantic intentions you had.

‘We’d better get going,’ I reply, half wanting to linger and let it continue, but then half wanting to go in case I have the delight of Skeeter turning up again (the flash of the camera really does blind you).

‘Fine,’ he replies, poking my arm and I stick my tongue out at him.

Who would have thought that Oliver has the brain of a two year old at times? Then again, Quidditch is a violent sport so it could be a Bludger attack which made him like this.

*


Oliver’s gone and disappeared. I suspect either to get another drink or go and do something else stupid. He’s already had too much tonight, leading him to proclaim that I’m the most beautiful person he’s ever seen, George is his secret lovechild and how Harry Potter wouldn’t have defeated You-Know-Who if it wasn’t for Oliver’s strict Quidditch regime.

Speaking of Harry Potter, he said hello to me earlier, and even Ginny greeted me and asked how I was. I feel as if I deserve a metaphorical high-five from my brain for being able to remain normal in the presence of four celebrities (Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger were hovering by their side). Though, admittedly, I had to fight with my brain which desperately wanted to ask for all their autographs and a photo with them.

I can see Verity making a beeline towards me, face alit with the news of gossip (the symptoms are always fairly similar in cases like these), which is a good thing as it will stop me looking like a loner if she sits with me. She wades through the crowds of people with ease, dodging round the wizarding monk whose water enchantments are rather good actually and slumps down on the sofa next to me.

‘What gossip have you got to tell me then?’

Her faces screws up annoyance, hating having her surprise ruined. ‘Well, several pieces of gossip really. You're slacking, Audrey, and only detecting one piece.'

‘While, considering I’ve had a few drinks already, I think it’s good I noticed your excitement.’

I poke her in the arm before moving up on the sofa, trying to avoid the person who seems to be hibernating with the way they’re curled up in a ball and emitting grunts now and then. Darting around him, I manage to make just enough space to allow Verity to avoid the couple looking as if they’re on the verge of breaking up, and she smacks her lips together, finally ready to spill the gossip.

‘Well, go on then.’

‘I saw Jemima kissing Charlie Weasley! Yes, Charlie Weasley! And she was sober! Imagine, Jemima going for the rustic look! I never thought that would happen.’

I try and make a comment on it, but Verity swiftly cuts me off.

‘Don’t comment, Audrey, I have to get back to circulating with people so I’ll tell you the next bit quickly.’ I try to avoid making a comment about circulating with drunk people, because Verity will find a way to do it anyhow. ‘But Percy Weasley has been sighted with someone of the feminine species. I can’t say much more than that, but there has been a definite sighting and it wasn’t just the same standing side by side by coincidence sighting, but a real one. Then the final piece of gossip, though given that they’re going to reveal it soon it’s not that amazing, but Angelina and George are moving in together.’

Aw, now I want to squeal, because it feels as if there’s happy ending to every story now. George and Angelina are just so adorable, and now they can live together and get married and have adorable children and yeah I may have drunken too much because I swear I’m not usually this soppy.

‘And they won’t drive one another insane?’ I joke, trying not to sound like an idiot.

‘I think they’re putting in firm ground rules down before moving in together, and George’s mum, Molly, is teaching George how to cook and clean which should help a lot.’

Verity suddenly stands, waving her hand at me. ‘Well, I simply must dash now, I have to go and talk to so many people. Keep an eye out on Jemima and Charlie for me, will you?’

I give a small nod of my head before she merges into the crowd, barely even noting my response. Alone, again. I could change it, find Oliver, find Jemima, or even Angelina and George, but I have a feeling that I should say here, like I have to.

Reclining back into the chair I give out a sigh, sometimes being alone and allowed to think at places like these is often a good and well needed thing.

‘May I sit here?’ I hear Percy ask, looking as alone as I feel.

‘Sure.’ I shift over a little, still careful to avoid the man who’s in a comatose state and I smile at him.

‘How are you?’ he asks curtly. He still has his brusque mannerisms then.

‘Fine, and you?’

I hate this, small talk. It’s always so painful and tedious. Maybe after he replies I should just cut to the chase and ask him some insane question and see how he reacts.

‘Tired, if I’m honest, it’s only because that George is my brother that I came. I try and do anything to make up for what happened before between us…’

A silence falls, and I don’t know how to prevent it from deepening into a silence which never ends. Talking about family rifts isn’t exactly normal party talk.

‘Oh, sorry. I didn’t really know George back then so I didn’t know it was that bad between the two of you.’

His face tightens up a little before replying. ‘It’s fine, it’s almost a good thing it happened as I know now not to hold a grudge over something silly again. How do you know George anyhow, I never really got the full story?’

‘My friend, Verity, works at his shop as the Head of Global Expansion and Chief Advisor on the Feminine Lines. So I just got to know him through visiting her, and then as Oliver’s friends with him too, I’ve gotten to know more since Oliver and I began dating.’

Shit. I’m not meant to mention Oliver in front of him. With the whole debacle over Percy warning me off him and then some unknown rift between the two, I think it’s best to say clear of such a touchy subject.

Percy murmurs something and the comment about Oliver is gladly forgotten.

‘I heard that you’re mentoring Draco Malfoy and have struck up a close friendship with him. Are you sure this is advisable?’

At this exact moment, I want to throw something at him for being so infuriating. There I am thinking that perhaps my judgement about Percy is a little faulted but he goes and ruins it by saying that. People really need to stop hating on Draco as it’s just unfair.

‘I think my judgement is perfectly acceptable.’

‘Hmm,’ sighs (big head) Percy. ‘I just think you should be careful as I’ve known their family for many years. I only want what’s best for you.’

‘But he isn’t a Death Eater anymore. He was cleared of all charges by your own brother-in-law, Harry Potter. He visited a Muggle museum last week; we use Muggle science in our potion making. He has changed. It’s clear and big change too, he isn’t the same person anymore.’

Eyes are locked, pulses raised. The verbal duel looks as if it’s going to become a physical one.

‘I’m sorry if I stepped out of line, Audrey. I just wanted to make sure you were sure. I know you know what he did, and what his father did, but his father did something to my sister I don’t think I can ever forgive. He nearly made her die. That’s why I find it strange, that’s all. Even though Draco.’ He almost spits over the name. ‘Didn’t do it, I don’t think I could do what you’re doing.’

‘What happened to forgiving people though? George forgave you, I forgave Draco for what he did, can’t you forgive him?’

I clamp my hands down on the sofa, a platform for my standing. I feel my legs bend and I am now looking down on Percy.

‘It’s not that easy,’ he says softly.

‘Yes, but you could just try. It could surprise you. Draco will never change if people think he can’t. I believe he can change, so he will. If more people thought that he would recover even quicker.’

One final look at him, eyes are now pleading rather than locked, and I contemplate staying, trying to help him overcome his dislike for Draco, but I feel as if that would go into unknown territory and I don’t want that. Then the cries of Oliver echo around,

‘Audrey, Audrey, Audrey, where are you?’

‘Don’t go, Audrey, I didn’t explain myself, please listen.’

Percy’s voice is a lone one in the shouts of others, and Oliver’s voice easily crushes it as I feel his arm slither around my waist.

‘There you are, Audrey!’ he slurs, the faint smell of butter beer lacing his tongue. ‘I’ve been looking over for you.’

‘I’ve been here all the time,’ I say softly, hoping he doesn’t notice the person sat on the sofa.

‘Ah, Perce!’ Oliver exclaims, as if he wants to dash my hopes on purpose. ‘What are you doing talking to Audrey? She said she didn’t like you.’

I wish I can hit him but while he’s not entirely aware of his surroundings I decide that isn’t the best way to approach things. I’ll just have to settle for stamping lightly on his toes.

Percy looks as if he’s been the one whose toes have been stamped on. Ok, I won’t deny I said that, and in this current circumstance it could sort of be true, but I still wish that for once Oliver is able to manage his alcohol and not have to about saying everything I may have mentioned in passing.

‘I see how it is,’ Percy says slowly, each word and pause being a measured one. ‘I shan’t stay here any longer is my presence is so undesirable to those around me.’

Oliver swings on my arm, laughing, not really aware of the present situation so it’s only me who’s acting as an observer.

‘I thought you were different, Audrey,’ Percy whispers in my ear as he walks past.

I turn, frozen with his words, and watch his body retreat away from me. There’s no need for a physical duel, those words pierced me in every metaphorical sense. I didn’t do anything wrong, it was him, going around accusing me of having a false judgement, not forgiving people. Clearly, my judgement isn’t that bad as it’s just been proved correct in all areas where Percy Weasley is concerned.

Spying a table with a tray of fire whiskeys balanced upon it, I make headway for them. Picking up one, it’s downed straight away, much like the second, third and fourth glass (Suck on that Percy Weasley. I can have a good time without you.).

Oliver’s still in the same place that I left him, and when I slink my arms around his neck he gladly obliges. He’s like a hungry wolf, the way his hands roam up and down, tousling at my hair so it falls out of the carefully created chignon. I feel his trail of kisses fall down from my lips, around the ear and down my neck, barely leaving a place untouched by them.

My hands run through his own hair, turning it into something like a porcupine, ruffling my hands against them as a calming effect in a way. Oliver kisses at the bottom of my neck before moving his mouth upwards and murmuring in my ear.

‘Let’s go. Somewhere else.’

I know I shouldn’t, it’s an act of revenge not even against this person but I find my head moving up and down in a nod. He grabs my hand, before weaving me through the corridors until we emerge outside and I’m whisked away as the sucking sensation of Apparation envelopes me.


Author's Note: Whoo, a quite quick update for me, I'm not sure when the next one will be as I have exams throughout May but I will try and be as quick as I can be! So, lots of drama, what did you think of Draco and Astoria? You have to feel for him having all those Muggle things thrown at him! Then there was lots of Audrey/Percy tension going on then, silly Oliver as well just making it awkward but more will be revealed in the next chapter!

I haven't had as much feedback on these later chapters, so if you could leave a review here, even if it's just to say you liked it or didn't like it, it would be fab, as that would really make my day! Thank you for reading :D


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