"Love, I love beyond! Breath, beyond reason, beyond love's own power of loving! Your name is like a golden bell hung in my heart..."
-Cyrano de Bergerac, Act 3
Roxanne stretched out full-length on the leather couch and sighed blissfully. “It was perfect, Molly. It was exactly how I always thought it would happen.”
“I thought it was going to be across a crowded Quidditch pitch, isn't that what you've been saying the last six months?” Roxanne's best friend and cousin, Molly Weasley, rolled her eyes. Roxanne did not let this bother her. She was too happy for anything to bother her today.
“Aside from the Quidditch pitch, I mean.”
“Does this mean you'll talk about him more, or less?” Molly asked dryly. She was dressed in her Quidditch uniform for the Holyhead Harpies, the dark green robes with their gold talon emblem matching Molly's shock of green and blonde hair, which she'd been sporting in a mohawk for the past several weeks. Today, though, the mohawk wasn't potion-ed to stand up straight, and curled around her cheekbones quite prettily. Roxanne had descended on Molly's flat as Molly was about to leave for work – she was the reserve keeper for the Harpies.
“More, of course.”
Roxanne smiled when Molly heaved a long-suffering sigh. Her cousin Molly had been hearing about Hilarion since the beginning of Roxanne's crush on him. She didn't think Molly really minded though, or she would've told her to shut up about it by now. Molly was an honest person – sometimes too much so.
But today, nothing anyone could say would diminish Roxanne's good mood. Her dreams were finally starting to come true, and she was going to grab them and run with them before they could get away from her again.
This time, no one was leaving her at the altar. No one was going to wreck this. “He's so perfect,” she said aloud.
“So what did Lucy think of him?” Molly asked.
Roxanne paused. She hadn't actually bothered to ask her cousin's opinion, now she stopped to think of it. Lucy had been saying he wasn't a real author – which, having read the book, Roxanne had to admit was actually true: there was very little writing at all in the book, and none written by Hilarion – but aside from that, she had not offered her thoughts on him. And Roxanne hadn't asked. She felt a bit bad about that, but she didn't want to admit it. “Well, she didn't really say. I suppose she thought he was all right.”
Molly pursed her lips. “I've never known my sister to hold back her opinion.”
“I've never known any Weasley to hold back their opinion,” Roxanne quipped.
“True.” Molly smiled. “I did tell you Hilarion couldn't string two sentences together.”
“Maybe he's shy. I think he might be shy.”
“Well, he might or he might not, but either way, I've got training. Go swan about your own flat mooning over Hilarion.” Molly nudged her cousin with her foot, and Roxanne slid off the couch and got to her feet.
“Oh, thanks very much. I just got here.”
“No one invited you.”
“Well then go off and be sweaty and smelly with the other Harpies,” Roxanne said as she headed for the door. “No one's stopping you.”
Molly grinned. “Lunch tomorrow?”
“If I haven't anyone better to hang out with.”
“No one loves you like I do. Go away now.”
Roxanne went. When she arrived back at her flat – significantly smaller and less well-organized than Molly's – an owl was waiting on her window sill. She didn't recognize the writing, but it looked masculine. She ripped into the envelope eagerly.
A dinner date with Hilarion tomorrow night.
Roxanne hugged the letter to her chest and collapsed onto her sofa, grinning so wide her cheeks ached.
“I don't think I can do this,” Hilarion said, feeling rather panic-stricken.
He was standing in front of his bedroom mirror, examining his own reflection in the mirror. Hair tousled appropriately, button-down shirt, grey trousers, and a dragon-leather jacket. He looked all right, but he didn't feel all right.
Perry had egged him on until he'd written to Roxanne Weasley to invite her to dinner with him. He was due to meet her in less than an hour, and was seriously considering chickening out and canceling the date. He was bound to mess it up, bound to turn it into a disaster.
He wasn't the world's best conversationalist, and first dates were all about conversation, weren't they?
“I could send a message, tell her I'm sick,” he suggested.
“Don't be stupid,” Perry said. He was sitting on Hilarion's bed, his feet propped up on the bench at the foot of the bed. He'd stolen a packet of biscuits out of Hilarion's kitchen, and was rummaging through it now. “How long have these been around, mate? I think they're getting on a bit. They've probably just gotten their Hogwarts letters, they seem that old.”
“Throw them out, then.”
Perry ate a biscuit. “They're not too bad,” he said with his mouth full. Perry, as Hilarion knew from long years of friendship, would eat nearly anything, so long as it stayed on a plate long enough. If it got up and walked off the plate, Perry would probably Stun it and put it back on the plate.
“What am I going to talk about with her?” Hilarion asked, returning to what he viewed as more important matters. “What if she talks about things I don't know anything about? You know I'm no good at this.”
“Let her do most of the talking,” Perry advised him. “Women love that.”
Hilarion adjusted his shirt cuffs nervously. “Let her talk. Right.”
“Remember that model you dated who never talked? The one who only ate edamame?”
Hilarion grimaced. He'd chucked her after two weeks because of the edamame. It wasn't natural to avoid food with quite so much determination. “Yes.”
“Well, try to be like her. Just keep quiet and be good-looking.” Perry waved vaguely and ate another biscuit.
“Thanks, that's very helpful.” He turned away from the mirror. “This is going to be a disaster.”
“It's not going to be a disaster.”
“Yes, it is. Tell me what to say,” Hilarion begged his best friend. “Tell me what to talk about so I don't come off like a complete berk.”
Perry sighed. “I thought you said she might be the love of your life. Should you be this nervous if it's meant to be?”
“How should I know? I just am, all right?” Hilarion didn't particularly want to examine what his nerves might portend. He'd never studied Divination, anyway. It gave him a headache.
“Let's see, first date...” Perry tossed the packet of biscuits aside and brushed off his hands. “You could ask her about her family. But don't make a big deal of her uncle being Harry Potter, she's bound to have heard a lot of people fawning over that. Ask her about her siblings, and her parents. Talk about her writing – ask her what she's working on right now. See if she's doing anything aside from the newspaper; writers always have more than one project going on.”
Hilarion nodded, hoping he would remember all this. Maybe he ought to write it down. He tried to summarize it. “Family, no Harry Potter, writing. All right. Anything else?”
“You could always talk Quidditch with her,” Perry pointed out. “You know plenty about Quidditch.”
“It's my job.” Hilarion couldn't think of how to explain it, but he didn't really want to talk a lot of Quidditch to her. He wanted to sound smart and witty, like Perry was. He didn't stop to analyze why – he rarely stopped to analyze anything – but he wanted Roxanne to think he was much smarter than he actually was. “I can't really go on about the Arrows' chances in the league, can I? I thought women didn't like that. Besides, I talk about Quidditch every day, everywhere I go. I get sick of Quidditch.”
Perry shrugged. “All right, then. Ask her what sort of music she likes, what sort of books she reads, what she watches on the telly.”
“Right.” Hilarion adjusted his cuffs again and realized something was missing. “Blast, where's my watch?”
“I don't know, mate, I didn't see you put it on.”
“I must've left it somewhere. What time is it?”
Perry checked his watch. “Time to leave, you idiot. Quit standing around worrying before you wind up standing her up.”
He was five minutes early, as it turned out, since he was able to Apparate nearly right in front of the restaurant's entrance. The maître d' seated him instantly, since it didn't do to leave celebrities hanging about out on the pavement. He sat at the table and waited nervously for Roxanne to show up, still filled with anxiety.
She was too smart for him. He was going to say something stupid and then she'd get that look on her face, the one Perry's friends sometimes gave him, the one previous women had given him – the one that said they hadn't realized he was only a pretty face.
The look that said they'd just discovered he was completely thick.
He didn't want to see that look on Roxanne's face.
Hilarion drank some water and checked if his palms were damp. He had just told himself to take a deep breath and relax when she appeared. His face broke into a smile. She was so beautiful.
The waiter led her over, and Hilarion rose quickly, but she seated herself before either he or the waiter could hold her chair, and Hilarion, feeling a bit awkward, resumed his own seat and smiled at her.
“Thanks for having dinner with me,” he blurted out, feeling he ought to say something.
Roxanne smiled brightly. Her eyes sparkled, and her face seemed to glow. He waited for his nervousness to vanish at the sight of her, as it surely must if she was The One.
It didn't. If anything, he felt even more nervous.
Roxanne was swanning again, she knew. She couldn't help it. Her smile was rather smug as she sipped her wine, watching the waiter take away their plates. His arrival had caused a short lull in the conversation, but Roxanne's confidence was iron-clad.
It was the perfect first date. Hilarion had asked about her writing, and she'd spent the entire dinner course telling him all about the crime novel she planned to write, and her hopes of being lead Quidditch columnist for the Daily Prophet. They looked well together, she thought, catching a glimpse of their reflection in the windows of the lovely French restaurant. The lull stretched on as the waiter removed the dinner plates, but as he returned to expertly slide their dessert plates in front of them, Roxanne tried to rekindle the conversation. Hilarion started a bit when she spoke again.
“What's your family like? Lots of brothers and sisters?”
Hilarion shook his head. “There's only me. I have an aunt and a few cousins in Bristol, but I don't see them much.”
“Oh, you're lucky, my cousins are endlessly around, I can hardly get rid of them. My brother as well – it's just me and Fred, the two of us, he's a laugh but I always wished for a sister. My cousin Molly, now, she's almost like a sister to me. She's my best friend.” Roxanne paused for breath and Hilarion managed a word in.
“Molly Weasley from the Harpies?”
Roxanne nodded cheerfully and decided not to tell him the things Molly had said about him. That probably wouldn't go over well.
“I've met her,” Hilarion said, and Roxanne couldn't quite read his expression. She got the impression he was a bit uncomfortable though, so she tried to gloss over it.
“Well, she's Lucy's older sister – you remember Lucy from the bookstore? And we're only four months apart in age, so we sort of grew up always together. My other cousins, I have a lot of them you know – ten just on my dad's side – we're all quite close but not as close as Molly and I. And Molly loves Quidditch, of course, like I do.”
“Oh?” Hilarion managed, but Roxanne was off and running again.
“Lily played a bit, and James was the Seeker – their parents both played in school, and Aunt Ginny played for the Harpies too when she was younger. And my brother Fred, he was a Beater like our dad. He's got the build for it. The rest of them didn't play, although Rose wasn't bad if you could talk her onto a broom, and Hugo was actually quite good, but he never made the House team. Gryffindor. Were you in Gryffindor?”
“Um,” said Hilarion. “No? I was, um, in Hufflepuff.”
Roxanne smiled. “I think I read that about you once,” she said teasingly, and he returned her smile gamely, though he felt a bit slow. It was hard to keep up with her. She even spoke faster than he could think. But she went on before he could say anything more, and told him at length about her cousins (he wasn't sure he entirely believed the Louis stories) and then about her plans for holidays in Torbay with her family. She was quite entertaining to listen to. He could see how she would probably be a good writer. Best of all, he barely had to say anything. Perry had been right; letting her do all the talking was much easier.
She hadn't actually asked about him much. That was rather a relief, since then he'd have to try to talk about himself, and that made his hands feel a bit clammy. She was just as quick-witted as he'd expected – rather like Perry – and he knew now he wouldn't be able to act as if he were at her level. At least while she spoke about herself, he didn't have to make conversation about topics he knew nothing about, like politics or film or history.
It was nice to see a woman who ate with gusto, he had to admit. After so many dates with vacant-eyed supermodels who ate only tiny salads, watching Roxanne pack away a slice of chocolate cake was rather enjoyable. Clearly he'd been hanging around the wrong sort of woman, even if she was far too smart for him.
Roxanne finished her cake and her wine, and smiled happily at Hilarion. He smiled back, and she thought they had rather a lovely moment of silent communication. Surely he must be thinking how well-suited they were, as she was.
But then he looked away to signal for the bill, and the moment was lost. Roxanne felt her cheeks grow a bit hot. Maybe she was getting ahead of herself. It was hard to have everything she'd dreamed of right in front of her and not grab for it, though.
He didn't offer to see her home, which she attributed to nervousness. They exchanged a rather awkward kiss on the cheek and separated outside the restaurant, and Roxanne went home wishing he'd given her a real kiss.
Morning dawned bright and clear, and Hilarion was up with the sun for training, still distracted by his date last night. He was not entirely pleased with his performance at dinner. He'd felt a bit of an idiot, really, like a great stupid ox, fumbling over his words whenever Roxanne paused for breath. She certainly could talk. It was rather like hanging about with a female Perry in some ways. And she'd mentioned that Holyhead Harpies Keeper, Molly Weasley, whom he should have known must be her cousin, now he thought about it. She'd always rather intimidated Hilarion, with her leather clothes and spiky green hair. Molly had reminded him a bit of Perry and his friends as well, and Roxanne had said last night they were best friends. Hilarion wondered if he was doomed from the start.
And he still couldn't find his watch, which made him feel his entire day was thrown off.
By the time he made it home, it was nearly noon, and he searched his bedroom for the watch, to give him something else to think about just as much as to actually find the bloody thing.
It was nowhere to be found. He must have left it somewhere, and tried to think of where he'd been lately. The pitch, but it hadn't been there or a groundskeeper would have found it. Perry's, but Perry hadn't found it either. The restaurant, but it had been missing before then. The bookstore-
He groaned. He had taken it off about halfway through the signing, when his wrists had started feeling sore from so many autographs. He couldn't remember what had happened to it after that, but it must still be at Flourish and Blotts.
Well, at least if he had to go to Diagon Alley, he could have lunch at one of the cafes tucked around the street. His stomach was already rumbling.
He went to the back door of the bookshop, hoping to avoid anyone recognizing him. He'd learned long ago that sunglasses and a hat pulled low over his eyes were only slightly effective in disguising his famous face. Sometimes it was nice to be famous, but it was even nicer to be able to go to a bookshop without women screaming when they saw him.
He opened the door and ducked inside, and a woman bent over a box of books whirled around with a small scream. He recognized Lucy Weasley at once.
“It's only me,” he said hurriedly, whipping off the hat and sunglasses. “Sorry. Didn't mean to scare you.”
Lucy let out a huge breath. “I... I wasn't expecting anyone.”
“I lost my watch,” he explained, hoping she'd know where it was. Lucy seemed to be the one in charge at Flourish and Blotts, despite the 'assistant' in her managerial title. She had an aura of solid competence about her that was reassuring. “I thought I might've left it here at the book signing.”
She rolled her eyes. “I owled your manager that I'd found it. Obviously he doesn't read his mail.”
“Sorry,” Hilarion said, wishing his manager had mentioned this. Bergie probably had thrown the letter away after receiving it, or tossed it on his giant pile of unsolicited mail he would never read. Bergie wouldn't see the importance of the watch, and would tell Hilarion to buy a new one.
“I have it in the safe. I reckoned it might be expensive, so I thought I'd best lock it up.” Lucy indicated a large black safe embedded in the wall opposite them.
“It wasn't,” Hilarion told her, trailing along in her wake. “Expensive, I mean. At least, not very. My mum gave it to me when I turned seventeen. I always keep it on me.”
“Unless you're signing autographs?” Lucy waved her wand over the safe and locks began to click. The door slid open.
“Yes, well. My wrist was hurting.”
She pulled the wand from the safe and handed it over. “It's a very nice watch, anyway.”
Hilarion smiled as he fastened the watch around his wrist, feeling its familiar weight settle into place. “Thank you for rescuing it for me.”
Lucy looked a bit flushed. “That's all right. Is your wrist better now?”
“Much, thank you. Can I buy you lunch? As a thank you, for the watch.”
She looked even more flushed now, but she smiled up at him. She was quite different from her cousin, he thought, though just as pretty in her own way. He liked her smile.
“Yes, thank you,” she said. “That would be nice.”
“All right, then. Leaky Cauldron?”
They settled into a private booth, tucked away from the main part of the pub. Hilarion was used to having to request things like that, to keep at least some semblance of a normal life. Lucy had seemed a bit surprised, but she settled into her seat quite comfortably nonetheless. He supposed she wasn't used to the celebrity life, though she was related to Harry Potter, possibly the most famous wizard since Albus Dumbledore.
“Did you enjoy the book signing?” Lucy asked after they had placed their orders.
“No,” he admitted. “I felt like a right git. I didn't even write the book.” He hadn't told anyone but Perry that he hadn't wanted to do the book signing. He wasn't sure why he was telling Lucy, except that something about her blue eyes made him feel he could say whatever he wanted to her, and she would listen quietly. Not many people listened quietly to him.
“Why did you do it, then?” she said, and he was brought up short.
“Do you know, I'm really not sure,” he told her, and she smiled. He liked her smile better the more he saw it. “My manager wanted me to go, I suppose. I do like books, I'm just not much of a writer.”
Her eyes warmed a bit. “What sort of books do you like?”
“Auror novels,” he said, and she laughed. Her laugh was even better than her smile.
“I read those too. Roxanne always makes fun of me for 'light' reading. She likes literary fiction, the more intellectual sort of novels.” Lucy wrinkled her nose. “I think they're boring.”
Hilarion grinned sheepishly, though his stomach flipped a bit at the mention of Roxanne. “I tried to read one of those sort before, but I didn't understand it. Never finished it.”
“I don't see the appeal, either. I like something that's fun. I don't want to read sad books. I have enough real life to be getting on with already.”
“Yeah,” he agreed. “I like fun books too. I don't want it to make me think.”
“Exactly,” Lucy said, and they both laughed.
The lunch hour passed before Hilarion even realized it, talking nonstop with Lucy, before she suddenly realized the time and had to rush back to work. He walked her back to the bookshop to finish her shift, feeling quite cheerful after they'd parted ways. He whistled as he walked off down the street. It was far easier to talk to Lucy Weasley than to Roxanne Weasley.