Who: Taliesyn Robards, Cary Robards
Where: Robards cottage
When: 28 August 2001, evening
Tali had been kicked out of his own flat. He didn’t know whether it was because Idris finally found a girl to take hostage or whether he had simply decided to take being a prat to a new level, randomly. He had no journal either, that also being in Idris’s possession. The only thing he did have, apart from the clothes on his back and his wand, was this rather… interesting letter from Romilda.
It was rather forward. To say the least. He’d never been so blatantly propositioned.
But he couldn’t. Could he?
“Whatcha looking at?”
Tali jumped out of his skin. “Fuck, Cary. I thought it was Dad.”
“Don’t think he says ‘whatcha’ a lot,” remarked Cary. His eyes spotted the picture, which had flown from Tali’s hand and fluttered onto the coffee table. He whistled. “Is that Romilda? Where did you get that?”
“She wrote to me,” said Tali. He let Cary see the note, because once you’d seen the picture nothing was surprising anymore. Maybe Cary would be able to help him make sense of it.
“That is…” Cary’s eyebrows were doing overtime, “…incredible. What are you waiting for?”
“Why are you still here? She’s only next door.”
Cary’s eyebrows had picked up a whole new shift. “No? It’s Romilda! Why would you say no? Are you—” stupid, Cary was about to say, but checked himself. It was a sore spot and he’d probably heard it every day from Idris. Worse, he’d agree, and then a depressive gloom would settle upon the whole household for the rest of the evening. “What I mean is, you’d be very lucky. All the boys told me they were jealous of Andrei when he was dating her. Well, I also heard it wasn’t so great at the end, but before that they were pretty green.”
Tali did not see how that was supposed to cheer him up. Great, so now he was also a fool. “Look, I don’t think it’s a great idea.”
“Can I have the picture then?”
“No. It’s mine. Give it back.”
Cary laughed and tossed the picture back. “Don’t see why you need to settle for pictures when you could have the real thing.”
“It’s more complicated than that.”
Cary peered at Tali’s face closely. “You look very pale. You’re not ill, are you?”
Tali sighed. “No, that’s deliberate. Well — I took a potion. It’s supposed to just make me look normal but I was in a hurry and had to fudge on some ingredients.”
“Why’d you need a potion for that?”
“Because I didn’t want to walk around bright red all day, OK?” Tali snapped. He got to his feet and paced around restlessly. “I know you are trying to ‘help’ me,” he stated. “But really, you’re not helping. I can’t take your advice to just ‘go over’ because as you’ve now noticed, I also look like a vampire.”
Cary shrugged. “I assume it’s not permanent. There’s always tomorrow.”
“She’ll forget all this tomorrow. And quite rightly, too,” Tali added hastily.
“She doesn’t have to,” said Cary, and his eyes light up in a way that Tali did not like, at all. “Be right back!” He had bolted upstairs.
Cary came back bearing a picture Tali thought he had seen the back of. “Where did you get that?”
“Oh, you remember how my bedroom used to be yours, right? And how I’ve been here for weeks and I’ve been really, really bored, right? Well, I’ve been through all your drawers. Sorry.”
Tali made a grab for it but Cary was quick to react. He held it out of reach and backed away, slowly, keeping one arm held in front for any more sudden attempts.
“Did you pose for a girlfriend?”
“No,” Tali scowled. “Idris took it. One of many. He ambushed me because I had supposedly hit on his girlfriend — who wasn’t even his girlfriend then, by the way, just someone he had made eye contact with and liked the look of — and he wanted to embarrass me. I had to explain to a whole load of Muggle hotel staff why I was sitting there with no clothes on.”
Cary bit the inside of his cheek. “What did you say?”
“Doesn’t matter; they all got Obliviated in the end.”
Cary let out one chuckle. “It’s not a bad picture, really. Kind of cheeky. Fun. You look good in sepia.”
“As opposed to what, colour?” Tali rolled his eyes.
“I think Romilda will like it very much.”
Tali’s complacent expression vanished. “What? No! Don’t you dare!”
Tali lunged at Cary again, but a well-placed elbow to the ribs gave him enough time to scrawl ‘To Romilda, xoxo Tali’ on the other side without interference. He hugged the photo to his chest and dashed out the front door.
Cary was almost at the Vanes’ front door when Tali jumped the side fence and tackled his brother to the ground. There was a short scuffle, Cary holding the photo out in front, Tali trying to reach for it, his other hand trying to mash Cary’s face into the ground, when Cary flicked his wrist and sent the photo flying under the door.
There was a silence, punctuated by heavy breathing. “It’s gone.”
Cary pushed Tali away from him and sat up. “Not true. You could always knock and say you’ve misplaced something of yours and you’d like it back.”
Tali had a strong urge to smash Cary’s head through the front path. “No. That’s— no. Why did you do that? Anyone could pick that up!”
Cary got to his feet and dusted himself off nonchalantly. “Hey, I addressed it to Romilda. Her sisters shouldn’t be reading her mail.”
Even if it had gone in note side up, the chances of someone picking it up and not looking at the other side were zero.
“You could have put it in an envelope.”
“Maybe I would’ve, if you hadn’t attacked me first,” sniffed Cary. He laughed. “C’mon! Now there are so many different ways tomorrow could go! Aren’t you excited? Now, this is real living.”
Tali stood up gingerly. Guess there was nothing more to do than go back inside and start brewing a proper batch of that potion.