Who: Taliesyn Robards, Romilda Vane
Where: Hotel in Frankfurt, Germany
When: 13 November 2001, late evening
Tali hadn’t quite expected the hotel to be Muggle and had to make a hasty U-turn when he caught sight of the television in the lobby. He ducked into the closest alleyway and spend half an age shoving the Firebolt into his knapsack. Cary had promised it was bigger on the inside but it wasn’t infinite, and there were several other things inside he didn’t want squashed. He managed to get it closed but one end still poked into his back uncomfortably. A minor inconvenience, really, given that he’d just flown 300 miles in the rain.
Ah yes, the rain. Tali had gotten lucky in that it’d only taken a small fib to get Romilda’s room number. He didn’t quite fancy leaving a message and then waiting in the lobby while other people gawked because he looked like he’d just taken a dip in the pool, fully clothed. Possibly there were also leaves in his hair but he didn’t have a mirror to check.
Also, well, he wanted her to be surprised. Properly surprised. Not surprised and then have any number of minutes to digest the surprise so she wasn’t surprised any more. OK. Here was her door. Knock. Knock. Knock now. C’mon knock, you’ve come all this way.
His hand hesitated. It was kind of late, yes, but she could have gone out and not returned. She could have returned with some German lover. The thought made him shudder. Or maybe he shuddered because he was really, really cold.
She could be asleep. She might not want to see him. She could… oh hell, she could be any number of things. He took a deep breath and rapped on the door lightly. Then it took all he had to stay put and not make a dash to hide around the corner.
Things were going fairly well for Romilda. Yesterday, she’d quickly mastered the basics of German, namely “yes”, “no”, “thank you”, and “a coffee, please”, as well as remembering to tone down any hint of a Welsh accent when she asked whether someone spoke English. Manning the J Pippin’s stall was much easier than managing the shop, in her opinion, because anyone at the potions fair didn’t need things dumbed down and she could stretch her academic muscles a little.
It wasn’t all work, though, and last night she’d done some socialising and maybe drunk a little too much beer. A couple of wizards had tried to chat her up and she’d tried to be interested, but the truth was neither of them were, well, Tali. When she’d gone to bed in the early hours, feeling tipsy and philosophical, she’d mused on how unfair — how really, really unfair — it was that not being around him made her feel just as crazy as when she was.
Tonight, she had retired to her hotel room much earlier, along with a large bar of chocolate and a good book. Even so, she kept reading the same three paragraphs over and over, which was why she’d given up and painted her toenails. By the time she heard the knock on her door, Romilda’s nails were dry and she’d started having regrets about trimming her fringe.
She sighed, hoping that it wasn’t Jacques, the Frenchman with the silly moustache. Luckily, it wasn’t, though she could scarcely believe who it really was. Eyes wide, she managed to rein in the impulse to grab him and kiss him, but she couldn’t seem to stop her hand from reaching out to touch his chest. It was Tali, alright. He was damp and shivering, but he was definitely Tali.
“Um, hi.” Her fingers splayed out across his heart and she finally smiled. “Hi.”
“Hello,” said Tali softly. Well, that was good. He felt so taken with her when she first appeared that he wasn’t sure he could speak. He mirrored her smile, though his was slightly more sheepish. “Um, surprise?”
Romilda nodded mutely. For once, words were not coming easily to her, which surprised her almost as much as seeing Tali at her hotel room door. “Big surprise,” she agreed. “Great surprise.” She bit her lip, trying to stop herself from pouncing on him. “You should come in,” she said quickly. “And… dry off.”
“Of course,” Tali agreed, nodding. He stepped inside and closed the door behind him. “Muggles aren’t going to come around, are they? ‘Cause I really need to get this broomstick out of my bag.” He dropped his knapsack down on the floor and stretched his arms out over behind his head. “Ah, that’s better.”
He took his coat off and became acutely aware he was dripping water all over the carpet. “Um, bathroom? I should hang this up.”
“No, no one’s going to come around.” Romilda stood back as Tali pulled off his sodden coat, reeling that he was here in Frankfurt. What should she say to him? After all, it seemed the perfect opportunity to say something about how she felt. Unless, of course, he was here because he had a deep desire to see what was new in the world of potion making.
She pointed at the door in the corner of the room. “It’s over there.”
“Right, thanks,” said Tali quickly. He pulled the Firebolt out and propped it up against the door. Then he grabbed the bag and dragged it into the bathroom with him. He hung his coat up on the towel rack then removed everything apart from his pants, which were thankfully dry. He draped the wet clothing over various surfaces and set a slow drying charm on them. He dressed again and was just about to exit the bathroom when he realised what a terrible impression he might give if he walked out in his pyjamas. He shut the door again.
Crap. He didn’t bring a separate set of proper clothing. OK, bugger the risk of burning, maybe he should just blast his clothing dry and put it all on again. Maybe a shirt and jumper? He tried to hurry the drying up.
He opened the door a crack and poked his head out. “Romilda? Uh, I do have to leave… in the morning. I realise how terrible that sounds. I assure you that I’m not here for… uh, anything. I don’t expect… I mean…” he trailed off. God, this was difficult. He hadn’t even declared intentions yet. And a few days ago he’d been anxious to even call Romilda a friend and now he was in her hotel room in his pyjamas. “I mean, I came here because I wanted to see you. A week is too long to pass without your company. I felt bereft. That’s it, really. But um, yeah.”
He quickly grabbed his jumper — toasty dry now, thank Merlin — and slipped it on. He stepped out cautiously.
While Tali disappeared into the bathroom, Romilda sat down heavily on the end of her bed. It was safe to say that she was no longer wondering whether her fringe was an eighth of an inch too short. Instead, she stared, stunned, at the Firebolt that was now propped up against the door.
She stood up quickly when his head emerged, clasping her hands nervously in front of her. Though she wanted to say something as he tried to explain, she held her tongue and let him speak instead. After all those weeks of working with him while he was under the influence of the potion, she could really see the difference in him now.
As he joined her bodily in the room, she stepped up to him; she could feel the warmth of his newly-dried jumper. “You flew here on a broom. In the rain. From Wales.”
He bit back a grin. “Um… not exactly. Originally I didn’t want to fly at all. I wanted a Portkey, nice and simple. I called in a favour from the Portkey office but the best they could do on short notice was let me hitch a ride to Amsterdam. Oh well, what can you do? If I have to fly then fly I shall. So I flew from Amsterdam. It saved me crossing the Channel at least. That would have really been suicidal,” he laughed.
He glanced at the Firebolt. “That’s not mine, either. Broom Regulatory Control graciously let me borrow it. They confiscated a batch they thought was counterfeit but turns out they were the real deal… but they do have a fault where they veer towards the equator. I spent all afternoon trying to work out how that affected my planned route, speed, optimal altitude and so on.”
He straightened his expression. “It was terribly hard work. All the books I had to read.”
Romilda smiled widely. “I’m glad you picked research and planning over a suicidal Channel crossing.” She laughed softly. “I know one Robards who wouldn’t and I would not be nearly so happy to have him show up at my hotel room.”
Sod it, she thought, annoyed with herself for being so utterly timid, and took his hand. “I don’t mind if you have to go in the morning. I’m just glad you’re here now.”
Oh, they were holding hands. It made Tali disproportionately gleeful. Stop grinning, he told himself. You look silly. Also, you’re not 13. Act like a grown-up now.
“Believe me, the pleasure’s all mine,” he said. He shuffled ever so closer. “Not suicidal but still a bit reckless. One of the books I consulted was called How to Avoid Tall Buildings and Small Aeroplanes. Also this one called Birdstrike! which had really colourful illustrations. But, you know, small price to pay. I really, really wanted to see you. You are irresistable.”
Romilda couldn’t stop smiling, a laugh bubbling out of her. His hand was warm against hers, his jumper seemed so snuggly, and he’d come all this way just to see her. She tried to arrange her expression into something more serious, but it didn’t really work.
“You know, I haven’t put as much thought into this as you evidently have, but I think… I think that I’m going to kiss you. Is that alright?”
Tali put on a mock scowl. “That’s what I was going to ask! You stole my question,” he said. He dropped her hand but only so he could slide his arms around her waist. Then he kissed her.
All thoughts of laughing flew out of Romilda’s head as she kissed him, her fingers clutching at his warm jumper. Despite the rain, the scent of his cologne still lingered, and she held on firmly just in case he somehow disappeared or slipped away.
“Yeah?” she asked with a smirk. “Well, you stole my… No, that’s too cheesy,” she decided, kissing him again.
Tali was amused. “Stole your what? Tell me,” he murmured against her mouth.
Romilda wrinkled her nose slightly. “I was gonna say heart, but that’s far too soppy. Even if I am really happy right now.”
Tali smiled goofily. Gosh, she was adorable. He placed a kiss on her temple. “Not that soppy. I can top that.”
“Yeah?” she asked, feeling giddy, but at the same time strangely stable with Tali’s arms around her. Of course, he’d flown here from Amsterdam, so that was pretty demonstrative. “I kind of want to see you try,” she teased. “But I also want to kiss you again, so…”
“Well I don’t want to say,” he answered with a slight blush, “it is really soppy. And when you put kissing on the table instead it’s not a hard choice, is it?”
He laid a hand on her cheek lightly and drew her in.
“Nope.” In Romilda’s opinion, Tali had picked the right option. Not just because she was really enjoying kissing him. The fact that he’d travelled all this way to see her for one night was romantic enough for one day — there was no need to turn things into a total slushfest.
She inclined her head, smiling as she pressed her lips to his. Then, she pulled back. “What were you going to do if I didn’t have feelings for you?” she asked curiously.
“Weep,” said Tali matter-of-factly. “Or… not. Do you mean specifically today? Leave, obviously. Um, I don’t know. I feel… I feel like I have ample experience in disappointment so I’ll be, I’ll be… fine. I can handle disappointment; it’s the hope that really kills you.” He felt strangely calm about it. Maybe once he survived last Wednesday he knew nothing could possibly feel as bad as that.
He ran a hand through his hair. “Um, plan B is to seduce you into changing your mind… hahaha, no, I can’t even finish that sentence without cracking up. No, not that. I’d be at a loss.”
He bit his lip. “I’m sure plan B would work for you though, if it were vice versa.”
Romilda smiled gently. Coming here was a really brave thing for him to do, but she wasn’t going to say that aloud because she couldn’t think of a way that it wouldn’t end up sounding condescending. Gryffindor that she was, she appreciated it a lot.
“It would probably have only worked if you weren’t taking the potion. Merlin, I had no idea how to tell you what I was feeling without sounding completely crazy.” Especially after the not-actually-a-love potion debacle.
She kissed him quickly. “Luckily, you won’t be going home crying.”
“I am the easiest person in the world to seduce,” said Tali with a sigh. “I had to offer some resistance.”
He cupped her face. “You must be tired. We should go to bed.” There was no guile.
Romilda nodded. It had been a long day. And with all his flying about, he was probably more tired than she was. “Yeah. We should. I’m going to… get changed and clean my teeth.” But before she went to retrieve her nightdress from where she’d stashed it under her pillow, she couldn’t help but steal another kiss, beaming with delight.