Who: Wayne Hopkins, Louisa Macnair
Where: Smith Manor
When: 30 November 2001, during the Blue Moon Ball
Wayne didn’t dance, as a rule. He’d even attended the Yule Ball in 4th year and spent the whole time sitting in a corner, ignoring his “date,” and staring longingly after Susan. And since then he’d pretty much avoided any event where dancing might be expected of him.
But tonight he realized, with some surprise, that he actually wanted to dance. That it was really rather nice to be out on the floor with Louisa, and not too hard even — since she showed him where to put his hands and then you just kind of swayed back and forth a bit.
A show-offy couple suddenly swooped by, executing a complicated maneuver of intricate steps and spins, ending in a small dip, and Wayne laughed softly into Louisa’s ear. “Sorry I can’t do that,” he said, but he was smiling — he was happy just as they were.
“You’d frighten me half to death if you did,” she smiled back. “I’d trip over my own feet and we’d make a total spectacle of ourselves. I think we’re good just with the swaying.”
Balls were pretty new to Louisa, as she’d been too young for the Yule Ball and hadn’t had any opportunity since. Actually, dancing with boys who weren’t her brother or her dad was pretty new to her, too. It was nice. It was like cuddling, but standing up, and swaying, with music. You felt close to the other person, and sort of protected, even if your partner wasn’t exactly your muscly macho man. Louisa was having a nice evening.
“I think we’re good too,” Wayne replied fondly, giving the words a certain weight that implied he meant more than just dancing. He’d been doing that a bit all night — giving her lingering smiles and making very heartfelt statements — but not daring to mention the “L” word again. Not unless she did it first, which he couldn’t help but hope.
The song ended and the music picked up with something a bit more up tempo. “OK, I don’t know how to dance to this,” Wayne confided. “Let’s take a break? I hear we’re supposed to go snog in the moonlight, right? For good luck or something.” He squeezed her hand and gestured toward the door to the back garden.
“Sure,” Louisa said. She could only dance for so long without getting bored, and it was coming up to that point now. A break would be good. She kept hold of one of Wayne’s hands as she walked towards the back garden, more to make sure she didn’t lose him in the throng than for any romantic purpose.
They reached the outside and Louisa noticed that Wayne was looking at her again. He was doing that a lot tonight, and she felt bad about feeling uncomfortable about it. He was supposed to look at her. She was his girlfriend. They were here together. So why did every coupley thing he did feel like too much? She gave him an awkward smile and let go of his hand now that they were outside and unlikely to get separated. Louisa saw a small table and chairs on the patio and headed towards it.
“You know, I’ve hardly spoken to anyone else all night,” she said, taking a seat.
“Oh, would you like to? I mean, we can go back inside in a minute,” Wayne replied, ever eager to please. But then he sat and smiled at how beautiful she looked in the moonlight. “Five minutes,” he amended, putting his hand on her knee and leaning in for a kiss. He didn’t really put much stock in superstitions, but he did like the idea of this one, and he wanted to make this kiss count.
Louisa kissed Wayne back, but drew out of the kiss after a few moments.
“I’d like to speak to Fliss before I go,” she replied, carrying on the conversation. “And I don’t know how much longer I want to stay, really.”
It wasn’t personal, not really. Louisa was an introvert, and needed to recharge after social time, and that included time with Wayne — sometimes especially so after time with Wayne, since she always had to be so present with him. She liked Wayne, but sometimes he could be a little intense.
If that was supposed to be the magic, good-luck Blue Moon Ball kiss, Wayne wished they could have a do-over. Not that it wasn’t a perfectly nice kiss, it was just a little… abbreviated.
“Oh,” Wayne responded, his disappointment obvious for a brief moment before he managed a more neutral expression. “Sure, we can go soon.” But he didn’t make any move to get up right away, and instead slipped his hand into Louisa’s. He knew her well enough to understand that it wasn’t strange for her to want to leave a party, but he’d thought this might be a bit of an exception. Well, that didn’t mean the romantic evening had to end, right?
“Want to go say hi to Fliss and then head back to my place?” he suggested, bringing her hand up to his mouth and kissing it lightly. “I know the decor’s not so nice, but I’ve got candles at least… We could steal some of these flowers…?” He was only half-joking with the last bit — he really wanted to make the evening continue to feel special.
Louisa smiled at the joke regardless. “No, I don’t think so,” she said. “Not tonight. But we can stay here a little longer. I don’t need to go right away or anything.” She felt as though she was being rude, and hastened to make it up. “We can stay out here and talk some more, or we can go back in and dance.”
Wayne looked down at their clasped hands. Louisa was being hard to read. He couldn’t tell what she really wanted, but he was disappointed that she didn’t seem to want them to end the evening together. “Whatever you want to do,” he said. “I just want to be with you.” He squeezed her hand and gave her a smile that turned out a bit sadder than he had intended. “I mean, if you come over, we don’t have to… I just like it when you stay with me.”
Oh Rowena. Now Wayne was being romantic and pitiful. It made Louisa feel bad, and she hated that it made her feel bad. How had she gotten herself into this sort of relationship? She had always been so careful. She didn’t want someone to be in love with her, or want to spend all their time with her. But she did like Wayne, she didn’t just want to break it off with him.
“The staying is the part I don’t want to do,” Louisa replied irritably. “I need my space, Wayne.”
She felt a horrible heaviness in her stomach. She could feel she was hurting him and she didn’t know how to stop it.
Wayne dropped her hand immediately. He opened his mouth like he was going to say something, but what do you say to that? He bit his lip and stared out straight ahead. “OK,” he said cautiously. “I thought…” What did he think? “Sorry,” he finally just said. He felt like he didn’t even know what he was saying. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have pushed.” He stared down at his own hands and felt… he felt like shit.
It hurt when Wayne dropped her hand. Louisa felt rejected herself, and it was not a nice feeling.
“It’s fine,” she said, although it sure as hell didn’t feel fine. “Let’s just enjoy the rest of the evening and when I need to go, I’ll let you know.”
She wanted to take his hand back, but she wasn’t sure he wanted her to. She didn’t think she’d be able to bear it if he wouldn’t let her.
Wayne rubbed his thighs in a gesture of anxiety. He fought his normal inclination to just paste on a fake smile and pretend like things were fine. “Yeah, I just… I don’t mean to be clingy. I just like spending time with you.” He swallowed. It was hard to know what to say that wouldn’t sound pathetic or manipulative. He just wanted to be honest.
“I guess it’s hard for me to feel like… I mean, are you enjoying yourself?” He felt like she had been, before they came out here, and suddenly that had changed.
“Yes, I’m enjoying myself,” Louisa replied in a small voice. “I mean, not right now, but in general. I like spending time with you too, for a while, but I just can’t spend all of my time with you, or with anyone.”
She looked down at her lap. She had ruined the whole night. Why shouldn’t Wayne be romantic? Why couldn’t they go back to his place? Why did she have to give him the cold shoulder?
Wayne nodded slowly, still not meeting her eyes as he processed what she was saying. “I’m not asking you to spend all your time with me,” he said carefully. Not unless she was secretly a Legilimens and could tell that he spent a lot of time wishing they could just live together already. No, he kept that sort of thing firmly to himself, because ever since the “I love you” incident he’d been making a conscious effort not to freak her out. Tonight he must have messed up somehow.
“Maybe we just need like… rules?” Wayne looked intrigued by his own idea, and finally turned back to Louisa to try it out. “Like, two guaranteed date nights a week, one’s a sleepover, all other nights totally to yourself. If any date lasts longer than four hours, you can take off for a bit to decompress, no questions asked.” He’d started speaking rather animatedly as the idea caught hold, but he caught himself and finished, a bit abashed, “I mean, we could work out the details later. Or… maybe that’s crazy.”
Louisa didn’t really want to disappoint Wayne at this point. Even if she had any hesitation about the idea, she wasn’t about to rain on his parade.
“Yeah, maybe,” she said, although her tone was unsure. “I mean, that sounds a bit prescriptive, but maybe we could come up with something.”
Louisa sighed. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to make this into a thing. Can we… try and enjoy the rest of the night?”
Well, her reaction had been polite, but he almost would have preferred it if she’d laughed. It would’ve broken the tension, at least. “Yeah, let’s go in,” he said, standing and extending his hand for hers. “And, look, I still had a nice time. I’d never really realised why people liked dancing, before.”
Louisa smiled hesitantly and took the hand offered. He didn’t seem happy still, and she didn’t know how to fix it. She was starting to wish she had just done everything he wanted, danced, kissed, gone home with him, stayed overnight. It would have been simpler.
She pulled him towards her using their clasped hands and leaned in for a kiss. A bigger kiss, a proper one. They could have that, at least.
Wayne was surprised by the kiss but leaned in gratefully to return it, resting his free hand gently on the side of her face. So maybe she wasn’t ready to say ‘I love you’ and maybe she didn’t want to spend as much time with him as he’d like to spend with her. But so long as she kept kissing him like that, he could still hope, right?