Who: Sebastian Stebbins, Felicity Eastchurch
Where: Smith Manor
When: 30 November 2001, during the Blue Moon Ball
Lots of girls in pretty dress robes, soft lighting, melodic music: it was the sort of evening romance was made for. Stebbins loved a bit of romance, but this all might have been too saccharine even for him if he hadn’t been helping himself to liberal measures of firewhiskey.
The trick seemed to be finding the right witch to approach. Just because they were alone didn’t necessarily mean they were alone; there might be a boyfriend or husband off fetching drinks. Then there were the ones who hung around in groups of other women, which was mildly off-putting as he didn’t want to be spotted eyeing up one woman only for her friend to get the wrong idea. The last thing he wanted was to upset anyone.
No, he wanted to try his luck with someone who was both alone and approachable, which admittedly narrowed down his list of options when he removed those who didn’t fit his preferred age range. Finishing his drink, he strolled over to one of the possible witches and extended his hand. “May I have this dance?”
Felicity eyed this newcomer with bemusement. Was is normal to ask people to dance when you didn’t even know who they were? Perhaps it was. Perhaps it doubly was at an event like this one.
Well, if she was after a soulmate (which she was fairly certain she wasn’t), she could do worse than this one. He was pretty.
“Sure,” she said with a smile. “Just don’t be offended if I try to lead.”
Stebbins laughed. “Wonderful.” He took her hand to lead her to a free space. “Now that I’ve got the awkward part out of the way,” he said, turning to face her, “allow me to introduce myself. I’m Sebastian, though friends call me Stebbins.”
“Felicity,” said Fliss. “Felicity Eastchurch, but friends call me Fliss.”
She watched him carefully for a moment and tried to figure out where it was that she knew him from. He was older than her, that was certain, but she was sure that she’d had some reason to be aware of him before. Then it clicked.
“Hufflepuff Seeker, right?” she asked. “I was a Chaser. Ravenclaw. But after you.”
Stebbins paused at the mention of school Quidditch. For most of his school career, he had only dabbled, never taking it completely seriously and definitely without the gusto of his brother Philo. He nodded. “Yeah, for a little while.” He’d only joined the first team properly after Cedric’s death. Trying to carry on his friend’s legacy was one of the only things that had made him return to school. “My brother played for Ravenclaw back in the day, but that might have been before your time.”
“Probably,” Fliss agreed. “I don’t remember him and I was pretty into following the Ravenclaw team from day one.”
She smiled at him. “I take it you didn’t go pro, then. What do you do?”
“I work in whiskey.” He chuckled, his hands settling comfortably on her as he found the rhythm of the dance. “Almost makes me sound like I swim in in. But, no. I work for Blishens.”
“What do you do for them?” Fliss asked, tilting her head in a curious manner. “Let me guess, you’re a taste tester?”
Stebbins laughed, turning her to the music. “I’ll admit I do a bit of testing, but I work in marketing. Any advertising you see is largely down to me. And why the firewhiskey at the party tonight is from the distillery.” He’d scored a bit of a coup there, in his opinion.
“Dare I ask your day job? Something Quidditch-related?”
Ha. Fliss always enjoyed the day job question. Half the fun of being an undercover operative was the thrill of absolutely nobody being allowed to find out. She loved crafting a careful character as her public persona and making sure she never slipped from it.
“Afraid not,” she said with a sigh. “Just a boring Ministry paperpusher.”
“I don’t believe it.” Stebbins smirked slightly, starting to manoeuvre them around a couple who had stopped dancing simply to snog. “You don’t seem the boring type.”
“Oh I am,” Fliss said with a solemn nod. “Terminally dull. Been compared to Professor Binns on numerous occasions.”
“Would a terminally dull person really agree to dance with someone without knowing their name?” he challenged with a knowing smile. “Perhaps you have hidden depths.”
“True,” Fliss said with a smile that was almost half-smirk. “Maybe I’ve got a secret taste for danger.”
Oh, if he only knew.
Stebbins liked that smile. It was the sort of smile that held a story a story behind it, a story he wanted to know. “Mild-mannered Ministry clerk by day,” he mused, “but your nights are a hedonistic blur of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll? Or is it extreme sports? Jumping off tall buildings or white water rafting?”
“Oh, why not all of the above,” Felicity queried with a wink. “A rush is a rush, right? Got to embrace them wherever you can find them.”
Stebbins grinned and dipped in time to the music. “Tell me about it.” He righted her, still smiling. “I’ve had to go as far as offering to play for Helga’s Heroes. All that murder and Imperius stuff seems to happen to other people. Or is it too soon to joke about that?”
“Probably a bit too soon,” Fliss admitted, but she was still smiling from being dipped. “And don’t you go bagging on Helga’s Heroes, Mister Stebbins. I play for them, I’ll have you know.”
Her grin sharpened. “Guess that makes us teammates.”
“Oh, do you now? That might make it a little more interesting. I need to get to know my other teammates. The one I know best is Terence and he isn’t nearly as much fun to dance with as you.”
“Oh, you definitely need to make friends with the rest of us,” Fliss agreed. “We make Higgs look like a boring old grandpa. Well, except for me, you know. Mild-mannered and dull as they come. Can’t believe you’re still dancing with me, actually.”
He chuckled. “I don’t know about that. I’ve seen Higgs after a few too many pumpkin martinis. He’s no boring grandpa.” Stebbins smirked at her. “Maybe you’ve lulled me into slumber and I’m sleep-dancing?” There were probably far more interesting things to dream about involving Fliss than simply dancing, though.
“So are there any rules against… fraternisation between teammates?” he asked lightly. “You’re dull enough to know the rules.”
“I don’t believe so,” Felicity said, pressing her lips together in slightly nervous amusement. “If there are, they’ve never been tested.” Her expression turned cheeky once more. “Though we have all had our suspicions about Andrei and AJ.”
“Good to know,” he said casually, filing that information away for later use; they hadn’t even finished one dance, so he wasn’t going to push his luck and get slapped before the evening was through.
Her next comment made him laugh, though. “I think I’ve nearly had enough to drink to believe that. Well, I suppose someone has to play for the other team, as it were.”
As the song they’d been dancing to was drawing to an end, Felicity said, “I think we’d better get you another drink, then. After that I’ll tell you all about the longing glances they shoot at each other across the pitch.”
Stebbins offered her his arm as the music ended and they pulled apart. “Smashing idea,” he agreed. “Let’s go see how much damage I can do to my liver.”