Who: Cary Robards, Romilda Vane
Where: Smith Manor
When: 30 November 2001, during the Blue Moon Ball
Tali had gone to chase after a particular waiter, which could mean he’d never make it back that evening. Cary seized his opportunity. There was nothing like keeping your mind off your own relationship disappointment by poking your nose into other people’s.
He approached Romilda. “You. I have a million questions.”
Romilda sipped her drink as Cary came over, grinning at his greeting and feeling a little giddy from bubbles and good company. “It would take a very long time to answer a million questions,” she teased, noting that he didn’t have Astoria on his arm and wondering what that might mean.
“But I think I might have time to answer a few.” Tali, she suspected, would be gone a while. Or she’d have to hunt him down later.
“Yes,” said Cary. “First one. What have you done with my brother? Are you sure that’s not some Polyjuiced individual doing a passable impression? ’Cause I saw him stumble into a statue outside and he didn’t even apologise to it.”
Still holding her champagne, Romilda held up her hands. “I promise I’ve done nothing. That’s the real Taliesyn. Anyway, brewing Polyjuice is a lot of work, and then I’d have to keep the original locked up somewhere at home. I think it would take a lot of resources to keep someone captive and we just don’t have the space.”
She smiled wickedly, hoping to make Cary squirm a bit. “Though maybe I’ll have to tie him up sometime for fun.”
“Oh, c’mon, that’s just unfair,” said Cary, putting a hand over his eyes as if that would make the mental image go away. “I’m the one who’s supposed to be making you feel uncomfortable.”
A sudden thought occurred to him. Might as well confess now. “What was it that first attracted you to him? Was it the shapely calves? The fact he looks dignified wearing only a newspaper?”
Romilda snickered behind her glass. Good. He had to know he couldn’t just march up and start interrogating her without there being some consequences.
“Newspaper?” She frowned until the reference registered, then her eyes widened. The photograph. She’d actually framed it until she had given it back to Tali. “Wait. Was that you who sent the picture?” He wouldn’t have shared it of his own volition, she knew that much. “That’s so mean, Cary.”
Cary looked maybe, 10% ashamed. “It’s not that mean,” he qualified. “People have done meaner things to him.” Mostly Idris. “Besides, I was trying to be encouraging! Surely you know how difficult it is to prod him into action. Sometimes only a shock to the system will do.”
He pursed his lips. “How did you two actually start? Don’t tell me he asked you out like a normal boy.”
Romilda rolled her eyes. “And people wonder why he has confidence issues.” She was pretty impressed that he had agreed to come to the Blue Moon Ball with her, let alone stay as long as he had.
Laughing, she shook her head. “Did you know we’d been doing a project together? A few week ago, I was at a potions conference. He decided to get a Portkey to Amsterdam and then fly to Frankfurt to see me. So it definitely wasn’t normal!”
Cary just blinked. He blinked some more. This conversation was not going to the way he planned. “Did you make that up? No, that sounds way too specific. How? He doesn’t even have a broom, not even a cheapo one.”
“He called in a favour and borrowed a Firebolt from the Ministry. Flew through a storm and everything.” Romilda smirked and passed her empty champagne glass to a passing waiter. This was going much better than she had imagined. “You really need to stop underestimating your brother.”
Cary threw his hands up in defeat. “He hasn’t flown since first year! Merlin, are you going to go gloat to everyone now?” He waved a hand, as if wafting away a bad smell. “Smugness isn’t attractive, Romilda.”
Cary didn’t like the story. It made him sad. Maybe he should go do something crazy like go sing outside Astoria’s window. That probably wouldn’t work at all but at least it’d pass the time.
“I suppose you’re going to keep him, then?”
Cary’s remark sobered Romilda up a little; she sighed, shaking her head. “If I wanted to gloat, I’d have done it a week ago. But I kind of like that being with him is very non-gloat-y. It’s nice. Different.”
She smiled wryly, then gave a small nod. “I think so. For as long as he’ll put up with me, anyway.”
Cary snorted. “Put up with, really. I’m sure he finds you more than merely tolerable. I hope you remember that. Or I’ll…” he shrugged. “Well, I’ll probably do nothing. But don’t be unkind to him. It’d be like kicking a bunny. Though wait, don’t be too nice either. It makes him suspicious and anxious. That’s the only advice I can offer.”
Romilda shrugged. There were plenty of people who didn’t even find her tolerable, she was sure. She knew Tali thought highly of her, but there was always a chance that could change. Cary managed to make her laugh, though. “It is a bit of a balancing act, isn’t it?” She frowned. “I wonder if I should go and find him. Being around so many people is probably making him anxious.” Merlin only knew whether he’d managed to chase down that waiter.
Tali appeared. He barely saw Romilda’s conversationalist. “I had to elbow three people out of the way for this,” he declared, taking out a small plate and holding it out to her. “I hope you like devils on horseback.” He spun his upper body around and craned his head to scan the room. “If any of your sisters appear I’ll open up my jacket and you can hide behind it, alright? Don’t want you to get in trouble with Matilda. Or me in trouble with Matilda, possibly,” he laughed.
Cary made a face. “Anxiety? Apparently not tonight. See you,” he mouthed to Romilda and strode away.
Tali finally noticed. “Was that Cary?”
“Not sure I’ve tried devils on horseback,” Romilda admitted. As adventurous and open-minded as she was with her dietary choices compared to her sisters, she was largely uneducated in most meat-based fare, save for that which had graced the tables at Hogwarts. “I’ll try and hold my own against Mattie if she appears.”
She laughed and kissed his cheek. “Yeah. He just came over to say hello. I think he was a bit surprised that we’re here together.”
“Oh? Probably came over to tell you not to let me read before bed or I’ll mumble literature in my sleep,” Tali said. “Old family joke.” He pointed at the devils. “This is just bacon wrapped around a date, I think. With mango chutney inside.”
He glanced around furtively. “Though you might have to be quick if you want to try one because those three people I elbowed could be out for revenge and I’d rather not fight anyone… ever. Maybe we should um… go.”
Romilda linked her arm with Tali’s, smiling. “Good idea. Let’s go find somewhere they won’t discover us.”