Who: Romilda Vane, Taliesyn Robards, Cary Robards
Where: Robards HQ
When: 30 January 2002, evening
Tali took off his coat, his jumper and his tie and deposited all three items on the rack by the door. His satchel was dropped on the floor roughly, narrowing missing Watsons’s head. He strode into the kitchen.
Cary was sitting at the table. “Why are you late? When’s dinner? I’m hungry.”
“Busy day. Why can’t you make dinner yourself if you’re hungry? You’ve only been all day,” said Tali, looking grumpy. He banged a couple of pots onto the stove and started chopping up a load of vegetables.
“Wrong. I’ve only been here all afternoon,” corrected Cary.
“Did you walk Watson?”
“No.” At Tali’s scowl, Cary added, “when it was finally clear he was taking a nap. Did you want me to walk him in the rain? Get muddy footprints everywhere?”
Cary got up from the table and surveyed Tali’s cooking. “Where’s the meat?”
“At the butcher’s. Go buy some if you want some. Or there’s some in Watson’s kibble if you’re desperate.”
“Touche. I think if you want to be head of the household so badly you should provide for everyone.”
“I am providing for everyone,” said Tali testily.
Cary sat back down, lit up a cigarette and leant back in his chair.
“No,” he answered with a smirk. Despite the fact both his parents were smokers if he’d tried this in their presence he’d be out on his ear. But Tali was soft.
Tali sighed, walked over, and plucked the cigarette out of Cary’s mouth. While Cary was inert from surprise he took the opportunity to take a long drag from it — he didn’t want to think too much why — before stubbing it out and chucking it in the bin.
“Oi! That’s 21 you owe me now.”
“Pfft. I do not owe you anything,” Tali answered. He tugged on Cary’s ear, experimentally, at first, and then when that drew a yell he gave it another tweak.
“Ha. Is this how Mum does it? Does it hurt? Surprised the nerves even reach out so far.”
“Oi, you bastard. Stop it.”
Tali did not stop. Cary tried to pull his brother’s hands away but it was far more difficult than he expected. When physical force failed him he took out his wand. Tali did back off at this point but Cary had made up his mind on retribution.
Let’s see how Tali would like to sport a nice long pair of rabbit ears, Cary thought, throwing his wand forward and muttering a spell under his breath.
It happened very quickly. Cary blinked in confusion. Where did his brother go? Did he Disapparate out of the way? No. That couldn’t be. He might have become slightly harder to subdue but surely his reflexes were still as plodding as always. Cary felt a weight on his foot and looked down.
A rabbit looked up at him.
Oh. Holy. Crap.
Cary and rabbit were still staring at each other when the front door swung open, and then, several seconds later, shut again.
Romilda must be home. Oh crap oh crap oh crap.
Cary made a split second decision. He scooped the rabbit up, shoved it in the empty tote bag on the table and started chopping the already prepared vegetables into ever smaller pieces.
Rabbit. Not Tali. Just random rabbit. Random rabbit that appeared out of nowhere at the exact same time as his brother disappeared. Or maybe he just imagined it? Cary scooted over to take a quick peek. The rabbit had Tali’s same colour eyes and hair… uh, fur. Fuck. He shut the bag and went back to the chopping board.
“Hello! Oh, hi, Watson. Have you missed me or do you just want a snack?” Romilda’s voice carried through to the kitchen as she took off her cloak and shoes. “Oh, you know that word, don’t you? Smart fella.”
She was smiling fondly at the dog as she entered the kitchen, but her expression quickly changed to one of confusion. “Cary? Hey. Are you actually cooking?” Romilda smirked, wondering if there was going to be some sort of punchline to this. “What’s brought this on?”
“Uh, lost a bet,” said Cary glibly, cursing himself. Why was he cooking? He should be sitting at the table, carving rude pictures into the wood.
The tote bag shifted position. Cary’s eyes widened. He almost, almost went to give it a tap with the flat side of the cleaver but thought better of it. He didn’t know anything about rabbits. What if a light blow could kill?
He was just about to take the bag and stick it in the cupboard when the rabbit jumped out.
The sudden movement on the table startled Romilda and she took a step back, nearly treading on Watson’s paw. The corgi gave her a reproachful look and slunk away to lie down hopefully in front of his food bowl.
“Don’t tell me you’ve got a pet,” she said, reaching for the rabbit before it could attempt to jump off the table. “Your mum’s not going to be happy when you go off travelling again and leave it behind.” Romilda pouted down at the rabbit as he cuddled it to her chest. “He is never in one place for too long. And hardly ever sends a postcard.”
She flashed Cary a teasing smile. “So, where’s Tali?”
“I haven’t seen him,” said Cary with a sniff. He could really go for another cigarette right now. He eyed the rabbit. Well, at least Tali couldn’t complain about the view. If it was Tali. (But it must be?) His brain was still coming to terms with it.
The rabbit gave one of Romilda’s hands a lick.
Romilda giggled at the rabbit licked and nuzzled at her hand. “You’re friendly, aren’t you?” Grinning, she took a seat at the table and popped a kiss atop its furry little head. “Tali must be upstairs,” she mused, wrinkling her own nose in response to the rabbit’s rapidly twitching one. “His coat’s out there.” She gave a soft contented sigh. “So what’s this little guy called? Or girl?” Romilda considered lifting up the rabbit to check, but it seemed happy where it was.
“Guy,” said Cary, dumping all his produce in the pan. He had no idea what Tali had been planning on cooking. If he didn’t turn back soon — how? — they’d be eating fried vegetables and nothing else.
“Guy, definitely. Though I suppose it’d hardly matter once you get it neutered,” he couldn’t resist adding.
The rabbit thumped the table with his hind legs. Cary almost jumped. He wanted to put a finger to his lips and shush it. Or settle for making a cut throat gesture, but it — fine, him, Tali, he had finally accepted it — was looking the other way.
“Whoa! Careful, bunny.” The rabbit nearly squirmed out of her hold, so Romilda let it slip onto the table. It turned itself around to stare at her intently, nose still twitching. “It’s like he knew what you were saying,” she joked, gingerly reaching out to stroke it between the ears in case it made any other sudden violent movements.
“Smart and gorgeous, right?” she told the rabbit. “I can already tell that you’re too good for Cary.” Its ears seemed to perk up at that. With a growing dread, Romilda realised something. If Cary was going to go around the world again, she’d probably be the one saving it from Cecilia’s threats to take to the butcher.
She frowned, resigned to this, as she looked down at the rabbit’s solemn eyes again. “You know,” Romilda said slowly. “When he looks at me like that, it kind of reminds me of when…” That look in the bunny’s eyes was too familiar by half. It was practically one of Tali’s seduction techniques.
“Are you sure you haven’t seen your brother?”
Cary rolled his eyes. Trust Romilda to bond with her boyfriend in non-human form. They were being all lovey-dovey and one of them was only one foot tall and couldn’t even speak. If it was him and Astoria… well, she’d probably have grabbed him and dumped him outside by now. That probably wasn’t a helpful thing but at least it’d be a dignified response. ‘It’s just a rabbit,’ he wanted to say.
“No, maybe he came in and went out again because he forgot some vital ingredient,” said Cary. “Or he’s fallen asleep in the bath. I don’t know. Why don’t you go upstairs and check?” he suggested with a bright smile. “Leave the bunny here.”
The bunny was currently rubbing its chin against Romilda’s fingers.
Romilda’s eyes narrowed. “I know that smile,” she decided. “And I don’t trust it.” She pursed her lips, not sure that she really wanted to ask her next question, but knowing that she had to. After all, Cary cooking with no meat in sight was a sure sign that something odd was going on.
“Please tell me that your brother isn’t headbutting my hand right now.”
He should have left. As soon as Romilda came home Cary should have dropped all the vegetables into the bin, grabbed Tali and gone to St Mungo’s, or something. But no. He had to stay. Why? Maybe he relished the drama.
“I would call it more of a nudge, than a headbutt, really.”
Romilda groaned. Slumping forward in her seat, she found herself eye-level with the bunny that was, apparently, her boyfriend. “Tali?” she asked and got a lick on the nose in response.
She took a deep breath, gathering her thoughts into a bundle of anger. “You!” she said, rounding on Cary and rising from the table. “Why have you turned your brother into a bloody rabbit? Turn him back right now!”
Cary put his hands up. He backed away from Romilda. Though surely she couldn’t do anything to him. Tali would be annoyed. Blood, right? He glanced over. Tali had risen up on his hind legs, looking keen. Ah, hell. He’d probably choose to keep Romilda even if it meant goodbye to the rest of his family.
“I only meant to give him the ears, and I don’t know how to turn him back,” he said, keeping his voice calm.
The fact that Cary had only meant to give Tali rabbit ears made sense. Sadly. But he didn’t even have the sense to sound sorry about it, which really riled Romilda. She had at least made antidotes to the half dozen or so potions that she had been thinking of slipping to Cary since his return.
“Well, I don’t know how to turn him back, either!” She could manage minor transfigurations, but a rabbit back into a person was beyond her. “You’re so fucking irresponsible,” she grumbled, picking up the rabbit — Tali, she reminded herself — and glaring at Cary. “And you,” she told the rabbit as he tried to nuzzle her cleavage, “keep your paws to yourself.”
She pointed sharply at Cary. “When I get back from St. Mungo’s, you’re going to apologise to Tali. Because if you don’t,” she said, smiling with a poisonous sweetness, “being turned into a rabbit is going to seem like a nice alternative to what I have up my sleeve. Capisci?”
“Yes, M—” Ooh no, maybe not this time, “Yes, Romilda,” said Cary. Apologising — especially forced apologising — was such a humiliating thing to have to do. He made a face.
“I’m sure he’ll forgive me,” he added matter-of-factly. How often did you get to see your girlfriend’s boobs as big as your head? He couldn’t resist a tiny smirk.
“No. You’re actually going to tell him you’re sorry, not just assume that he forgives you.” Her eyes flashed dangerously. “Otherwise… Remember how you totally didn’t buy potions under the counter at J Pip’s and got shrunk really small? Well, I have some of that potion. And I think Watson could use a new chew toy.”
She strode towards the kitchen door so she could fetch her shoes. “Oh, and the kitchen had better be clean by the time I get back.”