Who: Wayne Hopkins, Taliesyn Robards
Where: Ministry Library
When: 3 February 2002, afternoon
It had taken about ten minutes and he’d circled past the same bust of Rowena Ravenclaw at least three times, but at last Wayne had navigated the shelves and found himself in the quiet corner of the library he was looking for. Of course, it might have been faster if he’d asked for help, but as per usual he didn’t want to draw any attention to himself. Especially not on this errand.
He pulled a few books off the shelf in the relevant section, and held them precariously in the crook of his arm while he flipped through the pages of the one on top. If he found one that looked promising maybe he could just keep slipping away on his lunch break to read it here, and not have to… check it out and everything.
Then he thought he heard footsteps behind him, and jumped automatically, sending a few of the books clattering to the floor.
Tali didn’t mind startling people. It gave him a temporary power. Which did evaporate as soon as he apologised, but those few seconds were nice.
“I’m so sorry… Wayne?” He raised an eyebrow. “Haven’t seen you here before.”
“Erm, yeah, I—” Wayne fumbled to pick up the books while also trying to block them from Tali’s view with his body. Not that it wasn’t obvious anyway, he was standing here in the “fixing things that are wrong with you” section. Which was just about the furthest thing from Arithmancy. “Just… browsing,” he finished unconvincingly. He started wedging the books back into the shelf, taking care to do it in an orderly fashion — after all, the librarian was standing right there.
“Browsing for what? Maybe I can help you.”
He eyed how Wayne was putting the books back and his forehead twitched.
Wayne slide another book back into place, slowly, as he debated how to respond. The irony of how mortified he was to be caught looking up books on self-esteem was not lost on him. The whole point was to be more confident, right? And running away and hiding from the world’s nerdiest librarian seemed like a pretty weak start.
He coughed, and tried to spit it out. “I’m… erm…” Pretty sure my girlfriend will dump me now she’s realised how pathetic I am? Desperate to learn how to fake being more confident in myself than I actually am? “Self-esteem?” he finally blurted. “How to… work on that. Is what I’m looking for.” Merlin, he wanted to crawl under a bookshelf and die, and it probably showed. “For obvious reasons,” he finished.
Tali blinked. This was sort of out of his range of expertise. “Well!” He began gamely, then found he had nothing further to say.
“I’m not sure if you can learn it from a book,” he finally voiced. “Or I would have done so by now.”
“Well,” Wayne said flatly, “I want to try.” He looked down at the book in his hand, the last one he hadn’t re-shelved. “‘Hold Your Own Hand: Healing Your Emotional Self,’” he read out loud, and made a face. Not that one. He stuck it back in with the others and frowned as he skimmed the rest of the titles on the spines. “‘Eight and a Half Days to Self-Confidence’?” That sounded more promising. “Why the half day, I wonder…”
“Maybe if you went into a ninth day you would become overconfident and turn into an arrogant jerk,” mused Tali.
“Have you tried getting a new wardrobe?”
Wayne shot Tali a look that was more confused than actually offended. “A new wardrobe?” He glanced down at his robes reflexively. They were… fine. “I don’t really think that will solve anything.”
Tali shrugged. “Sometimes an outward change of appearance can help you on your quest to become a different person,” he said. “We also have a sizable section on style and design.”
For a librarian, Wayne thought, Tali was pretty full of unhelpful advice. What on earth would Wayne do with books about style and design? “If I wanted new clothes I’d just ask Louisa to pick them out for me,” he mumbled. “And I don’t want to become a different person, I just…” He grabbed the next two books within reach and said “Look, I’ll just check these out, alright?”
“I don’t understand. If you lack confidence in yourself, why don’t you want to be someone else?” asked Tali seriously. “I suppose not a specific someone else, but don’t you have an image of a better you?”
“I don’t want to be someone else, I just want to have more confidence,” Wayne replied, sounding a bit crabby. To him it was an important distinction. He liked to think there were some aspects of his personality worth retaining.
Tali shrank back, almost affronted. “Well you seem to like yourself enough, I don’t see what the problem is. What do you need confidence in, exactly? Maybe if you were more specific I could be more useful.”
Wayne was really ready to just take his books and leave, but the space between the shelves was narrow, and he would have had to push past Tali rather rudely. He felt pretty trapped in this conversation. At least no one else was around.
He sighed. “I was just talking to Louisa about how I don’t like… getting compliments or anything. Or how she put my face all over town on my birthday. Don’t tell her I said that,” he interjected quickly, before continuing. “Anyway, so I said yeah, I don’t have great self-esteem, and she said why not, and…” He trailed off, his mouth twisting at the memory.
“I just think it would be nice if I wasn’t bothered by the kind of stuff that doesn’t bother other people.” That was the first time he’d articulated it quite so clearly to himself, and he blinked, taking it in. “So, maybe if there’s a book with that title…” he finished, pretending to check over the books in his hands, as a half-hearted joke.
Tali snorted. “Who does? I don’t understand people who can take compliments in their stride. It’s just so… out of the blue. Honestly, I would rather a slap in the face. Actually, it is like a slap in the face, but because it’s ‘nice’ we’re supposed to just take it.”
He shook his head, marvelling at how everyone else on the planet managed to like it. Then he had a sudden brainwave.
“You don’t need books. You’re dealing with emotions, right? So engaging the rational part of your brain won’t work. You need a potion or a charm.”
“I don’t know…” Wayne replied, furrowing his brow as he thought through the various pros and cons of that approach. “I don’t know if I’d want to be taking something or doing some charm every day.” That seemed… fake, somehow. Not really solving the problem at all. “Are there even charms for that?”
“I don’t know about charms but I’ve got a potion that makes any kind of judgmental comment wash off like water off a duck’s back. Nothing will bother you,” Tali replied.
“Or I guess you could read ‘Feel the Terror but Do It Anyway’.”
“You have?” Wayne looked intrigued in spite of himself, his concerns momentarily forgotten as he tried to imagine what that would feel like.
“Yeah,” said Tali, first happy that he was able to offer a solution to Wayne’s problems, then immediately guilty because he’d oversold. “I mean, I did. I might not anymore. But there could be a bit left. I mean, I suppose I could make it again?” He ended with a sigh. It was a fair bit of work.
Wayne didn’t want to impose, but then, Tali was the one who’d brought it up in the first place. “If you’ve got some, maybe I could try it? But if you’re out, don’t worry about it. I think I’ll read up on these anyway.” He started making his way toward the front desk, then paused to ask, “Do you take it? Does it help?”
“Yeah, I assure you it works,” said Tali, which wasn’t exactly answering the question. It definitely did work, but whether that helped… coming off it was awful, but he reasoned Wayne couldn’t possibly take it everyday so there was no need to tell him about it.
“I’d save it for special occasions, family gatherings, large parties or work appraisals,” he suggested. He wished he’d had some during the last family dinner. Then Idris would have cornered him in the bathroom and he’d have rolled his eyes and left without a care, and not spent the following week in emotional desolation.
Tali looked at Wayne’s choices with skepticism but he reminded himself it was not for him to judge. It was the portrait of Malecrit’s job to judge. It hung near the entrance.
“It’s a sickle if you want a carry bag,” he said after stamping the books. “So Malecrit can’t see.”
“Who?” Wayne responded, glancing around, before he realized Tali was referring to the portrait. He really should get to the library more often.
“Erm, sure.” He should have thought ahead to bring one himself. “Not for the portrait, but for taking these back to my office.”
“And I guess, let me know about the potion, if you’ve got any to spare? But I think just taking something on ‘special occasions’ isn’t going to cut it.” He smiled ruefully. “So hopefully at least one of these books isn’t complete crap.”
“I will let you know,” said Tali, nodding. He hoped Romilda hadn’t poured it all away. Now that he’d mentioned it to Wayne he’d have to brew up another batch if it came to it. He hated disappointing anyone.