(1938-10-29) Distractions
Details for Distractions
Summary: Fabia retreats from an awkward dinner to her own rooms; she obliges Cooper to come with her, and then Fabia drops in. Of course they discuss men they've known. Why wouldn't they? (WARNING: Mature content.)
Date: October 29th, 1938
Location: Upstairs at the Three Broomsticks.
Related: Plot: Saccharine Powder • Continued directly from Peonies.

Fabia's Rooms

The little upstairs apartment reserved for the owner of the Three Broomsticks is decorated at present in no very particular style; it's less cluttered than it was a few weeks ago, rather gentlemanly in its tone, but fragrant now of expensive French scent, with undertones of gin. A gramophone sits on the floor, surrounded by boxes of records. There's a well-stocked drinks trolley. The looking-glass has a dozen or so loose ballet photographs tucked into its frame; and a few more which have frames have been put up on the walls. Double doors stand open to the bedroom, where turquoise blue silk pyjamas are laid out upon the bed.

"Everything's absolutely ducky," is Fabia's summation, now that they're in the warmth and privacy of her own rooms. "Sit, sit, eat your fish and tell me all about yourself. What will you have to drink?" She sets her martini on the edge of the drinks trolley and stands poised to produce whatever may be required.

It's like Cooper just stepped into an alternate reality. One that she could have never guessed existed above a pub she frequented so long ago. Her eyes dart around, not knowing where to look first - the box of records, the dancing photographs and not moving none-the-less! A rather excited smile graces her lips as she sets down her dish on a clear surface. "What a lovely place you've got here," she says, feeling quite at home and wandering off to get a closer look at the pictures. "With fish? I think a regular Sauvignon Blanc will do." Her French accent when she pronounces the wine is on point. Almost native, but certainly on point. "Did you dance then?" she says inspecting the captures, more interested in hearing about Fabia than explaining herself.

Fabia regards her drinks trolley with sudden, unaccustomed dismay: "Oh, the whites are on ice downstairs, shall I send for something?" But then she sees that, no matter how eagerly her guest applied herself to the trout when first her plate was set before her, she finds the pictures of greater interest; and she drifts nearer to Cooper, reaching out to point as she says, "That one's me, and that one — that one — that one." The last she indicates shows a ballet dancer in a black tutu seeming to float in the air perhaps five feet above the bare boards of a stage, her legs forming a perfect razor-sharp diagonal. "One can't fly with magic," she adds confidentially, "but I never needed magic."

"Good god! Those legs!" Cooper's eyes widen in impressive amazement at the pin straight form Fabia's young self makes in the picture. She's a stealthy young lady, but she can't get her limbs to do that for sure. "Its funny how I've forgotten that how some pictures are better when they're still," she nods admiringly and briefly explains her origins to Fabia, "My parents were muggles, and I'll have another martini I suppose. Don't think I'm as hungry anymore." Rolling her sleeves up, she walks around more stopping by the record box to have a look see. "So when you're a refined ballerina, what opens your palette to the gritty, rough likes of jazz?"

"Forgive me, but I knew you couldn't be pure-blooded; no sneer, no narrowing of the eyes, not even a deliberate effort to be pleasant, when I said I wasn't," Fabia giggles, preening herself rather at the remark about her legs and wishing she had on a shorter skirt, rather than this dusky blue velvet frock which reaches almost halfway down her calves. She's already returning to the drinks trolley to prepare another round of martinis, which she does more expertly even than the girl behind the bar, no matter how many she may have had already, and who's counting? It wouldn't be polite to count. "I wasn't a ballerina, though, you know, only someone who *always* dances ballerina roles is a true ballerina… I was a ballerina now and again, but more often a minor soloist. I did as well as I could, given the bloody law. I like jazz because I like dancing, sweetie, and it's the only sort I can do these days." She pours the two new martinis, hardly spilling a drop, and then, with three of them in front of her, counting the one she brought up with her, hardly knows what to do.

Cooper snorts flipping through the records for something good. "I couldn't be pure-blooded even if I tried," she admits, squinting through her thick frames until she finds, aha! Immediately she slips it out of its sleeve to place it delicately on the gramophone. "Well if you weren't a ballerina then you damned well fooled me with a picture like that. That sounds like a wonderfully glamorous life," she says, and the pleasant screech of Billie Holiday started to emerge from the needle static. Cooper lowers the volume enough so that it's not disruptive. "The first time I ever heard jazz, I was young girl barely out of Hogwarts. My pals and I snuck off to London to go parties and dance halls. It's all that was ever playing everywhere, and I reveled in it. Made me feel so young you know?" She accepts Fabia's drink into her hands and take a nice refreshing gulp. "One night we ended up wandering off with a group of men to a flat. And this one American bloke was playing this song on his gramophone." She crosses her arms, musing to the song Easy Living but also flashing a silly grin at Fabia, "I lost my virginity that night."

Three martinis become two; and Fabia has two hands. Marvelous. She pours a third of the one she made herself down her throat without further ado, to equalise the levels in the two remaining glasses; and, carrying them both, crosses her sitting-room to sit before the pleasantly blazing fire. But she doesn't walk. Oh, no. She undulates, in gorgeous, unthinking harmony with Miss Billie Holiday, the martini glasses held up before her at different levels, her velvety skirts swaying about her, her pearls gleaming by the light of the fire and the two or three lamps Frid naturally switched on earlier in the evening.

She kicks off one shoe, then the other; she passes her usual chair, and sinks gracefully onto the hearthrug, legs to one side, martinis lined up before her. And then Cooper reaches the very best bit of the story, and, blinking up at her, Fabia raises her glass. "Here's to this song, sweetie!" As Cooper's grinning, she grins back, and drinks deeply. "My virginity," she confides, as is only fair, "didn't survive past Hogwarts. However terrible a girl you think you were, I promise you, some of us were rather worse, and rather sooner!"

Cooper finds a seat somewhere on a window sill, laughing and enjoying Fabia's wonderful dance feeling very much like a young girl again. She claps and encourages the woman on and clinking her own glass with her company's she says, "To this song!" before downing her own drink. And the gin starts to take wonderful effect on her. "Who had the honor then, of deflowering the great Fabia. Was he a young innocent sort of boy? Or was he strong and strapping like my American?" She's all ears on the woman's tales and she pats around her gender-ambiguous pants for her cigarettes. They're a box of cheap ones, but she slips a fag between her lips and dips her neck a bit to bring it to the flame of her lighter.

Fabia's intention to learn all about 'the ministry's finest' has melted away in the heat of her own vanity; she laughs girlishly, flowing up onto her knees again to fetch a cigarette and a tortoiseshell holder for it from the lacquered box on the table just above her. Then she leans over toward Cooper, interrogatively, asking for a light without actually asking for a light. She smokes Sobranie Black Russians; slender black cigarettes with gleaming golden tips.

Cooper raises a brow of interest at the fancy smokes as her own cheap cigarette hangs in her mouth. "Very well, very well," she says bending down to extend the flame of her lighter over to the elder lady who is languid on the hearthrug. Once the russian smokes are lit, she sits back on her window sill, plucking her own cigarette out of her mouth with her forefinger and thumb so that she can take another swig of her martini. It's after dinner and the two women are enjoying a fairly good buzz at the moment while Billy Holiday plays low on the gramophone. http://youtu.be/RX7TA3ezjHc

A silent smile which means 'thank you'; and Fabia reclines again before the fireplace, careful not to knock over her pair of martinis. "Oh," she sighs, after taking that first blissful drag upon her cigarette via its brief but elegant tortoiseshell holder, "he was a very wicked Slytherin boy… Not too tall, about five foot ten, but beautiful shoulders, beautiful calves, a good deal of muscle on him. A year ahead of me, but younger in some ways; he'd have done anything I said, or," a faint smile tugs at her painted lips, their colour faded now that it has been squandered upon the rims of so many glasses, "would he? … Well, he would have afterward, I daresay. Yours was an *American*? What glamour!"

Of course, when Corina Silver comes through the Floo, everyone knows by now to send her straight to wherever Fabia may be. Not just for the latter's convenience, but to get her out of the way of the more prudish customers; and so everyone is suited…

Corina doesn't bother knocking anymore, making herself quite at home in Fabia's apartment. What's the worst that can happen? She finds Fabia with a gentleman caller? It would be worth many evenings of conversation and girlish laughter. But tonight, the ivory-haired courtesan bursts in to find not a gentleman, but a woman. She lingers just inside the doorway, slowly closing the door as Fabia's words hang in the air. "Oh, my. You must back this conversation up a few sentences for me. I am clearly coming into the middle of something delicious."

"Mmmm, always something so delightful about those Slytherin boys. He sounds scrumptious. Does that mean you were the aggressor then?" Cooper muses, leaning against the backdrop of a dark Hogsmeade night through the window, "Yes, he was American, and must have been at least 10 years older than me. The dirty perv. There's something always nice about a young man though. How compliant and teachable they are. I had a young man before from one of those pure blooded ones none the less - Lionel Proudmore something or other. Now he was a willing one." Smoke lingers from her mouth as she snickers. But at the new arrival, Cooper blinks her eyes and pushes her glasses up her nose. "Oh hello there?" She's too buzzed to sit up straight, but she looks to Fabia to see if this sudden walk-in is alright, especially from such an interesting looking woman.

Virtually horizontal on the hearthrug, Fabia looks up at the icon of platinum-haired Victorian voluptuousness who has just crossed her threshold and exclaims, "Sweetie!" She transfers her current martini glass (she has another on hand) from one hand to the other, and pushes herself up into a sitting position, lazily and luxuriously, continuing the motion to extend her hand to Corina. "Come in, come in. Oh, you're in. This charming creature and I were just discussing the men who had the extraordinary good fortune to be our first lovers; but then, you've heard all about that, haven't you? Come and sit down. Corina Silver — the ministry's finest. Something Cooper. I'm so sorry, I can't recall your first name." She blinks appealingly up at the woman on her windowsill. "You do see why I call everyone sweetie, it's so much less demanding."

Corina emits a silvery laugh, gliding over to take Fabia's hand. She leans in to give air-kisses to the older woman's cheeks before turning toward Cooper. "Honestly, Fabia. Two-timing on me?" She grins brightly, moving toward Cooper to offer the same oh-so-European greeting. "Utterly charmed, Something Cooper."

Cooper allows herself another healthy swig before -oh! Her drink is all gone. She frowns but takes another drag and gets over it. "A pleasure to meet you Miss Silver," the auror manages to drag herself upward enough for a handshake to the buxom young lady. And to them both she clarifies, "Cooper. You may simply leave it at Cooper. It works well enough for everyone." Sitting back in her comfortable little corner of a window she smiles like a warm kitten and says, "You may only join in on the conversation if you share a story about your own first Johnie." And the Billie continues playing on while the auror enjoys the singer in the same way lonely, sad women indulge in Adele.

"Unnecessary," Fabia utters firmly, shifting position so that she can very casually meet Corina's eyes for an instant; "in Corina's case I'd rather hear about the very latest one… Do tell us, sweetie, and I'll—" Her glance wanders further afield. One of her glasses is empty, one is half-empty, and both her guests have nothing at all with which to wet their throats for further tales; this dire situation prompts her to ripple, by degrees, upwards. "I'll make the drinks."

In that brief moment, a grateful smile is sent Fabia's way. "My latest? Now, you know I can't go into detail." She finds a comfortable spot near the fire and settles in, adjusting her skirt. "But I will tell you that he's got a penchant for…public acts. He thrills at the risk of discovery." She reaches over to pinch one of Fabia's martinis, assuming (or deciding) the second was for her.

"The latest? Well I suppose if I had a set like yours," Cooper salutes Corina's shirt puppies in admiration, before sadly patting her own, which only look smaller and less significant under her lumpy sweater. Of course, she's saying this in complete ignorance of the woman's professional experience. "Public? Now you can't say something like that and spare details. Location at the very least." Cooper's arm is stretch out ready to receive the next drink even though it hasn't been made yet. And it will stay there until someone places some beverage in her hand.

The annexation of the remaining half a martini, in fact perhaps really more like two-thirds of a martini, passes unnoticed whilst Fabia concentrates upon getting back onto her silk-stockinged feet — narrow, they are, Fabia's feet, and small, but if one looks closely, their shape is somewhat deformed by bunions. She's less steady than usual — particularly with her body insisting upon swaying to the music — but even at this stage of inebriation she moves well, and the short walk to the drinks trolley is time enough for her to find her balance. "Oh, yes, where?" she gasps, glancing over her shoulder at Corina. "I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours… but you must tell first. I have to concentrate, sweetie. What shall we have?" She lifts a bottle or two speculatively. "Rose cocktails, perhaps?" She winks at Corina, knowing she's partial to them. And then a bright idea blazes its trail across her face. "Oh! Someone sent me the most curious present the other day… Let's put some of this in." She reaches (knees unbending) down into the lower level of the drinks trolley, from which she extracts a purple metal box, its clear glass lid surmounted by a green knob. She lifts the lid, showing off to her guests the pale green powder inside.

Corina smirks cattily at Cooper, plumping her bosom appreciatively. "I admit, they've served me well." Her voice carries just a hint of a French accent, noticeable when making the right sounds. "So, location? Or locations?" Her eyes go half-lidded in a smug grin. "First, he had me rendezvous with him in Hyde Park, among the trees at night. He wanted to play a fantasy about a hunter discovering a lost maiden. A bit silly, but he has the most adorable boyish sense of fun. That was a cold evening, let me assure you." She giggles, mock-shivering. "Then, last night, he took me to the cinema when he knew there would not be so many seats filled. I'm sure I don't have to fill in the details." She perks up curiously at the box of green powder, and gives an encouraging wave to Fabia.

Cooper hahs! with her arm still out waiting for something to sip on. "Locations!" she exclaims in disbelief. Her cigarette has now been burnt to a butt, which she discards by briefly opening the window and flicking it out. "The cinema sounds rather exciting You should suggest a children's park at evening next time around. There's something very naughty about swings." She too can't help but curiously peek at the said gift. "Ooooo, what's that?" The color green certainly captures her attention.

"Mmmh!" is Fabia's appreciative exclamation in response to Corina's story of sin; she positively beams approval at her friend. As for the box in her hands, well, she looks down at it and shrugs slightly, turning back to the drinks trolley to put it on and commence operations with the gin and the vermouth and the cherry brandy, measuring enough into a cocktail shaker for, oh, two each, and a little extra because you never know, do you. "It's called saccharine powder, apparently," she explains, "but," a quick smile over her shoulder, "I tried a little the other night and it isn't only sugar. Not at all like cocaine, of course; I think it's just rather a grown-up sort of sherbet… If you put it in a drink it makes it sweeter, but also a tad stronger. I think it's rather nice, really, though too sweet to have too much. Lemon. There must be a lemon, Frid always leaves a lemon in case I want a G&T." A ransacking of the lower level reveals such an object, in association with a knife and a tiny cutting-board. Dangerous implements for a woman in Fabia's state, but she wouldn't know how to back down from a challenge. She sets out three glasses, still chatting gaily, and commences to cut the lemon. "One night I'd… danced a certain role for the first time, something particularly marvelous, I'd been meant to debut a week later but another girl broke her ankle and I had to go on for her when I hardly knew it. After working so hard I ought to have been exhausted—" And then rather a sharp expression slips from her reddened lips. She has cut her finger.

Corina's eyes light up at Cooper's suggestion. "Swings! How delightful. I shall certainly suggest it." She listens curiously to Fabia's description of the powder, approving more with each word. But she's suddenly overcome with concern, seeing her friend having injured herself. "Fabia? Oh, darling, you've cut yourself." She hurries over, suddenly full of motherly care as she fetches up a (most likely expensive) napkin to staunch the bleeding. "Is it deep?"

"Stronger, eh?" The auror seems highly curious about the description. She's not one to be averse to substances though never dabbles to deeply in it herself. "Saccharine powder," she repeats in a mutter, scanning her memory for the name. But to her knowledge of wizarding law - and she does have vast knowledge - it doesn't ring a bell. Shouldn't hurt to try it, right? As Cooper waits for the woman to finish the drinks, the tale is cut off (pun intended) but an injury. "Oh goodness! Why on earth would you hand an object like that on your level of inebriation," she tuts, letting Corina tend to Fabia while Cooper peruses her dowdy jacket pockets until she pulls out a small silver tin of pink salve, which she offers to the injured dancer, "I carry those around on missions, and what not. Just in case. If it's a simple cut it should help close it up a tad fast than usual. There's no way in hell I'm going to try a healing spell." And while she leaves Fabia to fiddle around with the tin, she looks at the purple metallic box with the powder, dipping just a pinky to coat the tip with green.

"Not deep at all," Fabia promises Corina, her brows knitting in slight distress, "but what a bloody nuisance, when I'd almost finished the drinks…" With an apologetic little smile at Cooper's remark about the knife, she says, "Well, I'm usually all right, you know… oh, thank you." One hand holds the napkin tightly round the injured finger, till Cooper produces the tin and the process of accepting it requires her to drop the napkin. Well, you can't make an omelette. With that one finger stuck up at a peculiar angle her elderly but elegant hands explore the contours of the tin, popping it open. She touches another finger to the pink salve inside, then shuts the tin and gives it back to Cooper, whilst she applies the salve to her hardly-visible wound with great concentration.

And lo! There's a Frid in the room — he appears and disappears by a form of valet-magic hardly short of Apparition, and much quieter — and Fabia turns toward him as the solution to every problem she could ever, ever have.

"Oh, Frid!" she sighs, holding out her hands for his inspection, "I was cutting a lemon for the drinks, and instead I cut my finger."

This sort of thing is liable to happen whenever Madam involves herself in domestic affairs, even ones as natural to her as making the drinks. Frid assesses the damage with one glance; and her company with another. "Why don't you sit down, madam?" he suggests. "I'll bring you a sticking-plaster, and finish the drinks." His expert eye runs across the disorder she's created; which bottles in particular are out of place… "Rose cocktails?"

"Yes, with saccharine powder," Fabia explains, drifting across to her armchair by the fire, looking a trifle lost. "Around the rims instead of sugar, but I thought a little mixed in too, to see what it's like…"

"Very good, madam." Frid shimmers away via the double doors to the bedroom.

The appearance of Frid has Corina suddenly far less motherly, and far more presenting-her-bountiful-cleavage. "Hello, Frid," she sings as she finds her seat again, batting her lashes at him. "Well, minor disaster averted, thank goodness. Cooper, won't you tell me about yourself? I do adore meeting new people, and I quite like you already."

"I've been trying to have her tell me," Fabia puts in from her chair, across from Corina's, "but we do seem to become… distracted."

Cooper's big blue eyes squint behind her thick frames when she inspects the powder on her pinky and then without ceremony she sucks the substance off, instantly tasting how its euphorically sweet savor. "Wow," she mouths before licking the rest off. "My word, how did I not hear of this before? If you would Frid, put a little extra in mine." She walks off back to the window sill, pulling another cheap cigarette out to light up and exhale a plume of smoke. "Oh what's there to say? I'm a sleep deprived, work horse who lives alone with her dog - I actually…wonder if I fed him today already," she pouts thinking of her sweet little Maggot hungry and alone. "But in comparison I lead a rather plain life seeing as I am neither a dancer nor have I gotten laid since - hah - God knows when." There's a bit of a doleful look that passes her face for a second but she runs a hand through her hair, which she actually lets down for once. "Ahem but yes, plain and self-deprecating as you can see. Though I am very glad to meet your acquaintances. It's been a while since I've listened to jazz with any other true appreciators. And I do hope this shan't be the last time we get together."

Fabia exchanges glances with Corina. "Oh, far from the last," she promises. "We'll have to take you with us the next time we go dancing… And, sweetie, if it's been a while, I don't doubt we can fix that too, somehow or another…"

In a trice there's a sticking-plaster round Fabia's hurt finger; and each of the ladies has a cocktail in her hand. The rims of the glasses have been dipped in lemon juice, and dusted with pale green saccharine powder in lieu of sugar. How does he work so swiftly, his wonders to perform? Who knows? He is Frid.

The mistress raises her glass to her girl friends, whilst the valet evaporates, seemingly into thin air. "New friends!" she says, and half-collapses backwards into her chair, stretching luxuriously, sipping her cocktail.

Corina gives Frid a wink and a silent blown kiss when he brings her drink, perhaps just to see how he'll react. Taking the drink in hand, she tilts her head at Cooper, shrugging. "It had better not be the last time. Indeed, spend some more time with us, and we'll see that you dance until your feet fall off and finish the night on your back." She giggles as she takes her first sip, the powder touching her lips giving her a wide-eyed electric response. "Oh, my word. That is…quite remarkable."

"Well who could deny such an offer," Cooper snicker snorts, gratefully accepting the glass from Frid's hands. Plucking out the cigarette once more, she holds her drink up and toasts, "To new friends!" And unshyly she takes a generous drink of the rose cocktail, and proceeds to relax quietly on her window sill. She'll listen on to conversation for quite a while, before closing her eyes and knocking out. But not before finishing her drink of course!

The rose cocktail, especially with the addition of saccharine powder, is rather sweeter a libation than Fabia usually prefers — but she's drinking this one with evident pleasure, perhaps because of the extra kick? She smirks at Cooper, and glances once or twice between her and Corina, trying to recollect where she'd got to in her story… she's quite certain she was telling a story… before the knife slipped… "We were talking about doing it in public," she recalls, smiling faintly, "what was it I'd said? Yes, when I danced Kitri… It was one of the greatest nights of my life, professionally speaking. I was," she confides, "extraordinary. And afterwards, well, a certain Russian Grand Duke who was the acknowledged lover of the company's prima ballerina, the girl who'd broken her foot so I had to go on for her — I said that, didn't I? — came to my dressing-room, to congratulate me and offer me dinner. And in those days of course a Russian Grand Duke was a significant gentleman; it was well before that awful Revolution. We were dancing in Monte Carlo, and he'd belonged to the Société des Bains de Mer almost since the moment of his birth, so I had him take me to the casino, where I lost — how much of his money, I couldn't tell you. I simply drank oceans of champagne and threw everything he gave me onto the table; and he gave me a great deal. I'd never lost like that. The most tremendous thrill. Sexier, somehow, even than winning. So I had him take me for a walk in the gardens, and—" She pauses, catching her lower lip between her teeth.

Corina leans forward more and more as the story goes on. Had Frid been in the room, he'd have surely gotten to see a great deal more of her endowments than she was already showing off. "Go on. Don't you dare stop there. Tell me about the gardens." She takes another swig — yes, swig — of her cocktail, her eyes wide and locked onto Fabia.

Fabia's leaning back — but only because she's so blissfully relaxed she seems hardly to have a bone left beneath her dusky blue velvet frock. She giggles slightly to herself, eyeing Corina over her cocktail glass as, quite without shame, her small pink tongue licks a little more of the saccharine powder from the rim of it. "Well…" she murmurs. "The gowns we wore then. Oh, you'd know all about the trouble they could be…" She looks Corina up and down, shaking her head a little. "I'd known him for all of an hour and a half, you know, but suddenly there was nothing I wanted more in the world than to have him. We found a wall, sweetie, I couldn't have managed it otherwise with my muscles so weary; do you know that Kitri dances thirty-two fouettes? Not always, of course, not every ballerina has the stamina, but sometimes. When Pierina Legnani danced thirty-two fouettes in 1895, no one could believe what she'd done… The achievement is more common now, there are even girls here in England who can do it, but I speak of a night not so very long after Legnani, after Kschessinska, when I left the stage to the sound of screaming in the audience…" Her eyes are half-lidded, her glass half-empty. "We found a wall," she repeats, "and I'm not altogether surprised no one caught us, because after all the excitements of the night it didn't take long. And then we went in again, very calmly, and won back all his money and then some."

Corina flops back in her seat with a satisfied laugh. "Up against a wall? Oh, that is delicious. Absolutely delicious. I highly recommend a large mirror if you ever get the chance. It is a surreal experience." She pauses, tilting her head. "Have you? Being a ballerina and all, you've certainly had access to the mirrors." She runs her finger along the outside of the glass, picking up a bit of the green powder and suckling it from her fingertip. Her eyes flutter closed for a moment, a rush surging through her.

Altogether, Fabia is pleased with her life. Pleased with her memories. Pleased with her present company, and her present cocktail… Though she's almost finished it, almost licked clean the powder-dusted rim. Hmm. There's more, is there? This thought is swimming through her mind even as she giggles at Corina, shifting with self-satisfied smugness against the cushions in her chair. "Not a ballerina," she protests, as she protested to Cooper earlier, "nothing so grand; a ballet dancer, a ballet artist… But yes, of course, then and — and later. Oh, you remind me of — of one particular day…" She conquers herself sufficiently to set down her glass and flow up out of the armchair, putting her hand on the back of it for an instant for support, before lifting her hand to point at the framed ballet photographs on one of her sitting-room walls. "When I looked like that, my dear," she sighs, and fetches the cocktail shaker, and, while she's at it, plucks a photograph from the wall and deposits it in Corina's lap while she refreshes her friend's glass. "With him."

The gentleman in the perfectly still, black-and-white Muggle photograph with her has an ordinary sort of face; but below the neck… my, my. Somewhat taller than she, broad-shouldered, with every muscle perfectly shaped, perfectly defined, perfectly shown off by his skintight costume. He's half-crouching, one leg stretched out; in a dark-coloured tutu, she's balanced on her front across his thigh, with her legs curving up behind him, and all four of their arms are thrown wide, as they beam into the camera. A fishdive, it's called.

Corina takes the photograph, tilting her head to examine it, and unconsciously tilting the photo as she does so, causing her to tilt her head more. "I hate you again. Good god, he must have been able to spin you into any position he liked. Clearly, I need to find myself a ballet dancer." She looks up at Fabia, pointing to the picture. "Also, you are completely beautiful in this photograph. Not that you aren't completely beautiful always. But this is extraordinary."

"Spin me," Fabia confirms, glancing toward Cooper and leaving her glass just as it is for she seems to be halfway to sleep already, "or toss me up and flip me over and catch me again," she sinks into her armchair, and fills her own glass to the brim, "or hold me up in the air with just one hand, or pluck me out of the air when I jumped headfirst across six or seven feet of stage into his arms… But that was only in his professional capacity, sweetie. We weren't good lovers, we found, that first time in the rehearsal room. He tried, the poor lamb, he did try, but he liked boys so much better…" Sipping her cocktail, she lifts the other hand in a philosophical half-shrug; what can you do? "It's a ballet dancer's calling to be beautiful," she adds. "In every pose, in every step, but more than that, in the tiniest, most subtle movements which fall in between, which connect… Simply the way one steps onto the stage must be stunningly beautiful. Imagine a Canova Venus given the task of sculpting herself… Nothing may be neglected, no detail of one's physical or spiritual being. Perfect physical technique is of no use unless it is supported by — something within. I think sometimes that that must have been what I was missing, somehow." Another giggle. "Of course, I hadn't perfect technique, either."

Corina offers a sympathetic pout to her plight with the man. "Now that is a problem I don't think I've ever come across. Though I've known girls that have had men come to them in the hope of being 'fixed' to prefer women." She shrugs, sipping at her cocktail, which has gone largely neglected in favour of sampling the powder directly from the glass. "Or maybe I'm just so good that I fixed them before the issue was brought up." She winks slyly.

"I wasn't pining for him or anything like that," and Fabia slides out of the chair, landing with a small bump. She's pulled a cushion with her; she tucks it under her hip, then stretches out languidly upon the hearthrug, propping herself up on one elbow so she can still drink, still flick her tongue greedily round the edge of her glass… "I was just so fond of him I thought it would be pleasant to go to bed together as well. Or — at any rate to looking-glass together," and this turn of phrase strikes her as uproariously funny. She enjoys it, and whatever else is on her mind, for a minute or so, leaning her head back, lifting her shoulders, till finally she gasps: "Oh! If ever I meet a gentleman looking for that particular cure, sweetie, I'll know where to send him. If there's any hope of it at all, you couldn't help but succeed. I'm sure you could turn anyone at all any way you liked — this way, that way, or round and round in circles."

Corina laughs aloud. "Well, thank you. I'd like to think I could at least give a queer boy one evening of fun experimentation." She takes another sample of the saccharine powder onto her finger, squinting thoughtfully. "You know…this has potential." She dips her finger between her breasts, rubbing a light coating of the powder there, were it turns practically invisible on her skin. "Oh yes, I think so. Where did you say you acquire this?"

Somehow Fabia misses the question at first. "What a glorious idea," she breathes, nibbling a fingertip which was, seconds ago, plundering the rim of her glass for something — anything. Her eyes flick up to Corina's face. "Hmm? Oh, I don't know where it came from, someone sent it to me as a present…"

Corina's already pouty lip protrudes in an even poutier pout. "No idea? That won't do at all. I shall require some, post-haste. You'll tell me if you find out where it came from, won't you?"

"I really must find out," Fabia agrees, nodding a head which feels even more than usually sparkly for this time of night. "I shall need more of it myself. I think it would be cruel of me to keep it from the tulip gentleman, don't you?" She eyes the hardly perceptible shimmer upon Corina's cleavage… "I don't — I don't know what I'll tell him it is, but I'll think of something. Oh, lord," she sighs, shifting slightly in her chair as her eyes find a point in the middle distance which is special, in this moment, only to her. "I'm so terrible at waiting… It's been a few days, and I wish he were here." Are we a trifle petulant when we've had our magical sugar-powder? … "Oh," and Fabia looks at Cooper, her smile fading into a gentler variation, "I do believe she's fallen asleep!"

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