(1938-11-07) Investigative Journalism
Details for Investigative Journalism
Summary: Phil comes to interview Fabia in strictest confidence about Saccharine Powder; and ends up trying it herself, with unexpectedly revealing results.
Date: November 7th, 1938
Location: Upstairs at the Three Broomsticks
Related: Cake and Innuendo.

Fabia's Rooms

Phil sits at the bar, smoothing down her drizzle frizzy hair. She has hung her velvet cloak near the door and ordered her favourite poison; gin and tonic. As she tries to tame her hair the diamond on her left hand glints occasionally in the light. "Yes, well I am sure that you'll be able to get something for your items but probably not in the Prophet," she says to a man standing nearby. "Try advertising in Wizarding Exchange instead." The man grunts and walks off with his pint of bitter.

"Gin and tonic," announces a cheerful voice from the far side of the bar; the proprietress herself, Fabia Fairfax, alias Mrs Travers, is sliding the glass across to Phil, smiling. Midnight blue velvet frock, blaze of diamonds at her throat. "How are you, Phil? You haven't been in in days, I was beginning to worry that you'd found a new favourite pub. If you have you must tell me where it is." She rises onto her tip-toes, leaning forward to whisper, "I might like it better than this one too!"

Phil snorts a laugh. "Thank you," she says nodding towards the drink. "I like a lot of bars. My sister would say too many, but then she is an old maid who never gets out." Leaning an elbow on the bar she returns the whisper, "I'll show you my friend Mickey's place sometime. Runs a nightclub in Soho. He prefers the seedier side of life to using magic these days." A soft sigh escapes her lips after she takes a drink. "Perfection."

"Sounds divine," Fabia says, and means it. And then… "Sweetie, if you're not meeting anyone tonight, will you come back," she nods toward the Staff Only door, "and talk to me for a few minutes? I'd like to have a word with you about something. Oh, nothing serious, don't worry, nothing that'll put you off your G&T."

"I've yet to hear or see anything that can put me off gin." Phil slides off the barstool, drink in hand. Like a true Brit she doesn't spill a drop, in fact she manages to take a few more sips. "I always wanted to see the inner sanctum. As a girl I tried to sneak in a few times. For educational purposes of course."

"Oh, well, then. Tonight's your lucky night!"

A martini has appeared in Fabia's hand (somehow, there's always one nearby); with the other she beckons Phil round the bar, and with a casual touch upon her back propels her through that hallowed portal, barred to curious youth.

Behind is only a passageway, plain and serviceable, smelling of Butterbeer, with doors open and shut, and a staircase — "We're going up, actually," Fabia says, "to my flat. It's comfier than the office. Well, a little comfier."

"I feel as if I have pulled," jokes Phil as she is lead through the back passage. "Like a teenager I am full of palpitations." Her gaze flits over the interior as if taking it all in.

Fabia giggles at that. "Oh, well, play your cards right, sweetie—!"

Upstairs, behind the second door on the left, is a sitting-room decorated in no particular style, rather masculine in its essential appointments, but immediately, profoundly fragrant of Fabia's French scent. On the floor, a gramophone rather newer than the one downstairs, and several open-lidded boxes of records; tucked into the frame of a large looking-glass, a dozen or so ballet loose ballet photographs, all of the perfectly still, black-and-white Muggle variety, which find their echoes in framed pictures arranged wherever they'll fit upon two of the walls. Open double doors lead into the bedroom.

The mistress of this establishment-within-an-establishment shuts the door behind them and says, "Do sit down, and I shall confess the false pretenses under which I've lured you here."

"False pretenses?" Phil looks up from being nosy over the photographs and the records. "Even better." She sits down on a chair and looks up at Fabia. "I am all your's and decidedly intrigued." She watches the glamorous older woman from behind the rim of her glass as she takes another drink.

Sitting on the sofa, Fabia smiles across at Phil and slips her feet out of their shoes. "I had a letter the other day from Astoria Bletchley, suggesting that you might wish to talk to me, in connection with a story you're writing," she says. And then, to clarify. "Saccharine powder."

For some reason Phil lets out a sharp hoot of laughter then quickly covers her mouth with her hand. "I am sorry, that was very unprofessional of me. I just…nevermind." She waves it away and fortifies herself with more gin. "Yes, I would very much like to hear about your experience. How you came to have it in your possession and what you think of it overall."

"Oh, but I shan't tell you anything unless you tell me what's so funny!" Fabia protests.

"Astoria told me she had used the powder with a lover. I didn't realise she meant you. It was more a laugh of surprise. She was rather sweetly embarrassed that I got that out of her." Phil grins mischeviously. "However, I am the soul of discretion so I shan't spread gossip about you. I hear there is enough to contend with, what with that idiot on the radio."

"Oh, heavens," Fabia murmurs, giggling appreciatively. "Yes, that must have been funny if you weren't expecting it, and why should you have expected it? … Still, she must have known you'd put two and two together if you came to talk to me, so I can't think that she minds that you know…" She sips her martini and gives a little sigh; and pulls her silk-stockinged legs up beneath herself and smoothes her frock. "Now. As I said to Astoria, I don't see the harm in helping you with your story, as long as everything I say is — completely confidential. My identity, everything. Just for myself, I don't mind what people know about me, but — I have the business now, and, as you say, idiots and radios." A helpless little smile. You see how it is, don't you?

"I shan't even take notes," promises Phil. "It is my hope you will tell me something which I can use to springboard to another lead, so have no fear I will not mention you or the pub. I protect my sources. A good journalist always does, otherwise they will never offer anything new." She sips her gin and tonic. "How did you end up with the powder?"

Much reassured — by Phil's trustworthy demeanour, as much as her words — Fabia nods, and drinks a little more of her martini before answering simply, "It was a gift. An anonymous gift. Someone brought it in one evening, beautifully wrapped, addressed to me — not by name, as the proprietress of the Broomsticks. There was a letter with it, explaining what to do with it, I mean, to use it to sweeten drinks, or to put it in desserts, and saying how much to use… Oh, I wonder if I've still got the letter? Shall I look?"

The letter piques Phil's interest even more. "Please," she response to the question of hunting for it. "Interesting that they knew you were a woman and had taken over the pub but not your name." She runs the tip of her tongue along her upper lip as she thinks. "Was this before or after the trouble with the village nimbies?"

Fabia unfolds herself from the sofa, taking her martini with her across to the desk in the corner, which seems as good a place as any to begin the search. After all, Frid lives here too, and he at least is methodical… He might have put it away neatly. "Now that I think," she says, rolling up the roll-top, regarding with some dismay the bits and pieces within, more her late husband's than her own, "that may not have been the word… It was after the people in the village started to speak against me, I know that; it was after the first radio programme. It was… oh, it was the night that rather sweet girl Frid knows came in… Ten days ago? I really don't know, sweetie, I'm sorry, I'm not very good with dates and times." As she speculates she opens little drawers and peeks inside them, and pulls things out of cubbyholes and pushes them back in, occasionally bestowing a more lingering glance upon something which piques her curiosity. Where did that come from? Good heavens.

When chasing a story Phil has learned to be patient and how to try and help people with their memories. "Ten days…think about what you were wearing, that might help. I remember what function I met someone at by recalling the dress I had on at the time. What did the package look like? Handmade paper or something store bought? A colour or scent to it? What were you first thoughts upon receiving it?"

"Oh, I know what I was wearing," Fabia says, laughing lightly. "This." She rises from the chair at her desk and does a little twirl, to show off her frock's full skirt, and twines her wrists balletically through the air, that Phil might note the paler blue satin lining of her sleeves, which flows out to form cuffs fastened by tiny sparkling buttons.

"The wrapping-paper was very fine, dark purple with designs in a lighter shade, and a bow on top, good velvet ribbon… I don't think there was a scent, but, you know, downstairs, all one can really smell is booze. Inside…" She steps across to the drinks trolley, and from its lower shelf extracts a purple metal box with a glass lid. It is rather less than half-full of pale green powder. She places it gently on the table nearest Phil. "I don't know what was the first thing I thought; so much was happening, that evening, I was thinking of all sorts of things, and, sweetie, I'm sure I don't need to tell you I was a little drunk." By way of punctuation, she knocks back the rest of her martini.

Reaching over Phil lifts the box. "That is a fantastic dress. You have excellent taste, Fabia. If you ever want a tag along to make you look even better let me know. I'm happy to trail in your wake." She turns the box around in her hand looking at it. "I would have thought cocaine at first but the powdery consistency is wrong." The journalist doesn't bother to explain why she knows about muggle narcotics. "This story is getting more and more curious the further I go." Looking up at Fabia again she says, lips twitching with humour, "Astoria recommended that I use some with my fiancé as sexual mood enhancer."

Beaming beneath all these compliments (which, privately, she considers to be very well-deserved) Fabia subsides again onto the sofa, at the end of it quite near to Phil's chair. She laughs rather suggestively at that last. "Well, you certainly could, sweetie… Though I don't think it's an aphrodisiac in itself; I think it simply gives a little extra push to, oh, whatever one already feels… It wakes one up rather more than an opiate, but it's a pleasant rush, without the agitation which sometimes accompanies cocaine, and one isn't even ill afterwards. It fades away quite painlessly." For an instant, there, her enthusiasm dims; before she gathers herself again to add, "Most extraordinary substance. I don't know who sent it me, but if he were here I'd kiss him."

"How very bohemian." Phil peers at the remaining powder through the glass lid and then hands the box back to Fabia. "I wonder what the purpose of it is then. Astoria said she didn't feel like it would be addictive. Where is there profit to be had in it without addictive properties? Free samples I can understand, it is a common marketing technique. Give to those who will spread the word for you; free advertising." The girl quiets as she sips her gin and tonic and ponders the possibilities of the unusual powder.

"It doesn't feel addictive to me either," Fabia nods, "and believe me, sweetie, I've tried a little of everything at one time or another…" Curled sideways on the sofa, facing Phil across the arm of it, she smirks discreetly. She looks as though she's tried everything — and enjoyed most of it, too. "But you haven't asked what I thought you were going to ask. Is it possible Astoria didn't tell you — what it really does?"

Phil looks at Fabia with abject interest. "I think she must have left something out. She seemed eager for me to speak to you about it but at the time wasn't sure you would." Setting her nearly empty glass aside the younger woman asks, eyes wide with eagerness, "What does it do?"

The infinitely flexible Fabia Fairfax shifts onto her knees and places her diamond-bedecked hands upon the arm of the sofa, leaning forward slightly over it. Her eyes glitter. "How curious are you, Philomena Rowle?" she teases. "Are you strictly a commentator, gathering and redistributing other people's knowledge — or would you like to gain a little of your own, hmm?"

Lips quirking with amusement at Fabia's approach Phil admits, "I am not adverse to trying new things. This sounds relatively harmless as things go." Her blue gaze drifts to the little metal box briefly before returning to Fabia's expressive features. "But you sounded forlorn earlier that you did not have much of it left."

"Oh, I do seem to be getting through it lately," Fabia admits, winking, "but this is just the point of it, sweetie… Amusing substances are meant to be consumed with amusing people."

"True," agrees Phil, "but only a little. I might disappoint you and only be mildly amusing. I'm vastly entertaining when drunk on champagne and dancing and I was terribly morose when I went down the old silk road," she uses a euphemism for opiates rather than explaining just how she took them, "but I would like to try it, yes."

"Then you shall." Fabia beams in triumph. "Finish your drink, sweetie, and I'll make you a more exciting one!"

The drinks trolley in Fabia's sitting-room is as cornucopiously stocked as one might expect, given its location straight up a flight of stairs from a pub; whenever she looks to be running out of anything she likes to drink, she just steals from behind the bar. It's all her booze anyway, isn't it? Frid's reproving remarks about proper inventory procedures go in through one pale, shell-like, diamond-dangling ear; and directly out the other…

She keeps up a merry line of chatter while she's making the cocktails, asking a little more about Phil's recent engagement — she noticed the ring on her finger the last time she was in the pub, and heard the news very quickly then — and of course checking, anxiously, that her guest won't mind drinking something rather sweeter than a G&T: "It's sugar, you know, it can't be helped."

But Phil doesn't mind sweets, and Fabia doesn't mind sweets; and then there they are, sitting side by side again, each holding what Fabia explains is, "A modified sort of rose cocktail. A friend of mine gave me the idea. I think I've put in just enough — it should last two hours, give or take, is that all right? Have you any other engagements you absolutely must get to?" She edges forward on the sofa, nearer Phil's chair, head tilted interrogatively.

Happy enough to explain about Thomas and their unusual whirlwind romance, Phil does so - hitting the highlights and adding a few naughty bits for Fabia's entertainment. "A rose cocktail? Interesting. I have had blush champagne before." Phil touches her glass to Fabia's in a toast before taking a sip. "Nowhere to be that I cannot arrive at fashionably late or not at all." Then she sips a bit more to get more of the flavour of the drink. "You are kind to give me so much of your time, surely there is some handsome gentleman waiting to whisk you off somewhere warmer and tropical?"

Fabia returns the toast and then sighs, rolling her kohl-edged green eyes theatrically toward the ceiling: "Would that there were, sweetie, would that there were!" The not-quite-pink liquid in her glass is significantly diminished. "It's cherry brandy," she explains, "gin and vermouth, and the saccharine powder… Couldn't put it in a martini, two regrettably incompatible pleasures, but a drink which is intended already to have a sweetness to it…" And then, because Phil was so good about adding those risqué details (she herself was quite frank in her appreciation), she adds, "… Tomorrow night."

"Well I hope that tomorrow night is full of decadent pleasure." As Phil sips her drink, she is never one to turn down a cocktail or really any kind of drink, she leans over to pick up one of the photographs. "What made you come back? You could have hired a competent manager and lived well somewhere far more exciting than Hogs-bloody-meade."

"I don't always know why I do the things I do," Fabia admits. "I was curious — I wasn't sure, just then, what else I might do instead — I thought it might be amusing to be a witch again for a little while, after being a Muggle so long…"

The photograph in Phil's hand shows a very young Fabia in a dark tutu, seeming to hover in the air far above the bare boards of a stage, her legs forming a perfect razor-sharp diagonal. Her head is high; her profile arrogant.

"At any rate," continues Fabia, "My life has been rather more entertaining these past few weeks in Hogs-bloody-meade than it had been in London in quite some time! I never know what I'm doing anymore, I just do whatever seems to be the thing to do in whatever peculiar situation I find myself in the middle of now."

"Exquisite form." Phil carefully sets the photograph down again. "Thomas lived as a muggle for years, well when not at work. He can cook and everything. He's found it hard adjusting to life using magic again. But I suppose you have people who do those boring domestic things." She sips her drink, glancing down at it to see it half gone already. Licking her her lips she observes, "It does go down well, like candy."

Fabia leans closer and confides, "Well, I can't cook," as though it were a tremendous secret, instead of one of the most obvious and expected answers she could have made to Phil's words. She winks. "I'm not at all domestic, sweetie, that's why I have Frid…" The half-an-inch of pinkish liquid remaining in the narrowest part of her cocktail glass is testament to her eagerness to enjoy — whatever it is that's about to happen… "I never think to use magic; I'll be doing something 'the hard way' and one of the girls who works behind the bar will trot up to me and say, oh, Mrs Travers, let me… And a tap of her wand, and there, it's done! But I simply don't know how anymore… Oh, do you know what I'd adore? To learn how to fly a broom again. I can drive a motorcar, or a motorcycle, but I think a broom would be such fun…" She sighs.

Down goes the rest of the cocktail; very smoothly, as Phil was just observing, and yet powder-potent all out of proportion to its size. Fabia knows by now when the rush from hastily-consumed saccharine powder is likely to strike her; and so it does. She sets down her empty glass and subsides with another, more languorous sigh against the sofa, eyelids half-lowered, lips parting for an instant before they curve into an expectant and sybaritic smile.

"Flying I can arrange." Phil grins and leans in equally, "I happen to be close friends with the premier broom-maker in all of Britain and you…oh you will just adore him. He is a bon vivant like yourself and not adverse to different types of tipple. I will send him an owl and see if he can come up here to meet you. He is an excellent flyer too, tests out all his creations." She leans back and swallows the remainder of her drink. Following Fabia's lead she sets the glass carefully aside. "Does one need to have an open mind or do deep breathing?"

The offer is terribly welcome; witness Fabia sitting up again, reaching out impulsively to catch at Phil's hand, and squeezing it. (Impulsive, but still habitually careful of all their diamonds. "Oh, sweetie," she exclaims, "would you? That would be just heaven…" And then she shakes her head, "No, you don't need to do anything in particular, it simply… There, you see?"

The sitting-room is darker now. Broad and ancient trees are growing in the shadows, their branches rising to form a canopy above. Fabia's carpets rest upon and blur into moss; the double doors lead not into her bedroom but into a glade larger than the one she and Phil are presently sitting in, which seems to be closing in upon them, as everywhere one turns, there's less furniture and another bloody tree. Conifer. Ash. Spruce, pine, and birch.

Something white flits through the trees — then something else…

Thanks to her romance with said broom-maker Phil knows a lot about wood. She can even point out the various kinds to Fabia. Her fingers run over the grassy glad as she says, "It seems so real." Phil slides off the sofa and onto the floor, getting on her hands and knees only to sit back on her heels. "How peculiar. Did you see that?"

Fabia did see that. Fabia is sitting bolt upright now on the edge of the sofa, peering about with bright, curious eyes, hoping to see more of that…

"Well, I must be here somewhere!"

With this cryptic exclamation she offers her hand to Phil to help her up; and then interlaces her fingers through the younger woman's and draws her with her through the double doors — which vanish with their passage — into the forest clearing beyond. It's eerily quiet. The flashes of white are all about them now, as presences sensed more than seen, vanishing behind tree-trunks or into far-off shadows before one can finish turning one's head to get a decent look.

"What on earth?" As they walk through the wooded glade Phil reaches out with her other hand to run her fingers against the sides of trees. "Was it like this last time?" For all she knows this happens every time Fabia has the powder. Feeling somewhat euphoric she isn't entirely steady on her feet. Phil stops and turns quickly looking one way and then the other.

"Different every time… And sometimes you don't know what's your own, and what's someone else's. I don't know nearly so much about wood, so perhaps you helped make the trees? But I think — yes, I rather think they're mine…"

Points of white converge — and leap with supernal grace from shadow into light. They are ballet dancers. Eighteen beautiful young girls, clad in long diaphanous white tutus in the style of the 1840s, each crowned with white flowers, each with a pair of tiny but very real silvery-white wings growing from her back.

They flit and float, the pointes of their white satin ballet slippers caressing the carpet of moss without ever quite disturbing it, and then form into pairs, as though each is dancing with her sister, or a reflection of herself.

Next to Phil Fabia gasps with delight. "Oh! We're in La Sylphide!"

Phil hugs Fabia's hand against her chest. "Did you dance this? Of course you must have this is your dream after all." She laughs softly and raises Fabia's hand so the woman can do a little twirl. Given that she is shorter than Fabia Phil has to goe up onto her tip toes. It isn't ballet but then Phil is no ballet dancer.

What does Fabia love even more than knocking back exciting cocktails? Dancing. She is most happy to twirl, there in her stockinged feet in the moss of her imaginary forest, blue velvet skirts flying out as thin, lilting strains of Lovenskiold's music emanate from nowhere at all, seeming to caress the sylph-ballerinas, to support their finely floating arms… Keeping Phil's hand, Fabia unfurls her other arm and curves her torso and her throat, while bending into something like a curtsey: it's a near-perfect echo of the step performed in that instant by her eighteen much-younger sisters. She danced this. The choreography is still in her body, somewhere; it always will be.

But that's the end of her showing-off: she stands like an ordinary woman again, giving Phil a quick, mischievous smile before her eyes return inexorably to the dancing. "I didn't just dance it, I am dancing it, I'm quite sure of that… whenever I take the powder, sweetie, I see myself somewhere. I'm not one of those girls, I'd know me anywhere, so I think I must be in the trio. I'll probably come on in a couple of minutes. Or perhaps I shan't. It's difficult to say, in a forest, I suppose it might be rather muddled…"

A young man in a loose white shirt and a kilt has stumbled into the clearing, hair and eyes wild; the sylph-ballerinas flit about him in a perfect circle.

"Oh he's lovely," says Phil. "I dated a Scots once but never saw him in a kilt." That likely would have given away the game far too early. "I can't remember there being a man in a kilt in this…but maybe I did not see this particular ballet. My brain is a bit fuzzy." She laughs softly.

"Oh, yes," sighs Fabia, "his name is James, he's an awfully tragic creature… The character I mean, not the dancer, I seem to be hallucinating a French boy I used to know, rather nice legs, don't you think?" And what a French boy wears under his kilt, is made quite apparent by some of those tremendous twirling leaps. "James, you see," she explains, standing very near to Phil and speaking softly, so as not to disturb the dancing, "was engaged to be married, to a very nice and rather pretty girl called Effie. In the first act all the village was busily preparing for the wedding, or at any rate doing lots of Scottish dancing; but then James was seduced away into the woods by a beautiful sylph…"

There she is, a solo sylph, the unmistakable leading lady of the piece, dancing now with James in his kilt, while all the other sylphs arrange themselves in exquisite tableaux about the clearing. Their wings still flutter.

The leads are succeeded by a trio of sylphs, moving daintily through a short dance in perfect unison; Fabia tenses, then relaxes. She's not there.

Phil nods as she listens, her eyes following the dancers and the man as they move together. As the dancers go past swirling and and leaping their forms change and shift, drifting from male to female and back again. The tutu of one unravels wrapping around a tree like a wedding veil discarded by a runaway bride. Slowly Phil moves away, releasing Fabia's hand as she picks up the now veil and trails her fingers over it only for an androgynous dancer to take it from her as she leaps past.

Her pretty, pretty young girls becoming pretty, pretty young boys — now, this is a refinement for which Fabia is certain she must, somehow, have Phil to thank. She's altogether fascinated. She eyes the younger witch pursuing the veil, and takes tentative steps over the mossy ground, closer to the dancers, closer to Phil… Her hand rises unconsciously as the veil sweeps through the air before her; the dancer who bears it disappears into the pattern again.

But the music — so familiar, though she hasn't heard it in years — warns her; she turns, her hand still raised, and utters a soft wordless exclamation. Her own phantasm has arrived at last. She's the Queen of the Sylphs.

The younger Fabia is small, slim and strong, with every muscle in her arms, her shoulders, her throat, exquisitely defined and elongated… Hardly an opulent example of the female form, but her bodice nips at her waist quite meaningfully, and then those bountiful, not-quite-transparent skirts flow out from just the right point upon her hips, to give her a pleasing silhouette. Her tutu is a little more elaborate than the others, as befits a monarch of the woodland glades. Her hair is pinned up in a simple, tidy arrangement, looped down to cover her ears; she is crowned with the same little white flowers, though they seem to have grown there naturally amongst her lustrous deep red locks.

Fabia has clasped her hands together and is frankly devouring herself with her eyes; the trees might catch fire and she wouldn't look away.

As the music changes Phil turns away from looking after the departing dance to notice the arrival of the queen. A soft gasp indicates that she knows full well who this dancer is. Phil is nothing if not able to live up to the nosy stereotype of her profession and while Fabia made drinks she looked through more of those photographs, enough to recognise the more youthful version of her companion. Sinking to the mossy grass woodland floor she watches with fascination. "Tell me the story, this is not one I know. Will she get to dance with the handsome and rather well endowed Scot?"

That too-short solo deliciously concluded, Fabia's queenly phantasm favours her audience with an odd little smile and flits away through the trees.

Rather a sigh of longing from the real Fabia, as she turns to find Phil; she sinks down gracefully next to her, arranging her velvety skirts and tucking her feet up inside them. "No, sweetie, I haven't much more left to do… Queen of the Sylphs, but only a small part. Ah!" she sighs. "When I was dancing I looked at myself and saw only a thousand problems to be corrected; I look now and see…" Hidden beneath her skirts, her toes curl. "Well," she murmurs, changing the subject, "it's a terribly sad story. These Romantic ballets from the eighteen-forties always are. James follows his heart until he breaks it. He stays in the forest with his sylph for a little while, and she brings him berries to eat, and birds' eggs out of trees; but it's like a fish and a fowl, you see, he can't really live in her element, nor she in his… Oh, sweetie," another change, "in a moment, there'll be four girls, I'll be on the far right."

But will they actually be girls? The dancers do seem to be changing genders. Phil knows this is down to her and looks a bit nervous all of a sudden. What if Fabia isn't Fabia but Fabio? She chews on her thumbnail and waits anxiously for the arrival of the predicted dancers. "Do you think you could ever be with someone who's seemingly very existence was a lie?" The question comes out before she can draw it back in, such a serious question for what is meant to be lighthearted revelry.

At that Fabia looks away from the duo about to become a quartet, and gives a long and thoughtful emerald glance to Phil instead… "I think it would depend upon the lie," she says slowly. "And whether there was a greater truth in it, somehow, as there was in my lie." The other two dancers appear, distracting her again. And they're girls, at least for the time being…

Because it is playing on her mind Phil merely nods, not having considered the kind of lie that Fabia was forced to live all those years. "Did you miss it? The rush of magic? Did you ever feel as if you stopped being yourself or knowing who you truly were anymore?" She runs her hand over the moss, feeling as if she could pick it free from the earth and take it away with her. As two of the dancers move around one another she sighs softly, "So beautiful and graceful."

"I suppose I missed it sometimes, to begin with… But not nearly as much as I missed the real world that first purgatorial year I was locked up in Hogwarts. That was when I wasn't myself, sweetie. That was when magic came perilously close to destroying the part of my life which — mattered."

The music gains in volume and speed; all the dancers are together now, the sylphs in perfect rows, James and his sylph in front, and Fabia still on the far right, in the first row… Until, in the span of time between their feet leaving the mossy ground, and touching down upon it again, they become twenty-three young men and a pretty French girl in a kilt. Fabia? Fabio.

"I loved school," admits Phil quietly. But then she grew up with magic and has a big family and was at school with her older siblings. Her blue gaze widens in time with the crescendo only to become nearly bug-eyed when the women all become men. Her hans fly up and cover her mouth as she looks on in horror, knowing full well this is all her fault. She looks at Fabia, worried what the other woman's reaction might be to seeing herself in masculine form.

Perhaps Phil's anxiety will be relieved by the squeal of delight a few inches from her ear, when Fabia finds her eyes upon a certain very lithe, very handsome young redheaded ballerino. "Lord!" she exclaims, and then, in a tone of quiet intensity, as though the thought might be rather more for herself than her companion, "I wish I could tear the tutu off me right now…"

Quietly relieved at Fabia's reaction Phil relaxes some. She presses her lips together to prevent her laugh from escaping when it become obvious that Fabia is enamoured with her male alter ego. "I can always let you have a private hallucination," she offers kindly.

Fabia giggles to herself, quite clearly following that train of thought some small and interesting distance down the line. But she shakes her head, regretfully; "Bless you, sweetie, for suggesting it, but I don't think it works that way. Besides, if you left, it would change… And then you'd be going about somewhere alone, hallucinating goodness knows what; anything might happen to you. No, you must stay here, where you'll be safe, until we're quite ourselves again. I'll try," she sighs extravagantly, "to stop thinking filthy thoughts and tell you what happens in the rest of the ballet…

The pas finishes; now James (shall we call her Jamie?) is pursued about the forest by trios of boyish sylphs while Fabia relates the tale.

"Now, in the first act, a dreadful old witch," she giggles again, "so embarrassing, it's from a Muggle folk tale, you know… Well, the hag, Madge, told all the young girls' fortunes, and she said to Effie that James would betray her and she'd end up marrying this other fellow. Gurn. James waxed wroth and threw her out of the house, so she's quite cross with him now, though her prophecy has of course already begun to come true… Oh, there she is." True enough, a stock hag straight out of Muggle children's nightmares, has limped into view and is in mimed conference with Jamie. No, she's James again. He's James. "She has brought him — sweetie, it's your veil, isn't it…? It's meant to be a sort of scarf, but isn't that — what was wrapped about the tree earlier?"

Phil slides her hands out at her side until she is able to lay on the ground and watch the performance. Her breathing gradually deepening. "My mother keeps pressing me for more about the wedding," admits the sleepy voiced writer, "but I worry it is too soon sometimes. So fast. I love him and he says he loves me, but does he really know me? How many secrets are too many?"

"The scarf…" Fabia catches her lower lip between her teeth; she's a trifle unsteady in the upper storey, a trifle overwhelmed by the sensations of remembrance and secret yearning which always come upon her when under the influence of this wondrous green powder she sees herself, young and strong, dancing gorgeously — yet she has some lingering awareness of the sensitivity of the subject. "The veil… You see, it's as I told you, she fetches the bird's nest from high up in the tree and presents him with the eggs; and finds berries for him to eat as well… They're terribly happy, they dance terribly prettily, for a little while… He has already given her the ring with which he would have wed his betrothed; and how delighted she is to be given a beautiful scarf, I suppose a veil, as well. The witch has told James that this magical cloth, wrapped about his Sylph, will bring her down to earth — to him…"

Slowly Phil's eyes begin to close and the story becomes a myriad of colours behind her eyelids until finally poor Fabia is left with her hallucination and a slumbering twenty-something pure-blood.

"Her feet touch the ground," Fabia whispers, sadly, "her wings fall off… and without her wings, she dies." Her hand hovers over Phil's faintly-frizzy dark hair; and at last she surrenders to the desire to caress it. Her young companion's misgivings have transferred themselves to her; she's caught up in two stories at once, one which must needs end tragically, and the other… well, who can say? She feels a heavy foreboding, but it can't mean anything. It can't. Her hand nestles in Phil's hair while her eyes follow, gleaming with tears she'd prefer to deny, the dancers her intoxicated mind has called into being. Her lips part again; somehow, she must finish telling the tale she's begun.

"Through the woods — the wedding procession of James's jilted bride and the young man whose love for her is true. In his grief, his delirium, his regret, he sees them pass, only to be succeeded by the funeral cortège of sylphs…"

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