(1938-12-01) Elevenses
Details for Elevenses
Summary: Douglas wants another word with his coolest grown-up friend. Of course Fabia has any number of words to share with him; and not all of them are what you might call 'appropriate'. (Warning: Some Mature Content.)
Date: December 1st, 1938
Location: Upstairs at the Three Broomsticks
Related: Afternoon Calls

Fabia's Rooms

"You wish to see… Mrs Fairfax?"

The barmaid Tessa gives Douglas a doubtful look. Her eyes flick up at the large clock behind the bar: it's only a few minutes past eleven. Has anyone, ever seen Mrs Fairfax at a few minutes past eleven, who didn't wake up next to her?

But the Gryffindor boy's face is alive with awkward urgency; and so she sighs, takes off her apron, and goes to tell Frid to tell the boss that her little boy friend's in again and in all probability in the grip of an unmentionable personal problem. Really, how does she keep collecting them?

Time passes. Tessa returns, tying her apron about her waist again, and pulls a pint of Butterbeer on her way along to the bar stool where Douglas waits. "She says you're to go up and sit down," she says, more kindly, pushing the glass across to him, "and she'll see you in a few minutes."

Douglas nods gratefully, flashing her a brief grin before ducking through the door and following the instructions given.

It's not his first visit to Fabia's flat — but it is his first time left, as far as he knows, alone in it (the tentative "Hello?" which followed upon the clearing of his throat having gone unanswered). He folds his hands behind his back, doing his very best not to be too nosy about exactly what an older lady keeps in her rooms. But on the other hand, he's seventeen, and he can't resist peeking round a door here, or into an open drawer there.

Frid's been in and out half a dozen times already today, so apart from the tea tray by Fabia's side of the bed there isn't a thing out of place — and her clothes for the day have been laid out upon the freshly-made bed, among them a pair of flimsy silk stockings (just like the ones Medusa's elder sister gave her recently, gods bless Edwarlinda), and an assortment of exquisitely brief blue and silver lingerie… One drawer has nothing in it but silk pyjamas in every hue. Another is the drawer into which Fabia is in the habit of dropping all the godawful junk she hangs on to for sentimental reasons, but doesn't at all know what to do with, but won't let Frid throw out just yet.

The bathroom door opens softly, just as Douglas is peering into the latter: Fabia stands framed therein, in her peacock dressing-gown, with her henna'd hair loose and gleaming about her shoulders and (as yet) very little makeup. "Did you find anything?" she asks, interestedly. "I'm missing a notebook, it's," she comes closer, dropping a pale peachy-pink towel on the floor, and makes a square with her fingers to show the size, "this big, with a red morocco cover…"

Douglas straightens hurriedly, cheeks and ears going a bright shade of red as he's caught in the act. "Sorry," he automatically responds, backing up. "I didn't mean to…" He clears his throat quietly, moistening his lips. "Um." He pauses, then decides to brazen it out with a smile. "You have lovely underthings, ma'am."

A tiny, droll smile from Fabia. "Thank you. I'm so pleased you approve," she says, with an effort at primness; and then laughs and sits down at her dressing-table. "Oh, you can look around if you like, I haven't any dreadful secrets tucked away up here. There may still be one or two of my late husband's but I'm not responsible for those."

Douglas jams his hands in his pockets, shaking his head quickly. "No, ma'am. Sorry, I didn't mean to… uh… pry." Unlike Frid, however, he can't help but stare. The woman is in her dressing gown! "I can come back later, if it's a bad time. I didn't think you'd be… I mean, I thought you'd be uh… working. Or something. But I suppose Saturday nights are late ones?"

"All my nights are late ones," and Fabia's reflection in the looking-glass smirks at Douglas's. "Anyway you're here now." The smirk becomes a reassuring smile. "And I happen to fancy another cup of tea, would you?" She nods in the direction of the tray by the bed, where there is a pot but, inconveniently, no cup. She doesn't appear conscious of the lack; she's already taken the lid off a pretty rectangular chinoiserie box and is plundering it for hairpins. "What was it you wanted to talk about?"

Douglas looks around, brow raised. Pot of tea, no problem. Cup? Bigger issue. Still never one to be all that concerned, he fishes his wand from his pocket and considers. Well, he can always transfigure it back later, right? A swish, a flick, a muttered incantation, and a discarded shoe fizzles and begins to change into a bucket, it being one of the few transfiguration spells he can remember. It may not be a teacup, but he's a survivalist! "Um… well, this is your pub, ma'am, isn't it?" he affirms, stooping to collect the bucket and reduce it in size with another quick spell. "And you've got rooms? Um. For hire, potentially?"

"Yes, it's my… Sweetie, what are you…? Oh, for goodness' sake!" With her hair halfway up into an arrangement of moderate complexity, Fabia turns on her dressing-table stool and looks at Douglas and his bucket and giggles. In fact it's all so funny she almost loses hold of some of the dark red tresses held deftly between her fingers. "I'm sure I just left the cup by the bath! Oh, it doesn't matter. Oh, it's sweet of you to try, though."

"I'm sorry, I don't know the cup one!" Douglas admits, shoving his wand away and raising his hand in surrender. He does tentatively offer over the bucket of tea, however, giving a hopeful smile. "And much as I'm sure we're now fast friends, ma'am, I'm not sure about rooting around your entire home."

Fabia has her hair now under the control of just one hand, while the other ferries pins upwards from the dressing-table, jabbing them in here and there with the ease of long practice. She says vaguely, "Oh, I suppose you're right. I tend not to worry much about things like that. Thank you for the tea, sweetie. What — what was the bucket before, though, may I ask? Do I want to know? Heavens…" The last pin in, she accepts it from his hand, and sips cautiously, as though concerned it might transfigure itself back into a whatever-it-was at any moment. She smiles at him, though, over the rim of it.

"I'll change it back when you're finished," Douglas promises, not exactly explaining what it was, just subtly kicking the shoe's now lonely friend a little further back and out of sight. Shoe? What shoe. "But… um, rooms, ma'am?" he presses hopefully. "How much do you charge for them?"

Well, that seems — a satisfactory answer for the time being. Fabia nods, and gulps down the rest of the tea. Whatever it may be served in, it's Frid tea, just the way she likes it. She puts down the little bucket among her jars of face-cream and takes up a pencil with which to darken her eyebrows. A few quick strokes, between words: "Off the — top of my — head, sweetie, I don't — know. Why, have you — family coming to — visit or some — thing?" Dark reddish brown pencil down, bright red pencil up. Her lips, till now a pink too perfect to be quite natural, are gradually converted to their most customary hue.

"Not… uh… exactly," Douglas admits, running a hand through his hair and gaining a few degrees more heat on his face. "Um. I was just wondering if, for the holidays, if I wanted to meet up with a few friends or anything. My mum's being a dick and saying I can't have anyone to stay for Hogmanay. Apparently I should be 'concentrating on my studies', not on girls. Hmph."

Several seconds are lost whilst Fabia appreciates her work of transfiguration — which, just between herself and the looking-glass, she finds rather more impressive than Douglas's. She blots her lips, sighs at herself, and then it dawns. She turns round upon her dressing-table stool, favouring Douglas with an 'O' of appalled understanding. "You mean — your rather special holiday plan?" (Hasty readjustment, as she speaks, of her dressing-gown, so as not to show too educational an amount of leg.) "And don't say that about your mother," she adds, in a rare tone of reproof, "she loves you."

Douglas wrinkles his nose as he's admonished, dipping his head in acknowledgement. "Well, yeah," he admits, "but she's ruining everything. I'm an adult! I can do what I want! But if I can't even have Medusa over to stay… well… aye, you know." He shrugs, scowling in irritation. "So I was wondering about rooms here. I mean, we can always apparate down here for the day. It's not like we're always being watched."

"You know when you say 'I can do what I want'," Fabia puts in practically, "it doesn't make you sound very grown-up. You might have more luck with, oh, for instance," she makes quotation marks in the air with her fingers, "'I respect your point of view but at this time in my life I feel I need to make certain decisions for myself'," end quotation. A trifle of T. LeClerc powder dusted upon her nose. "Mothers love that sort of rot, I know I used to fall for it like a ton of bricks. One such decision could certainly be taking a room here, if they're not all booked — I think it's rather a busy time, Christmas. People come from out of town to visit relations and so on and so forth. Of course, if you could Apparate here, you could Apparate somewhere much nicer."

"I respect my mum's point of view, but at this time in my life, she's being a dick," Douglas decides, rolling his eyes and moving to take a seat. He rests his elbows on his knees, and his chin on his hands. "Well, I don't really know anywhere else well enough to apparate there. I mean, you think I should go and find a hotel in Edinburgh or something? I don't even have any muggle money, and it'd be weird. At least it's all normal people here."

"Normal." Fabia sniffs, amused, and shakes her freshly-coiffed head. "Well, we must all decide for ourselves what is normal, sweetie, and then decide again the next day when it turns out we had it all wrong." She's finished tinkering with her face; she rises now from the dressing-table and moves toward her bed. Which is to say, toward her clothes. "You'd better shut your eyes or something," she remarks, glancing at the dejected figure of Douglas in her favourite armchair a few feet away. "If you think you'd be comfier here in the inn than in a hotel in Edinburgh or London, then by all means, come here. You won't have such a good time if you're nervous." She sounds awfully sympathetic.

"Shut my eyes?" Douglas queries, raising a brow. "Why do I n… oh… oh!" Immediately as the dressing gown starts to come off, he's transfixed, part curiosity, part horror, and a large part just shock at the concept of being carefree enough to just strip. It takes a moment, but then he remembers himself, shivering and deliberately shading his eyes with his hand. "Uh… well… I don't like London, and I don't know anywhere that does rooms there. And I don't know anywhere in Edinburgh, either. I barely know Inverurie."

What Douglas sees in that moment, before he can get a grip upon himself and protect his virgin gaze, is more Fabia's demeanour than her body: poised, unconcerned, dropping her dressing-gown and getting on with the business at hand as though there were no adolescent boys in her boudoir at all. (Of course, given that he's sitting in a chair, while she's standing up and facing away from him, he's likely also to have had a brief but memorable glimpse of just what a lifetime of ballet does to a woman's derriere). To an accompaniment of slight fabricky sounds, and the occasional *zip*, she continues chatting: "London's the greatest city in the world, after Paris. Have you thought about Paris? Too far for a day trip, alas. Perhaps you can take her there after you've graduated, when you've time. Anyway if you let me know what day — or, heavens, days — you're thinking of I'll write back to say if we've a room. And if we haven't, I'll direct you to somewhere just delightful in London, don't worry."

"Whatever day we break up for the holidays," Douglas decides, nodding a little but careful to keep his eyes still shielded. "We can… you know… meet up here, then apparate to Kings Cross and say we got the train. Gives us a good eight hours."

"Oh, that's not a bad idea…" comes Fabia's considering voice into Douglas's personal darkness. "I imagine there'll be a room then. I'll look in the book later and put down a nice pseudonym for you, and if anyone asks you'll be one of my disreputable friends. At this point the staff here would believe really anything in that line." Silk rasps lightly over silk; and her laughter is on the silky side, too. There's a soft creak, as though she's sat down on the bed. "How are you getting on otherwise, sweetie? Any more detention?"

Douglas doesn't yet risk removing his hand from his eyes, but shakes his head. "I've been keeping my nose clean," he admits. "I can't afford to get thrown out. Not yet, anyway. I've got to meet up with Rashley and Malfoy later, and we're going to have a look at properties. Maybe put an offer in, if the price is right."

"Lord, buying property at your age," Fabia sighs admiringly. "When I was seventeen and just married we only rented… And it was up two flights of stairs, too, but I liked it better than any of the other flats we looked at because of the beautiful, beautiful skylights. You were going to tell me more about your plans in that line, weren't you? But you always have such a lot of things going on and I can never make up my mind which to ask you about first. School's absurd, isn't it, for a young man like you? You'll get on better in the world than you possibly could in that mausoleum up the road." She rises from the bed and pads across to the dressing-table. It's apparent to anyone with a nose what she's up to now; the instant the inverted heart-shaped stopper is removed from a certain bottle, her heady French fragrance fills the room.

Douglas can't help but sneeze, pulling a handkerchief from his pocket to cover his nose. "Well, we've got the deposit together from this coin thing that Medusa sold," he explains. "Her brother got it in Africa or something. And it seems silly to rent if you can buy, right?" He leans back in the seat, dropping his hand to his lap. "I bloody hate that stupid school. I'd rather be out on the bens any day of the week."

"I had the worst years of my life there," Fabia says morosely, and, having anointed herself according to the tenets of her particular religion, returns the stopper to her scent bottle and wanders back to the bed for her frock. Fine, soft dark red wool, bias cut and perfectly fitted to her, with small cap sleeves which leave bare the lightly-muscled arms with which she's reaching behind to fasten tiny pearl buttons all the way up her back. "All right, sweetie," she announces, "I'm decent, you can stop looking quite so hunted."

Douglas cracks one eye open to check, before settling back and relaxing, both eyes popping open to see her. "Do you always change with strange young men in your rooms, ma'am?" he asks, a hint of dry amusement in his tone. "Or should I take it as a compliment?"

"Not always," Fabia sighs, putting a hand to her head, "the supply of strange young men is so unreliable…" She laughs; and waves her hand in a 'don't mind me' gesture. That sort of remark is simply her equivalent of Douglas's pickup lines. Her male friends have to put up with it, even as do his female ones. (Actually so do her female ones, lately.) "I change in front of friends all the time, sweetie, I don't even think about it. I'm unembarrassable: I am sorry, though, for embarrassing you. I didn't mean to. And of course you may take it as a compliment if you like, though goodness knows what kind." She widens her eyes theatrically at him, it's all a bit of a joke to her.

"Will you excuse me if I don't return the compliment?" Douglas suggests, half smiling. "For a start, I think Medusa would kill me."

"Oh, don't worry, sweetie, I'm not the least bit curious," Fabia promises him, beaming benevolently, "you're just too young." (She, of course, could not possibly be too old…) She stands, pats his knee quickly in passing, and glides along to her bedside table to fetch the diamond rings she doesn't sleep in (passes out in, yes, sometimes, but last night's retirement was a more orderly affair). She's had her favourite necklace on all along, of course, glinting at Douglas from the V of her dressing-gown, arranged now to great advantage upon her boat-necked red frock; but still she feels under-dressed if her hands don't sparkle with every punctuating gesture she affects… "And if she did kill you," she adds, "I'd be out the tariff for that room, wouldn't I? And I'm a very extravagant woman, you know, and only one of my lovers at the moment is really what you might call rich, so I need the cash, sweetie."

Douglas coughs, shaking his head. "I hope you won't take this the wrong way, ma'am, but… I don't think I want to know about one lover, let alone several. Aren't you supposed to, uh, get old and learn to knit or something? Old people doing it is just… ew."

Fabia laughs uproariously at him — well, she would, wouldn't she? — and clasps a hand to her diamond necklace as she shakes her head. "That's not what you'll be saying in forty years, sweetie! Make a note of this moment, so you can look back and appreciate how naive you really were. Is that the time?" She's at her dressing-table again, inspecting a silver-gilt carriage clock. "Do you know, I'm early? I wasn't going to tell you anything but how tempting you make it. No, I'll be good. Do you want something else to drink? It really is better to buy than rent, you know, you're right about that. I've had my flat in Bloomsbury for twenty years and it's worth such a lot more than my husband paid for it at the time… I miss my flat. I've been thinking of opening it again. I haven't the patience for knitting."

"Moving away from here, ma'am?" Douglas asks, raising a brow. "You don't think Hogsmeade's a good place for a business?"

"It just doesn't seem to be an awfully good place for me." Clasping her hands together, Fabia leans her wrists against the edge of the dressing-table and regards Douglas's reflection pensively. "I'm constantly running up and down to London as it is, telling my family packs of lies I can hardly keep straight, and whenever I'm here I seem to do the business more harm than good simply by existing… I suppose I've been hoping I'd find a better way of going about it all, but is there one? How shall I know for sure when" A telling choice of words. Not 'whether', but 'when'. "The experiment has failed?"

"If it helps, Mrs. Travers, I think you're good for this place," Douglas decides, leaning back. "I mean, before you arrived here, I don't know where I'd have gone to ask for… you know. Things. You're all right, for an aulwifie. You don't judge. You're actually interested. And you actually know about things. Real life. Not just stupid crap they put in a textbook."

Oooooooh. Fabia quite melts. She gives Douglas a lingering smile via the looking-glass, while hunting about for the pearl-drop earrings with the diamond bows which she could have sworn she left here last night (or was it the night before). "You're an angel to say it," she informs him, with a note of passionate appreciation in her voice, "and certainly I seem to get on well enough with you students, because you're not such frightful sticks." Aha! Here we are. More sparklies. "The residents of the village, though, the real bread and butter of a place like this, they just don't care for me. Whenever I meet a grown-up, paying drinker who's willing to give me the time of day, she or he almost always turns out to be someone visiting from London, who wouldn't normally have come in to the Broomsticks but did just this once after hearing about me. Perhaps," her fingers are busy about her ears; she giggles, "perhaps I ought to have a pub in London instead. Or a very discreet little bar where all my friends could come and get absolutely legless, and leave Hogsmeade to moulder in peace."

"And you'd abandon the poor students who'll never see this place looking so alive again?" Douglas wonders, half grinning at her reflection. "Gryffindor, ma'am. Defender of the weak, light in the darkness, all that, no?"

"I thought you had me marked down to sit and age quietly in a rocking-chair with my knitting," Fabia teases; her reflection's eyelashes flutter at his reflection. "Quite out of the question, of course, the day I'm too old to tango is the day I'll buy a pistol and shoot myself in the head."

"But you'd rather tango in London," Douglas points out, squinting at her. "I've only ever been to London to get the train. But it seems awful. Nothing but fog and smoke and hundreds and hundreds of people, all in each other's pockets."

"Oh, sweetie. If your experience of London has been limited to Kings' Cross and its environs, you don't know a thing about it," his hostess promises him, sighing. "I'd take you about with me one day, the way I sometimes do my little grandson, but I shouldn't think you'd find my London as entertaining as he does. Perhaps you'll find your own, though, once you've been let out of prison." She nods in what is not actually the direction of Hogwarts, but near enough.

Douglas gestures to the window. "Everything I want's out there," he explains earnestly. "I mean, look! This is the most beautiful country in the world. All of it, the trees, the burns, the bens, the whole thing. Not big, stupid buildings filled with idiots."

The curtains at each of Fabia's bedroom windows are drawn open just six inches — that being the approved distance for this stage of the day. She looks, obligingly, but then says, "How many hundreds of miles from Selfridges, though? And a hot bath and dinner and dancing and a poker game that lasts till luncheon the next day? We are from different worlds, sweetie; it would never work." She affects the pose of a dramatic heroine thwarted in love, but can't sustain it for longer than about two seconds without giggling. "At least you know what you want. I wager most of your classmates don't."

Douglas pauses, leaning back. "You think I'm being selfish, getting Medusa to come and work with me, live up here away from selling fridges or whatever, and hot baths and dancing and poker and all that?" He runs a hand through his hair. "She likes London."

"Only making a tiny point. She's a witch, she can get back and forth easily enough — you'll hardly be immuring her permanently north of the border — but if you want to keep her happy, you might give London a try yourself. Visit her milieu, instead of always having her come to yours. It might not be as horrendous as you think." The lid comes off a small jar, and Fabia rubs a small quantity of outrageously expensive skin cream into her cuticles. "I once," she adds casually, "in the throes of an ill-advised passion, learned— oh, but of course. No stories for you." She hushes.

"Learned what?" Douglas queries, head tilting. "Come on, I'll take tips. I'm not that proud."

"Oh, well, if you want tips…" Fabia is laughing again; and looking deeply into the glass as though consumed by a very particular idea. But then she puts the lid back on the jar and, still rubbing her fingertips against one another, turns around on the dressing-table stool and crosses one leg over the other at the knee. "But what I was thinking of just now is, well, it's one of those mad, embarrassing things women do sometimes, which seemed an apt illustration of some principle or another. I'll tell you if you like." She uncrosses and recrosses her legs; there, now she's perfectly happy with her arrangements.

"Once upon a time I knew a gorgeous, gorgeous gentleman who was madly keen on riding horses. By the time I realised just how keen," she lowers her chin, narrowing her eyes significantly at Douglas, "I was too far gone to say, as any sane person would have done: 'Oh, sweetie, I've never been on a horse before in my life.' What did I say instead?" She shuts her eyes — and shakes her head regretfully. When she opens them her voice is higher, more youthful, bubbling with flirtatious excitement — her head tilts, her eyelashes flutter, she's a conscious parody of herself. "'Oh, what an age it's been since last time I had a truly superb mount beneath me.'" Her voice returns to its normal register. "You understand," she confides, "the sort of conversation it rapidly became. And then I was invited to spend Saturday-to-Monday at his shooting-box, so that we could… go riding." A deathly pause. "Sweetie, he meant it! Riding! Horses! Out in the fresh air! Can you imagine? I'd never been so frightened in my life!" She clutches at her heart. "And as for… I've always been rather tough, you know. I was a dancer; I've had aching feet, to say the very least, every day since I went en pointe when I was eight years old. But what that bloody infernal horse did to me tested even my capacity to smile through pain. I'd have preferred dancing Myrtha with a strained ligament to getting back on that animal.

"If you'll pardon my cutting straight through to the end," she concludes, "what I mean to tell you is that it's usually women who end up making accommodations to their men friends' lives and pleasures and preferences. You could do yourself a lot of good if you keep an eye out for whether or not your young lady is doing that with you more than, strictly speaking, she wishes… Not to mention, by going out of your way sometimes to do things you may not like but she does. Perhaps you already do, I don't know. But if not, make sure to start."

Douglas grins as the story unfolds, laughing outright as she describes the pain. "Oh come on, horses aren't that bad!" he protests, shaking his head and leaning back comfortably. "I suppose you couldn't just tell him then, eh?" He runs a hand through his hair. "I… don't know what she likes, really. Chess. And making people do what she wants. Shopping, maybe? Women love shopping, right?"

Recollection is making Fabia squirm where she sits. "Horses are hell on legs if you've never been on one before and all your muscles are in the wrong places," she insists. "After a while I did tell him — during the course of explaining why he was going to be right out of luck that night, and the next day." She shudders, and rubs her arms. "I'm pleased to say, though, the experience cured me of lying to men to try to make them like me more. And the curious thing is, as soon as I became scrupulously truthful, they began to queue up at my dressing-room door…" She makes a little tsch sound. "C'est la vie, n'est-ce pas?" Hanging behind one of the doors to the sitting-room is a neat bolero jacket which matches her frock; she leaps up to fetch it. "Lots of women do like shopping. Some don't. Yours does look as though she would."

"I don't speak Russian," Douglas tells her as she throws in some unintelligible foreign nonsense. Pft. "But… well, I'll take your advice, Mrs. Travers, and make sure I never take her riding."

"French," Fabia corrects him absently, "Russian would be—" And the foreign nonsense becomes even less intelligible for the length of several phrases. "I was Russian for years," she explains, slipping arms into sleeves and flitting across to the long looking-glass (the one with that odd waist-high wooden bar in front of it) to admire the overall effect. She smoothes her frock, studies herself from two or three angles, and nods. No, nothing wrong with that, she considers. "Anyway it's not riding that's the trouble," she continues, sitting on the end of the bed, looking mischievous, "as I think I made plain in my instructive story; the trouble is horses."

Douglas casts his eyes upwards, colour tinging his eartips. "Riding good, horses bad, got it. You look beautiful, ma'am," he adds, clearly feeling it's expected of him as she preens in the mirror. "A vision of heavenly beauty."

"Oh, that's doing it a little too brown!" Fabia leans over, looking for her shoes. Frid always leaves them — she seems to recall tripping over them earlier, knocking them out of their neat alignment, which ought to mean they're somewhere — close by — she espies one under the bed, and hooks it out with her ankle. "Early in the day, when no one's had anything to drink, it is preferable to offer simple, credible compliments. Matched, of course, to the understated nature of the lady's day clothes. Save the flights of fancy for after the sun goes down and the champagne corks begin to pop," she advises.

"I thought 'you scrub up all right for an aulwifie' might be rude," Douglas admits with a smile, raising a brow as she searches, then his face falling as he considers the bucket, the tiny bucket, still on her dresser.

"I 'scrub up' bloody marvelously," is Fabia's opinion, "though I don't think you've ever seen me really done up, have you? You always drop in during the day." She has slithered off the bed onto her knees, to peer under it; now she's rising lithely to her feet, smoothing her frock again, a shoe in hand and the other continuing to elude her. "Of course I don't suppose you've much interest in Parisian evening gowns. Very few men really appreciate effort — that's why it's so necessary to have other women around to dress for. Sweetie, have you seen my other shoe?"

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