(1939-08-14) Cousins Collide
Details for Cousins Collide
Summary: Eleven years after Alphard was told that his Cousin Signe had had to 'go away,' he finds her in an apothecary, and invites her out to tea.
Date: August 14th, 1939
Location: Tasseo Tea
Related: Sisterly Sympathies

It's early in the afternoon - before Signe's rehearsal, but her throat was beginning to act up. That was something she, as a singer, just couldn't afford, and so she'd stopped in to request some potions. Unfortunately, they didn't have everything on hand, so she was forced to come back for a second time, after spending some time sipping tea.

Diagon Alley was still strangely quiet after the attacks some week prior, though business had finally begun to pick back up. Still, Signe found the reduced traffic rather reassuring. She still looks shy and out of place, wearing in a summery Muggle dress, with a hat pinned to her hair, and gloves on her hands. She gently closes the door behind her after entering the room, glancing cautiously about.

He doesn't notice Signe. Instead he swoops in on the shelves, looking, reading, squinting, muttering to himself. He's trying very hard to remember his potions' lessons.

Signe looks startled when Alphard swoops in after her, taking a step to the side, to stay out of his way. She watches him a moment, while the woman in the counter murmurs a distracted greeting, while jotting something down in a ledger. When she finally looks up, she spots Signe and greets her with a smile.

"Ah - Miss Crabbe. Your order is ready now. It's 5 sickles and 2 knuts, please."

"Ummm, yes, of course, let me just…" She opens the small purse she clutches in her hands, digging out the appropriate coins.

The boy has certainly grown taller over the last seventeen years, achieving a very solidly physical presence. The tendency to throw shrill childish tantrums when things do not go his way has been transfused into a imperious confidence. And arrogance. Of course there's still room for a few tantrums now and again, if he's really put on the spot. Even when worn down by the cruel conspiracy of life, so unfairly unwilling to bend itself to his desires, his head remains held high and his hooded dark eyes view everything as his possession.

"Crabbe?" He asks. He can have a pleasant voice when it's not curled with derision, and in fact his smile has a certain attractive charm to it when it's actually genuine. "Did you say Crabbe? Apologies for intruding, certainly. It's just, why, I don't recognize you. My mother's a Crabbe, you see. Irma. You wouldn't happen to be related, would you? I'm Alphard. Alphard Pollux Black."

Signe's only half done with her counting when Alphard addresses her, and she lifts her gaze towards him, her expression uncertain as he hands tighten on her purse. She remembers the other kids calling him 'Alphie' at family gatherings - and how it always angered him. How he always insisted on having things his way. "Alphard," she repeats quietly. It's been half a life time since she's seen him - and he's certainly changed. "Umm - yes. She's my father's…" she trails into an uncomfortable silence, frozen into place.

"Really? How wonderful!" He looks towards the coins she's counting, and then down towards his own purchase. Immediately what he's intending to buy goes behind his back, though he tries to pretend like nothing. "So.." he quirks a brow questioningly, waiting for her to enlighten him on just who she is beyond a Crabbe. After a second he also offers his hand, one full of youthful vitality. There are some callouses on it, purely from playing Quidditch.

Signe's gaze goes to the offered hand as if it's something dangerous. Obviously, he expects her to introduce herself - but she's afraid to let him have a grip on her once he knows who she is. /What/ she is. She opts to shake his hand first, freeing it as quickly as she politely can before offering in a quiet voice, "I'm Signe, Alphard."

"Signe?" His eyes widen noticeably in surprise. But it's a pleasant surprise, and his smile grows even further. It's quite a beam of fondness, recalling memories of following after an older cousin. That she'd been quiet and shy just meant he had so much more opportunity to shine. "Oh! You really did travel abroad! I was sure you'd died or something, since that's the line my Mama," and he pronounces with the continental twist that marks his upperclass and snobbish background, "always takes when someone's pet dies. It took me years to realize old Scuffle wasn't on a beach somewhere, drinking fancy fruit drinks.." He blinks and trails off. Quite obviously blissfully oblivious to the true calamity.

"I was sad I never heard from you. But here you are, back in England. Would you like to have a drink or something with me? I'm sure I could squeeze in some time!"

Signe shifts uncomfortably. It's tempting - to get to know someone from her childhood again. But he'll find out the truth, eventually. Will he get angry with her for misleading him? "I'm sorry I didn't write," she murmurs. "My… studies kept me busy. I shouldn't… I wouldn't mind a cup of tea?" she hazards, turning her gaze from Alphard, back down to her purse, so she can finish counting out the coins.

"It's alright," Alphard says good naturedly, accepting her apology. With a bit of a sideways grin he adds: "I was a bit of a difficult kid, anyway." But now he's so much easier to get along with! "I don't blame you for not finding the time. Besides, once you're in Hogwarts the outside world sort of fades away, too. It's strange like that, isn't it?"

"I'm sure it's the same in the school you went to!"

With the money handed over, Signe takes the package of potions, looking towards Alphard again. "Oh… No. I'm sure you never heard of my school, actually… I went to a music conservatory. You know how I always loved to sing."

Alphard gives you a cookie.

"A music conservatory? I think you're right. I can't name a single one off the top of my head," Alphard admits readily. Reconnecting with long lost family has taken some of the edge off his frazzledness, and it's quite cheerfully that he finally brings out his own purchases. Subtly he uses his body to hide away their exact nature, incase Signe talks, and talks reaches his mother, and then he'll have to explain. He pays, and then makes the small brown bag vanish into his wizardly robes.

"Tea, then. You can tell me all about your foreign travels and studies. I've never really had much of an itch to travel myself, to be honest. I mean, Britain is the center of the world. Everything that's good, well, it comes back to us!"

Signe makes no attempt to see his purchases - not that she'd understand them in the least if she did. The whole encounter continues to make her uncomfortable - but maybe he'll be like Beryl? Maybe he honestly won't mind? Then shouldn't she /tell/ him? "I didn't travel much," she admits. "But I've visit France - and Italy. Visiting Italy was amazing."

"That's not very far," Alphard accuses her, though it's done with a chuckle. "I thought you'd at least gone to.. I don't now. India. Or Australia. I met an Australian witch once. She was bloody horrific. Acted like the worst sort of common riff raff. No sense of class at all. Why anyone'd want to behave like that is beyond me." Like a true gentleman he holds open the door for Signe, inclining his head as he does.

With her package in one hand, and her purse in the other, she slips out when the door is opened for her - nodding her own head in return. "No, nothing like that," she answers. "I would like to travel to America some day. Visit New York, perhaps. The Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building…" She trails off, glancing aside at Alphard. /Muggle/ things. He wouldn't know of them, would he?

"America? No, no. You certainly don't want to go to America. All they have is.. well, I don't even know what those things are, but I can't believe they're better than what we have here. Really, Americans have no class," just like the Australians didn't. There was a theme here. "I wouldn't mind going to Italy, though. You know we did take a vacation in France a couple of years ago. Down south. I really loved the food, and the wine. And," here he pauses, and throws her a playful wink, "the girls were't so bad either."

He marches them towards the closest tea place.

Signe walks alongside Alphard, her smile uncertain as he continues to comment on the lack of /class/. "I wouldn't know - I haven't met many Americans. But I'd be curious to see it, nonetheless," she answers. "And really - French food /is/ some of the best. That we can agrees on, completely. I've been trying to learn how to cook some of it - without too much luck."

"I've met a couple," Alphard says meaningfully. Briefly there's something ugly in his expression, a malicious brooding hate, but then he squashes it ruthlessly. "Trust me when I say, you're not missing out on anything at all." He walks down between the mismatched buildings of the wizard community as if it's all his domain. As if it belongs to him, on some intrinsic level. A king amidst his poorer supplicants. Once he recognizes a couple of fellow Hogwartians, and gives them a haughty sneer. He takes their quick withdrawal as a sign of respect rather than sullen fear or dislike. "My girlfriend is in the domestics club. I should ask if she can't try to pick up some French cuisine."

The flash of maliciousness, the haughty sneer - is that how he would treat her, if he knew? She imagines he would. This is all foolish, isn't it? "I'm glad to hear you're doing so well, Alphard… You must be almost done with school now. Your parents must be proud."

"I'm about to start my Seventh year," Alphard agrees. "I'm on an Auror's Apprenticeship program for the summer." Subconsciously his shoulders draw back and his chest puffs up a little bit as he makes the statement. Pride. With people who do not actually know the sort of petty work he's actually put to do, he can still enjoy the accomplishment of being attached to that most elite group of wizards. "It's really exhausting, but it'll look good. Here, let me-" and he opens the door to the cafe for her. All that malice is gone, replaced with charming and easy cheer. "My parents are proud. Though, I'm sure you made yours proud, too."

"Then… You must know Graham Cohen?" Signe hazards, naming her auror friend. She steps inside as the door is opened for her - though at the suggestion that she makes her parents proud she gives Alphard an almost stricken look, before quickly looking away again, her shoulders slumping. "I, umm… I don't think I turned out to be everything they hoped. But I try not to be a disappointment."

"I've seen him around," is as far as Alphard is willing to go. Now the boy isn't much for sympathy, not at all in fact. But he's always had a soft spot for family, and so he reaches over when he notices Signe's shoulders slump to give her a light squeeze on it. "Now, now. It can't be that bad. Now I know being a musician isn't exactly the most stable of lives, and perhaps your parents wanted something more conventional. But really, what would we be without a bit of art to lighten the days? It'll work out just fine, I'm sure."

His attempt at sympathy is too much for her. Signe looks up towards Alphard again, a guilty expression on her features. It stays there as her internal debate rages fiercely for a few moments longer, before the guilt wins out. She's leading him on, and that's inherently dishonest. "Alphard…" she says softly. "I didn't go to Hogwarts because I'm not-"

Her heart thuds in her chest, and she can't quite bring herself to finish the thought. If she does, that kind and reassuring expression will turn to anger, or disgust, or pity. She doesn't want to see that happen.

That someone he is related to could possibly be something so horrible as a squid, it's so far out there that he never even considers it. The irony being that he also has an uncle who shares Signe's condition. There's genuine concern in the boy's dark eyes as he watches her expression shift and crack under the strain of emotions. "Here, now," he tells her kindly. His hand is warm and comforting against her shoulder, offering support. "Listen, you don't have to tell me. I can see that something terrible is bothering you. And this isn't the place. Really, I'm sorry for bringing it up at all. Let's just have tea, and we can talk about something else entirely. If you ever want to talk about whatever it is, we can do it some other time. Somewhere nice and comfortable and private."

Signe looks away now, shifting her package so she can dig into her purse. Finding a kerchief, she dabs at her eyes as discretely as she can - hoping that at least the other patrons won't notice.

He must know - how could he not? Does he simply not care? But if so - why not tell her as much? One thing was certain, though - she has no desire to discuss something so potentially explosive /in private/, with no one to defend her, if necessary. "A bit of tea would be nice," she relents quietly.

"Tea is wonderful at making things better," Alphard says. He holds out the chair for her, and once Signe is seated he'll find himself the chair opposite to the little window side table he's picked. When the server arrives he treats her like she's barely worth a glance, a lesser being blessed with the glory of his presence for the moment, and should be gratefully groveling as a result. "I'll have.." he thinks, then smiles at Signe. "Well, tea. But something exotic, and special, to mark a special occasion. Oh, and a Danish, please."

"Just the tea for me - thank you," Signe answers. It must be odd to anyone watching - such a plainly haughty and well-bred boy, sitting with a woman in a Muggle-style dress. But who in their right might would openly question Alphard about it?

"Are you, ummm… Considering joining the Aurors after you're done with school?" she asks, for lack of anything better to say.

"I am, yes. I've always seen myself as working in the Ministry in some fashion or the other, as I feel those of us so blessed as to be born with wealth and privilege and the purest of blood, well, we quite aught to give something back." And if giving something back also means seizing political power and so ensuring that the status quo remains, well, that is just a side effect of his selfless sacrifice. Though Alphard has noticed that her dress is less than.. proper, he has explained it away by route of exotic places and an exotic artist's life style. Idly he swipes a lock of hair out of his forehead. "Don't you think? And since I've always been a natural duellist, well, it seemed a natural fit. That was even before things went so horribly bad. Now obviously the Aurors have a greater need than ever for true talent."

"Oh, yes, I heard about… the attacks. I hope you weren't there?" Signe asks in a hesitant voice.

"I agree, it is important for those of us in a position of comfort to help those in need… I hate to see people suffering, or in want." But she hasn't as much to offer as many others in their family - and her parents expect both of their daughters to stand on their own merits.

"I was there when the Sykes Galla was attacked by those terrorist mudblood sympathizers," Alphard says with a faint crinkle of his brow. As always he's torn when mentioning that even. In his bed at night it's a memory that terrifies him, but here, in daylight and public, his arrogance wins over. "I single handedly caught one of them, you know. It was pitch black and there were fires, and people were screaming, and being tortured and killed! But I realized that it was all designed to confuse us, so I focused instead on what I would do if I was a terrorist. That's when I spotted one of them, under a kind of invisibility or disillusionment spell. Bam! I took him down and dragged him with me out." He gets more animated as he talks, using his hands and body to emphasize the story.

Signe flinches at the word 'mudblood' - she's never cared much for hurtful words. She doesn't interrupt his story, though it causes her gaze to drop away as speaks of people screaming and in pain. "I'm sorry you had to experience something so frightful. It's good you were able to stop one of them, though."

"It only solidified my determination to pursue a life in public service," Alphard says pompously. "Someone needs to stand up to that kind of scum. There we were, all us Magijugend, standing on stage and being recognized and applauded, and they attacked us. We were the main targets, you know. They put an Unforgivable Curse on my friend." His voice loses some of its enthusiasm when he mentions that part, and his aristocratic features close and turn inwards. There's a brief pang of shame when he remembers hiding behind Lea as all those curses went flying.

"Oh, Alphard… I'm so sorry." Signe manages to crawl out of her shell of fear long enough to reach over to the man, resting one hand on his. "Was your friend alright, in the end? You must have been so worried for him. I'm glad you weren't harmed in any of this."

"Not a him, she's a girl in my class. Lea Marie Rashley," Alphard says softly. "Ravenclaw. She's never quite been the same, you know. She withdrew into herself afterwards. I say, I wouldn't mind visiting twice the pain on those evil cretins as they did one sweet and lovely Pure-Blood girl." He sighs and shakes his head. Not that anyone who knows Lea would have ever called her sweet. She's a vicious mean spirited bitch even when she's in a good mood.

"Well. This is the world we live in. Like I said, all the more reason for those of us who can to step up. Oh, here's the tea." And the Danish, which he promptly consumes half of in a single bite.

"My mistake," Signe answers, her expression troubled as he speaks of his friend. "I'm sorry she was so badly affected. I can't imagine going through anything like that and not…" She bites her lip before adding, "I don't know if you heard about it - but there was an attack at King's Cross station, just about the same time as Diagon was attacked. It was a Muggle thing, an Irish group. I was there when it happened. Ended up with shards of glass all in my hands and arm.

"I still have terrible dreams, sometimes. I wish people weren't so cruel to each other." Picking up the pot of tea, she pours first for Alphard, and then for herself, before setting the teapot back on the table.

"I heard something or another about that," Alphard said. He reaches over and gives her hand a light pat. "Dreadful that a proper witch could get hurt by Muggle acts. Really, it's outrageous. Something aught to be done about it, I say."

"Thank you," for the tea. He lifts up the cup and takes a sip.

At the word witch, Signe's gaze drops guiltily to her cup. Certainly there are many people in the world good at keeping a straight face, and poor Signe is not one of them. She wears her emotions for all the world to see. "I'm sure the Muggle authorities are looking into it," she answers, before lifting her cup to her lips for a sip.

"Muggle authorities? What rubbish. Dumb as bread, are Muggles. Do you know they think healing involves chopping people's limbs off? I've heard it from a very reliable source. How utterly murderously barbaric. I bet they think catching people involves.. I don't even know, running around and sniffing dog's turds for clues!" He laughs at the ridiculousness of it all. Oh those Muggles, his expression says, so pathetic.

"Alphard… I don't like hurtful words. Please, don't be cruel," Signe responds uncomfortably, her gaze fixed on the cup she holds in both hands. Those are her /friends/ he's talking about. Her colleagues. Her classmates.

"Cruel?" Alphard asks, utterly uncomprehending. "Come on now, Signe. I remember you being a touch soft hearted, but truly, you have to admit how foolish it would be to depend on Muggles for anything at all. They're useless, one and all. Which is not, you know, to say I'm altogether sure I agree with those who say we should just take over and run teir lives for them. It strikes me that doing so would only end up corrupting us. All that time spent baby sitting, thinking about Muggle business, dealing with Muggles, blah. Bathe in mud all day long, and you're not going to look too pretty yourself in the end, am I right? Hah!"

And this must be what he thinks of her. What he'd think if he knew. Signe looks up at Alphard, studying his features as her eyes mist over, before looking back down at her cup again. This was a /terrible/ idea. "They aren't useless," she contradicts.

Of course - given the chance, Signe did ask to be taken to St. Mungo's after the attack on King's Cross. And she does come here for /potions/.

Still. They aren't useless.

"Dear me, are you alright, cousin?" Alphard asks when her eyes take on that shine. Once more he sheds the callous purist, raised from infancy to believe certain things, and shows her genuine concern. "Are you thinking about that attack? I suppose I'm being rude, talking about Muggles when you've been traumatized by them." He glosses over her contradicting words. PErhaps some Muggle dragged her out of the rubble? Who knows. He's finished his Danish.

"So where do you perform these days?" He switches the topic.

Signe doesn't answer his words at first, instead focusing on regaining control of her composure, while she takes another sip of her tea. She lowers her cup again and dabs at her eyes with her kerchief before offering a response.

"I've been singing at Jazz clubs, actually. Most often a little place called Blue Heaven - but I've been performing at the Natrix more and more often. And I'll be doing an opera soon at the Wyndham Theater," she finally offers.

"Can't honestly say I've heard of any of them except the Natrix." Not only is he young, but most of his life had been spent at Hogwarts, or in various Quidditch camps or vacations during Summer. Or being dragged from this garden party to that garden party. "The one with the bunch of Muggles downstairs, right?" As the memories gathers into the semblance of an idea, he doesn't sound like he is too impressed. A club built around Muggles and Wizardkind mixing? He frowns, and tries to build an excuse for her: "I suppose there's only so many places you can perform in, though."

"You've… been?" Signe asks in surprise. All the Muggles downstairs? That means that the upstairs- Color starts to creep into her features. "I hadn't realized-" How did she overlook that?!

"I quite enjoy the Natrix," she fumbles. "The owner - Wolfgang - he's quite gallant and charming."

"What? No, I've not been there. However I've had a few invitations this summer. I've been too busy to really do much of anything enjoyable.. but I don't think the Natrix sounds like it would be my sort of place." He finishes his tea, then arches a brow questioningly. His lips curl in a bemused and disbelieving smile. "Really? You've been there and not noticed all the Muggles downstairs? I hear it's half the point of the place, mingling or what not. Well. I don't know him. I'll trust your judgement, though."

"No," Signe answers quietly. "I noticed the Muggles." She sees no need to clarify the issue beyond that. After one last sip of her tea, she puts down her cup, giving Alphard an uneasy smile. "It's been a pleasure to see you again, Alphard. I really am glad that you've been doing so well at school - that you're happy. I really think I ought to go, though."

Alphard blinks at her response, obviously not making the dots. When she says she is ready to leave, he nods and pushes himself to his feet. He is immediately there to pull her chair back and offer his gentlemanly assistance. Without a thought he pays for their tea. After all he's the man, and it's expected of him, right? "Well, it was delightful to meet you again, cousin. Don't hesitate to write to me if you'd like to talk again. Or! Really, what I aught to do is take my girlfriend along to watch you perform before summer's up and I have to go back to Hogwarts! Any acts coming up soon?"

Signe picks up her package and her purse again looking at Alphard with her expression torn. "I'm not sure it'd be a good idea," she finally offers in a quiet voice. "It was nice to be able sit with someone from the family, and just have a cup of tea, but… I'm not a witch, Alphard."

"I.. what?" Alphard asks, looking down at her with an expression that says it all! Confusion, disbelief, and perhaps a slow creep of pity and instinctive derision as everything she's said up to this point s reevaluated and cast in a new light. He takes a deep and shuddering breath. "I.. see," he says finally. His world feels like it is oddly crumbling. How can they not have told him?

"Perhaps it would be better.. I.. Well. You.. they.. I.." The difficulty with which any coherent sentences are reaching his tongue makes him frown. Finally he chokes out a: "This was very sudden."

Awkward. That's the word that best describes him just now.

"Yes," Signe agrees quietly. "I hadn't expected to… But I am glad to know you're doing well, Alphard." She looks at him with moist eyes, trying not to cry. Not until she leaves, anyways. "And I just- I'm doing well, too. I would love if you could come see me sing, but I understand- I'm used to this. Thank you for the tea."

"Wait, Signe," Alphard says. It doesn't come easy to him, not easy at all. The weight of seventeen years of knowing that Squibs are worthless second class citizens is making war on his deep sated sense of family loyalty. Even if she's not a Black, she's still connected to him through his mother. And he's always been a mama's boy. The conflict is visible in his handsome features, in his posture that's now hesitant and shoulder-hunched rather than straight and proud. He reaches out to her tentatively, only for his fingers to fall short of the shoulder he so easily clasped and squeezed before this revelation. "I.. perhaps just me." Rather than with his girlfriend. "You're still.. I mean, family is family, right? You did let me tag along everywhere. I.. I liked that." Light and airy places, for sure, where no spiders could come get him! He still hasn't shaken that fear, even if it's no longer quite so front and center as back then.

Signe looks surprised at first - then gratified and relieved. "I would like that," she agrees, a shaky smiles finding its way back onto her features. "I was always happy for your company, as well. Family is family - I have always been grateful for mine." She never thought she might find anyone else who would accept her - beyond her sister and mother.

The awkwardness hasn't gone away, and he doesn't at all look comfortable where he's standing in public next to a Squib in Muggle clothes, in public no less. What are people going to think? Against such thoughts comes a vicious and proud retort: Let them think what they will! He is Alphard Pollux Black, he does whatever he likes and everybody else best just accept that if they know what's good for them. For a moment he's comforted. Then he looks at Signe and feels his foundations go unsteady again.

"Uh. Yes," he says, with a flickering grimace of a smile. "You uh, know where I live. Just send me an owl. Do you have an owl?" How do Squibs communicate?! He has no idea.

"I don't have one," Signe responds. "But I have access to one." Through the Owl Post Office, at the very least. "And my home's a drop point, so…" She studies Alphard. Is he going to regret inviting her to write to him? Offering to come watch her sing? "I'm glad I ran into you, Alphard." Cousin. She lingers, her expression uncertain, before offering him one hand - her palm turned upwards and her hand slightly cupped. Not for a handshake as one normally would - but in the hopes that he would at least be willing to brush his fingers against her. Perhaps it's asking too much.

It is asking too much. Alphard makes another hasty grimace that's meant to pass as a smile and ignores the offered hand. "Then it's a deal. Give me a list of events and I'll show up at one of them before Hogwarts start again. Well. Yes. Uh. Quite nice. Good bye! I have also.. things.." And then he makes a retreat.

Signe drops her hand, letting out a shaky breath after Alphard made his retreat. What had she really expected? She remains where she is for a few moments longer, giving Alphard time to get away before she leaves herself. She /does/ have a practice to get to, after all.

Would he actually come, or was he just being polite? Would he grow more comfortable with her over time, or more disgusted?

She was almost afraid to find out.

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