Chapter 3: The Holiday
"Everyone sits in the prison of his own ideas; he must burst it open, and that in his youth, and so try to test his ideas on reality."
- Albert Einstein
"Merlin's beard, Maddie! Where've you been?!" shouted Elaine, who had never been more relieved to see her roommate. They'd been roomies for six long years, and after such an amount of time, you grow to either love or detest that person. Thankfully, Elaine and Madeline belonged in the former category.
"I've been at practice with the rest of the reserve squad. It's snowing like mad but Mulroney wanted us to keep practicing. Do you think he's mad at me?"
"Alex Mulroney can shove his—no, no, it doesn't matter—haven't you heard?" she said, coming up to Madeline and grasping her by her shoulders.
"No, I've not heard. What's happened now?" Her question was heavy with fear.
"Justin Finch-Fletchley, the second year?"
"The one that never shut up about Eton!"
"Yes, yes! What about him?"
"He's been petrified, Maddie. He and Sir Nicholas!"
Madeline gasped, her hands jumping to cover her mouth. She dropped all of her Quidditch gear with many a thud and clatter.
"Is that why no one was in the Common Room? Another Muggle-born has been petrified?"
"A Hufflepuff, at that!"
"How… how does one petrify a ghost?! That's the most bizarre thing I've ever heard! Are the other second years alright?"
"They're incredibly shaken. We all are. I won't be surprised if everyone leaves for Christmas break," said Elaine, who climbed back into her bed.
"I wonder if they'll establish a curfew… the Gryffindor first year that was petrified was trying to sneak into the Hospital Wing in the middle of the night. Surely they'll do something about it?"
"I suppose we'll find out after the holiday."
"Are people still saying it's Potter?"
Elaine nodded, and Madeline rolled her eyes. Quite like everyone else in Hogwarts, Madeline had been interested in the famous boy since his arrival. Unlike many of her peers, especially the younger ones, she did not find it necessary or amusing to harass, annoy, pester, or revile him. He was 12. Granted, he was the Boy-Who-Lived, but he was also just a child. Madeline got most of her Potter gossip from Oliver, and she knew for certain that Potter was not the "Heir of Slytherin." He spent far too much time with Hermione Granger, a Muggle-born witch. No Heir of Slytherin would ever have such a friend.
"Such bollocks! I'm going to give Ernie MacMillan a good talking-to if he doesn't keep his trap shut."
"Well, I'm just glad you're alright. I wasn't going to get any sleep until you got back."
Madeline smiled at her roommate.
"I do appreciate your concern, but I'm more worried for Claire than myself."
"You are always more concerned for someone else. That's why you have me. Well, and Oliver, I suppose. But mostly me."
"Elaine… are we in Cornwall?!"
The sound of the ocean crashing against something large and sturdy assaulted Madeline's ears. The wind, too, seemed quite angry at her for some reason or another—she was thankful for her plaited hair, as any loose hairs would have been whipped into knots. The smell of salt was so strong that Madeline could taste it.
"Maddie—gah, would you wait a moment, please? I was just about to say, 'Welcome, my dearest Madeline, to Cornwall,' but you had to go and ruin it."
"I'm sorry! Go ahead," said Madeline, grinning blindly at Elaine. The sun had not yet risen very far, and the light was damn near blinding.
"No, it's too late! You've already thoroughly ruined the moment!"
"Are you going to explain why we are standing on the side of some sea-strewn bluff, or shall I ask?"
"Well, I had expected the view to be better, but we can come back later," she said, taking Madeline's hand. "Hold on!"
After a moment of twisting through space and time (and trying not to vomit), Madeline landed next to Elaine in a quieter place—it was a garden, and a well-groomed one at that. Before Madeline could ask, Elaine raised a finger to her lips and indicated that she should make no noise.
After a few moments of listening, Madeline heard it—the sound of a man singing. Though she couldn't make out the words, the tune was uplifting. Elaine grinned and Madeline felt herself relaxing; so the pair made their way toward a small brick building that was barely visible at the end of the garden.
The garden featured dozens of blooming trees, bushes, and weeds, and it took Madeline little time to separate the magical plants from those considered to be ordinary. Elaine's extensive knowledge of Herbology never failed to disappoint her.
Within the small brick building, which seemed to be a gardening shed of some sort, was Elaine's father. His name was Bernard Ellison, but he preferred to be called Bernie. He was not very tall but quite lean, and he was sporting a Muggle-looking knee contraption—perhaps something to keep his knee cap from dislocating? Madeline wasn't sure, but she wondered if there was a spell that could heal it. Then again, fascination with Muggle items ran in Elaine's family. Though they had been quiet, the man turned to greet them as if he knew the precise moment they were to arrive.
"Hello," he said, smiling brightly. "I'm Bernie, Elaine's father. You must be Miss Madeline Palmer!"
"Indeed," she said, grinning. Madeline walked over to shake the man's hand, but he pulled her into a hug instead.
"Pa, it looks as though the ivy needs trimming again. Shall I do it?"
"No, no, your mother will want to see to it," he said, setting a bag of soil on a large wooden table. "Madeline, it truly is a pleasure seeing you here at last."
"Thanks for having me," Madeline replied. "Elaine could never stop talking about the wonders of Cornwall, so I was easily enticed to visit."
"I'm sure Scotland, too, has its wonders," he said, nodding. "But welcome, welcome. Do come in. Would the pair of you like some tea?"
"Yes, please," replied Madeline quickly.
"Pa," said Elaine, who began following her father out of the shed and into an open, flowering corridor, "Flourish and Blotts was a waste of time, you were right."
"No Muggle authors anywhere, eh?"
"Not a one!"
"They don't like selling 'Muggle rubbish' there."
"I know," said Elaine, sighing.
Madeline quietly followed them into a kitchen that smelled of lavender and cinnamon.
"You should take Madeline into town tomorrow and let her sit amongst the Muggles and watch them for a bit. I do so ever love watching them."
"We don't have to—I'm sure you'd find it terribly boring," said a blushing Elaine to Madeline.
"I'm here to relax, to forget about books and studying and Quidditch. I'm here to enjoy the sunshine and learn about new places and new things," she said, shrugging. "We have a whole week to go exploring and Muggle watching. I'll happily follow your lead."
The table at which they sat was well worn but thick and sturdy, and it looked as though it could use a good polish. Madeline found herself admiring the kitchen while Elaine's father prepared the tea; the walls were laid with brick, the floors with dark wood of some sort, and the large, bright windows flanked by pots of a tall, erect evergreen plant that Madeline thought looked similar to heather. A few of the dark green-grey nodules were blooming small, shell-colored flowers that reminded her of bell-shaped droplets of snow.
"Elaine, I'm afraid your mother drank all of the oolong."
"That's alright," she said, smiling. Madeline's eyes were drawn from the windows to Bernie, who was reaching for teacups. "Oolong was never my favorite."
"How do you take your tea, m'dear?" he asked, nodding at Madeline.
"Plain," she replied. While she hadn't told anyone of her plan, Madeline had been trying to reduce her childlike dependence on sugar. Neither her parents nor Oliver had noticed (or had said anything), but Elaine tossed her old roommate a suspicious glance.
"No sugar? Watching your figure, eh?" Bernie asked, voicing the thoughts that Elaine had seemingly been pondering. Madeline shrugged.
"I rely too much on sugar, so I'm trying to break the habit. It's a personal decision that has nothing to do with my figure or weight," she said, trying to keep her easily-defensive tone to a minimum. Elaine giggled and Madeline rolled her eyes. Even Bernie gave a slight chuckle.
"Why is that so funny?"
"You're precious, that's all. You know you look great. I'm going to have to fight the boys away from you when we go swimming down off the shore."
"Swimming in the sea sounds like a terrible idea," said Madeline, who was properly horrified at the thought of submerging herself into an ocean.
"No, it's lovely, really. You did bring a swimsuit, didn't you?"
"Elaine, I don't own a swimsuit."
Rather than an exaggerated gasp of horror (such as Madeline expected), Elaine shook her head, her palm smacking across her face.
"Well I suppose I know what we're doing this afternoon," she said, her face set as though this would be her greatest challenge. "We're getting you a swimsuit."
If Madeline thought swimming in an ocean sounded terrible, shopping in a Muggle swimsuit shop was the epitome of hell. There were nearly-nude women everywhere, and while Madeline recognized this as a social norm, she couldn't express anything other than fear. The store employee Elaine recruited to help them was unperturbed by Madeline's horrified face and stiff, limited movements.
"What's your name, dear?" the lady asked. Madeline had lockjaw.
"Her name is Madeline, or Maddie, as we like to call her," said Elaine, who ignored the hard glare she was receiving.
"Hello Maddie, my name is Clarisse. I'm going to take your measurements, if that's alright. Lift your arms—oh, relax, dear, no one's out to hurt you—and don't move."
After a few slow, mortifying moments of having her bust, waist, and hips measured by a tape measure that didn't seem to possess any magical qualities whatsoever, Madeline closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
"Well, your bust is at 85 cm—"
"Just like me!" said Elaine, who grinned and clapped her hands excitedly.
"Your waist is a 61, and your hips are at 86. Does that sound right?"
"Oh, erm, I dunno—" stammered Madeline.
Elaine and Clarisse exchanged a look in which Elaine shook her head dismissively. Madeline wanted nothing more than to leave the shop and never return.
"I'll pick a few pieces out that I think will work," said Clarisse, who turned towards the racks of brightly coloured and bejeweled swimwear items.
"I will kill you," Madeline muttered the instant that the woman walked away. "I really will. You know I will."
"Breathe, Maddie. Take a deep breath. Actually, take ten. Go on, now! Breathe!"
Obligingly, Madeline took a huge deep breath in through her nostrils. Her jaw was clenched, but she rolled her shoulders up and back. Taking another breath, she rolled her neck around.
Why am I so tense? What do I have to be scared of?
In that moment, Clarisse came back with at least a dozen different bathing suits. Madeline sent Elaine a pleading gaze, but she was shuffled off towards a dressing room anyway.
Before she knew it, Madeline was standing in a small room with a floor-length mirror and her terrified reflection as her only company. The swimsuits were hanging next to her head on either side, but Madeline was focused on her reflection, which showed the extent of her trauma. Ashen-faced and tense, she took another deep breath and tried to relax her face first—there were lines creasing her eyebrows, lines disfiguring her lips and cheeks, and lines beneath the corners of her eyes.
"I'm right here," came Elaine's voice. "Let me know if you need help. And I want to see some of them, remember."
"Oh—OK," replied Madeline, closing her eyes. Was this necessary, truly? The few times she had been swimming, she'd been wearing a t-shirt and some old shorts, and those had worked perfectly well for… well, for her 10-year-old self. Had it been that long since she'd gone swimming with Oliver? No... she'd had a simple, sporty one-piece swimsuit for several years, but it certainly didn't fit her any longer. Staring at her reflection, and thinking longingly of how Oliver would have helped her evade this situation, Madeline released another staggered breath.
She also couldn't remember ever standing in front of a mirror that could show her entire body from head to toe.
"We don't have all day, you know! Get a move on," said Elaine. Glancing back at the locked door, Madeline sighed. She was right. She couldn't just hide in there all day. The first step involved taking off her clothes, which was more of a chore than usual. She couldn't help but feel more naked than ever—the mirror saw everything, so Madeline saw everything. It was unnerving, and in an effort to cover herself, she quickly grabbed the closest swimsuit to her. It was a two-piece of blazing royal blue that featured an intricate pattern of hot pink embroidered into the edges. Madeline immediately disliked it.
"You want to see all of them?" she asked, hoping to find some solace in Elaine's voice.
"Here, just let me in," she said. Madeline unlocked the door.
"Well, that's sort of pretty, isn't it? It makes your skin look lovely," she said, uncrossing Madeline's arms for her. "The colour is nice with your hair."
"I don't like the colours," said Madeline quietly.
"Well, then," said Elaine gently, "let's see another. I'll pop out and let you change."
After taking the royal blue one off, Madeline took up the only one-piece, which was a warm coral suit with red swirls and silver trimming. Madeline blanched—the colours were hideous, it wouldn't matter what Elaine said. She stripped it off quickly and actually looked at her options. If this was going to happen despite her protestations, it would at least be a tolerable colour. There were two more red suits, and Madeline immediately took them from the wall. Under the door, Madeline passed the four swimsuits to Elaine.
"You don't like any of these?"
"Red's not my colour," snapped Madeline. "How many times have you ever seen me wear red?"
"I've always told you that you weren't a Gryffindor for a reason," said Elaine, who took the suits without further question.
Turning to the rest, Madeline noticed a handsome forest green two-piece that had been hiding behind the bright reds. It too had a silver trimming, but in this case, it felt like an appropriate touch. She pulled it on and looked at herself in the full-length mirror. The top fit more like a bra than the others, which made her feel both more secure and more covered, and the bottoms had a higher waistline than the bathing suits that claimed to be bikinis.
"Elaine?" said Madeline, her voice clearer and stronger than it had yet been. "I think I like this one."
"Really? Let me see!"
Madeline unlocked the door, but Elaine didn't come in. When she peeked around, she saw Clarisse and Elaine waiting expectantly.
"Come show us, please?" said Elaine, who was smiling encouragingly. Gathering her courage and what little dignity she felt she still had, Madeline stepped out of the dressing room.
"Yes, I thought you might like that one," said Clarisse, who was nodding knowingly.
There were more mirrors at the end of the dressing room corridor, and Madeline found herself looking at her reflection. The color was soft, which she liked, and the cut seemed to fit her toned athletic frame. She felt heat rise to her neck and cheeks—she looked… well… good.
"Oliver would lose his mind if he saw you right now. I might need to take you to a lingerie shop next…"
"Don't even joke about that," said Madeline, her strength of will returning. Her index finger pointed at Elaine's face, who barked a laugh. Madeline's heart began beating faster. Why was it so hot in that stupid dressing room?
"I wasn't joking, Maddie!"
"Well you ought to have been!"
"I'm certainly not. That's where we're going next."
"I'll he—hate you forever," said Madeline, catching herself before she threatened to "hex" her friend in front of a Muggle.
"Maddie, if you're sure that's the one you want, we should let someone else use the dressing room," said Elaine. "We should be moving along."
"Fine," she huffed, walking back and changing quickly. Clarisse came in after her and helped her gather the rest of the suits. After, Madeline allowed Elaine to pay for her in the Muggle currency. While it was Madeline's money, they had exchanged one for the other at a wizarding bank in Penzance.
"We are not—"
"I just want you to try a few things on, please?"
"No, Elaine, you can't just—"
"Pleeeeaassse? Claire would agree with me, you know she would."
Madeline took a moment to breathe again—she forgot how taxing Elaine's bubbly spirit could be. Yet she had five days left. Would it be easier to go with Elaine's insistent flow or to fight her the whole time?
"Fine, fine," said Madeline, who was trying to remember that she was on holiday. It was a time to relax and do things she wouldn't normally do.
Elaine squealed and, taking her hand, pulled Madeline further down the street of clothing and shoe stores. They soon came upon a lingerie store, and Madeline blanched. In the windowsills were scantily-clad mannequins in provocative poses with sequins and ribbons and bows. Madeline gulped. She'd made a huge mistake.
"Please, please… just… don't panic. This is supposed to be fun. You're not going to be forced to buy anything, and, just as a reminder… Oliver loves you the way you are. Clothes or no clothes."
At this, Madeline snorted and laughed—she laughed so loudly that she startled a nearby family and small kit of pigeons.
"Right," she said, wiping a few tears from the corners of her eyes. "Right. Thanks, I suppose I needed to hear that."
"D'you miss him already?"
"I've been trying not to think of him, but it is difficult," said Madeline, frowning.
"Well, let's go have a look. If you don't see anything you like, we'll leave. Simple as that."
"You're not going to force me to try on some ribbons and bows?"
"No," said Elaine, shaking her head. "Like I've said, it's supposed to be fun. It's no fun if you're miserable."
"But the swimsuits—"
"Oh, that was a necessary measure. I'm sorry, but you need a swimsuit. That's just essential. How were you expecting to swim in my pool?"
"Oh, I dunno. Let's go in."
It truly was hard for Madeline to find anything she liked—everything was frilly or bow-laden, and everything looked so… complicated. Why were there straps and hooks and ribbons everywhere? Why was everything so thin and lacy? After one look around, Madeline was set to give up and leave, but she was stopped by an employee of the store. Elaine was off in the corner looking at sale items when Madeline was abruptly confronted.
"How are you today?" the woman asked, smiling. Madeline relaxed—the woman's smile reached her eyes (unlike most of the others she had seen), and she had a sweet face.
"I'm… er, well, I've never been in here before," she said, feeling that honesty might be best. "So I'm a little nervous."
After presenting the woman with a nervous laugh and smile, the woman nodded.
"Well, that's alright! My name's Alyssa. What brought you in today?"
While this response seemed rehearsed, Madeline knew it was her job to help make sales.
"My friend Elaine brought me in," she replied, pointing her out. Elaine was holding a thin, see-through turquoise piece up to her torso. "She's already made me buy a swimsuit. I think she's trying to embarrass me as much as possible."
Alyssa laughed and Madeline joined her.
"Well, we have plenty of modest pieces that I could show you. There's only one on display because they generally sell less than the others, but I could show them to you."
"Alright," said Madeline, who began following Alyssa to a different room of the shop. After a few moments of looking through the various display drawers, Alyssa had a handful of lacy lingerie items to show her.
"So this one is good for bridal activities," she said, showing her a white bustier with pink ribbons. Madeline quickly shook her head.
"No? OK, what about this one?" Alyssa asked, holding up a similarly constructed pink bustier.
"I'm not a fan of pink or bows," she said, frowning. "Sorry."
"No! No need to apologize. What about this?"
It was navy blue and lace, with no pink or bows. While it was still far from anything she'd ever worn, it was the first item she didn't hate. Madeline nodded.
"I'll try that one," she said.
Before long, Madeline was struggling with a navy corset in the lingerie dressing room. Alyssa was helping her tie it in the back (once it was on), and Elaine was watching and trying not to laugh. Madeline shot a death glare at her friend, but Alyssa assured her that this was common.
"You're neither the first nor the last to struggle with a corset," she said.
"How am I to put this on by myself?"
"You'll learn quick enough," Alyssa replied as she tightened the corset. Madeline gasped and immediately felt as though she'd been thrown into a historic romance novel.
"That looks amazing, Maddie!" said Elaine once she was all laced up. Madeline felt imprisoned, but agreed that she looked quite good. Her waist was cinched in, her breasts elevated, and her frame accentuated. But she was not comfortable.
"I think… maybe I should try one of the less complicated ones," she said, feeling guilty that Alyssa had gone through all of that for nothing. "It does look lovely, really, but I don't think I'd be able to manage that on my own."
Alyssa nodded as though she had anticipated that reaction.
"Stay here—I'll be right back."
"Wow, Maddie," said Elaine. "I do wish I had a camera."
"You should make up an excuse for us to leave," said Madeline, turning and pleading. "I just want some food. Can we leave?"
Elaine laughed, making Madeline afraid that she'd have to try on more corsets and bustiers and babydoll slips.
"Sure. I know a great place for food. Get changed," she said.
Madeline did as Elaine said. Once they apologized to Alyssa, the pair left.
"So where is this amazing place for food?" Madeline was quite ready to be looking over a menu.
"Oh, it's not in this town. Truro is my shopping city. We'll be going outside of Falmouth for our next adventure."
"Falmouth? Like the Falcons?"
"Yes, that's where the Falmouth Falcons are," said Elaine. "We need to find an empty alley."
Madeline nodded but didn't reply. They were both searching for a secluded place where they could disapparate. They had walked many blocks away from the main thoroughfare, and were finally reaching the less appealing part of the city. Though it was a sunny afternoon, the tall buildings kept them mostly in shade. After a few more minutes of walking, Elaine noticed an alleyway that looked like it could do the trick. They had already stuffed their shopping bags into their purses. No one was around, and it would only take a moment. Madeline took Elaine's hand and one last look around.
"I think we're set," said Madeline.
"Alright, hold on."
Madeline was thankful that Elaine was older and more experienced with apparating, and since she knew where they were going, it made sense for Madeline to side-along. In any case, they were both more accustomed to the feeling than they had been before.
They appeared suddenly in a bright, open alley—or was it? Madeline looked around, clutching her small cross-body purse, and noticed that they seemed to be on someone's property.
"Is that someone's house?" asked Madeline, pointing at the white side of a building that was suspiciously shaped like someone's home.
"Why are we standing here?" Looking around, she noticed that they there were tall hedges to their left and right, a home behind them, and an empty street ahead of them. Without a word, Elaine walked out to the street, checked for vehicles, and made her way to the right.
The paved street was lined with trees and a few more houses, and they could already smell salt water from where they were. The sun's light and heat were not impeded by clouds, and Madeline found herself thankful for the breeze coming up from the water, which she saw after a few brief minutes walking.
At the end of the street was a wonderful view of a bay, or at least part of one. There were scores of boats floating all around, some docked at the nearby pontoon. To their right was a sign that read,
welcome to the
Further to their right was a small parking lot and a thatched-roof inn that reminded Madeline of The Globe Theatre.
"Is that where we're eating? 'The Pandora Inn'?"
"Yes," said Elaine, who was grinning.
"I hope it's good."
"Oh, it's delicious."
It didn't take the pair long to find a picnic table for their seats, and soon they were browsing the menu and trying to decide which meal sounded the best. After ordering water to drink, both girls decided what to get: Elaine wanted the Pandora fish pie, while Madeline chose the hot-smoked salmon salad. While they waited on their food, the discussion turned to post-school life. It was a conversation topic that had not yet lost its flavour.
"Have you been bored?"
"A little, yes," said Elaine, shrugging. "That's why I need more books. I've been reading. My pa and I will start looking into jobs the week after you leave."
"That's good. Have you any idea what you might do?"
"We haven't talked much about it. He told me to take a few weeks to relax."
"Ah. My parents said something similar. But they want me to do an internship at St Andrews."
"Yeah. It's where my mother got her start. She didn't specialise in memory loss until years later."
"Have you heard from McGonagall?"
"No, not yet. I was hoping to receive her owl before I left."
"You'll hear from her soon. She doesn't break her word," said Elaine, shrugging. "What with happened the last week of school—it's no surprise she and Dumbledore have things to attend to. They might still be dealing with the Ministry."
That thought hadn't occurred to her, and Madeline was thankful for Elaine's perspective—she was right, after all. Their last week of school had been interrupted by another appearance of the famed mass murderer, Sirius Black, the revelation of their newest professor being a werewolf, and the fact that Harry Potter had nearly been kissed by dementors (but had somehow managed to survive). Madeline still hadn't fully wrapped her mind around the events—what with Claire and Richard splitting, final exams, and the thought of leaving school forever, she'd been a bit preoccupied.
"You're probably right," said Madeline as their server arrived with their food. They thanked her and tucked in.
Madeline's salad was perfectly crisp, refreshing, and filling, and Elaine wasn't interested in speaking while she ate her fish pie, which was packed full of different seafood. Madeline was so absorbed in her meal and the scenery that she found herself truly calm—she wasn't worried about exams or Oliver or her parents or, really, anything. She took a deep breath through her nose and savored the perfectly-cooked salmon, which paired well with the salty smell of the bay air.
So it came as a bit of a surprise when Madeline heard Elaine's fork clang sharply on her plate—Madeline's head shot up, her brows furrowed—and saw her friend looking panic-ridden.
"Elaine? What it is?" she asked, her right hand immediately reaching into her extendable purse and grasping her wand.
Elaine's gaze wasn't wavering from the pier, so Madeline turned around to face the bay and saw a handsome young man tying a sailboat to the pontoon.
"Who is that?"
"No one," replied Elaine quickly. Madeline relaxed and closed her purse.
"Judging by your reaction, that's definitely someone," said Madeline with a short chuckle. "Who is he?"
There was no way for Madeline to stealthily watch him, so she turned around and hardened her gaze at Elaine, and in good time. Not a minute later, he was walking toward them and greeting Elaine.
"Elaine? Hi! Erm—how've you been?"
"Hello, Andrew," she replied, smiling politely up at him. "I'm well. You're taller, I see?"
He towered over their table, but Madeline finally got a good look at him. Tall and dark-haired, much like Nicolas, but sturdy-looking too, like Oliver. It was an attractive combination, and Madeline understood why Elaine's face was bright pink.
"Perhaps a smidge," he replied, grinning. "Where are my manners? I'm Andrew Biscoe."
Madeline stood and they shook hands.
"Madeline Palmer," she said, returning the smile.
"Pleasure! May I join you?" he asked, looking at Elaine, who nodded uncomfortably.
Andrew took the seat next to Madeline, presumably so he could see Elaine properly. She'd never seen Elaine so withdrawn—she was usually flirtatious and playful. While she was no Claire or Margaret, she wasn't usually shy. There were a few moments of awkward quiet between them in which the sound of people chattering, silverware chinking, and vehicles moving about filled the void. If Madeline listened carefully, she could hear the water of the bay sloshing gently against the pier.
"So how d'you know each other?" asked Madeline.
"Our families," replied Andrew, looking at Madeline and, perhaps, truly seeing her for the first time. She noted the rich brown of his eyes and felt a pang in her chest that had nothing to do with the man sitting next to her. "They sort of… well…."
As his words fell away, he looked back to Elaine. There was more tension than Madeline had been expecting or could bear, so she looked between them with obvious confusion and expectation.
"Should I take a walk or something?" she asked.
"No," said Elaine, too quickly, while Andrew shook his head.
"Your father told me you might be here. I thought we could, erm, take a ride?"
"In that?" asked Madeline, who turned and pointed at the sailboat.
"Yes," he said, laughing, his confidence returning. Their server returned with their bills, and Andrew took them before Madeline could snatch them up. She wasn't a fan of this sort of chivalry—but he paid their tabs nonetheless.
"You didn't have to do that," she said, forcing a half-thankful, half-irritated smile.
"I wanted to."
"Thank you," said Elaine, whose voice was still quite subdued. This earned her a gentle smile from Andrew. Madeline found herself glancing between the pair of them—she was definitely missing a lot of information, but she knew that this young man, whoever he turned out to be, was in love with Elaine. She wasn't sure she'd ever been so certain about a man's feelings, which was both strange and exciting. Was she getting better at reading people?
Standing next to the sailboat, Madeline felt her stomach doing somersaults. She'd never been in a boat that wasn't magically gliding across a placid lake.
"Maddie, it's safe, I promise," said Elaine, who was smiling up at her from the sailboat. She extended her hand, but Madeline didn't dare move. Andrew was waiting for Madeline to board before he untied the ropes, so he stood watching.
"I've been sailing since I was a lad," he said, hoping to coax her into trusting him, and Elaine nodded.
"I trust him with my life, I swear it."
"I've never sailed like this before," said Madeline, looking from the boat to the water.
"We won't go far," said Andrew. "You'll see the shore at all times."
"I can stay here, it'll be fine. I'll go inside and—"
"No," said Elaine, who finally shed her shyness. "You're going to sail with us. You'll go home and tell Oliver all about how I made you go sailing and how you loved it. I know for a fact that you can swim quite well. Now get in the bloody boat."
Andrew extended his hand to help her climb in and she took it. Soon they were all in and rocking away from the pontoon, and while he was busy setting up the sail, Madeline interrogated Elaine.
"Who is he?" she asked, using her serious voice and intense gaze.
"D'you promise not to hate me?" she whispered (as best she could above the wind).
"Of course! Why would I?"
Elaine smiled, but it dripped slowly from her face as she looked around and gathered the courage she apparently needed.
"He's… he's my intended."
"Your what?!" shouted Madeline. Elaine grabbed her arm and tried to calm her.
"Please, Maddie, can we talk about it later?" she asked, looking ever so pitiful.
Madeline nodded as Andrew came near them, pulling on a rope and inadvertently flexing his arm muscles as he directed the sail. Elaine looked away, leaving Madeline wondering why Elaine had kept this massive secret from her for the past seven years. Had she not been a trustworthy, honorable, and loyal friend? Had she not kept Elaine's secrets and honored her opinions? Had she not been a good friend?
No, thought Madeline, the heat of guilt and shame spreading through her chest. She always told Oliver or Claire everything, and rarely had she entrusted her own secret desires, pains, and issues to Elaine. Did Kendra or any of Elaine's other friends know that she was promised to someone... someone who hadn't gone to Hogwarts?
And what about Adam?! Why had she been pursuing relationships when she was betrothed?! None of it made any sense, and Madeline was altogether baffled.
"It's really a great afternoon for sailing," said Andrew, whose gaze constantly shifted from the horizon to the sky to Elaine.
Madeline was quiet for the duration of the sailing time. As promised, the shore was never out of sight. Once the wind took the sail, Andrew and Elaine began talking, and Madeline listened for a while. Their conversation revealed a lot about him—he was neither a Muggle nor a Squib, as she suspected, but rather had gone to Beauxbatons. He was a year older, and this was, she assumed by their "how have you been" discussions, the first they had seen each other since last summer, if not longer.
She spent some time trying to process Elaine's decisions, but after half an hour or so, she took to thinking about Oliver while staring at the horizon. It was no secret that her parents and Oliver's parents had hoped they would fall in love—that had been planned the instant Madeline was born and was revealed to be a girl—but to arrange a marriage between two children? It was an ancient way that Madeline did not understand.
"You alright? Missing Oliver already?"
A smile bloomed on her face at the mention of his name.
"I suppose so," she said. "He was quite upset with my leaving for a week, I'll have you know."
"Oliver Wood is the love of her life," said Elaine to Andrew, grinning. "Remember that name. He's going to be a famous Quidditch player one day."
"Don't go saying that around him, he'll die of embarrassment," said Madeline quickly.
At this, everyone laughed, and Andrew said, "Oliver Wood. Got it."
"Alright, sir," said Madeline, looking to Andrew. "Tell me all about your school. I'm deeply curious. I want to know everything."
"She really does," groaned Elaine. "She's not exaggerating."
Talk of their schools and Quidditch lasted them until the setting sun began bleeding into the sky. The sunset was magnificent, and they watched it from a different pier than they had started at. It was much smaller and completely empty, and all that was behind it was a very large house.
"Is that your home?" asked Madeline, who was past the point of politeness.
Andrew nodded, looking more embarrassed than she had yet seen him.
"It is," he said. "Would you like to come in for a bit?"
"Maybe another day," said Elaine. "We're already out later than I'd like."
Madeline quickly perceived a great deal of longing in Andrew's goodbye to Elaine, and he took his time in leaving. Once he began walking away, Elaine took Madeline's hand again, and they disapparated.
"You have a lot of explaining to do," said Madeline the instant they were back in her family's garden, which was dimly lit by a few twinkling lights above the shed door.
"What of Adam? Why hadn't you ever told me?"
"Let me explain one thing before we go inside," said Elaine, who turned to face her old roommate in the semi-dark. "Our relationship is not like yours and Oliver's, and it likely won't ever be. We grew up together, yes, but since we were 11, we've spent most of our time apart. I spent many years hoping I'd never have to see him again. The man you met tonight is not necessarily the boy I grew up with."
"Alright," said Madeline, who nodded and felt quite humbled. "I'm sorry."
"No, don't apologize. It's… fine. I kept it a secret because I'd always hoped it wouldn't come to fruition. I spent time with Adam to see if things were better or different or... whatever. The same reason you dated Nick."
"Don't—don't argue. We can talk about it more later. Let's get inside."
Madeline silently followed Elaine back into the house, where they were greeted by Elaine's parents. Her mother was a small woman with thick blonde hair. Bernie offered to make more tea, but Elaine declined, mentioned that they were tired, and led Madeline to her bedroom.
Elaine's bedroom was exactly what Madeline could have predicted. Three of the four walls were lined to the ceiling with bookshelves. While not every bookshelf was full of books (other items and knickknacks could be found, as well), there were so many books that Madeline's jaw fell slack.
"What were you saying about needing more books?"
Elaine wasn't embarrassed.
"Well, those right there are all of my school books, those are school-related books—oh! and these are Muggle nonfiction—quite fascinating, actually. These four shelves are books my parents have given me over the years. I mean, I've just never gotten rid of any of my books."
"I can see that quite plainly."
"Are you… Maddie, are you upset with me?"
"No, heavens, no. I'm just confused. I have every right to be, I think."
"You do. Get settled, make yourself at home. My bed's big enough for the two of us. I'm going to go speak with my father."
"He ratted you out, didn't he?"
"We'll see. Feel free to bathe. I don't know how long this will take."
Madeline nodded and then pulled Elaine into a hug. After Elaine left, Madeline bathed and found herself climbing into the large bed faster than she'd expected. After a few minutes of more wondering, Madeline fell asleep.
She couldn't make it down the stairs any faster without tripping, that much she knew. She had already taken a few stumbles, her little feet sliding on the wooden stairs and her stomach taking nauseating, tumbling dives—grasping onto the wooden rails, thinking naught of splinters, she ran as fast as she could. No one had stopped her descent, not even the three or four older students she'd passed along the way. Most of the students were concerned, but they didn't leave their seats—Madeline, however, was taking a few steps at a time trying to reach him.
She wasn't sure how long it had taken her to descend from the Hufflepuff Quidditch Tower, but by the time she'd reached solid ground, she could see Madam Pomfrey levitating him away on a stretcher. She felt a wave of nausea and up came her breakfast.
Professor McGonagall ran over, her game-day crimson and gold cloak flapping behind her like a giant phoenix.
"Miss Palmer, please take a deep breath—"
"Is he alright?!"
"He's going to be just fine, I assure you," she said, her hand resting on Madeline's shoulder. Madeline was thirteen, and while she'd been around Quidditch and its injury-inducing tendencies her entire life, seeing Oliver take a Bludger to the head was more frightening than she could admit. Tears began leaking out of the corners of her eyes. She felt sick again but managed to control the urge to vomit. His team had already brought in their second-string Keeper and was preparing to play.
"I must get back up to the stand, but—"
"Can I go to the Hospital Wing? Please, professor?"
"I suppose—go, catch up to Madam Pomfrey if you can."
Madeline burst into another breakneck sprint, catching up with them right outside of the huge double doors to the castle. Madam Pomfrey was not having it.
"Miss Palmer, I do not have time for this nonsense. Go back to the Quidditch pitch this instant!"
"Professor McGonagall said I could come, and I'm not leaving him."
Without stopping to look at her, the woman shook her head and mumbled to herself. Madeline followed her through the castle all the way to the Hospital Wing. She kept quiet but remained close—Madam Pomfrey wouldn't let her get a look at him, and this, more than anything, had her frightened.
Once they arrived, Madeline was not allowed in, and she sat facing the doors to the Hospital Wing, crying.
A quarter of an hour of waiting later, Madeline was approached by Sir Nicholas, the ghost of the Gryffindor House.
"What ever is the matter, child?" he asked, looking at her imploringly.
"My best friend's been hurt—g-got hit in the head with a bl-bludger," she replied, trying to calm herself. "She won't let me in."
"Well I'm sure it's all for the best. You'd be even more terribly upset, I'd imagine, if you were standing there watching Madam Pomfrey heal her."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Him. His name is Oliver Wood. He's in your House."
"The new Gryffindor Keeper?"
"Yes, that's the one."
"He's your best friend? But you're a Hufflepuff," he said, spotting her yellow-and-black badger crest.
"So?" asked Madeline, who had quickly forgotten her tears in exchange for defensive anger. "Why is that so strange?"
"There are... few inter-house relationships at this school that last any considerable amount of time."
"We'll be one of the few, then. It's shameful that people from different Houses can't be friends," said Madeline, who readjusted her sitting position. Her buttocks were growing numb. She didn't realise that the ghost standing above her was staring at her with burgeoning curiosity.
"Too right you are. What is your name, my dear?"
"Madeline. Madeline Palmer," she said, her voice a sigh. She looked up at the pearly ghost and realised that he was smiling at her.
"Would you like me to check on him for you?"
"You'd do that?!"
"Why, of course! I'm curious to know myself. He's a strong lad, so I'm sure she's simply letting him rest. But I'll return only when I've learned something of his condition," he said.
Sir Nicholas then drifted through the wall and into the Hospital Wing, leaving Madeline alone in the corridor once again.
"And Muggles don't believe in ghosts," she said, scoffing. She stood, began pacing, and then suddenly fell through a hole in the castle floor.
Madeline awoke to a gentle sniffing noise, but she jumped like someone had shouted at her. Elaine gasped, and Madeline got a full view of her tear-stained face and red eyes. Without a word, she sat up and hugged her again, and she began crying harder. There was no time for Madeline to dwell on why she'd been dreaming about Oliver's only serious Quidditch injury, so the memory of the dream drifted away soon after she'd awakened.
"It's going to be alright, I promise," said Madeline.
"I don't know if I want to marry him, Maddie," she said through her soft sobs.
"Would it be inappropriate for me to ask why?"
Elaine lied down, took a few deep breaths, and wiped her face. After a few moments, she was calm and could speak without gasping for air.
"We'll be spending the rest of the week with him, so maybe you'll see."
"If it's any consolation, the way he looks at you is…"
"I have no doubt that he cares about me, but our foolish fathers made this arrangement before they realised how different they are. Andrew has no love for Muggles or Muggle-borns or even Muggle-loving fools like me. I do not know that even I could cure him of that."
"But he loves you."
At this, Elaine looked at Madeline with a pained expression.
"He has changed some since we last spent time together. Hopefully this week I will be able to determine a course of action."
"A course of action? Not planning on running away, are you?"
She was quiet for a moment, perhaps thinking of how to best phrase her thoughts.
"My parents want us married by my next birthday," she said, her voice strained.
"But your birthday is in November!"
"I'm well aware! Not only do I need to begin planning a wedding, I need to ensure that I'd even like to marry the man."
"I don't want this to sound insensitive, so pardon my poor phrasing, but… would it matter?"
A few tears began leaking out of the corners of her eyes and her mouth twisted into a grim smile.
"No, I suppose not."
Though they could have stayed up for some time talking, Madeline decided to force Elaine to try to sleep, at the very least.
"Let's get some sleep. Tomorrow—well, today—is a new day."
The next morning, they took a walk along a nearby beach, and Andrew joined them. It didn't take long for Madeline to realise that she was a buffer—she kept them from discussing their fate; or, as Madeline imagined it, she kept Andrew from confessing his undying love and Elaine from diving headlong into the ocean.
After walking along the beach, they joined Andrew at his large, stately home for a late breakfast of crêpes. In the kitchen, there was a bar-sized seating area where Madeline and Elaine sat while Andrew began cooking.
"For the crêpes, I have strawberries, lingonberries, or blueberries," said Andrew while preparing the crêpe mixture and letting the stove heat. "Which would you ladies prefer?"
"Blueberries for me," said Elaine, who looked quite excited.
"I'll try the lingonberries. I'm sure I've never had them before," said Madeline. She was secretly hoping she hadn't made the worst choice.
"They're quite good. I think I'll join you," said Andrew. "Elaine, do you see those bottles on the table there?"
She turned and looked to where he was pointing, which was a medium-wood table with a large variety of glass bottles lying horizontally on burnished copper wine racks.
"Yes?" she said, uncertain of what he meant. "I see them."
"There are many types of wine and a few bottles of champagne. How does a Buck's Fizz sound?"
"Delicious. Would you like me to get the champagne while you keep busy, then?" asked Elaine, who was smiling at Andrew. He didn't divert his attention from the crêpes, but there was a teasing tone to her voice that made him grin.
"I'd like that, yes," he said. Elaine stood and walked over to the table, where she spent quite a few minutes looking at bottles. He was right—there were many types of wine. Andrew began whistling while he worked, and Madeline sat watching, nearly mesmerized, while he spread the crêpes and worked them into their traditional form.
"Andrew, I don't see any champagne," said Elaine a little while later.
"Are you sure? I could have sworn I brought some up," he said, glancing at her with a concerned expression. "Hm. I might have left them in the cellar. Will you go look for me?"
"Er, sure. Where's the cellar?"
"Go 'round the corner, and there's a door with a copper handle. They should be sitting on a table down there," he said, skillfully flipping another crêpe. "Just grab one."
"Alright," she said, and disappeared. A moment later, Madeline heard the sound of a door open and the creaking of a staircase. Wondering why she could hear so well, she turned towards Andrew to see that he'd removed the large pan from the stove. If he was so close to being done, why hadn't he gotten the champagne himself?
"Madeline," he said, turning towards her with earnest. "Does she hate me?"
"What?" asked Madeline, completely taken aback. "What are you talking about?"
"Does Elaine hate me?" he asked, repeating himself. Madeline thought for a second and began shaking her head.
"I don't think so. I think she's just scared."
She nodded and his attractive face fell into a frown.
"You two need to talk… soon, thoroughly, and often," said Madeline just as she heard the stairs creaking again. Andrew turned to plate the crêpes and Elaine entered carrying a bottle of champagne. After serving the crêpes, he poured the drinks and they sat and ate. After one crêpe and one chute of champagne and orange juice, Madeline was feeling quite content. They each poured another drink and Andrew led them out back, where he had a pool and a garden.
It wasn't until they were there that Madeline began wondering where his parents could be. So, being Madeline, she asked.
"My parents? My father is probably working, and I think my mother is actually visiting her mother in Lourdes."
"You don't know for sure?"
"My mother told me on Saturday that she was probably making the trip, and I haven't seen her since, so I suppose she's in France."
Though surprised, Madeline didn't respond. It seemed odd to be so out-of-touch with one's parents, but then again, she barely spoke to hers when she was at school. Only then did it occur to her that he might not live with his parents… that the house they were at was, actually, his.
Having dated Nicolas, Madeline understood that some families had a sickening amount of disposable wealth, but seeing it in action was quite strange. She knew enough about her family's income to know that they were comfortable and not in dire need of anything but more homemade cauldron cakes and Quidditch news. Her father and Oliver's father had managed to secure World Cup tickets, and that was probably the largest purchase they'd made in a long time. With this on her mind, she changed the topic to talk of the World Cup.
That night, Madeline forced Elaine to spend some time alone with Andrew before dinner with her family—this allowed Madeline time to relax alone with her Transfiguration papers (which she refused to leave behind in Scotland) and the couple time to discuss things. Elaine returned to her room red-eyed but smiling.
"How'd it go?" asked Madeline nearly immediately.
"You were correct," she said, trying not to grin or blush.
"AH!" shouted Madeline, who threw her papers to the side and pulled Elaine into a big hug. "Tell me everything."
The rest of the week passed in quite a similar fashion—eating delicious food, lounging by pools, and walking along beaches. She tried not to spend most of the week wondering what Oliver was doing or thinking, whether he was thinking of her or simply doing his normal summer conditioning, whether he slept alright at night or if Nicolas came to stay for a few days. Andrew liked drinking, so she found herself having a cup of wine or champagne at least once a day, but it made her slightly uncomfortable. She realised that she preferred drinking only around Oliver.
In fact, she learned a great many things, but the ache in her chest, which had started quite small, grew larger with every passing day. The nights were the worst—when she was alone with her thoughts and all was quiet, Madeline felt fear creeping into the aching spot too. She feared that her absence had caused a distance between them, that he would realise that he didn't need her after all. She feared that he wouldn't want to build a life with her, as she saw Elaine and Andrew doing.
The ache was filled with things she missed—his voice, mostly, and the way he looked at her. But she missed his smile and all its variations, his soft hair, and his arms. She missed all of him, she reasoned, but those were the things she thought of most often.
Madeline also learned that everything, whether it be tomatoes or a seashell or a new story, reminded her of him. She wondered and predicted how he would react to everything. Elaine noticed, too, towards the end, how much she missed him. Madeline tried her very best not to be pathetic about it.
On the last night, they walked along the same bluff where Madeline had first arrived, nearly blinded, in Cornwall. Elaine and Andrew were hand-in-hand, and Madeline felt the ache in her chest when she looked out at the twilit water. She would be back home tomorrow but was not yet relieved—she wouldn't be until she saw him and held him.
Chapter 4: Adults
"You're the most miserable git I've ever set eyes on. Get it together, man! She'll be back in less than—"