Thanks to Sherry for the beta read and to Juluwho took the time to read this and to encourage me. Thanks to Gabriella Du Sult for loaning me her name and her dress shop as well as the Padma Patil and George Weasley pairing. This story started out as lark on the fluff thread at the Sugar Quill and turned into - well - this.
Roger Davies observed the milling wedding guests all around him and wondered how the law of déjà vu worked. It seemed that every wedding he had ever attended had the same trappings: the sunny June day, the green lawn, the white tent, the string quartet, the open bar, the pretty bridesmaids in pale pink and the sentimental ladies wearing absurdly large hats.
Knowing what would happen next was supposed to be a tactical advantage. In this case, as soon as photographs had been taken, the wedding party would appear and Roger would have his chance to chat up the maid-of-honor. This was an obvious benefit of déjà vu – the obvious detraction being the stifling boredom.
He sighed and decided that he would take full advantage of this foresight and angle his way over to the maid-of-honor, while avoiding his mother at the reception. Weddings brought out the worst in his mother, since she despaired of ever attending one for either of her sons.
He smirked at the thought of his mother in a wide-brimmed hat daubing at her eyes as he pledged undying love to…? The blank face of the fantasy bride brought him up short. He could imagine her figure – it was his fantasy after all. But there was no face to go with it.
Not that he was surprised, really. He had never been in love and at the venerable age of thirty, he didn’t think he ever would be.
He caught sight of a hot pink turban bobbing purposefully through the crowd. His mother, a tall woman with abominable taste in clothes, was either looking for him or for his brother, Richard. He ducked behind a row of potted topiaries and found himself on a long flagstone patio overlooking a blue lake shimmering in the late afternoon sun.
He was so taken with the view that at first he didn’t notice the witch sitting on a teakwood bench at the opposite end of the veranda. She was wearing clingy black robes, which showed off her slim figure and lovely legs, but it was her hair that captivated him. He had always fancied women with dark glossy hair, even though he usually ended up with blondes.
For the first time that afternoon, his boredom eased. He would chat her up and maybe, just maybe, she would have something interesting to say. And maybe she had blue eyes to go with that beautiful hair, came the unbidden thought.
He hesitated for a moment. Where had that come from? He had never thought about eye color before chatting up a woman. His mind was really playing tricks on him today.
Walking toward her, he decided to go for the blatantly obvious pick up line. It would show him whether she had a sense of humor or not.
“Beautiful view,” he remarked.
Startled, she whirled around. “Oh!” The sun was directly in her face, so she shaded her eyes with her hand. “Um – sorry. What did you say?”
“I was just admiring the scenery,” he said with a conspiratorial smile. The dress was better in the front, but he still couldn’t see her eyes with her hand cupped around them.
Instead of smiling back, she went very still. “Roger?”
He moved in front of her so she wouldn’t have to look into the sun and he could see her properly. “Lisa Turpin,” he said slowly. “I should have known.” He held out his hand, feeling the first genuine smile of the day cross his face. Sweet, serious Lisa Turpin who had been two years behind him at Hogwarts – and would never go out with him.
“It’s been a long time,” she acknowledged, blushing a becoming shade of pink as she put her hand in his. That blush – and those startling blue eyes – here was déjà vu at its best.
He bent to kiss her cheek, experiencing that same mysterious attraction he had always felt for her. “You look fantastic,” he said, still holding her hand. He half expected her to bristle, since she had hated it whenever he commented on her appearance back at Hogwarts.
Surprisingly, she didn’t pull her hand away and she didn’t chide him for the compliment. “Thank you,” she said huskily. “I needed to hear that.”
“One wants to look one’s best at one’s ex-fiancé’s wedding.” She dropped her hand from his and smoothed an imaginary wrinkle out of the short black robes she wore.
“Indeed,” he murmured, thinking that she had certainly pulled out the stops with that dress. But it must have been quite a while ago that she was engaged to Barry. “So – er – are you wearing mourning colors for the groom?”
He smiled as she glared up at him. “Or the bride?”
“Oh!” She laughed. “Lady DuSult says that black is chic nowadays – not the color of mourning.”
“And by what authority does Lady DuSult make such a proclamation?”
“She has the trendiest shop in Diagon Alley.”
“Ah.” He dropped on to the bench next to her.
She tilted her head. “You must be mourning the bride though, if she is one of your exes.”
“No, Melinda is my cousin.”
“My mistake,” she said with an unexpected smile. “You would scarcely have time to attend all the weddings of your exes.”
“One must make time for these solemn occasions.” He was amused that Lisa still disapproved of him.
Lisa glanced at the wizards drinking and laughing at the bar. It had been a long wait for the photographer to finish with the wedding party. “Solemn,” she smiled.
“As a wedding guest it’s your duty to celebrate.” He snapped his fingers and a house-elf appeared with a tray of drinks. Roger deftly grabbed two glasses of champagne before the elf Disapparated.
“I don’t know if I can,” she confessed, the merriment gone from her eyes.
“This will help,” he said, handing her the champagne. All thoughts of chatting up the maid of honor fled at the forlorn sound in her voice. “And so will I.”
Her eyes widened. “You will?”
“Why not?” he said, tugging at her free hand. “You should be strutting around in that dress, not hiding behind the potted plants.”
“I suppose you know all about strutting,” she retorted as she stood up. Even in heels she only reached his shoulder.
“I don’t do my strutting in little black robes, sweetheart.”
She tossed her head. “Oh, what do you strut around in then?”
“Nothing at all,” he answered with a grin, expecting her to grin knowingly back at him. Instead she blushed. A real honest-to-goodness embarrassed blush – something that Roger hadn’t seen a woman of his acquaintance do in years.
“Well,” she said after an awkward moment. “I deserved that for asking, didn’t I?” She looked briefly into his eyes and then ducked her head.
“No,” he said quickly. “You didn’t deserve to feel uncomfortable. Sorry.”
She gave him a twisted smile and put her glass down on the bench. The sense of déjà vu was even stronger, Roger thought ruefully; except for the alcohol, they could have both been back at Hogwarts.
Mother of Merlin, help me, Lisa thought. She was out of her league trying to banter with Roger Davies of all people. It was this dress Padma had talked her into buying. “Even if you can’t flirt, Lisa, that dress will do it for you,” she had said.
And why on earth had she brought up her broken engagement? She glanced sideways at her new escort to make sure he was still there and that he was still Roger Davies, the same handsome, assured Roger Davies she had fancied back at Hogwarts.
She must have blushed beet red! Lisa almost stopped in mid-stride at this thought. Did anyone blush past the age of twenty? And what must Roger think of her?
He would think her inexperienced and prudish and would regret ever offering to escort her for the rest of the wedding.
She could feel his hand on the small of her back, gently propelling her toward the back table where she was to sit with the guests from St. Mungo’s. One good thing about being seated at the “work table” was that she was far away from the head table and the wedding party.
But if Roger was Melinda’s cousin….
She slowed her pace and frowned. “Where were you supposed to sit?” she asked in a low voice.
“With my odious cousins,” he answered in a normal voice. “I’d sooner sit with Melinda’s colleagues.” Now he stopped and looked down at her. “Or Barry’s colleagues. Which group is it?”
“Neither,” she answered crisply. “I work for Barry’s father, Nigel. And at the threat to my job, I am here with a smile on my face.”
“What do you mean the threat to your job?” he asked sharply. Then, to her surprise, he drew her to one of the side exits of the tent. Here house elves were Apparating with trays of salads for the first course.
“Um, we should find our seats,” she said nervously at the serious expression on his face.
He glanced at the scurrying house elves. “We have a few minutes. Melinda and Barry haven’t sat down yet. So explain how you were coerced into coming to this wedding. And make it fast and make it complete so I know what I’m getting into.”
A bit taken back at how quickly his tone had changed from flirty to all-business, she took a deep breath and tried to put the best spin on a series of bad decisions. “A year ago I was working at the Department of Mysteries when Nigel Anderson – that’s Barry’s father – requested help with Therapeutic Charms involving time. Since my experience was with Time-Turners, I was the one sent to St. Mungo’s.”
Roger nodded for her to continue.
“It was a chance to do something practical along with the theoretical. Mr. Anderson seemed very happy with my work – and very happy with me.” She almost blushed again as she remembered his fulsome compliments. She glanced at Roger who was listening intently. “Anyway, he introduced me to Barry who wasted no time asking me out.” She sighed as she came to the painful part. “My mother was thrilled that such a successful man was interested in me. But – ”
She swallowed the sudden lump in her throat.
“But?” Roger prompted.
“But Mum fell ill – and the Healers only gave her a few weeks to live.” She began to rush over the difficult parts. “Mum’s dearest wish was that I be settled.” She looked Roger in the eye. “So against my better judgment, we got engaged.”
“What do you mean?” Roger asked, two lines forming between his eyes. “Against your better judgment?”
“I…” She hesitated, not wanting to say that she had only entered an engagement for her mother’s sake. “We really weren’t suited and our engagement was short – just two months. Then Barry met Melinda.”
When Roger gave a derisive snort, she quickly added, “It wasn’t really Melinda’s fault – I mean – after my mother died, I wasn’t very much fun to be around –”
“But Melinda has known Barry for ages,” Roger cut in with a frown. “I don’t understand why he would let you think he had just met her.”
“Oh,” Lisa said, feeling a little sick.
“Melinda frequently goes to the Amazon for rare plants – she works for the family Apothecary business.” He shrugged. “She was probably away for the winter months – lucky wench.” He stopped and narrowed his eyes at her. “And that’s when Barry developed amnesia.”
“Apparently.” The taste of champagne soured in her dry mouth. How stupid had she been?
“I still don’t get it,” Roger continued. “Why would Barry’s father want Barry’s little indiscretion here? And why did he threaten you with your job if you didn’t come?”
One of her heels was sinking into the grass, and she wished she could follow it.
“Because suspicious minds run in your family, Roger.” She wrenched her heel out of the soft ground and tottered a bit. Roger put a warm hand under her elbow to steady her. “If I attend Barry’s wedding then it shows everyone that it’s over.”
She rolled her eyes. “Although I thought it was pretty clear that it was over when I gave him his ring back.”
“Who broke the agreement?” Roger asked.
“Why is that important?”
“It just is. Who broke it?”
“He did,” she answered reluctantly.
“Then you didn’t have to give him back the ring.”
“Would he have to give me back what was mine?” she asked hopefully.
“It depends, but I think any member of the Wizengamot would rule that you were well within the limits of the law to hex his privates off.”
That sounded like a best idea she had heard all day. “I don’t think Melinda would like that – especially if she wants children.”
“Melinda hates children. And we should sit down,” Roger said briskly as he ushered her into the tent again.
Lisa whirled around. “Does Barry know that?”
“Of course. Melinda is as hard as a cauldron bottom and about as sensitive. Melinda-the-meanie we used to call her. I only had to see her for the Easter hols, thank goodness. I’ll have you know she always ate the head off the chocolate bunnies first.” He gave a theatrical shudder. “Unnatural.”
Lisa’s mind was in turmoil as she absently took the hand he offered. Barry had known Melinda all along. Melinda didn’t want children and Barry knew. Lisa didn’t have to give the ring back….
“Wait.” She tugged on his hand. “How do you know about calling off engagements?”
He smiled down at her with those velvety brown eyes. “That’s my job, sweetheart, to know the law. I write magical contracts and I help those people who have had their contracts broken.”
Roger was angry – a feeling he rarely indulged in. Emotions were to be avoided at all costs, both with women and with work. If he found himself caught up in a client’s case it made him want to win. But he had learned the hard way that sometimes you would lose a case. And the only way to handle failure was to…not care.
But he found that he did care about this broken engagement and he wasn’t sure why. Injustice happened everyday.
When they reached the back table, a buxom blonde in low-cut robes called out, “Lisa, you look so different.” The man on her right tittered appreciatively.
“Was that a compliment, Janice?” Lisa asked, unsmiling.
“Take the poker out, so you can sit down,” the man on Janice’s left drawled lazily. “We’ve never seen you in anything that fits, Lisa-love.” His small, dark eyes raked over her figure.
Roger’s hand went reflexively to his wand, but he held his temper. “And I’ve never seen you sober, Phillip.”
Phillip looked at Roger for the first time. “Blimey – Roger Davies.”
Lisa turned to him. “You know Phil?”
“Let’s just say I knew Phil when Phil was a Healer.”
Lisa gasped. “You were a Healer?”
Phillip took a sip of something in a highball glass. “Until Pretty Boy sold me out.”
“You were lucky you didn’t go to Azkaban for that,” Roger snarled. At Lisa’s apprehensive glance he pulled out a chair for her, his mind working furiously. Phillip Goyle was bad news. And if Lisa had any valuable knowledge about Time-Turners, he was the sort to exploit the situation.
“I think introductions are in order, Lisa.” Janice was staring at him like he was merchandise in a shop window.
“Sorry,” Lisa said. “This is Roger Davies.” She put a hand on his arm. “Roger, this is Janice from reception and Clyde from maintenance.”
Roger nodded at Janice and Clyde. “You already know Phillip,” Lisa said nervously. “He works in the Therapeutic Charms Department with me. And –” She stopped, obviously not acquainted with Phillip’s date.
”This is Patricia,” Phillip said carelessly. “Works at the Ministry in the Registry of Parchments.”
“I know your name,” Patricia said eagerly to Roger. “You file an awful lot of contracts and deeds with the Ministry.”
“That’s my job,” he said smoothly, wondering how he’d managed to sit at a table with such unappealing people.
“I’ve just returned from maternity leave,” Patricia continued chattily. “I’m adopting a special needs baby. Do you want to see his picture?” she asked, reaching for her handbag.
“Would you shut it about the kid?” Phillip roared, slapping his glass on the table for emphasis.
Patricia froze and put the photos back into her bag.
“So, Lisa,” Janice said, filling in the uncomfortable silence. “Tell us about you and Roger.”
Phillip interrupted with a wave of his highball glass. “Lisa’s madly in love with Davies here and he’s going to take her away from St. Mungo’s because she’s too good for us.”
Lisa blushed and then Roger felt the slightest hint of her knee nudging his. “Well….” she started to answer slowly.
Roger guessed the knee was Lisa’s appeal for him to say something. “We just met again by happy coincidence. We knew each other at Hogwarts, so we’re hoping to catch up on old times,” he said pointedly to Phillip.
“She do your homework for you? Lisa-love might not be fun but she’s a smart one,” Phillip sneered. Then he snapped his fingers and a house-elf appeared. “Another – and make it stronger this time!” The house-elf bowed and Disapparated.
Roger picked up his fork and attacked his salad. This was going to be a long meal, he decided, if Lisa was going to remain mute and martyred and Phillip kept drinking. Now his irritation extended to Lisa. How could she have been so stupid, falling for Barry? He was the worst sort of sleaze. And what did Barry’s father have on Lisa that made her go through this humiliating exercise?
Unless maybe she liked that sort of attention…He looked sideways at her again. No, he thought, she had never been a drama queen at Hogwarts. Cho Chang was, he remembered, wincing. It was over twelve years ago, but he could still remember her tearful tantrums about staying Seeker. If he had been any sort of a Captain at all, he would have replaced her. But he had no defense against tears….
Lisa was not crying. Lisa was picking doggedly at her salad, only the two red patches on her cheeks belying her emotions.
Lisa speared a cucumber with her fork and wondered why Roger had told the truth about their chance meeting at the wedding. If he had concocted a story about their clandestine dating, she could have held her head up a little higher at St. Mungo’s. Then she would look like a woman who had moved on, rather than the bewildered idiot she was.
The meal went on. Salad followed by soup, then the haunch of beef and lots of toasts for the bride and groom. Lisa dreaded every time her spoon leapt to the glass, joining all the other spoons in encouraging Melinda and Barry to kiss. She had no jealousy concerning Barry. The feeble feelings she had had for him had long expired. It was the contrast that was making her feel so depressed, she supposed. Here were two people who were united and she was, as always, utterly alone.
Roger soon put a stop to all of those morbid thoughts when he pulled her on to the dance floor as soon as Melinda and Barry had finished their first dance.
“It’s supposed to be the wedding party and then the relatives,” Lisa hissed as he swung her gently in time to the slow song.
“I am a relative.” Then he added, with a touch of irritation in his voice, “And I wanted to ditch those people as soon as possible. How can you stand working there?”
“Sorry about that,” Lisa said. “That couldn’t have been pleasant for you. You should have joined your cousins.”
He gave a short laugh that Lisa didn’t understand. “At least I wasn’t bored.” Then he smiled down at her in the same way he had smiled when he first saw her on the patio.
Much to her chagrin, she found herself noticing all sorts of attractive things about Roger: how tall he was, how there was gold as well as brown in his hair and eyes; that his touch was just right, since his hands didn’t rove all over her, but held her closely and firmly to him as they danced. She also noticed some of the jealous stares coming from the other women in the room as he danced one dance after another with her.
“I was surprised that you didn’t concoct a story for Phillip and Janice,” she said.
“Like we had been dating in secret or something.”
He pulled away and looked at her seriously. “Did you want me to do that?”
She stared back. He made it sound shameful to lie. And now she could feel another hateful blush starting up her face. “No – yes. I mean, it would have been wrong to lie, I suppose.”
“In the short run you might have a bit of satisfaction from a lie – but in the long run, lies never work.” He said this without heat, like he was expressing a theorem in Arithmancy.
That matter-of-factness made Lisa feel better for some reason.
“Roger –” A woman in a hot pink turban and equally bright robes was staring avidly at Lisa. “Aren’t you going to dance with your mother?”
“I’m dancing with Lisa, Mother. I’m not going to leave her alone on the dance floor.”
“She can dance with Richard,” Roger’s mother announced, moving so Lisa could see an older, slightly shorter version of Roger.
Roger gave in with ill grace. “Lisa, I hope you don’t mind dancing with my less attractive, less charming brother.”
“I concede less attractive,” Richard said, winking at Lisa, “but I object to less charming.”
“Oh these boys,” Roger’s mother tittered. “The way they talk to each other.”
The band struck up a new song and Roger swung away with his mother.
Lisa was grateful that Richard didn’t try to talk over the fast music, but simply danced with her. When the song was over, Richard led her over to the drinks table. Since she had had more than enough alcohol for the day, she requested a glass of water. Richard raised his eyebrows at that but didn’t say anything.
“So, you must be a friend of Roger’s,” Richard said.
“Why do you say that?” Lisa asked.
“Because you’re not one of Roger’s pick-ups –”
“And why do you say that?” she asked more sharply.
“I don’t know.” Richard looked at her speculatively. “Just a hunch.”
Lisa sighed. It was because she wasn’t glamorous and sophisticated – like all of Roger’s other women. Why would Roger be interested in her that way when she couldn’t even laugh at a ribald joke? “I knew Roger at Hogwarts,” she answered. “We hadn’t seen each other for over ten years.”
“Yes.” She studied him for a minute. “I don’t remember you at Hogwarts.”
“I’m twelve years older than Roger,” Richard replied.
“Roger is Mum’s fair-haired boy,” Richard said.
Lisa looked into her glass. The ice was slowly melting. “What about your dad?”
“Dad died the year I left Hogwarts,” Richard answered in a flat voice. “So I took over his practice.”
“Law practice. That’s what we both do – Roger and I.”
“So that’s why he said that about sending Phillip to Azkaban,” Lisa mused.
“Phillip? Phillip Goyle?” Richard asked sharply. “Why would Roger mention him?”
“He’s here at the wedding. Phillip works for Barry’s father.” She tilted her head. “What happened with Phillip that he’s not a Healer anymore?”
Richard’s smile slipped. “Roger will have to tell you about that.”
Lisa nodded. She wasn’t surprised – they must have to keep confidentiality agreements all the time. Suddenly she felt better about what she had told Roger. Her friends had always accused her of being too trusting and naive – but somehow, even thought Roger was the biggest flirt at Hogwarts, she thought that she could trust him with her problems.
When Roger joined them he made quick work of introducing his mother. “Mother, this is Lisa. Lisa, this is my mother.” He turned as if to steer Lisa away from his mother, but Mrs. Davies had other plans.
“So you’re the one Melinda was worried about!”
Roger groaned. “Mother – that’s ancient history.”
“I must say,” she said, watching Lisa as if she was particularly interesting species of bug. “You don’t look the part of a femme fatale.”
Lisa gaped at her, for the first time realizing that this crowd would not see her as the victim. “Well, I see Nigel was right,” Mrs. Davies continued with a forgiving smile. “Barry was lonely with Melinda gone for so long. That just goes to show that a woman shouldn’t place her career over her man. I’ve always said that a woman’s grandest occupation is to take care of her home and family.” She was smiling now, obviously happy that she had such a cooperative audience.
“Mother,” Roger cut in. “Aunt Griselda is waving for you to come over.”
Roger didn’t bother to see if this obvious ruse was going to work. He grabbed Lisa’s hand and then spirited her out of the tent into the cool twilight of the hotel grounds.
“Sorry about that,” Roger said. “Mum doesn’t know when to shut up.”
“It’s all right,” Lisa said, trying to find the humor in the situation. “I’ve never thought I’d have a chance to play the role of the femme fatale. Padma will be so proud of me.”
“Are you still friends with her?” Roger asked.
“Oh yes,” Lisa answered. She turned her head so she didn’t have to watch what looked to be the maid-of-honor and a wizard in tight embrace.
“Padma never liked me,” Roger mused. “Pity – she was a pretty girl when she wasn’t glaring.”
“She’s still pretty,” Lisa said. “And the only bloke she glares at these days is her husband, and he thinks it’s sexy.”
“Who did she marry?”
They were walking aimlessly on a gravel path. It felt good to be out in the fresh air, talking about subjects safely in the past.
“I think I did hear that,” Roger said. “Sort of an odd pairing.”
Lisa laughed. “Well, in this case opposites attracted, I suppose. And they seem very happy.”
“Hmm, I wonder for how long?”
She didn’t like his cynical tone. “They’ve been married seven years. I think they’ll make a go of it.”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean anything against Padma.” It was hard to see his expression clearly. “Half of all marriages end in divorce you know.”
Since she didn’t have an answer to that, she concentrated on their walk and the dim scenery of the parkland spread before them. They were on the other side of the stately stone building, and the music from the band was muffled.
“Lisa, I know you don’t have to answer this, and I don’t want you to think I’m prying – but I’m troubled by this entire business with Barry’s father and your job at St. Mungo’s.”
“Does it have something to do with Phillip Goyle?” she asked, looking at the first stars appearing in the clear blue-black sky.
“Maybe,” he answered. The gravel crunched under their feet. “Does St. Mungo’s pay you or does the Ministry?”
Lisa stopped in astonishment.
“Sorry, that’s a personal question,” Roger said quickly.
“No, it’s not that,” Lisa said faintly. “It’s – you know – I don’t know.” At Roger’s sigh, she added. “I mean – my gold is always deposited directly into my vault at Gringotts.” She frowned, trying to remember what Mr. Johnson, the head of the Department of Mysteries, had said when she left for St. Mungo’s. “I think the Ministry might still be paying me, I’m not sure.”
“Are you still doing Department of Mysteries work?”
“No, I’m not doing anything with Time Theory at all.” She took a deep breath, glad that it was dark and that she couldn’t see his face. “I didn’t tell you everything before. You see, the Therapeutic Time Charm I was working on….”
“Was. Yes.” She paused and only spoke again when she heard him shifting impatiently. “Mr. Anderson said that a Healer tried to use my Charm and that I had made a mistake – a serious mistake that hurt a patient,” she whispered. “At the time I couldn’t believe it. I still don’t believe it. I even had Professor Flitwick review it before it was used.” She hugged herself, still not used to the idea that she had actually hurt someone with her magic.
“Did St. Mungo’s conduct a review?” His voice was cool and incisive. “Did the oversight committee call you in? Is there written proof?”
“N – no,” she faltered. “Mr. Anderson said there would be, and he made me hand over all my scrolls.” That had been equally awful. Years of her research was now locked away somewhere.
“How long ago was this?”
“Almost six months ago.”
They stood in silence. Lisa could hear frogs singing – they must be close to the lake, she thought, as the frogs were louder than the band playing in the distance.
“Sweetheart, you’ve been had,” Roger finally said.
“You don’t make mistakes, Lisa,” he said in a firm voice. “I remember what a good student you were.”
“And neither does Flitwick.”
“And inquiries into malpractice at St. Mungo’s don’t take six months.”
Her left temple started throbbing.
“Another question,” he said. “What was it that you gave to Barry that he didn’t give back when he broke your engagement?”
“Oh.” Lisa didn’t want to tell him that either. “It was what my mother gave him.”
“What was it?” he asked grimly.
“Right before she died, she changed her will.”
Lisa cringed and didn’t know if she should go on.
“Spill it, Lisa.”
“She willed him the family cottage at Studland.”
“It’s by Poole Harbour.”
“I know where it is,” he interrupted angrily. “It’s some of the most expensive and exclusive land in Britain. The beach is beautiful.”
“And now Barry has it,” she added miserably.
“Oh, we’re going to fix that, sweetheart – don’t you worry,” Roger bit out.
“No, you don’t have to do that,” she said quickly. “Look, I know you must be angry with me. This can’t have been fun for you at the reception, listening to all of my problems.”
“I’m not angry with you,” Roger said, catching her hand as she started to move away. “I’m angry that you were duped, and I’m angry at Barry and his father. But –” He paused as if gathering his thoughts. “Okay, I am a little angry that you let yourself be duped.”
That hurt, Lisa thought, the tears starting in her eyes. Not that he was wrong at all – but she wished that he had a little bit of sympathy for her and she wished she wouldn’t cry.
He heard her sniff – it was just a tiny little sound – but he knew with a sinking heart that he had made her cry. Damn. He felt the worst sort of heel. Lisa had been through a strain already just coming to this ridiculous wedding. And on top of that he had made her confess all of her mistakes and had shown precious little understanding because he was too busy trying to get the facts straight.
That had been a problem for him all along. He was a little too cold-blooded for some of the women in his acquaintance.
In the dark he squeezed her hand. “Sorry,” he said, really meaning it. “This isn’t about me. It doesn’t matter what I think, just that Barry doesn’t get away with taking something that should be yours – and that his father doesn’t get away with –” He stopped. He didn’t want to tell Lisa his suspicions about Phillip Goyle and Nigel Anderson yet.
Instead he added in a soothing voice, “You didn’t do anything illegal or unethical. That’s something I don’t see everyday.”
She pulled her hand away, probably to wipe her eyes. “No, you’re right. I shouldn’t have been so trusting.”
“That’s not something I see everyday, either,” he said wryly. “And it’s not a bad way to be.” He reached out for her hand. “Come on, I should take you home. You’ve had a rough day.”
They didn’t bother returning to the reception, but Apparated directly to the street below Lisa’s flat. She lived on a quiet street in London, not far from the Ministry.
He could see by the light of the street lamp the traces of tears on her cheeks and he felt guilty all over again. “Good night, Lisa. Don’t worry about any of this, okay?”
“Okay.” Her eyes were enormous in her pale face. “Roger, I know it will take some effort to get the cottage back – I’ll pay you for your time.”
She didn’t mention the improprieties at St. Mungo’s. That cottage must mean a lot to her. “Pay me.” He grinned. “Big bags of gold.”
“Really.” He bent to kiss her cheek, but she turned, probably to protest some more, and he ended up brushing her lips with his. “I’ll Floo you when I have some news,” he said, trying to ignore the mysterious tingling where his mouth had touched hers.
It was hard to tell in the dim light, but she appeared to blushing again. For some reason that gave him tremendous satisfaction. “It was good to see you again, Lisa. It would probably kill Melinda to know that I actually had a good time at her wedding.”
“Even with all of my problems?” she asked with a catch in her voice.
He thought of the way she moved when he danced with her and the occasional flashes of fire in her blue eyes. “Sweetheart, I wasn’t bored once.”