Floo Network

Autumn 69
[Hogsmeade] Feigning Casual Silence in Strained Romantic Interludes [Montgomery]

Started by Harold Prendergast, June 06, 2021, 09:45:53 pm

Harold Prendergast

It was approaching November and Harold had received a message by owl that his latest book order had arrived. The owl had arrived mid-week, so the earliest he would be able to put in a visit would be that weekend - it was the last weekend before Halloween and Hogsmeade was likely to be busy with folks stocking up for the event, but that would leave him just a face in a crowd. Something about the recent weeks and his relative self-imposed hermitage made him feel like he wanted to just blend in and disappear.

The weather was dull, grey and miserable, which of course made it a perfect complement to his mood that Saturday afternoon.

He fed Bubo a couple of treats and said, "I'm going to be back in a little while. I'm afraid you'll have to stay here, I have a parcel to collect." Bubo bobbed up and down and if he weren't an owl, he could perhaps have been described as bristling in response. Perhaps not bristling, it wasn't an angry bobble, it was that he wanted to be useful and helpful and normally collecting mail was his job, and an important job it was too.

"Well, actually, I think my parcel will be a bit heavy for you - it's several rather quite heavy books. Besides, it's warm in here, it's cold and miserable out there, and I should rather you stay here where it's warm and have a mouse or two. I'm sure there's a few around the castle that you could catch. I will be back soon."

Bubo seemed to bobble happily to himself at the thought. He liked catching mice, not to eat, just to catch them. It meant he got to swoop and glide. Swooping! Yeah!

The grey seemed to follow him all the way down the path to the village, but it was merely a touch chilly and dull-grey in mood, far better than he had any real right to expect from Scotland in the autumn, he thought.

The bookshop was not busy, and he rather got the impression that the owner quite liked having a customer come by with slightly more exotic orders, especially as ordering in must have come at a premium. No matter, it was worth it for the time being. Harold had even been asked why he bought them here rather than from any of the larger bookstores in London - Flourish and Blotts was name-checked, for example - but he pointed out that he was a professor at Hogwarts, and that Apparating to London was not especially convenient. Not that it had occurred to Harold, but the shopkeeper had shrewdly not bothered to ask him why he didn't just use the library; most of the books Harold had ordered had one or more editions in the library, mostly in the restricted section.

As Harold began to emerge, however, into the dull grey light outside the store, he noticed that it was starting to rain. Not particularly wanting to face the traipse back to the castle in the rain - and him without his umbrella - he looked around for options to pass the time. The Hog's Head was open.

Ducking into the establishment, he noted that it wasn't the cleanest it could have been - but it was far from the most disreputable establishment he had ever found himself in. The glasses behind the bar even looked clean and the rags by them looked clean enough to wipe the glasses with. That was usually a reasonable sign - things were different from his own school days visiting Hogsmeade, now that an elderly looking wizard seemed to tend bar. Come to think of it, that wizard looked somehow familiar.

Thinking back to the last time he'd been in a pub, he was trying to remember what the beer was called that he had rather enjoyed. "Would you happen to have... blast it, I can't remember the name. It's a rather splendid pale ale, not too hoppy, sits well on the stomach. I had a pint of it down in Godric's Hollow over the summer and I should rather like another of it, if you happen to have it. If not, a pint of mild please."

The barman looked quizzically at him, narrowing his eyes ever so slightly. "West Country, you say? Ah, that'll be Argrot's Key Pale Ale you'll be wanting."

Harold smiled, "I am ever in your debt," as he paid for a well-poured pint and found himself in the corner. It smelled like the beer he remembered, anyway, but he was determined to take it slowly. The beer mug left a slightly warm wet circle on the table as he took his first sip.

M. B. Montgomery

The end of autumn was approaching far quicker than Sid would have anticipated. His first few lessons had gone well, he liked his students, teaching suited him. The mystery of Vanora sat less well with him, but it was teaching him valuable lessons about himself. A little strange, really, as he hadn't expected them at this age, but he was learning to live both acceptance and patience. He'd been feeling what he called the 'the flow' lately. Meditation took him in and out of that space where a vision might be possible. He'd not seriously flashed forward in years, never for further than a few minutes, but he could feel that somethings was changing, that a key was turning. The direction remained yet unclear.

Transcendental philosophy and personal betterment aside, the Scottish cold was getting to him. It didn't seem to matter how many layers of bisht and thobe he wrapped himself in, he remained cold. The rather unwelcome thought of having to adapt his style of dress to the weather eventually gained traction in his mind. A warm knitted jumper. Part of him still bristled at it. His robes, his fabrics, his scarves where a bit of his Kuwaiti heritage he stubbornly held onto. The thought of conforming a little bit more was not a happy one. Maybe he could charm his clothes to remain warmer? Or maybe he could wear this hypothetical jumper when he was alone when nobody would see him.

Leaving Inaya with a student in desperate need of extra credit, he decided to investigate the option of Scottish wool in Hogsmeade. The weather was so miserable a wave of instant regret hit him as soon as he left the castle. The drizzly rain was getting on his nerves. Could the weather at least have the decency to rain properly? He could never decide if should cast an umbrella spell, or if the locals would laugh at him for being a soft southerner. Maybe he'd take the jibes, they were preferable to being damp.

With a bit of angry panache, Sid pulled both his wands at the same time. Rainproof robes on the right, conjure magical umbrella on the left. Better. Now, for that bit of scratchy and distasteful Scottish wool. Where to?

He looked into several window displays being uninspired by the olive greens, oranges and brows that seemed to be the colours of the season. He passed the Hog's Head. Out of habit he looked inside, seeing if Jenkins was drinking at the bar. He liked the elderly wizard. A bit cocky, but he had plenty of funny stories to tell about his time at the ministry as a hitwizard.

However, instead of Jenkins, his eyes fell on Prendergast, sitting there drinking alone. Oh, for the love of Merlin! This had to stop. He'd been moping around for weeks now. At first, Sid had hoped that the matter would clear up on its own. Harold seemed like such a sensible young man, who aside from being spurned in love, had things pretty much under control. Was missing his wife getting this out of hand?

Sid decided it was time to intervene and crossed the threshold into the pub, his conjured umbrella dispersing into black smoke. He fished his wallet out of his pocket, retrieved two coins and made his way over to the counter. He passed them over to the proprietor with a request for 'the usual'. It was only then he turned to Harold.

"Whatever it is, it can't be that bad."

Harold Prendergast

Harold was staring into his beer. It was his second, and he was roughly a quarter of the way through it. Well, if he were to describe it, he might tentatively concede he were nursing it rather than drinking.

He'd picked out the first of the books that were in this delivery, briefly marvelled at the delicacy of the paper wrapping, such wonderfully radiant shades of tissue paper they'd each been wrapped in. This first tome, Heavier Than Air: Analysis of Aether Dynamics, was wrapped in a lush, rich purple. It was almost a shame to tear such wrapping, so he attempted to unfold it rather than rip through it rather like some barbarian.

But as fascinating as the subject matter was - and, well, frankly the notion of aether as a prima facie explanation for the behaviours of arcanium was a topic quite dear to his heart - it was not really enough to rouse him out of his mood, and he folded the book back away again as best he could. Wrapping things had never much been his forte; any gifts exchanged had usually been the province of his wife who had a knack for remembering birthdays and anniversaries and the like. He did, at the least, remember her birthday, their anniversary and Christmas.

His wife. Not the happiest of subjects. But at least with that particular situation, he knew that he didn't know. The lack of knowing was a comfort... what had happened with Rose had been nothing short of a disaster, and the knowing made it all the worse. He hadn't so much as seen her since that fateful, frightful evening except for one staff meeting that he had made sure to sit as far away as possible from her, without drawing attention to the fact.

It was unfortunate because she and Montgomery had had a point, and internally he still wasn't sure if they might not be right about it, but it seemed that any chance of any revelatory happening was remote indeed.

And so to the beer. It was perhaps fortunate that this was not a Hogsmeade weekend for the students. He wasn't entirely certain he wanted to be discovered here by any of the students, let alone any of his class.

Whatever it is, it can't be that bad.

Harold looked up at the familiar voice. Sid! What the blazes was he doing here? He'd been fairly convinced that the older man was not so much disclined to venture forth in the miserable Scottish weather but positively akin to being allergic to the bitter cold.

Of course he gestured for his friend to join him.

"I was just collecting some books that, well, that I'd ordered. I shan't apparate to Blourish and Flotts, rather, I can get them to send it here for a couple of Sickles."

He took a sip, a slow measured one, and it seemed that at the very least his eyebrows unknotted ever so slightly. "What brings you to Hogsmeade? I shouldn't have thought the weather was, well, actually entirely suited to a comfortable walk about..." He half-shrugged, "I came in here because it wasn't raining in here and it rather decided to out there, and me without my brolly. It felt a bit far to summon from the castle."

M. B. Montgomery

Harold blatantly ignored his question to no surprise of Sid's. It would be like that, wouldn't it? He wanted to let out a sigh, but successfully managed to keep it in. Time to ease Harold into a bit of conversation to find out exactly what was amiss. Naturally, Sid had his suspicions, but he'd much rather have the confirmed before trying to offer any advice.

"I've had a lot on my mind lately," said confessed in return to Harold's polite inquiry. "Sometimes, the walking helps." He was telling a strange half-truth. He was still grappling with that transcendental philosophy piece. "Well, that and I might need some warmer clothes." He gave Harold a wry smile and smoothed over the flawless weave of his sapphire blue outer robe. He slid out the bar chair next to Harold and made himself comfortable.

His usual turned out to be a hot beverage that smelled of rum and cinnamon. He gratefully received the heavy pottery mug, using it to warm his hands and fingers.

"So what are you reading, Harold? Anything good?"

Sid looked over the bags of books, entertained by the - in his opinion - slightly illogical behaviour of his friend. He never understood why people got books to research new things. Surely, if the answers were already known, there'd be no need to do the research. Probably not a sentiment he should share with Harold though. He couldn't foresee it ending well.

Harold Prendergast

"A lot on your mind?" Harold asked, somewhat rhetorically. "Yes, I rather sympathise at the moment. I... quite find myself in a similar position."

But even Harold had to admit that Sid had a point when it came to the notion that walking helped. Just, to Harold, walking ran the risk of bumping into Rose and that was a risk too far. Better that he should be more... clandestine... in his trips out and about, making quick supply trips to Hogsmeade where likely they wouldn't encounter each other.

"And yes, I quite agree on the warmer clothes - I could never quite imagine myself wearing such... finery... but as comfortable as it seems to be, it looks rather chilly in this winter weather! Even my tweed is a shade thin and if it will be getting any colder I might have to dig out my spare cloak."

He looked into his beer, then looked at what Sid had. Curious but not curious enough to ask.

He hefted the book he'd wrapped and carefully unwrapped it again. "This..." Harold turned it, to show Sid the cover, with the main title 'Heavier Than Air' embossed in gold effect, and the sub-title 'Analysis of Aether Dynamics' in silver for contrast. "I believe that recent studies into the nature of arcanium and its measurements were actually follow-ons from the last century's studies into what they called aether." He paused, trying not to let out a rather indecent belch, or if it did have to be released, to be done so with delicacy and decorum. "I rather believe that there is much to be found in historical research, just that it needs to be viewed through the right lens."

"It's quite dry reading though. Maybe I should try reading it with another beer."

Harold sighed. "You probably think I'm a fool. I think I'm a fool if nothing else. But honestly, I shan't have the foggiest idea what to do about Rose."

M. B. Montgomery

"It's a bit of heritage to hold onto." He explained to Harold. "It's easy to get lost and I was lost once." Cryptic perhaps, but utterly heartfelt. He'd gone through this phase in his life where he had passed as English, save the slightly darker skin colour. At the time, he had thought it would make him happy and successful, in hindsight he knew that it had only served to make him sad. Strange, that clothing should hold such power, but it was what it was.

"But it's too cold here to worry about heritage. I'll just... grade all the essays in Arabic." Bleh, the joke sounded forced even to him. He took a sip from his modified hot toddy as he let Harold show off his latest book purchase. While Sid couldn't say he would have enjoyed reading 'Heavier Than Air', he liked that it seemed to make Harold happy. And the book looked beautiful. He could completely understand the purchase from an aesthetic point of view. It would look good in any library.

"Does the beer help with the comprehension of the material?" Sid asked in return to Harold's comment, "Or is it rather that it drowns out the distractions?" Here they were close to the crux of the matter already. Maybe he wouldn't have to dig all that deep after all. Come to think of it, if his friend was contemplating 'another beer', that sounded suspiciously like he had finished one already. They both couldn't hold their liquor. Centequines had proved that comprehensively.

"Something needs done about Rosie?" Sid asked with just the slightest hint of confusion. Yes, he'd noticed that Harold had some sort of awkward friendship with the librarian, but she didn't seem to be the type to be much trouble of any kind. He'd drunken some hot chocolate with her recently while talking about Quidditch brooms and Christmas presents. A fun little afternoon really. She'd promised to make him macarons with saffron and cardamom. It had been sweet.   

"Well, she did seem rather a bit sad of late," he offered up eventually thinking back to his conversations with the woman. "I guess Grace growing up is a big adjustment for her."

Harold Prendergast

Harold sort of stared off into space. "Heritage to hold on to... yes, I rather... I never quite had you down as the outwardly sentimental type. That was, at least latterly, rather more my cup of tea - as it were." If there were any deeper meaning than that to Sid's words, they rather fell by the wayside.

Grading everything in Arabic? Harold couldn't help but laugh at the idea. "If you're going to grade everything in Arabic, perhaps I should take myself off to Rome and grade everything in Latin; it would be warmer, no doubt. Though I must say, in such a situation, quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" His own joke was poor form in itself, probably not funny to anyone else, but the thought warmed him just a trifle, and that would be enough for such a miserable day.

Harold took his glasses off, polishing them with his tie. Resetting them about his face hasn't seemed to fix anything. Perhaps the glasses weren't the problem. "The book is a shade dry, I'll admit, the author has more in common with Cuthbert - Professor - Binns than almost anyone else I've ever encountered - the book is thoroughly knowledgeable from what I have glanced at, however the entire thing is rather written as if to be read by someone speaking in a dull monotonic voice, using it as a soporific. I thought if I had another beer," Harold frowned, and blinked a couple of times, "I thought I might read it as slowly as it was clearly meant to be read." This too was punctuated with a guffaw.

Then Sid mentioned Rose - Rosie - clearly the man was more well acquainted with the librarian than Harold had suspected.

"Well, you see, we were at that ball a few weeks back. Instead of being a furtive find-facting mission, or even a sociable if not so romantic evening for two friends enjoying each others' company, well, it rather went awry, and I find myself compelled to avoid the library for the time being."

He supped at his pint. "I shan't exactly want to talk about it, suffice it to say that things went wrong and I very much think Miss Pemberton very much does not like me."

Harold frowned again, downed the last of his beer, and with a little more emphasis than perhaps was appropriate, put his glass down. "She kissed me, Sid. In the hedge maze. Not with as much as a by-your-leave or with any romantic endeavours afoot, just a kiss as if to sweetly thank me for the evening - which was apparently all my fault for having gone awry - and that was that."

"I rather shan't want to talk about it, I'm afraid."

M. B. Montgomery

Really? Sid blinked several times, thinking to himself that really the only person unaware of Rose rather liking Harold had to be, well, Harold. How was it that his friend still haven't figured this out? They'd gone to fancy ball together. Sid didn't care what the official excuse for that was, but it had been clear to him that there was more to it than finding Mrs Prendergast.

"You'd rather she'd kissed you in a different manner?" Sid asked, one eyebrow raised.

To his mind, Harold had a curious way of phrasing things if the librarian's attentions had been as unwelcome as Harold seemed to imply. Was he upset to have been kissed without permission or was it the fact that the kiss had been so casual that was getting his heckled up. Sid couldn't quite decide. Of course, with Harold being a married man, none of this should have come up at all.

"I think the problem is not that Rose dislikes you, Harold, but perhaps rather that she shouldn't like you. Distancing yourself is the right and honourable thing to do in this situation. You wouldn't want to give the lady any unfounded hopes. I'm sure she'll settle her attention on somebody else before long. She's still so young."

Sid had a feeling this was rather not what his friend was hoping to hear, but it didn't matter. He had to be honest with him. The last thing he wanted was for Harold and Rose to make a spectacle of themselves in front of the rest of the staff. In his opinion, neither of them deserved that. It therefore seemed that keeping these two separate was the right call to make.

"I can check your library books out for you if that's what you're worried about. Just leave me a note with whatever you need, if I'm not in my office."

Taking another sip from his cup, he felt something scratch on the surface of his mind. There was something more to the story of these two. He could almost feel it, but a she tried to focus on the feeling it began to fade. Probably just his imagination running away with him.

Harold Prendergast

Harold caught the raised eyebrow of his friend, and started to explain in a sort of half-animated, half-exasperated way that it wasn't like that, but he stopped mid-ramble and checked himself. He, of course, had gone there on the understanding of it being strictly platonic, strictly business - and perhaps he had somehow misunderstood Rose's intentions. Had he misunderstood her intentions? She had seemed very clear about it when pitching this little... it wasn't so much an event as a situation... to him.

Then Sid explained his own point of view and, suddenly, it all made sense. He had - naturally - assumed a position of distance because that was not only his natural posture but what was appropriate in the circumstances; he had assumed a certain level of propriety and a measure of distance, and yet... if matters were otherwise, he considered he would find himself very much rather glad of her company.

"Fetching library books... is very good of you to offer, but, well, I'm afraid I couldn't possibly." Harold stared wistfully into his pint mug. "There is something quaint about collecting beautiful books - and I rather fancy I haven't much else to spend my money on."

"Though," Harold smiled faintly, "I suppose Christmas is coming and perhaps I could find something as a sort of peace offering?"

M. B. Montgomery

Sid frowned. Out of all the things to take away from what he was saying, this was most certainly not it. How was this man in front of him so unspeakably dense about certain things? Surely, he had lived in the world enough to know how people were and that they didn't always make perfect sense? Sometimes, life was messy, and the feelings and desires of others weren't very logical. Harold, seemed determined to dismiss anything as impossible that didn't fit his view of what 'made sense'. He supposed only an arithmancer would look for sense when dealing with a matter of the heart.

"Far be it from me to curtail your collecting, but Hogwarts has a perfectly fine library you should make use of. That is why you came in the first place, is it not?" Sid thought back to the first time he had met Harold in the library. He seemed to be in his element when surrounded by books and having the ability to jump from one area of research to another, connecting things together that so far hadn't been connected by anybody.

"Perhaps, you should just go in and get the books that you need. It's her job. If she can't handle that then quite frankly, she doesn't deserve to be there. And maybe she should have thought about that before behaving so inappropriately in front of a new colleague." Sid wasn't so sure this was really how he felt on the matter, but part of him was following a hunch. Harold was still holding back on him and clearly struggled to even articulate how he felt about all of this in any capacity.

"As for the peace offering, I don't think that is a good idea. I'm sure she'd see that as a mixed message or maybe an admission that you did something wrong. It seems to me though that your conduct was above reproach. If anyone needs to apologise or offer peace, I think that would be for Ms Pemberton to initiate, not the other way round."

He almost winced. Sid thought he sounded rather a lot like his father on one of his bad days. Still, it made his point, didn't it? 

"Anyway, enough of this. How is your search going? I am sure you must miss her immensely. Are you sure you don't want to try some divination or some other ritual to propel you further in your search? I am sure none of these thoughts about our librarian would be quite so disturbing if you had her back at home to take care of you."