Chapter 18: The Crow, the Owl and the Dove
The Hall of the Arts was primarily a single roomed building. A single room at least three stories in height but not divided into floors, with arching ceilings in gold and white and pale walls that reflected the dancing lights illuminating the room. Within were spaced the tables of diners, those seated for the performance and partaking only sparingly of the delicacies and champagnes that were offered by golden-robed waiters as they swept near invisibly through their midst.
The Hall was the grandest stage for professional performances in Wizarding Britain, was large enough to hold nearly a two thousand individuals circled around each table, and that night it was filled to the brim and absented of many woebegone individuals mournfully regretting that they had not responded faster to the announcement of the ticket release. That they had not slept outside of the ticket box overnight for the chance to purchase one such coveted ticket. For regardless of the quarterly occurrence of the performing troupe, audience seating would always be sorely sought after.
In that hall, on that night, not a soul breathed. Not a one murmured a word, not even in appreciation, nor even seemed to notice the offerings of the waiters, for the performance – it was enchanting to watch. It was captivating to listen to. Hermione knew she wasn't the only one who couldn't take her eyes from the raised dais in the centre of the room. She couldn't shake her gaze even momentarily from the troupe playing there, even if she didn't glance around herself to check. There was something about it all, the dancing, the singing, the playing… and throughout it all, flaring in alternating colours in graphic depictions of the words sung, sweeping around the dancer in gossamer ribbons and rippling across the thrumming and pressing fingers of the musicians, the magic.
Synchrynomancy was an art. A particularly difficult art that many dedicated their lives to studying. Hermione was lucky enough to see the troupe weave their magic on a frequent occasion, often exclusively, but she never grew tired of it. She could never weary of the sight of that magic, of what it did to the sound of a voice, of how is enhanced and enriched the thrums of the instruments so that each chord seemed to pluck at her nerves. Hermione would have closed her eyes to savour that sound, that feeling, but to do so would forsake the sights she was afforded. So instead she watched. She watched with the same captivated eyes as every other audience member.
The singer swayed gently to her own music, to the lulling of her voice. She stood at the edge of the dais, resplendent in white upon the slightly raised platform barely large enough for two feet to comfortably step, and she sung. Her voice had a warm huskiness to it, a warmth made physical by the synchyromancy that she cast, and she seemed to bathe in her own words, eyes closed as she uttered the repeated chorus of, "Wake… wake, my darling… you'll never see such a sight as this again, so waken to behold…" A lullaby couldn't have been more hypnotic.
The harpist plucked with his head bowed, eyes similarly closed. His fingers fluttered along the metallic strings of his instrument, breathing forth a chiming melody that undulated to the sound of his singer's voice. With each motion of his fingers, a shimmer of gold sparked from the strings, flying into the air to dance in tendrils and carry the resonating music on escaping wings.
The notes of the pianist rose to join those golden birds, silver and white and sparkling like a shower of raindrops, illuminating the dais in an even more vibrant glow than that which the Hall afforded it. His fingers danced along the piano keys as fluid as swelling water, and with each touch seemed to emulate the undulations of the sea itself, humming in a calming breath of salty air.
Yet he wasn't looking at his hands. He wasn't looking at his sheet music, nor even fallen into the close-eyed introspection that his companions were. As always, as Hermione knew he always did, he had eyes only for his dancer.
Hermione could hardly blame him for the fact. Not when she too found herself so enchanted by each sweeping spin, each flutter of dark skirts and curling twists of arms overhead. Even without the mesmerising magic that coiled around her, that lifted her as if upon wings and cradled her like a lover, Hermione thought she would have been hard pressed to look anywhere but at the dancer that seemed to embody Dance itself.
"Wake… wake, my darling… you've slept far too long…"
They sang, they played, they danced with such familiarity, such synchrony, that had Hermione not known it she wouldn't have fathomed that they had been the Fyres of the Phoenix performing troupe for barely five years. That of those years, they as a group had only truly been acknowledged Synchyromancers for two of them. She suspected that many in the audience were dubious to that fact.
"Waken… behold the beauty shaped before you…"
It was the second time that Hermione had seen their show. As one of their closest friends, she was provided tickets whenever she pleased. For once, she felt no guilt for stealing the seats of another. She and Ron, and quite often their other friends – Fred and George, Seamus and Dean, Luna especially, and Sirius, and Remus and Tonks – all frequented the performances. Given the opportunity, who could pass them up?
"I've a sight to show you… one you'll rarely see…"
Ginny's voice seemed barely above a whisper yet Hermione knew that every pair of ears in the hall could hear her. Neville's fingers slowed, loosened, gentled in their plucking but the melody still resounded. Cedric's piano echoed in a resounding sigh as his fingers momentarily stilled on the keys. And Salomé… with a sweeping turn, a raising of her arms once more and a spring from her toes, spread her wings and arced into the air. The purple-blue-white magic that shrouded her like wafting curtains, that captured her for a moment, suspended, seemed to glow almost blindingly.
"Don't look away… for in a breath it disappears…"
Hermione couldn't look away.
"Ginny! Ginny, over here!"
At the sound of Seamus' voice, Ginny turned from the pair of young women who gazed at her with shining eyes, clutching the pair of gloves they'd requested she sign for them as though they were a gift from Merlin himself. Honestly, gloves? Some people could choose such impractical ornaments to be signed. Still, Ginny could hardly complain. There was something so heart-warming about invoking such a response from others. Ginny had always loved performing, despite the bashfulness that had initially arisen whenever she sung.
In the past, that was. It didn't afflict her so much anymore. Now, singing along with her magic, with Neville and Cedric and Salomé… it was impossible to feel anything but blessed when lost in that.
"Excuse me for a moment," Ginny murmured towards the two women with a small smile. Both only nodded vigorously, adoringly, and Ginny couldn't help but let her smile widen when she turned to make her way towards a waving Seamus.
It had to be she who took the steps. The crowd that milled around Ginny, around Neville and Salomé and Cedric when they'd descended from the dais, wouldn't make way for anyone else. Yet as though Ginny were magically parting the sea of people, they stepped respectfully aside for her to approach her friends. She found that she quite liked that effect. She'd have to request of her friends that they prevent her from letting her head grow too big. Not her brother's, of course – that would be dangling a carrot far too tempting for them, she was sure – but Hermione perhaps. Or Luna. Yes, definitely Luna. People didn't seem to realise quite how level-headed her vague friend could be.
Seamus looped an arm around Ginny's neck as soon as she was within reaching distance, drawing her towards the rest of her friends and brothers and her parents with a gentle tug. Her smile was met with beaming grins, and expressions and exclamations of admiration and pride and even, in the case of Luna, a little approval. Ginny didn't know why Luna would consider herself the one to source such approval but it was hardly the first time that she'd seen it in her friend.
"Beautiful, Ginny dear, just beautiful," her mother tutted, nudging Seamus aside in a way that was impossible to quite avoid to plant a kiss on Ginny's cheek. "No matter how many times I see you and hear you, you never fail to amaze me."
"Thanks, Mum," Ginny said with a further widening of her smile.
"Didn't think you'd be able to make your way through the masses of fans," George said through his toothy grin. Or nearly shouted, as he had to in order to be heard over the buzzing of conversations around them. "Our sister, the famous singer."
"Don't let it go to your head, Gin," Fred added, as though he'd been listening in to her earlier thoughts.
Ginny rolled her eyes. "As if I could with you two hanging around." They both simply nodded in response.
The Fyre of the Phoenix was Ginny's life. She lived it. She breathed it. Once but a hobby, a wistful longing, singing had become Ginny's everything. Singing alongside her troupe had become her world. It had taken years of rigorous study, sleepless nights when she simply couldn't stop, even when her voice began to waver, before she had even managed to perform the magical-music that had first been presented to her as a possibility by Salomé what now seemed so long ago. She would always be grateful to Salomé for that.
Since, the world had been her oyster. True, it might be superior of her to consider as much, but Ginny often speculated that there were few Wizarding communities in the world who hadn't heard of the Fyre of the Phonenix. Synchyromancy had been a dying study until they – until Salomé – had rebirthed it. It was almost startling sometimes to realise just what an enormous trend their initiation had spearheaded. Struggling groups were arising everywhere, and not just in the musical and dancing arts. Ginny had seen a synchyromagus painter spread his art across the Boardwalk just outside Diagon Alley. It had been nearly two years since it had arisen from an unknown source and its beauty, the tangible magic it seemed to radiate and glisten with, bereft anyone of any thoughts of erasing it.
Ginny loved it. She loved the fact that she and her friends had reborn something so beautiful, so intricate and so perfect to behold, even in the amateur attempts of many. It filled her with fierce delight when a fan called her 'inspiring', when a budding young singer mimicked a few lines of one of her songs, when she was approached in the street by an admirer who simply wished to offer their appreciation of her skill. Such appraisals and compliments may grow tiresome in the future, but for now Ginny couldn't imagine it. She revelled in it far too deeply.
"… think I should go and save him?" Seamus was saying, his words barely audible over the embrace that Sirius was currently wrapping Ginny in. Strangely enough, Sirius almost more than anyone else seemed touched by the performances of Ginny's troupe.
Ginny glanced towards Seamus questioningly, moving automatically to Tonks who offered her usual jostling and almost clumsy hug and kiss on the cheek. "Who?"
Seamus jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "Neville. He looks swamped."
Ginny followed the direction of his gesture and couldn't help but smile fondly. Neville loved to play – his harp, his guitar, his lute; he was a strings man – but he wasn't quite so taken with the fame and publicity as she was. A dozen steps away, Ginny could make out his familiar stiff awkwardness as he flushed and accepted the applause of a group of middle-aged witches and wizards that looked old enough to be his parents.
Before Ginny could reply, Seamus had turned and attempted to dive into the crowds in Neville's direction. He was making remarkably good progress in swimming across the distance considering the density of the crowding and the unconscious barrier system. Dean, rolling his eyes but grinning nonetheless, shared a glance with Ron before shaking his head. "I'll go and fish out Seamus then when he drowns in his attempt," he said before turning and similarly struggling in Neville's direction.
"Where's Salomé and Cedric?" Hermione asked, raising her voice to be heard over a particularly loud outburst at their side. An outburst that Ginny was momentarily distracted by – it was better sometimes to acknowledge the fans immediately so that they would pass on their way – before turning towards her friend. She subsequently glanced around herself for Salomé and Cedric, even though she already knew she wouldn't find them. They always disappeared after a performance.
"They'll be around," she offered vaguely.
"They've buggered off again, haven't they?" Ron said. It was less of a question and more an exasperated statement. "They always do that, don't they?"
"Do what?" Ginny's mother asked.
"Quite honestly, I can't blame them," Sirius said. "I don't think I'd like all these people fawning over me."
"Speak for yourself, Sirius," Fred said.
"I will. And apparently for Salomé and Cedric, too."
"You'd think they'd just up and admit it, already," George sighed with mock long-suffering.
"Admit it?" Tonks asked curiously.
"Come on, it's pretty obvious."
"Impossible to miss when you're around them so much," Fred tacked onto the end of George's words.
"What?" Tonks asked.
Hermione hummed, a sound that somehow managed to be heard over the raised voices around them. "I'm not so sure about that, George."
Ron nodded in agreement at her side. "If it was going to happen, it would have already happened by now."
"Maybe it has and you just haven't noticed?" George suggested.
"Nope, I'd have noticed."
"Unlikely," Fred smirked.
"I would have. 'Sides, it's not like they'd keep it a secret."
"Wouldn't you?" Sirius asked.
"Can someone please spell it out to me plainly?" Tonks interrupted, her hair darkening a slightly deeper shade of pink in frustration. "I think I might be interpreting this wrong."
"No, you're not," Fred said, winking at her conspiratorially. "They're entirely in love."
"Eyes for none other than each other." George nodded.
"They are not," Hermione sighed, rolling her eyes. Ginny could only agree. They'd had just that conversation more times than she could count.
"Yes they are," Fred said.
"No they're not. They're not in love."
"Have you asked them?"
"It's none of your business," Sirius said with a scowl, folding his arms across his chest. He was still – and always would be – stoutly protective of his goddaughter.
"Actually, it is," George said, wagging a finger in the air. "We've got a bet, you see. For when they'll finally come out to the world."
"Mine's set for Christmas," Fred added.
"They're not bloody well in love," Ron grumbled, shaking his head. "Just ask Luna."
As one, all eyes, Ginny's included, turned towards Luna. It might have been a ridiculous notion to suspect that Luna of all people would know such things and that she would have any particular perceptiveness in that regard. But even so, Ginny knew she wasn't the only one who had faith in her friend. In this regard at least. Such things were just accepted of a Lovegood.
Luna blinked owlishly as though startled, turning from where she'd been gazing out across the room. She looked the picture of unearthly vagueness in that moment, hair light and fluffily floating like a halo around her head, shooting star earrings releasing little bursts of dissipating glitter whenever they swung and the upturned thimble on her necklace snicking against the cluster of crystals and what looked like glass mosaic pieces upon the neckline of her dress. "Hm?"
"Are they?" Fred asked, eyebrows rising suggestively.
"In love?" George finished.
Luna blinked once more, a slow smile spreading across her lips. "Salomé and Cedric?"
Her smile widened. "Of course they love each other. More than anyone else in the world."
"Yes, but are they in love," George emphasised to the sound of Ginny's mother's mumbled chiding that, "George, it's really none of our business". Ginny noticed she still looked at Luna as expectantly as the rest of them however.
Luna only blinked slowly once more. Blinked, and then smiled a beaming, genuinely amused smile. "I have no idea!"
Ginny couldn't help but chuckle at the groans of her brothers, at Sirius' snort and her mother's sigh, at her father's similar amusement and Hermione's, "I told you so". She thought that Luna's words summed up the situation perfectly.
No one would ever quite know about Salomé and Cedric.
Salomé balanced on the balustrade, toes curling on the edge of the smoothed sandstone and gripping just slightly. The cool evening air was a welcome relief from the heady warmth of indoor, the breeze swirling through her skirts and tugging at her hair to brush against her skin in a gentle caress.
She was away. Away from the eyes that she never really needed when she danced, from the adoration, from the lights and the stage. Away from the noise of the audience that chattered distantly behind her, through the visual barrier she'd constructed to redirect prying eyes from the little balcony. The memory of the music, of her friends' music, sang like a chorusing melody in her mind. Salomé closed her eyes momentarily to simple revel in the feeling, letting herself sway slightly, just a little…
A hand curling gently around her ankle drew her eyes open once more. Salomé glanced down to where Cedric he stood at her side. He hadn't moved from where he'd been standing since they'd retreated onto the balcony shortly after the performance. He wasn't even looking up at her, his gaze trained upon the middle distance with mild attentiveness, elbow on the balustrade and chin propped in his hand as the other held Salomé steady.
Cedric always accompanied her away from the people. Always it was just him. Sometimes she wondered if it was that old protectiveness, that loyalty that had grown within him years ago, or whether he needed the escape as much as she. Perhaps it was a little of both.
In the coolness of outdoors there was relief. Salomé saw that in Cedric's hooded gaze, in the slight easing of the perfect posture while at the piano, in his casual lean upon the balustrade. He looked comfortable in a way that shouldn't have been possible in such cleanly cut robes, the perfect coifing of his hair mussed just slightly as it always was, prey to Cedric's ruffling as soon as their performance was finished. Salomé liked it more when it wasn't so perfect.
"You don't need to hold me, you know."
"I know," Cedric murmured in reply. Even so, his hand didn't let go.
Salomé barely bothered to attempt to withhold the small smile that touched her lips. She turned once more towards the night, towards the spreading grounds that undulated from the Hall of the Arts in rippling waves darkened like the ocean in the night. Her gaze drifted downwards. "I could catch myself if I fell."
"I know you could." Cedric's hand still didn't let go.
"And even if I didn't, it's unlikely that such a fall would truly do any damage. I'm not made of glass, you know."
The fell into silence for a moment. Salomé swept the tendrils of her hair from her eyes as they were captured by the breeze before dropping her hand once more. Her fingers brushed lightly across the top of Cedric's head, grazing through his curls. She would never have considered how soft his hair could be before touching it, never have contemplated that to do so would be so strangely delightful. "You'd climb down after me if I did," she said, more of a statement of understanding than a question.
"I'd jump down after you," Cedric replied. He didn't turn his head towards her, but Salomé could feel his eyes lift nonetheless. Her smile unfurled just a little more.
Cedric didn't need to hold her and he would never need to, but not for a second did he loosen his fingers. Not even for a second did he let her go.
A/N: This was the last chapter! Thank you everyone for reading this fic! And to all of my lovely reviewers (as typical of me, I have to thank EsterOfPersia, because you are always so incredibly sweet and genuine that I can't leave you unmentioned). I hope you liked the story and, if you did, you'll take a second to review it and let me know your thoughts. Questions? Speculations? Feel free to review or send me a PM and I'll be more than happy to talk to you about it!