Potterwatch, 10 pm Wednesday
Susan looked down at the doormat outside the door to the flat she shared with Hannah, trying to push down her annoyance. She knew at least part of her willingness to be riled by this was the very long day she'd had at work and a desire to collapse on her bed and listen to Potterwatch when it came on in twenty minutes. The doormat, which usually lived rolled-up at the back of Hannah's closet (it had proved to have a diabolical habit of tripping people up), was Hannah's sign to Susan that she and Ernie were, well, busy inside the flat and Susan had best stay out.
Susan sighed. At least she had a place to go. Her Muggle cousin, Georgy, had told Susan she could come over whenever she got locked out of the flat. Georgy lived in a bedsit in Liverpool, while Susan lived in London, but the distance, as Susan had told her cousin, was nothing to a witch. Georgy claimed to be just as happy to have her favorite cousin over all the time – "just like old times," she'd said once. Those visits were always fun, anyway, and more than made up for the whole being-locked-out business as far as Susan was concerned.
For the first time, though, Georgy didn't seem to be in when Susan arrived. Susan knocked again, listening for any sign of Georgy moving around inside. No such luck. She huffed with annoyance and checked her watch. Ten till ten. Not good. Where could she go?
A sudden image of a quiet park with a duck pond came to mind. It was near her parents' house, and it was one of her mother's favorite places to ramble. Perfect. Susan looked around and, satisfied that no one was watching, Disapparated to the park.
By nine fifty-five she was all settled in on the grass by the pond, a spell in place to keep the bugs away and wireless tuned to the right station. Susan was thankful yet again that she kept a small, portable wireless in her purse. She did keep finding herself locked out of the flat at the most inconvenient times – namely when her favorite broadcasts came on.
She loved Hannah, and she was happy for her, really she was, but being happy for her and Ernie only stretched so far. When their happiness kept Susan out of the flat at nearly ten on a Wednesday night…well, it was more than a little annoying.
Not that she'd say anything. Her frustration with the situation really wasn't bad enough that it was worth picking a fight with Hannah.
Her resentment fizzled out immediately as a buzz of static announced the beginning of her program. "Good evening, and thank you for tuning in to Potterwatch." Lee Jordan's voice was smooth as he delivered his usual greeting. "As you may have heard, the Pride of Portree's captain disappeared in the middle of a game and turned up three days later in Wales, green and muttering nonsense. Regular correspondent Alicia Spinnet will be here later to discuss what impact this may have on the Pride's chances this season. But first, a rundown of the day's news…"
Susan smiled. She'd listened to Potterwatch faithfully since the days of the war, when it had been a much-needed source of both honest news and humor. It was perhaps her favorite of the radio shows she followed, simply because it had been there in the midst of the war when all her other programs had gone off the air. It had been something of a beacon of hope – a sign that life went on, even with all that was wrong, and that there were other people out there fighting.
The jokes didn't hurt, either.
When the program ended at eleven – with a cheeky "No password required!" from Lee, who could never seem to stop beating that particular dead horse – Susan bundled the wireless back into her purse and Apparated home, hoping Hannah and Ernie would be finished.
They weren't. Susan turned and trudged down the stairs, out the front door and into the street. There was nothing in particular on the wireless, and a walk sounded like a good idea to her.
It was a wonderful night for a walk. Between the residual good mood Potterwatch always managed to put her in and the cool breeze that slid its fingers through her hair, Susan didn't feel like going inside ever again. Everything seemed magical, somehow: the dark streets were full of beauty, every surface silvered with moonlight and gilded by streetlights.
Susan looked in every direction, her gaze caught by one thing and then another. She stopped short when she saw a young man playing a violin on the steps outside an otherwise unremarkable apartment block, his plaintive tune drifting towards her on the air. He seemed something fey for a moment, the mood of the night and the music creeping into her imagination. She shook her head, scolding herself for being silly. He just happened to be a musician – albeit, a very handsome one – out enjoying the night air, just like her.
The violinist caught her gaze and grinned. He continued to play, the melody picking up until it became something like a jig. Susan couldn't look away, captivated by the man's dark eyes and cocky smile. The man ended the tune with a flourish. Carrying the violin tucked casually in the crook of his right arm, he walked over to her.
"Liked my music, did you?" There was that flash of white teeth again.
Susan blinked, and reminded herself not to stare.
"Y-yes," she said, her voice coming out softer than she would have liked.
"Appreciates music – always a good sign. Come on, then, what's your name?"
"Susan Bones," she said quickly, almost involuntarily. She really had to learn that commanding tone – it would work wonders on her problem with getting shut out of the flat. "What's yours?" she added, lifting her chin.
"Robin," he said. "Robin Chanticleer."
"Nice to meet you, Robin," said Susan, holding out her hand.
He raised an eyebrow at the formality, but after a moment he shifted the violin to his left arm and shook her hand. "So are you heading anywhere in a hurry, Susan Bones, or do you have time to grab a drink with me?"
Susan was taken aback at the suddenness of his offer. She didn't know this man from Adam, and he was asking her out for a drink?
On the other hand, it was a magical sort of evening. Anything could happen. Grinning suddenly, she said, "Sure. Got anyplace in mind?"
"The Leaky Cauldron's always good," Robin said. "The Three Broomsticks is quieter, if that's what you want."
"No mention of the Hog's Head?" Susan asked.
"A gentleman doesn't take a lady to the Hog's Head," Robin said in tones of mock-affront.
"How did you know I was a witch anyway?" Susan asked, laughter in her voice.
Robin raised one of his expressive eyebrows, holding her gaze. He leaned in and whispered, "Maybe I didn't." Susan shivered as his breath tickled her cheek and felt herself blushing. Suddenly Robin's face was transformed by a smile. "Or maybe I saw the wand sticking out of your pocket." Leaning back, he laughed at her speechlessness. "Come on, then, Bones," he said. "Shall we?" He held out one arm.
She managed a smile and took the offered arm. With a quick movement from Robin, a turn of the heel, the world fell away and Susan felt herself squeezed by the familiar sensation of Apparition. When the Leaky Cauldron had materialized around them, Susan let go of his arm and scolded, "What did you do that for? We could have been seen!"
"There was no one about," he said dismissively. "No one saw."
"Well, at least warn me next time!" She crossed her arms.
"All right, I'll warn you next time," he conceded, laughing. "Now come on." He grabbed her hand and led her over to the bar. "Evenin', Tom. Firewhiskey for me, and the lady'll have – what'll it be, Bones?" he asked, turning to her.
"Just a Butterbeer, please," she told the ancient barman politely.
"Butterbeer? That's no fun," Robin teased.
"I like it," Susan said quietly, shrugging. "Besides, I have work in the morning."
Robin didn't take the teasing any farther, which Susan appreciated. "All right, then. Butterbeer for the lady," he said unnecessarily to Tom. Robin turned back to Susan as the barman nodded and went to fetch their drinks. "So, where do you work?"
"The Ministry – Department of Magical Law Enforcement. I'm just a clerk for now, but I'm applying to train for an advocate."
She was interrupted by Tom reappearing with their drinks. She turned to thank him and took a sip of her butterbeer, feeling it warm her down to her toes. When she looked back up, Robin was leaning against the bar, looking at her, eyes alight with lively interest. She was struck again by the expressiveness of his face, and suddenly found the quality oddly attractive. She was so busy staring at him she almost missed his next question.
"So…an advocate? Isn't that one of Shacklebolt's new things?"
"Yeah, it is." Susan smiled, finally distracted from looking at him by thoughts of the changes made since Kingsley Shacklebolt had become Minister for Magic.
One of his first concerns as Minister had been making sure the Ministry was legally obligated to give fair trials, so the sort of travesties Death Eaters and desperate Ministry officials alike had indulged in couldn't happen again. He had made it a legal requirement that people going on trial be made aware that they had a right to representation. He had also created a program to train advocates, a profession that had never formally existed in the English wizarding world. There were standards to follow now, qualifications that had to be earned before you could charge for your services as an advocate. Best of all, the Ministry would keep its own advocates, so that anyone who couldn't afford a trained advocate could obtain one.
"Minister Shacklebolt's new laws are brilliant," Susan said, not even bothering to hide her enthusiasm. "No more sending people off to Azkaban without a fair trial. I've always wanted to work in Magical Law Enforcement, like my aunt Amelia. I've just changed my aspirations a little. I want to help – I want to make sure justice is served. One of my friends was imprisoned during the war." She paused for a second, remembering Justin's haunted face when he'd told them about Azkaban and the dementors. Her face hardened. "It'll be hard work, but it'll be worth it. Besides, hard work I can do – I was a Hufflepuff," she added, with a touch of pride for her house.
"That's pretty admirable," Robin said.
Susan blushed and looked down, the determination that had filled her suddenly fleeing in favor of something much more fluttery. "I helped fight to make the wizarding world a free place again," she said quietly. "I might as well fight to keep it free."
There was a long pause, but finally Robin spoke up. "Aunt Amelia – so you're one of those Boneses?"
Susan laughed, surprised at the detail he had picked out of her little speech. "You make us sound like one of those old pure-blood houses!"
"Not at all," Robin said. "But I've heard good things about your family – mainly that most of you fought against Voldemort." Susan wasn't surprised to hear him say the name. These days it was fashionable to call him by name – some people even went so far as to call him Tom Riddle, taking after Harry. Susan could never get used to saying either of them herself. "I heard Amelia Bones was a great witch," he added.
"Yeah," Susan said. "She was. She used to tell me these stories – about her time as a member of the Wizengamot, usually. Dry stuff, you'd think, but it really wasn't. She sent a lot of really horrible people to Azkaban after the first war."
"I can see why you idolize her," Robin said. He suddenly brightened and said, "So what do you do when you're not working?"
"Listen to the wireless, mostly," Susan said ruefully. "That or hang about with my friends. I lead a very boring sort of life."
"Come now, surely 'boring' isn't the word," Robin said cheerfully. "I'm sure you could never be boring. How about 'peaceful'?"
Susan felt herself blushing again. "'Peaceful' works," she agreed.
"And what do you listen to on the radio? Music?"
"I do listen to the music sometimes, but I prefer some of the other programs," Susan replied.
"Which programs do you like best?" Robin asked.
Susan would have felt awkward at this questioning, but Robin looked genuinely absorbed in the conversation. It made her feel special – this handsome fellow wanted to know what she had to say.
"Well, my favorite has to be Potterwatch." Susan laughed at his quick declaration that he listened to it too. "Everyone and their aunt listens to Potterwatch," she told him. "Literally, I suppose – my great-aunt Rosemary listens to it, and she's half-deaf and forever despairing of 'young people these days.' It deserves the popularity, and it's nice to like something most people actually like as well. Some of my other favorites are more popular with people like my aunt Rosemary than people our age."
"Like what?" Robin asked.
"Like Think! Think! Think!"
Robin sighed. "I'm afraid I don't know much about radio programs," he admitted. "Enlighten me?"
Susan warmed to her topic, urged on by Robin's admission of ignorance on the subject. "Well, I mean, it's a quiz show, and those are always going to be the province of old people. But the man who hosts it, Emerson Abercrombie, is brilliant – funny and smart. It shows, even with him pretending to be 'Professor Julius Ignatius Pickle' – Professor Pickle's this mad scientist type, by the way, who's supposed to be the one hosting the show, and there's this whole gimmick that he'll hex the contestants to bits in all sorts of creative ways if they get three answers wrong. Of course he doesn't, but they do play a recording of these silly, melodramatic screams every time someone gets three strikes. Anyway, Emerson's the third person to play Professor Pickle, and none of the others were nearly as fun. I used to listen to the show occasionally before the old Professor Pickle retired, but ever since Emerson took over I've listened to it every week."
"Sounds like fun," said Robin, "I should check it out. When's it on?"
"Fridays at six, but you'll want to tune in early – sometimes they have this 'weird and wonderful facts' segment beforehand, and that's always worth a listen." Susan laughed. "Look, we've been talking about me this whole time. What about you? Do you have any hobbies? Aside from music, of course," she said, nodding to the violin he'd set on the bar.
"My music's not a hobby," he said. "It's my life!"
"How do you mean?" asked Susan, amused.
"I mean it in all seriousness," Robin said. "I plan on becoming a proper musician. I play in pubs occasionally for a quick bit of coin, but someday – and I hope it's soon – I'm going to be famous."
"So I should listen out for you on the wireless, is that what you're saying?" she teased.
"Pretty much," he said, nodding. "And I really do mean it," he added more seriously. "I'm just looking for my big break."
"You mean to tell me you're going to become famous playing the violin? Are you looking to join the Wizarding Symphony Orchestra of London or something?" Susan propped her chin on one hand and looked at him with her head tilted, her forehead furrowing with confusion.
Robin shook his head. "No one goes to the symphony anymore. Not the way they go to concerts, anyway. Besides, Merton Graves got famous playing a string instrument – has a solo album now and everything."
"Merton Graves started out with a band, though," Susan argued. "Are you saying you're in a band?"
Robin made a face. "Not really. I was, for a bit, but the lads got bored and went out and got 'real jobs.'" His fingers sketched out quotation marks in the air. Lowering his hands, he said, "I'm still looking for some serious bandmates – people who really want to go somewhere with the music, not just play gigs at friends' parties and the occasional wedding."
"You sound pretty serious about it," Susan said.
"I told you I was," Robin said, his tone teasing. "It's your own lookout if you don't believe a bloke when he tells you something."
"Sorry." Susan covered her face with one hand. "Those Boneses you've heard so much about? We're pretty conservative, too. My dad would flay me if I decided I was going to play an instrument for a living. Forgive me for being skeptical?" She lowered her hand a bit, offering him an apologetic smile.
"No worries," Robin said. "Most people have that reaction. It's a bit upsetting sometimes – no one ever mocks someone for trying to be, say, an Auror, and that's been desperately fashionable lately. But I'm used to it." He shrugged, and Susan felt stupid and guilty all at once. She ducked her head, trying to think of somewhere else to steer the conversation, but Robin beat her to it, much to her relief. "I must admit to some curiosity - what were you doing wandering about when I ran into you, anyway?"
Suddenly reminded, Susan looked at her watch. "Shit," she said, standing up quickly. "It's nearly midnight – I really should be getting home."
"What, will you turn into a pumpkin?"
She raised an eyebrow at him. "You have Muggle relatives, do you? No, I won't turn into a pumpkin, but I do have work tomorrow and it's past the time I'd usually go to sleep already."
"Here, let me escort you home, at least," Robin said, standing as well. He offered an arm, and she smiled and took it. "You'll have to do the Apparating this time, I'm afraid I don't know where you live."
"Fair enough," Susan said, and she Apparated to the hallway outside her flat. "Here we are," she said, turning to look up at him, her arm still linked with his. "It was nice meeting you, and I had a lovely time."
"We should do it again," Robin said.
"Sounds like a deal to me." Susan was proud of herself for sounding so nonchalant; inside, she was jumping up and down with glee. All coherent thoughts drained out of her head a moment later, though, for Robin leaned down and kissed her. A quick peck, really, but Susan couldn't help rising on tiptoe to follow his mouth as it drew away.
When they broke apart a moment later, Robin grinned down at her. "I look forward to it. Does tomorrow night sound good?"
"Nine-thirty? Pick me up here?" she asked.
"Perfect," Robin said, and was gone.
Susan breathed a sigh of relief, glad that Robin hadn't wanted to meet earlier. Not even for a good-looking man would she miss one of her programs, and Blind Man's Bluff was on from eight to nine the next night. That left half an hour to get ready after, which was quite enough for her.
Practical concerns out of the way, Susan leaned against the door to her flat and let out a rather un-adult-like squeal.