Most Charming Smile
Chapter One: Gutsy Girls
It had seemed to
Romilda Vane, upon her arrival in King’s Cross Station, that the best place to
monitor the platform traffic was from the Muggle side. On the pretense of
waiting for her friends, Romilda had perched herself on a bench and whipped out
the latest issue of Witch Weekly. Just like everything else in print,
the magazine was full of advice about defending oneself and one’s home against
Death Eaters and personal anecdotes- including, of course, the exploits of
Harry Potter. Romilda smiled her most mysterious smile and peeked casually over
the top of Witch Weekly, scanning the crowd for a sign of The Gorgeous
darling, what are you doing?”
view of the train station was blocked by the figure of a woman, clad in magenta
with her hands on her hips. Romilda moved the magazine away from her face (it
had been nearly touching her nose) and gazed up at her mother. Before she could
protest, the magazine had been tugged from her hands and stuffed out of sight
in her mother’s overlarge dragon hide handbag.
“Do try to be
careful when you’re on the Muggle side of things, darling,” Lucilla Vane
trilled, patting the moving magazine cover. “I would much prefer to get on the
platform already, it’s not nearly as safe here--”
As her mother
continued rambling on to no one in particular, Romilda spotted him-- him!
Harry Potter himself! He looked exactly as he looked in the Daily Prophet,
The Quibbler, Witch Weekly and Young and Magical.
Romilda jumped up from the bench and looked eagerly around her mother, quite
forgetting to disguise herself behind the magazine. Harry Potter was flanked by
two suited men— bodyguards, no doubt-- who accompanied him through the barrier
and out of sight.
“I’ve just seen
Audrey,” Romilda said hastily. She snatched Witch Weekly out of her
mother’s purse, slung her book bag over her shoulder and made a dash for
platform nine and three quarters. Her startled cry of “Darling!” and the sudden
squeak of wheels from behind indicated that Mother and the house-elf were
following with the trolley. Romilda plunged forward through the barrier without
waiting for them.
For a moment,
Harry Potter seemed to have vanished. Romilda stood on her toes, scanning the
her mother panted, coming to a heel-clicking halt. “Do not stand on your
shoes that way! You’ll crack them!”
down and looked balefully at her mother, who continued in a shrill voice, “They
aren’t even real leather, I do not know why you wanted them to begin with, but
they simply won’t last if you stand on them like that. It bends them, darling.”
With a sigh that
was half exasperated, half adoring, Romilda’s mother patted her daughter’s
cheek. She began to herd Romilda towards the train, motioning for their
house-elf, Bop, to follow with the trolley. Romilda momentarily forgot that she
had been pretending to wait for her best friend when Audrey Brockman herself
appeared out of the thick steam.
smokey here today,” she commented, by way of a greeting. “We must be upwind or
“It’s not smoke,
it’s steam. And we are downwind.”
be so smart.”
“Nice to see you, too.”
“It always is,”
Audrey replied tartly.
back to her mother, who was speaking sternly to Bop and gesturing at her
daughter’s trunk. She didn’t seem to notice that Romilda was hugging her and
patting her hand, attempting to drag the trunk off of the cart and into the
train. With a quick “Oh, goodbye, Darling, goodbye! Have a nice term!”
Romilda’s mother vanished in a flash of magenta, taking Bop with her. The
unattended trolley began to drift drunkenly backwards, but Romilda let it be
and followed Audrey’s blond head through the packed train.
through the train, Audrey ducked into a compartment, dragging her trunk behind
her. Romilda followed her in and was greeted by several people at once. The
Sorting Hat might prattle on about how divided the school was, but Romilda
thought it was a bit unfair of the Hat not to consider the fact that some
students did maintain friendships outside of their houses. Diversity was
one of the top priorities of the Charms Club at Hogwarts; in fact, it was
practically the entire purpose of the group. She raised her hand to greet the
club members before her, smiling at her own open-mindedness.
joined the Charms Club in her second year after reading an article about it in Young
and Magical. Well, to be honest, it hadn’t been an article about the Charms
Club specifically. It had been an interview with Celestina Warbeck, who had
gushed about her first love-- the president of the Charms Club in her Hogwarts
days-- whom she had written her first hit song about. Romilda had rushed to
join the club immediately after that. Though the presidents of the Charms Club
since Romilda joined had both been girls, Romilda had remained in the club. Not
long after the YM interview, Witch Weekly had done a piece on
diversity, praising Hogwarts for hosting the Triwizard Tournament and for
offering a “hip selection of clubs and societies” that encouraged inter house
Yes, thought Romilda, looking about the
compartment. We are a hip society, aren’t we?
group had accumulated, as hip and diverse as ever. There was Halimeda White
from Ravenclaw, Erin O’Brien, a Hufflepuff, and Erin’s boyfriend Marcus Dyakov,
also a Ravenclaw. Audrey and Romilda represented Slytherin and Gryffindor. They
were only a small sample of the Charms Club roster (though, admittedly, quite
Romilda,” piped up Halimeda, who was already buried in a magazine-- Fashion
Seer, it looked like. “I hope you both had nice summers.”
Audrey replied. “My family went to the World Cup in Japan. Fascinating country.
Japanese cuisine has always interested me.”
snickered to herself. Clearly, Audrey had been reading her mother’s issues of
Gilda Lachoix’s self-titled magazine. The June 1996 issue, to be exact, had
bluntly stated “Japanese cuisine is interesting”. It was all about magazines
with Audrey Brockman; the girl had no shame. Gilda Lachoix was essentially the
female counterpart of Gilderoy Lockhart, though her spectacular breakthroughs
pertained more to fighting dust bunnies and dinner parties than to dark forces.
Although, Romilda had found that Lockhart and Gilda Lachoix did have
strangely identical suggestions on the removal of garden gnomes. In the Harry
Potter issue of the Quibbler, Romilda had learned that there was alarming
evidence suggesting that Gilderoy Lockhart and Gilda Lachoix were actually the same
“-- well he
isn’t a Prefect, is he? He’s probably around here somewhere.”
probably not enough room for any of us in his compartment anyway, he’s probably
surrounded. Did you see his bodyguards?”
“I bet they’re
and Audrey’s conversation suddenly came into focus. Romilda snapped her
attention to them immediately. They could only be talking about Harry Potter
and his entourage. Romilda had wondered where he had disappeared to.
“We could invite
him to sit with us,” she said sharply, casting meaningful looks at her friends.
Erin leaned in
conspiratorially. Halimeda giggled and clapped a hand over her mouth as if
giggling was uncharacteristic of her. Audrey’s face took on a dreamy
expression, contemplating being in the company of Harry Potter. No one made a
move for the door, but Romilda knew her proposal was golden.
“Harry Potter is
in sixth year,” said Halimeda in a hushed voice.
right,” Audrey responded at once, sounding as though she were an expert on the
subject. “He’s a celebrity and he’s a sixth year. He only dates older women.”
her eyes, and Erin looked momentarily downcast. The train was nearly at full
speed now, and they had left the train station behind. Harry Potter, wherever
he was, must be nearly settled in his compartment by now. It was time to take
action. Romilda abandoned her seat, checked her reflection in the glassy
window, and charged to the door. Struck by a sudden fit of the nerves, she
turned back to her silent friends.
“Er. . . Come
on, then. One of us has got to invite him.”
Audrey was at
her heels in a flash of perfect curls. “I’ll ask him,” she said firmly,
whipping out a tiny cosmetic mirror from a pocket in her robes. “Gutsy girls always
That is so YM, Romilda thought jealously. She
was the Gryffindor, not bloody Audrey. Oh well. Romilda would be sure to get a
word in once they had him in their compartment.
for any further comment from anyone, Romilda stepped out into the corridor and
began to peek carefully into the left side compartments while Audrey took the
right. Sooner than anticipated, Audrey let out a squeal and stopped. Romilda turned
to see her beckoning with a wild flurry of hands. Erin pointed unnecessarily at
the compartment they had stopped in front of and mouthed “He’s in here!”
out her hand to open the door, and then drew it back in another flurry of
movement. She raised her eyebrows at Romilda and looked at the door. Erin
tapped her knuckles impatiently on her lips. Halimeda suddenly materialized
behind them and leaned between Audrey and Erin to peek into Harry Potter’s
and the Amazing Technicolor Owl,” she giggled.
with that Ravenclaw, Loony Lovegood,” Erin explained quietly in response to
Romilda’s frown, simultaneously shushing Halimeda.
“Have you asked
him yet?” Halimeda whispered.
“You ask him!”
in a breath. “I’ll do it!” she announced.
fingers found the door handle. A surge of courage (or was it adrenaline?)
coursed through Romilda’s chest, and she threw the door open with a bit more
force than was necessary. Letting the courage (or was it true love?) guide her,
Romilda stepped into the compartment of Harry Potter. She turned confidently
towards him, willing herself not to crack an unattractive smile as her eyes
passed quickly over Loony (who was wearing the strangest glasses Romilda had
ever seen), and said boldly, “Hi, Harry, I’m Romilda, Romilda Vane.”
She took a
breath, fluttered her eyelashes just a tiny, tiny bit, and forced
herself to continue with her quest-- despite the fact that she had just spotted
a third person in Harry Potter’s compartment. Well, it was really more like a
third of the third person. Romilda couldn’t tell whose backside it was, but
there was definitely someone underneath the seats with only his bum showing.
Romilda felt instant sympathy for poor Harry-- after all of his achievements,
he couldn’t even find anywhere to sit.
“Why don’t you
join us in our compartment? You don’t have to sit with them,” she said
delicately with her well-practiced smile of mystery.
of mine,” Harry said, much to Romilda’s surprise.
couldn’t mean it. Well that settled it, he was just too noble and kindhearted
for his own good. It wasn’t that Harry Potter couldn’t find anyone to sit with,
it was simply that he took pity on people of lesser status than himself. After
all, he did have his own group of friends-- friends who supported him in all he
did and helped him fight off the agents of evil when they invaded areas of the
Ministry so secret that they might not even exist. . . ! Romilda wanted to run
to him and declare her undying love for him! She wanted to praise him for not
succumbing to the pressures of being cool by ditching Loony and Mr. Bum (whom
Romilda suddenly realized might be Neville Longbottom. The irony of this was
not lost on her). Instead she said coolly, “Oh. Oh. Okay.”
squeaked the moment Romilda had closed the door. She didn’t need to; Audrey, in
typical Slytherin fashion, had abandoned ship as soon as Romilda had introduced
herself. Halimeda had followed her almost immediately after Harry refused the
invitation. To her credit, Erin had stayed to the end, but her bravery could
not stand against a fit of the giggles. Shrieking like a banshee, Erin tore
back to their compartment in a most unflattering manner.
The tension was
so high by the time Romilda had returned to her seat that she almost felt the
need to cast a Bubble Head Charm just to relieve her ears of the pressure. Even
Marcus was staring at her, though he seemed more skeptical than expectant. Erin
looked like she might burst with laughter and Halimeda was shaking silently
from behind Fashion Seer.
need to work on your mysterious smile,” Halimeda managed at last, dropping her
magazine and laughing without restraint.
help giggling herself; it was actually rather funny now that she thought about
it. She had definitely been snubbed by Harry Potter. They had all been
snubbed by Harry Potter. Perhaps she hadn’t spent enough time in front
of the mirror with the mysterious smile.
“What in Hades
is an Amazing Technicolor Owl?” she demanded at last, sending Halimeda into
fresh peals of laughter.
that,” interrupted Audrey. “Your approach was all wrong. Zero subtlety. He was
going to decline the moment you asked.”
“Oh, what would
you have done, stood out in the corridor and wet yourself?” Romilda retorted.
“Or, better yet, pulled a real Slytherin and run off to hide?”
Erin warned. Bickering always made her anxious.
“I wasn’t going
to take a shot at her House,” Audrey returned. Instead, she pulled out Witch
Weekly and held it aloft for all of them to see.
“Is that. . .
the next issue?”
believe her eyes. Witch Weekly was always published on Sundays and
distributed on Mondays. The copy that she had herself was supposedly hot off
the press. Her father had jumped through hoops to have it delivered to their
home a day early, the minute it was printed. How was it possible that Audrey
already had the next weeks issue?
Romilda was torn
between envy and awe, so she settled for a dropped-jaw expression.
“I know,” said
Audrey dramatically, nodding at Romilda’s expression and looking like she
couldn’t believe her own luck.
“How did you get
“That can’t be
the next issue! Show us the date!”
“Ooh I’m so
When the buildup
of excitement was too much to take, Audrey spoke. “My cousin Ruby is working
for their astrologist now. Ruby was a Divination whiz if you recall, she
graduated the year we started. Witch Weekly gave her a sort of
apprenticeship, and she’s going to send me the advance issues as soon as
they’re printed.” She emphasized the last words with a catty smile pointed
at Romilda’s bag, where the current Witch Weekly had been hastily rolled
up and stowed.
“How can it
already have this week’s news in it?” asked Marcus suddenly. All the girls
turned startled looks on him, and he shifted awkwardly away from them. “My mum
reads it,” he mumbled, and pulled a textbook from his bag on reflex (this was
Marcus’s usual back up plan in case socializing went awry.)
the magazine and opened it very carefully to the back area where news stories
were usually listed. “It’s all blanks here,” she announced, leafing through
several empty purple pages. “Perhaps they write out all of the rest of it and
then squeeze in the news at the last minute?”
Tuning out of
the chatter at once, Romilda threw a betrayed look at her seriously outdated
magazine before settling back to analyze the past ten minutes. She was thinking
again about Harry Potter, who had actually spoken to her. “They’re friends
of mine.” Four whole words, plus punctuation; five if you wanted to count
“they’re” as two words. Okay, so maybe four and a half words. Not to mention
the nonverbal communication, which, according to Young and Magical was
vital to understanding the opposite sex. She tried to recall the exact tone and
inflections Harry had used in his four and half word sentence to her. “They’re
friends of mine.” What had he been trying to say?
On the one hand,
he had sounded defensive. This made sense considering all of the things Romilda
had read about Harry Potter. He was a very private person, which was completely
understandable. Many celebrities were like this. However, he had not been rude,
had he? He had been given an opportunity to escape Loony Lovegood and Neville
Longbottom, and he had gone out of his way to not be rude to them.
Romilda wished she could’ve told Harry that there was no need for him to defend
his choices to her.
friends of mine.”
The words had
moved into her mind and made themselves at home. The only problem with this
that Romilda could find was that the more Harry repeated himself in her head,
the easier it was for her to invent her own version of Harry’s words. She didn’t
do it on purpose, but four and a half words quickly turned into full heartfelt
confessions that hadn’t yet happened.
“. . . I didn’t
bring it out so you could check your horoscope.” Audrey’s disdainful
voice cut into Romilda’s fantasizing.
“It’s not that
big of a deal, I just like to keep informed, thank you! Just let me peek!” Erin
held her hands out for Witch Weekly.
“Oh come off it,
these are the horoscopes for next week, you’ll just forget them.” Audrey
was refusing, probably for no reason at all.
being such a magazine Nazi.” Halimeda was flicking impatiently through Fashion
Seer with a knowledgeable look on her face.
make any sense, d’you know that Halimeda? Never.” Audrey looked right at
Romilda and handed her the coveted advance issue of the most popular modern
magazine for witches. It was folded over to an article with the title
“Summoning the Man of Your Dreams: A Witches Dating Guide.“
rubbish?” Romilda asked with a raised eyebrow of well-practiced apathy.
“The Nazis were
like Death Eaters in Muggle-land back in the ‘40s,” rambled Halimeda in a vague
way. “So when I call you a magazine Nazi, I mean that you’re oppressing us all
with your miserly magazine sharing.”
“Enough with the
Muggle trivia!” Audrey said loudly.
up with a sheepish smile, not remotely perturbed by Audrey’s tone. “Just a fun
“Here’s a fun
fact for you. We just had an encounter with Harry Potter, The One Not Yet
Chosen For Witch Weekly’s Most Charming Smile Award But Will Be Someday.
Granted, it did not go that well, but that was just a test.” Audrey looked
around impressively. “It totally validates this article, you see.”
see the connection. “How can our being turned down possibly validate an article
about Summoning the Man of Your Dreams?”
“Read the first
part,” instructed Audrey.
throat, Romilda read from a section titled The Tall, Dark Introvert,
“‘Gutsy Girls finish first, but this does not mean one should simply stroll up to
a wizard and introduce herself,’” she read. “‘While tall, dark strangers are
shown to be six times as sexy as your average wizard, they are not nearly as
because tall, dark strangers are about six times more likely to kill you these
days,” grumbled Erin.
dark strangers are shown to be six times as sexy as your average wizard, they
are not nearly as approachable,’” Romilda continued. “’According to a Witch
Weekly poll, modern wizards are currently favoring the quiet but
self-confident witch. So, if your wizard is a TALL, DARK INTROVERT (see the What
Type is Your Wizard? chart on page 22), mix a little mystery and intrigue
into things and watch the effects. Be reserved. Play hard to get! (See page 24
for more on approaching TALL, DARK INTROVERTS.)’”
silence filled the compartment as the girls absorbed Witch Weekly’s
advice. Romilda rubbed her chin absently. Yes, perhaps she had been a bit too
forward; too much mysterious smile and not enough mystery. It was certainly
something to consider-- the magazine had been correct when it predicted
that the Tall, Dark, Handsome One wouldn’t respond to a bold and open
invitation. Harry Potter just needed to be worked on a bit, but not so much
that he noticed he was being worked on.
first, her chin lifted and posture straight, gazing down her nose at Romilda.
“If you’re going to go after Harry Potter, I think you’re going to need to
reinvent yourself,” she said.
isn’t a matter of if,” Romilda replied saucily. “It’s a matter of how.”
She had always
wanted to say that.
A/N: Kudos and applause for sveltskye for handling my runaway commas, run-on
sentences and awkward passages! Thanks also to Laurelism for the formatting
help, and to A.J. for being a big pain J.