Disclaimer: The magical characters in this story belong
to J.K. Rowling. The Muggle characters belong to me. But if she’d like to
The Eye of the Beheld
She smiled at me on the subway.
She was with another man.
But I won't lose no sleep on that,
'Cause I've got a plan.
He’d always hated being confused, but this sort of confusion
should be all right. And perhaps it was. Perhaps.
Women had never paid much attention to him – never even noticed
him, really – not until Julia. He had noticed Julia, then Julia had noticed him.
When he’d first asked her out, Julia hadn’t gotten all uncomfortable – she’d
said “I’d be delighted.” When he’d tried to take her hand, Julia hadn’t
snatched it away – she had nestled it in his. And when there had been nothing
for it but for him to kiss her, Julia hadn’t turned her head. She had reached
for him – and then reached for him again.
Julia paid attention to him.
She was with him quite a lot lately, and when she wasn’t she
was in his mind. Not that he felt compelled to think about her. It was
just that his mind always seemed to go back to her whenever it wanted rest. As
it had just now done, without his even noticing.
The confusing bit was that ever since things had begun
happening with Julia, other women had begun noticing him as well. Really
He dropped a quid in a busker’s instrument case as he passed
by. The fellow was playing quite well, actually; he stopped, came back, and dropped
in another. Being generous always made him feel good, and this time was no
exception. Unfortunately it did nothing to relieve his confusion. So now I
feel good and confused, he thought wryly as he checked the Underground map
once again. He located his stop quickly, not needing to refer to the scrap of
paper in his pocket that bore the name of the unfamiliar station.
He gave a sigh. Almost four days now. Julia was at
a convention up North this week, and she and a few of her co-workers had
decided to spend the weekends just before and after it at a cottage they had
rented in the Lake District. He hadn’t seen her since Thursday, when they’d
had dinner together and he’d spent the evening helping her pack. He had gone
home with nothing in his mind but her goodbye: an embrace so ardent that …
well, that she even seemed to expect to miss him terribly.
Then on Saturday he’d gone to Allan’s party, where women who
never would have noticed him before were once again paying loads of attention
to him. And one rather nice-looking young lady in particular, one amazingly gorgeous
young lady to be sure, had walked in the door, spotted him, and straightway
crossed the crowded room to talk to him. Annie. And somehow she had
suggested that they get together on Monday evening, and she had written out
directions for him on a scrap of paper, and … now here he was on the
Underground, a box of sweets tucked under his arm.
On the train he found a seat next to an elderly woman who
looked up at him and smiled as he sat. She’s noticed me as well. He’d
never had options before, and now he had far too many of them.
His reverie ended abruptly as an absolutely magnificent
young woman stepped onto the train. A slight frame; a carriage of surprising
poise and dignity for someone who could scarcely be out of her teens; full
brown hair framing striking brown eyes. Those eyes drew his to them as if by
some spell. Deep, deep eyes that spoke of having seen wondrous things and
terrible things, but were neither haunted nor jaded by them. Eyes that were
thoughtful and hopeful, resolute and kind, and … something else he could not name.
She was flanked by two trim young men. No surprise
there, except that there aren’t more of them circling around her. All
three were dressed quite conservatively, and their expressions were serious,
Of course, she noticed him. Her eyes held his for a moment,
and then she smiled. His heart stopped. Nervously, he smiled back.
The two young men noticed him as well. The shorter one,
black-haired and unkempt, watched him warily with deep, emerald-green eyes.
The tall one, a redhead who seemed uncomfortable in his clothes, appeared to be
trying to step in between him and the woman. Both had a hand in a pocket, looking
like handsome young spies reaching for their guns on some inane American
programme on the telly. The three exchanged some quiet but intense words that clearly
were about him. He unmistakably heard her say “all right,” and something less
distinct that sounded like “muggle” or some such thing, and the young men said
some peculiar things that he tried to understand but, a moment later, found he
couldn’t quite remember.
He dropped his gaze to the box of sweets in his lap,
listening unobtrusively to snippets of their hushed conversation and
occasionally glancing up to enjoy the sight of her. There was talk of an
orphanage, and watching the ‘flu, and something oddly maritime about a port
quay, whatever that was, that some ministry or other was concerned with. These
were extraordinary teenagers indeed, no doubt some kind of government interns
going to visit a sick orphan child somewhere, and at this hour on a
week-night! He was becoming more fascinated with them, with her, by the
Then it happened. At a lull in their conversation, she laid
her cheek on the redhead’s chest, and he responded with a light hand on her
waist. Their dark-haired friend shifted to shield them from the view of most
of the passengers, as a small but beatific smile lit her face. When she opened
her eyes seconds later they were unfocused, and he finally recognized what he
had seen in them, the thing whose name had earlier eluded him.
She was in love.
The realization disappointed him, but only for a moment
before he found himself feeling rather relieved. The last thing he needed
right now was yet another woman in his life. Yet another beautiful … well no,
in that department she could scarcely hold a candle to Annie. Then again, who
could? Compare her to Julia, though, and … no, she wouldn’t compare very well
to Julia either. Her shape was, well, subtle, to put it charitably; her
face was not unattractive, but neither was it particularly attractive; her hair
– well, if he wanted he could easily imagine that hair belonging to some
witch. Yes, the depth was certainly there in her eyes, but without that extra
glint that her young man was evidently inspiring in them, he probably wouldn’t
have taken much notice of her at all. No, it was only being in love that made
her so attractive.
Just like me.
The confusion vanished in an instant, transmuted into
clarity. All those women who had finally noticed him over the past few
months, they had seen the same thing in his eyes as he had seen in the young
lady’s. That was why they were attracted to him. That was why Annie was
attracted to him, Annie and all the others. All of them – all but
Julia. And then, with the fog gone, he suddenly saw something it had been
I am in love.
He knew now what he would be doing once he got home
tonight. He knew the name of Julia’s conference, so it couldn’t be too difficult
to find the telephone number of her hotel. She wouldn’t mind him ringing her
up late: He had something important to tell her.
His eyes returned to the box of chocolates, and he briefly smirked
at the silliness of his carrying such a thing. On impulse he opened it and
held it out to the elderly woman next to him. “A sweet, ma’am?” He offered one
to the businessman sitting on his other side, then stood and handed the box to
the young redhead. “Why don’t you take these? I’ll not be needing them.” He
smiled as the young man, eyes wide, thanked him bemusedly. Then, remembering
their earlier suspicion of him, he picked a random sweet from the box, held it
up in a little salute, and – “Cheers!” – popped it into his mouth. Lowering
his voice to a whisper, he glanced around at the three of them and said, “Good
luck to you all!” Then he looked again into the young woman’s eyes, deeply and
this time knowingly, lover to lover. “And thank you.”
A/N: The quote is from James Blunt’s song “You’re
Beautiful.” But then you knew that long before I did.