Shellycoat’s Tankard was warmer, as judged by the rosy cheeks and noses. And as the cups filled and emptied and refilled the music grew louder and brighter. And the tales told became all the more fantastic, crazy, and, in the case of Orlando MacFoozle, embarrassing. In this moment, it was his grandmother telling about one of times he had tried to put a saddle on their dog. This had all seemed more cute than embarrassing until she added the part about how he was “…Stark naked!”
Laughter roared around the bar. Even Orlando laughed, lifting his whiskey and taking a deep mouthful. His eyes rolled over to the raven haired girl beside him.
She bit her lip, biting back the laughter that reddened her cheeks as much as the wine. “Do all these stories end with you running about naked?”
The boy shrugged and coyly raised his glass to her. “A fair nummer…”
Opposite his girlfriend, Céilidh chuckled. “Ye wis a bit o a streaker, Fooze.”
“Pat. Kettle. Black.” They laughed.
“I’m just thankful for once it’s not me.” Tom grinned as he took a sip from his tankard.
“A jalouse whit gaes aroond comes aroond, brither.” The Scot gave him that sympathetic half smile. When the redhead laughed again he narrowed his eyes playfully and poked a finger in her direction. “Weesht ye. Afore Ah telt aboot ye an yuir collection o-”
Before the boy could finish his thought Céilidh was slamming down her empty glass. “Ah think tha dance fluir is leuking a wee too emptie…” She hooked Nicollette’s arm through hers and pulled her away from the bar and out into the stumbling crowd of dancers. Those silver eyes opened wide and looked back to her boyfriend and cousin for a life line.
Orlando grinned, waving his fingers. “Tha’s ma hen.”
“I hope they can get to be friends,” Tom said as he leaned against the bar, “It’ll make life much easier.”
“Dinnae hae tae tell me tha.” The Scot boy nodded. He rubbed the back of his head which tilted to the side as he focused to watch the dancing girls. “Ye dinnae ken hou hard it’s been tae be between aw tha…”
The band had started in on a traditional highland fling, though the tempo was certainly faster than tradition dictated. Céilidh bullied her way to the center of the dance floor. The few revelers still able to keep their feet closed in around them, effectively cutting off any means of escape for Nicolette. Céilidh leaned in, her voice raised against the din as much as due to drink, “Ye’v danced afore, aye?”
Nicolette, looking very much like a deer caught in a spotlight, nodded, “Yes, but-”
“Guid,” the redhead cut of any further explanation, “tis really easy. Watch me…” With a deft hop that belied the amount of whisky she’d had to drink, Céilidh raised up on the ball of one foot while extending her opposite leg out, toes pointed to the floor. The next hop brought her leg in, angled at the knee, with the next series of hops alternating her foot on either side of her calf before kicking her leg back out and repeating the whole routine while bouncing on the opposite leg.
“That’s th’ stairt, nou ye…”
The raven haired girl blinked. “But… I…” she floundered. Her experience was more in the area of ballroom dance, not the frantic hopping about these Scots called dancing. She couldn’t deny the energy in the music the vio- fiddle, and drums were quite infectious. Her jury was still out, however, on the bagpipes. “I really don’t…”
Céilidh leaned in again. “If tis keekin ah gowk ye’r worried aboot, juist luik aroond…”
Almost as if it was on queue, a reveler of advanced years lost his footing and ended up stumbling face first into the ample bosom of a young girl sitting just off the dance floor. Rather than get upset, the girl reeled back in laughter and her date clapped the old fellow on the back. With little encouragement, the girl joined the old man back out on the floor, twirling and whirling for all they were worth, much to the delight of the onlookers.
The girl twisted her lips and looked around. “I’m not sure… I don’t…” Even with the drink and the music, she was certain she couldn’t pull off the arythmic attempt to trip she was shown. “The dancing I took was… different” She took a deep breath and threw herself in again for the sake of the evening.
Nicolette stepped close to Céilidh and took her hand, placing it on her shoulder. The other hand clasped into a tight knot with Céilidh. “I’ll lead” With a free hand on Céilidh’s hip, Nicolette pulled the Scot into the simplest waltz she knew.
The movement took Céilidh by surprise, but she managed to recover within a few steps. While the dance Nicolette lead her through wasn’t quite as lively as a fling or a reel, they managed to match themselves to the tempo of the music well enough. The crowd on the dance floor seemed to melt away from them. The music ended as the pair twirled to the middle of the floor and were greeted with total silence.
At least momentarily, anyway. Céilidh could feel Nicolette’s body tense, as though she was about to bolt. The redhead breathed in Colette’s ear, “Wait fur it…”
In the space of two heartbeats, Shellycoat’s Tanker went from dead silent to nearly having its roof thrown off. A cheer exploded from the patrons the likes the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch had never known. The entire pub descended upon the two girls. Before Tommy and Orlando could extract them, they’d had more drinks offered to them than Grandpa Irv could possibly sell, a large number of dance requests, and a fair spattering of proposals of marriage. All in all, the girls were both nearly breathless by the time the lads led them back to the relative safety of the bar.
“Crivens!” Foozle said, putting drinks into the free hands of both of the girls which, combined with the drinks that had been pushed their way along the crowd, left the ladies laden with liquor. He leaned in and left a wet kiss on Nicolette’s cheek. “Nou tha’s hou yea bab!”
“Noo this,” Céilidh said, draining a shot in one, “is ah céilidh th’ Tanker will nae soon forget.”
Nicolette took a moment to catch her breath before taking a long drink of something that was definitely not wine. “Well… that was… different.” She swept her hand through her hair, unsticking the loose hairs from her damp face. She was more and more glad she decided to shorten her hair for this evening.
“Yuir quite the dancer, hen.” Foozle had produced a rather nearly empty bottle and tipped its mouth over her glass, refilling it with the amber drink. “Ah reck afore the nicht is ower ye’ll be soondin like the rest o us.” He knocked his drink into hers, its contents spilling a little over his knuckles.
The girl waved him off with a dismissive flicker of her fingers. “I doubt that very much.” Nicolette surprised herself with a squeaky little hiccough and pushed her drink away. “I think I have had quite enough of that though.”
The Hufflepuff chuckled, “Fair nuff.” He took his and hers and with a tilt of the head, dropped them down the hatch one after the other before smacking them upside down on the old wooden bartop.
“Nou,” he said, drying the corner of his mouth with the back of his wrist and revealing a grin. His fingers slipped into hers and he gave the slender Ravenclaw a bit of a twirl, “whit say ye tak me fer a spin tae?”
A uncharacteristic giggle fueled by drink accompanied more flashes of passion, their leash loosened by her tipsy mind. “Always.” She winked and led him to the floor, walking backwards amongst the crowd. Her eyes broke from his for just a moment and her brow crinkled slightly.
She twirled them, putting him in her place and leaned in close. Her arms slid around his neck and they danced slowly. “Do you see the boy at the bar? Third from the man with long red hair?” she rested her cheek on his shoulder.
The Scot’s feet stepped with the rhythm of the music, and he brought them around. Between the moving bodies in the middle of the pub and the seated ones that swayed as much from the glasses in their hands as they did the music he caught the glimpse of a young man with neat, jet black hair. The boy lifted a frothy glass of dark black stout which left a little foamy mustache on his upper lip. “Aye,” replied the boy, picking up the lead as the tune of the band in the corner stepped it up. “Whit o him?”
“How often do you have classmates in a muggle establishment like this?” Her thumbs stroked the cotton wool blend of his shirt.
“Ither than Danny and Tommy and Céilidh?” Orlando shifted, giving him a direct line of sight to the boy. He caught those dark eyes looking away from them. “Niver…”
Thin little fingers brushed the back of his neck softly. “My house, older, he is Scottish and either muggle born or half and half, I can’t remember which.” Her lips pressed together in a moment of thought. “I suppose it wouldn’t be unheard of…”
The scar in Orlando’s brow rose higher. “Hell o a coincidence thou…”
“Ye twa shuir talk a lot fer a couple oan the dance fluir…” Céilidh shot past them at the end of Tommy’s arm. “Did Fooze finally admit tae ye tha he haes cooties?”
Nic rolled her eyes with a little laugh. “If I can get over his blood, I can get over cooties.” She leaned in and kissed his cheek, whispering in his ear. “Any reason to be concerned?”
Foozle swung about, dipping her back lightly. “Aboot ma cooties?” He grinned a little, wagging his eyebrows. “Oor aboot the hoosemate?”
Her hands gripped his arms as she pulled herself back up to him. “Both!” She laughed, pulling herself closely to him. “You’re gonna miss out if you have some nasty disease!” She laughed, knowing there was nothing he could keep from her, but teasing him with more images of what he would miss out on.
He smooched her lips. “Ah may be a dirty mudbluid, but Ahm clean dirty mudbluid.” The boy winked at her as he tugged her back upright and against his chest.
“As fer the lad…” He looked over her shoulder, swaying just a little as those whiskey soaked eyes did their best to focus on the young man across the bar. “Ahmno shuir.”
“What lad?” The Gryffindor shuffled himself and his girlfriend beside the couple. He tried to find whomever Lando was looking at.
“At the bar, third frae the lang haired ginger,” Foozle replied, giving the same directions that Nicolette had. “He’s a Ravenclaw.”
Tommy gave Orlando a slight nod and then gave Céilidh a wink. He twirled Céilidh on her heels, and as he did they both got a good look at the young man Orlando pointed out.
As Céilidh snapped back into Tommy’s body, their eyes both shot from themselves to Orlando and Nicolette.
“I’ve seen him in the library a few times.” Tom said trying to catch his breath, “Have you seen him here before?”
The Hufflepuff shook his head. “Niver.”
“Think we should go say hi?” Tom said as he casually glanced back at the young man at the bar.
Orlando looked at his girlfriend. Nicolette mirrored his curious expression as it grew brighter. The boy was grinning rather wickedly as his arm slipped around her slender waist. “Aye. Lat’s gae and say hello,”he said, addressing the three of them.
There was a smattering of nervous laughter among them and the Hufflepuff boy lead the way through the crowd along the long wooden bar toward the apparent classmate. His arm was around Nicolette’s waist, and he kept close to her to keep his steps steady enough. “Happy new year, ma guid man,” he said with a broad grin. He watched those dark eyes as they rose to look at them. “Ah hivnae seen ye aboot the pub afore. Yuir faimily new tae Oban?”
“Uh,” he shifted, “yeah… Laist summer.”
“Seen ye aboot the castle,” Foozle lied.
His eyes fell on Nicolette. “Ah didnae expect tae see ony clessmates.”
“Well, lad,” Tommy said as he slid up next to Liam at the bar, “Let us buy ya a pint.”
“Aye,” the other boy agreed and raised a hand to get the attention of the man behind the bar. “Anither sout fer ma new freend here.” The frothy glass came sliding down into Orlando’s hand. “Orlandae MacFoozle.” He handed over the drink and offered a hand.
“Liam.” he took the hand and shook it, but even a as much as he had drunk the Scot could feel the hesitation. “Liam Liddell.”
“Tom Llewelyn.” Tom offered his hand to the older boy, “And this is…”
“Céilidh MacAllister.” The redheaded Gryffindor waved.
Not needing any introduction, Nicolette smiled a bit awkwardly and raised her hand in a half-wave. “Hi.”
The kid waved back. “Ah didnae… Are ye,” He looked at Foozle, twa…”
The girl’s cheeks flushed instantly. She thought she had more time before she had to adjust to being public and this boy was being rather blatant about it. “Uh, yeah. Yes.”
“Huh. Tha’s….” he drank a sip. “Ah didnae ken.”
“Oh, uhmn. No-no one did.” Orlando felt her fingers tighten on the back of his shirt. “Surprise…” She laughed dryly.
Her boyfriend raised his whiskey. “Surprise!”
The older Ravenclaw smirked slightly.
“So what brings you here all alone?” Tommy asked as he waived a hand at Orlando’s grandfather, who slid another tankard toward the Gryffindor.
“Mah parents hud tae lea th’ country oan business.” He shrugged. “Ah hud plans fur New Year’s bit thay fell thro’. Ah heard some muggles talking aboot this place ‘n’ decided tae check it oot. Whit aboot ye?”
“Been coming here fer years.” Orlando laughed loudly. A subtle look drifted in Céilidh direction. “Owners ar like faimily, ye micht say.”
He nodded. “An the rest o yuir kin?” The young man’s face shifted in thought, “Whit about thaim ithers ye aw usually mucker aboot wi? The anes in oor hoose.” This last bit was clearly directed toward Nicolette. “Dan and Ambrosia? Aff oan thair ane?”
Nodding a bit, Nicolette dismissed the buzzing curiosity at his question. “They’re with their families.”
A mild laugh came from his half smile. “It ayeweys seemed ye aw niver did onything apairt. Frae the ootside onywey.” He took a pull from his frothy dark drink, shrugging his shoulders. “Couples make a group a bit funny, Ah jalouse.”
“Family’s family,” Céilidh shrugged. “Whiles family obligations tak’ precedence ower family fin.”
The older Ravenclaw gave Céilidh a smile and nodded.
“Thare haes aye bin a quaistion A’ve wondered,” he took another pull from his tankard, “howfur is it that ye a’ aye seem tae git bygane th’ heids o’ hoose? Ah aye see ye a’ in th’ Ravenclaw Common Room.”
Tom and Lando looked at each other and then started to laugh.
“Wha says thay ken?” Orlando winked as he pulled his stein to his lips.
“To be honest we’ve never known it to be a bad thing.” Tom grinned. “I mean Ravenclaw’s not that hard a Common Room to get in, you just need to be clever.”
“Shuir.” While there were at least a handful of Ravenclaws that might have taken a slightest bit offense to this notion, the comment didn’t seem to bother him in the slightest. Still holding his half emptied glass, he poked a finger in the direction of Tom and Céilidh, “But frae whit Ah ken yuir hoose haes a passwird. Sae daes Slytherin.” An interested glance fell on Orlando. “Amurnay shuir whit yuir door daes.”
“It’s no like that tho.” The Hufflepuff smirked and brought his whiskey to his lips. “Ye kin be A Ravenclaw, shuir. Ah kin be a Hufflepuff. But th’ rest o us?” He looked from Tom to the redheaded Céilidh and over to the raven-haired Nicolette on his arm. “We bin th’gither aw oor bides, mate.” Those hazel eyes shifted again, feeling a strange sense of suspicion creeping into his clouded head. “We’re faimily. Whan it comes tae each ither, it disnae whaur the bunnit sairted us. We’re a hoose aw oor ain.”
Liam stared at him a moment. There was something steely in his gaze, but it passed quickly. “Alricht,” he raised his glass, “Fair enouch.”
Tom wasn’t sure if it was the alcohol or the fact that this seventh year was grilling them, but Tom really didn’t like this guy. “I’m not sure I quite understand why you are asking all these questions.” Tom stepped forward toward Liam. “Why does it bloody matter to you at all?”
“Tommy.” Céilidh placed her hand on Tom’s chest.
“Juist curious.” The young man’s shoulders shrugged, and a smirk skimmed across Liam’s face. “That a kinch?”
Tom took another step, his chest pushing against Céilidh’s hand. “To be honest yeah it kinda is.”
Liam opened his mouth but instead the bar filled with the muggles all around them counting down. It was almost midnight. With another menacing look toward Liam, Tom joined in with the other four as they hit two then one.
Happy New Year! The bar shouted in unison.
Tom forgot his anger as his lips met Céilidh’s.
A ringing bell and the loud voices announcing the stroke of midnight, drowning out anything he might have said. Amidst the raucous voices shouting cheers for the new year came the almost melodic song of Auld Lang Syne. To Orlando, it was quite possibly one of the warmest sounds he’d ever known.
He put a hand on Tom’s shoulder, drawing him back a step. “Happy new year, Liam,” he said to the Ravenclaw giving a small tip of his glass.
He turned, leading the foursome back through the bar, amidst all the smiles and the drinks shunted in their direction. They settled back somewhere in the center of the long and crowded wooden bar. “Niver mynd aw tha…”
Downing the last of his amber drink, he set the glass on the bar and smiled at the others. “Its freish year.” As his eyes fell on Nicolette, he took her hand and drew her close. “A neu beginnin.” He kissed her, the first kiss of their first year together.
In New Year tradition, his girlfriend returned his kiss. It was the first year of her new life and with her friends, she hoped she had the strength. “Happy New Year, Orlando.”
The Hufflepuff smiled. It could have been the whiskey in his belly or the pub and all its rowdy patrons or just Céilidh and Tom there beside them that warmed him in that moment. It could have just been holding Nicolette close. He reckoned that it all played an important part and relished that happy feeling. “Happy New Year, Colette.”