It's a Saturday afternoon, and Darius has asked Hazel to meet him outside of a Muggle sports complex, and suggested she wear workout gear. In spite of the obvious assumptions to be drawn from these two clues, he's being extremely demure about what they'll actually be doing once she arrives. For his part, he's also dressed in a rather fasionable Muggle workout getup, which is to say his shorts are short, showing off legs earned from going for a run every day for a decade, and a shirt that's tight enough to show that he's a bit cold in the late-February weather London has on offer. He also, of course, has his bookbag.
Hazel is usually up for a surprise, so she was more than happy to agree to this mystery meeting. She's wearing fluorescent pink leggings and leg warmers over her sneakers, and she waves cheerfully when she sees Darius. "Hey," she says once she's close enough. She gives him an appreciative once over and then leans in to give him a hug.
"Hey yourself." Darius returns the hug, going in for a brief kiss while he's at it. He keeps his hands on her hips while he takes a step back, looking at her eagerly. "So, what I'm about to show you is kind of a big deal," he says in mock seriousness, clearly excited for this. "I mean, I'm not sure about the long-term potential of this if you aren't into it." He's still joking, but maybe, just a little, also… totally serious. Flicking his eyes down, he adds, "Also, you are very bright today. Not that I'm complaining. Those are very tight pants?" He may not have encountered leggings before.
Hazel looks up at him with polite bemusement, because she really has no idea what he's on a out. "I promise to treat it with all the gravitas it deserves," she says, matching his serious tone, but she breaks down and laughs at his reaction to her leggings. "That's a bit the point of them," shw agrees. "We can't all go traipsing about London in shorts in the middle of winter."
“I suppose we all can’t,” Darius agrees, craning his neck for a better look at the leggings from all angles. “Well then. Splendid. Let’s get on, then.” He smiles once more before turning and opening what looks like it should just be a side-door, not the sort to be unlocked in the middle of the afternoon. Inside is an empty, high-school-gym sort of room, only instead of the basketball-style faux-wood floor it’s… a tennis court. Just one, with the net all ready to go. Once Hazel is inside he’ll shut the door, and casts a spell on it to keep it locked. “So… have you ever played tennis before?”
Hazel poses a bit as he admires her leggings, and then follows him in. She glances briefly back at the street before the door shuts, clearly a bit puzzled at the entrance, bit she doesn't say anything about it. Instead she takes in the tennis court, a little bit of a smile playing across her face. "I've hit some balls a couple times but I wouldn't consider myself any kind of expert," she says. "But then I wouldn't have guessed you for the type, either. "
Darius goes to stand next to her, and pulls two rackets from his book bag. He wields one in each hand and beams at her. “Tennis. Is. Brilliant,” he says, his words practically gushing with his enthusiasm. “Especially once you add magic. I’ve taken the liberty of charming your racket already.” He offers her one then, handle-first. They look identical, and like normal Muggle tennis rackets. “Please don’t tell on me to the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts department.”
Hazel laughs, not unkindly, at how excited he is. "Well, go easy on me this game," she says, taking the racket and testings its weight in her hand. "How've you charmed it?" She takes an experimental swing, perhaps unwisely, considering that she doesn't know what's been done to it.
“I won’t aim for your face, although that’s how I usually play,” Darius promises. Nothing actually happens when she swings her racket, at least for now, but Darius notices the movement with a wicked grin. He pulls a tennis ball from his bookbag before setting the bag aside and moving out onto the court. “You’ll have to try it and see,” he tells her, tossing the ball her way in a gentle, under-hand throw.
"And they say chivalry's dead," Hazel says, but she's good natured about it. She follows him out to the court and catches the ball – she's still got that, at least, from Quidditch. She bounces it against the floor, testing its weight, and then takes something close to a good stance. "Ready?" she asks, but doesn't wait for an answer before she serves the ball in his direction.
Oh, Darius is ready. As soon as her racket hits, the ball erupts in flame and whizzes Darius’ way. It bounces once, leaving a minor scorch mark on the ground. Dare gets in its path, holding his racket ready in front of himself until he swings back and hits it in a smooth arc. And when HE hits the ball the fire goes out, but the ball splits into two, with both of the new balls flying right for Hazel.
"Oh!" Hazel exclaims when the ball bursts into flame. She's momentarily dumbfounded by this, but she recovers enough to hit one of the balls back to his side. (The other bounces off the court.) When she hits it the ball begins to expand and it continues crowing as it flies over the net. It's nearly the size of a soccer ball as it gets close to Darius.
Darius reacts to the growing ball by… pulling out his wand, and quickly flicking it at the soccer-tennis-ball. The ball responds by flying back in Hazel’s direction before it even hits the ground, and since he didn’t hit it with his racket, it’s still growing – nearly pumpkin-sized, now.
Hazel's response to this monster ball flying her way is to jump out of its path. Maybe that's the Quidditch instinct, too. It hurtles past and off the court, still growing, and by the time Hazel has jogged back to retrieve it it's almost comically bigger than the tennis racket. She has to pick it up with both hands. "Darius!" she says, trying not to laugh as she gets her own wand out and charms the ball back to its original size. "You've really gotta warn a girl."
Darius is outright laughing – he’s clearly loving this. “All is fair in love and tennis!” he calls back. He centers himself on the court again, holding his racket at the ready – and keeping his wand in hand, just in case. “You don’t like giant balls flying at you, clearly, so… noted,” he jokes. “And I’m pretty sure that’s one point for me!”
"It's a little better than flaming ones, though," Hazel says, grinning. "It's your first and last point," she adds with her most charming smile. Then she smacks the newly-normal-sized ball back to his side. This time, the ball takes on a sort of weird weightless quality and seems to drift a bit slowly back over the net.
Darius moves up to the net to meet the ball, and attempts to hit it straight down so that she doesn’t even have a chance to rally. But instead, the ball is transfigured into a bluebird, and it swoops back up to flutter prettily Hazel’s way. Darius stares after it, clearly not having expected that.
Hazel has her racket ready but she hesitates, baffled, as the ball turns into a bird. She pretty clearly can't tell if she's supposed to hit it or not- suddenly the sport seems a lot meaner. Instead she flicks her wand at it, turning it into something more akin to a snitch and sending it flying back towards Darius.
Darius has his racket ready as the snitch comes flying at him, but when he swings it veers to the side, and he misses. Rather than bounce harmlessly behind him, it flys up and lands on a support beam by the ceiling. Darius looks at it, bemused, before saying, “I think that’s your point?”
"I'll take it!" Hazel also looks up at the snitch, her head cocked a bit to the side, before using her wand to Accio it back to her. She'll transform it back into a ball before tossing it to Darius. "Have any muggles ever caught you in here, trying to smash birds with a tennis racket?"
Darius doesn’t quite manage to catch the ball as she tosses it back, so he accio’s it back to himself. “I’ve never actually played here, before. But I haven’t been caught the other times I’ve played,” he admits. “I also haven’t played in awhile. I used to have this group of friends who would – we even took this trip to Monaco once.” He bounces the ball a few times, thoughtfully. ”That was some years ago, though. And no birds have ever been harmed in our matches, for the record.”
"You played in Monaco? Were you guys competitive?" Hazel asks, genuinely curious. She laughs a little when he mentions that no birds have been harmed. "I suppose I might have to issue a citation if they had? I'm sure magically induced bluebirds are included in our bylaws somewhere…"
“Oh no, we just went for like, a guys’ trip. But we also played tennis while we were there,” Darius explains. “It was just kind of our thing, for awhile.” He keeps bouncing the ball as he talks, but finally throws it into the air and serves it over. This time when he hits it, it turns into a water balloon.
"I suppose competitive play would get awkward if the ball caught someone on fire," Hazel jokes. She's ready when the ball comes back to her, but when the racket makes contact it doesn't change into anything else- the balloon just explodes. Hazel makes a little high pitched sound of surprise as she leaps away, but only a bit of water ends up splashing on her.
Darius attempts to hide his laugh behind his racket, which is of course ineffective. “Sorry,” he offers, unsuccessfully suppressing said laughter. “Are you alright?” He walks up to the net for a closer inspection, but since he’s still laughing he probably doesn’t actually think she’s hurt or anything. “I don’t remember anyone ever catching fire, but we could be pretty aggressive. It was not unheard of for the game to devolve into everyone just cursing one another until we couldn’t actually play anymore. And injuries did happen… did you play anything other than quidditch? Like when you were younger?”
Hazel has gone a little pink in the cheeks- she's wishing she'd had a slightly cooler reaction. "A little wet," she says, shaking some of the water off of her hand and giving him a rueful smile. "I hope you didn't expect me to start cursing you. It's against my code of ethics." She says this with enough solemn sincerity that it has to be a joke, and also approaches the net. She shakes her head when he asks of she played amything else. "I didn't really have friends before Hogwarts…"
Still chuckling, Darius says, “Good to know,” and if she gets close enough he’ll reach out to her face to try and pull her in for a kiss. He finally gets his laughter under control at the same time, and drops his hands to the net. “We don’t have to keep playing if it’s a bit much. We could get a drink? Maybe even in public?” he suggests.
Hazel leans in to kiss him, and stays leaning across the net a bit after. "We have to at least finish this game. I can't let you beat me," she says with mock horror.
Darius grins, clearly pleased with her answer. He leans in for one more kiss before backing away and summoning that second ball that split off earlier. “Alright, I’ll stop going easy on you then…” By the time their game ends, Darius does in fact have a slight burn on one arm. His shirt also has a splotch of green paint on it, and there’s a smattering of daisies strewn across his side of the court from a time he hit the ball only to cause some sort of hippie explosion. “I honestly lost track of who’s winning somewhere around the third fireball,” he admits as he gathers up the flowers.
At some point during the game Hazel took off her sweatshirt, and although she managed to avoid any burns her arm and shoulder are splattered with mud and she's absolutely covered in glitter. She wipes her face with the back of her hand and smiles a little as he picks up the flowers. "I don't even know how you win this game," she admits.
Darius bends to pick up the last of the flowers, then walks over to Hazel's side of the court. "Through being the last one standing, usually, but I only rented the court for an hour and my arm kind of hurts." He holds out what has become a small bouquet to her. "And as much as I'd love to take you to the Cauldron when you're in those fluffy leg things and sparkling, maybe we should go back to mine for now and have a shower?"
Hazel laughs when he mentions that his arm hurts. "I was never going to admit it, but mine's starting to feel a bit like jelly." She does reach out to take the flowers with her off arm, bringing them to her face to smell them. "I can wear the leg things again," she says, "and I expect I'll have this glitter on me for the rest pf my natural life. Let's go to yours."
Sometime later they’re back at Darius’ with everyone showered. Dare kit his fireplace as soon as they got there, so it’s cozily warmed up as a light rain falls against the roof. He has changed into loungewear, and would have offered Hazel a few of his things before heading back to his living room, where the daisies now sit in a small vase. He picks up a couple of large envelopes that arrived while he was out, and starts opening them as he calls out, “What can I get you to drink?”
Hazel comes out stretching, wearing one of his sweaters with the sleeves rolled up and some shorts. "Do you have any tea?" She asks, flopping down onto his couch and stifling a yawn.
Darius doesn’t immediately respond – he’s staring somewhat blankly at a note clipped to the top of one of the envelopes in his hands. It takes him a minute before he looks up at Hazel as if he’s forgotten what it is they’re meant to be doing. “I’m sorry – what did you say?”
"Just some tea," Hazel asks, sitting up into a slightly more alert position and frowning slightly. "Is everything okay?"
“Right,” Darius says with a glance to his kitchen. “Umm. Well not exactly. My mother has been sick for awhile. It’s sort of complicated, though.” Rather than explain further, he unclips the note he’d been reading and passes it to her before walking to the kitchen to make that tea. The note reads: Darius, Just making sure you know the latest on mum. She’s taken a turn for the worse, and Master Fell is only giving her the month. We’ve moved her home for now. I know you have the day off, so I had him copy her updated records for you. Medea
Hazel looks concerned but doesn't say anything as she reads the note. She sits with if for rather longer than it takes to read those few lines, and then gets up to him to the kitchen. "Hey," she says quietly, reaching out to put a hand on his arm. "I'm so sorry, Dare."
Darius has the kettle on and the mugs ready to go – he’s just waiting for the water to boil, leaning against the counter and reading the file the note was attached to as he does. When Hazel comes in he manages a small smile. “It’s okay, really. We’ve known it was going this route for awhile, so it’s not a surprise. And I’m not really that close with my family. I was adopted, so…” he shrugs, as if one explains the other. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to kill the mood.”
Hazel gives him a look as if she doesn't quite believe that this is as fine as he says it is. "You don't need to apologize," she says, leaning against the counter next to him. "Just because it was expected doesn't mean it doesn't suck."
Darius flips the file closed with a flock of his wrist and sets it aside. He wraps that arms across the small of her back as she slides in next to him and looks down at her. “It does suck, but it sucks… differently? She was kind of a shitty mum,” he explains. “I mean, she didn’t hurt me or anything. Her real kids were all out of the house by the time I came around, so i think she was just kind of over it by then. And then I was only there about a year before I left for Hogwarts. So it’s a weird situation, that’s all.”
Hazel leans into him, listening to this explanation. "Mm. Just sort of a temporary waypost, then?" she asks, a bit rhetorically, glancing up at him. "Will you go back to visit..?"
“Basically,” Darius agrees. “I spent my holidays there afterwards. But that was about it. It wasn’t like they did much in raising me… Although. She did buy me my first guitar.” The teapot starts to whistle, so with a quick squeeze he pulls away to finish with their tea. “I’ll go visit. They’re in London as well, so it’s not like it’s any huge inconvenience.”
Hazel smiles a bit when he mentions the guitar, and fiddles with the too-long sleeves of the sweater while he goes to finish the tea. "Where did you stay before you lived with her?" she asks after a moment.
“With my dad – my birth dad – in the highlands. He didn’t die until I was ten. He and my adoptive father had worked together, so the Nosfertums decided to take me in when I didn’t have anywhere else to go.” When Darius turns back around, he’s holding two cups of tea and nods towards the living room. “Come on, let’s get comfortable. You don’t have any family drama to lighten the mood with, do you?”
"Right, you'd mentioned the highlands," Hazel says, looking at him thoughtfully. She outs her hand on his arm as they move back to the living room. "My family doesn't have an awful lot of drama," she says with a slight shrug. "Sometimes they get into farm disputes about whose sheep are grazing on whose land… I'm not especially close to anyone except my parents."
Darius sets the tea down on coasters and relaxes back on the couch. Whether from the touch or the talking, he does seem to actually relax a little. “That sounds… really refreshing, actually,” he muses, draping an arm across her shoulders. “A farm sounds like a great idea right about now. Our neighbors had sheep, growing up… do you ever go camping?”
Hazel laughs a little at this. "It probably would be refreshing for you," she agrees. "They wouldn't make you do any of the work." She sounds good natured enough about this, though. "Uhm… like sleeping on the ground under a tarp?" she asks uncertainly, turning to look at him.
“Oh, I would want to work. I could feed the sheep,” Darius says, practically playing out the fantasy in his head. At her question, he turns to give her a bemused look. “You don’t make it sound very appealing when you say it like that, but sure. Sleeping outside. Cooking over fires. That sort of thing.”
"I'm sure they'd love you." The sheep, of course. She looks a little bemused when he talks about camping. "I mean… for work. Tracking vicious beasts and the like. I don't usually go much for fun…"
“Really? I’ve really only been for fun. Maybe you didn’t have whiskey, when you do it for work? Whiskey makes it more fun,” Darius insists. “We should go, when the weather isn’t so awful.” He says this casually, right before turning to pick up his mug of tea. “But for now… I think I wouldn’t mind just watching a movie for the moment. What do you say? Can you stay over?”
"Well whiskey makes almost everything better," Hazel says. "And I'm sure the company will be better, too. Let's go," she says, grinning as she watches him turn for his tea. Maybe he won't notice- after a second she leans forward for her tea, too. "I was kind of planning on it," she admits when he asks her to stay. "Just don't make me watch Blade Runner…"
“You’re going to love it,” Darius says, getting to his feet to sort through the VHS tapes he most recently picked up from the rental place. He’s made a habit of stopping by there when he leaves her place. “No, I have one called The Adventures of Robin Hood I just rented? Blade Runner would probably be better though.” He is still on the A’s.
"I don't think you're giving Robin Hood nearly enough credit," Hazel says, settling back with her tea. The movie is fine – Hazel enjoys it anyway – and they go on to have a fairly calm night, watching the movie and then heading to bed.