Charming

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June 4th, 1891 — Urquart Home, Swallowbury

Ruby had been going on about this rather long enough, Topaz thought. Maybe she was being ungenerous. Maybe it was just that she spent so much time alone in her room that she wasn't used to having someone else's thoughts to listen to in addition to her own. That was probably it. She was just used to it being quiet in her room, mumbling to herself as she made notes and occasionally listening to Lilah meow when she wanted to go out through the window. Ruby was many things, but quiet had never been one of them. It was going to be strange, having her home all the time now that she'd graduated. In the years since that night where everything had changed, Topaz had stopped thinking of this space as their room and started thinking about it as her room, but she was going to have to shift her mindset back on that point. While Ruby was spending most of the year at Hogwarts, it made perfect sense. Her twin came to visit for a few weeks in the winter and a few weeks in the summer, but most of the time she was gone. She slept in a Hogwarts dorm room and had a whole castle to roam through and whole towns at her disposal to explore. This room was Topaz's entire world — this room, and her by now familiar cell at the Ministry that she occupied three nights a month. Of course she thought of it as hers. Of course Ruby seemed like only a passing visitor here.

She was talking about an invitation she'd received, to an event she didn't want to go to. Topaz was listening, but she was having a hard time empathizing. There were more and more things like this between them now, and new ones seemed to come up all the time. Topaz never talked about them, but she recognized that there were whole sections of Ruby's life she'd never really understand, now that their lives were so different, just as there were things that Ruby would never understand about her. She'd given up trying to explain them; she just kept them to herself, now, writing them down in her diary. And when Ruby talked about one of those things Topaz would never understand, she just listened and nodded and tried to pretend she did.

"I think it's sort of nice that they invited you," she commented in an offhand way, while she wondered if this was an appropriate thing to say. Did Ruby already miss her dormmates at Hogwarts, would might have been able to respond more naturally to comments like these? Other girls who were like her, and who struggled with the same sorts of things she did? "It's not as though they could have known you didn't want to go."
@Ruby Urquart @Ellory Lestrange
And just like that, she was a “debutante”. Ruby didn’t think of herself as one because she had already started offering her services in the arts of Divination. There was a half finished birth chart on her desk for a wealthy customer in Irvingly who wanted to see why her daughter was so unlucky in love. (It was the 12th house stellium.)

As thanks, she had invited Ruby to a party to celebrate her husband’s new book. Ruby didn’t feel like going, because there would be more serious and academically driven folk. She didn’t care much about potion making, which was one of her worst classes. Plus, there was another event that day that she suspected Mr. Zabini would be at.

Hers was a difficult position, because it wouldn’t be polite not to go to that event. She was complaining to her twin about it, because it was easier than mustering up the courage to be “unpleasant” and turn the invitation down.

She grunted at her twin’s words. “And I can’t turn them down because she’s a customer.” She lay back on her bed and stared at the bed. “It’ll be so boring.”
Boring, right. Topaz didn't even know what that meant, specifically. She'd been to events as a child that she had found boring, particularly during Papa's campaign for Minister, but that was different. She hadn't ever been to an event as an adult, at it was difficult to conceive of what one might be like, boring or otherwise. She read, of course, but she assumed the fictional accounts had little in common with reality.

"Perhaps you can find a way to make it more interesting," she responded with a shrug. She really had no idea what to say and wished they were talking about something else, but she didn't have anything to change the subject to. Topaz glanced over at her cat and held her hand out lightly, willing Lilah towards her so that she would have a distraction from this conversation, but Lilah barely took any notice of her.
Ruby was already very prejudiced about how the event would go, so she didn’t think there was a way to make it interesting. Once she got her mind set into something, it was hard to change it. She couldn’t possibly enjoy an event honouring a book about potions, even if realistically they wouldn’t have to talk about potions.

“You would likely enjoy it more,” Ruby commented with a whiny voice. “I’ve been out of school for just a few days, I don’t want to be lectured about potions again!” She was now being dramatic, because it would hardly be a potions seminar.
What Topaz wouldn't have given to be lectured about potions, rather than being stuck at home with a book and a cauldron to figure everything out on her own! Ruby took so much for granted, and Topaz was periodically amazed by how little she seemed to recognize it. If it was going to be painfully obvious to anyone, it would have been Ruby, wouldn't it have? She had Topaz right here, as an example of how different her life could have been with only one minor change. Topaz wasn't going to point it out, though. She didn't want Ruby to pity her, and she didn't want to feel as though her whole family's life revolved around her — any more than it already did, anyway.

"I thought in etiquette class they'd teach you how to pretend to be interested in something while you're not really listening," she pointed out with a shrug. "Surely you've mastered it by now? I'm sure you'll survive. It can't really be a lecture, can it?" Not that Topaz had any firsthand experience of parties, but she'd thought Ruby said there was going to be dancing. A dance and a potions lecture didn't exactly seem to go hand-in-hand, and the finer points of potion brewing had never featured heavily in any of the party scenes in the novels Topaz occasionally read.
School had been a great source of anxiety for Ruby starting her fifth year. Socially, she felt like everyone’s eyes were glued on her, causing her to dread having to leave her bed in the morning. This heightened anxiety had made it harder to focus on her classes, especially the ones she wasn’t naturally good at. She was glad to be out of school and she wouldn’t want to repeat that time of her life.

She made a noise of complaint. “You know how I’m like, I’m not good at lying and showing something other than what I am.”
Topaz did know this about her sister, but frankly she was surprised that Ruby knew it about herself. She wasn't the sort of person to spend a lot of time on introspection, so this degree of self-awareness was unusual. Maybe Topaz had been a little too dismissive of her complaints so far. Maybe there was some component of this that she didn't understand, even though it seemed like the silliest dilemma in the world.

"So what are you going to do about it?" she asked, closing the book which had been lying open on her lap for the past ten minutes. It wasn't as though she'd been reading it, anyway, but now she was giving Ruby her full attention. "I suppose you could make up an excuse why you can't go, to get out of it?"
“I suppose, but the thing is that I want to go to a different event happening the same day, so I can’t feign sickness, or Mrs. Sallington will know I lied to her and I’ll lose her as a customer.” Something she didn’t have a ton of yet. It was important for her to establish a clientele, make a name of herself. Besides, Mrs. Sallington had come to Professor Shacklebolt’s business, not Ruby herself.

The readers have probably gathered by now where things were heading, what with the Urquarts being identical twins and their players loving Shenanigans. That Lindsey Lohan movie might have done it first, but it was a classic plot tool for identical tools.

“You should go in my place. You’d actually enjoy hearing about Mr. Sallington’s new book... but not too much, or they’ll know it’s not me!”
Topaz's shoulder stiffened. "You don't mean that?" she asked, but she already knew that of course Ruby did. This was just like Ruby, honestly. She was such a Gryffindor. Impulsive, and rash. She would say whatever came into her head without any thought of the consequences, and she would always think it was the best idea in the world until you walked her through every possible reason why it couldn't work. Which was what Topaz would have to do now, she supposed, in order to get Ruby to drop the idea.

"I wasn't invited," she pointed out. "And if they found out you'd sent your — your werewolf sister in your place so you could go to a party you liked better it'd be so much worse than just turning them down in the first place. I mean, can you imagine what people would say if they knew?"
Ruby had a point about people finding out that “Ruby” Urquart had been to two places simultaneously. Topaz also hadn’t been invited to that other event (she rarely was). In any case, sending her to the party she didn’t want to go to was a great solution to her problem.

“I could pretend to be Delight, she didn’t want to go to that other party!” Ruby suggested sheepishly but then laughed at the suggestion.
Topaz had thought that would be the end of the conversation, but Ruby wasn't deterred yet. That was fine, because there were only about a million reasons why this would never work. Topaz could easily rattle off a handful of others.

"Maybe you could convince people you're Delight, if they'd never met either of you," she allowed. "But I could never convince anyone I was you. I don't — I don't know how to do any of that stuff. I don't talk to people," she said with a shrug. This wasn't exactly the right way to phrase it, but hopefully Ruby would get what she meant. There was existing as a person and there was going to social events, and Topaz had no experience with or training for the latter. She'd barely be able to get through a conversation, probably, and anyone who knew Ruby would recognize immediately that they weren't talking to her.
Ruby had always been the more social of the two. That is, when they had been children. After Topaz was turned into a werewolf and their family received shame for it, she had turned inwards. She had become anxious and awkward, sure that any new people were hostile towards her.

“Well, I’m not that popular either,” Ruby replied softly. “I mostly keep to my close people and the only thing that I’m comfortable talking about is... Astrology and the tarot.”
Topaz hadn't exactly expected that response, since she hadn't had much opportunity to see Ruby interact with others since they were children. Any interaction that involved the Urquart family and the public that Topaz was able to witness always centered on her; she drew the focus of any stranger in the room no matter their intention. Some people pitied her, and there was never room for anything other emotion when their pity swelled up and suffocated everyone within a ten foot radius. Some people hated her, and that was usually worse, because people who hated her were louder than the people who pitied her. In any case, when Topaz was around the conversation was never about Ruby, or directed towards her, so she hadn't had much of a chance to see if Ruby had grown less popular or less confident in the years since they'd been inseparable.

That said, she wasn't inclined to go to this party because she was caught off-guard. It was still a terrible idea. "Well, I can't talk about tarot and astrology, even," she pointed out. "What other event are you trying to go to? What's so important about it?"
“It’s a ball in London,” Ruby replied. “And my friend, Mr. Zabini, he mentioned he might be going...” She was blushing and she started fidgeting with her hands. Topaz had heard about Savino Zabini, but not to the same extent as Delight. Even though he was just a friend, she had let Delight know of her slight crush on him, something she was reluctant to do with her twins. She felt bad, she supposed, that she could have such experiences when her twin likely couldn’t.
This was the first consideration that began to sway Topaz's opinion on whether or not she ought to go. It still seemed too risky to be called a good idea, but she'd heard Ruby talk about Mr. Zabini before, and it was impossible to mistake the look on her face now.

"Wel-l," she said, considering. "I suppose if we're sure not to stay out too late..." She could maybe survive an hour or two of a party if she had to, but if they were both gone for too long they ran the risk that Papa or Bash would come looking for one of them, and when the room was entirely empty they'd know something was up, at least, even if they didn't put all the pieces together right away.