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The World Doesn't Matter

By Charlie Hoffman

Fantasy / Romance

The World Doesn't Matter

It had gotten dark rather quick, quicker than he'd anticipated, and the road before him seemed very long indeed. On either side of the wet dirt road were vast grasslands. Behind him were Hogsmeade and the Apothecary he had worked at—he'd been fired that afternoon. Ahead of him, far in the distance, treetops of a forest could be discerned. Home was too far for walking to be sane, yet Apparating at the moment would certainly end badly, and while nutty he may be, Ravenclaw didn't house dummies.

He continued to walk.

The scent of butterbeer hung over him like a fine perfume—not too heavy, but recognizable. After he'd being sacked, he had spent an uncharacteristically long time in the Hog's Head (he wasn't allowed in The Three Broomsticks anymore). Dank air made his wild, blond curls even more unbearable while still having enough nerve to carry a chill. This latter element made his work robes a regrettable clothing option on two levels. The level hurting his pride he found more irritating than the cold.

"Oh...Blubbering Plimpies," he cursed sulkily, moving to the side of the road when a pair of blinding, painfully bright headlights appeared behind him. Despite his normal philosophy of shrugging off the words of cynics and outright bullies he dealt with, this night he couldn't handle it. Truth be told, words could hurt (often), and his ego had already had its beating.

Imagine his surprise when he found the car stopping beside him, its funny little window rolled down, held not a being of scorn, but familiar and beautiful woman.

"Xenophilius? Xenophilius Lovegood, is that you?"

Xeno stared at the dreamy-eyed blonde, albeit a little crookedly due to his poor, crossed-eye.

"It is you," she answered herself simply when he did not. "Whatever are you doing on the road?"

He, at last, blinked and stammered, "W-well, I...I'm going home. St. Ottery Catchpole."

Her large, silvery eyes grew a little wider in what appeared to be concern, for they never lost their other-worldliness.

"But, that is so very far away. Come," she paused to lean to her left and open the door to the muggle contraption. "I'll give you a ride to my home. You can floo from there, if you'd like."

Not wasting time, Xeno babbled his thanks as he scrambled around the back of the car to the passenger seat. It took him a couple of moments to get the door closed, but she waited patiently before leaning over to push the lock down. Xeno looked at the place where only the lock's top was visible and then back to the serene woman, who shifted gears with fluidity most only achieve underwater.

"...You smell like moonlight and dirigible plums."

His oddly candid statement caused the smallest of fractures in her serenity, and she looked at him calculatingly, in a way that was purely Ravenclaw, before turning her eyes back to the road.

"Thank you, Xenophilius. You smell like butterbeer," and then, as an afterthought: "Had a long day?"

"My goodness, Elizabeth!" he said in genuine disbelief, made more exuberant by his lack of tolerance for any alcohol. "However did you know? You must have eaten a dirigible plum...That's it, isn't it?"

She smiled, pushing her lank hair behind her ears to reveal radish-like earrings. He nodded many times more than necessary, and then leaned against his door.

"Yes, yes...How does one open this little window then?"

Elizabeth demonstrated with her window crank, and after rotating it the wrong way only once, Xeno had his down too. The cool wind ruffled his shrub of curls, and he closed his eyes with a sigh. It felt very good, which seemed to remind him of her question out of a masochistic need to create contrast.

"I was fired today."

"Oh," he heard her say faintly over the whipping wind. "I'm sorry. Was it a very good job?"

He hummed while debating this, and wiggled his indecision with his hand.

"I see," she replied simply, and he knew that she did.

Opening his eyes, he found that they had reached the once far-away woods, and raised his eyes toward the inky, jagged outlines of the evergreen tops against the moon-bright sky. He squinted, and dropped his jaw into a happy laugh as a streak of light crossed the velvet night.

"You know," Elizabeth started conversationally, seeming to know the source of his happiness without looking, "Muggles have these mechanical devices called 'satellites' far out into space. They have them all over the world."

"Do they now?" he asked, intrigued enough to pull his head back into the cab.

She nodded. "Oh yes. The ones here use them to spy on the Muggles in Russia, and the Russian Muggles use them to spy on everyone else. It's said they look like shooting stars."

Xeno stretched his long legs out to rest on the dashboard as he contemplated this information. Elizabeth didn't seem to mind. He leaned his head back toward the window again, eyes skyward in question.

"...Do you think they ever collide?" he asked and glanced to her. She smiled.

A companionable silence fell over them as her little car hummed along the dark country road through the woods. They enjoyed the smell of evergreens, night wind, and each other's presence.

At last they arrived at a cozy wooden cottage with a roof that seemed to serve the double purpose of shelter and garden. It even had a white picket fence around the gutter and chimney. Elizabeth leaned over again to pull up the lock, and missed the warm and nearly charming smile Xeno showed the top of her head.

Once he'd stumbled from the passenger seat and closed his door with more force than it probably needed, Elizabeth lifted the basic protection charms off her home. A Death Eater attack had yet to happen near here, but one could never be too cautious.

"Xenophilius," she spoke suddenly, breaking the quiet that had reigned for ten minutes. "Would you like a cup of tea? Before you go, that is..."

He smiled, and it was far softer than his usual manic response. "Oh, I should think I would like more than one," he replied jovially, and prodded her earring in jest. "I thought you would've known that."

She smiled, replaced the wards, and closed the door behind them.

"Silly me."

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