Montego Bay, Jamaica
The group arrived in Jamaica in record time for their size and the distance. They had to Apparate to Ghana, then Senegal, before taking a Portkey, the biggest Blaise had ever seen, to Haiti. He really wanted to stop in Port-au-Prince, but he thought he’d go with his mother, whose latest letter mentioned Henri was really sick and that Blaise should send his regards.
When they arrived in Montego Bay, Celestina explained their early arrival to the Jamaican Wizards football tournament. “A few of the performers and I are going to sell an album to raise money for an arts program for neighboring Muggle communities who need help. We’ll all be here at the same time, I didn’t want to miss the window of opportunity.”
“Why would you do that?” asked Blaise, realizing only after the fact how dense and anti-Muggle it sounded.
“The magical communities out here aren’t like in the U.K., Blaise,” Desiderius said gently. “They are still secret but do covert work to do what they can, especially in the communities where they use collective resources. Water, shops, supply chains, and the like.”
Blaise nodded. It made sense. It was trouble enough back home to get wizards to help Muggles when the war was at its peak. He knew people outside of Hogwarts threw quick protection spells for their non-magical neighbors, but that seemed to be it.
“Abdo said he’d send me some recipes, his aunt’s food is legend.”
It happened at once. They were entering the pavilion where they would be staying and Blaise couldn’t stop the one-two punch aimed at Desiree, even when one of the Stunning spells came from his own mouth.
“Desiree, you’re just always thinking about food, aren’t you,” Diahanna said, with a shake of her head. Blaise heard it but he was already talking…
“You didn’t have enough of Abdo cozying up on you last night?” Desiree stopped between Blaise and her mum, frozen. He could see her breathing start to rise, her mouth dropping open.
“Okay,” she said after a few seconds. Blaise, too, was frozen, knowing that he’d messed up. “Mum, I’ll thank you to leave my eating habits to myself, as usual, thanks. Blaise…” Here she closed her eyes tightly. Blaise could see her hand trembling a bit as she pointed it in his face. “I could tell you were jealous, even though you have no reason to be, but I didn’t think you’d actually say it. You can both kindly let me be.” And with that, she walked out right back out of the pavilion. This wasn’t Hogwarts, he had no idea where she would go, but he also knew she wasn’t going to want him to follow her this time.
He stared at Diahanna before she scoffed and twirled away, her high bun and long flowing robes feeding into her air of drama. Blaise was left standing alone in the pavilion, with no one on his side. He hated that it was such a familiar feeling. He’d gotten so used to being without it for the past several months. He wanted it gone. He wanted Desiree back.
Desiree didn’t come back for hours. Blaise lay in his room listening for her to knock on his door, or at least the sound of her going to her own room, but it was quiet but for Diahanna doing her skincare routine in the bathroom and Celestina humming down the hall. Desiderius was out, perhaps with Desiree, but Blaise, in his lingering jealousy, imagined Desiree hop, skipping, and jumping right back to Uagadou to find Abdo and his friends.
He knew it was stupid. And he felt so much shame at disappointing Desiree. He’d spent so much time at Hogwarts letting her down, backsliding, pushing her away. And she’d put up with all of that and chosen him anyway, and here he was messing up. Again. Over a nerd with crooked teeth. Pathetic, Zabini.
At the tap on the door, Blaise sprang up from his spot on this bed, quickly smoothing out his rumpled silk nightwear before heading to the door in short strides thanks to his long legs.
But on the other side wasn’t Desiree. It was a monkey. It wore a uniform, with a little tag that said Montego Bay Monkey Mail Center. In its hand was a letter with an austerely written script on the front. On the creature’s back was a tiny bag that seemed to hold other envelopes of various sizes. The monkey held out the letter and Blaise took it, watching the monkey first walk then leap into the trees outside the pavilion and swing to its next destination.
The letter was from Minister Jenkins. In it, she told Blaise about a man named Kenroy Williams. Apparently, Cas had helped him relocate before he died. He was a Squib who’d had to leave the U.K. because of riots.
“I wish you luck in getting the answers you are looking for,” she wrote. “I hope you can come by for tea with Desiree sometime.”
Blaise thought that maybe he’d finally tell Des what was going on, and they could look for Williams together. But Blaise fell asleep before Des got in.
The next morning at breakfast, Blaise came out to the common area and all four members of the Warbeck clan were there, silently putting hot sauce on their eggs (Desiderius), drinking some thick smoothie-like concoction (Diahanna), or nursing a steaming hot cup of tea (Celestina). Blaise tried to catch Desiree’s eye, but she was pushing her food around her plate with one hand, using her other to cover her whole face when she yawned to avoid looking at him even then.
Blaise gave up and sat down to eat. He rarely felt affected by other people’s moods, but there was nothing more awkward than being in the middle of a family fight, especially when he had his own part to play in at least one of the foul moods.
“Are you ready for the football tourney, Nana?” Desiree asked Celestina quietly. Blaise knew that Desiree could sit in silence, but she considered certain silences oppressively rude.
“Oh, yes, darling. Jamaica is always very exciting in the summer. I might even let loose and… wine in the streets!” Celestina twisted her hips in her chair very sensually for an older woman and Desiree laughed all the way to her eyes.
Diahanna tsked, but took the opening she’d clearly been waiting for. “You may have to do some extra rehearsals, Miss Tina. One of the backup singers dropped out.”
Celestina frowned. “Oh no! Not Cookie, I hope. She was really looking forward to this trip!” Blaise had noticed during his time with Celestina that she really got to know her staff and cared about them as people with lives outside of her. Diahanna, less so.
“Yes,” Diahanna clipped, before continuing with a furtive look at Desiree. “I was thinking…Desi-dear could do it.” She rushed on before Desiree could get her objection out of her mouth. “It would be a shame to have to get someone else to rehearsal for a single set. You already know all the arrangements.”
Blaise tensed, remembering the time he volunteered Desiree to sing at Dumbledore’s funeral. She’d hated it, despite her amazing voice.
“I’ve told you time and again I don’t want to, Mum. And Nana doesn’t want to make me.”
“We can get someone to Apparate in—” Celestina began, but Diahanna insisted.
“We don’t need to Apparate someone in! Desiree will do it and that’s final.”
“That’s final?” Desiree’s fork clattered on to her plate. “I’m not a child anymore, I don’t have to take orders from you.”
“Okay, you two—” Desiderius began to interrupt, but there was no stopping the snowball.
“I’m your mother and I invited you here so you could finally do what you’re supposed to do and join this family business, but instead you want an excuse to spend your twenties eating cakes all day. We may be wealthy, but we work for our money.” That last bit was clearly directed at Blaise and he decided enough was enough.
“What is that supposed to mean? Desiree is one of the hardest workers I know. She is always taking responsibility, even for things that she shouldn’t just because she knows someone should! She already knows what she wants to be and just wants you to be open enough for her to tell you!”
It was like all the magic was sucked out of the atmosphere.
“What is he talking about, Desiree?” Desiderius looked confused.
Desiree sighed deeply, blinking heavily, and Blaise could tell she was holding back tears.
“I’ve been meaning to tell you guys, but I wanted to see you and just enjoy this time with you first. I know what I want, and it isn’t singing. And it’s going to take a little extra work from me, but I can do it, I know I can.”
“What is it, darling?” Celestina said, reaching out to hold Des’ hand.
“I want to open a bakery. No one’s doing anything with Fortescue’s old spot…I’d been thinking of fixing that up,” she said it to her lap, gripping her grandmother’s hand for dear life. Blaise didn’t know she’d been thinking of taking over Fortescue’s place…
“You really think Diagon Alley is going to let you, some out of Hogwarts kid, take over that place?” Diahanna said, her tongue laced with uncertainty.
“Now, Diahanna, you know better than to doubt our daughter.” Desiderius stood, crossing his arms.
“I just meant—” Diahanna started, but Desiree stood up as well.
“No, it’s fine, Daddy. Mum, here’s what’s going to happen,” she said, straightening her spine. “I’ll sing the set. But that’s it. No more requests or pushing me into the business. I don’t want to do it.”
Blaise smiled at Desiree’s strong stance and walked over to take her hand, but she glared at him when he approached her and he dropped his smile. Her gaze was ice-cold, anger radiating off her in waves. She spun around him and went into her room.
When Blaise followed her, she rounded on him, magicking the door shut even though her wand was lying discarded on her bed.
“And you. I’m mad at you too.”
“What are you mad at me for?! Because I was a little jealous of a bloke hitting on my girlfriend in front of me? I figured you’d be over that this morning.”
“You forget Hufflepuffs can hold a grudge too, huh? No, it wasn’t about your dumb Slytherin jealousy. I constantly ask you to let me handle things myself, I know when the right time is to tell my mother about herself.”
“She walks all over you Des—”
“And I didn’t want to tell my dad yet because —” she was fully crying now, “because I knew he’d be sad. He knows I don’t want to sing, but he and Nana still want me to be able to spend more time with them, and if I do this, I won’t be able to. So I wanted to deal with them all just…later. Not right now. Not on the first outing out with them after the war. I know you think I need to be a little more ambitious about my dreams, but it doesn’t mean at the expense of theirs—or my—feelings.”
“I was just trying to stand up for you.” She was the only thing he’d ever wanted to fight for.
“Yeah, which is about your emotions and not mine,” she said, her arms crossed over her chest.
“What are you talking about? I’m OUT HERE because of your emotions.” He waved around at the humid bedroom. The window was open and he vaguely thought that her family could probably hear them fighting outside.
“You’re out here because you don’t know what you want to do,” she said, her thick lips scrunched in front of her teeth. “You’re out here because it’s a distraction from going to the Ministry, which I know you don’t want to do. But it serves your emotions to not talk about it. You never talk to me about it! About anything!”
“What’s there to say, Des?” He was getting a headache. The room was feeling stuffier and stuffier. He’d…never had a fight like this before. “I’m used to being alone. Thinking things through on my own. Making decisions on my own.”
“Well. You’re free to continue doing that.”
Blaise gaped. He could only hear ringing in his ears. “You…you want me to go?” he asked, stiffening up to his full height, bracing for the answer.
“Yeah. Maybe you need your alone time, Blaise.” Her voice dripped with resignation and hurt and he could barely look at her wet face and the tears she kept pushing away with her sleeves that were too long. “By the way,” she added, having gathered up more fury, “I don’t know why you owled granny Genie, but it hurts extra that you didn’t tell me about it.” She sat next to a letter on her bed, in the same ornate script as his own from the former Minister. He hadn’t thought she would also send her granddaughter a letter too. But of course she would.
Blaise spun out the door, stopping by his room to grab his own letter from Eugenia. He did alone just fine.