Harlem, New York
The bustle of a fancy donor party at an old magical hotel was something Blaise was used to. He and Desiree were helping to set up the Afro-Wizard Renaissance gala. They didn’t have to do much, the National Association for African American Wizards was taking care of the guest list and venue, but Desiree was helping pull together some of Celestina’s contacts to flesh out the performances at the event. Most were able to attend last minute, including Dazziline Draper, Craig David, and an American crooner named Elvin Deville.
Blaise put himself to work by helping Desiree liaison with the hotel staff to make sure Apparition arrivals for the guests were coming together. On the day of the gala, Blaise overheard the kitchen staff (thankfully no house-elves appeared to be working) saying that the dessert chef brought in from New Orleans was delayed. If dessert was to be ready on time, someone needed to step in and start now.
It gave Blaise an idea. While he knew that springing a surprise on Desiree last minute would not help his place in the dog house, he rushed upstairs to where she was working.
“I think I know something else you should be working on,” he said when he got to their room.
Desiree cocked an eyebrow at him, in the middle of making sure several contracts were signed.
“Blaise, come on, it’s already been hectic with these owls going back and forth. Coordinating with witchy divas is not my strong suit. I’m nearly done looking over these contracts that they need to sign, as they arrive today!”
“I know, and that’s why I am taking over that part, and you’re headed to the kitchens.”
“Excuse me? Blaise, if this is some late stage, ‘a witch’s place is in the kitchen’ trife—”
“No, no of course not. How did you even… Nevermind. You’re making the desserts.” He flashed her a grin, hoping his perfectly straight canines sparkled at her.
Desiree stared at him. “I’m sorry, what?”
“The staff needs someone to help desserts until Chef Benoit arrives. He’s gonna be late. Your only consumers so far have been me, Dean, and various students and teachers at Hogwarts castle. Why not try expanding your horizons to prepare for opening the shop?”
She was silent, and Blaise couldn’t tell if she was mad. She might be mad. But she hadn’t left yet. That seemed to be a good sign.
He saw her gulp, eyes staring off into the distance, fluttering in a way he recognized: she was planning her bakes. He smiled in relief.
“Okay then, let’s go.” He put his hands on her shoulders and began to usher her out of the door.
“But what about the contra—” she said, looking back at the floating papers that were piling themselves in a neat stack as she left the room.
“I told you, I’ll take care of that. I’ll make sure the witchy divas sign everything.”
“But, will they have all the things—”
“It’s magic, Des, we can get whatever you’ve got planned in that beautiful head of yours.”
She blushed softly before going back to planning, her wand arm moving subtly as he led her to the kitchens of the hotel, her wand movements already pulling ingredients from cabinets. The workers already in the kitchen seemed to be used to ducking. Utensils and bowls and pots were already zooming about, this was no extra mess to them.
“Ok. I’m leaving you here,” he said after explaining that Desiree Warbeck was the best baker he knew and what could they lose from a couple of free cakes while they waited for the chef to arrive. He popped a kiss on her distracted lips (he’d often “tasted” a recipe as she muttered out ingredients and instructions to herself) and headed out the door.
Just before the door swung shut behind him, he heard her blurt out, “Thank you, Blaise!”
Blaise handled the wants and whims of the wizarding glitterati with ease. When the time came, he greeted Dazziline, Craig, and Elvin and showed them to the event manager, before heading back up to dress for the party.
Blaise’s stylish, era-appropriate tuxedo was smart and chic. It was purple and, while not flamboyantly cut, velvet. He headed downstairs to the kitchens to grab Desiree, but had to Protego himself and his freshly pressed duds from the whirlwind of flour and sugar that had once been his girlfriend. But she was glowing and, as he’d guessed, the entire kitchen staff was eating out of her hand.
“I’ve prepared custard tarts, beignets with a blueberry filling, mini-chocolate cakes, and gave the staff instructions on how to do the rest. The first batches all came out great!” Yup, she was ready for her own shop alright. Not that he’d doubted her, but he’d suspected that without this, she’d end up doubting herself. He was glad to give her this much needed boost. “Chef Benoit is on his way, I have to go change now don’t I?”
Just a short while later, Desiree emerged wearing a warm yellow flapper dress with amber sequins. She charmed her hair into a high pouf and adorned her crown with a golden headband. Her brown skin glimmered and Blaise’s eyes began to dry from not blinking. He didn’t want to stop looking at her.
“You look very handsome yourself,” she said with a warm flush under her shimmering makeup, before he could speak. “Now come on.” She marched out the door, a bit embarrassed at the attention, but he could have sworn she muttered, “dunno why he’s looking at me when he’s the one with cheeks cut like diamonds.”
The gala was held in the hotel’s lounge. Haze hung in the air, both from magical cigarette smoke chiming in the air and a hazing charm to really set the mood. Celestina looked worthy of her name, in a gauzy white dress with silver and diamond embroidering the long sleeves, her gray hair curled into a cloud. She sang “A Cauldron Full of Hot Strong Love” while sitting on top of a floating, self-playing piano. After, she stood on the stage and introduced the event.
When she was done, everyone applauded, champagne bottles were popped, and the festivities truly began.
Blaise and Desiree — well, mostly Desiree — chatted with the guests at the party, endlessly intrigued by what each and everyone of them did for a living. They met the headmistress of Vien Ile, the magical school in New Orleans, runeologist Charlotte Thomas — who was, incidentally, Dean’s cousin — and even a Black dragon tamer from Senegal.
“Merlin, weren’t her burn scars cool?” a voice said with awe.
Blaise and Des turned around to see a tall, thin woman with deep maple skin, her hair buzzed at the sides and kinky blonde curls teased to the heavens. Her shoulderless dress showed off her muscular arms, nearly every inch tattooed with the form of a magical beast. She had her own dragon tattoo snoozing along her shoulder, softly breathing smoke from its nostrils along her collarbone. Blaise had never seen such detailed magitats; they were frowned upon in higher up wizarding society, but this woman rocked them with ease.
“Ooh,” she said with a shiver, “name’s Sable Abungu.”
“Hey,” Desiree said, shaking her hand. “Dr. Medousa Ninkinanka was just telling us about her research with dragons in Senegal.”
“Yeah, we know each other. Dated once — exactly once — and decided we were better as friends. Her burn scars still get me every time though.” Sable bit her lip before shaking her head. “Sorry, we’re also colleagues. I’m a magizoologist.”
“Oh! Like Newt Scamander?” Blaise said.
“Ugh, are they still teaching that old bat at Hogwarts? When are they going to get books by non-white authors at that school? I heard about the scandal with that Lockhart guy. The ultimate colonizers, aren’t they? Until the very last.” She ‘tch’d’ her teeth and reached out to grab a beignet Des had baked from a floating service tray before it zoomed past. “Oh! This is deliiicious.” She sniffed the pastry and sniffed around, sniffing Blaise, who quickly retreated, then Desiree. “Oh, Aje! Did you make this? You still smell like the blueberries inside.”
Desiree preened at the compliment, launching the two women into a conversation about the finer points of the dessert.
Blaise never knew what to say around people who talked non-stop. Desiree had a lot of energy, and loved to talk, but she also knew how to match someone else’s energy. Sable was clearly a force of nature. But like a tornado, he couldn’t help but be fascinated by it.
“Anyway — I can go on and on. What did we start with? Scamander. That old one-book hack. It’s not like I haven’t written a book, or like ten other non-white magizoologists in the last 80 years. We clearly have nothing to say on the subject.” She ended her sentence with a pop of her licking her fingers clean of the latest passed snack she’d snagged.
“Yeah, I guess when Hagrid inherited the class, he just picked up Kettleburn’s syllabus and made a…few non-textbook adjustments,” Desiree said, and Blaise knew, like he, she was shuddering at the memory of the Blast-Ended Skrewts that tormented Hagrid’s students and non-students alike.
“There’s another one. Just getting away with whatever he wants, breeding exploding creatures? That’s a Code 4 over here. Fines out the wazoo. You’ll wish a murtlap had bitten ya. Be easier on the an—”
“So, what kind of work do you specialize in?” Blaise did not need to hear where that sentence was going.
“Oh, I do research on the effects of magical creatures on mental health. I’m actually headed your way next month to talk to George Weasley about the Pygmy Puff he and his brother developed. They fall right in line with the work I’ve been doing on the benefits of magical companion animals, especially for lonely kids and older folks.”
“Wow, that’s actually pretty cool,” Blaise said.
“I had a baby dragon when I was younger, that’s how Medy and I met. Having a dragon as a companion was probably a bad idea, just like logistics wise, but the companionship part…it really helped when I was going through a rough time. So I thought maybe animals helped others like that too.”
“Sable!” Celestina came up behind them, greeting the researcher warmly. “Thank you so much for coming!”
“It’s my pleasure. This event is always my favorite of the year. This year’s theme is the best it’s been in ages!”
“Well, next year might be Mardi Gras-themed, so make sure you pack your beads.”
“I always have my beads, Ms. Warbeck.” Sable grinned and winked. “I should probably go catch up with Medy before she thinks I’m avoiding her. I swear I’m not, she just knows how to float around a room and leave me to jabber…” she trailed off as she searched for the dragon expert.
“She’s a great girl. A lot of energy,” Celestina said, to which Blaise nodded, “but so great. She donates nearly a quarter of her book earnings to this event every year.”
“I had no idea people were doing stuff like this out here in the real world, Ms. Celestina,” Blaise said. He was still surprised at how much he thought he knew about the wider wizarding world, and how little it actually was. “Even with my mother being quite the globetrotter herself, she’s often hanging in white spaces. So I still would have had no idea these kinds of events and organizations existed.”
“Oh yes, Blaise. The Black Wizarding World is all about helping each other. Each place has its differences, but the magical community has had to come together more often than not, both for ourselves and our Muggle brothers, sisters, and kinfolk. I know your mother does her part, and she does it where she feels she’s needed. But that’s only a piece of the puzzle.”
Blaise filed that away to think on later. Like Desiree said, he hadn’t figured out what his ambition was just yet, but he had a feeling the connections he needed were among the people in this room. And so, though he hated small talk, he decided he should make more of an effort to know people outside of his comfy circle.
But first: “Nana, this trip has really been so great,” Desiree said, clinging to her grandmother, head tucked into the older woman’s neck.
“Yes, Desi-poo. Thank you for coming along. I know your mother worked you up, but it’s because she loves you, in her way. Her way just needs some work.”
“Yes, Nana. I know. I don’t know how you put up with her as much as you do, but I know that comes from a place of love, too.”
Celestina laughed. “Well, she may be my manager, but I’m still the boss. So she knows not to mess with me.” She gave the couple a conspiratorial wink before addressing Blaise. “And you, young man. Thank you for coming along too.”
“Thank you for having me, Ms. Celestina.” She grasped his hand and her bony hands were a bit chilled, but he still felt a warmth spike towards his heart.
“You’re good for her. I know my Desi-poo is more than capable of going off on this adventure on her own—”
“Oh come on, Nan,” Desiree interjected.
“—but I’m so glad she found someone like you to share the adventure with. I miss her grandfather,” she said, looking around at the buzzing venue. “He, too, toured the world with me just because I asked, and I will never forget him for it.” She smiled wistfully. Blaise’s face grew hot and he… he was going to tear up?
Man up, Zabini.
“I’d go anywhere for Desiree, Ms. Celestina. I thought so before, but I know it now.” He smiled at them both, Desiree with actual tears in her eyes, his Puff-hearted girl. He rolled his eyes at her and accepted the hug Celestina pulled him into. When she let him go, she clasped his cheeks and said two things. First, “I love you both,” as she stared Blaise directly in the eye. His heart leapt to his throat, but his emotions were tempered by her grounding chilled hands still resting on his face.
Second she said, “Oh these are not diamond, Desi-poo. These cheekbones are made of pure vibranium.”