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Un-practical Magic

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It started on a Tuesday night, in June.

This is never how it starts, in books. There is always some sort of showy trick, a flash of light, some coloured flame or suspicious smoke. That Tuesday night, in June, none of this happened. Nothing happened. Exactly nothing.

No tingle, no dizziness, not even a blink.

Grantaire simply put on his shoes, grabbed his coat and bag, and left for the Musain. Like every other Tuesday nights.

The weather was pleasant enough, the sun still low in the sky. It was just a few days before Midsummer and Grantaire decided to take the long road to the café, strolling along the river and waving at tourists on the bateaux-mouches with lazy enthusiasm. He saw a poster for a new play starting the next week and decided to go, the theatre was close enough to one of his favourite restaurant. Two streets before the Musain, a flower seller gave him a daisy and he pinned it to his lapel with a pleased smile.

What a perfectly lovely evening.  

 

He opened the door to the café and greeted madame Hucheloup behind the bar. She looked at him and blushed before disappearing in the kitchen. Grantaire shrugged and asked Matelotte for a glass of red wine to be brought to his usual table. When she smiled shyly with a whispered “Oui monsieur Grantaire” to him, Grantaire marked a pause, his face a mask of troubled bafflement. Matelotte was surely sick; clearly not her usual bored self. He wondered a few second about the two women’s behaviour before shrugging again and climbing the stairs to the mezzanine his friends commandeered every Tuesday.

“Ah! Grantaire! What a fine beard you grace us with on this fine evening!”

Grantaire laughed and Bossuet rose from his chair to put his arm around his friend’s shoulders, his free hand coming up to stroke the other man’s face. Grantaire had been growing out a beard and a moustache since last Tuesday, and he wasn’t unhappy with the result. Immediately, Joly joined them on Grantaire’s other side.

“It is truly remarkable. Please come and seat. Allow us to get you a drink

“I already ordered a glass of wine.

“Our treat then.”

Grantaire laughed again and sat down, shaking his head at his friends’ antics. They were in great spirits that evening. He looked up and waved cheerfully at Jehan sitting a table over. The young man blushed so hard that Grantaire was afraid he was going to faint, but waved back with a small smile of his own. Well, Grantaire thought, that was an alarming amount of blushing at him for one single evening, and he hadn’t even said anything so far. He turned his head toward the back of the room where Enjolras usually sat and listened to his friends, often silent and pleased, and smiled at the man. He got a very faint smile in return, but the crinkles at the corner of his eyes betrayed the genuine affection and friendliness of the man toward Grantaire before turning back to a small pile of paper in front of him.

Grantaire looked at him a bit longer, eyes heavy with tenderness, until the table was jostled by Bahorel and Courfeyrac trying to sit on the same chair, opposite him, and fighting it out with nudges and sharp elbows. At the same moment, Combeferre got up to, presumably, sort the squabble out but elected instead to lean against Joly’s chair, smiling at Grantaire, and Matelotte arrived with a large glass of fragrant red wine, probably of better quality than what they usually served him. He looked at her and smiled.

The glass started to shake on the unsteady tray and Grantaire grabbed it before it fell over his jeans, eyes wide in alarm.

“What... What is going on?”

He looked at his friends who were suddenly crowding him while looking unnaturally smiley and fond, and frowned. It wasn’t his birthday and he didn’t recall doing anything particularly special for any of them in the last week... On the other side of the room, Enjolras seemed as puzzled as Grantaire.

“Grantaire.” Courfeyrac started “I can’t help but notice that you look very lovely this evening, and I was wondering if you’d like to seat next to me over there.” He gestured to a small table near one the windows “We could talk. Get to know each other better.

“No!” Joly put his hand on the table firmly and glared at Courfeyrac “He’s already sitting here. You are welcome to stay but he chose his chair for the evening.

“I think we should let Grantaire decide who he’d like to spend the evening with. Grantaire, would you please state your preference of sitting arrangement?

“I uh...” Grantaire looked at Combeferre, who had been joined by Feuilly in the last minute and shook his head in disbelief. “Is this a joke? Did you wager something? What the hell is happening right now?

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Combeferre said again with a pleasant smile and a light touch to Grantaire’s shoulder.

Grantaire’s confusion was broken by the very soft voice of Jean Prouvaire, shyly handing him a piece of paper.

“If you’d be so kind as to read this.”

Grantaire took the folded note with the kind of deeply wary feeling of dread a man whose house just caught fire could feel when the firemen approach him with a sorry grimace after checking the availability of water in the general neighbourhood. Grantaire’s friends were on fire and what turned out to be a very nicely penned love poem from Jehan was a fresh drizzle of gas on the smoking front door.

“Uh.” He looked at Jehan’s expectant face “While I am flattered and appreciative of your excellent penmanship, I... cannot reciprocate your feelings. I’m sorry.

“Do you... Do you love another? Is that why? My heart beats for you, Grantaire, but I shall accept that yours might beat to the rapid and heady rhythm of summer love, for only summer could suit your thirst of lights and sun warmed skin...”

There was a few second of silence, broken only by the sound of Enjolras sitting up and scraping his chair on the floor in doing so.

“All right, that’s enough. Something strange is going on, Grantaire, take your coat, I think we should go.”

In the general chaos of protest and demanding hands trying to keep him seated, Grantaire did as he was told and took the stairs back to the ground floor, followed by Enjolras. They were just going out on the street when the upstairs window opened and Bahorel shoved his head out to shout and wave his fist.

“You won’t keep him forever, Enjolras! True love shall prevail! ”

Enjolras’ baffled and affronted face was enough to startle a small snigger from Grantaire, who tried to pass it out as a cough when the other man turned his unimpressed face to him.

“This is no laughing matter Grantaire. This is most definitely a spell, and one that falls into the forbidden kind if I’m right about it.

“You think it’s a love spell?” Grantaire asked, more seriously. “Why would anyone use a love spell on me?

“Why does anyone do anything?” Enjolras moved his hands around and started walking “It certainly isn’t a joke; our friends would never play such cruel games with someone’s feelings.”

Grantaire looked up once more to see all of their friends gathered at the window, looking at them with expressions ranging from lovesick to forlorn or fond. Courfeyrac even waved.

“Come one then.” Enjolras said “I have books we can check at the workshop. Did you notice anything strange today?

“No, nothing happened! No tingle, no dizziness... Not even weird smoke. And flashy wizards do love their weird smokes.”

Enjolras smiled a little at that. They both knew a couple magic users with a tendency to use maybe a little bit too much special effects in what were, in the end, very simple spells. Bahorel and Courfeyrac themselves indulged from time to time. Enjolras’ magic was in his image, sober, elegant and efficient. Grantaire admired his capacity to use magic sparsely but with great results when in effect. He himself was on the other side of the spectrum. His magic was messy, colourful and did not always take the simplest ways to achieve its goals. He used it all the time, for the simplest things. It seemed sometimes as if it was pouring out of him in big enthusiastic waves, difficult to contain inside.

 

The walk to the ABC workshop was a short one and soon enough, Enjolras took the front keys from his pocket. Grantaire followed him inside and took his coat off to throw it on one of the armchairs near the bookshelves in the backroom.

“So.” He said before following his coat and sitting in the armchair. “Why aren’t you affected by the spell?” He could see Enjolras stiffen a little at his words.

“How much do you know about love spell?

“Not much. They are outlawed in France since 1968... But pretty simple to make and break.”

Enjolras relaxed a little and started to browse the books he had selected while Grantaire was making himself comfortable.

“Yes. The moral and social implications of a love spell are comparable to coercion and can lead to rape and abuse. This is why such spells are despicable and to use a coercive spell or potion is now forbidden, at reason, by the legate’s council.” He stopped to frown at his reading material and discard the book to take an other one. “Any way. As you just said, they are pretty easy to make, and lucky for us, to break. I’d say we should track the source of the spell, but with not much to go one it would take days, and we don’t have that kind of time if you want to live a normal life in the coming week. It’s probably a discreet charm, if you didn’t notice anything, so the caster will have been careful. Would you say that people in the street were treating you differently?

“Well... A lot of tourists waved back from the bateaux-mouches and I got a daisy from a flower seller. Now that you mention it, they all seemed kind of flustered. I thought they were just being nice. Ah... Shows what I know of kindness.”

At these words, Enjolras looked up, a conflicted expression on his face, as if to comfort Grantaire, but he went back to flipping pages in his third book. Grantaire shook his head.

“Eh, Enjolras...

“Mmm-yes?” he responded, distracted.

“How are you not changed by the spell? Is it that your dislike of my person was so strong that you now only feel a warm sense of camaraderie toward me?

“I don’t dislike you, Grantaire. And it’s not the spell talking.

“How would you know?”

Enjolras sighed and closed his eyes for a few seconds. He put his book aside and took an other one.

“The way I feel about you hasn’t changed at all since last week, at which time I didn’t dislike you either. And a love spell doesn’t work like that. Either you love, or you don’t. It does not pass through phases of affection.

“So. Why are you not changed?

“Ah!” Enjolras exclaimed, successfully evading the question once more. “I found something that may work.” He put the book down, open at the relevant page, and grabbed a couple of stones from a nearby shelf. “Hold this in your hands, please.” He put the stones on Grantaire’s palms and smiled a little. “It shouldn’t hurt.

“What? It’s going to hurt? You said it was easy to break!

“And I also said that the counter spell should normally not hurt you at all. Do listen, Grantaire.” Enjolras smiled again and grabbed the book again. “Next, essential oils.

“That all seems very benign.

“Well it’s not like love spells are at the level of alchemy, are they. Would you rather suck on a leaf of iron?

“No. Thank you.” Grantaire shivered at the thought. And then he shivered again when Enjolras spread the oils on his wrists and temples, wiping the left over under his ears. He was very close. So, so close. So very very...

“All right.” Enjolras took a step back and rubbed his neck, looking to the side. “I’ll put an athame to your heart and draw a cross. We don’t have one though. Jehan, Joly and Bossuet keep theirs at home... So, a pocket knife will do, right? In witchcraft, what counts is the intent, surely.”

Grantaire shrugged and stood very still as Enjolras took his knife from his coat, opened it and, blunt side of the blade facing Grantaire, draw a cross over his heart.

“You have to affirm your love for a person now.” Enjolras read from the book. “So that the spell understands that it is not necessary anymore, for you already feel love and do not need any other suitor.” He looked up at Grantaire. “It says here that it helps if you say the name of the person you love.”

Grantaire swallowed and fisted his hands more tightly around the stones.

“I... I’d rather not.

“But you do love someone, right?” Enjolras was not looking at him, shoulder tense as he was reading the counter spell over one more time. “I don’t think you can lie to magic, Grantaire...

“I...” Grantaire closed his eyes and took a big breath. “I am in love with someone. I don’t need people to fall in love with me anymore, for... my heart beat to the – to the rapid and heady rhythm of summer love, for only summer could suit my thirst of light and sun-kissed skin.” Grantaire smiled a little around Jehan’s words and opened his eyes just in time to see Enjolras roll his. “For my love is just, and proud.” He said more softly, not leaving Enjolras’ eyes for a second. “And his is the only love I need, as long as my heart beats, my eyes see and my tongue speaks.”

It took a few seconds, in which Grantaire and Enjolras looked at each other in fragile silence, before the daisy on Grantaire’s coat lapel burst into flames. Enjolras let the book fall to the ground in his rush to extinguish the small fire and, with his hands covered in ash, turned to Grantaire again.

“Well... I guess we know where the spell came from now.”

Grantaire let out an enormous sigh and sat on the ground, stones falling from his hands.

“See if I accept flowers again anytime soon!”

The sentence started a little laugh out of Enjolras who shook his head.

“Wise words. We shall decide tomorrow what to do with the flower seller. In the meantime I propose we reconvene to different lodgings. You don’t live very far, do you?

“No. Merely a couple street away.

Grantaire got up and put the stones back on the shelves, with the book Enjolras had left on the ground. He pushed his hand through his hair and smiled.

“You still haven’t told me. How come the spell didn’t work on you?”

Enjolras opened his mouth a few seconds before closing it again. He smiled very softly before giving Grantaire’s coat back to him.

“Not now. I’ll walk you home, and tomorrow when you receive messages from our friends denying any possible declaration of love, assuring you of the efficiency of the counter spell, maybe we could meet and have coffee.

“Why wait?

“Some things are better said with freely beating hearts and no doubts in our minds.” They exited the shop and Enjolras locked the door. “Tomorrow I’ll- ” A chiming sound interrupted his words and he looked on as Grantaire retrieved his phone from his pocket.

“It’s Joly.” He grinned. “He says that while he loves me very much, his feelings are strictly platonic and that he hopes we both are all right. Oh, apparently Jehan is mortified. He also says that they all feel strange, but safe and magically sound now.” Grantaire looked up. “So...

“So?

“Tell me now.

“That seems very sudden, I-

“Were you planning on telling me at all?

“Of course! Of course I was going to tell you, I just thought that I had more time to come up with a suitable way of declaring my feelings. But as you seem very keen on squeezing it out of me tonight, Grantaire, a love spell cannot fake or alter what is already there.” He looked at the other man with a frown of defiance. “I have harboured feelings for you, feelings of a romantic nature, for a while now. And a love spell wasn’t going to change the way I act because I am already in lo-... I -.” He closed his eyes briefly, as to compose himself. “There. You have it.”

Grantaire seemed as if struck down. His eyes were wide and his face flushed. Enjolras looked at him and gestured a little with his hands.

“Was I wrong in assuming you loved me back? I see you at the musain, looking at me, I thought maybe...

“No I... I do! I do! I do love you, gods, Enjolras! I’ve loved you for so long.” Grantaire brought his hands to his hair and looked at Enjolras in astonished disbelief. “You heard my words, inside. Surely you must understand that I talked about you.” He let his hands fall back to his sides. “Enjolras... I love you. I love you more than one person could possibly love another. Enjolras, I adore you.” He was smiling now, looking almost dazed. “I am... confused and shocked and... I’d like to invite you home with me and we can talk and drink... lemonade!” He extended his arms toward Enjolras and asked, breathless: “Will you come?”

Enjolras took his hand with a smile.