Characters: Bob, young!Harry, Justin Morningway
Word Count: Aprox 1,500
Spoilers: Nothing specific, a few passing book references
Summary: Bob has a crush.
Notes: Written for weslyn for the dresdenficathon. Thanks to joyfulfeather for the beta!
“Harry, you are being juvenile,” Bob warned the boy.
Harry didn’t move his eye from the keyhole in the door. “I am a juvenile, Bob. I’m only 11.”
“You have more than enough years to know that spying through keyholes is not proper behaviour,” Bob said.
Harry still didn’t move and Bob sighed. He had distinctly heard the door to Morningway’s office close and unless the boy had somehow developed x-ray vision like the heroes in the comic books he enjoyed so much, Bob didn’t think he could see anything from the study’s keyhole.
“What’s she like?” Harry asked.
“Miss Altekraft is a very talented sorceress,” Bob said.
Harry finally turned his face from the keyhole to look at Bob. He frowned. “Oh.”
“Is something wrong?” Bob asked.
“No,” Harry said, looking thoughtful. “It’s just, when we do all that history stuff, it seems like if a person was a dark wizard you call them a sorcerer or sorceress and if they were a good wizard, you just call them a wizard.”
Bob was slightly taken aback by this bout of insight. He had to wonder if there was something to that – some sort of psychology involved. “It’s merely semantics, Harry.”
“’Kay,” he accepted, easily.
“Miss Altekraft is a very talented wizard,” Bob corrected himself. “She is a very active member in the High Council and she is quite renowned in the field of alchemy. She has invented several beneficial -” He stopped, as Harry suddenly broke out into a wide, boyish grin. “What are you smirking at?”
“You like her,” Harry declared.
“I’m sorry?” Bob said.
“You like her,” Harry repeated.
“Well, certainly I respect her prowess in –” Bob said.
“No, no,” Harry interrupted. “You like like her.”
“That cannot be proper English,” Bob said.
Harry grinned even more broadly. The ghost didn’t think he’d ever seen him smile like that in his few months at the Morningway home. Certainly not so childlike, with such unguarded mirth. The boy planted himself on the arm of the couch, leaning towards Bob with the maddening smirk on his face.
“You have a crush on her,” Harry half-sang. “You dig her.”
“That is ridiculous,” The ghost retorted. “I am dead.”
“You get mad at me,” Harry pointed out. “You like music. You look sad sometimes. I bet you can like people too. And you like her. Is she pretty? I didn’t get a good look at her.”
“She is a handsome woman, I suppose,” Bob said.
Bob wondered if he was blushing. He couldn’t feel the heat on his cheeks anymore, but he was well aware that the flush did come to them when he was feeling sheepish.
Harry slid off the arm of the couch, landing on his back on the cushions, giggling.
“You are being extremely juvenile,” Bob said, folding his arms. Harry laughed harder and Bob had trouble keeping a smile off his face. “Stop giggling like a schoolgirl.”
That stopped him. At 11 years old, any implication of female behaviour was highly insulting. The laughter died, but Harry still smirked at him.
“It’s okay, you know,” he said, after a moment. “I mean, if you like her. I won’t tell or anything.”
“Thank you for the sentiment,” Bob said, stiffly. “However, I neither like her nor ‘like like’ her nor any variation there of. Now straighten up, they are headed this way.”
Harry’s eyes widened and he quickly got himself upright on the couch, grabbed the nearest book and stuck his nose in it. He managed to be the picture of studiousness when the door opened to reveal Morningway and his guest.
“Harry,” Morningway said. “I’d like you to meet someone.”
The boy looked up as though he had been deep in the reading and put the book aside. Bob hoped they didn’t notice he’d been reading the thesaurus. Harry stood up, ramrod straight and waited expectantly.
“Harry, this is Miss Altekraft,” Morningway said, indicating the lady at his side. “Mattie, this is my nephew, Harry.”
The woman moved forward and offered her hand to Harry, who shook it respectfully. She was a tall woman with dark brown hair up in a twist and lively, intelligent green eyes. She knelt down in front of Harry to be at a level with him, gracefully adjusting her pencil skirt to stay in a proper place.
“I’ve heard so much about you, Harry,” she said. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you,” Harry said. “It’s, uh, nice to meet you.”
She smiled. “You know, I have a ward of my own about your age. Perhaps you should meet sometime. I’m sure Elaine would love to have a friend with a similar...background to her own.”
“An excellent idea,” Morningway declared. Bob suspected that the man thought no such thing and doubted the meeting would ever come to pass. “Harry has been studying with the ghost.” He made a vague gesture towards Bob. “He is very talented. Perhaps you would like to show Miss Altekraft some of your skills, Harry.”
Harry’s eyes widened and he shot a desperate look to Bob, but the ghost was useless to do anything to help. He couldn’t offer any opinions to Morningway. To him he was nothing but an object. If he knew how Bob and Harry spoke and how Harry had given him his nickname, there would be great trouble.
“Why don’t you show her your shielding?” Morningway pressed.
Bob winced inwardly. Shielding was hardly Harry’s strong point. It was a complicated process for a young wizard and that, Bob suspected, was precisely why Morningway wanted to show it off. He wanted to prove that Harry was a prodigy.
“I...could do that,” Harry said, with a gulp. He knew better than to refuse in company. “Uh, if you’ll...help?”
“Of course,” Morningway said, with an affectionate smile.
Harry offered a weak one back and took position in the middle of the room. Morningway went over to where the blackboard was set up and pulled one of the baseballs out of a box there. Harry's uncle had the idea that if you had extra incentive to put up a shield, you’d be more likely to manage it. Bob wasn’t sure if the bruises had fully healed from the last time they had practiced.
Harry set himself up, raising the oversized shield bracelet on his wrist. Miss Altekraft got to her feet and moved over to Bob to watch the demonstration. She offered a warm smile to the ghost and he politely nodded back. She often unnerved him, keeping eye contact and speaking to him directly. Morningway didn’t like it all, but she was too important a contact for him to reproach.
“How are you, Hrothbert?” she asked.
“I am well, thank you, m’um,” he replied. “And yourself?”
“Lovely,” she said.
They turned their eyes to Harry. Bob mentally ran through all the instructions, trying to somehow force them into Harry’s mind to help the boy out.
“I’m ready,” Harry said, uncertainly.
Morningway threw the ball at him. It wasn’t a toss or a light pitch, it was a full out fastball. Harry narrowed his eyes and suddenly a bright blue half-dome of energy manifested itself in front of him. The ball bounced off it so hard that it shot back at Morningway. He ducked out of the way and the ball hit the wall behind him, shaking a photograph on a nearby shelf.
“Wonderful!” Miss Altekraft cheered, clapping. “What talent!”
“I told you,” Morningway preened, acting as though it was he himself who had done the work.
“Of course, Maggie always had a gift,” Miss Altekraft said. “How lovely that the boy has inherited it.”
Harry blushed at the praise and look at his feet.
“You have clearly done some wonderful work, Hrothbert,” Miss Altekraft continued.
Bob ignored Morningway’s murderous look. “Thank you, m’um.”
She smiled at him again and then at Harry. “You and Elaine should practice together. She could use some focus. Perhaps some time spent with Harry and Hrothbert would be to her benefit.”
“We shall see,” Morningway said. “We should get back to our previous discussion, Mattie.”
“Of course, Justin,” she agreed. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Harry. I hope to see you again.”
“Thanks,” Harry said. “Um, you too?”
She laughed a little tinkling laugh. “And you too, Hrothbert. Good day.”
Bob bowed to her and she left with Morningway again. Harry fell to the floor in an overdramatic fashion as soon as the door closed. He looked exhausted.
“That was well done,” Bob told him.
“Thank you, Hrothbert,” Harry said. He assumed a high pitched voice. “Oh, Hrothbert, you’re so talented. You’re such a good teacher.”
“Stop that,” Bob ordered.
“Bob and Miss Altekraft sittin’ in a tree...” Harry sang.
Bob suddenly wished he were capable of throwing baseballs too.