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Finding Grace by arctic pheonix
Chapter 19: Chapter 19-Hogsmade Part I: The Taming of Blondezilla
“GRACE ADLER GET YOUR SKINNY BEHIND OUT OF BED! IT’S A PERFECTLY BEAUTIFUL SATURDAY MORNING AND WE HAVE GALLEONS BURNING A HOLE IN OUR PURSES!” Willow yelled right into my ear. The night before I had fallen asleep with my face pressed into my pillow. Needless to say I wasn’t pleased with her particular methods of waking me up.
“I hate you Willow.” I mumbled darkly, my face still pressed into my pillow. Taking in a deep breath I quickly pulled one of my pillows and swung blindly. I smirked in satisfaction when I felt it connect somewhere on Willow and heard her land on the ground with a loud thud and a string of curses.
“You’re supposed to be a bloody morning person.” She spat at me rather irritated. Then again knowing my luck I probably screwed up a piece of hair or ruined the angle that something was resting at. I smirked into my pillow with satisfaction. Maybe today won’t be complete torture.
“Not on this particular Saturday.” I informed her promptly. Life in general has been too crazy and too dramatic for my taste for this entire year so far. But I had really felt the strain this past week for some strange reason. It didn’t help that I always felt my internal organs twist into improper contortions whenever I talked to Al and it certainly didn’t help that he was being friendly and acting as though he couldn’t see how uncomfortable I was. Either that or I’m turning into a better actress. Plus, this was my second week of basically skipping any class that involved magic. I knew I couldn’t keep this up forever and sooner rather than later the professors were going to take action and I would have to explain my predicament; especially since I’ve been submitting the homework to them by owl post. On top of all of that I’m still trying to write my admissions thesis and am in the process of learning what it really means to have a family of sorts.
“Well you’re up now so shut up, and try putting on something decent. Actually no, just take a shower and I’ll decide what you’re wearing.” Willow began looking through my wardrobe critically before she gave her wand a casual wave causing me to fly out of my bed and slide all the way to the bathroom door.
“What’s the point if you’re going to discard everything I own?” I asked her irritated. More accurately, my backside was irritated with that little stunt of hers. All I did was conk her on the head with a pillow.
“You have so much you have to learn yet.” She informed me in that annoying sage impersonation. Shaking my head in minor disbelief over the predicament of my everyday life, I pulled myself up and walked into the bathroom and quickly immersed myself in a scalding hot shower. This is bloody unbelievable. I just might murder her and Lily today by stabbing them with stilettos. Despite the fact that the water was painfully hot I shivered at the thought of even trying to put on a pair of stilettos. Those things shouldn’t even be called shoes. They should be outlawed. I can only imagine the excruciating pain they inflict on your ankles plus I would probably fall to my death in them. Goodness knows that I have enough issues walking on the ground normally.
“Lily says hurry up. We have an outfit for you to wear so get out, get dressed then get to the Great Hall. If you move fast enough you might actually get to eat breakfast.” Willow poked her head through the door right when I was wrapping myself up in my towel, soaking wet and short of breath in the steamy bathroom.
“Don’t you think you’re taking this a bit too seriously Willow?” I asked incredulously. Quickly grabbing my robe I turned my back to her as I made some more difficult than necessary maneuvers to get it on without her seeing anything.
“Honey, with the sad state of your wardrobe, it’s almost tempting me to write a letter to the Minister asking him to declare it a national disaster. The pictures would guarantee that. And if the pictures of your wardrobe didn’t satisfy the requirements I would inform him of your sad excuse of a social life and the fact that you’re painfully in love with a boy who has a girlfriend and that the boy you’re conveniently in love with is turning into your best friend to boot. Now that, my dear, most certainly is a crisis which needs to be addressed.” Thankfully she was no longer being the drill sergeant and I finally connected the dots and realized that they were doing this for me because they cared.
“Willow, look, I’m sorry I’m being a stubborn ass. Life’s just been…” I began trying to find a way to describe what my life has been like to date and just thinking about everything caused me to become frazzled. My life before had been downright drab, spinsterish, and dull compared to the mess that I now find myself in. And just think that it will become even more messy and complicated with these half baked schemes you’re going to be following, I thought cynically to myself. Note to self, I need to stop hanging out with Willow. Clearly the girl is a bad influence on me.
“More crazy and unpredictable than you imagined?” She filled in the gap that I had left hanging causing me to grin in spite of the impending doom that I would soon find myself embroiled in knowing my luck.
“Something like that.” I replied almost evenly. Willow left without another word and I looked down at what was waiting for me courtesy of her and Lily. Thankfully it was all mine and I recognized the black jeans from when I was last back in London and had met my uncle and cousin. However the top was one that I hadn’t worn in ages. It was a creamy blouse that had subtle ripples to it with capped sleeves that always made my arms look incredibly long and gawky. Or so I thought. It was only when I looked to the right I found another old item that I had forgotten about; a pea coat that was rather aged but it was black and not completely unfortunate looking. However, I cringed slightly though when I saw the shoes that they found. In hindsight it was a purchase I completely regretted but at the time I enjoyed, until I actually wore them for more than ten minuets. At the time I thought that the shiny grey ballet flats with the little bow on top were really cute. But when I walked around for an entire day in them I found my feet were killed by the complete lack of structure. However, despite my reservations of those cursed ballet flats I had to give them credit considering I never would’ve thought to combine those particular pieces to make an outfit. It would almost appear as though I actually had style on my own. Although as anyone who knows me realizes, that is a great stretch of the imagination.
Sighing in defeat I quickly threw on the ensemble and gave up with my hair and makeup. I always had issues with my hair and I never did much with makeup anyways. Plus, Lily and Willow probably already plans for those anyways and they might as well work with a blank canvas. With that decision finally made I quickly grabbed my money and made my way down to the Great Hall. A surprising number of people were already down there when I walked in and more surprising I felt as though someone was watching me as I made my way down the Gryffindor table to where Lily and Willow were excitedly talking about something, both dressed impeccably, flawlessly, effortlessly, basically any positive adjective was appropriate at this point.
“You came just in time. Take this; you’re eating on the go. You got a long day ahead of you.” Lily forced a banana, a couple pieces of toast, and a thermos of coffee into my hands and started walking away. Sighing in defeat I followed in her wake, again feeling as though someone was watching me.
“Gee, who would’ve thought that just reorganizing an existing wardrobe would’ve had this effect,” Willow commented dryly on my right. We had just left the Great Hall and were standing outside waiting for a thestral drawn carriage to arrive.
“What do you mean by that?” I asked slightly defensively.
“In case you couldn’t tell people were looking at you. Enviously I might add. And boys were ogling you.” Willow wiggled her eyebrows at me suggestively at the mention of what some boys were allegedly doing but I shook my head in disbelief. There was no way that doing something as simple as recombining my wardrobe would make me noticeable when I had lived six years basically invisible.
“They were doing no such thing Willow.” I shot back at her nervously. Quickly looking around I saw that I was actually getting looks from people who passed the three of us. And to my shock and horror, I had a sixth year Hufflepuff shoot me a grin when I made eye contact with him. I smiled uncertainly before looking down hoping to Merlin that a carriage would arrive soon enough.
“Sorry Grace, but you were too engrossed in finding us to notice that you might be creating a stir in the social fabric. You’re on the map. People are going to be gossiping about this.” Lily said serenely.
“I thought that the only gossip about me was that I was an ice queen who hated Rose Weasly?” Gossip was always one of those things that I didn’t take great strides in knowing since it was almost always entirely pure nonsense. People just feel the need to tear others down so that they can feel better about themselves. It’s pathetic. If anyone had ever bothered to ask me how many years ago if I had any problems with Rose I would’ve told them that I couldn’t have any issues with someone I didn’t know. But now it seems as though my entire year is convinced that there is some arms race between Rose and I on how many O’s we can accumulate before our heads will combust and that we hate each other.
“That’s not all that they’re saying these days,” Lily informed me brightly. I groaned in agony upon hearing that.
“What are people saying about me now?” What I really wanted to ask is what type of ridiculous story is being spread throughout the castle that I, once again, was not aware of. I really need to start paying more attention to what other people are saying. Or to take a more proactive interest in things other than my admissions thesis.
“My personal favorite is that Al is dating both you and Adia at the same time. In this supposed love triangle you’re just the girl that Al is seen with all the time and Adia is the one he shags behind your back because you’re too much of a prude and an ice queen.” Willow snickered with sick pleasure. Sometimes I wonder whose side she’s on.
“Sweet Merlin please tell me that this is just a sick joke you made up on the top of your head?” Needless to say I was more than slightly alarmed. In fact, I probably looked like I had just been thrown into the lake, which pretty aptly described how I would feel if that were to happen: completely shocked, cold, and having the irrational and pathological fear of being devoured by the giant squid. In this case the giant squid is substituted with Adia. Although to be fair to the squid, I suppose at least it would destroy me with some dignity.
“Sorry sweetie. That’s just my personal favorite. Ever since you’ve started hanging out with Al regularly there have been some scandalous rumors about the two of you and what you do and don’t do.” Willow smiled again as if she were remembering something fond.
“That prat always hunts me down in the library.” I protested indignantly.
“Yes well no one cares about the truth. They like the idea of the supposed bookish, geeky girl going wild with a Quidditch captain and prefect while he may or may not be dating someone.” Lily, the ever present voice of reason, informed me as though it was something even a six year old could grasp.
“Well what should I do about it?”
“Do about it? You’re not going to do anything about it.”
“You mean I’m just supposed to act like I don’t know what people are saying about me and let them portray me as some scarlet woman?” I asked scandalized. They were supposed to be my friends. They should be helping me solve this, not tell me to forget about it. It’s not their reputation that’s being slandered.
“Look, this is going to make our job easier.” Willow said as she climbed into the carriage. I tried shooting a glare at her but she was preoccupied in seating herself to notice.
“What if I don’t bloody well care about your job being easier or not!? Plus I don’t want you to break them up.” I glared venomously at the two of them, thankful that I was sitting opposite of them.
“Yes, yes we’ve been over this time and time again. Don’t worry about it. You’re not going to be involved in any of this.” Lily waved her hand as though she were trying to shoo away an annoying pest and again ignored my request. I wonder what it would be like to control my own life, I thought rather miserably to myself. Well this is what I wanted though. Friends. People who would drive me up the wall, make me want to pull my hair out in frustration, and people I can tell anything to and know it will only stay between us.
“You do realize that I am completely involved in this you dunce.” I protested half-heartedly. I hardly noticed the short trip but I did catch on that we were in Hogsmade village. Normally I would take advantage of the mostly empty castle and get more work done, but I occasionally made the trip down. There was a rather charming book store that was hidden in a rather secluded part of town that was far off the main road I enjoyed going to.
“Look, let’s just drop this. Lily, you get to start the morning shift.” Willow, Lily, and I disembarked from our carriage and stood off to the side of Main Street wondering where we were going to start. Or at least that was my concern.
“Morning shift?” I asked rather stupidly.
“Yup! You and me, together, figuring out what to do with this blonde mess you call hair and what we can do about your abysmal makeup routine.” Lily was awfully cheerful. She grabbed my hand and began walking enthusiastically. Quickly we detoured from the main road much to my relief, yet I had no clue where exactly we were going.
“I don’t have a makeup routine.” I offered up as we made our way down the road.
“Exactly. Now lets go! We have a lot to do and so little time to accomplish it in.” Once again getting excited, she pointed what I thought was a rather quaint building and began speed walking towards it. If she wasn’t wearing four inch heels she probably would’ve run to it, but hearing the click-clack of her shoes on the now cobblestone paved roads made me shudder in fear.
“Grace hurry up! Your appointment is first!” Lily yelled at me from ahead. I never would’ve imagined that she would go to such a quaint place for her hair styling but I suppose the old adage of never judging a book by its cover ought to be applied. Frankly it reminded me of Ollivander’s shop in Diagon Alley. The building is old, unnoticeable except for the sign that merely said ‘Salon’ in antiquated gold script. Everything about the place was inconspicuous which made me wonder just what this was going to be like. If this place is like Ollivander’s then I should be in for the best haircut of my life. I could only hope.
Walking in, I stood next to Lily uncertainly. Taking a look around the shop I distinctly saw one chair and very basic tools that you would see in any Muggle salon. So this can definitely go down in my list of bizarre sightings in the Wizarding world. This place could easily be in the Muggle world, I thought to myself in amazement. Everything about it was inconspicuous and didn’t have any flair for the bizarre. Lily looked completely content while I was slowly feeling my nerves creep up on me. This place was just too normal to be in the magic world. It just doesn’t add up. I’m used to the bizarre, the wondrous, the unbelievable, but this was just so…ordinary.
“You seem confused.” Lily smirked at me. She knew all along I was going to have this reaction.
“This place is just so…normal. I expected something more…” I began awkwardly. It wasn’t that I was at a loss of words; it’s more like I was tongue tied or afraid of twisting them up and make a general mess of things. It’s a talent I have unfortunately.
“Avant garde?” She said while shaking her head with amusement.
“Well let’s face it; you are rather…bold…with what you wear.” I shot back defensively.
“Trust me, Alejandro is a genius. No, he’s an artist. He’s brilliant. I refuse to go to anyone but him.” Naturally when she said that a man about thirty years old with shocking white hair, dark brown eyes, dressed in extremely tight black skinny jeans and top emerged.
“Lily flower you flatter me. Is this the girl you were telling me about? She doesn’t look like the complete train wreck you described.” I felt his eyes scanning me up and down, critically evaluating what he saw. I cursed myself for not doing anything with my hair. I already knew I looked ridiculous.
“Willow and I had to dig up something partway decent for her to wear today. This was the only thing that worked. It’s a bit conservative for my tastes, but I’m going to leave you to work your magic.” Smiling her sweetest, she blew him a kiss before walking to the door.
“Where are you going?” I called after her.
“I need to see someone. Don’t worry, you’re in professional hands.” She replied before leaving me alone.
“So darling, what’s your name?” Alejandro was now back to acting like a normal human. Or at least I felt that he was. It felt so weird when he was giving me an appraising look.
“Gra--no…wait. Rinoa. Rinoa Caraway.” My heart was racing a hundred kilometers a second as I offered my hand to him. He quickly grabbed it, gave it a quick peck with his cold lips before giving me my hand back. This is officially the first time that I have ever introduced myself as someone other than Grace Adler. But if this day is supposed to be about change, I have to embrace the biggest change of all. I’m no longer just Grace Adler, Rinoa is part of who I am, and it’s the part that I need to reconnect with.
“Rinoa is a very pretty name. You’re not giving yourself any justice.” He told me rather critically. Or what I assumed was critically. He really was a strange character. Hopefully Lily was right when she said he was a genius.
“That’s what Lily and Willow tell me.” I replied almost uncertain of what I should say.
“You should listen to them.” He told me kindly.
“I’ve had mixed results from those experiments.” I shot back rather fast. For the first time since seeing him he had the slightest of grins on his face.
“Well let’s continue this in the actual shop.” He offered me his hand. Uncertainly I took it and he escorted me back to the room that only had one old chair. Helping me into the chair, he sat looking at me critically again. I began to shift uncomfortably in the chair. This really is going down in the books as one of my more bizarre experiences.
“Don’t you want to know what I want done?” I asked uncertainly.
“Oh darling, they didn’t tell you did they? I consider each client who comes in here as a blank canvas, as an opportunity to tell a story and create an image, a persona that hundreds of people everyday see. This isn’t just about making you polished; this is about defining to the world who you are. So tell me love, what do you want the world to see?” For the first time, his passion for his work began to shine. The way he talked about cutting hair as something so romantic and expressive seemed like a load of cadswallop to me.
“Someone who is confident, self assured, intelligent, beautiful.” I sighed in relief after sitting in silence for what felt like an hour. While in reality it was probably no more than a minuet, time just seemed to drag on forever.
“That’s a tall order.” He practically snorted. Clearly I was expecting a miracle. He signaled for me to elaborate. Once again, I found myself stumped. How difficult can this be, I should just start blabbing everything I feel. It would confirm that I’m a complete train wreck.
“I want people to see me as a person with thoughts, feelings, dreams, and not just as an ice queen who only does Arithmancy. I want something that makes me feel beautiful rather than passable. I want to stand out; I want people to notice me.” I began speaking fast; I was flustered and emotionally bothered. Two things that I never want to be. Ever. Yet somehow I said something illuminating because I could practically see the light bulb turn on in Alejandro’s head. He definitely found his vision of what he saw for me as far as this mess I call my hair.
“Ah…I know exactly what you need. You’ve done your part. Now sit back, close your eyes, and let me work my magic.” He was very enthusiastic and quickly threw a robe over me before he flicked his wand and a flurry of objects began flying around my head.
Before I knew it my hair was wet, combed completely straight, and lying surprisingly flat on my head.
“Hmm…this is going to be interesting. No one took that long with that particular line of attack. It appears as though you weren’t blessed with well behaved hair now were you?” He asked lightly. Chuckling to himself he carefully twirled with a piece of my hair looking at it carefully. “Let’s make this really interesting. Take one last look at yourself honey bunches because when you look back in the mirror you won’t recognize the woman staring back at you.”
Before I knew it he was attacking my head with a flurry of scissors, razors, brushes and anything he thought of. Having to sit there and watch significant amounts of my hair be chopped off without knowing what he was doing was incredibly frustrating and nerve-wracking. But Lily trusts him, so this won’t end up being terrible. Or so I hope.
“Oh sweet Merlin!” An incredibly loud voice echoed across the shop. I distinctly heard something that sounded like a snort emerge from Alejeandro as he was using a fine razor one last time through my hair. He had kept me away from the mirror the entire time but judging from Lily’s reaction this ought to be amusing.
“Tell me Lil, how ridiculous do I look?” I had certainly stewed long enough in my own self doubt and felt more than entitled to hear if this adventure had been worth it or not.
“Ridiculous!? You look brilliant. This is even better than I had imagined. Then again, my imagination also involved something more pixie-esque but this…this is you.” Lily was incredibly excited and she was now looking all around my head from different angles. The look on her face clearly said that she was restraining herself from running her hands through my hair in excitement.
“And that is why I insist that you leave me to my work and told you to find a distraction. This is about what she wants, not what you want for her.” He replied highly amused. Her cheeks tinged the slightest shade of pink which she quickly shook off.
“Well I am sorry that I only want the best for her. You have to see it. You’ll just die of shock.” She told me, still ecstatic beyond what should be considered normal.
“Well it’s better than turning into stone.” I muttered. Another amused chuckle entered my ear and I felt myself being spun around in the chair. Out of reflex I immediately forced my eyes shut until I felt the chair stay completely still. My heart was beating wildly as I hesitantly opened my eyes before having something like electricity travel through my body as I saw the person staring back at me in the mirror. Gone was the pale blonde monster that curled up on top of my head one day and died. In its place I found bangs that barely touched the tops of my eyebrows and my hair was arraigned straight framing the sides of my face curving slightly down with the ends barely touching my collar bone. But it wasn’t the cut that surprised me. It was the fact that my normally lackluster hair actually had richness to it, and of course the blue streak that traced its way down the right side of my face, is what gave me the most pause. In a million years, I never would’ve thought of this, but it truly took my breath away. There was no other way to describe it: it was perfect.
“And that my dear, is why this is on the house.” The sly voice was back in my ear, but I didn’t register a word of what was said.
“Oh dear, I’ve helped create a monster haven’t I?” I smirked internally when I heard Lily say that. Of course I was too busy being vane and still in shock over my new hair. The longer I looked at it, the more I loved it. I didn’t even realize that it made my eyes pop more than usual and while I still haven’t found a way to hide the dark circles under my eyes (yet) it now looked like I was merely try to emulate models of a different era (try like three decades ago) rather than being the result of too many late nights at the library followed by waking up too early mornings going right back into the slog of it.
“No, that’s not a monster you’ve helped create. You helped someone realize that they have potential outside of the academic world.” I snapped when I heard that and saw two very amused people. Amazingly I wasn’t even embarrassed and just smirked.
“You think I’m a monster now. What am I going to be when Willow is finished with me?” I asked rather amused. Lily only smiled and grabbed my arm and dragged me out of the salon.
Today, I was on top of the world, and it was before noon. Pinch me, I must be dreaming.
A/N: Hogsmade is going to be quite event packed. I'm sorry if it feels slow paced. But I promise that the drama will pick up; poor Grace can never find a way around it. Don't forget to leave a review!