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Chapter 1: Victoria Sponge
Today's special: Victoria Sponge. Classic, delicious and feather-light.
As much as she would like to say that the black chalkboard outside in the street that bore the details of the special was the reason why the bakery was filled with customers, Pippa Wood had to admit that, in all likelihood, they had all come in to take advantage of the second notice, the one that read 50% off your first purchase and shop here because Rose Weasley tells you to. But whatever the reason for the crowds coming in, they were here and that was the most important thing.
After all, there had been no guranatee that her dream would ever come to fruition; the Woods were known for playing Quidditch, not baking cakes and sweet treats, and her siblings had said as much when she had announced her intentions. Plus, she didn't have a clue how to bake on a commercial scale; cupcakes with delicate frosting flowers and breads were all very well when made at home, but Pippa had quickly discovered that the little oven pre-fitted in the empty shop wouldn't really be up to the task. But most of all, she hadn't even been sure that people would actually come; that was where Rose had stepped in, and with one simple addition to the blackboard, the queue to get in now stretched back to Weasley's Wizard Wheezes.
At the end of the day, the Bluebird Bakery had been a spur-of-the-moment thing with a few emotional factors behind it, and as Jack had constantly reminded her, those sorts of things rarely worked out. Unless, of course, he was pulling out of a Wronski Feint at the wrong time simply because he hadn't felt like going down any further; he hadn't so much caught the Snitch as flown straight into it. One day Pippa was filling out application forms for her Department of Mysteries training, something she had dreamed about for years, and the next she was up to her arms in flour and butter in a chic white kitchen in Paris, where she was enrolled in a year's baking course with one of the country's finest chefs. Even Monsieur Blanc had doubted her at first; "Ze Eengleesh, zey like zeir roast beef too much to appreciate ze finer foods in life," he had drawled in heavily accented English, until he had tasted one of her cream puffs and asked what she had added to the cream to make it "fantastique".
Even so, Pippa had almost called the whole thing off at the last minute; what was she thinking, opening a bakery in the middle of Diagon Alley, with no experience in the catering business and tender pangs for the Thought Room at the Department of Mysteries? It was only when that first lick of dark blue paint had been applied and the little sign had been erected that all her qualms had disappeared and her fingers were longing for the feel of a wooden rolling pin or the powdery surface of fondant icing.
Now, two weeks later and with as assistant she had found helping her out behind the counter, Pippa was finally satisfied.
"Philippa, it's almost five-thirty. The queue stops just beyond the blackboard," Aiden Harte called over the sound of customers making agonizingly-slow decisions about whether they wanted vanilla frosting or chocolate on their cupcakes.
Grinning in spite of herself, Pippa finished serving her customer and went to check. As people left with their goods, the queue slowly filed inside and now there was just one person waiting beyond the open blue door. As the last customer waiting lifted her comically-round sunglasses onto the top of her glossy chestnut hair, Pippa felt her chest constrict a little and she struggled to breathe slowly and deeply. Those big brown Bambi-like eyes were just as nauseatingly cute as ever; the girl's carefully manicured nails the complete opposite of Pippa's bitten and flour-coated own nails, and suddenly she found that she had yet another reason to despise Niamph Finnigan.
Niamph looked up as the last customer brushed past her on their way out of the bakery and as she made to step inside with those towering heels of hers, the door was shut firmly in her face and the little sign on it switched from 'Open' to 'Closed'. Recognition dawned as she noticed Pippa behind the panes of glass for the first time, but Pippa thankfully couldn't hear her simpering voice or her whiny pleas. As Niamph continued to stand there, blabbering on about Merlin knew what, Pippa opened the door very slowly and just enough so that the brunette couldn't push her way inside.
"Pip!" she cried, "It's been far too long! We should-"
"We're closed," Pippa interrupted, feeling a small sense of satisfaction and a grin threatening on the corners of her mouth as she saw Rose roll her eyes from across the street, "in case you couldn't tell by the sign above your head."
Niamph immediately dropped the gushing expression and glared. "You weren't two minutes ago."
"Owner's perogative," Pippa shrugged, openly smiling now.
"If you're going to be bitchy, Wood, I won't bother coming back," Niamph sniffed, pulling her sunglasses back on and flipping off whoever wolf-whistled at her.
"Fine by me. In case you hadn't noticed, the huge queues more than make up for your lack of custom," Pippa said, closing the door again and giving a little wave as Niamph turned on her heel and stalked off.
"Oh, that felt good," she said to herself, suddenly noticing that Aiden had a rather lovely grin.
"Philippa Caryn Wood, that was shamelessly petty!" Rose declared loudly as she leaned over the counter and began dismantling one of the frosting flowers on her cupcake. "But at the same time, I'm very proud of you."
"Why, thank you, Rosie," Pippa grinned, writing down the day's earnings in a book she had bought just for the purpose and emerging from the kitchen with a large bottle of wine. "Now we celebrate. Yours or mine?"
"Yours. My place is a tip," Rose said, finishing her cupcake in one and clapping her hands to disperse all of the crumbs onto the floor.
"Mine won't be much better," Pippa warned but she pulled her jacket on all the same. "Coming, Aiden?"
Startled, Aiden looked up from the stock that he was counting. "No thanks. I said I'd meet some mates at the pub. Wouldn't be fair to start without them," he grinned, and Pippa felt her heart doing little somersaults as he spoke.
"Okay. I knew there was a reason why we opened on a Friday. But I want you here at the same time tomorrow," she said, trying to ignore Rose's pointed looks and badly concealed scoffs.
"Thanks. See you tomorrow, Philippa," Aiden said, drawing his wand out to Apparate.
"You, um, you can call me Pippa," she called out before he left, and instantly felt stupid. She was his boss; he should be calling her Miss Wood... but that really wasn't right for the occasion and he did have such a lovely smile...
"Smitten, much?" Rose was looking at her with a one-sided smirk and a raised eyebrow, the bottle of wine safe in the crook of her arm.
"Shut up, or I'll start on Scorpius," Pippa threatened, feeling her cheeks burn from the rush of blood.
"Whatever. That's so old now. Don't you think that Aiden looks like Louis?" Rose asked and in the awkward silence, she Apparated away. Pippa followed suit immediately, hoping that the pushing and pulling sensation that accompanied Apparition would dispel all of the unwanted and buried thoughts that were now making their way to the surface.
A/N: It's a little on the short side for me, I know, and I still can't seem to get the spacing right, but comments and suggestions would be most welcome. It doesn't even need to be anything particularly eloquent; a simple 'like' or 'dislike' and maybe a little explanation for why would be great and really appreciated! ~Tasha