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Chapter 1: The Dartboard of Destiny
After four years, London had worn me out.
Given the circumstances, I’m impressed that I managed to put up with the city for that long. Come for a holiday and London is lovely – London is busy and vibrant and alive, and Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour in Diagon Alley is almost worth the extortionate sum of rent you need to pay to be within walking distance of their two hundred separate flavours, not including sorbets. However, if you’re flung out in the west of the city and your daily commute involves having your face squashed into some businessman’s armpit, it gets a little wearing.
And, despite being nowhere near within walking distance of Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, the rent was still extortionate. I didn’t have one job; I had three. My life was a blur of gainful employment interspersed with tea breaks. Working three jobs can wear you out quite easily. The armpit thing doesn’t really help.
I use the terms ‘three jobs’ and ‘gainful employment’ quite loosely. I’ll be honest; three days of the week were devoted to waitressing, two days to selling beetle eyes in an apothecary, and the occasional wee hours of the morning were spent hammering out minor articles for the Daily Prophet. But I’d had enough. I wanted a normal job, a nine-to-five, five-day-a-week, stationery cupboard sort of affair.
I’d always had a nasty feeling this would happen someday. Dad had turned soothsayer some time ago and predicted it: ‘Lucy Weasley,’ he’s said, in that stern voice I’d been afraid of since birth. ‘If you want to stay in London, you need to improve your salary.’
When I pouted and moaned about the whole art degree thing making me practically unemployable, he’d fixed me with a look over the top of his reading glasses and said ‘Perhaps in London, but you might find more luck in a different part of the country. Trust me.’
I was right, though. I was practically unemployable. Hey, trust the statistics! The average starting salary of 2,400 Galleons a year for an art student is hardly a sum of money you can eat three meals a day off. The degree itself won’t get you into the Ministry. You can be a waitress, sure, but that doesn’t exactly up your game, and it’s a bummer when your tip won’t even cover the cost of a pint where you work. Of course, you can always apply for some muggle job, but what do you do when they ask for qualifications? Oh, about that, my secondary school doesn’t, technically, exist. But I do have an Outstanding in N.E.W.T level Divination that would really come in handy for this minor administrative role!
It wasn’t like I was the only one juggling multiple jobs. Scorpius – yeah, that one – had a couple himself. Although he had managed to find suitable jobs for a photographer; part-time photography for Wizarding History Magazine (a bit niche, but alarmingly high subscription rates) and a part-time job in a photo shop, flogging enchanted cameras and developing the odd film.
Despite us being a certified, bona-fide, together-for-three-years couple, the five jobs we held down between us meant our paths rarely crossed. And if our paths did cross, it was usually when we were both bleary-eyed and brushing our teeth in the bathroom, or fighting over a clean mug in the kitchen, or waking the other up by flopping into bed at one in the morning after a long shift. That’s hardly productive for a functioning relationship.
In a nutshell, triple employment was the source of all misery in my life.
I’d been meditating on the thought of kicking all three jobs and ditching London for a while, but I’d not done much about vocalising these thoughts to Scorpius. Not until a Tuesday evening after a particularly trying shift, when I apparated onto the doorstep, exhausted, my waitress’ uniform encrusted with spilt soup and baby vomit (don’t ask).
I dragged myself into the flat and surveyed the kitchen-cum-dining-room-cum-living-room-cum-laundry-cum-artist’s-studio. It wasn’t especially nice. We’d had to move after Tarquin, our long-suffering friend, had put his foot down and declared that enough was enough, and a single man just couldn’t share a two-bedroom flat with a couple. This flat was a good deal scabbier. The wallpaper was stained, peeling from the wall, and the taps in the bathroom flaked rust onto your hands now and again. There was also a locked cupboard in the hallway that rattled ominously around the full moon; we got five Galleons off each month’s rent on the condition that we fed it and spoke not a word of its presence.
The surveying lasted a full five minutes before there was a sudden pop! and Scorpius stumbled into existence in front of me, looking equally exhausted, jeans caked in mud up to the knees.
‘Hi,’ he said, out of breath. ‘Mock Goblin rebellion in Dorset, don’t ask, it was really muddy-’
‘We have to move,’ I said.
Scorpius looked a bit wary. It was possibly the baby vomit, possibly the way I was glowering – but then, without taking his eyes off me, he took a cautious step to the left.
‘Well…’ he said. ‘I moved.’
‘Not like that, you dolt,’ I said, although I smiled for the first time I a good few hours. ‘I mean…three jobs, it’s a bit…’
‘Horrific,’ he finished the sentence for me.
‘I was going to say demanding, but horrific works. It’s just…well…’
‘We’re both always tired and we don’t see much of each other anymore,’ he said. ‘I’ve been thinking…’
I meant to reply, but instead I was seized by a vast, hippopotamus-like yawn. I squinted at him through watering eyes, ignoring the menacing rattling that had just started up from the locked cupboard.
‘Yeah, and that thing in the cupboard,’ he said. ‘Did you feed it?’
‘Well…I was kind of hoping we could find a flat without a cupboard gremlin.’
The conversation didn’t go much further than this. Tea was made, toast was toasted, and then Scorpius spilled into bed whilst I stayed up scribbling a feature on self-stirring teacups for the ‘Prophet. At midnight, I chucked a crust of toast into the cupboard and then crawled into bed too, falling asleep almost instantly.
I’ll say one thing: those heady days of hedge-hopping, poetry slams and general drunken buffoonery seemed like centuries ago.
Even though we’d talked about it, I didn’t expect the subject of moving to crop up for ages – we were both so busy. However, the next morning, Scorpius woke me up in rather high spirits, clutching a large sheet of parchment and, bizarrely, a dartboard and three darts.
‘I have a great idea!’ he said.
‘Are we getting rid of the cupboard gremlin?’
‘No -’ he unfurled the parchment. It was a map of Britain, the rolling expanses of green punctuated by swirls and dots of grey and, bizarrely, a few sparse little purple triangles. ‘Ta-dah!’ he said. ‘Extensive map of the British isles, complete with magical dwellings! I found it in a skip ages ago and I was gonna use it for an art project but…’
I sat up, still a little woozy with sleep. ‘And the darts?’
‘Well, what we do is…chuck them at the map.’
‘No, what I mean is – we throw a dart at the map, and then move to wherever it lands! We put our destiny in the hands of the darts!’
He beamed at me. He looked even more tired than I did, his hair ruffled and his collar turned up on one side. I had the nasty feeling that he hadn’t had much in the way of sleep.
‘Darts don't have hands...and what if it lands in the sea?’
‘Then…’ he considered it. ‘We take up a life of piracy?’
Another question tripped to my tongue – what if it was far? What if we ended up in the Shetlands? But then I realised another reason for wanting to leave London: everyone else had left anyway. And commuting wasn’t exactly a bother, what with Floo powder and the Knight Bus and whatnot.
‘Cool,’ I pushed back the duvet as he crossed the room and stuck the dartboard to the wall with a charm, pinning the map over it. Then, he crossed back over to the bed and perched beside me, handing over a dart.
‘You go first,’ he said.
I aimed and threw the dart; it whistled through the air and landed on a dot labelled ‘Croydon’.
We exchanged a look.
‘That was a practise,’ Scorpius said hurriedly, passing me another dart. I aimed again; a whistle and a thunk, and then the second dart pierced a dot slightly higher up labelled ‘Walsall.’
We exchanged another look.
‘Third time lucky,’ Scorpius passed me another dart.
This time, I concentrated. Squinting at the map, I aimed a little higher, took a breath, and then threw it – the dart sailed high through the air, and for a terrifying moment I thought it was about to land in the North Sea and we’d end up in a life of piracy – but then it landed with a satisfying thunk on a tiny purple dot way, way up near the Highlands, the name too small to read.
For the third time, Scorpius and I exchanged a look. Then we both shot up at the same time, scrambling over the end of the bed to read the map.
‘We are moving to…’ Scorpius said, pushing up his glasses, squinting at the map. But it was still too small to read. I hopped off the bed, feeling more than a little apprehensive as I approached the map and traced the name of the third town with my finger.
a/n: welcome to the sequel! I've been excited about starting this for a while - expect many, many puns, metaphors, crack-tastic situations and scottish people. As a Scot, I've always been tempted to move some characters up north. Och aye the noo and all that. Also, no offence meant to residents of Croydon or Walsall. If you feel singled out, just you wait until I rant about Dundee.
And without further ado...onwards and upwards!