A few days later, Bess came downstairs in the morning, ready to start the day. She had almost forgot about the incident with those men and she was trying her best to ignore the fact that they owned the store next to hers. This morning she felt good; earlier she ate a healthy and utterly tasteless breakfast of oatmeal – but she was focused on her diet today. She was going to stay away from the evil pastries. Focus. Focus.
She walked into the shop and pulled on one of her Aunt’s old-fashioned aprons over her day robes. Bess really didn’t like the robes in general. Even though she had gone to Wizarding school, it was hard to get used to wearing robes out in daily life. It just felt like she was wearing a bathrobe, or whatnot. And it was so shapeless! Not that she had much of a shape, but what shape she did have was completely covered up.
On the counter, there was one of the pretty lattice pie that she had baked yesterday afternoon; her Aunt Verbena must been here earlier in the morning. There was a note next to it. Bess walked past it and went to the mail slot where an owl had dropped off some letters. A few bills (she set those aside, ugh!), and a letter from her boyfriend, Herbert. That she definitely set aside. She really didn’t need to think about Herbert right now.
She looked at the pie on the counter, she could smell it. It was apple. It looked so flaky and juicy and sweet...No, she thought. Focus. Focus. Bess picked up the note next to the pie, and recognized her Aunt’s distinctive scrawl:
Good morning! You know my good
friend Molly, right? I’ve talked to you
about her before, right? Yes, well, I
promised to drop this pie off her son’s
store, but I forgot that I made a previous
engagement. Can you please drop this
off for me? Thank-you. It shouldn’t
take but just a moment. And you can
apologize while you’re at it. Love You!
Your Aunt, Verbena.
Bess crumbled the letter and tossed it into the trash. That was just like Verbena. Even her letters had run-on sentences that didn’t let you get a thought in edgewise. She sighed and stared at the pie grumpily. She supposed she should go next door and apologize. But she certainly wasn’t going to. Not unless they apologized first.
She’d take it over later. Yes. Right now she had to open the store and...do lots of important things.
It was late afternoon and the pie was still sitting on the counter. She stared at it mutinously. She really should take that over. Verbena could nag with the best of them, and if she came by this afternoon and she hadn’t take it over..?
She averted her eyes and noticed her still yet-unread-letter from Herbert. Oh piffle. I suppose I should read that, she thought morosely. What a horrid day. She still had to start preparing things for tomorrow below in the kitchens. She hoped to try out a new recipe for chocolate croissants that looked delicious.
Bess reached for the letter from Herbert and unrolled it.
Did he have to start the letter like that? Bess rolled her eyes. So...predictable.
I miss you very much, and I hope
to see you soon.
Was he always so formal? Maybe he just wasn’t a good letter-writer...? In the beginning his formality had seemed so gentlemanly and...well...chivalrous. She remembered thinking he was the perfect English gentleman. His accent was so cultured – unlike those louts next door, she thought with a scowl. No. Focus. She wasn’t thinking about them.
Our last date was very fun and I hope
you had fun as well.
Oh, blah blah blah. She had just seen him last week. Herbert was a from the muggle-world like her, and a successful healer at St. Mungos; she had met him about six months ago when she burned her hand pulling a batch of lemon poppy-seed scones out of the oven. Herbert had shiny blond hair, blue eyes, and was surprisingly attractive. Well, the surprising part is that he asked her out on the date in the first place. Attractive men weren’t exactly lining up at her door.
I was hoping you would be interested
in going to dinner with me tonight . I will
assume that you do, unless you owl me back
that you cannot make it. I will pick you up
7:00pm. I will count the minutes.
‘I will count the minutes’? Where did he come up with this drivel? Bess sighed. She supposed she would go. Why not? Dinner out did sound nice. She glanced at the front door and flipped the closed sign with a flick of her wand. She had to get started on those chocolate croissants if she wanted to get them prepared for tomorrow before leaving tonight.
Bess spent the rest of the afternoon with the radio blaring (she adored muggle rock music) in her tiny little basement kitchen and started the croissants. She measured the ingredients, mixed them and set the dough to rest. In between the dough’s resting periods, kneading and rolling it out, she went up stairs, showered and changed into a pretty muggle dress, high heels and blew dry out her long hair straight. Then she looked at her hair and pulled it up with a clip. It was so much easier to deal with out of her face.
Bess glanced down at her watch and noticed it was almost 7:00pm. She walked out of the bathroom and sat by the fireplace, to wait for Herbert. Then she realized she had forgotten completely about that blasted pie of Verbena’s. Damn! She had completely forgot to deliver that to them.
Well, she still had a few minutes before seven, so she raced downstairs, got the pie and quickly walked next door. Their shop was closed and she couldn’t see anyone through the window. She knocked on the window and waited for a few minutes. No one came to the window. Well, that was that, she thought triumphantly.
Bess turned away from the window and started to walk back to the bakery when she heard their door open.
“I though I heard someone knocking.” One of them said. “Sorry, though. We’re closed. You’ll have to come back tomorrow.”
“Oh.” Bess turned around and watched as one of the Weasley twins looked shocked to see her. Well, she was a little shocked herself that she had come over to give them her apple pie.
He was standing in the doorway with his hair mused and holding what looked like a rubber chicken.
“Sorry, I really didn’t mean to disturb you. But my Aunt set aside this pie for you and your brother...your mother asked my Aunt to have me drop it off. I hope you like apple pie.” Bess trailed off. She had a very annoying habit of rambling when she was nervous. And that twin kept staring at her. Was she wearing her dress inside out or something? It was really rather rude.
“What?” The twin seemed to notice she was holding a pie. “Oh yes. Pie. My mum.” The twin reached over and took the pie from her.
She turned to walk back, but he stopped her.
“I’m really sorry about a few days ago...” The twin said. “Look. Let’s start over. My name is Fred Weasley. Nice to meet you.” He was smiling friendly.
She had to reluctantly admit that she had said to her Aunt that she would apologize if they apologized first.
“Apology accepted.” She said grudgingly. “And I’m sorry about my little prank...I really don’t know what came over me. Your brother...” She was about to explain how much his brother annoyed her when she realized that it was probably past 7:00pm. Bess looked down at her watch and saw that it was indeed, ten minutes past.
“I love apple pie. Want to come in and share a slice of this pie with me?” Fred asked.
That was nice of him, she thought.
“No actually, I’m running late. Maybe some other time...?” She said politely, waved slightly and went back into her store.
Bess raced back upstairs and into her apartment. Herbert was sitting on her couch, reading a magazine from her coffee table. He looked up her and smiled.
“Good evening, Bess.”
She smiled back, “Hello! Sorry I’m late; I had to run a pie over to the guys next door.”
He frowned as he stood, “The Weasleys? I thought you disliked them?”
“I do. I did. Oh, I don’t know. Verbena is on this big campaign to make us all friends or something. She made me take a pie over and apologize for this little prank I played on them yesterday...” She walked up to him and he kissed her lightly on the cheek lightly.
“What prank?” He asked as he picked up her bulky coat off the coat rack and helped her into it. He opened the front door.
“Are we driving to the restaurant?” Bess asked, sidestepping the topic.
“Yes. Is that alright, dear?” Herbert inquired politely. Lud, he did everything so politely. One would think he was older than his twenty-six years.
“Perfectly fine.” She smiled as she stepped out into the hallway, nearly running into one of the Weasley twins. Which one was this? He was looking at her like she had grown two heads, so it must be the other one. What was Herbert saying?
“I parked my Beemer out in front of the Leaky Cauldron, we had better hurry, this neighborhood...” Herbert said, and then stopped; he was looking at George Weasley, who was wearing one of those green suits again, with interest.
“Good evening, Ms. Carrey.” George said, in mock imitation of their previous conversation.
Ooooo! Everything that man said rankled her. He was lounging against his and his brother’s doorway, watching her and Herbert with interest. She tried to ignore him while locking the door to her apartment. Maybe he would get bored and go inside his own place.
“Are you going to introduce me to your friend, Bess?” she heard Herbert ask her politely at her side. Drat that man.
She snorted inelegantly. Friend, indeed.
Bess turned around to face George’s smirking face. She was about to introduce them when George beat her to the punch by putting his hand out towards Herbert.
“George Weasley. My brother and I own Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes downstairs.” George said shaking hands with Herbert, a touch of pride in his voice, “And you are...?”
“Herbert Willoughby. I’m Bess’s boyfriend. Nice to meet you finally, after hearing everything Bess has said about you and your brother’s high-jinxes.”
Bess scowled at the amazed look on George’s face. Apparently he didn’t see why a handsome guy like Herbert would be with her. What a...what was the word Verbena used? A prat. What a prat George was.
“Well, we’d better be going, Herbert. We’re going to be late for our reservations.” Bess started down the hallway, paused and waited for Herbert.
He looked down at his watch. “Yes, dear.” Herbert smiled and nodded his head in farewell to George. “Nice to meet you.”
After the two of them left, George frowned at the door to the apartment he shared with Fred, and decided to go down in the basement lab and work on some new prototypes instead. In the lab, he found Fred sitting at the table with a fork, eating straight out of what looked like an apple pie.
“Hullo. Guess who I just saw?” George sat across from Fred, produced a fork with a quick incantation and dug into the pie. “Mmm...good pie.”
“Bess Carrey apologized to me.” Fred said, between bites of the pie.
“Really? When?” George inquired casually.
“Yep. Not ten minutes ago. She came over and gave me this pie. Said she was sorry for pulling the prank on us.” Fred waggled his eyebrows. “She looked right pretty in some muggle clothes.”
George concentrated on eating the pie. She had looked pretty in the muggle clothes, even if she was wearing that bulky coat. And was hanging all over that stuffed shirt boyfriend of hers.
“I think I’m going to ask her out.” Fred said, “She-”
“What?” George said through a mouthful of pie.
Fred quirked an eyebrow up at George. “Why not? She’s pretty and has-”
“She’s a ruddy prude. And you know how she feels about our joke shop.” George said, pushing the pie away. “She reminds me of Percy.”
Fred was laughing, “What? Percy? Come on-”
“And she has a boyfriend.” George picked up a rubber chicken off the table and pointed it at Fred. “Just met the git upstairs.”
“Really?” Fred asked, sobering. “What was the matter with him? Acne? Bad breath? Rude? Missing teeth? Hideously large overbite?”
“No, the bloke was good looking. But he had shifty eyes. From the muggle world, as it looked. They were driving to a muggle restaurant for dinner.”
“Driving?” Fred laughed.
“Have you ever heard of a such a thing!” George started juggling the rubber chicken.
“Well.” Fred looked devious, “We’ll just have to convince her that she’d be better off with me.”
“With you?” George laughed loudly. Too loudly.
“You got a problem with that?”
“Well...you’re nutters, mate. She’s bloody stick-in-the-mud! You heard what she thought-”
Fred waved his hand at George dismissively. “But, you didn’t see her in that dress...all those curves...with huge-” Fred was animatedly gesturing with his hands.
“Fred Weasley!” A voice exclaimed angrily from the doorway.
They simultaneously looked towards the door; their mother was standing there, her hands on her hips.
“Sorry, mum.” Fred said, not looking at all contrite.
George shrugged, and set the chicken down. “Sorry.” Although he wasn’t sure why he had to say he was sorry. But the situation seemed to call for it.
“Boys, I’m going to have to have your father talk to you boys...” Mrs. Weasley sighed and walked into the basement. She ignored their groans of protest.
“I came by to see if you had any laundry that needed to be done.” She walked up to Fred and started to smooth down his hair, which looked like he had forgotten to comb it that morning. Or that week. He fussed away at her.
George hid a smile. His mother had visited the shop almost daily with small tasks like this. Did they need groceries? Were they getting enough to eat? Were they sleeping all right? Were the other shopkeepers being nice to them? Despite the fact they had gone away to school much of their life, she was having some trouble with the thought of them living in London. Alone. Without their mother. It was rather sweet at the beginning but it was starting to wear on the nerves.
”Mum, we’re fine.” Fred said exasperatedly.
His mother was eying the pie.
“Is that all you’ve had to eat?” She asked suspiciously.
Seeking to nip this line of questioning in the bud, “No, mum. We had a full breakfast and lunch. This was just an afternoon snack.”
She frowned. “Not a terribly healthy afternoon snack. Did Verbena from next door bring it over?”
“Actually, her niece, Bess brought it over.” Fred supplied, unable to hid a grin.
“She’s a nice girl, that Bess. Had a hard time of it. Her parents died last year, you know. She had to drop out of school and move here.” His mum bustled around the room, straightening things up.
“Really?” Fred said, looking pensive.
“Yes.” Mum answered, narrowing her eyes at them. “Were you two just talking about her when I came in?”
Fred blushed. “Uhh...um, No.” He stuttered.
“Yes he was.” George said tartly, ignoring the irritated look on Fred’s face.
Mum started huffing angrily, but he just walked over to her and put his arms around her. “Mum, we’re growing up.” George started.
“You’re to have to get used to it.” Fred continued.
“We’re eighteen!” He said, and guided her out of the basement and up the stairs. “So, what’s for dinner? Can we come over? We’re starving...”
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