Ally rolled over onto her stomach, burrowing down further under her doona. Sunshine was glaring in through the open window. It was weak but still burned through her closed eye lids and kept her from falling back into a peaceful doze. Grumbling Ally shielded her eyes with her hand and peeped sleepily at the old wind up clock on the bedside table.
The covers were thrown off and Ally was scrambling towards the bathroom, picking up odd pieces of clothing along the way, hoping that what she had collected by the time she reached the shower would make up a reasonable outfit. But with her luck she probably had two jumpers, some shorts and no underwear in her hands. Bumping her way down the hall, avoiding the piles of books, dirty clothes (Ally definitely wasn’t known for her housework) and a empty fish tank that was so grimy you couldn’t see through the glass, Ally finally tumbled into the shower. She was supposed to be at work now.
Less than ten minutes later Ally breezed in through the door of Brickshaw’s Books and Bobs, trying to look like she hadn’t just been asleep even though her robes were askew, she had odd socks, her hair was sticking out at bizarre angles at the back and she had half a piece of toast between her teeth. Lilly glanced up to watch as Ally stumble over a footstool and nearly lost the entire contents of her bag. She caught the strap just in time.
“Morning Ally,” The corner of Lilly’s lips quirked up, “Out of the two of us it wasn’t you I expected to be stumbling in late.”
Ally glanced up and grinned around her breakfast as she dumped her bag behind the counter. Lily did look a little worse for wear. Ally guessed she was still nursing the remnants of a hangover.
“I told you Potter was a bad influence.”
Lily ignored Ally’s obvious dig at her boyfriend and went back to flipping through the leaflets that were lying in a disorderly pile on the varnished wooden surface. “I got here first, therefore, I claim the counter for the day. You get to stack.”
Ally groaned and huffed and puffed her way around the shop but Lily just went right back to ignoring her and Ally had to resign herself to a day of tedious jobs and mind numbing tasks.
It wasn’t as bad as she was making it out to seem. It was easy, automatic work. Ally could go into autopilot, transferring books from the box to the shelf, rearranging the displays, returning misplaced books to their correct row, sweeping, dusting and restocking. Her movements were mechanical, robotic and stiff, and not a lot of thought was required.
“So every one partied on after I left?” Ally asked mildly as she started to reorganize a shelf at the back of the store. She raised her voice a little, so that it carried back to Lily. The shop was narrow but deep, with dark wood paneling and tall, spindly shelves. As you walked in the door there was a solid counter to your left, surrounded by quills, ink pots, parchment, seals and every other type of writing equipment imaginable. To your left was a long, cushiony, faded, burgundy couch. Ally often spread out here, when the number of jobs to do ran out and the flow of customers ceased. Then the shelves started. There were rows and rows of them continuing backwards. They were not in normal straight military rows either. They weaved and zig-zagged and spiraled around each other in some kind of twisted maze. Lily or herself had often had to rescue some poor, disorientated customer from the midst. Ally loved it. She loved the cluttered and rambling feel the place had, quite similar to it’s owner. Old Mrs Brickshaw was a delight. Strange, controversial, eccentric and sharp. But what Ally loved most about this job, was the shop never opened before eleven. For a late riser like her, it was heaven.
“They gradually faded out after you left. Your brother was first, then Gideon, then Frank,” There was a pause as Ally heard the bell above the door tinkle and the soft shuffle of feet. There was some murmuring, a rattle of the old register, and then the bell again, signaling that the person had left the store. Ally guessed that they had been selling something. Sure enough a minute later Lily appeared around the corner, handing Ally a thick novel for her to catalogue and place. She leant her shoulder against a row and continued on, “ then the remainder of us carried on back to James’s. Don’t know what happened to Sirius though, he just never returned after taking you home.”
Lily’s tone of voice and pointed look caused the book to slip from Ally’s grasp and land with a dull thump. Her fingers, it seemed, had become useless. Lily’s eyes were alight and her expression hopeful. Ally shook her head and sidled past her co-worker.
“Don’t get excited Lily, you’ll only be disappointed.”
The red head groaned out loud, following her back to the front of the shop. Soft winter light was filtering in through the front windows, illuminating the dust and Ally screwed her nose up at the job in front of her. Dusting was housework. She could avoid doing it at home but at work it was inevitable.
“I’m just sick of him being single, you know?” Lily went back to her place behind the counter, slumping down on the tall leather stool. It made a whooshing sound of exhalation as the cushion took her weight. “If he ever does bring a date, which isn’t often, she normally has the personality of a wet mop or an ego that beats his, in a bad way”
“In a bad way?” Ally asked, raising her eyebrow as she took a duster from the cupboard beside the couch.
“Yes. Sirius’s ego is endearing, like James’s. It’s annoying sometimes but it’s who they are and you come to love it. These girl’s just act so arrogant you want to throttle them. There’s self confidence and there’s arrogance Ally.”
Lily sounded so sure that Ally didn’t feel like arguing with her and wreaking her sunny mood. If there was a difference, then Sirius was walking a fine line between the two. Ally really did just think him arrogant but the red head was right in a way. There was arrogance that suited some people and made them that much more appealing, but there was also the kind that made the person almost excruciating to be around. Ally knew exactly the kind of girls Lily meant.
“So your worried about Black being single for a change?” Ally asked, slightly confused.
“It’s not ‘for a change’. He had, I think, one relationship at Hogwarts and none since we left. Sirius is the kind of person who thrives around others and I just reckon he needs someone…”
“You don’t have to be in a relationship to—“
“He doesn’t sleep around, Ally” Lily snapped abruptly, crossing her arms over her chest.
“What, are you trying to sell him to me or something Lily” Ally said harshly. If Lily was going to be short with her, she could be short right back. It was bad enough having to put up with Sirius but feeling like he was now being pressured on her by other people was grating her nerves and her patience. Normally, Ally was tolerable but one small push and she could fly off the handle.
“No,” Lily’s sharp tones had turned towards pleading and her face conveyed the kind of frustration Ally was feeling,”, it’s just that for once he’s going after the right person—“
“Who said he’d going after me!”
“Shut up Ally, its not the point. The point is that he seems to genuinely like you—“
“Our conversations consist of aggravated two minutes sparring competitions in an elevator,” Ally couldn’t help but cut across her again. She found the whole thing insane. You can’t genuinely fancy someone out of the small time she and Sirius had spent together. Plus through most of that she had been snapping and snarling at him. He should actually be repulsed.
“Doesn’t matter,” Ally actually thought it did but didn’t get a chance to say anything before Lily was off again, “ He just needs someone like you, who has intelligence, who won’t take his bullshit, whose driven and confident and responsible, “If Lily saw the state of her house she’d probably hardly call her responsible, “, someone who respects him and who he’ll respect. I’m being serious Ally, he needs someone like you.”
“Well you know what, I don’t need him,” Ally turned away and started to vigorously dust the counter surface, keeping her eyes trained down and not at Lily’s vivid green ones.
“Because…” Ally spluttered, trying to get a grip on the direction her brain was heading. “He’s egotistical, prejudice, aggravating, presumptuous, conceited, selfish, proud, reckless, damaged and, yes Lily, he is fucking arrogant, not bloody self confident”
“You don’t know him at all.”
“And I don’t particularly want to.”
There was silence as Ally worked furiously at the gleaming wooden surface. It was polished to perfection, the rag making a squeaking noise against the smooth surface, but neither seemed to notice and Ally didn’t cease in her quick movements. It stretched for some moments more, finally broken by Lily’s soft voice.
“What do you mean damaged?”
“He’s a Black, Lily. Of course he’s bound to be fucked up, that whole family is a complete mess. They think they’re so high and mighty, but they involve themselves in the Dark Arts till they’re as tainted as the rest of us. There is no gap between upper class and lower class folk when they’re committing the same crimes. The Black’s though, they don’t see it, they’re so caught up in their family tree and connections that they no longer know what’s right and wrong, their whole perspective is warped. They’re blinded by prejudice and power and I can tell you that that blindfold is never going to come off. I can list all the bad things about Sirius for as long as I want but he could have come out worse.”
Ally finally stopped her insistent cleaning and straightened. Lily was staring at her, her eyes searching and probing, as if trying to find some hidden truth. Ally felt uncomfortable, like she was being invaded. She could handle this from Rupert or Lena but from Lily it was like an invasion of privacy. She didn’t know her well enough. She barely knew her at all, even after spending seven years at the same school together, until they were thrown together by means of employment. At this stage, she wouldn’t even class her as a friend.
“See, what you just said, shows that you think Sirius is a good man. And he is, he’s brilliant and decent and one of the loyalist people I’ve ever met. He’s a gentleman Ally. Despite what you said about the Black’s they are an old family who pride themselves on image, they wouldn’t turn out anything less.”
“Well I don’t see it Lily. I’m sorry, but there isn’t some big moment of realization like there was for you with Potter that happens to everyone. You got lucky.”
Ally looked to the ground and moved away, dragging a box full of books along the way. She sat down at a bottom shelf, her back to the counter, as she started to stack and let her mind churn over the conversation.
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