“I need a puppy,” I gasp, having ran the whole way from work on my lunch break. The Muggle pet shop is full of people doing their last minute pet Christmas shopping. The woman before me bought a red and white coat, which I can only presume is for her extremely miniature dog. Why do people feel the need to buy their pets Christmas presents?
“Hello! Welcome to Pet-O-Licious! Merry Christmas, how may I help you?” the very jolly man grins at me from behind the counter. I don’t care if it’s Christmas Eve, I will kill this bloke. He’s wearing a Santa hat. That’s what I get for going to a place called ‘Pet-O-Licious’.
“I – need – a – puppy!” I repeat angrily.
“Alrighty! Before you make your decision as to which puppy you wish to purchase, it is my duty as an employee of Pet-O-Licious, and my duty as a bit of a dog lover,” he winks at me, “to inform you that puppies are not just for Christmas - they're for life. They are a huge responsibility. They require constant care – it’s sort of like having a baby!” Yeah, that’s all I need.
“Are you sure you’re prepared for this commitment?”
“Yes, I’m prepared!” I growl.
“Alrighty!” he squeals and claps his hands together enthusiastically. “We have quite a few breeds – Labrador, golden retriever, Alsatian –”
“A small one,” I interrupt, “I need a very small puppy, that won’t grow very much and that preferably will die within the next few weeks. Tell me, what’s your smallest, sickest dog?”
The man, whose nametag says ‘Hi, I’m Justin, and I’m here to help!’ looks at me as if I’ve just ran over his mother with a lorry.
“E-excuse me?” Justin stutters, “Y-you want a dying dog?”
“No,” I snap, so he won’t break down into tears. His bottom lip is quivering. “I just need a small one, alright?”
He still looks at me suspiciously. He thinks I’m some sort of dog-hater. I don’t hate dogs. I had a dog, I loved him. I just don’t want to have to raise a dog and a five year old in a dingy little flat.
“Look, Justin,” I say, “I’m in a bit of a rush. I need a small dog, alright? Can you help me?”
Still a bit wary of me, Justin proceeds to explain the different breeds. I have to be back at the hospital in fifteen minutes, so I rush him a bit and barely listen to his lecture on how a dog needs love and company, and how he or she should be walked every day and fed and such.
“Yes, I know all that,” I assure him, “Can I just see the puppies, please?”
Justin takes me out the back to where they keep the dogs. There are different sections for different breeds, and out in the garden there is a litter of puppies playing on the grass. They’re quite cute, actually. And small.
“These are Cavalier King Charles Spaniels,” Justin explains, “Very lovable dogs, and they don’t grow too big either. Only £250.”
I stop walking and stare at Justin, who looks like a puppy himself with long hair that flops down the side of his face like ears.
“£250?” I exclaim, “Are you being funny?”
“These are pedigree puppies,” he tells me, as if that means anything, “If you’re looking for something cheaper, you could go down to the animal rescue centre...”
He’s looking at me like I’m poor. I am poor, but I still don’t want people looking at me like that. It’s as if I’m not worthy of these pedigree dogs, that all I deserve is some neglected old stray from the animal rescue. Still, I’m not paying £250 for a bloody dog.
“Have you anything cheaper?” I ask.
“All of our dogs are pure-blood pedigree,” Justin tells me pompously.
Here we go with the pure-blood nonsense. If I wanted a pure-blood dog I’d adopt Draco Malfoy. I leave Pet-O-Licious empty handed and run as fast as I can back to St Mungo’s, making a mental note to take apparition classes as soon as I get a free moment. I’m ten minutes late by the time I arrive back at work, and unfortunately Healer O’Satan is standing at the receptionist station. Shit. Even though she’s not technically my boss, she tends to rip into me any chance she gets.
“Weasley! You were supposed to be back fifteen minutes ago,” she growls at me.
“Ten, actually,” I correct her. Why do I do it? Why do I give backchat where it does absolutely no good?
“I don’t think Healer Wharton’s going to put up with your cheeky insolence for much longer, you know,” she says quietly to me, “And by the looks of you, I’d say you need this job.” She looks me up and down, from my damp bushy hair down to my worn out black shoes, which are all scuffed at the tops and smirks horribly.”So if I were you, I’d keep my mouth shut.” She turns around, her hair practically slapping me in the face and stalks off down the corridor.
“We’re so sorry, Rose!” Linda cries when I take my seat behind the desk, “We tried to distract her, but then she needed to get a chart –”
“It’s fine, Linda,” I tell her, “Really.” I feel like I’m about ten inches tall. I feel like I’m in first year again and Professor Chang is giving out to me for changing my matchstick into a toothpick instead of a needle. I’d love nothing more than to see that stupid Evil Bitch O’Satan cow fall flat on her face. And maybe Daisy could trip over her.
Linda hints around the subject of Scorpius, but I can tell she knows she’s treading on thin ice. I suppose Hazel and Gladys filled her in on the details while I was dog shopping. I’m glad, because I really didn’t want to be the one to crush her hopes and dreams. It’d be just as bad as it was when I told Aidan.
“Where the hell am I supposed to get a dog now?” I whine, “The animal rescue will be closed and it’s not like I have an extra 250 Muggle pounds lying around. Why did I have to go and promise him a stupid dog?”
“I got a dog for Our Liam a few years back,” Linda informs me, “He loved it for the first few weeks and then got tired of it! You’re better off not getting one!”
This doesn’t help me. I can’t promise Aidan a dog and then blame it on Santa if he doesn’t get one. Even Healer Kennedy can’t cheer me up today, although I do join the girls in staring at his arse when he walks past. I’m not even looking forward to going home, because I have to pick Aidan up from Scorpius’s at seven, meaning I have to meet the cow. This is turning out to be the worst Christmas Eve ever, including the one where my parents found out I was pregnant.
“Excuse me,” a voice says from behind the reception station, “I was bitten by an Erkling when I was in Germany last week, and it’s starting to swell –”
“You want Creature-Induced Injuries, First Floor,” I say in a bored tone. I know the floors of this hospital like the back of my hand and it gets quite tiresome after a while.
“Right, thanks – Rose?!”
I look up at the sound of my name to see a very familiar blonde-haired man, who I haven’t seen in at least two years, if not more.
“Er, no, Lysander actually.”
It must be annoying to be a twin and have people call you by your brother’s name. It must be even more annoying to be a twin and have your twin brother steal your girlfriend, as is the case of Lorcan and Lysander Scamander and my cousin Lily Potter. The last I heard was that Lysander was travelling around Europe looking for strange and magical creatures, while Lorcan was studying to be a Magizoologist like his parents.
“Oh, sorry Lysander,” I smile weakly, “How are you?”
“Well, I was bitten by an Erkling last week,” he tells me again, “Did you know that Erklings...” I’ve stopped listening already. I forgot how difficult it is to listen to the Scamander twins. “...and that's how I came across it! So how is Aidan?”
“Aidan’s fine,” I tell him, “Except he’s going to be supremely disappointed tomorrow morning since I promised him a dog and currently find myself dogless.” Lysander’s face lights up at the mention of an animal, even a regular non-magical one.
“My Crup had a litter!” he tells me excitedly, “Just three weeks ago! You can have one, if you like!”
“Crups? As in those little Jack Russells with the forked tails?” I ask. I think I remember learning about them in Care of Magical Creatures. I suppose beggars can’t be choosers, though. “Lysander, that would be brilliant! Do you think you could drop it ‘round to me before seven?”
I write down my address and give it to Lysander and he heads on up to the first floor to have his Erkling bite checked. God bless Erklings and Lysander Scamander. I can sort of see why Lily cheated on Lorcan with him. Sort of.
Lysander shows up with the Crup at half six, while I’m mentally preparing myself to pick up my son from Scorpius’s. I didn’t shave my legs this time. By the looks of things, I’ll never have to shave my legs again. I’ll be an old, hairy-legged woman, living in this microscopic flat with an old Crup while my son goes out and lives his life. He’s going to be Minister for Magic, and there’ll be articles in The Daily Prophet about Minister Weasley’s crazy, hairy-legged mother.
“Her name is Olivia,” Lysander tells me as he hands the small Crup over to me. She’s very cute, I have to admit, and all the cuter for being free. But who in their right mind calls a Crup Olivia? It’s like Aidan calling his favourite Quaffle ‘Bob’. I never understood it. He goes nowhere without Bob. He even takes it to bed.
“Cheers, Lysander, I really don’t know how to repay you for this,” I say truthfully, wondering if I should give him gold for Olivia. I put her down on the ground and she runs around, barking happily and sniffing everything. She reminds me of my old dog, Padfoot, except he didn’t have a forked tail and he was much bigger.
“It’s no problem, I’m happy to help!” Lysander tells me, “She’s fairly well-trained already, she’ll let you know when she needs to go out and all that. And she doesn’t mind being left alone either. So, how’s Lily these days?”
I’m a bit taken aback by the sudden change of subject. Lysander doesn’t make eye contact with me, as if he’s trying to make the question look and sound more casual. I know that Lily became closer with Lysander in her sixth year at Hogwarts, though Lorcan knew nothing about it. In fact, nobody knew anything about it except for me, and that’s because Lily really needed somebody to confide in.
“She’s great,” I tell him, “She’s working at the Ministry. Do you two keep in touch?”
“Eh, no,” he says, “Not anymore. Right, well I better get going. Merry Christmas!”
“You too,” I call to him as he lets himself out of the flat. It’s just me and Olivia. She is looking up at me, wagging her tail happily, as if waiting for me to entertain her.
“Ollie, you’re going to need to keep quiet for tonight,” I tell her, “Because you’re a gift for Aidan, and if he hears you barking it’ll ruin the surprise.” She continues to stare at me happily, clearly not understanding anything I’m saying. Why would she? She’s a dog. “I have to go collect Aidan now. So you just...stay...” She continues wagging her tail happily. I grab my handbag, head for the door and find that Ollie is following me. “No, you have to stay here,” I tell her. More mindless tail-wagging. “I can’t take you with me...unless...”
Two minutes later, I find myself running down the stairs and knocking frantically on Mrs McGuinness’s door. She lives in number two, and she is the only Muggle in the world that wouldn’t notice that this ‘dog’ has a forked tail.
“Hello Rose dear,” she caws at me when she opens the door.
“Hello Mrs McGuinness, Happy Christmas –”
“Oh I hate Christmas, me,” she says, “Nothin’ merry about it! Did you know my husband died on Christmas Day 1998?” I do know, so I don’t know why the hell I wished her a Merry Christmas. “And the doctor says my glaucoma’s gettin’ worse, too. This time next year I won’t be able to see a blasted thing!”
“Oh, that’s awful –”
“My sister died of an aneurysm a few weeks ago, did you know that?”
“Er, no, I hadn’t heard that. I’m very sorry –”
“It could happen to any of us! You could have an aneurysm yourself and not know it until one day you drop dead in the supermarket!” It’s always a joy talking to Mrs McGuinness.
“Yes, it’s terrible,” I say and pause for a few moments, so not to seem insensitive. “Well, I have to run a quick errand, I was wondering if you could watch my new puppy for a few hours?”
She looks down at Ollie, who I have on a leash and smiles a toothless smile. “Oh I’d be happy to! It’s been awful lonely since Mary died...” I have to rush away before she can get started on how her former roommate Mary died ten years ago.
Scorpius lives in an apartment twice as big as mine. I’m not bitter about it, because Aidan and I used to live there too. His father gave him the money for it. My parents offered to chip in, but I didn’t want to sponge off them for the rest of my life. I moved out after an argument. I don’t even remember what it was about, but then again, I don’t really remember most of the arguments I’ve had with Scorpius. There’s been far too many to keep track of.
As I make my way to the fourth floor, I feel like I’m going to get sick. It’s going to take every ounce of strength in my body not to completely flip out and burn this entire building down. I’m really starting to think I’m capable of it. I come to the door that says ‘Malfoy’ on it, take a few deep breaths and then knock.
Thankfully, Scorpius answers the door.
“Oh, hi, is it seven already?” he asks, stepping aside to let me in. I look around, but there is no sign – or smell – of a cow. Maybe she’s out in the field.
“It’s a quarter past, actually,” I inform him. My upbeat chat with Mrs McGuinness made me late. I follow Scorpius into the kitchen, where Aidan is sitting at the table making an awful mess of his dinner. Half of it is on his t-shirt, while the other half is on his face. “So where’s the Missus?” I can’t help asking.
“She’s just gone to the shop,” says Scorpius, “We ran out of milk.” Couldn’t he just milk her?
“Aidan, go get your things,” I tell him, because it really doesn’t look like he’s going to eat any more of his dinner. He runs off into the bedroom across the way, while I busy myself cleaning up his mess, so I won’t have to try and make conversation. I’m afraid if I start talking, Scorpius will end up in a bloody heap on the floor.
“You don’t have to do that, you know,” Scorpius tells me.
“Do you have your half of the presents?” I ask him, “I can take them with me now.”
“Yeah, I’ll get just get them,” he says. It’s like talking to a complete stranger. He comes back with a large black bag full of presents for Aidan from Santa and I stuff them all into my very small beaded handbag I borrowed from Mum. It’s like a Mary Poppins bag – you can fit anything into it.
“He thinks he’s getting a dog,” Scorpius tells me.
“He is,” I reply shortly.
“You got a dog?”
“You got married?” I snap fiercely. I’m not very good at hiding my true feelings, apparently.
“I knew you weren’t alright with this!” Scorpius says triumphantly, “I just knew it!”
“Well what the hell did you expect?” I spit, “You piss off to America and marry some random woman and I’m supposed to throw you a fucking parade?” I’ve tried to keep the swearing to a minimum since Aidan came along, but sometimes it’s just called for. Scorpius closes over the door separating the kitchen from the hallway so Aidan won’t hear us.
“What is your problem, eh?” he asks, “You can’t stand seeing anyone happy!”
“No, what I can’t stand is how bloody selfish you are!” I cry, “You make me want to tear my own hair out!”
“How am I being selfish?”
I slam the saucepan I’ve been holding down onto the counter and glare at him. “Do you know how many dates I’ve been on since I had Aidan?” He shrugs. “I’ll tell you – none. Not one. Do you know why?” He shrugs again. “It’s because I spend every waking second of every day worrying about my son. Every decision I make is for him. If I even think about liking someone, the first thing I wonder is if he likes kids! And if I was to even consider going out on a date with someone, I would run it past Aidan first and if he didn’t want me to go out with that person, I wouldn’t. But you think it’s alright to go off and marry a random woman without even considering how Aidan might feel about it? And then you let me be the one to tell him about it?”
“She’s not just some random woman, Rose,” Scorpius starts explaining, “I knew her for a while –”
“I DON’T CARE!” I shout, “I don’t care! The point is that you only ever think about yourself! You are too selfish to be a father.”
“Don't start that bullshit,” he snaps, “I do everything I can for that kid and you know it! I’m not the only one who makes stupid decisions, you know.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” I ask defensively.
“You know what it means,” he hisses back. I can’t believe he’s throwing this in my face. I don’t get the chance to retaliate because the door opens. I turn around, expecting to see Aidan, but instead I see a woman. The very woman we’ve just been arguing about. Daisy-the-cow.
“You must be Rose!” she smiles, “I’ve heard so much about you, it’s lovely to meet you. I’m Daisy.”
I’m still fuming from the argument, so I shake her hand very shortly. I can’t help but notice how old she is. She’s not old, but she’s certainly older than Scorpius. She is taller than I am, which is saying something, because I’m pretty tall. But she seems better able to pull off the tallness than I can. And she’s thinner than me, but then again she didn’t have a baby. She has dark blonde hair too, which is very straight. She must use some sort of potion on it. I don’t have time for those things – I consider shaving my legs a novelty, after all.
“Eh, hi,” I say, “Nice to meet you too.” She’s definitely not convinced. I feel like asking what age she is, but I don’t want to be rude. Well, actually, I do want to be rude, but I’m not going to be because Mum raised me better than that. “Congratulations,” I add, because it’s gone very quiet. Scorpius raises his eyebrows at me.
“Oh, thanks,” she says, but looks a bit embarrassed, “I’m really not the kind of girl who gets married in Las Vegas, you know. It’s just Scorpius was so romantic about the whole thing.” Now it’s my turn to raise my eyebrows. Scorpius is the least romantic person in the world. But then I realise it – she’s being sarcastic. I let out a small laugh before I can stop myself.
She made me laugh. Kill me now. She smiles at me, so I look away from her quickly and go back to scowling.
Aidan comes back into the kitchen, with his bag on his back and Bob-The-Quaffle under his arm.
“Right, well we better get going,” I say, unable to take the awkwardness anymore, “Say goodbye to your Dad, Aidan.”
Aidan gives Scorpius a hug and a kiss and then hugs Daisy out of politeness. I wish he wouldn’t.
“Will you be coming over tomorrow morning, Dad?” Aidan asks, “Because I want to show you what Santa brings me before we go over to Nana Molly’s.”
“Yeah, mate, definitely,” Scorpius tells him, “We’ll be over.”
We. Heaven forbid he’d wait for an invitation. Scorpius comes over every Christmas morning, but he generally doesn’t bring his cows with him. But I suppose this cow is here to stay.
Aidan is practically bouncing off the walls with excitement by the time we get home. I have a sneaking suspicion Scorpius fed him a bag of sugar.
“It’s nearly Christmas!” he keeps shouting, causing the narky old man next door to bang on the wall, “It’s only one more sleep! Mum, do you really think I’ll get a puppy?”
“I don’t know, have you been a good boy?” I ask. He looks worried. He’s thinking about the time he and Remus ‘accidentally’ poured chocolate ice-cream all over Victoire’s stock for her shop. And the time he and Remus ‘accidentally’ locked Dorie in a cupboard because she was trying to play with them. And the time they ‘accidentally’ took Grandad’s walking stick and Nana Molly’s umbrella and had a pretend duel and ended up breaking the old clock at The Burrow. “I’m sure Santa is very forgiving,” I assure him.
“He gives toys to people like Tony Ryan in my class, and he’s nothing but an arsehole,” says Aidan.
“Excuse me? Where did you hear that word?” I ask angrily, “If I hear that word coming from your mouth again, I’ll wash it out with soap and there’ll be no Santa!” Oh God, I sound like my mother. And my grandmother. “Aidan Weasley, where did you hear that word?”
“I saw it on TV,” he shrugs. I knew getting that TV was a bad idea.
“That is a very rude word, Aidan, don’t say it again,” I warn him, “If your Nana Hermione heard you saying that word, she’d string you up!” I never really understood the ‘string you up’ threat or the ‘clip around the ear’ one either, but I use them anyway. When I asked Mum about it, she said she didn’t really know either, they were just things parents say. “And if Grandad Ron heard you...” I trail off. If Dad heard him, he’d laugh. “Just don’t say those naughty words anymore.”
“Alright, Chillax, Mum.” He’s not hanging around with that James Potter either.
When I finally get Aidan off to bed, I run downstairs to get Ollie back off Mrs McGuinness, who is apparently watching a documentary on Polio.
“A cousin of mine had polio, you know,” she tells me, “Can’t use her left hand at all anymore...”
I place all of Aidan’s presents on the couch beside the Christmas tree, as I do every year. Scorpius bought him a training wand, a small broomstick, the new Chudley Cannons jersey (he’s given up trying to get Aidan to support the Wimbourne Wasps), a set of Quidditch balls including a snitch that cannot go further than ten metres away and the all-new extra grip Quidditch keeper gloves that Nimbus have just brought out. I, on the other hand, got Aidan books, including The Tales of Beedle The Bard and The Early Learning Book of Spells. And I got him Ollie. I also got him a new set of Chudley Cannons pyjamas and some other clothes. I got him all the gifts he needs, whereas Scorpius got everything he wants. Except for Ollie. Still, Aidan’s just going to thank Santa for the lot.
I finally crawl into bed well past midnight, knowing that I’ll be lucky if I get to sleep until six o’clock. I take Ollie with me, and she falls asleep on the floor of my bedroom. I can’t stop thinking about Daisy and Scorpius. I hate her, yet I’m intrigued. She’s tall, she’s sarcastic, she doesn’t talk a whole lot, but you can tell there’s more going on in her head than she lets on – she’s me. She’s me, only better.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- A/N - Thanks for reading, I hope you liked it! I kind of don't...I don't know why. But I have some good stuff lined up for future chapters, promise! I just want to say thanks so much for all the feedback so far, and I'm sorry I haven't had the chance to respond to reviews, but I'm still trying to reply to all the reviews on the last chapter of Delicate! I'm so behind! And college starts back on Monday, so I'll be super busy! But I'll never be too busy to write, so please keep reviewing, they inspire me!
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