Sometimes it’s nice to confide in a perfect stranger, which is why I find myself standing outside Brian McDonald’s house having just left The Burrow. I’ve left Aidan in Scorpius’s care, as it’s his night. I wasn’t too happy about it, leaving him with Little Mrs Cowface Malfoy. Still, I need to talk to someone who doesn’t know about the disaster at Diagon Alley, so they can’t put my problem into perspective and make me feel bad about it. I’m selfish, I know.
It’s almost ten o’clock, but I can see the light on in Brian’s living room, so I know it’s not too late to stop in for a chat. I like chatting with Brian. He doesn’t know all of my past history, all of the mistakes I’ve made, and therefore he can’t judge me by them. And he’s a terrific listener.
I knock on the door and it takes him less than ten seconds to answer. He’s holding a book, but I can’t see the title. He looks very surprised to see me – I usually call before organising a meeting.
“Rose,” he says, “This is a surprise...”
“Sorry to drop by like this,” I begin, “But I think I’m about to kill someone, and I need you to talk me out of it.” He stands aside to let me in, not saying another word. This is what I really like about Brian – he doesn’t ask awkward questions. He knows I’ll tell him what he needs to know and doesn’t pressure me for more information. This is probably why I’ve been able to keep the fact that I’m a witch from him for so long.
Brian’s place is like a mixture between an old English cottage and a bachelor pad – it’s as if Nana Molly was let loose in James’s apartment. There are all these classy paintings on the walls, bought in places like The Louvre in Paris, or The Met in New York. Despite the fact that they don’t move, there’s a lot to be said for this Muggle art. He has carpet too, giving the place a less bachelor-esque vibe. Although I’ve only been here a few times, I always feel welcomed, even though I do become thoroughly embarrassed at the memory of New Years Eve spent here. I try not to think about it, and Brian hasn’t brought it up since we decided to be friends.
“Right, who are you going to kill?” he asks, leading me into the kitchen. The kitchen is immaculately clean, leading me to believe that he doesn’t really do much cooking in here. He puts on the kettle and sits down at the table with me.
“Daisy,” I say shortly.
“There’s a surprise,” he says sarcastically, “What did she do now?”
I launch into the story of what has just happened. Ever since Teddy became so busy with his family and work life, I have had very little chance to sit down and talk to him about things. Brian is my new Teddy, and this time I don’t have an inappropriately awkward crush on him, so it makes things easier. Brian is like the gay best friend I never had – only straight. He’s like a gay straight Teddy who I’m not attracted to.
“So wait a second,” Brian says when I’ve finished my rant, “You’re telling me that she called you a bad mother?”
“Well...” I pause, “...not in so many words. But she may as well have!”
Brian nods and ponders the situation. He always the one to hear my rants about Daisy and I think he dislikes her nearly as much as I do. But maybe he’s just biased because he’s only ever heard my side of things. I think it’s better this way. “And she thinks that there should be a legal custody agreement?”
“Yes. She says that Aidan’s home life is unstable. Stupid cow.”
“Did Scorpius agree to this?” Brian asks.
“I presume so,” I sigh, “I mean, it sounded like she was speaking for him. Bloody coward is too much of a wimp to come and talk to me himself. Typical Slytherin...” I freeze. I’ve said way too much.
“Eh...what’s a Slytherin?” Brian asks, looking totally and completely confused. The kettle finally boils, but he’s still looking at me.
“It’s a slang word for a sly person,” I say quickly, “He’s such a sly person.”
I don’t think Brian believes me. He begins making the tea and asks no more questions about what a Slytherin is, but I feel bad at the same time. He’s been totally honest with me about his life, his work, his relationship issues. I haven’t shared the biggest part of my life with him, the basic essence of what makes me who I am. People tell Muggles about the magical world all the time. I remember when Hugo told his girlfriend, who is a Muggle, that he’s a wizard. She wouldn’t believe him for ages, and he had to build himself up for weeks to break the news to her. There have been books published on breaking the news to Muggles, a particularly popular one is called ‘Coming Out – I’m a Witch!’ And what’s the worst that could happen anyway? If Brian doesn’t believe me, then there’s no harm done. If he does believe me and decides to tell others about the wizarding world, who’d believe him? I can trust Brian. I can tell him.
“I’m a witch,” I announce bluntly. See, who needs a bloody book?
“No you’re not,” he says sympathetically, putting the mugs of tea down on the table, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. Biscuit?”
“Okay...” he puts a plate of Rich Tea’s down on the table too. This is not the reaction I was expecting. “But seriously, I am a witch.”
“Rose, you have a tendency to put yourself down,” says Brian, “It’s not healthy. I see it in kids all the time at the school –”
“No, you’re not listening to me!” I interrupt, “I’m an honest-to-Jesus, spell-casting, broomstick-flying, potion-brewing witch!”
He furrows his eyebrows and stares at me. “I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at.”
“I’M A WITCH!” I cry again. Seriously, how much clearer can I say it? He still looks confused. I sigh and take a deep breath. “I went to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I work at St Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Injuries and Maladies. My whole family are magical, except my Mum’s parents who are Muggles – as in people who don’t have magical powers. I carry a wand.”
He continues looking at me for a moment. “I really don’t get your sense of humour sometimes,” he concludes.
With a sigh of frustration, I draw my wand, point it at his teacup and turn it into a mouse. “There, happy?” He looks at the mouse, frozen to his chair. It’s as if I’ve cast Petrificus Totalus on him. His mouth is hanging open slightly. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, dropping in on him late at night and revealing a secret wizarding world to him by changing his china into rodents.
“What did you...h-how did you...m-mouse...” he splutters. I change the mouse back into a cup. His eyes widen even further. He picks up the cup, examines it, and puts it back down onto the table. Then he looks back to me, just as horrified, with his mouth hanging open.
“I realise this is a lot to take in,” I say sympathetically, “But for as long as there has been human existence, there have been witches and wizards”
He remains silent.
“And I know that you probably stopped believing in magic when you were a child, but I promise, I’m not messing with you.”
Still nothing. I think I may have killed his spirit.
“And – eh – Slytherin is a house at the school of magic I went to. I was in Gryffindor, another house. It was a boarding school...”
He’s like a statue.
“I hope we can still be friends,” I say nervously, “I understand that this is a bit weird for you...”
“Y-you turned my cup into a mouse,” he croaks, “It’s more than a bit weird.”
“Yeah, I probably should have gone with a kitten or something,” I admit in hindsight. His eyes now look like they’re about to pop out of his head.
“You could do that?” he asks in awe, “You could turn a teacup into a kitten?”
I nod, point my wand at the cup and transfigure it. It’s basic transfiguration, but he seems totally mesmerised by it. These Muggles live such simple lives, really. I can see how Grandad and Al are so interested in them. After a few minutes, Brian seems to have accepted the fact that I’m a witch, but he still doesn’t quite believe it. Every time I show him even a simple spell, it’s as if he’s going to pass out with the shock of it.
“I knew you were different,” he observes, shaking his head in awe, “But this, I wasn’t expecting.”
Having talked with Brian for hours, answering all of his questions about the wizarding world, and after making him promise that he’d never tell anyone about it (“I don’t want to end up in the loony bin – I’ll take it to my grave,” he replied) I head home and flick through some of the pamphlets Healer Kennedy gave me. However, deciding that I’ll never have the time or motivation to actually go through with any of these classes, I leave them on the kitchen table and fall into bed, completely wiping them from my brain.
The next morning, I tell the girls at work all about my conversation with Daisy. As I expected, they’re horrified.
“What a conniving little hussy!” Gladys spits angrily, reminding me of a very frustrated cat, “I’d love to give her a piece of my mind!”
“Do you want us to sort her out for you?” Hazel offers. I suddenly get the mental image of three receptionists approaching Daisy in a dark alleyway in a sort of Mafia-style ambush. And believe me, Hazel, Gladys and Linda are not the kind of people I’d like to meet in a dark alley if they were angry.
“Eh, no, but thanks Hazel,” I tell her.
“She won’t get away with this,” says Linda, “Aidan has nothing to do with her. When Our Liam’s father got married, his missus couldn’t wait to see the back of us!”
“You know what she’s doing,” says Gladys simply and we all look at her, intrigued by her tone. She has something important to say. “She’s trying to get you out of the picture, Rose.” Linda gasps, as if this is some sort of courtroom drama.
“Elaborate, please,” I say.
“Think about it. If you have a legal custody agreement with Scorpius, then you don’t need to talk to him as often, arranging when Aidan will be picked up and so on. It limits your contact with her husband,” says Gladys, “I have to admit, she’s a clever little cow.”
“If she’s trying to get rid of me, why doesn’t she just kill me and be done with it?”
“Because then you’d be the dead ex-girlfriend and she’d be the wife who could never live up to your standards and the mother who Aidan will never love,” says Linda, “Gladys is right – she’s trying to faze you out of the picture! You’ll be the forgotten ex-girlfriend and the negligent mother when she’s done with you!”
“Cheers, Linda,” I groan, “So what you’re saying is I’m better off dead?”
“Yes! Eh, I mean no...”
It’s a good thing I only listen to half of what these women say to me. Brian’s advice was much more substantial – rise above it. Be dignified, calm, collected and don’t let her get the upper hand. She can try to erase me all she likes, but I’m not the kind of person to fade into the background of my son’s life. I plan to talk to Scorpius about this later when he calls around to drop Aidan off. Why, all of a sudden, after five years does he want a legal custody agreement? Is he afraid I’m going to run off in the dead of night with our son? I haven’t exercised properly in years, I don’t think I’d get very far.
We always have the radio on at work, and on the news I hear that the finance department of the Ministry is donating a huge sum to the rebuilding of Diagon Alley. It’s expected to take a few months to get it back to how it was, though we all know it’ll never be the same again. Uncle George’s stock for the next six months has been completely wiped out, along with his motivation to actually run the place. It’ll be a miracle if Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes is ever up and running again.
In other news, Deputy Minister Timothy Russell is standing in as Minister of Magic until the elections in the summer. The running candidates will be announced in the next few weeks, apparently. I hope Mum goes for it and doesn’t let her stupid inferiority complex stand in the way, as usual. I’m sure Auntie Audrey’s bursting with the excitement of getting in with all the most exclusive inner circles at the Ministry. That woman gives me a headache.
Scorpius drops Aidan home at the usual time of six o’clock. He acts completely normal, as if he hasn’t put his wife up to stealing our son away from me. He comes in, sits down and starts chatting away like there’s no tomorrow. I can’t say much to him while Aidan’s in the room, so I don’t say anything at all.
“Why are you so quiet?” he asks me, “Not like you.”
I can’t keep quiet much longer. I don’t do silence.
“Aidan, could you play in your room for a few minutes? I need to talk to Dad about something,” I tell him. Aidan doesn’t ask questions, but brings Ollie into his bedroom. He’s generally happier playing in there anyway.
“What did I do?” Scorpius asks nervously once Aidan is gone, “Because whatever it is, I’m sorry and I won’t do it again.”
Then it occurs to me – what if Scorpius really doesn’t know? What if Daisy just pulled this notion that Aidan needs more stability out of her arse? What if the girls at work are right and Daisy really is just trying to faze me out of Scorpius’s life? It makes perfect sense – she feels threatened. I mean, if Scorpius had a problem with our custody arrangements, he’d come to me himself and discuss them. He’s Aidan’s dad after all; why would he put his wife up to this?
“Do you have any problems with...our situation?” I ask him. The look of utter confusion on his face tells me that no, he doesn’t. “Never mind! I’m just being stupid,” I say quickly. No, this fight is between me and Daisy, and Scorpius never has to know about it. If she thinks she can fight sneaky, she hasn’t seen anything yet.
“Eh, okay. So I’m not in trouble then?” he asks.
“No. Christ, Scorp, I’m not your mother,” I snap.
He looks like he’s about to retaliate, but then shuts his mouth. I don’t even want to think about what he was going to say.
“Listen, Rose, about the other night,” he starts quietly, “It...I was stupid. I shouldn’t have come here.”
“And Daisy can’t ever know about it,” he says, “I think she’d find it...inappropriate.”
“Why do you like her?” I blurt. This probably wasn’t the best thing to ask – in fact, he has every right to walk about without answering me. But I just don’t understand what a guy like Scorpius could see in a woman ten years his senior, who is something of a control freak with blonde hair so straight, it’s as if she was struck by an iron repeatedly.
“Rose,” Scorpius sighs, “Do we have to do this now?”
“No,” I say, “I was just...wondering.” I get up and walk into the kitchen, a little bit uncomfortable with the new air between us. We hardly ever talk about Daisy. I feel like if I ignore the fact that they’re actually husband and wife, I can just pretend she’s an overly-affectionate lodger in his flat. Unfortunately, Scorpius follows me into the kitchen.
“She’s probably the kindest person I’ve ever met,” he tells me. I have to stop myself from snorting sarcastically. “She only ever thinks of other people.” Yeah, like my child and how to steal him from me. “And she helped me through a lot of...stuff.”
“What kind of stuff?” I ask, suddenly feeling defensive, “Why couldn’t I have helped you?”
“Rose, you were the stuff.”
Oh. That stuff.
“We were good mates, me and Daisy,” Scorpius goes on. I wish I hadn’t asked now. “And when you and I broke up –”
“All the times,” he admits, “She listened to me. She helped me move on.”
Yeah, I bet she did. No wonder she hates me so much. I’m the horrible bitch who broke Scorpius’ heart and drove him into the arms of a senior citizen. Sort of.
“Rose, we were seeing each other before we went to America,” he tells me.
“What?!” I yelp unintentionally in a very high-pitched voice, “You were going out with Daisy before? For how long?”
“I don’t know,” he mumbles, “A few months.”
“A few months?!” I squeak. What’s wrong with my voice? “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because it was none of your business, frankly!” he exclaims, “And before you start on about Aidan and the fact that you’re the mother of my child, I have a life of my own too, you know. And it’s not like you run by me every man you’ve ever gone home with, like that bloke on New Years Eve!”
“Nothing happened then!” I cry, “And I thought we were supposed to be friends! Friends tell each other things!”
Silence. He doesn’t know how to respond to this. I don’t even know how to respond to this. I was much happier thinking that Daisy was just a random co-worker that Scorpius decided to marry because he’s such a prat. The fact that she was his girlfriend first, that he actually likes her – it makes me sick.
“So you really like her then?” I ask.
“Rose, I married her,” he sighs.
“Your Dad doesn’t like her,” I say childishly.
“My Dad doesn’t like anyone,” he responds.
“He likes your mother,” I tell him, “He must do.”
“Right,” Scorpius laughs, “He likes one person then.”
“And I’m sure he likes you,” I say, “And he seems fond of Aidan.”
“Okay, he doesn’t like anyone outside of his immediate family,” he says, “Where exactly are you going with this?”
“I’m not sure, I lost my train of thought.”
Scorpius shakes his head. I feel so tempted by Draco Malfoy’s offer to get rid of Daisy, but I mustn’t stoop that low just yet. Also, I’m fairly sure Draco attends Evil-a-holic’s Anonymous meetings and this would just cause him to fall completely off the wagon.
“What’s this?” Scorpius asks, picking up a piece of paper from the table, “Post-OWL Potions?”
“Oh, that’s nothing!” I say quickly and grab the pamphlet from his grip, “It’s just something a Healer at work gave me about night classes...it’s stupid.”
“Are you going to do it?” he inquires seriously.
“Because...” I sigh, frustrated, “I don’t have the time with work and Aidan and everything.”
He looks annoyed. “Rose, come on. I can look after Aidan, your entire family could look after him – that crazy Muggle woman downstairs could look after him, if it came to it!” I think I’d have to be on the brink of death before I’d leave Aidan with Mrs McGuinness. “You were always good at Potions.”
“Not really,” I mumble.
“Yes, you were. You’re doing this,” he tells me.
“No, I’m not.”
“For God’s sake, Rose!” he says, almost shouting, “You’re constantly going on about how shit your life is, but when an opportunity comes along you just shoot it down because you’re so bloody scared of failure!” Why do I get the feeling he’s not only talking about the night classes? “I thought you were a Gryffindor! I thought you were supposed to be brave!”
“I can’t do it!” I tell him, “What’s the point?”
“The point is you’ll be actually doing something you want to do,” he tells me, “You’ll be doing something for yourself for a change.” He makes a good point. “And maybe you’ll stop bitching and pissing everyone off.” And there, he takes it a step too far as usual. “I’m going to go before I kill you,” he says, “You really know how to annoy me, Weasley.”
He goes into Aidan’s room to say goodbye to him and then disapparates. I pick up the pamphlet, turn to the admission form on the back and start filling it in.
A/N - Yes, a complete filler chapter in which absolutely nothing happened, but a quick update nonetheless! Chapters like these are needed, if a little dull. Still I hope you liked it OK. I know it seems like there are a lot of random plotlines thrown around the place, but hopefully it'll all tie up nicely in the end. It's kind of messy at the moment. And hopefully the characters won't turn out as black and white in the end as they seem to appear. But who knows? I'm guessing this story will be 30+ chapters, even though I swore it'd be shorter than Delicate when I first started. Oh well! Thank you so SO much for your 2000+ reviews (I'm really in awe - I know I say it a lot, but I'm serious. Really serious. Seriously.) I have the best reader/reviewers in the whole world!
Thanks for reading my filler chapter - please don't be too harsh on me, it was necessary and hopefully the next ones will be better!