Chapter 2 : Chapter Two: The Morning After
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Hugo groggily opened his eyes and wished he hadn't when a searing pain passed through his head. He quickly shut them and groaned, fumbling about when he felt not the cold, hard wood he was expecting but something softer. Something ... more flesh like?
The thing moved.
"Ooh, that tickles!" cried an extremely feminine voice, and ice ran through Hugo's veins.
Have I lost ...?
"You were quite the tiger last night," the feminine voice wiled. "Fancy a repeat?"
Oh god. I did.
"No!" Hugo yelled, leaping out of bed. Sod the hangover, he was in a strange place with a strange woman and he wanted out fast. Cracking open his eyes revealed the beautiful blonde woman from last night which he vaguely remembered meeting once he entered the casino. Ah yes, the casino ...
To the right of his vision, a metallic glint caught his eye. It was a pile of gold galleons, winking cheekily in the morning light.
"That's all yours, big boy," the woman said, a little put out at Hugo's rejection. "You won a killing last night. Best beginner I've ever seen." she yawned and stretched then waltzed off into another unknown room, naked. Hugo couldn't help but be filled with dread at such a seemingly wonderful sight for him.
“Time to get out of here,” Hugo commented to himself and heaved his being off of the luxurious bedding.
Hugo shrank the money after spending five desperate minutes looking for his wand and pocketed the lot. The money was heavy, but his mind was light with the fact that of all it was his. All his, not given to him, earned ... in a loose sense.
The warm feeling stayed with him even after he apparated away from wherever he was without saying a word of thanks and back to his tiny apartment. He looked round the place, glad to be in familiar territory. Unlike the small boudoir he was previously located at, his flat was sparsely decorated (mostly due to lack of funding) and was in dire need of a good lick of paint. However, to Hugo it was his sanctuary. His favourite place besides Diagon Alley was the little reading corner he had set up in the main room. A pile of books were strewn about on an antique side table which he had picked up at a muggle market, and a huge French-style armchair stood proudly out against the stark room. A second antique, a floor-length lamp from the 20's, perched next to the chair. The chair had definitely seen better days and the lamp had long lost its varnish, but Hugo loved the place like he did a person.
We all have our flaws. That's what makes us more human. Or lamplike, in this case.
However, now was no time to read. Thankfully he had Boxing Day off to recover until he started his new job the next day, which he was desperately looking forward to. A small voice lurked in the back of his mind, chiding that would he earn as much in a month than what he did last night?
Perhaps he wouldn't right now, but he'd hopefully get a promotion at some point. Yesterday was pure and simply down to the roll of the wheel and the deal of the cards. Not that Hugo could remember any of this ...
Sighing, Hugo decided to sleep a little more and then shower and have a stroll outside. When he awoke later he felt ridiculously better about himself and decided the walk was much needed. Cleaning himself and throwing on some jeans and a coat, Hugo exited the flat.
He had stepped no more than five steps when the landlady accosted him. "Reeeeeeent?!" she squawked, eyeing Hugo's pockets as if she were going to use her beak like nose to have a small lookie inside. Mrs Van Der Rich was actually a poor old woman, contrary to her name, and a widower left with lots of money from her late husband. The money was spent on buying Hugo's apartment building and she obviously thought she could earn back the money through rent; this was not the case. Hugo was one of two tenants.
"No, Mrs Van Der Rich," Hugo stuttered. He backed away slowly, careful not to trip down the stairs. "I'll have the rent by tomorrow, okay?"
The old woman eyed him with a look of pure loathing. "I turn you out if you no pay."
"Alright, alright! Tomorrow or OUT! And get some meat on those bones!" she huffed before shuffling to her rooms. Hugo muttered a quick prayer of thanks to his (so far) lousy guardian angel and exited onto the cold streets of London. A whistling wind bit at his cheeks and his rubbed his hands through his gloves to try and keep them a bit warmer. He set off quickly, meandering through the usually busy streets, before taking a sharp left and entering a park. London was devoid of green spaces as Hugo so bitterly noted, but this was the biggest and therefore his favourite. The misty silence was broken by the sound of two robins conversing and a far-away police car, but Hugo paid no attention. He listened to the howl of the wind and how it created a melody through the branches of the trees, how the frozen pond had captured two water-liles in its icy ranks, how the snow was not yet tainted by human contact. Give it two days and the snow would be a muddy mess, used for various methods of torture by children. Oh, yes, some were innocent fun but whenever Hugo had partaken in any of the games at Hogwarts he would always end up with huge amounts of snow being shoved down his trousers and left hanging upside down. Molly would usually bail him out of these situations. He could almost hear her voice in the same pitiful tone: "Oh Hugo, what am I going to do with you?"
He sighed sharply at the embarrassing memory. As much as he wanted to be close with her again, the bond that was once tentatively forged had been broken. Last year at the Christmas celebrations, Molly ignored him for all he was worth and this year she was not even present.
Too busy with her stupid boyfriend. I mean FIEND. At least last night everyone loved me. He smiled at the memory.
Lost in his rambling thoughts, Hugo trudged on through the thick blanket of calm until he was quite literally smashed out of his reverie. A young woman went hurtling past him at a pace which Hugo did not think humanly possible and send him crashing into the ground.
This happens too often.
As he picked himself up two police officers hared past, but not as quickly as the young woman who had crashed into Hugo. Ooh, how exciting!
The two policemen were furtively blowing their whistles and hoping for the best as they ran down the winding path, eventually cutting over the grass. Hugo winced at the black footprints which had been left on the sparkle.
The inkstain on the canvas.
He turned his attention to the woman. She ran at the same pace with seemingly no intention of stopping any time soon (although, neither would Hugo if he were being chased by two policemen) and hurtled past a corner, whipping out of sight. Hugo caught a split second where he noticed her pale, scared face but it was so fleeting he could not be sure of her features. All he could be sure of was her red knitted hat and long, dark hair.
I wonder what she's done. Probably shoplifting or a burglary of some sort.
Hugo pondered this statement, weighing up the pros and cons of whether she should be caught. If she was homeless they should have mercy. If she was rich, well, why would she in the first place? Oh god, do you realise how utterly nonsensical you sound?
Hugo shook himself mentally and walked on quickly, forgetting the debacle and deciding that he should return home or perhaps apparate to his parent's home.
As much as I dislike my father, I do want to see Mum. I barely saw her face last night. Bloody Rose.
Without a second thought, Hugo apparated to outside of his parent's house. The Weasley-Granger household was a fairly large residence for the four of them, as his father was a top auror along with his uncle, Harry Potter. Hugo believed that being an auror was the route which Ron had destined for him until he realised that maybe he always was going to be spindly and skinny. Hugo remembered overhearing a conversation between his parents at the age of sixteen which greatly deepened the harboured dislike of his dad.
"Hermione, he's bloody tiny. Have you ever seen a boy so skinny?"
"Yes Ronald, I've seen much skinnier. I've been to muggle hospitals plenty of times recently. You should see the people there being treated for anorexia." his mother replied sharply, and Hugo could remembered almost reaching out to touch the tension with this statement. A short while after the conversation, Hermione's mother died of cancer. He remembered his father shifting uncomfortably, realising his blunder.
"He's the skinniest boy I'VE ever seen. There's nothing of him. All tall and bones and not much else."
"Well, Ronald, you've my side of the family to blame for that. Besides, you were the same at school. I really don't feel as if you should be so harsh on Hugo. He can't help having a fast metabolism!"
"The boy clearly doesn't eat. How's he going to make it as an Auror or a Quidditch player if he's a walking skeleton? Dear God Hermione, you are thick sometimes."
The only reason Hugo was caught eavesdropping on the conversation was because he laughed so loudly at the last part. Hugo loved and respected his mother for standing by him, but harboured a growing resentment to his father ever since.
Hugo went to knock at the door, back in the present moment. A noise emitted from inside and a light switched on as Rose answered the door.
"Hello, Hugo!" she said brightly, grinning widely. "We were just discussing the perks of my new job. Company broomstick!"
"Fantastic," Hugo replied sarcastically. "Not that you'd ever use it."
Rose's eyes narrowed. "As if you ever would either. In you come!" It was scary the way she could change her entire mood in a second.
Hugo entered the house tentatively, whisked along by Rose who grabbed him by the arm and jerked Hugo forward. He could feel the tickle of her fluffy green jumper annoying his skin. "Here we are."
"I know where the bloody room is, Rose!" Hugo hissed under his breath but Rose chose not to hear him. Hugo plastered on a grin when he saw that his mother and father were waiting expectantly. "Hi, Mum. Dad."
Ron gave Hugo a stiff nod, whereas Hermione leapt up to greet her son. "Hello, darling. It's great to see you again so soon. Tea?"
"Yes please. I thought I'd come round because I barely saw you guys yesterday." Hugo said, settling himself into a leather armchair. The house was predominantly muggle influenced, but there were hints of magic lying around. Some were more obvious than others; a stack of spell books belonging to Hermione lay in one corner whereas the sink cleaning itself through the kitchen was more of a give-away.
"Too true, son. Rose was just discussing the perks of her new job. Company broomstick!" Hugo's father started, leaning forward in his chair. Hugo noticed he looked more tired than usual. "Plus the fabulous chance of getting abroad more."
Oh good. She can piss off to Bosnia as soon as possible then.
"Really? That's interesting." Hugo added, not feeling the least bit enthralled. At least Rose wouldn't be around as often.
"Too right. Rose'll be travelling all over the world! Now Hugo, was does your job entail?" Ron enquired. There was something about his expression that seemed to be challenging Hugo to try and better his older sister. At this time, Hermione re-entered the room with a steaming mug and handed it to Hugo. He muttered his thanks, noting the same tired expression on his mother's face also.
I bet it's Dad's fault, whatever it is.
"My job's about accounting and lots of maths, basically," Hugo started. His mother smiled encouragingly, whereas Ron looked decidedly unimpressed. "It means that I help to control the budget of the Ministry and decide who can spend what and how much."
"That sounds fairly good; a little boring though. Is there much room to improve on it then?" Ron demanded. He might as well as made a banner saying "I WANTED YOU TO BE AN AUROR" in big capital letters.
Perhaps flashing and neon, too.
"There's lots of room to improve. It's a fairly prestigious job; I was lucky to get it."
"Damn right you were." Ron muttered. Hugo could feel his anger flaring. Hermione quickly took the reins of the situation.
"Don't start please. Hugo, that sounds like a wonderful job, I always liked maths when I was at Hogwarts. When do you start?"
An awkward tension had fallen over the room. Hermione began to bite her lip nervously, as if she wanted to say something, but quickly looked at Ron who was staring deep into space, but thought better of it and quickly leapt out of her seat. "Rose, will you come and help me make dinner? Hugo, are you staying?"
Hugo nodded an affirmative and the two women left. Ron reclined in his seat, observing him. Hugo felt as if he were being thoroughly examined and shifted in his seat to hide his discomfort.
"So, Hugo," Ron began, still in the same position which he was in whilst observing. "Found a girl yet?"
Jesus Christ, this comes up nearly every time I have a conversation with someone. What to do? ... Lie.
Ron could not have looked more surprised. "What? Really? What's her name? Is she a catch?"
Okay, maybe that wasn't the best thing to do. Hugo's mind wandered to the blonde woman from last night.
"Her name's ... Matilda. Blonde. Very leggy. Gorgeous."
"I don't believe you!" his father cried. Hugo felt as if Ron should be smoking a pipe right now. "As much as I want to, I really don't. I mean, there's nothing of you. Who'd go for THAT?"
"Fine, you don't believe me, but it's true. She's a waitress in a pub place. A wizard one. I met her ... a few weeks ago."
Ron seemed very interested in this. "A barmaid, then? I remember when I was in Hogwarts there was this lovely barmaid at the Three Broomsticks ... Rosmerta was her name. She sounds very like your new lady."
"Madame Rosmerta's daughter runs the Three Broomsticks now, Dad. And they sound similar but it's just coincidence." Hugo was lying more and more, and the silk webbing was starting to run out. Ron leaned forward, beckoning Hugo closer. He obliged.
"So, son ... you ... in there yet?"
"What?" What the bloody hell does that mean? Hugo thought to himself bemusedly.
"You know ... are the sails up? The ship's being sunk?"
"Jesus Christ Dad, you're going to have to be a bit more blunt -"
"Are you ban-"
"Dinner's ready!" Hermione called out from the kitchen. Ron leapt out of his seat, motioning to Hugo that they would finish the conversation later. He felt as if he had a good idea about what his father was going to ask him by the tone in his voice.
Dinner was a chicken supreme type of meal. "We had lots of left over chicken from yesterday, sorry..." Hermione started to apologise, but Ron was already busy inhaling his food. Rose was picking daintily at the peas, swirling them round and round with her fork. She'd always hated peas but her mother always forgot this fact.
"Hugo's got a woman in his life!" Ron announced proudly after he had swallowed a gargantuan amount of food. "A blonde who works in a pub."
"Oh Hugo," Rose and his mother both said at the same time in a disapproving voice. Rose returned to her meal as Hermione continued. "Couldn't you find someone a little more ... suitable?"
"Suitable for what?" Hugo shot back, mystified. There was a small silence as everyone ate whilst Hermione chose her words.
"Someone a little more ... high flying. Career oriented."
"Oh. Well, she's nice enough Mum, and I enjoy her company. I don't know how serious things are going to get either but I wouldn't worry too much." Hugo heard his father sigh in reproachfulness. His mother's face brightened.
"Oh. I see. Alright, then."
Until the end of dinner the tension settled once more over the room like the snow which was so thick outside. As much as Hugo wanted to say something he could not think of anything suitable, and Rose merely sat there shooting snarky glances at him. As soon as the meal was over he felt compelled to leave.
"Mum, I've got to get back. I've lots of thing to sort out for tomorrow and I don't want to be left with it all tomorrow in the morning."
"That's okay love, I'll say goodbye to you at the door." Hermione replied, clearing the plates away. Rose and Ron said their well wishes and as soon as Hugo left the room he heard his sister hiss, "BARMAID?!"
I hope the broomstick stops working in Bosnia.
"Hugo, darling, you're sure things aren't that serious with this girl then? I mean, of course I'm happy for you but .." Hermione said once she entered the hall. Hugo, pulling his boots on, looked up at her.
"Of course not, Mum. She's all legs and no brain. Not a suitor at all."
His mother laughed a tiny bit before drawing him into a tight hug, one which he was not used to. Hugo deduced that something was definitely the matter. "Bye darling. Safe journey home."
"Mum, is everything alright?"
"It's nothing for you to worry about, don't worry about it at all." she replied firmly and Hugo wished he hadn't asked. Hermione smiled at him.
One final look back revealed his mother's eyes to be watering.
As soon as Hugo returned home, he resolved to get to the matter of what on earth was wrong with his parents.
I bet Rose knows. If I see her tomorrow, I'm going to ask her.
Hugo flopped into a seat and noticed the pile of money which he had enlarged and dumped was strewn all over the floor. Cleaning up, he resolved to go to Gringotts tomorrow to get it changed into the month's rent.
Christ, my life is so boring.
A small thought popped into his head. You can always go back to the casino ...
Hugo shook himself, but the thought had grown into a voice. Oh, come on. You had fun last night.
"I'm not sure fun was the right word," he muttered to himself, chuckling before getting a lunch made for the next day. Hugo liked to be prepared for things. It made him feel as if he were always in control.
You sure did have fun. You won a shit load of money and slept with a beautiful woman. Who's to say the same thing won't happen tonight?
Hugo buttered the bread thoughtfully. He always could return tonight, but it was getting late and he wasn't sure whether he'd be back in time or even in the right place.
So don't have a drink. Go there and appreciate the lovely women there and have some fun. Roll the dice. Play the cards.
He felt more and more tempted by the warped voice of reasoning. As much as he knew he should stay here and get an early night, the thought of winning so much money again was very appealing. But did he really want to risk his first day at his first proper job?
The voice was beginning to get annoyed. Oh bloomin' heck. Live a little. I bet James would go. He doesn't care. Plus, Alice would at least think you have some sort of life.
The voice had hit a soft spot. The thought of Alice admiring his many winnings and the purchases he had bought with them was even more tempting. However delusional, Hugo felt more confident.
And not to mention there's a chance you'll get lucky tonight, if you know what I mean. This time round you might even remember the wonderful experience.
Hugo packed away his sandwich and thought over and over to himself: Yes, No. Yes? No?
Just go already! The voice said in an exasperated tone.
Without further ado, Hugo grabbed his coat and headed out the door.
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