Chapter 1 : Day 1
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Author's N This story was written in response to patchworkscribbles' Regina Spektor challenge, in which I was given the song 'Reading Time With Pickle' and the pairing Sirius/Lily to work with. At first, I couldn't really connect the two things but as I couldn't change my song, I eventually managed to make it work. So here's chapter one. I hope it's not complete rubbish ^_^.
*All lyrics included go to Regina Spektor, respectively.
1st July 1975
Stop at the supermarket
the condiment aisle
a jar of pickles catches the eye
Made eye contact with a solitary pickle
bought the jar, took it home
Sunlight filtered into the shop through the maze of various cages that hung round the shop window, and lined the walls. A few sleepy owls hooted as the door was opened with a bit of force, and a girl stumbled inside with a grunt. She tucked her fringe behind her ear with a sharp exhale. It was too early for this.
She shut the door behind her before heading down the row of shelves in the middle of the store to the counter at the back, hanging her keys on a silver hook shaped like a dragon’s head on the wall, and dropping her bag on the floor beneath the counter. She grabbed her apron and pulled it on over her head. In the upper right hand corner was her name, written in neat, cursive gold embroidery floss:
“Miss Evans!” The curtain behind the counter was shoved open suddenly with the ear-splitting sound of metal against metal filling her ears. “You’re late!”
With a heavy exhale, Lily turned toward the withered old lady that was now standing in the doorway that led to the break/stock room and a staircase to the owner’s private quarters upstairs. “I know, Ms. Margo, and I’m so sorry. It’s just that my dad’s not very good with directions, no matter how many times –”
The shop owner took a step forward, her lavender shawl swaying with the movement as she waved her cane. “I don’t care! Did you think the animals would feed themselves?” She demanded. “Now, I don’t pay you to stand there and make up excuses – get to work!”
Lily lurched forward and grabbed the basket of various animal treats, and scurried round the counter before Margo could threaten her further. She opened a packet of owl treats and poked them through the bars of their cages with a sigh. A snowy white owl hooted and nipped at her finger affectionately, before allowing her to move on to the next.
She sighed, wondering why she’d agreed to help out the most unpleasant old woman on the planet.
In all honesty, it was to get away from her sister Petunia. Ever since she had received her letter from Hogwarts, Tuney had been rather hostile and distant and nasty toward her. Perhaps it was all out of jealously, but Lily didn’t care. She’d had enough of it.
And the little bit of money she made every week for her effort wasn’t too bad, either.
Lily exhaled, looking out the vast shop window at Diagon Alley. It was situated right at the end, on the corner next to Gambol and Japes Wizarding Joke Shop, so she could see everyone come and go. The cobbled high street was littered with people here and there, peering into shop windows with their friends and families. A small boy just across the street at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor was sobbing because his ice cream had fallen off the cone, and his mum was trying desperately to console him.
But that wasn’t what had caught her attention.
Two blokes had just emerged from Quality Quidditch Supplies, one with short black hair that stuck up a bit in a few places and glasses, and a second one, who was a head taller than his friend, with his disheveled hair nearly reaching his shoulders. He was quite fit, with a nice face, dark grey eyes, and a lean build.
As though her gaze were burning a hole through his skull, the bloke looked up at her. Then, seconds later, she jumped back abruptly as one of the more aggressive (i.e. greedy) owls bit her finger, hard.
Lily’s back collided with a shelf and a cage fell off, the door opening, setting at least a dozen, custard colored Puffskeins free. “Frick,” she cursed under her breath, sucking on the puncture wound on her forefinger.
“Pardon me, Red, but I’m looking for a pet.”
“I sure would hope so,” she muttered, her voice slightly muffled as her finger was in her mouth at the moment. She looked up, and her eyes widened. Holy frick, it was the bloke from outside, inside, right there in front of her, asking for her help.
She mentally shook herself. Well obviously he’d ask for her help, seeing as she’s the only person that worked there. And no one in their right mind would ask Margo to help them with something.
He smirked, taking a step toward Lily. “So… about that pet,” the bloke said in a quiet tone that made her entire body shiver. Lily noticed something move in the corner of her eye, and remembered the cage she had just knocked over moments before. She dropped down to her knees and righted the cage, before grabbing the escaping Puffskeins nearest to her. “I was thinking of something along the lines of a…” he trailed off, his eyes scanning the shop quickly before landing on a cage near the back full of cats of every size and color, “cat. I’m looking for a cat.”
“A cat?” she laughed from the floor. “You struck me as more of an owl person.”
The bloke chuckled, leaning against the shelf. “We’ve only known eachother five minutes and you’re already sizing me up,” his eyes roved her crouched body with a slight smirk on his face. “Fascinating.”
She looked up, cocking an eyebrow as she dropped three furry Puffskeins back into their cage. “So you’re saying that I was right?”
He took a step closer to her, and crouched down in front of her. Lily tucked her hair behind her ear, scanning the floor for another fugitive lingering somewhere nearby. The bloke’s eyes were set on her face.
“Actually,” he murmured, his soft tone getting her attention, “I’m more of a dog person, really.”
By this point, their faces were about a foot and a half apart. The bloke seemed completely at ease about this, but Lily could feel a sudden magnetism pulling her gradually in his direction. Her heart was racing. Then, a moment later, Lily caught herself and shook her head. She stood up with the cage in hand, smoothing her hair down and clearing her throat.
“Well, unluckily for you, we don’t happen to have any dogs,” she stepped round him, heading down the aisle and hanging a right. “I’m sorry, though.”
“Why is that?”
Lily rubbed the back of her neck with a shrug. “You came in here for a pet, and you’re going to leave having accomplished nothing.”
He knelt down and scooped up something from the floor between his hands, then approached her on the other side of the shelf. Lily watched him curiously as he stroked the custard colored fur ball in his hand with his finger. It hummed contentedly. “Oh, I wouldn’t say that I accomplished nothing,” said the bloke, meeting her eyes pointedly.
The air in her lungs escaped through a slight part in her lips. She bit her bottom lip and averted her eyes, her cheeks growing hot.
“It likes you,” observed Lily finally, gesturing to the Puffskein in his hand.
“How can you tell?”
“The humming,” she told him. “They tend to hum when they’re happy, or so I’ve heard. I can never get them to do it for me, so Ralf must really like you.”
The bloke looked up at her then, raising an eyebrow. Lily clamped a hand over her gaping mouth. Oh, Merlin. Why had she said that? Just bloody brilliant, Lil, chided her conscience. Now he’s going to think you’re a loony bin escapee with nothing better to do in her free time than naming the shop’s pets.
Which, as it just so happened, she had.
“Ralf,” he repeated, gazing at the Puffskein. Then, much to Lily’s surprise, he smiled. “I like it.” The bloke looked up at Lily. “How much?”
Her eyes widened. “You’re seriously going to buy it?”
He just shrugged.
Lily’s eyebrows went up for a second, but she decided not to question his motives any further. A purchase was a purchase. “Alright, then. This way,” she told him. She led him to the back, and went round the counter, setting the cage on top of it before going behind the register. “One Galleon and six Sickles,”
When she looked up, he was already pushing two golden coins across the counter, and his Puffskein was perched on his shoulder.
“Keep the change,” he smiled.
Before she could respond, he turned and headed across the shop to the front door, and disappeared outside. Lily stood there, holding the money in her hand stupidly, staring after him.
She hadn’t even asked his name.