Chapter 1 : Pet Shop Regular
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Then came a time I thought it knew me not
Who can forgive forgiveness where forgiveness is not
Only the lamb as white as snow
Rolf stared at the owl, and it regarded him coolly right back. Its large eyes always won the game; interminable and infinitely surprised, they always soaked up and swallowed his gaze.
“What do you think?” Rolf asked bitterly, stroking the owl's beak with his thumb. Its only response was to ruffle its tawny feathers nonchalantly. “Did I ask too soon? Did I read the signs wrong?”
The next time he ran his fingers over the owl's head, it snapped at him and widened its eyes.
“Fine,” Rolf muttered, “I'll take my female problems to someone else then.”
He sat himself down next to a pale barn owl, and let it nibble his pinkie. “I wish I needed you,” he sighed, “You look like a wise old thing. But I already have an owl.”
If only owls had all the answers, as their diplomatic faces suggested. Then Rolf may have actually had a successful love life. He would have stocked his house with them and consulted them whenever he was lost. Which was a good amount of time.
All around him, owls nipped, chirped, and rearranged their feathers. Normally Rolf preferred to spend time in Magical Menagerie, where the hustle and bustle was comforting and the cloud of noise that hung over the shop didn't allow his thoughts to run away. But sometimes the hush of Eeylops Owl Emporium installed a bit more peace in his mind.
“You need any help?” asked the old shopkeeper, peering over Rolf's shoulder. “He's a lovely barn owl, two hundred―”
“―fourteen or fifteen centimeter wingspan, yes,” Rolf finished for the man, “No thank you, I'm just looking today.”
The old shopkeeper beamed. “Well, don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions.”
And Rolf was left to his own devices once more.
That is, until the shop door opened and Nymphadora Tonks burst in.
Rain dripped from her turquoise hair, and she slammed the door shut behind her, bells jingly frantically. She greeted the shopkeeper, narrowly avoided tripping over an eagle owl's stand, and promptly knocked over a stack of owl treats.
Rolf smirked and edged to the right, so that his face was concealed by the barn owl. He wasn't particularly in the mood to socialize.
“Wotcher, Rolf,” Tonks said anyway, making her way carefully over to where Rolf sat. “I haven't seen you since that last Hogwarts Express ride. Time sure flies, doesn't it?”
“Hi, Tonks,” Rolf adjusted his seat on the stool and grinned up at her weakly.
“You don't look too good, Rolf. Adult life not treating you well?”
“Nah, just having a bad day,” Rolf said, rubbing his knuckles against the owl's forehead. It nuzzled against him gratefully, almost like a cat.
“Wanna talk about it?” the chipper Hufflepuff Rolf had befriended at school attempted the same gesture on the owl and received a shallow cut in return. Rolf offered her his handkerchief as he replied.
“Nah, it's fine,” he said, then added on second thought, “...but maybe you could answer a question for me,”
“Sure,” Tonk dragged up a stool and grinned, “Shoot.”
“If you date a girl for nearly three years,” Rolf began, staring up at the ceiling as he tried to form the right words. They kept getting caught in his mouth, but the lumpy ceiling was a lot easier to look at than Tonks' bright face, “and have been living with her for over a year, and you ask her to marry you, have you done something wrong?”
“Oh, Rolf,” Tonks said, “You proposed to Gail?”
Of course Tonks would know who he was talking about. One of those three years had been at Hogwarts, after all, and he'd known Tonks well enough at school to introduce her to his girlfriend. He'd been giddy with love at the time, even though he was just seventeen.
“Yeah,” Rolf said, still staring down the ceiling.
“Well, to answer your question, no, you did nothing wrong. What did she say?”
“She wasn't ready to marry yet, she wanted to see the world... a legitimate answer, I suppose,” Rolf replied, “But she'd always, always said she never wanted anyone but me. I was sure she was hinting that she wanted to get married, too.”
“Rolf, some people want both. They want to see the world without belonging to anyone, and also without losing whoever they may truly love at the time.”
“I guess,” Rolf blew the air out of his cheeks and brushed a piece of dirt off the owl, “It's just so much easier to be an owl, isn't?”
Tonks chewed her lip and supplied no answer. Rolf took that as a yes.
As it washed over me
And the moon shone above me
Rolf briefly tasted the word suicide. He felt its heavy, bitter taste on his tongue, and decided to spit it out. It was unnatural to want to die before one's time; did hikers see mountain lions jumping off cliffs because no one wanted to mate with them? Of course not. Taking nature as his role model, Rolf had always considered suicide a stupid thing to even consider. But Rolf now had to wonder, what does one live for when life as they know it crumbles to pieces?
“Rolf,” the owner of Magical Menagerie said, “do you still want to look at this lizard? We just bought him from a collector, not even on display yet.”
“Sure,” Rolf said, tearing his eyes away from a huge striped butterfly. He followed the stooping lady past a cage of tiny golden toads the size of his thumb, and into the back room where he'd spent many a day examining the new arrivals. From the time he was thirteen, all he'd wanted was to go to Diagon Alley and pester the shopkeeper into letting him back there.
“Here he is,” the store owner, a middle aged woman named Maudie, pushed aside a stack of boxes to reveal a large wire cage. Relaxing inside was a huge purple lizard, about the length of Rolf's arm. It regarded him lazily with pink-flecked eyes.
“I'll take him.”
Rolf heard the words, and realized only afterward that he had been the speaker. Maudie chattered on, charming the lizard cage to follow them out into the main room, talking prices of food and new ways of cleaning cages. Rolf numbly paid five Galleons, eight Sickles and a Knut for his new pet and walked back out onto the street, lizard and cage following him.
For the record, Rolf already owned an owl, two color changing cats, a parrot that took pleasure in expanding his colorful vocabulary, and a variety of exotic fish. But he rather liked the new addition that currently bobbed behind him as he headed for the Leaky Cauldron. Merlin knew he could use the company after the loss of Gail.
“Who's your friend, Rolf?” chuckled Tom, as Rolf sat himself down and let the cage float to the ground beside him.
“Porsaggio,” Rolf decided, glancing down warmly at his new friend. “Purple and wise.”
Only poppies laugh under the crescent moon
The road refuses strangers
The land the seeds we sow
Where might we find the lamb as white as snow
The Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures was bustling as Rolf strutted in on Monday morning, wearing his favorite robes and a purple tie that was the exact hue of Porsaggio's scales. He stepped around a grumbling goblin and avoided a cluster of pixies on the way to his cubicle.
“Morning, Scamander,” Heath Barbary said, leaning over the wall of his cubicle that adjoined Rolf's.
“Morning,” Rolf said, “anything exciting happen so far?”
“Not much,” Heath yawned, “Oh, but someone found a spiked rat in their yard, and we think it's the offspring of a Knarl and a Murtlap. It should arrive any second.”
“If its spikes can treat curses like a Murtlap's, it might be useful,” Rolf said. He sat down in his chair and sifted through a sheaf of paperwork. Pegged up on the walls around him were photos and newspaper articles on interesting magical creatures. He made a mental note to try and get a shot of the new Knarl/Murtlap breed.
“Oh, and Gail left this for you,” Heath added, tossing an envelope onto Rolf's desk.
Rolf felt his stomach plunge and set down his papers. “She was here?”
“Yeah, about half an hour ago.”
“Thanks,” Rolf said absentmindedly, reaching for the envelope, and Heath ducked back into his cubicle. He ripped it open so sloppily some of the parchment inside was torn, but he could still read her neat, precise handwriting.
I feel so terrible about yesterday. I panicked, I'll admit it. I never pictured getting married before I'm thirty and I must have blocked out all the signs, because I never expected it. It's just like me to forget there are two people falling in love in a relationship, isn't it?
I know I hurt you Rolf, but just because I'm not ready to get married doesn't mean we can't still be together. I still love you, and don't want to lose you. Please come over this afternoon, when you're done with work, to talk.
Just look at that, Rolf thought, ripping up the letter. Too cowardly to come talk to him herself, cocky enough to point out her own faults, committed enough to love him but not enough to marry him, and she “didn't want to lose him." People said that about old toys from their childhood they weren't ready to throw out, not about people they “loved.” Rolf knew he was overreacting and exaggerating, and didn't care. Gail had just given him the greatest gift of all; a reason to let her go.
He threw the shreds of parchment in his trash can and knew all his bad spirits were with them. Enough of that nonsense. He was Rolf Scamander, and he owned a giant purple lizard. What else did he need?
As Rolf swiveled his chair around to tackle his paperwork, a pearly Patronus appeared before him, in the form of a dove. Maudie often contacted Rolf with special offers this way when he was at work. It parted its beak and squawked, “Rolf, we just got a baby alligator in a few minutes ago, with scales that have some very interesting magical properties. You want to come down and take a look?”
“I'm on my way,” Rolf replied, checking his pocket to make sure he had some money on him. The dove dissolved in front of him as he told Heath he'd be gone for a few minutes. “If the boss asks where I am, I'm checking out that Knarl/Murtlap.”
After all, Rolf thought as he sped down to the Atrium to find a place to Floo, Grandpa Newt always said that owning two huge reptiles beats a girlfriend any day.
A/N: This began as a song fic using the song “White as Snow” by U2, but went a little off course as I wrote it. The lyrics do still have bits and pieces of relevance, however, and as they inspired most of the story I decided to leave them there.
Concerning Rolf's lizard: in searching for a less common name, I looked up the words for purple and wise in Italian, and came up with “purpora” or “viola” for purple and “saggio” or “saggia” for wise. Combined, it made Porsaggio, which I thought had a nice ring to it.