gorgeous chapter image by amoretti!
It was a Saturday of light winds. A gentle sheen of rain punctuated the clinks of the bookstore, hanging like mist to the windows. I didn’t know much about this springtime; I hadn’t stayed here long enough to find out.
France, I had found, had more manageable weather this time of year. On the whole, the experience staying here had not been unpleasant, but merely…different. The city was larger, the people were louder and everything seemed to be moving faster.
Marlene smiled at me. She was an older woman (she always protested when I described her like that), in her mid-fifties (this I could only guess – she had absolutely refused to tell anyone her real age. Anyone who asked received a sound walloping about the head. It was all a little theatrical, I thought, but she was the dramatic type.)
“These go in the back, dear.” She pushed a dozen spellbooks into my hand; I was caught by surprise, but I was too shy to say much back. “Behind the books on invisibility charms.”
Whenever Marlene gave a smile, it came with work to do.
But there was no point arguing.
Working in Flourish and Blotts was a surprising twist my life had taken. I was working in France as a writer and the next thing I knew, I was back home, listening to Maman list the hundred thousand reasons why I shouldn’t have moved away on my own. But everything came and went with such an ease that I supposed that there was no point pushing against it. I grabbed the spellbooks out of her hand and groaned slightly as I felt their weight on my arms.
“No complaining, Nicky love,” came a third voice.
Freddy emerged, clad in horribly bright azure robes; I had already made my opinion of those horridly unpractical things known, but he’d claimed “that was his style”. He looked like a tropical bird. People here were all so impractical.
He grinned hugely at me. “Right then, after you’ve done that, I’ve got some inventory in the back room I’ll need you to check up on.”
I started walking away, but he followed. “What inventory?”
“Try and sound more eager, will you?”
I rolled my eyes. “Freddy – “
“That’s Mister Weasley when we’re at work, Nicky.”
“That’s Miss Weasley when we’re at work, Mister Weasley.”
He grinned and waggled an eyebrow. “Touché.”
Working for my cousin had its ups and downs, which he simply couldn’t fathom. (“What could possibly be bad about working for me? I’m irresistibly charming and wonderfully generous.”) I had to put up with his annoying, momentary whimsies, but the wages were decent and Maman had simply insisted – she’d nearly pushed me right out of the door. (“When weel you ever get a job?”)
“Just some potion books and the like. And we’ve got a new set of encyclopedias on hags coming in soon.”
“Okay then,” I said, with as much cheerfulness as one could muster when they were going to have to look through an encyclopedia about hags.
He’d nearly followed me right to the back of the store. It was spring now, so our customers had dwindled down to precious few. The usual crowds of students bustling to get schoolbooks were now a thing of the past. There was a peaceful quiet on the grounds, stopped only by the rain.
It wasn’t so bad being here, really. I had to spend enormous amounts of time with Freddy and had to put up with some very strange requests, but Freddy was manageable. I had about a thousand cousins – it was all very embarrassing, honestly – we resembled a herd of cattle whenever we went out anywhere together. It was no better in France either. I was introduced to people who I thought were perfect strangers only to find out they were my cousins.
But Freddy was my favorite cousin.
I would die before admitting anything of the sort in front of him, though. He’d hold it over me forever; I hated it when people teased me like he did – I couldn’t do much but stand there, flushing. Which only made him tease me more.
“Also, Nicky, we’ve got a new guy coming in to look at a few things sometime soon. I think it’ll be a large order.”
I was surprised. It was a rare sight to see anyone interested in buying from us at this time of the year. “Do we really? Who is it?”
“Scorpius Malfoy.” He looked at me with distaste.
“Am I supposed to know him?”
“Merlin, did someone Obliviate you or something? Or – I reckon it might’ve been going away for three
I scoffed, to which he replied, “He’s an old friend of mine. From Hogwarts.”
“You were friends with a Malfoy?”
He shrugged. “Great men are prone to having eclectic tastes.”
“I don’t see how that has any relevance to you
,” I said wryly.
He faked an expression of utmost umbrage (though it looked as though he were mildly constipated instead) and whacked me on the arm.
“I ought to do away with you. Disrespecting a senior – ”He made tutting noise.
“If you do that, I’ll write to your mum.”
“Write to my mum?” He wagged his eyebrows again. “I’m twenty three years old! Is that supposed to be some kind of threat?”
I’ll write to your sister.”
At the mention of Roxanne, he looked properly scared. He could be such a right git sometimes.
“Err – I was joking, I hope you know – joking, really – “
The bell above the door tinkled lightly.
Freddy’s last retort fell to nothing. The man entered, pulling off his hat and siphoning the wetness off the front of his robes. He looked around and caught Freddy’s gaze.
“Scorpius, finally!” Freddy rushed over. I took it as my cue to leave the two alone, but Freddy beckoned me over.
“This is Dominique. Nicky, this is Scorpius.”
I murmured a quiet hello and considered him from the side. He was similar in height and form to Freddy – both overly tall and somewhat well-built. His pallid skin and blond hair reminded me immediately of France and my cousins. He had a bright, clean look about him.
“Hi,” he said. It was a smooth and easy voice. From the sound of his voice, I could already tell that he probably laughed a lot.
There was an awkward pause. I wondered why Freddy was introducing us.
“Nicky here’s going to be taking care of your sale, mate.”
I shot him an alarmed look. “What are you doing?”
He pulled me to the side. “Come on Nicky, I want you to handle this sale.”
“Have you lost it? I’ve never made a sale before like this
.” Malfoy would probably want me to look up something old and ancient, lost to the confines of our small premise.
“I’m going to be right here,” he said, his voice more gentle. “It’s been a month since you joined – it seems about time to let you handle something bigger.”
“Freddy – “
He was right, though. I’d been here for a month; it really was time for me to take on a sale.
I was terrified. I’d never been particularly good around people. It was always the same. I was either too nervous or talked too quickly. I didn’t know what to say at the right times.
Freddy clapped Scorpius on the back. “Right then. Nicky’ll take good care of you.”
I looked at him, worried. “You’ll still be here, right?”
Freddy rolled his eyes. “Yeah.”
I brushed the hair out of my eyes and looked up at Scorpius. I already felt a little timid. To my extreme embarrassment, I found that he was staring at me. His expression seemed unreadable.
“Shall we start then, Mister Malfoy?”
A small hint of a smile came on his face. I felt reassured immediately. “Call me Scorpius. Though that’s not much better, I guess.”
“What’re you looking for today?”
He reached into the folds of his robes and pulled out a piece of parchment. “First – er – 80 copies of Quintessence: A Quest.
“Alright.” I took note of it.
He ruffled his hand with his hair and laughed, sounding as nervous as I felt. “Err – I can’t really read this bit – hold on – “
I waited, the butterflies in my stomach calming a little.
He looked up, met my eyes and reddened slightly. “A copy of Magical Drafts and Potions
“Er – first.”
“First? We’re on the eightieth edition now.” I did the maths quickly in my head. “So, the first’d be around 400 years ago. That’s hard to find, even here.”
“Ah, well.” He laughed again good-naturedly. “Let’s look anyway?”
“Alright. If it’s anywhere, it’ll be in the very back.”
A wind blew through an open window and everything – books and glasses – all swayed and tinkled.
We navigated through a maze of books until we’d reached the back of the store. It was a special corner, tucked away deep in, filled with old books that crumbled at the touch.
“It should be here somewhere. Let’s take a look.”
A few minutes passed in awkward silence as we sifted through piles. Freddy stood right there, letting us both blush at the obvious pain of it.
Merlin, he didn’t need to help me with the sale, but the least he could do was talk.
I threw him a searching look and he gazed back, obviously unimpressed by my performance. He nodded towards Scorpius and I sighed.
“So…” I began, “what’re you buying for?”
“A library, actually – ” His voice ended in a nervous laugh. He ruffled his hair again.
“A private collection.”
“Whose is it?” I picked up an untitled book and opened it. It promptly broke into song and I slammed it back down, red-faced.
“The Flints and Vaiseys. Old pureblood families. I don’t think you’d recognize them.”
“Er - I – didn’t mean it like that
. I work for mostly old people.”
“Oh.” I could feel myself blushing again, at a loss for words. “That sounds - erm…fun.”
“Probably as fun as your job.”
Freddy let out an indignant “Oi!” and I laughed. “That’s true.”
“At least my customers are half-dead. This must be difficult.” His voice was cheerful and light.
I sighed. I didn’t want to say anything much to him. Marlene had already told me one of the most important rules of working: never complain to the customer. “It can be. Sometimes.”
He seemed to catch on and let it fade to a comfortable silence.
I snuck a look at him when he turned away. It was so much harder dealing with someone who was approximately my age and even somewhat good looking - I always managed to make a spectacular fool of myself.
He looked at Freddy who grinned back reassuringly.
“So…” he began after some time. “Any luck?”
“No.” I was pathetic. Really pathetic. I was mucking up the first real job I’d gotten in ages. Maman would murder me. “I’m sorry – I haven’t found it yet.”
If Freddy wasn’t related to me and therefore forced to keep me around, I would’ve been long gone from this job too.
“It’s no problem.” He was staring at me again. I stared at my feet.
Freddy looked on the verge of laughter. Prat.
An enormous wind blew over us. It felt refreshing – the sides of my skin tingled lightly in response. A large column of books near us toppled over. Scorpius jumped out of the way, promptly pushing both me and Freddy underneath him. I could hear the wind being knocked out of Freddy.
Freddy shouted, his voice muffled by my arm, “Get off me, you idiots! You’re breaking me!”
Scorpius leapt off us, turning a deep shade of scarlet. “Ah – that – “
I peeled myself off Freddy, who looked absolutely indignant. Thank Merlin he couldn’t fire me. I groaned, feeling where the bruises on my skin were.
Scorpius gave me his hand and pulled me up.
“ – that didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to.”
“You reckon?” Freddy asked bitterly. He hadn’t gotten any help and was now moaning his way up. He massaged his arm and glared. “Next time you feel like getting on top of my cousin, make sure that I’m out of the way first.” He trailed off, muttering darkly.
There was a very pregnant pause. I could feel my cheeks burning. Beside me, Scorpius looked like he’d been petrified.
” I whacked him across the face. “You complete
He stumbled backwards. “Oi, watch it!”
“You’re so – you’re such – ” It was like he was trying to make this whole thing more painful than it had to be!
Freddy backed away, still holding his arm. “Have you gone mad?”
“Have I gone mad – have you
gone mad?” I pulled him closer, ready to whack him again. “He’s a customer! How can you talk about him like that?”
“He’s my best mate! He won’t care!”
“Just go, will you? You’ve already made things awkward enough!”
“You’re the one who wanted my help!”
“Big help you’ve been! Now go
. Before I owl Roxy.”
He disappeared like a raging stampede of Hippogriffs was after him.
Arse! Without a drop of class in him!
I turned away, still burning from a painful self-consciousness. I put one hand to my hair and tried to pull it back into place.
Scorpius was standing there, his hand again ruffling his hair. “Sorry about that.”
“And I’m sorry my cousin’s such an – “
“No problem,” he said dryly. “He’s been worse.”
“He’s so impossible sometimes. It’s just – let’s just ignore what he said, alright?”
Both of us were looking away from each other.
I looked at the mess of books around us. With one fall, we’d all managed to unsettle several pillars of books. They were scrounging on top of each other like one, vast mountain.
“There’s no use looking for it now,” I said apologetically. “Everything’s out of place. I’m – I’m really sorry.”
There was silence. I felt tears spring to the corners of my eyes, but I knew I wouldn’t cry. I wasn’t quite so impractical, but it was a deafening sense of defeat.
I’d done it again. I’d gloriously, wondrously, amazingly mucked up a perfectly decent job. I didn’t deserve to be here. If it weren’t for Freddy and the fact that I threatened him with his sister every hour, I would’ve been gone by now. I didn’t deserve to be here…
“That’s alright,” he said. He sounded remarkably cheerful compared to my own dismal mood. He really did smile easily. It matched his eyes, somehow…
“If you’re considering finding another place, I totally understand. I can recommend another store – “
He laughed. It was like wind against trees. “It’s not worth the trouble changing now. We’ll try again tomorrow, yeah?”
“Okay,” I breathed, feeling an odd mix of disbelief, relief and embarrassment pool through me. “Okay.”
“This place’s a bit of a mess. Er – d’you mind if I help you clean up?”
“Oh no. I couldn’t ask you to do that.” I bent down and pulled out my wand. The help would be invaluable, but it would be too much to ask. I couldn’t ask Freddy to help me – not after I’d hit him. And I’d be too embarrassed to ask Marlene or anybody else.
A long afternoon cleaning up books it was, then.
He bent down next to me. “You’ll want to try a Levitation Charm for these.” He flicked his wand and a large mess of books fell back into place.
I could feel myself smiling.
“Sorry,” he said again. “For – er – earlier. The bit where I fell – er – on you.” He put his hand through his hair. “Ah – this is embarrassing, isn’t it?”
“Oh,” I squeaked, “Um. It’s okay.”
Silence. We both went back to piling books. In the distance, I could hear Marlene’s indignant shout, the sound of someone being hit and Freddy cursing. I supposed he’d told her what’d happened. The light smell of rain against cobblestone pervaded the air.
Then, he finally broke the tense silence. “Err – d’you like coffee?”
“D’you like coffee? Er – butterbeer’s okay too, I suppose. Best not to go with firewhiskey, though, yeah?”
“Um.” I stared. “Sure, I suppose I like coffee. Why?”
He turned the brightest shade of red I’d seen him today. “Er – then - uh – d’you fancy some coffee sometime? With – me?”
Now it was my turn to blush. We were synchronizing today, it seemed.
,” it came out in a quick gasp.
“I’m not normally this much of an idiot,” he said, his hand rising to his hair, “it’s just – I’m kind of nervous, I suppose – “
“Okay,” I said, feeling a smile stretch stupidly across my face. “Yeah, sure. We can go sometime.”
“Okay,” he repeated. “Alright then.”
The day passed slowly. Scorpius left later and Freddy came and apologized and said it wasn’t his fault he was such an arse – it was all an inborn thing. I went back to sorting and working, feeling the rain come and go with random bursts of sun. I couldn’t stop smiling a little to myself, though.
It seemed like that part of the day had stuck with me.
: ...And this is why Celeste should stay away from anything even remotely fluffy. Yeah, I know, the last thing I need is another WIP. XD And a second Scorpius/Dominique at that. But it is unrelated to my other Scorminique novella The Sound of Silence
. (I hope that any TSOS readers found the dynamics of this story to be significantly different from that one.)
It was a great deal of fun to write and I hope you enjoyed reading it! Please leave a review telling me how it was! :D