The next few days came with little incident and a lot of rain. I spent most of the day shuttered inside, watching the rain hit my windowpanes as I flicked through an old romance novel.
Tuesday morning came. I told myself that I didn’t have much to be nervous about. Really
. After all, it was just coffee between acquaintances. I didn’t know much about him past that he bought books and that his eyes reminded me of bluebirds.
I appraised my reflection.
I had never been one for appearances; as long as I looked neat and felt comfortable, it was usually enough. But I felt nervous staring at myself. Sunlight circled through rain clouds and my whole room seemed to glimmer.
My hair was combed and I was wearing a new set of light azure robes. Was that too formal? Trying too hard?
Maybe I should’ve picked something casual. Between my hair and the robes, I looked like the weather outside – sun and rain.
Victoire came in, balancing a large set of books in one hand and a hairbrush in another. She set everything down on my bed. “How many times do I have to tell you not to leave your stuff on the sofa?”
“Sorry,” I said, not looking at her at all. I strung my fingers through my hair.
“What’s this?” She looked at me, eyebrows slowly rising. “You’re all dressed up. Are you going somewhere?”
“It’s a bit much for just work, isn’t it?” She cleared a space for herself and flopped onto the bed. “So…what’s his name?”
It was times like these that I was scared of my sister. Victoire knew everything
“Nothing,” I said hastily, giving my robes a tug. At the satisfied smirk on her face, I frowned. “It’s nothing
My horrible blush gave me away immediately.
“I know you, Nicky. It’s no use.”
I sighed. “His name’s Scorpius.”
“Scorpius Malfoy? The one who used to work with Molly?”
“The one and the same.”
“Where did you meet him? The Burrow?”
“At Flourish and Blotts. He’s Freddy’s friend.”
“Merlin,” she said in a hushed voice. “Well, he is good looking.”
“You know him?”
“Somewhat. He hangs around the Burrow at birthday parties. And he is
That I definitely knew. “It’s just coffee. It’s nothing – “ I caught sight of her smug face “ – nothing like that
“You can say what you want, but I haven’t seen you dress up for something in ages. He must be pretty fit.”
“He is n – ” I felt heat rise to my cheeks. Damn Weasley complexion. “ – well, that’s irrelevant.”
Victoire stood up and began smoothing out my robes. She grabbed the hairbrush and pulled it through my hair. I winced as she yanked through the tangles. “You know, it’s about time for you. When was the last time you had some fun?”
“I’m telling you it’s not like that.”
She ignored me. Honestly, she had to be partly deaf or something. “I know you feel a bit left out with our family being how it is.” She sighed. “But I’ve always hoped that you’d someday have what Teddy and I have.”
“Vic – “
“Just relax, don’t talk too fast and have fun. It’ll be great. From what Ted’s told me, Scorpius is a nice boy. And you’re a nice girl. It’ll work out.”
My sister was impossible. She knew how to be maddeningly exasperating. “It’s not like
“But it’s probably best if you don’t tell anyone too soon. I’m not sure how Granddad would take it.”
“Molly fancies him,” I blurted out.
There was a bit of a pause. Victoire kept on brushing my hair.
“I know,” she said sleekly, “Most of the earth’s population knows, Nicky. It’s not exactly news when she keeps batting her eyes every two seconds when he’s around.”
I was surprised. “How can you want me to be like – you know – when you know about Molly?”
“It wouldn’t work out between them,” she said, tugging the front of my robes with a final pull. “Molly moves between guys too much. Remember that Scottish fellow from a few years ago?”
“But it’ll definitely work out between you two. I just know these things.”
I’d given up trying to correct her. My sister was always a bit silly when it came to these things – she thought she was perpetually right.
“You’ll want to get going,” she said, tapping my shoulder with a knowing smile. “You don’t want to be late to work. Freddy always throws a fit.”
By then, the early morning rain was blanketing most of the city. The pointed corner of our flat building struck through the sheet of water and I took a deep breath, hoping I’d survive the day.
When I Apparated to Flourish and Blotts, I was slightly drenched from the downpour. It was generally accepted not to Apparate right inside any building, so I Apparated outside the door, feeling the rain stick my robes to my skin.
“Oi!” Freddy marched past a long pillar of books. Today, he was wearing bright purple robes that made him look like the inside of Louis’s apartment. “D’you know how late you are?”
I siphoned off the wetness from my robes with my wand. “A few minutes?”
“Exactly! Get in here – we’re losing Galleons by the second!”
My cousin, ever chivalrous.
He appraised me. Even he, who was as thick as a wall, seemed to notice something different. But he shrugged it off, muttering something indistinct about my tardiness and shooting me evil glares.
From across a towering sea of old tomes, someone called out, “A few minutes will not hurt you.” Nubia emerged, looking considerably amused. She was another colleague – a girl my age whose tanned skin and pale blue eyes gave her the look of a river. She was half-Egyptian and half-French, though she didn’t look much the latter.
Freddy paled up quickly. Stupid berk. “Of – of course not. I was just – er – joking.”
Nubia smiled at him, her teeth glimmering. He blushed horribly, but she turned away and glided past him. Freddy had fancied her wildly for all of the three and a half weeks she’d been here. If Nubia murdered somebody in our store, Freddy’d probably compliment her on her wandwork.
I walked up to where she was standing and she smiled prettily at me. Her voice was a little rough – it reminded me of starchy clothing – and it had a stilted accent that I could never place. “He does enjoy teasing you, yes?”
I nodded and returned to my desk. I liked Nubia; her resolute air of confidence exuded from everywhere. I knew she was a nice girl, but we were never particularly familiar with each other. I didn’t know much past that she’d been married once and that she and her five sisters had left Egypt to find new opportunities abroad. She reminded me a lot of Victoire, which was one of the reasons I didn’t talk to her too much.
Freddy had already placed a long parchment listing the orders I had to track down today. He walked over, entirely businesslike.
“Right. Well, we’ve got loads coming in the next few weeks. We’ll need to drop a line to the branch in Angora asking for a book on Elfish wine. And we’ve got a book on the history of trolls coming in today. Either that or it’s a biography of Voldemort. So same thing, really.”
Nubia’s coarse laugh floated over. Freddy continued, looking particularly pleased with himself. “Get on it, then.”
“Alright.” I eyed the parchment warily, but I knew it was senseless to complain. It would be easier just getting started and trying to finish as soon as possible. If I was anything, it was sensible.
The next few hours passed in relative silence; everyone continued working in their own corners of the store. Freddy, who was supposed to be alone in the store room kept finding excuses to sneak near Nubia to ask her questions about the inventory, all the while holding the list of all the books we stocked. Honestly, he had all the subtle grace of a piece of toast.
She answered all his questions, wearing an endlessly amused look the whole time. Lunchtime finally came, accentuated by the patter of raindrops and the eternal clash of rain and sunshine.
Nubia Apparated off to eat lunch with her sisters. Freddy stared at the spot she’d disappeared with a longing look.
“D’you ever think she’ll fancy me back?”
I laughed at him. “Maybe she will if you stop following her around.”
“But she’s gorgeous
,” he said, as if that justified it. “She’s got to be part Veela or something.”
She probably wasn’t; her dark complexion and heavily lidded eyes were more Egyptian than anything else, but I said nothing to Freddy. Forget being struck by Cupid - he looked like he’d been outright stabbed.
The bell above the door tinkled lightly as somebody entered. He pulled off his hat and his blond hair shone like the sunlight that was not there. He smiled at Freddy, but began walking towards me.
“Hi,” he said, sound slightly out of breath.
“Hello,” was all I managed, blushing horribly the whole time.
Freddy stared between us. Scorpius. Me. Scorpius. Me. “Is something going on?”
He raised his hands up to his hair, looking as nervous as I suddenly felt. Something light was stroking the inside of my stomach. “We’re – er – “
“Merlin, you’re not dating
, are you?” Freddy’s jaw was now in risk of scraping the floor.
“No!” Scorpius yelled it out so quickly that I raised my eyebrows. “Ah – not – I didn’t mean – “
“Do you fancy
each other?” At the sight of Scorpius’s quickly reddening face, Freddy burst out laughing. “Oh, this is just perfect!”
There was an enormously awkward tension between us.
Freddy was impossible!
Every time I saw Scorpius, he had to go and embarrass the life out of both of us!
“It’s not like that,” I said, shooting Freddy an evil glare. “We’re just getting coffee!”
“Right,” he said, wiping the mirth from his eyes. “Of course
it’s not like that! I guess you wouldn’t mind me telling Al, then?”
“Then I suppose you wouldn’t mind if I told Roxy about a few things. Like a certain girl
He went as white as his dark skin would allow. “You wouldn’t! Nicky, that’s not funny. You wouldn’t.”
“I would,” I retorted. I probably wouldn’t, but it was a fun threat to make nonetheless. It was moments like this that I forgot that Freddy was my boss and I had to respect him. We were Freddy and Nicky – five years old and arguing over the toy wand again.
“Fine, fine, go.” He looked venomous; not so much that I was walking away with his best friend, but more so that he wouldn’t get to tease me about it. Prat. Scorpius tugged gently on the sleeve of my robes and we walked out the front of the store in a calm silence.
The rain had given way to a momentary shine and we both stood on the wet cobblestone.
“We’re we going?”
“It’s a place not too far from here,” he said, smiling. “We’re going to need to do Side-Along for this one – “
He broke off. We both blushed, understanding what he meant. I held out my hand and he gripped it; his palms were cool from the wet air. The remnants of Diagon Alley - the hustling outlines of shoppers, the stark storefronts, the sighs swinging in the wind, all circled out of sight.
We landed on a wooden ground with a light thunking noise. I didn’t recognize the interior of the place; it was mostly wooden and aged and dusty, but it was filled to the brim with noise and laughter. There were people at nearly every table, and waitresses were filing in between the crowd, holding plates aloft and shouting out to each other.
“It’s a bit loud,” he said apologetically. “I didn’t know – er – “
“No, it’s fine,” I said, shouting over the noise.
It was then that I realized we were still holding hands. He was staring off into the crowd, eyes obviously searching from someone. His hand was gripped tightly around mine, like he’d been afraid that I was going to fall during the Side-Along Apparition.
“Um – “ I tugged my hand away.
He looked horrified. “Oh – sorry – I didn’t – “
“No – “
And I let it hang, unsure of what more to say.
He seemed to find what he was looking for. A brunette girl clad in bright yellow robes floated towards us, wearing a huge smile.
She indicated a table nearby and both of us sank into the chairs. She had large cheeks, noticeable cheeks and a loud, cheerful voice.
“Hello Mister Malfoy! What’ll it be today?”
“Just coffee for the both of us, Millie.”
While she noted it down, she kept talking. “Funny to see you here with someone, Mister Malfoy.” She gave me a plastic smile and a quick look as she wrote. “This your girlfriend?”
“Er – no – just – “
“Just friends,” I said, though I knew we really weren’t friends or anything yet.
Millie seemed considerably more cheerful; she gave me a much warmer smile. “Oh, isn’t that lovely? Your coffee’ll be here shortly.”
With that, she walked off into the crowd.
Scorpius sat, staring determinedly past me. I let my fingers trace a carving in the wooden table.
After a few seconds passed in silence, he spoke first. “Freddy says you worked in France?”
“I did,” I said, relieved to break the awkwardness. “I did some work as a journalist.”
“How come you’re back?”
“My mum made me come back. She’s a bit of a pain like that.”
“Ah, sounds unpleasant working with Freddy and all.”
“Not really,” I said lightly. Everything came and went with the flow of a river, the shine of the sun. Tomorrow was yesterday in the blink of an eye, so there was no sense fighting it. I’d spent the better part of the week I’d been back being bitter, but like everything did, it too passed. Now I was here. “It pays the rent.”
There was a short silence before he asked, “How’s your sister?”
“Oh, she’s fine.” It seemed as though Victoire and Scorpius had met. Odd. Victoire had been telling truth about that. “She’s doing well with Teddy.”
“You like Teddy?”
“He’s decent.” I’d had the biggest infatuation with Teddy Lupin when I was about thirteen years old and I’d been positively heartbroken when he snogged my sister a few years later. It was all a bit idiotic in retrospect, but Teddy really was a decent fellow when he wasn’t busy teasing me. “They’re probably going to end up getting married, by the looks of it.”
He laughed. “You make it sound horrible. I’m sure it’s not so bad.”
“I live with Victoire. It’s downright disturbing.”
He laughed again. Within seconds, a redheaded waitress arrived, this time balancing two coffees.
“Thanks, Gemma,” said Scorpius, smiling as he passed my coffee to me. The waitress eyed Scorpius, batted her eyelashes and gave a little wave before finally disappearing into the crowd.
I took a sip, feeling annoyed. “Do most of them act like that around you?”
“A bit,” he said apologetically. “Not sure why. But they’re all nice girls.”
“I’m sure.” I began downing down most of the coffee quickly; Scorpius had only taken a small sip. He eyed me with amusement. I set down my coffee. “What is it?”
“You drink fast,” he said, grinning.
I smiled. “My mum nags me about that a lot.”
“You’re lucky,” he said, still not drinking. He considered me over the rim of his glass.
“You have a big family. It must be nice.”
“I’m an only child,” he said shrugging. “It’s a bit dull.”
“What do your parents do?”
"My dad’s a school governor for Hogwarts. He’s a bit rough, but he’s all right. And my mum – “
He broke off.
“She stays at home. She’s the reason why I had to quit Obliviation, actually. She’s been sick for a while now, so I have to stay closer to home and do something else.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” he said, smiling. His perfectly even teeth glimmered. “My mum’s lovely, so I don’t mind. When she gets better, I can get back.”
I felt myself smiling. A boy who thought his mother was wonderful was such a rarity these days…the world was filled with idiots like Freddy…
With that, he began talking about his family. How his grandmother had wanted to name him something else, how his aunt had run off with a Ravenclaw boy and how it had been all the scandal in her time. He asked me questions in between – did I like France more than here? How did I find working in a bookstore?
It was a pleasant time, as easy as spring breezes and rainfall.
And like that, he finished his coffee and it was time for me to get back to work. He was smiling at me and I could feel myself feeling warmer by the second. I wondered if he was always so cheerful or if I just saw it in him.
He opened the door for me and guided me out into the pouring rain (and earning me several evil looks from the waitresses behind us). I closed my eyes as soon as I felt the water come in contact with my skin and I pushed myself closer to him for warmth. He looked down at me, smiling.
“Ah – sorry about the rain – should’ve brought an umbrella – “
“It’s okay,” I managed, “but we should get going.”
He offered me his hand and I felt a rush that I knew had nothing to do with Apparating. We were back outside Flourish and Blotts; I wrung out the wetness on my robes and he watched me silently, but his eyes twinkling.
“Thanks for today,” I said, “I had a nice time.”
He smiled and to my surprise, turned red. His hand immediately rose to his hair. “Er – we should do dinner sometime, yeah?”
“Okay,” I said breathlessly.
“Right then,” he said, breaking out grinning. “We’ll talk again soon.”
“Yeah,” I said, lost of any more words to say and sounding more and more like an idiotic schoolgirl by the second. “Bye then.”
I opened the door back to Flourish and Blotts, ignoring Freddy’s anguished cry of, “D’you know how late you are?” For a brief second I remembered Molly and the elation sunk slightly. But Victoire had been right. Scorpius and I had a nice time and I didn’t want it to end so quickly. I wanted his cheerfulness, his happy smile, and the way that he reminded me of sunlight. It made me feel sixteen again.
I took a deep breath and returned to my desk. Marlene gave me a searching look which I ignored. Nubia appeared out of nowhere wearing the same expression I was. The day stretched on, but I remembered the feeling of flying for a long time onwards.
Author's Note: Updates will be delayed afterwards due to the queue closure. What'd you guys think of the Nicky/Scorp outing? After all, it'll all play out to be important? :) And what about Nubia - d'you think the Freddy/Nubia ship will work out?
Thanks so much to everyone who's read, reviewed, and favorited! I love you guys! ♥ And please don't forget to review this chapter! I adore all feedback. :D