Chapter 3 : The Tea Thief
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Heart racing, adrenaline pumping, I recognised an emergency. Some terrifyingly loud noise had roused me from my sleep, sending me into a fit of panic. I wrestled with the duvet, tumbling out of bed as fast as I could, trying to kick-start my brain. Eventually, I came to my senses and located the source of the disturbance; my alarm clock. Fumbling on my bedside table, I located my wand. The alarm clock was no more.
Bloody thing, I cursed inwardly as I massaged my throbbing head, staring into the darkness. Getting up early in winter was the most depressing experience; not even the sun had woken up yet. I gave myself another minute to wake up before finding the light and padding across the hall to the bathroom. I made sure to bang on Molly’s door as loud as I could as I passed.
“Piss off,” came the mumbled response. Charming.
I decided the hall light was enough to light the bathroom, leaving the door ajar to give myself enough illumination to locate the necessary facilities without the possibility of my own reflection scaring me. It was just too much in the morning.
Flushing the loo and approaching the sink, I grimaced at the monster in the mirror, who looked equally appalled at my presence. Frizzy hair and freckles never looked attractive, but at this time of day I tended to look like a llama. I frowned and my reflection frowned back at me. I frowned more and received a death stare in return. I’d had enough of this; I dried my hands and stormed out of the bathroom.
“Molly,” I whined, barging into her room without knocking, light spilling from the hallway and illuminating a lumpy bed.
“Bugger off, Rose,” grunted the lump under the duvet. “I’m not going into work today.”
I glared at where I thought her head was. We went through this palaver regularly: Molly dreaded Wednesdays because she had to face her dreadful boyfriend for their weekly lunch date.
Sighing, I made to sit down on her legs in order to get her moving. “Ow! Rose, you’re so heavy!”
“Tough,” I said, starting to get a bit miffed. I was doing her a favour, really. If she didn’t go in, she’d likely get fired and then she wouldn’t have an income and then she would no longer be superior to me. That just couldn’t happen. “I still think you should just dump Jake. You shouldn’t hate seeing him.”
“You don’t understand,” she grumbled from the other end of the bed. “You’ve never had to dump someone. I just can’t. He’s such a nice person!”
I pulled the covers off her face, revealing a ball of scruffy red hair (I presumed her face was somewhere under it). “Then he deserves better.”
The face emerged from within the hair carrying a scowl. “That’s not a very nice thing to say. Now get stuffed so I can get ready. You might think that looking like a scarecrow is attractive, but I prefer a more polished look.” She kicked me off her bed and I grinned. My Molly was back. “Pass me a biscuit.”
I chucked a chocolate bourbon at her and left the room, leaving her to her very important morning routine. I had my own important schedule to tend to: another day needed crossing off the countdown to Teddy’s departure.
“If things get bad at lunchtime, you’re rescuing me,” Molly stated as we traipsed through the Leaky Cauldron, nodding at the barmaid as we did so.
“Fine,” I said, knowing that she wouldn’t need me to rescue her at all; she never did. Perhaps she liked the knowledge that she had a way out if she needed one, but I knew things were never as bad as she made out. Fair enough, Jake was an arse, but he was still her boyfriend so that put her in a better position than me. I checked my watch, thoughtful for a moment. “When do you reckon Scorpius will visit me today?”
We went through this routine every morning. Scorpius managed to turn up at least once every day, either in Flourish and Blotts itself or just strolling past the window with a ‘casual’ glance into the shop. We used to bet a biscuit on the time back when I first started my job there two years ago, but seeing as Molly ate all my biscuits anyway there didn’t seem much point.
“What time was it yesterday?” Molly asked, tapping the bricks on the wall that hid Diagon Alley.
“Three o’clock,” I said. “I reckon he’d offered to pop out on a coffee run – he was carrying three cups and sandwich.”
“Right.” We both winced at the same time as the wall became an arch and the sunlight hit us. “And it was lunchtime the day before – for the newspapers, do you remember? I think it’s either going to be a super early one or one after work. What do you reckon?”
I shrugged, stopping outside Gringotts. “Early, probably. Anyway, have a good day. I’ll see you at five.”
Molly smiled and kissed my cheek, turning on her heel and walking up to the grand building that contained probably all the wizarding gold in the country. It amused me to think that my parents had actually robbed Gringotts but hadn’t taken a single knut for themselves. They’d only gone in for some dark magical object. I suppose it was worth it, You-Know-Who copped it in the end.
I continued up the street until I reached the book shop where I worked. My job wasn’t nearly as glamourous as what Molly did, but it suited me just fine. She could do confusing calculations all she wanted on exchange rates and currencies and complicated crap like that; I was happy alphabetising books and hiding behind the till from Scorpius. Dealing with the odd looks customers gave me was also very rewarding.
Reaching into my pocket, I withdrew the shop key and let myself in. I twirled my wand around lazily as blinds opened, lights illuminated and the dust swept itself off the shelves. It often fell to me to open up the shop, seeing as my boss was partial to a lie-in and knew I’d always turn up on time. Knowing my luck, the one day I was late was the day he actually came into work and spotted my absence. I wasn’t willing to risk that and he knew it very well. Another example of my boring predictability; I was easily manipulated. It was probably easier than taking the initiative.
I still had a good fifteen minutes before the shop technically opened so I shuffled off to the back room to make myself a cup of tea. It would be the first of many for the day – Molly told me it was an addiction I had to sort out. She could hardly talk, what with the fact that she practically needed biscuits drip-fed into her system. I took a biscuit from the tin whilst I waited for my tea to brew, inhaling the scent of ginger. Ginger biscuits were the best for dunking in tea; I didn’t care how much Auntie Audrey told me it was bad form, I would dunk my biscuits as much as I pleased. She was so uptight, anyway – she’d probably never had a good dunk in her life. It was her loss.
I shoved the biscuit into my mouth and threw the teabag away. I glanced at the orange biscuit tin guiltily; did I really need another? Boris (my boss) had already warned me once already about scoffing too many biscuits… I shrugged, opening the tin once again. That’ll teach him to have an extra hour in bed whilst I toiled away behind the counter. Besides, I had to have a biscuit on Molly’s behalf. I stuffed that biscuit into my mouth as well and picked up the mug of tea.
It was as I was carefully carrying through the cup of tea into the shop that I heard the banging on the window. I rolled my eyes; it seemed Molly had been right after all. Scorpius was all I needed to put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day. I set my mug down on the counter as I passed and made my way over to the door. The early morning sunlight was low and so I could not make out his features. I unlocked the door and let him in.
Oh shit. As I stood back to let him through, I realised that this most definitely wasn’t Scorpius. His voice was far too deep and melodic, his mop of dark hair coming into view as he stepped out of the sunlight.
“Teddy,” I spluttered through two ginger biscuits. He was probably recoiling, but I was too repulsed by myself to look at him. I swallowed audibly, my ears turning red. “Hi.”
I wondered what I’d have to do to get him to say my name again; the way he said it made my skin tingle. Hello Rose. Hello Rose. Hello Rose. His voice was so magnificent, like liquid chocolate. Deep and rich and I could just lie in it all day… Blinking, I realised I’d been staring at his lips. Oh heck. Pay attention!
“I just made tea,” I mumbled eventually, praying I didn’t have crumbs all over my face or something. “Do you want some?”
“Oh.” He had such a wonderful smile… “No, that’s okay. I’m only popping in briefly before I head to work. I wondered if you could help me.”
“Sure,” I said, trying not to sound too keen. “Anything.” Anything? What was the matter with me? For once, try not to sound too desperate. “What do you need?”
“I’m after a book,” he said with an apologetic smile. I wish he’d stop looking right into my eyes; I felt as though he’d see right through me and discover my embarrassing secret. Though I didn’t really want him to look away because I was actually quite enjoying the fact that I could almost see myself reflected in his blue eyes that were so close…
“A book?” I repeated softly.
“Yeah,” he said with a soft grin. “You do sell those here, right?”
I mentally shook myself. “Oh, a book.” Of course, why else would he be here, in the bookshop where I worked? He was not here just for the… stimulating conversation. “What sort of book?”
“A travel guide,” he called over his shoulder as he began to peruse the shelves. I followed in his footsteps, ducking to avoid a floating book.
“Where are you going?” I asked, guiding him to the travel section.
Should I act like the obsessive freak I really am? I didn’t need to admit I knew exactly where he was going, because I doubted anyone else remembered everything he had ever said to them. Play it cool, Rosie. “Where in France?”
“Bordeaux,” he said decisively, running a finger along the spines of the books. “That’s where Victoire is setting up her business, anyway.”
I nodded, pretending that I hadn’t just ripped the cover of the book I’d been toying with at the mention of my cousin’s name. I scanned the titles of a few books until I found one wrapped in a burgundy cover. “What about this one?”
“The Magic of Bordeaux,” Teddy read aloud, nodding in approval. He scanned the contents page and flicked through a few pages, stopping to show me a photograph of a woman crushing grapes with her feet. “I bet Victoire won’t be doing any of that,” he said with a laugh.
I grit my teeth and forced a smile. I bet she bloody wouldn’t, the prissy madam. She’d probably never been caught with one too many biscuits shoved in her gob. Victoire might be getting involved in the wine industry, but I doubted she’d be getting involved in the messier side of wine-making. It would be all tasting and schmoozing for her.
“Was there anything else?” I made my way over to the till.
“Nope, that’s it,” Teddy said easily, following me to the counter. He paid and we were left staring at each other for a moment before he cleared his throat. “You should come and visit us when we’ve settled in. I’ll show you some of the stuff in this book.” He waved the travel guide in his hand with a genuine smile.
Oh, Teddy. I really wished he wouldn’t be so lovely. It made my heart ache with unimaginable sadness to know that he really never would be mine. “I don’t know if I can get the time off work,” I said awkwardly, hoping he’d take the hint.
It would be dream-worthy to spend some time with him in sunny France, with him showing me his new haunts and the local sights. But deep down, I knew it would be a terrible idea. The more time I spent with him the more chance I felt I had. Hope was super dangerous and I really didn’t think I could cope with it. Besides, every time I was exposed to the sun I ended up looking like Larry the Lobster (whoever that was).
“Wow, they do work you hard,” he said with a shrug.
The bell tinkled above the shop door. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the voluminous outline of my boss as he wandered in. Why did he have to be early this morning of all mornings?
With a brief tilt of his head in the direction of Boris, Teddy gave me a final smile. “I suppose I’ll see you around then, Rose.”
I smiled in what I hoped was a casual and pretty manner. I probably looked like a child who had just seen their pet murdered. “Yeah, bye.”
I watched him leave the shop forlornly. The bloody git, as if he was leaving my life in a few weeks. I wondered fleetingly if tying him to my bed was an acceptable form of behaviour; after imagining what my relatives might make of it, I decided that it wasn’t. Still, I was almost willing to try anything to stop him from leaving.
“Stop looking like you just sucked an acid pop,” Boris said gruffly, pinching my fresh mug of tea. “We both know he’s way out of your league.” I glared at him. “Get on with stacking the new books.”
I sighed, returning to the back room to fetch the box of new books. I sorely hoped my obsession with Teddy wasn’t as obvious as everyone made it seem. Clearly Scorpius had no idea; otherwise he’d leave me alone. I settled for venting my feelings through shooting the odd glare towards Boris as he sat behind the counter reading a Quidditch magazine.
Maybe I could visit Teddy in France? A bit of sun was exactly what I needed to cheer me up; everyone knew that January was the most depressing month of the year. You’d just been subjected to far too much turkey, family and cracker jokes, it was no wonder you began the New Year feeling drained. I certainly was exhausted by it all. Or, perhaps, I was exhausted because I couldn’t sleep, frustration and longing for Teddy making me restless. I replayed moments together in my head, regretting my choice of words or shouting at myself to make a move. I knew my conversation with him just now would be one I’d replay in my head over and over again until the memory broke.
The bell above the shop door tinkled again. Behind me, I heard Boris grumble loudly. “This isn’t a bloody gathering place for your boyfriends.”
I huffed as I got to my feet, poking my head around the bookshelf to hiss, “neither of them is my boyfriend!”
Boris smiled sweetly, baring yellow teeth. “Could you please take care of our favourite customer, Rose?”
I stepped out from behind the bookshelf with a sense of dread nestling in my gut; I knew who had just come in, just by the way Boris was enjoying my discomfort. Stalking past him, I joined our blonde-haired customer by the window.
“What do you want, Scorpius?” I demanded exasperatedly.
Scorpius looked slightly abashed at my tone. He nervously patted down a stray lock of hair, removing all trace of any texture to his head. I didn’t really know why he didn’t just shave the lot off and paint his hair on; it would give the same effect.
“I was just passing and thought I’d pop in to see you,” he mumbled nervously.
He was really trying my patience. “You work in Hogsmeade. You weren’t really passing by, were you?” I began to tap my foot impatiently.
“I’ve just been to Gringotts,” he countered triumphantly. “So yeah, I was in the area.”
“Right,” I conceded, defeated. “You’ve seen me now. Is that all?”
I could feel Boris’s eyes on us as I hastily tried to edge Scorpius towards the door. Why wouldn’t he just leave? Couldn’t he see I was really busy? Okay, not busy, but important? Fair enough, not important, but I did need to make a cup of tea…
“No,” he said sheepishly. “I was wondering if you were free for lunch?”
I groaned inwardly, but then I remembered what Molly had said. I tap-danced in my head. “I’m really sorry, Scorpius,” I said sincerely (hopefully). “But it’s Wednesday – I eat lunch with my cousin Molly on Wednesdays. And I’m not sure I can leave work for long.”
“But,” Scorpius leered, digging his hands in his pockets. “I brought you something.”
I frowned, not really sure what to expect. What he did draw out of his pockets was the last thing I ever expected anyone to give me. I accepted his gift, dumbstruck. What. The. Hell.
“Scorpius,” I said evenly, although inside I was horrified. “These are childrens’ toys.”
“Yep,” he beamed.
I waved them in his face. “They’re figurines of my parents.”
“Well,” he reasoned with a sickly smile on his face. “You do kind of look like your mum.”
I stared at him, disgusted. “You have to leave. I have lots to do.”
Maybe if I bribed Boris he would overwork me? He might take pity on me, seeing as we were both awkward souls with awful hair and buck teeth. He was approaching us now to no doubt assure Scorpius that I was indeed too busy. “Actually, Rose,” he began with a cheeky wink. “We’re not that busy today. I’m sure I could spare you for an hour or so.”
I froze, my apologetic smile falling off my face. I turned to Boris, hiding my face from Scorpius. “What?” I hissed. He winked in reply, returning to the counter with my cup of tea.
“Great!” Scorpius said happily.
“No,” I interrupted peevishly. “I’m not going to lunch with you.”
He frowned, pasty skin dimpling. He looked like Nearly Headless Nick on a bad day. “What? But-”
I stuck my hand on my hip angrily, a finger pointing at him. “Look, this has to stop. I don’t like you all that much, I don’t get why you insist on following me around, but I’ve had enough. Please leave me alone.”
Wow, I had done it; I’d actually found my backbone. Scorpius did now look like a dead boggart, but what did I care? I had finally told him what was what! I, Rose Weasley, had told Scorpius to bugger off. I was free from his ridiculous stories about our ‘accidental’ meetings. Okay, he did look hurt, but I refused to feel bad about it. I had asserted myself and I felt like a real person, like a grown-up.
Scorpius stood there with his mouth open for a moment, before angrily snapping it shut and leaving the shop, the slammed door leaving the bell jangling noisily. He was actually gone.
I smiled at Boris, who was looking at me particularly sourly over my cup of tea.
“Nice one, Romeo,” he called as I returned to my box of new books. Would I lose my job if I sent the books flying in his direction? Probably. It really wasn’t worth the risk.
I settled for sticking my tongue out at him. It was only just gone half-past nine and I had already sent two men packing (although I’d prefer it if the first man never packed at all). If Boris wasn’t careful, I would send him packing too.
I settled down on the floor next to the box of books, ready for a boring morning of alphabetising. To keep myself amused, I set the two plastic figures on top of a pile of books and watched as my toy parents fought with each other. I shook my head in disbelief. I really never could escape the craziness.
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