Chapter 3 : Stray Cats, Subways, and Fish & Chips
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Beep beep beep
No. Please, Merlin, have pity.
Beep beep beep
I beg you, just make it stop! What have done to deserve this? What!? I’ve been a good girl. I shower every day, I don’t yell at innocent children, and occasionally I do charitable things, like rescue stray kittens or help old ladies across the road.
Beep beep beep
Ok, fine. There was no old lady.
Beep beep beep
Ugh. My poor, poor brain. It’s unable to take this kind of stress right now. I was happily dreaming about unicorns and chocolate pudding, I can’t deal with this harsh pull back into reality! I groaned and pulled my pillow over my head to block out the noise, but it made no difference. My alarm just wouldn’t stop beepbeeping away.
As if of its own accord, my arm dragged itself in the direction of the blasted noise, and pressed down on the blessed snooze button.
I was just about to close my eyes and drift off into blissful sleep, when I remembered:
Today, was my first day of work.
I shot up out of bed so suddenly, my eyes took a minute or two to adjust themselves to the harsh light, and my head throbbed painfully as blood rushed to my brain way too fast.
When I could finally see clearly, I glanced at my little red alarm clock, sitting innocently and now silently on my bedside table.
At the sight of the time, my heart rate relaxed slightly; I still had an hour and a half to get ready for work.
I muttered an ineligible response to Roxanne’s greeting, and shuffled my way over to the coffee pot. Roxanne was used to this morning routine already, having started work two months ago, and the strange concept of waking up before midday was no longer a struggle for her.
That much couldn’t be said for me.
“Ugh. How do you do this every morning, Rox?” I asked my cousin, clutching my steaming cup of coffee in both hands. I felt, towards this burning mug, like a drug addict would feel towards his heroin.
Hey, it’s seven in the morning. My brain isn’t functioning; I can’t help using strange comparisons.
“Get used to it, Freckles,” Roxanne said with an amused smile, “Soon, that coffee will be the only thing keeping you going,”
I snorted. “That’s real reassuring. Thanks,”
You know who I envied right now?
She was currently wrapped up in a warm doona, her head resting on fluffy pillows, sleeping her blissful little heart out.
Fortescue’s didn’t open until eleven thirty.
“Tell me, why did I agree to work in the Department of Magical Games and Sports again?” I asked Roxanne, taking a sip of my coffee. The liquid burned down my throat, filling my tummy with a comfortable sort of warmth.
“Because you thought the head of The Ludicrous Patents Office was fit enough to spend your day ogling at.”
I thought about it for a second. “I think you’re right,” I agreed. “Beats me why I thought he was worth getting a job over, though.”
Roxanne sighed. “You got a job, Nick, because if you didn’t, you would continue moping around this flat every day, doing nothing but sit on your arse and collect more and more of those damn cats,” I opened my mouth to retort, but Rox held up a hand “And to be honest, Olli and I have had quiet enough. I found two of them in the bath yesterday.”
“But I can’t just leave them in the street!” I protested, glancing up at the kitchen bench, where one of said cats was sticking its nose into the milk carton. I winced as the carton toppled over, sending milk spilling across the bench top and dripping onto the ground. “Anyway, if you’re so sick of all these cats, why don’t you get rid of Einstein?” I added, sticking my chin out challengingly. Roxanne shook her head in exasperation.
“Nickie, I’ve had Einstein since I was seven years old. These are cats you’ve just picked up on the sidewalk. I fail to see how they relate in anyway.”
“They have whiskers?” I offered meekly, pulling a soft chuckle out of my cousin. A short silence ensued.
“C’mon,” Roxanne said finally, pushing herself up, “We need to get you looking presentable,”
Despite my many protests, Rox would not let me go to work in my pyjamas.
Getting me presentable, it turned out, consisted of pushing me under a jet of freezing cold water, scrubbing every sodding surface of my skin (including under my feet) with a brush as hard as Great Aunt Muriel’s stony gaze, and, after the torture was complete, pulling me out, wrapping me in a towel, and leaving me shivering and dripping wet in front of the mirror, while Roxanne searched through her wardrobe for something for me to wear. My own clothes, it seemed, weren’t suitable for the public eye.
“Aha!” Rox exclaimed, pulling some sort of tight, pencil shaped grey dress from inside the dark regions of her closet, and showing it to me with a triumphant smile on her face.
“Rox,” I reasoned calmly, resisting the urge to roll my eyes (and barf in the nearest toilet), “I’m working in the Sporting Department, not in the Ten Ugliest Clothes of the Seventies Office.”
Roxanne just rolled her eyes, and continued with her search.
“You know, I really would be fine with just jeans and a-”
“Don’t say it, Freckles,” Roxanne warned, with her back turned to me. I couldn’t see much of her, however. Not with all the various items of clothing currently being thrown over her shoulder.
“Is your boss a bloke?” She asked suddenly. I shot her frown, which she didn’t have the privilege to see.
“Why d’you ask?” I enquired, shaking my legs a little to get some heat into them.
“Is he though?”
“He is, but-”
“Then I have the perfect way to impress him,” And with that, she turned around, and held up this little scrap of lace and silk, that bore a faint resemblance to a...
“Please tell me that is not a dress,” I pleaded, eyeing the piece of clothing with distaste. Roxanne just smiled broadly, and chucked the offensive thing at me. “I don’t fancy having every bloke I cross ask me what my hourly is,” I quipped, dropping the dress to the floor.
“It’s your first day,” Roxanne stated, as if that explained everything.
“Yeah, and last time I checked, it was my voice I wanted to say hello with, not my boobs.”
Not that any of this did any good of, course. Roxanne always got her way.
And that was how, half an hour later, I was dressed (figuratively speaking. I felt more naked than I had when I got out of the shower), heeled and makeupped, with my wavy blonde hair in a messy sort of bun.
“Lovely,” Roxanne stated, slipping some pearls around my neck.
That wouldn’t exactly have been my prime choice of words, but to each her own, right?
“How come you get to look all sleek and professional, but I have to pop my tits out and flash my knickers to all innocent bystanders?” I whined, pulling at the short, breezy bottom of my dress.
“Because I know John McLaggen, and I know that a slutty outfit is the only way to gain his respect,” Roxanne explained wisely. I snorted and tried to tighten the straps a bit, in a futile attempt to keep some of my boobs inside the clothing. Rox slapped my hands out of the way.
“You know that doesn’t make the teensiest bit of sense, right?” I pointed out, referring to her statement about my boss. A shrug and an eye roll answered my words.
“Get over it, Nick. You don’t have time to change, anyway. C’mon. We’re already late.”
“Good morning, sexy lady,”
“Shove a pie in it, Olli,” I growled, scowling at the bedheaded being of morning sarcasm standing at the door to her room. “We have to go. We are officially late enough to get our arses kicked.”
“I’ll second that,” Roxanne chirped, swinging her bag over her shoulder, “Cya, Ol. Have a good day!”
“Yeah, yeah,” Molly muttered, placing one fluffy bunny slipper in front of the other as she made her slow way to the kitchen (and the coffee pot). I quickly did a once over in the mirror, to check I didn’t have toast in my teeth, or something equally as embarrassing, before following Rox out of the flat.
But not before I heard a noise that sounded suspiciously like Olli walking into a wall and falling onto one of my cats.
Going to work was very similar to running a five mile marathon. Roxanne and I raced down the whole three stories of steps of our flat, and then pushed past early morning joggers in the park, racing towards our aim: The metro.
I was tempted to pull my heels off, because they were killing my feet, but I decided against it. I didn’t want to catch HIV from stepping on a piece of glass or something.
I know, that’s impossible, but you can never be too careful.
A much easier way to get to the ministry would have been by magic, but Roxanne said that for my first day, I’d be better off going the muggle way, so I knew exactly where the entrance to the Ministry was.
I had never liked metro’s. I couldn’t work those strange metal rolly things, and my ticket always seemed to get lost. And then I hated the train itself, with its stale pee sent, and busy workmen, and pervy homeless guys.
I’ll just skip the ride for you, because it was hell.
Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime of windy dark tunnels, we emerged into the sunlight, and I stopped for a second, just to appreciate the beauty of breathable air.
“Come on!” Roxanne hissed, grabbing hold of my wrist and pulling me down some alley thing, right up to a block of public toilets. I stopped just before we entered the ladies half, frowning slightly,
“Um, Rox? How about you pee when we actually get to work? I don’t want to be murdered on my first day,” I said, my gaze switching from the toilet block to an amused looking Roxanne.
When she burst out laughing, I frowned, unaware that what I had said was really that funny. But before I could embarrass myself by laughing too, just because I didn’t want to be rude, Roxanne explained it to me.
“This is the entrance,” She said, gesturing to the ladies toilet. When I ogled at her, my mouth wide opened, she lifted a dainty finger under my chin and closed my gaping jaw for me.
Oh this was so gross. We were supposed to step in the toilet!?
“Roxy!?” I called out, eyeing the toilet bowl with distaste. My cousin answered me from the cubicle next to mine.
“Do you have the coin?” She asked. I said that yes, I did. “Good. Now stick it into the little slot. Can you see it?”
“Um, done it,” I replied, wincing as the person to my right flushed their toilet. How did they do this?
“Now, step into the-”
“I know what we have to do, Rox,” I said, “The problem is, I don’t think I can.”
“Well you have to,”
She was right, you know.
And so I did.
And don’t even think about asking for details. You ain’t getting them.
When we stepped out of the fireplace, it was a rush and blur of colour and sound that greeted us. Wizards and Witches in long flowing robes, or just regular muggle clothes, were rushing about, carrying piles of leather bound books, quoting things to a quill and parchment hovering over their shoulder, or just running past to get to where they needed to be.
The Atrium was a beautiful place, with a tall, wide ceiling, and polished marble floors, and a big glinting fountain in the very middle.
The statue was a life sized replica of Uncle Harry, Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione. I had seen it many times before, but still, running into a fountain starring three members of your family was always a shock.
My Aunt and two Uncles hated their statues. They said they didn’t like how it singled them out from everybody else walking about the ministry (and Ron would joke about how they had carved his nose wrong. ‘Hardly flattering at all’, he would say). Seeing as they couldn’t take it down, Hermione had insisted that all the money poured into the fountain would be donated to a little thing she liked to call SPEW.
Seeing as she was thought of so highly by all Wizards and Witches of importance, the Minister could do nothing but agree.
Without leaving me time to catch my breath, Roxanne dragged me away from all the action, over to a small line that was beginning to form in front of one of the golden lifts.
“I think we might just make it,” She puffed, flicking a little purple paper plane out of her face. “Merlin, these memos are bloody annoying.” She growled. I smiled, and pulled at my dress again.
Ok. Now I was nervous.
I had never had a job before! What if I stuffed this up! What if-
“Alright, this one’s ours,”
I followed Roxanne into the lift, stumbling slightly as it lurched into motion.
“Level one, Department of Magical Law Enforcement, including the Improper Use of Magic Office, Auror Headquarters and Wizengamot Administration Services,” Said a cool female voice, when we came to halt. The lift doors rattled open, and some hardcore looking guy stepped out, while another young wizard stepped in.
I looked over at the wizard at the sound of Roxanne’s surprised voice.
“What? Where?” James said, glancing around comically.
“Idiot,” I muttered, pulling him into a tight hug. “What are you doing here? Last time I checked, you were playing hermit, locked away from the world and writing like a bloody loon,”
My cousin grinned and ruffled his messy dark hair, his brown eyes smiling from behind his glasses. I hadn’t seen James in months. He hadn’t changed much, but he seemed...older, somehow.
“Yeah, I would be...” He said, and then his face broke into a wide smile, “But you see, the book’s finished.”
“WHAT!?” Rox and I said as one.
“That’s amazing!” Roxanne gushed, giving her cousin a hug. He grinned at me over her mane of crazy dark hair, and I stuck my tongue out.
“Well done, man,” I said. “Is that why you’re here?”
James nodded. “I’m gonna see if I can get it published.”
“Level two, Department of Magical News and Investigations, including the Daily Prophet headquarters, Office of Reportage and Journalism, Witch Weekly Editing house and branches of the Five Wands press company.” Cooed the elevator voice, and the lift shuddered to a halt.
“Well...this is us,” Roxanne said, as the doors slid open. “Good luck,” She whispered, giving me quick hug. “It’ll be fine.”
I nodded meekly, and waved as my two cousins stepped out of the lift. The last thing I saw, as the doors slid to a close, was their reassuring faces beaming up at me.
Now it was just me and some old guy wearing purple and yellow robes. I gave him a quick smile, but after the glare he sent me back I decided against striking up a conversation.
“Level three, Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes, including the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad, Obliviator Headquarters and Muggle-Worthy Excuse Committee.”
Here we were joined by a rather frazzled witch. She was accompanied by a dreamy looking wizard, who seemed to think that he was on his way to outer space.
“Obliviator spell gone wrong, you know,” She explained in an undertone, as she smiled reassuringly at the poor bloke. “He’s under the impression that he’s a muggle astronaut.”
A couple of memos zipped in and out, and then off we went again.
“Level four, Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, incorporating Beast, Being and Spirit Divisions, Goblin Liaison Office and Pest Advisory Bureau.”
We didn’t stop at this level, but as we passed it, I heard some rather worrying sounds and a small slither of smoke crept past the hinges of the door.
“Level Five, Department of International Magical Co-operation, incorporating the International Magical Trading Standards Body, the International Magic Office of Law and the International Confederation of Wizards, British Seats.”
The purple and yellow clad man left us here, while a whole army of little violet memos joined us. I ducked as one aimed straight for my head, and scowled when Mr. muggle astronaut laughed at me.
“Level Six, Department of Magical Transportation, incorporating the Floo Network Authority, Broom Regulatory Control, Portkey Office and Apparition Test Centre.”
Here we were joined by a whole heap of people. There was a dark skinned wizard, carrying what looked like a rolled up carpet in his arm, muttering curses about the head of Magical Transportation Office. A lively looking guy in bright red robes, carrying a broom over his shoulder smiled brightly as he bounced in, and two identical witches around my age also joined us, staring at their Apparition papers in awe, and squealing about how easy it was going to be to sneak out after dark now that they could just disappear with a pop.
Hey, have you girls ever heard of Anti-apparition charms? I’m sure your parents have.
“Level Seven, Department of Magical Games and Sports, incorporating the British and Irish Quidditch League Headquarters, Official Gobstones Club, and Ludicrous Patents Office.” Quoted the cool female voice.
Well. This was me.
I carefully stepped out of the elevator, pulling my dress down a little, just to be on the safe side. My attempts were rather pitiful, however. The fabric still didn’t even graze the middle of my thigh.
The bouncy guy dressed in red stepped out after me, looked around cheerfully, and then turned to me.
“First day?” He asked, showing me his pearly white teeth.
“It’s written all over my face, isn’t it?” I answered, rolling my eyes and shifting a little. This dress was making me uncomfortable. I didn’t like feeling this uncovered. I saw the boys eyes flit to my chest, then slowly all the way down my legs. “Eyes up, buddy,” I said, a little annoyed when they settled on my over-exposed boobs again.
Red Boy blushed and looked back up at me. “Sorry,” He said with a small shrug, “I’m young. I’m male. What can I do?”
Have a little respect, maybe. I thought, but I didn’t say it. Instead I looked past the boy, and at the complete utter chaos that was going on behind him.
The hallway was covered in posters. Posters of Quidditch, posters of Quidditch players, posters of Gobstone tournaments, posters of Quidditch, posters of life-sized chess games...posters of Quidditch.
And running past these were flurries of wizards and witches, none of whom seemed to know the meaning of ‘silent as the dead’.
Everyone was yelling and laughing and pushing eachother over.
It was crazy.
And I loved it.
“Whereabouts are you working?” Asked Red Boy, rubbing his neck nervously. He did seem a little ashamed about being a perve, so I decided to answer him.
“Um, in the Ludicrous Patents Office,” I replied, and Red Boy grinned.
“I wish you luck, then,” He said, with a light smirk, “You’re at the very end of the hall, to the left,”
I thanked him and went on my merry way, trying to dodge the rushing workers as I went.
The ludicrous patents office, it turned out, was a tiny thing. There were about six witches and wizards inside the room, all huddled together around a long table.
“Ahh, Nickie!” John McLaggen, my boss said when I walked in. I tried not to scowl at his use of my nickname. “Come sit down, we’ve saved you a seat. Everybody, this is Dominique Weasley, our newest member,”
I sat down slowly, feeling like I had just entered an AA meeting.
McLaggen proceeded to introduce me to all of my fellow colleagues.
There was Larry Parker, an old man in his fifties, with a greying moustache and a belly that barely fit between the table and his seat. He was subordinate to this whole office, so I was to ‘address him respectfully’. Rather hard when he spent his time ogling at my boobs with his mouth hanging open.
Next was Sophie King, a pretty thing around my age, with blonde hair and big glasses, who was a bit on the quiet side. I didn’t hear her talk once that day.
Roger Harris was to be my partner. He looked like he’d be in his twenties, with a shock of messy brown hair, warm brown eyes, and a light dusting of freckles across his nose. I later learned that he was Tom Harris’s twin, the editor of the Daily Prophet.
Agatha Jones kind of scared me. She was thirty five (in two weeks, she assured me), and had really frizzy black hair, wide, kind of protuberant grey eyes, and a soft, croaky voice that made her sound like an axe wielding maniac straight out of a horror film. Also, she kept on smelling my hair. That kind of freaked me out.
And that was it. Note that the number of people working in this office was an obvious clue as to how important our contribution to the ministry really was.
Once the introductions were done, McLaggen delved into a rather tedious conversation about the legalisation of self transformation spells. I just sat there during, trying to look awake and interested, while really wondering how long away lunch break was.
Once their conversation was over, the rest of my colleagues dispatched, leaving me sitting alone at the table with my boss. He took this opportunity to explain to me what exactly what I would be doing in this office.
“You’re working with Mr Harris,” He explained, “He’ll give you more details later, but the main idea is that you sift through all the letters the ministry receives, all the demands for new laws, permits for businesses and invented spells, things like that, and answer any appeals people might have.”
I nodded, trying not to cringe. It sounded like a tedious job, but I guess someone had to do it.
I just wish it wasn’t me.
“Hey, new girl! Has McLaggen briefed you yet?” Roger Harris asked, as I walked into the office we would be sharing. I sighed and threw my bag down on the desk sitting in the corner.
“Yeah, he did. Before, I wasn’t dreading this too much...Now I wish I’d accepted that offer I got from the fish and chip shop down the road.”
Roger laughed. “He does have that effect on people,” He said, grinning slightly, “But you’ll see, it’s not as bad as it sounds,”
I rolled my eyes, glancing around the room that was now my office.
It didn’t have windows. We were hardly important enough for that. What it did have was an old fluoro light hanging from the ceiling, two cluttered desks, and some posters of the Tutshill Tornados stuck up on the walls.
“You support the Tornados?” I asked, walking up to look at one of the posters. Roger laughed.
“Nah. I’m a Puddlemore man,” He said, “My old partner liked the Tornados, though,”
I turned to face him, one eyebrow raised. “And what happened to him?” I asked.
“He shaved his head and converted to Buddhism,” My colleague answered, matter-of-fact. “Here, let me clear some of this junk off the desk for you,”
The desk I had placed my bag on was covered in stacks of paper, old quills and empty coffee cups. Roger gathered it all up in his arms and dumped the lot in the bin.
“There you go,” He said, looking at the now clear desk, “Make yourself at home,”
“Oi, Roger, you have to listen to this one! Hello. I’m a worker here at the Ministry, and would like to express my deep concern on the lack of entertainment in the working space. Me and my friends already spend more than half our day in the office, and when we do get a break, all there is to do is walk about the hallways, or watch The Chosen One spurt water out of his hat. There are many ways to provide fun for us workers, but what my friends and I had in mind, was something along the lines of a roof top stripper club. I’m sure there are no laws against that sort of thing, and I know many people that would love for this idea come to life. Thank you for considering my suggestion; One of your faithful colleagues.” I snorted. “This guy can’t be serious.” I scoffed, folding up the letter. “A roof top stripper club? Come on, this had to be a prank,”
Roger didn’t answer straight away. He was doubled over his desk, shaking with silent laughter. I grinned, and propped my legs up on my desk.
“Anyway,” I continued, “The ministry is underground,”
“Classic,” Roger chuckled, still shaking with laughter, “That guy’s a genius! Please tell me he left a name, so I can send him flowers,”
I shook my head. “It’s anonymous,”
“Damn. You always seem to get the good ones! The most exciting thing I’ve read all morning was from an old lady asking of she was allowed to charm her bag of cat food to feed ‘Mr Snowpaws’ all by itself,”
“Charming,” I commented, fingering my quill, “What do I say to Stripper Man? ‘Sorry, a stripper club would be highly inappropriate. How about an indoor nudist beach instead?’”
“I like the way you think, lady,” Roger chuckled, grinning diabolically. I chucked a pencil at him, which he dodged.
“Perve,” I muttered.
Roger winked and mouthed ‘you love me’, before letting out an excited yelp. I looked up at him, wondering what the outburst was about.
“Lunch break,” Was all he said, pointing at the clock on the wall. “Care to join me for some low fat chips in the eatery?”
I slid my feet off the desk, reaching for my bag. “Us much as I’d love to gorge on fats and oils, I’m meeting some friends at a cafe,” I answered, giving Roger a apologetic smile. He shrugged, his ever constant grin plastered to his face.
“No mind,” He answered, “Have fun!”
I wished him likewise, and before he could even answer, I was running out that office like a mouse with a cat on its tail. This had to have been the most boring three hours I had ever had the misfortune to live through. Letter after boring letter, some of them so ridiculous I had to wonder if someone out there didn’t have serious grudge against the Ludicrous Patents office.
At least Roger was fun. We had spent the better half of the morning reading out the worst letters we could find, and I got to learn that he was actually a really funny guy. He had this air of joyfulness about him, like he had a never ending supply of energy and good humour just bubbling underneath the surface at all times. Does that sound cheesy?
Anyway, he was a nice bloke. I was happy he was my partner. I could have been stuck with a grouchy, stale smelling, beer drinking old man, but instead I got a (kinda cute), nice and funny guy who knew how to appreciate a good joke.
Is it sad that that’s the best part of my job?
The hallway outside the main office was nearly half as empty as it had been this morning when I walked out. Everybody seemed to have left for lunch, leaving only the extremely busy or extremely late behind. I nodded to those that I past, as I hastily tried to slip my bag over my shoulder and pull on my jacket at the same time. My heels clicked against the wooden floorboards, sending echoes bouncing off the walls.
I was nearly at the elevator when I ran into a messy haired fellow in bright yellow and black Quidditch robes.
“Al!” I exclaimed, placing a hand on his shoulder and stopping him in his tracks. He spun around, a broad smile plastered to his face.
“Knickers!” He replied, his smile widening, “How was your morning? Wait, tell me later. I forgot some papers in the Office, I gotta run and get them...so I’ll see you for lunch? It’s still at The Lattetude , right?” And with a quick kiss on my cheek, he dashed off the way I had just come from, before I had even managed to work out half the things he had said.
Al worked on the same level as me, though in a completely different area. He played Beater for the Wimbourne Wasps, and was probably one of the best players the team had seen in the past three years. I was pretty happy to have my cousin on the same level as me – I didn’t feel so alone that way.
I smiled distantly at Al’s retreating figure, before turning back around to continue my path to the elevator. I had only walked a few steps, however, before I realized that said path had in fact been blocked by a man with dark hair and paint stained fingers. A man I recognized very well.
My heart sunk. It seemed like Merlin was having a right laugh up his magical flying palace, or wherever the hell he lived. I’m sure he found great amusement in putting me in situations like these ones. Hey, thanks a bunch, Merlin! So glad I could provide you with some entertainment for the day! Would you like me to get you some popcorn, or has that already been sorted out for you?
“Move, I need to get through,” I muttered quickly, keeping my head down as I tried to push past him. With a few nimble steps, however, he was again blocking my way. I stole a glance behind me to check if Al was still there, but he seemed to have disappeared into his office already. I considered calling out to him, but the thought was soon banished: I needed to handle this myself.
“Dom, wait!” Lye gently grabbed hold of my upper arm and turned me around to face him, “Don’t go yet, I want to talk to you,”
“Well I don’t want to talk to you, so I suggest you just let me go past,” I spat, lifting my eyes up to his, chin raised in defiance. Lysander sighed and let go of my arm, a very pained and very fake expression on his face.
“Do you remember that time we were at The Burrow for the summer, back when we were fourteen and worry free?”
I drew back in surprise. Why on earth was he telling me this now? “Lye...” I murmured, my tone warning. But he ignored me and ploughed on, a slight smile on his lips as he recalled the certain, sunny memory.
“Remember how you ran off into the forest, yelling at me not to follow? I, of course, could do nothing but. Now that I look back, actually, I think you planned the whole thing out. So I ran right after you, following the sound of your laughter as I chased you through the trees... barefoot, I might add.” He paused here, pulling a hand through his hair, his forehead creasing slightly from some uncomfortable thought or other. “It took me ages to catch up to you. You were always faster than me, something I didn’t like to admit. By the time I caught sight of you, you had reached the edge of a clearing, and you were right on the bank of the riverbed, that mischievous smile of yours hovering on your lips.
“So I ran out into this clearing, and came to a stop at the sight of you. ‘I thought I told you not to follow,’ you said, crossing your arms. I responded by saying it was a nice day for a swim, and I think you caught my drift because you jumped away from the edge of the river. The thing is, you lost your footing and slipped right down that muddy ditch, straight into the water. Do you remember? You weren’t angry, though. You just laughed and said that if I didn’t join you, you would drag me in screaming. So of course I came in, and then we-”
“Stop it!” I snapped, finally coming to my senses. I had been so lost in his story that I had forgotten where I was, and who I was with. It was crazy how real all of what he said had felt, as if I had been transported right back to that riverbank, with the mud between my toes and the sun in my hair, Lye hovering in front of me. He had some nerve telling the story of our first kiss. “Why are telling me this?” I asked icily, cursing my stupid heart for fluttering at the memory of that blasted sunny day.
Lye shrugged and stared down at the ground. “I don’t know...” He murmured, looking sheepish, “It popped into my head the other day, all of a sudden. I don’t know why, Dom, but it did,”
‘Bullshit!’ I wanted to yell. ‘Liar! Cheater!’. But none of those words came out. Instead I stared mutely up at him, and I had enough time to count each and every one of his freckles before the tense silence was broken.
“What are you doing here, anyway?” He asked in a tired voice, “Are you...?”
“Working, yeah,” I answered coldly, “But now I’m on my lunchbreak, and I’d like it if you didn’t waste my free time.” With one, last, icy glare, I attempted to walk past him again.
“You work in the Sports Department!?” Lye asked, sounding astonished. I stopped in my tracks to turn back to face him. “Last time I checked, you couldn’t even climb on a broom.” He lifted a sceptical brow. I scowled.
“I guess you don’t know me at all then, do you?” I lied, “What about you? Weren’t you trying to set up an art gallery?” I bit my lip and mentally slapped myself for revealing that little piece of knowledge about his personal life. I was trying my hardest to act like we were badly acquainted strangers, but I always seemed to let something slip.
Lysander smiled, sensing my frustration. “I still am,” He replied easily, “But I need some money to pay off the rent. I’m designing a promotional pamphlet for your cousin’s Quidditch team.”
I gaped, “You work for Al?” I repeated, my head whirling with anger and shock. Why didn’t he warn me? And he called himself my cousin? “Designing a poster!? Since when do you do advertisements?”
Lysander shrugged and scratched the dark line that was beginning to stretch across his jaw. With a slight shock I realized just how tired he really looked – I had been so wrapped up in my anger that I hadn’t been paying attention to his shadowed features, or slackened posture.
“It’s supposed to be a comic poster. I thought I’d give it a shot,” He explained with a shrug, ignoring my snort of disbelief.
Lye grinned, “Jest for the pun of it,” He joked, chuckling darkly. I resisted the urge to slap him across the face again. How dare he try to humourise our current situation?
“Well I wish you luck,” I snarled, shooting him my darkest look, “And I sincerely hope we never cross paths again. Now, I need to go to Lunch. My friends are waiting,” I scowled and turned my heel, biting the inside of my cheek to hold back tears. It had been two months since the last time I saw him, but the memory of the dark library and the jasmine scented air was still fresh in my mind. I knew that it was going to take time to forget him completely, especially after what he did to me. That kind of thing messes a person up, according to Ollie. And who was I – the stumbling, teary, heartbroken mess – to disagree?
He didn’t stop me, and though I tried to lie to myself, I half wish he had. I walked all the way to the golden elevator doors without a backwards glance. But when I finally built up the courage to look back – after I had pushed the down button and knew my escape was soon on its way – The hallway behind me was empty.
“What kept you?” asked Roxanne, smiling as I walked through the cafe doors. I strode over to the table she was waiting at, slipping off my coat and lowering myself into the chair across from her.
“I ran into Lye,” I mumbled, staring down at my hands. Roxy had already ordered her coffee, and its warm, rich smell was drifting all the way down to my hungry stomach. “Al forgot to mention he had hired him.”
Roxanne glanced up at this, looking half surprised, half angry. “He works for Al?” She repeated, her expression probably the exact mirror of what mine had looked like less than ten minutes before, “What does he do?”
I shrugged, “He’s designing a pamphlet or something...” I explained lightly, trying to keep my tone indifferent. The ever observant Roxanne didn’t buy it, though, and she placed a soft hand on top of mine.
“What did he say?” She asked me gently, her dark eyes burning with curiosity.
“Not much. He just said that he needed to talk to me, and then the poor sod actually tried to get me to listen by telling me the story of our... eugh, never mind,” I snorted. “He has some balls, I’ll give him that,”
“And you’d know all about them, too,” Roxanne joked, before catching my appalled expression and quickly falling silent, “I’m sorry – I wasn’t thinking. Sometimes I forget you guys aren’t together anymore,”
“Rox, it’s been five months,” I scoffed, pulling my hand out from under hers. She just shrugged and looked up at me with sad eyes.
“I know, Nick,” She murmured, “But you guys were together for four years. It’s still kind of hard for people to think of your two names separately. Nick and Lye; Lye and Nick. It sort fits, you know?”
I rolled my eyes and exhaled sadly, “You know, surprisingly, this isn’t making me feel any better,” I sighed, “Are you suggesting I should have just stayed with him?”
Roxanne shot me a guilty expression, and pulled her dark brows together into a pensive frown, “No, Nick, I’m sorry. After what he did...no one could blame you,” She looked a little disgusted as she thought about what had happened. I knew how she felt. Personally, it made me want to chuck in the nearest toilet.
“Ladies! You can relax, I’m here,” A half arrogant voice exclaimed somewhere behind me. Soon the voice was accompanied by a body, and Al threw his lanky form in the seat beside me. “You lot look dismal. What’s up?”
I turned to face him, a falsely bright smile on my lips. “Oh, I don’t know...” I mused, over cheerfully, “We were just discussing your new employee of the month. Goes by the name of Scamander,”
There was no need to tell Al which of the two twins I was talking about. He paled and gulped nervously. “Oh, that?” He said in a shaky voice, “He’s a great artist, Nickie, and we needed something eye catching...”
I frowned as he trailed off, “He does contemporary art, Al, even you know that. Half the time his pieces aren’t even drawings at all.”
Al just shrugged, and glanced slowly around the coffee shop, looking for something to change the conversation to. “I don’t even know why you hate him so much, Nickie,” He muttered distractedly, still frowning at our surroundings, “No one knows why you guys broke up, let alone why you didn’t stay friends,”
At his words, I shared a pained look with Roxanne across the table. Only few knew the real reason I ended it with Lye. To others it was just something petty, like a fight or a disagreement. The only people who knew the real story were Rox, Olli, Vic and Lorcan. I didn’t really want the story to spread – as much as I hated Lye, I didn’t want to put him through that kind of embarrassment. I knew that part of me wanted to get revenge and start some rumours, which would, in time, turn all his friends against him. But I wasn’t heartless enough to hurt a member of my family at the same time. And, in taking revenge on Lye, I would be taking revenge on her, too, in a way. And I wasn’t nearly hurt enough for that yet.
“I don’t really want to talk about this anymore,” I sighed, “How about we just order lunch? I’m famished.”
After we had ordered our food – Fish & Chips with salad for Al, Shepherd’s Pie for Rox, and a Haloumi Burger for me, the conversation took a turn for the lighter.
“So how’d you go at work, Nick?” Roxanne asked me through a mouthful of meat and potatoes. “Did you like it?” I sipped my lemonade and grimaced.
“It was awful. Dreadful, unpleasant, terrible, incredibly dire,” I moaned, picking at my salad, “You know that time we were stuck in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom for a day and a half, because James thought he’d go and charm the door shut?”
The other two nodded painfully.
“Well I’d take that over work any day.”
Al winced. “That bad, huh?”
“It’s worse, Al. Worse.”
Later that afternoon, I finally found myself standing in front of our flat’s front door. The chipped red paint had never looked so beautiful, in my opinion. But not as beautiful as what lay inside – A pair of comfy slacks, woolen ugg boots, a bowl of hot chocolate and a couch. Heaven for the poor, that was.
When Roxanne and I walked in, we found Olli lying in her favourite purple beanbag, a bowl of rainbow popcorn in her hands, her stripy red and white socks pulled all the way up her legs. The TV in front of her was flashing images from her favourite show – wait for it – Gossip Girl. I know. She said that she just watched it for the fashion, but we all knew better: She had a secret crush on Ed Westwick. And we had proof of this because one day, when I had been looking for a spare sock in her underwear draw, I had found an A3 collage of numerous pictures of his face – Ed smiling, Ed laughing, Ed serious, Ed sex-try-hard. ‘He’s British!’ Olli had protested, when we had confronted her, ‘And him and Blair are just too cute!”.
“Evening,” Roxanne greeted in a tired voice, chucking her bag on the floor and throwing herself down on a sofa, with her shoes still on, “Still at it, Olli? What’s happened now?”
Molly glanced up from the screen, her eyes slightly glazed over. “Chuck has got the butterflies for Blaire!” She explained, her blue eyes shining.
I pulled off my coat whilst raising a questioning eyebrow in her direction.
“Euh, what I meant was; Have you seen her dress!? I’m sure I could make something like it!” She shook out her curls to hide her blush. I smiled and joined Roxanne on the couch, throwing my legs over her lap.
“It’s Ok, Ols, you can like soppy American drama if you like. We’ll still love you,”
Olli was about to answer, but her voice was drowned by the sound of our phone ringing. I glanced over at the old red retro thing, groaned dramatically, and pulled a cushion over my face.
“It’s your turn, Rox,” I moaned, stretching my arms over my head like a cat. Roxanne huffed and pushed my legs off her lap, and a few seconds later, the abominable ringing came to an end.
“Hello? Roxy speaking,”
A moment later I felt the weight on the couch shift, and the cushion over my face was pulled off, leaving me with the view of Roxanne’s smug expression.
“It’s for you,” She said, and I cursed under my breath, grudgingly accepting the receiver Roxy passed me.
“Dominique?” My mother’s voice said on the other end, when I put the phone to my ear. I raised my eyes to the ceiling, and spelt the word fuck on my leg to vent my anger.
“Bonjour, maman,” I greeted in a slightly exasperated voice, “What is it?”
“No need to get impatiente wiz me, ma chéri,” Maman riposted in a stern voice, “I jest want to talk,”
I rolled my eyes, Olli sending me a mischievous wink, and whispering a shocked ‘ooh la la!’. I rolled my eyes again, this time for her benefit, before turning my attention back the phone call at hand.
“I’m sorry, maman, I’m just tired. It was my first day at work today,” I added an extra touch of exhaustion into my tone, just for good measure, and the effect was immediate.
“Ah!” Maman huffed angrily, and I could just picture her flicking her silver blond hair over her shoulder with impatience, “Zee ministree! It iz appalling! Mon amour, I told you to take ze job wiz Bill. En Fronce zey would never make zeir employees work for lez zan a fortune! And your job, chéri, it is most useless. I beg of you to change!”
I sighed. Maman had been very reluctant when I had told her that I had applied for a job in the ludicrous patents office. ‘Ze what?’ she had said, when I had brought it up for the first time. And ever since, she has been begging me to change, to go help Papa in Gringotts, or copy Vic and flaunt my pretty face in front of a purple smoke issuing camera.
Neither was going to happen, and I had told her so.
“Non, maman. I like the job I’m doing now (I didn’t) and the people are all very friendly and supportive (their not),”
Maman sighed dramatically and let out a very French ‘Ah!’. “Tu sais, c’est l’anniversaire de ta Tante Gabrielle ce weekend,” Maman continued, switching smoothly to French. “And Tante Gabrielle loves you, mon amour. Elle sera très triste d’apprendre que tu viens pas,”
Oh, Tante Gabrielle’s birthday! I had completely forgotten about it. And it was this weekend?
It seemed that Olls and Rox and spent enough time around me to pick up the general gist of my angered exclamation.
“Language!” Roxanne tutted, shaking her head disapprovingly. I mouthed a kindly intentioned shut up at her, before pulling my attention back to my bilingual conversation.
“Is she having a party?” I asked Maman, biting my lip nervously. Bree was one of my favourite aunts (along with Ginny and Angie). Though she lived in Marseille most of the time, she sometimes came over to England to visit her older sister and us unruly band of youngsters. “Where?”
“Français, Dominique,” Maman scolded gently, “Et elle la fête ici. Chez ta Grand-Mère, en fait,”
My smile widened. Bree was having her birthday at The Burrow, apparently. I wondered why she was bothering to come all the way to England for this (yeah, only about twelve hours by muggle transport. So with us wizards and our super magic powers, that made it...not even a minute?).
“Parfait! J’ai hâte!” I gushed enthusiastically, my grin stretching from one ear to the other, “I’ll be there early, even,”
“Merci, ma chéri. She’ll be so happy, promis,”
“Mmkay. Je t’aime, maman. See you soon,”
“A bientôt! Bisous!” With this, she hang up, and I placed the receiver down on a cushion before the hang up tone could start to beep.
“So I don’t speak French, and I don’t think Olli does either,” Roxanne stated, smiling sweetly. “But from what I gathered, there’s going to be a party – that you are a quiet excited about – and something about poo?”
“To put it nicely,” I answered with a grin. But at the lost looks on my friends faces, I finally gave in a told them what was going on, “Tante Bree is coming over for her birthday this weekend. She’s having a party in The Burrow,” I explained, picking at a loose bead on a stray cushion. “But I haven’t got her anything yet. And I want to give her something that’s at least worthy of the term ‘better than any other present I’ve ever received’. What do you guys think?”
“Bree!?” Olli squealed, nearly tipping her rainbow popcorn into her lap, “I love her!”
“How about some clothes?” Roxanne suggested, smiling calmly at Olli’s reaction. “Ooh! That red dress we saw in Abercrombie’s the other day! That’s worth spending £120 on,”
I laughed as Olli’s eyes lit up frantically at the mention of the dress, before heaving myself up off the couch with a rather unhealthy groan.
I must really look into getting that subscription to the gym happening.
“Eh, I’ll find something for her,” I muttered with a dismissive shrug, “Now, I’m cooking dinner tonight. Who’s up for some Chinese takeaway?”
A/N: Do you forgive me for taking so long to update? I would give you all an endless string of excuses, but each one would be a lie. So I'm sorry, and I'll try not to do it again. But again, I can't promise anything :S
But anyway, leave a review if you feel like it, if not, I hope you enjoyed it a little still. It's quiet long. Ah. I was inspired. Anyway, thank you to all of you who stuck with this. I apreciate all the reviews and support I'm getting, you have no idea (: