A/N: J.K. Rowling owns Harry Potter and his world, I just inhabit it.
“Sheila Take a Bow.”
I limped out of the shop, waving at Mrs Blott as I left. Victoire took my arm, letting me get used to her dangerously high shoes. Despite the torture I had just undergone at her hands, I felt strangely close to her. We had never been good friends; out of the two sisters Molly and I had been better friends with Dom.
Yet, as we strolled down Diagon Alley, I finally felt that Victoire was my friend. I grinned, arm and arm in the girl who was taking me under her wing.
Vic checked her watch. “Come on. Teddy’s friends are really nice, and are really fun. The LC is cool, too. That’s where they hang out.”
The LC, or “LC2” was the upstairs bar in the Leaky Cauldron, the pub on Diagon Alley that our parents and their generation liked to drink in. “LC2” was favoured by young witches and wizards over school-leaving age, and was the coolest place in our part of London to hang out in, or so I’d heard.
Walking down the street, I started to gain back some of the confidence Victoire’s clothes had lent me. I felt like her, in trendy clothes with my hair and makeup done. I told her about William, feeling like a different person. Here I was, on the way to a cool bar with my cool roommate, talking about a guy! I felt so like a stereotypical teenage girl, and it felt good.
Victoire giggled. “He sounds hot, describe him to me.”
I did, and she giggled again. “I have to meet this guy somehow. Did he really say he’d see you again? Like he was going to ask you on a date or something?”
I wasn’t sure, but described the incident to Victoire in great detail so she could help me figure it out. This chat kept us going until we got to the LC. I had a quick look out for Mark, so I could wave at him, but he had already left.
I had been in the Leaky Cauldron before, in the place where you could get food, but I had never gone upstairs to LC2. It was less smoky and looked more modern. It was cleaner, with lots of mirrors and relatively dim lighting. Some music was playing that I didn’t recognise.
The barman nodded to Victoire, gesturing towards the back. I followed her hesitantly to a table full of young Aurors. Here went nothing.
Teddy sprang out of his seat to let Vic and I by, messing up my hair further and pecking his girlfriend on the cheek. “Luce you made it! Here, you sit there, you know Pippa right?”
I smiled nervously at the girl with the curly hair. “Hi Pippa,” I said shyly.
Pippa waved a hand at me as she devoured some of the chips on the table. Pippa Finnegan had been good friends with Dom, and was in her year, two years ahead of me but also in Gryffindor. I was slightly intimidated by the much more outgoing girl, and wished I was nearer Victoire and Teddy.
I chatted a bit with Pippa, letting her lead the conversation, helping myself to a few chips. Technically food wasn’t served up here, but the barman seemed to know the group and let them snack. Pippa wasn’t actually an Auror it seemed, she worked for the Improper Use of Magic department.
“Way, way down in the department. I make the tea. Can’t blame them though, me and my sisters have been sent loads of letters by them over the years.”
I laughed at this. We chatted for a while about Dom and how she was getting on in France and about the Auror she had been seeing.
“His name was Tom. He was a complete tool, but at least I got all these friends out of him.”
“Tom?” Teddy interjected. “Where is that little shit lately? Did he drop out or something?”
No one seemed to know or care. They got into a huge conversation about people in the Auror department. I looked at Pippa and Victoire. They were sucked into the conversation, belonging to the wider group. The only other girl was some ex-Slytherin I half recognised, Arlandria something, but she was an Auror herself.
I slowly withdrew from the conversation, looking around the pub as it filled up. I was finally here, hanging out in a cool bar with cool people, all older than myself. Yet I felt like I had no part in the group, like I was an outsider with nothing in common with any of them.
A glass was smacked down in front of me by one of the bar staff. “I ordered for you,” Victoire called over the increasing noise of people laughing at talking. “You can get me my next one.”
I thanked her, and took a sip. At least my drink gave me something to do. I coughed into my pumpkin juice, alarmed by the burning feeling in the back of my throat.
Pippa tore herself away from the conversation. “It’s rum, knowing Victoire. I don’t drink it personally; it has a weird effect on me.”
This statement caused a roar of laughter from Arlandria. “A weird effect? You ran downstairs and tried snogging Hagrid last time you had it. Haven’t you noticed he doesn’t drink here anymore? He’s terrified!”
Pippa’s face burned in shame. “You can’t talk, Mrs-takes-off-her-top-at-any-opportunity.”
Several of the boys turned hopefully towards Arlandria, who glared at them all.
Yet again, I was isolated from the conversation. No; that wasn’t fair. I was welcome to join in; these were nice people after all. Once again, it was my own shyness and reserve holding me back. I looked at the rum in front of me. I hardly ever drank, just the odd glass of wine. I looked around me, and the tables off people talking freely, perhaps under the influence of what they were consuming.
Something snapped in me then. I was eighteen, young and independent. If I wanted to drink I could; at least that would be something that would get me over my shyness. I was in a group of people I longed to be like and this was my opportunity. I could only dress up in Victoire’s old clothes so much; she could only push me so far. I was getting a life.
I downed the drink, at first grimacing at the drink, but then relishing in the warmth accompanied by the flavour mingled with the juice.
I signalled to the barman to bring two more to Victoire and I, and I handed over the money when he arrived.
“Thanks Luce!” Victoire yelled over. I could barely hear her, but grinned lifting my drink to her like a salute.
Teddy’s friend Greg laughed over at me. “That was quick, fair play.” He called to the rest of the table. “Everyone, Lucy and Victoire are on their second one, we have to catch up unless we want to look like wusses!”
There was a collective groan around the table. “I thought we were only out for a quiet one, we have all that paperwork for Weasley due tomorrow and I was in such a state on Sunday morning.” Arlandria complained.
“Please,” I joked, feeling warm with the rum. “You should have heard Teddy in the bathroom. I thought he was going to throw up a lung.”
There was an indignant roar from Teddy while everyone laughed. I peeked over at him, suddenly aware I may have said something wrong. I knew by Victoire’s face that it was ok, and sure enough Teddy was soon describing in stomach turning detail the event as the second round of drinks were served.
“It’s the mix, Luce,” he explained in his older brother voice, the one he used on the Potters. “I was doing Horntail shooters with Greg and drinking my fire whiskey as usual, as well as knocking back the Cruciatus Cocktails with Victoire’s ballet friends. The vomit was more colourful than Luna Lovegood at a wedding.”
We all chucked, before I had to ask a question that I hoped wouldn’t make me sound too naïve. “What’s a Cruciatus cocktail?”
“Torture the next morning. Hence the name.” Vic rolled her eyes.
“Have you never had one Lucy?” Arlandria inquired. I shook my head.
“Oh, you have to have one. Everyone has to at some point or another,” she replied.
Pippa turned to me, a manic smile on her face. “Oh, come here, we’ll do one after our second drink, yeah? They’re really cool, Pete, the barman, makes them up differently every time. Absolutely lethal, of course, but we’ll just have the one”.
“’The one’,” Greg grinned, “The Irish person’s way of saying half a dozen.”
“That’s a horrible stereotype!” Pippa exclaimed, before smiling again. “Although, in this case it’s accurate.” She turned from Greg back to me. “Come on Lucy, I’ll treat you to it. My gift to you as my new partner in crime, eh?”
Partner in crime. I liked the sound of that. I missed my friends from school, who had gone away travelling during the summer. I felt, with this one little statement that I was part of the group. I grinned and lifted my rum and juice in a salute.
Arlandria, who had always seemed aloof, began to warm to me over the night. “Right Luce,” she said. “Now, if you’re going to be hanging around, you need to know who we are and the rules.”
I nodded, wondering what kind of rules these people had.
“Right, you know Pippa Finnegan. Improper Use of Magic, ironically enough. I’m Arlandria Zambini, Auror, as are Teddy, Greg Arnold, Alec Thomas and Josh Engels. Normally Bryan Mondello is around but his girlfriend’s got him whipped. Then there’s the extended group; old Quidditch teammates, the ballet girls, randomers from school and the like. They normally come out on Saturday night, midweek drinks are generally a more casual affair.
Basically, every ones allowed make a mess of themselves every now and again, once it’s not you every time. Sometimes you have to be the sensible one, yeah?”
I nodded again. Fair enough.
“Other rule. In our group, we’re all fairly ambitious. Never get so bad you can’t do your work the next day, never show up drunk. Got it?”
I nodded again, feeling like I was in school.
“Finally, don’t pull a Yoko.”
Everyone laughed. I was puzzled. Seeing this, Greg explained.
“Don’t mess up the group. Like, don’t date one of the guys and make him leave or fight with the others. Like, Bryce’s girlfriend is doing that now, not letting him hang out with the guys. Pulling a Yoko is a muggle expression Arl likes, don’t worry about it.”
I blushed a bit, hoping they didn’t think I was trying to get a boyfriend out of the group. I agreed to the rules, taking a sip of my drink. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a well-built guy with shaggy brown hair out of the corner of my eye.
My heart leaped in my mouth. Will. Will, the shoplifter. Will, the hot guy who said he’d see me around. I stared at him, willing him not to see me, but at the same I time wanted him to see me having a good time. He walked by, and doing all I could think of doing, I downed my second drink as his gaze passed over me.
“Woah, go Lucy,” Pippa grinned. I mean, we normally just have a few quiet, slow ones mid-week, but you’ve really raised the bar tonight!”
I laughed, the warm feeling the rum was giving me spreading through my body. I looked over at Will, he was talking with friends.
Feeling strangely brave, I shouted that I was going to go to the bathroom.
“Too much information, love!” Alec shouted. Victoire shot out of her seat to accompany me.
I stumbled a little getting by the table. Vic grabbed my arm again, steadying me slightly. I whispered who I had seen and what I planned to do.
“Awesome!” she exclaimed. “Great plan, let’s touch up your make up though first, right?”
I agreed; Victoire knew best. Funny enough, my feet were not hurting me anymore, though I was still slightly off balance. I told her what I thought of the pub at high speed, a little confused when my mouth was not quite keeping up with my head. I couldn’t be drunk already.
We got into the bathroom, and went into our separate cubicles. It was only when alone I realised my head was spinning. Washing our hands, I confessed this to Vic.
She smiled. “Yeah, you downed them pretty quick, and you’re not used to it. Just be careful, ok? Maybe go on to water after this cocktail, you don’t want to be in a state in work.”
I rolled my eyes. “I don’t exactly care about my job Vic.”
Victoire was not impressed. “Cop on. You heard what Arlandria said. Even Pippa, who isn’t mad about her job, knows it can get her into a better one. It’s fine to have a bit of fun, but it should never interfere with your work.”
I kept my mouth closed, but couldn’t help but feel I was being treated like a child.
“Look, I’m sorry,” she sighed. “But you have to believe me. I mean, I have to watch what I drink for dancing, the Aurors have to be in top shape too. And in case you do change jobs, you want your current bosses to be able to say you’re hard working and not a junior alcoholic.”
I pursed my lips. “Thanks. Now, what am I going to do about Will?”
Victoire studied me, reaching out to wipe away some errant eye liner. “Ok. Well, you don’t want to seem drunk. Or too eager, you did just meet him. Just say hi, if he replies just strike up a casual conversation and then come back to our table.”
I nodded, smiling at myself in the mirror. I could do this.
As it turned out, I couldn’t. I tried to stride by him, but ended up banging straight into Hannah Longbottom, the owner. I said hi to the general air beside him, but I was too quiet. Desperate times called for desperate measures. I had to get this guy to notice me.
Grabbing Pippa, I pulled her up to the bar for our cocktails. Downing it in one, despite the odd way it settled in my stomach, I told her it was time to dance.
“I don’t know Lucy, no one else is really dancing.”
I completely ignored this comment, ordering two straight glasses of rum. We returned to the table with the glasses, laughing at each other’s faces as we tried to drink without the help of pumpkin juice. Somewhere, a calculating voice in my head told me I only had to wait for the rum to kick in before Pippa would dance. Sure enough, when the next old Weird Sisters song came on, my new friend came to life, jumping around like she was possessed, grabbing me and making me do so too.
Things began to blur at the edges then, as we seemed to spin around in circles. Victoire looked torn between approval and worry, the others were laughing. I felt a grin stretching across my face and wondered was Will still there, but it was hard to see across the crowds. I was quite drunk now; the cocktail had had a delayed reaction.
“More rum!” I heard Pippa screaming. “More rum is needed!” She waved at the barman, who poured two more. Not wanting to wait, I took my wand from my bag.
“Accio glasses,” I screamed, laughing madly. This was a brilliant idea, I thought, before the glasses hit us.
The table was sticky from all the drinks and I wondered how I got up there. But no matter, we were dancing and looked amazing, I was sure of it.
This was what was called having a life.
Hi! Thanks for reading. I’m starting to get into novella writing thanks to your help in reviews, but I think there’s still room for improvement. I’ll be editing soon with the help of my new beta and any comments of constructive criticism would be great! More of William and Mark in the next chapter, which I will have up soon.
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