"Phillippa? Pippa? Pippa?" a partly-familiar voice was rousing her from the depths of sleep, gently shaking her back to consciousness. As she slowly woke up, the indistinct blond hair and blue eyes became more focused until it was recognition that gave her the final kick back to reality.
"Shit! Aiden, what're you doing here? How did you get my address?" she said, getting up from the sofa where she had been sleeping too quickly and lowering herself back down as a wave of disorientation washed over her.
Aiden's smile was apologetic, his sole dimple throbbing as he grinned. "Sorry, but I thought you'd like to know that it's 7:30, and we're supposed to open in an hour. Rose Weasley dropped by earlier to talk to you and she gave me your address when she had to go."
"Fuck- we have an hour to get everything ready?" Pippa screeched. It had taken a good deal of willpower to concentrate on what he was saying and not the bare chest visible through the neck of his t-shirt as he leant down over her, but now she jumped up from the sofa in a movement that was far from fluid and rushed towards the bathroom, closing the door just as she started peeling off her clothes.
She emerged twenty minutes later looking only slightly better for wear to find Aiden putting the finishing touches to his tidying. The coffee mugs that had been lying around the open-plan flat were clean and back in their proper place, the sofa cushions had been straightened out and there was no trace of last night's wine.
"Sorry, I- my mum instilled a great sense of hygiene in me," he grinned bashfully when he caught sight of her shocked face.
Grabbing her wand from the bookcase by the door, Pippa smiled. "Aiden, there's no need to apologise. That's the sweetest thing anyone's done for me in a while." And with that, they Apparated away.
"How on earth did I think I could manage this? This is the second day, we open in half an hour and nothing is ready! I'm a complete failure," Pippa groaned into her apron as she watched her breads and cakes rise painfully slowly. Her determination not to use magic in any part of the baking process had left her with one finished version of each product, and in thirty minutes she somehow needed to produce 50 loaves of bread, 300 cupcakes, 120 flapjacks with little chocolate buttons in them, 100 cherry bakewells, 4 chocolate fudge cakes, breakfast bars, cream puffs and those sodding macarons.
"You're hysterical, Phillippa. You need to calm down; just open a half hour later. That'll give us time to make most of the products and more can cook during the day. It's a Saturday after all," Aiden placated, but his attempts at restoring some form of normalcy were met with a harsh glare.
"Punctuality is key, and we are opening in half an hour whether we are ready or not. Although, ready would be my preferred option," Pippa scowled, her patience finally running out with the whole situation when the doorbell tinkled and sounds of laughter could be heard from out front.
"I'm sorry," she shouted, sounding anything but, "we are closed! As the sign says!"
The visitors made no effort to turn around; throwing her wooden spoon down on the counter, Pippa stalked out of the kitchen and stopped dead in her tracks.
"We come bearing gifts," Albus Potter grinned, holding four cups of takeaway coffee and the morning's edition of the Daily Prophet tucked safely in the crook of his arm.
"Frankly, I'd rather you came bearing food for me to sell but I'll settle for coffee. Al, this is Aiden Harte," Pippa grumbled, passing one of the warm cups to Aiden, who raised a hand in greeting but had otherwise gone very silent.
"Unfortunately, we also come bearing news. Good news or bad news first?" Rose asked, but her friend's expression told her that she was not to be messed with. "Okay, good news: this place is a huge success. Everyone's talking about it, they want orders, the whole works," she explained as she gesticulated wildly, a sure sign that she was hungover. "Bad news: this article."
Slowly, Albus unfolded the Prophet and flicked idly to the back before the Sport pages; he'd only reached halfway when his cousin snatched the paper off him and immediately found the article she was looking for. Giving them all significant looks that dared them to interrupt her, Rose cleared her throat loudly and began to read.
"'As for the new bakery in Diagon Alley, the winding queues are a sure sign of its initial popularity but while the treats may be sugar-sweet (think of the calories, ladies), it would appear that the owner is anything but. Namedropping on the specials board might bring the customers in at the start, but sooner or later, Phillippa Wood will have to rise to the challenge or whisk getting a beating.'"
"Niamph's little column," Albus nodded wisely. "Seems as though she didn't take too kindly to being barred from here yesterday and, being the mature and responsible cow that she is, thought it would be a good idea to drag you down to her level."
Rose's four-lettered reply was interrupted by the sound of Aiden sniggering.
"It's just- she used baking puns. Merlin, she had to be desperate," he explained at the sight of their confused faces.
"Well, she clearly wants a slice of the action," Albus grinned.
"And she won't run out anytime soon; there must be hundreds and thousands of puns," Pippa giggled, and suddenly the four of them were clutching onto the kitchen counters for support as they exploited all of the puns they could think of.
"Okay, enough!" Pippa cried weakly, her stomach muscles aching and salty tears of laughter running down her face. "I now have twenty minutes to knock enough of these damn cakes up."
Albus, Rose and Aiden looked at each other seriously for a moment.
"Pip, I hate to say this because I know you're going to hate it, but-" Rose began, but she was interrupted by her friend.
"It's time for magic, I know," the blonde said, letting her hair fall loose as she pulled out the wand that had held it up. "But I still need a special for today, and I know exactly what that's going to be. Aiden, I need pastry and lots of it. Al, I think even you can make meringue but try not to fuck it up. Rosie, how's your Geminio? We're multiplying and fast."
Twenty minutes later, the bakery was open for business and the glass counter was crammed with the baked goods that had been hastily replicated from the solitary finished products that Pippa had managed to make before Rose and Al had dropped by. The queue was already winding around the corner and filled with people, jostling into position as they waited for their sweet treats.
"And all this without a hint of name-dropping!" Rose called from behind the counter, where she was struggling to operate the till. "But still, she won't be happy when she sees that specials board."
"Ah, who gives a damn about her? You got her good, Pip," Al shouted from the kitchen where he was elbow-deep in lemon curd.
Grinning, Pippa wrapped the slice of pie for her customer and glanced out of the window at the black specials board that stood just a little way off. Aiden's artistic touch had left a drawing showing a pie being eaten slice by slice in the midst of the yellow writing.
Today's special: lemon meringue pie. Tart and refreshing, it's best served cold. You can have your cake and eat it!
"Well, I have to say, not bad for a day when we only had everything sorted a few minutes before opening," Pippa grinned later in the evening, totting up the day's takings as Aiden cleared the shelves and put the cakes into boxes. Although the bakery was still technically open, business had dropped in the last fifteen minutes or so.
"You ought to duplicate things more often," the blond boy smiled, making Pippa lose count of the galleons in the black box that she had just sorted.
"I know, but it just feels like cheating. If the Muggles can do it without magic, I sure as hell can. Anyway, what're you doing this-" she trailed off at the sight of a silhouette in the doorway.
"Hi, can I get you anything?" she asked, hurrying back around the counter and preparing her sales pitch on the more popular items.
"Any of that lemon meringue pie left? I heard it's quite delicious," came the reply in a voice that was sickeningly familiar and left Pippa feeling both maddeningly angry and maddeningly faint.
She gave a little involuntary gasp as Louis moved into the yellow rays of sunlight that were coming in through the windows. He looked the same as he had two years ago, but more filled out and, although she hated herself for thinking it, even more gorgeous. That disgustingly sexy smirk, so like his cousin Albus', was still on his face as he leant over the counter.
"Unless you have any of those cream puffs left. I cannot get enough of them," he said as his blue eyes sparkled and Pippa's heart raced. But still, she said nothing and only backed away painfully into the wooden counter behind. A loud crack and a strange feeling of something familiar being missing told her that Aiden had Apparated away.