I curled a lock of hair around my finger, sighing as another minute went by. I had been at work for one hundred and forty three minutes exactly, and bloody Boris hadn’t bothered to show up yet. I understood that it was his shop and he had no boss to answer to, but he could have had the decency to alert me that he wasn’t coming in today so that I could have shut the shop and bunked off myself. No, instead I was trapped, manning the shop by myself until he deigned to grace me with his presence.
Eventually he strolled in, bringing half a raincloud in with him. The weather hadn’t cheered up yet, clearly. He shook his limp hair from his face and smiled smarmily at me.
“What time is it?” he asked innocently, looking around for the clock which usually hung on the wall, but I had taken down so that I could watch each second go by as close to my face as possible (no room for error).
I scowled. “Time you got a watch.” I chucked the clock at him, which he inspected briefly, then arranged his features into a shocked expression.
“Blimey! I had no idea I was running so late.” He levitated the clock back onto the wall and removed his mac. “Sorry, old chum.”
I sincerely wanted to inform him that I wasn’t old and I wasn’t his chum, but it seemed as though he was in one of his peculiar moods where he’d dodge all criticism in favour of denial.
“You’re lucky we’ve had a quiet morning,” I muttered darkly as he went to boil the kettle in the back room. I noted that he didn’t offer me a drink before he went to make himself one.
Luckily for him, a customer had entered the shop and so I was forced to give her my full attention. I greeted the little old lady with as much grace and good humour as I could muster.
“It’s raining bats and frogs out there, son” she gabbled as I took her umbrella from her (I didn’t want any of that rainwater near our lovely books, otherwise they’d go as wrinkly as she was), forcing myself not to stab her with it; had she just mistaken me for a bloke?
I blamed Scorpius for this; he hadn’t spoken to me since the Shrine Incident, and as a consequence I was compensating for his absence by becoming more manly. I’d be growing a beard soon.
“How can I help you today?” I said instead of committing grievous bodily harm.
The old lady tucked her wand up her sleeve and looked at me pensively. “Yes Boris, that’s what I said: Wednesday.”
I grimaced; not only was she batty, she was deaf and blind too. She seemed to have mistaken me for my oaf of a boss when we really looked nothing alike. He had very little hair and a squashed face whereas I… I had lots of hair. I really wasn’t in the mood for this – I just wanted my lunch, not be mistaken for my ogre boss.
“My name isn’t Boris,” I informed her. “But he’s just in the back room if you want me to fetch him for you.”
“No – no no,” she spluttered, shaking her head wildly. “I don’t want him. It’s to do with his father.”
I wondered how I was going to escape from this crazy lady; she had a weird glint in her eye that looked thoroughly menacing in this light. She leaned towards me slightly.
“Right,” I said, knowing I would get nowhere by questioning her. “Lovely.”
Instead of looking satisfied with our exchange, she scrunched her wrinkles into a deep frown. “It most certainly is not lovely, laddie,” she snapped at me. I was more than a little taken aback and nearly dropped her umbrella. She was still mistaking me for a man; what did I have to do, take my top off? “It has been a horrific day. Wouldn’t you know, he even wrote me out of his bill, the jammy dodger. He’s leaving his wheel of fortune to our son.”
“I’m sorry,” I amended hastily, presuming that her husband had died or something. “I must have misheard you.”
“Yes, Horatio, you’re right.” She relaxed, clasping her hands to her heart briefly before looking around the shop. We stared at each other for a few minutes, playing an unspoken game of ‘chicken’. Who would speak first? “Well,” she barked. “Aren’t you going to offer to help me?”
“How can I help you, madam?” I said with a forced smile.
She started wandering between the bookshelves, squinting at book titles she presumably couldn’t read. I wasn’t sure if she’d heard my question or not, or was just choosing to ignore me.
“I need to know how to break magical contracts,” she said.
I led her over to the law section. “What sort of contracts?” I asked, even though I knew exactly what she was planning on doing. She was extremely sketchy, if you asked me. The black and white stripy robes didn’t help.
“A bill,” she said impatiently, pulling books off the shelves willy nilly.
I briefly considered calling the Magical Law Enforcement Squad; she looked bloody sinister and I got the feeling that she’d either force me to help her carry out some evil plan or stab me with her umbrella, stealing my heart to wear as a new hat. I plucked “The Wizarding Will: An Introduction in Will-Making for the Wealthy Witch or Wizard” from the shelf behind her and showed her.
“This one has won lots of awards,” I lied, hoping for a quick sell so that she’d leave and I’d still be alive in time for the pub on Friday. “It’s highly recommended by all those in the business.”
She inspected the front cover. “Oh no,” she said, shaking her head so vigourously that all her wrinkles jiggled. “This is not what I’m looking for. It’s blue.”
“Oh,” I mumbled, placing the book back on the shelf. “I’m sorry.” I scanned the other books for something in a better colour. I plucked a green book from the shelf this time. “How about this one? It’s by Mona E. Grabber.”
“No, no.” She pulled a blue book from the other side of the shelf she was staring at. “This is the one I want.”
She handed it to me and then marched over to the till. I looked at the title: “How to Charm your Garden Gnomes.” I raised my eyebrows, shaking my head slightly.
“That one’s blue,” I commented lightly, trying to discover if the lady had a sense of humour. She scowled up at me, her little black eyes disappearing into her wrinkles.
“It’s navy,” she snapped. “Boris doesn’t like navy. I’ll take it.”
I sighed inwardly, taking the book from her and escorting her to the till. As I always reminded Boris, the customer is always right.
After the little old witch was gone, I marched into the kitchenette, where Boris was sticking stickers on his earlobes. I ignored this peculiar activity and tapped him on the shoulder.
He jumped, spinning round. “Has my mother gone yet?”
I growled frustratedely, biting back any remarks involving curses or swearwords. I swallowed. “Can I go for my lunch break now?”
“Not yet,” he commanded as I started to turn away. “I need to give you something.”
I waited for him to finish his ear decorations. He led me to the counter and pulled an envelope out of the drawer.
“These are for you,” he said, thrusting the envelope into my hands before I could decline. “Don’t you dare return them; I know what you’re like and there’s no need to be awkward about it. I want you to have them.”
I felt along the seams of the envelope, trying to work out what was inside. I predicted it was a letter. “What is it?”
“The lads and I often indulge in a bit of racing,” Boris said proudly, puffing out his chest. “There’s two tickets in there to one of the races this month. Take your boyfriend, make a day of it.”
“He’s not my boyfriend,” I denied automatically, tearing the seal on the back of the envelope and pulling out two yellow slips of paper.
“Pish posh,” Boris said, flapping his hands. “It’s your birthday soon. Consider this an early birthday present.”
“My birthday isn’t until June.” He continued to grin at me, so I decided to drop any resistance. I looked down at the tickets: Camden Crazy Carpeting! “Boris – you don’t happen to race flying carpets, do you? I thought that was illegal…”
Bloody brilliant; not only was he content to leave me to run his shop by myself, he was going to make me serve his prison sentence too. I paled; I couldn’t go to prison! They didn’t have lots of mirrors and enough biscuits to keep me warm. I’d die. I hastily stuffed the tickets back into the envelope.
“It’s not illegal,” Boris soothed, watching my frenzied stuffing. “More like frowned upon.”
What the heck was he getting me into? I tried to push the envelope towards him, but he pranced away, avoiding my outstretched arms.
“I can’t be seen at an event like this,” I said shrilly. “I’m a Weasley! It’ll be all over the papers and then they’ll start rumours that I’m shagging Scorpius and stealing his fortune!”
Boris arched an eyebrow. “Are you?”
“No!” I spat indignantly. “I’m not. He’s my stalker and that’s as far as it goes. I was just making a point.” I put the envelope down on the counter. “I’m really sorry, it was a kind gesture but I can’t accept this.”
Boris twiddled with his newly decorated earlobes. Sighing, he picked up the envelope. “You’re so boring.”
I ignored him and started walking towards the door.
“You need to learn to be a little more spontaneous,” he grumbled from behind me.
I spun on my heels, pointing at him accusatorily. “I am spontaneous! Look, just watch!” He watched me as charged towards the door. “How’s this for spontaneous?” I yelled, flouncing out of the shop, the door clattering behind me.
In my anger, I had forgotten to grab my umbrella before leaving and my pride wouldn’t allow me to go back into the shop to protect me from the rain. Instead, I marched up the high street, water clogging up my clothes and plastering my hair to my face. I clenched my wand in my hand once I reached the Leaky Cauldron, turning on the spot and disapparating.
Mercifully, it was only mildly overcast in Hogsmeade. I shook my hair off my face and dried myself with my wand. Then, I marched towards the Shrieking Shack at the top of the village and banged as hard as I could on the door, irritation pulsing through my veins.
A rather abashed-looking Scorpius answered the door. Before he could say a word, I grabbed him by his shoulders and pulled him towards me, kissing him roughly on the lips before standing back and contemplating my handiwork.
“What are you doing?” he spluttered, staring at me with wide eyes.
“Being spontaneous,” I growled.
We considered each other for a moment, Scorpius looking wary as he waited for me to calm down a little.
“I didn’t like that,” I said after a while.
“I did,” Scorpius muttered.
I ignored him pointedly. “What does bloody Boris bloody know?”
He chose not to comment. I seemed to come to my senses, eyeing his choice of attire. He was dressed in a beige dressing gown and maroon slippers. I checked my watch and raised my eyebrows. “Are you not dressed yet?”
He frowned indignantly. “It’s my lunch break.”
“Right,” I mumbled, deciding not to question him further. We stood uncomfortably in the doorway until I looked at him pointedly.
“Oh,” he said, stepping back. “Come in, then.”
“Thanks.” I squeezed past him into the dark hallway; the grey sky outside was not enough to light the large hall.
Scorpius continued to stare at me, running a hand through his freshly re-gelled hair. “What’s the matter?”
That’s when I realised I was glaring at him. “Nothing’s the matter,” I said starchily. “Why do people always assume there’s something wrong with me?”
He stifled a smile. “You just kissed me.” He laid a hand on my shoulder in what he presumed to be a comforting manner. I shrugged him off.
“I’m fine,” I said, trying to relax the muscles in my face but I was too tense. “My boss is just a git. He thinks I need to be less boring.”
Scorpius simpered. “I like boring.”
Okay, so it might not have been the most flattering of compliments, but at least he was trying to be nice. Unless, of course, this was his backwards way of telling me my breath tasted of spoiled milk and wanted nothing more to do with me ever again. I was more inclined to believe the former.
“Thanks, Scorp,” I said heavily. I wandered into his living room, sagging onto his sofa. Even after our conversation the previous Friday, he had not changed the décor. I didn’t even want to check if the shrine was still there.
He joined me on the sofa a couple of minutes later, carrying a plate of biscuits in his hands. “Ignore your boss,” he said as I nibbled on a ginger nut. “They’re all the same. Mine thinks I’d make a better owl than a person.”
I choked on my biscuit whilst stifling a laugh; I’d just had a mental image of Scorpius as an owl, feathers slicked back with gel and following me around town. “I’m sure that’s not true,” I lied. There was no doubt about it; he’d make a great owl.
I titled my head in the direction of the shrine-room. “Did you –?”
“Yes,” he said abruptly, taking my empty plate and disappearing into the kitchen. I followed him in there, wincing slightly as bright purple kitchen units came into view. Honestly, I didn’t think it was possible that anyone had worse fashion sense than Lorcan, but he clearly took the biscuit.
“You’re not angry, are you?” I heaved myself onto the kitchen counter and observed him (it took me two tries, and elegant wouldn’t be the first word I’d use to describe that manoeuvre). “I didn’t mean to be harsh. It was a bit of a shock.”
He shrugged, his back towards me. I couldn’t see what he was doing, but I could just imagine his pursed lips. “It’s fine.”
So, he was definitely a bit miffed; that was probably why he hadn’t been to see me all week. I’d heard not a peep out of him and he hadn’t come into shop since last week. I sighed. “Please don’t be mad at me. I didn’t mean to offend you or anything. I was just hoping that we could maybe be friends?”
His shoulder twitched. “Friends?”
“Well,” I said hastily, stumbling over my words. “It’s just that you’re nice and I’m boring and I quite like your company as long as no one knows.”
He turned to face me, his lips all scrunched up in what was supposedly a pout but really just made him look like a cat’s bottom. “I thought that the whole shrine thing had put you off. You’ve avoided me all week.”
“I haven’t been avoiding you!” I spluttered. “I was waiting for you to visit like you usually do but you never did.” I glared at him accusatorily. “I waited,” I repeated for extra emphasis.
It was starting to rain outside. I should have stolen that old lady’s umbrella…
“It wouldn’t have taken much effort to come and see me,” Scorpius muttered. “But you’re here now. So we’re fine.”
This was becoming an extremely bizarre conversation. He kept saying we were fine, but why did he look so unhappy about it? He was so confusing.
“Good,” I said unsurely.
He observed me through those watery eyes, looking like he was about to cry. “What about Teddy?”
I frowned. “What about him?”
He leaned in slightly, giving me a view of his slight monobrow. “Do you want to be friends with him?”
I hesitated. Did he mean friends as in friends, or friends as in FRIENDS with a huge amount of sexual tension and innuendo? I coughed awkwardly. “Erm,” I managed. “Not really.”
“Oh,” he said, much more cheerful. He even let a crooked smile escape. “That’s good.”
Oh, I got it, now we were fine; he thought I was still pining after Teddy. Obviously he didn’t need to know the truth; that I was planning on crawling into his suitcase and going with him to France. I’d live in his wardrobe for the whole time, peeking through the gap to watch him at my leisure. Or, you know, I could be normal and let him go and be happy. Whatever worked.
Our deep and meaningful conversation was then thankfully interrupted by someone ringing the doorbell. We traipsed back into the hall, Scorpius opening the door onto a bedraggled looking woman.
I wondered if there was somewhere I could hide; I briefly considered ducking behind Scorpius and using him as a shield, but that would probably make the whole situation a million times worse.
I tried not to look her in the eyes. “Hi, Mum,” I squeaked. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Mum and Scorpius exchange glances. “What are you doing here?”
To her credit, she looked just as embarrassed to be there as I did; her hair was still damp from the rain and her coat was sodden. Her cheeks were red, probably from the cold but most likely because I’d caught her visiting Scorpius’ house when she probably didn’t have a good reason to be there.
“I’m returning a book,” she flapped. “What are you doing here?”
I could have told her that I’d decided to like Scorpius, or that we actually got on okay, but I knew I would never hear the end of it if she let it slip to another member of the family. I either had to admit that I had been mistaken or think of something else. It was such a hard choice…
“I’m returning an owl,” I said boldly, trying to keep the bewildered look from my face. I came up with the stupidest things under pressure.
“An owl?” she quizzed, stepping out of the rain and scooting into the hall. The door slammed shut behind her. Mum turned to Scorpius. “Are you still working in the Post Office, then? I’ll have to pop in and see you next time I need to send an owl.”
I chanced a glance at Scorpius. He couldn’t read his expression, but I liked to imagine that he looked as relieved as I did. For such a clever witch, my mum had a particularly large blind spot as far as I was concerned.
“You’re welcome to,” Scorpius said after I finished scrutinising him. “I give out free soap to all my favourite customers.”
I clamped my lips together like a fish to try and stop myself laughing, but I accidentally made an unpleasant sucking noise. Mum looked at me oddly. I was actually getting quite fed up of being looked at like I had the giant squid crawling out of my nose, though maybe if I did it might actually be an improvement on my current facial features.
Mum smiled at Scorpius, her new favourite young man, apparently. “That’s very kind of you, Scorpius,” she said genially. She reached into her bag and handed Scorpius a large, worn book. “Thank you so much for lending me that, it was most enlightening. I must dash, but I’ll pop in and see you sometime next week.”
Scorpius saw her out, rain pouring into the hall where he didn’t shut the door quick enough. “Bye, Mrs Weasley.”
I raised my eyebrows when he returned his attention to me. He merely shrugged. “What?” he queried innocently.
I shook my head exasperatedly and checked my watch. “Look,” I began. “I have to go soon. But I wanted to organise something for this weekend.”
“Are we still going on that date?” He looked so hopeful, like a puppy.
I didn’t really have the heart to kick such an innocent looking face, so flying carpet race it would have to be. "Do you want to come along with me?”
The intensity of his beam made me feel so guilty for continually bursting his bubble, but not for long. I needed to avoid guilt, as it tended to make me do stupid things like steal biscuits for Molly and give Albus haircuts.
“Sure,” he agreed, without even batting an eyelid at the choice of activity. I was grateful that he didn’t accuse me of trying too hard to be interesting or anything. “And then I’m going to buy you dinner.”
And it was on that promise that I returned to work, feeling a little more cheerful than I had before. I mulled over what Scorpius had asked. What did I really want with Teddy? He seemed so out of reach that I’d never really acknowledge that there could ever be something between us. He was more of a hobby, and one that left me feeling insecure and lonely. I never felt like that when Scorpius was around. I supposed I couldn’t complain; I was finally getting an interesting love life. It wasn’t exactly all it was cracked up to be.