The joke shop went into downtime the next couple of days. The amount of customers decreased significantly, falling back to its normal early July rate. This gave George the time he needed to restock on each and every product, and even to brew up new ideas, and it gave us employee’s the space to finally breathe again. Not to mention, each of us were finally able to return to our regular shifts. Cole worked most nights and I worked from morning till mid afternoon until Leanne arrived for her shift, which was very seldom. Everything was back to normal in Weasley’s Wizards’ Wheezes.
Even Leanne’s tardiness has gone back to normal.
I was stationed at the counter, as always. George always had either Leanne or me working the counter, since Cole wasn’t a people person, and Eric had a tendency to hit on every girl with a pair of legs and boobs.
From across the shop, I spotted Cole restocking the back shelves with a scowl on his face. For years, I seriously wondered why Cole spent so much of his time doing things that required him to interact with people, instead of doing something that he actually preferred doing. Every move he made in this joke shop came with a scowl. He was never happy to work, yet he always did.
Pushing all useless thoughts out of my head, I turned my attention back to the book that was laying open on the counter in front of me. I quickly scanned the page and searched for the last word that I read. Recently, with all the thoughts bouncing around in my head, losing my place in my book became a usual occurrence. It must have been my fifth time reading ‘Persuasion’, and no matter how many times I read it, I could not, and will never, get tired of it. To be honest, the author compelled me more than the story itself, even though the story mirrors the author in many ways. I suppose that’s why I favored the novel. Jane Austen was amazing.
“Anna.” Hearing the voice of my boss, I quickly lifted my head and diverted every ounce of attention towards him. I guess it was just my proper work ethics coming into play. I didn’t want to be reprimanded for reading a book while I was working, even though the shop was currently empty. When my eyes landed on his face, I saw that he was peering down at the open page of my book. He then chuckled. “This book again?” he asked. “This must be the third time you’re reading it this summer alone.”
I shrugged. “It’s my favorite.” Instinctively, I glanced at the clock beside me. My shit has been over for about ten minutes. I hadn’t even noticed. “Leanne isn’t here yet?” I asked, looking around.
Gravely, George nodded even though we both knew that he had been expecting this “I’m really, really sorry for having to ask you for this, but…”
“It’s fine.” I replied immediately. I already knew what he was about to ask. ‘Could you fill in for Leanne today?’ was usually the only thing that George asked of me. “I’ll stay an extra shift. Did Leanne call in sick again?”
“I received no call. Perhaps she slept in, or something like that. If it weren’t for her incredibly impressive ability to organize at a rapid pace, she would have been fired months ago.” George scowled. “Are you sure it’s okay with you?”
I nodded quickly. “Really, George.” I reassured him. “It’s fine. It’s not that busy today anyway, so it’s no trouble. All I have to do is man the register.”
“I’d stay and cover her shift, but I’ve got this family thing in less than ten minutes, and Angelina is going to kill me if I don’t get there in time. Last family get together before the kids go off to Hogwarts.” George explained. “Oh!” he exclaimed suddenly. I could almost see the light bulb going off above his head. “Do you need me to call your parents for you and explain why you’re taking all these extra shifts here? Cole told me that they’ve complained a couple of times.”
Suddenly, I felt the urge to knock Cole’s teeth right out of his mouth. “Cole is just talking nonsense.” I said with a small, nervous laugh. The last thing I wanted to do was involve my boss in something that he needn’t get into. Especially since it was my family. “There’s no need to inform my parents. They’re fine with the extra shifts.”
George nodded understandingly. “Well, there’s not really much left to be done. Cole is restocking the shelves and Eric is organizing the backroom. If anything goes wrong, do not hesitate to call me! See if you can convince Cole to stay here with you until you shift is over. I wouldn’t want you to be stuck in the shop alone with Eric.”
I laughed as George glanced at the storage room in the back. Eric was sitting by the doorway, labeling a bunch of unnamed boxes. “Go on or you’ll be late.” I said to George.
“Take care, Anna!” He said as he headed for the fireplace. “Thanks again! I’ll pay you the extra hours.” He disappeared into the flames, and that was the last I saw of George Weasley that day.
Once Cole saw that the coast was clear, he immediately came over to the counter, completely forgetting about his restocking assignment. I knew that he had been eavesdropping on our conversation. “I think you’ve worked half of Leanne’s entire summer hours.” He said condemningly. “Why don’t you go home and rest or something?”
I sighed heavily. I wasn’t in the mood to start another one of these conversations with Cole. “You know very well that I don’t enjoy being at home.”
He rolled his eyes. “If only you’d tell your brother or sister about your bloody good for nothing father.”
“Cole, just stay out of it. And don’t go around talking about my family to other people.” I reprimanded. “What do you think would happen if George contacted my father? He wouldn’t be pleased, and I would have to be the one to handle it all when I get home.” Cole didn’t look guilty. The memory of the very first time I reprimanded Cole appeared into my mind, as clear as day. It was in our second year when he finally found out about my second life; my life at home. Back then, my words brought out guilt and sympathy. Now, all I saw on Cole’s hard face was coldness and anger. I knew that he wasn’t angry at me, instead, he was angry for me. Regardless, he needn’t fight my battles. I sighed softly this time and the angry expression on my face fell. “Please just let me read in peace. I’m not in the mood to talk about this right now.”
Cole grumbled on the spot, but nevertheless, he walked away and resumed his work, restocking the shelves.
For the next couple of minutes, I tried my best to focus on each and every printed word, but it grew difficult with each passing moment. The thing about Jane Austen, is that her words are baffling and captivating all at the same time. Her books required serious concentration, but it was something I couldn’t offer. Not now, anyway. Cole planted thoughts into my head again — thoughts that I could not get rid of no matter what I did. My father, my mother, my sister and my brother. They plagued my mind to no end. I suddenly felt guilty for finding refuge in a joke shop, rather than returning to my responsibilities at home.
“Ahem.” A deep voice rudely ripped through my thoughts. For a moment there, I was thankful. I was thankful that a distraction had arrived at the perfect moment. That small, yet powerful ‘ahem’ had just saved my sanity for the next half hour or so. However, that moment ended once I caught sight of the intruders face. “Hi there.” His voice was pleasant and deep. It was the kind of voice that could fill someone’s heart with happiness and the kind that could put a child to sleep during the night. It was… calming.
Sweater boy had just closed the front door behind him, and was currently walking towards me with a charming smile printed on his unusually handsome face. This time, he was not wearing a sweater. He wore a white, v-neck shirt, with dark jeans and smart trainers.
“Sweater Boy.” I greeted dryly, remembering our last meeting. I remembered the flirting, the laundry-list, the friend, and the name and address that had been imprinted into my skin for days after. ‘Stefan Prince, 315 Shredder Creek Lane.’
Ever since our very first meeting, I hadn’t seen Sweater Boy since. Of course, there were those random occasions where I caught either him or his friend strolling down Diagon Alley with a different girl hanging on their arm each time, however, neither of them visited the shop.
“Ah, Miss Anna, right?” he smiled even brighter at the sight of me, if it were even possible. “I never did get an owl after that day. I must admit, I am rather disappointed.”
“Sorry, the ink washed out after I washed my hands.” I couldn’t control myself. I rolled my eyes at his cheesy lines. “Your friend isn’t with you today.” I commented, looking behind him for good measure. “James, was it?”
“Ah, you’re looking for my boy James?” his smile turned into a knowing smirk. What could this idiot possibly know? Absolutely nothing. “I knew there was a spark between you guys the other day.” Sweater Boy snapped his fingers together. “My intuition is amazing.”
A disbelieving scoff escaped my lips as I looked away from him. “You two seemed to be joint at the hip, was all I meant.” I said indignantly. “So what can I do for you today, Sweater Boy? Considering the load of products you two bought the other day, I’m sure that you didn’t come back for more.”
“Ah, you’re funny and smart.” He pressed his elbows against the surface of the counter and leaned in closer tauntingly, yet… flirtatiously. “The name is Stefan, by the way. Or did the ink on your hand wash off before you could read it?” Suddenly he extended his hand to reach for mine. His forefinger lightly traced the back of my hand, dancing across the surface. Looking down, I noticed the shadow of ink that was left behind from what he had written. The name ‘Stefan Prince’ was still somewhat visible on my skin.”
Coincidentally, we lifted our eyes at the same time, and in a very cliché manner, our eyes met. To ease up dramatic tension that I had unintentionally created, there was absolutely no spark between us. Not that I was expecting there to be. However, I was captivated. There’s a large difference between sparks, and captivation. Or at least from what I’ve read. I was too entranced by his eyes to notice that his finger was still running circles on the back of my hand. As I suddenly brought attention to his touch, the back of my hand suddenly felt like it was about to explode. I quickly drew my hand back, and Sweater Boy merely smirked at me as he kept his eyes boring into mine. No matter what I did or where I looked, neither he nor his eyes moved.
Thankfully, he finally diverted his eyes, withdrew his hand and removed his elbows from the counter, straightening his posture. “So where’s Leanne?” he asked, looking around. “I was told that her shift started about fifteen minutes ago.”
I cleared my throat. “She’s not in today.” I answered, looking down at my book. “I’m filling in for her.”
“Well isn’t this just convenient?” he chuckled. “Each time I come by here, you just happen to be filling in for Leanne.” I could tell that his eyes were watching me. “What are you reading?” he asked suddenly, nodding his head towards my book.
“It’s a book.” I answered plainly.
“Really? It kind of looked like a large, dissembled body to me. Merlin, you got me there.”
“Ha, ha, ha.” I rolled my eyes at him.
Sweater Boy abruptly reached out and snatched the book from right under my nose. He started flipping through the pages, despite my protests. “It’s only a book, Anna-banana. Calm down.”
After hearing the horrid nickname that I had outgrown once I turned three years old, I stared at him with disbelief. “Did you just call me Anna-banana?” I asked.
He, however, looked too entirely engrossed by the pages to even notice my presence, let alone, what I had just asked. He flipped and flipped, and flipped, and flipped, until he got to the end. It didn’t look like he was reading a word — just flipping. Suddenly, he snapped the book shut and held it in front of my face. “Let me borrow this.” He asked. Well.. it should have been a question, not a statement.
I stared at him curiously. “Why?”
“Because I want to eat it.” Sweater Boy answered sarcastically.
I couldn’t believe he was using sarcasm as a weapon against me. “Well in that case…” I extended my hand forward and reached for the book. Unfortunately, Sweater Boy was too fast for me. His hand jolted up towards the ceiling, and I ended up in an awkward position with my face a mere centimeter away from his. Our noses were almost touching, and I could feel his hot breath against my skin. My eyes widened dramatically. I leaned back and composed myself immediately. I felt heat begin to rise to my cheeks, and I prayed to Merlin that the incredibly embarrassing blush would soon go away. “Fine, read it.” I said, somewhat stubbornly.
Sweater Boy proudly let his hand settle by his sides. “Than —“
“But!” I exclaimed, interrupting him. “You must read it before this fall term starts. On the first day of term, I’ll take it back. If you don’t read it, well then.. we’re going to have a problem.”
He smirked deviously. “Are you giving me homework, Miss Anna?” he asked, amused.
“You’re the one who wanted to borrow it.” I reminded him. “That happens to be my favorite book.”
Lifting the old, tattered, hardcover book to the height of the counter, he inspected it. “You treat your favorite book like it’s garbage?” he asked with a slightly disgusted look on his face. “How could you possibly do this to a book?”
I watched closely as Sweater Boy inspected the torn up cover. I had to admit, I didn’t take care of it at first. Being a gift from my father, it didn’t amount to me back then. Eventually, after enough reads, the cover began tearing up and the spine grew worn out. Back then, if I had known that the book was going to be my all time favorite, then I would have treated it with more care and respect.
“Do you have OCD?” I asked him suddenly.
“Sorry?” Sweater Boy replied, confused. “What’s OCD?”
“Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.” I answered.
“Ah.. No.” he smiled. “But I do like my belongs to be neat.”
I glanced down at my book, at my baby. “Well, take care of that.” I told him, as if I was sending off my own child. “It’s fragile. I regret not taking better care of it.”
Ignoring my statement, he leaned closer to the counter, pressing his elbows against it once again. “What happens again if I don’t read this book?” his voice returned to it’s usual amount of flirtatiousness. “It couldn’t possibly be anything bad, could it?” he asked, smiling.
Impulsively, I leaned back further away from his face. Sweater Boy needed to learn something called a personal bubble. Everyone has one. I, personally, do not like it when my personal bubble is invaded.
“We’ll see when the time comes.” I answered. “It all depends on my mood, actually.”
“So I guess I be —”
The phone behind the counter began ringing loudly. I cursed George every single day at work for charming the phone to have such a loud ring. As I reached for the receiver, I found myself hoping that it was Leanne calling to say that she would be coming in any minute now. Unfortunately, as I glanced towards Sweater Boy, the person on the other end of the line began speaking.
“Anna.” It was a deep, stern and unsettling voice. It was the voice I used to fear since I was a child. Used to.
“Come home, now.”
I sighed exasperatedly. “I’m working, Sebastian.”
“I don’t give a fuck. Come home, now.”
“I can’t. I’m working.”
“Your incompetent brother and sister are not coming home yet, and someone needs to cook dinner. Get your ass back home, now.”
“There’s some frozen food in the fridge. If you’re really hungry, order some take out. There’s money on the counter. I have to go back to work now.” I didn’t bother waiting for a reply. “Bye.”
As I turned back to Sweater Boy, my body immediately released all built up tension. I felt at ease, all of a sudden. He was playing with a quill that was standing in a pot of ink beside the register. His face looked concentrated, yet his hand movements were lazy and sporadic.
“Who was that?” Sweater Boy asked, finally leaving the quill alone. “A boyfriend of yours?”
I rolled my eyes. I could tell that he was just teasing. “No..” I answered. “He’s… he’s nobody.”
“And that nobody wants you to go home to cook dinner for them?” he pressed. “Sounds like an archaic husband.”
I chuckled. “All men tend to be like that these days.”
“Not all men.”
I was suddenly not in the mood to converse, and I suppose that Sweater Boy understood that. As I looked outside, I noticed the grey clouds rolling in from the West. I turned back to him. “You better go before it starts pouring.” I told him. “I heard that there’s a big storm coming tonight.”
Luckily, Sweater Boy complied. He did not offer any other flirtatious moves. Instead, he nodded and held my copy of ‘Persuasion’ up. “Thanks for the book, Miss Anna.” His charming smile appeared on his face. “And please, when Leanne returns, have her owl me.”
“Whatever,” I waved him off with a smile. With one last smile, he turned around and strutted towards the exit. “Have a nice day, Sweater Boy.” I called after him.
Before he stepped through the doorway and out of the shop, Sweater Boy turned around with a serious look on his face. “Please,” and then he smiled. “Call me Stefan.”
There's a small change in the plot! it will not
be taking place in Hogwarts. this will be kind of a summer romance thing, and if it gets far enough, maybe it will be extended to their next year at Hogwarts. but for now, the date is pushed back to early july!
also, i'm sorry it's been forever since i've update! i have not given up on this fic yet, i'm just incredibly busy with school & life. please be patient! i'll try to pump out the next chapter asap :)