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Chapter 7 : The Keeper and the Seeker
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by shudder @ tda
All in all, I think the best thing about leaving London was the extra sleep.
A week had passed into our new life in New New Elgin and I was barely working. It was a noticeable change. Back when I’d had three jobs and strange shifts, I’d averaged no more than six hours a night, and I’d only ever got a lie in on those strange, rare Sundays I’d had off. But now, my only job was to spend a few hours a day arsing around with a typewriter. I didn’t even have to get up until eleven in the morning if I wanted to.
I don’t want to sound like I’m a jobsworth or a slacker or anything. I mean, I worked. I kept the flat clean and tidy (or as clean and tidy as I could with my naff housekeeping skills), I went and fetched the post, and I actually did write some things, although they were pretty abysmal. Sometimes I even made soup. And even though I didn’t have to get up until lunchtime, I usually dragged myself out of bed at seven anyway to see Scorpius off.
That was the thing; I’d pretty much assumed that the main (and possibly only) impetus for the move was the fact that we were both working too much and it was all getting a bit silly. But he still worked. He had the magazine job, and then, pretty much as soon as we’d resolved the whole manic-villagers-stalking-us crisis, he’d been off jobhunting in the Prophet classifieds again, and then even going so far as to check all the local newspapers, right down to the New New Elgin Herald, until he’d found something.
And so our second Sunday in New New Elgin was the last one we would have off together for a long time.
‘I’ve found something,’ he said, over breakfast, jabbing at a square inch of text in the back of the Moray Firth Advertiser. ‘It looks decent.’
‘Hmm?’ I said, through a mouthful of toast.
‘This,’ he held up the newspaper for me to see, although the tiny text was little more than a vague blur. ‘Photo shop needs an assistant. It says…um, you get a pretty good staff discount.’
I could almost see the little lights (possibly flash bulbs) going off in his head. If there was a chance to get cheap film and cheap cameras, he would take that chance like a wasp on an open bottle of butterbeer.
‘Cool,’ I said. ‘Where is it?’
‘Aberdeen,’ he said, nonchalantly. ‘It’s called Cameraderie. Heh.’
I paused, my tea halfway to my mouth. ‘Aberdeen. That’s...that’s not very local.’
‘Yeah, well,’ he set the newspaper down. ‘I do commute to London half the time. I bet I can Floo to Aberdeen, it’s nearer. It’ll be fine.’
‘Hmm,’ I hmm’d.
‘Lucy, it’s called Cameraderie. You know I like puns.’
‘Yeah, I know. I know.’
So I let him run off and apply for the job. I needed some time to myself anyway; Euphemia Flitter had responded. Sort of. She had sent me four very neat, very pristine, and very pink books with a screech owl. Not even a covering letter or a little note, nothing.
The books? Quidditch Confessions, Incidents at the Apothecary, To Tame a Dragon-Tamer, and Accio Love.
I wouldn’t let that put me off, though. One thing my mum said to me when I was very little was that I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and I decided to make good on that advice. It was hard, though. Quidditch Confessions had the sort of cover I would be too embarrassed to read in public - I’d probably have covered it up with a newspaper if I’d been on the train. A bulky specimen of a man in Bulgaria robes, cradling a feebly pathetic, pouting mass of frills and pink robes – oh, the pink was overwhelming. I think the front cover made the nuances of the plot fairly clear, but I was going to give it a chance. I had a job to do and Galleons to earn, and if I ended up churning out something called Elgin Regrets with a pink cover, so be it. A girl’s got to eat, and a girl can eat a lot off five hundred Galleons. A girl can also drink a lot off five hundred Galleons.
I didn’t have much time to read, though. I’d barely dipped into the first page when Scorpius returned in a whirlwind of cardigan, anorak and chemicals, the clock ticked round to ten to seven, and we had to depart for the first rehearsal of the official New New Elgin band.
‘So they said I could have the job,’ he said, as we descended the stairs to Burns Lane. ‘Well, I mean, for a trial, you know, a few weeks. I can start on Wednesday. And I can Floo. And their dark room is awesome. Not scuzzy or anything, not like the one in London. And the staff discount is massive and they have tons of old cameras.’
‘Cool,’ I said.
‘And I was going to look for something else,’ he held the door open for me, and we exited into Burns Lane. ‘You know, just another thing on the side.’
‘What, another job?’
I felt like I was missing something. ‘Didn’t we leave London because we had too many jobs?’
‘Yeah, but,’ he shifted from one foot to the other. ‘I could do with a leg-up into, you know, a proper job.’
‘You’ve got proper jobs.’
‘I’m an assistant photographer and an assistant sales assistant and I don’t want to be an assistant forever alright?’
‘Okay,’ we set off down the High Street. ‘Fine. But I’m not going to look for anything else. Feel free to work your arse off, but I’m content being a pseudo-writer for the time being.’
As was to be expected, New New Elgin was quiet. Someone had put up a load of Christmas decorations overnight; pretty lights hung between the buildings, and the shop windows were full of paper snowflakes. The air had a bitter edge to it, the sky was heavy – I was pretty sure the weatherwitch had forecasted snow.
‘How’s your book going?’ Scorpius asked.
‘Naff. Very naff. Scary lady,’ (for that was what we called Euphemia Flitter within the privacy of our flat) ‘Sent me some books. You know, as examples for what I should write.’
‘Oh, cool. And?’
‘They’re pink. And they look a bit racy.’
‘I hate pink.’
‘They might be okay. Never judge-’
‘A book by its cover,’ I finished the proverb for him. ‘Yeah, I know.’
We lapsed into silence, strolling along the High Street in the dim glow of the Christmas lights. It wasn’t entirely silent, though. There was a vague, distant sound on the periphery of my hearing – something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
Scorpius stopped dead in his tracks.
‘Is it just me,’ he said. ‘Or does it sound like there’s a herd of wildebeest coming towards us?’
I listened to the distant noise.
‘Very small wildebeest,’ I said. ‘Midget wildebeest.’
We stared at each other in confusion. Scorpius adjusted his glasses.
Then, the stampede turned up. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t a herd of midget wildebeest. Instead, it was a group of very small children, all wearing tiny Quidditch robes and carrying tinier toy brooms, running out of a side lane at full pelt. Worryingly, they were all laughing; I grabbed Scorpius by the wrist and ducked out of the way, but the herd of children ran straight past us, down an opposite lane, pursued by a flustered Jock Macpherson and several teenagers in flying robes.
‘Just training!’ he called, merrily, as he charged past. ‘See you at the rehearsal! Slow down, youse lot!’
He sped into the distance and vanished.
‘Ah,’ Scorpius said, a little weakly. ‘That’ll be the Elgin Egrets.’
‘They’re, er, cute,’ I said, staring at the lane the horde of children had just disappeared into.
‘Violent,’ Scorpius added.
‘Wouldn’t like to run into them in a dark alleyway.’
‘We just did.’
Despite minor diversions in the form of midget-wildebeest-except-not-midget-wildebeest, we turned up at the town hall right on time. It was lit brightly from inside, the stained glass windows turning the light into little pools of colour on the pavement below. I pushed open the heavy doors (which took a bit of effort and heave-ho-ing) and let us both in.
It was warm inside; that was a good start, at least. It was your fairly ordinary, non-descript, bog-standard village hall. A scuffed wooden floor was bare, bordered with lines of chairs at the edges, and a small stage dominated one end, where moth-eaten red velvet curtains hung against a blank backdrop. A small hatch at the back of the hall led to a kitchen, where Jeans C and P were standing by a large urn of tea and a few plates of biscuits.
‘You’re early,’ Jean C said, as we approached. I nodded vaguely, a bit entranced by the enormous plate of custard creams I’d just spied. ‘Would you like a cuppa?’
A cup of tea and half a plate of biscuits later and nobody else had turned up. It was a bit suspicious but, then again, nothing was really all that suspicious in New New Elgin anymore.
‘Weird,’ Jean C mused. ‘It’s not like the others to be late.’
Just then, the door banged open, bringing in a rush of wintry air. Then knitting Prentice poked his head inside.
‘There’s a new person,’ he hissed.
At once, Jeans C and P stiffened.
‘A new person?’ they echoed.
‘A new person,’ he nodded. ‘Moved in this afternoon.’
I had a nasty feeling that I knew exactly what was coming next.
‘More new people?’ Jean C whispered. ‘Are you sure?’
‘But nobody moves to New New Elgin.’
I definitely had the nasty feeling that I knew exactly what was coming next. Mostly because it had happened to us.
‘Who? What are they like?’
‘It’s a girl,’ knitting Prentice held up a hand. ‘About so high, I just saw her wandering about, she asked me how to get to the pub and-’
Jean C slammed her teacup down on the table. ‘We have to go there,’ she said. ‘Now.’
‘Er,’ I chipped in. ‘Is this going to be like when we moved in or-’
I was ignored.
‘To the duck!’ knitting Prentice called, and then the resident New New Elginers snatched up their coats and prepared to leave. A little grudgingly, me and Scorpius followed suit, although I paused to shove a few custard creams into my pockets, just in case I needed a spot of extra sustenance.
Then it was back out onto the High Street, back into the cold, back under the dim glitter of the Christmas lights. And I couldn’t help feeling very unsettled. Which is why I took a deep breath, put my foot down, and stood up to the New New Elginers.
Unfortunately, it’s kind of hard to stand up to people when they’re a lot taller than you. I felt about this big, especially considering I didn’t know them that well.
‘Look,’ I said. ‘Are you going to just march into the pub and ogle her like she’s something in a zoo?’
Knitting Prentice gave me a slightly withering look. ‘Well,’ he said. ‘That was the plan.’
‘It’s not nice,’ I pouted. ‘And I know from experience.’
Another withering look was shot in my direction. ‘We were all new once!’
I felt my resolve crumbling, but then decided to put my foot down once and for all. ‘I’m sorry,’ I said. ‘But I think I’ll go and speak to her instead. Make her welcome, you know. And Scorpius will come, won’t you?’ I elbowed him.
‘Sure,’ he murmured.
The New New Elginers exchanged a look.
‘We’ll allow it,’ Jean P said, evenly.
‘It’ll give us time to fetch the others,’ she said. ‘I should probably go and round up Jock.’
‘See you later,’ knitting Prentice said.
And with that, the New New Elginers departed, leaving us alone. I slightly regretted volunteering to welcome the new girl, seeing as I wasn’t exactly an old hand of the place or anything – but decided to go ahead.
‘Scorpius,’ I said. ‘Please make sure I don’t say anything daft.’
‘I can’t really help you with that.’
We marched over to the pub, pushed open the door, and went inside. It was deserted, aside from Surly Kevin behind the bar and, in front of him, a slim, black-haired woman, leaning her elbows on the bar. Her back was turned to us and me, suddenly struck by a fit of shyness, didn’t quite have the courage to tap her on the shoulder and say hello. Instead, I sidled up to the bar, ordered two butterbeers (guessing it was best to stay as sober as possible), and then perched on a stool beside Scorpius.
It was my fault for volunteering, but I really had no idea what to say. Fortunately, I didn’t have to say it, because, at that moment, the girl turned to look at us and said ‘Hello. Sorry, I’ve just moved here, and…’
She was astonishingly pretty, to put it bluntly. She had the wide, dewy eyes of a cartoon and full, bee-stung lips. To top it off, she had the sort of porcelain-skin-blood-red-lips-hair-black-as-a-raven’s-feather sort of combination you only really get in fantasy novels, and the sort of curvy physique that was the polar opposite of my rake-masquerading-as-an-ironing-board figure.
‘It’s alright,’ I said, attempting my best warm smile. ‘Er, welcome to New New Elgin! Um, I’m Lucy, and this is Scorpius – we’re kind of new too.’
‘Oh, right,’ she said, as Scorpius gave a nervous smile and tipped his glass to her. ‘That’s a funny name.’
Scorpius’ nervy smile fell apart slightly.
‘I’m Mary-Susannah Ellis,’ she said. ‘But you can call me Mary-Sue.’
‘I’ve just come from London,’ she said. ‘Felt I needed a change, you know?’
‘Oh, us too,’ Scorpius piped up. ‘Which end?’
‘Kensington,’ she said. ‘It was just a bit too busy.’
Neither me or Scorpius responded. I think we were both sharing the same thought, which was what sort of idiot would move from Kensington to here, I mean, really.
‘How long have you been here?’ she said.
‘Only a week.’
‘What’s it like?’
‘Quiet,’ I said. ‘Takes a bit of getting used to.’
‘It’s bloody brilliant,’ Surly Kevin shouted from the other end of the bar.
‘What’s there to do around here?’ call-me-Mary-Sue said, ignoring Surly Kevin.
‘I don’t really know,’ I said, truthfully. ‘We’ve been working a lot.’
‘Oh, what do you do?’
‘I’m a photographer and Lucy’s a writer,’ Scorpius said, once again ignoring the ‘pseudo’ prefix that should have been tacked onto each job title.
‘That’s interesting,’ she said, nodding, although she sounded a little amused (perhaps she’d picked up on the lack of pseudo-prefixes). ‘Well, my job sounds horribly boring in comparison.’
‘What do you do?’
‘Oh, I work for the Ministry,’ she said. ‘Auror office. Nothing big.’
Once again, it seemed that me and Scorpius were sharing the same thought, which was something along the lines of what, no, I’d call a job in the Auror office pretty big!
‘Must be hectic,’ I said, an involuntary shrill, nervous little laugh escaping my mouth.
‘Oh, definitely,’ she said. ‘I barely find time to paint these days.’
‘You paint?’ Scorpius said.
‘Yes. I freelance, sometimes, although I doubt I’m any good. Sewing, too. Pulls in a bit of extra cash.’
‘Oh,’ was all I could manage.
‘What, so, oils, or-’
‘A bit of everything,’ she smiled. ‘Oils, acrylics, watercolours. Whatever suits the subject matter. Partly why I came here was the scenery, I suppose. I hear it’s lovely.’
‘Wonderful,’ Scorpius said. He was looking at her with a peculiar sort of interest, as if he wasn’t quite sure whether to believe her or not.
‘I sing a bit too,’ she continued, fiddling with a beermat. ‘Play the piano, sometimes. I suppose that’s the only let-down about this place, not having a decent music scene!’
‘It’s decent enough,’ Surly Kevin growled from his spot at the end of the bar.
That shut her up.
‘I suppose there’s the talent show thing,’ Scorpius shrugged. ‘If that’s a good enough music scene.’
Surly Kevin dropped the mug he was wiping. I dared to meet his eye. The glare was enough to entirely personify his nickname. It was a surly glare and a half with bells on.
Call-me-Mary-Sue didn’t seem to pick up on this, though. ‘What talent show?’ she asked, politely.
‘Oh, er,’ Scorpius dithered. ‘Just a thing.’
She looked a little put-out. ‘Oh. Right.’
I then got the suspicious feeling we were being watched. You know, the sort of feeling when the hairs on the back of your neck go all prickly and you really need to shiver, like you’re shaking off a cloak made of cobwebs.
When I turned, I saw the New New Elginers standing at the window, faces pressed to the glass, gawping at us all.
Come in, I mouthed, jerking my head at the bar. Fortunately, Call-me-Mary-Sue didn’t notice, although Scorpius gave me the sort of funny look I knew all too well. But then the door opened and Jeans C and P filed in, Knitting Prentice and Jock in tow, looking as casual as anybody who’s anything but casual can look.
I was very pleased to see them. It was very nice to see their creepy stares applied to someone else for a change.
‘Off to work, then,’ Scorpius lifted his anorak from the back of a chair. ‘You know, off to enjoy some Cameraderie.’
‘You’re going to milk that pun for all it’s worth, aren’t you,’ I said, giving him a pointed look over my mug.
‘Of course. If it’s good, milk it.’
‘Did you just invent a quote?’
‘Shame it’s only applicable to cows.’
‘When will you be back?’
‘Oh, around five,’ he pulled the anorak on, instantly lost inside it (honestly, the thing was like a waxy tent with zips and pockets). ‘You’ll know I’m back when you smell the chemicals coming up the stairs.’
‘See you later then. Love you and stuff.’
‘Farewell. Am I ever going to get that snog, by the way?’
I peered at him over the top of my mug. ‘The one Gwen mentioned in her letter. You said you were saving it for later.’
‘I’ve snogged you a lot since then.’
‘Yes, but I haven’t had that snog.’
He grinned, shaking his head, and then left. I settled back to my tea and toast, but then there was a pattering of feet from the corridor and he leaned around the doorframe again.
‘Did I mention I love you?’
‘Go to work, you idiot.’
‘See you,’ he grinned, giving me a final wave before dashing back down the corridor again.
‘I’m not going to let you forget about the snog!’ I yelled.
A few seconds later, the front door slammed.
I got comfy in my chair. I had Quidditch Confessions lying on the table beside me, a full mug of tea, and some tasty toast to make my way through. I was going to give the book a chance, read a chapter or three, and then hopefully get inspired enough to write something worthwhile of my own.
I folded the cover back, cracked the spine (I always had to break in a book before I read it), and then settled down to chapter one: The Keeper and the Seeker.
Bernice was not the sort of girl who spent her weekends at the Quidditch pitch, but…
Half an hour later, I was pretty sure of what I was expected to write. And I was sure I knew a lot more about Bernice the pathetic heroine and Ivan the Bulgarian Quidditch hunk than I’d have really liked to know. Sorry, that should have been Ivan the one-armed Bulgarian Quidditch hunk. The arm had been lost in a tragic Quidditch accident in his tragic past that formed the impetus of his broody wanderings about deserted Quidditch pitches in the middle of the night. If it wasn’t for the muscles and the Quidditch and the cheekbones and the missing arm, he’d have reminded me a bit of Scorpius.
But it was implausible. So implausible. And so, so trashy.
I felt like my stomach was sinking down through my legs and through the floor. I actually felt a bit panicky. I knew exactly what Euphemia Flitter wanted me to write for her stupid Amortentia Publications – of course the name seemed so, so obvious now – and I didn’t want to write it. Not in the slightest.
‘Scorpius!’ I wailed, pressing my face into the book. ‘Come back! They want me to write smut!’
a/n: I think I should probably use this author's note to mention a film that's been a pretty big inspiration for this fic - it's called Local Hero, and it's one of my all-time favourites. It's kind of quaint and whimsical and hilarious, and I'd definitely recommend you watch it if you can get hold of it. It never fails to cheer me up, hee ♥
Thank you for reading, and, also, thank you to the raver puffins for helping me out with characters and appreciating my puns and whatnot. You know I adore you all.
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