Chapter 18 : It's Complicated
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The doorbell rang five minutes before my alarm was due to go off. I waited for Molly to get up and answer the door, but she clearly had other intentions. Grumpily, I dragged myself out of bed and shuffled off to open the door.
“Mum,” I mumbled, opening the door wider. “What’s wrong, why are you here?”
I’d assume that seeing as she was here before six in the morning, someone must be dying or something. She let herself into the hall, looking disgustingly fresh faced. “Rose, I want to ask you a favour.” She withdrew four books from her bag and handed them too me. I looked down at the titles and rolled my eyes. “Can you get Gilderoy to sign these for me? I’m a big fan.”
Had she really woken me up this early for this? I sighed, nodding. “If you come to the shop after closing time, you can meet him too.”
She looked alarmed at this suggestion. “No, no, that won’t be necessary. We’ve met before, you see. I don’t think he’d want to see me again. And your father – well, never mind. Please?”
I wasn’t really sure what she was on about, but frankly I didn’t really care; I wanted my extra five minutes of sleep. “Whatever, Mum,” I muttered, ushering her towards the door. “Goodbye.”
After she’d gone, I snuck back into bed, only for my alarm to go off as soon as my head touched my pillow. Bloody marvellous, I thought. I was going to be in a bad mood all day because of this. I didn’t even understand why she wanted his autograph so much if she wouldn’t even see him? Perhaps she just wanted to sell his signed books on the black market or something; the woman was baffling.
Grudgingly, I got myself up again and readied myself for work. Today was the day of Lockhart’s book signing, something I’d been dreading for weeks because of the sheer amount of preparation it had taken. On top of that, there were going to be rowdy women clambering over each other to get to Lockhart, probably ruining my nicely ordered shop. Hours of work would be undone by his fans. Oh, the things we did for money.
As I approached the shop half an hour later to prepare ahead of the shop opening, there were already people queuing up outside. I shoved a middle aged witch out of my way and squeezed myself inside the door before any of them could get in too. Shuddering, I went to make myself a cup of tea before assessing the situation.
At the back of the shop, I’d set up a desk for Lockhart to sit at. Lining the path to the desk were towers of his new book, in the hope that they’d all buy additional copies for their friends. There was the occasional tower of his old books, not that I actually thought anyone would buy those old things, but you never knew. Maybe there was a witch who liked to use his books as a duvet or something.
I waited for Matthew to arrive, watching with amusement as he avoided the wandering hands of the witches outside. Slamming the door shop with relief, he joined me where I sat amongst the book towers.
“Stressed?” he asked consolingly. I nodded. “I’ve got something to cheer us up.”
He reached into his bag and handed me a piece of cardboard. Turning it over, I saw a copy of Lockhart’s face on it. “You expect me to wear this?”
Matthew put on a mask of his own and gave me a thumbs up. He looked like someone had stretched his head to twice its usual size. “It’s going to be a long day - we might as well have a laugh.”
I made a non-committal grunt and stuck the mask on. Thinking about it, the mask would probably come in handy when hiding from the general public; I would lay galleons on the fact that we weren’t the only one with Gilderoy Lockhart masks. “Fancy making us a cup of tea?” I asked, handing him my empty mug and turning back to the stock list in my lap.
Matthew returned with tea just as the rabble of women suddenly quietened. We both looked outside to see that some of them had fainted at the sight of a large carriage, drawn by four unicorns. I rolled my eyes. “That’ll be Lockhart.”
Mass hysteria exploded outside the shop window as he stepped out, his golden (most certainly dyed) locks bouncing in the breeze. I could have sworn his teeth sparkled as he walked towards the shop door, the woman swooning as he passed.
“Good morning!” he sang as he drifted inside. The door shut with a clatter and tinkle of the bell.
I tried not to be rude as I got up from my perch and strode towards him. “Good morning, Mr Lockhart,” I offered, extending my hand.
He took my fingers in his and lifted them to his mouth. “Call me Gilderoy,” he said sultrily, winking.
It was all I could do to stop my eyebrows shooting off my forehead. “Right,” I said with a small cough. “I’m Rose Weasley, the shop manager. If there’s anything I can do for you today, please don’t hesitate to ask.”
“Weasley, you say?” He peered at me curiously. “Yes, why I daresay I knew your parents. I was a professor at Hogwarts – taught them everything they know, I should think!” He looked confused for a moment, as though a dark thought had crossed his mind and he couldn’t understand why it was ruining his features. “But that’s all in the book, of course!” He tapped one of his books on top of a pile fondly, causing the tower to quiver dangerously.
“Yes, well,” I said once I’d steadied the pile. “My mum did ask if you’d sign some of her old books. I think she’s quite a big fan of yours.”
“Is she?” Again, he looked confused. “It’s to be expected, of course…”
At that moment, the women outside were starting to bang on the windows, chanting something unintelligible at us. I nodded to Matthew, who went to stand by the door. I guided Lockhart towards his desk at the back of the shop and signalled for Matthew to open the door. Quickly. I jumped out of the way of the screaming witches as they made a beeline for Lockhart, who just smiled the whole time. Joining Matthew at the till, I sagged against the wall.
“Never again,” I muttered into my tea, shaking my head. “Never again.” Matthew nodded in agreement.
A couple of hours later, when Matthew and I had started to strip off our jumpers from the amount of heat generated by all the excitable ladies, I spotted some red hair amongst the crowd. I wandered over to try and work out which of my relatives it was.
“Lily?” I called, elbowing an old biddy in the ribs so I could get to her. She turned, spotting me and grinning.
“Hullo Rose,” she said, clutching a brand new copy of Lockhart’s book to her chest. She saw my eyes flicker towards the book and she hastily explained. “It’s not for me,” she said quickly. “It’s for James, actually. He wants to do a review of it for work. Or so he says.”
I rolled my eyes. “He can have it for free if he puts in his article that he bought it from here,” I said glumly.
“Ooh, great, thanks Rose!”
I ushered her over to the till so I could get her a receipt. Meanwhile, she made very obvious eyes at Matthew. “This is my cousin Lily,” I explained to him, sticking her book in a bag.
“Nice to meet you,” he said politely, shaking her hand. I coughed loudly when Lily appeared to be lost in thought.
“Did you hear the news?” I asked her, trying to get her attention.
“No,” she mumbled, not looking at me.
“Dom’s pregnant,” I said pointedly. If the counter wasn’t solid, I’d have tried to kick her. Poor Matthew didn’t know quite what to do with himself.
“Pregnant?” she repeated, dumbstruck. “How on Earth did this happen?”
“Well,” I mocked. “When a man and a woman have too much to drink-”
“Oh shut up,” she said tetchily. “I was merely wondering how she could be so stupid. I take it nobody knows who the father is?”
I shook my head. “Nope. She never ties a bloke down for more than two weeks. She probably doesn’t even know herself.”
“What a shame,” Lily said sadly. At Matthew’s confused look, Lily offered, “Dominique is a cousin of ours. She’s a bit irresponsible.”
“A bit…” I said scathingly.
“Yes, well, we can ask her all about it on Sunday,” Lily said decisively, retrieving her bag from the counter.
“What’s happening on Sunday?”
Lily rolled her eyes. “Do you keep up at all? It’s my parents’ turn to host Easter Sunday lunch.”
I tried not to sigh, I really did, but I was really hoping I’d have a Sunday to myself for once, not one that I’d have to sacrifice for the greater good of my family. That was the trouble with there being so many of them; there was always something I had to go to. Victoire had the right idea about getting out of the country, I had to admit.
“Oh,” I said. “Well, I’ll see you then, I suppose.”
After she managed to fight her way out of the shop, Matthew turned to me with raised eyebrows. “You have a fair number of cousins, don’t you?”
“Ten,” I said, agreeing with him. I had more than my fair share. “I’m lucky my Mum’s an only child. Otherwise I’d drown in family.”
“I don’t have any cousins,” Matthew said pensively. “There’s just me and my brother. I’d quite like to have a big family, I think. It gets quite lonely at Christmas.”
“You’re welcome to my family any time you like,” I said dryly. “I get sick of them sometimes. Far too many people sticking their noses into your business, that’s all it is.”
Matthew chuckled, only to be interrupted by a crash as someone knocked into a pile of books and sent them all flying. “I’ll sort it,” I said with a sigh, grabbing my wand (to tidy up, not to attack the one responsible, as much as I wanted to).
As I waded into the crowd, I spotted another familiar face somewhere in the mass of robes. “Scorpius?” I called, trying to poke him in the shoulder, but my arms were pinned to my sides by some very wobbly-looking witches. I managed to squeeze between a couple of people until I was stood right behind him, my face squished into his back. “Scorpius,” I said, my voice muffled by his jumper.
He turned to face me, causing me to fall forward into him. “Rose!” he cried dramatically, causing everyone around us to turn and stare. He caught me as I stumbled, making a huge deal over my welfare. “Are you hurt? These crowds are beastly – beastly, I say!”
I stood up straight so I wasn’t leaning on him so much, just forcefully shoved against his side. “Your concern is beastly,” I said impatiently. “I’m fine. What are you doing here?”
He prised his arms from the crush of the crowd and held up three copies of Lockhart’s books. “I’ve been queuing since two o’clock this morning,” he said excitably. “I’m going to get these signed and get a picture with him too, if I’m lucky!”
Of course Scorpius was a fan-girl, what did I honestly expect? It was tacky and tasteless, so naturally he’d be in with fervour. I’d noticed he’d even put extra gel on his hair today, as if that would impress Lockhart in the slightest.
“You should have said something,” I said, cursing as someone barged into me. “You could have met him later after everyone else has left.”
“I’ll come later anyway,” he exclaimed, hugging me too him. The books were pressing against my chest uncomfortably. I couldn’t move away because the ladies were continuing to press into me. I really should have thought about crowd control more carefully. “Thanks Rose, you’re the best girlfriend ever.”
I somehow seriously doubted that. I could barely even call myself his girlfriend, we were barely even friends. We were in some kind of sham relationship that didn’t serve any purpose other than to make Scorpius feel good. I felt my cheeks reddening as heads turned to watch as Scorpius leaned down towards me.
As his lips grew closer, all I could think about were the books pressing into me; they were really starting to hurt me. “I love you,” he murmured, his lips touching mine.
I had to get out of here; this was so many kinds of wrong. He couldn’t just say that, it wasn’t fair! I wasn’t prepared at all for it and I hadn’t even worked out if I liked him as anything more than my stalker, I couldn’t cope. Pulling back, I made a grimace and pointed to his books. “Sorry, I have to get back to work,” I said lamely, peeling myself off him and slipping through the crowd, cheeks as red as my shoes.
Reaching the till, I clung to the counter for support.
“The crowd’s rather bolshy, isn’t it?” Matthew said sympathetically. “I can sort the books out, if you’d like?”
“Yes please,” I said quietly, slumping to the floor. Maybe if I just hid behind the counter all day no one else would tell me they loved me and expect me to be something I wasn’t. I could be as unloved as I pleased and alone and unbothered. That had always been the plan and I didn’t see why I had to change my life plan now, especially not for Scorpius.
Matthew toddled off to sort out the mess and quivered behind the desk.
“Rose?” Scorpius peered at me round the side of the counter. “Are you feeling okay?”
“I’m fine,” I snapped, pressing my head against my knees and blocking him out of my vision. “It’s just a bit crowded in here. I need some space.”
I heard him step back a bit. “Why don’t you shut the shop for a bit until things calm down?”
“I can’t shut the shop. We’re doing a book signing, for goodness’ sake,” I said exasperatedly.
“Well, don’t let any more people in for a while, then when the shop is less chaotic let more inside,” he argued rationally.
“Fine,” I said. “Go and tell Matthew to do that.” Then maybe I’d be rid of them both and I could have some silence.
When Scorpius went to instruct Matthew on shop management, I decided to creep off upstairs to the office, where I’d be free of interruptions for ten minutes and I could hear myself think.
Opening the office door, it jammed on something heavy on the other side. I heaved against it, managing to budge the obstruction and I tumbled into the room. Looking down, there were three bulging suitcases lined up on the floor. Crouched on the floor beside them was Boris.
“Boris?” I barked, kneeling down beside him. He looked completely dazed, his eyes buffy and his jaw unshaven. I looked from the broken man on the office floor to the suitcases and shook my head sadly. “She kicked you out, didn’t she?” I asked softly. He nodded, tears spilling from his eyes. He tried to mumble something but failed. “It’s all right,” I soothed, putting my arm around his shoulder. “We’ll sort it. But you can’t stay here, it’s not healthy.” The office was a complete tip, and I suspected he’d been drunk when he’d come back here last night.
“Nowhere,” he mumbled slowly. “Nowhere to go.”
“You’re coming home with me,” I announced decisively. “You can stay as long as you need to.”
He started stammering his gratitude, but in all honestly I didn’t really feel like I had any other choice; he would likely die of starvation or something if he was left unattended. I didn’t really know how I was supposed to get him out of the shop without anyone noticing; I couldn’t even Apparate to my flat because of the anti-Apparition charms on the building.
“Fuck,” I muttered softly to myself.
We could, of course, escape through the windows, but I was pretty certain any passers-by would think I was kidnapping him and stealing his stuff as well. I wasn’t in the mood for Azkaban at the current time, so I had to rule out that plan of action.
I strode over to a pitcher of water and transfigured a paperweight into a large glass. I poured the first glass of water over his head, much to his discontent, and then handed him a glass to drink.
“Drink up,” I commanded, watching him with a steely glare. “It’ll make you feel better.”
He did as I told him, not without a filthy glance up at me. Draining his glass, he reached for his wand and dried himself. “Are you quite finished yet?” he grumbled.
“Come with me,” I said, striding over towards the door. “I’ll bring your bags home later.”
Now that he looked refreshed and presentable, I could afford to take him out of the shop. Hopefully things were beginning to calm down after Matthew had tidied up and herded a few of the straggling witches out of the shop. I managed to get him outside without incident; when Matthew saw who I was with, he just nodded, meaning I didn’t have to fight my way through the crowd to tell him where I was going. Best person I’d ever hired (I mean, he was the only one, but he probably would have been the best anyway).
Letting myself into the flat, I showed Boris around. I told him to help himself to food (though I didn’t tell him where we kept the nice biscuits) and drinks and make himself at home. I decided I’d deal with the sleeping situation when I got home. Scribbling a hasty note to Molly explaining that he wasn’t a squatter or a creepy man and that he needed somewhere to stay, I dashed off back to work.
“He’s having a mental breakdown, isn’t he?” Matthew asked upon my return.
I hid my head in my hands, watching as Lockhart posted for some photographs. “I think so,” I conceded sadly. “Has, erm, has Scorpius gone?”
“Your blonde friend? Yes, he left shortly after you did.” Matthew paused to serve a customer. Turning back to me, he frowned. “Is that your boyfriend, then?”
“Sort of,” I admitted glumly. I didn’t really have a word for him that described the whole situation. ‘Stalker’ wasn’t technically correct anymore, but ‘boyfriend’ was way too strong for how I felt. They needed to invent a word for all the Scorpiuses of the world and their poor female friends who were guilt-tripped into going out with them. “It’s complicated.”
Matthew shrugged, apparently not wanting to pry. I half wanted him to ask me more, so that I could moan about it to someone. That was basically the story of my life; I was always needing to moan to somebody.
AN: Thank you so much to everyone who's been reviewing! You all make my day. I have the next chapter written up, but I'm half tempted to add a new chapter inbetween that one and this one so I can't promise the next update will be as fast, but we'll see how it goes. Thanks once again, please keep reviewing :)
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