Chapter 2 : Lamb Stew
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Chapter 2: Lamb Stew
"I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over.
Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center."
One thing that kind of bugs me, is when someone you were close with for a long time goes away, doesn't make any effort at all to contact you, and then when they come home, you get a big cheerful hug as if everything is okay. As if never for one second did you stop being friends.
Well as far as I'm concerned, after two months of not speaking to someone, you stop being friends. James left and didn't so much as owl me for three years. I take that as 'I don't have time to know you anymore.
"Four years changes a person," I told a heartbroken James. He was looking at me as if I had no more love in my heart.
As I was putting my apron on at the beginning of my shift, James came running in and tackled me from behind. He kissed me on the cheek, and I pushed him away screaming for help. I thought he was a lunatic from the street.
He didn't look like the same person as when he left. I was standing there looking at my old James, and he had hair all over his face. He had grown a beard, and so I had no choice at first but to think he was crazy. But that's what he is now anyways. James is a stranger to me. I don't know what he does, or who he talks to, or what went through his head about that beard. I probably don't even know what his favorite color was anymore. He changed, and he never stopped to tell me how and in which ways.
"C'mon Rory, you were always my darling little girl. I'm crazy about you," he said as I fixed us both some tea. "I'm sorry, could I have a coffee?"
I peered at him testily as I put the kettle down, and went over to the coffee maker. See? A stranger.
"Who are you?" I mumbled. He was making me feel uncomfortable
"I'm not the only one who changed, you know."
He waited until I was done getting our beverages for me to say anything.
"I haven't changed."
"Yes you have!" he cried.
"How could I have changed, nothing in my life is different than before."
"Well look at you, you're not little anymore, are you?" I looked down at myself and shrugged. "You're gorgeous!"
"Thank you," I said dryly.
"And you used to be so much more quiet. You always used to be the one who never, ever spoke her mind."
I huffed in distress. This was distressing! "What are you doing home?"
Right after James graduated, he moved to South Africa with a girlfriend. She broke up with him a few months later and came back, but he stayed there because he fell in love with his job at the Magical Creature Refuge. It was then that he grew a beard, probably...
He looked around the room as he said, "I figured it was time to come home and see everyone."
"When are you going back?"
He looked into my face and smiled. "When I feel like I've accomplished something here."
When he had said that, a shiver went up my spine, because for a small moment, the characteristic twinkle in James's eye shone through like wild fire. I could even see the crookedness of his smile through all of that hair. Also it just seemed like such a James-ish thing to say. He was always so mysteriously charming.
James took a few more sips of his coffee and then got up and left so that he could go, as he said, 'reacquaint himself with England.'
When I was little I admired James very much. Albus was closer in age, and I even had a small crush on the younger brother for a while, but to me James was different. He was a bit too old for me to ever really fancy him, but I always knew that potentially, I could one day fall in love with him. Deep down in my heart, and also in my mother's heart I think, I always thought I'd end up with one of the Potter boys.
James stopped being a part of my life, and Albus had grown to be too much like a brother.
But then there was Lorcan too.
I got my first owl from Lorcan that morning right after I woke up. Reading at first, I was really excited and happy to hear from him. I conversed with the unopened letter for about five minutes before realizing that that isn't a normal thing to do.
He wrote briefly about some of the people he met so far, and how the weather is hot and dry in western America. He said in three different parts of the letter that he wished I was there with him. It's silly though, because I hate hot weather, and I have no interest in haunted Indian graveyards.
during reading it I cried a little, but that's only because I kind of miss him.
If I ever wanted to look at him, though, I would only have to walk to the Daily Prophet headquarters and talk to his twin. They look exactly alike.
Scorpius came again that night. He slipped in while I was busy making dinner out back for a group of old witches. I used magic to cook a pizza right over the fire.
I smiled at Scorpius as I walked past him into the dining room with the pizza.
"Pizza is gross," I said when I got back to behind the counter.
"What?" was all he could say about it.
"I don't like pizza," I repeated, carving a line into the counter with a fork.
"I don't know what to say," he replied dryly. After a long few moments of unsure silence, he settled on: "Are you mad?"
"I don't know, maybe everyone else is mad for liking pizza, and I'm the only sane one." He shook his head in disbelief. "Oh shit, I've upset you." I sighed and got up to fix us both some tea. "I have to teach myself to stop talking about my ardent dislike of pizza. I think I have offended too many people."
"Do you have a good reason?"
"By my standards, yes, I do."
I put his mug down in front of him, and sat down. The light above us flickered, causing the color in his eyes to change as his gaze changed from the tea to my face.
"Okay, I'm ready for it."
"Well first of all, I'm lactose intolerant." I shifted in my seat. "I can eat dairy, but I would need to take a potion afterwards to stop my stomach from aching. Lorcan would always take the cheese off for me, and I ate it that way." My heart skipped a little upon mentioning Lorcan. It felt so personal that it made me feel uncomfortable, but I kept going. "He used to tell me that I was just jealous that everyone could enjoy pizza, and I had to wash it down with a gross potion."
Scorpius bowed his head slightly and squinted his eyes at me.
"Lorcan Scamandar?" he asked. I nodded, just wanting to get on with my story. "He was your boyfriend wasn't he? An excellent beater, that one."
I felt embarrassed at the comment. Lorcan and I weren't really together until the end of seventh year. It also struck me that Scorpius would notice such a thing. I'm not surprised at the bit about quidditch, but I never suspected my doings to be noticed by people like Scorpius.
"Erm – yeah, anyways. I am a picky eater, and red-sauce, although I used to eat it without a problem, I just don't like anymore. Tomatoes in general, actually. I ate pizza every now and then until one day I heaved up some of it after lunch, and now the thought of it nauseates me."
He nodded his head as I waited for a reply. He never said anything, so I gulped the rest of my tea and brought it over to the bar sink. I stayed there to organize the bottles of liquor.
It was a long time before he said anything.
"Well it looks like you make pretty good pizza, anyways."
"Thank you," I said over my shoulder. I really like it when people compliment my cooking. It's not one of my most favorite things to do, but I get stupid pleasure from watching people enjoy the food I make.
When one of the old women came to pay me later on, I counted the baubles coming off of her shawl. There were seven of them, and that bothered more than it should have. I noticed that Scorpius wasn't there anymore, and it bothered me that he didn't say goodbye.
So when I found the note my mum left for me asking me to sweep the floor, I was all sorts of peeved.
About ten minutes after I started, I heard the bell on the door ring, and Scorpius came through. He went back to his place at the bar counter and opened up the prophet.
I walked over to him. "Why don't you ever have anything to do?" I asked. It was the first time I wasn't on the other side of a table from him. He had stubble on his face, and he smelled of cigarettes.
I wanted to take back what I said. If someone said that to me, I wouldn't know what to say in reply. Whatever he's avoiding by coming here instead is not my business.
"I'm not one to talk." I laughed nervously. "The only things I do are sleep, read, and sit around here at night." No comment again.
I didn't go to sleep for quite a while after I got home from work. Right away I stripped down to my underwear, like I always do – it's my favorite part about having my own flat, otherwise I would probably still live with my parents.
For a while I browsed my old standard book of spells textbook, and memorized a jinx called 'lens lentil' that curses someone with freckles.
If Lorcan were there with me I would definitely curse him with freckles. I imagined sharing a laugh with him.
After that I turned on the radio to irrelevant news from the wizarding world. I spent most of my time lying on my bed, looking at the ceiling and not listening.
It's only been two weeks since Lorcan left, I think about him often. Usually I would be with him, as if we were charmed together, so it makes sense that I don't really know how to substitute his absence with productivity.
At one point I sat in front of the mirror and practiced braiding my hair a new way. I fell asleep on my desk with all of the lights on.
I'm not an anti-social person; I'm just not the type of person who 'goes out' to see friends for some reason. That's why I like Candace Smart, the girl who works at the WitchWear in Diagon Alley. When she started coming in everyday for dinner, we quickly became friends. I like her. She's fresh-faced and sweet. A bit naïve at times, but we get along.
I've never seen her outside of the cauldron, but when I see her, we talk like old friends. I quite like the way that works.
Everyone else I consider close friends are like kin anyways. I grew up with the Potters and Weasleys, and even the Scamandar boys, although their parents traveled a lot. If I didn't grow up with my parents dragging me to every extended family dinner, then Albus, Rose, Louis and I probably wouldn't have made it as friends. Nowadays, we know too much to abandon each other.
I stick with them because they are the closest things to siblings that I have.
A few days later at work, I was up on the counter trying to get a hanging basket down when I heard the bell ring as someone came in. It was about eleven o'clock.
"I'd get up there and fetch it for ya, if I didn't have such a terrible heart, honey," said Herb, the sweetest regular I have. He was sitting next to Mitch, who huffed at Herb's offer of wonderful kindness.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Scorpius sit down on a stool, watching me carefully the whole time.
"Hullo," I said to him skeptically.
"Evening," he replied.
"Why don't you get up there and help her, boy," said Herb.
"I'm just a bit too short," I said sheepishly, but Scorpius was already climbing up when I had said it. Standing next to him, he was about a whole head taller than me. Easily, he plucked the basket from its hook, and placed it into my hands. He was already off the counter before I could thank him.
But then he offered up his hand to me to help me down.
It was nice of him, I guess.
I walked around and grabbed a cloth for the basket, and watched as he took off his jacket and then sit on it. "Are you hungry?" I was going to ask him if he was bored, but I remembered from the other night that by saying that, I would be mocking him. "A couple in one of the rooms upstairs is having me make a lamb stew, and it's almost done."
"Umm..." he scratched the back of his neck. Obviously struggling with something more than just the acceptance my offer.
"Don't decide until you see it," I said, placing the rolls carefully in the basket.
I looked up to chance his expression. He was already looking at me. At that point I didn't know what to do, so I held his gaze. He was unafraid to look back at me, so I got a good long glimpse of his eyes.
First thing I noticed was the cloudy grey color, but that was forgotten when I was hit with the eerie numbness stamped into his stare.
Too hard to look at.
I spun around suddenly and went into the kitchen. The stew was done, so I levitated it out onto the cooler near Scorpius.
"Would'ya look at that," breathed Herb. I spotted Mitch smelling the air. I looked over to Scorpius, jutting my hip and leaning one hand against the counter like I was priding myself for overcoming a great hardship.
"There's enough for everyone," I said, and Mitch in the corner laughed.
I prepared two plates for the couple upstairs, being careful to make it look neat. I poured two glasses of milk and set it all on a platter and levitated it upstairs.
When I got back downstairs, Scorpius had moved over to sit next to the two old men who were showing him their hands. Upon getting closer I realized they were telling which scars they got where and when. Herb had spent many of his years with muggles in war-zones, so he has plenty of skin-stories.
I filled four bowl of the soup and brought over the basket of rolls. Scorpius immediately seized up uncomfortably.
"Erm, Rory –" It was the first time I ever heard him say my name. "I don't have my wallet with me, you don't have to feed me."
This was Scorpius Malfoy. Probably the richest person I knew. Or sort of knew anyways. The fact that he didn't have his wallet was weird, but even stranger was the fact that he came to a restaurant without any money.
Of course I wasn't going to have him pay if he couldn't, but I felt awkward just giving it to him. I wanted to be as warm as Rose. She would have just flicked her hand as if pushing away the matter, and laughed. She would have told him how ridiculous it was that he thought he had to pay for the stew.
"Those people upstairs are paying enough for all five of us," I said, pushing the bowl towards him.
By the expression on his face, I could tell he didn't want to take the handout.
"Just pay me back next time," I said, and he nodded.
"Yeah," he said with a smile.
I got up and filled myself a pint of beer.
"Indulging tonight, are we Rory?" hollered Mitch. I'm not allowed to drink on the job, but who's to know anyways.
"I can't have stew without some beer. Are you sure you're not an alcoholic, Scorpius?" His name felt weird in my mouth.
"Last time I checked, no." He said, picking up his head from his devouring of the food. I took that as a direct answer. I filled a second glass.
I ended having a really nice time, just sitting and talking, drinking. After the second round, Scorpius opened up to me somewhat, and after Mitch and Herb called it a night, it was just me and Scorpius, bantering.
He made fun of me for the words 'don't forget pie' written on my hand, and I laughed at the odd way he pronounced the word bagel.
We discussed the new novel in the Cornucopia Donaldson Mystery series, and how many times the main character throws his new love/hate interest up against the wall and snogs the living daylights out of her.
And then he started telling me about a rough decision he was having in his life.
He brought our vague acquaintanceship to a weird semi-personal level again. Just like the time he commented about Lorcan. It brought the established 'I know who you are, but let's pretend that we don't just because' thing to the surface. We had even surpassed the name-barrier. It was still weird.
"I work with my two friends, Ryan and Florence, and we are always in close quarters."
Ryan and Florence, I knew – and everyone else, it being so apparent – had been together since fifth year.
"They're getting married and leaving to go live in Bath later this summer." He looked me straight in the eye. "The only thing I like about my job, other than the pay, is being able to see my friends every day."
There was a long pause as he scrutinized me, trying to get me see the dire nature of his dilemma.
"Should I quit?"
He was asking me advice. what about me says, you can trust my judgement? I went over to the tap and filled my glass again, thinking about my answer the while.
"Are they going to be replaced?" I asked.
"Yes, probably," he replied.
"Than what I think you should do is make friends with the new people."
"What?" The response I gave him seemed to confuse.
"The longer you keep a job, the better, and since the pay is good, you shouldn't quit. But at the same time you want to enjoy your time there, so you have no choice to become friends with your new coworkers."
It was so simple and stupid. What if the new people were insuffereable? I shouldn't have said that because I'm really good at hating people merely because they annoy me. I'm such a hipocrite. He was quiet for a long time, but then finally, he looked up at me and inclined his head.
"Okay," he said, and then as an afterthought: "You make it seem so obvious."
"It's pretty obvious to me." Lie.
Later, on his way out the door for the night, Scorpius turned around for a last word. "I might have to ask advice from you more often, you know."
I nodded, and he left.
Within the first few hours of getting home the next morning, my flat was screaming angrily about how empty it was.
The problem was becoming more and more apparent these days.
What is Scorpius avoiding? Do you like James? I do, he's fun to write. We'll all meet the new girl next chappy, and Candace Smart will make an appearance.
Please tell me what you think!