Chapter 31 : Ridiculous Relatives
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Three weeks later, I found myself opening up the shop in bright early morning sunshine. May was finally bringing some cheerful weather. It was good to have something to look forward to; in a couple of days, we’d be marking the anniversary of the end of the Second Wizarding War at my grandparents in what was hopefully beautiful weather. That day had always been a strange one for us; we both celebrated Victoire’s birthday and remembered the death of my uncle Fred. As Victoire was no longer around, we were only celebrating the end of the war. I was spending the day with my parents and brother this year rather than the whole family, which was a welcome relief considering the circumstances.
I hadn’t spoken to Molly since the day I moved out. I’d avoided all family gatherings and she had yet to come and see me so I had to assume things were exactly as they were that day. I certainly wasn’t going to be the first one to break our silence. I’d had time to think over what I was going to do about Dominique and Teddy and I’d decided that I was going to do nothing. I would pretend that I knew nothing about it and continue as if I didn’t know. There was no way I was going to talk to Molly before she’d apologised for keeping such a vital secret from me.
I was the first person into the shop that morning, so I went to check on the new deliveries. Peering into the box, I saw it was only another shipment of Divination Daily which oddly only got delivered every two months and they hadn’t seemed to realise that the name of the magazine really ought to be changed to reflect its real nature so that customers didn’t get confused. I started to set them out on their shelf whilst I waited for either Boris or Matthew to arrive.
Boris was the next one through the door, wearing a frilly mac and bonnet. His strange attire no longer caused me to raise an eyebrow, but I thought this one was rather over the top.
“It’s May Day!” he sang cheerfully. “I’m going to dance around a maypole later.”
“That’s nice,” I said blandly. “Well, before you go and do that why don’t you make me a cup of tea?”
Boris grumbled something about who his boss was and disappeared into the back room to do as he was told. I seemed to command some respect at work at least even if not at home. When he returned, he set our mugs down on the counter by the till and observed the shop.
“You’ve been busy this morning,” he pointed out. “More Divination Daily?”
“Yep,” I said, proud that he’d noticed. “Don’t forget we’ve got that meeting today with the publisher.”
Boris waved his hand in dismissal. “I won’t, I won’t. I’ve never missed a meeting with the publisher, have I?”
“No,” I conceded. “But there’s always a first for everything. I consider it my job to make sure you’re organised.”
Boris rolled his eyes and disappeared behind the bookshelves to search for something. I twiddled my thumbs, finally looking up when Matthew arrived.
“Good morning,” he said politely with a nod in my direction.
“Hullo,” I replied, taking gulp of tea. “Do you want me to make you some tea?”
Matthew shook his head. “No, thanks. Actually, I need to talk to you. Can we use your office?”
“Sure,” I said slowly. This sounded rather ominous. Matthew rarely used my office unless he brought me tea whilst I was doing the paperwork. I hoped he wasn’t going to quit his job; I didn’t want to have to interview a whole load more hopeless candidates like last time.
We went upstairs and squeezed into my tiny pigeonhole of an office. “What’s up?” I asked curiously.
“I don’t mean to pry,” he began, running his fingers through his sandy-coloured hair. I couldn’t help but notice that he was a lot closer than I was used to, his tall frame leaning towards me as he bent under the sloping roof. “And I know it’s none of my business, but I had a visit from your cousin last night. I wanted to check everything is okay.”
I grimaced, hoping that he couldn’t read the discomfort on my face. “Molly?”
“No, Lucy,” he replied, looking rather embarrassed himself. I supposed it wasn’t normal to have to offer counselling to your colleague. “She asked me to talk to you. She wants you to go and see Molly.”
I glared at him. “I’m not going to see her,” I stated forcefully. “I’m sorry that my meddling family have been interrupting your private life,” I added, considering the conversation over.
Matthew, however, didn’t seem to get the hint. He was far too nice for his own good, I supposed, not that it made the situation any less awkward. It felt odd to be discussing private matters with him. “What’s going on?”
I sighed, realising that he wasn’t going to drop it until I told him why I’d been so irritable lately. “She’s a back-stabbing, self-centred cow, that’s what’s going on,” I retorted. “I want nothing more to do with her.”
He seemed to understand what I was getting at and nodded in encouragement. “What happened?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said with a heavy sigh. “But I’m not going to forgive her any time soon.”
“I won’t tell anyone,” he assured me. “Boris doesn’t need to know. Maybe I can help.”
“I don’t need to know what?” Boris said from the doorway.
I groaned and squished my face against my desk. “Just leave me alone,” I mumbled into the cool surface.
“What have you done?” Boris scolded Matthew indignantly. He shuffled past Boris and knelt down beside me, not before hitting his head on the sloping roof. “There, there,” he said lamely. “It’s going to be okay.”
I groaned again and tried to ignore his weird back patting technique. He was patting in circles, perhaps drawing a shape on my back that I couldn’t work out. “I hate her,” I grumbled eventually.
“I know,” Boris sympathised. “We all hate her.”
I looked up to see Boris exchanging a bewildered look with Matthew. I appreciated their moral support, but they weren’t exactly helping.
“I moved out,” I said by way of explanation. “We had an argument and I left.”
“What was the argument?” Boris asked.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I repeated sullenly. “Now, don’t you two have work you should be doing? Who’s manning the till?”
Boris and Matthew exchanged another glance, this time one of alarm, and they scampered off downstairs. Left alone in my dark office, I let out a growl of frustration. Had Molly put Lucy up to that little stunt? I couldn’t believe she’d been bothering Matthew about it; that was completely unacceptable. How was I supposed to keep my private and work lives separate if my cousins couldn’t mind their own business?
I decided that today was a day for paperwork. Not that I actually planned on being productive because I was already in too foul a mood to actually do anything useful. Instead, I found a stack of papers I’d been meaning to clear out and started practicing my origami. Mum had been a big fan of making these tiny objects out of folded paper and we’d spent hours when I was a child creating a whole new folded paper world. Focusing on folding the tiny petals of a rose took my mind off my greater troubles, and when I touched it with my wand it blossomed into life, blooming on my desk. Next I set to making a paper owl, which l fluttered around my office once finished.
Paper companions made much better ones than humans, I decided as the owl perched on top of an empty tea mug and blinked at me. They didn’t argue with you and call you rude and they certainly didn’t allow you to humiliate yourself. In fact, I didn’t know why I didn’t just leave all society and surround myself with origami. At least they couldn’t hurt me.
It was as I was thinking that when I lost my concentration and my finger slipped. I felt a sharp pain in my index finger and looked down to find myself bleeding from a paper cut. So much for origami not being able to hurt me. There probably wasn’t anything in the world that wasn’t harmful.
I heard footsteps on the stairs a few hours later and realised that the publishers had arrived. I smoothed down my skirt, which was probably creased from prolonged sitting, and poked my head around my door into the corridor.
“Ah, here’s the woman herself,” Boris said when he noticed me. He was huddled in the corridor with two tall women who looked alarmingly alike; I was going to go all out and assume they were sisters. “This is the manager, Rose Weasley,” he explained.
I was a bit taken aback by the two women. They seemed far too glamourous to be tied up in the publishing industry and I was willing to bet that they spent more time on their appearance than reading books. They both had dyed blonde hair, with immaculately styled robes. The woman on the left of Boris had a slightly crooked nose, but other than that they were strikingly flawless.
“Hello,” I said, extending my hand to both of them in turn. They both shook it firmly.
“It’s exciting to finally meet you after all we’ve heard,” the lady with the crooked nose said with a small smile. “I’m a big fan of your family.”
Oh no; please don’t let them have a crush on my Dad. I would be extremely mortified if they were Harry Potter fan girls too. They were less and less numerous as time went on and they aged, but occasionally we came across these fanatics who wouldn’t leave us alone.
“That’s nice,” I said warmly. “I’m not.”
They both giggled daintily while Boris looked at me darkly. He took that as his cue to let us into his office.
“Come in,” he said pointedly.
I joined Boris on his side of the desk and conjured a chair. We all sat down together and proceeded to stare at each other until I cleared my throat.
“So,” I started. “You’re here to tell us about the August shipment of the Hogwarts textbooks, I presume.”
“That’s right,” the lady with the non-crooked nose nodded. “We’ve brought all the relevant paperwork for you, with details of dates, titles, prices and quantities.”
“Perfect,” I said, taking a stack of parchment from her. I flicked through the pages as Boris discussed fees with the ladies. My eyes fell on the list of set textbooks and widened in horror.
“There must be some mistake,” I interrupted. All three of them turned to look at me. “All these books are by Gilderoy Lockhart. They were banned by the Department of Magical Education nearly thirty years ago - we can’t sell them as textbooks.”
The publishers frowned. “This list was set by the DME,” the crooked-nosed one said. “We don’t have a say in what they choose, we just publish as required.”
I could see what was going on here; Gilderoy Lockhart, like the slimy politician he was, had got his foot in the door of the DME and was setting his books as required reading. No doubt he’d make a killing in sales and it would build up his political profile at the same time.
“That can’t be legal,” I argued. “How can a politician provide educational books? It’s ridiculous.”
The ladies shrugged. “It’s not up to us,” one said. “You’ll have to take it up with the DME.”
“I bloody well will,” I countered, writing myself a post-it note and sticking it to the desk.
I was really quite angry about the whole thing. The potential future Minister for Magic was definitely not allowed to choose what books children did and didn’t read. He could have any number of hidden motives that weren’t immediately obvious. Maybe if you read the book backwards it said “Support Gilderoy Lockhart”, or every other word was “vote” and “lock” and “hart”. Hogwarts students should not be allowed to be brainwashed. My mother would be most disillusioned with Lockhart when she found out.
When the publishers finally left, I told Boris I was taking the afternoon off and dashed out of the shop. I didn’t really have a plan, but I was going to head towards the Ministry to see if I could sort out what I considered to be a grave educational mess.
It wasn’t far from Diagon Alley, luckily, so I took the opportunity to walk there and enjoy the May sunshine. I dug my hands in my pockets and I was surprised to feel something sharp jab my right hand. I fished around until I grabbed a small piece of card and brought it up so I could read: it was Henry Devon’s business card. I thought for a moment and decided to make him my first stop to see if he thought I had a case. He was involved in law, he would know what steps I should take.
I found the red phone box I was looking for and stepped inside. I picked up the receiver, and upon hearing the dialling tone pinned in the number that would get me inside. Nothing happened. I bashed the numbers in again, my fingers slipping slightly. The phone rang this time and I heard the click at the other end I was waiting for.
“Hullo?” I gruff male voice said on the other end.
“Hi?” I asked hesitantly. I’d visited the Ministry of Magic before and I didn’t remember this happening. “Is that the Ministry of Magic?”
There was a throaty cough on the other end of the line. “Do I sound like a flippin’ magician to you? Go an’ bother someone else with your silly little tricks.”
The dialling tone returned as he hung up and I was left utterly confused inside what was apparently the wrong telephone box. I stepped outside again and looked around. I was sure I was in the right place, but then again I thought most of London looked the same anyway. I walked around the corner and saw another telephone box, pretty much identical. I tried that one and typed the number in again.
“Is that you again? I don’t like magic tricks, sod off!”
Sighing, I realised I was going to have to try all the phone boxes in the area until I found the one I was looking for. On my fifth try I finally found the right one, feeling extremely relieved when I finally disappeared beneath the level of the pavement.
I felt like a little lost lamb when I finally stepped out of the telephone box and joined the crowds streaming to and from the atrium. I elbowed my way through dozens of wizards until I reached the reception.
“Wand, please,” the lady behind the desk said in a bored voice. I handed my wand over and waited for her to look at me.
“Hi,” I said when she caught my eye. “I’m looking for the Magical Law Enforcement department. Could you point me in the right direction?”
She flicked her wrist towards a large sign with a list of departments and their location and looked straight past me at the person behind me. Honestly, how rude did people have to be these days? It would have been just as quick for her to tell me where to go herself. I sulked off to inspect the list and discovered I needed to go up a few floors. Heading towards the lifts, I flicked the business card in my pocket. I hoped he didn’t think I was impertinent by turning up unannounced, but I felt weird about asking for a stranger’s opinion. Henry Devon wasn’t exactly a friend, but I’d met him before so he didn’t count as a stranger either.
When I strolled through the archway to the right department, I poked my head around a partition wall.
“Hello?” I called, looking around for signs of movement. The office was deathly quiet and still, except for the whirring of a strange-looking instrument coming from the empty reception. “Is there anyone there?”
I listened whilst I held my breath and heard the sound of laughter coming from the end of the long corridor. I trotted down to the other end and found a glass wall separating the corridor from what appeared to be a meeting room. About twenty witches and wizards were huddled into the room together. I cleared my throat and knocked on the glass door.
“Hi,” I said breathlessly as they all fell silent and peered at me. “I’m looking for Henry Devon.”
Henry poked his out from between two very portly-looking wizards and grinned. “Give me a second.”
I ducked out of the office and waited for him to extract himself from the fray. He slid out of the room and closed the door behind him.
“Miss Weasley,” he said, looking at me curiously. “How nice to see you again. What can I do for you?”
I smiled at his warm greeting. “I need your advice on something.”
He nodded. “Follow me.” He led me back down the corridor and into the main floor of the office. He ducked behind a partition wall and conjured a chair for me at his desk. “Take a seat,” he instructed.
I sat primly on the edge of the chair and began to explain the situation to him.
“You see,” I was saying. “I don’t think it’s right for any politician to influence the teaching of impressionable children.”
“Hmm,” Henry replied thoughtfully. “Well, I think you could have a case. The ban on those books being used in Hogwarts hasn’t yet been lifted.”
I frowned. “Yet?”
“We can assume that Lockhart has friends on the Wizengamot,” Henry explained. “He’s running for Minister, he must have connections. If you challenge the DME over this he’s likely to get involved. That’s not to say you wouldn’t win, of course.”
I sighed. “I don’t think so,” I said dejectedly. “They’re not going to listen to me over the future Minister. And if he did win the next election, he’d just change the law back anyway.”
“It’s worth pursuing. Couldn’t your Mum pull some strings? She’s pretty high up.”
I really loathed how I had to resort to using my parents to sort stuff out for me. Wasn’t there going to be anything I could do in my own right without depending on them?
“Yeah,” I said with a shrug. “I suppose.”
“Talk to her,” Henry advised. “She might have just the thing you need.”
I thanked him and scarpered out of there pretty sharpish; I could tell he was about to go all worship-y on my Mum, something which usually bored me. He had that look of reverence in his eyes when her name was mentioned.
I made my way back to work grudgingly and started when I saw a familiar face waiting for me in front of the till.
“Hi Lucy,” I said, feeling slightly suspicious. “What are you doing here?”
I knew exactly why she was here; she’d no doubt come to check if Matthew had passed on whatever message she’d given him.
“I’ve come to knock some sense into you,” Lucy informed me forcefully, glaring menacingly at me over the counter.
I sighed; I really didn’t have the energy for this. “Not literally, I hope.”
She huffed. “Stop being pedantic. I’ve come to tell you that you’re being pathetic and need to sort out your differences with Molly. Someone has to be the better person and I think you’re the most likely candidate.”
I narrowed my eyes. “You mean, I’m the one most likely to give in first? Well I’m not going to apologise first this time. Try talking to Molly instead, she’s the one with the problem.”
Lucy groaned in frustration. “You are both being idiots. Neither of you are happy like this - it doesn’t take a genius to work out what you have to do.”
“I don’t have to do anything,” I argued, trying to appear indifferent but failing massively. “You’re wasting your breath. Try convincing Molly she’s done something wrong; you might have better luck than I did.”
My young cousin didn’t look particular impressed with my tone and she narrowed her eyes dangerously. “I’m not going to let it go, Rose. Molly’s being a right pain without you around and I’m rather sick of it. Sort yourself out and go and talk to her.”
With that, she marched out of the shop and slammed the door behind her.
Matthew looked at me with an eyebrow raised. “You have lovely relatives.”
I shrugged. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said swiftly. “I’ve never seen her before in my life.”
Matthew laughed as I slid down the wall behind the till and groaned until I hit the floor. Bloody family.
AN: It's a bit of a roller coaster ride from here on out, but the end is creeping closer! Thank you so much for all the support, reads, reviews, and favourites - 10 reviews on the last chapter? You all made my week :) Thank you, I hope you're still enjoying. -Marina
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