My morning alarm went off in the shape of Scorpius prodding me in the thigh with a pot of hair gel, over a week after the revelation. I kicked him away in retaliation and rolled over so I wasn’t facing him. He sat on my legs in response until I couldn’t bear the pain any longer and reproachfully got up.
Our routines were becoming worryingly habitual. I knew how Scorpius liked his coffee in a morning and how long he took in the shower. When he broke something, he almost always needed to reparo it twice because his spells weren’t the best. I was getting used to my new living arrangements in the house of a man I never would have thought I’d be friends with. If only Molly could see me now…
I knew what my family thought about my situation. They thought that Molly and I had fallen out because I wanted to live with Scorpius, who was my boyfriend but I was refusing to admit it. They could think whatever they wanted; it wasn’t like me denying it would sway their opinion anyway. Rumours about my life spread as fast and as inaccurately as Chinese whispers and I wasn’t going to be able to stop them.
My parents popped in to see me the other day, bringing with them news about Victoire, Dominique and Teddy. Teddy had gone back to France for an unspecified period of time, for which I was glad. None of us really needed him to be around at this particular moment in time. Victoire probably never wanted to see him again, which unfortunately wasn’t possible when he had to stick around to support Dom and the baby. Mum said that Victoire wasn’t talking to anyone and was just spending her time wandering around her parents’ house in tears, whilst Dominique was avoiding her as much as possible.
I wondered what my grandparents thought of all this. It was surprising my Gran hadn’t decapitated both Dominique and Teddy, to be honest. Family dinners were going to be very uncomfortable in future, I could tell. At least for once I wouldn’t be feeling under pressure to behave myself if all the attention was on them.
“We should go out for dinner or something tonight,” Scorpius said, walking into the bathroom while I was in the middle of a shower.
“Scorpius!” I shrieked, covering myself with my hands. “You can’t just walk in here! I thought I’d locked the door.”
“You had,” he informed me, sitting down on top of the toilet lid. “But I used my wand to open it.”
I sighed. He obligingly turned away whilst I wrapped myself in a towel. “I’m not going to go out with you again.”
“I don’t mean dinner like a date,” he clarified. “I just thought we should do something different.”
I grabbed my toothbrush and started to brush my teeth. “No,” I said through a mouthful of toothpaste.
“Pleeeasse?” he begged.
I shook my head and continued to brush my teeth. He looked dejected and flounced out of the bathroom, leaving me in peace. I struggled not to roll my eyes at his persistence, but he seemed to be losing determination now to keep asking me out.
When I left for work, I felt almost cheerful. Now that the Dominique and Teddy thing was out in the open I didn’t need to worry so much. I had no obligation to do anything, I didn’t have to keep it a secret and knowing that was a relief. Now the only thorn in my side was that Molly hadn’t apologised yet, and probably never would. She was so bloody frustrating.
Matthew was already making tea when I arrived at the shop, looking a bit off colour. He handed me my mug and ducked behind the till whilst I went up to my office. He was acting very oddly, but it was a Monday morning; perhaps he’d had a rough weekend.
I sagged into my desk chair and searched in the drawers for my emergency packet of biscuits. I’d stopped eating them since Molly and I argued out of protest but my resolve was breaking, what with all the drama. I munched on a ginger biscuit thoughtfully and dragged out my massive pile of invoices to sort through. This was the part of the management job I hated; all the paperwork, the number crunching, the organising. Still, at least I didn’t have to do as much admin as Boris, who spent most of his time trying to fix his abacus after he took his frustration out on it.
My eyes were just beginning to droop midway through the morning when there was a knock at the door.
“Come in,” I called, hastily hiding the empty biscuit packet in the nearest desk drawer.
Matthew poked his head round the door. “Rose, could you come down to the shop a second? There’s someone who wants to see you.”
I looked at him suspiciously. “If it’s Molly, I’m not coming downstairs.”
“It’s not,” he assured me. “It’s a healer.”
A healer? There was nothing wrong with me, I was pretty sure. I thought about my health quickly and double-checked that I was in good shape. I hadn’t been ill in ages, unless you counted mentally ill, in which case I was probably very close if not already there. Maybe someone had sent for the healers to sort out my issues; maybe Molly had sent them as some sort of revenge.
I picked up my empty mug and followed Matthew downstairs to the shop floor where a healer stood next to the counter in her work robes.
“Rose Weasley?” she asked as I approached her.
“Yes, that’s me,” I said curiously. I was getting a weird sense of foreboding. Since when did healers just turn up and ask to speak to me personally?
“I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news.”
Oh God, please no.
I clutched Matthew’s hand for support as I trembled. How had everything been so normal this morning when this was about to happen? Shouldn’t there have been thunder and lightning and rain? Why weren’t the people on the street crying? How was life still continuing?
St. Mungo’s was a weird place, I decided as we perched in the waiting room. There were so many people facing the extremes of life under one roof and the air was charged with conflicting emotions. I couldn’t stop shaking despite Matthew’s efforts to comfort me.
“Miss Weasley? Mr Jones?” A healer had popped her head round the door of an office. “Come in.”
I couldn’t let go of Matthew’s hand even if I’d wanted to and I was grateful that he was still holding onto me. I felt faint and nauseous and my head was spinning.
We found ourselves in a small room with a desk and a few chairs. There wasn’t much to show that this was the place where so many people had had their hopes and dreams either revived or dashed. Sat on her own in front of the desk sat Boris’s wife, her hands clutching a handkerchief. She turned when she heard us come in and didn’t bother to wipe away her tears.
“Thank you,” she mumbled as Matthew and I sat down beside her and took her hands in our own. She burst into fresh tears and started sobbing weakly.
I couldn’t make sense of the moment in my head. I was half expecting Boris to walk into the office, smile and tell us it was his late April Fools joke. But he didn’t no matter how much I wanted him to. I was still having trouble processing the fact that this morning he was still my boss and now he was gone forever.
I was expecting more people to turn up to support Boris’s wife (whose name I discovered was Linda) but we were the only visitors. Did Boris not have any family or friends she could ask to see her?
After an hour had passed, I instructed Matthew to return to work and close the shop for the day and then go home. There was no point in either of us trying to act like normal when Boris… I didn’t know how we would ever go back to normal again.
“Will you be okay tonight?” I asked Linda after Matthew had left. “You shouldn’t stay at home on your own. Why don’t you come back with me?”
She nodded numbly, holding onto me tightly as I went to find a healer and explain where we were going. They’d need to contact her about paperwork but that could wait for another day when she wasn’t in complete shock. Once that was done, I found a fireplace and shakily flooed back to Scorpius’s.
He was on his lunch break and looked startled to see me arrive with a companion. He was about to ask a question but I gave him a look that told him not to even go there and he nodded. I settled Linda in the living room before handing her the bottle of firewhiskey. As I disappeared into the kitchen in search of a bar of chocolate Scorpius followed me.
“Who’s that?” he whispered, watching me as I fumbled with the catch on one of the cupboards. He reached around me and undid the lock for me.
“Linda, Boris’s wife,” I said, feeling the emotion build inside me before I had time to compose myself. “Boris… he died, Scorpius. He’s dead.”
I felt myself crying before I could wipe the tears away. Scorpius pulled me into a hug and I clung to him shakily. I was in shock, having finally said the words out loud made it ten times as real and so much worse. I felt dizzy with nausea, my heart pounding erratically inside my chest as I tried not to lose it completely. I had to be strong for Linda, who was surely going through the worst day of her life, but the thought of going to work tomorrow and Boris not being there terrified me.
“What happened?” Scorpius asked when I slipped from his embrace.
“He cracked his skull after falling from a magic carpet,” I told him sadly, realising that it could have been Scorpius or me that had killed ourselves that day when Boris gave us tickets to see the racing for our Valentine’s Day present. It was a bloody dangerous sport. I should have warned Boris not to continue racing; I had seen how risky it was that day in February and I hadn’t said anything. Perhaps if I’d said something Boris might still be alive.
I left Scorpius and went to give Linda the chocolate. She didn’t seem capable of saying much but she gave me a grateful but watery smile. After some firewhiskey, she simply lay down and curled herself into a ball.
I felt exhausted. I couldn’t face watching Linda all day. My heart ached with sadness for her loss and seeing her like this only made it more painful. I didn’t want to think what she was going through. How could she go on knowing that her best friend was gone? Who would she talk to at the end of the day? Who was going to look after her when she felt lonely or ill or down? She’d lost the one person who loved her more than anyone else in the world and she would never get him back.
I wiped my eyes and blew my nose as quietly as I could. “Can you take the afternoon off work?” I asked Scorpius. “There’s something I need to do. Will you stay with her?”
Scorpius smiled encouragingly. “Yes, of course. Will you be alright?”
“I will be,” I told him.
It was the first time I was ringing this doorbell, I thought strangely ten minutes later. Waiting on the front steps felt weird, but I couldn’t very well barge in when I technically didn’t live here anymore.
When she flung the door open, she gave me a strange look. “Finally come to apologise, have you?” she asked. I shook my head. She observed my tearstained cheeks and puffy eyes. “What’s the matter?”
“Boris died,” I told her weakly. Her face seemed to lose its hard expression and she stood back from the door.
“You better come in,” she said softly, letting me pass before she shut the door behind her.
I sat on the sofa quietly whilst she made a pot of tea and arranged some biscuits on a plate. It felt so odd to be sat in my own flat being looked after like a guest. Perhaps she would have looked after me like this even if I was still living here.
“Talk,” she instructed when she joined me.
I sighed deeply, wondering how to start without crying. “He was involved in a racing accident. He’s gone. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
I felt so much calmer in her presence; perhaps it was because she was ordering me about again, but I didn’t need to think about how to behave because she knew me so well. She knew when to let me be and she knew when I needed a bit of help.
“You don’t have to do anything right now,” she said. “Things will change tomorrow, but right now just take the time to let it sink in.”
My lower lips trembled. “I feel so sorry for his wife. She looked broken, Mol.”
Molly let me rest my head against her shoulder. I closed my eyes and relaxed for the first time all day. “That’s what happens when you lose someone you love. She feels lost without him, I’m sure. Just make sure you’re there for her so she can see that one day, things will get better. She won’t be alone forever.”
I let her words sink in. I opened my eyes, sitting up to face her. “I don’t want to lose you too,” I said quietly.
“You haven’t lost me, Rosie,” she responded softly, giving me a squeeze. “I’ve lost you because I was stupid and arrogant.”
“You haven’t lost me either,” I told her, smiling blearily. “I just wish you’d told me the truth.”
“I know,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
I rested my head back on her shoulder and let the weight lift off me. She’d said the words I never thought I would hear from her lips and for now it was exactly what I needed to hear. I didn’t have to go through this alone; Molly knew me like no one else and she wouldn’t let this get the better of me.
“I’m sorry too,” I told her.
Linda barely slept that night. I could hear her tossing and turning on the transfigured sofa from my room. I couldn’t blame her really; who would be able to sleep after the day she’d had? I was struggling to sleep and it wasn’t my husband who had fallen off a magic carpet.
When Scorpius woke me up he didn’t do it with his usual energy. He poked my thigh gently then crawled into bed beside me and stroked my face.
“Scorpius,” I groaned groggily. “Stop it. I feel violated.”
He snatched back his hand and huffed. “I thought you’d want comforting.”
“I do,” I said with a sigh. “But there other ways of cheering me up than crawling into my bed touching me.” I pushed him out of bed and clambered over him to go and get breakfast.
“So you’re going into work today?” he asked curiously as I shrugged on a dressing gown.
“Isn’t that why you woke me up?”
“I just thought you might be taking compassionate leave or something,” he suggested.
I walked through to the kitchen, Scorpius following close behind me. “Someone has to open the shop,” I informed him in a braver tone than I thought I could manage.
“Let Matthew do it,” he said. “You’re in shock. I’ll stay with you, we can just take it easy.”
I honestly could not think of anything worse than being holed up in his house with him and Boris’s wife. No, I needed to pretend like everything was as normal or otherwise I feared I would wallow so much in self-pity and sorrow that I never would resurface. I couldn’t leave Matthew to keep the shop going whilst I took time off. There was so much to do that I didn’t want to leave it for later. I needed to do it now while the pain was fresh so I could heal sooner.
“Moping around here all day isn’t going to help anything,” I retorted. “I need to keep my mind busy.”
I helped myself to a bowl of cereal but found that I couldn’t eat it without feeling sick. I pushed the soggy flakes around the pool of milk and realised there was no point in trying. The thought of eating didn’t really seem very high on my list of priorities right now; there was too much going on in my head for a new sensation on top of everything else.
Finally, I escaped his eternal questioning and left, instructing him to look after Linda whilst I was gone. I would come back to check on her at lunchtime, but I had a feeling she was going to finally doze off at some point this morning when she’d stopped staring straight ahead at the wallpaper.
Letting myself into the shop that morning was one of the hardest things I could ever remember doing. I stood outside, facing the “Closed” sign with an enormous sense of dread in the pit of my stomach. Perhaps I had come back too soon; I definitely wasn’t emotionally equipped to deal with this just yet. Then again, would I ever be? I was the manager, I had certain responsibilities and one of them involved taking charge when things went pear-shaped. Boris trusted me with this job and I wasn’t going to let a little thing like his death get in the way of my duty… was I? It was all very well thinking about going in and being a strong adult and keeping a stiff upper lip, but inside I felt very small and afraid. Standing trembling in front of the door was about all I could manage.
I heard footsteps splashing behind me in puddles I hadn’t noticed. Matthew stood beside me, wrapping an arm around my shoulder and letting me rest my head on his chest. We stood there together for a long time, staring at the shop like we’d never before seen something so bewilderingly sad and difficult. Eventually, he dropped his arm and squeezed my hand.
“Ready?” he asked quietly, holding his keys out for me to take.
My hand trembling, I picked them up and slid the key into the lock.
“I don’t think I ever will be,” I mumbled, tears spilling from my eyes.