When Scorpius prodded me awake, a heavy sense of dread filled the pit of my stomach. It was ten days after Boris had died and I would be attending the funeral later. I grimaced at the thought of it; I’d never been to a funeral before and I was sort of expecting the worst. Lots of people sobbing and wailing, Boris’s corpse smiling up at us from an open coffin… I was a bit jittery about the whole thing. Of course, when Linda, Boris’s wife, had invited me, I felt like I should go. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go and pay my respects and offer her some moral support, but I could do that without having to witness the emotional trauma that was supposedly attached to funerals.
“You must wear black,” Molly had instructed when I’d visited her the night before to sort out what I was going to wear. “But not too much black, you don’t want to look morbid. Trust me, I’m very good at dressing for funerals.”
I didn’t doubt that; most of her mum’s side of the family had popped their clogs quite regularly in the last ten years and she’d managed to attend all of their funerals.
“Black, but not too much black,” I had repeated. A bit bewildered, I’d returned to my upturned suitcase and rummaged through my clothes until I found my black robes and coupled them with some grey shoes. There: black, but not too black, even if it didn’t really go.
“I don’t want to go,” I mumbled now to Scorpius as he continued to poke my knee. “Don’t make me go.”
He jabbed my knee a bit harder. “Don’t be so pathetic,” he scolded. “Funerals aren’t that bad. It’s polite to go.”
“I hate being polite,” I muttered into my pillow. I was about to shut my eyes and go back to sleep, but Scorpius unceremoniously grabbed my ankles and hauled me out of bed. “Okay, I’m up, I’m up,” I protested, shaking him off. He grinned with satisfaction, stealing the duvet from the bed and marching out of the door.
I grumbled as I found the shower and started to wake up. He’d probably put me in a bad mood now for the rest of the day. As much as I appreciated his wake-up calls, he didn’t exactly always trigger a good frame of mind.
When I was ready to leave, Scorpius gave me an encouraging hug and sent me off with an overenthusiastic wave. If he was honest, this was probably the happiest time of his life so far. It was so obvious that he really enjoyed looking after me and playing host. He hadn’t even been too lecherous with me, thankfully, so it was a lot less awkward living with him than I thought it would be. It wasn’t a patch on living with Molly though, I had come to realise, and it was almost time for me to eat my humble pie and return to my flat.
I arrived at a church tucked away behind a street of houses near to where Linda lived. It had that eerie silence about it that always made me think of magic; there were clearly some enchantments on the place to keep any wandering Muggles out. The church itself was a small stone building with a tiny spire, surrounded by a patchwork of old and newer graves. I tried not to read any of the names on the headstones in case I recognised the family and made me feel even sadder than I already was. I hadn’t even noticed that I was trembling slightly.
Opening the oak door to the church, I poked my head inside and saw Linda hovering at the front of the aisle, polishing the coffin lid morosely. There was no one else in the church, so I assumed I was a bit early. As I approached her, I saw that she was crying freely, tears splashing on the newly polished wood to be wiped away by her cloth almost immediately.
“Linda?” I prompted gently as she squirted more polish onto the wood. She jumped as my words echoed around the arches of the old building.
“Rose,” she said as she turned around. “Thank you so much for coming.” She pulled me into a tight hug which lasted a lot longer than I was comfortable with. Eventually I prised myself free and took a seat at a pew whilst I waited for more people to arrive.
The silence was getting to be a bit oppressive after a while; only one other person had arrived to pay their respects and he had sat down at the very back of the church, pretty much as far away from me and Linda with the coffin as he possibly could. I was longing for Matthew to arrive so he could make the tension a little less noticeable.
He finally arrived, wrapped in a wool coat very well suited for the cool of the church, giving Linda a consoling kiss on the cheek before joining me near the front.
“Finally,” I said with a relieved smile.
He looped his arm around the crook of my elbow and held my hand in his. I was gripping his hand a little harder than was probably appropriate, but it was the only way to stop myself actually thinking about the day ahead. If I could stop my hands trembling, I could prevent myself from crying too.
“Do you need a bit of Dutch courage?” he asked, pulling a silver hip flask from his pocket. I took it from him with my free hand and sipped at the fiery liquid within. I instantly felt warmer. I sipped at the flask again before handing it back to him so he could drink. “Have you brought plenty of tissues?”
“Um.” I dug around in my pocket and found only an empty chocolate wrapper. It had been a while since I’d worn these robes and clearly the last thing I used them for was to hide evidence of a midnight feast. “No.”
Matthew handed me a clean handkerchief and smiled. “I know I’ll be crying like a baby soon so I came prepared.”
I smiled with him, appreciating the warmth of his hand on mine and the support he was offering me today when I was ready to feel very alone and scared for my future. I hadn’t talked to Matthew about it, but I didn’t know what was going to happen with the shop. Linda hadn’t said anything about change of ownership, so I imagined she was going to come out of retirement and take over Boris’s job. I hoped that meant that both mine and Matthew’s full time jobs were secure (I didn’t really care much for the part-time assistants, who spent more time reading magazines than they did selling books).
“We should do this properly, you know,” Matthew said quietly.
“What?” I asked, confused. “Cry at funerals?”
“No,” he said with a grin highly inappropriate for anyone’s funeral. He waggled the hip flask in front of us. “Have a drink.”
“Oh,” I responded. Was he asking me out at a funeral? “Really?”
“Really. I’ve been thinking that life is much too short and if I do fall off a magic carpet in the near future, I want to die knowing that I’ve taken you out for a drink.”
I raised my eyebrows. “That’s a bit morbid, isn’t it?”
“Is it?” he asked with an apologetic shrug. “It sounded a lot better in my head, I must admit.”
I found that I had to fight the urge to laugh, which probably wouldn’t have been that appropriate given the circumstances. I looked at Matthew, his sandy hair flopping over his eyes and a silly grin on his face and decided there was no harm in it. He was right; if Boris had taught us anything, it was that life was very short indeed. I nodded.
“I’d like that,” I told him as the organist struck up a chord and began a very grim choice of funeral march. “I’d like that a lot.”
I couldn’t help it; I was almost on the verge of both laughing and crying. Only at Boris’s funeral would there be something so depressing as this tune. I hoped Linda hadn’t noticed my weird screwed up face as I tried to control my conflicting emotions. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be sad, because I knew it was highly appropriate to feel very sad that we’d lost Boris, but at the same time the organist was playing as many wrong notes as she was correct ones. In many ways, it was strangely cathartic. Even though something completely unexpected and shocking had happened, we were all coping. Life went on.
After the service, we trooped outside to watch as Boris’s coffin was lowered into the ground, gone forever. I hadn’t let go of Matthew’s hand and it didn’t strike me as odd; it felt so natural to hold onto him and so comforting to know he was holding onto me too. We said our own goodbyes to Boris, walking away hand in hand from Linda as she said her own private words to her husband.
“Rose!” Linda called after me as we reached the graveyard gate. “Wait!”
I turned, finally letting go of Matthew’s hand and feeling a cool breeze on my palm where his hand had been.
“I need to talk to you about something,” Linda said quickly, as if she was worried that I wasn’t going to wait for her to finish talking. “Have you got a moment?”
“Sure,” I said. I looked behind me and saw Matthew was waiting for me, leaning on the wall and staring off into the distance.
Linda chewed on her lip, a technique I often used to hold back tears. “Well,” she said after she’d managed to evade tears. “We need to talk about the shop, now that Boris…” She paused, wiping her fingers across the bottom of her eyes. “Now that Boris… well, we need someone to run the shop. As you know, we have no family, at least none who would handle the responsibility.” She wiped her eyes again. “I was wondering if you would consider discussing the possibility of taking over the shop?”
I stared at her, this little dumpy lady about to burst into tears, and almost hugged her. “Are you serious?” I asked incredulously. “You want me to run the shop?”
Linda nodded. “We can do all the required paperwork; we can transfer it into your name and everything. There’s no way I’d be able to keep the shop profitable and you know it better than anyone else. Boris would have wanted you to have it.”
I couldn’t think of anything else to say other than “thank you”, wrapping Linda up in a massive hug. I turned to Matthew with a huge grin on my face, joining him by the wall and slipping my hand in his.
“You’re looking at your new boss,” I informed him as he held the gate open for me.
“You were already my boss,” he said mildly, not able to stop himself from smiling in return.
“I’m double your boss now,” I told him. “Linda’s given me the shop.”
His eyes widened, and then he pulled me into his arms and spun me around. “That’s wonderful, Rose!”
I grinned, blushing slightly when he set me down. “Well, don’t think I’m going to go easy on you,” I said sternly. “I’m going to insist every employee has a biscuit with their tea.”
He pulled a face. “I hate you already.”
There was so much to be done, I realised as we walked to a safe Apparition point. I had to clear Boris’s office out for a start, something that I had been putting off since he died. I didn’t want to face a room that was so obviously his, littered with both his possessions and joint memories. He’d tried to hide in there when he’d been having problems with Linda, where I had found him crying and sniffling in the dark. It was strange to think that Linda had thought I was involved with Boris then, especially now that I knew her a bit better. At least they had made up before it had been too late.
I realised that I was going to miss Boris incredibly. His mood swings had been intolerable and he had been a rather unpredictable boss, but I had liked that about him. It made working at Flourish and Blotts a very unique experience and compared to his slapdash way of life I always felt normal.
We needed new employees, new salaries, a new manager… “Matthew?” I asked as we prepared to Apparate. “Would you be interested in taking the manager job?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” he said with a grin. “We’ll sort it out on Monday. Don’t worry about it for now.”
And, just like that, I stopped worrying.
When I arrived back at Scorpius’s later, he greeted me with a beady eye.
“Where have you been?” he asked suspiciously. I grinned at him. “You look too happy to have been at the funeral all this time.”
“I went back to work to finish off some bits and pieces,” I said, defending myself.
“Hmm,” he said, eyes squinting at me and lips pouting. “Why are you so cheerful?”
I grinned, grabbing him by the arms and twirling him around in a circle. “I got a promotion,” I sang, beaming.
“A promotion?” he asked, falling out of my twirling very ungracefully. “To what?”
“Linda’s given me the shop,” I told him, skipping around the hallway in glee. “I’m a shop owner, Scorpius! I’ve got my own business. I’m going up in the world.” He tried to look pleased for me, I thought, but he sort of looked a bit downtrodden. I sighed heavily. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing,” he said petulantly. “It’s just, you’re not going to have time for me now you’re all important and stuff.”
I rolled my eyes. “Of course I’ll have time for you,” I told him. “When I have I ever not had time for you?” He looked at me as if to say, you know exactly when, and didn’t say anything in return. I sighed, admitting that he had a point. “Look, I’m going to be busy, but not too busy to hang out with you. Don’t worry about it.”
He shrugged, disappearing into his room to go and sulk or something. Honestly, that boy was so moody. I retreated into the kitchen to make him a cup of coffee as a way of saying sorry when the doorbell rang.
Scorpius clearly wasn’t coming out of his room so I went to answer the door. Dominique stood on the doorstep, looking slightly sheepish.
“Hi,” I said, wondering how she knew where I was and what on Earth she was doing here.
“Hello,” she replied distantly. “Can I come in?”
“Erm.” I looked behind me to check that Scorpius hadn’t decided to suddenly sneak up on me. “Okay.”
I took her into the living room and offered her coffee, which she declined.
“I need to say sorry,” Dom said after I continued to wait for her to speak. She held her hands over her bump and looked down at the floor. “I know everyone’s very disappointed and angry at me for what I did, but I never meant for it to do this to the family.” She looked up at me to see my reaction. I remained pretty impassive, waiting for her to finish. “I know it’s driven Victoire and me apart, and you and Teddy, and you and Molly. I know I’ve made a mess of everything but I love our family and I want them to love my baby too.”
I looked at my cousin from her swelling stomach to her begging eyes and knew it wasn’t my place to hold a grudge; only Victoire had that right. “I wish you hadn’t done it,” I said truthfully. “But I’m sure you feel the same way. If Victoire can forgive you, then so can I.”
Dominique gave me a watery smile. “Thanks, Rosie. I didn’t want everyone to find out the way they did. I was going to tell Victoire, I really was, but it was so difficult to find the right moment.”
“How is she?” I asked, ignoring her empty assurances that she was going to tell her sister that she’d slept with her fiancé.
“She’s…” Dominique trailed off as she searched for the right words. “She’s angry and hurt. She and Teddy were together for ten years.” She swallowed, looking exceptionally guilty, which I thought was only right and just. She should feel extremely guilty, at least for a decent period of time. Victoire was no doubt feeling a hundred times worse than Dom was right now. “She’s adjusting to the idea, I think. I thought she wasn’t going to talk to me ever again, but she wants to try and forgive me.”
I nodded. “It’ll take her a long time, I suppose,” I mused. “Don’t rush her.”
Dominique nodded too. “I know. I won’t.” She smiled ruefully. “I hope you’ll forgive me in time, too.”
She left soon after, probably to visit the next cousin on her list of apologies to be made. I did feel incredibly sorry for her; no doubt her evening was full of awkward explanations and apologies, but I supposed it was needed if Victoire was ever going to forgive her. I buried my face in my hands and let out an exhausted sigh. I felt so much older now than I ever had before; things had changed so much that I could barely believe I was still twenty-three years old. A lifetime seemed to have passed since my last birthday that it didn’t really make sense that I was still the same age. Matthew was right; life was incredibly short.
AN: So hopefully this update brings my 400th review on this story! Once again, and I know it's repetitive but it's so important that I say this: thank you so much to every person who reads and reviews. I'm so sad we've got two more left after this and I don't know quite what I'll do. I do have a new novel planned, so I'd be grateful to see you all again when that pops up. Love and hugs, Marina.