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Human Nature by Flavia
Chapter 11 : Fact of Nature #11: You can always count on the kindness of strangers...or shop girls.
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 13


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“Blimey, you would think that since it’s only the Christmas holidays it would be easier to find a compartment!” Fred grumbled as we trundled down the train carriage.

“Well that one’s full of Ravenclaws,” Louis commented, peering through the window into another compartment.  “Where did the girls go?  Maybe we can sit with them,” His eyes lit up as he suggested it and I had to admit I didn’t think it was such a stupid idea.

“Any reason in particular you want to sit with the girls mate?” Fred teased.  “Like perhaps a blonde reason with nice legs?”

“Oi, why are you looking at Hawthorn’s legs?” Louis exclaimed, realising a few seconds too late that he’d made an admission of guilt concerning his feelings for Jane.

“Ah Louis my friend, you’ve got it bad,” Fred laughed, clapping our cousin on the back.  “C’mon, let’s go find the girls so you can flirt hopelessly for six hours, shall we?” And he wandered further down the corridor, peering into compartments as he went.  I followed along, relieved that Fred didn’t know about my feelings for Lucy and excited at the prospect of spending the rest of the trip in her company.  I had to admit that Fred’s comment about Louis flirting with Jane had given me an idea.  I had put a lot of time and effort into becoming friends with Lucy, but I hadn’t tried actively flirting with her.  Maybe if I tried it, I could gauge her reaction and get some idea about how she felt; maybe if she responded positively I could even take Justin’s advice and ask her out.  At least if she said no I wouldn’t have to see her for two weeks, and I’d have the Christmas break to get over my embarrassment. 

Let’s face facts here: it’s better than any plan Louis could ever come up with.

We were almost at the end of the carriage when we discovered the girl’s compartment.  “Found ‘em!” Fred announced as he pulled the compartment door open.  “So ladies, do you fancy the company of three dashing, intelligent and highly amusing gentlemen this fine day?” He asked cheerily as we entered the compartment.  I spotted Lucy straight away, sitting by the window, her feet pulled up on to the seat.  Perfect, I thought.  I can sit next to her and she’ll have no-one else to talk to.  I was about to make my way over to do just that when Rose jumped down off the seat where she’d been putting her bag away and took the empty spot next to Lucy. 

“If you must,” She said as she ruined my plan.  I made a quick adjustment to my plan and headed to the seat opposite Lucy, thought I couldn’t help but give Rose an annoyed look as I sat down; she just ignored me and opened her copy of The Daily Prophet.  I remembered the whole reason I’d come to sit over here and realised there was no point getting cross at Rose who was only going to ignore me, so I turned back to Lucy.

“So Bell,” I smiled at her.  “Looking forward to Christmas?”

She smiled back at me and I felt an odd twisting in my stomach. “Always,” She said.  “Presents, too much food and not having to get up early to go to Divination.  What’s not to love?”

“I’m with you on that one,” I laughed.  “Though I don’t think I cop it quite like you do, Trelawney’s developing a bit of a crush on you!”

Lucy groaned, “Don’t remind me.  It’s my eternal punishment for actually managing to successfully tell a lie, now she thinks I’m a gifted seer or something.”

Rose gave a snort of derision and I looked at her briefly, wondering if she was listening to our conversation; I hadn’t forgotten the comment she’d made a few weeks ago about me giving in and telling her what was going on with Lucy and me.  I was beginning to suspect she had worked a few things out herself but that didn’t mean I wanted her watching me attempt to flirt with Lucy.  Rose kept her head buried in the paper though, and as I looked back at Lucy, I was relieved that even if she was listening in, Rose had the decency to hide it.

I decided to be brave and follow through on my flirting plan, although I didn’t really know how to flirt exactly, it wasn’t like I engaged in a lot of flirting but I figured that joking around and getting Lucy to touch me were two things that might just work.  The Trelawney conversation gave me an idea and I leaned forward in my seat.

“Well, great and mighty diviner, maybe you could predict my future.  Here, read my palm.” I said, holding out my hand to her, palm upwards.  When she just stared at my hand in surprise I wiggled my fingers in what I hoped was a playful manner.

“But we haven’t studied palmistry yet,” She said, looking curiously at me now.  The fact that she didn’t immediately jump at the chance to hold my hand almost caused me to concede defeat, but I convinced myself to push on, I had to appear confident if this flirting plan was going to work.

“But a great and talented seer such as yourself should not have any trouble with something so simple,” I teased.  “Come on, tell me when I’m going to die!”  My hand sat between us, a half built bridge that I suddenly realised was the key to my plan.  She had to take my hand, she just had to or this wasn’t going to work.

I was just about to give up and retract my hand when she moved.  Lucy slid forward in her seat and took my hand with both of hers, her skin feeling like silk against my own.  Her left hand slipped beneath mine and held it there, the tips of her fingers resting gently on my wrist.  With her right hand, she began tracing patterns on my palm with the tips of her fingers, the light contact causing shivers to run up my spine.  When she looked up at me, I realised I was probably staring at her and I quickly smiled, keeping the whole mood light.

“So, what’s your prediction?”

“Well,” She said, running her finger along one of the creases in my palm, causing another shiver to shoot up my spine.  “This here is your life line, and it’s very long, so you’ll probably live to be about a hundred and seventy-five.”

“Good, good,” I said, glad she’d decided to play along.  “What else do you see?”

“Well this one’s your fame line,” She continued, running her index finger along another line.  “As you can see it’s quite long so you’ll be quite famous for most of your life, though this here,” she pointed to a much shorter crease near the base of my middle finger, “Is your money line so you’ll probably squander your fortune.  No doubt swindled by some dodgy broomstick salesman who takes you for everything you’ve got.”

“Hmmm, that is a worry; I shall watch out for dodgy broomstick salesmen.”  I said, nodding in mock seriousness.  The flirting seemed to be working quite well, not that I really had a lot to compare it to, but I decided it would be safe to take it up a notch. “And what about my love line, what does that tell you?” I asked, making sure to smile.

“I…well…” She stuttered, her cheeks turning pink as she seemed to be lost for words.  She looked down at our hands and for a moment I thought she might pull away and everything would be ruined, but she didn’t let go.  I felt a surge of confidence as I entertained the thought that maybe Lucy liked me too.  All I had to do was ask her out and I’d know.  She looked up from our hands, her eyes searching mine for something.

Do it now Al, just ask her before you lose your nerve!

“Look, Lucy…” I started, but before I could finish, Fred plonked down next to me, ruining the moment.  Lucy looked up at him in surprise and pulled her hands away from me, the pink blush returning to her cheeks.

“Well those two are completely boring, wish they’d get together already!” He sighed dramatically, nodding towards Louis and Jane.  “They just sit there making eyes at each other and joking around.”

“Well maybe they don’t like being watched,” I said pointedly, glaring at Fred, although he seemed to miss the meaning in my tone altogether.

“Pfft, watching Louis make a fool of himself is a spectator sport for me.  He knows that and he’d do the same if the roles were reversed,” He continued.  “Though of course I wouldn’t make a fool of myself when talking to a pretty girl.”

“Just when you’re playing Quidditch,” I grumbled under my breath.  Fred gave me a confused look and then chose to ignore me, turning his attention to Rose.

“Rose, hey Rose,” He said, lifting his foot to nudge her knee.  Rose ignored him so he continued to nudge her.  “Rose?  Whatcha reading?  Ro-ose!”

I turned away from where Rose was desperately trying to resist hitting Fred and found Lucy was now staring out the window at the snow covered trees rushing past.  When she turned to look at me, I gave her a small smile, although any confidence I’d felt moments before was completely gone now.  I wasn’t about to try and ask her out now, not with Fred sitting right there.  Anyway, the moment had passed and it didn’t feel right anymore.  I’d lost my chance.

Lucy and I didn’t say much else to each other for the remainder of the trip, I felt too embarrassed and she soon struck up a conversation with Rose about Christmas traditions and what gifts they hoped to receive.  When the train pulled in to platform 9¾, I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye properly because she yanked down her suitcase and headed for the corridor too quickly.  I watched her jump off the train and greet her mum, who happened to be standing near my own mother and Auntie Hermione.

“Hi Mum,” I said as she gave me a rather embarrassing hug. 

“Hello darling,” Mum beamed at me and then turned to Lily who had just appeared at my side with Hugo.

“Lucy!” I heard Rose shout from nearby and I couldn’t stop myself from getting one last look at her before she and her mum disappeared from the platform.

“Have you seen James?” Mum asked me, standing on her tiptoes to look around the crowd of people.

“He’ll turn up,” I shrugged as Auntie Hermione gave me a quick peck on the cheek.  “He always does.”  As if on cue, James appeared out of the crowd, suitcase in hand and looking a little weary.  After mum had greeted him, we all made our way out into the muggle train station and down a side road where Auntie Hermione and Uncle Ron’s car was parked.  Auntie Hermione is a great driver, which Uncle Ron always says is a bit odd because she’s a hopeless flyer.  I think he’s just jealous; Dad said Uncle Ron had to put a confundus charm on his driving instructor to get his license.

Auntie Hermione is a bit of a genius on her worst day so the fact that the car looked like it might hold five small people and yet there happened to be seven of us, was not something that caused too much concern.  Rose opened the back door of the car and slipped into the back seat, which had been enlarged significantly and had the comfort and texture of the squashy sofas back in the Gryffindor common room.  I followed Rose in and we were joined by Hugo and Lily; although we could have fit another two or three people in with us, James chose to ride in the front seat with Mum and Aunt Hermione where he proceeded to pepper our rather intelligent Aunt with questions about N.E.W.T level exams and the best strategy he should be taking for studying.

“So, you’re into palm reading now, are you?” Rose asked me in a casual but low voice. 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I replied, surreptitiously glancing around to make sure nobody was listening.  Hugo and Lily were pointing at the various muggle shops out the windows as we drove through the city and James was consuming the attention of both adults in the front seat.

“Let me remind you, shall I?” Rose teased.  “Oh Lucy, here hold my hand and tell me about my love line.  You’re about as subtle as a sledgehammer Al.”

“Damn it,” I muttered under my breath, accepting the fact that the jig was up.  “Do you think she realised?”

“I’m not sure, but you can’t always tell with Lucy, she’s a bit of an odd duck.” Rose shrugged, “Anyway, I just wanted to congratulate you on your impeccable taste.”

“Oh, well...er...thanks,” I said, a bit stunned to be having this discussion at all.

“So, tell me all the details.  How long have you...” Rose started to ask but I shook my head frantically, looking quickly around the car again.

“Later,” I whispered.  “I will tell you about it later, ok?”

“You’d better,” Rose warned, before letting it drop.

 




“Morning sweetheart,” Mum greeted me the next morning as I made my way downstairs for breakfast.  Lily was sitting at the table joking about with Dad while Mum poured me a glass of pumpkin juice.  James was nowhere to be seen.

“Morning,” I yawned, taking my seat across from my sister.

“I’m going into London this morning and wondered if you wanted to come,” Dad said as I buttered a piece of toast.  “I just have to pop into the office for an hour or two and I need to do some last minute Christmas shopping.  I thought you guys might like to come along, I can drop you off at the Leaky Cauldron first so you can wander around Diagon Alley and then we can meet up for lunch.”

“Sounds good,” I replied.  “Is James coming?”

“He’s upstairs in the shower right now, but I think he said something about going into Flourish and Blotts,” Mum offered as an answer as she slid two eggs on to my plate.  I bet I know why he wants to go there, I thought to myself, but I simply nodded.

“You coming Lils?” I asked my little sister.

“Nope, Mum and I are going over to the Burrow to help Grandma Weasley finish the Christmas baking,” She grinned.  Lily loves baking with Grandma Weasley, I think she’ll probably open a bakery in Diagon Alley when she finishes school.

“It’s just the boys...I mean men,” Dad beamed at me over his cup of coffee.  “I can finally have some good, manly Quidditch talk.”

“Oi!” Mum slapped Dad on the back of the head.  “Who in this family has actually played professional Quidditch?  It’s not you Mr. Chosen One!”

“Sorry, sorry!” Dad pleaded through his chuckles.  “I beg your forgiveness oh great one.”

“Yeah, well just remember your place buddy,” Mum grumbled, but she leaned over and kissed Dad’s temple with a smile before she made her way out into the laundry.   “And Harry, it’s your turn to do the dishes!” Her voice wafted back through the open doorway, causing Lily and I to laugh at Dad’s annoyed expression.

Half an hour later, once I’d eaten and showered, I pulled my cloak around my shoulders and joined Dad and James in front of the kitchen fireplace.  James was wearing a clean pair of jeans and a navy blue jumper that looked rather new.  His hair had been combed back and I was pretty sure I smelt some sort of after-shave lotion coming from his general direction.  I wondered what he’d told Mum he needed to get at Flourish and Blotts, maybe a copy of 12 Fail-safe Ways to Charm Witches.  I couldn’t really laugh though, even in my head, because I’d seriously been considering asking Uncle Ron if I could borrow his copy.  Although maybe I wouldn’t have to now that I had Rose to ask for advice.  I didn’t get the chance to talk to her about Lucy, since we’d Flooed home from their place almost straight away the previous afternoon, but I would no doubt get a chance at our usual Christmas Eve dinner tonight at Grandma and Grandpa Weasley’s.

“I’ll meet you boys back here at twelve-thirty,” Dad said once we were safely out the back of the famous London pub, right next to the bins.  “Keep out of trouble,” He added, before giving us each a couple of galleons for good measure.  He gave a quick wink that clearly said don’t tell your mother, before apparating to the Ministry.  After he’d left, James pulled out his wand and tapped the appropriate brick, opening the gateway to Diagon Alley for us since I wasn’t supposed to use magic outside of school. 

The familiar cobblestoned street was packed with shoppers, all trying to buy a last minute gift or stock up on items they might need over the next few days while most of the shops would be closed.  Whilst several people looked harried or tired as they pushed through the crowds, most people had that cheerful flush in their cheeks that came with Christmas.  Garlands of red and green hung outside the buildings, bright red bows were attached to the wrought iron street lamps and Christmas carols crackled from the bronze speakers that hung every twenty feet or so.  Each shop window housed a special holiday themed display; the mannequins at Madam Malkin’s had been enchanted to change poses every ten seconds, showing the festive dress robes they wore, glittering snitches danced around the window at Quality Quidditch Supplies and the Apothecary had a giant Christmas tree with buckets of potion ingredients hanging from the branches, their price labels held in place with tiny holly shaped clips.

“Well I’m going to Flourish and Blotts,” James said.  “You know for my N.E.W.T’s.  I need to check out some...er...”

“Books?” I offered, trying not to smile too knowingly at him.

“Yeah, books,” He said, before hurrying into the crowd.  I chuckled to myself as I made my way down to Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, where the windows were full of miniature fat Santas and elves with pointy hats that flew around on broomsticks or danced across the windowsill.  A large flashing sign announced that they came with ‘animation charms with five different options for only seven Galleons each – the perfect Christmas gift for the young or the young at heart.’  The store was full of customers – as always – but I managed to spot Uncle George behind the main counter, flipping through a large book full of columns of numbers.

“Al!” He beamed when I approached.  “How are you?  You here with your Mum or Dad?” He glanced around, looking for his sister or brother-in-law but I shook my head and explained the situation.

“Just thought I’d say hi; I won’t keep you though, you’re looking a little busy,” I nodded to the ledger book and the long line of customers being served by two witches and a wizard in the trademark magenta robes.

“Yeah, it’s always a bit mad in here on Christmas eve with people buying those last minute gifts,” He said.  “We’ve sold out of trick wands and there’s only pirate themed daydream charms left.  I’m looking forward to being closed for three days!”

“I’ll see you tonight at the Burrow,” I waved as I made my way out of the store.  I wandered further along Diagon Alley, peering in the odd window as I went.  I stopped outside the Magical Menagerie where there was a crate of fluffy kittens gambolling about.  I couldn’t help but smile as I watched two kittens fighting over a piece of twine, they kept falling on top of a small tabby who was trying to doze in the corner.  Lucy would love this, I thought to myself, and instantly I was hit with an idea: I needed to buy Lucy a Christmas present.  After all, we were friends now weren’t we?  Well I hoped we were, the way she acted around me most of the time seemed to indicate she’d forgiven me for ignoring her for four years.  I had thought that maybe she was responding to my flirting on the train; it was hard to be sure because she had a tendency to be very polite but I was holding out hope that maybe the right gift might help her to decide that she liked me as more than a friend.

I watched the kittens for another minute, wondering if I should go in and buy her some sort of animal but I quickly dismissed that idea.  How would I send it to her and really what could I buy that would be appropriate?  I didn’t have a whole lot of money since I’d already bought gifts for everyone else, but thanks to the money Dad had given me, I worked out I could probably spend about ten galleons on Lucy.  I made my way along the street, carefully looking at the signs hanging out the front of the shops, trying to think of an appropriate idea for a gift. I knew she would enjoy a book on animals, but it was such a boring present, something your grandmother would give you, not someone who’s hoping to be more than friends.  I had reached the part of Diagon Alley where the shops give way to various offices for wizarding organisations and turned around, wandering back along the street the way I had come.  I planned to stop in at Quality Quidditch Supplies, but the window display of the shop right next door caught my eye. 

The ornate wooden sign hanging above the shop read ‘Hollingsfield & Sons’ in bold, elegant script; below that were the words ‘Hand Crafted Jewellery, est. 1483’.  The window displayed many pieces of jewellery, from the ostentatious ruby pendant the size of my palm, to tiny gold earrings and sparkling rings.  But my eye had been caught by a glinting from the middle of the display, where a long silver chain was suspended between two small glass columns.  Hanging from the chain were about ten little crystal charms, each one painstakingly carved into a different shape.  One was shaped like the pointy hat Professor Sprout liked to wear, another like a cauldron and yet another in the shape of a heart.  But the one that drew my attention hung right in the middle of the chain, and was shaped into a perfect, miniature racing broom.  A racing broom charm would be perfect, because I played Quidditch, so every time she looked at it, she would think of me.  What was even better, was the folded card standing in front of the chain, that read ‘Hand crafted crystal charms, prices from 4 Galleons.’  Well I could certainly afford 4 Galleons!

I quickly slipped into the shop which, whilst not empty, came with a sort of hushed and refined feel; the bustling sounds of Christmas shoppers blocked out, whether by extra thick glass or some sort of muffling spell, I wasn’t quite sure.  The walls of the room were covered with huge glass cases that reached from the floor to the ceiling, whilst a long glass counter in the centre of the room stretched into an oval shape.  Beneath my feet was soft, mint-coloured carpet and a huge crystal chandelier, holding what looked to be about a hundred candles, dangled overhead.  I suddenly felt a bit out of place in my jeans and trainers, surrounded by all this finery.  The other customers and the shop assistants in their matching black and silver robes all looked quite mature and sensible and I was blindingly aware of how much I must have looked like some stupid kid.   A woman in the store’s uniform who looked about the age of my cousin Victoire, with cropped blonde hair, square rimmed glasses and a broad smile looked up at me from where she was standing behind the oval shaped counter. 

“Can I help you?” She asked politely, and I stepped forward nervously, trying to pretend this wasn’t the first time I’d set foot in a jewellery shop.

“Uh...er...yes,” I began feebly, though her kind smile didn’t falter.  “I’m interested in those charms you have in the window,” I indicated to the window, although it was the only one in the store so it was a rather pointless action.

“The crystal charms?” She asked.  “Oh, yes they’re lovely aren’t they?  We have the whole range just down here,” She indicated for me to follow her further down the counter and it was only then that I realised the glass counter was actually a long glass cabinet that housed various piece of jewellery and decorations.  As I watched, the shop girl, who wore a gold name tag with ‘Georgiana’ engraved on it, tapped the case with her wand in a complicated rhythm to open it, and removed a wooden tray.  The tray was separated into about thirty small compartments, each lined with black velvet and holding a different kind of charm.

“Is this for a gift?” Georgiana asked me, I nodded mutely, still feeling slightly intimidated.  “Is it for your mother?  Sister?  Girlfriend?”  She continued, and I faltered at her words.  It’s for the girl I wish was my girlfriend, is what I wanted to say and my heart starting beating a little bit faster as I felt the full weight of the words.  I’d never thought too much about it before, sure I had a massive crush on Lucy and I wanted to ask her out, but the truth was that I wanted more than that, I wanted Lucy to be my girlfriend.

“uh...it’s...er...for...um...” I stammered, trying hopelessly to find the right words to say.  Georgiana’s eyes crinkled kindly.

“Someone special?” She offered, a knowing look in her eye.  “A young lady perhaps?”

“Yeah,” I breathed a sigh of relief.  “Definitely someone special.”

“Did you have a particular charm in mind?” Georgiana continued, giving me a smile and nod of understanding.  “We have quite a few designs, the window display only holds some of them.”

“Well, I er, liked the broomstick,” I offered.

“Ok,” Georgiana nodded and scanned the tray before quickly picking out a charm, she conjured up a piece of black velvet to place it on so I could get a better look at it.

“Is the young lady a Quidditch player, or does she just enjoy flying?” Georgiana asked, and I looked up at her, slightly confused.

“Uh...neither,” I said.  “Well, I think she likes Quidditch but I’m not sure how much she likes flying.”

“Oh,” The smile dropped from Georgiana’s face for a moment.  “Did you have a particular reason for choosing the broomstick?  You see it’s just that traditionally the charms worn on a charm bracelet reflect the nature, character and passions of the wearer.”

“Oh...right,” I felt so stupid.  Why would I give Lucy a broomstick charm?  Flying was my thing, not hers!

“Does the young lady have any particular passions that you know of?” Georgiana asked hopefully.

“Yeah she does,” I said, suddenly feeling hopeful myself.  “She loves animals...all kinds.”

“Oh well I can help you there,” Georgiana grinned as she placed the broomstick charm back in the correct compartment and began lining up several new charms, each in the shape of an animal: a cat arching its back, a butterfly in flight, a content looking owl, a cute puppy dog, a fierce looking dragon and...

“That one,” I said, as Georgiana placed the tiny unicorn on the velvet.  An image popped into my head of our first Magical Creatures lesson for the year, the day I’d realised there was something about Lucy I’d been missing all along.  She’d touched my hand that day as she helped me pat the unicorn, and whilst I hadn’t felt the tingles I now felt when we made physical contact, the memory was still a vivid and special one.

“The unicorn?” Georgiana smiled.  “That certainly is a good choice, and perfect for an animal lover.  And that is in our four Galleon range, so a very affordable choice too.  Now were you looking to purchase a chain for the charm as well?”

“I hadn’t thought about it,” I replied.  After the charm I only had six Galleons left and I told Georgiana as much, my cheeks feeling a little pink.

“Well let’s see what we can do, shall we?” Georgiana said, locking away all of the charms except for the unicorn and leading me back along the counter near the door.  She pulled out another tray, this one with rows of silver chains, some delicate and fine, others thicker.  Georgiana ran her finger along the edge of the tray until she found what she was looking for.  She picked out a fine silver chain, only long enough to fit around a female wrist, and extremely delicate and fancy.  “What do you think?” She asked, holding the bracelet across her own hand gently.

“It’s perfect,” I said.  “But how much is it?”

Georgiana looked at the tiny price tag.  “Nine Galleons, Five Sickles,” She said and I felt my face fall.  “But, I’ll tell you what, it’s Christmas and this young lady is obviously very important so I think we can come to an arrangement.  The chain and charm for Ten Galleons even, how does that sound?”

I’d thanked Georgiana about fifty times before she’d finished removing the price tags, placing the charm on the bracelet and packaging it inside a small velvet bag.  I paid her the ten galleons and tucked the present securely in my pocket, thanked Georgiana once more and made my way back out into the busy street.  The noise of Diagon Alley startled me for a second after being in the quiet peacefulness of the jewellers so it shouldn’t have been a surprise when I walked straight into someone, nearly knocking them to the ground; fortunately it wasn’t some frail, little witch but James.

“Jamesy, how was your morning?” I asked jovially as I straightened up.  “Find what you were looking for at Flourish and Blotts?” I waggled my eyebrows at him mischievously.

“No,” He said despondently.  “She wasn’t...I mean the book I wanted...wasn’t there today.”

“Oh, bad luck mate,” I teased, slapping him on the shoulder.  He looked a bit embarrassed for a second, but then he looked up at the shop behind me, a confused look on his face.

“Why were you coming out of a Jewellers?” He asked.

“What?  No I wasn’t!” I spluttered, though I was pretty sure I had a guilty look on my face.

“Who are you buying jewellery for?” James screwed up his face in a baffled expression for a moment before it was replaced with a look of realisation.

“Ohhh,” He said slowly.  “Jewellery huh?  Pretty smooth Al, although generally you’re supposed to ask the girl out before you start showering her with gold and jewels.”

Despite the cold winter air, my face was growing hot from being under scrutiny; that is until I realised who was teasing me.

“Like you can talk,” I snorted as we wandered towards the Leaky Cauldron to meet Dad.  “What have you been doing all year?  Writing creepy letters like one of Dad’s crazed stalkers!”

“That’s a bit unfair,” James argued.  “I mean Mum has had a couple of stalkers too!”

“Remember the one who kept sending her horned slugs?” I snorted.

“I always thought it was mean they wouldn’t let us eat the chocolates.  I mean if a slightly mad Quidditch fan is going to stalk you, you could at least get some sweets out of it!” James added with a grin.

“Yeah, but remember the story Dad told us about Uncle Ron eating chocolates from an admirer in their sixth year?” I said.  “Dad said he went all batty for some bird he’d never met.  I mean what if you ate them and suddenly you’re writing love letters to some old bloke living in a shack on some deserted moor!”

We were both still laughing at this idea when we entered the bar and spotted Dad at a table near the fire chatting with Neville, who often came to stay in London during the holidays since his wife owns The Leaky Cauldron.  Yep, if Neville wasn’t cool enough already, his wife happens to own a pub!  Owning a pub would be ace.

“Hello you two,” Dad grinned up at us as we sat down, trying to control our chuckles.  “You’re looking happy.  What did you guys get up to this morning, anything interesting?”

James and I glanced at each other and shared a very quick but important look.  It was the look of understanding, the unspoken pact that, as brothers, as much as we would take the mickey out of each other, we would never rat each other out over something like this...not even to Dad.

“Nope,” James said, giving Dad and Neville an innocent smile.  “Nothing interesting at all.”

 




AN:  Sorry this has taken so long but I haven't been writing much lately.  I'll try to get some more done soon.

A quick little piece of trivia, the name Georgiana, which I gave to the shop girl, was 'borrowed' from the wonderful Jane Austen.  It is the name of Mr. Darcy's younger sister in 'Pride and Prejudice.'  I think it's a sweet name and I've always wanted to use it in a story, and it seemed appropriate for the kind shop girl.

And of course, here's your little sneak peek of the next chapter...or at least what I've written of it so far!

After dinner, when we were finally excused so the adults could have a long, boring catch-up, Rose seized my arm and dragged me upstairs, not letting go until she’d locked us inside Uncle Ron’s old bedroom at the top of the stairs.  It was a tiny room and you could see where the paint on the walls had faded around countless posters and hangings, all but one which had been removed. 

“Right, start talking,” Rose demanded, sitting on the bed and crossing her legs as if to indicate she meant business.  “How long have you had a crush on Lucy?”

“Pushy, aren’t you?” I replied sourly.

“That’s not an answer,” Rose smirked.  “Now quit stalling and spill.”

“Ok, well since a week or two after the start of term,” I admitted, knowing I couldn’t delay the inevitable much longer.

“Wow...that’s a while.”  Rose looked slightly surprised.  “Why didn’t you just ask her out Al?  Then she wouldn’t have had to go out with that McMillan prat.”

“Ask her out?  Oh wow Rose, that’s amazing.  You know the thought of asking her out never actually occurred to me!” I snapped sarcastically.


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