Chapter 1 : I hate my job.
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I hate how the smell of burnt coffee (yes, burnt coffee) stinks up the whole place and fills every crevice of my nostrils, like it’s just trying to torture me with some sort of burnt coffee vendetta. I hate the stupid cherry red vinyl seats and obnoxious black and white checkered floor. And I hate the awful fifties music that constantly blares from every corner of this hellhole.
But most of all, I really, really bloody hate the customers.
I hate the way that they’re loud and obnoxious and think they’re the boss of me. I hate how I have to plaster an enormous, brilliant smile on my face and act like the happiest person in the world, like it’s my absolute pleasure to bend over backwards at their every beck and call.
In short, I really fucking hate my job.
Do you think I like telling people that I work in a kitschy “retro diner” in Manchester? I don’t. But hey, it pays the bills, so I guess I shouldn’t be complaining.
...nope, never mind.
I have every right to complain because of the God damn customers.
My only question: why in the hell would tourists to Britain want to eat in an American restaurant?
Honestly. People are imbeciles.
It’s not that big of a restaurant compared to a lot of the other places around. Six tables line the big bay windows, four oval-shaped groupings sit in the middle of the floor, and a few booths hang around the walls. Add in the eight bar stools at the counter and our diner seats about forty, give or take. It’s a pretty manageable size - two servers plus one more behind the counter can easily handle the whole restaurant. In the off season one person alone can work the place.
In all truthfulness, it probably wouldn’t be that bad of a job if it weren’t for the customers. The customers.
I hate them. I honestly and truly hate them right down to the very core of my being. I hate them with a passion that mere words cannot express. It’s just a burning, fiery loathing of every person that parks a fat tourist arse in one of those vinyl seats.
They’re bloody annoying, that’s what they are. They’re like -
“Ava. Table forty-two,” my co-worker Matt Johnson calls out as he swings into the kitchen and drops a platter of dishes at the wash station.
I groan and glare up at him from my (somewhat comfortable) seat on a sack of potatoes in the supply room, where cans, boxes, and bags of all varieties are stacked precariously high in odd shaped lumps.
Matt wears his usual goofy grin on his face as he comes skipping towards me - yes, he’s literally skipping - and slides my book away from me, shutting it with a swift snap. I wince as the noise echoes around the supply room and mixes in with the assorted clanks and hisses issuing from the kitchen.
He waves the book in front of my face tauntingly and flicks a bit of his light brown hair out of his eyes with a vicious neck snap. “You’ll get this back when you take care of your table.”
I growl something unintelligible which Matt chuckles at - it may or may not have been “bloody tosspot” - and snake out a hand to grab a coal coloured serving platter on my way out the door.
As much as I give Matt a hard time, I really do like him. He’s actually my favourite server to work with, and we often ask Gina, our manager, to put us on the same shifts. Matt’s one of those perpetually cheerful blokes - you know the type, always smiling and cracking jokes - but surprisingly, he doesn't get on my nerves as much as everyone else. I guess it’s because his cheeriness has a cynical twist to it. Matt’s sort of like the executioner who’s smiling as he leads you to the guillotine.
I’ve thought about dating him once or twice, and Matt made it very clear when I first started that he had his eye on me. We’ve never progressed beyond friendship, though, save for one time when we went to the bar after work and got a little too tipsy.
I know. The rom-com cliché. Getting drunk and hooking up with a co-worker. My life has been reduced to a predictable movie plot line. How pathetic.
Bet he had it all planned out, the little bugger.
Needless to say, it was an awkward few days after that minor bump in the road. Well, it was awkward for me. I’m pretty sure that Matt was acting even more cheerful than usual (and that is saying something, trust me).
Regardless of our soirée, Matt and I get along really well. The awkwardness is all but gone, and we’re always flirting back and forth. Sure, we bicker too, but it’s all in good fun. And - don’t tell him this - but he is a relatively attractive bloke.
So why haven’t I accepted his numerous proposals yet? No, not marriage proposals. Come on. Get your mind in the gutter.
Well, there’s just one small problem.
Matt’s a Muggle.
Now don’t get me wrong, here - I’m not some pure-blood-Muggle-hating crazy person. I have no problem with Muggles. I'm Muggle-born, in fact.
I just don’t want to get involved with one romantically unless I’m sure that it’s going somewhere. It's too much of a bloody hassle to either explain the little fact that I’m a witch (like, a real one, not just a bitchy woman) or keep it hidden.
Long story short, I can’t be bothered.
And I just don’t see things with Matt going that far.
Ah, well. At least I know he’s a good shag. You know, in case I get desperate. Which I most likely will.
But back to the present. Table forty-two. Bloody customers. All my tables were gone, I was tucked into a good book, and then forty-fucking-two had to walk in and disrupt my peace.
I scope out the table in question, while behind the bar Jenny the fountain girl whirls a milkshake together in our authentic fifties blender. Bloody thing makes far too much noise in my opinion. But no, Hank the owner will hear nothing of upgrading to a modern, quieter one (”everything must be authentic!”).
Fixing a large smile on my face, I clack my way across the diner towards forty-fucking-two. It’s a bloke sitting at the table, fairly young - probably my age - with blonde hair flopping into his eyes as he leans over the table, rubbing his finger against the plastic surface at some invisible speck of dirt. I can only see his profile, but even from this angle I can tell that he’s an attractive one. Straight nose, high cheek bones, long lashes.
Clearing my throat, I stop abruptly in front of his table. A bright neon sign blinks in the window behind his head. Help wanted.
“Hello, and welcome to the Downtown Diner. My name is Ava and I’m going to be taking care of you this evening -” I start my spiel off confidently, playing the role of friendly hostess like I’ve done thousands of times before. But by the time I reach the end of my second sentence, Blondie's head has lifted up towards me, deep blue eyes searching my body.
And that’s when everything starts to implode.
And no, it’s not because he’s so completely gorgeous that I lose my breath at the sight of him. Please. That only happens in the movies.
Rather, I’m utterly derailed by the fact that sitting directly in front of me, in a Muggle diner, is Louis Weasley.
Louis Fucking Weasley.
This is just my luck, really.
Out of all the places in the world, out of all the continents, countries, and cities, somehow one of my ex-classmates manages to find his way into my own personal tenth circle of hell. You know, because the ninth level just wasn’t enough of a punishment for me.
This was not supposed to happen.
Let’s play a game, shall we? I’m going to ask a question, and you’re going to answer. Ready? Okay. Why would a witch with full-blown magical abilities choose to work in a Muggle restaurant?
What? No answer?
Well, I’ll tell you.
Because she doesn’t want to be found.
I swore that I was leaving the magical community behind after graduation. So I ran here, where no one from that world would ever be caught dead. I had it worked out. The odds were ten thousand - no, ten million to one that no wizard would ever walk through those doors.
It appears that the odds are not in my favour.
It just had to be him, too. It couldn’t have been any other of my Hogwarts schoolmates. No. It had to be Louis Fucking Weasley. And no, he’s not an ex-boyfriend or some bloke that I had a huge romantic crush on - like I said, that only happens in the movies. Or cheesy romance novels.
Louis and I had a “none of the above” relationship. In fact, we didn’t even have a relationship - friendship or otherwise. We were in the same year, but we never spoke a single word to each other as far as I can remember. And honestly? I was fine with it.
See, Louis was always - how do I put this delicately - well, to be frank, he was a right arse who didn’t give two fucks about anyone but himself. He was just plain mean, always acting so cold and distant. It wasn’t exactly arrogance - at least not in the “hey, look at me, I’m so awesome,” kind of way that a lot of people are. No, he just had this sort of arrogant air about him - this air of entitlement. Like everything should be brought to him on a silver platter.
And I really can’t stand people like that.
He was an oddity, though. Most of his family members were fairly nice as far as I could tell. His sister Victoire, for example, was the Golden Girl of Hogwarts. I never knew her personally - she was a seventh year when I was a first year - but from what I’ve heard, she was an all around sweetheart.
Dominique, Louis’s other sister, took after Victoire. We were in the same house, but she was a year above me, so I’d only ever exchanged a few words with her in passing. She was very nice, though. Friendly, always smiling, never in a bad mood - bit like Matt, come to think of it.
And then you got Louis. His royal highness, pain in the arse, prissy French brat.
I really don’t know where his parents went wrong - they had started out so promisingly. Well, I suppose two out of three’s not bad, right?
But back to the point - the point being that he’s just an all around horrible human being.
“Hello, Ava,” the snob in question says slowly, drawing out the first word with an appreciative glance up and down my body.
Yeah, keep appreciating me, pretty boy, and I’ll give you something to appreciate. As in a nice, juicy shiner to your left eye.
Appreciate that, buddy.
I clear my throat again nervously and brush my hand back quickly over the top of my head. My dark hair still sits in its messy bun like a giant puffball, hairs sticking out at irregular angles. I find the pencil stuck straight through the bun and pull it out whilst simultaneously bumping the tray out from under my left arm and resting it against my hip.
Handing a menu to Louis, I roughly manage to begin my speech again. “Can I get you anything to drink while you look over the menu?”
Blondie rubs his thumb along the outside of the menu’s plastic protector case. The lining of the case is a bright red - that same revolting colour as those fucking vinyl seats. Inside of the clear plastic sits the actual paper menu, its once pristine white now slightly faded from age.
Louis’s thumb stops rubbing once it makes a complete revolution around the liner. He gazes steadily at me without a hint of embarrassment, hair starting to flop over his eyes again.
“What I want isn’t on the menu.”
I don’t like the sound of that.
“Um...” I chew at my lip nervously and bounce the tray absentmindedly on my hip. “Well, then perhaps you should try another restaurant? There are some good pubs in Exchange Square...”
Louis flicks another non-existent piece of dirt off of the table as I ramble on about the cuisine of Manchester, apparently not interested in my highly superior knowledge of which restaurants have the best chowder.
He could at least pretend to pay attention. That would be very much appreciated.
Louis coughs in a totally non-subtle manner, so I stop mid-ramble about how nice the bathrooms are at my favourite pub. “I wasn’t talking about the food."
My cheeks tinge with a slight bit of heat - no, not because he’s attractive, stop saying that - and I shut my gob with a snap as he continues to appreciate me. Why he’s hitting on me now, after he had seven years of classes without so much as a glance in my direction, is beyond me. It’s almost as if he doesn’t know who I am.
“Wow. You don’t remember me, do you?”
Louis blinks once. “Come again?”
“We went to school together.”
Another blink. “I’m sure you must have me mistaken for someone else. I went to a very elite private school -”
“Oi, don’t give me that. You were in Gryffindor, Louis. I remember.”
His eyebrows raise ever so slightly upwards in surprise at my comment. Apparently he had me pegged as another dumb bint who doesn’t know her right hand from her left. Well, I do, thank you very much.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t recognise you at all. What house were you in?”
“Hufflepuff,” I respond hotly, and Louis (poorly) disguises a guffaw of laughter as another cough.
Typical Gryffindor, stereotyping the other houses. Uppity house-ist snobs, the lot of them.
A loud clatter echoes in the background of the diner as Louis and I stare at each other in some kind of freakish, nonsensical alpha male/female battle. I can only assume the noise came from Matt trying to balance a platter of dishes as he opened the kitchen door with one foot - he really is rather bad at doing that - but I’m not going to turn around to look. No way. I’m winning this show down, dammit.
Turns out I don’t even have to look behind me to find out, though. The door to the kitchen squeaks as Matt comes back out into the diner again, footsteps clacking loudly against the checkered floor. I can tell it’s him because just as the footsteps pass behind me, a hand lightly brushes against my arse.
Oi, don’t look at me like that. It’s just a little game that we play with each other to make the day go by faster. See how frisky we can get without the customers noticing. Honestly, people can be so damn oblivious to what goes on around them. It’s quite fun, actually. Provides some nice entertainment for us.
Louis, however, is apparently a bit more observant than the average human. He cocks one eyebrow at me and glances after Matt, amusement clearly present on his face.
“Do you actually want something?” I huff, feeling embarrassment flood to my cheeks. Bloody prick, acting like he knows about me.
“Yeah, I do. I’m in the market for a job.”
“We’re not hiring,” I spit out.
Louis jabs his thumb behind him at the glass window. “I believe the neon sign says otherwise.”
“Well - well - our manager’s not here, and she’s the one you have to talk to. So I think you should just leave.”
“Gina’s coming in at nine,” Matt calls out as he heads towards the kitchen again.
Fuck you, Matt.
Louis glances over my shoulder at the clock that hangs on the wall behind the counter. “It’s half eight now, so I think I’ll just wait. I mean, if that’s okay with you, your highness.”
Ugh. Why is he even here? Did Daddy cut him off? Oh, poor little rich boy, probably only gets three thousand Galleons a month for his allowance. Boo sodding hoo.
It was bad enough having to watch him from a distance at Hogwarts. It was sickening to see the way he rejected girl after girl without even being nice about it. And don't even get me started on how infuriating his little group of friends was.
I just can’t work with someone like that. I know what type of person he is, and I refuse to work with him. Maybe he’ll just leave before Gina gets here. Or even better - I can make him leave, courtesy of the diner’s house rules.
“If you want to sit here, you have to be a customer. And if you want to be a customer, you have to order something,” I hiss at him through gritted teeth.
Louis shrugs and skims his eyes along the menu for five seconds. “I’ll have the cheeseburger, then.”
“And how would you like that prepared?” I ask, not even bothering to hide the loathing in my voice.
“Rare.” He tosses the menu back towards me with a dismissive flick of his hand.
After giving him a snarky curtsy (yes, that’s possible) I spin around and head back towards the kitchen. And as I do so, I realise that he hasn’t ordered a drink. But that’s just too fucking bad for him because there is no way in hell that I am going back there.
“Oh, and Ava?” Louis calls after me. I pause, but don’t bother to turn around and look at him. “You forgot to take my drink order. I’ll have an ice water if you feel so inclined as to actually do your job.”
I let out a snarl under my breath and continue my stalk to the kitchen, where I shove the door open with such force that it swings all the way back around and bangs into the wall.
“If you feel so inclined,” I mock in aggravation as I clip up the order for Keith, our chef, and storm back to the supply room.
Matt’s sprawled out lazily on my potato sack, both legs dangling languidly over the sides. He smoothly raises an eyebrow at me, then goes back to reading my book. My bloody book. He’s sitting on my potato sack and reading my bloody book. This day just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it?
“Oi, stop being a bitch to the customer, would ya?” Matt asks, flipping to the next page.
“No, I will not, because that tosser isn’t worth my spit.”
“Blimey, Ava. Calm down.”
In response, I simply shoot him the finger and park my arse down next to him on the potatoes. Because yes, I really am just that lovely. “How’s the reading there, Matty?”
“Not too bad.”
“Good,” I say, then snatch the book from right in between the bugger’s two hands.
I’ve barely got three pages read when the diner’s “order up” bell rings and a shout of “Ava, forty-two,” echoes around the room. Groaning, I push off of the potato sack and toss the book back onto Matt’s stomach.
“Well, what did you expect? He’s the only customer in the place,” Matt comments, apparently picking up on my cursing of Keith’s bloody fast cook time. “My last table just left. Actually, I have to go and clear that...”
I snag Louis’s cheeseburger off the chef’s counter as Matt continues rambling away and stomp back out into the diner, narrowing my eyes at the bloke in question. He glances up at me, blonde fringe flying out of his eyes as he does so.
“Here,” I mutter as I dump the food on his table.
He eyes the cheeseburger suspiciously, probably trying to gauge the likelihood of me spitting in his meal. Which I did not, because as stated previously, he isn’t worth my spit.
“Where’s my water?”
“Oh, sorry,” I say, voice dripping with sarcasm. “I didn’t feel inclined to bring it.”
The corner of Louis’s mouth twitches at my comment. “I like you, Ava,” he drawls. “You’ve got spunk.”
“She does, doesn’t she?” Matt cuts in from where he’s wiping down his last table. When he’s finished that, he walks by Louis and I on his way to the counter, hand skimming along my arse again.
Really, Matt? Really?
Louis, of course, lights up at this and leans forward on his elbow as he stares intently after my co-worker. “You shagged her yet?”
Matthew Johnson, I swear if you answer that question -
“You know it.”
“She any good?”
I am never sleeping with you again, you little twit.
“How’d you do it?”
“Got her piss drunk.”
“That is enough,” I hiss, spitting venom through my voice.
Matt chuckles and tosses a rag over his shoulder, all the while wearing his regular grin on his face. “Aw, don’t be a spoil sport, Ava.”
“Yeah, Ava,” Louis chimes in. “I just want to know if I’m wasting my time or not.”
“So what do you say we hit the bar after you finish up here?” Louis asks smugly, pushing the long forgotten cheeseburger away from him.
I think I’d rather gouge my own eyeballs out with a spoon.
“Only if we bring Ava, too,” Matt cracks.
By this point my face is so red that I’m fairly certain it matches the vinyl of the seats. Red from embarrassment, red from anger, and red from the sight of that utter prick in front of me.
And you know what? I think I’m just about to tell him that.
“You complete pr-”
The tinkling of the bell above the diner door stops me mid-sentence, Gina, our manager, strides into the restaurant, dressed in cut off shorts and a plain white t-shirt. She gives a small wave to Matt, who I’m sure is grinning right back, and glances over at me.
“Something going on here?” she asks, tucking a stray curl behind her ear.
“Not at all, Gina,” I respond cheerfully.
“Actually,” Louis cuts in abruptly, “I’m here to speak with you.”
“Me?” Gina asks in disbelief, cheeks flushing a bit under his steady gaze.
Oh, give me a break. He’s not that attractive. I’ve seen better.
...you know, in my imagination.
“Yeah,” Louis says, his voice suddenly turning husky (how is that even possible?). Then he stands up, and I’m fairly certain I spot his left hand casually brush up against his shirt, tugging it a teensy-tiny bit up so part of his - urgh - abs are exposed. But just as quickly the shirt falls back into place, pulled down by gravity.
“Um, what did you need to see me about?” Gina squeaks as Louis walks towards her.
Come on, Gina! Will power, woman! Be strong!
“Oh, um, well, we are looking to hire a new server, so, um...”
“Maybe we could have a private chat, then?” Louis says suggestively.
Private chat my arse. Bloody manwhore, trying to flirt his way into a job -
“Um, no, that won’t be necessary. You’re hired.”
Matt drops the glass he’s holding from behind the counter, and it hits the floor with a smash. “What the fuck, Gina?” he demands. “We don’t need another server - this is going to cut back my hours!”
Gina glances at us sheepishly and shrugs. “Sorry, guys, but we lost Amanda and we’re going into football season. You know what that means.”
Yeah, it means the whole bloody place is packed with tourists. I've really never understood why Muggles like football so much; it’s not nearly as exciting or dangerous as Quidditch.
“But - but - you didn’t even give him an interview! Or ask if he has previous job experience!” I sputter wildly.
Gina shrugs again. “He has the right look. And you can train him.”
The right - the right look? What the bloody fuck -
“Hear that, Ava? You can train me.” Louis smirks and sends me a wink.
“Hell no, Gina -”
“Look, Ava,” she says impatiently, “we’re not just servers here. We’re actors. We have to look the part. We support a wholesome family image, and he fits that image.” She points to Louis, who continues to smirk. “Like it or not, that’s how we do the hiring at this place. Hank himself instructed me on that point. How do you think you and Matt got hired?”
My jaw drops slightly as I stare at her, standing there so calmly and explaining this away like it’s nothing. I cannot believe this. I did not get hired because of how attractive I am - I got hired because I’m a bloody good waitress, and believe it or not, I do know how to make a customer happy.
“This is complete shit,” I mutter.
“What’s complete shit?” our other co-worker, Jenny, asks as she comes back out of the kitchen.
“Gina. She just hired another server,” Matt says.
“Wha- Gina, you can’t do that! I barely get enough hours as it is now - I have student loans to pay!” Jenny protests loudly.
“And get this,” I cut in snidely, “she hired him because he’s attractive.”
From his position by the door, Louis’s smirk grows. “Glad you can admit it, love.”
“All right, that's enough!” Gina exclaims, glaring at all of us. “We need a new worker whether you lot are happy about it or not. Fact is, we’re heading into the busy season and we just can’t handle the place with the staff we have now.”
Matt, Jenny, and I immediately launch into a chorus of protests - honestly, that’s the biggest bullshit I’ve heard in my life, us not having enough servers - but Gina silences us with a wave of her hand.
“Here’s the thing - both Seth and Jackie have put in their two weeks notice. Brian, Rich, and Erika are starting early at university to knock out some classes before term begins, so they won’t be around nearly as much as they are now. We’re going to need the extra help. Trust me.”
The three of us exchange a few looks as Gina concludes her speech, the words ringing in our ears like a death march. It’s over. We’ve lost. And there’s really nothing we can do about it.
So now I’m stuck with Louis Weasley.
God, I hate my job.
A/N: Yeah, I know. I’m the last person on Earth who should be starting a new story. But just embrace it.
Just a heads up - I’m planning for this story to have twelve chapters. So it’s going to be fairly short. I already have the first three chapters written and the rest of the story planned out, so updates should come fairly quickly.
So... what did you guys think? Any feedback would be awesome :D Do you like Ava? Louis? Matt?
Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed it!
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