Chapter 1 : Snow in December
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~~~ December, 1995 ~~~
I’m really upset about the way that you’ve been treating your family. You’re following the demands of the Ministry, not doing what you think is best! Can’t you see that you're merely a puppet…
No that wasn’t right. We would just have another argument like we often did nowadays, and I wanted to avoid another one. It just wasn’t worth it. I screwed up the ball of paper and tossed it into the fire’s eagerly waiting flames. I sighed and reached for a fresh piece of paper.
Why don’t you believe your family? Why are you siding with the Ministry? Are they controlling and manipulating you? Anyway what about us? What went wrong with us? We used to be so good together.
Neither was that quite right. It was just a bunch of questions that Percy couldn’t or wouldn’t answer. Asking him this wouldn’t get me anywhere.
Honestly, why was it so hard to write a simple letter to Percy? I’d written thousands of letters before – many of them to Percy. So why was this one giving me so much trouble? Yet I knew the answer, even before I had even finished asking myself the question.
It was Percy and me. It seemed to me like we had already gone our different ways. I mean I hadn’t even seen him in over three weeks. I used to be unable to go a week without seeing him.
But the choices that he made were the ones that I disagreed with. Why was he being so stupid about Dumbledore and Harry Potter? And what he said to his family... It was just horrible.
But I knew that shaking him would never work, he’s too stubborn to listen to anyone once he’s made up his mind. His stubbornness was one of the things that I used to love about him, but now I hated it. I just wish that he could realize and admit that he was wrong. Perhaps, everything would go back to normal.
But I doubt it, he won’t change anytime soon and I don’t want to keep wasting my life trying to convince him. Maybe one day he’ll come to his senses and realize that he was wrong. But until then, I don’t think we could make it work. Therefore, there was really only one thing that I could do.
I pulled another piece of paper towards me and dipped my quill into the murky black ink. I put my quill on the paper and started to write.
I think that we need to have a talk about everything. Could you please meet me this coming Friday at 12:30 at that café near Branstone Used Bookshop. Hopefully you’ll remember the place. Anyway, please be there Percy! We really do need to talk.
I checked my watch as I put my coat on. It was 12 o’clock, I had a little under half an hour until I was supposed to meet Percy so I decided to wander down to the bookshop near the café that I was planning on meeting Percy at. Thankfully he had responded to my letter saying that he would meet me. His letter however left much to be desired for. It was short, all it said was,
I will meet you at that café at 12:35. I don’t have much time so whatever this is about needs to be quick.
I think that letter really helped me to decide that what I was doing for the best. He didn’t even write 'Dear Penelope’ or ‘Love Percy’.
“I’m going on my lunch break, Eddie,” I called out to my manager. If Eddie responded – which I doubted, that he did, as his head was probably still buried in that book on different types of quills that he had been eagerly waiting for and had only just received this morning – I didn’t hear him.
The door jingled as I opened it and stepped out into the cold December air. It was freezing outside and snow was starting to fall. The small white flakes drifted slowly down to the ground.
I quickly walked down Diagon Alley, my head bent low to keep the biting wind out of my face, not glancing around at the Christmas decorations that adorned most of the buildings. I was too focused on my destination and what I had to do, to pay any attention to them.
All too soon, I had arrived at the café. I glanced at my watch and saw that it was 12:15, I had a few minutes to spare so I decided to pop into the used bookshop that was nearby. Plus it would get me out of the freezing cold.
As I stepped inside I felt the warmth sweep over me and I breathed a sigh of relief. It was something about bookshops – not new modern ones, but old used ones – that seemed to automatically calm me down. Whenever I stepped inside one it felt to me as if all my worries and troubles had been lifted from me and that I all I had to care about was finding a book to read.
I made my way over to the small section of Muggle stories. I’ve always found myself attracted to Muggle novels. Perhaps it was because there was no magic in them and as such they seemed simpler and much more refreshing to read. I picked up a beat up and worn copy of Emma by a Muggle author named Jane Austen and found myself immediately immersed in the story.
All too soon, however, it was nearly 12:30 and I decided that it would be best to get the café on time.
I reluctantly closed the book - making a note of what page I had been on - and once again stepped out into the cold, brisk air before hurrying over the café opposite. I spied a rather private table that was hidden over in the corner and sat down at it before anyone else could grab it. Just as I had predicted, Percy opened the door at precisely 12:35 and after finding me in the semi-crowded room he walked over to the table that I was at.
“Hello Penny,” Percy said as he came to the table. I stood up and hugged him. But the hug was cold and stiff. Instead of kissing me like he once did, Percy merely brushed his lips over my cheek. It was nothing like it once was, when every time that he even held my hand I would get tingles all over my body or when he kissed me I would blush and my heart would do thousands of little somersaults, flipping over and over again. This, this was just stiff and unnatural.
“Hello Percy,” I responded as I sat down at our table and watched him take off his blue cloak. He sat down opposite me, the waitress meanwhile had noticed that Percy had arrived and was seated and hurried over to our table. Once she had left with our orders, I turned my attention back to Percy.
“Percy?” I paused and bit my lip, unsure what to say next.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“It’s us,” I finally summoned up the nerve to tell him. “Look at us. What have we turned into to? We haven’t seen each other in over three weeks and when we do finally see each other it feels unnatural and forced. Our letters that we sent to each other have changed. Do you remember when we once used to fill scrolls of parchment when we wrote to each other.” I fiddled with my napkin, before I looked up at him.
“But now, now our letters to each other are just so short with nothing really in them. Look at the letters we sent each other when we arranged to meet each other here. They were both barely a paragraph. We’ve changed, Percy. We really have.”
“What if our letters aren’t as long as when they once were,” Percy said. “It doesn’t really mean that anything’s changed. If anything we’ve matured more.”
Uggh. Why was being Percy being so thick? Writing short letters isn’t a sign of maturity! If it’s a sing of anything, then it is a sign that we had nothing to talk about these days.
“Percy, writing shorter letters is not a sign of maturity,” I said with an exasperated sigh. “It’s a sign that we’ve grown apart. We don’t really have anything to talk about any more.”
“Penny, that’s not true,” Percy reached out to pat my hand.
“Percy, just please stop pretending that everything’s fine when it isn’t,” I slid my hand from his and put it in my lap. We were interrupted by our waitress setting down our orders; a pot of tea for me and a plain coffee for Percy with no milk or sugar.
“We really don’t know each other anymore. All you do these days is focus on the Ministry and your career, you don’t even give a second to think of me do you or what I do, do you?” I said as I poured myself out a cup of tea and added plenty of sugar. Just the way I liked it. “Do you even really know what my job is?”
“You work at some sort of stationary shop, don’t you?” Percy asked with a confused expression on his face as if he had no idea as to why I was asking. I think it was Percy’s answer that made me really realise what I had to do.
“I work at a shop that sells numerous types of quills. A couple of months ago I was made Assistant Manager. You never congratulated me or said anything. I honestly think you didn’t even realise.” I said with a sad smile on my face. Percy’s answer made me realise what I really had to do. I took a deep breath and steeled myself.
“Percy,” I paused. “I think we should breakup.”
“But why??” Percy said. “Nothing’s wrong with us. We’re just going through a little bump. All couples go through this.”
“Percy, you just don’t get it do you?” I was starting to get pretty irritated at Percy by now. “Don’t you see it? We don’t love each other anymore, at least not like we once did.” Percy made as if to say something but I continued talking. “When I kiss you, for me it’s like I’m kissing a statue. There’s no warmth, no emotion, no passion in it. I don’t love you anymore and I don’t think that you love me either an – ”
“Penny!” Percy interrupted. “What are you saying. I still love you!”
“I’m saying that were over. At least we are for me,” I sighed. “I don’t know about you. But it’s the right thing for both of us. We can’t just keep going on with a façade.” Once again Percy started to say something and once again I cut him off.
“I’m sorry, Percy. I really and truly am. I just think that this is what is truly best for us,” I stood up. “I’m sorry, Perce.” And as I walked to the door, not once did I look back. Because if I did, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to bear what I would see. A man broken because of me.
I left the warm shelter of the café and stepped out into Diagon Alley where there was now a dusting of white snow lying on the ground. I started to walk home but as I passed the window of Branstone Used Books I looked into the window and noticed a flier that I hadn’t previously seen. On it was written:
Branstone Used Books
Percy once said to me. “I’ll buy a bookshop for you, one day. I’ll buy you a bookshop full of your favourite books and there’ll be a special chair in the corner where no one is allowed to sit except for you and it’ll be well supplied with plenty of tea and a never-ending supply of apple crumble.” “Promise,” I had asked. “I promise,” He had replied.
Perhaps in another world, that promise might have come true. But not in this world.
Tears had been threatening to fall, ever since I had left the café. And now they did. I felt hot tears splash onto my face as I read the notice again. Hastily brushing them away and wiping my face, I turned away from the sign and started to trudge back up the street.
Even though it felt like I was making the worst decision in my entire life, a part of me knew that the decision was truly for the best and both Percy and I would get through it okay. But I never noticed the red-headed man in a navy blue cloak that was running after me. And I never heard him call out “Penny. Wait!” His words were lost in the screaming wind.
Author’s Note: This was originally a one-shot, however after reading it over I’ve decided that it would work much better as a short story and have completely rewritten what was originally here. I just want to say thanks to all who have reviewed. You really have helped me improve this story.