Chapter 4 : Dancing on Tables
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I woke up with a hangover, my head pounding, my body burning up and my stomach very strange noises. I noticed that I'd pretty much kicked Matthew out of bed, having stretched out so wide to try and cool myself down. I carefully moved myself back onto my side of the bed and tried not to wake him. Honestly, it was a really terrible idea to go to Molly's "rehearsal" engagement party. I had doubted her decision to try out all the different cocktails Jesús had to offer so she could choose her favourites when she held her big party there, and my head was currently reminding me how right I had been.
"Have you stopped fidgeting yet?" Matthew murmured into his pillow.
I froze in my attempt of finding a comfortable position. "My head hurts," I told him blearily.
"I'm not surprised," he said with a yawn, shifting over slightly. "You were a mess."
"Was I?" I groaned, quickly flicking through my collection of last night's memories and deciding that I didn't have any missing. "I'm not sure whether I dreamt some of it..."
"The part where you removed all your clothes and showed me the proper way to knit a scarf was real," he said. I could almost hear his grin despite the fact his face was hidden in his pillow. "It was most informative."
"Ugh," was all I could say in response to that. "Sorry."
Matthew shifted again, rolling over and attempting to snake his arm around my waist, which I had just realised was naked. I very rarely slept naked. "Don't apologise," he said.
"Don't touch me," I said, shoving his hand away. "My body hurts."
Hearing my stomach gurgle again, I decided I needed to get up and eat something before I was sick. Checking that Matthew wasn't watching me (he was, but there wasn't much I could do about it in my current state), I fumbled around for my pyjamas and slipped them on as quickly as possible. Okay, so he'd never really complained about my nakedness before, especially not in certain situations I could mention, but I really did not like anyone seeing my body. I didn't even like looking at it in the mirror, so why should anyone else get to see it? Satisfied that I was appropriately dressed, I stumbled into the kitchen and tried to find something to eat.
That was easier said than done, of course. Matthew had notoriously badly stocked cupboards, meaning that only found a stale piece of bread and the last teabag to soothe my stomach. Honestly, I was such an idiot. I was never going to drink again.
"Come back to bed," Matthew called, though I ignored him. I wasn't in the mood to talk to anyone just yet. I huddled over the kitchen counter, enjoying the cool surface against my hot skin. I was just deciding to spend the day with the work surface when I heard Matthew's footsteps on the stone.
"What?" I groaned.
"You made me get out of bed, I hope you're happy." He reached behind me, pulling out a fresh loaf of bread from the cupboard and sticking it in his toaster. I rolled my eyes at his display of Muggle home comforts. His father was a Muggle and I supposed he hadn't quite left his childhood habits behind. The wait for the toast to pop up was agony, in any case, and I mentally saluted the Muggles who had to deal with so much suffering when facing a hangover.
"Here, take one of these." Matthew popped a painkiller into my hand, which I duly took with a sip of tea. "How much did you actually drink last night?"
I slumped over the kitchen counter a bit more, allowing my forehead to rest on the cold surface. "I dunno," I said vaguely. "I only remember the first half dozen or so."
The toast finally popped. Matthew started to spread butter onto it, the scraping sound jarring against my ears. After that, he added marmite and passed the plate to me, poking me in the ribs until I sat up and attempted to eat.
"Who else was there?" he asked, taking a seat opposite me. He watched me until I took another bite of toast, then seemed to relax.
"So Molly," I said, though he already knew that. "Lucy, Lorcan, Scorpius and that friend of hers from work. Tony, I think. Albus was doing some stuff for work so he didn't come."
"Was there any particular reason that you decided to start baking a cake with floo powder when you got home?" Matthew asked pointedly, gesturing towards an abandoned cake mix, which was a very strange green colour.
"Erm." I took another bite of toast, wincing as I did so. "Maybe I was trying to show off my baking prowess."
"Ah," he responded, drawing out the word for a good few seconds. "That would explain why you were saying "I'm a good wife" over and over again. I did worry for a bit that you'd gone and married somebody else last night."
I blushed, a very ugly pink stain creeping up my cheeks. "I didn't really say that, did I?"
Matthew grinned. "That wasn't the worst of it."
I groaned. "Look, whatever I said or did, please just forget it ever happened. I'm really sorry."
He laughed. "You don't have to apologise. You're a very cute drunk. Well, you were saying some very flattering things about me in any case."
I blushed even harder. "I'm not going to talk to you any more if you're going to try and embarrass me."
He smiled. "You are funny," he said fondly. I gulped down some tea, deciding I felt a bit more human even if that meant being mortified.
"Are you going into work today?" I asked, looking over at the kitchen clock and seeing it was already half past nine.
Matthew rolled his eyes and hopped down off his stool. "Yes, boss, I'm just going." He gave me a kiss on the cheek as he passed, heading towards the bathroom to shower. I sighed, considering heading back to bed for another couple of hours. I didn't have to be in the shop until after lunch, so I could afford some time to recuperate.
After Matthew left, I made a fresh cup of tea and went back to curl under his duvet. It no longer felt strange to me to be in his flat alone, not after so long. Admittedly, the first time I'd stayed in his flat when he had gone into work, I'd done a sneaky swoop of the place, trying to look for something interesting. I hadn't found anything of any importance, though I didn't know what I had been expecting to find. He wasn't a mass murderer (as far as I could tell) so there were no bodies stashed in the wardrobe or anything. Sometimes when he wasn't there I sprayed his aftershave onto my neck so that I could smell him on me, which admittedly sounded a bit creepy now that I thought about it, but at least he was actually my boyfriend. I'd caught Scorpius wearing my perfume on more than one occasion. Matthew just happened to smell good, that was all.
I drifted off for a couple of hours. I felt much more alive when I woke up the second time round, and the thought of going into work didn't seem so repulsive as it had done before. When had hangovers become so bloody awful? When I was a teenager, it seemed I could just roll out of bed, hit up the painkillers and just be on my like normal. I blamed that horrific thing called age, which seemed to render painkillers near useless and turned my body into a rusty old mechanism. I tumbled into the shower, relishing the feeling of being clean again. Alcohol just ruined my body, really.
When I finally arrived at the shop, I found we actually had several customers perusing the shelves. I approached Magda, who was behind the till this morning.
"Did someone famous release a new book that I didn't know about?" I asked her.
She laughed. "No, actually. I just moved some of the newer books to the front of the shop. They were getting lost in the alphabetical section."
"Oh," I said, feeling like this was a criticism on my layout, which I supposed it was. I had been meaning to reshuffle the shop for ages, but I had been distracted with other things. "Thank you, that's a good idea."
Magda beamed, which made me feel like less of a horrible person. "Matthew is upstairs, by the way."
"Thanks, but I have some work to do down here before I head into the office."
I made my way to the store room, looking unenthusiastically at the number of boxes that needed sorting. Since the store room shared a wall with the break room, I could hear Boris snoring rather loudly next door which didn't do anything to help improve my mood. I sat down on what looked like the sturdiest box and just hid my head in my hands.
"What's the matter with you?" somebody revoltingly cheerful said from behind me.
"Ugh," I groaned into my hands. "Scorpius. What are you doing here? This is a staff-only area."
"I come with a message," he said, poking me until I looked up at him. He had a stupid grin all over his face, and he definitely did not look like he'd been participating in a shot war with me at three o'clock this morning. He could at least have had the decency to look as bad as I felt.
"What is it?" I really couldn't have cared less about any stupid message from him. I doubted it would be important.
"It's about Operation Freckle."
I sighed. "What the hell is Operation Freckle?" I asked.
Scorpius squinted at me. "You know, your little investigation. Albus told me all about it. I've got gossip about Hugo."
I looked up at his eager little face from my perch on the box and tried not to just sag against the wall. "I really don't give a damn about whatever the hell Hugo is doing."
Scorpius's smiled drooped. "But-"
"Please leave me alone, I'm not in the mood."
I buried my face in my hands again, hoping that Scorpius would get the message, be so offended and proceed to tell the entire world that Rose Weasley did not want to be disturbed, not now, not ever.
"There's no need to be rude," he snapped. "I didn't know you were being a bitch today. Next time, maybe put a note on the door or something."
With that, he flounced out of the store room and finally left me in peace. I exhaled slowly, leaning back against the wall and relishing the quiet. Right at that moment I really didn't care where Hugo was or what he was doing. I hadn't heard from him in weeks, so presumably he was busy doing whatever it was 20-something year old guys did. Mum didn't seem worried yet, so why did I have to waste energy worrying about Hugo when he definitely didn't worry about me.
"You do realise you made Scorpius cry, don't you?" Matthew said, poking his head around the door.
"He'll be fine," I said, looking through the cracks between my fingers at Matthew, who didn't look impressed.
"Hmm," Matthew responded, presumably noticing my bad temper and deciding to drop it. "Well, perhaps next time he comes to see you, offer him a biscuit or something."
I sighed after he'd gone, realising that he was probably right. Then I started to feel guilty about what I'd said to Scorpius, so I dragged myself off my box and went to look for him. As I came into view, Magda grimaced and pointed to the main body of bookshelves. I listened for a moment, sure I could hear sobbing. The customers in view looked slightly alarmed, so I considered it my duty to go and sort the snivelling wreck out.
"Please don't cry in my shop," I said crossly as I found Scorpius. He was leaning against a small windowsill set into the shop wall between two bookshelves, a handkerchief in hand. "You'll scare the customers off."
He sniffed, wiping away a lone tear. He really could be so dramatic sometimes. "Well, you were quite mean," he said in his defense.
"Fine," I conceded. "I'm sorry. I'm just a bit hungover after last night."
"Me too," he said, though I didn't really see how he was being so good-tempered if that was true. "It was worth it though. Who knew you could tap dance, eh?"
I frowned. "I can't... can I?"
"Yeah, you and Jesús were up on the bar showing us all how it's done," he told me. I grimaced. I was many things, but a good dancer was not one of them.
"Was... was I fully clothed?" I asked, feeling apprehensive about the answer.
"Definitely," Scorpius said with a nod. "You'd put on everybody's coats."
Oh great, so I'd gone from the naked chef to the marshmallow man all in one night. "Right," I said. "You don't happen to remember anyone else doing anything embarrassing, do you?"
He thought for a moment, running a hand through his gel-crusted hair. "Lorcan drank a yard of milk."
I raised an eyebrow. "That's gross."
"It was quite impressive really," Scorpius agreed with a nod. "Well, until he threw up in Molly's handbag, anyway. She wasn't best pleased."
I laughed at that, imagining the look on Molly's face. Well, technically I didn't have to imagine it seeing as I was there at the time, but seeing as my memory was somewhat impaired, all I had to rely on was my imagination so that would have to do. Hearing that other people were embarrassing themselves just as much as me was somewhat relieving.
"All right, then," I said after we'd both stopped laughing. "Tell me about this business with Hugo."
Scorpius beamed at my sudden interest. "Well," he began, leaning in conspiratorially. "After Albus told me about the plan, I took it upon myself to do a little research. I'm good at that, you see." My lips twitched into almost a smile. Yeah, I knew how good at "research" Scorpius was, I thought, thinking of his former shrine to me. "So I followed him around for a bit. He mostly did boring stuff like go to work or go to buy lunch, but this morning he met up with someone new."
"Oh yes?" I said, humouring him with fake interest. "Who was it?"
Scorpius leaned in closer so that our noses were almost touching. "It was..." He paused for dramatic effect. "A woman."
I looked at him blankly. "And?"
"That's it!" he said, looking at my with wide eyes as though I had somehow missed the point. "He's got a girlfriend."
"How do you know it's his girlfriend?" I was getting somewhat tired of this whole thing where Scorpius made a massive deal over literally nothing. "It might have been a work colleague."
"Right," Scorpius said, nodding. "A 'work colleague' then, if you want to call it that."
I tried not to roll my eyes at him, but he was taking this far too seriously. Who honestly cared who Hugo was seeing? I doubted this really had any significance and Scorpius was just grasping at straws.
"Well," I said, trying to summon some enthusiasm. "What a shocker."
"I know," Scorpius said sagely. "I'll let you know if I discover anything else."
"Please do," I muttered, feeling glad that he was gathering up his bags and preparing to leave. Honestly, the bloke could really try your patience sometimes. If he got too attached to this Operation Freckle idea, I was unlikely to hear the end of it. I wasn't sure I had the energy to feign interest for much longer.
He finally trotted out of the shop, looking pleased with himself. Matthew peered around the corner from the break room and raised an eyebrow.
“How much of that did you hear?” I asked him, feeling tired.
“I tuned out pretty early on,” he admitted, bringing forth a cup of tea for me.
“Lucky,” I said with a scowl. “That’s what I get for feeling guilty, I suppose.”
Matthew shrugged. “He’s not that bad, Rose.” When I looked sceptical, he stepped up to defend Scorpius. “Come on, of all the friends you could have, having one with a poor taste in hairstyle isn’t the worst thing that could happen.”
“Whatever,” I said, not willing to argue with anyone else today. “Now, I am going to take this lovely cup of tea and retreat to the store room. Please attach a note to the door warning all members of staff or intruders that I’m being a bitch today.”
I ignored the fact that Matthew looked alarmed. God knows what Magda thought of me; she’d barely known me a week and I’d already made a supposed customer cry as well as happily introducing her to our former (deceased) boss. I had yet to meet the new employee Alan, who had taken two days off sick already this week meaning we hadn’t crossed paths, but I was sure I was going to have a similarly alarming impression on him too.
When I went to sit on my box again, it gave way. I fell into the box with a muffled “oof”, feeling like a right idiot. I picked myself out of the box, turning around to peer at whatever hard edge I’d managed to park myself on. The box had clearly been there for a while because there was an awful lot of dust floating about in the air in front of me. I flapped my hands for a bit, wafting the dust out of my face so I could inspect the box’s contents.
I should have known, really. I picked up the glittery pink book and traced the words “Gilderoy Lockhart” with my fingernail. This wasn’t his latest book, the tell all autobiography which held no more truth to it than any of his previous autobiographies (I believed the count was up to three now, though I wasn’t quite sure how he’d done enough in his life to warrant that many books about himself). No, it wasn’t an autobiography and it wasn’t any of his old books aimed at Hogwarts students. It appeared that either we’d never got around to selling these books or that for some reason we’d kept them at the back. When I read the title, it seemed obvious why we had decided not to sell them.
“Gilderoy’s Guide to Girls”
Well, that didn’t sound seedy or anything. Opening up the cover, I looked down the list of contents, which included such helpful-looking gems like “Transfigure that ‘No’ into a ‘Yes” and “Grinning Your Way to a Green-card”. I shut the book hastily, not really wanting anyone to catch me reading such a horrific book. Honestly, what even went on inside this man’s mind? Perhaps this book had even been listed as a compulsory school book for Sixth Years or something before Mum, our lawyer Henry and I had put a stop to that nonsense.
“Interesting reading?” Magda asked. I turned to look at her. She was pinning a note to the door of the store room, and even from this distance I could definitely make out the word “bitch”.
“Definitely not,” I said forcefully, dropping the book into the box and sealing up the lid with my wand. “Hopefully nobody ever had to read that drivel.”
Magda smiled, admiring her handiwork. Perhaps she wasn’t as disturbed by me as I had initially thought. That would be a first.
AN: Hello! I managed to write a fair amount of this story during NaNo, so updates will be much more regular/frequent from now on. I hope you're still enjoying, let me know in a review! Marina
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by Miranda Lupin