Chapter 2 : Witches' Kitchen
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“Yes, Miss Malkin, that seems fine to me, really,” Jack smiled uncomfortably at the pony-tailed head that was rummaging around on the floor at his feet. “But maybe a bit, you know, shorter? Just a bit… I wouldn’t want to be dragging such a quality fabric on the ground, now would I?” He chuckled awkwardly.
The witch’s head shot up and fixed two wide green eyes on Jack’s tired, hazel ones. She had three long pins sticking out from between her lips.“Shrotr?”
“Ehm, yes?” Jack replied politely.
“Oh, I’m sorry!” She spat out the pins and smiled. “I’m still quite new to this. Mother somehow manages so easily, but I just can’t seem to get the fabric to stay in the right place.”
“Don’t worry, you’re doing fine,” Jack reassured her, trying to open his mouth as little as possible and producing a flat, awkward smile as a result. He hated shopping. Why did they always want to talk?
The girl seemed to take his words to heart and proceeded to stick needles into the hem of Jack’s robes with a new-found enthusiasm. “You know, you could help me if you’re in a hurry,” she informed him without looking up. “Just levitate the back while I finish up here…”
“Oh, of course, I’m such a dope.” The girl paused and sat up to smack herself in the forehead, “Your wand must be in your bag!”
“Yes! Yes it is, unfortunately,” Jack confirmed in relief. “If I had it here, then gladly, but, you know…”
“That’s alright, I think I got it,” her muffled voice came from somewhere to Jack’s left.
“Wonderful,” Jack called out in what he hoped was an encouraging voice before rolling his eyes at a mannequin. After making sure that the witch wasn’t looking, he ran his tongue over his fangs and stretched his face. This would be a long evening.
“Did you go to Hogwarts?” she continued conversationally while making her way to the back of Jack’s robes. “I don’t remember ever seeing you, but-“
“No, I didn’t.”
“Oh, I thought I heard a hint of an accent. Let me guess…”She scrambled to her feet and summoned a velvet pillow that was impaled with several dozen metal pins. “Durmstrang?”
“No,” Jack mumbled, making sure to turn away from her gaze. “One could say I was home-schooled.”
“Oh, I see. So you’re English then? I was wondering because, you know, I can’t remember anyone not being able to use a mirror out of cultural reasons before,” she mused conversationally. “Thought maybe you were from someplace exotic….”
* * *
Merdric’s Youth Hostel stood in the very center of London, contributing to the landscape of the city with the picturesque mold patterns of its exterior and providing a habitat for city dwellers of all forms and sizes, with any amount of legs or tails. For over a decade, a colony of rats had had the fortune of calling the cellar their home. The chimney, on the other hand, provided summer lodgings for a rogue gremlin, who, among other activities, made it his business to chase pigeons in Covent Garden at night. In contrast to the rats, Lehai the Gremlin paid rent, albeit at a discount price on account of his quarters being rather smokey and rough to sleep in.
Punctual as a well-oiled clock, Lehai would leave a 4 kilogram potato-bag filled with Muggle pennies under Jack’s table at the start of each month. This month was no exception.
Sighing, Jack lifted the bag and dropped it inside a cupboard. Then he stomped over to the reception desk and plopped into the wooden swirly chair, in which he proceeded to sway from left to right absent-mindedly. His eyes were glued to the vacancy board on the opposite wall.
One more night. They were staying just one more night. Surely he could hold out that long?
Jack pulled up the sleeves of his new robes for the third time in the last five minutes, an irritated frown skipping over his forehead. The ill-fitted robes remained as a souvenir of the excruciatingly long hour he had spent at Madame Malkin’s Robes For All Occasions. By the end, Jack’s lips had completely cramped up from trying to hide the inch-long fangs underneath and he had rushed out of the store with little on his mind except the possible ethical implications of tearing somebody’s throat out. At that point in time, he had been in no position to worry about sleeve lengths and waist-lines, a mistake many other points in time would remind him of as long as he kept the robes.
He sighed, allowing the sound to echo dully off the wooden walls and ancient carpet of the stuffy foyer.
Merdric’s Youth Hostel was never empty, but it often felt that way to those who looked for company only among the official guests. A romantic might even say the three-story Victorian-era construction represented city life as a whole with the mumbling, snoring, shuffling and singing that filled the airspace at all times of day and night. In Merdric’s Youth hostel, one was never alone. Only, one didn’t always know it.
Jack threw a plaintive glance at the grimy stain-glass window of the door before pulling out the registry from the lower drawer. The tome produced a large cloud of dust and loose scraps of parchment as it landed with a thud on the desk.
The customer bell jingled, making the vampire jump.
And then came the high-pitched laughter from Jack’s worst nightmare.
“-simply must look for those boys at the club tonight!” one girl was saying as she stumbled through the doorway.
“Oh yeah, we really should, they were so cute. I liked the red-haired one best, he was so goofy,” the second one agreed.
To Jack’s horror, the third girl, a blue-eyed blond with the longest, shiniest wavy hair Jack had ever seen, made her way over to his desk.
“Hey again!” she greeted him, a hand combing through a golden strand.
Jack smiled and raised his eye-brows questioningly. Avoiding talking whenever possible would never stop being weird, yes. But Jack knew all too well that fangs caused for an even smaller chance of being understood…and opened even less job opportunities, unless the job involved making people throw things or run away.
The girl stared back at him.
“I’m Alison,” she said finally, her lips curling up into a self-satisfied smile. “I wish I knew your name, we’ve been seeing each other every day for two weeks, after all…”
“Oh-dear -Merlin, Ali…” her brunette friend rushed over and grabbed the girl by the elbow. “What are you doing?” she whispered into Ali’s ear.
“I’m just getting acquainted with this charming young man, Chloe,” Alison replied, without breaking eye contact with Jack or dropping the seductive voice from before. He was beginning to feel very uncomfortable.
“Ali, don’t be silly. He is like a Squib or something…And I think he might be mute as well. Don’t you remember what happened last time? In the name of the Fae, it’s almost as if you enjoy having creepy stalkers, I swear…” Chloe tugged at her friend’s elbow, dropping all pretense of sparing Jack’s feelings. “Come on, we need to change.”
Jack had been staring at the girls in numb disbelief until that point. Then he broke out in laughter.
All three girls froze and blinked at him.
“I’m not mute, actually, and I’m not a Squib,” he informed them cheerfully. “But I’m completely on the brunette’s side on one thing: you girls should really go now.”
He flashed them a wide, toothy grin.
Alison was the first to catch on. She leaned forward and squinted at his mouth.
“Yes, I’m a vampire,” Jack announced, feeling the rush of freedom.
The curly-haired girl dashed up to the desk to join the other two and examined Jack’s face with acute interest, her freckled nose wrinkling slightly. “So you like…drink blood?”
“Ewwww,” the girls chorused, screwing up their lip-glossed mouths into identical pouts.
“So do you have any special powers?” Alison asked. Her attitude had changed little since Jack’s revelation and she seemed just as bent on seducing him as before. She leaned onto the desk with her elbows and cupped her chin in her palms, as if she was listening to the most fascinating story.
Jack frowned. Turning into Exhibit A was not what he had been going for. “Don’t you know anything about vampires?”
“Well, obviously we’ve never met one before…” the curly-haired girl stated.
Jack rolled his eyes. “Yes, I have powers. Super hearing, super strength…oh yeah, and I’m immortal-“
“Wow!” Alison exclaimed without waiting for him to finish, “So you’ve been around for ages! Have you met any famous historical figures? Are you like…really old?”
“Well actually, I –” Jack lowered his eyes, “I’m only 60 years old, but I will be alive to meet famous people of the fu-“
“But you can do magic, right?” Chloe, the ever-tough brunette, demanded from her position behind the other two girls. She remained demonstratively unimpressed and stood very still, with her arms crossed and her lips tight.
“…In a way, yes.” Jack sighed, the hope of getting his dignity back evaporating with every new question. He tried to avoid Alison’s searching eyes, feeling strangely self-conscious. “I can turn into a bat, I can hypnotize people.”
“So no magic, huh?” Alison peered at him sadly. “That must feel awful…”
“No, it’s not awful!” Jack lit up with a fresh awareness of injustice. “I’m a vampire, not a wizard. I don’t wave around a twig and spend half my life in school. Instead, I live forever and happen to be, by the way, on the very top of the food chain. I can control people’s minds, I can-“
“Oh yeah?” the curly-haired girl broke in. She pushed Alison out of the way and positioned herself across from Jack. “Ok, hypnotize me now!” She pulled back her shoulders and stared at Jack expectantly. "Make me…uh….make me sing something!”
Jack’s face darkened. He leaned back in his chair, a sinking feeling of defeat trumping all previous righteousness.
“I’m afraid that particular power only works on Muggles,” he admitted.
The girls shuffled uncomfortably.
“Well, maybe you’d do better living among the Muggles, then?” Alison offered half-heartedly.
Jack barked out a bitter laugh. “Now what would be the fun in that? Witch blood is much tastier…”
He flashed red eyes at the receding girls and collected a small morsel of solace from the sight of them hurrying away.
No more Mr. Nice Guy indeed, he thought. From now on it will just be Mr. Squib…Who has fangs and hasn’t even met anyone famous yet.
Well, it's now official: Jack is not very good with the ladies! Lucky for him, though, he is in a fictional story and therefor get's to have a character arc later on ;) Character arcs improve one's chances with the ladies, as a general rule.
So, opinions? Is this where you expected the story to go? Did you think Jack would be more of a badass?
Would you ever want to stay at Merdric's Youth Hostel? I know I would XD
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