Chapter 10 : The Hazy Future
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“You get what you deserve,” Annie huffed a few days later. I’d confronted her about the grandmums in the dormitory since I couldn’t fall asleep for hours the night before. She had been surly since we won the competition. “And that is exactly what you deserved.”
“In the same way you lot deserve a dormitory that smells like the locker room,” I shot back, irritated. “No man should live like that!”
“No gentleman should take away a girl’s room.”
We were in the Great Hall, eating. With very little privacy. James kept missing his mouth with the fork.
“It was a game. Those were the stakes. You lot would have still made James propose,” I said. James missed his mouth again and started coughing. Ollie ignored him.
“It was still ruthless,” Annie said. “And we’re not changing the décor back until we get our room back.”
“But we moved all our things.”
“You didn’t,” Annie said, rolling her eyes. “You let someone else do it while you skirted off somewhere. Where did you go, anyway?”
“Prefect duties,” I said absently. Which was true. In a way.
The last thing I wanted was to discuss Ryan Davies with Annie. The very last.
“Besides,” Annie said, ignoring me, “Why can’t you just change it yourself?”
“You know perfectly well there is a permanent sticking charm on those portraits,” I said through gritted teeth, leaning closer. “This is going to ruin our relationship.”
Annie huffed. “What relationship?”
“Right through the heart,” I said, getting to my feet. “Thanks for coming to the movie night, by the way.”
“Is that what this is about?” Annie said loudly. More people were staring. Even some Hufflepuffs turned to look, probably because Annie never had outbursts like this. Hell, I never had outbursts like this. “Your precious movie night? Come off it, Freddie. No one went. You can’t be mad at me for that.”
“You’re my girlfriend,” I said, very aware of the desperation in my voice. “I would have liked to see you there.” I finished my dinner roll and tossed the last bite back onto the plate. Then I left before she could counter her title.
It had been like that for several days now. Bickering. She was furious they lost the trivia contest. Angry with me for stealing her room and for being at Quidditch practice and studying and yes, spending time with Ryan. Granted, I hadn’t seen much of Ryan since the movie night. Just at a Prefect meeting and in class. Though I did accidentally wander into the library while she was working. She told me to get bent.
I wasn’t sure what else to do about Annie. I couldn’t tell her all my stress was coming from Ryan’s pregnancy. The kiss of death for our relationship.
Maybe she was right. What relationship?
I’d have to mend that. But not now.
Now I was walking swiftly up to the fourth floor. I passed a few people, but no one of consequence. If my timing was correct, I could head her off.
And it was.
Just as I leaned against the wall to catch my breath, Ryan walked around the corner. She looked like she’d just been ill and thus not happy at all. Her raven hair was a little tossed, though she’d put it back in a messy bun which was flopping about as she walked. She was almost past me when she stopped. “Absolutely not. Go back to dinner.”
“Just let me come,” I said, falling into step. “I won’t be a bother.”
“You’re always a bother,” Ryan said, rolling her eyes. “Now get lost. I don’t need a babysitter.”
“Then allow me to do the babysitting,” I said, hooking my arm with hers. She pulled away instantly. “Come on, Davies. They told you to come back in a couple of days because they were full. It’s a couple of days. Just let me come along.”
Ryan stared daggers at me. “And if I don’t want you to?”
“That’s hardly a reason.”
“But still a reason.”
“But not a solid one.”
She punched me hard in the arm. It burned. “Fine. You can come. You are not to speak.”
I mocked zipping my lips and she dragged me inside an empty classroom. Judging by some of the décor, it used to be a Charms classroom or at least a practice space. Most of the furniture was covered in white sheets and the windows were dusty.
Ryan pulled her wand from her robe pocket and started a fire in the hearth with ease. She looked bored while conducting non-verbal spells. I would hate to be on the receiving end of some of them.
She knelt down, feeling the warmth against her fingertips. “No talking,” she said. “I mean it. There are a lot of things you don’t know about me and I would appreciate them being kept that way.” She straightened and took a velvet bag from her pocket. Ryan dug into it and pulled out Floo Powder. Then she tossed it to me. Without looking, she threw the powder into the fire, stepped in, and cried, “St. Mungos!” Then she was gone.
I sighed. No talking. Right. Like that had ever gone well before.
I mirrored her actions and fell out of the fireplace in the lobby of St. Mungos. My pants were covered in soot (I wasn’t very good at Floo’ing) and my balance wasn’t very good. Ryan was already at the desk checking in. Not a mark on her.
One day I’d figure out how she did it.
And why on earth she wanted to play Quidditch with a brain like hers.
I moved to her shoulder, smiling a little at the Healer taking down Ryan’s name.
“Yes. I have you right here, Miss Davies.” She glanced up and handed Ryan a form. “I just need you to sign here.” She looked over at me, a knowing expression on her face. “You’re a Weasley, aren’t you?” she asked.
“Surprised you got that from the dark hair,” I admitted. “Usually they only notice the gingers.”
“No, no,” the Healer said, shaking her head. “You’re the son of the joke shop owner! My husband and I go in there all the time. We really love it.” She was bouncing on the balls of her feet, ringlets of curls tossed against her cheeks. “Are you here with Miss Davies?”
“No,” Ryan said bitterly, signing her name. “He’s just someone who likes to follow me. Rowena bloody knows why.”
“This changes things.” The Healer happily ripped back the forms. “We will get your room upgraded. No extra charge.”
“No,” Ryan spat. “I’ll have the same room, thank you. I don’t need special treatment because of my company.”
“But dear, don’t you think you’ll be more comfortable in a different room?”
I wanted to suggest to the Healer that it was a good idea she not speak as well, but Ryan seemed to have that under control.
“I am superstitious,” she replied. “I would like the same room and Fred is just fine sitting in that chair as opposed to a luxury leather one.”
Hmm. She used my first name.
The Healer tried for a smile. “Down the hall on the left,” she said. “Room four.”
I’d never been to a room on the very first floor. Usually when I’d visited St. Mungos it was for serious cases. Always toward the top. Dad had been here a few times when his episodes got really bad. I remember staying the night in a lounge before I was at Hogwarts. Some elderly chap let me borrow his blanket.
I followed Ryan obediently. She pushed open the door. It was a normal hospital room set up with what I assumed to be baby-checking equipment (I really needed to open that book). She hopped up onto the bed, the paper crinkling under her, and I took a seat on the spinny chair by the wall. There were charts I decided not to look at.
For good reason.
I swung my feet under the chair, but it started to spin so I stopped.
Ryan took a crossword puzzle book from her back pocket and started to fill it out with a pen she’d taken from the jar on the shelf.
“So,” I said.
“No speaking.” Ryan bit her lip and decided on an answer before scribbling it down. She nodded to herself.
“What’s this appointment for anyway?”
“For you to shut your face,” she said.
“I don’t think that’s correct,” I replied. “Or else I would have been invited initially.”
Ryan slammed her book shut. “Why do you have to be so unearthly involved in this? The activities of the thing growing inside me are not always your concern.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Why do they have to be?” she pressed.
I shrugged. I didn’t have a good answer. I probably wouldn’t for a long time.
“I’m not going anywhere,” I said confidently, raking my fingers through my dark hair. “So you can either deal with it or keep fighting me, which takes a lot of energy.” I folded my arms, feet flat on the floor so I didn’t spin and lose all of my credibility.
Just when Ryan was about to throw the nearest machine at me, the door opened. A tall Healer with white robes and a crew cut moved into the room. He looked bored and annoyed.
“I’m Healer Jones,” he said, shaking Ryan’s hand and ignoring me. “We’ll be doing a regular checkup today, right?”
“If that’s what is on your chart,” Ryan said sweetly. No one could mistake that for sweetness.
“It is indeed.” Jones smiled back. Not sweetly. “Having any sickness?”
“All of it,” Ryan replied.
I tried not to listen to the rest. Boring questions about her dietary habits, if she was smoking or drinking, what prenatal things she was taking. So on and so forth. What she could expect before the next appointment, which was a lot more trips to the toilet and hating many different types of food. Also eating a lot of the food she didn’t hate.
My head did pop up when he said ‘breast enlargement’ though. I couldn’t help it. Ryan noticed my interest and shot me a look that promised to injure me when we left.
Which she did. Hard.
“You didn’t care about half of what he said,” Ryan quipped once we were back at Hogwarts. “You just wanted to be a part of it to look like you cared.”
I groaned. “You are a piece of work, you know that? I’m trying to be involved. I’m sorry if I doze off while discussing your vitamins. Did you want me to get your prescription? Otherwise, I’m not much use in that department.”
“Go eat your fucking tequila chips.”
“Got a mouth on you,” I snapped. “Going to teach that language to the kid?”
“You’ll never find out,” Ryan said, shoving the door open. She looked both ways before starting into the hall, which was vacant.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Do you have a problem hearing, Weasley? It means what I said. Now get lost and go snog your girlfriend. If you still have one by the time you get back.” Ryan shoved open the door to the girls’ restroom and disappeared.
Haven’t heard from you in a bit, which concerns me. I’m glad you told James. At least you’re not bottling it up. Just a question – when exactly were you planning on telling your mum? She thinks you’re up to something. She’s usually right. In this case, of course she is.
Looking more and more like we’re going to the serious-people court.
Getting my papers together and getting ready for the fight with Zonkos over the joke shop line and the bints that own the building. It’s a mess. It’s been shifting ownership because of Zonkos bribes. And to think of the amount of money I spent there, you know?
Anyway, the shop is doing fine. A lot of regulars, but they love it.
You should stop by again soon. Maybe before Halloween? What’s James got planned this year, anyway? Maybe he will dress up as a WWW employee and finally tell Harry and Gin he’s not planning on being an Auror.
Good luck to him.
“Fat chance,” said James, scrunching up his face. “I’m not telling them until the last minute. Until I sign the contract with Uncle George.”
“You really think they’re going to be pissed?” We were in our dormitory, though trying to forget where we were. The grandmum pictures were still staring down at us. James wouldn’t let us admit defeat. Instead, he wanted to get revenge.
Andrew wanted to kill him for it. Andrew’s own personal form of revenge was, apparently, studying with Ollie on a regular basis. And Annie. That was where he was now.
But Andrew still wasn’t on the Quidditch team so ha-bloody-ha.
Ugh. My priorities were really messed up.
“I don’t know,” James said, lying back on his bed and closing his eyes since Grandmum Weasley was shaking her fist at him. “I just don’t want to take the chance of getting them riled up over nothing.”
“So you really think there’s a chance you won’t do it?”
“Can you let me procrastinate in peace please?” James whined and rolled over, pressing his face into the pillow. “Speaking of procrastinating.”
“I don’t know when I’ll tell them, okay?” I said. “Them meaning Mum.”
“And Rox,” he added, voice muffled. “And the rest of the ginger clan.”
“They’ll probably call a meeting to stomp the demon out of me,” I grumbled. “Just what I need right now. No, I think it’s better if this one stays under wraps for a while longer. Ryan and I can’t even stay in the same room for more than a few minutes without arguing.” I had told him about the appointment.
At least Annie and I were on the mend. I’d taken her on a mini-date to the Astronomy Tower and we drank a bottle of wine while I told her about my childhood at the shop. It was a small step in the right direction, but it was there.
“Do you think you’ll ever be able to stay in a room without arguing? No offense, Freddo, but the girl is a little crazy.” He sighed. “A lot crazy. You sure picked the girl to knock up, didn’t you?”
“Could have seduced Ollie,” I said with a smirk. He threw a pillow at my face. “Stop it. I’ll tell when you tell, how about that?”
He peeled his face away from the other pillow. “They’ll find out before that,” he said. “Either you or Uncle George will slip up. Or you’ll pull some valiant knight-in-shining-armor crap with Ryan and everyone will find out.” He made a face.
“Pretty sure knight territory is yours, mate,” I said. It was true. I’d seen him jump up on a table to tell Ollie how much he loved her. And during a Quidditch match.
“And don’t forget it.” James stuffed his face into the pillow again. “So what’s your plan? Just mysteriously become a father and get some rights and not tell your mum she’s going to be a grandmum? Hey! We can put her picture on our wall.”
I groaned. “You want to come by the shop with me? I have a feeling Dad might need some help.”
“Don’t we have homework?”
I laughed. “Of course we have homework.”
It was easy getting out of Hogwarts with my dad. He just owled the Headmistress and she approved us Floo’ing out of there. Of course I wanted to do it by the books (Ryan didn’t have that much candor) so I waited patiently for the notice to be confirmed before James and I headed off to Diagon Alley.
The shop wasn’t busy. I hadn’t expected it to be. James noticed though. He shot me a look before becoming distracted by the pretty cashier. She was Dad’s favorite. Ginger thing with big blue eyes. Dad said he needed someone else with red hair around or he’d go mad. I gave him hell because she looked like a model.
“You complaining?” Dad had said with a smirky smile. Then he slugged me in the shoulder and told me to get back to work.
We found him in his office building a cabin out of unsharpened pencils.
“You look busy.” James filed in before me and grabbed a stack of papers at random, leafing through it.
“Hi to you too.” Dad ruffled his hair and placed the final pencil on the top. “That notice took forever. Why didn’t you just leave illegally? Would have been easier.”
“And more trouble if we were caught,” I said, closing the door and leaning against it.
“Right,” Dad said, rolling his eyes. “Have a Prefect reputation to uphold. Tell me, do those twats even do anything? Oh! The movie night. You told me about the movie night.” He was snickering. “James, how was it?”
“Didn’t go.” James’ attention was still on the papers.
“You didn’t?” Dad said. He spun his chair to face me. “How many people went?”
“Three.” My face was warm. I took the opportunity to glance around at the stacks of papers and binders and other oddities collecting dust. Dad hated the office. Mum told me Uncle Fred always took care of the finances.
“Did the three include you?”
“Yes,” James said before I could answer. “Hey, Uncle George, are these the numbers for this quarter? They can’t be.”
I watched Dad’s face turn just as scarlet as mine was. He spun the chair toward James and ripped the papers from his grip. Literally, one of the papers tore. “That is none of your concern,” he said. “We have been a little behind lately is all. It’s just a slow season.”
“Zonkos is up two percent,” James said flatly. “It’s almost Halloween. I don’t understand.”
“James,” I said. “Not now, okay?”
“If we’re going to help run this after graduation there has to be something to run,” James said quickly. I could tell he regretted it by the look in his eyes. He covered his mouth with his palm. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”
“Thanks for coming by today, boys,” Dad said. The light in his expression was all but extinguished.
“He’s got a point,” I said, sighing. “Dad, you know he’s right. We have to make some changes. Do some marketing. Invent some new products.”
“Everything is fine just the way it is.” Dad was on his feet. Sometimes he looked older than he was, the lines prominent around his eyes. He told me growing up that seeing things you had no control over aged you. That torment aged you further. And he had endured both for too many years.
He left us in the office and I heard the corner door shut. It led to a staircase where, perched at the top, was the flat he and Uncle Fred stayed in when they first opened the shop. Dad stayed in it until he and Mum got married and moved to our current house and the flat has been empty ever since. Though I know Dad goes up there from time to time. He won’t let anyone else. Even when I was younger he kept the door firmly locked.
“Are you cross?” James asked, sinking into the chair Dad left. “That I said something? I had to say it, you know. I had to. This place is going downhill. I think I saw dust when we walked back here.” He wasn’t wrong.
“No.” I took the abandoned papers, looking over the numbers for myself. “No, I’m not mad. I’ve been saying it for months. He doesn’t want a change.”
“He’s going to lose the court battle,” James said softly. “If this place keeps tanking Zonkos has it bloody easy to keep us out of Hogsmeade. I can’t deal with their smug god-awful mugs around the village.”
Dad had been talking about expanding since I was little. It was his dream. He wanted me to run the satellite shop. That hill was slowly getting steeper.
“Just let it go for now.” I tossed the papers back to the desk. What a bloody mess. “Let it go for now and let’s see what happens. If they go to court it won’t be until after the new year anyway with the way the system works. That will give Dad plenty of time to realize what he needs to do to keep this place floating. Besides, the holidays are a great money-earner. I think we’ll be okay.”
“And if we’re not?” James said, glancing up.
“If we’re not we’d better have a backup plan.”
He sighed. “Being a father does not count. And if it does, I’m calling dibs.”
Rose was beside herself, drilling us like mad. It was as if she’d seen the exposed body between plates of armor and was going for it. Even though we were playing Hufflepuff.
Come on. Hufflepuff.
“They’re ruthless this year!” she cried, smacking me with the pointer. “Gee, what are you doing?”
“Word search?” Gee looked up from the bench. She had a book propped up on her knee. It reminded me of Ryan’s. “Lighten up, Rose. It helps me concentrate. Hufflepuff is ruthless this year. See? I’m paying attention.”
“This is not a joking matter,” she snapped at James and me because we were laughing. “We have to win. Everyone is going to be watching.”
“That’s the point of a sporting event,” James noted and Ollie elbowed him.
“We have to win,” Rose repeated. She was pacing the length of the locker room like a drill sergeant. Or professor. “If we don’t, you will make me look bad.”
“So this is about your personal image now,” James noted. “Good to know. I’ll be sure to leave my bat in the locker room.”
“Not funny.” She made a face and leaned against the wall beside the girls’ showers. “If we can’t beat Hufflepuff we’ll never be able to take down a powerhouse like Ravenclaw, with or without Davies. Albus knows that.”
“Albus is a twat,” James said. “He’s been running around like a bloody crazy person since Davies quit. Apparently she’s been going to a practice here and there just to give him notes on the team and train the reserve, but he isn’t convinced. He doesn’t think they have a shot in hell of winning.”
“I do.” Rose rolled her eyes. “Now get in the air and give me all you have or I will make you run laps until your ears bleed.”
I grabbed my broom, hoisting it over my shoulder. Teo was shaking like a lost puppy. “You are such a kind-hearted person.”
Classes leading up to Halloween were ruthless. It was as if they knew I was going to avoid homework all weekend in favor of being blackout drunk to forget about my problems. Every class had an essay due, which required reading. Library books. Lines and lines of bullshit spun to take up space on the parchment.
The night before Halloween, James and I found a nice corner in the common room to finish up our essays. It would have been easier had Ollie agreed to just write them for us, but she was feeling bitter about her dormitory smelling like feet, so she went to the library.
Ryan was working in the library, so I declined.
“You done yet?” James’ eyes were glazed over. He looked exhausted. It was six in the evening.
“I have a sentence done. Does that count?”
“Of course. Let’s go find our girls and snog.”
I started leafing through my Charms book. What a load of nonsense. I probably should have been paying attention in class instead of writing notes back and forth to James. And trying to invent new flavors of cream soda. So far I had sixteen, though.
“What’s the plan for tomorrow?” I asked, checking the table of contents. I wondered if there was a spell where I could just write down the word and it would find it. I’d have to invent that for the shop.
“Drinking?” James guessed. “Somewhere Molly isn’t. I’m sick of her stick-in-the-muddery. Maybe we’ll get lucky enough and she’ll be off snogging Rune.” He grimaced. So did I. “We should haul it to the locker rooms.”
“And have Rose slaughter us when she sees the spills?” I said.
“Fair enough.” James moved his quill behind his ear. “Hogsmeade? Ugh. Sneaking that many people out would be a nightmare. Or getting them anywhere, really. Should we do a small thing? Why are we thinking this over now?”
“Because Ollie didn’t bother to plan it this year,” I replied dryly.
“Are you two discussing Halloween?” It was Andrew sodding Parise. He slid into the chair across from us, folding his arms like a twat on the table in front of him. He had sleeve buttons.
“Nope.” James opened his book again. “We’re discussing the Quidditch final. Who do you think will be in the stands? I have some ideas.” He smirked.
“So do I,” Andrew replied in the same calm tone. “Listen, I want those horrible pictures down. I think we should propose another event. Or contest. At the very least I want our dormitory back.”
“I think the Grandmums are fashionable,” James said halfheartedly.
“I swear to Godric if you don’t do this, Potter.” Andrew’s eyes showed how livid he was. It wasn’t exactly scary. He reminded me of a kitten backed down a galley kitchen. “I will make sure the Heads know exactly where your little party is.”
“Ruining the fun for everyone,” James said, sighing. “Isn’t that just your style.” He snapped the book closed and looked over. “What did you have in mind then? I hope you don’t expect me to answer more trivia questions. And we’d have to up the stakes. I’m perfectly content living in a room that doesn’t smell like socks.”
“I’ll figure it out. And I’ll do it.”
“What if you lose?” I said. I put my quill behind my ear to match James’. It either made me look more threatening or like a bunny.
“Then I’ll take the fall,” Andrew said.
I didn’t know how that was going to work, but I liked the idea of Andrew taking the fall. Any fall, really. It could be off the Astronomy Tower for all I cared.
The Astronomy Tower!
“No!” I cried, getting to my feet so fast the chair toppled over behind me. It landed on a cat’s tail, but it ran off toward the portrait hole.
“I won’t?” Andrew said.
I ignored him and raced for the spiral staircase, taking them two at a time. Inside the dormitory, I snatched up the planner on my pillows and opened it to October thirty-first.
I was on Prefect duty for Halloween.
A/N: Thanks again for the support, everyone. I hope you enjoyed the chapter! More Fred and Fryan and Roxy and yes, Parise in the future.
Up Next: Halloween. Tempers. Laughter. An incident in the dungeons that sheds some new light on the real problem.
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