Chapter 2 : two.
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“A note?” the scorn in Harriet's tone is clear. “Did he even sign it?”
I sigh and curl my fingers around the chipped mug, leaning back into her sofa. Our Sunday morning coffee catch up has become a regular in the calender, one never to be missed. “Nope.” I've expected the onslaught of questions, and pull out the note and pass it over. It takes Harriet all of two seconds to read the measly thing, then she scoffs.
“Wanker.” She gulps her coffee down viciously, her cheeks flushing red with anger as she looks at me. I can see the signs; one squinted eye, a rising blush. Then she goes for it. “Really, Eva? Who the fuck does that? Ooo I'm so sorry Evie, darling, I can't, I might chip a nail!”
I snort into my coffee, take a gulp. Swill it around my mouth for a minute to try and think of a response. “Well, it was kinda dead anyway. I think the whole not seeing each other for two months thing shot that one in the head.”
“And then he just fucking turns up and-,” she cuts herself off, huffing loudly, before shoving a tin in front of my face and rattling it ferociously. “Biscuit?”
I take one obediently, she puts the tin on the glass table and stares into her mug, muttering occasionally. I laugh. “C'mon, Hari, it's not unexpected, is it? Two months and then he comes back, I wasn't expecting him to stick around any longer. His artiste spirit obviously cannae handle this,” I gesture towards myself, biscuit crumbs flying. My friend smiles weakly.
“It's just bloody rude, if nothing else.” Prising my empty mug from my hands, she trots towards her tiny kitchen and shoves the kettle back onto the hob. “You're not reacting as you should be. I'd be fuming.”
“Harriet, aged twelve you wrote a strongly worded letter to a publishing house for using 'a' instead of 'an' in the authors note at the back of a seven hundred page book. You're always fuming.”
“Seven hundred pages.” Her lips twitch as she comes back with two full mugs, shoving one towards me.
“Six hundred and ninety two, actually,” we both laugh, coffee sloshes onto my hand and half my biscuit falls into my mug as I get a little too carried away with dunking. Scrabbling for a spoon, I attempt a rescue mission.
“You heard of Freddie Weasley?” the rescue's fruitless, nothing more than a few soggy crumbs coming to the surface.
“Everyone's heard of Freddie Weasley,” I quirk an eyebrow and look up, “okay, most normal people have heard of Freddie Weasley,” she amends, and I smile. “Why? Don't tell me you're actually taking an interest in the normal world now?! Praise Potter!”
I give up on my biscuit and root in my bag, retrieving my purse. From it I pull the ticket, and hand it over.
“Law – fuck. What the hell? Why do you have a VIP ticket to see Law?!” Harriet's grey eyes widen dramatically; she shoves a lock of mousy hair out of her face impatiently as she stares at me.
“I met Freddie Weasley last night, he asked me out to coffee, sang for a little bit, and gave me that,” I tap the ticket with one finger, trying to keep the amusement off my face as Harriet struggles to settle on the right expression.
“What! Oh, shit. You said no, didn't you? You, of all people, met Freddie freaking Weasley, who asked you out, and you said no!” Harriet flaps the ticket in my face. “You're so stupid! Stupid, I say!”
Batting her away, I laugh. “Well, I hardly foresaw that Tommy boy was going to do another runner that night, did I?” It placates her and she falls back into her chair, gazing at the ticket in wonder. “Are they any good?” I sip my coffee and get a mouthful of biscuit crumbs that almost make me choke.
“They're amazing,” she sighs, near dreamily, “amazeballs. Absolutely brillo pads.”
“That's good then, seeing as you're going and all.”
“He gave you two? Gosh, he's just so perfect. I love him. Isn't he so amazing?”
“No,” I want to swat her around the head for such nonsensical rambling, wondering when she got replaced by a thirteen year old fan girl. “But I've never even heard of Law – stupid name, don't you think? - so what's the point in me going? You'll get more out of it. Besides, I'm busy on Saturday anyway, it'll just go to waste.”
Harriet's eyes are shining and she clutches the ticket in a near possessive way, and I know she wants to go, but she still goes through the whole good friend charade. “But, he gave it to you, Eva, are you sure?”
Two minutes later and I'm waving her goodbye, hearing the door click shut behind me. Her flat isn't too far from mine. Wearily, I start down the stairs, deciding a walk around London wouldn't be the worst thing that's ever happened.
My door sticks in its frame; the key jams in the lock. Shoving it a few times with my shoulder, I manage to get it open. Despite its dreary outward appearance, I've tried to make sure the inside isn't as dank and gloomy. The landlord was just eager for a body to fill it; didn't mind me decorating. Thus each room had been lifted from its nicotine stained fog with a simple lick of paint, bright walls making it appear much friendlier.
Not much could be done about the size, but what I hoped to be a strategic placing of furniture made the most of what little room there was. A fleecy blanket covered the stained sofa, the kitchen had been scrubbed to within an inch of its life. Knockturn Alley is hardly the most desirable address, but beggars can't be choosers. Harriet had helped, draping fairy lights everywhere. My room was the best room, silken midnight blue material hanging from a point in the middle of my bed and stretching out to the walls, enclosing the bed and making it feel like a permanent den. It hid the damp patches, anyway.
Placing my wand on the rickety side table, I smile as Sybil comes running out my room in a black and white blur, mewing loudly. Jester hoots, looking expectantly from his perch, holding one leg up. Hurrying over, I detach the Prophet from his leg and smooth the feathers on his neck. “Atta boy,” I praise, as Sybil weaves between my ankles, batting my laces with one tiny paw. Jester stretches out his wings, hooting softly.
Opening the paper, I collapse onto the coach. Immediately Sybil springs onto my lap, kneading at my jeans with tiny, sharp claws. I flick past the news to the job adverts. Stretching, I manage to snag the quill off the side table without dislodging the kitten on my lap. Sybil mews slightly, shifting as I do, claws clinging on for dear life. Luckily there's still a little ink in the quill. I circle any jobs that may be of interest. And the ones that aren't. All jobs, really.
“Absolute nightmare,” I inform Sybil, dropping the newspaper to the sofa with a soft thud. Jester hoots reproachfully. The patterned kitten climbed up my front, perching on my shoulder. Draping himself like a furry, living scarf in his new favourite position, he began to purr into my neck.
The flat's empty, emptier than it was a week ago, before Tommy came back. He'd always had such a charm, an ability to make me forgive as soon as I open the door to his sheepish grin and paint smeared finger tips. I'm sorry, Evie. And all was forgiven and I'd laugh and open the door for him and his canvases. He'd pepper my shoulders with butterfly kisses, leave smudges of paint on my hips, my collarbone, streaks in my hair. Would smoke a cigarette, wrapped in the duvet, a tangle of legs and conflicting emotions and philosophical musings.
Now there's just me and my cat and owl, rattling around an empty flat. Running my fingers over the kitchen counters, I spot paint stains in the kitchen sink. Grabbing the sponge, I scrub at them, finding the cleaning therapeutic. Like I'm scrubbing Tommy and his damn hope raising returns away. Then, glancing at the clock, I swear and grab my wand. “Bye kids,” I say to Sybil and Jester, “be good!” The world spins as I apparate away.
“You must understand that each patient is different, Miss Desjardins. She may have years, she may have months, we simply don't know. Treatments in this area vary in their effectiveness. We can slow it down, but we cannot stop it.”
I'm in a stupor, as I so often am when it comes to things of importance. I just squint at the healer, and she smiles at me sadly. “I'm so sorry,” she says, and the words linger in the air. Sorry, sorry, sorry... It doesn't help anything. The fact remains that she's ill and there's very little that anyone can do. Magic has destroyed her, magic cannot fix her.
I step into the room, the pale floorboards creak beneath my feet. The woman seems content, reading a book. Yet there's a furrow in her brow and I know that the scene isn't as it seems. I watch her for a moment, as she turns the page. As she heaves a sigh, bony shoulders moving beneath her cotton blouse.
“Mum,” the word, though quiet and soft, echoes around the room. She looks up, the furrow in her brow deepening, lips tilting down at the corners. She squints at me and I hope that's it's not today, that today she forgets me. Then her blue eyes clear and she smiles.
I’m across the room in an instant, arms folding around her. Pulling her skinny frame to mine, pressing a kiss to her forehead. She laughs lightly, folds the corner of the page in her book and places it onto the table beside her. “Now, Evie, sweetheart,” her blue eyes are sharp as crystal as she looks at me, and I’m relieved. My heart begins to beat normally again. “Bring me up to date.”
Someone actually using the red phone boxes littered around London seems a novelty. But it’s a much easier, less conspicuous way of contacting Harriet. Took quite a lot of practice, though, and even now I have to resist the urge to shout into the receiver. Muggles are so damn clever. At half past six, as planned, I make my way to the red phonebox nearest to the Leaky Cauldron Muggle’s entrance and phone the pay phone outside Harriet’s flat. It rings for a while, during which I squint at the adverts, some faded, some new, a complex jigsaw of colours plastered over the phone.
“Eva?” Harriet’s voice is hesitant, as always, when she eventually answers.
“Yup,” I confirm, twisting the silver cord around my finger. “How’re you? Excited?”
Harriet squeaks in what I hope is barely contained excitement. “Crazily so,” I can practically hear her grin. “I can’t believe I’ve got a VIP ticket to see Law! It’s backstage and everything. You’re positively mental for turning it down.”
I shrug my shoulders, then remember she can’t hear me. “I’ve never heard of them, so what’s the point. ‘Sides, it would feel wrong selling them on.”
“Mmmm,” the line falls silent, bar a faint crackling. “Imagine if I met Freddie Weasley!”
I squint in confusion. “Didn’t you go to school with him?”
“Yeah… but he’s all grown up. Not that he paid me any attention, anyway,” a faint laugh in which I think I can hear the pain of Harriet’s school life. From what I’ve gleaned from it, people saw the nerd and not the true, vibrant person she is.
“Wait ‘til he sees you now,” I try to steer the conversation onto safer grounds. “What’re you wearing?”
Casual, yet smart was what she’d settled on. Debating the merits of each for a little while longer, I realise that she’s probably desperate to go and get ready for it.
“I’ve got work in ten,” a lie, but she needed a way out, “have fun, chickpea.”
“Hope work’s not too terrible!” her voice rises, bubbling with enthusiasm, “I’ll see you tomorrow morning. Love you.”
“You too. Be good! Bye.”
The phone line goes dead, but it takes me a while to replace the heavy receiver back into its cradle. Then I step out of the booth, pull my coat tighter around me and begin the slow trek back to my flat where my owl and my cat await my presence to begin the wildest night in ever recorded. Alone.
AN: Beautiful chapter image by abeille.reveuse at The Dark Arts, it's just stunning! Eee. It's of darling Harriet the little sweetie! Edited because I called Sybil Napolean a few times (I'm not even sure why but sorry for the confusion!)
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