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Acanthus by patronus_charm
Chapter 2 : Souks and Surprises
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 22


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The heat was inescapable. It reflected off the heavy tarmacked streets, it was emitted from the fumes of the many cars which travelled down Cairo’s packed roads and the sun continually pulsed out more and more of it, showing no sign of relenting.

Even in the shade of an acacia tree, Rose was suffering the consequences of having a Weasley complexion. Her skin had turned a deep red hue, and in the spots which had been saved from that fate a multitude of freckles had developed there. She carefully avoided the tarnished metal parts of the bench she was sitting on, knowing they would only heighten her pain.

Rose knew she shouldn’t be resting, but it didn’t exactly help that all of Cairo’s movement had lulled for the afternoon. Even the many stray cats which Rose had befriended on her outings were suspiciously absent. They had probably found some secluded spot and were glad of the reprieve from the ball of orange suspended in the sky.

Cairo’s magical community could not find any magical resolution to this either, so the wizarding area of Cairo was also desolate. Rose had almost decided to give up on her quest of finding anymore prospective interviewees, when she heard the swing of a door and the pitter patter of footsteps which followed it.

“I have seen you sitting there for a while now,” a heavily accented voice said with some trepidation. “I was wondering whether you wanted to come inside and sit in the shade.”

Rose looked up and saw a girl who was probably a similar age to her own standing before her. Her ebony hair had turned frizzy in the heat and hung by her shoulders, her dress was plain and simple, and she had a timid smile on her face.

“That would be wonderful, thank you so much.” Rose sighed with relief. “I’m Rose by the way, Rose Weasley.”

The girl didn’t react to her surname, so perhaps the tale about what her parents did wasn’t as well-known over here. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m Dalila Massri. My family’s shop is just over here.” Dalila pointed over to small shop with words written in Arabic on the signage. There were no visible clues as to what it sold then.

As Rose followed Dalila over to it, she noticed that the ground was so parched that mushroom shaped clouds of dust rose whenever she trod on it. Cracks wore deep into it creating mini-chasms. She wouldn’t have been surprised if the heat from the centre of the earth was rising through them and adding to their turmoil.

When Rose walked into the shop she was affronted by the differing scents that hung in the air. They ranged from the delicate one of jasmine to the deeper and more penetrating one of musk. Though she couldn’t read what the sign said, she was pretty certain that this was certain this was a perfume shop. Perhaps her efforts of trying to find an interviewee were going to be of avail.

“Is this a perfume shop, Dalila?” Rose tried to keep her excitement at bay when asking.

“Yes,” Dalila replied with a little less hesitation. “It has been in my family for several generations. My grandfather owns it now, but he tires easily so it is mainly me and my brother, Hasani, who work here.”

“I know this may sound a little presumptuous, but would you mind if I interviewed you? It’s for my work you see. I’m writing an article for this newspaper called The Daily Prophet, and it’s about the Egyptian perfume business. You would be an excellent person to feature, as this shop has been in the family for generations, so you must know a lot about it.”

Dalila didn’t answer straight away. She walked behind the counter where an old till and a few sample bottles of perfume sat. She scratched at a bit of dirt on it before replying. “I think that should be fine. My grandfather will be pleased. He is always complaining of the rival companies who mass produce things, and that they’ve lost the real essence, the real magic of perfume making. When would this article be published?

Before she had even finished replying, Rose had begun scrabbling around in her worn bag for a sheath of parchment and a quill. Pierston should be pleased with this interview, she thought happily. “Aha, here we go.” With a flourish, an amethyst coloured quill and a slightly torn bit of parchment was revealed from Rose’s bag. “I have a list of prepared questions, but if you don’t want to answer anything just say. We can include other things as well, so it will be more personalised to your shop. It depends on how long it takes to find other interviewees really so in about a month's time I would say.”

Dalila appeared perturbed by Rose’s forwardness and returned to a tone of trepidation when replying. “It might be best for us to do it elsewhere, somewhere seated. It may take a while,” she said, noting the parchment with multiple blobs of black ink on it in Rose’s other hand.

“Oh, yes, you’re probably right. Sorry about that. This is the first feature I’ve ever written, and I want to make it a good one.” Rose scolded herself internally. If she got carried with this the interview would be no good.

“Do not worry.” Dalila smiled at Rose. “There is a little office area behind here. We can sit there, as it should be away from the sun.” Dalila walked out from the counter and through an oak door by a shelf stacked with an assortment of perfumes. Rose followed her and caught a whiff of their mesmerising scents when walking past.

The office didn’t possess the same mystical quality as the front room did. Here, boxes were stacked up to the ceiling with a variety of stickers on them and there was a tiny desk tucked away in the far corner. A window looked out onto a shaded back street where Rose could see some of her feline friends rolling in the dust, so their fur had turned to a muddy brown colour. There was a little alcove beside the desk where two shabby armchairs sat. Dalila promptly sat in one of them, and indicated that Rose should sit in the other.

“So, tell me about the shop. When was it founded?” Rose asked eagerly.

“Well, my great-great-grandfather and his brother opened it in 1896,” Dalila replied. Rose’s quill flew across the page so fast that spurts of black ink began to cover anything in its vicinity. This chance meeting with Dalila had a good feeling about it.

*

“Thank you so much for letting me interview you. It was a real pleasure.” Rose rubbed her thumb while thanking her. She had questioned Dalila for over three hours and was now facing the consequences of having to match the pace of Dalila speaking with her quill.

“It was no problem, I had fun.” Dalila’s eye shone. During those three hours Rose had managed to make little indents into opening up her timid personality. “My grandfather will probably want to meet you once I tell him. It would be lovely to see you again sometime.”

“That would be great,” Rose replied happily. She had grown intrigued by this man who had passionately loved the perfume business for his entire life. From what she learnt from Dalila, his excitement for it matched her mother’s for elfish welfare.

“I have to get back to work. Hasani will be coming back soon, and he will wonder why I am not working.” Rose could tell that Dalila was trying not to hurt her feelings with the pained expression on her face.

“It’s no problem. I was planning on visiting that famous market anyway.”

Dalila unexpectedly burst into laughter at Rose’s response. “You mean a souk. They are quite different to your tame markets back in England. You are going to Khan el-Khalili, right?”

“Yes, however did you know though?” Rose inquired.

“It is the most famous souk in the whole of Egypt. I would be aware of thieves. They will know you are not a native from your sunburn and will do their best to steal from you. It is also a Muggle one, so you must not do magic there,” Dalila said with a more gentle tone.

“Thank you so much. I wasn’t aware of it being a Muggle one. The hotel receptionist said it would be an interesting place to visit, but never that. Thank Merlin you told me, as I’d hate to think what trouble I might have landed myself in otherwise.” Rose beamed at her. She glanced at her watch before replying. “Wow, it’s already four. I’ll be off then; otherwise the stalls will close before I get there.”

“You won’t have any problems with that. They are often open well into the night.”

“That’s good to know, see you soon,” Rose called over her shoulder as she walked out into the balmy air. People had begun to venture out now the worst of the heat had begun to fade, and the street had a merrier atmosphere. Since arriving last week she had been unsure over her views of the place, but this encounter with Dalila made them certain. She liked Egypt and the mystical air it carried with it.

*

Crowds of people were converging onto one focal point. Even though they were united in their aims, their appearances couldn’t be any more different. There were the Egyptians who were bustling about knowing exactly what they needed to do and where to get it, there were those who were acted far too oddly, and therefore, must be magical and then the Muggle tourists who were shooting beams of light into people’s eyes with each flash of their camera.

Despite the hubbub of people, Rose was still looking for him. Him meaning Scorpius Malfoy. Her friend, the curse breaker. It was only in fourth year Potions that they began to talk. The Gryffindor girl and the Ravenclaw boy.

Albus introduced them; he, too, was a Ravenclaw and had had a tentative friendship with him since the previous year, it was only then that he felt it was ready to introduce him to other members of the family. From then on, they’d been friends. She knew searching for him would be useless though, the tide of people which washed past her each second made it near impossible to identify individual faces.

Remaining stationary while people were jostling around her probably wasn’t Rose’s best idea. She was pushed along with them and ended up in cavern like shop. During the moment of calm after the storm it allowed her to look around surroundings.

She was in a partially illuminated room, where fractured spectrums of light provided a momentarily relief in the otherwise dark interior. Rose cast her eyes around the room to find the source of this mysterious display and found that multiple chandeliers were hanging from the arched ceilings. The other rooms leading off of the central room had a similar setting and caused her, and the others in the shop to enter a trance like state as they marvelled in the beauty of it.

The only sound found in the shop were the hushed whispers of the other possible buyers, and she could see them nudging and pointing one another as they walked around. She knew she should leave, as she was pretty certain a chandelier as delicate as these looked would not last the portkey home.

She was just about to turn around and head outside to look at the other stalls. There was no point staying and being tempted into buying one, when she was accosted by the shop owner. “You like? I can give one for £1000; it is good deal, right?” Though the hotel receptionist failed to warn her about the market being a Muggle one, she did tell Rose about how determined the stall owners were for you to buy their products.

“No thanks, I’m fine,” Rose replied apologetically.

“A pretty girl like you must want one, yes?” the shop keeper carried on; clearly he was determined to make a sale here no matter what.

“Maybe, I’ll come back later and think about it.” She may have been sorted into Gryffindor instead of Hufflepuff, but it didn’t stop her feeling any worse about lying.

“Yes,” the shop keeper said eagerly. “I will give you even better deal if you buy now though. For £750 you get a big one, it is good deal.”

“I’m sure whatever deal you give me will be a good one, I’ll come back later.” Rose gave the shop keeper a little wave before half-walking half-running out of the shop. Even though he only pestered her for a few minutes, it didn’t make her feel any better for running away.

She followed the most twisted and obscure path possible as she had no clue where she was going and decided to let chance lead her. She would have carried on this state, admiring everything as she passed it, but something, or someone, she realised when she saw their feet, was blocking her current path.

It was some silly Muggle tourist blabbering away on their mobile phone. Her eyes analysed the gap on either side of them and realised that there was no chance fitting through. There was only an inch to spare on either side, so she would simply have to ask them to move.

“Excuse me, but do you mind if you move out the way?” Rose asked. “It’s just I need to get through.”

The tourist fortunately heard her and lowered their phone and turned around. Hopefully they weren’t going to be too angry, Rose thought. “Of course, sorry about that.” It was only then that Rose realised who it was. “Rose, is it really you?” the person asked gingerly.

“Scorpius! Did you get my owl?” Scorpius pulled her into a friendly hug before she could contemplate anything else. She had been wondering why he hadn’t replied to her letter informing him of her coming here. The only thing she could console herself with was the great distance was so great; it must take an owl several weeks to get to Egypt from England.

“Funny you should say, I was just about to leave work but a letter came for me, and it was from you explaining everything. That’s why I was on the phone, I was talking to Albus.” Scorpius let go of her and raised the phone to show the screen of the phone. “I thought he might know where you were staying. Actually, I’d better tell him that you’re here.”

He held the phone to his ear and Rose attempted to piece together the conversation while only having one side of it. “You never who I guess who I just bumped into Al… Wait, how did you know? Oh I suppose that makes sense. Yeah, she’s fine. I’ll speak to you soon.”

“Since when did you get a phone?” Rose asked curiously. Scorpius had always viewed Muggle technology with fear and was always very worried whenever anyone mentioned it.

“Mum persuaded Dad to get a phone when I moved out here. She was worried that I wouldn’t have a quick enough way to contact her if I had an emergency, so she practically forced me to get one. It’s turned out to be rather handy.” Scorpius placed his phone into his pocket and then played with the button on his shirt. He was wearing Muggle clothes, Rose realised. Then she looked down at her attire and realised converses weren’t particularly magical either. “It’s good to see you, Rose.”

“Yeah it’s been, what, two years since you decided to leave us,” Rose joked nervously. She didn’t like this feeling, this nervousness. She wasn’t used to it. Though she didn’t hold herself in high regard with her family she never felt nervous around them. It only ever happened when she was with him.

Scorpius laughed. “Yes, two years. Despite common belief I still haven’t lost my hand in the tombs while being a curse breaker. It’s been a lot more interesting than the London Gringotts branch, I can tell you that.”

There was a lull in the conversation and Rose sensed it would be best to make a getaway before things became awkward. She didn’t want to force Scorpius into spending time with her out of pity. “I should be heading off. I’ve got this interview to edit and then type up. Then the hotel chef promised to make me something called kofta, so I shouldn’t miss that either.”

Scorpius’ face fell a little when she said that, but the slight frown was quickly replaced by a smile. “Have fun trying kofta, it’s nice. You have to promise that we’ll see one another again before you go.”

“I think I’m meant to be here for at least a month, so don’t worry, Scorpius.” Rose smiled at him, before adjusting the strap on her bag. “I’ll owl you or, perhaps, even phone you.”

“That would be great; I’ll see you around, Rose.” Scorpius returned the smile.

“Well, I’ll be off then, see you around.” Rose had one last look before she turned around and headed back into the crowds of people.

He still looked the same, apart from that mysterious tan. He had managed to defy Malfoy genes and not burn, yet she couldn’t. That was almost as unexpected as bumping into him today, she mused. This trip to Egypt was proving to be even more exciting.



Author's Note: Hello and welcome back to chapter two! You got to meet Scorpius in this one and I hoped you liked that scene. What did you think of Dalila? She's going to feature a lot more throughout.

The souk, Khan el-Khalili is a real place and I based it on my experience of a Moroccan souk so hopefully it's similar. When I referred to pounds they're Egyptian pounds not British ones, and ten Egyptian pounds is about one English one. Kofta is a dish eaten in that region and it's like meatballs.

I hope you liked this chapter, and I would really, really love it if you left a review as they mean so much to me, and I love to hear your thoughts :)


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