Chapter 17 : Who I was Born to Be
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For potterfan310 and Lululuna for nominating this as Most Addicting Story in the 2013 Dobby Awards.
Everything was unhinging, seams pulling and ripping.
It was hard to keep track of everything. James was the one who discovered me, fallen off of Zonko’s body, blood covering my arms and hands. Some splattered onto my face. My heart was hammering and I wondered if I might be having a panic attack. My mind flew to my own father, throwing things in a rage around his study. Mum turning up the Christmas music to drown it out.
I wondered how far the apple truly fell.
James leaned down, checking Zonko’s vitals. He was out cold, but still very much alive. He frowned and looked at me. “We have to get him to the hospital. You messed him up, mate.” I’d never seen him look so sober.
He didn’t ask for an explanation. Instead, we worked together to clean him up and get him to the hospital wing by taking some lesser-known corridors. He was placed onto a clean, white bed and my jaw tightened. I watched him. I didn’t know what to say.
The nurse didn’t ask any questions. She dismissed us and thanked us for bringing him there.
James asked what had happened once we were on our way back upstairs, but I couldn’t find the words to describe how hard I had hit him because what he said stung. It triggered something in me I didn’t know I was capable of. It was in my blood and rose to my brain and hands and eyes.
He didn’t ask any more questions and we spent the rest of the night finishing up our packing and telling jokes. They were hollow, but they made us laugh. Mox even chimed in about Gemma. Chopper, as usual, said nothing and grunted at our comparison of Parise to the Prime Minister.
His ears must have been ringing.
“Weasley.” Parise stuck his head in the door. His hair was messy, the work likely done by a girl. “Head Girl wants to see you in the office.”
“And she sent you, why?” I asked. “Or let me guess, were you planning on trying out to be a Prefect? Good on you. Theft is a good way to the top.” I smirked and pulled on a jacket since the corridors tended to be drafty.
Parise rolled his eyes and disappeared.
James looked at me. “Be careful. He knows what he’s doing.”
“I know,” I said. It was true. Andrew Parise was dangerous and he knew what steps he was taking to get placed on the Quidditch team. But stealing Annie wasn’t enough to unhinge me, especially since my revelation about our relationship. That needed to stay on the backburner until the holiday. I had to concentrate on getting home and keeping Ryan’s reputation sound in the process.
Molly was waiting in the Prefect office, alone. She was perched on the end of the desk, one leg crossed over the other, and tapping a quill. Once the door was closed, she motioned me to sit.
“Hey, cuz,” I said, rubbing the wrinkles out of my pants. The fact that I regularly made her life miserable growing up only to find her as an authority figure still irked me.
“I’ve been informed that Gregory Zonko was injured today,” she said, a few muscles in her face twitching from trying her hardest to remain calm. “I have also been informed that a Gryffindor is at fault for these vulgar actions. A Gryffindor Prefect. Would you care to enlighten me as to why a Prefect who is in the most chivalrous house would dare tackle and beat a twelve-year-old into unconsciousness?”
It took me a while to say anything. When put like that, I might as well be headed to Azkaban for a tour of the cells. I could always deny it, of course, but that got messy. Lying was messy and I didn’t care for it. I was already keeping enough secrets with Ryan on my plate. This was an entirely different beast.
“He hit a nerve,” I said eventually, knowing it was going into numb ears. “I was provoked.”
“He’s a little shit,” Molly said and I jumped. “But that was exactly what he was trying to get out of you, don’t you realize? Freddie, you just beat the shit out of him on the front steps of Hogwarts. You just made our family seem unhinged and absurd. Don’t think I don’t know about the court process. Uncle George goes back next week and you’d better believe Zonko is going to be sitting front row center with all those sodding bruises while his grandparents tell them all about what a raving lunatic you and your father are.”
I wanted to yell and tell Molly what Zonko had said about me – about Uncle Fred. But I couldn’t because it didn’t matter. She was right. No matter what had come out of his mouth, the evidence was left. I’d left it. I’d fallen right into his trap.
If he couldn’t tell the world about Ryan and me yet, he could damn well tell them about this.
“I know he’s impossible, but he is also manipulative and horrific,” Molly said, keeping her voice down. “I’ve been hearing rumors about this kid and they aren’t good. This isn’t just schoolyard bullying. This is real life. This is your future he is messing with and you’re giving him all the tools to take you down.”
“Not all of them,” I mumbled.
Molly leaned down. “Fred, I’m afraid I have to suspend you.”
My eyes jerked up to meet hers. “What? What d’you mean?”
“First two weeks of second term,” she said. “It’s protocol, I’m sorry. I can’t show favorites even though I’m sure whatever came out of his mouth was nothing short of insane. I’ll have one of the sixth years step in for your walks. It’s only two weeks. It’ll give you a chance to get that Transfiguration mark up, hmm?”
I narrowed my eyes. “Molly. Come on. You can’t suspend me. Zonko is the one who attacked Davies on our walks. What if something happens?”
“We’ll handle it,” she replied seriously. “It’s standard protocol. Get your head back together over break and figure yourself out. Something’s been different with you and it certainly isn’t that breakup with Annie. So go home and sort yourself out and I’ll see you for Christmas, yeah?”
I nodded. “Sure. Thanks, Mols.” I ruffled her hair, for which she scowled at me, and left. I headed back upstairs and finished packing in silence. I didn’t say anything about what she’d said because Parise was gleefully packing his trunk. James kept casting me sideways looks.
On my way to the library to check out a book before break, Annie was in the common room. She was eating a bowl of strawberry ice cream. I wondered if it was her favorite. She shouted my name and stood up as if she wanted to talk over what had happened, but after that day, I wasn’t in the mood. I ignored her and left out the portrait hole.
She followed and called me a coward.
Maybe I was a coward. Maybe I shouldn’t be a Gryffindor. Maybe I was easily provoked and scared and overwhelmed. But damn it, I wasn’t going to fall apart. Not yet.
Because somewhere out there Ryan Davies was alone.
Mum gave me that look. The one where she knew I was keeping something from her and forcing Dad to keep something from her and she did not like it at all. That was the way Mum was. Saw right through me, even if she didn’t know what she was seeing. Rox used to be like that too. Until Scorpius ugh Malfoy came onto the scene and then getting Rox to so much as look at me, nevermind see through me, was its own challenge.
After they picked us up from the train station, we went out to eat at a buffet and Rox spent an hour telling them about her studies and friends and this one time Homer did this thing in the bathroom and the faucet exploded and oh my god it was so funny.
I kept to myself, eating and chiming in every so often as to not be accused of sulking. Dad kept watching me and I knew he wanted to ask questions.
Mum had red velvet cake ready at home and I ate a piece. And then another because of her genius baking skills. I really needed to see if I inherited that or not. That could be a good lady charming skill.
Rox didn’t directly speak to me the entire night. All I could think of was my temper in Ravenclaw Tower the night Ryan fell unconscious and I was certain that was all she could think of as well.
I told everyone I was tired and had jet lag (Dad laughed) and wanted to go to sleep early so I tugged my things upstairs into my bedroom and closed the door tight.
It was nice to be back. I loved my place at school (okay, still working on the grandma images) but this place didn’t have Andrew Parise looking giddy. It didn’t have Mox thinking he saw a really large bug and would you kill it, James? It didn’t have Chopper sharpening knives in the corner.
Okay, quills, but they were the same sometimes.
In my nightmares.
This place was only mine. It wasn’t a big room, but everything fit comfortably with the walls lined with Quidditch posters and shop posters and signs from our product launches. I even had a door sign from the opening of the shop back long before I was thought of. Dad didn’t like looking at that one, but I refused to take it down. It was a piece of my history.
My room was the same rich purple of the shop. It calmed me. Made it easier to think. There was a big desk in the corner covered in papers. Documents. Ideas. Scribbles. Dad laughed and said Uncle Fred used to do that. That he – Dad – was the organized one and had things in binders while Uncle Fred threw them around and watched them come together with ease.
I put my belongings away and grabbed the library book, falling back onto the bed. I should have probably grabbed the baby book, but I was having a hard enough time not worrying about Ryan.
An hour later, Dad twisted the doorknob, walked in, and closed the door behind him. “Can I come in?” he asked with a wide smile.
“It appears I have no choice.”
“Good on you.” He crossed the room, kicked off his shoes, and sank down onto the bed beside me. “You look like shit.”
“Your kindness never ceases to amaze me,” I mumbled and tossed the book onto the bedside stand. “Is that what you came in here to tell me? I look like shit? I could have owled James for that advice.”
“Speaking of James…”
“No, he hasn’t told. And I don’t think he’s going to.”
“I’m going to squeeze it out of him one of these days,” Dad said. “I don’t like keeping secrets. Especially from my wife.” He narrowed his eyes.
“What d’you want me to do then?” I asked. “Wait until she’s baking another cake and saunter in there like a good son and tell her I’ve knocked up a girl? One I don’t even fancy? One who is just downright mean and crude and the hormones are making her into a bloody nightmare… well, other than when she tries to be nice… which is NOT that often… except when Annie broke up with me, then she was sort of nice. And in the hospital she wasn’t a terror. But other than that!”
Dad took a breath, taking in the information. “Start talking. I don’t live in your head or in that pigsty of a dormitory, so before I start saying things like – oh, how is the lovely Annie – how about you tell me what’s going on?”
I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to relive everything, but I did anyway. This was my dad. My best mate. Other than Frames because that was serious business.
I told him, though. Even the things I didn’t want to.
But there was one thing I kept from him and it tore me apart with guilt even as I sat there beside him. I left out the parts about Gregory Zonko.
Dad was stressed enough. I didn’t want to do anymore damage, even though he’d find out sooner or later.
He listened carefully, making a few colorful comments here and there. He found some great rhyming words to discuss Parise.
“So the entire school just turns and looks at her?” Dad said, when I’d gotten to the feast the previous day. “Like a herd of wild bloody dogs?”
“It’s the kind of things in bad teen movies,” I said. “It was horrible. And I had to just stand there and watch. I felt like shit. I should have just told them off. Or hit a few of them. I don’t know what I should have done, but standing there and watching her suffer isn’t something I should have done.”
“So she’s a terror, huh?” Dad said, smirking.
“Come on. She’s a right bitch, but she doesn’t deserve that.”
He was still snickering. “Right. Right. So when’s she coming round for dinner?”
“Shut it.” I shoved him, nearly sending him over the side of the bed. “I think Rox knows something, since she was up there when Ryan was unconscious. She’s probably already put the pieces together since Ryan was outed. Why I was so worried. But she hasn’t said anything. Not that she will.”
“Still no patchwork quilt between you?”
“Not so much.” I shook my head and moved my gaze up to the stick-in stars plastered to the ceiling. As the sun went down, they were beginning to glow green. “I don’t have high hopes. But I can’t worry about that. I don’t know where Ryan lives. I don’t even know if she made it home safely. What if something happened? What if she went and offed someone because she was so mad and now she’s a criminal on the run?”
“You want to help her, Clyde?”
I shoved him again. “I’m just worried about her, okay?”
“I’m worried about you. You’re taking on too much.”
“What? I’m doing fine in classes.”
“You are barely passing Transfiguration.”
“How did you know that?”
Dad chuckled. “I didn’t. Thank you for confirming, though.”
This was what I lived with.
“Do you need me to go to the hearing next week?” I asked. “I can do whatever you want. Hold papers or something.”
Dad’s demeanor changed quickly. He shook his head, an invisible wall sliding into place between us. “No, of course not. You’re on holiday. Go have fun with your little friends and no more shagging girls in bathrooms because, Freddo, it’s not good for your social skills.” He ruffled my hair with a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “Go to bed. You’re helping me stock the shelves in the morning so I don’t have to pay someone.”
I tried for a smile. “Wouldn’t miss it.”
After he left, I laid awake for hours. Everything rushed through my mind like a line of storms. I had to find a way to deal with this. A way to get ahead of the chaos so I didn’t explode. The weight was too much and I needed a plan.
Tomorrow was the start of Christmas holiday and damn it, I was going to do exactly what Molly said and turn myself around.
The key was James.
He arrived at the shop around the same time I did, but dressed in a tie and blazer.
“Going to meet with clients?” I teased, unlocking the door since it was about time to open.
“Shut it. I’m tutoring today and it’s with a new student.” He grinned like an idiot. “Also Ollie told me you ignored Annie. Are you ignoring her now?”
I groaned. “Sorry. After being put on Prefect suspension and watching Parise trot around the dormitory, I didn’t trust myself to have a civil conversation with her. Can you blame me?”
“Of course not. Just wanted to ask and get the facts.” James shrugged. “Ollie’s on holiday anyway. She went away with Annie to the Caribbean for a week.”
“What’re you going to do without your snogging?”
James undid his tie and tossed it onto the counter. “Put all my energy into the shop?”
“Good answer,” said Dad from one of the aisles.
“Is that what you do when Aunt Ang won’t snog you?” James asked as we found him in aisle four surrounded by boxes.
“Nope,” he said casually. “Angie always wants to snog me, as I’m very good-looking.”
“I hate everything,” I muttered.
“You boys are restocking this aisle today,” Dad said, motioning to all of the flavor-changing and trick items. “We’re redoing it after a marketing survey. Here’s the plans.” He shoved a few pieces of paper into James’ hands. “Get to work. And watch the front counter. I have to finish payroll and have a nap.”
I waved him away and James stuck the paper against a shelf. It was a cluster, but we drew out where things were supposed to be and made a few changes since I knew Dad hadn’t actually looked at the map.
We watched the counter while we rearranged everything, pulling merchandise onto the floor and redoing it according to the paper. Only one or two people showed up looking for specific things. For the first day of break, business was slow and we noticed.
“I need you to do me a favor,” I said softly, glancing over my shoulder but the office door was closed.
“What kind of favor because I am not taking a baby-birthing class with you,” James said, heaving a tall box onto the top shelf. He had to jump to reach it.
“I need you to owl Gemma and get Ryan’s address,” I said.
“What? Why can’t you?”
“Gemma already suspects me,” I said. “I owled Ryan last night and haven’t received a response. I’m worried about her. She left right after the feast. I need to know if she’s okay.”
“She probably just went home. Do I really have to owl French? She’s going to think it’s me that knocked up Davies and then owl Ollie in the Caribbean to tell her and then Ollie is going to come back and throw a drink in my face that secretly has poison to burn my eyeballs out. Do you understand how wrong this could go?”
I stared for a minute. “Just do it.”
“Fine.” James made a face and left for the flat upstairs to send the owl.
I kept working, palms sweatier than usual.
That was until Uncle Harry walked in with Albus.
“Freddo!” Uncle Harry cried, waving. “Thought I’d find you here today. Your dad has you working too much. It’s break!”
I laughed. “Better this than cleaning the bathrooms.”
He nudged Albus, who set off to look for something. “Have you seen James?”
“James?” I looked up, watching Uncle Harry to see signs of if he knew something or not. “Last I heard he’d gone to tutor someone. Third year? Can’t remember. Why? Has he gone missing?”
“Just wondering.” He shrugged. “I saw his marks from this term. I don’t think he should be paid to tutor anyone.” He laughed a bit.
I felt horrible for lying. Again. This was becoming far too much of a habit.
“Find what you need, Al?” Uncle Harry shouted.
“What were you after?” I asked, tossing some boxes on the shelves and heading up to the register. I glanced down the aisle, but didn’t see James. Maybe his letter to Gemma was also expressing his newfound love of the French, but I doubted it.
“Trick wands,” Albus said, throwing fifteen on the counter. “We’re going to have some fun at Christmas. So watch out.”
“Noted,” I said, ringing them up and discounting them. I tossed them in a bag as Uncle Harry handed me some coins.
“I’ll meet you outside, Al. I’m going to grab one more thing. A surprise.” Uncle Harry waited for his middle son to disappear outside before he turned and looked at me seriously. “Listen, Fred. Molly had to file a report on what happened. Reports end up in a lower-level Ministry department for record-keeping. Whenever a specific last name pops up, I get notified.” He wiggled his brows. “So I know what happened. You need to tell George before he finds out the hard way. You shouldn’t keep things like that from your father.”
I looked at him, stunned. “You don’t understand,” I whispered. “This will crush him. He’s taking on too much as is.”
“And you don’t think this will mysteriously surface?” he asked. “I’ve worked in the Ministry long enough and before that any time I tried to keep a secret it came back to bite me. Just trust me. Tell him or he’ll find out you lied to him.”
It was hard hearing that from Uncle Harry, especially since I was keeping something from him too. Maybe it was another way to get me to have James come clean.
I was too stuck. Stuck in the middle of everything.
The door shut with a soft snap, knocking me back into reality.
“Lied to me about what?” Dad asked from the aisle. I didn’t know how long he’d been standing there. “Freddo, what’s going on?”
“Lied about me knocking up Ollie!” James cried from behind him. “Man, glad that’s out in the open now. We’re naming it after you, Uncle George. Aren’t you thrilled? And if it’s a girl… uh… Georgina.”
“How flattering,” Dad said, his eyes never leaving mine. “James, if you’re not going to come clean to your father could you please wait in the office or outside?”
“He knows,” I said, shaking my head. “James already knows everything. And apparently Uncle Harry knows far more than he should. Maybe if someone named James would just come clean he’d have other things to focus on than my suspension.”
“Your what?” Dad said.
I took a long breath and Dad approached the counter. I liked that there was a register between us, as I didn’t know how he would react. James promptly returned to restocking the shelves so he could overhear everything, the git.
“Gregory Zonko is trying to make sure we don’t get the Hogsmeade branch,” I said, remaining calm. “He has threatened me, was the reason I was taken out in Quidditch, and is also the reason Ryan was in the hospital once. He is the one who outed Ryan to the entire school and after he made some very colorful comments about my family, is the one who spent the night in the hospital wing this week. He is also the reason I have a two-week Prefect suspension.”
Dad’s lips parted. “Please tell me you’re joking.”
“It would be a bad joke.”
“You did not seriously put a twelve-year-old in the hospital wing.”
“He has a mouth on him!” I said. “I snapped. I’m sorry, okay? I gave you the quick version. He’s been tormenting me for ages and he is willing to do anything. I snapped. I shouldn’t’ve and I know that now. But… I did it.”
Dad ran his fingers through his ginger hair and it flopped back into place. “Fred. You understand how wrong that was. How in danger this puts the court case.”
“Yes,” I replied, examining the numbers on the register.
“I understand snapping. I’ve done it many times. Many, many times, especially in Hogwarts, but this puts a lot at risk for you and our family.” His fingers brushed across the counter. “Why would you not tell me?”
I looked up, at the disappointment in his expression. I pointed to his face. “That’s why.”
“Because you’re ashamed,” he said.
“No,” I said, shaking my head again. “I’m not ashamed of what I did. He deserved more than what he got for what he’s done to everyone, especially Ryan. But I knew you’d be disappointed.”
“Maybe you should be ashamed,” Dad said softly. “There is nothing gentlemanly about beating up a twelve-year-old because of his lip. You played into his hand and for that, you should be ashamed. And you should feel like a fool.” He looked over his shoulder at James. “I have to go re-prepare for the court case Tuesday so that maybe I can salvage something, but don’t get too comfortable with the idea of a Hogsmeade branch, boys.”
I tried to reply, but my voice was caught in the back of my throat. Instead, I watched him go to the office, gather up papers, and retreat to the upstairs flat without another word.
“See?” James said. “This is why I’m never telling my Dad about the shop.”
“Until he finds out.”
“Yes. Well. Small technicalities.”
I worked in the shop over the weekend and through Monday, but didn’t see much of Dad. He kept to the office upstairs (what used to be Uncle Fred’s bedroom), trying to figure out how to best this court case. I heard him muttering about how this was Fred’s forte. How he could think up some crazy loophole to get them through.
It was just him, though. Even after I offered to help a few more times, it was still just him.
James came and went as well, secretly rearranging things on shelves that he knew would sell better. And they did. He never said anything, but I watched it happen. He had an amazing knack for business and no one knew.
Ryan hadn’t returned my owl from the middle of the night and Gemma hadn’t written to James. I was starting to worry, but distracted myself with the shop. Cleaning. Moving stock. Going through the books while my dad was upstairs. We were in worse shape than I thought. Dad even had to move some of the house money around for the shop. I had a feeling Mum had no idea.
Rox came in once or twice to pick up things for her mates. She went upstairs to talk to Dad, got her things, and left before saying so much as one thing to me. But she did look around a little, perhaps for something. Or someone. At least she was always alone.
When the day of the court case arrived, Mum agreed with Dad in that I would not be attending. I did a little less than begging, but she held her ground. Dad left in a suit and tie with a briefcase that did not suit him at all. Mum made red velvet cake.
“This is something he needs to do on his own,” Mum said, offering the wooden spoon to me to lick. “You have to understand that, Fred. He wants to provide for us.”
“How can I let him do it alone?” I asked. “I’m the one that hit Zonko. I caused this.”
“Maybe he’s worried you’ll lose your temper and dive over the bench and tackle the little shit,” Mum said, shrugging. She snickered to herself. I assumed she had heard about everything and maybe more from Dad. “Listen, let it go. Just help me with this cake and we’ll hear about it when he gets home.”
“I can go to the shop,” I offered.
“It’s staffed,” she said. “Now sit down and relax.”
“I can’t relax. I haven’t been relaxed in months.”
Mum looked up. “Because of the shop?”
I quickly nodded. “Yeah. The shop. It’s stressing me out.”
Mum continued to stare as she mixed the batter. “Don’t let it worry you, Freddie. Your father will figure it out, as he always does. Think about something else, hmm? Maybe all those other things you and your father are hiding from me. How about those?”
“No idea what you’re talking about,” I said and hurried from the room.
Dad went directly from the fireplace to the study when he arrived home. I heard things smash against the walls and Mum rush downstairs to see what had happened. They yelled for a few minutes, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying from my room. Then things went quiet.
I kept the window open, but no owls arrived.
Dad was in his study when I walked downstairs the next morning. It was silent. Mum was cooking eggs and pancakes. Rox was at the table reading.
“Morning,” I said, grabbing some orange juice from the fridge.
Mum glanced over. “I think it’s best if you stay home today, dear.”
“Stay home? Why? I’ve told James I’ll meet him at the shop.”
“The shop is taking a personal day today,” she explained.
“You mean it’s closed?” I said. The glass was against my lips, but I was still staring. “Why? We won’t make any money. It’s Christmas holiday. The students are in Diagon Alley. Why would we not be marketing to that?”
Rox cleared her throat and pressed her finger against the newspaper below her book. She slid it across the table, within my range of sight.
Famous family unhinged and unlikely to expand.
I choked and the glass fell, shattering. Mum shouted and Rox slammed her book on the table.
“Way to go, Fred,” she said, getting to her feet and moving to grab the mop.
“Are you kidding?” I said, grabbing the paper and starting to skim the article.
Gregory Zonko had shown up, all right. The lawyer had gone on and on about the altercation, showing off photos of Zonko’s injury and saying it was proof of my madness. Saying I was unhinged and a danger to myself and how could I possibly be trusted to run a shop.
After that, Dad stood to my defense and had a few of his own tales to tell, but none of it mattered. None of it went the way of physical evidence. Just as I knew it would. Just as Molly and Uncle Harry knew it would.
The article went on to say we were very unlikely to ever see the Hogsmeade branch, and then discussed how well-off Zonkos were and how established their brand was with Hogwarts students. Also, how the Weasleys had often envied Zonkos for their up-to-date jokes.
I reread it a few times as Mum and Rox cleaned up the spill. My eyes prickled with anger. This was outrageous and so false. The shop being closed would just fuel the fire.
“I’m leaving,” I announced.
“What did I just say?” Mum looked up from the closet as she placed the mop back beside the broom and bucket. “Today we’re all staying home.”
“To mope?” I asked. “I’m not going to sit in here. I’m not going to spend my holiday sitting in my room feeling sorry for myself.”
“This is YOUR FAULT,” Rox yelled, pointing at me. “It’s your stupid temper that did this – the reason Dad’s holed up in there!”
I rounded on my sister, said temper flaring. “Is it?” I said. “I gave them a reason. There are a hell of a lot of other reasons this is happening and I’ll be damned if you’re giving me shit after not doing a damn thing to help Dad, the shop, or your family.”
“Don’t you even,” Rox said, taking a step toward me.
“You have no idea who I am,” I said softly. “So don’t point fingers. Go find your brother to whine to.” I turned and walked out of the room, mostly because those words hurt too much and I couldn’t have thought of another retort besides running away.
I left the house and Aparated into Hogsmeade. As expected, reports were swarmed around the front doors, each broadcasting and writing lies about why the shop was closed. I took a deep breath. This was my family’s legacy. My legacy and I’d be damned if some twelve-year-old shit was going to take it away from me.
“Good morning!” I said, wearing my brightest smile. “Sorry I’m a touch late. I’ve been unhinged while eating breakfast. The eggs weren’t scrambled enough.” I smirked and the press laughed. “No matter. This is quite a line for this early. How about some complimentary donut holes while you shop?” Another laugh and I unlocked the doors and let them in.
I took my place behind the register, using the opportunity to tell them about our new stock of pygmy puffs and the varying shades behind them.
“Do you have any comments about the article, Mr. Weasley?” A Prophet reporter asked, holding his quill at the ready.
“I do,” I said, placing the puff on my shoulder. “And I’m sure it will make little difference. Everyone wants to pick a side, you know? And everyone takes the tiniest thing and uses it against another side in a massive way. What I did does not reflect on my father or this business. What I did was lose my temper.” I paused, laughing a little as they looked shocked to see I admitted.
“I’m seventeen. I have more hormones than a pregnant woman hearing another pregnant woman tell her she’s fat.” Another laugh. “What I did was react to someone pushing my buttons, which I know I shouldn’t have. He’d already threatened me and told me he’d do anything to use it against me in court, so I should have known. I know I should have.” I shook my head and silence fell around me. “I can handle people threatening me and talking about me. I get a little worked up when they say things about my friends. But when they start to talk about my family. My kind, patient mother. My amazing father…I start to lose myself a little. My final straw is when they use my Uncle Fred against me to get a rise out of me. The Uncle Fred who helped build this business and because of the war I was never able to meet, but whom I was named after. So am I sorry I snapped? Yes. Yes, I am. I will not take back the anger from his remark, though. My family means the world to me and in that, the article was correct. I’m seventeen and am very obviously not fit to completely run a business. But if we acquire the Hogsmeade branch, I would not be running it. I would be a manager under someone else more fit for leadership and direction until I am mature enough to take on that responsibility. I can only assume Gregory Zonko will take a similar path and I wish him the best of luck and can only hope he does not result to low trickery in order to get ahead. It’s a shame since he comes from such an amazing family.”
The members of the press were quiet and a haunted feeling fell over the shop. A few of them were scribbling. Most were using Quick Quotes Quill (the updated version) and a few had recording devices floating above.
“Any additional questions?” I asked, retaining my smile.
“How much for a puff? My daughter’s wanted one for ages.” The Prophet reporter picked the puff right off my shoulders and patted it on the head.
They could call me as unhinged as they wanted. Maybe I was. But not without knowing the truth.
It was time I took responsibility for my actions, especially when they impacted my family. It was time I stood up to be who I was born to be.
A/N: Quick shout-out to magnolia_magic and shazalupin for nomming "Heroes," the story based on this one, for Dobby Awards. You are the best!
Things are starting to really pick up in this story. Do you know how I know that? Because once I wrote chapter 16, I wrote several in a row. As I write this SN, I'm writing chapter 27 of this story. A lot is coming up in the next 10 chapters and I'm thrilled to share it with you!
UP NEXT: Fred runs into Annie, James hears back from Gemma, and Fred does not expect what he finds.
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