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Chapter 9 : Booty Calls
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“Scorpius, this better be good,” I growled.
What was it with him and early morning disturbances? I was standing on his doorstep in my pyjamas and coat at four in the morning, glaring at Scorpius in his nightcap and knitted pyjamas (a gift from his ex-girlfriend).
“I was feeling lonely,” he sniffed. “I thought you’d still be awake.”
I shook my head. “It’s ten past four, Scorpius. I’m never awake at this time.”
“Oh,” he said dejectedly. “Sorry. It’s okay if you want to go home, then.”
I rolled my eyes. “I’m already here. Look, just let me in, will you? I’m freezing my tits off.” Probably quite literally, if I was honest. February weather was grim.
“Fine.” He stood back and let me into his hall. His house was horrible at night; they didn’t call it the Shrieking Shack for nothing, I was sure. There were probably ghosts that came out at dark and chased Scorpius around in his slippers. I shuddered at the thought.
“So, what’s wrong?” I asked as Scorpius sat us both down in front of the embers of the fire.
“I miss Clara,” he grumbled. “I think I’m going to try and win her back.”
“That is a terrible idea,” I told him. “She cheated on you! You don’t want her back.”
"She's the love of my life," Scorpius wailed, burying his face in a knitted blanket. I presumed he was trying to hide his tears from me.
"No, she's not," I told him forcefully. "You said that about me but you were wrong. It's just a phase."
He lifted his face up from the blanket, tears dripping from the end of his nose. "You were different. You never loved me back."
This had to be one of the most bizarre conversations I would ever have. Most people definitely couldn't have such a frank conversation with their sort of ex-boyfriend. "Clara didn't love you enough to not run away with another man, so she really isn't worth your tears."
He sniffed loudly. "Do you know what would make me feel better?" he asked hopefully.
I sighed. "I'm not going to have sex with you, Scorpius," I replied with a yawn. He pouted.
"Just the once? It would make me feel so much better."
I looked at his pitiful face and shook my head. "No. Even if I didn't have a boyfriend, I'd still find the thought repulsive." He looked downtrodden at these words.
"Pass me the firewhiskey," he said dully.
"No," I refused. "We're not doing this again. You need to snap out of it, Scorpius. This isn't healthy."
I made to get up and leave, but he lunged at me and pinned me to the ground. "Please just stay," he begged. "I won't touch you or anything, you can sleep on the sofa."
I pushed him off me and finally stood up. "Absolutely not," I snapped.
"You've changed," he grumbled. "You used to stay over here all the time before you had a boyfriend."
"No I didn't, not really," I denied. "I'm only here because I thought it was an emergency. Now I'm going back to my bed to sleep. I have work tomorrow."
I left him to cry on his own as I returned home and crawled into bed with Matthew.
"You're bloody freezing," he complained as I tried to snuggle up to him and steal his warmth. "You really need to stop accepting his booty calls, you know."
I scoffed. "They're hardly booty calls," I muttered, closing my eyes and finally falling back asleep.
Thanks to Scorpius's early morning call out, I overslept the next morning, meaning I was running late for my meeting with Henry.
"Bugger," I swore as I saw we were out of floo powder. I'd have to use the pedestrian entrance at the Ministry, which pretty much haunted my nightmares after several previous horrible experiences using the phone box.
Luckily, I recognised the person going into the phone box this morning.
"Teddy?" I called, causing him to pause as he opened the door.
He turned, spotting me dashing up the street. He looked decidedly awkward when I reached him. "Hello, Rose," he managed. He held out his hand for me to shake but I swatted it away.
"How are you?" I asked. I could see just from his face that he wasn't particular happy. He had let his stubble grow out a little bit too much, his hair was unbrushed and his robes had a torn hem. It saddened me to see someone who I had looked up to for so long look so shabby and downtrodden.
"I've been better," he admitted, running his fingers through that messy hair. "You look well."
I smiled. "I am well, actually," I told him with no qualms. "What are you doing here?"
He shrugged. "I came to see your Uncle Harry," he said. "You?"
I grimaced. "I've got a meeting with my lawyer."
I looked mildly concerned. "Is everything all right?"
"It's just a couple of technicalities over who actually has the right of ownership over the shop," I explained. "My boss's family appear to have a slightly suspect past."
"Yeah," I continued. "His brother had an illegitimate child. Quite the scandal apparently..." I trailed off, seeing the look on Teddy's face. I'd gone and bloody well put my foot in it, hadn't I? Oh damn, why did everyone have to have a stupid illegitimate child these days? "Anyway, that child is now an adult and is contesting Boris's will."
"I'm sorry to hear that," he said, his eyebrows knitted sincerely. "Is there anything I can do?"
"No, no," I said with a sigh. "It's just a matter of waiting it out and hoping she doesn't take me to court."
"Well, I hope it won't come to that," he replied.
I smiled, appreciating the gesture. "Thanks," I said, looking up at him. "Hey, I haven't seen you at any family gatherings recently. You should stop by next time."
Teddy shrugged, looking uneasy. "I appreciate the thought, but it's not really my family anymore. I don't think I'd be welcome."
"I know they miss you," I said softly.
"No, they don't," he denied, shaking his head. "They pretty much all hate me, and I don't blame them."
"Perhaps if you tried to make amends..." I began, but he cut me off.
"No, Rose," he retorted. "I've put that all in the past. I'll be there for Dominique and Will, but asking any more of me would be cruel for everyone."
I sighed, recognising a lost battle when I saw one. "Fair enough," I conceded. Teddy clearly didn't want to say more on the matter. He pulled the door of the phone box open and allowed me to join him inside. He typed in the correct code on the dial and we started to drop beneath the ground, all the while in uncomfortable silence.
I often played over what would have been if he and Dominique hadn't made that one stupid mistake. He'd still be a part of our family, he and Victoire would have been married by now with perhaps their own child, and we would have been much more harmonious as a whole. It was so sad things had to go this way. I could sympathise with him in that respect; I wouldn't want to stick around somewhere that had changed for the worse because of me, always being the subject of gossip. It was just terribly sad, that was all.
When we reached the atrium, he and I went our separate ways, with no more than a casual wave goodbye. He was almost a stranger to me now, despite everything we had shared. I didn't hate him for it as much as I had once done, but I almost regretted the turn of events on his behalf. I shook my head, rousing myself from my nostalgia and focusing on the task at hand.
I found Henry sat, as usual, behind his desk in his office surrounded by neatly stacked files.
He smiled when he saw it was me, and indicated for me to sit in the chair opposite him.
"Sorry I'm late," I said hastily as he peered at me over the top of his glasses. "I bumped into an old friend." I only slightly hesitated over the word friend.
"That's okay, this shouldn't take long," he said, reaching for a red folder on the top of one of the piles of parchment and opening it up to the front page. "Basically, we need to meet with Miss Flourish and her representative to discuss what course of action we're going to take. It is my hope that we can reach some sort of arrangement about this without having to take it to the Wizengamot."
I rubbed my temples. "An arrangement?"
"Well," Henry continued. "It might be that she wants to take over the shop for financial reasons, in which case we may want to offer her a significant number of shares in the business so she can earn a profit."
I blanched. "That would surely mean less money for the shop, though?"
Henry nodded. "A percentage of the profits would go to her in that situation, yes."
Oh damn it. I really couldn't afford to go giving away a large percentage of my profits to anyone other than the shop account, not at the moment, anyway. Money was not as bountiful as it was.
"Is there another alternative?"
"She might ask for employment," Henry suggested. "You could give her a job in senior management if money or control is what she's after. That's a good alternative to give her shares in the company, because you'll get labour in return for the money."
I groaned. "Is there any chance at all that she might just bugger off without a fight or asking for money?" I asked hopefully.
"I think it's unlikely," Henry admitted. "I can't see why she would have got in touch if she didn't at least have some interest in either gaining some control or earning some money. I think you may have to compromise on something."
I sighed heavily and continued to massage the headache weighing on my forehead. "Henry, the shop doesn't have a lot of money," I admitted. "We've had to take on some new employees to take the workload off Matthew and I and they cost a lot of money. I don't know if I'll be able to buy off this woman."
Henry nodded, flicking through his files uncertainly. "May I offer some advice?"
I shrugged. "Go on."
"I have a contact who might be able to help you, both in the money department and in the influence of the Wizengamot should it come to that."
I looked sceptical. "I'm not going to ask anyone for money, Henry. My business isn't a charity."
"I know it's not," he replied evenly. "Look, just give it a try, will you? Here." He handed me a scrap of parchment with an address on it. "That's Gilderoy Lockhart's address."
I raised my eyebrows. "He is the last person I'd got to for help," I spluttered. "He's the most pompous, irritating, stuck-up-"
"Most influential man you know? Yes, I know," Henry butted in. "It just so happens that he owes you a favour."
I frowned. "What do you mean?"
"You took him to court over that education scandal," Henry explained, his fingers twiddling with his glasses. "Which just so happened to give him a fair bit of publicity and boosted his dwindling sales. Not only that, but your intervention that early on prevented a serious case of abuse of power. If it weren't for you, he probably would have been imprisoned for a fair amount of time if he had ever become Minister for Magic."
I rolled my eyes. "I wasn't doing it to be helpful - I was doing it for justice."
"Either way he escaped with fairly minimal public image damage and he still has a job. He'll help you, trust me."
I eyed Henry warily. "Are you sure he doesn't hate me?" I asked sceptically.
"I doubt it. I've heard he's rather fond of your mum after all those official meetings."
I pulled a face at the thought of anyone, especially Gilderoy Lockhart, fancying Mum. "Right. So he fancies my mum so he'll help me out with another legal case? Fine, it's worth a try."
I pocketed the address with a bemused sigh and stood up to leave. I shook Henry's hand and bid him goodbye. "Thanks for all your help, I appreciate it. Let me know if you think of anything else, especially if it means I don't have to deal with Fancy-Pants Lockhart."
Henry laughed and I let myself out. I picked out the parchment again and read the address.
Less Than 3 Lavender Lane
That had to be a joke address. "Less Than 3 Lavender Lane"? Honestly, the man was appalling. You would have thought that at seventy years old he'd have given up things like dyeing his hair, whitening his teeth and pretending he was still a sex symbol. I really hoped Henry thought of another way for me to deal with this Miss Flourish woman without having to resort to begging at the pedicured feet of Gilderoy Lockhart.
I dug out a tea-stained map from my handbag and scoured it for Lavender Lane, which happened to be reasonably close to where Scorpius lived. Reluctantly, I stuffed the map back in my bag and headed back to the atrium of the Ministry. I queued up to use a fireplace, noting the tense expressions lining every Ministry worker's face. I was so glad I'd never had to work here; my life seemed so stress free compared to theirs. The responsibility of the wizarding world should definitely never find its way to my shoulders, in any respect. Selling books was as much as I could handle. When it was my turn, I threw the green powder into the fire and stepped into the flames.
Stepping out of the grate at the other end into the Three Broomsticks, it was tempting to stop for a butterbeer to keep out the winter chill, but I would run the danger of bumping into Scorpius if I stayed here and then I would never manage to get out of here for at least another two hours. He could talk for England. Instead, I left the pub and battled against the wind and rain up the street to where the map had told me that Lavender Lane was located. Sure enough, it was right there, wedged between Bootstrap Close and Galleon Road, looking idyllic despite the poor weather conditions. Snowdrops struggled to stay upright in the gale, almost torn from the ground by the force. Bare trees lined the road, skeletal fingers reaching across the road menacingly. Checking the numbers, I found Less than 3 Lavender Lane located between Numbers 1 and 3 and opposite 2 Lavender Lane.
I could have guessed Gilderoy Lockhart lived here even if no one had told me. The garden was blooming with pink and purple flowers despite the season, a solitary cherry tree decorated with fairy lights guarding the ornately carved wooden gate. He was far too elaborate for my tastes, I had to admit. Even my cousin Lily wouldn't decorate her house like this, and she was definitely the most girly girl I had ever known. I crossed the path to the front door, my ankles brushing against rows of pansies, and rang the doorbell. A strange tinkling sound followed as high-pitched bells rang out somewhere inside of the house, playing out a garish tune. If that didn't get your attention, I didn't know what would.
Lockhart came to the door wrapped up in a purple dressing gown and his hair in rollers.
"Weasley," he muttered, looking down at me with a less than welcoming expression. "What are you doing here?"
I grimaced, not quite believing I was about to ask Lockhart, of all people, for help with my legal issues. "Can we talk?" I asked, eyeing his rabbit-patterned slippers.
He shrugged, opening the door fully to allow me inside. "Welcome to my humble abode," he said graciously, bowing slightly as I passed him. What a nutter; he reminded me of Scorpius in more ways than one that I could almost be convinced that Draco Malfoy might not be his father at all if they weren't so similar in appearance.
"Thanks," I mumbled, waiting for him to guide me to somewhere more suitable. He started to uncurl his rollers as he led me into the lounge, which was just as unpleasantly feminine as the rest of the house. I could deal with flower-patterned sofas, but confetti-throwing cupid statues were a little bit over the top for my tastes.
"What can I do for you?" he asked as I perched on a fluffy armchair.
"Well," I began, trying to focus on him instead of the unfortunate décor. "I'm having some legal issues that you might be able to help me with. My lawyer recommended I talk to you about it."
Lockhart frowned. "This is most unexpected, I must say," he admitted. "What sort of help?"
"Probably financial," I suggested.
Lockhart raised his eyebrows. "I wasn't under the impression that the Weasleys were short of money."
I blushed, looking away. I really didn't like discussing these sorts of things with near-strangers, or certainly not someone I wouldn't quite consider an acquaintance. "They're not," I admitted. "Unfortunately money is a bit tight for me at the moment, what with the legal fees from our stint with the Wizengamot and trying to keep my new business afloat. There's someone I might need to - ah - convince not to take me to court over a few things."
Frowning, Lockhart shrugged off my confession. "Why not ask your family for help?"
I frowned too. "I don't like making a habit of begging," I informed him. "Especially not from people I care about. Besides, I would prefer to try and sort this myself before I ask them for help. I was under the impression you could offer me more than just money, I must admit."
"Well, you've got a certain leverage with various Ministry officials. Perhaps you could lean on them to sympathise with my plight." I watched him carefully. He was brushing his locks through with his manicured fingernails.
"What exactly is your plight, Miss Weasley?" he asked, catching my eye.
"My late boss's wife signed her shop over to me after my boss died, thinking there was no heir to claim it," I explained. "Unfortunately, there is an heir and she's now trying to stake her claim in my business. I really don't need for this to go to court, or worse, the press. Perhaps you could help me dissuade her before it comes to that."
Lockhart nodded, his hair bouncing. "Why should I help you?"
I knew now that Henry had slightly been leading me on. Lockhart clearly owed me no favours at all; I should have seen it coming, really. What famous politician was ever grateful for a potentially career-ruining court case? I was going to have to bargain with him if he was going to provide his services.
"I can offer you very competitive prices for stocking your books at Flourish and Blotts," I offered. "I do believe that you've been having trouble finding retailers who will buy your stock after our unfortunate incident with your school books. I can help you there."
I thought briefly for a moment of the giant Lockhart poster we still had hanging behind the till. Had I just signed myself up for multiple Lockharts adorning my shop? I supposed it was a small price to pay. Lockhart had some very powerful friends.
"This is a bit underhand, is it not?" Lockhart retorted. "What if your opposition were to find out?"
I shrugged. "To be honest, I'm hoping it won't have to come to any underhand measures. But I get the impression she's willing to fight pretty hard for my business and I'm not giving in without a fight myself."
He eyed me warily. "So if I agree to help you, you'll start selling all of my books again?"
I grimaced at this sacrifice. "You have my word." He held out his hand, flashing his freshly filed nails. I shook it. "First of all, you can make some general inquiries for me. Find out if she has anyone on the inside who will help sway her case. I'll play her at her own game if need be."
Lockhart nodded, shaking his head so his hair puffed up. "I'll let you know what I can find out."
"Thank you," I said with a smile, standing up and slowly heading towards the door. "I'll be in touch."
As I excited his doll-like house, I got the very strange feeling that I'd just sold my soul. I had a feeling this wasn't the worst I would do to save my business. Just like I had told Lockhart, I was absolutely not going to give in. If Miss Flourish wanted a fight, a fight she would most definitely get.
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