Chapter 11 : Family Matters
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I had another meeting with Henry today and I was finally going to meet this mysterious Miss Flourish. I hoped she was extremely ugly and blobby; I didn't think I would be able to cope if she was good looking or even just pleasant to look at. I needed to be able to hate her with perfectly good reason. I was already convinced that she was horrible anyway because she was the one who was forcing the issue when she didn't have to.
I looked at the mug of cold, forgotten tea on my desk from yesterday and pondered drinking it. That probably wasn't particularly good for my health now that I thought about it... I would have to go all the way downstairs and make fresh mug.
"What's the matter with you?" Boris asked when I trundled into the break room with my dead cup of tea. I started to rinse out the mug.
"I have to meet your horrible heir today," I said sourly, drying the mug with a towel before turning my attention to the kettle.
"How do you know she's horrible?" Boris pressed. "She could be the spitting image of me - charming, handsome and witty."
I sniggered. "Yeah, maybe. Or she could be a right old cow who wants to stick her claws into my business. Which do you think is more likely?" I turned to look at Boris's portrait, finding him hanging upside down from the curtain rail like a bat. "Halloween isn't for another eight months," I informed him.
"I'm getting some practice in," he explained, dropping like a stone to the bottom of the portrait and standing up, brushing his robes out. "Now stop slacking, Weasley, and get back to work. I'm not paying you to stand about and natter."
I rolled my eyes. "Yes boss, whatever you say."
I liked playing this game with Boris. We often just pretended like nothing had happened and he was still in charge of the shop, alive and well. He could then continue to boss me around and I didn't have to think about being in charge for maybe a minute or two.
I left the break room and went to check on Alan. As I entered the next room, Boris followed me, walking out of his portrait and into the poster of Gilderoy Lockhart, who was deep in conversation with Alan.
"I told her that forest green simply didn't suit my new highlights," Lockhart was saying to a bored-looking Alan. "So she whipped out her wand and turned my hair green to match my robes."
Alan yawned. "How terrible for you," he said dryly.
"It was, my man, it was." Lockhart nodded. How was it possible that the poster Lockhart was even more vain and insufferable than the real thing? It must have been the age gap - poster Lockhart was a good thirty years younger than the real thing. He must have mellowed after his memory loss.
"Working hard?" I asked, smiling slightly when Alan jumped.
"Sorry," he said automatically. "He was distracting me. It won't happen again."
I laughed. "Oh I'm sure it will. He likes the sound of his own voice too much to leave you alone." Alan looked sheepish and completely turned his back on Lockhart. "I have to go to a meeting," I told him. "I'll be back after lunch. Matthew will be in shortly."
I grabbed my coat from the coat stand and shrugged it over my shoulders. In typical February style, the heavens had opened and vomited a heck of a lot of snow all over the country. It wouldn't last long, but in the meantime the wind was bitter and the sun was nowhere to be seen. It was a depressing sight. I trudged down the street towards Gringotts and stuck my head around the door. This time I was taking Molly to the meeting in the hope that she would protect me from the potentially evil Miss Flourish.
"Excuse me," I said, stopping a goblin before he could pass by. He turned his gnarled green face towards me and fixed me with a hard stare. "Where can I find Molly Weasley?"
The goblin looked me up and down. "Do you have an appointment?"
I frowned. "No, I'm her cousin."
The goblin whipped a quill out of his pocket with his spindly, long-nailed fingers and bared his teeth up at me in what he probably thought was a grin but terrified the crap out of me. "Would you like to make an appointment?"
"No, I just want to pop by her office really quickly," I explained. "It won't take long."
"You'll need an appointment," the goblin insisted. He withdrew a small leather-bound book from his waistcoat pocket and flicked through a couple of pages. "Her next free appointment is three o'clock next Thursday."
I huffed. "I don't need an appointment, it will only take me two minutes."
"Miss Weasley is a busy woman, I'm afraid. No appointment, no conversation."
The goblin grinned again (sort of) and I just groaned in frustration. "Fine," I growled. "Just tell her I came by, would you?"
The goblin frowned. "Would you like me to deliver a message?"
I stared at him blankly. Weren't goblins supposed to be more intelligent than wizards? I was finding this one extremely dense. "Yes, please," I said, hoping this would be the last of it. I was wrong.
"I can make an appointment with the Gringotts Inter-Departmental Messenger for you," he said, consulting his little black book again. "Can you come in to see him at ten o'clock on Monday?"
"Oh for Christ's sake," I grumbled. "Just forget it. It's too difficult."
Thoroughly pissed off, I stomped out of the bank, leaving the Goblin still baring his teeth in some sort of goodwill gesture behind me. It looked like I would be facing this meeting on my own.
When I finally reached the Ministry I was in a foul mood and covered in damp spots from the snow. This day was only going to get worse from here, I could tell. I continued through the corridors until I reached Henry's office. Thankfully he was alone, because I had a feeling that barging into his office when Miss Flourish was in there was not going to make me look very professional.
"Bad day?" Henry inquired, checking his watch bemusedly. It might not have been that late in the day yet, but it didn't take long to ruin my day.
"Something like that," I said with a dramatic sigh. “When is Miss Flourish due?”
"Right now," a voice said from behind me.
I turned around to see, to my dismay, a perfectly normal looking woman standing in the doorway. I tried to stop myself scowling at this minor injustice. How was I supposed to convince everyone she was a right old hag if she was just like me?
"Hello," I said politely, extending my hand. She shook it firmly, another strike against her. Damn her for having a good, authoritative handshake. "It's nice to finally meet you."
Miss Flourish smiled, revealing milky white teeth. "And you."
Henry reached over his desk to shake her hand, indicating for us both to sit down. "Will your lawyer be joining us soon, Miss Flourish?"
Miss Flourish (whose name I really needed to find out so I could give her a mean nickname) nodded. "Yes, she's just talking to your boss, I believe. They're old acquaintances."
"How nice," Henry commented, though I noticed he was slightly tight-lipped.
We all sat in silence as we waited for Miss Flourish's lawyer to appear. Just when I thought I couldn't count anymore pencils on Henry's desk there was a knock at the door. "Come in," Henry instructed.
I turned towards the door and almost fell out of my chair in shock when I saw who was there. "Roxanne?" I stammered. "What the hell are you doing here?"
Roxanne narrowed her eyes in my direction before smoothing down her robes and taming a flyaway wisp of black hair. "I am Wendy's lawyer, Miss Weasley."
Oh for fuck's sake! "I thought you dropped out of Law School," I hissed as Roxanne waltzed passed me and drew up a chair.
She ignored me, placing her briefcase on Henry's desk with a clatter and flicking the locks open. This day was already getting a lot worse. Why the hell was Roxanne doing this? I thought we'd reached some sort of truce, I had no idea she hated me this much.
Roxanne handed a thick wad of parchment over to Henry, who started to read the first page. "These are our proposed actions," she said, most likely for my benefit. "You may contest them if you wish, but I'll advise you now that my client isn't going to be generous."
I sneaked a glance at Wendy (Bendy Wendy? Trendy Wendy? Windy Wendy? I would have to work a bit harder on that nickname plan), who was looking calm.
"If I might ask," I interrupted before Roxanne could continue. "Why have you taken such a sudden interest in my shop?" I tried very hard not to put too much stress on the word "my", but it was really tempting.
Wendy looked at Roxanne as if to ask for permission before continuing. "Well, to be honest I didn't know anything about it until Roxanne came to talk to me. She said I had a right to investigate my stake in the business. I'm here out of curiosity."
I frowned. "Why all the demands then? Can't we talk about this without taking it to the Wizengamot?"
"Absolutely not," Roxanne snapped at the same time as Wendy said, "I would actually prefer that."
I smirked as Roxanne glared at the table leg in front of her.
"Let me suggest that perhaps Rose and Wendy have a chat after we've read through your requests," Henry interjected before any of us could speak. "It'll be completely off record and you can both see where the other stands."
The two of us nodded. "Why don't we go for coffee?" I suggested.
"Shouldn't you be working at the shop?" Roxanne reminded me sweetly.
"I happen to think it's in the shop's best interests if I take Miss Flourish for coffee, don't you?" I said with a smarmy smile.
Roxanne glared at me. "Fine."
Henry indicated that we should leave, so I walked out with Wendy and left Roxanne to chat with Henry. I hoped she was going to reconsider whatever plan she had. This was absolutely ridiculous that she was trying to take my business from me. What happened to putting family first? I wondered if her parents knew what she was up to... I doubted they'd be particularly pleased.
Wendy and I left the Ministry building via the visitor's entrance and crossed the road, heading for the first coffee shop we saw.
"So, how did you meet Roxanne?" I asked once we'd settled into our seats.
Wendy leaned forward. "She's a relative of yours, I take it? She never mentioned that your name was Weasley."
I examined her expression, trying to work out what her angle was. Was she just waiting for me to rant about Roxanne in the hope of proving I was less than good natured? "She's my cousin," I said guardedly.
"I see," Wendy said, nodding so that hair mousy brown hair bobbed. "Well, like I said, I didn't know about my inheritance until Roxanne contacted me. She said she was doing a project for her law qualification and had stumbled across my name."
"I see," I said, because I was pretty sure I actually did. Roxanne was trying to ruin my life. "Are you really interested in the business, then?" I asked.
Wendy looked sheepish. "Well, I could do with the money," she admitted. "Roxanne has assured me that whichever way the case goes, I'll end up with a profit."
I frowned. "What do you mean?"
Wendy met my gaze. "If we win the case, we get the shop and any earnings. If you want to keep the shop, you'll need to pay us off and I'll make a profit that way."
"Right," I said, not really sure what to say. So that was Roxanne's game? Either force me to give up my job or bankrupt me. This was a lot more serious than I thought. "Is there not an outcome where I don't end up homeless and living in a cardboard box?"
Wendy laughed. "It's not as bad as that, Rose. Roxanne's just a bit heavy-handed, I think. She's trying to make sure I don't get walked all over."
I couldn't help but think that Roxanne was doing just that right now. Did Wendy really want to run a bookshop, or was Roxanne only pursuing this to get the payoff? I didn't have that sort of money to just throw away. I was struggling to keep the business afloat as it was.
"You understand why I'm worried, of course," I pressed, hoping to dish out a tiny bit of emotional blackmail of my own.
"You don't need to be, we'll come to some agreement that suits us both."
I sighed. "You're not willing to back down at all? This bookshop is my life, Wendy. I poured my money and love and soul into it and now you want to take it away from me, one way or another." I bit my lip, feeling suddenly very tearful.
"That's not my intention, I promise," she said. "But I have the right to an appeal and the shop could rightfully be mine. There's not much I can do about that, I'm afraid. It's only fair that we respect the wishes of my late uncle."
"Did you ever meet him?" Do you even know his name?" I said, tears welling up. This was so grossly unfair. Wendy looked taken aback at this emotional outburst. "How do you know what he wanted?"
Wendy pursed her lips, the softness of her features hardening slightly. "We'll be looking at this through the eyes of the law, as is only fair. In the event that his wife could not take over the business, it should have gone to the next applicable heir, which was me. I'm only taking an interest in what is rightfully mine. I'm sorry."
It was clear that our meeting was over. She handed me a tissue to wipe my tears with and stood up to leave, the bell above the door to the café tinkling gently behind her as the door shut behind her.
I sniffed, shocked by this strange turn of events. I had been so sure that if she just met me that she'd understand my point of view. I had worked at Flourish and Blotts for years and she suddenly had more right to it than I did. I blew my nose on the tissue she had given me morosely. What was I supposed to do? I doubted even Gilderoy Lockhart would give me the amount of money Roxanne was asking for a payoff. Would I have to leave my job?
I stared out of the window sadly, watching the pedestrians walk by. I spotted a familiar looking mop of hair and quickly dashed out to grab them so I could express my self-pity.
"Teddy!" I called up the street, sniffing heavily. He paused, turning on his heel to spot me across the road. He crossed quickly, a frowning developing on his brow as he saw my tears and my hand grasping a tissue.
"What's the matter?" he asked, making to rest his hand on my shoulder but thinking better of it.
I told him the whole sorry story as we stood out there in the snow, our feet cold and damp. "I just don't know what to do," I finished sadly, wiping my eyes again. "I feel like such an idiot."
"This isn't your fault, Rose," he said firmly. I looked up, catching his eye with a sniff. "Trust me, I know a fair few things about blame. Talk to your family - they'll help you."
"How can I?" I asked. "I don't want to split us apart even more." He winced at this slip of the tongue. "I mean," I corrected hastily. "Roxanne and I never got along and now this? I need to sort it out without them getting involved. They'll only be forced to take sides and I couldn't bear that."
"What are you going to do?" he asked.
"I'll have to talk to Roxanne, won't I?" I mused, grimacing. "Maybe I can convince her to stop being such a brat. I don't know why she's turned against me all of a sudden."
"You don't?" he asked cautiously. I narrowed my eyes at him.
"What do you mean? We've never liked each other, fair enough, but this is just openly hostile. I've done nothing to deserve this."
"Well, I thought you knew," Teddy began. "But Roxanne's always had this thing for, well, Matthew. She told me about how she tried to apply for a job at the same time as he did. I think she's jealous of you."
"Are you kidding me?" I seethed. "What the hell is wrong with this family? Is anything off limits?" I rubbed my temples in frustration.
Teddy narrowed his eyes at me. "I'd be careful who you're throwing stones at, Rose," he growled. "It wasn't that long ago that you-"
"That was different," I interrupted. "I was drunk that night and you know it. Nothing happened and I didn't try and ruin Victoire's life because of it."
"How was it any different?" he exclaimed. "You went and as good as told Victoire about me and Dominique."
I glared at him. "What choice did I have? That was going to come out sooner or later, quite literally! Roxanne has no right to stick her nose in my life. I don't know why you're defending her."
Teddy ran his hand through his hair, exhaling while he tried to diffuse the argument. "Look, just... be a little bit more sensitive, okay? We've all made mistakes and we have to live with them."
I rolled my eyes. "Stop making this about you. Roxanne doesn't have to do anything, whether she has feelings for Matthew or not. I didn't ask for any of this, and that's the real difference here."
Furious, I stormed off away from him and stomped along the next street until I had calmed down. What the hell was his problem anyway? Was he trying to tell me that this thing with Roxanne was my fault? I didn't like her any more than she liked me but I wasn't going around ruining her life. In fact, when she'd ruined her own life I had barely told anyone (Molly didn't count).
What was so frustrating was that I really had no intention of fighting with Roxanne over this. I just wanted things to stay as they were without fighting with anyone over it. That was clearly too much to ask for. Change was coming after me whether I liked it or not.
AN: Sorry for the wait, guys! Life got a bit hectic. I hope you're all still hanging in there with me. If anyone's still here, thanks for reading and if you have some thoughts, reviews are always appreciated. It seems like Rose just can't win, doesn't it? -Marina
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