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The Art of Small Talk by patronus_charm
Chapter 2 : The Morning After the Night Before
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 12

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Chapter Two - The Morning After the Night Before

I don’t even want to contemplate how I may look. It's always like this in the morning after, the morning after George's party in this. Every single time, and I fail to learn my lesson from every one of them.

I feel like crap and judging by the amount of people who have pulled their faces into contorted expressions when seeing me, it must be bad. Then again, this is a Muggle street, and I am wandering down it in the purple dress robes I wore to the party last night and never bothered changing out of. It may be that. Or it may be that my hair’s formed dreadlocks, make-up is smeared all over me and my arms are covered in bruises of varying colours (don't even ask about them.).

With my flat being located in Wood Green, it means that a greasy spoon style café is always an ideal five minute walk away. Then again, not everything is ideal here because Wood Green isn't exactly renowned for its hospitable people and guaranteed safety when strolling the streets at night. All of those fears tend to fly away when my head's feeling as if it will implode any minute, and I can practically smell the grease tempting me along. I could be dancing in a meadow for all I know.

The thought of having to discuss last night with Jemima (ill, so couldn’t make it) and Verity (sober all night so can reveal embarrassing details) isn't making me feel much better. Especially as they want to meet in Diagon Alley rather than at one of these tempting local cafés where fatness is guaranteed with regular consumption. I now have to walk to the Apparation Alleyway (catching name, eh?) and then apparate there. Something potentially very dangerous in my current state.

Turning past the tube station, I edge down a back street before coming to a halt and begin to imagine the familiar cobbles of Diagon Alley. The steadiness of that feels rather comforting when dealing with my volcanic like stomach. Anything which has anchor like qualities right now sounds like a blessing to me even Eileen as her body mass doesn't look like it will be moving from the ground any time soon.

It’s also time to make a pledge. Next time when I’m making a batch of Hangover Potion I will never go by less is better for quality. More is always better for the morning after.

I feel my feet come into contact with the ground (an island of calm) and note I landed just outside of the Leaky Cauldron and just beside a person I don’t want to be forced to converse when I’m in a state like this. Or in any state to be honest. Or ever. Yes, if only the last one's true then my life will be considerably better than how it's currently fairing.

‘Audrey Tinley,’ she says. I refuse to say her name; it will only make reality even worse by acknowledging her presence. ‘What a pleasure it is to see you here. We haven’t seen one another ever since, when was it? Seventh year, I believe. Such a shame.’

‘Penelope Clearwater,’ I reply grimly. ‘What a shame it is.’

Ok, I seem to have a much better grasp of this whole small talk thing when I’m hung-over. Not only does this mean I’ve found a solution for it, it also gives me an excuse to drink and not feel guilty about potentially harming my body. Yay for legitimate potential damage to my liver. If that even makes sense.

‘Yes. Now, I was very surprised to come across those photos of you in the Daily Owl, very shocking. I didn’t expect you to be in that state or with those types of people.’

What? What on earth did I do to appear in the Daily Owl? Their purpose is to provide ‘light-hearted feel good news’ about ‘celebrities’. Oh Merlin, this is not good, not good at all. The Daily Owl’s only been around for a year, but its reputation is even more notorious than the Prophet or Witch Weekly. If you appear in there just once there is no hope of people ever having nice thoughts about you again. Granny Lucy is going to kill me.

‘Well,’ I say, attempting to sound knowledgeable about the article. ‘People change.’

‘Indeed they do. Though associating yourself with Percy Weasley when drunk is not wise indeed. Associating yourself with him at anytime is not wise at all, is that clear Tinley?’

‘Why on earth shouldn’t I associate myself with Percy Weasley?’ Not that I want to, but still, it gives me an opportunity to square up to my former/sort of current enemy.

Penelope walks forward, inches from my faces. I can even smell the faint mint of her breath. ‘You see, Tinley, there's a reason why what happened at Hogwarts happened. There are people like me who are destined to be with Percy. Then there are people like you who are destined to be with….well, no one really.’

Penelope throws her head back and adds on a haughty laugh, her brown curls bobbing up and down as she does so. She gives me one final glare before heading off down the street.

And Verity dared to suggest I forget about her. Judging by the way she sort of owned me back there, that’s not going to happen any time soon.


‘So you haven’t seen the pictures then?’ Jemima asks tenderly, pulling her blonde hair out from behind her head so it falls in front of her face. Oh dear, this only ever happens when she has something bad to say.

‘Evidently not, otherwise I would not be asking you why they are such a hot topic, and why Penelope Clearwater accosted me and warned me off her man-‘

‘He’s not her man. She just broke up with Andrew Perk a few days ago. Unless she’s dating Percy in secret, which I doubt, then she’s obviously lying,’ Verity bursts out, toppling over the small jug of milk in excitement, causing small trails of milk to begin to cascade down the table cloth and pool onto the floor.

‘How do you know these things?’ Jemima asks, eyes agog with interest. Given that she's a writer for the Prophet (better term being, occasional feature writer of articles including lots of make-up and the current celebrity gossip), I would have known these things.

‘By listening.’ Verity pats her nose and winks at us. ‘It’s my duty to look out for those things so I can on match make people with accuracy. Finding out vital facts like these means that finding out the suitability of two people is much easier.’

'Right, we need to discuss my life, as it's apparently in tatters,' I but in. 'Can someone just show me these pictures?’

Suddenly both of their eyes become fixed to the table. I can’t think why. It’s splatted with tea stains, the odd glimmer of light appears as something bounces off a sugar granule and then the squiggles of milk from Verity’s hand movements are dotted around it, so nothing exactly interesting to look at.

‘Are you sure?’ Verity asks. ‘We can just opt for damage control in regards to your prospective relationship with Percy. You can spend the rest of the weekend at home. Tiding up or reading or something similar. Once you’re back at work on Monday, everything will have bound to have blown over. No worries in that respect.’

I shoot her a look of incredulity (it’s likened to a constipated monkey this time, how delightful), this relationship with Percy was shipwrecked before it sailed or however that saying goes. Verity reaches into the depths of her cloak and pulls out a slightly tattered newspaper.

‘Don’t say we didn’t warn you,’ Jemima adds on as I snatch it out of Verity’s hands. Jemima's used to this sort of thing so it can't be that big of a surprise for her. I mean, it can’t be…

Fuck. Yes, it’s fuck this time round, not shit. I didn’t just revert to it out of need for change but for genuine reason to show the seriousness of the situation. The pictures aren’t all that bad. Ok they are bad, but when placed by the large caption next to it they’re almost complimentary.

Well, when I go home I’ll be in for a grilling from Dad and Granny Lucy it’s safe to say. There I am, dress robes pulled up so a large area of my flesh (not pleasant flesh either, as it’s all blotchy and wobbles in the wind) is on show despite the January cold, and I’m standing outside of George’s house with the other drunk stragglers. While that may seem innocuous, I haven’t exactly said who I’m with or what I’m doing.

I don’t really want to though. What I want to do is join the nearest Teetotals Are Us to me right now and swear off alcohol this second. This is a serious proclamation too. Not one where I just say it then, and next time I’m at a party I swear off that pledge and head towards the Elfin Wine. That’s only happened to the four out of four other alcohol free pledges I’ve made this year. A pretty good record compared to other years really.

‘So, you and Percy, huh?’ Verity says nervously. ‘I guess you sort of did end up together last night.’

‘Yes, it looks as if Verity’s scheme did work for once,’ Jemima adds on, placing her hand on my arm almost as if to placate me. I will hit her with something hard if she dare side with Verity over this. She's meant to be on my side when it comes to being a liberal single. Though she does the liberal part, and I do the single part.

‘I’m pulling onto him while he’s trying to run away from me, and the Daily Owl has stated that we’re a secret couple and on the brink of our first tiff! Does this really count as Verity’s scheme working?’

Neither answer. They’re back to looking at the table. Again. I really wish they had a new ‘I’m trying to ignore Audrey but I’m also trying not to look too mean’ tactic. It would make life a lot more interesting that way.

‘It can be patched over easily.’

‘Yes, no one will judge you for it. Percy is a very eligible bachelor you know, being seen with him is nothing to be ashamed of.’

‘How about if I say to both of you that I have to go home for dinner tonight and deal with Granny Lucy and Dad both questioning me why on earth did I never tell them about my new boyfriend, and oh how perfect he is for me and oh when are you getting married.’

‘Yes, I do agree that can be a hindrance,’ Jemima announces. Again, I am still unsure over whether she’s being serious or not. ‘When I went out with Oscar for three weeks Mummy got all curious and wondered whether we were getting married. You know Oscar is very wealthy and part of the Greengrass family so it would be a good connection but of course it was over yonks before she asked. We do meet up now and then, but Mummy doesn’t need to know that.’

I quickly glance at Verity before the pair of us burst into laughter, forgetting my predicament in an instant. Jemima has had so many of these encounters with sons of wealthy pureblood families it’s a wonder her mother still hopes she will marry one day. Then again, they’re one of the more minor families, the Sheltons, so perhaps they’re more lenient in that respect. Jemima is a Hufflepuff with us, and there was no hoo-ha over her not being in Slytherin which you would usually expect.

‘Well, it’s nice to see that parents can recover from the shock that they’re children aren’t getting married but choosing to be liberal in their partners instead,’ I reply, ‘It gives me some small hope that I won’t be murdered alive as soon as I step in through the door.’

‘Yes,’ Verity agrees, ‘You’ll be thanking me one day. Even if you and Percy don’t work out, the fact that you’ve been spotted together will do you so much good and perhaps something else will lead on from it.’

‘That would be delightful.’

The pair of them really need to learn sarcasm because the last comment drew applause from them. Then there's the big question of how on earth I am going to deal with this blasted situation with Percy. I’ll have to avoid the Ministry for the rest of my life so I don’t have to have that awkward conversation about what appeared in the newspaper with him.

I deliberately apparate two streets away from home rather than directly into the back garden to delay the process of having to be responsible for my rather (cough very cough) reckless actions. Well, I can live in hope that they haven’t read the Daily Owl and spotted it. Though judging by how talkative Granny’s friends are, she’ll know by now.

Ambling up their path to home, I mentally prepare what I can say. Point number one, am a feminist so therefore I am allowed to take control of my body without being hindered by social boundaries and do whatever with it. Point two, I want to see the effects different alcohols have on my body to aid my potion making. Point number three, Granny wants me to be successful so appearing in this is bordering on that.

They must have some sort of body sensor spells all over the door because as soon as I touch it, it springs open revealing Granny with her dyed burgundy hair flying out in every direction. It’s even complete with hair curlers springing out of it. Despite it being seven o’clock in the evening, she's ready for bed.

‘Audrey Tinley, what on earth have you been up to? I got owls flying in from all my friends – Rosalie, Jean, Elizabeth and others - telling me about how they’ve seen you in the Daily Owl. As you know your father and I don’t tend to read it, I had to pop over to Agatha’s house to read a copy, and there was my granddaughter apparently dating one of the most eligible bachelors in the country!’

Listening to Granny is proving to be rather hard as she’s yet again gone with her idea that wearing bright green eye shadow somehow goes well with her red lipstick and dollops of blusher. The first thing you learn about Granny when you meet her is that she believes this thing called ageing is simply a myth and one can defy it if one tries hard enough. If defying age means traipsing around like a drag queen, Granny’s onto something good.

‘Well, I’m sure it gave you a lot to talk about.’

‘Indeed it did. They all want to know whether you two are the next ‘it’ couple, whatever that term means and questioning me about how you two ended up together. Why on earth didn’t you mention it to me? Your father and I would have loved to known. I know your mother.’ The lowered tone and hushed voice begins. ‘Was a little flighty during her day. The way she disappeared off into nowhere, no details, no note, not anything. Leaving you as an orphan and in the care of your sole grandmother, but this does not mean you have to mimic her actions.’

One other thing about Granny, she can’t accept failures so having Mum run off around the round is a failure. I've gotten used to it now. Well, sort of. I have Granny and Dad and there really is no need for anyone else in my life. Not. At. All.

‘What about Dad? Does he simply not exist now? Because I thought he brought me up too, so I’m not really an orphan, am I?’

Granny shrugs her shoulders, as if the idea of that is inconceivable. ‘A mother’s touch is always needed so you were practically an orphan, dear.’

‘What’s Lucy going on about now?’ Dad asks, strolling down the hallway to join us at the door. ‘Insisting that you have to become the ‘it couple’ so she can have bragging rights at the next tea party or whatever. I won’t talk about her omitting my existence. I’m rather used to it now.’

‘Certainly not, Matthew, merely encouraging it to happen. I also do not omit your existence. I simply say it as it is.’

‘Yes, as you always say when in the wrong.’

They sound like an old married couple. Actually, scratch that thought, it’s a little disturbing. Even if they’re not related I would still prefer not to have that connection in my head.

‘Yes, yes, whatever, Lucy. Let’s go in. I'm sure Audrey's dying to tell us about this Percy fellow.’

I shake my head wearily at the pair of them. At times, my maturity levels are actually higher than theirs.


I really need to sort out my office/potion making room/den thing, I think while wandering away from my simmering cauldron. Going home and seeing the neatness of Granny and Dad’s house has really made me realise what a state my actual office thing is and how I need to clear up. I only just managed to persuade them Percy and I aren’t a couple, so the least I can do to thank them for surviving that ordeal is tidying up.

My room could be an exhibit really. I could even do a tour for it. Below you, you see the creative devices needed for potion making littering the floor, these items include screwed up paper, remnants of food and a piece of charcoal. On the wall, photos of the Weird Sisters are needed to inspire fame one can attain through potion making, and the desk is the dumping ground for everything. A mini Christmas tree has been sighted there in the middle of July. There, that will be a great tour.

Maybe I can put Draco on the tidying up front. He is an intern, after all. An important part of being a Potioneer is having a tidy space to work in. There, he’ll be doing me a favour as well as learning a vital part of his training which will surely benefit him greatly in the future. Plus, if he ever fancies a career change into cleaning perhaps he’s all prepared for that.

‘Audreyyyy! Audreyyyy!’ I can see that Eileen is opting for extending the last syllable of my name today as her form of greeting. ‘I saw that you had a jolly good weekend. I do hope that you knocked up a good old Hangover Potion it would have sorted you out in a jiffy jaffy.’

I think I’ll just give up on today. I raise my arm (clothed in a slightly crumpled black pair of robes (only clean thing)) and brush the contents of my desk to the side so I can do what I have to do. I place my head in the cleared space before letting out a sigh. Yes, I am ignoring someone senior to me but for once in my life I really don’t care.

‘Oh Audrey! I can see that you aren’t in a tippity top shape today, is that why Draco's standing outside the door?’

Oh crap. I hadn’t even realised he was here, I assumed he would just walk into the room when he got here, not line up outside like a little school boy.

‘No, of course not. He’s doing a test. Smell the potion and see whether he can detect which ingredients are present.’

‘Oh, how simply delightful!’ Eileen squeals out. With her over-enthusiasm being in regards to eating as well as her presence she now looks like something akin to a pig blobbing up and down. Ok that was a little mean, but at times she brings it upon herself. ‘I do so love it when people come up with new ingenious ways to engage the young people’s mind as it can be so difficult at times. Wonderful, wonderful…’

She carries on repeating that as she inches out of the door. Thank Merlin, she’s leaving is all I can say.

‘Er, Eileen, could you possibly call Draco in on your way out?’

‘Of course, Audrey, it would be a pleasure.’

I try and not throw up when she says that. Sorry but how can that be a pleasure? I’m all for being nice and polite but some people really take that to new levels.

Draco’s blonde hair slowly emerges though the door (reminds me, must find out surname, it’s getting more and more awkward), and he shuffles slowly towards me.

‘Hello Potioneer Tinley, are you alright?’

Oh, my head’s still on the desk now I think about it. It’s a wonder that I actually managed to see him enter the room with all the clutter everywhere.

‘I’m fine, Draco. It’s simply one of those days when everything in the world seems too much for me. Though there is a correlation between those days occurring and Eileen talking to me.’

‘I think that’s a natural feeling.’

I let out a small chuckle and raise my head from the desk. The first sign of loyalty to me and not authority. Muaha I feel as if I’m trying to turn him into an anarchist or something like that.

‘Indeed.’ I suppose I should attempt to do something educational with him given that I am mentoring him. ‘As you can see I’ve begun the process of making a Heart Freezing Potion. It’s a difficult one to make and administer as the ratios of ingredients must be exact otherwise instead of stopping the rate of the heart beat which is what it is intended to do, it will instead stop the heart completely. Luckily for us, administering it to the patient is often harder than making it yourself but you must take care that the electrical charges of each ingredient balance out the other.’

‘Electrical charges?’ Draco’s face is screwed up in confusion. ‘Sorry, but we didn’t learn that at Hogwarts.’

Right. Now do I explain or pretend he didn’t hear? Electrical charges have proven to be a large part of Potioneering (well, I’ve proven it the others aren’t so keen on the idea) but others feel that Muggle ideas should be left alone and only wizard tested ones should be used.

Then the whole him being a former Death Eater thing probably doesn’t help all that much either. Will he even want to accept Muggle ideas despite being cleared of all charges? Screw it. I may as well try.

‘Yes, you see I’ve delved into Muggle chemistry a fair amount. I even have an A Level in it, as it helps a huge amount when it comes to Potioneering. Some things like the use of a chemical catalyst mean that the rate of potions being created can be made so quick that it halves the time meaning lives can be saved. Then electrical charges are vital because if you know the charge of the compound you are using. It means if you don’t know the amount required you can figure out the amount needed and make it safe for all.’

There, that’s it. Now, let’s wait for the torrid of Muggle hate to come spewing out of him. It tends to happen with most people when I mention it. They always assume that Muggle knowledge is inferior but it can be useful. Then again, I have Granny Lucy who aspires to be a Muggle at times.

‘I never really thought of turning to Muggle ideas,’ Draco says slowly. ‘It wasn’t very appropriate given the former climate, and my family aren’t all that keen on them.’ That’s putting it a little lightly (suppressing my urge to laugh at that is very hard).

‘Of course these ideas are all experimental ones,’ I add on, not wanting to force him into using them. ‘You don’t have to use them, it’s just an idea.’

‘No, it will be interesting to learn more about them. If you’ll teach them to me that is…’

I look up at Draco’s face and he looks all earnest. I can’t help but feel my heart swell, and I’m suddenly taken over by the urge to cry. I’ve never really inspired anyone before or had anyone want me to teach them anything so hearing this is like having a purpose other than to float around which is what I tend to think it is.

‘I would be more than happy to, Draco.’

‘Thanks, Audrey, I can’t wait to learn more.’

I give him a small smile before my thoughts turn to Percy. Even if a boring old Ministerial job apparently has more prestige than being a Potioneer, at least I’m doing something useful unlike him.

Author's Note: Hello all! I hoped you liked this chapter even if the craziness of it has calmed down a lot :P Nothing to fear, it will be back soon and I'm pretty sure Granny Lucy's madness makes up for it. How did you like her? And Jemima? It would be awesome if you left your views on this chapter and thanks for reading :D

Awesomesauce CI is all down to and.y over at TDA!

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