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Chapter 12 : Changes
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"You're going to have to talk to her about it eventually," Molly advised me as I lay splayed on the sofa and hid my head in the cushions. "If you ignore it it's only going to get worse."
"I know," I groaned, enjoying the darkness the pillows offered me. In my head I could see a very clear image of Roxanne, and my imaginary knife was very effective in relieving stress. "I just don't want to make things worse."
"How could you make things worse?" Molly asked doubtfully. "It's pretty bad as it is."
I found the energy to lift my head up, sit up straight and face her. "If I go telling her to stay away from Matthew or accuse her of being a jealous, vindictive bitch, she's hardly going to want to help me, is she?"
Molly sighed. "You'll have to play her at her own game," she instructed. "If she wants to play dirty, you have to play dirty."
"I don't WANT to play dirty," I whined. "Why can't she just leave me alone?"
"You don't have a choice. You're going to have to resort to some more underhand measures. What about that meeting you had with Lockhart? Didn't he offer to help you?"
I shrugged. "Yeah, but I don't see what he can do."
"You Dim Derek," Molly said. "He's the most worshipped author in the country, with glossy hair and a dazzling smile to boot. If he doesn't know someone who can help you then I'll eat Lorcan's socks."
I grimaced at the thought of anyone going anywhere near Lorcan's socks. "Do you really think so?"
"I do," Molly said with a nod. "Ask him how you can beat Roxanne and I'm sure he'll think of something. She's an amateur, outcast lawyer with no qualifications and frizzy hair. It won't take much to knock her down."
"Fine, fine," I conceded, poking my legs to disperse the pins and needles and getting up. "I'll get dressed and go and beg that horrible old man for help. I hope you're happy."
Molly shrugged again. "I've seen you stoop lower."
"That was for charity," I growled, storming out of the room and heading straight for my wardrobe.
Matthew still wasn't up, but seeing as it was a Saturday I could hardly be surprised. Now that we had extra help in the shop he was making the most of his flexible hours.
"What are you doing?" He grumbled into his pillow when I started rifling through my clothes too loudly.
"I'm going to make myself extremely alluring and then convince Lockhart to help me destroy Roxanne," I told him matter of factly as I shoved on a low-cut t-shirt.
"That's my girl," he mumbled sleepily in response, turning over to face away from the lamp on the table next to me.
I rolled my eyes, doubting he'd actually heard me. When I went over to kiss him goodbye, he grabbed me and pinned me down on the bed.
"Oh yes, very alluring," he praised, sneaking his hand underneath my t-shirt. "If you don't mind, I have some alterations I'd like to suggest..." He started to push my shirt up and over my stomach until I smacked his hand away.
"Not now, sleepyhead," I scolded. "I have important business to attend to that for once doesn't involve you."
He rolled his eyes, sinking back into his pillows in disappointment. "You're such a spoilsport."
"Yep," I agreed, grabbing a fresh pair of socks out of my bedside drawer.
"Ah well, go knock 'em dead, kitten."
I rolled my eyes at this new nickname and flounced out of the room. I wasn't going to knock anyone dead, not even Roxanne. I just intended to make her life a lot more difficult than it was right now. I found my gloves in the cutlery drawer in the kitchen, grabbed my coat from the pegs by the door and declared myself ready to go.
It was snowing again, as much as I had been hoping that the snow would stop and melt before the end of next week. I shivered, zipping up my coat and wrapping my scarf around the lower half of my face. Lockhart better be grateful that I was going out of my way to beg for his help.
His house looked like a bloody sickening postcard when I arrived. The snow was draped gracefully over the kissing gate and just the right amount of snow had fallen above the porch. I rolled my eyes and tried not to let it put me in a foul mood. Cuteness was supposed to cheer you up, not make you hate the world and want to stamp on all Lockhart's snowdrops.
I rang the doorbell, hating the cheery ring I could hear echoing inside the house. Lockhart greeted me with a cheery grin, dressed up in his best dress robes.
"I'm not interrupting anything, am I?" I asked, peering around him into the house to see if there was anything obvious that would tell me what was going on.
"No, no, not at all," Lockhart assured me with a flick of his blonde locks. "I'm home alone, luckily for you. Do come in."
I followed him inside, wrinkling my nose at the heavy smell of incense. I really didn't need to know what Lockhart spent his Saturdays doing if this was considered normal for him. He led me into the sitting room and I sat myself down in the same fluffy armchair I had found myself in during my last visit.
"So, to what do I owe this pleasure, Miss Weasley?"
"It turns out that my cousin is behind this whole plot to steal my shop," I explained, getting straight to the point. "I want to know if you know of anyone who might be able to help me take her down, so to speak."
Lockhart played with an invisible beard. "What if we were to uncover a particularly compromising news story about your cousin?" he suggested.
I shook my head fervently. "No, absolutely not. I want to take Roxanne down, not my whole family. Something else."
Looking disappointed, Lockhart thought again. "Well, there's always the possibility of revoking her license," he offered. "If she's not allowed to practice law, your new friend will have no leg to stand on."
Eyes wide, I stared at Lockhart. "That's it, Gilly," I said, not really sure where this sudden familiarity had come from. He seemed to appreciate the new nickname, however, so I didn't correct myself. "I was surprised when she turned up as Wendy's lawyer. She failed her exams last year and had to drop out of Law School. I'm not sure how she managed to graduate after that."
Lockhart smirked. "I'm sure I'll be able to find out," he said. "Leave it with me." I waited for him to name his price. He was mulling it over, pursing his lips and running his fingers through his wavy locks. "Perhaps you could see to it that my new autobiography sees its way into the front window display."
He reached down beside the sofa and produced a new book. It was pink and sparkly, with glitter that I suspected might glow in the dark. The title, "Giggles with Gilderoy", was written in a curly cream font over the top of a highly edited photo of Lockhart himself. What more did he have to say in his autobiography this time? I doubted he did enough with his life that he could justify writing annual autobiographies. "Right," I conceded, tight-lipped. "Fine."
With this agreement in place, we shook hands and I took my leave.
So far my goal to actually talk this issue over with Roxanne wasn't exactly going according to plan, but I couldn't really see the difference between "talking it over" and "destroying all her dreams" anyway.
Family was so problematic. Roxanne probably didn't even want to talk over our issues. I had been a good girl and not really told anyone about the mini war we were fighting, but Mum could tell something was up. She demanded that I visit her for lunch to have a talk, whatever that was supposed to mean. I doubted she could offer me any advice that didn't involve either letting Roxanne have what she wanted or becoming my own lawyer (what Mum had always hoped I would be), neither of which I particularly fancied.
I rang the doorbell to my parents' house, digging my foot into a muddy mound of snow on the doorstep.
"Rosie!" Dad said with a grin as he swung the door open. "Come in, come in. Your Mum just opened a bottle of wine for us."
For her, more like, I thought with a smirk as Dad took me through into the kitchen. The fire was blazing away in the grate and sure enough Mum was already tasting the wine she'd just opened. Well, to be fair to her living with my Dad could be fairly stressful at times.
"Hi Mum," I said, slipping round Dad to give her a quick peck on the cheek. I looked around at the surprisingly tidy kitchen, noting that there were four places set at the table instead of three. "Who's the lunch guest?"
Mum tutted. "There's no guest, silly. Hugo's back for the weekend."
I frowned, looking over at Dad to confirm this. He nodded, smiling slightly at my raised eyebrows. "Your brother's like his good old Dad - he needs a good, home-cooked meal every once in a while."
I didn't doubt this, but my Mum's cooking wasn't exactly much to write home about, especially if this wasn't her first glass of wine of the day. I gave this gesture of Hugo's the benefit of the doubt, deciding not to bring up the fact that I hadn't seen Hugo since November and he had missed both Christmas and New Year's with the family. Mum would believe what she wanted to believe if it meant she didn't have to worry about him.
I heard movement upstairs and resolved to go and inquire about my brother's misadventures myself. I found him in his old room, searching through his sock drawer with vigour.
"The wanderer returns," I commented, watching him pause in his efforts and turn to face me.
"Hullo," he responded, running a hand through his red hair, looking tired. "How're things with you?"
I shrugged. "Same as always. Where have you been?" I asked pointedly.
"Around," he retorted, turning back to the inspection of his drawers. "Things have been busy."
"What things?" I pressed.
"Just things," Hugo evaded. "Why do you care?"
I held up my hands defensively. "Look, I was only being interested in your life. Sorry."
I left him to be miserable by himself and returned to the kitchen to find Dad stoking the fire and Mum inspecting the bottle of wine she had been tasting.
"What's up with Hugo? He's being well grumpy with me," I demanded.
Mum looked up from the bottle of wine to address my concerns. "He's going through a bit of a tough time at the moment, we think. It's always the same with him - you don't hear from him for months when everything's fine, but as soon as something goes wrong he suddenly appears again."
I knew this, of course; Hugo had always been flaky. "He's never missed Christmas before," I persisted.
"Leave him alone, Rose," Dad advised quietly. "Antagonising him isn't going to help."
I frowned. "I was only concerned about him," I muttered to myself. They were both fooling themselves if they thought that this was normal behaviour. I didn't know what had happened to Hugo over Christmas, but he had never not made it home before even if he had been busy enjoying his own endeavours. I had to concede that there was some truth in what my cousins had been saying; Hugo was up to something, though whether it was good or bad I couldn't tell. I'd get it out of him though, at some point.
When Mum declared lunch ready, Hugo finally graced us with his presence, completely avoiding all conversation. In the time between me talking to him upstairs and lunch being served he had clearly forgotten the art of speaking. I didn't comment on it though, deciding to do as Dad had asked and leave him alone.
"How's Scorpius these days?" Mum asked politely as I helped myself to vegetables. Dad frowned slightly at the mention of his name.
"Um," I stalled. "Not great, actually. He's still sleeping on my sofa every other night after a bumpy break-up."
Dad raised his eyebrows. "That's not very proper, is it?"
I shrugged. "It's fine. I have a boyfriend now, nobody's likely to think anything dodgy is going on."
Mum looked concerned. "Is he okay though? You know, I really feel bad for him, especially after the way you treated him. You can be so unkind."
I spluttered, tripping over my words as I tried to protest. "That is so unfair, Mum! He was being so creepy and weird. You don't know what he's like."
She shook her head at me. "You have always been harsh with your words, young lady. That poor boy has feelings too you know."
I rolled my eyes. "I am not going into this again," I said. "He's heartbroken over Clara and I'm just being friendly when he needs it. That's all there is to it."
Mum looked sceptical and Dad was glaring at the table rather too forcefully.
“How’s work?” I asked, hoping to change the subject.
"Same as usual," Mum replied dully. "All our new interns are about as bright as a bunch of marshmallows and it's infuriating. I end up having to do everything myself whether or not they attempt to do the jobs I set them."
"Maybe start small?" I suggested, thinking I would be absolutely terrified if I had to work for Mum.
"How small do you want me to go?" Mum retorted. "I hardly think there's anything easier than tying envelopes to owls, yet I still end up with a shower of parchment every time they get sent out for delivery."
I tuned out while she started to rant, scolding anyone who decided to speak up against her. Dad secretly enjoyed these rebuttals, I knew, because he kept deliberately trying to wind Mum up by disagreeing with her.
"So, what are you doing for Valentine's Day?" Hugo suddenly piped up to ask me when the conversation lulled.
I narrowed my eyes at him. "Why do you care all of a sudden?"
He shrugged. "I dunno. I was just taking an interest in you."
I couldn't work out what his ulterior motive was for asking so I sighed and relented. "I haven't got any plans yet. It's a work night so I don't think Matthew has any plans."
Mum looked at me with a knowing smile. "That means he's going to surprise you," she informed me. "He's playing it low key so as not to get your hopes up, but then he's going to surprise you and take your breath away." She went off into a dream for a moment. "Maybe he's better than I thought. What I wouldn't give to have married a romantic."
The tips of Dad's ears went red as he scowled. "I am a romantic," he protested. "I’ve just had too many years to consistently live up to your expectations and I've somewhat run out of ideas."
"See what I mean," Mum said in an undertone.
I rolled my eyes. "I really don't think he is. I don't have to plan anything though, do I?" I asked as an afterthought. I wasn't sure I was creative enough to pull off a surprise romantic evening for the two of us. The best I could do was a bottle of wine and probably a very clumsy strip-tease and that was it. Not very imaginative and not too dissimilar from most nights after I got in after drinking too much with friends.
"Have you got anyone special to celebrate with?" I asked Hugo pointedly, trying to divert the attention away from myself.
"No," Hugo retorted, looking a bit too cool to be natural. My brother wasn't cool in the slightest. "I'm probably going to see a few mates from school instead."
Okay, I wasn't stupid. Hugo didn't have any friends left from school that he still kept in touch with, except for that Paul bloke, but he'd spent the last five years in a mental hospital so I doubted he'd be going out with him any time soon. This presumably meant that Hugo was either seeing someone he didn't want to tell us about or he was up to no good. I wasn't really inclined to believe the former, considering his history with girls wasn't exactly glowing with praise.
"That sounds nice," I said. "Say hi to Paul for me."
Hugo glared at me before turning to Mum and Dad. "I wanted to ask you if you wouldn't mind me staying at home for a few more nights," he asked ignoring my dismayed expression.
Mum beamed. "Of course darling. You're welcome home any time, you don't have to ask."
This was a particularly dangerous thing to declare, I thought. First it was one weekend, next it was two weeks and before you knew it Hugo would still be living at home well into his thirties. That had happened to one of the sisters of one of the girls I shared a dormitory with at Hogwarts - her sister had had a bad break-up, had needed some comforting from her family and had never left, not even when her first child was born. I shuddered at the thought of Hugo never leaving home. In fact, it wasn't too dissimilar a situation to what Scorpius was doing. Panicked, I resolved to throw him out the next time he came over to stay. I really didn't want him bringing up his first child in my flat.
The afternoon wore on and I eventually made my excuses and left. I had agreed to babysit for Dominique tonight so she could go out and celebrate her birthday with her immediate family. It was the first year that we hadn't thrown a big party for her, much to Gran's chagrin, but they had put their foot down and I was left with babysitting duty.
When I arrived at Shell Cottage, Dominique ushered me inside with her finger on her lips. "Will finally just drifted off to sleep, so don't make too much noise."
I did as she told me, sneaking about the house like a squirrel once they'd all left. After about an hour of being alone and reading old copies of Witch Weekly, I heard a soft tap on the door. I got up, brushing biscuit crumbs off my chest and went to see who the visitor was.
"Teddy?" I frowned at him. "What the hell do you want?"
It was his turn to frown. "Didn't Dominique explain?"
I shook my head. "Explain what?"
"Well, when either she gets a babysitter or when she's alone in the house, she lets me come and visit William. Her parents don't really like me hanging around, so I try and stay away when they're in. I thought she'd tell you."
I sighed. "No, she didn't. Come in, then."
I let him in, though I was quite reluctant to do so for reasons I couldn't quite explain. Will was his son, after all, so why wouldn't he come and see him? I settled myself back down on the sofa and resumed reading a magazine from April the previous year. Teddy disappeared upstairs briefly.
"He's asleep," Teddy said when he came back downstairs.
"Yes, I know," I said shortly, flicking over the page. The next article was all about the most delightful sex positions, so I quickly flicked over another couple of pages so that he wouldn't get any weird ideas about what I was reading.
"Can I get you a drink?" he offered.
I didn't know whether he meant a soft drink or not, so I declined anyway. After the last time I drank alcohol around him, I decided it was a terrible idea to revisit that. In fact, being around him made me feel extremely uncomfortable. I hoped he didn't think I still had feelings for him. In fact, I wondered if Matthew would be particularly comfortable with me hanging out with Teddy.
I felt his eyes on me as I pretended to read the next article in the magazine. "What?" I asked, catching him staring at me.
"You seem different, that's all," he said, shrugging it off.
I narrowed my eyes. "What's your point?" I asked directly.
"Well, you're not afraid to speak your mind anymore," he said, looking sheepish.
“No, I’m not,” I muttered, still fake-reading the magazine. “Realising I didn’t need you to be happy was strangely empowering.”
Teddy raised his eyebrows at this admission. “Is that so?”
I rolled my eyes, finally looking up from the magazine to look him in the eye. “I don’t want to talk about it,” I said firmly. “My life no longer revolves around you.”
“Can’t we even be friends?” he asked. “I feel like after everything -”
“Definitely not,” I stopped him before he could make a fool out of himself. “It’s because of everything that happened that we can’t be friends. I’ll tolerate you for Will’s sake but that’s it.”
I was pretty sure Teddy was extremely taken aback with this new, harsher me. He had really pissed me off the other day with his accusations. He couldn’t just offload his guilt onto me because he had to live a shadow of his former life here. I was prepared to tolerate him if he didn’t try and shirk the blame. He had to understand that things were changing around here and he needed to keep up if he wanted to be a part of it.
AN: Yeah, girl power! Anyway, thanks for sticking with me! I hope you enjoyed it. Reviews, as always, are super appreciated and thank you to those of you who continiue to leave me such lovely reviews. And if you fancy reading my new Next Gen story, check back on the 30th December to read "Atlas Air". -Marina
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