Chapter 1 : Prologue
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“I’m quitting,” she told her cousin, leaning against the bar and shouting to be heard over the typical Saturday night din.
“What did you say about winning?” James yelled back, deftly mixing two vodka and cokes and handing them with a beaming smile to the swaying customers.
“I said I’m quitting!”
“You can’t quit!” he cried, looking horrified. “What would I do without you?”
“Hire some of the Hogwarts grads.”
“But they’re…” James cast around for an appropriate word. “Eighteen.”
“Exactly!” she shouted back.
Looking flustered, James tapped Julia Winter on the shoulder – cover for me, he mouthed at her, before waving Lucy out the back. The silence was near deafening after the din of the bar, and it took James a moment to adjust.
“Why are you leaving?” he yelled, before realising he hadn’t adjusted his volume and quickly dropping his voice.
“Well, you know.” Lucy floundered a bit. “I didn’t intend to be retrieving wine glasses from bathrooms for the rest of my life.”
“Your job is infinitely more varied than retrieving wine glasses from bathrooms.” James frowned. “D’you think we should put a sign up? ‘Please don’t take glassware into the toilet, it’s weird’?”
“This is my two weeks’ notice.”
James sighed. “I should have known this day would come. First Hugo, then you…”
“Yeah, he’s off to Australia. Got a job teaching primary school kids to fly.”
Lucy folded her arms. “Nice of him to tell me.”
“He only told me on Thursday. Don’t even think he’s told Rose.”
“See, even he’s got a career. Or, you know, a job that doesn’t involve working in a bar owned by your cousin.”
“I resent your tone, Lucy Weasley.” James cracked open an RTD, handed it to her, and took another for himself. “What are you planning on doing instead?”
Lucy shrugged, taking a swig. “Not sure yet. I just need a break from…this.” She waved a hand to encompass the bar. “Something that will stop Mum telling people ‘Oh, she’s just getting some money behind her while she works out her options’ for the fourth year in the row.”
James shrugged. “That’s what Lily’s doing. ’Cept I spose playing for the Holyhead Harpies sounds a bit better than waitressing.”
“Just a tad.” Lucy eyed the door that separated the back room from the rest of the bar. “Guess I should get back out there.”
“You could get your manager’s certificate,” James blurted as she stood to leave.
“Bribery won’t work on me.”
“Worth a try,” he called after her.
Lucy wasn’t sure how Sundays had become official brunch mornings for every branch of the Weasley-Potter family. It seemed to have been a permanent fixture on the calendar since the first of her cousins graduated and left home, slowly establishing itself as tradition for each individual branch as their kids moved out, so that Nana had seen fit to set up a five-week circulating roster. Lucy was allowed to skip brunch with her immediate family most weeks, owing to the fact she got home from work at around four on Sunday mornings, but this week was their week at the Burrow and she couldn’t miss it. James let her off a couple hours early.
“Jules and I can hold the fort,” he said, waving an arm around the bar. “It’s January, there are shit all people out. Go home, get some sleep – oh, and Nana’s in a weird mood at the moment.”
“Great grandkids,” he said. “Apparently none of us are pulling our weight on that front. I mean, I feel like she’d be better off directly targeting Ted and Vic, but hey. Sleep well. I hope you change your mind about leaving by the next time I see you.”
“Not going to happen. Night.”
Emily was still up when Lucy arrived home, glancing up from the book she was reading. “You’re home early.”
“And you’re up late.”
“It’s barely two. How was work?”
“You what?” Emily twisted around in her chair, fixing Lucy with her piercing gaze. “What, why?”
Lucy shrugged. “Time for a change? You can help me figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life.”
“So you didn’t just walk out in a fit of spite, then.”
“That sounds more like something you would do.”
“Touche. You should have been a Hufflepuff.”
“You would miss our explosive Gryffindor/Slytherin dynamic.”
“Mmm,” Emily said noncommittally, getting to her feet with a yawn. “I don’t think we’ve been making the most of that recently.”
“You don’t?” Lucy asked as Emily stepped closer, peeling Lucy’s coat off her shoulders.
“We can do better,” Emily replied decisively, and in seconds she was driving her against the wall, kissing her, and Lucy gasped and kissed her back, fiercely, with abandon, fingers running through her sleek dark hair. It had been too long, too long since they had done this and she didn’t realise how much she’d missed it until now, with Emily’s hands at her waist and her lips on hers, and who cared about jobs and careers and the rest of it, now?
“That’s what I’m talking about,” Emily murmured, breathless. Lacing their fingers together, she guided Lucy into her bedroom.
It was a mess, Lucy knew it, this thing between them, whatever it was, the tiny overlapping space between friendship and flatmates and lovers and girlfriends and God knew how many other nouns they could throw into the mix and find some aspect of truth in them, but it didn’t matter.
“You’ve got brunch this morning, right?” Emily asked, later, voice soft in the darkness.
“Yeah. It’ll be good to see them. Haven’t seen Dad for weeks, he’s been so busy with work.”
“They still think you’re straight?”
“When are you going to drop that bombshell?”
“Probably not the same weekend I tell them I quit my job.”
“They’re not going to have a problem with that. You’re moving on to bigger and better things.”
“I’m going to have to ask Dad for career advice. He’s been dying to sit me down and ‘discuss my options’ since I was sixth year.”
“That sounds like a fun conversation.”
“At least he won’t try and get me into the Ministry. Not after Molly.”
“It’ll be something equally boring, knowing your dad. You should join the Department.”
“I’m not smart enough for the Mysteries, Em, you know that.”
“You get everyone to try and join the Mysteries.”
“I can’t help it. I like it. It fills me with a sort of…evangelical zeal.”
“Yeah, I wish I could have something like that…but I’m nearly twenty-two and I’m beginning to think maybe there’s nothing out there for me.”
“Don’t say that. You might stumble upon something, you never know.”
“Like I stumbled upon you?”
Emily snorted. “You took eight years to realise your huge gay crush on me, Lucy Weasley, you didn’t stumble upon anything.”
“There was stumbling involved. Drunken stumbling. Maybe some shouting.”
“Two bottles of wine, one broken stiletto, an accidental hex burn on the ceiling, and the memorable line ‘Shut the fuck up and kiss me,’ if I recall correctly.”
“Not one of my finer moments.”
“I dunno, I wasn’t complaining. Shut up and sleep, you have family to deal with in the morning.”
Deal with was an apt verb when it came to Lucy’s family. Her parents had won the respective titles of Most Boring Weasley Brother and Most Reluctantly Accepted Daughter In-Law according to the sliding scale of Nana’s disapproving facial expressions James had developed one Christmas. Molly, once the perfect pinnacle of parental approval, had recently quit her high-paying job in Magical Law Enforcement to pursue a career in magical ecology, which involved a lot more dreadlocks, veganism and living in forest huts than their mother could bear to think about. Lucy found herself rather suddenly elevated to golden child status, because she may be a directionless bartender but at least she brushed her hair.
She was also, against her better judgement, about to ask her father for career advice.
“I gave James my two weeks notice,” she announced as the inevitable small-talk and complimenting Nana’s cooking had died down.
“I didn’t know you were quitting,” Molly said.
“What are you going to do for money?” her mother asked.
“I have savings to live on for a while. Dad – any suggestions on what I should do with my life?”
“Oh.” Percy looked stunned. “Actually – yes. I did hear of an opening at the printing press – ”
“The printing press?” Lucy repeated.
“The Hogsmeade Printing Press,” Percy explained, pushing his glasses back up his nose. “They don’t advertise their positions at all, they come up once in a blue moon…I can get you an interview there, I’m sure.”
“Dad. What do they do?”
“Oh. Well, they’re a printing press. It’s mostly academic texts, you know, it’s sort of attached to the Hogwarts library, lots of first-edition magical texts and that sort of thing. They print the journals, too – the Potions and Transfiguration ones. I know you said a while ago you were thinking about publishing.”
Lucy was surprised he had remembered – it was in her first year out of school, and she’d really just been spitballing, but after mentioning it she’d felt the possibility sitting in the back of her mind – nothing pressing, nothing urgent or overwhelming, but a seed of possibility neverthelesss – dormant but ever-present, for the past two years.
“An interview couldn’t hurt,” she decided, and her father beamed.
A/N: Welcome to my third and (probably) final major project within the TFWMS universe. If you haven't read The Fred Weasley Memorial Scholarship, I strongly recommend you do - just for some background information on these characters. While none of them are in the limelight in TFWMS, the story does assume familarity with their backstories. This is also a companion story to Pending Further Investigation and is set about six months ahead chronologically.
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