Chapter 1 : The Competition
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Disclaimer: I own nothing. Some inspiration was borrowed from Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland, again, don't own it.
Chapter 1: The Competition
The sign was simple. Black background with silver lettering. Nothing that would make a passing shopper give it a second glance. It was far from the ostentatious fuchsia and gold signs further up the street. But it was the exact reason that George Weasley stopped dead in his tracks, earning him some odd glances by passing patrons.
The shop seemed to appear out of nowhere. He traversed this road multiple times throughout the day and can’t recall ever seeing any advertisements, not a sign of the new shop owners cleaning the store front, or whispers from the customers about the small shop. George blinked and glanced around, he couldn’t be the only one seeing this. Just then a lady slowed her pace to view the wears in the shops front window, and glance at the impending sign before she entered the store.
George took a tentative step towards the front window. The display was as simple as the sign. A tiered stack of black and silver boxes with simple potion bottles balancing on the edges. A string of white Christmas lights used as simple lighting. The sign at the bottom, a simple chalkboard with white writing:
Take your competitors down a notch,
Goes down as smooth as scotch.
Bloody hell. It couldn’t be another joke shop. It didn’t look like one, it couldn’t be one. No, it could be. There are unspoken rules. You don’t open a similar shop within walking distance of another. That’s why he and Fred opened their shop in Diagon Alley. They would never set up a shop in Hogsmeade while Zonko’s was in business. You just don’t do that! But this couldn’t be a joke shop.
His eyes traveled to the writing on the lower left pane of the window. The listed store hours made him blink and rub his eyes and read it out loud.
“If the doors are open, step inside. If the doors are closed, bugger off.”
He checked his watch, he still had half an hour before he had to relieve Verity for lunch. He would go in, but only to reassure that nagging voice in the back of his mind, that this indeed was NOT a new joke shop.
The first thing he noticed was the sheer lack of color. Everything in the store was black, silver or white. The shiny checkerboard floor was sprinkled with black elongated display tables. The walls were white with silver drapes framing the displays on the walls. It was serenely quiet despite the fact that there were quite a few customers in the store. It was the polar opposite of his store. It unnerved him greatly.
George walked over to the table closest to him. Small pyramids of the signature black and silver boxes ready for purchase, but a large silver platter that offered the shopper a sample of the product. Another small black chalkboard alongside the platter. ‘Large Biscuits.’ They seemed harmless enough, but any prankster knows to always expect the unexpected. He lifted one of the clearly packaged cookies, it was plain and oval in shape with a light drizzle of white icing. The black tag attached to the top of the bag, gave him what he needed to know.
‘One will make you larger. Caution: best consumed outdoors, unless you really wanted vaulted ceilings or really hated that particular wall in the living room. Effects lasting up to one hour.’
“Hmm.” He muttered as he placed the cookie back on the platter. This table in particular was placed on an angle to allow the neighboring table on the right to create a “V” and for good reason.
The table on the right had the antidote to the table on the left. ‘A Little Thirst-Quencher.’ The small wine bottle encased in black velvet was displayed in a similar box as the cookies. The tag hanging off the neck read simply: ‘One will make you smaller. Best consumed after a helping of biscuits. Caution: Drinking this commodity could cause one to shrink to the size of a pea, avoid brooms and forks. Effects lasting up to one hour.’
George recalled a book Ginny once borrowed from Granger, some muggle story about a girl in an odd land. The only thing lacking on these treats was an ‘eat me’ or ‘drink me’ tag.
“Mr. Weasley?” a voice behind him asked.
It startled him so, up until this point the shop had been relatively quiet and the sudden voice caused him to fumble the bottle in his hand. As he quickly regained the grip on the small glass, he quickly placed it back on the table. He felt as though his mother just caught him sampling one of her desserts she spent all day making.
“Yes…what…I’m sorry…” he fumbled as he turned towards the sales clerk.
She was older than him. Mid-to- early thirties, if he had to guess. She wore a uniform that matched the store, a crisp white button down shirt, black pants, and a black apron with two silver D’s sewn onto the front. She gave him a soft smile.
“You are Mr. Weasley, correct? From Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes?” she asked politely.
“Yes, I am.” He answered warily, feeling as if he was admitting to being a Death Eater.
“We were told you would come.” She answered eerily. “My name is Mary; I am one of the associates here. The proprietor of the shop welcomes you, and wants you to know that you may help yourself to any of our products. I am here at your disposal if you should need any assistance. The proprietor asked that I give you this…”
She reached into one of the pockets of her apron and extracted a small business card.
“Should you need to contact the owner for any reason.” She handed him the small card. “Please feel free to look around.”
Mary turned to help other shoppers pick out a special product, leaving George with more questions than he could voice. The stiff business card in his fingers was twirled from his pointer down to his pinky and back. He walked back over to the store front window. The Confidence Booster bottles gleaming in the sunlight as he approached. ‘Take your competitors down a notch.’ He read and re-read the chalkboard.
Suddenly, the card in his hand grew warm, very warm. It wasn’t an overly impressive card. Black matted with two glossy embossed D’s on the front, much like Mary’s apron. He turned the card over to look for the owners name and contacts, but found it to be blank. He gave the card a small twist in the light, and that’s when the small silver lettering appeared across the card.
‘Your move, Red.’
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