The smell of fall was the best thing in the world, Rose was sure of it. Even though everything was dying off, the cooler air smelt fresh, crisp, and brand new. Rose especially loved the fall mornings. She chose to walk to work most days in order to enjoy the changing of the leaves and the beauty of autumn. It reminded her of going back to Hogwarts. Part of it was the nostalgia, she supposed, being back with friends and enjoying feasts in the Great Hall. It had been five years since she had finished her seventh year at Hogwarts and a lot had changed since then. It had just turned October and she was in exceptionally good spirits as she walked to the shop that was a few blocks down and just around the corner from her flat in Diagon Alley. With a cup of hot tea in her hand, she pushed open the door to Thistle and Thorn and was greeted with the chime of the bell that hung above the entrance and a cry of greeting from the back room.
"Did the shipment come in yet?" Rose hollered as she set her tea on the counter and began to unwrap her scarf from around her neck. She hung it and her coat in her office behind the front counter.
"No!" came the frustrated response. "Bloody post office says there's been some kind of delay. Something about faulty packaging. You'd think people who grow mandrakes would know how to properly ship them."
Rose chuckled as she flipped through the post that had come in that morning and grinned when her eyes found the familiar script she was always eager to see. She discarded all of the other letters onto her desk and left the office.
"Is it him again?"
Rose looked up to see her coworker and best friend Jane Ryan make her way out from the back room, a box of empty potion vials in her arms.
"Maybe," Rose said coyly. "Judging me for it?"
"Hell no, I'm jealous of what you have," Jane replied. "Andrew won't write me any letters. Unless he needs something."
She said this with a sour look on her face. Rose began to open the till as Jane set about restocking things.
"If you're so unhappy, why do you keep going back to him?"
"Because he does make me happy, when it's good. I guess I only ever talk about it when it's gone wrong."
"Which seems to be about every other day," said Rose with a pointed look at Jane who wouldn't meet her gaze as she placed the last of the vials on the shelf. She sighed before turning back to the register.
"Well you know how I feel about it. Don't get me wrong, he's not a bad sort in general, but I don't like the way he treats your relationship," Rose told her friend who sighed in resignation.
"I know, I'm working on it. But anyway," she changed the subject, moving over to lean on the counter. "What's Loverboy got to say this time?"
Rose rolled her eyes at her friend, before moving to stash the letter in her coat pocket, deciding to read it later.
"He's not 'Loverboy' and you know it. He's just a friend. Besides, I'm in a perfectly happy relationship with Abel, in case you've forgotten."
Jane scoffed and followed Rose as she went to turn the sign on the front door from closed to open.
"Well then, what do you call it when a boy you've never even met writes you novels once a week? What bloke do you know invests that much time and energy on a girl they're actually in a romantic relationship with?"
Rose rolled her eyes as her friend followed her back to the counter and they resumed their previous positions.
"They aren't novels, Jane. You know we talk about business and things. It's not like he fills the pages with declarations of love and adoration. He's never done anything like that. We only started talking because he took an interest in the article I had published in The Potioneers Periodical. Strictly business."
"Then why do you grin like a fool and blush like a schoolgirl whenever you get one of his letters lately?" Jane challenged.
Rose fought back both of those things as she did her best to ignore her friend's pointed look.
"Yes, well, seeing as we both don't actually know who the other one is, I don't see how it could possibly be anything more than what it is."
"But that's what's so romantic about it! The mystery of it!" Jane insisted. She had to drop her voice as their first customer walked in. "How does that all work, by the way? I've never understood how you can write to each other without knowing who the other person is. How do the owls know where to go?"
"Where's Johnny? He was supposed to be in by now," Rose asked.
"He's trying to sort things out at the post office, and don't change the subject."
Rose turned to face her friend who was looking at her expectantly. She thought about not saying anything for a moment before the eager look on Jane's face caused her to crack. What would it hurt to gossip a little? It was her life anyway. She leaned forward and spoke in a hushed tone so as not to be overheard by the elderly witch that was now in the shop.
"Apparently he wrote to the publication asking for a name, but they wouldn't give it to him since I wrote in anonymously. Wouldn't give him my address either, so they said they would forward on whatever he wanted to send. I don't think they counted on the letters still going back and forth five months later. They haven't complained about it too much though, but that's why we try to keep it to once a week."
Jane's arms were resting on the table and she placed her head on them with a wistful look on her face.
"I don't think I've ever been in a relationship that's lasted five months."
"It's not a relationship," Rose corrected, "we're just pen pals. Besides, haven't you been with Andrew for a year now?"
She waved her hand dismissively, pulling herself up from the counter.
"It's been so on and off it hardly even counts."
"And you wonder why I disapprove."
"Since you don't know who each other are," Jane continued as if she hadn't heard her, "how do you address each other? You've got to call each other something. It can't be as boring as 'Dear Sir,' and 'Dear Madame' every letter."
Rose laughed at her friend.
"We have pen names. I go by Daisy and he goes by Leo. I don't know where his comes from, but I decided to pick something else that was floral."
"Oh! Maybe his name is Lion."
"I highly doubt that."
"So you kind of continued with the theme we had for naming this place?"
Rose nodded at her friend. The name Thistle and Thorn had come from parts of both of their names. Rose chose Thorn in corroboration with her first name, and Jane's middle name was Carlina, a species of thistles. They also rather liked the alliteration.
"I supposed we did. I did at least. For all I know he could be using his real name. Now enough gossip. Back to work you."
Business was good that day, as it had been since they had first opened the shop. She had worked for Mr. Mulpepper at his Apothecary when she first left Hogwarts, but the old man had wanted to retire a few years earlier. Rose had expressed her interest in opening her own store, so the old potioneer had left her all of his supplies when he closed down. The storefront was offered to her as well, but she wanted something newer, fresher. And she didn't want it all to be handed to her. She wanted to work for it. The old shop had been turned into a pub that was frequented by a younger crowd, including Rose and her family and friends, and Rose had reached out to her best friend and former potions partner who was working in a research department at the Ministry. Jane was more than eager to join Rose in her endeavor and they quickly began their hunt for a location. They'd found it as they were helping her cousin Al move into his new flat a few weeks after they started looking for a store front. It was right next to his building and Rose had instantly fallen in love with it. It had a large bay window in the front, perfect for a display. It needed a fresh coat of paint but it was well maintained otherwise. The door had a beautiful carving of a gryffin on it. There were windows to the roof on the other side of the door, letting in a wonderful amount of natural light. She got Jane to come down and see the place and they'd signed the papers that afternoon. Rose and Jane had been saving for a while so they'd only had to take out a small mortgage. It had been a solid three years and business was still going well.
Around lunchtime, Rose looked up as the bell chimed to see Johnny finally make his appearance, her cousin Al trailing behind him.
"Figure anything out?" Rose asked her employee. He had started working for her roughly a year ago, right after he'd graduated from Hogwarts. He was a hard worker and he really had a knack for the business side of things. He was wonderful with the customers as well. Jane tended to lose her patience with them and spent most of her time in the back room. She worked best with the potions and ingredients. Rose was thankful when Johnny came along because it allowed her to spend more time on the potions and research side of things. She liked helping customers and took great pride in her commitment to top notch customer service, but experimenting with potions was something she never wanted to give up.
"They'll be here tomorrow," Johnny informed her, taking off his cap and revealing his closely cropped blond hair. "I went out to the mandrake farm and talked to the supplier directly. He was very apologetic and even offered a discount. Isn't it your lunch break?"
He had seamlessly moved behind the counter, donned an apron, and nudged Rose out of the way after discarding his hat and coat on the rack by the door. Rose thanked him for his thorough work before walking towards her cousin who was browsing some of the merchandise.
"See anything you like?"
Al acknowledged her with a small smile.
"Actually, Abigail says we're out of bruise paste, and you know how brutal work can be sometimes so we can't really afford to run out."
Rose stepped forward to retrieve the paste for her cousin and walked him over to the counter.
"Is she still planning on going back to work then?"
Al sighed as he leaned against the counter and pulled out his wallet.
"You know I'd rather she didn't, but she's about to lose her mind already. I think it'll be easier on her to be home once the baby comes, but I know she'll want to be back out there eventually."
Rose made sure Jane and Johnny knew she'd be back in an hour before heading out to have lunch with her cousin.
"It was hard enough having one parent as an Auror growing up, I can't imagine having two," Rose said as they made their way out of the shop.
"I know. I can't imagine it either and I don't think either of us want that for our child, but it's in her blood. We weren't exactly planning on having one this soon. I think she's struggling to accept the fact that her career might end prematurely."
"You know," Rose said after they'd walked in silence for a few moments. "You could always stay home with the little one. It's a new world Al, stay at home dad's aren't the most unheard of things nowadays."
"We've discussed it actually," Al admitted. "Me staying home for the first year or so and then going back to work once she's ready to quit. But she won't hear of it. This is what we'd discussed happening eventually. She wants to be a stay at home mum and raise all the kids we plan on having, but it's just a little sooner than we expected."
"Awful irresponsible of you wasn't it Mr. Potter?"
Rose shot him a cheeky grin and Al playfully nudged her with his shoulder.
"I completely blame that brother of mine. He's the one who threw that party for Fred and Roxanne's birthday back in February. I don't think any of us could see straight for days much less have the presence of mind to think of anything else, like protection, for example."
Rose laughed. She knew her cousin didn't really regret his wife's pregnancy. He'd been ecstatic when he found out he was going to be a father, but the unexpected turn of events had taken awhile to get used to.
They'd reached the pub and entered to quite a few greetings from the other patrons as they sat in their usual booth and were waited on almost immediately by the owner.
"Wotcher Al, Rose. The usuals?" said Sam as he placed a butterbeer in front of each of them. He'd been a Hufflepuff in Al and Rose's year at Hogwart. Sam was the type to be friends with everybody and it surprised no one when he'd opened up his pub. He made everyone feel welcome and always went out of his way to talk to the people he hadn't met before. He'd never actually named the place and the apothecary sign still hung, but everyone had started referring to it as Sam's almost instantly.
"Sounds great, thanks Sam," Al told the owner of the establishment, giving the man a friendly handshake before he went back to the kitchen to put in their orders.
"So, business still doing well after the pre Hogwarts rush?" Al asked while taking a sip of his butterbeer.
"Oh yes. We're steady enough the rest of the year that it's more a bonus than anything when there's an upsurge of customers at the end of August. Mind, I'm not sure we'd thrive without it but I think we'd survive."
"Scorpius says business is going well for them too. They're looking at expanding. Good time to be in the potions business I guess."
Rose frowned at her cousin.
"I thought we decided not to talk about that snake."
Al looked exasperated by his cousin's continued insistence on never bringing up one of his closest friends.
"Please don't call him that. It sounds derogatory and I was a Slytherin too, if you remember."
Rose felt slightly ashamed of herself. The whole family had accepted Al's sorting and there wasn't the same house prejudices that there used to be. But she'd never been able to see eye to eye with the Malfoy boy.
"I'm sorry Al. You know I didn't mean it that way. It's just that he's so conniving and untrustworthy. At least to me. I hope you don't discuss my business with him. I'd hate for him to think he had any sort of upper hand when it comes to our professional lives."
Their food arrived and Al thanked Sam before defending his friend to his cousin.
"You know that you just bring out the worst in him, and he does the same to you. If you gave him a chance you might actually get along. You work in the same field so you're bound to have some things in common."
"I think that's entirely beside the point," Rose insisted. "It has nothing to do with what we might or might not have in common and all to do with the arse that he insists on being whenever he's in my presence. Besides," she continued before Al could interrupt, "I don't like the way he runs his business. It's all very commercial. No customer service, nothing personal about it, it's all about the money. He should have enough capital to open up an actual storefront by now instead of just that godawful mail order service he calls a business. I've heard stories of the poor service they provide. So other than the possibility of having a shared love for porcupine quills, we wouldn't have anything to talk about. Why don't you tell him to try and get along with me for a change?"
"I do, believe me. He says much the same as you."
"See? Your endeavour is futile."
Al just rolled his eyes at his cousin and he dropped the subject as they continued with their meal. They left the pub with full bellies forty-five minutes later and Rose relished stepping back out into the crisp fall weather once again.
"You planning on coming to Lily's birthday party?" Al asked as they headed back towards the shop. "She's insisting that it not be Halloween themed this year and that everyone come in formal dress. Apparently it's going to all be 'rather fancy.'"
Rose laughed at her cousin's use of air quotes at the last part of his sentence and his overall demeanor that showed how ridiculous he thought the whole thing was.
"I'll be there. I'm supposed to bring the wine."
"Good, Abigail will be glad to see you. She wanted to be able to make it to lunch but her mother is only in town for one more day and she insisted they do more shopping for the baby. I feel like our flat is about to explode with the amount of things she's bought us already."
Rose let out a chuckle as she and Al approached Thistle and Thorn.
"Will Jordan be there too?" was his tentative next question as they stopped in front of the display window. Rose shot him a warning look.
"Don't Al, I know what you're going to say and I'm perfectly happy in my relationship with Abel. So yes, he will be attending with me."
They stood in silence for a moment as Al struggled over whatever it was he wanted to say next.
"So you're not still in contact with this other bloke then?"
Rose made an exasperated gesture and rolled her eyes at her cousin.
"Why does everyone assume that just because I talk to a bloke it means I'm carrying on with him? It's merely a professional correspondence. He actually has the same ideas about business that I do, unlike that friend of yours."
Al rolled his eyes at her statement and crossed his arms, waiting for her to finish. She stepped towards him and gripped his shoulders.
"I know you care Al but please, trust me with this. I know what I'm doing."
He relaxed his stance and gave his cousin a hug.
"I know. You've always been brilliant, and I know that hasn't changed. Just be careful."
"Don't worry," she said as they made to part ways. "I always am."
Johnny was closing that night so Rose was able to head home early. She normally had to work the occasional weekend during the summer, but they only stayed open for a few hours on Saturdays and Sundays the rest of the year and Johnny was always eager to take those shifts.
She still hadn't opened the letter she'd received earlier in the day and she was eager to do so. She'd placed an order for dinner at Sam's when she'd been there for lunch, and she picked it up on her way home that afternoon. She discarded her coat and scarf before digging into her fish and chips, quickly cleaned up after dinner, fed Rhea, her calico cat, and sat down on her couch with a cup of tea to read her letter.
The solution was rose thorns, not rose oil! I was finally able to get my variation right on the anti-paralysis potion and it now takes only fifteen minutes to take effect rather than the usual hour. I discovered it as soon as I had sent off my last letter and I've been dying to share my exciting news, but I decided it would be best to keep to our schedule regarding our correspondence.
I showed it to my colleagues and we're working on getting it patented. It should be available for publication and distribution within a few months. It doesn't quite guarantee me the grant I've been working to get, but it's a step in the right direction.
How've things been with your friend? Have you managed to talk her out of her "stupidly unhealthy relationship" as you so elegantly put it in your previous letter? I've been having a similar problem with one of my friends, although he's on the other side of it. He's been seeing this girl, but it's only been for a few months versus the year long relationship your friends been in, and he won't make up his mind about her. I can't seem to talk any sense into him. I originally didn't want him to be with her at all (she annoys the hell out of me), but now I just want him to make a decision and stop messing her around. This girl can cry like no one I've ever seen and it isn't pretty.
My mother brought up the "M" word at tea again this afternoon. I know, I know, I'm guilty of the same inconsistencies my friend is, but at least I'm committed to my relationship. So what if I don't think we're ready for marriage? I have every right to decide that on my own time. Is your family as prone to meddling as mine is? You don't talk about them much. I know you have a brother but that's about it. You've mentioned a cousin here and there but I'm never sure if it's the same one.
Any big plans over the weekend? I'll be spending some time in the lab organizing my notes and putting the finishing touches on things. Did you manage to get any research done this past week on your burn healing paste? Let me know if you've discovered anything interesting.
Hope to hear from you soon,
Rose reread the letter a few times before moving to her desk to respond. They had started discussing their personal lives about a month ago. Previously, it had always been about potions and their work. They both knew the other worked in potions, but beyond that they didn't know many details. She didn't even know if he was in Britain, let alone London.
They'd started sharing more about their personal lives when she'd been frustrated about Jane one day and had decided to vent to one of the only people in her life that wasn't acquainted with her friend. He in turn had vented about his frustrations with his mother and it escalated from there. His mention of the confrontation with his mother was the first inclination Rose had that he was seeing someone, and she'd subtly revealed in her next letter that she was seeing someone as well.
As much as she denied it to anyone who asked, she kind of had a thing for the stranger on the other end of the letters. He was as enthused about potions as she was, and he was open and honest. He also seemed to genuinely care about her work and her life. She suspected the anonymity had something to do with how open they'd become with each other, but his kind words endeared him to her all the same. As she sat down to pen her response, her mind guiltily wandered to her boyfriend. They'd been seeing each other for almost three months now and things were going well. She hadn't considered her correspondence when she first started seeing Abel Jordan. At that point, she and the mysterious Leo hadn't discussed their personal lives at all. The last month had changed her perspective, and now she was starting to question the morality of what she was doing. She had become emotionally invested in the man, more so than the one she was currently dating.
A/N: It's a new story! Hopefully I'm not getting too ahead of myself but this just came to me. I'm a big fan of the movie You've Got Mail and if you are too you'll recognize the theme and some key elements. I've never seen Shop Around the Corner but credit goes to both of those films for the idea behind this story. You might see some subplots from other films thrown in here and there so look out for those as well. It won't be as blatant as the main theme so I probably won't credit it. Also credit to JKR for any characters you recognize. Any you don't belong to me. Read Review and Enjoy!