"This is a brilliant idea, Rosie. I'm glad I let you talk me into this. We'll change the world of healing, mark my words!"
Rose laughed at George's contagious enthusiasm as she found herself bubbling up with excitement. They were in the back room of her shop on Sunday afternoon and her uncle had set aside some time to help her develop the burn paste that she had been researching. He and his brother had created the bruise removal paste that Rose now sold in her shop. Thistle and Thorn had started out just selling supplies, but they had expanded into stocking actual potions and various products over the past year. Some of them they made themselves, but there were a handful that they got from suppliers like Weasley Wizard Wheezes. When she told her uncle of her plan to develop a paste to heal burns based on the process he and his twin brother had used for the bruise paste, he was more than happy to lend a hand.
"I don't know about that Uncle George, but if we can get it to fully heal; no scarring, no lasting damage, it might just make a difference," Rose said with confidence. She had done her research and spent time dissecting the recipe and testing out theories, but today they would put it into practice. The only problem was how to test it.
"The way I see it," George said, "is we find an appropriate substitute. It will have to be a living organism otherwise I don't see it working. When it was the bruise paste, Fred and I didn't care too much about beating ourselves up cause once we figured it out, we patched ourselves right up. And bruises heal in their own time eventually."
He was pouring over her notes and looking through the ingredients they had gathered, completely enthralled in their task. The dilemma he articulated was one she had been trying to find a solution to over the course of the week. Using some innocent creature was never going to sit well with her, so she quickly shoved that idea out the window. The only thing that made sense would be something plant based.
"I can't think of anything that would be a good stand-in for human skin," Rose said as she wandered around the room, taking inventory of everything that was on their shelves.
"I say we just start testing things," George suggested as he rose to wander around the room with her. "We'll ruin some of your supplies, but if we find something that works it'll all be worth it in the end."
Rose nodded and smiled at her uncle. He looked like a kid in a candy store as he rubbed his hands together before perusing the merchandise.
They pulled at least a dozen different types of plants before discovering that Leaping Toadstools represented the closest thing to a human burn. They quickly got to work testing out recipes and they finally had a small amount of success after four hours of hard labor.
"That shrunk, didn't it?" Rose said with excitement, pointing at the burn marks on the surface of the mushroom cap.
"Maybe slightly. What did we change that time?"
"We put in less of the essence of dittany and we added more horklump juice and honey."
"I think there's an ingredient we might be missing."
George rifled through their notes, searching for the missing item.
"Maybe we up the amounts on both of those again and see where that gets us," Rose suggested.
They put their fourth attempt in a jar and got started on a fresh batch. They worked steadily for the next half hour before the bell on the door rang, alerting them to someone else's presence. The shop was only open til four on the weekends and it was now past seven so it had to be someone who had a key.
"Rose? Are you in here?" a female voice called.
"Back here, Jane!"
The sound of heels proceeded Jane's entrance into the room. She barged into the back wearing a dark blue cocktail dress. Her hair had been pinned on top of her head but was starting to come out of it's updo. It looked like she had been crying by the red around her eyes and the tear marks through her make up. Kicking off her heels, she collapsed into the chair on the other side of the table that Rose and George were working at.
"George, nice to see you as always," she said with a scratchy voice and a quick sniff at the end of her greeting.
"What happened, Jane?" Rose asked as sensitively as possible. Her uncle just continued working. He'd helped them with enough projects in the past that he was used to eavesdropping on their personal conversations.
"I finally did it - I ended things with Andrew - for good this time."
There was silence for a moment as Rose figured out how to respond. This wasn't the first time her friend had made this declaration. Even her uncle had a skeptical look on his face.
"It's true!" she insisted. "He kept eyeing other girls in the restaurant tonight, after he showed up late, too. It may surprise you but I actually listened to you this time. I'm done with him and all the shit he's put me through."
Rose raised her eyebrows at her friend, wanting to believe her but also trying not to get her hopes up.
"Really? No more changing your mind in the morning? You're not going to cave the minute he shows up on your doorstep with a bottle of wine and a bouquet of flowers?"
"Nope," she insisted. "I've had enough. But I do know my own weaknesses, so I'm trusting you to help me out with this. Can I stay at your place for a few nights? I know he'll be by and I'd rather not be tempted."
"I have a better idea. I'll come stay with you and when he turns up, you can tell him to fuck off for good. And you'll have me there to support you."
Jane nodded her head with a determined look on her face.
"Right. Yeah. I think I can do that."
"Good," Rose smiled at her friend. "We'll be finished up in a few and then we can go grab a drink at Sam's before heading back to yours."
"Sounds fantastic," Jane sighed, relaxing back into her seat.
George and Rose finished up their last batch of the night. There was only minimal improvement, confirming George's theory that there was still something missing, but they were on the right path.
He bid them farewell as the girls put away the last of the supplies and equipment before heading out to the pub.
"I need a good, solid drink. And possibly some ice cream. Maybe even pie."
Rose threw her arm around her moping friend.
"Cheer up, Jane. He's not worth it. We'll find you someone who's more than worth your time and deserves everything you have to offer."
"You think so?"
"I know so," Rose said, giving Jane an affection squeeze as they walked into the pub.
"Good thing Johnny is opening in the morning. I fully intend to drink more than a responsible amount tonight," Jane informed her redheaded friend as they took seats at the bar.
"Don't go too crazy. We have a batch of pepperup potion to brew tomorrow and I don't have any to give you for your hangover."
"I have some at home," she waved off her friend as the shot of firewhiskey she had ordered was placed in front of her. She quickly downed it and ordered another as Rose started in on a glass of wine.
She looked around to see her cousin making his way towards them through the crowd.
"Al? What are you doing here?"
"Abigail is hanging out with Lily tonight. Besides, we had a little celebrating to do."
Looking over his shoulder, he waved his companion towards him and a frown immediately appeared on Rose's face. Scorpius Malfoy, resplendent in dark trousers and a navy shirt with a black blazer draped over his arm and a bottle of butterbeer in his hand, appeared beside Al. A smirk was on his face and his perfect blond hair was only just pushed out of the way of his strikingly handsome features.
"Weasley," he greeted. She chose not to respond.
"Good to see you again too, Ryan," he addressed Jane. "How's business?"
"It's none of your's, thank you very much," Rose butt in before her friend could answer.
"You'll have to excuse her," Jane said before ordering two more shots and a glass of wine. "She hasn't had nearly enough to drink yet."
She handed one of the shots to Rose who quickly downed it before turning back to the bar. Jane started asking Al questions about his impending fatherhood, which left Scorpius to come stand next to Rose at the bar. Ignoring him was an easy accomplishment at first, until he finally opened his mouth.
"Business is going quite well for me, thanks for asking."
"Your business can go to hell for all I care."
"Aren't we feisty tonight. I don't see what the problem is, we're in the same field after all."
"We," she practically snarled, turning to face him, "run very different businesses thank you very much. And that's what counts."
He leaned sideways against the bar, facing her as he drained his butterbeer.
"How's that exactly? It's just potions. How much different can it be?"
"You care nothing for your customers. It's all about the money to you, not making sure people get the best product and the best service possible. I've heard plenty of complaints about that owl service you call a business. What's your customer retention like anyway? It can't be very good based on what I've heard."
He was scowling at her now as he ordered his own shot of firewhiskey. Rose was finishing her first glass of wine and contemplating a second, but she was determined to remain in control of her faculties in his presence. She knew he could get her to say something she could potentially regret. Based on his cold demeanor, he didn't seemed too pleased with her as he responded.
"Don't pretend to know anything about what I do. You've never bothered to care about me in the past, I don't see why you should start now."
With that, he downed his shot and walked back into the growing crowd of people in the pub, leaving a confused and slightly fuzzy headed Rose in his wake.
She turned to see her cousin supporting her best friend. Jane wasn't in the worst shape possible, but she was definitely tipsy.
"Perhaps you better get this one home. She's been eyeing the merchandise," Al said, jerking his head towards a crowd of young, attractive wizards at the other end of the bar.
"Where'd Malfoy run off to? He's rather fit isn't he?"
Jane was dangerously close to slurring her speech, so Rose moved over to take her off of Al and they made their way out of the pub.
"Put them on Al's tab, Sam! This one's on him!" Jane laughed at herself as Sam waved goodbye from his place behind the bar and Al shook his head at her antics.
Rose apparate them to the alley down the block from Jane's flat and quickly deposited her friend on the couch when they'd made it through the front door.
"We're getting a pepperup in you right now. I don't want that boy showing up and seeing you in this state."
"Fuck me for being such a lightweight," she moaned into the pillow she had collapsed on.
Rose came back out of the hall bathroom with a potion in her hand, instructing the other girl to drink it.
An hour later, Jane had her head on straighter and they were bundled up on the sofa in their pajamas, two glasses and a bottle of wine on the coffee table, and a pint of ice cream in each of their grasps. They had slipped into reminiscing about their school days.
"Do you remember when Martin Jennings asked you out?" Jane asked with a chuckle as she swirled her spoon through her chocolate ice cream.
"Oh good lord, I've blocked it from memory." Rose collapsed into giggles at the thought of the timid sixth year. "He tried so hard didn't he?"
Jane nodded through her mouth full of ice cream.
"I'm pretty sure he went and threw up in the bathroom the moment the words were out of his mouth." She barely got the last few words out through her laughter. They were on their third glasses of wine and it was enough to make them slightly more giddy than normal.
"Come to think of it, I never actually answered him, but I think he got the idea. I was dating Carter at the time so I always assumed he had done it on a dare."
"Oh! I bet he did. No one in their right mind would've made a move on Carter Thomas's girl back then."
"Really? You make it sound like I was his property."
"Well," Jane shrugged, "you kind of were. He rarely let you out of his sight and you weren't exactly keen on letting him out of yours so it kind of went both ways. I still don't understand how that all fell apart."
The memory of her former boyfriend didn't cause Rose pain - not anymore. They'd been together for a solid three years, one of which was after Hogwarts, and had just sort of drifted apart once they were in the real world. She was working long hours in Mr. Mulpepper's shop, and he was making waves in the law offices at the Ministry. It was slightly awkward when they broke up since he worked closely with her mother, but they had been family friends for longer than they had dated. They were eventually able to move past it and could even hold a conversation on the occasions they saw each other. He had been close with her cousin Louis while they'd been in school so he would sometimes be at family events.
"Just drifted apart, you know?" Rose said. "He was my Hogwarts boyfriend. We had some laughs and we cared a lot about each other, but it wasn't meant to become anything more than that."
Jane looked deep in thought as she took a few more bites of her ice cream.
"So you're saying that you just outgrew each other?"
"I guess so. Why?"
She shrugged her shoulders as Rose moved to refill their wine glasses.
"I just think I've outgrown the whole dating thing. I know I'm only twenty-three, but this last "relationship" burned me out, I think."
"Are you saying you want to swear off men, or that you want to settle down?" Rose asked, handing Jane her fresh glass of wine and settling back on the couch.
"Maybe settle down. If I met the right person. But I'm a little tired of looking at the moment."
"Can't say I blame you. I'm tired of it as well. It's exhausting having to figure out what you want in a bloke, and if whoever you're interested in could be right for you. It would be nice to just know."
Jane raised an eyebrow at her over her wine glass.
"And what about that boyfriend of yours? Could he be the one to put you out of your misery?"
Rose sighed as she set down her glass and moved to finish off the last of her strawberry ice cream.
"It's nice, being with Abel. He's nice. Always a gentleman, treats me well, but he has a problem following through at times."
"How do you mean?"
Rose scrunched up her nose in thought and bitterness at the most recent memory.
"He cancels our plans half the time. Just this week we were supposed to have dinner with my parents, and he sent his patronus right when he was supposed to pick me up saying something had come up at work. It's always either that or he forgot about a family thing of his, which he never asks me to go to. I don't know if they're legitimate excuses or if he's hiding something."
Jane waved off her concerns.
"You're just being paranoid. That boy dotes on you. I'm not saying he's "the one" or whatever, but you could do worse."
"I suppose so," Rose agreed. Her thoughts snapped back to the rather unpleasant run in they'd had with a certain young wizard only a few hours ago. "Better him than that snake we bumped into earlier."
"Malfoy? You're still on about that?" Jane asked with a roll of her eyes.
"He's ridiculously full of himself! I pity any female who falls for his charms."
"I always thought he fancied you when we were in school," Jane said offhandedly, making Rose nearly choke on her ice cream.
"What? Don't be ridiculous. We never liked each other. The only times I ever put up with him was when we were both spending time with Al, and I'm sure it was as painful for him as it was for me."
Jane smirked as she finished her ice cream.
"We never liked each other? I'm pretty sure I only questioned his feelings, not yours.
Rose rolled her eyes and shoved her spoon into her mouth, glaring at her friend.
"And I don't know," Jane continued with a shrug. "He seemed to pay more attention to you than he did any of the other girls."
Rose eyes widened in surprise at this revelation, but she was quick to deny her friend's assumption.
"Say what you want," Jane said, "but I'm willing to bet that he doesn't dislike you nearly as much as you claim to hate him."
There was a knock on the door before Rose could respond. Jane's eyes widened in fear.
"That'll be Andrew, won't it?" Rose asked.
Staring fearfully at the door, Jane nodded her head. Looking back at Rose, she said in a panicky whisper, "What if I can't do it? What if I cave?"
"No," Rose insisted, rising from the couch and dragging her reluctant friend with her. "You're not going to cave, because you," she gripped Jane's shoulders and forced her to look her in the eye, "have outgrown all of this shit. You got it?"
A look of determination overtook Jane's face. She nodded her head firmly before moving around Rose and heading to her door as a second knock sounded. Rose followed her and hid behind the door as Jane took a deep breath before assuming a bored look as she opened it.
Rose could just make out Andrew through the crack between the door and the frame. He didn't appear to be sober as he swayed slightly on his feet. His hands were shoved in his pockets and his curly black hair was as sexily disheveled as ever. He wore a leather jacket and dark wash jeans, the epitome of the bad boy look.
"Alright, Jane?" he said with a slight slur.
"What are you doing here, Andrew?"
"Come on, love. This is how it always works. You yell at me, I give you some space, then pretty soon we're back at it again. Now come on, are you gonna let me in?"
He reached for her and started to move forward, but Jane quickly stepped further back into her flat and closed the door slightly. Andrew looked genuinely surprised at her rejection. From her new position, Jane could see Rose as she nodded encouragingly at her. Taking in a deep breath, she turned back to her ex-boyfriend.
"I meant it this time, Andrew. I'm sorry, but we're done, if we were ever a "we" to begin with."
Andrew shook his head and leaned forward, resting his hand on the doorframe.
"You know that's not what you want. I'll make it up to you, I promise."
"You always promise," Jane snapped, going from nervous to angry in moments.
"I'm done listening to empty promises and I'm done putting up with your shit. You've never given a fuck about me and I think it's high time I stop giving a fuck about you."
He looked at her in shock. Rose couldn't have been more proud of her friend. Stepping back, he ran his hands through his hair in frustration before fixing Jane with a hard stare.
"Fine, but you're going to regret this."
He stormed off as Jane shouted a good riddance down the hallway before slamming the door behind him.
She turned to face Rose with a pleased and defiant look.
"Let's hope that's the last of it," Jane said as she walked back to her place on the couch.
Rose was practically giddy as she joined her.
"I can't believe you did that! I mean, I can - I always knew you had it in you - but I still can't quite believe it!"
Jane laughed at Rose's enthusiasm as she too grinned in delight.
"I feel like a huge burden was just lifted off my shoulders. You know, now that it's all said and done, I'm ready for a fresh start."
"Are you saying you're ready to get out there? Already?"
"Maybe. But it'll be different this time."
Jane raised her wine glass and Rose followed suit.
"To growing up, and no longer putting up with shit."
Rose inclined her head in agreement and clinked her glass against Jane's.
"And to hell with settling for less than we deserve."
The following work week felt entirely too slow to Rose. Jane had stuck to her word and hadn't gone near Andrew, even though he'd tried to come by on a few occasions. Johnny had always been quick to usher him out. It made Rose very happy to see her friend committing to walking away.
Her week had consisted of working in the shop and spending what free time she had on the burn paste. She'd gone to lunch with her cousins Lily and Lucy on Tuesday to discuss details regarding Lily's birthday party. It was still two weeks away, but Lily had insisted that they figure everything out with plenty of time to spare. Rose hadn't planned on volunteering to help Lily with the party, but an innocent lunch had turned into a formal meeting.
She and Lily actually got along quite well, but they had drastically different tastes when it came to things like parties. Lucy was much more qualified to assist in the area of theme and decorations, while Rose was left to figure out the food.
Abel had taken her to dinner Wednesday evening, much to her delight. He had canceled their previous two dates. It didn't do much to put her at ease as far as their relationship was concerned, but they'd had a good time on Wednesday and he'd promised to take her to The National Gallery on Saturday.
By Friday evening, she'd yet to receive a letter from Leo. She'd written to him the previous Thursday evening so it had been a week since he'd received her letter. He was usually very prompt and she was growing antsy. So on Saturday, when she woke to a tapping on her bedroom window, she practically threw herself out of bed in her hurry to get to the window. Her owl Margo was perched outside and waiting patiently. She eagerly let her in and took the letter she was carrying, crawling back into her bed to read.
You should be proud of me. I actually took a moment to embrace a beautiful fall day amidst my hectic work week. I played a little pick-up Quidditch in the park on Monday evening with a few of my mates. We used to do it all the time when we first left Hogwarts, but the tradition fell by the wayside when careers started picking up and relationships grew more serious. I hope I don't get that boring when I get married.
That's not to say I don't admire my friends for being standup blokes when it comes to their wives and families, but I can't see myself marrying someone who doesn't encourage me to continue to do the things I enjoy, even if it is a pointless Quidditch match.
I'm rambling aren't I? My apologies. You see, I took your advice and talked to my girlfriend last weekend about our relationship, just to get an idea of where she saw things heading. I don't know what I was expecting her to say, but it didn't exactly give me confidence in our relationship. Let's just say it all seems rather stagnant right now and I'm not sure what to do next. I guess it could be worse. It's not like we are unhappy exactly, but I wouldn't necessarily say we're happy either. Do you stay in something that's not making you happy just because it could be worse? You're probably right about this whole commitment thing. I can't even commit to how I feel about my current commitment that isn't even a full commitment. It's all rather complex in my head, but it's probably a lot more simpler than I'm making it out to be. Things always seem bigger to the people in them.
Sorry for dumping all of this on you. It's been stewing in my brain all week. I hope I'm not straining any boundaries by opening up like this, but I feel like I can talk to you a little better than I can a lot of the blokes I hang around. They don't quite understand, although a few have tried to be helpful, and it's hard to see things from my perspective when you're in an incredibly happy relationship.
Anyway, I'm not sure if I'm asking for advice or just hoping that putting this all out there will help me figure things out on my own. I guess you can feel free to send advice if you'd like, and I'll let you know next week if it was needed or if I had an epiphany the minute I sent off this letter.
I'm sorry for not writing sooner. I'm all apologies today, aren't I? I was rather caught up with some important business related activities and barely had a moment to myself. We have some exciting prospects on the horizon! Still no word on the grant, but I'm choosing to believe that no news is good news at the moment. How did everything go with your research last weekend? Was your so-called expert able to lend a hand?
I don't mind at all that your friend knows about me. In fact, tell her I said hello! Any developments as far as her situation goes?
Hope you enjoyed the Quidditch match and your time with your mother. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.
She flopped back onto her pillows with a sigh as she began to reread parts of the letter. It was uncanny how so many of the things he mentioned were prevalent in her own life. Her heart was racing with an emotion that she couldn't quite put her finger on as she studied his words, tracing her fingers over them. He played Quidditch; he was a dedicated and hard worker; he was looking for something real; he could see himself settling down. Rose couldn't help but let her mind wander to everything that could be possible if she just let him in a little bit more.
She was pulled out of her day dreaming by a sharp rap on her door. Confused, she pulled herself out of bed and put on her dressing gown as she made her way to answer it. Abel stood there, flowers in his hand and dressed smartly. His light brown hair was cropped close to his head and his face was clean shaven. He always looked very clean cut and put together, and today was no exception. He looked her up and down as she took in his presence on her doorstep. She'd almost forgotten about her plans with her boyfriend.
"Am I early?"
She snapped herself out of her stupor to glance at the clock over her mantle which read quarter to eleven.
"I suppose not. Sorry, I must have overslept."
She let him in and he gave her a quick peck on the cheek, handing her the bouquet of roses he'd brought for her.
"I'll just get ready then. Would you mind putting the kettle on?" she asked. He simply nodded as she set the flowers on her kitchen table. Making her way back to her bedroom, she couldn't help but compare the man who had just shown up at her flat to the one who'd just spilled his soul to her in a letter. Abel didn't talk much, so she was never sure where she stood or how he felt about her. She'd liked that quality at first. He didn't feel the need to fill up time with talking about nonsensical things. But the downside was the fact that he didn't really talk about the important things either.
"Earl Grey?" he called from the kitchen.
Shaking herself out of her thoughts, she got herself ready, and half an hour later, she and Abel headed to Muggle London. They were on their way to the museum and he was talking about some policy he was working on at the foundation he worked for. She was trying to pay attention, but her mind kept drifting to the thoughts she'd been having about her pen pal.
"I think it will really help improve things. And not just in London, but in all of Europe. It could lead to some wonderful opportunities for me, as well."
He glanced sideways at her as they made their way inside.
"Are you alright? You seem a bit off today."
She gave him a small smile and took his hand.
"I'm fine. Just a long week, that's all. Come on, I'll show you my favorite exhibit."
She led him through the museum, pointing out the pieces she liked best. He didn't say much. He wasn't really interested in obscure muggle culture like she was. Her mother had raised her to appreciate the culture she was born into, and it was hard to find other witches and wizards that shared that. She was hoping that Abel would be different. He worked for a nonprofit that supported Muggleborns, after all. But apparently she had been wrong. He may not be one to divulge much, but if he was knowledgeable on a topic he'd be sure to share his opinion, so his silence spoke volumes. She felt warm, comfortable, and soothed in the museum. He seemed to feel uncomfortable.
After grabbing an early dinner that went much better than the museum, he walked her up to her flat as they talked about plans for the following weekend.
"I have dinner with my sister next Saturday, but we could do lunch."
"Or, I could join you for dinner? I'd like to meet your sister."
He paused in consideration as she tapped her doorknob with her wand to unlock it.
"I mean, you've met my brother, you've met a few of my cousins, and you're meeting pretty much everyone else in two weeks at Lily's party. Isn't it a bit about time I met some of your relatives?"
She walked inside and he followed her, not responding. Growing frustrated, she tossed her wand and her bag on the table, turning to face him with her hands on her hips.
He let out a heavy sigh.
"I don't know, Rose. She's going through a rough time right now and she asked if we could talk. I don't think it's the best time."
Rose turned her back to him and started rifling through her purse, not really looking for anything in particular. He walked up behind her and placed his hands on her arms, leaning down over her shoulder to press a kiss to her cheek. She relaxed back into him at his tender touch.
"I'm sorry. I know this must be frustrating for you, what with all the times my parents have had to cancel. It'll happen eventually. You just have to trust me."
Slowly, she turned and embraced him before pulling back and giving him a reassuring smile.
"Did you enjoy the museum? I know it wasn't really your thing…"
"I enjoy anything I do with you. We could be doing the dishes and I'd be happy. I really like you, Rose. I hope you realize that."
He was holding her hands and looking at her with sincerity. It made Rose melt a little to look into his deep brown eyes. She nodded as he moved forward to kiss her. It was slow and deep, like it was leading to something more. They'd been taking things slow, and Rose wasn't the type to go very far unless she was in love. She and Carter had only had sex after they'd left Hogwarts.
Abel now had his arms around her waist and his hands were playing with the hem of her blouse as the intensity of their kiss grew. It was obvious where he wanted things to lead, but she wasn't sure she was ready. She couldn't deny that she was attracted to him and she definitely didn't mind kissing him, but love and everything that went with that? After all the uncertainty she'd been feeling the past few weeks? It was too soon.
Placing her hands on his shoulders, Rose gently broke the kiss and pushed him away.
"Abel, stop," she panted.
He rested his forehead on hers and heaved a sigh after catching his breath.
"It's been three months, Rose."
She pulled back and took in his slightly frustrated expression.
"Trust me with this, please?"
He gave her a reluctant nod, one last kiss, and bid her goodbye. Once she'd shut the door behind him, she was able to acknowledge the knots in her stomach. She'd been upset and discouraged throughout most of the date. There may have been some good moments, but once he was gone, it was hard to ignore the nagging feeling in the back of her mind that just because things could always be worse, didn't mean they weren't allowed to get better.
A/N: A long one to make up for my absence! It's been the hardest month of my life and oh so emotionally painful. It's been good to have an escape and I appreciate you all! Happy reading!