Chapter 1 : Custard Yellow
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The only thing missing from Nova Spacelove’s messy nest was an egg to sit on.
There was enough crumpled parchment to paper the whole building, swishing up to her ankles in a sea of Hey Lockhart, I want you to know that I saw you yesterday. Is that dye-job your newest girlfriend? I’ll kill her! I’ll really do it! and Dearest, darling, lovely Gilderoy, I looked into the stars last night and saw only you. No, really. Your astrological sign is on full display at this time of year.
Lockhart, shmockhart. More like Lock-up-my-heart-and-throw-away-the-key! Two-timing cheesebrain!
There were also lots of take-away cartons and sweets wrappers grinding their way into the carpet, along with approximately thirty lonely nights’ worth of losing tickets from the Daily Prophet’s weekly Ten-Galleon Draw. On the backs of them, and scribbled everywhere else Nova could find space not already covered in voodoo spells and graffiti, there were loads of predicted death dates for ‘Gerbilroy Locktart’, none of which had turned out to be true. Curse that man and his flaxen hair! Ever since he’d broken up with Nova without even asking for her opinion on the matter, her Inner Eye had gone completely defunct. She couldn’t so much as forecast the rain; it was all she could do to whip up enough balderdash to fool customers.
Speaking of which…
A bell on the shop door tinkled, signaling the three-thirty appointment. Nova pushed down her rolled-up sleeves and combed her fingers through her hair, then splashed what was left of her lemonade onto her clothing in hopes that it would pass for mystical fragrances. She was nowhere near prepared for this appointment. She hadn’t even bothered to harass her friend Julia at the Ministry and try to weasel some confidential records out of her. She would be going into this one utterly blind, which had become an unfortunate theme as of late.
“Hello?” someone called uncertainly.
“I’m here, I’m coming,” Nova replied in a raspy voice. When in doubt, it always made sense to sound as old and withering as possible, as it might make her seem sage and worldly. She pushed through a curtain of glittering fuchsia beads into the Oracle Room (otherwise known as the waiting room), which had the slightly derelict air of disuse hanging about it. Nova hastily dipped into a nearby bottle of Essence of Bullfrog and waved the incense stick around. It nearly paid a visit up the right nostril of her customer, who turned out to be a frazzle-haired witch perilously close to giving birth right there in Nova’s work space.
“You’re huge!” Nova informed her tactfully, jaw going slack. “You sure you should be out walking around?”
The woman’s eyes narrowed. She folded her hands protectively over her belly. “I’m only seven months along. And besides that, I’m pregnant, not an invalid.”
“Right.” Nova cleared her throat authoritatively, shuffling through papers in a clipboard on her desk. “Molly Weasley, correct?”
“You tell me,” Molly retorted, eyes darting around the room with unmasked suspicion. She looked like she very much regretted her decision to book an appointment. She also didn’t seem too impressed about the clutter on Madam Spacelove’s desk.
Taking note of Molly’s shrewd gaze chewing up every single molecule of dust floating around the room, Nova swept a stack of rubbish separating the two women onto the floor and then kicked it under her own chair. “There! Much better. A clean house clears the conscience. Just let me fetch my connection to the spirits here, it’ll only be a second…” She grappled around on a shelf behind her, happily ignoring the hesitance plainly written on Molly’s face. “Here we are!” She beamed broadly, brandishing a crystal ball like a trophy before plunking it down on the wooden surface and scooting her chair forward to examine it closely.
“Hmm. Let’s see.” So far, the only images she could actually distinguish were the blurry, stretched-out features of Mrs. Weasley peering back through the crystal ball at her, smearing around in the glass, but of course she had to pretend to find something extraordinarily interesting. “Curious!” she cackled, her nose a hair’s-width from skimming her own reflection.
Molly leaned forward with bated breath, expectant. “What’s curious?”
“Your aura. It’s so…vibrant and yellow. I predict you will have a new person enter your life very soon.”
“You don’t say?”
“Oh, it’s all right here in your future,” Nova replied emphatically. “Yellow always means an addition to your family circle. Yours is a nice custard shade, which means it’s going to be female.”
“Female?” Molly repeated, her curiosity piqued. “Are you quite sure?”
“Oh, absolutely,” Nova assured, sweeping her arms grandly. Her shoulders were hunched like a vulture’s, head drooping low to appraise the glorified paperweight with intense scrutiny. “Yes, yes, it’s definitely a girl I’m seeing. A boy would be more of a lemony yellow…”
“And it’s the baby you’re seeing, right?” Molly pressed, inching closer. “Not someone else instead? I’ve got a lot of cousins.”
“Of course it’s the baby! Are you joking? I’m a professional, aren’t I? I know custard yellow when I see it, and this custard yellow has some blue squiggles in it. Clearly indicative of an impending infant.”
“Well, but my midwife said –”
“Trust me.” Nova waved a hand dismissively at her, about fifteen bracelets jangling as she did so. “The Inner Eye sees all, and I’ve got two of them.”
Molly leaned back into her chair, more unsure than ever. “I don’t usually go to places like this,” she confessed, tucking a strand of red hair under a knitted green cap. “It’s just that I’ve got five sons at home. All of the do-it-yourself gender-testing potions told me during my last pregnancy that I was supposed to have a girl, and I ended up with two boys instead. I love boys, I really do…but this time around I was really hoping for a daughter.”
“And a daughter you shall deliver!” Nova vowed. “Got any names picked out?”
“A few. My husband likes Ginevra, but I rather favor Emily. And if it were another boy, of course, it would be Ronald. That much is already decided.”
“Sounds lovely. That’ll be twenty Sickles.” Nova coughed and extended one hand, palm facing out to collect her silver fee.
“That’s it? Already? I thought I was paying for a whole hour.”
“I don’t decide when the Inner Eye comes and goes,” Nova explained, frowning woefully. “Alas, it is a blessing and a curse, is it not, to be at the mercy of the spirits who guide us? They have left me for the evening, I’m afraid, so I’ll no longer be of any use to you.”
“I don’t understand.” Molly Weasley pursed her lips. “I don’t know that much about Divination, granted, but I never heard about Seers depending on ‘spirits’ or anything of the like. Aren’t you going to look at tea leaves or tarot cards? Crack open some eggs and see more of my future in the yolk patterns?”
“Er…” Nova mumbled incoherently to herself, quickly trying to sort her thoughts. What was up with this woman? The nerve of her, questioning a highly-notorious Seer’s methods! “I suppose I could see if the spirits will come back long enough to finish our session.”
“Good,” Molly responded. “Tell your spirits that I expect my money’s-worth.”
“Of course, of course. And why shouldn’t you?” Nova clucked her tongue in disapproval. “Insolent spirits. Don’t worry, I’ll summon them back in no time. It’s all in the balance of the moon and sun.” She craned her neck to stick her head out the window. “That’ll be Mars up there, that teensy dot. Pesky little blighter.”
“Where?” Molly asked, squinting. It was still broad daylight – not a single cloud to mar the bright blue sky.
“Right there, don’t you see it? Anyway, it’s in orbit now, so that means your husband’s got a wandering eye.”
Molly’s eyebrows shot up into her hairline. “Excuse me?”
Nova wafted some more bullfrog incense around with her stick, hoping it might make Molly woozy enough to believe anything she was told. She then plucked a few dried petals from a shriveled-up daisy wilting over the side of a dirty vase – last year’s Valentine’s gift from Gilderoy that she still hadn’t been able to part with – and crushed them with her fingers. She then blew them across the desk in an expertly fashion, pretending to decipher secrets of the universe in some dusty old pollen samples. Back when she was a real Seer, before her gift was stomped to death amid all the anguish Gilderoy left behind, she’d never needed any of this trickery. She’d just inherently known things. But no matter! She could still be a Seer.
Just not an honest one.
“Oh-ho! And she has blonde hair, too! I’d keep my eye on him if I were you.”
“Blonde?” Molly repeated sharply. “Who is she? What’s her name?”
Nova only shook her head, rueful. “The spirits won’t say. I think they might be on her side…wouldn't surprise me…they don’t have a problem with cheating men. Never think to warn people about them…”
“Look harder,” Molly bossed. “You’re not looking hard enough.”
“I’m looking, I’m looking, I can’t see anything –”
“WELL, PRESS YOUR NOSE RIGHT UP TO IT! THIS IS MY HUSBAND WE’RE TALKING ABOUT HERE!”
“Right!” Nova croaked. She was beginning to feel a bit woozy herself, her nerves all balled up into a tight, pulsing knot. “Stupid spirits, always getting in the way of justice. I think I’m beginning to see something. Yes, I do. I’m quite sure…” She paused, eyes widening in terror. “Oh, my lord.” She clutched the edge of her desk for dear life, her face gripped with powerful stress. “They’re kissing. They’re exchanging love letters. There’s a bouquet of roses and they smell divine…”
“Roses!” Molly barked, furious. She hurled the crystal ball at one wall, effectively smashing the vase. Shards of glass splintered everywhere. “I didn’t even get roses for our anniversary!”
“I wish. I got orchids instead. Orchids! I might as well be his mother!”
“I know. And I was pregnant with his child, too. His child, I tell you.”
“You poor dear!” Nova reached across the table and seized Molly’s hands, twisting up her eyes with dramatic emotional torment. “You’re so much better than that. He doesn’t deserve you. You could find someone so much more appreciative of your value, someone who won’t look at other women just because you’ve eaten one too many chocolates. It’s his loss, you know. I’ll bet he doesn’t even have all of his hair left.”
Molly stabbed at the crushed daisy petals with the end of her wand, hammering them so hard that they left behind dents in the wood. “I’ll boil him in a cauldron, I will! After everything I’ve done for that man, and he’s sneaking around on me!”
“This destroys me so, being the bearer of such dreadful news,” Nova moaned. “Look at me; do you see the state I’m in? A hopeless mess. Look at how wretched I am. I’m all cut up inside.”
“You poor thing,” Molly crooned, patting Nova’s collection of bangles. “A hazard of the profession. But, Madam Spacelove, I need to know. I’ve just got to. Is it – is this other woman – is her name Geraldine, by chance?”
Nova gasped, overcome with choking despair. “Don’t say her name aloud! It pains me to hear it! Geraldine Bychance is the bane of my existence, now that I’m channeling your own ruined marriage with the spirits of our ancestors. I have to feel all of your pain while I’m doing it – oh, it’s so horrible –”
“So it’s her, then? I knew it.” Molly slashed her wand at the air, destroying a bookshelf in one corner. Thousands of pages of Divination records floated away in finely-shredded snow, but Mrs. Weasley was far too angry to spare it more than a fleeting glance.
“But there’s good news, too!” Nova amended quickly, fearing for her possessions. She gave a violent spasm. “Hark! The spirits! They’ve just informed me that your husband will be bald before his next birthday. Justice has been done!”
“But I won’t be around to see it,” Molly sniffled. “He’ll be with Geraldine.”
“Don’t take any of it personally, not a whit of it,” Nova advised wisely. “We can set him right. I’ll prescribe a bit of my homemade potion, and even give it to you at half-price. Just drop a teaspoon of it into his tea every evening and he’ll start shaping up to be a good husband in no time. You have my assurances that he’ll forget about leggy Geraldine, too.”
“That’s very kind of you,” Molly said, watching Nova eagerly scratch her quill on an order form smudged with fingerprints and potting soil. “There’s just one flaw in it.”
“And what is that, dear?” Nova inquired, still writing.
“There is no Geraldine.”
Nova stared, flabbergasted; her hand hovered over the parchment, mid-scribble.
“Thank you, though, for your scintillating company.” Molly stood to her feet, smiling pleasantly. “I really did need that laugh. Watching you make a complete idiot out of yourself was completely worth the torture your chair put my back muscles through. Thank goodness you aren’t really going to charge me those twenty Sickles.” She pinched a few daisy petals between her fingers and let them drift down onto the floor. “You’re the third fraud I’ve seen this month, but you’re by far my favorite one. You even let me have a go at your furniture.”
Nova could barely arrange her thoughts into words. “You – what’s the meaning of this? Are you saying that you came here for kicks?”
“Oh, I’ll do just about anything to get out of the house,” Molly answered blithely, making her way to the door. “Remember what I said about five boys? Six, if you’re including my husband. Sometimes it’s nice to go off by myself and just leave them at it. I expect to find a perfect dump when I return, but it’ll still look a far cry better than this.” She gestured around the room.
“I’m – you – I –” Nova stammered, trying to scrape together a decent excuse. Finally, she just gave up. “Oh, fine.”
Molly waved good-bye and stepped out into the sunshine, waddling along the pavement like a penguin. “Seven months and she’s that big?” Nova mused out loud several minutes later after she’d had some time to recover. “It’s definitely a boy.”
And for the first time in fifteen months, Nova Spacelove’s prediction would turn out to be right.