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stop the presses!
1




From inside the café, Lucy watched the rain slide down the window. It was the third consecutive day of rain and she was beginning to feel more depressed than usual. Already that morning she’d stepped in a puddle, drenched her ankles and splashed mud on the hem of her new coat. It was nothing a quick drying charm couldn’t fix but a simple error like apparating directly into a puddle was enough of a reminder that life really stunk.

If you were Lucy that was: somehow, while the rest of her extended family spread their wings and soared, Lucy was left floundering on the ground like a fish in a puddle, gasping for air and trying to work out how, at the very least, to get through a day without something ridiculous happening to her.

Yesterday it was spilling coffee on her boss’s desk. The day before it was missing her second deadline in a row and before that…she didn’t even want to think about the disaster date she had been on with Daniel. She knew she should have cancelled when her hair refused to do what it was told, even with the assistance of a charm, and she tore a hole in her stocking on the way out her front door. Showing up for a dinner with a man she wasn’t even sure she actually liked with a bird’s nest on her head and a ladder from ankle to knee was a definite sign the night was not going to bode well.

It didn’t, and when he ducked into the loo, she bolted, leaving him with the bill and possibly a huge sense of relief.

Dominique was late, as usual. Out of her multitude of cousins, Dom was the one Lucy felt the most relaxed around. Unlike the rest of the family, Dom did not work for the Ministry, was not a successful-anything and most importantly, did not choose to remind Lucy at every possible occasion that she needed to do something more with her life, as her mother had done just that morning.

Lucy gulped at her coffee; it burnt the back of her throat and she gasped, feeling tiny blisters spring to life on her tongue.

“Fantastic,” she grumbled, dapping at her mouth with a napkin as Dom dropped into the seat opposite, scowling.

“I hate my life.”

“You and me both,” Lucy said, feeling instantly less miserable. “What did she do now?”

“Oh just the usual; if I have to clean one more jar of bubotuber puss I think I will kill someone. Did you order?”

“Waiting for you,” Lucy replied, signalling the waitress. Dom made a face at the salads and went straight for cake.

“I deserve it,” she argued.

“We can’t all rely on being part Veela you know,” Lucy muttered when Dom made her order cake as well, saying she looked like she needed it. While they waited for their chocolate gateau and the guilt that accompanied it, Dom asked after Daniel.

“I don’t think I will be seeing him again,” Lucy sighed. “It doesn’t matter – I don’t think I liked him. He talked way too much and I don’t even know what a computer does let alone a what did he call it? Oh yeah, a DVD, which I assume is something you can watch because he asked me to go back to his flat to watch one.”

“He asked you home? On the first date?” Dom looked scandalised.

“He has a flatmate.”

“Still, what a creep.”

“He was actually kind of nice,” Lucy said, feeling the need to defend the hapless Daniel, even though part of her agreed with her cousin. The waitress dumped two of the biggest pieces of chocolate cake Lucy had ever seen on their table. Dom’s mouth went slack and she started salivating, picking up a fork and attacking the mountain of chocolate.

“I saw Louis yesterday.” She popped a piece of cake into her mouth. “Oh my god that’s good!” She swallowed and licked her lips. “Anyway, he came into the shop to order some wolfsbane, and he looked terrible – his outfit was complete rubbish and his hair was hideous. I think he’s forgotten about mirrors.”

“That’s weird,” Lucy answered slowly. “About the wolfsbane I mean.” The last anyone had heard of Louis, she remembered, he was living in a dingy flat in London somewhere with a bunch ‘bohemian types,’ as her father had called them. What he meant were artists, Lucy thought, although she didn’t know for certain. She had never been particularly close to Louis, finding him a little odd and overly fond of snapping photographs of her looking her worst.

“I know, right? I mean, it’s not something people generally order,” Dom said, flicking a length of pale blonde hair over her shoulder.

“Did he say anything to you?” Lucy asked tentatively.

Dom shook her head. “I was stacking shelves – I don’t think he knew I was there. Naturally, I was curious, so the moment he left I took myself to lunch and I followed him.” Dom had been working at the apothecary in Diagon Alley for about a year and she constantly complained that all she did was stack shelves and fetch coffee for her boss.

Lucy groaned. “Oh Dom, you didn’t?”

“I did and good thing I thought of it,” her cousin answered, as if stalking was the most common thing in the world, even if it was stalking family members. “Did you know he has a girlfriend?”

“Who?”

Dom made a face that had nothing to do with the cake. “Arabella Greengrass.”

“They could just be friends,” Lucy said neutrally, fiddling with her spoon. Even though Dom hated her boss and barely spoke to her brother, Lucy knew she’d detest the idea of her boss’s daughter and her brother seeing each other.

“Do you snog your friends on street corners?”

“Eww, no.”

“There you go then,” Dom said smugly, sitting back in her chair. “Dad is going to go mental when he finds out.”

“You’re not going to tell him?”

“Of course I am,” Dom replied with a smirk and Lucy groaned. “Don’t look at me like that – Louis deserves it. It doesn’t matter what he does he is still the golden child; well, second to Victoire anyway.”

“I’ve got to get back to work,” Lucy cut in, not wanting to sit through one of Dom’s ‘why-I-hate-my-siblings’ speeches. “Rose has called a meeting for this afternoon and I can’t be late.”

Dominique rolled her eyes. “I don’t know how you put up with that cow.”

“You just hate her because of Teddy.”

“No, I don’t, I hate her because she is horrid and vile and has terrible hair and yes, okay, why did he have to pick her?”

Lucy smiled, picking up her bag. “Did Vic tell you why they split up?”

“No, but I always knew he had a wandering eye,” Dom said.

“You hoped,” Lucy amended.

“Lucy! Do you really think I’d steal my sister’s boyfriend?”

“You did try though.”

“True, but I was thirteen. Listen, I have to go back to work too – Deadly Daphne will kill me if I’m late – lunch tomorrow?”

Lucy grinned. “Sure.” Lunch with Dom was the highlight of her week and as she slung her bag over her shoulder and made her way outside to stand under the miserable London sky the familiar sensation of failure started to sink into her stomach.

Rose was going to ask her what she’d been working on and she was going to say, as she always did, nothing. Rose would then ask why Lucy even bothered getting out of bed in the morning if all she could manage to do was nothing and Lucy would lower her eyes, mutter an apology and promise she’d try harder. That would result in Rose taking her into her grand, master-of-the-universe style office and saying that even though Lucy was family she had to pull her weight.

Lucy scowled, looking up at the sky. She never wanted to be a journalist anyway.

Academically disabled, she could get no other job and in utter dismay, her father had called on their over-achieving super-successful extended family for help. The only one to put their hand up was Rose, taking Lucy under her wing like she might a lost puppy. Lucy soon learnt though that Rose was anything but the sort to care for lost puppies, preferring to kick them out of the way with her high-heeled boots.

The woman was a nightmare and if she wasn’t family and if Lucy didn’t so desperately need a job, she would have run screaming into the street on the first day. Though not the editor, it was no secret at the Prophet that Rose wanted the top job and that she would step on people to get it. Somewhere deep inside it irked Lucy that not only was she working for her cousin, she was working for her younger cousin.

Lucy sighed, turned her coat up against the rain that was starting to fall and made her way back to the office, hurrying upstairs to the conference room. She was late and briefly considered not going to the stupid meeting but she needed this job and the money that went with it. It wasn’t much, but it was more than she would see if she found herself unemployed. She took a deep breath and pushed at the door, tripping over her feet as she went.

All eyes swung towards the walking accident that was Lucy and Rose, seated at the head of the table, sighed.

“Do be on time,” she said simply.

Ears burning, Lucy slunk into a seat as far down the table from Rose as possible, and as close to the door as possible. Plans for a quick and easy escape were doused when Rose gave her ‘the look’ – the one that meant, ‘I am terribly disappointed in you and I want to see you in my office after everyone has gone.’

As predicted, Rose asked her staff what they had for the next edition. There was a scheduled interview with the Minster for Magic; a photo session with the ladies of the Harpies and a possible interview with Ginny Potter, now retired; and someone wanted to interview Draco Malfoy.

Rose raised her eyebrows. “Reason?”

“Well,” spluttered Herbert Smith, the youngest of the editorial team, “he’s made such a success of himself. Malfoy Industries has -”

“Fine, do it, if he’ll talk to you,” Rose cut in. “But I don’t want a gushing article on how great the Malfoy’s are, got it?” Herbert nodded, and Rose turned her attention to Lucy. “Anything?”

Lucy cleared her throat. “Not yet, but I was thinking that maybe we could interview the Head Boy and Girl of Hogwarts, to see what their plans are for the future, that sort of thing.”

“It’s been done before,” Rose said with a sigh and Lucy slumped in her chair. “But that’s not to say we can’t do it again. Find out when the next Hogsmeade weekend is and organise to speak to them there.”

“Really?” Lucy whispered.

“Yes,” Rose snapped, irritated, and Lucy barely paid attention for the remainder of the meeting, which was taken up with talk of the layout and what headings to use, as well as the usual office gossip. Lucy was still sitting in her seat as the meeting wound up; she glanced at Rose as the last of her co-workers filed out.

Her cousin gave her a long look down the length of the table and Lucy swallowed, determined to be strong. Rose wouldn’t fire her; she had actually managed to come up with something mildly interesting and surely that made up for being late and for the last month of lacklustre work.

“Lucy,” Rose began as the door nudged open. Her face changed instantly from stern editorial director – gone was the frown and the tight brow and in its place was the sort of look a woman gives a man she is completely nuts over.

“Hey.”

Lucy twisted in her seat. Teddy Lupin was leaning casually in the door, hair everywhere and rumpled from head to toe. It looked like he hadn’t changed his clothes for days, had possibly slept in them, but he still managed to look undeniably sexy. He winked at Lucy and ran a hand through his hair – it rippled and changed from brown to blonde, and back to brown, his customary colour.

Teddy and Victoire had been inseparable since they were teenagers, and no one really understood where and why it all went wrong. One moment they were together, just moved into a flat, with plans to marry – Victoire had announced their engagement at Christmas only last year – and the next, Teddy was out on the street and Victoire refused to say a word about it, only that it was over.

It had been no secret that Dom wanted Teddy, but what confused everyone was when he showed up for James’ birthday with Rose.

Needless to say, Rose and Victoire didn’t speak anymore.

Lucy glanced back at Rose. “I’m sorry that I -”

“It doesn’t matter,” her cousin said quickly, not looking at her.

“But...”

“Go home, Lucy, and make sure you’re here on time tomorrow.” Rose indicated the door with a tilt of her head and Lucy scampered out, Teddy stepping aside so she could pass. In the hall, she lingered a moment, listening, but their voices were low and she couldn’t make out anything. There was no obvious reason why she was snooping, only that she was. Dom would want to know, in any case, if anything interesting was happening.

Lucy chewed her lip, and then scowled as she caught her sleeve on a doorknob on the way out of the office. It was almost dark; the sun was dropping beneath the line of buildings and she pulled her coat close around her body, turning and glancing up at the row of windows. They were all dark except one and as she watched she saw Teddy’s silhouette pass across it, and the back again. He was pacing, Lucy realised, and she also realised, as she prepared to apparate home, that despite the usual grin, he had looked worried.

That was something she could tell Dom.

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