She Will Have It Her Way
Title: Interoffice Stereotypes
Spoilers: Set three years after AU book seven, cannon from OotP
Disclaimer: JK owns all, I am broke. Correction: I own C. More Skeeter and assorted others…
Summary: Plots, allies, a prince in disguise - er, princess
A/N: This chapter contains a scene that has been pretty much plotted out for ten years. I always knew we were going to get to this scene, I just wasn’t sure how to get her to this place. I’ve also been revising the final scene for about that same amount of time. I’m happy with how it’s turned out so far. Hope everyone likes it. She Will Have It Her Way
“I need a drink, how ‘bout you, boss?” Millicent asked as casually as possible as she flipped the sign over for the day.
“Little early, isn’t it?”
“Five o’clock somewhere, ain’t it?” She pursed her lips at his chuckle. “What?”
“Where’d you pick up that phrase?”
“My roommate Portia, she’s half-blood but grew up Muggle with her mom in the States. She’s a big fan of Country music,” she let the stress seep out of her shoulders. “Damn good chaser, too.”
“Well, then it’s time for drinks,” Fred grinned.
“About damn time.” ~*~
Katie tilted her head to look at Blaise a bit more clearly. She wasn’t processing this information as she should, and she knew her husband was having a harder time following it.
“Her mum?” Katie asked.
“Along with the help of her Squib cousin and housekeeper,” Blaise nodded.
“And Luna told her this?”
“I’m not welcome in the Weasleys’ shop presently, so yes.”
“Knew she shouldn’t have kept that bitch on,” Marcus rumbled. “Told her, her mum had goaded her for too long on being a Squib.”
“And the fact that she was also Mr. Bulstrode’s mistress didn’t help.”
“He was sleeping with the housekeeper?” Katie shook her head. “I don’t want to know – does Millicent know?”
“Who do you think told us?” Blaise steepled his fingers. “Are we any closer to ending this strike? She needs to get out of that shop and the other players need money as well I suppose.”
“So kind of you to consider the rest of us. That’s the problem, the players need more money and not one owner wants to cough it up. But they’ll enjoy the money that comes in off of our blood, sweat and tears –“
“Darling, it’s not me you need to convince to give you money, it’s the owners.” Blaise held up his hands. “The contracts are still up for negotiation, but I think your fight will soon be over.”
“Did you get us a decent percentage upgrade?”
“What you wanted was too much, what they offered too little. They’ll meet you somewhere in the middle but they’re hoping the players will get desperate enough to give up first.”
“Fuck, we can’t!” Katie dropped her head back against the seat.
“How long you reckon it’ll be, Zabini?” Marcus’ hand went automatically to the back of Katie’s neck and Blaise almost envied them in that moment.
“Three weeks on the earliest. Owners are still making a healthy income with the regular off season events. Two months past that, they’ll be hurting.”
Before either Flint could respond, a sharp popping noise had all three up and pointing their wands at the slight person in the corner. Luna’s cheeks were pink and her dark blonde hair was falling out of a high top knot. She ignored all three wands and made a beeline for Blaise’s side of his desk.
“Have you heard what that woman has done now?” Luna’s voice shook.
“I was just telling the Flints all about Mrs. Bulstrode’s involvment –“
“This has nothing to do with Millicent’s mother. I’m talking about the scene she made at the shop and this evening’s edition.”
“What scene and what’s in this evening’s edition?” Blaise shot up from his seat and took the paper from her hands. “Bugger all.”
“Hello Katie, Marcus,” Luna blinked as she noticed the couple seemingly for the first time. “Marcus, your meal was absolutely divine the other evening if I forgot to mention it.”
“Katie made it. Tell her,” Marcus’s cheeks darkened which only made the younger witch smile.
“Katie, Marcus made an excellent meal the other evening. Did you always know he had such skills?”
“One of three skills I married him for,” Katie grinned.
“Really? What – “
“You don’t want to know,” Blaise cut Luna off. He glared at Katie. “Read this.”
“Well, well, well, our Fred certainly works fast.”
“What’d that idiot do now?” Marcus found his tongue again and read over his wife’s shoulder. “Bully Beater in Bed with her Boss. Corrupting a National Hero?
Is she serious?”
“Which one?” Blaise asked.
“He cares about her a great deal, you know.”
Luna’s words were quiet but had Blaise’s head snapping around to face her again. She seemed to be staring at him, imploring him into some action. He read it clearly in her normally distant eyes: he was not good enough for Millicent. He was suspected of cheating and had been found grossly wanting by this slip of a woman. It should not bother him so much that she did find him wanting.
“He’d better. She only deserves the very best,” Blaise said tightly. He was aware that both Flints had fallen silent. “Her mother will have a field day with this one.” ~*~
“Oh, Fred,” Molly Weasley took a deep breath and shook her head at the newspaper in front of her.
“We knew he’d have to get over Angelina eventually, Molly-my-dear,” Arthur said absently from the other end of the table.
“I haven’t a problem with that!” Molly shook her head at her husband. “But she’s not likely to stay at the shop with him forever. She loves Quidditch, just as much as Angelina did. She’s a good girl, I’ve no doubt of that – I just don’t wish to see him hurt over it.”
“He’s a grown man, Molly,” Arthur sighed, glancing up from the Muggle thing he was playing with.
“He’s still my son.”
“And he’s going to find happiness in his own way. Just as Percy, Charlie and Bill have. On his own terms.”
“Well, he better treat her right then,” Molly straightened up. “She’s a good girl who deserves to be well looked after.”
“Not so worried about your son’s tender heart?”
“He’s got his father to worry after that. Who’s there to look after hers, hmm?” ~*~
Margaret Bulstrode’s hands shook. She knew it should not affect her, seeing her Millicent smiling with one of Arthur Weasley’s brood, but it did. A streak of jealousy coursed through her. She’d been fond of Arthur all those years ago. Two things had hindered her from ever having him: Molly and her own bastard of a husband who wanted her family money.
And hadn’t Agnes Mildred just been beyond pleased to shove this under her nose? Her darling cousin and mistress to her husband. The woman who’d snickered behind her back with every miscarriage, the woman her own daughter was named after. Of course, he’d claimed it had been for his own grandmother Mellicent that he’d chosen the name from. But he did call Agnes Mildred ‘Mil’ an awful lot.
Still, she’d gotten the last laugh. He was dead – or as good as – and Agnes Mildred had found herself severely docked in pay once he’d exited the scene. Her daughter, unfortunately, was not home. She was living in sin with the Weasley boy in the shop she’d gone to work in to hurt Blaise. The Skeeter chit had told her as much. Margaret should have known there was more behind it, as if any Bulstrode really needed to work.
And he called her ‘Mil’. ~*~
“Well, your brother’s certainly getting his money’s worth,” Millicent puffed out a mouthful of air early the next morning.
“Oh, go on, you corrupting soul you,” Fred laughed as he opened the door leading into the break room.
“She’ll never learn. I’m done rising to her bait,” Millicent shook her head. “Plus I’m pretty sure I get a bonus for press coverage from Alicia for this one.”
“You didn’t even do anything but get a few drinks and bad pub food with me. How she tracked us down to that Muggle pub though, that’s the real question.”
“I’ve been there before. One of the Hufflepuffs in my year started a few up. That’s the only pure Muggle one though. He’s got theme ones near a couple of the Quidditch pitches. Katie took us to them.”
“The one who was petrified my fourth year?”
“That’d be the one.”
“Explains why she’d know about it as well.”
Millicent only nodded as she went about straightening bins and putting parcel bins up for the early morning crowd. Fred circled around the upper levels of the shop doing an inventory check on what he’d either need to reorder or produce. She’d gathered up the late night owl messages and had sent a few courier owls out on their routine morning tasks when she heard the door quack open.
“Morning, Longbottom. What’re you doing here so early?” Millicent gave him a small welcoming smile. Her smiles were becoming frighteningly more willing to give as of late.
“Morning, Mil. Is, uh, is Fred around?”
“He’s up there. Is everything all right, Neville?”
“Do you think he’ll be coming down anytime soon –“
“Well, we sold out of Rotten Revolting Room dispensers and – morning, Longbottom. Don’t know that I’ve ever seen you here this early before.”
“He was looking for you –“
“Actually, I wasn’t.” Neville’s solemn voice had her frowning. “See, Hannah’s normally the one to do this, but she couldn’t. I wanted to make sure that you weren’t alone when I had to tell you.”
“Tell her what?” Fred’s hand quickly dropped his checklist he’d been carrying around and found it wrapped around Millicent’s.
She should have known. The minute he’d mentioned Hannah, big warning lights had gone off in her head. It was news she’d wanted to hear for years, and yet she still dreaded it. Because it meant everything was final. Finally, and painfully final. Her hand tightened around Fred’s, a comforting warmth she wasn’t sure she wanted to feel and yet wouldn’t give up even if someone tried to drag her away.
“My father has died. He’s come to tell me that my father has finally died.” ~*~
It was too much for one person to carry. Fred knew that, even though he’d never been unfortunate enough to lose a parent. This, on top of the ugly scene yesterday, would have brought a lesser woman to her knees. Not Millicent though. She had gripped his hand so tightly in her own that he should have winced with the pain of it. He wouldn’t allow himself to do so. She was strong for so many people, even if she denied it. He could be strong with her.
“The nurse took him in his evening meal and paper, even though he rarely touched them on his own. She helped feed him and got him settled for bed. When the midnight nurse did his rounds, they found him.”
“In bed, asleep to arise no more,” Millicent blinked three times, her voice raspy. “Doesn’t seem very fair. He’d have rather died on the battlefield, that bastard.”
“Mil,” Fred said her name softly, because he heard that anger in her voice. It seemed to snap her back to reality, and her eyes blinked again. Her hand clenched on his again, and he could see her free hand doing the same on her other side.
“Thank you, Neville, for bringing me this news. Tell Hannah that I’m sorry to have inconvenienced you both. An owl would have been fine –“
“We would have never sent an owl to give you this news,” Neville smiled sadly at her. “We both owe you more than that. Our lives, in fact.”
“You really don’t.”
“Is there anything else, Neville?” Fred asked, before Millicent blew up at Neville’s well-meaning but inappropriately timed comments.
“There’s a twenty-four hour hold on the body, so tomorrow you will have to come identify and make any final decisions about what is to be done with him.”
“Cremation and his urn placed in the family crypt. Like his mother and father before him,” she gave a rough chuckle. “Guess he’s stuck with them for eternity now.”
“They’ll go over it with you tomorrow, Mil. I’ve got her, Neville,” Fred nodded to the younger wizard.
“If there’s anything I can do –“
“Can you get George and Luna for me? Marcus, if you can find him.”
“I don’t need –“
“Not for you, love. For me,” Fred cut her off.
“Will do, Fred.”
“Flip the sign for me on your way out.”
“You cannot close this damn shop for my sake again, Fred Weasley,” Millicent snapped out of her funk.
“I’m not. It’s a weekday. It’s a slow day and we can well afford to start an hour later.”
“Like you could afford to close two hours early yesterday? I’m relying on you for an income –“
“You’ll still get paid. Besides, you lost half of your bills this morning, now didn’t you?” He said hotly.
She blinked at him, tears refusing to spill over her lashes as that hit her. Shit. He hadn’t meant to say it like that. Now he was just being an ass. The blinking got them under control again as she let her shoulders sag.
“Fine. But you better have alcohol up there, because I’m not having my picture in the paper again because you can’t be relied upon to have the good stuff.”