I glance up from the parchment in front of me and spot a middle aged witch waving for me from across the store. Fred had a meeting with George and Whizzy this morning and I volunteered to cover when his morning clerk owled in sick. I didn't mind it. Being in Zonko's always brought back memories of the first few times Fred and I saw each other and it was truly like another home to me. But it also helped that today was so far fairly slow. I had a lot of things on my mind and the potent ingredient in the Wicked products was not one of them.
I led the witch to the front of the store where the new display, answering the necessary questions and making sure she knew that if she bought the body spray, she could get the bath salts half off. She filled up her basket, beaming ear to ear and I was smug that I was able to peg her as a sucker for sales.
After she thanks me and makes her way to the Wicked line in the back, I return to the counter and try to find a comfortable position on the stool behind the register. A quick cushioning charm fixes the awkwardness and I begin to skim over the parchment spread out before me once again.
I had narrowed the job offers down to about fifteen last night, yet nothing seemed to stand out and grab my attention. I wasn't willing to move across the world, or Apparate to another country every day. I wanted to be close to home but the jobs within the Ministry seemed so...dull. Except the Department of Magical Sports and Games. They were looking for a select few to intern with the possibility of permanent employment and the idea of following Quidditch and other games was tempting. But again, it took me away from Fred far more often than I wanted, so the letter was quickly placed at the bottom of the pile.
Sighing, I place my chin in my hand and stare at the Ministry symbol on the parchment below me. I just had no idea anymore of what I wanted to do or be. I did well in school, and on my tests, and I thought I was a fairly decently skilled witch, yet I didn't have one specific talent that could guide me.
Brushing my hair from my forehead, I stand quickly when the witch reappears in front of me and dumps several bottles and boxes on the counter. I begin to ring up her purchases, engaging in light conversation about the products when I hear the bell ring at the front door. I look up, prepared to greet the newest customer but my words die quickly on my tongue when I see my mother standing on the landing, carefully putting her wand away in her elegant robes as her eyes sweep the store.
"I...um, thank you for shopping at Zonko's and be sure to visit our other locations," I tell the witch automatically as I stare at my mother. "Have a good day." I can hear the witch thank me, but her voice seems muffled and so far away as my mother walks toward me. The bell jingles again and I realize she and I are the only ones left in the store. Finally I feel the smile at my lips and I finally feel my feet move from the counter as I go to hug her. I worry for a moment that she will push me away but she embraces me and I exhale slowly as the familiar scents of my mother overwhelm me. I can feel the dagger in my heart as I realize how much I've missed her.
She pulls back first and examines me. "You look haggard, Gabrielle."
I wince and quickly reach my hands up to my ponytail. I smooth the wisps of hair that have escaped back and smile again. "You look wonderful, mere. Your hair is getting longer."
"It's in need of a trim." She lifts a delicate hand to her hair for a moment before she remembers herself and reaches down to grip her handbag with all ten fingers. "I came by to see how you have been doing."
"Wonderful actually. Everything is going really well," I assure her, wringing my hands together anxiously before her eyes glance at them. I drop them immediately to my sides and bite my lower lip as I can't seem to calm my racing heart. "Do you want to look around? I can give you a tour?"
She wrinkles her nose, clutching her bag as she glances over her shoulder at the aisles and displays. I can sense she is about to decline, so I reach out and grab her hand before pulling her. "It sells more than just jokes, mere. You've seen Fleur's pictures haven't you?"
"Yes, I have."
I ignore the tone in her voice and stop in front of the Wonder Witch display. A large photograph of Fleur, wearing a billowy white robe and looking angelic is placed above top of the display. She winks and blows us a kiss as the wind whips her robes around her feet and flowers float around her. I look over to my mother who is examining the display. Her eyes are unreadable, and seem somewhat glassy as she purses her lips and turns to me.
"Is this what you do all day, Gabrielle?"
"Sell these...things." She waves her hand toward the display and I frown at her attitude of indifference.
"Well, I help Fred with the books and the potion making." I reach out quickly and grab the bottle of Freezing Fairy Dust that belongs with the Wicked line. "I helped make this. We used peppermint and banana leaves--"
"To bring down temperature," she states coolly. "As Veelas use."
"Yes." I try to smile again. "I've learned a lot from my studies."
She hums a small note of bored interest in her throat and turns around, walking slowly she examines and observes. She picks up a few items, barely skimming them before she replaces them haphazardly on the shelves. I follow quickly behind her, hoping she'll see that I'm happy, and that what Fred and George have built here is so beyond just a simple joke shop.
"What is this?" she finally asks, rounding on me, her eyes brimming with frustration and disappointment. "You received eleven NEWTs, Gabrielle. Eleven, yet you're sitting behind a counter like some common clerk, selling jokes and fairy dust?"
"Freezing Fairy Dust," I whisper. "It cools your body and only warms with human contact..." I trail off, my shoulders slumping in defeat. "I'm happy, mere."
She grabs my arms with her hands and stares into my eyes with determination. "You're worth so much more than this, darling. You're smart, and beautiful and deserve more in life. You're wasting your talents here!"
I stare at my mother as guilt seeps into my emotions and I part my lips to try to explain to her my plan, my goals in life, but I realize I truly have none. The only goal I have focused on since before I turned seventeen was Fred. He was all that mattered in the long run. Everything else was superfluous. But she doesn't understand that, and I don't know if she ever will. She's still my mother. I still love her and I want her to be proud of me.
"I have other job offers," I say and my mouth feels like it's filled with dust. "I still work here, I still help, but I have other opportunities. I just haven't been able to sit down and truly think about them yet."
"He's been keeping you from your future, Gabrielle." Mother lowers her voice and loosens her grips on my arms. "Working you in this joke shop night and day, tiring you out--"
"No! Fred would never do that. He only asks me to work when he's desperate for people and I volunteer. I don't mind it, I like it here--"
"Fred Weasley is taking advantage of your youth, your naivety."
"Mere," I plead, tears brimming in my eyes. "I can't keep having this same arguement with you. I love Fred, that's not going to change. Please, give him a chance. I promise you'll like him, you'll be able to see--"
I sniffle quietly as I pause in surprise. "All right?"
She sighs and rubs her hand over my cheek. "Bring him to dinner at Faerie Ridge, darling. If he means this much to you, I will give him a chance."
Stunned, I stammer for a moment before gripping her hand in my own. "Really?"
"Yes, ma ange. I suppose I am eager to get to know the man who has taken my daughter from me."
"Oh, goddess." Joy bursts in my chest and I jump forward to hug her. "He's a good person and I think you'll really like him."
"Perhaps." Her hand smoothes over my hair and she kisses my forehead. "I will see you both, at seven o'clock."
"Yes." Still shocked, but undeniably giddy, I follow my mother to the front of the store and walk her to the door. "Thank you, mere."
She gives me a small smile before walking out into the streets of Hogsmeade. I watch her go, backing up when a few young wizards walk in. Once I step back into the store, I smile, feeling a massive weight lift from my shoulders before I go off to find the two wizards to make another large sale.