A/N: The standard I-don't-own-this disclaimer applies. Enjoy.
The Family Clock
I was never very good at magic. Not at all. In Hogwarts I scraped by with mediocre grades in subjects like Transfiguration and Charms, decent ones in Potions and Herbology, and occasionally pretty good ones in History of Magic and Care of Magical Creatures. My family wasn't exactly what you'd call pureblooded, since Muggle-borns had been married in for about six generations when I came along, but we had an old name and a fairly comfortable Gringotts vault, as well as a very good reputation, upon which the business depended. Any witch or wizard in Britain and most goblins knew, if you wanted a clock, you went to Jas. W. Tickes and Sons, in either their elegant but small Diagon Alley premises, or in the larger Hogsmeade showplace.
The name was really rather inaccurate. James Worthing Tickes the original had been dead since shortly after the war with the American colonies, and when I joined the family business, old Grandfather Myron Tickes was the only male presence in the place. As the second child in the family, my big brother had been expected to apprentice at Diagon Alley, but he was presently in training for his third season with the English National Quidditch team. My baby half-brothers weren't even ready for solid food yet, let alone Hogwarts and the apprenticeship, so when I overheard Dad and Uncle Gard discussing how bad Granddad's eyesight was getting, I loyally volunteered to come in and help out a bit.
Actually, I wasn't doing it so much out of loyalty. I was bored stiff at home, changing the twins' nappies and practicing with my tools. I wanted to take a stab at real work, and I'd always liked Granddad. Besides, the Hogsmeade showplace was a little too dull for me. It was always filled with matronly ladies of an afternoon, searching for something for newlyweds or a clock with larger numbers for an elderly, nearsighted relative. There were also quite a few people who came in just to look, and that was where Uncle Gard did his best work. He was a born salesman, showing customers just how a family clock was a good investment in mothers' security or why a clock set into the stomach of a nude statue was in the poorest taste. Dad was in charge of the books and roughly half of the small assembly processes, and my stepmother, when she was not up to the elbows in baby wasteproduct, did drawings for new designs. It was busy, but in a very pedantic way; more looking and hem-hawing than actually building clocks.
Diagon Alley was bustling and wild, and the shop there was more for repairs and specialty items –just what I was most fascinated by. I didn't give a flying one if some customer wanted a clock with a second hand they could adjust. The customer who came in, wanting a clock like no human, let alone wizard, had ever seen before, now that was what suited my creativity. I also wanted to meet people other than the average Sunday shopper looking for a watch that didn't stop if you hit it against a wall. Granddad's stories of who came into the shop asking for what had been the very finest memories of my childhood, nearly as wonderful as the times he sat me on his knee and let me repair a spring. Dad had been mourning my mother when I was that little, and Uncle Gard was still in his teens. My brother had been away at Hogwarts. So really, it was an easy choice.
It was also an incredibly foolish one, in some ways.
Granddad might have been nearsighted, but he knew how an apprentice should be managed: run their legs off and blister their thumbs to spit. One day I was sent out on no less than twelve errands, made to repair six pocket watches, one alarm clock, and a desk chronometer shipped in from Italy. I also spent two hours a night keeping Granddad's books. At least I slept well afterward.
The only people who seemed to sympathize during the first months of my apprenticeship were the shopkeepers across the street, neophytes themselves, but with an incredible sense of humor. They had had their shop only a year when I joined the family business, and my first day in the shop they chose to send a rubber chicken that did a comic dance whenever anyone said a dirty word. Anyone who's worked in a clock shop, around tiny parts that can snap at the least little nudge or fly away from you, as well as pointy things, knows the true quantitive value of a good swearword, and the dancing chicken nearly drove me wild. Granddad, that barmy old goat, thought it was a good lesson for me and insisted that I keep the chicken in a prominent place of honor above the shop fireplace. Within my second month of work I was cured of most unladylike language –though a pricked thumb did still occasionally give the chicken its' exercise.
I liked the Weasley twins. They remembered me as a diligent Ravenclaw who spent a very happy portion of the Yule Ball fixing the Headmaster's fancy watch and no less than three Quidditch games with clocksmiths' tools in my hands, repairing a Snitch for Madam Hooch's generous twenty points apiece. I remembered them as the class pranksters who had hired me to change the locks on Umbridge's chamber door, just before they set off fireworks in the hall during her shower. No one had really recovered from that bit of near-nudity, and the Headmaster had very politely told me after his return to mind Professor Snape's doorknob being left-handed, I suppose in the event I got a bad potions grade.
Even though they didn't graduate with me, Fred and George considered me a friend, nearly as close as a fellow Gryffindor, and sometimes after a long evening of bookkeeping they invited me over to their apartment above the shop for late-night tea and hours of dirty jokes. I occasionally had to dart across to Weasleys' for a tablespoon of edible machine oil for a baby's wristwatch (a ridiculous invention, really,) and they occasionally came over for help with a clock that automatically reset itself, a reversing doorknob, or some other such invention that required intricate gearwork.
In time, I started to cook up ideas for them. They promoted the Cat-Chasing Clockwork Mouse as 'a Weasley's Wizard Wheezes exclusive by Jessie Tickes.' Grandfather, to put it mildly, was not pleased, though it took him a full week to figure out who Jessie was. My first name is Jamesina, since there must always be a James Tickes somewhere in the family, and after my brother, they suspected the shop might one day fall to me. Dad and Uncle Gard called me Jamie, and my grandfather had always called me Jims. When you have a horrible first name, sometimes you find novel ways of defusing it. The girl with the multicolored hair whose watch kept stopping at half-past one simply refuses to acknowledge hers, and Fred and George's littlest brother's friend patiently pronounces and re-pronounces hers. I still can't remember it most of the time, though. I'm not very good with names.
One nasty midwinter's day, Granddad sent me out with an errand list. I was to get machine oil in two very specific grades, strained wormwood cordial from the apothecary, which he insists is best for certain kinds of particularly magic clocks, a roast for supper, some cucumbers if they had them, and the latest Martin Miggs comic. Granddad was getting on in years, but he still liked his comic books. The supply shop was out of 10-D oil, so I had to duck out to the Muggle place Granddad sometimes sent me to if we were desperate. While there, I bought a new number four jeweler's screwdriver, Phillips head. It was on sale and Granddad's was getting dull. At the apothecary's, I ran into Professor Snape, who was surprisingly civil when I asked him how classes were getting on. He made a comment to the effect that I wasn't such a dunderhead as he had previously considered me when I pointed out to the apothecary that the wormwood was too cloudy, and that gave me a nice feeling. When I explained to him what we used it for, however, he got a sort of distracted look on his face and asked if I had ever tried an infusion of distilled mulberry and asphodel for the same purpose. I hadn't, and after he mumbled something vague, I noticed I was running rather late.
I wear ten watches. I'm a clocksmith. Is that so very odd? When the Professor noticed the five bands on each wrist, he actually broke out in laughter, so I left the apothecary's shop in a little huff. The only roasts the butcher had were red round or pork, but he managed to give me a decent price on what looked like some very tasty beef. The grocer didn't have any cucumbers, not even for ready money. Something about the season. (Drat it all, why are we wizards, then, if we can't have cucumbers whenever we damn well like?) I got zucchini instead and a very tall witch from America who was waiting in line with me gave directions on how to fry it. That made me feel better. Granddad loved fried foods best.
When I arrived home at the shop with my basket, curiously enough, there was a little crowd outside. George Weasley stood on our step, cheerfully making Lifelike Moving Balloon Animals for anyone who could guess his outrageous riddles. The fact that he was advertising on my front step didn't surprise me, so much as the fact that George wasn't with his brother, and Weasleys' was closed. The minute he saw me, George rattled off a particularly dirty joke that, luckily, went directly over the heads of his most youthful listeners, and handed the last balloon animal to a little girl before catching me by the sleeve and pulling me into my own shop like a miscreant.
Granddad had suddenly fallen ill. Fred had Apparated with him to St. Mungo's, and George had closed shop to wait for me. We locked the shop door and immediately Apparated out –that is, George did and I held onto him. I've never been all that good at magic, and I was a little too worried at the time to risk winding up half in London, half at Cobham Hill. My entire family, down to my tiny twin brothers, was there, listening intently to a healer who had just seen my grandfather.
"It's not the worst kind of heart attack, but he'll be off his feet for at the least another month, and then he'll have to take it pretty easy. You can see him now, but don't let him worry about business and no more than three people at a time. One more like that could really be bad for him."
Dad, Uncle Gard and I were the first in. Granddad was very inquisitively eying the hospital's bedside clock, but he stopped when he saw me and motioned my father and uncle closer. I heard mumbling and a gasp from Dad, but Uncle Gard patted his shoulder and the Granddad motioned for me to come around to the bed's other side.
"Jims, you're going to have to run the Diagon Alley shop until they let me out. It's a busy season, with Valentine's Day coming up, and I can't spare your father or Gardner at the showplace. Besides, you know the place best. Can you manage it?"
"I'll try my best, Grandfather."
"Good girl." Beneath his white moustache, Granddad smiled and patted my hand. "And don't go letting those wild Weasley boys play tricks on my elderly customers. One heart attack in a season is quite enough."
After some words with my family and a very elegant set of twin spit bubbles from Robby and Davy, I apparated home. Fred and George didn't let me do it myself, so I simply sighed and hung on to both their hands. Once at the shop, I sighed at the shopping basket and took out the roast and the zucchini.
"You aren't going to make dinner?" Fred asked.
"George Weasley, do I really look that distraught?" The identical sets of eyebrows rose, as they always did when I told them apart perfectly. "The Healer said Granddad's going to be okay, and I'm expecting that Longbottom woman in the morning with a mantel clock. I'm not facing her or her hat on an empty gut."
"Well…you really shouldn't be alone."
"Want to stay with us?"
"I have my own room upstairs, you are aware of that?"
"Well, can we at least cook you dinner?"
"Fred, I've tasted your cooking."
"She's right," George observed, smiling in his most charming way at me. "You can cook dinner, and we'll do the washing-up."
"Bachelor cooking is universally horrible," Fred explained.
"Bachelorette cooking, however,"
"Particularly cute bachelorette cooking,"
"Is quite tasty. I'll scrub and rinse,"
"And I'll dry the plates and things."
They were standing on either side of me, grinning identically. I tried to resist, but those redheads can be impossibly charming sometimes. I laughed and started slicing up the zucchini.
It turned out to be six months Granddad spent in St. Mungo's. No sooner was he out of the woods from the heart attack, but his liver went into decline. (Hospital food, indeed!) At the end of his long convalescence, my stepmother decided she would rather have him get properly well at the house outside Hogsmeade, and for once, my feisty granddad did not object. Mending seven-foot grandfather clocks' weight-driven gears might not have been all that restive, but reading to sleepy almost-two-year-olds could be.
In all that time, the Weasley twins had never failed to spend evenings and most mornings at my house, me cooking and they washing up, Fred scrubbing and George drying in turns. After it became clear Granddad neither intended nor wanted to come back to Diagon Alley, I fixed up the upstairs a bit. Dad, Uncle Gard, and the twins' younger brother and sister, as well as their friends, helped me move Grandfather's things to the new wing of our Hogsmeade house, and then the redecorating began. The littlest Weasley and sole girl, Ginny, as well as her friend Hermione, matched colors and furniture styles with me, while the brothers and Ron's friend Harry cowered downstairs, eating brownies and shuddering at all the noise we made. (Men!)
"Won't you be wanting a double bed?" Ginny asked, looking at the trundle one I had moved from my old room to what had been Grandfather's.
"Well, this one is rather small," Hermione pointed out.
"And if you have a guy over, you'll want room to move about."
"What? It's true."
"Tell me you don't know from experience," Hermione raised an eyebrow at the earthy little soul.
"Hey, I read. I spend nearly as much time in the library as you do."
"Albeit in completely different sections, I'd imagine." As much as Ginny's bluntness caught me off-guard, it was refreshing, and knowing her brothers, she came by it quite honestly. "I suppose I would like a bigger bed…though no bohemian love nests, okay? If your brothers caught me sleeping in anything less than the Franciscan nunnery, I'd never hear the end of the temptress jokes."
"You can trust us," Ginny reassured calmly, before almost idly pointing her wand and transforming the squalid little mattress-and-springs combination into a massive mahogany four-poster. "Speaking of, which one do you fancy?"
"You'll have to excuse Ginny. Her mind's been in the gutter since Madam Pince's last shipment of bodice-rippers." Hermione gave her younger friend the eyebrow of chastisement Fred and George had practically immortalized in song. "She means which of her twin brothers are you seeing."
"Oh! Them? Fred an' George?" I must have looked horribly flustered. "Oh, no, I…I don't…they and I…we're jus' friends."
"Drat it all." Ginny frowned jokingly. "I'd like to be an aunt eventually, and at the rate Percy's going with Penelope Clearwater, the Creevey brothers will have nephews before I do."
"Well, don't look here, mate."
It stood to reason, however. Local gossip had pinned me to one or another of the twins since even before Grandfather's heart attack, and the fact that I seemed to be the only soul outside of their family who could tell them apart with ease made the rumors seem even more exciting.
(It's really quite simple. Fred's watch is a chronometer and George's has a stop. Just look for the extra knob.)
The idea that I might actually consider taking up with one had never seriously occurred to me. Oh, certainly, they were both very handsome young men, they treated me like a goddess who could cook, and occasionally I had fallen asleep on a couch between the two of them. That was very nice, though I invariably woke up with my hair done in some absurd style, each half of my head a different way.
But there was always the inherent problem of two-ness that made a match with either of them inconceivable. For one thing, I couldn't imagine one without the other, and for another, a relationship with Fred would leave George stranded and vice-versa. A threesome was simply too naughty a thought to entertain, though I'm certain some of the gossips not only entertained it, but offered it a rent-controlled apartment in their mental consciousness. I'd never considered myself better than average in the looks department, but between two redheaded gallants, maybe anyone looked good.
I decided that maybe I'd better start dating, if only to dispel the rumors. That turned out to be a profound disaster. Certainly, having only one clocksmith to keep track of made the bookkeeping easier, and consequently I had more time for such frivolities, but the wizards who asked me out were universally wrong for me.
There was Marcus Flint, whose idea of a romantic evening was a Quidditch game during which he discussed in intimate detail the advantages and flaws of each player. When he commented on the Seeker's large hands being an asset to the entire English people, I knew it couldn't last. The Seeker's my big brother, and the admittedly unusual Tickes hands are a particularly tender point of mine. Okay, so we can hold two coconuts in one of these paws. I can also fix a watchspring so tiny it can't be seen by the naked eye.
Then there was Simeon Edgecombe, who has to be one of the most boring humans ever to draw breath. I've met Percy Weasley and he can be a dull-as-chalk Ministry git sometimes, but Simeon takes conversational tedium to the level of great art. I listened to such a long-winded description of the Department of Broom Misdemeanors on my one date with him that afterward I let Fred and George take me to Quality Quidditch Supplies, just so I could contemplate breaking one of Simeon's mincing little laws.
Hermione introduced me to a Bulgarian fellow called Viktor Krum, but again, he wanted to meet my brother. He did, however, remark that while on a man the Tickes hands are purely utilitarian, on a girl like me they're graceful. At least, I think that's what he said. There's a lot I couldn't grasp through the accent, and he couldn't pronounce my first name, either. Hermione warned me about that.
Ginny set Lee Jordan and I up on what Florian Fortescue called the most eventful blind date in history. When Fred and George found out what she had done, they made for the Leaky Cauldron with all imaginable haste and turned loose a good quarter of 'every trick in the book.' They may have even made up new ones on the spot. Apparently, dear Lee has a womanizing streak, and my 'brothers' didn't want any interference with 'their Jessie' –or my cooking skills.
After that debacle, Ron's friend Harry came to my rescue. He suggested mildly that he knew of one fellow whom I might get along well with, and proceeded to send me to the Three Broomsticks on a Gringotts' bank holiday I had off. Remus Lupin is a dear man, handsome in a detached, unkempt way, and intelligent enough to really have wonderful conversation with. Something simply didn't click, though. I took a watch of his to be repaired, and then asked that nice Auror with the multi-colored hair to deliver it, since she was going to be at a meeting with he and the faculty anyway. That may have been a wise move, and I acquired another good male friend, as well as a devotedly loyal, if odd-looking, female one. A girl can never have too many friends.
Alexander Bones was cute, clever, and friendly, but I beat him at Gobstones –nine times. There's a lot to be said for nimble fingers. It seemed to scare him off.
Nathaniel Borgin didn't seem quite as calculating as his father's Knockturn Alley shop would have you think, but he also cheated at poker. Badly. After almost two years in the company of the Weasley twins, it was quite a pleasure to neatly skin him and hang the hide on a fence, figuratively speaking. The man has so much gambling debt the goblins won't let him in Gringotts, but every Knut he had that night went towards a wonderfully expensive night on the town with Fred, George, Ginny, and the Inseparable Trio next bank holiday. Smashing!
I don't know what possessed me to go out with Kyle Macmillan. He tried to kiss me in the carriage back from Fortescue's, where we had had brunch, and I simply squeezed his hand. Not gently, either. After Kyle dropped me off and went in search of a healer to repair the bones, I went up to my wonderfully decorated bedroom and sulked. Sure enough, within ten minutes the twins were at my side –both of them, actually.
"What did you do to him?"
"His hand looked like Harry's after Lockhart got hold of it!"
"The bastard got all…he tried…"
"Jessie! He didn't!"
"We'll kill him!"
"No, guys…" I sighed. How to put this to two males? "He just wanted to kiss me and I squeezed his hand to make him back off."
"Jessie, you could make orange juice with those hands."
"And no pulp, either."
"Not that they aren't lovely,"
"But what makes you so nervous about kissing, anyway?" I must have been a very nice shade of scarlet by then, because as one, the twins let out an astonished gasp.
"You've never been kissed before!"
"Jessie, we never knew."
"Okay, okay. Lay off the amazement." I frowned at the identically handsome faces. "It's not like I had much of a chance, really. I mean, just because I've been busy doesn't make me a nun."
"You do know an awful lot of dirty jokes."
"And you did spend most of school bent over a watch."
"Instead of learning-"
"More rudimentary skills-"
"But what have you been doing on all these dates?"
"Besides outcheating Slytherins."
"Come on, guys, it's not like I don't want companionship. I mean, I don't want to stay a spinster clocksmith forever."
"You're not a spinster."
"You've got a great business."
"And you have us."
"Yes, I have you two! There's two of you! As best friends you're great, but if I were to want something more, I'd have to pick one, and I can't do that." I looked at them and sighed. "Listen, dinner's in the oven. I have to go out to the Malfoys' and fix that old grandfather clock. If I'm not back by six-thirty, turn the oven on to three hundred an' fifty and let it bake until seven." I got my tool bag and headed downstairs toward the door.
"Wait, Jessie!" It was George, Fred following close behind. "After you're done at the Malfoys' place, Mum needs the family clock at home looked at. One of the hands sticks."
"And be careful when you're out at that manor. I know you can take care of yourself, but there's a lot of Dark stuff that goes on out there still."
"Alright, guys." I smiled and turned to go, but before I could, strong hands caught my arms and all of a sudden I felt kisses, one on each cheek.
"Not quite what you meant,"
"But an example of what you deserve."
"Thanks, you two." I hugged them, one with each arm, and kissed each on the cheek in return. As I left, I imagined them, each wiping my lipstick off the other with a handkerchief, and that mental image cheered me up a bit.
Narcissa Malfoy may have enough house-elves to staff a small hotel, but she doesn't know jack about grandfather clock maintenance. It didn't need to be fixed at all, just have the weights re-balanced and a bit of gunk cleaned out of the mainspring. As I explained what was wrong, the blond Malfoy boy seemed only as interested as the neckline of my shirt would allow.
"Just make sure to draw the left weight up before the right, and if it stops like this again, you need to take the weights off and shift the leads so that both are equal. If that doesn't work, you might need a link or two out of the longer chain, but that's something one of your elves could do for you."
"What if I want the clock…professionally attended to?"
"Then you could call either our Hogsmeade showroom or the Diagon Alley shop. But really, there's nothing wrong with this clock, Mr. Malfoy."
"Call me Draco." Good lord, that guy had his father's voice, if not quite the charm yet, and his hair had gotten quite long since he was a fifth-year. "Would you care to see the clock upstairs?"
"Is there anything going wrong with it?"
"It loses time, only a minute or two, but one does like to be…precise." The young master of the house gave me a white-toothed smile. "It's from your family's shop, actually, though it's about a hundred years old. Quality does last well."
Oooh, that little bastard knew what to say to me! I was rabid about old clocks, and a clock built by one of my ancestors was more than tempting. If Voldemort himself had an early model Jas. W. Tickes clock, I'd have gone alone into his bedroom, which is where Malfoy kept his. "I like to wake up to this clock's chime," he explained, lighting a candelabra on his bedside table and holding it near the face of the venerable clock. That room was velvet and satin and dark as a sewer.
"It's in wonderful condition," I observed, delicately opening the glass that housed the face and hands. "Good lord, this is one of my great-grandmother's…see the engraving on the hands?"
"Where?" Malfoy leaned closer, so that his head was nary an inch from mine. I could smell a very nice –and likely expensive- aftershave.
"Maybe if we had a little more light in here?" Malfoy whispered a spell and candles all over the room lit up, before he slipped his wand into the back pocket of what could only be leather pants. I quickly turned back to the clock to conceal my reddening cheeks. "See, right here on the hands, and in the scrollwork around the face."
"Oh, yes…it's beautiful." I smelled the aftershave again.
"So it loses time, you say?" I felt the key at the back of the old timepiece. "You wind it every day?"
"…Not too hard?"
"Not too hard," Draco promised, the candlelight flickering. That aristocratic, deep voice purred: "Firmly, gently, and well…every… single… day." I caught my breath.
"Well, then the problem's in the mainspring." I turned the clock around and opened the back. Absolutely no dust came out –Tickes clocks are built to resist it, unlike that foreign-built disaster of a grandfather clock downstairs- and I was astonished to see my great-grandmother's handwriting on the inside of the back. "It's never been serviced…by anyone."
"It's never needed it."
Draco's blue eyes were on me all the while I studied the antique clock. The problem was indeed in the mainspring, as no metal on earth lasts perfectly for a hundred years. Probably, though, no clocksmith would have stocked a replacement spring of quite the size necessary. Tickes clocks were always made to fit necessity, not standard parts, since the company started before there were such things as standard parts. Because of this, one of the first things Granddad taught me as a little kid was how to make a mainspring. It isn't hard, just cut the metal to the dimensions necessary, coil it, temper it, and install. I removed the old spring, which was indeed worn towards the center, and made an exact copy on the spot. Great-grandmother had had the foresight to make mainspring installation easy on her descendants, and within seconds I had the new part in and ready to tick. I closed the rear face of the clock, after marking my name and the date just below Great-grandmother's, wound it carefully, and gave the pendulum a gentle flick.
There is nothing in the world I love like the healthy tick of a well-treated clock. I let out my usual sigh of glad relief, or perhaps a more satisfied one, considering the timepiece, and set down my screwdriver on my unfolded tool bag with its compartments. I faced my client and smiled, rubbing a bit of 10-D off my hands.
"Is that everything, Mr. Malfoy?" All through my delicate surgery on the clock, Draco had been watching me. Maybe my sigh was a little much, but around a clock like that I couldn't have restrained myself if I tried.
"Everything for the clocks."
I don't know how it happened. One minute I was crouched over my tool bag, the next I was off my feet and on top of that velvet-covered bed. Draco's kisses covered my neck and face, and I could feel strong hands on my wrists. By struggling a bit, I managed to keep those kisses away from my mouth, but I got the nasty feeling that I wasn't quite as good at taking care of myself as Fred had given me credit for.
"Erm…Mr. Malfoy…get off…"
"Oh, I intend to." More kisses, and a hand running down my side. Crap! I realized he was holding both of my wrists down with one hand and easily twisted one a little loose.
"Come on, Jamesina."
"No, seriously!" I remembered something Ron Weasley had said about Draco. "I'm…my mother was Muggle-born!" He seemed to blink for a second, but didn't let up. Dammit. I needed to think. What would repulse him? "I'm almost a Squib myself!"
Those blue eyes stared directly into my brown ones.
"That doesn't matter."
I realized that this wasn't a seduction of a new girlfriend. This was a spoiled rich boy shagging the help. Good lord, I had to get out of there. Something struck my memory…a story Ron's friend Harry had told about an old Auror…
I grabbed Draco's wand from his back pocket and hexed him point-blank in the ass. The shriek he let out was frightening, but I managed to shoulder him off, grab up my tools, and escape. I hated to leave the clock in a house like that, so as revenge I snapped his wand in half before getting my clocksmith self out of there.
Mrs. Weasley knew something was wrong the minute I turned up at the Burrow door. She gave me some tea and before I knew it, I had spilled out the whole story. She stood up, went to the writing desk, and then sent off a red-enveloped letter by owl.
"I realize she may be a so-called aristocrat, but I knew Narcissa Black at school. If I know mothers, and I am one, she'll take care of that son of hers –or else some very disturbing sorority secrets may come to light." I hugged her. "Oh, it's nothing, dear. I'd do the same for any of my children's friends."
"What seems to be wrong with the clock?"
"Oh, ever since Charlie moved back home from Romania, his hand has been stuck on 'Traveling.' It's probably not much to fix, but I'd also like to know if you could add a hand or two."
"Oh, that's no problem." I opened my tool bag and set it down near the clock. "Charlie…yes, the problem's in the gearbox." It really wasn't much to fix. The long journey and time away from home had simply made his hand need resetting. "How long do you expect him home?"
"Oh, he's working on another dragon book, fiction this time. At least a year." I took a couple of spare hands out of my bag and shined them up, checking to see which would be best for a family clock like this. "I don't believe you've met him."
"I've seen him in pictures once or twice." There were two hands, just perfect for the Weasley clock. "So, who needs to be added?"
"Penelope Clearwater…Percy proposed last night. And I've thought for a long time that Harry belonged on this clock …can you manage it?"
"Of course." I shined up the hands with a cloth and quickly cast the charm that gave them the necessary faces. As I installed them, Mrs. Weasley and I talked. "Be a nice surprise for Harry, finding himself on the clock next time he comes by."
"Oh, yes, and Percy will be quite beside himself. I expect in another few months you'll be back to add a hand for that French girl Bill's been seeing…oh, Charlie! Have you met Jamesina Tickes?"
"Oh, Miss Tickes!"
The most handsome male creature I had ever seen had come down the stairs in ragged jeans and slippers. His shirt was unbuttoned, showing several half-healed burns. "I'm Charlie…you made the watch my brothers gave me last Christmas." Numbly I shook his hand, oblivious to the machine oil on mine and burn salve on his. The fireproof watch I had devised was indeed on his well-muscled wrist.
"Nice to meet you…it does run well?"
"Perfectly." Charlie gave me a disarming smile. "Best watch I ever had. Even Norbert couldn't melt this one or make it stop."
"That's…good to hear."
"She's adding hands for Penelope and Harry."
"Really?" Charlie's smile has got to be one of the most knee-melting things on earth. "You'll be adding more eventually, if I know my brothers. How are the twins? Still very mischievous?"
"Oh… very." Mischievous indeed! They had deliberately planned this! Mrs. Weasley, who I now feel very certain was in on it, left Charlie to talk with me as I worked.
"So...the twins call you Jessie, right?"
"Yeah…Jamesina's a… family name."
"My brother's is Bilius; Bill for short. I think you may have got off light." I smiled and reached back toward my tool bag. Charlie moved to hand me the screwdriver and our hands touched. I will never know why or how, but he clasped mine in his for a second, appraising it. "Strong hands for a girl."
"Not for a clocksmith."
"Graceful, though. I can scarcely tie my shoes some days." Charlie held up a manly, burn-crossed hand. "Must be neat, working with clocks and watches."
"I love it."
"It's great to do what you love. Me, I work with and then write about dragons. It's what I love, but there are occupational hazards." He gestured to a burn on his chest and I closed the glass face of the family clock, finished. Penelope's hand was at work, right beside Percy's, and Harry's pointed to 'school.' Charlie grinned as I wiped my fingerprints off the side and rubbed my hands a bit. "Say, I'd love to see the boys' shop later. May I see you home?"
I had never looked forward more to adding hands to a family clock. Hopefully, maybe, possibly, someday I might be adding my own.
A/N: Was that fun? The challenge was to write the Anti-Mary-Sue, an unremarkable, ordinary person unrelated to the plot. How well did I manage it? –J.McN.