:) Fast update. A sorta idunno, going away present before I go on holiday. I'll be leaving on Wednesday morning so I won't be answering reviews from Tuesday afterwards.
Yeah, I've now changed Claire a bit so that she speaks with a Scottish accent - hopefully it won't be too jarring.
A Working Day
By Dark Ice Dragon
Claire muttered a curse under her breath as she missed putting the key into the keyhole. She shook her head to try and keep her hair out of her face but it wasn't any use – the wind blew it right back into her eyes. The second time, she was able to slot the key in and she turned it.
Letting the door swing shut behind her, she manoeuvred around the room with practiced ease to the backroom. Putting down her bags, Claire shrugged off her coat and while she was hanging it up, she switched on the lights to the shop. Blinking under the glare, trying to see clearly again, Claire had the feeling that she had forgotten something.
'Oh, right. The post.' She turned and left the backroom and headed towards the door. How had she missed it? She normally nearly stood on it as soon as she stepped in so that was her 'reminder'. 'Let's see…' she thought as she picked up the envelopes. 'Bill. Bill. Leaflet for Chinese takeout. Another bill? How many bills – Oh, hey, a pre-order.' She didn't normally get these through the post without an envelope – they were usually handed to her in person.
Claire was just placing the envelopes under the counter so she wouldn't lose them when she heard the bell jingle. "You're a little early aren't you?" she asked, amused, her head still hidden by the counter.
"I couldn't sleep." Claire wasn't sure but she thought that she heard a sheepish tone in the statement. "I thought a walk might clear my mind and give me something to do. I'm assuming that I cleared my mind too well seeing as I'm here. Do you mind? I could-"
Claire lifted her head over the counter to give Remus a flat look. She straightened up and then leaned on the tabletop on her elbows. "I'm not goin' to chuck you out just 'cause you're early." She started to head towards the backroom again. "I was goin' to give you something anyway," she called over her shoulder. Claire didn't have to turn back and glance at Remus to know that he was wearing That Look on his face. Getting to the backroom, she riffled through her bag to get at what she had bought. Behind her, she heard Remus taking off his coat and, assumedly, putting it on a hook. Claire found what she was looking for (not that it was hard) and handed it to Remus.
Remus stared at it, his eyebrows high. "What… Thank you but you didn't have to-"
She waved a hand dismissively. "It's a large bar of chocolate, Remus," Claire said, almost patronisingly. "It didn't cost much, and I didn't go trekkin' 'round the whole of the city to find it. Take it."
There was a light colouring on Remus' cheeks; Claire hoped her teasing hadn't gone too far, that she hadn't accidentally insulted his intelligence. "Why did you buy me it?" he asked, eyes going to her.
Claire shrugged in what she thought was a helpless one. "Whenever you're off, you have a bar of chocolate on you when you come back." She was not going to say that she knew – it would embarrass Remus too much and if he didn't want to tell her, well, it wasn't as if Claire could do anything about it.
Remus had a small smile on his lips as he looked down to the chocolate bar again. "Thank you," he said quietly.
Claire nearly rolled her eyes. "You said that already and you don't need to say it. You can eat it while we're sortin' everything else out." As if Remus would get crumbs or sticky fingerprints all over the books.
Claire sighed and played with the tip of her ponytail with one hand. She glanced around and nodded to herself in satisfaction. There had been someone in the shop who was obviously looking for a book – but they just never put the book back in the right place. That usually wasn't too hard to rectify, except for the fact that the books weren't near where it was supposed to be. Again, not that hard to put right. It was when they had tided half of them away that Remus noticed that one of the book jackets didn't match the actual book it was covering. Claire had started swearing at that point and continued to do so in her mind afterwards. The one good thing was that there weren't that many books in the shop that had jackets. But it still took a while to get through them all and it was past the time Claire and Remus normally left at the shop.
She went to the backroom to collect her coat and bag. "Thanks, Remus," she said gratefully as she put on her coat. "You didn't have to stay behind to help."
There was a small pause and when Claire had turned around, Remus had just stopped shaking his head. "I wasn't going to leave you to do all the work alone."
Claire smiled at him. "Mmm." Patting herself down to check that she had everything, Claire suddenly remembered the post that had arrived that morning. 'Whoops. I haven't even opened them yet.' Just leaving her bag on the hook, she went back into the main room. Her eyes were on the counter but then her eyes saw something flash white outside the window.
A little startled, Claire took a step towards the front to get a closer look but it was gone. 'What…?' She didn't have to wonder for long because the white whatever-it-was appeared next at the window in the door. Claire stared, her jaw hanging open with her mouth barely closed.
It was an owl. Hovering at the window, it scratched at the window with a foot. Dropping out of sight again, it reappeared at the right side window once more. There it stood on the windowsill and looked at her, as if it was expecting her to let her in.
"Claire?" Remus' voice called quietly behind her. "What's wrong?"
She didn't turn around, thinking that if she did and she turned back to it, it would be gone. "There's an owl outside the window and I would swear that it's trying to get inside." 'Poor thing, it must be really confused.' But what was an owl doing this far in the city? Claire had never seen a live owl before, and if she had, it had probably been on some school trip years ago. And what was it doing up at this hour? The sun was still up. There wasn't anyone else on the street to see the owl because of the time and the shop was on a quiet street anyway.
"An owl?" Remus repeated faintly. Claire heard some shuffling behind her and somehow knew that Remus was looking over her head. "Ah. Excuse me," he murmured to her as he edged past.
The brunette watched as Remus walked up to the door. What was he going to do? What could anyone do? Claire had the thought of calling the SSPCA but that didn't make any sense seeing at the owl wasn't being mistreated. But it was the only organisation she could think of at the moment and even if she could think of the 'right' people to call, what could she say? 'Hi, there's an owl outside my shop and it's starin' at me' made her sound like she was paranoid. Only the fact that it was an owl and not, say, a pigeon would make it interesting to the person on the other side of the telephone. Not that she knew the number anyway. And the owl wasn't injured either since it was able to fly and hover at the window. So maybe it was just lost.
It was then that Claire realised what Remus was doing. "What're you-" It was a stupid question; it was obvious what he was about to do. She started to make her way towards him, wondering why.
There was a soft grating sound as the lock moved and then Remus opened the door. There was an instant beat of wings and Remus was holding up his arm to shield his face – but there was no cry of pain, no screech, no sound of flapping. And Claire was staring again, at Remus who had an owl perched on his arm like it was a normal thing to do.
Stroking its breast with a finger for a second, Remus then extracted the envelope that was in its talons. It fluffed up at the contact, obviously pleased.
"You – you use an owl as a carrier pigeon?" Claire's voice was laced with disbelief. Was that allowed? Did people normally keep owls as pets? But she thought that they were completely wild and weren't used like falcons were. And didn't falconers wear really thick gloves to make sure that their arms weren't ripped to pieces? She eyed the talons of the owl warily; Remus only had his coat for protection.
If Claire's thoughts hadn't been darting about the place, she would have noticed that Remus' eyes were flicking around nervously. The envelope had also been carefully placed into one of his pockets.
"One of my friends does." Here he hesitated, his fingers still stroking the owl.
One of his friends? With a flash of realisation and memory, Claire felt a little embarrassed for forgetting. What was her name again? Ah, damn, she was always bad with names. "Men – Minerva, right?" she said with a small frown, concentrating.
Remus glanced back at her in surprise. "How do you know Minerva?"
"She came in yesterday lookin' for you. I forgot about her afterwards and I meant to tell you that she came but…" Claire shrugged. 'Better late than never I s'pose.'
There had been something in Remus' eyes, his entire stance that Claire couldn't put her finger on before it left. "She came in yesterday while I wasn't feeling well."
So it didn't really matter if she'd said that Minerva had come or not. Claire turned her attention back to the owl. Its head was starting to droop slightly and closing its eyes. It shifted a little, attempting to get comfortable or get a better grip on Remus' arm. Wasn't it a little tiring holding the bird like that? "Are you going to take-" 'Him? Her? It?' "-the owl home with you?" she asked.
"Yes," Remus answered, looking it in the eye. "He's travelled a long way to get here. He needs rest, food, and water before he should fly again."
Claire refrained from letting her curiosity get the better of her and asking more questions. If Remus had a friend who maybe sent letters by owl-post (a new definition of air-mail?) the friend would want their owl looked after well while it was with Remus, so he would obviously have the materials for looking after an owl.
With that little problem solved (for all the other problems that were there) Claire went back to the backroom to fetch her bag. "Do you need anything else from here?"
"No," was the reply.
Picking up her bag, Claire flicked the light switches and crossed half of the room before she remembered the post again. 'Why didn't I just put the damn things in my bag in the first place?' she thought, exasperated. But that would have been the logical thing to do, wouldn't it?
Remus was waiting outside for her, not looking like the weight of the bird was straining him. He waited until Claire had finished locking up the shop before saying goodbye and leaving. They both lived in the opposite direction from each other and Claire hoped that Remus wouldn't have too far to walk to get home.
As she was walking home, Claire realised what it was that had been nagging at her at the back of her mind for a few minutes. Some five or six years ago –had it really been that long?- a little after she had first bought the shop premises, that phenomenon with the mobs of owls flying all around the UK and the shooting stars arcing across the sky had happened. Claire had been inside at the time and hadn't seen anything but it was in the news for a while but there had been no explanation for it.
Whimsically, Claire glanced up at the still light sky. No owls, no shooting stars, nothing out of the ordinary. Just greying clouds that drifted slowly above her head. Hmph, as if something strange would happen in her average life. She continued to walk home, looking where she was going.
It was only until she had opened the door to her home that a stray thought made her pause in her actions. If the owl was being used as some sort of carrier pigeon and was being used to send messages to Remus, it should have gone to Remus' house. How had it found Remus at the bookshop?
Don't you just love dramatic irony?
>3 Remus hardly needs to lie seeing as Claire jumps to conclusions and fills things in herself.
SSPCA is the shorthand for Scottish Society for Protection of Cruelty to Animals.
The owl isn't Hedwig. I couldn't really think of a natural colour of an that would grab Claire's attention without dyeing it pink or something and then Claire would be searching for the SSPCA number.
Hee. Air-mail. Though it was already that with carrier pigeons. XD
I did some searching on wiki about carrier pigeons (on paper, I'd kept on spelling it pidgeons for some strange reason. -coughpokemoncough-) and that talked about the pigeons carried thin tiny paper. In Harry Potter land, you've got owls carrying envelopes, each other and broomsticks. OO Poor Pig.
Any problems/spelling mistakes, anything like that, please tell me.