I had to.
Penelope Clearwater looked at the new shipment with a dull species of non-surprise. Apparently, it didn't matter which side of the barrier one was on... ridiculous fads were a universal phenomenon.
"I'm going to lunch," Madam Brynn said. "Have a display up when I come back. And put one of them on."
Penelope nodded, resigned. She'd worked at Tattered! since leaving Hogwarts last summer, and she was always expected to create displays and model the latest bit of idiocy to come out of the Brynn sisters' mad imaginations. Percy kept telling her she should come work at the Ministry, as though it had been her choice to come here.
Their only serious fight thus far had been at the end of the summer, when, weary of the conversation, she'd said, "Being Muggle-born means there are several Ministry doors closed to me." It had been the wrong thing to say. Percy had raged about slanderous rumors, and asked her if she really thought, after everything, that he would work for an agency that hated her. He'd stormed out without waiting for an answer. A few days later, he'd come back to her, contrite, and she'd forgiven him, mainly because she was more concerned about him than angry with him.
They'd seen one another regularly since then, either in his wretched Diagon Alley flat or her equally wretched little shack in the woods outside Hogsmeade. (If Muggles knew about Apparition, Penelope often thought, they would die of jealousy. She traveled two hundred miles a day to work in the blink of an eye, and could go home for lunch to save money.) She didn't bring up the subject of working at the Ministry again, and tried to dissuade him when he did so. He had talked her into two more interviews in different departments, but of course nothing had come of it. Everyone except Percy knew that nothing would come of it.
She sighed and began to unpack the crates of robes, flicking her wand here and there to send them to the windows, where they would dance to a Weird Sisters tune all day. That Tattered!'s clientele thought the Weird Sisters were mainstream tripe was something Penelope had been totally unable to convey to her employers, who might have had a sense for how the children wanted to dress themselves, but didn't have much of a feel for them otherwise. Either that, or they knew they couldn't tolerate sitting in the shop all day listening to groups like Blüd Maje, Dagger, and the Moonhowlers all day. (The last band, though less offensive lyrically than Blüd Maje, infuriated Penelope--the singers claimed to want to be werewolves, and howled the backgrounds of their songs, as though it would be some great treat to have that rip through one's body every month. What's next? she wondered. A band called Ebola Fever?)
The new robes got into a tussle at the window with the set she was meant to be replacing--she'd forgotten to take it down--and she pulled them apart and took the Charm off the older style. When she'd put that up, she'd thought it was the most ridiculous she'd see--a robe that had a rope looped between the legs to simulate trousers, and great animated patches on the knees and elbows. Stupid, yes... but the new one...
She wrinkled her nose, looking a the version of it that she'd reserved for herself.
The "skirt" of the robe was plain enough, if only reaching to mid-thigh before breaking into the Brynn sisters' famous tatter pattern. But the top...
It was barely a shawl. It dangled over the skirt as she pulled it on, just a long rectangle of cloth attached to the back of the skirt. The ends of the rectangle folded up over her shoulders to barely cover her less cerebral assets (and a side view, if she didn't use a sticking Charm, would leave the free to the world). the top layer of this charming ensemble was a stylized net, Charmed to have a flash of green travel along its strings at irregular intervals.
The Brynns had dared one another to name it the Deathcurse, but in the end, they'd had either an attack of cowardice or sense--Penelope regretfully guessed it to be the former--and named it the Flashwrap instead.
She looked at herself in the mirror.
Oh, yes. Mum would certainly be proud of her educational choices today. I could be at Cambridge, she thought, not for the first time.
She put on the purple and green hued cosmetics that were meant to go with the monstrosity and Charmed her hair within an inch of its life, on the off chance that it would actually stay straight until closing time. All standard Tattered! behavior. She categorically drew the line at piercing her fingertips, though. It was disgusting and inconvenient, and she did still have a typewriter at home on which she composed many Muggle-directed letters. Even without the fingerbaubles in, it looked like it would be painful to type with pierced tips. She wasn't even sure she could hold a quill that way.
All this finished, she peeked out the front window. Diagon Alley was waking up--the Christmas holidays were upon them. They'd be out of Hogwarts and--
Across the street, three girls turned and pointed at the new dress in the window. They sauntered over, looked at it with admiration, and discussed the situation among themselves.
Penelope pasted on her best shopgirl scowl--no cheerful smiles for Tattered! customers--and pulled herself up to sit on the counter as they came in.
"What d'ya want?" she snarled.
The girls gave her attitude an approving nod. One was a younger Ravenclaw girl who had been Sorted last year. Orla Quirke. At school, she'd been a shy, neatly trimmed girl who'd needed help in Transfiguration. On holiday, she went about with ink-black hair, sporting a Moonhowlers T-shirt.
Penelope bit her tongue. At least Orla had come the year after Professor Lupin, so wasn't insulting a kind man she actually knew with her choice of music... but still.
"The flashwrap," Orla said, continuing to nod. Penelope realized dimly that they were sharing a Music Bite from Harsh Tastes, next door, and the nodding might have been some kind of dancing.
"They're not all unpacked yet," Penelope said, and tossed her one from a crate. "Go in back and put it on. I'll size it down for you."
Her two friends went into the changing room with her, and there was much giggling (though the girls would deny this to their dying day, of course; giggling didn't go with their absurd image). At one point, she heard "--think she's a Mudblood--" and after that, she stopped listening.
They came out, and Penelope resized the robe to fit Orla (as well as the ridiculous thing would fit anyone, anyway). The other girls increased the depth of their nodding.
"It's definitely the howl," one of them said.
The other said--not screamed, but said, never breaking the steady pace of her nod or her monotonic delivery--"Aroo."
Orla paid three galleons for the robe, and wouldn't take her two sickle change from Penelope's hand. Penelope left it on the counter. Orla flicked a hand over it as if to clear the air, then pocketed it. They left without further comment.
Penelope sat down behind the counter, watching the Flashwraps dance, and realized that it was going to be a very long holiday.
End 12:52 am.