Who: Ernie Macmillan, AJ Singh
Where: Ernie and Lavender’s flat
When: 4 November 2001, morning
Seeing the Daily Prophet crossword already done (terribly, he may add) was like a slap in the face, one that Ernie certainly couldn’t take on a Monday morning.
“Andrew!” he yelled from the kitchen.
“Yeah?” AJ called back. A few moments later he appeared in the kitchen, wearing nothing but a towel, and tracking wet footprints behind him. He quickly observed the irritation in Ernie’s body language, and took a guess at the cause, offering up a, “Sorry, I’ll get to those dishes in a minute, yeah?” He smiled and gestured to his mostly-naked self by way of explanation — Ernie couldn’t exactly expect him to clean up the kitchen in this state — and started backing out of the room again.
“Dishes?” Ernie didn’t even notice the dishes. His countenance turned grimmer. “Could you not do the crossword, Andrew?” In fact, don’t even read my paper. “And could you not leave water all over the floor? Someone could slip.” He got out his wand and started blasting the wet footprints into steam.
AJ raised his eyebrows, surprised by the hostility. “You alright, Ernie?” He must be under some kind of stress, AJ figured. He reached for his wand to at least make the gesture of helping clean up the water, but of course, he didn’t have it on him. So he crossed the kitchen to move his dirty dishes to the sink — not accomplishing much, but at least not just standing around uselessly. Of course, in the process he only made more wet tracks for Ernie to clean up, although they were fainter now.
“Of course I’m alright,” said Ernie, irritably. Apart from the fact that he didn’t feel cut out for his current career. Apart from the fact that Sasha Capper had apparently been very cozy with everyone at the pumpkin even and he hadn’t been there. Apart from the fact that she was engaged and didn’t feel it this was worthy news to share.
“Just feels like you’ve been here for months, that’s all,” he added. “I didn’t know I was signing up for two flatmates.”
AJ’s first impulse was to disagree — to tell Ernie he was exaggerating. After all, he’d stayed in his own home for a few days just earlier this week… but of course, that had been the full moon. He opened his mouth but then closed it again, going quiet as he ran through the past few weeks in his head, and realized he’d definitely spent more nights in Lavender’s bed than his own. And while he’d finally taken the step of introducing her to his parents a few weeks ago, he wasn’t exactly inviting her round for sleepovers.
“Sorry,” he finally said, running a hand through his damp hair. “Didn’t mean to be in your way.” Though he was addressing Ernie, he only glanced at him briefly before staring off at nothing, his brow furrowed as he remained lost in thought. He was thinking now about his toothbrush in the bathroom, the extra set of Healer robes that he’d managed to squeeze into Lavender’s overstuffed closet. How had he failed to notice that he’d basically moved in here?
“Why don’t you just move in and make it official,” suggested Ernie. It wasn’t his preferred option but he could hardly forbid Andrew to visit. And honestly on a Healer’s salary he could put something toward the rent.
AJ made a sound that was somewhere between a laugh and a cough. “Erm, I think that’d be a bit soon, don’t you?” For some reason, in AJ’s mind, “pretty much moving in” and “officially moving in” were worlds apart. The first was natural and normal; the second was… a conversation he wasn’t ready for. “No, thanks though. I’ll just try not to be here so much, dripping puddles in your kitchen and all. Look, I’d better—” he gestured toward his towel and the fact that he was now pretty much dry, because he was suddenly feeling pretty antsy to get his clothes on and maybe go back to his own home for a bit.
Ernie felt a little guilty, for Lavender’s sake, anyway, that he seemed to be chasing her boyfriend away. He hadn’t meant to be entirely so crotchety.
On the other hand, being crotchety was kind of fun. “Yes, yes, go,” he said, waving an impatient hand. “Next time you’re around bring us some biscuits, will you? Or some other snacks. The pantry is looking a little empty.”
AJ frowned. He probably was eating more than his share of groceries — especially considering his share was technically zero — but Ernie’s request again made everything feel rather awkward and formalized. Maybe he should be chipping in? What he really should be doing was living in his own place so Lavender could come over and eat his groceries once in a while… “Right. Will do. Well, glad you spoke your mind. I don’t want to drive a wedge between flatmates.” He smiled to show there were no hard feelings, but it wasn’t exactly convincing. Then he headed to Lavender’s room, where he knew there were a few options of clean clothes he could change into. Maybe it was time to pack up and take some with him.
Ernie sighed. He thought the crossword was salvageable but looking at all the wrong answers and wrong answers crossed out with right answers squeezed in at the margins was giving him a headache. Maybe he’d just leave the house early, have breakfast in Diagon and hope there was an untouched paper at work.
Yes, that would be the plan for the morning. The plan for the afternoon was to work on a charm to make his paper ink-proof.