Freterers was known for its controversial potions. Ms. Vera Freterer had no qualms about selling virgin’s blood, baby’s teeth, and witch warts. While witch warts are used in common potions, usually to cure a cold, they are rarely sold as a separate commodity. Not only did Ms. Freterer’s store contain less-than-agreeable ingredients, she had also crafted potions unique to her store. One floor to ceiling shelf held all of her Freterer exclusives where you could find tasteless, clear droplets used to give someone bad breath or a rainbow potion that could change your sexuality. This latter potion wasn’t necessarily intended to make anyone straight, it was only meant to change your attractions to fall anywhere you wanted on the spectrum. In her newspaper ad, Ms. Freterer tried to argue that the potion was made to turn sexuality into a choice in order to empower people. Protesters nearly burnt down her store that year.
Regardless of the bad press, everyone always stopped in Freterers when in town. It was like watching a tornado; you should run, but you want to see what happens next. That’s how Aurora found herself in Freterers the week after she lost all of her hair. She’d been practicing fire spells in university with a friend when her hair caught. Her professors had burn cream for her skin, which immediately healed. But hair isn’t a vital organ and losing it isn’t like losing a hand. Most people just assume that it will grow back. Aurora’s hadn’t re-sprouted.
Ms. Freterer’s shop apprentice, Larry, was pouring a chunky grey potion into a jar when Aurora joined the crowd of eager customers. Larry had seen Aurora before a few months ago. He only remembered her because of her grey and gold eyes and her boobs. With her shiny head, he almost didn’t recognize her. “Hair potions are aisle three,” he offered.
Aurora turned on him. “Excuse me?”
He held up three fingers. “Aisle three.”
“I’m just looking around.” She had initially intended to buy a hair regrowth potion, but she wouldn’t be shamed into buying one. Besides, she looked just fine without hair, and being bald meant a faster shower and no need for shampoo.
Larry’s jaw hung open slightly. “You sure you don’t need help?”
“Yes.” Aurora weaved through the crowd and away to the shelf of Freterer-only products. Most of the people were congregated here. Kids stood in the front and adults read over their heads. Luckily Ms. Freterer knew this and put the kid-friendly potions towards the bottom. Every prank bottle was at kid-height; every potion labeled “desire” sat on the top shelves.
Aurora only wanted the new arrivals, which were displayed prominently on their own table in the back corner of the store. She inched her way to the front and saw the five most objectively awful potions Freterer’s had ever carried. They were part of a new special collection labeled: Philia de Corpse. Beneath the title the sign taped to the table read: Do you love your deceased family members? Do you wish you could adopt a nonliving human? Do you think it’s unfair that the dead are caged and hidden like prisoners? Well these potions can help you do something about it! We have Midnight Kisses for raising your deceased partner for an evening, New Necro Parent for raising a reborn dead child, Undeceased Uncle for raising dead family members long-term, Free from the Coffin for raising someone from death forever, and Say No to Eternal Rest to keep your undead from continuing to decay.
Everyone around Aurora shifted away uncomfortably, but she picked up one of the bottles and read the back. “Dragon scales, newborn blood, and graveyard dirt? There has to be an ingredient or ten missing,” she muttered to herself.
Aurora looked up to find Ms. Freterer herself carrying a fresh box of potions up from the back. Upon first glance Ms. Freterer looked like the most average human person in existence. She had mousy brown hair that she twisted up to keep out of her brown, normal eyes. She wasn’t overweight, but she wasn’t thin. Two shallow laugh lines dug into her cheeks and a few squiggly lines spanned across her forehead. She would have seemed boring and middle aged to strangers, but the magical community knew that she was three hundred and six years old. Unfortunately, she hadn’t picked up potion making until her thirties so her body had already seen some wear when she found a potion that would keep her body from aging.
Ms. Freterer lifted the box onto the table with the new collection and rubbed her wrists. “I never could hold heavy objects for long periods of time.” Her eyes flickered from Aurora to the box.
“Do you always leave ingredients off the labels?” Aurora asked.
Ms. Freterer narrowed her eyes. “It’s common practice, otherwise anyone here could make my potions for themselves. The labels give you a general idea in case of allergies.”
“I’m awful at making potions on my own. What’s actually in this one?” Aurora held out the dark, ovular bottle of Undeceased Uncle.
Ms. Freterer snorted. “Looking to raise your family pet?”
“My brother.” Aurora enjoyed the way Ms. Freterer’s face fell.
Ms. Freterer took the bottle and placed it back on the display table. “Better not to mess with this.”
“It’s bad practice to discourage your customers from buying your new products.” Aurora snatched the bottle back.
“I’m trying to do you a favor,” Ms. Freterer sounded genuine.
Ms. Freterer hesitated and then picked up her box again. “Because a girl who shaves her head clearly doesn’t have guidance.”
Aurora wanted to make a scene. She wanted to reassure the entire store that a woman doesn’t need hair. Instead, she slipped the bottle into her bag and walked out.
To Be Continued…