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Acting the Part by starryskies55

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Format: Novel
Chapters: 7
Word Count: 26,591
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse

Genres: Drama, Humor, Romance
Characters: Charlie, OC
Pairings: Other Pairing

First Published: 08/05/2012
Last Chapter: 02/22/2013
Last Updated: 02/22/2013

Summary:
banner by the wonderful Carousel. at TDA!


Melanie works for famous Muggle film star Violet Thornton, who has just sacked the studio's mythology expert.
Enter stage left: Charlie Weasley.
There really is no business like show business.

first place in PunIntended's Fairy Tale Challenge and also my August 2012 Nano


Chapter 1: what's a film?
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[wonderful chapter image by Carousel. at TDA!]



“And you’re sure this guy is the best?” I asked, flicking through a folder as I spoke. Marty and I were having a casual meeting outside a small café in a square in London. The sun shone brightly off the metal tables, but the rain from the previous night still clung to the umbrella above our heads. I moved my own cup aside, and waved to stop Marty interrupting. “I know, and I do appreciate your help, but I have never even heard of him!”

“Look, sweetie,” Marty said, taking a lazy sip of his coffee, “you trust my judgement, right?”

I nodded reluctantly.

“Well then,” he continued, “you should trust this guy. He has tons more experience than anyone I know, and he’s willing to work with you Muggles.”

As far as I could tell, ‘Muggles’ was Marty’s affectionate term for anyone who wasn’t in his slightly shady band of employees. Marty’s services and I went way back, to when I first started working with Violet. She is a very... particular woman, and the studio can’t afford to piss her off. So when she is pissed off, I’m the one they pull in to smooth over the cracks.

Our current expert smoked, a habit which Violet had no patience with, so as soon as I could find a non-smoking replacement, the poor guy would have to go. And it was Marty I came to with Violet’s problems. I know I should be impressed that I called him at nine last night and he’d already found a guy, but to be honest, I expected more from him. This was the man who managed to provide everything I needed, from explosives to a plus-one at a friend’s wedding. Frankly, only turning up with one man was a step down - unless he really wanted me to take this guy on. Marty was a good friend, but I didn’t want to make him mad at me.

I checked the papers in an exaggerated fashion. “I don’t see how much ‘experience’ this Charlie Weasley could have with mythical creatures anyway.”

Marty gave me his trademark sly grin. “Honey, you’d be surprised.” He drained the rest of his coffee, and waved to someone behind me. I didn’t bother even twisting in my chair to see.

“Marty!”

“What?” he shrugged nonchalantly. “I know you’re just going to love Charlie, so I saw no harm in setting up a meeting.”

“A meeting implies I knew about this beforehand,” I hissed, before plastering a fake smile on as I greeted the newcomer. “Hello, Mr Weasley.”

“Hey,” he said. “It’s Melanie, isn’t it?”

I smiled benignly. “Yes-”

“Pull up a pew, Charlie!” Marty grabbed a chair from the café table behind, scooting it across the floor towards him. Charlie Weasley sat down, stretching out his legs.

“We were just talking about you,” Marty said. “Mel has seen your file, and agrees with me that you’ll be the best consultant for Violet’s new film, didn’t you, Mel?”

I scowled at Marty. Way to back me into a corner. I attempted to kick him under the table.

“So, when do I start?” he said in an easy-going manner.

“Mellie says that filming starts in a fortnight, but they are running through a few things this Thursday, before flying out on Friday, am I right? So you can start then,” Marty said, giving me that sly grin again. I don’t know where he gets his information from, but it is not me, unless among his many talents he can read minds. “You’ll be paid through the studio, but I’ll sort all that out for you, Charlie.”

Charlie nodded, seemingly happy to let dodgy Marty handle his finances. Marty pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and a lighter, offering one to Charlie, who declined, thank God. My phone vibrated on the table. I checked the caller ID.

“I’m sorry, I have to take this,” I said, getting up from the table. I slid my phone open. “Yes?” I said, walking away from Marty and Charlie Weasley.

“Where are you?” a banshee shrieked down the phone.

“At the square, meeting Marty, like I told you,” I said, wandering over to the fountain in the centre so as not to be overheard.

There was a pause. “The short man who smells of smoke?”

“Yes.”

“I thought you met him yesterday!” her petulant voice whined in my ear.

“No, I set up the meeting yesterday,” I said patiently. “It’s about the mythical expert?”

“I know what it is for,” she snapped. “Well, I need you now! I’m looking through the plans for the set, and it is all wrong. I honestly don’t know how anyone can be so incompetent!” She fairly screamed the word, which probably meant the poor bloke was standing right next to her. “And bring the new person, so I can veto him.”

“Of course. Anything else?” When working with Violet, you only needed to know when thing: when to ignore her. She was the star of the show, but that didn’t necessarily mean she was the be all and end all.

“I want a cranberry iced tea,” Violet said. I could practically hear her pouting down the phone. “But with no ice, and two slices of lemon.”

“Anything else?”

“Yes. I want you, this new expert and my iced tea to be at my hotel within five minutes!”

“We’ll be there in ten,” I promised, and hung up before she screamed at me.

I strode over to the small café where Marty and Charlie were still sat, and picked up my bag.

“Leaving so soon?” Marty said. “I just ordered you another tea!”

I picked up the cup and chugged it down, burning my tongue. “It was delicious, thank you so much.” I spied a waitress and waved her over. “Could I have a cranberry iced tea please, to go?” I asked. “With no ice, and two slices of lemon!” I called after her.

Marty gave me a sympathetic look. “Violet?”

I grimaced. “Yup. I cannot wait until my contract is over.”

Marty kissed my cheek in farewell. “If they want to renew it, I’ll look over it for you. I’m pretty good with the ol’ legal stuff.”

I snorted. Marty’s talents seemed to know no boundaries. The waitress came over with Violet’s drink and I quickly snatched it off the tray, checking it for ice and lemons. “Thank you so much- and I shall be seeing you, Marty!”

“Anytime for you, my dear,” he said, waving a languid hand.

I checked my bag, and picked up my jacket, slinging it over my arm. “Oh, and Mr Weasley?”

“Please, call me Charlie,” he said, slightly awkwardly.

“Charlie, then. You start today. Violet wants to see you, so c’mon!”

I walked off across the square, threading my way through the crowds. I heard a thumping of feet as Charlie caught up with me, his own jacket slung over one shoulder.

“Who are we going to meet?”

“Violet Thornton,” I said.

“Who’s she?” he asked.

I stopped dead. “You’ve never heard of her?”

He shook his head slowly, and I burst out laughing. “She is going to simply adore you.”


-


We took the lift up to Violet’s top floor suite, and I was still filling Charlie in on Violet.

“Remember, only address her as Miss Thornton, unless she tells you different. Look her in the eye when you speak to her, and speak clearly. She hates people who mumble.”

I glanced over at him. “Are you remembering all this?”

Charlie nodded, and then shook his head. “I’m not sure. This is all a bit much.”

“Yeah, Violet is a bit of a handful. I’ll step on your foot or something if you do something wrong. Mainly, tell her what she wants to hear, even if you don’t mean it.” I paused. “Especially if you don’t mean it.”

The lift stopped, and we got out, turning right down the corridor.

“This seems like an awful lot for one person.”

“One very famous person,” I corrected. “Everything Violet touches has a habit of turning to gold.” I stopped outside her door.

“Really? That’s a neat trick.”

I glanced at him, but he seemed deadly serious. “It’s a metaphor, Charlie. Everyone wants her, so she is very used to getting her own way. Which means she is completely insufferable, and treats everyone like she owns them. Don’t take it personally. Right. Are you ready?”

Charlie rolled his shoulders, bounced on the balls of his feet, and cracked his knuckles. “I think so,” he said, aiming a few mock-punches at the door.

I couldn’t help laughing at him. “Good luck.” I pushed open the door and led Charlie inside.

Violet was sat in the middle of the floor, schematic plans for the sets spread around her and the furniture was piled up against the walls. As always, Violet looked immaculate. She had a cream woollen laced wrap around her shoulders, over a pale blue short sleeved blouse with mother of pearl buttons and she wore white jeans. Her face was flawlessly made up, even though today she wouldn’t put an impeccably manicured toe outside of the hotel suite, and her jet-black hair was piled effortlessly on top of her head. I barely took any notice of Violet’s perfection any more- you’d get used to Leonardo Da Vinci eventually, if you shared a flat with him. Charlie however, was staring at Violet with slack-jawed awe.

I trod on his foot. Violet loved to be admired, only attractively admired. Showered with expensive gifts and taken out on the arm of an good-looking guy, not gawped at gormlessly.

“Violet, this is Charlie Weasley, the mythology expert that the studio is hiring.”

She held out her hand, not looking up from the plans. “Where’s my iced tea?”

I stepped carefully over the papers and passed her the plastic cup. She took a sip, and nodded. That was all the appreciation I would get from her.

Charlie stood awkwardly by the door, unsure of what to do. “Charlie,” I said, trying to catch Violet’s attention, “do you want a drink?”

“I’d love a-” Charlie began, but he was cut off by Violet, who had finally looked up.

“There’s that bottle of white wine in the fridge, Melanie. Why don’t you get that out for our guest?”

“Actually, I don’t lik-”

This time, I interrupted Charlie by standing on his foot again.

“Yes, of course,” I said with false cheer, disappearing into the kitchen. I opened the cupboards to find glasses, pulling two out just as Violet giggled, and said;

“Oh, stop it. Call me Violet; ‘Miss Thornton’ makes me sound like a lonely old spinster!”

Crikey. Violet was on her best behaviour with Charlie. That was unexpected, and more than a little strange. She usually went for older men with money, class and yachts, who were called Charles, not... well, not people like Charlie. I would have assumed the mere fact that Charlie worked for a living would have turned her away.

I poured out the wine and passed the glasses to Violet and Charlie. They had moved to sit on the sofa in the adjacent living room which had escaped the rearranging. She was leaning in close to him, so close he would be able to smell her perfume, which she had designed herself.

For a second, I stopped being professional and I easily could see what Violet liked about Charlie. His laid back attitude was nice, and while I had never really gone for redheads, he was fit and lean, with a few thick pearly scars across his bare forearms which suggested dangerous and exciting. While he didn’t look to take much of an effort with his appearance, his khaki shirt and jeans suited his weathered look. His mouth seemed to be permanently in a genuine smile which crinkled the sun-browned skin around his deep blue eyes. I shook my head to clear it of unsuitable thoughts. If Violet wanted him, then he was most definitely off-limits to me.

“Melanie, darling?” Violet said with a wide smile, but barely glancing in my direction, “Could you be a dear and take the plans back to the office? I’ll see you tomorrow.”

I nodded, and started to collect up the papers, listening to her high, tinkling laugh in response to Charlie’s low voice.

She was going to chew him up and spit him out, and when she was done, he would be nothing more than a spittle-flecked nobody. And if he was stupid enough to let her, then I was going to nothing about with him. I sighed, shutting the suite door behind me with my foot. I had thought Marty would send someone who wouldn’t be led astray by batting eyelashes and a lipsticked smile.


-


I was out when my phone rang, picking up Violet’s breakfast. She woke up at five o’clock every single morning, did thirty minutes on a treadmill and then expected me to be at her door, dropping off her bagels and fruit salad.

I pressed green, not bothering to check who was calling. At quarter past five, only Violet would call me. “Yes?”

“Melanie? It’s Charlie Weasley here...”

“How the hell did you get my number?”

“Marty gave it me. Violet said you got up early, I hope I’m not disturbing you?”

“No, no, you’re fine,” I said distractedly. What did Charlie Weasley want?

“I was wondering if I could talk to you about my job? Last night, Violet said a lot of stuff I didn’t really understand, and I’m really confused, to be honest.”

“Didn’t Marty explain it to you?” I asked.

“Not really- to be honest, I’ve just got no idea what I’ve been hired to do.”

I sighed. “All right. Will you be at Violet’s suite? Because I’ll be there in about ten minutes, and I could pick you up,” I said, wedging my phone in between my shoulder and cheek and trying to balance breakfast as I struggled to unlock my car door.

“Why would I be at the hotel?” Charlie asked, sounding genuinely confused.

I paused. It seemed as if Violet hadn’t had her wicked way with him last night...

“Where are you staying? I’ll pick you up when I’m done, and we can go somewhere and talk- there’s a meeting with the writers and directors as well at twelve, which you should probably be at.”

He hesitated. “Erm... I’m staying on Charing Cross Road, do you know it?”

“I’m sure I’ll find it. I’ll be with you as soon as I can get away from Violet then.”

There was a soft chuckle down the phone. “She can talk for England, can’t she?” he said. I frowned. He had seemed pretty smitten with yesterday. “Well then, I’ll see you soon.”

“Bye,” I said, then disconnected, putting my phone on the dashboard as I drove through London, attempting to ponder the enigma which was Charlie Weasley.

I arrived at the hotel two minutes late. Christ, I hated cities. Noisy and busy and everyone acts like total wankers, especially when they are behind the wheel of a car. My beloved Mini had nearly been squashed twice.

I pulled up outside the front door, and passed the valet my keys. “I’m with Violet Thornton,” I told him. “Take care of that car.”

I supressed a grin as I walked inside the cool, marble foyer. Dropping celebrity names to get the A-list treatment- it was definitely one of the rewards of my job. Hopefully, my car would have been cleaned and waxed by the time I leave.

However, not all things in life are as awesome as valet parking- and Violet was in her usual bad morning mood, although she was decidedly less foul than I thought she would be.

“You’re late,” she said in a clipped tone, as soon as I stepped into one of the many living rooms.

She was reclined on the cream sofa while a hunk of an Italian man massaged her feet, and she didn’t even bother to look at me as she spoke. “Where’s my breakfast?” she asked, but I had already dumped the bag of bagels on the table, with her soy latte and pomegranate seeds.

“I’m so sorry Vi, but I’ve got to go!” I gasped, attempting to sound more rushed off my feet than I actually was.

She twisted around to look at me. “But you just got here!”

“There’s a meeting on the other side of London in ten minutes,” I told her, disappearing into the kitchen to pick up some paperwork. She’d never check to see if there was a real meeting. I shuffled the sheets importantly. “And you are coming to the meeting at midday, right?”

“What meeting at midday?” she asked.

“The main one for the schedule...” I paused as she looked at me blankly. “You really should be there,” I continued, pulling a face. “All the crew and staff will have to go, plus Russell and Nick will be there as well. It’ll look awful if you don’t turn up.”

I made sure I didn’t beg her to come. As soon as you turned pleading, then she dug her heels in and refused. She had the same reaction if you threatened her with docked pay or a smaller trailer- she was as stubborn as a mule, only she smelled slightly better.

She appeared to ponder the matter. “Call Jessica for me then, and can you send a car? Only not with the driver I had last time.”

“I’ll get Jess over here right away, and the car will pick you up at eleven-thirty, alright?” I said, a little thrown back that Violet was actually going to come. This must be a first in the whole history of film-making.

She nodded, seemingly benign, so I chanced a question.

"Did you have a good night last night?”

She glanced up at me underneath her long eyelashes. “Fine, thank you,” she said, and turned back to the Italian.

“I’ll see you at twelve then,” I called as I left. Something was not right with Violet, and I was willing to bet it was Charlie Weasley.

Within twenty minutes of me leaving the hotel, I was on Charing Cross Road in my newly-cleaned Mini. I had called Jess, arranged for Violet’s car and attempted to call Charlie three times, but he was refusing to pick up.

I pushed my chair back, and looked instead at the papers I had picked up from Violet. A couple of loose pages of script, which Violet had made angry changes to in red, a room service menu, a few favourable reviews for another of Violet’s films and a map of the location we were at in Austria. Mountain ranges, valleys, lakes and wide fields- this looked amazing. I was so engrossed that when I heard a tap, I jumped out of my skin. I looked up to see Charlie Weasley peering in through my window.

I leaned over and opened the door. “You just scared the bejesus out of me,” I told him.

He slid into the car, grinning like a Cheshire Cat. “I could tell. So, where are we going?” he asked as I pushed the car into first and we started to move off.

“We’re going to a bistro I know which does amazing grilled tuna and cheese paninis,” I said, “because I haven’t had my breakfast yet and I’ve been up for ages.”

I accelerated into a tiny gap and beeped my horn at an angry Londoner. I think I was getting the hang of driving in cities! Charlie cringed away from the other car’s bonnet.

“I hope you don’t have any qualms about talking with your mouth full?” I asked.


-


“So, please explain,” Charlie said as soon as my panini had come, and I had sunk my teeth into the oozing goodness of melty cheese and tuna. He looked slightly revolted.

“Well,” I mumbled around a mouthful, “Violet is a very famous and successful actress, and you’re helping with her new film, which is a historical epic about Guinevere –who Violet plays- and the love triangle between her and Lancelot and King Arthur.”

I paused to take a sip of my tea. “I assume you are familiar with the legends of King Arthur and Merlin and all that jazz?”

Charlie nodded, so I continued. “You are needed because it is ridiculously hard to make stuff up on set. You will advise the production team, the CGI team- we’ve got a scene with about four dragons in it, and the special effects are playing havoc, and any deviations from the script, we talk to you.”

Charlie breathed out. “That sounds like I have a lot of responsibility,” he said, sounding worried.

“Not necessarily,” I said, picking out bits of tomato from the tuna. “They probably won’t listen to you half the time, and the rest of the time you won’t be needed. It’s good money though.”

He laughed. “Sounds a lot cushier than my last job,” he said. “So, what do you do exactly?”

“I’m Violet’s stunt double,” I told him, taking another enthusiastic bite.

He looked nonplussed. “What is that?”

“It’s great,” I told him. “Basically, Violet is a wimp, and so anything remotely dangerous, I do it for her. We look pretty similar from a distance, so they film me doing the horse-riding and the death jumps out of cars, while Violet puts her feet up and does the simple scenes like kissing people.” I waved my fork in the air, miming a swooping dragon. “This film, I get to ride horses, fly on the back of a dragon, and do quite a lot of sword-fighting, so I’m really excited.”

Charlie looked quite impressed. “I assumed you and Violet were related,” he said. "You do look pretty similar."

I snorted. “I think I’d stay as far away from her as possible if we were related and I wasn’t paid to tolerate her. Of course, a lot of the stuff I do isn’t in my job description, but I get paid extra, and I’m in a long contract with her- like the rest of her entourage; her hair stylists and make-up artists and wardrobe people.”

He nodded, looking as if everything finally made sense. “Just one more question,” he said, and I looked up from the remnants of the panini I was now chasing around the plate.

“Yeah?”

“What’s a ‘film’?” he said, deadpan.

I paused. He couldn’t seriously be asking that. “...are you being serious?” I said, incredulous.

Charlie nodded. “Yes. What’s a film?”

I checked my watch- it was nine o’clock. The nearest cinema should be open. I paid for my meal and picked up my bag.

“Come on, Charlie,” I said, slinging my bag over my shoulder. “Back to the car. We’ve got time to go to the pictures before the big meeting.”




A/N: So, this is my August Nano! Had this plunny for a while, and now I get to write it. I'm very excited... so, tell me what you think?

Also, this story is set during Order of the Phoenix.


Chapter 2: For the last time, I'm not jealous!
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I ditched the popcorn bucket in a bin outside the cinema, and waited for Charlie to catch up. He looked dazed.

“So, that’s a film,” he said, running a hand through his thick red hair.

“Yup. Enjoy it?”

“It was like seeing what you read. The theatre has nothing on it! It was like I was actually there!” he sounded amazed, like a small child.

The newest of Violet’s films, a spy thriller -where she’d (I’d) been kidnapped, beaten up and also done some serious ass-kicking- had still been showing, so I’d bought us both tickets to see it. It was only the third time I had seen it, so I could still appreciate it. The plot might have been clichéd, but Violet was an amazing actress, and when she teared up at her side-kick’s death, the whole audience was sniffing.

“Can we see another?” Charlie asked.

“Not now, we’ve got to go to this meeting. Maybe after?” I took a sneaky side-ways glance at Charlie. “So, you had a fairly sheltered upbringing then?” I asked. “Or are you just from a different planet?”

Charlie grinned lopsidedly. “I imagine my childhood was pretty different to yours,” he said, his blue eyes taking on a faraway look. “Different culture, I’d say. A whole different world.”

“You’re religious?”

He laughed. “Not at all. I’ll... it’s quite hard to explain.”

I waved it away. “No worries, you’re just technologically impaired,” I said, which raised another smile from him. A thought occurred to me. “How can you use a mobile?”

“Marty taught me. He’s pretty patient, but it took me ages to work out how to do spaces on a text. All my texts read: ‘hellohowareyou’,” he said quickly, stumbling over his words, which made me laugh.

Charlie clambered back into my car- it was a little small for his muscle. I gracefully slid in, banging my head on the frame.

“I didn’t see a thing,” he said, before I had had chance to say a word. “What is this meeting about?”

“Everything. Final schedules, shooting dates, costume and prep details- it’s like the whole project in a couple of hours. Usually, everyone has to be there, unless you’re D or A.”

“D or A?”

“Dead or abroad. It’s the only excuse you can give for missing something. I’ve worked with this director before- he’s fantastic, only very strict. His motto is ‘if you give an actor an inch, he’ll take a mile’. He’s pretty good with the crew and writers, but especially with Violet...” I whistled.

“That bad?”

I grimaced. “On-set, he’s a menacing perfectionist. Off-set, he’s like your father. I just hope that Violet gets on with him, or one of them will have to go.”

We pulled up to the studio’s headquarters not long after. It was a tall, imposing building which was crammed in with a pile of other tall, imposing buildings- business people just have no creativity.

As I parked in my usual spot, a long, long BMW with blacked out windows and shiny alloys slid up to the doors. A chauffer got out, and hurried to open the door. Despite Violet having promised that she would come to the meeting, I still didn’t actually think she would turn up- so when she gracefully stepped out of the car, looking effortlessly glamorous, my jaw practically hit the ground, near to where my self-esteem was curled up, sobbing. Damn her good looks. Damn her.

She walked up to me and Charlie, her heels clicking on the concrete. “You could have had a lift with me, Charlie,” she said. “I know Melanie’s car is pretty small.”

I felt like telling her that it was in fact a Mini, and the clue was in the name, only another car swung into the car-park, probably saving me from opening my big gob and being sacked. The window rolled down, and Jessie, Violet’s senior stylist, poked her head out.

“You need to tell me what the hell is going on!” she mouthed at me, clambering out of the car.

“Excuse me for a second,” I said, smiling sweetly at Violet and raising my eyebrows at Charlie, and I swiftly walked over to Jess. She grabbed my arm and pulled me so we were both facing the opposite way.

“Why is Violet in such a tizz?” Jessie exclaimed immediately, but still making a mammoth effort to keep her voice down.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, why did she insist on me today? I glam her up for premieres, not meetings. And who is that guy?! He’s super-hot,” Jess said. She was always good at concentrating on the important things in life.

“I’m willing to bet that the reason Violet is in a ‘tizz’ is because of the ‘super-hot guy’,” I said, curving my fingers around Jessie’s words. I sneaked a look back at Violet and Charlie, and saw her take him by the hand and lead him inside.

“Did you just see that?” Jess hissed.

“There’s no need to be quiet now, she’s gone,” I told her, and received a smack on the arm for my troubles.

“Who the hell is that ginger hunky guy?”

“I refuse to talk to you if you are going to act like a stupid teenager,” I said, and tried to pull away to go inside. I absolutely loved winding Jessie up, it was so easy to do, and besides, it felt a little special- Charlie being practically a secret. She hit me again, and I mock-cowered away. “You’re so abusive!” I whined.

You are the mean one,” she said, poking me with a manicured nail, emphasising each word. “Who is that man?”

I held up my hands in defeat. “Our new mythology expert,” I told her in an undertone, as if she was finding out some massive secret. If Marty had done his job with the paperwork properly, it should be announced in the meeting anyway. “His name is Charlie Weasley.”

Jess looked at me worriedly, her eyebrows furrowed. “Is he another of Marty’s people?”

I sighed. Jess firmly believed that Marty was not to be trusted, and that his dodgy activities should be avoided like the plague. “Where else are you supposed to find a mythical expert within a week?”

Jess gave me a dirty look, but she knew I was right. “That still doesn’t explain why Violet’s all over the guy. It’s like she’s got a new puppy!”

“She met him last night, and was exactly the same.”

“And he turned up here with you this morning?” Jess asked, a funny look on her face.

“Yeah, I picked him up after dropping off Violet’s breakfast, and then we went to the cinema,” I told her. “He had never been to see a film before.”

“Wait- so he didn’t stay at Violet’s last night?” Jess said, as usual, picking up on what she thought was important.

I shook my head. “Nope, I’m pretty sure he went back to his hotel, and he did seem completely oblivious to her many charms.”

Jessie bit her lip. “Is he gay?”

“I have absolutely no idea.”

Jess linked her arm with mine and started to pull me inside the building as a few drops of rain began to fall from a steadily blackening sky. “Well,” she said. “At least we know why Violet’s so off. There is nothing she wants more than something that she can’t have. And you’re making her jealous.”

What?”

“I said, there is nothing she wants more than something she can’t have,” Jess repeated, refusing to look at me, and instead starting to make her way inside.

I shot her a withering look. “No, what you said after that.”

She shrugged innocently- too innocently. “Don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I sighed, but let it go. This film was most probably going to end up being excruciating to work. A loved-up Violet was the personification of the devil, only one which wanted hourly fresh fruit, waxing appointments and constant reassuring of her perfection. The joys of being me.

-

The meeting was so out-of-this-world. It truly was bizarre. Violet sat with her co-stars- Russell (Lancelot) and Nick (Arthur) –on one side of her, and Charlie was awarded the great honour of sitting on her left, and he seemed completely unfazed. Well, I reflected, he probably doesn’t know that they are highly successful actors.

I sat near the back with Jessie, waving to a couple of old friends we’d seen before on other shoots. Once everyone had been assembled in the room, with their colour co-ordinated, personalised folders, the director and producer had stood up. I pulled out a pencil, found an empty piece of paper, and drew a hangman.

Jess snatched the pencil off me, and wrote- ‘popcorn’. She was right, the stupid woman. I glared at her.

“Fine,” I whispered. “Your go.”

We almost always played paper games during meetings. All the information they gave us was in our folders anyway, and it meant that we didn’t have to listen to the god-awful jokes they cracked.

Jess drew spaces for three words. I counted on my fingers, and then wrote: ‘Nick Grant is hot’. She scowled at me.

“Noughts and crosses?” she asked in an undertone.

And so commenced an epic battle of Noughts and Crosses- Jess completely slaughtered me. Once the meeting had finally ended, Charlie threaded his way through the leaving crowds to speak to me and Jess.

"You still taking me to the cinema again then?" he asked, enthusiasm bright in his eyes.

He didn't, however, count on our good friend Violet popping up behind him. "I'll take you," she said in a sugary sweet voice.

Charlie looked confused. "But- I said I'd go with Melanie," he said.

I shrugged. "Go with Violet if you want," I told him. "She has got the bigger car."

"Melanie can come too, of course," Violet said, her smile wide.

I shook my head. "You two go have fun," I said, feeling slightly like Violet's mother.

They walked off together into the car park, and I watched as Violet grabbed Charlie's hand, and he gave her a quick smile in return.

“Are you just going to let him get away like that?” Jessie said, appearing at my side looking astounded. “Go with them! She’s stealing your man!”

“He is not my man! Let them go,” I said. “It's only the cinema.”

“Pffft, you watched him throughout the whole meeting!”

“Yeah, well,” I hedged, trying to think of an acceptable defence. I had watched Violet and Charlie during the meeting. “He’s like a small puppy, looking lost and helpless, and she’s a bloody dragon. I don’t want him to get hurt! I just want to-”

“Kiss him, you want to lurrrve him,” Jess sang, her face lit up with childish glee. “You want to snog him, you want to-”

“You’re seriously mature,” I said, clapping my hand over her mouth. She tried to loudly mumble into my palm for a few seconds, before biting my fingers. I didn’t give in.

“Are you going to behave?” I asked her, mock-politely.

She glared at me mulishly.

“Are you?”

Finally, she nodded and I took my hand away, wiping it on her leather jacket.

“Sometimes, you’re not nice,” she told me. “Are you free for the rest of the day?” she asked, massaging her lips.

I shrugged. “Probably, as Violet is with Charlie. What do you want to do?”

Her eyes took on a mischievous glint. “We should go to the cinema.”

I sighed.

“Come on!” she begged. “I’m not stalking her on my own! It’ll be fun!” She tugged at my sleeve. “Please?”

“No singing?” I asked, relenting.

“No singing!” she promised. “Your car is faster, c’mon!”

Even my speedy little car didn't get through the traffic fast enough, and we ended up at the cinema, with no clue where to go next.

"Are you sure they would have come here?" I asked.

Jess shot me a withering look. "Of course. It's the closest one to HQ. Where else would they go?"

I rolled my eyes. "Well, I can't see them," I said. "Maybe we should just go out for an early dinner or something?" I asked hopefully.

In reply, Jessie climbed onto one of the small, leather stools in the foyer, searching over the tops of people's heads. "I can't see them!"

"They're in screen eight," a male voice behind me said, making me jump. I whirled around.

"Marty!"

"Hello sweetie," he said, giving me a quick hug. "They're in screen eight, and I have got you both tickets. Now hurry up, the film's about to start."

He ushered us towards the doors. I checked my ticket. "It's ‘the Empire’!” I said excitedly. “I've wanted to see this for ages!"

Jess elbowed me. "Remember our purpose here," she hissed.

Marty guided us to our seats. "What are you doing here then?" I asked him.

"Same as you," he said innocently.

"Stalking?" asked Jessie.

"I prefer to think of it as... checking up on Charlie."

"You're stalking him, just like us," Jess said with finality, as the lights went down and the film started.

I leant across to Marty. "It's scaring me how she's so proud of it," I whispered, and he chuckled, which earned us a foul glare from the old lady in front of us.

I had finally managed to properly watch the film -which was a historical epic on Roman Britain with some very good looking legionaries- Jess leaned over me to poke Marty.

"Is Charlie gay?" she asked- far too loudly. The people in the row in front of us hissed at her, looking like angry geese.

"No," Marty said in an exaggerated whisper.

"Are you sure?"

"Pretty sure."

I tried to ignore the conversation, and concentrate on the blood, sweat and tears on the screen, but Jess was very distracting.

"How do you know?" Jess asked, getting another glare from the people surrounding us. She stuck her tongue out at them, before returning to Marty. "Well?"

"Because he's kissing Violet," Marty said, and both Jess and I snapped our heads around so fast we were in danger of getting whiplash.

And there the two of them were, not five rows away from me, playing tonsil hockey in the middle of a massive battle scene. Inappropriate.

"Oh. My. God."

Jess sounded particularly shocked. I wasn't too much. It was, after all, Violet- crowned as 'the world's sexiest woman' for the past three years.

"What the hell is he doing that for? Oh, shush yourself!" she snapped at the people in the row in front of us. Then a man with a torch came, and Marty, Jess and I were forcibly ejected from the cinema. Luckily, Charlie and Violet were a little too involved with each other to notice.

"I thought Charlie was sensible!" Jess wailed, once we had been escorted off the premises.

Marty shrugged. "So did I, honey."

“You’re right, Mellie. Violet is an overbearing, pushy dragon,” Jess spat.

“And I thought Charlie was a dragon-tamer,” said Marty, shaking his head despondently.

The two of them seemed to have inexplicably bonded over Charlie's fall.

"How are you holding up?" Jessie asked me, her eyes full of concern.

"What?"

"You clearly fancy the pants off Charlie, and now he's kissing Violet!"

"It is no business of mine who Charlie kisses!" I said, half-angry that Jess was continuing down this dead-end. It was all very well as a joke, but my feelings for Charlie were clearly, blatantly, obviously platonic. Obviously.

Marty and Jess exchanged a knowing look, and I walked away from them, exasperated. "Get Marty to take you home, Jess," I called over my shoulder as I made my way to my car.

She did a wobbly run up behind me. "Your heels are too high," I told her.

"I'm sorry," she whined. "I'm only joking!"

I glared at her. She was not joking, and we both knew it.

"I promise I won't mention it again!" she said, pulling her puppy-dog eyes.

I relented. "Get in," I said, opening the door. "Not one word about Charlie Weasley, or I'll get you fired."

She nodded seriously- my threat was only half in jest.

-

Jess and I went back to where I was staying- my cousin had a flat in London, and I always crashed on his sofa whenever I was in London. Max was in his late twenties, single and obsessed with the paranormal. He was also ecstatic to see Jess.

“Max!” she called, once we were settled with drinks and crisps. “Would you be an angel and go out to the takeaway for me?”

He stumbled over his shoes in his attempt to get out the house as fast as possible.

“You’re really mean,” I said, watching him go.

Jess shrugged, and flicked her brown hair over her shoulder. “I’m taking advantage of my assets,” she said, a wicked grin on her face as I cringed.

“That’s my cousin, Jess!”

She stuck her tongue out at me. “Ohhh, your phone is vibrating,” she said, picking it up from the table and launching it at me. I managed to catch it before it broke something- Jess has terrible aim.

“It’s from Rebecca,” I said, frowning. Rebecca was Violet’s short, plump PA, who had dimples, a cherubic smile and a hatred for me. “You won’t be needed to get Violet’s breakfast tomorrow morning, or ever. Enjoy the lie-ins.”

I high-fived Jessie. “I don’t have to get up super early!”

Jess snatched the phone off me and read it. “Do you know what this means?”

I emphasised my words clearly. “Lie. Ins.”

She smacked me upside the head. “It means, moron, that she doesn’t want you around in the mornings. Think about it. What doesn’t she want you to see?”

“Her ugly morning face. She wouldn’t win any awards if the public could see that.”

“The people she’s sleeping with, you prat.”

“What? She’s never minded before. In fact, I think she likes having an audience in the mornings.”

“Yeah, but this time, she’s jealous!”

“Will you stop saying she’s jealous! She’s not jealous! And of me? Come off it Jess!”

She held a hand up to stop me from talking. “What do you mean, ‘of you’? You’re Violet’s double, Mellie. Her double. Do I have to spell out what that means?”

I scowled at her. She’s wrong. I have the same frame, the same cheekbones, the right profile to be Violet. I was like a black and white photocopy of a colour photograph, as well as being a bit blurry around the sides.

"You need to learn to embrace your inner goddess," she said. "And stop using your athletic-ness to scare off guys. You are gorgeous, Mel." She gave me a hug, and patted my back. "You're gorgeous," she repeated.

I loved having a friend like Jess- she always knew the right compliments to pay, and seeing as she was a stylist, you could kind of convince yourself that she was right. But seriously, in a competition between Violet and I, the only thing I'd beat her in is the shot-put.

Just then the front door opened, and Max shuffled in, his chin on top of a massive pile of Chinese takeaway cartons. He was panting. "I was as fast as I could!" he gasped, setting them down on the table. Jess sashayed over to him and kissed his cheek.

"Thank you so much!" she said, while he gazed at her adoringly. He had it baaad, and I couldn't help chuckling.

We settled down to watch a scary movie after we'd demolished the food, and Jess had managed not to mention her diet once, which I was particularly proud of. It was my choice, as Jess had had us thrown out of the cinema, I guilt-tripped her into a horror film. She hated horror films. The curtains were still open as we huddled together on the sofa- neither of us wanted to close them as that meant we had to look out into the darkness, and we had every light in the apartment on. Max was asleep on the floor next to us, oblivious to the murdering monster in the forest on the TV.

Just then, a massive crack! sounded, and both Jess and I screamed. Max slept on.

"That wasn't on the telly!" Jess whispered, her eyes wide.

I shook my head numbly. Christ, what if the monster was outside? "It was probably just a car back-firing," I said, trying to be dismissive.

Jess checked her watch. "It's half past one in the morning," she said. "It's almost definitely a murderer."

I elbowed her. "Shut the fuck up and stop scaring me, or I'll turn into a murderer."

There was a soft tapping of footsteps outside the apartment. I shivered in fear.

"We're all gonna die!" Jess said in a strangled whisper. She picked up my pillow, and threw it at Max. "Wake up, Max!" she pleaded, not wanting to leave the safety of the sofa.

"Shut up, the monster will hear you," I whispered back, and managed to poke Max with my foot. "Max! MAX!" He stirred slightly. "Max! Defend the house! Our safety is threatened! MAX!"

And then a face appeared in the window directly opposite us, pressed up against the glass, and Jess and I screamed so loudly my throat went hoarse before I ran out of breath. I scrambled over the back of the sofa, pulling Jess with me. Max actually sat up this time.

"What the fuck is going on?" he mumbled sleepily.

"Get down!" Jess hissed. "There's a murderer outside! We saw it!"

"A murderer?" Max asked. He sounded skeptical to say the least.

I glared at him- and then there was a steady knock-knock-knock on the door.

"Oh-my-god-oh-my-god-oh-my-god," Jessie said, terrified. She was clutching onto my hand so hard it was going numb. “Mellie,” she said, “if I die, I want you to know that I absolutely hate your guts. Why am I dying so young? Because you bloody made me watch a horror film.”

I squeezed her hand back. “Love you too.”

Max got up, and made his way to the door. Jess squealed. “What are you doing?”

He shot her a withering look. “Since when do murderers knock?”

I’m glad someone in this room has some common sense. Nevertheless, I was staying right behind this sofa, which, in my head, had become impervious to all the bad things in the world.

Max opened the door- and standing there was Marty, who was supporting Charlie. I peeked out slightly further from behind the sofa.

“He’s drunk,” Marty said. “Properly shit-faced. And he’s got nowhere else to stay.”

Well. That was anti-climactic. Charlie swayed, and gave Max a lopsided grin. “Good morning,” he slurred, saluting him.

I had to bite my lip to stop myself from laughing.

“Who the hell are you?” Max asked. “And who the hell is he?”

“I’m Marty. I help out your cousin with hiring drunkards like this, who is Charlie Weasley,” Marty said. He sounded pissed off, to say the least.

I emerged from behind the sofa. “What happened? How do you know where I live?”

Marty grinned his familiar smile. “I am a very resourceful person, sweetheart. But I have absolutely no idea what happened. I got a phone call from some snarky sounding woman called Rebecca, telling me to pick Charlie up from Violet’s hotel. So I have. And he is not coming home with me- my wife would throw a fit.”

“So he has to come here?”

“Yes! The Leaky is full because there is a big Quidditch match on, and the only other alternative I have is his mother.”

Charlie looked significantly alarmed. “My mother would kill me,” he said, shaking his head. “not, my mother. Anyone. I would rather see Dumbledore than my mother. Even McGonagall!”

“Charlie?” Marty asked. “Do me a favour?”

“Yeah!” he said excitedly.

“Do not say one more word.”

He nodded- and then whispered; “Not my mother!”

Marty looked at us helplessly. “Please?”

Jess appeared at my elbow. “We’d love to take him in.”

“What?” I said. “You don’t even live here!”

“Fine,” Jessie said. “You’d love to take him in.” She took Charlie’s arm and led him through the house. “You can stay in Max’s bed,” she told him.

“I’m really super tired now,” Charlie said, yawning. “Merlin’s beard!”

Marty gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you so much, darling. I’ll probably be around in the morning. Bye!”

Max shut the door on him, and raised his eyebrows. “I don’t understand half of what he just said.”

I shook my head slowly. “Me neither.”

“QUIDDITCH!” Charlie yelled from Max’s room. “It’s such a funny word,” I heard him slur, and then Jess poked her head out of his room.

“He’s asleep. That was like magic, it was so fast.”

“Like magic?” Max said.

I punched him. “You’re sleeping on the floor.”



A/N: here's chapter two! Shout out to TheHeirOfSlytherin (or, Sam) for giving me names when I demanded Muggle names :) tell me what you think?


Chapter 3: hold my hand?
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drop-dead gorgeous chapter image by the amazing Carousel.

[Charlie and Mellie]


It was midday when Charlie Weasley stumbled into the kitchen. Max had gone to work, and dropped Jess off at HQ to pick her car back up. She said she was coming back, but I didn’t doubt she was seriously debating leaving me with Charlie so we could have ‘some time to ourselves’, as she not-so-subtly implied.

“Good morning!” I said chirpily as he collapsed into a seat. He cradled his head in his hands.

“Merlin’s beard, please do not speak that loudly,” he moaned.

“Bacon and eggs?” I trilled. “Lovely fried bacon and eggs with lots of grease and fat and-”

“I will hurl all over your table, Melanie,” he interrupted.

“The bathroom is the first on the right,” I said, indicating down the corridor. “And only my grandmother and Violet call me Melanie,” I said.

“Fine. Mellie. Mel. Annie,” he said, burying his face in his arms. He didn’t seem to be in a very good mood this morning. “Got any coffee? Black? No sugar,” he added.

I flicked the kettle on, and got him a mug out the cupboards, watching him. He lifted his head off the table.

“Hang on a second,” he said.

I raised my eyebrow, and waited.

“Why am I here?” he asked suddenly. “How did I get here? What?”

I grinned, enjoying his confusion perhaps a little more than I should. “Marty brought you here, at half one in the morning,” I said, spooning coffee into his mug. “Apparently the Leaky was full, and your mother was not an option.”

His eyes widened. “Definitely not an option.”

“As to how you got completely legless, I have no clue. Who are McGonagall and Dumbledore?”

He rumpled his hair. “Teachers from my school.”

“Ahh right. Funky names.”

He smiled. “Yeah, I suppose they are.”

“So,” I said, drawing out the vowel. “How did you end up rat-faced?”

He scrunched up his freckled nose, thinking. He didn’t have many freckles really, just a light spattering of sunspots. Freckles are cute.

Anyway.

“I was at the cinema,” he said slowly. “And then we went to a pub, and then we went out for a meal, and then we went to a pub again?” he trailed off, and I set his cup of coffee down.

“Careful, it’s hot,” I warned.

He took it gratefully, inhaling the rich, burnt smell. “That’s good,” he said. “Erm, and then I think we went back to Violet’s hotel, and at some point I decided I’d had too much to drink, so I asked this short woman to take me home, and she sniffed at me and then I woke up here.”

“Rebecca,” I told him. “She’s Violet’s PA and she’s evil.”

He half-nodded, gulping his coffee down. Then his face dropped. “I’m going to hurl,” he said, getting up from the table and lurching down the corridor.

“On the right!” I called after him, allowing myself a chuckle. My mobile rang, and I picked it up, checking the display.

“What’s your excuse for not coming back then, Jessie?” I asked playfully, but she wasn’t in the mood.

“The papers,” she said. “Have you seen them yet?”

“What’s the matter?”

“Only the first three pages dedicated to Violet and her mystery man,” Jess said. “Violet’s gone and called a press conference, and apparently she’s got one hell of a hang-over.”

“Christ,” I said. “Is she having a tizz?”

I can’t deny that this was slightly funny.

“The tizz to end all tizzes,” Jess said. I could practically hear her rolling her eyes. “This tizz is major, and I’ve got to go make her pretty.”

“Good luck,” I said with feeling.

“I’ll need more than bloody luck,” she said angrily. “When that moron gets up” -I assumed she was talking about Charlie- “punch him from me.”

She sighed. “I was supposed to have a day off today! Tomorrow is going to be hell as well.” Jessie whined. “Anyway, I’ll see you later.”

“Bye!” I said, cutting the call. I walked over to the bathroom, and tentatively knocked on the door.

“What?” Charlie groaned.

“I’m just going out, I won’t be five minutes. Don’t leave the house, alright?”

“Because that’s likely,” he muttered, and I heard him retch again.

I grabbed my purse and a coat, walking out the flat. Honestly, summer in Britain. Thank God we were flying out tomorrow. I shut the door with a bang behind me. I have absolutely no sympathy for Charlie Weasley. At all. Not a single drop. Honestly.

There was a paper shop around the corner from the flats, so I ran, skirting the puddles, and one hand holding my hood down. I ducked inside, and threw off my hood, sending water everywhere- and saw Charlie and Violet on the front of every paper, locked in an amorous embrace.

Crikey. No wonder Violet’s called a press conference.

I grabbed a selection of papers and quickly paid. The old grizzly guy at the counter looked at me judgingly for buying gossip rags, so I put the change in the jar for charities and smiled at him before disappearing into the rain again. I let myself back in the house to see Marty busy by the kettle, and Charlie nursing his second cup of coffee.

“Did Charlie let you in?” I asked.

“Let myself in,” he said, sounding quite blasé. I’m pretty sure that is classed as breaking and entering. “Do you want a cuppa?”

I shook my head. I’m not sure I like my house (alright, Max’s house) being invaded by people. It was quite small without being filled with men. I chucked the papers down on the kitchen table.

“Charlie, you made the front page!” I said cheerfully.

He picked up a paper, and looked at the photo for one long second. “I’m gonna be sick again,” he managed, before stumbling back down the hall.

Neither Marty nor I could resist a chuckle as we watched him.

“Anyway,” he said, “I have to go.”

“What? Why?”

“I only came round to drop those off for Charlie,” he said, indicating an envelope on the table. I picked it up and checked the contents.

“Why has Charlie got the seat next to me on the plane?” I asked.

“Because I do not like Violet,” he said. “Don’t ask stupid questions, Mellie.”

“There’s no such thing as stupid questions, just stupid answers,” I retorted. “You’re going to lose me my job if this carries on.”

He clapped me on the back. “Not intentionally.”

That’s reassuring.

“Anyway, can you make sure Charlie’s packed and ready for the flight tomorrow?” Marty asked, grabbing his coat and one of Max’s hats, and opening the door. It was still bucketing down outside.

“Since when did I become Charlie’s keeper?” I asked indignantly.

“Thanks for volunteering!” he called, as he walked off down the street.

I shut the door on him angrily. Stupid Marty; stupid, stupid, annoying, interfering Marty. That was the last time I ever go to him for help, I promised myself. Jess was right.

Charlie staggered back into the kitchen. “Marty’s gone already?”

“Yes,” I said curtly.

“Are you mad at me?” he asked.

“No, I’m not mad at you, but you’ve made an arse out of yourself. I’m not mad at you,” I told him, leaning against the counter. I was lying. I thought it was fairly funny, but I was also pretty angry. What did he think he was doing?

“Yeah, I know.” He sighed. “It’s just...”

I raised my eyebrows, prompting. An explanation? Well, this should be good.

“Violet’s just so great, you know? I mean, she talks too much and she makes terrible jokes and she’s pushy, but she’s pretty and she’s funny when she doesn’t try, and she’s really clever and insecure and she’s really passionate about her job, you know?”

I’m passionate about my job, I thought mulishly.

“And besides, I really think she likes me.”

Right. This required investigation.

-

I was outside Rebecca’s flat, waiting in my car like would-be kidnapper. As soon as I saw her, I would pounce- and not in a kidnapper-y sort of way, I swear. In an interrogation-y sort of way.

I’d dropped Charlie off on Charing Cross Road to pick up all his stuff, and I’d promised to pick him back up in a couple of hours so I could help him sort out what he needed for Austria.

In the meantime, I was being a detective, detecting and stuff.

I nearly missed Rebecca though- I was just finishing my coffee and was playing with the plastic cup when I saw her walking down the street. I quickly grabbed my stuff and half-slid, half-fell out of the car.

“Rebecca!” I called, running up behind her.

She turned, and saw me. Her face dropped like a stone, and she scowled at me. Her dimples showed even with her face contorted- no wonder she managed to convince everyone she was adorable.

She wasn’t, she was like the devil incarnate, and her handbag was lethal. She ignored me and walked away, but I fell into step with her. “So.”

She sped up slightly, her short legs pumping. I sped up as well, keeping pace easily.

“So what?” she snapped, staring ahead like I wasn’t even there.

“So, what happened yesterday?” I asked. I expected some resistance, but I would never give up. However, eventually she’d get annoyed and break.

She didn’t reply. I carried on walking with her. “Come on, Becky!”

She scowled. She hated any variations of her name.

“Becky. Becky, Becky, Becky.”

“It’s Rebecca,” she snapped finally.

“Becky, you know I will just follow you around all day until you tell me,” I said, grinning. I won’t deny this wasn’t fun.

“Don’t you have something better to do?”

I shook my head, my grin bigger than a boomerang. “Nope.”

“You’re a layabout,” she said. “And a waste of space.”

I put my hand over my heart. “You cut me deep, Becky.”

“It’s Rebecca,” she hissed through her teeth. She stopped at a zebra crossing and I took the opportunity to link arms with her.

“Please, Becky darling?”

She gave me a glare so intense I thought she was actually going to hit me. But instead she merely pulled her arm away from mine.

“Fine.”

Well. That took a surprisingly short amount of time. I had expected to have to follow her until at least midday.

“Great!” I said enthusiastically, putting my arm around her shoulders and steering her into the nearest coffee shop. I sat her down, and ordered two large hot chocolates with extra marshmallows and whipped cream.

Rebecca looked revolted when I set them down. “I’m on a non-dairy diet,” she snapped.

“Which is why you’ve got those white spots on your nails,” I told her. I have had it with people on diets. “Drink up and tell me everything.”

She reluctantly pulled her mug closer to her. “How do you even know about this?” she asked sullenly.

I rolled my eyes. “Oh please. It’s all over the papers.” And Charlie stayed at my house last night, I added in my head. But I don’t think Rebecca really needed to know that.

“Well, Violet and Charlie turned up at the hotel at midnight last night, and they were both very drunk-”

I held up a finger. “Violet doesn’t drink.”

It was one of the most annoying things about her. She didn’t have any vices. Apart from being a moody, controlling, self-absorbed cow, she didn’t smoke, drink- she’s never even got so much as a speeding ticket.

Rebecca rolled her eyes. “I know that. But with this Charlie Weasley, she drank. They turned up at the hotel, and Violet was making a complete fool of herself. I managed to get them up to her hotel room and out of the way of the reporters, but not before they created a scene in the lobby.”

“They kissed?” I prompted.

“If you could call it that. Violet fell at Charlie, and he caught her –it was a miracle he didn’t fall over- and then they kind of mashed themselves together.” Rebecca’s plump lips pursed in disapproval of the pair.

“So it was only a drunken kiss?”

“What does it matter? A kiss is a kiss, and it still looks bad for Violet, whether it meant anything romantically or not.” She sighed. “Worse still, Violet wants to see Charlie again. She passed out just after Charlie tried to get me to take him home. I called the first number in his phone, and a man called Martin came to pick him up.”

“Violet wants to see Charlie again?” I said, sipping my hot chocolate nonchalantly.

“Don’t worry, it’s too bad for her image. I’m actually on my way to a meeting with one of the minor royals- if I can get him to visit Austria with us, then Violet will probably get distracted enough to forget about Charlie.”

I frowned. “That’s a little mean, don’t you think?”

“Don’t lecture me on morals,” Rebecca snapped. “I know that Charlie stayed with you last night, and I know that you like him.”

She stood up, shouldering her bag. “Well, you can have him. You’ll probably be fired, but you’ll be doing me a favour. Keep him away from Violet.”

She stalked out, and I was left sitting there, astonished.

-

“Oh come on, Charlie!” I said exasperated. “We’ve got quarter of an hour before the flight!”

“I am not getting on one of those things!”

I crossed my arms. I had been arguing, persuading, enticing- now I was just plain frustrated. It had all been fine until we’d checked in our luggage and gone to duty-free to wait. And then he’d looked out the window, seen the planes, and refused to move another inch. I was pretty close to leaving him, and Jess wasn’t too impressed with him either.

“How did you think we were going to get there? Broomsticks? A flying carpet? Man up and get on the plane.”

He scowled. I think I had hit a nerve, so I carried on.

“Big buff Charlie Weasley,” I said mockingly, “scared of getting on a plane.”

He raised an eyebrow. “I’m buff?”

Crap. Thankfully, Jess jumped in and rescued me.

“There are three year olds making less fuss than you. A grown man, terrified of getting on a plane.” Jess pulled out her phone. “I think I’m just going to call Marty and tell him you’re unemployed again, because you’re a scaredy-cat.”

“Or his brothers. Don’t you have a pile of brothers?” I asked. When helping Charlie pack yesterday, I had seen a photo of his family in Egypt. “They’d get on a plane.”

Charlie scowled at me. “Only because they’d think that dying in a big white thing is hilarious.”

The tannoy sounded, and a metallic voice rang out. “This is the final call for the flight to Vienna, Austria. This is the final call.”

I grabbed Jess’ arm. “Come on, we’re getting on the plane. We’ll see you when we get back, Charlie.”

“CHICKEN!” Jess yelled over her shoulder, as ever, unable to resist a parting shot.

We were just finding our seats when Charlie appeared behind us, panting. “Trust me,” he said. “I’d rather fly to Austria on a broomstick.”

An hour into the in-flight movie, we had finally managed to calm down Charlie, although I was dreading landing with him. Earlier, he had asked a flight attendant to demonstrate how the seat belt worked- several times. Jess and I had pretended we didn’t know him. Now Jess was asleep on my shoulder, and the water in my cup was quivering. I tried to nudge her, but she slept on, her mouth stretched wide open.

“Charlie?” I asked.

He looked at me blankly, and mouthed; “what?”

I pulled his earphones out for him. “Will you hold my hand?”

“What?”

“Hold my hand?” I said, cringing at how pathetic I sounded.

He took my proffered hand gingerly. His palm was warm and rough. “Why?” he asked.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are experiencing some slight turbulence. If you could please return to your seats and fasten your seatbelts until the seatbelt light goes off?”

I grabbed my belt and secured it with one hand.

“You’re scared of the turbulence?” His wide mouth quirked up into a smile.

I nodded, not trusting myself to speak without squealing or making a similarly awful noise.

“And yet you called me a chicken for not wanting to get on the plane.”

“Hey!” I protested quietly. “I got on the plane without any fuss. I just hate storms.”

“Chicken,” he said under his breath.

I scowled at him. “If this plane goes down, it’ll be because of a storm, so you can shut up.” The plane shook violently, and I clenched Charlie’s hand hard.

“Ow!” he said. “Hey, do you think if we got everyone to run across the aisles at the same time we could get the plane to do a roll?”

I fixed him with a death stare. “You’re so not funny.”

He clearly disagreed, I could see another smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “Why don’t you try to go to sleep? Then we’ll be there before you know it.” As he spoke, he was fiddling with something wedged in his seatbelt.

“I’ll have dreams about earthquakes and storms,” I said, but I was half-joking. “So, what did you do before you were an expert?” I asked, trying to take my mind off the plane.

He considered my question. “I worked with... exotic animals,” he said finally.

“Like in a zoo?” I asked, yawning suddenly.

“More of a reserve,” he said. “It’s in Romania.”

“Why did you leave?” I asked, gripping Charlie’s hand tightly as another tremor rocked the plane.

“To broaden my horizons, meet new people, learn the ways of Muggles,” he said with a short laugh. “My dad’s going to faint when I tell him about aeroplanes.”

I looked up at him, sleepiness half-forgotten. “What?”

He sighed. “Never mind. What about you, Mellie?” he asked.

“Hmm?”

“Did you always want to be a stunt double, or did you fall into the job as you were a natural daredevil?” he asked. “Who is scared of storms,” he added, and I elbowed him.

“I wanted to be an actress,” I confessed. “But it’s hard to break out and get lucky, so you take all the jobs you get. I was nineteen and doing a bit part on a film about racing where all I had to do was crash my motorbike, and then walk away, and someone from casting noticed me and asked what other stunts I was prepared to do. And then I did some training and it kind of spiralled and I met Violet two years ago, and then the rest is history.”

“Do you think you’ll make it big as an actress? End up rivalling Violet?” he said.

I cracked an eye open. “Is this an interview?”

Charlie held an imaginary microphone and adopted an enthusiastic voice. “I’m here, the most senior reporter of the Prophet, interviewing the beautiful, talented actress-to-be that is Melanie Thompson. So, Melanie, do you think you’ll make it big as an actress? Or are you going to stay with Violet?”

I answered with my eyes shut. “I hope so, but Violet’s good to work for, because her films usually bring in a lot of money.” I sighed. “I’ve got a secure job with her, and although it’s not what I wanted, it’s fun. But still, you can dream, right?”

“I suppose,” he said, dropping the reporter persona.

“The future is the future,” I said, feeling drowsier and drowsier. Seriously, where did this sleepiness come from? “Who knows what’s around the corner?”

The next thing I knew, Charlie was shaking my shoulder. “Wake up, sleepy,” he said. “We’ve just landed.”

I groggily sat up. I’d fallen asleep on top of Jess. I gave her a hard nudge, and she stirred slightly. Jess slept like the dead, and it was highly annoying.

“Jess! Wake up! JESS!” I shouted in her ear.

“You could always leave her on the plane,” Charlie suggested.

A half-asleep Jess gave Charlie the finger. “You’re mean,” she said, yawning.

Once we’d gone through security and got our luggage, it was just past midday.

“I could eat a cow,” said Jess.

“You’re on a diet and you’re a vegetarian,” I said back, making a beeline for the rental car people. Hopefully the studios had ordered me something sporty.

“Mellie?”

“Charlie?”

“There’s a man over there, with a card with my name on,” he said.

I looked over. A very crisp and professional looking man stood looking out over the arrivals, holding up a placard which clearly said ‘Weasley’.

Violet. I could have hissed. “It’ll be for someone else,” I said, looking innocent, but feeling evil. Marty asked me to keep them apart, I reminded myself. This was all for Charlie’s own good.

“The name Weasley is really common in Austria,” Jess chipped in, leaning over my arm to look at the list. She punched me.

“You have a serious abusive problem,” I told her, rubbing my shoulders.

“We have got convertibles,” she said, pointing.

I may, or may have not done a little dance. All right- a loud, boisterous dance. The car people may also have laughed at me.

“It’s raining,” pointed out Charlie.

Jess grabbed her keys, her wheelie suitcase and tore off in search of her car. I followed at a slightly more leisurely pace.

“Why aren’t you running?” he asked.

“I drive better than Jessie does. I’ll still beat her in a race.”

Charlie stopped dead. “I did not just survive a death trap in the air to be killed on the roads.”

I stuck my tongue out. “Relax, I’m not that bad.”

“You seriously overestimate yourself,” he said under his breath, so I threw my keys at him. He caught them easily.

“I am brilliant at catching stuff,” he said smugly. “Especially small glittery things.”

I held out my hand. “Give me them back.”

He shook his head. “Not in a month of Sundays.”

“I’ll fight you for them.”

“Wha...”

Unfortunately, Charlie didn’t get to finish his sentence, as I rugby-tackled him around the middle. I didn’t quite manage to knock him over, but I distracted him long enough that I could snatch my keys back.

“You are deceptively strong,” he said, getting his breath back. I was crying, I was laughing so much. The expression on his face was priceless.

“Also, that’s not fair, because I can’t do that to you.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Are you kidding me? You’d have to catch me first!”

He got a strange glint in his eye, and I quickly grabbed my suitcase.

“That was not a challenge!” I half-screamed, running away from him as fast as I could, and praying he wouldn’t actually catch up with me.

Okay, so maybe I liked Charlie Weasley a little bit.




A/N: another update! I'd love you to tell me how I'm doing- the lack of death and destruction is uncharted territory for me. Thank you!

Chapter 4: what friends are for
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Jess




We’d been in Austria a whole week. A week of hiding from Violet, of stealing cakes from the buffets, of breaking umbrellas in the foul weather, of generally avoiding work and of slowly getting closer to Charlie.

Okay, maybe I liked him a little more.

We were on set at the castle- it looked like something out of a fairytale, with towering turrets, wide courtyards, wild ivy clambering up high stone walls, delicate carvings and imposing statues.

The only less-than-perfect aspect of it –apart from the near constant rain-, was that a ‘Burg’ sounds a lot less fairytale-like than a ‘castle’.

I voiced my opinion to Charlie, who apparently had spent half of his life in a castle, judging from the way he kept correcting everyone. His job description had gone from ‘mythical expert’ to ‘smarmy know-it-all’ (it’s not a statue, it’s a gargoyle).

“Tell that to the Austrians and see if they change the name then,” he said, brushing back his wet hair. It was growing longer.

“Mellie! Charlie!”

We both turned. It was the assistant director. “You’re wanted!” he yelled, before running back inside.

I groaned. “Come on then,” I said. I pulled my hood up over my face, and sprinted out from underneath the arch where we had been sheltering.

I skidded into the makeshift tent that had been set up in the middle of the courtyard, and gingerly eased off my jacket, giving it a shake. The rain droplets flew everywhere.

“Not on the paperwork!” moaned the producer, attempting to shield it with his skinny little arms. “Anyway, we’re wrapping up for the day,” he said, having to shout over the loud, rhythmic drumming of rainfall on the tent roof. “We can’t film outside in this, it’s ridiculous.”

“The rain is set to continue for a couple more days, so we’re going to jiggle the schedule around to see if we can get the indoor filming done first.” He sighed and knuckled his forehead. “We’ve got a restriction of how long we can keep Violet for, and this rain is not helping,” he confessed.

“Make her film in the rain?” I suggested vindictively. Charlie elbowed me.

“The make-up department don’t like it, and the people on costumes will go nuts,” the producer said, shaking his head. “We’ve already got the hall for this afternoon to film a fight between Russell and Nick, and if we get it tomorrow as well, then we can do the wedding...” he trailed off, talking to himself, so I grabbed Charlie’s sleeve and pulled him out the tent. We ran to the dry, warm safety of my car.

“Why do you even have a car, anyway?” Charlie asked as we pulled out of the car park.

“It is stipulated in my contract that I get a car which has at least a 1.6 engine,” I said, checking the windscreen wipers were up to the max.

“You made sure that was in there, but you didn’t see the clause about you bending over backwards to Violet’s every wish?”

I scowled at the road. “If it had been phrased like that, I’m sure I would have noticed.”

Charlie snorted. “Whatever.” He paused, and the sudden uneasy silence was only filled by the steady thrumming of my heater.

I waited. He was clearly about to say something, and he wasn’t sure about my reaction to it. I just hoped he didn’t insult my car or something.

I focussed on the road instead. It was long, and the grey clouds seemed to suck all the light away. It was dismal weather. I had been to Austria once before, and had been amazed at the beautiful scenery- the mountains, lakes and fields looked like they had been painted there. Plus, I had read ‘Heidi’. At the moment, however, I couldn’t see twenty feet in front of me, and the fog felt oppressive and heavy.

And still, the silence continued, a thick blanket of awkwardness covering us both- like the fog. I was seconds away from turning on the radio.

“Spit it out,” I said.

He fiddled with something in his deep coat pockets, and then clasped and unclasped his hands on his lap. “There’s some sort of a party tomorrow night, right?” he blurted out suddenly.

I blinked. Unexpected. “Yeah, one of the tech guy’s wife just had a baby. And you know what the tech guys are like- they’ll use any excuse for a party.”

“Are you going to go?” he asked.

I shrugged. “Erm, I don’t think so. I usually don’t.”

“Why?”

“Well, Jess inevitably finds someone she likes, and I’m left looking like a lemon in the corner. I don’t particularly like mingling.”

“Why do you dress as a lemon then?” he asked.

I bit the inside of my cheek.

“Sorry,” he said immediately. “That’s a truly terrible joke.” He stared out the window for a few seconds. “Are you going to the party tomorrow then?”

Oh Christ. I realised what he was trying to say- well, at least, I hoped I had it right. Otherwise, that could triple the awkwardness. I might suffocate.

“That depends,” I said, trying to act blasé.

“On what?” he asked, still looking steadily out the window. Dear Lord, he was adorable.

“Well,” I said, pretending to consider. “Are you going?”

Charlie looked alarmed at where the conversation was going.

“I mean,” I continued, “I’m not doing anything else tomorrow night, and if you aren’t, then I’ll probably see you there, right?”

I pulled up outside Charlie’s hotel. The organisers allocated accommodation to people with regards to their role in the production, so I was in a hotel with Violet and the rest of her entourage, while Charlie got lumped in with the techies and production team. I turned the engine off and waited for Charlie either to say something, or get out of my car.

Neither was very forthcoming.

“Well?” I prompted.

He opened and shut his mouth a couple of times. “Yeah, I’ll see you there then,” he garbled, and rushed to get out of the car, slamming the door shut behind him.

Well. That was odd. I wasn’t entirely sure if what I thought had happened had just happened, or if I was reading into it too far, and I was wrong, and what I thought had happened hadn’t actually happened, instead, something totally innocent and unlike what I thought had happened had happened.

Christ. I was confusing myself. I subtly adjusted my rear view mirror and watched him walk away, his broad shoulders hunched against the rain. He didn’t look particularly happy. He looked back at the car, and I hurriedly started the engine. I didn’t want him to think I was watching!

I saw a grin from underneath his hood, and I quickly accelerated off, cheeks burning. He had seen me watching! I checked the clock on the dashboard- it had just gone eleven o’clock. Definitely time for me to wake up Jess. I had something I needed to talk to her about.

-

Surprisingly, Jess was not in bed. Or anywhere in the hotel. I was just checking with reception as to her whereabouts when a dishevelled Jess sloped in, carrying her heels and looking sheepish.

“Jessie!” I practically squealed. “I have to talk to you.”

“Great!” Jess said, faking enthusiasm. “What about? Can it wait?”

“No! Not really, I need advice, and I need help and I may possibly need make- up.” I eyed up the blonde receptionist, who was looking interested. “And I need to talk to you in private,” I clarified. “Wait- where have you been?”

She raised an eyebrow. “You first, then I’ll explain myself.” Jess turned to the receptionist, who looked disappointed to be missing out hearing our gossip. “You know the room service menu? Can you send up everything on it?”

“Everything?” the receptionist and I spoke at the same time.

“Yup.” Jessie looked slightly crazed. “I’m hungry, and I want food. Put it on the room tab, it’s 458,” she added, and swept off to the lift.

I followed. “You’re telling me first, because I’m worried for your mental health.” Jess showed no inclination of having heard me. “Please?”

Jess smiled. It was really creepy.

I folded my arms over my chest. “Who was it?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Liar. Come on, who was it?”

She still refused to answer, instead pressing the button for the fourth floor. I narrowed my eyes at her.

“It was Nick, wasn’t it?” I said suddenly, and the way she turned on me was proof.

“Shut up!”

I burst out laughing. “You slept with Nick Grant?” I said. I was actually pretty astonished. “The recently divorced famous film star and the guy you’ve had a crush on since you were fifteen? Good lord, there is hope for fan girls everywhere!”

The lift stopped and a man got in, nodding at the pair of us. I think I knew him- he was in marketing and promotions. Jess’ eyes pleaded with me not to mention anything else, so I bit my lip until we got to our floor.

As soon as the door shut behind us, she quickly checked that there wasn’t anyone on the corridor. “I didn’t sleep with him!” she protested.

I eyed her suspiciously, but she seemed to be telling the truth. “What did you do then?” I asked eagerly. “Come on woman, I want details!”

“Sorry to disappoint, but we just talked, and watched a few of his old films and laughed at them and then we went out for a meal and I had a steak and realised how much I missed meat-”

“So you’re also not a vegetarian anymore?”

She gave me a crooked smile. “Nope, carnivore and proud!”

“Technically, you’re an omnivore,” I corrected.

Jess pulled out her key-card from her purse and swiped it, opening the door to her pristine hotel room. It was all white and fancy. I was up on the bloody top floor, and the colour scheme there was a light apple green- it was not impressive. In fact, it was slightly nauseating.

I followed her inside and flopped down on her bed, while she went to freshen up in the bathroom.

“So you just talked?” I said, raising my voice slightly.

“Yeah,” she called back over the sound of running water. “Mellie, you can’t tell anyone!”

“I pinky swear!” I told her.

She laughed. “Nick said he’d like to go out with me properly some time,” she said. “I can’t believe it!”

“Neither can I,” I said. “I mean, you’ve got awful dress sense, you look like the back end of a bus and your personality is barely sufferable. What on earth does he see in you?”

I wasn’t quick enough, and a wet flannel, covered in make-up came flying out of Jessie’s en suite and hit me in the chest, leaving a stain.

“And you’re abusive and disgusting!” I moaned, peeling it away. “Why are you so horrible to me?”

“I can’t think why!” she said in mock-astonishment. “So, what was your news? Why do you need help with make-up? You don’t even wear make-up!”

“That’s why I need help, Einstein,” I told her. “I may or may not have a date with Charlie.”

There was silence, and then Jess stuck her head out of the bathroom door. It was pink from being scrubbed clean. “Charlie Weasley?”

“No, Charlie the mountain lion,” I said.

She glared at me, and I held up my hands in surrender. “Yes! Charlie Weasley, I’m sorry, it’s Charlie Weasley. Please don’t throw anything else that’s gross at me!”

“Charlie Weasley?” she asked again.

I nodded, afraid if I said anything, my mouth might decide to be smart again.

“I don’t like him,” she said, and disappeared back into the bathroom.

What?” I walked over to the bathroom, and leant on the doorframe. “Why?”

She shrugged, squeezing toothpaste onto her brush. I inwardly cringed. Brushing your teeth before you eat... it’s unnatural.

“I think he’s shifty,” she said. “And last week he was kissing Violet, remember?”

I groaned. “That’s why I need your help! Remember what I told you?”

Jess pulled an exasperated face. “About how Violet was insecure and pretty and funny?”

“Thanks, you make me feel so much better.”

“Well, you’re confident and beautiful and hilarious,” Jess said. “Sometimes.”

I winked at her. “Which is why I have you,” I said, “You make me great the rest of the time!”

She shook her head disparagingly. “You should pay me. What’s this date then?”

“Well, it’s kind of a date,” I said slowly. “He asked me if I was going to the party tomorrow night-”

“And you said no, because you think the tech guys are animals,” Jess chipped in.

“That’s what I said roughly, and then I implied that if he was going I might be persuaded to go- basically, we parted on a mutual understanding that we’d see each other at the party.”

“Are you sure?” Jess asked. “It doesn’t sound very concrete.”

I frowned. “No, not really, neither of us were very coherent.”

She smiled at me condescendingly. “Aww, were you like a couple of teenagers?”

I nodded. “Embarrassingly, I think we were. At least thirty other hormonal teenagers weren’t watching.”

Jess raised an eyebrow. “What happened that time?”

I snorted. “What do you think? I kicked him in the balls and told him to join the girls-only choir.”

Jess turned back to the mirror, grinning at the idea of a teenaged me attacking defenceless boys. “So,” she said, toothpaste dribbling down her chin. “What are you going to wear?”

I winked again. “You’re the stylist!”

Jess rolled her eyes.

“Aw, come on!” I begged. “If you ever wanted to go bungee-jumping or something, you know I’d help!”

“Fine,” she said, relenting. “But I do not want to go bungee-jumping, ever. Okay?”

“I love you, Jess!” I squealed, tackling her in a hug.

“Yeah yeah yeah, whatever. Let’s go eat like pigs and plan how we’re going to make your ugly face pretty.”

-

A lot later, we’d eaten like pigs and meticulously planned every aspect of everything tomorrow. It was looking to be amazing. Nick had also phoned, and Jess had tried to sit on me so I wouldn’t say anything. She’d tried to sit on me. I dread to think what it sounded like down the phone, but eventually she gave up and locked herself in her wardrobe. I was forced to resort to crooning power ballads through the crack in the door.

Until she opened the door in my face and nearly broke my nose.

She was still laughing a quarter of an hour later when ice was finally delivered to the hotel room.

But now Jess had gone to ‘oversee’ the make-up of Nick and Russell for the fight scene- at least, that’s what she called it. I’d hung around a bit longer in her room, making sure that every conceivable surface had some rubbish on it, before sloping off to my room. All by myself. I could practically hear the violins scraping in sympathy for me.

I opened the door- and nearly ran away again. Sitting on my bed was Violet, looking exceptionally bored.

“There you are!” she said, sounding genuinely pleased to see me. But then, she was a very good actress.

All I had to do was act normal, and not like I was planning to steal the guy she liked.

“How did you get in?” I asked, raising an eyebrow, and combining that with a natural smile. Perfection. “Have you been waiting long? You could have called me if you needed me desperately.”

She smiled back, and it didn’t even seem forced. Damn this fakery-fake woman.

“No, it’s not urgent,” she said. “I just wanted to remind you that your contract is up for renewal in a couple of months.”

I nodded benignly, despite the fact that my blood seemed to have turned to ice. “Oh, thanks! I had forgotten, but I’ll put it on the calendar,” I said. “Wouldn’t want to forget.”

I don’t think improvising was one of my strong suits, to be honest with you.

“I’ll see you tomorrow then,” Violet said. She paused. “I assume you’ll be watching the wedding scene? Or have you got something better to do?”

I shook my head, and tucked a piece of hair behind my ear. Keep breathing, I reminded myself. “Nope, I’ll be there.”

“Well, I’ll be off then,” she said, gracefully standing up.

“Are you sure?” I asked. “I could order up some drinks or something if you wanted to stay?”

“I’d love to, but this colour scheme- it hurts my eyes. I don’t know how you cope! You’re welcome to come around my suite anytime you want though,” she added.

“Thanks, I’ll keep it in mind, Violet.”

She paused before she left. “That’s Miss Thornton to you, please.”

Violet shut the door behind her, and for the first time ever, I properly contemplated quitting. At least, before she fired me. There was a certain kind of dignity in leaving a job.

I sat down heavily on my stupid apple-green bed- my hands were shaking. I had never really realised before how expendable I was, especially to someone like Violet. We all were- Jess, even Rebecca. If she wanted, we’d be out of a job by this time tomorrow, contract or no contract.

Violet wouldn’t even care.

I had joked about it earlier, but it was true. Charlie Weasley could easily make me lose my job- because I didn’t doubt that was what Violet was hinting at. And then I’d be left living with my cousin in London, hopelessly waiting outside agencies for auditions for crappy roles, in exactly the same position I was in when I was nineteen.

Six years, and nothing to show for it, except a nice car and a couple of credits at the end of the film reel. Somehow, that made me angrier than the prospect of losing my job. I had slaved away, suffered broken bones because Violet didn’t want to break a nail, and at the end of the day I had nothing of my own to be proud of. You couldn’t even tell which scenes were me and which were Violet.

Perhaps I needed a break; perhaps I needed to be fired. A chance to go it alone and see how well Melanie Thompson could do, and not what were the achievements of facsimile of Violet.

I grabbed my mobile, and called Jess. If I was going out, I would go out with fireworks and explosions. And preferably on the arm of a certain buff redhead.




A/N: another chapter! 'Heidi' belongs to Johanna Spyri, and I know it was set in Switzerland, but Mellie doesn't.
As ever, if you could leave a review, I'd be much obliged.


Chapter 5: fighting
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Violet Thornton




Jess answered on the fourth ring. “Mellie, not now!” she said, quietly.

I paused before I launched into my rant. Something was up. “What’s up?”

“Violet’s just walked in,” she whispered. “She wants to know where Charlie is.”

I nearly dropped my phone in astonishment. Not satisfied with the prospect of ruining my professional life, Violet wanted my love life to go down the pan as well? What a complete bitch.

“Ugh. Head her off!” I told her, urgently waving with my free hand, despite the fact Jess couldn’t see me. I’m sure my voice showed my frustration.

“How the hell am I supposed to do that?”

“Attack her with anything you’ve got to hand!” I said desperately.

“Eyeliner? Ohh, terrifying,” Jess said sarcastically.

“If this was the other way around, I’d have this sorted.”

“Well you’d have more at your disposal than a make-up bag,” she hissed.

“Jess, please!” I begged.

There was silence, and then I heard a faraway voice say; “Do you have a second, Jessica?”

“DO NOT HANG UP!” I practically screamed down the line. “I want to hear this!”

There was the sound of footsteps, and then Jessie said; “Is there anything I can help you with, Violet?”

“I was wondering if you had seen Charlie Weasley at all today? Or heard of his whereabouts?” I could imagine Violet’s bright blue eyes boring into Jess.

“Er...” she squeaked. “I don’t think so, that is... I don’t recall seeing him!” she nervously coughed. “Or hearing of his whereabouts,” she added quickly.

I rolled my eyes. There was a reason Jess wasn’t an actress.

“Right. Well thank you anyway Jessica. Remember, you should be at my room for half five tomorrow morning.”

“Yes, yes okay!” Jess said, her voice quavering. There was another long silence before she spoke to me.

“Oh my God, that was terrifying. She is not usually that scary! It was like trying to ward off Cruella de Vil! What on earth just happened?”

I opened my mouth to tell her everything- and stopped. If I told Jess of my imminent dismissal, then she’d complain to the board and get herself sacked as well- or worse, try to walk out with me. It would be best if I kept that to myself, at least for now.

“Mellie?” she asked.

“Violet was waiting for me in my hotel room,” I told her instead, “and basically warned me off Charlie.”

“Christ, she’s really serious about him?”

I paced around my room. “It seems so.”

“And let me guess... you’re going to go out of your way to foil her evil plans?”

“I wasn’t going to be quite so dramatic about it, but in a nutshell, yes.”

Jessie groaned. “For crying out loud, Mel! You actually are going to get sacked if you carry on!”

I held my breath, but Jess didn’t elaborate. “I have done everything she ever wanted me to before,” I said. “She’s not having Charlie as well!”

“Do you have a death wish?” she asked.

I stopped my pacing. “Are you still going to help?”

Jess snorted down the phone, it sounded like a gunshot in my ear. “Of course I will!” she said. “Violet is going down!”

“Thank you so much,” I said with feeling.

“Blah-blah-blah,” she said wryly. “Now, get off the phone so I can attend to my crush and his equally hot co-star.”

I laughed, and made kissing noises down the phone until she hung up on me.

Maybe things weren’t as bad as I thought, I mused. No matter what happens, I’ll still have friends like Jess. My mouth split into a large grin. Crazy. She was completely insane.

I looked around my fairly small room. I had nothing to do, but I didn’t particularly want to sit in my stupid greeny coloured room which still had the smell of Violet’s perfume, so I grabbed my bag and coat, and went out again.

After wandering aimlessly for a while around the smallish town we were housed in, I ended up back at the castle. They would be shooting a large fight scene this afternoon between Russell and Nick, who played Lancelot and Arthur respectively. I found myself a chair and a cushion, and settled down to watch, out of the way of the cameras. There was an unofficial prohibition on watching the scenes, but the crew usually turned a blind eye at my presence, so long as I helped out marking out paces or setting up equipment.

I liked to watch acting. It was kind of therapeutic, and although I inevitably saw all the scenes in the wrong order and got very confused at the plot, it still was better than seeing it on the screen. I watched, and I tried to learn.

The plot of this film was centred around Guinevere and Lancelot’s relationship. While the legends typically portrayed Lancelot as a home-wrecker and Guinevere as a fifth century prostitute, the producer for us was trying another angle. Our Guinevere was a lot younger than her battle-hardened husband (a lot of make-up and a false grizzly beard was used to make Nick seem about forty), and Lancelot was young and optimistic, the newest addition to Arthur’s Round Table.

It was no surprise really that Russell Clary had been cast as Lancelot. He was fresh-faced, slightly younger than I was and full of boundless enthusiasm that crackled on set. Nick was in his late twenties and even without his make-up, exuded authority and stability. Nick had chosen to play Arthur in a similar vein to Othello- a great war lord, who commanded the respect of his soldiers and deserved it, but our Arthur wasn’t entirely sure what to do with his young wife, who had no place on the battlefield.

Really, our film said, is it so surprising that Guinevere turned to Lancelot?

This scene was set just after Arthur had found out about Lancelot stealing his wife- he’d had walked on in their first illicit kiss. Naturally, he’d pulled out his sword. Guinevere had run away, so Violet wasn’t in this scene, thank God. I couldn’t have coped with seeing her right now. Anyway, Guinevere had legged it, and valiant Lancelot was covering her retreat, before following her.

I settled down to watch. We were filming in the largest hall in the castle- a giant table, as long as the room, had been filled to overflowing with food and candles were attached to the walls, giving out a sickly yellow glow. Nick and Russell had gone through the scene a few times before I came –they had to mark out the steps and every blow was carefully choreographed- and now they started to film properly. If I blocked out the lights and the crew, and focused entirely on the actors as they swung their bright swords through the air, I could really believe I‘d just stepped into an Arthurian legend.

There was very little speaking, just grunts and the occasional debasing insult from Arthur. Lancelot fell backwards over a basket of apples and then burst out laughing as both he and Nick dropped their swords and struggled to pick them up in their armour, as the apples rolled all over the set. But the filming quickly resumed, and the sword fight carried on, increasing in intensity.

Arthur was thrashing Lancelot. He was forcing him further and further back as Lancelot desperately parried the blows, his arms shaking with the exertion. The intense concentration of both actors as they struggled with their steps and swings could be seen in every muscle, from the tautness of Russell’s jaw to Nick’s narrowed eyes. Sweat dripped down both men’s faces, and Lancelot gritted his teeth as he tried to overpower Arthur. But then, seemingly in slow motion, Arthur twisted his sword as it clanged against Lancelot’s, and then Lancelot’s sword flew out of his hands, flying through the air and landing with a clatter against the stone floor.

Arthur swung madly at the now unarmed Lancelot’s head, but Lancelot dodged, jumping backwards. It looked for a moment that Lancelot would escape, that his youth would allow him to evade Arthur’s massive strength, but as Lancelot ducked another blow, Arthur brought his sword back, and smacked the flat of his blade on Lancelot’s side.

Clutching his ribs, Lancelot fell to his knees, and then collapsed on the floor, landing heavily. He rolled slightly onto his back, and attempted to get up- but then he couldn’t move, paralysed by fear as Arthur brought his sword tip up to Lancelot’s throat, resting it slightly on his collar. A heavy silence fell- Lancelot’s life balanced on a sword-edge.

“I love her,” Lancelot said quietly. Not a person around the set breathed as Arthur stopped his sword mere centimetres from Lancelot’s neck.

“I love her,” he repeated, stronger this time, but his voice still shook with terror.

Arthur looked down on Lancelot, his lip curled in hatred. The two of them were utterly still- the only movement in the room was the rapid rise and fall of Lancelot’s chest. For a moment, I was convinced that Arthur would kill Lancelot as easily as you can kill a fly, but then Arthur blinked.

“Get out,” he said, his voice low and hoarse. Arthur dropped his sword, and the clang it made as it hit the stone echoed throughout the hall.

Lancelot scrambled away, standing up quickly and retrieving his own sword. Arthur had turned away, overcome with emotion, his leather-clad hands covering his face as he leant heavily on the back of a high-backed chair. With a final look back, Lancelot ran out the room. The heavy oak door shut behind him, and then Arthur turned. He looked at the door for one long second, the camera zooming in on his tortured features.

“That’s a wrap!” called the director, and Lancelot edged back in the door.

“Was that alright?” he asked, grinning. His white teeth were a stark contrast with his dirt encrusted face.

“Great, both of you!” the director said, sounding happy- for him at least. I had never seen a scene so complicated, filmed so fast. They wouldn’t use all the footage, but still, I was extremely impressed.

“Ahh, can someone please get this beard off me?” Nick said. “It itches so much!”

A make-up person ran forwards and helped him peel it off his face, and then Russell high-fived Nick.

“For a second there, I thought you were actually going to take my head off,” Russell said, grinning and slipping back into his natural cockney accent.

“I saw the panic in your eyes,” Nick said, laughing.

I jumped as someone tapped me on the shoulder. I twisted in my chair to see Charlie standing my shoulder.

“Intense stuff, huh?” he said, shoving his hands into his pockets.

I rubbed at the goosebumps on my bare arms. “Yeah, a little. How long have you been standing there?”

“Since Nick disarmed Russell. You looked pretty engrossed, I didn’t want to disturb you.” He smiled. “Do you want go for a walk? The rain’s just stopped.”

I saw Violet enter the hall in the corner of my eye, and make an immediate beeline for us. “Sure!” I said quickly. “Lead the way.”

We walked out of the hall and navigated the maze of corridors until we were outside. The sun was just beginning to set and the whole castle was bathed in a deep orange light, the wet stones shining. To the east, dark clouds were gathering still, but half the sky was clear from rain.

“Earlier,” Charlie began, “I don’t think I was particularly clear.”

I bit back a smile. “Oh?”

He glanced over, and shoved his hands deeper in his pockets. “Yeah. So I had a talk with my brother, Bill, who told me to man up and ask you out properly, so...”

He trailed off, and I felt like I was dying from the anticipation. Oh gosh, this was exactly like being asked out in high school. Dry mouth, sweaty palms... “Spit it out,” I said, my voice sounding harsher than I meant it to.

“Well, there’s this tech party tomorrow night, and I wondered if you would like to go with me?” he blurted out.

My mouth split into a large grin. “Hell, I’d love t-”

“Melanie!” a shrill voice called out, cutting me off.

“You have got to be kidding me,” I said quietly.

Melanie!” she called again, her voice cutting through the still night like knives.

Violet?” I yelled back.

She emerged from the castle, and tottered down the steps on her heels. “Melanie, can I talk to you for one quick second?”

I scowled. “Not really, Violet, can I call you later or something?” I said politely. Act, Mellie, act. “I’m kind of in the middle of something at the moment.”

Violet shook her head, plastering on a sympathetic expression. “It’s kind of urgent,” she said apologetically.

I glared at her, and then turned to Charlie. “I’ll definitely see you at the party tomorrow,” I said, making sure I was loud enough for Violet to hear me.

“Okay,” Charlie said, taking the cue. “I’ll see you.”

He turned to leave- but then twisted back and kissed my cheek. “Bye!” he said with a wink.

My inner thirteen year old girl fainted.

And then I felt claw-like hands digging into my shoulders, and I turned around to face the dragon.

“Yes, Violet?” I said, sounding a hell of a lot braver than I felt.

“That’s Miss Thornton to you,” she spat. “Seriously, how simple do I have to make things? Do I have to come outright and say it?”



Christ, she was scary. Her face was far too close to mine, and it took me a second to find my voice.

“Yeah,” I said. “Why don’t you just come out and say it?”

My bravado sounded fake even to me. Remember, I told myself sternly, that if we actually fought, she would not have a chance in hell. Violet is a wimp and a bully, and I have a stunning right hook.

Violet snorted in disbelief. “Fine,” she said. “Stay away from Charlie Weasley, or I’ll get a replacement stunt double and a restraining order.”

“You can’t just order people to do whatever you want, Violet,” I said, using her Christian name with force.

“Actually, I can,” she said, and turned to leave.

I was fuming. Those were brilliant last words. I needed to win this argument.

“Violet?” I said sweetly.

She stopped, and looked at me, one hand on her hip. “Yes, Melanie?”

“You know, it should really be up to Charlie, shouldn’t it?” I said thoughtfully. I snapped my fingers. “You know, I’m right. It is up to Charlie... oh, and that’s it. He has picked me! I guess you’re out of luck.”

Violet looked at me for one, long second, before her lips twisted in a cruel smile. “And you’re out of a job. Have a nice flight home.”

I genuinely don’t know what possessed me to open my stupid mouth. Violet disappeared inside just as the first fat drops of rain began to fall once more.

Great. Just great.

-

I sat at breakfast the next morning, morosely chewing some toast. I hadn’t heard anything from Violet or any of the staff, so I assumed they hadn’t got around to sacking me yet or were actually going to keep me on- but I wasn’t going to turn on my mobile or listen to the messages on my machine to find out either way.

Jess was still asleep. I usually woke her up so we had breakfast together, but today I was feeling especially sorry for myself, and I wanted to cry into my plate alone. Thankfully, Violet always had breakfast in her room and I didn’t have to see her stupid face. She’d be lucky if the next time I saw her she only came away with a black eye, I thought vengefully, biting into my toast with more force than necessary.

I hardly noticed when someone sat down at my lonely table in the corner.

“Melanie?”

I looked up- and saw the director sitting opposite me. I nearly choked on my toast.

“Good morning, Melanie, I’m Philip Masters.”

“I know,” I said, stuttering.

Let me get one thing clear. Philip Masters is like God. He was an international star and his films were completely amazing. I had worked with him before, and he was scary. He shouted at the actors, the tech crew- I had never talked to him, but he had yelled at me that I was water-skiing wrong once.

Philip signalled the coffee-pot holding waitress over. “Now, I’ve had a complaint about you from Violet,” he said, watching the waitress pour.

I gulped, and folded my hands on my lap so he couldn’t see them shaking. I was such a coward when it came to people. This was exactly like talking to my headmaster at school after someone had said it was impossible to climb the flagpole on top of the gym (for future reference, it was relatively easy to climb). Only this time, I was going to get fired.

“Obviously,” he said, taking a lazy sip, “I’m going to completely ignore her because you are a very good actress-”

That was the end of it all then- I was doomed.

“And I’d like to work with you again in the future, hopefully in bigger role than just a double,” he said. “And I don’t think it would look too good if I sacked you off this film. And besides, where would I find a stunt double for filming in two days?”

I was about to open my mouth and recommend Marty’s services, when it suddenly clicked what Philip was saying.

He liked me. He called me an actress. He wanted to work with me again. I was going to keep my job. He called me an actress.

He called me an actress.

“I’d recommend you leave Violet’s ‘entourage’ once your contract is over,” he said. “And then you could give me a call?” He placed his business card on the table.

“I’ve got some friends in casting who are always looking for fresh young faces,” Philip said. “You know, I gave Russell the leg-up into the industry that he needed,” he said, taking my silence for hesitance.

I nodded furiously, smiling like a mad loon but still dumbstruck.

He finished his coffee, and stood up. “In the meantime, please don’t antagonize Violet!” he said. “You just make my work harder!”

I nodded some more, watching him leave.

He called me an actress.

-

It was just gone midday, and Jess and I were in my room, getting ready for our big night. Jess had subtly mentioned to Nick about the tech guy’s party, and he’d noticed her hint and they were going together.

Jessie assured me it was so she could keep an eye on any schemes of Violet’s, and not so she could show off her mad dancing skills to Nick. Well, she called them ‘skills’, I called them ‘spasms’.

“Stop squirming or I’ll burn you on purpose, I swear!” Jess said, exasperated as I wriggled around. She was sat on the bed and was concentrating curling my hair, I was on the rock hard floor. My bum had gone numb about twenty minutes ago.

“Do you hurt Violet this much?” I said, massaging the tips of my ears, which were red.

“If she’s being difficult, then yes. But she knows that the only way for me to work my magic is to stop moving!” She prodded me with her foot. “A message which I don’t think you’ve quite got yet.”



“What are you wearing?” I asked, to change the subject.

“I don’t know, something simple. Nick says he’s going in character, so I don’t want to show him up! Besides,” she said, “it’s only a tech party. You know you’ll end up covered in someone else’s puke at the end of the night.”

I rolled my eyes. Sadly, it was true.

According to Jess, the secret of looking stunning was looking like you hadn’t put any effort in. But that didn’t apply to hair.

“No-one wants a bird’s nest, it really isn’t attractive,” Jess told me, teasing another curl out. “But,” she carried on, “if you look like you’ve spent four hours in a tanning booth and then used a shovel to put your foundation on, then the only place you’re going to go is home to cry about your unattractiveness.”

Jess was like the Yoda of make-up.

“Okay, she said, switching off the tongs. “I think you’re okay for your hair. Now, it’s your face’s turn.”

My face didn’t look very happy at the prospect. I’m not even sure what blusher does. I don’t want anything that I don’t know about on me. The same rule applies for creepy crawlies. If I don’t know what it is, it can get the hell off my leg before I find a flame-thrower and incinerate it.

I blanked out while she did my face- she could have been painting on clown make up for all I knew. I was really, really nervous, and it wasn’t even a proper date! This was ridiculous. I did dangerous things for a living, and I wasn’t nervous. All I had to do was treat this like it was jumping off a bridge or in front of a car or something.

That was the most ridiculous idea I have ever heard. Instead, I concentrated on Philip’s one, special word; “actress”.

I could beat Violet at anything, and that included face-paint.

I couldn’t hide my relief when Jess finally stepped back though. “All done!” she trilled. “You, my dear, could hang on a wall in the Louvre, I am that darn good.”

“Thanks!” I said carefully, wondering if it was all going to slide off my face if I smiled too much.

She winked. “Your dress is hanging up there, and your shoes are there,” she said pointing. “I’ll see you at the party then?” She was being picked up by Nick.

I gave her a hug, careful not to smudge anything. “Yep! Thank you so much, Jessie.”

She lightly patted a stray curl. “No worries, honey!” she said, and then she had left to go get herself sorted, and I was left to my own devices.

I slipped on Jess’s choice of dress- a short, casual day dress which looked quite cute- and hooked the heels onto my feet. Thankfully, they weren’t too high; stilt-walking was not something on my CV. I smoothed out the skirt and then sat on my bed, forbidden from doing anything until it was time for me to leave.

I was just reaching for my phone so I could play a game to pass the time, when suddenly, there was a crack! and a low, loud rumble.


A/N: new chapter! As always, I love you for reading, so thank you! (reviews appreciated :P) Also, this chapter is dedicated to all my friends, most of all Sam, for being my unofficial Beta for everything, and putting up with me tirelessly, and Olive, for because I said I'd dedicate a chapter to her, I forget why.
Also, Othello is by William Shakespeare, and I'm sorry about the swordfight ruining the fluff. Action is my manna.


Chapter 6: a stormy time
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I swear, Violet’s conjured up a storm so I am too scared to leave my room, I thought vengefully. But even the prospect of Violet finally getting her claws into Charlie would not get me to leave the safety of my bed.

My fear of storms might be irrational, but it was completely paralysing, and I was not going to move unless I died from fright, or the storm ended. And at the moment, the first looked a distinct possibility. I was under my duvet, in a storm-proof nest of pillows and discarded clothes from earlier. I hadn’t even managed to kick my shoes off before scooting under the covers. Another rumble came from the sky, sounding like a gigantic three-headed dog was growling up there.

I pressed my lips together so I wouldn’t make a sound. Unfortunately, none of the mantra’s usually repeated to help people with phobia’s applied with me. ‘It’s more scared of you than you are of it’... that’s highly unlikely.

The rain poured down, the sound amplified by the flat roof metres above my head. It sounded like a cacophony of drums beating down. I remembered my phone, lying somewhere on the bed. I could call Jess... she would come and save me. I gathered up all my courage and sat upright, grabbing my phone from by my feet and disappearing again under the covers with it.

The screen was too bright in the semi-darkness, and I had to squint at the display, only to see- ‘no network coverage’.

I breathed in deeply, and out again through my nose, knuckling my forehead hard, trying to squash my panic. I poked my head out again. The internal telephone was just across the room, sitting innocently on a small, spindly table. If I quickly slithered out of bed and leaped across the room, the wire could probably stretch as far as the bed, right?

My teeth were chattering in fear as the pounding of rain got louder, and I geared myself up for my escapade, trying and failing to block out the grumbles in the sky.

It was at that moment the power winked once- and then went out. I screamed, and my shrill shout was immediately met with a ferocious clap of thunder. I dived under the duvet again, biting on my fist, and shaking.

-

Above the sound of rain I could just discern a banging on my door.

“Melanie?” someone called. “MELANIE!”

“Melanie!” they yelled again, banging on the door. “Open up!”

Knowing that someone was behind the door gave me the courage to get up, clutching the key. My hand shook as I tried to get it in the lock, and then finally, with a small click, it swung open. I looked up to see Charlie Weasley, his freckled face crunched up in worry.

I must have looked a right state, my dress crumpled, my make-up running from my tears- I was truly a pathetic mess. But I ran straight into his chest as another roll of thunder crashed overhead. The need for someone else to be with me was too strong, and I pressed my wet face against his shirt as his warm arms circled me.

“You’ve made a storm-nest?” he said, looking over my shoulder at the bed.

I half-heartedly smacked my hand against his arm. “It’s a good nest. I’m not dead yet.”

“Merlin’s beard, the storm is really loud up here!” he said. “How scared are you?”

“Too scared to go and try and find some company,” I said, my voice muffled, but I was still unable to keep the quaver from it.

“You alright now?” he asked.

I hugged him tighter. “You are not leaving.”

“Can I sit down then?” he said, gingerly easing himself out of my arms. I held on tighter. “You’re very clingy.”

“I hadn’t noticed,” I quipped, but I let him sit down on the bed. I quickly slipped off my high heels and smoothed down my dress before jumping up next to him.

“Oh, does Mellie get sarcastic when she’s upset?” Charlie said, adjusting the duvet and pillows.

I scowled. “I’m not upset. I’m terrified. There is a difference.”

“Mellie does get sarcastic when she’s upset,” Charlie said, giving me a sneaky sideways look. I stuck out my tongue, and there was another low rumble.

“Why did you use my full name?” I asked, inching ever closer to him.

Charlie shrugged. “It felt like a full name kind of emergency,” he said.

“You got here pretty quick,” I said, relatively calm now I was distracted from the storm. “And you’re not wet.”

“Yeah... I, er, I...”

“Got a taxi?” I prompted.

He clicked his fingers. “I got a taxi. That’s it,” he said hurriedly. “It took my ages to get away from Violet though, and then I ran into Jess, who was hysterical. She thought you would be clawing down the curtains in terror, or something equally destructive.”

“No, it’s Jess that attacks things in emotional situations. I make nests.”

Charlie awkwardly contorted his hand in order to pat me on the head. “And it’s a very good nest. You should be proud.”

“You’ve just sat in it and moved it all and ruined it all,” I said with mock-annoyance.

Charlie moved as if to leave. “I can go if you want,” he said, but I grabbed his hands.

“You are not leaving!” I said; my voice was pretty high-pitched.

“Don’t worry,” Charlie said in a soothing voice. I wasn’t sure if he was trying to be funny or genuine. “I’m not going to go anywhere.”

We were both silent for a while until I remembered something.

“You said you couldn’t get away from Violet?” I asked.

He shuffled awkwardly next to me. “Er, yeah.”

“What happened?” I asked, trying and failing to sound nonchalant.

“Well, may I just say that she has a problem with you?” Charlie said.

“You can more than say, you can explain,” I said, and poked him with my shoe heel. He groaned.

“Come on Charlie, it’ll take my mind off the storm and how completely and utterly terrified I am and making nests and stuff,” I garbled. I may have been overstating slightly.

“You’re annoying,” he sighed.

I stuck my tongue out again. “And yet you still chose to be in a confined space with me for the foreseeable future,” I said triumphantly.

“For the foreseeable future?” Charlie repeated. “Merlin’s beard, how long is this storm going to last?!”

“You’d best start talking then,” I said. “Keep both of us entertained.”

He sighed in defeat. “There’s not that much to tell,” he said. He caught my stern look, and hurriedly carried on. “Well, Violet turned up, and it was a bit of a surprise apparently-”

“Yeah, she goes to the tech parties about as much as I do,” I interjected.

Charlie raised his eyebrows. “Are you telling this story or am I?”

I held up my hands. “Sorry, carry on.”

He harrumphed. “So Violet turned up and half of the guys there were trying to get her drinks, and the other half were being held back by their girlfriends. I was avoiding her, and then I saw Nick and had a chat with him, and then I noticed the thunder and then Jess came ran in, practically in hysterics because of your irrational hatred of loud noises.”

I poked him. “I am not scared of loud noises, just storms,” I said, pretending to be mad. “Where were you if Nick managed to find you?”

Charlie looked shifty. “In the men’s toilets.”

“That is not avoiding Violet, that’s hiding from her!”

“What should I have done? She’s a dragon-lady, and I’m terrified of her!”

“Marty said you were a dragon tamer,” I told him, staring up at the ceiling. Charlie started slightly next to me.

“Did he? Well, there’s dragons and dragons. Violet is scarier than my mother.”

I laughed. “You’re a wimp. Stand up to her! I did!”

“Yeah, and you nearly got sacked,” Charlie said.

My mouth dropped open. “You listened!”

“Of course I listened, I’d be an idiot not to,” he said. “I wanted to hear what you’d say!”

I went bright red, but I don’t think he could see my tomato-ness in the dark. He chuckled. “You are very brave,” he said.

“I was pretending to be brave,” I said, attempting to steer the conversation away from what I may or may not have said to Violet about Charlie. “Violet is pretty scary, I’ll give you that. I think it is because she has everything she wants, and her confidence is terrifying.”

“And her dragon-genes,” Charlie added.

“And her dragon-genes,” I agreed. “So what happened after Jess came into the men’s toilets?”

“I persuaded Jess that it would be fine if I came to look after you, and that she could stay with Nick. I took one step out the toilets and was immediately accosted by Violet, who wanted to know where you were.”

This was more tense than that thriller Jess and I watched the other night. “What did you say?”

“I said that you were waiting for me, and that I was sorry, I had to go, and then I walked away. And then she followed me, asking questions about you and me and basically trying to stop me from going anywhere.” Charlie took a breath. “I thought I’d never get away.”

He laid a hand dramatically over his forehead. “It was awful. But then a knight in shining armour came to save me.”

I looked at him quizzically.

“King Arthur,” he clarified. “Nick came and talked to Violet long enough for me to dash outside and... call a taxi.”

“And then you hotfooted it over here to save me. That story could have been told much quicker, you know.”

“You said to entertain you! I was trying to be as dramatic as possible,” Charlie whined. He huffed. “Next time I won’t bother saving you.”

I stared up at the ceiling as Charlie fell silent, and watched the headlights of cars race across the ceiling as they passed by on the road below.

“Charlie?” I asked, twisting my fingers together as another rumble of thunder came, but they were getting fainter as the storm moved further away.

“Mmm?” he mumbled sleepily.

“You know the other day, when you had to stay over at mine because you were drunk?” I paused, but Charlie stayed silent, so I carried on. “You know what you said, about Violet being pretty and funny and generally awesome?”

Charlie remained uncommunicative, so I pressed on. “Well, I was just wondering, you know...” I steeled myself. “What changed?”

I waited for his reply, my hands crunched into fists. What would he say? God, this felt like an eternity.

“Charlie?” I asked again, tentatively.

There was still no reply.

“Charlie?” I said, and poked him. He grunted, and rolled onto his side, eyes shut. He was asleep.

-

When the first rays of sunshine crept in through the crack in my curtains, I gingerly sat up and swung my legs over the side of the bed, being careful not to wake up Charlie. I hadn’t slept very well. In fact, I hadn’t slept at all. It was partly due to the occasional rumbles of thunder from the west, where the storm had moved on to, but it was mainly due to Charlie.

Charlie Weasley snored like a pig with blocked sinuses. It was disgusting, and you could hear it even through a pillow.

I tugged the curtains back slightly, illuminating the room a bit more, but being careful not to wake up Charlie. He scrunched up his nose at the light, but otherwise didn’t stir. He looked very peaceful.

I grabbed some dirty clothes from the day before off the floor, and quietly shuffled into the bathroom to change, and, for the first time in my life, clean my teeth before I ate anything. I did not want to be accosted suddenly by morning breath.

I ran down four flights of stairs to the dining room to get some breakfast, and was completely out of breath by the time I got back. Charlie was just waking up, looking thoroughly bemused.

“Toast?” I offered, panting slightly.

“Why do you look like you’ve just run a marathon?” he asked groggily.

I nicked a piece of toast off the stack I’d put in front of him. “The lifts aren’t working after the power cut last night,” I explained. “You must have had to use the stairs to get up here last night, yeah?”

Charlie nodded slowly. “Yeah... wait, why are you up so early?”

I scowled. “I’ve got to go work,” I grumbled, rummaging around to find my bag and some acceptable shoes.

“Since when did what you do become classed as work?” Charlie asked, propping himself up on his elbows. “What are you off to do, anyway? Canoeing? Horse-riding?"

“Since when did 5th century knights go canoeing?” I scoffed. The truth was I was going horse-riding, and he’d just take the mickey if he knew. I shouldered my bag. “I’ll see you later then!”

“See you,” he said, as I went to leave. I got to the door before turning back.

“Thanks for last night,” I said quietly, before ducking down and lightly kissing him on the cheek. I ran out the room before I could see his reaction.

Yeah, I was definitely acting like a stupid teenager.

-

I had arrived on time for make-up and costume, and then only been half an hour late at the stables. We’d had to wait another forty minutes until Russell had turned up. But Russell (Lancelot) and I were currently galloping along a ridge, being filmed by a helicopter, which followed us like a large angry fly. Russell did his own stunts, and if Violet did then I could have spent the day with Charlie, I thought spitefully.

Thankfully, it was a lovely day to be outside. The sky was a clear, pale blue, like a painted watercolour with faint wispy white clouds very high up. The scenery around me was fantastic as well, rolling lush green hills with colourful flowers which danced in the light breeze. The rain had made the countryside explode into vibrancy, and it was beautiful.

I had seen the horse for Nick the other day; it was a giant black creature which would inspire the fear of God in any attacking knights, but Russell had a lean bay. He rode slightly behind me as his horse tossed her head. Anytime we stopped, she pawed at the ground and chomped on her bit- she was as full of energy as Russell himself. On the other hand, I was riding a more docile grey, who was faster than the bay, but slightly more unsteady on his feet on the rough ground.

I was also wearing period costume, which I was usually never particularly pleased about- but today, I was pretty happy. I was riding side-saddle, wearing a beautiful deep indigo dress and my hair was all braided and I felt like a princess.

It was magical.

“I hope to God it doesn’t rain again!” Russell shouted as he rode next to me, his voice being ripped away by the wind.

I nodded. “I think the storm cleared everything up though,” I called back.

“I heard about Charlie and Violet,” he yelled, riding with one hand, the other casually on the sword which banged against his hip.

“What did you hear?”

“Just that Charlie flat-out refused Violet because you were having a panic attack,” he shouted, smiling.

I giggled. “It wasn’t quite like that-”

“Did Charlie pick you over Violet?” Russell called, cutting me off.

I nodded again, a smile tugging at my lips, and Russell crowed with laughter. “How do you still have your job?” he asked.

I waggled my eyebrows. “My charm. It’s easy to win Violet over.”

Russell shook his head in disbelief. “If that’s true, then teach me your secrets, master! I’m supposed to be in love with her, and she’s becoming more annoying with every word that comes out of her mouth. Hey!” he said suddenly. “Can you ride with one hand?”

“Of course!” I said, wrapping the reins around my left wrist and waving my other hand in the air.

It was at that point that my grey stumbled on a rock, and I slipped off sideways. I take it back, side-saddles are ridiculous.

-

I think I must have hit my head, as the next thing I knew, I was staring at a lot of blue, with Russell’s head in my periphery, his face anxious.

“Mellie?” he said, on seeing my eyes open.

“Hello,” I said, groggily. I was lying in the long grass on the ridge, surrounded by flowers. Russell was knelt next to me, and I could see the horses cropping grass contentedly not too far away. It would have been idyllic if I didn’t have a banging headache. I put a hand to the back of my head, feeling gingerly. Yeah, there was a massive egg forming there. I tried to sit up.

“No, you shouldn’t get up!” he said.

“But the grass is really wet,” I complained. I could already feel the dew soaking through my dress.

“You shouldn’t get up,” Russell repeated. “You’ve done something to your arm.”

And then I became aware of my left shoulder being practically on fire.

“Crap, that hurts,” I said, sucking air in through my gritted teeth. “What the hell did I do?”

“It’s my fault,” Russell said, looking so apologetic I wanted to pet his cute curly hair. “If I hadn’t dared you to ride with one hand, then you wouldn’t have wrapped the reins around your hand.” He grimaced. “You kind of got dragged by your hand in the reins until I managed to stop your horse.”

That sounded unbelievably painful.

“The helicopter saw everything, and they’re going to land quite close and take you to the helipad at the set, and there will be an ambulance there to take you to hospital- we can’t get one up here, sorry,” he said, apologising again, like it was his fault we were up a massive hill which significantly lacked roads.

“Thanks,” I said. “Wait, did they get it on camera?”

Russell just told me to lie down and shut up, although I really didn’t see how talking could make my shoulder hurt more.

Once we were in the helicopter, a cameraman who had been on a first aid course said it was a broken elbow -I told them it was my shoulder that hurt- and someone else who knew a paramedic said it was most probably a sprain –it hurt more than a bloody sprain- and even Russell chipped in with his two pennies worth of useless medical advice. By the time we landed at the castle set, I was fiercely resisting the urge to hit them all in the face with my free, non-achy hand.

I stepped out of the helicopter gingerly- avoiding all attempt at help, my arm cradled to my chest. They all wanted to touch my shoulder in their efforts to get me safely out the aircraft. Unfortunately, I was greeted by an extremely large crowd of crew and assembled others -although I couldn’t see Jess anywhere-, who were probably hoping for something a lot more graphic. I was sure I was black and blue from my head to my toes, but there was no blood. But my hair looked a mess. And I might have still been wearing my dress. I must have looked like a fairytale princess who had gone through five rounds with a heavyweight boxer.

I stumbled across the helipad, Russell half-steering me towards where a taxi waited to take me to hospital. Apparently, my injuries were not serious enough to warrant an ambulance. I gave a very bad-tempered answer as to whether a taxi would be alright- and then my mood plummeted still further as I saw Violet gracefully glide through the crowd.

“Oh Melanie,” she gushed, faking sympathy perfectly. She laid a hand on my hurt shoulder- it was icy cold against my burning skin. I gasped involuntarily with pain, and she quickly removed her hand. “Oh, I’m so sorry, Melanie! Oh just imagine, it could have been me-”

“Let me have a look,” said a gruff voice, cutting Violet off, and Charlie stepped forwards, still wearing the same clothes from last night. He took one look at my shoulder and sighed. “That’s obviously dislocated, you idiots.”

He put his hand in the small of my back, guiding me towards the taxi. “I’ll take you to hospital,” he said, not giving me time to respond. He then turned to Russell. “Could you make sure Jess knows what has happened?”

Russell nodded. “Sure thing.”



Charlie opened the taxi door for me, ignoring Violet’s continued protestations of guilt and false kindnesses. I clambered in, keeping my arm clamped protectively to my chest. Charlie shut the door, and got in the other side, instructing the driver on going to the nearest hospital.

As soon as we had pulled off, Charlie turned to me. “How much pain are you in?” he asked, looking concerned.

I grimaced as the taxi went over a bump in the road, jarring my shoulder. That is one of the benefits of air-travel; you don’t get uneven streets.

“A fair amount,” I said, concentrating on the steady in-out of my breaths. It was a pain-coping technique that I had been taught on the set of another film, when I had broken my ankle by stepping in a rabbit-hole. Don’t laugh, it’s easily done. “It’s a lot worse than stubbing your toe against something.”

Charlie chewed his lip in thought. “I can take the pain away, if it’s really really bad,” he said, hesitantly.

“Oh god, please take the pain away,” I said all in a rush. “Please.”

Charlie nodded, and pushed up the partition separating us and the taxi driver. Then, he pulled out a stick, about a foot long.

I rolled my eyes. “Charlie, I really don’t think a splint is going to help here.”

“This isn’t a splint,” he said, and lightly tapped my hurt shoulder with it, muttering a foreign word under his breath. I could have sworn the stick’s tip sparked for a second, before the tiny flicker of light sunk into my poor shoulder, and then-

And then the pain left so suddenly I thought I had imagined it in the first place. My shoulder didn’t even feel swollen, although I could still see that it was entirely the wrong shape. I pointed at the stick with my free hand.

“What is that, and where can I get one?”




A/N: back again, I hope you're still enjoying Mellie and Charlie :) Also, I miiight have a new story up soon- Marauders era. Maybe you could check that out, when it's up? Thanks for reading, and I'd love for you to tell me what you think.


Chapter 7: secrets unveiled
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Charlie didn’t say anything.

“Come on,” I pressed. “What is it? Some sort of herbal healing device? You could make a fortune selling them. That was brilliant.”

Charlie didn’t even crack a smile. In fact, he looked mildly upset. “Shush a second and let me sort out your shoulder,” he said quietly.

“Can you sort out my shoulder?” I asked apprehensively as the taxi trundled along the narrow roads, bumping and jolting, but I didn’t feel a thing. I mean, Charlie may have a magic stick, but that doesn’t mean he can fix dislocated joints as easily. I’m sure sticks have some limitations.

“Yeah, I’ve done it before,” he said, rubbing his day-old gingery stubble on his chin. “Dragons come with their casualties.”

I smiled, but again, Charlie didn’t. He looked strangely serious, and I was getting worried. Maybe the herbal healing stick had some sort of freaky side effects? Or maybe he was just worried about me hurting my shoulder more while I couldn’t feel anything. At any rate, he was slightly freaking me out.

“This won’t hurt at all,” he said. “But it might feel slightly uncomfortable, and I’m going to have to press pretty hard to pop the joint back in the socket, alright?”


Charlie tapped on the screen separating us and the taxi driver, and indicated for the driver to pull over. “I don’t want to accidently push in the wrong direction as we go over a bump,” he explained.

Once we’d stopped, I shuffled around so Charlie could reach my left shoulder easier. “Give it your best shot,” I said, taking a deep breath in preparation. Although I knew I couldn’t and wouldn’t feel anything, my body was still tensed for pain.

“Relax,” Charlie instructed, putting both his large hands on my shoulder. I closed my eyes as he pulled, and my numb shoulder seemed to come alive with sensation. My eyes flew open as I felt the briefest of flashes of pain- and I could almost feel the bone ball and socket inside my shoulder- and then it was over, and Charlie sat back on his seat.

“Well, that was easier than I expected,” he said, taking a deep breath. “I thought I’d be pulling and pushing for longer than that.”

“Thank you,” I said.

He huffed at me. Now, I was exceptionally confused- had I somehow done something wrong? Was dislocating your shoulder a Charlie Weasley no-no?

“Could you take us back to the Lichtberg please?” Charlie asked the driver, who nodded and mumbled something in German.

I think Charlie was ignoring me now.

I tried to ignore him back, moving my arm experimentally. It could be moved slightly, but I felt uncomfortable twinges if I pushed it too far. Charlie stopped me.

“You should tie it up so you don’t hurt it accidently while you can’t feel anything,” he said, taking off his jacket.

“What is that stick?” I asked again, but he ignored me, folding his jacket into something resembling a sling. He tied the sleeves around the back of my neck, making sure my arm was secure in the main body of the jacket.

“Once we’re back at the hotel, we should get a doctor to come out and see you,” he said, avoiding my question still. “You don’t need the hospital now, but a proper sling and some strong painkillers would help a lot.”

“Charlie, stop dodging the question!” I said, frustrated. “What is that stick?” I dropped my voice low, suddenly realising something. “It’s not... it’s not illegal, is it?” I asked quietly.

Charlie gave a short bark of a laugh, but it was humourless and cold. “No, it’s not illegal.”

I set my jaw sternly. “Charlie, you’re scaring me,” I told him. “Will you please explain whatever is making you act so weird? I don’t like it.”

He looked at me for one long minute, his face unreadable. I hadn’t lied when I said I was scared- this serious and worried Charlie was so different to the joker I had known for the past couple of weeks, I was truly anxious.

“I’ll tell you when we get back to the hotel,” he said, finally.

I nodded, half-satisfied. I’d make him tell me eventually. And I was still pretty worried about whatever he needed to tell me. He was a murderer? He wasn’t really Charlie Weasley, he was an impersonator? He was a spy? He was an alien?

This is why I don’t like mystery stories. In the end, I always assume that the big secret is an alien invasion. To me, that seems like the only logical solution. I am always wrong.

The rest of the car journey was spent in an awkward silence. Charlie stared out the window, deep in thought, and I played with the zip on his jacket around my arm. The taxi driver kept giving us suspicious looks in the rear view mirror as well, which didn’t help my overall feelings of paranoia.

When we finally pulled up outside the hotel, Charlie paid the driver and waited for me to clamber out the car. He was still being scarily silent and his eyebrows were furrowed in thought.

At reception, he organised for a doctor to come round to take a look at my shoulder, and then we slowly walked up all four flights of stairs in total silence. Once we had got to my room, Charlie sat on the bed, head in hands. I sat on the deep window ledge, and watched him for a second.

“I expect an explanation,” I said, breaking the silence. Charlie looked at me, biting his lip. “And every second you don’t answer,” I continued, “I become more worried. So please, put me out of my misery, and tell me you are not an alien.”

He half-snorted in amusement, and leant back on my bed. I noticed that when he had left this morning, he’d made the bed immaculately, straightening the pillows and smoothing out the creases in the duvet.

“I’m not an alien,” he said with finality, so that at least soothed my fears on that front. “I’m just... I’m not sure how to explain without you freaking out,” he said.

And boom, all my fears came back.

“Is it something bad?” I asked, feeling a lot like I was trying to guess my birthday presents; ‘Is it edible? Is it an animal, vegetable or mineral?’ Before you say anything, Jess gives some wacky presents. The other year I got a dead cactus which was supposed to bloom into life if you gave it water. It didn’t. I eventually threw it out, and bought a live one. Don’t tell her.

“It’s nothing bad,” he reassured me. “I just don’t know how to explain it,” he repeated.

I crossed my legs, and looked out the window. Small people walked past underneath my window, out in the sunshine for the first time in weeks.

“Start at the beginning?” I suggested.

Charlie half-shook his head, and then sat upright, folding his hands in his lap. He took a deep breath, and focused his gaze on the apple-green wall and dark oil painting of a forest in front of him.

“Mellie...” he said, and I waited, because whatever this was, it was an incredibly hard thing for him to say.

“Mel,” he said again, and there was another excruciatingly long pause. “I’m a wizard.”

“What?”

The question was a kind of knee-jerk reaction- if he’d said; ‘I have diabetes’ or ‘I’m in love with your mother’ or even ‘I hate you, because you are an ugly, mean person’... I still would have squawked ‘what?’ at him.

I wasn’t expecting a declaration of magical abilities though, which Charlie then proceeded to explain.

“You see, the thing is I am wizard, so I can do magic and stuff.” He paused, and ran his hand through his hair. “That ‘herbal healing stick’ is my wand,” he said.

“Right.”

“Mellie, I couldn’t tell you earlier because I’m technically not allowed. Witches and wizards, we’ve got a whole Ministry of Magic and a Statute of Secrecy, which explicitly says that you can’t tell the Muggles –that’s you, as a non-magical person- and we’re really not supposed to break it. I just didn’t want you to be in pain with your shoulder- I really do work with dragons, by the way; proper, real, fire-breathing dragons, I’ll take you to Romania to see them some time- and I went to a school of witchcraft and wizardry called Hogwarts, and you seriously can’t tell anyone else about this,” he said, and took another deep breath, apparently finished with his garbling.

“Mellie?” he prompted.

I was a little dumbstruck. “You’re a wizard?” I managed finally, swallowing hard. I had to say, this was a pretty impressive imaginary world that Charlie had made up, with its Ministry and its Statute of Secrecy. But I was definitely calling Marty as soon as the doctor came.

“You don’t believe me,” Charlie said suddenly, and I couldn’t lie to him.

“I’m sorry, Charlie, I really am. But I can’t believe that you can do magic.”

A ghost of a genuine smile hovered around his mouth. “But what if I can prove it?”

I folded my arms. “You can’t,” I said, sure of myself. There was no way that Charlie could do magic. It was impossible, and broke just about every law of physics that there was. Although the only rule I knew about was Murphy’s Law.

And then, with a flick of his stick and some Latin-y sounding words, the dressing table was turned into a very large, very pink, pig.

I screamed.

“THERE IS A PIG IN MY ROOM!” I yelled, pretty much on the verge of being hysterical. That’s me. Calm to bat-shit-crazy in 0.003 of a second. Charlie had turned my dressing table into a pig. A dirty great pig was in my hotel room, looking at me confusedly through its tiny black eyes.

“Stop freaking out!” Charlie said, trying to shush me.

“CHANGE IT BACK, RIGHT NOW!”

“Alright, alright!” Charlie said, flicking his wand again, as he said something else which sounded a lot like ‘pork and men’s potatoes’.

Nothing happened.

“Why is the pig still in my room?” I asked, my voice deceptively calm.

Charlie swallowed. “I was always bad at reversal-spells,” he said. “Especially with big things.”

“Then why didn’t you pick a smaller animal?” I said, creeping higher up the octaves again.

“I was going for the wow factor!” Charlie said, exasperatedly, pointing his stick at the pig again. The pig seemed pretty unconcerned, sniffing at the air with a large, square snout.

“SO YOU CHOSE A PIG?” I yelled. “HOW WILL THAT MAKE ME GO WOW?”

Charlie closed his eyes, –probably to block my annoying yelling out- flicked his wand, and muttered the weird potato words again. This time, the pig shimmered slightly, and then with a tiny pop! changed back into my dressing table.

“Thank Merlin for that,” Charlie said, collapsing on the bed. “I couldn’t take much more of your screaming.”

As the immediate danger of pig poo on my carpet had been eliminated by being morphed back into an inanimate object, I calmed down considerably- and my mind started working properly again.

Merlin’, Charlie had said, on multiple occasions as well, and if he was really a wizard, then that would kind of fit. Charlie had never seen a film... he didn’t know how to text... he certainly couldn’t drive... I remembered something else ‘I’d rather fly to Austria on a broomstick’, he’d said in London. The references to dragons... Marty had called me a Muggle as well... the names of his teachers- Rumbleroar and something? He was an expert on mythical creatures... which probably weren’t as mythical as us Muggles liked to believe. Holy crap, I wanted to see a unicorn.

“Are you afraid of pigs as well?” he asked. And then there was also his very real proof... I could still smell pig.

“Of course not, I was just shocked,” I snapped back automatically.

Charlie being a wizard kind of made sense. Oh God, I’m going crazy now as well.

“Okay,” I said slowly. “Just for a second, let’s pretend you are a wizard.”

Charlie raised his eyebrows and twirled his wand between his fingers. “Alright, I’m pretending.”

Woo, sarcasm. You’re so funny. Hear that silence? That’s me, not laughing.

“Okay,” I repeated. “So, you’re a wizard. What the hell are you doing on the set of a Muggle film?”

Charlie looked relieved that I wasn’t shouting anymore. “Well, there are a couple of reasons. One reason is that I’m a bit short on money, and as you said, it’s a brilliant wage...” he trailed off.

“And the other reason?” I asked.

“Uhhh, that’s a little more hard to explain,” he hedged.

“Harder than explaining that you’re a wizard?” I asked incredulously.

“I suppose you could call it meeting old friends,” he said. “Yeah, meeting old friends and making new ones.”

“Magical friends?” I enquired, attempting to sound blasé.

Charlie winked. “Very magical. I thought telling you would be harder than this,” he said suddenly. “And I have to say, you are taking this pretty well.”

“You expected more screaming and mad shouting?” I asked.

“No, and I don’t think you could have physically got your voice to go any higher,” he said, chuckling. “I’m sure there are dogs somewhere, writhing on the ground in pain.”

I scowled at him, and then there was a knock on the hotel room door. Charlie went to answer it- standing there was a very old man, with an old-fashioned leather doctor’s bag and a massive beard. “Hello,” he said in accented English. “You need a doctor?”

“Yeah,” Charlie said, standing aside to let the man in. “My friend Melanie has dislocated her shoulder. I managed to pop it back in, but we need painkillers and a sling for her arm, as well as some professional help.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” the man said amiably, shaking Charlie’s hand.

He was very gentle with his examination of my sore shoulder, as Charlie’s quick-fix-magic-healing-wand-thing was beginning to wear off, leaving my arm aching and tender. He also praised Charlie’s bone-setting, which prompted him to lean down and whisper in my ear.

“I set the foreleg of a Norwegian Ridgeback once,” he said, his breath tickling my ear. He sounded very proud, so I smiled at him- although that became a bit forced when the doctor poked my shoulder particularly hard.

The doctor loaded me up with painkillers and a prescription for when I got back to Britain, and he also strung up my arm with a proper sling, showing Charlie how to help me with it, which meant Charlie could have his jacket back. He shrugged it back on.

“You need to get a lot of rest in order for your shoulder to heal,” the doctor said, picking back up his bag and flashing us a yellowing smile. “All you need is time to recuperate, and you should be fine. Don’t stretch or strain your shoulder too much- so you’ll probably have to take some time off your job, depending on how strenuous it is.”

He shook Charlie’s hand again, and let himself out. Charlie didn’t let the door click shut, instead grabbing it and checking to make sure the doctor had gone into the lift before turning back.

“I didn’t want him to accidently hear about magic,” he explained.

“Now what?” I asked.

Charlie leant on the door frame. “Well, you should probably assure Jess you’re not dead, as I’ve noticed that she does have a tendency to overreact- and then you’re probably going to have to go home and take some sick leave.”

I scowled. “That’s not what I meant.”

Charlie grimaced. “Yeah, I know.”

“So?” I realised my voice probably came out a lot harsher than I intended. I looked at the floor, feeling kind of awkward. Charlie was a wizard. He could do magic. He could put spells on people. He could do practically anything. I suddenly felt very small and inferior. I was scared of thunder, and he worked with dragons. I mean, come on.

“So... well, you need to take some time off, and I was thinking that I could maybe take some time off as well?”

My eyes snapped back up to his face. “What?”

He scratched the back of his neck, looking kind of sheepish. “It’s my brother’s birthday in a week, and I was going home- do you maybe want to come with me?”

“To your house?”

Charlie nodded. “I mean, only if you want to. I’ll just take you home if not, I’m sure your cousin could look after you- Max, yeah?”

“Are all your family magical?” I said, ignoring his question. I was still trying to wrap my head around everything Charlie had said, and I was really quite impressed with how calm and steady I was being.

“Erm, well, the vast majority of my family are. I think Mum has a second cousin who is an accountant, but we don’t really talk about him.” Charlie’s eyes glanced down at my shoulder- I hadn’t realised my hand was unconsciously rubbing my sore arm.

“Right...” A magical family, I thought. A whole family of magical people. He probably doesn’t even see how weird that is to me.

Charlie smiled nervously at me. “So do you want to come? I promise to protect you from Violet, and you need to rest your shoulder. Just for a few days, for the celebration? I’ll take you home anytime you wanted to leave. It might even be fun....”

A couple of days in a house full of magical people. “I’d love to go,” I said, not counting on the wide grin that spread across Charlie’s face.

“Really? Oh, that’s amazing! Wait, I’ll just go tell Philip that you’re going to have to take some time off work-”

“Since when were you and the director on a first name basis?” I asked incredulously. I marvelled at myself sometimes, I really did. Never mind that Charlie was a wizard, I was impressed that he knew Philip Masters. Ridiculous. Priorities, Melanie.

Charlie waved a nonchalant hand. “Oh, you know.” He winked mischievously at me. “Watch this,” he said, swivelling on the spot.

And with a loud crack! Charlie disappeared.


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