Chapter 1 : of leprechauns and liars
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Quite the contrary, actually.
“You’re dumping me?”
“While we’re on holiday?”
“Because you met the man of your dreams?”
“In a pub?”
“Just last night?”
“And now you’re in love?”
Grace sighed, folding her arms over her chest and sending him one of her irritated looks. “Jesus, Charlie, when you put it like that, you make it sound so cheap!”
“That’s because it is cheap, Gracie,” Charlie replied lamely, too tired of this repetition to care. He expelled a breath. “Whatever. Go have your fun. Just don’t think about coming back to the room. I paid for it, I get to sleep here.”
She gave him a small smile. “I wouldn’t dream of it,” she said as she gathered her coat in her arms. Just as she turned to leave, she threw him a pitying look. “I’m sorry about this.”
“I’m sure you are.”
“I really did like you,” Grace insisted, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.
“You just liked him more,” Charlie finished, waving a dismissive hand in her direction. It was times like these when he really regretted giving up cigarettes. He could definitely use one right about now. “Yeah, yeah, if I haven’t heard it once…” he trailed off, wondering where he could procure a pack. Or two. He wouldn’t smoke them all - not tonight, anyway.
Narrowing her eyes at him, Grace shook her head. “Whatever, Charlie.” She wrenched the door open, preparing to make a dramatic exit. “Bye.”
He didn’t return the sentiment, which is why she probably slammed the door behind her.
“Good riddance,” he mumbled to himself, rubbing his jaw as he sank back into the couch cushions.
If she was hoping he’d get on his knees and beg for her to stay, to not leave him all by his lonesome, Grace was sorely mistaken. After his last relationship had quite literally gone up in flames - his ex tried to burn his flat to the ground - he hadn’t been expecting much out of this one. As pretty as Grace was, she was about as dull as a doornail and probably as stupid as one. The only time she was interesting was when she was drunk, and when Grace drank, she tended to vomit all over his shoes, which didn’t sit well with Charlie for a number of reasons.
He glanced down at his untarnished leather boots and smiled.
Good riddance, indeed.
Charlie never had a problem with being left alone. In fact, he enjoyed it.
Being alone meant he only had to care for one person: himself. He didn’t have to watch what he said or did in case he stepped on someone’s toes or rubbed them the wrong way. He didn’t have to force conversation with someone he didn’t like from the start. He didn’t have to be pleasant.
There was something so freeing about the notion of waltzing through life, looking out for one and only. To walk without attachments meant unburdened shoulders. It was nice. But with that freedom came a peculiar pitting sensation in his stomach, which, as time passed, grew heavier and heavier.
It could’ve been disheartening, if Charlie allowed himself to dwell on it, but he didn’t, knowing it was pointless to focus on what he couldn’t fix. He knew what was wrong; he had known for quite some time, but he was unwilling to fix it because fixing it meant sacrificing a part of himself.
He couldn’t do that. Not willingly, anyway.
Passing a hand over his face, Charlie knew he had to do something other than sit here on the sofa and stare at the ceiling. He wasn’t one accustomed to brooding, much less over a girl he’d only been with for two months. Though he was a bit irked that he took time off from work to visit her parents in Ireland for ruddy St. Patrick’s Day. He wasn’t even bloody Irish, for Merlin’s sake!
And leprechauns, with their scruffy red beards, pots of fucking gold, and alarming shortness, gave him the creeps.
But god be damned if anyone thought he’d be caught dead skulking in a hotel room on St. Patrick’s Day - or night rather, as the sun had disappeared long ago. Kind of like any affection he may or may not have felt towards Grace Flanagan. He might not be Irish, but the man could hold his liquor and nothing tasted quite as good as a cold draught.
The thought of Guinness slipping down his throat and warming his belly was enough for him to get up and get out of the cramped hotel room. The view was pretty (lots of green), but he was fairly certain that, once upon a time, something (or someone) had died in here, and the clean-up crew hadn’t done a very thorough job. Grimacing at the thought, Charlie took his jacket out of the closet and slipped his arms into the sleeves, not even bothering to check his appearance in the mirror before he left because, quite frankly, he didn’t care.
It took him only moments after stepping outside into the brisk evening air to realise he hadn’t the slightest idea where he was going. The town in which Grace’s parents lived was one he hadn’t even heard of before, much less one he knew how to navigate. But then he remembered it was St. Patrick’s Day, the whole reason why he was going out to get drunk in the first place, and that all he had to do was keep an ear out for a ruckus and surely, he’d find the nearest drinking hole.
Seemed like a decent plan and after about a minute, it turned out that it was.
Up the lane, three girls stumbled out of a small house, their arms linked and skirts short. Even if they hadn’t been leaning heavily against one another as they tripped down the street, Charlie would’ve known that they were drunk, if only because they were talking and singing and quite possibly shrieking louder than he thought humanly possible. As they looked as though they knew where they were going, he followed them, keeping a respectable distance as to not seem like a stalker.
Or a creep, which were basically the same thing nowadays.
The pub was typical in the sense that it was welcoming without feeling homey, crowded without making Charlie feel claustrophobic. And as a man who enjoyed his freedom, it was a good thing. Not that he particularly cared where he got smashed, just as long as he wouldn’t remember a thing when he woke up in the morning.
Elbowing his way towards the bar, he thought it was a small miracle that he’d found a seat, given the throng of people clustered about the place. He dropped onto the nearest stool, which was next to a woman smoking a cigarette. Charlie tried not to gaze forlornly at the grey curls of smoke as they drifted over his head, disintegrating into nothingness.
As he shucked his jacket, trying his best to ignore the scent of tobacco wafting about, Charlie spared the woman a sidelong glance. She had thick black hair, slim fingers, and pale lips from which the gloriously glowing cigarette hung. It was only when her eyes, which were as smoky as the breath she expelled, met his that he realised he’d been staring instead of glancing.
“Shit,” Charlie swore under his breath, averting his eyes. He could feel the heat rising to his cheeks, and inwardly cursed his pale skin and spattering of freckles. “Sorry.”
The woman chuckled, a warm-like-melted chocolate sound. “No worries,” she said, her native Irish accent soft, which contrasted greatly against the loud cacophony of the occupants’ voices.
Flicking the ash off the end of her smouldering cigarette, she turned on her stool to look at him, a quizzical expression painted on her face. From the way she furrowed her brow to the tilt of her head as she studied him, she reminded Charlie of someone, but of whom, he wasn’t quite sure.
“Are you English?” she asked after some length of time.
Charlie arched an eyebrow, suddenly wondering if this was the best decision he had ever made. Which, upon reflection, it probably wasn’t. Most of his drinking escapades ended badly and this wasn’t shaping up to be the exception he’d hoped for. “Is that a problem?”
“Ach, no,” she said with a light chuckle, stamping out the end of her cigarette in the crystal ashtray. Mirth danced in her eyes as she regarded him, her features still arranged in a mask of curiosity. “I’m just giving you a hard time, is all.”
Charlie glared at the bar top. What was it with women and their desire to give him a hard time? What had he done to deserve this?
At the sight of his scowl, the woman smiled, leaning over to extend a hand. “I’m Fiona.”
He stared at her outstretched hand with some reservation, taking in the smooth expanse of her pale skin. Realising he was staring again, Charlie shook her hand. “Charlie.”
“So,” Fiona drawled, reaching into her pocket and withdrawing a pack of cigarettes. She removed one for herself, stuck it between her lips, and held it out to him.
Unable to resist, Charlie took one, nodding his head in thanks.
Winking, she struck her thumb against the lighter, causing a series of small sparks to erupt. “What brings you here to Dunmahon?”
“Is that so?” Fiona mused aloud, unvoiced laughter colouring her voice. Once again, her brow furrowed as she struggled to bring forth a flame. “Is she a pretty girl?”
Charlie shrugged, finally leaning over to grab the lighter out of her hand. One strike of his thumb and a bright flame danced about. “Here.”
“Thanks.” She leaned forwards and he met her halfway, holding the ignited lighter to the end of her cigarette. Inhaling deeply, the end burning a brilliant orange, she repeated her question. “So, is she?”
“This girl you followed over here,” Fiona said with a roll of her eyes. “Not very quick on the uptake, are you?”
Charlie lit his own cigarette before responding, frowning slightly. “What makes you think I followed her?” He inhaled, and the rush of nicotine is his system made his head spin. It was by far the best part of his evening thus far.
“Because no sane Englishman would willingly come to Dunmahon on St. Pat’s,” laughed Fiona, wisps of smoke trickling out of her mouth as she spoke. Cupping her chin, she stared at him, her fringe flopping into her curious eyes. Her lips twisted into a sardonic smile. “Were you chasing her?”
“Grace?” Charlie sputtered, shaking his head. “Merlin, no, I wasn’t chasing her. More like…begrudgingly following her.”
“That’s a peculiar curse,” noted Fiona as she waved a hand at the bartender, calling him over.
“Merlin,” she said. “Sounds like something a wizard might say.”
Smiling to himself, Charlie shrugged, reaching out for the crystal ash tray. “Maybe it is.”
For some reason, Fiona laughed again, tipping her head back, the action causing the river of black hair to fall down her right shoulder. “So you’re going for the mysterious angle, are you?”
“What? No,” he dispelled as the bartender made his way over to the pair, wearing a very disgruntled expression. “No need for angles.”
“Direct approach then?” Fiona questioned, smirking.
“I find it works best.”
Before Fiona could crack another smile, the bartender grunted. Once he had the attention of the two patrons, he sighed. “What can I get you, Fi?”
“You know what I want, Murph,” she said. “A pint of Guinness.”
Murph the bartender made a noise in the back of his throat and turned his gaze to Charlie. A scowl appeared on his face as he prompted the dragon trainer. “What?”
“Er -” he glanced nervously at Fiona, who winked at him - “I’ll have what she’s having?”
Rolling his eyes, the bartender ambled off, muttering something under his breath about the nerve of some people. Charlie held back a curse; he didn’t come here by choice. So maybe that wasn’t true. He hadn’t come to Ireland by choice, but he had sought out the pub on St. Patrick’s Day, which, as he decided earlier, was not the best choice he could have made.
“So,” Fiona drawled after a moment of amiable silence passed between them. She took a quick drag off her cigarette, then pushed her hair out of her eyes. “If you didn’t chase this girl - this -” she looked at him in askance.
“Grace,” he supplied, following suit and taking a draw.
“Right, Grace.” She waved a hand absentmindedly. “If you weren’t chasing her, then why are you here? Because the way you’re making it sound, she forced you to come with her.”
“She didn’t force me, per se,” Charlie said evasively.
“Then why’d you come along? It’s obvious you don’t want to be here.”
Charlie sighed, raking his fingers through his short hair. He wished the bartender would hurry up with their drinks, as it would provide a distraction and spare him the moment of embarrassment when he described his predicament to a total, but pretty, stranger. Not that her beauty, which was understated in a way that Charlie could appreciate, had anything to do with it. But the faster the booze got here, the quicker he’d get intoxicated and have no qualms whatsoever discussing his relationship or lack thereof with Fiona.
Merlin, he needed a drink. A nice big one.
“She wanted me to meet her parents,” he admitted after a beat.
“Wait a minute,” Fiona said, abandoning her smouldering cigarette in the ash tray and turning on her stool to face him. She gathered her hair and tossed it over her shoulder, her pale grey eyes focussed solely on him. “Your girlfriend brought you - an Englishman - to Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day to meet her very Irish parents?”
Fiona whistled lowly, shaking her head softly.
His curiosity building, Charlie furrowed his brow, pulling deep off his cigarette. “What? Why’d you whistle? What’s so bad about that?”
“Well,” she began, dragging her tongue across her bottom lip, “it’s a bit obvious, isn’t it?”
Fiona laughed shortly. “You don’t have a clue, do you?” When he shook his head, she adopted a sympathetic look and reached out to lay her hand on top of his. Charlie tried to ignore how soft and warm and feminine the underside of her palm felt against the back of his hand. “Love, she brought you here to break up with you.”
Charlie stared at her, not wanting to believe that Grace could be such a slag, but realising that it was true because, well, when it all boiled down to it, Grace was quite nasty when she wanted to be. Which was most of the time.
“So you mean to tell me there was no bloke at the pub that she fell in love with?”
Fiona blinked at him in confusion. “Er - no. I don’t think so.”
The only thing he could do was groan. “Oh fuck,” he said, his words laced with a liberal amount of self-pity. “I’m such a ponce, aren’t I?”
Wrinkling her nose, Fiona seemed to consider how to phrase her response before she gave it. However, when she saw Murph making his way towards them with two overflowing pints of beer, she decided that the situation didn’t call for tact, especially with a bloke like Charlie.
“Yeah, a bit,” she agreed with a bob of her head. Giving his hand a brief squeeze, she slid her hand back to her lap, picking up her abandoned cigarette along the way. “But look on the bright side - our drinks are here!”
Charlie brightened slightly at this. Finally, some part of the evening was going his way, even if the bartender scowled at him as he handed over the second pint. “Cheers!” he said to Fiona, holding up his mug.
Grinning hugely, she clanked her tankard against his. “Cheers!”
A few hours, a handful of shots, and nearly a dozen pints of Guinness later, Charlie could hardly remember his own name, much less why he had come to the pub in the first place. He did, however, learn that he had impeccable aim, especially when throwing darts with his eyes closed, and somehow knew all the words to ‘Oh, Danny Boy’, even though he hadn’t sang it ever in his life.
He also learned that it was unwise to challenge Fiona to a drinking game, as she could match him pint for pint and shot for shot. In fact, the only way Fiona differed from him in her drinking capabilities was the fact she didn’t blather on and on and on about her failed relationships. She did, however, consent to giving women she’d never met before abuse for being so horrible to him.
“Dunno why anyone would break up with you,” she said as she leaned her elbow against the bar top, knocking over several empty shot glasses. Charlie had been outlining the last few days of his relationship with this Grace woman, and even in her drunken state, Fiona didn’t like her very much.
“I know,” Charlie lamented, nodding his head at Murph to pour him another drink. “I don’t know why either. I’m perfectly lovely.”
“You are!” Fiona agreed, oddly vehement. “You’re funny and polite and weird - in a completely charming way, of course,” she added as he opened his mouth to protest.
Instead, he grinned arrogantly. “Naturally.”
Rolling her eyes, Fiona gave his shoulder a shove.
And he fell right off his stool.
A chorus of laughter resounded through the pub as Fiona gave a shout. “Shit, Charlie!”
Sliding rather clumsily off her stool, she dropped to her knees on the floor besides him, taking his face in her hands. Her eyes locked with his. “Are you okay?”
“You didn’t have to punch me, you know,” he said as he pushed himself to his feet. Fiona followed suit, her eyes narrowed. “Could’ve told me to sod off or something.”
“Eh, I figured it wouldn’t be as effective, what with that thick skull of yours,” she responded cheekily.
“I think we’ve had too much to drink.”
Fiona nodded in agreement, slipping her hands into her back pockets. “Aye, we have.”
Smiling mischievously at her, Charlie cocked a brow in question. “Want to get out of here?”
Instead of responding, she grabbed her jacket off the back of the barstool and held out her hand for him to take.
He slipped his hand into hers, lacing their fingers. “I’ll take that as a yes.”
Charlie wasn’t sure when it happened, but one minute he was walking to the hotel, telling Fiona about his family and the next, he was kissing her. Or rather, she was kissing him. It took him by surprise at first, but between the feel of her mouth against his and the weight of her arm around his neck, he fell into a rhythm that didn’t quit, even as they stumbled down the hall and he struggled with the stupid key card.
“I hate these bloody things,” he groused, though his annoyance wasn’t up to par, what with the way Fiona was running her fingers through the tendrils of hair at the back of his neck and biting at his earlobe. He gave the card another swipe and the light blinked green. Grinning in triumph, he leaned forwards, intent on giving Fiona a short kiss on the lips.
Her intentions didn’t match up with his. Once again, her arm snaked around his neck, pulling him closer to her body. As her mouth enveloped his, he turned the door knob and opened the door, his free hand sliding down the length of her back. They stumbled into the room backwards, Charlie nearly tripping over a pair of shoes, which was odd, as Grace had cleared out all of her stuff.
Still, he didn’t let it bother him, merely continued kissing Fiona as deeply and thoroughly as possible. She grinned against his lips, cupping his face in her hands as he guided them through the room, searching for the sofa. Once the back of his legs collided with it, he fell backwards, pulling Fiona down on top of him.
They broke their kiss, stared each other in the face, and screamed. Then promptly sprung to their feet. As Fiona struggled with the clasp of her bra, Charlie tripped across the room to flip on the light. He expected to see a robber with a shank or some drunken homeless person without any teeth, not Grace.
“What the fuck are you going here?!” he demanded, dragging his hand across his mouth.
“I could ask you the same question!” Grace screeched, glaring at him.
“This is my room!”
“I’m not talking about you, you dick!” she shouted. She threw an arm out, pointing over his shoulder. “I’m talking about her!”
Charlie whirled around and saw Fiona, who looked as though she wanted nothing more than the ground to open up and swallow her whole.
“You know her?” Charlie asked.
“Know her?” Grace repeated, her voice climbing several octaves. “Do I know her?” She flailed her arms sporadically. “Of course I fucking know her - she’s my sister!”
“Half-sister!” Fiona interjected weakly.
Charlie could hardly believe it. This couldn’t be happening to him. Not tonight, not now. Grace had broken up with him and he was on the market again. She wasn’t supposed to be waiting for him in his hotel room - that was just creepy!
But then again, he mused, of course it could. Because he was Charlie Weasley and he had no luck with women whatsoever.
A/N: This is dedicated to my favourite leprechaun, Jane! ILY! Hope you enjoyed it!
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