Chapter 2 : Happily Undefined
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Keira Knightley as Rose Weasley
Karen Gillan as Lily Potter
Matt Smith as Toby Benwick
by afterglow @ TDA
If there was anything about Toby Benwick that truly bothered Lily, it was the fact that there was nothing to be bothered with at all. He was a complete angel.
No one was that amazing!
She’d woken up that morning, alone in bed with no sign of him to be seen anywhere in the room. For a moment, she thought he might have skipped out and gone home or something. But then she heard some noise coming from outside. She gathered up the sheets, covered herself in a makeshift toga and upon coming out of her room saw that he was slaving away by the stove, making her breakfast. What was more, he looked like he’d been up for quite some time already. Pressed and dressed in a comfortable shirt, jeans and some trainers. Next to him, Lily looked like a disaster area.
Dear God was her boyfriend one of the good ones.
“You’re up! Excellent. Sorry didn’t wake you earlier. Looked tired to the bone so thought you best sleep in for a bit.” He kissed her. He tasted of fresh blueberry syrup and cream cheese. Perfect. “Go ahead and eat up. I’ve got to get to work early today. Finger painting class. Have to wrap the whole classroom in newspaper so I don’t have to stay up and clean after the little buggers.”
He sat Lily down on the breakfast table and gave her a full helping of her favorite things. Pancakes, sausages, a bit of toast, eggs, and that strange flower tea that she liked.
No matter how many times she woke up to this, to Toby being quintessentially Toby, Lily never did get used to it! It was not that the men she grew up with were absolute gorillas. The Potter boys were quite decent in their own right. Of course, aside from Albus being a total mess with his things, James not even knowing what a pan was – no less what it looked like - and her Dad never wiping his shoes before coming into the house. Other than that, there was no cause for complaints.
But Toby! Toby felt like he was cut from a different cloth. As if he was every woman’s definition of the perfect boyfriend. Handsome, can cook, amazing with children, dependable and utterly sweet. Not to mention fantastic in bed.
Was there such a thing as too perfect?
And was there such a thing as too lucky?
What with Lucy’s recent breakup fresh in Lily’s mind, she couldn’t help but think that maybe this was all a bit too wonderful. As if there was some invisible elephant waiting to jump them both flat.
That morning, as Lily ate her surprise breakfast, she watched Toby. He was practicing different voices for story time, like he always did in the morning. But rather than just putting it off as one of Toby’s little quirks, Lily put down her fork, lay her head sideways on the table and watched him. Watched him carefully. Almost scarily.
He put the book down when he noticed. “Alright. What’s wrong? Do I have something on my face? Is it syrup?”
“No. No. You’re fine.” Very fine, in fact.
“Then what’s the matter? Why aren’t you eating? I’ve never known you take this long with breakfast.”
Lily sighed. She wasn’t really a locked vault when it came to these things. Especially not with Toby. She shoved the plate aside, put her feet up and hugged them close to her chest. “Lucy broke up with another bloke.”
“Another one?” Toby tried not to laugh. “Makes it fourth one this year, yeah?”
“Fifth. Oh, you should have seen her. Crying and drinking like the sod had died or something. I hate seeing Lucy like that, Tobes. It’s unfair. She deserves better.”
“Come here,” He smiled, pulling her to his lap and giving her a tight hug. Lily buried herself in the crook of his neck, smelling that fresh laundry smell Toby always had. Fabric softener calmed her.
“If I’m getting this right, you’re feeling guilty about being happy while your cousin has bad luck?”
“That would be correct,” she nodded.
“Well you shouldn’t. I’m sure she’ll find someone eventually. This is Lucy we’re talking about. Lucy is amazing. She’ll find someone eventually.”
“What if she doesn’t? It would absolutely break her heart. And mine! Lucy is the closest thing I have to a sister and it just kills me to see her so unhappy.”
“Like I said, just give her time. Look at us? I don’t know about you, but I was completely hopeless with the opposite sex before we got together.”
He was. Before, when they were just co-workers, it was a well-known fact that the poor teacher of the Little Merlin class was an absolute mess when it came to women. Not that he was a bumbling idiot. No. It was just that Toby never had the instinct to make the first move. He was oblivious to a woman’s go signals. For months, they danced around it. They spent all time in between classes together, spiked phone bills with long conversations, went to clubs together – group or not. But despite all that, they were friends. Or rather, undefineds. Lily had dropped all the hints she could think of, but Toby just couldn’t get it into his lovely head that she liked him. She really, really liked him.
It would take a strong willed woman to get the job done. Lily had to be bold. And bold she became.
One day, while Lily was taking out her students for playtime in the gardens, she bumped into Toby taking his class to the aquarium. In less than five words, she did what no other woman had done prior.
“Date after school, yeah?”
He didn’t even have time to answer. Lily walked away before he could say anything else.
It seemed juvenile now, but those words had sealed the deal. Later that day, she waited for him outside his classroom, took his car keys and drove them to the Leaky Cauldron for their first, real date. That was that. Two years later, they’re happy alternately living in each other’s flats, eating lunch together, kissing in the hallways when the children were at recess and…well, being together. Happily so.
What the whole thing meant, though - whether they were headed for the next step - was something Lily didn’t want to talk about, much less speak of. She was just happy in the moment. Being them. Back to undefined territory.
If only Lucy could find someone like Toby. If only Toby had any brothers! If only it was as easy as that.
Fact was, finding someone to love wasn’t easy at all. All you could do was wait and hope that he showed up sooner rather than later.
She banged her head on Toby’s collarbone.
“What’s the matter now?”
She cupped his face and gave him a quick peck on the lips. “Why do you always have to be right? I hate you.”
“Well, didn’t become a teacher for nothing.” He ticked the tip of her nose. “Now no more of this guilt nonsense. Finish your breakfast, get dressed. We’re going to be late for work.”
“I thought I’d already mentioned. Taking the day off. I’m fitting bridesmaid dresses with the girls.”
“That’s right! Slipped my mind completely.”
“Sleeping over at Lucy’s as well. Someone needs to keep her spirits up. God knows she’ll just get even more depressed with Rose and Molly for company. And with field trip to the zoo and the hen party on the same day, I probably won’t even see you till Thursday.”
“That’s a shame. I’ll miss you.”
Snogging the man was such a pleasure they should tax her for it.
“Want me to drop you off?” he mumbled, his lips still on hers.
Lily shook her head. She decided to be the adult and push away from him. They would be at this all day if they didn’t watch themselves. She stood up, went back to her seat and kept a foot on his chest to keep him away.
“Molly and Rose could be here any moment.”
“Well in that case I’m definitely driving you. Remember, in Molly world, five minutes is an hour and an hour is half a day. I bet you she stopped by work to finish a report or something.”
He tickled her feet, making her lose her guard, laughing. He wrapped his arms around her and showed no mercy. Toby knew when to use Lily’s ticklishness to his advantage. She tried to wriggle out of his grip, but he kept catching her the moment she’d given him the slip.
“Stop it! I’m warning you Toby! What about the kids? Finger painting, remember?”
“I won’t see you till Thursday. Scrubbing off the paint will be worth it.” He caught her by surprise. Caught her by the lips just as she turned around to face him.
Blueberry syrup. Cream cheese. Fresh laundry. Toby.
What was the use in fighting it?
Not even a minute in and the little birds on the cuckoo clock chimed eight. As much as they wanted to stay like that for just a little while longer, Toby had to leave for work.
In fact, he needed to leave for work fifteen minutes ago.
He swept Lily up, put her in a fireman’s carry and dropped her on the bed. Pinning her down, he snuck in one last kiss before she managed to pushed him away and forced him to go to work.
With hurried goodbyes, he ran out the door, leaving Lily biting her lip, flushed.
Lily looked hopefully to the bedside table. That a boy. Toby forgot his keys.
She was about to run out down and give it to him herself, but then she remembered Molly and Rose. They could come around at any minute.
Oh sod it.
Instead, Lily looked out from the window. Toby was just about to call up to her. “See you Thursday,” She dropped the keys down to his cupped hands.
“Love you!” he blew her butterfly kisses.
“Love you too!” she shook her head and laughed. “Oh! Don’t forget. Carl invited you to his stag party.”
“When is it again?” he fumbled, trying to find his car keys in the ring.
“Wednesday, nine o’clock. James’s flat. And don’t be late.”
He blew her a quick kiss before he got in the car and clumsily drove off down the road.
Lily fell back down on the bed and hid her face underneath a pillow before giggling into it.
No one could be that perfect.
And the plan was thus:
Rose would drop hints to Gorgeous Nigel, underlining poor Lucy with no date to Victoire’s wedding. Meanwhile, Molly would talk up Gorgeous to Lucy. Tell her how brilliant he is, how…well…gorgeous he certainly is. The plan would come together when, hopefully, the two have the same idea to go with each other. Lucy would do it out of desperation. Gorgeous would do it out of pity (as well as pure fancying of course). And if all went to plan, Lucy and Gorgeous Nigel would hit it off, have a smashing time at Victoire’s wedding, actually go out together without prodding, get married and have gorgeous little children! If this worked, Rose and Molly would never have to deal with pity-pot Lucy ever again.
However, there was one flaw in their scheme.
For it to work, Lily would have to be kept out of the loop. Lily would have to be kept so far out of the loop that she would have to send postcard just to say hello to them. Lily could know nothing.
Unfortunately, Molly was the worst liar in the history of liars!
As she used her key to open Lily’s flat, Molly suddenly started to feel the urge to step out for a smoke. Very bad since she had just started quitting.
“I can’t do this!” she turned around, but Rose rammed into her and pushed her back inside.
“No! You are doing this Molly. If you want to escape comforting duties forever, you will do this!”
“But I can’t Rose! I can’t lie to Lily. She’ll see right through me. I itch when I’m nervous. And I do that eye-twitch thing that makes me look like I have Lyme disease.”
Rose didn’t know how hard it was for her! If it were anyone else but Lily! Lily was a moral compass for a living. She scolded little children for lying. She took away their nap times, their cookie privileges. She could look into their beady little eyes and know when a fib was being told.
Molly wouldn’t survive her.
But still, Rose pushed her up the stairs, droving Molly like a cow through the plains. “You are going to go up that door, smile at Lily and pretend like nothing happened. I swear to God Molly, if you so much as scratch, I will make sure that Lucy moves in with you for the remainder of her sob stint.”
Rose was cruel. “You should have worked in the Ministry. A backbone like yours would go far.”
“Well if antiques don’t work out, at least I’ll have a fall back.”
Rose gestured to the door. “Knock.”
Molly shakily raised her hand to the door and did as she was told. “Lily?” she shakily said.
Please don’t answer the door. Please be busy with Toby. Please be anything but presentable.
“Door’s open,” Lily said from the inside.
Of all the bad luck.
Rose opened the door and shoved Molly in. Inside, they saw that Lily was tidying up a bit. Folding some laundry, smelling each piece of clothing as she went.
“Sorry we’re late,” Rose said, sitting down on the dinning table. “Molly here had to make a few calls.” She rolled her eyes.
“You can’t expect me to go cold turkey! We’re trying to beat the Apparition Amendment Act. I just need to delegate a few things before…”
“Yes, yes, yes. No need to go into detail, Molls.” Rose laughed, dipping a small piece of pancake in the blueberry syrup. “I can see Toby cooked again. God your lad’s a hell of a cook.”
“Help yourself,” replied Lily. “Did some laundry while waiting for you two. Let me just finish this then we can go.”
This was good. Lily wasn’t looking at Molly at all. She was too caught up in being happy. Being in love. Doing laundry.
Molly gave her the slip. She wandered around the flat before she could do anything to give their plan away.
She hadn’t noticed how long it had been since she’d walked around this flat. Not since she moved out to be closer to the office. Every room, every piece of furniture, felt familiar. She’d picked out most of them. But at the same time, it felt distant. This wasn’t their flat anymore – Lily and hers. In fact, it wasn’t even Lily’s flat. It was Lily and Toby’s. The kitchen had boxes of chocolate frogs and treacle tarts, both things that Lily abhorred but apparently kept in stock now. The living room mantle was now filled with new pictures. Pictures of her and Toby, their students, their holidays together. In fact, Molly was sure that if she went into the bedroom and rifled through the closet, she would be certain to find an entire drawer of Toby’s things.
It felt so warm and comforting. So lived in. So worn. It was what a home should be.
Molly’s new flat was nothing like this. It was nothing but wide space with things still in boxes. She never even had time to unpack. The moment she moved into it, it was work, work, work. In fact, her office sofa probably looked more used than her pathetic excuse for a bed. Her flat consisted of a mattress in the bedroom, a refrigerator (with nothing in it but wine and leftovers) and microwave in the kitchen, a plastic covered couch in the den and a stack of paperwork on a desk.
It was all so bare. And ‘bare’ summed up her personal life in a nutshell.
Sometimes, in rare moments of self-pity, Molly thought about slowing down on work. Maybe even getting a boyfriend. She wasn’t a hag! Men asked her out. It was just that she never had the time to actually go on dates anymore. If it wasn’t paperwork, it was a meeting. If it wasn’t a deadline it was another deadline. The odd night out with the girls was the only time she even allowed herself. And even those were cancelled often enough.
Seeing Lily folding her laundry, smelling Toby’s shirts and smiling at the scent, Molly wondered what life could be like if she had more than goldfish waiting for her at home.
“You alright Molls?” Rose always noticed when Molly was down in the dumps. As the only practical spinster in the family, she knew what it was like to wonder.
Or maybe she didn’t. But she pretended to, at least.
Molly put on a smile and laughed. “Just missed the place I guess.”
Rose knew better though. She pulled her older cousin into a tight bear hug and forced Molly’s smile wider with her fingers. “I wonder if Peter Perfect’s Perfect Palace looks any different. Make-up filling his medicine cabinet. Perfumed tissues next to his toilet. Kinky knickers stuck in between sofa cushions. Long strands of red hair in the carpet. Lily sheds like a dog, you know that right?”
Molly smiled genuinely then. She hugged Rose’s waist tightly and gave her a peck on the cheek. “Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it,” Rose winked. “Now, let’s rip our little washer woman from her beloved basket and get to the bridal shop before Dominique sends her flying monkeys to hunt us down.”
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