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Chapter 8 : Like Is In The Air
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Additionally, the chapter title is a quote from David Nicholls's Starter for 10.
Karen Gillan as Lily Potter
Matt Smith as Toby Benwick
Richard Armitage as Malcolm Davies
Like Is In The Air
“Hi Malcolm. It’s Molly. I’m really sorry if it’s last minute but I don’t think I’ll be able to make it on Friday. Impending crisis. Floo production is at an all stop. No time to explain. Chaos over here. Is it fine if we reschedule? I’m really sorry! Just ring me when you get the time. Thanks!”
“Hello…Molly? It’s me. Malcolm. Malcolm Davies. But you probably knew that. Yeah. Got your message. Read all about it in the Prophet too. Good luck with that. But yeah, rescheduling is fine. I was actually just about to call you for the same thing. Minister’s latest speech is being taken out of context and used to fuel Anti-Goblin anarchists. So next Saturday good for you? Call me when you get this. Bye.”
“It’s Molly. Congratulations on the spin campaign. That picture of the Minister and the Goblin Party Representative was bloody brilliant, I have to admit. My hat is off to you. I’m not being funny. You are…brilliant. But that’s not the reason I called. Look, I know we had plans for tonight but…oh it’s too embarrassing. Anyway you’ll know soon enough. Rain check?”
“There I was walking down Diagon Alley on my way to work and I walk by the Prophet stand to see your name in the front page. Driving the Knight Bus without even knowing how to drive? Not the best of plans. Call me when you get this…if you can, that is. I’d love to hear the details. It’s Malcolm, by the way. Malcolm Davies. Just so you know.”
“It was a PR thing, alright! Not my idea! My boss is a right tosser for putting me on the spot like that. What could possibly go wrong, he said. What indeed. How was I supposed to know that you didn’t press the red button? What? Do you think I wanted to go down in history as…wait a minute. Let me find the quote. Ah, here: ‘the ministry official who put the Knight Bus three weeks out of commission, leaving poor wizards stranded with no hope of rescue.’ Brilliant. Now I can just crawl into a manhole and die in there.”
“Things like this happen all the time. Don’t worry. It’ll blow over. I’m sure some other scandal will take its place soon enough. If you want, I can call a friend of mine in the news office. Put in a good word for you. Maybe he can help tone things down a bit.”
“Thank you, Malcolm! If we weren’t both under a mountain of paper work, I’d drag you to the Leaky Cauldron right now and buy you a drink. The piece in the Prophet this morning was un-bloody-lievable. Our approval ratings are up. How that is even possible, I have no idea. We’ve been on a steady decline since the Fudge Administration. Can I hijack you for our PR department? Screw the bloody Minister! We, the much-hated public transportation office, need you more. Remind me to buy you a drink when we meet, whenever that is. I really don’t know what to say.”
“Bernard and I have been friends since the whole Shacklebolt: Potter’s Puppet nightmare. He owes me a lot of favors and I was more than happy to call in one for you. No thanks necessary. As for the job offer, thanks but I really don’t think you can afford me. I’d appreciate the drink though, whenever we can get it.”
It was nearly ten o’clock in the evening and Molly was still piled up to her neck in paperwork. She’d taken a rain check on drinks with the girls. After all, this wasn’t really a matter she could push to the side while downing a few bottles of lager, no matter how appealing that was starting to sound.
If it weren’t for the excellent take-away Gorgeous had sent over, Philippa would be coming into work the next day to find her boss dead at her desk.
Molly’s fingers were cramping up from all the papers she’d signed and her eyes were so tired that blinking for longer than a split second would send her to sleep.
Saved by the bell!
Her phone rang with a vengeance, snatching her from the jaws of the evil Sandman. Molly grabbed her mobile and answered promptly. “Molly Weasley, here. How may I help you?” Alright, perhaps not as prompt as she should have sounded. What should have been a smart and snappy answer came out as a barely audible drawl incidentally matched with a dollop of drool.
“Molly…Molly…is that you? Did I get the number right? I programmed it to my phone so I should have the right number…are you there?”
Bloody. Hell. Was that…is that…Merlin’s bleedin’ beard. “Malcolm?” her voice shakily answered. “Malcolm Davies?”
“I had a feeling I’d catch you on your mobile.” She could hear the smile in his voice. “Is it a good time? Are you free to talk?”
Molly couldn’t respond. That was actually him, wasn’t it? That was actually Malcolm Davies on the other line. He was talking to her…in real time. No message delays. Just…talking.
Or rather the lack of it.
“Molly. Are you still there? Is it a bad line?”
“NO!” she said almost too loudly. “No.” Molly composed herself. “Not a bad line at all. Reading you perfectly. Loud and clear.” Loud and clear? What kind of a bloody prat said things like that. Loud and bloody clear. Now it would come out. It was an actual conversation and he would finally see (or hear) what kind of a madwoman he’d been corresponding with. Molly wasn’t a fine wine. Her acquaintance didn’t get better with age. It worsened. In fact, Molly was like hog swill. Rotting with every day it’s left out to the elements.
“So…um…Malcolm…working late?” Now what kind of a thing was that to say? If she weren’t on speaker, Molly would hit her head on the table and just end things before they got worse. But as it was, she was frozen with a nervous sensation that could only be cured by a shot of Firewhiskey. Damn Philippa for confiscating her emergency bottle.
“No. Not working late. I’m actually up early. Just Apparated to Tokyo.”
“Yeah, Tokyo. Quite random, isn’t it? But the job takes you where it takes you. The representative dropped out and they asked me to replace him last minute.”
“Right. The conference. Your department. That one.”
Was he as nervous as she was?
Oh don’t be silly, Molly! Of course he wasn’t. He had the voice of a radio announcer. Bloody beautiful. If he looked half as good as he sounded, then Molly was a very lucky girl indeed. Of course he wasn’t nervous. After all, he hadn’t avoided all contact with the opposite sex after an ill-fated Unflushable incident. In fact, he was probably just calling Molly as a favor to his mad mum. Pity call.
“Molly? Molly, are you still there?”
“Yup,” she said tentatively. “Still here.”
“Am I keeping you from something? I’m keeping you from something, aren’t I? You probably have a bucket load of things to do. I should call another time, shouldn’t I?”
Molly shook her head, despite knowing full well that he couldn’t possibly see that through the phone. She cleared her throat.
Settle, you muppet. It’s only a bleedin’ phone call. He’s not asking you to marry him, or anything. Bloody hell. She’d internalized Rose.
“What’s up?” Was that too eager?
“Nothing in specific. Sitting at a revolving sushi restaurant. Drowning my jet lag in soy sauce and green tea. Calling you up. Wondering if you wanted a bit of a chat. That sort of thing. Are you, that is? Up for a chat?”
“A chat…” The stacks of paperwork glared at Molly, pleading with her to put the phone down. Please Molly. Don’t abandon us. If you don’t finish us now, we’ll just keep growing and growing. We’ll be the Blob and you’ll be the little dog in the car trying to escape. You never will though. You’ll just be gobbled up.
She could hear Malcolm waiting on the other side of the line. Was he holding his breath?
Swiveling her chair around, she looked to the only empty corner in her office and drowned out the deranged suits of the squatters on her desk.
Molly smiled. “Of course. A chat is just what I need right now.”
“Good. Because I wasn’t hoping on hanging up any time soon.”
It was raining outside. Didn’t need a window to know that. It always rained in London. She wondered if it was raining in Japan too.
It wasn’t actually Toby’s fault. As much as Lily liked to say that it was his procrastinating that led to this, the fact was that Lily had been avoiding it probably as much as he’d been. Neither of them wanted to do it. Neither of them wanted to acknowledge it. But it was there. Like the dead space in between them, it was there. Looming. Grating. Inevitable.
“So which is it? The blue or the black.”
He had the black one on at the moment. Quite frankly, he looked like James Bond in it…or perhaps a kinder, sweeter, more dependable Bond…with floppy hair…a lanky frame…and a lovely smile. Come to think of it, Lily never liked good 007 anyway. Toby was much better looking.
“This one looks absolutely brilliant. But if you ask me, I’d much rather prefer you with no suit at all.”
“Bit awkward for a wedding, don’t you think?”
“We could just skip it all together.”
“But then what would be do with your pretty little dress?”
He may have had his back turned to her, but the five or so reflections in that dressing room betrayed him immediately. Trying to hide a laugh now, was he? Probably thought Lily was joking. Bless him, he didn’t know how serious she was. Black or blue, it didn’t matter which suit he chose as long as Lily could take it off after. Pink was his best color. The exact shade that was still on his neck, actually.
Standing in between her boyfriend and his reflection, Lily stood on her toes and wiped the lipstick mark off. “It’s not fair. You get to walk into that thing looking like this,” she gestured to his reflection, “and I get to stand there, at the altar, looking like a table centerpiece.”
“A very adorable centerpiece.” Toby wrapped his arms around Lily, resting his chin on her shoulder. “Come on now. Cheer up. It’s just for one day. Won’t kill you, I promise.”
“Oh yes it will. When I look back at all the pictures Rose and Molly will take of it, I’d do the dirty deed myself.”
“If it makes you feel any better, I’ll take unflattering pictures of them for every embarrassing shot they take of you.” He kissed her cheek.
Tempting as his offer was, Lily was too kind a person to do that. She wasn’t an absolute harpy, even when it was all in the name of fun. And, given the circumstances, would Rose even be up to the whole ordeal? She’d been on the mend for a few days now, but Lily had a feeling that they weren’t in the clear just yet. Rose had just finished with grief and was now in the anger stage of her belated post-breakup cycle.
Lily hugged Toby’s arms closer around her and looked at their reflection in the mirror.
She was about to say something when a knock came at the door.
“Monsieur? C’est bon in there? May I come in to check the fit?”
“For goodness sake,” Toby cursed under his breath, a smile half broken on his face.
The two quickly disentangled themselves, Toby back on the raised platform and Lily back on her cushioned seat. The tailor came in and checked the measurements. Noting a few things down, pinning things left and right, making slight adjustments on the sleeves. All the while, Lily bit on her words. All for the best, she supposed.
Was she really about to tell Toby about what she’d told the girls? How she found it strange that they never fought. That always got on so well. That the honeymoon phase of their relationship still seemed to be as strong as when they first started dating. Was she really about to break a sweet, wonderful moment with such a stupid question? In a way, the tailor had saved their relationship. Questions that stupid would have just ruined things. There was nothing wrong with them. Like the girls had said, they were just in love. That was all it was. She and Toby were just…so well matched. That’s why they didn’t fight. They just…were so attuned with each other. They just wanted the same things. That was all there was.
Had Toby been calling her all that time? “Yes? Sorry. What was the question?”
“No question. Just saying that the tailor is done.”
Lily hadn’t even noticed him leave. “Lovely,” she nodded almost mechanically.
“I’m just going to pop on my clothes and we can go,” Toby smiled. “Are you alright, love? You seemed a bit far off. You can go on ahead if you like. Meet you at home?”
“Don’t be silly. I’m brilliant. Just thinking about Rose. Remember, I told you about it?”
“I remember.” Toby started shedding his half-finished suit and pulling on his trousers and shirt. “Mitchell Phaeton, yeah. You know what, he looks the type, actually. Saw a book of his in the stands yesterday. Looked at the back-flap portrait. Toss-pot.”
Lily caught herself mid-laugh. “Stop it, Toby. Being mean doesn’t suit you.”
“I mean it. Bloody toss-pot. They should name a toilet after him.”
Like a vicar trying his best to fit into the red-light district crowd. It was sweet of him though, trying to trash-talk Mitchell like that. But he didn’t have it in him.
Standing up, Lily helped him button up his shirt. He still smelled like fabric softener and she wanted nothing more than to bury herself in it.
“Don’t worry too much about it.” Toby smoothed her hair and kissed her forehead. “Rose will be set to right in no time. This is Rose we’re talking about. Nothing keeps her down. Not even an insensitive prick.”
“Well you haven’t met this insensitive prick. You don’t know the effect he has on Rose. I actually remember her introducing him to us. Back when I was still in school and we still hung around in a café. Rose never had serious relationships so none of us even bothered to worry about it. Besides, he was what…eight years older than her?”
“Rose is a bit mature for her age.”
“It just had to be in that area.” Lily rolled her eyes.
“I wouldn’t know. Only been with one Weasley girl. Reckon that’s all I can handle.”
Lily hit him on the chest. “Oh be serious for a moment,” she smiled, despite herself. “As always, I need you to calm me down. Tell me Rose will be alright.”
“I already did. But if it makes you feel any better, I’ll say it again. Rose will be better. She’s Rose. She’ll live.”
“Do you mean it? Do you absolutely mean it?”
“Alright then,” she nodded. “That makes it true.”
He bent down to kiss her. Could he feel the smile on her lips? Did he know that he reassured her every time he kissed her like that? She would have to tell him one day.
They left the dressing room shortly after. The French tailor was at the cash register, waiting for them to settle the bill, a wide grin on his face. See? Pink was Toby’s best color.
“The suit will be ready by the end of the week. But if Monsueir should need it sooner, we’re certain that we could put it at the top of the pile,” the man said with a wink.
“No need. The end of the week will be perfect, thank you. The wedding won’t be till late next week, right Lily?”
“Sacrebleu, Monsieur!” the tailor playfully chided him. “Asking your lovely fiancée for the date of your own wedding.”
Lily almost choked on the spot. Wait. She did. She did choke. Wedding? Did the man actually think that she and Toby…that they were…bloody hell. She turned to Toby, but he didn’t seem to have the same problem with the misconception as she did. In fact, he was taking it quite well. Casually laughing it off as if the tailor had just mispronounced his name. But it wasn’t like that. The tailor had mispronounced their entire relationship. Married? They weren’t even close. Were they? No. No. Lily shook her head almost too vigorously and blurted things out as soon as it came to her head. “Wedding. No. No. We’re just guests. Attending. We’re not even engaged. We’re just…together. Not engaged. Not even close. No. Just. No.”
“Settle down, Lils,” Toby carried on, obviously not noticing how explicitly adverse Lily had expressed herself. “It’s an easy mistake to make.” He turned back to the tailor and smiled.
Apologies were made and pleasantries were exchanged, all without the slightest acknowledgement of Lily’s sudden panic attack. As they walked out of the shop and drove home, not another word was said about it. Even the silence didn’t bear the expected awkwardness. It was all just normal. She seemed to be the only person to have noticed her little episode.
Where did it all come from? Was it so bad? Being mistaken as Toby’s fiancé? Wasn’t that where everything was headed?
And why didn’t Toby seem to care?
C'est bon - "You are all good?" or something like that
Sacrebleu - A French expression of surpise or dismay
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