I finally retrieved the last odd sock from under an armchair and stuck it in my suitcase. I was ready, physically, to move back in with Molly but whether I was mentally ready or not remained to be seen. Yesterday’s events had given me much food for thought and I had finally decided that the time had come to admit that we were both wrong about some things and move on from where we were. What if she fell off a magic carpet today without me ever telling her how much I loved her? I couldn’t leave things as they were. We were better than before Boris died, but we weren’t completely fixed just yet. I didn’t care if I had to pretend like it was all my fault, I wanted Molly back in my life permanently again.
When I rang our doorbell, I was slightly nervous. What if she wasn’t ready to let me move back in again? Admittedly we’d bought the flat together, but even so it didn’t mean she would make my life easy if I just turned up and lived with her if she didn’t want me there. I was almost crossing my fingers for luck in the hope that she’d accept me back without question.
“Rose?” She looked surprised to see me there, standing with my suitcase in the shadow of heavy clouds. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m moving back in,” I insisted, pushing past her and dragging my suitcase inside. She followed me all the way into my bedroom, where I hauled my suitcase onto the bed and turned to her triumphantly. “I’ve had a weird few weeks and I’ve realised that life is too short to be angry at you.”
Molly grinned. Stepping forward, she pulled me into a tight hug and refused to let me go. “Oh Rosie, I’m so relieved. I thought you were going to be angry with me for a lot longer than this.”
I pulled away from her and smiled. “I’m not very good at holding grudges,” I said with a shrug. “Believe me, I’ve tried really hard.”
She looked me up and down, barely concealing her glee. “I knew you’d cave eventually,” she said smugly. “Now, let’s go have a cup of tea and biscuit.”
When we’d sat down with the requisite snacks, I turned to face her with as serious a look as I could muster. “You have to promise you won’t lie to me again,” I said. “You have to tell me everything.”
“Everything?” she said unsurely.
“Well, important things,” I amended. “Unless someone has made you swear on your Mum’s life that you won’t tell anyone, in which case I’ll let you off.”
“Okay,” she conceded. She held out her hand and I shook it. “I promise to tell you everything. But you have to promise to not be so critical of everyone all the time.”
I frowned, trying not to be insulted. I found that, in fact, I wasn’t offended at all. “Fine, I promise.”
Molly observed me thoughtfully as I tried not to get teary eyed with relief. “I’m sorry, you know,” she added. “About some of the things I’ve said. I thought hating you would make it easier to lose you. I didn’t know what else to say - I’m not very good at fixing things.”
My efforts at holding back tears failed and I found myself pulling her into a tight hug. How stupid we had been to let our pride get in the way of our friendship, something that I couldn’t survive without no matter what we put each other through. I needed someone I could depend on to take me down a peg or two.
We eventually released each other and then I reached for the ginger biscuits. I knew now that we had both forgiven each other and decided in our own individual ways to move on. Neither of us were perfect and we definitely weren’t perfect together, but sometimes there were more important things than a perfect match. The fact that we (mostly) put up with each other’s bad sides meant that we could truly be ourselves with each other, and that was just what I needed in my best friend.
“How was the funeral?” Molly asked after I’d finished munching on my first biscuit. “Did you cry?”
I smiled bashfully. My cheeks reddened. “I actually laughed more than I cried. Matthew was very nice.”
She raised a solitary eyebrow. “I bet he was. That’s a very cheap move, that one.”
“The picking up women at a funeral one,” she informed me.
“That doesn’t count,” I said crossly, though feeling thankful that we were teasing each other once again. “I didn’t meet him at the funeral. I knew him before. He was just offering some excellent moral support.”
Molly sighed and rolled her eyes at the same time. “I suppose,” she conceded. “Have you slept with him yet?”
I blushed even more and looked away from her. “No,” I said eventually when I’d got my nerve back. “We’re taking things slowly, I think. I’m going for a drink with him soon though.”
She nodded in approval, hiding her disappointment that I didn’t have some juicy gossip for her. I must be a constant source of disappointment for her. She probably wanted some regular updates on my love life that didn’t involve unrequited crushes or stalkers. Perhaps I’d actually be able to give her some interesting news in the near future.
“Linda’s given me the shop,” I said suddenly when Molly lapsed into thoughtful silence.
“What? You? Really?”
“There’s no need to sound so surprised,” I said in indignation. “Boris was very fond of me.”
“Was there no one else?” Molly asked.
I scowled at her. “Not exactly,” I told her. “Linda said their only relatives weren’t suitable. She wants to do all the paperwork soon.”
“I know,” I said with a grin. “It’s like I’m an adult or something.”
Molly rolled her eyes yet again. “You’ve been an adult for years.”
“I know,” I explained. “But now I have a proper job; I own a business. I’ve never been a high-flying career woman like you or Roxanne. I never really had a high salary either. But now I feel like I have something to be really proud of.”
I shrugged, not really sure if Molly had got my point.
“This is about you feeling insecure, isn’t it?” Molly said slowly. “You should know comparing yourself with other members of our family is never a good idea. There’s always someone richer or more accomplished than you. But, I tell you what, there’s no one else in our family who could do what you do. You charmed your way into that job because you cared about your boss and the shop, so you thoroughly deserve it. Stop being so envious of other people when you’ve got it pretty good yourself.”
Wow, that was a whole explosion of emotion I never thought Molly was capable of.
“Was that a compliment?” I asked incredulously. “Are you ill?”
She slapped me on the arm playfully. “It might have been. That’s my quota filled for the year so you might as well make the most of it.”
I laughed, so happy that we were finally near normal with each other again. She didn’t mean anything personally, it was just the way she expressed herself. Our ability to tease each other showed fondness more than anything else.
“I’ll be cherishing your words for the rest of my life,” I joked. “I know not to push my luck.”
She glared at me, stuffing a ginger biscuit in my mouth before jumping up and dodging my subsequent biscuit throwing.
“Stop messing around,” she scolded. “I’m going to the pub to meet Lorcan and Albus. Do you want to come?”
Was that even a question? I never said no to the pub, which she clearly knew. I grabbed my handbag and followed her out of the house. She rummaged around under the plant pot by the front door and plucked out my keys.
“Here,” she said, dropping them into my palm. “I thought you might need these back.”
I grinned as we set off for the pub, happy that finally things had been set right. When we arrived, Albus and Lorcan were already sat around our usual table in the corner opposite the bar. Molly went to get us both a drink and I slid across the bench to sit beside Albus.
“So you two have made up, have you?” Lorcan asked pointedly as I beamed at them both.
“We have,” I told him, not letting his acerbic tone put a dampener on my good mood.
“Good,” Albus said in a much warmer tone than Lorcan had managed. He was probably touchy because Molly was his girlfriend and he had extra concern for her well-being. In any case, I didn’t care what he thought now that Molly and I were friends again.
“Did you get the Dom apology?” I asked Albus as he fiddled with his glasses. I was keen to work out how high up the list I’d been so I could tell how much of a priority I was.
“Yeah, she came to see me last night,” he said. He stopped playing with the frame of his glasses and cradled his drink instead. “That was one of the most awkward conversations I’ve ever had. I can’t believe she and Teddy could do that to poor Victoire.”
I nodded in agreement as Molly joined us, handing me a glass of wine. “Thanks,” I said to her.
“Are you talking about Dom?” she interrupted. “She dropped in yesterday to assure me she was very sorry for breaking the family up.” Molly shrugged. “I don’t see how apologising to every person in the family helps, but that’s her business.”
“I bet Victoire’s made her as part of some bargain to gain forgiveness,” Lorcan observed. “She probably wants to humiliate Dominique a bit before they can make up.”
I frowned, shaking my head. “No, that’s not Victoire’s style. She’s not really a revenge kind of girl.”
It was true, I thought. Despite my determination to dislike Victoire, she’d never been deliberately spiteful or hurtful towards others. Although we hadn’t been very close, she’d let me stay with her and had been perfectly civilised. I didn’t think she was the type to take revenge out so directly. There was no doubt that Dominique was in a load of trouble with her, but that didn’t mean Victoire was about to change her personality.
Lorcan shrugged. “You don’t know who is and isn’t prone to revenge until something like this happens. She might have gone crazy.”
I shook my head again, this time more vigourously. “Trust me, I know Victoire. She’ll be extremely quiet about the whole thing. She’ll make Dominique do all the work without giving her any hints as to how.”
Molly hastened to agree with me. “Rose is right. Victoire won’t make it as easy as that by telling her what to do. Dom will have to figure it out the hard way.”
It was going to be a long road to get the whole family back to normal again, but I felt like Dominique deserved some pretty harsh treatment. Admittedly she was already feeling terrible about the whole thing, but it was only going to get worse from here on out. Once the baby was born, it would serve as a constant reminder of everything Victoire had lost. I sincerely hoped for the good of the family that the baby looked nothing like Teddy. Victoire didn’t need the reminder of her heartbreak as the baby grew older and more like its parents. Really, the baby should have been Victoire’s in a year or so’s time. She was almost thirty and time was running out to start all over again.
I wondered what she’d do next. I didn’t get the impression that she was going to fall out of love with Teddy any time soon. Would he try and win her back, and if he did, would she even take him back? As far as I could tell, the Teddy and Dom thing was a one-off triggered by too much alcohol. Perhaps Victoire would decide it wasn’t worth throwing away the decade she’d had with Teddy. Then again, if I was having trust issues about the whole thing then I couldn’t even imagine how she was feeling.
“Has anyone seen Victoire recently?” I asked out of curiosity. All three of them shook their heads.
“I saw Aunt Fleur at my mum and dad’s the other day,” Albus offered. “But she didn’t give us any news at all about Victoire. I reckon she’s hiding away for the moment.”
“I don’t blame her,” Lorcan chipped in, draining his glass. He got up to go fetch another round. When he was well out of earshot, I leaned across the table to whisper something to Molly.
“What’s the matter with him?” I asked quietly.
Molly rolled her eyes. “He’s grumpy with you because of how you treated him and me, you know, when you found out.”
I sighed. “Really? I would have thought he’d have got over that by now,” I said irritably.
Molly shrugged. “He’s very protective of me.” A slight grin had worked its way onto her lips.
“You’re blushing,” I accused, eyeing her suspiciously. “Why are you blushing?”
“I’m not,” she denied, letting her hair fall forward to cover her face.
“You love him, don’t you?” I insisted. “My God, the unthinkable has happened. Molly Weasley has feelings.”
“No I don’t,” she snapped, looking over to the bar to see when Lorcan would be back. As it happened, he was just wandering over to us now, followed by four levitating drinks. When he reached us, he bent down and gave Molly a kiss before passing her her drink. Albus and I exchanged a knowing look, resulting in both of us trying to stifle our laughter. “Oh shut up,” Molly hissed. “You’re not funny, you know.”
“I know,” I replied cheerfully.
It was at that moment that the door to the pub swung open, causing a draught to whistle around our feet. We all looked towards the door to see a sheepish-looking Victoire, who was peering around the corner trying to look for somewhere to sit.
I waved at her, catching her attention and eliciting a smile. She approached us and we all budged round so she could fit on the bench.
“Hello,” she said, fiddling with her fingers awkwardly.
I could tell that she hadn’t expected to see us here, which was strange in itself because it felt like we were always here. Perhaps she’d come here to meet someone, or just to be alone with some alcohol, which personally I often found a very appealing idea.
“How are you?” Molly asked sympathetically. I went to kick her under the table for being so obvious but missed and ended up kicking Lorcan instead. His eyes watered in pain and he glared at me.
“I’m not too bad,” Victoire said, taking her time to chew over the words. “Well, I’m not great to be honest. But you all know that of course.”
We nodded sagely. I looked down at my drink in order to avoid looking at Victoire. I didn’t want to see her crying or anything.
“Rose,” she said, ensuring that I had to lift my eyes and look at her. “I’ve been meaning to say thank you to you, for… well, you know.”
I gave her a fake smile, which was the best I could muster. This was a very touchy subject indeed among us all anyway, seeing as I had been one of the last people to find out when really I should have known ages ago. I supposed in the end I had done the right thing and spoken to Teddy about it rather than being too scared to say anything. I’d even surprised myself really, considering bravery wasn’t exactly my most famous trait.
“Um,” I stuttered. “You’re welcome.” This didn’t really adequately sum up how I really felt, so I cleared my throat and tried again. “I thought you deserved to know,” I added.
Victoire nodded, seeming to understand what I was trying to get across. “I think I’m going to stick around here,” she said eventually when none of us could find anything appropriate to say. “Teddy’s got the house in Bordeaux…” She trailed off in thought at the mention of her ex-fiancé and her eyes seemed to glaze over. Molly cleared her throat pointedly, rousing Victoire from her daydream. “There’s nothing left for me out there now. It’s all gone. Dominique needs me now, despite all of this mess.”
I almost felt relieved that she was going to support Dom. I was reminded of what I’d said to her a couple of months ago when I had visited her and Teddy in France; her and Dominique had to stick together.
“I don’t know if I can forgive her,” Victoire added, looking like she was offloading the huge weight from her shoulders. I was willing to bet that this was the first time she had voiced any of this out loud. Who else was she supposed to talk to? Her parents couldn’t hate Dominique despite what she had done. It was almost as if this sordid business had brought us closer together. “I’m not sure if I want to. But it’s not her baby’s fault, any of this, and I’m not going to abandon it because of Dom’s mistakes.”
I finally realised what the funny feeling was that was growing inside of me; I admired Victoire. Through everything, she had acted so maturely, so reasonably that I could only hope to be like her when I was her age. I had reacted way more rashly to the news than Victoire had and she was the one directly affected.
“What will you do now?” Lorcan asked when no one else spoke.
Victoire sighed. “It’s back to job-hunting, isn’t it?” she mused. “I’ve got a few contacts that can help me out, I won’t be destitute.”
I thought for a moment, suddenly coming to the realisation that I could help her. “Victoire – if you get desperate for a job, you can come and work for me at Flourish and Blotts. We’re interviewing people next week.”
She smiled gratefully, dabbing at tears forming in the corners of her eyes. “Thank you,” she managed.
Perhaps I’d gone soft, or maybe it was that my perspective had changed, but suddenly helping out my family seemed far more important than my own pride. I had rejected Roxanne’s application for a job because she was using me, but why was that any different to helping Victoire? I supposed Victoire had never asked for any of this. What did she have now that Teddy was gone? Roxanne had so much to lose by leaving Law School and coming to work for me, but Victoire had nothing left.
As much as my family could be meddling, irritating and inconvenient, at least they loved us all unconditionally. Dominique hadn’t been thrown out or disowned; Victoire was willing to support her even after everything that she’d done. Molly and I might have clashing personalities, but in the end we loved each other and that was all that mattered.
AN: So this is the last chapter before the epilogue! Thank you so much, once again, for all the support, the reviews, the reads, the patience when I was slow and then for keeping up with me when I updated quicker. If you're still here, thank you and please leave a review. Thank you toRachel who makes sure my terrible typos never see the light of day.-Marina