Chapter 1 : Take Two and Call Me in the Morning
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The Firewhiskey goes down like petrol. I grimace and Seamus slams his empty glass on the bar, whooping loudly. We congratulate each other with a stumbling high five. Then somebody is throwing their arm around my shoulders—Dean, leaning his temple against mine. His thick-rimmed glasses are tangling in my red hair, and I gently push his face away with my palm. But there’s nowhere for him to go. The pub is so crowded we’ve been bumping elbows with other Kestrels zealots all night.
“Why did we think the Poisoned Apple was a good idea?” Dean shouts to be heard. He doesn’t like crowds.
He’s right, though—practically the entire stadium has stampeded this way, already buzzing from overpriced Quidditch beer. I work here part-time and my manager, Angus, will usually slide us a few drinks under the table. Tonight, it’s far too busy for his charity.
I don’t reckon the Poisoned Apple has changed much since its opening, which a tarnished plaque claims to have been in 1484. The rusty chandeliers have never seen a Clearing Charm in their life and the walls are so cluttered with paintings that you can’t see the stains anymore. Monks, when tipsy, stumble into the frames of giggling Toulouse-Lautrec dancers.
Right now, it’s hard to see any of this with the crowd packed in, all decked in Kestrel green and gold. The wizard behind me sports a pointed green hat with dancing shamrocks that keeps poking me in the head. Glasses are clinking; people are shouting just to be heard by the person next to them. The tiny flames that float in jars over our heads are blurring, multiplying.
Seamus has turned his back to us, and is leaning on the bar, chatting with a pretty brunette. Bold, considering his face is painted green.
“He’s found a live one,” Dean says, and I laugh louder than I need to.
Seamus will flirt with anything with a pulse. The man thinks highly of himself, sure, but he believes that everybody should have some self-respect. He’s no womanizer, either. His Mum taught him better. (We’ve spent many a morning at her flat in Cork, after a night on the town. Mrs. Finnigan just smiles and shakes her head when we come staggering from sofas, footstools, bathroom floors, or wherever else had seemed a suitable bed, at the smell of her potato pancakes.)
I look at Dean and try to roll my eyes, but I’m having a hard time controlling my face. Merlin. How many Firewhiskeys was that? Three? Four? Numbers are weird right now.
“Is ‘four’ in Roman numerals ‘VI’ or ‘XI?’” I bellow.
(Seamus visibly winces. I’ve got some pipes on me, and he claims that my voice is the bane of his hungover existence.)
“It’s ‘IV.’” Dean has long since accepted that I vocalize every thought that enters my head.
He’s diligently people-watching, a bit distracted from conversation. Usually he carries a little book of parchment and a quill that draws in pencil, charcoal or coloured ink. A birthday gift from yours truly. Back then he was a student at Antiphilus Institute for Visual Art. Good for the CV, bad for the bank account—it was mad what students were required to purchase! The artist’s quill cost me a week’s wages at my shoddy job cleaning a Diagon Alley hotel.
“Oh, he’s doing the hair thing!” Dean nudges me.
I squint over to Seamus, who is pretending to pluck something from the pretty girl’s hair. There’s a thirty percent chance it will work. The girl smiles and touches his shoulder.
“And he sticks the landing,” Dean commentates, impressed.
Impressive indeed. The three of us are pretty disappointing in the romance department. A hot Friday night usually means sitting at my flat, where I’ve charmed a large two-way mirror to display live Quidditch matches. (Every once in awhile the magic goes wonky and the mirror gets crossed with another, somewhere in a dodgy Knockturn Alley flat.) Funny how Seamus and Dean suddenly wanted to be my friends, after learning about the mirror. Now Seamus fondly calls our little triad Fellas and Lady-Fella.
Speaking of Seamus, he’s disappeared, and so has the brunette. “Fast work!” I say, but then realization hits. “Oi! Where’s Lisa gone?”
“I forgot she was here,” he admits, searching the crowd for her annoyingly luminous blonde lock. “It’s weird that she’s come out.”
“She’s probably gone out to meet Justin.” I say his name like it were an unsightly foot disease.
Dean rolls his eyes, because we’ve had this conversation before. “They’re getting married, Edie, you can’t keep her all to yourself.”
I scowl and he ruffles my hair.
Lisa Turpin, my best friend since Hogwarts, rarely sees the insides of pubs these days. Or anywhere but a yoga studio, her and Justin’s home, or St. Mungo’s. She’s a Mediwitch on night shifts, and is always so knackered that I rarely see her anymore.
“I just wanted one night to hang out!” I’m whining like a child.
To be fair, Justin Finch-Fletchley and Lisa Turpin have been a long time coming. Their loins first started burning at Hogwarts, during our second go-around at a Seventh Year. Perhaps it was that everyone finally got to have a normal school year, after Harry Potter saved the world and all. Time for crushes, charming your hemline shorter, snogging between classes—all that bollocks taken for granted by everyone who doesn’t have an Evil Lord threatening to take over.
They never pursued anything, being awkward seventeen year-olds. But they met again at a dating event for Professional Witches and Wizards—which I will never let them live down—and the rest is history.
For the last two years, to spend time with my best friend, I’ve had to plan lunches, or third-wheel it, or surprise her at work. He’s only just proposed and they’re already an old married couple.
“Maybe we could be one of those modern triads, and share a flat after they get married.” I’m only half-joking.
Dean snorts something that sounds like “Co-dependent.”
“I miss the Golden Years, Dean.”
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
“You’ve told me.”
With the air of someone drunkenly reciting a Shakespearean prologue I say, “Before she met Justin, we went out every night, stayed up until three in the morning, and went to our shoddy jobs at eight. Pot of coffee, pain-relieving potion, kip at five o’clock, pubs at eight—rinse and repeat.”
Dean is not even listening.
“They were the most beautiful days of my life,” I sigh.
Reciting my drunken stories of yore is a tell-tale sign that it’s time to close my tab. I vaguely gesture to the bar and Dean nods. He’s glad for a reprieve, I’m sure. I can’t help my glance over the sea of Kestrel green. Maybe Lisa really did go home.
What an old maid.
Then again, maybe it’s not okay to be spending every single night in a bar as a 26 year-old.
There’s a tap on my shoulder. Lisa has returned, her blue eyes glittering—and that is not hyperbole. She’s one of the most stunning people on the planet, and is completely oblivious to the crowd that has just parted like the Red Sea to look at her. Though she denies it, I’m certain there’s some Veela blood in her family tree.
“Sorry, Justin got lost!” she shouts.
He’s standing behind her, looking very tall and important in his expensive lawyer’s suit.
“How did you possibly get lost?”
Lisa swats me. I know, no bickering in public. We’ve gone at it quite a few times. (“Edie, why didn’t you just put down the coffee mug and then check your watch?” “THANKS A LOT JUSTIN, I HADN’T THOUGHT OF THAT BUT SEEING AS HOW THERE IS HOT COFFEE ALL OVER MY LAP I REALLY APPRECIATE YOUR INSIGHT AND WILL TRY MY BEST TO AVOID THIS SITUATION IN THE FUTURE.”)
“Lennox!” He claps me on the shoulder, much like he would a fellow Ministry employee. “Wow, you’re still standing?”
“You’re still carrying that man-purse?” I counter, my tongue tripping over itself. His shoulder-bag is a particularly touchy subject. He only got one because all the other lawyers use them. I don’t think I’ve stopped taking the mickey out of him since day one.
Lisa pats his shoulder as he murmurs about the bag’s practical purposes. Dean comes to stand with us, nodding a hello to Justin. A tingly, drunken excitement appears in my belly. Our group is forming! Seamus, get back here and we can have the hangout of a lifetime!
Then I notice Lisa wrapping her scarf around her slender neck.
“No!” I howl. Dean shoots me a look that says Get ahold of yourself, mate.
“I’m sorry, Edie! I’ve got to be at St. Mungo’s in…” She checks her watch and sighs, “five hours.”
My mouth opens to protest. But level-headed Dean interjects, albeit with a distinct slurring of words, “Yeah, go get some rest! We’ll see you later.”
As Justin’s arm moves around her waist, Lisa gives me the smile she always does: half amusement, half pity. Her slender-yet-somehow-muscular yoga arm squeezes me tightly.
“Make good decisions, you lush.”
We’ve been saying it since we began sneaking alcohol into Hogwarts. It started as an ironic mantra, because of course we never did that. But I think she actually means it these days.
“Stop by the pub this week,” I say, knowing full well she won’t.
She’s nice enough to at least nod, offering a half-hearted, “Definitely.” Then they turn and Apparate, the pop barely even audible in the clangor. The jealousy starts creeping in again. I am on the verge of sulking when, thankfully, Seamus materialises.
Dean cracks a lopsided smirk; the brunette is nowhere to be found. “Well that was quick. Shot down already?”
In response Seamus flicks out a napkin, on which the girl has charmed her name. “Playing it cool, mate,” he says as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. I think the "i" in Amelia is dotted with a heart.
“Wow, didn’t know Second-Years were allowed—” My insult is cut short. I’m staring in horror at the three shots of Firewhiskey that have floated over to us. “NO!”
They hover in the middle of our group, mocking us.
“YES!” Seamus passes them out.
I put my face in my palm. The room is swimming even more, and I haven’t even taken the drink yet. “Seamus, I have my internship in the morning and—”
He throws his arms up in exasperation. “Where is your respect, Edie? Kenmare just beat Flanders—Merlin spit on their graves—and you really don’t want to give them a proper celebration?” He sees my fading resilience and adds, “Besides, these were seven Sickles each.”
“And,” Dean interjects with a surprisingly logical tone, “you don’t exactly have to be on top of your game to make coffee runs.”
“Oi!” I punch him in the arm and he almost spills his drink.
He’s right, though. Charm magazine has quite possibly the worst internship program of any Magical publication. I applied for an editing position and was instead offered a stint for delivering messages, setting up snack tables for photo shoots, and basically being a glorified House Elf. Just thinking about it makes me angry.
I could use a drink.
“You two are enablers.” I point at them accusingly but I’m cracking a stupid grin which turns into a contagious laugh until we’re all doubled over. I can tell by Dean’s expression that he has no idea what’s so funny.
Seamus raises his glass in a toast. He always does this, but we lift our glasses all the same.
“To our adulthood!” he shouts and Dean lets out a whoop. “May we never have office jobs, may our futures be full of nights forgotten by morning, and most importantly, may we always get laid!”
Not sure how that last bit is working out, really, but we don’t mention that. We throw back the glasses. It tastes like it always does: a mixture of shame for being 26, a hybrid of unpaid intern and barkeep, with no love-life to mention, and getting sloshed at a pub virtually every night—and also certainty that I have the best mates in the world.
We’re all scowling and shaking our heads as if the taste will disappear. Seamus punches his fist into the air, shouting the first line of the Kestrels’ fight song: “God bless those fighting Kestrels, bally-ally-oh!”
And then the entire bar is singing in drunken unison. Everyone’s stamping their feet so hard that the chandeliers are rattling, spilling dust into our drinks. It’s amazing what Quidditch and alcohol will do for camaraderie. Our song ends and is followed by deafening cheering. Angus, exhausted barkeep and die-hard Kestrels fan, shouts, “Everyone wearing green gets a free round!”
The pub goes mad.
Oh yes. Tomorrow morning will be hell.
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