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Chapter 3 : Three Little Words
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I am resolutely refusing to tell my family anything about his existence, let alone mention the fact that he’s kind of my boyfriend. Mum would get very over-excited and want to meet him straight away, and as much as I love my mother, I am not letting her subject Campbell to her flowery teacups and frilly tablecloths. If there’s one thing that Lucy and I do agree on, it’s that Mum’s taste in decoration is absolutely hideous. Dad would interrogate him about his intentions towards me, which is something nobody should have to experience (unfortunately, I witnessed it first hand when Lucy brought her boyfriend home for the first time). The rest of my family would go crazy at the thought that I even had a boyfriend (I’m sure they all think I’m going to end up as an old cat lady. To be fair, though, I have my own suspicions of that, too. Though there are flaws in this plan considering I don’t like cats). Add to this the fact that my kind-of boyfriend is an ex-rock star and a dragon handler, I’m not sure the meeting would be a pretty sight.
Campbell likes to do things differently. Not just a little different, very different. For example, on our first date (he called it that first, not me) he took me to the highest waterfall in Britain, and we sat near the top with an impervius charm cast on us. Somehow we ended up there for hours, just talking and half-arguing. I would be lying if I said there weren’t a few kisses in that time as well (so what? Just because I’m twenty-six and single doesn’t mean that I’m a nun, or anything!).
I’m sure that nobody I know would ever have thought I would be sort-of dating Cyrus Campbell at any point in my life. I certainly didn’t. I’m still not exactly sure why he wants to spend so much time with me – sometimes I wonder if I’m just an interesting project because I didn’t even know who he was before Mona told me. But that’s normally when I’m on my own and not with him, which again, is rather worrying.
In spite of the fact that I am a little socially retarded (as my family, Lucy in particular, keep telling me) I have dated in the past. I’ve even had boyfriends. But – and I realise I’m in danger of sounding like a sixteen year old with a crush – this feels different somehow. I’m not a sixteen year old girl, I’m a twenty-six year old woman and I’m terrified of how comfortable I feel with Campbell, and even more terrified of saying anything to him about it. Which unfortunately (since I would quite like to keep seeing him) is making me even more waspish in my replies than usual.
“You’re very sarcastic today, Molly,” he tells me as we walk, hand-in-hand, through a park.
“I’m always sarcastic when I like someone.” Oh dear Merlin. Said too much, once again. Do not want him running scared into the arms of some blonde bimbo.
“Does that mean you like me?” Yes. More than like, but I’m not telling him that.
“Well, I don’t mind spending time with you. Does that mean anything?”
“I’ll have to settle for it,” he sighs dramatically.
“Poor dear. I’m sure you’ll manage.”
“I don’t have much choice, do I?” he smirks. He pulls me to sit on a bench near the pond, still holding my hand. He knows my views on PDA. That is to say, they are completely unnecessary. I only let him hold my hand in public a week ago.
“Not really,” I reply. We fall into silence for a few minutes, but it’s not awkward anymore. He looks like he’s thinking about something. I am, too. There’s been something I’ve wanted to say to him for the past week, but even I don’t need Felicity’s careful coaching to realise that it’s not a good idea.
“Do you miss it?” I ask eventually.
He looks startled, but asks “Miss what?”
“The band. The fame, the celebrity lifestyle. All that stuff.”
After a moment, he responds. “No, not really. I think I’d miss the guys if we hadn’t kept in touch, but not the rest of it.”
“What about the music?”
“It was never really what I wanted to do. We started up the band as a bit of a fun, and then we got lucky. Some scout spotted us and suddenly we became famous, half the world knew our names and was singing our songs, we were getting invited to all the coolest parties and girls were throwing themselves at us…”
“You’re not trying to tell me you don’t miss that bit,” I say disbelievingly.
“What, the girls throwing themselves at me? They still do that now, if you hadn’t noticed.” He grins at me.
“Not me,” I object.
“Not you,” he admits. “You’re here with me now, though.” He smirks at me. His natural smile is a lot nicer than the blinding one he puts on for the cameras – and me, when I interviewed him at the Ministry.
“That’s not the point,” I argue. “So you’re saying you don’t miss it at all?”
“Not really. It’s easier to live a normal life now.”
“Yeah, because dragon handlers are so run-of-the-mill,” I snort. Attractive, Molly.
“Maybe normal was the wrong word,” Campbell allows. “But you must have met enough of us in your job. I can’t be that unusual.”
“Aside from the whole ex-rock star thing, you’re not that different, I guess. Dragon handlers are a weird bunch in general.”
“Why are handlers weird, exactly?” he looks genuinely curious. I thought the answer would have been obvious.
“Let’s see,” I say, pretending to think about it. “Britain is a lovely, relatively safe place. Normal people are quite happy to live and work here. But handlers choose Care of Magical Creatures in school – which is a weird choice in itself, given Hagrid’s reputation – and decide they want to spend their lives working with enormous, fire-breathing creatures that can easily kill them. Which part of that do you think is normal?” I tease.
He laughs so loudly at this that a muggle family feeding the ducks by the pond look over warily to see what’s going on. I elbow him in the side to stop him but that just makes things even worse, because he twitches in his seat and nearly falls off the bench. The expression on his face is so funny that I can’t help laughing and before long we’re giggling like patients from St. Mungo’s with an irremovable rictusempra. The muggle parents chivvy their children away from the pond, glancing back at us with disturbed expressions. Oops.
“Honestly, Mol, I thought you didn’t like drawing attention to yourself!” Campbell gasps at me as soon as he’s stopped laughing enough to speak.
“I don’t,” I reply, actual tears rolling down my cheeks. If Lucy could see me now she wouldn’t believe her eyes. I’m sure she thinks I was born without a sense of humour.
“It was your fault anyway!” I protest. “You’re the one who started laughing. You scared that muggle family away!”
“That wasn’t me, that was you!” Campbell says, pretending to look offended. “I could never scare any of the public away; I’m far too well behaved. It was definitely you, Molly Weasley. You snorted back then.”
Crap. I know I do that sometimes when I laugh a lot, but normally that only happens when I’m with Felicity, and I’ve known her so long that she doesn’t care any more. Snorting when laughing – or snorting at all, in fact – is not a quality most guys look for in a girl. I think I’m a hopeless case.
“I did not!” Way to go, Molly. That was convincing. And also very mature.
Campbell grins at me. “Did too,” he retorts. Wow. Sometimes ex-rock stars can be as immature as me. Wonders will never cease.
For some reason this carries on for about five minutes, me poking Campbell in the side each time I speak (I am sorely aware this is not a very normal flirting technique. I wasn’t flirting though. Besides, I never claimed to be normal) until he resorts to tickling me into submission.
Being tickled never seems to end well for me. I am extremely ticklish (according to Dad that means I take after Mum. I don’t even want to think what he means by that. Ew) and ever since I was little, when people (my family) tickled me, something bad happened. For example, when I was five, Dominique started tickling me so hard that I hit her. In the face. Being the sweet person she is, she didn’t tell anyone about the blood pouring out her nose until Victoire saw her and told Aunt Fleur about it, who then demanded to know how it happened. Then there was the time that Fred decided to tickle me while we were having Christmas dinner at The Burrow. Uncle George still insists on reminding me that he’s never seen pumpkin juice travel so far. Needless to say, my sister and cousins find my reactions hilarious; especially since it was normally the only time I got into trouble when I was little. Thinking about it, being tickled has never ended well for me.
Campbell, of course doesn’t know about this. We’ve only known each other a few weeks, and although it seems like it’s a lot longer than that, he can’t be expected to know about all of my freakish tendencies. And unfortunately, there are a lot of them.
“Campbell, don’t!” I warn him. Well, I try to say that, but since I’m already wheezing with laughter (again, not attractive) it comes out as a kind of muffled yelp. Something Campbell finds very funny, and so he continues.
“Stop it!” I insist, in my scariest impression of Nana Weasley. Unfortunately, due to the lack of oxygen in my lungs, I sound more like a strangled banshee, which is very unthreatening. Campbell is laughing even louder at me now. Almost as loud as he was when we scared that muggle family away.
Oh my Merlin! I’m now half lying on the bench with my arms flailing round pathetically trying to get Campbell off me, while he is leaning over me to tickle my sides. I’ve just realised that this would look like one of two things to a passer by, and neither of them is good!
I’m desperate for him to stop, so I manage (somehow) to push him as hard as I can away from me. But I must have pushed harder than I thought I was capable of doing, because next thing I know Campbell is sat in a pile of muddy leaves next to the bench he was occupying a second before. He looks quite disgruntled and surprised, but there’s a hint of humour in his eyes.
Then I realise that I just pushed Campbell, my kind-of, ex-rock star, dragon handler boyfriend off a park bench.
I am completely retarded.
“Merlin!” I exclaim. “Campbell, I am so sorry! I didn’t mean to push you onto the floor! I just tried to stop you, I didn’t realise I was even that strong! Here, let me help you –” I’m babbling now as I lean over and offer Campbell my hand to help him up. Seriously, I think I must have been dropped on the head as a baby, because there’s no other explanation for me being so weird and awkward. Lucy definitely isn’t, so maybe Mum and Dad were better at the whole parenting thing by the time she came along.
Campbell takes my hand and yet I still can’t stop babbling. “And it’s just that I didn’t want people to see because it looked wrong or like PDA and you know I don’t like either of those things and I couldn’t tell you to stop properly and I didn’t know what else to do –”
I pull on his warm hand but he’s much stronger than me and instead of helping him up I end up sprawled on the ground beside him. Yet another attractive position for Molly. I’m really doing well today. It’s a wonder Campbell’s not falling at my feet.
Campbell grins slyly at me as he picks a leaf out of my hair, and then I realise that he pulled me down on purpose.
“What did you do that for?!” I ask indignantly. “I know I pushed you over but that wasn’t deliberate and I said sorry and –”
“I love you.”
“– I’m really ticklish and it never ends well and – what?”
“I said I love you, Molly Weasley.” I look at Campbell to see if he’s joking but I can tell from his eyes he’s being completely serious. He’s smiling slightly, but he also looks strangely nervous as he looks back at me, almost as though he’s waiting for my reaction.
Cyrus Campbell just told me he loved me.
He loves me!
Oh, wait, he’s still looking at me. He actually seems a bit worried, which is adorable. I suppose he can’t be expected to know I’ve wanted to say the same thing to him for a week.
“I love you, too, Cyrus Campbell,” I tell him, and his face relaxes into a full smile – not one of the dazzling, rock star ones, but the natural ones I like.
“You said my first name,” he grins, leaning in closer.
“You said you loved me,” I reply.
“Well, I guess we’re even then,” he breathes, before he kisses me softly on the lips.
Maybe tickling doesn’t always have to end badly, after all.
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