Chapter 7 : Hell Hath No Fury like Rose Zeller Scorned
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I don’t think you’re supposed to smack a potentially concussed person on the head, but Lisa is becoming frustrated. “I said follow my wand, not stare at Wood.”
I am back in the Ground Floor of St. Mungo’s, on a bed that has been commandeered for me. A small pink light glows on the tip of Lisa’s wand, and I’m supposed to be following it with my eyes—instead I keep looking nervously across the room at Oliver.
He is trying to be a gentleman about my fall, but every few minutes he suddenly covers his mouth, rubbing his chin as though in very deep thought. I know, of course, that he is really fighting to keep from laughing every time he remembers me tumbling down an entire flight of stairs. I imagine it to be on a repeating loop, like the paparazzi photographs in Witch Weekly.
“Fine, sorry,” I grumble. I train my eyes on the tiny pink light, following its every move until Lisa seems satisfied.
She plops down beside me to fill out the required parchments. “Well,” she says, “you don’t have a concussion. I think Mrs. Dobbins took the brunt of your fall—” Even polite Lisa can’t finish her sentence without dissolving into fits of laughter. Mrs. Dobbins, however, does not seem to see the humour in the situation. She glares from her own bed, ice pack pressed to her head. The enormous flower bouquet now sits in a crumpled heap on the bedside table.
“Stop it!” I exclaim horrified, and slap Lisa in the arm. At her little outburst, Oliver has glanced back across the room to us and is trying to cover his grin again. He had insisted that his appointment be put aside until Lisa determined that I didn’t have brain damage—or any more than he now assumes I already had.
I flick my wand and the curtain partition zips shut, blocking Oliver from view. “Can we please just get this over with so that I can go?”
“Right, sorry,” she says, fixing her mouth into a straight line. “Like I said, you should be fine. You’ll have some bruises and swelling, but we’ll give you potions for that.”
“Thank you,” I say miserably.
She studies me with that half-amusement-half-pity smile I know too well. “Oh, poor Edie,” she puts an arm over my shoulder. “Hey!” She pokes me in the side, “I know what would cheer you up. Come wedding dress shopping with me next week!”
I stare at her darkly. “I’m sorry, did you say ‘cheer up’ or ‘horribly depress?’”
She casts me a look and I rest my head on her shoulder. “Of course I’ll come with you. It’ll be fun,” I say genuinely. “Wow, it’s really getting close, isn’t it?”
Lisa claps her hands. “Three months!” she exclaims.
In a matter of weeks she will be having a winter wedding in the seaside village of Vernazza, Italy. Where Justin had been when he realized that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her; where he had made the decision to Apparate back to London that instant and ask her to marry him. Because her life isn’t quite picturesque enough.
I do admire Lisa for procrastinating with her dress shopping, rather than Apparating to a Varya Wing boutique the second the ring was on her finger. If I know her at all, she’ll find something on the rack that resembles a tea-cozy, and when she tries it on it’ll suddenly become vintage-inspired glamour.
Lisa must sense that I’m drenched in pitiful envy. No matter how much I’ve been trying to keep it under wraps since her proposal, she is as conscious as I that her future has bloomed while mine tripped over its own feet and toppled down the stairs. Literally.
“So, you’re feeling okay?” Lisa reassures for the eighth time, to change the subject.
“Oh yeah,” I nod. “I’ve learned my lesson. This is what happens when I try to flirt while sober. You’d think it would work out the opposite way.” Lisa smiles and I bite my lip. “Erm, don’t mention this to Dean or Seamus. Or Justin. Okay?”
She stiffens and says in an entirely too high-pitched voice, “Oh, yes of course!”
I narrow my eyes at her. “Lisa...”
Suddenly the curtain is thrown back to reveal Justin, wearing his trademark button-up and jumper. “Heard you took a nasty spill, Edie!” he booms. Although he is syrupy-sweet to his fiancé, he has a habit of treating me like a little sister. In a bad way.
Immediately I round on Lisa, who is hiding behind her clipboard. “How did you—”
“Our two-way mirrors?” she squeaks and my jaw drops. “I’m sorry, Edie, my shift was supposed to be over after Wood left, and I used the mirror to tell Justin not to come in yet so that I could take care of you, and he asked why...”
“Ah, don’t worry about it Edie,” Justin slaps my back jovially. My jaw drops in pain. Oblivious, he says, “If Lisa hadn’t mentioned it, then Oliver certainly would have.”
Oliver is now trying to appear completely fascinated by a potted plant. “Why did… How…?” Complete sentences aren’t possible right now.
“Oh, I’ve known Oliver for ages!” Not for the first time, I wish that Justin knew how to whisper. I look at Lisa, confused, but she merely shrugs. Apparently Justin hadn’t mentioned this to her either.
My eyes dart back to Oliver. His jaw is working, in an awful attempt to fight the huge smile spreading over his face. I can’t believe he already told somebody about my fall. I slump forward to bury my face in my hands, and a muscle in my back begins seizing.
“Ouch,” I whimper.
I can’t get out of St. Mungo’s fast enough. After Justin had managed to get in a few more jokes about my supreme gracefulness, I had made a jab at his man-purse. Justin is very sensitive about his leather shoulder-bag. He only got one because all the other lawyers at the Ministry use them, and I don’t think I’ve stopped taking the mickey out of him since day one. After I made sure to have the last word, I quickly Apparated from my spot on the bed and reappeared in Diagon Alley. I didn’t want to see or be seen by Oliver Wood again.
Hopefully the walk through Diagon Alley to my flat will take my mind off of things. It’s always great for people-watching. I want to say that my flat is “nestled” just past the enchanted brick wall, but I think “shoved crudely in between two other buildings” is more appropriate. Either way, it’s in the perfect spot for a stroll. It’s amazing how just ten years ago you couldn’t walk these streets alone, and now I prefer it to Apparating (when not running horribly late). How things have changed.
My back tenses up involuntarily again and I release a groan. It doesn’t take long before I decide that today was stressful enough to warrant a fag. It’s not a habit that I’m proud of, but sometimes a girl just needs a cigarette. I make a quick stop in Ashe and Plume to buy a pack from the particularly disenchanted old wizard behind the counter. With one hand shoved in the pocket of my parka, I make my way down the cobblestones. The sun is beginning to set and passers-by are pulling their scarves or coats tighter against the chill.
I have almost reached my flat when I hear a noise from somewhere: “Pssst.” At first I ignore it, but then it comes again, louder this time. “Pssssst!”
Rose Zeller is standing some paces behind, at the mouth of a small alleyway. She’s wearing sunglasses despite it being dusk, and the red hood of her coat is drawn tightly around her head. She stands stiffly, I suppose trying very hard to blend in, but her expression is more constipated than anything.
After a moment’s hesitation—partially because I’m still upset with her general attitude towards my article, partially because she looks so ridiculous and I need another second to fully commit it to memory—I make my way over, stopping an arm’s length away. I stare at her. She stares back. I take a drag on my cigarette. She makes a judgmental face.
I throw up my hand in what the hell? fashion. “Rose!”
“Shhhh!” she hisses. I feel as though I’m back in the Hogwarts library with a very well-dressed Madame Pince. “Not here!” Rose darts into the shadowed alleyway behind her. It seems that she’s been reading too many of those Gwendolyn Phire: Witch Detective mystery paperbacks that I’ve noticed on her desk. (As far as I can tell, every installment in the thirty-book series is just another excuse for gratuitous smut followed by, “Oh, wait, right. We’re supposed to be looking for that fellow’s wallet.”)
Against my better judgment, I follow after Rose. Once she’s reached a satisfactory distance from the main street, she stops and folds her arms. “Okay, we have a problem.”
“Uh, yeah, I’d say we do!” I exclaim. She furrows her brow in confusion and I realize that she doesn’t know that I eavesdropped on her. With a somewhat embarrassed tone I explain, “I used an Extendable Ear to listen to your conversation with Blakeslee.”
“Edie!” she cries indignantly, to which I counter, “Rose! You’re taking all the credit for an article that Blakeslee liked.”
“We had a deal,” she says. “You knew that coming into it, so don’t get all high and mighty on me now. You chose to be a part of this too.”
I suppose that she’s got me there. Sullenly I drag from the cigarette and Rose taps her sunglasses with her wand, which return to normal eyeglasses. “But there is a problem. I didn’t think Blakeslee was going to like it.”
“Really, don’t hold back.”
“Oh, come on Edie, you’re an unpaid intern. What else could I expect?”
My jaw has dropped. Rose realizes her mistake, but I am already walking away. “Wait, wait, wait, Edie!” She grabs my arm, forcing me to turn around. “I’m—” she looks as though she’s trying to choke down a Flobberworm. “I’m... sorry.”
Well, that’s certainly a first. I cross my arms, “You have one minute.”
Rose looks flustered at my time constraint but I merely raise an impatient eyebrow. She shifts around uncomfortably. “I was...” she trails off and tries again, “I was hoping you’d write the other two articles.”
“What?” I furrow my brows. Rose doesn’t respond and I roll my eyes, again turning to leave. “Well, thanks but no thanks. I’m done being your beast of burden. See you Monday.”
“Edie!” she cries out again, but I don’t stop. I am about to turn out of the alleyway onto the street when Rose screeches, “YOU’RE A BETTER WRITER THAN ME, OKAY?!”
I stop dead in my tracks.
Rose’s face has turned a colour to match her coat, and she’s begun fixing her hair in an attempt to appear casual. But I’ve already seen her crack, and any moment she’ll have to crumble. It seems that, for once, I have the upper hand here.
“I’ll pay you,” she says offhandedly. “What do you want? Fifteen Galleons per article?”
I scoff. “You’re joking me. I know how much your wages are. Make it twenty-five.” When she shoots me a glare I shrug widely. “Hey, I don’t have to help if you can’t afford it. But I’d say an article that expanded an entire column of the magazine is worth twenty-five. Unless you think you can do better.”
My, how the tables have turned.
At last she tosses her hair over her shoulder in angry defeat. “All right, twenty-five! But I want a weekly draft on my desk—”
I’ve put up a silencing hand. “Rose, I’m doing you the real favour now. Just let me do my thing.”
And then I do probably the most kick-arse thing I’ve ever done: I light another cigarette and regard her coolly as I release a sigh of smoke. Then I pivot and saunter away. I imagine that The Rolling Stones’ Street Fighting Man would be playing right about now. Maybe a couple explosions blasting behind me. I dunno, just spitballing here. Either way, I’m walking away with two more Quidditch articles to publish. Which means—
A bit of invisible debris from the fantasy-explosion has landed on my coattail, and singed it.
Which means two more interviews with Oliver Wood.
“I’m buying you a shot.”
“I said I’m buying you a shot.” Seamus is entirely too resolute. I think that partially he just feels guilty for ambushing my first interview and is trying to butter me up. He’s already apologized once, but I have to say I’ve been a little irritated with him all week.
“Just because you went off and got a big-girl journalism job doesn’t mean you have to go acting like an old lady.”
I am smiling despite myself. “It’s not a job...”
Of course, Seamus and Dean were the first to know about Rose’s entreat disguised as an offer. On my walk home from talking with her, I had contacted them on my two-way pocket mirror. It doubles as a compact for makeup, and has therefore led to the awkward situation of putting on lipstick while Seamus watched, uncomfortable and confused as to why I had contacted him to do that. When his face had finally appeared, saying, “Uhh, looks great?” I had screamed and smeared a red line across my cheek.
Seamus smiles contentedly, beckoning to the barman. “Angus! Yes please, mate.”
I had told myself that I was going to drink one beer and go home. It seems that in the nights I had spent writing the Quidditch article, I’d forgotten exactly what going to a bar with Seamus Finnegan entails.
“Don’t you have training in the morning?” I raise an eyebrow.
Seamus is in his second year of Auror training, and honestly I couldn’t imagine a better career for him. He’s loyal almost to a fault, with a serious sense of duty and responsibility. Which you might not know if you came across him at The Poisoned Apple. But even if he acts on impulse, he realizes when he’s wrong and is always willing to swallow his pride and apologize. Back at Hogwarts he took a pretty vocal stance against the Carrows; I reckon that’s where he first got the Auror idea.
Seamus waves me off. “Ehh. Half of the recruits show up hung over or worse.”
I try to imagine running ten miles and then being jetted with an Aguamenti spell, whilst nursing the hangovers I sometimes have at Witch Weekly. But Seamus does things like that surprisingly often. The man is a saint.
My manager at the pub, Angus, used to think that the two of us were a couple, because Seamus always sits with his arm resting on the back of my barstool. At least until a pretty girl walks in—then it’s hands to himself. The first time Angus asked how long the two of us have been together, Seamus had answered, oblivious, “Well, I picked her up at four...”
It’s just not in the cards for us.
It takes Angus a moment to pour our Firewhiskies, because he is dealing with a large group of girls who don’t even look old enough to be here. This is bizarre, since The Poisoned Apple is usually the place for older, seedier customers. The pub’s dodginess is what makes it so entertaining to Dean, Seamus and I. Angus finally makes his way over, shaking his head of shaggy gray hair. His Slughorn-esque moustache looks frazzled.
“Sorry you two,” he grumbles. “Seems the Hogwarts Express made a pit-stop for martinis.”
“Yeah,” I agree conspiratorially, taking my shot from his outstretched hand. “There’s an odd number of young girls here.”
“Dunno why,” Angus looks at the group disapprovingly. They’re leggy and dressed in short skirts despite the cold weather. In fact, there are several groups like this, clustered together like gazelles searching for the lion.
I suddenly laugh and slap the bar. “I know why,” I say proudly. “They’re looking for Oliver Wood. They must’ve somehow heard that he came in the other night.”
Angus rolls his eyes. “’S right, it was in the tabloids. Crystal Ball’s got a whole article...”
Seamus and I stare, eyebrows raised, and Angus says quickly, “The wife, she reads ‘em…” before hurrying away.
I turn to Seamus. “Are you sure you don’t want to go stand with them? You’ll have a better chance at getting Wood’s attention if you borrow a little black dress.”
“Shut up,” Seamus grumbles, though I see his eyes darting around the pub eagerly.
“Oi, oi, oi.” Dean slides into the empty seat to my right, eyeing the shots before us. “I can’t believe you weren’t waiting for me.”
He gives my shoulder a light punch ‘hello’, because that’s the only way these boys know how to acknowledge me. Within seconds, Dean has a shot in hand. I think Angus likes him the best out of we three, because he’s the quietest. Dean was the one I had technically contacted with my mirror on the way home, but of course he’d already been with Seamus, so they heard my news simultaneously.
Dean raises his glass with a smile, and we follow suit. Angus has charmed a tiny candle-flame in the glass, though it actually cools the alcohol’s burn and disappears when you drink. “To Edie,” Dean says. “Who now proudly boasts a kind-of real job.”
I laugh and clink my glass against theirs, “To kind-ofs.”
Seamus echoes me, except at the ridiculously loud volume at which he only operates the second we step foot into a bar.
The second shot we toast to Dean for technically getting me the job in the first place; the third to Seamus because he felt left out; the fourth to the recent winner of Witch Weekly’s Most Charming Smile Award; and the fifth to the wonderful Muggle invention of paper clips.
Needless to say...
“Seriously, poke them!” Seamus lifts his shirt to expose his stomach. His Auror training has landed him in the best shape of his life, apparently, and there are the traces of abdominal muscles emerging. I didn’t believe that he was in such shape, because when have I ever seen him without a shirt? So he had to prove me wrong.
“Just poke them, Edie, come on. Seriously, it’s like marble. With hair.”
Dean and I are both doubled over laughing, and I am about to actually poke Seamus’s stomach, when the pub suddenly grows quieter. I can’t quite place exactly what the change is until I realize that every female voice has dropped out of the overall conversation. And then I follow everyone’s gaze to the door, and I understand why.
Oliver Wood has just walked in. And he’s walked in with Rose Zeller.
Seamus’s gurgle of excitement is completely audible over the quieted room. Oliver turns to find the source of the noise and sees Seamus, who appears to be flashing him, and looks startled. Then he notices me and raises his hand in a small wave. It takes me a moment to return it. All I am seeing is Rose, gazing at me with a smirk tugging on her lips.
“Is that...?” Dean begins.
“Yes,” I say stonily. “Yes, it is.”
Then Rose puts her hand on Oliver’s arm and points to a small table in the corner. He nods and the two head over, passing close enough that I can smell Rose’s perfume. She maintains eye contact all the while, the wicked grin still on her face.
I know why she’s here. Even though she’s settling down at the table and drawing out the folder of interview notes—my notes, I replaced all her shoddy ones—and taking out her quill, she is not here to interview him. Rose knowingly came to the pub where I work, on a day when I dared to cross her and start making demands, after my writing outshone hers. And she’s here with the subject of my story, keeping up appearances, as though she were actually the one doing all of the work.
Rose begins ordering her drink, though Oliver is still standing to remove his leather jacket. He glances over his shoulder at me, but quickly looks away.
“...Leg, leg, leg, leg!” Dean’s voice finally infiltrates the angry buzz in my head. “Jesus Christ, Lennox!” Apparently I’ve been kicking him repeatedly in the shin.
“Sorry,” I grumble, clumsily bringing my pint to my lips.
Although I have been trying to ignore Oliver and Rose for the past thirty minutes, she has (probably not coincidentally) selected a table that is directly in my line of sight. I have been trying not to give her the satisfaction of staring, but each time I sip from my beer I see them through the bottom of the glass. What’s worse, my drunken reflexes are not as quick as Rose’s and she has caught me staring every time. At one point I tried to look casual and jerked my glass up so quickly that I almost chipped a tooth, which she also saw.
“It’s been half an hour, let it go,” Dean says.
I blink, embarrassed. “Right. Sorry. What were you saying?”
But of course I don’t let it go. As the night progresses, different clusters of girls shyly approach their table to talk to Oliver. Many of them ask for autographs, several leave their names on napkins. But they all cast jealous looks at the stunningly pretty woman across from him—in a low-cut shirt that is entirely unprofessional, might I add. And Rose is positively eating their jealousy up.
I realize that I’m being a crazy, bitter old hag. But five shots of Firewhiskey can make you feel funny things.
Oliver sits with his back to me, his jumper stretching across his broad shoulders, and—oh, stop it, Firewhiskey. Rose has clearly stopped taking notes. A part of me has to marvel at the way she knows exactly how to work each of her best assets; playing with her long black hair or flipping it over her shoulder, leaving her full lips slightly parted the way I know she practices in the mirror (because she’s told me), and folding her arms across the table to push her—erm—ample bosom together.
“It’s just ‘cause she’s got a huge rack,” I say flatly.
Dean is staring at me in disbelief. Clearly my involuntary outburst has just interrupted a story that I didn’t even know he was telling. “Are you still on about that?” he exclaims.
I press my mouth into a line. “Absolutely not,” I lie pathetically. He quirks an eyebrow and I sigh. “It just really miffs me—”
“I’m sorry, miffs?”
“—that she’s here like this, pretending to be interviewing him, when clearly she’s just out for free drinks!”
Dean sighs with exasperation. “Whether he’s buying her drinks or not, it has absolutely nothing to do with your article. In fact, she’s doing you a favour by staging a fake interview. What does it matter to you anyway?”
That’s not really a question that I’m in the right state of mind to ponder. There is a moment of silence and I shake my head quickly, shutting my eyes. “It doesn’t matter, you’re right. I’m sorry. I guess I’m just upset about my work going unnoticed again.”
“Sure,” Dean says, entirely unconvinced. He seems upset.
Seamus, who has been surprisingly quiet on the subject, offers, “She does have a huge rack, though.”
I stare at him flatly before turning back to the bar, “Angus, I’ll take another.”
Author's Note: All right, last chapter upload before the queues close for the holidays, I promise. Thanks for reading, as always, and if you feel so inclined I would love a review! I don't own "Street Fighting Man" by the Rolling Stones--or Harry Potter, by the way. ;)
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