Chapter 8 : Mother/Matchmaker
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Another amazing CI by afterglow @ TDA. (Doesn't it oddly match the HPFF blue theme?)
I awake the next morning Braham Stoker-style, hissing at the probing sunlight and furling the sheets over my head like a cape. The sudden movement only makes matters worse and I release an enormous groan. My head is pounding, my stomach is turning, my eyes are heavy with lack of sleep, and between the Firewhiskey and cigarettes I smell like a manky streetwalker. You’d think by now I would have noticed, and thus avoided, the common factor between me and monstrous hangovers: Seamus Finnegan.
I can’t even imagine how he’s fairing right now. My arm shoots out from the depths of my covers and pounds around my bedside cabinet, searching for the alarm clock as if it were a bug that needed squishing. It’s after 11:00. Seamus has been at Auror training for hours, and he was even worse off than me by the end of the night.
Ugh. Last night.
Aside from the tension between Dean and I (though I can’t blame him--I went from ranting about Oliver Wood for a straight week to feeling irrationally protective), to make matters worse, the Keeper himself had unintentionally made a fool out of me.
When he and Rose left--I was determined to outlast them, a stupid decision that resulted in being entirely more intoxicated than desired--I had tried my hardest to be in the midst of a particularly hilarious joke. In fact, they were walking by right after Dean had said offhandedly, “It’s going to snow this weekend,” and I threw my head back in uproarious laughter.
“That’s brilliant,” I guffawed, touching his arm in a friendly way. He narrowed his eyes conspiratorially and chose not to respond, bless him.
I had really thought that Rose and Oliver were going to walk straight past me. I think that I even glimpsed Rose’s hand on his arm, steering him away. But Oliver had stopped behind our three barstools.
“Wotcher Edie,” he’d said in a friendly voice. “Finnegan, Thomas.”
The combination of alcohol and nerves had rendered Seamus incapable of doing anything but giggling, while Dean raised his eyebrows in mild surprise. “Hello,” he nodded back, though not nearly as star struck as Seamus. Not even close.
There was a moment of silence and Oliver tried, “Rose tells me that you’ll have to put up with me for two more articles. Is congratulations the right word?”
I opened my mouth to respond but Rose beamed up at him, her face flushed in a pleasing way. “Oh, it’s hardly putting up with you, Oliver. We’re just glad to be given the opportunity.”
To my surprise Oliver seemed to not have even heard her, his eyes fixed on me. Or maybe it was just the alcohol; my head felt full of nargles. Rose’s eyes traveled from him to me slowly, knowingly. Dean took a long sip from his beer, turning away from us. I opened my mouth to say something—probably something entirely stupid—but Rose cut me off again.
“So, how’re you feeling after that fall earlier?”
There was a beat of very heavy silence in which I clutched my glass tighter, my enormous false smile disappearing. Wait, Rose knew? She smiled at me widely, her eyes twinkling with either laughter or the fires of hell—I can’t be sure. Meanwhile Oliver’s face turned beetroot. Seamus and Dean turned to me eagerly, always ready for new stories about me looking daft.
“Fall?” Seamus said excitedly.
Without looking at him I said quickly, “It was nothing. Just a little... mishap.”
Oliver tried to cover his tracks, “Oh, yeah. Just a little mishap.”
“Really boring story,” I added.
Rose shifted her weight so that her shoulder touched Oliver’s. “Oh, come on Edie! It’s actually a really great story.”
“Yes!” Seamus pounded his fists on his thighs. “Tell us!”
Dean pushed my shoulder gently. “Yeah, come on.”
Normally this story would not have been so horrible to tell, especially after we’d all had a few. In fact I would rather talk about my blunders than my achievements any day. But I did not want Rose to have the satisfaction of hearing it from my own mouth. Everyone was watching me intently—except Oliver, who was squinting very hard at the ceiling. I shrugged and brought my glass closer. “I just... tripped and fell today when I went to see Lisa.”
“Down a flight of stairs!” Rose added. “Oh, and you forgot to mention the other witch.” She put a hand on Oliver’s arm and said as if I were not there, “Didn’t Edie give her a concussion?”
“What!” Seamus exclaimed. “How are we not hearing about this until now?!” Everyone but Oliver and I laughed heartily. Seamus threw an arm around my shoulder to show that it was all in good jest. Unfortunately I did not see the humour in it.
It was quickly becoming one of those situations that didn’t even need to be a “situation” at all, and the more embarrassed and angry I had gotten, the more awkward it was for everyone. It was like the perfect storm of shoddy situations.
Thankfully, Oliver had broken up the laughter. “Well, I’d better be going,” he said suddenly. I didn’t even glance his way, furious at him for gossiping about my Most Embarrassing Moments 2006 with Rose like two schoolgirls.
Rose flashed a smile, her hand still on his arm. “Apparate me home?”
“Oh,” Oliver paused. “Of course.” He turned to my little group once more and smiled pathetically. “Well, see you.”
Seamus had waved excitedly--again Oliver furrowed his brow in confusion--while Dean just lifted his chin in a silent farewell. I hadn’t responded at all, instead choosing to down the rest of my beer while Rose linked her arm through Oliver’s. They disappeared, Seamus still cackling away and shaking my shoulder roughly. I don’t think I said much after that, settling my bill shortly after and stumbling home alone.
I grab my pillow and squish it over my face. Rose is quite the mastermind when it comes to social sabotage, it turns out. She’d had everything planned, and I’d played right into her trap. I suppose I could’ve told her off at the pub, but then I’d have looked like the self-important arse who couldn’t take a joke. I should have laughed it off, but I was too drunk, too caught off-guard, and too seriously angry with Oliver Wood for telling her in the first place.
Oliver Wood--the person I am done thinking about for the week. It’s always ended in a headache. This time quite literally.
Gathering all of my motivation, I swing one leg off the bed where it dangles pathetically. Step one. It takes me another few minutes before the second leg is beside it, though I’m still splayed out flat on the mattress. Suddenly the fireplace, which I had been too pissed to charm to life last night, bursts into a roaring flame.
“Edie?” comes a concerned voice. “Edie, are you alright?”
“Edie, answer me or I’m Apparating over there this instant!”
Anything but that. I jolt up onto my elbows, despite the inevitable throbbing of my head. “Mum. I’m fine.”
Hovering in the fireplace is my mother’s head. She scowls and I’m reminded of how similar we look. Same freckles, same brown eyes. Her hair, though, has apparently been sheared very short in the last few weeks and a floral scarf is wrapped around her head.
My mum, the artist.
“What are you doing still asleep?” she exclaims. “I thought we had plans!”
I rub my eyes. “Plans? Mum, I don’t remember making any--”
“I must’ve sent you three owls on the matter!” she says indignantly.
Before I can stop myself, my eyes dart to the pile of unopened letters on my bedside cabinet. What? Nobody my age really keeps up with owl correspondence anymore, unless it’s something formal like rejections for employment or Gringotts’s notices about dwindling funds—hypothetically speaking, of course. Most witches and wizards have two-way mirrors now, but my mum has yet to jump on the bandwagon. She says it’s too “contemporary.” But between working at The Poisoned Apple, extracting owls from the fireplaces of Witch Weekly, and slaving over the Quidditch article, I haven’t had the time to go sifting through my mother’s ten-page letters.
She must have noticed the envelopes herself because she is making her disappointed face. I rub my head. “I’m sorry Mum, I’ve just been so busy. Why didn’t you just contact me by fireplace before now?”
“Well Edie, if I’d known that your own mother’s post was such a bother to you, then of course I would never have dared to trouble--”
“So what are we doing today?” I interrupt, forcing a smile.
She looks satisfied. “Come visit me at the studio in thirty minutes. I thought we could get breakfast.” Then, because is physically incapable of not giving her opinion on every matter, “Though it will actually be lunch, at this hour.”
I wonder where I get it from.
It takes everything I’ve got to drag myself out of bed and get ready for breakfast with my mum. I say this partially because of the hangover, and partially because any visit with her takes several days’ worth of mental preparation. Hypatia Lennox is a caring, intelligent and hard-working witch. But she’s loopy, a control-freak, and most certainly smothering. Since my twenty-fifth birthday last April she’s become very concerned with my romantic life, or lack thereof, more than ever. She seems convinced that nobody in their right mind would ever marry one of my three younger brothers (though as the one to care for them for seventeen years, she’s biased). So in her mind, I’m her only hope for a grandchild. And in her mind my biological clock is ticking.
To my surprise, saying “Accio somewhat presentable dress!” works. My mother would be affronted if I appeared in anything less for our first meal together in weeks. After un-smudging last night’s makeup I turn to Apparate to her studio--
Hopefully Mum won’t notice the vomit near the back door.
At least I feel a bit better. After giving myself a moment, I walk around to the front door of Mum’s studio. Once more I’m in Renwick, the small Wizarding village where I grew up. It’s near Seaford and the Seven Sisters, and I can’t say much has changed at all in the twenty-six years I’ve known the place. My mum’s studio is a small brick building on the main street. It has blue painted shutters and a bright yellow door, over which hangs the colourful wooden sign Art by Hypatia.
My mum does decently with selling her paintings, though most of her income for our rather large family was brought in elsewhere. She still works as a pastry chef at Bylgia’s Bakery in the same town, while my stepfather brings little money as a small-time jazz musician. My siblings and I certainly didn’t grow up wealthy, but we got by in our crowded little flat. From the outside my mum and Andrew appear to be the ideal, hip parents. In reality they’re just as barking mad as the rest, except they enjoy sneaking behind the studio for some magical “herbs” every once in awhile.
I am reaching for the handle on the studio door when it is suddenly pulled open from inside. “Daughter!” my mother cries, throwing her arms in the air. She’s wearing a long paisley dress and cowboy boots, and I’m thankful that the scarf is now around her neck and not her head. She pulls me into a violent hug. I’m glad I’ve already had my episode behind her studio, what with all the squeezing.
“Come in!” she says. “There’s somebody I’d like you to meet.”
I make a conscious effort to keep in my groan. Although I’m glad my parents are social, now that we’ve all flown the nest, her choice of company makes me want to pull my own eyes out. If I had a Galleon for every middle-aged artist I’ve met, who sculpts nudes from garbage and still prattles on about who broke up the Beatles…
Instead when I step into her studio, which is filled wall-to-wall with abstract paintings and stacks of prints on the floors, I see a young man about my age. Upon first glance I can tell that he’s dreadfully bored, and I wonder how long my mum has kept him here.
Twelve seconds in and she’s already found me a husband.
“Edie,” she says, positively beaming. “This is Jae Chang. I believe you went to school with his sister, Cho.”
Jae and I shake hands. “Hello,” he says with a polite smile, and I hear a faint Scottish accent. His shaggy fringe hangs in his eyes and the rest is pulled into a very short ponytail. He’s wearing a pair of skinny jeans that I probably couldn’t squeeze into. Alright, so he’s pretty fit, despite the tortured intellectual thing. But I’m too irritated with my mum to really acknowledge that at this point. How did she lure him in here, let alone get him to wait around?
“Isn’t she even cuter in real life?” my mother tightens her grip on my shoulders and I’m not sure if it’s a show of love or a threat. “I’m afraid the photograph wasn’t very good. Edie, you were so peaky last Christmas.”
“Photograph,” I repeat, paling. Jae offers me a pitying smile.
“Jae is a student at the Antiphilus Institute for Visual Art,” my mother beams as if he were her own son.
“Oh, right. My friend Dean Thomas is a graduate from there.”
He returns my smile but doesn’t have the chance to respond, because my mum barrels on, “He’s going to be my new painting apprentice this semester. He came over to become better acquainted with my space.”
Two hours ago, Jae mouths to me with a grin. I turn my laugh into a cough.
My mother, on her relentless mission to sell me off to the highest bidder, doesn’t notice. “Such a talented young artist, and handsome too! It’s hard to believe he doesn’t have a girlfriend,” she pats my shoulder meaningfully.
“Oh, well Mum, I just don’t know that my dowry is quite ready. I’ve really been slacking on my needlepoint.” Now it’s Jae’s turn to cover up his laugh, which results in choking.
My mum flushes. Sensing that she’s treading on dangerous territory, she gestures at the walls in a change of subject. “I was just showing Jae my newest body of work.”
I turn to glance at what she’s gesturing to and do a double-take, freezing in horror. The paintings that cover her entire studio and which I thought were completely abstract, on further inspection, are actually giant, brightly colored, poorly disguised “lady-bits” as Seamus would say. But these paintings would make even Georgia O’Keefe blush.
“Oh wow,” I manage. “How...bold.”
Clearly pleased by my response, she walks closer to a painting done in blues and purples. It’s easily four feet wide. “This one is called Daughter."
I suppose in the mind of a contemporary artist who believes in new-age bollocks like crystal healing, this is a compliment. But to normal people like Jae Chang, it’s just humiliating. Welp, there went that potential candidate for a boyfriend.
“You know Mum, we should really get going to breakfast. It’s late after all.” I am steering her out the door, despite her protests. “Bye, nice meeting you!” I call to Jae without a second glance.
Before the door is even shut behind us, Mum says in a voice that I’m sure is perfectly audible to the young artist, “He’s quite nice, isn’t he?”
I suppose I deserve this kind of embarrassment after refusing to read her post for so long. “He sure was, Mum,” I sigh.
As usual I am going to be in dire need a nap after this breakfast with my mother. It’s my way of detoxification. We have gone to her favorite little cafe down the street, which she loves because they no longer implement the use of House Elves. (Eradicating House Elves, whether they want to be or not, is the new to-do in the Wizarding world. Like going vegan.) The cafe serves granola and Yerba Mate and tofu and not much else. Bird food, if you ask me. Or so I thought--we chose to sit outside, and even the sparrows look disgusted by the poor excuses for a hearty breakfast.
Before our food has even arrived I’m ready to bolt. First Mum had eyed me warily when I ordered a mimosa for a little Hair of the Dog, and asked in a concerned voice, “Exactly how often do you drink alcohol, Edith?” Then she’d proceeded to ask approximately two thousand questions about Lisa’s wedding, and how she and Justin were doing, and sighing wistfully at her hopelessly single daughter. She even patted my hand sadly when I mentioned being Lisa’s maid of honour.
But what really takes the Snitch is when she mentions Jae Chang again.
“He’s a very talented painter. And so handsome.”
“You’ve already mentioned that bit.”
“Don’t you think he’s handsome?”
I set down my champagne flute heavily, almost breaking the stem. “Gee, Mum, d’you think I should go for it?” She grins, averting my eyes. I know that look anywhere--there’s something she’s afraid to tell me. Or more precisely, something that she did, which she knows I won’t like, but did it anyway to her own amusement.
“What now?” I groan.
“Well, Jae and I got to talking. And he mentioned how he misses his mother’s home-cooked Korean food. So I mentioned how much you love Korean food--”
“I’ve never had Korean food!”
“And then he mentioned the name of this lovely little restaurant in Diagon Alley. And I mentioned that you live in Diagon Alley, and also that you never work on Wednesday nights. And, well...”
“You didn’t,” I bellow. People are turning to stare. “Mum, please tell me you didn’t.”
“Well he said yes!” she exclaims indignantly, throwing her hands up. “He liked your photograph. He said you’re pretty!”
“Well of course he did, you’re my mother! What’s he going to do, tell you that I’d be totally shaggable if I lost ten pounds and put on a little cat-eye?”
Now people are definitely staring. The wizard at the adjacent table slowly covers his toddler’s ears, horrified. I shut my eyes and exhale.
“Mum, why don’t you ever ask me about my job? Or my internship?” I ask with a twinge of sadness. “It’s always if I’ve met some boy, or if I have a crush, or if Seamus or Dean has finally realized they’re madly in love with me.”
“It’s possible,” she defends.
“No way in hell,” I say resolutely. “And I’m only twenty-six. There are plenty of other, more important things going on in my life. I’m not just sitting around thinking up baby names for my future daughter--”
“I always saw you having twin boys,” my mother interjects. Then she sees my expression and reaches across the table to clasp my hand. “I’m sorry. I just... I worry about you, Edie. I’m proud of you for being so independent. Merlin knows that I was just like you. But I don’t want you to neglect the… other things in life, too.”
I snort derisively, sipping from my mimosa. “Trust me, I’m not the one neglecting them.”
And then she’s looking at me so sadly, and I think I even see the hint of tears, as the life of a grandchild-less old witch flashes before her--Merlin, she has seriously hit menopause. I sigh in defeat. “Alright!” I say with difficulty, “Would it give you peace of mind if I were to... attend an evening out with this Jae Chang?”
“Yes!” she exclaims, clasping her hands beneath her chin. “Very much.”
Well, it’s not like I’ve got anyone else lined up on the dance card. “Fine. One date.”
My mum looks as though she’ll be able to sleep soundly again, which should be annoying, but today’s interaction has gone quite well by comparison. I return her smile, but it is wiped away the moment our food arrives and I see the measly portions of egg whites and soy-bacon. Not exactly my idea of hangover food.
“Mmm!” my mother relishes, eyeing her plate. “This looks absolutely delicious. Let’s tuck in!”
I decide that on the way home I will stop for a doughnut.
So there you have it! I just love Hypatia; she's entirely too much fun to write. Thank you so much for reading. Please feel free to leave me your thoughts on what you did or didn't like!
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