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Keep Calm and Carry On by my_voice_rising
Chapter 10 : And the Award Goes To...
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 17


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CHAPTER TEN



I am jolted awake by a loud smack on my window. At first I think it’s Rose, come to finish me off once and for all. But then I see the befuddled gray owl—I recognize it as Mr. Ward’s. Bugger. Tonight is the Wizarding Newspaper Association Gala. I’d forgotten all about it in the week I’ve been avoiding Witch Weekly to work on the second article. It was just too risky to do the research at my desk, when I was supposed to be out running errands. I wonder if anyone’s even noticed my absence. With a groan I drag myself from my warm covers and open the window.

After wrestling the letter from the owl’s talons—the collision had frazzled its tiny brain—it barely misses the window on its way out. Even Ward’s owls are incompetent. I shake my head, breaking the envelope’s wax seal: an over-embellished “W.”

Edith!

Please arrive at Gringotts at 5:00 to assist with set-up!
Mildred will be there to direct you!
We should only need you until about 9:00!

Cheers!

Artie Ward


Oh, right, only four hours. I toss the letter unceremoniously over my shoulder, stretching widely. I’m also to go wedding dress shopping with Lisa this afternoon, and need to apply for more jobs. The rejections from my first wave of applications came in yesterday. They all read the same thing: “We were impressed by your portfolio, but do not have any positions available at this time.” It’s going to be quite an exhausting day.

At least my mind isn’t muddled with alcohol, as I stayed in last night. I couldn’t have possibly afforded it, but that bit is still a secret. So when I told Seamus and Dean that I wasn’t going with them, they looked as though I’d presented them with an impossible Rubik’s Cube.

“But it’s Taco Tuesday,” Seamus had said slowly. Clearly I must’ve mixed my days up.

“I know,” I shrugged. He and Dean remained in my doorway, very perplexed. “I’m just feeling a bit peaky. You two go on.” Eventually they had shuffled along, still incapable of wrapping their heads around it. But I had research to do.

The interview was only two days away, and Blakeslee told Rose that this article would have to expose his personal life. So the readers of Witch Weekly weren’t interested in my politics. I can’t say I’m surprised. But I can’t allow myself to back down; I want to try and change Witch Weekly, somehow. To show them that there are more important things than nail varnish, and that the celebrities they hold on a pedestal aren’t so grand after all—starting with this assignment. I need to make them see Wood for who he is: selfish, arrogant, and thoughtless. I’ll just have to spin it as juicy gossip.

So while Dean and Seamus went pub-crawling, I spent last night in pyjamas, eating Cauldron Cakes at my shoddy desk. I pored over past issues of Witch Weekly, the Daily Prophet, Which Broomstick, Quidditch Quarterly and countless others in search of information. The only publications that contained anything substantial were the tabloids. Unfortunately they weren’t reliable sources… unless he really was spotted canoodling with a male centaur in Belize. (Part of me wishes he had been, just because the visual image is so entertaining.)

But even the tabloids had little on his refusal to donate to St. Mungo’s. Mostly they were littered with photographs of him acting the way he had at The Poisoned Apple. So apparently the drinking problem isn’t just a rumour. But what good was that to my case? Teenage witches who are already smitten with him won’t think any less of him for partying. Even though his picture hangs in the girls’ dormitories of Hogwarts, Oliver Wood’s real personality—the one that I know—remains out of the public eye. Frustrated, I had eventually settled for watching old Puddlemere matches. My quill was poised as if to take notes, but I don’t think I wrote down anything other than Wood → Wanker.

One thing of interest did present itself, though it had nothing to do with the article. The newest issue of The Oracle Underground, which I purchased even though I barely had the funds, listed a job opening for a reporter. My heart had almost leapt from my chest—my favorite publication was hiring! But it wasn’t even within my grasp; the ad strictly said “three to five years’ experience required.” What could I do? Even my word-twisting abilities couldn’t make my time internship seem equal to years of practical experience.

I rub my eyes, staring out onto the bleary morning. With a sigh, I decide to put everything out of mind. Besides, I’m overdue for a very long bath. Soon I’m reclining in warm bubbly goodness with a nice cuppa and—I’m more than embarrassed to admit—a Gwendolyn Phire paperback. I just want to forget everything, and what better way than mind-numbing drivel? (Because if I ignore the problem it will totally go away, right?) After the bath, I spend a considerable amount of time charming my fingernail varnish bright yellow. By noon, when Lisa contacts me, I’m still in pyjamas.

I agree wholeheartedly to meet at Twilfitt & Tatting’s, calling it a reasonable excuse not to be thinking about jobs. Soon I appear outside the storefront in my parka, returning my best mate’s wave. I’m carrying a giant canister of coffee; my purse contains a headache-relieving potion, a pack of tissues, and an extra pair of dangly earrings in case she forgot. I’m more than prepared for a day-long excursion.

And twenty minutes later we’re leaving with her wedding dress. Or, at least, she’s chosen one and the seamstresses have taken her measurements. It’ll be owled within the week.

“And you’re sure,” I repeat for the thousandth time, as we step out into the bright and chilly September afternoon.

Lisa is beaming like I’ve never seen her. “Honestly, Edie, don’t make me second-guess myself.”

I zip my parka. “I knew you wouldn’t be fussy, but Merlin, ten minutes?”

“You sound so surprised!” she laughs. “Did you think this was going to be an all-day excursion?”

“I brought snacks,” I bewilderedly think of the high-energy granola bars I’d brought. “No offense. You’re far from a bridezilla, but—” I take her gently by the shoulders. “I just want you to have the absolute most perfect wedding day ever. And if you can with this dress, then I’m satisfied.”

“Oh, come on. You know the dress doesn’t really matter to me! Plus I saw you almost crying, which I took as a sign from God.”

“Was not,” I drop my hands. Although I would never admit it—not in a thousand years, not even if you slipped me a Veritaserum—I did feel stirring deep in the cockles of my heart. I’d been right: after some very nonchalant browsing, she found a lightweight lace number that looked like a napkin on the rack and like a thousand-Galleon gown on her shoulders. She was absolutely stunning, lifting her blond waves off her neck and beaming.

Perhaps I had misted up. Just a bit.

Lisa links her arm through mine and we begin to stroll aimlessly. “You’re next, you know,” she grins. Although she has read my mind exactly, I bristle at her words.

“All right, Mum,” I grumble.

Ever since she’s been engaged, I’ve stopped talking to Lisa about my love-life. Not that there’s anything to tell, really. A few flings here and there, but nothing substantial since a year ago, with Cormac. He was too blond and too clean-cut, and honestly a complete dolt. Plus he knew absolutely nothing about literature or politics or music. We were both bored from day one, but we were bored with everything else in our lives too, so we stuck it out. For him, I was just a roof to sleep under and a pair of boobs to ogle. He was proof that I am capable of wrangling a guy. Mostly I brought him around to parties to show him off, and prayed he wouldn’t open his mouth. Lisa probably saw right through it, for the entire six months he and I managed to withstand one another. But I never wanted to come out and talk relationships with her; it’s the only part of our friendship that’s changed since her engagement. I know Lisa wants the best for me. But I don’t want to be patted on the cheek and told that my time will come.

“Maybe I don’t ever want to get married in the first place,” I say suddenly.

Lisa blinks, confused.

“I mean, I seriously cannot imagine having to wake up every day, for the rest of my life, next to the same bloke snoring away. And why should a woman’s existence be nothing but striving towards marriage?” I’m on my soapbox, and my engaged best mate is probably not the person to rant to, but it’s all spilling out. “I’m only twenty-six, what if I just want a well-paying career? And a nice flat, and a pair of trousers without holes?”

But Lisa bumps me gently with her shoulder and grins, “I meant... you’re next up for today. We should find your maid of honour dress while we’re out.”

My face turns beetroot. “Oh. Yeah, of course.”

“What’s going on with you?” she stops me. Her clear blue eyes stare pointedly into mine. “Something’s wrong, I can tell. Out with it.”

“Erm...” I blink at her. My mouth parts, ready to spill everything: that I’ve been sacked, and am completely skint, and that there’s no way in Azkaban I can afford a proper dress. Instead I give her a bright smile. “I’m starving. Are you?”

Though she looks disbelieving, soon we’re at an outdoor table shrouded by a bright green umbrella. We’ve been here a thousand times before, but now I’m scanning the menu for the cheapest items. When I ask our waiter for a glass of water and a small salad, I see Lisa quirk an eyebrow in my periphery. I return the gesture when she, practically vegan for the past ten years, asks for “their largest portion of fish and chips.”

As soon as the waiter is gone I say flatly, “Lisa. I have never, ever, in all my years of knowing you, seen you eat fish and chips. You’re pregnant.”

“Edie! Please!” she flushes. Her voice drops down to a whisper, “Justin and I are… careful. You know that.”

“I’m sorry, I’m only teasing. It’s just a far cry from the usual broccoli sprouts and hummus,” I smile at her adorable embarrassment. She’s really quiet about her and Justin’s bedroom-life. Unless she’s had a few drinks, and then… Merlin. Sometimes even I think it’s too much information.

She fiddles with her napkin for a moment, opening and closing her mouth. When I give her the out-with-it eyebrow quirk, she sighs. “I’m just so nervous about everything with the wedding, and it’s manifesting itself in food. Last night I ate an entire tub of ice cream.” She pauses and adds guiltily, “…covered in chocolate sauce and marshmallows and biscuits.”

“Holy hell, Lisa, you’re becoming a real woman!” I laugh heartily. She has always been so thin; the one sitting off to the side as I demolish any sort of food that comes smothered in cheese.

She tucks a piece of hair behind her ear, still embarrassed. “It’s just... In less than three months, I’ll never be Lisa Turpin again. And I’m so happy with Justin, you know that. But Lisa Turpin is who I’ve been for the last twenty-six years! Can you blame me for being a nervous eater?”

This is the first time I’ve ever heard her express any ill feeling about her marriage. She can’t even talk about Justin or say the word “wedding” without beaming like an idiot. This is definitely a side she wasn’t showing, for one selfless reason or another.

I smile sadly. “No, of course you can’t be blamed. But it’s perfectly normal. I know you don’t have cold feet, and you know that too, somewhere in all that sugar floating around your bloodstream. If anything, you should feel guilty about all the hearts you’ll be breaking, when you’re no longer on the market. Although I think a resounding ‘Finally, thank you!’ from the female half of London is in order.”

She smiles, placated, and pushes her hair behind her ear again. “Thank you. For putting up with me. I know I’ve not been myself lately, going on about floral arrangements and all that rubbish.”

“Oi,” I say, “You’d better take advantage of it while you can. After this wedding, every time you say the word ‘crinoline’ you’re buying me a drink.”

When our food arrives, I’m given a first-hand glimpse at exactly how Lisa has been eating her feelings. The plates are barely set down before she takes a wolfish bite of the fish (using her hands.) I don’t think she’s even swallowed before she’s cramming the chips in as well. Fighting down my laughter, I poke the tiny salad with my fork.

Lisa eyes my meagre portions and says, mouth still full, “You know… they have some really nice dresses over at Kensington’s.”

“Kensington’s,” I repeat flatly.

“Yeah.”

“The second-hand store.”

Lisa is suddenly very interested in the lemon wedge on her plate. “Look,” I stare at her evenly. “I may not be the wealthiest witch in all of London, but this is your bloody wedding we’re talking about. It’s a monumental day, and it only happens once in your lifetime. And for that reason, I need to look ruddy fantastic.” Before she can question me, I change the subject. “So, let’s get down to it. Exactly how crazy do you want to go for your hen night?”

“I swear to God, if you make me wear or eat anything with genitalia on it, you’re no longer invited to the wedding.”

“Noted.” I take another bite of lackluster lettuce.

*


I am more than surprised when I arrive early for the Gala that evening. Maybe I’m turning over a new leaf. Or maybe I was just desperate to leave my flat, to avoid telling Dean and Seamus that I’m unemployed. Folding my arms, I stare up at the gleaming white walls of Gringotts. An Auror in a long cloak patrols along the black iron fence. Good thing the Female Goblin Coalition backed out, because he looks particularly heartless. I think of Seamus, and how he’ll be given his Auror’s badge within the year. What would he do, if he were given an assignment like preventing women from speaking out?

I thought the Wizarding World was past all of this.

Then again, it’s not called the Witching World, is it?

A familiar voice calls, “You’re stuck here, too?”

Theo is heading my way, camera swinging from his neck. He’s wearing a black suit and tie with a plaid shirt. “Hiya, Theo!” I call, glad for a familiar face. “Yeah, I’ll be here all night.”

He reaches my side. “Yeah? What has Ward got you doing?”

I falter. “Refreshments.”

“Ah.”

“Yep.”

Theo looks up at the building and shakes his head. “I can’t believe the magazine is partaking in this, after everything that’s happened. Well, actually I can believe it. Which I reckon is even worse.”

I snort derisively, “You’re telling me. Do you know what ever happened with the protest?” My voice drops off, because the Auror’s head has snapped in my direction. Theo must notice as well, because he casts me a sidelong glance.

“Maybe we should…”

“Right.”

Avoiding eye contact with the Auror, Theo and I silently climb the stone steps. When we reach the apex I push the black wooden doors open, revealing the marble pillars and chandeliers bustling with preparation. Something about it all seems dark and eerie, though. Everything is black and white, from the stone to the crystal to the Goblins in tuxedos. It’s quiet, too, for the amount of people working.

“Well, I’ll be the one with the camera,” Theo says with his perpetual hint of sarcasm.

“I’ll be the one serving Muenster.” We trade small grins and nod, before parting ways.

*


“You’re late,” Mildred snaps when I finally locate her.

She’s tucked away in a side-room, near the kitchens, hidden beneath the stairs of a back room. These Goblins really do not want you knowing your way around. I had to be escorted the entire way; passwords were whispered to different portraits; multiple keys were used at each door. No wonder it took forever to find her.

I furrow my brow and check my wristwatch. “Late? It’s not five o’clock.”

She’s doing what she does best: standing rigidly and entirely too close. I shift uncomfortably under her stony gaze before giving up. “Welp, sorry I’m late!” I say brightly. “So, isn’t there some sort of getup I need to be wear—oh, God.”

My eyes have fallen on the outfit that hangs to my right. Button-up shirt, checkered green vest, black bowtie, frumpy trousers… really, it couldn’t be worse. Apparently it wasn’t humiliating enough to be denied employment by the publications in attendance. Now I have to serve them bubbly while wearing this. Mildred passes the outfit over, and I distinctly see a grin upon her face. “Best get changed now. We’ll direct you from there.”

“Wonderful,” I mutter, stalking from the room.

As it so happens, passing out flutes of champagne and spinach puffs isn’t so bad. Most people ignore me, to the point of not realizing that I’m standing right there to hear the salacious gossip. The gala’s been underway for only an hour, and I already know which reporter from the Daily Prophet pays off her sources, and which Quidditch Quarterly writer has slept with the majority of his. Theo is hanging back to take photos—or advantage of the free food—so I have somebody to talk to.

Actually, everything’s going quite swimmingly, until I spot Rose walking in. My heart drops into the pit of my stomach; I didn’t think we’d be running into one another. As far as I knew, the gala was for editors only.

I quickly duck behind a very confused-looking Theo. This was probably the worst hiding place, as Rose was undoubtedly scanning the crowd for him. When she makes her way over I step uncomfortably from behind him, and she smirks. She’s wearing a pale pink gown with silver beading; one shoulder is left completely bare, and the other is covered in a long sleeve. She looks absolutely stunning, and I look… erm.

“Edie!” she touches my arm. “I didn’t think I’d see you here. Nice vest.”

Only I can feel the pinch she gives my arm, and peg the glimmer in her eye for mischievousness. “Rose,” I say flatly. “I thought this event was for editors only.”

“Wotcher, Theo,” she smiles, ignoring me. He responds by taking her photograph, which sends her into fits of giggles. “Oh please, I just walked in! At least let me get a drink in my system before you start on that,” she sighs happily. Then she turns as if suddenly remembering I’m there. “Champagne, please.”

I stare incredulously, feeling myself flush with humiliation. How is it that we’re always in this situation—how does she always have the upper-hand? Apparently I’ve taken too long with her request, because with the slightest irritated headshake, she grabs a flute of bubbly for herself.

“I’m here because Blakeslee invited me personally,” she answers at last. “She wanted to express her congratulations for my most recent work. You know the article I wrote about Oliver Wood, of course.”

“Oh, of course,” I say so bitingly that Theo shoots me a strange look. Rose just smiles, a knowing look in her eye. Flicking my eyes at Theo, I murmur quietly, “Rose, this is getting ridiculous. Why are you acting like this? I’m still the one doing you a favour—”

She cuts me off with a trilling laugh. “Are you so sure about that?” she says through her smile. “Yeah, I’m the one who came to you. But if I hadn’t, you’d still be running coffee errands, and filing parchments and, well…” she gestures to my outfit.

I’m furious because she’s right. As torturous it’s been to deal with her, writing these articles is the most exciting thing to happen since my internship began. And possibly since I graduated Hogwarts. But it still doesn’t warrant her trying to publicly humiliate me…again. “Rose, I know Blakeslee liked my article better than any of yours. But you don’t have to be such a dick about it.”

I may as well have just performed an Unforgiveable Curse. Rose almost drops her champagne and her eyes blaze with fire. Abandoning all pretenses of friendliness, she bites, “Honestly, Edie. Don’t you think that if you deserved a journalism career they would have given you one?”

There is a thunderous silence. Two people with wounded vanities stare each other down. Theo clears his throat awkwardly, undoubtedly wondering what we could possibly be talking about. We snap out of our death stares.

“Well,” Rose says at a normal volume. “I’m going to mingle. I believe that’s Conor Fleming over there, speaking with Ward.”

Before I can stop myself, my head snaps in the direction of the editor. He’s conversing with a wizard wearing horn-rimmed glasses and a tweed suit. My heart skips a beat. Conor Fleming, the editor of The Oracle Underground, is here?

Rose says offhandedly, “You know, I hear they have a position opening soon... I really must go chat with him.” Flashing one last smile she plunges into the crowd. I watch as she makes her way to the two men. Is she seriously doing this? As far as I knew, she was content at Witch Weekly. Surely she wouldn’t pursue a job opening solely because I want it…

Then again, it is Rose.

An elderly man approaches the cheese spread, bringing a monocle to his eye. “Now, darling,” he begins in a posh accent, and I visibly tense. “Which of these is the most piquant?”

“Oh, sod off! They all taste like cheese!” I shout.

“I say!” He uprights himself with utmost indignity. I ignore him as he turns away in a huff, but not before grabbing a wheel of brie. Theo is staring in horror. “Sorry,” I grumble when I notice him backing away, “I don’t know what’s gotten into me.” I stare acidly into the crowd, where Rose, Ward and Fleming are engaged in what appears to be stimulating conversation.

It isn’t until later, when the small awards ceremony commences, that I understand Rose’s words: Blakeslee wanted to express her congratulations for my most recent work. When the spokesperson for the Wizarding Newspaper Association calls out the winner for Best Celebrity Interview, I drop the bottle of champagne I was holding. Luckily, Theo was paying attention—with the flick of his wand the bottle freezes midair. But I barely even notice.

Rose Zeller is receiving an award for my work.

The room is sounding with applause as she rises from her table, smiling. I see her cross the small stage to shake hands with the WNA spokesperson. He offers a brief speech, explaining the hard work she put in; the fresh and unique tone that stands out amidst other celebrity interviews. The crowd laughs appropriately at the anecdote that she knew nothing about Quidditch beforehand. At their table, Mr. Ward and Conor Fleming have their heads together, murmuring approvingly.

“That’s it,” I say suddenly.

Theo, cramming a handful of spinach puffs into his mouth, looks at me warily. “What’s it?”

I rip off my bowtie and slam it onto his chest. “Mind the table for me, Theo. I’m going to find Blakeslee.”

“What, now?” he says incredulously. “You don’t really want me to wear the bowtie…?”

I strut into the sea of tables with the burning desire for revenge and resurrection like I’ve never felt before. (God, is this really how people talk after just one chapter of Gwendolyn Phire?) From behind me Theo tries weakly, “Maybe now’s not the best time…”

“It’s as good as any,” I say. “There’s something she needs to know.”



Author's Note: Phew! Quite a long chapter, and I'm sorry if it got a bit tiresome! But I really wanted to end it where I did, and to have some Edie♥Lisa time. (Really I just want to change everyone's minds about Lisa and make you love her!) I decided at the last minute to add in the scene from the gala. You lovely readers made me feel so guilty about giving Edie such a hard time, so I decided she deserved to exact a little revenge ;3

Alright! So, what do we think? Is Edie going to far? Is she even going to tell Blakeslee, or is something going to get in the way? Did anyone miss Theo and Mildred? ;D

And another gorgeous chapter image by inspector. at TDA!


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