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Keep Calm and Carry On by my_voice_rising
Chapter 11 : The Magic Touch
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 13


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CHAPTER ELEVEN



Chest heaving with rage, I spot Blakeslee at a table with several very important-looking witches. The fire is still burning in me as I march over, but when I stop behind her unnoticed, it’s blown out quick as a candle. I stand awkwardly, realizing how completely insane I must look in my current getup. What am I doing? How exactly had I planned on going about this? I don’t even have proof, for God’s sake! But if I back down now, I may never say anything.

I settle for a good old-fashioned throat clearing. Blakeslee doesn’t notice, though one of the witches quirks an eyebrow. Again I clear my throat, “Pardon me…”

She turns around and surprises me when she says, “Oh, there you are!” Wait, does she already know? That would certainly save me the pain of explaining myself. But after a cursory glance around the table she says, “Three more glasses of champagne, please.”

Well this is off to a brilliant start. I glance over at Rose’s table. She’s spotted me and involuntarily jumped to her feet, clutching the back of her chair. Quickly I turn my gaze back to Blakeslee, “Actually—”

And then Oliver Wood strolls into the dimly-lit room, and I stop. What is he doing here?! Don’t tell me they invited him because of Rose’s article. I mean—my article! But it only takes those two seconds of being thrown completely off-guard to regain myself. The horrible realization hits me: there is no way that Blakeslee will ever believe that an unpaid intern wrote that article.

Blakeslee is staring at me, because I’m still standing with my mouth open and index finger raised matter-of-factly. “Three champagnes, got it,” I dart away before Wood notices.

Crestfallen, I make my way back to the refreshments table, back to where I belong in this scene. Did my blaze of glory really just blow out like that? Suddenly Rose intercepts me, falling in step. “What the hell was that? Why were you talking to Blakeslee?”

“It was nothing,” I lie. “She called me over for more champagne. But maybe I should be asking what you’re thinking. Why is Oliver Wood here?”

Rose pales and looks out onto the sea of tables. Oliver is standing against the wall uncomfortably, hands in his pockets, scanning the room. His tie is loose and his jacket is unbuttoned; I wonder if he’s just rushed over after Quidditch practise. Two middle-aged witches pass by and eye him like a prize hog, but he seems oblivious.

“I didn’t invite him,” Rose murmurs. She turns to me, panic in her voice, “I didn’t invite him! Ward or Blakeslee must have, for the awards ceremony. Thank God he’s late.”

“Yeah, Rose, about that award—”

I don’t think she’s intentionally silencing me when she seizes my arm. “You have to get out of here!” she gasps. “If he realizes you’re not actually employed by the magazine…”

“He’s coming!” I shriek. Before I can think of a better plan, I duck under the table… and apparently just in time. Rose’s high heels swivel around, as Wood’s oxford shoes come to a halt.

“Oliver! So good to see you,” her voice betrays none of her previous fear. In fact I hear nothing but flirtation—of course. I shouldn’t be surprised; she did say she was going to pursue him, after all. I wonder suddenly what his facial expression is like, and if he’s in awe of how beautiful she looks. “Did we drag you all the way out here?”

“Have you seen Edie?” Oliver says. I’m not sure why, but a smug grin appears on my face.

“No, she’s actually not here tonight. She’s… very ill. Here, have some champagne. So how have you been?”

His feet shift around uncertainly. “She’s ill?”

“Yes, alright, she’s ill,” Rose says too hastily. Oliver must have fixed her with a strange look, because she adds, “Poor girl. Been sick for days. She has…” there’s a pause, and then she says all too delightedly, “horrible diarrhea!”

Oliver chokes on his champagne, sputtering and coughing, while my jaw drops to the floor. “Are you completely serious?!” I whisper it so harshly that for a moment, I worry they’ve heard me. But I’m afraid that Rose is not getting away with this one.

Wood sounds like he’s never been so uncomfortable in his life, “Erm. Well. I hope she’s well enough for our interview on Friday.”

“Oh, an interview—” But Rose doesn’t get to finish her sentence.

She’s just tried to flirtatiously shift her weight to the other hip. But the instant the heel of her shoe touches the floor it releases a bellowing flatulent sound. I’m surprised it doesn’t rattle the champagne flutes. I distinctly see Rose freeze, while Oliver has gone quite silent.

“That… that wasn’t…” she starts, but her other shoe has made impact with the marble, and it releases another noise; a really nasty one, this time.

I did say that Charms was my best subject.

“Oh my God…” Rose whimpers. I have to cast another charm, this time to silence my own laughter as she scurries away mortified, leaving a flurry of flatulence in her wake. I am still rolling around when Oliver bewilderedly wanders away. I swear he’s so uncomfortable that I can see it in his shoes. Seamus and Dean will be so proud.

I crawl out from under the table, not giving a damn about who sees me (which is good, because I think I gave the posh Wizard with the brie quite a shock.) I’m feeling entirely too triumphant, considering that I’ve probably just declared war with Rose. But it was about time I fought back. Dusting off my hands, I decide that my work here is finished. I’ll leave Mr. Ward to clear up my station.

After I find a Goblin to escort me back to my things, I change back into my own skirt and jumper, vowing never to wear a bowtie again. But all the while I’m wearing a smug grin. In fact, I’m still laughing when I make my way to the exit, and wipe a tear from my eye.

Unfortunately, my finger is perfectly aimed at my eyeball when Wood rounds the corner ahead, and I barrel into him. The collision jams my finger into my eye and I exclaim rudely, “Fucking hell!”

“Oh, God! Edie? I’m so sorry!” cries Wood, grabbing my shoulders to steady me. Then he laughs. “Quite the mouth you’ve got there.”

I scowl up at him, rubbing my left eye. “Sorry,” he says quickly, pressing his mouth into a line.

“Don’t worry about it,” I mutter, and brush past him. When he begins to trail along beside me like a lost puppy, I furrow my brow.

After a moment he says, “Are you feeling alright, then? Rose said…” he goes red in the face.

“Of course I’m feeling all right. I’ve been here all evening.” Before he has time to consider this I say, “I’m surprised to see you here, though.”

“Well, they invited me, ‘cause of the article and all.”

We’ve gone through the exit and are standing outside, where it’s lightly misting onto the cobblestones. We stand at the base of the steps, and I pull the hood of my jacket up. Apparently Wood’s only got his blazer, the mist damping his hair. Casting a glance at my watch I say, “Well, the gala’s still going on for another hour or so. If you wanted to, y’know...”

Wood shrugs, “I reckon I’ve seen enough.”

“Ah.”

With a pathetic smile I kick my foot out and start off in the direction of my flat. He’s still walking with me, and I wonder if he realizes where I’m heading. Where are his mates? Why is he out wandering the streets of Diagon Alley alone? I don’t feel like talking, but I’m beginning to think even that would be better than the silence.

Unable to take it anymore, I try, “What are you up to, then?”

“Well, I uh… I thought I’d go for a pint,” he says, hands in his pockets.

I nod. “Sounds brilliant.”

“Really?” Wood looks at me intently, and I don’t know what the proper response is. Merlin, I was just making small-talk.

“Yeah, really. I mean, beer’s good and all that. Are you meeting up with mates, then?”

He ruffles his wet hair absentmindedly. “Well, no.”

Okay, you’ve got to give me something to go with here. “More of a solitary drinker, then?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. What’s a good pint without good company? At least that’s what my dad always said,” he grins.

I’m surprised that he’s even speaking about his family right now, especially to a (alleged) journalist. I notice that he used the past tense when mentioning his father, and wonder he’s still alive. But that’s hardly conversation for an awkward amble. The rain starts to pick up, and he’s getting quite drenched. I shake my head.

“Here.” With the flick of my wand, I perform a rain-repellant charm and he appears to be standing beneath an invisible umbrella.

“Thanks,” he says appreciatively. “You’re quite good with that. Mine usually have holes in them, so I don’t even bother anymore.”

I can’t help myself for laughing, “You could always practise.”

“I think I’ll leave all my practising on the pitch,” he grins.

“Yeah, how did it go today? I’m sure things are getting intense for you.” He furrows his brow and I explain, “What with that Kestrels match next week. I mean, it’s your first match after being out for two seasons, right?”

“Wow, you’ve really done your research,” he says, impressed.

“Actually, I just watch a lot of Quidditch.”

“Really!” He looks at me with surprise, and I think his step even falters. “It’s just… I don’t mean to sound like a complete bigot, but I don’t know many female Quidditch fans. You know, girls who enjoy watching the sport and not the players.”

I scoff, “And the men who watch women’s beach Quidditch are purely interested in sport.”

“Point taken.”

We’ve reached the entrance to my flat, a bright green wooden door. He looks up at the building, seemingly surprised that we even had a destination, though I don’t know what else he could have possibly thought we were doing. We stand uncomfortably, looking at anything but each other.

He shrugs with one hand, “Well, would you—?”

“This is me, then,” I interrupt. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t—”

“Your apartment?”

“Well yeah, but—”

“—Oh, it’s fine, you didn’t interrupt. I wasn’t saying anything.”

I squint at him, but he’s avoiding eye contact. This is a lost cause, I decide. “Well, cool.”

Oliver nods once, “Cool.” Then there is the most agonizing silence to pass between us yet. It stretches forever, and I am making a desperate blind grab for the door handle behind me. Then it’s opening of its own accord, and then a pair of hands suddenly claps my shoulders and a voice booms in my ear, “EDIE LENNOX!”

I jump out of my skin and release the loudest scream since The Shining; even Wood starts. When I whirl around, I’m shocked to find my eldest brother, Leo. He’s doubled over in laughter with one hand on his knee, the other hovering helplessly in the air as he produces a wheezing sound.

“Fuck off, Leo!” I punch him in the arm as hard as I can. My force actually bowls him over but he’s still just rolling around, clutching his sides. Really, was it that funny?

“Aw, tits! Did we miss it?” somebody calls from inside. Footsteps thunder down the stairwell and then Liam and Luke come tumbling out like two hyperactive corgis. I’m surprised they don’t have blankets tied around their necks like superhero capes; I’m sure they’ve already made a fort with my sofa cushions.

“What the hell is going on?” I bellow, “How did you get here?”

“Seamus let us in on his way out. Said we could hang out until you got home,” Liam shrugs as if my flat were actually communal property.

“Yeah, we’ve come for a visit. Mum said you seem really lonely—”

I clamp a hand over Luke’s mouth, bursting into uproarious laughter to muffle his words. I distinctly see Wood massaging his jaw, the way he did at St. Mungo’s when he was trying not to laugh. “All three of you, then!” I say brightly, wondering if they can hear the horror in my voice. “Well this is just brilliant, isn’t it!”

“I know you!” Liam suddenly shouts, pointing at Wood. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be around teenage boys and cringe at his rudeness. “You used to play for Puddlemere!”

Wood seems self-conscious, but his face breaks into a half-grin. I reckon he’s glad to be a part of the conversation again. “I suppose that’s right,” he says, and extends a hand. “Though I’m still on the team. Oliver Wood. What’re you called, mate?”

“Liam Lennox,” he shakes his hand aggressively. Though he’s only nineteen, he’s almost as tall as Oliver. Pairing this with a smug and impish face, he looks like an overgrown ten year-old. I suppose he’s the most “serious” of the three, though being the youngest he’s often teased for it. “Huge fan, mate, huge fan. Reckon you’ll beat Kenmare next week?”

“Of course we bloody will!” exclaims Wood, and I groan inwardly. It seems they’re bringing out the rough young lad in him, too.

“Back up from that shoulder injury, then?” interrupts my middle-brother. He’s got my freckles and Liam’s smirk. Though he’s the quietest of us, he’s also the most sarcastic, “Wotcher. Luke Lennox.”

While introductions and curse words and guttural man-sounds are flying, I’m fighting the urge to snap at them all to cut their hair. By the time I get around to Leo, the eldest, I want to roll my eyes. His red hair is at least cut reasonably, but he’s certainly the partier of the family—I can tell he’s blazed out of his mind right now. His eyes are barely staying open, and I hope that it’s at least from something tame. For a while there, years back now, he had us all nervous.

“Oi, careful there Leo,” I say. “I can almost see the whites of your eyes.”

It’s hard for me to snap out of mother-mode. My dad ran off when I was six, before Liam was born. I never think about him now, but I did resent having to take his place. Since I’m four years older than Leo, and my mother worked all the time, I was like second-mum. I spent the first ten years of their lives herding them to school, to bath time, outside when they were too rowdy, inside to the dinner table—for most of my young life, I was basically a very hormonal Sheep Dog. Finally, my mum met Andrew in my Second Year, and that took a load off my shoulders. But I think all the work aged me about a century. Un-sticking chewing gum from hair, or clearing up after Dungbombs, or unlocking our frazzled cat from the closet… I’ve had my fill with children. If somebody asks why I don’t want any of my own, I point to these three.

They’re still throwing around Quidditch jargon that even I have a hard time following. I have to admit, it feels pretty cool to be spotted hanging out with a famous Quidditch player. Although I suppose Wood and I weren’t exactly hanging out. And apparently my brothers have looked past it, as I’m struggling to remain a part of the conversation.

In fact I’m sure they’ve forgotten me entirely, until Leo says, “So, Wood. What’s a classy guy like you doing with this one, eh?” and jerks my hood down over my face. I curse loudly and flail my arms, trying to escape as he guffaws loudly. Do you know how annoying it is that all of my siblings are younger than me, and all of them are stronger?

Up until about ten minutes ago, I missed my brothers. I really did.

“Yeah, what’s going on with you two?” Luke says, a conspiratorial smirk on his face.
Thankfully Oliver is oblivious to his implications, and says, “Well, I was heading to get a pint—”

“Oh, let’s all go!” Leo discards me with a shove. Then they’re all barking away about which pub they should go to first, and how the runt’s got the first round. (“I bloody well do not!” Liam shouts.)

Quite literally having to shove my way back into the conversation, I attempt, “I’m not sure that’s such a good—” but they don’t even hear me.

I don’t like the idea of leaving my three extremely talkative brothers alone with Oliver Wood. It would only be minutes before he figures out that I’m not a journalist, let alone until they start on the embarrassing stories.

“Guys, I don’t know—” I try again.

“Aw, c’mon Edie. You don’t have to play mum any more, we’re all legal!” Luke pushes me into Leo, who shoves me back. Apparently this is very fun for them, as they start volleying me back and forth in the tiny space between them.

“Jesus Christ, all right!” I finally shout.

“That’s the spirit,” Leo throws his arm around my shoulder. He smells like Mum and Andrew after they sneak behind the garden shed for magical herbs. What have I gotten myself into? I glance at Wood, who’s smiling at me, and Leo starts off, dragging me along with him. “I know just the place!”

*


“You have got to be kidding me,” I say flatly, staring up at the blinking sign: Magic Touch. A neon half-naked girl with an oversized pointy hat winks and kicks out her leg seductively. “This is a strip club, Leo.”

“Aw, no way,” he says with false innocence. “Welp, we’ve come this far! Might as well.”

I open my mouth to protest, but then my brothers are all barreling to the door, tails wagging. Liam looks as though he’s died and gone to heaven. I realize it’s probably his first time in a strip club, and he’s here with his sister. I groan and put my face in my hands—I can’t leave them alone with Wood, downing Peach Schnapps or whatever rubbish they serve in places like this. Reluctantly I drag my feet after them, with Wood in tow, and present my identification card to the bouncer.

“No touching the girls,” he warns me, and I give him my best deadpan. He taps his wand on the back of my hand and a disgusting pink heart appears. “Ladies drink free.”

Ah, the three words that make me entirely disregard feminism.

When we step inside, I’m quite disappointed, and not in the way you’d think. I’ve never been to a strip club, but in my head they’re full of flashing lights and confetti and light-up catwalks and beautiful women and married businessmen. Nothing I’d ever want to take part in, but who doesn’t love a little scandal here and there?

Perhaps that’s why I’m let down now: Magic Touch has all of ten customers, most of who have come in by themselves so the room is oddly quiet. I think I’m the only girl in the room. Instead of the heavy energetic beat I’d imagined, the music sounds like it’s coming from a tin can shoved somewhere beneath a table. The dim pink lighting casts unflattering shadows on the girls, who are dancing—maybe undulating is a better word—like they’ve never been so bored. One of them is absently smoking a cigarette. In fact, I have to say the whole thing is downright depressing.

But apparently this is just fine by my brothers’ standards. “Is this what heaven is like?” breathes Liam, earning a punch from Luke. Then they all barrel off to order the first round of drinks. A dancer wearing a short leopard-print robe and pink strappy heels walks past me, smiling flirtatiously.

“I’ll save you a dance, darling,” she murmurs.

“Oh, I’m not—” but she’s already disappeared. I hear cackling from behind me and turn sharply; Wood goes silent and massages his chin.

“This isn’t quite what I had in mind,” he grins. “Your brothers are, uh, spirited.”

I cast him a warning glance. “I’m just here to make sure nobody gets into more trouble,” I say darkly. “Do not think that I’m going to enjoy this.”

“Edie! Shot!” Leo’s arm juts into my line of sight, tiny glass in hand.

Wood looks amused as I glance from him to the shot, the fumes of which are singing my nose hairs, and back to him. At last I snatch the glass and say defensively, “Ladies drink free.” When I knock it back, I’m barely able to choke it down.

“Jesus Christ, what is that?” My esophagus seems to have lost functionality.

“No idea!” Leo exclaims. “What do you say we liven this place up a bit? First dance is on me!”

*


I don’t know exactly how long we’ve been at Magic Touch, but I’m proud of myself—free alcohol and I’m still the most coherent of our little group. Wood, however, has reverted to the night when I met him as Viktor Krum. He and my brothers are all plastered, slinging their arms around one another. Their sentences have turned into a long series of howls, occasionally punctuated by consonants. After the first dance, one of the girls recognized Wood and that was all it took; they haven’t left his side all night.

Meanwhile I’ve slunk back to the bar, confident that my brothers can’t formulate a proper sentence, let alone reveal that I’m not a journalist. I’ve been sipping on shoddy canned beer, judgmentally eyeing everything before me. Wood has just bought Liam a lap dance. I watch angrily as Luscious Destiny throws her enormous rack in my baby brother’s face—I can’t get past it. It seems like just last week that I was teaching him how to throw a proper punch, to knock out the bully in his year. (Aim for the throat, always.)

Right, so I’m being a total stick in the mud. It irks me sometimes that my brothers have this image of me as “Mum Number Two,” but I’ve never been able to relax around them. In fact, I’ve always had to do the opposite.

When Luscious Destiny turns her bare arse around in Liam’s face, I can’t take it anymore and swivel around on my stool. I come face-to-face with the balding barkeep, who glances me up and down. Oh God, there’s no escape. Slamming down my empty can, I rise to my feet and go to get some air. I extract a fag from my shoulder-bag along the way. Right, fresh air. Outside it’s cold, but it’s at least stopped raining.

The door opens and Wood comes tumbling out, wearing his stupid sunglasses again. “You’re not leaving, are you?” It takes a moment to discern what sounds even came out of his mouth, but I shake my head.

“Nope,” I don’t look at him, dragging on the cigarette.

He points a clumsy finger at my hand, “Y’know thass bad for you?”

“Wait, what?!” I exclaim in feigned shock, but he’s too plastered to comprehend sarcasm.

“Yeah, you really shouldn’t smoke.”

I snort, “I’ll be sure to keep that in mind, Wood.”

He leans back against the bricks and regards me, though I can’t read his expression through his sunglasses. “Why d’you always do that?”

“Do what?”

“Use my lass name.” He stumbles closer. “I told you to call me Oliver, ‘member? That time at St. Mungo’s.”

“I remember,” I say after a moment. Suddenly I’m feeling very self-conscious; I hadn’t noticed that I never call him Oliver. Then he covers his eyes, sunglasses and all, with the palms of his hands.

“I’m sorry, Edie,” he whines and I almost laugh.

“Why?”

“For telling Rose that you fell down. I thought you two were, like, bess mates. I thought you’d—hic—told ‘er. An’ I’m sorry. I’m real sorry. I wasn’ trying to spread—hic—rumours about you, or anythin’.”

This time I can’t help my laugh, though it’s cold and at his expense, “You are wasted.”

“Nah,” he waves me off, though his hand just kind of flails through the air. “C’mon, less go see your brothers. Brilliant guys, real brilliant.”

“I think I’ll stay out here actually,” I mutter, taking the last drag on my cigarette. We’re definitely on the dodgy end of the street, but I’m pretty confident the bouncer could snap somebody’s neck with one hand.

“What!” he exclaims in a high-pitched voice, “Why?”

“I don’t think you want me to start on this.” There’s heat rising to my face. The bouncer looks between Wood and I, probably wondering if he’s going to have to jump in.

“Oh, lemme guess—” he pauses to hiccup again, “is because they’re your little brothers?”

“Yeah, they’re my little brothers,” I repeat mockingly, and then before I can help myself, “and you keep buying them all these dances, and I’m sorry, maybe I’m old-fashioned, but they’re getting all the wrong ideas about women—”

“Aw, c’mon Edie!”

“No!” I shout stupidly, flushing. I’m getting too worked up. My brothers aren’t idiots. Well, not about everything; they at least know how to treat women. Every girl they’ve ever brought around our house has been given plenty of respect. I’m realizing how stupid I sound, but I can’t stop myself. God, what was in that shot?

“Hey, ’s no big deal,” he tries to placate me.

“Yes it is! You’re… you’re corrupting them!”

And then he does the worst thing he could possibly do: he laughs at me. He openly, drunkenly, stupidly laughs, arms hanging at his sides uselessly. “They’re grown men, Edie! Cut the cord already!”

At first, the slap that echoes against the brick buildings surprises me. It takes a moment to realize that it’s my hand that’s stinging, and that Wood’s sunglasses have been knocked onto the cobblestones. He’s gone stiff, a pink blotch on his unshaven cheek. Now that I can see them, I notice his eyes are glazed over, but I don’t think it’s from drink. I’m shocked that my reaction is to feel genuinely guilty. But I’m also far too proud to apologize.

“Alright, that’s enough,” the bouncer brings me back to my senses.

Wood still hasn’t moved. In fact, he’s looking at me like he has no idea who I am. Adjusting my shoulder-bag uncomfortably, I mutter under my breath, “You’re out of control.” I brush past him and head down the street alone.




Author's Note: Sorry, sorry, sorry! I really had intended for Edie to talk with Blakeslee, and even had an entire alternate chapter written. But it screwed up too many things with the plot. So she got a little bit of revenge, at least. And we got to meet Edie's brothers! What did you guys think of Liam, Luke and Leo?

This chapter is definitely more fluffy than others; not a lot of plot development, I know, but I needed to have another one-on-one Ediver interaction before the interview in the next chapter. I wanted another reason for her to be going into it with bad intentions ;3

So, what did you guys think? I'm on the fence about this chapter, so I'd love an honest opinion! Also, I don't own The Shining because Stephen King does.

This lovely CI is brought to you by rebelYELL over at TDA ;3


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