Chapter 15 : Motion Sickness
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I can't breathe. As soon as my exhausted lungs can expand, desperate for air, the oxygen is ripped away. Everything aches. All I can smell or taste is my own sweat, hot against my cold skin. I'm not going to make it. Tell my family I love them! Somebody, please, end this Orwellian torture! DO IT TO JULIA!
I slow to a halt. My throbbing feet, stuffed inside trainers a size too small, stop pounding the pavement. I stagger over into the grass and put my hands on my knees, braided pigtails flopping over my shoulders as I hyperventillate. Merlin, I am out of shape. Wiping the sweat from my brow, I glimpse the wooden post and groan. I didn't even run a mile, and I sincerly feared for my life.
A young mother jogs easily past, pushing a twin stroller. I swear the two little faces that peer out are mocking me. I give a sarcastic salute to the woman's retreating back and flop onto the grass. When I roll over, arms splayed out, I make eye contact with two fitties playing football. They seem to be holding back laughter. Of course. I turn away, shutting my eyes.
I've come to the Muggle park, because I won't run into anybody and therefore humiliate myself. Although the morning air is cool, the rising sun is warm. In fact, it's not too bad here. With a deep breath I nestle into the prickly grass. Then, for some stupid reason, I wonder what it would be like to come here with Oliver. I reckon It would be quite nice. Before I know it, I'm playing out scenarios of disgustingly cute things: drinking white wine on a shady blanket, or tackling one another in the grass, or hovering about on his broom. When imaginary-me places a daisy crown on his head, I slap my hands over my face.
"What is happening to me!" I groan aloud.
Aside from the fact that I'm being completely ridiculous, I keep overlooking one, itty-bitty detail: the article.
I can't take back the one that was already published. Well, unless I find a Time-Turner (I briefly considered popping in Bourgin and Burkes during my sleepless anxiety.) There is no doubt in my mind that it would ruin everything. All he has to do is open the September issue of Witch Weekly. Maybe I could say that Rose wrote it? Her name is printed in the magazine...
Yes Edie, a bit more lying should do the trick.
What's really bothering me is this second article. I need the money bad. But everything feels wrong, now. If I could detach myself from the situation--just put on my blinders and write what Blakeslee wants--it would be easy. Especially because this time I have ammunition. Everything Oliver told me would be harmless, were he talking to anybody else. But I was there to unearth deep and personal information, and spin it into gossip.
He revealed Deverill's impending replacement--I know for a fact that it hasn't been leaked yet. And although Oliver said there's no scandal in his and Katie's relationship, he's wrong. He's never been a young witch. If there's one thing I know, it's that young girls confuse "celebrity crush" with "soulmate and personal property." One word of who Oliver Wood dated, and there would be an uproar. Lastly, I know about his shoulder injury. I know that if he keeps using it, he won't have be able to play in just a few years.
I didn't get anything about St. Mungo's, but I've unearthed a goldmine. I'm finally getting to do the kind of work I've dreamt of. But it would surely ruin Oliver's career. Which should mean nothing to me, because I'm just here to pass along the news.
Yes, it should mean nothing.
"Edie?" comes a familiar voice.
I open my eyes, squinting confused into the sun. "Seamus?"
There is the sound of grass beneath feet, and then his head pops into my line of vision. His sandy hair is tousled against the bright blue sky. Clearly he's been running, but he's managing far better than I. "What are you doing here?" I ask.
"I'm training. Aurors do have to chase people, it's not all paperwork." He eyes my blotchy skin, sweaty hoodie and unflattering running shorts. "The question is, why are you here?"
"A bit less shocked, please?" I grumble, pulling myself to a seated--or pathetically splayed--position.
He takes a seat beside me. "Well, not to be a complete ass, but you never exercise. Ever. And you definitely don't wake up early for it. Not unless you're..." Suddenly his eyes light up, "Oh my God. No way."
"You're getting laid!"
One of the fitties goes to kick the football and misses spectacularly. Yeah, he definitely heard that. "Christ, Seamus, keep it down!" I push him, though he's laughing wildly.
"It's true! You only exercise when you're worried about looking good starkers. Lisa even agrees."
Sometimes I hate how well my friends know me. Rubbing my face, as if that would make the blush disappear, I grumble, "As much as I don't like to admit, No. I am not getting laid. Yet."
"Oooh, 'yet,' eh?" he elbows me giddily. "I can't believe you haven't told us about this."
"Seeing as how you're handling it so maturely."
"Come on! Who've you got your eye set on, then? Who's the lucky bloke?"
I gawk at him. God, boys can be really thick. You'd think with three brothers, I'd have come to realize it by now. Who did I supposedly go on a date with last week? Who have I been spending much of my free time with? Who is the only person I've been talking about incessantly?
"Dean?" he guesses.
"What! No, not Dean!" He shrugs as if that were a legitimate guess. Picking a leaf from one of my braids, I murmur, "It's, um... It's Oliver, actually."
His jaw drops into a stupid smile. "You're serious!" When I only grin in embarrassment, he pounds me on the shoulder. "Nicely done, Lennox! Wow, I never would've seen that coming. Seriously. Like, never in a million years, could I have possibly imagined that."
"Thanks?" This is why our conversations rarely go deeper than Quidditch and beer.
Thankfully, he is Seamus, and promptly forgets what we were talking about. "Oi, I stopped by your flat yesterday 'cause I was hungry--"
"--but I couldn't get in. Did you change the password?"
Forgetting my incredulity, I look away nervously. My hands fly to one of my braids and begin to unravel it. "Um, no, actually. I didn't. I... moved out."
Seamus gestures incredulously. "First you're not abysmally single anymore, and now you've moved? What is this? I thought you told us everything!"
I cringe. Dean and Seamus still have no idea that I've been sacked. Nobody does. To keep everything a secret, I've told them that The Poisoned Apple is now lousy with Dragon Pox, and that we'll be reopening in a few months. Of course, Dean and Seamus are probably passing this along to others. (As far as I'm concerned, it's what the Murrays deserve.) But if I haven't told anyone about being sacked, I'm certainly not about to let on that I lost my flat too.
"I'm sorry, Seamus, I've just been so... busy with everything. Moving was a last-minute decision. I meant to tell you, really." A feeling of guilt settles in my stomach. Not only is he right--I haven't told them anything lately--but I'm lying even now.
A heavy silence settles over us. As two incessantly talkative people, this is rare. Hastily I redo my braid, but it looks more like knotted weeds. He squirms uncomfortably, "So... where are you living then?"
My face flushes. "I, erm, moved into Lisa and Justin's spare room yesterday."
As expected, Lisa was more than happy about it. She even decorated my room before I arrived--impressive, considering it took all of ten minutes. I think living with a guy is starting to take its toll. She's got the rest of her life to look forward to Justin's dirty laundry; the almost-empty milk carton put back in the fridge. I told her as much, staring at the potted plants in my new room. (They'll be dead within a week.) But Lisa seized my arm, a crazed look in her eye, "I need one last chance to have a girl flatmate."
And that was that.
I settled in quickly, thanks to rudimentary magic. (Honestly, if I were a Muggle, I would live out of boxes forever.) My new room is more spacious than the last; no longer is my bed shoved against the nightstand so that the drawers can't open. Lisa even put up some curtains and framed my photographs for me. It's a bit more Witch Weekly than I'd prefer, with candles and paper lanterns. Then again, I was using my old room as storage for dirty laundry. Justin even helped a bit, though he was less than excited. He managed a politely grudging expression, and his complaints were down to the occasional grunt. We'll get along swimmingly.
"It's only temporary," I tell Seamus what I'd repeated over and over to Lisa and Justin.
But he only picks at a blade of grass. "Oh. Well that's nice."
I narrow my eyes suspiciously. "Seamus..."
"No, it's brilliant, I'm glad you found a place.
A thought dawns on me. "Wait, are you... jealous?"
"No, why would I be jealous?" He rips out a fist-sized clump of dirt. "I'm not jealous."
I break into a huge grin. "Yes you are! You wanted me to live with you and Dean!" He shrugs one shoulder, not meeting my gaze. And just like that, the awkward silence is gone. I tackle him in a hug, throwing us both onto the ground. "Aww, I had no idea you wanted to be flat-mates!" With his body in my vice-grip, I nuzzle into his shoulder.
"I--don't--" he grunts, "Gerroff!"
But I'm not loosening a bit. Even though I would never move in with them (unless I was one hundred percent sure the Acromantula nest was gone), the thought warms me.
At last Seamus is released, and brushes himself off hastily. "Merlin, you sweat a lot! Does Wood need to know about this?"
I punch him in the arm. He returns the favour. We sit in comfortable silence, which is interrupted when his stomach growls like a Hungarian Horntail. Ignoring my snort, he clambers to his feet. "Well I say we hang this exercise bollocks. Let's go have a proper breakfast then, on me."
I don't even remember the last time I had a hot meal. Quite literally wiping the drool from my chin, I beam, "That sounds absolutely brilliant." Seamus hauls me to my feet and we set off, sweaty clothes and all, for potatoes and eggs and toast.
Hour later, and still full from breakfast, I'm at my typewriter. Before me is a blank page; the same one I've been staring at forever. I'm surrounded by stacks of notes and dog-eared Quidditch magazines. My fingers are resting on the rounded keys, aching to be brought to life. They could illuminate so much; inflict so much damage. But I'm caught in a problem that I wish only had two outcomes. Instead there are a-hundred-and-one possibilities, each one more problematic than the last.
If I don't write the article, I'll barely scrape by. One-third of Lisa and Justin's rent isn't awful, but I have to pay it somehow. But if I do write it, I won't get any credit for my hard work. If I don't, I'm not advancing my career in the only way I can. Then again, to write salacious gossip would compromise my journalistic morals. If I decide not to do it, I'll be letting go of everything for some guy--how many times have I condemned Lisa for putting Justin first? But publishing could mean ruining Oliver's career. He's waited two long years to get back on the pitch. Could I really be responsible for throwing it all away?
I exhale. As if the keys would detonate, I carefully draw my fingers away. Rolling my tense shoulders, I catch my reflection in the standing mirror and grimace. My hair is frazzled, and my mascara is smudged from stressfully rubbing my face. The black blotches remind me of the night in the Muggle record store. The ghost of a smile reaches my lips--in just a quarter of an hour, I'll be heading to Alchemy Coffee. The thought makes my stomach twist in an annoying way.
Maybe I could write the article without mentioning Oliver's shoulder, or Deverill's replacement. Maybe there's something I've missed--something that puts him in a positive light.
My wand roves over the monstrous stacks of parchment. I murmur a Quick-Search Charm for the name Wood. (When I did this in the Witch Weekly archives, I had to trudge through hundreds of pages about furniture and deforestry.) One of the stacks of newspapers begins fluttering, as though there were a breeze. The magic tugs on a parchment towards the bottom, and when it comes zipping out I snatch it. It's a yellowing page torn from the Daily Prophet, dated December 1998. It's completely filled by three columns of very small print. When I study it closer, I realize that it's a list of those who perished in the last War.
My family is very lucky to have gone unscathed. Although my father was a Wizard, we had difficulty proving our bloodline because of his absence. Fortunately, my siblings' birth certificates and my parents' estrangement were chronologically in our favour. Even then Andrew, my Muggle step-father, went into hiding in America for a year. Somehow we all remained safe, but we are the lucky few.
Dean's father was killed by Death Eaters during the First War, so he couldn't prove his lineage. He went on the run during our Seventh Year, before I really knew him. It's not something he often talks about. In fact, it's not something any of us talks about. That same year, Seamus hid in the Room of Requirement with some other students. My mum pulled my brothers and I out of Hogwarts, and homeschooled us. We were safe. But almost everybody I know was in some way affected. Lisa stayed and fought during the Battle of Hogwarts, helping the younger students escape. I, on the other hand, am another story.
I don't want to think about it anymore. But just as I'm about to discard the parchment, my eyes fall on two names amongst the many: Jacob and Iona Wood.
My heart thuds. Oliver once mentioned his father, after the Wizarding Newspaper Association Gala. "What's a good pint without good company? At least that's what my dad always said." Past tense. I swallow against the knot in my throat. Maybe it's just a coincidence. Wood is a very common last name, after all. I even spot a Daisy Lennox on the list, of no relation to me. Jacob and Iona were probably the same: a coincidence.
I am shaken from my reverie by a scratching at the window. I glance over my shoulder and, with a groan, see Mr. Ward's derpy owl. It's trying to get through the solid glass, tearing the flowerbox apart in the process. This can't be good. Ward never contacts me unless I'm needed at Witch Weekly.
I stomp over to open the window, and the owl swoops in, landing on my typewriter with a loud clack! Emitting a shriek, which only sets the bird into a panic, I sprint over to the typewriter. Thankfully the only damage done is the "FjkfdslL7" now on the parchment.
From the other room Justin calls apprehensively, "Alright?"
"Fine!" I try to grab the letter from the stupid animal. At last the note is in my hands. I tear the Witch Weekly seal and read,
So sorry to bother you during your afternoon off!
But you're needed at headquarters immediately!
This is URGENT BUSINESS!
Artie Ward, Editor of Witch Weekly Magazine
With childlike anger, I crumple the note into a tiny ball and throw it. I have to go; I still have to kiss Mr. Ward's dragonhide boots. As far as he knows, all I've done for the magazine is pour some really nice coffees. And there's no way I can do this and meet Oliver in time.
Though I could contact him by mirror, I opt for a scrap of parchment. For some reason I don't want him to see how disappointed I am. I imagine him sitting at Alchemy Coffee, hands cupped around a steaming mug, leg bouncing nervously in the way I've noticed before.
Please let me know another time and place you'd like to meet. I really want to talk with you.
Ignoring the fact that it looks like a business memo, I fold the note over sloppily. Ward's owl has flurried off, so I stomp around the flat until I find Justin's great horned owl, Longfellow. (Yes, as in the poet. Justin is such a tool.) At last I locate him, perched haughtily on a coat rack. Moments later I stand at the window, arms crossed. I watch as Longfellow disappears over the London rooftops, feeling as though I were saying goodbye to something.
To my surprise, there actually is an emergency at Witch Weekly. The whole place is in an uproar, full of flustered journalists speaking in snappy jargon. Somebody trips and throws a stack of parchment like confetti (It falls to me to clear up.) Even laid-back Theo seems irritated, greeting me with a curt nod. It turns out that somebody botched our Varya Wing shipment. Instead of ten different one-of-a-kind dress robe designs, we received one, of which ten were made. We only have a few hours before the giraffe-legged (and, more importantly, very well-paid) models arrive.
I do, however, maintain that I'm not needed here. All I'm doing is Apparating throughout the building to deliver messages, because nobody can be bothered to write a note. With an un-ladylike belch, I hold my churning stomach. I'm supposed to be sipping espresso with Oliver, not suffering from motion sickness.
Eventually I'm able to stay in one room, watching a tense discussion between Theo and Minna, the Director of Photography. Funnily enough, it's actually the most I've seen of the inner-workings of WW. I'm deeply engrossed in their conversation until Minna puts a hand to her brow and stressfully demands a cuppa. Everyone's eyes fall on me.
I decide to walk, and spare myself the nausea. Taking my sweet time in the kitchens, I lazily select the tea while humming a Weird Sisters song. On my way back upstairs, I meander in the direction of my little corner. I'm curious to see how dessicated my plant is. Today the corridor is bustling with people, all wearing rather panicked expressions. Narrowly escaping a paper airplane to the eye, I duck around the corner. Pivoting rather gracelessly, I right myself, and then stop dead in my tracks.
Oliver Wood is here.
He's the only unmoving thing in the corridor, standing as he always does--arms crossed, feet planted apart, chin tilted down in thought. It's cliche, but it's true: my heart skips a beat. Instictively I run a hand through my fringe, straightening the reddish mess. Did I even try to look presentable before leaving the flat? Barely containing a triumphant fist-pump, I remember that I'm wearing my most flattering black trousers. All right. This one's in the bag.
Oliver still hasn't noticed me amidst all the bustle. Checking my breath with my palm (and deciding to stay at least three feet away), I make my way over.
I am mid-stride when several things happen at once. First, Oliver snaps out of his reverie, but he isn't looking at me. Instead, Rose has appeared from nowhere and is standing before him. I freeze mid-step, confused. They're conversing about something. I don't like the way that Rose is looking up at him, or the way her hands are on her hips. I have to admit, she's got that Gryffindor courage--I could never even make eye-contact after that Flatulence Charm. Come to think of it, I haven't seen or heard from her since then. She's probably still upset...
I'm not entirely sure what's happening as Rose steps closer. She puts a hand on his chest, laughing throatily at something she's just said herself. My spine tingles with anger. Doesn't she know that he came here to see me?
Suddenly, Theo appears before me. I jump, startled, and tear my eyes away from Rose. "There you are," he says, exhasperated. "Minna swears she can't get anything done without that tea."
"Oh, sorry," I murmur. Unable to keep my gaze on his, I glance over his shoulder, and suddenly want to vomit. But it's not from my motion sickness. No. It's because Rose has pushed herself onto her tiptoes, and pressed her mouth to Oliver's.
He goes stiff as a board, hands clenching at his sides. I wait for something; anything. For him to step back, or gently push her by the shoulders. I'd even settle for a melodramatic murmur of, "That's not why I'm here," before he comes to slip his hand into mine. Maybe he'll give her a Bat Bogey Hex? Christ, I'll take anything, anything other than what's actually happening, which is Oliver Wood kissing Rose Zeller.
Oliver Wood is kissing Rose Zeller.
I've witnessed this scene hundreds of times. I've seen it with couples in Diagon Alley; with summer goodbyes at Platform 9 3/4; drunken strangers in crowded pubs. This doesn't feel like I've read in books. No tears are flooding to my eyes; no quaking knees. Instead, even as I watch it, I can't be sure it's actually happening. There's something hollow in my chest, like an empty room after a candle is blown out. It's a strange feeling. And then disillusion, the particularly sadistic Dementor, sucks everything away. As quickly as it all came--the sweaty palms, the pygmy puffs in my stomach, the daisy-crowns daydreams--it's gone.
I have been indescribably stupid. I actually thought that Oliver Wood was interested in me. But he was just trying to throw a journalist off his tracks.
Their kiss was nothing spectacular, and Rose has already pulled away. They'd be idiots to snog in broad daylight here. Even that peck wasn't the most brilliant idea. Smiling behind her fingers, Rose casts a nervously delighted glance. I quickly shift so that I'm better hidden behind Theo, who says irritated, "Edie. What is your--" he glances over his shoulder. "What, Rose and Oliver Wood talking?"
Suddenly I realize just how quickly it all began and ended. He didn't see the kiss. Seriously, am I the only person who witnessed it?
"It's nothing," I say thickly.
Theo is looking at me in an unsettlingly knowing way. I wish I could think of something intelligent to say, but my throat has gone dry. I dare another peek around his shoulder. To my horror, Oliver has begun heading this way down the corridor. Our eyes meet. The colour drains from his face, and he stumbles a bit over his own feet. But then, without so much as a nod, his gaze snaps away. I can't make a sound.
Is this what he wanted to tell me? That he's been with Rose all along?
Theo and I watch as Oliver crosses the marble floors. My eyes bore into the side of his face ashe comes within arm's reach (and definitely within hexing range.) But there's nothing. No words, not even a second glance. I feel as though I were a ghost, unseen to everyone, as he turns the corner goes out of sight. As with the kiss, it's over just as quickly as it began.
Theo and I stand perfectly still. I'm still holding onto the cup and saucer like an idiot. Suddenly an idea strikes me, and I thrust the teacup into Theo's hands. "Something's come up," I say quickly. "I'm feeling very ill."
Clearly he isn't buying it. But he's kind enough to only nod, as I turn and Apparate on the spot.
I overshoot my mother's studio by quite a bit. With all my vibrating nerves, I'm lucky I didn't Splinch myself. After apologizing profusely to the witch I terrified at the local Owlery, I skulk down the street. When I arrive at my Mum's studio, I swing the door open and am greeted by the smell of the firing kiln. Some rubbish sitar music is playing, and I roll my eyes.
My mother's head pokes out from the back. "Daughter!" she cries her usual greeting. Scurrying around the mess of easels, canvases and displays, she envelops me in a crushing hug. "What a surprise! Did we have plans?" And she can't help but add, "Of course, if you used such an archaic tradition as owl-post, I've probably just ignored it..."
"Is Jae here?" I interrupt.
Her mouth falls into a surprised little O, but it's quickly replaced by a delighted smile. "Yes, he is! I've sent him out for more gesso. He should be just down the street--"
"Thanks." I turn on my heel, stomp to the door, and then hurry back over. "It's good to see you too," I plant a kiss on her cheek.
As I march down the streets of Renwick, everyone I pass greets me with delighted surprise. Though most try to stop and chat, I only smile hugely (which probably looks more like baring my teeth) and continue on my way. The unfortunate thing about Renwick is that everybody knows everything about you. Everything. They all remember my sixth birthday, when I was so scared of the Magician my Mum hired that I wet my pants. (Muggles actually adopted this tradition from us; before our eleventh birthdays, all little Witches and Wizards are mystified by magic.) They also remember that I was caught, by the local Auror, in the park after hours with my first boyfriend. I'm sure there are some good memories in the public sphere of Renwick, but these are the kind that stick.
Thankfully it isn't long before I spot Jae down the cobblestones. He's carrying my mother's drawstring bag, full of new art supplies. I've practically sprinted up to him by the time he squints in confusion, recognizes me, and smiles. "Wotcher, Edie--mmmf!"
Grabbing him by the shirt collar, and ignoring that we're basically the same height, I plant my mouth on his. I have to say, it's not my best work. Our teeth bump more than once, but after we get the hang of it, he's not the worst snog. At the very least, it's better than mine and Oliver's first kiss--
Stop thinking about it.
I pull away, still gripping him by the collar. I'm study him closely, as though he were an article that needed proof-reading. Jae's expression is somewhere between a smirk and incredulity. Beside us, Mrs. Barker--surely the town's biggest gossip--is spying quite obviously from behind her hedge.
At last I release Jae's collar and take a step back. "Well?"
He laughs, pushing the fringe from his eyes. "You've quite the silver tongue. Is this how you get all of your suitors?"
I shift impatiently, crossing my arms. "Obviously. Still up for that date, then?"
Jae regards me, taking a step forward. He touches my hand and I feel nothing more than skin-on-skin contact; no butterflies. It's perfect. I suddenly notice just how dissimilar he and Oliver are. Where the former is tall and broad, and genuine to a fault, Jae is small and slight, with mischievous eyes. I reckon that's why I let him kiss me again in broad daylight, for all of the town to see: because he is nothing like Oliver Wood.
Author's Note: Whew. This chapter was really, really hard to write. The scene at WW with Oliver and Rose has been in my mind since I very first got plunnies for this story, but it took a lot of deleting and re-writing. I know a lot's happened in this chapter, but I really felt like every scene was important. Edie and Seamus's conversation needed to happen so that we could see how she allowed herself to fall for somebody too quickly. And, to be honest, I want Seamus in this story as much as possible xD
So what do you guys think? I know the site's been a bit dead lately, and I'd love to hear your thoughts. A big thanks goes to Vendetta @ TDA for the CI ♥
1984 and the quotation, "Do it to Julia!" are the intellectual property of George Orwell.
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