Chapter 16 : Lisa Turpin-Finch-Fletchley Unravels
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I can’t believe it’s only been a week since it all began. Everything has gone from bad to worse, faster than you can say “Hinkypunk.” I went from striving to expose Oliver as a heartless socialite, to almost snogging him, to thinking we were about to start a relationship, to watching him kiss Rose Zeller. And then I all but physically assaulted Jae Chang with my face… as an act of spite. We haven’t even spoken since agreeing on this vague, undetermined “date,” happening sometime kind of soon-ish, maybe.
Needless to say, I have not been sleeping very well.
The thing with kissing Jae in the street—the thing that I hadn’t taken into account—was the uncomfortable walk back to my Mum’s studio. Let me tell you, going from full-on snog to polite conversation is not easy. And true to Renwick behaviour, by the time we’d reached her front door, somebody had already told my Mum what happened.
I was speed-walking by then, eager for some additional company. But inside we discovered my Mum talking with Basil Goodrich, the local florist. At the creak of the door they froze, halfway turned to us in mid-gesticulation.
“Daughter,” my Mum said, and definitely with a smirk. “You’re back.”
“Hello, Edith,” Basil purred, tossing his linen scarf. “Mrs. Barker just told us the most interesting news.”
“That was quick,” remarked Jae under his breath. “What’d she do, send a Patronus?”
After some evasive responses to their questions, Basil at last left. (But on the way out, he nudged me and wiggled his eyebrows.) Shortly after, I made some excuse about heading back home. I did not, however, mention that “home” was now the spare room of my mates’ house. I hugged my mother, who whispered in my ear, “I told you.” After a half-hug-half-handshake with Jae, during which I sputtered, “Good-ater”—a hybrid of “goodbye” and “later”—I stepped into the fireplace. Floo Powder gets your clothes all sooty, and yes, it’s a finite resource. But I was about through with Apparating for the day.
“Diagon Alley!” I shouted, even though my new home was a twenty-minute walk past the magical brick wall. But I just couldn’t explain the change in address to my Mum. It had already been an exhausting day.
Once home, I stood in the threshold of my new room as the door creaked open. With a sigh, I fell face-down on my bed, shoes and all. I could have slept for days. But no matter how long I lied there, I couldn’t find rest. Every time I blinked my bleary eyes, I saw it again—Oliver’s own eye, closing, as he leaned in to kiss me. I had no idea what happened to that copy of Crystal Ball. For all I knew, it was lost during the move.
Good riddance, I thought, checking my watch. Seeing as it was already two in the morning, I pegged it for another sleepless night.
Justin and Lisa were long since to bed, and I didn’t quite feel comfortable in their sitting room. Plus their cat hated me. After five o’clock the sofa was his, unless I wanted a scratch on the arm. Instead, I dragged myself to the typewriter. The same parchment was in the platen, blank except for the FjkfdslL7 Ward’s owl was so kind to type.
Christ, I realized, that was just this morning.
This brings me to where I am having another staring-contest with the typewriter. It’s almost three o’clock, and it feels like there's sand in my eyes. But still I exhale, bringing my fingers to the keys. And then I just vent. Because I can’t tell Lisa, or Justin, or Dean, or Thomas, or even my Mum what’s happened. The typewriter is the only one who I want to know, and I tell it everything. By the time I sit back, pink rays of the early sunlight filter through the curtains. My back is sore and my fingertips are numb. But there it is: the completed first draft of the article. It’s biting, yet somehow professional. Most importantly I’ve done it: I’ve pitted our subscribers, who are largely from middle- to lower-class families, against the elite. I’ve given them a reason to take Oliver Wood down from his marble pedestal. Cautiously, feeling almost afraid of the parchment itself, I unroll the article from the platen, and read.
The Upminster station for the London Underground has long been abandoned; at least, that’s what Muggles believe. A wooden sign reading UNDER CONSTRUCTION bats around in the cool evening breeze. The station appears to have been in the works for years. But I know better, as I stand under a late sky that threatens with rain. The Upminster Underground station is actually the entrance to The Hanging Moon: one of London’s finest Magical dining destinations.
I am waiting for Quidditch celebrity Oliver Wood, who had insisted on the location. As a working-class girl, like the majority of our beloved readers, I was wary of the location. Not all of us have the Galleons for champagne that reaches upwards of three figures (per glass.) But as a professional Quidditch player for Puddlemere United, in a country still financially staggering after the War, Wood grosses 1.6 million per year. So, really, what does a three-hundred Galleon dinner bill matter? The location is peculiar for an interview, and this reporter feels a bit out of her element. But perhaps Wood is just flexing his muscles—figuratively, I hope—before his big come-up. After two years off the pitch, he surely wants to make a good impression. But it’s not just his Quidditch skills that are a bit rusty.
At last he arrives, wearing a collage of mismatched designers. He offers a brief greeting (he’s not one for words, at least before a few pints) and then I am heading into the mouth of the beast; the lion’s den of London elite. The Hanging Moon is all at once what I expected it to be, and what I could never have imagined. Everything is candlelight and polished black stone, murmuring couples and businesswizards. An almost identical replica of the full moon dominates the ceiling, pressing down on us. Despite the designer label I’ve somehow scrounged up for the occasion, I feel wildly underdressed.
Wood seems very friendly with the owner of the establishment: a smiling Wizard much older than his taut skin suggests. Our table is sanctioned off on a little balcony, dimly lit and, need I say, quite posh. Wood is eager to begin the interview; even more to discuss his long-awaited return to the game. The more beer that disappears from his pint glass(es), the more animated he becomes.
His reserved manner disappears entirely when discussing Quidditch. I learn everything there is to know: the chronology of Puddlemere’s Keepers from the thirteenth century on, and that wearing a Keeper’s padding is akin to “A bleedin’ troll on your shoulders.” Wood also points out, upon my mentioning of the Kenmare Kestrals, that they have sloppy tactics. He even goes so far as to say that the Quidditch Cup referees are paid off—how else could Ireland have won? Suffice to say, he’s very opinionated on the matter of Quidditch. But this is nothing new to his fans or acquaintances.
Wood’s brash behavior has shadowed him since his days at Hogwarts, when he was captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. He was notorious, even amongst other houses, for 5:00am practices and relentless drills. Practises were prioritized even above OWLs and NEWTs, and in many cases his teammates’ marks suffered. On one occasion, Wood told a young Harry Potter that he didn’t care if he fell off his broom, so long as he caught the Snitch first (one is reluctant to imagine the state of the Wizarding World today, had Harry seriously injured himself, or worse.) Several years later, Wood even ordered Potter to knock Cho Chang, the Seeker for Ravenclaw House, off her broom. Although Quidditch referees are trained to prevent injury to players, oftentimes the pitch is so chaotic that certain incidents cannot be helped. Wood himself sustained multiple injuries while at Hogwarts, including a Bludger to the head that left him severely concussed and unconscious for two weeks. But to be fair, Wood’s stubborn (and, at times, thoughtless) nature is what turned him into a Quidditch superstar.
Unfortunately, his run-ins with injuries did not cease upon graduating from Hogwarts. Some injures even went deeper than skin and bone. Two years ago, Wood split with his girlfriend of over ten years, Katie Bell. Though he claims it was a mutual agreement, and that it is “for the best,” it was certainly not said without sadness. As for physical wounds, he’s had his fair share as Puddlemere’s longest-playing Keeper since the seventeenth century. However, the most traumatic injury for his psyche and career was the dislocation of his left shoulder. It happened during a match against the Wimbourne Wasps in 2003, when Wood reached to block a Quaffle and overextended his arm.
“Ripped it clean from the socket,” he reminisces with a sip from his third pint.
Immediately following the injury, Wood was escorted off the pitch and sent to St. Mungo’s. Eager for his next match, he spent the next month completing intense physical therapy—only to have it all thrown away. Foregoing additional treatment with potions, which take longer but have a more efficient healing process, Wood’s stubborn nature bested him again. “I was stupid and impatient,” he tells me, “and then I threw [my shoulder] out again. During practice, right before our first match.” So, for two entire Qudiditch seasons, Wood paid for his fervor with more Healing.
Although this is a pity, it is not exactly news to those who follow Puddlemere closely. What comes as a surprise is that the injury still affects him. “It hurts like hell,” Wood confesses. Dependent on the pain-relieving potions he takes every day, he otherwise cannot so much as lift his arm. I am shocked even further when Wood reveals that he will not have use of said arm, in several years. While he can block with both hands, more than likely it won’t be enough to keep him with Puddlemere.
What’s more, Wood’s close friend and team manager, Philbert Deverill, is likely to be replaced next year. (This will come as quite a shock to many fans.) Wood’s own ex-girlfriend Katie Bell, Puddlemere’s assistant manager, will most likely be taking Deverill’s place. The potential scandal of romantic history between a team player and manager—not to mention Wood’s ticking Dungbomb of an arm—does not bode well for the Scotsman.
Fortunately for him, the Ministry for Magic has yet to reconsider pensions given to injured athletes. Although Britain’s unemployment rates are up, the economy is down, and social services are being cut, Wood will still be able to maintain a lavish lifestyle. On average, Quidditch players forced into retirement by injury are awarded 60,000 Galleons per year. This sum may not seem like much by comparison, but it is the same wages received by an actively-employed Dragon Tamer or Auror. Wood won’t be raking in the millions, but his Gringotts vault will certainly not be looking bare. This leaves him plenty of time to retire gracefully, settle down, and find employment… just like the rest of us.
I am still in the unfortunate habit of spending my last coins on the Oracle Underground. To my disappointment, there’s a lack of news on the Female Goblin Coalition as of late. The strike has yet to be rescheduled, as Gringotts still has Aurors patrolling the grounds, and Grimma Longfinger has been largely silent. Something about that makes me terribly sad, as I sip my orange juice at the breakfast table. (Because Lisa and Justin are the ideal couple, they eat breakfast together every morning. Sitting at an actual table. And their breakfast does not consist of stale crisps and watered-down coffee.)
“I could definitely get used to this,” I say as Lisa sets a plate of rye toast, cream cheese and smoked lox before me. Justin shoots me a fearful look, which Lisa and I pointedly ignore.
After a moment, he clears his throat. Feigning great interest in the newspaper, he asks innocently, “So, anything worth noting in there? Maybe in the Classifieds?”
I know he is not trying to be a git. Somehow, he just is one.
Rubbing my bleary eyes, I murmur, “Actually, this paper is hiring right now.”
To my delight, the ad for a journalist is still being printed. That means that Rose, despite trying to woo Connor Fleming at the WNAG, was not given the position. I would be lying if I said that wasn’t the best news I’ve heard in a while.
“Oh!” Lisa's voice is high-pitched with interest. She flicks her wand, charming the dishes to wash themselves. It’s only eight in the morning and she’s already done yoga, made breakfast for three, and cleared up. On a Sunday. “That sounds perfect for you. It’s your favourite paper, right?”
Justin makes a show of coughing. I’m beginning to feel like they’re my parents: the overly-supportive Mum, and the father with high expectations. What have I gotten myself into?
“Yeah, it is,” I ignore Justin’s stare. “But the listing’s been printed in the last several issues. That means they haven’t been happy enough with any of the applicants. I doubt they’d consider somebody with as little experience as me.”
“That’s not necessarily true,” Lisa points her wand at me for emphasis. I wonder if she’s hoping to charm me into a more productive life. “I just wish you could somehow tell them that you’re writing the articles. They’re so well-written, Edie, really.”
I blush. As soon as I’d finished touching up the draft, I’d rushed into the den where Lisa was doing her yoga. Waving the parchments over my head like a madwoman, I shouted, “I bloody did it!” Lisa was nice enough to not point out how mental I looked. She quietly read the entire draft while I paced maniacally before the fireplace. When she finished, she sighed.
“Well, it is quite mean,” she offered, and I punched the air triumphantly.
Lisa wipes her hands on a dish towel, looking at Justin imploringly, “You’re sure there's nothing she could do? No way she could prove that she wrote the articles?”
Justin rolls his shoulders as if the mere thought made him tense, “Well, aside from the fact that it's completely illegal—”
I narrow my eyes at him, bellowing in a way that shocks them both, “Oh, thank Merlin there's a lawyer at the table! Without your legal guidance, I could never have possibly deduced that for myself.”
Although taken aback, Justin doesn’t keep from raising his voice, “I’m just saying, Edie, that you could get into a lot of trouble. Plagiarism is a huge offense!”
“Don't you think I’ve realized that?”
“Honestly, no, sometimes I don’t! Do you really believe these silly articles are worth ruining your future career?”
“Oh, well that’s nice. My work is just silly. Thank you, I really—”
“Stop fighting!” Lisa suddenly cries, tears on her cheeks. Justin and I blink in surprise; Lisa rarely raises her voice. But she’s shouting now, “How do you think it feels to have my best friend and fiancé at each other’s throats? We’re all living together, for Merlin’s sake! You two can’t keep doing this!”
We’re still staring, mouths agape. In response to our silence, Lisa throws the towel onto the floor, “Oh, sod it!” She bursts into fresh tears and runs from the room.
I turn guiltily to Justin, but am shocked that his eyes are misty. “Wait, are you crying?” The anger is gone from my voice, replaced by a rather mushy feeling in my stomach. Until now, I’d never seen physical proof of how much he cares for her. If he were an awful person, Lisa wouldn’t give him the time of day. I’ve always known that much.
He pinches the bridge of his nose and takes a deep breath. “I’m fine,” he says after regaining composure. “I just hate seeing her upset. The wedding’s really taking a toll on her.”
I realize how little I’ve been there for my best friend, during one of the most stressful times of her life. “Should we go talk to her?” I offer helplessly.
“No, let’s give her a moment.”
“Right.” I look at my untouched breakfast, suddenly not hungry.
He’s right that I’m jeopardizing my career. And I know he’s genuinely concerned for my wellbeing; it’s just easy to forget sometimes. But he has high expectations for himself, and when others don’t meet them (whether mutual or not), he looks down on them. But honestly, the reason it irks me so much is because I do the same thing.
“Sorry,” I say at last. “I know you’re trying to help. It’s just hard to watch you and Lisa sometimes, you know? You’re both so successful, and I’m...” I gesture vaguely, “invading my friends’ house.”
Justin is even worse with feelings than I am. When he can’t think of the proper response, he presses his mouth into a line and nods. Another silence, and then he rises to his feet. “I’m going to talk with her.” But he stops behind my chair, clapping a hand on my shoulder awkwardly. “I read your article. You really should apply for that job.”
I smile up at him; he’s gone quite pink. “Thanks,” I say to his retreating back. Justin waves over his shoulder, and turns it into a head-scratch, before disappearing.
My eyes lower back to the Oracle Underground. Yes, the job posting has been there for weeks. Yes, I’m wildly unqualified. But maybe, just maybe, things could work out? Just this once? I’ve already lost my job, my flat, and my first potential relationship in years. What else do I have to lose? I mean, really—what else is there? I flip back to the Classifieds. This time, though, the ad feels like something accessible; a possibility:
NOW HIRING — Reporter for the greater London area. Applicants must have excellent literary skills, knowledge of current Wizarding World events, and the ability to work in a fast-paced environment. Apparating License or Floo Network access necessary. Three to five years’ experience required.
I read it once, twice, three times. Thinking of Justin’s charmingly awkward support, I crack a grin. The ad doesn’t seem so scary now. “What the hell,” I murmur, drawing out my wand. “Accio quill and parchment.”
It has been, in the absolute mildest of vocabulary, a mind-fuck of a day. While the old Edie would have gone straight for the Firewhiskey, I’m trying to turn over a new leaf. Part of me feels wrong for criticizing Wood’s fondness of drink, if I’m doing the same. Instead of searching for the bottle found in my sock drawer, I decide to take a walk. I would like Lisa’s company, but she and Justin had one of their rare arguments earlier while I tweaked my CV. Murmured voices turned to shouting, and then she stormed into the den. Without looking at me, she grabbed her coat and slammed the door behind her.
I’m feeling pretty rotten about moving in; clearly it’s the reason for their bickering. Two months before the wedding is not a good time to fight. I decide that I’m going to be straightforward with Lisa. When she comes home, I’m going to tell her about being sacked, and that I was evicted (I told them I made the decision to save money), and everything that happened with Oliver.
Fixing my black wooly scarf around my neck, I head into the rainy morning. Mindlessly, I perform a water-repellant charm. I don’t really know where I’m going, but Alchemy Coffee is out of the question. So is the magazine stand. Just because I’m coming clean about Oliver with Lisa doesn’t mean I want to relive it right now.
Suddenly a raindrop lands on my nose. Frowning, I glance up and realize there are holes in the umbrella charm. Without warning, in my mind’s eye I see Oliver standing outside after the WNAG. He looks at me appreciatively as I sheath my wand, “Thanks. You’re quite good with that. Mine usually have holes in them.”
Shaking the thought from my head, I walk faster.
Soon I’m ambling past the shop windows, halfway peering inside, halfway studying my surprisingly miserable reflection. When I reach the Quidditch store, I stop to look at the latest broom model: the Arrow. The sleek wood is stained a deep reddish-black against blonde straw. It really is beautiful. Too bad I was never very good at flying. I turn around to continue walking, and am surprised to see Lisa amidst the crowd. She’s looking at her feet as she walks, hugging herself tightly—she must still be upset. Maybe we can go sip hot cocoa, and I can tell her everything. And, most of all, I can be a good best friend and listen to her problems for once.
“Lisa!” I call brightly. She sees me and a shadow passes over her face. Maybe she doesn’t want to be bothered, but we have to get over this hurdle. We meet in the middle of the street, and I smile pathetically, “Hey… Um, I know you’re upset, but I really need to tell you something.”
She nods, “Okay.”
This is it. Time to be an adult. Time to admit I’m a complete failure at everything; even at telling the truth about being a failure. I shut my eyes, gesturing as I draw in a deep breath.
“I’m unemployed,” I blurt, just as Lisa says, “I’m pregnant.”
We gape at each other—she is what?! That’s not possible; she told me they’re always careful! But then it all begins to make sense: the anxiety, the over-eating, the fights with Justin, the mood swings.
Holy shit. She really is.
But then she’s grabbing my arm sympathetically, and gasping, “Oh my God! Edie, you lost your job? That’s so horrible, I had no idea!”
“How is that any more important than what you just said?!”
She studies me intensely, her blue eyes wide. People diverge and pass by like we’re rocks in a river. I look at Lisa in sadness, and then her brow knits in realization. Suddenly she bursts into tears—and they aren’t tears of joy. She throws herself at me, hugging me so tightly it almost hurts. “I’m pregnant,” she sobs into my shoulder. “Edie, I’m pregnant.”
Author's Note: Wow! So much drama in the last two chapters, I mean really. This chapter was really fun to write. I hope that you guys have a better idea of who Justin is. He's a bit rough around the edges, but so is Edie. I actually have this funny little thought that the reason Lisa likes them both so much is because they're the same person, in so many ways.
What did you think of the twist? I know one person guessed it, and I totally lied in the review response xD Sorry to do that, but I wanted it to be a surprise!
Another lovely CI by afterglow @ TDA! ♥
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