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Chapter 20 : Going Through the Motions
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“And lastly, I’m sure you’ve gotten this question a lot,” the interviewer continued, leaning forward. She shot me a conspiritorial look as though we were the best of friends. Which we weren’t. For some reason, all interviewers liked to pretend we were in the hopes I’d give them juicy information. Which I didn’t. “But I have to ask: What’s going on with you and James Potter, son of The Chosen One?”
I already knew she was going to ask this question. It was the question I’d been asked in every interview I’d given since I’d left Hogwarts. And since I’d been asked it so often, I was now able to ignore the lurch in my chest that happened whenever James’ name was mentioned.
I forced a smile. I felt like I was always forcing smiles these days. “He’s just a friend of mine,” I stated simply. I said it in a tone that made it clear I had nothing left to say about him.
The interviewer didn’t seem to pick up on my tone though, because she continued to push the topic. “You two were pictured in a liplock. Seems a little more than just friends, don’t you think?”
The funny thing was, I actually didn’t have an answer. I didn’t even know if James and I were more than friends, and I was one of the people involved in our… whatever it was. We had never really gotten the chance to define anything. And now, we never would.
So, I repeated what Georgiana had instructed me to say whenever the kiss was addressed in an interview, “Pictures aren’t always what they seem. Since you work for a magazine, you should know that.”
The interviewer nodded, as though she understood. Which I found a bit disconcerting because didn’t that mean she was confirming that magazines edited pictures in order to make a story? Wasn’t that illegal? I was tempted to say something but before I could the interviewer closed her notebook with a resounding thwack.
“Well then, those are all the questions I have for you today. Thanks so much for taking the time out of your schedule to talk to us at Bewitched Magazine,” with that the interviewer extended a hand out for me to shake. I complied. The interviewer gave me a toothy grin. “You really are a lovely girl. Great head on your shoulders. No wonder you won.”
I yet again, fake smiled at her, as though I cared what she thought. But in all honesty I didn’t. I didn’t really care about what anybody thought anymore.
It’d been a little over two weeks since I’d left Hogwarts, and ever since I’d felt nothing but empty. It was like I was waiting for a train that was never going to come. I was just going through the motions, and I wasn’t soaking anything in anymore. Every press junket, every interview, every photo shoot was just one big blur.
And the thing is, I was pretty sure this was the same way I’d felt before I’d attended Hogwarts. The mindnumbing nothingness of doing the same thing over and over again. The reliability in that.
But then I’d gone to Hogwarts. I’d actually experienced things and known what it was like to get a choice. It made me realize what I’d been missing all these years. And now, I almost would’ve rathered never going to Hogwarts in the first place. I had been perfectly content with this life—with my life— before then.
However, every time I began to regret attending Hogwarts, I thought of James. And for some reason, I hated the thought of me never getting to know him. It made the emptiness I felt now worth it, as strange as that sounded.
“You did such a wonderful interview, Nata,” my mother said from behind me, interrupting my thoughts and causing me to turn around and face her. She beamed at me with pride, but then quickly frowned as she realized a curl had escaped from my ponytail. She lifted her hand and tucked the curl behind my ear, before smiling again. “There, perfect.”
I cringed. I hated that word. I was not perfect. Not even close.
“Come on,” I said, before my mother could comment on my change of facial expression. “We should go back to the house. It’s been a long day and I want to get enough rest before tomorrow.”
Tomorrow was going to just be more of the same. Interviews, meetings, photo shoots, fake smiles. Yawn, yawn, yawn.
“Of course,” my mother said, glancing at me worriedly. She’d been doing that a lot lately. Looking worried by me. I ignored her looks most of the time. I didn’t like to see her worried. I forced a smile to placate her.
It must’ve worked, because my mum’s shoulders relaxed and she grabbed my hand to lead us over to the fireplace in the room. We both walked into the hearth together, and my mother threw down the floo powder directing us to go back to Winston’s, or as my mum called it: home.
And as we swirled away into a cloud of dust all I could think was that the one place I considered home was the one place I’d never return to again. I think that’s what people called irony.
A couple of days later, I was in my room, lying on my bed (I always felt tired nowadays), when I heard a very loud and punctuated crack echo around the house. I sat up quickly, feeling myself grow worried.
My mum was in the kitchen. She had seemed to catch on to the fact that I was not my usual self, and had decided to cook for the first time in her life as an effort to cheer me up. I immediately figured she must have blown something up, despite the fact that she was a muggle. My mum just did not belong in the kitchen.
“Mum?!” I asked, my voice laced with worry as I waited for a response. There wasn’t one.
I quickly pushed myself off my bed and hurried out of my room. I rushed down the stairs two at a time, panicking the whole way that I was going to walk in on my mother, lying in a heap on the kitchen floor.
However, as I reached the bottom floor, I heard voices. One of them, of course, belonged to my mother, and one of them belonged to someone who I was pretty sure could in no way be in my house. It would be impossible.
“Mum?” I asked, finally making it into the kitchen. It was then that I realized that I hadn’t actually imagined Molly’s voice echoing through the house, because I saw her standing in my kitchen, in the flesh, having a conversation with my mum.
This definitely had to be one of the oddest things I’d ever witnessed.
“Nata!” my mother exclaimed, looking excited that I had come downstairs. I guess it had been a while since I’d willingly left my room. Sure, I left the house to fulfill all my Miss Teen Witch duties, but as soon as I got home I headed straight to my room and slept. Or just layed there.
I ignored my mum’s exclamation and kept my gaze trained on Molly. “What are you doing here?”
Molly rolled her eyes. “Obviously I’m here to see you,” Molly answered, her voice caustic. “What else would I be doing here?”
My mother seemed very taken aback by Molly’s tone. I didn’t have the time to explain to my mum that this was just how Molly acted, and even if I did I didn’t think she would understand.
“Right, well, what I meant was why,” I responded. My mother was continuing to watch the two of us intently. Molly seemed to catch on to this. She turned to my mother.
“We’re going to go somewhere else to talk,” Molly stated, not asking for permission. I knew my mum definitely was not used to that.
“Okay,” my mum said, after seeming to think it over for a bit. I think she only agreed because she was happy that I had left my room. And she was probably still shocked that a random teenager who had to be at least six feet tall and full of blunt sarcasm had apparated into her kitchen. My mum then looked at me. “But dinner’s going to be ready in a half an hour Nata so she’ll have to leave then. You know you can’t have guests coming over unannounced.”
“I know,” I responded, not bothering to explain to her that I hadn’t invited Molly over. Molly seemed to wrinkle her nose at my robotic response but for once she didn’t say anything. Instead, she grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the kitchen, opening every door she passed, inspecting the room behind it and then closing the door without entering.
“What are you doing?” I asked and truthfully any answer would’ve satisfied me. Because I was now thoroughly confused. I was also aware of the fact that everything I had said to Molly thus far had come out as a question.
“I’m finding a room I can yell at you in that is properly sound proofed so that your psycho mum will not hear me,” Molly stated simply. She passed by another door, opened it, looked around, made a hum of approval, and then pulled me in after her. She had ended up pulling us into the downstairs loo. What a lovely place for confrontations.
“Molly, why aren’t you at Hogwarts?” I asked after she closed the door behind me, and this seemed like the most important question of all. Hogwarts’ winter break didn’t start until next week, so Molly was technically still supposed to be in school. How had she managed to apparate to my house?
“That really isn’t important right now,” Molly responded, shaking me off. I wanted to argue, because in all honesty it did seem pretty important. I was kind of worried that Molly had broken the law in order to come here, and I knew I couldn’t be caught harboring a criminal. That would effectively ruin what I had left of my Miss Teen Witch image. “What’s important,” Molly continued, “is that you are ruining your life.”
This was one of those moments I didn’t appreciate Molly’s bluntness.
“My life is fine,” I responded, crossing my arms in defense. Old habits die hard. “Great even. I’m living every girl’s fantasy.”
I hated myself as soon as I repeated the words Georgiana had said to me long ago. Molly noticed my change in facial expression, and used this as ammunition to pounce.
“Is that what you tell yourself every night before you fall asleep to feel better?” Molly asked sarcastically. “Because if so, you’re not doing it right. You didn’t even speak with conviction.”
“Molly,” I began, pinching the bridge of my nose as I spoke. She was just so difficult. And with the way Molly was speaking, I could tell she felt the same way about me. “What are you doing here? I’m kind of skating on thin ice with my mum and you’re not helping the situation.”
Molly narrowed her eyes at me. “You do realize, that you will always be skating on thin ice with your mum. And you want to know why?” She didn’t wait for me to respond before answering. “It’s because you and her are two different people, with two separate outlooks on life.”
I sighed. I was not in the mood for this. All I wanted was to go back up to my room, to my insanely comfy bed, and lay there until I had to come down for dinner.
“I don’t have time for this,” I said finally and I made the move to leave the bathroom but Molly was quicker than I was (and taller) so she blocked the doorway.
“I don’t care; you’re going to make time for this,” Molly snapped. “Because despite the fact that you were a major bitch by leaving us all without warning and thinking a stupid note would suffice, we all still care about you.”
I bit my lip. I knew I should’ve at the least said goodbye to them in person. But… it would’ve been too hard. I also noticed the emphasis Molly had put on the word all, and I asked the question I’d been thinking since I’d seen her.
“How is he?”
Molly rolled her eyes at this. I guess I was supposed to say something else, but I didn’t care. “He’s great. Fantastic even. Whatever you wrote to him on that gross chunk of silly putty must have been really inspirational. It kicked him right into gear.”
I was confused. I hadn’t written anything inspirational at all. I had basically admitted to him that I was a failure.
“What do you mean?” I asked, because I now needed Molly to explain.
“I mean,” Molly began with a huff. She really disliked where this conversation was going. I guess I wasn’t following her plan. “That James is back on the Quidditch team and he now speaks to us. So, I guess I should thank you for that small contribution to society.”
“That’s not because of me,” I said quickly.
Molly didn’t look like she believed me. “So you’re saying that it’s a coincidence that the day you left is the day he decided to sit with us at dinner and pretend like he hadn’t been avoiding us like the plague for the past year?”
“I… I don’t know,” I responded, suddenly feeling completely overwhelmed. Nothing was making sense. James was on the Quidditch team. He was talking to his old friends. And Molly thought it was because of me.
She was wrong.
“Look, you don’t have to believe me,” Molly said, noticing my facial expression. “Besides, I’m not here to talk about James. We’re supposed to be talking about you.”
“I don’t want to talk about me,” I responded.
“You never do,” Molly stated. “You always make every conversation about someone else. What about you?”
I didn’t like where this was headed.
“What about me?”
Molly let out a frustrated sigh, before running her hands through her chin length hair. “You can be selfish, Tash. You’re a teenager, not an adult. You’re supposed to be selfish.”
Her brown eyes were trained on me, and I noticed the sincerity in them. Something I rarely saw from Molly. It was like she was trying to get through to me. To get me to see something that I couldn’t.
“I don’t want to be selfish,” I stated finally, and it was the truth.
“Everybody wants to be selfish,” Molly countered. “Whether or not they’re willing to admit it is another story.”
“You’re wrong,” I said, shaking my head at Molly’s words.
“When will you realize that I’m never wrong?” Molly asked, raising her hands up in the air like I was the ridiculous one. “I am the voice of reason. I mean, I may be a huge bitch, but I’m still right.”
I didn’t say anything to this. I didn’t even know what to say. Besides, there was still the possibility that Molly was a criminal. Arguing with her wouldn’t bode well for me.
“Look,” Molly said, calming down since I didn’t respond. “It may not seem like it sometimes, but I really do care about you.” I held back a gasp by biting my lip. “We all care about you. And that is why I came here. I mean just take a look at yourself. You look miserable.”
With that Molly grabbed me by the shoulders and pushed me in front of the bathroom mirror. I had to look away from my reflection quickly because she was right. No wonder my mum had been handling me with child-proofed gloves. I looked like a walking zombie.
“I’m just tired,” I explained, turning away from Molly and walking over to sit on the edge of the tub. I rested my elbows on my knees, and cradled my chin in my hands. “I’ll be okay.”
Molly looked like she didn’t believe me. Which she probably shouldn’t. I didn’t even know if I believed myself. “You’re not even you anymore, Tash. It’s like you’ve collapsed in on yourself.”
If she was trying to make me feel better, this wasn’t the way to do it.
“This is who I am,” I stated, using both of my hands to gesture outwards.
“No it’s not,” Molly said, shaking her head from side to side. “It’s who you choose to be.”
“Is there a difference?”
“There’s always a difference.” Molly’s words reminded me of something James had said to me long ago. Before his disappointed face began to haunt my every thought about him. “You have a choice, Natasha.”
I didn’t know what to say after that, so I didn’t say anything. However, before the silence got to be too long, there was a knocking on the bathroom door.
“Nata?” my mum’s voice called, as she continued to knock on the door. She jiggled the handle to see that it was locked. “Nata, dinner’s ready.”
I looked at Molly. “You should go.”
“Whatever,” Molly said, shaking her head at me as if to signal that she’d given up. “I tried. It’s all up to you now. Just hurry up and realize it before it’s too late.”
Then, before I could say anything, Molly whirled around on the spot and apparated away. I watched the now empty space she had been standing in until my mother knocked on the door again, snapping me out of my daze.
“Nata? Are you in there?”
I stood up and walked over to the bathroom door, unlocking it and opening it so that I was face to face with my mother. Her facial expression was one of extreme worry.
“Yeah, I’m in here. Sorry.”
“Where’s your friend?” My mum asked, seeming confused. If I was her, I would’ve been more confused about the fact that my daughter and one of her friends had chosen to have an important discussion in a bathroom.
“She left,” I responded with a shrug.
My mum seemed satisfied with that answer. I guess she didn’t really care much for Molly. “Well, dinner’s ready,” she repeated. “Also, I’d appreciate it if you warned me next time you invite someone over.”
“I didn’t invite her,” I stated.
“Then why did she come over?” my mum asked.
I shrugged. “That’s just how Molly is.”
My mum clucked her tongue. “How unfortunate.”
“It’s just, she has such great bone structure. It’s a shame that her personality is so… unpleasant.”
I found myself feeling very defensive of Molly’s personality. I mean, yeah she was way too blunt and she never took people’s feelings into consideration before she did something. But if she acted any other way she wouldn’t be— well she wouldn’t be Molly. As much as I could hate how brash she could be, I wouldn’t feel right about her being any other way.
“I like her personality,” I said, making sure to sound noncommittal as I said this. I didn’t want my mum to have another reason to worry about me. “Sometimes she’s a bit too honest, but it’s refreshing.”
My mum seemed to straighten up as I said this, a sign she was dismissing the conversation. “Well, it’s not like it matters anymore,” she murmured, more to herself than to me. “But anyway, we should eat. I made steak for Winston and Insalata Caprese salad for us.”
Another thing I missed about Hogwarts: the food. I had forgotten what it was like to live off of nothing but fancy salads. It wasn’t fun.
“Alright,” I said, forcing a smile. My mother turned around, seeming pleased with herself, and began to walk down the hallway towards the dining room.
I took one more look at the space Molly had been standing in, before I turned around and followed my mum down the hallway.
Everything Molly had said… well it didn’t even matter. No matter what, I would be leaving for a world tour in a few weeks. Even if I went and did whatever it was she wanted me to do, my time would still run out.
A/N: Hello my lovely readers! Here it is, another chapter! This one's kind of a filler but not really... because important things needed to be said. How did you feel about it being Molly who delivered them?
Also, I thought I'd mention that I found it really fun to put Tash back in interviews like she was in at the start of the story. I felt like I was writing a new person because all her reactions and inner thoughts seemed very different than they would have been without the Hogwarts experience. Hopefully you guys felt that way too?
Alright well please review, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this chapter, and your predictions for the next one?
Oh and I've never actually mentioned this in an author's note before but I do have a meet the author's page if you want to shoot me some questions over there too.
Thanks so much for reading guys, you're rockstars
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