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The New Pride of Portree by momotwins
Chapter 6 : Magpies and Mistakes
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 9


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 Fitz beat Molly to the pitch Monday morning. Once again he was accompanied by Jinks, who looked half asleep, leaning on his broom and sucking down coffee from a bright purple travel mug bearing the Prides logo.

Molly wasn't sure what to say to him, and since Jinks was there she wasn't sure she ought to say anything at all. Fitz smiled at her, and she smiled back, still feeling uncertain. She noted with approval that he had a new broom. It wasn't a racing broom but it was professional-level. If Molly recalled correctly from Which Broomstick, it was one with a steering charm that was renowned for its sensitivity. He'd picked a good one for his injured shoulder.

The team began to arrive, starting with Zara and Beathan, and as the rest of them trickled in, Molly stood to one side of the clump of players. It occurred to her that while she was friendly with her entire team, she didn't have a close friend among them yet. Beathan had latched onto Zara, and Sid was usually with them. The Beaters were practically inseparable by now, and the trio of reserve players were always together as well. She and Jinks, as the players whose position did not have a partner, were solo more often than not. Factions, Molly thought with a bit of unease. She didn't like factions within a team. Holyhead had been more cohesive. The Prides weren't even close to that point yet.

Once the team had gathered, Fitz cleared his throat and they all fell silent.

“Morning, all. I have a quick announcement and then we're getting to work. McCormack and I discussed the matter and have selected Molly Weasley for team captain."”

Declan and Duff clapped, and the rest of them joined in with various levels of enthusiasm. Zara had a sour look on her face; Molly was well aware that she'd wanted to be captain as well. Mariah Waldman didn't seem too enthusiastic either, but Molly didn't know how to interpret that, as she hadn't had any run-ins with the woman that might make her harbour any dislike.

“Congratulations, Molly,” Fitz said then, and she looked over to see him looking directly at her with a small smile, more emotion than he had shown in front of the team (barring anger) since they'd begun training. She smiled back at him, but he looked away then, announcing the training schedule for the week.

“This is our last week before the season starts. Our first game is Saturday, against the Montrose Magpies. They're a tough team to beat, and we've got a lot of work ahead of us this week. Expect late hours through Thursday. Friday afternoon you'll have off to rest up. Now, for today...”

Molly tuned out after that. She already had the week's schedule memorized, since she'd helped to write the thing in the first place, so she let his voice wash over her without sinking in as he explained it to the rest of the team. He hasn't shaved that morning, and the stubble on his cheeks was dark. She wondered if it felt as rough as it looked. It gave him a scruffy sort of bad-boy look that suited him well.

He really was very fit, she thought on a silent sigh of appreciation. She wanted to run her fingertips over the stubble and into his dark, wavy hair and hear his voice go deeper the way it had when he'd given her that intense look and asked for a raincheck, or told her not to forgive him when he didn't deserve it.

McCormack had said to keep it professional. Molly wasn't feeling very professional toward Fitz at the moment. It had been a while since she'd had a boyfriend, not since that accordionist friend of her cousin's, and she was remembering all the reasons she liked keeping a man around.

They broke for training then, and Molly had to refocus on her job. Professional, she reminded herself as she kicked off the ground, aiming her broom toward the hoops.

Once the team was up in the air, starting their drills, Molly glanced down and saw Fitz on his broom, actually getting into the air. She smiled proudly at that; it was about goddamn time.

Six hours later, when they finally broke for lunch, she was no longer smiling. She'd known the training would be gruelling when she'd helped set the week's schedule, but it didn't make her any less wrung out to have known it was coming. Fitz had barked orders the entire time, shouting at everyone and making corrections. He seemed to know what he was talking about when he was yelling at the Beaters, and Molly wondered if he'd actually gone and watched the training films as she'd suggested. After lunch was another six hours of hard work, but she thought through the fog of exhaustion that there was some improvement in the team.

The rest of the week went about the same as that first day. The team arrived at dawn, worked hard through lunch, and then came back for more torture until it was dark outside, and all the while Fitz shouted at them, his tirades ever more harshly worded as the week wore on. On Tuesday evening he got into a shouting match with Sid over the way he threw the Quaffle, and on Wednesday he drove Beathan to tears when she let the Quaffle fall, then spent ten minutes yelling at Jinks for not catching the Snitch fast enough.

Though she was glad he was up in the air and more involved with the team's training, Molly wanted to whack him over the head with her broom for not dealing better with what was obviously fears over facing his old team. They hadn't spoken since that night he'd come by her flat, only a few words about training while they were both on the pitch. She could see the stress over facing his old team written all over his face, but she didn't think he'd want to talk about it. She didn't have the energy for that kind of conversation anyway. By the time the long days of training were over, all she wanted was to crawl in bed and sleep for days.

The original Prides members seemed to take the long days the hardest, since they hadn't come from other teams and had got used to the half-assed schedule that their senile old coach had barely managed, but even the players from teams who'd set a heavy schedule themselves were dead on their feet by the time Thursday afternoon rolled around.

“Ye gods, I'm bloody exhausted,” Duff muttered as the team trudged off to the locker room. “Half tempted not to come back after lunch.”

“You better not abandon me,” Declan told him. “I don't want to be out there with the taskmaster alone. When the hell'd he get so bloody tough?”

Molly, walking right behind them, murmured, “He was always tough,” but they didn't seem to hear her.

Zara and Sid collapsed onto the couch in the locker room, and Mariah stretched out on a bench across from them. Molly did her best to remain upright, sitting down on the bench in front of her locker and stripping off her leather gloves. Her fingers were numb from blocking the Quaffle so many times. Her legs felt rubbery, and she tried to shake them out but only managed a weak jiggle.

“He's been a bit of a git,” noted Deimos Flint, their reserve Beater. “Seemed nicer at the start of the training season, didn't he?”

“Oh, it's just nerves,” Mariah said airily, still lying on her back on the bench. “He's always this way when the pressure starts getting to him. Turns into a screaming arsehole. You should've seen him the week before our wedding. I nearly called it off.”

No one seemed impressed by this pronouncement. The entire team was feeling the pressure, Molly thought. She gave Mariah a surreptitious look of distaste. She didn't care for the way Mariah talked about Fitz; her insights to his character were a little too personal to share with the team. It gave Molly an uncomfortable feeling to hear it.

Quidditch teams always abused the coach good-naturedly behind his or her back. But the Prides were so new, they lacked the affection that ought to be behind the teasing. Having the coach's ex-wife taking part didn't help matters. In fairness, they weren't wrong: Fitz really had been acting like a screaming arsehole all week.

“Well then he must get a case of nerves pretty often,” quipped Sid. “Not sure I'd recognize him any more if he weren't red-faced and shouting about what an idiot I am.”

“Maybe it's not nerves,” came Beathan's quiet voice from the gold-upholstered chair in the corner of the room. She'd pulled her legs up and wrapped her arms around them, curled into a tight ball on the chair with her chin resting on her knees. “Maybe it's because he doesn't think we're any good.”

There was a general round of murmurs of assent at this statement, and Molly's heart sank. They all agreed, that much was obvious. Bloody men and their inability to deal with their emotions appropriately.

She waited until everyone was distracted with a new subject before slipping out.

Fitz's office was at the end of the hallway, and he'd left the door ajar. Molly pushed it open and found him sitting behind his desk, his head resting on the chair as he stared at the ceiling. He looked up as she closed the door behind her.

“We need to talk,” she said, and his expression grew wary.

“I hate when people say that,” he muttered.

Molly ignored that comment. “You're nervous about playing the Magpies on Saturday, and you're taking it out on the team.”

He bristled. “I am not-”

“Yes, you are, and you know it. You've been a complete arse all week.”

Fitz put his face in his hands. “I know,” he mumbled.

He had caved quicker than she'd expected, which in her opinion confirmed that he really did know what he'd been doing. “This is the last week. The plan we made for training is going to have to be enough, because there's nothing more we can do.”

“I know, I know.” He sat back, blowing out a long breath. “I'm just nervous about going to Montrose. I had hoped we'd play someone else first. Anyone else.”

“Have to play the cards you're dealt.” She leaned against the doorframe and crossed her arms over her chest. “Breathe through it. You have to keep the team together. You're coach. They think you don't have any faith in them as a team.”

He gave her a look that clearly said they weren't entirely wrong.

Molly arched an eyebrow. “Even if you don't, it's your job to make them believe you do.”

“Dammit. All right, I promise not to shout at them tomorrow.”

She nodded. “I invited the team over to my place tomorrow night to let off some steam before the game. It's been a long week.”

“Good idea.” Fitz sat back in his chair and ran a hand through his hair. “Just don't let them get too drunk. No hangovers for Saturday.”

“You should come too,” Molly suggested.

He frowned a bit, and she went on, “It would do you good to relax a bit before the game, too.”

“I don't know if that's a good idea.”

“At least stop by and be social for a bit. So they know you don't think they're completely hopeless.”

“I don't think that,” he said quickly, and the way he was looking at her made her think he might not be talking only about the team.

“Come by my flat tomorrow night and have a drink, then.”

Fitz nodded slowly. “All right.”

*

The party was in full swing when he arrived. Fitz had deliberately waited until he was fairly sure they'd all be there before he'd turned up. He'd have one drink, remind them all to practice moderation so they weren't completely useless on the field tomorrow, and then he'd leave.

He was afraid if he had more than one drink around Molly, he might do something stupid.

She opened the door almost as soon as he knocked, and he glanced down at her clothes without intending to. Her dress was black, leather, and tight enough to reveal every line of her body, the short skirt showing her mile-long legs above black patent leather stilettos. Fitz swallowed.

Now he really wanted to do something stupid.

Molly grabbed his arm and pulled him inside, seeming to realize he was a bit stunned and wasn't going to move on his own power, and he caught her scent as he passed, brushing up against her. Her hair was spiked up in the familiar mohawk, but now it was dyed in the purple and gold of Portree. Seeing this bit of team spirit made him smile.

“Nice hair,” he said, trying to get a hold of himself. It was hard to focus on anything but that dress and those legs.

Molly patted the close-cropped hair on the sides of her head, giving him a cheery smile. “Game time. I reckoned it was time to update my 'do. What do you want to drink?”

Her. He couldn't say that, though, she'd probably kick him with her stilettos. “Whatever that was you made me the other day.”

“Vodka gimlet, coming right up.”

She abandoned him to make his drink, and Fitz made his way into the living area of her flat, where half the team was gathered around the coffee table, drinks and crisps scattered around the table and cards in their hands. He leaned against the arm or the couch and watched while Sid Whittlemore won a round of poker, Texas Hold 'Em style. There was a huge round of cheers when the last of Sid's opponents folded.

“Ha! Hand it over,” Sid crowed, holding out a hand to Bram Carmichael.

Carmichael groaned and pulled a key out of his pocket. “Be good to her, all right?”

“What the hell are you gambling?” Fitz asked, trying not to grin at them.

“My baby,” Carmichael said mournfully.

Sid kissed the key. “My baby now.”

“A 1965 Royal Enfield Crusader,” Carmichael added. “I bought her when I first got hired to to the Kestrels. Cherry red and cherry condition.” He looked as if his dog had just died. Fitz half-expected him to burst into tears.

“This is a vehicle of some kind?” Fitz asked, directing this at Zara, who nodded.

“Motorcycle.”

“Ah.”

Molly was back, handing him a glass, and Fitz tried not to stare at her in front of the team. No one seemed to notice, though, because Molly had just seen the key in Sid's hand.

“I said cash in hand, no getting too deep,” she told them sternly, hands on her hips now. “Hand it back, Sid.”

“I won fair and square!”

“I don't care, I said no deep play in my house. Play that hand over with whatever money you have on you, and don't make me set a bet limit on you lot. This isn't a bloody casino.”

Sid groaned and tossed the key back to Carmichael. Fitz left her to finish policing the team. She was stricter than a Las Vegas pit boss, apparently, and just as able to command obedience. Making her captain had been a damn good decision, he thought with a chuckle.

Half an hour of meaningless chit-chat with the team later, Fitz wasn't sure he was actually accomplishing anything. They were a little stiff with him, probably because he'd spent most of the week screaming at them for being effing morons. He didn't know how to apologize for it without losing some of his authority as their coach, and went for his usual pretending-nothing-happened. It wasn't working very well.

He escaped into Molly's bedroom for a breather. She was still hovering around the gambling den that was her living room and didn't see him, so he felt free to relax and do some snooping.

Her bedroom was as spare and modern as the rest of her flat, done in shades of cream and black. The bed was made up with military precision, the black bedding smooth as ice, several pillows stacked against the cream twill upholstered headboard. A black leather club chair sat in one corner, with a pile of books on a glass and steel table beside it. There was a tall mirror in a black enamelled frame on a door that must be her closet, and another door that led to her private bathroom, this one open. He peeked inside.

There was a claw-foot tub, gleaming a shiny black down to the tips of its clawed toes. It had to be custom; he'd never seen a black claw-foot tub before. An image of Molly in the tub came to his mind and he had to close the door to distract himself.

Still trying to wipe the image of Molly in her black bathtub from his mind, he opened the closet door and stepped inside.

There was patterned red tape encircling the closet rod, marking a space that was filled with red hangers. All of them held trousers. He blinked and looked further. Blue for skirts. Purple for shirts and vests. Green for dresses. The hangers were spaced neatly in their section of the rod, all a precise distance apart.

Fitz was visited with an almost overpowering desire to see it all smushed against one end of the closet rod.

“What are you doing in here?” demanded Molly from behind him.

He turned and found her standing in the doorway, her arms crossed tightly so that her breasts swelled above the neckline of her skintight black dress. His mouth went dry, but he managed to ask, “Does your closet always look this way?”

She glanced around warily. “How do you mean?”

He gestured wordlessly at the colour-coding.

She understood immediately, and if anything looked even more defensive. “I like things neat, all right?”

“What else do you keep colour-coded?” he asked, giving her a sly grin, unable to hold in the curiosity.

To his delight, her face flushed, and she drew in a squeaky breath. “Get out of my closet!”

“I saw your bathtub,” he said as he slid past her, out of the closet. “Very sexy.”

Molly shut the door behind her, leaning back against the mirror. “Shut up. Why are you skulking around in my room?”

“Why d'you think? I didn't look at your underwear, if that's what you're worried about.”

This time instead of blushing, her eyes narrowed. “Of course you didn't. I don't wear any.”

“Jesus Christ.” He couldn't stop himself from looking down at her hips, hoping for sudden onset x-ray vision.

But she was already shooing him out of her room. “If you're not going to make nice with the team, then go home. Get some sleep before the game.”

He didn't want to think about tomorrow's game. He wanted to think about her comment about not wearing underwear. “Molly-”

They were in earshot of the team now, though, so he didn't finish his remark. No one seemed sad to see him go, but Molly's eyes were sparkling as she closed the door on him.

At least she still liked him, even if none of the rest of them did.

*

The morning air seemed to have ice in it when Molly arrived at the Montrose Magpies' pitch with the rest of the Prides. Everyone seemed to have a case of nerves, despite the get-together Molly had hosted the previous night, intending to help the team relax. It hadn't even helped her relax, though she was tempted to blame that on finding Fitz snooping around in her closet. That had been many things - provoking, a little titillating - but not relaxing.

“Saints above us,” murmured Jinks as they trooped out to the tunnel leading to the field. They would fly out from here and make a loop of the pitch to greet the fans before the game began. Molly wasn't expecting a warm reception from Montrose, and wished their first game had been a home field game.

The three reserve players hung back, since they weren't to take the field unless someone was injured. No introductory loop for them. Most of the Prides current starting lineup was used to hanging back, Molly included. This would be her first time flying out onto the field as a starring player. Her stomach turned over and she swallowed hard.

Everyone was shuffling nervously, even the three original Prides who'd been starters from the get-go. Molly could just hear the announcers talking about the game, about the rosters of each team and what the fans could expect from them. She didn't want to hear the speculation on her new team and tried to tune it out.

“Just start already,” Zara muttered. She was standing in front of Molly, shifting her weight back and forth.

Molly closed her eyes. Everything felt wrong. It had felt wrong ever since she'd had her first cup of coffee. She had a bad feeling about today.

After what felt like only moments, and before Molly felt ready, the whistle sounded and they were on their brooms, flying out onto the pitch. The crowds were screaming; it didn't sound like cheers, and Molly tried to smile and wave at them. She hoped she didn't look as nervous as she felt.

They circled the field once, then fell into position. The Magpies were already on the field, waiting, and as soon as Molly took her position in front of the centre ring, the Quaffle was released and the game began.

She missed the first throw, and the Magpies scored. It was like a cascade after that: Zara dropped the Quaffle, and next thing Molly knew the Magpies had scored again, and then twice more. Beathan managed to put the Quaffle through the left hoop, scoring ten points for the Prides, but it wasn't long before Montrose had regained possession of the Quaffle.

The game was mercifully short, with the Magpies scoring seventeen goals to the Prides' ten, and the Montrose Seeker ended the game by grabbing the Snitch right out from under Jinks' nose an hour and a half into play. Molly's stomach felt like a ball of lead as they left the field, defeated in their first game. The Prides returned to the guest locker room of the Magpies' stadium in dejection.

No one had performed to the best of their ability, or even to a quarter of the best of their ability. Losing so spectacularly to Montrose was almost unsurprising, given how she'd felt all day, but still completely humiliating.

Her first game as a starting Keeper and she'd totally mucked it up. Molly wanted to kick someone, and settled for kicking her locker shut.

The Prides sat in silence in the locker room for nearly ten minutes, staring at their feet, before Jinks finally hauled himself upright.

“Screw it,” he said. “I'm going to go get drunk.”

“Can we just start this day over, please?” Zara moaned, putting her head in her hands.

“I think I threw up a little when Flock caught the Snitch,” said Beathan, and she did look a little green around the gills.

“Someone Obliviate me and put me out of my misery.” Sid slid off the bench to the floor, stretching his legs out in front of him. “I feel like I got run over by a truck. Pretty sure that Bludger in the second half broke one of my ribs.”

“I knew it was going to be like this.” Declan kicked his Beater's bat away. “I need to drink until I forget about today.”

“You'd think you'd be used to it,” Sid said from his spot on the floor, glancing up at Declan. “Didn't you lot lose every game except the Cannons last year?”

Declan gave him an ugly look. “Thanks for reminding me. Now you're a loser, too. Joined the loser team.”

“Shut up, Preece,” Zara said loudly.

The three reserve players, who looked pristine next to the sweaty starting line-up, looked just as depressed as the rest of the team. None of them had played today, but apparently they were taking the loss personally anyway, because Mariah Waldman piped up, “Our training was crap. Those schedules were worthless. We might've done better if-”

“Training can only go so far,” Molly snapped. “If the team doesn't put in the effort-”

Zara bristled at that. “I put in plenty of effort. You and your damn training schedule-”

“It was Fitzroy's schedule,” Declan put in. “If he hadn't-”

“Weasley set the schedule, everyone knows it. Thinks she's running the damn team-”

“Oh, shut up, Mariah,” Molly said angrily.

Things degenerated from there. Declan and Duff sided with each other, of course, blaming Fitz for the day's loss. Zara must have still been stinging from not being made captain, because she seemed happy to swing her weight behind Mariah Waldman's accusations against Molly. Sid and Bram were with Zara, and Deimos Flint threw his weight behind his fellow Beaters. Beathan put her hands over her ears as the shouting got worse, but she wasn't speaking up in defense of either her captain or her coach.

Molly was on her feet, shouting back at Zara and Mariah, when the door banged open. Fitz stood there, scowling at them.

“What the hell's going on in here? They can probably hear you all the way in the stands.”

“Oh, screw you, too,” Zara said, and shoved past him and out into the hall. Sid and Beathan, still in their robes, followed behind her, with Bram and Mariah in their wake. Mariah did not look Fitz in the eye as she passed him.

The Beaters gathered up their bats before leaving, but none of them would look directly at Fitz. Jinks only shook his head.

“I'm going home to drink myself into a stupor,” he informed Molly and Fitz. “Don't wake me on Monday, I'm not coming to practice.”

Fitz seemed speechless at the total mutiny of the team. Molly crossed her arms over her chest defensively, waiting for him to blame it all on her the way the Chasers had, thanks to Waldman.

Instead he stared at her for a few moments and then asked, “Want to hit the pub?”

“Yes,” Molly replied with feeling.

They took a Floo back to Portree, heading straight for the pub. The bartender must have already heard about the loss to Montrose, because he gave them a sad shake of his head and poured four shots, setting the lot in front of Molly and Fitz before leaving them to it.

Molly downed both shots back to back and then put her head in her hands, elbows on the bar top. “If this day gets any worse, the MLEs will probably have to get involved.”

“I take it that lot decided it was your fault we lost today.” Fitz knocked back his shots as well.

“Oh, don't worry,” Molly said acidly. “There was plenty of blame to go around for you, too.”

“I figured they'd blame me. I didn't reckon on them blaming you, too.”

The bartender returned to pour them each two more shots. Fitz nodded to him, and Molly asked, lifting one of her shots, “Friend of yours?”

“Max. He owns the place.”

“Does that mean these are free?” She drank both shots, feeling the warmth flooding her body. They weren't making her forget the horrible match yet, though.

Fitz let out a short bark of laughter. “No, but he'll put it on my tab. I'm pretty sure I owe him a kidney by now, or maybe my firstborn.”

“Well, obviously not your liver,” Molly observed as he downed his shots.

“Nobody wants that old thing.”

She smiled, and he returned it, tilting his head in a way that told her the alcohol was starting to affect him.

“You played like crap,” he said, and she let out a helpless laugh, almost choking on her fourth shot. “What the hell happened?”

“I don't know, it was an off day or something. Stop talking about it, I'm trying to drink until I can pretend today didn't happen.”

“Yeah, that's a good plan.” Fitz waved to the bartender, who returned to lean against the bar, giving them a friendly smile.

"Don't need to ask how your day went," he said, glancing meaningfully at the shot glasses in front of them.

Fitz waved a shot glass vaguely at the two of them. “Molly, this is Max Halligan. Max, Molly Weasley.”

“A pleasure. Drowning your sorrows?” Max asked mildly, pouring more whisky.

“Memories, more like,” Molly answered. “Trying to kill off the synapses that remember today's match.”

“Half of Portree is doing the same,” Max commented over his shoulder, already off to another customer.

After the sixth shot, the memory of the day's humiliation started to go fuzzy around the edges, and Molly closed her eyes for a moment, letting out a long, slow breath.

“I think this might actually be the worst day I've ever had.”

“You've obviously never been divorced,” Fitz replied with fake cheer.

“I've never been married, so no, no divorces.”

“Not my best moment.” He reached over the bar top to grab a bottle of firewhisky. After checking that it wasn't empty, he poured another shot for each of them. “Not my best year, hell.”

The year he'd been divorced was the same year he'd been injured, Molly recalled hazily. She didn't want to bring that up, though. The whisky was starting to get to her, and she didn't fight the warm clouds, letting her brain sink into them instead. She leaned on the bar, her head propped on one hand.

“This year's not so bad, though,” Fitz said then. He still had the whisky bottle in hand, holding it at his side so if Max glanced over, it wouldn't be visible.

“Oh yeah?” She thought it was pretty bad, but maybe that was residual embarrassment from today's defeat. Her synapses were obviously still firing, cause she was remembering the match again. “Pour me another, my brain keeps trying to think and I don't want to think.”

He refilled the shot glass in front of her and his own as well, and Molly asked, almost as an afterthought, “What's so great about this year?”

He cocked his head at her as he set the bottle down rather unsteadily on the bar top, and answered, as if it were obvious, “I met you.”

Molly blinked, wondering if she'd heard him correctly. “What?”

He propped his head up on one hand, mimicking her posture. “I met you this year. And I like you.”

“You do?” Right now, she couldn't imagine why. She'd completely embarrassed herself today on the pitch.

He gave her a lopsided smile. “When I'm around you, I don't feel angry.”

“Do you usually feel angry?” she asked softly.

“All the time,” he said, his eyes turning serious. “From the moment I wake up, every time I see my shoulder, every time I feel my shoulder. I'm always angry. But not with you.”

Her heart skipped a beat and she covered it by retreating into logic as best she could through the fog in her brain. “Sometimes you're angry with me. I've seen you. You shouted at me outside the locker room.”

“Yeah. I'm sorry.”

They both looked surprised that he'd apologized. Fitz leaned closer, so their foreheads were almost touching. Molly's insides filled with butterflies. She could feel her heart beating faster, the blood rushing through her veins. Up close, his irises were a coffee brown flecked with gold, and a faint green at the edges. She didn't move away, just stared into his eyes, and fought the urge to press closer and taste him. He smelled good, she thought drunkenly.

“Y'know,” he said softly, “you didn't forgive me.”

“You said not to until you deserve it,” Molly retorted in a low voice.

“I don't deserve it yet.”

“No, you don't.” And she leaned in and kissed him.

His lips were soft, and he tasted like the whisky he'd been drinking. Molly put a hand to his cheek, feeling the sandpaper-y growth of beard, and his arm snaked around her waist, pulling her tighter against him until she was nearly in his lap, all the while kissing her as if his life depended on her response.

Belatedly Molly remembered they were in public, and there were still a few people in the pub. She broke away, glancing around, and relaxed a bit when no one seemed to be paying them any attention.

Fitz's arm was still holding her up against him, and his eyes hadn't left her face.

“What was that for?” he asked in a whisper.

“I-I don't know.” She didn't move to pull away from him, though she knew she should. She wasn't ready yet to let go of the feel of being in his arms, so close she could feel his heart pounding. Her head was spinning, and she knew it wasn't from the liquor.

What the hell had she done? She hadn't meant to kiss him. She hadn't even thought. Kissing him had felt as natural and as necessary as breathing.

“Dammit,” she whispered, and Fitz's hold on her loosened, but his eyes never left hers, their dark gaze warming her to her toes, better than firewhisky. She sat back down and grabbed her drink, downing it in one swallow, but the cool whisky didn't help. “I should go home. It's getting late and I need to sober up.”

“Sobering up is always a mistake. You'll start overthinking again.”

“I overthink everything. It's one of my charms.” She needed to get away from him so she could start overthinking what had just happened between them. “Night, Fitz.”

“Night, Molly.”

She could feel his eyes on her as she walked out, and once she was outside in the cold night air, she stared up at the stars and tried to make her lungs draw a full breath again. The world felt unsteady, and she wasn't sure if it was from the alcohol, the kiss, or maybe both.

She was too drunk to Apparate, so she walked home, hoping it would sober her up and make things clearer. Maybe in the morning she'd wake up and this day wouldn't have happened at all. Just a dream.

The taste of his kiss was still on her lips, and she didn't want that to be just a dream.


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