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The New Pride of Portree by momotwins
Chapter 22 : An Off Day
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 11


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One night stretched into two, much to Fitz's eternal gratitude. They'd slept late on Saturday, then spent the day hiking a deserted mountain trail populated only by sheep, stealing an hour behind a copse of trees before returning to Fitz's flat and falling into bed together. Neither one had wanted to risk going out into town for dinner, so they'd stayed in and cooked together, then christened the kitchen counter. That night, she climbed into his bed without hesitation, despite it being past the single night together she'd agreed on. On Sunday, the rain rolled in, growing steadily darker and stormier as the day wore on, and they sat behind an Impervious Charm that Molly conjured, watching the storm.

He'd thought he would have to beg her to stay with him, but instead she'd seemed unwilling to leave. When they'd agreed in his office that they would only have one night before returning to work and professionalism, Fitz had expected to be the one who didn't want to let her go. He was greatly enjoying the turnabout that she apparently had no intention of leaving his side until he made her go.

“We're not going to be able to train tomorrow if this keeps up,” Molly remarked between the deep rolls of thunder.

Fitz watched a bolt of lightning crack in the distance over the water. The storm was squatting over Portree as if it had nothing better to do, without enough wind to push it along. He smiled. “Jinks won't fly when there's lightning. He had it in his contract.”

“I don't have that in my contract,” Molly said thoughtfully. “I read it quite thoroughly before I signed it.”

“You should add a codicil.”

She smiled at him. “If it's thundering like this tomorrow, we don't have to go to the pitch.”

Fitz looked over at her with a grin. “Are you talking yourself into staying a bit longer?”

She blushed, and that made him laugh.

“You can stay as long as you like. I'll owl McCormack and tell her I quit, and then you can stay forever,” he offered.

“Stop that,” she chided him. “You're not quitting. I know we said one night, but I'm not quite ready to leave. I don't like to think how long it might be before I can come back over.”

“True.” He didn't like to think how long that might be either. Bloody McCormack.

“Are you going to throw me out?” Molly asked, somewhere between flirtatious and challenging.

He grinned at her. “Never. Why don't you stay again tonight? We'll just pretend the rain kept you trapped.”

“The rain is absolutely keeping me trapped,” she said quite seriously. “I simply can't Apparate home in this.”

He shook his head, enjoying her reasoning. “Absolutely not. Wouldn't be safe.”

“In fact,” Molly went on, “I'm not sure the balcony is safe either. I think we should go back to your bed.”

“Safety first,” Fitz agreed, reaching out to take her hand.

On Monday afternoon, the storm showed signs of breaking, and it became readily apparent that their time together was going to have to end. By the time night had fallen, the storm was wearing down into a steady drizzle, and it had been hours since the last bolt of lightning. Since Molly still didn't seem to want to go, it occurred to Fitz that it was probably his turn to be the one with some self-control and do the last thing he wanted to do: make her leave.

This was especially difficult to do when she was lying on his bed in nothing but the underwear she'd said she didn't wear, her hair spread out on his pillow, reading a book she'd purloined from his shelves about the history of the Quidditch World Cup. She hadn't put clothes on all day, probably to try to prevent him from telling her to go home.

He stretched out beside her and plucked the book from her hands. “Molly, it's eight o'clock. We've got to be on the pitch tomorrow at seven.”

She let out a loud sigh and turned onto her side to face him. “I know, I'm just enjoying relaxing here. I like your bed better than mine.”

“I like it better with you in it. But you know it's time.”

“I don't want to leave.” She stroked her fingertips down his chest, her nails scratching gently at him.

“You have to,” he said gently. “We have to work tomorrow. I don't want you to leave either, but this is what we agreed.”

“We've agreed to this sort of thing before,” she pointed out. “And we were complete crap at sticking to it.”

This was very true. Trying to be professional had been a total cock-up, as both of them had utterly failed to control themselves. “This time, we'll just agree no physical relationship until we work something out with McCormack. I can still tell you I love you every day. But no coming in my office and tempting me, cause I can't resist you.”

Molly's fingers traced their way down to his stomach. “I noticed. You weren't any better at keeping your hands off me than I was keeping mine off you.”

“We won't be alone together if we can help it. I'm not saying it'll be easy. But you agreed to this plan.”

“I know.”

He hated to hear the dejection in her voice. “If you'd rather, I can owl McCormack right now-” He made as if to get up, and she pulled him back to her. He drew her close again, his good arm around her waist.

“No, I don't want you to do that.” She burrowed into him, kissing his neck, and he turned so his face was buried in her hair, inhaling the clean, floral scent of her. “Just... One more time, and then I'll go.”

“One more for the road.” His breath fluttered against her neck as he spoke, making her shiver.

“One last time, and then we're done until we work something out above-board.”

His arm tightened around her waist. “We better make it a good one, then.”

*

Wednesday morning saw Fitz at the pitch at dawn to meet Hugo Weasley. The long weekend with Molly had him more ready than usual for remedial potions and spells, since he'd overworked his shoulder on more than one occasion. The pain potions he'd had in his kitchen had tided him over, but he was completely out of them now. He'd been unable to fly to coach the team on Tuesday. Getting on his broom had been too painful.

Hugo bustled into the infirmary with his usual brisk efficiency, carrying a black satchel in one hand. He was dressed in his professional robes and looked bright-eyed and alert, which was more than Fitz was feeling.

“Good morning,” Hugo said cheerfully as he set his satchel down on a chair. “And how is your shoulder this fine day?”

“You're a bloody morning person, aren't you,” Fitz grumbled. “It hurts like the blazes. I overdid a bit this weekend.”

Hugo nodded. “It's been over a month since I last saw you, so I can't say I'm surprised that you're feeling some pain. Let me have a look.”

Fitz pulled his shirt off with one hand and submitted to Hugo's prodding.

“I heard a rumour about you,” Hugo remarked as he examined Fitz's shoulder. “Normally I don't repeat league gossip, but I thought I'd check if this one was true so I can better prepare for future care of that shoulder.”

Fitz gave him a wary look. Since the man had said league gossip instead of family gossip, he was hoping Hugo hadn't got word about anything about him there. There was a whole array of things he could have heard about, from Fitz's arrest to his setting Molly into tears when they'd split up, none of which Fitz cared to discuss. “What rumour is this?”

“That Ballycastle is planning to sack their coach and hire you on to bring them up in the rankings like you did for Portree.”

Fitz blinked in surprise. That was not what he'd expected, as rumours went. Ballycastle, he thought speculatively. If they really were looking for a new coach, it could be the way out of his predicament with Molly. He did some swift mental calculations of the distance between Ballycastle and Portree. If Molly stayed and he left... He'd have to arrange for a Floo connection from Skye to Antrim or he'd only see her on weekends... But it would let them be together. Ballycastle had been top of the league twenty years ago, though now they were in the bottom three. It might be an interesting challenge to see if he could bring the Bats up to scratch.

He didn't like the thought of leaving Portree, though.

“I take it there's no comment about that?” Hugo asked mildly.

“It's news to me,” Fitz admitted. “Not bad news though, I have to say.”

“So no plans to relocate?” Hugo patted his shoulder. “Lie back, let's get started.”

“Not yet,” Fitz said as he stretched out on the exam table, “but I'll let you know if that changes.”

Ten minutes of charms and vigorously applied potions later, Hugo declared the treatment finished and allowed Fitz to sit up while he stowed a few empty vials in the black dragonskin satchel.

“You didn't seem to be in as much pain as the last time you overdid,” Hugo noted as Fitz pulled his shirt back on. “Have you been doing your physical therapy exercises regularly?”

“Every day.” He'd even managed them while Molly was at his flat. She'd watched with interest, and told him she was proud of him for sticking with it. He smiled at the memory.

Hugo didn't seem to notice that. He pulled out a clipboard and a quill from his satchel and set them on the exam table beside Fitz, then produced a measuring tape and gave it a sharp tap with his wand. The measuring tape jumped into the air and began to nudge at Fitz's arm.

“Right,” said Hugo, picking up the clipboard and quill. “Let's check your range of motion.”

To Fitz, it did not feel any different. At shoulder-height, a sharp, stabbing pain ran down his arm from the point of spell impact, just as it always had. Hugo jotted something down, looking impassive, and then drew his wand again for a few more tests, letting the measuring tape fall to the exam table and coil itself up.

Several minutes later, Hugo nodded and set his clipboard down. “I think we're seeing some encouraging results here. I don't see a change in your range of motion, but you seemed to be in less pain between treatment sessions than you've previously experienced, and I'd say you've experienced a small but measurable increase in muscle strength. Did you find that to be true?”

Fitz rubbed a hand over his chin thoughtfully. “Actually, I was just with-” He caught himself just before saying Molly and replaced it with, “... someone, and I was able to hold her entire weight. Supported a bit by the wall, too, I suppose.”

Hugo took this in stride and only nodded. “That's excellent. Did you feel any pain in your arm afterward?”

“It was sore, but not as bad as I would've expected. I drank a pain potion when we got back to my place, but it was only aching, not serious pain. A seven rather than a ten, if I had to rate it. And she must weigh-”

“Fifty-eight kilos?” Hugo supplied mildly.

That sounded like exactly what Molly weighed, which Hugo probably knew from reading her medical file as a League Healer. Fitz tried not to let anything show on his face. “Uh, yeah. But I held her. And I wasn't laid up in agony afterward. That's good, right? This Muggle stuff is working.”

The sense of relief that he was finally improving was so profound that he didn't even care that Hugo probably knew that his cousin had been having sex with her coach.

“It does seem to be helping,” Hugo agreed. He pulled out a notebook and started scribbling something down. “I'll see if I can find more for you, step things up. I have a Muggle colleague I've been corresponding with...”

Fitz listened with half an ear while the Healer talked about Muggle doctors and treatment plans, but his mind couldn't focus entirely. His shoulder was responding. Less pain, more strength. Maybe the range of motion would come back as well. The future that had been stolen from him swam in his mind's eye, hazy and indistinct, tempting him.

Maybe he could fly properly again. Maybe he could play, even if it wasn't professionally. He could do a Sloth-grip Roll again, and match Molly on her trick flights. Movement in his shoulder. Nights not spent wracked with pain because he'd attempted to use his arm as he used to.

He wanted to laugh with relief. He wished now that Molly was with him to hear this. It was working, this Muggle stuff.

“It's really working,” he said when Hugo had finished describing his contact with the Muggles. “I could get better?”

“Don't get ahead of yourself,” Hugo said sternly. “You've seen a small improvement, and while this is a hopeful sign, it's not a promise of delivery. Even if your arm continues to improve, you'll never be back to your old one hundred percent, not with the amount of damage you've had to the muscle tissue and the joint. But I think we can get you to seventy, even eighty percent, with time and hard work.”

The hazy light of possibility snuffed out abruptly, reality intruding viciously into his half-formed dreams of regaining full use of his arm. Seventy or eighty percent. Not a hundred. “Seventy percent,” he repeated numbly.

Hugo's face kept its professional mien, but his eyes turned to something resembling pity. “I'm sorry if you misunderstood the end game here. You've been told several times by several Healers that you were never going to regain your former capacity.”

“I know that,” Fitz snapped. “I thought- Nevermind. Seventy percent is better than forty or fifty, yeah?”

“It is that.” Hugo's voice was kind, but he kept the sympathy to himself, for which Fitz was grateful.

He left the infirmary with his hands in his pockets, and made it to his office, closing the door behind him, before he let himself indulge in a round of deeply felt profanity.

It didn't make him feel any better.

*

Molly missed a penalty shot from Zara by a fingertip and swore at the Quaffle as it fell. Bram flew past underneath her and caught it. “Dammit. Arsing bloody piece of-”

Weasley!” came Fitz's familiar bark. “Pay attention, goddammit!”

She scowled down at him, but she blocked the next throw from the Chasers. He'd been prickly all day, yelling at the team for even the smallest mistake, whether it was obvious they knew they'd done it or not. She didn't know what had set him off today, since yesterday he'd been perfectly well-behaved on the pitch, only doing the usual amount of shouting and stomping around in a temper.

Today, something was wrong.

When he finally whistled to the team to land, Molly was exhausted and feeling out of temper herself. She had a strong urge to kick him as she landed beside Jinks and let her broom fall to the grass. Fitz was standing nearby, leaning against his broom.

“Not your best work today,” he told her, and she gave him an ugly look.

“Nor yours.”

He scowled and ignored that barb to start in on the Beaters. After he'd chewed them out as well as the Chasers, Duff and Declan headed for the lockers, looking unperturbed. The reserve players followed them. Mariah threw a look of annoyance at her ex-husband as she left the field. His criticism of her flying had been particularly harsh.

Whatever had happened between yesterday and this morning, he was taking it out on the team. Molly interrupted him as he was telling Jinks off for flying his search pattern too slowly, since he was starting to repeat himself and Jinks looked like he wasn't paying any attention anyway.

“We've got it, Coach. Just an off day. Can we hit the showers now? We're dead on our feet here.”

Beathan gave her a grateful look, but Fitz's dark brows drew together.

“You were no better,” he snapped. “Paying more attention to the Bludgers than you were to the Quaffle-”

“I was not,” she said hotly. “You're in a temper and taking it out on the lot of us-”

His face flushed a dark red. “I am not in a temper.”

“Uh, I think you are,” Sid mumbled, but Fitz's attention was entirely focused on Molly, and she wasn't even sure he'd heard Sid.

“You were already angry when you set foot on the field, I could tell-”

He kicked at the grass, his broom still in hand. “That has nothing to do with your shoddy effing playing-”

“It was not shoddy,” she said loudly.

“It bloody well was, so get your ass together, because we don't have anyone to cover for you if you get hurt by a stray Bludger.”

“I thought I was paying too much attention to the Bludgers?” she snapped back.

“Your job is to block the hoops and not get knocked off your bloody goddamn stupid broom,” he retorted.

The urge to kick him soundly rose again, and Molly tamped it down with difficulty. “And I'm bloody well doing it, too, so you can stop screaming at me and calling it coaching.”

His hands tightened around the broom handle, changing his grip, and the image of him smashing his broom against the ground flashed across her memory. “Control your temper,” she ordered him sharply.

He looked angrier than ever at that. “Don't micromanage me, goddammit-”

“Don't you dare smash that broom, Riordan, I swear to God-”

He took the broom by the handle and, with his good arm, flung it with all his strength, stepping into the swing and sending it end over end halfway across the field, then stormed off to his office while Molly stamped her foot in a fit of temper, severely tempted to hex him with a Bat-Bogey Curse.

Belatedly she recalled that half the team was still there, watching the scene unfold, and turned to them, feeling a blush crawl up her face as her anger began to drain away.

Sid and Beathan were sitting cross-legged on the ground, watching with every appearance of enjoying themselves. Zara was leaning against Jinks, her head resting on his shoulder.

“You know,” she said, “you really should just get over yourselves and be together.”

Molly's heart skipped a beat. “Wh-what?”

Zara gave her a meaningful look. Molly tried to make herself breathe normally around the sudden panic. How the hell did she know about them?

“McCormack would fire one of us,” she managed, but Zara only snorted.

“Nah, she won't,” Jinks said. “I like you two together. You should be in love.”

“Does everyone know?” Molly hissed at Zara.

She seemed to consider it. “Well, Beathan and Sid, obviously, and Bram, and Mariah too. I don't think Duff and Declan have noticed, but those two wouldn't notice a troll if it sat on their heads. Not sure about Deimos, he doesn't talk much, does he?”

“Oh my God,” Molly mumbled, covering her eyes with one hand.

Jinks put a comforting hand on her shoulder. “No one cares, Molly. We're winning. You could start playing nude and no one would mind. In fact, I recommend it. We should all play nude. Here, I'll start-”

“Shut up, Jinks,” Zara said, grabbing his hand to stop him before he could pull his shirt off.

“How long have you known?” Molly asked, not sure to whom she was directing the question.

Zara rolled her eyes. “Since the retreat.”

“I knew before that,” Jinks bragged. “I could just tell. Wasn't sure you were doing it yet, but you were definitely arse over teakettle for each other.”

Molly thought of all the times Jinks had been unintentionally helpful – sleeping late at the retreat so she and Fitz weren't the last ones down, distracting Fitz when Rakes had tried to taunt him at the Falcons' pitch, being a distraction in general, even worrying about her when Fitz had chucked her – and wondered if maybe it had been intentional after all.

“Maybe you can stomp that temper out of him,” Beathan called over to them.

But the other three all shook their heads.

“Nah,” said Sid. “He wouldn't be the same without it.”

“Maybe stomp a little of it,” admitted Zara. “But not completely.”

“I think he might burst a blood vessel if he couldn't scream at us.” Jinks grinned. “Being an arsehole is probably all that's keeping him from a major coronary.”

“Maybe you could de-stress him,” Sid suggested to Molly, wiggling his eyebrows.

She'd de-stressed him five times that weekend, but she didn't say that aloud. Something had come along and ratcheted his stress level right back up afterward.

“Seriously, nobody minds,” Zara said then, her voice more gentle now. “He seems to make you happy, and the team's doing well. You know McCormack's been over the moon about that Witch Weekly article your cousin wrote. She may let you two have at it after all.”

“I heard her in her office the other day saying that ticket sales have spiked since the article,” Jinks put in. “She was cackling a bit over the merchandising options.”

“I've never heard McCormack cackle,” said Beathan.

“Cackling,” repeated Jinks, winking at her.

“I'm going to go change and go home,” Sid said, getting to his feet and brushing the grass from his robes. “I'll see you lot tomorrow.”

Molly went to retrieve Fitz's broom while her teammates returned to the locker room, and made her way to his office without bothering to change. He was sitting at his desk with a distinctly sour expression on his face. Whatever had set him off, he was clearly not over it yet. She leaned the broom against the wall and glanced over her shoulder to see Zara and Beathan leaving the locker room. They waved to her, and after they'd gone, the building was quiet, only the sound of a clock ticking on the wall.

For a few minutes she just watched Fitz sitting there, and eventually he looked up at her.

“Go ahead, say it,” he grumbled.

Since he clearly knew he'd been an arsehole, she didn't bother to inform him of it. “What the hell was that down there?”

He groaned, putting his forehead on his desk. “I lost my temper.”

“No kidding.” She sat down on the edge of his desk. “Why?”

He stacked his hands on the desk, rested his chin on them, and stared straight ahead. “I saw your cousin Hugo this morning. I got my hopes up for this Muggle stuff, and then he told me I was never going to get past seventy or eighty percent of what I was, no matter how hard I'm working at this. It was… disappointing.”

Molly sighed. She sympathized; he wanted his full range back, and he had put more stock into the Muggle remedy than he should have. It didn’t make his loss of temper all right, but it did make it understandable. “I’m sorry, love.”

“I should have known better. I don’t have that kind of luck.” He put his head back down. “I thought my luck had changed and the universe would stop kicking me when I'm down.”

“No such thing as luck,” Molly said, though years of being a professional athlete had given her a few doubts about that. Surreptitiously, she rapped her knuckles against the wooden desk.

“Sure there is,” he mumbled, still facedown. “I’ve got you, don’t I?”

She reached out to stroke his hair, running her fingers through the thick strands, and he turned his head to look at her. She smiled down at him, resisting the urge to kiss him.

“I love you, you numpty. Now get up, go home and sleep it off. Things will look better tomorrow. And you ought to apologize to the team for that tantrum today.”

“Damned if I will,” he grumbled, but she could see capitulation in his eyes. “Not like they’ve never seen it before.”

“Nevertheless. You ought to apologize to me, too,” she added, giving him a frown.

“I really ought to.” He picked up her hand and laid a kiss on her palm, and she decided that was close enough to admitting he was sorry. “I love you too. Come home with me and let me make it up to you?”

She smiled wistfully, thinking of their weekend. “Can’t, but I wish I could.”

“I can offer you a variety of dirty deeds done to your body.” Fitz’s eyes were darkening. “And I’ll even cook you dinner.”

Her blood was heating up already just imagining it. Turning him down was harder than she wanted to admit. She steeled her resolve to behave herself. “Raincheck. You know I want to, but we agreed.”

He didn’t look entirely surprised that she’d said no. “After McCormack. Or after the season.”

The end of the season felt like ages away. She heaved a sigh. “We’re only halfway through.”

“I know. We’ll make up for lost time.” He ran a hand through his hair, leaving it mussed. “Go home before I run out of self-control. I'm dying to kiss you and drag you off to bed. Or the floor. Or the wall.”

She wished she had less of a conscience and could stay with him. She returned to the original topic, because talking about not being able to jump his bones made it worse. “I am sorry about your arm, you know. Any improvement is good, though. Seventy percent is better than fifty.”

He nodded. “Yeah. Eighty would be really good. I just… wanted a hundred.”

The mournful expression he wore made her ache to take him home and take the sadness out of his eyes. She stuck to their agreement though, and settled for coming round behind him to kiss the top of his dark head tenderly, her hands resting on his chest. He reached up to clasp her wrist, leaning into her, and for a moment she just held him, and then he released her arm and gave her a pat.

“Go home, Molly. Get some sleep. I’ll be all right.”

I’ll make sure of it, she promised him silently. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

She left, wishing she didn’t have to. He was leaning back in his chair, watching her walk off, and waved to her when she looked back at him.

*

Meghan McCormack stepped out of her office, looked down the corridor, and swiftly stepped back. She peeked her head round the door to get a second look.

There, with the bloody door wide open, was Fitzroy in his office, sitting behind his desk with an expression more morose than ever she'd seen him, his eyes closed. Molly Weasley sat on the edge of his desk, still wearing her Quidditch robes and slowly stroking his hair, and as Meghan watched, Fitz sat up, leaning back in his chair, still unaware the two of them had an audience. She couldn't make out what he was saying, though she could see his lips moving, but then Weasley moved to stand behind him, her hands on his chest, and laid a gentle kiss on top of his head. The pain and stress that always haunted Fitz's face softened as he leaned into her embrace, and Weasley's eyes closed as she held him, her expression full of regret and longing. There was nothing sexual in the touches between them, only comfort and... love.

Meghan went back into her office, closing the door silently behind her, and leaned against it, deep in thought.

That was, without a doubt, the most content she'd ever seen Riordan Fitzroy look since he'd been injured. It was also the most emotion she'd seen on Molly Weasley's face. Whatever was going on between him and Weasley, and clearly he had not stopped it entirely despite what he'd promised, it was more than a casual fling for both of them.

She'd suspected as much from his reaction when she'd chewed him out. He'd admitted to being in love, but had assured her that Molly was not. Meghan hadn't entirely bought that, and now seeing them together in his office confirmed it. Whatever they'd been up to before, it was well into love for both of them now.

She was still not sure it was a good idea for the two of them to carry on, coach and captain, when the team was only just starting to see real improvement after so many years at the bottom of the league. It gave her a distinct feeling of unease. Fitz already had an ex-wife on the team, and while a remarriage might be the thing for a while, the thought of a future divorce hanging over the Prides gave her a severe case of nerves.

Meghan strode over to the empty fireplace and grabbed a handful of Floo powder from a purple tin bearing the Prides logo. When the green flames flared up, she stepped into the empty grate and called, “Tavish Ogilvie's office!”

The room spun around her, and a moment later Tavish's office appeared in front of her. He was sitting at his desk, sorting through rolls of parchment, when she walked out of the fireplace. He smiled at the sight of her.

“Meghan,” he said warmly, getting up to kiss her briefly. “What brings you to my office today?”

She plopped onto the black leather sofa he kept under a wide window looking out onto the Montrose pitch, and he sat down beside her, draping an arm across her shoulders.

“Bit of a kerfuffle happening in Portree,” she said as she settled into the sofa. “They don't know I know about it, though.”

Tavish smiled. “We coaches don't like to let the managers know everything we're up to, you know that.”

“This is different.” And she told him what she'd seen between Fitzroy and Weasley, what she'd heard from Mariah Waldman, her confrontation with Fitz, and her reservations about how a potential relationship would affect the team.

Tavish's expression turned thoughtful as she finished her story. “Has anyone else said anything to you about the two of them? None of the other players have come to you about it, only Waldman?”

Meghan shook her head. “None of them. I reckon they don't know about it.”

“Oh, they know. The team always knows,” he assured her. “It's hard to keep a secret like that on a Quidditch team. And Fitz, I've known him since he began playing for the League. That man is not subtle. If he's in love with her, you can be sure the entire team is well aware of it.”

“Then they don't care,” Meghan mused. “Because none of them have brought it to my attention. Even Jinks, and he's in my office at least twice a month, trying for a pay raise or generally bothering me about his contract, bless him.”

“I don't know how he talked you into that lightning clause,” Tavish said. His ability to know League gossip was renowned, so she wasn't surprised he knew some of the terms of Evander Jinks's contract. “One of our Chasers heard about it and wants something similar added to his.”

“He doesn't even have to train if there's thunder,” Meghan told him with a roll of her eyes. “Hope your manager's able to hold out longer. He pestered me about that one until I gave in just to get rid of him.”

“Fitz seemed better when I saw him last month,” said Tavish, returning to topic. “When we played your team, he was in the box with me – since you didn't turn up-”

“I was busy,” she exclaimed.

“-and I noticed he seemed less depressed. He was drowning for a while there, after the attack. I was glad to see it seemed he'd gained some ground in his mental recovery.” Tavish stroked her arm absently. “He bottomed out when they told him the effects were permanent. Coming on as coach for the Prides has been good for him.”

“If you're waiting for me to thank you for suggesting it, you can bugger right off, you old goat,” Meghan said dryly.

Tavish laughed. “You should thank me. Your team's what, sixth in the League now?”

As if he didn't know the standing of every team in the British and Irish League. Meghan snorted. “You suggested I hire him as assistant coach, and yes, it was a bloody good idea.”

“If I'd known Rodan was as far gone as he turned out to be, I would have suggested Fitz for coach, not assistant. You should have muscled Rodan into retirement years ago.”

“He hid it well until the end. He was good in his day. He was coach when I was Keeper for the Prides. It's not easy to have to offload your own coach.”

“Did you know those two were still carrying on after you put the kibosh on things?”

Meghan followed his train of thought immediately, as she usually did. It was one of the things she liked best about Tavish. They approached things much the same way. “I suspected, but I wasn't sure. And they don't know I know. I haven't decided what to do about it yet.”

“So you knew, and you let them carry on anyway. I'm intrigued. From what I hear, you've been notably absent of late around Portree.” Tavish raised a shaggy eyebrow at her.

“I didn't believe him when he said Weasley didn't love him,” she admitted. “I thought I'd give them a bit of space and see how it played out. He capitulated faster than expected, but it was more the way he did it that made me wonder. It was all Molly should play and Don't sack her, sack me. He offered to resign and everything, but he never actually stood up for them, so I wasn't sure how serious it really was.”

“You got emotionally invested in the lad, didn't you.” Tavish didn't look surprised. “Can't blame you, but then, I've had an eye out for his welfare for several years now. He's had a rough go of it, ever since he married that miserable witch from Tutshill. I gave him some unsolicited advice when he was engaged, told him not to go through with it, but he was always bullheaded.”

Meghan nodded. She'd met Fitzroy a few times before he'd married Waldman, and a few times after, so she knew how poorly that relationship had turned out. Waldman had not been her first choice for the reserves, but her choices had been extremely limited when assembling the new team. She wouldn't have picked Bram Carmichael either. Though he'd turned out better than expected, Mariah Waldman had not. Whether or not her one-season contract with Portree would be renewed was something Meghan was still mulling over. She had been more than a little wary of putting Fitz and his volatile temper in close and extended proximity to his ex-wife, despite both of their assurances that they could work together, but that wasn't why she was thinking of offloading Waldman at the end of the season.

And Tavish was right, damn him. She was emotionally invested in her coach's welfare. She liked him, and she thought he had suffered long enough. Meghan did not have children of her own, and looked on the Prides rather as surrogates in that regard. Jinks, certainly, was like the youngest son who knew he could do no wrong in his mother's eye. It was why she'd given him that bloody lightning clause, though no one else had it.

Fitz was not a coddled youngest son like Jinks, though. He wouldn't have put up with coddling even if she'd thought to give it to him. He was more the sort who needed a sharp kick in the arse now and then but could turn up surprisingly sweet when he put his mind to it. She'd hated to see him so broken after his injury, the depths of depression he'd been in when told he would never fully recover.

Not being able to play because your body got old and worn out was one thing. Not being able to play because you'd been attacked and permanently debilitated was another.

He seemed better now, though. Working in Portree, drawing the Prides together as a team, it had helped him. And no doubt Molly Weasley had had something to do with his continued recovery as well.

“Must admit, I had an inkling something was going on there when I saw him at the last match,” Tavish said then. “He seemed rather taken with your Keeper. I nearly didn't recognize her without the mohawk.”

“I think they're good together, but don't repeat that,” Meghan confessed with a wink. “They seem to make each other happy. I remember when he and Mariah were married, and even before it started to go to hell, he didn't act like he does with Molly. And she's different with him, too. Always liked her. You know I had a thing for her uncle when we were in school?”

He groaned rather melodramatically. “Don't tell me that, I don't want to hear about it.”

Grinning, Meghan leaned over to kiss his scruffy cheek. “He was a damn fine Quidditch player.”

“Charlie Weasley? Yeah, I remember him. Could've played professionally if he hadn't fallen in love with dragons. The Weasleys are generally a good sort. Never met one I didn't like.”

“Molly's a good sort for certain,” Meghan agreed. “I know I've got a soft spot for Keepers because it was my old position, but I liked her quite a lot when I first met her. And she was damn good whenever Lyra Brownyard was out and she actually got to play. She didn't seem entirely happy in Holyhead. I was chuffed to steal her away from them.”

“You did a good thing with the team,” Tavish congratulated her, giving her shoulders a squeeze. “I read that Witch Weekly article, really turned up well for you lot.”

“That was Molly's cousin, wrote that article.” Meghan's eyes were gleaming now. “Since it was published, our ticket sales have gone up twenty percent. And merchandising, that's where it's really at. T-shirts and pennants and omnioculars with the team logo-”

Tavish gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Go home and cackle about your merchandising. I've got work to do here, can't spend all afternoon squawking with you.”

She grinned and used his chest to push herself up off the couch. “I'll see you Friday evening. You owe me a steak dinner in Edinburgh.”

“Do I? I think it's your turn to owe me.” He waved her off, and Meghan returned to the grate to Floo back to her own office.
 


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