Chapter 3 : hold my hand?
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[Charlie and Mellie]
It was midday when Charlie Weasley stumbled into the kitchen. Max had gone to work, and dropped Jess off at HQ to pick her car back up. She said she was coming back, but I didn’t doubt she was seriously debating leaving me with Charlie so we could have ‘some time to ourselves’, as she not-so-subtly implied.
“Good morning!” I said chirpily as he collapsed into a seat. He cradled his head in his hands.
“Merlin’s beard, please do not speak that loudly,” he moaned.
“Bacon and eggs?” I trilled. “Lovely fried bacon and eggs with lots of grease and fat and-”
“I will hurl all over your table, Melanie,” he interrupted.
“The bathroom is the first on the right,” I said, indicating down the corridor. “And only my grandmother and Violet call me Melanie,” I said.
“Fine. Mellie. Mel. Annie,” he said, burying his face in his arms. He didn’t seem to be in a very good mood this morning. “Got any coffee? Black? No sugar,” he added.
I flicked the kettle on, and got him a mug out the cupboards, watching him. He lifted his head off the table.
“Hang on a second,” he said.
I raised my eyebrow, and waited.
“Why am I here?” he asked suddenly. “How did I get here? What?”
I grinned, enjoying his confusion perhaps a little more than I should. “Marty brought you here, at half one in the morning,” I said, spooning coffee into his mug. “Apparently the Leaky was full, and your mother was not an option.”
His eyes widened. “Definitely not an option.”
“As to how you got completely legless, I have no clue. Who are McGonagall and Dumbledore?”
He rumpled his hair. “Teachers from my school.”
“Ahh right. Funky names.”
He smiled. “Yeah, I suppose they are.”
“So,” I said, drawing out the vowel. “How did you end up rat-faced?”
He scrunched up his freckled nose, thinking. He didn’t have many freckles really, just a light spattering of sunspots. Freckles are cute.
“I was at the cinema,” he said slowly. “And then we went to a pub, and then we went out for a meal, and then we went to a pub again?” he trailed off, and I set his cup of coffee down.
“Careful, it’s hot,” I warned.
He took it gratefully, inhaling the rich, burnt smell. “That’s good,” he said. “Erm, and then I think we went back to Violet’s hotel, and at some point I decided I’d had too much to drink, so I asked this short woman to take me home, and she sniffed at me and then I woke up here.”
“Rebecca,” I told him. “She’s Violet’s PA and she’s evil.”
He half-nodded, gulping his coffee down. Then his face dropped. “I’m going to hurl,” he said, getting up from the table and lurching down the corridor.
“On the right!” I called after him, allowing myself a chuckle. My mobile rang, and I picked it up, checking the display.
“What’s your excuse for not coming back then, Jessie?” I asked playfully, but she wasn’t in the mood.
“The papers,” she said. “Have you seen them yet?”
“What’s the matter?”
“Only the first three pages dedicated to Violet and her mystery man,” Jess said. “Violet’s gone and called a press conference, and apparently she’s got one hell of a hang-over.”
“Christ,” I said. “Is she having a tizz?”
I can’t deny that this was slightly funny.
“The tizz to end all tizzes,” Jess said. I could practically hear her rolling her eyes. “This tizz is major, and I’ve got to go make her pretty.”
“Good luck,” I said with feeling.
“I’ll need more than bloody luck,” she said angrily. “When that moron gets up” -I assumed she was talking about Charlie- “punch him from me.”
She sighed. “I was supposed to have a day off today! Tomorrow is going to be hell as well.” Jessie whined. “Anyway, I’ll see you later.”
“Bye!” I said, cutting the call. I walked over to the bathroom, and tentatively knocked on the door.
“What?” Charlie groaned.
“I’m just going out, I won’t be five minutes. Don’t leave the house, alright?”
“Because that’s likely,” he muttered, and I heard him retch again.
I grabbed my purse and a coat, walking out the flat. Honestly, summer in Britain. Thank God we were flying out tomorrow. I shut the door with a bang behind me. I have absolutely no sympathy for Charlie Weasley. At all. Not a single drop. Honestly.
There was a paper shop around the corner from the flats, so I ran, skirting the puddles, and one hand holding my hood down. I ducked inside, and threw off my hood, sending water everywhere- and saw Charlie and Violet on the front of every paper, locked in an amorous embrace.
Crikey. No wonder Violet’s called a press conference.
I grabbed a selection of papers and quickly paid. The old grizzly guy at the counter looked at me judgingly for buying gossip rags, so I put the change in the jar for charities and smiled at him before disappearing into the rain again. I let myself back in the house to see Marty busy by the kettle, and Charlie nursing his second cup of coffee.
“Did Charlie let you in?” I asked.
“Let myself in,” he said, sounding quite blasé. I’m pretty sure that is classed as breaking and entering. “Do you want a cuppa?”
I shook my head. I’m not sure I like my house (alright, Max’s house) being invaded by people. It was quite small without being filled with men. I chucked the papers down on the kitchen table.
“Charlie, you made the front page!” I said cheerfully.
He picked up a paper, and looked at the photo for one long second. “I’m gonna be sick again,” he managed, before stumbling back down the hall.
Neither Marty nor I could resist a chuckle as we watched him.
“Anyway,” he said, “I have to go.”
“I only came round to drop those off for Charlie,” he said, indicating an envelope on the table. I picked it up and checked the contents.
“Why has Charlie got the seat next to me on the plane?” I asked.
“Because I do not like Violet,” he said. “Don’t ask stupid questions, Mellie.”
“There’s no such thing as stupid questions, just stupid answers,” I retorted. “You’re going to lose me my job if this carries on.”
He clapped me on the back. “Not intentionally.”
“Anyway, can you make sure Charlie’s packed and ready for the flight tomorrow?” Marty asked, grabbing his coat and one of Max’s hats, and opening the door. It was still bucketing down outside.
“Since when did I become Charlie’s keeper?” I asked indignantly.
“Thanks for volunteering!” he called, as he walked off down the street.
I shut the door on him angrily. Stupid Marty; stupid, stupid, annoying, interfering Marty. That was the last time I ever go to him for help, I promised myself. Jess was right.
Charlie staggered back into the kitchen. “Marty’s gone already?”
“Yes,” I said curtly.
“Are you mad at me?” he asked.
“No, I’m not mad at you, but you’ve made an arse out of yourself. I’m not mad at you,” I told him, leaning against the counter. I was lying. I thought it was fairly funny, but I was also pretty angry. What did he think he was doing?
“Yeah, I know.” He sighed. “It’s just...”
I raised my eyebrows, prompting. An explanation? Well, this should be good.
“Violet’s just so great, you know? I mean, she talks too much and she makes terrible jokes and she’s pushy, but she’s pretty and she’s funny when she doesn’t try, and she’s really clever and insecure and she’s really passionate about her job, you know?”
I’m passionate about my job, I thought mulishly.
“And besides, I really think she likes me.”
Right. This required investigation.
I was outside Rebecca’s flat, waiting in my car like would-be kidnapper. As soon as I saw her, I would pounce- and not in a kidnapper-y sort of way, I swear. In an interrogation-y sort of way.
I’d dropped Charlie off on Charing Cross Road to pick up all his stuff, and I’d promised to pick him back up in a couple of hours so I could help him sort out what he needed for Austria.
In the meantime, I was being a detective, detecting and stuff.
I nearly missed Rebecca though- I was just finishing my coffee and was playing with the plastic cup when I saw her walking down the street. I quickly grabbed my stuff and half-slid, half-fell out of the car.
“Rebecca!” I called, running up behind her.
She turned, and saw me. Her face dropped like a stone, and she scowled at me. Her dimples showed even with her face contorted- no wonder she managed to convince everyone she was adorable.
She wasn’t, she was like the devil incarnate, and her handbag was lethal. She ignored me and walked away, but I fell into step with her. “So.”
She sped up slightly, her short legs pumping. I sped up as well, keeping pace easily.
“So what?” she snapped, staring ahead like I wasn’t even there.
“So, what happened yesterday?” I asked. I expected some resistance, but I would never give up. However, eventually she’d get annoyed and break.
She didn’t reply. I carried on walking with her. “Come on, Becky!”
She scowled. She hated any variations of her name.
“Becky. Becky, Becky, Becky.”
“It’s Rebecca,” she snapped finally.
“Becky, you know I will just follow you around all day until you tell me,” I said, grinning. I won’t deny this wasn’t fun.
“Don’t you have something better to do?”
I shook my head, my grin bigger than a boomerang. “Nope.”
“You’re a layabout,” she said. “And a waste of space.”
I put my hand over my heart. “You cut me deep, Becky.”
“It’s Rebecca,” she hissed through her teeth. She stopped at a zebra crossing and I took the opportunity to link arms with her.
“Please, Becky darling?”
She gave me a glare so intense I thought she was actually going to hit me. But instead she merely pulled her arm away from mine.
Well. That took a surprisingly short amount of time. I had expected to have to follow her until at least midday.
“Great!” I said enthusiastically, putting my arm around her shoulders and steering her into the nearest coffee shop. I sat her down, and ordered two large hot chocolates with extra marshmallows and whipped cream.
Rebecca looked revolted when I set them down. “I’m on a non-dairy diet,” she snapped.
“Which is why you’ve got those white spots on your nails,” I told her. I have had it with people on diets. “Drink up and tell me everything.”
She reluctantly pulled her mug closer to her. “How do you even know about this?” she asked sullenly.
I rolled my eyes. “Oh please. It’s all over the papers.” And Charlie stayed at my house last night, I added in my head. But I don’t think Rebecca really needed to know that.
“Well, Violet and Charlie turned up at the hotel at midnight last night, and they were both very drunk-”
I held up a finger. “Violet doesn’t drink.”
It was one of the most annoying things about her. She didn’t have any vices. Apart from being a moody, controlling, self-absorbed cow, she didn’t smoke, drink- she’s never even got so much as a speeding ticket.
Rebecca rolled her eyes. “I know that. But with this Charlie Weasley, she drank. They turned up at the hotel, and Violet was making a complete fool of herself. I managed to get them up to her hotel room and out of the way of the reporters, but not before they created a scene in the lobby.”
“They kissed?” I prompted.
“If you could call it that. Violet fell at Charlie, and he caught her –it was a miracle he didn’t fall over- and then they kind of mashed themselves together.” Rebecca’s plump lips pursed in disapproval of the pair.
“So it was only a drunken kiss?”
“What does it matter? A kiss is a kiss, and it still looks bad for Violet, whether it meant anything romantically or not.” She sighed. “Worse still, Violet wants to see Charlie again. She passed out just after Charlie tried to get me to take him home. I called the first number in his phone, and a man called Martin came to pick him up.”
“Violet wants to see Charlie again?” I said, sipping my hot chocolate nonchalantly.
“Don’t worry, it’s too bad for her image. I’m actually on my way to a meeting with one of the minor royals- if I can get him to visit Austria with us, then Violet will probably get distracted enough to forget about Charlie.”
I frowned. “That’s a little mean, don’t you think?”
“Don’t lecture me on morals,” Rebecca snapped. “I know that Charlie stayed with you last night, and I know that you like him.”
She stood up, shouldering her bag. “Well, you can have him. You’ll probably be fired, but you’ll be doing me a favour. Keep him away from Violet.”
She stalked out, and I was left sitting there, astonished.
“Oh come on, Charlie!” I said exasperated. “We’ve got quarter of an hour before the flight!”
“I am not getting on one of those things!”
I crossed my arms. I had been arguing, persuading, enticing- now I was just plain frustrated. It had all been fine until we’d checked in our luggage and gone to duty-free to wait. And then he’d looked out the window, seen the planes, and refused to move another inch. I was pretty close to leaving him, and Jess wasn’t too impressed with him either.
“How did you think we were going to get there? Broomsticks? A flying carpet? Man up and get on the plane.”
He scowled. I think I had hit a nerve, so I carried on.
“Big buff Charlie Weasley,” I said mockingly, “scared of getting on a plane.”
He raised an eyebrow. “I’m buff?”
Crap. Thankfully, Jess jumped in and rescued me.
“There are three year olds making less fuss than you. A grown man, terrified of getting on a plane.” Jess pulled out her phone. “I think I’m just going to call Marty and tell him you’re unemployed again, because you’re a scaredy-cat.”
“Or his brothers. Don’t you have a pile of brothers?” I asked. When helping Charlie pack yesterday, I had seen a photo of his family in Egypt. “They’d get on a plane.”
Charlie scowled at me. “Only because they’d think that dying in a big white thing is hilarious.”
The tannoy sounded, and a metallic voice rang out. “This is the final call for the flight to Vienna, Austria. This is the final call.”
I grabbed Jess’ arm. “Come on, we’re getting on the plane. We’ll see you when we get back, Charlie.”
“CHICKEN!” Jess yelled over her shoulder, as ever, unable to resist a parting shot.
We were just finding our seats when Charlie appeared behind us, panting. “Trust me,” he said. “I’d rather fly to Austria on a broomstick.”
An hour into the in-flight movie, we had finally managed to calm down Charlie, although I was dreading landing with him. Earlier, he had asked a flight attendant to demonstrate how the seat belt worked- several times. Jess and I had pretended we didn’t know him. Now Jess was asleep on my shoulder, and the water in my cup was quivering. I tried to nudge her, but she slept on, her mouth stretched wide open.
“Charlie?” I asked.
He looked at me blankly, and mouthed; “what?”
I pulled his earphones out for him. “Will you hold my hand?”
“Hold my hand?” I said, cringing at how pathetic I sounded.
He took my proffered hand gingerly. His palm was warm and rough. “Why?” he asked.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are experiencing some slight turbulence. If you could please return to your seats and fasten your seatbelts until the seatbelt light goes off?”
I grabbed my belt and secured it with one hand.
“You’re scared of the turbulence?” His wide mouth quirked up into a smile.
I nodded, not trusting myself to speak without squealing or making a similarly awful noise.
“And yet you called me a chicken for not wanting to get on the plane.”
“Hey!” I protested quietly. “I got on the plane without any fuss. I just hate storms.”
“Chicken,” he said under his breath.
I scowled at him. “If this plane goes down, it’ll be because of a storm, so you can shut up.” The plane shook violently, and I clenched Charlie’s hand hard.
“Ow!” he said. “Hey, do you think if we got everyone to run across the aisles at the same time we could get the plane to do a roll?”
I fixed him with a death stare. “You’re so not funny.”
He clearly disagreed, I could see another smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “Why don’t you try to go to sleep? Then we’ll be there before you know it.” As he spoke, he was fiddling with something wedged in his seatbelt.
“I’ll have dreams about earthquakes and storms,” I said, but I was half-joking. “So, what did you do before you were an expert?” I asked, trying to take my mind off the plane.
He considered my question. “I worked with... exotic animals,” he said finally.
“Like in a zoo?” I asked, yawning suddenly.
“More of a reserve,” he said. “It’s in Romania.”
“Why did you leave?” I asked, gripping Charlie’s hand tightly as another tremor rocked the plane.
“To broaden my horizons, meet new people, learn the ways of Muggles,” he said with a short laugh. “My dad’s going to faint when I tell him about aeroplanes.”
I looked up at him, sleepiness half-forgotten. “What?”
He sighed. “Never mind. What about you, Mellie?” he asked.
“Did you always want to be a stunt double, or did you fall into the job as you were a natural daredevil?” he asked. “Who is scared of storms,” he added, and I elbowed him.
“I wanted to be an actress,” I confessed. “But it’s hard to break out and get lucky, so you take all the jobs you get. I was nineteen and doing a bit part on a film about racing where all I had to do was crash my motorbike, and then walk away, and someone from casting noticed me and asked what other stunts I was prepared to do. And then I did some training and it kind of spiralled and I met Violet two years ago, and then the rest is history.”
“Do you think you’ll make it big as an actress? End up rivalling Violet?” he said.
I cracked an eye open. “Is this an interview?”
Charlie held an imaginary microphone and adopted an enthusiastic voice. “I’m here, the most senior reporter of the Prophet, interviewing the beautiful, talented actress-to-be that is Melanie Thompson. So, Melanie, do you think you’ll make it big as an actress? Or are you going to stay with Violet?”
I answered with my eyes shut. “I hope so, but Violet’s good to work for, because her films usually bring in a lot of money.” I sighed. “I’ve got a secure job with her, and although it’s not what I wanted, it’s fun. But still, you can dream, right?”
“I suppose,” he said, dropping the reporter persona.
“The future is the future,” I said, feeling drowsier and drowsier. Seriously, where did this sleepiness come from? “Who knows what’s around the corner?”
The next thing I knew, Charlie was shaking my shoulder. “Wake up, sleepy,” he said. “We’ve just landed.”
I groggily sat up. I’d fallen asleep on top of Jess. I gave her a hard nudge, and she stirred slightly. Jess slept like the dead, and it was highly annoying.
“Jess! Wake up! JESS!” I shouted in her ear.
“You could always leave her on the plane,” Charlie suggested.
A half-asleep Jess gave Charlie the finger. “You’re mean,” she said, yawning.
Once we’d gone through security and got our luggage, it was just past midday.
“I could eat a cow,” said Jess.
“You’re on a diet and you’re a vegetarian,” I said back, making a beeline for the rental car people. Hopefully the studios had ordered me something sporty.
“There’s a man over there, with a card with my name on,” he said.
I looked over. A very crisp and professional looking man stood looking out over the arrivals, holding up a placard which clearly said ‘Weasley’.
Violet. I could have hissed. “It’ll be for someone else,” I said, looking innocent, but feeling evil. Marty asked me to keep them apart, I reminded myself. This was all for Charlie’s own good.
“The name Weasley is really common in Austria,” Jess chipped in, leaning over my arm to look at the list. She punched me.
“You have a serious abusive problem,” I told her, rubbing my shoulders.
“We have got convertibles,” she said, pointing.
I may, or may have not done a little dance. All right- a loud, boisterous dance. The car people may also have laughed at me.
“It’s raining,” pointed out Charlie.
Jess grabbed her keys, her wheelie suitcase and tore off in search of her car. I followed at a slightly more leisurely pace.
“Why aren’t you running?” he asked.
“I drive better than Jessie does. I’ll still beat her in a race.”
Charlie stopped dead. “I did not just survive a death trap in the air to be killed on the roads.”
I stuck my tongue out. “Relax, I’m not that bad.”
“You seriously overestimate yourself,” he said under his breath, so I threw my keys at him. He caught them easily.
“I am brilliant at catching stuff,” he said smugly. “Especially small glittery things.”
I held out my hand. “Give me them back.”
He shook his head. “Not in a month of Sundays.”
“I’ll fight you for them.”
Unfortunately, Charlie didn’t get to finish his sentence, as I rugby-tackled him around the middle. I didn’t quite manage to knock him over, but I distracted him long enough that I could snatch my keys back.
“You are deceptively strong,” he said, getting his breath back. I was crying, I was laughing so much. The expression on his face was priceless.
“Also, that’s not fair, because I can’t do that to you.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Are you kidding me? You’d have to catch me first!”
He got a strange glint in his eye, and I quickly grabbed my suitcase.
“That was not a challenge!” I half-screamed, running away from him as fast as I could, and praying he wouldn’t actually catch up with me.
Okay, so maybe I liked Charlie Weasley a little bit.
A/N: another update! I'd love you to tell me how I'm doing- the lack of death and destruction is uncharted territory for me. Thank you!
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