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Keep Calm and Carry On by my_voice_rising
Chapter 1 : Take Two and Call Me in the Morning
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 48


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CHAPTER ONE
(INTRODUCTION)


The Firewhiskey goes down like petrol. I grimace unattractively. Seamus slams his empty glass on the bar, whooping loudly. We congratulate each other with a stumbling high five. Then somebody is throwing their arm around my shoulders—Dean, leaning his temple against mine. His thick-rimmed glasses are tangling in my red hair, and I put my palm over his face to gently push him away. But there’s really nowhere for him to go. The pub is so crowded we’ve been bumping elbows with other Quidditch fans all night.

“Why did we think it was a good idea to head to The Poisoned Apple after the Kenmare Kestrels victory?” Dean shouts with a scowl. He doesn’t like crowds.

He’s right, though—practically the entire stadium has stampeded this way, already buzzing from overpriced Quidditch beer. I work here part-time and my manager, Angus, will usually slide us a few drinks under the table. Tonight, though, it’s far too busy for his charity.

I don’t reckon the Poisoned Apple has changed much since its opening, which a tarnished plaque claims to have been in 1484. The rusty chandeliers have never seen a Clearing Charm in their life, and the raw wood counters are stained beyond help. Many portraits have accumulated on the walls. Monks, when tipsy, stumble into the frames of Toulouse-Lautrec dancers. A separate room contains a wall of magical dartboards and one rickety pool table.

Right now it’s hard to see any of this with the crowd packed in, all decked in Kestrel green and gold. The wizard behind me sports a pointed green hat with dancing shamrocks that keeps poking me in the head. Glasses are clinking; people are shouting just to be heard by the person next to them. The tiny flames that float in jars over our heads are blurring, multiplying. I spot Seamus, who is flirting with a pretty brunette. Very impressive, considering his entire face is painted green.

“He’s found a live one,” Dean says, and I laugh louder than I need to.

It’s our little joke that Seamus will flirt with anything that has a pulse. This usually excludes me. Seamus thinks highly of himself, sure, but he thinks that everybody should have some self respect. He’s no womanizer, either. His Mum taught him better than that. (We’ve spent many a morning at her flat in Cork, after a night on the town. Mrs. Finnigan just smiles and shakes her head when we come staggering from sofas, footstools, bathroom floors, or wherever else had seemed a suitable bed, at the smell of her garlic potato pancakes.)

The brunette is slightly taller than Seamus in heels. He and I are about the same height, 5’8”, and he is extremely sensitive about that. I can't decide whether or not to mention that this girl is taller than he.

I look at Dean and try to roll my eyes, but I’m having a hard time controlling my face. Merlin. How many Firewhiskeys was that? Three? Four? Numbers are weird right now.

“Is ‘four’ in Roman numerals ‘VI’ or ‘XI?’” I bellow. Seamus visibly winces from afar. I’ve got some pipes on me, and he claims that my voice is the bane of his hung over existence.

“It’s ‘IV,’” Dean answers, not questioning what the bloody hell I’m on about. He’s long since accepted that I vocalize every thought that enters my head.

He’s diligently people-watching, though, a bit distracted from conversation. Usually he carries around a little book of parchment and a quill that draws in pencil, charcoal or coloured ink. I got it as a gift to him some time ago. Back then he was enrolled at Antiphilus Institute for Visual Art. Good for the CV, bad for the bank account—he was completely skint. It was mad what students were required to purchase! I gave him the artist’s quill as a birthday gift. It cost me a week’s wages at my shoddy job cleaning a Diagon Alley hotel, but it was either that or he had to drop his classes.

“Oooh, he’s doing the hair thing!” I say like a Quidditch commentator. Nudging Dean, I point to Seamus, who is pretending to pluck something from the pretty girl’s hair. He claims it’s a move he picked up from Muggle films. There’s a thirty percent chance it will work. The girl smiles and touches his shoulder.

“And he sticks the landing,” Dean says, impressed.

Impressive indeed. The three of us are pretty disappointing in the romance department. A hot Friday night usually means sitting at my flat, where I’ve charmed a large two-way mirror to display live Quidditch matches. (Every once in awhile the magic goes wonky and the mirror gets crossed with another, somewhere in a dodgy Knockturn Alley flat.) Funny how Seamus and Dean suddenly wanted to hang out, when they realised I had means of watching Quidditch. Now Seamus fondly refers to our little triad as Fellas and Lady-Fella.

Speaking of Seamus, he’s disappeared, and so has the brunette. “Fast work!” I say. Dean gives an approving nod. “Where’s Lisa gone?”

“I forgot she was here,” he admits. “It’s weird that she’s come out.”

“She’s probably gone out to meet Justin,” I can’t help my snarky tone.

“They’re getting married, Edie, you can’t keep her all to yourself.” I scowl and he ruffles my hair.

Lisa Turpin, my best lady-mate, rarely sees the insides of pubs these days. She’s a Mediwitch at St. Mungo’s night shifts, and is always so knackered that I rarely see her. I’ll bet she just nipped into a Floo chimney and is asleep at home with Justin.

Justin Finch-Fletchley and Lisa Turpin have been together for approximately a century. After barely speaking for years, their loins were suddenly burning for each other. It was during our second go-around at a Seventh Year. Perhaps it was that everyone finally got to have a normal school year, after Harry Potter saved the world and all. Time for crushes, charming your hemline shorter, snogging between classes—all that bollocks taken for granted by everyone who doesn’t have an Evil Lord threatening to take over. But there you have it: Lisa and Justin have been going strong since ‘98.

EIGHT. YEARS. TOGETHER.

He’s only just proposed last autumn and they’re already an old married couple.

“Maybe we could be one of those cool modern triads, and share a flat after they get married,” I say. I’m only half-joking.

Dean snorts something that sounds like “Co-dependent.”

“I miss the Golden Year, Dean.”

“I know.”

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

“You’ve told me.”

With the air of someone drunkenly reciting a Shakespearean prologue (“Two houses, both alike in dignity…”) I say, “That year she and Justin were split up, it was like things had never changed. We went out every night, stayed up until three in the morning, and went to our shoddy jobs at eight. Pot of coffee, pain-relieving potion, kip at five o’clock, pubs at eight, rinse and repeat.”

Dean is not even listening.

“They were the most beautiful days of my life,” I sigh.

After a year with no communication, Justin appeared at our flat one day with a dozen red roses. His intentions were grand, but come on, really? He had been traveling the coast of Italy, where he was exposed to poetry, which somehow opened his eyes to accepting love. As far as I’m concerned, Justin’s idea of good poetry was “Little Miss Muffet,” but Lisa was won over. She did all she could to not melt into a puddle of oestrogen as he stood on our doorstep. Then she made him really think about what he’d done for a grand total of four minutes, and that was that.

I’ve begun reciting my drunken stories of yore, a tell-tale sign that it’s time to close the tab. I vaguely gesture to the bar and Dean nods. He’s glad for a reprieve, I’m sure. I can’t help my glance over the sea of Kestrel green. Maybe Lisa really did just go home. What an old maid.

Then again, maybe it’s not okay to be spending every night in a pub as a 26 year-old.

There’s a tap on my shoulder. Lisa has arrived, looking more like she’s enjoying herself now that Justin is here. Her blue eyes are glittering, and that is not hyperbole. Lisa is one of the most stunning people in the world, and is completely oblivious to the crowd that has just parted like the Red Sea to look at her. Though she denies it, I’m certain she's got Veela relatives.

“Sorry, Justin got lost,” she shouts.

I turn and stare at him, slouching with his hands in his cloak pockets. He looks annoyed at the level of noise, “How did you possibly get lost?”

Lisa swats me. No bickering in public, her eyes warn. We’ve gone at it quite a few times. (“Edie, why didn’t you just put down the coffee mug and then check your watch?” “THANKS A LOT JUSTIN, I HADN’T THOUGHT OF THAT BUT SEEING AS HOW THERE IS HOT COFFEE ALL OVER MY LAP I REALLY APPRECIATE YOUR INSIGHT AND WILL TRY MY BEST TO AVOID THIS SITUATION IN THE FUTURE.”)

Thankfully he hasn’t heard my jibe. “Lennox!” he claps me on the shoulder, much like he would a fellow Ministry employee. He eyes my drink, “Wow, you’re still standing?”

“You’re still carrying that man-purse?” I counter, my tongue tripping over itself. His shoulder-bag is a particularly touchy subject. He only got one because all the other lawyers use them. I don’t think I’ve stopped taking the mickey out of him since day one.

Lisa pats his shoulder as he murmurs about the bag’s practical purposes. Dean comes to stand with us, nodding a hello to Justin. I notice that Lisa is wrapping her scarf around her slender neck.

No!” I whine. Dean shoots me a look. But I never get to see her!

“I’m sorry, Edie,” she says. And of course she’s being genuine, because she’s the kindest person in London. “I’ve got to be at St. Mungo’s in…” she checks her watch and sighs, “five hours.”

My mouth opens to protest. But level-headed Dean interjects, albeit with a distinct slurring of words, “Of course. See you later.”

Justin waves jovially at us, having recovered from the shoulder-bag insult. He laces his fingers through Lisa’s. She gives me the smile she always does: half amusement, half pity, “Make good decisions!” We’ve been saying it since our Hogwarts days. It started as an ironic mantra, because of course we never did that. But I think she actually means it this time. She gives me a quick hug.

“Stop by the pub tomorrow,” I say, knowing very well she won’t make it.

They turn and Apparate, the pop barely even audible. I feel jealousy creeping in. I am on the verge of sulking when, thankfully, Seamus materialises. Dean cracks a lopsided smirk; the brunette is nowhere to be found. “Well that was quick. Shot down already?”

In response Seamus flicks out a scrap of parchment, on which the girl has charmed her name. “Playing it cool, mate,” he said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. The girl's name is glittering and purple, and I think the I in Amelia is dotted with a heart.

“Wow, didn’t know Second Years were allowed in here—” my insult is cut short. I’m staring in horror at the three shots of Firewhiskey that have floated over to us. “NO!” They hover in the middle of our group, mocking us.

“YES!” Seamus passes them out.

I put my face in my palm. The room is swimming even more, and I haven’t even taken the drink yet. “Seamus, I have my internship in the morning and—”

He throws his arms up in exasperation. “Where is your respect, Edie? Kenmare just beat Flanders—Merlin spit on their graves—and you really don’t want to give them a proper celebration?” He sees my fading resilience and adds, “Besides, these were seven Sickles each.”

“And,” Dean interjects with a surprisingly logical tone, “you've done it before. You don’t exactly have to be on top of your game to make coffee runs.”

“Oi!” I punch him in the arm and he almost spills his drink. “I’m sensitive about my lack of importance!” He’s right, though. Witch Weekly has quite possibly the worst internship program of any Magical publication. Just thinking about it makes me angry.

I could use a drink.

“You two are enablers,” I point at them accusingly but I’m cracking a stupid grin which turns into a contagious laugh until we’re all doubled over. I can tell by Dean’s completely plastered expression that he has no idea what’s so funny.

Seamus raises his glass in a toast. He always does this, but we lift our glasses all the same.

“To our adulthood!” he shouts and I let out a whoop. “May we never have office jobs, may our futures be full of nights forgotten by morning, and most importantly, may we always get laid!”

Not sure how that last bit is working out, really, but we don’t mention that. We throw back the glasses. It tastes like it always does: a mixture of shame for being 26, a hybrid of unpaid intern and barkeep, with no love-life to mention, and getting sloshed at a pub virtually every night—and also certainty that I have the best mates in the world.

Dean and Seamus are grimacing and trying to shake the buzz out of their heads. Seamus punches his fist into the air, shouting the first line of the Kestrels’ fight song: “God bless those fighting Kestrels, bally-ally-oh!”

Suddenly the whole pub is singing in drunken unison, arms slung over shoulders. Everyone’s jumping so hard that the chandeliers are rattling, threatening to collapse. It’s amazing what Quidditch and Firewhiskey can do for camaraderie. Our song ends and is followed by deafening cheering. Angus, exhausted barkeep and die-hard Kestrels fan, shouts, “Everyone wearing green gets a free round!”

The pub goes mad. Oh yes. Tomorrow morning will be hell.





Author's Note:  Thank you to everyone who made it this far!  I'm really excited about this story.  It's the first comedy I've written, and also the first story I've started in about four years.  Stick with me, I promise the whole story isn't going to be Dean, Seamus and Edie slurring incoherently in a loud room.  The next chapter will be written and posted soon.

Please let me know what you think!

Edited 1.22.13


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