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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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Hello, Reader!


You have stumbled across the first fanfiction I have written in about five years. It contains humor, fluff, romance, drama and a whole lot of Firewhiskey. I wanted to explore an era that I think is sadly ignored on HPFF--the years after the trio graduates, before most of them begin having children. I wanted to capture the essence of a very real conflict: simultaneously having great fun while growing stir-crazy, wondering what you're supposed to do with our lives, and if it's time to put down the pint glass and put on your big-girl pants.

A special thanks to caoty for beta-reading this story and putting up with my Americanisms. ♥

Onward we go!






CHAPTER ONE


The Firewhiskey goes down like petrol. I grimace unattractively, while Seamus slams his empty glass on the bar and whoops 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. I put my palm over his face and gently push him away. Though there’s really nowhere else 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? It’s all of two streets away from the Portkey that led to the pitch. So of course every witch, wizard and squib had stampeded this way, already buzzing from the overpriced beer purchased at the arena. 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 tavern still has its original frosted glass windows, stone floors and rusty chandeliers. The raw wood of the counters is stained with so much drink it almost looks intentional. Many hanging portraits have accumulated over the centuries: monks, who when tipsy stumble into the frames of can-can dancers, and photographs of rock bands that popped in over the years. A separate room contains a wall of magical dartboards and a pool table, all falling apart. Tonight though, it’s hard to see any of this with the crowd packed in.

Everyone is decked out in Kestrel team colors, in a sea of 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 standing right next to them. The tiny flames that float in jars over our heads are blurring, multiplying. I look from Dean back to Seamus, who has engaged in conversation with a pretty brunette. Very impressive, considering his entire face is painted green.

Seamus flirts with anything with a pulse. This usually excludes myself, though there have been several nights when his drunken mouth has found its way a little too close to mine. Seamus is not a womanizer; in fact he respects the hell out of women. His mum taught him better than that. I should know; we’ve spent many a weekend at her flat in Cork, after a night on the town. Mrs. Finnegan always just smiles and shakes her head on mornings we come staggering from sofas, footstools, bathroom floors, or wherever else had seemed a suitable bed, at the smell of her garlic potato pancakes. My point is that Seamus thinks highly of himself, sure, but he thinks that everybody should have high self-esteem. He claims he just likes to help women reach that goal by flirting. Not sure how much of that is true.

The brunette is slightly taller than Seamus in heels. He and I are about the same height, 5’8”, and he is extremely sensitive that he’s a bit short. Seriously. I once saw him punch a man out for saying the word “leprechaun,” though apparently he was talking about a horrible American Muggle film. He wasn’t even speaking to Seamus; in fact he was across the pub. But at the sound of that word Seamus went tearing across the room and knocked the guy out cold.

So I decide to never mention that this girl is just a hint taller than he. I try to make eye contact with him and roll my eyes at his flirting, but I’m having a hard time controlling my face. Hopefully the green and gold Ks on my cheeks are distracting people from that.

Merlin. How many Firewhiskies was that? Three in the last hour? Four? Numbers seem strange and for some reason I can only imagine them as Roman numerals. I slowly turn my head to Dean.

“Is ‘four’ in Roman numerals ‘VI’ or ‘XI?’” I yell. Well, it’s not like I’m really making an effort to speak any louder than normal to be heard. I’ve got some pipes on me, as Seamus always likes to say. My voice is the bane of his existence during hangovers.

“It’s ‘IV,’” Dean answers without questioning why the bloody hell I’m wondering that. This is why he and I are mates. He’s learned to accept my constant vocalisation of every thought that enters my head, no questions asked.

He’s diligently people-watching, though, and a bit distracted from conversation. As a portrait artist, it’s almost impossible for him to not study everyone in the room. 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.

A year after graduating Hogwarts Dean enrolled at Antiphilus Institute for Visual Art, a prestigious uni for witches and wizards. Good for the CV, bad for the bank account—he was completely skint. It was barking mad what students were required to purchase! Neither of us had decent paying jobs, so I knew exactly how he felt. Although we’d been acquaintances at Hogwarts, Dean was already in his second year of AIVA when we became close friends. That year I gave him the artist’s quill as a birthday gift. It cost me a week’s wages at my old shoddy job cleaning hotels in Diagon Alley, but it was either that or he had to drop his classes.

He and I tend to band together when we’re out with Seamus. Dean is too quiet to approach a girl unless severely intoxicated, and I put my foot in my mouth the second a cute guy comes round. When the last guy I fancied spoke to me for the first time, I choked on my own spit and had to run away, coughing. So usually Dean and I are flirtation benchwarmers, amusedly watching Seamus on the pull. It’s pretty rare that things work for him, too: when he drinks, he curses like a sailor. Apparently many girls find this off-putting.

Since Dean, Seamus and I are all equally disappointing in the romance department, we spend most of our time together. Usually we’re 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 hotel. But generally, I think Professor Flitwick would be proud. Funny how Seamus and Dean suddenly wanted to hang out all the time, when they realised I had means of watching Quidditch. At first it was a bit weird being the only girl, but then we all just got used to it. Now they fondly refer to our little triad as Fellas and Lady-Fella.
I notice suddenly that Seamus has disappeared, and so has the brunette. “That was fast work!” I shout and Dean gives an approving nod.

Although he’s fun to drink with, he grows quiet in large crowds. Soon I’m scanning the room again, this time for my best lady-mate, Lisa Turpin. It’s so rare that Lisa had even agrees to come out in the first place, what with her fulltime job at St. Mungo’s. She’s always so knackered nowadays that I rarely see her. She said she’d gone outside to meet up with her fiancé Justin, but I’m growing paranoid that she nipped into a Floo chimney and is asleep at home. She disappeared forever ago. But I have an idea of what’s taking them so long.

Justin Finch-Fletchley and Lisa Turpin have been together for approximately a century. It was weird: after barely speaking for years, they suddenly had the hots for each other 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 developing crushes, charming your skirts shorter, snogging between classes—all that bollocks taken for granted by everyone who doesn’t have an Evil Lord threatening to take over any minute. But there you have it: Lisa and Justin have been going strong since ‘98. That makes eight years. EIGHT. YEARS. He’s only just proposed last autumn and they’re already an old married couple.

But there was a short time, about three years ago, when they were broken up. I secretly refer to it as “the Golden Year,” because that’s when Lisa was back to her old self. Like how she was at Hogwarts, when two beers would send us over the edge giggling. We did that all the time in school. What? Hufflepuffs like me had the reputation of being about as exciting as a houseplant, but we threw some phenomenal parties. You probably just weren’t invited.

Anyway, after Justin dumped Lisa out of the blue (something about searching for himself?) we were back at it. Just like the old days. 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.

They were the most beautiful days of my life.

After a year apart, though, Justin showed up 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 when 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.

Justin really is not all that bad. He treats me like a little sister, sometimes in an endearing way, and we never got into brawls in the Hufflepuff common room or anything. He’s a bit sensitive, and incapable of letting things go unsaid. I have the same problem, so I can’t blame him, but we do have rows quite often. (“Edie, why didn’t you just put down the coffee mug and then check your watch?” “THANKS A FUCKING 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.”)

Really, though, Lisa could do much worse. She even fancied that Draco Malfoy guy in our Fourth Year. We all know how he turned out, even though they would have made some really pretty flaxen-haired babies. Justin can be a total hothead, and he’s made some mistakes. But he is absolutely enamoured with Lisa. And there’s only going up after fancying a future Death Eater, amiright?

Speak of the devil. Lisa and Justin are pushing their way through the crowd, their hair a bit tousled. She’s leading the way, offering me a broad smile, completely oblivious to the men that part like the Red Sea to have a proper look at her. Although she denies it, I am certain there’s some Veela blood somewhere down her family tree. It’s not even fair to the rest of us women, for her to look like that. But she’s so head-over-heels for Justin that she’s impervious to it all. Justin must notice these blokes staring, though, because he’s wearing a smug grin.

“Sorry we took so long!” she has to yell, even though she’s right in front of my face. Then she gives me this little half-smile and I roll my eyes. I knew it, they were off in some closet, canoodling.

“Lennox!” Justin claps me on the shoulder and eyes the beer in my hand. “Wow, you’re still standing?”

“You’re still carrying that man-purse?” I counter, my tongue tripping over itself. Having not actually spoken for some time, I’ve forgotten how wasted I am.

I’ve also forgotten how sensitive Justin can be. His shoulder-bag is a particularly touchy subject. Lately, he’s really been letting his big-shot Ministry Lawyer career go to his head, and has even started carrying around this leather shoulder-bag. He only got one because all the other lawyers use them, and I don’t think I’ve stopped taking the mickey out of him since day one.

Lisa pats his shoulder sympathetically as he murmurs about the bag’s efficiency with carrying important documents. She hates the thing, but she’s never said a word. What a saint. But maybe that’s why she’s engaged, and I live alone?

At least since she and Justin took the moving-in step, my life's been much more spacious. Beforehand, Lisa and I were sharing a one-bedroom flat. Cheap London living, but it certainly became awkward at times. Now, on the very rare occasion that I actually pull some poor guy too intoxicated to notice my pickup lines (“Is your father a clock-maker? Because we should fuck” seems to work), the new arrangement works itself out perfectly. But as on most days, waking on the kitchen floor with mac and cheese in my hair and my face smudged with last night's makeup, is much easier when not sharing a flat. Yet still not as glamourous as you might believe.

I notice that Lisa is wrapping her scarf around her slender neck. “No!” I whine rather embarrassingly, so that Dean shoots me a strange look. I know that she’s exhausted with working, and planning a wedding, and the Olympics-worthy romps she and Justin have. But I never get to see her!

“I’m sorry, Edie,” Lisa says. And of course she’s being genuine, because she’s the sweetest person in the world. “I’ve got to be at St. Mungo’s in…” she checks her watch, “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, and laces his fingers through Lisa’s again. She gives me that smile she always gets when looking at me, half-amusement and half-pity. “Make good decisions!” she sing-songs.
We’ve been saying that to each other since our days at Hogwarts. It started off as an ironic mantra, because of course we never did that. But ever since Lisa had the realisation that we’re both twenty-six, meaning only four years until the Big Three-Oh, she doesn’t find it funny anymore. I think she actually means it this time.

After she and Justin vanish into the crowd, I feel the creeping jealousy I get whenever he steals my best mate away. Okay, not steals. And it’s not entirely his fault. Lisa’s doing a bang-up job of turning into an old maid all by herself, in my not-so-humble opinion.

I am on the verge of beginning to sulk when, thankfully, Seamus materialises out of nowhere. 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 bar napkin, onto 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. Later, I’ll take the mick out of him for it. But right now I’m staring in horror at the three shots of Firewhiskey that have floated over to us.

“NO!” I shout as they hover in the middle of our group, mocking us.

“YES!” Seamus hands them out.

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

He throws his arms up in exasperation. “You only live once, 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. We’ve been over this, can’t you be hung over to go pick up Mr. Ward’s coffee?”

"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, where Dean has landed me an internship through one of his connections as a political cartoonist, has quite possibly the worst internship program of any Wizarding publication. But journalism is a highly competitive market, especially in London, so I took what I could get. Unfortunately what I got was Mr. Ward.

Even though he’s technically my internship advisor, Mr. Ward didn’t even know my name for the first two weeks. Now that we’ve gotten past that slight hiccup, he always calls me by my full name, Edith, even though I’ve corrected him a thousand times. (The only other Edith I’ve met was my teacher in primary school; Ms. Hamilton was unmarried, with cats and frizzy hair. Partially I do not like being called Edith because I’m pretty sure I’m headed down the same road. My great-grandmother’s name was Edith too, which is how I even got it in the first place, but I never met her. She kept shockingly young lovers and took all kinds of potions to stay looking young. She went out dancing every night, all the way up until the end. I hope this is the way I'm going but most likely it will be cats and lumpy jumpers for me.)

Although I would like being compared to my great-grandmother, there’s something horribly irritating about the way Mr. Ward draws out the “E” when he says my full name. On top of him being generally ridiculous, I haven’t learned anything of any journalistic value whatsoever. The articles run there make me want to vomit. There are so many important things happening in the world, now that everything's different. People are able to make positive, constructive changes in their lives now. But the writers of Witch Weekly turn a blind eye. How many times can a girl want to find out the right bikini for her body type? (Apparently quite often. It’s the highest-selling magazine for young witches in the UK. Which is why I am so horrified at the superfluity of their internship program.)

Just thinking about it makes me angry.

I could use a drink.

I sigh, agitated that I’ve lost against Dean and Seamus. Although to be truthful I didn’t put up a very good fight. “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. Dean and I exchange knowing smiles because 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 so sure how the last part is working out for any of us, really, but we don’t mention that. We throw back the glasses. It tastes like it always does: a mixture of shame for being twenty-six, a hybrid of unpaid intern and barkeep, with no love-life to mention, and getting sloshed at a pub virtually every night—and also the certainty of knowing that I have the best mates in the world.

Dean and Seamus are grimacing and trying to shake the buzz out of their heads. I punch my fist into the air and shout the first few lines of the Kestrels’ fight song: “God bless those fighting Kestrels, bally-ally-oh!”

Seamus and Dean immediately join in and then suddenly the whole pub is singing in drunken unison, arms slung around over shoulders. Everyone’s jumping so hard that the chandeliers are rattling, threatening to collapse. It’s amazing what kind of kinship is inspired by Quidditch. Our song ends and it’s followed by deafening cheering. Angus, the exhausted barkeep and die-hard Kestrels fan, shouts that everyone wearing green gets a free round, and the pub goes mad.

Oh yes. Tomorrow morning is going to suck.





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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