Like a Sucker Punch to the Gut
It might have only been my second day at Gringotts, but I was already comfortable there. I have Terra to thank for that. Initially, I was surprised at how well Terra and I got on; I expected a gruff exchange of words only when necessary, not full-blown conversations when the mood struck her about everything and nothing at all. Sometimes, she would relate a story about a previous employee whom she’d had the pleasure of firing - I winced for the poor bastards and wondered if I would ever be in that same position - and other times, she talked about her home life.
I know, I know - it’s shocking as all hell. She had been married, but her husband died in an unfortunate accident involving a dragon and three teenagers breaking into the bank; apparently a rock fell from the ceiling and crushed him. I tried not to blush (and laugh), knowing fully well that she was talking about my father’s friends and pseudo family members. I had a sneaking suspicion that Terra knew that I knew what she was talking about, but she didn’t say anything. Thankfully.
I could only imagine how awkward that would have been, but laughter always seemed to strike me at inappropriate times. Like when James got caught in the trip step, smacked his face on the steps in front of him, and knocked his two front teeth out. He had been hysterical, convinced that the school matron wouldn’t be able to fix them. All I could do was laugh. Of course, I wasn’t the only person laughing, but I was his best mate. I was supposed to tell everyone to shut the hell up and comfort him. But I didn’t, and I still don’t regret it.
A loud, buzzing sound snapped me out of my brief reverie. I slopped a considerable amount of hot tea down the front of my new robes in my surprise. “Oh, bollocks,” I muttered to myself, quickly fixing the stain with a quick flick of my wand. I was just about to take another drink when the buzz occurred again.
More tea splashed down my robes. I glared at the portrait of Patrick Kilpatrick, like it was his fault even though it obviously wasn’t. So. . .if it wasn’t the portrait and it wasn’t Terra - she wasn’t at her desk - then what in the name of Merlin’s pants was making that incessant noise?
As I mopped the tea up with a wad of napkins (I couldn’t find my wand on the mess that was my desk), the buzzing persisted until it was a continuous sound. A sound that didn’t have a source, which was more than slightly alarming. I stopped, throwing glances around the space in which Terra and I worked. There was a handful of possible places the noise was coming from. It wasn’t coming from my desk - at least, I hoped not - and it wasn’t coming from down the hall. . .so that left Terra’s unmanned - or should I say, ungoblined desk.
My curiosity now piqued, I tossed the napkins aside and hesitantly inched towards Terra’s desk. As I approached, I could hear the sounds of a muffled and thoroughly irritated voice. Even though it was muffled, it sounded very familiar.
Compared to my desk, Terra’s was impeccable. All of her papers were stacked into tidy, little piles and most of the file folders had labels, every department marked with a different colour. If I wasn’t so curious to figure out where the noise was coming from, I would have gagged, but I could only do so much at once so earlier in the morning without loosing my mind. The only messy part of her desk was the right hand corner. Next to a portrait of what I presumed was her deceased husband was a mound of oddly shaped papers. I threw a glance over my shoulder to make sure that Terra wasn’t coming - I highly doubted that she would appreciate my snooping, but I just couldn’t resist.
I picked up the papers and saw what had given them such an odd shape. It was a statute of a green frog with its mouth hanging open, a fly on the tip of its pink tongue. My eyes remained on the fly. There was no way. . .no, the noise couldn’t be coming from -
A loud buzz rocketed through my ear.
“Bloody hell!” I shouted, stumbling backward.
“Oi, Terra! Is that you?” an irritated voice shouted.
I massaged my ear as I glared at the frog statue. “No,” I responded, still rubbing my ear. I doubted that my hearing would ever return to normal.
“No?” the voice parroted with a scoff. “Then who the hell is this?”
I recognised that scoff. I could pick it out of a room full of scoffers. Only one person could make such a noise of disgust. “Teddy?” I questioned incredulously.
His response was one of equal surprise. “Mara? What are you - why are you answering Terra’s pager? Where’s Terra?”
“She said that she was going down to Mr. Kilpatrick’s office to deliver the reports from last night,” I answered, my gaze hardening as I continued to glare at the statute. “And since when do you talk to your employees like that? I’m sure if Vicky knew, she’d have a field day.”
“Just like James would if he found out the truth about Jack?” Teddy fired back.
Damn him. I should’ve expected that. I should have known he was going to throw that in my face; it was his only weapon in his arsenal, but it was the Killing Curse of all weapons - it was the be-all-end-all. And it would most certainly spell my end if he ever used it against me.
“You’re a right prat, d’you know that? I’d wallop you if I wouldn’t get in trouble,” I said heatedly, roughly shoving my hair away from my face. It fell back into place. I huffed in annoyance, giving up.
“Oh, I’m sure you would,” Teddy laughed. “Anyway, when Terra comes back to her desk, will you send her down to see me? I need some help prepping these files for tomorrow morning’s presentation.”
“Sure, but I don’t know when she’ll be back,” I answered truthfully, repeating what the goblin had told me just before departing. “You know how she feels about Mr. Kilpatrick; she’ll stay down there ‘till Kingdom Come if he asks it of her.”
He laughed again. “True. . .hey, are you doing anything right now? Because I could use your help with this.”
I snorted. Quite loudly. Thankfully no one was around to here. “You’re funny, Teddy.”
“How d’you mean?” he questioned curiously. “I was being perfectly serious about that.”
“I have absolutely no experience behind a desk,” I admitted, subconsciously tucking a strand of reddish gold hair behind my ear as I spoke. For once, it stayed in place. “I mean, obviously I was a student and sat in a desk for quite some time, but that’s not what I meant.”
“Then what did you mean exactly?” His amusement was evident in his voice, and there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that if I stormed down to his office and burst through the door, he would be wearing an obscenely smug expression on his face, his moss green eyes glittering like mad, and he’d be leaning back in his chair, arms tucked behind his head.
“What I’m saying is that I have no fucking clue what I’m doing!” I shouted helplessly at the statue of the frog, flapping my arms about frantically. “I’m saying that you’re shit up a creek without a paddle, mate, because I won’t be able to help you seeing as how I don’t know what I’m doing!”
“That’s exactly the sort of comment a boss wants to hear from their new employee.”
You know that sensation you get when someone casts a Disillusionment Charm on you? Yeah, well, that’s how my stomach felt as I made three rather important discoveries in the matter of a few seconds. One, the reply hadn’t come from the right direction - it came from somewhere over my shoulder instead of from the frog statue positioned on the desk in front of me. Two, the voice was most certainly not Teddy’s. Unless Teddy was able to alter his voice from light and pleasant to smooth and smoky. And three? The chances of me losing my job were slim to none.
I gulped and slowly pivoted my upper body so it was facing the opposite direction. Standing near the foot of Terra’s desk wearing a dashing suit and an amused smirk was my boss, the one and only Patrick Kilpatrick. His eyes twinkled when they found mine and he quirked a dark brow in my direction. If I hadn’t been holding onto the back of Terra’s desk chair, I would’ve fallen to the floor, for my knees had gone weak at the simple, but extremely distracting action. Instead, my grip tightened, stretching the skin of my knuckles and turning it the whitest of whites.
Good Merlin, he was gorgeous.
And I had just made a complete fool of myself in his presence.
When I didn’t respond immediately, the delectable man known as my boss smiled at me and extended a hand. “You must be Mara Longbottom.”
I nodded dumbly as I stumbled forward to shake his hand. “Y-yeah,” I stuttered, my tongue feeling like a lead in my mouth, making speech only moderately more difficult than usual. Teddy’s laughter drifted through the frog statute. My embarrassment increased, the heat rushing to my cheeks. “S-sorry you had to hear that,” I said, easing my hand out of his warm grasp as gently as I could. The skin of my palm tingled.
“No, by all means, I’m glad I did,” Patrick Kilpatrick said as he leaned against the edge of the desk and slipped his hands into the front pockets of his pinstriped dress pants. “It’s proof that everything Terra and Teddy told me about you is true.”
I blanched, fumbling with my hands. “Y-you - erm -” I paused to clear my throat “- asked about me?”
“Of course,” he replied flippantly, his mouth growing wider and wider by the minute. “I’d never think of hiring someone without consulting outside sources. There’s a reason why references are required on resumés, you know.”
I didn’t realise I was supposed to respond with a tinkling “Oh, why’s that?” until my boss sent me a rather insulting look, one that clearly questioned my intelligence. Inwardly, I scowled, but I kept my face as neutral as possible.
“People lie,” Patrick Kilpatrick finished.
“Are you suggesting that my friends lied, sir?” I asked instinctively, almost defensively.
“Not at all,” he answered smoothly. He was still smiling, though the impish factor had disappeared. “Quite the contrary, actually. They told me you were - oh, what’s that phrase - a spitfire, I believe.”
Patrick chuckled and licked his lips. I fought against every instinct to moan out loud, gripping the back of the chair as though my life depended on it. Men with mouths like his should not be allowed to do simple things like that. It puts crude and lewd ideas in my head, the most innocent of which involves him clearing off Terra’s desk with a sweep of his muscular arm, wrapping me in his embrace, and taking me right there on his desk, high heels and all.
Circe, I had to stop reading Mum’s Muggle harlequin romance novels before I became a deluded bimbo.
I ran my eyes over his muscled form as discreetly as possible.
It might be too late.
Patrick Kilpatrick said something, but I missed it. When he, once again, sent me an inquiring look, I blinked stupidly and said, “You’ll have to excuse me. I was - er - distracted. Mind repeating that?”
The look changed from questioning to intrigued. “I said that I was glad they were right.” And then he flashed me a knee melting smile.
Hm, maybe this day wasn’t going to be as horrible as I thought.
Teddy cornered me at lunch. I was sitting alone in the small break room, unwrapping the corned beef and cheese sandwich Mum had packed for me this morning. I felt like a small child, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some of my best memories came from my childhood.
However, when the blue-haired freak slid into the seat across from me, all memories vanished from my head, replaced with much less pleasant thoughts.
“Hello,” he greeted politely.
I wasn’t fooled. Swallowing the bite of food in my mouth, I glared at him. “What do you want?”
“Oh, so now I have to have a motive to sit and engage in an otherwise pleasant conversation with you?” Teddy pushed his bottom lip into a pout.
He threw a hand over his heart. “I’m hurt.”
“Or just dramatic,” I grumbled, uncapping my flask of pumpkin juice and pouring it into the paper cup.
“Someone’s in a bad mood,” Teddy said, leaning back in his chair. “I would’ve thought that after your hour-long conversation with the Dreamboat, you’d be happier than this.”
I furrowed my brow at him. “The Dreamboat? Who the hell is -” I stopped once the pieces fell into places and threw my balled-up napkin at him. “Don’t call him that!”
“What should I call him then? Paddywaddykins?”
Despite myself, I laughed. “I’d pay a few Galleons to see that.”
“I don’t want him to get the wrong idea,” Teddy responded, reaching across the table and grabbing the second half of my sandwich. I rolled my eyes. He grinned as he took a bite. “Not as good as Nana’s.”
“If you’re not going to enjoy the sandwich, give it back.” I held out a hand and wiggled my fingers at him, but he answered with another monstrous bite. I made a face at him and he opened his mouth, revealing his chewed food. “Ew!” I shrieked, closing my eyes and turning away. “That’s disgusting. How old are you - four?”
“Three,” he said through a mouthful. Thankfully, he waited until he polished off the rest of the sandwich before speaking again. “Actually, I wanted to talk to you about something, Mara. It’s serious.”
My stomach plummeted, but somehow my voice managed to stay relatively calm. “I haven’t told him yet if that’s what you’re asking.”
“Obviously,” Teddy deadpanned. I looked at him, confused. He sighed and elaborated. “I’m his best friend, Mara. He would’ve come running to me the moment he found out, all dazed and confused. And angry, most likely. He hates it when people lie to him, which is what you’re doing.”
“I’m not lying,” I protested weakly. “I’m just. . .evading the truth. For the time being.”
Teddy made a show of rolling his eyes and huffing in annoyance. Once he recovered from his bout of immaturity, he said, “Look, all I’m saying is that it would probably be for the better if you told him before he marries Sophie. If he finds out afterwards, I’m sure that Sophie will think that he’s been lying to her the entire time.” He paused, pursing his lips in thought. “Or she’ll think that this is a tactic to get James back.”
“Get him back?” I repeated incredulously. “I never had him in the first place! Okay, so maybe I had him at one point in time,” I corrected under Teddy’s heavy gaze, “but that was - well, it wasn’t a relationship. Besides, it’s not like I -” I fumbled over the word “-love him or anything.”
A few beats of silence passed between us before Teddy reached across the table and grabbed my hand. He squeezed it and I squeezed back, fighting back bitter tears. After a while, he released my hand and I continued eating, pretending like nothing had happened at all.
By the end of the day, I was more than ready to go home, change out of my work robes into some sweats and a baggy t-shirt, and cuddle with my son. When I Apparated just outside of the house’s wards and picked my way up the paved garden path, I realised none of this was going to happen because Sophie was sitting on the back porch with Mum and a very disgruntled Lily, bouncing my son on her knee.
“Mara!” Lily exclaimed once she saw me through the overgrown rose bushes. “You’re home!” She bolted out of her seat and hurried over to hug me. “Please, I’m begging you, just say yes. I can’t handle her all by myself.”
She pulled away and I stared, wide-eyed, at her. “W-what?”
“You’ll see,” she said, gripping my upper arm and steering me towards the patio.
The moment he saw me, Jack let out a loud squeal of giddy laugh. My heart soared as I scooped him up in my arms, blowing a fat raspberry on his belly. He giggled and I laughed along with him, nuzzling the side of his soft neck with my nose.
“How’s Mummy’s boy?” I cooed, hugging him as tightly as possible without breaking him. His tiny hand closed around the collar of my robe and I looked over his head at Mum, who was smiling at the scene. “So? The verdict?”
“He was an angel,” Mum answered fondly. “I took him over to Molly and Arthur’s this afternoon and he made quite the impression.”
I blanched at the thought of Molly Weasley fawning over my son. Had she been able to see the traces of her grandson in my child? Instead of questioning my mom’s sanity - it’s not like I could say anything with both Lily and Sophie here - I groaned. “What’d he do this time?”
“Just a bit of accidental magic,” my mother said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “Molly said she wanted a new tablecloth anyway.”
It was probably for the best that I didn’t inquire any further.
“So,” Lily ventured when no one spoke for a handful of minutes. “Sophie wants to ask you something.” And you better say yes, she added in the silent glare she threw at me.
“Oh?” I turned towards the blonde, who was smiling hesitantly at me, her hair falling around her shoulders with an unnatural amount of grace. I thought of my own hair and how lanky it must look. I grimaced.
Sophie must’ve thought the grimace was directed at her because she said, “I don’t want to make you feel obligated to this, of course, but I was - I was asking because - well, you are James’s best friend and all and -”
“. .. you haven’t asked me anything yet,” I remarked.
“Oh!” Sophie flushed a deep burgundy. “Well,” she said, clearing her throat and straightening her posture in her chair. “Here goes nothing.“ She flashed Mum a tight smile as she chuckled nervously.
What in the name of Merlin’s pants was she going to ask me!? I flicked my eyes over at Lily, who was gazing at me challengingly, daring me to go against her. I wouldn’t dare - she was a Potter after all. With a nasty temper to boot.
Just like her brother, I thought to myself.
Sophie’s question hit me like a sucker punch to the gut. “Would you be my maid of honour?”
A/N: Um, wow! Sorry for the delay in updates. I’ve been really busy this summer and haven’t had much time to write. I feel horrible for taking over a month to get this chapter out, but it is my hope that things will start to settle down a bit. That being said, I hope you enjoyed this chapter and please review! I love getting feedback from you all! Questions, comments, concerns? Ask away in the form of a review. Thanks for reading!
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