Full Summary: It's been one year since Josie returned from Peru, eight months since Bill began dating Fleur Delacour, and one too many days since the ancient Incan curse she received during her travels began to manifest itself. Turning to a Knockturn Alley shopkeeper for help is probably not her brightest idea, but Josie is too prideful to tell her best friend, Bill Weasley, why she's been avoiding him. After all, he's probably too busy being crazy in love with his new fiancée to notice that she's even been cursed in the first place. The more she turns to dark magic to break her curse, however, the worse it gets, until at last she realizes that she's been looking for answers in all the wrong places. Beware the cost of greed, for it can come in many forms. Bill Weasley/OC
Author's Note: Welcome to Cajamarca! Here are a few things to take note of before you begin reading:
For those who are reading Vivicendium, this story will eventually connect with Season 3, which is as of yet unwritten. Some easter eggs will be sprinkled into the latter chapters of this story in regards to Vivian and Sirius's future journey.
There will not be a large focus on Voldemort/Death Eater activities in this story, as it focuses more on Josie's personal journey. Though, as mentioned above and because this story will eventually connect with Vivicendium, the Order of the Phoenix will gradually become more prevalent as the story moves forward.
For now, I will be updating the story every Tuesday and Friday, though that schedule is dependent on updates for Vivicendium.
Hope you all enjoy!
Chapter One | Josie's Words of Wisdom
Josie Devonport would like to give you a bit of advice. She wishes someone had told her this all those years ago, when she had still been an ungainly Hogwarts student still growing into herself. Maybe if she had more female friends back then, one of them would have knocked some sense into her before it was too late, but alas, she had been more interested in talking Quidditch with the lads than exchanging beauty tips with her dormmates. Maybe everything would have been different, even. She would have realized the danger she was steadily walking into and stopped herself. She could have saved herself years of pain.
Josie wouldn't claim to be very wise, but she has learned a thing or two in her twenty-five years. For example, going commando is absolutely never a good idea, no matter how sexy that random bloke from the pub says it is. You ought not ever mix Gigglewater and firewhiskey unless you want to spend the next day vomiting up your insides. Apparition can be safely achieved three shots in, but more alcohol than that and you're likely to end up arse-over-tits in a pond somewhere. Leather jackets should always be worn, regardless of season or purpose; the right clothes can make or break your confidence. If you want something, you can't sit on your arse waiting for the world to hand it to you. Her dad gave her that one, along with the all-powerful 'if you can't cut an onion up without magic, then you can't do anything, Josie'. Then again, her dad's a muggle restaurateur, so he's a tad bit biased.
Anyway, back to her words of wisdom. The most important piece of advice that Josie Devonport would like to bestow is this: you should never fall in love with your best friend. It's always going to end in misery.
She remembers when she felt the first bolt of jealousy for Fleur Delacour. It was precisely eight and a half months ago, and she had just returned from another expedition to South America. Breaking the complicated network of curses surrounding the Incan temple she had been assigned to had been wonderfully challenging. She'd gotten back to England riding high from success and had swaggered into Gringotts with the pockets of her leather jacket laden with treasure, expecting a warm welcome from her best friend and fellow curse-breaker. She had been over the moon when Bill had first told her that he'd be moving back to England permanently. It meant more time that they could spend together, more memories that they could make, and more of his heart-melting smiles to keep her warm. Apparently, it also meant that he was ready to settle down. She knew, just by looking into Bill's eyes as he spoke to the new blonde-haired secretary across the lobby of the bank, that he had someone in mind to settle down with, but it wasn't her.
Bill has a way of seeing people. He can give you one look and know if you're someone he wants to share his time with. One look is all it takes. She knows this, because Bill Weasley has been her best friend for as long as she can remember. Well, that was before Fleur Delacour, anyway. These days, she isn't sure she could make such a claim. She hasn't had a proper conversation with Bill in months.
"Wotcher, Devonport!" Artemis Fincher greets as she just barely makes it to the lift on time. The fifty-year-old sends her a warm smile that she hurriedly returns.
He's one of the senior curse-breakers at Gringotts and happens to be her immediate superior. He was Josie's mentor when she first landed her job at Gringotts after graduating from Hogwarts. Artie is the sort of man who never lets anything get to him and had been quick to brush off the many mistakes she had made during her first few months. That's not to say that he goes easy on her or anything, but he isn't the sort of person who turns to anger whenever he's stressed. He's always reminded her of Arthur Weasley in temperament, actually: quick to laugh, kindhearted, and easy to talk to. Bill had been so jealous that she had the good fortune to have been assigned to him. It's funny, really, how her good fortune seems to have completely disappeared since then.
Her arms are full of paperwork and, to be honest, she's a bit surprised that she made the lift before the doors had shut in her face. These days, bad luck follows her everywh –
"Bloody hell," Josie exclaims as she shuffles back and trips over Artie's shoe. The heavy stack of paperwork that she spent all night organizing immediately tilts out of her hands and crashes to the floor. She stares down at the mess in horror.
At her side, Artie grimaces and mutters, "I don't suppose that's for the Hatshepsut case, is it?"
Josie's only response is to let out a stream of profanities as she crouches down to collect the papers. Artie grimaces again and goes to help.
She's only just been assigned to assist with the Hatshepsut case earlier that week. Ancient Egypt is more in line with Bill's expertise and she's had to clock in more time doing research than usual. Give her a case for an Aztec temple and she can solve it in a matter of days, but Egypt isn't really her thing. She suspects it's all the mummies-turned-Inferi that have a tendency of hobbling around their tombs. Anyway, the point is that after spending the entire week brushing up on her ancient Egyptian history, the hard-earned research that she needs for today's meeting is now scattered across the floor of a lift that hasn't been properly mopped in months.
If only that was the least of her problems today. As she's leaning over to grab a stray paper that's located on the other end of the lift, a tearing noise catches her attention. For the first time today, Josie freezes. Behind her, Artie clears his throat and grumbles, "Um. Devons – "
"Did my shirt seriously just rip up the back?" she demands, swinging around to glower at him as if he's the source of her bad luck.
Artie raises his hands in surrender and shrugs, "It's not that bad, Josie. Promise."
She closes her eyes and inhales a deep breath of air. "Bloody fucking hell, I have such bad luck these days."
Artie gives her a shrugging smile and hands her the papers he'd gathered. "At least it's not the trousers, love."
Ah, there's the Artie she knows and loves – ever optimistic.
She sighs deeply and mumbles, "Yeah, that's true enough."
But it is pretty bad, which she discovers when she makes a pitstop to the loo on the way to her office. When she leans over far enough, it's very easy to see the plain black bra she's wearing. At least she's got some safety pins in her desk – if only she could find them. Upon entering her office and beginning her search, they seem to have gone missing. She supposes it doesn't matter all that much, in the grand scheme of things. After all, their goblin employers don't typically care what their curse-breakers wear to work. That's why Bill gets away with his long hair and earring. He wouldn't be able to pull that shit in any other profession.
In all fairness, Josie is in full agreement with his dress sense. Most of the time, she arrives to work wearing jeans and her leather jacket. She's never been a huge fan of skirts and stockings. As her dad would lovingly say, she's too much of a tomboy for all that. Maybe that's why Bill has never seen her as a woman.
Josie slams her now-disorganized research onto her desk and heaves out an impatient sigh, tearing open each drawer and angrily riffling through their contents. When at last she locates the small jar of safety pins (surprising as it may be, this isn't the first article of clothing she's ruined as of late), she ends up twisting the lid off too forcefully and sends them scattering all over the floor. As she stares at them, frustrated tears well up behind her eyes and it takes her a moment to calm herself down before she can summon the willpower to kneel and retrieve them. Hopefully no one decides to step into her office for a while, because if they do, they'll get an eyeful.
Of course, since she's having the worst morning of her life, someone does have to step into her office, and it has to be the last person she wants to see.
"Josie, I wanted to talk to you about – " Bill's voice suddenly says from the door that he's suddenly standing near. He's got a folder in his hand and his eyes are locked onto…well.
Her very plain and not-very-French bra, which is very much visible from the way she's leaning over as she picks up tiny safety pins.
Josie freezes for the second time that morning as horror captures her in its entirety. Her best friend clears his throat and steps into her office, which is exactly the opposite of what she would prefer, as she'd much rather he leave so that she can sink into the cracks of her floorboards and disappear in peace. Alas, that would go against the well-defined laws of Bad Luck, of which Josie Devonport has in droves.
It never used to be this way. Bill always used to say that she had uncannily good luck. She made it onto the Gryffindor Quidditch team as a second year, knocking all the other, older candidates out of the water and proving to the Captain that she was the best Chaser in the school. She got eleven OWLs without even lifting a textbook to study, and aced her NEWTs exams with flying colors and little effort. She was always in the right place at the right time, always got the best gossip, and always had a following of admirers wherever she went. She landed her job at Gringotts immediately after graduation, received an interview request before Bill, and rose to the top of the South American curse-breaker division within only two years of employment. The only thing she hadn't accomplished was making prefect back in school, but then again, she was never too fond of the rules. Of course, she would've done close to anything to earn that badge back then – not because she wanted the extra boost, but because it would've given her another excuse to be near Bill. Not that she really needed an excuse seeing as they used to do everything together anyway.
In any case, all it took was one trip to Sami Manqus, that damned Incan temple, and her entire life had changed; one stupid curse that she hadn't realized she had, until she came back to England and it started to manifest. The course of her life, which had seemed so straight and even, had become twisted. She'd become sick for no reason at all, and bad luck would hound her every step – and, of course, there's the little fact that Bill had put her to the side in favor of courting Fleur Delacour, his new favorite person. Yes, the last eight months have been complete and utter misery.
"…Josie?" Bill questions hesitantly, probably because she hasn't moved yet.
She's still trying to sink into the floor in her attempts to pretend that he's not here. That's what she's been trying to do for months now, without success, because no matter what she does, she can't seem to get rid of Bill Weasley. He's everywhere she goes and everything she wants.
Before she even realizes it, Josie is laughing. It isn't the usual scoffed chuckle that leaves her lips whenever she's feeling quietly amused, or the full-bellied laughter that occasionally consumes her when she finds something too hilarious to contain. No, this is the sort of laugh that starts out as a grimaced, self-depreciating smirk and steamrolls into crazy, tear-filled insanity. It only stops when she feels Bill silently crouch beside her, toss his folder onto the floor, and cover the back of her torn shirt with his suit jacket.
Ah, right. Bill Weasley doesn't just have the ability of seeing the essence of a person with just a single look, he's also got a heart of gold. He's a bonified gentleman, born and raised – even when he's been ignored and avoided by his best friend for the last eight months.
Josie sits up in a rush, so quickly that Bill nearly falls back in surprise. His eyebrows jolt up into his hairline as Josie shrugs off the jacket, trying not to breathe in the mesmerizing scent of his cologne. It's no wonder Fleur is so attracted to him. Bill is literally perfect in every way. Not only does he look insanely handsome with his unique style, but he smells absolutely divine. Every inch of him is perfect, from his long head of red hair to the dragon-skin boots he favors. She clenches her fist in his jacket and then holds it out for him to take, rearranging her face into what she hopes is a professionally polite smile.
Bill has been on the receiving end of that smile for months now, so when he sees it once more, he purses his lips but says nothing, and merely stands up. A moment later he's slinging the rejected jacket over his arm and clearing his throat, no doubt feeling the tension leaving Josie's form as she deposits a handful of small silver safety pins onto the surface of her desk.
"You know, a simple Reparo charm would fix that," Bill says as he turns his attention back to the folder. His voice is a bit off-handed, probably due to her refusing his help. This is probably why he doesn't offer to perform the spell himself, too.
Josie snorts and mutters, "I'll get Artie to do it for me later."
She decides not to mention the fact that her wand isn't exactly in pristine condition at the moment. She doesn't know if she's just been too rough with it lately or if she should just blame it on the bad luck that she always seems to be dealing with these days, but last week she had discovered a small fracture running through the wood near the handle. Sometimes it doesn't seem to interfere with her spells at all, while at others, her magic gets completely botched up. She's not sure it would be wise to repair her shirt with a faulty wand. The way things have been going, she wouldn't be surprised if the whole thing got vanished as a result. In any case, she still needs to bring the wand to Ollivanders to see if it can be fixed, but she's been procrastinating because she's afraid it might require a large amount of money – money that she spends almost exclusively on rent, because her landlord is a balding old crook.
Her continued brush-off only makes Bill purse his lips harder. He glances up at her with the same fiery eyes he'd always have whenever she frustrated him back at Hogwarts, and begins, "Josie, I can – "
'Help', he's going to say, but Josie doesn't want his help. She doesn't want him in her office either, for that matter.
"So what did you need?" she cuts in, effectively squashing the offer before it can be made. She doesn't look at him, but she can see the way his shoulders stiffen from the corner of her eye, and she feels a bolt of guilt hit her hard in the chest. Merlin, she's so awful to him these days. He really doesn't deserve it, but it's just so hard to be near him. Brushing him off is the only solution she's been able to find so far to ensure that just the right amount of distance exists between them for her poor, downtrodden heart to survive.
Her tone makes him drop the gentle, caring approach that he always reverts to wherever she's concerned. She suspects that he just can't help himself. That, despite the fact that she's been avoiding him for months now, somewhere in his heart she'll always be the ungainly youth that he had befriended on their first train ride to Hogwarts. A friendship like theirs isn't easily swept under the rug, and Bill always seems to forget that Josie is trying to put distance between them. Or maybe he just hasn't figured that out yet, even though she thought she's made it pretty obvious. Maybe his generous heart is too pure to understand what her form of rejection looks like. Maybe she's just unable to properly reject him in the first place, because she doesn't really want to. She loves him, after all.
In any case, he always ends up losing his gentle approach after a while. When he straightens his back and transforms from friend to coworker, Josie isn't very surprised. There's only so much a man can take, after all, before he decides that it's not worth it.
"This is for the Hatshepsut case meeting today. Did you finish organizing the research?" he coolly wonders as he slides the folder onto her desk and silently eyes the pile of safety pins that she's nonchalantly unfastening. Mention of the research has Josie casting a furtive glance at the pile of papers strewn messily over her desk. Bill notices, of course. When he sees the scattered and obviously un-organized research, he sighs impatiently. "You had all week to do this, Josie," he says, in the sort of disappointed tone that a superior would use to chide an employee. It's the sort of tone that verges on anger but doesn't quite cross the threshold of it, and it makes Josie scowl.
Of course, Bill isn't her superior, but he is in a higher position than her. Only five months ago, he'd been promoted and given a hefty pay raise. He's already been promoted twice since landing his job, which isn't surprising. Bill is a damned good curse-breaker, and he's got charisma in droves. Everyone in the office loves him. She even heard a rumor about how one of his superiors on the field had begged for him to stay in Egypt and to not take the transfer back to the offices at Gringotts.
Anyway – the position of Head of the Ancient Egypt division goes to the famous Robert Wright, who happens to be Bill's boss and the man in charge of all the Egypt cases. He's tough and a bit of an arse when he doesn't get his way. The fact that he will be the one in charge of the meeting this afternoon definitely doesn't make her feel any better.
Josie swallows back a wave of frustration and says as calmly as she can, "I'll have it fixed by the meeting." Though, in her current state, her voice comes out a bit more pinched than she means for it to.
Bill stares at her for one long moment before sighing and muttering, "Make sure you do. You know how Wright is when things aren't in their proper order. And get Artie to fix your shirt before then, yeah?"
With that, Bill turns on his heel and takes his leave of her, and Josie stares at the back of his vest until it disappears beyond the threshold. Then, biting back more frustrated tears, she throws down her handful of unfastened safety pins and watches them join the others on the floor as she collapses in her chair – and promptly falls flat on her arse when one of the legs of said chair breaks.
"Oh bloody hell!" Josie exclaims, rubbing her head where she had knocked it into the edge of her desk. She blindly reaches for the broken-off chair leg and throws it angrily across the room with a curse.
Her only consolation this morning is that she hadn't seen Bill and Fleur's customary morning flirting session, but knowing how sickeningly in love they are, it's probably only a matter of time.
Josie can't find Artie before the meeting that afternoon, which is bad. Janice, who works in the banking department on the second floor but often comes up here because they apparently have a wider selection of teas, had told Josie that Artie had a lunch client to meet with and had only just left. Unfortunately, Josie hadn't heard about this beforehand, and had been too busy reorganizing the research papers to remember about her ripped shirt until five minutes before the meeting. She can't claim to be surprised, of course, because she's got the worst luck these days, but she's still cursing by the time three o'clock rolls around. Her shirt is still ripped at the back, the Hatshepsut research isn't as pristinely organized as she would have liked, and her already messy, curly hair is in even more of a mess after spending the whole afternoon frantically running her fingers through it whilst trying to remember how she'd organized the colossal stack of papers the night before.
By three o'clock, she's nervously setting up the meeting room even though she's not a secretary, damn it, and shouldn't have to prepare tea and hand out files – but she does anyway because she's hoping it will soften Wright up just a smidgen. This is actually Fleur's job, but the French woman is nowhere to be found. She's probably off making bedroom eyes at Bill from her desk.
In any case, let it be said now that her extra attention to details does not, in fact, soften Wright up. She's fairly certain that there's nothing in the world that can soften him up, which she's quickly reminded of when he waltzes into the room, takes one look at the perfectly poured cups of tea (all exactly aligned at a precise 90 degree angle from the right-hand corner of the files), and snorts, "What is this, a tea party? Get rid of those, Devonport. We have actual work to do today."
Josie, who had spent the last fifteen minutes preparing the best tea she's ever made in her life (yes, there is more to it than just boiling water), has to bite her tongue hard to stop a smart remark from leaving her lips.
Wright strides to the head of the table as the others enter the room and take their seats. Bill comes in last, takes one look at the set-up, and sends Josie an impressed smile. It vanishes though, when he happens to see the rather obvious tear in her shirt that she had hastily pinned together after realizing that Artie, her savior, had gone. In a quiet voice, he leans over as she's collecting all the teacups, and softly hisses, "I thought you said you'd fix the shirt."
Josie shoots him a look of her own and hisses right back, "Artie had a lunch meeting with a client."
Bill frowns at her. "You should've come to me."
She frowns too. "I lost track of time and by then – "
"Devonport, hurry up and sit down for Merlin's sake. You're holding up the meeting," Wright barks at her as he flips his file open and begins to look through the pages of it.
Josie, who is still gathering all the teacups, moves faster. Meanwhile, Wright, who is flicking through the files she'd prepared, begins to frown. Deeply.
"What is this?" he demands, and flicks the file back to the front page as his eyes skim over it again. "Did you not research any of this? The Hatshepsut temple is located at Deir el-Bahari, not el-Amarna. Did you get it mixed up with the Temple of the Aten?"
For the third time that day, Josie freezes. She jerks her head up to stare at Wright, who is frowning so deeply that the lines of his forehead are quickly becoming so pronounced that they form broad trenches across the expanse of it. She couldn't have made such a rookie mistake. He must have read it wrong, right? There's no way she'd mix up such important temples.
Then again, Ancient Egypt isn't exactly her area of expertise. Or interest. To be completely honest, she doesn't even know why Wright had asked her to help with this case to begin with. She's not even in his department. She suspects that Artie had a hand in it. He's always going on about her gaining more experience and how she 'shouldn't limit yourself to studying just Incan curses, you know, Josie – there's a whole world out there, after all!'
A nauseous feeling fills her stomach. She goes to put down the tray of teacups, intent on reaching for the file in front of Bill to inspect it. Her streak of bad luck has utterly ensnared her today, dogging her every move to such an extent that nothing she does seems to be good enough. When she hastily sets the tray down, too much of it is overhanging the edge of the meeting table and, unfortunately, she hadn't paid enough attention to distributing the weight of the cups evenly enough. It doesn't just fall onto the floor; it falls right into Bill's lap.
Bill lets out an undignified yelp and shoves his chair away from the table. The hot liquid drenches his trousers. Teacups rattle to the ground. Robert Wright's forehead grows another trench.
"Merlin, I'm sorry Bill!" she exclaims, and rushes over to retrieve a dishcloth. She's frantic beneath the scrutinizing eyes of the room, so much so that she doesn't even think twice about reaching forward to mop up the leg of Bill's trousers – until, of course, he curls his fingers around her wrist and gently pushes her hand away. That's when she realizes that she'd come very close to groping his crotch, which is really very unprofessional and highly embarrassing for her – and even more so for Bill, whose face is red enough to match his hair.
Wright slams his fist onto the table and stands up. Here's the thing about Robert Wright: when he grows angry with people, he doesn't hold back. He is most certainly angry now.
"ARE YOU INCOMPETENT?" he roars, just as red in the face as Bill, though for very different reasons.
Josie flinches and grips the edge of the meeting table so hard that her knuckles blanch bone-white.
"YOU SOUTH AMERICAN CURSE-BREAKERS ARE ALL THE SAME AREN'T YOU? THIS ISN'T SOME LIGHTHEARTED JAUNT THROUGH THE FUCKING RAINFOREST, DEVONPORT – THIS IS A HIGHLY CLASSIFIED CASE ON AN ANCIENT EGYPTIAN RELIC THAT'S REMAINED UNSOLVED FOR CENTURIES!"
Josie swallows and begins to gather the teacups that haven't fallen to the floor, hands shaking.
"I DON'T KNOW WHAT ARTEMIS SEES IN YOU! IT'S NO WONDER YOU WERE PUT IN THE SOUTH AMERICAN DEPARTMENT! YOU WOULDN'T LAST A FUCKING DAY ON MY TEAM. NOT A FUCKING DAY!"
Everyone is staring at her, and Josie feels her face flush so deeply that her entire body feels like it's on fire.
"AND IF THAT ISN'T ENOUGH, YOU COME TO THE OFFICE IN A TORN SHIRT WITH NO RESPECT FOR THE WORKPLACE! YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOUR INCOMPETENCE! NOW PICK UP THE FUCKING TEACUPS AND GET THE HELL OUT OF THIS MEETING!"
Wright finally lays off her, but the damage has been done. More mortified than she's ever been in her entire life, Josie collects the remaining teacups as quickly as she can and turns to leave. Bill tries to catch her eye, but Josie keeps her gaze resolutely downturned as she grips the tray and bolts for the door. She hears Wright slam his fist onto the tabletop again as she exits, and the sound nearly has her tripping her way into the hall as her heart skip a beat. Unfortunately though, even once she's out of the room, the mortification persists. Wright has a very loud voice, after all.
People stop what they're doing to stare at her. Some in bewilderment, some in amusement, but all with a certain look in their eyes that tells her she had probably deserved it. There aren't very many female curse-breakers in the Egyptian department, probably because Wright is a sexist arsehole, so everyone in the surrounding cubicles seems to assume that whatever he had yelled at her for, it must have been justified.
And it was justified, to an extent. She ended up researching the wrong temple, for Merlin's sake. Only an untried, inexperienced curse-breaker would do something as novice as that, and it's not like she's been sitting in an office signing paperwork since landing this job. She's been to South America more times than she can count and has broken through numerous curses in the field. So why – why couldn't she have double checked her research before she'd spent the last week compiling a ton of useless information on the wrong temple?
With her face still burning hotly, Josie maneuvers her way to the break room to dump the tray of teacups next to the sink. She's about to turn and escape to her office on the next floor when her bad luck decides to fuck her over again, this time in the form of one gorgeous French secretary.
"Oh you poor zing! Let me 'elp you before you hurt yourself!" Fleur Delacour exclaims, shouldering her way into the small break room. Her fingers flutter over Josie, patting her hair down and straightening her shirt as she lets out an endless string of French. Josie isn't exactly in the right state of mind to translate the words, but she thinks she hears 'poor dear' several times. Fleur's fussing would have been endearing, really, if Josie didn't absolutely hate her.
Josie doesn't want to draw any more attention to herself by telling Fleur off. She doubts she'd actually be able to anyway. Apparently, she isn't just incompetent with paperwork – she's also really bad with confrontations. That's probably one of the reasons she's been in love with Bill since her fifth year at Hogwarts and never told him. The other reason is, of course, that by the time she had worked up enough courage to decide to take the chance, he'd been busy flirting with the woman who is now fretting over the tray of overturned teacups.
It's really rather rude of Josie to just walk away without a word, but that's exactly what she does. Everyone is still staring at her and her face is still as red as a tomato. All she wants to do is go breakdown in her office and try to convince herself that this entire day has just been a terrible dream. Besides, surely Fleur understands? Or perhaps she doesn't, seeing as everyone loves her. Even Wright thinks she's great.
By the time Josie returns to her office, the entire South American department has already heard what had happened. Workplace gossip spreads fast around here despite the Egyptian and South American divisions being on different floors, but thankfully her immediate coworkers are a bit nicer about it. She receives some pitying glances and a few pats on the back as she silently walks to the end of the hall and opens her office door. When she steps inside and closes it behind her, the silence is absolutely deafening.
She hears Wright's words as if he never stopped yelling at her. They tear into her thoughts like rattlesnakes, constricting around her mind so tightly that she can't think about anything else. Words have power, you see, and right now they're making her heart feel like its caving in on itself.
It seems that this is the theme for the day, because it doesn't get any better. When Artie returns from his lunch meeting and hears what had happened, he's nice enough not to scold her too badly for it, but he does come to her office to chide her for ruining her opportunity to work with an esteemed curse-breaker like Robert Wright. He goes on for a while about how she could have learned a lot from him, but thankfully he must realize that he's being a bit overbearing considering the fact that she's already been on the receiving end of Wright's full anger, and he doesn't stick around for too long.
This is probably the only good thing that happens to her all day, if it can even be considered good. It seems that she's currently on a downward track, and she's already gained so much momentum that fate has decided to push her just a little bit more. This becomes all too apparent when she reluctantly decides that she really ought to check on Bill and apologize for spilling hot tea in his lap. Even though their relationship is a bit stilted these days, she figures it would be cruel not to at least ask if his male bits are okay. Maybe she ought to phrase it better than that, though.
She comes to regret her decision the moment she tentatively knocks on his door. She had thought that braving the Egyptian department after Wright's thoroughly demoralizing shouting would have been hard enough as it is, but what she sees when she pushes her head into Bill's office is at least ten times worse.
Anyone else would have probably left after not receiving an answer, but Josie isn't just someone else. She's known Bill for years. He's told her secrets about himself that he hasn't even told his own brothers. She's been his best friend since their first meeting on the Hogwarts Express. Besides, Josie knows how dedicated Bill can be where it concerns his work. Sometimes, he gets so swept up in what he's doing that the rest of the world becomes nothing but a blur to him. She figures that this is what's happened, and so she doesn't hesitate when she pushes open the door and peers inside the room. An apology is on the tip of her tongue, but it promptly dies when she witnesses the sight that she sees then.
Bill is on his knees in front of Fleur, grinning as he pushes a ring onto her finger. Fleur is chanting 'yes, yes of course', again and again and she throws her arms around his shoulders and kisses him deeply on the mouth.
For the fourth time today, Josie freezes. It doesn't even occur to her that she's invading a very personal moment and that she has absolutely no right to stand there and gape at them like an unintelligent troll. To be fair, though, she can't even remember how to move, let alone look away.
Thankfully – or not – she remembers just as Bill glances her way, and it's his turn to freeze. He blushes and pushes Fleur back, clearing his throat as if he's been caught doing something that he shouldn't be doing. Which is ridiculous, of course, because if anyone is doing something they shouldn't be, it's Josie as she stares at Bill in utter, heartbroken betrayal.
Merlin. She knows it's wrong. Just because she's been in love with him for forever doesn't mean he's obligated to return her feelings. That's not how life works. Human hearts are complicated things, after all, and Fleur is beautiful and smart and funny and of course he's in love with her. It's only natural that he wants to make things official – to steal her away before anyone else gets the chance.
She thinks he's saying something to her, but her ears are pumping with blood and it feels like she's underwater. The surface is too far away and she's too tired to swim to it. Maybe she'd rather drown.
Right, her name. He's always said her name so gently, as if it was the most sacred sound on earth.
Bill gives Fleur – his fiancée – a soft look and then faces Josie. He takes a step forward, his kind blue eyes creased with tenderness, and quietly says, "Are you okay? Wright was out of line. Everyone thought so, so don't let it get to you too much, yeah?"
For a moment, Josie has absolutely no idea what he's talking about. Then she remembers Wright's angry shouts and the way he'd called her incompetent in front of everyone in the meeting room, and her face flushes again with belated embarrassment. Just thinking about it makes her want to sink into the floorboards, but somehow the memory of the nightmarish meeting isn't quite as bad as what she's feeling right now, as she watches Fleur admire her new ring from over Bill's shoulder.
"Right," she croaks. "I. Um. I just – wanted to apologize for – spilling – "
"It's fine," Bill interrupts, and reaches over to push a strand of her hair behind her ear with a kind smile. "No harm done, Josie."
She gives him a shaky smile. She can't help but think how messed up it is that, in the face of Bill's gentle reassurance, she wants to cry more than when she received the full brunt of Wright's fury.
"Okay then," she breathes. "Right. Congratulations. On – yeah. The proposal – I should go," she finishes with a rush, and turns to leave.
She's so glad that Bill doesn't stop her, because before the door even closes, she has to reach up to dig the heel of her hand into her eyes so as to stop her tears from making themselves known. She makes a show of pretending that there's something in her eye as she darts back to the lift, hoping that the other employees on the Egyptian floor aren't staring at her like they'd been before. It takes her several tries to locate the right button because the world is currently a blurry mess, but once she does and she's alone in the small compartment, Josie collapses against the wall with a low, pained groan.
God, she's pathetic. What could be more pitiful than being in love with the same man for the better part of a decade, even though you know he doesn't feel the same way about you? No matter how hard you try to convince yourself to stop being in love with him, you just can't. Your stubborn heart just doesn't want to listen, and even when it gets bruised and crushed, it still sears with tentative hope.
Bill hasn't married Fleur yet, after all. Maybe he'll break things off with her. Maybe –
"Merlin's Balls Josie, shut up," she tells herself, hitting the back of her head against the compartment wall as if she's trying to force those thoughts from her mind. It works for the most part, but only because she ends up having other things to worry about. The day isn't over yet, after all, and her run of bad luck is really only just beginning.
She cloisters herself in her office for the remainder of the day and throws herself into her research on Incan curses, but her thoughts never stray too far from the grin on Bill's face when Fleur had said yes to his proposal. The more she tries not to think about it, the more she ends up focusing on it completely. By the time five o'clock rolls around, the physical manifestations of her curse have taken a hold of her, and her whole body feels as if she's been slammed into by a bus.
Unfortunately, ancient South American magic can be a bit volatile. She's been dealing with this curse for nearly eight months now, ever since she returned from Peru on her last expedition. Incan curses are complicated things and she must not have broken through all of them properly. By the time she'd returned to England, the curse had taken a hold of her and made itself known in more ways than just a heavy dosage of bad luck. Bloody noses, coughing fits, and sore muscles are only a few of the physical repercussions.
Josie lets out a sigh as she rolls her shoulders and steps out of her office, intent on heading home and trying to forget that this day ever happened. She makes her way to the ground floor of the bank to where the floo grates are located, arms laden with her purse and briefcase, which is heavy with paperwork she still has to do. It's just as well that she had taken her time packing up for the day and is one of the only employees left in the building, because when she takes a handful of floo powder, announces her flat, and goes to step inside, she finds that she can't. A boundary seems to have crept over the grate, and when she tries to step inside a second time, it's as if her foot meets an invisible wall.
She stares at the green flames in confusion before deciding to try another grate. As she steps over to the next one and reaches for another handful of powder, she figures that it had just been a fluke. Perhaps the magic had been disconnected or something. It's been known to happen every once in a while. There's a subdivision in the Ministry that's in charge of sending inspectors to redo the charms and solidify the portals. Perhaps Gringotts is on their list of places to update.
Josie tries four grates before she realizes that she's being too optimistic. There must be something going on at her end. Perhaps her landlord is the one who needs to get his floo networks inspected. Deciding that she'll just have to walk home, she sighs and trudges into the main lobby of the bank. The goblins who run the bank barely give her a second glance as they finish up their work for the day. They rarely hold to the strict nine to five shifts that their human counterparts adhere to and often stay later than the other departments, so at least the lights are still on as she heads to the large doors that lead out into Diagon Alley. It's only a small blessing though, because when she steps out of the bank, she realizes that it's raining and she left her umbrella in her office.
The humiliation of the day sits heavily on her shoulders as Josie lets out a deep sigh. She walks into the rain and begins her trek across Diagon Alley. Her flat is on the other end of it, down several winding streets. The rain would normally increase her pace, but she feels too downtrodden to walk quickly. By the time she reaches her flat ten minutes later, she's absolutely drenched and her hair is a frizzy mess of flyaway curls.
All she wants to do is take a hot shower, get into her pajamas, and collapse into bed, but when she rounds the corner and approaches the tall building where she's been living for the last few years, she realizes that this will not be possible.
"What are you doing?" Josie demands, gripping her briefcase with tight fingers as she storms forward. Her belongings are literally strewn all over the front steps that lead up to the building. Clothes that are now dirty and wet from the rain sit in piles on one side, now-ruined books on the other, with dishware and toiletries and lamps and end tables piling up between them. In the middle of it all stands her landlord, who is in the process of magicking her remaining belongings through the door of the building and onto the street.
He raises an eyebrow at her drenched state and says, "Kicking you out, love. You're late on rent again."
Josie chokes back an incredulous laugh. She ignores the stares she's getting from passersby and exclaims, "You can't just do this without giving me any advanced notice – and I was only two days late. Two days!"
Her landlord just shrugs. He doesn't look apologetic at all.
"You were late last month, too," is all he says, and with a swish of his wand, levitates her houseplant, which she had fondly named Marcia, on top of the pile. It start to teeter dangerously, so Josie marches forward to grab it before it falls, hugging it to her chest as she eyes the scene in front of her. Now she knows why the floo network hadn't worked. Her landlord must have blocked her access, the crooked arsehole.
"I have nowhere to go. You can't do this," she says again, hoping that he might be softened by her show of womanly pleading.
But he's not, and he just shrugs once more before turning to the doors of the complex. As he slams them shut, he calls, "You've got friends, right? Go bother one of them."
She stands there in the rain for several long minutes, so taken aback by this sudden twist that all she can do is clutch her houseplant and try not to cry. Her leather jacket doesn't seem to be working today, because her usual confidence is nowhere to be found. Her bottom lip wobbles pathetically and she's afraid she might be squeezing the life out of poor little Marcia, the bashful little mimosa plant that Ricardo had gifted her with on her last trip to Peru. She only breaks out of her daze when someone whistles at her from across the street and shouts something rather lewd about the fact that several of her bras having fallen off the pile of clothes and onto the street.
Josie hastens to charm the suitcase with an expanding spell after that and thanks Merlin that her wand is working at the moment, otherwise she would be well and truly screwed. She puts Marcia down and begins the process of shoving her entire life into one tiny box. Then when she's done, she heaves the suitcase up, gathers her plant, and starts walking. Given the state of her life at this moment in time, Josie is in a blanketed state of shock as she heads down the street.
She's trying to figure out where she should go when the next stroke of Bad Luck hits her. As she walks, she wracks her brain for old contacts and school friends that would be generous enough to let her crash at their place for the night. She really doesn't want to go to her dad's house. She knows that he'll just tell her yet again that she should quit her job and work in the family restaurant with the rest of her cousins, and her mum only just got remarried a few months ago and is still off in Bali for her honeymoon with her new muggle husband. She's lost touch with most of her school friends, at least to the point of asking for a favor of this caliber, and would rather sleep on a street corner than ever go to Bill for help.
She's in the middle of thinking about how awful that would be when she happens to glance into the large windows of the Hallberg Café, a relatively swanky restaurant on the corner of the street, and nearly chokes on the ironic surprise that fills her at the sight of Bill Weasley himself. He's sitting at a table with Fleur, laughing at something she's saying as he tangles his fingers with hers on the tabletop. Fleur looks like she's positively glowing when she keeps glancing down at the new ring on her finger.
Josie feels her heart drop. Poor little Marcia will probably get strangled to death at this rate.
Merlin, why did they have to go out to dinner tonight of all nights? Why did she have to walk past this window and catch sight of them? Why is she standing in the rain holding a houseplant like a lunatic? More importantly, why did she ever let Ricardo convince her to break into that damned Incan temple?
She sighs and tilts her head back. That's not fair of her. If anything, she'd been the one to convince him to come along with her. They've worked together on many cases and they make a good team. It only made sense to ask him if he wanted to tag along on yet another expedition. Ricardo Vasquez is always ready to drop his life and join her for an adventure.
"Someone's got to make sure you look before you leap, mi querida," he's always saying, and he's right. Josie is a bit reckless. She has a tendency of going where the wind blows and not worrying about where it's taking her. That's probably why she didn't question it when she fell in love with Bill. She hadn't thought about all the reasons why it was such an incredibly bad idea. Well, not until recently, anyway.
Josie stands there for a few moments more, staring at Bill through the window, until he seems to feel her eyes on him and looks up. The way she immediately ducks and shuffles past the windows is a feat of great caliber for her, considering that she's balancing a suitcase, purse, briefcase, and houseplant in her arms. Thankfully she doesn't think he sees her. When she glances over her shoulder as she leaves, he's right back to drooling over his new fiancée as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened, and Josie just sighs again as she trudges down the street towards The Leaky Cauldron. It's not like she's got anywhere else to go.
When she finally reaches the inn, it's blissfully warm inside, and that's nearly enough to uplift her spirits. Nearly.
"Sorry, Devonport. No vacancies," Tom, the owner, tells her when she hauls her things up to the bar. It's a busy night and he's clearly got other things on his mind, because he's quickly preparing a tray of butterbeers for a group of patrons who are noisily sitting on the other side of the pub.
"But – " she begins.
"I can get you a drink, though," Tom interrupts before she can try her womanly pleading again. It's probably just as well, seeing as she's apparently shit at it.
Josie collapses into the bar stool, digging the heels of her hands into her eyes. "Yeah, okay. Double shot of firewhiskey. You know what? Keep them coming."
Upon hearing her order, Tom sends her an appraising look but doesn't argue. He's known Josie for ages now. The Leaky Cauldron is a favorite after-work hangout for her whenever she needs to let loose after a stressful day. As Tom watches her put her houseplant onto the counter, he figures that today has been more than a little stressful.
Especially when Josie starts digging around in her purse and, close to tears now, moans, "I left my wallet in the office."
Tom's expression softens slightly. He shakes his head at her and pours a double shot. "I'll put it on your tab, Devons. You look like you're in a bad spot."
Josie groans, takes the firewhiskey, and downs it in one gulp. As she slams it back onto the counter, she mumbles, "You've got no idea, Tom."
Tom sends her another pitying glance and pushes the bottle of firewhiskey towards her before bringing the tray of butterbeers to the group of wizards on the far side of the pub. He makes himself scarce after that as he bustles about filling other orders, but Josie doesn't mind. After today, she just wants to sit in silence and get sloshed. At least then she won't have to figure out where she's sleeping tonight.
Honestly, what happened to her? She used to be so cool.
Josie's thoroughly despondent mood seems to fade away with the more alcohol she has. Three shots in, a pleasant buzz fills her mind and drenches through her thoughts. By the time she gets to her fifth shot, she's reached a point where the events of the day seem almost absurd.
"And – can you believe this, Tom? – I actually researched the wrong temple," she drunkenly laughs. "Egyptian names are really…really weird you know. I mean Hapsetshup…Hatshedshit…whatsitcalled is like, right next door to the other one. They're all on the fucking Nile so is it really that odd that I mixed them up?"
Tom glances over at her as he's dealing with another patron and drones, "Yeah, weird."
Josie hiccups and pours herself another shot. "None of this would've happened if I hadn't fucked with that…that – Merlin – that temple in Peru. Incan gold's never cursed me before."
"I mean it's sort of my job, you know," Josie says as she slams the shot glass down again. "Go in, disable the spells, take the gold. How was I supposed to know that holding onto one stupid coin would ruin my life?"
Tom shuffles away to tell off some younger wizards who are trying to levitate their table into the air. The guffawing laughter is quelled as Tom tears into them about liabilities and whatnot, but Josie doesn't even notice that the proprietor has left and just keeps talking.
"Ricardo tried telling me that cursed Incan gold is just a myth but he's obviously wrong. Just last week my entire back was black and blue for no apparent reason. It's this fucking curse," Josie bemoans, and pours another shot.
"Bruises and bad luck, hmm? That does sound like a curse," Tom muses in a strangely feminine voice.
Josie scoffs. "Yeah, I even have the – hic – inscription of the curse. Some shit about how greed makes you perish. All because I took that coin."
"Do you still have it?"
Josie drops her head onto the counter and closes her eyes, head spinning. "Course I do, Tom. It's right here in my pocket."
After some moments spent trying to remember what a pocket is, Josie slams a small, unassuming golden coin onto the counter and opens her eyes to blearily stare at it.
"Real gold, huh?" Tom asks.
Josie rolls her eyes and the world shakes. "It's from an Incan temple. It's obviously real gold."
She sees someone reach over to pick the coin up and wonder, "And it's cursed, you say?"
Josie rubs her eyes and grumbles, "Haven't you been listening to me all this time? It's cursed me with awful bad luck. I got kicked out of my flat, screamed at by my boss – and the man I've been in love with for ages even got proposed today." She frowns in confusion and mumbles, "…Proposed…engaged – he got engaged. Fuck. He got engaged."
Tom's voice is still weirdly feminine when he murmurs, "Really?"
Josie moans, "I always thought…always thought we'd end up together…god, I'm so pathetic. Every time I see them I want to rip Fleur's perfect hair out."
She pushes herself up onto her elbows and blinks, and looks across the counter at Tom. Only he isn't there. She frowns in confusion.
"I happen to be a bit of an expert in Peruvian curses. I think I could help you," the voice says to her left.
Josie jerks her head towards the voice and, when she sees the witch leaning against the counter beside Marcia, she gasps, "When did you get there?"
The witch raises her eyebrows and slides the golden coin back to Josie. The world is a bit blurry right now, but the woman seems quite tall and has a distinctly Columbian appearance. "I have Incan blood myself, you know. You should come talk to me. I could help you break your curse," the woman murmurs, and snaps open her clutch to pluck out what looks like a business card.
She reaches over to tuck it into the breast pocket of Josie's shirt and sends her a cryptic smile. Josie frowns, grasping onto the golden coin as she stares at the witch. Through her bleary haze of drunkenness, all Josie sees is glowing skin, wise brown eyes, high cheekbones…
"You can't have Incan blood. The Inca are all gone," Josie stupidly mumbles.
The witch raises an eyebrow and opens her mouth to respond, but before she can, a voice cuts through the din of the pub. A very familiar voice.
"Josie? What are you doing here?" Bill asks as he catches sight of her at the bar, a half-empty bottle of firewhiskey on the counter beside her.
Josie tears her eyes away from the witch to look at one very confused Bill Weasley, who is quickly approaching her. A hasty look around the pub tells her that for some reason, Fleur isn't with him. This only makes her feel marginally better, though, because when she turns back to look at the witch, she's gone.
"Where'd she go?" she asks, and moves Marcia out of the way as if she expects that the witch is hiding behind her houseplant. As she does, Bill arrives at the counter, takes one look at the suitcase at her feet and the plant next to her empty shot glass, and purses his lips.
"What's happened to you?" Bill demands, though not in an angry sort of way. He looks worried, actually, when he turns to flag Tom down. As the proprietor sends him a nod and begins to extricate himself from the conversation he's been wrangled into at the other end of the counter, Bill turns back to Josie and puts a comforting hand on her back.
In her drunken, firewhiskey-induced haze, she doesn't remember why it's such a terrible idea to sink into his touch. Which is, by the by, exactly what she does.
"Mmm…Billy, I've had such a…such a bad day," Josie laughs, and tucks her head against his shoulder, which is perfectly level to her head. She's always loved how tall he is…
Bill looks down at her in concern and frowns. As he threads his fingers comfortingly through her hair, he says, "I know Jos. Why's your suitcase here?"
Josie snorts out another laugh and tiredly mumbles, "Got kicked out…I was late on rent." She laughs again because honesty, in lieu of everything else that's happened today, the fact that she also got kicked out of her flat is almost too ridiculous to believe.
Bill seems to think so too, but his reaction isn't to join in with her laughter. His voice is tight with worry when he puts his arm around her shoulders and sighs, "Merlin. You really did have a rough day, didn't you?"
She hums in agreement, suddenly overcome with sleepiness now that Bill's gorgeous voice is serenading her. It doesn't stop her from reaching blindly for the firewhiskey bottle, though. Bill snatches her hand before she can get it and loops his fingers through hers, and Josie is so overcome by the sensation that she forgets why she had reached over to begin with. She's always loved Bill's hands…
Tom finally reaches them, casting a glance at Josie before rolling his eyes and turning to Bill. He seems somewhat relieved to see him, probably because with Bill here, he doesn't have to kick Josie out of the pub at closing time. Bill Weasley has always looked after Josie Devonport. It's just what he does. Best friends and all that.
Josie is so out of it that she doesn't notice Bill getting his wallet out. She doesn't notice him paying her tab and doesn't see Tom tuck the bottle of firewhiskey beneath the counter. She's too busy staring at the golden coin in her hand; the coin that Bill takes notice of when he turns back to face her.
"What's that?" he wonders, startling her a bit.
Right. Bill doesn't know about the Incan curse. She never told him that there's a real reason for her constant streak of bad luck, and he's got no idea why she's so ill all the time. She'd like to claim that it's because he's been too busy mooning over Fleur, but in reality, she just doesn't want him to know. Pride holds her hostage. She's been following after Bill since graduating Hogwarts, living in his shadow, trying to prove to everyone that she's just as good at breaking curses as he is, and admitting that she made such a foolish mistake would be dreadfully embarrassing. She knows this is a bit ridiculous but – Merlin, she just wants him to be proud of her.
"Nothing," she mumbles, and shoves the coin back into her pocket. Thankfully, she remembers what a pocket is, this time.
Bill studies her for one long moment before nodding and muttering, "Right. Let's go, then. Up and at 'em, Josie."
The next moment, he's hauling her to her feet and steadying her, his hands warm and solid around her waist. He slings her purse over his shoulder and reaches for his wand, murmuring, "Reducio," beneath his breath as he waves it over her suitcase. Once it's small enough, he slips it into his pocket. Then, turning back to her, he eyes her for another long moment before he shrugs out of his jacket and gently tucks it over her shoulders.
"What're you doing?" Josie mumbles, but this time she doesn't try to slip out of the jacket and merely pulls it tighter around her form.
Bill doesn't answer her at first. He tucks her Marcia under his arm and then loops his other arm around Josie's waist, pulling her firmly against him. The move makes her thoughts go foggy once more. The combination of alcohol and Bill is too much for her brain to handle.
So is apparition, for that matter.
"Hold on, Jos," he murmurs to her, then turns on his heel and apparates with a pop.
Now, for any aspiring witch or wizard out there who is reading this now, you may have heard that apparating whilst under the influence is generally not recommended. All sorts of things can go wrong, from getting splinched to landing a hundred feet above your intended location. Side-apparating is of course less dangerous, as you aren't the one driving the spell, but it's still incredibly unpleasant when firewhiskey is involved. And so, when Bill apparates them outside of his flat, Josie really can't stop the immense wave of nausea that quickly creeps up the back of her throat.
"Oh god," she mutters, and throws herself at the nearest bush.
If she was slightly more sober, she'd probably be mortified at the frankly disgusting way she heaves into the bush and throws her guts up. As it is, she's very much drunk, but to be completely honest she still feels a bit mortified when Bill steps over to her and crouches at her side.
"Shh, it's okay," he whispers to her as he pushes the mass of her dark curly hair out of her face and rubs her back. Merlin, who told him to be so fucking perfect, anyway?
The warmth of his hand and the gentleness of his voice does something to her in that moment that will make her even more mortified, come morning. When she finally stops puking up the contents of her stomach, she's overcome by the fact that he's here, helping her, after months of dealing with her attitude, and the guilt and loneliness she's been struggling with seems to hit an all time low. Coupled with the cumulation of every poignant and horrendous event that has taken place in the last few hours, is it any wonder that the tears she's spent the whole day holding back now overflow? It isn't the tears themselves that will mortify her tomorrow morning, though, but the way she ends up throwing herself into Bill's arms in her search for more of his warm comfort.
Merlin, she's missed him.
"Hey, hey, it's okay Josie," he soothes, and – bless him – he doesn't hesitate for even a moment as he hauls her closer, even though she just spent the last few minutes vomiting into that poor bush.
She's a bawling mess. It's partially his fault for her current state, but she still can't stop herself from craving as much of him as she can hold. She clings to him like a child, shaking and crying, and doesn't even realize she's blubbering until she hears herself say, "I have nowhere to go, Billy. I'm homeless. I'm a hobo now."
Yes, those words will most certainly make her groan with embarrassment in the morning, but right now they seem perfectly acceptable.
Bill just rubs her back and responds, "I'll take care of you, Josie."
After all, when it comes to her, that's just what he does.
The rest of what happens is admittedly a blur. Somehow, Bill manages to get her onto her feet and lead her into his flat. She has no idea how he's able to get her up the two flights of stairs to his third-floor room, considering how she's refusing to let go of his shirt. She thinks he might end up carrying her at least part of the way, but to be perfectly honest, everything is a haze. If the firewhiskey isn't enough to make the world spin into a confusing mess, the headache that's already pulsing through her brain certainly doesn't help. With her blubbering tears, she figures that Bill must be a saint. Either that, or a reincarnated Heracles.
The next thing she's aware of is the way Bill is lowering her into a bed and giving her that gentle smile of his. He leans over her and pushes her hair out of her eyes, saying something that Josie is too weary to decipher. His voice and the warmth of the blankets that he pulls over her body are enough to lull her into an encompassing sleep. She doesn't realize that she's grasping his hand and clenching onto it, or that she's still wearing his jacket, or that he's wiping her tears away and leaning down to press a kiss to her forehead. She doesn't even realize the way she mumbles, "I love you, Billy," in a voice that's hoarse from her ugly crying.
All she knows is that when Bill squeezes her hand and whispers, "I love you too, Josie," everything feels alright again.
Well, until morning, of course, when reality will come to knock at her door and remind her what an enormous idiot she is.