Purplestan: I love Charlie too, he's such an underrated character. He's next on my list of side stories!
Lily Potter: Thanks! Glad you're enjoying it so far. Also your joke made me laugh, I am easily amused ;) I've never given Bill or Fleur much thought either, which is why I was so surprised when I had the idea to write this story. I'm glad that people seem to like it!
Ihatecarbonara: Thank you! I love the Weasleys as well. I am considering doing a Fred story at some point in the future but that wouldn't be for a while. Too many other things to write first! Anyway thanks for the feedback, glad you're enjoying the story. As for face claims, I am thinking either Pooja Hedge or Naomi Scott
Slut4hpfanfic: I too am lazy and rarely review stories. ;D Thanks for taking the time to leave feedback, I appreciate it!
I am guest: I thought that one was really good! And no problem, always willing to help out fellow readers/writers. It's sad how few Bill stories exist out there. I've found a couple on quotev that aren't awful but most of them are unfinished
remifoster1313: I'm enjoying not making the story too centered around the war as well. It's very refreshing to take a break from all those themes, especially now that things are getting pretty dark in Vivicendium! I am so excited to write Vivian and Sirius into this story though. They won't have any huge scenes, but it's going to be really fun to approach Season 3 in this way. I'm hoping it will open up my vision regarding how I'll be writing that part of Vivian and Sirius's journey too. We'll see!
PoppyRosaLawston: Charlie's story is next in line for the VCU ;) I love the name too, it makes me happy haha. It's really only just starting out with this story though, so not much to see quite yet. The idea is to expand the Vivicendium universe to incorporate other pairings once we get to Season 3 of it, which will focus on the final war and Harry's plot. Anyway though I hope you enjoy the read!
Vivian Black: Can I just say that. I love your name. I skimmed over it at first and then did a double take. You should have seen my grin ;D
hella-sirius: Josie will be heading off to South America in the next chapter and I can't wait to introduce the other characters that she'll be encountering! But yeah, Josie has other things to worry about besides Bill, and once she actually gets to Peru the angst will lessen a bit, since she'll be focusing on other things. I'm having so much fun exploring the aspects of being a curse-breaker, especially since we've only ever heard of Egypt being involved with that job. It's fun expanding the HP world to encompass other cultures!
Hope you all enjoy!
Chapter Four | Never Lie to a Weasley
Josie loves South America. The people, the culture. The language is like music to her hears. The landscape is so different from the busy metropolis of London that it's like stepping into an entirely new world. These days, it feels like coming home. Her heart is in these temples; her love is trapped in the tall spires of the Andes as they reach for the clouds. She can't even count how many times she's traveled across this continent. She's been focusing on the Inca, Maya, and Aztec civilizations since she started as a curse-breaker after graduation, and she's pretty good at what she does. That's why it's so laughably ironic that she got cursed.
There's always a danger of getting cursed on the job, but she's usually careful when venturing into one of the temples of these ancient cultures. The sort of magic that perforates these by-gone civilizations is powerful stuff, and it's different from what many other curse-breakers see in different parts of the world. There's a wilderness to it – an unpredictability that requires extreme caution. You never know what new curse you may stumble upon or what effects it may have on the various members of your party. She's heard plenty of horror stories of whole expeditions getting cursed when they don't do their research properly. That's the trick, she's found. Doing your research before you step into the magical boundaries that often surround the temples.
Her plan is set: she leaves in two days for Peru. She's been in contact with Ricardo, her curse-breaker friend who often accompanies her on her expeditions whenever he has the time for it. He's the only person that Josie has talked to about her curse, mainly because as a Peruvian himself, she'd been hoping that he would have something to say about it. Unfortunately, Ricardo is convinced that she's just imagining her curse. 'Cursed gold? That's just a myth, querida. A bedtime story told to children,' he had said when she first brought it up in one of their , despite his perspective, he's still willing to help her. He always is.
Since this is a work trip, Josie will still need to deal with the Incan temple before she can focus on anything else. Gringotts is investing in this expedition and she has to make sure that there's something to show for it. Ricardo will be meeting up with her beforehand, but once their work is completed, they'll be heading off to find the Bolivian brothers before her return trip to England. She's hoping that by the time she arrives in South America, Ricardo will have more leads regarding where Salvador and Mauricio are. As it is, she's been hard pressed to track them down all the way from England, so she's had to rely on Ricardo more than she would have liked.
With her trip coming up, Josie spends her Sunday in her office at Gringotts, planning out her travels and putting a schedule together. This won't be a standard expedition and she'll need to make sure she's got plenty of time to find Salvador and Mauricio. At least half of her trip will be spent doing actual curse-breaking work, so she needs to plan accordingly. After a long day spent ironing out all the details, she heads back to Bill's flat, daydreaming about making a proper cup of tea. That's about the time when she remembers why it was such a bad idea to let him convince her to move in with him.
"Bill, stop it!" Fleur's lilting French accent laughs the moment Josie steps into the flat.
Right. Now she remembers. As if she wants to walk in on Bill and Fleur cuddling together on his couch.
Her stomach roils with disgust. Her heart tightens with pain. She clears her throat awkwardly, and Bill immediately tears his hands away from Fleur's midsection, where he had been tickling her. Well, at least they aren't snogging. Though from Bill's rumpled shirt and Fleur's mussed up hair, Josie suspects that they were.
"Josie!" Bill exclaims. His face floods with embarrassment. "Er – you're back," he finishes, very awkwardly.
Josie stares at him for a long moment, then rolls her eyes and sarcastically drawls, "Here I am. I hope I'm not…interrupting something." She stuffs her hands into her leather jacket and raises an eyebrow at them.
The sarcasm in her voice only makes him blush that much more, even as Fleur laughs again from the couch, appearing quite amused at her fiancé's embarrassment.
"Well. I've got some packing to do," Josie declares, wanting to extricate herself from this frankly awkward situation as soon as possible. As she hastens towards the spare bedroom, she calls back, "You can just go back to whatever it was you were doing."
Right – snogging and tickling. Yeah, she doesn't want to be around to witness that. Merlin, she needs to find a new place to live. This is an absolute nightmare.
Once she closes herself into her room and shuts the door behind her, Josie dumps her rucksack onto her bed and immediately starts going through her dresser. She likes to make sure that everything is accounted for early on, despite the fact that she still has a few days before she leaves. This said, she doesn't have that much to pack. Josie isn't all that interested in how she looks. She's accustomed to toughing it out, especially while she's traveling. A few pairs of trousers and tanks are enough to get her through a few weeks. She doesn't usually wear make-up and doesn't give two shits about whether her hair is perfect, so that helps too. She throws a couple of shorts into her bag and digs around for some clean shirts. As a muggleborn, she's got quite a collection of band t-shirts and such things, which she loves wearing in the wizarding world because it always confuses people.
By the time she's finished stuffing things into her rucksack, she decides to make that cup of tea before tackling her pre-expedition paperwork. She bolsters herself before braving the kitchen, fully expecting to find Fleur and Bill having yet another moment, but when she steps out of her room, the French woman seems to have left. Josie raises her eyebrow and glances over at Bill, who is trying to decide what to make for dinner. He looks up at her as she heads over to the kettle, only to find that it's already hot. Bill must have gotten it ready for her. Though the thought that he knows her so well warms her, it also fills her with that ever-present sense of wistfulness, and she has to collect herself once more as she heads over to get a mug from the cabinet.
"Where's Fleur?" Josie wonders as she searches around for the tea. She sees a tin on the top shelf and mutters a curse as she tries to reach for it. After a few attempts, her fingers close around it and she sets it onto the counter.
With a shrug, Bill responds, "She had some errands to run." Then, after a tense moment, he clears his throat and starts to say, "Josie – " right when Josie says, "Bill – "
They both fall silent and stare at each other, until Josie gestures at him to speak. Merlin, she's never felt this awkward around him before. She hastily prepares a teabag while she waits for him to speak.
He opens his mouth, but seems to change his mind about what he's about to say, because he just settles with, "…What do you want for dinner?"
She bustles over to fill her mug with hot water and shrugs, "Don't bother, I'm not really hungry. I've got a ton of work to do tonight."
Then, just as quickly as she'd come, Josie hightails it back to her room, and it's only when the door shuts that she's able to breathe. Bill just purses his lips and sighs, wondering yet again how their friendship had deteriorated to such an extent.
Still, he thankfully keeps himself busy while Josie works. She hadn't been lying about that. She's got a ton of paperwork to prepare before her expedition. She could just do it at the office tomorrow, but she reckons that this gives her a real excuse to not be around Bill, which is always good. Being near him is…difficult.
Thankfully, he seems to be fine with giving her the space that she apparently desires, because he doesn't bother her for several hours. It's after nightfall by the time he knocks on her door and pokes his head in to check on her. He takes one look at the paperwork strewn over her bed and whistles lowly.
"Couldn't you do all of this on Monday? It's the weekend," he says, as if he thinks she needs to be reminded of what day it is. He steps into her room and closes the door with the heel of his dragon-hide boots. She wonders if he had stepped out of the flat without her realizing it, but doesn't ask.
"Here," he says, putting down a fresh cup of tea. "Thought you could use a refill. It's your favorite."
So it seems. She's always been partial to peppermint. Of course he remembered.
"…Thanks," she responds idly, not lifting her eyes from the file she's putting together.
Bill falls silent as he looks around the room. It's a bit messier than usual. Josie's always been a bit of a whirlwind, coming and going and forgetting to tidy things up. Despite her being here for only a short time, the place is a bit of a wreck. He doesn't particularly mind, though. He's not exactly the neatest person either, and besides, most of the mess seems to be work-related.
Papers litter every spare surface, from the nightstand to the small table on the other end of the room. A map of South America has been charmed to the wall, marked with more red lines and dots. He finds himself gravitating towards it without thought, suddenly filled with curiosity. He's never really gotten too involved in the South America division, preferring to focus all of his time with the Egypt cases, so he doesn't really know much about what she does besides the standard curse-breaking endeavors. He feels abruptly disappointed with himself for not asking her more about her line of work, but in all fairness, he's been extremely busy since returning to England. Not only does his missions for the Order take up much of his spare time, but he also has his work at Gringotts to do and his relationship with Fleur to focus on.
"So where in Peru are you going?" he wonders, curiously following the red lines across the various countries. Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico…they seem to be following a specific path.
Josie clears her throat behind him and mumbles, "Here and there, really…the temple is located east of Tarapoto," then falls silent, as if this explanation should be enough.
It isn't. Bill raises an eyebrow and turns to study her. When she doesn't look up from the page she's scanning, he sighs, "Josie, I'm…sorry about our argument. I said some things that I regret."
Finally, she glances up at him and sends him a smile that looks a bit strained. There's something in her eyes that makes him pause. Some hint of hurt that confuses him. Had he put it there? He can't imagine how.
"…It's fine, Bill. It's in the past," she tells him.
Still, though, despite her calm words, her eyes are still strangely disclosed and he doesn't like it. He steps towards the bed and shuffles some of the papers out of the way, sitting down beside her.
"You sure?" he murmurs, catching her eye. Her soft brown gaze clears slightly, but only just.
Josie laughs and nudges his shoulder with hers. "Of course I'm sure. Stop giving me that look."
Damn him for making it so hard to hold a grudge. Every time she tries, he only has to give her those appealing eyes and she caves, wondering why she was ever upset at him in the first place.
"So what sort of Incan temple are you going to?" Bill asks after a moment, and lays back on the bed, apparently here to stay.
Josie glances at him and collapses onto the bed as well, lying side by side next to him. "Oh, well, it was built to honor one of the Incan gods. Kon, the rain god. He's one of the more benevolent gods, so I doubt we'll find too many bodies in there. You never know, though. Human sacrifices and all."
Bill raises an eyebrow at him and lifts himself up onto his elbow to look down at her. "Do you usually deal with Inferi?"
She snorts. "Nah. The Inca used to mummify the bodies of their ancestors and use all sorts of spells to keep them partially alive even after death, but that sort of magic is nothing like the magic used to create Inferi."
Bill smiles and studies the line of her nose and the passionate look in her eyes, and murmurs, "You know a lot about this."
When Josie smiles at him, he feels his breath catch for some reason.
"It's fascinating to me," she tells him.
He smiles at her and just responds, "It feels strange that we've never really spoken about it before."
For other reasons unknown to him, her own smile fades slightly at this. They stare at each other for a long moment, in which Josie seems to realize how close they are. When she sits up and clears her throat, he feels a bolt of disappointment thunder through his chest.
"Yeah…it's strange…" she mumbles, and then throws him an offhanded smile. "Thanks for the tea, Bill, but I really do need to get some work done. I'm due to leave in two days, so I have to prepare."
He pauses, inwardly recoiling from her abrupt brush-off, before gruffly responding, "Right. I'll just…let you get back to work then."
She doesn't stop him from getting up and heading to the door. It's only when he's halfway through it that she turns to look at him and adds, "Oh – also, I've found a new flat, so I'll be out of your hair by tomorrow. I want to get everything set up before the expedition." She smiles at him and turns back to the page she's reading, not noticing the look on Bill's face as he hears this.
It's disappointed, and hurt, and wistful. He doesn't really know why he feels all of these things. After all, it's just Josie, his best friend, the girl he thinks of as a sister. By all rights, he should be happy that she's getting back on her feet. Thrilled, even, that he'll have his flat to himself again, and that he'll be able to spend more time with Fleur without worrying about Josie walking in on them.
It's just…he doesn't want her to leave. He likes having her so close to him. It feels right.
He doesn't know why, yet, but he will, and when he finally opens his eyes to the bigger picture and realizes what he's been ignoring for half of his life, well…
He certainly won't be confused as to why his heart shudders just so in his chest as he quietly shuts Josie's door.
"Are you sure you want to leave? We had a pretty good set up here," Bill had said the next morning as he'd watched Josie pack up her things. He'd looked like he wanted to say more, but Fleur had come round for breakfast and seemed to be having trouble remembering how to fry an egg without burning it to a crisp, so he'd had to leave to help out. Josie hadn't stopped him, and had merely muttered to herself about how hard it is to cook breakfast. Then again, she is the daughter of a restaurateur, so maybe she's biased.
Then again, maybe not. She had stepped out of the spare room with her belongings just in time to see Fleur happily plating Bill's breakfast, which had consisted of a blackened egg and a thoroughly burnt piece of toast. As expected, Bill was too much of a gentleman to complain, though he'd sent Josie a jokingly frightened look over his shoulder the moment Fleur's back was turned.
Honestly. Why is he even marrying her if she can't make toast? It's a question that's been spinning through her head all morning as she'd lugged her suitcase across Diagon Alley to her new 'flat'. Ah – now is probably a good time to mention that she doesn't actually have a place lined up, like she'd told Bill. These days, she feels like she lies to him more often than she ever used to, and though it leaves a bitter taste in her mouth, she can't help but feel like it's necessary. She can't stay with him when Fleur comes around so often. It makes the jealousy in her heart spiral out of control, so much so that it's difficult to breathe.
She's hoping that her womanly charm is in better condition today, because she's going to need it if she wants to secure a place to stay. Being homeless isn't really her cup of tea. When she lugs Marcia and her suitcase to The Leaky Cauldron, though, she isn't sure said charm is going to cut it.
"Please, Tom. I'll even take a broom closet at this point, as long as it has a bed," she appeals when she arrives at the inn to bother its proprietor yet again. The moment he'd seen her step inside with her belongings, he'd spun around quickly and tried to look busy. Unfortunately though, people don't usually frequent the pub so early in the day and he hadn't exactly had much to occupy himself with.
Josie leans across the counter and adds, "You know what? I'd even take it without the bed – I'm used to roughing it out. I'd be fine with that."
Tom gives her a deadpan stare and opens his mouth to respond to her, but before he can, she presses, "I've got a good job. I'm willing to pay double what the other tenants pay – and it's only for as long as I can find an actual flat. Please, Tom."
He sounds very exasperated when he gruffly mutters, "I don't have a room, Devonport. I've already told you – "
"I know that, but I also know you've got some broom closets you could clear out," she interrupts, trying to make her womanly charm work. Damn it, she doesn't know why it seems so out of order these days. She used to be able to convince a man to do anything with just one daring smile.
Tom sighs in annoyance and throws down the rag he's using to wipe down the countertops. "I thought you were staying with Weasley. What'd he do, throw you out or somethin'?"
Josie collapses into the empty bar stool she's hovering over and mumbles, "…No. I just can't stand being around him and his new fiancée." Her voice lowers into so much disparagement that Tom's eyebrows jerk up in skepticism.
Great. She probably sounds just as jealous as she feels. She ought to rein that in a bit if she wants to convince him.
"Look, it wouldn't be for very long. Plus I'll be shipping off to Peru tomorrow morning, so I just need a place to store my things until I can find a flat," she says, trying a new approach. "And I wasn't lying about paying you double. You'd make a fortune off of me, I swear."
Mention of money does seem to make his eyes flash with interest. He leans against his side of the counter and hedges, "There is a broom closet on the fourth floor that I could turn into a room…if you pay me upfront for the next three months."
Josie's mouth drops open. "Three months? Why?"
Tom raises a shrewd eyebrow and shrugs, "Let's call it an insurance policy."
She scowls at him and mutters, "I'd rather call it 'greed'." But then, when she sees the way he looks like he's about to retract the offer, she hurriedly says, "Fine! When can I move in?"
He just reaches into his pocket to grab his wand and gruffly responds, "Right now…after payment, of course."
She huffs at him. "I'll need to go to Gringotts to take out some money. Just get the room ready and I'll pay you later today." She nearly adds, 'you greedy arsehole', but decides against it at the last minute, not wanting to push her already dismal luck.
That's how she ends up here, in this cramped broom closet on the fourth floor of The Leaky Cauldron, surrounded by her things and wondering how her life had gotten so incredibly shitty.
"That should do it," Tom mutters after he clears out the cleaning supplies and uses his magic to set up a bed and a dresser in the corner. That's literally all there is. Just one bed and one dresser, and enough dust and grime to last a lifetime.
Well. Beggars can't be choosers, as they say. In any case, this definitely beats living in Bill's spare room and having to listen to Fleur's annoying voice all the time.
She tries to remain optimistic as she puts her clothes into the dresser and does some cleaning charms to remove the cobwebs. For a while, she's able to distract herself from the press of jealousy that always seems to inhibit her heart these days, but once everything is put away and cleaned as best as she can manage, those dark thoughts once more cloud her mind.
"Bill!" Fleur's laugh floats through her mind.
She cringes to herself and collapses onto the bed. The moment her back hits the hard mattress, she cringes even more. To be honest, she might end up missing Bill's spare bed after a few nights of sleeping on this, but that's all she'll miss.
"How did this even happen?" she bemoans, shaking the thought from her head as she casts a disparaging glance around the tiny broom-closet-turned-room. She never thought she'd be in this sort of situation. Kicked out of her flat, still in love with Bill even though she should've gotten over him by now, living in a fucking broom closet – and only after way more begging than she'll ever admit to. Honestly, she's starting to wonder if she'll ever break this curse, or if her constant bad luck is here to stay. It certainly doesn't seem to be letting up at all.
She's only further reminded of that when she feels a strange wetness on her upper lip, and when she touches her nose, she realizes that it's bleeding.
"Oh fuck everything," Josie grumbles. The aches and pains are one thing, but the bloody noses have been happening more and more frequently as of late and they're frankly annoying because they're always followed up with a –
"Fucking headache," she moans, rolling back into a sitting position and throwing herself across the tiny room to root around her bag. Thankfully, the Moondew essence that Catalina had given her is still right where she'd left it.
Josie reaches for a tissue to curb the bloody nose as she makes her way back to the bed, clutching the Moondew tightly. Catalina hadn't been lying about its potency. When she puts several drops of it on her tongue, the effects are immediate. After only a few seconds, her headache begins to lessen until it's gone completely, and the blood stops flowing.
At least the Moondew works. It seems to be the only thing that does.
Honestly, if she doesn't find a way to break this curse, she's afraid that bloody noses and headaches might be the least of her concerns. The thought makes her close her eyes with a dark frown. A moment later, Josie is sitting back up and shedding the Queen t-shirt she had thrown on that morning. She pauses for a moment to collect her strength before glancing down to where her heart beats. The moment she sees the blackened veins spreading just beneath the skin, a sick feeling trembles through her. Ricardo might think she's just being dramatic about this curse, but she knows she's not. For months now, she's watched the slow spread of it. At first it had just been a slight discoloration that she hadn't even noticed, but after a while, she's started to realize that this isn't just another random bruise. The veins surrounding her heart can be clearly seen through her skin; blackened lines festering with sickness.
Catalina's voice whispers into Josie's mind as she lays back down on the hard bed and stares sightlessly at the ceiling, wrinkling Roger's face as she clenches her fingers around her t-shirt.
"I have witnessed the slow decay that lays waste to their bodies and drives them to madness…"
A shiver catches through her body, born of fear and misery.
"Beware who enter here…for those who live by way of greed will perish…" she whispers to herself.
She's got to get the rest of those coins. As soon as possible.
It's not going to be easy, though. Nothing ever is, for her. When she heads into work an hour or so later, her bad luck seems to be acting out in all sorts of vengeful ways. She walks right into a goblin who is transporting a tray of galleons to be weighed and distributed, and ends up knocking the tray right onto the ground, spilling the coins all over the marbled floor of the lobby. After a thoroughly frightening scolding from the goblin, who had very nearly bit her head off for her clumsiness, Josie had quickly made her way to the curse-breaker department, praying that the rest of her day won't follow the same path as her morning. She should really know better than to be that hopeful, though.
The first sign of her bad luck wreaking havoc on her life is when she realizes that she had forgotten several important papers back at The Leaky Cauldron, and has to explain it to Artie, who isn't very pleased to hear about it.
"We need to file that paperwork before you leave, Devons, or else you're not going to Peru – you'd best go get them during your lunch break," he tells her.
Right, so she wastes her entire lunch break trying to find the papers that had somehow gotten lost in her tiny new room. By the time she locates them, she only has ten minutes left of her break and she ends up returning to the office without lunch, which really sucks because she hadn't eaten breakfast and she's starving.
Thankfully, the meeting she has that afternoon goes according to plan, but that's about the only good thing that happens today. She goes over her trip, does a thorough analysis of what she's expecting, and gets the final go-ahead for her expedition from Artie. This naturally means more paperwork, which ends up taking her longer than planned because she ends up accidentally breaking her quill halfway through. While this normally wouldn't be a problem, it just so happens to be the only quill she's got left, which means that she has to take a detour around the office to borrow one from her coworkers. The moment she begins to dive back into her work, though, she runs out of ink, and she has to do the exact same thing all over again. It ends up taking her twenty minutes before she can actually resume her work, and by then, she's muttering curses beneath her breath.
Then, as she's signing her name to several papers, another headache begins to jolt through her head. She reaches up to take her hair down from its ponytail, only for her hair tie to snap.
She gets stuck in the lift on her way to the Secretarial Department to file the paperwork, runs into Fleur on her way back, and gets caught in a conversation that she would absolutely rather not have.
"I wanted to ask, Jozephine, if Billy is allergic to dairy, because 'ee never seems to eat breakfast."
After making something up about Bill just not eating breakfast that much (that's a lie, of course – Bill loves breakfast, especially his mum's), Josie makes a quick escape. She's not evil. She won't tell Fleur that she's just shite at cooking. Bill would probably be furious if she did, even though he probably agrees.
Anyway, when she returns to her office, she somehow manages to break her door. She's got no idea how it happens but as it swings closed, one of the hinges snaps and the whole thing ends up tilting sideways. She ends up having to call Artie in to help her fix it, because for some reason, 'Reparo' isn't working. Her wand is acting up again, it seems.
She really should have gone to Ollivander to ask him about the fracture that's running along the length of her wand, but she's just had no time to lately. Besides, she's expecting that it will be pretty expensive to repair, if it even can be repaired, and she can't really afford a brand new wand at the moment. Considering that she has just cleared out the remainder of her savings to pay Tom three months of rent, she really doesn't have the funds to purchase a new one at the moment. Bringing a faulty wand on an expedition into a dangerous Incan temple is probably not a good idea, but Josie doesn't exactly have many options at the moment.
By three o'clock, she's beginning to lose her shit. After staring forlornly at her wand for a good ten minutes straight and ignoring the paperwork that she still has to file before she leaves for Peru, she decides that maybe she ought to get a cup of tea. That usually makes her feel loads better, and she needs to distract herself from her sudden concern over her very empty savings account.
Of course, with the way things are going, she really shouldn't be surprised when getting a simple cup of tea turns into getting screamed at yet again by one furious Robert Wright, who seems to have decided that he absolutely can't stand her. In her defense, though, it's really his fault for storming into the break room right when she's walking through the threshold with a steaming cup of tea in hand. Apparently, she has a newfound talent of spilling burning liquid on people, because that's exactly what ends up happening when Wright knocks into her shoulder and she ends up dumping the contents of her teacup right down the front of his pristinely ironed dress shirt.
Josie freezes, loosely holding the tilted cup that is now nearly empty, and lifts wide eyes to the quickly reddening face that the head of the Egyptian division is now sporting.
"…Devonport," Wright grits out, staring at her as if he thinks she's literally dirt beneath his shoes. A very brief silence falls, before…
"WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?" he yells.
"I'M SO FUCKING TIRED OF YOUR SHIT! DO YOU MAKE A FUCKING HABIT OF SPILLING THINGS EVERYWHERE YOU GO OR ARE YOU JUST A FUCKING IDIOT!"
If anyone else swore like that to an employee, they'd probably get reported. Thing is, Robert Wright is practically a legend around here and no one would dare demote him. He might be an arsehole, but he's an incredible curse-breaker. Josie holds her breath and clenches down on her empty teacup so tightly that she's afraid she might break it.
"I CAN'T EVEN FUCKING LOOK AT YOU. HOW DID YOU EVEN GET THIS JOB, ANYWAY?!" he screams, and then before she can attempt to explain herself, he turns on his heel and storms back out of the break room, his shirt now a questionable shade of tea-brown.
Josie stares at his back and jumps as he slams the door shut. Even after he disappears, though, she still holds her breath, as if she's expecting that he'll come back around to yell at her some more. In fact, when the door quietly opens after several minutes of puckered silence, Josie thinks for a split second that this is exactly what's happening – until she sees Bill's long head of red hair as he slips into the room, no doubt having heard Wright's yelling and had deduced what was going on. The sight of him has her finally releasing her breath. And her tears, apparently, which she hadn't even known she was holding back until that moment.
"Oh, Josie," Bill murmurs when he sees them. Something in his chest lurches, and he immediately pulls her into his arms. "Hey, it's okay, yeah?"
He rubs her back as she buries her face against his shoulder and wraps her arms around him. Fuck it – she knows she shouldn't fall into him like this every damn time, but she just can't help herself around him. When he holds her like this, everything just feels so much better.
"I keep crying these days," Josie breathlessly admits, reaching up to drag the back of her hand over her cheek.
Bill snorts and mutters, "Wright's a complete arse. I reckon you've got a right to cry."
At this, Josie pulls back to jokingly hiccup, "I thought you worshiped that man!"
He makes a face and returns, "I wouldn't go that far, Jos. Even though he's a legendary curse-breaker, he's still a twat."
His words have the right effect, it seems, because Josie lets out a breathless, hiccupping laugh and pulls away to pat her cheeks. As she wipes her tears away, she mutters, "God. I'm having such an awful day. You wouldn't believe my bad luck."
Bill raises his hand to drag his thumb across her cheek. "Does that mean I'll have to carry you up to my flat again after one too many shots of firewhiskey?"
She cringes a bit at the memory, cheeks flushing just so. "…Did I ever apologize for that?" she wonders with another grimace.
Bill laughs and steps away from her, patting her shoulder as he responds, "You don't have to apologize, Josie. We all have our bad days."
She grimaces out a smile in response.
"You should get back to work," he tells her gently, and opens his mouth to say more. Before he can, though…
"I'm cursed, Bill," she blurts out. Merlin, she probably shouldn't tell him but every time she tries to push him away, he finds a way to wrangle back into her life and she lets him. She lets him because she can't not let him. He's Bill Weasley. Of course she lets him.
Her rushed words make him pause and furrow his eyebrows at her, no doubt wondering why her eyes are shining so seriously. He opens his mouth, but before he can ask her what she's talking about, the door opens again and Fleur pokes her head into the room. Her eyes drift over Josie and lock onto Bill's.
"Bill, we'll be late if we don't leave now," she says, then finally looks at Josie and furrows her brows at her unkempt state. "Are you alright, Jozephine?"
Josie hurriedly wipes away the remainder of her tears and mutters out an affirmative, but Fleur is already turning back to Bill to impatiently say, "Our lunch break has already started. If we do not leave now, we will be late." She glances back at Josie to send her a quick, if not slightly concerned smile, before ducking back out of the room to gather her things.
Josie stares at Fleur as she disappears, then turns to stare at Bill, who is shuffling his feet as if he's not sure whether he should stay to make sure she's alright or go with his fiancée.
Fleur wins, of course. Of course.
"Everything'll be alright, Josie," Bill hurriedly tells her, then sends her one last smile before turning to the door and leaving, just as quickly as he'd come.
This time, Josie ends up staring at the door for even longer than she had after Wright had angrily stormed off. She lets out another laughing hiccup and reaches up to brush more tears away.
Of course taking Fleur out is more important to Bill than her curse. This is exactly the reason why she had decided not to tell him in the first place. She knew that he'd be too distracted to help her. He probably thinks that she's just being dramatic. Merlin, if only she was.
The remainder of the day passes uneventfully, which she's very grateful for. After wiping away her tears and scolding herself for being such a crybaby these days, she heads back to her office to finish up her work. All in all, considering her situation, things could be worse.
Well, maybe. See, the problem is that whenever she thinks that things could be worse, they have an annoying tendency of getting worse. In this case, this happens when she arrives back at her office and sees a frilly envelope waiting for her on her desk. Call it some bolt of premonition, but she knows exactly what it is the moment her eyes land on it. Of course, her foreknowledge could also be due to the fact that it smells exactly like Fleur Delacour's expensive French perfume.
She sits down with tentative hesitation and stares at it for a long moment, before swallowing tightly and reaching into her desk to get out a quill. She doesn't open it, or even try to push it out of sight. Instead, she just tries to forget that it's there and starts diving into her work, as if hoping that if she doesn't acknowledge its existence, she can pretend that it doesn't exist at all. Some part of her must know that she won't be able to ignore it forever, though.
"Josie, did you get an invite? I heard Bill asked you to be his Best Man! How progressive!" Janice from the second floor gushes during a late afternoon break, in which Josie heads over to get more tea to combat a headache that's quickly rushing to the surface. She's been using the Moondew a lot lately and she's almost out of the small vial, so she's been trying to ration her use of it until she can go purchase more.
Josie sends Janice a strained smile and responds, "Yeah. Progressive."
Unfortunately, Janice doesn't seem to realize that Josie doesn't want to talk about this topic, and just adds, "Just think – you'll get to be right next to him when he says his vows. It's so lovely."
Josie swallows thickly and hums, hoping that it sounds agreeable. Merlin. She hadn't really thought about that. Why did she say yes when Bill asked her? Maybe it's because he's so damned perfect and she can never say no to him?
"Have you thought about where to take him for his bachelor's party yet?" Janice keeps gushing.
Fuck it all. She hadn't thought about that, either.
"Um…a pub I guess?" Josie stumbles.
Merlin, she hopes he doesn't want to go to a strip club. That's what lots of men do, right? One last hurrah before tying the knot? Of course, she's always thought that Bill was better than most men, but seeing as he's marrying Fleur Delacour, maybe he'll surprise her.
Janice smiles widely and says, "Has he told you where he's taking Fleur for the honeymoon?"
Oh god, the honeymoon. Josie doesn't want to think about that. Not that she actually thinks that Bill and Fleur haven't…you know, done it, but that's a little too much for her mind to handle right now. Her headache already seems to be transforming into a migraine, and picturing Bill and Fleur getting it on in some gorgeous hotel room isn't helping.
"I, uh, have – um. See you later, Janice," Josie stutters, powerwalking back to her office before Janice can ask her any more questions about Bill and his perfect fiancée. When she gets back to her desk and sees the frilly envelope waiting for her, though, she knows that avoiding it just isn't practical. If she doesn't deal with this right now, then she won't be able to get any more work done.
With a tired sigh, Josie collapses into her chair and rips open the parchment. She pauses for a moment before unfolding it, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath to prepare herself. Then with shaking fingers, she begins to read.
William Arthur Weasley
Fleur Isabelle Delacour
do humbly invite you to attend the celebration of their marriage
to be held on the First of August
at The Burrow, Ottery St. Catchpole, Devonshire
dinner and dancing to follow
Josie breathes out and stares at Bill's name for a long moment, clenching the parchment tightly. She wants to rip it up, but she can't quite bring herself to tear his name.
God. She's so pathetic, but she just…always thought that it'd be her name, beside his. That he'd realize he loved her too. That he'd wake up one day and decide that he wanted her in his life for forever, by his side until death parts them, claiming her as his own in all the ways that he hasn't.
She folds the parchment back up, sticks it back into the frilly envelope, and calmly puts it into her desk. Then she takes her quill and leans over her research, trying to focus on tracking down the Bolivian curse-breakers. She can't, though. It's a bit hard to focus when your eyes are swimming with tears.
"You told yourself you wouldn't cry over him anymore, Josie," she whispers furiously to herself. She's got a bad habit of doing that. Maybe it's because no one else around here knows that she's in love with her best friend, and therefore she can't talk to anyone about it.
She takes a shaky breath and closes her eyes again, trying to think about other things. Things that don't make her heart hurt. Things like the exhilaration of breaking through complicated curses and how much she hates Fleur Delacour. God she hates her. She hates her.
Suddenly her migraine slams into her at full force, and she slams her quill down on her desk to reach up and massage her temples. She tells herself to calm down, but she can't. Her shoulders are suddenly knotted up with tension and she can't think around this migraine. She needs to get more Moondew or she's going to go crazy, so right after work, she decides to head into Knockturn Alley to talk to Catalina. If she's going to be out of the country for two weeks, it's best to be prepared.
Tesoros del Viejo Mundo is just the same as it had been when she first stepped into it. The creepy taxidermy animals blink at her as she heads inside, but the eeriness of it all is washed away when she's once more surrounded by ancient artifacts from around the world. She feels just as amazed as she did the first time, and ends up idling by the door for a few more moments than she means to as she looks around.
"…Josephine? You didn't send word that you retrieved the coins. I'm afraid I'm not prepared for the ritual," Catalina's thickly accented voice suddenly says.
Josie jumps a bit and turns to the counter, where Catalina is standing. She hadn't noticed her there when she had first stepped inside. The witch has quiet footsteps, it seems.
"Oh, no, I haven't found any of the coins yet," Josie quickly says, feeling oddly foolish as she stands in the doorway beneath Catalina's sharp gaze. She suddenly wonders if she should have come at all, but then she remembers the migraine that's still blazing through her head and sets her shoulders back as she makes her way to the counter.
Catalina raises an eyebrow at her and asks, "What are you doing here, then? I thought we agreed that you'd retrieve all the coins before we met again?"
The witch sounds oddly annoyed at Josie's presence, until she explains, "I've run out of Moondew. I wanted to see if I could buy another vial."
Yes, at this explanation, Catalina's sharp eyes soften, and she smiles that cryptic smile again as she murmurs, "Ah. Yes, that can be arranged. I'm afraid it will cost you, though."
Josie inhales and nods, "I know. I've brought money."
The last of it until her next payday. She doesn't say that, though, and Catalina doesn't ask.
"Wait here," she says, before stepping over to the tapestry and pulling it aside. From Josie's vantage point, she can see the corner of the Conquistador painting for half a second before the tapestry falls back into place and shrouds it from view.
While she waits, Josie taps her fingers impatiently against the counter. She wonders what her mum would say, if she knew that her daughter was about to spend her last remaining coin on healing potions. Or if she knew that Josie was sleeping in a broom closet, for that matter. She cringes at the thought and decides never to mention it to her. Her mum doesn't need to know everything that goes on in her life, does she? Besides, she probably only just got back from her honeymoon. Josie wouldn't want to ruin her good mood with her problems, many as they are these days.
She doesn't want to ruin Bill's good mood, either. After nearly telling him about the curse and seeing his offhanded reaction to her words, Josie has since decided to revert back to avoiding him as much as she can and never breathing a word of her curse to him. Of course, she hadn't actually realized that this plan will inevitably fail until Janice had started asking her about bachelor parties and such things. That might throw a bit of a wrench in things. She wonders if it's too late to tell Bill that he should probably just ask Charlie or one of his other brothers to be take her place. She's trying to decide how angry Bill would be if she did when Catalina returns from the side room carrying the wooden box.
Josie straightens up as Catalina puts the box onto the counter and takes out another small vial. She places it in front of Josie and says, "Twenty galleons."
Josie, who is in the process of reaching out to take the vial, immediately stops and stares at Catalina with huge eyes.
"Twenty galleons?" she splutters. How can a tiny vial cost that much? She doesn't even have twenty galleons to her name right now.
Catalina raises an eyebrow and murmurs, "Like I said, it's pricy. I did warn you."
Right. She had. But…
"I just – I don't have twenty galleons," Josie admits, flushing beneath her collar. She's never been embarrassed about her humble roots before, but beneath Catalina's unimpressed stare, she suddenly feels incredibly uncomfortable.
Catalina tilts her head and sighs, "Hmm. Well, I'm afraid I can't give it to you, then. I do need to make a living, my dear. You understand, I'm sure."
Josie splutters again, but retracts her hand and merely clutches the counter. She swallows tightly and breathes, "Is there…is there something else you want?"
The question makes Catalina's eyes flash curiously. She raises an eyebrow and slowly murmurs, "You wish to make a deal? Tell me, what treasures do you often find in these temples you break into?"
Josie feels immediately annoyed at the wording of Catalina's sentence. After all, she isn't a thief, she's a curse-breaker. Instead of remarking on it, though, she merely grumbles, "I don't know, it depends on the site. Gold, silver, precious jewels…lots of different things."
Catalina hums, "Well…I'm sure some of those precious jewels would be enough."
Josie's mouth drops open. "You want me to steal ancient Incan treasure for you? That's exactly why I'm in this mess to begin with!"
Well sort of. She hadn't technically stolen the Incan coin, but the curse doesn't make distinctions between sentiment and greed, apparently.
Catalina sighs at her and says, "That's how you're paying the original members of the expedition, no? It's hardly any different." She's not sure how Catalina knows that this is her plan, and it makes Josie a bit unnerved until the woman raises an eyebrow and says, "That is how you're paying them, is it not? You told me yourself that you aren't in the best place financially right now, and I doubt they'll just hand over Incan coins without receiving anything in return."
Had she said that? She can't remember. To be honest, her meeting with Catalina some weeks ago seems strangely blurry to her, as if she only recalls bits and pieces of it.
"Well, yes, I suppose that's…true," she splutters. "But…I don't know. I could get into a lot of trouble if anyone finds out."
Catalina doesn't seem at all concerned, and merely reaches over to pluck the vial off the counter. "Well, if you're sure, Josephine. I wouldn't want you to get into tr – "
"I'll do it!" Josie exclaims, and grabs the vial before Catalina can even touch it. Then, feeling a bit foolish at the surprised expression on the witch's face, she clears her throat and says again in a calmer voice, "I'll do it. I'm leaving for Peru in the morning, so I'll see what I can do."
Catalina smiles slowly at her and responds, "Very well. I'll entrust that vial to you for now, but see to it that you return with payment the moment you arrive back to England."
There's something in her eyes that makes Josie think that she ought to listen – some shard of danger which tells her that Catalina is not a woman to be trifled with. She hadn't seen it there, before, but she does now. She feels a bit unnerved again, and just nods.
"I will," she says faintly, clutching the vial tightly against her chest.
Catalina smiles that cryptic smile once more and Josie nods again before taking her leave, hastily stepping into Knockturn Alley before the witch can call her back. She feels Catalina's eyes on her even after she begins to push her way through the crowd, and huddles deeper into her jacket as she tries to shake the chill that is settling in her heart.
This is worth it, she tells herself. She needs the Moondew. It's the only thing that's been able to cure her of the physical manifestations of her curse. Other health potions don't work. Healing spells do nothing. The doctors of St. Mungo's have already tried everything, and in the end they called her a crazy hypochondriac and told her to go home. No one believes her but Catalina.
Maybe someone else would believe her, if she actually took the time to explain it to him, but now more than ever, she wants to remove herself from Bill's life. As she makes her way back into Diagon Alley still clutching the Moondew tightly beneath her cloak, she thinks about the frilly wedding invitation that's still buried under other paperwork in her desk, and frowns. Yes, this is the best course of action. The less he knows, the better.
She makes her way to the end of the street, where The Leaky Cauldron awaits, and sighs and she steps inside. It would be a lie to claim that she's happy to be there, but like at least it's a roof over her head and there's no sign of Bill's perfect fiancée in sight. As she nods to Tom and heads over to the stairs leading to the upper floors, she scoffs under her breath. Fleur would no doubt have an aneurism if she had to live in a place like this. Then again, Fleur would never have to, because Bill would swoop in and save the day like he always does. He does have a tendency of being a bit too interested in the welfare of his friends and loved ones…
Which is probably why, when he had seen Josie leave Knockturn Alley some minutes prior, he hadn't hesitated to follow her here. He hovers in the doorway, watching Josie disappear up the stairs, and narrows his eyes. She hadn't seen him, of course, otherwise he's sure that she would have pretended to be here merely for a drink, and not – well. He storms over to the counter to find out exactly why Josie is here.
Tom is busy with some patrons at the counter when Bill shoulders his way into the middle of their group and staunchly declares, "I've got a few words for you, Tom."
Tom's immediate response to this is to stare at Bill with one eyebrow raised in bewilderment, until of course Bill glances over at the stairwell that leads to the upper floors where the rooms are located. That's when Tom's eyes become less bewildered and more annoyed.
"What is it this time?" he demands impatiently, stepping away from the group of patrons who are at this very moment eyeing Bill in a thoroughly disgruntled fashion, as if they're highly insulted at his interruption.
Bill clears his throat and steps away from them, then turns back to Tom and asks, "Why is Josie here? She told me she found a flat."
At this, Tom barks out a laugh. "More like a broom closet." He reaches for an empty glass and nods at Bill. "You gonna have a drink, or are you just planning on wasting my time?"
Bill pauses, frustration welling up inside of him, and then grabs a bar stool and collapses into it with a gruff, "Fine. A butterbeer. And while you're pouring it, you can explain to me why Josie is sleeping in a broom closet."
Tom snorts at this, but merely begins to fill a mug of butterbeer from the tap. "Why don't you ask her? She is your Best Man, ain't she?" Bill raises his eyebrows, and Tom taps his nose with a shrugged, "She likes to complain after a stiff drink. I put up with 'er since she's paying me outta the nose for that closet."
Two things stand out to Bill as he listens to this. The first is that Josie is probably paying way more money than she ought to, though Bill still isn't entirely sure if it is an actual broom closet or if Tom is just exaggerating. The second is that apparently Josie has complained about him asking her to be his Best Man. He feels a bit offended at this notion, especially since she hadn't mentioned having a problem with it when he'd asked her.
The fact that she hadn't mentioned that she didn't want to be his Best Man makes him inexplicably angry, as does the fact that she hadn't told him that she was living at The Leaky Cauldron, or explained why she's visited Knockturn Alley twice in the same month, or why she seems to suddenly want to be as far away from him as possible.
Impatience leaching into his voice, Bill demands, "Why didn't she tell me? I offered her the spare room free of charge, for Merlin's sake."
Tom just shrugs again and offers, "Something about how she can't stand being around you. I dunno, Weasley. Like I said, ask her."
With that, he deposits the butterbeer onto the counter and turns on his heel to deal with other customers, leaving Bill reeling.
What? She can't stand being around him? Why?
Bill's expression slowly creases into a deep frown. He reaches for the butterbeer and lifts it to his lips, downing it in only a few gulps before he slams it back onto the counter and stands up. He straightens his jacket and sends a dark look towards the stairwell as he leaves.
Distancing herself from him, trips into Knockturn Alley, expeditions out of the country…
Something is going on with Josie Devonport, and he's going to get to the bottom of it.