The Final Pitch
Ophelia sat in her office, staring down at her notes, organized in one neat pile. She took in a deep breath and slowly let it out, willing herself to calm down. She was feeling jumpy and on edge despite the fact that she knew the presentation inside and out.
Last night, she had been barely able to sleep, her mind like a maelstrom, though surprisingly she was up far earlier than normal, worried she would oversleep. While part of it had been the presentation she was due to give in a short time, the other part had been her conversation with Charlie on Saturday.
He hadn’t contacted her at all yesterday, though she expected as much. They left things on an uncertain note and if he was feeling anything like she was, everything was a mess in his mind. It would take time to figure out, and it was time she just didn’t have at that moment.
There was something bigger at stake than her current mess of a love life.
Though at the same time, Ophelia couldn’t help but wish that Charlie would be there. He knew how important today was for her. And even with everything going on, he still had the ability to calm her. And calm was something she desperately needed right now.
Swallowing, she closed her eyes and pushed aside the image of Charlie in her mind and focused on Hebrides. She saw the structures, the tamers.
She opened her eyes, confidence now starting to build up inside her. She could do this. They had been preparing for two weeks, though she, herself, had been preparing for years. All the information was there in her mind - to the point where she almost didn’t need her notes. This was for the dragons. For Colonel and Rupert.
Taking a deep breath, she stood and picked up her notes as Leanne and Bletchley walked in. Leanne looked like she was about to vomit, but Bletchley was calm and cool. As usual.
“You ready for this, Wood?” he asked. She smiled at him and nodded.
“More than ready,” she said. He cracked a smile at her.
“That’s what I like to hear,” he said. “Let’s go.”
Ophelia stood in the large conference room where they were to give the presentation. They got there early to set up and now she stood still, looking at the plans and photos that were suspended in the air.
“I’m so glad I’m not the one speaking,” Leanne said, stepping up to her side. Ophelia glanced at her and back at their audiovisuals. “Just thinking about speaking makes me sick.”
“It’s no so bad,” Ophelia said. Leanne laughed nervously.
“How are you so calm right now?” she asked.
“When ye face down a few dragons, ye find that there are loads of things that are no longer scary,” Ophelia said with a sigh. She then smiled at Leanne. “Dinnae fash. It’ll be fine. And I couldnae have done any of this without ye.”
Leanne blushed slightly, looking at her feet.
“Teamwork, right?” she asked. Ophelia nodded and then looked down and straightened her robes. There were only a few minutes before everyone arrived.
“Good morning all,” Mr. Larkins said as he rushed in, a witch with a tea trolley close behind. Just as Ophelia looked up from her robes, everyone straightened up as the Minister strode in.
He was tall and imposing, his robes immaculate and his mouth set in a stern line. But just as Ophelia started to get nervous, she caught the warmth in his eyes and a slight curling up of his lips.
“Ah, Minister Shacklebolt,” Larkins said, walking over to him. He shook his hand, the Minister only nodding in reply. “This is our team working on the project. Leanne Greene, Miles Bletchley and the team leader, Ophelia Wood.”
“Good morning, Minister,” Ophelia said as he walked over and shook all of their hands. He studied her a moment, a curious look entering his eyes.
“I’ve heard great things about your work, Ms. Wood. You spent a month in Romania, yes?” he asked. Ophelia nodded.
“Learned a great deal about dragons and how to run a reserve,” she said, willing her voice to be calm and confident.
“That is good to hear,” he said. “I’m eager to see what you have.”
He then walked over and sat down, the witch quickly stepping over with a teacup that she placed in front of him. He made small talk with Larkins, though his gaze would often return to the photographs and plans, coolly studying them. Soon enough the heads of the magical creatures department and finance bustled in, the two also taking their seats.
Ophelia took a deep breath as Larkins nodded to her, motioning that she could start, and Bletchley and Leanne stepped to the side, giving her the floor. Standing before the three very important people, she felt her nerves flare up for half a second before a deep calm washed over her as she looked each on in the eye, a pleasant smile on her face.
“I thank ye all for taking the time out of yer busy schedules to meet with us today,” Ophelia said clearly. “As it stands, there are far too few dragons left in the world. Our own native breeds are dwindling almost to the point of extinction. I’ll get into the numbers in a bit, but first I’d like to introduce ye to someone.”
She waved her wand and a photograph of herself and Colonel floated to her side, smoothly expanding until it was roughly as tall as she was.
“This is Colonel, a resident at the sanctuary in Romania. He is a Hebridean Black. A bit testy at times but has a soft heart once ye break through the tough exterior,” she said, a fond smile on her face as she looked over at the photograph. “He injured his leg and wing escaping a poacher’s trap and as such, it’s not truly known if he’ll be able to fly again. He is one of many Hebridean Blacks that have migrated to that area after the shutdown of the reserve at Hebrides due to poor funding.”
Ophelia paused a moment, once again going around and meeting each person’s eyes, holding the minister’s gaze the longest.
“But it’s time for Colonel and others like him to come home. And I can show ye that it is not only possible to re-open Hebrides, but necessary, and dare I say, potentially profitable. Though at the very least, it can be self-sustaining...”
Ophelia kept her calm as she walked with Leanne and Bletchley through the Ministry until they were back in the safety of their office. Larkins had stayed behind, but his face had said it all as the three left the room.
“That was brilliant!” Leanne gushed as soon as they walked in, turning to face her. “You were amazing, Ophelia! There’s no way they’ll turn down the proposal.”
“Dunno. Finance certainly had a lot of questions,” Ophelia said with a slight frown.
“Questions that you answered thoroughly,” Bletchley said, walking in behind them. “Greene is right - they can’t possibly turn it down. Not after you showed them all the reasons why the Ministry should reopen Hebrides. Merlin, you even got me in the heart there.”
“Ah, so ye Slytherins do have hearts?” she asked playfully. Bletchley just rolled his eyes, though remained smiling.
Ophelia chuckled, though her cheeks turned slightly pink as she started tapping her foot, finding she still had an insane amount of energy coursing through her now that the presentation was finished.
She felt a bit like she was flying. While she might downplay her part in it all, she also couldn’t help but feel as though it was a job well done. However, she wasn’t ready to go as far as to think that it would pass. She wasn’t even sure how long they would discuss it before making a decision.
It could be a few more weeks before they got word. Merlin, how was she supposed to get through the next few weeks? She was going to die before then, surely. Maybe she would ask Daria to come over tonight to help take her mind off things.
Definitely would need it with how things still were with Charlie. But that was not something she wanted to think about now.
“Suppose the good thing is that Larkins gave us the rest of the day off as well as the following two days,” Bletchley said with a grin. “After two weeks of hell, it was the least he could do.”
“Surely it wasnae that bad,” Ophelia scoffed, starting towards her office. True it had been difficult, but she didn’t think hell was an apt description of it. And some of it had been fun.
“It wasn’t,” Leanne said, shooting him a dark look. Though Ophelia only chuckled, still feeling the energy coursing through her.
“I’m going to sleep for the next two days,” Bletchley said.
“I dinnae think I can sleep a wink,” Ophelia said.
“You have far too much energy, Wood!” Bletchley called out.
Ophelia chuckled as she shook her head and continued on. While she wanted nothing more to get back to her flat, there were a few things she needed to take care of first - a few projects that she intended to start now that the presentation was out of the way. Though she’d probably end up working on them at home rather than resting.
Sighing, Ophelia pushed open her door and then stopped, her body freezing as her eyes widened.
Charlie immediately hopped up from where he had been sitting on the edge of her desk, mixed emotions crossing his face. He looked relieved at first, then hopeful, though then there was worry and guilt as he looked to the ground, his large hands twisting his wand around.
“Charlie,” Ophelia said. Even with the uncertainty of their last conversation, he still had the same effect on her. Her heart started racing as she felt an invisible thread pulling her closer to him, though she somehow managed to keep her distance.
Things were still rather uncertain, after all.
She glanced over her shoulder, seeing Bletchley and Leanne watching her with curious looks on their faces. Ophelia quickly walked in all the way to her office and shut the door behind her. She closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath before turning around to face him.
“What are ye doing here?” she asked, her voice rather calm despite the fact that her insides were jumping around like mad. Charlie gulped, still rolling his wand between his fingers as he stared at the floor, though managed a few glances at her.
“I wanted to see how the presentation went. Knew how important it was to you,” he said. Ophelia nodded slowly as she crossed her arms in front of her.
“It went well, though we willnae ken for some time how they’ll decide,” she said. “The Minister seemed open to it, though.”
“That’s good to hear. I knew you’d do well,” he said, still not quite meeting her eyes. He then shook his head slightly and turned to her, his blue eyes finally meeting her own. “I know that… things are a bit murky from Saturday.” Ophelia snorted softly before she could catch herself, causing Charlie to look to the ground again, the guilt once again in his blue eyes.
Ophelia couldn’t help as she felt her own pinch of guilt.
“I’m sorry… go on,” she encouraged, her voice much softer. Charlie looked back up at her, taking a tentative step in her direction.
“I’m sorry about everything. I… I was overwhelmed. Mum getting on to me about settling down. The job offer from the Ministry. And… realizing that I’m in love with you,” he said. Before Ophelia’s mouth dropped open, he continued on. “And I took it out on you rather than talking about it like a normal adult. And well, if I’m being honest, I was terrified. Still am to be honest. I’ve never felt for anyone the way I feel for you, Phillie. And I’m worried I’m going to fuck it all up. Or lose you to a better man someday and…”
His voice faded out as he looked to the floor again, his brow furrowed.
“Ye… ye’re in love with me?” Ophelia asked, her brain zeroing in on that one phrase. Charlie looked up at her, a smile started to appear as he nodded.
“Fairly sure I’ve known since Romania… but thought I might scare you off if I said it then,” he admitted. “And well… as I said, it scared me as well.”
“Same for me,” Ophelia confessed. “I realized that first night at Dragon’s Head I was in love wi’ ye. But I thought ye’d think me mad or something.”
Charlie chuckled as he slid his wand into his pocket and ran his fingers through his hair.
“I love you, Phillie,” he said, his voice now stronger, his gaze steady. “And… I’m still not sure what will happen in the future, but I know I want to be with you.”
Ophelia stared at him a moment, beginning to smile.
“I love ye too. And I’m sorry too… we have only been together for a few weeks. Even if we are in love, I shouldnae have expected ye to immediately want to leave Romania for me,” Ophelia confessed. “Or even know what ye want to do. Decisions like that take time… and I ken I would have to think long and hard before leaving Britain for good.”
Charlie was silent a few moments before stepping over to her and wrapping his arms around her waist. The look in his eyes took her breath away.
“I want to take it,” he said seriously. “If they open Hebrides, then I want to take the position. It’s important work and… I want to be closer to you. I want to be with you. After I got over the shock and the fear, I realized that… I love you and I want to do whatever I can to be near you.”
Ophelia’s mouth fell open as she stared up at him, tears immediately springing to her eyes. He wanted to move to Scotland to be with her. She now suddenly hoped even more that the proposal went through.
“Will you take me?” he asked, his voice soft and a bit of worry creeping into his eyes. Ophelia grinned brightly.
“Aye,” she said, her voice breathless. Charlie grinned and pulled her close, kissing her. Ophelia’s arms went up and wrapped around his neck. She was now even more grateful that she had the rest of the day off. She felt that she and Charlie would need it.
But just as the kiss heated up, there was a knock at the door. Ophelia and Charlie flew apart, their cheeks flushed. She glanced at him, the two sharing a sheepish smile. She then straightened her robes and walked over, opening the door.
“Mr. Larkins,” she said as the older man rushed in.
“I couldn’t wait to give you the news. Ah, Mr. Weasley,” he said, coming to a stop. “We missed you at the presentation, but I’m happy you’re here. Two birds with one stone.” He looked over at Ophelia. “They’ve agreed! We’re going to re-open Hebrides.”
Ophelia froze a moment as the information washed over her. The proposal had gone through. They were going to re-open the reserve. Merlin, this was really happening.
“And we’d like you to officially lead up the charge,” Larkins continued.
“I, what?” she asked.
“There is obviously no one better to head up the project. Though you would have to relocate to Scotland to run it once it’s open,” Larkins said. He looked at Charlie. “And I’d like to officially offer you the position of head tamer since you’re here.”
“I’ll take it,” Charlie said immediately. Larkins held his hand out and shook Charlie’s hand. They then both looked over at Ophelia who was still silent, a stunned look on her face. “Phillie?”
“You’ll take the job, won’t you?” Larkins asked. Ophelia looked over at him and slowly grinned. She started nodding.
“Aye, of course, Mr. Larkins,” she said. “I’d be mad not too.” He grinned.
“Perfect. Now, I’ll leave you to it. Get out of here, Ms. Wood. I don’t want to see you back in this office until Thursday. And then the real work begins. We’ll have all the contracts ready then,” he said, striding out of her office, closing the door behind him.
Ophelia grinned and gave a squeal before running over and tossing her arms around Charlie’s neck as he swung her around.
“We did it!” she shouted.
“You did it, Phillie,” Charlie said, placing her back on the ground, though his hands remained on her waist. “We’re really going to do this.” She nodded, though her grin faded slightly.
“Merlin, there’s so much work to do,” she said, the color draining from her face slightly. Charlie chuckled and pressed a kiss against her lips.
“No, Phillie. You heard Larkins. We’re going home and we’re spending the next few days resting. Then you can focus on work,” he said firmly. She laughed and nodded her head.
“Right, aye,” she said, stepping out of his arms and going to her purse. She then returned to his side. “Let’s go.”
“Do I really have to stay put?” Ophelia asked from the sofa.
“Yes,” Charlie said sternly, walking back into the living room with two mugs of tea. He held one out to Ophelia and then sat down next to her. Setting his down on the table, he immediately reached over and pulled her feet into his lap, starting to massage them.
Ophelia couldn’t help but moan slightly as she brought her mug up to her lips. Walter perked up his head from her lap, looking first her and then over at Charlie.
“Don’t worry, Walter. She’s fine,” Charlie said, comforting the pug. Ophelia chuckled and scratched his head. Charlie looked around the room, seeing Herbert the rabbit cautiously hopping across the room towards him. “I think I’m winning over Herbert. At least he doesn’t seem so scared of me anymore.”
“Oh, I knew he’d come around soon enough. It’s Madame that ye have to work for,” Ophelia said. She glanced around the flat, wondering just where her cat had gotten. She’d come out eventually. In fact, Ophelia was sure that she was already warming up to him.
“How do you think they’ll like Scotland?” he asked.
“Oh, they’ll love it. This one will enjoy running around in a yard,” she said, looking down at Walter.
“He will. If you get a bigger place, could likely adopt some more,” he said with a sigh. Ophelia chuckled.
“Perhaps a baby dragon?” she asked, raising an eyebrow at him with a smirk. Charlie chuckled.
“You’ll have Colonel,” he said. Ophelia nodded.
“This is true,” she murmured. She then fell silent, watching him a few moments. For a time, it was as though they weren’t sitting in her flat in the Alley, but rather in the cozy home that he had envisioned at Hebrides. Sitting on a sofa with tea and all the animals, looking out over the reserve.
The image left a warm feeling in her stomach that spread throughout her body. It wasn’t the same as usual heat that Charlie created in her, but it was just as powerful. It was full of hope for the future.
“What’s that look for?” Charlie asked, bringing her out of her reverie. Ophelia shook her head and smiled.
“It’s… just… I’m kind of excited for the future,” she admitted, not sure how much she wanted to share of her little vision. Charlie studied her a bit and then leaned forward and pressed a kiss against her lips.
“It won’t be perfect - likely far from, but… I can promise that I’m not going to run away,” he said softly. “Again.” Ophelia chuckled.
“Think that as long as ye’re there, it’ll be just fine for me…”