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Chapter 5: Problem #5
Disclaimer: Anything recognizable belongs to JK Rowling.
And your heart's against my chest, your lips pressed in my neck
I'm falling for your eyes, but they don't know me yet
And with a feeling I'll forget, I'm in love now
Kiss me like you wanna be loved
Kiss Me by Ed Sheeran
"James, will you stop figeting so much and just wait nicely?" I asked, aggravated, yet again, as James and I sat with Marina and Murphy in King’s Cross Station. We were waiting for the arrival of our train that would take us to the huge retreat center up north in who-the-hell-knows-where. The four of us trainees would be considered a ‘team’ as far as kitchen duties, bunking, and the bathroom went. James and I had already been assigned as partners, and we would be working with our actual department team for the actual team activities.
"Sorry." He said. He stopped for about, oh, 55 seconds before tapping his leg, bouncing it up and down quickly.
"Sorry." This time he stayed still for 23 seconds, then he began to drum his fingers on the bench.
He began whistling 13 seconds later.
"JAMES!" I was completely ticked now.
"Sorry!" He looked sorry too.
"Why don’t you just go over to the coffee shop over there and get some tea for us." I suggested, wanting to get rid of him for at least a minute.
"All right." He sighed and got up.
Only twenty four minutes to go, ladies and gentlemen.
"So…" I began, attempting to make conversation with Murphy or Marina, who was currently filing her nails. "I hear they’re going to have a big scavenger hunt in the woods this weekend." I said, attempting at making interesting conversation.
"Hm." Marina said, obviously not listening.
"So, Murphy. You excited for a weekend filled with team bondage and sharing a bathroom?" I asked.
He just gave me a look that said what-do-you-think? Like it was obvious he was not excited at all.
"Well, I for one, am feeling quite optimistic about a weekend camped out in the woods." Said James, coming back with tea and coffees for us. Me and him with plain black coffee, Marina a very watery ‘herbal’ tea that she asked for, and Murphy with a nice Earl Grey.
"And why is that?" I asked, not very interested.
"I happen to like nature, and free holidays, even if it includes sharing a bathroom with you lovely people and kitchen duty."
"Well, since when are you so optimistic?" I asked.
"I just am."
"Hmmm." I said, not really thinking about what I was supposed to be saying. Gary came ambling over to us looking annoyed.
"Train’s here." He grunted, stumbling over to the edge of the platform where a big train had just pulled in.
I snatched up my backpack and climbed onto the train along with the stream of aurors all from the department.
James followed suit, with Murphy and Marina not far behind. The four of us ended up sharing a table in one of the train's cars.
"Anyone up for exploding snap?" James asked, a minute out of the station.
And there went my idea of a quiet train ride where I could read or sleep for most of the day.
The train stopped, and I looked out the window to see white. Everything was white, because of the snow that covered the tiny train station in the middle of nowhere and the bright, yet cloudy sky that blended in perfectly with the roaming expanse of snow I was looking at.
"Where the hell are we?" James asked, tactless. "We're in the bloody middle of nowhere! Where is this retreat center?"
"Calm down James. It's just snow. And I'm sure the center is somewhere out there." I said, throughougly aggravated from the nineteen rounds of exploding snap and the two extremely awkward conversations with Murphy and the fifteen conversations with Marina, who was getting on my nerves as well. Not to mention dealing with James the ENTIRE trip.
"Yeah, well you actually like snow. I feel obliged to point out that we could be stranded in the middle of Antartica, and the only thing that would tell us differently is the lack of penguins." He said back.
The whole department crowded onto the platform, all thirty-seven of us, most of the department made up of older men dressed in jeans and jackets or coats with the occaisonal tough woman. Gary looked like he was going to say something to the four of us trainees about scouting a place to go when he was interuppted, thank goodness, by Mr. Potter.
"So, I was told that the center is about three-quarters of a kilometer in that direction." He gestured to the right of the station, the opposite direction of where the train was now heading, without us on it. He was looking at a scrap of parchment with some directions scribbled on it. "Well then, feel free to lead the way, James, Alex." He said, nodding to me and James, who happened to be standing closest to the end of the platform.
I grabbed James by the arm and gracefully jumped (by which I mean stumbled and hopped) of the platform into the huge snowbank. I landed in the snowbank in a patch of snow about three feet deep, effectively burying myself in snow up to my thighs. James landed next to me with a thump, as he landed himself on his butt, burying himself up to his neck in snow.
"Come on then." I said as I hoisted James up. Others were hopping over the edge into or over the snowbank, and were beginning to march along through the snow. James stood up easily, brushing snow out of his hair and face. We began to trudge along towards the back of the group, not really talking too much.
"Secret or Dare."
I sighed. Fantastic. "Secret." I decided, a little wary of what sorts of stupid dares he could come up with in the midst of all this snow.
"Do you honestly like all this snow?" He asked.
"Even though we're currently trudging through snow three feet deep to get to a stupid work retreat one kilometer away?"
I had to think about it, but once the answer came, it made perfect sense. "It's just perfect." I looked out at the barenness of the landscape. "The vastness of the white, how it just goes on forever. The coldness, how it drifts down gently, landing everywhere. I love waking up around this time back home to the first snowfall of the year. It was the best at Hogwarts. Snow is fun, it means the Holidays are coming. There's something so lovely about it." I shrugged. "I just love it."
"Hmm." He looked at me. "Don't get me wrong, I love snow, I just haven't met a lot of people, females basically, who like snow. I knew you did as a kid, and still at Hogwarts, you would love playing Quidditch in it and having snowball fights and stuff."
"Yeah, those were good times. I was able to just kind of forget about everything that was going on with my personal life and just commit to Quidditch, or get wrapped up in snow-bombing your dorm."
"And now it's harder?" He scowled.
"Well, it's a lot harder to forget about my family and stuff while I'm lying awake in my apartment at night, alone. No one to talk to but myself."
"Why don't you call anyone?"
"Roxanne doesn't bother with a muggle phone, and I don't know anyone who would be awake at three in the morning in the middle of the week, ready to talk."
"You could call me, you know, my name's in the directory. I'm usually up, as that's about the time my roommate stumbles in, drunk. I'm the one who has to shove him in the shower and put him to bed so that he doesn't get fired, so that he can manage his half of rent."
"That's awful. Thanks though." I smiled at the thought of talking to James when I can't sleep. "So, your turn. Secret or Dare?"
"Dare, definitely." He grinned.
I grinned back. He'd be regretting his decision. "Throw three snowballs at Gary."
He laughed. "That's it? Thank god, I thought it would actually be hard, knowing your dares."
"I wasn't finished. Throw three snowballs at Gary, now, and during every meal during the weekend, and he can't know that it's you."
"Still not that bad, as long as I don't get caught."
"As long as you don't get caught." I agreed.
We reached the center about a half hour later, a massive log cabin resort sort of building, nestled right up to the back of some woods. Huge woods, actually, that seemed to go on forever. It was a nice place, it seemed, a sort of lodge the ministry had that they used to send departments on retreats once a year.
We all padded into the cavernous reception area where Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley (another auror very high up in the department, a war hero, not to mention James's godfather) checked us in, the only group for the weekend. We were given our room assignments, me with Marina and James with Murphy. I was looking forward to rooming with Marina almost as much as I was looking forward to sharing a bathroom with James and Mayonaisse Murphy.
Marina carted her huge suitcase alongside me with my lightweight backpack, grumbling incoherently about the long treck up to the lodge. Her nomally infuriatingly bubbly and peppy attitude had deflated like a huge balloon. She was still in a sour mood, grumbling, as I unlocked the door across the hall from James and Murphy, a loo to the right of us, in between the two rooms. As the interns, we were put at the end of the hallway with the only two rooms without a bathroom, meaning all four of us would be sharing the hall loo.
"Oh thank god!" She cried as I finally opened the door, the stubborn lock and key taking forever. She rushed past me into the room, carting her huge suitcase to the twin bed furthest from the window. "I'll be taking this one, hope you don't mind." She dumped the suitcase on her bed, then left the room saying, "Right, I have to pee like a dog, so don't touch my stuff while I'm gone." She said, awfully tart about it. I dumped my bag on the floor by the other bed and went over to the window.
I pulled back the curtains to see a spectacular view of the woods, the pine trees dusted spectacularily with snow, birds chirping out of the branches. At least the room had a view. Besides that and the two beds, there was a counter with a mirror and a table and four chairs, a dresser and that was it. Marina came in and began putting all her stuff from her suitcase into the drawers of the dresser.
Once she ran out of drawers, she closed the suitcase and set it on top of the dresser then turned to me. "Right, we have an hour and three quarters until dinner is served. I'm going to take a nap, make sure to wake me up in exactly one hour so I can get ready." She said. I nodded my understanding. She put some headphones on and laid down on her bed.
"Aw man, you two got a way better view than we did." Said James, coming in through the slightly open door. Marina appeared to not hear him, her headphones too loud.
I rolled my eyes. "What are you doing here?"
"Oh, nothing. Just bored."
"Back in our room."
"How is Murphy?"
"He's actually a rather nice bloke, you know, just shy. Although, I did go into the loo a minute ago and it stank to high heavens. It was not very pretty. I didn't actually see Murphy go in, as he just said he wanted to meet with Gary or something."
I paused. "I don't think that was Murphy. I can't have been. The first person to use it was Marina, and I haven't heard anyone use it since." My voice dropping to a whisper, as Marina was still in the room, just not paying attention. My face broke out into a grin, and so did James once he realized what I was saying.
"Oh man, it was really bad in there." He laughed. "That's funny, that really is."
"No wonder she's been in a pissy mood all afternoon." I figured.
"Yeah. Hey, Murphy and I were gonna play exploding snap, want to join us?" He asked, hopefully.
"Well, it's not like I have anything else to do." I decided.
James and Murphy's room was exactly the same as our room, just with a different view out the window. Murphy was a pretty cool guy. He turned out to have one of those quiet senses of humor that you only hear if you talk to him personally. He didn't actually smell like mayonaise either, which was a definite plus. He was a clean sort of guy. Turns out he played Quidditch in school for the Hufflepuff team. Plus, he was really smart, got eight or nine NEWTS. Makes sense as to why HE's here, still haven't figured out Marina.
About forty minutes before dinner began, I woke up Marina, who spent another five, upset with me because I was supposed to wake her up five minutes ago. I returned to Murphy and James's room until dinner after that.
Dinner was served by a group of senior aurors, including Harry and Ron, who apparently couldn't cook for their lives. James, Murphy, and I were walking down the service line when I nudged him and reminded him of his dare.
He grinned and pulled a perfectly round snowball out of his pocket. I cocked an eyebrow.
"Freezing charm." He whispered.
Quickly, he turned, directed his shot, and threw the snowball, turning around before we heard it hit it's target.
"OI!" shouted Gary, snow dripping down from his hair into his mustache. "What the ruddy- ?"
James and I laughed while Murphy rolled his eyes. James' uncle Ron eyed us suspiciously but decided to leave it be.
James's second try hit Gary right in the back while we were eating, and his third hit him on his way out.
"Talk about easy dares." He said, still grinning on our way back to our rooms after a team bonding session in which we had to complete one of those human knots and did some icebreakers. Basically, it was a pretty pointless activity. But tomorrow, we had a huge scavenger hunt in the woods to look forward to.
"Yeah, you lucked out tonight, but tomorrow night he'll be all irritated after a full day of being in the woods." I reminded him. "It'll be like hitting a bear."
"All the more fun." He smiled. We reached our rooms. "Well, night. See you tomorrow for a day in the woods." He yawned.
"All right, so the objective here is to get back with your partner first after going to all stations and completing all tasks set out for you to complete. This is meant to increase work ethic between you and your field partner and increase your overall team skills." Read Mr. Potter off another scribbled on piece of parchment. "You already know your partners, and it is to be remembered that the first team to get back gets off Kitchen Patrols." This last part seemed to really get the attention of some of the people huddled around at the edge of the forest, and James in particular.
"Man, I don't think I could live with myself afterwards if Gary were to win that." He whispered next to me. "You ready to take all these bastards down."
"Oh you bet I do." I said sarcasticallly.
James, however, didn't pick up on said sarcasm. "We are so gonna take this thing." He said, completely serious. I know.
"You may begin, in 3..." Mr. Potter had now stopped reading off the sheet of parchment and had begun counting down. "2..."
"We're gonna run as fast as we can in that direction, so we can get ahead!" James whispered urgently to me.
"Just do it!" Deciding not to question James' tactics, I got ready to bolt at the
Everyone set off at various paces into the woods, in search of a checkpoint. James seemed to know what he was doing when he ran straight into the woods past the other groups, me right next to him, keeping pace with him.
I scanned the surrounding forest. No other groups were in sight yet, and it had been about ten minutes since the start. "James, I see something over there, two o'clock."
"Oh yeah, I see the flag, let's check it out." He jogged over to the station, which consisted with a flag and a sheet of instructions. He read the instructions.
"It says there's a blue flag high up somewhere that we have to get down." He looked up. "Oh, I see it, it's that little flag tied way up there, in that tree right there." I followed his gaze, spying the blue flag tied about twenty meters up the tree.
"We could throw a rope up there or something..." He suggested, running a hand through his hair, thinking hard.
"Or I could just climb up there." I suggested in return. It was definitely the easiest idea, but the hardest solution. I wasn't heavy enough to actually break the tree and I was pretty decent at climbing things. It could work.
"I don't really like it, but we don't really have a choi- Hey, what are you doing?"
"Climbing the tree." I replied, already about four meters off the ground, the lower branches easier to manuever.
"Well, don't kill yourself." He said nervously.
I rolled my eyes. "Just be sure to catch me if I fall."
He looked even more nervous down there on the ground. I had to slow down a bit as I had reached some more tedious branches. The flag was nearly in reach, just a bit further. I readjusted myself so as to untie the knot, then retied it around my ankle for the climb down. When I reached some of the bottom branches, my ankle slipped and got stuck in between a branch and the trunk. I felt my ankle twist, and felt a pain shoot up my leg. "Er, James? A little help here?" I thought my ankle had twisted, and wasn't going to get out of that tree by myself.
"What is it?" He asked from behind me. "Are you stuck?"
"Yes!" I said, aggravated. "Help me down!"
"Er, okay here, I'll just lift you a bit to loosen the hold."
"James, that's my arse. Try again."
"Er, yeah, sorry 'bout that."
"Just get me out. I think I sprained my ankle."
He grabbed my calf and lifted my foot out of its hold, and I toppled down onto the ground on top of him.
"Eurmpth." James mumbled on the ground, underneath me. Our faces were about half an inch apart from each other.
"What?" I asked, confused, staring into his bright green eyes.
"I don't know, I forget." He said, staring back, regaining the breath he lost when he got knocked to the ground.
Then I realized what I was doing and rolled off of him, my ankle burning with pain.
"We should keep going." I said, as James stood up. I tried to get up as well, but found that my ankle wouldn't hold the weight. James pulled me up on one foot.
"Why don't you just hop on my back for now." He suggested, eyeing my ankle warily. "We can go back and get someone to look at your ankle. We don't have our wands either."
"What?!" I shouted, incredulous. "We're not going back untill we've finished!" He was the one who wanted to win originally, but now that I had just climbed that huge tree, I was in this for good.
He seemed surprised. "Well, are you sure?"
"Yes! Just let me hop on your back!" I cried exasperated, and ready to move.
"Well okay..." He still seemed hesitant, but he still let me on his back. He grabbed hold of my legs behind my knees and I wrapped my arms over his shoulders, which I happened to notice were very broad and muscular through his jumper. I must not think about rubbing my hands over those shoulders... or kissing that neck... or generally snogging James...
"Which way are we going Captain Alex?" James aked, pulling me out of my reverie.
"Just head straight somewhere." I said. My cheeks had turned hot and I was probably blushing madly.
"Aye aye Captain." He said as he began to jog in one direction.
We jogged (and by we I mean James) along at a pretty good speed for about ten or fifteen minutes before James stopped so that I could look around for another flag.
"Man, you're fit. I said, sliding from his shoulders gentle so I could look around. It seemed pretty barren around here, no flags in sight.
James laughed. "And you say that because?" He asked suggestively, waggling his eyebrows.
"Oh, get a hold on yourself." I said, patting his stomach, yet still blushing. (Which of course, was rock hard) "I was referring to the fact that you just ran all that ways with me on your back and you're barely out of breath. You only stopped so that I could look around."
"Yeah, well, we have an intense Auror training regime." He said modestly, hands on his hips. He ran a hand through his hair, blushing.
I grinned. "You're blushing."
"What? Oh, er, I guess so." He blushed harder.
"So, where the hell are we? I don't see any flags around, and I haven't heard or seen any of the other groups." I said decisively, looking around for anything.
I looked at James, whose blushing face suddenly grew as white as the snow surrounding us. "Alex, get on my back." He said, almost a whisper, watching something in the distance. "Now, please."
"Okay, but you know that wasn't very polite. What are you looking at?" I said quietly to match his whispers, climbing onto his back carefully like last time.
"Don't freak out, but there's a bear over there, about a hundred or so meters at eleven o' clock."
"A bear?" A bear? Was he serious? Where? I looked towards eleven o' clock and saw it. It was barely a smudge in the distance, because of all the snow, but I could make out the hulking brown body and as it ambled a little closer towards us, it's beady black eyes. This ain't no Teddy Bear. I thought as I looked at the huge, bulky, brown bear.
"James, whatever you do, don't run. It'll only bring attention to us. He's already staring at us."
"You think I don't realize that? And He? It's not bloody Paddington bear Alex!" James hissed under his breath.
"Just calm down." I said, trying to sound soothing. "It's going to amble off in a minute once it realizes we're not going to hurt it. It's more scared of us than we are of it."
"It's a bloody brown bear! I thought these things were supposed to be extinct in Britain! Yeah, like I'd be scared of two stupid humans if I weighed two tons and had claws and teeth like that!"
For a while, all that could be heard was our breathing as we watched the bear get closer every minute. It was watching us, coming towards us.
"Maybe I should just fight it or something." James said under his breath.
"James don't be an idiot. It's a bloody bear! It's not afraid to kill you!"
"But maybe I can buy you time or something. And besides, I thought you said it was more afraid of us than we are of it."
"James, I'm not letting you die because you think it will help me. It's stupid! And I can't, my ankle's toast. And we should definitely be afraid of that bear, because it looks ready to eat us right now. Plus it's a bloody bear! "
"Well, I think we need to do something. We don't have our wands, but we could try running."
"No, if we run. he'll chase us. And bears are fast, trust me. I can try something, but I need you to shut up."
James obliged, but I could feel how tense he was. I closed my eyes and focused. Confundus. Confundus. Confundus.
"Alex, the bear looks confused, it's walking in circles."
"James, run. Now."
He followed my orders and sprinted off in the opposite direction of the bear, bringing us even further into unknown territory, but away from the bear. James ran for a long time, before stopping and setting me down gently.
Once he set me down carefully, he turned and crushed me into a bear hug (haha like my joke? Too soon? Yeah, I suppose).
I relaxed into his arms against his broad shoulders, relaxing.
"Blimey, Alex, you really saved us. I thought that we were toast for sure. I don't know what I'd do if I had to watch you get eaten by that bear. I thought you were going to die, and it was all my fault for leading you to that spot. "
"If I hadn't been so stupid, you wouldn't have had to be in that spot."
"If only I had stopped you from climbling that tree, now your ankle's really bad, and it's my fault too, I'm a horrible person arern't I?"
"James, none of that was your fault, all right? None of it." I looked him in the eyes, and before he could say anything else, I kissed him. He kissed me back, holding the small of my back, while I ran a hand through his hair while holding onto the back of his neck. It was perfect, probably our best kiss yet. Snow latched onto our faces, melting almost at the touch. His hair was silky, his shoulder and neck muscles under my fingertips.
Of course, we were still stuck in the middle of the woods somewhere in Northern Scotland, with no idea where we were, completely lost in the snow.
A/N: Well, sorry it took so long! I've been sick, and busy! I hope you liked it though. Please let me know what you think about the chapter by leaving a review in that pretty box for me!
PS: I do not own the Paddington bear, who belongs to Michael Bond.