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Chapter 10: The Waiting
It was cold now. The fires would not relight, despite our best efforts, and there weren’t enough blankets to go round. Rosmerta had moved Millie up into her own bedroom, and was watching over her carefully. The wound was deeper than expected, and Millie was drifting in and out of consciousness, whimpering constantly.
Meanwhile, the rest of us could only wait, anxiously, for any sort of news. The storm still raged on and it was impossible to see outside; even more so once night had fallen. There was noise at first; chatter and comforting words being whispered, stories regaled. But now it was quiet, with nothing much more than the wind to listen to.
At first, we had tried to melt a path through the snow piled against the door with our wands- but the freezing wind was burning people’s skin and faces as soon as they ventured outside, and opening a door meant risking it being yanked from its hinges and carried off into the night – that was how strong the wind currently was, and it was showing no signs of dying down. It was impossible to apparate in Hogsmeade as well - the same anti-apparition enchantments as at Hogwarts had been placed on the village after the war. So there was nothing else we could do but wait.
I glanced around at the many familiar faces, and a few unfamiliar ones. It had been lunch time when the storm had really picked up, so the pub had mainly been filled with Hogwarts students – or elderly shoppers – no rowdy night time drinkers. But still, no-one knew how long we would be holed up here for, and there was only so much food and drink to go round.
“This is awful,” Eve muttered. “God, I feel so claustrophobic.” She stared at the screen of her phone desperately, and I could see how much she was worried about Fred and Zoey.
James was anxious too, possibly more so than anyone. He didn’t know where either of his siblings were, or his best friend. He was pacing the width of the sofa restlessly. Annie and I sat mutely side by side, and I was trying to stealthily interpret the signals Dom was sending me from across the room. I couldn’t believe that jerk Davies – not even letting Dom talk to her best friends? God, possessive much?
I had no idea what Dom saw in him. But I’d only had to put one foot down that path before Dom started getting prissy with me, so I wasn’t planning on experimenting there again (even if I did think Dom should break up with him).
I shook my head hopelessly at her, indicating that I had no idea what she was trying to communicate. Someone was crying softly in the corner, and the sound raised goosebumps all along my arms.
When people eventually began to get hungry, James and I decided to take charge of the proceedings. I could cook relatively well – my parents had always made sure I’d be able to look after myself – and James, apparently, could conjure up a meal from something as meagre as stale bread and mushrooms (a thought that I grinned at). With Rosmerta currently unavailable, no-one argued with the rather undemocratic decision. They were all too weary to bother.
One small saving grace was that neither Savannah nor Rachel were stuck here with us. If that had been the case, then I think I might’ve braved the trip back to Hogwarts instead. Scorpius was here though, but not Rose. And neither was Roxanne.
Scorpius, I noticed, was sitting on his own in one corner shooting people surly looks – and at Dom in particular for some reason.
I sighed, too tired to bother with trying to analyse anyone’s behaviour right now, and followed James into the huge kitchens. The whole place looked decidedly eerie by wandlight, and it took us a fair few minutes to even find where the oven was. I started rummaging around in the cupboards, trying to build up a picture of what we had available to us.
“What should we do for them all? Soup?”
“Something like that,” James sighed. “God, this is not where I imagined myself in a few hours time as I was coming down to Hogsmeade today.”
I shook my head, “I know. This sucks royal hippogriff.”
James sat down heavily on the floor, leaning against the counter and splaying his legs out in front of him. “I just wish there was more we could do… maybe we could send out some kind of search party…”
“James,” I said quietly, coming to sit next to him. “Fred’ll be ok. They all will be. It’s just a storm; think about it like that. It could be much worse.”
“Give me some examples of worse situations so I can feel better,” James implored.
“Hmm…” I thought for a moment. “A volcanic eruption. An earthquake!”
“Depends on the scale of both of those,” James responded monotonously.
“Stop being such a Ravenclaw,” I scowled. “Fine. An alien invasion then.”
“Well… highly improbable, but I suppose it is possible. And that would be pretty bad, but only if these aliens were violent.”
“Voldemort rising again?” I asked hopefully.
“Impossible. My dad finished him off once and for all,” James grinned and I swatted his knee.
“Nope. Just a fact.”
“Shall we?” I gestured towards a stack of dirty plates. James got up and bowed, offering me his hand.
“With pleasure, my lady.”
I giggled and took his hand, and he pulled me into a spin. There was no music except for the sound of the wind, but we danced for a few moments, an awkward waltz kind of thing- until I was laughing so much that I couldn’t exactly stand up straight any longer. Then we calmed down, became serious again, and faced the stacks of washing up and cooking we now had to do.
I was lazy at the best of times, so when faced with the prospect of cooking something actually edible for around 45+ people, it was a little bit horrifying. James seemed to cotton onto my train of thoughts though, because he wrapped me in a bear hug. I buried my face in his shirt, breathing deeply.
“Don’t worry,” James murmured into my hair, “I’ll be with you.” And I suddenly realised that maybe that was all I had ever wanted.
No, no, no, no, no. I did not just think that.
I did not just feel what I think I just felt. This couldn’t be happening; not when it was all so perfect. I stiffened in James’s arms and he felt it.
“You ok?” he asked with concern. “You look pale.”
I stared at his face, drinking it all in. Before I could stop myself, I imagined what it might feel like to kiss those lips, to run my hands through his hair…
I gasped and stood up abruptly.
“Just going to the toilet,” I told him before rushing out of the kitchen.
How was this even happening. Oh, god.
What was WRONG with me? I couldn’t just start thinking things like that!
I barged into one of the toilet cubicles and sat down on the lid, taking deep, gasping breaths. The wood of the door in front of me was covered in deep gouges; hearts containing pairs of initials, scrawled profanities and beliefs. I thought of the people who must have made those marks, crouched low in the filthy cubicle, wand out in front of them, determined to leave a piece of themselves behind in the world.
Ok, so I’d had a moment with James (however one-sided it may have been). But no biggie, right? I mean, it didn’t have to mean anything… We hadn’t even been flirting; he saw me as a friend. And I wouldn’t want anything different anyway. I was just letting my imagination run away with me.
I let out the breath I had been holding and stood up, pulling the flush chain so that anyone outside wouldn’t get suspicious.
It was all fine. All normal.
He’s dating Annie. You set them up, remember?!
I slowly made my way back to the kitchen, deciding to just completely block out the previous incident. We still had food to cook.
“Everything ok?” James asked. He’d found a chef’s hat and was wearing it at a lopsided angle on his head. There was flour all over his arms and face, and he looked completely adorable. I shook my head and smiled ruefully,
“Yeah. Just felt a bit sick, but I’m fine now.”
“You’re not pregnant are you?!” James’s eyes widened.
“Don’t be stupid,” I rolled my eyes. “Of course I’m not.”
“Just checking. ‘Cos if you were, I’d have some beating up to do.”
I grinned and peered over his shoulder at a lump of… something lying on the chopping board in front.
“Err… James, what is that?”
“It’s pastry,” he explained. “I thought we could do a really large apple pie or tart or something – there are plenty of apples and flour and eggs.”
“Ok. Well, if you do that, I could do a large soup or stew. Is there any meat?”
“There’s lots of beef… but a stew would take quite a long time to do. I think we’d be better off doing a quick soup for people, and then the pie can cook while they’re eating it.”
“Whatever you say, captain.”
“Head chef, actually,” he flicked my hair around.
“Hey!” I protested. “Why couldn’t I be the head chef?”
“Because you were absent when the ranks were being handed out,” James smirked.
I pouted, “Can’t I at least get a hat?”
“Only the head chef gets a hat, darling.”
“I’ll get working on that soup then,” I replied, after punching him in the shoulder.
James had wedged his wand in between two cooking books so that we had enough light, but it was still quite hard to see things, and we kept bumping arms and hands as we reached for different objects. I don’t know whether it was the same for James, but my skin kept tingling at the contact, and I internally cursed my reaction to him.
Because this was one of the clearest signs of physical attraction to a person.
And that meant that I was in big trouble.
The soup was… interesting. It was edible, certainly, but I couldn’t quite remember what vegetables I’d used in it so when people asked what flavour it was, I had to tell them they were supposed to guess and that it was a competition. They all scowled at me. Apart from Dom, Eve and Annie.
But sod it! I’d spent the larger part of an hour working on it, so the least they could do was be polite. We were all stuck in this place until further notice, so it wouldn’t do to create any ill feelings. Scorpius Malfoy was doing enough of that already: his dark, broody mood was casting a metaphorical cloud of anxiety over us all. One person had already been sick, so now the whole place stank of vomit. It was, quite frankly, hellish.
“The pie’s nearly done,” James announced to the room, earning many sniggers as he was now covered from head to toe in flour and pieces of sloppy apple. The first person to queue up for a piece of this apple pie was an elderly lady with a hearing aid and glasses so large they took up half the room on her face.
“Did you use brown sugar, dear? And self-raising flour, I presume?” she croaked.
“Err… yes, of course,” James responded. “Wouldn’t make it with anything other than self-raising sugar and brown flour.”
“He means brown sugar and self-raising flour,” I hastily corrected. The woman appeared satisfied, and trudged off to reclaim her place on the sofa. I hugged my arms to my body, and shivered as a particularly large draught of wind swept through the room. The frame of the building rattled worryingly.
Eventually, Dom came up for apple pie. I leapt at the chance to talk to her.
“Are you ok?” I asked quickly. “Sorry I couldn’t get what you were trying to say earlier.”
Dom shrugged, “Don’t worry. I’m fine.”
“Why won’t he let you speak to us?” I demanded suddenly. I hadn’t planned on bringing it up, but I was angry at Dom’s careless attitude towards it all.
“He isn’t. He just wants to spend more time with me, that’s all.” I felt like saying ‘oh, sure’ but decided against it.
“Oh, sure,” Eve rolled her eyes, butting in on the conversation from behind me. I jumped and spilt breadcrumbs everywhere. “He’s controlling you, Dom!” Dom glared, grabbed a bowl of apple pie, and stalked off back to Ryan. I vowed to put pepper in his apple pie if he came up for any.
“Only staff are allowed in the kitchen,” I informed Eve snootily.
“And you count as staff?” she raised her eyebrows.
“Actually, I’m the assistant head chef, so yeah.”
I got another eye roll in response.
“Have you managed to get a signal yet?” I asked.
“No,” Eve frowned. “But I’m going to keep trying. Annie and I are wandering around the place, seeing if there’s a particular spot that’s more receptive than the rest.”
“Good plan,” I nodded. “But all we can do is wait for news, really. James wanted to send out a search party,” I watched him hand food politely to a young boy of about seven, “But that would practically be a suicide mission.”
“I wonder how long this is going to last for though,” Eve sighed. “If it goes on for another night, we’re all screwed. It’ll get too cold and there won’t be enough food.”
“Yeah, I know… but let’s not think about that right now.” Eve nodded her agreement and wandered over to Annie, leaving me and James to clear up the kitchen now.
“I think we should ask people to pay for it,” James said.
“Well, don’t you think so too? I mean, this is all Rosmerta’s stuff. She can’t just be expected to give it out free just because of some storm.”
“I suppose you’re right,” I replied thoughtfully. “But the fact that we made it will probably reduce the value.” I smirked.
“I’ll talk to Rosmerta about it later,” James muttered distractedly. “Meanwhile…” He waved his wand and the dirty dishes did a feeble twitch in the air before falling back to their original positions. “Ok, that didn’t work.”
“Let’s just leave it now,” I yawned. “Someone who actually knows household spells can clean this up.”
“Ok…” James sighed and slung an arm round my shoulders. I wished he wouldn’t now that… well, now that I could not be held accountable for the actions of my stupid hormones.
Hear that? I cannot be held accountable!
People were curling up in corners of the room and on sofas, tables and chairs all over the place. The blankets were being given to the elderly or young children, so unfortunately neither James nor I would be eligible for one.
“I don’t think I’ll get a wink of sleep,” James said. “I don’t know how everyone else expects to.”
Nevertheless, we joined Annie and Eve in their spot by the fireplace. Annie kissed James quickly and brushed flour from his hair. I turned away quickly to sit down next to Eve.
“Not enough blankets,” she stated morosely, pulling her leather jacket more tightly around her. I punched my bag a few times to get it into a more comfortable shape, and used it as a rather lumpy pillow. I lay on my side, facing the fireplace, so that I wouldn’t have to see the many pairs of eyes, blinking silently in the dark, tortured by a night of insomnia.
I drew hearts into the ash and soot around the hearth until I eventually drifted off into a restless sleep.
The morning dawned with a shriek of glee from Eve Turner.
“I’ve got it! I’ve got a signal!” she was holding her phone up in the air triumphantly, surrounded by a crowd of eager onlookers. I rubbed my eyes wearily, stiff all over from sleeping on such a hard floor all night, and struggled into a sitting position. Eve bounced over to me,
“Hollie! Get up! Check your phone too! We’re the only people here who have them, after all.” I silently extracted my phone from my bag and checked the signal. One bar.
“There’s only one bar,” I croaked, my voice not warmed up yet from the cold. My fingers felt numb. “Phone Zoey quickly before it goes again.”
The next thing I noticed was that the wind appeared to have dropped, and that the faint light streaming in through the windows was tinted a strange, blue colour.
“We’re snowed in completely,” James explained. He looked rumpled, but otherwise ok.
“Alright, everyone!” I heard Rosmerta’s voice over the dim murmur of everyone else’s. “We need quiet so Miss Turner here can find out whatever the hell is happening in the outside world.”
Eve dialled Zoey’s number and every single person held their breath.
Finally, the call was answered.
“Zoey,” Eve said breathlessly. “It’s me. There’s a whole load of us buried in The Three Broomsticks awaiting help. Are you ok? Where are you?”
There was a pause.
“I see. How long?”
Another silence from Eve. And then she pulled the phone from her ear and stared down at the screen: it was completely black. The battery had died. With a groan of frustration, she flung the phone onto the sofa. But people were clamouring for information, and Eve motioned for everyone to be quiet.
“She’s going to contact the Ministry, remind them we’re here,” Eve explained. “Help should be coming in two to three hours time.”
This was met with expressions of relief and plenty of talking.
“Is your sister alright, Eve?” Annie asked. “She was very nice.”
“She’s at St. Mungo’s,” Eve bit her lip. “With Fred and Lily Potter.”
James went pale, and his fists clenched. When he spoke, it was in a very quiet voice. “Did she say why she was in St. Mungo’s?”
Eve looked upset. “I’m sorry, James,” she whispered. “She was cut off before she had the chance.”
“How long before people get here?”
“I said just then, two to three hours.”
“What’s the truth though?”
Eve chewed on the inside of her cheek. “Seven.”
James swore loudly and spun in a circle, looking for something to take his frustration out on. Annie grabbed his arm before he could punch the sofa though.
“James. Stop it,” she said sternly. “This isn’t helping anyone.”
But James barely listened to her. Instead he started heading towards the stairs that led up to Rosmerta’s private quarters, the place where Millie was currently sleeping.
“What’s he doing?” groaned Eve, hurrying after him. I glanced around the room to see if anyone had noticed us disappearing off up the stairs. It seemed not.
We found James in a spare bedroom, the bed covered in dust and stripped of its sheets – they were folded neatly on the floor. A dusty picture hung on the wall, barely distinguishable after years of sunlight streaming onto the canvas and fading the paint, but I thought I could make out a mountain and a dragon. James was fiddling with the window latch, trying to open it.
“What the hell?” Eve exclaimed. “You can’t jump out of the window! You’ll kill yourself.” My blood turned cold. Surely that wasn’t what James was aiming for? He wouldn’t…
“Relax,” he said. “I just want to see how deep the snow actually is.”
“Be careful,” Annie said anxiously. “The ledge will be slippery.”
James gave the window an almighty shove, and it swung open with a bang that made me jump. He poked his head out and glanced down, then began to laugh.
“That boy has problems,” Eve scowled. “Oi, Potter! What the fuck are you laughing about?”
“Come and see,” he grinned, gesturing towards the window.
I had to stand on my toes to see over everyone’s heads, but then I chuckled disbelievingly.
“Are you fucking serious?” Eve shrieked. “We can just step right out.”
The snow was piled so high that it lay only a few feet below the upstairs windows. If we wanted to, we could jump out and walk away.
“But how is it even possible for that much snow to fall practically overnight?” I wondered out loud.
James shrugged. “I don’t care. I just need to get to St. Mungo’s.” And with that he swung his legs out and jumped. Then there was an extremely loud curse and a thump a few moments later.
Hang on… if he was landing on snow, then surely there wouldn’t have been such a loud thump…
Panic suddenly squeezing my chest, I rushed back to the window and looked down.
“Shit!” I screamed. We’d got it horribly, horribly wrong. The weight of his body hadn’t been supported properly by the snow, and instead of just being able to walk on top of it, he had plunged straight through as if it were cotton wool, and had landed on the ground as if the snow wasn’t even there. Which meant that he had basically just jumped out of a very high window.
“What?” Eve demanded, rushing to my side. I ignored her, panic clouding my thoughts.
“James!” I screamed. “Are you ok?” Eve and Annie suddenly realised what was happening, and Annie paled when James didn’t respond.
“Oh, god,” I felt like puking. I couldn’t even comprehend what may have just happened. My vision was starting to go blurry when we heard a muffled cry.
“I’m ok, guys,” James croaked up to us. “I don’t know how, but I haven’t broken anything.”
“You sure?” Annie yelled.
“But what if the snow caves in on him?” Eve asked in a horrified whisper. Annie was trembling.
Then I had an idea.
“We need to get to him. Quick – tie those sheets together,” I ran over to the pile of folded sheets and frantically threw them at Annie and Eve before leaning out of the window again.
“We’re coming down, ok?”
“No, don’t- I can get to St. Mungo’s on my own.”
“But what if the snow caves in on you?” I said exasperatedly. “We’re tying sheets together,” I continued. “So just… hold on…”
Annie and Eve hadn’t moved. They were just staring at the pile of sheets on the floor.
“Come on, guys!” I insisted. “If the snow caves in on him, we’re in big, big trouble.”
This seemed to shake them into reality, and they began tying the sheets at the ends with rough knots. I suddenly realised that Dom hadn’t been told that Fred and Lily were at St. Mungo’s yet – with a yelp, I dashed out of the door and down into the main part of the pub. I immediately spotted her at a table, looking slightly glum, with Ryan – who was talking to a bunch of other people and basically ignoring Dom. Without even looking at Ryan, I yanked her from her seat and pulled her along behind me. I don’t even think Ryan noticed.
“No time,” I gasped, clutching my side from sprinting all the way back to the spare bedroom. “Fred and Lily are in St. Mungo’s. James jumped out the window…”
“He did WHAT?” Dom stared at me and rushed to see for herself. “Holy crap! James, you idiot!”
“I thought the snow was fucking thicker!” he bellowed.
“Ok, we’re done. It should be long enough,” Eve announced, holding up the chain of sheets.
“Great,” I grabbed the end and tied it to the bed, then threw the other one out the window. “Since I’m the lightest, I’ll go down first to see if it’ll hold.”
“Are you sure?” Dom asked uncertainly. “You’re not the most… athletic.”
“Hey, I saved you from Davies!”
“You didn’t save me… ok, maybe you did…”
“Less talk, more action!” Eve snapped, practically pushing me towards the window. I took a deep breath, and swung out onto the ledge, gripping the sheet so tightly that I thought it might rip. I’d read plenty of adventure stories when I was younger about escapes from castles or towers via sheet-knotting, but had never dreamed that the day would come when I would be doing the exact same thing. It was a lot harder than it sounds, especially as we hadn’t thought to tie random knots along the length to serve as footholds. I half abseiled, half shimmied down the side of the three broomsticks, until I got to the snowy part that the end of my makeshift rope was curled up on. Gritting my teeth, I plunged into the freezing depths of snow and ice, moving as fast as possible so I could get to the bottom and push my way out. There was a moment of fear when I was completely surrounded by snow, apart from above, and I thought I might let go of the sheet and go crashing to the ground and be frozen alive. But then my feet hit a solid and I was standing at the bottom of a rather long hole of snow, staring at the three faces of my friends still up in the bedroom.
I turned to the direction I thought James was, and was about to kick at the snow when Eve stopped me with a warning cry.
“Wait! Hollie, if you kick the snow in, it might collapse on you! There’s only a very thin wall of it separating you and James.”
“Well, what do I do then? How do I get to him?”
“Hang on…” Eve muttered, fumbling around somewhere. “I might be able to melt away the top of the column with my wand.” I felt a wave of warm air drift over the top of my head, and I watched in awe as the snow began to melt; slowly at first, but then faster, forming a puddle around my feet. After a minute or two, I could see the top of James’s head and it was easy to trample down the remaining snow and reach him.
“Phew,” I muttered, and he pulled me close to him for a moment, before I wriggled out and went to adjust the position of the ‘rope’.
Eve came down next, then Dom, and finally Annie who fell into James’s arms immediately. Considering they’d only been on one date, which had been completely ruined by the storm, they were awfully comfortable around each other.
Wait, awfully? Not awfully. It was great! They obviously had good chemistry.
“Ok…” Eve said, circling the little hollow in the snow that we’d manage to make. “Now what?”
a/n: I GOT IT DONE FOR YOU GUYS. DESPITE NANOWRIMO. LOVE ME. REPAY ME WITH REVIEWS?! ;D I hope you got to be a bit more familiar with James in this chapter because I’m aware of the fact we don’t get to see much James-Hollie interaction. Sorry about all the drama though – I hope it’s not totally unrealistic! I think I need to change one of the genres to ‘drama’. :P I do not own the quote ‘this sucks royal hippogriff’ – that is from avps/avpm, can’t remember which.