Chapter 3 : Days of News
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The snow had turned to a horrid, grey slush that everyone wished would just melt away. People were subdued and miserable, trying to get lost in separate worlds instead of coming out and facing the real, dangerous one. But apart from the odd Death Eater, things had settled down a little in Hogsmeade; most of the action was concentrated elsewhere.
The highlight of the week was that Molly Weasley had invited me down to her village for lunch today. Molly was like a second mother to me, only one that was far more accessible and easier to talk to than my real mum in Italy. She was also far younger than my real mum. A big sister, I suppose. When my parents still ran the Broomie together, they had provided her and Arthur Weasley with a night of shelter so they could make their plans to elope together. I remembered carrying over a large jug of water to them, and insisting they eat a whole plate of biscuits. I also remember Molly’s perfume, the way she smiled so kindly, and the sweetest laugh that came out of her mouth just before they stepped out into the forbidding night.
My father was killed a week later. As soon as she heard, Molly risked everything by coming back to us. She hugged me for a long, long time. It seemed like a long time anyway, as no-one had ever, ever hugged me like that before. So confidently. It was just a hug; no words were spoken. I think she knew that condolences wouldn’t bring him back, wouldn’t appease the mind-numbing pain. The horrible, hollowing sensation. But the hug was perfect.
Newly motivated, I quickly undressed and stepped into the shower. I suddenly couldn’t wait to see Molly, talk about everything and nothing. I needed to unburden myself about the scenario with Garrett Brandon-maybe she knew him. Arthur did work at the Ministry after all. I drew a heart carelessly onto the steamed up glass of the door, contemplating what was sure to be a lovely day ahead.
There was suddenly the worrying sound of a window opening from outside, and it had me scrambling frantically for my towel, certain that someone was attempting to break in. I never got as far as the door, however, before two larger-than-life owls flew into my face with respective screeches. I tripped over and ended up with my face next to the drain watching the puddle of soapy water gushing away, making little spirals as it neared the ominous drain.
I generally thought of myself as a rather calm person, but two large owls flying into my shower early on a Monday morning really wasn’t the nicest thing for my tired nerves to have to deal with. Especially after last night, when a rather terrifying old woman had fainted, then whacked me with her walking stick when she woke up. And I really thought that dealing with a fainting old crone was enough for anyone to have to cope with in an entire lifetime.
Then I remembered the hundreds of people who were dead because of the war, the thousands of broken hearts, the millions of tears that were probably mixed up right this moment with my dirty shower water down a drain.
My dad had always told me that dealing with things is what makes a lifetime.
And so I turned the shower off with a resilient sigh, and shooed the owls into my bedroom. The letters attached to their legs were slightly damp, but still readable at least. I scanned through the familiar writing. The first was from my mother, asking if I was ok, how the pub was, to stay safe and remember to give myself a rest every now and then. She sounded worried about the state of the war, and gave me an update on my sister’s new job as a model. Apparently she’d had a bad break up with a boyfriend. Sounded like Valerie.
The second was from Valerie herself. She talked about herself a lot, mentioned the boyfriend’s name and a load of other names that I assumed were those of her gossipy, annoying friends who I’d only met once, and never wished to do so again.
And then I had a slight heart attack. She wanted to come and stay with me for a while.
...I’m sooo sad about the break up, and I know you’ll understand Bella! I can’t stand being in the same town as Antonio, and now he’s dating Anna… I can’t help feeling like she’s beaten me because she’s skinnier and prettier. I just want to get a change of scene for a bit! And I miss The Two Broomsticks, haven’t seen it in a while! We’ll have some cosy, girly chats by the fire!
God, she was unbelievable. The Two Broomsticks? If she thought I was going to let her waltz in and make herself at home, then she was hopefully going mad, or was drunk when she wrote this letter. Didn’t she realise there was a war going on in this country? And I was far too busy for ‘cosy, girly chats by the fire.’ Especially by a fire of any shape or form.
No, she’d have to stay put in Italy with mum.
I sighed and stored the letters safely in a draw, before opening my wardrobe and looking for something to wear.
The green silk of the dress swished past my legs, delightfully soft against my skin. I had had little opportunity to wear something this pretty, and relished the feeling of elegance that came with a nice dress.
The pub that Molly had asked me to meet her at was in a part of Ottery St Catchpole that I didn’t know particularly well. I waited anxiously by the door for Molly, aware that I was attracting quite a few inappropriate stares, and feeling a tad overdressed. The people around me seemed grubby and weary, even hostile. I looked very out of place, swathed in folds of emerald green fabric. I fidgeted with my fingernails.
“Anyone ever told you not to bite your nails?” laughed a familiar voice from behind me.
“My mother, many times over.” Then I span round and smiled happily at Molly, who was standing in the doorway looking cheerfully out of place amongst the dull colours of her surroundings. Her flaming red hair had been cut short, and she wore bright orange dungarees and a blue cardigan that looked strangely attractive together.
“Oh, you look gorgeous!” she exclaimed, taking in my dress briefly before I threw my arms around her neck.
“I’ve missed you so much! I hate this war.”
“Me too.” Molly sighed, but hugged me back. “Let’s go and get a drink, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do! Of course, you’re quite the expert with pubs and drinks by now. God save the landlord if he doesn’t meet your standards!” she winked.
It was strange to be walking into a pub that I wasn’t the landlady of, and I couldn’t help but compare The Captain’s Wife to The Three Broomsticks as we took a couple of seats by the steamed-up window. It was much darker in here, and very mysterious with the hazy cloud of cigarette smoke filling the air. The chairs were a little grander, with plump cushions and carved feet. But there just wasn’t that friendly, carefree atmosphere like in the Broomie. I felt a surge of love for my pub.
A waiter approached. “What can I get you both?”
“Two vodkas,” Molly ordered. I felt a little uneasy; I hadn’t touched anything strong since last week. But Molly had taken my hand fondly, “So, how are you Bella?”
“I’m…ok.” I proceeded to pour out everything to her. About the drinking, the loneliness, the dreams. Even Garrett Brandon’s visit.
“Garrett Brandon?” hissed Molly across the table, her eyes wide. “He makes Arthur’s life hell. Right in the pocket of the Death Eaters too…be careful, Bells.”
“Yeah,” I shifted uncomfortably. “How’s Arthur’s job going?”
“Awfully,” Molly attempted a light-hearted smile. “He is a pureblood, so I think his actual job’s safe. But they all treat him as a bit of a joke…and every night I wait up until he gets home, just in case the joke goes too far. I’m terrified he’ll be put under the Imperius curse and do something awful. Get landed in Azkaban…” Molly was gripping the edge of the table so hard that her knuckles had turned blue. Her hair seemed to have lost its shine and fell limply round her hunched up shoulders.
“Hey...” alarmed at her uncharacteristic behaviour, I moved the clustered beer bottles to one side so I could take her hand. “It’ll be ok in the end. You just have to…have faith.”
“In what?” asked Molly wearily, before she turned a delicate shade of green and was sick all over the table. I jumped back, clearing up the mess immediately with my wand and hurriedly leading Molly to the bathroom. She was shaking like a leaf as I sat her down on a stool by the sink and felt her forehead.
“You’re sick, Molly!” She shook her head, bursting into tears.
“I’m not sick, Bella. I’m…I’m pregnant.” I gaped at her for about a full minute. Then I beamed.
“But that’s wonderful! Congratulations! Oh, wow. How long have you known?”
“It’s not wonderful!” Molly shout-sobbed onto my dress as I crushed her in a hug. “How can I bring my baby up in such a war-torn, cruel world? How could I have done this? We’ll all die in the end! I'm so scared. And Arthur’s spying for the-the..” Molly cut off her words abruptly, starting to get scarily hysterical. I decided to get her safely home before attempting any shape or form of consolation.
When we were back in The Burrow, which was in various stages of collapse and disintegration, I handed Molly I glass of cold water, insisting that she drink it all. She was shivering terribly, so I even dared to light a fire. Holding each piece of wood like a ticking bomb, I arranged them in the fireplace and took several large steps backwards before lighting it with my wand. I flinched as the yellow flames flickered to life.
“I’m sorry!” Molly blubbed, “I’m being silly…”
“No, you’re not!” I reassured her, taking a seat on the sofa she had collapsed into. “But I think you’re looking at the whole situation through black tinted glass.”
“Black tinted glass?” Molly chuckled slightly, but it was a very feeble sound.
“In a bad light.” I explained to the best of my ability. I wasn’t wise, or clever, but I had a brain full of my dad’s queer sayings and principals to go on. There was usually at least one I could pull out and use to solve a situation.
“But it is bad.”
“Haven’t you always wanted to be a mother? Start a family?”
“Then this is a small miracle come true for you! In the midst of all this darkness, your baby will be a shining ray of hope for so many people.”
“The baby is also one more person to worry about every damned second of my life.” And I didn’t have an answer to that, because it was so unavoidably true.
So we sat by the fire and talked of happier days. I recounted the stories told to me in the dead of night by drunken wizards and giggling witches. Molly laughed again, thinking of the scandal her elopement had caused, telling me about her and Arthur’s embarrassing first date. We ate some chocolate (Molly had a craving for peanuts, too). And everything seemed okay, just for a little while.
When it got to eight o’clock in the evening, I knew that I had to get going. Melma had been in charge of opening the pub at six, and I’d already left her with it for two hours too long.
“I’ve got to go, Molly, sorry. Can’t afford to lose any business tonight!”
“Ok. Thanks for everything, Bella. Take care of yourself!”
“I’ll come and visit again soon.” I kissed Molly’s forehead, and made sure I was out of the range of protective enchantments before apparating home to Hogsmeade.
Abe called me from the window as I walked past The Hogs Head.
“Bella…” he sounded shocked. “Where…where’ve you been?” His face disappeared from the window for a second as he opened the front door, grabbed my wrist and dragged me inside the pub. Apart from a few hags discussing something heatedly in one corner, the place was empty.
“What do you mean? I just went out for lunch.”
“Well, don’t you look charming. Been on a date, have you?” Abe snarled a little nastily, taking in my dress. He began to furiously sweep the floor. I didn’t see why he bothered; it would take about a month to clear all the grime and mud from the Hoggie. I glared at the back of his pale neck.
“Oh fuck off, Abe! I was with Molly.”
His face cleared slightly, but he still looked furious with me. “Why didn’t you tell anyone you were going? We all thought you’d been fucking killed! After seeing what they wrote on the pub-“ I cut him off, feeling panic cloud my thoughts.
“What.” My voice shook with anger and fear, “What have they done to my pub, Aberforth Dumbledore?” I didn’t wait for a response, apparating directly into the bar of The Three Broomsticks.
Melma was inside, kissing her stupid boyfriend on the sofa.
“What is going on, Melma?” I confronted her angrily. The couple jumped apart, Melma’s face burning.
“Oh, sorry Bella.”
“Why did Abe just yank me into his pub, thinking I had been dead?”
“Maybe he was planning to take advantage of you?” the boyfriend-of-the-week crudely suggested. I glared at him angrily.
“Um, I have no idea.” Melma raised her eyebrows.
“Well, what are you doing in here with him? Where are all the customers?” My voice was a whole octave higher than normal.
“No-one came! Honest. The doors were wide open and everything, but not a single person entered this place while I was in the room.”
“While you were in the room…Melma, did you ever leave the room? Go to the toilet?” I was staring at her, horror-struck.
“Yeah…at about quarter past six I needed a tissue from the bathroom.”
“Shit.” I ran outside, checking the surrounding area for any intruders, or Death Eaters, or strange men.
And then I saw it. Scrawled over the door in a red substance that looked sickeningly like blood, were the words:
A/N: Hi everyone! Gah, I really enjoyed writing the scene with Molly :) Um...not much to say really! I hope you guys enjoyed it. Thanks to my more-than-amazing beta, Helen. (Ac_rules). She's really great!
I'd love some reviews! ;) -LWG.