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Chapter 9 : The Force to be Reckoned With
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Eve and I sat on the stairs to the Entrance hall, fully kitted out in our ‘matchmaking’ gear (leather jackets, knee high boots, sunglasses, and satchels of useful necessities including but not limited to: the L.O.M, Peruvian instant darkness powder, a cheap invisibility cloak, and bottles of crappy love potions just in case). We were watching couples and groups of friends skip off merrily down to Hogsmeade. I spotted Dom, in a criminally short skirt that she’d spent ages deciding on this morning, flounce out of the door with Ryan Davies, purposefully tossing her dark hair around every now and then which earned a snort from me. Her nails flashed in the sun – she’d spent ages on them last night, using a brand new (and very expensive) type of sparkly varnish.
Then I saw Scorpius and Albus cross the hallway, chatting lightly, Savannah Woods and Rachel Adams walked through the doors surrounded by a group of drooling boys, Louis Weasley with a pretty brunette, Rose Weasley and Lucy Weasley debating something animatedly (“The goblin riots WERE NOT premeditated by wizards, Lucy!”).
And finally we watched James Potter and Annie Summers head off to Hogsmeade, hand in hand. James was beaming like an idiot. Annie was blushing.
Yes, they are officially together now! It’s absolutely adorable. Everyone should worship the matchmaking skills of Hollie Sarah Parker! No-one in Hogwarts shall remain single for long!
Well. Except for Hollie Sarah Parker herself.
I suddenly felt a sharp stab of sadness, and just a hint of despair. And for a moment, I wondered why I bothered with all this. Matchmaking. It seemed so pointless every now and again.
And yes, I found a certain satisfaction from it, but it was nothing compared to the way I would feel if I were to fall in love, have a relationship, have a guy around to call me beautiful even whilst I’m in sweatpants and a tank top with no make-up on.
Because that’s what love was. Unconditional.
I put my head in my hands, and Eve looked up from retying her bootlaces, an alarmed expression on her face.
“Hollie!?” she asked. “What’s wrong?”
I believe I am having a mini teenage-life-crisis/ panic attack because I have suddenly realised that I will probably never fall in love and will die a virgin/old maid surrounded by the spawn of Pythagoras and Mrs Norris Jr. But out loud I merely said,
“I’m such a fail at life!” and started shivering even though I wasn’t cold.
“What do you mean?” Eve frowned, giving me a vaguely comforting pat on the shoulder, and then a full-blown hug.
“I mean,” I said shakily, “That I am going to wind up as a smelly old maid surrounded by cats and parrots with no husband and no friends and no life and no… no… nothing!” I wailed, covering my mouth with one hand in horror. Eve sighed – she knew exactly how to handle this.
I’d had similar panic attacks before. Many times.
“Hollie, love, you are not going to end up as an old maid surrounded by cats with no life and no friends. I swear it.”
“But what if I do?!” I gasped slightly; I could just see it all happening. First, there would be the denial. I would tell myself that I’d definitely meet that perfect someone tomorrow, or next week, at latest next month. Then would come depression as I realised that it wasn’t going to happen, then the self-loathing as I wondered why it wasn’t going to happen, then the RESIGNATION to the fact that it wasn’t going to happen, and then…
Every girl’s worst nightmare.
“You’re too gorgeous and amazing for that to be even remotely possible!” Eve protested, rubbing my back soothingly. “If you end up as an old cat lady, then there’s absolutely no hope for the rest of the world.”
“Don’t be silly,” I sniffed dolefully. “You just have to say that because you’re my best friend.”
“Yes, and I always will be! And if the worst comes to the worst, we can be old cat ladies together.” Eve paused, “with Dom of course. If we’re going down, then she’s coming down with us, the tosser.”
I smiled weakly, “As long as Pythagoras is gone by then.”
“I’ll make sure of it,” Eve winked.
“So do you promise?” I asked.
“That you’ll never leave me?”
“Never,” Eve smiled down at me fondly and wrapped me in another hug. “Now come on and cheer up you silly goose. We’ve got some matchmaking to do!”
“So how was it with Fred at the Gryffindor victory party?” I waggled my eyebrows, feeling cheerier as we walked down to Hogsmeade.
“I found his shoes,” Eve smirked, “They were stuffed up the chimney. But then he passed out from the drink, and I doubt he remembers anything anyway.”
“You should tell him how you feel!” I encouraged. “I’m pretty sure he likes you, Eve.”
“And what if he doesn’t?” she moaned. “He’s not usually the type I go for, you know. He’s… well, he’s Freddy.”
“Who cares if he’s not your usual type?” I paused for a second. “Hang on… what is your usual type?”
Eve struck a pose, “Enigmatic, brooding, handsome, license-to-kill.”
“Really?” I raised an eyebrow.
“Uh-huh,” she nudged me with her waist. “What about you Miss Parker?”
I didn’t have time to answer however because a certain teenage boy pounced on us from behind, pushing his way in between us and flinging an arm over each of our shoulders.
“Freddy,” I complained, “We were talking about girl stuff.”
“Like what?” he beamed. “Like bra sizes?”
“No,” I slapped him. “Like the qualities we look for in a man.”
“Oooh, what are they then?” Fred asked eagerly.
“Well, I can tell you that ‘nosy’ is not one of them,” Eve snorted.
Fred harrumphed and stole my sunglasses. “What’s with the sexy ninja shades then, ladies?”
“We felt like it,” I shrugged.
“Can I come round Hogsmeade with you?” Fred begged, pushing the sunglasses onto his head so he could shoot me the puppy dog eyes.
“No,” I frowned. “We have top secret business to attend to.” Fred increased the forlorn cuteness of his expression by a few notches. Darn it. Bloody puppies.
“Please Hollie Wollie my bestest dolly? I have no-one else in the world, not now that James is with that Annie girl!” Fred threw his arms to the sky and began to warble about how lonely he was. I glanced at Eve and she nodded.
“If you agree never to call me Hollie Wollie again, then yes you can come-“ Fred hugged me happily,
“BUT!” I continued in a mysterious voice, “Do not ask any questions about what you see throughout the course of the day, if you value your life…”
A few minutes later, and my feet were hurting. It always surprised me, how long the walk down to Hogsmeade could be.
“Ugh, why do we have to walk all this way?” I complained, nursing a stitch. “Why couldn’t we have, like, a zip wire from the astronomy tower or something?”
“What’s a zip wire?” Fred asked.
“A long piece of wire with a handle which you slide down really fast,” I explained as Fred’s eyes widened with glee. “It’s a muggle thing. We still have one in our back garden from when I was little – Deefur used to run along next to me when I was playing on it.”
“Aww that’s cute,” Eve grinned. “I remember seeing that in your garden when I visited that time. Didn’t have a clue what it was though.”
“THAT SOUNDS AWESOME,” Fred drooled. “I need one of those right now…” he drifted off into a zip wire induced daydream. Suddenly, I had an idea.
“Hey, Fred,” I elbowed him.
“Yes Hollie Mollie the Jolly?”
I scowled slightly but otherwise let the nicknames slide. Why did my name have to rhyme with so many things? “If I’m still single by the time I’m 40, will you please marry me?” I asked hopefully.
Safety husbands for the win, people.
“Sorry Hollie Dolly,” Fred shook his head much to my surprise. “But I am already promised to another woman!”
Eve looked shocked, “What? Who?”
“I am the proud safety husband of Josephine Anne Bortkerwitz!”
“Is that a real person?” I asked suspiciously. Fred looked hurt,
“Would I lie to you, my Hollie Trolley or my Evey Weavey?”
“Describe her for us then, Fred,” Eve quirked an eyebrow.
“Well,” Fred shifted uncomfortably under Eve’s stern gaze. “She is a girl and she has hair, and eyes, and teeth, but no legs – and she’s a mu-“
“Wait,” I interrupted. “She has no legs? Why not?”
“She was in a car accident when she was little,” Fred said sadly.
I shared a confused look with Eve. We couldn’t figure out whether Fred was joking or not.
An awkward silence ensued, and it was at times like this that I was reminded that we really didn’t know Fred or James that well. Eve was the next to speak.
“Gum?” Eve offered me a packet of Drooble’s best.
“Thanks,” I took a piece and popped it into my mouth, chomping like a pro. Blue bubbles immediately engulfed my head, before the wind caught them and blew them up into the sky. Fred grinned and frolicked around trying to pop them in a way that made me worry for his manly reputation.
We finally reached the outskirts of Hogsmeade, and Eve eagerly led the way into the village.
In my opinion, Hogsmeade was a bit dull really. Sleepy. Retirement-home-y. There was no passion to the place. I mean, how many glasses of Butterbeer could a person deal with before you wanted to just kill yourself? I suppose it’s everyone’s personal opinion in the end, but I much prefer muggle drinks and things. Except it’s not just the food; after you’ve seen the place once, you’ve seen it a thousand times. I’m a city kind of girl, I suppose. Bright lights and parties and exciting noises; places to explore. They suit me a lot better than these small, country villages.
But the one place I do love in Hogsmeade, is the hair salon.
Now before you cringe and sneer and think I’m another classic, shallow teenager (which I am. There are stereotypes for reasons, you know!), you obviously haven’t met Ralph.
Ralph Markson is an actual god. Owner of the “Purple Prose Hair Salon” for about four years now, that man can work miracles, I swear. Unfortunately, Eve was adamant that we didn’t go in today (“You had your hair done two weeks ago, Hollie. It looks fine.”) – but I saw Savannah Woods and Rachel Adams slip through the doors. Savannah caught me watching her and smirked. I merely pursed my lips in response – being the bigger person! - and turned to listen to whatever Eve was saying.
“So I think we should check up on Dom and Ryan first – I have a dodgy feeling about that guy,” Eve scanned a page in her notebook. “Then there’s Louis Weasley and his date, Hannah – oh, and I had a tip off that Samuel Smith was planning to break up with his girlfriend today. We should probably check that out.”
Fred was watching, intrigued, and I wondered whether it had been a good idea to let him come around with us today after all. Thankfully, he stayed quiet and didn’t ask any difficult questions.
“Shall we start then?” I gestured towards the main street. Eve smiled and looped her arm through mine.
“Hey!” Fred protested indignantly, jogging to catch up with us. “I feel left out now!” I looped my arm through his as well, but he sniffed and pulled away.
“That’s not what men do.” Then he slung an arm round my shoulder instead. It was sweet, but I wished he would’ve done it to Eve instead. I could see her neck muscles clenching, a sure sign that she was experiencing emotional turmoil.
Hogsmeade was surprisingly busy; and not just with Hogwarts students. There were plenty of shoppers and families milling about, and I could smell a bonfire, which immediately made me think of Christmas.
It was bitterly cold and overcast, and I decide to take my sunglasses off because I did look slightly ridiculous in them. They’re not my nice pair either, so they’re not fashionable whatsoever.
Soon we spotted Dom and Ryan walking hand in hand on the other side of the road, a little way ahead of us. Dom stopped to admire some window decorations, but Ryan tugged on her hand impatiently and pulled her along after him. Eve noticed and frowned.
“Let’s go,” she muttered to me, grabbing my arm and increasing her pace, catching up with the couple slightly. We could overhear their conversation now.
“But can’t we just go in for a moment or two?” Dom was asking. “It’s my friend’s birthday soon and I saw something she’d love.” I glanced into the window display Dom had been admiring, and spotted the pair of exquisite leather boots I’d been hungering after for a while. I felt a surge of affection for Dom.
“We don’t have time – I have a reservation at Puddifoots, and we’ll miss it unless we hurry.” I could see Dom’s expression of distaste at the mention of Puddifoots, and it was true. Even a romantic like myself found all the pink glitter a tad unbearable. Dom sighed,
“Sure, whatever. I can get them another day.” When? My birthday was on the 25th and there wasn’t another Hogsmeade trip between now and then. Eve suddenly whispered urgently to me,
“Damn it, look – there’s Hannah and Louis. We might not spot them again, it’s busier than I expected here. How’re we going to keep track of everything?”
“You take Fred and follow Hannah and Louis. I’ll stay with Dom and Ryan,” I suggested and Eve flashed me a grateful smile.
“Good idea. I’ve got the L.O.M, so if I get the chance I’ll use it. Meet at The Three Broomsticks at 12?”
“Sure,” I waved them off and darted quickly after Dom and Ryan. As I watched them slip into Madame Puddifoots, my phone buzzed. I pulled it out and read the new message.
Go away! –Dom
Darn, she’d spotted me! Even though I had my leather jacket on! What is my life?
Hey! How’s it going? I typed back.
Really great, not that it’s any of your business!
If it’s great, how come you have time to be texting? Man, I love muggle technology.
I repeat: go away!!!!!!
Fine. Have fun in puddyhoots.
Very funny, Hollie.
Well. It seemed as if Dom could take care of herself. I did what she wanted, and strolled off, humming quietly to myself. I still had half an hour before I was supposed to meet Eve and Fred, so I headed for Honeydukes. The smell hit me even before I was through the front doors; rich and inviting.
It was amazing how quickly Hogsmeade, and indeed the whole wizarding world, had got back on its feet after the end of the war – and while many things were different, some did not change. And Honeydukes was one of those unchanging things. Generation after generation of Hogwarts students had passed through these doors, all with different stories and lives and thoughts, but all of them experienced the same exquisite smells of the sugary snacks within. The same smell that I too was experiencing.
I closed my eyes and breathed deeply as I walked inside, feeling pretty wise and profound after that little internal monologue.
…So wise that I forgot to open my eyes again, and crashed into a stand of multicoloured sugar quills, falling to the ground with a cry. Sugar quills went everywhere, and as I plucked one from my hair I sighed dejectedly. Everyone around me ignored the girl lying on the floor, merely stepping around her, too distracted by the thought of chocolate to help. But then footsteps approached me and I began to apologise, assuming it was the manager… but it wasn’t the manager.
“Hollie?” someone chuckled. “What are you doing on the floor, kid?” I blinked up at the person who offered me their hand and pulled me up off the floor. When I was standing again, I suddenly recognised who it was.
“Zoey!?” I shrieked. “What are you doing here?” Zoey Turner grinned and quirked an eyebrow,
“I don’t believe you’re supposed to answer a question with a question these days, gal.”
“I, erm, fell,” I admitted with a shrug.
“I can definitely believe that.” Zoey winked. “Well, I’m here on business.” She picked another quill off my head and gave me a warm hug. “Good to see you, anyway. Where’s the rest of the gang?”
“Dom’s on a date,” I grinned at Zoey’s grin. “And Eve’s off somewhere with the L.O.M. I’m meeting her at The Three Broomsticks.”
“Ah, yes, the love-o-meter.” Zoey stroked her chin. “I still think I should’ve got more money for that invention you know.” I gaped at her, but then she smirked and elbowed me. “Just kidding, just kidding. How many more emotions do you need?”
“Three,” I said proudly, picking my bag up. Zoey frowned,
“Do you know how you’re going to actually make the potion yet?” she asked.
“Eve does,” I nodded. “But I’m really not good at potions. Or anything else, really.”
“Well, I’ll have a word with Eve then.” Zoey frowned. “I feel a bit irresponsible letting a bunch of 16/17-year-olds meddle around with things as powerful as liquid emotions.”
I pouted, “We’re fine! We know what we’re doing.”
“But do you really? What if something went wrong?”
“It won’t go wrong,” I said confidently, although truth be told I did have my niggling doubts.
“If you say so,” Zoey began nibbling at a half-eaten chocolate frog.
“Hollie!” someone else hailed me. I turned around and saw Annie dragging James over to me. Zoey looked up with interest.
“Hi guys!” I beamed. “How’s it going?”
“James has bought me so much chocolate - I’m convinced he’s trying to make me fat and spotty.”
“James, shame on you,” I scolded, turning towards him. “Do you want Annie to be fat and spotty?”
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!” he turned his nose up at me, and I laughed.
“This is Eve’s sister, Zoey,” I introduced Zoey and they both smiled at her.
“Wow you look so similar to Eve,” Annie gushed. “You could be twins.”
“Apart from the fact that I’m twenty,” Zoey smirked. I could see several boys checking her out as she spoke, and I subtly jinxed them. Zoey was completely out of their league. Zoey nudged me, “Aren’t you going to tell me who your friends are?”
“Oh yeah – sorry,” I flushed and gestured to Annie first. “Annie Summers and James Potter.”
“You mean the James Potter who was going out with Savannah Woods?” Zoey asked incredulously, peering at James. “I imagined you as much more of a jerk.”
“Err… thanks, I think,” James grimaced. Annie looked uncomfortable at the mention of Savannah, so I decided to help the conversation out a bit.
“Annie and James are going out now,” I explained slightly proudly.
“Well, you make a very nice couple,” Zoey said. “But if you’ll excuse me, I have an appointment with the manager.” She smiled and bid her goodbyes. “Tell Eve to call me,” she told me, before making her way towards the back of the shop.
“Hollie, what do you think of this skirt I bought,” Annie immediately waffled on, pulling a short denim skirt from her bag and holding it up. It had a cute matching belt made of diamante.
“Pretty,” I nodded my approval.
“Phew,” Annie smiled. “I couldn’t really trust James’s judgement, and it was quite expensive, so I was hoping to bump into you actually…” James was in the middle of ripping the head of a sugar mouse, probably in order to reassert his manliness after all the shopping he must’ve endured so far today.
“I need to get to The Three Broomsticks,” I told them. “I’m meeting Eve. I’ll see you later guys!”
“No, wait,” Annie said. “We’re going to The Three Broomsticks too.” But when we looked out the window, we realised it had started raining heavily. I groaned, and rummaged in my bag for an umbrella, but couldn’t find one.
“What are we going to do?” Annie asked.
“I’ve got an idea,” James replied, hurrying off somewhere.
“Ok, what’s he doing?” Annie bit her lip, trying to see. “This is worrying.” I nodded my agreement.
James came back a moment later holding an enormous chocolate umbrella in his hand.
“Oh, cause that’s going to work,” I scoffed.
“Wait and see Miss Parker,” James wrapped an arm around Annie and opened up the umbrella before stepping into the rain. I hesitated, and he smirked. “Do you want to get completely soaked or not?”
“I guess not,” I muttered, running out to huddle underneath the chocolate umbrella with them.
We’d made it halfway to the pub, when the rain solidified into hailstones, and the chocolate was eventually destroyed. We decided to just make a run for it, and sprinted through the street, the hail stinging our faces and necks and ripping at my hair. When we arrived at the pub we were soaked through, and I plunged desperately through the doors, infinitely thankful for the warm and dry. Eve rushed over, a concerned expression on her face. There was a band playing softly in one corner, and the faint smell of bacon in the air.
“I was so worried when you didn’t turn up!” she cried, and I suddenly realised that I was an hour late for our rendezvous. She hugged me, Annie and James in order. “Have you heard the news?”
“What news?” James asked.
“There’s this huge storm approaching, and loads of people have been injured by falling trees and roof tiles. The Magical Weather Offices are urging people to take shelter indoors – it’s nearly reached Hogsmeade.”
“Whew,” I glanced out the window at all the hail and howling wind. “Looks like we made it just in time then. Where’s Fred?”
“I don’t know,” Eve’s face creased with concern. “He just disappeared while I was… you know…” Eve glanced at James and Annie, but they weren’t listening and had moved to the window.
“Did you get any emotions?” I asked quietly.
“Yep,” she patted her bag. “Panic. The oncoming storm was announced in Flourish and Blotts by loudspeaker and everyone started rushing to get home. It was madness in there.”
“That’s good at least.” I looked at the approaching dark cloud solemnly. The hail was beating against the windows so hard that I thought it might break them, and you could hear the wind moaning as it worked its way in through the cracks in the walls. I didn’t like to think about Fred all alone out there.
“Dom and Ryan are here,” Eve said at last, after we’d sat ourselves down on a sofa by the fire. “Came in a while ago. Ryan wouldn’t even let her talk to me.”
“I don’t like that guy.”
There was a pause.
“Fred might’ve found shelter, you know,” I suggested. “Gone into the Hog’s Head or something. Honeydukes maybe.” Then I was reminded of my meeting with Zoey. “Oh! Zoey’s in Hogsmeade! I saw her earlier at Honeydukes.”
“What?” Eve’s eyes widened.
“Yeah, she said she was here on business. Wants you to call her.”
“Ok- thanks for telling me.” Eve punched in Zoey’s number at once. “If she’s still at Honeydukes, then Fred might be there with her.”
There was an eerie silence as the phone rang, and the fire suddenly went out as wind poured down the chimney. I was dusted in a coat of ash and soot, and I started coughing violently. James was by my side immediately, rubbing my back.
“Are you ok?”
“Fine,” I shivered and shot him a grateful smile. “Thanks.”
“No problem. Hey, do you guys know if Fred’s ok?”
“We think he might have taken shelter in Honeydukes. Eve’s phoning Zoey to see if she’s still there…” There was a cry of frustration, and Eve threw her phone down angrily.
“No signal,” she explained.
Of course there was no bloody signal.
James sat down next to me, and Annie had just perched on the sofa’s armrest, when the door flew open violently and two girls stumbled in, sobbing. I recognised them as Ash and Millie Webber, our third year ‘gossipmongers’. Eve and I rushed over to them, along with several other people. Ash was supporting Millie, who was the sobbing one. She was clutching her leg, and blood was running through her fingers. I squirmed at the sight of the jagged gash in her flesh.
“Move out the way!” A strong voice demanded, and Madame Rosmerta came striding through the crowd of people trying to help. “You there,” she pointed at me. “Help me carry her to the sofa.” Tentatively, I helped Rosmerta lift Millie up and place her on the sofa. Ash was hysterical.
“She’s going to be ok, right? It’s just a flesh wound, isn’t it?” I heard James trying to calm her down.
“Shh, it’s fine. She’ll be fixed up in no time. Come and sit down.” He led her to a chair and poured out a drink. The pub was crowded now with people taking shelter, attempting to make frantic phone calls, trying to get warm. And still you could hear the sound of the hail and snow hammering down upon the building, burying us alive. Nature was indeed a force to be reckoned with.
I sat next to Millie and began stroking her hair. Rosmerta was muttering furiously, trying to remember the correct healing spells to mend the tissue damage.
“How did this happen?” she asked Millie gently.
“A building…” Millie gasped. “It collapsed. A piece of metal hit me. There were all these people screaming…” she choked up.
“Which building was it?”
“I-I don’t know- OW!” she convulsed and winced at the same time. Slowly, I withdrew from the scene and left Rosmerta to handle it. No-one was talking very much. I joined Annie and Eve by the window, anxiously scouring the outside world for signs of possible movement. But there was nothing but the tortured trees and flurries of snow.
Suddenly, I spotted some sort of flying shape coming towards us. It was an owl, straining against the elements, it’s head drooping, exhausted.
“Quick!” I cried. “Let that bird in!”
Someone opened the window a fraction, and even that tiny gap sent snow and ice swirling into the room in a blast of cold air. The owl flopped to the floor, too exhausted to move. The letter it was carrying was damp, but readable. It was addressed to Rosmerta. Someone handed it to her, and she wearily opened it, her eyes widening as she read. She slowly looked round at us all.
“We’re going to have to wait it out,” she sighed. “There is no help coming until tomorrow morning – the Healers and Aurors are too stretched already.”
And then all the candles blew out in one fell swoop, and we were plunged into an eerie twilight.
a/n: Eeee hello! So at last I went to see the film the Perks of Being a Wallflower the other day (ASDFGHJKL IT IS SO AMAZING), and being a huge indie music fan and stuff was totally inspired by book & film alike. Which is why you now have this chapter! I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year so there won’t be any November updates. :/ But I’ll get back to work on this fic in December! I was listening to the song “Eet” by Regina Spektor and “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers while writing this in case you wanna know! ;)
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot of this story.
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