Chapter 2 : two
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Michael tapped her on the shoulder, interrupting her thoughts.
“I think’s it’s time for your break now, Jo,” he said, trying a tentative smile.
Scowling, Jo didn’t even reply to him despite his good intentions, but grabbed her keys and left, shimmying out from behind the desk. She was madder at herself than Louis, to be honest. It had been a year and a half since she had last seen him, nearly two years, actually, she corrected herself. She sighed as she waited for the service lift and kneaded her forehead with her knuckles. Two years. How could it be two years and yet she still wasn’t over him? It was ridiculous, and Jo was going to put a stop to it right now... but when she got into the lift she punched the button with more force than necessary to stop his smile from floating in front of her eyes again.
“Are you alright, Jo?” someone asked her, sounding concerned.
“Yeah, fine,” she mumbled, not even registering who was speaking as she stepped out of the lift and into the basement. It was noisy down here, and hot in the underbelly of the hotel. Jo stepped aside to let some cleaners with their cart through, distractedly smiling at them, and carried on walking down the dull grey corridor.
The thing was, she had spent so long completely denying Louis Weasley’s existence, she’d half-forgotten he was actually a person and not some bogeyman at the back of her mind. Hermione stayed at the Artemis frequently, and it was where George Weasley had proposed to Angelina, and where Angelina had told him she was pregnant. Last year, James’ Quidditch team had stayed here before their tour of the UK, and parties were frequent- and a party was not a party without a second generation of the Weasleys there.
She, and the Artemis were well acquainted with the Weasley-Potter family... but Louis had not stepped through these doors since he came to drop the last of her things off one quiet morning in September.
She slipped into the locker room, and found hers, opening it. The inside was wallpapered with postcards and photographs from around Europe- places she had visited, or wanted to visit. There was one photo which was ripped in half... Louis had taken her to Rome, but the Coliseum was too amazing to forget because of some guy.
Just some guy, that’s all he was, just some guy.
In her locker was Jo’s emergency stash of chocolate, and she grabbed a slab of Honeydukes finest before heading into the canteen. She only ever drank coffee while she was stressed, and she found herself unconsciously ordering one. Jo sat down at a small side table, and dipped her chocolate into her drink, licking off the melted chocolate which ran down her hand, and wondered how long she could stay there before Michael sent someone to go find her.
“Jo, how’re you doing?”
Jo looked up, surprised- the voice was not the one she was expecting to hear. But Patrick smiled at her and grabbed a chair, sliding it across the linoleum so he could sit at Jo’s table. Patrick worked in the restaurant and his easy smile and charming personality meant that despite his lack of experience, he was already the Head Waiter.
“I missed you at the staff do last weekend,” he said, running his fingers through his straight chin length hair. Jo nodded nonchalantly, and Patrick took this as a sign that he was welcome, and settled himself comfortably in his chair. “It was a good night,” he continued. “You should have been there.”
Jo dipped some more chocolate in her coffee, and delicately nibbled the end, fully aware she hadn’t actually said anything to him yet. Patrick seemed to be staring at her hands. “Of course,” he said slowly, “it would have been a brilliant night if you’d been there as well...”
Jo audibly sighed, but Patrick pretended not to notice. Instead, he flashed her another grin. “So, to make up for it, do you fancy going out tonight?” he asked.
She smiled at him, an excuse already ready. “Sorry Pat, I’m still working tonight. The party on the fifth floor means that most of us are working overtime.”
Patrick groaned. “Well that’s unfair,” he said. “What about tomorrow night then? Or Friday? Or the weekend? Whenever is easiest for you.”
Jo was about to grin and politely tell him she was busy, when she caught herself suddenly. When was the last time she’d been on a date? Not recently. Going out with Patrick tomorrow night would not be the worst way to spend an evening, and it might even be fun. It wasn’t that he was bad looking- his crooked nose and lopsided smile was actually quite cute and he seemed to be a nice guy, even though his pickup lines were complete crap. And although he had dated a lot of women in the hotel, it wasn’t as if Jo was looking for a long term relationship... just some fun. A night out. She looked at Patrick again, seemingly properly for the first time.
“Yeah, alright then. That sounds nice. Tomorrow?”
Patrick’s eyes widened slightly. “Brilliant! Yeah, tomorrow! I’ll sort out some dinner reservations- keep an eye on your owl hole, okay?”
“Looking forward to it,” she said, and it was almost genuinely, just as a flustered Michael entered the canteen. Jo half-stood up. “Mike! What are you doing down here as well? Who’s on the front desk?”
Michael shook his head, breathless. “Come quick!”
It turned out that one of the guests had been using his hotel room to illegally sell Class A Untradeable Items and while he was leaving, a Chimera had actually hatched from an egg in his bag and managed to claw its way out through the leather, and was now spitting fire all over Mrs Malfoy’s polished marble floors. Josephine had her heels off and was skidding barefoot along the corridors in a desperate hurry to get to the lobby, as the sounds of high-pitched screaming grew louder.
“Why the hell did you come and get me, Michael?” she yelled at him desperately as they climbed the stairs. Someone had put the hotel into lockdown on discovering that there was a loose baby Chimera running around- and while it meant that it couldn’t escape, it had also shut down all power and locked all exits, meaning that until a senior staff member could lift the enchantments, the guests would be staying inside, and the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures was shut out.
“You’d know what to do!” he shouted back, puffing behind her, constrained by his tight fitting suit. Meanwhile, Jo had hitched up her skirt so she could run faster, and if a witch wearing pearls in her hair looked disapprovingly at her as Jo entered the restaurant, then she needed to focus on the Chimera. Nevertheless, Jo saw the lady’s disdain, and smiled brightly at her.
“My apologies, madam,” Jo said a little breathlessly, before continuing across the marble floor with her shoes dangling from two fingers. Priorities, she reminded herself. Trying to get one-up on old people is not at the top of her to-do list at the moment. The stream of people fighting to get away from the Chimera was huge- everyone in the restaurant having lunch, in the bar meeting friends, guests checking in or out and all the staff; cleaning, porters, waiters- they all seemed to currently be on the ground floor and it was looking less and less like a stream and more like a tide.
Jo was trying to discreetly stab guests with the heels of her shoes that she was carrying in order for them to get out the way, but they were pretty ineffectual. Cattle prods, that’s what I need, she thought. Electrified ones. Just then she stepped on someone’s foot, who angrily gave her a shove, and then the next thing she knew she was on the floor with people all around.
Jo tried to get up, but there was too little space in the horde. Michael was still somewhere behind her, and the only way he’d find her now was if he trod on her. Jo gasped with sudden pain as someone trampled over her outstretched hands- but someone heard, and grabbed her under the arms, lifting her up.
“Thank you,” she said gratefully, attempting to straighten her skirt and blouse, but her rescuer had already disappeared into the crowd.
Jo grimaced, massaged her hands slightly and used her shoulders to barge through, eventually forcing her way out of the horde and into the main hall area, where the Chimera wobbled around on its little goat legs, and around it, the centre of the lobby was almost serene. That was except for a man dressed in brown robes who was being held back by two of the hotel’s security guards, and whose hand was bleeding quite profusely. Jo guessed he was the trader.
She heard a gasp, and turned to see Michael emerge from the crowd. “What do you want me to do?” he gasped, a little out of breath.
“CAN EVERYBODY PLEASE SHUT UP!” Jo bellowed as loud as she could, and a few people looked her way, but no-one paid much attention to the receptionist. Jo gritted her teeth angrily. “Get those porters to help get the guests away from the door, and upstairs if you can manage it. And if they could shut up as well,” Jo hissed.
Mrs Malfoy was standing in shock in a corner of the lobby next to the reception desk, watching as the new born Chimera defecated on the floor.
“Mrs Malfoy, did you realise that the hotel is currently on lockdown?” Jo tried to keep her tone as cordial as possible, despite the havoc.
“Do you think I’m blind, Josephine?” Mrs Malfoy said scathingly. “I know, but I can’t leave the lobby to take it off, there is no-one else who is senior here.”
“Mrs Malfoy, I can control the situation down here.”
“You? The receptionist? What are you going to do, throw your shoes at it?”
“Well what’s your grand plan then, Mrs Malfoy?” Jo snapped, and instantly regretted it as Narcissa turned her ice blue eyes on her.
“I believe that in our hotel we currently have several Aurors and members of the Ministry. I suggest you fetch them immediately,” she said in a tone that brooked no argument.
Jo nodded, but plopped her shoes down on the counter next to Mrs Malfoy. “Just in case,” she said, before stalking off after the small crowd of people that Michael and the porters had managed to get away from the doors. They were also making much less noise now, thank Merlin.
Not even the service lifts were working, so after fighting her way through the crowds again, Jo had to climb the nine stories to the top floor. She used the staff stairs though- there were much less people around, and most of those were cleaners who were either unaware of the mini-crisis unfolding or simply didn’t care if an unstable baby Chimera wiped out half the guests.
Exhausted, Jo knocked on the door of the first room on the ninth floor. There was no answer. She rapped on the second, feeling as short tempered as she was short of breath. This time, Harry Potter answered.
“Oh!” he said, sounding surprised. “Are Victoire and Teddy here already?” he asked. “Wait- what happened to you?”
Jo realised what a mess she must look like. She tried to fix her hair, while plastering on a fake smile. “My apologies for the state I’m on, Mr Potter, but there is a new born Chimera in the lobby and Mrs Malfoy requires any assistance you could offer.”
Behind Mr Potter, Jo could see a good half of his family, sitting around on the sofas and beds. Hermione stood up immediately.
“Are you okay, Jo?”
“Perfectly fine, Mrs Weasley. If you’d like to follow me downstairs?”
There was a general scramble for wands and shoes, and then Harry Potter had to go find Bill and Ron Weasley, who were discovered playing a very heated game of wizard’s chess.
Behind Jo, the Weasleys and Potters spilled out into the lobby, which was now deserted except for a few porters, which were blocking the doors and preventing the Chimera from escaping... and of course Mrs Malfoy, who had now retreated to behind the reception desk. However, the Chimera was much larger than it had been- and was a great deal angrier than when Jo had left. No longer comically skidding around on its tiny goat legs, it was stalking across the marble floor, growling fiercely, its scaly tail whipping from side to side.
“Bloody hell,” exclaimed Ron, which earned him an elbow in the side from his wife.
“Josephine, I suggest you retreat to behind the desk with Narcissa,” Charlie Weasley said, stepping out into the open expanse, and squatting, holding out his hand to the Chimera as if it were a pet.
Jo wasted no time in obeying, her bare feet making no noise as she padded over to Mrs Malfoy. Left behind were Hermione, Harry, Ron, Ginny, Charlie and Bill... and Louis. The rest of the Weasleys had been made to stay upstairs by Molly Weasley, who had been clucking and fussing about too many witches spoil the potion and Jo had agreed vehemently, but Louis had still come down, despite having no useful talents in catching and quieting a Chimera, a fact which Jo had tried very hard not to vocalise.
Bill Weasley was also on his knees next to his brother, making soft noises in an attempt to calm the skittery beast. It looked stupid, to be honest, and if Jo didn’t know about Chimeras from school, she wouldn’t have said it was dangerous. Maybe its tail could give you a nasty whack, but it had the body of a goat, for crying out loud. It edged closer to the Weasleys, sniffing suspiciously. When it got within a foot of Charlie, Bill looked behind him and said, “Net, Hermione!”
After that, everything happened very quickly. The Chimera was startled by Bill’s voice, and jumped back a few steps, but slipped on the smooth marble and fell over with a quiet little roar of indignation. Ron Weasley tried to cast a net over it, but the shimmery silver mesh landed about three feet away from him. The Chimera tried to squirm away from the net, managing to get to his feet and running awkwardly to shelter- to the reception desk, where Jo and Mrs Malfoy were sheltering. Mrs Malfoy grabbed Jo’s hand and pulled her out from behind the desk just as the Chimera skidded into the other side, his hooves clattering.
Then Hermione Weasley waved her wand almost lazily, and two nets sprung up, connecting the desk to the walls and imprisoning the Chimera inside. Mrs Malfoy had to hold onto a pillar to prevent her falling over after her short sprint in heels.
“Thanks,” Jo said, grinning gratefully at her employer.
Mrs Malfoy merely raised an eyebrow. “You’re welcome, Josephine.”
I take it back, thought Jo. When a Chimera is running towards you, it’s terrifying.
“Thank you very much for your assistance, Mrs Weasley, Mr Weasley,” Mrs Malfoy said, but Jo wasn’t sure which Mr Weasley she was addressing. Judging from their faces, neither did they, but they gracefully smiled and nodded anyway.
Charlie Weasley straightened up. “I’ve got some contacts in the Ministry who can find him a temporary home, and I’ll personally make sure that it's cared for and looked after appropriately."
Mrs Malfoy nodded, and smiled slightly. “Thank you, Mr Weasley. Now, I must see to lifting the lockdown. Josephine, inform the rest of the staff and guests that the crisis is averted, but the ground floor is still off limits until the creature has been removed.”
“Yes Mrs Malfoy,” Jo said, and turned to go down to the canteen, where undoubtedly the majority of the staff would be taking advantage of the ‘crisis’ by having a break, but was stopped by a hand grabbing hold of her arm.
“Are you alright, Jo?” Louis said. She faced him with a fake smile.
“Yes thank you Mr Weasley,” she said, and gently removed his hand. “Excuse me.”
As she left, she heard Ron Weasley’s loud voice. “Seriously Louis, what did you expect?”
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