Chapter 3 : three
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If I ever had an engagement party, she thought, it would be like one of those Quidditch after-parties in the common room where the primary function was to dance and have fun. She genuinely couldn’t think of anything worse than a surprise engagement meal/party with over fifty of your closest friends and family.
Michael was dealing with a new guest- one of the ones who insisted they have the same room every time they stayed at the hotel... and one of the ones who never booked in advance. And unfortunately for Michael, the Potter-Weasley party had booked up her usual room. But he was feeling guilty that she’d been chased by a Chimera, so he’d vowed to deal with all the difficult customers to say sorry.
Jo welcomed the break but now, she was just so bored. Eight and a half minutes.
She was nearly glad of something to do before she realised who the voice belonged to.
“Good afternoon sir,” she said evenly, plastering on a smile.
Louis looked uncomfortable with her professionalism, and leant forwards on the desk, his elbows on the polished teakwood. “Hey,” he said, sounding friendly.
Jo was not about to match his tone. “Is there anything I can help you with, Mr Weasley?”
“Yeah... could you just run over the details for tonight?” he said. “The party?”
“I’m sorry sir, that’s not my department, but if you went over to the restaurant and found a staff member there, they’d be happy to help you.” Jo flashed him a quick, dismissive smile, but he either didn’t get the hint or ignored it. “Anything else, sir?” she asked after a quick pause, cursing her luck that Michael was still hung up with another guest- although the witch was getting increasingly vocal and upset about her room.
“Um...” Louis looked lost for words. “I’d... I’d like to compliment you on the wonderful rooms,” he said, and Jo’s smile got a bit wider.
“That’s very kind of you sir, I’ll inform housekeeping for you.” Jo also made a mental note to charge Mr Weasley with a tip for housekeeping. From across the lobby, she saw Patrick make his way towards her, grinning.
He was an attractive guy, Jo thought, allowing herself to properly look at the waiter- his smoky grey waistcoat was tightly fitted and you could see where his muscles bulged in his white shirt. He wasn’t currently working, so he wasn’t wearing his tie and his top button was undone- he looked like an off duty James Bond. Next to Louis Weasley, who was wearing an old faded green jumper with holes at the elbows and baggy jeans, Pat seemed even more crisp and polished. Louis followed her line of sight and huffed slightly.
We can all be as shallow as you, Jo thought vindictively as she remembered the skinny, sporty girl she’d caught him sleeping with.
“Excuse me Josephine, are you busy?” Patrick said, all professionalism with a guest so near.
“No- not unless I can help Mr Weasley with anything else?”
Louis shook his head but continued to loiter near reception, watching the main door and pretending not to listen to their conversation.
“Guess where we’re going tomorrow night?” Pat said, all smiles and giddy excitement.
Jo raised an eyebrow. “Where?”
“Well, I just got off the phone with the manager of White Duchess-”
Forgetting Louis for a moment, Jo’s mouth fell open. “Really? The Duchess? How?”
Now Patrick’s enthusiasm was explained. White Duchess was one of the best restaurants in wizarding London, and exclusive. They took extreme pride in hiring the absolute best in their respective fields- Jo had it on good oath that the poissonnier was a mermaid, and they had been the first business to publicly support Hermione Weasley’s campaigns for house elves.
Pat grinned. “Do you want me to tell you how I got the table or would you rather just keep the mystery?”
“I’ve seen you there with one of the bartenders,” said a voice. Jo turned around, although she already knew it was Louis. She desperately hoped she was managing to convey her intense hatred through her insipid smile, and from the way that Louis averted his eyes, she was doing so quite successfully.
Pat didn’t seem fazed at all, his natural charisma smoothing his words. “Yes, that’s right sir. We went to The Oak Wight together,”
“Really?” Louis at least had the grace to look impressed. “That’s a very prestigious catering school,” he remarked.
Patrick nodded, acknowledging the compliment. “Thank you,” he said, unconsciously fingering his staff badge. “If you’ll excuse me sir,” he said, switching his attention to Jo. “So Jo, I’ll pick you up at about, six?”
“Sounds fantastic,” Jo said, genuinely looking forward to the date. A meal at the Duchess? Jo had never even been inside. Pat smiled, and made his way back to the restaurant. Jo checked the clock again. One minute.
“Mr Weasley,” she said to Louis who was still hovering around by the desk, “if you wanted to discuss the arrangement for tonight, there is no-one better than Patrick Ahearne. He’s the Head Waiter.”
Louis looked slightly confused before recovering himself. “No, it’s alright Jo,” he said. “I’m going to find my cousins.”
“Have a good evening sir,” she said, smiling until he disappeared from view. Michael had finally managed to get rid of the other guest by promising an extraordinary discount on her bill at the end of her stay. “Will you be alright to keep the desk while I go home?”
Michael nodded, and gave Jo a quick hug. “That was brilliant with that Weasley,” he said in her ear. “Don’t rush back!”
Jo gave him a grateful smile. “Thank you so much!”
She’d already stashed her bag under the desk, so she grabbed it and set of out the main entrance, not really caring that strictly speaking, staff weren’t allowed to use it. Mrs Malfoy was nowhere to be seen, and Jo really needed to relax after her hectic day. She walked home. She lived in a small flat above a bakery which was in a side street about two minutes away from the Artemis, and she’d been living there since she’d left Louis and their shared terraced house in Muggle London. Sometimes she missed the house- even after two years, it was difficult to get used to not going upstairs to bed.
She dropped into the cafe first though- it was a cute little business run by a woman called Hannah Rowell. She was at least fifteen years older than Jo, with a round, kind face and the two were quite close since she’d moved in.
“Jo!” the shop was nearly empty, apart from one of Hannah’s regulars hunched over a pumpkin pasty in the corner. “I put a couple of sausage rolls aside for you- heard you had a hell of a day!”
There were stools lined up by the counter, and Jo swung herself onto one as Hannah dished up a plate for her. “You’re a gem,” Jo said gratefully. “And has the news spread so quickly?”
“Yeah, but I’ve been the one spreading the news this time,” she said, her pink face smiling happily. “My brother’s staying at the Artemis for this engagement thing? He works with Teddy Lupin at the Auror office.”
“Is he? I’ll keep an eye out for him tonight.”
“You working overtime? That’s rough,” Hannah said sympathetically.
“Mrs Malfoy doesn’t want Michael on the front desk when she knows we’re going to be busy, she thinks he’s unapproachable,” Jo explained around a mouthful of pastry.
Hannah rolled her eyes. “I’m not surprised, he looks more like a bouncer than a receptionist! I’ll try and swing by with any leftovers before I go to bed then,” she said. “Looks like you’ll be there all night.”
“Thank you,” Jo said, with feeling. Hannah mothered Jo, but Jo enjoyed it, her own mother having died when Jo was very young. “Also, guess who has a date at the Duchess tomorrow night?”
Hannah’s eyes went wide, and she nodded appreciatively. “Crikey! You’ll have a grand time there. What are you going to wear?”
Jo shrugged. “If I get a chance tonight, I’ll ring around the boutiques and call in some favours.”
The older woman smiled. “You young high fliers,” she said as a customer came in. “Go on, get upstairs and sort yourself out, or you won’t have any chance to relax before you have to work again.”
Jo scurried upstairs, snagging a homemade chocolate frog on the way- Hannah only clucked disapprovingly.
By the time she was ready to go back to the Artemis, she was half an hour late, having spent about three times longer on her appearance than she usually did. In fact, Jo was so proud of herself that before she left she went back down to the café and gave Hannah a twirl.
“Very impressive!” Hannah said, shaking her head a little. “I thought the occasion was tomorrow night?”
Jo stuck her tongue out. “Just making an effort!”
“To go to work?” Hannah said, laughing. “Go on, get gone.”
Jo walked slowly to the hotel, conscious of her perfectly straight hair, which was too thick to do much with on a normal day, and instead was consigned to a bun on the top of her head. The receptionists didn’t have to conform to a uniform, as long as they kept to the muted greys and rusty reds of the hotel’s colours, and so tonight Jo wore a dark grey dress, cinched at the waist with a red belt and red heels- although they were in her bag to save her feet. Her name badge was pinned onto a fitted black blazer, and Jo felt a million Galleons.
The lobby was quiet when she walked in. Most guests were dressing for dinner, and most staff members would be taking advantage of the lull by snatching a break down in the canteen. The concierge, Toby, was at his desk though like always, and he whistled at her as she sneaked in through the main doors.
“Almost though you were a guest then, Jo!” he said as she walked past him, and she stuck her tongue out in return. “Ladylike,” he remarked.
Michael was manning the reception, and was deeply engaged with a crossword in the Prophet, so he didn’t even notice when Jo slipped in beside him. She peered around his arm.
“Four down, nine letters?” she said. “It’s Grindylow.”
His mouth spelt out the letters, before he nodded and wrote it in, his quill scratching on the paper. “Thanks... whoa girl what’s the occasion?”
Jo tapped her nose knowingly as the first of the Potters started to come down, smiling at the staff at the desk before disappearing into the lounge for drinks.
“You’re trying to get that Louis jealous?” Michael guessed. “You’ll manage it, I’m sure.”
Michael left soon after, going home to his cat and boyfriend whom Jo had never met, although she’d had to look after the cat on numerous occasions. At eight o’clock, Teddy Lupin and Victoire Weasley arrived, both looking stunning, and Patrick guided them into the ballroom -instead of the restaurant- where the cheers and shouts of congratulations could be heard even through the magically-sound proofed doors. At ten past eight, three reporters had tried to get into the hotel, but were easily caught by the doormen.
At half past eight, Toby came over for a chat about Quidditch, mentioning that Puddlemere’s seeker had been injured so the reserve was playing in the league final. Jo couldn’t help herself in wishing that the reserve could be injured as well. Not seriously, she thought, just disfiguring her.
Toby had to leave to sort out two elderly Bulgarian witches who wanted to go to the Muggle opera, and then Jo back to being unavoidably bored in the empty lobby. She shrugged off her blazer, exposing her tiny badger tattoo on her left shoulder, which Narcissa Malfoy frowned at, but didn’t remark on, and Jo went back to watching the seconds tick past on the clock and occasionally passing calls down through to Housekeeping.
Jo jumped, having not heard anyone approach. There was a tall man who was standing on the opposite side of the desk. He wore dress robes, clearly a member of the engagement party, a gold watch winking at his wrist. He had short sandy brown hair and a wide face, with clear grey eyes which were crinkled up with a smile. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“My fault sir, I should have been paying attention. How can I help you?”
The guy fidgeted, and Jo realised he was closer to her own age than she had previously thought. “I just wanted to check you were okay after you fell earlier today,” he said.
“Oh, were you the one who helped me up?” Jo said. “Thank you, I was afraid I was going to be trampled.”
“No worries,” the man said, smiling easily. “I’m glad you’re okay.”
The doors to the ballroom opened, causing them both to look up, startled. Louis Weasley stumbled out, trying to straighten his robes. The doors closed soundlessly behind him, shutting out all the noise from the party.
“Sam! I was just looking for you! Why aren’t you having fun?” he said loudly, slurring his words slightly.
The guy at the desk smiled at Louis. “I’m coming back now,” he said.
Louis caught sight of Jo behind the desk, and grinned widely. “Hello Jo, you’re looking stunning tonight,” he said, his voice extremely loud in the empty lobby. From his desk across the room, Toby looked up, and narrowed his eyes. “Have you met my ex, Sam?” Louis slurred. “She left me. I was going to propose, I was. And she left me.”
Jo felt like she’d been punched in the gut. She had been so happy with Louis- but she’d never even dreamed that he was going to propose. Not when they were both so young, not when Louis hadn’t even graduated to become an Auror.
Sam moved across the marble floor quickly, just in time to catch Louis as he stumbled. “You did sleep with someone else,” he said, sounding completely unsympathetic. “Come on, let’s get you back to the party.””
Toby strode across the polished floor, his shoes making tapping sounds. “If you want any assistance helping Mr Weasley to bed, I would be more than happy to help you, Mr Rowell,” he said, but Jo was barely aware of them helping Louis to the lift.
He was going to propose. Apparently.
A/N: poissonnier is French for 'fish chef' and sounds much nicer. Additionally, James Bond belongs to no-one but Ian Fleming. Hope you enjoyed this chapter!