Chapter 2 : The Pub
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The air was still and the alleyway was surprisingly quieter than usual. Normally a dull roar of the crowd around the corner could be heard, and the little Weasley family would join the crowd with ease. The Muggles would be none the wiser of their powers, and they would slip into The Leaky Cauldron just as easily. Today, that was definitely not the case with Fred Weasley II. He was on his own, and when he arrived in the alleyway with a loud - pop! - he was surprised no one heard him. A nearby cat did, though. He saw what looked to be a bent tabby tail turn the corner and bolt from the scene.
Fred looked around and took in his surroundings. A continuous drip, drip, drip pattern was forming on a metal bin to his left, and little puddles were overflowing in the potholes of the alley. Apparently, London had just seen a little bit of rain. The unpleasant smell of the waste in the bin next to him confirmed his conclusion. Lowering his dark, curly head, Fred stuffed his hands in his pockets and made for The Leaky Cauldron.
It was a miracle Fred didn't splinch himself. Very few opportunities were available to Apparate anywhere other than inside his house, and only once before had he made this trip by himself. He had Rox to thank for the slight calming of his thoughts. Without her level headedness, his emotions would still be running wild and the ability to think properly would not exist. Without her, he would have made a straight run for Greece itself. Then again, the blue waters of Greece's beaches seemed far more admirable than the damp grey streets of London. This place was the first thing that came to mind, though, and he couldn't say that he regretted it. The Leaky Cauldron was nearby, and that meant he was close to Diagon Alley. There was just one stop he needed to make if he was going to survive this little adventure of his, and that was Gringotts.
It was no secret the Weasley family were close friends to the Potters. In fact, they were related to the Potters and have been since his Aunt Ginny married Harry Potter before Fred was even born. Both families were very involved with the second wizarding war, and both received copious amounts of gold for their involvement after the whole thing was said and done. That, paired with his father's success at running a family business and his mother's retirement fund from her days as a semi-professional Quidditch star, Fred had enough gold to venture out for years to come if he spent it wisely. 'Greece is just the tip of the iceberg,' he thought, kicking a wadded newspaper to the side. It didn't go very far seeing as how it was beginning to get soggy. Its previous owner must have abandoned it only moments ago. It was the only sign that there had been life out on the streets today, and with closer inspection, he could tell the owner was magical. He would have to give credit to his Aunt Ginny for coming up with the protective charms to conceal magical items such as The Daily Prophet from Muggle eyes. That is, if he ever saw her again. Thoughts of his family came rushing back to him and Fred could feel his blood begin to boil once again. His mission to leave them behind, was already failing.
He stomped down the street and huffed before he finally reached his first destination. Even the pub seemed to be dead, and Fred wondered where everyone was. A nasty thought struck him as he realised just how much power his family had in means of finding him. When he left, he had made sure not to let his parents know, and Rox had promised to not say anything until he wrote her. There was no way his father could figure out he was gone so quickly and already have everyone out and about looking for him. 'No,' Fred reassured himself. 'Everyone is at home because of the rain.' But it wasn't raining anymore, so he would have to hurry along and retrieve his gold before the streets become littered with witches and wizards that, without doubt, would recognise him.
Hannah Longbottom, the wife of his herbology professor from school, was behind the counter of The Leaky Cauldron, but she didn't take notice of Fred. Sometimes being the odd Weasley out had it's advantages. Most of the time, everyone looked for the red haired, freckled pale faced Weasley. Fred and Rox's mother was far from pale, and her hair was the exact opposite from red. Rox looked a lot like their mother, when she was able to tame the obnoxious set of curls on her head that is. Her hair was more black than it was brown, and her skin was the perfect example of what Fred would consider a caramel tan. They both shared the same, golden eyes, though. Something must have happened within the mixture if his father's blue eyes and mother's brown ones, because Roxanne and Fred had eyes that their cousins have always been envious of. Fred, though brown haired and curly headed, looked more like his father. His skin was still a nice, smooth brown colour, but it was considerably paler than his sister's. He was also tall, gangly, and had freckles spotted all over his nose and cheeks. Emma used to love his freckles, and she would always pull a quill out and make funny pictures by connecting them when he was asleep. He always pretended to be mad, but only because it was fun to see her pretend to pout.
Fred shook off the memory, which didn't help his mood at all. He pushed past the heavy back door of the pub and shut it quietly so he wouldn't attract Hannah's attention. The last thing he needed was her giving his whereabouts away. He then faced the brick wall, in the years past, he thought he only thought that he knew the combination well. Perhaps letting Rox and his mum put in the combination all these years had been a mistake?
After a few tries, in which he was sure he repeated a certain pattern at least three times, he finally managed to get in. Diagon Alley managed to buzz with witches and wizards here and there, but it was still just as lonesome feeling as the Muggle streets. Then again, Diagon Alley was usually a quiet place; with the exception of the few weeks before students would start school in September, and during all other holidays. Today was just an ordinary summer day, though. His last day at Hogwarts was barely three weeks ago now, and the only time he would need to go to Diagon Alley now was if he found a job or needed to go shopping.
Fred groaned as he thought of the idea of getting a job in the small community. He was offered one, of course. From his father. He shuddered and shook off the feeling of hatred he harbored toward his father. He hadn't always hated George, but lately, he couldn't help but feel like it had grown harder to relate to his father in a way that allowed him to be himself.
He made sure to keep his head down when he walked past Weasley Wizard Wheezes and talked to no one, even though he recognised a few of the witches and wizards on the streets. Mostly because they went into the shop all the time, but if he stopped now, they would surely tell his father of his whereabouts.
When Fred reached Gringotts and presented himself before a small, and yet somewhat hideous looking, Goblin, he nearly panicked. In fact, he did panic. It wasn't until he found his Gringotts key in a pair of trousers he wore the other day did he calm down. With having to get into his luggage to retrieve the key, he was also reminded of just how awkward it must be to see a teenage boy rolling a suitcase around Diagon Alley. So, rather quickly so he would not alarm the Goblins, he shrunk his luggage and put it in his pocket. The Goblin took his key, rather impatiently, and led him to vault 942. The vault was Fred's, not yet used because he was only rewarded his own vault for graduating from Hogwarts, but it had plenty of money in it from his prior savings and the Galleons his parents no doubt gave him for making it through Hogwarts without getting expelled. Now that Fred thought about it, he was sure there had to be twenty Galleons added for every year he managed to pass without getting expelled after his third year. He definitely had his mischievous phase....
With no explanation, Fred grabbed every last Galleon, Sickle, and Knut that was in the vault and stuffed them into a coin purse. He wasn't exactly sure if he needed all of it, but it was always best to be safe rather than sorry. The Goblin, who Fred had come to know as Ugwart, didn't even pay him any mind. On the ride to the vault Ugwart warned Fred multiple times that if he pulled everything out of his vault, the account would be closed. Fred didn't want to risk his parents finding out that he left and empty his vault, so he took it all. Ugwart just gave up completely on him.
When he was on the surface again, he turned in his key (and was told he would receive it again when he decided to bank with them again) and decided it was time to start looking for a place to stay for the night. It was already dark outside, and most of the Diagon Alley shops were closed for the night. A light rain picked back up and Fred pulled his wand out to keep the drops at bay. He thought about the Leaky Cauldron, but he knew that would be one of the first places his parents would look for him. He didn't have any place in mind to apparate to just yet, and he knew whatever place it was that he planned to visit, it'd be far out of apparition limits. 'How am I going to do this?' He wondered, but decided this was food for thought at a later time. The current objective was to find a place to sleep. As the rain picked up, his worries of finding some place far from Diagon Alley began to dwindle. He just wanted some place warm and dry to stay.
Fred recalled a pub not terribly far from Diagon Alley. He would have to go out on the streets and walk a few blocks, but it was a Wizarding pub, one his parents would forget about after all this time. Exactly what he needed.
The outside if the Alley, rain poured down on him and his brisk walk turned more into a run. Muggles would begin to wonder why he wasn't getting wet if they caught sight of him. When he reached the pub, a more humble looking place called Marla's Pub, he ran in, pocketed his wand, and looked around. His parents were no where to be seen, and there was a light buzz to the place as everyone continued their drinking without batting an eye at Fred. There was a decadent smell of several types of pies, and Fred's stomach rumbled without warning. He hadn't even thought of the fact he hadn't eaten since breakfast that morning. The thought made him miss Rox, and it also worsened the rage he currently held for his father. There was a woman at the bar, and he made his way to her with a new fervor.
At first she didn't notice him, and he thought she was ignoring him on purpose until he noticed the glossy look upon her eyes. She was twirling her wand around and after each point she made, a task would start. She currently waved her wand at the dishes and then Fred hit the stool, and she turned her head and smiled at him. Her eyes never met his, and he felt somewhat awkward staring at her, but he convinced himself she couldn't really see him and sat down before her. Without warning, she put her wand inside the baggy red robe she was wearing, and made her way flawlessly to him.
"So, what do we have here? A runaway?" asked the old woman. Fred looked around to see if there was anyone else she could be talking to. When he saw no one other than a few drunk old men, he turned back to her and asked, "Me?"
The woman, presumably Marla, the owner of the pub, laughed and slammed a hand on the counter in front of him.
"Sweetie, if you were a customer you would have come straight in. That, and you're as clumsy as a bear! That either means you're already very drunk, or you're nervous. Most of my nervous customers are runaways, and by the smell of you, I'd say you're not drunk. The name is Marla, kid. What can I get for you?" Marla, Fred inwardly celebrated at being right, said cheekily. She was a short, burly looking woman. Besides the glossy look to her eyes, Fred would never have been able to tell she was blind. She roamed around behind her bar with ease, and knew every crack, step, and ledge. She was also very kind and in every way right.
Without much thought, he gave into her questions and made himself more comfortable. "Whatever your special is, I'd like to try it. Also, a room if you have one to spare," Fred said as confidently as he could manage. He didn't want to confirm to her that he was a runaway or give away that he was not where he needed to be. If his parents came in later, he'd want to make sure Marla couldn't give him away. Marla smiled at him once more, named a price, not bothering to probe for information, and took the few Galleons she asked for.
"I'll get right to that, dear." Marla winked. "Anything to drink for you?" She asked, but Fred didn't have time to respond before a customer came up and requested Marla's attention.
Fred sat on his stool and decided to pull out his luggage and put it on the counter. He didn't enlarge it, but he took out all of the tiny contents and laughed inwardly at the thought of how ridiculous everything looked so tiny. He sighed, remembering the reason he wanted to leave in the first place. He and his father had been arguing a lot lately, and that morning just fueled the fire that gave Fred the courage to take the long awaited trip. Everything from the fights, and the job offer made Fred angry with each passing day, and finally he just snapped. It caught Rox and his mum off guard, but George seemed to be expecting it. Perhaps it was the whole issue with Emma leaving him just weeks ago that led him to be so on edge, but it was an argument just waiting to happen. This adventure has been needed since he graduated Hogwarts and left all his friends behind. Of course, he always had his cousins, but that was precisely the problem. There were just too many Potters and Weasleys. Who was Fred other than a copy of his late Uncle?
Fred sneered at the thought and slammed the tiny suitcase shut. He put it in the pocket opposite his wand and waited for Marla's return, which was only five minutes later.
Marla slammed a pint of something brothy before him, "Something of my own creation," she winked, and then served a plate of some of the best looking shepherd's pie he had ever seen. She left him to eat alone for a while, refilling his mug every now and then when she felt he needed a refill, and he thought more on exactly where he'd be heading tomorrow. Of course Greece seemed so appealing in his travel magazine, but would his parents look there first? His mum only brought him the magazine days before when the morning post came. He tossed it aside at the time, but now it was what got him in this mess. There were other places to travel, but he didn't have a lot of time to think. Without a doubt his parents would be looking through all of Liverpool and London by morning, and Rox could only keep quiet for so long. He had a large enough family. They could surely cover all four corners of the world and find him within a couple of days if they really tried.
His thoughts grew more hazy and he was sure there were two Marla's when she returned for yet another refill. He stumbled off his stool and she laughed. Even though she was right in front of him, it was quite hard to tell her laughter apart from all the other laughing men and women in the pub. She steadied him with a wrinkled hand, pushed him back onto the stool, and pulled the mug away.
"Maybe I've given you too much, dear. What do you say we get you that room now, eh? Then, in the morning, we'll get you where you need to go." Marla said, or maybe she shouted?
Fred didn't know if she was referring to his new destination, or if she meant his actual home. Either way, he had a place to stay for the night, and it didn't seem like Marla was going to turn him in. She handed him a key with the letter "H" on it. "Your room is just upstairs to the left. I'll have my son escort you." Marla patted his back, laughing to herself, and called a huge looking man over. Fred wasn't sure who the man was, or why he seemed to have appeared out of nowhere, but he was being escorted upstairs by the shoulder. Fred wasn't sure if he should say anything, but his thoughts were jumbled together and he wasn't quite sure if he was getting a full grasp of the situation.
A sick and unnatural turn of his stomach suggested he was about to see his shepherd's pie again if he spoke up, so he kept his mouth shut. The big man - 'Are there two of him, too?' - opened the door to room H and walked Fred inside. That was when Fred realised he was laughing at him, too. Was he really that drunk? The next thing he knew, he was on the bed and had a small trash bin on his lap.
"Try not to trash the place too much, yeah?" Marla's son chuckled and shut the door behind him. Fred grumbled and rolled his eyes, but the movement made him dizzy and he found a sudden need to use the bin.
A few minutes later, Fred was laying on the bed, thoughts swirling around the day's events. He laughed pitifully at himself as he wondered what it was Emma would say about him if she saw him now. He knew this side of him was something she didn't want to happen out of their breakup, and in all honesty his current position was not because of her. His father did this all on his own. Emma just made him feel even more pathetic and he had to stop himself from crying at the thought if her. A chorus of her last words swam around his mind.
"I'm not in love with you the way you love me."
Her voice echoed in his head, causing a massive headache, and Fred threw the nearest thing he could reach in hopes of getting rid of the memory. He heard whatever it was shatter against the door, and his last thought before falling asleep was how he had yet another thing in his life to fix in the morning.
A/N: Hi everyone! I just wanna say thank you all for reading! I hoped you liked the first chapter (written by my lovely partner ReeBee) and didn't find my installment too confusing . Please leave a review letting me know what you think, and stay tuned for ReeBee's chapter three!
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