Chapter 3 : Rendezvous
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September – Somewhere in Diagon Alley
The wind nipped at the apples of Dorcas’ cheeks and the tip of her nose, as she tried her best to snuggle more of her face into her thick woollen scarf that was serving as a windbreaker against the harsh September air. Her hands still felt the chill, even through her mittens. She was sure it never used to be this cold in September, but then soon scoffed when she mused that it was just the weather reflecting the mood of the times. As quick as she could, holding her coat closer to her body for more warmth, she scampered through Diagon Alley towards her usual café stop for her caffeine fix. She didn’t pass many people, and those she did were not lingering. Everyone in the area had a purposeful look about them, and no one made eye contact, for fear of having too much interaction with the wrong person.
It had been a rather hectic day at St Mungos for the young trainee healer, though this was not unusual. With the world getting more dangerous, there were more cases everyday of spell damage, injuries and other magical ailments. Some days wards were overrun and patients could not be afforded beds, instead having to sit of chairs in hallways. Thankfully today was not one of those days, though it was still busy; there had been a public attack a few days before hand and some were still recovering from their injuries. As Dorcas was still training, she would work on most floors and departments doing odd bits and bobs, which she enjoyed as she could help a variety of interesting people. She absolutely loved spending time with the more permanent residents, listening to their stories and entertaining them with her own. It was the perfect job for someone so caring.
Dorcas stepped up her pace further as odd spots of large raindrops started to crash down on the pavement around her. Thankfully only a few had landed on her face before she reached the cream fronted café and was able to dart into the warmth of the quaint room. She smiled as the heat engulfed her face and her nose was filled with the aroma of ground coffee beans and exotic teas. It was heaven to her senses. She quickly wiped her feet on the mat inside the doorframe and made her way over to the counter, lowering her scarf from her face so she could speak.
Her face lit up when she saw the bouncy blonde curls of Mary MacDonald waving her wand over the coffee machine for someone’s order, this meant a discount, which was never a bad thing. Playfully, she reached over the counter and tapped her friend on the shoulder, making her jump into the air with a loud squeak, almost knocking two steaming mugs of tea over.
‘Merlin Doe!’ Mary scolded in a hushed voice as she got her breath back, her heart pounding rapidly. ‘You scared the bloody magic out of me!’
Dorcas laughed, heartily smirking at her friend, who couldn’t help but let a small smile slip as she fixed some hair that had fallen in front of her face. ‘I forgot you were working today,’ Dorcas smiled, making conversation easily as she leant on the counter.
‘Yeah, I think I need the extra shifts to be honest, the bills are due soon,’ Mary sighed as she passed over two steaming mugs of coffee to two witches who were waiting in front of Dorcas and cashed up their gallions, and then proceeded to tighten her gingham pinafore around her waist.
‘Let me guess…’ Mary said playfully tapping her forehead in mock deep thought, ‘One large English breakfast tea to go, two brown sugars and a splash of milk?’
‘You know me so well!’ Dorcas chorus dramatically, making Mary laugh as she turned to pour the boiling water into a Styrofoam cup.
‘So what time do you get off? Dorcas asked, turning around to see what was going on in the small café. There were a few witches and wizards scattered around the room, but nowhere near as many as there would have been a few years ago. Dorcas smiled to herself as she remembered coming here when she was a child with James and Mr and Mrs Potter; they would always get them a large milkshake and a cookie each, but they would never be able to finish it, so Mr Potter would always ‘reluctantly’ finish them off for him. Mrs Potter would always blame this café for his growing belly. Dorcas’ smile faded a little as reality hit her once more; children couldn’t enjoy the simple things in this world anymore and Emily and Henry were gone. Her memories were just that: memories.
‘It’s a late one for me tonight I think, I have to lock up,’ Mary said, breaking Dorcas from her thoughts, though Dorcas couldn’t help but notice that Mary was acting a little off. She was tapping the counter and refusing to make eye contact. ‘Anything else?’ She asked quickly, still refusing to meet Dorcas’ eyes.
‘Yeah, I’ll have a cookie please,’ Dorcas asked cautiously.
‘Cool, that will be 4 sickles,’ Mary said, finally looking up as she held out Dorcas’ order.
‘Thanks,’ Doe said, handing the money over, ‘I’ll leave you some dinner in the oven so you don’t go hungry.’ She added as an after thought, though none of this went into Mary’s head.
‘Huh?’ Mary asked, shaking her head with a frown, bring her obviously elsewhere mind back to reality.
‘Dinner…’ Dorcas repeated cautiously, ‘I’ll leave it in the oven for you, okay?’
‘Oh,’ Mary sighed with a forced smile, as she started to wipe down the perfectly clean counter, clearly trying to get rid of Dorcas. ‘That’s fine.’
‘Are you okay?’ Dorcas chuckled at how awkward her friend and flatmate was being, it was very bizarre to see such a sudden change in her.
‘I’m cool. It’s all good, I’ll see you later Doe!’ and with that, Mary hastily gathered up her cleaning cloth and tray and headed out from the counter to clear a now empty table.
Dorcas stood bemused for a few moments beside the counter, before taking a quick sip of the hot tea and heading for the exit once more. Once again, she made sure her various layers of knitted items were pulled tightly together and secure to block out the cold temperatures, and now fairly even rain coverage that splattered patterns on the ground outside, reflecting the various buildings in the near vicinity. When Dorcas returned her eye line to what was in front of her to open the door, an odd sight met her eyes.
Across the street from were she was standing, rain drops gently beating against the parts of a face that were visible, was a dark figure standing in an alleyway between two empty shop fronts. The figure the leant against the brick of one of the shops, his shoulder easily taking his weight, and he was watching the shop front of the café that Dorcas had just left, their dark grey eyes unblinking. At first glance, Dorcas though it was Sirius, the bone structure that was visible on the man’s face would have certainly suggested it, but the shorter hair that the plastered with rain to his face, proved the man to be someone more dangerous than her surrogate brother: Regulus Black. He was in a black raincoat, the bottom of which showed the smart trouser he had teamed it with, and when his eyes met those of Dorcas, he immediately looked towards his shoes awkwardly. Clearly he was hiding something, and Dorcas didn’t like it. She didn’t like it one bit.
So as to not look too suspicious, she carried on walking in an even pace down the street, crossing to be on the same side as the curious boy and then darted into an alley way. Why on earth was he here? And why was he watching the café were Mary was? Dorcas wasn’t sure whether to alert the Order, so she had done her best to act as unsuspecting as she could. He was alone, which suggested to Dorcas that he wasn’t an immediate threat, but she knew who he associated himself with, and they certainly weren’t good people. Instead, she chose to observe from were she was, she would report back later, and at least she was there to help Mary should the young Slytherin try anything.
For around ten minutes Dorcas stood in the alleyway, under a leaking gutter that dropped water droplets heavily onto her head as the rain soaked gradually through her knitwear, causing an annoying itch. The rain was dripping down her face, off of her eyelashes, seeping into her shoes and her mitten-covered hands shook, as she grew cold to the bone. Still Regulus remained opposite the café, just watching, eyes not wavering. What was he waiting for?
Dorcas sniffed as her nose started to run, and moved her wet fringe from her eyes, and around fifteen minutes after ducking into the small, dingy alleyway, there was movement from across the road. Her eyes widened as she saw the small frame and bouncing blonde curls of Mary scuttle out into the rain, her coat on and umbrella raised to shield her from the never faltering rain. Mary had lied, she’d lied to Dorcas about what time she was finishing work! But that wasn’t what made Dorcas’ jaw hit the floor in shock; Mary had run straight across the road and into the warm embrace of Regulus.
Doing her best to remain unseen, Dorcas furrowed her brows as she watched the two chatting animatedly in greeting. There was not an ounce of fear in Mary’s body language; she actually wanted to be there. And Regulus, he looked… happy. The presence of Mary had made the stern and proper pureblood smile with genuine happiness. Mary raised her umbrella to shelter her companion from the rain and rested her head against his side as he placed a protective arm around the blonde’s shoulder and placed a gentle soft kiss on her head. Just like that, faster than a blink of an eye they were gone.
Dorcas was in complete and utter shock, what on earth was going on?! She knew she had to confront Mary, and she would, but how to approach the subject was what bothered her. He had seemed so nice to Mary. The boy who had taunted herself, and his brother and James their entire time at Hogwarts together, seemed like a completely different person, and all in the presence of a muggle born. This worried her greatly; she needed to find out what was going on and fast. Mary was sensitive, especially after the attack… She found it hard to trust others, and it had taken a lot to make it through her final year of Hogwarts, even with the perpetrators of the crime expelled. Dorcas couldn’t let her be hurt like that again. The sweet girl the Mary had been before was broken, and Dorcas couldn’t let her break any further.
She took and deep breath closed her eyes, taking one last look at the surroundings of a dismal and wet Diagon Alley, before opening them to face a front door situated in an apartment building. A gleaming silver ‘127’ was attached to the centre of the door, and a silver letterbox below that. In front of the door there was a worn looking mat, the word ‘welcome’ still just about visable and beside that an old milk bottle that was currently be used to display a small bunch of wild flowers that Dorcas had picked a few days ago. Wiping her feet on the mat, she retrieved her house keys from the pocket of her soaked coat and placed it in the stiff lock, wrestling to open the door into her apartment.
Finally she fell awkwardly through the door, stumbling on the otherside and making an almighty racket as she knocked into several hanging kitchen appliances. ‘Shit!’ she managed to steady herself and started to take off her soggy woollen items, dumping them in a pile on the floor beside her, shivering as more layers were removed.
Her shared apartment was small, but comfortable. There was an open plan living and kitchen space, which had a small dining table, set for three. The apartment also had a small bathroom and three separate bedrooms, each decorated in the individual style of the occupant. The walls were painted in a cream colour and accented with various colours from the paintings and room decorations.
‘Godric Doe!’ Marlene protested as she appeared from the doorway of her bedroom, already dressed in the pyjamas, and clearly in the middle of doing her hair as half of it was curly and the other half straight. ‘You scared me! You really need to get the hang to the bloody door already,’ She mumbled as she walked into the kitchen and started to make a hot drink, getting out two pink mugs.
‘Sorry,’ Dorcas mumbled as she started to dry herself with her wand, basking in the warmth it brought to her.
‘What the hell happened to you?’ Marlene giggled as she took in the ratty appearance of her best friend. Dorcas sighed heavily and sat on the back of the sofa, allowing herself to fall backwards lazily so that she was lying upside down on it.
‘Very long day at work. And then I got caught in the rain when I went to get some tea.’ Dorcas sighed heavily, before yawning widely, as Marlene flopped down on the sofa in the same manor. Dorcas thought it would be best not to mention Regulus until she had spoken to Mary about it, she didn’t want to cause unnecessary tension.
‘Did you have to go on the Magical bugs and Diseases Ward again?’ Marlene asked, pulling a face of disgust and shivering at the idea.
‘No, thank Merlin!’ Dorcas chuckled, ‘I was on Spell Damage today, but it was pretty busy, there was another attack on Thursday and people are still recovering. What’s that?’ she asked as she spotted an envelope that Marlene was twiddling between her fingers in a teasing way.
‘It’s a letter, for you…’ Marlene joked, holding it just out of Dorcas’ reach as she made a grab for it and fell on top of Marlene very ungracefully. With another attempt, she managed to snatch the now crumpled letter from her best friend, as she pinned her down on the sofa in a playful wrestle.
‘Who’s it from?’ Marlene panted as Dorcas ran her thumb along the edge tearing it open and unfolded the letter.
‘It’s only Remus,’ Dorcas said, now a hint of shyness spilling through her normally casual demeanour.
‘OooOooo Remus!’ Marlene teased as she tried to snatch the letter back from Dorcas and read it for herself, resulting in the two running around on top of the two sofas that occupied the living area of their apartment. ‘Ohh Remus,’ Marlene continued to tease, making fake kissing noses, though she was stopped when a cushion collided with her face and knocked her backwards into a sitting position again.
‘Stop it!’ Dorcas protested, but she couldn’t hide the smile that was pulling at the edges of her face as the thought of the scruffy young werewolf filled her mind like it had done so many times before. ‘He only wanted to say thanks for the Wolfsbane potion,’ Dorcas sighed, sitting down next to Marlene once more.
‘Oh, well that’s thoroughly boring.’ Marlene complained, rolling her eyes. Dorcas was going to reply and insist that there was nothing going on between herself and Remus, and that that had finished a long time ago now; they had both moved on etc, when the same pillow she had thrown at Marlene rather forcefully collided with her own face.
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