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Strained by whitelillies
Chapter 4 : Rapport
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 3


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Alice was late to work.

She was never late. In fact, she was certain that she hadn’t been late to any event in at least the last four years.

It was something she prided herself on, as she’d had a problem with tardiness throughout her Hogwarts years. This had resulted in her having a rather strained relationship with most of the professors (especially McGonagall, who had often given her detention for it).

Alice pushed her way out of the crowded lift, almost tripping over her feet in the process. Memos zoomed after her as she made her way towards the Auror Office briskly, throat burning. Sweat was beginning to gather on her forehead—she really was starting to get out of shape. Auror training had been a long time ago, after all.

Emma jumped up in her seat as Alice finally reached her desk, slamming her purse onto it forcibly. Then she ripped her coat open and plopped herself rather unceremoniously onto her wooden chair.

“Very dramatic entrance—I like it,” Emma grinned. She looked at a point behind Alice’s shoulder, glancing back at her a second later. “So, why exactly are you an hour late this morning?”

She was responded with a dramatic roll of the eyes as Alice focused all of her attention on getting her breathing back to normal.

There was a theatrical scoff. “Well, alright. I actually told Bennett you had the flu at today’s meeting. Not so much as a thank you for that. Then you go rolling your eyes at me like I’m Margaret come to annoy you at your desk. Thought your parents taught you manners, Alice,” Emma sang.

Alice let out a sigh.

“No, they were all wasted on my sister, I think,” She said, glancing at her friend. Emma’s eyebrow was raised, lips twitching. “I’ve just had quite a shit morning.”

Emma hummed. Then she wiggled around as she settled more comfortably into her chair. “Alright, go on then,” She let out. “I know you’re dying to tell someone. And frankly, I’m already bored by Anderson’s eating patterns. I’ve absolutely no idea how those are relevant to the case, but I guess what Bennett wants, Bennett gets.”

Alice cracked a smile, not surprised. When she’d come out of training, ready to hunt Dark Wizards down, she’d been sorely disappointed to find out that the first few months of being an Auror were beyond dull—she even remembered getting Bennett coffee at some point.

“Yeah, it’ll get better, trust me,” Alice replied.

“Well, I hope so, anyway. So, what’s got your knickers in a twist this morning, then?” Emma asked, grinning already.

Alice groaned lowly.

“It’ll probably sound stupid. Well, actually, it is definitely stupid,” She rectified.

Emma rolled her eyes. “Try me, Alice. I think I’m probably the dictionary definition of stupid sometimes. And I know you’re just pretending you don’t want to tell me when you really secretly do.”

Alice smiled slightly, shaking her head.

“Maybe,” She said. “Fine. It’s so ridiculous.”

Then she took a breath, glancing Emma’s way. “I got stuck in one of the toilets coming into the Ministry. I think the charm on it wore off or something. I don’t know. But it took about five wizards to help me out, and I was completely soaked.”

“Are you serious?”

“Absolutely. It was horrid. Thankfully I smell fine.”

Emma let out a bark of a laugh, her head thrown back. “Oh my Merlin,” She said, then she was back to laughing as Alice looked on, unamused. “I really need to write these types of things down or something, they’re priceless! How you manage to get into them is the question.”

Alice crossed her arms. “Well, it’s not my fault, is it! It’s the damn toilets’, they’re old! I don’t think they’re even looked after.”

“Maybe it’s because nobody uses them anymore?” Emma asked, grinning. “I don’t understand why you do—it’s not like it’s mandatory like it used to be during the War.”

“I like it, alright,” Alice replied defensively. “It’s almost like being at the water park.”

Emma let out another laugh. “The water park? I can’t believe you just said that,” She cried, then went on laughing.

Rolling her eyes at Emma’s laughter, Alice began taking her coat off, wincing at the way her slightly damp robes stuck to her lower back.

“So this is what you meant when you said you had a really ‘shit’ morning, hm?” Emma continued, still grinning widely.

“Oh my God,” Alice said as her coat finally came off. “Shut up.”

Emma continued laughing. Alice shook her head and tried to stop herself from grinning, though she failed quite miserably—she’d discovered early on that Emma’s laughter was particularly contagious.

Alice had honestly forgotten what it was like, too—to have a new friend. She wasn’t in regular contact with the friends she’d made at Hogwarts, and she hadn’t really made any new ones since graduating (Margaret didn’t exactly count). With Charlotte being in Berlin, this didn’t leave her much to work with.

So, although it was probably something trivial to most, to her it was somehow incredibly freeing to have made a new one. To have someone with whom she could finally just simply be with felt good: to exchange looks with, to eat lunch with, to chat with, to laugh with. Alice felt good. It was only recently that she’d realized how much she’d missed having that kind of connection with someone, even though she may have told herself she hadn’t. She’d been lacking it, especially at work, where she usually felt particularly alone.  

“Ah, you love me, don’t ya?” Emma asked her. “I think I can even forgive you for rolling your eyes at me.”

Alice rolled her eyes exaggeratedly, then asked, “So, any news?”

She began unpacking her things, pulling parchment after parchment out of her purse as Emma watched on. It would be a long day, no doubt.

“Potter and Margaret are snogging in the kitchen,” She sighed, slumping back into her chair. “Not the greatest thing to see in the morning. Though it is the only exciting thing that has happened in this office since I’ve arrived here, so there’s that,” She said, then paused, grinning. “Well, actually, now that you’ve been stuck in a toilet, I think that’s changed.”

Alice tried hard to pretend that the thought of Potter and Margaret kissing didn’t make her insides squirm in an uncomfortable way. She would also have preferred not hearing about Margaret’s love life right now, either—she’d heard about it enough in the past few weeks as it was.

“I do in fact live to entertain,” Alice replied seriously. “But I meant more about, you know, the case? Anderson? Important stuff.”

“Oh, important stuff,” Emma repeated, grinning. “Well, not really. Still no news. Nobody’s seen him since last month. Bennett looked on his way to having a fit halfway through the meeting, though.”

Alice nodded—she could imagine the scene quite well.

There was a comfortable silence between the two girls as Emma turned back to her desk to get her coffee. Alice looked at a parchment in her hand, distracted.

“So, are you doing anything tonight, then?”

Alice looked back up at Emma, frowning. The girl wiggled her eyebrows at her. “No… Why?”

“Well, it’s Valentine’s Day, isn’t it?”

“Oh,” She replied, surprised. From getting stuck in a toilet to being late for the first time in five years or so, Alice really hadn’t thought much of the date today, and so had forgotten that it was, in fact, Valentine’s Day. “I hadn’t realized. No. I’m not seeing anyone, remember? Why, do you have a date or something?”

Emma shook her head, taking a sip of coffee. “No, but I was thinking of going out to a bar.”

“Alone?” Alice asked, confused.

“No, with you!” Emma grinned at Alice’s frowning face. “You know, for Galentine’s.”

“What?”

“What do you mean, what? You don’t know what Galentine’s is?”

“No…” Alice replied slowly, still frowning.

Emma gaped at her, mouth open. “Have you never watched Parks and Rec?”

Alice raised an eyebrow. “No, what is that?”

Emma gasped loudly, as if Alice had personally offended her. “What! We’re going to have to change that,” She paused, smirking. “I thought we were both Muggleborn here. But maybe you’re just more the type to get stuck in toilets.”

Alice’s eyes rolled of their own accord. She was slowly becoming tired of Emma’s “jokes”.

Parks and Rec is an old American TV show,” Emma continued. “About parks and recreation,” She explained, and winked.

Alice wasn’t surprised she didn’t know what it was. Although Emma had been born in Britain, she’d lived in the United States most of her life, since her parents had moved there for work when she was four. This also meant that Alice was also not surprised that Emma did know what it was.

“A very fitting name,” Alice responded. “But no, I’m not going out drinking, Emma. I have plenty of work and I don’t exactly fancy—”

Emma groaned. “Alice, come on. I’ve been asking you for the past two weeks! That’s half the time we’ve known each other! And Anderson can wait—nobody’s even seen him in a month. Your toilet story is the most exciting thing that’s happened to you in a while, admit it.”

Alice paused, thinking. Apart from saying that dumb thing to Potter at Clancy’s party over a month ago, Emma was kind of right. “But don’t you have work to do, too?” She asked, trying to find a way to talk herself out of going.

Emma shrugged easily. “I mean, yeah, I need to study Anderson’s eating patterns. But it’s basically pointless and Bennett never even looks over what I do anyway. Too busy catching dark wizards to be bothered, I guess,” She said, then paused, her head bent slightly to the side in thought. “Or not catching them, in Anderson’s case.”

Alice scratched at her neck. “Well, I’ll think about it, then,” She replied. Emma rolled her eyes. “What? You know bars aren’t really my…thing.”

“Yeah, I know, I know. But ‘I’ll think about it’ is Alice-talk for ‘I’m too scared of confrontation to just outright say no’.”

Alice shrugged back at her lightly.

“Perhaps.”


“Emma, I’m leaving.”

They had been at the Muggle bar for over three hours, and Alice could feel a headache coming on. After a whole day of deliberating over whether or not she should go out and having Emma pester her that she, in fact, should, Alice had decided that it wouldn’t be entirely unpleasant to go to a bar with a friend. It was a Friday, too.

But it hadn’t exactly been fun—the bar was overcrowded and the desperation in the air was almost palpable as everyone tried to find someone with whom to leave with for the night. It also didn’t help that the whole place was all shades of pink and red, with balloons in the shape of hearts floating by the wooden ceilings and almost everyone wearing the two colours. Alice herself had donned a red sweater for the occasion, as had Emma, though hers was definitely more form-fitting.

The whole three hours here, Alice had felt like she couldn’t breathe: not only was it was humid and packed with people, but the music was too loud, and everybody was talking over each other. Even though she was undoubtedly drunk, it was more of the tired and cranky variety, which didn’t help how she was feeling about the situation either.

Emma turned around as Alice all but screamed this into her ear, her glazed eyes wide.

“What! But why?” She screamed back. Alice cringed, glancing at the man Emma had been talking to. He smirked back at her.

She put her mouth against Emma’s ear once more. “I can’t handle this place! People are drunk… and it stinks,” She yelled.

“You’re drunk right now, too!” Emma replied flippantly, as if that solved everything.

Alice rolled her eyes at the look her friend was giving her. “I’m serious, Emma. I’m leaving. I have a headache.”

Emma’s mouth popped open the smallest amount. “Alice! You’re not serious serious, are you? Come on. What about the blokes?” She asked, wiggling her eyebrows.

“The blokes?” Alice questioned, glancing once again at the man Emma had been talking to before she’d interrupted them. He was looking out at the swarm of red that was the bar. Alice quickly looked back at her friend, “What about them?”

“Yeah, the blokes,” Emma replied, as if what she was saying was obvious. Then she strained her neck to look behind Alice. “Where’s yours, anyway?”

“He went to the loo,” Alice replied distractedly. “And anyway, I’m not interested, Emma, if that’s what you’re trying to get at.”

“Huh? Why?”

Alice almost rolled her eyes at her friend’s cluelessness. “Because!” She cried vehemently. “He’s—he’s—I don’t know! He keeps trying to touch me and he’s just sleazy. I hate the way they—” She paused, her eyes once more darting to the man standing next to Emma. She lowered her voice slightly before continuing, though it wasn’t like he could’ve heard her anyways, what with the bar’s level of noise. “—look at us! Like we’re pieces of meat or something.”

Emma was frowning, as if trying very hard to concentrate. “You don’t like Santiago?”

Alice groaned. “No! And I don’t like yours either, whatever his name is.”

“Emilio.”

“Yeah, whatever. I came here for you, for this ‘Galentine’s’ thing, or maybe—I don’t know,” She rambled, rubbing at her now throbbing forehead. Everything was spinning, and it was making her uncomfortable and slightly nauseous. Alice blinked a few times in order to readjust her vision. “I just want to go home now. I’m tired, and this place really does stink.”

There was a short pause as Emma scanned Alice’s face. Then, without another word, she turned around and set her drink back onto the bar’s surface. Alice watched as she rounded on Emilio, pulled him into her, and screamed something into his ear. After a few moments of Emma shouting unintelligibly at the man, he nodded back, his gaze trained on Alice. She looked away, arms crossed, chewing on the skin around her pinky.

Emma turned back to Alice once she was done. “Okay, come with me,” She shouted.

Alice pushed herself off of the bar quickly. “Okay? So, we’re leaving?”

“No,” She replied loudly, pulling Alice after her as she started pushing her way through the crowd. Alice let herself be dragged by Emma, too tired to fight her firm grip on her wrist. She was having trouble concentrating anyway—everyone was shouting and laughing around them, pressed against their sides, and it was making her feel slightly claustrophobic.

After a few moments, both girls emerged next to the exit of the bar. Alice watched as Emma began putting her black coat on.

“I thought you said we weren’t leaving?” She asked, confused.

Emma waved her hand Alice’s way. “Nah, I only said that because Emilio was there and could’ve heard me. They were very persistent, so I don’t think they would’ve taken kindly to it,” She explained. “But we, in fact, are leaving if you don’t want to be here anymore, with them.”

“Oh,” Alice replied intelligently. Emma, smiling, gestured for her to put her own coat on as she pulled the bar’s door open. She quickly threw it on, wrapping her thick scarf around her neck.

Alice sighed a deep breath of relief as they stepped out into the cold and windless night, her ears ringing ever so slightly.

“Thanks,” She said after a moment, turning to her friend. Her breath billowed out before her like smoke.

Emma smiled. “It’s fine. I was getting pretty tired myself,” She explained. Alice nodded.

There was a silence as both girls stood, unmoving, by the bar’s entrance, breathing in the cool, fresh winter air.

“Though,” Emma started. Alice looked at her. “Santiago was rather fit, if I do say so myself.”

Alice let out a laugh. “I don’t know… it seems like he spends more time styling his hair than I do,” She replied, then paused. “At least Emilio had normal-looking hair.”

“Emilio’s hair was boring-looking,” Emma rectified. “Santiago’s had style.”

“Really?” Alice asked, laughing lightly. “I didn’t think so—it’s too, I don’t know, contrived.”

“Right….” Emma said, grinning. “Contrived.”

“What?” Alice cried defensively. Emma smirked at her. “Stop looking at me like that! Natural hair does look better,” She rambled as Emma raised an eyebrow. “Anything’s better than that weird gelled look. Messy hair, even. I don’t know! Like—like Potter’s, for example.”

Emma let out a sudden laugh. “Are you implying you find Potter fit, Alice Woodward?”

Alice felt her face explode in heat, even though it was freezing outside. “What?” She squeaked. Emma laughed again. “No! I’m just saying his hair is—nice. That’s it! It’s just nice, compared to Santiago’s, for example, which did not look nice. I was just making a comparison!”

“Yeah, Alice, alright,” Emma sang back to her, fighting another laugh.

Alice struggled to find words. She didn’t know why, but this whole conversation was making her increasingly embarrassed, and the more she tried to explain herself, the more jumbled her thoughts became. “I just—I meant that it’s nice to look at!”

Emma smiled widely. “And run your hands through, I bet.”

“Yes,” Alice replied automatically. Emma burst out laughing. “I mean no!” Emma was still laughing—involuntarily, Alice let out a laugh of her own. Her friend’s laugh really was contagious, and the whole situation was beyond absurd.

“Will you let it go?” She said, pushing Emma’s shoulder lightly as she continued laughing. “I only said I liked his hair, didn’t I? Not—anything else. Emma!” She cried, giggling at her friend’s dumb smile.

“I’m just kidding, Alice,” She replied, still chuckling. “Chill! It’s not a crime to find Potter fit, you know. He is,” She explained, raising her eyebrows and gesturing with her hands, as if the whole thing was obvious.

“Well,” Alice said. “He’s with Margaret, so it feels wrong somehow—”

“What!” Emma cried, laughing once again. “Alice, what world do you live in?” She asked. Alice opened her mouth to defend herself, but her friend cut across her response. “You do know you’re allowed to find the man Margaret’s casually sleeping with attractive, don’t you?” She asked. Involuntarily, Alice felt something in her squirm at the thought of— “He isn’t her property. Well, not for now, at least.”

Well,” Alice began once again, frowning. For some reason, she felt the need to defend or justify what she’d said—as if the whole thing had been a mistake of some sorts. As if she’d only said it because she was drunk. As if she’d only used him as a comparison. As if it was impossible that she could be attracted to Potter. It was like she’d said something she shouldn’t have, and she couldn’t even understand why.

She wanted to tell Emma all of this, but she didn’t know how to put it into words. It didn’t help that she was now also trying not to think of Potter and Margaret together. So it was becoming increasingly difficult to formulate any sort of response.

Alice didn’t understand where any of this was coming from, but suddenly it was all she could think about, and she felt stifled by her confused thoughts and emotions.

“And I know you find him attractive, Alice,” Emma talked over her loudly. “I’m not blind—you get red whenever he’s near you.”

“I—that’s just because I said some stupid thing to him at Clancy’s birthday party a month ago!” Alice finally exclaimed. “Not because I—fancy him, or anything like that,” She explained quickly. Her chest seemed to tighten ever so slightly at the thought. What was wrong with her?

“Who’s Clancy?” Emma asked, frowning in confusion.

“Oh,” Alice shook her head quickly. “Doesn’t matter. Never mind.” All she wanted was for this conversation to end, and to end sooner rather than later.

“Alice,” Emma began, voice serious. Alice glanced back at her friend. “Why can’t you just admit it? You don’t have to fancy the guy to find him attractive! You can just admire his… I don’t know. Have you seen his arms? Or his… face?”

Alice laughed, though it now felt rather forced. It was as if Emma was slowly but surely backing her into a corner when all she wanted to do was escape.

“You sound like Margaret,” She finally said. “And why are you so persistent? It’s just arms! It’s just a face! Either way, I just said it was his hair that I liked.”

“Ugh, Alice, you have got to be the most stuck-up—”

Fine, alright,” Alice suddenly blurted out. “I think Potter is bloody fit, are you happy?” As she said it, it unexpectedly occurred to Alice that it was true.

What felt like relief washed over her as she finally admitted this—she didn’t know when this feeling had started, or when, but it was true, and she wasn’t just saying it to get Emma off her back.

There was a silence. Then Emma, squealing, launched herself at Alice.

Alice,” She cried as she hugged her. “Finally. I’ve been trying to get something out of you like that for weeks!” She exclaimed, letting go of her. “Maybe you’re not as up yourself as I thought.”

What?” Alice asked defensively. “Why would I be up myself?” She asked.

“Well, you never talk about the opposite sex,” Emma responded dramatically. “As if you’re above that or something,” She explained.

“What?” Alice asked again, louder this time. She let out a breathy laugh. “Of course I’m not! I just… don’t, I guess.”

Emma gave her a look, her auburn hair curling around her round face. “Alright, but next time you find someone fit, you tell me that. That’s what friends do.”

Alice rolled her eyes. “Right. Yeah, I’ll owl you or something.”

Emma stuck her tongue out. “You wouldn’t need to, idiot, I sit right next to you. Shit, you make such a big deal out of it.”

Alice scoffed, but felt something tighten in her chest at Emma’s words. It was true—she was making a big deal out of it. Why?

“Well, I’m not the one who called me stuck-up, am I?” She replied lightly, trying to shake off the confusion she was feeling.

“Yeah, well, you deserved that.”

Alice rolled her eyes again. “Thanks.”

Emma grinned at her, bumping Alice’s shoulder with hers. “Alright, let’s get out of here—it’s freezing. Can I sleep at yours?” She asked quickly.

Alice frowned back. “Why? What’s happened to your flat?”

Her friend shrugged. “Nothing. I just like yours more. Especially because of Blue—he’s so cute. And your flat smells nice.”

Alice let out a laugh. “Well, sure. D’you want to Side-Along?”

“Do you think you’re fine to Apparate?” Emma asked back. “Won’t get splinched on the way there?”

Alice ran a hand through her hair, shaking her head. “No, I think the cold air helped. I feel much better.” Also, there was no Santiago or Emilio there to invade her personal space.

After looking around to make sure nobody was in the street with them, they grabbed each other’s hands and closed their eyes.

As they turned on the spot, Alice thinking of the warmth of her flat, she couldn’t help but wonder once more what her admission about Potter meant.

She was undoubtedly confused. For some reason, it felt like she’d admitted to something much more secret—to something that she hadn’t even let herself truly consider. Perhaps, her admission meant more than she cared to admit.


Hi!

It’s been a while, but here is the fourth chapter! I hope the length of this one makes up for the longer absence :) School just got kind of hectic (and I got lazy).

There was much more dialogue in this one, which I hope you enjoyed! I really liked writing it, especially because of Alice and Emma’s interactions. What are your thoughts on their relationship? I’d love to know anything you have to say about it.

Also, I realize that James was absent in this chapter and has generally not been very present in the story, but he will make an appearance in the next one, I promise! What do you think about Alice’s thought process regarding him, though? Also, do leave a comment about how you generally perceive Alice’s thoughts and actions. I’m really interested to know how you guys see her.

Thank you so much for reading! Now that I’m done with school, I’ll probably have much more time to write, so expect an update pretty soon!

Thanks again and I hope you have a lovely day,

Sofia

P.S. I obviously don’t own Parks and Recreation.


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