A/N: And we're back! This is the sequel to Love and Quidditch and it's bigger and better than ever (hopefully). If you haven't read Love and Quidditch, I suggest you do although this can really stand alone. Not much refreshing is needed, but if you would like to re-read the epilogue of Love and Quidditch, it kind of sets the mood. And the rating's subject to change...haven't quite decided yet.
A Better Rain:
"Katie Bell, wake up," an achingly familiar singsong voice says, plopping down next to me on my mattress. I groan and pull the blankets around myself even tighter. "You know you want to," the voice urges. "The sun is out, the birds are singing. Come join the world of the living."
"Shut up, Fred," I groan, not moving an inch because I can in fact hear those birds singing and that means it's early. Too early.
"Really, though," he says seriously. "You've got to get up. We're all going out to lunch." I move the covers just enough to look at the clock on the wall and then shut my eyes again.
"It's only eight in the morning," I whine. "I worked late last night. I need my day off!"
He sits in silence for a few seconds, as if hoping I will change my mind. "You're a Quidditch reporter," he replies. "The hardest part of your job last night was making it through the Cannons game without falling asleep." True.
"It's only eight," I repeat. Surely that's enough to guarantee me an extra four hours of sleep.
"It's cold in here," he says after a little while. That's probably true; I have to have it cold in order to sleep. And then to my surprise, he hops under the covers with me.
"Fred," I threaten, trying to be as menacing as possible without opening my eyes.
"C'mon, I need some blanket," he says, grabbing all of the covers off of me. I gasp when the cold air touches my body. Now fully awake, I hop out of bed.
"Fred Weasley—out! Now!" I shout, pointing towards the door.
"No thank you. Your bed's very warm." I roll my eyes and groan in frustration. It soon becomes obvious that I'm not going to be able to get back to sleep (or back into my bed at all) so I head for my closet instead, changing into jeans and a T-shirt.
"So, what are you doing here?" I ask the lump of blankets on my bed. It wouldn't be surprising if he'd managed to fall asleep.
"I already told you," he mumbles, almost incoherently. "We're going to lunch."
"And I already told you. It's eight in the morning! Since when are you awake before noon? And plus, you know very well that Angelina has practice until five tonight," I argue, running a brush through my hair.
"Why in the world do the Harpies practice on weekends?" he muses, finally uncovering his head so that I can understand him. "And of course I know that. I told her goodbye this morning—and last night," he adds as an afterthought.
Goodbye? My face slumps when I finally realize what he's talking about. Him and George keep disappearing for no reason at all, always leaving with a goodbye. Angelina and I suspect that they are helping the Order of the Phoenix, but even that doesn't make me feel any better on days like this. If anything happened to him…If anything happened to any of them…
"So, what are you doing this time?" I ask, even though I know he won't tell me. It's kind of a tradition with us.
"Well, there's this rampaging herd of hippogriffs upsetting the Ministry. George and I figured it was our duty to get rid of them." Even in my sour mood, I can't help but grin.
"I just wish you wouldn't keep saying goodbye," I mutter. "It makes it sound so final."
"I didn't mean it as good bye," he answers. "I just want to spend some time with you. Just in case." Even though his final three words are even worse than 'goodbye', I just nod. "Now," he exclaims, jumping out of my bed and changing the subject expertly. "I've got a bone to pick with you."
I roll my eyes as I head for the kitchen, Fred following close behind me. The light from the July sun is beaming into the room, so I quickly close the curtain. I've never been very fond of the Sun…
"What's going on with you and Lee?" Fred asks, taking a seat at the bar, kicking some of Angelina and Alicia's clothes out of the way as he does so. "The poor boy's very confused."
"It's complicated," I say, searching for the skillet so I can cook myself breakfast. "Want an egg?"
"Sure. But it can't be that complicated. Aren't you sleeping with him?"
I very nearly drop the skillet. "I very well am not!" I say, stunned. "And if Lee told you that, then I'm ending it with him now. Fried or scrambled?
"What?" Fred asks, confused.
"The egg," I clarify. "Fried or scrambled?"
"Can I have an omelette?"
"Do I look like a house elf?"
"Fried." I point my wand at the burner and crack two eggs into the skillet. "And Lee didn't say that," Fred continues, "But you've been sleeping at his place quite a bit."
"And why do you think that is?" I ask sarcastically.
"Um, is that a trick question?"
"Probably. Fred, where have you been sleeping the majority of the time?"
"Oh," he says, throwing a side glance at Angelina's room.
"Yeah. So if you could remember to use a silencing charm every once in a while, I'd be eternally grateful and Lee wouldn't have to open his spare room to indigents like me." Fred just looks down guiltily as I flip the eggs with my wand.
"We'll start using my place," he mutters like a child that's just been scolded.
"So, how am I confusing Lee?" I ask, curiosity getting the better of me as I hand Fred his egg.
"One egg? Are you serious?' he asks, looking at it with scrutiny.
"Fix your own if you're still hungry."
"Do I look like I know how to cook?"
"Fred, just answer the question," I beg.
"He says you're dating—is that the right word?"
"Yeah," I answer. "We're not in a serious relationship. He knows that."
"That doesn't make any sense," Fred mutters more to himself than to me.
"Yes it does. Did you hear what happened to the Peakes' family last week? The Death Eaters took their son to try and get information out of the parents—they're doing the same thing with couples. I don't want anything to happen to him because of me."
Fred stares at me for a few seconds and I hope that he won't be able to see just how much I was stretching the truth. I love Lee; I do. But I don't think I like him the same way that he likes me and I don't know how to end it without hurting him. So I guess I'll just stick with my Death Eater excuse.
"Katie, that is the dumbest thing that I have ever heard! If you give up your happiness because of them, then they've already won."
"I'm not letting them take my happiness," I argue. "I am only—"
My angry response was cut off as Alicia's door opens and both she and George come out of it in their pajamas, his arm around her waist. Alicia giggles at something that George whispers in her ear and Fred clears his throat loudly to announce our presence. I can't help but laugh as they spring apart.
"What the hell are you doing up?" Alicia asks me, clutching her heart.
"We're apparently going out to lunch," I say, glancing at Fred.
"But it's only like eight," she replies and I look at Fred pointedly.
"Yeah, Fred. What am I doing awake?" I ask smugly.
Fred opens his mouth to reply but George beats him to it. "Nothing personal, Katie. He just gets bored when Angelina's not here."
"Just my luck," I reply.
"Are we really going out for lunch?" Alicia asks worriedly. She knows as well as I do what an afternoon on the town with Fred and George means.
"Yeah, babe," George admits sheepishly. These lunches have gotten to be a nightmare and I don't think George even realizes just how much his departures affect Alicia.
"When will you be back?" I ask just to end the silence. Fred and George exchange a glance.
"If you haven't heard from us by noon tomorrow—" Fred starts.
"—then there's probably a reason to worry," George finishes, taking Alicia's hand tight in his own and I can already see the tears threatening to fall from her eyes. She's had it hard these past few months; even harder than the rest of us. She's in Healer training at St. Mungo's and she witnesses first hand the tragedies that take place every day. Knowing that George is out in all of that mess doesn't help her one tiny but.
"Listen," I say, trying to move out conversation to a lighter note. "I have to stop by the office but I'll meet you for lunch. Where are we eating?"
"Why do you have to stop by your office?" Alicia asks. "It's Saturday."
"Because that Death Eater, Travers, has been hanging around, and my editor, Malcolm, gets all frazzled and forgets to owl me my next assignment and then complains when I don't get it in on time. Plus, I was supposed to meet Leanne for lunch so I've got to go cancel. Which is fine because I'm almost positive that she just wants to take me to get my dress for the wedding fitted."
"I can't believe you're going to be a bridesmaid," George snickers.
"Shut up," I warn him. "So where are we eating lunch?"
"Three Broomsticks okay with everyone?" Fred answers with a shrug, glancing at the other two. "We haven't been in a while—Rosmerta will be glad to see us."
"Okay, well I'll see you there," I say, searching the room for my handbag. I finally find it in a corner and make sure all of my belongings are inside it before Disapparating on the spot.
The building that houses the Daily Prophet is really just an extension of the Ministry of Magic and I make my way into it slowly. Just walking through the lobby of the place I work in everyday makes my skin crawl. Just in the few months that I've been working here, things have changed drastically. Thankfully, the brunt of the change isn't being felt in the Quidditch Department, but it'll only be a matter of time. As soon as the Death Eaters form a Quidditch team, I suppose our writing will become biased also.
I take the elevator up the fifth floor, saying hello to a few friendly co-workers on the way up. I step out of the elevator into the reception area where our elderly secretary, Ren, is sitting.
"Why, good morning, Ms. Bell. What a pleasant surprise. You're not scheduled to work today."
"Yeah, just can't get enough of the place," I joke. "Is Malcolm here yet?"
"Already on his fifth cup of coffee—vile stuff if you ask me. Last time I saw him, he was yelling at Parker about some deadline or another."
"Thanks, Ren," I say, heading into the main room where all of our cubicles are located. It takes me no time at all to spot Malcolm frantically bouncing around the room, trying to get updates ready for the evening edition. Malcolm's a middle aged, slightly balding man, who's no doubt going to drive himself to an early grave, either by caffeine overdose or stress. Shorter than me, I don't think he's ever played Quidditch in his life, but he knows how to run a paper and I assume that helps.
I cautiously make my way over.
"Katie?" He asks upon seeing me. "Katie—good! Where have you been? You're supposed to clock in at seven," he greets.
"I don't work today, Malcolm," I remind him. He's just a bit out of it…
"Sure you do. You always work on Thursdays."
"It's Saturday, Malcolm," I correct through gritted teeth.
"Really?" He inquires, taking a deep sip of his coffee. "Well, did you send me your article about the Chudley Cannons game?"
"Yes, Malcolm. I owled it over last night."
"Yes! It made the morning edition so you must have seen it," I say.
"Yes, Malcolm. That's why I'm here. You told me yesterday that you have a special assignment for me, but I never got it."
"Sure you did! I owled it to you—put it on your desk, I put it on your desk."
"Are you sure?" I ask, not wanting to have to hunt him down again.
"Of course I'm sure!"
"Well then, thank you," I say, giving him a cheery smile that wipes off of my face as soon as I turn around. How does he even make it to work without getting run over? I head for my cubicle and sure enough, a memo lays waiting for me amongst all of my pictures. I pick up my next assignment and quickly read it through. And then again. No way…
I step out of my cubicle and in a great imitation of the man himself, begin searching frantically for Malcolm. Giving up, I finally shout among the ruckus, "Malcolm!" His tiny head pops out of the side of my co-worker Grace Parker's cubicle and I head over.
"Malcolm, are you sure that this is the right assignment?" I ask hurriedly.
He quickly glances it over. "Yeah, this is right. I know that you've never done anything like it before, but I'm confident in your abilities."
I stare at him speechless and Grace, only a few years older than me, stands up to look at my assignment.
"I asked for this, Malcolm!" she cries angrily.
"You can have it—here!" I move to hand it to her, but Malcolm stops me.
"I gave it to you, Katie. Is there a problem? I want to see how your writing adjusts to different types of things. Do the assignment—that's an order." He then saunters off leaving me speechless. Crazy Malcolm I get; it's Serious Malcolm that I don't know how to handle.
"You're so lucky," Grace mutters as I trudge off and I long to tell her just how unlucky I really am.
I arrive at the Three Broomsticks slightly earlier than expected, but I spot Lee in a corner booth nonetheless.
"Hey," I greet, sitting down next to him. As soon as I do, I feel his hand move to my shoulder and although I know that I should set him straight, it feels good so I don't. Instead, I lean against him, resting my head on his chest.
"Busy morning?" he asks with a laugh, softly stroking my hair.
"Just frustrating," I say, closing my eyes against his body.
"Not your fault. So, do you know where Fred and George are off to?" I ask, sitting up.
"No, no clue. And I don't want to know either." I just nod in agreement; it's safer that way.
"I hate it when they do this," I mutter. "You'll come over right?" It's become a sort of tradition. When the twins are away, the rest of us play. Or at least sit on the sofa worrying like crazy until they return.
"Yeah, I'll stop by as soon as I help Apparate them out of here." I raise an eyebrow in confusion and Lee holds up a hand to stop my questions. "All I know is that I have to Apparate George, and only George, to that empty field where we used to play Quidditch behind the Burrow. I just do what they tell me—no questions asked."
"And that's what we like about him," George agrees, sliding into the booth with Alicia at his side.
"Where's Fred?" I ask and George points to the bar where Fred is already in a lively discussion with Madam Rosmerta.
"So, Katie, did you pick up your new assignment?" Alicia asks cheerfully and my heart once again falls into my stomach.
"Um, yeah. Yeah, it seems real…interesting," I say, feigning happiness. I know that Alicia can see right through me but she says nothing.
"So did you work everything out with Leanne?" She continues and I instantly slap myself on the forehead.
"That's a no," Lee laughs.
"I've got to call her!" I cry, standing up, but Alicia stops me.
"I owled her," she assures me. "I knew you'd forget."
"Thank you so much! And remind me to talk to her later. I can't put off this fitting forever, I guess." Fred arrives with our Butterbeers and slides into the seat next to his brother.
"Speaking of weddings," George starts.
"Oh yeah—I forgot to tell them," Fred mutters.
"You're all invited to Bill and Fleur's," George continues. "Actually mum orders it. August first."
We all agree to be there and order a light meal each. None of us is going to be able to eat much. We sit there, exchanging pointless conversation for almost two hours, but as our banter hits a lull and Fred and George begin exchanging glances, it becomes obvious that it's almost time.
"You have to go, don't you?" I finally ask and they both nod sheepishly. Figuring it's best not to draw too much attention to ourselves in the Three Broomsticks, we step outside to say our goodbyes, although I refuse to see it as such.
"See you in a few hours, Katie," George says, giving me a hug.
"Good luck," I reply. "And come back in one piece, okay."
"Okay," he agrees with a laugh and moves on to Alicia who's on the verge of tears.
"Katie, Katie, Katie," Fred says with a smirk, throwing one arm around my shoulder. "What are we supposed to do? You told me that I couldn't say good bye."
"Fred, shut up." He laughs and pulls me into a tight hug, giving me a quick kiss on the cheek before letting me go.
"What I said to George applies to you too. Back in one piece, got it?"
"Yes ma'am. Listen, can you do me a favor?" I nod and he pulls off the watch that he always wears. "Give this to Angelina. She knows why." I just nod in understanding because if I say anything, I'm not sure how my voice will sound. The three boys group together.
"Katie, I'll Apparate to your place when I'm done at theirs," Lee says, giving me one small wave and then they are gone.
I look over at Alicia and rush to her immediately when I see the convulsions wracking through her body. She's trying to keep the tears in, but I can tell that she's going to be unsuccessful. I take her by the arm and lower her onto the nearest bench, wrapping her in my arms. That's all the permission that she needs to start crying.
I slowly rub circles around her back trying to calm her, even though I know from experience that it probably won't work. She's been prone to panic attacks lately. I hate seeing her like this, but as of now we haven't been able to find a way to stop them.
"Alicia, honey, are you okay?" I ask after a few minutes.
"I'll be fine," she chokes out between sobs. Yeah right. She's going to splinch herself if we try to Disapparate now. What the hell am I supposed to do? We're already getting strange looks.
Suddenly I remember that Cullen lives near here and I quickly help Alicia up, hoping desperately that Leanne will be at her fiancé's. "Come on, Alicia," I tell her. "Cullen's is right down the street. It'll give you a chance to quiet down." Or take a Calming Draft one. We slowly make our way to his house and I ring the bell.
It takes a few seconds, but I finally see Cullen's head poke around their living room curtains.
"Shit," I hear him mutter. "Leanne, Katie's here." He then sets to work on releasing the protective spells around his door. Finally, Leanne opens the door and I pass Alicia to her.
"Oh my God—what happened?" she asks worriedly, as Alicia tries to calm herself.
"It's nothing really," I explain as Leanne comforts Alicia. "George's gone and—no, no, not gone gone—he's out, George's—calm down, Alicia. Cullen, where's your medicine cabinet? She needs a Calming Draft." I have absolutely no patience for crying people.
"No, I don't!" Alicia argues, and although the tears have stopped, she's still shaking uncontrollably and that's enough to tell me that she's lying.
"Shh, honey, it's okay," Leanne assures her, leading Alicia into their kitchen which leaves Cullen and me alone in the foyer. I don't have a problem with Cullen, but we've been distant for a while. It probably has something to do with who his best friend is.
"I'm not going to be able to Apparate her out of here without a Calming Draft—she'll splinch herself!" I argue stubbornly.
"Katie, head home. Leanne'll take care of her and get her back to your place safely." He never quite meets my eyes.
"What's going on?" I ask worriedly.
"He's coming over tonight, Katie. Should be here any minute. So unless you want to stay…"
I throw a quick glance at the door. "She doesn't handle medicine too well," I say in a rush, trying to get all of the necessary information out before leaving. "But force it down her throat if you have to—she hasn't been right in ages, so I'd say she needs to calm down a bit. Just get her back in one piece or George'll have my throat." I prepare to Disapparate, but remember what I had to tell Leanne in the first place. "Oh, the dress fitting."
"You can't keep putting off trying on dresses, Katie," he answers with a smirk.
"Just tell her to call me."
"Bye, Crazy." I wave and Disapparate to my own flat and am relieved to see that I'm not going to have to wait alone. Lee's already there, adjusting channels on my Wizarding Wireless. He looks up when I enter.
"What's wrong?" he asks immediately. "Where's Alicia?"
"She had a panic attack," I explain. "Leanne's taking care of her. I kind of bailed." He raises an eyebrow in question. "He was on his way."
"Ah," he says in understanding and pulls me down onto his lap. "I guess that means that we have a few minutes to ourselves then, don't we?"
I smile as he moves his lips to mine and although I'm still worried about Fred, George, and Leanne, I let him kiss me. It's been a long day and I deserve a break.
A/N: There we go—first chapter. Hope you liked it. Review, please. Seriously. Reviews make my day just a bit more bright and sunny.
Next time on Love and War:
"I got my new assignment today…You know how you said I'd have to see Oliver again sometime…Well—"-Katie Bell