Chapter 3 : The First Panic
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As suddenly as the voice appeared it seemed to vanish and for a handful of moments Rose wondered whether she had actually heard the voice or had imagined it, if there had actually been anyone out there that the voice could have come from.
After the quiet had lingered for a few moments Rose made her way over to the doorway and peered out into the hall, one hand wrapped around the doorframe, her head cocked slightly to the side as she looked out into the hall but found no one there that the voice may have come from.
In that moment she had to conclude that she had been imagining things. It was her nerves, it was being so nervous and so anxious about being there. She was so afraid of failing in their little plan that she was imagining situations where she might get caught. She was just going to have to get in touch with James and cancel the plan. There was absolutely no way around it.
She was just turning to head back into the room when the sound of one of the doors opening came from down the hall. Freezing after barely hadn’t turned around at all she looked back out into the hall and spotted a tall, lanky blonde stepping out of one of the rooms.
A part of her thought that she might recognize him vaguely from back when she was at Hogwarts but she had absolutely no idea who he was. She wouldn’t have been able to tell anyone what his name was for the life of her even if her life had depended on it. But even his profile seemed familiar, the kind of familiar that is hazy and bizarre.
The man spotted her out of the corner of his eye and turned his head very slightly to look in her direction. For a few moments he just stared at her and the irrational side of her thought that maybe the potion as fading and he noticed that she wasn’t James, that she was a girl that had sort of infiltrated their group and their home. But after a moment his face spread into a slow smile and he headed over to her, his stride long and almost as though he was skipping.
“You’re the new bloke, right? James? I think we went to school together.” He stopped in front of her, that smile still on his face. His pale hair hung around his face in messy, unkempt waves. His eyes were slightly large and bulbous but somehow fit his face, the color bright blue. There was a silver ring in one of his nostrils that glinted slightly in the sunlight filtering through the windows.
“Yeah,” she answered after a moment, reminded herself to be sure to sound like James and not like herself in that moment. Nodding her head slightly she tucked her thumbs into the jeans of her jeans- James’ jeans and looked at him. “Yeah, I’m James.” As though remembering her manners she lifted up one hand and held it out to him, her cousin’s fingers in front of her line of sight unsettling. “James Potter. Pleasure.”
“Pleasure to meet you, mate.” The blonde reached out and took her hand in his, shook it in such a rapid way her entire body shook a little bit. “Brandon Burrow.” The name seemed familiar to her like she had heard it in the halls at school and yet she still couldn’t place him, what year he had been in, what house he had been placed into. But, of course, there had been so many students at the school it was possible that she would have had a hard time placing anyone she hadn’t been close to or had a class with.
Brandon takes his hand out of hers and she tucks her thumb back into her jean pocket, keeps her gaze on his face mostly to be polite. If she looked down or looked away too much she ran the risk of her nervousness becoming quite well known to everyone else. And while most people would be nervous joining the band the way James was supposed to be? Her nerves ran deeper than that, were stronger than what one would expect. It would raise a sort of red flag.
“Sam show you around?”
“A little,” she acknowledged with a very slight shrug of her shoulders, her head cocking very slightly to the side as though saying she wasn’t entirely sure what she was supposed to be shown. And in part that was true. Knowing the basic layout of the house was easy enough be shown. If there was anything else important to see? Well, she wouldn’t know, would she?
“Sam’s a nice bloke,” Brandon said, nodded his head just a tiny bit. “But he’s a bit out there at times, you know? He lives in his own head a lot. So, sometimes he thinks he told us something when he didn’t. Or he tells one of us but not the others. So if you have any questions? Best to ask one of us just to be sure.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” If the manager wasn’t all that good at informing people of things they needed to know then there was even less of a reason to be confident that her cousin’s stupid little plan would go over very well. Every new thing she learned made her regret her decision to agree with the whole ordeal even more.
“I don’t know if he told you, but the rest of us are out playing Quidditch,” Brandon continued, motioned slightly over his shoulder to indicate where the rest of the band was. “If you want you’re more than welcome to join, meet the others. But if you want to settle in a little bit first that’s alright. You can meet the others later.”
“I think I’ll settle in a bit.” Mostly she didn’t want to risk getting herself hurt during a game of Quidditch but that was really beside the point. It was the safest excuse she could come up with in that moment.it was the most acceptable one.
“Alright.” Brandon smiled at her and it was a lovely smile, a cheeky one, one that made mischief shine in his eyes. A part of her couldn’t help but wonder if he was one of the more cheeky members of the group. Every group has thought that were accustomed to causing all sorts of mischief. And for some it was obvious they had that disposition simply by looking at them.
“We’ll see you later then, mate. When we all come back in for our meal. I’ll let the others know you’re here.” Lifting up one hand he waved at her to say goodbye and walked backwards a few steps towards the door before turning around and jogging out, his hair moving as he went.
She needed to talk to James.
Once she had gotten into the room once more she closed the door behind her and pulled out her wand, cast a spell to make sure that if the others were to come inside they wouldn’t be able to hear anything she had to say from out in the hall.
Digging around in her bag she pulled out her mobile phone and hoped that James had brought his with him. They hadn’t spoken about that, about using their mobiles to talk to the rest of their family. After all, they were going to be sending owls to each other to help them in their communications with everyone else, to fill them in if they wanted to talk to them about how things were for them. But they had never discussed whether or not they’d bring their mobiles to use in order to keep in contact with their families. All she knew was that she had intended to use it.
But James better have brought his mobile with him.
Sitting down on the best she kicked the bag aside. It slid off of the bed and to the floor, the clothes nearly tumbling out of it and onto the floor but she didn’t really care. They weren’t her clothes anyway and she was so frustrated that the idea of his clothing getting mussed up filled her with some kind of pleasure.
The phone rang in her ear for several moments before the other end picked up. It was a good thing for him that he had brought his phone with him. Because if he hadn’t she would have put him through a great deal of pain when she saw him again.
“What are you doing calling me, Rosie?” James breathed out, his voice low like he was trying to make sure that no one else could hear him.
There was a scuffling sound in the background, the sound of a door closing and then the sound of his heavy sighing on the other end of the line. It was an exasperated type of sigh, the kind of sigh a person tends to let out when they feel pressured or they don’t want to deal with the situation at hand.
“Rosie, you know that you having your phone in that house is a risk,” he breathed out in a huffy sort of voice. “If anyone gets a hold of it don’t you think that if you are me it’d be strange to see my name in your list on contacts in your bloody mobile? Didn’t you think any of this through?”
“Don’t bloody ask me if I thought things through,” she hissed back at him over the line as she flopped back on the bed. Lifting up one hand she pinched the bridge of her nose, took a couple of very slow, deep breaths. “I don’t think I can do this, James. I think you need to get over here and take your rightful spot. Now.”
“Rose, it hasn’t even been a bloody day,” he reminded her, laughing quietly at the idea that something could have made her want to leave that quickly. He had thought that maybe at some point she would want to leave and go back home, go back to her normal life but he had thought she would have lasted a lot longer than a few hours. Her resolve was usually far better than that.
“And I can already tell you that I can’t do this. I’ve only met the manager- who is apparently a very strange bloke- and one member of the band and I’m already on the verge of a damn panic attack. I can’t bloody do this, pretend to be you. I’m not any good at this. He asked me to play Quidditch with them.”
“So? Then go play Quidditch. It’s not as though you don’t know how to play Quidditch. We’ve all played it plenty of times over the years.”
“Yes,” she conceded easily enough. “Yes, I’ve played Quidditch before."
"Then just play with them. What’s the worst that could happen?”
“You know bloody well that if I get hurt I don’t react like a bloke would,” she breathed out over the phone. “Do you know how obvious it would be if I just started to act like a bloody girl because I feel off of my broom? Don’t you think someone would notice something was wrong? And even if they didn’t suspect I wasn’t you, they’d think you’re bloody weak. Do you want that?”
“Rosie…” James sighed heavily on the other end of the line and she could imagine him sitting there, pinching the bridge of nose in frustration, trying to come up with a way of reassuring her, of trying to make the whole plan work.
“You’re going to drive yourself mental if you worry about every little thing that could possibly go wrong,” he murmured as calmly, as comfortingly as he possibly could. But she wasn’t looking for comfort. She was looking for him to come there and relieve her from that farce he had convinced her to be a part of. It was the only logical way to handle the situation in her mind. But quite obviously logic wasn’t what was driving him by that point.
“I know you think everything is going to fall apart,” he soothed her, his voice as reasonable as he could possibly make it. “If you weren’t even a little worried about it? Then I’d worry that there was something wrong with you. It’s natural to worry you can’t pull off something like this. But I think I have more bloody faith in you than you do in yourself. Because I had total confidence that you can do this.”
“Well, that makes one of us.” He could have as much confidence in her that he wanted to but that didn’t mean that she could feel the same way about it all. She wasn’t sure how long she could deceive all of them. She didn’t have many options though once she had gotten there. It would have been so much easier for her to back out of the whole ordeal if she had done it before she had gone to the house pretending to be James.
“Rose, the fact of the matter is quite simple,” he continued without missing a beat, his tone never changing, that calm, soothing voice, the voice that told her he was trying to soothe her more than anything. “I can’t get back to you right now. We’re both in this already. You’re just going to have to keep on pretending for a while. And you can’t give up so quickly. A few hours isn’t nearly enough time to decide that you can’t do this any longer. Just give it some more time, Rosie. You’ll see it isn’t quite as bad as you think it is. It’ll be alright.”
Rose let out a huffing breath, slammed one of her hands down uselessly on the bed in frustration. He just didn’t seem to understand that she no longer wanted to be a part of that scheme. She wanted to go home and go back to being Rose Weasley. She wanted to go back to living her life. Being James just wasn’t going to work for her any longer. She had known that it wouldn’t work from the very first moment it had started. She had only been willing to try for the sake of James. But staying there was only going to hurt her mental wellbeing in the end.
“James,” she sighed, the fingers of one hand picking at the bedspread beneath her while the other held the phone up to her ear. “I know I said I’d do this. And I meant it. I wanted to help you. But I don’t see how I can do this without going absolutely stark raving mad. It’s already bloody impossible to pretend to be like you. I don’t see how this will get easier. I think it’ll get harder if I get more comfortable here. It’ll be easier for me to muck things of and reveal that I’m not you.”
“Rosie just…” He trailed off and kept himself quiet for a few moments. She could almost hear the gears turning in his head while he tried to decide what to say, what to do. But she couldn’t possibly imagine what he thought he could say to her to make her decide to stay there, to make her continue on with the insane plan of his. Or she supposed she should start considering it their plan since she was neck deep in it by that point and sinking even further.
“Just give it a little more time,” he finished after a moment, weariness still evident in his voice. Weariness and frustration. “That’s all you need to do. Give it a little more time. A few hours isn’t nearly enough. You haven’t even given yourself a chance to adjust to it all, have you? So just give it some more time. Try to see if you can’t find yourself feeling a little more at ease, a little less nervous about doing things this whole thing. That’s all I’m asking you for right now, Rose. A little more time. You can do it and we both know you can. You might not want to right now but you can do it.”
Lowering the mobile away from her mouth she turned her head slightly and buried her face against her pillow, screamed into it in frustration and annoyance. She felt as though she were talking to a brick wall by that point, like every single thing he was saying was going into one ear and out of the other. Or maybe he just wasn’t willing to hear anything that he didn’t want to hear in that moment. All he wanted to hear was that she was willing to keep doing what he had asked her to do, what she had agreed to do. He just wanted her to agree to keep on going on with their little plan.
After a few moments she lifted the mobile up to her ear, closed her eyes and took a slow, deep breath and then another and then finally a third. If going that in that moment was little more than talking to a brick wall then there was no point in continuing the conversation. She could only hope that if she spoke to him again in a couple of days that he would be more willing to listen to whatever it was she had to say about the whole ordeal.
“Fine,” she breathes over the line, her stomach sinking as she agreed to continue on at the house for a while longer. “But you owe me for this one. You owe me more than you can imagine. You have no bloody idea how odd this is. I’m a girl. I’m not accustomed to peeing while standing, you know!”
“Well, I’m sure not accustomed to my current anatomy either. But you don't hear me complaining. It's interesting, actually. A whole new experience.”
“Ha-bloody-ha. You’re a laugh riot, you are.”
“It’s not that bloody hard, Rose. Men learn how to do it, don’t they? Because they don’t have a choice. And you don’t have much of one right now either. It’ll be strange, I know, but you’ll adjust.”
“You keep saying that but you don’t know that. It’s not as though you have any proof this will work at all. How often have you seen anyone do something like this? Hell, even when my parents and your dad took this bloody potion at Hogwarts they were going to be the same gender at least. This is entirely different. And they weren’t trying to fool the whole bloody world.”
“Well, that’s because they didn’t have a reason to fool the whole world, did they? And you forget- there was a whole mess of people pretending to be my father one time.”
“To protect him. So that he wouldn’t end up getting himself killed by the people out to get him. It’s not the same thing and you know it.”
“Yes, well.” James all but shrugged off that point, not really seeing that much of a difference between the two instances. Not because he was incapable of seeing the difference but because he would rather not see it.
“Sorry to cut this short, Rosie, but I need to go,” he informed her hurriedly. “I’m not in my hotel and it’ll look suspicious if I hide away for too long. So I need to head out.”
“You just don’t want to talk about this anymore.”
“Well, yes, but what I said is true.” There was the sound of movement on the other line, a soft clicking sound he couldn’t really place for the life of him. “But like I said, you’ll be fine. Just don’t hide out in your room the whole time. That would be more suspicious than if you went out there and spent some time with them. So, at the very least? Go and eat with them. Talk to them. And at some point joint hem for a bloody game of Quidditch. You draw more attention to yourself by hiding than you will if you try to make friends with them.”
“I’ll send you an owl soon, Rosie. Good luck.”
The phone went dead before Rose had the chance to say anything else, to even have the chance to say goodbye to him. She pulled the mobile away from her ear and looked at it in disbelief, her eyes wide, her mouth gaping the screen went dark.
“You bloody owe me,” she murmured as she tossed the phone over to rest on top of the clothes in her suitcase.
That first meal would end up being the death of her.
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