(1940-11-07) A Tenement Fire
Details for (1940-11-07) A Tenement Fire
Summary: Stray bombing sets an inexpensive apartment building ablaze, and Clare and Ben decide to do a rescue operation. They manage to bring a trio of small children to safety, as well as narrowly evacuating a woman and her baby from the collapsing upper floor.
Date: November 7, 1940
Location: Charing Cross, London

The sun is getting lowish in the sky, and shopkeepers are beginning to lock their doors in anticipation of heading home. Clare is doing the same, in Ollivander's Wand Shop, filing a few more wands away into their homes on the overfilled shelves, emptying the till, and finding the key to lock up.

As the day is winding down, Ben is wrapping up the last bits of cleaning he has to do in the backroom clinic. Disposing of a wad of bloody sheets in the trash can, he closes up the secret room and steps out into the afternoon sunlight. Pulling the silver pocketwatch from his pocket and checks the time. He furrows his brow and rubs a hand across his face in thought before setting off down Knockturn Alley and turning onto Diagon. His pace is easy and fluid as he heads for Olivander's Wand Shop. He slows as he comes within sight of the store front, suddenly questioning himself if he is being too forward, but seeming to make his mind up, heads for the door about the time Clare does.

Clare steps out, turning over her shoulder to fit the huge, old-fashioned key in the lock before putting it away in her pocket again. It's pretty cool, and she pulls her shawl closer about her shoulders as she steps off the ledge - and spots Ben immediately, barely two meters away. Surprise, a thrilled grin, and uncertainty whisk across her features in quick succession, each laying claim to a quadrant and making a home for awhile as she fumbles to think of something coherent to say. What she settles on is a tentative, "Hullo!"

Ben watches as the few emotions roll across Clare's face at his appearance, causing no small about of uncertainty on his own. Nevertheless he settles a smile on his face and says, "Hello there, Clare. I hope this isn't too forward of me… I hadn't heard from you since the other night. How've you been?"

"Wonderful," Clare replies honestly, biting her lower lip and beaming. "I'm wonderful. How are you keeping? I'm so glad to see you." She takes a step forward, offering her hand in greeting, then realizes with a tip of her head back toward the door, "I just closed up - you didn't come about a wand question, did you?" Her glowing expression dampens slightly, remembering that there could be perfectly sensible and unromantic reasons for someone to encounter her at her place of business.

Ben smiles as she smiles at him, that simple expression from her seeming to dispel his concerns, at least in some small part. He takes her hand in his, but doesn't quite shake it, moreso he simply holds it in his. "I did not come to inquire about a wand," he says in his deep, measured voice. "I came to see you." His blue eyes meet her green, "If that's okay, that is… I wasn't sure if you would want me coming by your work."

Blushing faintly, Clare lifts one slim shoulder in a sort of shrug. "Why, in case Mr. Ollivander has an objection to me having a gentleman caller?" she wonders, lightly. "No, it's fine. I was sort of wondering whether you were going to write me, or if I should. So this solves all my dilemmas." Her hand is ungloved in his, and she becomes conscious of this, finally, glancing down and then up into Ben's eyes again.

Ben chuckles and says, "Well in case you would be embarrassed of me showing up around other people you know, I suppose was my biggest concern." As Clare's eyes move down to their joined hands and back up to his, Ben's do the same thing, ensuring that he knows of their two bare hands touching. As his eyes come back to her's, he doesn't seem to be bothered by it in the least as his thumb slowly slides across the smooth skin of the back of her hand. "Are you embarrassed of me?" he inquires softly, a glint of playfulness in his blue orbs.

Clare laughs outright. "You look perfectly respectable and delightful," she assures him. "Not the shadiest fellow this establishment has seen, not by a long shot. I don't believe it's possible to be embarrassed of you." His thumb encounters a small, rough ridge just above her third knuckle that is probably a two-week-old cut, and Clare shakes her head definitively. "On the contrary, I'd be proud to be seen in your company. Do you want to go somewhere?" She looks up and down the street, chuckling suddenly at the realization they are still standing in the street. "I was going home, but I don't have any plans. Let's do something fun."

Ben looks down as he feels the ridge of the cut on Clare's hand. Turning her hand over in his, he looks down at it almost as if it were second nature. His free hand slips to his waist and out comes his wand. Making a horizontal motion across and then pointing the tip directly at the cut, he murmurs, "Episkey." The small cut feels increasingly warm, the skin heating and then just as quickly cool enough to leave a slight chill in her hand as the flesh knits itself back together. His wand returns just as quickly to his side and he eyes gaze appraisingly at his work. He smiles slightly and says, "Good as new," and leans forward, bringing his lips softly to the now blemish free skin. As his blue eyes lift back to Clare's, he says, "There's a coffee shop a few streets over.. or we could go to the Leaky Cauldron and see if you might meet my brother?"

For a moment Clare doesn't seem to understand what's going on, then she smirks slightly, looking up at Ben with an amused, reproving expression. "Now you're just showing off," she accuses him playfully, flexing her freshly-healed hand. "But I suppose that's one scar I won't have." Her breath catches at the brush of his lips against the back of her hand, and she hesitates, then confesses, "I was there last night, but he wasn't working. We've met, though - I mean, not 'met,' but you know. He knows who I am." There's an idealogical difference between 'that girl who drinks straight whiskey' and 'that girl whom my brother is seeing,' and it's probably this that makes Clare look nervous at the prospect. "Um. Coffee?"

Ben looks up to Clare as she mentions having been at the bar last night. Something moves behind his eyes, accompanied by a slightly cocked brow, though he doesn't venture forth a question. He nods his head and says, "Sure, coffee sounds great." He releases her hand with a slight smile and then steps off of the stoop of Olivander's heading in the general direction of the coffee shop.

Clare is observant enough to catch the flicker of thoughts in Ben's expression, but she lifts her chin anyway, brushing off the potential insecurity of him second-guessing her life choices. She follows along, moving into step beside him, her gait jauntier than their first encounter most likely due to the unhampering effects of more sensible shoes and a wider hemline. "You left me roses," she mentions, half a block on. "They're still beautiful. I never thanked you."

Ben glances sideways to Clare for a moment, a slight smile on his face, though he doesn't admit to the deed. "What makes you think it was me?" he asks in a coy fashion. "I mean, what roses?" Was the slip intentional? Most likely, given the grin on his face, but he still doesn't admit to it. After a few more steps he says, "You don't have to thank me. I just didn't want you to feel bad that we left the one at the Victoria, so I got you a few more."

With a sidelong glance, Clare grins lopsidedly. "Unless I've acquired a secret admirer from nowhere in particular, there's no one else who would leave me flowers," she points out dryly. "Maybe you think I'm seeing a different fellow every night of the week?" Now it's her turn to go on the offensive, but her teasing expression softens into something gentler. "It was really nice of you. They're on my dining table where the sunlight falls on them every morning, and they remind me of you."

Ben seems a bit relieved when she tells him she isn't seeing anyone else, perhaps the cloud that had passed across his features earlier wasn't anything at all to do with her drinking. He seems to cast off whatever negativity had been clouding his mind and he laughs aloud, the laugh reaching to his eyes. He looks to Clare and says, "That is good… I think I like the idea of you thinking about me every morning when you get ready for work." His eyes widen a bit, as if realizing what he has revealed to her and he looks forward, marching on in silence. They are passing Gringotts Bank when he finally says, "So… speaking of work. My day was—" He trails off as the sound of a dull roar begins to sound above Diagon Alley. He reaches a hand out to the side as if to stop Clare and his head looks upward to the sky as his brow furrows. It doesn't take long until a few airplanes can be seen high in the afternoon sky, flying forebodingly over the city. He looks suddenly to Clare and says, "This way!" He reaches out to grab for her hand and rush them toward the bank, obviously intending to get under the shelter of the columns that support the entrance to the wizarding bank.

"It's so early!" Clare cries out, nonsensically enough, as there's no denying the airplanes overhead. "It isn't even close to dusk yet…" Because she can logic away the Germans. Sensible. She's quick on her feet running, however, and Ben doesn't have to drag her a bit in order to get the both of them underneath the shelter of the colonnade before the bank.

As the two of them make it to the safety of Gringotts, it is evident that the airplanes are not after anything on Diagon Alley. They move on, passing the alley and heading north. Ben steps back out from under the eaves of the building, shielding his eyes as he looks on in the direction they went. Moments later it is clear that the attack is underway as the ground shudders even from the distance away that the planes must be dropping their bombs. He turns back for Clare, grabbing her shoulders and pulling her close to him as he puts her back to the column so that the fiercely shuddering ground doesn't drop the both of them to the ground. Time seems to be almost in fast forward as wizards and witches begin rushing to and fro, some apparating out on the spot to check on their families. In what seems like seconds smoke can be seen extending in a thick black column against the darkening sky as the last of the bombs are dropped and the sound of the enemy planes gets fainter.

Clare cups her mouth with one hand, watching the sky from under the partial roof with horror. Her other hand is pressed against the marble pillar, gripping it, until the rumbling subsides. "Do you think we can get there?" she asks, as Ben eases away from her in the aftermath. "Where the bombs landed? Shouldn't we go and help?" Her face is pale, but alive with a need to take action.

Ben nods his head slowly as he looks at the column of smoke. He runs a hand through his untidy hair and says, "It doesn't look like it's too far away. North, probably near the…" He looks toward Clare and says, "Do you trust me?" He holds his hand out to her.

It's not even a question, seemingly. Clare puts her hand in Ben's without the slightest hesitation, and prepares to leave the safety of the Mysticked District behind.

Ben smiles to Clare grimly and grips her hand. He turns on his heel and the familiar squeezing pressure associated with Apparition presses in on them. A loud crack sounds and the two of them are standing in a dark alley. A slight nauseous feeling weighs in on them both, though it isn't unbearable. The alley is deserted and they seem to be much nearer to where the bombs were dropped. Cars are abandoned in the street at the end of the alley and people are running rapidly to the right, indicating that the bombs must have been dropped to the left. Ben grips the wall briefly as the nausea grips him before shaking his head stiffly and heading down the alley. The darkening sky above the alley has a distinct orange glow that shows they are indeed close.

Clare squeezes her eyes closed, pulling in a deep, cleansing breath of cold air to steady herself and her stomach before she follows Ben toward the end of the alley. Scanning the street where they emerge, she cranes her neck to the left, and points at a particular point near the intersection ahead. "There, I think?" She's dressed oddly for Muggle London, but then, not many people are interested in looking at her clothes just now.

Ben nods his head as he glances in that direction. The set of his jaw shows that he is trying his best to battle the grip of nausea that grips him. Glancing to Clare he nods again and sets off at a jog, weaving through the abandoned cars. The two of them seem to be the only two heading toward the flames. As they make their way closer to the building, they can see that some form of small apartment building got the worst of the fire, the whole top floor is caved in except for the far left room. The entire building is ablaze and bricks litter the street all around it. Screaming can be heard coming from within, and more than one body lays in the street, charred and unmoving.

Clare mutters something under her breath that sounds suspiciously like a very-unladylike swear word, as they come up to the blast zone and she gets a good look at the carnage. "There are people in there," she points, there and there, to where the screaming is coming from. "Do you want me to go in, see if I can get them out to you? I don't think you can do anything for those…" She nods toward the burned bodies in the street, slightly ill-looking.

Ben shakes his head, sparing them a sideways glance and then looking to Clare and saying kindly, "Don't look at them. Think of only the ones we can save." Looking to the burning building he says, "We go in together, we stick together. We save those we can and get them out of the building and then we do what we can for them. If we get them out, and get them healed we wipe their memories. I'm not the best at that, but we can try." He nods to her and says, "Flame Freezing charm should do the trick at first. Each room we go in." His wand springs to his hand and he directs it to the flames in the door and says, "Ignis Inermus!" The flames continue dancing but he rushes inside them anyways. Should Clare follow him, she will see that the apartment building has a typical layout, six rooms on the bottom floor, and six on the top. A small wooden staircase that is also flaming is directly across from them.

Clare grimaces a little. "I don't know that I'm any great shakes at memory spells, either," she calls over the roar of the adjacent fire, but there doesn't seem to be much else to try, given the circumstances. However, obviously she's going to follow him, and as soon as they enter the hallway, she immediately slams her shoulder into the first door to the left, while twisting the knob. When this doesn't immediately produce a result, she slides her wand from her bodice and impatiently mutters, "Alohomora."

Ben nods his head and calls out, "We'll worry about that when we get to it, we're saving lives first." As Clare slams her shoulder into the door and it doesn't budge, he seems about to direct his wand to the door lock and then she beats him to it. When she twists the knob and swings it inward, he instead directs his wand over her shoulder and says, "Ignis Inermus," once again causing the flames inside this room to be no hotter than a warm summer breeze. When Clare steps inside the room there is yelling coming from the direction of the bathroom, a large wooden beam that seems to have fallen from above, given the large hole in the ceiling, bars the door.

"It's blocked," Clare calls over her shoulder, before realizing Ben is not far at all behind her and can likely see this for himself. She hurriedly attempts to vanish the ceiling beam, which, considering its weight and the chaos that surrounds them, accomplishes nothing whatsoever. "Will you… help me lift it, I guess?" she wonders, slightly breathless.

Ben looks at the huge beam over Claire's shoulder and makes a circular motion with his wand and then snaps a point at the hunk of lumber, "Perfusorius!" he cries, attempting a Feather-Light Charm. He runs over to it and climbs beneath the flaming beam, placing his shoulders right against it in amongst the flames. He grunts and lifts with his legs, the beam lifting off of the ground and he slowly walks it forward until it is clear of the bathroom door.

Despite everything, the danger, the injured or dying people, the horror, Clare snorts with momentary laughter. "I was just thinking… you know, levitating it," she remarks, as she hurries forward and pushes the bathroom door open to see who all is inside. "How many are there? Is anyone hurt? Look, we have to get out right away, your entire building's ablaze and it could come down any moment. Is there anyone else in your apartment?" She rattles off questions in a terrible hurry, peering into the smoky bathroom.

Ben winks to Clare and says jokingly, "I thought if I showed off my muscles it might make you fall in love with me!" As Clare heads for the door he points upward with his wand and says, "I am going to check the upstairs room. With that he points upward with his wand and says, "Ascendio!" and up he flies through the hole the beam made in the ceiling. As Clare pushes the door open, she finds three children inside. They cower back from fear of the flames, looking at her as if she were mad. When she speaks to them though, they decide that she is actually here to help them and they rush toward her, arms extended. "There's no one here. Papa and Mama went to the store," they cry into her gown.

"Are you so sure you want me to fall in love with you?" Clare yells back over her shoulder, before Ben zips off into the upstairs room, hopefully just out of view of the kids in the bathroom. Less memory-tweaking needed. The young woman is taken aback as she's suddenly holding a trio of grimy rugrats in her arms, but she gives them all hugs swiftly, standing up again. "Right, well, that's good luck, isn't it? Hold hands now, make a chain! If we move quick we won't be burnt, but we have to hurry, so follow after me!" She takes the youngest two by the hands and, the third hanging on behind, quickly leads them through the flaming building and out through the hallway to the street.

Clare has no issues at all leading the children zig-zagging through the room and hallway. They are fearful enough that they stay as far as way from the flames as they can, not noticing that the flames don't really burn them at all. When she reaches safety with them and turns back for the building, she can see that the entire top floor is now ablaze, more of the roof beginning to give way and crash down.

"Stay well back from the building!" Clare warns the kids, but then it's straight back into the blaze with her, and up the staircase to the second floor landing. The charred and semi-destroyed area up here is more chaotic, but she shoulders her way through some debris, freezing the flames as she comes to them until she reaches the only door that remains somewhat intact, and has to get that one open, too.

As Clare opens the door, it is to find Ben inside, furiously battling flames and other dangers, his wand whipping to and fro. His feet move gracefully as his arm arcs left and right. The rooms seems to be in the process of caving in, in fact, the reason the room hasn't yet caved seems to be in large part to the frantically dancing wizard. He waves his wand, extinguishing flames completely from a tangle of beams, and then as more fall from the ceiling swishes his wand to keep them from falling further into the room. One seems to have already fallen and pins a woman to the floor. She screams, her arms extended, attempting to keep a bundle which could only be a baby from the fire. A man's body lays a few feet away, his head caved in from the same beam and blood pooling slowly across the floor.

Clare takes in the situation within the collapsing room with a grimace, then runs across the flame-covered floor, leaping across another fallen beam. She seizes the baby from the pinned woman and turns toward the window, hopefully obscuring what she is doing enough that the mother won't see her baby actually zipping out the window and toward the ground. Anyone outside… well, that'll be a problem for later. "I'm going to get you freed," she calls to the woman, turning back and lifting her wand in the air. If she can catch Ben's eye for a moment, there's going to be a question in her face as she nods at the man - it doesn't look good for him, but then, she's no Healer.

Ben The baby zooms away to land safely on a patch of grass in the back lawn. Ben nods his head stiffly as he catches Clare's eye. He can't spare his attention for long for at that moment the building shakes as half of the building collapses to the floor below. The floor of their room seems to be holding, but the sudden rumbling shift seems to be causing the entire roof to be caving. Ben seems determined not to leave the woman behind and as the roof begins to cave he swishes his wand upward toward it and yells, "Arresto Momentum!" His teeth are bared, showing in start contrast to his soot covered face. The suddenly caving ceiling all but stops, and creeps toward them at a fraction of the speed. He turns his wand on the beam and says, "Ambulafors!" When nothing happens he yells, "Shit!" and begins to run for the beam as if to pick it up and hurl it off of her. All the while the ceiling closes in on them.

Things are moving so fast, Clare hardly has a chance to react. She points her wand at the beam and screams, "Perfusorius!" while reaching out her other hand to seize Ben about the arm. Because if that doesn't work, they're probably going to have to apparate out of here instantly, they're about out of time.

Ben runs for the beam, just before he gets there and following Clare's spell he swishes his wand at the beam and cries, "Levioso!" The beam, now lightened by Clare's spell hovers straight into the air and then Ben charges straight into it, lowering his shoulder and shoving it away. Given it's lighter state, the beam floats away easily. Ben bends and scoops up the woman, her legs obviously broken by the beam given how they are hanging. The ceiling is still drifting downward at a slower pace as Ben turns for the window. He swishes his wand at it and yells frantically, "Reducto!" but the window remains firmly intact.

Bad. Bad, bad, bad. Time's up, though, and Clare reaches Ben, grabbing hold of both his bicep and the wrist of the unconscious woman, and spins into nothingness with an awful jolt. The world presses in on them, disorienting and unbearable, and the next moment they are all of them on their knees in the street outside, not far from where the woman's baby has landed softly. Clare lets go of both and falls forward onto her hands, willing herself not to vomit as waves of nausea roll over her.

Ben similarly falls to his knees on the concrete. He struggles to remain upright, his arms still clutching the woman who seems to have gone completely unconscious. His blue eyes close, squinting hard against the waves of sickness that threaten to overwhelm him. Finally he forces his eyes open, glancing around the street which still seems deserted except for the three children that Clare rescued earlier. Whatever was left holding the building upright gives way and it slowly begins to collapse in a fiery pile. Ben lays the woman gently on the concrete and crawls over to Clare. "Hey!" he says softly, "Look at me. Are you okay?"

"Notreally," Clare grits out, not actually opening her eyes or lifting her head or doing any of those things that he said to do. "I'll be fine, though. Just… need a minute. What about that mum, can you set her right?" She gropes in the direction of his voice and finds a wrist, which she grips tightly. All this hero business is pretty hard work.

In similar straights, Ben's teeth are gritted and as she grips his wrist, his hand finds her's and pulls her closer to him, holding her tight. "Her legs are broken. I can set them right, but I will need your help if you can manage. Take your time, you saved us back there." He hugs her close, his hand finding her hair which he strokes absently.

Clare nods, once, twice, a handful of times. "Anytime," she agrees, shortly. "What do you need me to do?" She attempts opening her eyes, which works, mostly, and slowly, she lifts her forehead from the concrete.

Ben moves back over to the woman and says, "I am going to set the the bones straight, one leg at a time. I need you to hold them how I place them so they don't move, and then I will heal the bones." He looks to her, nodding his head encouragingly, his face covered in soot, and his shirt torn in many places. He pulls her left, which judging by the angle it lays, the bone is smashed in two. He places a hand at her knee, and the other one her shin and forces the bone into a straight position. "Like this," he says softly, and once Clare has the limb held he waves his wand over the leg and chants softly, "Cruso Emendo."

"I've never seen healing like this done before," Clare comments, putting her hands where Ben indicates and holding firmly, with a fairly determined expression. They move on to the second leg, Clare managing to sit up now, though her face is still fairly ashen underneath the layers of soot.

Ben nods his head as he casts his spells over both of the woman's legs. Claire can feel each of the bones knit back together and solidify beneath her finger tips. When both legs are done, Ben's practiced eye moves over the rest of her body, his finger tips poking and prodding the unconscious woman to check for any other broken bones. He turns his head as he sense movement and sees the three children running over to where the baby lay. The oldest picks it up and then they begin heading over toward them. Ben slips his wand discretely back beneath his shirt and slowly forces himself to his feet.

Ben nods his head as he casts his spells over both of the woman's legs. Claire can feel each of the bones knit back together and solidify beneath her finger tips. "There aren't many outside of Mungo's that do this level of healing. Most of the time, if you are hurt this bad you go to the hospital," he says thoughtfully in reply to Clare. When both legs are done, Ben's practiced eye moves over the rest of her body, his finger tips poking and prodding the unconscious woman to check for any other broken bones. He turns his head as he sense movement and sees the three children running over to where the baby lay. The oldest picks it up and then they begin heading over toward them. Ben slips his wand discretely back beneath his shirt and slowly forces himself to his feet.

"No," Clare agrees, slowly. "I suppose not." She smoothes the woman's skirts absently, brow furrowed, then tentatively reaches for her own wand and slips it into her bodice before standing very, very slowly. She looks with grave eyes at the children. "There's an air raid warden, or a policeman on this beat, isn't there?" she asks them. "I need the biggest of you to go and find him, bring him back here. You're going to need help." And there will be bodies to recover, but hopefully the kids will be long gone by then.

The oldest of the children nods her head and hands Clare the baby without a second thought. Off into the night she goes and soon there is the sound of sirens in the distance and whistles being blown. Ben looks to Clare and says, "I think maybe it is time for you and I to make our exits." His eyes look down as the woman at his feet begins to stir, her eyes opening as she looks at Ben and Clare and says groggily, "What happened? How did we get out? Where's Phillip?"

Clare shakes her head mutely, kneeling down beside the woman again and gently nestling the baby in her arms. "I'm awfully sorry," she tells her, softly. "There wasn't anything we could do for him. We barely managed to get the two of you downstairs before the roof collapsed." She pats the woman's shoulder bracingly, and offers, ever so Britishly, "Try to be brave." Then, she gets to her feet again, looking over at Ben, and nods once. They really need to go.

Ben nods his head and reaches down, ruffling the middle child's hair. Kneeling quickly he says, "Be a brave boy and watch over this woman and her baby and your little sister. Protect them and don't let anything happen to them. The warden is on his way with some help and I'm sure your mommy and daddy are with him. Don't go near that building, ok? Promise?" The boy nods and both children turn and hug Clare tightly, their little soot covered faces looking up to her with eyes that seem too big. With that they turn and kneel down by the woman who is sobbing quietly as she holds her baby where she has pulled herself to a sitting position, leaned against the side of an abandoned car. Ben pushes himself back to his feet and reaches out a dirty hand for Clare and if she takes it, begins running in the opposite direction of the coming Warden, heading south and back in the general direction of the Leaky Cauldron. He runs for a while, until a stitch in his side forces him to slow his pace. By this point the pair are a good distance away from the collapsed building and the chaos that surrounds it.

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