With an exhausted sigh, Hannah blew a stray lock of hair from her face as she ploughed through the fifth of endless batches of bread in her near future. The next day was the first of August, which was the busiest business day of the year at the Leaky Cauldron because of its proximity to Hogwarts letters being sent out. Since it would’ve been unfeasible to try to bake enough bread for the day in the morning, she was putting in the extra hours the night before so she could worry about food prep in the morning.
It was nights like this one that made Hannah wonder what sort of insanity had prompted her to spend every last Knut of her inheritance on this pub, when more often than not she barely made enough to keep the place running and in good repair. Case in point of this was the fact that, had she been able to afford to have one of her staff stay over a few hours, she probably would’ve been done with all of this already.
Instead, though, she had Tom at the bar, which was far too busy for one person to handle alone, whilst she baked twice her own weight in loaves of bread. And since she hadn’t quite perfected the charm to make the dough rise just right with the charmed yeast, she had to make do with letting it rise on its own, which took nearly an hour per batch. That meant that every time she finished mixing a batch, a previous batch had to be formed into loaves, all while she desperately tried to remember to pull out the bread already in the ovens before it overcooked.
After what seemed like hours, Hannah’s eyes drifted toward the clock. Half past ten. She’d been at it for over five hours, and she was hardly over two-thirds the way done. The mere thought of it made her stomach churn in a most unpleasant way, especially the knowledge that she had to be back by eight in the morning, if not earlier, to make sure she had enough of everything in stock for the busy day.
The cooking timer sounded, which signalled that her third to last batch was done baking. With a flick of her wand, she opened the oven door and Levitated the pans one by one to the counter to cool. But as the last of them landed and the new batch made its way in, Hannah’s eyes strayed down to her hands.
Her nails used to be meticulously cared for and at least adorned by a bit of varnish, but since she’d started working in the kitchen, they’d become plain and nearly all broken. The skin on the pads of her fingers was wrinkled from repeated hand washing, and every tiny crevice was caked with flour and bits of dough.
When had she become so disgusting? That’s what she was — in her own opinion, at any rate. She was wearing her hair in an unflattering pony tail, which was bound up in a hair net, and her work uniform was a dull, uninspired grey, which she chose because it looked less dirty if she got something on herself while she was working.
She dared to catch a look at her reflection in the mirror above the hand-washing sink and hardly recognised herself. There were angry smears of purple under her eyes, which told quite a tale of how often she slept well, and the hair that managed to escape her utilitarian coif was welded to her face by sweat, and there were damp patches under her arms and her breasts where she’d perspired in the sauna-like heat of the kitchen. All of this made her wonder how she could possibly have been twenty-two and not forty. She literally
looked twice her age.
The very thought that her life at the Cauldron had only just begun made her forget about the great troughs of dough waiting to be kneaded in favour of sitting on the floor to cry.