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Chapter 8: A Man Worth Chasing
The shop was buzzing with activity that afternoon. Fred was at the back of the shop helping a group of rowdy teenagers who fancied getting a couple bags of nosebleed nougats.
"You just take this one and pop it into your mouth, like so," Fred said. As a demonstration, he tossed a nougat into the air and caught it between his teeth and bit down. Immediately his nose spurted blood. "As you can see, it works perfectly." Fred spat out some blood that fell into his mouth. Grabbing another nougat, he slipped it into his mouth. "Itís just what the doctor ordered I imagine, a cure for the boring classroom blues." Fred smiled charmingly at the group. "A galleon per bag and get the second bag half off!"
The group grabbed two bags each and headed to the front counter where Verity was busy ringing in other purchases. Fred smiled to himself and arched his back getting a clear view of the front window. He snorted to himself at the sight he saw, a man stood outside the window wearing an oversized black trench coat and a black hat pulled down so far that it covered his face. Odd, Fred thought to himself humorously, what kind of man wears that sort of get up in stifling summer weather?
Fred continued to study the peculiarly dressed man, but just then, it seemed as if the man felt Fredís stare and he turned to face Fred. Fred watched as the man gave a startled jump before taking off down the street. Bewildered, Fred shook his head, probably some kid fighting for attention. But even with that thought, Fred couldnít refute how the hairs on the back of his neck stood up when the kid turned toward him.
"Fred, you alright mate?" A voice sounded from his right. There stood one of his old school chums, Katie Bell.
"Spiffiní my dear Bell, what brings you to these neck of the woods?" Fred said, tearing his eyes away from the window, he cast an award-winning grin at Katie.
"Fred, you look like youíve just seen a ghost," Katie said in concern. Fred shook off Katieís concern.
"I do believe that Iíve had one too many of those nosebleed nougats today, how about we go out for a drink?" Fred took another glance out the window, but all he saw were shoppers quickly pushing their way through the crowds. Shaking his head, he pressed his way to the door with Katie in tow.
"Fred- Iím engaged," Katie said as soon as they had gotten their drinks at the Leaky Cauldron. Fred choked on his Firewhiskey.
"I didnít know you were so serious about, oh, whatís his name?" Fred said with a wide grin. Katie gave him a disapproving look. "Okay, okay how did it happen? Tell me all the juicy details! How did that devilish Oliver steal my fair Bellís heart?" Fred squealed like a girl. Katie rolled her eyes.
"He took me out to the official Chudely Cannonsí Quidditch arena last night at sunset," Katie beamed.
"Very Oliver, all about Quidditch," Fred laughed. Katie beamed again.
"Of course, I kind of expected it as soon as I noticed that we were going to the arena. He used to say that if he were going to ask a girl to marry him, it would be there. It was kind of obvious too, Iíve never seen him so nervous before, not even before a game." Fred chuckled and took another swig of Firewhiskey.
"Whenís the big day?" Fred asked leaning back in his chair.
"Summer...sometime, we want something quiet. I think only our close friends and family will be there."
"Oliver better make me his best man," Fred replied playfully.
"I think Oliverís older brother has that honour you nimrod. So I heard from Alicia that you have a lady friend," Katie teased, changing the subject.
"I think you have wax in your ears because I certainly do not. Either that or Aliciaís been put under the gibberish hex."
"Funny, Lee and Oliver seemed to agree with her. Something about you looked like a mother bear protecting her Young," Katie said laughing. "Weíve all agreed that even if George took a misstep around her, youíd throttle him." Fred snorted. "Hey, even George granted that one."
"Iím just helping her remember who she is Katie, nothing more. For all we know, she could be married and with children."
"Iím one of your best mates Fred, you think I canít see right through that lie. And in all honesty, does she look old enough to be married and have kids?" Fred remained silent, but he knew the answer to the question and so did Katie, it would have been pointless to answer. She did not appear to be the "mother of children" type, but appearances were deceiving.
"Katie, is that really you? I havenít seen you since Hogwarts!" A girl squealed from behind Fred interrupting Katieís grilling. Fred almost let out a sigh of relief; he wasnít particularly fond of discussing Missy with Katie.
"Daphne? You look wonderful." Katie said getting up and giving her a hug. "How have you been, take a seat, you remember Fred, right?"
"Of course, how could I forget? He liked to torment us the most," Daphne gave Fred a shrewd smirk. Fred smirked back, but he didnít recognize her face. "I was from Slytherin." Daphne supplied seemingly. Fred immediately stopped smirking and looked over at Katie with a questioning glance.
"Sheís alright Fred, sheís not like Malfoy, not all Slytherins are arses," Katie said rolling her eyes. Fred gave a quick reassuring smile, but it didnít reach his eyes. He looked back at Daphne with untrusting eyes. Daphne shifted under his stare and turned back to Katie.
"Well Iím good Katie. Look Iíll call you later so we can catch up when there is more desirable company available. I have to get my aunt a birthday gift anyway." Daphne gave Fred a disgruntled roll of the eye and walked out to the back.
"Fred!" Katie rebuffed Fred. "Sheís not that bad."
"Sheís a Slytherin Katie, I never thought you associated with them."
"She was a prefect in my year Fred, but honestly grow up, Hogwarts was years ago." Fred scoffed and took another sip of Firewhiskey. Katie shook her head,
"Katie, it was mostly Slytherins that killed my father during the final battle, tortured him only because he was a blood traitor." Fred said his eyes darkening considerably. Katie looked down.
"Fred, Iím sorry," Fred finished his glass and stood up.
"I probably should get back to the shop, Verity is going to kill me for being gone so long." Fred put down a couple sickles on the table. Katie sighed and stood up and pulled Fred into a hug.
"Good luck with your mystery girl." She said winking. Fred chuckled slightly and shook his head.
"Well, donít be disappointed when nothing comes of it." Fred said slipping out into the alleyway. He shook his head, it was true, he told himself sternly, and he was just protecting her now until she could remember her who she was. After that, heíd let her live her own life. Fred smiled to himself as he slipped back into WWW.
"Donít go smiling like that Fred Weasley! Leaving me here with all these people!" Verity lectured, waving her finger at him as if he were a little kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. "Next time, Iím just going to up and leave and see how you like fending for the shop all by your lonesome." Fred smiled and patted Verity on the head.
"I know how hard it is for you to function without me Verity dear, but youíre just going to have to accept that, - well we donít really mesh well together, anything beyond working buddies weíd prob-"
Verityís bark like laugh interrupted his speech.
"Fred, here you are again boosting your little ego, you know Iím surprised you can walk with that fat head of yours." Fred made a face at Verity. "Mature Mr. Weasley, real mature." Fred gave her a flamboyant grin before he walked over to some customers.
Dusk was settling around the shop, and Fred was busy restocking the nosebleed nougats; they had sold like hot cakes today. He told Verity to go home an hour before; the shopís activity had slowed down considerably and she had claimed she needed to get ready for a date with a muggle boy by the name of Thomas.
Just as he was placing the box full of nougats on the front counter, he noticed someone outside the window. He stopped dead and almost dropped the contents of the box all over the floor. In the last moment, he quickly steadied the box on the counter, in doing so taking his eyes from the window for a quick second. Looking back through the window, no one was there. Fred scrunched up his nose in annoyance, this was the second time he had seen that strange man outside his window.
Fred picked up the box again; he wasnít going to let it bother him. The man probably was just checking out the store. Even so, Fred put some extra locking charms on the store before he headed for the back to put away the stock. Pushing open the back door that still held that faded ĎKeep Outí sign they made years ago, he let himself into the back room quietly.
"Hey mate," Fred nearly jumped at the voice. "Little paranoid little brother?" Fred made a face.
"Only by a minute and five seconds, you can hardly count that," Fred replied sharply. George jumped off the desk.
"Still!" The gleeful man grinned boyishly. Fred rolled his eyes and put the box down in the corner. "Hey, you wanna go down to Hogshead? Itís wing night tonight." Fred shrugged his shoulders. George gave him an odd look.
"Iím kind of tired George,"
"Mate, we havenít seen each other in nearly a week, get untired!" George pushed further. Fred shrugged again; he still couldnít figure out why the same person would be standing aimlessly out their shop twice in one day, it irked him.
"Howís the Hogsmeade shop?" Fred asked, folding his stocky frame into a chair.
"Why donít you come and see for yourself, you canít honestly wanna stay in the flat by your lonesome," George joked. "Kind of like a deadbeat."
"You know you really are an arse, Katie was just telling me that this afternoon. I tried standing up for you, but now I can see it more clearly."
"Dear old Kate would never say something like that about me," George said with a pout. "Plus thereís someone there I think youíd like to meet."
"Some sort of blind date or something George?" Fred asked in surprise. "You think I need a girl?" George snorted.
"You already have one," George ducked a blow from Fred. "Youíre a defensive one, arenít you?"
"Letís go," Fred said gruffly. Grinning, George drooped his arm across Fredís shoulders and the two headed out.
The bar was loud that night and Fred saw an assortment of different creatures around the bar already half drunk and it wasnít even late yet. Fred went up to the counter and ordered some hot wings before heading to the table George was occupying.
"Right, so Iíve been trying to get the multi person thing going," George started. "Iíve gotten as far as being able to create multiples of the person, but the whole different personality for each, and getting them to appear in different places, has got me stumped."
"I donít know, we probably could go work on it tomorrow after work or something, Iíll close early," but Fred could tell George had stopped listening. His focus was on something, or someone coming up from behind Fred. Fred turned in his seat to see what had captured his brotherís attention so vigilantly. He saw a young woman with long, dark brown hair open the bar door. Fred snorted into his glass, his brother looked like he would be faint at heart just at the sight of her.
When she moved closer, Fred was startled to realize that he recognized her. She was that medi-witch who let him go to see Missy the first time, and had also gotten him when she had that breakdown. She smiled at him and came and sat in the empty chair beside George.
"Fred, this is Morag," George started.
"Weíve met," Fred interrupted, smiling charmingly at the girl. George looked between the two. Fred winked at Morag suggestively, "It was one of the greatest nights of my life." Morag blushed deeply.
"Fred, that was supposed to be a secret," she said quietly looking down at her hands. Fred smirked as Georgeís blue eyes turned from a sparkling happiness to looking like a storm cloud.
"Sorry George, but I got to her first," Fred joked suavely.
"You arse-" George stood up with his fists clenched. Fred looked up at his brother and couldnít help but start laughing. George looked startled for a moment at Fredís reaction. Looking over at Morag, he saw that she was in the same condition as Fred. George cuffed Fred on the back of the head good-naturedly, their joke finally dawning on him.
"I canít believe you fell for that, talk about mother bear," Fred said between spurts of laughter. George growled and sipped on a glass of Firewhiskey.
The evening passed into night, Fred looked like he had a few too many drinks as he was out on the dance floor dishing up some really hot moves with an older lady. George and Morag were sitting in a booth with their heads bent together in deep discussion about something or the other.
"We probably should get Fred before he decides to go home with that woman," Morag said looking up to the dance floor. Fred was dancing quite close to her and her hand was running suggestively downward. George looked over to his twin brother and snorted.
"Heís a big boy, he can take care of himself," George said shrugging it off and looking back over at Morag with a silly smile.
"George, youíve told me a million times about Fred when he gets smashed, youíve always said that if someone were to ask him to jump off a cliff heíd do it."
"Heíd do the same thing if he were sober just so he could get the experience from it,"
"At least then heíd know what he was doing," Morag said stubbornly. "I mean look at him, he canít actually be enjoying himself?" George sighed at being defeated and reluctantly left Morag to help his blundering twin.
"Hey sweettums, time to go home," George coddled taking Fredís arm and leading him off the dance floor.
"Geríoff me, I wass jussí having ssome fun!" Fred slurred, stumbling over his feet along the way. The woman he left stood erect with her hands on her hips and a frown on her face. Fred peered over his shoulder and gave her a quick wave and a wink. George pushed his brother forward a little harder.
"Mommyís calling love, and if we donít get that dirty face of yours cleaned up, sheíll know exactly what youíve been up too," Fred for a second looked a little worried at Georgeís statement.
"She isní, is she?" Fred asked his eyes wide with dismay.
"She will be if you donít get your act together, that woman was nearly twice your age mate." Fred looked shocked at the news.
"Sshe said she was only 20," George snorted at his own twinís stupidity. Fred followed his twin back to the table, waving at a few of the ladies at the bar on his way. Fred giggled when one of the girls blew him a kiss. "Mayybe Iíll jusí go over there for a sec." George grabbed the back of Fredís shirt collar and dragged him back over to Morag.
"I swear, heís worse than a baby, he needs constant supervision because you never know when heíll do something incredibly stupid." Morag laughed and looked over at Fred who was currently examining every cuticle on his fingernails. "We probably should leave before he goes and gets himself into trouble. One time, back in our days at Hogwarts, he got so bad that he went straight up to McGonagall and asked her for a shag, and thatís only the short version of what happened. Thankfully I got him out of there before she figured out that he was only slightly intoxicated." Morag snorted into her glass.
"He didnít actually, did he?" George nodded through tears from laughter. Morag looked over to were Fred was sitting. He was completely oblivious to the fact that they were talking about him, or making fun of him, rather.
"Come on baby cakes, time to take you home," George teased. Fred looked over at George and Morag with big eyes, George stood up and grabbed Fredís arm, heaving him up.
"Georgie, is mum going to be really mad?" Fred asked with a worried face. "I donít want to get in trouble!" Fred looked very worried as he gazed up at George, looking very lost indeed. George rolled his eyes, and reminded himself to never let Fred drink too much ever again; he was too much of a nuisance.
"Letís go, dork brain, before you go and hurt yourself." George pushed Fred out of Hogsheadís door and out into Hogsmeade.
"Georgie! The fun was jusí starting!" Fred cried out shaking his hips wildly causing a few startled older witches to glance over at Fred in distaste.
"Shut up Fred, sometimes youíre such an embarrassment," George growled jokingly. Fred snorted.
"Me? Never!" George ignored Fredís comment and grabbed onto Moragís hand and whispered something into her ear that made her blush. Fred groaned and apparated back to his flat.
Sinking his head into his hands, Fred groaned loudly and wished the constant spinning away.
"Serves you right Freddie-boy," Verity said laughing from above him. Fred glared at her between his fingers. "Hey, donít look at me like that! You shouldnít have got so loaded up last night."
"Well someone should have told me that last night, this headache isnít worth it!" Fred moaned from his seat behind the counter.
"Donít you and George have that serum stuff?" Verity asked as she cashed in.
"Weíre fresh out." Fred said with an annoyed clip to his tone. Verity laughed and opened up the shop.
"Well, you better get your act together buddy because I donít rightly fancy running this shop by myself today." Verity said as the first customer walked into the store.
The loud rustling of medi-witches running back and forth seemed to be magnified in Fredís ear as he walked to the front desk. His head was still a little fuzzy from last night but Luna had asked him to come in. As he got closer to the front office, he saw that it was Morag who was sitting behind the desk.
"Hello love," Fred said leaning across the desk with a huge grin across his face. Morag looked up from the report she was filling out and gave him a sour face. "Thatís not the kind of welcome I expected from my own girl." Fred said wiggling his eyebrows at her.
"Fred, I can tell the difference between you two, you know that right?" Morag said chuckling. Disappointed, Fred pulled back and parked himself in the office chair. "Howíre you doing Fred?" Fred gave her a disgruntled look.
"A lot better than this morning," Morag grinned. "Is Luna around?"
"Sheís up with Mr. Lockhart right now, she might be there for a while,"
"Could you tell her Iíll be up with Missy?" Fred said, his lips curving into a smile. Morag nodded as Fred swept out of the office.
When Fred entered her room, the first thing he noticed was how dark it was. The curtains to the window were closed tightly and light couldnít penetrate though them, seeing as they were magical. Fred could barely see the two feet in front of him little lone where Missy was.
"Missy?" He called out. He heard her rustling in the direction he knew her bed was. The next thing he knew, he felt her warm hands touch his arm. Jumping at her touch, Fred felt an unfamiliar quiver in his stomach. "You mind if I turn the lights on?" Fred said uncomfortably, his voice coming out higher than usual.
"I guess." Fred quickly switched the lights on and took a step back from her as if she had scorched him.
"Um-" Fred started. He rubbed the back of his neck, feeling slightly uncomfortable. "Whyíd you have the lights off?" Missy looked straight into his eyes, he felt his stomach churn as he stared into her familiar honey brown eyes. Her eyes moved from his to a portrait of a famous wizard on her wall. The man wore flaring light grey robes with a ruby red sash tying them together. Fred knew him as the guitarist from Toad Breath. For a second he wasnít sure what it was about the portrait that unsettled her but then he saw his eyes. They were as black as the devilís.
"Every time since the first time Iíd seen them, they give me the cobwobbles. I thought that if I just turned off all the lights I wouldnít be able to see them anymore, but sometimes it feels as if those eyes are still watching." Fred kept still, unable to think of anything to say. She looked back over at him.
"Iíll just have that picture taken down then, wonít I? Itís not at all becoming to live in the dark." Fred said getting his wits back about him. Smiling delightfully down at her, he made his way to the photograph.
"Fred, youíre here, great," Luna said sweeping through the door. "Afternoon Missy." Luna smiled at Missy and walked over to Fred. "Whatíre you doing?"
"Taking this picture down, Missy doesnít like it," Missy beamed up at Fred. Fred smiled back weakly. He was finding that just looking at her made him feel strangely. "Well, you needed to speak with me?" Fred asked.
"Oh yes, come with me." Fred smiled, glad for the chance to get away from these unsettling feelings, he wasnít used to them. Giving Missy a tested smile, he turned to follow Luna out.
"Fred!" Missy said coming up to him, her eyes were filled with this delight Fred hadnít seen come from her yet.
"Uh, yeah?" Fred said, he could feel his insides trembling as she stepped nearer. Frankly, he was terrified of what she did to him. Quickly, she wrapped her arms around his solid shoulders; Fred shook under her touch. But he was amazed to find that her embrace was more familiar than he would have known.
"Thank you," she whispered into his ear.
"For what?" Fred asked hoarsely.
"For helping me remember." Fred stiffened, did that meanÖFred pulled away and looked at her straight in the face. Did she know?
"Fred, are you coming?" Luna asked poking her head back into the room. Fred nodded, though he was staring wide-eyed at Missy. "Well come along then." Fred reluctantly pulled himself away and backed out of the room.
Luna led him down to her office and shut the door tightly. Fred lounged in the same chair he had when speaking to Morag.
"Tea?" Luna offered, pouring some for herself into a girlie pink teacup. Fred shook his head. "Suit yourself." Luna stirred her tea as if she had all the time in the world.
"So?" Fred urged. Luna looked up and almost looked startled that he was sitting there.
"Right," she said and putting down her spoon. "I have some good news and some, well, not so good news. Which will you have first?"
"The good news."
"Well, physically she is fine, sheís great actually. If it were just based on that weíd let her go," Luna said brightly. "Though emotionally she isnít quite there yet, but that will only come with time. Weíd probably even let her go with that if we were sure she would have stable care." Luna took a sip of tea. "Sure you donít want some?" Fred nodded and crossed his arms casually. "That bad news is that we still donít know what happened to her. That causes a problem. See, she canít remember who she is nor can she remember what happened. So it leaves us with this huge puzzle we have to figure out. Even if we do solve it, a few crucial pieces in this puzzle would still be missing. So that makes it nearly impossible." Quickly, she downed the rest of her tea and then poured herself some more.
A soft tap on the door made Luna pause, an older witch peaked her head in.
"Luna, Iím heading out now, so youíll have to do the final checks tonight."
"Okay, hey can you lock the back doors before you go?" The woman nodded and scooted out of the office. Luna leaned back in her chair. For a few minutes she remained silent.
"I havenít said this to any of my superiorís yet. But I was talking to Augustus Pye again the other day and he had some other ideas on all this. Ever since he brought up the idea of the trauma induced blackouts Iíve been thinking about it a great deal. And it only makes sense to us. You know these seizures sheíd been having? Well, I think that the only reason she has them in the first place is trauma. Augustus agreed as well. Itís something like an after effect, but they should go away. Pye actually went as far as to go to a muggle pharmacist and ask about that sort of thing. And it is possible to get some muggle medication that would stop these seizures."
Fred leaned back in the chair and thought for a moment of what Missy had said only a few minutes ago. He knew he had to share it.
"Just before I left her room, she said something that made me wonder if she did remember," Fred said carefully. Luna looked shocked.
"What did she say?"
"She said Ďthank you for helping me rememberí," Fred quoted. "I wouldnít expect her to remember everything, but-" Fred trailed off, not really sure what else to add.
Luna nodded in understanding, looking over at a clock, Luna yelped.
"Oh sorry Fred, Iíve got to do my rounds. Iím already five minutes late," Luna seemed flustered as she grabbed her clipboard.
"Right, well see ya," Fred stood up and left. For a moment, he contemplated going back up to Missy, but he decided against that idea. He wasnít so sure he was ready to face her again.
Diagon Alley was already cloaked in darkness and the streets had a few less shoppers moving to and fro. It was almost peaceful here. Fred, instead of immediately heading to his flat, decided to take a stroll down the foggy cobblestone streets. Walking in and out of the street lamps that illuminated him only for a short while, he tried to remove her face from his mind, but it was impossible.
The mist in the air touched his skin so softly that he could almost feel her reach up and caress his face again. Fred stopped himself, and snorted. He sounded like a one of those guys who would hide in the corner of the closet and write poetry all night long. Truly pathetic, Fred thought to himself.
Lifting his face to the street, he stopped in his tracks. Was he mistaken in what he saw? In the shadows of Floreanís Ice Cream Parlour, Fred was sure he saw the strange man with the trench coat leaning up against the wall. Getting annoyed that everywhere he went, this man seemed to be, Fred averted his gaze and continued walking, hoping that the man hadnít noticed him staring. But alas, he had. Fred watched as the man quickly started to shuffle away.
"Hey!" Fred yelled and ran across the street. It wasnít the shop the man was watching, it was him. The other man started to sprint. Fred picked up his speed; he wasnít about to let this guy go. He had seen him hanging around three times in the past two days, always wearing a low hat so he couldnít be recognized.
Fred saw the tail of the trench coat flicker into a new alleyway before it was out of sight. Turning there as well, Fred noticed that they had turned into the breach between Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley. Fred followed as the man ahead wove in and out of some questionable looking witches.
Smiling, Fred let out a laugh. He was catching up. Fred was just about to jump onto the man when another wizard came rushing out of a store and barrelled straight into Fred knocking him to the ground. Fred cursed under his breath as he stood up and scanned the crowd. He couldnít see the man anywhere. Cursing again, Fred walked a few feet ahead hoping to catch sight of him.
Fred sighed, this guy whoever he was, was a creep. There wasnít any other explanation available. Just when he was going to head back, he saw the man duck out of a store ahead. Fred quickly dove behind a group of giggly witches so he wouldnít be seen. The man looked back and forth a few times before he started down the street at a fast pace. Fred followed as quickly as he could without causing himself to be noticed.
The man turned into another alleyway again. Fred noticed that it was the alleyway that would lead back into Diagon Alley. He never learns does he? Fred thought irritatingly. Fred hastened his speed hoping to catch him unawares in the alleyway where they wouldnít be disturbed.
Peeking down the alley, Fred noticed the man had slowed down considerably and had taken out a smoke. Swiftly Fred booked it down the alley and before the man could react Fred had pinned him against the wall of one of the shops.
"Who are you?" Fred hissed. "And why do you keep coming back to my shop?" Fredís anger was apparent. The man didnít reply but struggled to get out of Fredís hold. He might have been taller then Fred, but Fred was much stronger and only held him tighter against the wall. "Well? Answer me!" Fred was yelling now. Getting tired of waiting, Fred ripped off the manís hat.
Fred gaped at the sight before him, he just couldn't believe it, "Ron?" he gasped.
"Hello, Fred." said the man, meekly.
Authors Note: Oh and some of the spelling errors when Fred is sloshed are intentional because of his slight intoxication.