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Chapter 3: Maiden Launch
The Radio Row International Portkey Interchange is an absolute nightmare. Scorpius and I made our way through, pushing Ramses in his pram, and occasionally wishing that hexing people for being annoying was legal. Well, I was, anyway. Scorpius is much calmer than I am, so he was probably all right.
The place was so crowded, you would've thought it couldn't possibly be all witches and wizards. New York has a denser than average magical population, and even for our kind it was a big tourist spot: the Abraham Peasegood Museum of Magical Sports History, Clabbert Bay Gardens, the Church of Transfiguration. Muggle attractions were quite popular, too. Quite a lot of the crowd in Radio Row was also made up of people making connections between international Portkeys. Wizards in business robes bustled past in a rush, looking harassed, and small families made their way through the Interchange with their luggage and screaming children.
It was a zoo.
Scorpius was still muttering over our travel arrangements.
“If they know you're travelling with a baby,” he grumbled, “they ought to give you a Portkey object that you can tie around the baby's finger so he doesn't have to be actively involved in the process. Like a piece of string.”
“That would've been nice,” I agreed. The one we'd gotten, an empty tin of peas, had definitely not been ideal. Trying to get Ramses to keep his finger on the Portkey the entire time was a job. And then once the Portkey activated and we couldn't let go, he screamed the whole time. Probably didn't like the feeling of travelling that way. But then really, who does?
Ramses was all cheerful again now, however, babbling incomprehensibly at everyone we passed. He seemed particularly taken with a wizard with a long braided purple beard who stood in front of us at the customs line.
On the other side of customs, a witch stood waiting, a sign in hand with Scorpius's name on it. She had extremely curly black hair and wore what might have been avant-garde witches' robes and might have been an extremely unusual Muggle dress. It was hard to tell. Her shoes were high heels that did not actually have the heels on. I wondered if they stayed up by magic. She seemed to recognize us, because she waved, her wand in her hand.
“Oh hello!” she exclaimed as we stopped in front of her. “I'm Yuvia Sandstone, I own the Maiden Launch gallery. It's so nice to meet you both. And this must be your young man, hello,” and she tickled Ramses' chin. “Welcome to New York! How was your trip?”
“It was all right, thanks,” Scorpius said, a little untruthfully I felt.
She started walking, into the flow of the crowd, talking all the while. We followed behind her, so that she was mostly talking over her shoulder to us. This didn't seem to bother her in the slightest.
“I'll take you to your hotel so you can rest up a bit. There's a gallery tour arranged for this afternoon, and then dinner at eight tomorrow, to welcome you. And the show starts on Friday - it's going to be just gorgeous, you're going to love it – so you'll have tomorrow to explore the city.”
“D'you think that's her real name?” I asked under my breath.
“Doubt it,” Scorpius murmured, his lips barely moving.
“We'll come up to the street right next to the site of the World Trade Center,” Yuvia was saying. “Radio Row used to be a Muggle district too, but it went underground in the 1960s when the city decided to build the World Trade Center on part of the old Muggle Radio Row. The wizards, of course, simply went underground. It's easy to do in New York. Half of everything's underground anyway.” She gave a tinkling laugh. Scorpius and I exchanged a glance.
When we got to street level, we found ourselves on the edge of a concrete park filled with yellow-green trees. Yuvia didn't seem at all concerned about the mass of Muggles we now found ourselves in.
“This is Zuccotti Park,” she said, and then turned to point northward. “Right over there is the World Trade Center. We're heading this way though,” and she pointed in the opposite direction, “toward the Financial District. You'll see Trinity Church in just a mo.”
I had no idea what any of those things were, but we followed her anyway. It was remarkably easy to blend in with New York Muggles. Probably they were used to occasional weirdness here. People did eyeball my pink unicorn shirt a few times though.
Yuvia was still talking as we walked, giving us a tour of the city, but I stopped listening. It was enough just to stare around at the huge buildings and the feeling of being in a wall of humanity. I'd been in Muggle London most of my life, and I hadn't expected New York to feel much different, but it did. Everything seemed loud and chaotic, and entirely new. I rather liked it, actually, but it was a bit overwhelming. The streets criss-crossed each other, jammed with taxis and cars and people shouting and swearing at one another, and the pavements were full of Muggles. The noise level was at least equal to central London, but somehow Ramses managed to fall asleep in his pram.
When we arrived at the hotel, I hadn't the faintest idea where we were. I hoped Scorpius had been paying attention. The hotel itself was quite pretty, jammed in between two buildings. It was extraordinarily narrow, maybe only ten feet wide, and shorter than its two neighbours. People passing it in the street did not seem to notice this. When we went through the door, it opened into a spacious lobby, carpeted in green, with wood panelling on the walls. I glanced around.
“Magically expanded?” Scorpius noted. He was looking around as well.
“Isn't it lovely?” Yuvia smiled fondly at the hotel. “I stayed here for a few days on my honeymoon with my third husband. Such a lovely place. Shame about the husband, but what can you do. Well, I'm off, I need to get back to work and you probably want to settle in and freshen up. I'll see you at the gallery at four. Ta!”
She bustled off, and we headed for the front desk to check in. The witch at the desk, a heavyset young woman with blonde hair in a ponytail and a cheerful face, took our names down and blinked slightly at mine.
“Weasley? Are you related to Dominique Weasley?”
I winced. Damn Dommie for becoming famous, anyway. “Yeah, she's my cousin.”
“I love her books,” the desk witch exclaimed. “I've read both of them like a hundred times. She's so amazing.”
Scorpius had to hide a snort behind his hand. He'd never been much impressed by my cousin Dominique. She'd got famous by writing a book (and then a sequel) about her failed marriage with her ex-husband. She had become a household name from it – apparently an international household name. She'd always been a bit too impressed with her own importance, but it was much worse now. I mean, she's my cousin and I love her, but she's a pretentious ass.
“Yeah, she's something.” I held out a hand for the room key, and she handed over a large and ornate iron key.
“Your room is on the fifth floor. Enjoy your stay.”
There was a welcome basket on our bed, filled with fruits and a box of chocolate biscuits. The room was rather small but nicer than I'd expected. There was a cot set up at the back of the room for Ramses. Scorpius investigated this; it seemed to meet his approval because he set Ramses in it and then stretched out full-length on the bed next to the fruit basket.
“I feel that exhausted. Travel doesn't agree with me.”
I moved the basket to the sideboard and curled up next to him. “You didn't mind travel to Majorca,” I pointed out.
“Well, that was when we weren't parents,” he said. This was an excellent point, so I didn't press further.
We woke up half an hour later to the sound of Ramses calling for me. Once his nappy was changed and he'd had a snack, we decided to head out to explore a bit before the gallery tour.
Scorpius had bought a map of New York City in a Muggle bookshop before we'd left London. It didn't show anything of magical New York, of course, but it was the best we could do for now. Scorpius pored over the pages showing lower Manhattan while I put my hair in a ponytail as best I could (humidity makes my hair frizzy, so this sometimes required a lot of hair potion).
“We're on Beaver Street. That ought to be pretty memorable. And the gallery is on Maiden Lane, over here.” He pointed at the map. “We can see Wall Street a bit and Battery Park. There's a memorial sculpture to the witches and wizards who helped with the 9/11 disaster in the plaza here, we could go have a look.”
“Does it say that in the book?” I asked in surprise.
“Course not, this is a Muggle book. Your mum told me about the memorial. Only witches and wizards can see it. There's one quite similar in Godric's Hollow, to your uncle and his parents. Looks like a war memorial to Muggles. Your mum says this one looks like a tree to Muggles. I want to see that.”
“I want to see the big Muggle statue in the river,” I told him.
He flipped a few pages. “That's not too far. It's got a name, you know.”
I hazarded a guess. “Big Muggle Statue In The River?”
Scorpius rolled his eyes. “Let's go. And remember not to talk about Muggles while we're on the street.”
Since Scorpius hardly knew anything about Muggles, I thought this was rather rich coming from him.
We set off with Ramses tucked cozily into his pram. It was a warm day, and he was quite cheerful after having a nice little nap. He cooed endearingly at passers-by, and most of them smiled back at him. It might have been deliberate, you never knew with children. He was learning at the feet of a diabolical mastermind, after all.
New York was no less confusing with a map in hand than it had been with Yuvia leading the way. Scorpius was rather better with it than I was, and we managed to find Battery Park. I got a good look at the big Muggle statue out in the river, and made Scorpius promise to take a boat ride out with me to have a closer look at it. He grumbled a lot about it, but he did agree to it. He hates boats, ever since he fell in the lake at Hogwarts first year. We spent some time watching a man dressed all in silver, with his skin painted silver as well, doing acrobatics on the pavement, and another man dressed as the big statue who posed for photographs with the Muggle tourists. I sort of wished I had a Muggle-style camera to pose with him myself.
After we left the park, we tried to find our way to the plaza with the memorial. I let Scorpius navigate, and pushed Ramses in his pram. We went up a cobblestone street that seemed rather British to me, and down a few more streets while Scorpius pointed out marble buildings that I didn't really care about and I watched the Muggles in suits walking purposefully and the tourists who were wandering like us. Most of them weren't reading aloud from a travel book, of course. Honestly, sometimes Scorpius just isn't cool.
Eventually we wound up on a corner where a large bronze statue of a bull was surrounded by tourists snapping photos and rubbing a rather personal spot on the statue. This seemed a bit much to me, but Muggles do like to do strange things sometimes.
Scorpius picked Ramses up from the pram to show him the bull, and I stood there with the empty pram looking around. There were a lot of tall buildings in a pale brick, with Muggles coming in and out of them busily. A bit further down the street I could see a narrow building of darker brick squeezed between two of the pale buildings. No one seemed to be going in or out of that one. I squinted a bit to see the name. It almost looked like Razey's.
I was about to point it out to Scorpius when someone whacked right into me, and I stumbled backward a bit. I put a hand to my shoulder, rubbing it as I regained my balance.
A feminine voice next to me said, “Oh, excuse me, I – oh, not you!”
I looked up, straight into the face of Ambrosia Heggs.
“You-” I managed, but she said, “Dammit,” loudly and then pushed past me, disappearing into the crowd.
“Did you see that?” I asked, but Scorpius and Ramses weren't paying me any attention. The two of them were busily making snuffling growls at each other now, probably imitating a bull. Scorpius obviously hadn't seen a thing.
I looked around again, but she was long gone. There were too many people on the street. It was too easy for crazy murderesses to lose themselves in this sort of crowd.
Ambrosia Heggs had been involved in a case (and by case I mean huge mess) I'd worked on back home about two years ago. She'd killed three people that I knew of for sure and probably dozens of others, framed a friend of mine for one of her murders, and destroyed my cousin Dominique's marriage. Not to mention selling drugs, extortion, forgery, and who knew what other crimes. Dominique's ex-husband was still in Azkaban because of Ambrosia. She had four aliases that I knew of, and she was completely mental.
And she'd broken my favourite wand.
“Everything all right, Rose?” Scorpius asked brightly as he settled Ramses back in his pram. “Ready to see the World Trade Center?”
“We don't have time for that now,” I exclaimed. “We have to call the Aurors.”
“Rose, shh.” He glanced around, but no one had noticed anything. “What are you talking about? I don't think the Americans call them Aurors, anyway-”
“Ambrosia Heggs!” I pointed wildly in the direction she'd gone. “I just saw her. Just now!”
Scorpius had never actually seen Ambrosia, but he craned his neck to see over the crowd. I found this extremely annoying.
“I don't see anything. And honestly, what are they going to do? She's long gone now.”
“I ought to tell them I saw her,” I fumed. “Maybe they don't know she's here. Maybe they don't know who she is.”
He didn't look as concerned as I thought he properly should be. “Yes but what can you tell them? You bumped into her on the street and then she disappeared?”
Dammit. I turned around completely, scanning the street, but she really was long gone. “I should've followed her. I might have caught her.”
Now Scorpius was starting to look alarmed. “Rose, you haven't any authority here. Even in London, you haven't any authority to go tracking her down and catching her. You're not an MLE.”
“Let's go.” I grabbed his hand and gave it a tug. “Where's the local Aurors office?”
We had to go back to the hotel to find out where the New York City magical law enforcement offices were. Turned out they called their Dark wizard-catchers Aurors after all, though the desk clerk had called them 'the feds'. The Manhattan Department of Magic was north of the area we'd been wandering in earlier that day, so at least it wasn't too far of a walk from our hotel. After rushing back to the hotel, I wasn't up for a long walk or trying to figure out Muggle transport. Scorpius came along, probably because he didn't trust me not to get in trouble without him.
The Department of Magic building was disguised as a large carpark. A sign blocking the driveway declared that there were no vacancies, and the Muggles passing it by didn't seem to notice anything. We went in the visitor's entrance, a stretch of wall under a decorative cornice that appeared solid but let us pass through as if it weren't there. I was reminded heavily of going to Platform 9 ¾, but I ignored the feeling of childishness that gave me and pressed on.
I wasn't sure I managed to impress upon the desk clerk how serious the situation was, probably because Scorpius was rolling his eyes behind my back, but she sent me up to see one of their Aurors. I made Scorpius stay in the lobby with Ramses. Served him right.
The offices were rather starker than my dad's and uncle's offices, but there was a familiar sort of air to the place. Aurors are Aurors, I supposed, even American ones. Unfortunately, these Aurors didn't know me the way the Ministry of Magic law enforcement did.
A small plaque on the door indicated I was about to speak with Reuben Jessup. His office was smaller than my dad's, and lacked the personal photographs Dad always had. There was a Quod on a bookshelf behind the desk, a hole ripped in the side from having exploded, with an illegible signature on the undamaged side.
Reuben Jessup was a tall man with a stocky build and dark curly hair cropped close to his skull. He stood when I entered the room and shook my hand.
“Please sit down, Miss Weasley. What can I help you with today?”
I took the chair opposite him, and we both sat down. I jumped right into my explanation. “I ran into someone in the street today, a very dangerous criminal I've run across before – erm, I'm a fugitive apprehension agent in England, you see – and she got away last time and obviously she's come to America now-”
Jessup's eyebrows were creeping higher and higher with every word. He interrupted me. “What is the name of this criminal? Is she a fugitive you're supposed to apprehend?”
“I never knew her real name, only her aliases,” I said. “And she's never been caught to be arrested and skip bail, so no, but-”
“So you're just reporting her presence, not bounty hunting internationally,” Jessup stated. I didn't like his habit of interrupting me.
I frowned at him. “I don't want to collect her, I only want you to do something about her. She was in the bloody street, walking round in broad daylight. She bumped right into me. She's bound to be up to something, she's a bloody nutbag.”
Jessup didn't look impressed. “I'll look into her.”
“She goes by Ambrosia Heggs. Or Mariana something. Or, um...” I tried to remember what O'Toole had called her. “Elena? Electra. Marwick, I think.” Jessup wasn't writing any of this down, so I added in annoyance, “She's dangerous, all right? She killed people with shovels. She was involved with drugs and forgery and all sorts of stuff. There'll be a file on her with the Ministry of Magic Auror office, you can request it.”
“I certainly will check into our contacts with the British Aurors,” Jessup assured me. I didn't believe him for a second. I sort of wanted to kick him, but I knew that wasn't going to get me anywhere.
“Fine,” I said, and stood up. Jessup stood as well. At least he had good manners, even if he wasn't taking me seriously. I reckoned the pink unicorn shirt didn't seem professional to a man in a dark Muggle-style suit with appropriately sober-coloured tie.
Grumbling a bit under my breath, I returned to the lobby. Scorpius raised his eyebrows when he saw my expression and said, “I told you so.”
It was nearly time for the tour of the gallery, so we went straight there. Yuvia was waiting for us, dressed in a flowing turquoise caftan and matching turban, her curls poking out to frame her face. I managed not to comment on this, and she showed us round the large, spacious gallery where Scorpius's paintings were being hung in preparation for the show. I had already seen all these paintings, and the room was otherwise completely bare, so I lost interest rather quickly. Ramses had never had any interest at all, and started to fuss.
Yuvia looked askance at my son, and Scorpius gave me a pleading look from behind her. He seemed quite pleased by the tour, probably because it was all about him, so I made a half-hearted gesture to the door and left them to it. I took Ramses outside and managed to shush him with a biscuit from my handbag. We walked down Maiden Lane a bit; I didn't want to turn off the street and get lost. A few blocks down we hit the river, and watched the ferry boats heading out for whatever was across the water from us. The river was full of other small boats carrying small groups of people or loaded with boxes, and I pointed them out to Ramses while still nursing a silent grudge against the New York Aurors.
Ramses adored boats, so we stayed at the riverfront for nearly half an hour, watching the boats, before heading back to the gallery. He particularly enjoyed the boats with sails, and one boat that had a motor at the back that left a trail of purple through the water. Scorpius was standing near the front doors, chatting amiably with Yuvia when we arrived back at the Maiden Launch. He made his goodbyes and I waved to Yuvia, trying to look cheerful. This was Scorpius's big career break, after all. I reckoned I ought to be extra nice to the woman who was making it happen.
We went to a restaurant round the corner from the gallery for dinner. The time change was starting to get to all of us. I reckoned it was about time to go to sleep – we'd been up all day and it was getting on eleven at night, London time. I wasn't used to New York hours yet. Ramses fell asleep right there at the table, facedown in a plate of chips.
“I reckon it's about time to go to sleep,” Scorpius said, smiling fondly at the baby.
I yawned loudly. “Probably ought to turn in, yeah.”
“Well, did you enjoy your first day in New York?” Scorpius asked as we set off for the hotel with Ramses sleeping soundly in his pram.
“Except for the part where I saw the woman who tried to kill me?” I said, unable to hold in the sarcasm.
“At least she didn't kidnap you again,” he said optimistically.
The hotel felt much farther away going back than it had leaving, but I blamed the Portkey lag for that. We tucked Ramses into his cot and drew the curtains to block some of the noise of the city. The city may not sleep, but I certainly needed to.
I was already in my pyjamas, sitting on the bed waiting for Scorpius to finish brushing his teeth, when there was a knock at the door.
Scorpius put his eye to the peephole and then turned to give me a weird look. “Rose...”
“Who is it?” I brushed him aside and had a look myself. Ha.
I flung the door open. Reuben Jessup stood there with another Auror beside him, both wearing somber Muggle suits and very serious expressions.
“Bet you want to listen about Ambrosia Heggs now, don't you?” I said with satisfaction.