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Chapter 10: Family Back-Up
It was daylight when we left the Auror building. I'd been in the interrogation room all night. Mum took us all straight back to the hotel, and stopped at the front desk to get a room for herself and Dad.
“Is the room next to yours empty?” she asked me, then without waiting for an answer, she informed the desk clerk, “We'll take the room next to my daughter's.”
Luckily for the desk clerk, the rooms on both sides of ours were empty, and my parents were duly checked into one. Mum took the key rather imperiously. I reckoned she was still full of righteous anger at her daughter being arrested (probably not at me specifically, but you never know). Dad and I followed her upstairs to the room next door to mine. Mum went in to inspect their room, and Dad hung back at the door while I went in mine.
Scorpius was sitting on the bed, watching Ramses play on the floor. He jumped to his feet when he saw me, and dashed over to seize me in a tight hold.
“You're all right! My God, Rose, when I heard you'd been arrested-”
I glanced at Dad, who shook his head. “How did you hear I'd been arrested?” I asked Scorpius.
“Your sparkly new friend came by and said she'd followed you to the pier but by the time she got there the MLEs were taking you away in handcuffs. Rose, what the hell happened? Getting arrested's a new one even for you. I was worried sick all night. I couldn't sleep for it.” Scorpius appeared to finally register the presence of my father behind me. “Oh, erm. Hi, Mr. Weasley.”
The sound of Dad's voice brought a loud screech of delight from Ramses, who had failed to notice his mummy come home. He started crawling at top speed toward the door and nearly crashed into Dad's legs. Dad scooped him up just in time and tossed him lightly into the air.
“There's my boy! Granddad missed you. Have you been a good boy? Yes you have. Yes you have.” And Dad blew a raspberry against Ramses's round little cheek.
Ramses laughed maniacally and grabbed a hunk of Dad's hair in each fist.
I could see my son had not missed me. Or he might have done, but the presence of his favourite person in the world had made him forget me completely. That often happened. When Dad was around, Ramses had eyes for no one else. Even Johnny Lupin took a backseat to Dad.
Dad pulled a sweet out of his pocket and unwrapped it for Ramses. Ramses released Dad's hair to clutch at the piece of chocolate.
“He just had a bath last night,” murmured Scorpius as Mum appeared in the doorway behind Dad.
“He'll have to have another one soon. Ron, it's six o'clock in the morning and you're giving him sweets?” Mum gazed at him ruefully.
“I'm his granddad. I'm supposed to give him things Mum and Dad won't let him have. 'S my job.” Dad tucked Ramses against him, and from another pocket pulled out a small toy flower.
Ramses reached one chocolate-smeared fist (it was now all over his face as well) and grabbed for the flower. Dad helped him blow on the flower until it blew a stream of pink and yellow bubbles. Ramses shrieked with joy.
“Ma ma ma ma ma...”
I smiled at them both. It felt almost surreal to be here watching Dad play with my baby after spending the night in lockup with the Aurors. I was glad to be shot of them, at least for now. They still thought I'd done it, or at least Jessup and Bleach did, but apparently now I had a lawyer, they didn't really have enough evidence to officially keep me in custody. Mum was amazing.
Mum was presently watching Ramses attempt to blow on the flower. Bits of chocolate mixed with his spittle. Blowing without spitting was not Ramses's forte. He was still little though. He was bound to figure it out eventually. He blew a glob of chocolate spit at Dad's chin and laughed. Dad grinned and wiped it off with his sleeve. Mum shook her head.
“I need to grab a few hours of sleep,” Scorpius said then.
“We'll take this little man with us,” Dad assured him, patting Ramses on the back. “You get some rest. Rose, come with us, we need to talk.”
“I haven't had any sleep either,” I pointed out as I followed them to the room next door. I glanced over my shoulder to see Scorpius already climbing into bed behind us. It wasn't bloody fair. I wanted a nap.
“You shouldn't have got arrested then,” Mum told me pitilessly. “We need to deal with this as soon as possible, and that means I need information. Then you can sleep.”
I flopped down onto the bed. Dad set Ramses down on the floor with the toy flower to keep him busy and sat down next to him, leaning his back against the wall. Mum set her handbag on the table, where it made a very loud thump. I eyed it warily. Mum was notorious for having unexpected Undetectable Extension Charms on things, and from what I could tell, she didn't have any other baggage with her. The handbag was bound to be tricky.
Sure enough, she reached in almost to her shoulder and rooted around in the bag. After a brief search, she pulled out a notepad and a quill, and then her reading glasses. She slid the glasses on and then opened the notepad, the quill poised in her hand.
“So,” she said. “Tell me everything, from the beginning.”
This took longer than I would have thought, partly because I wasn't used to actually telling my parents everything when they asked me to do so. Normally there were at least a few activities of questionable legality that I had to either gloss over or talk around, but this time I hadn't done anything illegal. Not that I knew of, anyway. Slightly questionable, yes, but not actually illegal. And I actually did want to tell them everything, since Mum might need to mount a legal defense for me and Dad might have some good ideas on the case.
Dad was quiet as I told them about bumping into Ambrosia, and my visits to Judge Ellery and Heckie Shanahan. He grinned a bit when I described meeting Mimi, but grew serious again when I started into the rescue of Georgia Spiker.
“Blimey, Rose,” he interrupted just when I'd got to the good bits. “You could've been killed.”
“But I wasn't,” I pointed out. “I'm fine.”
Mum was still scribbling away in her notepad without looking up, as she had been the entire time I'd been talking. She commented almost absently, “She's your daughter.”
Dad rolled his eyes and motioned me to finish talking.
I tried to pick up where I'd left off. “Well, when we brought Gee back to her mother, Anita completely changed. She wasn't all scared and timid any more, she went completely psycho. She told me she was going to kill Ambrosia. She called her Anastasia again, I don't think she's using any other aliases. Not to her fellow criminals, anyway. So I asked her to tell me about the time and location for the meeting, and she did.”
“Just like that?” Dad said.
“I think her exact words were 'Anything to stick it to that bitch Anastasia'.”
“Rose!” Mum looked up reproachfully and nodded her head at Ramses. “Watch your language.”
I sighed. “Mum, he can't understand anything I'm saying. He's not even a year old. He won't pick up any swear words, honestly. It's not like that time Dad said 'effing hell' in front of Johnny Lupin.”
“I couldn't help myself,” said Dad. “He drives me to it.”
Mum rolled her eyes at him, and he stuck out his tongue. She ignored him and went back to her notepad. “So you went to the meeting?”
I nodded. “I hid behind the crates that were loaded all over the docks, and I had a pretty good view. Ambrosia was there with a pack of goons, and then this other bloke arrived. Wore an expensive suit, looked scary, didn't speak English.”
“If you had to guess?” Dad asked.
“Russian? Serbian maybe? I don't know. It had that sort of Eastern European sound to me. He had dark hair, he was tall, a bit good-looking. Whoever he was, Anita was supposed to be there to translate, so she must speak the language. She probably knows more about him, too,” I added, since it had only just occurred to me. I should have asked her more about the other half of this meeting, but I'd been so focused on catching Ambrosia that it hadn't occurred to me to be bothered about whom Ambrosia was doing business with. “But she didn't turn up to the meeting, which I knew she wouldn't since she'd told me she wanted to leave Ambrosia twisting in the wind. Heckie Shanahan should've been there as well, he'd put a lot of work into convincing them that his way of handling the money was best, and I don't think this bloke was fully on board because when he saw Heckie wasn't there, he went completely mental. He and his goons started hexing everyone.”
Mum was frowning now. “You should have gotten out of there as quickly as possible and left it to the local MLEs or Aurors.”
“I tried to leave it to them,” I told her testily. “But they didn't want to get involved. And I tried to get the hell out of there, too. They arrested me before I got away.”
“Let me guess, you spent too long waiting to see what happened and then it was too late to Disapparate.” Mum gave me a look. I shrugged at her and tried my trustworthy smile. It had never really worked on her, though. She frowned at me.
“What did you make of their business transaction?” Dad asked. He was frowning too, but it was his thoughtful frown.
“I don't know. I didn't get a chance to see what Ambrosia was buying, everything went to hell too quickly. Must've been something dangerous. She dealt with drugs when she was in London, but she seems to be expanding her business enterprises here.”
“Hmm. What happened to Heckie Shanahan? Why didn't he show up for this meeting?”
I opened my mouth but nothing came out at first. Mum and Dad were both watching me. I didn't want to meet their gazes, so I focused on Ramses instead. He was chewing on one of the petals of the toy flower, his little round cheeks shiny with saliva.
“Because I got him killed. She must have known... that I visited him... they found his body-” I broke off and wiped my nose furiously on my sleeve, willing the tears not to come. I was not a person who cried, I wasn't. It was just that after having Ramses, the tears seemed to have forgotten that I wasn't a crier. They came anyway, these days, at the weirdest times. It was more than a little horrifying to me.
Dad was silent, and Mum got up to come sit beside me, pulling me tight up against her. I rested my head on her shoulder.
“I liked him,” I said truthfully. “I thought he was all right, for a criminal. He didn't deserve to die. They said it was blunt force trauma injury. With Ambrosia, you know what that means.”
“Shovel,” Dad muttered.
“We don't know it was Ambrosia who killed him, or why he was killed. I'll look into the details of his murder so we have the facts. Don't torture yourself over it. It may have had nothing to do with you, and even so, there was no way you could have known.” Mum gave me another squeeze and patted my back. “You were doing the best you could. Although I still think you should've left it.”
“They're not going to give you the details on an open murder investigation, Hermione,” Dad said.
“Yes, they bloody well will.”
“Language.” Dad smiled smugly at her and pointed at the baby. She stuck out her tongue.
“It was Ambrosia, I know it. She killed him. She'd been threatening to do it, he was afraid of her but afraid to run away, too. He said he was thinking of turning state's evidence, getting some kind of witness protection deal.” I sat up again, and Mum gave me a kiss on the cheek before returning to her notepad.
“I'll look into that as well, then. See if he did it. Maybe she found out he was planning to testify against her and killed him for that. It may not be your fault at all,” Mum added. “Besides, you can't be held accountable for what murderers decide to do. Let's continue where we left off. When the second group of criminals arrived on the boat, there was a fight?”
“Yes.” I remembered Ambrosia's eyes meeting mine over the dead body on the crate. “And Ambrosia saw me before she got away.”
Dad shook his head. “That's not good.”
“Really not good,” I agreed. “But she only gave me a look and then Disapparated. I was about to do the same when that MLE grabbed me.”
“And they brought you to the Aurors?”
“Yeah. They seemed sure I had something to do with the whole thing. I told them I'd only been watching. I'm a witness, not a perpetrator. Well, some of them seemed sure,” I corrected myself, remembering Hatchcock's attitude. He hadn't seemed to really believe his colleagues. “The other one not so much. He's the one who arranged the international Floo call to your office, Mum.”
“Good thing for you,” Mum said briskly. “I'll get this straightened out. They haven't a shred of evidence to prove you did anything wrong. Being bullheadedly determined to single-handedly catch bad guys on your own without training isn't illegal.”
“Yeah, or your uncle Harry would've gone to prison before we left school,” Dad put in. He and I grinned at each other, and Mum only sniffed a bit. She wasn't disapproving of Uncle Harry, although she never hesitated to let him know when she thought he was wrong about something. It was just that she didn't like Dad encouraging me.
Mum had been wanting me to quit my job for years. She'd been sure when I stopped working to have Ramses that I wouldn't go back after he was born. When I had, she had reacted with even more disapproval than before. Dad had backed me up by saying “What she's doing isn't any more dangerous than what I do, and it doesn't make me a bad parent to do it,” and that put an end to Mum actively trying to get me to quit. Now she just sniffed disapprovingly and gave us both dirty looks.
Dad didn't particularly like me being a bounty hunter either, but for him it was more because he'd hoped one of his children would follow in his footsteps and go into law enforcement. Becoming an Auror was a little more than I wanted to sign up for, and I didn't fancy being an MLE either. Too many rules, and too many hours. I liked that I could do what I wanted as a bounty hunter.
“Still, I don't like that they're so sure you're at fault,” Mum mused, tapping the end of her quill against her lip. “I'll go down there shortly and gather everything I can get from them.”
“Want me to come with you?” Dad offered. “I might get more out of them than you. Auror to Auror, you know. Might make them friendlier than you getting all lawyerly at them.”
“True. Do you think it's safe to leave Rose alone?”
I rolled my eyes, even though she seemed genuinely concerned. “Mum, I'll be fine. I'll just have a nap. I haven't slept all night.”
She didn't look reassured, and glanced back at Dad in appeal. “Ron?”
“It'll be all right for a few hours. She won't be alone, it'll be her and Scorpius. Why don't you two nap in here? Just in case someone comes looking for you in your room.” Dad picked Ramses up and scrambled to his feet. “We'll be back in two hours.”
That wasn't a bad idea. Being in the wrong house had kept me out of the clutches of a couple of serial killers a few years back. Mum and Dad headed back to the New York Auror department, and I woke Scorpius long enough to move into Mum and Dad's room. With Ramses curled up between us for his morning nap, I felt like we had a nice little bubble of safety. It was probably only my imagination, but having my parents on the job and my baby right next to me, I was able to fall asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
Dad shook me awake a few hours later, and I reached automatically for Ramses. He wasn't there. My heart jumped, and I looked up to see Mum had him sitting on a chair and was washing his face. His hair stood on end like it always did when he first woke up, and he was chattering away at her in his nonsense baby babble.
Mum always pretended she was having a conversation with him when he did this. I wasn't sure which of them enjoyed it more.
“Oh my goodness. You don't say. Wasn't that clever of you.” She paused and let Ramses babble a bit more. “Aren't you just the silliest boy in the world. I know.” And they both laughed.
“Your mum's mental,” Dad mumbled, but he winked at me.
I pushed my hair out of my face and turned to shake Scorpius awake.
After a quick shower and change of clothes, we were both feeling human again. Scorpius seemed positively chipper now that my parents were here. Probably the thought of having free babysitters. That always cheered me right up.
A few minutes later, I figured out the other reason their presence had perked him up.
“So what shall we do today? A little sightseeing?” he suggested. “I wouldn't mind another look at that statue, if you'd like to see it, Mrs. Weasley.”
“Oh yes, that would be lovely. I've always wanted to see New York. There are so many cultural sites in the city, and the magical history of the island of Manhattan is really fascinating.”
“We can have lunch down in Battery Park while we're there,” Scorpius said. “There's loads of little food trucks and such. Very Muggle.”
Mum was nodding pleasantly, but Dad looked rather distracted.
“Ron?” she prodded him. “You'd like to see the Statue of Liberty, wouldn't you?”
He looked up, a bit slowly, obviously breaking from a reverie. “The statue of what? Look, Hermione, I've been thinking-”
I had to hide my grin. Mum's brows drew together. “Ronald-”
“We need to finish taking care of this. Just because the Aurors have agreed to drop their investigation of Rose if she stays out of any further involvement in whatever the hell's going on-”
My mouth dropped open. “They did what? Mum, you didn't agree to that, did you?”
“Of course I did. The Aurors are investigating. There's no need for you to get involved.” Mum looked annoyed now. “We can go do some sightseeing, spend the day as a family-”
“Rose, it's time to let it go,” Scorpius butted in. “You were arrested! Isn't that enough? This was supposed to be a holiday.”
No wonder he was so glad to see my parents. He thought it would make me drop my investigation, just because my parents had turned up. Mum might be on his side, but Dad was on mine. I wasn't going to just drop this, even if it had got me arrested.
“I can't! I can't just let it go. The Aurors were certainly doing a bang-up job investigating, they had no idea what was going on until I told them about it.”
“They found you on that pier,” Mum said. “They must have been doing something right.”
“How did they find her on that pier? What I mean is, what drew them there? They wouldn't say. Did they get a tip-off? Why were they so sure Rose was involved and not just a bystander? I didn't like the look on that one bloke's face when we spoke to the Aurors here.” Dad ran a hand through his hair. “Something doesn't feel right. And I don't like that Ambrosia knew Rose was there. Backing off may not be enough.”
“If she sees that Rose has stopped coming after her, she has no reason to attack Rose,” Mum stated.
“I'm not so sure,” Dad said. “She's already had one run-in with Rose where she tried to kill her.”
“But first she warned her off!”
“Yeah, and it didn't stop Rose, did it?”
I wasn't so sure that had been a helpful way to phrase it, but Dad had a point. “Mum, Dad's right, even if I stop now, it's no guarantee Ambrosia won't come after me. She knows I was there. She probably knows by now that I was the reason Anita Spiker didn't show up for the meeting, and I'm betting she knows I visited the judge and Heckie Shanahan. We need to work out what she's up to and put a stop to her.”
Mum was practically vibrating with anger. “No, Rose! It's time to let it go!”
“But Mum, she saw me! She knows I'm here, she knows I'm trailing her!”
“All the more reason for you to stop!”
Ramses let out a loud wail then, and we all shut up for a moment. Mum jiggled the baby on her hip to quiet him, making shushing noises, and Scorpius watched me, his face a bit flushed. I couldn't meet his eyes; I knew he was angry but it didn't change anything. I had to finish this. I knew it, and Dad knew it. Mum probably knew it too, she just didn't want to admit it.
“What do you propose we do, then?” Mum asked. Her tone was much softer now, but it was only for the baby's sake: her eyes were still hard with anger.
Dad answered instantly. “Treat this like an investigation. Finish what Rose started. Track down the next lead.”
“And I suppose Scorpius and I will just stay here with the baby?” Mum didn't look pleased.
Dad had the grace to look uncomfortable. “Well, Hermione, you're not a field agent or anything...”
“Fine.” Mum's eyes practically snapped, but she kept her tone calm. “You two go. I expect to see both of you back before nightfall. Alive and intact.”
“Yes, Mum,” I said meekly.
“Yes, dear,” Dad said.
Mum and Scorpius returned to our room with Ramses, since his toys were in there, and probably also because she wanted to leave in a huff and it was the only way to do so.
Dad picked up Mum's notepad from the table, scanned her tiny, cramped handwriting briefly, then tore a blank page out of the back and pulled a pencil stub from his jeans pocket. I watched him scrawl a few things on the page.
foreign bad guy
I don't think they could have had more opposite note-taking styles if they tried.
“Were you able to find anything out about Heckie's murder?” I asked.
“A bit, yeah. They didn't want to tell your mum a thing, just like I told her, but she kept bullying them until they gave away a few details. They don't know why he was killed, just speculation about his criminal activities getting him in the way of the wrong people. It wasn't just the shovel to the head, either, his entire body was damaged. Dark magic. Someone cursed the hell out of him and then finished him off with a shovel to the temple. I think we both know who that was.”
I sighed and sat down in the chair next to him, curling my legs up underneath me. “Poor Heckie.”
“Money laundering's a dangerous business, especially when you're about to go to trial over it. You think the judge is involved somehow?”
“He definitely knew more than he was saying.” I remembered the look on the judge's face. “Someone killed his son to make him do something, and I'm betting it had to do with Heckie's trial.”
“Heckie's dead now. No trial. Is it worth going back there? Would the judge respond to pressure?” Dad didn't mention that he couldn't bring official pressure, but we both knew it. He didn't have any more jurisdiction in America than I did, and no political power either.
I shook my head. “He's a high-ranking judge. He's not going to tell a foreign Auror anything.”
Dad put an X next to the judge's name. “How are we going to find out more about this Russian, or wherever he's from? My best guess would be to turn up Anita Spiker and pressure her.”
“We can try, but she's probably long gone by now. They kidnapped her daughter. She didn't want anything to do with the deal between this guy and Ambrosia, she's scared of him. If I were her, I'd have skipped town already.”
“Me too,” Dad agreed. “We'll stop by her place just in case, though. This bloke, the Russian-”
“Might as well call him that until we get a name,” I said.
“The Russian must be someone in the international record if Ambrosia is doing some kind of import deal with him. I'll put in a Floo to your uncle Harry and ask him to check into it. We don't really have anything yet, but maybe he can turn something up.” Dad scribbled Floo Harry at the bottom of his list. “Know any local sources? You seem to be doing pretty well with that.”
“I met a bookie named Tanny Jack who knows a lot.”
“Good.” Dad folded up the piece of paper and stuck it back in his pocket along with the pencil stub. “Let's go visit the bookie.”