It isn't pleasant to wake up with no idea where one is or how one got there. Well, once the fog had cleared, I knew who had gotten me there – the bad guys – but not how. It was pretty unnerving. The last thing I remembered was opening the door and seeing Pulford and Worthing, and suddenly I woke up here, wherever that was.
I tried to do an inventory of myself. I didn't feel any pain, just some stiffness in my arms and legs. I was sitting on a chair with my hands stuck together at the wrist with some kind of Sticking Charm, in a nondescript, nearly empty room with only one small window. No one else was in the room with me, and I couldn't see anything out the window but cloudy grey skies, so we might have been anywhere.
Well, probably not on a beach in Majorca. I bet they have blue skies.
Panic was sitting heavily in my stomach and heart as I looked around. I was in big, big trouble. Kidnapped, immobilized, and hidden away who knew where. I wanted to hyperventilate, but apparently you can't do that on purpose. I had no idea how I was going to get out of this one.
And then the panic really hit me. Johnny.
Had they taken him too? Where was he? What if he'd been left alone in my flat? He'd wander off, he was just a little boy, he had absolutely no sense of his own safety – hell, he'd tried to convince me to let him go to the park alone. Victoire and Teddy would murder me in my bed if Johnny went missing. On the other hand, no one would ever make me babysit their kid again.
My jumbled thoughts seemed to disintegrate all around me as I caught sight of a small figure coming into the room with Pulford behind him.
Oh, God. It was worse than I'd thought. The bad guys had Johnny, too. If I didn't piss them off enough to make them kill us both, he was sure to do it.
“Johnny, are you okay?” I blurted out when he got closer to me.
Johnny eyed me, and I got the impression he thought this was all my fault. It probably was, actually.
“Sit down and shut up,” Pulford said. “No talking.”
I tried to send Johnny some obey the big scary man vibes so he wouldn't do something stupid. Fortunately, he just sat down at my feet and glared at Pulford.
Pulford glared back for a second, then turned and left the room, tapping his wand against his leg as he walked. A purple spark fell on the floor, and I had a sudden vision of the gust of purple smoke in Worthing's apartment. My stomach wrenched. I really, really didn't want to die. I've never even actually been to Majorca. It's not fair. Why is my life always crap?
A new figure passed in front of the door and glanced in at me and Johnny with eyes rounded with fear. I recognized him immediately, though I'd only seen his photo. Butrus Knapper.
Oh sure, now I find him.
I could hear voices talking now. I recognized Pulford's, and the other had to be Knapper. I couldn't see either of them, but the conversation was pretty clear. They weren't troubling to keep their voices down. I was pretty sure that was a bad sign.
“He doesn't look like a Malfoy-”
“He's part Weasley. They all just look like Weasleys when they're part Weasley.”
Oh, holy Kneazles. They didn't know who Johnny was. They must have thought he was mine and Scorpius's kid. Couldn't bad guys tell we didn't have kids just by looking at our flat? Poor home maintenance and bad observational skills.
Hang on. They knew Scorpius was a Malfoy? How did they know who I lived with? Had they been looking into me?
I tried to breathe deeply, hoping to calm down. If they had done enough research to know I lived with Scorpius Malfoy, they would've known we didn't have any kids. They must not have done any kind of background check, then. So how had they found out about Scorpius?
It hit me almost instantly. Mrs. Kochel. She'd mentioned someone coming by to see us while we were evicted. I hadn't thought about it since then. It must've been Pulford or Worthing. She'd told them about me and “boyfriend”, as she called Scorpius, and they must've gotten his name from her. Great. As if it wasn't bad enough she'd evicted me, she had to go and talk crap about me too.
“Auntie Rose,” Johnny said, and my head snapped down to him. I'd forgotten he was there for a second.
“Johnny,” I whispered urgently. “You can't call me that. Just while we're here, until we get away, I need you to call me Mummy if you have to call me something.”
Johnny looked at me like I was mental. I probably was. But I had a feeling he was safer being my child than my cousin's. Whatever was keeping me alive here was keeping him alive too, I was sure of it.
“Promise me,” I added.
He gave me a look. Oh God.
“I'll buy you a pet manticore,” I said wildly.
“Nuh-uh,” Johnny muttered. “Your book says they're not allowed as pets.”
Oh crap, why hadn't Victoire ever told me he could read? He was like a little evil genius. “Okay, I'll buy you a toy manticore.”
Johnny considered this for a moment. I could hear footsteps in the other room, and tried to see around the edge of the door. My heartbeat was accelerating again. I wanted to yell at Johnny until he agreed, but this kid is as stubborn as an ox. He'd probably shriek Auntie Rose! if I tried to force him.
“Okay,” he finally conceded, and I let my breath out in relief. “But you have to buy me two.”
“Okay. Yes. However many you want. Just don't forget, okay? Try not to call me by any name, but if you do, make sure you say Mummy. Not Auntie Rose.”
“O-kay,” Johnny said, sounding annoyed.
I sat back in the chair to breathe for a minute.
“Auntie Rose,” Johnny began.
I wanted to kick him, and restrained myself with some effort. My temper was getting really frayed. If he noticed, he chose to ignore it. I'm sure he's quite accustomed to adults looking as if they want to kick him.
“Can we go home now?”
And now I felt bad. He was only a little boy. He had to be scared. Poor little guy.
“Hopefully soon, Johnny. Hopefully soon.”
He was quiet after that, and I listened to the sounds of Pulford and Knapper moving about for a little while. I wondered what they were doing out there, and if there was any possibility that Victoire would magically know where her child was and come find us. It seemed unlikely. She was probably plotting my death. Everyone else was. Plotting my death was the new black, I supposed.
The door slammed, and I jumped in my chair. Johnny started crawling forward to the doorway.
“Johnny, get back here!” I whispered frantically.
“There's a new man. The one from at your house.”
I felt my insides turn over. Worthing. “Johnny, quick, get back here!”
He scooted backward until he was sitting at my feet again, just as Worthing appeared in the doorway.
“Good evening,” he said pleasantly. Somehow the nice demeanour seemed very sinister now that I knew he was a bad guy.
“Ha,” I said triumphantly. “I knew I was right, you were an important lead.”
He ignored this. “Why isn't the child restrained?” he asked, glancing over his shoulder.
Pulford came up behind him and shrugged. “He's a kid, what's he gonna do?”
“Restrain the child, please.”
Pulford rolled his eyes, but he walked over and grabbed Johnny by the arm. Johnny tried to kick him, and Pulford jumped back, still holding Johnny's arm.
“Johnny, don't,” I said sharply.
“Listen to your mummy, kid,” Pulford said, conjuring a small chair.
Johnny sat down in the chair, looking quite angry, and Pulford cast a binding charm on his hands. For someone who dropped out of Hogwarts after O.W.L.s, he was pretty good at it.
Worthing was studying Johnny's face, and then he turned to me. I had the uneasy feeling that he was looking for similarities between us. Johnny doesn't look at all like Scorpius, of course, but he does look quite a lot like a Weasley. We were obviously related somehow, and I hope Worthing couldn't tell that it was as first cousins once removed rather than mother and son. Thank God for those overpowering Weasley genes. I really hoped they'd never seen Teddy Lupin, or they'd know Johnny wasn't Scorpius's kid.
Knapper had edge inside the room too now, watching me. His gaze flicked to his half-brother, then back to me. I was pretty sure he was just as afraid of Pulford as I was.
Worthing seemed to be in charge, though, and that scared me more.
“We have to get rid of them,” Pulford said then, and I forgot all about Knapper, and being scared of Worthing. “This is stupid.”
“You can't just kill her,” Knapper spoke up, somewhat to my surprise. He still sounded pretty scared, but I quite liked him just then. Anyone who was for not killing me was all right in my book.
“Why the hell not?” Pulford said, rounding on him.
“Don't you know who she is?” Worthing demanded.
Pulford shrugged. “Another damn Weasley. She's going to have to be cleaned, she saw too much.”
When he said cleaned, I was hoping he meant memory-wiped, but I had a feeling he had something much more permanent in mind. Come to think of it, the idea of any of these guys wiping my memory also made my blood run cold. There seemed to be no good way for this situation to go.
“That's Ron Weasley's daughter,” Knapper said.
Pulford rounded on me with an expression both enraged and shocked. “Are you joking?”
I knew I ought to say something like, My father will kill you all or You'll never get away with it or even, in my mother's voice, You just wait til your father comes home, young lady!, because that's the sort of thing they say in books and films at times likes these, but somehow nothing came out. Even my nervous babble had frozen in fear.
I tried to duck away, but Pulford grabbed my chin, forcing my face up so he could see me better. “Yeah,” he said slowly. “I can see it now. There's some Ron Weasley in that face. And his Mudblood wife, too.” He let go of me abruptly, pushing me back away from him and wiping his hand on his robes, as if touching my half-blood face had given him cooties or something. Freakin' pureblood maniac weirdos.
“I owe your father one,” Pulford said, staring at me.
“What'd he ever do to you?” Great, a bad guy with a grudge against my father. Maybe passing Johnny off as Ron Weasley's grandson wasn't such a good idea. It was working so far, though.
Pulford only stared at me some more, and then suddenly Worthing clapped his hands together loudly. I jumped at the sound. It was so odd to see him do that. He looked like my mother trying to get everyone's attention in the middle of an argument at the dinner table.
“We don't have time for this now. We have business that can't wait. Miss Weasley, don't do anything stupid. We'll deal with you later.” Worthing turned to Knapper then and eyed him distastefully. “Butrus, do you think you can manage to keep an eye on them while we move the bulky merchandise?”
Knapper nodded jerkily, and Worthing gestured at Pulford to follow them. Once they'd gone, I gave Johnny a look that hopefully he understood to mean he ought to stay quiet, and looked over at Knapper.
He was scared, clearly. He was a pretty minor criminal, just a middle-man my dad had called him, but I knew from his expression that whatever Pulford and Worthing were doing, it was much, much worse than a couple of Dark Objects.
“My wife's pissed off, isn't she,” Knapper said miserably.
“Um.” She was changing the locks, and probably going to Azkaban in his place, but I wanted him on my side, and something told me that telling him he was headed for a divorce wasn't going to be helpful. “She did help me find you. That's got to be a good sign, right?”
“I never meant to leave her behind as custodian, but I didn't have a choice.” His eyes were pleading, so I nodded that I understood.
“What's going on, Butrus?” I asked quietly. “What are they doing?”
He was quiet for a while, and I was starting to think he wasn't going to answer me when he said, “Your dad's an Auror.”
“Yeah, he is.”
“I'm going to go to Azkaban if I go before the Wizengamot,” he said next. This didn't seem to make any sense after the last statement, but I decided to roll with it. Knapper seemed to need to talk.
“It wasn't my fault. I used to just sell small stuff, you know? Old families who wanted to make sure their pasts didn't come to light. They liked me because I was discreet. I got rid of trouble for them.” Knapper sniffed. “I was doing pretty good.”
Old families? I remembered Mr. Malfoy's face when I asked him if he knew Butrus Knapper. The jerk had lied to me. I bet he'd been selling off all their leftovers from the war through Knapper.
Knapper hadn't noticed my annoyance, apparently, because he was still talking. “Then my brother told me he had some stuff for me to sell. He knew I had contacts, and that I kept things quiet. That's when it all started going downhill.”
“What did he want you to sell, Butrus?” I asked gently.
“He's been making stuff. For a while now, but he said he was expanding his business. He had a partner who was much better at the enchantments. He had real quality products now. And he did.”
I was getting a really bad feeling again. Bulky merchandise. Quality products. Multi-colored smoke coming from Pulford's chimney. I wasn't sure what was going on, but it wasn't anything good.
“Hiram was out of touch for a while, when he was married, but he and my brother were friends at school, you know? And then Balthazar said they were working together, and that's why things were going so well, and that if I got in on it, I'd be able to finally leave that damn rowhouse. Maybe Lomatia, too.”
Jeez. He was thinking about leaving his wife, but now he was worried that she was leaving him? Men are such idiots.
Knapper sniffled again, wiping his nose on his sleeve. “And then when I got picked up a few weeks ago, Balthazar panicked. He'd just been caught, too.”
“Your brother was caught by the MLEs too?” I said, unable to keep quiet. “What happened?”
“I dunno, something went bad, but he got away from them. They didn't even get a good picture of his face, so he said it didn't matter, but Hiram was pissed. Then when I got out on bail, he made me go into hiding. He said they'd find him if I kept selling, they'd look into me and find Balthazar.”
I wish. Apparently I was the only one who'd managed that. Well, technically I suppose Lydia was the only one, since I hadn't done any of the research. Just the bumbling into trouble. Wait, what did he say?
“Hang on,” I said slowly. A good picture? Oh my God. I could feel my stomach dropping into my shoes. They didn't get a good picture of him. “Is... Is your brother Venatici? The serial killer?”
“Not really,” Knapper said, looking rather uncomfortable. “They're sort of... both Venatici. Hiram and Balthazar. Hiram was using the name first, he was working over in Ireland. He said he liked the alias. Balthazar used it too, when he was tracking Muggles. And they're working together, so...”
“He's a serial killer!”
“They were only Muggles,” Knapper told me. “He never killed a witch or wizard.”
“Do you honestly believe that?” I said in disbelief. Only Muggles? I could imagine my grandfather's face if he heard that, and shuddered a bit. I didn't believe for a moment that they hadn't killed magical folk. If someone's willing to kill Muggles, they're willing to kill witches and wizards, too.
“I just want them to let me go,” Knapper said dejectedly. “I'm stuck in here. And sometimes Hiram looks at me like he wants to kill me, too.”
“He probably does,” I said peevishly. Worthing had seemed so nice, and he was working with Pulford to murder and dismember Muggles, enchanting their remains. It was horrible. He had a smile like my uncle Charlie's, and he'd used it to kill innocent people. I wanted to throw up.
I looked over at Johnny. He was watching us with wide eyes. I didn't know how much he'd understood – probably more than was good for a little boy his age to hear – but he didn't look scared. Mostly he looked tired.
“Can you let Johnny out, so he can sleep? He's so little, they need lots of sleep.” I tried to adopt the tone of voice that Victoire often used, and hoped I sounded authoritative. Like a mother would.
Knapper glanced over his shoulder, then shook his head. “I don't think that's a good idea. Worthing will kill me if something happens.”
“Not if you leave with us,” I said softly. It couldn't hurt to ask, surely? He didn't want to be there any more than I did. Maybe having an ally would make him brave enough to try to leave.
His eyes went round again. “What?”
“Help us get out of here,” I begged. “They're going to kill us. Johnny's only three years old, Butrus.”
“I can't.” He shook his head, almost frantically. “I can't, they'll catch us, and then they'll kill me. You can't Apparate out of here.”
“We could get outside, past the wards. Then we can Apparate.”
“There won't be time before they catch us, there are alarms-”
“I Apparate really fast, Butrus.”
He stared at me, and I could see the longing in his eyes. I was sure I had him, but then he turned away, his back to us, and I heard him whisper, “I can't.”
My heart sank. Johnny sighed next to me, and I looked over at him. He'd fallen asleep sitting up in his chair, his little chin lolling against his chest. I was sure I'd have a neckache if I slept like that, but small children seem almost boneless sometimes when they sleep.
I watched him sleep, hoping for a way out of this. Something to get us out of there. They hadn't killed us yet. I didn't know why, but maybe there was hope in that.
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