Right or wrong, this is where I belong
I've always belonged
If the truth be known, there's no place left to go
No place I can go
-Man With No Country, Flogging Molly
The wind gusted heavily, blowing cold rain right through Cosmo Graham's bones. The storm seemed to be getting worse, the heavy mist that had been hanging low over London all week now congealing into thunderclouds. The shoppers and residents of Diagon Alley were practically running to get out of the rain.
He ducked inside the doorway to the pub and cast a quick Drying Charm next to the fireplace. He could feel the heat seeping into him, warming his skin. He couldn't wait for spring. It seemed to be coming very slowly this year.
Once he was dry, he went to the bar, heading for a familiar bright ginger shock of hair. Arthur Weasley greeted him with a grin and a friendly handshake, clapping him on the shoulder as Cosmo sat down.
“How've you been, Cosmo?” Arthur asked as Cosmo signalled the bartender for a drink.
He slid onto the seat next to Arthur. “Good, good. Haven't seen you in ages. How are you? How's Molly?”
Arthur blushed at the mention of his wife, and ducked his head a bit. “Excellent. Molly's well, of course. She said to tell you hello.”
Cosmo laughed. “Married two years and still blushing? I thought you were past all that.”
“Nearly two years,” Arthur corrected him, sidestepping the question. “Nearly. What have you been up to, Cosmo?”
He shrugged. “This and that. Mostly going to work and coming home to watch the telly with my sisters. Nothing interesting.”
But of course it was interesting to Arthur, who found all thing about Muggles utterly fascinating. His friend perked up. “Tellyvision? What sort of things do you watch?”
Cosmo brushed aside his television preferences, as it seemed quite immaterial to what he had to tell his friend. “Doctor Who, mostly, and the news. There was a Muggle family killed last night, Arthur. Found dead in their home with no evidence of what killed them. The news is blaming a freak gas leak, but they didn't have gas, so I don't think that's what it was. They lived in Tinworth.”
Arthur hunched down over his drink, and Cosmo leaned in. The pub wasn't terribly busy, but one didn't discuss such things in public these days. Not without speaking very quietly, anyway. Bent low over their drinks, no one was likely to overhear them.
“Tinworth is half a wizarding town. You think it was Death Eaters?”
“The Daily Prophet
hasn't said a word, but yeah, I do.”
Arthur shook his head. “They're not reporting as much as they used to. It seems like things go around as rumours more than news reports these days. I heard Orson Witte's gone missing – do you remember him? He was Head Boy a few years ago.”
“Yes, I remember.” Orson had been two years above Cosmo at school, but Cosmo remembered his fellow Gryffindor quite well. He'd been a good young man. He'd joined Magical Law Enforcement after leaving school, and had been rising quickly from what Cosmo had heard. “No one knows what happened to him?”
“Just stopped turning up for work one day,” Arthur said quietly. “Reid said the MLEs had been by Orson's place, and it looked as if he simply disappeared. The tea kettle was filled and everything, as if he might come home at any moment. It's been six weeks. Not a trace of him.”
“That's what I think.” Arthur finished his drink, setting the empty glass on the bar.
“There's talk of a resistance, I've heard. Against You-Know-Who,” Cosmo said in a low voice. “Like there was against Grindelwald, back in the 40s.”
“Yes, I've heard that as well.” Arthur looked down at his glass.
“Thinking of joining up, are you?”
“I...” Arthur paused, rubbing his chin. “I'd like to. But I can't.”
“Molly won't let you,” Cosmo filled in for him. He knew Arthur's wife well enough to know she would put her foot down about this. She wouldn't want to see him putting himself in danger that way.
“It's not that, actually.” Arthur's blush returned suddenly, and he started to smile. “We haven't told anyone yet, but... Molly's pregnant.”
Cosmo grinned. He reached over to give Arthur's shoulder a slap. “Arthur! Congratulations, mate. That's wonderful. When will the baby come?”
“November, Molly says.”
“Well done, that man.”
Arthur chuckled. “Thanks, Cosmo.”
“So you're going to be a father. Wow. That's amazing.”
“It is, isn't it?” Arthur agreed, grinning. “Molly's hoping for a girl, of course, but I told her Weasleys only have boys. It will be a boy.”
“Wow,” Cosmo said again. “So that's why you...”
Arthur's grin started to fade. “Yes. I can't very well run off and start fighting and possibly leave my pregnant wife a widow, can I? I can't stand the thought of it. And I... I want to meet my son.”
Cosmo nodded. He didn't really understand, but he could empathize – if he had a pregnant wife at home, he wouldn't even consider joining any secret societies and fighting Dark wizards. But he didn't have a wife, or a child on the way.
“Well, I've been thinking about it, and I want to join as well.” Cosmo kept his voice low, glancing around the bar. It felt reckless to speak of it so openly, when he didn't know who might be listening, but it was hard to shake the sense that no one gave two wiggles of a wand about him. Who cared if Cosmo Graham wanted to fight Death Eaters? He was nobody. Just some bloke, barely out of school a year.
“What about your family?”
“Yeah, I've been thinking about that, too.” Cosmo fell silent as the bartender swept past and refilled their drinks. When they were alone again, he leaned toward Arthur and said in a low voice, “I'm going to try to get my mum to leave the country with my sisters. I think it would be safer for them.”
“It might be,” Arthur said. “A lot of people have left, until this is all over. Hattie's mum moved to France, you know, with her Muggle husband.”
“My mum's not going to go to France, that's for damn sure.” Her brothers had died in France in World War II, and she'd hated the country ever since. Cosmo thought it was unfair, but it didn't change his mother's views. “I might get her to go to Canada. That's what I'm hoping. It'll be safer for them than staying here. Especially if I do join up with this resistance – having Muggle family will make them a target.”
“Having any family makes them a target.”
Cosmo nodded. He wanted to join up, to fight against the bigotry and tyranny of this You-Know-Who character, but he didn't feel right doing so when it might endanger his family. Once his mother and sisters were away somewhere safe, he'd be free to risk his life in support of other Muggleborns, other Muggle families, and there would be no hostages to fate.
“You did put protective spells up over your home, didn't you?” asked Arthur.
“Yes. I think I did them right.” Cosmo ran a hand through his hair. “I've never done them before, though.”
“I'll stop by and check if you like,” offered Arthur. “I've seen my dad do them any number of times. I've already got our place enchanted with every anti-intruder charm Molly and I could think of. It's got so many spells on it, Molly's mum started calling it the Burrow. She said we were burrowed in like rabbits against a fox or something.” He smiled ruefully.
“The Burrow, eh? Good name. Very cosy. All right, yeah, if you don't mind coming by and making sure it's right. But I still want to send Mum and the girls away soon. Before things get worse.”
“You think things will get worse?”
“Don't you?” Cosmo countered.
Arthur was silent for a moment, looking down at his glass. “Yes,” he admitted finally.
Cosmo downed the last of his drink. “Anyway, my mum isn't going to want to leave. I haven't told her much about what's going on, so she doesn't even know she's in danger.”
“What are you going to do?” Arthur asked.
“I've got to get them away somehow. Whether they want to go or not.”
2 months later
Cosmo sat at the table in his mother's kitchen, adding sugar to his tea while she sorted through the post. He noticed the air mail stamp on one envelope, and as she ripped into it, he transferred his gaze to the vase of yellow roses in the centre of the table, trying to act normal. He knew where that envelope had come from, and hoped its arrival meant that his plan had worked.
“Would you look at this?” Mrs. Graham waved the long letter at her son. “I've been offered a position at a university in Canada. Isn't that funny. I didn't even apply for one.” She gave him a beady look as she planted her elbows on the table, dropping the letter in front of her. “Is there something you'd like to tell me, Cosmo?”
He picked up the letter and scanned it, breathing a sigh of relief. She'd gotten the job. It was a good job, and one she'd be very good at. He'd applied on her behalf, hoping this would solve the problem of getting her out of England without magic. But from the look on his mother's face, she was having none of it.
“Oh, Mum,” he said, sighing. “You should take the job. It'll be good for you.”
“I'm not going anywhere. This is our home. I don't want to live in Nova Scotia. Who the devil wants to live in Nova Scotia when they could be here?”
“You've never lived in Nova Scotia. You don't know what it's like,” he pointed out. “Maybe you'll love it there.”
His mother regarded him as if he were insane. “What on earth are you talking about? Why would I want to leave? I don't even want to leave London, much less England. Why should I go to Canada?”
“It's a good job-”
“I have a good job already, right here. Cosmo. Why are you doing this? Does it have to do with wizards?”
He couldn't tell her. He hadn't told her a thing. It hadn't seemed like it would do any good for her to know – if a wizard were going to kill her, there really wasn't anything she could do to stop it, and he didn't want her to live in fear. At first he'd been afraid she would stop him going back to school if she knew what was going on, but now... He was afraid he'd stop her
from living her life properly if she knew.
“Mum, just... Just take the job. It will be good for you.”
She tapped her fingernails against the table, rapping three times. “You said that already. What aren't you telling me, Cosmo? What's going on?”
“Nothing, Mum, I only think it would be a good opportunity.”
She regarded him suspiciously. He was either going to have to tell her everything, and hope he didn't have to resort to the back-up plan, or he was going to have to go straight to the back-up plan.
He rubbed his forehead with one hand, looking back down at the letter.
His mother loved London, and she was stubborn as a goat. She would never leave on her own, he could see that now, even if he were to tell her about the rising power of Dark wizards. She didn't understand, might never understand. She certainly wasn't going to let him run off to fight, with what had happened to her brothers in France. His plans of luring her away with a job in Canada had been futile from the start. It was always going to come to this... to the back-up plan.
He'd learned the spell from Reid Akins. It wasn't exactly something one learned at Hogwarts, but Reid worked as an Obliviator now on the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad, and he'd taught Cosmo the charm without question. There'd been such a look on his face when Cosmo had told him why he needed to learn it, and then he'd only said quietly, “Yes, all right.”
Cosmo set the letter down on the table and turned it so it was right side up to his mother, and then he drew his wand.
His mother frowned at him and opened her mouth to say something, and Cosmo put everything he had into the charm. “Obliviate!
… Go to Canada... Forget you ever loved London... Forget you ever knew about magic... Keep the girls safe... Don't worry about your son, he can take care of himself... Be happy... I love you, Mum...
He stowed his wand in his sleeve while she was still blinking dazedly. A few moments later, her eyes slid back into focus and she looked down at the letter.
“It... It's a wonderful opportunity, isn't it?” she said, and her voice wasn't quite normal. She sounded a little foggy, like his old grandfather had at the end of his life, when he'd started forgetting things more and more often.
“The girls will like living there,” Cosmo said firmly.
“Yes, I suppose they will,” his mum agreed. “And it will be good to get out of the city, won't it?”
“Yes.” God, he was going to miss her. All those film festivals, and brilliant discussions of books, the arguments over themes and imagery. No one could argue like his mum. No one could lecture like his mum. He'd miss his four little sisters too, annoying though they often were.
He wished he didn't have to do this, but he couldn't leave them to chance. Maybe he'd live through the war and join them in Canada.
“Will you come along? I know you're a grown man now. Out on your own.” She smiled suddenly, and reached out to caress the side of his face. “My darling boy. I'm so proud of you, you know.”
He had to take a breath to steady his voice. “I'm staying here, Mum. There are things I need to do.”
“Of course, dear. Well, this is very exciting news. I'm going to go tell your sisters.”
She went off, bellowing for the girls as she went upstairs. Cosmo put his head in his hands and swallowed hard. He had done it. She was going. They would be safe now.
He felt like crying.