Chapter 15 : Dammit, Rose
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My cousin Roxanne arrived on my doorstep early the next morning. Thankfully, Scorpius was already awake when she arrived and managed to shuffle Lenny into our closet again before letting Roxanne inside. Waking up to one's boyfriend stuffing one's felonious houseguest behind your robes at practically dawn is not terribly pleasant.
I threw on my favourite pink unicorn t-shirt. I had a feeling I was going to need its pretty pink cheerfulness today.
Roxanne was sitting at the kitchen table, drinking a cup of tea, when I came out. She set her cup down with a loud thunk when she saw me.
“I think I made a huge mistake.”
I sat down warily next to her. Roxanne, like most Weasleys, didn't often admit to having been mistaken about anything. “About what?” I asked cautiously, in case she was going to blame me for whatever was going on.
“I don't think Hilarion is really The One,” she said.
Oh, that. For crying out loud. Well, it didn't entirely surprise me, actually. Molly had been right all along, it seemed: Hilarion must be a twit. Roxanne, for all her crazy over him, couldn't abide stupid people. She had no patience for anyone who wasn't as smart as she was. Uncle George sometimes said she had more of Uncle Percy's genes than she did of his. If Hilarion really was a twit, Roxanne wouldn't be able to put up with him for long, no matter how good-looking he was.
Probably I shouldn't point that out to her, though. “Well, that, um-”
“I don't think he's really as smart as he pretends to be,” Roxanne blurted out.
Yeah, Molly had been right. “Most men aren't,” I told her.
Scorpius, leaning against the kitchen counter behind Roxanne, rolled his eyes at me. “Maybe he just doesn't think the way women think. Most men don't.”
“Sometimes he makes so much sense, like we just click, and then other times it's like he's a completely different person.” Roxanne didn't appear to be listening to either of us. “The other day he took me to this gorgeous little restaurant near the Arrows team pitch, and it was just so lovely – we had the best conversation – but then when we left the restaurant, it was like he just... switched off. I don't understand it.”
“Maybe he had something on his mind,” Scorpius suggested. He seemed quite interested in Roxanne's problems, to be honest. More than I was, at least. Roxanne had turned to Scorpius now and wasn't paying me any attention.
“Maybe he didn't think I was as lovely as I thought he was,” Roxanne said.
“Maybe he was just a little preoccupied and it had nothing to do with you,” Scorpius said gently.
Maybe they were both mental and I should go back to bed.
“Maybe,” Roxanne allowed. “He was so different when we left the restaurant. And then just this morning, I went to see him at his team practice, and it was like the Hilarion from the restaurant had never been there at all. He seemed a bit nervous when he saw me, to be honest,” she added.
“You should speak to him,” Scorpius told her. “Just ask him what's going on. Men don't appear to be two people at different times unless something is up. We're not that complicated, really.”
Roxanne stood then, and she seemed much more cheerful now. “I think I will, yeah.”
I stood as well, and tried to think of something to say to get rid of her so I could go back to bed. “It was nice to see you, Roxy. Sorry about Hilarion.” This was probably not the most helpful thing to say, but hey, I hadn't really contributed anything to the conversation yet, so why start now?
“Thanks Rose, this has really helped me get my head clear about a few things,” Roxanne said, and gave me a quick hug. I hugged her back and took the credit, even though it had really all been Scorpius's ideas.
“Sorry for coming over so early. I know you don't like waking up at this hour.”
I grinned at her. “It's okay. I'm going back to bed after you leave.”
Scorpius ushered her out the door. Once she was gone and the door was locked again, he leaned back against it with a relieved expression.
“That was close,” he said. “I nearly didn't get Lenny in the closet quickly enough.”
“I'm going back to bed now,” I told him.
“It's nearly half past, you might as well just get up.”
“Half past dawn is too bloody early to wake up,” I said airily, and headed back to our bedroom.
“Nine in the morning isn't dawn!” Scorpius called after me.
I evicted Lenny from the closet and went back to bed. I had nearly fallen asleep again when Scorpius banged in quite loudly and shook my shoulder. I rolled over to scold him, but the look on his face stopped me.
“This is for you,” he said, handing me a letter. “It came by your dad's owl.”
It had an official Auror seal on it. My dad never used his official seal to just send me letters. Something had gone wrong. I sat up and snatched the letter from Scorpius, who craned his neck to read over my shoulder.
Come to the Ministry immediately. Very important. Consider this an official request for your presence. Meet me in the MLE offices.
“That can't be good,” Scorpius muttered.
Whatever was going on, it definitely wasn't good if the Auror office needed me. Normally anything I did at the Ministry with Dad was unofficial. I scrambled to get dressed. Scorpius watched me worriedly.
“Tell me what's going on as soon as you can,” he said as I headed for the door.
When I arrived at the MLE lobby, there was a much larger crowd than usual for this time of morning, and most of them looked a little nervous but were bustling around as if they were very, very busy. It didn't take long to find why. My dad was standing in front of the desk where the MLE officer on duty wrote my body receipts and took custody of my felons, and where they kept the keys to the holding cells. There were two officers on duty, and Dad was shouting at both of them, with Jack Upchurch hovering by his elbow.
“You bloody well should have checked before you let her in! He's not supposed to have any effing visitors anyway!”
“But he'd already had one,” mumbled a young officer miserably. He looked as if he'd rather be anywhere else. If his age hadn't already told me he was a rookie, the fact he was arguing with my dad would have.
“That wasn't an official visitor,” said the other officer, who I remembered from my visit to Andrew as being called Stark, looking a bit embarrassed at having to explain this to the rookie.
“I didn't know that!” the rookied wailed.
I sidled up next to my dad, who looked down at me. His face was bright red. Something bad had definitely happened. Dad wasn't often quite this pissed off. I glanced at Jack, who gave me a raised eyebrow in return.
“What's going on?” I asked, and the rookie cowered a bit.
“Andrew's memory has been modified,” Dad told me. A vein was throbbing in his forehead. “He doesn't remember anything from the last three months.”
I think my jaw dropped. I know my brain felt scrambled. “You're kidding. How did... But... How?”
“These bloody morons let in a visitor.” Dad gave them a scathing look. Stark stood up a bit straighter, but the rookie looked as if he might cry. “She must have snuck in a wand.”
“Who was she?” I demanded, not sure if I should be asking Dad or the MLEs. I was a little annoyed myself. Andrew had been our best break in the case, really.
“We checked the ID after Andrew's lawyer finally turned up and reported the memory loss to us,” Dad said. “It was a fake identity. We don't know who she really is, but the name she gave was Xanthe Black.”
“Andrew's fiancée?” I asked, startled.
“You ought never have let her in,” Dad said, turning back to the MLEs. “He wasn't supposed to see anyone until he'd seen his damned lawyer.”
“But we allow spouses, and Xanthe Black-”
“There is no such person as Xanthe Black,” Dad roared.
The rookie was cowering behind the desk again. “I didn't know! She said she was his fiancée, and he's had visitors, I thought it was all right-”
Stark grabbed the rookie by the collar and forced him back into his chair, where he slumped down, looking miserable. Stark drew himself up to attention and addressed my dad. “Sir, I apologize, we had no idea she wasn't who she claimed to be, she had proper identification-”
Dad shook his head, but he seemed to have gotten his temper under control again. “It's not your fault. We only just found out it was a false identity. You wouldn't have known,” he added to the rookie, his voice turning gruff in the way it did when he was a little embarrassed by his own temper but didn't want to admit it. The rookie looked a little relieved that he wasn't being shouted at any more.
“Let's get an alert out, have the MLEs look for her,” said Jack. He pulled a notepad from his pocket and gave the rookie an encouraging nod. “Go on, Dewhurst, give us a description.”
“She was in her twenties, probably. Blonde hair, blue eyes, a little bit tanned. She was pretty. Sounded like she was from Norfolk or Suffolk.”
Oh, holy Kneazles. I thought the bottom might have dropped out of my stomach. “It can't be,” I said, and apparently I said it louder than I'd thought, because they all turned to me.
“What?” Jack asked.
“Rose?” Dad was frowning at me a bit.
“Ambrosia Heggs,” I told them.
“Oh, bloody effing hell,” Dad said, and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Don't tell me she was able to walk right into the Ministry and Obliviate our only lead.”
“Not our only lead,” I pointed out. We sort of had others. Of course, we didn't know where any of them were, but they were out there somewhere.
“The only lead we had in custody. Upchurch, go put out an alert for a woman by that description and add both aliases,” Dad added to Jack. “I don't even want to think about how many other names she might be going by.”
Jack bustled off, looking very official and efficient, and Dad turned to me. “And you, young lady, go upstairs to my office and don't move a muscle until I come for you.”
“What?” I gaped at him a little, and couldn't help feeling nervous. Had he found out something I'd done? Oh no, did he know about Lenny? “Why?”
Dad gave me an impatient look. “Rose, you were the last person to speak to Andrew before he was Obliviated. If it was this Ambrosia person who did it, and I think it's likely, then she knows damn well who you are. If Andrew told her he spoke to you...”
Oh, holy Kneazles. If Andrew had talked – and of course he probably had, because he was an idiot and thought he was talking to the new love of his life – then she might be coming after me next. With a shovel, or a Memory Charm? I didn't know, but either way, it wasn't good.
“Go up to my office,” Dad said again, but this time he reached out to ruffle my hair. “And stay there, Rosie. I'll be up shortly, and we'll figure out what to do next.”
I headed for the Auror department, thinking about Ambrosia and her shovel threats. I was almost to Dad's office when a thought occurred to me. I stopped in my tracks, and nearly bumped into a passing secretary.
Ambrosia knew damn well who I was. She probably knew where I lived. And she definitely knew I lived with Scorpius, because I'd told her so at that wandmaker's shop. Would she try to hurt him to get to me? I kind of thought she would. And if she came to our flat, she'd find Lenny there too. God only knew what she'd make of that. They would both be in danger, and I was pretty sure neither one of them could beat Ambrosia in a duel. Their only hope would be physically overpowering her, and frankly I doubted either of their pureblooded little selves would think to try Muggle duelling on her.
I tried to tell myself that this was crazy, that Ambrosia wasn't going to come to my flat, but I had to admit, I really didn't know what she might or might not do. She'd threatened to kill me with a shovel if I interfered with her plans, and I was pretty sure I was still interfering with whatever she was up to, even though I really had no idea what that was. Injuring Scorpius to punish me seemed like a more and more likely scenario the more I thought about it.
At the very least, getting him out of harm's way would keep my mind at ease (well, relatively speaking), and at worst it wouldn't hurt him to hang out somewhere aside from our flat for the day.
That meant, of course, I had to do something with Lenny.
I wasn't sure where to stash them, though. None of us had the money for a hotel. Not without making a potentially dangerous trip to Gringott's, anyway. They couldn't go just anywhere, since Lenny was a wanted criminal. Lenny was probably safest in Ministry custody at this point – and if I turned him in, I'd finally get some money and we could afford to hide Scorpius in the Leaky Cauldron for a few days.
But I wasn't so sure the Ministry was safe right now. Everything and everyone at the MLE offices was in an uproar at the moment. This was probably when Ministry security was at its tightest, of course – just after a breach. Locking the barn door after the thestrals have flown, really. Even so, I was a little uneasy about taking Lenny to them. Ambrosia had gotten to Andrew, after all.
There was only one place I knew that was safer than the Ministry. I glanced around. No one was paying me any attention, so I turned around and headed away from Dad's office, toward the Auror Apparition point.
“Rose, my goodness,” Aunt Ginny said as she opened the door. “And Scorpius, hello dear – and is that Merton Graves's son?”
“Get in, everyone,” I said, giving Scorpius and Lenny a push. Once we were all safely inside, I turned to my aunt. “Can you lock up your house? All your security?”
“What's going on, Rose?” Aunt Ginny asked, frowning at me. She turned and waved her wand at the door, though, and several locks began to turn. “Harry's upstairs-”
“Good, I'll explain soon. Can you block up your Floo connection too?” I knew that could be done; Mum had always been able to shut ours off at will at my parents' house. In their occupations, leaving access to unexpected visitors was suicidally stupid.
“Dammit, Rose,” Scorpius began, setting his rucksack down on a chair.
“I'm going to go fetch Uncle Harry,” I interrupted him.
As I dashed up the stairs, I could hear his and Aunt Ginny's bewildered voices. There had been no time for explanations at our flat; I'd just grabbed the boys and taken off. Scorpius had picked up his painting rucksack on the way out, and Lenny's guitar was still in his hands. He'd been playing it when I'd arrived.
Uncle Harry was in his study when I got upstairs. He was reading a letter, tapping his wand against his leg and looking rather annoyed and a bit worried.
He looked up when I came in, and the worry vanished when he saw me. The annoyance did not. He dropped the letter on his desk. I glanced down (I'm nosy, what can I say) and recognized my mother's handwriting immediately. Uncle Harry probably already knew everything. Mum was nothing if not efficient.
“Your mum says you disappeared.” Uncle Harry was wearing a stern expression I knew very well, having grown up around his kids. I think he still looks at James that way on a regular basis. “Ron told you to stay put, and you ran off instead. Why?”
“I have Lenny Graves downstairs,” I told him.
He regarded me in silence for a moment. “What providential timing,” he finally said in a distinctly suspicious voice. “Got a sudden hot tip, did you?”
Whatever I told him right now, he wasn't going to believe anyway, so I went for the big whopper. I wasn't about to tell him the truth, after all. “Yeah, that's it exactly. A man I met in a pub last week came across Lenny and owled me. I had to go pick him up right away.”
Uncle Harry's eyes narrowed slightly. “And you brought him here instead of to the Ministry?”
“Seemed safer. Did Mum tell you what happened to Andrew?”
“Yeah, she did. Dammit, Rose-”
Sometimes I thought 'Dammit' might actually be my first name. “I really can't explain everything.”
“Now that I believe,” Uncle Harry said tiredly. “Let me guess, is Scorpius here too?”
“Yeah. Uh-” Whoops. I forgot to fit that into the whopper. “He, um, happened to be at the pub when I picked up Lenny?”
“I think we'll all feel better if you re-think this explanation before you tell it to your parents,” Uncle Harry said.
That sounded like a good plan. “Cheers.”
We went downstairs, where Aunt Ginny was still standing in the foyer with Scorpius and Lenny. Aunt Ginny's arms were crossed tightly in front of her. Uh-oh. I was probably going to hear the infamous Your aunt Flooed me from my mother over this.
“Hey man,” Lenny said, breaking into a huge grin when he saw Uncle Harry. I'd almost forgotten the young Lenny who'd finagled an introduction to my uncle all those years ago, but the boyish grin he now turned on Harry Potter brought him suddenly back to age fifteen.
“Harry,” Aunt Ginny said sharply. “What's going on? Rose?”
“It's a bit of a long story,” Uncle Harry said, and to his credit, he didn't emphasize story. “Lenny, Scorpius, why don't you go make yourselves comfortable in the kitchen? Help yourselves to some snacks.”
They both made a beeline for the kitchen, following Uncle Harry's wave in its direction. Lenny didn't need to be told twice to snack, and Scorpius lusted after the Potters' kitchen. It made ours look pretty pathetic by comparison, I had to admit.
“You think whoever got to Andrew will be coming after Lenny?” Uncle Harry asked bluntly once the boys were gone.
“Just a gut feeling,” I said, leaving out that she'd actually be coming for me, and in doing so would have found Lenny. Maybe this was hedging a little, but I couldn't tell the Head Auror the full story. He was my godfather, my uncle, and my parents' best friend, but he was Head Auror too, and hiding Lenny had been quite illegal. I was pretty sure he had guessed already, but there was no need to confirm it to him. He might feel he had to do something about it.
“What happened to Andrew?” asked Aunt Ginny.
“Obliviated,” Uncle Harry said shortly. Aunt Ginny's eyes widened, but before she could say anything else, Uncle Harry turned back to me. “I'm going to take you back to your dad's office, and this time you really are going to stay put.”
Great, I'd spend the afternoon sitting on the ugly couch at the back of Dad's office and not hearing a thing about what was really going on. At least there was a reasonably good chance he'd have Chinese food, or some kind of wildly unhealthy sarnies. “I have to talk to Scorpius first,” I told Uncle Harry. “I didn't get a chance to explain before we came here.”
Uncle Harry glanced at his beat-up old wristwatch. “Ten minutes, Rose.”
Scorpius was in mid-bite when I came in the kitchen (leaving Aunt Ginny interrogating Uncle Harry in the hall), but when he saw me, he set his sandwich down. Lenny was still rummaging through cupboards; he'd already found several packets of crisps and a jar of dip.
“All right,” Scorpius said as I sat down next to him. “Time to explain.”
I ran him through the morning's events, from Andrew being Obliviated to my realizing Ambrosia knew where I lived. He listened quietly, picking at the bread crusts on his sandwich. I could see Lenny at the edge of my vision; his ransacking of the Potters' snack foods had slowed quite a bit. Clearly he was listening as well.
“You were probably right to bring us here, then,” Scorpius said when I finally finished. “But I think you forgot someone.”
My stomach clenched a bit. Had I endangered someone else and not realized it? “I never told Ambrosia about Victoire's involvement. She won't know about her.”
He shook his head. “Not Victoire. Lydia. Lydia does all your research for you, and she looked into Ambrosia's false identity.”
“I'm sure she's fine,” I said uneasily. “Angelo's got good wards on the shop; the amount of criminals we've gone after, he can lock it down like it was Gringott's. Even if Ambrosia did find out that Lydia was looking for her, she won't be able to get to her.”
“You should still warn her,” Scorpius said. “Send her an owl.”
“I don't have time to write it all down.” Uncle Harry had only given me ten minutes, but I could pop over to Angelo's, tell Lydia to go home and lock up well, be on her guard, that sort of thing, and be back here before Uncle Harry knew I'd gone. I stood up and gave my boyfriend a pat on the shoulder. “I'll just run over-”
Scorpius looked mildly horrified. “What? Rose, no-”
“I'll be two minutes, I promise. Maybe three.”
He followed me to the back door. He didn't look very happy with me. “Your dad's going to kill you if you run off again.”
“Only if he finds out. Cover for me with Uncle Harry.”
I slipped out the back door and darted out past the Potters' garden shed, where I knew you could safely Disapparate through their wards. Lydia was a fast listener, and I was a fast talker. I could be back before Uncle Harry noticed I was gone.
When I arrived at Angelo's, the place was quiet. Far too quiet. Angelo wasn't there (big surprise, the track was open) and neither was Lydia. O'Toole, however, was there, sitting on the couch across from Lydia's desk with a stack of body receipts in hand.
“Hi Rose,” he said when he saw me. “Looking for Lydia?”
“Yeah.” Crap, if she was out, it was going to take me more than two or three minutes. “When is she due back?”
“Should be soon.” O'Toole shrugged. “The note on her desk says she left for lunch an hour ago.”
I glanced at the note and then sat down next to O'Toole. “I guess I can wait a few minutes. Did you get that train robber?”
“Yeah. He nearly got me, though.”
We passed a pleasant couple of minutes chatting about his train robber. He made the story sound a bit funny and a lot adventurous, but it pretty much reinforced for me why I never want to fight Dino and O'Toole for the big, scary bounties. I didn't fancy going up against a wizard who was willing to rob a Muggle military train filled with soldiers and ammunition.
I finally glanced at the clock on the wall above the horrible motivational poster. If I didn't get back soon, Uncle Harry was going to kill me. Then my parents would kill me even more.
“Do me a favour, would you?” I said to O'Toole. He nodded, so I went on, “Tell Lydia to be careful, watch her back, and come talk to me as soon as she can, okay?”
“Something wrong, Rose?” he asked mildly. He didn't look worried. O'Toole never seemed to worry about much.
“Something's always wrong these days.”
I got up to leave and turned at the sound of the door opening, expecting to see Lydia finally coming back from lunch. Maybe I could still take two or three minutes to warn her.
But the woman in the doorway wasn't Lydia.
“Hello Rose,” Ambrosia Heggs said pleasantly. Her wand was in her hand.
“You,” O'Toole said, and I glanced behind me. He was on his feet now too, and from the look on his face, he'd met Ambrosia before.
“I thought you said you didn't know anyone named Ambrosia Heggs,” I exclaimed.
“I don't,” he told me. “I thought her name was Electra Marwick.”
“And yet neither of you know my real name,” Ambrosia said, and waved her wand at us.
O'Toole grabbed my arm, but I was already ducking as a jet of green magic went over our heads. He shot a Stunner at Ambrosia, but she blocked it. The spell went out the door, and I heard a crash and yell from across the street.
I crouched down behind one end of Lydia's desk, for what little protection it might have, and tried throwing a few spells at Ambrosia. Her Shield Charm was too strong, though, and I couldn't break through it.
O'Toole had a Shield Charm of his own up, and Ambrosia was working hard on knocking it down. She didn't seem to be sparing me quite as much attention. This didn't entirely surprise me. I would have considered myself less of a threat than O'Toole, too. I thought about using her distraction to Disapparate and go for help, but I didn't want to leave O'Toole alone. I wasn't much backup, but it was better than nothing.
Ambrosia was really good, but O'Toole was a tough old bastard. He'd been a bounty hunter for about thirty years and knew how to fight. He was practically an Auror, actually. He had sent so many spells at Ambrosia now that the door had splintered and come off its hinges, and her Shield Charm was flickering blue around her.
But then Ambrosia sent something that looked like purple mist at him, and O'Toole's Shield Charm dissolved. He only had time to widen his eyes in surprise before she hit him with a Stunner. O'Toole flew backward, unconscious, across the floor, and slammed into the wall.
There was a ringing silence for a moment while I stared at O'Toole, and then I looked over at Ambrosia.
She was conjuring something. A shovel formed in mid-air, then fell into her open hand. A shiver of fear went down my spine.
I didn't want to leave O'Toole alone with her, but I was thinking I should go ahead and Disapparate for help now.
“Oh Rose,” she said with a fake sigh, advancing on me. “You just couldn't listen, could you?” She swung the shovel, and I ducked down and tried to Disapparate, but she grabbed a hold of my shirt just as I felt the crushing blackness engulf me.
When I popped back into existence, I knew right away something was wrong. The pain was immediate and sharp, stabbing into my leg. For the first time in my life, I had splinched myself.
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