Chapter Two: Surprise
5th August 1978, 3:28 pm
“I’m going out for a walk,” Caradoc informed Trisha, his cloak already around his shoulders, the clasp a plain silver bar he used for such walks. “I’ll be back in a while. If anyone comes, tell them to go away and send me an owl later.”
“Yes, sir,” Trisha nodded dutifully, giving him a glance and a brainless smile from underneath her eyelashes, pausing in filing her nails. “Have a nice walk, sir.”
He didn’t reply - instead, he strode straight out of the building, pulling his hood down to cover his face, and down the spiral staircase. Before long, he was simply part of the crowd down on the ground in Knockturn Alley, another nameless, faceless cloaked wizard. As usual, he walked carefully: not too fast, not too slow. It didn’t do to stand out from the rest down here, unless you were absolutely confident you could deal with whatever was thrown your way, and, on some occasions, this included other people.
The crowd slipped past Borgin and Burkes and, as they did so, Caradoc slid away from the main group, moving down a thin, alleyway to one side. A dog barked as he went past, and he heard it receiving a kick from whoever owned it for barking for no reason. He carried on walking.
Soon he reached a flight of stairs and a carved archway. Glancing up, he could see that someone - no doubt a so-called ‘supporter’ as none of those really involved would do it - had drawn the Dark Mark over the entrance. He didn’t react, though, as he could see a trio of men hanging around by the bottom of the stairs, apparently very interested in the architectural features of the archway above him. Ignoring them, he made his way down the stairs calmly, heading around the edges of the square like all the others there.
Reaching a man leaning against the wall, a large, sealed box at his feet, Caradoc copied his pose, crossing his arms across his chest.
“Passvord?” the man asked, his voice so quiet Caradoc almost missed him speaking.
“Dijon Dragons,” he replied in a single breath, his lips barely moving. Beside him, the other man gave a nod and pushed the box towards him with a booted foot.
“Everything is in there,” he told him, indicating the box. “Everything you asked for.”
“Good,” Caradoc nodded, withdrawing a small sack from his pocket. With great care, he passed it over to the other man; unless you had money to burn, as the muggles said, revealing you had anything valuable down here was idiotic. “A pleasure to do business with you.”
“And you,” the other man seemed to smile, before pushing off the wall and stalking away, melding easily into the crowd. Before long, Caradoc had lost sight of him.
Bending down, he picked up the box, adjusting in his arms. It was a little lighter than he expected, but then he wasn’t really sure what he was expecting. The one thing he knew was that, no matter how light it was, everything would be in there. It’s in the rules: a kind of honour between thieves, so to speak.
His journey up was much easier, much smoother than his journey down. The men by the entrance were gone - probably to get drunk, he guessed - and the numbers of people wandering around had gone down. Sales witches, their wares on trays about their necks, gossiped quietly with one another, watching him as he passed, eying the box he was carrying.
Arriving back at his office, Trisha smiled at him, seemingly oblivious to the box he was holding.
“How was your walk, sir?”
“Fabulous,” he rolled his eyes. “Get back to work, Trisha.” He didn’t linger to see whether or not she obeyed - he barely gave her anything to do anyway, preferring to do most of it himself - instead, he continued on into his office.
The box was dumped on the spare chair in his room, his cloak floating of it’s own accord over to the peg by the door, and he rubbed his jaw line. Two taps of his wand on the side of the box didn’t reveal anything. Standing back against his desk - as far away as he could - he pointed his wand at it and sent the spell to open it.
A small cloud of green smoke burst out of it, accompanied by a shrill scream. If Trisha had heard anything - which he doubted - she didn’t stir. Removing his hands from over his ears, he stepped closer to it, peering inside.
Eleven velvet jewellery boxes, all bearing the insignia of a well-known manufacturer (he chuckled quietly to himself at that), lay there, packed in rows of two. Picking up the top one, he opened it and admired the necklace within. He had to admit, this particular contact really was worth every knut he charged: they were flawless, deadly replicas of the items the real shop sold. Snapping it shut, he put it to one side and began to check the others. Whilst there was honour amongst thieves, it was all too common for ‘mistakes’ to be made - something to be ‘accidentally’ left at the warehouse, something to be lost en route to Britain.
Three minutes later, he had satisfied himself that all eleven boxes contained necklaces, as they were supposed to. Packing them back in, he heaved the box over to the wall, pushing it up against it, alongside a couple of other boxes. He didn’t label them - he never labelled things on principle.
Lounging in his chair behind his desk, he pulled a piece of parchment towards himself, beginning to write a quick note to Frank. Dumbledore had wanted closer monitoring of the things coming in and out of the country, and cursed necklaces probably featured somewhere on the list of things he was interested in - and if they weren’t the Auror Office would want to know.
Halfway through writing his letter, he heard someone enter his floor of the building. Freezing, he gripped his wand under his desk, pausing in his writing to listen intently. Whoever they were, they didn’t seem too unfriendly, speaking to Trisha in a pleasant, deep voice, although he couldn’t make out the words. He couldn’t hear Trisha either, and was surprised at the idea that she’d learned how to lower her voice - she never seemed to have managed it whenever he spoke to her.
After a couple of minutes, the door slammed shut and the floor settled back into the usual silence. Getting up, he strolled over to Bertha’s owl cage, unlocking the door and offering her a treat even as he tied the letter onto her leg. All the time, he wondered who in Merlin’s name would have been calling here. His office wasn’t exactly in the Floo directory, nor on the Ministry’s list of offices. No one ever wandered in off the streets, either - this wasn’t the sort of area lost tourists wandered around in, or even lost citizens. The residual gloom put most people off entering.
Standing at the window, he paused for a minute to watch Bertha fly out of sight with the note for Frank, debating on whether or not it would be worth it to ask Trisha who had called.
“Trisha?” he asked, sticking his head out of his office. “Did someone come up just now?”
“No, sir,” she replied, blinking at him. “I thought I heard someone, but it was just Johnny from upstairs.”
Caradoc gave a single nod in response, retreating back into his office. It made sense: Johnny, the man who rented the floor above them, was always wandering up and down the stairs, occasionally barging into other floors, drunk as a skunk. This wasn’t the first time he’d dropped into his floor by accident. Frequently, he wondered why Johnny bothered renting the rooms, but had never been brave enough to ask.
For the next hour, it was a simple matter of filling in time. Business was slow at the moment: he only had a handful of clients, due to the majority of them being scared off by the Ministry’s recent tough line on black market goods, and, although the items they wanted were usually in bulk or hard to get, it wasn’t enough to make him feel swamped. He supposed it was nice: having enough time to methodically go over and check the deals you’d selected once you had finished, rather than rushing through. At least, that’s what Frank would tell him - that he was lucky to be able to take his time.
Once he’d written messages to send to two of his contacts out on the continent and appropriately sealed them, they were placed in the ‘going out’ tray on one side of his desk - he’d send them later when Bertha got back with Frank’s reply. It wouldn’t be for a while yet. Then, he checked on the items stored in the three boxes against the wall, making sure that nothing had happened to them while he’d been out. A quick flick through the bills for last month satisfied his assumption that he’d paid them all; a cursory glance at his current bank statement for his business account made sure that he had more than enough to tide himself over for the next while.
He contented himself after that with playing solitary hangman on a spare bit of parchment. It didn’t work very well, as his memory found it difficult to deliberately forget things, but it was enough to amuse him for at least ten minutes. Small things for small minds, as his mother would have said, probably accompanied with a deep, heartfelt sigh.
A tapping on the window caused his hand to jerk over the parchment, scrawling a thick black line across the stickman and gallows. Caradoc stood up and made his way over to where the owl sat on the windowsill, pecking impatiently at the glass. Bloody bird, he shook his head to himself. Opening the window, he allowed Bertha to hop over onto his arm, wincing as her talons pierced through the sleeve of his robe, and removed the letter from her leg. He had barely taken three steps towards Bertha’s cage before she gave up on him and fluttered over on her own, landing on her perch with a indignant hoot.
Not bothering to go and sit down at his desk, he cracked open the seal and unrolled the parchment, reading Frank’s reply quickly,
Thanks. Will let the others and Moody know as soon as possible. Take care.
From the rushed, scrawling handwriting he guessed that Frank and his squad weren’t having as easy a day as he was - nevertheless, he knew that his friend would have wanted the information, regardless of how busy he was at the time. He was just too thorough that way.
Glancing at his watch, he decided to finish things early - there was no point in hanging around in his office for twenty-five minutes with nothing to do, after all - and strode outside to where Trisha was hunched over her desk, scribbling on a piece of parchment. He rolled his eyes: no doubt that was something that should have been given to him last week.
“Trisha?” he asked, meeting her gaze when she glanced up at him. “You’re free to take the rest of the day off - work’s over.”
“Oh,” she seemed confused at that. “Oh. Thank you, sir.” She gave him a smile, standing up and clearing her desktop free of paper, ink and quills. In less than a minute she was gone, her cloak thrown about her shoulders, her tiny clutch bag in one hand. He blinked, surprised at the speed. Then again, he supposed it was only natural - they were at war, so it was probably normal for people to want to get home as soon as possible, to minimise the chance of being killed.
Giving a brief shake of his head, he grabbed his own cloak, checking that everything was still in the pockets, and headed out of the door, locking it firmly behind him. He knew all of the windows were locked, bolted and warded because he’d never opened them and warded them himself after getting recommendations from Dumbledore once he’d joined the Order of the Phoenix. Satisfied, he turned to go down the stairs, stepping delicately over the purple cat sleeping on the landing. Johnny would no doubt attempt to kill him should he harm the poor little mite.
On the way downstairs, he passed Mrs Piddingsly (a widow and incredibly proud of it), gave her a nod, which was briskly returned, and exited the building.
The crowd on the streets was thinning. Further up, where the faint gleam of white paint indicated Diagon Alley, was thronged with people, all trying to get out for night fell. No one wanted to be caught hanging around here after dark - that is to say, no one who wasn’t sufficiently sure about their blood status. Unknowingly, a sneer curled his upper lip briefly as he watched the alley’s day-crawlers fighting to get out; it was almost like a bar fight, only there were more women.
Biting back a smirk, he began to walk in the opposite direction to all the commotion, heading down into the network of alleys. Everyone he saw on the way was heading in the opposite direction - not an uncommon sight, really, he thought - but he ignored it. If something had happened, he would have heard the shots from his window, not to mention Johnny would definitely have know. The man had the most remarkable memory of any drunk Caradoc had ever met, and he’d met a lot of drunks.
As he rounded the corner, he heard laughter: loud, boisterous, mocking laughter, and recognised it. To one side of the street, he could see a stall-holder, her tray of goods lying on the ground, the bottles it had been holding smashed on the floor.
“I wouldn’t bother picking them up if I were you,” a man sneered, watching her scrabble on the ground. “A Muggle could probably do better.” He and his companion dissolved into an encore of their cruel cackles, and Caradoc, well aware that he could do nothing, hurried on.
It wasn’t until he was far enough away from the scene that he placed the voice - something which made him kick himself mentally - as Evan Rosier. Rosier was one of his clients and, even more to the point, a rich client. As he wandered down a deserted back alley, he wondered why Rosier was so confident in letting his voice be heard, in almost announcing his presence. It was… uncommon and those who he had seen doing it had frequently ended up lying in a gutter with their money-bag gone and their watch stolen.
He didn’t think much on it, though, filing the thought away for later, as he neared his destination. A regular, the bouncers’ glare on the back of his head didn’t bother him in the slightest, despite the fact that they were both at least six foot five and built like mountains.
Making his way inside, he squinted into the darkness, finding his way to the bar only on his prior knowledge.
“Evening, Scrimmer,” he nodded to the barkeep, who nodded back, directing a pair of clean tankards to join the others on the shelf.
“’Snot like you to be ‘ere early,” Scrimmer gave him a suspicious look. “Got fired, didja?”
“Nah,” he shook his head, forcing himself not to smirk. Being self-employed the idea that he got fired was ridiculous. Who was going to fire him? Himself? Trisha? “Just had an easy day, thank Merlin.”
Scrimmer snorted, spitting into a silver tray he kept on the bar for that purpose - some of the upper class regulars didn’t approve of spitting. Caradoc didn’t care, but found the tinkling sound of the spit hitting the tray entertaining. It advertised the man’s habit so very well.
“Lucky bugger, ain’t choo?” he returned sourly. “All my customers bin running away. Losing money ev’ry month, an’ the ren’ keeps goin’ up. Don’t know how long I’m gunna be able to keep this up.”
“I’m sure you’ll find a way,” Caradoc replied, although his tone lacked any kind of warmth or comfort. It was a simple statement of fact. He probably would, as well - some kind of mysterious benefactor would donate five hundred galleons to keep the place afloat and, while some of it would go into Scrimmer’s pocket, it would do the trick. Underworld had too many fans to just wink out.
“You want your usual?” Scrimmer addressed him briskly. “Only there’s a couple more comin’ in, ‘part from choo an’ I gotta get goin’.”
“Sure,” he shrugged, but it didn’t matter - before he’d even finished the word, the pint of Grimble’s Best was already being pulled. He placed the sickle and three knuts onto the bar, being careful to turn around with his face away from the newcomers.
Evan Rosier’s voice rang out behind him.
“A glass of Ogden’s and a room, Scrimmer,” the chink of coins was clearly audible as he tossed them onto the counter; Caradoc darted through the envious glares of some of the other clientele and claimed a table in the corner.
Taking a sip, he watched as Rosier and friend were directed into the back of the bar by Scrimmer, their two glasses of Ogden’s pushed into their hands even as he turned to his next customer. There was hardly anything suspicious in their actions, though - something which Moody would, no doubt, turn his nose up at if Caradoc ever told him - as it was common for the wealthier purebloods to get rooms for them and their friends on a regular bases. Often with… unique decorations, so to speak.
He had barely drank half his pint when he spotted a familiar-looking cloaked man striding over to the table, his own drink in hand.
“I’m surprised to see you here this early,” Augustus Rookwood commented, sliding into the seat opposite him. “Bad day?”
“Not really bad, just not much to do,” he replied with a wry smirk. “Bet you don’t get many of those in the Ministry?”
He elicited a chuckle from the older wizard. “Not so much these days, unsurprisingly. Then again, not much seems to effect my colleagues.”
“Your colleagues are a very… private group,” Caradoc agreed carefully.
Augustus snorted, putting his glass down on the table with a thunk.
“You can say that again,” he nodded, his head barely moving. “I’m not sure if most of them even know there’s war going on and I’ll be damned if they care, regardless.”
There was a shout from the bar.
“You’ll pay the damn three knuts like ev’ryone else in this bar or you’ll be out!” Scrimmer growled, glaring at the hooded man in front of him. From the watching patrons, there was a cry of ‘just pay ‘im, yer tosser!’.
Reluctantly, the man dug three knuts out of his pocket and Scrimmer hastily snatched them up.
“And good day to you, milord,” he added sarcastically, to the general applause of the bar.
Caradoc and Augustus exchanged brief, amused glances and turned back to their own beers. No one messed with Scrimmer. Everyone knew who he was, everyone respected him - in a funny, unrespectful way - and he returned the favour. Even the Death Eaters didn’t mess with him, and that said something about a man these days.
“Well, wasn’t that fun,” a quiet drawl hit their ears and Caradoc didn’t bother to look up, knowing that Adam would be right beside him.
“How long have you been here?” Augustus asked curiously, tilting his head back to get the last few drops of Grimble’s.
A shrug, and then Adam replied, “Long enough to hear bozo over there’s attempt to cheat old Scrimmer.”
Caradoc chuckled. “I wonder if he’s got enough guts to come back tomorrow night.”
“Not without an army,” Adam scoffed.
“We’ll see, Thewitt, we’ll see,” Augustus gave them both a dark, superior grin. “Now, don’t stare at him, or he’ll start something,” he warned, as Adam seemed quite transfixed on the man. Caradoc, for his part, had been watching him, it was true, but only in an attempt to guess his identity. He wasn’t getting very far. ‘Wears a black, hooded cloak’ described everyone in Knockturn Alley, day or night, winter or summer.
Both of them turned away: Augustus was a good judge of character and, obviously having survived this far through the war, it made no sense to start distrusting him now.
“How’s work?” Caradoc asked Adam quietly. The question was only really being asked out of politeness, drilled into him as a child - he had no idea what Adam actually did, other than that it was almost certainly illegal. From hints over the last few years, he’d gathered that Augustus knew - or had guessed. It was hard to tell which was which with him.
“Oh, you know, the usual,” he shrugged. “Things have quietened down at the moment, which is odd, but I’m sure it’ll pick up again soon enough.”
“Fair enough,” he nodded in agreement, taking a mouthful of Grimble’s. “Hopefully something will happen soon enough - things are getting quite boring at the moment.” Both Adam and Augustus looked at him, strange expressions on both their faces. Neither one of them said anything - and neither did he. For some reason, he found that the simple ‘what?’ he’d wanted to ask wouldn’t force it’s way out of his mouth.
“Have either of you two been reading the Daily Prophet
recently?” Augustus wanted to know after a while, in which the only sounds coming from their table had been the clunking of mugs and the slurping of beer.
“Of course,” Caradoc responded easily, placing his empty mug back down on the table.
Augustus leaned forwards, his voice lowered when he spoke. “Did you read page seven?” For someone who both looked and sounded like he was departing a great secret, it was a big disappointment to Caradoc. Read page seven? Was that it? He’d been expecting something a little more… substantial.
“No, I don’t usually read beyond page three - the rest of it tends to be trash nowadays,” Adam voiced his thoughts, eying Rookwood with a frown. “Why?”
“Nothing in particular - I just read an interesting article on that page the other day,” Augustus shrugged. “I wondered if you’d read it and your views on it if you had, that’s all. No harm that you haven’t though; most people don’t read very far into the paper.”
Despite himself, he couldn’t help but be curious as to what exactly Augustus had read on page seven of today’s issue. It seemed very odd that anything interesting or of substance had been written on page seven - they tended to be the tiny stories about the European situation, the economy and relations with magical creatures. In short, all of the things that normally would have eaten up front-page space, had there not been a war on. Nevertheless, he resolved to scan the articles on page seven when he got home - no reason not to just give them a quick glance over in case anything interesting was there.
A short moment later, Adam engaged Augustus in a conversation about International Quidditch, questioning the strength of France’s national team against that of Bulgaria, who they were to play in two days time in Lille. Half-listening to their conversation (and very firmly sticking with Adam and the superiority of France), Caradoc mused silently over their conversation topics. They never discussed the war or anyone involved in it - whether that was Voldemort or Dumbledore, the Minister or the Head Auror - or any of the events. An odd omission, perhaps, but one that worked well enough for them. Besides, he didn’t see why a person’s ideals about the world should affect their friendship with another: to him, it was irrelevant baggage and there was enough around at the moment.
“- France’s Keeper is their weakest player,” Augustus objected. “And the Bulgarians have excellent Chasers, not to mention a brilliant Seeker in Andrei Goranov.”
Caradoc chuckled quietly, chipping in with, “Their Chasers aren’t that good - they barely scored ten goals between them against Liechtenstein two weeks ago - although I’ll accept that Monfils is the weakest French player. The kid’s only nineteen, though - he’ll settle into it soon enough.”
The conversation, just like he thought Monfils would, settled down nicely into a comfortable, relaxed argument, the three of them trading blows and comments for quite some time. Augustus defended Bulgaria faithfully, whilst Caradoc and Adam piled on the pressure by finding counter-arguments to all of his and highlighting the strengths of the individual French players and their teamwork.
A glass flew across the room and smashed onto the table next to them, shards of glass flying everywhere. Attempting to shield his face - he could see the others doing the same out of the corners of his eyes - Caradoc watched as the man sitting there, slim and wiry, stood up, glaring hard at whoever had thrown the offending glass. Up at the bar, Scrimmer ignored them - fights were common and tended to improve business as, once the fight was over, everyone wanted another drink or two to forget about it.
Augustus, having drunk the situation in with a calm expression, turned to Adam and Caradoc.
“I think perhaps we should leave,” he murmured softly, draining the last of his Grimble’s Best. With a nod, Caradoc stood up with him.
“Are you coming with us?” he asked Adam, who was watching the fight - or rather, the fighting men’s pockets - with a wicked smirk.
“Oh no,” he replied cheerfully, waving them away. “You two get going - I’d hate for one of you to wet yourselves at the thought of a bar fight. I’m going to stay and watch this - looks like it’s going to be a pretty entertaining one.”
Rolling his eyes at his friend’s cheap shot, Caradoc made his way out of the bar carefully, Augustus behind him, ducking a beer mug as it flew over his head, hitting the wall with a thud. He gave a brief nod to Scrimmer, who looked up from polishing a glass to return it, and then left.
Outside, it was slightly darker than normal - being around six thirty - and starting to get a little chilly. Pulling his cloak around him, he cursed the English weather under his breath. No chance of an Indian summer this year, then.
“They’ve kicked off early,” Augustus commented idly as they both began the walk up to the entrance to the maze of alleys.
Caradoc gave a short laugh. “That’s the third time they’ve started this early in the last month. If they keep going like this it’ll be normal before too long.”
“That’s true,” the older man agreed. “I expect I’ll see you soon, then? If things aren’t busy?”
“Unless something comes up,” he shrugged slightly. “It’s been dull so far, but who knows? Something may come along and surprise me.”
Three days later, he found himself sprinting along the road to Dedalus Diggle’s house, his hood bobbing up and down on his head, threatening to come off. Ignoring it, he reached the terraced house and knocked three times on the door. He felt chilly, but it wasn’t the wind.
Dedalus - never one for much formality - let him in within seconds of his arrival, ushering him through into the lounge. Every seat was full - in fact, nearly every Order member was there: Alice and Frank sat together on the sofa, Emmeline squished beside them. Marlene had claimed one of the armchairs, Benjy the other one, Dorcas Meadowes (who had only returned the day before from a mission in Strasbourg) nodded at him from her perch on a footstool. In front of the window, Alastor Moody paced up and down.
The doorbell rang again, the chime sounding out-of-place in the silence. Dedalus darted back to get it, returning with the Prewett twins and Aberforth Dumbledore.
“Albus is on his way,” the latter said gruffly, hovering awkwardly in one corner of the room as he tried - and failed - to avoid the stares the four newcomers were giving him. Evidently they’d never met him properly before. “Minerva’s coming with him.”
No one said a word, sitting there, the tension growing ever stronger within the room. Each person was busy with their own thoughts - wondering why they’d been called, at such short notice. Wondering what had happened, who had died.
For his part, Caradoc simply closed his eyes, leaning against the wall, and began listing off all the curses he knew in his head. It helped, even if only a little.
A single ring of the bell jerked everyone’s heads towards the door and Dedalus was at it instantly, allowing the two people outside to enter.
Dumbledore swept into the room, his blue eyes grave, Minerva McGonagall following him. They didn’t remove their cloaks.
Without any warning, any preamble or prologue, he jumped straight in, telling them all:
“The Bones’ house was attacked this afternoon.”
“Oh Merlin,” Emmeline Vance whispered. “Are they alright? Edgar and Victoria and the kids? His mother?”
He gave a heavy sigh. “Edgar was unharmed as he was at work when the attack took place; Julian and Fiona were out at the playground with their mother and are, I believe, staying at their aunt’s house at the moment. However, Victoria was killed by the Death Eaters.” Emmeline’s hands flew to cover her mouth, her eyes filling with tears - she had known Victoria in school (they had been in Ravenclaw together) - that quickly spilled over. Alice moved away from Frank and pulled her into a hug, murmuring to her.
Caradoc just felt numb. He had met Victoria on a couple of previous occasions - social dinners, an Order meeting - but he couldn’t say that he had really known her. Harsh as it may seem, he could only be grateful that they hadn’t lost another. They needed the manpower and they needed Edgar himself: the information he got from the Minister as his secretary was invaluable.
As the Order sat there, muttering amongst themselves, Dedalus fetching a bottle of Firewhisky, Caradoc wondered how they would make it through, if they made it through at all. So many people had died already: Joseph Winters, Hannah Littlehaven, Atticus Merrythought, and now Victoria Bones.
Dedalus returned with the Firewhisky, pouring twenty-one glasses, a flick of his wand sending them floating over to everyone in the room. He gently reached out and grasped his automatically, jerking his stare away from the window.
Dumbledore raised his glass.
“To Victoria Bones.”
“Victoria,” they all echoed.
The last two incredible chapter images are here thanks to gleek77997 @ TDA!