Chapter 27 : Calculated Risks
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Ron apparated alongside the lane running past the front of the Burrow with a pop. He stared at the ground and began to count slowly backwards as he drew his wand and raised it above his head. Four, three, two, one... Three members of the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol appeared with a pop, surrounding him. Their wands were all pointed directly at his head.
“Mr. Weasley, we have a warrant for your arrest. Drop your wand and place your hands above your head.”
Without hesitation, Ron spun into a crouch and whipped his arm downward. The spell he cast formed a ring on the cold ground, surrounding him. Before the patrol officers could fix their aim on him, a shock wave exploded outward, bucking the ground like a heavy stone dropped into a still pond. The officers shouted and cursed as they were knocked off of their feet.
Ron picked the ranking officer out based on the silver badge on his lapel. Expelliarmus. The wizard’s wand flew into Ron’s left hand. He spun around, crossing his arms in front of him as he turned. Stupefy. The stunners struck the other two simultaneously as they were struggling to right themselves and they both crumpled quietly back to the ground. The hem of Ron’s cloak whipped through the air around him as he completed his turn. He brought his wand to bear on the patrol supervisor. Incarcerous. Ropes sprang from the end of Ron’s wand like angry serpents, quickly binding the hapless wizard from head to toe. The fight was over in seconds.
He looked up the path that led to the Burrow and felt a sense of longing. Between work and Hermione’s injury, he had barely seen his parents in the weeks before he was forced into hiding. His heart wanted nothing more than to jog up the path and give his mother a hug. To make sure that his parents knew that the three of them were safe. But his mind knew otherwise. Every moment that he loitered decreased his chances of finding Rose and Octavia and increased the risk to the rest of the family.
The front door suddenly opened and his father stepped outside. Ron was sure that his parents had been in their sitting room, worrying and sipping tea. Again, he felt the urge to run up the path and be pulled into his mother’s crushing embrace. But he fought it back and simply waved towards his father. Arthur craned his neck in Ron’s direction and then slowly returned the gesture. Even through the wards and the distance, Ron thought that he could see a hint of a smile. He stooped down and took hold of the ropes binding the patrol supervisor and they both disappeared with a crack.
With the benefit of some time to take it all in, the evening’s events were gradually becoming clearer in Ron’s head. The initial shock of finding out that his daughter and granddaughter were in danger had passed, allowing him to think. He had never possessed Hermione’s ability to rapidly analyze the details of a situation or Harry’s ability to make snap decisions based on instinct, but he liked to believe that given enough time to ponder things, he could come up with alternatives that they had overlooked. At the moment, his thoughts mostly revolved around how to turn back the tide that seemed to be rising against them.
Harry did have a point. They weren’t going to win this fight by ignoring the Ministry and its laws as they did during the war. Although most of the wizarding world found the Minister’s new policies distasteful, they looked at them as merely a passing political fancy, likely to change as soon as a new Minister was elected. The Ministry’s pronouncements still carried weight, even if the institution itself was tarnished. Ron reasoned that as long as they were technically enemies of the state, the worst thing they could do was act like enemies of the state.
But Hermione was spot on that they could no longer battle the Blood Order from the shadows. It made them appear weak and allowed their adversaries to set the rules of engagement. Lady Tenabra had completely redefined the game by bringing their families into the mix, putting them instantly on the defensive. He couldn’t stop thinking about Rose and Octavia. Were they safe? Warm? Frightened out of their wits? Had somebody tucked Octavia in and read her a story before bed? The ease with which the Blood Order had turned their family into pawns illustrated the flaw in Harry’s strategy.
Now they needed a new strategy, and Ron had already worked it out in broad terms. It was time to go public with their opposition to the Minister’s carefully cultivated message of peace through appeasement and security through paranoia. Before they could begin, however, they needed to remove any leverage that the Blood Order might be able to use against them and that meant finding Rose and Octavia. It was fortunate that the need to save his daughter and granddaughter fit well with his broader strategy, because the truth of the matter was that Ron was going to get them back, no matter the cost. And he was going to see to it that Lady Tenabra paid a dear price for threatening the ones he loved.
Ron watched the man lying in front of him twitch nervously. A cold wind was blowing through his hair, and his cheeks had started to turn red from the chill. Every so often, the man would quietly say, “Hello?” or “Anybody there?” Ron stayed silent, watching him twist and strain against his bindings, waiting for the moment when he seemed most vulnerable. Finally, Ron spoke.
“Where have they taken Rose Malfoy and her daughter?”
The man jerked his head from side to side, realizing that the voice of his captor was coming from behind him. He looked panicked and began to rock back and forth, trying in vain to loosen the ropes that bound him.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Ron said calmly. He gestured with his wand, removing the man’s blindfold. The patrol supervisor yelped in terror when he realized that he lay mere inches from a precipice. The lights of London spread out before them, looking like tiny specks in the darkness from their vantage point hundreds of yards above the ground.
“Where have they taken Rose Malfoy and her daughter?”
“I.. I can’t tell you that,” the man stuttered, transfixed by the dizzying spectacle in front of him. “That’s classified information.”
“Levicorpus.” The patrol officer’s body floated into the air and over the edge of the rooftop. He took a look towards the ground and promptly vomited from the combination of vertigo and terror. Ron gave him a few moments to try to compose himself. “I’m going to ask you one more time. Where have they taken them?”
“I can’t... tell you!” the man shouted between dry heaves. “Ministerial Security... wants them. Do you have any idea what’ll happen to me if I tell you?”
Ron listened impassively as the man’s scream became quieter and lower pitched. Hermione had once told him why that happened while they were listening to the Hogwarts Express as it roared into King’s Cross. Dobble-something? He tried to recall as he turned and disapparated with a crack. An instant later, he appeared on the pavement of Canary Wharf, which was long since deserted on the cold Friday night. The screaming sounded higher pitched, and it was growing louder by the second. He decided that he really needed to learn more about muggle physics. It might prove useful.
“Arresto momentum.” The patrol supervisor’s rapid descent came to a halt mere inches above the concrete. Ron listened to the man gasp for breath as he struggled not to hyperventilate, then he reached out and grasped the ropes and they both disappeared again, only to reappear at the top of One Canada Square an instant later.
“Levicorpus.” The patrol supervisor once again floated over the edge of the skyscraper. “Do you want to see how close to the pavement we can get? Where are they?” Ron demanded.
“Please...” the man pleaded. “They’ll kill me!”
“Will they, now?” Ron replied coldly. “Liberacorpus.”
The patrol supervisor hurtled towards the ground again. Ron listened to his rapidly fading screams until they were barely audible. He turned and disapparated, reappearing at the base of the building and catching the officer just as his nose pressed against the concrete.
“They took them to the field office in Exeter!” the man shouted, twisting and contorting wildly against his bonds. “That’s where they are, I swear. Please don’t kill me! They’re in Exeter!”
Ron seized the ropes that bound the patrol supervisor and disapparated. When they reappeared, Ron was standing along a darkened side of a country lane in Devon. He vanished the other man’s bindings with a wave of his wand and allowed his body to drop to the ground.
The man scrambled to a sitting position, holding his empty palms towards Ron and looking terrified. “I have no quarrel with you,” he pleaded. “Please...”
“Put your hands down, I’m not gonna kill you,” Ron replied in exasperation. “You are on the wrong side, though. Remember that part. Obliviate.”
Moments later, Ron disappeared with a crack, leaving the confused wizard standing beside the road, wondering what had happened to his patrol.
Rose did her best to look completely nonplused as she shifted her weight in the uncomfortable, old wooden chair. As annoying as her interrogation was, she found that she was almost equally annoyed with her brother. Being arrested was frightening, humiliating and more than a little inconvenient, but her situation hardly seemed like “terrible danger.” If she had simply answered the door when Ministerial Security showed up at her flat, there was at least a chance that they would have let her call Dom to take Octavia. Instead, she had been caught trying to make her way to the Burrow, which apparently made her look enough like a criminal that the officer charged with questioning her felt the need to play “bad cop.” Rose didn’t really mind that part. The game was entertaining, at least.
“So you expect me to believe that your mother and father just disappeared from the face of the earth without giving their own children so much as a hint of where they were going or what they were planning to do?” the grumpy officer demanded.
“Well I’m sure they’re still on the face of the earth somewhere,” Rose answered airily, studying her fingernails. She did her best impression of the earnest face that Lorcan and Lysander’s mother always made just before she said something utterly preposterous. “Have you checked the whole thing?” The interrogator fixed her with an exasperated glare. “Oh, wait,” Rose added, unable to resist pushing her luck further, “maybe they used that muggle quantum tele-thingy that Xerxes the Seer was talking about. Maybe they’re on the moon!”
“Mrs. Malfoy, I’m getting really tired of asking,” he declared, leaning partway across the creaky, coffee-stained table, “so this will be the last time. Where are your parents and your uncle hiding?”
Rose did her best to stare right through him, as though she was studying her own reflection in the two-way mirror that dominated the opposite wall. “Just keep staring at my tits,” she replied blithely. “The answer must be on them somewhere.”
So far, the experience of being arrested had been a lot less awful than Rose had feared. Granted, the investigator from the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol had been grilling her for what felt like hours, although there was no way to gauge the passage of time in the cramped, windowless room. But the questions were mundane and the threats he leveled against her were too vague to inspire much fear. Over and over again, he demanded information about her family. Since she really didn’t know anything beyond what was already widely known, she wasn’t overly concerned with his questions. She reasoned that sooner or later, they would get tired of her relentless snark and let her go.
The officer rose from his chair and stormed towards the door. “Go ahead, Mrs. Malfoy. Keep treating this like it’s all a big joke. We’ll see how funny you find it when they show up with the Veritaserum.”
“Veritaserum is illegal, shithead!” she shouted at the door as it slammed shut behind him.
Rose was almost certain about Veritaserum. She seemed to recall her father grumbling to her mother about not being able to use it on several occasions. It really wouldn’t matter, anyway. All they would find out was the truth. Her parents and her uncle had disappeared without sharing so much as in inkling of their destination with her. Although she understood exactly why, it still hurt a little. It made her feel like they didn’t trust her to keep her mouth shut. Don’t be stupid, Rose. They did it for your own good.
There was a soft knock at the door, and a moment later Jade Corner slipped into the room. “Hi, Rose,” she said quietly, sitting down. “I hope Jameson wasn’t too hard on you. It’s just that we’re getting a lot of heat from London and we’re trying really hard to show them that you’re cooperating with us.”
Rose stared at the younger woman with a mix of amusement and disbelief. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Jade, but you really need to work on this good cop/bad cop routine.”
Jade let an embarrassed grin cross her face. “It couldn’t hurt to try, I suppose. Would you like some tea? Maybe a snack?”
“What I really want,” Rose replied, stretching and trying to suppress a yawn, “is to know where my daughter is. It’s way past her bedtime. Did they let my grandparents come and pick her up yet?”
“Not yet,” Jade answered with a sympathetic frown. “We’re waiting to get permission from London. Octavia is asleep on a couch in the briefing room. I was telling her about the time that your cousin Lily turned all of the laundry in the school red and gold on the night before the Gryffindor-Slytherin Quidditch match and she fell asleep listening.”
Rose grinned conspiratorially at the memory. Lily was the one who had gotten caught for that prank, but she was far from the only one involved. The house elves had been apoplectic. The momentary reverie quickly passed and her mood darkened again.
“Jade,” she asked quietly. “Is my brother in some sort of trouble?” She paused for a moment and stared at the floor. “I just want to know that he’s alright.”
“I don’t know,” Jade replied honestly. “We don’t hear much out here in the field. Especially since the Minister started making all of these changes. Most of the time, we find out what’s going on inside the Ministry the same way you do, in the Prophet.”
Rose fretted to herself. Hugo’s message didn’t say where he was or whether he was safe. For all she knew, he was also in custody. Or worse.
Suddenly the two witches heard a loud bang coming from outside the interrogation room. Jade looked alarmed, and drew her wand as she stood and moved toward the door. “Stay here.”
“Jade, what’s going on?” Rose asked as a sick feeling settled into her empty stomach. “Octavia is out there!”
“I don’t know,” Jade whispered. Two more loud bangs sounded from outside. Jade opened the door just a crack and peered out. She barely had time to let out a yelp before the entire side of the door exploded in her face. Jade’s limp, bloody body crashed into the table, driving it into Rose’s midsection and knocking the breath out of her. Jade’s wand went spinning past Rose and she made a weak grab at it before it fell off of the edge of the table and onto the floor.
Rose looked up just in time to see a heavy-set wizard in a black, hooded cloak and a skull-shaped mask stomp into the room. She raised her arms to protect herself, but a spell caught her squarely in the chest and the world went black.
It occurred to Hermione that perhaps frustration, isolation and cabin fever were getting to her. The instant that Harry reappeared in the corner of the attic, her wand reflexively snapped into her hand and she leveled it at him over top of Susan’s sleeping body.
“Hey, hey,” Harry said nervously, raising his empty palm towards her. “Fidelius charm, remember? Nothing to worry about.”
Hermione lowered her wand with a sigh as Harry stepped further into the room. He was carrying a large, leather satchel that tinkled with the muffled sound of dozens of glass vials clinking against one another every time he moved. A second later, Esme reappeared and joined Harry. “You would ‘ave been proud of ‘im,” she declared. “The closest ‘e came to acting noble was when ‘e tried to repair the window before we left the apothecary.”
“I could have covered up the wand traces, you know,” Harry replied, causing Esme to roll her eyes.
Hermione’s wand arm involuntarily jerked again as a third person suddenly appeared. She stared hard at the vaguely familiar-looking man in the corner. “Terry, is that you?”
“Yeah,” he answered with a sigh. “I’ve been using polyjuice non-stop for a couple of weeks. I hope I didn’t do anything permanent.”
Hermione took the leather satchel from Harry and began to sort through its contents. She recognized several potions that Susan would need as soon as she woke up. “Who have you been?” she asked absently.
Hermione screwed up her face. “My condolences. So Ron and Harry tell me that you found something important?”
“Several things, actually,” Terry replied. He slipped a rucksack off of his shoulder and shed McNair’s cloak, then conjured a chair for himself near Susan’s trolley. “First, I have some bad news. The Blood Order has control of the Minister. Tenabra was parading him around their meeting place tonight. It almost seemed like he was imperiused, but something was off. He was too lucid and he couldn’t stand on one foot very well when she ordered him to.”
Harry and Hermione frowned, but Esme’s face lit up in response to Terry’s revelation. “Do you ‘ave a memory of these events that I may borrow? The French Aurors will be in your debt.”
“As far as I’m concerned, you can take every memory I have from the past two weeks,” Terry responded grimly. “I’d sleep better.”
Esme quickly conjured a glass vial and took a step towards Terry, but Harry caught her by the elbow. “Before we go looting Terry’s head, is there anything else in there that we should know?”
“Let’s see,” Terry replied. “Tenabra killed Rowle for letting Susan, Al and Hugo get away. Or rather she had her pet lunatic Gamp do it. He’s her main enforcer and he’s completely lost the plot. Feates Rosier is the new head of Ministerial Security, at least until he messes up and she decides to kill him, too. And their headquarters is in an abandoned muggle warehouse in a bad part of London. She has a secret room in the rafters that her minions don’t know about. That’s where I found these.”
Terry reached into the rucksack and pulled out something wrapped in a handkerchief. He sat the bundle on Hermione’s lap and waved his wand over it, unable to conceal a grin. The contents suddenly erupted into a pile of musty file folders, eliciting a startled yelp from Hermione.
Terry almost doubled over with laughter. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he gasped, struggling for breath as she glared at him. “It’s just that you’re the first person I’ve been able to laugh at in two weeks without getting killed.”
“Don’t assume too much,” Hermione replied crossly. Her frown quickly melted away as she opened the top folder and immediately recognized the contents. “Terry, are these...”
“Yeah, they look like the originals. They were in a cabinet in her secret room.”
“These can probably fill in a lot of gaps for us,” Hermione said to Harry, rolling across the room to set the pile on the small desk near the stove.
Esme was once again setting her sights on Terry’s temple with her wand drawn. “There’s one more thing before this lovely lady starts to drain my brain,” Terry said, tilting his head slightly away from her. He reached into the depths of the rucksack and Hermione noticed him flinch slightly. He pulled out a blackened leather tome and handed it to her. As soon as it touched her fingers, she could feel the darkness lurking within.
Hermione mentally translated the runes on the cover and her heart caught in her throat. “This is the book,” she said softly.
Terry nodded slowly, giving her a weak smile. “I don’t know whether Ron will agree, but to me, that was worth blowing my cover for.”
“This is the one that was missing from the Minister’s library?” Harry asked. Terry and Hermione both nodded. “Alright, then,” Harry replied, swallowing noticeably.
Hermione could instantly tell that something was bothering him. She and Ron had known for a long time that Harry could sense things that most witches and wizards weren’t able to feel, like the boundaries of wards. She studied the lines of his face, searching for hints, but Esme interrupted her contemplation with an impatient huff. “Now, Mr. Boot, without further ado,” she said, grabbing Terry by his collar.
Hermione ran her fingers over the runes burned into the book’s cover while Esme expertly extracted Terry’s memories of the Blood Order gathering. It felt perverse to be so hopeful about something that seemed to exude evil. She was certain that the book contained unimaginable horrors, yet it might also hold the secret to restoring her body. With great effort, she forced herself to set it on the desk and go back to sorting Susan’s potions.
Esme drained a silvery memory from the tip of her wand into the vial and corked it. “When Dauzat sees this,” she pronounced confidently, “we will have the French Aurors solidly on our side.”
Esme’s use of the words “we” and “our” did not escape Hermione’s notice. Based on the subtle change in his body language, she guessed that Harry hadn’t missed it, either. Hermione had become fond of the fiery French Auror, and she felt sure that Esme wanted to see the Blood Order stopped before more people got hurt, but Esme’s attitude towards Harry had changed since they came back from France. The little flashes of annoyance in her eyes were far less common, and a couple of times Hermione had caught her staring at Harry in a way that suggested more than just a collegial interest.
A silvery streak passed through the window and reformed into Ron’s terrier patronus at Harry’s feet. “Harry, come to the Exeter MLE field office right away. Rose and Octavia were here, but they’re gone now. Something really bad has happened.”
Hermione felt her breath catch in her throat. Tears welled in the corners of her eyes and she tried to fight them back with a quick, deep breath. She realized that Harry was staring at her. “Just go,” she said, clenching her jaw. “All of you,” she added, answering Esme’s question before she could ask it. “Go help Ron. I’ll be fine here with Susan.”
Harry dropped a kiss on top of Hermione’s head and then he, Esme and Terry all hustled to the portal, disappearing one by one. Hermione roughly pulled a vial of thick, green liquid from Harry’s satchel and rolled to the side of Susan’s trolley, willing herself to focus on the task at hand. She lifted the edge of the linens covering Susan and carefully eased the dressing away from the wound. Conjuring a clean cloth, she began to gently dab the green potion all around Susan’s curse-blackened skin. The delicacy and precision required to apply it correctly helped to calm her swirling thoughts and emotions. When she was done, she applied a new dressing and vanished the old one before gently covering Susan and tucking the linens in.
Hermione rolled back across the room to the desk and picked up the top folder. It contained the Auror crime scene report from the jail cell where Edwin Stoops died, and she quickly found a couple of documents that were missing from the copy she’d been working on. As hard as she tried to continue parsing through the file, her heart just wasn’t in it. She couldn’t shake the image of Rosie and Octavia huddling in terror, wondering why she hadn’t come to save them. Her injured body had become her personal prison, trapping her with a certainty that walls and bars could never achieve.
Next to the pile of folders, Journey into the Depths of a Dark and Angry Soul seemed to call out, tantalizing her with the secrets it might contain. She sighed and stuffed the Auror field reports back into their folder. Taking the ancient book onto her lap, she had the strangest sensation, as though she could sense its power even through the unfeeling nerves of her paralyzed legs. She rolled across the room and settled in beside the trolley, where she could quickly administer more potions as soon as Susan woke. Then Hermione opened the blackened leather cover and began to translate the ancient runes in her head.
As the sun rose over the village of Seine on Saturday morning, Hugo sat on the white marble steps leading down from the patio of the Delacours’ summer home and picked at a loose thread on the knee of his pajama bottoms. Fiona and Amelie were still sleeping. His baby daughter had been restless for most of the night after their frantic escape from Britain, and he expected that neither of them would wake for a long time. Staring down the hill towards the river, he wanted nothing more than to climb into bed beside them and hide from the world, but he knew that he wouldn’t be able to sleep. Not until he knew that Rose and Octavia were safe.
He started as somebody reached over his shoulder with a steaming cup of coffee. He turned around to find Al holding it. “Morning,” Hugo said glumly, taking the cup from his cousin.
Al let out a long yawn. “I couldn’t sleep, either. Still too wound up from yesterday.”
“Yeah, well at least everyone you were responsible for made it here safely,” Hugo replied bitterly. He took a long sip of his coffee and resumed his brooding.
Al let the silence linger for a minute or so before responding. “It doesn’t sound like there was anything you could have done. They had you trapped with anti-apparition jinxes and they broke down your door. What else were you supposed to do?”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Hugo snorted, not turning around to face his cousin.
“Merlin, Hugo, stop beating yourself up. If you hadn’t nicked that portkey, they would have got us before we even made it out of the Ministry and nobody would have escaped.”
Hugo turned and gave his cousin a surly glare. “Sod off, Al. Unless I’m mistaken, Lily is safe somewhere with Uncle George.”
Al couldn’t keep the hostility out of his voice. “You think I’m any less worried because it’s Rose and not Lily? News flash, you git, Rose and I grew up together, we went through school together and she’s married to my best mate. So don’t sit there and act like you have some monopoly on worrying about her.”
“She’s not your sister.”
“Well she might as well be!”
Al and Hugo continued to stare murderously at one another until Al finally turned and stormed back into the house. It was just as well, from Hugo’s point of view. Al’s presence was the ultimate reminder of how badly he had cocked things up back home. The events of the previous evening played over and over in his head. If only he’d been able to make Fiona understand how much danger they were really in. If only he’d been able to get her to move faster. If only they’d had another way to get out of the house. The what-if’s were endless.
Hugo’s silent torment was interrupted by a loud pop as Scorpius apparated in the yard next to the patio. “Hugo! What’s going on? Where’s Rose?”
“We don’t know,” Hugo growled from the steps, refusing to look up from his coffee.
“What the hell do you mean you don’t know?” Scorpius snapped, staring at his brother-in-law in disbelief.
“I mean We. Don’t. Know,” Hugo retorted angrily. “She didn’t make it out of Britain with the rest of us. I sent mum a patronus and I haven’t heard anything back. I’m sure everyone is going barmy looking for her.” And we’ll be the last ones to hear about it when they find her, he thought bitterly.
They both heard the soft creak of the patio door as Al came back outside. Before Al could say a word, Scorpius had bounded up the patio steps past Hugo. “Al, I’m freaking out here. What the hell is going on?”
“The Minister issued warrants for our arrest. He apparently thought it would be a good way to get to our parents. Hugo, Fiona, Teddy, Victoire, Jenny and I all made it here, but Rose is still in Britain somewhere.” Al paused for a moment, letting the explanation sink in. “What are you doing here? I thought you were in the States?”
“I got a message from Rose’s mum a few hours ago,” Scorpius replied, looking somewhere between confused and distraught. “It was around ten o’clock at night in Phoenix. James talked to the owner of the San Antonio Firebrands and he called in a favor at the American Ministry and got me a portkey to Paris.” Scorpius’s expression had changed to one of irritation. “But why did she tell me to come me here if Rose is still in Britain?”
“Probably because they don’t want to have to worry about anyone else being in danger,” Al answered, trying to put the best spin on the situation.
“Translation: they don’t trust you, either,” Hugo added with a mirthless chuckle.
Scorpius looked back towards Al. His voice became very soft. “Octavia?”
Al closed the short distance between himself and Scorpius, holding out another cup of coffee. He shook his head gravely.
Scorpius accepted the cup, but stared at the contents as though he didn’t recognize them. The surface of the coffee rippled and splashed as his hands shook. “I have to find them,” he mumbled. He gave Al a desperate look. “We have to get back to Britain, right now.”
“We can’t!” Hugo bit out, looking up through eyes filled with bitter rage. “We’re wanted by the bloody Ministry. They’re guarding all the international arrival points. They’re not allowing international portkeys without...”
“I don’t care, Hugo!” Scorpius shot back, cutting him off. “I’ll bloody swim if I have to, but I’m not just going to sit here on my arse while my wife and daughter are Merlin knows where.”
Scorpius turned and faced away from the patio. He ran his hand through his platinum hair, a mannerism that he had picked up from Al somewhere along the way. All three men jumped as another loud pop echoed off of the windows lining the back of the stately house. Fleur Weasley stood in the grass near where Scorpius had appeared. Her long, silvery hair tumbled down over her shoulders as she placed her hands on her knees and took several deep breaths. She seemed to be struggling a bit to find her bearings.
“Aunt Fleur, are you alright?” Al called from the patio.
She gradually righted herself and gave the three of them her signature, glowing smile. “Yes, my dear. Thank you for asking.” She started to walk towards them.
“Where did you come from?” Scorpius asked, not able to muster any pleasantries. “Did they chase you out of Britain, too?”
“Oh, no,” Fleur replied, coming to a stop next to Scorpius and reaching out to straighten the collar of his shirt. “At least not yet. I ‘eard from Molly that your parents had sent you ‘ere, so I thought I would check and make sure that you ‘ave found everything that you need.”
Hugo studied her hands, forgetting his surly mood for a moment. “How did you get a portkey with the Ministry all bollocksed up?”
“I do not ‘ave a portkey,” she replied casually.
“You apparated from England?” Al asked, unable to keep the disbelief out of his voice?
“Yes,” Fleur replied, smoothing several errant strands of her silvery-white hair.
“How?” Hugo blurted out. “I read that even Voldemort didn’t apparate from Britain to the continent.”
Fleur gave them a knowing smile and summoned a chair from the garden shed to the patio. “During the war, your Uncle Bill was sent on many missions for the Order. Sometimes, ‘e would be gone for days at a time. Although I love Molly and Arthur, their company can be a bit much at times, especially when Molly is worried for ‘er children. A girl can only eat so much,” she chuckled softly, running her hand over her stomach.
“So one day, I decided that I ‘ad to get away for a while. I stood in the orchard, thought very ‘ard about Cherbourg, and soon I was back on my native soil,” she explained matter-of-factly. “As I am sure you remember from your lessons, the first ‘D’ stands for determination. And I was determined not to gain another ounce from your grandmother’s cooking.”
Al grinned at his aunt’s story, but Scorpius and Hugo continued to look exceedingly grim. “I take it all is not well with the two of you?” Fleur asked bluntly.
Hugo didn’t look up. “Aunt Fleur, before you left, did you hear anything about Rose?”
Fleur looked at him sympathetically. “Molly told me that she and Octavia are missing. I am sure that your father and uncle are searching day and night, but Bill and I ‘ave not spoken to either of them. I am sorry.”
Scorpius gradually raised his chin until he was staring directly into her eyes. Hugo had never seen the particular look on his face before. Scratch that, there was one time. The time when Scorpius showed up at their house and dueled with their father in the front yard while shouting a heartfelt marriage proposal to Rose. Somehow, the skinny, spoiled rich kid who had barely eked out an Acceptable in Defense managed to hold his own with a fully trained Auror until Rose had come running out of the house and flung herself into his arms. For his part, their father had tried to figure out a way to keep dueling. Fortunately, Hugo’s mum had put him in a bodybind curse until he came to his senses.
“Teach me how to apparate to England,” Scorpius said quietly. “Please.”
Fleur shrugged her shoulders slightly and smiled. “You ‘ave already passed your test. There is nothing I need to teach you. It is simply a matter of whether you are determined.”
Scorpius nodded gravely, but Al looked unconvinced. “Wait a minute, guys. Let’s think about this for a minute. Even if we could do this without splinching ourselves, Dad and the others sent us here for a reason. If we go back and get caught, they’ll be furious.” He paused, and his eyes grew slightly larger as another thought dawned on him. “Nanna will go spare...”
Fleur gave them an amused look. “Did I ever tell any of you about the ‘appiest day of my marriage to your Uncle Bill?” Al and Hugo shook their heads while Scorpius continued to stare at her.
“Obviously there was the day we were married, and the births of our children,” she answered as her face practically glowed. “But the day that really made me the ‘appiest in the long run was the day that I learned to listen to your grandmother, nod my ‘ead and smile sweetly, and then do what I damn well pleased.”
Fleur took a moment to let her point sink in, then she looked at the dainty watch draped on her slender wrist. “Well, I am due for breakfast with my sister in Marseille. I apologize for interrupting your conversation.” She turned and strolled back out into the grass. “Oh,” she added, looking back over her shoulder, “there is dittany in the medicine cabinet. Take it with you, just in case.” Then she turned and disapparated.
“Well that was suggestive,” Al mumbled, looking back and forth between Hugo and Scorpius.
Scorpius rolled his shoulders. For the first time since he arrived in France, Hugo could see just a bit of his usual cockiness sneak back into his eyes. “Let’s do this.”
“Where do you think we should go?” Al asked. “I’m sure all of our houses are being watched, and we have no idea where Dad and Uncle Ron are hiding.”
“I know where to go,” Scorpius replied. “Mum and Dad’s house. It’s the last place in Britain they’d ever think to look for Potters or Weasleys.”
Al nodded approvingly. To his surprise, Hugo discovered that he was standing and his legs were carrying him towards the patio door.
“Where are you going, Hugo?” Al asked pointedly.
Hugo sighed. “To tell Fiona where we’re going. And to get the dittany, of course.”
As always, a heart-felt thank you to my amazing beta reader, sophie_hatter. Please do yourself a favor and read her amazing story, Evolution (M). You'll thank me.
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