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Chapter 9 : despair, family, and a 'waiting' plan
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The Atrium, the Ministry of Magic
Thursday 3rd November
We Apparated into the Atrium of the Ministry, the Auror keeping a tight hold on me, and my arms were still pinned behind my back. It's no unfamiliar place; when over half your extremely large family work here, you tend to become acquainted with it. The place was crawling with reporters -even at stupid o'clock in the morning- and as soon as we appeared, thousands of flashes went off, as reporters spotted us, and started to holler my name. I swear my Auror looked pleased at the mob.
But I would be damned if I showed any emotion to these sleazes. I pulled myself up, bit back the tears that were threatening to spill, and tried to walk like I was in control. I looked for Molly in the mix, for she would have to be playing her part, but I couldn't see her familiar figure.
My Auror battled against the herds of cattle/hordes of hell, pulling me along with him until we got into one of the elevators. He flashed his ID, and people in the lift left, their mouths open in unashamed gawping.
“Isn’t that a Weasley?” I heard someone say loudly.
I scowled at the Auror. There are plenty of quiet back ways into the Ministry that he could have used.
Not that I’ve used any of them for various illegal activities.
The grilled door shut with a metallic clang and my stomach sank as we shot downwards, into the dark. The Auror was silent as we went deeper than I ever have before; deeper than I knew the Ministry went. And then we stopped. I was unprepared, and nearly fell, but the Auror steadied me, and I managed to awkwardly slip a hand into his pocket, pulling out his ID card, wallet and keys, and tucking them into the massive baggy pocket of my cardigan.
The corridors down here weren't polished marble, but damp, roughly cut stone, flickering torch flames casting shadows over the uneven floor. I shivered. The Auror didn't seem to notice the drop in temperature, and he didn't respond when I asked where in effing hell my brother was, my voice echoing in the silence.
He pulled me along roughly, but not long along the corridor, he opened a thick wooden door, and I found myself in a long room, lined either side with small cells. Most of them were already filled.
With the rest of us.
An old, unshaven man came shuffling towards us, keys clanging against each other loudly in the absolute stillness. “Another one?” he asked gleefully. He opened a door next to Scorpius and opposite Lorcan, grinning. “In she goes!” he cackled.
I went in. Apart from the back wall, it was thick metal bars separating me and my family. The old man shut the door, and smiled; a huge grin which showed his rotting teeth. My Auror was already gone, and then the old guy left too.
No-one spoke until the door shut, and then it was all at once.
“Not you too!”
“This is complete bullshit!”
“They'll have to let us go.”
“How could this have happened?!”
I fumbled around in my pocket, and managed to pop open my handcuffs, stretching and massaging my wrists. I also glanced at the Auror’s ID card: his name was Ernest Macmillan.
Then the noise stopped as the door creaked open again. I quickly put my hands behind my back again, holding my loot tightly. I expected to see Hugo, but it was Dom.
When they'd finally left us again- although we all gave Dom's Auror the dirtiest looks imaginable- Dom stood up. She was in the cell on Lorcan's left.
“Alright,” she said. “Who is here?”
Everyone was- except Hugo.
“I don’t understand how this has happened,” said Dom. We all listened. It was strange how we all slid into our roles. Dom immediately taking control, while we obediently listened. When she was finished, it would be the planners turn to pitch in.
“How can they have arrested us? Why have they pulled us in? All of us? Well,” she corrected, “everyone but Hugo.”
Oh Merlin. Scorpius’ traitor was real... our metaphorical wolf among sheep-
And my brother isn’t here. I glanced at the door, praying for it to open, but it remained mockingly shut.
“They have all of us, on suspicion of murder and theft,” Dom continued. “Us, and our parents, we are the faces of wizarding Britain. Arresting all of us is equivalent of arresting the Minister for Magic. They can't arrest us without a lot of proof.”
Great. So as well as the metaphorical wolf, we also are most probably going to Azkaban.
“What are we going to do?” said a quavering voice. It was Lucy.
“We're going to wait. And watch, and learn. We won't tell anyone anything they don't know. Still keep a few tricks up our sleeves. And as soon as we know what we're up against, we're going to bomb out of here in style. Okay?” Dom sounded so authoritative, for a minute, I believed her.
“Right,” said Dom, taking our collective silence as agreement. “All report. Lorcan? What happened?”
Everyone had much the same story as I did. Woken up at crack of dawn, handcuffed, arrested, Apparated, locked up. No-one had been arrested by anyone they knew, and no-one knew anything much other than what we'd been told when we were arrested.
Vic had been arrested from hospital and Teddy had been working late.
Molly told us that old-jailer-clanky-keys-man was in fact Argus Filch, a Squib who used to be caretaker at Hogwarts when our grandparents/parents were at school. Some people just don’t know when it’s their time.
But Dom grinned. “That's great,” she said. “Squibs use keys, and it'll be easier to escape if we don't have to get past enchantments.”
Teddy had apparently nearly got away by impersonating an Auror and trying to slip out, but now had some sort of heavy metal band attached to his wrist which was blindingly obvious and beeped loudly if he tried to morph.
Scorpius added that he’d been picked up at a Muggle pub.
And then it was my turn. I related events, told how Hugo had been arrested but then I hadn't seen him again, and then held up my free hands. I was duly applauded, and soon the keys had made their way up and down the cells.
We talked, made half-hearted attempts at plans, but eventually the conversation petered out as we fell asleep, shattered. I lost all track of time as I dozed, and when I woke, everyone else was asleep, their soft breathing indicating they were in a happier place.
I sat huddled in a ball, my arms wrapped around my legs and my head resting on my knees in complete and utter misery.
I wanted my brother. I wanted my mum, and I wanted dad. I wanted a bath and a duvet and a hairbrush.
I felt so small. It felt like we had been playing at being grown-ups, thinking we were so clever with our mighty plans and elaborate schemes, and now they’d stopped our game. I felt insignificant and useless.
-Abner Carrow: the Ministry
Friday 4th November
It was done. The first half of his plan, anyway.
It had gone very well- considerably better than expected. All the Clan had been rounded up- like animals, he thought to himself smugly.
All he needed now was to kill them.
The hearings and trials and court dates did insist on dragging on, he mused, steepling his fingers over his mahogany desk.
But he was a patient man.
He glanced towards the picture of his daughters. They danced around a garden in spring, aged about eight and wearing matching lilac dresses. His useless wife bought their clothes.
His heart wrenched painfully as he remembered, and his hands clenched into angry fists.
In an obscure way, he pitied their parents- Harry Potter and Hermione Granger and Percy Weasley and Draco Malfoy- because he knew the agony that they would soon go through, but he would damn well relish it when they cried over their children’s graves.
A paper aeroplane lazily floated into his office, and he snatched it out of the air, unfolding it to read the latest Ministry drivel.
It wasn’t from the Ministry.
The seized assets of ‘the Clan’ are as requested, and Mr Harry Potter requires your immediate presence in his office.
So Potter wanted to ask for his help. He had no doubt that was what his colleague wanted- after all, Abner had made sure that he was one of the most senior officials on this case.
Well, he’d make Potter wait a while. Besides, he had some other matters to attend to- like seeing to the Clan’s money.
He allowed himself a small smile, and glanced over at the monstrous gargoyle hunched in the corner of his office.
Stupid children. Why would anyone want a gargoyle?
“Expulso!” he said forcefully, flicking his wand venomously, and the statue exploded.
-Rose: the cells
Friday 4th November
Much later, nearly everyone was awake, and it was freezing. Lorcan and I were debating the possibility of which would come first: heat, food or death. It was light-hearted banter, but Roxy got really annoyed. After she screamed at us, we settled for squeezing our arms through the bars and drawing a noughts and crosses board onto the dirt-encrusted floor.
Then Filch came back in, scowling, and unlocked James, Lily and Albus’ cells. “Your parents are ‘ere,” he said gruffly.
“We're bailed?” Albus said hopefully.
Filch snorted derisively. “No. They're just ‘ere to see you.”
When the Potters got back, it was the twins’ turn, and then Scorpius got to see his parents and then the Johnson-Weasleys, and then the Delacour-Weasleys, then Teddy's grandparents, and then, finally, it was my turn.
I was led into a fairly normal, official-looking, Muggle-ish room. I'm sure you know the kind. Off-white linoleum floor, and walls of the same colour. I entered through one of two cheap pale wood doors, and saw my parents sitting uncomfortably on two bright purple plastic chairs. Apart from the trademark Weasley hair, they were the brightest thing in the room.
I suddenly felt like I was in second year again, and my parents had been called in because I'd blown up the Potions dungeon with Albus. I hung my head, and shuffled my feet in my filthy boots, and then Mum leaped off her chair and hugged me, and Dad stood up too, and hugged us both.
“You didn't do it, did you?” said Mum, pushing her hair away from our faces.
“Of course not!” I started to protest- and only half-truthfully, but Dad shushed me.
“We just had to check. Don't worry, we'll get this all sorted out, and get you lot out.”
“Have they told you anything?” I asked.
“No, no, no,” Mum said, distractedly. “We'll get you some proper clothes, and food, and stuff. Anything else you need?”
Lock-picking kit, it's in the fourth drawer in my bedside cabinet, under the false bottom.
But I didn't say that. I said the next best thing. “Have you got any hair grips on you? My hair is getting on my nerves.”
Mum smoothed my hair back, and secured it with some of her slides. As well as the curse of gingery, I also had her mane. Lovely curls if I made an effort with it, but after a night in a cell, I looked like I'd been dragged through a hedge backwards.
“What are the papers saying?” I asked.
“Oh, we don't listen to the papers,” said Dad with an anxious look at Mum. Well, that meant they were being perfectly lovely. “Are you all being looked after?” Dad was fussing. Mum was usually calm, collected, normal, and Dad was the worrier. Always was.
“Ugh, it’s horrible. But what is going on at your end? How are you going to get us all out?” I realised that I wasn't acting very worried. I mean, I should be off to Azkaban until I die for murders I didn't commit, but I was okay, because Dom had made this another task, and we were going to get through it. I was in work-mode.
“Harry is going mental, and even as Head Auror he's been taken off the case,” Dad said. I noticed his hairline was receding slightly: Dad was getting old. “Everyone who works for the Ministry has been relegated to Departments that won't have anything to do with the case. Your mother is in the Department of Magical Games and Sports.”
Poor Mum. I'm not sure she knows one end of a broomstick from the other.
“And I’m on the Committee of Experimental Charms,” continued Dad. “I don’t even know what that does.”
“Where's Hugo?” I finally managed to ask.
“Oh, he's being questioned. We saw him earlier! Why haven’t you seen him?”
Then my Auror from yesterday, Macmillan, came in, and announced very officially that our time was up, and could Mum please take back the hair clips. I wasn't allowed anything from ‘outside’.
I thought Dad was going to explode. “Well, you always were a pompous, officious git, Ernie.”
Ernie puffed out his chest. “Well, excess physical contact is prohibited, but I was lenient!”
Dad stands about a head taller than Ernie, and he looked threateningly down on him. “You dare tell me I can't hug my children, Macmillan?”
“And threatening an Auror is an offence too, Mr Weasley,” Ernie said, but his voice was wavering slightly. “I'll let her keep the hair products.”
I breathed a quiet sigh of relief. With difficulty, hair-slides could be makeshift lock-picks, although it required time and a steady hand. But Dad being Dad, was not satisfied with that. He took off his thick winter coat, and draped it around my shoulders.
Ernie didn't dare say anything.
I left the room, with a final, wistful glance at my parents. Mum looked tiny as she tried not to cry. You should never see your parents cry. My own tears were welling up as Dad put an arm around her.
“You’ll be out within the week, don’t worry!” he called.
I was escorted back to my cell, tears falling freely down my cheeks. The corridors were full of official looking people, carrying papers and briefcases, their heavy robes swishing past my legs. I was bumped into by a man- and at the same time felt a drop in Dad’s coat pocket as something was slid in there. I twisted, trying to see who it was, but they were lost in the crowd.
Filch let me in to my cell, unlocking my handcuffs with a grimace. I went and sat in the furthest corner, huddling against the bars and the dank stone wall, wiping my tears with my sleeves, but the familiar smell of home brought fresh tears.
I stuffed my hands in Dad’s coat pockets, my balled fists sinking into the warm material, and then they touched something coarse and greasy- and recognizable.
I gave a final sniff, and looked carefully up and down the cells. No-one was paying any attention to me. My stomach clenched in hope.
I carefully drew it out of my pocket, and couldn’t hide my smile when I saw the familiar blue cloth, secured by a small leather belt.
I unbuckled it quietly, and unrolled it in my lap. My tools shone slightly in the lamplight- greasy, dirty and old, but very much here. I rolled it back up, and shoved it back in my pocket hurriedly, as Filch shuffled down the cells, his nose scrunched up as he peered through bars. Which was dripping quite profusely. It was fairly disgusting, actually.
My fears had been chased away, hope lighting the way. Hairgrips were all very well and dandy if you had half a year to get a lock open- but with my tools, we might actually have a chance.
Someone was on our side.
Saturday 5th November
It was the middle of the afternoon, and the dull November sunlight had retreated around the back of the house, causing the lamps already to be lit inside. The shadows were long and thin across the lawn, and the first tendrils of frost were creeping in the grass, shining white. A cockerel crowed unenthusiastically, and a gnome crept across the bottom of the hedge.
They’d all been unable to sleep since seeing their children, and now the nineteen parents and grandparents sat around the kitchen table, silent and sullen with dark rings under their eyes.
Everyone was there. Luna and Rolf had come back early from their expedition to the Maldives, and Luna’s eyes seemed larger than normal in her pale face. Charlie Weasley, grey streaking his hair already, stood talking softly to the Malfoy’s, who had turned up uninvited- seeking the only other people who would know what they felt. It was clear that Astoria had been crying, but Draco was resolute and hard.
Audrey and Percy sat together in the middle of a wide sofa, looking lost in the expanse of chintz. Percy held her hands tightly in his, and his thumb rubbed up and down the back of her thin hand, in an attempt to reassure her.
Bill and Fleur were sat at the large scrubbed table, also holding hands, and trying not to look at the front pages of the papers in front of them. Condemning headlines were bold across the pages, the reporters dredging up every personal detail about their lives as a picture of a teenage Dom and Louis waved cheerily at them.
George, Ginny and Angelina were methodically washing and drying the stacks of plates on the draining board, the clink of china the loudest sound in the deathly silence.
Molly Weasley was making more tea- half of the adults cradled cold cups in their hands- so she briskly poured fresh tea out of a gigantic china teapot, wanting to be busy doing something. Arthur stood nearby, slowly getting more mugs out of the cupboard.
Harry walked in, flanked by Ron and Hermione. Everyone immediately looked towards them, questioningly.
“It’s no good,” Harry said, sounding, for one of the first times, defeated. “They won’t tell me anything. We tried everything.”
Harry meant what he said. He wouldn’t have admitted it to Ginny or the others, but the three of them had attempted Imperio, and employed every dirty trick they knew to find information on their children, even going so far as bribing an official on the case, a stern-faced man called Carrow.
Ginny crossed to Harry and flung her soapy hands around her husband, the bubbles catching in his black hair. He hugged her back tightly.
The people in the room visibly sagged, despairing at the lack of knowledge and hope. This was completely incomprehensible to them- their children led normal, and in some cases, boring lives.
They worked in hospitals and pubs and joke shops- how could they be thieves and murderers and spies? They had girlfriends, boyfriends and pets, they were kind and annoying and caring- it didn’t make sense to them.
And in their eyes, their children would always just be that- children.
“Don’t worry,” Ron repeated to Hermione, breaking the silence, smoothing her hair back from her face. “We’ll get them out within the week.”
-Rose: the cells.
Wednesday 21st December
I was sleeping a lot lighter in prison, and I woke up as soon as I heard the prison door close.
A month and a half, we’d roughly been in prison. In a month and a half, I’d not seen Hugo at all, seen my parents twice and no-one else.
I was ready to kill Albus for being stupidly optimistic, and I wanted to cry until I had no tears left.
I sat up in my cell, my arms wrapped around my knees. It was so cold, my breath came in smoky puffs, and we’d all caught colds.
I coughed miserably as Filch shuffled down the row, his yellow teeth visible as he grinned sadistically at us. He could smile- he had on a coat and a scarf.
Through various means- we still had some friends in the Ministry- we had managed to get extra clothes and our treatment was a lot better than some prisoners, Teddy had told us. We weren’t in Azkaban, and we’d mostly been left to ourselves.
But it’s hard to be grateful when you’re in prison for murder. We hadn’t even been convicted yet, but apparently it was too dangerous to for us to be bailed. The goblin population of Britain had been rioting in protest of the murders, and Gringotts had been shut down for weeks at a time.
Filch was carrying a large sack, and he pushed some thin grey robes through my bars. “Time to get up,” he said chirpily. “Your trial starts in an hour.”
A/N: slightly filler-ish, but I've dropped hints and developed stuff in here, so it was totally needed.
Thanks so much to Sam/Heir for bearing with my frantic messages all in Caps Lock because I was stressing about the chapters! Lots of love :D
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