Chapter 26 : Life Sentence
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I finished packing my bags, humming along tunelessly to one of my Mum’s favourite songs. I was due to get a portkey from the French Ministry in Paris in a couple of hours, and if truth be told I was really looking forward to getting home. Despite the disastrous week, it had been good in many ways. I’d felt exasperated by everything before I went on holiday and, somehow, I’d managed to release some stress this week. I was feeling decidedly cheerful.
“Lovely singing,” Victoire teased as she popped her head around my door to check I was okay.
I blushed. “Sorry.”
“Don’t apologise,” she said with a smile. She sat down on the end of my bed and watched as I gathered up the last few of my belongings. “I think we’re really going to miss having you staying with us. You’ve almost made me homesick.”
“Sorry,” I said again, zipping up my bag.
“Will you stop it?” She laughed. “You don’t have to apologise for everything.”
“I do,” I insisted. I joined her on the bed, leaning my head on her shoulder. “Thank you for looking after me so well. I really needed some time to relax.”
She wrapped an arm loosely around my waist. “Don’t thank me, thank Teddy. I wish I could have got some time off work, but things have been hectic this week.”
Once again, I found myself imagining her dancing about in a barrel of grapes. “It’s fine, I understand. Maybe next time?”
“Definitely,” she said, appreciating my meaning. I didn’t know how I’d had her all wrong. I was too quick to judge people, that was my problem. I could see now that Victoire was a lot better off when she was happy, as with most people. Stress and unhappiness had made her more irritable than perhaps she liked to be. There was no doubt about it; we were a lot closer after spending more time together, away from the stress of home. “You’re welcome to visit us any time you want or need to.”
I felt something stir inside of me, and I realised I was actually going to miss her. We’d never been very cousin-y, not in the way that I was with my other, younger cousins. Out of all the things I thought would happen this week, growing to like Victoire was one of them.
When the time came for me to leave, Teddy held out his hands for Victoire and I to take and together we Disapparated. We walked up to a very grand looking building in the middle of a deserted street and paused on the stone steps outside. I felt so small on the threshold of the impressive building, its elegant exterior swamping me.
“Thank you,” I said to each of them, first hugging Victoire and then Teddy. “I’ve had a lovely time.”
“Look after yourself, Rosie,” Teddy said, smiling less enthusiastically than normal. I waved goodbye to them both, climbing the steps to the door.
Once inside, I leant against a cool stone wall and shut my eyes, trying to compose myself. I had almost cried outside, but luckily I’d managed to hold it in until they could no longer see me. I wasn’t sure why I was so emotional; it wasn’t like it was the last time I would ever see them. Aware that something, somewhere, had ended, I dabbed a tear from the corner of my eye before it could escape and declare war on my emotions. “Silly Rosie,” I scolded.
I walked up the corridor until I found the office for international portkeys, where I showed my passport and ticket and awaited my turn. It wasn’t long until they called “London” and I was sent spinning home.
A few minutes later, I was standing in the atrium in the Ministry of Magic back in London, waiting for Molly to appear amongst the crowd. Eventually she showed herself, her head looking as if on fire with her hair streaming behind her as she ducked between groups of aurors and ran up towards me.
“Rose!” she exclaimed, hugging me enthusiastically. “You are not allowed to leave me again, do you understand?”
“Good to see you too,” I teased, linking my arm through hers. “Have you missed me, then?”
“Not at all,” she said, grinning ear to ear. She offered to take my bags, which I gave to her gladly. “I’ve been keeping myself busy by looking in the mirror and telling myself to cheer up, pretending that it’s you. I’ve had a very productive week.”
“Well, I have cheered up,” I told her. “I have so much to tell you, but we’ll save that for the biscuits when we get home.”
We queued up by the fireplaces, waiting to floo home. “It is so good to have you home, lovely,” she said, beaming.
“It’s good to be home,” I said, grabbing some floo powder and throwing it into the fireplace. I muttered our address (so that no creepers would hear it and follow us home) and shot up the chimney.
I’d obviously not said our address clearly enough, because when I tumbled out of the fireplace I didn’t find myself in my flat. Brushing the soot off me, I looked around. I was in someone’s living room, which seemed too clean to be real. Looking down at my feet, I saw black soot marks on the cream carpet. Oops.
“Hello?” I called, hoping that I sounded innocent enough not to be accused of breaking and entering (though I had done that before). “Is there anyone there?”
Nobody responded. I looked behind me and saw that there was no jar of floo powder by the fireplace; how the hell had I flooed to a Muggle house? It was possible that someone had accidentally connected the network to a Muggle house, but I thought it unlikely. Maybe they’d forgotten to take it off the register? I tried to console myself; at least I wouldn’t have to try very hard to get out. Muggles didn’t know about anti-alohamora charms.
I took a step towards where I thought the front door might be and was greeted with a wailing; their burglar alarm had gone off.
“Bugger,” I cursed, looking around frantically for the alarm so I could turn it off. I couldn’t see it in the living room so I was forced to start dashing around in search of the source of the noise. The door on the left hand end of the living room led to the kitchen, which didn’t seem to have the burglar alarm in it. Further doors led only to a utility room and a garage. I was running out of time. “Fuck, where is it?”
I ran to the other end of the house, leaping over the sofa in an Olympic effort and landing face down on the floor. “Ow,” I said into the carpet, no longer caring that I was leaving black marks anywhere.
The burglar alarm went up a pitch, causing my heart to beat faster. I ran to the other end of the house, finally finding a small white box by the front door. I reached into my jeans pocket and was met only with cloth rather than my wand. “Fuck!” I exclaimed again; I’d left my wand in the top of my bag, which I had given to Molly. “Oh shit.”
I tried the front door in the in the vain hope that the owner of the house had left the door unlocked; no such luck. It wasn’t going to be long until I cried for the second time that day, I could feel it. Knowing that there was nothing left to be done, I returned to the living room and sat myself down on the cream sofa.
About half an hour later, there was a heavy knock on the door, followed by the sound of someone forcing the door open.
“Police!” someone called. I hid my head in my hands, trying not to cry, scream or wet myself in fear. The door to the living room was already open, and the policeman must have spotted me, for he dashed over, grabbing me by the arm. “You are under arrest for breaking and entering,” he informed me roughly, escorting me out of the house.
“You don’t understand,” I pleaded as he forced me into the police car outside. It was raining heavily and I was already sopping wet from that short time outside. “This is a misunderstanding. I got there by accident. I'm - er, I'm a chimney sweep.”
“Yeah, you accidentally broke into the wrong house to clean their chimneys,” the policeman chortled, shutting the car door. The lock clicked. He strode around to the other side and got into the driver’s seat after securing the house. A neighbour popped out from behind a bush and waved as the car pulled away from the house.
How had I even got into this mess? I was going to have very stern words with the Ministry if I ever got out of Muggle prison; how could they hook a Muggle house up to the floo network?! I blamed them entirely for my predicament. If only I’d had my wand, none of this would have happened. I could have either blown up the alarm, silenced it or obliviated the policeman. I’d have escaped easily and no one would have needed to know. Instead, I was sat in handcuffs in the back of a police car, awaiting charges. Bloody hell.
I trembled all the way to the police station, trying to work out what to do. How was I supposed to contact someone when I had no wand? It wasn’t as if I could send a quick patronus and all would be well again. What were they going to ask me? How was I going to explain my way out of this? Oh bugger bugger bugger.
When we got there, the policeman escorted me inside and took some paperwork out.
I wondered briefly what the charges were for lying to a police officer; maybe I could give them Roxanne’s name. “Rose Weasley,” I said, aware that in the end it wouldn’t matter because when I got my wand back I was going to obliviate them all anyway and delete my criminal record. Oh no, I was going to have a criminal record… My Dad was going to be so angry.
After that, he asked me my date of birth, my address and my next of kin. “You are allowed to make a phone call,” he said as we finished up the paperwork. He signed it, asked me to sign it and then tucked it inside of a drawer in a cabinet. “Would you like to use the phone?”
I had a sudden flashback of my N.E.W.T.s, when one of the examiners had asked me to perform a rather tricky charm and I’d had a complete blank. My hands had been sweating, my heart pumping and I couldn’t for the life of me remember what I had to do. I felt like that now as I tried to think of someone I could call. My Mum had a telephone in her office, but I didn’t know the number. It had been so long since she had taught me how to use a telephone that I wasn’t even sure I’d remember. I would have to think of something.
I nodded and the policeman took me over to where a telephone was mounted on the wall. He gave me a token and told me where to insert it on the machine. When he’d walked a bit further away, I clutched the token in my hand and grudgingly brought it up to the slot in the machine. Who was I supposed to call? I wished I’d taken my Granddad’s advice and done Muggle Studies, because it would have been bloody useful right now. They never warn you that these things could happen.
Eventually, I decided to just wing it and jab the phone randomly. I popped the token in the slot and waited for the dialling tone, just as Mum had taught me. Before I could press the numbers, I heard a click and a single ring.
“Nature of crime?” a cool female voice cooed from the handset.
“Um,” I stuttered, surprised that I needed to answer more questions before I could make my call. “Burglary.”
“Thank you,” said the voice. “Please hold.”
A cheerful tune played for a minute, during which time I started to get very grumpy. They could at least play a funeral march to match my mood.
“Hello? Is this working?” A different, more lively female voice came on the line. “You’re through to the Magical Law Enforcement department, Domestic Crime section. How can I help?”
The Magical Law Enforcement department? How had I somehow managed to call the Ministry? I was a genius!
“Hi,” I said quickly. “It’s working. I’m Rose Weasley and I’ve been wrongfully arrested by the police,” I said, putting the stress on the last word. I couldn’t say “Muggles” in case the policeman was listening in on my conversation; I wouldn’t put it past him. “They think I broke into someone’s house, but I was just in the fireplace.”
“I understand,” the lady said immediately. “I shall contact the Floo Regulation Department and get them to fix the issue straight away. In the meantime, I shall send a representative to help you with your predicament. Is there a family member or friend I can contact on your behalf?”
This lady was being remarkably helpful; she didn’t even question whether I’d actually committed the crime or not. “Thank you. Try Molly Weasley,” I said, deciding that Molly would keep my secret better than anyone else would. I gave the helpful lady my address and hung up.
Five minutes later, a young man (probably a few years older than me) walked into the police station, carrying a large briefcase. He adjusted his glasses briefly as he surveyed the room, until he saw me waiting by the telephone with the policeman and approached us. “Are you Rose Weasley?”
“Yes,” I said before the policeman could say anything. “Thank you for coming.”
“It’s my pleasure,” he said, fiddling with his briefcase. He turned to the policeman. “I believe there has been a misunderstanding. Can we step somewhere more private?”
The policeman frowned, but gestured to a room off the hallway. We went inside and the man from the Ministry shut the door behind him.
“Obliviate,” he said clearly, pointing his wand at the policeman, whose expression went blank. Next, the man dealt with the paperwork in the desk drawer, burning the one I had filled out earlier. When the policeman seemed to focus on us again, the young man continued. “Thank you, officer. I’m glad that everything is now in order.”
“You’re welcome,” he said dazedly. “Have a good day.”
The young man nodded, signalling that we should leave. Once outside the police station, I let out a huge sigh of relief.
“Thank you so much,” I gushed. “That was terrifying.”
“I can imagine,” he said sympathetically. “Now, I don’t normally work on Sundays, so you’ll have to drop by my office tomorrow in order to sort out some paperwork. We might be able to get you some compensation from the Floo Regulation Department. You can find me in the Domestic Crime section of the Law Enforcement department.”
“Right,” I said, making a mental note. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then. What did you say your name was?”
“I didn’t,” he said, reaching inside his coat pocket. He handed me a smart business card with his name and office number on it. “See you tomorrow, unless you decide to sweep chimneys again. Goodbye for now.”
I looked down at the piece of paper, surprised to recognise the name “Henry Devon”. Well, perhaps I had been a bit harsh on yesterday’s comb-over prediction; he wasn’t that old, yet.
Henry walked off down the street, swinging his briefcase at his side. What a nice man, I thought. He didn’t even work on Sundays.
I sat on the steps outside the police station as I waited for Molly to arrive. I heard a crack somewhere in the distance, and sure enough she appeared from a side street and marched up towards me.
“What the hell did you do?” she demanded. “You’ve only been back in the country five minutes and you managed to get arrested! Honestly, sometimes I wonder if we’re actually related.”
“Sorry,” I said as she handed me my wand and marched me up the street until we found somewhere safe to Apparate.
She sighed. “You’d prick your thumb on a thimble, you would.”
She was right, of course, as she always was. “Let’s just go home and forget this ever happened, please.”
Molly unlocked the front door and sat me down on the sofa. She’d already set some biscuits out and was now making tea. “When you’ve calmed down, you can tell me all the gossip.”
I sat quietly on the sofa until I could sort my thoughts out. “I just got arrested,” I said eventually. “My parents are going to kill me.”
“They don’t need to know,” Molly said, bringing over the tea. “I won’t tell them if you don’t. And anyway, it was all a misunderstanding. It’s the Ministry’s fault… and yours a bit for being a Mumbling Martha.”
I nodded numbly. “You’re right, they don’t need to know. It was so terrifying! I thought they were going to lock me up forever.”
Molly rolled her eyes. “They never lock you up forever. Life is the maximum sentence you can get.”
“I suppose,” I conceded. “But that still would have been awful.”
“But unlikely,” Molly argued. “You’re Ron and Hermione Weasley’s daughter. You weren’t going to be trapped in Muggle prison, were you?”
“No,” I admitted. “I might have overreacted a little bit.”
“A little bit,” Molly grumbled to herself. “Anyway, enough about your traumatic day, tell me about your week.”
I sipped at the hot tea, picking my words carefully. “It was okay,” I said slowly.
“Okay?” she said with a frown. “What about the mysterious postcard you sent me?” She waggled the first postcard I sent her in front of my face. “What was I right about?”
“Everything,” I said obviously. I looked around the room. “Did you not get the second postcard?”
She shook her head. “I only got this one yesterday, so I’ll probably get it next week.”
“Bloody Muggles,” I muttered. It would have been quicker to deliver the damn thing myself.
“So, what went wrong?” Molly probed, sipping her own cup of tea.
“I told him everything,” I mumbled into my mug.
“What?” Molly gasped. “What did you say? What did he say?”
“Well,” I said hesitantly. “I suppose I was a bit tipsy. I was sort of crying and then he thought I was really upset and I told him I loved him.”
Molly shook her head sadly as I looked shamefaced. “Oh Rosie,” she said softly, scooching over to sit next to me. “You silly thing.”
“I know,” I agreed, leaning my head on her shoulder. “And then he felt really sorry for me and it was so awkward for the rest of the week. I think he understood, though.”
“Oh dear,” she said quietly. “Pity is the worst thing. Are you okay?”
I shrugged. “I think so. There’s not much else I can do, is there? At least he doesn’t hate me or anything. I was prepared for him to throw me out of the house or something.”
“Well, at least that’s the worst bit over with,” she conceded, squeezing me before shifting over again.
“No, it’s not,” I said grumpily. “Because they’re getting married at Christmas.”
Molly almost dropped her mug, it slipping dangerously in her grasp. “They’re engaged?”
“Yep,” I said miserably, poking a biscuit with my index finger. “They told me on Friday. I suppose it’s about time, isn’t it? Neither of them are spring chickens.”
“You’re not so young yourself,” Molly teased. “I can’t believe they’re finally getting married. This is a big deal.”
I sighed. “I know. But I think I realised that they actually make a nice couple. They’re happy.”
Molly nodded; she appreciated how hard it was for me to admit that out loud, especially after years of throwing mental daggers at Victoire.
“So, is this it?” Molly asked cautiously. “Do you think you’re over Teddy? You seem different.”
I chewed on my lip as I searched for an answer. “I don’t know. I think I might be. I don’t want to be with him anymore, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still like him.”
“That’s progress in my eyes,” she said with a smile. “I’m strangely proud of you, you know. That was a brave thing you did.”
“Stupid, more like,” I said, blushing.
“Well, yes,” she agreed. “That too.”
I threw biscuit at her. Things were on the up, I could tell.
“By the way,” she added. “Scorpius has been sleeping outside the front door since you left.”
Oh. Maybe not, then.
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by Ellyn Rose