Chapter 14 : detectives, some more secrets, and a Rose-in-charge plan
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Tuesday 28th December
The private detective –if that was who he really was- didn’t really give us much choice: but I inexplicably wanted to trust this hard-faced man.
“Now,” he said, sounding exasperated. He stuffed our newly acquired wands in his belt, and strode over to Scorpius’ bed. “Can he be moved?” he asked Tracey.
“Most probably,” she answered, not looking at all perturbed at the stranger. She trusted him, it seemed.
Scorpius looked at me, and I half-nodded. The stranger hadn’t killed us yet, although he did have our wands. Scorpius lifted himself half out of bed, and swung an arm around the man’s broad shoulders. He stood shakily, leaning heavily on the stranger.
“I’ve got you,” the stranger said. “Come on, my car is only just outside.”
He gestured at the door, and I hurried to open it for them as he helped Scorpius down the stairs and through the front door. Scorpius winced slightly in pain with every jerky movement. Tracey was already downstairs, and she passed me a large rucksack, which bulged unhealthily. “Just a few things,” she said, looking startlingly different. She looked softer, kinder- sad, almost.
I shouldered the rucksack, and hugged her. “Thank you so much, Tracey. We’d both be dead without you,” I said, and I meant it.
The stranger came back in. “I’m sorry, Tracey,” he said, and he lifted his wand to her forehead, drawing out silvery memories. With a whispered word, she fell backwards, senseless, but he managed to catch her before she hit the floor.
“Muggles tend to tell people things too often,” he said, his voice filled with regret. “She knows she’s helped though, and she’ll do it again, if needs be.”
He sighed. “Get in the car,” he told me, his voice gruff, and I backed away. In the street outside a sleek red sports car was parked up, opposite the shop. Scorpius was sprawled over the back seat, so I opened the door and climbed in the passenger side. We were joined by the stranger seconds later, who adjusted his mirror before speeding off.
“Muggle transport is usually safer- what the Ministry doesn’t understand is hard for it to monitor,” he explained, accelerating still further, setting off a speed camera. I neglected to mention it, as the stranger barely gave it a second glance.
“Okay,” I said finally, when I had had enough of the heavy silence. “Who the hell are you, what the hell are you doing, and where the hell are we going?”
In the back, Scorpius snorted at my eloquence, and the man raised his eyebrows.
“My name is Theodore Nott, and I’m a private detective. Currently working off my own back to help some silly kids that got into trouble, and we’re going to meet the others, who are at a house I’ve borrowed in the Midlands. We’ll be there in about two hours.”
“The others?” I asked, my heart leaping into my throat. Did he mean...?
Theodore Nott gave me a sideways glance. “Yes,” he said. “Currently, I’ve managed to round up all three of the Potter kids, as well as Lysander and Hugo.”
“You have?” I could hardly contain my emotions. This was amazing, this was incredible... my little brother was okay, he was safe, and he was with our cousins...
I felt Scorpius’ hand on my shoulder, and I squeezed it. “Thank you so much, Mr Nott,” I said, my voice slightly breathless with relief and gratitude.
“I’ve also seen Roxanne at Tracey’s... that’s why I thought of checking there again. It was a lucky break to find you. Roxy decided not to come with me though,” he said, trailing off, his brow furrowed in thought.
“How was Roxy?” I ventured to ask.
At this, Theodore Nott smiled. “She seemed as happy as a Niffler in Gringotts when I saw her. She hasn’t seen a single Auror, and she’s managed to keep a very low profile. Even had the cheek to tell me I was doing my job wrong.”
I grinned as well. That sounded a lot like Roxy. I looked into the back seat to check on Scorpius, but he had already fallen asleep, his mouth gaping wide open like a tunnel.
“Since Scorpius was reported to be dead, I’ve been putting all my effort into finding you, Rose. I couldn’t imagine what you’d be going through, and I wanted to make sure you weren’t caught, at least. James would never have forgiven me.”
“Thank you,” I said softly. This man I had never even met was willing to risk his life to help me and my family. Words couldn’t express how grateful I was, and how touched.
“However,” he said, turning sombre, “I’m afraid I also have some bad news. In the past two days, Freddy and Louis have both been caught.”
My hand went involuntarily to my mouth. Freddy, my lazy, layabout Freddy, and clean, crisp and happy Louis- they were back in the cold dank cells of the Ministry.
“My information is a bit better than the Prophet, but I still might be wrong,” he continued. “Don’t give up hope, Rose,” he added. He must have seen how close to tears I was.
I pressed the heels of my hands to my eyes, stopping the tears that threatened. In this warm car, where I felt safe, all the emotions that I had been supressing threatened to rise again.
“I’ll explain better when we get there,” he said, in a softer tone. “You should try to sleep as well.”
The last thing I saw before I closed my eyes was Nott, setting our wands on the dash, within my easy reach. At ease, I allowed myself to relax and drift off.
-Rose: House Pleasant,
Tuesday 28th December, 11.30pm
I sat on the small balcony on the roof, looking up at the stars. Theodore had been right, it was a beautifully clear night, and the full moon was huge and low in the sky. Scorpius sat next to me, his rich golden hair almost glowing in the moonlight. Downstairs, I could hear Lysander and Hugo playing a loud game of Exploding Snap. Their carefree attitude to what was going on was unfathomable.
"This feels weird," Scorpius said next to me, and I knew his thoughts were similar to mine. I hummed in response. Scorpius and I had both nearly died, and now we were expected to lie back and let Theo do all the grunt work. It didn't sit well with me, putting all our eggs in one basket, so to speak.
When we'd arrived, sleepy and confused, it had been a blur of noise and excitement and crying. Now it was still and calm. Scorpius and I had eaten a proper meal, we’d had hot showers, we had clean clothes, and we were both fairly fresh and bright-eyed from our sleeps in the car. We didn’t need to keep watch. I was allowed put down my wand for a second, to take a second to zone out. And it felt wrong.
“I'm going downstairs," I said softly. Scorpius got up from his seat as well.
“I'll come too,”
We walked down together, and then Scorpius went to find Albus. I wandered over to Theo. "Where's Lily?" I asked. I needed a girl to talk to about everything. I had been so desperate that I would have confided all in Tracey, except she scared the shit out of me in a very girly way.
"She's gone out for a walk," Theodore said. "To look at the stars, I think."
From across the room, Scorpius and I shared an incredulous look. Look at the stars? I sneaked a peek over Theodore's shoulder. He was working at a computer with James. I watched as they scrolled across pages and pages of information, eyes flicking back and forth as they searched. It was quite therapeutic, watching them work.
Then James jumped out of his seat, punching both fists in the air with a triumphant yell, the same way he used to when he scored a goal for the Cannons. "You've found it?" Theodore asked, and his voice brought over Lysander and Hugo.
"He's found it?"
"Found what?" I asked, as Albus and Scorpius ran into the room as well, the former's eyes excited.
"James has just found the records for Gringotts.”
I frowned. I failed to see how this was helpful, but Scorpius looked especially interested. “Vaults 604, 783 and 930?” he asked.
“The very same. Alright, so 604 is the one we broke into to get to the Fraternity’s, and then the Fraternity’s vault was 783.”
He pointed at the screen. “See, this shows that the Fraternity visited their vault and didn’t take anything out or in, but the vault registered a difference in weight.”
“Weight?” Albus asked.
“They have to monitor the weight or the spells surrounding the vault can break or lose effectiveness,” Theo chipped in. “In this case, the weight was the Fraternity putting in the gargoyle.”
“So we know the gargoyle weighs three tons.”
I held up my hand. “Wait. Three tons? We lifted that almost easily.”
“Curiouser and curiouser,” said Albus, but Scorpius looked like he’d already figured this one out.
James smiled. “Just bear with me. Now, the other vault that was broken into; 903, also registered a substantial decrease in weight- almost half a ton of gold. That gold was distributed into our accounts and such the like to frame us, but what is interesting is where that statue ended up,” he said. “Through the weight, you can find out where it goes. Myself and Fred dropped it off that night in a warehouse, and by the morning, it had gone.”
James turned back to the glowing screen, and swatted at a moth. “So where did it go? Well, I don’t know everywhere it went, but the night we were arrested, vault 903 registered an increase of three tons. It only stayed there one night, but it was there.”
There was silence. “So the owner of that vault is most probably the guy orchestrating this whole thing?” Albus asked.
Scorpius nodded. “And they lied to us about not being able to use magic on it. We should have worked that out earlier.”
Albus frowned. “No,” he said, “I asked Lorcan about it, and Lorcan said that if the gargoyle already had magical properties, then you couldn’t risk any more spells on it.”
Theo shook his head. “That sounds like bullshit to me, and I’ve heard a lot of it.”
“Anyway,” said James. “Who owns vault 903?” There was a pause. “Red?”
“Who owns it?”
“What? How am I supposed to know?” I asked, confused.
“The night you showed us your memory of the bar and the security guard, you and Lily mentioned the name of the owner,” James said, looking frustrated. I could understand. So close, and yet still so far.
Albus nodded. “I remember you saying that as well.”
“But I don’t remember everything I say!” I protested, but something else was niggling at the back of my mind, something that happened the day after Freddy’s birthday bash. “Wait...” I said slowly, holding a finger up to silence James. “PI Jones.”
James looked at me, his mouth open. “How- what?”
“PI is private investigator,” I said, feeling pretty chuffed with myself for working that out. “Right? You’ve known Theo for ages, and that’s how you knew he’d help you, and you’d be safe here.”
“How dare you!” he said. James looked livid. “You’ve been spying on me?”
“It was an accident,” I snapped back. “I’m not the one who was helping the ‘other side’,” I spat. Those were always James’ words for people who worked in law enforcement. The other side. Even Teddy and Albus worked for the ‘other side’.
Theodore stepped in between us- a good thing, considering my wand had somehow jumped into my hand. “James helped me invaluably with information which didn’t regard you in the slightest. I swear, I never even knew that there was such a thing as ‘the Clan’ before this whole court case, when I did some digging. And I nearly turned James away when he turned up asking for my help, because he lied to me as well. So calm down, please, and let’s focus on the situation at hand.”
I stuffed my wand away, angry with myself as well for rising so quickly. I wasn’t always this quick to anger. “Jones?” I asked, attempting a normal tone of voice.
Theodore shrugged. “It’s a common enough surname, but not too common. Anyway, can you remember the name?”
I rubbed my face. “Won’t Lily know? Can’t we wait for her to get back?”
“I think she might be a while yet,” said Theo.
James had gone back to angrily tapping at the computer, as I narrowed my eyes at Theodore. His nonchalance about Lily wasn’t right, and that just-walked-over-your-grave, sixth sense was tingling.
“Okay, I’ve got the records for the Ministry holding cells as well,” James said, leaning back in his chair and chewing on the end of his pencil. “Really,” he said, “If the Ministry are going to put everything on databases, they need to invest in some better security. Even a basic firewall would be handy.”
Albus politely coughed.
“Oh yeah, anyway. So, here are the records. Look, can you see Hugo’s records show he should have been with us the whole time?”
“And I wasn’t, I was cooped up on my own for a freaking month and a half,” he said, scowling.
“While we had a blast,” I said, elbowing him gently.
“Actually, this isn’t all that interesting,” James said disappointedly. He scanned the screen for a bit longer, eyebrows furrowed. “Rose, did you know you had forty seconds over the allocated time with Auntie Hermione and Uncle Ron?”
“Yeah, I was told by a very pissed off Ernie Macmillian,” I said, squinting at the screen. “Wait- what does that mean?”
James’ eyes followed my finger, pointing at Lily’s name. “It means she was discharged from custody twice.”
“I didn’t notice her leave,” I said.
James shook his head slowly. “Neither did I.”
Scorpius shrugged, and Albus looked worried. “What does this mean?” he asked.
I turned, and looked at Theodore who was shutting the curtains. “Do you know?” I asked.
He shrugged indifferently. “Nope.”
“Liar,” I said, the word out of my mouth before I could stop it. I fixed him with a hard gaze. I was ninety-nine percent sure there was something up with Lily that he knew about.
But with all due credit, he didn’t keep up with the lie.
“I’m afraid that’s not my secret to tell,” he said gently. “And when she gets back from her walk, if she still doesn’t want to explain, then you should respect that choice.”
James’ face went from confusion to worry to scared to relief and then he was back to confused within a matter of seconds.
Theodore clapped James on the back. “I’d tell you if I was concerned about your or her safety. Don’t worry.”
I relaxed. I did trust Theo, I did, but it was hard to have complete and utter faith in anyone. Scorpius and I had fought a little too much for that. Then, suddenly, I froze.
“Did you just hear that?” I said, whirling around.
“Hear what?” said Hugo, who had just set up a new game of Snap.
“Someone called my name.”
Theodore shook his head, and Scorpius and Albus wandered off again. I sat down at the computer, and opened up the internet, but I didn’t know what I was looking for. Then, I heard it again. Theodore put his hands on my shoulders.
“I heard it then too,” he whispered, leaning down. “It was coming from out the front. Pretend you don’t hear it, I’ll go check it out.”
I nodded, and watched him go out of the room by the corner of my eyes.
And then the front room exploded. Theodore staggered backwards out of the room, his arm covering his face. “Crap!” he half-yelled.
I ran forwards and pulled him back, adrenaline already thumping through my body.
“Come out, come out wherever you are!” a familiar voice called. “You should consider that a warning shot.”
I rolled my eyes. Men and their dramatics. “Consider us warned,” I muttered, too low for them to hear me.
Scorpius looked at me in sudden horror and realisation. “That’s Richie,” he said in an undertone.
“Who?” said Theodore, patting at his sleeve, which had caught fire. “There are bloody loads of them out there.”
“Did they see your face?” I asked, pulling back from the windows. Outside had suddenly gone eerily quiet in the aftermath of the fireball. Only a few small blazes remained alight in the remnants of the front room.
Theo shook his head. “I doubt it.”
“And is there anything to connect this house to you?” I pressed.
“You’re taking Hugo, and leaving. Right now. We’ll catch up to you.”
Hugo’s mouth dropped open. “Rose! I want to fight!”
“You are still just a kid, Hugh. I’m sorry,” I said. The sooner I could get him out of danger, the better. Mum would kill me if anything happened to him.
He looked utterly outraged, but that only served to fuel my conviction that I was right. “Hughie,” I said, and hugged him properly for a second, like I hadn’t since we were both small. “You’re a thinker. You need to find out what’s going on. I have every faith in you.”
He set his jaw. “Fine.” He didn’t look happy about it, but I had already thought I’d lost him once. I’d rather have an angry Hugo than a dead one.
“What about Lily?” James asked.
Theo smiled, a quick, tight smile. “Trust me,” he said. “She’ll be fine. And I’ll keep Hugo safe too, don’t worry.”
Albus tested the air with his wand. “They’ve already laid out an Anti-Apparating Spell,” he said.
“Okay,” I said, instinctively taking charge. I might not be the cleverest person in the world on a normal day, but give me a life or death scenario and I’m pretty damn quick. “We’ll provide cover fire so the two of you can get safely out, and then we’ll get out and meet you. You run to the tree line, then Apparate.”
“Where?” asked Hugo.
“There’s an abandoned swimming pool outside Cardiff, to the north,” Theo said. “We’ll wait there every night for five minutes at eight pm.”
I nodded. “Good plan. They’re going to have realised their mistake with Scorp and I at the caravan park- if they muck around, we’re going to get away. So they’ll probably be coming in hard and fast, and we need to be counter them equally as hard,” I said, talking fast in case they launched another ‘warning’ shot. “Now, we’re going to split up. Scorpius, you’re with me, Lysander and Albus, and James, you’re on your own.”
“Why?” he snapped immediately. “I want to be with Albus.”
“If you go with Albus, you’ll get yourself killed trying to look after him, when he’s perfectly capable of looking after himself. Him and Lysander will make a good team. And frankly, Scorpius is the worst dueller out of us all, and I can afford to keep an eye on him.”
I looked at James sternly, daring him to argue with me. Cleverly, he kept his mouth shut.
“Scorp and I will stay down here; James, you’re up on the balcony; Al and Lysander, you’re on the other side of the house on the top floor.”
I tapped a Disillusionment Charm onto both Hugo and Theodore, and then James wordlessly Vanished the glass in the window before he crept upstairs, following Lysander and Albus.
I gave Hugo another quick hug, before crouching down and assuming my battle position. I saw the rucksack that Tracey had given me, and grabbed it, slinging it over one shoulder. I hadn’t yet checked what was inside it, but I was even more grateful than I was earlier.
I breathed in and out deeply concentrating on what was at hand. As soon as Hugo and Theo were out the window and running, we’d open fire.
And then- “Rose?”
It was Richie again. I’d almost forgotten.
Scorpius tapped me on the shoulder. “He’s not bad,” he whispered.
“What?” I hissed.
“I swear to you that Richie is not a bad person. I’ve known him since I was sixteen. He’s not a bad person.”
I felt like slamming my head against the wall. I couldn’t try to factor in Richie. “If we can get him out of here as well, we will,” I whispered back. “But I can’t promise anything.”
Scorpius nodded grimly. “I understand. Thank you.”
“Rose?” his voice sounded out again, plaintive and confused, contrasting heavily with the mocking tone of earlier.
I gritted my teeth and nodded to where Hugo and Theo stood. If I squinted, I could tell that Theodore had his hand firmly gripping my brother’s collar. The air shimmered as they climbed through the window, and I twisted around, aiming at the first Auror I could see.
A/N: another chapter, another fight. I swear, they cannot get a break. (what's up with Lily, do you reckon? AND RICHIE'S BACK!)
Quick note: if you haven't already seen, chapters ten and twelve have been edited and you probably check them out- leave a review if you haven't already... *wink*
The PI Jones which Rose refers to is to be originally found in chapter one, where James gets a lot of money in his account from the mysterious guy.
The character of Theodore Nott is stolen (with permission) from TheHeirOfSlytherin's fantastic fic; 'Her Hero', and I recommend it highly.
And thanks for all your help Sam! I saved Hugo here for you.
Also, the phrase 'curiouser and curiouser' is from Lewis Carroll, 'Alice in Wonderland'. Thanks for reading, and I'd love a review.
Sheesh, long Author Note. Sorry!
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