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Chapter 1 : Chapter 1: Changing the past
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Roxanne jolted awake as if electricity was inserted directly down the length of her spine. Her chest heaved and she gasped, clawing at her throat, trying to suck in much needed air. She took in too much and broke into a rapid coughing fit that sent her collapsing back onto the bed. She rubbed at her chest. The unconscious habit verified that her heart was beating so hard that it threatened to burst from her chest.
She opened her dark eyes, winced, and immediately closed them again, groaning. Her limbs were sore, her head was pounding with a vengeance, and everything seemed way too bright. Opening her eyes again, she finally took in her surroundings. She found herself in what looked to be a meadow, and judging by the light in the sky, it looked to be late evening. Confused, she sat up suddenly; the pounding in her head increased, making her dizzy. Clutching her head, she squeezed her eyes shut as she waited for the feeling to pass.
As she began to feel a bit normal, she opened her eyes again and took in her surroundings: the bag laying next to her reminded her what had happened the last couple of hours. With this realization, the memories of the past - or should she say the future - came back. The brunette witch had mentally transformed. She was concentrating on her mission and the goal she so badly desired to achieve. Like blood on her tongue she could taste the iron fear that swept through the air, representing all those that had done battle there in her youth and those that had met their untimely early death due to errors, accidents and punishments. She would not fail. She could not fail; everything depended on it .
Roxanne slowly stood up and grabbed the bag next to her. She took hold of her wand and transfigured the bed into a little box and put it into the bag. She was glad they had thought of the bag and the bed, otherwise her landing would not have been so soft, and as for the bag, life would have been a lot more difficult.
Roxanne walked down the streets casually, as if she were out window shopping, searching for a safe apparation spot. Behind some tall bushes that leaned against a dilapidated brick wall, she disappeared and then reappeared in a corner of the Leaky Cauldron.
The pop sound she made upon reentry was barely enough to make an old pair of drinking wizards look her way. However, once her equilibrium settled again, she nearly tripped over another wizard’s cane that had been haphazardly leaning against an empty chair.
“Sorry!” she said, treading around the scattered chairs like an obstacle course. She secured her handbag as she found her footing again.
“Sorry about that, miss. I try to keep that area clear, but the regulars keep movin ‘em back.” The bartender, who she recalled had been called Tom, was just putting away freshly wiped butterbeer mugs on an overhead shelf. A floating rag to his left waited impatiently for another mug to clean.
Roxanne looked a little frazzled, moving her curly hair away from her face after nearly meeting the dirty wooden floor in a tumbling heap. She looked up and realized he was speaking to her.
“Oh, right,” she said, looking back to make sure she didn’t lose anything on the ground. Her hands immediately went to her chest where she felt the bulge of the necklace still hidden under her shirt.
“Get you a drink, young miss?” Tom asked, offering his levitating rag another dripping wet mug.
“Ah,” she felt like she was caught off guard. “No, thank you. I mean, perhaps when I get back. I need to use the loo, first.”
Tom nodded and pointed the direction. Of course, she’d been there several times before when she had been young and before everything happened, so she knew exactly where it was. She politely nodded and went to find an abandoned stall. She lucked out as the rest of the untidy facilities with burping wastebaskets overflowing with paper towels were vacant. She stepped into one of the four stalls and pulled out the necklace from under her t-shirt.
Roxanne swallowed hard when she looked down at the necklace in her hands. A lot could depend on it; she couldn’t estimate the power the ring on the chain possessed. The long chain of the so-called necklace grew longer as she pulled it from her body, and like a slinky, it would retract the closer she held it to her chest.
Feeling ready to run a marathon, Roxanne had never been so anxious before. Her heart was in the right place, but doubt started to visit her. It occurred to her that maybe she was the wrong person for this mission. If she failed the consequences.. Roxanne swallowed the large lump that had formed in her throat. Her ears were keen to the surrounding sounds of the witch washing her hands and then leaving the room. All was silent, except for a drip from the sink that was left on. She looked down and saw she was standing in a puddle of water that was leaking from the rear of the toilet plumbing.
She turned her lip up in disgust and made a vocal disapproving sound. She walked out of the bathroom and looked into the mirror. She took one more glance up and down to make a final appraisal of her old-fashioned clothes before venturing off.
"Turn right here…" Roxanne muttered to herself as she glanced back down the street she had come from and saw a sign advertising "The Starry Prophesier."
Eerie music floated on the breeze out of a pub about a hundred meters away, and the reedy voice of an elderly man could be heard crying, "Poisonous toadstools. All varieties. Half-off tonight!" Knockturn Alley was an old place – older than Diagon Alley if rumour was to be believed. Stone footbridges crossed overhead, connecting stores and flats that could only be reached by Portkey, Floo or apparation. The gas-flame streetlamps were still lit this early in the morning, an amber glow lighting off the puddles in the street. Off of the main thoroughfare, the lights were lit twenty-four hours a day, most streets being too narrow and overbuilt to see daylight. Ducking under the ivy curtain of a low-lying footbridge, Roxanne took off down a shortcut through the thinning streets. Rainwater gushed out of the gutters from the deluge hitting the upper-levels, water almost ankle deep in some places. Moss crawled up the walls of the snug little alleyway, bright patches of moist green dotting the stonework.
Ahead of her was a six-way intersection, and she couldn't quite decide which right she was supposed to head down to. Glancing around her at the shady figures lurking about, their hoods pulled tightly around them, and others – grotesquely malformed and dressed in rags, with a predatory gleam in their eyes – she didn't think she would be getting a reasonable response if she walked up to them and asked "Excuse me, where I can find the place with the sign that looks like a crudely drawn doxy?"
Finally, she settled on one way and headed down the street, hoping she'd picked the correct one. The farther she walked the more surreal Knockturn Alley seemed to become. It was every bit as exotic and new as Diagon Alley had been when she was young. Most of the stores were open, and yellow light spilled out into the street. It was quieter than Diagon Alley in the day time, but there was still a steady murmur of voices around her. The window displays didn't have the cheerfulness of those she had seen at stores like Flourish and Blotts, but many of them were beautiful in their own ways. When she reached the next intersection, she turned right again, as per Mrs. Tonks' directions, and let out a relieved sigh when she spotted a little alley. Right there, on the corner, was a tall, narrow building that had been painted pitch black, that had a crooked signpost next to the door. Dangling precariously from the post, one of the two chains holding the wooden sign broken, was a banner that was too crudely drawn . Roxanne squinted and turned her head this way and that, until she was satisfied that, with a lot of imagination – and probably a few gallons of fire whiskey – it did, indeed, look like a doxy.
Setting her shoulders and trying to ignore the horrible stench that came from behind the building – she hated to think about what was causing this kind of smell on the other side of the building – she shoved the door open and walked in. "Hello?" she called into the room as she glanced around her surroundings.
Torches flickered around the room, bathing it in a warm orange glow. A fireplace crackled in the corner, and there was a clean counter with a few chairs in front of it in the back of the room. The walls were lined with shelves filled with books, scrolls, and tablets, causing Roxanne to pause. Did I walk into the wrong building? She asked herself. This didn't exactly look like a forger's den. It didn't even look like the place belonged into Knockturn Alley to begin with.
"Can I help you?" a female voice came from what she assumed was the back room. A few seconds later, a young woman opened the door that led further into the house. She was wearing pale grey robes so light that they almost floated when she walked, satin slippers, and her long hair hung down past her waist. She smiled and politely coughed into her hands.
Roxanne started when he realized she'd been staring. She was well-dressed, to her surprise, in expensive robes. "Oh, sorry," she said, clearing her throat in embarrassment.
She eyed her curiously with a mysterious smile, and casually brushed a lock of her light blond hair behind her ear. "So, with what can I help you today, miss. . . .?"
"Just call me Semele." Roxanne reflexively stuck out her hand.
She paused, looking at the hand hesitantly, before looking back up to offer Roxanne a small crooked smile. Her eyes seemed to dance as she looked down at her. "Just Semele, it is."
"I'm here to talk to, uhm, the Forger," Roxanne said, feeling stupid while she said it.
"Oh, I'll get my father then. Just a moment!" she said brightly before turning around and vanishing through the door. Moments later, she returned, accompanied by an equally well-dressed middle-aged man.
"What can I help you with, miss?"
"I need some . . . documentation," Roxanne replied hesitantly, glancing nervously at the young woman standing next to the forger.
"Ah yes, yes. Where from?" the Forger noticed Roxanne's gaze and smiled. "Do not worry about her; she knows the business I am in. In fact, let me introduce us. I am Asgard Eggen, master forger, and this is my daughter, Alcina. She does the books and is learning to take over the business."
"Pleased to meet you," Alcina smiled pleasantly.
"Thank you," Roxanne stammered in reply, surprised at the place and the people. "Semele Lufkin."
"I'll get some tea, Father," Alcina said and turned around. "Would you like sugar and cream, Miss Lufkin?"
"Just some sugar, please," Roxanne replied. "And please, like I said before just call me Semele."
"Just sugar, then. The usual, Father?" She waited for his nod and left, presumably for the kitchen.
"Why the surprised look, Semele?" Mr. Eggen prodded with amusement at Roxanne's still shocked expression.
"It just . . . didn't expect, well . . . this," she said as she gestured around herself, thinking about the stories she heard about how Knockturn Alley was in the olden days, before it happened.
"Ah," Mr. Eggen grinned. "I do have a cover to keep and after all not many find their way down so far, so it is quite safe from the Ministry."
Roxanne blinked in surprise. "Yeah. Good point."
Mr. Eggen laughed. "Now, what brings you here? Documentation, you said. . ." he noticed Roxanne's uneasy look, and was quick to calm her down. "Do not worry. I do not ask questions, merely what I need to know to create what you want. Now, what exactly is it that you need?"
Roxanne remained quiet for a long while. “Canadian documentation. Muggle passport, birth certificate . . .” she finally said. “The magical equivalents, too. And an apparition license."
"Ah, the entire personal identity set, then." Mr. Eggen’s intense gaze nearly caused her to recoil from him. "You look a bit young to be a fugitive, or to be starting a new life over."
She eyed him for a long moment. "I thought you weren't going to ask questions," she replied, peering slowly over her shoulder at the entrance.
"I'm not, I'm not," Mr. Eggen grinned and held up his hands. "But you cannot fault my curiosity. It is not every day that I get a customer as young as you." He eyed Roxanne suspiciously for a moment. "You can pay, of course?"
"What's your price?" she asked dryly.
"For the complete package? Magical and Muggle documentation?" Mr. Eggen stroked his moustache for a moment. "Plus an apparition license? Twenty thousand."
Roxanne frowned. That was a ridiculous price to ask, even in the wizarding world. A quick glance at the older man told her that he knew that, as well. "I could buy the Minister of Magic’s identity for that. Four thousand." She tilted her head defiantly.
It was Mr. Eggen's turn to frown. "I cannot even pay the bills with that. Do you have any idea how much it will cost to get you your apparition license alone? And Canada . . . that is so far away. I will need to call in a lot of favors. I cannot do it below sixteen."
"That's a load of bull," Roxanne shot back acerbically. "I heard you are the best at your job," she bluffed, "but I also heard about your tendency to charge outrageous sums. Seven thousand."
Mr. Eggen shook his head. "I do not get many customers. And, as you heard, I do the best work. You go to someone else and the Ministry will detect the forgery on first sight." He looked down at Roxanne sternly. "Eleven thousand is my last word."
Roxanne bristled, but thought the offer over. It was still a lot of money, but she knew nobody else and it isn’t like you can ask someone on the street if they knew a master forger. At least without getting an immediate cell in Azkaban and that she couldn’t risk. Squaring her shoulders, she looked up and pasted on her best poker face. "And what guarantee do I have that you are the best? For all I know, your work could be shoddy, as well."
"Ah, but I come with recommendation, do I not?" Mr. Eggen waggled his finger in delight.
"Which means absolutely nothing to me," Roxanne retorted. "I don't trust them, and frankly, I don't trust you. Eight thousand. Or I'll take my chances."
Mr. Eggen was silent for a long moment, a serious look on his face. Roxanne stared him down, but internally, she was quivering, hoping that she hadn't just blown it. She needed those documents, and she needed them soon, or she was going to get into trouble. She wasn't naïve enough to believe that she could get away without having to show some sort of ID or documentation at some point, especially during this era.
"Father," Alcina called out from the door to the kitchen, a reproaching tone in her voice. Roxanne's full attention was focused on Alcina in a heartbeat. "Are you harassing our customers again?" She came through with a tray laden with three cups and a kettle. Depositing it on the counter between her father and Roxanne, she frowned at him and shook her head. "You know how much it scares the customers when you do that. And one so young. You’ll scare her away!"
"All right, all right, Alcina." Her father looked up and chuckled at Roxanne's confused expression.
"I apologize for Father's behavior, Semele," Alcina said as she leaned over, placing a cup in front of Roxanne. "He likes to play games like these sometimes, just to see how serious his customers are. He calls it testing your character, but I figure he just likes to tease people, when he gets the chance."
"That's . . . uhh . . ." Roxanne stared back and forth between the master forger and his daughter, unable to find the right words.
Mr. Eggen finally laughed as he drank his tea, taking large gulps of the liquid as he smiled heartily. "Do not worry, Semele. Eight thousand galleons is fine. How quickly do you need the documents?"
"Well . . . as soon as you can get them done, I suppose." Roxanne shrugged. "I don't know when exactly I'll need them, but I'd rather have them sooner rather than later."
Mr. Eggen nodded thoughtfully. "The Muggle documents will be easy enough, but the wizard ones . . . I need to send a message to a business associate of mine in Canada. Especially the apparition license might take some time. The Ministry is very thorough in checking and registering those. Let me go find out what I can do." Mr. Eggen got up and left, leaving Roxanne in the company of his daughter. Alcina smiled and pulled out a parchment and a quill.
"So, we're going to need some details for the documentation you wanted. Let's start with the birth certificate . . . name and date of birth?"
Roxanne thought for a moment. "Semele Artemisia Lufkin. Born April 30th , nineteen-fifty-nine."
Alcina dutifully noted everything down.
"Born in . . . Calgary, Canada."
"All right . . . moving on to your passport. Married? Single? Divorced?"
Alcina nodded as she wrote it down. "All your former places of residence?"
Roxanne had to think about that for a moment. She didn't want to imply that she had lived in Canada all her life, and she had to explain her British accent somehow. Finally, she settled on one explanation. "Well, I travelled a lot in my life. Do I need to mention all of them? "
Alcina arched a curious eyebrow. "Yes. And the dates that you were there. Also there are your official school records and the equivalent of the OWLs and such. Graduation records, too so we can fill up the passport appropriately and all the other important stuff."
Roxanne groaned. "It's going to be a long day, isn't it?"
AN: The beta for this chapter is Phoenix_Flames. I have to credit Beeezie for the great summary. If by chance you do read this I wonder what you think of it and if you have any recommendations to improve it ( like for example the opening sentence) and if you think I should change the summary? Next to that I wonder what you think of this?
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