Chapter 1 : Strangers and Fireworks
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The thick, smoky smell of fireworks invaded Roxanne Weasley’s nose as the last fantastic array of lights and sound vanished and melted into the dark sky and she cheered along with her many family members and their guests, quite pleased to see that her father’s new creations had worked for once instead of blowing the entire Burrow into ash.
Because he enjoyed working with her Uncle Lee, his friend for years, their home above his famous joke shop, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes was constantly being repaired, painted and added onto until it resembled her father’s childhood home almost shockingly well.
Her mother, Angelina Weasley, didn’t seem to mind so long as they didn’t actually kill one another. She could mostly be seen hinting at new ideas and partaking in some of the dangerous new products her father couldn’t help but create, Uncle Lee and his wife, Alicia, cheering and crowing all the while.
Roxanne had grown up in a very loud, happy home and despite the fact that her father grew into sad moods on occasion, she had never seen him treat her or her older brother Perce (His name was Fred, after their uncle but she usually preferred to call him by his middle name, Percival.) as if they were something to be ignored.
Instead, they were ridiculously spoiled and despite her mother’s protests, Roxanne knew that she could only pout and plead with her father before he gave in and got her whatever she wanted, including a set of new Chaser gloves, expensive robes and recently, a new set of kid boots.
Some part of her knew that she shouldn’t take advantage of her father that way but she couldn’t help it and it sometimes made her feel childish and small, even though she was currently fifteen years old and going back to Hogwarts to start her dreaded OWLs.
There were only a few more days before she would have to crawl out of bed, stuff a bit of toast into her mouth and lug all of her Hogwarts things onto a trolley and go back onto the Express, her excitement for a new year dimmed by the idea that she might actually have to study for a change.
Luck was usually on her side and she had somehow made it all the way to her fifth year without having to stay behind like her friends Georgia and Leanne Wood, the daughters of the famous Oliver Wood, who made the best broomsticks in the whole world.
Aunt Katie, his wife, constantly nagged at her twin girls for not taking their studies seriously and the pair always responded with lazy replies, though that sort of talk had gotten them pushed back to their seventh year again.
Roxanne was still debating about how she was going to survive the next few months with OWLs looming over her head when she felt a tap on her shoulder and turning, she saw that her brother was smiling down at her.
With his brown skin and short wavy hair, it took a few moments for an outsider to see the resemblance that he shared with their father, whose skin was as pale and freckly as his siblings. “Everyone’s gone back to the tent, you don’t want to stay out here all night do you?” he asked with a teasing grin, showing off a deep dimple in his right cheek.
Roxanne hadn’t even noticed that everyone else had turned around, going down sloping green hills towards the gilded gold tent in the background where they were celebrating their grandparent’s anniversary.
She must have been so lost in her thoughts that she hadn’t even noticed that she was alone, gawping up at the sky like an idiot and she laughed, “Maybe I will if it’ll keep me from having to go back to school so soon.” She said with a frown and her brother laughed.
He was on his last year at Hogwarts of course and was by far much smarter than she was, saying that the longer he stayed in school the more corrupted he got. Success was the only option too if he wanted to go to Germany and manage the joke shop there like their father had promised (Even though they’d made a bet that Perce wouldn’t survive his NEWTs, that was hardly the point), “Worried that you won’t survive, Roxie?” he asked her with mock concern.
Roxanne frowned at him a little while she tried not to smile and he wrapped his arm around her shoulders, the strap of her dress being smashed purposefully under his large hand. “You’ll get it wrinkled!” she snapped and Perce laughed before she settled comfortably underneath his arm, “and I’m not too worried about OWLs, I’ll survive somehow.”
The lie didn’t escape her brother but he said nothing and started leading her down the sloping hills towards the tent, which was bursting with laughter and cheery folk music. Their entire family was down there and she couldn’t wait to dance with her grandfather and tease Molly Weasley for being too shy to dance, “You’ll be all right. Either that or you’ll just have to repeat a year like Leanne and Georgia.”
Roxanne flushed a little at the thought of slumping back to Fifth year Potions and hearing Professor Zabini announcing how much of a failure she was. If there was one class that she was actually good at, it was Potions and she refused to be the vampire’s laughingstock, “You know—if your girlfriend and her sister actually studied they wouldn’t have to worry about repeating a year.”
Perce thought about this for a moment before shrugging a little, not wanting to say anything negative about Leanne when they had just started dating not too long ago.
Considering that they had grown up together, Roxanne had been surprised that they had eventually fallen for one another when she’d always thought of them as brother and sister. “Yeah, well, miracles might actually happen this year. You never know.” He said in reference to her passing OWL year and his girlfriend finally sleazing through her NEWTs.
Roxanne grinned up at him as they hopped over a gnome hole and finally walked into the tent, which was ablaze with lights, caterers and food piled high into the ceiling. Someone had conjured a dance floor and because Uncle Percy never quite stopped showing off to make up for whatever he had done in the past, there was no need for anyone to worry about the price, “He really went all out. I was here earlier but I swear it’s gotten bigger,” she said to her brother.
“He’s Undersecretary to the Minster! We lowly mortals know nothing of grandeur so he has to show off.” Perce said with a laugh that collected in his chest. He was actually named after their uncle and spent a lot of time with him so Roxanne figured he had the right to tease, “Look, there he is right there.” He pointed into the thick of the crowd where Uncle Percy and Aunt Audrey were dancing.
Roxanne had always thought that they were an unusual couple. While Uncle Percy was perhaps a bit stuffy, he was actually quite nice but Aunt Audrey was like a wild dragon and constantly threw him off balance, but her father had told her that a woman like that was just what her uncle had needed, “You know, looking at her I wouldn’t have thought that she had been a stripper.”
Aunt Audrey was short, slender and her long black hair was piled up in an elegant knot atop her head, her eyes sparkling with teasing mischief as she stared up at her husband.
She was Chinese as well, which had caused a bit of nasty remarks from ignorant people in the Ministry but she had a sort of strength about her that reminded Roxanne of her mother. It was almost eerie how vicious she could be, “Obviously you’ve never seen her dancing to different music,” Perce said to her with a frightened look in his eyes and she roared with laughter. Before she could remark on that, she caught sight of their parents in the crowd, both of them dancing with one of their younger cousins.
Their father was showing Rose Weasley the steps to the folk music while their mother was teasing Albus Potter as they maneuvered wildly around the dance floor, “She’ll kill the kid,” Roxanne said in alarm and her brother grinned, since he enjoyed bullying Albus too much to intervene.
He and Rose would start Hogwarts next year and Roxanne wasn’t sure why but she had a feeling that the two of them wouldn’t exactly have the best of times. It was an odd sensation but she shrugged it off and said to her brother, “I’m going to rescue Rose. Dad is obviously trying to make her cry,” she observed as their father dipped Rose over his arm, amid her shrieks.
Perce removed his arm from her shoulders and she saw him scanning the crowd for someone he recognized and an impish grin spread across his face. “Oh, look, its Molly.” Roxanne shot him a look. “And she looks so helpless and innocent—I’m going to mess with her. I’ll see you later,” he said, darting quickly towards a tall girl who was standing miserably behind an array of flowers, obviously trying not to be seen.
Roxanne rolled her eyes, not understanding why her brother liked to pick on Molly when the two of them were actually very close.
Molly was unbearably shy and she supposed her brother liked to see if he could break her out of it but it usually ended up with him covered in boils or Molly not talking to him for weeks, “You leave her alone Fred!” Aunt Hermione, who was nearby snapped once she caught sight of her brother yanking Molly from behind the flowers and pinching her cheeks until she yowled with pain.
Feeling a laugh bubbling into her chest, Roxanne passed through the mass of bodies and tried to get to her father but was waylaid by cousins, aunts and friends.
She wound up having a lengthy conversation with Lucy Weasley, Molly’s younger and more outlandish sister (Who wanted to join the Wizard circus), giving Teddy Lupin advice on how to scare James Potter and his sister Lily and dancing briefly with Louis Weasley, who was a year younger than her.
Exhausted by it, she darted around Victoire and Dom-Dom (Dominique), Louis’s older sisters and finally made it up to her father, who was trying to bully Rose into putting a spider down her father’s shirt, “I’m sure he won’t mind, Rosie,” her father said evilly.
Rose blinked up at him in alarm, her brown eyes wide. “B-but why, Uncle George?”
“Because I said so—” Roxanne caught her father saying and she punched him in the arm until he glanced at her sheepishly, obviously not pleased on having been caught. “I mean, just give your dad a hug for me.”
Rose said hello to Roxanne, thought about what her uncle had told her and then darted off to freedom to do as she was told. “You know you’re going to have to stop teasing the kids like that, Dad.” Roxanne said to him with a frown and he just laughed at her and brushed it off before offering her his hand.
Roxanne knew that her father and mother and half her family had fought at the Battle of Hogwarts but as far as she knew, her parents were the only ones whose hands still shook with past trauma. It had worried her when she’d been younger, thinking that they were ill but now, she tended to accept it as something she would never be able to understand, having never faced that sort of horror. “You’re not any fun, Roxie.” Her father said with a grin, showing off the dimple in his right cheek that he had given to her brother, “come on. Dance with me,”
Unable to refuse him, Roxanne took his hand and he pulled her into his arms with an exaggerated flourish, just as their mother passed them by, Albus looking terrified as he was nearly thrown into his parents, who had been talking to Uncle Charlie and Uncle Bill.
“Sorry!” her mother cried with a laugh as Albus regained his footing and his parents stared at her with resigned expressions, “come on, Albus, don’t be scared!” she said to the boy, who resembled his father rather strongly.
Albus was rather pale, “I can’t help but be!” he shouted before Roxanne’s mother swept him away, doing some exaggerated swirls and twirls that caused them to look like a mirage of color.
Roxanne felt deeply sorry for her younger cousin but her father was roaring with laughter. “I think your mum has had too much to drink.” He said to her in a conspiratorial whisper and she nodded in agreement. With a fond sigh, she was pulled into an easy, swaying dance, “so, beautiful girl, excited for OWLs?”
“You know I’m not!” Roxanne said in alarm as he grinned teasingly at her and she frowned, knowing when she was being made fun of. She reached up and tugged on his red hair, which had just started to grey (Much to his horror) and said meanly, “if I don’t pass OWLs, it’ll be your fault you know!”
Her father winced good naturedly before taking her hand and placing it onto his shoulder, which was clad in an outrageous blue dragon hide jacket. “How would that be my fault?” Roxanne’s eyes narrowed. “My genes aren’t that bad you know!” he cried, looking as if she had mortally wounded him.
Roxanne felt herself smiling. “You told us horror stories about OWLs and said that it didn’t even matter if we got one Outsanding!” she cried and this was very true. Somehow, both of her parents had managed to pass, though her father and his brother had left Hogwarts without even graduating, “I still don’t understand how you were able to get three.”
“Luck, Roxie. It’s all about luck,” her father said with an arrogant nod that had her laughing before he moved around the dance floor with her. She felt her curly hair, which was just like her mother’s bouncing around her head like a cloud and it made her feel wild and free, “you’ll do okay. You’re a good girl,”
Roxanne flushed with pleasure and embarrassment because she was, as Perce would say a true Daddy’s Girl to the end. “Thanks Dad,” she said and he beamed, quite pleased with himself. His own parents were looking truly happy as well when she spotted them sitting at a long table, talking to Hagrid (He took up at least five chairs and was well into his cups) and a few of their other friends who had come to say hello. Uncle Percy and Aunt Audrey danced past them, her aunt making a challenging face at her father, who gawped at her, unable to believe her nerve, “oh, no! I am not going to be used for one of your games!” she cried, upon noticing the tension.
Aunt Audrey grinned wildly at her father, who she sometimes called Greg when she couldn’t remember his name (On purpose) and said. “I bet we’ll out dance you!” in a loud voice.
Uncle Percy sighed wearily. “Not again,” noticing Roxanne, he sent her a swift smile that reminded her a lot of Lucy’s, though she was always grinning about something that she shouldn’t have been up to in the first place. “You look wonderful, Roxanne.”
“Thanks Uncle Percy! You look okay I guess,” Roxanne replied teasingly and he rolled his eyes a little before narrowing them on his brother. “Are you going to have a dance off?” she asked her father worriedly, not wanting to be in the middle of one of their games.
Her father and Aunt Audrey were eyeing one another with playful fire and she groaned as he nodded, pulling her closer just as her aunt gripped Uncle Percy’s shoulder with unnecessary force. “The two of you are like big kids,” he said with a weary sigh.
“Whoever wins gets to mooch food for a week! And whoever loses has to take the kids for the summer.” Aunt Audrey declared, ignoring her husband. Roxanne’s father nodded and she groaned with acute misery just as the folk music struck up a new cord, the magical orchestra somehow knowing that there was something intense going on, “all summer.” Her aunt added darkly.
Her father’s eyes were wide. “Good God, you’re mad.” But he didn’t disapprove and Roxanne and her uncle were yanked into the center of the dance floor and it was only by the grace of God that they were even alive by the end of the battle.
Although her father lost, Roxanne didn’t mind spending the summer with her favorite aunt and uncle at their massive beach house (It was a few miles away from Uncle Bill and Fleur’s) and she found herself laughing along with the guests and her relatives, knowing nothing could go wrong.
Roxanne’s feet hurt and she had eaten too much. It was nearing midnight and the party was still in full swing, her grandparent’s still awake and offering for many of her relatives to stay the night before regretting it when her parents decided that they would, indeed bother them until tomorrow morning.
Perce was still in the tent, chasing Molly Weasley around with a fake rat the last she’d seen them and Albus had been running away from Teddy Lupin, his brother and Lucy, who had all been intent on making him cry.
Stretching her hands up to the sky, she was thankful that she had decided to sneak away to get a little privacy for herself and she tiredly made her way towards her grandfather’s shed full of Muggle things.
It would be musty and smelly but it would be a reprieve from her family for a while and she determinedly made her way over to it, her heels snagging in a gnome hole before she yanked it out, fearing that she’d gotten mud all over them.
Unable to see it despite the star and moonlight raining down over the area, she fumed for a second before continuing on her way, her toes pounding from her father yanking and dancing her around for nearly half an hour.
Yawning loudly, she saw the somehow haunting outline of the shed (There were about five more scattered around the Burrow) and walked over, knowing that the door would be unlocked since her grandfather still hung around in it on more than one occasion. After nearly tripping over Wellington boots and kicking at a gnome that tried to gnaw on her calf, she made it to the door and lazily tried the knob.
Oddly, it felt as if it had been broken open but she wondered if her grandmother had done it herself to get rid of some of her husband’s junk and she grinned before pushing it open with very little force and calling out into the darkness, “Hullo?” when no one answered, she stepped inside.
Boxes, crates and various hanging objects nearly caused her death but she eventually found a light switch (A present from Aunt Hermione last year) and for a moment the room was flooded with yellow, hazing light.
Roxanne looked around at all the bolts, microwaves, batteries and plugs that were nearly tipping towards her with a fond smile, thinking that she was alone until she saw a tall, dark shape in the far corner of the room.
She let out a scream of surprise before asking with clear bravado, “Who’s there?” wondering if it were one of the guests, she snapped. “The party is in the tent, I could show you where it is—” the figure moved and there was a flick of movement before she saw that it was a very tall, very big man and she felt something like fear descend onto her skin. “Who are you?!”
The person said nothing; just moved and shoved his way around boxes and she saw one of her grandfather’s prized toaster ovens fall down with a resounding crash. “What is all this shit anyway?” the person asked in a gravelly, smoky voice that she instantly feared.
“Do you want me to get my parents?” Roxanne demanded furiously, her heart pounding even though she was trying to be brave. She was a Hufflepuff but she wasn’t a coward but there was very little that she could do against a full grown man—a former Death Eater bent on revenge that had someone gotten past all the wards?
It was a possibility, there were still people out there that hated Uncle Harry and her family and had nothing better to do. “Stop right there you bastard!” she cried when the figure made a movement towards her, his features distorted as he suddenly, purposefully retrieved his wand from a jacket pocket.
Roxanne flinched, expecting pain.
But instead, the bulb above her head exploded with shards of glass and she stepped hastily back as the figure took deliberate steps towards her until she felt the back of a table laden with various Muggle books and tools hit her hard in the back of the legs.
“Damn, Weasley. This isn’t the sort of welcome that I was hoping for. Don’t you remember me?” the figure asked gently, menacingly and she felt her eyes widening as he reached out, one large hand cupping her chin.
That touch…it had been an entire year.
Her once and dearest friend…Roxanne’s mouth was dry as she muttered his name, somehow knowing that it was true, but couldn’t be— “Benjamin Malfoy?” and his laughter was both damning and pleased and she knew that everything was about to go wrong with that one, dark sound.