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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 melted into the dark sky. There was nothing in thew orld quite like this and she cheered along with her many family members, quite pleased to see that her father’s new creations had worked for once instead of blowing the entire Burrow into ash.
Roxanne's father, George Weasley enjoye working with his best friend Lee Jordan and she had grown used to their dangerous experiments. Their home above his famous joke shop, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes was constantly being repaired, painted and added onto almost every year.
It resembled her father’s childhood home almost shockingly well.
Roxanne's mother didn’t seem to mind so long as they didn’t actually kill one another and was oen of the only voice of reason in their home. Angelina Weaslsey was rational where here husband was reckless but she often hintted at new ideas and partook in some of the dangerous new products her father couldn’t help but create. Roxanne ahd grown up with the sounds of something exploding, catching on fire and sticking to everything and had a rather interesting childhood.
Lee Jordan and all of her parents old Quidditch friends were a welcome sight and she had grown up calling them aunt and uncle. Roxanne had thrived in a very loud, happy home and wouldn't have had it any other way despite the fact that her father suffered from sad moods on occasion. She had never seen him treat her or her older brother Perce (His name was Fred 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 her father would buy her anything. Everyone said that she was spoiled and Roxanne knew that they were mostly teasing but it sometimes hurt that her cousins only saw her as a whiny brat.
The fact that her father had bought he a set of new Chaser gloves, expensive robes and a set of pearl eearings hadn't helped. Roxanne knew that she shouldn’t take advantage of her father that way but she couldn’t help it, some silly part of her thought he would fade away if she wasn't there.
It made Roxanne feel childish and small, even though she was currently fifteen years old and going back to Hogwarts to start her dreaded OWLs. Still not here, Roxanne mused as she thought of Benjamin Malfoy, the friend that had vanished the year before without the slightest inkling that she might care.
A pang spread in Roxanne's chest as she wondered why he had abandoned her, she hadn't been able to really accept it. Her eyes threatened to sting but she refused to cry anymore when Benjamin had made it clear that he didn't care about her before he had left, crushing her so effortlessly that she had felt broken.
He's probably not coming back, Roxanne thought sadly.
Roxanne sighed and pushed the image of Benjamin Malfoy from her mind, knowing that it had been almost impossible those first few days after he was gone. When would she see him again anyway? It had already been an entire year and there were only a few days left before she would be heading back to Hogwarts. Benjamin should have been back by now but she doubted that he would have told her.
The new year would bring fresh experiences and Roxanne was excited to get back on the Quidditch pitch. She hadn't been on her broom all summer and it would be great to feel a rush of pure ectasy go down her spine as she crushed her opponents but the feeling faded as she realized that she might actually be spending way too much time in the library this year.
Roxanne stifled an agonized groan, luck was usually on her side and she had made it all the way to her fifth year without having to stay behind. Her friends, Georgia and Leanne Wood hadn't been so fortunate. They were the only daughters of the famous Oliver Wood, who made the best broomsticks in the whole world.
Their mother, Katie Wood constantly nagged at the twins for not taking their studies more seriously. The pair always responded with lazy replies, though that sort of talk had gotten them pushed back to their seventh year again. “You won't be able to laugh when you're on the streets!” Aunt Katie always roared.
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. Turning, she saw that it was her brother smiling down at her.
Fred Weasley II had deep brown skin and short, wavy hair that curled against his skin like dark silk. Roxanne had always thought he strongly resembled their father but there wasn't an ounce of him that really believed it, “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.
“How long have I been standing here spacing out?” Roxanne asked, worried.
“I'd say fifty years but that would be an exaggeration.” Perce laughed, 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. They were celebrating their grandparent’s anniversary and she had been so lost in her thoughts that she hadn't even noticed that she was alone, “Maybe it’ll keep me from having to go back to school.” She said with a frown and her brother laughed.
Perce 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?” her brother asked with mock concern.
Roxanne frowned, trying not to smile as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders while strap of her dress being smashed purposefully under his large hand. “Hey—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.”
The lie caused Perce's brows to raise but he said nothing and started leading her down the sloping hills towards the massive tent, which was bursting with laughter and cheery folk music. Their entire family had arrived for the anniversary and she couldn’t wait to dance with her grandfather and tease Molly Weasley for being too shy.
Perce kissed the top of her head. “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 would rather eat worms than be the joke of the year. “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 idly, not wanting to say anything negative about Leanne. 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.” Perce replied in reference to her passing OWL year. He didn't seem to have much doubt that his girlfriend would successfully sleaz 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 tables piled high with food.
Someone had conjured a shimmering dance floor and because Uncle Percy never quite stopped showing off, there was no need for anyone to worry about the price. “He really went all out.” Roxanne said in amazement. “I swear it’s gotten bigger,” she remarked 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. “Dad said that there were times when Uncle Fred couldn't stand being in the same room with him but I think he'd be pretty pleased by how this party turned out.”
Perce had been named after their late uncle and although he never said anything about it, Roxanne knew that there was a part of him that wished he didn't know him. “Look, there he is right there.” Perce whistled while pointing 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 wore her long black hair piled up in an elegant knot atop her head. Her eyes sparkled with teasing mischief as she stared up at her content husband. Roxanne adored her and felt a pecuilar rush of longing before brushing it off with an uncomfortable laugh, “Auntie looks happy that Uncle Percy decided not to do something completely outrageous.”
“That's not saying much coming from Auntie.” Perce snorted.
Aunt Audrey was far from the demure wife that people would have expected their unlce to marry and Roxanne had to smile. 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.
“Obviously you’ve never seen her dancing to different music,” Perce whispered in her ear as if they were sharing a secret. When he pulled away, he had a frightened expression on his face and she roared with laughter.
“Do you remember the dance she did for Uncle Percy's birthday?” Roxanne asked.
Perce's face paled. “I try to forget,”
Roxanne snickered and 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.
“Mum's a horrible dancer and Albus is too nice to say anything.” Perce said and it was true, Albus was a pretty decent kid. He would regret it later though, “not sure how he'll shape up in Hogwarts, he's got the craziest imagination.”
Roxanne shot him a suspicious glance. “I can't see why with you teasing him and saying he's going to be in Slytherin,” she retorted and Perce snorted with satisfied laughter. The thought of being in Slytherin terrified Albus but she forced herself not to mention that it had been a disappointment to her when she hadn't been placed in that infamous House so long ago.
Benjamin Malfoy's face swept through Roxanne's mind once more and she wondered if it were like some kind of bad omen. He had never replied to her owls, never once bothered to contact her while the months rolled by—how was it possible for him to still dominate her heart like this? Their friendship had been over for a while now and it wasn't healthy to dwell on it but she couldn't help but get a nagging sensation that he was thinking about her too.
“What House do you think Albus will be in?” Perce suddenly asked.
Albus and Rose would start Hogwarts next year and Roxanne had the strangest feeling it wouldn't be an easy transition for them. It was an odd sensation but she shrugged it off and replied, “I'm not sure. I don't think either of them are going to wind up in Slytherin though.”
“Five Galleons says they'll both be in Gryffindor,” Perce said smugly.
“Rose won't be a Gryffindor, I bet you ten Gallenons.” Roxanne countered.
Perce snorted. “Deal.”
“I’m going to rescue Rose. Dad is obviously trying to make her cry,” Roxanne observed as their father dipped Rose over his arm, amid her shrieks.
Perce removed his arm from her shoulders and scanned the crowd quickly until an impish smile spread across his face. “Oh, look, it's Molly.” Roxanne shot him a look. “She looks so helpless and innocent—I’m going to mess with her. I’ll see you later, Roxie.” He said, darting quickly towards a tall girl who was attempting to hide in the corner, 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 dragging Molly onto the dance floor. Immediately he began 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 Molly's younger sister Lucy, giving Teddy Lupin advice on how to scare James Potter and his sister Lily and dancing briefly with Louis Weasley.
Roxanne darted around Victoire and Dominique, Louis’s older sisters and finally made it up to her father. He was trying to bully Rose into putting a spider down her father’s shirt, “I’m sure he won’t mind, Rosie,” her father was saying 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. “I mean, just give your dad a hug for me.”
Rose smiled brightly at Roxanne before running away, appearing to be deep in thought as if she really were considering what her uncle had told her. “I can't believe you! You know you’re going to have to stop teasing the kids like that, Dad.” Roxanne nagged 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 immediately took his hand and he pulled her into his arms with an exaggerated flourish. Her mother swirled by like a blur while poor Albus Potter nearly crashed into his parents, who had been talking to Uncle Charlie and Uncle Bill.
“Sorry!” Angelina Weasley cried 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, his green eyes wide. “I can’t help but be!” he practically screamed before Roxanne’s mother swept him away, doing a few exaggerated twirls that made their movements difficult to see.
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 Outstanding!” she reminded. 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 as he moved around the dance floor with her. She felt her curly hair 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 and a few of their other friends. Uncle Percy and Aunt Audrey swaggered towards 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!” Roxanne cried upon noticing the tension.
Aunt Audrey grinned wildly at her father and said. “I bet we’ll out dance you!” in a loud voice.
Uncle Percy sighed wearily. “Not again,”
“Again,” Roxanne's father declared.
Uncle Percy rolled his eyes before noticing Roxanne and sent her smile that was warmer than sunshine. “You look wonderful, Roxanne.”
“Thanks Uncle Percy! You look okay I guess,” Roxanne replied teasingly andhe cluthced his chest dramatically. “Are you going to have a dance off?” she asked her father warily, 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. Aunt Audrey gripped her uncle's shoulder with unnecessary force. “The two of you are like big kids,” Uncle Percy 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 just as the folk music struck up a new cord, “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. 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 remainder the summer with her favorite aunt and uncle at their massive beach house. The night felt endless and she found herself laughing along with the guests and her relatives, knowing in her heart that 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 everyone 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. 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 starry sky, Roxanne was thankful that she had decided to sneak away to get a little privacy for herself. She loved her family dearly but they could be a little overwhelming at times and she tiredly made her way towards her grandfather’s shed full of Muggle things.
It would be cramped and smelly but it would be a reprieve from her family and she could play around with some of her grandfather's favorite toys. Roxanne idly wondered if that old model airplane was still tucked away right as one of her feet became stuck in a gnome hole.
“Nope. I don't think so, Satan.” Roxanne snarled before yanking it out, fearing that she’d gotten mud all over her shoe.
Unable to see it despite the star and moonlight raining down over the area, she fumed for a second before continuing on her way. Roxanne scowled and winced as she felt one of her ankles throbbing, her feet were pounding from her father yanking and dragging her around for nearly half an hour.
Yawning loudly, she saw the somehow haunting outline of the shedand sighed with relief, knowing that the door would be unlocked. Her grandfather often experimented with toys and other junk when Grandma Molly wasn't around and Roxanne smiled as she wondered what he had stored inside. After nearly tripping over several pairs of old 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. Roxanne grinned at the silly image that popped up in her head before pushing it open and calling out into the darkness, “Hullo?” and when no one answered, she stepped inside.
The scent of old parchment and dust lingered in the air and Roxanne rubbed irritably at a spiderweb that landed on her nose. There was no telling what was actually in here and she doubted if her grandfather had cleaned the place in years, “Anyone here?” Roxanne tried again.
Roxanne couldn't help but feel that she was being watched and she rubbed her bare arms anxiously. Towering book shelves, crates and various hanging objects nearly caused her death but she eventually found a light switch and for a moment the room was flooded with yellow, hazing light. “Merlin, it's even worse than I thought.” She murmured while her eyes scanned around.
The shed appeared small upon first glance but was massive on the inside and it had been quite some time since Roxanne had been inside. Her mouth dropped in astonishment as it became clear that her grandfather was becoming quite the hoarder, she spotted tall book shelves flooded with old novels, microwaves, batteries and plugs that were nearly tipping towards her with a fond smile.
“Grandma Molly isn't going to be happy about this,” Roxanne muttered just as a her eyes caught movement from a tall, dark shape in the far corner of the room. A surprised shout was torn from her throat before she snarled irritably, “Teddy Lupin if this is some kind of prank, I will punch you in your throat.”
“Who’s there?” Roxanne demanded angrily, wondering dully if it were a drunk guest that had gotten lost. “The party is in the tent, I could show you—” 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 go through her. “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 deep voice that sounded familiar and not quite a mystery.
“You're gonna buy my Grandpa another toaster oven, asshole.” Roxanne snapped.
“What the hell is a toaster oven?” the shadow asked, baffled.
“Do you want me to get my parents?” Roxanne demanded furiously, her heart pounding even though she was trying to be brave. There was very little that she could do against a full grown man...was he 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!” Roxanne cried when the figure made a movement towards her, his features distorted as he suddenly, purposefully retrieved his wand from the inside his jacket.
The bulb above her head exploded with shards of glass and Roxanne cried out in surprise, as the figure took deliberate steps towards her. Frightened, she crashed into the back of a table laden with various tools and cursed, “I don't know who you are but if you touch me, I swear—”
“Damn, Weasley. 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. “I'm back.”
That touch…it had been an entire year. 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.
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