I had never been arrested before. It would have been a new experience in England, but it was definitely not something I'd ever thought would happen to me in America.
It was a lot scarier than I would have guessed.
They brought me to the Auror Department – the same building I'd been to when I tried to report Ambrosia's presence in New York and been laughed at – and stuck me in a small room with a large plate-glass window in one wall, and a table with a couple of chairs around it.
My wand was confiscated on my arrest, so now I was sitting in the chair across from a pair of Aurors in cheap Muggle suits, totally helpless and more scared than I'd ever been. Well, except maybe that one time when serial killers had kidnapped me and tried to kill me.
But this was different. I wasn't used to dealing with law enforcement without the comforting knowledge that my parents and my uncle could get me out of any sticky situations that might arise.
That wasn't an option here. No one knew my dad, no one knew my mum. I wasn't even sure if they knew who Uncle Harry was. Was Harry Potter famous across the pond?
“You know my uncle is Harry Potter, right?” I asked hopefully. I reckoned it was worth a shot.
The Auror sitting across from me gave me a look over the rims of his glasses. He was balding, and had a bit of a pot-belly. He was like a more unpleasant version of my uncle Percy. Only short.
The other Auror was leaning against the edge of the mirror. He was much younger and looked far less unpleasant than his partner. He was probably pretty new at this. He had rookie written all over him, if I was any judge. And I'd known a lot of MLEs and Aurors, so my judgement was probably pretty good, at least with this.
“We know,” said the rookie mildly.
The bald Auror blinked slowly, as if he were restraining the urge to tell his partner to shut up, and removed his glasses, smoothing down the mouse-brown sideburns that were nearly all that was left of his hair. “Ma'am, it doesn't matter who your family is. We're only interested in your activities.”
“I wasn't doing anything,” I assured him.
“You were apprehended at the scene of the crime. Five dead bodies, and evidence of Dark magic all over the place-”
“That wasn't my fault.” This was actually true this time. “I was only watching to see what Ambrosia was doing. I tried to tell you people that she was here and she was up to no good, but you wouldn't listen.”
“You tried to notify the Auror Department?” asked the rookie.
“Yes. I spoke to Reuben Jessup.” I was amazed I could remember his name, actually. Panic must be sharpening my memory. I really didn't want to go to prison. “I told him about my run-ins with Ambrosia in the past and that I'd seen her here in New York. He came by my hotel room the next day when Noah Ellery's body was found.”
The rookie's expression changed. I could see the uncertainty in his eyes. “Bleach, maybe we should-”
“Shut up, Zawicki,” said the bald Auror.
“Did you test my wand? The last spell I performed was a Disillusionment Charm, go on.” I waved my hand to invite them to it.
The bald Auror, Bleach, still had an impassive look. I'd been around enough Aurors to know this particular impassive look meant my wand's evidence was meaningless to him. “Your wand was tested. You could have cast the Disillusionment Charm to try to escape capture before you left. Priori Incantatem is only useful to show the last spell cast. It's not admissible in court as evidence for defense.”
Crap. My stomach dropped. I was sure that spell worked on more than the very last spell a wand had cast. “Look, call Jessup. I told him all about Ambrosia, I swear. I didn't have anything to do with what happened there. I'm only a witness, honestly!”
Zawicki the rookie turned to his partner and muttered, barely even moving his lips, “I think we should call Jessup.”
“I don't need Jessup to tell me how to handle my cases,” Bleach snapped. “I know a perp when I see one.”
“Look, just call in Jessup,” I said, trying to keep the hint of desperation out of my voice. Jessup was bound to tell him that I'd tried to turn Ambrosia in. I pushed aside the memory of his bad attitude when he'd come to my hotel room to talk. “He'll tell you. Why would I go to him about Ambrosia if I were working with her?”
“Maybe you're a rival, trying to stir things up for your own gain,” said Bleach.
I had never actually thrown up my hands in disgust before, but I nearly did. I wanted to throw something up.
Zawicki looked more uncertain than ever. Obviously he hadn't yet learned how to keep a blank Auror face. He gave a small cough. “Maybe we should-”
“Out,” barked Bleach. “I'll finish the interrogation myself.”
Zawicki left, closing the door rather sharply behind him. He had to be very new at this, I reflected, because Dad would never let an underling get away with this sort of behaviour. It was a shame I wasn't dealing with Dad's Aurors. Of course, if I was dealing with Dad's Aurors, I wouldn't be in an interrogation room right now.
Bleach turned his full attention back to me. “Give me one good reason I shouldn't lock you up right now.”
“Because I didn't do it,” I blurted out.
He stared at me for a long while, then he said, “I have enough evidence to hold you.”
“I was only there watching. I didn't do anything.” My stomach felt like a block of ice inside me. The hope that I'd talk my way out of this after all was looking pretty dim.
“Let's start over,” Bleach told me with insufferable calm. “Tell me everything that happened.”
I wanted to scream in frustration. “I already told you twice. Nothing is going to change about what I've said, so there's not much point repeating it. Again.”
“Fine. I'll just let you have some time to rethink your unwillingness to cooperate.”
“I did cooperate,” I pointed out sharply as he got to his feet. “Twice.”
Bleach's jaw twitched, but he didn't say anything. He yanked the door open, and there was Zawicki, one hand outstretched toward the door knob and a startled look on his face. Behind him I recognized Reuben Jessup and his partner. Hitchcock, I think his name was.
“Agent Bleach,” said Hitchcock. He had an impressively blank Auror face, even though he didn't look much older than Zawicki.
“Hitchcock,” Bleach answered tightly.
“Hatchcock. A word, please?” He gestured toward the corridor and then gave me a reassuring smile over Bleach's head. Some of the ice in my stomach thawed. Maybe I wouldn't go to prison after all.
They closed the door behind them, and I couldn't hear a thing. I rubbed my temples while I waited; I was getting a throbbing headache. I was not cut out to be on the wrong side of the law, clearly. I had a sudden burst of sympathy for all my bonds who'd skipped out on their court dates. No wonder they didn't want to go.
After what felt like half an hour, the door opened. Zawicki was gone, but the other three came inside the interrogation room and took up positions across from me. Jessup sat down at the table, while Hatchcock and Bleach stood next to the mirror.
“Let's go over this from the beginning,” began Jessup, lacing his fingers together, his hands on the table.
“I already gave him the long version twice,” I told him, pointing at Bleach. “I told you Ambrosia was in town, you didn't want to listen about her, she killed Noah Ellery, I did some poking around and found out where she was tonight, so I followed her to see what she's up to. Then you people arrested me, even though I didn't do anything.”
Jessup's hard face didn't twitch. “You had prior knowledge of the murder-”
“No, I just knew she was a bad guy-”
“-and then you were found at the scene of a multiple homicide. I don't need to tell you what this looks like.”
I stared at him, flabbergasted. Sure, Jessup hadn't been friendly when he'd come by my hotel, but I hadn't expected this. He seemed convinced that I was involved. Suddenly his questions at the hotel made a lot more sense. Scorpius had been right not to like them, too. I shook my head at Jessup. “I didn't do anything. I'm only a witness.”
“How did you know where to find Ambrosia Heggs?” Hatchcock asked suddenly.
I wasn't sure I should tell them about Anita and the entire situation with her, but Heckie was already in trouble with the law and might even have turned state's evidence by now. “I spoke with Heckie Shanahan, and he told me a bit about Ambrosia's activities in New York. She's going by Anastasia Leatherby here. Heckie was scared of her.”
“Heckie Shanahan was found dead in his apartment,” said Hatchcock.
My mouth fell open. “What?”
“Mr. Shanahan's body was discovered yesterday when a neighbour complained about the smell.”
“Oh, holy Kneazles.” I couldn't believe it. I'd only just talked to him, and now he was dead. I hoped it wasn't because of me. Poor Heckie. I wasn't sure they'd answer my next question, but I had to ask. “How did he die?”
“Murdered,” Bleach said shortly.
Hatchcock was watching me closely. “Acute trauma. Blunt object.”
I closed my eyes briefly. Blunt object. I knew what that meant. Ambrosia and her bloody shovel. I had gotten Heckie Shanahan killed. I felt a little sick to my stomach. It really was my fault. If I could have done the last few days over, I would have avoided that stupid street where we'd bumped into Ambrosia. Heckie would probably still be alive. Gee Spiker would have been returned to her mother by now, they were never going to keep her, and Anita was now a loose cannon with nothing to hold her back. Even those goons that had been killed at the docks, that had happened because Anita and Heckie hadn't shown up when they were supposed to. And that was my fault, too.
I put my face down, my eyes on the heels of my hands, and blew my breath out sharply. My entire body felt hot. I had gotten half a dozen people killed by getting involved, people who probably would be alive right now if I had simply let it go the way Scorpius had wanted.
I hadn't made any difference at all. I'd thought I was helping, but I hadn't done any good. I'd only got people killed.
“Ma'am,” said Jessup. His voice was dispassionate. It felt like fingernails on a chalkboard to my nerves.
But I knew better than to yell at an Auror when I was probably or very nearly under arrest. I looked up at them, trying to steady my voice. “Just... just give me a minute, please?”
Hatchcock nodded his head toward the door, and Jessup rose, hitching up the trousers of his cheap suit as he went to the door. Bleach followed them, arms crossed over his chest.
For a moment I only sat there, trying to stop picturing the bodies, and then I realized the Aurors were whispering to each other. I tried to breathe as quietly as possible so I could hear them.
“... she was right there and-”
I recognized Hatchcock's voice next. “Don't you know who her parents are? You're going to create a goddamn international incident by arresting her.”
“She was found at the scene, standing over half a dozen dead bodies!” Jessup hissed. “And we know she had contact with Shanahan right before his death, we have reports-”
“Circumstantial evidence. You know any good lawyer can get out of that. And you saw her reaction when I told her his body had been found. She didn't know.”
“So she's a good liar. She's turning up connected to all kinds of crime in this city. My gut says she's guilty. She knows more than she's saying. She doesn't have diplomatic immunity, no matter who her parents are.”
“So have her deported.” Bleach's voice now. “Let the Brits deal with her. It'll put a stop to whatever she's up to here, and avoids an incident if her famous parents raise a stink.”
Jessup's voice was hard when he answered. “If she did the crime in the US, she ought to do her time here too.”
Oh holy Kneazles. They thought I was a murderer. My stomach clenched with fear. Any good lawyer, Hatchcock had said. I needed a lawyer, but I didn't know any in New York. I knew exactly what I needed to do.
“I'm entitled to a Floo call, aren't I?” I said loudly.
They all looked over at me. Jessup and Bleach didn't look happy, but Hatchcock's face was carefully impassive.
“Yes, you are,” said Bleach, disgruntled.
“International Floo call?” I added. If they wouldn't let me do that, I could always Floo Scorpius and ask him to do it. He was a local Floo.
“Not normally, no. But since you're a British citizen, I suppose we can make an exception,” Hatchcock told me. I had a feeling he knew who I had in mind to call.
It took them a little while to arrange a fireplace for me – I guessed it really was an exception – and my hands were once again cuffed behind my back when I stuck my head in the fire. It was wildly uncomfortable.
“Hermione Weasley's office!”
Mum's office spun into view a moment later. She was sitting at her desk, her reading glasses perched on the tip of her nose, and looked up in surprise.
“Rose, I didn't expect to hear from you while you're on holiday-”
“Mum,” I interrupted. I didn't have time for this. I'd only got about two minutes on the international Floo call, they'd told me. “I need you to come to the Manhattan Department of Magic's Auror office and help me. They've arrested me-”
“What?” Mum interrupted, apparently unable to hold it in. “Rose, did you blow something up?”
“It wasn't my fault! I'm being framed, I swear. But I need a lawyer, they think I was involved in a multiple homicide and-”
“I'm on my way.” Mum was already on her feet, shoving papers into her handbag. “Don't say a word to anyone until I get there, Rose. I'm going straight to a Portkey now.”
“Time's up,” said a voice behind me, and a strong hand on my shoulder pulled me out of the fire. Mum's office disappeared, and I coughed on the ashes as I straightened up.
Jessup looked even less happy now than he had before. “You called your mother?”
“She's my lawyer,” I told him. “And I'm not speaking to anyone until she gets here.”
“Oh great,” said Bleach. “Just what I need, more British wizards making trouble.”
They left me sitting in the cell for hours. There was no clock, and I didn't have my wand. Nothing to look at, nothing to distract me from feeling guilty.
Scorpius didn't know where I was. I hadn't contacted him to tell him what I was doing. The warm whiskey feeling had given me courage at the time, thinking he'd be fine and I'd be home before he got too angry. The whiskey had faded a long time ago now, and left me feeling a little sick. I should have told him where I was going, just in case. He was going to kill me when I got back.
Mum was going to kill me when she got here, too. I'd never been arrested before, and while I knew she would help out, I also knew I was never going to hear the end of this.
I tried to stop myself from thinking of Heckie Shanahan turning up dead, because it made me feel sick to my stomach, but it kept coming back to me. It was hard not to think of him when there was nothing to distract me from my own thoughts. Poor Heckie. I wondered if he would have been killed whether I had gone over there or not. Ambrosia knew I was here, and now she knew I was following her. She had definitely seen me at the docks last night. But Heckie had been killed before then, if they'd found him yesterday. Had she found out I was trying to track her, or had she killed him for another reason?
Maybe it hadn't been my fault, I told myself lamely. Heckie had already been afraid for his life before I got there. Maybe he'd gone to a lawyer to roll on Ambrosia and she'd found out and killed him. I didn't know, and it seemed unlikely the Aurors would tell me any further details about Heckie's murder. Maybe when Mum showed up, she'd get it out of them for me.
It had to be almost morning. Mum would've had to find an international Portkey, and there weren't a lot of them in the middle of the night, so it would take her a bit to get here. I tried to calm down and wait patiently.
I had never been good at being patient.
After what felt like forever, and just as I was worrying that I'd been there so long that Ramses had probably received his Hogwarts letter by now, the door swung open and Bleach, looking quite annoyed, told me, “Your lawyer is here.”
He held the door open a bit wider, and past him swept my mother, her chin held high. I nearly sagged with relief at seeing her, especially since that familiar warpath look on her face wasn't directed at me. She looked filled with righteous anger and ready to do battle. Normally that wasn't hugely comforting to me, but today it was. As I got to my feet though, I saw someone else right behind her.
“Let me guess,” Dad said, smiling at me. “It wasn't your fault?”
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