Chapter 18 : Where is Nitwit?
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Morning had barely broken as Ron and Hermione were getting ready to leave to find their first Horcrux. “Ron!” Hermione exclaimed with more than a little exasperation. She had done most of the packing last night as well as this morning while Ron sat staring at a wall. “Are you going to help me or not?”
Ron looked up at her with surprise. “You seem to have everything ready,” he replied with a touch of anger. He had tried to help last night but stopped when Hermione had repacked what he had done. Finally, he had given up and let her pack the way she wanted without his help.
Hermione looked upwards as if asking for a small bit of patience. “Can you at least get some food for breakfast while I finish packing?” There was a slight bite in her voice.
Ron rolled his eyes. “Alright, I’ll go get the food.” He left through the back door silently, at odds with his temper. Hermione frowned at the door for a moment longer before turning her attention back to packing.
Hermione looked at the amount they would be carrying and sighed. They would stand out. Even if they were dressed as Muggles. Her eyes fell on a small purse that her mother had bought for her. Was it possible? She pulled out one of her books to find a helpful spell. Her eyes brightened on seeing the Undetectable Extension Charm. She frowned as she read quickly, not wanting to take more time than necessary. It was ridiculously advanced and tricky. She had to write everything down to keep the details straight while casting it.
She put the purse on the floor, looked once more over the details and pointed her wand. “Abscondens spacium,” she flourished her wand as the picture in the book. The purse glowed slightly. She opened it carefully and stuck her hand inside and smiled when she fit her whole arm in the purse! She didn’t feel the bottom and hoped that she had made it large enough. She quickly threw all their things into the small purse, which became heavier the more she stuck inside. She rolled her eyes – of course it would become heavier the more she put in it! This spell at least she knew by heart, having grown tired of her heavy satchel in her third year. She pointed her wand at the purse. Another flick and she had no trouble picking up the purse.
Ron arrived with bags of food. “I got breakfast and something for a little later.”
Hermione placed the purse on the table. “Which is for later?” she asked him.
Ron pulled out a few sandwiches. “This was all I could find.” He looked at them dubiously.
Hermione privately agreed with his assessment, but said nothing as she opened the purse and stuffed them inside, smiling at his look of astonishment. “I put an Undetectable Extension Charm on the purse while you were getting the food,” she explained.
“Hermione, you’re scary brilliant!” Ron shook his head in disbelief.
They ate breakfast while Hermione reviewed their plan. Well, most of her plan. Ron was not yet aware of other parts that she was waiting to explain once they arrived. After they cleaned the table and the area, banishing the trash away, Hermione pointed to a set of clothes neatly folded. “Go change into those clothes.” She told Ron. She had already changed into her Muggle clothes.
He held the shirt up. “It looks...”
“If you don’t like the look, change it,” Hermione shrugged. “But we need to blend in.”
“Alright!” Ron grabbed the clothes and headed to one of the back rooms to change. He returned, tugging on one sleeve. “Can we leave now? Or is there something else that we need to do?”
Hermione nodded. She picked up the purse and nodded to Ron who looked at the purse with amazement. They shut the back door behind them, held hands and disappeared.
They appeared in a small wooded area. Hermione glanced about quickly, just to make sure that there weren’t any Muggles staring at them. Ron looked upwards into the trees, pulling his wand out. “Ron, there doesn’t seem to be any Muggles about. We need to...”
“Change the way we look more?” he joked.
Hermione nodded seriously. “The Ministry might be looking for us and we’re too noticeable.”
Ron wrinkled his nose then put his hand to his hair. It was obvious to anyone who knew the Weasleys exactly who he was. “What are you suggesting?”
Hermione considered. “Perhaps brown hair, brown eyes...” She paused as she chewed her lower lip. “Or would you like blue?”
“Blue hair?” Ron shook his head. “No way.”
“Blue eyes,” Hermione grumbled. “You know I’m talking about your eyes.”
“Er... I think brown will be fine,” Ron stammered.
Hermione nodded and waved her wand at him. She tilted her head, but waved it again and again until she found a brown that she felt suited him. “I think I’ll be blonde with blue eyes.”
“And do something about your hair,” Ron reached out to touch it. “People who know you know about your curly hair.”
Hermione grimaced. “Alright,” she tapped herself with her wand. Her hair slowly turned blonde and straight as her eyes turned blue.
Two strangers looked at each other. “And now?” Ron asked.
“We go into town and find a place to stay.” Hermione nodded in the town’s direction. “And someplace that isn’t very costly.” She caught his eyes as they nodded grimly to each other. She frowned as Ron began moving towards the town. “Ron! Wait!”
He paused, turning around to look at her in surprise. “What now?”
Hermione chewed her lip. “Our names.”
Ron frowned. “What about our names?”
“Your name is fine,” Hermione pointed out, “but your last name and both my names...”
“And...” Ron shook his head, still not understanding.
Hermione looked upwards before speaking. “You can’t say you’re Ron Weasley.”
“Why not?” Ron held out his hands as a concerned look crossed his face.
“Just like we changed our looks, we need to change our names...” Hermione said nervously as she watched Ron’s face change to surprise. “The Ministry will find us quicker if we use our real names...”
Ron frowned. “So who am I going to be then?”
Hermione blushed. “I was thinking of keeping our names similar, to make it easier, of course.”
“Of course,” Ron’s expression turned bemused. “So?”
“Ron’s a common type of name. You could still use it, but we’ll have to change your surname,” Hermione said in a rush.
“To what?” Ron asked.
“Well, I was thinking MacArthur,” Hermione told him nearly as quickly. “Since it means son of Arthur, and you are...”
“Ron MacArthur...” Ron tried out the name slowly. Finally he nodded. “Alright, and your name will be?”
“Well, Hermione is a rather unusual name,” She tapped her chin. “And nothing is really close to it that would pass as ordinary. So I was thinking of using my middle name, Jean.”
“Jean what?” Ron asked.
“Jean Thomas,” Hermione replied. “I was thinking that we’d only rent one room so we can save a little money.” She didn’t say, but she was worried about how he’d handle the Muggle room.
“But what about at night?” Ron sounded scandalized. “That would make you a scarlet woman!” he continued in a whisper.
Hermione rolled her eyes. “You do realize that the motel rooms have two beds?”
Ron didn’t look very convinced. “Are you sure? I don’t know...”
“I’m certain they have more than one bed,” Hermione pointed out.
Ron chewed his lower lip as he thought. His face set into a deep scowl. Finally, he nodded. “Oh, all right, Hermione.”
“You won’t regret it, Ron,” Hermione nearly sighed with relief. She didn’t want to admit that she was scared he wouldn’t go along with her carefully devised plan.
Both were glad to find a motel with available rooms. It appeared that there was some kind of conference that week. The Muggle was completely boring as he wrote out their information. He handed them their key and gave them the directions to their room. Hermione snatched the key as she wound her arm through Ron’s pulling him out with her.
She stopped them in front of the door. She placed the key in the lock and turned it with a quick snick. She opened the door slowly, her hand ready to grab her wand if needed. She went inside to look around the rest of the room.
“Blimey, Muggles have all this in their rooms?” She turned to see Ron staring at the beds and the TV and the water closet.
“This isn’t how a Muggle house is set up,” Hermione wanted to roll her eyes. “People stop here while they’re traveling. So that’s why everything’s in the room.”
“Oh,” Ron still looked more than a little clueless. “So... um...”
“I’ll take that bed,” Hermione pointed to the one closest to the water closet. “You can have that one.” She pointed to the one nearest the window. “And remember, no magic.”
“Why not?” Ron frowned. “It’s not like anyone will notice...”
“Think! Ron!” Hermione shook her head. She waited to see what he would say. He looked blankly back at her. “Oh for the love of...” Hermione grumbled. “We left without any word. Your parents are going to be frantic, especially with the war going on. Your Dad works at the Ministry. Do you see yet?”
Ron frowned deeper. “So we can’t do magic because Dad works at the Ministry?”
Hermione rolled her eyes. She couldn’t help it. “Not exactly, Ron, can you see your Dad not talking to his friends asking for help to find us?”
Comprehension dawned on his face. “But he’ll know we’re alright...”
“Why?” Hermione asked.
“Because of the clock,” Ron said simply.
“Ron, you know as well as I do that all your hands have been pointing to Mortal Danger these past few years. Even Harry saw that!” Hermione said tightly. “A better argument would have been that we sent my Patronus back to your Dad letting him know we were fine.”
Ron’s ears burned. “Yeah, you’re right.”
“Now let’s get washed up and pick one of the orphanages to look at.” Hermione turned to consider what she had put into her Muggle purse.
“Why do we need to go to the orphanages?” Ron turned puzzled.
“Because Nitwit likely hid one of his Horcruxes there, remember?” Hermione hissed. She didn’t wait for his answer but headed into the water closet to get ready. Ron snickered at the name Hermione had decided to use for the terrifying wizard.
They stood outside of what one might call a run-down building. The paint was peeling. Hermione couldn’t see any toys, but suspected that either they were in the back of the orphanage or else they really didn’t have any. Which really didn’t seem right.
“How are we going to find out if You-Know-Who was here?” Ron asked again. “Without magic?”
Hermione counted to three. “I was thinking we could pretend we were looking for your grandfather’s brother.”
Ron looked baffled. “But my grandfather’s brother is dead.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “They don’t know that. Though come to think of it, I don’t think your hair matches what Nitwit’s hair was, I think we’d best be looking for my grandfather’s brother.” Ron nodded slowly. “Maybe it would help if you looked uncomfortable a bit...” Hermione considered.
“I think I can do that,” Ron muttered as he followed Hermione to the house.
Hermione knocked on the door. When it opened, he was surprised to see a tear leak down her cheek. “Please, I’m looking for someone and was told they might have lived here at one time?”
The matron stepped back to let them in. “No one’s lived here for over a hundred years.” She shut the door behind them. “It was Mr. Flanders wish that it be turned into an orphanage. He didn’t want his money-loving relatives to get a cent.” She opened another door. “My office.” She waited until they were settled. “Now, who are you looking for? It couldn’t be Mr. Flanders.”
Hermione sniffed once. “Can you imagine the shock to find out you’ve managed to lose family you didn’t even know you have?”
The matron chuckled ruefully. “I hear that quite often. I’ve been running this place for nearly thirty years. What happened?”
“My grandfather is ill and he finally told us about his older brother. Now! Why wouldn’t he tell us sooner?”
“It happens,” the matron sighed. “Who are you looking for? I’ll take a quick look and see if they’re here. Otherwise I’ll try to help point you in the right direction.”
“Oh, thank you!” Hermione gushed, wiping her eye with a handkerchief she pulled seemingly out of the air. “Grandfather told me his name was Tom.”
“And his last name?” the matron asked.
“Was it Puzzle?” Hermione asked Ron.
Ron looked as confused until he caught the glare Hermione sent him. “Sorry. I don’t think it was Puzzle. It was something game-related though.”
They waited while the matron looked through her records. “Would you happen to know when he was born?”
Hermione shook her head. “Perhaps sixty or so years ago since my grandfather is nearing fifty-eight.”
Another pause while the matron looked. “I’m sorry. It doesn’t appear that he lived here. We have no record with a game-related last name. There are a few other places in town. You might want to try Way’s End, Mort Manor or Catherine’s House for Wayward Orphans. I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help.”
Hermione stood. “You’ve helped quite a bit. Thank you.”
“Let me just take you back to the front. It can get a little confusing with the twists in the halls.” The matron stood, motioning for them to precede her from the office.
Back at the motel, Ron and Hermione sat on one of the beds. She finished writing down the last suggestion the matron had for them. “We should check one of these tomorrow. And then another and then another.” She chewed her lip in thought. “If he wasn’t at one of these, we’ll have to find a few more places.”
Ron slumped. “And what if he was?”
Hermione raised her eyebrow. “Well, then. We’ll have the matron or the headmaster show up around so we can see how my grandfather’s brother grew up.” She wrinkled her nose. “I just wish that Harry had managed to get the name of the orphanage. It would have saved so much time!”
Ron turned morose. “What if Harry had told us? What if we’ve just forgotten it?”
Hermione looked scandalized. “Forget what Harry told us?”
Ron looked at the ceiling. “I forgot. You remember everything.”
Hermione looked crushed. “That’s not fair, Ron.”
A/N: Abscondens spacium = Latin for “hiding a space”.
A/N: As always, I hope you have enjoyed this next chapter. Please let me know what you thought about this chapter, especially if you have constructive criticism! I am always looking for ways to improve my writing! Thank you very much!
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