Chapter 3 : 3 - Family Matters
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Chapter III – Family Matters
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“You can imagine how offended I am that it takes a family member being threatened with kidnap to have a family reunion around here!” bellowed Molly Weasley at the top of her lungs in the kitchen that was overflowing with heads, limbs, hats, hugs, tea cups and cats, for Crookshanks’ litter had taken to a great deal of multiplying over the summer.
“It’s amazing how Albus is about to be kidnapped and mum reckons there’s still time for a spot of tea,” mumbled Ronald Bilius Weasley under his breath, standing between Hugo and Harry, helping himself to the crumbled muffins that were going around on a levitating platter. Rose was back from Morocco, looking pious as ever with her centre-parting and mouth that was always half-open, waiting to burden somebody with her views on the world. Hugo looked ruffled and unkempt as always, his hard work in his bakery evident in the edges of his full-sleeved Chuddley Cannons hoodie. Lily Luna had successfully managed to reattach herself to her mother, a trait that never really left her, as it was becoming prominent. There was Fred, leaning against the rickety television that was no longer in use, spreading conspiracy theories about old Hogwarts headmasters with Teddy Lupin, who looked, as always, as if he were in a world of his own. Hermione came tumbling down the staircase and looked frazzled as ever, saying Albus had locked himself up in his room and was refusing to come out. She got into an intense conversation with his parents, neither of whom were willing to coax him out of there, knowing full well that their youngest was a tricky one, who had insisted on coming out into the world legs first and took a bit of time to wrap his head around certain matters.
“Look! Roxanne’s here!” yelped Lily Luna, jumping to her feet and snatching her up in a hug so tight Roxanne felt her respiratory system collapse.
“Good to see you too, Lily,” she heaved, patting Lily on the head and detaching herself from her. Her brother Fred made his way to her and gave her an all-too-knowing smile.
“Come to save the day, have you?” he asked, pulling her towards him and giving her a kiss on the head. “You better get to it. I don’t know who’s going to lose their marbles first – Gran or Aunt Hermione.”
“Did somebody say wager?” called Hugo, and Roxanne shot him a disapproving look while Fred laughed.
“And where have you been these last two Christmases?” erupted Grandma Molly, her face hardly an inch away from Roxanne’s. “I’ll forgive you if you come for the next one. And Easter dinner.”
“Gran, really, can we do this later?” she cried. Leave it to the Weasleys to make a fuss about missed Christmas dinners when one of their own was about to be abducted. “Aunt Ginny, where’s Albus?”
“He’s upstairs and he won’t come down,” said Ginny, crossing her arms and shaking her head, as if she was challenging Roxanne to get him to join the rest of the family in the kitchen that clearly could do with an extra body.
“He’s scared out of his pants,” said Uncle Harry helpfully, scratching his stubble and nabbing a half of Ronald’s muffin.
“Well, we’ve got to get him to a safe place,” said Roxanne with as much authority as she could manage with her family without having to endure being mocked. At least in the perilous situation that had presented itself, she hoped they would take her seriously.
Ha! As if.
“Oooooooo,” began Teddy, his laughing eyes hidden behind his dreadful and probably unwashed bangs. “Roxy’s turned into a Big Stuff now that she’s working with all the hot shots.”
“Real poetic, Theodore,” snapped Roxanne, clicking her heels against the hardwood floor and sighing in desperation. “Is nobody taking this situation half as seriously as it should be? Why am I even surprised!” she huffed, throwing her hands up in the air.
“Don’t worry Roxy, Grandpa’s up there right now, trying to get Al out by singing some of his favourite Celestina Warbeck numbers,” said Grandma Molly, as if it was the most normal thing in the world. “Where’s your father? For heaven’s sake, you think he’d be here by now. Our child is about to be kidnapped!”
Fred tossed a galleon to Hugo, who pumped his fist and said “told you so”. Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny exchanged unfathomable glances before looking at Roxanne and shrugging their shoulders.
Never had Roxanne felt less like a Weasley than in that moment.
“I’m going upstairs,” she decided, stomping out of the kitchen and up the stairs, her heels wobbling on the bumpy carpet as she made her way to Albus’ door where her grandfather was perched, singing at a decibel level known only to hungry cats, about how his love had gone.
“POP!” she cried, nearly giving the man a heart attack. “What are you doing?!”
“I’m trying to get Albus out. I read recently in a Muggle book that music is good for uplifting the soul, and can cause dramatic changes in behaviour and – ”
“Pop, will you let me handle this?”
“Can you?” Arthur did not look convinced that Roxanne had a better idea than Celestina Warbeck’s timeless tracks.
“Yes.” she replied through gritted teeth.
“In those shoes?” he asked, inspecting her feet closely. Roxanne rolled her eyes and steered his wheelchair out of the way before holding her wand at the keyhole.
“Alohomora,” she whispered, and it cracked open. The number of Order of Merlins they had in the kitchen, and not even one of those dunderheads had thought of using the first spell they were taught in first year.
“Impressive,” muttered Arthur, before wheeling himself away with despondency, humming under his breath.
Roxanne slipped into the room and shut it behind her, her gaze falling on the large lump underneath the bed covers and sighing.
“Albus, you’re being ridiculous,” she said simply, and her cousin threw the sheets off himself with a look of utter panic on his face.
“AM I?” he squealed, standing up and charging towards her. “HAVE YOU EVER BEEN THREATENED OF KIDNAP BEFORE, ROXANNE?”
“Deep breaths,” reminded Roxanne, crossing her arms and giving him some time. All this was to be expected of Albus. This is the boy who, after all, passed out flat on the floor shortly after the Sorting Hat put him in Hufflepuff.
“Help me, Roxie,” Albus mewled several breaths later, collapsing into her uninviting arms and holding her tight, as he always had.
“Alright. I’m going to get you out of here. We’re going to a safe place, alright?” she tried her best to use her Grandma Molly at Bedtime voice. It seemed to have worked, for Albus was no longer palpitating or profusely sweating.
“Let’s go through the window. I can’t face all them downstairs,” he said, hiding his face with his hands.
“Albus if we just abscond without telling anybody they’ll send a search party lead by Pop all over England. Do you want that?” Roxanne knew better than to test the adventurous bones the Weasleys were generously endowed with.
“You go downstairs and tell them you’re taking me away to a safe place. I’ll wait here. We’ll get on my broom and go to wherever it is you want us to go.”
“They won’t let me just take you!”
Roxanne huffed, looking at her feet. “They’d have to take me seriously for them to do that.”
Albus gave her a pat on the shoulder. “Nobody said you have to ask for their permission. Just tell them ‘I’m taking Albus to a safe place where he will be out of harm’s reach’ and be out of there.”
Roxanne sighed and rubbed her temples. “Fine. Fine I’ll do it. Stay here. Obviously.”
She marched unconfidently out of the room and back down the stairs. The kitchen had gone silent, but suspiciously went back to normal the second Roxanne stepped in. There was her father, holding up his infamous Wireless Extendable Ears.
“Roxy! We were just testing the W.E.E.! Excellent technology, don’t you think?” he asked and Roxanne glared at him.
“Well, since you’ve all clearly overheard the conversation I just had with Albus, I don’t think there’s anything further to be said.”
“Oh but there is!” Lily Luna went.
“You haven’t been on a broomstick since Hogwarts.” reminded Fred like any dutiful brother would.
“And how do we know where you’re taking him?” asked Grandma Molly.
“I think the point is that everybody’s not supposed to know,” Uncle Harry said, a mastermind in hiding things from Gran himself.
“What if Albus dies?!” screamed Rose, who was whacked over the head by Teddy.
“I want to write the eulogy. Albus has always been my favourite,” he quipped, smirking as if he was quite proud of himself. Hugo was not having any of it.
“That’s not what you told me last summer!” he fumed, throwing a washcloth at the Lupin.
“MERLIN’S BEARD!” yelled Roxanne, about to stab whoever was standing closest to her. “I’m leaving! With Albus, assuming he’s still up there and hasn’t been kidnapped already.”
“I’m still here, no worries!” came Albus’ voice from upstairs.
Roxanne didn’t particularly have a plan. She couldn’t take Albus to the Ministry – all the people and the noise and the drama would probably cause him to combust. She couldn’t take him to her place – any motivated kidnapper would have easily been able to track down every Weasley residence in the country, and all it took was a little apparition and anti-vertigo draught to get Albus in a gunny bag before the night was out. So she thought of the last safe place she could take him to – the Minister’s house. Unsurprisingly, Roxanne had completely forgotten all about Edward Doxy and his own potential risk of being kidnapped/murdered while she was away, as well as the promise she had made to keep him alive. A feeling of dread settled in her chest, something she realized she was probably going to have to get used to.
“This is the place,” she instructed Albus and he descended slowly onto the grass. Roxanne had managed to keep herself preoccupied throughout the ride by thinking of all the horrible ways the Minister could have been murdered, and what would become of her if he had. She knocked on the massive double doors that a surly, hungry-looking half-giant opened. The house seemed empty, and Roxanne’s pulse began racing. What if somebody had snuck in and nabbed the Minister while the half-giant had gone to find his supper?
She swore and checked all the rooms downstairs, before kicking off her heels and running up the stairs, telling Albus to stay where he was. Which was not difficult, as Albus was showing about as much life as a corpse.
It was dead silent, but she saw a faint light glowing from the far end of a very poorly lit room. Making her way around in the dark, she held her hands out and made sure her wand was at the ready, reaching the source of the light that came from behind some sort of semi-transparent screen. She pushed it back and illuminated her wand, prepared for the worst.
“Egad! I’m in the middle of a bloody – oh, it’s you,” there sat Edward Doxy, formerly submerged chin-deep in a tub of scented bubbles, before he was intruded and forced to be vigilant.
“Oh,” Roxanne could hardly manage much else, the sight of the Minister in probably nothing else beside the shower cap that was on his head proving to be rather overwhelming. “I – I’m so sorry I thought you’d been kidnapped!”
“No bother,” he waved it off, splashing her with the soapy water in the process. “Did you come back to check on me? What happened to that poor cousin of yours?”
“He’s downstairs. I hope it’s alright that I brought him here – I didn’t know where else to take him,” she muttered, looking around in the dark. Anywhere but at the Minister and his empire of bubbles that he had no shame in exposing.
“No problem at all. There’s another bathroom across the hall, if you’d like to sit in some bubbles for a while yourself? Or perhaps your cousin? I find it terribly invigorating.”
“No,” she said sharply, rubbing her face with her hands. “Well, I’ll be downstairs till I get word from the Ministry on what to do. Meanwhile, I need you to kindly get out of there and look for any directions you might have to the Ministry’s hideout. It might be somewhere with the security package you received on your first day as Minister.”
“I’m not awfully good at finding things,” he said simply.
“That’s why you have a wand,” she reminded him, and he snapped his fingers at her as if it was the best idea he had ever heard of, splashing more soap in the process.
“Will you be staying the night? Gabrick has some clothes that might fit you nicely,” he said, rather pleased with himself and beginning to laugh. Roxanne would have smiled, or at least smirked, but she was too tired and her facial muscles were too close to peeling off her face. Only restricted movement could save them.
“No thank you. Look for the directions, Minister,” she said with a tired sigh, turning around.
He had probably opened his mouth to give her an ‘alright’ or ‘sure thing’, but there was a loud zip behind Roxanne and the Minister was rearranging his bubbles once more.
“Captain!” went Jung Chang from behind her, making her spin around to face him and Skillet with disbelief. What in the name of Merlin?
“Problem!” said Skillet in her problematic voice, bouncing about the spot in a disturbing manner.
“How in the name of Agrippa’s nightie did you manage to apparate in here?” Roxanne’s blood had probably frozen in her veins.
“That’s why we’re here. Somebody’s managed to break the security barrier the Ministry set up here. Literally anybody and their house elf could apparate in and out of here if they pleased,” said Jung as calmly as he could manage, but the perspiration that was staining his Ministry’s Advanced Magic Department uniform told a completely different story.
“Excuse me, but I’m in the middle of a bath,” said Edward quite sternly, furiously rearranging his bubbles now. “Will everybody turn away for a moment?”
Jung and Skillet obediently turned away, while Roxanne (who was already standing with her back facing the Minister) rubbed her face violently.
“WHY COULDN’T THIS HAPPEN AFTER I GOT A FEW HOURS OF SLEEP?” she hollered, one disaster away from pulling her hair out by the fistful. “It must be Albus. They’re here for him, I’m sure of it. Skillet, Jung, I’m putting you two in charge of him.” She beckoned them over and they scurried down the stairs, finding Albus sitting curled up in a sofa, chewing his nails.
“Get him out of the country. Give him a bloody beard, change his hair colour – just make sure nobody recognizes him and keep him far away from anybody who isn’t either one of you!” she commanded, patting Albus on the shoulder and shoving him in the direction of her comrades.
“What are you going to do?” Skillet asked, looking uncharacteristically worried. High-profile jobs were not her favourite.
“I need to get the Minister out of here. Bloody hell I don’t know where but just out of this house. Hopefully he knows how to get to the Ministry’s hideout. Unless they’ve managed to break the security restraints they’ve got in place there, which would make the entire exercise rather redundant. Which I wouldn’t count as bloody unlikely right now.”
Chang nodded. “Don’t worry. We’ll take take care of Mister Potter.”
“Please don’t break my cousin, guys,” said Roxanne in a near-wail, clenching her fists together. “Go, get out of here. Fast.”
Skillet and Jung each grabbed onto one of Albus’ hands and apparated into nothingness. Feeling like the madness was just about to begin, Roxanne tried regaining her composure. Being barefoot was definitely not helping.
“Edward, get down here! We need to get out of the house!” she cried, hobbling on one foot as she got her shoes on. “Honestly of all the hours to take a bath – ” she ran up the stairs and back into the dark, but the light that was formerly glowing from above the Minister’s tub had gone out.
“Lumos,” dread crawled over her skin in the form of little bumps. “Edward?” her foot landed with a splash and she had to cling onto the shower curtain to make sure she didn’t slip and break her central incisors. She drew the curtain back and let out a scream at the sight of the body in the tub, so loud it would have woken the dead.
It was the carriage driver from earlier, his body discombobulated and overcome with rigor mortis, a blue sheet of paper clutched in his unmoving hands.
Free trade is not based on utility, but on justice.
Author’s Note: The quote in the penultimate line is by Edmund Burke.
I hope you are all sufficiently engrossed. Let us pray that Skillet and Jung do not break Albus and that our Minister with his poorly timed baths does not meet with the same fate as the unfortunate carriage driver who is turning into some sort of a recurring character (oops).
Also am I supposed to tag this story with a warning for violence or horror? Discombobulation can be a lot to deal with. xoxo Meghna
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