Chapter 20 : friends or foes? and our plan is going well
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Rose: Bangladesh B&B
We did give Scorpius time. If you asked Roxanne, she’d say too much, but no-one was asking her. She got her own room in the bed and breakfast, and spent so much time in there that I took to listening outside her door every half an hour, just to check. There wasn’t actually much else to do. I’d been sitting on my hands for thirty six hours, waiting while Scorpius aggressively played with the radio. I was so bored I was actually counting the hours. Eventually though, we were able to play a recorded message into the wizard channels. There was one advert which was instantly recognisable with a cheerful jingle, offering free three services for your broom when you bought it from Quality Quidditch Supplies- and that was the one that Scorpius slotted our message into. Every time a station played it, we clipped a word onto the end. ‘Robin. Hood. Tree. Twelve. Ten.’ Meet at the big tree in Nottingham forest at midday on the tenth.
It was the best we could do. By the time it was time to leave, all five words had been played eighteen times. We could only hope it was enough. Grasping my wand and Scorpius’ arm tightly, I turned on the spot. We came out in a forest, where thick trunks towered above us, and it was raining. I staggered a little as my feet hit the ground, but my knee held, thank goodness. I hadn’t told Scorpius, but I had done myself a makeshift splint out of some double-thickness toilet roll and a chair leg. I can be very resourceful.
Scorpius threw up.
“Oh for god’s sake, haven’t you got over that yet?”
“Shut up,” he mumbled, wiping his mouth. He’d gone very pale. “I just don’t like it.”
There was another crack, and Roxy apparated so close to Scorpius she nearly knocked him over.
“I told you to get out the way,” she snapped. I rolled my eyes. Roxanne had never been easy to deal with at the best of times and without the buffer of the rest of my cousins, I was about an inch away from cursing her.
I’d made her use the charm to follow us- she’d never been to Nottingham before and I wasn’t confident of my ability to apparate two passengers... and plus, part of me still hadn’t believed the charm was real. Roxy had tried to name it the Stalker Charm, but I don’t think that name would catch on.
“So which direction is the tree then?”
I pointed, and she started to noisily walk that way- I grabbed her arm. “Stop!” I hissed. Christ, it was so obvious that Roxanne could never be a field agent. Forest agent? Whatever. “You stay here with Scorpius. I’ll send a signal if it’s safe.”
She huffed, but agreed, going to stand with Scorp behind a large tree. I made a quick note of it, and then cast a Disillusionment Charm on myself. I wriggled my shoulder blades in discomfort as the cold slid down my back, but adjusting my hood against the rain, I soundlessly slipped through the trees.
When I reached the large clearing, I couldn’t see anyone- not even the tourists had bothered to turn up on a rainy Monday in January. It didn’t mean there was no-one there though. Keeping in the shadows of the trees, I fingered my wand gingerly. I couldn’t risk trying to cast Unveiling spell nonverbally- thinking had never been my speciality, and I wouldn’t know if the spell had worked.
“Homenum Revelio,” I whispered, as quietly as I could. There was a burst of something in the middle of the clearing, near the tree, but the space was empty. Only one person though. And not experienced enough to hide in the shadows, but wise enough to conceal themselves magically. It was either an Auror and it was a trap, or it was one of my cousins. My heart skipped a beat. It could be Lily. Molly and Lucy wouldn’t separate, and James wouldn’t leave himself so exposed. Or it could be a trap. I bit my lip.
“Lily?” I called, and there was a flurry of movement, as the person standing by the tree shifted, looking towards me. I got rid of my Disillusionment Charm, and stepped into the clearing, my arms wide. “Lily!”
The invisible person didn’t even wait to take their charm off, just barrelled into me, pressing their head against my chest and making soft sobbing noises. I tapped her head with my wand, and slowly, her red hair was revealed. I hugged her back, and gently dragged her back into the trees. When we were far enough away, I wiped her cheeks with my thumbs.
“Hey, don’t worry Lils, it’s okay, I’m here,” I said, trying to be kind, but it was about the worst thing I could have done. Her crying got louder, and I looked around worriedly. Someone would definitely hear us. “Lily, you have to be quiet! Do you want to be caught?” I hissed. I pushed her away, and put my hands firmly on her shoulders. “You have to be quiet!”
Lily sniffled and wiped her eyes, smearing dirt on her face. I had to smile, she looked like an orphan from a nineties period drama. “Are you okay?” I asked, keeping my voice down. “Do you think you were followed?”
“I’m okay,” she whispered, hanging onto my hand. She’d never seemed so young, and she was a whole year older than my brother. “And I don’t think I was followed, I’ve been here for three hours already, and I’ve been regularly casting Homenum Revelio.” She sniffed.
“Well done Lils, you’ve done amazingly, you really have,” I said, giving her hand a squeeze. “Now, I’m going to take you back to Scorpius and Roxanne, and you’re going to wait there with them and- ”
There was a crack, and then a flock of birds took flight, cawing as they climbed into the air, above the trees. Lily stiffened, and then darted behind me, her fingers like a vice in mine.
“Expecto Patronum,” I whispered, and a silvery jet burst out from the tip of my wand, and dissolved into smoke. Where the noise had been, it had now gone eerily quiet. I tried to will my heart to stop beating so loudly, and thought of happier times- working at the pub, fighting with Hugo for the TV remote, playing card games when it was raining with Lorcan... kissing Scorpius on the roof while fireworks exploded around us... and then out of the tip of my wand, a huge tiger leapt forwards, its stripes clearly picked out in hues of silver. My mouth dropped open. I’d never ever been able to cast a corporeal Patronus before.
Lily wore an identical expression of surprise. I motioned for her to shush and follow the tiger, which noiselessly padded off through the trees. As soon as they were out of sight, I cast my Disillusionment Charm again, feeling a small pang of loss as my tiger disintegrated when it reached Scorpius.
I made my way back to the clearing, trying my hardest to be as quiet as possible. When I was about ten metres away, I stood behind a tree, and quietly cast the Unveiling Spell again. There were two people this time, and they were across the clearing, hiding in the trees. It could be Molly and Lucy... and it could not be. I felt a whoosh as something low swooped over me; they’d felt mine, and returned it. I needed to move.
I crept around the clearing as quickly as I could, listening out for any movements. I could hear nothing, which worried me. Molly and Lucy would be discussing what to do next. And then- to my left, I heard a scuffle and whispers. I stole through the trees towards the noise, and then there was a voice to the right of me.
I froze instantly, but I recognised the voice. It was Lucy. Moving slowly, I tapped away the charm, and as I came into view, so did she. “Oh thank god!” she said, relieved. “We were worried- where is Scorpius?”
I gestured vaguely. “Where is Molly?” I answered.
Molly came from the direction of the noise. “We split up,” she said softly.
“You’re not alone?” I said, catching the frightened note in her voice.
“We may have been followed,” she said- and then there was a crack of apparition not two hundred yards away from us.
I grabbed Lucy’s hand, and pulled her away, checking behind me. Molly was following. I ran through the woods, not caring about the noise now, just needing to get away. We reached Scorpius, and I turned to Molly and Lucy desperately.
“Apparate somewhere, anywhere. We can follow.”
“What?!” Molly exclaimed. “That’s impossible!”
“Just do it!” Roxanne said impatiently. There was definitely someone else in the woods now, and they would find us easily now.
I grabbed Scorpius’ arm. “You take Lily, okay?” Roxanne nodded. Molly and Lucy Disapparated, and Roxanne and Lily did as well, seconds later. I tightened my grip on Scorpius, clenched the wand, and said “Indago!”.
Monday 10th January
-Rose: a beach in Cumbria.
We came out on a beach, where it was so windy we had to shout to make ourselves heard. “Where are we?” I yelled.
“Cumbria!” Lucy yelled back. “Follow me!”
The rest of us followed her over the dunes as the wind whipped up the sand, forcing it painfully at our legs. The soft sand and the biting wind made it difficult to walk, but eventually we made it over the sand and onto a thin earthy ground, with tufty grass poking out occasionally. The wind was even worse on the flat ground, but there was an old house in the distance, and that’s where they were leading us.
The house was very old. Only two rooms had a roof, and in one of the rooms was a large fireplace which the wind whistled down. I collapsed onto the floor, shuffling so my back was against the wall, and finally relaxed. My knee was in absolute agony and there was a dark stain spreading on my jeans. I poked it experimentally, and drew a sharp intake of breath at the pain. Crap. That hurt.
Scorpius dropped to his knees beside me. “How bad?” he asked, and I shook my head, not trusting myself to speak.
“I’ll sort it later,” I managed, but stayed on the floor. Scorpius sat next to me, and conjured up a small fire in the fireplace, the green flames dancing and sending strange shadows across the walls.
The others stood around awkwardly. Well, except for Roxy, who went and stood in front of the fire, warming the backs of her legs.
“Shove off, Roxanne. You’re blocking the heat,” Scorpius said, and waved at her to move. She did, but only slightly.
“I’m assuming you heard the radio message?” Molly said, and Lily smiled.
“Yeah, I noticed straight away there was something different- it didn’t take long to work out the whole message.”
I smiled back at her. She was exceptionally smart- but had we made our message too easy?
“We should go back,” Lily said. “What if James goes?”
I shook my head, and checked my watch. “It’s nearly midday,” I said. “He would have been there earlier. We can’t go back.”
Lily looked close to tears again. “Please?”
Roxanne rolled her eyes. “No, Lily. It’s too dangerous.”
If I could’ve, I would have kicked Roxanne. “What have you been doing then?” I asked Lily.
Bit by bit, we got out her story- although she skimmed over the night at Theodore Nott’s house. Since being on her own the next day, she had got herself a tiny hotel room in Manchester, and had stayed there ever since, only coming out at night for food, and listening for any news on the radio and in the papers; Muggle and wizarding. Scorpius gave me a sideways glance, but I wasn’t about to ask her about the whole werewolf thing. She’d tell us if she wanted to- but I did do some quick calculations. The next full moon wasn’t for two weeks.
Then Molly and Lucy relayed their tale; most of it Scorpius and I had already heard, but for the past few days had been similar to us- holed up in a countryside bed and breakfast, although they’d settled the bill before they had come to meet us. I felt very bad about that, and vowed to pay the couple back at some point. Specifically, pay the old man. I didn’t care about his wife. Hag. Roxanne and Scorpius filled them in with what we’d been up to, and then the inevitable question came.
What are we doing now?
I tried to sit up straighter. “The plan is...” I paused, and they looked at me expectantly. “We think we know where to go- it’s a house called Langdon End, in Yorkshire.”
Lily looked confused. “No... that’s... I recognise the name!”
“Who does it belong to?” Scorp asked quickly. Out of sight, I crossed my fingers. Not Zach, I prayed, please don’t let Zach be bad, please not Zach. A glance at Scorpius told me he wanted the opposite.
But Lily frowned. “Carrow,” she said suddenly. “That’s his name. Carrow.”
- Abner Carrow, Langdon End, Yorkshire
The end was in sight. That’s all Carrow could think about right now. He hadn’t eaten or slept in days- since he had last dismissed the leader of the Fraternity from his office. But it didn’t matter. The end was in sight. He would continue to send out patrols of Fraternity members, of course, and continue to look for the Clan... but he didn’t need to anymore.
Hunting down the Clan like animals had proved to be too unpredictable, too slow, and Carrow had backed the wrong horses. For all their grandeur and reputation as criminals, the Fraternity had turned out to be nothing more than a gaggle of twenty year olds, playing pretend. Much like the Clan, he thought, chuckling. But the Fraternity had failed him, and his dreams of excelling in the Ministry – maybe even becoming Minister for Magic- had been shattered along with his hopes of capturing the Clan.
Again and again they had foiled him, but not now. Not this time.
This time, they would come to him, and he could get his vengeance. Good old fashioned revenge. He didn’t need all the other things, when it came down to it. He didn’t need the promotions, or the extra twist in Harry Potter’s heart when he realised it was his friend who had been so terribly cruel. He didn’t need to see the tears to know that they were there.
And so the Clan would come to him. He’d hoped that as soon as he’d heard that the Malfoy boy and Hermione’s daughter had turned up at the swimming pool, but the escapade in London, and more recently something had happened in Nottingham... the game was on, and it was his kind of game now. No more sneaking around that had proved so futile, but it was on his turf, and his terms. The Clan was gathering up their members again, and he would let them, and then they would come to him. He didn’t doubt they had already worked out who was behind their persecution... they were, all things considered, quite clever, and everyone leaves some kind of trail.
He’d taken the precaution of securing the members of the Clan who had been arrested at his manor house, and had leaked the information to the underworld that the fugitives were being held at an unknown prison in Yorkshire, as an extra incentive.
Meanwhile, he’d completely left the Ministry. He’d stopped answering Harry Potter’s frantic calls, and stopped turning up for work. The end was so close and keeping up appearances didn’t matter anymore... although as he sat at his desk at home, he missed the presence of a secretary outside his door, and his large, comfortable chair wasn’t quite the same as one that had Ministry backing.
The only thing he didn’t know was how soon the Clan would be attempting to sneak into his house. Within the week, he guessed. They’ll want to get it over with, they’d want to finish his game. They think they can outsmart me, but they don’t know me. They’ve never dealt with me.
The thought of facing the Clan alone... it gave him shivers of delight. Perhaps it is better this way, he mused. Everything else he had planned... they were merely distractions. What he wanted had nearly been completed.
He was so close now, he could almost taste the end.
Tuesday 11th January
-Rose: the house by the beach
I woke up curled up on Scorpius’ chest, a position familiar to so long ago... the morning after Freddie’s birthday. I half-smiled at the memory, how repulsive the idea had been at the time. Now, Scorpius sleepily tightening his arm around me felt comforting. Protective. I slipped back the blanket to see the others, but didn’t dare move in case I woke up Scorpius. Molly and Lucy were sleeping back to back, a thin covering over the two of them, and Lily slept at their feet. Roxanne was sitting in the corner of the room, huddled in a sleeping bag and frowning at the floor.
I settled back down, satisfied, and tried to judge what time it was. Maybe half five in the morning? Six? It was still dark, but I felt rested. Next to me, Scorpius twitched in his sleep and I watched his chest rise and fall. It was so peaceful here, especially now the wind had stopped gusting. It was bitterly cold though, and my breath frosted in the air, although Scorpius was toasty warm. I snuggled closer, and pressed my freezing face against his side, and he flinched away. I smiled vindictively.
“Stop it,” he mumbled sleepily. “I thought people with red hair were supposed to be warm.”
“No-one is warm in January,” I said softly, so as not to wake the others, but Roxanne had stopped frowning at the floor and now was looking discouragingly at us. I stuck my tongue out at her, and she huffed back.
“Go back to sleep,” he said. He hadn’t even opened his eyes. It took twenty seconds for his breathing to relax back into his sleeping rhythm, but I couldn’t go back to sleep now. I was thinking about too many things, thinking about today and tomorrow and what we would accomplish. I thrived on people, and with some of my cousins back and the prospect of meeting up with more, I was feeling more alive than ever.
And now we knew who was behind our persecution. Abner Carrow, Ministry official and friend of the family. We didn’t know why, but we knew it was him. His name had cropped up too many times to be a coincidence now, and soon we’d be going to meet him. The thought made me smile. He’d hunted us all over Britain... now let’s see how he liked it. We could corner him in his own home.
But our first priority was to find James, and to do that, we’d decided to find Theodore Nott again. Added to the fact he should be currently helping Hugo, Nott and James were friends. I was positive that Nott would know where James could be, and then... and then we were ready.
By the time everyone had woken up, Roxanne was contesting the decision to send Scorpius and I to see Theodore.
I was leaving the arguing to Lily. She had come up with the plan, she was one of our planners, and now she had her head on straight, I would trust her with my life. In the end, Lily just threw her hands in the air.
“They’re going, Roxanne. They’re the most experienced, they know who Theodore is. Deal with it.”
She grumbled about it, but handed over the Polyjuice Potion which would transform us into two Muggles, a couple aged about twenty six and nondescript, with brown hair and brown eyes. Not too pretty, not too plain. And then we left, leaving the others behind at the house. I was to send my Patronus to them if we reached any trouble, telling them to leave and hide, but I hoped it wouldn’t come to that. Theodore Nott had an office in a small village outside of Reading, according to Lily and Molly, but neither of us had been there, so we Apparated into Reading, and went shopping. While our faces currently looked normal, our clothes were raggedy and blood stained, and they were certainly drawing funny looks. Scorpius’ clothes hung off his new body- whoever it was clearly didn’t work out.
So, we bought some new clothes, for ourselves later, and for the moment. It felt like a luxury to be wearing clean jeans and a new shirt. We got coats as well, and my hair still felt acceptably clean after the bed and breakfast. It was unbelievable how awesome the clean clothes felt- I could have climbed Everest or sailed across the Pacific in a canoe.
We caught a bus to the village, getting off a few stops early so we could approach on foot, over the fields, getting our new boots dirty. But I had the same sense of immense peace that I had this morning. I looked up. The sky was grey, overcast with clouds, and there was no wind. It was still, and quiet. The calm before the storm?, I had to ask myself. What would happen when we reached the village?
But we weren’t there yet, so I linked my arm through Scorpius’, and cast my Patronus, just reassure myself that I could. Scorpius jumped when he saw my tiger as he paced around us.
“That is big,” he said, astounded. I nodded, and waved ahead of us. The tiger took the hint and prowled before us, scouting out the way. “What are you thinking of?” Scorpius said. “You couldn’t cast one before, could you? What changed?”
The words stopped in my throat. “I guess, I just appreciate what I had before more,” I said, the lie tasting bad in my mouth. I took my arm away from Scorpius, and up ahead, I felt my tiger disappear into nothing. I couldn’t afford to get distracted, or distract Scorpius now.
Maybe... maybe after all this. Maybe... but I wasn’t about to distract myself thinking about that either.
We reached the village easily, and the house that served as his offices, but it felt so strange to walk up to the front door instead of sneaking around the back. Scorpius knocked on the front door, and Theodore Nott opened it. I held my breath, but he just smiled at us both congenially.
“Come in, please,” he said, and dubiously, we followed him in.
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