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Chapter 1 : According to Plan
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“Yes!” Came the chorus of Weasleys, a several bobs of ginger haired heads.“Arthur?” Molly Weasley turned to face her husband, who was dabbing at his sweaty face with a handkerchief, his cheeks positively crimson. “Are you sure YOU’VE got everything? We don’t want a repeat of Rome, you know.”
“Yes, Molly dear, I’m sure,” Arthur said patiently, putting his arm around her comfortingly. “You’re talking about the supreme packer here. I even made a list - look - using, not a quill, but a BERO I think it’s called...or maybe it was biro?” Arthur hesitated to neatly fold up the white handkerchief, gathering his thoughts and breathing deeply in through his nose, ignoring his Healer’s previous warnings about stress levels and cholesterol. “Anyway, how could I not a miss a thing out? I’ve checked, and double checked and even triple checked the list, Molly, I’m quite sure - “
“Passports?” Molly interrupted, her ginger eyebrow raised sceptically with good practice.
“Ah right my dear, I’m just going to go and –” Arthur shuffled off sheepishly, his eyes on the floor and his face going even redder, if that was possible.
“Mum, can we take owls?” Percy piped up from over in the corner, curled up in an armchair and stranded in a sea of baggage.
“Afraid not dear.”
“Oh Merlin!” Fred said in mock dismay. “Sorry Percy, you’re going to have to stay at home, in that case.”
Percy opened his mouth to say something, but obviously thought the better of it and snapped his jaw shut quickly, looking rather like a goldfish.
Ron dragged his trunk down the stairs, scrunching up his nose in confusion as he gazed around at the floor laden with bags. I jumped down from the banister, landing neatly beside Ron and scurrying across the trunks to the fireplace, balancing on the mantelpiece next to a waving picture of Charlie as quidditch captain.
Ron crossed over to Bill and Charlie, who were standing and looking important by the fireplace, almost like soldiers waiting for their next order. Molly looked up at the clock for the fifteenth time in the last five minutes, her nerves rattling visibly through the skittish look in her blue eyes. Ron could sense it would be wise to stay out of her way; unfortunately he spoke from experience as he muttered to Bill that: “she could burst any second, and I’d hate to be at the receiving end.”
“I’ve got the passports, got the passports,” sang Arthur, as he jogged down the stairs, huffing and puffing like the Hogwarts Express.
Molly snatched them off him irritably, flicking through the moving pictures of her children.
“We’re all ready,” Molly called finally, after a long, suspicious inspection of Fred and Georges’. Ron leaned forward to the basin of emerald powder, digging his fingernails deep in to the soft grainy pot and bringing out a small handful. “Everyone grab some floo powder - come on, more than that Ron,” Molly frowned down, being swallowed by three large trunks.
Ron frowned, adding a pinch more before picking up his trunk, and tugging at his hand-knitted jumper with a look of strong distaste.
They were going to Egypt after all.
“Boys, what in Merlin’s name could those bags be for?” said Arthur, his tone weary and his shoulders sagging from the stress.
“Secrets,” Fred and George chorused.
“Stupidity,” murmured Percy under his breath.
Ginny strolled over and snapped open the lid of one particularly huge trunk, her eyes gawping at what she saw before her.
“What are they?”
“Rubber ducks,” Arthur said proudly, more life coming back in to him as he spoke of muggle objects with full enthusiasm. “They’re used for making bubbles for muggles.”
“But how many are there?” Ginny said, her voice filling with curiosity.
“129,” said George, barely stifling a smug smile.
“Floo powder. Now.” Molly instructed through gritted teeth.
“Mum, do you remember what happened last time? When Harry went to Knockturn Alley, instead of going to Diagon Alley, and...”
“Yes, Ginny, we all know the story,” Charlie said hurriedly, grabbing some powder and hustling in to the fire place.
“How do you know?” Ginny asked indignantly, folding her arms across her chest, which was hard to do with a trunk.
“Because you tell us about... once a week?” He offered, holding the powder out in front of him in his fist. “The Ministry of Magic, London,” Charlie said, enunciating each word just like he did in his rousing quidditch speech in the House Cup.
In a flash of swirling green flames, engulfing him in a rush of jade mist, Charlie was gone.
Bill stepped up next, nodding at his parents before dropping the powder a little before he repeated the same words as Charlie.
The green flames were dimmer than they were with Charlie, and took longer to fade, but all the same Bill Weasley disappeared, Percy, Arthur, Fred and George following shortly after, Fred and George with more difficulty than the rest. I was very tempted to jump in to their concave cauldron, but I resisted. My knees have never been the same since I got strangled by a mandrake.
“Are you ready Ron?” Molly asked, her voice kinder, like some of the pressure had gone.
Ron nodded, looking a little green himself, before facing his back to his sister and mother and looking the fire place straight in the face.
Without warning, he reached out to me, pulling me in with one swift motion and leaving me with a black bewilderment and a spinning head.
I heard the muffled cry of: “The Ministry of Magic, London,” and then I had an airful of pocket breath and a ringing in my ears. My teeth clamped down on the closest thing to me - which just happened to be Ron’s flesh - and he writhed and wailed before I eventually let go.
“Scabbers,” he hissed, once the spinning had stopped and he’d caught his breath back. “I was the one who brought you here! Now just stay out of sight!”
I chuckled inwardly to myself, halting as the nauseous feeling returned as I was being swung around like a bludger.
“Edgar! How nice to see you here!” Came Arthur’s voice, and I couldn’t resist poking my head out the top of the pocket to have a glimpse at the place.
Shiny black fireplaces surrounded me, the tiles so clean I just wanted to slobber all over them; who had surfaces so unnaturally clean like that? They lead to a high ceiling towering dauntingly over the family as Ron was marching towards a particular fireplace with a plaque labelled: ‘EGYPT’ on it.
A lanky man seemed to be ushering the Weasleys together, including Edgar Bones. Molly appeared with Ginny several seconds later, her face flushed as she handed the thick wad of passports to the man.
The man studied each one intently, before handing them back with a loose shrug.
“The line becomes open in five minutes, right after all the wizards leaving for Majorca have left,” he droned, in a tedious monotone that all storytellers would dread to have.
Molly flicked through each one again, just to reassure herself that all of them were there. Ron shot an anxious glance towards Edgar and his Dad, before turning back to Fred, George and Molly. I could feel his booming heart beat in my ears, and I couldn’t help thinking how small and fast mine must be right now.
“Honestly mum, didn’t you realize Fred and I swapped our photos?” George asked, shaking his head sadly.
“Call yourself our mother?” agreed Fred, a cheeky lopsided grin stretching across his lips as he repeated the same lines he had back at Kings Cross, those years ago.
Molly checked back to the passports, frowning. She could see both of their identical faces smiling and waving - the picture next to Fred’s information was sticking his tongue out, and the picture next to all of George’s information had him winking and waggling his eyebrows.
“Are you quite sure?” Molly said worriedly, scared they wouldn’t accept the twins anymore.
“Are you sure you know us? We’re you’re sons, after all, and you can’t even tell us apart!”
“Honestly, I am sorry boys.”
Ron, with a faint amused smile, picked up his trunk and wheeled it over to Edgar and his father, who had just started muttering secretively to each other.
“....Sirius Black, now?”
“No, no, of course not. And the children must not know either, I dread to think what impact that would have on Harry...”
Arthur halted abruptly at seeing his son’s freckled face, and smiled down uneasily at him, as if his mind was a million miles away.
“Got to get going now, Edgar, have a good time!”
“You too, Arthur! And keep your eye out for any news!”
Ron poked a sweaty finger in my eye as he shoved me deep back in to his jeans pocket, and wheeled himself to the queue for the Egypt fireplace, although the queue only consisted of Weasleys.
“The network’s now open! First one, please!” The man exclaimed, practically pushing Arthur in to the fireplace and having one last check of his passport, before giving him a mass of floo powder. I managed to poke my head out the top of Ron’s pocket again, feeling rather pleased with myself for having not been noticed yet.
“What do I say?” Arthur said, startled, desperately trying to gather all his bags near him.
“The Paraza Hotel, Egypt will do.”
“Fine. The Paraza Hotel. Egypt.”
Arthur disappeared much quicker than in the Weasleys’ fireplace; in a flash of emerald light Arthur had vanished without a trace and Bill stumbled up in to the spacious hole.
By the time, it got down to Percy, with only the twins, Molly and Ron left, the man wasn’t even bothering to check passports anymore. Except when Fred coughed and strolled inside, the man snatched the passport of Fred and glared at Fred’s face till his eyes watered.
“Just joking again, mum! We didn’t swap the photos!” Fred chirruped, claiming back his passport and being whisked away.
George chuckled and hastily followed, choosing floo over the wrath of Molly; something he had experienced many times in his life, and tried to avoid at all costs.
Ron could keep his passport; the man had walked off to go and chat to the man who was taking care of Edgar Bones’ queue. He got some floo himself, his heart beat increasing to a throbbing drum beat.
“The Paraza Hotel. Egypt,” he managed to say in a shaky tone, before dropping the floo and squeezing his eyes shut.
I felt like a piece of paper, being scrunched up in to a tight ball - so tight that I could feel my eyes bulge and my furry body fold in half. And then I was being flattened out again, stretched out to my full maximum - in a breathless and exhausting sensation by an iron fist. I gasped for air, my lungs burning as the spinning slowed down and all I dared to open my eyes.
At first, I thought I was still in Ron’s pocket, because all I could see was black. Frightening, impenetrable, murderous black. I sniffed, expecting to smell three year old Bertie Botts Every Flavour Bean of Buffalo burger, but instead I smelt the stifling scent of a wide stuffy place.
“Hello?” Ron called out, in a stammer.
It echoed around the room - ringing around my ears and making it seem really eerie. There was no reply. He must’ve said the wrong place. Great. This thing never would’ve happened when I had Percy as an owner.
There was a slight breeze from beside him, and I could just about make out Molly’s figure beside us. So maybe he hadn’t failed to say the right thing after all...
Ron fumbled for his wand in his right pocket, bringing out the slender smooth wood and hissing “Lumos!” under his breath. It made me yearn to cast my own spells again, feel the powerful feeling of having all those spells right under your reach.
It was quite a dull light - but enough to make Molly blink and let us take in the scenery and realize, we were indeed, lost.
“Arthur?” Molly whispered, in a frail and weak voice. “ARTHUR!” She bellowed, the words slamming off the walls, not bouncing lightly off like they had when Ron had called.
A small piercing light appeared in the distance, four dimmer but bobbing lights behind, and then they all came closer and closer; rushing towards the shout.
“Molly! Ron! We began to wonder where you were!” Arthur said, looking as relieved as you could be when you were lost.
“Look where we are!” Ginny breathed in awe, her eyes wide for the second time that day.
“Yes,” Ron grumbled nudging a skeleton with two skulls coming out of the neck bone with his toe. “Spiffing,” he practically spat.
“And it echoes, too!” Charlie said, his grin almost audible as he cleared his throat. “Fire Whiskey!”
The words were yelled at each other, before slurring in to a mutter, and finally a dull whisper.
George cleared his throat too. “Merlin’s big hairy -”
“George!” Snapped Molly, shooting a sideways glance at Ginny. “Arthur, where are we? Do you know?”
“Ah yes, about that..” Arthur said, mopping his brow with his handkerchief again, a frown visible on his pinkish face. He peered at a muggle skeleton with four feet and what appeared to be a tail, before struggling on. “It appears that we are in fact inside a pyramid.”
“In the dark,” Percy added, as if he’d only just noticed that and should note it in case anybody else hadn’t already.
A few seconds later there came a crashing sound - much like the one of a person being shoved to the ground, and colliding with a skeleton.
A good hour later and there had been no success of finding the exit.
Percy was complaining loudly, about how it wasn’t at all the Ministry’s fault, and was probably the man working there who had just been misinformed by the people working at the hotel.
Bill and Charlie had gone off exploring, taking Ginny with them as she was desperate for the toilet and also desperate to get away from Percy’s moans.
Molly and Arthur were sussing out what to do next, pacing back and forwards restlessly, sometimes their voices bubbling in to angry shouts, and then dying down again.
Ron watched Fred and George cook things (generally not so nice things) in their cauldron, with a rather defeated look about him, while I scurried about the place, investigating the floor.
As floors go, it was a pretty tedious one.
I scrambled back up Ron’s trunk, lying beside him, his massive face looming above me, being supported by one hand. He was scuffing at the floor with his boots, humming some song I didn’t recognise under my breath. I never used to hum when I was a human; I never saw the point in music.
Just then, a blood curdling girlish scream broke the air, shattering the silence, and leaving the broken shards to fall to the ground. It made my fur stand on end, and I could see the rage and fear that battled in Molly’s eyes.
Footsteps came thundering towards us - it only took us five minutes to discover there were channels of wide thick tunnels that lead in a square around the pyramid - those of a small girl. Ginny.
“Nobody touch the treasure!” Ginny said breathlessly, panting hard. “It’s....it’s cursed!”
“There’s treasure?” Fred and George quizzed, their ears perking up. “We’re a bit short on cash lately.”
“So are we,” Molly said dryly, her wand lighting up the grimace on her face. “I have eight mouths to feed.”
“How do you know it’s cursed, exactly?” Percy asked, pushing his glasses further up his nose.
Just then, Ron yelped and toppled off his chair, his hands trembling as he pushed himself away from the dark figure that was on the ground and making its way towards them. Arthur’s fist clenched over the handkerchief, determinedly shining the light at the figure and using his other arm to shield Molly.
Everyone gasped, and there was a thump, where Percy had fainted.
The crocodile snarled, and snapped its jaws, the harsh light blinding him and making him irritable. An irritated crocodile was not something to be reasoned with.
“Shall I kill it?” Arthur said, in the smallest voice I’d ever heard him speak in.
“No!” Burst Bill, having just charged down the corridor. “Sorry I screamed earlier, it’s just that...”
“That scream was yours?” interrupted Fred. “Merlin, we all thought it was Ginny.”
“...you can’t kill the crocodile, because...” Bill continued.
“Because it’s Charlie?” Ron filled in, staring down at the crocodile with a mixture of fear and curiosity. The crocodile, a khaki shade of green, with gleaming white eyes in the darkness gazed up almost sadly at Ron in a response.
Bill nodded, his face etched in fear. It couldn’t get much worse than this, really. They were trapped inside a pyramid, where apparition didn’t work, with Charlie as a crocodile. Do you know how much healers cost?!
“Hang on a second...” Molly said, scanning around her, with her hawk eyes. “Where’s Ginny?”
Apparently, it could get worse.
I settled down behind the safety of Ron’s trunk, my nose absentmindedly sniffing to try and pick up Ginny’s scent. I caught a vague whiff of it coming in the general eastern direction, but the sense of sleep was overpowering. My tail was wrapped around me like a barrier, as I closed my ears against the shouts and chaotic noise of the Weasleys’, eventually shutting my eyes and falling asleep.
I woke up groggily, half of my face numb, and sunlight streaming through my eyelids. I said something that if I were a human would’ve come out as: “What the...where are...who...”
But instead it just came out as this terrified shriek and nothing more. That was one thing that really annoyed me about being a rat; lack of communication.
I realized Ron’s heart was beating much faster than it did normally, and to the left and right of Ron, Ginny and Bill were looking thrilled too. It was probably due to the fact that a crowd – no, audience - were all waiting for us to leave the pyramid with gaping mouths.
As I turned, which was hard in Ron’s pocket, I found my own jaw dropping. We had been trapped not inside just some smelly old pyramid, but THE pyramid. As in the second whopping great wonders of the world pyramid.
Arthur seemed to just walk through boldly with his head held high, the blinding camera flashes not fazing him at all. Charlie was trailing behind us, his bumpy body the length of seven of Ron’s wands, all lined up one after another. Every so often, Charlie would stop and raise a gnarled talon, as if he couldn’t believe his eyes, his scaly 3-wand long tail swishing nervously from side to side.
I couldn’t help thinking how his bulbous white eyes kept drifting to Ron hungrily.
“The ministry will sought this out,” Percy declared, as he strode almost as confidently as Arthur through the throng of people, baring flashes of cameras.
“Please, autographs at the door ladies,” Fred called out, bowing deeply to all the raging clicks.
This made the click even more fiercely, and Molly had to tow him away, over a sand dune and past the furious security guards.
“I’ll see to them forgetting,” Arthur said determinedly to Molly, rolling up his sleeves.
“Be safe,” Molly muttered, giving him a quick peck on the cheek before disappearing with all the rest of her family down a sand dune.
The crowd went to follow, rushing and pushing each other to try and get another good shot, but Arthur had already started to weave his magic in to their minds, a few of them starting to wander off and chattering about the temperature here compared to Australia.
I twisted my head round to see the Weasleys again. Fred and George were pouring the contents of their cauldron out on to the sand, telling Ginny to stay clear as they splashed the liquid on to the scorching sand, wands raised.
A bunch of spells I’d never heard of were uttered, so they couldn’t have been dark ones, and George sprinkled what looked like dust over the side of the - what was starting to look like a swamp. A chalky grey swamp.
Fred started to wave his wand around more fiercely, practically chucking rubber ducks into it, their vibrant yellow figures just disappearing beneath the glum depths.
“What are they doing?” Ginny quizzed Bill, hugging his arm so tightly her knuckles were white.
“I think they’re making a lake or something for Charlie,” Bill replied, shading his eyes from the toasting sun.
“What was it that Charlie touched exactly? I didn’t get to see,” said Ron, and I could tell he was wondering what item of treasure would attract Charlie the most.
“It was a crown; a particularly shiny one with a nice ruby in it. Nothing really that amazing, but Charlie picked it up and put it on his head...”
Bill was interrupted by a humungous splash, as Charlie jumped in to what could now definitely be called a swamp. It was full to the brim of sloppy, oozing brown mud, tufts of grass and a few grains of sand thrown in too for effect. Charlie was lying neatly in the middle of it, a big crocodile sized grin on his crocodile sized face.
“Now we can apparate, I suppose,” George pondered aloud, glancing over at his mother who seemed to be preoccupied.
“And I still haven’t found the toilets! I looked EVERYWHERE in the pyramid for them!” Ginny whined, wiping her forehead with her sleeve.
“Yes, without telling us,” hissed Molly. “Now I’ll tell you what we’re going to do. Bill is going to apparate to the hotel, with all of our bags. Percy is going to apparate to the nearest town to find a healer.”
“In the mean time, we will find a way to rob the tourists of their money to give us some profit to pay the healer with!” Fred planned.
“Great idea, Freddie. We should make more of these - portable swamps.”
“Too right George! And Charlie’s a brilliant model!”
For once, Molly didn’t object. It must’ve been like Christmas, in their eyes.
“The sooner Bill gets to the hotel, the better,” she said firmly, taking in a deep breath of the sweltering Egyptian air.
Travelling always seemed to be more and tricky with Weasleys around.
“Let’s go up the dune to the top,” murmured Ron to Ginny, heading for the steep slope that lead up to Arthur, the pyramid and the crowd.
“I still need the loo,” Ginny said, chewing her lip nervously.
“Just go then, it’s not like anybody will be watching.” Ron sighed, his mouth dry. So was mine coming to think of it, pangs of thirst starting to nag at my mouth and stomach.
Ginny sucked in her cheeks thoughtfully, before wandering off in the opposite direction, meanwhile Ron, Fred, George and Molly had all started the steep descent. Charlie was in front, leading the way, his little crocodile legs disappearing deep under the swamp that seemed to be moving with Charlie as he walked. Bill and Percy had disapparated already; Bill carrying as many of the trunks as he could master, though how he could carry them all as he was spinning through the air at how-many-miles per hour, I did not know.
“Come get your swamps!” Came the shouts off Fred and George. “Thirteen galleons!”
“Thirteen galleons? Are you joking?” An Egyptian wizard with a long grey beard peered over Charlie, who snapped his jaw back, making the wizard flinch. “I suppose it’ll come in quite handy...my Erkling loves this sort of thing.”
“How much have we made so far?” Ron asked his brothers excitedly, picking up the box of a portable swamp and shaking it around a bit.
“We,” corrected Fred, taking the box off Ron and handing it to the wizard. “And we have made five galleons.”
“How did you do that?”
“A bit of deception, little brother.” George tapped his nose knowingly, a habit that used to annoy Percy. “See these boxes? They can be anything the person wants them to be...a portable swamp, or in some cases, a portable Jacuzzi.”
“Are you saying you lied?”
“A weeny little white lie never hurt anyone. It certainly didn’t hurt you when we said Aunt Muriel had given you seven chocolate frogs inside the box of muggle playing cards.” Fred and George burst in to fits of rip-roaring laughter, clinging on to the folds in their belly as they bent over, laughing.
Ron scowled, remembering that Christmas when his brother had told him that seven delicious chocolate frogs were hidden with in the playing cards box, despite the box being smaller than one chocolate frog, let alone seven. He’d jumped up straight away; given Muriel the biggest hug ever, and then skipped round the house jubilantly.
“65 galleons is enough for an Arabic healer isn’t it?” Ron said changing the subject as his brothers picked themselves up off the dusty ground.
“I suppose,” Fred shrugged. “Where’s Ginny when you need her?”
I looked around, confused. I actually couldn’t see the girl anywhere - she couldn’t have gone that far surely?
Or maybe something had happened. Merlin, I was worrying as much as Molly now, I don’t even care about Ginny - stupid pathetic girl. Her hair, her bubbly personality, her generosity, it reminded me of someone I knew very well...and I didn’t like it.
“I’ll go find her,” Ron said frustrated, bringing out his wand and stuffing me deeper in to his pocket. “I’ll be back in time to see Charlie transform back again - I wouldn’t miss that for the world.”
“Bring us back an Egyptian toilet seat,” Fred grinned, jiggling the galleons around in his hand.
Ron waved, setting off across the desert and past the towering pyramid. His breath was becoming dry and shallow, his heart racing. I realized I was panting as well, and right now, I felt more like a bath in the sink than ever.
Ron hadn’t walked too far, but when he turned, I could see the pyramid still poking its head up, but not anything else. It was like everyone there was just a mirage and this was the real desert.
He turned around again, hitting the ground, and all I could see was sand and black for a moment before I scrambled out Ron’s pocket to face an Erumpent myself. At least, I was pretty sure it was an Erumpent, with this hairy black face that dangled over me, a spiky white horn erupting out of its hideous head, glistening with sweat. I could feel it’s breaths on my tiny ratty face; hot and heavy in comparison with Ron’s shallow ones.
I suddenly remembered from the back of my mind, something about a fluid in the horn that explodes and destroying what ever it had touched. Maybe the horn wasn’t glistening with sweat after all; maybe it was glistening with...
The ugly Erumpent blew up in my face, bits of black leathery skin exploding in to the air, landing in a pile of ashes in the sand. Standing behind the Erumpent, was another Erumpent. Yay. There was more than one.
Ron jumped up, brandishing his wand in front of him.
“I’m not afraid to use it,” Ron warned, looking very much so afraid to use it.
The Erumpent snorted, beads of sweat running down its neck. It occurred to me that the Erumpent could’ve blown up Ginny, just like it did with the other Erumpent, boom! The same thought obviously occurred to Ron, because he lowered his wand slightly and looked the Erumpent straight in the eye.
“What have you done with Ginny?” He quizzed, this time in a threatening low voice.
It almost gave me goosebumps - my owner, growing up in the world. He’d actually make quite a good Death Eater, if it wasn’t for his upbringing, morals and slightly tendency to pick the failing side.
“I’m here,” came a whimper from a few yards ahead of Ron.
“Ginny!” He exclaimed, losing eye contact with the Erumpent for a split second to glance at her, in a ball on the floor. “Why are you yellow?”
“I used Fred and George’s yellow spell, you know, the one they said worked on Scabbers? Turns out it does actually work,” she squeaked. “I think these beasts can’t see very well. That one blew three others up though, so be careful.”
I knew what I had to do. I scurried over to the Erumpent, biting it hard on the leg, which gave Ginny the chance to jump up and sprint over to Ron.
I didn’t need the encouragement - I raced to Ron - and he tossed me in his pocket again, hurtling back towards the pyramids.
We arrived just in time to see the wizard with a long grey beard that bought the portable swamp off Fred and George, step back and watch a veil of black mist lift, revealing a gawping and rather muddy Charlie, to an audience of the whole Weasley family.
“I think we’ve had enough excitement for a year, let alone a day, thank you very much,” Molly shook her head. “I won’t even ask why Ginny’s yellow. Come on now, to the hotel!”
I got a last glimpse of the mighty pyramid. Travelling with the Weasleys never went according to plan.
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