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Chapter 21 : family, help, and step one is complete
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- Rose: Theodore Nott’s house
We followed him into a spacious living room which took up half the bottom of the house, and seemed to serve as an office as well, judging from the wall of overflowing bookshelves and the desk in the corner, neatly laid out with parchment and quills. Nott sat down on one of the sofas, motioning for us to sit in the opposite one, across a low table.
I sat, grateful for the rest of my knee. Even though I was technically not in my own body, I could still feel the injury as it strained. Scorpius stayed standing, our sole wand in his sleeve. There was a noise upstairs, and my heart stopped for a second. Scorpius glanced at me. Could it be James? Hugo? Aurors?
I gave him a quick smile, and Nott looked at us both uneasily. I noticed that his wand hand was fiddling with his opposite sleeve, probably where he kept his wand. “Is something the matt-” he started to say, but I cut him off.
“Mr Nott,” I said, “my husband and I have a quite unusual problem...”
“Stupefy!” Scorpius whispered, and a jet of red light hit Nott in the stomach. He flopped backwards, his mouth open, unconscious. I bent over the table, and felt his pulse- it was steady- talking all the while.
“You see, it’s to do with... our son... Patrick...”
I disarmed Nott, taking his wand from his opposite sleeve, where I’d guessed it would be, and motioned to Scorpius to go investigate the sound upstairs. I carried on talking. Whoever was upstairs would be worried if there was suddenly only silence below them.
There was a crash, a shout, and then a thud as something fell to the floor. My hand unconsciously flew to my mouth, and I stood up, defensively holding Theodore’s wand out in front of me. Someone clattered down the stairs.
Scorpius pushed open the door. “I just stunned a cat,” he said. “It scared the bejesus out of me.”
“Animagus?” I asked, but he shook his head.
“Definitely just a cat.” He looked at Nott, sprawled on the sofa. “Is he okay?”
I raised an eyebrow. “Well, he’s Stunned, but other than that, yeah.”
Scorpius looked at me with concern. I’d slumped back onto the sofa, and propped my leg up on the coffee table. “You alright?”
I nodded, but didn’t move.
“I’ll do the protective charms,” he said, and I nodded again in approval as he started to look slightly more concerned. I grinned.
“Can I have a cup of tea as well?” I asked. “Or a hot chocolate. I’m cool with either.”
Scorpius shot me a disparaging look, but went off to do the charms anyway, and as soon as he left the room, I stretched my leg out and groaned quietly. I hoped to god that Nott would be able to fix this, or I’d be as useless as an aquaphobic mermaid.
By the time we woke Theodore Nott, myself and Scorpius were nearly back to our normal selves, except my eyes and the tips of my hair were still brown, and Scorpius was still growing about a centimetre a minute, but Roxanne had previously warned us that because her Polyjuice Potion lasted longer, it took a while to wear off.
Theodore looked incredibly dazed as he slowly came around, sprawled over the sofa. I hadn’t moved from my seat opposite, both my feet on his table and my fingers curled around a cup of tea. Scorpius was perched on the arm of the sofa, with the soft brown cat on his knee.
“What the hell...” he groaned, and leant forwards, cradling his head in his hands.
“What’s your cat called?” I asked, taking a sip and burning my tongue.
Nott lifted his head out of his hands to squint at me. “What?”
I repeated the question.
“Dusty,” he said, and managed to sit up straight. “Why? Christ, that spell had a kick and a half.”
He got to his feet, slightly unsteadily and tottered over to a cabinet on the wall, pulling out a glass decanter and a tumbler, filling it with whiskey. He downed it, and then filled it up again. He sat back down, looking increasingly steadier by the second.
“Please never turn up to my house as two strangers who stun me again. It put the fear of god into me,” Nott said. “How did you find my offices?”
“It wasn’t that hard,” I replied. Scorpius scratched the cat behind its ears, making it purr loudly. “Mr Nott, can you help us?”
“Finding your brother and cousin?” he said, and took a sip of whiskey, making a face as it burned down his throat. He tilted the glass towards Scorpius and I. “Want one?”
“No thank you,” I said, a little briskly. “Do you know where they are?”
He smiled in a fatherly kind of way. “Of course. You asked me to look after Hugo, didn’t you?” He paused for another sip, and my fingers drummed against his wand impatiently.
“Where are they?” Scorpius asked, wincing as the cat kneaded his legs with its claws happily.
“Hugo is staying with a friend of mine in this village,” Theodore said. “I know the Ministry is keeping tabs on me, and although they don’t do their job particularly well, I thought it would be pushing my luck a bit if he stayed here with me. But I’m sure he’s perfectly safe,” he added when he saw my panicked look at the mention of the Ministry. “I went round and checked up on him the day before yesterday- he seems fine. A little worried about you, but fine. And this village is completely Muggle, it’s as safe as anywhere I can think of. Plus, I’m nearby.”
“And James?” I said, the feeling in the pit of my stomach receding. Hugo was in this village. He was nearby, and safe. I couldn’t be more relieved.
“James...” Theodore paused again. “That’s trickier,” he said, weighing his words. “He checks in with me every couple of days, but I haven’t seen him, and I didn’t want to go looking for him in case I drew more attention to myself. I don’t want any more surveillance on my movements, or I’ll end up being next to useless.”
“But you can get in touch with him?” Scorpius pressed.
Nott grimaced. “Yes and no. Technically I can, but whether he gets my message will be something else entirely. He’s not as good at checking his emails as he used to be.”
I raised an eyebrow, Scorpius looked distinctly unimpressed. “Email? Really?” he said.
Theodore Nott shrugged. “The Ministry are only just coming around to technology. They don’t have the manpower to watch the internet- no one has. They don’t fully understand it yet. They’re not even aware of the existence of internet cafes.” He paused, finishing his whiskey. “What do you want to tell him?”
An hour later, our message to James was on its way, we’d eaten, drunk, Theodore had fished out a couple of spare wands for us and had politely suggested to his Muggle friend that she left the house for a few hours, so I could go see my little brother.
“Gerroff me!” he mumbled, encased in a bone-shattering hug. “Gerroff!”
I carried on holding him tightly- partly to annoy him, and partly because oh my god it was my little brother and he was safe and I had missed him so much.
“You’re such a wuss,” Hugo complained with a smile, wiping tears from my face.
I tried to scowl at him, but I was just so relieved that I couldn’t stop grinning, or stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks. “I’ve missed you Hugh,” I said, and I felt his arms around me tighten.
“I missed you too,” he said. Then he whacked me on the shoulder.
“Ow! What was that for?”
“How worried have you been about me?” he said.
“Um, really worried?”
“Stomach clenching, can’t concentrate worried?”
I nodded, finding a tissue in my pocket to dry my face.
Hugo hit me again. “Then how do you think I have been feeling? My sister has been off playing James Bond and I’ve been stuck in a tiny boring village where I can’t help you and I don’t know what’s been happening!”
“I haven’t been playing James Bond, I’ve been fighting for my life,” I said. Hugo rolled his eyes.
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”
We ended up all sprawled over the sofas in the living room, nursing firewhiskies as Scorpius and I relayed the story so far, and what we’d recently learnt. I felt guilty about being so warm and full of food and comfortable while my cousins were hiding in a beach shack, but I was so happy to be safe and with my brother and Scorpius, that I nearly didn’t care.
When we’d finished, Theodore looked thoughtful. “Abner Carrow?” he said, and I nodded. “I don’t really know that much about him, to be honest. He kept himself to himself in the Ministry, only really bothering about what his bosses thought of him. He had two daughters I think –don’t know what happened to them- and his wife died. Suicide, apparently, but I know for a fact that Carrow was investigated.”
Scorpius and I shared a look. Interesting, although it didn’t really help us with why he was persecuting us. Although –and I would only ever privately admit this- I didn’t give a damn why. I just wanted him to be stopped. Hugo though, seemed to be a bit more excited than was really necessary.
“So you came to come get me and then we can all storm Carrow’s house together?” Hugo said, his eyes alight. “Awesome!”
This was just the kind of reaction that I had feared. I drained my firewhiskey. “Hugo, I don’t want you to come with me.”
His face fell, and suddenly he looked like a ten year old being told he was too short to go on a fairground ride. But it only served to strengthen my resolve. “You can’t stop me,” he said angrily.
“I could,” I said, “but I don’t want to. I’m asking you Hugh, please don’t come with us.”
“Because you’re young and inexperienced,” I said, getting frustrated that he couldn’t understand. “If you were there I would spend the whole time worrying about you. Just please, let the rest of us deal with Carrow.”
“But it’s my fight too. Our parents were younger than I was and they led a war!”
“But they had to!” Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Theodore and Scorpius tactfully retreating into the kitchen. “They had the fate of the wizarding world on their shoulders!”
“I have to as well,” Hugo said, lowering his voice. “And why should the fate of my family be any less important?”
I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out. I couldn’t think of anything to counter him with. “If something happened I could never forgive myself,” I managed eventually.
“Nothing is going to happen,” Hugo said, and I wished I could believe him.
Nott came bursting out the kitchen, holding up a squareish Muggle mobile phone. “James has emailed me back,” he said. “He’s sent us an address- he’s going to try to make it there by ten o’clock tonight.”
I wanted Scorpius to take Hugo back to the shack, so Theo and I would meet James alone, but Scorpius insisted that I go back with Hugo and Hugo was adamant that he wasn’t going anywhere, so it turned out that we all ended up going to the address to meet James. I was furious. James might not even show up, there might be Aurors there, there might be Fraternity members there- I didn’t know how I could be clearer that it wasn’t safe.
We drove to the address, a house in a small village about forty minutes away from Theo’s. I sat in the back with my brother, silently fuming. Hugo looked out the window and tried to ignore me, but I could see he was bouncing his left knee. He always did that when he was excited about something. Excited. Scorpius was talking very quickly to Theo about cars- apparently this Muggle car was fancy or something- but at least fifty percent of his enthusiasm was feigned to try to cover up my intense ill will. We eventually arrived, and the precautionary Homenum Revelio we cast revealed no-one. We didn’t expect there to be- we were three hours early.
“Me and Theodore will go in and scope it out,” I said, as we parked up, about fifty yards from the house. It was a residential street, with nice houses, clean cars and tidy gardens. We didn’t look out of place, and there were a couple of Muggles milling around.
“Why can’t I come?” said Hugo, and I clenched my hands into fists, although I was hiding them from his sight.
“Because Nott is a private detective and this is what he does for a living, and I am the most experienced out of the rest of us, and I’m older than you and I said so!” I snapped. Hugo visibly wilted. I’d pulled that line far too many times when we were children. “Hugo, hold my hand when we’re crossing the road. Hugh, don’t eat that. Hey, what did I tell you? Don’t talk to strangers! Hugo! Listen to me! Don’t skip school, I don’t care if everyone else does it!”
“Technically, I’m older than yo-” Scorpius tried to say, but I silenced him with a glare. “I’ll stay here with Hugo,” he said, trying to recover himself. I opened the car door and slid out, slamming it behind me forcefully. The tiny car rocked slightly, and Nott didn’t look too pleased.
“Which house is it?” I said as we casually strolled down the pavement.
“The one with the blue door,” Theodore said. I gripped my new wand in my coat pocket a bit harder. I liked it better than the one that Scorpius and I had been sharing- although I’d used it the most, it seemed to prefer offensive spells to defensive, and I knew my Shield Charms could have been so much stronger.
Theodore unlocked the blue door with a whispered spell, and I cast a Shield Charm then, feeling the bubble grow and strengthen.
“There’s no one here,” Theodore whispered, despite his statement.
I cast him a sideways glance. He clearly didn’t know James as well as he thought he did. Through the door, we were directly opposite the staircase, and split up. I went upstairs, being lighter and more confident of my stepping lightly than I was of Nott.
And in the front bedroom, I found James. He was standing in the middle of the room, his back to me and his head cocked to one side, listening intently to Theodore rattling around downstairs. James is taller than me, and his unruly black hair, so much like his dad’s, had grown out, so it was nearly hanging down to his jawline. He’d got a lot thinner too- his clothes hung off his body, and he didn’t look nearly as strong as he used to. All brawn and no brain, we’d used to joke- we’d been proved wrong on both counts. James still hadn’t realised I’d silently entered the room behind him. I coughed.
James spun around and a jet of red light had issued from the tip of his wand before he’d even realised it was me. My Shield easily deflected the Stunning Spell, but it rebounded and hit the wall behind James. We both dropped to the ground at the same time, and the spell went over both of our heads and down the stairs. I heard Theodore swear.
“That’s not a nice way to greet me, cousin,” I said, sitting up and punching him.
James’ face was a confusion of shock and anger. “Please don’t bloody surprise me like that then, I could’ve killed you!”
I grinned. “Doubt it.”
He smiled and I stuck a hand out to help him up. From downstairs, I heard Theodore shout “I assume you’ve got the bugger then?”
“Yeah!” I yelled back. “He’s here.”
James pulled me into a hug. “How’re you doing?” he asked. “How’s everyone else? Have you seen Lily?”
“We’re all fine,” I said, once he released me. “There’s eight of us now, including you.”
James’ face lit up. “We’re going offensive?” he said.
I clapped him on the back just as Theodore came up the stairs. “We’re going offensive.”
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