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Chapter 4 : Tide Rising
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Finally, Uncle Harry invites them in. The one on the left stoops a little and he takes off his wizarding hat, the other stays stiff with his uneven grimace. They seem to know Uncle Harry, but I suppose that is no surprise. They do call him sir though. The word drifts down the corridor to me: Sir and Mr and Mrs Weasley. Looking. I tell myself that there are many Weasleys here and I turn and head up the metal stairs, to be alone. I hold onto the banister tightly, so tight my knuckles are white. I do not get too far though when I hear my father calling for me. I’m on the fifth floor.
I think again of hiding and wonder if I were to disappear for a few hours, would this all go away? I dither on the landing.
“Molly,” his voice drifts up the stairs. But all I feel is far away from home. I cannot focus on his words so much. Just this distance that crowds around me like an ocean. Could I really be so far away from the only person who properly understands, who doesn’t roll their eyes when I have to straighten up a quill or colour code everything? The distance is suffocating.
There is panic downstairs as I descend. A budding tension comes from the two Ministry wizards. The one is still stooped. His round shoulders and spiked hair look out of place.
“What- what is happening?” Can I leave and never look back? It’s what goes through my head over and over again. Family members have crowded into the small corridor. Their bodies pressing into one. I squeeze past Louis, and then Aunt Hermione. Ducking underneath Uncle Bill’s arm and dodging around Fred, I finally come to the front where I see my parents. My mum’s face is white, it’s been so white recently. Her wrist bones stick out, even though she has tries to hide it with longer robes.
But no one answers me. They focus on the men standing on the door and I’m reminded a bit of pigs led to the slaughter. But the stooped man finally puts his hat on and stands straighter.
“There’s nothing to be done for it,” he says. His voice is firm, but almost apologetic. “We need to take Mr and Mrs Percy Weasley along with their daughter. This warrant is signed by the Minister himself.”
“What is the meaning of this? I haven’t heard of these charges,” Uncle Harry says. He seems bigger than his 5’8 when he stands up to these two men. It’s in moments like this I realize why people seem frightened of him.
“Forgive us,” the shorter man says. A sneer almost crosses his face. I could be wrong though, everyone's faces seem distorted to me right now. “But there is a bit of a conflict of interest, don’t you think? Either way, this is not a case for the Auror Department. This is strictly a case for the Law Enforcement Squad. We were hired by the International Trading Standards Body. We’re just doing our job and we must place Mr and Mrs Weasley and their daughter under house arrest until further notice.”
“Under what charges, Crawley?” Ron bellows. His face is red by now. So, so red. “You haven’t given us that.” I shudder at his impulse and wish I had gone to the attic to hide. The bodies are so close to me, I can smell their sweat and anger. It’s building ever higher.
“That is confidential Weasley,” the man named Crawley replies. “It will be discussed with Mr and Mrs Weasley at a later date.”
“It’s alright,” my dad finally breaks in. He pushes his horned rimmed glasses up his straight nose. He seems to have read the parchment that is dictating our arrest. I shudder again. “It is signed by the Minister. We’ll go.”
I pull on my shoes and feel the stooped man grab my arm, as if I was at risk for running off. I can imagine Lucy laughing at this. So clearly. It’s like she’s right next to me, laughing right in my ears and making some droll remark that of course I’d be the one to r try and escape the law. Her voice is so clear to me that I turn to my left, but there is only empty air. So, instead, I tell myself to try and see it as Lucy would - does - that it’s a romantic adventure. Something different and exciting.
However, as we are escorted out of The Burrow it feels like anything but that. I do not like the look on my father’s usually so decisive face. I can’t figure it out, but it seems like doubt. He has never looked like that before. He is usually so sure of everything.
We stand out in the garden, the rest of the family trickles out of the door, but hang back. Uncle Ron is still inside and I notice Aunt Hermione is as well. She’s probably stopping him from being brash.
“Well, since you have come quietly, things become rather more cordial. We’ll Apparate to your place of residence and after we put up some charms, we’ll be out of your hair,” Crawley says. My dad gives a curt nod of his head and after a quick pop The Burrow disappears before our eyes. We’re standing in front of our two story cottage on the edge of Salisbury. Ivy grows up the walls, choking the sides of the brick building.
I breathe deeply and follow my parents inside, wondering how we have gotten into this. It doesn’t seem right, especially with everything we’ve been through already. It’s like rubbing salt into the wound. This sort of thing doesn’t happen to the Weasleys either, we have always been on the right side of the law.
But the world is changing around me so fast and as I step through the threshold of the door to my parents' house, I feel like things are spinning so fast I fear I will not be able to capture the wisps back. It’s like trying to capture the ocean with my bare hands. I hear them talking above me as I walk into the familiar front room, but I can’t really focus on the words. All I hear is house arrest, house arrest, house arrest. I sit on the couch. I let my hands feel the rough texture beneath my fingertips.
They leave, though I hear them outside. When I look out the window, their arms are extended and I realize they are putting charms to lock us in. We are prisoners of our own house. Mum and Dad are hovering in the entry. Their shoes are still on and their faces drawn. So pale like the pale moon.
“Did you understand everything the men were saying, Molly?” Dad asks. The business tone is back in place. He’s taking this on as a assignment from work. It makes me sick to hear how emotionless he seems. I don’t want to say I didn’t hear any of it. To admit the words were like mush to my ears. I nod my head slowly without looking at them. I continue to watch the wizards outside for a few minutes before they disappear into the air.
It’s strange to think that only an hour ago we were surrounded by people, and now there is only the silence and emptiness around us. This is almost more suffocating than the crowds because now I really feel alone. We only have each other and we are on our own islands here. Mum leaves with a sob, Dad watches and makes a movement as if he’d follow her. But his hands just end up back by his sides, twitching slightly from not knowing what is really happening.
“Someone will be by again later to explain things more fully, they were simply told to bring us here,” dad says. I hear him go into the kitchen. The kettle is on and I hear the hiss of boiling water. I barely register it, even though somewhere in the back of my brain I fully know I need to. It just doesn’t seem important. Not when I’m still waiting for Lucy to come back. Perhaps they left to get her. This wouldn’t be happening unless she is around. She’d think it as an injustice she couldn’t be part of it. I would too.
However, the next couple days are a blur and the house remains empty. Empty of her. Empty of her hair or how her citrus perfume lingers long after she’s left. I vaguely remember an Owl from the Ministry explaining there was a hold up for a few days. I think perhaps she has done what I wanted, she hid. Bet they didn’t look in the attic.
There were a few visitors as well. Apparently it doesn’t stop people from coming over as long as they received permission from the Ministry first. That meant family. Uncle Harry was here, talking in hushed tones with dad. I never try to listen in though. It doesn’t matter to me. None of it does. What does it matter that I am here or in my flat? There is still emptiness where there should be fullness.
It is Thursday now. So much time has passed it it feels, but yet, yet - time stands still. I hear voices in the front room. I sit on a chair in the kitchen. A cuppa is in front of me, however, it is cold. I like to stare at it though, watch the swirls move around when I twirl around the spoon.
“She’s in the kitchen,” I hear the baritone voice of my dad say. It drifts through this fog and I look up as footsteps enter the kitchen. It’s James. He has a crooked sort of grin on his face and his arms are full of parchment and a portfolio. I stare at him incomprehensibly for a moment, trying to place him in this story that’s playing out. I wonder what part he’s playing.
“I’m doing it,” he declares and sits next to me. The parchments scatter across the table and the bag flops down next to him. I try to ignore the pages, the way they scatter falling every which way. He grabs the tea and takes a gulp of it, but only spits it back into the cup, wincing as he does so. “Bloody hell Molly, it’s ice.”
I shrug my shoulders and stare at the cup again, then back at the parchment. I reach over and pick them up and quickly put them in order. I place them squarely in front of James. He laughs at my attempt and takes the cup to the sink and dumps out the tea. I cannot find it in me to be annoyed at him taking care of it. I can’t find it in myself to feel much of anything.
“Aren’t you going to ask what I'm doing?” he says once he’s finished cleaning the cup and putting it on the drying rack. His hair falls into his face and he brushes it out of his eyes. Such a normal, small action, but it brings me back to Lucy. It is such a habit of hers. She grows her fringe out too long and she’s always brushing her hair out of her eyes or blowing it with her mouth when she has the fancy.
I gulp back a sob that is building. Why is this happening?
“What are you doing?” I ask mechanically.
“I’m giving my sketches to a gallery. There is an opening for local artists' work at that Diagon Alley art shop,” he says gleefully. He sits back down, though bounces right back up again because he doesn’t seem to be able to sit still for too long. I watch him bounce around and chatter on about the gallery and what it means. He vaguely asks if I’ve ever been in there. I nod.
Lucy took me a few years ago. She’d recently opened her used and old bookshop and we’d gone for some tea. However, the gallery was having an opening for this artist from Israel in celebration of its ancient culture. The pieces in there were fairly straightforward, but Lucy had loved it. We’d been given some cheese and wine as we walked through the gallery. I can’t remember what those paintings looked like now, but I remember the way Lucy was so intent on them. She’d been fascinated with the paintings. She nearly bought one, but then remembered she was broke.
She always drags me to those sorts of things. Without her, I would rather just stay in. The crowds, the noises, the bright lights bother me too much. Where is she now?
James pushes the parchments over to me, I hear him say in a blurry sort of way, as if he is speaking through a tunnel, that I need to look at them. He begins to explain the meaning of the colours, the way they fuse together. His excitement over getting the essence of the barn owl brown right. It flutters across the page.
I barely hear him.
“Do you guys have any more information?” James finally asks. I shrug my shoulders because I haven’t been paying much attention. I can only assume so, even dad’s boss was here yesterday swearing that he’d get the arrest lifted. But anything more concrete then that, I did not know. I suppose I should care. Should feel something more than numbness. But in the darkness, it is all I see and feel.
This weirdness with Lucy can only be some facade. It has to be something other than what it is. The world has to make sense in that way. It just has to.
“How are you?” I hear him say. I think he has been talking the whole time. I know he has because he’s James and he cannot stand the silences and gaps. He will always fill them in with something. Nonsense usually and I wonder why he, of all people, is here.
“Just fine,” I whisper. I’m fine. Just fine, I know that. There can be no other answer. I have to be fine. I’ve always been just fine. I like it that way because then I know that nothing is truly wrong. Even though there are these haunting memories that seem more poignant than they have ever been.
“What, James? I’m fine. Nothing has changed,” I say. I look everywhere but at him. I don’t want to see his face. I hate the pity, the reproach, or whatever it is I will find there. So I stand up and realise I have nowhere to go. But I want to get out. My hands linger on the ends of my hair, pulling at the straggly red strands. It feels greasy under my touch. I don’t think I’ve showered in a while.
James stands up as well. I feel his hands on my arms, keeping me still. They are soft as an artist's hands can be. I look at the specks of paint splattered on his fingertips, black and red paint crusted underneath what’s left of the nails he’s bitten down.
James doesn’t bite his nails. He doesn’t do that. Or didn’t…
“I’m worried, we all are. Molly - you know- em, she’s-” he trails off, unable to say the words he’s come here to say.
“She’s not,” I say. Defiantly. I glare at him, I want to move away, but I feel something breaking inside me. “She’s- not.”
He is quiet. He says it all with the silence though. Out of words. I tell myself to breathe. One. Two. Three. Just breathe and everything is fine. She isn’t. She can’t be. I shake out of James’ hold and I escape to the empty front room. The curtains are drawn. It is dark, which is so opposite of what it usually is, so full of light. It’s the place mum always entertains, she loves having friends over. All throughout childhood, there always was someone here.
He comes in after me and sits on the floor, letting his long legs spread out before him. I look at everything around, but it all seems wrong, cobwebs are forming in the corners. Mum would not have let it get this way. Wouldn’t allow the thin layer of dust. It would drive her mad to see it out of place, just like me. I pull out my wand and begin muttering some cleaning spells under my breath, brandishing the dust and cobwebs away. I wonder how I have not noticed it before. They have no place here.
But maybe now they do.
“Come and sit,” James says after a while. He pats the floor next to him and I sit next to him, not knowing what else to do. I have no where else to go. “We all miss her.” His voice is so quiet. It doesn’t sound like him. Not James who is so used to smiling and laughing. It doesn’t suit him and I hate to hear it in his voice.
“She’s still here,” I say back. Finally stating it out loud. It feels weird coming from my voice. Unnatural. I place my hand against my heart, hoping it will stop its rapid beating. I gulp in air, seeing her face burn against my eyelids. She is in my dreams, always just out of reach. Running, twirling. Like she is in real life. It cannot be just a dream. I don’t want it to be. It isn’t part of my plan. It isn’t.
“She always will be, she-” he started earnestly. I know he wants me to understand something. To feel it in my soul, but I feel her there. So much that I don’t know if I can even feel myself.
Before James can continue, though, I see the faces of a couple Ministry officials appear in our yard by the heavy leaved willow tree. They always apparate behind it; it’s a place muggles don’t really see. Not that they see a lot, mind. I don’t recognize them and I know this is the visit they were promising us. The one that explains why we have been stranded in this house. I think of how only my dad would be content to wait a few days. But, the warrant is signed and dad doesn’t go against that sort of thing. It isn’t proper or right.
James is already up and calling up the stairs to where my mum has hidden herself. My dad comes out of his study. His face his paler than usual, making his freckles stand out even more.
“They’re here?” Dad says. He stands by the window as the Ministry Officials walk up to our door. They give a mild knock on the door and then Dad swishes his wand to open the door for them. Mum comes down the stairs, her lips thin, but she’s put on some blush to give her cheeks some colour.
We all stand staring at each other and I feel the missing presence in the room like a sharp pain in my side. It’s so startling I almost take a step back, but then I look to James and he gives me a smile, as if he knows what is going through my mind. I remember his words. I try to hang onto them, for he is tangible. I know that. I know he is, even though her voice is just as tangible.
“Right, well, Mr Potter, we’re going to have to ask you to leave,” one of them men said. James shrugs his shoulders and slips on his shoes. He probably knows enough about Ministry protocol from Uncle Harry to question things like he might normally. Though, now that I think about it, Albus was always the one to really always question and push borders that way. Picking up his sketches and his portfolio bag, he gives us a wave and a wink before disapparating on the spot.
The ring of the pop vibrates in my ear as the men are ushered into the front room and Mum offers them some tea. They refuse and we sit across from them. I notice one with a briefcase and all I can think of is this isn’t supposed to happen. This isn’t meant to be. It isn’t part of the plan. It is so wrong.
“Okay, Mr and Mrs Weasley, I’m Sander and this is Daniel. We work for the Magical Trading Standards Body with regulating international wizard import and export. I take it by now you have some idea of what is happening,” Sander says. My father shakes his head though.
“We’ve been told very little,” Dad says. I wonder if this is a lie to cover up for anything that Uncle Harry might have said. Which would be weird as Dad has never been the best liar. Especially not to the Ministry. Though, I suppose even Uncle Harry wouldn’t know much if he didn’t even know about the arrest. I cannot imagine him not being able to dig things up though, considering who he is. “The only information we’ve been told is that our family is under house arrest for alleged suspicious activity and contacts. I can only assume that this has to do with wizard trade since that department was the one to put out the warrant to the Minister.”
“We’d really like the details though,” Mum says quietly. Her voice is so wispy and she hasn’t spoken in ages it seems. I almost forgot what it sounded like.
“Well, we’re sorry for the wait, there was quite a lot of paperwork as I’m sure you understand, Mr Weasley,” Daniel says. He pulls out the briefcase and unclips the clasps. I drag my eyes away for a moment and look out the window to the tree that blocks the view to most of the street. I stare at the tree blindly, feeling panic rise up in my chest. I can hear James’ words so clearly. So vividly, they keep banging into my ear and slithering through my mind.
We all miss her.
“We hate to be the ones to bring this up, especially at a time like this,” Daniel continues. He ruffles his hair, leaving him look more like a human then before where his hair was slicked to the sides of his head as if he’d been doused with water before coming over. “We understand what you and your family must be going through and our deepest condolences go out to you.”
Condolences. That word is so cold. I look over at the man. He must be mid thirties and I wonder if he comes close to even knowing. If he gets it. Sander looks older, grave and wrinkled with darkness written in his eyes.
“The thing is, we cannot put it off any longer. We waited till after the funeral because of everything your family has contributed in the past,” Sander continues. He pulls out a folder from the briefcase. I tell myself to pay attention, to fight the fog and fear. I have to pay attention. Have to know, know for sure what is actually happening. Even if they say funeral, as if it’s a sure thing. And maybe- maybe it is. I close my eyes and breathe. One. Two. Three.
I feel a tear form at the corner of my eyes and I impatiently wipe it away, hoping no one notices, but my dad grabs my hand and squeezes it tightly. This cannot be happening.
Sander pushes the folder over to my father and mother. But he doesn’t flick it open, rather, he looks at Sander expectantly.
“Thank you for your sympathies, but we’d really appreciate if you could tell us why we’re here,” Dad says. I bite my lower lip, hating that they are here. Making it seem so final. So cold. I feel so cold.
“With the crackdown on the smuggling circles that’s been happening some new information has come to light. Some that put some doubt on your family in particular. Sources have it that your daughter, Lucy, may have been involved in an international smuggling organization.”
“That’s not possible,” mum says. Her hands are clenched so tightly together I worry she’ll break a finger, but it isn’t the time to worry of such things. Not now. Not now.
“We don’t want to think so either Mrs Weasley-“
“Please, it’s Audrey, there are too many Mrs Weasley’s these days,” Mum says automatically. She’s always hated being addressed by her surname. She says she loses herself when she’s called that.
“Audrey then, we do not want to think so, but until we know for sure we have to keep a close watch on anyone who may have information on this and since you’re family…” Sander trails off and rubs the back of his neck uncomfortably. He doesn’t seem to like being the one to tell us this.
“Are you suggesting we’re suspects?” Dad says. I see his neck slowly becoming splotchy red. I know it’s from the mere idea of being against the law. I cannot imagine a time dad has even remotely stepped out of line.
“We merely are taking the necessary precautions, Percy-” Daniel says.
“It’s Mr Weasley,” Dad says. He straightens out his robes and pushes his horned rimmed glasses higher on his freckled face. “And call it for what it is. I prefer outright honesty.”
“We’re taking precautions as you very well know. It’s standard for families to be held until the investigations are complete in case they know any information or inadvertently - or purposefully- helped the perpetrators. You know what the studies show when it comes to such things. I know you fully understand what we’ve been dealing with at the Ministry. The new laws that have been put in place these last few years were made to try and stop the illegal trade of artefacts. Some which are highly dangerous and if in the wrong hands could put our world in jeopardy,” Daniel says firmly.
“This is ludicrous,” Mum says. She slowly unclenches her fist and folds her arms across her chest. “To think our family has anything to do with this, this trade. We’ve been nothing but loyal to the Ministry. Our daughter would never do anything like this. She was a good girl, more interested in drama and acting than anything else in the whole world.”
“Sometimes parents don’t always know their children as much as they like to think,” Sanders said softly. With that, his dark eyes land on me, I feel my eyes widen and I shake my head. My body is actually shaking. I cannot believe the words that are coming out if his mouth. They feel like poison, blackness, tainting something that’s so light and bright.
“Don’t- don’t tell me I didn’t know my own daughter!” Mum bursts out. Immediately though she chokes back a sob and buries her head into my dad’s shoulder. Her shoulders shake as she tries to get herself back together, to regain control. She rarely loses control like this. Not in a fit of rage. It’s so different from everything she’s ever been. Mum’s always been mellow tempered. A wave that forms around the rocks and cliffs.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to insinuate…” Sanders says, but the damage is done and my dad shakes his head slowly. Sanders drops into silence until my mum composes herself and she faces the two of them again. She is quietly raging, but I know she won’t make any more outbursts. Not when they’re still here anyway. She understands what appearances will mean in a time like this. It hits me we have to be perfect. Perfection.
That word rolls into my mind so easily. It truly is an old friend, but one that has disappeared in the last week. I know she will come back to me though. She has to. That Molly wouldn’t feel herself breaking inside where all the nuts and bolts being forced to unscrew and unhinge. That Molly has a plan and the plan always works.
“Miss Weasley, you were quite close to Lucy,” Daniel begins. I look at him with wide, wild eyes. I was. Was. I swallow and try to hold the tears that are burnings my eyes. They feel like acid. A noise comes out of my throat I never knew I could make and I shoot up from the couch. I feel eyes watching me, but I do not care. Was. The word hovers over me and I know it’s true. I can feel that now. The tangible feel of her, the way she is nearly real, but always out of reach. James’ words come back to me like a wave crashing into me. “Miss Weasley…”
I barely here his call though as I rush up the stairs, blood pounding in my ears like a stampede. Everything is blurring together and I feel myself sinking. Waterlogged. Like I'm falling out to sea. I feel her step away; her face seems to dim behind my eyes. I feel my bed beneath my touch and I let myself fall into it. Barricading myself as the tide rises around me.
Lucy, oh Lucy. Why have you left?
Massive thanks to marauderfan who is a brilliant beta :). She works miracles it seems! Lastly, thanks to Amanda for her lovely reviews and continual support of this story, even though it's been ages since i've written much for it!
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