Chapter 4 : Attempt Nine
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The first thing Ginny did was Floo over to Shell Cottage and arrange backup for Saturday. Fleur was the best wing-woman to take, Ginny judged, as she was the best person she knew for getting you to do what you want and was spectacularly stubborn when she wanted to be. Yes, bringing Fleur along increased her chances of managing this task.
They would be staging their attack this coming Saturday, when general visiting hours were longest and they had a wider time range for arguing with Muriel to get her there. Ginny was determined that they'd manage it, but was also prepared to come back a week later and every Saturday after that to argue her Great-Aunt into the ground. Never underestimate your opponent! would be her mental mantra.
It wasn't unusual for Ginny to call round to see her tiny niece, and at this point Fleur didn't mind dumping three-month-old Victoire with her sister-in-law for half an hour of singing and rocking while she showered for the first time in several days.
By the time Victoire had fallen asleep in Ginny's arms, Fleur was all ready to talk. She listened interestedly to Ginny's reasoning and back story before agreeing quite happily to come along. "Eet would be nice to get zat witch out of ze way," she admitted, "and perhaps we can claim zat money quite quickly when she is gone?"
"That's the idea, anyway," Ginny grinned. "So you're up for it? I dunno if you want to bring Victoire or not, either's fine."
Five days later found them standing outside Muriel's at half past nine in the morning, baby-free, and resolved to bring Victoire next Saturday should Muriel refuse to yield ground in the next eight hours. Her incessant crying when poked was enough to drive any sane person from their home, let alone a rather more fragile and intolerant old vulture.
It took Mitsy a few moments to arrive at the door, and when she cracked it open, Fleur and Ginny were treated to a sullen scowl and slump which suggested they were not going to be welcomed, as such. However, Ginny was not perturbed.
"Hello Mitsy," she said brightly, "I'm Ginny Weasley, though Great-Aunt Muriel may know me as her Great-Niece Ginevra?"
"Might do," was all the house-elf grunted in response.
"Er - would you mind letting us in and fetching her so we can have a nice catch-up?"
Mitsy sighed and rolled her eyes before widening the door so they could walk through and abandoning them in the hallway with the door still open. Fleur decided to leave it that way, as the house was more than a little stuffy in the humid August heat and any breeze should be welcomed, though if asked, Muriel would probably complain of pneumonia or deadly chills.
Ginny painted a look of grim determination over her face and decided that hovering in the entrance corridor was probably the easiest way to prevent getting grounded in the sitting room. The sitting room meant an effort for Muriel getting down onto the worn settees which she would refuse to leave again. It meant (terrible, tasteless) tea being brought through, crumbling and cardboard-like shortbread crumbs spreading everywhere like a less fun version of the Black Plague. It meant rational conversation on one side, instead of neither side.
Yes, Ginny would thwart Muriel before she had even begun the subtler actions of her plan to escape capture.
After several moments of standing and listening to the various bangs, crashes and shouts which slowly became louder as Muriel neared them (presumably with Mitsy’s help) and Fleur conjured a chair for herself in order to ‘preserve her feet’. Ginny determinedly stood her ground beside the coat rack, waiting for the moment the Vulture rounded the corner and saw in her eyes a kindred spirit who would not be beaten down.
When Muriel did come to a stop at the bottom of the stairs she’d spent quite a while shuffling down, she took one sniffy look at Ginny and shook her walking-stick at her. “I was having my beauty sleep, Ginevra! It is incredibly rude to wake a woman up, you know that?”
“I appreciate that you need as much of that beauty sleep as possible, Aunty, but it’s actually past the acceptable time to welcome visitors into your home, and in fact, it is you in the wrong with your antisocial behaviour,” Ginny heatedly replied, pursing her lips at the end and tilting her chin into the air. Secretly, she was dying with laughter inside but was too much in control of her Muriel-like exterior to let it break through.
Muriel paused for a moment in her journey to the living room, looking affronted. “Well, where did you acquire a tongue like that? Get back in the knife box, Miss Sharp, and move out of my way.”
Ginny folded her arms. “I learnt from the best, Auntie. So no, I will not move. We can talk in this hallway; it’s got a lovely atmosphere, has it not?”
The funny way of speaking felt strange on her tongue, but the way the words rolled off, she could tell that a lifetime of chastisement from Great-Aunt Muriel was pouring out into use. And oh, how powerful she felt! No, don’t get ahead of yourself or lose focus, Ginny.
“I suppose.” Muriel looked around, and Ginny saw her time to pounce.
“Are you searching for blemishes that are Mitsy’s fault, something you can’t be blamed for? After all, everything you’ve ever done has been perfect, and everything the rest of us utter mortals do is completely wrong.”
“I say, Ginevra, what has come of you today! I have lived through four wars, five children, eighteen Ministers and two marriages, but never have I been met with such – such disrespect.”
“Then don’t you think it’s a little overdue, Aunty?” Ginny was desperately hoping Fleur would jump in at any moment and steer the standoff towards leaving and Ogden’s, but thus far she remained silent, and bore no sign she intended to face off Muriel. Well, she did have a baby and a husband to think of, so maybe that was excusable.
“Exactly what do you expect from me today, Ginevra?”
“I would like to take you out on an excursion, Aunty.”
“To that dreaded Oprah’s?”
“Of course not,” Ginny rolled her eyes, “although, as a side note, you really need to remake your attitude to that place.”
“Well now, that’s a surprise.”
“I dislike surprises,” Muriel sniffed, and attempted to push past Ginny into the living room, but her Great-Niece’s Quidditch-toned muscles easily resisted her when she tensed them. Stony gaze met stony glare and Muriel took a step back, barking at Fleur to give up her chair for an old woman who had spent well over a century on this earth and who wasn’t getting any younger.
Fleur conjured a chair instead, refusing to give up her own, and Ginny couldn’t stop the corners of her mouth from twitching at this minor victory.
“Would you not like to come out wiz us?” Fleur frowned imposingly.
“No. You are both insolent and childish, refusing to let a little old woman do as she would like – to stay in her own home without fuss!”
“You give us one visit, and we will stop bothurring you.”
Muriel pretended to check a particularly unattractive carpet-bag next to her, so Ginny took up Fleur’s argument, realising they could be onto a winning argument.
“Yes, we just take you out quickly – have your lunch for you at the usual time and everything – and then we’ll be gone.”
“Could you not leave now instead, dear? And send Percival round for a chat?”
“We’re going to bother you every day until you come with us.”
“Alright, then, I shall come with you,” she announced, and Ginny had the feeling from the gleam in Muriel’s eyes that she only agreed to see the surprise register on their faces. “Mitsy, pack this bag with some necessities.”
“Her most valuable and useless trinkets,” Ginny told the elf quietly in passing, and received an uncouth hand gesture in return. However, when Muriel’s house-elf dawdled back some time later, she had indeed packed the sort of possessions Ginny imagined her great-aunt to be carrying when leaving her home for good (whether she knew it or not). Silk stockings, prized goblin-made silverware, a snuffbox containing some strands of unicorn hair and her husbands’ hair… it was all exactly as Ginny would have expected when she peered in as it passed under her nose.
“I don’t theenk she weell be wanting a wheeled chair,” Fleur said loudly to Ginny with a wink, “she has too much pride.”
“Actually, a wheelchair is exactly what I need right now, thank you very much,” Muriel demanded, “so conjure me one before my hallway becomes my coffin!”
Fleur obliged, and they quickly had Muriel seated in a plushy wheelchair that Ginny thought she might not mind owning as an actual armchair. Conjured items had a habit of disappearing after a few days, however, if they weren’t constantly being watched, so any ideas she entertained of doing away with it once they turfed Muriel out on Ogden’s doorstep were, sadly, redundant.
“Now, when you Apparate with me, you must each take one of my hands and one handle on the chair – ”
“But what about Mitsy? She needs to come, I want her to see it. It’s by order of Hermione Granger, you see, one of the Golden Trio and highly respected advocate of house-elf rights. I do believe you –”
“Alright, alright, let the old bag come too!” Muriel said crossly, frowning deeply and glaring at her great-niece. She was far too stubborn for Muriel’s liking. “If I find out that you’ve all played a trick on me together, the elf will get it in the neck though, so I suggest you play nicely.”
“Yes, don’t worry Aunty, you’ll like it there,” Ginny sighed, seizing the wheelchair and shoving her Great-Aunt out through the front door into the bright rays of August morning sunlight. Fleur followed after her, pulling Mitsy along as though she were a petulant child who should know better than to cause a tantrum right now.
They joined hands in a circle before Muriel insisted that Fleur and Ginny each grab one of her hands and one handle of her chair, and Mitsy held onto her great-nieces’ wrists. Ginny thought it better to butter her up slightly so she might become a little more complacent for when they arrived at the dreaded care home, so obliged without complaint.
Fleur was the one doing the actual Apparating, as she had passed with flying colours when she was sixteen (the Apparition age in France) whereas Ginny had barely scraped a pass in her exam a few months ago due to the few, shoddy lessons she’d been taught beforehand. Fleur knew exactly how to empty her mind and think only of the place name she wanted to visit – in the case of places she had never visited, like Ogden’s – and Ginny knew perfectly well that her mind tended to wander dangerously when she attempted Occlumency.
Sometimes, when she felt the need to justify this, she said it was because when she was possessed by Voldemort (still a scary thought if there ever was one), her mind would constantly drop blank and the next thing she knew, she was somewhere else entirely; Apparition was too similar to that experience for her liking.
But really, it was just because she couldn’t be bothered to keep her mind still for that long.
When they reappeared on the other end of the Apparition in-between, Fleur subtly cast a misting charm over Muriel’s spectacles while Ginny pushed her forwards as fast as she could on the immaculate, grassy lawn. The bumps seemed to jolt Muriel, who was grumbling nineteen to the dozen, but by the time she had managed to wipe them clean adequately enough to be replaced on her nose, they were only a short distance from the open entrance doors. The gorgeous sun outside was lovely enough shining on them, but it did look deliciously perfect just inside there…
“What have you done, Ginevra?!” Muriel screeched as Ginny put on a burst of speed, arms straining and pushing at a 45-degree angle to the ground to whisk her Great-Aunt inside as fast as possible. “This sign reads Ogden’s Care Home for the Elderly, and you promised you would not bring me here!”
When Ginny did not respond, Muriel began to rock the chair from side to side and demand to be slowed down in order to vacate the ‘dreadful contraption’. Ginny was forced to shove the chair backwards and forwards right outside the doors, gravel spitting up around the wheels and her feet, until Muriel ordered to be spoken to as a civilised human.
“You never said we couldn’t take you to Ogden’s,” Ginny put in smartly before Muriel could get a word in.
Muriel spluttered. “You knew exactly what I meant, Ginevra! How could you do this? Have you no ethics, or morals, or manners?”
“Not particularly. Now, shall we go in? I don’t want to take you, since you’re being such an old bag about it, but I suppose we should clear the doorway and stop making such a scene.”
“Indeed, we should not scandalise these prisoners further,” Muriel sniffed, and let herself be pushed inside the glass doors to the lobby where a few other aged witches and wizards were sitting, either with family or with each other.
It was painted in a nice colour scheme of apple green and buttercup yellow which somehow managed to avoid the impression of vomiting which places concerning health often accidentally hit upon. Comfortable settees and nicely-organised bookshelves were scattered around the main desk, behind which a friendly-looking witch was talking to an older couple. There was even a gramophone on a table with records stacked neatly next to it.
“Oh dear, Ginevra, if I have to spend my time in this room, I will have to be carried out again within a week. Back in my day, such impertinence would have been met with – ”
The cheery-looking jumper-wearing witch approached Ginny with a smile at that moment, saving her from further disagreements with Muriel and guiding them away from the doorway slightly. "Good morning! I am Olivia Ogden, owner and general organiser of his home. Who might you all be?" Her voice had a pleasantly Welsh lilt, and coupled with her looping hair and kindly smile, Ginny trusted her immediately.
"Ginny and Fleur Weasley with our Great-Aunt Muriel," Ginny grinned, "and our family has been trying to get her in here for, ooh, twelve years now."
"Congratulations to you, then! I can assure you that she’ll be most happy here. We aim to keep each resident as pleasantly occupied and comfortable as is humanely possible.”
“Damn,” Ginny muttered, not intending for it to be heard, but refusing to be embarrassed when Olivia heard anyway. “Just – deny her the pastries when she’s getting ratty, okay?”
“Any special requirements you would like to set down will, of course, be taken into account.”
“How much do you charge here per week for a resident?” Ginny asked whilst keeping an eye on her Great-Aunt, who seemed engaged in a fierce argument with Fleur. There was much squawking and flapping of arms going on. She decided to keep away as long as possible.
Olivia regarded her thoughtfully. “The price depends almost entirely how much property, possessions and money your aunt owns. However, it’ll probably come out somewhere around 250 Galleons a week.”
“Alright, thank you.” It was just a good thing that Muriel had been hoarding for so long, wasn’t it? And Arthur had set up her pension plan a long time ago, so even if none of the Weasleys popped in and slipped her some Weakening Potion, Muriel would be safely stored away here as long as she didn’t live longer than a few years.
“Shall I leave you to have a gander at the place? Feel free to wander the corridors, just – please keep away from any doors labelled as private, it tends to get upsetting for everyone of there’s visitors where they shouldn’t be. I’ll come back and see how you feel about it in half an hour or so’s time,” Olivia smiled, and Ginny grinned widely back.
As long as nothing horrendously huge came up on their trip – and maybe even then, it depended how much Muriel complained about it – Ginny was more than happy to abandon her Great-Aunt here immediately. Still, when Molly inevitably quizzed her about it, she’d rather look prepared and as though she’d actually thought about where her Great-Aunt was living out the rest of her days.
“Shall we have a look about?” Ginny suggested to Fleur and Muriel when she returned to them. “It’d be nice to scope out the lay of the land, so to speak.”
“Zat sounds like a lovely idea.”
“Actually, I rather think I’d prefer to stay in the lobby,” Muriel hissed, but Ginny pretended her great-aunt’s words were no more bothersome than a slight breeze and began to push her down a side corridor. A sign above their entrance read “RAVENCLAW RESIDENTIAL WING”, driving Ginny to laughter when she saw it.
“Wait, you mean that House rivalry is still going on a hundred years after Hogwarts?” she gasped, earning a few sideways glances from other visitors. It seemed rather silly, somehow, but probably fit in better than any other Wing names; House rivalry never really died, did it?
Pushing the wheelchair slowly past the numerous open doors to sunny or gloomy bedrooms with a variety of contents, Fleur and Ginny chatted about the merits of each conservatory or room of chairs, and compared it all to their respective schools. Muriel tried to interrupt for a few moments, loudly talking over their voices, but soon gave up and sulked in silence while she was pushed around the beautiful Home.
Near the end of their square circuit around the ground floor, they arrived at a pair of double doors which read “KITCHEN STAFF ENTRY ONLY. Today’s Meals:” and listed the Molly Weasley-worthy offerings. There were also directions to the tuck shop, which was located just around the corner, and promised food for the sweet tooth at a price worthy of their days of youth.
Ginny left her great-aunt in front of the sign for a few moments and wandered around poking at the pot plants, which all seemed rather unharmful and gentle. Prewetts were notorious for their appreciation of food, so this was just another persuasive factor that Ogden’s had revealed about itself in the visit.
After an adequate amount of time, Fleur took over the pushing and wheeled Muriel the rest of the way into the lobby where they had begun, and where they could all now fully appreciate the gorgeous view.
“Do you not like the look of ze garden?” Fleur asked her, pasting a dreamy look on her face and gazing out of the windows in an attempt to get Muriel to appreciate it, although her Great-Aunt-in-law was doing quite the opposite.
Muriel had paused, surveying the room before adjusting her blanket so it sat more nicely over her wheelchair. A curious expression that seemed rather torn came over her face, and Ginny pursed her lips to avoid a fit of laughter when Muriel began squinting over to a wizened old man with a beard tickling his toes who was attempting to switch the records in the gramophone. He’d apparently managed to get the needle stuck.
“Oi! Let me take a look at that, sir!” Muriel barked from next to Fleur, making both the Weasleys jump. Fleur went to push her chair over, but Muriel got hold of her wand and repeated the words that she’d picked up from inside a wheelchair-users class somewhere along the south corridor, to control her chair’s trundling over to the man and tell him off.
“It looks like she’s settling in rather well,” Ginny observed to Fleur, “although I do hope she doesn’t try to steal more of the pastry-based desserts than she’s allowed; from what I hear, it’s rather frowned upon.”
Fleur laughed with her, struck by the amusing image of Muriel covered in jam and croissant crumbs, trying to argue with the cooks about how much she was allowed to take and where. “Oui. And eef she decides she prefers anuzzer resident’s room to her own…”
“Ah, it’s nice to know that Ogden’s is such a perfect environment for her.” Shooting a glance around the lobby they were still standing in, Ginny nipped over the clearly labelled ‘activities room’ and peeked in. She could just about see several wrinkly residents moving about on slow-go brooms, tossing a large and slowed-down Quaffle between them; safer Quidditch for the elderly. Behind them, there was a group of old dears directing balls of wool that was knitting itself, and a few more people sitting in cushy arm chairs with huge tomes slung open on their laps (though most seemed to be using them as props, given that they were asleep).
Yes, Muriel would be leading a rather comfortable life here in Ogden’s Residential Care Home. She’d not be suffering as she had done previously with Weasleys hounding her about moving in, but would be happily bundled away stealing pastries, shouting at elves who would refuse to listen, and preaching which flicks to use in order to get the best stitches.
All would be well. As Ginny turned back to find Fleur, she found herself almost tripping over Muriel in her chair and waiting silently at her elbow – come to think of it, the noise level had decreased a while ago.
“Congratulations, Ginevra,” Muriel told her imperially, “you have been the Weasley to manage to persuade me to stay here. Fine job, I must say – I’ve lived through four wars, five children, eighteen Ministers, two marriages and nine Weasleys hounding me to desert my fortune and home. I don’t know where you learned that attitude, but well – it has worked. Do tell your mother to sort out the settlements immediately, if you will.”
Ginny was speechless. Somehow, this had worked; the acting, the pushiness, the forcing her to visit Ogden’s; Muriel had become so attached so quickly that she already didn’t want to leave.
“I – I’m very proud, thank you Auntie,” she managed to garble, before moving away to talk to Fleur, who grinned at her shocked expression.
“She wants to stay?”
“Yeah, she does. Right now. I – we’ve done it, Fleur, cleared her out, once and for all!”
“Shall I begin to talk to Olivia Ogden while you take care of your Great-Aunt?”
“Good idea.” She was dazed, wondering how her family, who had been failing for so long at getting rid of Muriel, would take it.
They’d not have to take care of Muriel anymore; that was the care home’s job. They could leave her here and visit never or every day, and that was the extent of the worry she’d cause them. Unless Muriel got thrown out, of course, but Ginny was hopeful that an incident like that wouldn’t occur too soon.
Yes, the Old Vulture had been locked up at last, and the Weasleys were free of her, once and for all.
A/N: Aah! It’s strange to find this short story coming to an end! I’ve enjoyed writing it so much, and what was originally planned as a shortish one-shot has managed to blossom rather nicely (or mutate by an extra 14K, whichever way you want to look at it!).
Many thanks to Sophie for the fangirling and suggestions, QTR editors for organising thank-you gifts and being generally lovely and supportive, Nikki for letting me steal “back in my day…” and aiedail, without whom the Ravenclaw CR would be a darker, more grammatically incorrect and less exciting place.