Mum shuffled everyone to a nearby hotel, this time a Muggle one, and checked us in. I was not surprised to find she had American Muggle money on her. Mum was always prepared. She'd had her handbag with her, so all her and Dad's things were safe. I didn't want to think about whether or not anything of mine was salvageable. I had really liked that cocktail dress.
Mum had got one room, with two large beds. She cast a few surreptitious security spells on the room, conjured a cot for Ramses, who was sound asleep already, and then dispatched Dad to get the nappies. Always efficient, my mum, even when our hotel room had been blown up.
When Dad returned with the nappies, Mum cast a charm around the cot so we could speak in normal voices.
“Well,” she began, and then faltered. She cleared her throat. “I'm glad you're all safe.”
“If that bomb had gone off any later, we wouldn't be,” Dad said grimly. “It was a near thing. I had a quick look round with the assistant manager. Most of the damage was to our section of the corridor.”
“Someone bombed us deliberately,” Scorpius muttered.
“Not someone. Ambrosia,” I told him.
“You're getting a bit obsessed with her,” Scorpius pointed out.
“Rose is right, it was probably Ambrosia. You two haven't been antagonizing any other criminals this week.” Mum looked at me askance then. “Although you're not wrong, Scorpius...”
“Do you think we're safe here?” Scorpius asked worriedly.
Dad nodded. “For the night, probably. We need to deal with this situation swiftly.”
“What do you propose?” Mum asked. She had clearly forgotten about not speaking to him.
But Dad didn't answer at first. “It's late,” he said eventually. “Let's talk about it tomorrow. There's nothing much more we can do tonight, and we could all do with the sleep. In the morning we'll go to the Aurors.”
I reckoned either he wanted to chew on the problem overnight for the best plan of attack, in which case I was a little scared, or he wasn't sure what to do at all, in which case I was very scared.
I lay awake for a long time, curled up into the crook of Scorpius's arm, listening to the quiet breathing in the room (and Dad's snoring). I did feel safer having everyone together in one room. And it was definitely comforting having Dad around. As much as I loved Scorpius, he wasn't a fighter, and I wasn't sure how well he'd do defending against an attack. He painted and sang, he didn't duel. He'd go down fighting as best he could to save Ramses, I knew that, but the problem was he would still go down. Dad, on the other hand, was the right-hand man of the Head Auror (admittedly, this was his best friend and brother-in-law, but it wasn't nepotism that had gotten Dad the job). He had been capturing bad guys since before I was born. Dad would be a lot harder to take out than Scorpius. The same could be said for Mum. I felt much safer with them here, knowing one or both of them would be with my son.
Rolling over, I tried to look into Ramses's cot, but he had pulled the blanket over his head as usual. I slid out of bed and padded over to check on him, tugging the blanket down until I could see his face. He was breathing steadily, not a care in the world. His little face was relaxed with sleep, and his red hair stood on end. I smiled at him.
“Rose? Is everything all right?”
I looked over to see Mum propped up on one elbow, watching me. “I was just checking on Ramses, that's all.”
She gave me a fond look, her eyes still heavy with sleep. “Everyone's safe, dear. Go on to sleep.”
This time when I laid down, I was able to snuggle into Scorpius and let his deep, even breathing lull me to sleep.
Dad went downstairs to scout out the hotel's dining room first thing in the morning. He wouldn't let anyone down there until he'd decided it was safe, and even though I was starving and Ramses was already getting fussy, we waited until he returned.
“All clear,” he said, poking his head in the room. “Come on down, there's bacon.”
The bacon was a little leathery, but we ate it anyway. Ramses was happy with toast soldiers and jam, and that kept him occupied while the rest of us talked.
“What should we do first?” Mum asked. “Go to the Aurors?”
“First thing, we go back to the hotel and see if there's any new information about the bombing, and sort through anything we can salvage from the rooms,” Dad said, buttering a piece of toast. “After that, we go see that Hatchcock bloke and see if he's got anywhere with his investigations. I doubt it, it hasn't been long enough, but I'll see about conjuring a fire under his arse. Get him motivated. Putting the fear of God in someone never did a rookie any harm.”
“We might as well check out of here,” I put in. “If we're going to stay in another hotel, it'd do well to keep moving around. Lessens the danger.”
“Especially if we choose Muggle hotels at random. They'd have to be following us to catch us. Are they following us, do you think?” Mum glanced at Ramses, her face worried.
“Nah, or they'd have killed us by now.” Dad, on the other hand, didn't look at all worried. “Isn't that right? Yes it is. We'd be dead already, yes we would.” He tickled Ramses under the chin.
“Ron,” Mum chided him. “That is so inappropriate.”
“He doesn't understand a word I'm saying.” Dad smiled fondly at the baby, and then told her, “Hurry up and finish your coffee so we can get moving, would you?”
Since Mum had finished eating before the rest of us, I thought this was rather rich coming from him. She gave him a look, but he only grinned. Dad seemed quite chipper considering we could have been killed last night. Either he was enjoying the excitement, or dementia was setting in.
The hotel looked awful since the bombing, of course. The spells that kept it hidden from Muggles were flickering, so it looked like it was flashing in and out. Probably gave everyone who looked at it a splitting headache. There were a pair of wizards out front trying to repair the charms, and another attempting to fix the large hole in the facade of the building. I could see a bit of a room from the street. It didn't seem to be the room I'd been staying in. Probably next door to us, the empty room. That would've been my choice to set a bomb in if I'd been the one trying to kill us.
Inside the lobby, hotel workers were clearing rubble and cleaning the floor, making the hotel presentable again. The manager stood in the middle of the room, looking harassed and ordering people around.
“Oh, thank God you're all right!” he exclaimed when we told him our room numbers. “Lucky you weren't in your rooms, you would've all been killed. I would like to personally express our apologies that this event has happened and we hope it doesn't affect your future travel plans to stay in our lovely hotel.”
“Cheers,” said Dad. “Any word on how the bomb got there or who set it?”
“Nothing yet,” the manager said with a shake of his head. “There were a few coppers here earlier. They said they'd let us know as soon as they found anything.”
MLEs always said that. Maybe American ones actually did it, too.
“We'll be sending a letter to all the guests currently in residence as soon as possible when we have more information,” he added.
“Don't have time for that. We'll just go to the source.” Dad clapped the man on the shoulder. “We'd like to have a look round our room, see if there's anything salvageable.”
“It's not safe up there,” the manager began, but Dad was already walking off toward the stairs.
We followed him upstairs, and Mum checked around a bit before she would let Scorpius and Ramses out of the stairwell. Dad was already poking through the debris in our room, crouched down to sort through the mess on the floor.
“Here's half a pink t-shirt,” he said, tossing the scrap of burnt fabric aside. “This wasn't just a bomb. This was a bomb that uses magic. Look over at the walls, see the swirl pattern in the soot? That's spell damage. She must've got something off that arms dealer after all.”
“No wonder she wants more of it,” I said, looking round at the damage. “This is a pretty good deterrent to any of her enemies. I wouldn't want one of these in my house.”
“Lucky we weren't here,” Mum said darkly. “We'd have all been killed. We need to go to the Aurors. This isn't good. She has a dangerous weapon on her hands with a magical bomb like this, and she's clearly determined to get Rose. We can't just roam around with Ramses in tow. It's too dangerous.”
Dad rose and dusted off his hands. To his credit, he didn't mention that he'd been right all along about Ambrosia not backing off. Normally neither one of my parents missed an opportunity to say 'I told you so', so that really showed how serious things were getting. “We're going to need somewhere to hide Ramses and Scorpius until this is over. Another hotel?”
Mum didn't look like she liked that idea. I didn't really either.
“I don't think it's a good idea after all. Hotels just aren't secure enough, even if we change location every night,” Mum pointed out before I could say the same thing. “There's nothing to stop her coming after us again if we're in a public place. A hotel is a public place.”
I nodded my agreement. We needed somewhere more hidden, more private, where we had more freedom to cast protective spells. Hotels weren't going to do. I had a sudden brain wave. “I know the perfect place.”
The Rabbit's Tutu was still hopping, but there were people flowing out into the street. It looked as if the brunch show had just let out. Mum and Dad stayed at the front entrance with Scorpius and Ramses, and I ducked inside to look for Mimi. As expected, she wasn't hard to find.
She was wearing an evening dress made from satin and fishnet in a glaring shade of pink, matching stilettos, and her hair was even more enormous and curly than I remembered it being. Honestly, I don't know how one person could have that much hair.
“Oh my God!” she exclaimed when she saw me. “Girl, are you okay? When I saw you had taken off from the bar and gone by yourself, I almost kicked your ass, but then you went and got arrested-”
“It wasn't my fault,” I told her. “I got out, anyway. Thanks for letting Scorpius know, by the way.”
“Seemed like the least I could do. He seemed really surprised when I introduced myself, but he wasn't surprised you'd been arrested. Worried, but not surprised. He's cute. Good job, baby girl.” She gave me a friendly nudge, and I couldn't help smiling back at her.
“Thanks. Well, things have got a bit worse now, and I need somewhere for him to stay with the baby where they can be hidden and safe.”
“My house,” Mimi said immediately, and I nearly sagged with relief.
“I was hoping you'd say that.”
“Well, come on. I'll just grab my bag and we'll go on home and get them settled.”
“I'll meet you outside.”
The day seemed brighter and a bit more cheerful now. Having a safehouse for my little family made me feel more at ease. The hotel bombing had really scared me. Probably I should have told Mimi about that before she agreed to help, but there was still time to mention it.
“She said she'd help,” I told everyone out front.
“Oh thank goodness,” Mum said.
Scorpius raised an eyebrow. Dad was closely examining the rather colourful crowd leaving the restaurant, and then turned to me. “Who did you say this person was?”
Mimi emerged from the building, a large lipstick-red patent leather bag slung over her shoulder and a matching train case in her other hand. “All right, I'm ready. Let's go.”
Dad stared at her. Mum stared at her. Scorpius grinned.
“Mum, Dad, this is Mimi Boheme. Mimi, these are my parents, Ron and Hermione Weasley.” I gestured vaguely at everyone.
“I see where you get that hair, baby girl. Nice to meet you both. Welcome to New York. Were they here all along?” Mimi added to me out of the side of her mouth.
“No, I had to call Mum when I got arrested, and they took a Portkey here to help. She's a lawyer.”
“Lucky you, you got connections. Wish I had a free lawyer. Well, let's get a move on. I wasn't expecting company, so my place might not be the cleanest,” she warned us as we set off down the street.
Mum cleared her throat. “We'll, erm, cast a few spells on your house, Ms., erm... Boheme. If that's all right with you.”
“I don't mind. Probably come in handy eventually. Goddamn cops. Wait, didn't you say your daddy is a cop?” Mimi rolled her eyes. “I never actually been booked, just threatened a bunch. That one time with that MLE in the Bronx didn't count. I only assaulted him a little bit. They set me up. It wasn't my fault.”
“I see why you and Rose got to be such fast friends,” said Dad.
Mimi's flat was in an area known as the Meatpacking District, which sounded ominous to me, but it looked pretty much like every other area of Manhattan I'd seen so far. The flat was small, and on the first floor, but the entrance was at the back of the building, down an alley and through a narrow staircase. From the street, it couldn't be seen at all. I sort of liked that it wasn't an obvious place. Mimi seemed to like her privacy a lot.
Mum and Dad waited outside at the bottom of the steps to cast wards and protective enchantments, and I carried Ramses upstairs behind Mimi while Scorpius toted the pram.
“Sorry about the mess,” Mimi said as we came inside. “I tend to use the floor closet system when I'm by myself.”
I looked around. It was actually very clean, only cluttered. There was a large pile of clothes on the sofa, and a few more on the floor in the hallway. I could see a tiny living area, even tinier kitchen, and a narrow bedroom off the living space. It was smaller than my flat, but rather better decorated. There were interesting pieces of artwork on every wall, interspersed with beautifully shot photographs of Mimi, alone and with various other people.
“It looks fine to me,” I said.
Scorpius had set the pram down right next to the door, and was looking around as well. “I'd be happy to clean a bit, since you're being so kind helping us out like this, especially what with the bombing at the hotel.”
“Oh, don't worry about – did you say bombing?” Mimi's eyes went wide.
“You didn't tell her?” Scorpius asked me.
“I was just about to,” I hedged.
“Girl.” Mimi shook her head. “I want to hear all about this. Your parents are good at protective enchantments?”
“Oh yes, very,” I assured her. “They spent nearly a year on the run from Voldemort when they were teenagers. No one managed to break through Mum's enchantments.”
Except Uncle Harry and his big mouth, but that was beside the point.
“Your family is nuts, I just want you to know that. Now, I'm gonna go pick up a few things,” she said, pointing at her bedroom. “I don't want that baby getting into any jewelry or anything. I'll be right back.”
“Rose, are you sure this is a good idea?” Scorpius whispered as Mimi bustled off.
“It's the safest thing I can think of. Probably the last place anyone will look, and we can put any enchantment we want around the place. Even Mum and Dad agreed.”
“I suppose so. And, erm, Mimi is safe too?”
“She's really great. Very protective.” He didn't look convinced, so I added, “She's probably got better mothering instincts than I do.”
“Right,” said Scorpius slowly, and opened his mouth to say something else, but Mimi had come back in the room again. He gave her a glance and then looked back at me. “Why don't I walk you out, Rose?”
“I'll hold this little fella for you,” Mimi said, hefting Ramses out of my arms. He was staring at her with his little mouth rounded in an O. He seemed fascinated by her. She was very sparkly. Far sparklier than his mother ever was, or any other women he'd seen. It was bound to be a distraction. “Say bye-bye to Mommy! Bye-bye Mommy!” She picked up his little hand and waved it at me. Ramses kept staring at her.
I gave Ramses a kiss, and Scorpius and I walked to the front door. I could see Mum and Dad on the front steps. Mum still had her wand out, but she seemed to have finished whatever protective spells she'd been casting, and she and Dad were talking quietly.
“Be careful, Rose, all right?” Scorpius looked worried.
“I will. You be careful too,” I couldn't resist saying. “You'll be safe with Mimi, though, honestly. There's nothing to worry about.”
“Right, Mimi.” He gave me a look, and said sotto voce, “You do know she's a bloke, right?”
“What?” I said.
Hatchcock jumped to his feet when Dad barged into his office. We'd pressed past the department secretary mostly by virtue of Dad's ability to bark orders at people and have them instantly obey. Apparently that worked even when they didn't know who he was.
"Sir, I didn't expect you today," he stammered.
"Someone set a bomb in our hotel last night," Dad informed him. "It was probably Leatherby or one of her henchmen. Half magic, half Muggle explosives. Someone's probably got an investigation going on this, so I suggest you get a copy of the file. We'll wait here." And Dad sat down in a chair, crossing one ankle over his knee, looking very authoritative.
Mum looked a bit smug. I think she likes it when he acts like this.
Hatchcock was still on his feet, eyes wide as he stared at Dad. "Uh, sir, I can't show you internal details on an ongoing investigation. It's against regulation. I can look into it for you but-"
"Have you got proof yet to connect Jessup to bribery and corruption?" Dad interrupted him.
"Uh, not yet-"
"And you weren't aware that a magical bomb went off last night right next to our rooms. If we'd been inside, we'd have been killed."
Hatchcock seemed to waver. He looked as if he were under attack himself. I sort of felt sorry for him.
"Mr. Hatchcock," Mum began.
"Agent," he muttered.
"I beg your pardon?"
Mum and Hatchcock eyed each other. He backed down first, which didn't surprise me. When Mum was being imperious like that, most people backed down.
She gave him a disdainful sniff. "Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but you don't seem to be very on top of things. Nor are your methods proving effective, obviously, since you've made no progress at all since my husband conferred with you. I expected better of the Auror Department of one of the largest cities in the world. We are certainly accustomed to a higher standard back in London, where my husband has trained and supervised hundreds of Aurors who are fully equipped to do their jobs properly. I can't understand the lack of progress in this case. It seems in order to get things done satisfactorily and without further endangering our family, we'll have to deal with the matter ourselves."
Dad smiled lazily. Hatchcock was red in the face. He seemed to be speechless. Having been on the receiving end of one of Mum's chewing-outs myself, I couldn't blame him. If you weren't expecting her, it was probably even worse.
"Come along, Ron," Mum said imperiously, and swept out the door.
Dad rose, stretched his arms a bit, and told Hatchcock proudly, nodding his head toward the door, “M'wife, Hermione."
"Sir, I'm very sorry," he said earnestly. "I'll find out about the bombing. But I can't act outside the law. I need evidence to get a warrant before I can do anything about any dirty cops, or about Anastasia Leatherby."
"Then get some," said Dad.
He walked off then, and I scurried after him. I glanced over my shoulder and saw Hatchcock collapse into his chair, one hand covering his eyes. My parents were pretty overwhelming, I'd give him that.
Mum was already down in the lobby, tapping her foot, and we went outside in silence. Once we reached the pavement, Dad grabbed Mum's arm, twirled her into his arms, and kissed her soundly. I rolled my eyes.
When he let her go again, Mum was pink-cheeked and flustered.
"Oh, Ron," she sighed.
"You're bloody amazing, you are," he told her, grinning wildly.
“Can we focus, please?” I asked, trying not to roll my eyes again. “If Hatchcock's got nothing for us and can't help without a warrant, can we go look around Kips Bay ourselves?”
“That's the plan,” said Dad.
Searching Kips Bay turned out to be easier said than done. Mum pulled a map of the city from her handbag, along with a Muggle guidebook to Manhattan (when she'd picked that up, I had no idea). It turned out Kips Bay wasn't an actual bay, but a neighbourhood. Its exact boundaries were a little unclear, but it was at least eleven blocks north to south and four blocks east to west, right beside the river. That wasn't a large neighbourhood, but it wasn't a small area to search, either, especially in a city like New York. And there were only three of us to do it.
Mum, of course, had a plan for this.
“I think we should go about this methodically,” she said, pointing at the map. “Start at this corner and work our way east, then go north here and back west up the next street, in a grid. It will cover all the ground that way.”
“Nah.” Dad poked at a spot along the river. “She had a meeting spot at the river with that arms dealer. The kidnapped little girl was held by the water too. Let's start over here at the waterfront and then hit any other likely-looking spots.”
“We could miss something doing it that way.” Mum pulled the map away from him. “We'll start at the corner and cover all the space.”
Dad gave her an impatient glance. It was amazing how quickly they could go from kissing to being irritated with each other. “Hermione, she bombed us last night. We don't have time to search forty-four square blocks and hope we turn something up.”
I decided it was time to intervene. They both had a point, but they were also both wrong. “We really don't have time for it, Mum. If we had the full strength of the Ministry's law enforcement, we could do it, but it's just us three. And she may have had a waterfront location for the meet-up, but we don't know if she chose the spot by the marina for Gee Spiker. Every other time I've dealt with Ambrosia, she's been land-locked.”
“Then what do you propose?” Mum snapped. Now she was irritated with me, great.
“Normally when I need to find information about a skip, I go to the seediest local pubs I can find.”
It didn't take long to find a seedy pub. New York seemed to have an endless supply of them. Not all of them were wizarding pubs, so that did narrow it down a bit. Still, we had to go to four of them before we started hearing anything.
Well, really we had to go to three of them to realize Mum and Dad ought to stay outside and let me get on with questioning the locals. After the first three pubs, I realized they were holding me back and told them to stay outside.
“But why?” Mum asked. She seemed genuinely surprised, which made me feel a little like the way I imagine she always feels with me: exasperated and fond all at once.
“Because you look like a lawyer, and Dad looks like a cop. Nobody's going to talk to you in these places.”
“And I suppose you think you look like a fellow criminal?”
“She doesn't look like she carries a badge, she means,” Dad said. “And she's right. Let it go, Hermione.”
Mum looked disgruntled. “All right, but I didn't realize so much of Rose's job involved bar-hopping.”
The fourth pub didn't seem as hostile when I went in, probably because my parents were standing outside on the pavement where no one could see them. I ordered a drink and struck up a conversation with a witch in fluorescent yellow robes sitting at the bar.
She stuck a hand out to me. “Charlene Austin.”
She perked right up at that. “Are you related to Dominique Weasley?”
Bloody Dominique. Her book was a best-seller in America, apparently, and Charlene raved about it. I pretended to know what she was talking about so she couldn't tell that I hadn't read the damn thing. We talked about Dommie for a while, and as the conversation began to wander, it turned out we had more in common than my cousin. Charlene was also a big fan of Mimi's. Meeting Mimi had come in handy in a lot of ways, it turned out.
“You're friends with her? No kidding?” She seemed impressed by my array of semi-famous friends. “Isn't she just the most amazing thing ever?”
“She's something, all right. She's helped me out of a few tough spots.” This was actually true, although it made it sound like the tough spots had been over the course of years rather than packed into about a three-day span. Semantics.
“I'd love to meet her. I haven't been able to go to the Rabbit's Tutu in a while now. My restraining order says I have to stay at least fifty yards away from the building,” Charlene said regretfully.
I kept a straight face. “Shame.”
“It really is.”
We talked for another ten minutes before I managed to bring the topic around to the Kips Bay area crime scene. Mostly she seemed to know the generic sort of information that everyone knew of their neighbourhood – how often people were mugged, the last time there'd been a murder, how often the Muggles shot each other, things like that. I was hoping she could give me something more specific, or a mention of Ambrosia, so I gave her a gentle nudge.
“So who runs this place? I heard all of New York is run by crime bosses like Charles Rocke.”
“Oh, the Rock's been locked up in Montain for a while now,” she said, brushing him aside with a wave of her hand. “He's out of it. Most of his guns work for Leatherby now, but a few of them are off on their own. Not in this area, though. Kips Bay is pretty firmly for Leatherby. I mean, Wyn Ellery owns property here and everything, and everyone knows he and Leatherby are tight now that the Rock's gone.”
“I heard they worked together,” I agreed. “And this Leatherby, she's pretty tough, I hear.”
"Oh yeah. Nobody wants to cross her, especially now after what happened to Kid Shaw."
I felt a chill down my spine. In all the excitement, I'd almost forgot about Kid Shaw. "What happened to him?"
"I heard about it this morning. Apparently he screwed the pooch on some job or other, and her thugs caught up with him. I heard she flayed all the skin off his arm with a vegetable peeler."
I felt like throwing up at the thought of that. "Did she kill him?"
"Dunno. She may not have had to after she skinned him alive. Partly skinned, anyway."
Oh, holy Kneazles. I felt a little sick. This was a new level of crazy for Ambrosia. Whether she'd done it with magic or an actual vegetable peeler, it didn't matter. I sort of thought it was worse than her usual shovel trick. Flaying men alive. I really did feel sick now. “I think I drank that last one too fast, I'm just going to go grab a bit of air.”
“Sure.” She didn't seem to notice my distress, probably because she was still drinking.
I went outside and leaned against the brick facade of the building. Mum and Dad emerged from the shadows nearby.
“Rose, what happened?” Mum exclaimed. “You're white as a sheet.”
“Kid Shaw, the thug Ambrosia used to kidnap and keep an eye on Georgia Spiker – she found him after he screwed up with Gee, and... she flayed the skin off his arm.”
Dad swore eloquently. Mum went pale. I breathed deeply through my mouth, and the sick feeling eased a bit. I didn't think I was going to throw up after all, so I stood up straighter and fluffed my hair. “I'm going back in.”
“Oh Rose, take a minute,” Mum said. Her eyes were sympathetic.
“No, I've got a good source started in there, I need to stick with her. I'll be back out shortly.”
Mum looked worried, but I thought I saw pride in Dad's eyes as I turned and went back in the bar.
Half an hour and two more drinks later, my fluorescent new friend spilled a bit more about what she knew of Anastasia Leatherby's enterprises. More specifically, where you could go to purchase things from her.
Assuming she really did know what she was talking about, I had a solid lead on Ambrosia. And I knew exactly where the place was.