Chapter II – Carriage Conundrum
It was a little past six thirty in the evening and the sun had long disappeared behind the blanket of explosive clouds that had engulfed the city of London. It was so dark, in fact, that one might have mistaken it for the dead of night.
“Where’s the damn carriage?” muttered Roxanne, examining her pocket watch. A large blotch of rain landed on the dial and she swore. “Perfect.”
“Problem?” went the Minister from behind her.
“It’s starting to rain!” she cried, hastily checking her pockets for an umbrella. “Drat, I don’t even have an umbrella on me. Do you?”
“Oh it’s just a little rain,” said Edward lightly, stepping out of the shade and looking up at the sky. “This one’s going to be nasty. And no, I haven’t an umbrella.”
“Excellent,” she said through gritted teeth, not really one for flailing under a downpour, which the Minister clearly was. As if to spare her any further annoyance, a carriage lead by Thestrals landed and hobbled a few feet past them and a stout Auror dressed in dark blue robes hopped out.
“Carriage for the Minister,” he announced, before ducking under the shade himself. “I’m Elphias Moore. You must be Roxanne Weasley, the new in-charge.”
“That I am,” she replied. “We really should be getting back to the Ministry. Nice to meet you, Mister Moore.”
The pair of them crawled into the carriage and sat opposite each other. The carriage started with a lurch and the rain came down heavily, falling like rocks against the glass the higher and higher they went up.
“You know that one? The Auror?” Edward asked, shoving a finger in his ear and giving it a good ringing.
“No. I don’t really know too many Aurors, besides the one my dad’s told me about,” Roxanne brushed droplets of rain off her blazer and trousers. What a bloody nuisance. “D’you?”
“I’ve never seen him before. Nor have I heard of the name. What did he say it was?”
“Elphias – Elphias Moore? Doesn’t really ring a bell. And I’m good with names. I’ve been through every list the Auror Academy has sent the Ministry for the last two years, and Elphias Moore was neither on those, nor in the old records,” he said with some amount of confusion. Roxanne felt uneasy. The Minister closed his eyes and dropped his head back, his mouth forming an ‘o’. “Miss Weasley.”
“I believe we are being kidnapped.”
The carriage lurched once more and came to some sort of mid-air halt. The screen went up and Roxanne met the carriage driver’s buggy green eyes.
“Don’t move. Don’t make a sound. Try any funny business and this one’s head’s all mine,” he croaked, holding his wand to the Minister’s neck, who was sitting with his back facing the driver. “Hand over your wands.”
Roxanne had never been in a situation like this. She wasn’t sure how dangerous it would be to challenge the carriage driver, pull out her wand, and petrificus totalus-him into oblivion. But as he poked his wand deeper against the Minister’s now protruding jugular vein, she didn’t want to take the risk.
She pulled out her wand and handed it over.
“This one’s too,” he barked, and she fished it out from Edward’s pockets, trying to reassure him by giving him a tense smile.
“Incarcerous!” in a second, both Edward and Roxanne had a thick, prickly rope winding its way around them. “Now, I don’t want a word out of you. The Master’s asked for you lot to be brought to a place, where one of you will be killed and one of you taken for ransom,” he chuckled at this point, rather pleased with himself.
“The Master? Is that what your friend calls himself?” snorted Edward, who earned a kick across the calf from Roxanne. “Ow! Alright, alright, not a word then.”
The carriage driver turned around and revived the Thestrals. They were ascending once more.
Edward was looking at her with no modest amount of urgency, as if he expected her to have a plan of action to get them out of their current situation. She chewed on her lip and tried to wriggle out the ropes. If only it were that easy. The driver had to go. But they were Merlin knew how many feet up in the air, and taking him out would mean having to man the Thestrals herself – which she had never had the pleasure of doing before. Perhaps Edward knew how to guide a Thestral. And if he didn’t?
Damn it, she did not have time to interrogate him about these things. Edward cocked an eyebrow at her as if to say “Well? Do you have a plan yet?”, which she could clearly envision him saying, and it was not helpful in calming her down. She looked down at her feet and an idea struck her like a bag of flour across the head.
She let out a shaky breath and nodded at Edward, who spontaneously began to relax a little in his ropes. Roxanne slid down a little on her seat and used how much ever of her hands that would move to look for something sharp in her right pocket. Bobby pins, vault key, lunch receipt. She tried the other one and her hand clenched around a powder kit. Sitting up straight once more, she opened the clasp and looked up to make sure the driver hadn’t suspected anything. He continued to battle the Thestrals and the pouring rain, oblivious to her antics. Her eyes met her own, as the spotless mirror stared back at her. Dropping the powder kit to the floor, she stepped on it with the bottom of her heel, grateful for the clatter of the rain against the windows. Bending down with some difficulty, she restricted herself from letting out a yelp of success on seeing that the mirror had separated itself nicely from the rest of the kit. She began filing away at the bottommost rope with intense vigour, and one very sore wrist and several minutes later, it came undone.
Grinning broadly at Edward, who looked both stunned and in awe of her little trick, she loosened herself slowly from the ropes and cracked her knuckles.
“Now what?” mouthed Edward, envious of her freedom. The ropes were both itchy and absurdly tight.
This was the tricky part. Holding her breath, she leaned down once more and took her heels off. The Minister looked flummoxed beyond expression. The carriage lurched once more and Roxanne almost tumbled onto the floor, but managed to grab onto his knees and compose herself. Picking up one heel in her right hand and hoping all that practice for Chaser in Hogwarts was not for nought, she looked at Edward with stone-cold seriousness.
“Duck,” she said with a tense jaw, quiet enough so that he could hear her.
“What?” he mouthed. Roxanne almost screamed with frustration.
“Duck!” she screamed, and the second he did, the driver turned around abruptly.
At that moment, the body of her shoe had knocked him straight across the head, the heel probably pricking him somewhere in the ocular area, causing him to reach for his face with his hands. Roxanne lurched forward, pushing Edward out of the way and climbing into the driver’s den, giving him another hard blow across his head, one in the ribs, and a sharp stab in the groin with her other shoe. The carriage ricocheted this way and that, and Roxanne tried desperately to look for her wand amidst the bumping Thestrals and the semi-conscious driver.
Just as she was about to snatch it, she felt a sharp pain around her ankle. There it was, ensnared between the driver’s denchers! She kicked furiously, landing a good one in his jaw and giving her enough time to pick up her wand.
“Petrificus totalus!” If there was one thing on the carriage that was not being tossed about, it was the carriage driver’s body, that had nearly turned to stone. Barely having the time to breathe or check if she still had a right foot, the Thestrals were on a jaunt of their own, screeching and galloping in different directions, and something had to be done about them.
“Reducto! Accio wand!” she managed to get Edward out of his constraints and tossed him his wand.
“Please tell me you know how to ride a Thestral!” she cried over the rain, before the carriage gave another dastardly shake.
“There’s a first time for everything!” he called back, clambering into the driver’s den with her, and nabbing the reigns. He yanked this way and that, but to no avail, as the Thestrals only picked up speed.
“Sod it, we’ve got to apparate!” yelled Roxanne.
“What!” the Minister was having none of it. “Did you not pay attention to a word of what Reggie was saying?”
“If we don’t apparate out of here we’re going to die, damn it!”
“I can steer us to safety!”
“Oh is that what you’re trying to do?” Roxanne could not believe the colossal idiot the Minister was behaving like. “Side-long apparate with me. If anybody tries to nab you, they nab me as well!”
“Oh, how comforting!” Edward mocked, giving the reigns another yank. “I can see Steeple Tower down there! We can’t be too far from London!”
“But how do you get this bloody thing to land?” Roxanne squalled, trying to find something to hold onto as the carriage continued to toss them this way and that.
“Have you ever performed the Imperius Curse on a Thestral?”
“I’ve seen them do it on spiders! I reckon it’s worth a shot!”
“Are you out of your mind?”
There was a loud crash and with a blinding strike of lightning, they found they were one Thestral less.
“Did that Thestral just get incinerated into nothingness?” cried Edward, clearly panicking now. “Oh god. Ohgodohgodohgodoh – ”
“THAT’S NOT HELPING ANYBODY!” yelled Roxanne in annoyance. “Okay. That’s it. We’re apparating out of here. Got your wand?”
“Yes, but – ”
“Hang on, I need to put my shoes on.”
“Miss Weasley I think you’re thinking rather rashly – ”
“Alright, here we go.”
And with a sharp zip! they were out of there.
Roxanne sat beside the Minister in the Security Council Headquarters, in the West Wing of the Ministry of Magic. Her clothes, her hair, all of it was damp and smelling soppy and muggy. The Minister was apparently impervious to these peeves, and popped a suspected grape flavoured Bertie Botts into his mouth and munched happily.
“Minister, I am so sorry for keeping you waiting and for all the trouble! We have looked into the matter thoroughly and it turns out the Auror who was supposed to pick you up – Septimus Wolf – was nabbed himself, and replaced by one of Eosin’s henchmen! Can you imagine it!” Mister Dalloway came sweeping from behind the side door and slapped his head at least a hundred times.
“Well, the events that we just escaped leave little to the imagination, Mister Dalloway,” said Edward dryly, braiding his fingers together and resting them on his stomach. The man turned pink.
“My sincerest apologies, Minister! I cannot even form the words to tell you how ashamed we are! But I assure you this sort of thing will never repeat itself!” he said earnestly, and the Minister nodded and rubbed his eyes. “And Miss Weasley!” his voice suddenly raised. “I think it was rather careless of you to apparate with the Minister, given the instructions Reginald furnished you with earlier today!”
“So what were we to bloody do, then? Neither of us knew how to ride a bloody Thestral! We would have crashed into a tree and died on the spot. Perhaps you would have preferred that,” Roxanne was up in arms, standing up with her hands on her hips, the chair squeaking as she bolted to life.
“Minister, you can’t be on the same page as this woman – ”
“Dalloway,” Edward said clearly, and it was the first time Roxanne had heard him speak with some amount of authority in his voice. “Had it not been for Miss Weasley’s quick thinking and astounding knife-work, the two of us may very well be dead. Whatever rash decisions might have been made were made for my own safety.”
Roxanne burned a little with pride. Astounding knife-work indeed!
“Now if you don’t mind, Miss Weasley and I are going down to the banquet, where I believe there is a hot onion soup waiting for us to consume it. Until tomorrow, Dalloway.”
That was that. He stood up and beckoned Roxanne to follow him, and they made their way out of the sultry room, into the well-lit, inviting banquet.
“Don’t mind him, I don’t reckon you’re in any serious trouble,” Edward said once they were seated and a half-giant was pouring soup by the kettle into their seemingly bottomless bowls. A steaming loaf of bread emerged before them beside a small tub of butter, and Roxanne felt herself go weak at the knees.
“Oh, I’m not scared of him,” she said, dismissing the matter. It took more than an old bean like Dalloway to give her the shakes.
“Are you scared of anything at all?” Edward asked, lathering his bread with a layer of butter as thick as a whole slice of bread itself.
“I try not to be,” Roxanne replied crisply, trying not to slurp down the soup in one go.
“Where did you learn to slice away at ropes with jagged mirrors like that?” he asked with a curious chuckle and Roxanne gave him a stern gaze that said they were not acquainted enough for her to disclose such details.
“It’s just something I learnt – ” she waved it off, returning her eyes to her soup and hoping he would leave it. He did not seem like the kind who would.
“Oh come now. After all that we’ve been through, I think we should be completely transparent with each other. Like your shirt, which is giving me a very liberal view of your delicates.”
Roxanne shot up in her chair and looked down at her shirt – she had been wearing a grey, chambray button-up the entire day, and although it was wet, it had merely turned a darker shade, and revealed nothing of what lay underneath.
How she wished that one glare would have set him on fire.
He chuckled happily to himself. “You’re not a woman of many words, are you?”
“Not when I’m eating,” she bit back, slurping her soup as quickly as her mouth would allow, so she could get out of there as soon as possible.
“I’m sorry if I’ve offended you, Miss Weasley,” Edward offered, looking at her worriedly from over his bread. “It’s only my intention that we be friends.”
She sighed and set her spoon down with a clatter. “I used to be a pick-pocket. I had friends on the street who taught me different things – getting out of ropes was one of them, Azkaban another.” She waited for response. He looked as if someone had run away with his mother’s rubies.
“A pick – a pick-pocket?” he stuttered, and Roxanne rolled her eyes before shaking her head.
“I couldn’t find a job after Hogwarts.”
“But a pick-pocket!” he cried and Roxanne shushed him. “Suddenly I don’t feel so safe anymore. Do tell, what made you mend your ways?”
“My father,” she said simply. “He put me in training with the Council – the old Council. And once I finished I was put in charge of babysitting politicians and celebrities. Making sure none of them get kidnapped or robbed or inappropriately photographed.”
“This is right up your alley then?” he asked, leaning forward, one elbow in the pot of butter. Roxanne swore internally.
“That was some real quick thinking, though. And you were able to retrieve your shoes?”
“Successfully,” she nodded.
“It’s a wonder how you walk in them.”
“Aren’t you glad I can? We’d be up in a tree if I couldn’t, discombobulated and met with the same fate that took that unfortunate Thestral away,” Roxanne said crabbily. She did not like it when people questioned her choice in footwear.
Edward laughed heartily. “You’re good fun, Miss Weasley. I wonder which house you were sorted into in Hogwarts?”
“You don’t say,” he snorted this time, mopping his mouth with his napkin and trying to retrieve his elbow from the tub of butter. “An odd team we make.”
She wanted to tell him that they were not a team at all, and that she was simply to make sure he didn’t die while his Security Council tried to nab the baddies who were trying to kill him.
“Will you be dropping me at my doorstep, then?” he asked, standing up. She nodded, and they made their way out of the banquet. It had stopped raining, and the Ministry officials interrogated the carriage driver a hundred times before they let the two climb into it.
Once at the gate of the Minister’s sprawling manor, Roxanne decided it was time to say good night.
“But you won’t come in for a spot of tea?” he asked, as if her behaviour was most absurd.
“No thank you.”
“There we go again with the ‘no thank you’,” he said exasperatedly but with a smile, shaking his head. “Well, thank you for getting me home in one piece, Miss Weasley. I greatly appreciate it.”
“No trouble, Minister,” she said with a nod, reaching out to shake his hand. He took her hand and opened his mouth to bid her good night, when there was a loud crash and a dark blue cloud descended upon them. Roxanne whipped out her wand in a quarter of a second and stood at the ready, but there was nobody, just a loud, booming voice.
“People of the city of London! This is your chance to break through the shackles of your subjugation!” Roxanne and Edward exchanged a worried glance.
“Get inside the house, right now!” she hissed, pushing open the gate and giving him a shove.
“I can’t leave you out here!” he cried, but she shoved him again and flitted him away in a hurried manner with her hands.
“The Ministry has taken all your money. They sit on heaps and heaps of stolen galleons! This is your chance to reclaim everything you have lost!” the voice boomed again. “In twenty-four hours, the wizard or witch to capture Albus Potter – youngest son of Harry Potter – and bring him to us will receive every galleon they ask for! Don’t waste another moment.”
The thick blue smog disappeared around her, and Roxanne stood in a state of shock. Edward came running back out, a look of pure perplexity on his face.
“I didn’t quite catch that – what was it?”
Roxanne just started at him. “Al.”
“Albus! Albus, my cousin. They want him. They’re trying to manipulate civilians into kidnapping him and bringing him to Merlin knows where – for money! Oh god, I need to go,” she spluttered and heaved, running a hand through her hair and breathing heavily.
“But what do they want him for?”
“I dunno, he’s head of the Auror Academy. It’s probably something to do with that. He’s got access to a whole lot of Ministry-related plotting! Bloody hell I’ve got to go!”
“W-what about me?” he asked, staring at her as if his life depended on her. Perhaps because it did.
“Stay here. Lock the door. Don’t let anybody in.”
“Miss Weasley – ”
“Albus is my family!”
“If somebody breaks in – ”
“Edward!” she cried, grasping the front of his robes and looking him straight in the eye, their noses almost bumping clumsily together. “I promise you that nobody is going to murder you. Not on my watch. Not tonight. Got it?” she said sternly, not letting go of his robes. He nodded tensely and she let him go.
“Now if you’ll excuse me, I have another kidnapping to avert.”
Author’s Note: OH NO NOT ALBUS WHY ALBUS.
This chapter is dedicated to all high-heel scorners.
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