“Bugger off, blood traitor!”

I rolled my eyes. “Honestly, I've heard that one about a hundred times! You're going to have to do better!”

A blast of red light went over my head. I tugged the purple knit Shield Hat on tighter, cowering behind an overturned lawn table and a hastily conjured Shield Charm, and went on, “I'm a Weasley! I've been called blood traitor too many times for it to get to me!”

My felon let out a high-pitched shriek of rage and shot another spell at me. It bounced off the lawn table, ricocheted off a mirrored gazing ball in the garden, then hit the rope flies holding up the lilac flowered canopy over the patio before finally slamming into the side of the house and knocking off a chunk of plaster. The canopy, free of its suspension ropes now, came down right on top of the felony-magical-assault I was there to pick up, a woman named Robina Spalding.

I tried to jump to my feet to Incarcerate her before she could get out of the canopy, tripped on a rhododendron and landed flat on my belly. Since my wand was still in my hand, it shot off a bunch of sparks and a blast of pink light.

The pink light hit my felon in the arse just as she was struggling to her feet, and she went down again.

“Whoops,” I muttered, getting to my feet and brushing dirt off my clothes.

That hadn't worked out at all the way I'd intended. Still, she was down and no one was hexing me, so it seemed like a job well done. I managed to pull the canopy off her and aimed my wand at her before she could wake up and try to curse me again. Thick ropes shot out and wrapped around her, binding her arms to her body.

She moved then, shaking her head groggily, and realized she was Incarcerated. “You bloody bint!”

“Like I was trying to say earlier,” I told her, “I'm Rose Weasley. I work for Angelo's Magical Bonds, and you are in violation of your bond agreement. I can show you the paperwork if you like, but basically, you have to come with me to the Ministry so Magical Law Enforcement can arrest you.”

“I have too much to do to go to the bloody Ministry!” she bellowed. “I have to go shopping tomorrow! And now I've got to have my bloody patio repaired.” She noticed the large chunk of plaster sitting next to the house and craned her neck to see where it had come from. “Dammit!”

“Should've thought of that before you attacked someone and skipped your court date.” I hauled her to her feet, pocketing her wand.

“She had it coming,” my skip said mulishly. “She oughtn't to have grabbed those robes. I saw them first.”

“Aren't you just a little bit embarrassed to be arrested over a shopping incident?” I asked.

“It was a bloody good sale,” she remarked.

It must have been. Robina Spalding had been attending a clothing sale at a shop in Diagon Alley and had cursed another shopper who'd tried for the same set of robes Robina was grabbing. The victim had ended up in St. Mungo's Hospital for three days, and Robina had ended up charged with Magical Assault resulting in spell damage.

Apparently, this had not actually taught her anything. She'd skipped her court date with the Wizengamot and gone right back to her shopping. And that was where I came in.

I work as a bond enforcement agent for a bail bonds agency – a bounty hunter. When someone misses a court date, I pick them up and bring them to Magical Law Enforcement, and get paid ten percent of their bond. Most of the time, this wasn't much. I tried to stay away from the really scary criminals, which also meant staying away from the really big bounties, but it was best that way. Picking up the Robina Spaldings of the world was enough to pay the bills.

“You have got to learn to control your temper,” I told her, and Disapparated for the Ministry.

The MLEs – Magical Law Enforcement agents – knew me by sight, so when I walked in with a felon there was generally a lot of interest. Probably this was because my captures often involved embarrassing or messy situations, like that time I'd brought in a man covered in bees.

That hadn't been my fault, though. He'd already been covered in bees when I found him.

Fortunately, this time the worst I could boast was a bit of rhododendron in my hair. Most of the MLEs lost interest when they saw the lack of soot, bees, ketchup, or ice lollies, and by the time I had walked Robina to the desk to trade her in to the desk sergeant for a body receipt (so I could go collect my bounty money for her, and they could lock her in a cell until she went before the Wizengamot), nearly everyone had stopped paying attention to me.

The officer on duty at the desk was a familiar face, and he was accompanied by an even more familiar face.

“Hi Rosie,” my dad said. He was leaning on the countertop, a stack of paperwork in front of him, and grinning at me.

“Hi Dad. You're here late, it's after two in the morning.” I turned to the desk sergeant and added, “Hi Jack. Can you write me a body receipt for this one?”

Jack Upchurch was an MLE I'd been friends with for years. He was rising quickly in the department, but everyone pulled nighttime desk duty now and then. Normally he gave me a lot of crap when I brought in a felon (he'd made me pose for a picture after the ice lolly incident), but since my dad was standing there, he just grinned a bit and tried to be efficient and professional.

“I was finishing up some paperwork,” Dad told me. “Had to bring down a few things for the MLEs to sign.”

I didn't normally see my dad around the Ministry in the middle of the night, but he was just coming off a very long and intense manhunt for a Dark wizard who'd gone on a destructive spree from London to Cornwall, killing fifteen people along the way. It had meant a lot of late nights for Dad and for my uncle Harry. They were top Aurors and went after criminals like that on a regular basis. I avoided that kind of criminal like the plague. It was a shame plagues didn't always avoid me.

“You look none the worse for wear,” Jack remarked as he scribbled with a quill, filling out the body receipt. “No Bundimuns this time? Blow up anyone's house?”

“No. There may have been some damage to her backyard, and a bit of her house,” I admitted. “But that wasn't my fault. She ricocheted a curse.”

Jack laughed. He pretty much thought everything I did was a good joke, but he was usually good for inside information and a free lunch now and then, so I didn't mind.

“Want to grab something to eat?” Dad offered as Jack handed me the receipt and took charge of my felon. “I was thinking of getting Thai food before I head home.”

“Mum says eating right before bed gives you heartburn,” I reminded him.

“Don't care, I'm hungry. Want to come with? I'm buying.”

It was very late. I debated for a moment, but I wouldn't be a Weasley if I turned down free food. “Yeah, all right.”

We ate in Dad's office. I'm pretty sure every take-away place in London knows him by now, but he always prefers to eat in his office instead of in the shop. I've always liked my dad's office, so I don't mind. There was always something interesting to look at in there, whether it was his collection of photographs of family, newspaper clippings of famous captures, or his bulletin board of current cases.

“How're things going?” Dad asked as he dug into a carton of sriracha beef stir-fry.

“Good. I got two skips this week. Scorpius has been painting in the park a lot lately. He wanted to get a few things finished before we leave for New York.”

Dad investigated the cartons of mango beef and spicy fried rice while he chewed his sriracha (Dad always ordered four times as much take-away as any reasonable person). “Right, his gallery show. That'll be nice for him, I reckon.”

Coming from Dad, this was positively exuberant praise. He'd never liked my boyfriend much. Dad had gone to school with Scorpius's dad and the two of them had never gotten along. Bad blood between the Malfoys and the Weasleys, Mum always said, although mostly these days both fathers kept their mouths shut about it and simply avoided one another.

“Got everything ready for your trip?” Dad asked. “First time going international travel with the little one.”

“I know. I think we have everything ready. Scorpius has been packing for days.” International portkeys were pretty quick, but the wait time to catch one was murder. And then we had to get through the American side of things. I'd never been to America before, so I was both looking forward to it and dreading the bureaucracy of travel.

At least I didn't have to dread the packing. Scorpius was so excited for the gallery show of his artwork in Manhattan that he had practically started packing as soon as he'd got the invitation to go.

“When you and your brother were little, your mum and I took you to France,” Dad told me. “You were good, but Hugo was a nightmare. Your mum had wanted to go by train but she was glad for the portkey by the time we were heading home.”

“Well, Scorpius and I are travelling wizard all the way. I'm not mucking about with Muggle stuff for a trans-Atlantic trip.”

“Good idea,” Dad mumbled around a mouthful of beef.

We sat, eating and chatting, for another half an hour, and then I made my excuses and went home with the leftover pad thai. Dad was heading home as well, since it was nearly three in the morning.

“Give the baby a snuggle for Granddad,” he said as we parted ways in the corridor.

When I got home, the flat was completely dark and silent. I tossed my handbag on the couch and stuck the pad thai in the fridge, then went to the baby's room. It wasn't really necessary, since Scorpius was there all day to take care of things (and did a better job of it than I probably would), but I always looked in on the baby before I went to bed.

I tiptoed in and tried to get a peek under the lump of blanket in the bed. The baby had a terrible tendency to curl up in a ball under the blanket. Scorpius insisted this was fine, but I was terrified that suffocation was imminent, despite the fact that the blanket was pretty much just a loosely woven sheet of cotton flannel that allowed plenty of air to pass through.

The lump under the blanket rolled and stretched out, and I smiled at the sleeping face of my son. I had to admit, he was awfully cute. His hair stood straight up from his head in tufts of ginger fuzz, rather like a baby orangutan. The Weasley genes were running strong in him. He resembled my father quite a lot, though I was starting to think he might still have the Malfoy pointed chin after all. When he'd been a newborn, he'd looked rather like a miniature version of my boyfriend, but every passing day made him look more Weasley. Like me.

I patted his little head and then went to my room to pass out.

Scorpius was sprawled out on his back, taking up most of the bed. I shoved him aside a bit so I could climb in, and he opened one eye.

“Did you destroy anyone's house?” he asked groggily.

“No. Honestly.”

His eye drooped shut again. Either he believed me, or he was so resigned to me destroying houses that he was no longer interested in it. Or he wasn't really awake, since it was three in the morning. I curled up against him and fell asleep.


When I woke the next morning (all right, it was past noon, but in my defense, I'd been out very late), I could hear Scorpius singing softly in the kitchen, accompanied by the monotone hum that my son had recently acquired to accompany his father. I hoped he had inherited Scorpius's musical ability and not my utter lack thereof. It was a little early to tell yet, since he was only ten months old.

I stumbled out of our bedroom and into the kitchen. When he saw me, my son stopped the droning hum and yelled, “Mama!” This was the only word he could say, despite much coaching from Scorpius to elicit a 'Dada' or 'Papa'.

“Hi Ramses,” I cooed, and scooped him out of his high chair.

Yes, all right, I did coo at my baby. I couldn't help it, it seemed to come with the whole motherhood package. At least I didn't do the high-pitched happy-mum voice that my cousin Victoire uses on her kids.

“You're just in time for lunch,” Scorpius said. “Or breakfast, if you want to call it that.”

I carried Ramses over to the couch and sat down with him on my lap. He poked at the sparkly unicorn on my pink t-shirt and said, “Mama.”

“That's a unicorn,” I told him.

Since 'Mama' was the only word he could say, Ramses spent a lot of time pointing at things to get us to name them. It was his favourite game. Scorpius had a lot more patience for it than I did. He could spend hours naming things. I lasted about five minutes.

Ramses had a bit of butter smeared on his chin from the toast soldiers he'd been eating. He managed to snuggle up to me in a way that wiped the butter on my favourite shirt and yet still left some on his chin. He hugged me long enough to leave a nice stain before climbing down and crawling over to the coffee table.

Scorpius handed me a plate and then sat next to me, watching Ramses as I began eating eggs and toast.

“Are you going in to work today?” he asked.

I nodded around a mouthful of eggs. “I have a body receipt to cash in. Caught that magical assault woman. Lydia might have some new skips for me, I can get started on those.” I hadn't been to the office in three days, so I was hoping there would be at least a few new cases waiting with Lydia Agnelli, our office manager.

“Don't forget we're supposed to have dinner with the Lupins tonight.”

I had completely forgotten about that. “Right, I know. Seven o'clock, right?”

Scorpius gave me a look. “Six.”

“I knew that. I'll be there.” I stuffed the last of the toast in my mouth and stood, brushing off crumbs. “Right, I'm off then. I'll see you later.” I leaned down to kiss Ramses's fluffy little head. He was gnawing happily on the strap of my handbag. I prised it out of his grip and gave him a pat before I left.

I took a look at my handbag as I made my way to the end of the hallway to the Apparition spot in our building. There were teethmarks everywhere, on the strap and on the bag itself. Bloody teething. I wondered if it was repairable. Victoire was right: kids destroyed everything you owned.

I slung the chewed-up handbag onto my shoulder and Disapparated.

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