Chapter 17: Jules Still Thinks Frank's A Genius … But Not Infallible.
'Bloody hell!' said Frank.
'What?' said Jules, his eyes not leaving his grandfather who was currently walking towards the reception desk. He reached Tracy who was still chatting animatedly to Jayne. Yes, they were having a right good laugh. They must know each other really well; perhaps he could get some information on Jayne, her background, what she liked and … yes, phone her later – definitely. Frank speaking to him from behind his right shoulder brought him back from an incredibly brief but pleasant daydream.
'Sorry, what?' said Jules.
'I said, it's amazing! I am stood here, looking at your Grandfather, as large as life and twice as broad and there is no way - NO WAY – he could be anybody but Ron Weasley. Reg Watkins, my pimpled principled arse! He ain't no Reginald Anything! You've shown me pictures before but even I can see he's a Weasley! His manner, the way he walks – bloody hell, he even walks a bit like you!'
Jules focused on what was happening at the reception desk. 'Really!?' he asked Frank. 'I doubt it; I have never walked with that kind of confidence.'
'Ah, you wouldn't notice, would you? Okay, maybe not that exact level of confidence but the actual physicality of it all – yep, we can do all the Magical and Muggle tests you like – DNA, the bloody lot – but I'd know the answer – he's a Weasley.' Frank stopped for a moment and Jules could tell he was thinking hard and something had occurred to him.
'What?' he asked looking back at a slightly perplexed looking 'Fleegle'.
'We are looking at one of the – actually possibly the most famous missing person in the whole bloody Magical world; your Grandfather is right up there with Primo Ascarion, the Magical Primate of All Latvia and Josephus Tennyson, that wizard from East Canada who defrauded all those nice millionaire old ladies before disappearing – not a fart from anyone about where those two wound up – my bet's on the Siberian republics, good money to be made there and no questions asked.' Frank paused. Jules waited. 'Don't you see? Ascarion and Tennyson were very naughty boys who were both just about to be caught with their fingers in the galleons biscuit tin. Should be able to find them! Nothing. Looked everywhere. Expected them to bugger off somewhere low key and interesting.' He paused again. 'Your Grandfather? No crimes; no corruption; one of the great Auror careers – nothing for him to flee from as far as we know and yet …'
'And yet …?' Jules prodded.
'And yet, here he is – living or hiding – or both – in what you know Muggles call plain sight, so obvious it makes it completely NOT obvious, in – let's face it, a nice place but a bit boring; quiet, ordinary - a little place where he stands out so much that even a wizard like me, just through friendship and acquaintance with one of his grandchildren and his family, knows exactly who the fudging hell he is! Don't you see?' said Frank more urgently.
'You mean he's being protected by someone or some people – powerful people?' asked Jules.
'Yes, very possibly – or he's being protected by something mighty powerful – whichever it is, he should have been traced fucking years ago, mate,' said Frank. 'Your Great Grandfather Arthur is right, Jules – now I have really seen this first-hand, how one of the most famous people in the bleeding world just saunters in here and nobody, not even Tracy, as she admitted – remember? Not even her, who's been here all her life twigged it was Ron Weasley at first. It took heavy prompting from us in the fact you were there for her to notice and connect to that book – yes, your Great Grandfather is right; with Derek Bond involved, this is some kind of powerful shit going on.'
They both observed the group at the reception desk. Jayne seemed to be explaining something to Ron and Tracy was now talking animatedly about the packet of fish and chips in her hand.
'Can we get nearer and hear what they are saying?' asked Jules.
'No, stay put, it's fine – I've got it covered,' said Frank. Jules looked back and saw Frank give a small flick with his wand. 'Right, just redirected our bugs to pick up their conversation; you should start to hear it any time now …'
Jules heard a slight crackling noise in his ears and then, like somebody slowly turning up the volume on a magical radio till it was at an audible level, the conversation quietly sounded in his mind.
'But I didn't order fish and chips, Tracy!' Jules looked to Frank who gave him a thumbs up; Jules did the same back to Frank – yes, they could hear. Ron Weasley was just laughing and telling Tracy that no, he didn't order a fish and chip lunch. They'd discussed what she should say if he outright refused; Tracy had told them not to worry, she'd offer the chips anyway – she said she could say the ordering system must be playing up again and creating too many orders and she'd play it from there – she had a back up of village gossip to relay to him if needed that would try the patience of a muggle saint and keep him by the reception for a good while, if she could play it right. Jules wasn't so sure but as he didn't know the area as well as he would like and paradoxically Tracy had met his grandfather far more over the years than ever had, he decided to go with her plan.
Frank of course thought Tracy's plan was superb! However, Jules' worries were alerted when his grandfather began to question why Tracy was there at all.
'Bit unusual you being here, isn't it, Tracy? You normally get them delivered around the village, not bring them yourself – can your dad spare you away from this? Hope business isn't slacking?'
Jules and Frank watched carefully as Ron Weasley gave Tracy a slightly pointed look when Jayne had her head down looking at something on the reception computer screen. Ah, he knows she's a witch.
'Goodness, no, Reg – we are busy but, well, you are going to think I am really cheeky but remember when you promised me that you would give me a look round the flowerbeds this year – well, I thought, sod it: it's a lovely day, I'll take a walk to the Home, deliver the fish and chips and ask you – oh, so nicely – if we could take a look today. I promised Mum that I'd bring back some ideas for our garden's borders, too!' Tracy laughed.
'The little minx!' Frank almost sounded proud.
'You're not jealous – that's my Grandfather, for Merlin's sake! She's just trying to distract him!' replied Jules.
'Looks like it's working,' laughed Frank.
Ron Weasley was laughing.
'Isn't she incorrigible, Jayne?'
'Yes, she's pretty unbelievable,' said Jayne, joining them in the general laughter.
'Moi!?' mock-shocked Tracy, 'you hurt me, both deeply! Go on, Reg, please? I know you are busy but thirty minutes AND we can share these fish and chips!'
Jules could swear Tracy batted her eyelids at his grandfather. Ron laughed again.
'Alright, you've twisted my arm but, half-an-hour, mind – I've some more planting up this afternoon and the meadow at the back needs a really decent inspection – want to make sure the wild flowers get a good hold so we have a beautiful covering this year. We can have a break by the top flower beds and eat these on the benches.'
'Fantastic! Thanks Reg,' said Tracy, all smiles. She looked to Jayne. 'You going to come for a break now, Jayne? Come with us and have a chip butty!'
'Oh no, I am still on duty but it would be lovely – I'll definitely catch up with you – maybe later today when I come off shift?'
'Nonsense, Jayne!' Jules was surprised how easily his grandfather seemed to be able to reorganise things around here – he was the gardener but he acted like he really did own the place. 'I'll tell Ethel, she'll cover you for half-an-hour – she owes me a favour.' And turning away from the desk for a moment, Ron Weasley shouted over to a lady meticulously cleaning the surround of the central fireplace. The lady came over to the group.
'You don't mind, do you, Ethel – just going to take the girls around the flower beds for a break, could you mind shop?'
'I can, but it'll cost you, Reg,' she smiled and moved around behind the reception desk, 'go on, Jayne, go and get a break – you've been on since six this morning, you must be due one, blimey!'
'Thanks, Ethel,' said Tracy. 'Tell you what, when is your break?'
'Right, what do you fancy? Cod or haddock?'
'Oh, go on, then – haddock, no chips and a portion of baked beans – and plenty of salt and vinegar.'
'Done!' said Tracy. 'Alright, Reg, lead on; come on, Jayne.' And without further ado, the three of them left through the nearest doors, leading to the lawned area where Jules had gone the first time he'd come here.
Jules waited a couple of moments.
'Right then, let's go but we'll head in the opposite direction; thirty minutes – should be enough time for a snoop around; what do you reckon, Frank?' he said. 'Have you got that mapping charm ready? It sounds great – we can map the home and record it visually too – again, Frank, simple but genius.'
Jules was still looking at the reception area. After such a compliment, he expected Frank to come back with some pithy rejoinder: nothing. He looked over his shoulder at 'Fleegle'. Frank was just looking at him, smirking.
'What?' said Jules.
Frank's left eyebrow quirked up. 'Jayne, eh?' and he drew the letters of the name out, as if it were some delectable dish.
'Oh, piss off!' said Jules. 'Come on, let's go – this way and Jules turned to his left and head down one of the corridors, ignoring Frank's chuckling from behind him as they trotted into the corridor.
Jules paused for a moment. 'Right, okay Frank, you ready for a bit of trotting around – this is a big place and we need to cover as much of it as possible so we'll go at a jog but we'll walk if residents or staff appear – they cannot see us, hear us or our equipment but they can bump into us – we don't want to alert my grandfather and Derek any more than necessary. Think you'll keep up?'
Frank snorted. 'Cheeky bastard! I am as fit as you! Go on, go and let's see what we can find out.'
Off they went, at a steady jog. As far as Jules could see as they jogged around the retirement home, it was a typical place of that kind. The main building was fronted with gardens and lawns and so on as you walked up to reception. Reception was a big half circle area – he reckoned you could put table for three or four hundred people in it and have a big wedding do, no worries. Extension charms maybe? As it was, it had groups of sofas and tables dotted through where residents and their guests could sit and have a cup of tea or coffee and a pleasant lunch or afternoon tea, with views through the ceiling to floor windows that looked out at the village. There must be an area of at least two thousand feet of glass at the front. As Jules trotted along, on the lookout for anything of interest, he realised that the reception alone must have cost somewhere in the region of a half a million galleons. It would have graced the entrance of a major regional hotel. Whoever owned the place must be loaded – seriously wealthy – and staying here must also cost a fortune. Yet that also puzzled Jules: the residents just looked ordinary people, no really dressed in a wealthy fashion, no ostentation – and didn't Tracy say that a lot of people from the area and surrounding villages came here to retire. Last time he looked, this area of Somerset and Wiltshire was not a hidden millionaires' row, Magical or Muggle. The more they looked into things the more bloody complicated it got!
The corridor they were on ran straight for about six hundred feet. Merlin, how many people lived here!?
They came to the end of the corridor. Looking back, he could see the light of the now distant reception area. At this end of the corridor, they came to another corridor that crossed it at right angles. Again it was a wide space, like reception, probably about sixty feet wide from where they stood at the end of their corridor to yet again another expanse of floor to ceiling glass that curved with this wide corridor around to the left and right, out of sight either way.
'So, it's like a fan or a half of orange shape, eh?' said Frank.
'What do you mean? Like the reception is the hub and the corridors are like spreading out from that centre, like the spokes of a bicycle?'
'Yes, exactly, with the residents' rooms etc off the corridors. Wonder where they get the light from back down there but expect we'll work that one out.' Said Frank. 'Come on, let's keep going – to the right? We need to find some offices.'
So they turned to the right and began to jog in a curve, following the space around. All the time, old people were milling around, talking, chatting, greeting friends, drinking tea, admiring the view – the view, thought Jules, is beautiful, more distant rolling green fields and hedge rows climbing up slowly to a nearby ridge; this was all topped by a beautiful afternoon sky, a gorgeous blue and fulsome white clouds – the place was truly idyllic.
'Have you noticed something?' asked Frank as they jogged.
'You mean how lovely everything is and how happy everyone looks?'
'Yes, it's like they are charmed or muggle-drugged – but in a really good way!' replied Frank. 'Bloody hell, even I would want to come here – and retire now!'
'Yes, it kind of creeps up on you – you walk in and after a while your overall mood has really changed – you feel lifted somehow – and you feel - whoa, look!'
They had passed the openings of at least two more corridors when to their right suddenly was a door marked 'Office'. They stopped and looked at it
'That'll do,' said Jules.
'Hang on,' said Frank and he pointed the opposite way, through the windows at the gardens outside. They'd been so focused on finding something useful like this Office that they hadn't really looked at the gardens outside the windows; they'd just been struck by the beauty of landscape. Now they were able to focus on the gardens where Jules' grandfather apparently worked.
The gardens were enormous. Again, Jules and Frank had to do some quick spatial calculations but Jules certainly reckoned they had to be at least five or six acres in size as they stretched out and slightly down to the farmland and hedgerows. And they also were beautiful: lawns that looked alive with greenness, lush and rich and beds and beds of flowers and shrubs and trees – all seeming to be bursting with life.
'Can you feel it?' asked Frank. For some reason, he half whispered this, even though he could have shouted it and no one would have been the wiser, but it kind of seemed the reverential thing to do. 'Bloody hell, there's magic here, mate! We are going to have to look into this, too. Have you ever seen planting like that? Don't get me wrong, The Burrow is beautiful but his place is just spectacular without even trying – it's clearly incredibly magical – and look!' Frank pointed.
Walking back to their right, over the lawns, Tracy, Jayne and his Grandfather were heading for the entrance further round to the right that Jules had used the other day.
'That's weird; they said they'd be about thirty minutes but it must have been only five or ten minutes at the most,' said Frank.
'Yes, there must be something weird going on with our perception of time – how long have we been looking at the outside?' said Jules.
'I don't know,' replied Frank, 'but whatever is going on, we are running out of time. Come on, the residents have moved off, let's get through the Office door now before someone notices the bloody thing opening on its own.' And without further ado, Frank walked to the door, tried the handle and happily found it open as the handle turned. 'No one was in, I had checked – come on, in, quick!' Jules didn't need to be told twice and slipped in behind Frank, closing the door quietly.
'Can't we use silencing charms for this stuff?' he asked.
'Yes, we could but it's going to get complicated – if there aren't people about, let's just check with a quick hominem revelio and go for it.'
They looked around. Typical office: desk, couple of chairs, a very old filing cabinet and a wall chart.
'Interesting,' said Frank, 'no real technology? Where's the computer? I mean, yes, Muggles run so much off their phones now but you still find the odd computer – here, nothing … odd. Hey, what do you reckon is behind that door?' Frank pointed to the far wall; a single white door in its centre. 'Ah, interesting.'
'What?' asked Jules.
'See?' said Frank. 'No door handle. Now why do you think that is?'
'I don't know but it could be important – but have we time?'
'Yes, look, just a quick gleg at it okay – it doesn't mean we will be able to open it, let's just take a look,' and he moved up to the door with Jules behind.
'Go on, then but be quick,' said Jules. 'I'll face the door – be quick!'
Frank produced what looked like a wand but Jules was sure it wasn't his main one and he began to move the wand up and down over the surface of the door. 'Fucking hell!' he gasped.
'What?' said Jules and had turned away from the Office door, to see what had surprised Frank so much. In doing so, he missed the main Office door open soundlessly. A figure stepped quickly in, shut the door and leant its back against it. 'What?' repeated Jules over Frank's shoulder.
'Wait, Jules; bloody hell, just give us a second – 'but it was already too late as Jules noticed that firstly Frank had stopped talking and then he had stopped moving. Within a moment, his Auror training whipped in and wand out he whirled around but the result was the same – he froze.
Leaning up against the Office door, stood his Grandfather.
'Welcome, ladies and gentlemen – I am not sure who you are but I know there are two of you in here and I am going to find you: the petrification charm and silencing charm were spread room wide so should hold you for a bit – and then we'll see what's what, eh?'
And all Jules could do was stare, frozen, as his grandfather pushed himself off the door, produced his wand from a side pocket and began to advance slowly into the centre of the room.