The catch on my trunk broke just as we were hefting it up to take it downstairs. All my things spilled out over my bedroom floor. As far as I could tell, it didn't improve them any. "Awwwwwwwwwww, damn," I muttered, and reflexively looked around for Mum before remembering that she was downstairs. Pleased, I said, "Damn!" again.
"Sorry, Ron," Harry said, leaning down to start picking things up.
"Not your fault," I grunted, wrestling my trunk upright so we could re-pack it. "It's this dumb trunk. It's about a million years old."
"Who had it before you?" he asked.
"Everybody with an R in their name," I said, only half-joking. "Rupert, Richard, Randolph . . . You know what my family's like. It's probably an 1857 original or something."
Harry snorted with laughter, part appreciative, part commiserating. We got all my things back in my trunk, and tried to secure the catch with twine and wire. Every time we tested it, however, it sprang open again. Finally I gave up and went to my door. "Daaaaaaaaaaaaaad!" I bellowed down the stairs. "Can you come up here?"
"Just a minute, son," came the faint sound of my dad's voice.
I turned around. Harry was crouched down studying my trunk, tracing the engraved R with one finger. He caught me looking at him and shrugged. "Aunt Petunia always throws out old stuff. I think it'd be neat to have that kind of connection."
"Not with everything you own," I grumbled.
It was such an old conversation that Harry didn't bother to continue with it. I stretched out on my bed and stared at my ceiling. My periodic black moods over money were threatening to come back. Remembering what had happened last time, I moved to head it off by trying to remember the story of my trunk. "Harry," I said slowly.
I rolled to my stomach. "I've never heard any story about that trunk," I said. "Which is weird, 'cause Mum will tell those stories at the drop of a pixie."
Harry folded up his legs. "Maybe there's not a story."
"Don't be daft. There's always a story. Everything I've ever owned has some story behind it, even if it's just 'this stain happened at Granny Weasley's 85th birthday party when Bill tripped over the family Puffskein into the baked beans.' I'm wearing the entire recent history of the Weasleys."
The stairs outside my door squeaked and creaked ominously. "What is it, Ron?" came my dad's voice.
"The catch on my trunk," I said. "It broke, and nothing's holding."
He came in and crouched down to study it. "Huh." He pushed his glasses up on his nose and squinted. "Hm."
"Dad," I said, as he tinkered.
"Who had this trunk before me?"
I was looking right down at his hands, and I saw them clench and then go still on the front of my trunk. After a moment, he said, "My brother," and continued messing with the catch.
I ran through the roster of my uncles. Will, Jeffrey, Nigel, Harvey, George, Melvin . . . "Which one? There's not one with an R name."
"Your uncle Ray."
I raised my eyebrows at Harry, who shrugged back. "I didn't know I had an Uncle Ray," I said.
"You did," Dad said briefly. "He died."
"But I've never heard of him!" I knew all my cousins right down to the third twice removed, and yet nobody had ever mentioned this mysterious brother of Dad's in front of me. "Why?"
"Because you didn't." Dad flicked his wand at the catch and muttered a spell. "There. That should hold for a bit." He got to his feet. "Your mother's going to have dinner on the table soon, Ron. She'll need some help."
"Wait a minute, Dad," I said, clambering off my bed. "Who was Uncle Ray? How'd he die? Why d'you never talk about him? Why--"
He turned on me. "Leave it, Ron!"
I jolted backward and sat down hard on the bed. My heart was in my mouth. My dad never yells, unless we really push him, and all I'd done was ask about this uncle of mine . . . "Sorry, Dad," I mumbled.
He sighed, and all the tension went out of his shoulders. "No, Ron, I'm sorry," he said in a much quieter voice. "You were just curious. I shouldn't have shouted."
"I don't really need to know," I lied.
But my dad surprised me. "Maybe you should. Especially with everything that's been happening lately." He came back into my room and sat on the end of Harry's bed. He didn't start right away, but stared at the trunk. The corners of his mouth were tight with strain, and suddenly I noticed the white in what little hair he had left.
"Ray was two years younger than me," he said finally. "He wasn't a prodigy or anything--liked Charms, though. He was really good at Charms, the way Ginny is. A bit of a prankster, like Fred and George. The number of times I got my socks filled with custard, I don't know . . ." He shook his head, smiling a little. "And he was Quidditch-mad. Like you. He rooted for the Cannons."
My mouth fell open. "He did?"
"Oh, yes. Every year, without fail, he said the same thing you do."
"They'll do it this season," I said, unable to stop myself. "They will," I told Harry, who was grinning a little.
"Yes, that's what he'd say." My dad sighed and ran his hand over his bald spot. "I'd laugh, but he was completely faithful. That was Ray."
The Cannons were the best! Nice to know someone in my family realized that, even if I'd never met him. My respect for this newfound uncle rose.
"We fought, of course, but when you got right down to it, Ray and I were pretty close." Reaching out, he traced a crooked carving, dark with age, that was cut in the corner of the lid. I'd seen it so often that I forgot it was there. RW & LC. "I think I was the only one who really understood when he fell in love with a Muggle girl."
I sat up straight. "What, you mean like Hermione?"
"No, I mean a real Muggle. Lissa couldn't have made sparks shoot out of a wand if someone lit it on fire for her. Not a breath of magic in the woman, but she was sweet and funny and Ray adored her. The family wasn't overjoyed, but Ray stood firm. Lissa Carlisle was the woman he was going to marry, and that was that." Dad sighed again.
Except for my dad, the rest of my family's a little medieval about pure-bloodedness, I guess because we're so old and all that. 'Course, they're nowhere near as bad as Malfoy. Nobody is.
"We used to have discussions that lasted hours, Lissa and I," my dad continued. "For Ray's sake, she wanted to know how our world and magic worked, and I was of course curious about Muggles."
I nodded, but I was remembering that Ray had died, and since I'd never once met anyone named Lissa from my family . . . so she must have . . .
"They got married and had a little girl . . . I was named godfather. Margaret," my father murmured. "Her name was Margaret Rose. They called her Maggie."
There was a rock in my stomach, slowly growing into a boulder. Where was Maggie now?
"It happened in the summer. Ray, Lissa, and Maggie were supposed to come to dinner here. They were late. We joked about it. Ray and Lissa seemed to be late to everything, and Maggie was two, and you know how it is . . . But then it got later. And later."
Harry stared fixedly at his knees. My throat was drying up, and I had to swallow several times. We both knew what was coming. We'd known it the moment Dad had said, "It happened in the summer."
Dad was staring off into space. I didn't even know whether or not he remembered we were there. "We tried contacting them through the fire," he said, "but nobody answered. I went to look. Things were just starting to happen then, horrible things, but I didn't think. . . . I got to their house. They had a tiny little house, in a poky little village. They'd scrimped and saved for years, both of them, so they could buy it and get married." My father swallowed. "It was dusk, and it was overcast, so it was nearly full dark. I'm sure the entire village could see the Dark Mark over their house."
Harry drew in his breath sharply. My throat was blocked up.
"I went in. I knew what I'd find, but I had to see . . ." He shook his head and closed his eyes. "I couldn't quite believe it. Not Ray. Not Lissa." His voice dropped. "Not Maggie."
He got to his feet and wandered over to one of my Cannons posters, but he didn't seem to see the players or the balls whizzing around.
"They were in the kitchen. Lissa had been cooking something to bring to dinner. It had boiled over with nobody watching it, and it burned on their stove. The smell filled the house . . . I remember that too."
I wanted to put out my hand and say, "Stop, Dad. That's enough. You don't have to say anything else." But I couldn't open my mouth.
"They were on the floor. Ray was in front of the door, like he'd been trying to keep them from . . . It's just like the textbooks say, you know. Not a mark on them. Except that they're--dead." He swallowed again. "I couldn't find Maggie at first, and I hoped . . . then I went and looked in her room. She was in her crib. She looked like she was still asleep. Up on the wall, above her head, someone had burned a message into the wood. 'No more Mudbloods.'"
"Mudbloods," I whispered.
Harry looked up. He was remembering our second year, too.
"My brother had never harmed a fly. There wasn't one single person who didn't like him. Lissa was twenty-three. She was just a girl, and she was so innocent . . . and Maggie. Their only crime was that Ray, a wizard, had loved Lissa, a Muggle, and had Maggie . . . a Mudblood." He spat the word. "Just that. Something stupid like that, and three people were dead."
He took off his glasses and wiped his eyes. For a moment, I wondered if he'd got dust in them, and then I realized.
My dad was crying.
He never cries. It's just not what he does.
"Well," he said, putting his glasses back on and letting out a long breath. "Anyway. It's a story long past, and really that's all there is to it . . ."
"Didn't they ever catch them, Dad?" I burst out. "The ones who did it. Didn't they ever find them?"
He sat down again, heavily. His eyes were red, but he said quietly, "I don't think you realize, Ron . . . this was not an unusual occurrence. Sad--horrifying--but not unusual. Not in those days. Not when You-Know-Who was about. Especially in the beginning, when nobody was quite sure why any of this was happening. When there were murders like this, people were more concerned with protecting themselves than they were in finding the murderers."
Harry opened his mouth to say something, and then shut it again. I knew he was thinking of Cedric Diggory.
"Whoever did it," my dad continued, "they may have been caught, or they may have died."
"Or they may still be out there," I said, unable to help myself.
"Yes. Or they may still be out there."
"But it shouldn't be like that," I said. "They should--someone should--"
"Who, Ron? There was no way of identifying the particular Death Eaters that did it. Nobody could trace anyone back to that night."
"Someone should," I said. "Someone . . . I don't know . . ." I felt like someone had lit a flame in my stomach, and it was burning throughout my body. Someone . . . someone had to . . . someone had done this, and they had to pay . . .
"It's been many, many years. There's been a lot of water under the bridge since then. Whoever it was that killed Ray, Lissa, and Maggie, we have no way of finding them."
"There should be justice!"
My father said quietly, "There should be a lot of things, Ron. Finding whoever did it won't bring my brother and his family back. Nothing can do that." He wiped his reddened eyes a second time and rose. "Don't forget to help your mother with dinner."
Without a backward look, he left the room.
Harry and I stared at each other.
"It's not fair," I said, clenching my fists. "It's not fair!"
"I don't think he cares about fairness," Harry said bitterly, and I knew he didn't mean Dad.
I flung myself backward against my bed. My head was brimming over with pictures of Ray, rooting for the Cannons. Lissa, patiently answering my dad's endless Muggle questions. Maggie, a fat little two-year-old with wild curls, murdered in the crib where she should have been safest . . .
My mattress creaked. Harry had come to sit on the end of it. "Ron . . . you going to be all right?"
I couldn't answer that. I didn't know. "It's not fair," I whispered.
Harry shook his head.
I wrapped my arms around my stomach. I was trembling, and I wanted to throw up. Even more, I wanted to cry. Harry probably wouldn't have said anything if I did, but I would feel too stupid and useless just crying. I wanted to do something.
Ray, Lissa, and Maggie were beyond help. I wasn't stupid enough to believe otherwise. But on top of all the other pictures, I kept seeing my dad.
White-faced and red-eyed, telling me the story I'd hounded and badgered him for, dredging up pain that was years and years old but still with the power to draw blood.
Pictures . . . pictures.
I sat up. "Harry!"
"I--there was a bunch of stuff--where--" I almost brained myself on the floor, swinging around to look under the bed. "I know I have it--somewhere--"
"What are you talking about?"
"When I got--the trunk," I grunted. "There was a whole mess of stuff in it. I was mad because it was so old, and I just dumped it all into another box and--my closet!"
I fell off my bed and scrambled for my closet, hoping my mum hadn't cleaned up or something equally horrifying during all my months of school. "Here it is!" I hauled the cardboard box down, releasing a cloud of dust that sent both of us into coughing and sneezing fits.
"Here," I wheezed, heaving it over to the bed. "Maybe there's some pictures or something in this . . ." I dropped the box on the floor, sat down on my trunk--Ray's trunk--and opened the cardboard flaps.
"Wow," Harry said, staring at the pile of old bank notices, scrawled notes, used-up charms, and other odds and ends. "I guess your uncle was kind of a pack rat, too."
I sifted through the pile. "I really think there was a picture . . . I thought it was one of my other uncles, and I never remembered to ask." Something moving caught my eye. "Ha!"
The man in the picture looked a little like my dad, a little like Percy, but mostly like Bill. His big grin was the same as Charlie's, though--slightly crooked, with a dent in his cheek. (Charlie used to punch me if I called it a dimple.) He had both arms around a plump little blond woman with a halo of unmanageable curls and a face so young and sweet she could have passed for one of our classmates. She was laughing, her own arms full of a squirming toddler with the inimitable Weasley hair, shining in the sun.
"Ray," I said, touching the man's face. "Lissa. Maggie."
We stared at it for awhile, this relic of a much more innocent time. For the first time since my dad had left my room, my stomach settled back into its regular place. This couldn't banish the horrible scene my dad had described, but it gave me something else to think of when I called their names to mind.
"What are you going to do with it?" Harry asked.
I took a deep breath. "You reckon my dad would like to have it?"
Harry tilted his head to study the picture. Ray, Lissa, and Maggie smiled and laughed back at us. "Yeah," he said finally. "I think he'd love to have it."