Theme: Life and Death
August 2, 1998
Audrey was convinced that Molly was the most dangerous Weasley. The round, sweet face and motherly air gave her an air and look of harmlessness that people would find comforting, while her cooking of delicious foods and various desserts may have merely an act to suppress her bloodlust. Audrey's grandmother had not raised a fool.
It was easier to focus her attentions on the inside of the Burrow, as it was the strangest looking house Audrey had seen, let alone stepped into. It was clearly built and held together by magic. Yes, it was easier to focus on the topsy-turvy construction and various knick-knacks within then the fact Molly Weasley had stopped cooking for the moment and was now walking over to her. Molly Weasley's soft arms were wide in a welcoming gesture.
This woman had killed Bellatrix Lestrange and when Audrey thought about it, if she was not busy raising seven children she probably could have taken care of Voldemort singlehanded during the first war.
Molly Weasley was now hugging her and Audrey felt the kind of primal terror she had not felt in months.
"We're so glad you both could make it," Molly patted Audrey on the shoulder as she pulled away and moved over to hug Lucia who leaned down to put her arms around her quite happily. Lucia had grown up with a very unaffectionate family. "Dinner will be on the table in an hour, in the meantime, please make yourselves at home."
"Oh, we brought you some wine," Lucia said as Molly Weasley let go of the tall blonde woman.
More of a peace offering, in Audrey's opinion, she did not care to end up on this woman's hit list.
"With my uncle's apologies that he couldn't make it. Something came up." Lucia was such a well-mannered charmer when she wanted to be. Audrey pulled the two wine bottles out of her bag with a smile and gave them to Arthur who thanked them both while telling them it was not necessary while Lucia insisted that it was leaving Audrey to bob her head in agreement. Lucia was the better talker of the two.
More casual chitchat about how work was going was exchanged before Lucia and Audrey were able to extract themselves as more people arrived. There were apparently a lot of family friends coming and Molly told them that mostly everyone was waiting in the living room until she was finished cooking. Lucia and Audrey thanked them both again for the invitation and walking into the living room while admiring the various magical items in the home. Audrey was particularly taken with a clock that showed where each member of the Weasley family was at a given time.
Perhaps the option for prison was added after the twins had revealed the depths of their penchant for mischief.
Audrey and Lucia stayed close together while they took in the flaming sea of red heads in the living room. Audrey's stomach churned and flipped like she was on a dinghy in the middle of the ocean. She scanned the crowd hoping she would and wouldn't see Percy.
Morgana's grimoire, she felt like a schoolgirl!
She made Lucia swear not to leave her alone before they arrived at the house, Audrey hated crowds and disliked the attention of strangers, and it made her uncomfortable. Even though her grades recommended her for a Ministry career, Audrey knew she did not have the personality for it. She liked more autonomy in her work.
Audrey's breath caught in her throat.
Percy was talking to a heavily scarred man and the most beautiful woman Audrey had ever seen. Her guts clenched in horror as she ran her fingers through her too short hair, she had hacked it all off when she went on the run almost a year ago. That woman's was so blonde and unearthly and Audrey could not compete with that! She looked familiar too…
"Is that the Veela girl from the Triwizard Tournament?" Lucia asked incredulously from where she was standing next to Audrey.
That just made her nerves worse!
She was just so flawless looking.
Audrey felt like a bog creature by comparison and started playing with the sleeves of her robes feeling worse about her ill-fitting clothes. The stress and physicality of being on the run for ten months had taken a physical toll she was not sure she would recover from.
Merlin's beard, it seemed she was funny too.
There was clearly no justice in this world.
The scarred man put his arm around the beautiful woman's waist and she gave him a glowing smile. Audrey felt herself relax slightly. Long-term relationship.
Audrey heaved a sigh of relief as she shuffled her feet nervously while she looked away and took in the room. The living room was packed full of red heads, aside from the unmistakable ink black hair of Harry Potter who was on his way outside with Ginny Weasley. Not blatantly, it had kind of a sneaking edge to it that made Audrey cover her mouth and look somewhere else as Ginny exchanged a few words with Ron while Harry crept out the back door while he was distracted.
George was showing a goblet to a burly looking, redheaded man with a lot of burn scars on his arms.
She ran her fingers over the brass buttons of her robes and covered them in frost to calm her nerves while she took half a step behind Lucia, who was standing next to her.
Audrey peered out from behind Lucia for another look over at Percy. He was laughing at something the scarred man had said. Her face turned pink, had a really nice profile and an easy smile.
It was easier to show what little courage she had in more dire circumstances where she had no other choices open to her. Maybe coming here was a mistake…
Lucia was sipping on a glass of water next to her while she got her own bearings, she stepped sideways, leaving Audrey exposed. Audrey glanced up at her and caught her looking between her and Percy with a smug, catlike smile.
Audrey was long familiar with that look.
Lucia's smile fell as she sighed heavily and her hand came up to cover her face dramatically. Her voice was a low whisper, only discernable to Audrey's ears. "You do that with every bloke you like."
"The staring, the trying to hide behind me bit. Don't deny it Audie; I have known you too long for you to try and lie about it."
"Please don't call me Audie."
"For crying out loud, you know him! He's was your card partner when we went to Piper's last night!"
"We drew straws! Felix said something about making it harder for the really smart people to pair off."
"Didn't help much, that room was full of brilliant people and Felix still got his arse kicked. " Lucia's eyes rolled as she pushed her glasses back up the bridge of her nose. "We promised to be spinsters together, remember? Not chaste."
"We were twelve and boys were still gross."
Lucia cackled. "I am so glad you helped me escape my arranged marriage."
"Me too," Audrey grinned, "Left him standing at the alter right?"
"With his Death Eater mates watching his eventual humiliation."
Audrey's mouth fell open, "You never told me that bit!"
"That sham wedding was full of You-Know-Who's lackeys. It was a pleasure to beat the hell out of them when we went on the run."
Lucia was not wrong in that regard; she definitely enjoyed that part of their time on the run and beat her cousin Dominicus quite badly when they crossed paths with some help from Audrey. Lucia continued reminiscing while Audrey tuned her out to think about that book on Magical Deficiencies that Percy had loaned her a few days ago.
"Hell, there's the boss! Well, that makes it harder to drink tonight."
"What!" Audrey peered around Lucia to see more friends of the Weasley family coming in the door. Including an older woman holding a blue haired baby standing next to the Minister of Magic.
Why did that baby have blue hair?
Audrey pressed herself further back against the wall; Shacklebolt had been asking her about joining his city council as Scully's understudy. Scully said he had joined under duress as once the Minister, an ex-Auror stepped into his pub, his business cleared our so quickly it was like they were never there at all. Scully said when he found out who put him name forward, tabs were getting closed. Audrey had not given Shacklebolt an answer yet and he was getting insistent about it. It was very annoying.
Shacklebolt had also informed her that the Committee of War Crime Clemency, due to a lack of file, had cleared her records. When they opened it, it was nothing but blank papers, so anything anyone had said she was involved in could be considered hearsay. Shacklebolt thought it was very strange as there had been detailed information in there but he had more important things to deal with then misplaced paperwork. Shacklebolt definitely knew she had done something to it. She was impressed the spell worked really. Though he may use his suspicions as leverage to get her on the council, she had time to think her way out of it.
"How do you feel right now?" Lucia asked, pulling Audrey out of her thoughts. Lucia looked at Audrey with her eyes full of a sisterly concern as she turned to hide her from Shacklebolt's view for a few moments.
"Like a frumpy… thing."
Lucia chuckled, "For the record, you are my favorite frump."
Audrey put her face in her hands and tried to remember how many glasses of wine it would take to put her down for a nap. It was less then three…
Lucia looked back over to George and his brother on the couch. The brother that Audrey did not know was now showing off his muscles as a playful threat to his brother after the goblet started spewing water like a fountain with enough force to throw itself into the kitchen.
The man with the burn scars laughed loudly at the sudden screams and shouts from the kitchen. Molly Weasley was shouting irately as she tried to subdue to goblet. George took off for another part of the house cackling in a way that reminded Audrey of Peeves.
Lucia's face lit up. "I love men with muscle! I bet he has the rippling pectorals to match!" Lucia popped open the top two buttons on her robes and scampered off faster then Audrey could say Quidditch. She was lost to Audrey's sight in the surge of new arrivals who did as most people did, passed there eyes right over Audrey and went on about their business with their own people as the chaos continued from the kitchen.
Audrey pressed herself back against the wall and felt like everything was closing in around her. She kept her back to the wall as she moved towards the back door for a bit of fresh air. Sometimes, she was grateful to not be noticed.
She crossed her arms to check her wand holster on her left arm. Audrey doubted she would ever feel safe enough to walk around unprepared for battle like she did before the war. She would always have her wand with her anyway; Audrey was very reliant on her magic.
The door closed behind her and she took a deep breath of fresh air. The garden was wild looking and seemed to have no planning behind it, but it was the most natural garden she had seen in a long time. If Audrey ever got to move out of the city, she decided she wanted a similar one behind a small country house where she would live in peace.
Truthfully, Audrey no care to fight anymore, she was just tired of it. Septimus said she was a good duelist, but she never enjoyed it the way he seemed to as a battle mad old warlock. It was a means to an end for her survival. War turned decent people into monsters, it was hard to think back on the person she had to become.
Audrey did not like that woman much.
Now, that the war was over, Audrey had an opportunity to have the life she wanted, a quiet one where she could live in peace. Some notable heroes from the conflict were being pulling into Ministry work and pestered at almost every opportunity for elbow rubbing. The idea of that much attention and scrutiny made her feel ill.
If Audrey had her way, history would forget her wartime achievements and remember only her trail of research papers and discoveries she left behind at the end of her life, because great power of any sort had never made anyone in her acquaintance truly happy.
"Audrey," A voice said from behind her causing her to jump. She turned around quickly, instinctively reaching for her wand.
Morgana's knickers, it was Ron.
Nosy little blighter.
Audrey's hand fell away from her holster under her sleeve.
"You said you would teach me one of your tracking spells if I could teach you something in exchange." Ron had to duck down to make sure he did not hit his head on the doorframe as he stepped out and closed the door behind him. "I'm ready."
Not one to skate around a point was he?
"Depends on what you have to offer, I don't deal in dark magic for example."
Ron grinned, "This is just the opposite." He pulled a small card out of his pocket and held it out to her. There was dirt on his nose.
Audrey blinked owlishly as she reached out for it. She turned it over carefully and laughed.
That was what he was offering?
"It's my mum's secret recipe for treacle tart."
It was! Audrey laughed harder; she struggled to catch her breath. "You're exchanging your mum's recipe for my magical knowledge?"
Ron grinned, "You never specified it was magic I had to trade."
Troll boogies! He was right!
"And it's a favorite of one of my brothers."
Audrey felt her face turn some kind of luminescent shade at the implication.
Audrey sighed, "I should really watch what I say about things like that."
Ron chuckled. "I thought about trying to teach you the patronus charm, but I'm not the teacher Harry is and mine isn't fully formed. I was afraid you knew it already."
She didn't actually. Septimus had tried to teach her but it was just a dull mist in comparison to his peregrine falcon that seemed to laugh at her from the trees. Septimus said she would produce one eventually. Audrey was not convinced, as it was hard to find joy in a chaotic life.
Audrey was not going to tell Ron any of that.
Knowledge of magic was supposed to be something shared, it was a philosophy of magical research. Ron might be able to learn what she could teach. Her tracking spells after all were not a Septenary secret; they were part of Audrey's grimoire, she could teach them or hide them, as she liked.
"Take out your wand, Ron. I'll start teaching you the one that I know works."
Audrey watched his eyes light up in excitement.
As she corrected his grip and explained what the spell did, she had a few final pressing thoughts. She invented these spells to track people who were dangerous to her cause, to find people who had hurt her family; perhaps it was time to use them to bring justice to the wider community.
She may never sleep without nightmares again, but she could save others from that burden. This would be her first act of real restoration, her part in putting an end to this cycle of violence that had plagued the world for so long.
Life could start anew.
In life, there were choices. Some one could make for them on their own power; others let choices be made for them if they were unsuspecting or weak. It was a cycle as all things were.
The guards had been put in a twilight state between waking and dreaming allowing her to slip by without questions or interruptions. Her face was hidden by a hood and a white mask around her eyes, her heels clicked and echoed down the stone corridor of the holding cells.
She ignored the snores of those awaiting trial in the cells around her. The one she was looking for was in the isolation cell at the end of the corridor.
It had taken too much time to locate him, too much time for him to crack.
Too much time without him dead.
Her pace was steady; there would be no one to bother her tonight.
The hurried whispers of a panicked young man reached her ears as she stopped in front of his cell. Reeve was whispering hurriedly to himself, promising his silence, crafting lies for his next interrogation.
"Frank," She purred as she pushed her hood back, "We need to talk."
The young man in the cell froze and turned slowly to face her. The terror in his eyes made her almost feel pity for him.
"My lady," He rushed to her and clutched at the bars, kneeling at her feet in a disgusting display. "How did you get past the guards?"
"Simple, magic." She laughed quietly before fixing him with a cold, steely gaze. "Sergius Sloan killed himself already, Reeve. Why can't you?"
"My lady, I-"
She held up her hand as she gazed down at him.
Reeve was quiet.
"When you agreed to join our cause, you agreed to certain rules about how we conduct our business. When you rose through our ranks for your unique gifts, we clarified what that meant to our organization. You know too much Reeve, the proper thing to do is die."
"Please! Please, no!" The coward was crying, of all things! "I can offer you so much more! All I ask is for another chance to prove myself to you!"
"I can find another puppet master. Your ability to make simulacrum does not make you indispensable."
Reeve scurried away from the bars like a rat and pressed his back against the far wall as he continued to stare at her as tears streamed down his face. There was nowhere to run or hide.
"You allowed yourself to be manipulated by a feeble old man, Lowell outplayed you before you even stepped onto the board." She scoffed, "You could not even finish off his half trained apprentice. We know the Ministry has the book, but he only let that slip to find the other pieces on the board and you were stupid enough to fall for it."
"I only did it serve our glorious cause of knowledge!" Reeve sniffled, "To bring about a better world is our destiny!"
The woman rolled her eyes, "You know nothing of destiny."
The woman pulled out her wand.
"Loose ends must always be tied up, as all things come full circle."
There was a flash of green light.
As Reeve crumpled to the floor, the woman sighed. "Our master sends his condolences, but he does not forgive failure."
Two pawns off the board.
Reeve had served his purpose, now she must find someone more skilled and daring. Simulacrums were difficult to create, and someday, she would need more valuable resources of that nature.
A true puppet master would be difficult to find. It could take years.
There were other factors to consider.
Agrona needed time. Time to gather allies, build their skills and push magic to the very edges of possibility. She turned and began to walk out of the holding cells as her heels clicked on the floor in time with the water from the leaky pipes in the distance.
They had one chance to get it right.
Failure was not an option.
If they had to wait many years to step out of the shadows, so be it.
Wars were best started after years of peace.
After all, life was a cycle and all roads led to death.
A/N: Lucia's quest for muscle will fail. Hilariously.
I wanted to thank all of you for reading, reviewing and supporting this strange little story. I always try to tell different kinds of stories then what usually comes through the fanfiction circuit, there are some admittedly dark qualities that can be a bit off-putting and there are sometimes no easy or complete resolutions. Especially if there is something that comes up later on, because every story I write is connected somehow.
Now that this is finished, I'm going to go back to editing Book Two of the Lucy series and edit/rewrite Book Three now that my life has settled into a more consistent schedule. Hopefully I can finally finish this project that has been on and off my mind for the last decade, the whole thing has been plotted out and is sitting in the notebook next to me.
I hope to see you all again soon!
Here are the chapter title notes; the wand woods in the title are representative of characters that appeared in the story.
Holly – Harry Potter
Willow- Ron Weasley
Cedar – Kingsley Shacklebolt
Elm- Frank Reeve
Vine- Hermione Granger
Redwood- Sam Scully
Silver Lime- Lucia Selwyn
Rowan- Audrey Causey
Walnut – Sergius Sloan
Acacia- Percy Weasley
Bonus: Elder- Septimus Lowell