A/N: This story works as a sort of prequel to my other fanfic, Twin Vice Paranormal Detectives, and sheds some light on the characters of the Grim Reaper, Fred's love-interest, Nox Wolfe, and her father, Edward Balthazar McRozen. I'm also working on just how Luna's feelings for George Weasley developed and what the twins were up to throughout the year leading up to the Battle of Hogwarts. Hope you enjoy! D
'And as they looked, they saw a tall rider coming towards them, to the fens where Godric fell slaying the spindle-queen, Gudrun. The rider greeted the brothers three at the lip of the water's edge and warned them not to cross the river terrible, for crossing it would bring only death. The brothers bowed graciously, thanked him for his counsel, then raised their wands so that a bridge of glass strung on a hair was cast across the raging waters.
'Again the rider came, now fleshless, with shroud and pall bedight. "A blood toll must be paid, clever sons of tricks," said Death to the brothers three. "Now play thy game."
And they played.'
– From 'The World Tree's Plunderer' (translated from the Scrolls of Merlin, first edition, by Sir Hector Archimedes Oddness)
"Beautiful wedding, but blast and botheration, Arthur!" Edward cried out in frustration. "You never mentioned that the old bat would be here. If I'd known I would have had Philius put some sort of anti-Aunt charm on my dear fat self."
Arthur smiled placidly at his old friend and handed him another drink. Edward Balthazar McRozen was a portly, eccentric, exuberant Squib, whose girth was as large as his heart. He was always impeccably dressed in a maroon waistcoat and lace under-shirt, and a gold engraved pocket-watch dangled precariously from his left pocket. His jacket had one brass button left (the others appeared to have popped off due to the intense strain) and his neck collar brandished a brightly spotted bow-tie. Tonight Edward must have decided to add something extra special to his outfit, in honour of the grand occasion, for a large, purple pork-pie hat currently sat at a jaunty angle on top of his head of fluffy greying hair.
"I'm afraid I had no choice in the matter, Ed," Arthur laughed. "I could no less hide a wedding from Muriel than I could a box of Zonko's tricks from my twins."
Edward grinned. "Oh yes, Fred and George! How are the lads? Last time I saw them their heads were level with my gut – bit smaller back then, mind," Edward said, patting his protruding stomach. "Do they take after you, ay, old bean-post?"
"No, they take after Molly more, I think," Arthur grinned and bumped Edward's glass with his own. "At least in height. They take after me in the tricks department."
"Of course, of course, I keep hearing about this marvellous shop of theirs': Weasley's Wizarding Whistles or something to the like," Edward bellowed with laughter. "Splendid place! Splendid! Put that antiques shop across from them in a right tizzy – I hear they've been complaining because of all the noise the kiddies are making. And the other day old Abner Tocks was telling me how a firecracker burst across the street and into his shop – broke every clock-face in the place! Marvellous!!"
Edward of course heard every last detail of the goings on in Diagon Alley as he was rarely out of the Leaky Cauldron, and therefore always in the thick of the gossip. He liked to think of the famous pub as his second home and Tom, the bartender, as something akin to family.
"Is that so?" said Arthur, arching his eyebrows high and smirking ever-so-slightly. "You'd better keep that from Molly. She'll go off her rocker if she hears the twins are wreaking even more havoc. You know, she did everything she could to prevent Fred and George from opening that shop. I think she might have preferred them to become lawyers or something of the like."
"Poppycock! Fred and George, lawyers? Shameful!" Edward shook his head vehemently. "They were always meant for greater things." He leaned forwards, his bright twinkling eyes suddenly dark and serious, and said in a hushed, secretive tone, "Times are getting darker again, Arthur. I don't have to be a wizard to feel it in my bones. Things are going to explode very soon and believe you me, when it happens, we'll need something to laugh about."
Arthur nodded his balding red head gravely. "I think you might be right about that, Ed."
The old friends shared a meaningful look.
"Well, dash it all, tonight is not a night for discussing silly social affairs and the devil's plights. Tonight is a night for true love," Edwards shouted, raising his glass of Firewhiskey high to the crowd, many of which laughed and cheered in reply, and began chanting the newly wedded couple's names.
Bill and Fleur were in the centre of the dance floor, swaying steadily to the golden-jacketed band on the podium; a smooth jazzy tune was playing in harmony to the hazy sunlit countryside around the Burrow. Groups of old friends and relatives were chatting all around the golden canopy, or dancing around the raised floor.
Arthur watched the peaceful scene and heaved a heavy sigh, his smile fading from his face. "I don't know, Edward. At the rate things are going I sometimes wonder if this won't be the last time we'll be together like this for a long while." He shook his head and raised sad, almost pleading eyes to his friend. "I don't think Molly could go through another war. What it did to her last time… I don't think she could go through that again. I know I couldn't."
Edward gripped his shoulder firmly and said, with a fixed, unwavering gaze, "Buck up, old boy. You won't lose any of them. Not a single one; I promise you." Arthur looked hopelessly at him, but Edward was obstinate as ever. He wrinkled his thick, handle-bar moustache and smiled broadly. "Now, look at that Luna Lovegood dancing all by herself! That girl is quite the charm, isn't she? Philius raised her well – old cracker that he is. You hear that Philius?!" Edward suddenly bellowed across the dance floor to an absurd looking man in omelette coloured dress robes.
Xenophilius Lovegood turned abruptly and waved happily back at them, flapping his hand up and down as if preparing to take flight. "Hello there, Edward! Can't quite hear you I'm afraid!"
"I said you're barking, Philius – absolutely bonkers!" Edward called back, sloshing the contents of his glass.
"Quite! Quite! I look forward to it!" Xenophilius replied then resumed his conversation with a couple of rather frightened looking witches.
"Blasted idiot gets worse every year," said Edward, shaking his head, "but an undiscovered genius, if I do say so myself – and our very dearest friend."
Arthur nodded, chortling. "Definitely. I do miss the old days. Feels like centuries ago these days."
Edward shot him a sharp look. "Don't say old days as if we were ancient, decrepit old things like Muriel. Oh I say, there's your lads now! Fred, George, come over here you wonderful fools!"
Two flame-haired, freckle-faced identical men pulled reluctantly away from their dancing partners – a pair of slender Veela girls in matching silver dresses – and strode towards the edge of the dance floor where their father and Edward were standing.
"Hello, Uncle Ed. Nice hat," Fred remarked with a cheeky sort of grin.
"Ah, well you must be Fred. I always remember George as being the more innocent – at least as innocent as a jester of Merlin's court!"
"Innocent?" Fred's eyes bulged.
"Me?" asked George, arching his eyebrows high.
"Well, well," Fred shrugged. "Learn something new every day."
"Certainly news," George turned to his twin with a leer. "Always did suspect you were a dirty rotten scoundrel, mind. I daresay you've been leading me astray all these years!" He said, placing the back of his hand to his forehead in a dramatic gesture.
Fred cracked his knuckles and grinned menacingly. "Well someone had to teach you Georgie, otherwise we'd have had another blooming prefect or a hero in the family."
George looked horrified at the very idea. "I don't think I could stomach another one of those."
Chortling, Edward grabbed four more bottles of Firewhiskey from a passing waiter and thrust one each into Fred', George' and Arthur's hands.
"I was just telling your father that the last time I saw you two, you were only up to here on me," Edward told them, raising his hand so that it was just level with the remaining brass button on his dress robes.
Fred cracked another smirk and rolled his eyes. "Yeah, that'd be the first time we've heard that tonight, Uncle Ed."
Edward roared with laughter. "Your neck might've grown, but I see you're still a cheeky little bugger! Molly's been writing to me about your antics for years, you know. The stories just kept getting better and better – 'specially that one about nasty old toad-face, Umbridge, though I don't expect I was meant to laugh at it."
"I thought you were up living in Glasgow," said George curiously. "You still get owls living out in the Muggle world, then?"
Edward gripped one of his lapels in his free hand and nodded, an air of severe pride around him. "Yes, I might be a Squib but I still like to keep one foot firmly in the wizarding world! Besides, who would buy any of my books out in that old fuddy duddy Muggle-land?"
"I've read a few – blooming marvellous stuff! Helped us out a few times in the lab, I can tell you that," Fred told him keenly. "I don't know how you do it, but you probably saved my arse a few times, and I do mean literally."
George let out a loud snort. "Don't be daft Fred, you don't read."
"True," Fred conceded with a casual wave of his hand at his twin, "but I get the gist of the books from you, so it's all the same thing in the end."
Edward heaved a heavy sigh. "It's a great pity that I haven't seen you boys in so long." He elbowed Fred in the ribs with one rather plump arm and leaned towards him in a conspiratorial whisper, "I have a daughter, you know; she's roughly the same age as you, and single too!"
It was Arthur's turn to laugh long and heartily. He was already a good quarter of the way through his current bottle of Firewhiskey and was shaking it vigorously along with his head. "Don't bother, Ed – Fred and George have managed more snogging action in the last month than the two of us have ever equalised in our whole lifetimes."
"Oi!" said the twins in unison, both of them looking thoroughly and equally disgusted that their father had used the word 'snog'.
"Ah, the devil take you, lads!" Edward cried, his eyes twinkling brightly as he turned his bottle on each of them in turn. "Find a good woman each and the world is your oyster, for each honest man knows that the heart of a good woman is his backbone!"
Fred and George gave him an uneasy sort of smile. "Right you are, Uncle Ed."
"And - ah! Speaking of fine young women, there's one as we speak – lovely Luna, yes, you my dear! Come over here. Come and speak to these fantabulous boys. Do you know each other? You do? Marvellous! Then you must dance with one."
Luna Lovegood had been twirling on the dance floor for the past half hour entirely by herself, having lost her last dance partner, Ginny Weasley, to a bright-eyed, grinning boy with dreadlocks who she suspected might have been a friend of the Weasley twins. She floated towards the quartet standing on the edge of the dance floor, smiling vaguely. Her bright yellow dress matched her long, dirty blonde hair, in which was planted the head of a sunflower, and as she moved, the flounces of her dress and hair trailed dreamily along after her.
"Hello, Arthur, Uncle Edward," said Luna happily and pressed her hand first into the Squib's large palm and then took Arthur's offered hand with a little squeeze. "It's a beautiful evening here – I do love the music. I've been dancing for hours, though I had a little trouble with Wrackspurts earlier – they do tend to converge, you know, at this time of year."
"You're a wonderful dancer, Luna. We enjoyed watching your performance," said Arthur kindly, shooting a warning glance at the twins who were taking large gulps of Firewhiskey in an attempt to quell their laughter.
"Thank you, I must show you the mating dance of the Crumple-Horned Snorkack next; daddy saw it once when he was abroad and demonstrated it for me. It's very fascinating."
"I'm sure it is, Luna," said Arthur, raising his voice an octave to draw attention away from Fred, whose last mouthful of Firewhiskey was shooting out through his nose.
Edward raised his arms wide and smiled broadly at George. "Well, Luna, I think I've found you a suitable dance partner." He put his free hand against George's back and whispered briefly in his ear, "A good man never leaves a woman lonely on a dance floor." Edward gave him what he thought was a gentle push towards Luna, who was looking quite innocent and bemused. "Off you go the pair of you – go dance the dance of the Rumpleskinned Spitting-Cat, or however it is you young folk dance these days."
George threw a quick, desperate look across his shoulder at Fred, who crossed his heart then saluted gravely, and muttered, "Don't worry George, I'm sure I'll manage to keep the Veela cousins well entertained until you get back. Course, with the language barrier and everything, I doubt we'll have a lot to talk about." He grinned wickedly and George mouthed a few choice swear words at him before leading Luna into the middle of the dance floor.
"Oh good," said Fred looking delighted. "A slow song too. They'll have to get real close for this one. So, Uncle Ed," he said, turning back to him, "where is your daughter… er…?"
"Gertrude," Arthur finished for him.
"Oh good Merlin, Arthur! Don't ever let her catch you calling her that – she point-blank refuses to go by anything other than her middle-name, Nox."
"Don't blame her," Fred muttered under his breath.
Edward was suddenly smiling very fondly and clutching his near-empty bottle to his chest. "Knows her own mind, my girl, and won't let no one have it. Course, I thought it better to keep her apart from all the wizarding world because… Well, let's just leave it at that, shall we."
"It's been years since I've seen her, Edward," said Arthur thoughtfully. "In fact I don't think I've seen her since that incident at Portobello Road, do you remember?"
Edward suddenly paled.
"Oh yeah," said Fred, scratching the back of his neck thoughtfully, "I remember that day. Bloody horrible. Didn't that little Muggle girl get knocked down by a bus? I remember you wrapping her up in your cloak and dad telling us not to look." Fred paused for a moment, as if trying to recall a long-distant memory, then suddenly, he clicked his fingers, looking satisfied with himself. "That's right; me and George were left with –"
"Fred, I do believe that's those lovely Veela girls you were dancing with!" Edward interrupted hurriedly, dabbing his neck with handkerchief. "Look here, they're coming this way. Go on, never leave a woman waiting and all that. Truly wonderful catching up, Frederick." He patted him tenderly on the shoulder. "Take care, son."
Fred looked bemused, but smiled nonetheless. "You too, Uncle Ed."
Edward watched the second Weasley twin disappear into the crowd with a beautiful, silver-haired Veela girl on each arm. His brow furrowed in concern.
"Ed? Ed?Edward?" Arthur pressed worriedly – it took a moment for Edward to notice the hand on his arm. "Everything alright? You're sweating a bit."
Edward shook him off with a smile and said, "What, this? No, Arthur. This is what happens to a fat man wearing dress robes in high summer. Come on, let's join the rest of the scoundrels and scallywags, shall we?"
The last rays of the sun disappeared around half past ten, and night settled in on the wedding party. The lanterns were lit and the moths and midges were fluttering excitedly in the golden glow. Fred and George had sneaked off with a couple of Fleur's Veela cousins in hand to a secluded willow tree in the neighbouring field, much to Molly's displeasure.
"This is hardly the kind of impression I wanted to give the Delacours," Molly huffed despite the pinkness in her cheeks from all the sparkling champagne (imported specially from Paris by Fleur's parents). "I don't know what they'll think of us now."
"They're young, Molly – let the boys have their fun," Arthur said, patting her hand gently then pulling her onto the empty dance floor on a sudden whim. Molly resisted only a fraction of a second then, surrendering, she slid happily into Arthur's open arms, and they rocked together slowly on the floor. The band were currently sitting by the table laid with Butterbeers, cakes and Firewhiskey, having certainly earned a break, and the only music came from the intoxicated trio of Hagrid, Charlie and Edward, whose loud and energetic rendition of 'Odo the Hero' had a delighted Luna clapping along:
the hero, they bore him back home
To the place that he'd known as a lad!
They laid him to rest with his hat inside out
And his wand snapped in two, which was sad!'
A few people were pulling up their friends and partners onto the dance floor, jigging along to the lively, bellowed tune, until eventually the entire wedding party were jumping and clapping and singing along. When the silver cloudy shape fell through the canopy to land on the floor amidst the dancers, few people really understood what it meant until well after it had raised its feline head and said:
'The Ministry has fallen. Scrimgeour is dead. They are coming.'
At first there was silence, thick and daunting, and leaden with confusion as guests turned to one another with questioning faces, seeking an answer or an explanation to the peculiar prank that had just been played – for surely it had to be a joke. Surely they weren't coming. Everyone knew who they were, and that simply was not possible.
A scream shattered the silence like a broken mirror and people suddenly scattered everywhere like shards of glass, running blindly and Apparating everywhere.
"The enchantments 'round the Burrow must be broken," said Charlie urgently, leaping to his feet.
"Bleedin' 'ell!" Hagrid was shouting, red faced and looking very close to tears. "Not now! Not 'ere, they can't be!"
"They are," said Edward grimly. "Come on old friend, it won't do hanging about here. We must get everyone to safety!"
Charlie nodded his head fiercely. "Right you are, come on Luna!" He grabbed Luna by the wrist and began leading her through the jostling crowd, but Luna was shaking her head, an uncharacteristic fiery look in her usually misty, distant eyes.
"Wait! I have to find daddy first," she said and slipped out of Charlie's grasp. Charlie tried to weave his way after her, but was pushed back by an increasingly panicked crowd. Screams and cries of terror suddenly escalated as masked figure after masked figure Disapparated into the area. Some of the guests were violent in their panicked state, shoving and, in some cases, propelling their way through the crowd. Luna ignored Charlie's frantic cries behind her, caught sight of her father on the opposite end of the dance floor. She was reaching her arm out in a vain effort to catch his attention when a large hand wrapped its fingers around her throat and flung her ruthlessly to the floor. Luna's head hit the platform with a crack and when her vision swam back into view, she saw a tall, black-cloaked figure rising over her, wand pointed at her throat.
"Protego!" a familiar cry echoed above her, blasting her masked attacker off his feet. In another instant, George was in front of Luna, scooping her into his arms and darting to the band stand where Xenophilius stood with Edward, looking frantic and terribly vexed.
"Thank you, dear boy! A thousand times, thank you!" Xenophilius spluttered, taking Luna gratefully from George's arms.
"Don't mention it," said George hastily. "Just get out of here now. You'll have to take Edward with you."
"Balderdash! I'm not leaving this spot without seeing off at least one Death – " but the portly Squib did not have another second to finish his retort because George had shoved him roughly into Xenophilius, who Disapparated a moment later with a crack!
An instant later they were standing in a quiet, dark lane off Buchanan Street, Glasgow. Despite the late hour, the street was teaming with people young and old, striding up and down the brightly lit sloping hill. Glasgow was a city that never slept.
Xenophilius turned to Edward and said in a panicked, wild voice, "I'm afraid this is the only place in Glasgow I know. Will you be alright getting home from here?" His breathing was erratic and he kept looking wildly at the blood matting the back of Luna's hair. His eyes began to fill with tears at the sight.
Edward nodded slowly, feeling quite unable to take everything in. "This is fine, Philius, just fine. We can take a taxi home from here."
"We?" Xenophilius shook his head fervently. "Oh no, we have to get home. Luna must –"
"- Must be taken to a safe place," Edward answered him. "And I'm fairly certain, old friend, that anywhere in Ottery St Catchpole is far from that, tonight." He watched with a sympathetic eye as Xenophilius instinctively clutched Luna closer to his chest. Edward gripped his arm and led him onto the bustling walkway of Buchanan Street. "Come along, it's the least this old Squib can do. For now, at least."
A/N: Please review! I'd love to hear what you think. Sorry if there's too much Edward here. I just wanted to establish his character right away, old fat Squib that he is (squeezes ). Note – I love George x Luna XD