A/N: This chapter gets very Stardust like, but again, fear not! You don't have to know a single thing about the book. It's technically unrelated. Anyway, I put my disclaimed in the first chapter just to make sure. There's a bit more Fred x Angelina in this chapter for you fans. Sorry if the Rune stuff gets a bit confusing (I love my detective though, little flat-chested Nox, hee). Thank you to everyone who has reviewed so far, you've all been very kind!
'For love may come and tap you on the shoulder
Some starless night,
Just in case you feel you want to hold her
You'll have a pocketful of starlight…'
Hear no Evil, See
In Which Fred Weasley makes a Perilous Promise
"There is nothing in the world that will make me come back to you, Fred," Angelina told him sadly, one grey day on the 2nd of May, "as much as I wish there could be," and she handed him back his letter. It was the second time she had walked away from him.
It wasn't until much later in the day that Fred caught wind of the rumour flying up and down Diagon Alley – a rumour of a strange little door in a not-so-strange little hill near his home of Ottery St Catchpole.
Detective Nox was sitting in her study, pouring over papers and casebooks which occupied every inch of desk space as well as a good portion of the floor.
Her flat was a modest one; not too big, not too small. It was situated in Islington so she was never too far (or too close), from the city centre.
Artemis, a large bandy-legged tom cat who occasionally vacationed in her flat, was prowling around her ankles and eyeing up the plain ham sandwich Nox had fixed four hours ago. She had long-since given up on dissuading the squashed-faced cat from climbing in the kitchen window. She laid the plate on the floor, then leaned back into her chair with a heavy sigh.
"How can I work when there's a Sauce on the wall?" she muttered, referring to the piece of paper with the three letters, (S O S) and the Rune glyphs in between, that was nailed to the wall in front of her desk. Nox tucked her pen behind one ear and stared hard until her eyes felt dry and sore. Every day she found herself staring at it longer and longer.
"You demand to be dealt with like a ruddy raja, sitting up there on your high horse," she said scornfully to the piece paper, which did not speak back. "Who do you think you are anyway, turning up in the middle of London and during rush hour, no less! Bloody cheek, you've no respect for people who adhere to a busy work schedule. I'll box your ears when you get back and make no bloody mistake."
The character to whom she was referring has not yet been formally introduced; that of Edward Balthazar Nox, Archaeologist, Palaeontologist, Symbologist, Zoologist, Egyptologist, Geologist, and likely any other ologist you could possibly think of. In short, Edward was a genius, albeit a little mad. He was a stout figured Scotsman with a thick head of grey hair and a comically large handlebar moustache. Every year on the 2nd of May he would return from his travels to England and arrive on his daughter's doorstep with an armful of trinkets, gadgets and whatsits from lands she was fairly sure did not exist, had never existed and had no plans to exist in the near future.
Despite his many qualifications in arts and academia, her father remained stony broke. How he managed to travel was a mystery, but Nox knew her father had a great many friends around the globe; some even more peculiar than he was.
S.O.S. was Edward's personal signature and was in short utter gibberish. It was the Rune symbols which held the real message.
Edward often changed the Runes replacing the periods after each letter. Every time his signature appeared in a birthday card, or a letter or on his luggage, the runes read as a different message or riddle. Mostly, her father did this for his own sheer amusement – Rune Riddles and befuddling people were two of his great passions – but somehow Nox doubted that even Edward, despite all his eccentricities and wicked, boyish sense of humour, would write his signature in the sky above the busiest section of London for a few cheap laughs.
She peered closer at the three Runes. The first symbol looked like a fish standing on its tail: the symbol of Separation.
The second symbol was an X, its two slanted lines identical and cutting each other through the crux: the symbol of partnership.
The third symbol resembled an M – this was the Rune of transition and movement.
Separation. Partnership. Movement. S.O.S.
Nox scratched her chin thoughtfully. "Come to think of it…"
She leaned down to a drawer in the bottom of the desk and pulled out a thick leather bound book, fastened by two bronze clasps. The gold embossed letters on the front cover read Symbols through Centuries.
Nox unclasped the latch and began to flip through the pages, hastily scribbling down three symbols on a scrap of paper on her desk: The Seal of Cagliostro, depicting a serpent pierced by a single arrow, representing the union between the active and passive wills; Osrane Nsorama, a crescent moon and sun representing the union of two opposites; and finally Sleipnir, the ancient Norse God Odin's eight-legged horse.
Seal for S, Osrane for O, Sleipnir for S.
Nox propped her elbows up on the desk and rested her chin in her hands.
"Each of Sleipnir's eight legs symbolise a point on the compass," she mumbled to herself. "So it's just as I thought, the last S in S.O.S. translates as travel or Movement, just like the third rune. And the O and second rune both translate as partnership. The first S and rune are slightly different, but both can be construed aschange." With a huff, she blew her flopping fringe out of her eyes, feeling quite irritated. "It's the same message, twice reinforced. Seal, Osrane, Sleipnir - Separation. Partnership. Movement." She ran her hands through her short dark hair and groaned. "S.O.S."
In her professional opinion as a detective, the message was utter jargon.
Artemis, who was curled in the detective's lap having decided that Nox had earned his affection after the meal of ham she had given him, turned a lazy eye in his squashed face to the three symbols on the paper.
Nox glanced at the calendar: May 2nd, 2000. Her father was due back today. He never told her precisely what time he would arrive, he was too careless to make arrangements like that, so Nox would always take the day off work to wait in for his arrival.
She checked her watch. "Ten to ten," she muttered.
It was getting late.
It had only been two weeks since May the 2nd when the little yellow door in the side of Stoatshead Hill had first appeared. Faerie hills and Brownie holes are not an uncommon sight in the Wizarding world, but Brownies and faeries are very careful not to reveal their homes to human eyes, for they do not trust us, not one bit.
But the faerie door in the side of Stoatshead Hill did not disappear. It stayed there all through the day and all through the night, a fixture on the grassy mound. Nobody ever went in and nobody ever came out, and no charm or spell that the Ministry of Magic performed could unlock it or remove it, or hide it from the curious eyes of the Muggles in Ottery St Catchpole.
A little square black and white photograph of the door appeared in the local paper the next day, and two days after that the BBC's 6 O'clock news did a feature on the Mysterious Door of Stoatshead Hill. Most Muggles took it for a hoax and after a fortnight the country had begun to forget about the door completely, but for the inhabitants of Ottery St Catchpole it was not so easy to ignore.
As the month was May and Spring was making its way out, the sun was often shining and the temperature was beginning to rise, but there was always a very cold wind drafting around the base of Stoatshead Hill. Nobody would dare light a match or set a fire in the village, for often was the case that the sparks would shoot up in fireworks, and every night at precisely ten to twelve, all the cats in the neighbourhood would meet in the village square and the air would be filled with screeching, howling, hissing and crying. The stars were brighter than normal too, even to a witch or wizard's eyes (who always the see stars brighter than Muggles do), and no one, not even magic folk, would stray too close to the hill.
Some things we know on instinct are better left alone.
But there is one instinct that overrides all others and as a result this logic did not enter into Fred Weasley's head, that third week in May.
He reached down to clasp Angelina's cool, slender hand in his own, smiling confidently. She had agreed to meet him one last time in the lane outside his family home; more commonly known to the Weasleys and their friends as the Burrow, a higglety piggelty jumble of crooked stories, walls, roofs, and chimneys on the outskirts of Ottery St Catchpole.
They walked through the countryside in silence. It was a mild night. Above them, the stars were shining brighter than ever, innumerable and twinkling and a billion miles away. In the not too far distance rose Stoatshead Hill, a rounded dark mass against the glittering sky. Fred stopped abruptly and turned Angelina round, gripping her by the shoulders.
"Marry me," he said, with every confidence in the world.
"Marry you?" Angelina repeated, incredulously, and pulled sharply out of his grip. "Was that a proposal or an order?"
"Whichever you like, I'm not really bothered," Fred replied and his gold eyes blazed in the starlight. "All I'm interested in is your answer."
"Why do you think I should marry you, Fred, when you don't even understand why I left you in the first place?"
"But I do understand," Fred interrupted, jabbing his thumb in his chest. "You want proof of my feelings and here it is. Marry me."
"No," Angelina said, coldly. "I deserve better than trinkets and jokes and a letter written by Hermione Granger."
Fred's eyebrows rose in surprise. "How did you know?"
"If you don't know your own feelings, if you can't tell me what they are or write them down for yourself, or show me in a way that proves you love me from the top of your head to the souls of your feet, then you're just playing another game and you don't love me, not really, not at all."
There was silence for a while. It swelled between them until Fred began to feel hot and frustrated and irritable. Why couldn't Angelina just smile and nod and throw her arms around his neck like the other girls proposed to by handsome men in ballads and stories always did? What else in the world was there left for him to prove to Angelina his feelings with?
A cool breeze from Stoatshead Hill suddenly cut his cheek so fine it felt as though someone had run the flat side of a blade against his skin. It was then that Fred remembered the little yellow door and an idea began to formulate in his head. You could always tell when Fred was planning something, for the corner of his mouth always lifted in a smirk and the pinkie finger on his right hand began to twitch.
He threw his arm out in a wide gesture towards the dark mound of Stoatshead Hill, a fiercely determined look on his young, freckled face.
"You told me there is nothing in this world that'll make you come back to me." He grinned and clasped her hands, an eager look in his eye. "Then I will get you something that is not in this world."
Angelina frowned. "And how are you going to do that?"
"The door in Stoatshead Hill."
Angelina huffed, tiredly. "No one can open that, Fred, and no one ever comes out. You can't get through there."
But Fred was already wagging his finger in her pretty face. "Never tell a Weasley he can't do anything! Especially when that Weasley is a twin. But you've got to promise me one thing: when I come back, the object I bring with me will be a wedding gift. When I come back, you'll marry me."
Angelina stared at him, her beautiful, almond-shaped eyes moving between Fred, with his back to the East, and Stoatshead Hill to the West.
"All right, then," she said, after a time. "Perhaps."
Angelina folded her arms and closed her eyes, breathing deeply. "I'm probably completely mad to even contemplate this, just as mad as you are; madder, even. But if you do find a way in and you do bring me something back, then …yes. Perhaps."
Fred was beaming. "I can live with perhaps."
"But the chances of you unlocking that door are slim to none and I'm sticking to my part in the agreement, Fred – if you can't stick to yours, then you won't win anything, not even a kiss," she told him, bluntly.
Fred gave an easy shrug. "I've never found a door yet that can't be opened one way or another. You should start getting used to being called Mrs Weasley. And it'd be an idea to start sending out the wedding invitations now; I'll be back in a day or two with your Other-Side-of-the-Door rock."
"A rock doesn't sound particularly romantic," she muttered, looking unimpressed. "I'd rather have something a bit more unusual…"
"Picky, picky. Fine, then, I'll bring you a cat's meow or a dead King's tears."
She smiled. "It's getting late."
He took a step back and made a gallant bow. "Then I bid you goodnight, fair maiden! Tomorrow I leave for Other-Side-of-the-Door, a strange and distant land full of danger and surprises - and if there isn't any, I'll make some of my own."
Angelina laughed, a deep, throaty sound which resonated within his chest, and he went to bed feeling smug and without a single thought of the other world behind the little yellow door or of the dangers that awaited him – two of which were already unlocking the door, turning the handle and stepping onto the cool grassy hill above Ottery St Catchpole.
A/N: Ze adventure's just about to kick off, mon ames! Please review and let me know what you think ('cause let's face it, it's the only way I'm going to improve lol XD)