Chapter Three: Troubling Semantics
Arthur Weasley was rushing to work today.
He normally didn’t rush, so this was out of the ordinary. It meant something when he rushed, and everyone around him knew it. Only something of grave importance could make Arthur rush, especially since he was technically three hours early for work. Only really important, potentially catastrophic things could make the Co-Minister rush when he was already early.
He probably should have slowed down to reassure all those workers who watched his progress with wide eyes. There was something expectant in their eyes, like they were waiting for him to curse, weep, or scream the bad news out for them. He doesn’t know why they would think that, he’s never done that before. But maybe it’s just their hope that that makes them think he will, because otherwise they will have to wonder and fret for hours before finding out why Arthur Weasley was rushing on that early September morning. And he felt for them, he did, but he did not have time to stop to explain.
Arthur Weasley was rushing to work because he had awoken to the sounds of his wife’s screams.
It had been in the wee hours of the morning, and Molly had wandered off for a glass of water. It was nothing unusual, and he slept through it like he usually did. But sometime on her way to the kitchen, Molly’s eyes on fallen on the old family clock and she had noticed something out of the ordinary. And then she screamed.
He had fallen out of bed, struggled with his robe and his wand for a good two minutes, before clamouring down the steps to his wife. She was in tears, one shaking finger pointing to the clock. And so he looked at the clock, hands coming to rest comfortingly on her shoulders as he tried to find the source of her distress. He saw it immediately. While the clock had many hands for the various members of the Weasley clan (and of those Molly had adopted along the way) and most of them were pointed to innocuous positions, there was one lone hand leaning to the far right. One lone hand pointing was to “Mortal Peril”, an occurrence that they had done without for almost eight whole years.
One lone hand bearing the image of a dreamy young woman with long blonde hair.
Harry had sent a message not too long after that. He hadn’t been there to talk to Harry; he had been too busy throwing on his clothes. Molly had taken the message, and it had done nothing to ease her nerves. Arthur barely managed to get brief details of the crisis before running out the door.
Luna Lovegood was in serious trouble. And so Arthur Weasley rushed like he had not rushed since the days of the war. Through the halls and down to his office, where hopefully Kingsley and the others were already gathering. They had so much to do, so much to do, and they might not get to do it because too much time had passed. It had been nearly half a day since the incident, that gave it much too long to steamroll out of control. But he could hope, against all hopes, that they could solve this cleanly.
He rushed and rushed, rounding the corner before finally having his office in his sights. Arthur fought the urge to sigh in relief, because there certainly wasn’t any reason for it. He would sigh in relief when Luna was home.
If they could get her home.
It took him a few seconds to clear the negative thoughts from his head before he continued on his way. He was refusing to think like that. He refused to give up. He hadn’t given up ever before, not even on that horrible day on the streets of Hogsmeade, and he wasn’t going to give up now. Luna was coming home, one way or the other.
He wrenched open the door to his office, stumbling to a pause when he discovered that it was already occupied. His partner Kingsley Shacklebolt was already at the front of the long wooden table, parchment and quills strewn all about him. Harry Potter stood at Kingsley’s right, vehemently jabbing his finger at one particular piece of parchment while saying something to the man on Kingsley’s left, Neville Longbottom. He spotted his two youngest children not too far from those three, Ron and Ginny standing closely to hold some whispered conversation. Ron was patting his sister’s shoulder in comfort, but both Weasleys looked drawn and worried. Hermione Granger Weasley was also present, and sitting closest to the door. She had stood to attention when he entered, her body turned his way, but her right hand gripping the shoulder of the only person in the room remaining seated.
There weren’t words to describe the look on Viktor Krum’s face, but Arthur wagered he had a pretty good idea how the young man felt. With his vacant expression, relaxed posture, and thoughtful expression, one could be fooled into thinking him to be quite calm. But Viktor Krum was anything but calm. How could he be? Not with Luna in this predicament. The man might be liable to blow, if push came to shove.
“Arthur,” Kingsley greeted him with a brisk nod, abruptly ending whatever argument Harry and Neville had been engaged in. All of a sudden, everyone had their eyes on him and he tried to manage a reassuring smile for them. He failed, stifled a sigh, and moved deeper into the room. He gave his daughter-in-law a warm look, patted Viktor’s shoulder in passing, briefly hugged his children, and shook hands with the other three men in the room before dropping into the nearest empty seat. He looked right at Kingsley.
“What can we do?”
“We get her out,” Harry replied for the older man. “We are not leaving her there.”
“Finally, something we can agree on,” Neville exclaimed, his face pinched with worry.
“Gentlemen, we have had this discussion,” Kingsley’s voice was hard and final. “There will not be any extraction of Miss Lovegood from that Muggle prison. It is not an option, so forget about it. We are in no position-”
The scream was sudden, but came just in time to alert the others. Kingsley, Harry, and Neville all looked to Hermione and at once saw the chair flying their way. All three men ducked for cover, the chair sailing over their heads to smash up against the wall behind them. Arthur swallowed deeply, in a vain attempt to push his heart back down in his chest where it belonged as all eyes went to the enraged Bulgarian Seeker by the door.
Eyes wide, chest heaving, lips curled back in an almost feral snarl, Viktor pointed accusingly at the three men at the front of the room. “YOU SENT HER THERE!”
Silence followed this shout of recrimination. Hermione would be the first to regain her voice, whispering calming words into her friend’s ear as she tried to ease him back into his chair. Her hands gripped his left arm tightly, giving him a gentle shake when he didn’t respond to her first request. Viktor turned his head her way and, after some moments of just staring at her, regained his calm. He took his seat shakily, his hands clenched tight into fists as he looked to the front of the room once again.
“You sent her there,” he repeated, quietly this time. “You must get her out.”
“If it were that simple, I assure you Mr. Krum, I would go collect her myself,” Kingsley said as he regained his footing. “But unfortunately it is not that simple. Had we caught this hours ago, when it first began, a mere extraction would not have been a problem. But this can no longer be considered a contained incident. The Muggle press has been all over this since it began, while we sat here unaware. Their news outlet, this CNN, has already done numerous segments on Miss Lovegood. Tell me, Mr. Krum, how would I go about determining every person who had seen this news and modifying their memories? Do you think we have that sort of power?”
“You can’t seriously be suggesting that we just leave her there!” Ron suddenly exploded. His son turned to him for help. “Dad, we can’t do that to her. She’s family!”
“I know son,” Arthur bit his lip and tried to think of the best way to phrase his words. “However, Kingsley is right in this instance. If we remove Luna right now, alter the memories of only a few, then we could have a larger mess on our hands. If Muggles began to question after her, only to find that half the original people involved can’t remember what they’re talking about, the hunt would be on for a renegade witch. Muggles would push and push, and that would put our entire world in a very precarious situation. At this time, simply hexing this mess away is not an option. But we are most certainly not leaving Luna there to rot. She has a wedding to attend, a ceremony in which she is vital, and I will be damned if she misses it.”
Eyes slid over to Viktor as he said this, but no one said anything on it. Instead Ginny stepped forward, pretty face set in determined lines. “Fine, we can’t just pull her out. What can we do? Have we even the jurisdiction to do anything? What of the American Ministry? What have they to say about this?”
“Surprisingly very little,” Kingsley muttered. “From the sole report they sent, they apparently toyed with the idea of disposing of Miss Lovegood before this nonsense got too far, but then they recognized her and thought better of the idea.”
“They were going to kill her?” Harry’s voice rose to thunderous levels.
“They considered the option,” Kingsley stated firmly. “It’s part of standard protocol concerning possible threats to the protection of the Wizarding World.”
“Then it’s a protocol in dire need of reworking,” Neville spat out.
Arthur managed a wane smile. “You wouldn’t be the first to suggest that,” he told the younger man.
“It’s on my list,” Kingsley added, a shade of irritation underlying his words. “But to answer young Miss Weasley’s questions, the American Ministry feels this has gotten far beyond their capabilities of containing. They hand responsibility for Miss Lovegood’s case over to us. It is up to us to decide what action must be taken.”
“If we can’t just take her out of there, then what action can we take?” Harry asked bitingly.
It was Hermione who answered. “We have to get her cleared on this misuse of magic charge,” she paused, seemingly collecting her thoughts. “If we can get this charge dropped, then it becomes a regular trial. Then we have less to worry about. Less media pressure, and no threat of a death sentence hanging over Luna’s head. Any action at that point would be considerably safer than at this juncture.”
“But how do we get these charges dropped?” Neville demanded.
“We play by the Muggle rulebook, that’s how,” Arthur gave Harry a grave look. “For a time, that might be all we can do. Anything else will just cause more difficult questions to arise. Muggles, fascinating creatures though they are, are also terribly stubborn about things like this. It is something they fear, and so they will want to get rid of the source of their fear before they attempt to move past it. It is their way.”
“Fine, we play by Muggle rules,” Ron cast a dark look around the room. “Anyone have any idea what those rules might be?”
Predictably, everyone turned their heads to look to Hermione. She pursed her lips thoughtfully before answering. “Well, they’ll try and appoint her a lawyer, because you can’t do anything in America without a lawyer. But she does have the right to chose her own legal counsel, so we have ourselves a cover story. But who can fit the bill? I don’t know nearly enough about American Muggle law to be able to pull this ruse off.”
“How about someone in the Muggle department?” Ginny suggested. “Certainly someone down there has devoted time to studying the Muggle legal system.”
“The American Ministry might also be some help with that,” Arthur added. “I’ll see if I can’t rustle up a suitable-”
“I am going.”
Arthur immediately shut his mouth and gave his attention to Viktor. The Bulgarian Wizard had risen to his feet and was staring defiantly at everyone in the room.
“I am going to her,” he repeated.
Hermione made a strangling sort of noise. “Viktor, I don’t-”
“I am going,” Viktor cut her off, making a slashing motion with his hand to indicate the end of the debate.
“And I’m taking him,” Harry added. “No offence Viktor, but you’d be useless at managing in Muggle society. I’m going with you, to keep a closer eye on the situation.”
“Fine, but that’s it,” Kingsley interjected quickly before the others could chime in as well. “The two of you will be allowed to go, but no one else. I need everyone else here. We have serious work to do.”
“Fine,” Harry agreed readily. Viktor nodded his agreement, and only Hermione seemed unsatisfied with the decision. But she said nothing about it, instead turning her attention back to the crisis at hand.
“All right, then let’s get started. The details, again, if you wouldn’t mind Kingsley . . .”
Interrogation rooms were fairly bland rooms. She supposed they were meant to inspire trepidation in suspects. Sitting in a confined room, surrounded by bleak grey walls, and struggling with the knowledge that people you couldn’t see were watching your every move. People got annoyed, tired, and even terrified in these rooms.
But Luna No-Last-Name seemed to find it very fascinating.
“It’s rather well-designed to be a child’s playroom, isn’t it? A table to do crafts on, and a large mirror to entertain one’s self with. Children can be awfully amused by their own reflections. I used to make faces at myself for hours, until my mother scolded me. She said my face would stay like that, and I believed her until Harry told me that it was a fib. Just a little lie that parents said to make their children behave properly. I was shocked. I didn’t see the need for fibbing. She could have just asked.”
“Uh-huh,” Anita pursed her lips and tried not to scream. She was a real card, this Luna girl. Anita might have even called her crazy, if she didn’t see the sanity in the woman’s eyes. There was no faking that. Insane people couldn’t disguise their eyes no matter how hard they tried. And Luna, while being extremely easily distracted, did not have crazy eyes. She had sane eyes; they just refused to focus on one thing for longer than eight seconds.
Luna had apparently taken her silence as a cue to resume singing her song about Kings and Weasels. It wasn’t a familiar song, and Anita couldn’t quite make out the words because Luna always managed to murmur and mumble her way through the lyrics so that they couldn’t be completely decipherable. Anita had initially suspected it was a trick by the young witch to see how far she could push the authorities. Of course, after having spent the last half an hour in this room with Luna and having nothing to show for it, Anita was beginning to suspect that everything this girl had done since her arrest was part of a well-calculated plot to drive the police insane.
“You requested to speak with me, Miss . . .” Anita trailed off.
Luna stopped her singing and gave Anita a dreamy sort of smile. “Just Luna, thank you please.”
Anita bit her lip. Standard response. This girl was not giving up her last name. “Fine, Luna. You asked to speak with me. What about?”
Luna looked fairly surprised. “Was I suppose to prepare a topic list?”
Anita blinked. “No, but you did have a reason for asking for me, right?”
“Oh yes, I wished to speak with you.”
“Well, I hadn’t given that much thought. I was just hoping to speak with you, but it’s been a dismal experience. You’re not very talkative, Miss Blake. I’ve been trying to engage in conversation since you arrived, but you just huff and puff and say nothing. Am I being boring? Do you have a favourite topic to discuss? We could talk about whatever you like. I’m very anxious to talk with you.”
Anita felt her left eye give a twitch. “You wanted to talk to me, because you just wanted to talk? The police station has a resident psychiatrist for that!”
“I know,” Luna said with a grave nod. “Quite a pushy little thing, she was. Kept asking about my personal life. I didn’t think it was any of her business.”
This was going nowhere, and fast. “Luna! Why are you wasting my time like this? What is it that you want from me?”
Luna didn’t give any indication that she was offset by the harsh tone of Anita’s voice. In fact, she just tilted her head to the side and stared openly at the petite brunette. “You’re a necromancer.”
Anita nodded, not sure where this was going. Her powers weren’t exactly secret in this day and age. Bert Vaughn, her boss, often took out big ads extolling her gifts to astronomical, and often aggravating, levels. “So?”
“Oh, it’s just I’ve only ever encountered one other person who performed necromancy, but you’re quite different from him. I mean, he was fairly unpleasant. And while you seem to lack basic etiquette for holding polite conversations, you’re infinitely better than him. Of course, it wasn’t that hard to be better than him.”
Anita said nothing, but her irritation was starting to build. Luna might have noticed this, because she finally moved the conversation towards relevant things. “Where have you taken Theodore?”
Theodore? Anita straightened up immediately. “Is that his name? The dead man’s?”
Luna nodded. “He’s being kept under close watch, right? He’s a bit slippery that one.”
“Knew him well?” Anita asked as innocently as possible.
“I went to school with him for about six years, but I couldn’t say that I knew him well,” Luna’s softened and lost some of its dreamy quality. “I went to school with him for six years.”
“And now you killed him,” Anita finished for her. “Why? Did he pick on you or something?”
“What?” Luna laughed. “Oh no, nothing so trivial as that. Well, he did make fun of me, but that’s besides the point. Almost everyone did. I was a bit of a joke at school.”
“You don’t say,” Anita replied dryly. “Then, you care to tell me why you killed him?”
“Well, he did try to kill me first,” Luna responded with a slightly indignant sniff. “And there was that whole mess with Sarah. Oh, how is she? She looked awful last night. Very overwrought.”
Sarah was the name of the witness from last night. The same witness who had to be taken to the hospital due to shock and was still unable to give them a proper statement about what happened. “Sarah’s all right,” Anita said with a shrug.
Luna frowned at her. “That’s a lie.”
Anita blinked and tried to cover her shock. “Why do you say that?”
“Because if she was all right, you’d be asking an entirely different set of questions right now,” Luna answered serenely. “But you’re not, so she must incapacitated in some way. Poor dear, she had such a rough night.”
“Well, Ole Theo had it worse,” Anita finally snapped. “Enough of this, whatever it is. Talk to me Luna, tell me what happened.”
“Because you aren’t ready to hear it. I thought you were, but once we got to talking, I realized that you weren’t. It’s a pity, but it can’t be helped.”
Anita closed her eyes and counted down from ten. How the hell Dolph managed to put with five minutes of this, let alone an hour, she will never know. Anita opened her eyes and looked to Luna, only to find the young woman appearing very pale and tired all of a sudden.
“What’s wrong with you?” She probably could have said it nicer.
Luna shrugged. “Hollowness.”
“Hollowness,” she repeated, but failed to elaborate.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Anita demanded.
And then she was back to smiling that infuriating smile again. “It means nothing, and everything. And once you understand, then you’ll truly understand what happened last night. But until then . . . I think this conversation is over. Thank you, Miss Blake, for taking the time out to
speak with me. I enjoyed it very much.”
She should have had a clever comeback for that. She always had clever comebacks for stuff like that. But she couldn’t manage it today. She wasn’t sure that she was feeling up to it, so maybe it was best to just leave it at that. She could save the snappy comeback for another day, another case.
It would just be wasted on Luna anyway.