Chapter Two: Three-Ring Circus
Disclaimer: Not mine! Characters, locations, pretty much everything
to someone who isn't me and I'm still poor. How unjust.
Author's Note: The bunnies decided that No Such Place has a plot,
all. It's hardly a happy one. In fact, it's rather bleak.
at every turn. Also note that war is not good for the psyche. He's
in a very good mood...
Summary: A day in the life of Charlie Weasley! Meet the
discover a softer side of Kate. Also beware of the darkness that is
Mirrors on the ceiling
Pink champagne on ice
And she said,
"We are all just prisoners here
Of our own device."
-Eagles, Hotel California
The next morning, Charlie was up very early, owing to the fact that
had to work. Kate was still asleep on the sofa bed when he started
coffee, which he left stewing while he had a shower. By the time he
done, however, Kate was quite awake.
"'Morning, Charlie," she said cheerfully, passing him a plate of
He smiled. Whatever else you said about Kate, the fact remained that
was a fabulous cook.
"Good morning," he replied. "I thought you cooked for no man," he
referring to the time he had commented on how strange it was that
had tried to marry her yet. While other women would have been
Kate had laughed at him and told him exactly why she wasn't
Kate faked a hurt look. "If you don't want your breakfast, Charlie,
say so." She moved to take it away.
He kept it out of her reach. "Oh, don't worry. It's just fine where
Her reply came by way of a rather typical snort of laughter. She
at her watch. "Wonderful. Another twenty minutes before work." She
her nose; for a bureaucrat, Kate was a very unbureaucratic person.
if I use your facilities?"
"Go ahead," he said distractedly. Something had just occurred to
Something ugly. "Kate, when you leave, will you take the Floo
he asked abruptly, scribbling something on a piece of paper and
it to her. "The password," he explained at her confused look. It
into heatless flames. "Just promise me you won't walk and Apparate.
after what happened yesterday."
Shaking her head at his paranoia, she finally conceded, "Whatever
He sighed. If she'd only meant that, it would be so much easier to
her out of trouble. Unfortunately, while you could try to keep the
away from mischief, it had a way of catching up to Kate. "Thanks."
his eyes lit upon the clock, whose time now read, 'You're going to
late!' "Looks like I've got to fly." He Summoned his broomstick and
Cloak. "Bye, Kate!" He left through the kitchen window again, just
hearing Kate's farewell before it was lost to the howling wind.
It was a lucky thing, Charlie thought, that his clock was five
fast. He made it to F.L.A.M.E. HQ with moments to spare, propped his
up in the space reserved for him, and ran his fingers through his
"Cutting it a little close today, aren't we, Red?" Charlie turned
the voice of his sister-in-law Angelina Johnson-Weasley, formerly of
"What are you talking about? I had plenty of time!"
Angelina laughed as her point was proved by the automatic
of the security wards. They remained open for only twenty minutes
shifts, so if you were late- tough luck; it was the nightshift for
to make up for it.
"So where's Patterson?" Charlie asked as the two of them navigated
maze of corridors, heading for their conference chamber. He was
of course, to Agnes Patterson, their supervisor and Angelina's
"What, you hadn't heard?" She tutted at him. "Maybe you should pay
attention. Her pregnancy leave started Monday."
"Pregnancy leave!" Charlie exclaimed, wondering once again what it
with happy couples that made them have children. (His tentative
leant towards masochistic tendencies.) "Good Merlin. What a time to
a baby." He wondered if this many people were always having children
if he simply found it remarkable because of the war.
"I'm sure Aggie was thinking much the same thing." They reached the
chamber and slid into their respective seats. Because Charlie had
he was closest to the head of the table. "Any idea what topics we're
Charlie pressed his lips together. He did, in fact, have some idea.
we've got to get a new member and another commander, presumably." In
with traditional Quidditch teams, F.L.A.M.E. squads were limited to
members, plus their pygmy dragon familiars. "Riley will probably
captain. He's been working overtime a lot." Not to mention that
was as natural a leader as Percy was an office rat. He did not
the suspicions he had concerning a certain Hogwarts professor;
thought he was biased, anyway.
Sure enough, when the Unspeakable in Charge stepped into the room,
was to announce what Charlie had predicted. Then Riley took over the
of the meeting.
Riley was your stereotypical Elf. Actually, most Elvish stereotypes
probably based on him. He was the entire reason behind the common
that the species were nymphomaniacs. Riley had been propositioned by
nuns. Kate had commented on this once. She'd said, "Riley's the one
mother warned you about, but you never regretted." Charlie couldn't
from experience, but he had to wonder if Kate could. Contemplating
was not likely to get Charlie anywhere except for really hacked off,
he skipped it and started listening.
"First off," said the Elf, twitching one pointed ear almost
"I've got the pleasure of introducing our newest team member. He's
from Romania, and he knows just as much about dragons as our current
Riley nodded at Charlie, apparently sensing his curiosity. Charlie
if he'd met the new member before. "Now you've got two people you
go to if your familiar gets a throat infection." There were
chuckles around the table. Every one of them had been reprimanded by
at least once for not taking proper care of their partners.
The door opened again and in stepped a tall, severe-looking man
Charlie's age. Charlie knew he had seen him before, but the man's
and identity seemed just out of reach behind some old boxes on a
in his mind. "May I introduce Corporal Jonathan Chortos."
Against his will, Charlie's fists clenched. He stared defiantly up
the other man, stubbornly resisting the urge to stand up and commit
of physical violence. This man. He was sure that he was showing
of the legendary Weasley temper, but didn't care. This man was the
of his best friend's misery. Charlie felt like he needed to spit.
Instead of offering the usual tokens of welcome, the room's
was focused on Charlie. "Something wrong, Lieutenant Weasley?" Riley
his voice steely.
Yes. The bastard hurt my friend. I need to make him pay. But
would not let himself be so easily embarrassed. "Sir." It was all
affirmative Charlie felt he could give without ranting.
"Is it going to be a problem?"
"No, sir." The words tasted bitter on his lips. But again, it was
only answer he could give. Like hell there's not.
Riley nodded; Charlie knew he would be approached again later, as
equal and a friend rather than a subordinate officer. "Good. Next
of business-" He conjured a diagram not unlike that of a Quidditch
numbered and labeled. "Tactics. Let's face it, even though the Death
are a lot stupider this time around, we need some new ones. Now I
to start out by giving you homework, but tactics are tactics- I want
of you to draw up a similar diagram of how three or four of you
capture five of them. I'll be reviewing that tomorrow. Then
the block on Thursday we'll polish them up, see what works and what
Charlie made a few notes in the margin of his agenda, adding
almost as an afterthought. It was basically a controlled simulation
complete with actors, for use in practicing for uncontrolled
"Now," Riley continued, snapping his fingers and causing the
to disappear, "who can tell me what this is?" A casual flick of his
had a bubbling purple vial in his hand.
Angelina peered at it overtop of her reading glasses. Jonathan just
confused. Had Charlie been more inclined to give the man a break, he
have conceded that Riley, nervous as Charlie knew he was, whether he
it or not, had the tendency to jump topics rather rapidly.
Nonetheless, Charlie had seen a similar vial at the last meeting of
Order of the Phoenix cell. "It's a vaccine," he said. "Against the
The small conference room buzzed with a few confused voices.
said Riley, nodding at Charlie. "It's a method of preventing
Believe it or not, it does have a practical use." Another diagram
up behind him. This one was titled 'The Effects of the Dormius Curse
the Wizard Population.' Not very concise, Charlie thought, although
particular thought was short-lived. It was quickly pushed out of the
with concern for his friends- namely, Kate, who had been exposed to
Dormius Curse just a day previously. He was suddenly itching to get
of the council chamber.
"As you can see," Riley continued, "exposure to the Dormius Curse
have severe effects on the mental health of wizards. Approximately a
after exposure they start having nightmares. As far as we can tell
are not unusually severe." Breathing a mental sigh of relief for
mercies, Charlie made a mental note to keep a closer eye on Kate. "A
after that, victims start getting careless. They experience chronic
and loss of appetite. Brain activity jumps; the victim becomes
and socially reclusive." Apparently there was also bad news. Charlie
paranoid and reclusive enough for two people already.
Riley snapped his fingers again. The display disappeared. "So what
this mean for you?" He sank down into a chair and covered his eyes
his hand. "It means all of you are in more danger than I thought. At
half of you have been exposed, at one time or another, to the
Curse. In this line of work, any of the symptoms could be fatal. So
you're deathly allergic to any of the ingredients on this list-" Yet
diagram popped up, plain text instead of graphs this time- "your
are tomorrow." The Elf seemed to deflate, rubbing a hand over his
"...And I'm supposed to just sit here and watch it happen?" Charlie
unhappily. "I'm telling you, Riley, I don't know if I can work with
guy. Not knowing what he did. If Kate finds out-" He sighed in
He knew how that sentence was predestined to end. If Kate found out
her ex-flame was in England, she would be gone before he could even
goodbye. On the other hand, he couldn't just not tell her...
"I know what you're thinking," Riley interrupted. "And you can't
her, anyway, Charlie, because it violates your job security, so you
as well quit worrying."
"But if Kate finds out what I'm keeping from her, she'll kill me,"
said, unable to accept Riley's simple solution. And then she'll
England forever, like she left Romania, and Merlin knows how I'd
without her. Not that that was even relevant, because he'd be
Riley was shaking his head at him. "You can't tell her. I hate to
my authority, but I forbid it."
Charlie didn't bother trying to convince him otherwise. He had
it coming, even deliberately pushed Riley towards it to avoid having
make a decision.
"As for Jonathan," the Elf continued. Charlie winced. "Don't sweat
he said. "You're with Angelina and me. Let Oliver deal with him. And
if he washes out..." Riley shrugged. "We get a new team member and
happy again. End of story."
Charlie was about to protest that it wasn't a very happy ending
the emergency siren sounded. Riley got to his feet and clapped his
"Sector twenty-one, everyone!" he called loudly, glancing up at the
"Brooms and familiars, let's go!"
Charlie's brain was still processing wildly. Sector twenty-one. Oh,
they'd hit King's Cross.
The team arrived under cover of Stealth Charms, dragons included,
standard four-point formation: Riley front and center with Angelina
Charlie on either side, Jonathan and their second-newest member, a
ex-archaeologist called Callie Callahan, just behind and between
Ex-secretary Alison Bardot and Quidditch fanatic Oliver Wood guarded
backs, their dragons flying to their right and left rear
Pygmy dragons, much as Charlie hated to abuse their immunity, made
good shields and so generally flew just to the outside of the
and half a wingspan behind their familiar.
He realized that they were a somewhat perverse group of misfits.
were none of them innocent, with the possible exception of Oliver,
all very angry. He even let himself remember for a moment that most
them had started out as washouts from more regular professions,
for anger management problems. By all appearances, they had come a
way, but inside-
Angelina had watched her best friend die at the hands of Lucius
Charlie had been unable to get there in time to stop anything from
and could only to testify against him later in court. But of course
had gone free; Malfoys were always going free…
Callie, tried and tested in colorful curses, had been discharged
her post as a head researcher following an inquiry into sexual
although she had not been the defendant of said inquiry. After
her assault case, she'd been dismissed. She'd sued for wrongful
but was still awaiting a court date.
It was generally assumed that Riley had disobeyed orders and that
was what had gotten him into the F.L.A.M.E. Nobody had the courage
ask him. An Elf with secrets was an Elf with a past, after all.
really knew what Oliver was doing there, either. There was some
that he had a rival Quidditch player that had joined the Dark
It didn't seem very likely, however. Aside from the strangeness of
fact that he had joined the team at all, Oliver was probably the
normal of the whole bunch. Alison Bardot had quit her job because of
ridiculous amount of stress in her ridiculously unimportant
She'd been working under Percy and had had quite enough of
Charlie already knew what Jonathan had done wrong. And as for
But there was no time; they were landing. Charlie had noted when
taken off that once again Riley was flying without an escort. Now,
on the scene of another horrendous crime, he filed it away for
in case the Elf got himself in a bind, which he seemed prone to
The train station below him looked like the alley in Muggle London
have looked like after being blown apart by Peter Pettigrew all
years ago, only on a much larger scale. People were everywhere; most
many not. Somewhere a baby was crying. Charlie had a bad moment when
remembered the arrival of Sirius and Anya's first child a few weeks
then relaxed slightly when he started discerning words among those
Between platforms seven and eight were the Death Eaters. There were
of them, by the looks of things, sinister and black-robed. They had
noticed the slight distortion in the sky to the south, and had no
of knowing that a temporary Apparition ward was about to make their
miserable. While the ward could last only a few minutes without an
permit, it was usually enough time for a short confrontation- just
enough that, if the team was in a bad situation, they could still
The Death Eaters were surrounded by enough evidence to condemn them
a Dementor's Kiss at least once, had the Dementors still been on the
side. The carnage was disgusting, even from a distance of thirty
Angel grunted restlessly beside Charlie; he flew without hands for a
to pat her reassuringly on the flank.
And then they landed. By default, the Stealth Charms terminated the
one set foot on the ground. Because of this, squads spent some time
week coordinating landings so that the Enemy got as little warning
possible. Charlie would have worried about Jonathan's landing, but
do so would go against his instinctive dislike of the man. The
he washed out and went back to Romania, the better. For better or
worse, though, the landing was as uneventful as the takeoff had
at least until the Death Eaters noticed they were surrounded.
The dragons guarded their backs as the Death Eaters formed a tight
and began throwing curses in every direction. This was their
Charlie realized, ducking under a blue-tinted Imperius Curse.
multica!" he countered, but it was blocked. The Death Eaters
point their wands in any direction, but the F.L.A.M.E.s had to be
not to miss and hit members of their own team. Charlie threw off
curse and cast an Impedimentia hex, wondering why the Death Eaters
just Disapparate. The ward had surely worn off by this time.
"Gyrus Flammare!" he shouted, trying to buy himself a few
moments to figure out the mystery. There were only two reasons he
think of for prolonging the inevitable like this. Either it's a
but I know there are no other Death Eaters or Dark Arts being
in the area- He glanced up at Angel to make sure that he did, in
know this, and was not disappointed. Or else they're just keeping
busy, preventing us from being somewhere else. But where?
And suddenly, Charlie knew. "It's a trick," he yelled, stepping
in the circle. Not much had changed since the beginning of the
Callie was sporting a nasty bruise; on the other hand, one of the
Eaters seemed to have been rendered completely boneless. Probably
work; she had a penchant for spells like that one and an odd talent
"Oh really?" shouted Riley back sarcastically. "What tipped you
He blocked another curse, sending a second Death Eater sprawling.
third Disapparated before another spell could be cast.
"This was a decoy," Charlie explained to the rest of the group as
caught their breath. "What do you want to bet that a quiet but more
attack is taking place somewhere else right now?"
Angelina, being the youngest, understood first. What color could
out of her face, did. She looked very ill. "You don't think that-"
Charlie interrupted, "I think we should get back to HQ, and fast."
slight injuries, they made the flight in record time.
It was something of an embarrassment, though also a relief, to
to find that the grounds at Hogwarts were still quite secure.
could not shake the feeling that there had been an attack somewhere,
the message board showed nothing. The Cleanup Crew returned from
Cross with the two captives and nothing further to report; Charlie
to wonder if the Dark Forces' new plan was to keep him in a state of
until he died. There seemed to be little evidence of even this,
made Charlie distrust the situation further.
There were no further alerts that day, but Charlie went home tired
distraught, still lost in the complexity of his thoughts.
Instead of flying home directly, he decided to stop by George's
in Diagon Alley. The Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes chain was doing well,
two large warehouses (Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley) and the week
they had bought out Zonko's, taking over the chain they had earned
first detentions for. Fred preferred to work in Hogsmeade because he
playing tricks on his Hogwarts patrons; George had taken
for the other branch because his Katie lived in London. So far, he
actually admitted that this was the reason he had taken over the
Alley shop, but Charlie figured it was only a matter of time.
He was pleasantly surprised upon arriving to find both of his twin
there, entertaining a customer. It was difficult to discern what
she was doing in George's shop: she was at least eighty and, in
mind, didn't seem the type to be buying supplies for practical
However, she had evidently bought something; she had a very full
bag adorned with three familiar interlocking Ws. "Bye now, dears,"
called to Fred and George as Charlie approached the counter.
The twins waved a cheerful goodbye. "See you next week, Ms.
George yelled after her. When she'd gone, they turned their
"Friend of yours?" he asked with a sardonic but half-felt grin,
a few bags of Feel-Good Fizzbees on the countertop. They were the
new candy since the war, tending to give an emotional and physical
Charlie's first experience with them had left him semi-addicted; he
them constantly because alcohol, the other solution, was a
"Every Monday without fail," Fred answered with a grin. "She's
with George." He eyed the packages skeptically. "Ouch, Charlie.
your addiction? Bad day at work?"
Charlie could tell that Fred was genuinely concerned, though
more for Anglina than him. "Not as such," he replied, setting the
amount of money on the counter. "Just unusual."
George, to his credit, said nothing. The secrecy of Charlie's job
been a sore spot with his family since it had begun, and the fact
Fred knew about it only compounded their frustration with him.
Fred seemed about to ask more, but held back for George's
sake. "Right. Look, these aren't good for you. Much as it is
of me to say so, I think you ought to learn to live without them."
Perhaps partially because his day had been more trying than he'd
Charlie was not in the mood to be patronized. He didn't bother to
his tone light. "Give me the candy, Fred."
His brother pushed the bags at him wordlessly. Charlie tossed them
his rucksack and started for the door. "Mum wants you to owl!" he
George yell before it closed behind him. Then, quieter, "What's
He felt Fred's puzzled, calculating gaze on him, but he didn't turn
"Charles Weasley! Open this door right now!"
Charlie groaned and put his head under his pillow. The last thing
was planning on doing was answering the door. Although, if he
about it, he wasn't going to let Kate keep pounding on it like that.
of all, he wasn't sure any enchantment could keep his the door
against an incensed Australian, and secondly, it was likely to give
a monster of a headache. Luckily, he didn't have to do anything;
had her own key.
"I'm coming in! You had better not be drunk!" There was a slight
He snorted. Typical Kate.
His amusement was short-lived, however, because she'd just slammed
door to his apartment and she looked even angrier than she sounded.
Kate stopped in front of him, crossed her arms, and sighed. The
drained from her face. "What are you doing to yourself,
Somehow she always made him feel like a disobedient child. He
uncomfortably under her gaze and stared down at the top of his
table, or rather, he stared down at what was preventing him from
the surface of his coffee table. It was littered with newspapers,
ink, scratchpads, and several candy wrappers. Realizing that Kate
not to know any of what happened to be scribbled on those valuable
he cast a charm to close them all. "Nothing," he answered sullenly.
She made a very exasperated sound and dropped onto the couch beside
Ignoring the organized chaos of the spread of newspapers, she put
feet up on them, thus forcing Charlie to look at her.
Kate honestly wasn't angry, he found. She was just concerned.
if you're working to alienate family members, you're doing really
She held out a piece of parchment to him, but snatched it away
he could read it. "Your mother sent this by owl post today. Arthur
she's beside herself with not knowing what's wrong with you. You
as well spill the beans, because if you don't, more people are just
to get hurt."
It was amazing, the way she could patronize, wheedle, and guilt
a person into doing something. Charlie supposed that that was why
was meant for an office job, after all. She could probably convince
Dumbledore and Malfoy into reelecting Cornelius Fudge as Minister of
Well, maybe that was overdoing it a bit. Maybe she only had supreme
over him. "I can't tell you, Kate. We've been over this."
"Not this exactly," she contradicted. "We've been over your job.
can't tell me. Fine; I respect that. For now, at least. But you're
everybody off, Charlie. I do talk to the rest of your family, you
Probably more than you do. That has to change."
He sighed. She had a point, he had to admit. But sometimes it
that it was always the people close to you that got hit first- the
day's incidents proved that. Why not distance oneself? "It's
he heard himself say. "Not only for me."
"Don't go all noble on me," Kate retorted, beginning to show signs
recurring anger. "Unlike us less fortunate humans, you have a
who cares about you. Don't you care what you're doing to them?
tearing them apart!"
"So I should just let them get hurt physically, is that it?" he
back. If she was itching for a row, he was certainly up to the
"Right, Charlie," she said scathingly. "Because it's only them
concerned about. Of course. That was apparent."
No, Charlie thought in a moment of stinging clarity. It's
only them. "Leave it alone, Kate. It's obvious that you don't
what you're talking about."
"No, I don't." The admission surprised him; he blinked and searched
face for clues to her new tactics. "I don't know what I'm talking
Charlie. Go on, then. Enlighten me."
He knew he'd lost. It happened a lot with Kate, although to be
he didn't generally feel very good about himself when he won. "All
Charlie conceded finally. "I'll owl Mum, if that's what you really
"Not what I want," she reproved him gently. "What you need.
the point of having a mother is using her shamelessly to make
feel better. In your case, however, might I suggest apologizing
Charlie managed a wry grin. "Okay, I get the point. Me bad, you
I'll serve my punishment tomorrow. Happy?"
"Quite." Kate managed a very smug look, drew her feet up on the
and stretched her legs out so that they were across his lap. "Got
They had been sitting there for close to two hours, eating
soup and watching a documentary on John Fowles on Charlie's
and just making idle chat when a sleek, professional-looking gray
lit on the windowsill.
Kate removed her legs from Charlie's lap. "Look alive, sleepyhead.
He got up and went to the window, saw the Order of the Phoenix seal
the scroll, and opened the window. The owl flew down and settled on
perch in the kitchen beside Woodstock as if it owned the place. It
out its leg importantly.
Charlie untied the message and brought it back to the living room.
it from?" Kate asked curiously, stretching her legs over him again
he sat down.
He shook his head. "I don't know yet." I don't think it's
good news, either. Charlie reached for his wand and touched it
the seal, which began recognizing him. It flashed green and
"Good idea, that," Kate said approvingly. To her credit, she didn't
try to look over his shoulder.
But Charlie stopped paying attention as he read the letter, feeling
bottom drop out of his stomach. His blood turned cold, then began
furiously in his veins. He felt his eyes stinging and found that, in
he was crying. Under other circumstances this might have alarmed
but now he noted it with a curious sort of detachment, because it
really matter. It was immaterial. It didn't matter, nothing
did mattered, all was forsaken; they didn't have a chance.
"Charlie?" Kate said softly, breaking into his thoughts. She
unsettled and sympathetic. But that didn't matter, either. "What is
She drew her feet up and knelt next to him on the sofa.
Through the terrible haze that flooded his mind, he managed to get
eyes to function properly. He looked up, trying to safeguard against
sensation that all emotion was leaving him. He felt at the same time
strange desire to experience pain and the desire to experience
again. "It's Dumbledore," he said fiercely, but the words thudded
in the room because they didn't matter, either. He fought against
lump that wanted to form in his throat. "He's gone."
End part two.