The Crimson Chantrieri
“Bloody hell, Fred Weasley, if you send another bludger my way–”
“It’s not my fault you flew in front of it, Johnson–”
“I’ll have you running drills for a week–”
“Pipe down, the both of ya. We have another job.”
Angelina and Fred both turned to look at George, whose attention was on the coin sticking out of the pocket of his trousers in his change of clothes. Instantly serious, Angelina shut the door to the Ballycastle Bats Changing Room and cast a Quietening charm before George read the latest directive from their leader out loud as the other two pulled out their coins. The Baroness had used a Protean Charm on galleons to allow them to communicate, similar to their Dumbledore’s Army coins.
“Seven Apples. Three bludgers, three quaffles, and a Golden Snitch. Troll handoff, delivery in small waters.”
“Seven?! A snitch? We’ve never taken a baby before,” Fred said quietly, looking at his two partners with a frown. For all they argued, especially on the pitch, Angelina and Fred, along with his twin, George, were the best team of smugglers Hermione had. After Voldemort had succeeded in killing the Chosen One during the Battle of Hogwarts, muggleborns and those who had supported Harry were forced into hiding. Hermione, now known as the Baroness by everyone but those closest to her, continued Harry’s legacy by leading the rebellion against Voldemort, coordinating small scale attacks on strategic locations, rallying support, and smuggling muggleborns and allies to safer towns. While it had been difficult going back to playing Quidditch as if nothing had happened when the dust had settled after the battle, the trio had found that it provided them crucial opportunities to support the Baroness without suspicion. Travel had all but ground to a halt as Voldemort’s Snatchers patrolled borders unchecked, but Quidditch teams were some of the few who could travel more easily. Using an advanced Extension charm on the team’s trunk (compliments of the Baroness herself), they could smuggle those needing protection to safer towns as they traveled for matches. As the team beaters, Fred and George were the ones in charge of transporting the trunk for away matches, and Angelina, as captain, could ensure the proper preparations were made. The team had successfully relocated dozens of witches and wizards over the past year, though there had been some close calls with Death Eaters, whose presence at Quidditch matches was quickly becoming more frequent.
“We leave for Appleby tomorrow. That’s not enough time to make sure we’re ready for seven including a baby,” George mirrored his brother’s worry.
Angelina felt the same, but put a hand on his arm. “Hermione has always had reasons for what she does. If she says that we need to get seven witches and wizards and a baby to Little Brooking before the Appleby match, then it must be urgent.”
The twins shared a look before both nodded. The three finished changing out of their gear silently, pocketing their coins and exchanging one last look before leaving the Changing Room. With Voldemort in power, public gatherings had been limited, but Quidditch initially had remained fairly untouched. However, with the frequency of the rebellion’s attacks rising and the support for the resistance growing, the number of Death Eaters patrolling even the Quidditch practices had risen as well. The three silently walked past the two Death Eaters outside the pitch, keeping their heads down and avoiding eye contact. In the past, the twins wouldn’t have hesitated to use one of their pranks on the masked tossers, but their smuggling success demanded they keep out of any trouble that could draw unnecessary attention from the Dark Lord.
The twins and Angelina parted ways a few blocks down, and Angelina hurried to her flat, still unnerved by how quiet the streets were, but wanting the last bit of fresh air to help calm her racing thoughts about their new mission. Even though it was only late afternoon and the sun still up, gone were the noises of witches and wizards socializing in the streets, bartering over goods or laughing with friends. There were no official restrictions, but the increased presence of Snatchers and Death Eaters, along with the alarming rise in missing individuals, made walking the streets a rarity. Most only left their homes for work or necessary errands, and only during the day. She passed only two others on her ten minute walk, one of whom was another Death Eater. She again kept her head down, hoping to go unnoticed, but quickly realized his attention was on her. When she heard his footsteps following her, she ducked into a nearby shop, not wanting to lead him to her home and hoping that the presence of another would deter whatever he intended. Trying to calm her breathing, Angelina pretended to study the shelves in front of her, keeping her hand on her wand in her pocket. She heard the door open and shut again, quickly glancing around but seeing no shop owner, the slow steps of the Death Eater the only sound in the shop.
“You’re her, aren’t you?” a raspy voice drifted down the aisle.
Angelina took another deep breath before turning to answer. “Pardon?”
“The Quidditch captain. For the Bats.”
“Ah…yes. I am.” She gave a small smile before looking back at the shelves, picking up a vial and pretending to inspect it before putting it back.
“Been watching matches with my father since I was a wee lad. Always been a loyal fan, even during the rough years Big feat that, you being the first female captain.” The Death Eater’s seemingly kind words did nothing to ease the dread that filled her as he continued towards her.
Again, she gave him a quick smile before thanking him for his continued support, turning to walk the other way before stopping cold at his next words.
“Shame what the team has turned into, though.”
A door farther into the shop opened and closed as Angelina slowly turned, fixing her features into what she hoped was confusion. “I’m not sure what you’re referring to?”
He stopped a few feet from her, picking up the vial she had previously examined before fixing his icy gaze on her. “Those Weasley boys aren’t the best for the team’s image. Imagine letting them play freely as if their family didn’t stand against the Dark Lord, even housing that orphaned git before he died. Something ought to be done about that.”
Angelina felt heat rising on her cheeks. Not for the first time was she reminded that she had to hide her allegiance to use her position to further the rebellion’s cause, and not for the first time was she angered by the sacrifice the twins had had to make. They had stopped openly communicating with their family, presenting a devil-may-care attitude to the public, seemingly concerned with only Quidditch and having fun after the loss of their shop. Their only contact came through heavily coded notes and whispered messages passed along by those who knew the truth.
“I can assure you the twins’ allegiance is to the game and bringing pride back to Ballycastle. They would never do anything to compromise that, especially knowing how…generous the Dark Lord has been in allowing matches to continue.” Her voice caught on the last sentence, and she tried to cover it up by clearing her throat and looking him directly in the eyes.
“Can I help you find something, dearie?” A short, wizened witch walked up the aisle towards the two of them, seemingly unconcerned that one was a Death Eater as she straightened the vials on the shelves with small flicks of her wand.
The Death Eater ignored the old woman, grabbing Angelina’s arm before growling out, “Watch who you associate with, Captain. Some might get the wrong impression. The Dark Lord is watching,” before storming out the door.
Angelina held her breath as she counted to ten before turning to the shop owner, who watched her quietly. The kindly witch grabbed Angelina’s hand, slipping a vial into her palm before patting her arm and whispering, “Fear is not the same as loyalty. There are more of us than them. Remember that.” She directed Angelina to a back entrance that led out to an alley. After checking that no one was around, she apparated home as she should have from the beginning. She had to tell the Baroness and the twins about what had happened but felt stretched too thin to do anything at the moment. Closing her eyes, she sank to the floor, letting the chill from the ground settle her nerves. This wasn’t her first encounter with a Death Eater, but it was her first alone and the first that showed they had any suspicions. It could not be a coincidence that this happened right before their biggest mission to date.
Unsure how much time had passed, she clenched her fists as she prepared to sit back up, surprised by the vial she had forgotten was still in her hand. Looking down, she realized the kind shop owner had given her a calming draught. Without thinking, Angelina used the enchanted galleon to call Fred before downing the potion.
After attending the Yule Ball with Fred during their time at Hogwarts, they had remained close friends. There were frequent hints of flirtation between them, but the trauma of the final task of the Triwizard Tournament and everything that followed had prevented it from going any further. Though the attraction was still there, it had taken a back seat over the years to the more important issues at hand, and they had settled into what she could only describe as being as easy as breathing. Particularly after the Battle of Hogwarts and the subsequent months of rebuilding and finding the new norm, Fred’s easygoing nature and steadfast support quickly became a constant she heavily relied on. Having him at her side had been an immense help in finding her footing being in the public eye while still mourning the losses of their friends. Even their bickering on the pitch helped to ground her and keep the intrusive thoughts and worries at bay. And the twins’ ties to Hermione had helped to bring purpose back to her life, even during the darkest of days. Though not as close with George, he, too, had a comfortable relationship with her, often both tormenting her and comforting her like the brother she never wanted.
Still on the floor, Angelina startled when Fred apparated into her flat, looking around frantically for her. He slid down next to her as she pushed herself to a seated position. Uncharacteristically quiet, he watched her gather her thoughts as she restoppered the vial. After she placed it on the ground, he put a hand over hers while lifting her chin with the other with a gentleness he only showed when they were alone.
“Are you hurt?” he asked, glancing down at the vial.
“No. It’s a calming draught.” Angelina paused before whispering, “I think he knows.”
Fred looked at her, unsure of what she meant. She quickly recounted what had happened after they left practice, trying to ignore the anger growing more and more apparent on his face.
“He put his hands on you?!” Fred roared, lifting her sleeve to check for marks as she tried to pull away from him, assuring him she was fine. She stood and put some distance between them, trying to regain the control she typically had over her emotions. She was not one to show weakness, fighting her way to team captain in a sport still mostly dominated by males, both at Hogwarts and professionally. She did not show weakness when people made comments about the color of her skin, instead focusing on those who were in her life that supported her and her dreams. She did not show weakness the dozens of times they had risked their lives standing up to the Dark Lord and transported witches and wizards across borders.
“You don’t always have to be strong, you know.” The quiet voice made her turn around, and she noticed that Fred had been slowly moving closer to her. “It’s just me here.”
It all caught up to her then. All the losses, all the pressure, and then, what had happened today. Fred pulled her into his arms as she cried into his chest, whispering soothing words as they stood together in the middle of her flat. When she finally felt herself calming down, she realized what he had been saying.
Sniffling, she looked up. “You haven’t called me Angel in years.” It had been his nickname for her after they went to the Ball, but had quickly faded from use as their lives were upended with Voldemort’s return.
He smiled sadly as he wiped the tears from her cheeks. “You’ve still been my Angel all these years. I let you boss me around, don’t I?”
Angelina snorted, jabbing Fred in the stomach before resting her forehead on his chest. “What are we going to do?” she whispered.
Lifting her chin again, he rested his forehead against hers. “You…are going to eat and get some rest. You’ve been exhausted lately as it is and this didn’t help it any. We’ll talk about this in the morning with George.”
Neither of them moved. Angelina felt the effects of the draught starting to seep in as she realized Fred was still holding her. Feeling just a little bit free for the first time in as long as she could remember, she lifted her head to look at him. When he felt her stir, he started to let go, but she clutched the front of his shirt and he stopped, waiting for her lead. She felt the air shift then, felt the tension they so often ignored. Whether it was because of the jarring reminder of their vulnerability or simply the effects of the draught, or a combination of both, she didn’t want to keep pretending it wasn’t there.
“I…please…I don’t want to be alone tonight.”
For a few seconds, she wondered if Fred didn’t feel the same as her, his eyes searching her face for an answer to a question she wasn’t sure of. Just as she was about to try to salvage her pride and clarify that she meant he stay on the couch, his hands moved to cup her face as his lips carefully met hers. Years of holding back quickly shifted the kiss from gentle to frantic as both finally caved to their feelings. Fred trailed his hands along her waist before sliding them under her top. He pulled back, his eyes questioning. Without a word, she grabbed his hand and led him to her room, feeling lighter than she had in months as he closed the door behind them.
Angelina startled awake from the nightmare that haunted her almost nightly. It was later than she normally rose, the sun already coming up, yet she felt groggier than usual. Suddenly, everything from the day before came rushing back as she shook her head to clear away the last effects of the calming draught. It was only then that she noticed the soft snoring next to her. Fred looked innocent for once, without the mischievous smirk and playful glint in his eye that he usually wore. She gently ran a finger down his back before quietly getting out of bed, trying not to disturb him. Quickly getting dressed, she went out to her kitchen to make some tea only to stop short.
“Mooooorning.” George lounged against her sink with a mug in hand, an eyebrow raised as he glanced between her and her bedroom door.
Pretending he wasn’t there, she busied herself checking the kettle he had already used and putting it back on the stove, not turning around to avoid the questions she knew would come. She jumped when arms slid around her waist, then laughed as she heard George mutter, “Finally.” She turned to face Fred, still sleepy but grinning as he leaned down for a kiss.
“Took you two long enough.”
Ignoring his comment, she instead asked, “Why exactly are you in my kitchen, drinking my tea?”
“I messaged him last night, asking him to come over in the morning. We have to decide what we’re going to do.” Fred reached around her to take the kettle off as it started to whistle, pouring them each a mug before the three of them sat at the table. Angelina quickly filled George in on what happened in the shop, pausing only to cover Fred’s hand with hers as he tensed when she recounted the threatening words the Death Eater left her with. After a short discussion, the trio decided to go through with the mission, but it would be their last one for now. They needed to wait until suspicions subsided, then they could resume helping the rebellion.
Once they finished their tea, the twins disapparated back to their flat. The day before the match, the team would be meeting for a short practice and meeting before traveling to the other city, and the three of them showing up together would do nothing to quell the supposed suspicions. After the rest of the team headed home, the trio went through their usual preparations for a job. The twins switched out the team trunk for their enchanted one and checked over the spell while Angelina made last minute changes to their boarding. They restocked the provisions inside and put on their cloaks, pulling up their hoods before apparating to a bridge on the outskirts of town.
Troll was the codename of a supporter who would sometimes house those on the run before the move as his house was far from any others and, of course, near a bridge. He quickly let them in, looking around before shutting the door. Leading them to the basement through a hidden door, he didn’t say a word, merely nodding at them once as he unlocked a second door before heading back upstairs. Inside, the trio found the three couples and baby, scared but hopeful. They went over ground rules, explained the plan, and what to do in case of an emergency. Once they situated the seven in the trunk, they disapparated back to the team Changing Room. Shedding their cloaks, they changed into the team travel gear before apparating to Little Brooking, a small town next to Appleby. Angelina had arranged for them to stay at an inn there for the night, using the excuse that the twins needed to be removed from the temptation of too much fun with their teammates the night before a match, and as Captain, she needed to make sure they made it to Appleby in time while the others could keep each other accountable. The rest of the team spent the night in Appleby, accepting her reason without question as the twins had enjoyed themselves too much before a few matches to convince the team they couldn't stay in the same inn, playing into their carefree reputations. They checked into their rooms, across the hall from each other, before changing out of their team gear to avoid notice. Angelina met the twins in their room to get ready for the final handoff. They would apparate to the alley behind a pub but would have to walk a bit to reach the safe house as it was heavily enchanted and they could not apparate directly in. This was the part that worried Angelina the most, as it left them in the open long enough to be noticed. A few times, she had had to come up with reasons as to why a Quidditch trunk was being carried around away from the pitch, but so far no one had probed too deeply. It was a small town after all.
After giving Fred a quick kiss and ignoring George’s, “Where’s mine?,” Angelina took a deep breath before disapparating first to stand as a lookout. She noticed a few wandering out of the pub, but no one seemed suspicious. She heard the telltale pop as the twins apparated behind her and listened to their footsteps quickly fade as they headed further into the alley. Just when she thought they were in the clear, she noticed a few men separating from the shadows of the buildings and walking towards her. Her heart leapt to her throat as it registered that they were Snatchers. She considered trying to lead them away from the twins but they were already closing in, blocking off any escape away from the alley and forcing her farther in. Calming herself, she was about to attempt to distract them by asking for directions when a Death Eater rounded the corner. Her blood ran cold as she realized it was the same one from the shop. A thousand questions flashed through her mind but the thought that kept coming back to her was, “They found us.”
The Death Eater raised his wand as he advanced, but stopped as the Snatcher next to him went flying through the air. Sparks flew through the street as Snatchers scrambled for cover. Angelina couldn’t tell where the attacks were coming from but she wasn’t going to stick around to find out. She bolted down the alley, hoping the twins had already delivered the trunk. Yelling followed her as she ducked into door frames for cover, casting spells haphazardly behind her as she ran. The twins were running back up the alley and she belatedly noticed they did not have the trunk. She turned to look behind her but slammed to the ground as pain seared through her leg. Angelina tried to yell at the twins to leave as she dragged herself behind an overturned cart. Instead, she saw them share a look before George pulled out his wand and both apparated to her.
“You two need to leave. Now. Get out of here.” She grimaced against the pain, afraid to look at her leg as Fred bent to pick her up.
“Angel. You know I can’t leave–”
“Pipe down, the both of ya, and get out of here.” George cast another spell before turning back to them. “Take care of my brother, will ya?”
Fred and Angelina understood too late what his plan was as George ran out, sparks flying from his wand. Angelina cried out as she saw George fly backwards, knowing he was gone before he hit the ground. Fred staggered forward as if to go to his twin, so she quickly apparated them to the first place she could think of.
She screamed as the sudden movement magnified the pain in her leg. Once it subsided, she crawled over to Fred, cradling his head and chanting, “I’m so sorry,” over and over. After a few minutes, he lifted his head from her lap. “Bloody hell, that’s right, you’re hurt.” He pulled out his wand and cast a quick bandaging charm before pulling her into his lap. She cupped his face in her hands, forcing him to look at her.
“I’m so sorry. I know you didn’t want to leave him but–”
He covered her hands with his own. “I know. If we didn’t leave, he’d have died for nothing. I know. I just…need some time.” He kissed each of her palms before gathering her to his chest as he lay back in the grass. They lay together in silence, Angelina listening to Fred’s heartbeat slowly return to normal as he gently rubbed her back.
“Where are we, by the way?”
She pushed herself off his chest, wincing as she shifted her injured leg, and he sat up, leaning back on his elbows. “It’s a forest we used to visit on holiday when I was a girl. I hated coming out here because there was nothing to do as a little kid. There would never be anyone else around. My parents loved it.”
“I can see why. It’s peaceful.”
“And hopefully safe. Seems like there still isn’t anyone around. There should be a cabin somewhere nearby. I think I overshot it since it’s been years since we were last here. We can stay here while my leg heals, then figure out how to get back to Hermione and your family.”
Fred nodded and lay back in the grass, but didn’t say anything. Angelina lay down beside him, processing all that had happened in the last hour. Her Quidditch career was over, they were on the run from the Dark Lord, and George was gone. A sob caught in her throat as the image of George falling replayed itself in her mind. She felt Fred grab her hand and squeeze it before pulling it onto his chest. Sorrow flowed through her and she let it, riding it out until it subsided. As she caught her breath, she realized that there was a freedom in being caught. No more pretending, no more secrecy, no more fake smiles and supposed loyalties. Though she had no idea what the future held, and she knew it would not be easy or anywhere near safe, there was a peace in knowing she could be herself again. She was no longer Angelina Johnson, Captain of the Ballycastle Bats, a public figure who could do nothing publicly to help her friends and the rebellion. She was Angelina Johnson, rebel.