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Portmanteau by Arithmancy_Wiz
Format: Short story
Chapter 7: Chapter Six: Restricted
Chapter Six: Restricted
Malachi Madrigal was an unremarkable-looking man. He was the kind of person that was easy to miss, disappearing into his surroundings like a piece of furniture. He was small, on the younger side of forty, with thinning blonde hair that seemed out of place on top of his very boyish face. He wasn’t fat but his middle seemed to be going soft and doughy, like a teddy bear with half the stuffing missing. With his misshapen wire-rim glasses and well-worn leather briefcase, Malachi Madrigal was totally and utterly ordinary.
Only he very much wasn’t.
Malachi had a very unordinary job with a very unordinary mission. And though she didn’t know it yet, Malachi would very soon turn Kate’s world upside-down.
It was Thursday. Kate had now been in London for two weeks with little to show for it. She hadn’t seen Charlie since they parted ways outside the pub, and though she had written to Henry several times, filling him in on her general lack of progress, she had yet to receive a reply. And now she was once again waiting in line at Ministry security, preparing to start another day of what was quickly proving to be fruitless research.
The now familiar woman behind the desk motioned for Kate to step forward. She dutifully furnished her wand for weighing, her hand remaining outstretched to receive it back, along with the small visitor’s badge she was required to keep pinned to the front of her shirt. But for the first time, the woman behind the desk hesitated.
“I’m sorry, Miss,” she said, her eyes bouncing between the small gold scale and Kate’s face. “I can’t let you in today.”
“What?” Kate asked. “Why not?”
The woman starred down at her hand, which clutched a small rectangular piece of paper that had been ejected like a ticket from the base of the scales.
“I’m afraid I don’t know that, Miss,” she said, her tone one of rehearsed placation. “I just do what the scales direct. Perhaps you can try again next week—”
“Next week?” Kate repeated back at her. “But I don’t understand. I’ve been in and out of here near a dozen times already. What’s the sudden problem?”
Kate’s voice must have gotten louder than she realized for the man seated against the far wall behind the counter set down his copy of the Daily Prophet and began eyeing her suspiciously.
“Like I said, Miss, they don’t tell me anything more than I need to know. Your wand has been flagged for restriction and I’m afraid that means I can’t let you in.”
“They who?” Kate demanded. “Who’s restricted my wand?”
“Is there a problem here?” The man with the newspaper was now standing beside the security woman, his arms folded across his chest.
The woman whispered something in the man’s ear and handed him the slip of paper. Kate leaned over the desk, trying to read it along with him.
Katherine Elizabeth Wiggins
Wand: holly, unicorn hair, 10 ½ inches, 12 yrs
Access: Denied, Pty 5 - DMLE
“DMLE? What does that mean?” Kate asked.
“Department of Magical Law Enforcement,” the man said. “Seems they’ve put you on a Priority Five. That’s a temporary access restriction. No unsupervised entry into the Ministry.”
“But for what? This is ridiculous. I haven’t done anything.”
“You’ll have to take it up with them, Ma’am,” the man said.
“And just how exactly do I do that?” Kate snapped. She was really loosing patience now. This was absolutely absurd.
“There’s a form,” the woman began. “You can file it with Records and Inquiries. It usually takes about two to three weeks—”
“Two to three weeks? That’s not good enough. I’ve got a hearing. Someone needs to correct this. Now.”
Again the security woman whispered something in the man’s ear. After a moment he nodded.
“Have it your way,” he said to Kate. “But the wand stays here.”
Kate followed the man to the lifts, stopping when they arrived on Level Two. He ushered her out and down a long corridor lined with heavy doors, each fitted with rather imposing locks. Near the very end of the hall he stopped, rapping a thick knuckle on the last door on the left. After a long pause – seemingly satisfied there was no one inside – the man reached into the pocket of his dark purple robes and extracted his wand, tapping twice on the door. It swung open and he gestured her inside.
“You’re to wait here,” he said. “You’re not to go off unsupervised. Understand?”
“Wonderful,” Kate replied, looking around. The room was completely empty save for a small table and two chairs set in the center. There were no windows, nothing hanging on the walls. Everything was painted a dull beige. It was like a prison cell, Kate thought ominously, but quickly realized that wasn’t quite right. It was an interrogation room.
“You’ve got to be kidding—” Kate began, spinning around to face the man.
But he was already gone, the door shut silently behind him.
When she reached out to open it again, Kate found there was no knob -no latch – any visible way to open the door from the inside. She was trapped.
“Hey,” she cried, but there was no one there to hear her. Using her fists, she pounded angrily on the door. The strange metal coating seemed to absorb rather than amplify the sound. After several more minutes of banging and shouting without reward, Kate took a reluctant seat in the chair facing the door. It didn’t take long for the claustrophobia to set it.
After what felt like an eternity, the heavy door finally rattled, opening just a crack. Just beyond the frame, Kate could hear the muffled conversation of two men.
“…was going to take care of it, but now he’s on assignment until next month. I’d do it myself, but the kids have both come down with dragon pox and Izzy will kill me if I’m not around to help this weekend.”
The other man said something in reply but Kate couldn’t make out the words.
“You’re a lifesaver,” the first man said, and Kate could hear the sound of retreating footsteps.
“Any time,” the second man called after him, his voice suddenly all too clear.
And with that, the door swung open and Charlie Weasley stepped inside.
“And I thought I was shocked the last time I ran into you,” Charlie said, closing the heavy door behind him. “This is quickly turning into a bad habit of ours.”
“I didn’t know you’d be here,” Kate said a little too emphatically. “Actually,” she corrected, “I’m not entirely sure where here is, or what I’m doing in it. Do your people make a habit of locking people up without explanation?”
“My people?” he asked but Kate just glared at him. “So what exactly is going on?”
“You’re the Auror. You tell me.”
Kate could hear the petulance in her voice but being locked away in some mysterious wing of the Ministry hadn’t left her feeling cooperative. Not to mention finding herself once again face to face with a man she wasn’t entirely sure she ever wanted to see again.
“The Auror Department is charged with the oversight of security for all Ministry Facilities and those persons working within them,” he recited, sounding like he was reading page one of an Auror training manual.
“So you’re saying someone thinks I’m a security risk?”
Kate couldn’t begin to imagine who or why someone would think she was a risk for anything.
“It sure seems that way.”
Charlie seemed content to let that hang in the air for a moment. Kate couldn’t help but shift uneasily in her seat.
“Or,” he continued last, joining her at the small table, “it could be one giant mix up. I guess that’s what I’m here to find out. Perhaps you’d like to start by telling me just what the hell you’re doing here –”
“I already told you, I don’t know,” Kate insisted. “One of your...that man down at security brought me up here. Something about a Priority Five –”
“No,” Charlie interrupted. “I mean, what are you doing in London? What’s your business at the Ministry?”
Kate said nothing. This was about more than staying on guard with an old acquaintance. Her plan from the beginning had been to keep as tightlipped about her visit as possible. And really, what could a meeting with the Review Board have to do with her being considered a security risk?
“Fine,” he said, standing up as if to leave. “You don’t have to tell me. There are some forms you can fill out –” He was reaching for the door.
“Wait!” Kate called.
Charlie stopped but didn’t turn around.
She swallowed loudly. “It’s just...I don’t see how any of that matters.”
“Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t,” he said facing her again. “But I can’t exactly help figure that out if I don’t know what’s going on.”
Kate considered this for a moment, trying to determine her best course of action. She wasn’t coming up with many alternatives. She could keep quiet and risk missing days, if not weeks of research time, or she could come clean, fill Charlie in on what was happening in hopes of clearing this up as soon as possible. She knew exactly what Henry would say.
“Alright,” she said at last. “I guess I’m here for just a little more than research...”
Charlie listened quietly as she spoke, allowing Kate to finish her story without interruption. When she was done, he sat back, reclining slightly in his chair as he pondered what she had just told him.
“Well?” Kate asked, confused at his sudden silence.
“I’m not sure...Could be nothing, unrelated, like you said.”
His words were dismissive but the look on his face told Kate something she said had struck a nerve.
“But I’ll look into. Try and clear things up. Here.” He pulled a small notebook and pencil from his breast pocket and slid them across the table to her. “Write down where I can reach you, incase I run into any problems.”
Kate jotted down her address and slid the pad back to him.
“Do you think—”
“I’m sure it’s nothing,” he said, rising to his feet, looking suddenly in a hurry to leave.
“Just sit tight for now,” he said, extracting his wand and using it to unlatch some unseen lock on the door. “I’ll be in touch. Soon.”
“But—” Kate tried again.
“Soon,” he repeated. And he was gone.