When the road looks rough ahead
And you're miles and miles from your nice warm bed
Just remember what your old pal said
Boy, you've got a friend in me You’ve Got a Friend In Me – Randy Newman
Araminta was glad to see Gideon in a better mood on Monday morning. If he’d been anybody else, she’d have said he was back to his normal self, but in the time she’d been with him, Gideon had been moody as often as he’d been cheerful, so she wasn’t sure which was his normal mood. From what Marlene had said on Saturday, however, it sounded as if he hadn’t always been so moody, so his current mood was probably a more accurate reflection of his true self.
Of course, he wasn’t truly cheery. For one thing, it was Monday, a day when nobody could be truly happy. And this Monday marked the start of an office week, which was the part of his job Gideon seemed to dread the most. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they were expecting a visit at half past ten – which meant they’d only half an hour to go, Araminta realised, with a shudder – from the Hit Wizard’s Secretary, Ivy. Judging by Sirius comments about the boomerangs, he shared Gideon’s ill-feeling towards her, so at least they probably weren’t just caused by some petty falling out or grudge.
Araminta had to agree with them. Ivy drove her up the wall every time she visited their cubicle – for it was most definitely theirs now, at least for as long as she remained under his tutorage – to the point that she was tempted to find herself in need of a drink at precisely twenty-eight minutes past ten and then stop off somewhere, maybe Fabian’s cubicle, until about thirty-six minutes past. Eight minutes ought to be enough time to rid the cubicle of both Ivy and the depressing atmosphere she brought to it.
Gideon looked at his watch and scowled, realising they had only twenty-seven minutes of peace left. He sighed with aggravation and began to filter through the paperwork he was to give Ivy in return for what he needed from her.
Maybe she wouldn’t need that drink after all. Facing Ivy was definitely a better option than facing Gideon’s fury if she managed to escape her.
After all, it was a Monday.
She looked around the cubicle. The walls were covered with articles related to the Death Eaters and other propaganda. The only exception was a map of the British Isles and even that had various colour-coded pins stuck in it, pointing out locations of importance to the war effort. The South coast was littered with black pins, especially around Dorset. They probably marked Death Eater residences. Red pins, she had come to understand, marked the locations of bigger raids from recent years, yellow pins the minor ones. Blue and green pins were also used. She had considered that one of those might be identifying safe houses, but then disregarded the possibility. If she could see the map, then so could anybody else, which would make it easy for a spy to identify them, leading to a Death Eater attack. She was yet to figure out what they did stand for, but she was working on it. She’d considered asking Gideon, but had decided against it, as she suspected he’d either refuse to answer or laugh at her for her inability to work it out for herself. She certainly didn’t want that.
She had found it surprising that Gideon didn’t have any personal photos in his cubicle, but she hadn’t been in any others, so she didn’t know if it was just him or if it was common with all Aurors. Was it part of an attempt to keep work and private lives apart? Was it an attempt to remain secretive?
Or was it simply a lack of wall space? The cubicles were small; it was a squeeze for her and Gideon to both work in theirs. She had often asked herself why they had been given such small cubicles. These were undoubtedly some of the most important employees of the Ministry, at least in the current climate, and so surely deserved more room than the Quidditch season planners?
Admittedly, she didn’t know how much space other sub-departments throughout the Ministry had, but if they agreed with her thoughts that the Aurors deserved the most space – at least after the Minister and his personal staff on Level One - she dreaded to think what size offices the other departments would have.
She knew that Gideon’s brother-in-law, Arthur Weasley worked in an office not much bigger than a broom cupboard, in the two-man Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office. Rather unfairly in Araminta’s opinion, their department was given little attention by the head honchos of the Ministry, despite the fact that their job was fairly important, considering there was a group of people at large who were persecuting Muggles. The Ministry might be fighting against Dark Magic and Muggle-killing, but there seemed to be little actual empathy for Muggles.
Oh, to be a witch.
She sighed pensively, gaining Gideon’s attention.
“Something wrong?” He frowned.
“Huh?” She turned to look at him, dragging herself out of her thoughts. “Oh ... no. Just thinking.”
“You do that. Don’t worry about me, sorting through all this paperwork. You just sit there and plan your next holiday...”
“Crete, I was thinking.” She smirked slightly.
“Crete? Egypt, now there’s somewhere to go.” He put down his quill and focused his attention on her.
“Once. Few years ago. Completely different type of civilisation there, it’s incredible. The history’s pretty damn interesting too. It’s a shame, our History of Magic teacher at Hogwarts wasn’t up to much. He made the subject seem dire, but I’ve always been interested in that kind of thing. That’s partly why I went to Egypt.”
“Mother loved her history. We’d often just spend the whole day studying history, which obviously interfered with the schedule we were supposed to be following. Father was never happy; it ate into his Transfiguration time. We always planned to go on holiday to Egypt one day, but it never came to be.” She frowned slightly.
“I’ve gotten our Billy interested in Egypt.” He grinned, and she racked her brains to try to remember who ‘our Billy’ was – his oldest nephew, she remembered. “He loves the idea of all these tombs, with all sorts of ancient curses on them. He’s decided that’s what he wants to do when he’s older. I’m not sure Molly’s best pleased with that idea, she’d prefer he pick a ... safer job-”
“Like being an Auror?”
He laughed slightly.
“I think she’d love if all her kids worked in the Department of International Magical Cooperation. I hope they don’t though; it’s a dire place on Level Five. I didn’t say that,” he added, pointing his quill threateningly at her. “They do a very important job, even if I fail to see the appeal in it.” He put his quill down again. “No, MLE is where I like to be. The aspect of law which I’m interested in is enforcing it, not coming to international agreements on it. Cauldron thickness? Give me a break.” He rolled his eyes and looked down at his watch. “Shit. Five minute heads-up.”
She groaned and re-contemplated needing a drink.
“Why is it us she comes to?” she asked.
“She goes to somebody on office duty once or twice a week,” he said. “So sometimes – like this week – I’m one of the people she deals with, other weeks it’s other people. As for how she picks who to deal with in the office, I don’t know. It’s not on a seniority basis, or she’d go to Moody or Scrimgeour before me. Sometimes I think it just depends who she’s in the mood to irritate. Or maybe it’s just a matter of whether she’s looking for eye candy that week.”
“Because it’s naturally you that she’d go to-”
“You trying to tell me you’d rather go for Moody?”
She conceded that he had a point here.
“I don’t get why you always have so much paperwork for each other, though.”
“We deal with Dark wizards. The Hit Wizards handle criminals. Near enough all the Dark wizards we deal with are criminals – Dark magic is illegal so it’s not unusual for them to be breaking the law. Some criminal activity goes first to the Hit Wizards before they realise it’s Auror stuff, and some activity comes to us which is more their area. So we swap it over once or twice a week. Unfortunately, the Auror Department doesn’t get to have a secretary, so we personally have to deal with – ah, Ivy, how lovely to see you!”
It was easy for Araminta to see through Gideon’s cheerful tone. She suppressed another groan as the subject of last night’s nightmares swept into the cubicle, an over-charming smile on her face and a large stack of parchment in her hands.
“Morning, Gideon!” she said brightly, dumping the parchment down on the desk with a heavy thump. “We’ve got quite a lot for you this week, I’m afraid...”
“No worries, my lovely assistant here can sort through it for me-”
“It’s apprentice, and if you think you’re loading me up with your dirty work, you can think again, Prewett,” Araminta said with a scowl.
Ivy tittered and the scowl deepened. The drink idea really shouldn’t have been placed on the backburner...
Gideon gathered up the relevant paperwork, filling out the last few bits that he hadn’t reached. Ivy didn’t seem to mind the wait; she stood in front of the desk, twisting oddly. Araminta’s eyes widened as she realised what she was doing. She’d craned her neck in an attempt to read the document on top of Gideon’s in-tray.
Araminta reached out and slapped her hand across the top of it, to hide it from her view. Ivy turned to look at her and smirked, her expression otherwise unreadable.
“Here you are, Ivy.”
Gideon lifted up a much smaller pile of parchment, holding it out to Ivy, who took it in both arms.
“Thank you, Gideon!” she said in that same infuriating voice. Her earlier smile returned, replacing the smirk. “Have a nice day!”
“And you...” he said half-heartedly as she turned and swept out of the cubicle. He then slumped in his seat and exhaled loudly.
“And look what she’s brought us...”
He tailed off and looked at Araminta, who still had her hand on the in-tray.
She removed her hand slowly, frowning.
“How do you know you can trust her?” she asked.
“How do I know I can trust you?” he shot back.
“Well, to get into Auror training every candidate has to undergo a rigorous security check which uncovers even the dirtiest of secrets, so if I had anything to hide I wouldn’t be here now,” she replied straight away. “I’m sure the Hit Wizards have a similar procedure, but I can’t imagine becoming a secretary requires such an ordeal...”
Gideon smirked and cocked his head.
“Has anyone told you you’d make a good Auror?” he said light-heartedly, as he pulled the stack of parchment towards him.
“Well, isn’t that a coincidence, seeing as, you know, I am one,” she said, smiling slightly. “What makes you say that, anyway?
“Suspicion of everyone. And the ability to think quickly on your feet. Or backside,” he added. “Bloody hell...” He had started flicking through the paperwork.
“You know,” Araminta said, crossing her arms on the desk and leaning forwards, “you told me the other week that I’d make a good Death Eater. Now you say I’ll be a good Auror. Which one, Prewett?”
He looked up at her and pushed the paperwork to one side.
“I said you’d be a good Death Eater because of the whole unemotional front you had going on at first-”
She had to admit she’d been lax – she’d let that drop far too easily.
“You have the same issue with emotion,” she chipped in.
He hesitated for a moment.
“Don’t deny it, half the time you lock everything away, just like Marlene said.”
He eyed her. It was clear he didn’t like what she’d said.
“That may be so, but it’s beside the point,” he said. “The point is, whatever your side in this war, if you’re going to fight, you can’t let your emotion cloud your judgement...” He scowled for some reason. “Also, you have to be quick on your feet. You have to be loyal. You have to know what you’re fighting for. It’s just...” He hesitated again.
“The only difference is that Death Eaters have this whole bigoted, sadistic thing going on,” she finished quietly.
He sat in silence for a moment, just looking at her.
“Yeah,” he said eventually. “Yeah, I guess that sums it up.”
It isn’t him this time. It’s his brother. She isn’t sure whether this is a good or a bad thing, but resents that her information is still being relayed through messengers.
“They’re planning a raid on Malfoy Manor next week,” she says. “Perhaps the Tuesday; perhaps later. They are also close to sniffing you out. It would be wise to move to a different place.”
He stares at her for a moment, processing her information.
“That is useful,” he says finally. “Do you have any addresses for us yet?”
She shakes her head.
“Sorry. It’s difficult to find out these things-”
“I know that, but you understand the importance of such information. Time is of the essence.”
She nods, hearing the urgency in his voice, but appreciating the lack of anger and violence. Whatever the reason for the change, she hopes it will remain that way.
"You are aware of the Prewett wedding on Saturday week?”
“We have been informed of this,” he says. “It will be difficult to do anything there. Dumbledore will be present and security tight.”
“You are still unsuspected?”
“I thought I may have been discovered ... but things have remained calm, and I’m keeping a low profile, so hopefully the suspicion has passed.”
He nods approvingly.
“Ensure it stays that way,” he says. “If you are discovered, the Ministry will become more suspicious and look elsewhere ... and we’ve placed others there who we want to remain unsuspected.”
She says nothing, merely nodding in agreement.
“Is there anything else?"
“Can you come in future?”
It spills out unintended.
He smirks slightly.
“Having a change of heart, are we?” He chuckles and runs his thumb across her cheek. She suppresses a shiver. “You would do well to keep those feelings at bay, my dear-”
“That’s not what I mean,” she snaps and pushes his hand away. “It’s just ... you are more understanding-”
“You have information for us today,” he says, his voice hard. “If I come to see you again and you don’t have information, I may not be so understanding.” His smile returns. “But, of course, I have no doubt that you will have more for me next time. You are one of our best, after all.”
She shifts from one leg to the other awkwardly, wishing she hadn’t spoken at all.
“I can tell him you are unhappy, if you like?”
She shakes her head.
“It won’t help things.”
But she suspects he will tell anyway. He’s not one to shy away from an opportunity to cause chaos.
He takes her hand in his and lifts it to his lips, kissing it.
“Then I’ll see you soon.”
He Disapparates silently, and she touches the spot on her skin that his lips touched. At least he shows her the respect she deserves, she thinks to herself. Maybe he will not tell of her discomfort?
She smiles slightly, and Disapparates.
“Marlene says you’ve been invited to the wedding on Saturday.”
Araminta turned her gaze from the cobbled street outside the pub window back to Gideon.
“Yeah, I have,” she replied quietly.
He cleared his throat.
“Do you want to meet me beforehand?” he asked her, chewing his lip. “I mean, you’ve not been in the grounds before, and...”
She cocked her head.
“I thought you didn’t date?” she said, amused. “Or did Marlene put you up to this?”
“Of course it’s not a date. I’m best man, and everyone knows that the best man’s date is the chief bridesmaid.” He hesitated and frowned. “That’s Sandy, which might not work.” He shrugged. “Anyway...” He looked sheepish suddenly and raised a hand to the back of his neck. “I was wondering if you could do me a favour?”
“It depends what this favour is.”
“Well...” He shifted in his chair. “See, Molly’s a bridesmaid. And it’s bad enough having to look after six kids, especially when two of them are Fred and George, when she and Arthur are both there to keep an them. But as she’s a bridesmaid, Arthur’s got to handle them by himself...”
“I can help look after them, if he wants,” she volunteered, seeing the question hanging in the air, and preferring to offer to help rather than wait for his request. She knew he’d feel he was making her if that were the case, whereas this way she was able to show her willingness to help, because she was willing. She liked children and from what she had heard from Gideon, Fabian and Marlene, his six nephews all sounded charming, even Fred and George.
“Are you sure?” He still looked nervous. “I mean, I know you haven’t met any of them before, and-”
“It’s fine, really.” She smiled at him. “I’d love to help.”
He looked relieved.
“Molly’s been worrying about it for weeks now,” he said. “She knows what Fred and George are like, but they can’t leave them at home – babysitters aside, Marlene won’t let them. I don’t think she realises what she gets herself into sometimes.” He shook his head and downed his butterbeer. “Another?”
He gestured to her tankard, which was empty too.
“You just want an excuse to talk to Rosmerta.” She smiled and handed him her tankard. “Go on then.”
He winked at her, and sauntered off to the bar.
She shook her head at his antics and turned back to the window. At least he was happier today. The day before, he’d been an absolute nightmare. Tuesday’s planned raid on the Malfoy Manor had been thwarted by the Death Eaters, who had anticipated their arrival, so he’d been absolutely furious. He didn’t trust easily, Araminta had come to realise, so the thought of anyone abusing that trust maddened him.
At least this was their patrol week and not an office week, she thought. He had needed to get away from things to cool down, and she couldn’t think of a better place to do that than Hogsmeade, where they were stationed for the week.
Of course, if Moody, or worse, the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement Bartemius Crouch, found out how much time their patrol was spending around the Three Broomsticks, she doubted they’d be best pleased.
Gideon sat back down, with two full tankards. She took hers, thanking him and smiling.
“Know what you’re wearing for the wedding?” he asked.
“I expect I have something in my wardrobe,” she replied. “You excited about it then? Everyone else seems to be.”
She was right. There was – or had been, before Tuesday night – an excited buzz about the department, caused entirely by the prospect of the wedding in two days’ time, which the entire corridor would be attending.
“I can hardly leave anybody out,” Marlene had reasoned the other day when Gideon asked why she’d invited Dawlish, an Auror with whom he seemed to share a mutual dislike. Mind, there were several witches and warlocks he seemed to share similar sentiments with, Araminta thought.
“I can’t wait until it’s over.” He scowled.
“Why? Aren’t you happy for them?”
“Yes, but I’m sick to the teeth of Marly moaning about everything from the marquee to the napkins.” He rolled his eyes. “And, funnily enough, when you’re feeling rather alone in this world, a wedding isn’t quite the thing you need to cheer you up.”
She shrugged, as she was used to his moods by now.
“I’ll be there,” she joked.
“I haven’t quite worked out if that’s a good or a bad thing,” he deadpanned. He smiled at her, and she smiled back.
Yes, she decided, she definitely liked him better when he was in a cheery mood.