Chapter 24 : We Are As We Are Sorted - Part 1
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- John Barth
Never, in Pete O’Neil’s career, had any institution had the ability to refuse Auror questioning and time. However, Pete had never had to request it from a Quidditch institution, and challenged the power of celebrity. After about an hour’s time, the Secretary in charge had made it quite clear that a higher authority would have to get involved. And when Pete requested to the higher authority about the situation, he was immediately shut down.
“But this could be a valuable lead –“ The plea seemed pathetic, and the talk a commercial echo of what he was really trying to express. But Pete had seen no reason before now to express it.
“According to a bunch of desperate relatives,” said his boss, Mr. Solinus with the shake of his head. “This could look very bad – liable for suing.”
“I don’t think they’d lie.”
“Petey.” There was no paranoia behind Pete's hatred to be referred to in that manner – Mr. Solinus meant it in the most condescending way. “Just do the paper work with what you have and we can move on.”
“You want me to give up?”
With a sigh, Mr. Solinus head raised up to meet Pete’s eyes with full determination. “Pete, it’s in the Ministry’s interest for you to do all that you can to show that you have done all that you can.”
“I didn’t realise that that was my job.” It was perhaps brave for Pete to bring it up, but it had to be done. “I thought it was to find Anne Walters.”
"You have the job I've given you. Now go do it. I'm knee deep in paper work about the Wizarding Antiquities Preservation Fund as it is, I don't need this now." And with that, Pete was asked to leave Mr. Solinus’ office. Had Pete been even braver, he wouldn’t have stood for it, but rather demand an explanation why he was actively being obstructed by finding a missing girl. Especially at this time, when You Know Who was beginning to get to work, surely it was of absolute importance to find these people. But Pete wasn’t quite that brave, no matter how hard he wanted to be.
When he told his partner, Brian, of it later, he was more certain that he wasn’t alone in this suspicion.
“So basically he’s telling us that we have to cover it up?”
“Sounds like it,” replied Pete. “I don’t get it.”
“Strange. This whole thing is strange. None of this has been getting into the papers you know. We sent her picture out to every one possible, and they haven’t turned up in a single one. The Honchby lad got let out with just a warning about the illegal Animagus practice. A form of registration and a warning, but no enquiry at all about his relation with Anne Walters.”
“Do you think he took her?”
“No. But it’s strange, isn’t it? It’s as if they don’t want people knowing about Anne going missing at all. If they really wanted it just to be covered up, they’d want someone found. If this was something dodgy, they’d want anyone found. But this…”
Pete bit his lip sharply, before finally releasing his thought. “They don’t want us to find her.”
“I don’t like it.”
Had Brian himself been a braver man, he would have marched straight over to Mr. Solinus’ office himself and barked at him with no reservation about the situation until he was dragged out and thrown to rave in the streets. That being said, this in no way meant that Brian wasn’t brave. He was daring. It was just that there was another aspect of his character that had a much stronger dictation of his life and manner. He was a Slytherin. And that mean he had cunning.
“We’re going to find her. First stop is getting Oliver Wood.”
“But we haven’t got permission –“ Pete wished he’d been able to stop himself, because Brian’s intention was perfectly clear. “How could we get in?”
“Well hold on, Pete, I just came up with the idea. We’d have to get past our own Aurors…”
“Not ours. Not under our authority. If anything, they’re probably under orders to stop us.” Pete’s lips curled. “So we can’t send us in.”
“Nobody else is going to help us. Or do you think that Verity Walters will do the job? Because I don’t think this is the time to bring a girl you think is pretty on an adventure, especially if they’re as batshit crazy and scary as Verity Walters.”
“I was thinking more the other girls.”
“No,” said Brian immediately. “They’re morons.”
“They’d be perfect. Nobody’s going to think of fan girls if they go on a tour or something, and if they know him themselves –“
“I had to interrogate them, Pete. They are morons. The blonde one, less so. But they are fifteen year old, morons.”
“Of course you’d think that. You didn’t know how to talk to fifteen year old girls when you were a fifteen year old boy,” shot Pete. “And even if that’s the case – which I doubt – they're the only chance that we have with this one.” What also crossed their minds that, despite any lack of intelligence, these were Gryffindors; if they could be counted on to offer one thing to Pete, it was bravery.
“For Christ's sake -”
“I don't know who the hell this Christ guy is, Amy, but if I hear about him one more time -”
Amy rubbed her temples, beginning to feel pain just looking at Magda. “You celebrate Christmas.”
“I thought it was just a name.”
‘No, it’s from ‘Christ’... as in Jesus. It’s a Muggle religion.’
“Then why do we celebrate it?”
“It's also originally a pagan holiday. It's all very complicated.”
“So what about Easter?” piped up Bella, who had felt rather left out of the conversation, even if it was perhaps for the best.
“That too. We learnt all of this in Muggle Studies!”
“I never listened to Muggle Studies.”
Brian didn’t need to tell Pete that he had told him so, the look of victory on his face was enough. However, as right as Brian may have been, Pete was determined for this to work, and regardless was still right in the fact that these girls were the best that it was going to get for them if they wanted to find Anne. All anguish was externalised in the cough to follow. “Right, well now that… that has been concluded… We need to know that you understand what you’re doing.”
“We get in with the tour, and then we go towards the changing room –“
“Where the players will be getting undressed?” Bella wasn’t sure whether this improved the adventure or not.
“Well they won’t be when you go in,” insisted Brian impatiently. “It’s the only way that you can get through to the private training area. You then will have to hide out in that area until Oliver returns –slash- turns up. This can be a while.”
“So bring snacks,” added Magda.
“Now there’s no use depending on a Disillusionment Charm… do you know how to do one?“ They shook there head. Brian then added with more irritability, “Of course not. And not like… you can do magic anyway… as you are... all... underage.” Pete respected the fact that Brian was doing all that he could to be this polite. “You’re going to have to properly hide or keep inconspicuous. If you do get caught by anyone, the important thing is to assert authority.” Brian pointed towards Bella. “You look like the oldest, so I’m thinking that you’re the best for it.”
Bella brightened at this. Truth was, this was one of the best days since discovering Anne’s disappearance. Something was actually happening, and maybe towards something miraculous, a feeling that, though supressed, was shared amongst all three of them. “Got it.”
“OK,” said Pete unsteadily. “Then there’s nothing else to do. You have a tour in half an hour –“
“Now?” stammered Bella, all the sudden elation vanishing away. “But we just heard about this –“
“You have a week until you have to go back to Hogwarts,” explained Brian. “It would be tricky to get you involved then, and more importantly, we need to find Anne now.” This seemed to be enough to move things along, but the tension still continued to weigh down as they were ushered to the nearest fireplace.
Pete handed them over the Floo Powder, and the girls gave a sharp salute as Magda took the pouch from him. However, as he made eye contact with her, there was a glimmer of something he didn't like: Magda was scared.
Despite the popularity that came with Puddlemere United, it wasn’t too surprising that it was a smaller party than would be expected of the summer months. The three girls saw this as a great disadvantage, though they could rely on who was attending the tour. Fifty per cent were youngish boys with their fathers, and the rest were young girls, who they blended in well with, and Magda realised that she didn’t feel quite as stupid with the one Puddlemere United shirt than she thought she would, now standing in a mass of red.
Interestingly enough for the girls, out of the tour group, the one person who seemed that they did not belong was in fact the Tour Guide. Bonnie was not a woman who lived up to her name sake, speaking unenthusiastically and pausing at moments to make sure that the premature wrinkles that had formed on her forehead did not drop any further. In fact, as their trip progressed, it seemed that Mortimer, one of the elder men of the party, was able to usurp Bonnie’s position, and half and hour in, it was his far happier voice that ruled the rest of their time spent with the group. Bonnie did not seem displeased by this, and Bella decided that this was because Bonnie was probably glad not to have to move her face.
In a low voice, Amy whispered in Magda’s ear, “I just heard what one of the girls said she’ll do if she gets too close to Oliver Wood… I think this is going to be the scariest that it gets.”
Amy struggled to pick up the spirit of the group. The only way she could think of getting them to feel no so worrisome about Anne being missing was to be more like Anne, though that wasn’t any use. As the confrontation of her history with Cedric was dragged to the surface, so were her feelings, and it was growing harder to conceal the heart placed on her sleeve.
Besides which, it was debatable how necessary it was because, as Amy and Magda soon discovered, Bella seemed to be absolutely made for the role of raving girly teenager:
“Oh my Godric,” she gushed to another two girls she had met while being walked around. “Do you think he’ll be here? Do you think we’ll get to touch him?”
Too good… thought Magda.
“And now, for a small break,” said Bonnie abruptly, though she had to put in some effort as Mortimer was describing in great length about how this was the pitch that hosted the 1942 Quidditch Premier League final.
“I think it’s time,” commented Amy.
“Bella,” hissed Magda.
“I read his article in Witch Weekly. He was so cute!!” At this point, Bella’s arm had been yanked in the direction of her two conspirators. Much to Madga and Amy’s surprise, and admittedly amusement, Bella’s countenance completely changed. “Are we off now?”
“Nearest point to the changing room.”
“And Bonnie’s doesn’t seem to be paying that much attention.” The three looked towards Bonnie, who seemed to be slightly tearing up. “It’s worth a shot.” Magda raised her eyebrows. “That is, if your friends won’t miss you too much.”
As they skulked off with stories of the bathroom, Bella mused, “You know, I kind of get Anne’s thing about Harry Potter. Having an obsession is fun.” Magda shoved Bella into the next corridor.
“I don’t really see how you guys can joke,” Magda snapped. “For all we know, Anne could very well be –“
It was Amy’s turn to shove Magda. “Not the time for this. And you know full well that if Anne was saving one of us, she’d make twice as many jokes.”
“I just think it’s inappropriate.”
Once again, Bella’s countenance changed, though only momentarily. “It’s a coping mechanism, smart arse.”
Amy was in charge of getting their way around the grounds, but it seemed to be something of a failure. It didn’t help that even though it was only coming up to around four o’clock, the wintertime left the outside area in pitch darkness, and Amy was wary about bringing out her torch for fear of being seen.
When they reached the changing room, it was met with joy, all girls trying their hardest to ignore that the hard part was just beginning. Unfortunately, sweet denial was immediately interrupted when Amy tried to open the door, whispering, “Locked.”
“We’ll just open it then,” said Magda with the roll of her eyes, bringing out her wand.
“No. We can’t use magic. Us. Underage. Remember?” Amy sighed. “Does anyone have a hair pin?” None to be found. “Right… well… I guess we’ll just have to –“ Amy’s plan was never discovered as Bella, in a moment of recklessness, and perhaps boredom, had decided to do was to throw her mirror at the glass, causing it to shatter.
Bella nodded in reference to her own thoughts. “Decided that maybe the alarm wouldn’t be on, since it’s not really a closing time.” Once viewing the shocked expression on Magda and Amy’s face, Bella explained, “The mirror’s enchanted to be pretty much indestructible. Thought I’d give it a shot.”
“You have an indestructible mirror?” gaped Magda.
“Can’t carry a destructible one around. It’d get scratched.” And that was enough of an explanation for them.