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Beyond This Place by Slide
Chapter 8 : Footloose and Fancy-Free
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 1


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‘What,’ said Tanith flatly, staring at the drinks put down in front of them, ‘the hell is this?’

‘They’re called Bongo Magic. Something about some Muggle drums.’ Melanie Larkin picked up her glass with a grin. ‘I don’t know what’s in it. Them.’

The name was certainly not indicative of the glasses’ contents - just the glasses themselves, for they were more like two glasses stuck together side by side, one holding a blue liquid, the other’s contents red and fizzy.

Tanith lifted hers gingerly. ‘How am I supposed to drink this without pouring the other glass down myself?’

‘Actually, you’d pour it on whoever’s sat on your left. So, don’t drink it next to people.’ Melanie frowned at her glass, setting it down. ‘I’ll go get straws.’

Then she went, winding her way through the crowds of the busy wizarding bar, leaving Tanith and Ariane lounging on their comfortable chairs in the corner. The bar known as ‘Nothing in Moderation’ was a part of a wave of new entertainment establishments being opened up in Diagon Alley in particular and wizarding Britain in general. A whole slew of businesses had been lost in the war, and that, combined with the public desire to live large and celebrate the end of an era of terror, had led to a boom of places where wizards and witches could enjoy themselves and relax. More often than not traditional old companies and expectations had been left abandoned, and in their place was something modern and reflective of the new wizarding world.

Tobias would have had something to say about sociological impacts of the war, but she was trying to not think too hard about him or sociology right then.

‘I get it,’ said Ariane when Melanie returned with a fistful of straws. ‘You take two straws, one in each glass, and drink them both at once.’

‘Ohhhh.’ All three girls fell silent in consideration of the brilliance before them - and in trying it out.

‘Still more complicated than it needs to be,’ said Tanith upon reflection and taste.

Melanie looked at her. ‘It’s fun, Tanith. You remember fun? Or does it only happen when you’ve scheduled it?’

Tanith took another drink to hide the sting of the words, before giving her two former roommates a genteel smile. ‘So how’re you both doing?’

They had continued to meet up after the war. The intention had been to do it once a month, but that just took one of them cancelling - usually Tanith - and in practice they’d not sat down together more than three times since May. But clearly Ariane and Melanie had felt some obligation to continue to see to her social well being, and Tanith had felt too guilty and grateful to shoot them down.

Her gaze flickered to Ariane’s neck, hidden behind a perfectly adorable and fashionable scarf. Ariane Drake now owned dozens, maybe hundreds of these scarves, of varying size and style for every occasion and weather condition, and was never seen without them.

Tanith had consequently never seen the vicious scar she knew lay on the bare skin of her throat. The scar from Thanatos Brynmor’s wand the night of the liberation, the wound which had been the only part of her body to not change when the Polyjuice Potion Ariane had consumed to impersonate her had worn off.

Somehow, in six months, they had managed to successfully never talk about those events. And that seemed to be to the satisfaction of all.

‘Madam Malkin’s has been releasing the new winter fashions,’ said Ariane, stirring the blue half of her drink. ‘You should come down, Tanith, it’s quite exceptional. We can get you something new.’

Tanith looked down at herself. ‘What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?’

Ariane and Melanie exchanged those looks she knew so well. ‘Sales are up at work,’ said Melanie, judiciously changing the subject. ‘Everyone’s happy to buy property now, after the slump from the Occupation.’

You mean the Occupation the two of you liked to join in with the rest of the world in pretending wasn’t happening? Tanith hid her expression behind a sip. ‘That’s good.’

‘But what’s up with you?’ Ariane leant forwards. ‘Training Officer for Harry Potter. That must be glamorous.’

‘Actually, I got the job so it wouldn’t be glamorous,’ Tanith said moodily. ‘My boss wanted someone to take him under their wing who wouldn’t be all star-struck, who’d treat him equal to everyone else.’

‘And you, of course, treat everyone equally horribly,’ said Melanie.

‘I’ll certainly treat you more equally horribly from now on,’ Tanith muttered. ‘We did have to dodge the press this afternoon. It’s ridiculous, there’s no story except for “Trainee Does Basic Procedural Work”.’

‘Really, you’d think the Aurors would be spinning this better,’ said Ariane thoughtfully, gaze going distant. ‘With Potter as a trainee you could use it to raise public opinion of the Auror Office, give people a better insight into the work you actually do, and if Shacklebolt wanted to use it to improve his prestige...’

Tanith side-eyed Ariane suspiciously as she voiced several logical thoughts which nobody in the Auror Office was public relations-minded enough to have considered. ‘I think that involves walking a tightrope with the press which I’m really not prepared to try. And the day the Ministry brings politics into the Auror Office...’

‘Is the day you impotently rage at us over drinks?’

Tanith glared at Melanie again. ‘They won’t do it. It’d look bad, and it’d backfire for them. They can publicly tout how successfully they’ve been convicting Death Eaters, they can even publicly tout the success at restoring law and order, but anything which suggests the Auror Office is partisan would backfire.’ She took a sip of her drink. ‘And I’d drag Toby over the coals for it.’

Ariane gave a knowing smile and Tanith realised she’d stumbled into a trap. ‘And how is Tobias?’

She looked down. ‘I haven’t seen him in a few days. And before that, not since before I went away.’

‘We were sorry to hear about Jacob,’ said Ariane, not insincere but certainly not inclined to linger on the topic. Tanith knew it was just because they didn’t want to bog the evening down with something as irritatingly depressing as grief, but she was grateful anyway as she moved the conversation swiftly on. ‘I imagine that made it harder for you and Tobias to see each other more.’

‘It made it even harder when Tobias refused to come on holiday with me because he had to work,’ said Tanith, with a bitterness that surprised even herself. She hadn’t intended on letting loose at the two - hadn’t realised she wanted to let loose at all - but once she remembered storming out of the morgue alone, the bitterness and anger in her gut which no simple tickets to Guatemala could kill churned up again.

‘Wow. Cold,’ said Melanie. ‘I know he’s really important, and all...’

‘You don’t have to pander to me, Mel, you can say it how it is,’ said Tanith gloomily.

‘All right. How has he still got his head shoved up his arse about his work?’

Tanith sighed. ‘It’s not that he’s not important. I mean, he does do a lot for the Minister, and from what I hear he’s basically calling the shots on the public image of the Ministry in the election. But he’s there because he put himself there. Even though it meant long hours and late nights and no weekends... and he knew that was what he was getting himself in for, and he did it anyway.’

‘Yeah, but... you signed up for the same with the Aurors.’ Melanie actually sounded hesitant about pointing her hypocrisy out, for once.

‘I signed up years ago. I’m on the path, I was already on the path. I can’t turn away from the Auror Office now, and I certainly couldn’t turn away from the Office back in May, when they needed every loyal, able-bodied person they could get to finish hunting down the Remnant.’ Tanith rubbed her temples. ‘I thought we could get it together once that calmed down, but within days of the Battle of Hogwarts he’d gone running off to Rome to meet the European Council, and when he came back he was up to his elbows in Ministerial duties.’

Her shoulders slumped, and she didn’t notice Ariane looking around the bar intently and waving a hand at a passing waiter.

‘You know it took us a week after that before we could so much as have dinner together? And that was hurriedly cooked in my kitchen, eaten on the floor because we’d thrown out some furniture and the new stuff hadn’t arrived yet, and he had to dash halfway through anyway...’

‘I don’t really know what to say, dear,’ said Ariane. ‘You both made your choices.’

‘Yeah, but he’s definitely cancelled more dates than I have,’ said Tanith, and she didn’t bother to count in her head to check if this was correct - nor did she volunteer the fact that they’d had to arrange these dates around her scheduled late shifts and long hours in the first place. ‘I just want some sort of... display of commitment from him.’

‘I didn’t realise things were this bad,’ said Melanie.

‘They’re not,’ Tanith groaned. ‘I mean... he got these tickets. For Christmas away. Guatemala. Just the two of us. Once the election’s over, and I guess the worst of the Auror work will be over because we won’t be working with the Prosecution Office on so many high-importance court cases...’

‘See? That sounds nice,’ said Ariane as pitchers were deposited by the waiter, one for each half of their drinks, and she quickly set about refilling their glasses.

‘And you said that once the election’s over he won’t even be in government any more. Just a few more weeks.’ Melanie tried for a smile.

‘I’m just tired of it.’ Tanith slumped. ‘I’m tired of feeling like hell, and working hard, and working long hours, and the times I do get off I look forward to seeing him, so when he cancels it’s just - it’s really, really demoralising. I try really hard to make sure I’m free and available sometimes, why can’t he?’

‘Because he works in the quickly-changing world of politics and sometimes gets called away at a moment’s notice, while you’ll usually only get called in if someone’s at a risk of death?’ said Melanie, a little flatly.

Exactly,’ said Tanith, though she suspected that wasn’t the response Melanie had expected. ‘For me it’s a question of life or death. For him it’s a question of poll figures.’

Ariane and Melanie exchanged glances, but Melanie just shook her head, clearly bowing out, and Ariane leant forwards. ‘But Mel’s right,’ she cooed. ‘Once the election’s over, he’ll be out of government and the two of you can spend some proper time together.’

‘The trick’s going to be getting through the next few weeks with your sanity intact,’ said Melanie dryly. ‘And, you know, ensuring that he treats you decently in that time.’

‘Instead of swooping down for booty calls in between office shifts.’ Ariane sounded bitter as she sipped on her drink.

Tanith stiffened a little. ‘There... what makes you think he’s doing that?’

Melanie shrugged. ‘When you don’t have much time to spend together and it’s a new relationship, it seems pretty logical you’re going to use the time you do have just screwing like rabbits. I get how that’s got pretty frustrating after months of nothing but, though.’

‘Um.’ Tanith bit her lip. ‘That’s not it at all. We’ve actually not, er, slept together yet.’

And again her former housemates exchanged pointed looks. Ariane set her glass down delicately, planting her hands on the table. ‘Well,’ she said. ‘If you want to keep him interested in the run-up to the election, do we have the game strategy for you.’

Melanie cocked her head. ‘How come you haven’t? I didn’t think you had that little time together! What’d he say?’

‘It’s not like it’s been a specific decision,’ said Tanith awkwardly. ‘Just... I don’t know. We haven’t really talked about it -’

‘Shocker,’ muttered Melanie.

‘...and it didn’t happen in the first couple of weeks because we were too busy.’ Tanith pressed on, preferring to address Ariane. ‘And then, I don’t know, I guess for my part I didn’t want our first time to be some frantic fumble on the couch in between my work shifts, but we’ve not got around to having a properly special night. The closest we came was that dinner date at the Golden Fork which Cal booked for us, but he also threw in an extra bottle of champagne and...’

‘...and we know what happens with you and champagne,’ said Melanie dryly. ‘Vomiting is not an aphrodisiac.’

Actually I was just really tired,’ said Tanith, not with unprovoked snippiness. ‘So it’s become a thing. I think he’s as self-conscious about it as I am.’

‘Right.’ Ariane straightened. ‘That needs to be fixed. No ifs, no buts. It didn’t occur to you that he might be holding back because of this? His work would take a hit if he made an extra effort to spend time with you. Surely he needs to know his time together is worth it.’

Tanith blinked. ‘He knows our time together is worth it, I’ve told him...’

‘But he’s a man,’ said Melanie with a sigh. ‘You can tell him all you want, but there’s only one body part he’ll really listen to.’

‘So if he knows that you’re serious about this relationship, then he’s going to be much more prepared to make arrangements for the two of you to spend time together.’

And,’ said Melanie, ‘he’ll totally be more prepared to skip out on work if he’s going to get sex out of it.’

Tanith pinched her nose and lifted a hand. ‘Let me get this straight. Tobias and I have been through... we’ve been jealous of each other, we’ve rejected one another, we’ve risked our lives for one another, thought the other was dead, rescued each other from dramatic peril, kissed, danced, said we loved one another, and our feelings have endured over several years and even several hundred miles. But nothing’s going to actually convince him this is serious, this is worth his time - and mine - as well as screwing like rabbits will?’

‘You don’t have to put it like that,’ said Ariane, at the same time as Melanie shrugged and said, ‘Pretty much.’

‘You know, I shudder to think what your love lives must be like,’ said Tanith flatly.

‘Footloose and fancy-free,’ said Melanie, ‘especially now Miles is out of the picture.’

Tanith blinked. ‘Since when?’

‘Since he lost his job at the Ministry and became a complete waste of space.’ Ariane sipped on her drink. ‘What? I didn’t ditch him because he has no money, I ditched him because he was completely pathetic about the whole thing. Kept expecting me to pay for him to do anything, wasn’t even prepared to make an effort for us to spend time together economically - you know, he can’t cook? And he refused to learn? It was my birthday and he spent the time moaning about how he couldn’t take me out anywhere nice, and when I suggested we do something at home he said there was nothing to be done! If he’d spent half as much time planning something as he did complaining about how he couldn’t do something, I’d have been treated like a princess, honestly.’

Tanith couldn’t help but grin sympathetically. ‘I’m sorry he turned out to be a waste of space.’

‘You’re not, you never liked him,’ said Ariane, and met her gaze levelly for a few heartbeats. ‘And it turns out you were right. So you can be smug about that.’

There was something in her eyes which was unusually honest, and Tanith shifted her weight. ‘I can assure you that I will never be smug about Miles Bletchley.’

Ariane waved a hand dismissively. ‘You said you were waiting for a special occasion with Tobias,’ she said, abruptly changing the subject, and despite the spotlight coming back on to her, Tanith let it happen out of sympathy. ‘We should warn you - they don’t just happen. You make them.’

‘I know - we’ve not had the time to make one.’

‘You fit it in,’ said Melanie. ‘Whenever an opportunity comes along, you seize it, and you make it happen.’

‘Nice dinners and such are all very well and good,’ said Ariane, leaning forward. ‘But I accept that’s difficult for you two. So you’ll just have to try to make the most of it with... other techniques. Schemes. Plans. We can help!’

Melanie nodded, then looked around the bar with a frown. ‘You know, I think we’re going to need some better drinks...’

* *


‘Right on time,’ said Shacklebolt as the Ministerial Office arrived in the secured street around the back of the building that would officially become the new magical hospital within a matter of minutes. ‘Let’s not dawdle, I don’t want to be late.’

But Tobias put a hand on the Minister’s elbow as he started down West Street towards Tindleham Alley. ‘Not that way, sir; we’re changing the route.’

Shacklebolt sighed, but let himself and the rest of the team, including the two Aurors on their protection detail, be led in the opposite direction. ‘I told you that you didn’t need to fuss, Tobias.’

‘I know, sir. But it is necessary. May I remind you to be sure to not speak to any press until after the speech?’ Tobias limped quickly to keep up with the Minister’s long-legged strides, leaning heavily on his cane. ‘Especially not from the Prophet.’

‘You told me already - I know,’ said Shacklebolt, giving his Communications Director a wry look. ‘You don’t need to be so paranoid -’

‘But it costs us nothing to take this street around, sir.’ Tobias nodded to the other narrow road which would lead them around to the front of the building - and avoid the throng of journalists Gabriel had warned him would be waiting for them down Tindleham Alley.

‘We picked Tindleham Alley,’ said Rackham, one of the Aurors, ‘because it’s sheltered enough for us to properly defend the Minister -’

‘I appreciate that from a security perspective it’s better, Mister Rackham, but for the sake of a hundred metres I hope you can do fine on this road.’ Tobias moved forward to lead the half-dozen of them down the narrow alleyway, eyes watching the gap at the far end beadily. If they were quick enough, the press wouldn’t realise they’d been bypassed and they could have the Minister on the stand before they knew it.

‘It’s all right, Rackham. Let Tobias do his job,’ said Shacklebolt, speaking to his former colleague with warm familiarity, and he pulled a roll of papers from his coat. ‘Someone had better take these, I don’t want them claiming I’m reading off notes -’ He looked around the other staffers, one of whom moved up to take the papers. ‘Where’s Demming?’

‘I had to fire Demming,’ said Tobias in a matter-of-fact manner. ‘He spoke to the press.’

‘About the ceremony? That’s a bit much, Toby, we could have just moved him to another department -’

And about the memo, Minister.’

Shacklebolt’s expression did tighten at that. ‘You’re sure?’

‘He confessed like a naughty first year caught out of bed at night, sir. I’m -’

They had just come out of the alleyway, just come into the main square where there was indeed a huge throng of people - some press, but staff for the new hospital, and people just wanting to catch a glimpse of such an auspicious occasion.

And just as they rounded the corner there was a sickening, loud boom, and the opposite end of the square suddenly exploded with a wave of magic and, with it, a wave of shattering masonry and brick. At the mouth to Tindleham Alley, where the mass of the press had been gathered, where everyone by now expected the Minister to have come from.

Tobias whirled around, but Rackham and his partner were quicker, the first Auror physically dragging Shacklebolt back around the corner and to the ground, the second stepping up to the entrance to the square, wand brandished.

‘Rackham! Get him out of here!’ he bellowed, as Tobias and the rest of the staff also went for their wands, Tobias cursing the absence of his staff as his leg twinged. ‘We’ve got to -’

Then the air was thick with screams, and the square was thick with dark robes.


* *


‘At least something good came out of that press attention yesterday,’ said Harry philosophically as the four of them appeared outside of the small country cottage along the east coast. ‘We never would have found this place otherwise.’

Tanith hated to admit that he was right. She’d come into work that morning with her head spinning a little from the drinks the night before, having misjudged just what was in the cocktails Ariane ordered, and so had been almost disheartened when the Enforcers had put a note on her desk. She’d looked forward to at least an hour drinking coffee and trying to put her skull back together.

But after the evening paper had printed their non-story about Harry Potter doing basic investigation work, someone read about how the Aurors were looking into the death of Bartholomew Mulready - and had told Canary Wharf that his ex-wife was their neighbour.

At least the sea air was doing her hangover could. She was not prepared, in the slightest, to let her trainees know she had been so foolish as to get a bit drunk the night before. But there had been plans.

All of them crazy, but plans.

‘Probably not,’ she had to concede. ‘But let’s see what she’s got to say for herself.’

‘Maybe she just wanted to go on holiday to celebrate the brutal murder of her dick of an ex-husband,’ Katie said as they crunched up the path.

Ron snorted. ‘Because that wouldn’t be suspicious.’

‘Let’s see what she’s got to say for herself,’ Tanith repeated as they reached the door, and wagged a finger before she knocked. ‘Now hush.’

There was silence. Then Tanith knocked again, and more silence. She was just reaching for her Auror’s badge, ready to bash on a window and flash it and shout, when finally she heard the sound of bolts being scraped back from the door, and it swung open to show a rather dingy and worn interior.

Before them, tense and apprehensive, stood Annabelle Mulready. ‘...yes?’

Tanith hesitated, then pulled out her badge anyway. ‘I’m Auror Cole; these are Trainees Bell, Potter, and Weasley. We’re looking into the murder of your ex-husband, Bartholomew Mulready. Can we come in and ask you some questions?’

It was difficult to sound as hard as she wanted to. Because even if Annabelle was guilty, Tanith was having a hard time summoning the casual distaste, at best, that she usually felt for criminals. If Annabelle had murdered her husband, Tanith rather thought she deserved a medal instead of prison.

But this was her job.

Annabelle looked like she knew this wasn’t a question, anyway, and stepped back to lead them into a dingy living room. They could see the sea beyond the windows, pale and grey on this gloomy autumn day, and while the view should have been invigorating, it all instead looked weak and straining.

‘I know what you’re thinking,’ Annabelle Mulready said, sitting down primly in an armchair as Tanith sat herself down opposite, and her trainees hovered uncertainly in the doorway. Annabelle hadn’t even looked twice at Harry. ‘But I didn’t kill Bart. I have nothing to hide.’

‘You’re an awfully hard woman to find for someone who has nothing to hide, Mrs Mulready,’ said Tanith, pulling her notebook out and trying to keep her voice casual.

Annabelle’s expression pinched. ‘I know what you’re like. The MLE. The truth isn’t as important as an answer. And I’m an easy answer.’

Harry made a slightly pained sound. ‘This isn’t the MLE under Voldemort, Mrs Mulready -’

‘You think the MLE was only corrupt when You-Know-Who ran it, Mister Potter?’ Her eyes were beady and accusing; Tanith realised with some surprise that she knew full well who he was, she just didn’t care. ‘Your Department has never done me any favours before; I’ve had no reason to trust you to do me any now.’

Tanith cleared her throat gently, and softened her voice as she leant forward. ‘I am interested in the truth, Mrs Mulready,’ she said carefully. ‘I worked with your ex-husband. I know -’

‘You, and every other member of the MLE who ignored everything he did to me.’ Annabelle’s voice shook. ‘When he was one of theirs, and if I reported it when he put his hands on me, I’d get an Enforcer come around, nod, take down some notes, then assure me it was best if I didn’t make anything official of it. And I realised it would go nowhere, so I didn’t.’ She looked up, eyes blazing. ‘Only when you couldn’t pretend any more that he was a good man did you bother to listen. Then you had no choice. So you’ll forgive me if I don’t trust the MLE to not jump to the obvious conclusion, when I had every reason to want that man dead.’

Tanith lifted a hand slowly. ‘I was going to say that I worked with Mulready. And my problem wasn’t in figuring out who might want him dead, but finding someone who didn’t. I can only imagine what happened between the two of you; I know last year that nobody had anyone like him on a leash...’

Annabelle swallowed quickly. ‘I don’t understand why he wasn’t locked up when Shacklebolt became Minister.’

Tanith’s throat tightened. Because it wasn’t convenient at the time. ‘I do need to give my superiors an answer as to what happened to him. And we came looking for you because you have motive, yes, Mrs Mulready, but also because you had a good chance of knowing what might have happened to him.’

She shook her head, a small jerk. Tanith could see fear in the gesture, in her eyes, her posture. If this was anything other than an intimidated, stressed middle-aged woman, then she was an excellent liar. ‘I don’t know what happened to him. I hadn’t seen him in weeks.’

Tanith clasped her hands in her lap. ‘If you did know something, Annabelle - look, like I said, I worked with Mulready. I saw the things he did. I know he happily took part in torture, I saw him... volunteer to murder someone.’ Right before you murdered someone yourself. She blinked, and pushed on. ‘If someone thought the world would be better off if he wasn’t breathing in it any more, I’d struggle to see a reason to condemn them to Azkaban.’

She studied Annabelle Mulready’s face as she talked, studied it for any twitch, any sign of give, and tried to sound as reassuring and warm as possible. But there was nothing - the fear and distrust did fade a little, but there was no flicker of doubt, or hesitation.

Annabelle shook her head. ‘I don’t know anything, Auror Cole. I’m... sorry I can’t make your job easier.’

No, you’re not. But that’s okay. Tanith sighed, and tapped her pencil against her notebook. ‘...can you tell me where you were the night he died?’

The sea air was bracing when they left the cottage, though Tanith couldn’t keep the frown from her face as Annabelle Mulready closed the door behind them, and Harry looked over at her. ‘What do you think?’

‘I don’t think she was lying,’ said Tanith, leading them back down the path. ‘Unless she’s secretly some criminal mastermind. But I’ll have the Enforcers keep an eye on her anyway for a couple of days, unless something else shows up.’

Ron looked over his shoulder. ‘Even if we don’t have any other leads right now,’ he said, ‘I’m kind of glad we don’t think it’s her. It sounds like she’s had a rotten enough time already without being done for murder.’

‘Yeah. She’s clearly been pushed a lot,’ she said quietly as Katie quickened her pace to draw past them, heading to leave the gate. Outside of the basic apparition protections of the house and its boundaries she could more easily whip up the mass apparition charms needed to get them out of there.

Harry raised an eyebrow. ‘Were you lying?’ he asked. ‘When you said you wouldn’t do anything if she confessed?’

‘That’s not exactly what I said,’ Tanith pointed out. ‘And we could hardly go back to Vaughn empty-handed, could we?’

He didn’t press it, but the look on his face made it clear he’d noticed she hadn’t specifically answered the question. It was just as well he didn’t press, though, because Tanith herself didn’t know the answer.

You’d probably just have to ask Riley to go easy on her; the Wizengamot have let enough people who’ve actually done something wrong go to let one more...

‘Chief!’

That was Katie, not organising the mass apparition, but instead yanking the gate open and sprinting over to them. In her hand was the glowing Communication Orb the team had been given; Tanith had palmed it off onto Katie because, of all of them, she was the best at communication and transport spells. It made sense for her to continue a job similar to the one she’d done with the Lions.

And her face was white as a sheet.

‘It’s Vaughn! There’s been an attack – Remnant. Remnant in Manchester, at the hospital.’

Tanith’s gut did loops and twists that put her nausea from the hangover to shame. Tobias. She snatched at her wand. ‘Let’s move out,’ she said. ‘Get here, we’d best apparate toge-’

‘No.’ Katie shook her head, knuckles where she held the Orb white. ‘He doesn’t want us with the team going in there, he wants us back to the Wharf. Stand-by in case there’s another hit somewhere else or they need rapid response...’

Meaning, Vaughn doesn’t want trainees running around in a combat zone if he can help it. Even if they has the experience. Fuck the Wharf -’

But you can’t say “Fuck the Wharf”, can you. Because you’re a professional, and you’re supposed to be a Training Officer...

‘Yeah,’ said Harry, expression setting. ‘Katie, get us a mass apparition ready; Ron, you better be on standby for some group Shield Spells the moment we arrive and –’

‘No.’ Tanith pinched the bridge of her nose. ‘We should... go back to Canary Wharf. Like the Old Man said. Stand by as reinforcements if they, or anyone else, needs us.’

He started. ‘But the Minister -’

‘Is going to be surrounded by the best and brightest of the Magical Law Enforcement Department,’ said Tanith, voice a little strained. ‘Not just his bodyguards, but everyone Vaughn is bringing in. We don’t get to ignore the orders that we don’t like.’

‘You changed your tune,’ Ron pointed out.

‘I remembered my duty.’ The word stuck in her throat. ‘Trust me, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than Manchester right now.’ They passed through the gate, and Tanith slammed it shut harder than she’d expected, her fists balling. ‘Now. Back to base.’



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