The sun was properly up when I woke, alone in Scorpius' room. I stretched out, kicked the duvet away, yawned, then grappled for my bag, where I’d tucked my watch into the front pocket. It was just past ten. I nearly sighed out loud with relief, knowing that Albus was only an hour away.
When I went out into the corridor I could hear Scorpius pottering about in the kitchen, but I ducked into the bathroom first to splash cold water on my face and wrists. I’d had to sleep in my clothes and it showed; they were all crumpled and creased and the cuffs of my cardigan were loose and shapeless from where I’d been tugging them down over my hands all night. I probably had a tube of lipgloss in my bag, but there was no way I could make my face presentable for the Ministry visit. I’d have to make do with the previous day’s make-up - whatever was left of it.
But desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess. When I got through to the kitchen I found Scorpius perched on the worktop, a tin in each hand. I was a bit pleased to see he looked as bedraggled as I did.
‘Erm, we have no bread. Or cereal,’ he said. ‘We might have to have soup for breakfast.’
‘Suits me,’ I said, realising how hungry I was.
‘Cream of tomato?’ he offered.
I sat down at the table in front of the month-old Sunday Prophet
whilst he busied himself with a saucepan and the soup. For a moment, I entertained this bizarre fantasy that we were penniless students, exhausted from a night out and heating up soup for breakfast in a stale, cold flat, but all I could think was that me and Scorpius both looked very, very young in our present states and the fantasy just didn’t hold.
‘Sorry,’ he said, sliding a steaming bowl of tomato soup in front of me five minutes later.
‘Stop apologising,’ I said.
He came back with his own bowl and a couple of spoons. ‘I’m trying,’ he said. ‘But I keep finding things to be sorry about.’
It wasn’t exactly a normal breakfast, but it was hot and reasonably tasty. We didn’t talk once as we ate. Scorpius focused his gaze on the window and lapsed into a sort of thousand-yard stare, like he was trying to see through the layers of buildings outside into the Ministry itself.
‘So,’ I said, once I’d finished and let the spoon clatter into the bowl. ‘Albus will be here soon.’
‘Forty minutes,’ Scorpius said, without breaking his stare.
‘I can’t believe we’re doing this.’
‘Going to the Ministry. Isn’t it kind of…breaking in?’
‘No, they’re pretty good about letting you visit,’ he shrugged. ‘I mean, it’s not the most exciting career choice, is it? So I guess they want
kids to have a look around, encourage them to work there. We’re the next generation of admin assistants, Flora,’ he said, very sternly. ‘It’ll be us in those offices in…ooh…two, three years’ time?’
‘I don’t want to think about that. Wouldn’t want to work there anyway.’
‘Well, where would you work?’
I didn’t have the faintest idea. ‘I dunno. Maybe I’ll be a professional cat lady. Of the crazy variety. What about you?’
‘Haven’t the foggiest. Might be a conductor on the Knight Bus. I like their uniforms.’
‘Bet the pay’s crap. I think Albus wants to be an Auror.’
‘Well, of course
Albus wants to be an Auror,’ Scorpius sneered.
‘Sorry,’ he said, after a long silence.
We ended up hanging about in the sitting room for the next half hour, idly flipping through books from the shelves around the walls, watching the fireplace from time to time. It was three minutes to eleven when a flame shot up in the grate and then, moments later, Albus sprung out, impeccably dressed and brushing soot from his shoulders.
He looked at us warily. ‘You alright?’
I felt like running up and throwing myself into his arms, but decided this was a bit inappropriate given how tense it was. ‘Peachy,’ I said. ‘Ready to go?’
‘Sure. Have you had breakfast, or…’
‘We had soup,’ Scorpius said, with such seriousness that it nearly made me giggle.
‘Okay,’ Albus shrugged, and we went out into the corridor.
‘Oh, before we go…Flora,’ Scorpius said, holding out his inhaler. ‘Do you mind keeping this in your bag?’
‘Fine,’ I took it.
‘Oh…’ Albus dug about in his pockets and then withdrew a small, tightly folded square of silky fabric. ‘Do you mind looking after this too?’
‘One of you could take a bag as well,’ I said.
‘Boys don’t do handbags,’ Scorpius muttered, and it cheered me up when Albus laughed at this.
It turned out that Albus was right; we weren’t far from the Ministry at all. Not that I’d have known, because the place was pretty much invisible from the street. Or, rather, from the street, the place was just a phone box. Just your average red telephone box, hidden away round a corner and pretty much ignored by everyone going past. Even though it’s not like people use telephone boxes at all these days.
‘In here,’ Albus said, holding the door for both of us. Once we were all in, it took a bit of manoeuvring so we could all fit with Albus by the telephone, so I ended up squished against the door with Scorpius treading on my feet now and again.
‘Ready?’ Albus said, lifting the receiver and dialling a number I couldn’t see.
I almost said ‘ready’ back, but then a woman’s voice came out of the thin air.
‘Welcome to the Ministry of Magic. Please state your name, and the reason for your visit.’
‘Albus Potter, Scorpius Malfoy, Flora Lancaster,’ Albus said, smooth as you like. ‘We’re here to visit the Department of Mysteries.’
‘Thank you,’ the woman’s voice said, and a moment later three silver badges came shooting out of the little coin return trough. Albus passed one of them to me. Flora Lancaster: Visitor
. I pinned it onto my jumper.
‘Please surrender your wands at the security desk in the Atrium,’ the woman said. ‘Have a pleasant day.’
‘You too,’ Albus said.
Scorpius snorted with laughter. ‘She can’t hear you.’
‘A little politeness goes a long way,’ Albus said, but then the phone box creaked into life and we began to descend into the earth.
I’ve never seen the Ministry in pictures or anything, but I’ve read plenty about it in History of Magic textbooks. Being a bit of a nerd as I am, I can quote all sorts of meaningless facts about the construction of the Ministry. Like how the original Atrium was pretty much destroyed at the end of the last war and had to be rebuilt in a week to make sure the Ministry got back on its feet as quickly as possible. And like how the statue in the middle’s been replaced countless times, and the current one is a commissioned piece by the famous artist Tarquin Prenderghast that’s supposed to be an abstract representation of magical unity, or something like that.
Okay, I tell a lie, I have sort
of seen the Ministry in pictures. One picture, actually. It turned up when we got our textbooks for studying the second war this year, in a bit of the textbook we haven’t got to on the syllabus yet, and for Scorpius’ sake it’s a bit of the textbook I hope we never
get to. It’s a photo taken back in the nineties when the war had already started but hadn’t got to real conflict yet. It’s of the Ministry Atrium, although you wouldn’t guess unless you read and understood the caption. I think it’s been lifted out an old Prophet
article. It’s in black-and-white and every so often a bit of the photograph lights up like a camera flash has just gone off.
Every time I see this photograph I can imagine how it might have been at the time. Those camera flashes are really bright, coming from all directions, and I guess that whoever took the picture was not the only photographer there. And because so many cameras are going off and the light is so harsh, the two pale people in the photograph look paler than usual. The boy is probably only about sixteen; he looks like his mind’s totally elsewhere, because there’s something pretty absent about his gaze. The woman next to him is looking at the camera, though, and I can’t decide whether she’s doing this on purpose or whether that was just how the photographer got her, because I can’t read her expression. The two of them barely move in this photo, even though the flashbulbs keep going off around them and you can see people moving about in the background. Both of them just blink, and stare, and blink, and stare, and every so often you might catch the boy clenching and unclenching his fists.
In the textbook, the caption says ‘Narcissa Malfoy leaves the trial of her Death Eater husband, Lucius, with her son’.
From that photo I’d imagined the Atrium might be a pretty intimidating place, like there’d be banks of reporters and photographers jostling about the place. This was the place where, years ago, the boy that’d become Scorpius’ father stood and had his picture taken. I don’t know if I’m meant to, but I’ve always felt sorry for the boy in that photo, even if I’ve always been a bit unsure about the real Draco Malfoy.
It was a nicer place than expected, though. Not too busy – it was a Sunday, after all – and impeccably clean, all purplish tiles and ornate fireplaces that I knew from my reading were the means of entering and exiting for workers. I knew we were underground, so it felt a bit like being in a cave. Just one with nicer interior design than your average cave.
I recognised the statue in the centre from my readings too. It was all curves and twists of coppery metal, a little tarnished, going a bit green at the bottom where it stood in a pool of perfectly clear water. The metal went up almost to the ceiling, then at the top there was a phoenix fashioned out of gold. It was done almost like the artist didn’t care, and the shaping was a bit rough, but I guessed this probably had some meaning I couldn’t quite grasp.
Just as we passed the statue, Albus took a knut from his pocket and tossed it into the pool of water.
‘For good luck,’ he said, when I looked at him enquiringly.
We went over to a desk on the far side of the Atrium. The face of the guard sat behind it seemed to light up when we approached, and he grinned at Albus.
‘Mister Potter!’ he said. ‘Your dad’s not long in.’
‘Hi, Wilf,’ Albus grinned. ‘Yeah, I gather law enforcement’s pretty busy at the moment.’
‘Ain’t half,’ Wilf said. ‘Come to see him? Brought some friends?’ he added, nodding to me and Scorpius.
‘Yeah. Actually, Wilf, we were wondering if we could pop down to the Department of Mysteries. Flora here is thinking of becoming an Unspeakable, you see. We wondered if we could see someone to sort out some work experience.’
It was hard not to react to this obvious lie. I tried to grin at Wilf too, but my lips were trembling a bit.
‘Really?’ he said, disbelievingly, and for a moment I thought he’d seen right through us. ‘Never met anyone who wanted
to be an Unspeakable before. Well, each to their own.’
He looked back to Albus. I felt I could drop the trembling grin.
‘I mean, I know
a lot of that level is out of bounds, most of the time,’ Albus said. ‘But, see, Scorpius’ dad works there,’ he pointed over his shoulder, not once breaking eye contact with the guard. ‘He might be able to take us around.’
‘I’ll have a look at the sign-in sheets,’ Wilf said. ‘What’s the name?’
‘Malfoy,’ Scorpius said, quick as a flash.
Wilf’s eyebrows shot up. ‘Oh, really? Yeah, he’s on the sheet. Clocked in yesterday morning and hasn’t been out since. Do that lot ever see the sun?’
Scorpius managed a small, tight smile.
‘I’ll send a memo down,’ Wilf said. ‘Should be alright. The department’s got its own security clearances, I’m sure someone can show you around the…er…accessible bits. I’ll have to take your wands, by the way.’
Albus made a show of rolling his eyes. ‘You’d take a wizard’s wand off him?’
‘Them’s the rules,’ Wilf said with a cheerful smile, and I got the feeling Albus was trying to distract him away from me and Scorpius. We looked too morose to be there for just work experience. ‘Hand them over.’
We all took out our wands and passed them to the guard. He put each of them in a little cloth bag which he then labelled and stowed under the desk.
‘I’ll send a memo down to Mysteries,’ he said. ‘But you can start making your way there; the lift takes ages. Have a nice day.’
‘Thanks,’ Albus said. ‘You too.’
We hurried over to the lifts and Albus pressed a button to call for one. There was a whole bank of them, an enormous row of severe metal grilles – and not all of them went down
. There were some that went sideways; you could see the shaft extending out for ages before it was swallowed up by darkness.
‘See?’ I said. ‘Your dad clocked in yesterday. He’s fine!’
‘Then why didn’t he go home?’ Scorpius snapped.
Albus shrugged. ‘Maybe he just didn’t bother to pick up the post, you know, work on the brain. Probably didn’t want to let it trouble him.’
‘Yeah, sure,’ it was Scorpius’ turn to roll his eyes. ‘And he also found the prospect of dealing with month-old milk and newspapers too stressful, yeah, that’s
a reasonable explanation.’
‘Maybe he just didn’t go home,’ I said. ‘Could be staying in a hotel? Maybe he’s…found someone. To move in with.’
Scorpius made an incredulous noise that sounded a little like fnar
, in perfect harmony with the ding
as the lift reached us.
‘Mysteries is right down in the basement,’ Albus said. ‘It’s a looong
Just as we stepped into the lift and the grille clanged shut behind us, Scorpius said ‘I hate being without a wand. I feel like I’m starkers.’
We went a few floors down before we properly had another conversation, mostly because witches and wizards kept popping in and out of the lift, along with a fluttering flock of paper aeroplanes. Albus explained that these were memos, like the one Wilf would have sent down about our visit. I just wanted to catch one and take it home so I could keep it as a sort of novelty pet.
Nobody got in the lift after International Magical Cooperation, so we could talk properly then. ‘This is...scary,’ Scorpius said. ‘I feel like we’re walking into something massive.’
‘It all seems
fairly simple…’ Albus said. ‘Even if your dad’s too busy to see us, we’ll still get a tour, how about that?’
‘The Department of Mysteries is a horrible place,’ Scorpius said grumpily.
‘What was your dad researching?’
‘Oh, um,’ Scorpius’ face darkened. ‘This is where it gets…weird. It’s always weird stuff, you know?’
‘Well, I mean, nobody’s meant to know about it, but…he can do mind magic, you know, that’s his thing. Occlumency and Legillimency. So he does a lot of the odd, obscure stuff, like apparently before he met mum he spent all his time watching peoples’ dreams in Pensieves. You know, the basins that hold memories. We’ve got one at home,’ he said, when me and Albus looked at him blankly. ‘I don’t know what the purpose was. I don’t know what they did that for. But then, um…now they’ve got him researching the afterlife.’
Albus’ jaw had actually dropped open. ‘The afterlife?’ I said.
Scorpius had gone red. ‘I don’t know any more than that. But he’s obsessed with it, and he always gets worse in the winter because mum died at Christmas. He won’t give it up.’
Albus blinked a few times. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I didn’t know.’
‘Nah, nah, it’s fine,’ Scorpius said dismissively, although you could tell he really did care. ‘I guess this is important stuff to know, right? Maybe he made a breakthrough.’
‘Why does the Ministry care about the afterlife?’ I said. ‘Aren’t there bigger fish to fry?’
‘I dunno,’ Albus said, frowning. ‘They managed to put the dreams research to good use – I read up on it for a Defence project. I think they figured out a way of getting in people’s heads when they were asleep, it’s a kind of weapon. They could plant ideas and stuff. Takes a massive amount of skill, though.’
‘Well, my dad learned Occlumency from the Death Eaters,’ Scorpius said without thinking, then abruptly shut himself up.
The flat had given me enough heebie-jeebies to be getting on with, but this new development was creepy central. I pulled my sleeves down over my hands again, feeling a sudden chill.
‘I don’t really want to know what afterlife research involves,' I said.
‘I must admit I’m intrigued,’ Albus grinned.
‘This place is giving me the creeps.’
‘You’ll be fine,’ Albus said. ‘If the worst comes to the worst, I’m good at stunning spells and Scorpius can throw a punch or two.’
‘I can’t so much throw a punch as take one,’ Scorpius said, grinning too, but then his smile dropped. ‘We don’t have our wands.’
‘The worst won’t come to the worst, though…’
‘I’d like some reassurance,’ I said, a plan springing into my head. ‘Al, I’ve got an idea. What if you take the cloak? Then me and Scorpius go have a look around and you follow us. Invisible. Then you can go and get help if anything goes wrong.’
‘It won’t come to that, Flora.’
‘But what if it does? Seriously, I’ve got a horrible feeling about this. Just to make me feel safe.’
He’d been pretty obsessed with protecting me in the past, so I figured he couldn’t fail to respond to this line.
‘Oh…fine,’ he said.
I just about managed to hand him the cloak from my bag before the lift finally came to a halt at the final level, and the same woman’s voice from the telephone box said ‘Department of Mysteries’.
‘Here goes nothing,’ Albus said, and disappeared beneath the cloak.
It was a bit weird walking as a trio when only two of us were visible. Every so often, I could hear
Albus, really faintly; his shoes scuffing on the floor, an intake of breath. It felt like being blindfolded. And I didn’t quite feel safe, really. We went through a single door, down a corridor, deeper into the Ministry of Magic, and I was bloody terrified.
After a few minutes of walking a door to the left opened and a man in emerald robes stepped out, blocking the way entirely.
‘Can I help?’ he said.
‘Er…yes,’ Scorpius said. ‘We’re here to sort out some work experience and…um. I’m here to visit my father too. Someone at the desk sent a memo down about it...’
‘Memo?’ the wizard said blankly. ‘What’s your father’s name?’
‘Ah,’ his face lit up. ‘Ah, yes, indeed. Right this way. Just some…ah…procedures to follow. Won’t take long.’
We followed him into his office; a small, fairly empty room, where a desk and filing cabinets had been set beneath a window. It was drizzling outside, despite the fact we were underground.
‘Just a moment,’ the wizard drew his wand and conjured two wooden chairs from mid-air. He set these beneath the desk and motioned for me and Scorpius to sit, which we did cautiously, me almost tripping over my own feet.
‘I have to ask you to fill in these forms,’ he said, with a taut smile. ‘Standard procedure, obviously. Security has to be absolutely watertight! Did you say you were Draco Malfoy’s son?’
‘Yes,’ Scorpius said.
‘Ah. He’s quite deep down the levels at the moment. We have a curious habit here,’ he smiled again. ‘Of referring to the Department as a series of levels. A little like the circles of hell, most people say.’
He worked so quickly that I barely registered what he was doing. In the time it had taken us to sit down and him to speak, he’d swept several pieces of parchment and a quill from a drawer and set them out on the desk. He licked a finger, peeled a sheet from the top, and then smiled at Scorpius. There was something I didn’t quite like about the way that smile was frozen, how it did not quite
reach his eyes.
‘Just a few details. Enough to let us run you past our records. Full name?’
‘Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy.’
When we’d first met, I’d found his unusual name pretty funny, and even these days his middle name still made me smile. But now my nerves were all on edge and my heart was beating in my dry throat, and I couldn’t possibly remember what’d amused me so much.
‘Date of birth?’
‘Thirteenth of December, two-thousand and five.’
‘Mother’s maiden name?’
‘Er…’ Scorpius thought about it for a bit.
‘It’s quite alright, not everyone remembers right away.’
‘Holly. Unicorn hair. Can’t remember the length.’
‘Excellent. And your blood status?’
There was a perceptible shift in the atmosphere, an icing of the air. Scorpius stared ahead, momentarily mute, until he mumbled ‘pureblood’.
The space beside me seemed to empty, and I suddenly realised Albus must have gone. A creak from the hinges startled us all as the door drifted open an inch further, as if in a breeze.
‘Excuse me,’ the wizard said. The door locked without him even looking at it.
‘And you, young lady. Name?’
‘Flora Mary Lancaster.’
Scorpius shifted uneasily in his seat. I wanted to tell him Albus was gone, but I got the feeling this wizard would notice the slightest of movements.
‘Date of birth?’
‘Fifth of August, two-thousand and six.’
‘Mother’s maiden name?’
‘Yew. Unicorn hair…’
And the question I’d been dreading. ‘Blood status?’
I was tempted to answer with mudblood
. ‘Muggle-born,’ I answered instead.
He raised his eyebrows. ‘I see. Good. Thank you. Now, I’ll just have to stamp you. So we all know you’ve been through me. If you could hold our your left hand, please, palm side up.’
We both did as we were told. Scorpius’ hand was shaking so badly that the man had to grip hold of it and make it steady before he brought down the stamp. Scorpius flinched. I don’t know why, because when my palm was stamped it didn’t even hurt. I felt the pad press on my skin, then a coldness as the wet ink met the air. When I looked down, a black ‘M’ in a circle took up most of my palm. M for Ministry of Magic, I supposed, and let my arm drop down by my side again. No matter how much the place gave me the creeps, I was certain we were minutes away from finding out what’d happened to Scorpius’ dad, and I was beginning to believe in the theories we’d bandied about over the last couple of days. Overtime, weird projects, weird departments; Mr Malfoy was probably dozing at a desk somewhere.
The wizard had scribbled a note on a small scrap of purple Ministry parchment. He folded it deftly into a paper aeroplane, then stood to open the window and flung it out into the air. Beyond the window there was only darkness, and I realised that the drizzle must be enchanted. The note spiralled away out of the sight and he shut the window again.
‘Just informing your father you’ve arrived,’ he said. ‘I do hope he receives it. He has been a little, erm, preoccupied of late. You’ll just have to hang on until we hear back from him.’
He sat back down and surveyed us both. Scorpius nudged me in the ribs a couple of times, but I didn’t dare look at him.
‘And how do you two know one another?’ he said. ‘Schoolfriends, I suppose.’
‘Yeah,’ Scorpius said, with another elbow jab at me.
‘Ah. I don’t think your grandfather would have approved, Scorpius. Remind me, how long did he spend in Azkaban?’
I finally gave in and glanced across at Scorpius. He had his left hand resting on his knee, palm side up, as if he was casually waiting for the ink to dry. But I knew he wanted me to see what’d been stamped there. There, in red, a capital ‘P’.
P for Pureblood, and M for Mudblood.
The wizard sniggered. ‘Yes, we do need to distinguish. You’re lucky neither of you are half-bloods, I’m all out of green ink. What do you expect? They employ any sort here. Nobody cares for purity anymore…your family used to, Scorpius, but I hear you’ve given up the cause these days. Was it when the pigs bled your father dry? Half the country runs on the Malfoy money, the joke goes…’
My ears seemed to be ringing. Scorpius said ‘Please, let us leave. We don’t want to cause any trouble.’
He shrugged. ‘It’s a bit late for that. I’ve got a couple of our lot coming to deal with her. We can’t let you leave, I’m afraid.’
‘Please,’ Scorpius repeated in little more than a mumble.
The occasional bit of social awkwardness was nothing compared to the fear that rooted me to the ground then. Fear of the couple of our lot that were surely minutes away, and how would they deal with me? I wanted to do something heroic. Something that would save us both - because I got the feeling this wasn’t just empty talk and we were far out of our depth - but I knew we had little time and little chance.
But then I guess I sometimes underestimate Scorpius, who I always assume is just a bit quiet and just a bit weird like I am. I forget he’s actually a bit tough underneath all the introspection and pretension. And at the time I guess I underestimated him as per usual. Those scabs on his knuckles flashed past as he made a desperate lunge for the wizard’s wand and missed, only just avoiding a bolt of red light that took a lump out of the opposite wall.
I was still rooted to the floor with ringing ears. Someone shouted my name, and I came back to my senses long enough to throw myself down off the chair and cower on the floor with my hands over my head. There was another bolt of light, blue this time, and I ended up drenched in plaster. Someone shouted again, and then a clattering brought my focus to the ground in front of me. A wand.
I was uprooted. I grasped for the wand and realised I was holding it the wrong way just as the wizard yelled and launched himself over the desk. I pointed it the right way and thanked Albus in my head for reminding me of the spell I needed to use, gasped out the strange word on my tongue – then all the wind was knocked out of me and I couldn’t speak anymore, sharp pain in the back of my head and on my chest.
Stunned, the wizard had fallen on me, and I’d hit my head on the wall behind. I wrestled my hand free; the wand was in two pieces, held together by a sliver of dragon heartstring.
I threw it aside. I was shaking too badly to hang onto it anyway. I tried to shove the unconscious man off, but he was too heavy – then Scorpius stumbled over, pushed, and the dead weight rolled off. I could breathe again.
‘Oh god,’ Scorpius said, and dropped to his knees beside me. I sat there, taking great, shuddering gasps of breath, and he knelt at my side clutching his left wrist, eyes screwed up in pain. We didn’t have much time, maybe only a minute or two, so I tried to stand on unsteady feet and put out my hand to help Scorpius up.
He shook his head at me, wincing. ‘My wrist,’ he choked. ‘It’s killing me.’
‘We’ve got to go.’
I went over and grappled with the handle for a bit before my mind caught up with my hands and realised it wouldn’t open. I even tried kicking it, and throwing my full weight into it, but it wouldn’t budge. We had no wand that would open it. Tears – a third pain, a third frustration, a third blind fear – were dropping down my face before I could stop them, and I put my forehead to the door and my hands to my eyes and cried silently.
I could hear Scorpius moving about behind me. It sounded like he was getting as far away from me as possible. Took another shuddering breath that hurt all the way to the bottom of my lungs. Then I asked ‘What are they going to do to me?’
‘The window,’ Scorpius said.
I turned around. He’d opened the window and was dragging the desk chair beneath it. ‘The window,’ he repeated. ‘It’s our only way out.’
‘To where?’ I spluttered, thinking of the darkness beyond.
‘I think I know where,’ he said, wiping blood from his face with the back of his uninjured hand. ‘It’s worth a shot.’
‘We shouldn’t have come here.’
‘Flora, we’ve got minutes!’ he cried, and I went hurrying over to the window too.
‘Climb up,’ he ordered.
‘But where do I go?’
I pulled myself up to the window ledge and looked out; the drop was almost the height of a house, an enormous distance, a certain death.
‘I’ll break my neck!’
‘You won’t! Trust me!’
‘The charm will protect you!’ he said, forcing me up. ‘Please!’
The lock in the door clicked. I brought my feet up and crouched on the ledge, shaking, staring down into the dark.
‘I’ll be right behind you,’ he said, and pushed.
: and so the proverbial poo hits the proverbial fan. I mostly typed this chapter one handed; I needed my other hand to swill a glass of fine red wine as I flipped my head back like a pez dispenser and laughed manically towards the ceiling. By my estimate, there's only 3-4 chapters left to go...
I'm indebted to justonemorefic for her beta'ing of the end of this chapter and the entirety of the next, and also supporting me through my successful career of being Very Horrible to Scorpius. I also owe thanks to the HP Lexicon; I'm without my copy of OotP and had no idea how to write the Ministry scenes, so referred back to that constantly during this chapter. I've taken a lot of liberties with the architecture of the Ministry, however, so I'd like to explain it away with the following: it's magic.