Chapter 1 : Prologue
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When I was a child my mother always used to say to me:. “You are Germany Marianne, because you keep inside of you two very different places that when combined together could never dream of functioning.” It wasn’t until June 18th 2007 that I was able to truly comprehend the irony of those words. I was born on the 13th of July 1985 in the German Democratic Republic, just four years before the wall came down. Back then the prospect of reunification had been inconceivable.
I should begin with the beginning I suppose and tell you about the day when I was five years old and I saw a heavy-lidded witch with long black hair and a picture of a skull branded on her left arm murder a child in a school playground. But I won’t. Not yet, at least. I could tell you about the young, bespectacled boy who got blamed for it. But I won’t. Not yet, at least. I could tell you the story of how I didn’t tell the truth when the school expelled him for a crime that he did not commit. It would have been the right thing to do. But pointless, definitely pointless; even when I was five years old I could see that. You see, back then it was common knowledge to a person of magical abilities, that a muggle would go to any lengths to convince themselves that magic did not exist. Or at least, it would take a lot to convince them otherwise. And it did. It was cruel and calculated and involved unimaginably evil people; not unlike the witch who killed the little girl in the story that I’m not going to tell you about. Not yet, at least.
Instead I am going to begin with a man and a woman who have nothing in common.
As the final rays of autumnal sunlight disappeared behind the clouds that hung low above Myrtle Grove, a tall, handsome man who looked to be only around twenty-two years old pulled up outside of an old boarded-up flat in a scarlet-red Porsche. Dressed in a crisp black suit and tie and wearing a pair of stylish, black shades he stepped out of the vehicle and checked the time on his Rolex. It was exactly eight-forty-five. If, in a minutes time, nothing about this scenery changed then he intended to climb back into his Porsche and never return to this street again.
However, precisely fifty-seven seconds later the scenery did change. A woman, who looked to be five years older than the man, suddenly appeared on the opposite corner of the street, as if out of thin air. She, like the man, was wearing black shades (although these ones appeared to have cost a lot less money). Her clothes were also considerably plain; a white t-shirt, bootleg, denim jeans and a shabby, red pair of trainers. It was impossible for the man to judge whether or not she had seen him as the shades obscured the movement of her eyes. Never the less she continued to walk down the pavement as if she had not. Ten seconds later however, as the man was considering the prospect of climbing back into his Porsche, the woman stopped outside of a door and stood there as though she was about to ring the doorbell. She then placed her right hand on the small of her own back in an unusual but inconspicuous manner. This, the man understood to be a signal of some sort.
Knowing now that she would follow him, the man waited for another five seconds before turning to face the door to the flat which sported the boarded-up windows. To his surprise the handle did not turn at first. It took another ten seconds, and the unmistakeable sound of a click before he tried it again with success this time. He suspected that the woman in the shades may have had something to do with it but it was not a mystery that he was going to bother pondering about right now. There were far more pressing issues that called for his attention.
Once inside he removed a lighter from his pocket and held it up in the all-consuming darkness that surrounded him. After several minutes of searching it reflected off a door handle that was able to lead him into the front room. Once inside the front room the man flicked off the lighter and waited.
“Is it perhaps your plan Mr Baader to have this conversation in absolute darkness?”
The man in the shades blinked. If this woman had intended to spook him with her unexpected appearance she had failed quite miserably. He had spent too many years dealing with her kind to be so easily unnerved by their unusual ways of coming and going.
“To tell you the truth Miss Granger, I find the dark to be slightly inappropriate for this kind of meeting. Don’t you?” It was indeed true. The man liked to be able to read the expressions and body-language of those whom he interrogated. He had already gathered some interesting clues in her voice. It was incredibly raspy for a woman of her age; clearly she took great pleasure in smoking in excess, which in turn indicated perhaps a needy personality.
“Why yes, of course Mr Baader.” The woman responded in a tone that seemed to almost mock him. The man heard her mutter a two-syllable word under her breath. Immediately several orbs of light erupted from the end of a wooden stick that she was holding in her hand. The man knew that the proper term for this stick was a ‘wand’. With this ‘wand’ the woman organised the orbs so that the entire room was illuminated by their excess light.
Now that she was facing him and no longer wearing her cheap, black shades, the man was able to see why she had opted to cover up her eyes today. One of them was purple and had swollen to the size of a large acorn. He predicted rather uneasily that a fist had made contact with it several times. Of course, he did not ask her if his suspicions were correct but instead pulled out a fistful of notes.
“My apologies for the inconvenience but I could only procure the amount you require in Euros. We do not have the required access to your currency. You will have to exchange this yourself.”
“Is it all there?” The woman asked, snatching the fistful of notes greedily and proceeding to check them herself.
“Yes, all seven hundred and fifty of them.” He said, eyeing the woman suspiciously.
Clearly deciding to take the man’s word for it, she positioned the notes into a neat pile and tucked them into the pocket of her jeans.
“Ok Mr Baader, I will tell you what I know. But firstly I would like to ask you a question.”
“Yes yes well perhaps we should take a seat first.” he said impatiently, pulling up a chair from a nearby table. The women mimicked his movements and took a seat opposite him.
“I wanted to know Mr Baader, why you sounded so sceptical when you said my name before?”
The man sighed. It didn’t matter how intelligent the individual witch or wizard was; the fact remained that whenever he met them they always made the same mistake of assuming that his people knew nothing about them and their world.
“Because your name is not Hermione Granger.”
The woman glowered at him but did not try to denounce this comment as untrue. “And, you know my real name do you?”
“No.” The man answered truthfully, “but we already have a Hermione Granger on record; in fact we have all er – muggleborns as I believe your kind like to call them – on record. We make a habit of talking to people like Miss Granger regularly and as far as I’m concerned you bear no resemblance to her whatsoever."
“I should think not.” The woman said, pulling a disgusted face, “anyway how did you know I wasn’t disguised?"
“Well, purely due to the fact that Miss Granger has never agreed to meet me in a disguise before. It would seem unnecessary in normal circumstances.”
“Yes but this isn’t a normal circumstance.”
“Well then it would probably be best that I proceed to call you Miss Granger.” The man said impatiently.
Pursing her lips the woman tucked a strand of her cropped black hair behind her ear and nodded. He observed that had her eye not been so strikingly repulsive she may have been quite pretty. Then again there was something quite puggish about her features that he did not like.
Not wanting to delay things any longer the man pulled out a tape recorder from the pocket of his suit and pressed the record button. Interview commencing at eight-fifty-two on June the eleventh, 2007. Assuming the role of the interviewer is deputy head of the European muggle secret service, Alexander Baader. Assuming the role of the interviewee is...er...Miss Hermione Granger. Miss Granger, would you please begin by recounting the conversation that you claim to have overheard between two of your associates.”
The woman rolled her eyes. “Well, it was late last night, around about twelve o’clock. My boyfriend-I mean my, er, friend who’s a guy just got back from...” He saw her squeeze her eyes tightly shut in concentration, “From, erm, a job he’d had to do and he had er, an acquaintance with him.”
“And what are the names of your friend and his acquaintance?”
The girl bit her lip and shook her head. “I don’t want to say. I can’t say!”
“Perhaps the acquaintance then. Not the friend?”
She shook her head in frustration, “No no I don’t know his name, I’ve never seen him before yesterday and he was never introduced to me.”
“So this acquaintance was male then?”
She glared at him, “Yes, of course he was male.”
Alexander nodded to her in encouragement, “Well could you describe him to us please?”
“Erm – yes, he was good looking I think, very goodlooking I think. He had blonde hair; it was wavy but jelled back so it looked darker than it probably is. And he had quite light, sparkly eyes. I don’t know they could have been green or blue and he was tall, maybe 6,4. He looked like he worked out a lot too. And he was a bit tanned I think. His nose was slightly on the big side, but not by much. And he...he just struck me as odd.
Alexander stared at her, intrigued. “why odd?”
“He was wearing a suit; like yours, which is just weird...I mean he was smart-looking, but usually the more intellectual of our kind tend to wear robes because they have important jobs at the ministry that they dress appropriately for.”
“And you don’t think that this man worked for the Ministry of Magic?”
“Well...maybe, but I’d have probably seen him around. Then again he did look kind of familiar but I’m not sure.”
“Perhaps you could just take a second to consider where you recognise him from.”
The woman scowled at him but did not speak. Thirty seconds later she gave up shaking her head, “it’s no use, he may work for the ministry, he may not. I don’t know. Oh but he definitely had an accent.”
“An accent?” Alexander asked, interested.
“Yes, it was unusual, Swedish perhaps?”
“Swedish?” Alexander asked furrowing his eyebrows. “Could you perhaps impersonate?”
“I wouldn’t be able to, it would be too difficult. He pronounced the 'i's like-like hard ‘e’s I think, but I could be wrong. And sometimes he over pronounced words that had ‘ch’ in; he sometimes made an unusual sound in his throat.”
Alexander considered this for a second. Being German himself he was very familiar with Western-European accents and assumed that this woman’s description could fit any of them. “Yes, Swedish perhaps.” He said eventually. “Is there anything else about this man that you feel would be worth making a note of?”
The woman seemed to consider this for several seconds. “He definitely had money.” She said eventually “They kept trying to negotiate a price.”
“A price?” Alexander said quickly, “A price for what?”
“Oh it was for a job that my friend and his other friends were doing for him. He kept talking in big figures.”
“They didn’t happen to mention what the job entailed?”
The woman shook her head but her face instantly betrayed her.
“I suspect that you’re not being entirely truthful Miss Granger. The Service would like to assure you that it does not work within the same frameworks as wizarding law.”
“Oh I know that.” She snapped, pulling a cigarette out of her pocket and reaching for Alexander’s lighter which he had left on the table that stood near where they currently sat. “Why do you think that I’m bloody well contacting you? D’you mind?” she asked, lighting her cigarette up hungrily before he even had time to respond.
“By all means, go ahead.” He said through partially-gritted teeth.
The woman shook her head once more and then took a long drag from her cigarette, “I don’t even know why I’m here.” Alexander heard her mutter in agitation, perhaps more to herself than to him. After several more minutes of silent smoking the woman stubbed out her cigarette in a nearby wastepaper bin and sighed. “I-I couldn’t tell you exactly – well I suppose I could yes but... I want to make it very clear that before yesterday I had absolutely no idea that what they were doing would be so –so –well I didn’t think that it would be that”
“Miss Granger, in your own time please.” Alexander said impatiently. Something about the panic evident on the woman’s face and in her tone of voice made him suddenly suspicious.
“They-they want to break out twelve convicted Death Eaters out of Azkaban prison and –and – and I think they’re going to use them to attack muggles.”
Alexander stared at her for several seconds with furrowed eyebrows. “Death Eaters?”
“Yes,” The woman barely whispered whilst cautiously attempting to read his expression. “Death Eaters are wizards who-”
“Yes Miss Granger, yes I am very much aware of what Death Eaters are” Alexander interrupted her, attempting to shake his head free of a heavy weight that seemed to be stuck on it.
“But it wouldn’t make sense to do that. Their master is dead, it would be impossible to bring him back-“
“I don’t think that they intend to use the Death Eaters to bring their master back Mr Baader. No-no I think that they intend to do something far worse than that, something that even he-who-must-not-be-named wouldn’t have dared to do.”
“You think or you know?” He asked impatiently, wiping a thin line of sweat from his forehead.
“I-I...” The woman bit her lip. “I think I heard them say it but then again it could have been a misinterpretation.”
“Say what?” Alexander asked her hurriedly. He was uncomfortably aware of how dry his mouth was beginning to turn.
“I-they said that-that they...” the woman paused for a moment to inhale, “they mentioned something about wanting a war...how-how it was the only way to make our kind see.”
There were no mirrors in the room at that moment in time but Alexander Baader was sure that had there been one he would have looked straight into it and he would have seen a pallid white ghost staring straight back at him.
“Miss Granger, I-I need you to think carefully about this now, what was it that they said exactly?”
The woman that Alexander had found to be so confident and assured upon first meeting him seemed to have undergone a complete transformation over the past couple of minutes. Now, with tears streaming down her face, she held a hand to her swollen eye and shook her head.
“I c-can’t say anymore. You-you have to understand. They’ll kill me if they ever find out that I’ve told you this."
“You don’t have to go back there.” Alexander said suddenly, “we have access to wizards who can provide you with the protection that you need. All you need to tell us is what you know.”
“I have told you what I know.” She sobbed “And I c-can’t leave him, he needs me”
“Miss Granger!” Alexander exclaimed in disbelief, “this-this friend of yours- this man - he talks about helping convicted murderers to escape from prison and-and about killing muggles and about starting wars and you won’t even consider trying to stop him?”
The woman shook her head, “I can’t, I can’t give you his name, but I thought that perhaps if you warned some of the aurors they might guard the prisons more heavily.”
Alexander had to employ all of his remaining strength to not slam his fist down on the table at that very moment.
“Then perhaps you could try to think of the name of this acquaintance for me?”
“I told you, I don’t know. He never addressed him by name.”
“But you said he looked familiar Miss Granger. Can you not imagine at all where you may have seen him before?"
“I don’t know! It could have been anywhere. The Daily Prophet, Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, the Ministry...anywhere!”
Alexander rubbed his forehead impatiently and inhaled deeply. Then, he thought of an idea. “Do you think that you could try to find out? I mean, a name is all we need.”
The woman sighed. Her face had become tight and blotchy from all of the crying. “I don’t know, I suppose I could try.”
“We’ll pay you whatever you want so long as you find us that name quickly!”
The woman did not answer but instead nodded. “I’ll try.” She assured him.
It is probable , that as he observed the woman with concern, Alexander Baader knew, somewhere deep down, that this woman would not be attempting to contact him again. In fact, if he’d listened to his instincts right there and then he would have sent this woman to one of the many wizards who he was in contact with, and he would have payed him to provide her with the protection that she needed to ensure her safety. As it was however, in that moment, Alexander Baader decided to be selfish. As a result he received a phone call the next day informing him that a witch named Pansy Parkinson had been murdered with dark magic the night before and that on her person they had discovered a sum of money that had totalled to seven hundred and fifty euros.