Chapter 1 : 1 - Assignment
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Chapter I – Assignment
There was a nasty, sharp wind that followed Roxanne all the way from her cottage, a few streets away from Diagon Alley, to the shady butterbeer stand opposite Gringotts where she stood impatiently, checking her pocket watch every other minute. Her robes billowed around her angrily, and she let out her fifth impatient sigh of the minute.
“Expecting someone, ma’am?” the butterbeer vendor enquired, before picking up a pitcher and filling it with butterbeer. “Fancy a drink while you wait? Less than a galleon for a pitch!”
“No thank you,” she replied with the same brusqueness that she treated everybody except her mother. “He should be here soon.”
Sure enough, she heard the trotting of hooves behind her and spun around to meet Sebastian Mortiz. She gave him a once-over and met his apologetic gaze.
“You said ten-thirty. I was here at ten-thirty, Seb,” she folded he arms across her chest and waited for his lousy explanation. Missed the carriage, got out of bed late, had to help a first year cross the road – he was never short of them.
“I know how much you hate waiting, Roxie, and I’m so sorry – ” he began, licking his lips and shaking his head.
“Well don’t keep me waiting any more, then. Whyever did you want to meet at this bizarre hour in the morning? You know I have a meeting in –”
“It’s important,” he interrupted, before she could carry on reciting her schedule for the rest of the week. He sighed and fidgeted a little, adjusting his neckerchief and looking down at his hooves. “I um – well, it’s – ahh --”
Roxanne rolled her eyes. She did not have time for this squibbish behaviour.
“Do I need to find you a translator?” she said rudely, sighing again, and in turn causing him to sigh.
“Roxanne, this isn’t working out anymore. Us.” he bluntly announced, staring at her expectantly with his lip caught between his teeth.
She stared back at him blandly. “So, what do you propose we do?”
He started back at her in silence for a second. “I don’t think there’s anything .. we can do, per se.”
“Oh, don’t be silly,” she said, stomping her foot. “This is a problem, right? We find solutions to problems. There’s nothing to it.”
“No, Roxie, you don’t get it – I don’t want to fix it,” he said unsurely, looking more tense than a Hippogriff that was about to be executed.
“... alright,” she let out, eyeing him curiously. After a moment’s passing, her eyebrows shot up and her mouth opened. “Oh! Oh dear, I understand now. You’re breaking up with me, if I’m not mistaken?”
“Err – don’t be upset, Rox, it’s just – ”
“Oh don’t get carried away, young man,” she said with a snort, slapping him on the shoulder. “It’s perfectly fine. In fact, I wish I’d thought of it myself. We’re both so busy, you know, we haven’t the time for these frivolities. I perfectly understand, old chap.”
“Roxanne – ”
“And here I was thinking I’d have to cancel my eleven o’ clock meeting!” she shook her head and let out a noise caught between a chuckle and a snort again. “Excellent meeting you, Seb. Stay in touch. Here’s to your good health and godspeed!” she rummaged her robe pockets for a galleon and left it on the counter, instructing the vendor to give the lovely chap a butterbeer. “It’s on me,” she beamed. “Keep the change.”
At eleven o’ clock on the dot, she was at the Minister for National Security’s office, drumming impatiently on his receptionist’s disk.
“The Minister will see you now, Miss Weasley.”
“About bloody time, dad!” she called, pushing through the large oak doors with some difficulty and giving her father a disapproving look. “There’s important people coming. I think it would be best for all of us if you put your toys away for some time.”
“You sound just like your mum,” muttered George Weasley, looking older than he was. “You won’t believe it, Roxie. All you need is a sip of this potion and you can voluntarily levitate for a good ten minutes! Shall we try it?”
“No, we shan’t. Did you forget that the Minister’s Security Council will be here any minute?” she swished her wand this way and that and hid all the different pots and pans behind the curtains.
“Ah, yes, I remember now,” he said unenthusiastically, dusting his hands. “I suppose I’ll just have to slip a bit into Irma’s tea later in the evening. That should give me a good idea about possible side-effects.”
Roxanne gave him her usual scolding gaze and he shrugged. At that moment, there was a loud knock on the door, and a troop of men dressed in expensive dress robes marched into the room.
“The Minister’s Security Council, Minister Weasley,” announced Irma the receptionist, before she scurried back to answer the telephone.
“Gentlemen, do make yourself seated.”
“Never offer a man a seat before you know his full whereabouts, Minister,” said one sharp looking chap with a moustache that resembled a bowtie. “I’m Dalloway, the Head of the Security Council.”
They shook hands. “And from where do you hail, Mister Dalloway?” George enquired.
“And your wife?”
“Er – Manchester.”
“You have children, I presume? A man of your age and kind – ”
“Daaad!” cut across Roxanne, before her father could embarrass himself any further. He simply didn’t know when to stop with the fun and games.
“Well Mister Dalloway himself insisted I enquire about his full whereabouts, I’m just –” the Minister began to defend himself.
“He didn’t mean it quite so literally, dad,” Roxanne said with a roll of her eyes.
“Ah, this must be Miss Roxanne Weasley,” said the moustached man, offering his hand.
“Do sit down. I imagine you must be running a tight schedule.”
“Indeed,” he cleared his throat and sat down, nodding at one of his henchmen before progressing to speak. “There is an organization that goes by the name of Eosin. They’re a top potions manufacturer and they have their warehouse in South of London. Their dealings in the past have been innocuous for the most part – but with the information we have now gathered, we can conclude that it was they who were behind the attacks in Surrey last winter, and more recently, the failed attempt to cause an explosion in Diagon Alley.”
The man sitting to his right proffered a file bulging with tattered parchment to the Minister, who flipped it to Roxanne.
“At precisely 2.30 in the morning, the Council was alerted by a breach in security in the Minister’s main conference hall. I myself was present at the situation, and if you’re familiar with the new-age apparition technology that the cinema industry had started a few years ago, you probably have a good picture of what I saw. There was a blank screen with a simple ‘e’ floating in the centre. And a voice, that we are yet to identify, said something along the lines of “the murder of the Minister for Magic”.” He paused, for effect, presumably.
“Somebody’s trying to murder the Minister?” asked Roxanne, her brow closely knit together in concentration.
“We have reason to believe that it is the organization Eosin that is behind it. One of our men who was present at the scene, identified the symbol on the apparition as theirs. We sent a team to their warehouse soon after, but the only people present were innocent workers, who I believe have no knowledge of what goes on in their company behind the curtains.”
“Did they tell you who was in charge?”
Dalloway gave her a tight lipped smile. “They have never seen him. Never heard his voice. They don’t even know his name.”
“Who do they answer to?”
“There is a Pendred Marge, who is the most senior worker in their warehouse. We interrogated him, and I believe he acquires his daily instructions by Owl. As I said, they are a potions manufacturer. A great deal of their buyers are from Bulgaria, and some other orders come from schools, to stock up their classrooms.”
There was some silence.
“You will find in the file all the details you need to know about the Minister for Magic,” Dalloway pointed at the file in Roxanne’s hands. “This is top-secret and highly classified. The public are not to know the danger the Minister, and potentially the nation, is in.”
Roxanne opened the file that was overflowing with parchment. There was a file photo of the Minister – Edward Doxy – shortly after his electoral win. There were pages and pages of details – place of birth, parents, family, food allergies, travel schedule, medical history ..
“Forgive me if I sound ignorant Mister Dalloway,” began Roxanne slowly. “But – what is it exactly you want us to do?”
The members of the Council looked at each other, and then at Minister Weasley.
“Roxie I think they’re putting you in charge of the Minister’s safety.”
Roxanne started at them all for a few seconds.
“The Minister’s life is in your hands, Miss Weasley,” said Mister Dalloway as if it were nothing at all. “You will be expected to see him shortly after his lunch meeting with The Squib Society. As for what the job entails, his assistant Mister Reginald will address you later in the day. I trust you have accepted this task, Miss Weasley?” he finished a little slowly, eyeing Roxanne unsurely.
She chewed her lip for a second. “Sure. I don’t see why not.”
“Good golly, did you hear that Chang?” cried the unnecessarily excited Skillet, as she whacked the tired looking bloke beside her over the head. “Roxanne here has landed us a spectacular doozy.”
“What’s the doozy, Captain?” the man yawned, rubbing his eyes and staring at Roxanne blankly.
“Our next client is the Minister for Magic,” she replied with her hands on her hips. “And I need you both to work with me on this one – together.”
“Of course,” mumbled Jung Chang as he stretched in his chair. “Though the last time you said you needed me I ended up doing absolutely nothing – except reading the entire Batty Bobbins collection that the Minister of Commerce hid in his pensieve cupboard.”
“Great deal of good that did all of us,” muttered Skillet. “Wouldn’t shut up about Batty for a whole month, this one.”
“Well, depending on how far our job profile stretches, we might need to track down a secret organization that’s run by a faceless wizard. That’s right up your alley, right Jung?”
He rubbed his hands together with anticipation. “When do we start?”
“We’re meeting the Minister in half an hour. He’s lunching with the Squib Society at present. I say we grab some food from Aunt Aggie’s and be on our way. Skillet, you in?”
“Always. You never know when you might need me to put my fencing skills to some use,” she said with a grin, inspecting her nails before standing up with ten times the energy Jung Chang had.
“Wait – this isn’t one of those ‘beat up the bad guys’ portfolios, is it?” asked a now worried Jung. “Because the last time I was on one of those, I was the one who needed a bodyguard.”
“It depends on what the job entails, Jung,” said Roxanne impatiently. “Which we won’t know unless we get to the Minister’s office. Now pick your arse off that seat and put your robe on.”
“That tone’s not going to get you very far with the Minister.”
Being made to wait for the third time that day, Roxanne sat in the long hallway between Jung and Skillet outside the Minister for Magic’s office. She flipped through the file Dalloway had given her earlier, her eye catching little details here and there. Edward Doxy, the Minister for Magic for the last two years, had overwhelming public support. He beat his opponent – Sir Wesley – by an unprecedented five hundred and thirty eight votes. He was a patron of the S.P.E.W. Movement lead by her aunt Hermione Granger, a supporter of the Hollyhead Harpies, allergic to raspberries, born to working-class parents, and most importantly, a Gryffindor. Roxanne wondered if it was his political contributions or good looks that had garnered him so much popularity. He had a nose that could slice through a slab of Grandma Molly’s rock cake effortlessly, a sharp gaze, and a crisp, perfectly tailored wardrobe. He was Quidditch captain in his day, as well as President of the Duel Club and D.A.D.A. Society. On paper, he was as good as Dumbledore.
“He’s a bit young, don’t you think?” asked Skillet, peering over his picture. “Fit bloke, though.”
“So you can imagine how horrified the nation would be if he was murdered,” muttered Roxanne, and Jung chuckled.
“These pretty blokes really have it bad. Wait, he was a Gryffindor?” he scrunched up his nose in distaste. “I bet he’s a tosser.”
“Be that as it may,” said Roxanne, who was sorted into Slytherin like her two companions. “We need to put aside petty differences and make sure this bloke does not get killed. It’s not like Alfred Dionysus or the Commerce Minister. This is serious business.”
“And serious money,” Skillet reminded. The other two nodded.
“Miss Weasley? The Minister will see you now.”
The room they entered was large enough for a family of Hungarian Horntails to inhabit. Jung and Skillet had made themselves comfortable by sitting down in the large plush chairs opposite a desk strewn with parchment, photos, quills, newspapers, and ink bottles. To the right, beside the staircase that coiled up to another floor, was a shelf of books as high as the sky itself. Roxanne greedily scanned the titles, running her hands down some of the worn out spines, pushing the ones that were out of place back in. There were timeless classics that she had devoured in Hogwarts – Dumbledore and Grindelwald, Hogwarts: A History, A Brief History of Time-Turners, The Wonders of Hogsmead, and her favourite, The Weasley Empire: Rags to Riches. An owl flew in through the main window behind the burdened desk and perched itself on the reading light, hooting in greeting.
There was a patter of footsteps from the coiled staircase, and two men tumbled their way down gracefully, their backs faced to Roxanne.
“And I tell you Reggie, for a goblin, he had a bloody good sense of humour,” said the man leading. “Oh, there are people here, Reggie. Do you know them?”
“I think they’re with the Council,” said the shorter of the two, approaching Skillet and Jung. “I’m Reginald Alabaster, the Minister’s assistant.”
They shook hands.
“Er – and is Miss Weasley not with us?” he asked, clearing his throat.
All four of them spun around at once.
“Oh, Miss Weasley, we didn’t see you,” Reginald walked towards her and shook her hand, while the other one just stared with a comical expression on his face. “Admiring the library, are we?”
“It’s spectacular,” Roxanne said politely, trying to give him a polite smile.
“Have you lunched? I can have the butler send for some food if you’d like?”
“No thank you, we ate on our way here. I believe there was supposed to be a briefing?”
“Yes, yes, there was. Why don’t you take a seat?” he offered, and she held her hand up.
“No thank you.”
“She doesn’t sit,” commented Jung off-handedly, and Roxanne shrugged. Reginald looked at her oddly for a moment before shuffling to his place next to the Minister’s seat.
“You mean not ever?” asked the other man, looking incredulous. Roxanne made her way over to the desk and stood between Jung and Skillet, casting the man a weary glance.
“I like being on my feet,” she replied swiftly, hoping to put the matter to rest.
“Well, in those shoes, it’s a wonder,” he commented with a dry chuckle, before making his way to his seat beside Reginald. Roxanne’s eyebrows immediately disappeared into her bangs.
Reginald cleared his throat.
“Well, Miss Weasley and Miss Skillet and Mister Jung, it’s very nice to meet you. Like I said, I’m Reginald, Edward’s assistant, but you can call me Reggie,” he said all at once. “And this, of course, is the – uhh – Minister – Edward.” He pointed to his right and looked a bit sheepish when Edward chose to wave at the three opposite him.
Roxanne was a little stricken. He looked a great deal different than the Minister she had seen in photos – his hair was standing up like some sort of bird’s tufted tail in the front, and while his nose was the same, there were wrinkles around his eyes and brow. Not to mention the unpremeditated manner with which he conducted himself, and the general sense of aloofness about him.
“So, I trust the Council has given you details about the terrible threat the Minister received earlier this morning,” his assistant continued. “We are still investigating the source of the apparition. Our Advanced Magic Department has been at it since we received it. At the moment, you only need to travel with the Minister everywhere he goes – most of them are in and around the city, and some will require more extensive travelling, to other cities and countries. Ever since the kidnapping of Minister Scrimgeour several years back, we no longer advice Ministers to apparate. It appears that some wizards have got a knack of mid-apparative nabbing. So we employ conventional methods such as the rail to get the Minister from one place to another. Floo network and broomsticks are also discouraged.”
If the look on Skillet’s face said anything, it was ‘egad’.
“Mister Chang, we have been given a detailed report of your work and would greatly appreciate it if you could offer some assistance to our Advanced Magic Department. Miss Skillet, we understand that you have profound experience in the field of potions, and if you could offer your services to our research department that would be greatly appreciated. We have elaborate information on the composition of the chemicals used in their former blasts – and perhaps by linking the given information, if you could lead us to the person or organization that’s behind this, there’d be nothing like it.”
The two of them looked at each other and nodded.
“Miss Weasley,” said Reginald with an anxious sigh. “You job will involve following the Minister everywhere he goes, and making sure he stays out of the hands of his anarchist organization. We will provide you with all the information we have at present about Eosin, along with the comprehensive standard security measures in place. Should the need arise, you are expected to defend the Minister and yourself in times of danger or attack, and are solely responsible for getting him out of whatever sticky situation you might find yourself in. The incident that took place this morning was just the beginning – how they intend to put their threat to action is something we are yet to figure out. We know you have experience with this sort of thing – tracking down terrorist organizations and such, but we hope you will not undermine the calibre of this assignment, for it is not like any other. This is, of course, the Minister for Magic we are talking about.”
There was some silence once more, and Roxanne simply nodded.
“When do we start?” she mimicked Jung from earlier. Her eyes momentarily flitted over to Edward Doxy, who was staring intently back at her, with a curious smile playing on his lips.
“Right now,” replied Reginald. “As of now, you are officially employed by the Ministry for the security and welfare of the Minister for Magic. Miss Skillet and Mister Jung, you can ask the receptionist outside to show you to your departments.” He stood up and shook hands with them both again, before leading them to the door.
“Miss Weasley, the Minister has an appearance to make at a charity for the Healers Federation,” and with that, he left the room and shut the door behind him, leaving Roxanne shuffling about on the spot with uncertainty.
“Will you sit now?” the Minister asked, and she spun to face him again. Thinking it would be foolish to turn him down again, she made her way to his desk and sat down, crossing her legs and sitting straight. She pulled out her pocket watch and pursed her lips.
“At what time is this charity?” she asked, looking at him squarely and shoving her watch back into her trouser pockets.
“Oh, I haven’t a clue. Somebody will be down here soon enough, announcing that it’s time for us to go,” he said coolly, stretching in his chair and cracking his knuckles. Roxanne stared at him.
“And – what are we to do till that time?” she asked slowly, not understanding if she had merely caught the Minister in a slow, postprandial state or if he was always like that.
“I have this fantastic new chess set that I purchased when I was in Sweden last week. Supposedly it’s ten times more gruesome that normal wizards chess. Can I interest you in a game of chess, Miss Weasley?” he asked with a friendly smile, scratching his nose and nearly knocking over the pot of ink next to his elbow. It made Roxanne’s nerves split.
“No thank you.”
“You say that an awful lot,” he chuckled. She continued to stare at him.
“Minister – ” she began, but he cut her off. Oh, how she loathed people who cut her off mid-sentence.
“Please, call me Edward,” he said with another smile. She took a deep breath and counted to five.
“Minister, I tend to work by a schedule. That’s how I’ve always worked. I’m sorry if this comes across as a little brash, but if you could just send for me when you need me, that would be lovely,” she began to stand up and brushed off her blazer.
“Terror knows no schedule, Miss Weasley,” Edward said grimly, shaking his head. “If you were to come back in half an hour and find me dead on the floor with a mouth full of froth and a cup of poisoned tea at my feet, I daresay you would be in a bit of a pickle.”
He was unbelievable.
“Please, take a seat.”
The book from the Minister’s library titled A Brief History of Time Turners is adapted from Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.
Jung Chang is intended to be the son of Cho Chang – he kept his mother’s name for reasons that will be divulged over time.
Sebastian Moritz is a centaur. Details on if and how Roxanne and Sebastian attempted procreation will not be divulged over time.
George Weasley still contributes a great deal to Weasley Wizard Wheezes.
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