Chapter 3 : Traitor
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Chapter Three: Traitor
Ettie was early to work on a dreary September morning. There was a chill burrowing through her robes as she briskly navigated the city streets to the Ministry entrance, hands clenched against the cold in the depths of her pockets.
She walked as slowly as she could toward her office, nearly dragging her shoes along the corridors, deliberately missing the lift, taking a wrong turning and pretending to look preoccupied with a slip of parchment she held in her hands. It was another Floo Conversational Transcript, which she had yet to finish reading, but there was little chance that it contained anything informative, seeing as the names of the conversers recorded were Melisande Greengrass and Belinda bloody Babbling. Again.
In the days that followed since her evening with Reg at the Leaky, there had been no more thunderstorms in the post, no foreign objects hurtling out of the Grateway, no Ventilation Charm failure. She didn’t see Reg Cattermole at all. She almost missed all of that. Life had receded into its bland old self and she spent far too many cramped hours in her office working, trying her best to stay out of all the other events and affairs of the Ministry. She had enough affairs to deal with, and none of them were her own.
“Marietta!” came a voice behind her and she turned. It was Dolores, wearing a pink frilled suit with a lace collar and squat kitty heels which made a prim clacking sound as she walked. One of her arms was pressing a pink-patterned clipboard into her chest.
“Good morning, Dolores,” she responded as politely as she could.
“I received your mother’s owl this morning.” There was a twinge of displeasure beneath Dolores’ tight smile. “Under the weather, is she?”
“Must be all the Dementors around her all the time,” Ettie said. Dolores’ smile seemed to freeze, but Ettie continued on quickly, “Of course, it’s all part of the job. My mother does have a rather important position after all.”
“Well-spoken,” Dolores said, “and being such a clever girl, Marietta, I’m sure you already realise that I need someone to sit in for her.”
She froze. Was Umbridge asking her to be a temporary substitute for her mother? She tried to imagine it. Sitting through those trials and interrogations, studying the prisoners with their wild, furtive and undirected gazes like caged animals. What if she recognised someone? Many of her former schoolmates were Muggle-borns, after all. Would they look directly at her, attempting to appeal to her conscience, to whatever faint association that existed between her and them? A strange queasy feeling swung through her gut.
“That’s a great privilege, Dolores!” Ettie exclaimed with as much eagerness as she could muster.
Dolores’ smile widened, her face cracking open. She hovered her hand over Ettie’s arm. Not quite touching, but the stubby fingers seem to half-wiggle and half stroke the air adjacent to her skin.
“Oh, no, no, Marietta, I’m terribly sorry I didn’t make myself clear,” Dolores simpered, “but I wasn’t asking you. You’re far too new to the Ministry for such an important position. However, rest assured that I know how much you want to be like your dear mother and make her proud.”
“I – I understand,” she faltered. Relief swept through her, so much so that she forgot to feel humiliated at the snub of Umbridge’s words. “May I ask whose trial is on today?”
“We have quite a few to get through today. Starting with Mary Cattermole’s hearing.”
The name flitted in the air like a scrap of torn paper.
“Well, Marietta.” Dolores tapped her stubby fingers on her clipboard, the rings making a clicking noise. “People haven’t been behaving themselves and I have a trial to attend. If you see Mafalda Hopkirk, send her right to me. I just can’t think why she’s late today.”
And with that, Dolores went on her way, tut-tutting to herself, leaving Ettie with only one place to go. Back to her dreary office.
The Chroniquills were writing at full speed, and the Grateway was blazing when she went in. She threw down her bag beside the door, sat down and tried to start reading through her backlog of transcripts, but nothing would stick in her head. Sentences ran through her mind, the tail-end of one merging into the start of another, all the drivel of parchment translating into a glob of nonsense in her head. Today she would have to turn in a report to Quarkley. Today Reg Cattermole’s wife would be on trial. She would be sitting on a chair, held down with chains like a common criminal, in that hollow amphitheatre of a room. Reg would be standing behind his wife, or next to her maybe, squeezing her limp fingers, his face ashen. She could almost imagine him shuffling his feet, sweating through his palms, swallowing and stuttering over his words.
She could get no work done. Ettie flicked her quill into the air and dropped her head into the comforting curve of her elbow. It wouldn’t do to get all worked up. The acne had a tendency to break out when she was upset or distressed.
All of a sudden, from the floors below, there came a low rumble, a tremor beneath her shoes. She sat up straight, listening hard. Something was happening downstairs, though in Ettie’s office, the noise was only a murmur, muted by the six floors beneath her.
She rubbed at her temples. There was no need to go and see what was happening; she didn’t care. She hated this place. She wanted nothing to do with it. Outside her office, doors began to open, followed by a clatter of footsteps. The other Ministry employees were probably running out of their rooms, going down to see what the commotion was.
Ettie plucked a scroll from the top of a pile and unravelled it. A transcript between Cassia and Nora Nott. 1:46pm, 31st August, 1997. That was two days ago or so. Stale conversations.
NOTT: ...such a disgrace! Her and her flying carpet collection, even though they’ve been outlawed by the Ministry. I’ve a good mind to report her!
NOTT: There’s nothing special about it, anyway – I had a peep at the collection the other day when she invited me to tea and I excused myself to go to the bathroom. Of course I didn’t go to the bathroom but headed straight for –
NOTT: Oh, goodness, Nora! The nerve you have!
NOTT: Wait till you hear this: the threads of her precious carpets – they’re Persian weaverworm silk! And everyone knows that the best quality silk comes from Egyptian weaverworms!
NOTT: The shame!
Ettie rubbed at her eyes, which now felt raw and gelatinous in their socket. Her neck ached from keeping the same posture of concentration for so long.
Picking up her wand, she pointed it at the transcript in front of her. “Incendio.”
A tiny flame bloomed in the centre of the document, spreading outwards in a widening circle, licking at the paper until the entire scroll was reduced to charred flakes of parchment. She stood up, kicked her chair backwards and went outside. She took the lift down to the Atrium.
The place was in an uproar. Most of the Ministry employees had bunched into a tight, scared crowd, and Death Eaters were shoving through them, snarling at everyone else to get out of the way. And in the midst of it all was a group of terrified-looking people, clutching their wands at chest level. They were being led by three figures; Ettie recognised Mafalda Hopkirk’s small frame and dark plum robes, Albert Runcorn’s hulking build, and tagging behind them slightly was Reg Cattermole, of all people. There was a woman she didn’t recognise clasping Reg’s wrist, and sticking tightly to him and he was looking extremely uncomfortable.
“Are you questioning me?” Runcorn was bellowing at a Ministry wizard, who shrank beneath the collar of his robes. Reg was trying to shake the woman’s hand off.
“Stop them!” someone hollered as the grille to one of the lifts was wrenched open. It was Yaxley, looking haggard and furious, his black robes crumpled and a bruise inking up one side of his face. “They’re intruders! Impostors in the Ministry!”
Just then, another person dashed out of the crowd toward Reg and the woman. Ettie stared. It wasn’t bloody possible. The person who had just joined them was completely identical to the Reg Cattermole with the woman. Two Reg Cattermoles.
“Mary!” Cattermole the Second was exclaiming, “What’s going on? What’s – who’s this?”
The woman whose name was apparently Mary Cattermole dropped the hand she was holding and looked from one Reg to the other, mouth open.
“Ron, let’s go!” Mafalda Hopkirk yelled.
One of the Reg Cattermoles, Cattermole the First, by the looks of it, pulled away from Mary and ran after Mafalda and Runcorn. Something was happening to the three of them. Runcorn was shrinking, Mafalda and Cattermole were lengthening and growing taller, and the latter’s head was blushing, the roots of his wispy hair growing scarlet. It wasn’t Reg Cattermole at all. Ettie kept on staring as the image of Cattermole slowly morphed into that of her old schoolmate, Ron Weasley, but everyone else’s eyes were trained on the transforming Runcorn.
The name spread like fire, from gasping mouth to gasping mouth, as people surged forward to see, standing on the edge of their toes.
Undesirable Number One. Oh, she knew all about Undesirables.
Ettie slipped to the back of the crowds, half-aware, making her way to where the real Reg Cattermole was standing, wringing his hands stupidly, with Mary Cattermole by his side.
“M-marietta!” Reg breathed when he saw her. “I – we – Mary says we have to get out!”
Mary Cattermole nodded furiously. “That’s what Runcorn, I mean, Harry Potter told me. Muggle-borns won’t be getting a fair trial at all, he said. The Ministry’s already decided that we’ll be found guilty.”
“What if they send her to Azkaban? Will they do that?” Reg choked out.
Ettie surveyed Reg’s wife. So this was Mary. Wide, frightened eyes, an unravelling bun of dull brown hair, and tear-stained cheeks. She had fine feathery lines on her forehead and at the corners of her eyes, and around her neck was a necklace, a plastic blue pendant. If Ettie had to guess, she would say that Reg had bought the trinket for his wife, thinking it was pretty. In truth, it sat on her chest like a child's cheap toy, something a toddler would hang around her neck and admire.
“Marietta!” Reg said again. “W-what are we going to do?”
There was no time to think things through. What would happen if she helped him? The air was blistering with Stunning Spells and people were trying to escape the chaotic Atrium, swarming to the Floo entrances. Many of them were the Muggle-borns supposed to be on trial today, but who had been released by Potter, Weasley and Granger in disguise. All the Death Eaters, however, seemed completely preoccupied with trying to capture those three.
Ettie grabbed Reg’s arm and pulled him to the lifts. “Come on, quick. Keep your head down.”
She wove through the crowd toward the now-empty lifts, Reg and Mary stumbling after her. The grille clanged shut and the lift shot off into the darkness, sideways, upwards until the doors peeled back, revealing the deserted sixth floor.
“Where are we?” Mary whispered.
“Department of Magical Transportation,” Ettie answered automatically. “Come on.”
“There’s – there’s no way out from here,” Reg moaned.
Ettie seized Reg’s arm again and hauled him out together with her. Mary, who was latched on to his other arm was towed along, and the three of them staggered together like a bent and warped chain, right down to the end of the corridor. The light was dim here but Ettie knew the way. She stopped at the last door. Juniper Swift’s office.
“Alohomora!” The lock burst and the heavy door creaked open.
Swift’s high-ceilinged, airy office was now dusty and echoey. Swift had left her table in a mess, expecting to return to work the next day. All the huge vines and plants of her office had shrivelled up, flaking off from the walls like brown brittle string, their flowers wilted, but their heady scent still permeating the air.
“This is Juniper Swift’s office,” she told Mary, who was looking befuddled and apprehensive at the large room wallpapered with rotting vines. “Oh, don’t worry. She won’t be coming in here.”
“Marietta,” Reg said, his hand drifting over the small of Mary’s back, “this is my wife, Mary.”
Ettie flashed a terse smile and nodded. “Figured as much.”
She went right up to the fireplace of Swift’s office and reached for the blue painted urn on the mantelpiece. It was half-filled with Floo powder, just as she’d thought. The day after Swift’s death, Dolores had sent Ettie to clear out her former superior’s office and retrieve all important documents and pass them on to the new Head of Department, Quotidius Quarkley. Ettie had looked around, opening the drawers, lifting the drooping flowerheads feeling sick and full of dread. She hadn’t expected Juniper Swift to be killed, hadn’t expected to have to go through a dead woman’s things, hadn’t expected someone to be dead because of her. She had been just doing her job, hadn’t she?
She shoved the urn toward Reg and Mary. “Take a handful.”
“Floo travel isn’t allowed,” said Reg, but both he and Mary reached into the urn and scooped out a handful of the silvery powder each.
“You’ll have to travel to Juniper Swift’s house. She was a fairly senior Ministry official – her fireplace is still connected to the Floo Network even though nobody uses it anymore.”
Mary looked shaky, but she let go of her husband’s arm and straightened herself. She was a small woman, dumpy at the waist, but she certainly did seem a lot more resolute than Reg.
“When we get home,” she said to Reg, “we’ll have to leave at once, all of us. We’ll get Maisie, Ellie and Alfred and go to my sister’s and stay there for the time being.”
“Don’t travel by Portkey, those are easily detected. And don’t use the Floo Network for anything, not even for contacting anyone.”
“We’ll take Muggle transport,” Mary declared, “we’ll travel by train. We should be safe.”
“Well, go on.”
Mary Cattermole turned round all of a sudden and flung her arms around Ettie, the Floo powder still in her fist, and gave her a jerky hug. Ettie staggered back and didn’t return the hug, but the other woman didn’t seem to notice.
“Thank you for doing this,” Mary half-sobbed.
A wave of uneasiness hit Ettie. “Reg is my, uh, colleague, after all,” she said, disentangling herself.
Mary turned back to the fireplace, cast the powder and a green fire flared up. “Juniper Swift’s house!” she called through the flames before stepping in and disappearing.
There was only Reg left, then. Ettie wished he would just go. “You don’t have to be so scared,” she told him, allowing the thinnest shade of mockery to sift through her words. He missed it, of course. She continued, “This will appear in the Floo records. But I’ll erase them so you can rest easy.”
“Marietta – ”
“I don’t like that name. I prefer to be called Ettie.”
“Ettie,” he said haltingly. He caught hold of her hand and she just managed to stop herself from flinching. His hand was rough and broad and his grip was surprisingly strong. “You – you’re not a bad person, Ettie.”
A harsh bark of a laugh escaped her. “Don’t be so sure about that.”
She looked into his eyes. They were filled with gratitude and a relief so enormous that it ought to be private, not showing on every inch of his face like that. It made her feel like an intruder, witnessing this immense gratitude of his that she didn’t deserve. She didn’t like it.
“Well,” Ettie said stiffly, pulling her hand free and flicking her glance away from Reg. “Don’t waste time. You’d best be off.”
He took a step forward and made as if to give her some sort of farewell embrace, but when she didn’t respond, merely lifted his hand halfway in an awkward salute. Then, he flung the Floo powder into the empty grate and stepped into the resulting flames. There was a green searing blaze and Reg Cattermole was gone.
Ettie sat alone in Juniper Swift’s office. She had just let two people wanted by the Ministry escape. Well, they weren’t wanted yet, but Dolores would certainly want to reschedule the trial and by then the Cattermoles would be nowhere to be found. They would have left their home and fled. They would be hunted by the Ministry, just like so many others. And she, Ettie Edgecombe had helped them. The thought appalled her, filled her with dread. She took a deep breath, trying to think. What the hell was she doing?
The thick floral scent from the dying plants inundated her nostrils and for a moment, she felt floaty and a little calmer. It was quiet in here, in Swift’s office. Nothing could be heard of the uproar that was taking place in the Atrium and everything was quite peaceful really, within the wilting, browning walls of the room. No wonder Swift hardly left her office.
She walked slowly around Swift’s sprawling desk to the high-backed chair, and sat down. She had time. Time to consider things, to reflect on what happened, to come up with excuses if necessary. She thought of the grey, swollen, putrefying rat that Cho had sent via owl post. Of course it had been Cho.
That was it, then. After work today, she would go straight to that shabby Muggle café where she and Cho had last sat together and drank tea, and she would wait there for her old friend. Cho might not turn up today, but Ettie would be there tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that – until she saw Cho again, until they both sat down and worked their miseries out together. She would tell Cho everything, including that time with Umbridge all those years ago in Hogwarts. There had never been any Veritaserum. And maybe, just maybe, if things turned out well enough between them, she would apologise.
Ettie tapped her fingers on the desk. They made a crisp rhythm on the wood. It had been some time since she’d applied the usual medicine to her face. Her skin was starting to prickle but for once, she didn’t care.
A/N: Well, this chapter concludes my Marietta Edgecombe story! I know this isn't the most satisfying of endings, but I always knew it would end this way. Thank you so much for reading; I hope you've enjoyed it. It's been quite some time now since I wrote this, but I still think it's worth putting up. Hopefully you'll have time to tell me what you think!
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