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Chapter 2 : One
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There is a crowd gathering on the beach; despite the harsh wind blowing against the shore and the early hour of the day, those tourists who have ventured to the north-western fishing city of Alexandria are intent upon enjoying their holiday. Dennis Creevey cannot blame them; he knows that if he was here for just a few days or even a fortnight, he would be determined to make every second pleasurable. He glances at the main road that separates the buildings from the beach and perches upon the kerb, his heart thudding loudly in his chest. With six lanes to cross and no traffic lights for several miles, those who cross the road are forced to dice with death. In the back of his mind, Dennis knows that he has crossed this road many times and has become skilled at avoiding the oncoming cars, not to mention that the number of accidents he has witnessed on this stretch of road is surprisingly few, but none of those facts can quell his fear that he will meet his untimely end.
Out of the corner of his eye, Dennis sees a hand waving and looks up to identify the waver, unsure of whether he is the person being greeted or not. However, he realizes that it is the former when he recognizes the brunette girl standing upon the sand and shouting something inaudible that is masked by the loud cars speeding past. Dennis momentarily considers replying to ask her to wait for him to cross so that they can talk, but quickly dismisses the thought - if he cannot hear her, then she surely will not hear him. Instead, he takes a deep breath and rushes forward, pausing on the line between the first and second lanes before bolting over the next two to reach the island dividing the lanes. Around him, other road-crossers take the opportunity to breathe for a moment but Dennis does not, pressing on and crossing the last three lanes with ease. Only then does he allow himself to relax, exhaling loudly as the brunette bounds up to him.
"Hi, Dennis!" she smiles. "I know I'm early, but I woke up hours ago and I couldn't get back to sleep, so here I am! I've already paid for our places on the beach - it's so expensive though! I was expecting it to be cheaper!"
"Cleaning up beaches probably costs more these days than it used to," Dennis lies, unwilling to reveal that it is actually the colour of his friend's pale skin. She is clearly a tourist, and as such is charged more, while the locals and Egyptians from other parts of the country are charged much less. Dennis himself is only charged the locals' rate because he has become friends with the man at the toll booth. However, he knows that if he explained this, he would also need to verify how he obtained such knowledge, which would be difficult considering that his holiday romance believes him to be a tourist like her. "What do you want to do today then, Kaitlyn?"
Kaitlyn smiles. "I was thinking that we could have a dip this morning, and then grab some food and I could cook you lunch in that apartment you’re renting."
Instinctively, Dennis bursts into laughter at the suggestion and is forced to quickly disguise it as a coughing fit which develops into a genuine cough that is only relieved by Kaitlyn slapping his back.
"Thanks," he mutters. "Kait, I don't think you coming back to mine is a good idea."
It is the understatement of the century. After several months spent in the country, Dennis has learnt that it is forbidden for a man and an unmarried woman to be alone, and although there are a few individuals who risk it, he knows that his landlord would immediately evict him if he suspected Dennis of being anything other than an upstanding gentleman. But yet again, this is something he cannot reveal to Kaitlyn lest she realize he is not a genuine tourist - she already knows more than her predecessors do, for most of Dennis' past girlfriends believed that he stayed in a different hotel to theirs. Kaitlyn is an exception, for the two had met four days previously when she'd been meandering around Alexandria alone - a crazy thing to do, especially for an English girl - and had needed to be rescued from a persistent fool who wouldn't take no for an answer. Nevertheless, four days is enough for Dennis, who is growing tired of her and looking forward to her flight home tomorrow while dreading being alone once more.
"Why not?" Kaitlyn pouts. "I want to spend some time with you on our own, not in public where we're always being interrupted by waiters or people passing by -"
"- I get the point," Dennis says, holding his hands up in surrender. "I'm just not sure the landlord will like it."
"Why not?" the brunette asks.
Sighing, the wizard shakes his head. "How am I supposed to know? I've just seen it happen to other people in the same building," he lies.
It has become a bad habit of his to cover up the truth, but these days Dennis prefers to employ deception in lieu of being honest. After all, if he explains that he has lived in the country for long enough to know their traditional customs, not only will he reveal his lies but the question of why he has fled England will be asked. That, Dennis thinks, is quite possibly the most difficult question he could ever answer. Not because the facts are impossible to say, but because confessing to his motivation for leaving means admitting out loud that his brother is dead.
Colin is dead.
Several years on, Dennis has still not spoken those words out loud. Perhaps he is foolish for doing so, but he cannot help wonder if his brother is truly gone. So many times, Dennis has glanced in a random direction and sworn that he has seen his brother, and yet it always turns out to be someone who looks like him but not quite.
Isn't it a sign that perhaps a mistake was made?
"Mister, madam," an elderly woman croaks, approaching them and gripping their hands with surprising strength. "I tell you your fortune, yes?"
"No," Dennis snaps, pulling his hand away. "Come on, Kait, let's go."
"Oh, come on! It's just a bit of fun," she pleads, and Dennis sighs before nodding as he retrieves several notes from his pocket. He cannot say no to this naïve young woman when he is already filled with guilt for lying to her.
The fortune-teller takes Dennis' money and tucks it into her gown before she takes his hand and clasps it within her own, staring at him.
"Your heart break. You have lost person you love," she says in broken English.
Dennis is discomforted at first, but rationalizes the woman's babblings - his holiday girlfriends have mentioned that he has a "mysterious, despondent appeal" enticing them to try to repair his damaged wounds, and this must be what the woman means. Suddenly, she whimpers and lets go of his hand, stepping backwards with her eyes wide in horror. Instinctively, the young man looks behind him but sees nothing out of the ordinary, and it is then that he realizes that he is what spooked the woman. He moves forward to confront her, and immediately she starts to shout in her native Arabic. Quickly, the man at the entrance booth to the beach rushes over and proceeds to shout at the hysterical fortune-teller in Arabic. After several moments, she begins to walk away, and Dennis moves to chase after her but his friend outstretches his arm to stop him.
"She has my money!" Dennis complains, but before he can continue, Kaitlyn interrupts.
"Never mind that! You should be asking what she said about you!"
Both look towards the Egyptian in expectation, and he looks at them sheepishly.
"Well, Mohammed?" Dennis asks. "What spooked her?"
"She said to beware of... I do not know the proper word," Mohammed confesses, speaking in stilted English with a careful pause before each word, "but the meaning is "the living dead"."
"Beware the living dead?" Kaitlyn repeats in confusion, but Dennis' lone thought is perfectly clear, reverberating within his mind in a shrill akin to an ear-piercing fire alarm.
He does not intend for the thought to resonate so quickly; knows that any rational person would say such a suggestion is preposterous. Then again, he is not the most rational of people - who would be, after all the things that he has lived through and witnessed? Dennis is not sure if the fortune teller was speaking of his brother, or if his own grief-addled mind is clutching at straws. What he is sure of is that perhaps he ought to return home, because if the fortune teller is right, then home is where Colin is likeliest to return.
"Shokran, Mohammed," he says quickly, before rushing in the direction of his apartment.
There is a loud "Dennis!" shouted, but he ignores it and begins to cross the road once more, swearing loudly at a driver in broken Arabic when he is nearly run over. It is when he pauses after the crossing to quickly recompose himself that he realizes Kaitlyn has followed him, and stands in front of him now.
"Please, Dennis," she begs. "What's wrong?"
"I need to go home," Dennis answers. "I've been here too long."
Kaitlyn appears confused, and in all honesty, he cannot blame her. What she believes to be a holiday romance is actually just a distraction for Dennis; a way to pretend that he is not in Egypt because he's running from the truth.
"Come on," he sighs. "You can wait while I pack, and then I'll take you back to your hotel."
Kaitlyn sighs, following Dennis into the building and up the stairs towards his apartment. Briefly, Dennis wonders what the repercussions would be if one of his neighbours were to see her, assume the worst and contact his landlord, but that thought is quickly discounted. When he departed England, he'd promised his parents that when he came home, it would be for good.
When Dennis opens his front door, he is surprised to see an owl perched upon the wooden arm of the sofa. While Kaitlyn exclaims in surprise, Dennis approaches the owl and retrieves the letter it carries, opening it when he sees the lone word Creevey upon the outside.
I'm presuming that you've chickened out in the past few months, so I'm reiterating your own words: if Draco Malfoy had never let the Dark Lord's followers into the school on the night of Dumbledore's death, he never would have died and therefore, the Battle of Hogwarts would not have occurred. Your brother would still be alive.
Remember that; remember everything else you told me when our paths crossed in Amsterdam, because the plan that we agreed upon will be set into motion tonight. Our reasons for revenge may be very different, but your expertise is required.
Enclosed are your plane tickets; be warned that if you do not use them, I expect full repayment. If you do not come, then it is entirely your own choice but you will never have the satisfaction of revenge that you claimed to want.
This is your only opportunity. I do not give second chances.
Dennis picks up the plane tickets, realizing that there are several because Pansy has purchased the cheapest available, which requires him to make several changes. It speaks volumes about Pansy's lack of faith in him, and if he respected her opinion then he would be hurt by her words. However, Dennis doesn't care about a foolish woman lashing out because she never became a bride. To him, Pansy Parkinson is nothing but a way to achieve his revenge.
"Dennis?" Kaitlyn queries. "What's that owl doing here?"
"It brought a letter," he answers. "Shit. The first ticket's for tonight - I'm going to have to pack fast."
Kaitlyn's confusion is clear in her tone. "Ticket? Where are you going?"
Dennis turns to look at her, taking in the sight of her long brunette hair and tanned skin, and the impossibly big blue eyes that captivated him in the beginning when they met.
Pansy is not sure exactly how much alcohol her companion has consumed tonight, but she is certain that the quantity is substantial. A small part of her hopes that he will be too intoxicated for the amorous activities he has planned for tonight, and will simply sleep like a baby once his head hits the pillow. At present, Wayne Frobisher is leaning against the door of the lift, clutching his stomach queasily. Pansy can tell that tonight is his first time hiring an escort - every action of his tonight has screamed of inexperience, from his lack of subtlety to his overconsumption of alcohol and the accompanying lift trip to the hotel room he has booked. It is a little trick of Pansy’s to persuade her client to use the lift if they have drunk in excess, because she knows from bitter experience that the altitude can lead to the effects of alcohol making themselves felt with vigour.
“Fleur,” Wayne slurs, “what number are we in again?”
This is encouraging for Pansy; perhaps tonight, she will not have to engage in the activities that she despises. In other circumstances, she would never do this job, but her lack of qualifications make her unable to do anything else. Even jobs that require little to no training, such as waitressing and cleaning, are difficult to obtain because most Muggle employers are reluctant to take on an employee in her early twenties with no prior job history or applicable skills.
In response to the question, Pansy looks down and retrieves the door key from his suit pocket, noting that it is ill-fitting as she does so, before looking at the numbers engraved into the electronic card.
“219,” she says, but when she looks up at Wayne once more, his skin has turned deathly pale and she follows his gaze to see a woman standing in the hallway directly in the line of sight.
Pansy blinks rapidly, astonished at the presence of the woman since she did not see her when the pair walked out of the lift. Although the woman appears to be several years older, the young witch cannot deny that their appearances are similar; both have dark black hair, pale skin and blue eyes, and Pansy is unnerved at the similarities between them.
“Anna?” Wayne croaks, but the woman shows no sign of acknowledgment. “Annie, is that you?”
“Who’s she?” Pansy asks suspiciously.
Wayne sighs. “My wife, but… she can’t be here…”
“She must’ve traced you here. Just pay me my money, and I’ll go. You two can sort out your domestics on your own.”
“No, Fleur, you don’t understand,” he answers quickly.
Pansy raises an eyebrow. “I’m pretty sure I know what’s going on.”
The man runs his fingers through his hair, sighing in desperation. “You don’t. That’s my wife… my Annie. But she, she, she died six months ago, she can’t be here.”
In alarm, Pansy turns to the mysterious woman, who is still in the same position that they first saw her in, with still no sign of emotion being shown. It is impossible for her to fathom why, and she tries to step backwards, tugging Wayne's sleeve in an attempt to make him following her, but he refuses to budge.
“Minister, please,” Pansy exclaims, her eyes flickering towards the woman - the supposedly deceased Anna Frobisher. "We need to get away from here."
The dead woman looks strikingly alive, and yet she is not behaving like a hysterical wife who has just discovered her husband with a prostitute. Pansy is sure that she cannot be a ghost, because her appearance is nothing like that of Hogwarts' ghosts and she is sure that her former boyfriend Draco Malfoy once told her that Muggle ghosts are inferior to magical ghosts and cannot be seen. Therefore, even if Anna Frobisher was a Muggle, she should not be visible to their eyes.
Wayne turns to look at Pansy, his expression a mixture of suspicion and incredulity. "What did you say?"
At first, Pansy internally flounders at her slip of the tongue before she finally thinks of a somewhat plausible answer. "I said mister - I was just so frightened, your name completely slipped my mind for a moment. Please - we need to get the police, someone - anyone."
Wayne continues to stare at her before nodding. However, when the pair turn to look at the woman again - she can't be a ghost, after all, because she doesn't appear to be one - they realize that she is no longer there. The walls are still dark cream, the flooring still a shade of light coffee - everything is the same, except her presence. Immediately, Wayne rushes to the other end of the hallway, glancing at each of the two possible routes she could've gone, but from his expression it is clear that she is nowhere to be seen.
Pansy takes another step backwards, and when she feels her back hit the wall she stops, sliding down into she is in a sitting position with her knees below her chin. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Wayne approach her and hears the rustling of the paper money that the Muggles use. Although she knows that she ought to be eager to be paid for apparently doing nothing but have a few drinks - a refreshing change - Pansy cannot help feeling slightly deflated. Her intention to entrap the Minister of Magic of Nevada and blackmail him has gone awry, and the fact that his wife is dead is a surprise to her: all her intelligence so far suggested she was alive.
Already, Pansy's plan is beginning to unravel.
Following one of the security guards through her employer's casino, Misty pulls her denim jacket tighter around her, shivering from the sudden temperature change. Outside, the city is chilly - like anywhere else in the world, the temperature has a tendency to plummet at three o'clock in the morning - but within the walls of the casino is warmth. She isn't sure if the heat comes from well-concealed radiators or from the crowds around the various tables, but at present this does not concern her. Currently, Misty's priority is to get to the offices upstairs in time for the appointment He has summoned her for. She has witnessed her less intelligent colleagues meander in the casino, dabbling in the rare game of roulette or playing on the slot machines for just a minute and their lateness cost them everything. He does not like employees who are late, or even early lest they interrupt his prior meeting. Misty must be perfectly on time.
The security guard pauses in front of a door sealed to all except authorized personnel and slides his identification through the scanner. After a few seconds, there is a beep and the door is automatically opened.
"Miss Waters," he nods, and Misty steps forward into the hallway.
She hears the door close behind her, but pays the sound no heed: it is familiar, and of no particular importance. If it were footsteps, that would be a different matter altogether. Quietly, the blonde walks up the stairs before coming to a lone door, the only way in or out of His windowless office, before knocking three times on the door in a deliberate pattern.
"Come in, Miss Waters," He calls out from within, and Misty enters the room to see him standing next to a tall filing cabinet.
He motions for her to approach him and she does so, not complaining or resisting when His finger reaches up to stroke her pink cheek, or when they are entangled in her curls. She knows that the main reason for her employment is because of her beauty; He likes pretty girls, but although she hates it she cannot and will not complain. If it weren't for Him, Misty's world would be a darker and more sinister place, and the alternative is too horrendous to even contemplate.
"I trust you had a pleasant day at the post office?" He asks.
Misty is unsure of whether to tell the truth: He does not like pleasantries, so she ought to lay out the facts and yet she knows that He despises anomalies. He prefers people to be predictable, and today was anything but.
"Pansy Parkinson sent a second letter today," she answers. "The destination was Egypt, the addressee was known only as Creevey. I didn't have time to read it; she was late today, and I only just managed to send it before the Muggle staff returned."
"That is not a concern," He answers. "We already know the identity of this Creevey person. I spoke with the client in this matter before your arrival, and he has informed me that the man in question is a Dennis Julian Creevey, an English wizard of Muggle-born status who elected to leave Hogwarts School after a battle that occurred there - something do with a Dark wizard attempting to take over the country - and spent two years at home to take the Muggle equivalent of OWLs before departing the country. He has been in Alexandria for several months now, and has not been home since, not even for Christmases or birthdays."
"And his relavance to Pansy Parkinson is what exactly?" Misty queries.
"They were witnessed in a bar in Amsterdam," her employer explains. "I sent one of your colleagues to verify this, and it appears that at first, Mr Creevey and Miss Parkinson did not recognize each other. However, sometime during the conversation - the surveillance we inspected gives us only a visual and no audio - they recognized each other, probably from their schooldays. The following evening, they rendezvoused at the same bar. From the amount of paperwork that Miss Parkinson brought, it appears that Mr Creevey is participating in her scheme. Which reminds me: have you had any success in discovering what it is?"
Misty shakes her head. "None, Sir, I apologize. She has not divulged that information in any of her post."
"It appears we'll have to do without that knowledge. Continue monitoring Miss Parkinson's itinerary and intercepting her post for the present, but your priority now is Mr Creevey," He pauses to turn around sheets of paper upon his desk that have clearly been printed from a computer so that the typed words are the right way up and therefore legible, "who lands at McCarran International Airport tomorrow evening. He is the reason we have been monitoring Miss Parkinson, so sooner or later they will arrange to meet if they haven't already. Take care not to be present; we cannot risk Miss Parkinson recognizing you."
"But that's ridiculous! If Dennis Creevey was the target all along, why couldn't I have just gone to Egypt?" she exclaims, verbalizing her thoughts before she is able to restrain herself from doing so.
Suddenly, His head tilts sharply and His eyes blaze in fury, causing Misty to be afraid. She tenses, realizing that she has overstepped the unspoken boundaries.
"Are you questioning my judgement, Miss Waters?"
"No, Sir," she answers quickly, bowing her head in deference. "I apologize for my impoliteness."
There is a long pause before He speaks again. "You're a good worker - you get better results than anyone else. I'll forgive you this indiscretion, but just this one time as long as it doesn't happen again, understood?"
"Yes Sir, I understand. No Sir, it won't happen again," she replies, fighting the desire to add and three bags full, Sir.
"Your task will be to befriend Mr Creevey," He says, continuing as if there was no interruption. "I have had him monitored in Egypt and reports are that he prefers to befriend tourists who are only in Alexandria for a few days or weeks. Clearly, he does not wish to settle down or have roots to a place. Therefore, you'll be posing as a tourist new to Vegas - this means we'll only have a short window of time. If after a week has passed and Mr Creevey hasn't confessed to the murder he's accused of, I'll discuss with the client about what he feels is appropriate action instead."
Misty nods. "Consider it done, Sir."
"In the meantime, I've received news that an emergency meeting is to be held at the Ministry of Magic at seven o'clock to discuss us. I was hoping that as the Deputy Minister's secretary, you could volunteer to take the minutes as a way of obtaining information for us."
"Certainly, Sir, although you don't mind me saying so, if I'm travelling by Muggle methods then I'd better leave relatively soon if I'm to get to Carson City in time."
He nods, waving his hand in dismissal. "That will be all, Miss Waters."
"Thank you, Sir. I'll report back as soon as I return from the meeting, Sir," Misty answers before leaving the room.
As she descends the stairs, she thinks over what her employer has told her. Clearly, Dennis Creevey's penchant for tourists stems from the fact that they'll never be in a position to know his true personality, or ask for a more meaningful relationship. But Misty is sure that there is an exception; if she can impersonate someone who Dennis cares about, she is likelier to obtain better results. A quick glance behind her shows that the coast is clear, and she takes the opportunity to dive through an open door into the filing room. Quickly, she makes a beeline for the spare filing cabinet, knowing that her employer's files are all duplicated and stored separately as a back-up, lest any angry clients damage the original files.
It does not take Misty very long to locate the file she desires, and when she does, she quickly flips through it to search for the desired page. Ideally, she'd love to read them all, but she knows that she does not have the time to risk. Finally, she finds the page, surprised at the lack of names.
Known Associates in England:
Creevey, Colin Nicholas (deceased)
Greengrass, Astoria Lettice
Misty grins. Although the names are few, there is still a female he was close to in England - possibly a former lover. If she can use her contacts there to source information about Astoria, it may be possible to impersonate the woman to gain Dennis Creevey's trust more quickly and easily.
Author's Note: EEEE! There's so much foreshadowing in this chapter that I'm insanely excited for this story! ^.^ And yes, that does mean there are hints for future chapters hidden within the text ;) You'll notice that in the last section, I've referred to Misty's boss with capital H and S's - this isn't a grammatical error or autocorrect's fault, but intentional.
What do you think will happen next? I'd love to hear all your theories - please do let me know what you think of this chapter! :D
Also, shokran is Arabic for thank you (I'm unsure of the spelling, but that's definitely how the word is pronounced.)
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