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Chapter 12 : 12- The City of Love
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The large rectangular hotel room momentarily filled with hot steam as Tyrus walked out of the bathroom, towel wrapped tightly around her toned body.
Naomi was lying on a plump single bed, reading what felt like the thousandth latest report they had received about what Mosby might be up to while Susan and Phillipa played Muggle chess on Susan’s bed.
The hotel room had become a sort of safe-haven for Naomi over the past four days with its white and gold walls, decorative Muggle portraits and gorgeous view of Paris from the chocolate brown-curtained window. The French Ministry had the hotel completely bought out to accommodate all those who had fled England. Despite this though, Naomi couldn’t help but feel jealous at the Aurors who had been able to go home to their own countries. She even found herself missing Lance with his cheeky wink and readiness for action.
Thankfully, to keep herself distracted, most of her time had been taken up by preparing herself for the Confederation meeting that would be happening in Sweden the next day. She kept reminding herself of what McGonagall had been like when she had headed the last meeting. Cool, calm and completely in control regardless of what information was being passed around.
Kory, though still against her position as Supreme Mugwump, had even taken it upon himself to drop tips to Naomi in the ways of politics and how to regulate meetings for which she was eternally grateful for. “Don’t let more than one person talk at once.” He’d said during dinner that evening. “Be commanding and don’t you dare allow yourself to show any signs of weakness. They won’t listen to a weak leader but if an argument does break out, you must hear out both sides, no matter how ridiculous they may sound to you.”
Naomi had taken in a lot throughout his lecture, though she still found herself forgetting or mispronouncing the names of some of the Ministers whenever they were brought up which she knew did not raise his confidence.
She could not blame Kory for his complaints about her new position for she still could not believe it herself.
At least once every night since they had been in France, she had brought out the Mugwump Staff and lay there admiring its jewel encrusted head and smooth golden handle just to remind herself it was all true.
It was better than the alternative of sleep.
Recently, her dreams had forced her to relieve memories. Sometimes of her, Harry and Emily practicing in the Ministry Training Hall, once reliving the time when Harry and Ron had betted on who would win a dual between Naomi and Emily only to rig the match with Emily for a cut of the reward. But other times were of Aaron Kirke’s murder or of the Ministry invasion with both foes and friends falling dead around her or of Marius Yvault’s torture curse sending white hot pain throughout her body.
“Interesting read?” Tyrus asked sardonically. She had obviously noticed that Naomi’s eyes had been focused on the same spot for some time.
“Meng Jour’s been spotted with a small host South of Poland.” Naomi answered, remembering the last thing she’d read. “But by the time Aurors arrived they were nowhere to be found.” Tyrus rolled her eyes.
“Great, nothing says victory like losing an army lead by a part-Giant.”
Naomi put down the file on her bedside table and rubbed her eyes. Usually, whenever she began feeling overworked like this, she would let off steam by practicing jinxes and curses in the hotel’s gym which, for the time being, had been turned into a double of their Ministry’s Training Hall. But she had already been in there three times that day and was now physically exhausted for it.
“You would have thought we’d have just retaken the British Ministry by now.” Susan said as she moved her bishop to take Phillipa’s knight. “If the Confederation put their numbers together, surely we’d have the wands to do it-”
“The members of the Confederation have been too busy putting themselves through severe security checks. If there are more spies, it’d be too risky to launch an offensive strike. The American’s learned that many of their Aurors were under the Imperious Curse from Ambrose’s attack and finding out that Dagfinn Boyson was a traitor really shook everyone’s trust in their faculty.” Naomi answered quietly.
She still could not believe the news herself. It just did not make sense. Why would the Dark Wizards have a Minister for Magic on their side only to have him send forces against them? To gain the trust of the Confederation, perhaps, and to learn of what they knew. Whatever the reason, it gave Naomi a sickening feeling to think about it.
“Spies be damned.” Phillipa said briskly as she countered Susan’s plan by taking her bishop. “The cowards. We know where Mosby and his army are, we just need the numbers on our side to take him down and retake the Ministry.” Tyrus pointed at Phillipa with a smile.
“See, now that’s the kind of action-talk we need. Especially from someone who everyone else sees as a leader.” Susan looked particularly uncomfortable at this remark.
“We have discussed this, Tyrus.” She said in a voice that was half way between a hiss and a whisper. “He is grieving, like the rest of us. Admittedly a little longer than any of us would like but Harry was a brother to Ron.” Phillipa too was glowering at Tyrus for the comment giving her the look of a lioness warning away a predator from her cubs.
Tyrus gave a light snort as she pulled on her bed-clothes and allowed Phillipa to continue her glare though Naomi couldn’t help but feel slightly sympathetic to what Tyrus had said. As much as she liked Ron, hiding away at a time like this wasn’t doing anyone any favours.
He and the rest of the Weasley family had been offered accommodation at the Delacour Family Manor and, along with Hermione and Ginny, was very rarely seen.
Kingsley Shacklebolt ended up having to go there in person to make sure Ron would be accompanying them to the meeting. This had worried Naomi as, though he stated many times that he was fine, the now ex-Minister still looked pale and Naomi occasionally caught sight of him grabbing the side of his chest where Mosby’s curse had hit him in a wince of pain.
“Just remember, Naomi,” Susan said staring at the chess board. “Use his death to convince them to fight and not as a reason to be scared.”
Naomi nodded wirily and continued to watch Phillipa’s victory on the chess board before reclining back into the soft bed. She felt her eyelids getting heavier by the second and it became harder to focus on one thought. Her desire to rest well before the meeting tomorrow dwindled along with her fear of what she might dream of tonight within her head as she slipped into a deep sleep.
The light pierced the darkness and Naomi instinctively shut her eyes tighter and rolled over in an attempt to avoid the morning sun. As she moved, she felt her muscles give off a heavy aching sensation. She really had overdone it in the Training Hall the other day. Eventually, she begrudgingly sat up and began stretching the muscles in her arm, noticing that the other beds were empty.
Feeling grateful that they had allowed her to sleep in her dreamless slumber, she walked over to the bathroom, undressed and allowed the hot water of the shower to pound against her aching muscles as she continued to stretch them.
After getting washed and dressed, she left the hotel room and made her way down to the restaurant, praying that she had not missed breakfast. She hadn’t.
Piling her plate up with scrambled eggs and black truffle at the buffet, she then turned to sit at a table of Aurors who had just finished their own breakfast.
Ernie Macmillan was among them. Although he certainly looked better from his time in Saint Munso’s, the burns from the Quidditch attack still dominated his looks. Half of his rounded face had been damaged in the blast and he was now supporting what looked like a horrendous sunburn with numerous scars and blotches. His once shoulder length blond hair was now cut so short, Naomi could see the burn damage spread across his scalp. However, despite the mutilation done to him, his pompous attitude seemed unaffected as he laughed haughtily with the others.
“Supreme Mugwump,” Terry Boot greeted with a bow of his head and he and Anthony Goldstein laughed as Naomi sat down. “I would have thought you’d be speech practicing for your big meeting today.”
“If I have to read one more piece of bloody parchment on that meeting,” Naomi replied as she filled her fork with egg. “I’m almost certain my head will explode. We just need reinforcements to take back the Ministry. How complicated is that?”
“Welcome to the world of politics.” Terry said as a hotel waiter began clearing the table of dirty plates.
“Well, personally, I think you’re just what’s needed, Naomi.” Ernie said as he surveyed her from his up-right seating position. “A bit of that Auror fighting spirit. Less talk, more action.”
“Calm down, Ernie.” Terry intervened. “You’re beginning to sound like Tyrus.”
Anthony gave a small shudder as he said this.
“She doesn’t half give me the creeps.” He said. “Doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that what Savage said was true. Killing all those Death Eaters.”
“Cold blooded murder!” Ernie announced with a disapproving look on his scarred face. “We’ve imprisoned people for life for less.”
“The same people who are now running the Ministry.” Terry pointed out. “I’m not saying what she did was right but it is a load of all our minds that the Death Eaters aren’t a part of this anymore.”
“Where’s Tyrus now?” Naomi asked as she smothered the remainder of her toasted French bread with the leftovers on her plate.
“Training Hall.” Terry answered. “You’d think she was preparing for battle instead of a Confederation meeting.”
“If the last meeting is anything to go off, they’re the same thing.” Naomi said gravely.
“By the way, Naomi,” Anthony said as Terry shifted uncomfortably. “Neville was looking for you.”
“Neville?” She asked. He was another one she hadn’t seen much of since their arrival at the hotel as Neville spent most of his time with the rest of the Aurors at the French Ministry. “Do you know what he wants?” She asked as she stretched out, allowing her breakfast to go down.
“Didn’t say.” Anthony replied. “But he said he had to see you before you left.”
“Well if you see him, tell him I’ll either be in the Training Hall or my room.” She said, standing up. “It helps me get my head straight.” She replied as Terry caught her eye.
“Well, if we don’t see you beforehand, good luck.” Terry said.
“Yes, and remember,” Ernie added. “You’re in charge now, make them listen to you.”
Naomi smiled at their encouragement though the nerves that had been tingling in the pit in her stomach since the topic of the meeting was brought up continued to plague her.
Naomi strode across the large white marbled reception hall of the hotel, passing many of her Ministry peers as she did so and overhearing their discussions on their hopes on today’s meeting. This did not help her nerves.
When she reached the Training Hall, at first, she thought it empty but voices that were uninterrupted by her arrival from the corner of the room proved her wrong.
“…You are in no fit condition to work security and you know it.” Tyrus yelled as Naomi hid behind a nearby spare Spell Dummy. “When was the last time you slept?”
“I’m fine, Caitlyn.” Said a gruff hoarse voice that, at first, Naomi didn’t recognise.
“Look John, I know you’re trying to make up for what you were made to do, but this is getting ridiculous now. I’ve spoken to Lukas you know and he told me that you haven’t spent one night here without some sort of disruption.”
“I said I’m fi-”
“Yelling in your sleep,” Tyrus interrupted. “Missing meals, reducing your time in training! It may have escaped your notice, John, but we are at war! You’re going to end up getting yourself killed.” Dawlish didn’t respond but Naomi heard him breathe a deep sigh. “You and I both have a chance to redeem ourselves for what we’ve done in the past but we can’t very well do that if we’re dead.”
“Is that what you call what you did to those Death Eaters, redemption?”
Naomi heard Tyrus give a small laugh. “You’d been hanging around Potter for too long. Are you telling me that you don’t feel better for them being dead?”
At this, Naomi heard Dawlish grunt as he got up from the wooden bench and, after quickly scuttling back, she opened and closed the door more violently to re-announce her arrival.
“Naomi.” Dawlish greeted as he reached the centre of the hall. Naomi surveyed him and she began to understand what Tyrus was talking about. The black bags that had been under his eyes during the St Mungo’s break in looked heavier and his once fitted robes now dangled off of him.
“Dawlish.” She replied. “I hope you two are ready for today.”
“I was hoping the same.” Tyrus said. She had stopped midway in her pursuit of Dawlish when Naomi had interrupted. “I would have thought you’d be reading through your ever interesting notes.”
“Thought I’d take a break.” Naomi said, drawing her wand. She waved it sending a dozen Spell Dummies to attention before her.
“You know,” Tyrus said, eyeing her. “You seem very apt at taking on wooden opponents. You should try a real one sometime just for a challenge.”
“Are you offering?” Naomi asked with a said glance and a grin and she watched as Tyrus drew her wand and strode to a small duelling arena.
“John, you wouldn’t mind reffing for us would you? Merlin knows you’re in no state for much else.”
Dawlish gave her a small snarl as he made to join her and Naomi followed. She had seen Tyrus fight before both in training and, even more fiercely, at the Ministry and knew this would not be an easy task.
The two raised their wands to their faces and bowed before aiming for each other.
“On three.” Dawlish said. “One, two-”
“Naomi!” A voice cried from the entrance. Neville was peering round the door. “Naomi, I need to talk to you. Now, if you can.”
Naomi nodded and lowered her wand. “Maybe next time.” She said to Tyrus.
“Maybe,” Tyrus said, stowing away her wand. “But Naomi, if you ever eavesdrop on me again, I won’t be giving you the chance of a fair duel. Understand?” Naomi flushed slightly though strode off towards Neville, ignoring Dawlish’s bewildered glare from her to Tyrus nonetheless.
“What is it, Neville?” Naomi asked when she’d joined Neville, trying to ignore her embarrassment.
Neville looked around first before delving his hand into his robes and pulling out the small Amethyst Orb he’d taken from Selwyn after the Death Eater had fallen. “You need to take this.” He said seriously. “I’m not saying anything will happen at this meeting but we can’t leave anything to chances. Mosby has some very dangerous people working for him and some very clever ones too. We can’t risk them knowing about this meeting and not be prepared for the worst.” Naomi took the Orb and examined it. She had never seen one this close before. It was heavier than it looked and felt rough to touch and all the colours Naomi could think of swirled hypnotically within the blue casing.
“At the first sign of danger, get out of there. If you get caught there’ll be no one to pass the Mugwump onto. Understand me?”
Naomi nodded, though the thought of fleeing only to leave some of the most important Wizards and Witches in the world to a damned fate made her feel uneasy. “I understand. Who else knows about this?”
Neville looked nervously at her at this. “You mean even Kingsley..?”
“The less who know the better.” Neville snapped back before taking in a breath and continuing. “Look, your security is top priority. A dead Supreme Mugwump means a broken Confederation.” He then looked her sorrowfully in the eye. “I know it’s a pain, but we need to have these kinds of plans in place. Now, you best go and get changed. You’ll be sent for soon.” He added looking up and down her well-worn black Auror robes. Although they had been cleaned multiple times since their trail at the Ministry, the charms she used to do so were beginning to wear out the colouring, leaving pale patches in odd places.
Naomi nodded and smiled. “I will and thank you.” Neville returned the smile before walking off with a “Good luck.”
Naomi entered her still deserted hotel room and immediately strode towards the wooden wardrobe next to the window. Opening it, she instantly found what she was looking for, a gift from the French Minister herself: Minister Avril Bernardine.
The robes she had given Naomi were a fiery red with four dark maroon velvet seams vertically striping the front and back. The hems were a bright gold that Susan swore she saw glow when Naomi wasn’t looking and the collar was designed to stick up at the back revealing the dark Dragon-skin beneath.
Once finally dressed in the smart fitted robes, Naomi then pulled out the Amythest Orb from her old robes. She stared into it, momentarily mesmerized by the swirling colours before stowing it away within her new robes. She had expected the Orb to leave a bulge in her robes though she quickly realized that clothing of this quality most probably had enchantments placed upon them to stop such inconveniences.
After placing her wand in the pocket opposite she then turned towards the brown suitcase Aaron Kirke had died to give her. Sitting on her bed, she picked it up and opened it to gaze upon the Mugwump Staff. “You better have my back, Aaron.” She said quietly to it. “And you, Emily.” She was about to add Harry’s name to her list when a knock at the door disturbed her train of thought.
“Supreme Mugwump, are you ready?” Asked a French accent Naomi knew to be an Auror. She was tempted to say “No” though she forced herself to close the Mugwump’s case and walk toward the door.
Auror Armel Parton bowed his bald scarred head and indicated her to follow him. During her time in Paris, Armel had been assigned as her guard whenever she was to leave the hotel. During that time, although he looked rough and tense – a sign of most Aurors his age – Naomi had quickly learned him to be a pleasant man with a sense of humour behind the twitchy dark eyes.
Following the Auror to the hotel entrance, and receiving a number of looks and glances as she did so, she saw Dawlish and Tyrus waiting for them. Without speaking they joined them and the four began their way towards the French Ministry.
“Naomi!” A voice cried out from behind and she turned to see Charlie Weasley running towards her. At once all three of her guards drew and aimed their wands at him, bringing him to a halt.
“Who came up with the idea of our hiding place after our escape from the Ministry?” Tyrus asked.
“It was me.” Charlie replied. “I suggested the Burrow on the outskirts of Ottery Saint Catchpole.”
Tyrus sighed as she and the others withdrew their wands. “Make it quick, Weasley. It would not do the Supreme Mugwump any good if she were late for her first meeting.”
Naomi ran up to him. “Charlie, what are you doing here?” She felt bad for asking this in such an embarrassed manner especially after four days of having no time for him but she did have to agree with Tyrus.
“I just wanted to wish you good luck.” He said quietly with a smile. “And, uh, if you happen to meet with Minister Artan, tell him… Ginger Dragon says hi. It just might win you another friend.”
Naomi let out a snort of laughter. “Okay, sure.” She said with a smile. “I’ll see you when I get back, okay.”
“Sounds good.” Charlie replied as Tyrus tapped Naomi’s shoulder as a sign to leave.
After a number of minutes walking silently Naomi and the Aurors turned onto an empty alleyway only to stop halfway down in front of a large manhole cover. With a wave of the French Auror’s wand, the metal covering seemed to melt away only to solidify again into a flight of stairs leading to the sewers below. The French Auror continued to lead the way into the dimly lit sewers and, one by one, the others followed.
When Naomi had first entered the French Ministry by this mean, she had expected a foul stench to sting her nostrils only to have the salty smell of sea air waft towards her. Armel then explained that, during the French Ministry’s arrival to the location, they coated the sewage walls with Amortentia to both cover up any unwanted smells and to indicate the directions towards the Ministry entrance. “Start to smell a certain something else and you know you’ve gone ze wrong way.” He’d said with a chuckle before going on about how that was the reason Paris was known as ‘The City of Love’.
After allowing the metal stairs to melt upwards to form the cover again, they began following the heart-warming smell on the sewer’s raised walkways. After another five minutes, they stopped in front of a particularly smooth piece of wall that only had one indent in the shape of a pinky finger sized M. The French Auror tapped it with his wand and, after the M momentarily glowed a bright yellow, it split apart like a pair of automatic doors.
The Entrance Hall of the French Ministry was a giant dome that Naomi was surprised didn’t stick out of the ground above. Its walls were glazed in silver and the light came from a number of man-sized candles lit with blue flames that hovered high above them and whose light gave off a sapphire like glow when in contact with the silver walls.
In the centre of the dome hall was a large fountain with a glass statue of the current French Minister in the middle, her wand drawn and raised.
Unlike Britain or Scandinavia, whose Ministries contained multiple offices and departments within a tall building – or a tall tower in Naomi’s opinion on Scandinavia – the French Ministry was an underground maze beneath Paris.
Ten large white archways decorated the entrances to the different Departments, an ornate ruby sign above each one with the name of the Department it led to written in French.
Naomi and her guard continued on through the busy hall and under the archway that led towards the offices for the Minister for Magic and all of her Support Staff.
After walking down an equally silver hall decorated with more glass statues of previous French Ministers positioned on small pillar like plinths, they finally reached the large dark golden door marked ‘Ministre de la Magie’.
After knocking briskly on the door, they heard Minister Bernardine’s deep voice call out “Entrer!” And Armel opened the door.
After the light interior of the Entrance Hall and Corridor, the French Minister’s Office gave Naomi what she could only describe as a colour shock. Her office walls were a dark emerald with white and pale red coloured decorations to contradict the dark scheme.
Kingsley was already waiting with the French Minister, both dressed as finely as Naomi with Kingsley outfitted in a deep purple slim fitting robe being while Bernardine was draped in a short sleeved garment that sparkled a dark blue gleam.
Alongside them was Ron, who looked as though he hadn’t seen sunlight in a number of years; Kory, who had finally found a replacement pair of his signature slim black sunglasses; Gabrielle Delacour, her silver hair falling in curls over her fitted baby blue robes; and two others that Naomi didn’t recognise. The one standing guard to Bernardine’s right was a stumpy, thick armed wizard with a shag of dark brown hair on his head and a large scar protruding from the corner of his mouth making him look as though he was drooling a thick red line.
The other was a tall, slim, bald man with a large patch of blond on his pointed chin and dark green eyes that nearly matched the Minister’s walls.
“Supreme Mugwump,” Bernardine greeted with a bow of her head. “I ‘ope you are satisfied with your robes.”
“Yes,” Naomi said at once. “I love them, thank you.”
The Minister gave her a kindly thin lipped smile before turning to the members of the group unknown to Naomi. “Allow me to introduce my ‘ead of ze Department of Magical Law, Joel Gaston.”
The lanky Department Head then bowed his bald head before gently taking Naomi’s hand and kissing it lightly on the back. “Ze honour iz all mine, Madam.” He said in a soft voice.
“And my `ead Auror, Marlow Paschal. He’ll be `ere with Miss Delacour and your Mr Caseman keeping an eye on our friends across ze channel.”
The thick armed Auror gave Naomi a curt nod of the head with a “Madam” in a quiet, gravely French accent.
“Naomi, how are you feeling?” Kingsley asked while Kory looked her up and down as though inspecting she had dressed herself correctly.
“I’ve felt better but I’m fine, thanks.” A bigger lie had never been told. She felt her heart thumping twice as hard and her breakfast began to churn uncomfortably in the pit of her stomach.
Marlow glanced a looked at his watch and announced “Twenty seconds” and right on cue a large silver paperweight appeared on the Minister’s desk with a flash of blue light.
Gripping the Mugwump’s case tightly, she joined the others in reaching for the Portkey and when the last of the nine travellers had touched the office stationary, they vanished.
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