Chapter 7 : The Game Is On
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In the event that you are currently having misgivings, know that everything is going according to plan.
'Currently having misgivings' was something of an understatement, and Roxanne couldn't remember 'get indicted on criminal charges' ever being part of the plan. She had just over an hour and a half to turn herself into the Ministry, lest she officially became a fugitive from the law. She read on:
One of your many cousins (ginger, if that narrows it down at all) visited a patient in the special ward for Silver abusers today. With great cunning, I managed to overhear their hushed conversation without being detected.
"The lot of it is stashed at my dad's—I need you to take it for me. Just hold on to it," the bedridden fellow, apparently a St. Mungo's orderly (he has certainly just lost his job), entreated.
"I told you not to mess around with that stuff, Ryan!" your cousin replied.
"I know I've fucked up," the orderly agreed. "But I need you to get my stash out before the Ministry raid."
"I'm throwing the lot of it away!"
"Don't!" the young man cried, before returning his voice to a whisper. "It was an advance from my guy—he's expecting at least a hundred galleons by the end of the month."
Here, your cousin generously offered to simply pay the one hundred galleons, but Ryan was having nothing of it, saying that it ‘wasn’t about the gold.’
"What do you mean, 'not about the gold?'" your cousin scoffed, quite reasonably.
"Just—just hold on to it for me, will you?" he begged.
The Weasley grudgingly acquiesced.
Shortly thereafter, Blishwick (hereafter referred to as 'the suspect') came into the ward to check on the lot of us. Outside of myself, everyone present (and conscious) seemed to want a private word. At first I believed they were distressed about their health, but soon realized that their concerns were indeed more nefarious.
"You should be lucky I warned you about the raids," the suspect told Ryan out the corner of his mouth while I feigned sleep. "Make sure you get it out of your house."
"It's done, sir," the orderly replied.
"You were foolish," the suspect hissed. "What were you thinking, trying it on yourself?"
At this juncture, my feigned snoring grew too loud, and I missed the rest of the conversation. I had, however, come to the same conclusion you are likely coming to as you read this: Ryan the Orderly was one of Blishwick's footmen, charged with distributing the Silver. Indeed, I suspect that each of the patients, save myself of course, were under his employ.
It clearly isn't out of concern for the young orderly that the suspect wants to keep him out of law enforcement's hands; rather, if Ryan is apprehended, he may be able to strike a deal for a reduced sentence in exchange for identifying the suspect. Blishwick knows this.
Task Number One: Convince your cousin to turn over the stash to the DMLE. It should be swimming in evidence that Ryan has handled it, thereby compelling him to stand as witness against the suspect. Complete this task before you continue reading.
Roxanne felt deep annoyance at being asked to obey a piece of parchment. Rolling her eyes, she turned over the letter to see what else he had written. The rest of the writing was just a jumble of random characters and runes.
"Tosser!" she seethed. "Clever little tosser!"
The text was enchanted, and the rest of his instructions wouldn’t unscramble until she completed his first assignment. Perry must have gotten an excellent grade in Charms if he could manage psychic cryptography, Roxanne thought. With that sort of talent, he could have gone into any number of elite fields. For a moment, she vaguely wondered why he hadn't pursued a more illustrious career, before remembering that he’d been expelled from Hogwarts. And that he was rather mad. And a drug addict.
She had less than two hours to turn herself in.
Then again, it only took a few seconds to apparate to the Ministry. Remembering the conversation she’d witnessed on the balcony of the Diogenes Club, Roxanne reckoned she had a pretty strong idea of which cousin Perry had seen that day.
She figured she might as well try confronting Hugo...
The Granger-Weasleys lived at the end of an isolated road in Ipswitch. While it was a predominantly, if not exclusively muggle area, Hermione had warded a large radius against apparition. Roxanne appeared a quarter mile away from her destination and trudged up the familiar road. Anxiety prickled at the back of her neck and she kept finding herself fretting with her hair.
Finally, she came to the largest and grandest magpie house on the road, made even more distinct by the shocking yellow hatchback parked at a crude angle in the drive. Its tires had cleaved two muddy trenches in the flower beds and its hood was crumpled from one too many run ins with sign posts. Despite his best efforts, Ron Weasley never had gotten the hang of automobiles.
Roxanne circled the house to the little garden cottage where Hugo had been generally wasting his life since leaving Hogwarts. It was common knowledge in the family that he was going through ‘a phase.’ The air thickened with the heady stench of spliff smoke as she approached.
"Cover me!" she heard him yell. A series of gunshots rang out. "Head for the tower! Now!"
She cleared her throat before rapping on his door. The muggle video game noises paused at once.
"What?" Hugo called.
"It's, uh, it's Roxy."
"Are you still trying to Scare Me Straight?” he shouted back. "Uncle Harry already did his bit. Consider me reformed."
"Listen, I'm not here to judge you, or tell you what to do—" not entirely true. "I need your help."
There was a pause, followed by the scraping of locks being unlatched. The door yanked open until the chain-lock pulled taut, leaving only a sliver of Hugo visible on the other side. His eyes appeared even more fiery than his rumpled hair; Roxanne had never seen him so livid.
"What?” he spat. “What could you possibly want from me, oh great Healer Weasley?"
"I need you to go to Harry and come clean about what your friend gave you." Roxanne tried to keep her voice firm. "You don't have to hold on to his stash for him—the Ministry needs to see it. Lives are at risk."
"What are you talking about?" Hugo’s face scrunched up.
"I know you visited St. Mungo's today—"
"No I didn’t!" he snarled. "Why would I be?"
"I know you visited your friend Ryan," she insisted. "There's no point lying to me."
"Ryan? I don't know anyone named Ryan!" Hugo threw up his hands and Roxanne noticed his blue striped pajamas.
Shit, she thought, remembering that Hugo never woke up before noon.
"You mean Ryan Davies?” he went on. “That bloke was, like, five years above me at Hogwarts. We've never even hung out!"
All at once, Roxanne realized that she knew the orderly in question. Davies had always been charming, funny, and... not terrible to look at.
Roxanne tutted under her breath, furious at herself for jumping to conclusions. "Shit, Hugo, I'm so sorry. Do you... have any idea where your sister might be?"
Rose lived on the outskirts of Hogsmeade, because of course she did. Not many people would want to live in such close proximity to their old school, but Rose wasn’t most people. The eldest Granger-Weasley enjoyed running into old professors, and engaging with students visiting the village on weekends.
Roxanne clacked the knocker on her cousin’s cottage door but no one answered. Cursing aloud, she remembered that Rose would be at the WPR studios doing her weekly radio show. At least, Roxanne thought, she knew the key-charms to the cottage.
The door creaked open to a familiar riot of color. The interior walls of Rose’s home had each been covered by a different patterned wallpaper: black and white fleurs de lys, pink and green stripes, photoreal images of seashells. Roxanne stepped through a beaded curtain separating the front hall from the sitting room, and set to work searching the cottage.
"Accio admixture-of-pixies-milk-and-black-tar-heroin," she tried, but to no avail. "Accio drugs?" Nothing except a bottle of paracetemol, which nearly winded her as it collided with her stomach.
Of course Rose would be clever enough to ward an illegal stash from a basic summoning charm, but it had been worth a shot.
Searching by hand meant rifling through a thousand decorative boxes and vases. Roxanne shifted artificial grapes from an ornate bowl to check beneath, and pulled aside the gossamer shawls adorning every surface. Nikki had taken up temporary residence in Rose’s small sitting room while in the country, which provided additional clutter for Roxanne to search. Finding nothing, she checked under the zebra-print sofa cushions and even rifled through Rose’s underwear drawer. Outside of a rather impressive lace teddy, she found nothing of interest.
On her second sweep of Rose's medicine cabinet (hair potions, face lotions, some sort of strange muggle dental device from her grandparents), Roxanne noticed a bowl of potpourri sat beneath the sink. She then scanned the loo, and her eyes paused on the bare toilet tank. It wasn't like Rose to leave any surface unadorned, and so she lifted the lid—issuing an audible squeal of delight to see a bubble containing at least a hundred silver bags floating beneath the surface.
The plan had been to convince Rose to give up the narcotics herself, but Roxanne had only an hour left to surrender so this would have to do. She dropped the firm-membraned bubble into her purse and hoped that Rose—daughter of two former D.M.L.E. employees—had the presence of mind not to have handled the evidence with her bare hands.
My next move was clear, read Perry's magically unscrambled letter. I needed to search Blishwick's office.
Escaping from the heavily guarded ward proved no easy task. Two orderlies were stationed at the door, which led to a hallway and then another door, which required a hospital badge to exit. And I didn't have a wand.
As you know, orderlies are not permitted to carry wands while on duty (for precisely the reason I will soon elucidate). My only choice was to feign severe spasms.
I thrashed and wailed in my bed, screaming out with such ferocity you'd think my blood was turning to acid. The orderlies summoned a Healer (Clearwater? Do you know her? Nice woman.) Seeing my horrific state of distress, she unsheathed her wand. I fell instantly still. This inspired in her, as I had expected, a moment of advantageous hesitation. I leapt forth from my sick bed and seized her wand, like some carnivorous bird swooping down on her prey. At this point, the orderlies were rounding in, approaching me with caution. Every last patient what had his faculties about him was shouting, and I'll be the first to admit, I got rather carried away.
I stunned one orderly just as the second seized me from behind. Kicking out my legs I stepped up the wall, then successfully executed a backflip which pried my torso from his grip. I landed, catlike, on the floor, as he and Healer Clearwater rounded on me. In a truly thrilling display of further acrobatics, I managed to overcome the pair of them. After stunning my opponents, I cast sleeping charms on the noisy, bedridden patients.
I stashed one orderly, bound and silenced, under my bed after relieving him of his uniform and badge. I then transfigured my hair into a deep auburn (I’ve since discovered that the color does not suit me) and borrowed a pair of spectacles from the bedside of a patient (I’d suspected he donned them for purely aesthetic reasons. My suspicion proved correct).
During your tenure at St. Mungo's, did you ever once bother to look down at an employee's badge? If so, you were the only one. I stole through the hospital without detection.
My next challenge came in the form of gaining access to Blishwick's office, which I discovered to be password protected (I'm sure you remember—knock the knocker, answer the question, so on. I’d encountered such a device many times during my five year tenure in Ravenclaw House).
Indeed, I knocked, having been afforded great bravado from the adrenaline rush of my daring escape. The golden snake unwound its body from its golden staff, and turned up its gleaming head to meet my gaze. I guessed at random ('pumpernickel?'), but was foiled.
"I forgot—it's on the tip of my tongue," I lied (obviously). "May I have a clue?"
"Password hint," the metal snake answered metallically. "'Roxy gets one every morning.'"
I seriously considered offering one of many humorous answers that came to mind, but as the situation was rather serious, replied instead, "cappuccino."
I am now convinced that, whatever else was going on, you did indeed have an affair with Rudyard Blishwick. But I digress.
Despite having gained access to the suspect's private records, I'll admit I had little hope of finding any evidence. What sort of fool leaves records of their wrongdoing at their place of business?
But certain characteristics make fools of us all. I returned to what I knew about Blishwick: that he is clever, and arrogant, and ranks the virtue of innovation well above ethics.
I also knew that Rudyard Blishwick's goal had been that Silver abuse would enough harm to be discovered by the Ministry. It followed then that he would desire to grasp as much advantage out of this situation as possible. So rather than search for evidence of Silver manufacturing, I searched for evidence of its antidote.
Having already isolated the independent components of the narcotic myself, I had a rough idea of what might go into it. And indeed, evidence of antidote concoction was significant. But also useless. I'd already breached his private chambers via trespassing, and so it could be argued that I had intentionally contaminated his lab. I considered another route.
Blishwick wouldn't just create an antidote out of the singular desire to save victims—in fact, there was little benefit to him at all unless the substance could be patented. He also knew that, because of his unplanned conflict with you, the DMLE likely wouldn't call him in for a consult. And while he's an arrogant man, and probably assumed that a Ministry potions team wouldn't be able to brew an effective antidote before him, he's also a calculating man. He wouldn't want to run the risk that they could beat him to the discovery.
Before long, I found a completed patent application. Magically time-stamped, traceable to his wand, for June the 10th. Three days before the first Silver user showed up on Ministry or St. Mungo's radar.
I myself have been filing for patents since my second year at Hogwarts, so I am intimately familiar with the process. Unsubmitted patent-applications may be altered, at which point the time-stamp automagically adjusts to reflect the later date. Surely, he had intended to change his application to a more realistic time-frame before submission (it takes twenty-four hours to request a patent application, so he would still be ahead of the Ministry in the event that they determined the recipe).
It was with this damning piece of evidence in hand that I first heard the sound of voices approaching Blishwick's office door. At once, I levitated his desk, causing so many piles of carefully collated notes to flutter all around like the wings of birds in flight, and wedged the desk against the door. This move bought me some time, but not much. I managed to remove a painting from its frame (its subject was mercifully absent at the time), and slipped the patent application between the canvas and the wooden backing before warding it against summoning charms. I then leapt across the room and conjured the most casual position I could effect (If I remember correctly, I reclined, one knee bent up, my chin resting on one balled fist) at the precise moment that Rudyard Blishwick and two orderlies burst through the door.
“What do you think you’re doing in here?” Blishwick growled.
“Oh, there you are,” I said casually. “I’ve been looking forward to some one-on-one time.”
“You think you’re very clever don’t you?” Blishwick snarled.
I then proceeded to respond with some sardonic one-liner, but for the life of me, I can't remember what it was. It'll come to me.
Anyway, as you probably know by now, I was arrested.
Blishwick's first priority will be finding the patent application (which he eventually will—it isn't all that well hidden), and adjusting the time stamp. If he succeeds, we will lose our most significant piece of evidence. Luckily, I bought us some time: I suggested to Blishwick that you and I were working together to take him down, inspiring him to press charges against you. He will be required to remain at the Ministry until a) you surrender yourself, or b) you become a fugitive (I highly encourage you to take the latter route; it would make you so much more interesting).
Roxanne folded Perry’s letter in half. In a way, it was lucky for him that he was in custody; she would have killed him otherwise.
Ardonon Dagworth, Ardy to his friends, was a burly man of twenty-nine with a loping gait and sandy blond hair that fell over a heavy brow. A few healers and other St. Mungo's employees offered him benign waves or nods when he entered the building. They had no reason to think anything of Ardy coming back from his lunch break.
And there had just been so much on that day! Between setting up the emergency unit on Ministry order and the mentally disturbed patient who'd escaped from the locked ward, the St. Mungo's staff could hardly be expected to notice any subtle shifts in Ardy's body language. His northern accent seemed mostly consistent anyway—you'd have to be listening carefully to hear how it warbled towards 'Londoner'.
Roxanne had been a friend of Ardy's, which made impersonating him a great deal easier, if more awkward. She hoped very badly that she wouldn't need to visit the toilets while the polyjuice was taking effect.
Task Number Two, Perry's letter had read. Retrieve the patent application before Blishwick does. (If for some reason you have the narcotics you retrieved from your cousin, keep them on your person).
A single hair, pulled from Perry's robes after he'd been apprehended, waited at the bottom of the envelope alongside instructions for finding his stash of polyjuice potion. He'd somehow managed to keep hold of Ardy's badge, as it too materialized after Roxanne read the instructions.
Out of sentimentality, she still had a pair of St. Mungo’s robes. One quick color change charm shifted the tint from Healer Green to Orderly White. She then took a fifty-percent dilution of Polyjuice, as she'd only have half an hour to surrender herself to the Ministry anyway. Awkward questions might arise if she showed up wearing Ardonon Dagworth’s body.
She may have been furious with Perry for inciting Blishwick to press charges, but she had to admit that it had gotten him out of the hospital. If she could gather the evidence in time, it might even prove worth it.
I'm sure Blishwick has changed the password since I broke in, but he definitely won't think you're mad enough to breach the hospital. You'll probably be able to guess it (AS YOU TWO HAD AN AFFAIR AND ALL).
"Ardy—you're needed in the new ward!" a mediwitch called, and Roxanne struggled to remember her name. "He's seizing again, and we have no idea whether he’s faking this time. Healer Clearwater’s requested backup—absolutely no wands."
"Right." Roxanne nodded and the mediwitch just stared at her.
Roxanne dithered on the spot. She had no idea where the new ward had been set up. In his letter, Perry had mentioned two sets of doors and a no-wand policy. Hazarding a guess, she cut a course toward the Recreational Magic Abuse Recovery wards.
"Dagworth, glad you're here," Penelope called out as Roxanne opened the door with the stolen badge. "Hold him down, will you?"
Perry was in a fit, tossing and spasming against his restraints. Roxanne began to worry that it wasn't an act after all, and pushed his shoulders down with both her hands so Penelope could sedate him. Then he winked.
"Just wanted to check we were on schedule," Perry said, falling still.
"What did he say?" Penelope furrowed her brows and peered down at her patient.
"I didn't catch it," Roxanne replied. "The seizing is probably a psych symptom, not the result of the narcotic."
Penelope’s eyes narrowed. "Thank you, Ardy, but I don't remember calling you in for a consult. Leave the healing to the Healers."
"Right," Roxanne replied, stinging from the correction.
Perry tugged at her sleeve, then pointed down. He's still under there, he mouthed. The real Ardy. Then, another exaggerated wink.
"Sorry, is that all, Penelope?" Roxanne asked before correcting herself. "Healer Clearwater."
"Quite," the Healer replied with another devastating glance. Roxanne stole from the ward quick as she could, hoping very much that she’d never been so dismissive to support staff when she’d been a Healer.
Roxanne found, to her dismay, that Blishwick's office was now being guarded by two unfamiliar orderlies. Thinking of what Perry said, she glanced at their badges before addressing them.
"Heya Damien, fancy a break? Clearwater told me to take over for you," she improvised.
"Now?" the man named Damien replied and the other orderly looked put out. "I've only been on duty five minutes, Seb's been here for hours!"
"Sorry, got confused," Roxanne backtracked. "Seb, you're off. I'm taking over."
"Finally," Seb wheezed. "Blishwick told me to stand guard and not move for anything—that was ages ago. I haven't had lunch yet!"
"Take your time." Roxanne smiled. She watched Seb stroll down the corridor and out of sight. Just as soon as his whistling had completely faded, she stunned Damien. He slumped down into a mere pile of white robes on the floor.
It had only been a few days since she'd knocked on Blishwick's door, but the intervening period had been dense. It felt almost perverse, tapping the golden snake and staff against the gleaming oak. So familiar a gesture—the residue of a different life.
"What is Roxy's favorite color?" the snake asked.
Roxanne grit her teeth. "Magenta," she grumbled and the door swung open.
Either Perry had made a bigger mess of Blishwick's office than he'd let on in his letter, or the Chief Healer had searched it once already. Every filing cabinet had been rifled through, leaving a carpet of parchment strewn on the ground. Roxanne's heart thumped in Ardy's chest as she pulled the lone painting from the wall. Detaching the frame, she slipped one hand inside and groped. For several agonizing seconds, her fingers found nothing. Then, finally, they made contact with something neither wood nor canvas. She could have whooped with joy. Luckily, she didn’t.
"He's been stunned!" someone shouted from outside the door.
"We told you to have two on duty at all times!" Auror Finch-Fletchley shouted.
"We did, I don't know where Seb's gone!"
"Has the office been breached again?" Finch-Fletchley demanded. "I just saw Malfoy; we're transferring him. He couldn't have escaped from Bones and gotten here so fast!"
"I'll gather the override password!" the St. Mungo employee cried before rapid footfalls rang away down the corridor.
Roxanne glanced at the clock. Five minutes to two o' clock. Five minutes until she was due to surrender, and she was trapped in Blishwick's office with at least a hundred bags of narcotics in her satchel.
She rummaged in her robes pocket for the last piece of Perry's letter and prayed it had come unscrambled. Tipping over the envelope, a silver ball no larger than a blueberry fell into her palm.
If everything has gone according to plan, you are currently trapped in Blishwick's office while St. Mungo's and/or Ministry employees gather the override password. Assuming my father isn't entirely useless, there will be a mysterious device in your (and I'm guessing here) left hand. Tap it once with your wand.
Roxanne did, and it began to swell and a seam emerged around the circumference. Prying it open with her fingernails she noticed them growing longer—manicured tips curving into neat ovals. The polyjuice was rapidly wearing off.
Now place all of our evidence inside, before tapping it twice more with your wand.
Rolling up the patent and dropping in the bubble of narcotics, she did as Perry advised. The metal sphere shrunk back down.
It should be small enough to smuggle into custody (given your quantity of hair, you probably wouldn't need to shrink it again, except you'll need to pass it back to me at your earliest convenience. Oh yeah, that bit's important: get it back to me.)
"The override password is ‘Ataraxia Aponia’!" the St. Mungo's employee shouted from the other side of the door. The second hand ticked towards two o' clock. Roxanne's hair turned from sandy blonde to deep copper, shooting up and curling out like corkscrews.
She had just time enough to tear off Ardy's badge and pop the magical sphere into her mouth before Finch-Fletchley exploded through the heavy door. Her wand clattered to the ground as she tossed up her arms.
"I suwwendow!" she yelled, cheeking the evidence.
"Healer Roxanne Minerva Weasley, you are hereby charged with aggravated assault on an on-duty Healer during the course of his work, violation of a restraining order, unlawful trespassing, and conspiracy to commit harassment," the auror recited the charges while binding her hands behind her back. "You will be transferred to the Ministry where you will await trial for these and any further charges you may accrue or that may come to light, including suspected assault on a St. Mungo’s orderly. Do you understand?"
"Mhm," Roxanne replied, keeping her lips pursed tight over the precious metal ball.
None of it seemed real, and most of it seemed absurd. Conspiracy to commit harassment sounded made-up. Now that her worst anxieties had come to pass, she felt numb. She realized how long it had been since she’d slept.
Finch-Fletchley frogmarched her through St. Mungo's for all of her former colleagues to see. The marble lobby teemed with reporters and their flashing cameras. She didn't even bother speculating at what the headlines would read.
Auror Bones held Perry in place with her wand. He'd been bound not only at the wrists, but around the torso as well as at the knees and ankles. Roxanne almost felt jealous that she hadn’t been detained by such extreme measures herself. I too am a force to be fucking reckoned with, she thought.
"Ready for transport." Finch-Fletchley stopped walking long enough to relay the message into a compact mirror, leaving Roxanne within arms reach of Perry—if she could move her arms. In that small second of possibility, in perfect view of the ravenous photographers, Roxanne leaned out and kissed him square on the mouth. The lobby exploded with camera flashes, as bright and blinding as a supernova.
Perry cracked a triumphant grin, and then, to Roxanne's horror, she saw the muscles of his throat contract into a gulp.
He'd just swallowed the evidence.
Author's Note: Special thanks to Shez for being a killer beta on this chapter!
'Ataraxia' and 'Aponia' are terms related to Epicureanism (meaning 'tranquility' and 'freedom from bodily pain' respectively). I thought Epicureanism suited Blishwick interestingly, though I don't think he's really a stellar manifestation of it (he probably thinks he is, though).
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