Chapter 16 : 16- The Pansy Route
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The glistening emerald walled room was wrapped in a suffocating silence. Unlike the past few days where Ministerial Room One had been the location of meetings that had been, from what Marietta had heard, raucous and spirit-lifting, all of those within now looked down at the varnished table they sat at. Most looked like naughty schoolchildren awaiting their teacher’s judgement while others appeared frustrated and even angry at their reason for being there. The latter included the man at the head of the long oval table and his array of tattered-cloaked guards who lined the walls around them.
The last time Marietta had seen Minister Mosby Elfrin, when she had asked for access to the American Auror, she had thought to herself how unhealthy he had looked. Clearly she had spoken too soon. Her Minister’s once dark, wavy hair now sported a noticeable number of thick grey strands and no longer flowed around his handsome face but instead now limped dryly over his haggard and grey-tinged looks. The rugged black stubble had now officially turned into an unkempt beard that had long strands sticking out at every angle.
Marietta was hardly surprised when she had first seen this new Mosby when she and his other Heads of Departments had been summoned to this meeting for even being around the Dementors for a few moments made her feel physically drained, as though her body had just started fighting off a particularly unpleasant flu. But Mosby hadn’t been seen without his new allies since their recruitment. Add that to all of the planning that had gone into an attack that had just been reported as a failure and Marietta was surprised that her Minister hadn’t turned to bare bones.
“Over three-hundred Witches and Wizards,” Mosby recounted in a deep throaty voice that Marietta would have thought caused pain to use were it any other person. “Five-hundred Dementors, three Giants and two tamed Dragons. And you mean to tell me that only you survived?”
The Witch he was talking to on the opposite end of the table was a flat-faced, wiry looking woman who looked as though she had just finished rolling around in a bush of thorns. Several gashed decorated her face with her robes and hair covered thickly in dirt. The Witch nodded sadly, not daring to take her eyes off the table.
“I was instructed to return to our Eastern camp, sir.” She began. “When the Aurors were forced into the courtyard we was fightin’ in. We retreated out so that they could then be surrounded when Cade showed up. I was sent there to report our victory to you.” She then fidgeted with her ruined robes a she continued “Then a whole army appeared on brooms. I saw them blast our Dementor forces, overpower our last Dragon and swoop down on everyone. I knew I would be no help, so I ran for it. If I’d have stayed there a moment longer, they’d have found me!” She added, realising that admitting her cowardice in front the Leader of the largest known army of Dark Wizards might have been a mistake.
Mosby glowered at her as though her running away had been the reason Russia had not fallen. “And what of Cade? Or Morgana? Are they dead too?” Mosby pressed through gritted teeth.
“I overheard a couple of Aurors on brooms mention that Cade had been killed in the battle and that Morgana was being held prisoner by the Mongolians.” The Witch replied quickly.
“Captured..?” Mosby breathed to himself.
“This is unacceptable!” A German voice bellowed out in anger. “If dey break her, vich dey vill, she vill tell dem everything!”
Mosby’s head snapped towards the rat-faced bulk of a man so quickly, Marietta was surprised he didn’t give himself whiplash. “Just because you break down in a cold sweat at the mention of the word interrogation doesn’t mean the rest of us are so easily broken, Rodine!”
The man named Rodine looked murderous. “I have killed for this, Elfrin. I’ve enjoyed killing for this. And I’m more than happy to kill for this again.” He growled warningly. The Dementor directly behind the German glided closer to the man turning his glower into a fearful, sharp intake of air.
“This army,” Dolores Umbridge began in a careful manner Marietta had never heard her use before, as though enquiring about any more information would set Mosby to kill every one of them. “Whose army were they? What did they look like?”
But the Witch just shook her head. “I dunno who they were. Definitely Aurors though! And I saw gold on their robes when they were swooping around looking for survivors.”
“Gold?” Mosby shouted angrily, his gaze snapping from Rodine as he stood from his throne like seat, his eyes wide.
The Witch, clearly terrified that she had said something wrong, nodded shakily. “Yes sir,” She mumbled. “On the hem of their robe-”
An inaudible yell of fury cut the Witch off but it was the jet of green light that flew across the table that stole everyone’s attention. The battle-worn woman was sent spiralling into the wall behind and crumpled to the floor though all knew that it wasn’t the impact that had killed her.
As though they had finally been given permission, the Leaders of the Alliance were looking up at Mosby as he panted, his wand still pointing at where the Witch had been.
“Mosby,” Bomani pressed gently. “You said that Mulvenna had signed-”
“I know what I said!” Mosby snapped. “That hag will burn after ordering her Aurors on us!” Mosby then turned to the line of Heads that stood behind the seated War Council members. “Now you lot! As I’ve just allowed you to hear, our numbers are going to need replenishing after this disaster. I’m ordering you to prepare every single Witch and Wizard you have working under you for battle; they will train every day, they will learn how to kill Aurors and if I find a single man or woman who can’t fight to a good enough standard then the Head responsible for them will go the way of that coward over there. Do I make myself clear?”
The Heads all nodded. Marietta noticed the bleach blond haired Bailey Miller grin hungrily beside her as he nodded.
“Good.” Mosby purred. “Dolores, get a message to Cecilia. Bring her up to speed with what happened and order her to hold off her advancement until my say, if she’s made us wait this long she can wait for us now. Bomani, get hold of Meng, tell him I have his next target and he’ll be getting some… additional support.” He finished with a sideward grin towards his Dementor guard.
“The man’s gone completely mad!” Marietta burst as she swatted away her Imperiused Healer’s offer of tea.
“Glad you’ve finally caught up!” Her American roommate barked as he practiced his duelling stances up and down the cramped corridor of Marietta’s flat, Goyle’s wand in hand. Although the man had done very well with adjusting to his new limb, Marietta had been right about Tanya’s invaluable input.
“He’s militarizing every department the Ministry has!” Marietta went on.
“Of course he is, he’s just lost an army over three-hundred strong and his War Council’s losing faith. He’s desperate!” The Auror replied. “I don’t suppose you heard much more about the part-Giant’s next target.” But Marietta shook her head.
“No, Mosby ordered all of the Heads out after Bomani and some of the other Alliance Leaders began questioning him, but it’s going to be a big one.” She explained. “And I heard that Mosby was rechecking his Dementor numbers especially for it.”
“Damnit,” The Auror growled after performing a number of impressively quick wand jabs while pacing backwards and forwards. “And am I correct in thinking that you failed again in getting Umbridge’s hair?”
“Yes,” Marietta replied impatiently. Every day she had come home to the same brutally asked question and every day she was forced to reveal her answer. “Look, I can’t get to her, and even when I can she’s never on her own. We need to plan without it and with everything that’s happening we need to act soon.”
“Well then you’re going to need to get your act together!” The man barked, not even looking at her. “We need that hair!”
“Well I don’t see you coming up with any suggestions!” Marietta snapped back.
“Because you keep shooting every one of them down!” The Auror shot back as he turned away from his practice to look at her before continuing in a mock voice “Oh! I can’t do that! Oh, you can’t ask me to do that! Well here’s another suggestion for you, try focusing on what you can do instead of what you can’t and maybe you’ll get somewhere in life!”
Marietta felt her face burn up in anger. “You know what? I’ve changed my mind. I don’t think I want the help from an Auror who got caught out because he let his accent slip!”
Although the Auror did not drop his glare, Marietta could hardly fail to notice the blush creeping up his face but rather than wait or a retort she pressed her attack. “I have been trying for days now but I’ll admit it, I do not have the skill or mind-set needed to do this. Sure, I learned a Curse or two from Selwyn and I can lie until the Hippogriffs come home but this is different. This requires a level of talent that I just don’t have, but you do.” Clearly the Auror wasn’t expecting this last sentence as his face softened somewhat. “I know you’ve been focussing on your recovery and I accept that you will need my help, but you refuse to tell me exactly how. You’ve just been asking me random questions, jotting them down, refusing to tell me how they’re relevant and then sending me on my merry way before restarting the whole process all over again. You won’t even tell me your name!”
The Auror didn’t respond right away, but instead stowed his wand away and allowed himself to relax. “We need that hair.” He eventually stated in a much calmer tone. “We’ll just need to plan a more indirect approach to get it.”
Marietta was about to retort, to press in that getting to Umbridge was nigh impossible, but was cut off by Tanya calling “Dinner”.
After they’d silently tucked into a surprisingly tasty pasta bake prepared by Tanya, Marietta could feel her eyes giving in to her full-stomached weariness.
“If we were to try and make contact with anyone from the Confederation, how would we do it?” The Auror asked after scooping the last morsel of sauce left on his plate.
Again, Marietta shook her head as she reclined further into her armchair, discarding her own empty plate on to the coffee table. “You must be joking.” She replied. “Even attempting any kind of communication would guarantee me a date with a Dementor especially now that my work is now only a second priority, and anyway I’m not exactly sure they’d be pleased to hear from me.”
“Yeh, there is a lot of hatred for you.”
“And don’t I know it.” Marietta answered quietly.
“What about the things they took off me?” He pressed as he leaned down to pick up the file he’d started, detailing everything and everyone that circled around Umbridge, hidden under the sofa. “Everything they’d taken from the flat me and my colleague were using, do you have any clue as to where they’d store them?”
Marietta screwed her eye in concentration. “I can only assume somewhere in the Auror Office if they didn’t find a use for themselves.”
“Would either Umbridge or this Goyle have access to them?”
Marietta snorted a laugh. “Goyle wishes. Umbridge could probably demand access.”
The Auror nodded as he flicked through the files handwritten pages. “Okay… okay.” He murmured to himself. “And you’ve said you don’t think Goyle would be able to get Umbridge on her own…”
Marietta hummed her agreement, the comfort of her armchair enticing her to sleep.
“Tell me about this Pansy Parkinson girl she’s also got working for her.”
Marietta’s eyes snapped open. “Parkinson?” The Auror nodded though he didn’t look up from his notes. “Okay,” She began uncertainly. “Well, she went to Hogwarts with Goyle, both in Slytherin and both were members of Umbridge’s Inquisitorial Squad when the toad was teaching there. I heard she wanted to side with the Death Eaters when they attacked Hogwarts but it wasn’t until after You-Know-Who fell that she was arrested for aiding her Death Eater uncle and resisting arrest; I think Weasley was the one who caught her if memory serves-”
“All very interesting,” The Auror interrupted abruptly. “But I want you to tell me about her. Is she ambitious? Is she submissive? Does she see herself taking Umbridge’s place?”
“She’s bitchy.” Marietta answered. “A real gossip at school too if I remember and a bully to boot.”
“Okay, that’s good.” The Auror admitted as he drew out a quill from his new robes and began to scribble something down in his notes.
“I hear she’s quite capable too, or at least she was before Azkaban. More often than not she’s the one charged with being Umbridge’s bodyguard.”
“Would you say Umbridge has more faith in her than in Goyle?” He pressed, finally looking up from his file.
Marietta thought hard about this when the memory of the last time she and Umbridge had been alone together crept into mind.
“Manipulable people are usually loyal to those who have them in their pocket.”
“She sees them both as nothing more than pawns.” Marietta said.
The Auror did not respond. He was staring at his notes, his dark brown eyes darting across the pages before he leaned around to try and get a good look at the vial-filled cabinet.
“There’s enough there for a full week’s transformation. Just tell me what you’re planning!” Marietta demanded.
The Auror turned back around, a small grin on his face. “Tell me, what exactly are your plans for tomorrow?”
Marietta’s heart was racing non-stop. Regardless of what she did be it deep, slow breaths or focussing her mind on other things, still it continued to feel as though it was about to burst from her chest. And yet all she was doing was walking across the Ministry’s Atrium towards the haggard food kart.
Asking for what she hoped was a bacon sandwich, she scattered the requested sickles across the counter for the greasy looking cashier to collect and turned to take a seat.
Making quite sure to position herself where she could look out towards the emerald hall, she unravelled her sandwich and began to try and eat the chewy bread. She had forced down nearly half of her breakfast when a certain sight nearly made her gag.
Pansy Parkinson was strolling away from the Fireplace Hall, her sheik black hair dancing lively with every step, her pug-faced smirk looking down on all those she passed as though her possession of a thick, parchment-filled file immediately made here more important than the rest of them combined.
Her heart feeling as though it might explode, Marietta forced herself to look back down at her baconless roll. He’s a highly trained Auror, she told herself. He must’ve done this sort of thing a thousand times over. But still she felt uneasy; even worse, if possible, than when she had executed her plan to save the Auror.
She had just felt the urge to be sick when a second sight shocked the sense back into her. Gregory Goyle marching his way towards the group of breakfasting workers.
Marietta eyed him as he strode towards Pansy, who was taking large swigs from a drink that had been bought for her on the opposite side of the seating area.
Marietta’s hands were shaking, making crumbs scatter from her roll and on to her. What if he says something wrong? An uninvited voice in her head asked. What if he speaks too differently and is figured out?
No, she told herself. They had worked non-stop until the early hours on this plan. He had said that they were ready and Marietta trusted that… right?
Goyle had reached Parkinson. It was clear that she was resenting being seen near him and Marietta was sure that she was showing more interest in her drink than in him.
Come on, Marietta willed. She closed her eyes not being able to bear watching. I need this to work. We need this to work. My mother needs this to work… At this last thought she forced herself to open her eyes and chanced a look. The moment Marietta spotted them Parkinson’s head bolted up right as Goyle finished whispering something to her. Whatever it was, it had put a large ugly grin on her face and had convinced her to leave with him.
Marietta exhaled a sigh of relief as she threw down what was left of her roll and stood up. She glanced at where the pair were heading and, her heartbeat now put from her mind, followed suit.
After nearly five minutes of carful tailing, Marietta found herself slyly peering round the corner of the abandoned Magical Maintenance corridor that Pansy and who she believed to be Goyle had snuck down.
“In here.” Pansy ordered in a throaty, high pitched voice as she opened a nearby store-room. “We won’t be overheard here.” She led the way in allowing the Auror to catch Marietta’s eye with Goyle’s beady ones before shutting the door behind him.
At once Marietta scanned the department corridor for any sign that they might be interrupted but found the place completely deserted. Assured that the three of them were quite alone, Marietta took a deep breath and knocked on the storeroom door to give the all-clear.
“What was tha-” Pansy had started but before she could finish there was a bang and a flash of red light behind the door.
“Come in.” Goyle’s voice ordered out.
Marietta creaked the door open and slid in finding herself in a room larger than her own flat filled with cleaning equipment that looked as though they hadn’t been touched since the invasion. No wonder this place is such a mess, she thought to herself as she spotted the disguised Auror standing over the unconscious figure of Pansy Parkinson.
“Your final ingredient awaits.” The Auror said indicating Pansy but Marietta had already pulled out her vial of Polyjuice Potion from within her robes.
After picking out a long strand of black hair, she carefully placed it in the vial and watched as the potion began to change upon contact.
“What on Earth…” Marietta gasped as the colour of the potion changed so that it resembled a vial of thick puss.
“Could be worse,” The Auror said. “Mine looked like the result of a Troll’s sneeze.”
“Cheers.” Marietta said, raising her glass to him before placing the vial against her lips and downing the contents in one. It was a chore not to vomit it back up so slimy and bitter was it and the feeling only intensified when she felt it reach her stomach.
Throughout feeling every inch of her body changing; her limbs becoming longer and thinner, her face becoming more rounded and her hair growing and darkening, she focussed on her mother. I got her in to this mess, I’m going to get her out. I got her in to this mess, I’m going to get her out. Again and again she repeated this to herself until “Uh, you can open your eyes now. It’s done.”
Marietta looked up and could see her reflection in a nearby bucket. She stared at it, mesmerised. Bringing her new bony hand up to her face, she brushed the tips of her fingers across her face over where the word ‘sneak’ had once been.
“Beautiful,” The Auror said flatly as he searched Pansy’s belongings. “Here, take this.” He added, taking her wand and passing it to Marietta.
“Th… Thanks.” She replied as she picked it up and pocketed it.
“Hey,” The Auror said, looking up at her. “You okay? Because this isn’t going to work if you’re not on form.”
“I’m fine.” Marietta snapped quickly, forcing herself not to let the tears come through. “Wait, what’s that?” She had spotted the large file that Pansy had been carrying now lay open on the floor where it had landed. Sticking out of it was a rolled up piece of blank parchment.
“Just a piece of parchment.” The Auror said as he spared a glance at it.
“A piece of parchment rolled up like that in a file full of Ministry documents?” Marietta pressed as she reached out for it and drew out her wand.
“You know we’re on a timer right? And you should get used to drawing out Parkinson’s wand.”
Marietta ignored him and went about grazing the tip of her wand around the paper’s edge. The moment she had gone all the way around the parchment glowed a bright red and began to burn. But instead of smouldering like normal paper, it began blistering violently as though it were skin on an open flame, then, seconds later, it returned to normal.
“What the hell was that about?” The Auror asked as he stared at the parchment.
“The Traitor’s Kiss…” Marietta answered quietly and she could feel the places where her spots had once been tingle unpleasantly. “I… I think I have an idea. But I don’t exactly know how…”
But the Auror had already drawn his wand. “Just tell me what you need doing.”
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