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Chapter 26 : Heed My Warning
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Victoire and I made and ate breakfast together the next morning, and we shared a good chat before she had to leave to visit with her husband before returning to Paris. I hated to see her go; she had helped me out a great deal, but I knew she had to leave. And I had straightened up exponentially within the past twenty-four hours.
I was slowly beginning to plot. I had to start somewhere, but the difficulty was finding out where. I knew I had to get back to work, and I decided that I would return on Monday. It was Friday and the afternoon was approaching, so I would wait it out for the weekend and go back on Monday, ready to be Peakes' most humble and obeying employee. I had to be if I didn't want him to suspect me of doing anything that he would consider out of line. I especially didn't want him threatening me again and suspecting me.
That was step one. But what is step two? How am I supposed to get him to publically confess?
This was where I knew I was lost. I needed further input, and I had tried to receive it from Harry. He had chosen to sit aside and wait, to let me figure it out, and if it seemed plausible enough, he would join in. But he already believed me to be a little mad; I knew that much. I needed someone who would know what they were talking about, who had experience in figuring these things out, who knew their way around the Ministry. I needed Ron, I realized.
That was the next step. Getting Ron on board.
It was Friday and in the middle of the day, so I knew Ron would be at the office. So I had the rest of the day to figure out just what I would say to him. I wanted to come up with a plan, and if it was good enough, then perhaps I could get Ron and my god-father on board at the same time. But I knew this was unlikely of Harry.
I spent the day trying to come up with something good. Flawless. Something that Peakes would never suspect. Unfortunately, I didn't succeed very well, and when I knew Ron would be home from his day of work and settling down at home, I apparated over there empty-handed, hoping that I could just wing it. I had gotten good and free-handing conversations after confinement with Rose, and I hoped I would be just as good at it with her father.
Hermione welcomed me graciously. She hugged me, kissed my cheeks, and asked me if I would like some tea. I declined her offer but promised I would stay for dinner, and leaving it at that, I went to find Ron.
He was sitting in a chair in Hermione's reading room, a room full of all sorts of books. It contained readings over anything you could possibly imagine. From spellbooks, old and dusty books, to children's fairytales. Ron was there, just staring out the window, but when he was disturbed - probably something that was surprising to him, and I realized then that he had probably picked Hermione's reading room for a reason: to be left alone - he looked up, startled.
When he saw it was only me, he fell back into his chair with a heavy sigh. Still he said nothing.
I motioned to the chair opposite of him. "You mind?"
He shook his head and waved his hand about, motioning that he didn't mind at all. I sat across from him and racked my mind for something better to say.
"I think it's high time to do something about Rose's imprisonment," I stated, just throwing it out there bluntly. I decided I didn't want to beat around the bush with it any longer. I needed to get out with what I wanted. "You and I both know very well that she didn't choose to do it."
"Come back to me when you have evidence," sulked Ron. I had half the mind to shout at him. Ron too?! What the hell had happened to these two men who had held so much passion and ferocity for the things they loved, in things they found worth fighting for?! I thought surely Ron - out of everyone else! - would be willing to put forth the effort, but this was all he was willing to give?!
"Listen to me," I said sternly, leaning forward so his head held so low could see my determined eyes. "Evidence isn't just going to pop up out of nowhere. We have to do some digging for it, and I'm not going to let your daughter rot in Azkaban."
"Quite hypocritical of you," muttered Ron.
I breathed a heavy sigh, forcing my eyes shut. I told myself to take a deep breath and just relax. I knew Ron was a little dysfunctional right now; maybe he didn't mean it. And I know Ron was observing my previous behavior with my behavior in this moment, and I knew it did appear hypocritical. But once again, what's wrong with someone having an epiphany?!
"I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that," I commented. When he said nothing, I let it slide.
"Listen," I said again. "I'm going to tell you something I haven't told anyone. And I need you to look me in the eye and listen - and I mean listen good - to what I'm saying."
"I'm all ears," he said dully, and I wondered if he was mocking me, but I took a stab at it anyway.
"There was a day back at the summer house when I came back from my meetings with Jimmy Peakes. It was the day when I went to your office and told you of my involvement for the case. After I talked to you, I went back to the summer house and I heard something odd from inside Rose's room. I heard another man's voice. It was cruel, shouting, threatening, and Rose seemed terrified. As soon as I made my presence known, I heard him apparate out. I had to break down Rose's door because she wouldn't let me in; I was worried she was hurt. She tried to pass it off as nothing, but I knew better. That was the first time I began to question if she was actually being threatened. And then...I heard two men inside the Ministry talking about a deal. I was able to slowly piece things together that Jimmy Peakes is the one behind all of this. He blackmailed Rose. I thought I had it all figured out, and then after Rose was taken to Azkaban, he told me himself he blackmailed her and that was it. Nothing more, not what his leverage was, not what he expected to gain in return or why he did it - although I can assume now it was for Harry's position."
"Jimmy Peakes is the reason my daughter is in prison?" Ron asked. He suddenly seemed awake; he had returned to the world with that burning passion I had wanted from him all along.
"Yes," I answered. "I know he is. He's told me himself. I just have to find a way to make him publically say it. To expose him."
"How are we supposed to do that?!" he asked. He was intrigued now. I could see that with each passing second, his urge to fight for his daughterís freedom grew. Like me, he had returned in full swing.
"I don't know! That's why I've been trying to talk to you. I've tried talking to Harry, and he's not very willing, but I can't do this alone," I said.
"Yes, yes," Ron said very fast. He lowered his head, suddenly in deep thought. He tried to think things through, to come up with a plan just as I had done. I hoped he would be more successful than me, though. "You say you heard two men in the Ministry?"
"Yes, two. I still can't figure out who the second is," I said, wondering if Ron was on to something.
"Let's think about this," he commented, and then he began to voice his thoughts out loud. "You are almost certain that Peakes threatened Rosie so he could become Head Auror in the end."
"Almost 100%," I said, even thought I was really unsure. Peakes had been so decisive; really, I wasn't certain about anything other than the fact that he was the one who had threatened Rose.
"That's good enough for me," commented Ron, and I grinned. Suddenly he was alive again. I was beginning to recognize the old him. "Anyways. We will say that the root of this all is Peakes' desire to be Head Auror. How would he get heard Auror? From appearing to handle a case superbly, enough to have Harry removed from the position. But who's in charge of that position? That'd be the Minister..."
Ron faltered as if he had realized something. I could hardly keep up with his muttering already, but I did my best to listen closely. He kept his eyes shut, one of his hands pointing at the air, as if he were creating a chain the air, envisioning it in his head.
"But the Minister was killed. So...Maybe..." Ron grunted loudly, but tried harder. Hell, he was doing better than I had. "Maybe Jimmy knew he would never get the position when Jarvis was Minister. Jarvis loved Harry and would never sack him. So Peakes got rid of the Minister. That's why Jarvis was killed! It must be; I know it. Because Peakes knew he would never get that job while Jarvis and Harry were still hanging around. And...Peakes knows our laws and regulations stating that relatives can't participate on a case. So he would have had to choose a relative of Harry's. James is on tour: unavailable to be threatened. Albus is in and out of the country just as often. Rose, sure, often worked in Egypt, but when she's here, her location is all too convenient. That's why he chose Rose! Dammit! That's why he picked her! He knew Harry and I would be taken off the case, leaving him as Acting Head Auror!"
Ron was right.
It struck me, and I could see it clear as day. There was no way Ron was wrong. He had figured it out, dead on. There was no denying it now. Rose had simply been his most accessible, and he had chosen her to do his dirty work so that Harry and Ron would be removed from the situation.
There was still one thing to figure out, though.
"But there are plenty of aurors that could have been selected as Acting Head Auror. How could Peakes be so certain he'd be chosen?"
"I'm not finished," commented Ron abruptly before ranting on once more. "Exactly. There are plenty who could have done Peakes' job - and much better, at that - so he had to be sure he was selected. Sondheim immediately became Acting Minister. Granted, Sondheim's a loved politician. People were glad to either have him or Percy as their Minister; it only makes sense that they were the two candidates. So what does Peakes do? He gets Sondheim on his side. Either by choice or force, still don't know about that. Maybe Sondheim has a darker side that we don't know about and was all for the threats and dirty work, or Peakes bribed him. Said 'I can guarantee you will be the Minister of Magic if you help me out,' because of course, Percy wouldn't win it after everyone found out what Rose had done. And there you have it; Sondheim was the second man you heard."
"Oh my god," I breathed.
I had handed Ron the information not five minutes ago, and he already had it all figured out. I had known for weeks, and I hadn't gotten that far. How the bloody hell did he do it? And the thing was, I believed that Ron was 100% accurate. Everything sounded so perfect. Of course Peakes had chosen Rose because of her accessibility and relation to both Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Right there two Aurors and one of the best lawyers was thrown out the window for the crime of the century, people were quickly calling it.
"You..How did you figure that out? That has to be what happened," I said. Ron only rolled his shoulders, and I praised him even more. "Honestly. Have you always been that quick to figure things out? You don't get the credit you deserve."
And I was being honest. I never knew Ron to be so quick, and maybe it was because of what was at stake - his daughter's life - and that made him think quick on his feet. Or he really was great at it with years of experience. If Harry wasn't to be reinstated at the end of all this, then I'm rooting for Ron as Head Auror. He'd be fantastic.
"Well, that's nice of you," Ron said with a roll of his shoulders.
"Right, so we'll say Peakes and Sondheim are together in some way. But how do we prove that? You and I are the most untrusted wizards in the world right now."
"I don't know," Ron said, almost sounding defeated, but there was still that tone in his voice that said he would never give up. "That's where I'm stumped. If we could get him to confess in front of the Wizengamot, then we're golden. But that's highly unlikely unless we force him in there and shove Veritaserum down his throat - "
"That's always an option," I threw out there with a quick chuckle.
The hint of a smile on Ron's face was evident, but he shook it off and began focusing on real options. "We can set that aside and use it as a last resort. We have to get him to confess in front of someone, whether it be you or a conversation with Sondheim overheard by the necessary people. The tough thing is, is that Sondheim must take part in it because he is our new Minister. No one will be willing to turn against their Minister without solid proof."
"I know. This is beginning to seem impossible..." I muttered under my breath. I was still ever-hopeful, but I didn't like Ron's realism. I preferred to look at things in a purely optimistic way and ignore the possibility that we could fail.
"No. Not impossible. We just have to give it everything we've got," said Ron. This time he met me in the eye with that look of reassurance, pumping the optimism back into me that had just left my veins.
"I'm willing to give it all I've got. I know that there will be no going back from this if we fail," I said.
"I know you are. You love my daughter," he said, and I knew he was speaking from his heart again.
I could tell now that Rose's imprisonment had changed him. He was always so quiet with his words, unsharing, leaving it to silence and the hope that you would understand. Now, he voiced his thoughts, his emotions, and his feelings. Perhaps with Rose gone, knowing he wouldn't be able to tell her he loved her again, he realized that he couldn't let a good comment go unsaid.
"I wish the two of you could have parted on a different note, but when we free her, I only hope that she will realize how foolish she was. She loves you; I know she does, and I couldn't possibly think of a better man for my daughter."
My heart pumped loudly as it beat faster with pride and admiration. I wanted to thank Ron, but I found myself speechless. When I regained composure, I cleared my throat and dismissed his praise.
"I have to win her over again, first," I muttered.
Ron only nodded, and I rattled my brain for an idea on how to get Peakes to confess. Or to at least prove his guilt in this whole mess.
After a while, I suggested, "What about a device that can record a conversation? That way, I can get Peakes alone and get him to say at least something on the matter. He had no problem with telling me last time. He trusted that I wouldn't say anything; he very well might say more."
"That could get messy," Ron said under his breath.
"I don't care. I'll do what I have to," I said fiercely.
"I do think you may need to be on the inside of things. Meaning there when Peakes is confessing or something like that."
"Yes," I said quietly, thinking hard on the matter. "I think I've come to that understanding also."
"Don't worry, though," said Ron in that reassuring voice once more. He reached forward and gave my neck a squeeze. I was beginning to feel like a fatherly figure to me in just this small amount of time. Harry had always assumed that role, but now I felt like I had two, and I loved that. "This is going to be difficult, but we will figure it out. And no matter what happens, we will get Rose out of that hell-hole, and I'll always have your back."
The day finally came when Ron and I knew our plan had been finalized down to the T, and we knew we had to execute it now before we wasted anymore time. We were aware that with each precious minute that went by, Rose was still wasting away in Azkaban. We had taken the time we needed to devise a plan, fully aware of the amount of time we were taking, and that's why we had to act now. We had taken a good ten days in coming up with a plan, but it was one that I had great faith in.
As of now, Rose had been imprisoned in Azkaban for 43 days.
I had returned back to the office that previous Monday as I had planned. Surprisingly I was welcomed back with open arms. Peakes had only given me a firm nod, this growing hatred and tension still resting silently between us, but we said nothing to each other. I acted as if I were passed it, something I needed him to believe. Ruckman had given me an awkward hug and deep apology. The rest of the department, though, acted as if I were a changed person, a time bomb waiting to explode. They looked uneasy around me and were either too incredibly kind or avoided me entirely. I didn't really mind though. I was never close with many people in the office, only Harry and Ron of course, so I didn't care. And now that I was back, I had one goal and one goal only. Nothing else mattered.
The morning Ron and I knew our plan would be put into effect I was drinking my coffee in his office. Even though I was wide away, I still drank my daily cup. I sat in his office chair, trying not to quake on the spot.
Ron looked to me from across the office. "Hey, relax."
"I just want..." I began and faltered. My teeth were bared, and I could hardly voice my thoughts without trembling with hatred. "I just want it to be over with."
"Don't we all," he muttered under his breath. He glanced to his watch and then straightened up. "We should get moving. Sondheim should be in the observation room in five minutes."
This morning Sondheim was to hold a meeting in one of the observation rooms opposite an interrogation room. The observation room he was scheduled to be in was often the location of small meetings due to his comfortable seating and quiet, secluded location. Luckily for us, it was also adjoining with the interrogation room directly next to it. Both rooms were connected with a wall with a two way glass. Those inside the interrogation room couldn't see into the observation room; if people didn't know better, you couldn't even tell another room was on the other side of it. However, in the observation room it is all too easy to hear and see into the interrogation room.
Sondheim was scheduled to be in his meeting at 10 AM, and the hour was fast approaching. Ron was on the board that would be meeting in there, so that had been a lucky plus for us. Ron would make sure Sondheim was in the observation room; to relay the message to me, we both had conjoining coins that would grow hot when you rub them. Ron's signal would be to rub the coin when Sondheim was in place, and I would feel the heat of my own coin. That would be my cue.
The rest was up to me, though, and that's where I began to fret. I had to be the one to get Peakes into the interrogation room and then hold a conversation that grabbed the attention of those in the observation room. I had to make him tell me again. I had planned out conversations in my head, ways I could go about it, but the problem is is that there's no telling what Peakes will say.
It could be that I get him in that room and he chooses to say nothing. I know, though, that I have to get him in there calmly and peacefully; I can't give myself away. Then Ron and I are screwed, and I don't think we could come up with a better plan than this one if we tried. And while this one seemed pretty good and well-thought out, we knew it was rough around the edges. Things had to go our way in order for this to work.
I rose and headed back for the door. I looked back to Ron with a serious look about me. I wanted him to heed my warning. "You rub that coin as soon as Sondheim is in position."
"And you if something with Peakes goes wrong," said Ron.
"W-We can do this," I said, but I think I said it more to myself than to Ron. He had been the optimistic one lately, not me.
"We will get her back, Ted," he said seriously.
Then I didn't say any more. I slipped quietly out of Ron's office and went unnoticed as I tip-toed down the hallway. Watching to see if it was clear, I waved to Ron, signaling him to leave and head to the observation room. He left his office, and when he passed me, he muttered under his breath. "Don't lose face."
I swallowed and nodded. As the moment grew closer, I grew more and more anxious. I don't know why though. I had been slightly anxious with Rose, and then I had been acting while I still had to try to be Malfoy. I had proven to myself that I could freestyle a conversation and not lose face. I know I can do that, but now as Rose's fate began to rely more and more on this one conversation I was about to have, I couldn't help but worry.
I took a deep breath and decided I needed to heed my own warning.
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