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[NTLJ] 5. Good Auror, Bad Auror - SnorkackCatcher's Stories
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[NTLJ] 5. Good Auror, Bad Auror
Chapter Summary: In which Tonks interrogates a suspect, and meets several new people.
Length: 11,100 words



5. Good Auror, Bad Auror


Thursday July 30th 1994

When Cassius arrived at Auror Headquarters the following morning, Tonks was already waiting for him, feeling rather pleased with herself. She'd remembered that the Ministry had photographs of all its workers on record -- she'd spent a dull fifteen minutes posing for hers on her first day -- so it had been easy, albeit tedious, to search through them to find out the name the woman she'd seen leaving in the Floo. After a couple of hours spent putting Gogol's painting to work, she now had several pictures and some details.

Cassius had obviously noticed her excitement. "Hello, Tonks," he said in surprise. "What's the matter?"

In reply, Tonks spread the photographs on his desk. "Mrs Beatrice Easton," she said smugly. "Works part-time in the Pest Advisory Bureau. Also an occasional visitor to the Transfigured Toad, where she talks to dodgy-looking wizards in alcoves, then rushes out as if she doesn't want to be seen. Think that's worth investigating?"

Cassius carefully studied the pictures. "You mean you saw her when you went there the other day with young Bentley?"

"Yes."

"You're sure?"

"Definite. I'm good with faces. They trained us to be observant, and I always did study them to work out how to Metamorphose, anyway."

He looked at her thoughtfully. "Very well, I'll agree with you this far; it does look a trifle suspicious. What did you have in mind?"

"Go and question her?"

Cassius smiled patiently. "We can't, Tonks. It's not against the law to go to a pub. We've no idea what she was doing there. It could be something perfectly innocuous ... well, I suppose that's unlikely at the Transfigured Toad, but at any rate, it may be nothing to do with us."

"We've always thought it was a centre for illegal trades, though, haven't we? Ben said so. Haven't we had suspicions of it for ages?"

"Suspicions, yes. Proof, no. The patrons don't exactly talk to us much. You don't know she was buying something she shouldn't have, and even if she was, it probably has no connection to what we're working on. She could just have been -- oh, I don't know, meeting her secret lover or something!"

"I doubt it. I couldn't see his face properly, but from the way he walked, I'd say he was a lot younger than her."

The patient smile reappeared. "That was just an illustration, Tonks. We do have to be careful. Even Aurors need some proof these days before we throw accusations around."

"Oh." Tonks looked crestfallen. "So you don't think we should investigate her then?"

"I didn't say that." He paused to think. "Were there any notes on her in the Auror files? Any convictions, known bad habits, evidence of corruption in her Ministry work?"

"No, not really," said Tonks with a touch of disappointment. "There isn't any hint of her having underworld connections in the confidential records -- well, other than the one I just added, anyway."

"I see. What's her background? Job? Home life? What do we know about her?"

Tonks riffled through the sheets of duplicated parchment on her desk. "She's 47, married, one grown-up child, who left home some time ago. Lives in Worthing, south coast. Husband works as a broom salesman, spends a lot of time travelling around the country on business. She works three days a week doing administrative stuff for the pest advice people. Erm ... helps organise local Bring and Fly sales, little things like that. Generally seems respectable, not at all the sort of person you'd expect to see in a dubious Knockturn Alley pub."

Cassius pondered this. "Didn't you tell Bentley you were willing to go undercover there and look around?"

"Well, yes, although I haven't got around to it yet, obviously ..."

"Very well, then. We may be able to kill two pixies with one curse here. If she goes in that pub again, we'll follow her. Suspicion is just enough for us to legally cast a tracer spell to alert us if she goes there." Tonks brightened. "We can key it to those Panic Buttons, in fact. Should it activate, you get there as quickly as possible, follow her in, and observe."

*****

Thursday August 6th 1994

Tonks' optimism lasted until the weekend -- the spellcasting was interesting, and the Friday following, as the last day of the month, had been a red-letter day (literally so, as she had put a Colour-Changing Charm on the appropriate page of her desk calendar). Cassius observed this with polite bafflement, but Tonks didn't care; the date might not be of great significance to anyone else, but to her it marked the day she got her very first payslip as an Auror. She thought she might take it home and frame it.

The next week was mostly rather discouraging.

O'Gregan and Cornworthy dropped by her cubicle occasionally to give her a rundown on their progress in the Ashford case -- or to be more precise, their lack of it. They reported that they'd been unable to find any way in which his nephew or nieces could have got to London and back from their distant locations without being missed or observed. ("Mary Edgecombe couldn't find any Floo traces for them, there was no sign of illegal Portkey use, and frankly I don't think they could Apparate further than the next street to save their lives," explained O'Gregan gloomily.)

Tonks asked them hopefully to inform her if anything interesting turned up in their preliminary investigations of the material from Farley's interrogation, but the results there were equally negative. They had no information on the blonde woman ("She probably was too good to be true," said Cornworthy sadly). Arkwright the erstwhile zookeeper, now down on his luck, had said little that was repeatable when interviewed ("He made some suggestions," O'Gregan told her, "but I don't think any of them were physically possible without the use of a wand, now"). And although not all of Ashford's trade rivals were able to show alibis for the night of the attack, there was nothing to connect them with it either. ("I wouldn't say they actually regretted what Farley did -- except that he didn't succeed -- but we haven't found links with him," said Cornworthy.) Tonks got the distinct impression that they were hoping she and Cassius might find some way to progress, approaching the case from the other end.

However, Beatrice Easton stayed away from the Transfigured Toad, which Tonks was sure could only be ascribed to sheer stubbornness. And another trip down Knockturn Alley as Mrs Anonymous produced little worth even a passing mention in the daily bulletin.

By the following Thursday she'd more or less given up any expectation of quick results. So, when the button on her desk buzzed while she was sitting reading a dull memo from Scrimgeour, it didn't immediately register.

Cassius, doing much the same in the next cubicle, looked up. "Tonks! That's the Easton alarm!"

"What? Oh, hell." She raced out of the office towards the lifts, cursing the spells that stopped her Apparating out, with Cassius following at a more sedate pace. As she rode down to the Atrium, she was transfiguring her robes into the kind of scruffy attire necessary to fit in at the Transfigured Toad and changing her face into that of a young man, drawing extremely curious looks from her fellow passengers.

She didn't think the new face was particularly impressive -- she didn't practice male faces very often -- bur she'd been forced to agree with Cassius that a strange man was far less likely to attract notice in the Toad than an unaccompanied woman. ("Being a Metamorphmagus doesn't allow me to change my basic, er, anatomy," she'd explained, reddening slightly, "but I can do more or less what I like with the shape of what I've got. So I can shrink my boobs down and expand the hair follicles on the face to do a convincing stubble. And if you get the shape change right it alters your larynx, so you get the voice for free.") With any luck, long robes and a hood would hide any imperfections in her disguise, and that sort of attire was almost de rigeur in a place like the Toad anyway.

She Disapparated as soon as the lift reached the foyer floor and, as before, appeared just round the corner from the pub. Taking a deep breath, she strolled in and went over to the bar, looking a lot more confident than she felt. McAllister the landlord was there, but he gave no sign of recognition, which made her breathe slightly more easily. No reason why he should recognise me, of course.

"Firewhiskey and ginger ale, a little ice," she said, in her best attempt at a gruff voice. She glanced around while he poured her drink. Her luck was in; Beatrice Easton was sitting alone at a table in one corner, apparently waiting for someone, and looking uncomfortable -- she seemed to be attempting to be as inconspicuous as possible. It wasn't working; she was attracting a number of curious glances from other patrons, which made it easier for Tonks to observe her as well without her actions standing out.

As Tonks watched, she saw the woman's face light up with relief as a man walked over to her table and muttered something to her. She got up and they disappeared into one of the alcoves. The man's face was hooded, and he again appeared to have a scarf around the lower part, which meant that he fitted right in to his surroundings. The little she could see, though, looked like the same man she'd seen previously.

Tonks sipped at the Firewhiskey thoughtfully. It was obvious that she had to get closer, but how? Take the unicorn by the horn. Only way. She turned to the barman. "I'm going to wait in one of those," she said, nodding at the alcoves. "If a bloke called Mickey Kerrigan comes in, tell him where I am." With that, she confidently walked over to the alcove next to the one into which Mrs Easton had disappeared, hoping fervently that there wasn't a real Mickey Kerrigan anywhere at hand. If there was, she was going to have to do some very fast talking.

The landlord had thoughtfully provided curtains for all the alcoves to ensure his patrons had privacy for whatever business they chose to conduct. Tonks was glad of this; as what she was going to do would look very suspicious if anyone saw it.

She took out the 'knife' that K had issued her; one of its useful little functions, discovered when reading the instruction book, was an eavesdropping tool. She flipped out a couple of small metal studs from one of its many little enchanted compartments, placed one in her ear, then tapped the other with her wand and placed it against the alcove wall, where it stuck.

The voices coming from the other side of the dividing partition were indistinct. Tonks had half expected this, but that didn't make it any less annoying. There was evidently some sort of privacy charm on the partition; she wasn't sure whether the people in the next alcove had cast it as a precaution, or if the landlord had done it for all of the alcoves as an additional service. Tonks would have put Galleons -- well, Sickles anyway -- on it being the latter. It was that sort of place.

The eavesdropping gadget turned out to be reasonably good at counteracting the effects, but not perfect, and Easton and the wizard were talking in frustratingly low voices. Tonks could make out the general tone of what they were saying, but many of the actual words were inaudible. She swore under her breath; if she hadn't rushed out so quickly, she could have brought along a dose of the Sense-Enhancing Potion.

Too late to worry about that now. She caught a reference to the payment of a fairly large sum of money for goods supplied -- no surprise there -- spoken by Easton in a pleading tone of voice, and something about her husband's activities while travelling from her companion, said with a definite sneer. The thing that really made her prick up her ears was a reference to 'bottles of potion' by the wizard. As far as she could tell, they were talking about something that Easton was going to be giving to her husband without his knowledge. She didn't sound convinced about it, but the wizard was replying in a tone of breezy reassurance.

Tonks was caught by surprise when she heard their footsteps leaving the alcove; realising that the privacy charm had blotted out the noise of them getting up. She hesitated for a moment; it was going to look extremely suspicious if she followed them out immediately, but there wasn't much else she could do. After all, she didn't have to come here with the same appearance ever again.

She stumbled as she left the alcove, forgetting the step and knocking into a table, which slowed her down just enough to allow her quarry to leave the pub. Cursing again, she quickly followed, hoping that the rest of the customers were too concerned with their own affairs to be paying much attention to a stranger. Her luck held -- the landlord gave her an annoyed look when she didn't straighten the table, and one or two drinkers glanced up at her with a smirk, but then returned to their own conversations.

It took a moment or two for her eyes to adjust to the bright sunlight outside the dingy pub. She couldn't see Beatrice Easton anywhere, but that wasn't a cause for concern if everything had gone according to plan. Cassius had been waiting outside to pick up her trail, as he knew her appearance; Tonks would follow whoever she was meeting, since Cassius wouldn't be able to recognise him if they left the pub separately.

She looked around quickly; Diagon Alley was crowded today, with many foreign-looking wizards and witches -- doubtless tourists here for the World Cup -- gawking at the shop windows. She spotted the man just as he turned the corner into Knockturn Alley. No surprise there, either. He was moving at quite a fair pace, glancing round casually every now and again, and she set off in pursuit as quickly as she could without being too obvious. Stealth and Tracking had always been her weakest subject during Auror training, even if she had somehow scraped a pass.

She tried to follow in a casual-looking stroll, although she made sure to keep one hand close to her wand. The wizard walked rapidly down the narrow street, slowing about a third of the way down to enter a large shop. Tonks nodded in recognition when she caught up and saw the sign above the window that read Borgin & Burkes. She watched the doorway as best she could while pretending to examine the goods in a window on the other side of the street (a dusty display of shrunken heads that looked as if it hadn't been changed in a couple of years).

She wondered if there was any way that she could manage to cast an inconspicuous Tracking Charm on the wizard as he came out. She'd been rather taken by that spell when it was taught early on in her training; it allowed an Auror to use their wand as a pointer to show the distance and direction of their target, but did suffer from a couple of severe disadvantages if anyone saw you using it. Firstly, it was easy to cast a counter-charm. And secondly, it was hard to explain away without getting yourself hexed.

The wizard came out of the shop about ten minutes later with a disgruntled expression and turned back towards Diagon Alley, nodding at people he met but moving quickly . In order to remain inconspicuous Tonks was forced to stay well back, out of effective wand aiming range, until he reached the end of Knockturn Alley; and at that point her luck ran out. The wizard looked around once and then Disapparated.

Under her breath, Tonks muttered a number of potent words that she wouldn't be putting in her report.

*****

Cassius wasn't there when she arrived back at headquarters. She slumped into her chair in dejection, reached for a quill and parchment, and started to scribble down notes on the results (or lack thereof) of the day's activities. A paper aeroplane drifted into her in-tray, and she unfolded it listlessly. It was a printed memo from the Department of Magical Games and Sports:

Dear Miss Tonks

A formal introduction and training session for security staff at the Quidditch World Cup will take place on Wednesday 12th August in the main Meeting Room on Level Seven. It is expected that personnel will be addressed by Bartemius Crouch of the Department of International Magical Co-operation, Albert Bradley, British/Irish Representative to the Union of European Quidditch Associations, and Senior Auror Liaison Gawain Robards. The session commences at 10am sharp and is expected to last until approximately 4pm. Lunch will be provided. Please confirm receipt of this memorandum, and inform the Department immediately if you are unable to attend.

Tonks reached for a memo form to write a reply, then noticed a handwritten postscript. A huge grin spread across her face as she read it:

Your charming friend Rhiannon told me you were a Stinger. I hope this will be of some use to you!

My very best wishes to Nymphadora Tonks,
Ludo Bagman

Tonks let out of whoop of glee. Just this once, she didn't even mind the use of her full name. This was another thing she was going to take home and frame! She was still laughing happily when Cassius arrived and looked at her with curiosity.

"Did you get him then?"

Tonks sobered up a little. "No. He Disapparated. How about Mrs Easton?"

"Stepped into the Floo station in Diagon Alley and went back home -- I managed to get close enough to hear where she was going, but I could hardly follow her into her house without authorisation, or something concrete to base suspicion on. Did you learn anything useful?"

Tonks described her visit to the Transfigured Toad and the subsequent trip down Knockturn Alley briefly. "So we're not much further on, I guess," she finished in disappointment. "Pity. I'd like to know what potion she was feeding her old man. You never know, it could be the one we're after."

Cassius considered this. "It would be a real stroke of luck if it was, but sometimes you do get them ... You know, this might just be enough to work with," he added. "Perhaps we could call on her and play 'Good Auror, Bad Auror'? It would be mostly bluff, of course, but you'd be surprised how often that works with people who aren't hardened villains. And from the way you described her behaviour, I very much doubt she is."

Tonks perked up at the prospect of action. "Suits me. Which of us is going to be the Good Auror?"

"Me, I think," said Cassius apologetically. "I've never really been very good at playing the, erm, the 'heavy', I believe it's called." He grinned. "How about if you be, oh I don't know -- the overenthusiastic, out-of-control young investigator eager for results any way you can get them? And I'll be the world-weary Auror with half an eye on retirement who just wants to make things easy? I'm sure we could do that."

Tonks smiled back. "Works for me. I'll make myself look forbidding. When shall we do it?"

Cassius pulled out the set of notes on Beatrice Easton that Tonks had duplicated for him. "Let's see ... she doesn't work Fridays, and apparently her husband is away on business. Tomorrow might be as good a time as any, then?"

Tonks nodded. "It's a deal."

"Very well," said Cassius. "Meet me here tomorrow at nine, and we'll go straight over. Look up the Apparition point for Worthing -- they might even have a public Floo connection, you'd be surprised how many small towns do. If there is, we'll take that and keep things simple." He grinned again, mischievously this time. "And that will give you the whole evening to practice being mean and nasty. I don't suppose it should require too much extra effort, really."

He ducked the screwed-up piece of parchment Tonks threw at him as they both burst into laughter.

*****

Tonks arrived at work early the following morning in order to check the Ministry recommendations for travel to Worthing. It turned out that there was indeed a Floo and Portkey station there down an obscure side street, inside a small office that the Ministry had purchased for the purpose some years before (at the request of a Wizengamot member whose cousin lived nearby).

By the time Cassius arrived at ten to nine she was already getting fidgety, to his great amusement. Both made sure to slip their Auror badges into their pockets, ready to fix onto their clothing in prominent positions once they were out of sight of any Muggles. There was no point in trying to be anonymous this time; the whole idea was for them to arrive at Beatrice Easton's door looking official and unfriendly.

Tonks had in fact practiced the previous night, experimenting with making herself look as tough as possible. She eventually settled for shortening her hair to a wiry, close-cropped style, and giving herself a squarish jaw that jutted out in the manner of the Muggle police tough guys she'd seen in her father's old rented films. Her mirror merely issued a feeble protest; in the last few weeks it had grown used to her leaving the flat in unflattering guises. It had sounded almost pathetically grateful when she returned to normal for the journey to the office.

She had always found that the real trouble with travelling the Floo network was fact that any trip longer than a short hop across town left you feeling disoriented. Although it was a relatively short journey to Worthing, she was facing backwards when she stepped out of the flames at the station. As she turned to face the door she felt her foot catch on something, tried to stop herself falling but couldn't, and pitched forward into the room.

Of course, it was just her bad luck that there was, once again. a wizard standing nearby for her to collide with.

Bloody Hell! she raged. albeit internally. Why do they ALWAYS decorate these things with raised edge grates? It's not like they're actually needed! She picked herself up, brushed the dust from her robes and turned to apologise to the wizard.

Her jaw dropped. Oh great. I just love coincidences.

The wizard, who was slightly older than her, looked at her in puzzlement for a moment; then his eyes widened in sudden recognition. An older woman who had been standing behind him, out of range of Tonks' clumsiness, looked between them curiously. A slight whoosh from the fireplace announced the arrival of Cassius, who carefully stepped over the edge of the grate to join them.

The woman was clearly trying very hard to keep a straight face. She was in her forties, perhaps, but still had dark hair and a trim figure, and was smartly dressed in Muggle clothing. "Aren't you going to introduce us, Montgomery?" she said, unable to keep slight amusement from her voice. "I'm sure girls always throw themselves at you, but I didn't realise they did it literally."

Both Tonks and the wizard reddened slightly. "Mother, this is a Miss ... Tonks, as I recall," he said, with a trace of irritation. "Do you remember me telling you once, when I was at school, about this wretched first-year shape-shifter who liked to mess with the heads of the prefects?" Tonks' blush deepened. "This is her, if I'm not very much mistaken."

Tonks gritted her teeth. "Yes, it's her ... er, I mean, yes it's me," she said. "It was a long time ago, though. Bygones?"

"I suppose so," said the wizard grumpily. "I'm surprised you even kept a face I could recognise. Did I get your name right?"

"Yes," said Tonks. "Nym -- er, yes, Tonks was right. I'm surprised you remembered me."

"Remembered you?" said the man. "After six months of you appearing and disappearing like a demented leprechaun? I thought I was losing my mind. I nearly asked Madam Pomfrey to check my head out."

Tonks winced. "Oops. Sorry. No, I mean it," she said hastily at the look of disbelief on his face. "I was only a kid! And I was probably ... oh, I don't know, overcompensating for being away from home and missing my parents?" She realised as soon as she said this that it had touched a nerve, as the faces of both strangers tightened perceptibly. Oh great. Just great. Now what? "Erm, did I put my foot in it again?"

"Yes, Miss Tonks, you did, I'm afraid to say," said the woman evenly. Now that she wasn't so distracted, Tonks noticed that her voice had a very slight accent of some kind, although it was sufficiently overlaid by conventional English as to be almost undetectable. "Your glorious career as a Hogwarts joker must have been right about the time my husband ... was killed. I don't suppose you stopped to wonder if my son had just lost his father, though, did you?"

Tonks winced again. "No, I didn't," she said, pleased to hear that her voice reflected her genuine regret. "Look, please, I'm so sorry. I didn't want to bring up bad memories for you."

"Can't be helped," said the wizard gruffly. "As you say, it's a long time ago now." He suddenly seemed to realise that Cassius was present. "I'm sorry, I didn't introduce myself to your grandfather. I'm Montgomery Hallendale, this is my mother Angelica."

Cassius came out of one of his reveries, and smiled politely. "Grandfather? Not me. Merely her colleague. I'm Cassius Smethwyck, by the way. Very pleased to meet you both."

"That's OK," said Angelica Hallendale, smiling in return. "I hope she doesn't cause you too much trouble."

"Not at all. She's a reformed character, obviously." He chuckled; Tonks gritted her teeth and fixed a smile in place. "I hope we didn't delay your journey. It's always a little cramped in these single-grate stations."

The woman laughed. "Oh, it wouldn't have made any difference. I asked Montgomery to book a Portkey for us to go up to London on. Normally I just drive into Brighton to shop in Wizard's Row, but they don't stock much in the way of cosmetic products. And I know even Muggles can supposedly use the Floo network with the right kind of powder, but I've never much liked the idea of stepping into a fire."

"Oh, come on, it's not that bad," said Tonks, puzzled. "I know it's a bit scary when you do it the first time, but you soon get used to it. Surely your parents must have shown you how when you were young?"

A twinkle appeared in Angelica's eyes. "No, young lady. To do that, they'd have needed to know how to use it themselves. And as Muggles, that would have been unlikely, wouldn't it?" She smiled at them. "I'm sure they would have found the idea quite as alarming as I did when Hank -- my husband -- first told me about it."

"Your husband told you?" asked Tonks in confusion. "You mean they didn't teach you at school either?"

"I didn't go to school, Miss Tonks," she said, laughing. "I was privately taught. And I dare say the idea would have given my teachers a heart attack as well. I never realised there was a whole magical world out there until I met Hank. And he was magical in more ways than one." She raised her eyebrows at the younger woman a couple of times. Her son looked at her with a trace of exasperation, and his mother smiled at him.

"You mean you're a Muggle?" said Cassius with an expression of dawning comprehension. "I'm sorry, I didn't realise. You seemed so ... comfortable with the idea of magic."

She shrugged. "It's been over thirty years, Mr Smethwyck. I've had plenty of time to pick up the jargon. And I have two wizard sons to keep me up to date with what's going on, even if Montgomery here is making his fortune in pounds and dollars, not Galleons." She glanced affectionately at her son, who again looked slightly embarrassed at the parental praise.

"Thank you, Mother," he said firmly, checking his watch. "It's very nearly time for the Portkey to activate, so perhaps we should get ready?" He glanced around, picked up an old newspaper from a table, and handed one end to his mother, who winked at Tonks and Cassius.

"Well, it was nice talking to you, Miss Tonks, and you, Mr Smethwyck," she said. "Oh, we never did ask. Now you've, er, reformed, what is it you do?"

Tonks couldn't resist. Her face took on a mischievous look. "Oh, it's quite a responsible job really." She took the badge from her pocket and held it up where they could see it. "We're Aurors."

She enjoyed the shocked expressions that appeared on the faces of both Hallendales a moment before the Portkey activated and they winked out of sight.

*****

The Easton home turned out to be in a pleasant residential street where the houses were large, detached, and had an ample amount of garden, and which was fortunately empty of people when they arrived. Cassius, who was surprisingly subdued, stood well back around the corner as Tonks hid between a couple of parked cars and surreptitiously tapped K's wizard locator compass with her wand to check if there were other unsuspected wizards living in the street. If there were, they were out; the needle swung round and pointed straight to the Easton residence.

Tonks changed into her tough face, and they strolled up to the front door with badges showing clearly on their robes. She hammered on the old-fashioned door knocker as loudly as she could.

"All right, all right!" came a querulous voice from within. "No need to break the door down!" Mrs Easton opened the door with an annoyed look on her face, which immediately -- and tellingly -- fell as she registered who her visitors were.

Tonks seized the tactical advantage this gave her. "Want a little word about your shopping habits, Mrs Easton," she said brusquely, pushing past. "Let's go inside. Where's your lounge?" She strode down the hall, with Beatrice Easton stumbling after her, clearly in shock. Cassius, following, quietly closed the door behind them with a whispered Locking Charm.

The large lounge had been tastefully furnished in a style that only a wizard would have recognised as not being entirely Muggle. Tonks nodded to Mrs Easton and pointed at one of the chairs. "Sit down," she said curtly; Mrs Easton obeyed, with a look that was so frightened Tonks found it irresistibly comical. She managed to turn her grin into a scowl in time to keep up her role.

"Wh ... what do you want?" said Easton defensively, finding her voice. "Why are you here? I ... I haven't done anything wrong." Even she seemed to realise it was a bit late to be saying that given the way she'd reacted. She swallowed

"Ought to sue your face for slander then," said Tonks gruffly. She was finding it hard to keep a straight face herself. Time to bring in Cassius. "Partner? Let's tell her what we saw yesterday, shall we?"

They briefly described -- Tonks rudely, Cassius in his usual polite manner -- how they'd set a tracer for Mrs Easton and followed her the day before; although they implied they'd seen and heard a lot more than they actually had. Beatrice Easton's lip started to tremble as she listened, and when Cassius described how he'd followed her to the Floo station she burst into tears.

Tonks winced. Fortunately Mrs Easton was in no fit state to pay attention to her. Fun as it was to act hard, she didn't especially like bullying someone who was probably not, after all, a career criminal. She glanced at Cassius, who shook his head, with the clear implication: I don't like it either, but it's the job you signed up for. You have to deal with it. She turned back to the weeping woman.

"Come on now, Mrs Easton. If you can give us a good explanation of what you were doing and what you were intending to give to your husband, we won't necessarily have to take this any further." This statement was blatantly untrue, of course, but was in line with standard interrogation techniques listed in the Auror manuals: Give them an opportunity to jinx themselves. Hint that they can talk their way out of it. Let them concoct some explanation. Then pick apart the inconsistencies in their story until you have them tied in knots. Tonks knew she wouldn't have thought twice if it had been a serious villain in front of her.

"I ... I just wanted some cheap p ... potion ingredients," stammered Easton. "This ... man said he could get them at cost price. You know, er ... on import. Special offer."

"Special offer," said Tonks in a disbelieving voice. "Right."

"Well, you know ... hard to get sometimes."

"Hard to get," repeated Tonks, in the same tone. "Which ones?"

"I ... I'm sorry?"

"Which ingredients? Where was he getting them? Why couldn't you find them here?"

"Oh, er ... they were ..."

Cassius interrupted. "Mrs Easton," he said gently. "I don't think you're convincing my young colleague here. Or me, if it comes to that. Just tell us what you were buying."

Beatrice Easton broke down in tears again. "I was buying a Love Potion," she said in a very small voice.

Tonks and Cassius looked at each other with a mixture of astonishment and amusement. "What?" asked Tonks.

"A Love Potion," said Easton with a catch in her voice. "You know how it is."

"Not really," said Tonks. "What did --"

Cassius hastily interrupted, with another warning glance at his partner: Time for the velvet glove now. "Come now, Mrs Easton, why don't you just tell us all about it," he said kindly. "Get it off your chest. You'll feel better for it." Tonks, with some experience of his usual way of speaking, noticed a very slight insincerity in his tone, but she was sure their suspect wouldn't. It seemed to work, anyway.

"It's my hus -- husband, Bobby," she sobbed. She pointed at a framed wizarding photograph of a good-looking man on a sideboard; he winked suggestively at Tonks, which she found surprising given her current appearance. "He works away from home most of the time, and I'm sure he ... he ... strays." She blew her nose loudly. "He gets owls, and pretends it's nothing important, but I can tell from the handwriting they're from witches. I ... I don't want to lose him. I felt as long as I was s..s..sure he loved me, I wouldn't really mind if he was faithful or not." The tears started to flow freely again, to the discomfort of both Aurors.

"I see," said Cassius soothingly. "And so you went to this man to buy a Love Potion."

"Yes," she said, sniffing. "Well, I tried buying the ingredients first, but I was never very good at making potions. So I started buying bottles of it ready-made. But the ones you can get in Diagon Alley aren't very effective, and anyway I didn't want people seeing me buy them and knowing my business! So I tried to find out if anyone sold something ... stronger, and then a friend mentioned in passing a shop they'd heard about in, well --" she whispered the next two words "-- Knockturn Alley, and I went to see ... I didn't think it was really illegal!"

"We often find people think that," said Tonks in a cold voice. Probably because it isn't, technically speaking, she added to herself. Simple Love Potions were a bit of a joke, and even Amortentia wasn't actually banned. The serious offences lay in forcing the drinker into doing something they would regret, or using the Potion over an extended period as a form of control. Her comment made Mrs Easton nervous again, however. That pretty much what you were planning then, Beatrice?

Cassius looked at the woman cautiously, evidently weighing up what his approach should be. Tonks realised, now she had a moment or two to think about it, that so far they only had something small-time. Unless the seller had offered her other things, of course.

"We don't like people selling this sort of thing, Mrs Easton," said Cassius after a moment or two.

"I -- I -- I know."

"We find that people who sell items of this kind, however relatively harmless in themselves, often supply much worse items also." It seemed he had the same idea.

"Y -- yes, I suppose they do."

His voice became sterner. "You could get in a lot of trouble, you know."

"Oh, no, please don't arrest me!" she cried, panic-stricken. "Please, don't let my husband know! Please ... I don't want to lose him over this. Please."

Tonks wasn't sure if that would be a good or a bad thing, but she was quite sure she didn't want to make it her business. "You'd better be co-operative, then," she snapped, for effect. She didn't like bullying people - or more to the point, didn't like the thought she might start to like it. Next time we do this, Cassius old mate, you can be the Bad Auror. I don't care if you're good at it or not.

Cassius, of course, was still playing Good Auror. "Who is the man you met in the pub?" he said. Again, Tonks could detect slight tension in his voice as he asked the crucial question.

"I don't know his name," she said with a gulp. "I don't even know what he looks like, really, he keeps his face hidden. I met him in a bookshop in Islington that the man in the shop told me about. He saw me looking at potions books and guessed what I wanted them for." Tonks raised her eyebrows. How come everyone except the Ministry seems to have known about this damn bookshop? "He offered to sell me what I needed, but please, I didn't use the Love Potions as much as he said I did. And I'd never have used anything stronger if they didn't work, not even if he really had something like he hinted he had. I'd never do that to Bobby. It sounded horrible."

Tonks looked at Cassius speechlessly. It seemed they'd found a real-life role model for her Mrs Anonymous character. Sometimes, I just love coincidences.

"I'm ... I'm really sorry," said Mrs Easton, who apparently hadn't noticed the exchange of looks. "I promise, I won't meet him next time." Both Aurors' heads jerked round at this.

"You arranged to meet him again?" said Tonks sharply. "When?"

"N ... next week," she said, frightened. "That was the arrangement. But I promise, I won't go."

"No, you won't," said Tonks grimly. "I will."

*****

Wednesday August 12th 1994

Tonks was cock-a-hoop for the next few days at the possibility of a real break in the case. Cassius was quietly pleased, explaining to Tonks -- or anyone else who would listen -- that it was always worth investigating minor leads like this, on the off chance that they would turn out to be a pointer to something important. Even Scrimgeour sent them a memo to say that he had noted their progress. It was approving rather than effusive, merely agreeing that this evidence did now seem to indicate that a dangerous situation might be developing, but according to Cassius that was much further than he'd ever gone before when commenting on the case.

Beatrice Easton informed them that she'd agreed to meet her contact exactly a week after their previous meeting, so they immediately started making plans for lunchtime on the following Thursday. Tonks spent much of her weekend and the following Monday and Tuesday at the Easton house, learning the details of their past dealings (such as they were -- Mrs Easton had been too nervous of her contact and the surroundings to observe either closely), practising Metamorphosing into a perfect imitation of her hostess (who was seriously disconcerted as she watched Tonks experiment), and making sure she could get the voice and mannerisms exactly right (she thought privately that as long as she stammered with alarm every other sentence, no-one could possibly tell the difference).

Fortunately, Bobby Easton seemed to be away much of the time, spending only one night in his marital home -- or more to the point under the circumstances, his marital bed -- during the entire time. Tonks had returned to her usual appearance once there was no need to play Bad Auror (apart from issuing regular Awful Warnings about what would happen if Mrs Easton told anybody what they were planning, to keep her in a suitable state of anxiety). The husband inspected his wife's visitor with considerable interest, and she made her excuses and left quickly before any embarrassing questions could be asked.

Naturally, by the time that she arrived at work on the following Wednesday, she'd completely forgotten about the World Cup security meeting, until Rhiannon Davies called to her as she passed by on the way out. "See you downstairs, Tonks!"

"Huh?" She turned her head to see Rhiannon leave, almost called her back, then remembered what day it was and glanced at her desk calendar. "Oh hell." Slightly flustered, she scribbled a note to Cassius to let him know where she'd gone, and hurriedly made her way down to Level Seven.

The meeting room turned out to be right at the end of the main corridor, and as she threw open the door a loud "ouch!" from behind it indicated that, just possibly, there had been no need to be in such a hurry.

The door was pulled fully open by the wizard with the spotless robes and manicured moustache that she'd met before under similar unfortunate circumstances. He rubbed his elbow gingerly, and looked at Tonks with pursed lips. "You! This is a private meeting, Miss ..."

"Tonks. Yes, I know, I got the memo, I'm on the list for the World Cup security. I'm really sorry if I'm late, Mr ..."

"Crouch. Bartemius Crouch," he said, with a look of exasperation. Tonks gulped. How was I supposed to know what you looked like? A number of onlookers were watching the conversation, and making unsuccessful attempts at keeping straight faces.

"I'm sorry, Mr Crouch ..." she began, but he impatiently waved aside this stumbling attempt at damage limitation.

"Just take a seat, please. We've wasted enough time on this already."

Tonks went over to find Rhiannon Davies, who was waving at her from across the room. Her morale wasn't improved when she distinctly overheard Crouch say to his assistant, sotto voce, "Weatherby, are you sure she's on the list?"

Rhiannon moved her notes from the seat next to her, and Tonks flopped down into it gratefully. Her friend was wearing a wide grin. "You've met Barty Crouch before then?" she said in a too-innocent tone of voice.

"Erm ... I may have bumped into him from time to time," replied Tonks evasively. "What's the programme?"

She handed her a sheet of parchment. "Here. Ludo, Crouch, and the U.E.Q.A. rep are going to talk for a bit, then they're going to form us up into teams and tell us what duties we're assigned to."

"Right. Leaving it a bit late, aren't they?"

Rhiannon shrugged. "Well, they settled the team leaders quite a while ago. I've been called in for several training sessions already. I'm supposed to keep the rest of my team in line, act as the link for orders, and so on. Robards has been putting us all through our paces."

Tonks winced. "Robards? Oh, wonderful."

"Have you met him, then?" asked Rhiannon with slight surprise. "I know he's Scrimgeour's second-in-command, but this last few months he's mostly been doing World Cup stuff."

The room was starting to settle down as Tonks replied. "I know," she whispered. "Robards ... he took combat training when I was doing my three years. He's a bit tough on you, isn't he?" Rhiannon Davies raised her eyebrows in inquiry, but by now the room had gone quiet. "I'll tell you later," muttered Tonks in a dispirited fashion.

Her morale was considerably improved, though, when Ludo Bagman himself bounded into the room, with a cheerful expression and a breezy apology for being late. He winked at several people in the audience; including (Tonks was highly amused to note) Rhiannon, who rolled her eyes and muttered something under her breath about athletes who let themselves get out of condition. Looking at him as he was now, Tonks had to admit to herself that she was slightly disappointed. His appearance and physique had definitely changed for the worse from the posters she'd had on her wall as a kid, but the roguish grin and boyish exuberance were still there. She couldn't suppress a grin of her own.

Bagman approached a small lectern placed at the front. "Good morning everybody!" he said brightly. "I'd like to say how very pleased I really am that all of you are willing to help us out with the security at the World Cup. I just know it's going to be a wonderful occasion!" A few people cheered, and Bagman chuckled at them and rubbed his hands.

"Now then, just a few words about the line-up for this morning. First my colleague Barty here --" he slapped him on the back, at which Crouch pursed his lips again "-- would like to talk about how to deal with all the foreigners coming to the match. You wouldn't believe some of the problems we've had arranging transport for them all! After that, Albert --" he indicated a dour-faced man who, from his appearance, might once have been a referee "-- wants a word about the importance of not getting in the way while the actual match is on. Very vital that, we Beaters don't really care where we send the Bludgers as long as it's not at our own team, you wouldn't want to be hit by mistake!" That actually got a laugh from many of the audience. "Finally, this afternoon we'll hand you over to Mr Robards here to discuss the teams and ground rules." He pointed at Robards, a tough-looking man who nodded at them confidently. "Good luck, and I hope you'll have as wonderful a time as we're having! Over to you, Barty!"

Crouch stepped up to the lectern, with a disapproving look that suggested he didn't consider that security staff should be thinking in terms of having a wonderful time. He began to talk in clipped tones about the critical importance of the tournament for the reputation of wizarding Britain.

Tonks could see his point about it being vital to make a good impression on their foreign visitors, many of whom knew of the horrors of the 1970s and still regarded Britain as a potentially dangerous place, but found her attention wandering as his long and tedious address wore on. She glanced around the room; many other people, including Ludo Bagman, were fidgeting in their seats or staring into space with glazed expressions. The only person who seemed to be drinking in every word with rapt attention was Crouch's assistant.

Although she'd resolved to listen carefully to everything that was said, the sheer dullness of the speech defeated her, and she found her mind leaping ahead to consider what Robards might be going to say. Her first encounter with him still made her squirm with embarrassment.

*****

October 1991

Auror combat training had turned out to be held in a very large room off the main second level corridor in the Ministry, roughly the size of a Quidditch pitch. The floor looked like stone but felt soft underfoot, presumably treated with some kind of cushioning charm for safety reasons. It seemed bare and empty when the trainees filed in -- there were a few pieces of equipment stacked against the walls, and a row of seats along one side, but it was otherwise just a wide open space.

Robards was waiting in front of the seats, standing next to a large blackboard hovering in mid-air. He nodded at each trainee as they passed by, but didn't speak, abd they began to share uneasy glances. When they had settled down, he pointed his wand at the door and locked it.

"Good morning," he said shortly. "Gawain Robards. I'll be tutoring you. I won't tell you how important combat skills are to an Auror -- that's a waste of time, you must know already. We'll start with some basics. Got those right, and you're well on the way." He tapped the board with his wand and a short list appeared:

Stupefy
Impedimenta
Expelliarmus
Protego

Apparition

"For the moment, to start with, we'll be making sure you can use these techniques really proficiently. We'll go over them until you don't need to think about them to cast the spells quickly -- you shouldn't need to say them at all, if you're good."

The class exchanged looks. "Just like that?" muttered one of them in a sceptical voice. "Not as easy as it sounds doing the spell without the incantation."

In reply, Robards nonchalantly pointed his wand at the empty chair next to the speaker. A jet of red light shot out of the end and smashed a hole in the seat, as the hapless trainee yelped and jumped out of the way.

"Just like that," he said with a slight twitch of the mouth that might have been a suppressed smile. "Reparo." The pieces of the seat flew back together. "I don't expect you to be able to do that quite as easily yet, though. It takes practice, although since you've got this far you should have some idea how it's done." He held up a hand to forestall renewed mutterings from the trainees. "I know, not all of you had good Defence teachers at school. But this mostly comes from you. You have to learn to focus the right way. You get these few techniques down pat, you'll be well set in any fight."

"But, sir ..." said Tonks hesitantly. "Surely they aren't enough by themselves? What if you get into a fight with someone who knows really powerful Dark Magic? Don't we need to know all the counters?" Robards' almost-smile became more pronounced. It looked uncomfortably like a dragon baring its teeth.

"It helps, yes. When there is a counter. Eventually, we'll go into that in more detail, but these are the basics. Magical attack. Physical attack. Disarming. Spell blocking. Evasion. You can Apparate within this room, by the way, if you were wondering, but not outside of it. Anyway, these give you fallback techniques. It's very important never to get caught hesitating in a fight, wondering what spell to cast next. Let's demonstrate." He waved a hand to indicate that Tonks should join him.

"Me, sir?" She stood up with an uneasy feeling. Although she'd always done well at the school Duelling Club, and had acquired some useful practical experience in occasional sticky situations on her travels; trying to fight a senior instructor was taking things to a whole new level.

"Yes, you. I generally pick the one who doesn't think these spells are enough to do any good. There's always one. So let's duel. I'll confine myself to the techniques on the board, all right?"

Not really, no, but I don't suppose I can get out of it now, can I? "OK, sir. Er ... what can I use?"

"Anything you like, as long as it's legal and non-lethal. In fact, we'll even turn a blind eye to the first requirement. Do your worst. Wand ready then? Right." Robards nodded to one of the other trainees. "Give us a count of three." They bowed briefly to each other and held their wands out in the standard duelling position. Tonks was sure she could see the end of hers trembling slightly.

"One ... two ... three."

"Petrificus Totalus!" Tonks cried, aiming her wand at Robards and flinching slightly to duck anything coming her way. He, however, was already muttering "Protego" before she got to the end of the first word, and the spell bounced right back.

The longest incantation you could have chosen. Brilliant! Why not just send him an owl to tell him what you're going to cast? His counter-spell was a Stunner, which she ducked, stumbling slightly. Off-balance, she thought briefly about Apparating, but didn't have time to gather her concentration as Robards shot a Disarming Charm at her, which she only just managed to fend off with a Shield Charm of her own.

Damn! Right, diversionary tactics. She waved her wand to create a loud explosion and a cloud of smoke in between them, which gave her time to focus and Apparate across the room, then cast a rapid Stunning Spell at the place where Robards was standing ... or at any rate, had been standing. She realised that he too had Apparated away, and was now on the other side of the room. He reacted more quickly and sent an Impediment Jinx her way; this time, although her hasty Shield Charm blocked the worst of it, there was still enough force remaining to knock her over.

Panicking slightly, she dredged up an obscure spell from the back of her mind and cried "Canis defensor!" There was a loud bang, and a large and very vicious looking dog appeared out of thin air. It snarled, bared its teeth and leapt at the approaching Robards.

"Impedimenta!" His casually-spoken spell sent the dog flying across the room, where it hit the ground with considerable force and lay whimpering with its tail between its legs. It had, however, given Tonks time to get back on her feet again.

She only just managed to duck the next Stunning Spell, and in desperation she fired back the nastiest spell she could think of on the spur of the moment, a Furnace Hex. You don't mind illegal, sir? Do my worst? Right you are, then. It didn't hit him -- if it had, it would have given him some very painful burns -- but it forced him to Apparate out of its path again, which gave Tonks time to start worrying.

Robards had reappeared not too far away, and now began to cast a stream of Stunners, Impediment Jinxes and Disarming Charms at her. She realised that he wasn't even bothering to voice the incantations now. It barely gave her time to do anything but duck, dodge, and throw up Shield Charm after Shield Charm to fend them off. She was extremely glad that the arena was mostly empty space -- if there had been any objects in the way, she would surely have tripped over at least one of them by now. Her few attempts at countering with a Stunner were brushed off easily. She was beginning to see his point; it was easier to cast something simple that didn't require much thought.

As she stumbled backwards under the force of one of the spells, she caught his eyes, and watched them flick past her shoulder momentarily to a point just behind her, and as he suddenly disappeared from view with a crack Tonks gambled. She spun 180 degrees, crying "Stupefy!" as she did so, hoping to be able to adjust her aim in the process of turning.

The streak of red light from her wand flew into empty space. He wasn't there.

"Expelliarmus!" Her wand flew from her hand and she realised with horror that he'd simply Apparated backwards a few feet, and that the eye movement had been a feint. She didn't have time to duck, Apparate, or even curse herself for falling for a sucker ploy before an Impediment Jinx sent her crashing to the ground. She struggled against what felt like invisible ropes binding her as Robards walked slowly over and pointed his wand at her throat.

"Good fight, Miss Tonks," he said, nodding. "Better than average, actually. You'll do fine when we've trained you up a bit. But my win -- and my point made, I think."

*****

Wednesday August 12th 1994

A rustling sound among the assembled volunteers brought Tonks' attention back to the hall. Crouch's lecture had finally come to an end. Tonks was surprised to find, when she looked at her watch guiltily, that he'd actually been talking for nearly three-quarters of an hour. She would have asked Rhiannon Davies what he'd said, but she seemed to be coming out of a coma as well.

The remainder of the morning session was equally uninspiring. A much needed coffee break was followed by a hectoring lecture from the man named Bradley, warning the assembled company that they must not only stay well clear of the action themselves, but also prevent any interference with the play from the crowd, or indeed anyone or anything associated with the Bulgarian or Irish teams.

The speech was slightly enlivened by a number of tales of dirty tricks from Quidditch matches of the past. Tonks was astonished to learn that the manager of the legendary Hungarian team of the 1770s, an equally legendary former Seeker, had later confessed that he had regularly spotted the Snitch from the sidelines early in the game and cast an Invisibility Spell on it, to prevent it being caught until his superb Chasers had run up an unassailable lead -- a tactic that had led directly to the modern, highly charm-resistant version. Unfortunately, this information was delivered in such a flat monotone it was almost as boring as listening to Crouch.

When they reconvened after lunch, they discovered that Bradley, Crouch, and (Tonks was sorry to see) Ludo Bagman had taken their leave. The only ones left at the front of the hall were Robards and a small group of wizards and witches who seemed to be under his direct command.

Robards tapped on the lectern to call the meeting to order. He looked and spoke exactly as Tonks remembered him. "Right, everyone," he said. "You've heard this morning what we're all supposed to be doing this for. Now, the practical bit. In general, all you do is watch out for trouble and stop it if you find any. Simple enough, right?" He half-smiled at the rolling of eyes in the audience.

"We've arranged for each team to have someone experienced in charge -- an Auror, a senior official, a veteran member of the Law Enforcement Patrol, whoever. There are also a group of supervisors. Everybody gets identification badges saying who they are. If at any point you don't know what to do, ask the most senior person you can find."

He talked for a while about chains of command, legal uses of force, and emergency procedures. It wasn't so bad; Tonks was used to his style after three years training; and even if she hadn't been, it marked a definite improvement on the morning lectures. At least it was mercifully clear and he didn't waste words.

"Right," he said after a while, with a gesture to his companions. "Now we'll get you into your teams. I'll read out the list -- when you hear your name, come up to the front and one of my team here will tell you what to do. We've assigned you to duties according to your experience."

Tonks exchanged a nervous look with Rhiannon Davies. She really hoped that she'd managed to get them onto the same team. She didn't have too long to wait, as the list seemed to be arranged in alphabetical order of team leader.

"... Team eight. Team Leader: Rhiannon Davies, Auror. Team members: William Poppleford, Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. Chesney Thompson, research assistant to the Committee on Experimental Charms. Nymphadora Tonks, Auror."

Tonks breathed a silent sigh of relief and accompanied her new Team Leader to the front of the hall, where they introduced themselves to the two wizards who would be joining them. Poppleford turned out to be a burly middle-aged wizard with thinning hair and a ruddy complexion; he nodded politely. Thompson was a much thinner man in his twenties, with an apparently irrepressible grin; he winked at them. He might almost have been Bagman's younger brother ... or at any rate, a not too distant relative.

Robards' man coughed to draw their attention. "Very well, Miss Davies, your team have been assigned to watch over the campsite on the weekend before the match, so none of you will have to miss more than a day of your normal work before the Final starts." He paused with a resigned look as Thompson booed jokingly. "Once the match is in progress, you are required to remain on duty in the stadium as long as the game lasts. We've drawn up rotas to cater for an extended match -- it went on for five days last time -- so you'll be doing shifts of six hours on duty, six hours off. You're on duty for the first shift." He handed them each a sheaf of parchment. "You need to read and understand these ground rules. Your team leader will be responsible for training you in anything else you need to know. Any questions?"

"Yes," said Thompson. "Are we supposed to meet beforehand to practice, then?"

"That's up to your team leader. But it's highly recommended, as we've already told her. Anything else?"

"What do we do if these Aurors have to leave?" asked the stocky wizard. "Fend for ourselves?"

"Check in with the nearest supervisor or team leader. If there's a pitch invasion or something -- and I really hope there won't be -- they'll be responsible for tactical matters. We --" he pointed to an official badge on his robes "-- are responsible for overall organisation. Supervisors and team leaders take direction from us. OK?"

They looked at each other and shrugged. "I suppose so," said Poppleford.

"Right. Over to you then, Miss Davies." He nodded at Rhiannon and went back to collect another team.

Rhiannon Davies surveyed her team with a slightly nervous expression. "Very well, team, I don't think there's too much to discuss now," she said. "We haven't been given any very complex duties, look you. Just try to make sure people don't get out of order. Oh, and it's a Muggle campsite, so it's important to warn anyone you see who isn't behaving the Muggle way. At the match -- well, keep an eye out for trouble, but I don't suppose anyone's going to say anything if you watch the play too. OK?"

"Do we meet up?" asked Thompson with a glance at the others.

"Ah. Yes. Probably a good idea. Do you fellows work regular hours?"

The two wizards exchanged glances. "Most of the time," said Poppleford.

"Pretty much," agreed Thompson.

"Oh, right. Let's say this Saturday afternoon at two o'clock, then? Sort out the details of what we'll be doing, then maybe we can all go for a drink, get to know each other, call it a team-building exercise?" They nodded; Rhiannon looked heartened. "Great. I'll send a memo round to confirm the details. OK, I'll see you later!"

All over the hall, people were beginning to wander off. Thompson winked at them once more. "I don't suppose anyone will mind if I slip off home now?" he said. "Look forward to meeting you all again." As he and Poppleford joined the stream of volunteers leaving the hall, Rhiannon Davies looked at Tonks with relief.

"Glad that's over. I really should have prepared a proper pep talk for them, I suppose, but ... oh you know how it is, I was busy. Let's go."

As they strolled over to the door, she asked, "By the way, what did you do in Robards' class?"

Tonks gave her a brief explanation, making Davies giggle. "You idiot," she said. "I had enough sense not to stick my neck out. It wasn't Robards then, old Bruno Featherstone was doing them before he got promoted."

"He did a few of ours," said Tonks with a shudder. "The more ... extreme ones. How did yours go?"

"Oh, Featherstone flattened some poor sod called Davey Wickham who thought he was really good at duelling. Needless to say, he wasn't."

"I wonder if anyone ever won one of those duels?" mused Tonks as they reached the door.

"Only once." Both women's heads jerked round at this, to see Robards looking at them with amusement. "Miss Tonks, isn't it? It's a sort of tradition in the Department to demonstrate basic combat skills against some hapless recruit. We tell the trainees they can use anything they like in the fight, they almost always make the mistake of using a lot of complex spells. Best to be sparing with those, unless you're really powerful or experienced. Much better to concentrate on doing the basics well. You missed a simple trick as well, as I recall."

Tonks cast her mind back to the subsequent part of the lesson where the class had examined the tactics used. "I did? You mean Remansio?"

"Yes. Basic Anti-Disapparation Jinx -- if you make one of those stick, you've got a big advantage. The trainee who won managed to bring that one off. I didn't tell you then, but you also had the right idea trying to shock me with a pretty Dark spell. You just didn't take it far enough."

"Not far enough?"

"The one who won started to shout 'Avada ...' at the tutor. He was so shocked, he reacted according to his training, and made a desperate dive out of the way without thinking. It was a bluff of course, but it worked. Left the instructor wide open for a Stunner -- although even he agreed afterwards that it was good thinking for a trainee."

Tonks raised her eyebrows. So did Rhiannon Davies. "Who was the one who won? Do we know him?"

He gave them a slightly twisted smile as he walked out the door. "Yes," he said. "Fellow by the name of Robards."



4. The Value of ArtTable of Contents6. Have A Drink On Me

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