?

Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile Previous Previous Next Next
[NTLJ] 6. Make Me An Offer - SnorkackCatcher's Stories
snorkfics
snorkfics
[NTLJ] 6. Make Me An Offer
Chapter Summary: In which Tonks places an order for a dubious substance, makes an identification, and is surprised by Cassius.
Length: 11,250 words



6. Make Me An Offer


Thursday August 13th 1994

Diagon Alley was its usual packed self the following lunchtime. Tonks strolled past all the places she knew well -- Gringotts, Flourish and Blotts, Florean Fortescue's -- as did a cosmopolitan crowd that again contained hundreds of foreign wizards taking in the sights before the World Cup started. In her role as Beatrice Easton, Tonks felt as much a stranger among the familiar landmarks as any of them.

She edged her way through the jostling crowds towards the Transfigured Toad, a place she'd seen more of in a short time than she'd ever really wanted. She could feel her heart beating rapidly, and was annoyed to notice that she felt far more nervous than on the previous occasions she'd visited. Probably because I'm not just making it up as I go along this time, she decided. I'm supposed to be a real person, not just a character of my own invention.

She hesitated for a moment outside the familiar door; as she glanced up at the sign, the figures seemed (doubtless only to her currently overactive imagination) to be gazing at her with curled lips. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Cassius, waiting to follow the man she was meeting when they came out the pub (and handily placed if she needed any backup, should it come to that). She shook herself briefly, gathered her wits and stepped though the door.

The landlord nodded at her in recognition as she approached the bar, barely troubling to take a slightly derisive expression off his face. "Ah, good afternoon, madam," he said. "Pumpkin and tomato juices with tonic and a dash of lime, wasn't it?"

"Yes, please," said Tonks. Good. He recognises me -- or rather, he recognises her. First obstacle successfully negotiated. She watched carefully as he mixed the drink -- the Toad wasn't the kind of place where you wanted to consume anything you hadn't seen made. She handed over some Sickles and Knuts and took it over to a vacant table, where she surreptitiously prodded it with the poison tester from her knife. Fortunately, it was perfectly drinkable -- or at any rate, not poisoned.

She sipped at it gingerly; she'd actually had to practice drinking the revolting concoction Beatrice Easton favoured without grimacing. At least it wasn't alcoholic, and therefore wouldn't prevent her keeping a clear head. It wasn't too bad once you got used to it, apart from the taste.

She glanced around with a nervous expression; partly because that was what Mrs Easton would have done, and partly because, well, she was nervous. The pub was not especially crowded today, but the few patrons there looked as dubious as ever. She fought back an urge to look back in challenge when they stared at her -- that definitely wasn't what her alter ego would do. Judging from her behaviour over the last few days, it was more likely she'd have only just managed to avoid bursting into tears.

The doors opened and a wizard stood framed in the doorway. He had the light behind him and Tonks couldn't make out his face, but her heart-rate increased again -- that had to be her contact. She donned a relieved expression as he walked over to her table.

"Here to meet me, I presume?" His tone of voice still had the slight mockery she remembered from listening through the partition the previous week; it put her back up, but she smiled tremulously and nodded. The wizard jerked his head towards one of the alcoves and strode off, Tonks following. She noticed that he didn't bother casting a privacy charm as they settled into the seats. Maybe her guess about the landlord had been right.

Tonks studied his face as closely as she could, given that she was supposed to have met him on several previous occasions. Most of it was hidden behind a thin scarf that made him look like some kind of bandit (which on reflection, he probably was). All that was really visible was his eyes, greyish-blue and not at all distinctive, and a hint of an unshaven lower chin and neck. Apparently he regularly concealed his features like this, even when browsing the more dubious sections of Lore of Yore; Beatrice hadn't seen any more than Tonks. She suspected, now that she saw him close up, that the scarf must be charmed not to slip from his face.

The wizard chuckled at her. "Did it work then?" he asked.

"Well ... sort of," said Tonks tentatively. "I mean ... he was very ... very kind to me last time he came home. I think ... maybe it helped. I don't know." She mentally patted herself on the back. Good! Sounds just like the way she stumbles over her words when she's nervous.

Her companion snorted. "You'll be wanting more then, I suppose?" He reached into a pocket in his robes and pulled out a pink bottle. "There's about ten doses there. Proper stuff, of course, not the rubbish they sell in Diagon Alley. Twenty Galleons to you. Fair enough?"

Tonks looked at the bottle hesitantly. She actually had been given a reasonable budget this time (despite the reluctance of the Department's financial wizards), but even if that was Amortentia in the bottle, trading in it wasn't illegal, despite anything she'd said to Beatrice Easton. She wanted more concrete results if she could. "Are ... are you sure it'll work? He travels a lot, I don't know ... will it last?"

The wizard gazed at her thoughtfully; he had to know that what she had just said was nonsensical if he knew anything at all about powerful potions, but then Beatrice Easton clearly didn't, given that she'd got herself into this position. "How often can you give it to him?"

Tonks dropped her eyes quickly to avoid giving anything away. Fortunately, that was in character. "Oh ... only when he's home, really. He goes away a lot." That was true enough, and if this wizard really knew anything about Love Potions, he would know that they would be ineffective under those circumstances. The interesting question was whether he would say so; his reply would be a good indication of what he was most interested in selling.

He took his time before answering. "Lasts a day maybe, two if you're really lucky. Not more," he said slowly. "How long does he stay away for?"

"A week, sometimes," said Tonks in a dejected voice. "He's a ... salesman." Mrs Easton hadn't been foolish enough to tell this wizard identifying details about herself, and it wasn't a good idea to start now. She stuck her chin up and said in a slightly more defiant voice, "He prefers to stay near to where he's working. Easier access." Again, she hoped the wizard might interpret this correctly (or rather incorrectly, in the way she wanted it interpreted) as being nothing but bravado. Even if Bobby Easton couldn't Apparate, his house was connected to the Floo network, so there was no convincing reason why he couldn't come home every night if he wanted to.

It seemed to work; he sniggered behind his scarf. "Right, love," he said. "You've got a bit of a problem then. Look, you seem to want hubby kept in line. How badly?"

Ah! The Snitch might just be about to appear ... OK, this bit definitely needs to sound like I'm desperate enough to not be thinking clearly. "I ... er ... I really ..." -- Tonks made a noise like a suppressed sob -- "It ... I just thought if I could ... change his routine, you know, so hegotusedtocomingbackhome." She gabbled the last few words, running them together as if she didn't want to admit to her companion what a mess her home life was. She thought it sounded quite artistic.

"Well, you know what I said last time."

I do? Beatrice had obviously been ashamed by that and reluctant to go into detail,. She was going to have to bluff. "Oh, er ... that funny stuff? It's not ... dangerous, is it?"

"Nah," he said patiently. "Used it myself once. Might be a bit iffy if you keep using it for six months straight, but I don't suppose you've got that kind of money anyway, have you?" The mockery was back in his voice.

"No." Tonks dropped her eyes again and hung her head. She wasn't necessarily expecting a discount to be offered this time, but she did want to see what he would do.

"How much would you be willing to pay?" Tonks jerked her head up in surprise. Did he really expect her to be foolish enough to tell him that? Yes, he probably does. "I'm ... I'm not sure," she stammered. "I -- I -- I mean, wh ... what exactly does it do?"

The wizard looked at her with narrowed eyes. "Gives you control over somebody you give it to, like I told you," he said in an irritated tone.

150! We have a catch! "Com -- complete control?"

"Pretty much, yeah. Interested?"

"I ... well ... er ... how much?"

He looked her up and down in a contemplative manner; Tonks flushed and looked away, a reaction she was sure would have been common to herself and her model. "More than the other stuff. A lot more. Fifteen Galleons a dose. If I can get it. Don't often see it for sale round here."

Fifteen Galleons? That wasn't much less than the twenty the crib sheet had mentioned as a street price; she was prepared to bet he'd come down a bit -- maybe a lot. She let her face fall, a ploy she'd found useful in her trips down Knockturn Alley when she wanted an excuse not to buy. "Oh ... oh dear. I couldn't afford that. I was hoping you'd say ... well, I don't know, five Galleons maybe."

"Five Galleons?" The wizard snorted loudly. "You're having a laugh, aren't you? Do you think this stuff grows on trees?"

"But I'd need ... well, quite a lot of it, wouldn't I? Every couple of days?"

He considered her in appraisal. "So you are interested then ... how does twelve sound to you?"

Tonks gulped. Would Beatrice try to beat him down? Maybe. She's probably used to it in the markets, after all. "E -- e -- eight?" she said, hoping she sounded like a woman trying, but failing, to keep her voice steady.

The wizard shook his head. "Ten. Final offer, provided you buy at least -- oh, let's say fifteen doses. With a bit of luck that could last you over a month, and if you haven't got your old man where you want him by then, you've really got problems. Sure you want it?"

What? You can supply fifteen doses to a woman in a pub? How much of the bloody stuff do you have in stock? She held her head up defiantly, then dropped it again. "I ... yes," she said in a small voice. "Yes, I'm sure."

"Right." He suddenly became very brisk and businesslike. "It'll take me a few days to get it. Meet me here Monday night, nine o'clock. Can you do that? What's hubby up to?"

"Oh ... yes." Tonks was slightly nonplussed by his abrupt change in manner now that the deal had been made. Actually, can I? What is her husband doing? "I think I can, er, get away. I'll say I'm at a ... Witches Institute meeting."

"Good." He looked at her over his scarf. "Will you be wanting the other stuff, then?"

"Oh ... no. I -- I might, er, need the money." That sounded like a safe answer.

"Yeah, whatever," sneered the wizard. "Always handy for stock, I suppose. OK, let's go." He stood up abruptly, drew back the curtain on the alcove, and waved Tonks out first in an exaggeratedly gentlemanly fashion. She stumbled over her unfamiliar robes again as she left the alcove and nearly fell. The wizard caught her arm and set her straight; he exchanged glances with the barman and sniggered.

He briefly caught the eye of a man sitting in a dark corner as they passed -- unfortunately Tonks couldn't get a good look at him -- and nodded in acknowledgement at some gesture he made. As they parted outside the pub, he waved at her in the same mocking fashion and walked away. As she stood blinking in the bright sunlight of Diagon Alley, she could see him head down Knockturn Alley again, with Cassius in tow.

Unfortunately, Mrs Easton had never learned to Apparate. With a sigh, Tonks headed towards the Floo station to return to base, hoping it wouldn't make her feel too queasy after the Easton Special she'd drunk.

*****

A couple of hours later, Tonks put the finishing touches to her report on her lunchtime activities, signed it with a flourish, and sat back to look through the accumulated memos in her in-tray. One from Rhiannon Davies confirmed that the members of Team 8 should meet in the Ministry foyer at 2pm on Saturday, in preparation for a training session at Auror headquarters, and a drinking session at a venue to be determined. The daily bulletin had arrived while she was out, and proved to be as dull as ever. A flyer reiterating that tickets for the Ministry Hallowe'en Ball would go on sale on the first of September was more interesting; Tonks winced at the price, but as it sounded like a lot of fun she made up her mind to go if at all possible..

There were also a couple of more directly work-related items. One was from the Auror assigned to the stolen harpsichord case -- this turned out to be Eleanor Finchley, the plump witch she'd met on her first day. She reported that she'd compiled a list of collectors known to have purchased expensive antiques of this kind, and placed it in the Auror confidential files, viewable via WEB Access. She also suggested that since Farley's interrogation under Veritaserum had provided unexpected supporting evidence that Liquor of Jacmel was used in the theft, Tonks and Cassius should take a look at the list in case any of the names rang a bell.

Tonks read over the memo again with a slightly guilty feeling. She had to admit to herself that in the pressure of recent events, she'd completely forgotten about that use of the potion, and made a mental note to remind Cassius as soon as he came in.

At the bottom of the pile was a copy of the new form for recouping expenses, together with several sheets of associated instructions. Tonks groaned as she remembered that she still hadn't got around to claiming her money back for the purchases from Lore of Yore, more than a fortnight ago. She reached into her desk drawer for the books, started to flick through the long-winded instructions; then decided she simply wasn't in the mood to fill out the form in the required level of bureaucratic detail. She gathered up both books and forms and tossed them all into a spare corner of her desk to deal with later.

Cassius arrived back at this point, and waved tiredly as he walked over. "You first, Tonks," he said. "Did you have any luck in the meeting?"

Tonks smiled to herself. Just a bit, mate. "Well, I couldn't see his face," she said, pretending to look forlorn. "And he offered me another bottle of Love Potion, but that's not illegal." Cassius grimaced. "Oh, and I placed an order for fifteen doses of some potion that gives you complete control of people. Other than that, nothing much happened really."

It took a few seconds for this statement to sink in past Cassius' obvious disappointment. Three, two, one ... "You did what?" he yelped.

"Got him to offer me Jacmel -- or if it isn't, the Haitians should sue him for plagiarism," she said happily. "Reckon that's a result?"

A huge grin spread slowly across Cassius' face. "I think it might just qualify. Tell me more!"

Tonks did, briefly running through what had been said at the Transfigured Toad. "So, Monday's looking like a red-letter day, then," she concluded. "Always assuming he isn't lying through his teeth about being able to get the stuff, of course."

"I don't like this delay much," Cassius said, frowning. "If he has the potion to hand, it shouldn't take him that long to get it. I'd say there's an excellent chance he's only a middleman or a reseller."

"Got to be a big step forward, though," said Tonks brightly. "What did he do after he left the pub? Talk to any suppliers? Looks like you've been chasing him around for a while."

Cassius snorted. "Yes, indeed. In the hottest part of the day. Next time, I wear thinner robes. And to my surprise, it turns out that I'm not as young as I was."

Tonks chuckled. "Yeah, right, I know. Pounding the beat is a young wizard's game. Where did he go, Cassius?"

"Down Knockturn Alley to start with -- you probably saw that. Talked to people in several different shops. I made a list of them, but I couldn't get close enough to hear what they were saying. Then I had a bit of luck; when he came out one of them, I heard him call to someone -- actually, I think it was your 'friend' in Wells' shop -- that he'd be in the Transfigured Toad again for the next half an hour or so if anybody wanted him."

Cassius sat back, clearly enjoying telling his tale. "Anyway, he Disapparated, so I waited a minute or two and followed suit. When I got to the pub, he was deep in conversation with the landlord, but obviously they stopped talking when I went to the bar. I sat at a nearby table, and kept looking at my watch as if I was expecting somebody, but they kept their voices down after that. Then the landlord pointed out somebody sitting in a corner, and he went and talked to him for a while. I think gold changed hands when they parted, but I was standing outside by that point -- I thought it would look far too suspicious if I waited until he left and then followed him."

"How did you see, then?" asked Tonks curiously. "The windows in that place are frosted. And covered in dust, come to think of it."

"One-way Transparency Charm on the door -- useful little spell, I don't know if they teach it much nowadays," said Cassius with a trace of smugness. "Well, I suppose it can be a bit obvious what you're up to when you use it. Unless, of course, you know the variation which makes it only visible -- or rather invisible -- for the person who cast the spell. One of those old Auror tricks of the trade that come with experience, you see."

"Cool!" said Tonks, considerably impressed.

"I thought so. Unfortunately, that pub's dark, and they were in the far corner, so even then I couldn't be sure exactly what they were doing. Anyway, the chap came out after a while, and then he toddled off along Diagon Alley and went down one of those little avenues that branch off." Tonks nodded; she knew quite a number of side alleys by now. "I didn't dare follow him straight away, not after he'd seen me at the pub, and unfortunately it's too crowded in the Alley at the moment to Transfigure your appearance without attracting far too much attention."

"Damn."

"My thought exactly. But luckily, it was one of those alleyways that lead into a little yard, and I could see him on the other side through the opening. He went into one of the buildings, but he Disapparated straight away when he came out so I lost him at that point." He grinned. "To be honest, I didn't mind as much as I should have. All that standing around was making my feet hurt."

"What was the building? Any idea?"

He shrugged. "According to the notice on the door, just a room available for hire for parties, meetings, and things like that. I took a look through the window; it was dark inside, but there didn't seem to be much in there apart from some old furniture. I suppose that might have been what he was talking about in the corner of the pub."

"True. What about the other people he talked to? Should we be bringing them in for a 'chat' if they know who he is?"

Cassius smiled. "Not yet. Anyway, if he goes to the trouble of keeping his face hidden -- and I think you're probably right about the charm, Tonks, I didn't see his scarf slip once in all the time I was following him -- I don't imagine he generally gives out his real name to his contacts. Not many people do when they conduct business in that part of town."

"Fair enough," said Tonks with a touch of chagrin, leaning back against the desk. The sight of the books and forms in the corner reminded her of the harpsichord case memo. "Oh, by the way, that Eleanor Finchley woman wants us to look at a list she's drawn up. You know, people who might want a rare magic piano thingy and not be too fussy how their supplier got hold of it?"

"Does she?" said Cassius. "Interesting. That's because of the hint in Farley's testimony when we interrogated him, I suppose?" From the way he said it, he obviously hadn't needed to be reminded. He chattered on, oblivious to her chagrined expression. "That was really quite a slice of luck, getting independent confirmation that we were right about Jacmel being used. I didn't expect much progress on that aspect of the case, to be honest. I wouldn't be surprised if the harpsichord is on the Continent or the other side of the Atlantic by now, would you?"

"Yeah, that's pretty much what I thought, too," said Tonks unblushingly. "Let's go and look at her list, shall we?"

*****

Fortunately, the WEB Access wasn't in use. Tonks tapped on the frame with her wand, and Gogol appeared right on cue.

"Hi there," she said, throwing herself into one of the chairs. "We were told there was a list of people who collect antique musical instruments recently added to the confidential Auror files? Can you bring it back for us?"

"Certainly, miss," he said. "Do you know who added it?"

"Eleanor Finchley."

"Ah yes, that will be easy. In fact, I remember it now." He tapped his wand on some filing cabinets at one side of the painting. Tonks watched in fascination as the document appeared instantly on the scroll; there were clearly some very powerful charms in action to make this work. She performed the Scriptorum corporalis spell a couple of times, and handed Cassius a copy of the list as he sank gratefully into the chair next to her with a rueful mutter about his feet.

"Now then," he said, running an eye down the list, "it looks like most of these people are foreigners -- Continentals or American, just as I said. This sort of crime tends to be international. I'm sure Eleanor will be liaising with their law enforcement officials, but it's rare we ever catch anyone. Too many ways to smuggle things out, too many gaps between the Ministries for information to fall through."

"Didn't you used to know some of the Americans?" asked Tonks. "You don't have a favour or two you could call in by any chance?"

"Not really," said Cassius dubiously. "It was twenty-odd years ago. The chap I knew best -- Bill Redderton - has just retired." He looked at the list again. "Not many locals on here. I don't suppose there can be many people with the money to indulge this sort of interest."

Tonks studied the list a bit more carefully, and felt her heart jump slightly. Most of the half-dozen names of wealthy British wizards were unknown to her, but one leapt out from the parchment.

"I see Lucius Malfoy is on the list," she said.

"Young Malfoy?" said Cassius in surprise. "I've never known quite what to make of him. We were as certain as we could be without actual proof that he was a Death Eater; but when we mopped up the suspects after You-Know-Who disappeared, he claimed to have been under Imperius. He passed all the tests, anyway, and as far as I know he's kept his nose clean since then. Lots of charity work and things like that. Blood purist, of course, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's a Dark wizard."

"I've never had any doubt that he is," said Tonks quietly.

Cassius looked at her curiously. "Do you know him, then?"

"He's my uncle." Seeing astonishment on her partner's face, she continued, "By marriage, anyway. My mother's sister, obviously. Actually, my aunt's bearable, though I wouldn't trust her not to have been a You-Know-Who supporter, but Malfoy ... he never made any secret of his views when talking to family."

"I see." Cassius visibly hesitated; it had been plain for some time to all concerned that Tonks' extended family was a touchy subject for her. "Even if he is a Dark wizard -- and we don't have any proof of that," he said carefully, "it doesn't follow that he placed this order, you know. All it indicates is that he's bought pieces on the open market. I mean, he's rich, and his wife's rich -- he can probably afford it even if they're just for show."

"Yeah, and doesn't he know it," said Tonks spitefully. She shook herself; it wouldn't be good to start ranting about these things in front of Cassius again. "Who are the rest of them? They don't ring any bells for me."

Cassius threw her a look, but answered readily enough. "Well, I've never heard of Archibald Blackstock, or Tarquin Finch-Fletchley either -- good lord, it says he's a Muggle, no wonder."

"He's a what?" Tonks raised her eyebrows. "What would he do with a magical piano -- sorry, harpsichord? Where would he ever see one anyway?"

Cassius shrugged. "I suppose he could keep it hidden, or say it was controlled by one of those, er, copmeter things. Must have a wizarding relation." He snickered. "And a fortune big enough to survive the exchange rates the goblins offer when converting pounds to Galleons."

He looked at the list again and chuckled. "Ah, Auchtermuchty and Strathnaver Kinross ... I've known those two since I was young. They're brothers, members of an old Scottish wizarding family, extremely rich -- I believe their ancestors were lairds once. Always absolutely hated each other, very competitive; I imagine if one of them started collecting the other would try to outdo him." He shook his head at Tonks' look of inquiry. "I seriously doubt they would ever get involved with criminals, though, they always had too much concern for the Honour of the Kinrosses."

"Who's this last one, then?" asked Tonks.

"Francis Bletchley? I don't know the first name, but I do know the family name. Another old family, I believe they're something like third cousins of mine." He smiled at her. "Well, come to think of it, I suppose most people from the old families are. You'd probably turn out to be my great-great-great-niece or something if we ever bothered to look it up."

Tonks grinned back. "OK, Uncle Cassius. So, nothing much to report to Miss Finchley then?"

"Mrs. But no, I don't think there is, not unless any of the names come up in connection with the case." He looked at the painting again. "You could take a look through the rogue's gallery on here to see if you can spot our potion seller, but did you see enough of him to tell?"

"Probably not. Mr Gogol, could you show me recent pictures of people with a known criminal record for selling illegal potions or ingredients?"

"Certainly, miss." He disappeared for a moment or two and supplied a stack of wizarding photographs, but although a few of them were recognisable to Tonks from Knockturn Alley, none reminded her of the wizard she'd just met. She shrugged.

"Worth a try, I suppose. Of course, he may not have a record. It's difficult to tell without the scarf."

"I could show you just pictures of young men with face scarves, miss?" said Gogol helpfully.

"Yes, OK." This was much shorter pile, and the faces didn't ring any bells for Tonks either, although something was nagging at the back of her mind.

"No luck?" asked Cassius.

"No, I don't recognise th -- oh."

"Yes?"

Tonks turned to the portrait. "Mr Gogol, how did you do that?"

"I beg your pardon, miss?" said the searchwizard in confusion.

"How did you find pictures of wizards in scarves particularly? Are they, um, indexed by content or something?"

"Not really, miss, but remember, even as a portrait I retain my ability to recognise things in pictures." He sounded slightly hurt. "Of course, the additional spells on this painting mean that I can search much faster than I could bef--"

Tonks cut him off. "So you could search for pictures matching a certain description, without it having to be catalogued in advance?"

"Yes, miss, although you'll need to give us some idea of where to look," said Gogol happily. "We do keep some record of what's in a picture, but we can't tell if it's exactly what you're looking for, of course."

Tonks glanced at Cassius, who was looking puzzled. "Great! Look, if we show you something, can you find -- oh, I don't know, pictures that look like it?"

"I can certainly try, miss."

With a muttered "excuse me" to a startled Cassius, Tonks dashed off to find Cornworthy, skidding to a halt next to his cubicle and knocking a pile of papers over with her elbow. He made a quick dive to catch them; a few weeks of Tonks' presence had been enough to alert the rest of the Aurors that they might need to practice instant damage control whenever she was around.

"Sorry!" she said. "Arnie, can I borrow your Image Projector?"

"Erm ... I suppose so," he said, somewhat nonplussed. "What for?"

"I want to search for that blonde woman Farley saw on the WEB thing."

"Oh." He raised his eyebrows. "We could have tried that, I suppose, but you do know it doesn't give good results when you're trying to make identifications?" He looked at Tonks gloomily. "We've tried it before, never had much luck. There are plenty of pictures in the Hall, of course, but the searchwizards can't say definitely if it's a particular person unless they knew them before they were a painting. And that's always assuming it's her real appearance. Like I said, she did seem a bit too good to be true."

Tonks wasn't in a pessimistic mood. "Yeah, but we've got Cassius, haven't we? He thought he knew her. All Gogol has to do is find someone Cassius thinks he recognises and we're laughing."

"Well, I suppose ..." he said doubtfully. At any rate, he passed her the recorder without further objection. She thanked him and returned to Cassius, more slowly and carefully this time.

She tapped the gadget a few times with her wand until the picture of the woman Farley had seen came up. "OK, this is her," she said to Gogol. "Can you dig out any pictures with people who look a bit like her?" Cassius looked at Tonks with some disgruntlement. Apparently this approach hadn't occurred to him either.

The painted wizard pursed his lips thoughtfully. "Yes, miss, but I don't suppose you can tell me where to look to narrow it down a bit?" he said. "I can search for pictures of young blonde women who resemble this one -- quite happy to, in fact -- but there must be an awful lot of them in the archives. Thousands, I'd say."

"Cassius?" said Tonks. "Any suggestions?"

He blinked and came out of a reverie. "Oh, er, yes. You might start by looking in the wizarding press over the last five years or so. Most likely it would be in connection with some social function in the North or the Midlands. Can you just bring back a selection of pictures for us to look at while you go and find some more?"

"No problem, sir," said Gogol, who had obviously been one of those librarians who delight in being given a challenge. He reached for a bound volume of Daily Prophets on a shelf in the picture, flipping through them at such a speed Tonks realised it had to be due to the magical enhancement. He tapped a number of pages with his wand, and gradually a stack of pictures appeared on the table next to him. When it had reached a height of about a foot, he brought them back to the foreground.

"Just take a look through these, sir." He fixed the first one into the scroll, and disappeared again into the depths of the Hall of Records.

Cassius and Tonks went through the pictures carefully, but as far as they could tell none of them were the woman they were looking for. However, by the time they'd reached the bottom of the pile, Gogol was back with another stack, and soon after yet another. It was half-way through the fifth pile that Cassius let out a cry of triumph.

"Ha!" He enlarged the picture currently being displayed, a group portrait of a formal dinner party, and pointed to a woman in the second row. "That's her! I'm sure of it!"

Tonks looked closely at the woman's picture and compared it with the one on Cornworthy's Image Projector. "It does look like her, doesn't it?" she said, with mounting excitement. "Who is she?"

Cassius read the details off the accompanying caption. "Portia Blackstock, daughter of ... Archibald and Vanessa Blackstock," he said.

"Blackstock?"

"Blackstock. Daughter of Archibald Blackstock. Well." They exchanged almost awed glances. "That's all it says, but I'm practically sure that's the young woman I've seen before. Mr Gogol!"

The searchwizard's head popped into view from behind a shelf. "Yes?"

"Can you cross-reference your search with the name Portia Blackstock?"

"Of course, sir!" He vanished again, returning in short order with another pile of papers. Tonks flicked through and pointed out one of them.

"Look!" It was another photograph, of the attendees at another formal dinner on behalf of a charity to assist distressed Muggle-borns and half-bloods who had fallen on hard times, dated a few years before. Portia Blackstock was there with her parents, in the front row this time, and near one end of the third row of the photograph was a wizard who was unmistakeably Cassius. Tonks performed the copying spell and Cassius picked up the printed report and read it carefully.

"This is definitely it, Tonks," he said, with growing conviction. "I can remember this dinner now. My wife Emily -- that's her next to me -- was a strong supporter of this charity, and this was their big annual fundraising occasion." Tonks looked more closely at the woman next to Cassius in the picture. Yes, she remembered her from the photos in Cassius' cubicle, although surprisingly in this photograph she looked older than him.

His brows knit. "It was up in Birmingham -- yes, look, it says so here. They hired a room for the evening at a local hall and brought in house-elves to wait on the tables. This Miss Blackstock, let me think -- she was on my table, opposite side, about three seats down. Her parents were some sort of bigwigs in the local magical community."

"What was she like?" asked Tonks with interest.

"Well, now I think of it," said Cassius reflectively, "she appeared to be quite a nice girl. I remember her as chatting away quite pleasantly to everyone all night. I'd never have pictured her in somewhere like the Transfigured Toad, let alone doing something like this."

Tonks coughed. "You wouldn't be letting her ... um, appearance influence you, would you?"

Cassius looked annoyed, but only for a moment. "Well, I might be, I suppose. Not that seeming decent necessarily means a lot. Some of the nastiest villains I ever put away could be absolute charmers when they put their minds to it."

He turned to Gogol again and clapped his hands. "Mr Gogol. Please give me everything you can find on the Blackstock family of Birmingham. Let's see if we can get to the bottom of this."

Gogol obliged, but unfortunately 'everything' in this case, while voluminous, turned out not to be very useful. Tonks skimmed through the results; the Blackstocks currently appeared almost exclusively in the commercial and social reports. They were nouveau riche; Archibald Blackstock's father having apparently been a Muggle-born wizard who had made a fairly sizeable amount of money, first as a supplier of cauldrons, robes and other miscellaneous paraphernalia, then as an inventor of handy gadgets.

The business was still going strong under the guidance of his son, who seemed to be attempting to live down the fact that he was a half-blood by involving himself in charitable work, the organisation of local events, and general largesse. He'd made it onto Finchley's list because he'd purchased an antique enchanted piano from a dealer for the use of his wife, who came from a good pure-blood family. There were no known underworld connections, although that was hardly conclusive.

Tonks looked sideways at Cassius. "Well? Does this mean there's a link?"

"I don't know, Tonks," he said helplessly. "I ... I just don't know. I honestly didn't expect to get anything from Eleanor's list, let alone a possible connection. It could be pure coincidence of course -- it's a small world -- but we can't assume that, can we?"

"I suppose not." Tonks looked at the sheets of parchment; this was beginning to make her head hurt. "Are things always this confusing?" she asked plaintively. "I'm starting to think I should have stuck to something easier, like Flobberworm farming."

Cassius laughed. "Usually cases either turn out to be really easy -- like when we talked to our friend Beatrice -- or else you get absolutely nowhere, as I thought this one was going to. I suppose you just got lucky, Tonks, and got an interesting bean first pick out of the box."

"Lucky. Not sure that's quite the word for it, mate. Interesting, yes."

"Oh, I don't know. More fun than spending your first couple of years on the job chasing anti-Muggle pranksters, wouldn't you say? That's what I was doing most of the time."

He selected a number of the references Gogol had found and ran off printed versions. "I'd better get these over to Donnacha and Arnold." He stood up, then paused for a moment with an odd expression on his face. "You know, it never occurred to me to use this thing to look for pictures? I might be getting past it after all."

"Cassius ..." began Tonks gently; but he just walked away, shoulders slumped.

*****

Friday August 14th 1994

Cassius was already at his desk when Tonks arrived the following morning, although she took it as a good sign that he seemed to have cheered up a bit. He informed her that he'd spent some time going over all the information he had again, and prepared summaries for the benefit of themselves, Aurors on related cases, and the daily bulletin. Under the circumstances, Tonks decided the best course was to let well alone and not mention his parting words of the previous afternoon.

"Great," she said (in a voice that, she realised uncomfortably, sounded a shade too hearty). "Listen, I just dropped in to tell you I've got to Floo down to Worthing again to tip off Mrs Easton about what's going on. I'll see you later, OK?"

Cassius looked slightly disgruntled, and Tonks felt a twinge of guilt. She didn't want to give him the impression that she intended to take the investigation too much into her own hands, especially as she was well aware that she still had a hell of a lot to learn and knew that she needed him badly. "Er, I don't want to Floo to her house directly or Apparate case any Muggle neighbours are calling round. Fancy coming along for the ride? Make a trip of it, look around the town a bit?"

He brightened visibly. "Yes, actually. I feel like stretching my legs a bit. I've been sitting here for about three hours now."

Three hours? Blimey, that was an early start. I hope you're not trying to prove anything, Cassius, because you don't need to as far as I'm concerned. "Right then," she said with a smile. "You go first this time -- then if I trip over the grate again you can catch me!"

Joking aside, Tonks didn't intend to embarrass herself by actually doing that. She took her own good time with the Floo preparations after Cassius had vanished into the fire in the Ministry foyer, ignoring the annoyed looks and muttered comments of the people standing in line behind her. After all, at this time of day, there were plenty of other fires available if they could be bothered to move ... She kept her eyes closed and elbows pressed tightly to her sides for the journey (wishing it had occurred to her to just Apparate to the station -- she was fairly confident she remembered it well enough), and when she arrived allowed plenty of time to steady herself and regain her balance before looking down carefully at the grate and stepping over it.

"Good morning, Miss Tonks," said a cheerful voice that sounded vaguely familiar. "We really mustn't keep meeting like this. So nice to see you again, though."

Tonks looked up to see Angelica Hallendale smiling at her mischievously. "Weekend shopping again. I'm afraid my son isn't here today though for you to, er, fall for."

"Ah. No." Tonks reddened slightly at the implication, and hastily concealed the blush with a quick use of her Metamorphmagus talents. Cassius' mouth twitched in a way that suggested he understood exactly what she'd done.

"Mrs Hallendale was just telling me a little about herself," he said smoothly. "Did you know your ex-prefect friend isn't English?"

"He isn't?" Tonks raised her eyebrows.

"Not really, Miss Tonks," explained his mother, throwing Cassius a look of slight reproof. "I suppose he is American by ancestry, but we've been here so long now I think we're pretty well ... assimilated. In more than one way."

"Is that what your accent is, then?" asked Tonks with interest. "I couldn't quite place it. Your son didn't have one at all, as far as I could tell."

Mrs Hallendale looked at her with a curious expression, half-annoyance, half wry smile. "You weren't supposed to notice I did, either," she said. "I always try to fit in, even where I don't. And no, it's not American -- although I guess most of the tutors I had as a kid were, so it might have rubbed off on me. I thought I'd managed to retain some of my Latin complexion, at least, despite the weather here. Can't you tell?" She seemed a little put out.

Aaagh. Why do I always seem to put my foot in it with this family? "Oh, that's where the dark hair comes from, is it?" she asked brightly, making a valiant recovery attempt. "South America, maybe?"

"Not quite," she replied, mollified. "Cuba, actually. We had very nice ... ah, family estates there. Before Mr Castro came along, that is, but I'd moved on by then, of course."

"Er, who?" said Tonks, bemused. Angelica Hallendale's jaw dropped slightly.

"Muggle president, took over in the fifties," put in Cassius hastily. He turned back to Angelica. "I suppose in that case. I ought to feel class solidarity with you, then," he joked. "I'm not sure if we've ever had a radical Ministry, but if we do, I don't think they'll need to expropriate us pure-bloods. We seem to be managing to die out quite well all by ourselves."

She smiled at him rather sadly. "You know, to an outsider like me, wizarding society always seemed to have a rather curious inversion about it? I know when I first met it, it was quite a shock to go from being a privileged little lady to an Unmentionable. But the really odd thing was, there were more people like you than people like me! I didn't notice at first -- it was all too exciting! -- but even some of the odd, seedy little people Hank and me had to deal with seemed to think they were better than us, just because their parents and grandparents had been wizards too. It's not quite so bad as it was here when ... well, that man was around, but it's a difficult world for an outsider to enter. But then, I would have been an outsider anywhere, I think. It seems to be my fate."

"Oh, I hope not," said Tonks, for whom those words stung. "You're quite welcome in our world as far as anyone decent is concerned." It took her a second to realise that the phrase 'our world' could in itself be construed as rather tactless. "I mean, look at Cassius here," she said in a desperate attempt to smooth things over. "He's as pure-blooded as anyone is these days, and he even puts up with me!"

Cassius smiled. "Well, she does test my tolerance to the limit sometimes," he joked. "I hope we haven't put you off, Mrs Hallendale. It makes a nice change to see a Muggle who knows about the magical world and isn't scared of us, but actually takes part as a member of the community. It's a rare thing."

Mrs Hallendale looked at him with an unreadable expression that eventually turned into a slight smile of her own. "I dare say I can't help but be a part of it now. That seems to be my fate too. To be honest with you, Mr Smethwyck ... I do sometimes miss where I grew up, and even more how I grew up. It was nice to be rich -- a privileged hacendado family, with a father who owned latifundias, and shipping companies and factories and all sorts of other wonderful things that I never quite understood as a young girl ... although Montgomery does," she said with a fond smile. "But I suppose I wouldn't go back to that life now even if I could. Far too stifling, and I've seen enough of what life is like on the other side to feel just a little bit ashamed of taking it all so casually. And although it doesn't seem that way sometimes, I probably would miss the magic. I mean, I did run away from home with a wizard."

"Excellent taste, if I may say so," said Cassius with a mischievous look of his own.

"Why thank you, Mr Smethwyck, I do believe you're a gentleman," she said demurely. "Either that, or you're not a gentleman and trying to flatter me for your own nefarious purposes, of course." It was Cassius' turn to blush; Tonks grinned at his discomfiture, and Angelica Hallendale turned to her with a surreptitious wink. "So what brings a couple of Aurors to our quiet little town twice in a week, then?"

"Oh, nothing much, just a vitally important case," replied Tonks in the same vein. "I could tell you what it was, but then I'm afraid I'd have to Obliviate you." Angelica laughed along with her at this, but there seemed to be a slight uneasiness behind the humour. Tonks realised that a statement like that, especially coming from an Auror, must sound like a real threat to a Muggle. "So where's Montgomery today then?" she asked in an attempt to move the conversation onto more comfortable ground. "Didn't he need to be with you for you to get in here?" She groaned to herself even as she said it, realising that it too sounded heavy-handed. It seemed that she was fated to say the wrong thing every time she spoke to Mrs Hallendale.

"Oh, I think I can manage to take a Portkey without a minder," she replied, with what Tonks was sure was a hint of coolness. "And you only need a ticket and the password to get through the door." She walked over to a table and picked up an empty Coke can, slightly more emphatically than might have been strictly necessary. "Montgomery is at work today -- you know, shipments to organise, contracts to negotiate, orders to place. When you're the boss you can't always take time off to accompany your poor mother on her shopping trips." She turned back to them. "Mind you," she continued with a twinkle in her eyes, "at least you remembered him. You know, I think he was quite taken with you too, Miss Tonks, now you're all grown up and responsible."

With evident enjoyment, she watched Tonks blush unmistakeably this time, as the Portkey activated and carried her away.

*****

"You've gone a bit quiet again, Cassius?"

"Sorry?" He looked round quickly at her question as they walked down the back streets of Worthing away from the Floo station. "What was that?"

"I said you'd gone a bit quiet, mate," she repeated. She looked at him and joined the morning's list of mischievous grins. "Our Muggle friend didn't touch a nerve when she said you might be a nefarious non-gentleman, by any chance?"

"No!" he said indignantly.

Tonks continued to grin at him expectantly. "What was it then? You did look a bit miffed. I thought you might fancy her."

"Tonks ..." he said reprovingly. He hesitated, then with resignation said, "Oh all right. It was ... just exactly the sort of thing Emily might have said. Oddly enough, Mrs Hallendale reminds me of her, just a little. It's a trifle ... disconcerting."

Tonks glanced sideways at him; he certainly seemed ruffled. Then she remembered the photos on Cassius' cubicle walls, and frowned. "Hang on, your wife was blonde, wasn't she? She didn't look anything like Mrs Hallendale."

Cassius frowned at her. "I didn't mean that she looked like her," he said with a trace of irritation. "She just seems to have the same sort of personality. And ..." He looked away, staring at the houses on the opposite side of the street as if he wasn't really seeing them properly. "I miss her, Tonks. I really miss her. I didn't know just how much I would miss her until it happened. Talking with that woman was ... bittersweet, I suppose. It reminded me of the good times, and then that reminded me that I don't have them any more."

The houses in the street they were walking along had low walls separating the gardens from the pavement. He sat down heavily on one of them, and made a helpless gesture. "I don't suppose you'd understand, Tonks. Young people can't, really." He swiftly turned his head away, but Tonks was sure she could see a tear forming in his eye.

She looked at him awkwardly, feeling an unusually strong surge of sympathy. She hesitated for a moment, unsure of how he'd react -- then sat down, put her arms around him, and hugged him. "Cassius," she said quietly. "I don't suppose I can understand exactly what you're feeling, no. But I can see it hurts you, mate. I can tell that you ... well, you put on a brave face for the rest of us and are always terribly polite, but you don't seem to think that, er ..." Oh hell. How did you manage to get yourself into a situation like this again, Little Miss Tactless? "You seem to imagine we don't think you should be here or something. Listen, mate, you're just fine by me. I don't know how I'd have managed without your help."

He brushed something from his eye and turned to her with a very good attempt at his usual smile. "I'm glad to hear it. I'm sorry if I'm being maudlin."

"Hey, we're all entitled. You've listened to me on one of my rants before now, haven't you?"

"It's expected of age," he said wryly. He gently disentangled himself from Tonks, patted her hand in a gesture of thanks, and looked at his now slightly dishevelled robes. "We'd better not appear at Mrs Easton's door looking like this." He brushed the robes back into shape, then looked at her again, apparently struggling for the right words. "Thank you, Tonks. Again. You're ... you're being a pretty decent sort, young lady, you know that? When Scrimgeour said he was assigning you to me, he spent quite a bit of time talking up your 'special talents'. I had visions of some brash youngster who thought they knew it all. I must say I'm quite relieved with what I got." Finally, a smile was back on his face, even if it was a little hesitant.

Tonks breathed a silent sigh of relief. "That's OK," she said cheerfully. "Actually, when I started I was worried sick I might get assigned to some hard-nosed bugger who'd yell at me all day. Instead, I got someone who's like --" she nearly said the wizard grandfather I never had, but realised, just in time to change tack, that it might sound like an insulting comment about his age "-- the uncle I never had. Pretty cool, really."

"Hmm." Despite the fact that he still seemed a little shaken, the twinkle was definitely back in his eye now. "Well, that's worrying. I'm supposed to keep you in line, not let you run around thinking I'm a soft touch." He gave her a stern look and wagged a finger at her. "Another word out of place and you're on report, young lady."

"Yes sir! How high shall I levitate myself, sir?" She saluted him, almost succeeding in keeping the grin off her face.

"Oh, shut up," he said, laughing.

They walked on to the street where the Eastons lived, still grinning companionably, and knocked at the door. It came as something of a shock to them both when it was thrown open, not by Beatrice Easton, but by a very angry-looking Bobby.

*****

Beatrice Easton was sitting in the lounge when they followed him in, nervously twisting a handkerchief around her fingers. She looked at them with mute pleading as Bobby Easton turned, planted his feet in front of the fireplace, and glared at them.

"What have you been saying to my wife, Aurors?" he snapped without preamble.

Tonks and Cassius exchanged awkward glances. This was something they hadn't been prepared for. In fact, they'd had no idea he knew anything about who they were

Better strike back quick before he gets into his stride here. "What has she been saying to you?" replied Tonks sharply. "You were asked not to tell anyone anything, Beatrice."

Beatrice Easton looked quite terrified, but her husband wasn't. "I don't care what you asked her," he said pugnaciously. "I've checked my rights! You had no authority to tell her what she could or couldn't do. Making us look bad with the neighbours! All she's done is buy a few items that might possibly have fallen off the back of a broom -- although I'm not conceding that they did -- and you come round here and scare her half to death! It's not exactly an Auror-level thing, is it! What's the matter, run out of Dark Wizards to catch? Find it too hard tracking down the real villains? Want to have a go at someone a little less dangerous?"

Buy a few items that ... what was that again exactly? It was clear from this that Bobby Easton really didn't know what his wife had been up to. Tonks caught Cassius' eye again, and received the tiniest shake of the head from him: leave this to me.

"You may perhaps have received the wrong impression, Mr Easton," he said smoothly. "It seems that your wife may inadvertently have been dealing with a supplier we're taking an interest in. She was kind enough to offer to allow us to use her, erm, access in order to investigate."

"Access?" said Easton suspiciously. He glanced at his wife who nodded, frightened.

"Yes. You realise that what I am about to say relates to a criminal investigation, and everything is told to you in the strictest confidence?" Ah, good approach, Cassius, added Tonks mentally. We'll find out where the leak came from later.

"I suppose so. Get on with it." Easton's manners hadn't improved, but Tonks had an uneasy feeling that he did have wizarding law on his side. Unfortunately, it sounded like he'd obtained some legal advice, and therefore actually knew this. She made a mental note to dig out her textbooks when she had a spare moment and give herself a quick refresher course.

"Very well." Cassius paused, clearly trying to arrange his thoughts. "The fellow we're looking at seems to have quite a wide range of sales contacts. He's also known to deal in some rather dubious materials from time to time. We noticed while we had him under observation that your wife had purchased a few items from him, and when we asked her about it, she told us that they were a special offer on import. She was quite shocked when we explained to her that we were interested in him." Tonks managed to hide a smile; she noticed that Cassius hadn't actually lied to him.

"I'll say she's shocked," snapped Easton. "She was crying her bloody eyes out when I confronted her with it. Where do you get off on scaring my wife like that?" I don't notice you exactly being comforting, mate, thought Tonks unkindly, but she had sense enough not to say so out loud.

"Well, I'm afraid we sometimes find that dealing with Aurors can be frightening, especially for law-abiding individuals," Cassius continued soothingly. Tonks glanced at Beatrice Easton as he said this to see how she was taking it; her expression was partly sullen, partly panic-stricken, but as their eyes met she managed to convey a clear message: please, just get me out of this without mentioning what I was doing, and I won't contradict anything you say to my husband! "And of course the people we deal with can be very alarming, as well. Your wife allowed us to use her identity in order to make contact with the fellow."

"Identity?" said Easton, with eyes bulging. "What do you mean, identity? What have you been doing to my wife?" His face had reddened alarmingly. It wasn't the moment, but an inappropriate thought flashed across Tonks' mind: You won't be getting any mysterious owls in a feminine hand if you look like that, Bobby.

Cassius hastened to calm him down. "No, no, no, you misunderstand me, Mr Easton. My colleague here merely, er, took her place in one or two meetings with our quarry. She's quite good at Transfiguration, you see." Well, that's one way of putting it. Probably a good idea not to let him know I'm a Metamorphmagus.

"Transfiguration? I thought she could just change her looks any time she wanted to?" Always assuming he doesn't already know, that is. Tonks saw Cassius' look of surprise and realised that this was something else they'd have to ask how Easton knew about, once he'd calmed down a bit.

"Changing their looks is something any good Auror should be able to do, Mr Easton, although my colleague here is certainly very skilled at it," said Cassius evasively. "And you wouldn't want your wife to be meeting up with this chap herself, not now that she knows he's under investigation, would you? She could be at serious risk if he thought she might be working with us. You never can tell what these people might do when cornered, but they're none too scrupulous."

Easton looked somewhat appeased by this explanation. "Why didn't you tell me about this?" he barked, turning on his wife, who jumped. "What were you buying from him that you couldn't get elsewhere anyway?"

"Oh, er, hellebore leaves and spine of lionfish, for some potions," she said quickly, in fact much more quickly than Tonks would have expected of her. She guessed that Beatrice must have realised that she was bound to be asked this question at some stage, and had spent the last few minutes coming up with an answer that would convince her husband.

Easton banged his fist on the mantelpiece, and a well-thumbed copy of Magical Me hidden behind an ornament fell off into the coal scuttle. "I told you that I can get those sorts of things for you at a good price while I'm away!" he said in exasperation. "Why do you always have to go chasing after cheap offers? Don't I give you enough Galleons for the housekeeping or something?"

"You forget to bring them back sometimes," replied his wife in a low voice, with the beginnings of a mutinous expression on her face.

"Oh, so it's my fault now that you can't keep track of what you need, is it? How many times ..."

Cassius coughed hastily, interrupting what might otherwise have developed into a fine marital row. "Anyway, Mrs Easton -- and Mr Easton too of course -- we just called round to let you know that we'll be continuing to work in this way for a little while yet. It's really very kind of you to allow us to do so."

Easton looked at him with distaste. "No you bloody won't," he said. "I'm not having your girl here prancing around pretending to be my wife, and putting both of us in danger. What happens if these people find out who we are? They could come round here to murder us in our beds!"

Well, you'd probably be safe then, thought Tonks. Easton's bombast was grating on her a little.

"It's all right, Bobby," put in his wife unexpectedly. "I don't mind. I never told him who I was, and if we can do anything to help, we should, shouldn't we? It sounds as if this is a dangerous man, and we don't want him to go free because of us, do we?" She spotted Tonks looking at her in surprise and gave her a very slight, tremulous smile, as if amazed by her own boldness. Tonks could almost have kissed her.

Easton looked disgruntled, but didn't seem to be able to find a retort without looking soft. "I suppose so," he said grumpily. "Just make sure that this doesn't come back to bite us, OK?"

"Certainly, sir," said Cassius. He made a slight gesture to Tonks to indicate that this would be a good time to make an exit, and they moved towards the front door with the Eastons following. "Oh by the way," he asked casually, "who told you we were Aurors? It can be a bit dangerous sometimes if people know who we are."

"None of your damn business," snapped Easton trenchantly. "If Beatrice here wants us to stick our necks out, that's one thing, but I'm not dragging anyone else we know into this. What do you think I am?"

You don't want to know, mate. Tonks would have been inclined to argue the point, but a very slight pressure on her arm from Cassius dissuaded her, so she muttered a few conventional words of goodbye and followed him out.

*****

"So why didn't you press him for the source of his information then?"

They were back at Auror HQ; Cassius having shushed all her attempts to ask questions while they were still in Worthing, saying that he didn't want to risk being overheard. It was highly frustrating.

"Because it's fairly obvious how he knew, isn't it?" he replied patiently.

Tonks shook her head. "Not to me, mate."

Cassius smiled. "Think about it. He knew we were Aurors, and he knew you were a Metamorphmagus -- or at any rate he knew what you could do as one. Then remember his comment about being embarrassed in front of the neighbours. How many of them had those two pieces of information?"

Tonks looked at him in confusion for a moment until it dawned on her. "Oh hell. The Hallendales, you mean?"

"Has to be, doesn't it? There can't be that many wizarding families in a place like Worthing -- I'd say half a dozen in the entire area, as an absolute maximum, given the size of that Floo station. The Ministry must have spared every expense when they bought it." He chuckled. "They'd be bound to know each other and gossip when they met. I wouldn't be surprised if he met her there on his way back. He looks like the sort who would always talk to an attractive woman, on first principles."

Tonks raised her eyebrows. "So you did fancy her then!" she quipped. This got a scowl from her partner.

"We ought to check, of course," he continued, ignoring her remark. "And we haven't got too much time before you have to meet our bescarved friend again on Monday. Perhaps we could call on the Hallendales tomorrow? I know it's your day off and everything," he added apologetically, "but odd hours come with the job, I'm afraid."

"I'm not sure, mate," said Tonks regretfully. "I've got that World Cup security training thing to go to in the afternoon? I suppose I could tell Rhiannon that I might be late ..."

"Oh. Never mind then, you don't want to miss that. If anything goes wrong at the Final, we'll never hear the last of it from the Prophet. I'll just call round there by myself."

"Oh, so you do want to see her again then." She smirked at him.

He crimsoned. "Stop it, Tonks! I ... I just don't object to working weekends, all right? I haven't got anything better to do, and I'd prefer to not be moping around the house. I'll let you know if I find out anything important." A smirk of his own spread slowly across his face. "Such as what her son thinks of you, perhaps? What was it she said, something like 'quite taken with you now you're all grown up'?" He laughed as Tonks crimsoned in turn. "You 'fancied' him then?"

"Not particularly," said Tonks, recovering. "He was OK to look at, but he seemed a bit ... oh I don't know, strait-laced? Anyway, I'm not in any particular rush at the moment."

"Love life in the pending tray?"

"Non-existent for the last few months, mate. First I was too busy with final exams, then I started this job. Put it like this, I'm willing to listen to suggestions, but I'm making no promises." She shrugged. "We'll just have to wait and see, won't we?"

"I've got a suggestion ..." came Williamson's amused voice, calling from the other side of the partition.

Tonks groaned. "So have I, Ben. Sod off," she called back. "I'll see you later, Cassius -- I'm going to practise being Mrs Easton again. After all, if I don't get it right we'll never hear the last of it from Bobby, will we?"



5. Good Auror, Bad AurorTable of Contents7. Have A Drink On Me

Tags:

Leave a comment