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[NTLJ] 3. On The Night In Question - SnorkackCatcher's Stories
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[NTLJ] 3. On The Night In Question
Chapter Summary: In which Tonks visits a bookshop selling old and obscure books for the connoisseur, and learns the theory and practice of Truth Potions.
Length: 10,700 words



3. On The Night In Question


Friday, July 24th 1994

Tonks gazed into the window of the little Islington bookshop with interest. It had been easy to miss, tucked away between a launderette and a shop selling second-hand televisions. There was a neatly painted sign above the door, reading:

LORE OF YORE
Old and obscure books for the connoisseur
Proprietress Miss Trina Orevel


The books she could see through the glass certainly seemed to fit that description. If any of them had been published within the last century, she'd eat her pointed hat. Of course, she wasn't wearing one for this sortie into Muggle Islington. She'd donned a faded old blouse and skirt and her Little Mrs Anonymous face. Her mirror hadn't actually thrown up its hands in disgust at this look, but Tonks was sure this was only because, as a mirror, it didn't have any.

She stepped through the door, which caused something to ring softly, and paused for a moment to take in her surroundings. The place was dimly lit, as this sort of bookshop always seemed to be, and had a pleasantly musty smell. There were only a couple of customers, who were browsing through racks of obscure-looking Victorian novels and biographies of minor historical characters. A thin-faced woman sitting behind a small counter watched her appraisingly.

Tonks wandered casually up to the counter, stopping to look at a couple of volumes for show. "Miss Orevel?" she asked quietly.

"Yes?"

"Do you have any -- erm, more unusual books in stock?" She winked.

The woman at the counter looked at her with narrowed eyes. "In what way unusual?"

"Well ..." This was tricky. Tonks didn't know how to demonstrate the fact that she was a witch without actually doing magic; which was risky since she only had the word of a Knockturn Alley tradesman that this wasn't just a perfectly ordinary Muggle bookshop. She cast about for a suitable reference. "Er -- did I see an advert from you in the Daily Prophet, or was that someone else?"

The woman looked puzzled for a moment, then her face cleared. "Oh I see. Yes, perhaps that would be a good idea. Come this way, please." She led Tonks down a narrow gap between two high bookshelves, out of sight of the rest of the shop, and pointed to a door at the end. "Through there. Just ring if you need me." At that, she turned and went back to the counter, leaving Tonks by herself, looking at the door in bafflement.

She tried the handle, but the door was locked. What do I do now? she wondered. Am I supposed to show I'm allowed in by using Alohomora? What is someone came round the corner and saw me? She leant against the door to think, and discovered the answer to her questions as she fell straight through it into a back room. Unable to catch herself in time, she cannoned into a book trolley, sending its contents flying, and ended up sprawling on the floor.

The only other occupant of the room, an elderly wizard examining the books in one corner, glanced at her, sniggered quietly, and went back to his reading.

Embarrassed, Tonks picked herself up, levitated the books back onto the trolley, and then looked around with surprise and considerable interest. The room was unexpectedly large -- probably magically expanded, she realised -- and piled high from floor to ceiling with wizarding books. No doubt the door had enchantments on it that make it impervious to Muggles, as with the entrance to Platform 9¾. It was invisible from this side; Tonks guessed that this was so customers could tell when it was safe to return to the main part of the shop.

She began to walk round, looking at the volumes on the shelves with great curiosity. The place appeared to be a repository for all the old and battered books that she would normally have expected to be found piled into rough heaps in junk shops, but here they were carefully, almost lovingly, classified. There was an entire row of Quidditch yearbooks, some dating back to the 1770s, a bookcase full of dull-looking Wizengamot minutes, and whole sections of books on long-forgotten spells and potions.

Tonks picked out a book or two at random. Substantive Charms of the Polish Magical Renaissance sounded vaguely familiar (possibly Professor Binns had talked about it when she was at school, which would explain why she was vague about it) but it turned out to be printed in Latin, which was enough to discourage her from further investigation of its contents. A slim volume entitled A Horse of a Different Colour proved to be exactly what the title suggested -- instructions for brewing potions that would turn your steed various bright colours, should anyone ever think of a remotely sensible reason for doing so. A Victorian book called Jolly Japes For The Jovial Jinxer looked like fun, but since most of the jolly japes seemed to require their targets to be wearing crinolines or driving carriages, it was understandable that it was now out of print.

She wandered idly along the shelves towards the other customer, noticing wryly in passing that there were several different editions of the accomplishments of the Adventure Club in the children's literature section, and then stiffened slightly. This corner appeared to be entirely given over to books about the Dark Arts.

She realised when she looked a little more closely that this wasn't entirely fair. There were certainly many books on assorted curses, jinxes, and hexes, but a lot of them could, charitably speaking, be classified under the heading of general combat techniques. And obscure and unpleasant as some of the potions in the books sounded, they were probably technically within the law. Many students in her Auror classes on wizarding law had been surprised to discover that most magic classified as 'Dark Arts' could legally be learnt; even if actual use was frowned upon and subject to heavy restrictions. Here and there, though, there were volumes any Auror would find alarming.

She removed a book called With Flame and Flood: Curses For Use Against The Many which contained a number of extremely lethal-sounding wide-area spells, and added to it What Lucretia Borgia Never Knew: A Guide To Slow Poisons and a very old copy of something with the title Hunting Muggles For Pleasure and Profit. They weren't exactly her idea of bedtime reading, but they definitely didn't look like the sort of thing that ought to be left lying around. She briefly considered using her Auror credentials to confiscate them, but decided that would just blow her cover to no good effect.

Tonks glanced sideways at the other customer, who had selected some books on curses and a boxed set of the Encyclopaedia of Medieval Dark Devices. She watched him surreptitiously as he went over to a small desk and tapped a small bell with his wand. There was no ringing sound that she could hear, but a few moments later Miss Orevel drifted in via the invisible door.

"Good morning, Mr Burke," she said. "I see you've found something of interest?"

Tonks picked out a few books from the Potions section for camouflage while the other two agreed a price. She grinned to herself as she noticed a small pamphlet -- just a few sheets of parchment sewn together, really -- called How To Harvest Ashwinder Eggs Without Losing Your House, and added it to the pile for luck.

She carried the books over to a small counter as Mr Burke left. "Oh Miss Orevel, I'm interested in these, please," she said. "How much?"

Miss Orevel flicked through Tonks' choices with slightly raised eyebrows, but made no comment. Noticing this, Tonks tried to pump her a little. "I hope you don't think I'm into something, well ... nasty," she said in a nervous voice. "It's just, er, they sounded interesting, and the others are for a little light reading, and ..."

At this, the shopkeeper looked up and met Tonks' eye. "My dear girl, please don't apologise. This is a bookshop. I run it in order to disseminate knowledge. What my customers do with that knowledge is their own responsibility."

"Oh." Tonks wasn't quite sure what to make of this. That philosophy sounded uncomfortably reminiscent of the landlord of the Transfigured Toad.

"There are hundreds of years' worth of knowledge -- magical and Muggle -- in these books that people have just forgotten," continued Orevel, with a gleam in her eye. "They are just thrown away by idiots who think that the latest is always the greatest. Well, not here. I like to think I can do a little bit to preserve some of this knowledge. I stock anything I can find. You won't find these books at Flourish and Blotts." There was unmistakeable contempt in her voice as she said the last few words.

"Oh, I do agree," said Tonks in a flustered manner, slightly nonplussed; the tone of the owner's voice had sounded surprisingly fervent. "Many people wouldn't feel as you do. You have a really fascinating selection here."

"Thank you." She nodded graciously. "Now then, I see you have some nice old items here. Fifteen Galleons the set?"

Tonks tried the letting-her-face-fall ploy again. She really hadn't intended to spend a lot, and couldn't resist trying to find out if Miss Orevel's desire to disseminate knowledge was sincere enough to run to offering discounts. "Oh, maybe I should put something back," she said, dithering. "I didn't mean to spend that much."

"Well ..." The bookseller hesitated, then nodded. "Yes, I suppose one or two of the books are a bit tatty. I could say twelve Galleons perhaps, but I really couldn't go any lower."

"All right," said Tonks, unable to think of a good way to reduce the amount she had to pay, at least not while simultaneously keeping the most dubious books and staying in character. She dug out a handful of gold from her Muggle-style handbag and handed it over. She actually hadn't planned on spending this much, but with a bit of luck, the Department might reimburse her for some of it. It gave her a slightly uneasy feeling, though; she had a vague recollection that you were supposed to get agreement for spending in advance.

Miss Orevel put the books on a large sheet of brown paper and tapped it with her wand. It wrapped itself around them, then sealed itself into a neat, anonymous-looking package. Tonks breathed a silent sigh of relief. At least the woman didn't expect her customers to walk down Upper Street carrying a stack of spellbooks in open view.

She followed her out into the main part of the shop, trying to fit what was actually a fairly large package into her small handbag, and soon realised that she really should have been looking where she was going -- but unfortunately not until she was picking herself up off the floor yet again after colliding with one of the regular customers. This was getting to be a very bad habit.

"Oh, sorry!" she cried. Fortunately, the man she'd bumped into didn't look hurt, and helped her up with a grin.

"Look, you've spilt all the stuff out your bag," he said with a chuckle, picking things up off the floor. Tonks grabbed at them in a mild panic. Her wand was carefully hidden inside her blouse, but there was bound to be something in there that screamed 'witch'. Sure enough, he was looking curiously at the Galleons, Sickles and Knuts Tonks was shoving back into her purse. "Are you a coin collector or something?"

"Er, no. Foreign money. Holiday. Haven't got it changed back yet," stammered Tonks, genuinely flustered this time. She started towards the door.

"Oh look, you've dropped your mobile!" he called after her. She wheeled round, but he was already holding it out to her. "Doesn't look like it's working though, I hope it didn't break."

"Um ... battery's flat. Thanks." She seized it quickly and practically ran out of the shop.

Round the corner and out of sight down a little side street, she leant against the wall, closed her eyes and groaned. She didn't know what the maintenance people would have to say about an Auror who couldn't keep her equipment out of the hands of the Muggles for more than a few weeks, but she was prepared to bet that she wasn't going to enjoy listening to it.

With a sigh, she Apparated back to the Ministry foyer. She waved at Rhiannon Davies, who was escorting someone out towards the visitors entrance. She did a double-take as she recognised his clothes as a Muggle police uniform, but Davies just shook her head as if to say she didn't want to discuss it right now. They disappeared into the lift that led up the fake phone box in the alley above, and Tonks, shrugging, made her way to the other end of the hall.

She rode back up to the office, dumped the books on her desk, and went to find Smethwyck, who was talking to the tall black wizard -- Shacklebolt, that was it -- she'd seen on her first day. For some reason, this wizard was once again looking at her in an appraising sort of way, but she didn't have time to inquire about this either as her partner made his excuses and followed her back to their cubicles.

"Anything of interest in that bookshop?" he asked.

Tonks told him about the shop and its stock. Smethwyck raised his eyebrows when he heard the name and description of the customer Tonks had seen in the back room.

"Burke, eh? Must be Alexander Burke, by the sound of it."

"Who's he?"

"Sleeping partner in Borgin and Burke's in Knockturn Alley. It's probably the biggest shop there -- they sell quite a number of unusual and unpleasant items, a lot of them connected with the Dark Arts. Burke doesn't actually go in there much, though -- he just inherited a half share. They're a canny pair; we're fairly sure they sell a lot of illegal stuff under the counter, but everything's kept well hidden. The items they do have on display are nasty enough."

"What about the books he was buying?" asked Tonks hopefully.

With a slight smile, Smethwyck nodded towards the books Tonks had thrown onto the desk. "Well, they weren't any worse than your choices, so I don't suppose we can complain. People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw curses and all that." He hesitated. "As they probably told you in training, the Ministry keeps records of magical shops in Muggle areas. I looked this one up while you were out, and it's not listed. She could well be nothing more than a genuine bibliophile, and the shop doesn't seem to be immediately dangerous, but I still don't like the sound of that Dark Arts section. We should put a note in the daily bulletin to keep an eye on it."

"Do you want me to do it?"

Smethwyck glanced at the desk again to where Tonks' now-defunct mirror phone was lying on top of the pile. "Leave it to me. Perhaps you'd better go and get your phone fixed." He called after her as she walked towards the exit. "Oh, by the way, I think we may finally have got a result on that Veritaserum warrant. Donnacha seemed quite optimistic when I spoke to him earlier. Try to catch him when you get back."

Tonks brightened at this news. At least that was something. She set off in search of Magical Maintenance in a slightly better mood.

*****

"You've had this how long?" said the wizard behind the front desk of Magical Maintenance.

"Couple of weeks," said Tonks resignedly.

"Tchah." He pulled a small silver device out of a drawer and clipped it onto the mirror phone, which immediately began to pulse with blue light. "Never take care of your stuff, you Aurors, do you? Always the poor idiots like us who have to clean up after you. And I do mean poor. They don't want to know when we ask for a decent pay rate, do they?"

Tonks let her attention wander slightly as the wizard continued to grumble about the iniquities of Ministry treatment. She tried to look interested in the posters that had been roughly charmed onto the walls, but that was hard going. She'd never been a Tornados fan.

"... you'd think we were the Ministry house-elves the way they treat us ..."

Most of the other posters were lists of extremely dull regulations she was probably supposed to know. Tonks groaned as she spotted one that described a very lengthy procedure for claiming reimbursement for expenses not previously authorised. At least the one advertising the Ministry Halloween Ball looked more interesting.

"... have you ever tried invisible-mending an Invisibility Cloak? Eh? Can't keep anything in one piece ..."

Fortunately, the gadget gave a loud ping at this point and the wizard handed back her phone. "Try to keep hold of it this time!" he called after her grumpily as she made her escape.

*****

As she reached her cubicle, intent on scribbling a quick report on Lore of Yore, a wizard in emerald robes came through the main door. She was surprised when he strolled over to her cubicle.

"Hi, Donnacha. How's it going?"

The Irish Auror grinned broadly at her. "We've got it!"

"Got it?" said Tonks in slight confusion, before she remembered Cassius' parting remark. "The warrant, you mean? Great!"

O'Gregan took a roll of parchment out of his pocket and unrolled it with an air of exaggerated reverence. "Yes, indeed. One warrant of finest quality, Veritaserum for the use of, personally autographed by five members of the Wizengamot, bless their dear little quills. Remind me to thank Ben; his little friend Marcie moved it to the top of the pile for us."

"Good one, Donnie." Rhiannon Davies stuck her head round the corner of the cubicle. "When are you planning to interview him, then?"

"Monday mornin', we thought. If the poor spalpeen really is innocent, I suppose we've had him locked up long enough now."

"You'll let us know what happens right away, won't you?" asked Tonks hopefully.

O'Gregan looked at her in surprise. "Well, actually I was hoping you and Cassius would deign to grace us with your presence, Nymphadora my dear." He ignored Tonks' wince. "It'll do you good to see how it all works, so it will."

"Excellent!" The trainee Aurors had never been shown a real Veritaserum interrogation, although the lecturer had demonstrated the potion for them (and on them, with results both embarrassing and hilarious, depending on whether you or somebody else was taking it). Tonks had always wanted to see how it worked in practice.

"Lucky it came through in time, Donnie," said Davies with a sly air. "Wouldn't want it to clash with your holiday now, would we?"

"Indeed we wouldn't, Rhiannon my love. I've been waiting for this for ... well, just about all of my life actually. Ah, when we beat Peru I was on top of the world, I was. I haven't felt so happy since my good lady wife left me."

"Since she left you?" Tonks laughed. "Shouldn't that be the other way round?"

O'Gregan looked at her with a pained expression. "Oh, the innocence of the young. Clearly you have never been introduced to my poor Norah, and may I say that you are a very lucky little lady for all that."

Tonks was fighting down giggles. "Was she really that bad?"

"Well, I may be biased. Personally, I think she worked for You-Know-Who, giving him lessons on how to be more evil. But she upped and left me these five years ago, and I have never cried like I did that night. I was so happy I just couldn't keep it in."

Tonks looked at Rhiannon inquiringly, hoping a woman's view might be more objective. "Well, despite the fact that Donnacha O'Gregan here has not just kissed the Blarney Stone but apparently snogged it with tongues --" this was said with a sort of affectionate exasperation "-- it's fair to say that Norah is indeed a nasty piece of work. She makes Fudge's Senior Undersecretary look like a fluffy little kitten." She looked archly at O'Gregan. "The poor boy's obviously very lucky with his girlfriend, who's a real sweetie."

"Ah yes, indeed she is," said the Irishman reverently. "Everyone, but everyone likes her. Well, not actually everyone, maybe. My wife, now, she never did like her much."

Tonks started to giggle, but choked it off. She'd been trying to get hold of one of the wizards responsible for the Farley case since she arrived, but either she or they had always been busy, and she didn't want to get sidetracked. "Donnacha!" she said firmly. "If you can spare a moment or two from discussing the women in your life, I don't suppose you'd care to actually tell me what's going on in your case, would you?"

"Oh, but of course, of course, why didn't say so?" O'Gregan waved his hand in an airy gesture. "Fire away."

"Right." Now that she had the chance, Tonks couldn't actually decide which question to ask first. "Er, to start with, what do we know about the victim?"

"Name of Mackenzie Ashford, successful businessman, a very big cheese indeed in the magical creature import and export trade," said O'Gregan crisply. Tonks noticed this and wondered how far he was able to drop the banter when it came to the job. "Lives near a friend of mine, in fact, which was a bit of luck for the fellow, now."

"What happened that night?" said Tonks curiously. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Davies rolling her eyes with an expression that suggested she'd already heard the tale more times than she really wanted, but O'Gregan grinned and struck a pose.

"Well, I was on my way home, nice warm night, thought I'd walk across the Common for a bit instead of Apparating. I can see Ashford ahead of me; I've seen him about, and I know he's a wizard, but that's all. Then a man steps out from behind a tree with a whacking great knife and goes for him.

"So, I yell at him to stop, of course, and Ashford hears me just in time. Managed to dodge the first blow so it didn't go through his throat, although it did make a nasty hole in him. Then Farley lashes at him a few more times before I could get a hex in. So there's me standing there trying to stop the old fellow bleeding to death with a few first aid spells, panicking a bit in case any Muggles come along and see me.

"Anyway, I call the office here for a spot of medical help, and then I take a look at Farley. Of course, at that point I am thinking he'll just be a Muggle bowsie out for a pleasant night's robbing. So I'm wondering whether I can turn this over to their law, how much I'll have to Memory Charm away, and thinking it'll not be fair to the rest of the fine people round here if I just blank it all out and let the man go.

"So I go through his pockets, and I will be damned if I don't find a wand. Well, that changes things, doesn't it now? Luckily, a couple of witches from the Mungo's crash team suddenly pop up in front of me, so while they take old Ashford to patch him up, I call up our Arnie and tell him to get down to the interrogation room fast as he can. I stick this branch in Farley's hand, turn it into a Portkey, and we're off. And you can stop that, Rhiannon Davies, if I want to tell this nice young lady all about it I will."

Davies, who had been making an exaggerated yawning gesture, carefully straightened her face. "So why don't you tell the poor girl something useful then, look you?" she said. "Like maybe who would stand to gain if he were killed?"

The Irishman shrugged. "Plenty. Our man Mackenzie has not always been too fussy about whose toes he steps on. He's got any number of trade rivals. We don't know of one who would actually kill him, but I don't suppose any of them would exactly be prostrated with grief if he fell under the Knight Bus one fine morning."

"Who would get his money if he died?" asked Tonks. "He must be pretty well off."

"Well now, if that were to happen I might, the old boy's so grateful he's practically fawning on me," said O'Gregan smugly. Both the others rolled their eyes.

"Hang on a minute," said Tonks, grabbing a quill and a memo form. "I'd better make a note of that. Investigate Donnacha O'Gregan. Very suspicious character. No alibi for the night in question. So, do we have any other suspects to divert our attention from you, then?"

"Indeed he is. I would not be surprised if he could pave his driveway with Galleons, except that it would make the Muggles rather suspicious. He has no children, except of course I am as a son to him now --" he paused to allow his audience to groan "-- so all that lovely loot would be divided between his nephew and his two nieces."

"Do they have alibis for that do Farley was at?" asked Davies with interest. Clearly this bit was new to her too.

"Yes," said her colleague sadly. "Mickey -- that's the nephew -- was with his sister Abby at Celestina Warbeck's concert up in Edinburgh, and it was quite a big party they were with. The other niece, Charlotte, is in France on holiday, and their people checked on her for us. She was at a posh Muggle restaurant all night with folks who knew her."

"What first made you think it wasn't Farley himself?" said Tonks curiously. "He must have been acting really odd."

"Well that was why," said O'Gregan thoughtfully. "I mean, when we woke the blaggard up we couldn't get any sense out of him. You stab somebody, now, you think you'd remember what it was all about? So we passed him on to the curse-breaker fellows over in Magical Analysis, and they came back to us all excited babbling about this funny potion, and then my good friend Arnie realised it was the same one old Cassius had been banging on about for weeks."

"When did he snap out of it?" asked Davies.

"A bit later on, after we got him back. The notes said something about feeding them salt and meat, so we pinched some of Benny Goldstein's salt beef sandwiches and shovelled 'em down him. Anyway, after a bit he sort of snaps to attention, now, and the way he looks at us, I bet he wishes he was wearing brown robes. Denies everything, of course -- we went at him every which way but he still insists he knows nothing, and we haven't been able to crack him."

"I suppose he could be bluffing," mused Tonks. "Got someone to give him the potion as a cover?"

O'Gregan looked at her pityingly. "Now that is not one of your best theories, young Nymphadora. There'd be bound to be something incriminating that'd come out under the Veritaserum, unless they'd done a very thorough job indeed with the old Memory Charms."

"True," said Tonks, crestfallen. "So when will we be starting, then?"

"Ten o'clock," he said. "Now if you ladies will excuse me, I have to pick up my ticket for the Final. Don't want that holiday to go to waste, do I now?"

"Wow -- you've got a ticket for the World Cup final?" said Tonks in surprise. "I tried, but I didn't get there quick enough to buy one. Well, not for a seat I could afford, anyway."

"Ah, well. I set off to book my place just as soon as Aidan Lynch's fingers closed round the Snitch in the semi. Nice little package, prime seat, good accommodation. I wouldn't miss this for all the gold in Gringotts. Which was practically what it cost me." He shrugged. "Let us just hope that Krum kid is off form. I've seen us go out of one World Cup this summer already, and I do not want to repeat the experience."

"No?" said Tonks, puzzled.

"No indeed. Still, with even a little of the luck of the Irish, Ryan won't let them slip through his hands like Packy Bonner, now." He walked away, shaking his head.

Tonks hadn't a clue who Bonner was, and didn't much care. She watched O'Gregan enviously as he left. "I wish I could go," she said to Rhiannon Davies. "Are you?"

"Yes, but I had to get in by the trade entrance." Seeing Tonks' confusion, she explained. "I've already used up this year's holiday, unfortunately. Extremely bad planning on my part. And to be honest, the way my balance at Gringotts is looking at the moment, I couldn't have afforded the ticket -- Donnie's been saving up all year just in case. So I volunteered for security duty. Would you like me to try to get your name down for it?"

"Yeah! Rhiannon, are you sure?"

"Of course. " She smiled. "They're short-staffed as it is; practically everyone in the Ministry are working on it off and on anyway. I don't suppose there'll be much crime while the Final's on, though -- all the villains will probably be following the match on WWN. Tell you what, I'll have a word with Ludo Bagman and try to get you on the same security team as me."

Tonks gasped. "You know Ludo Bagman? He was one of my heroes as a kid! You couldn't get me his autograph could you?" She blushed. That sounded far more embarrassingly gushing than she'd hoped.

Davies shook her head in mock sorrow. "Dear me, these poor little fangirls. I'll see what I can do -- I'm sure I can persuade him. I think he fancies me, actually, not that he's going to get anywhere."

"Oh yes?" Tonks raised her eyebrows archly. "Not interested in a famous older man then?"

Her companion pretended to consider this. "Well, I think my boyfriend might object."

"Oh, fair enough. Who is he anyway?"

Davies grinned. "I hope this isn't going to be the standard of your deductive work, Tonks. It's Donnie, you nitwit. Who else did you think it was?"

*****

Monday July 27th 1994

Tonks used the weekend to brush up on interrogation theory. She feet nervous but excited on Monday morning, thinking through everything they might want to ask Farley. Naturally, this meant she wasn't looking where she was going, and several people collided with her, including (to her deep embarrassment) the wizard in pinstripes she'd 'met' on her first day. This time he merely looked at her disdainfully, as if she were a troll with halitosis, and marched off.

Preoccupied with this, she didn't at first notice the quiet voice speaking to her as the lift started up.

"Well, Auror Tonks, how are you settling in?"

Tonks looked around in surprise to see a very familiar face. Bruno Featherstone, Head of Auror Training, had been the kind of department head who favoured a hands-on approach, and had personally taught many of her more interesting classes. The cadets had rather enjoyed his lessons as a general rule, despite it rapidly becoming clear that he didn't suffer fools gladly.

"Er ... quite well, I think, sir. Scrimgeour put me straight onto a case. We're doing an interview with Veritaserum this morning, in fact," she said brightly.

"Veritaserum, eh?" said Featherstone thoughtfully as the lift came to a halt at Level Five. "Well, well. I do hope you remember all we taught you about it." With a slight smile, he got out, leaving Tonks to remember what he'd taught. It was quite easy; it had been a memorable sort of lecture.

*****

February 1992

Featherstone had written just one word on the blackboard that morning when they came into the lecture hall -- 'Veritaserum'. The students looked at each other with interest and slight excitement.

"Settle down, people." His voice was quiet, but the trainees immediately stopped murmuring. He pointed to the blackboard with his wand. "Today we will be considering an important factor in criminal investigations. Veritaserum. I'm not here to tell you how to make the stuff, you can get that from the recipe books, although you will be taught how in your potions classes at some point. In any case, if you qualify as Aurors, we don't expect you to brew all your own potions." Many of the class looked relieved at this.

"Veritaserum is a Truth Potion, in case there is someone here who doesn't know -- if there is, please don't reveal your ignorance, I wouldn't wish to know you're falling behind in your studies -- and is, in the opinion of many people, the best thing to happen to magical law enforcement since the invention of Anti-Disapparation Jinxes. Would you agree?"

Most of the class had eventually learned not to bite when Bruno Featherstone offered up rhetorical bait like this. But this lecture was early in their training, and one of them nodded and said, "It means we can concentrate on actually catching the villains. Once we get them, we can easily get any information we need."

"Wrong, Mr Jenkins," replied Featherstone bluntly, shaking his head with mock sadness. The young man's face dropped like a stone. "On several different levels, in fact. Firstly, despite anything the Quibbler and its ilk may have suggested to you, we do actually have laws regulating what Aurors can do, and you will be expected to know what they are."

He paused briefly, apparently to gather his thoughts. "Now I know some of you here have been sent for training from other wizarding administrations. We only teach -- and examine -- the rules of Britain here, so I'm afraid you'll have to learn the regulations that apply in your own countries in your own time." The British trainees glanced in sympathy at their foreign friends. "However, Veritaserum rules vary little, as far as I know.

"Under our Wizengamot Charter of Rights, the Ministry may only use coercive interrogation methods under special circumstances, and never without a specific warrant." He gave the class an assessing look. "I would like to tell you that this is because we are civilised enough to feel that magical citizens should generally not be forced to incriminate themselves, let alone be subjected to painful and humiliating ordeals merely because they come under suspicion. These are principles which are frequently recognised even by Muggles. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Powerful methods and sweeping legal privileges invite -- and usually get -- abuse if they are not carefully monitored, which is something that an Auror should appreciate better than anyone."

The class shared uneasy glances. Tonks wasn't sure if they agreed with Featherstone on this. She wasn't entirely sure she did, for that matter, although she supposed he did have a point.

"There were far too many occasions in the early days after the invention of the potion in 1684 where members of the Ministry administered it to people for arbitrary reasons, especially when an unusually high level of Dark Wizard activity offered a convenient excuse. The experience of having Veritaserum administered to you is not pleasant -- as you will discover later when we experiment with it -- and excessive doses can cause serious side-effects." He gave them a twisted grin.

"In fact by 1811, when Minister Stump came to power -- no, you don't need to know the history, Mr Jenkins, but if you pay attention it may help to set things in context -- an important reason for his support was a promise to introduce restrictions on such methods. Of course, it took him several years to convince the Wizengamot to agree to such laws, but he eventually succeeded, and the rules that he introduced are still substantially in place. We law enforcers have only ourselves to blame.

"Secondly, another reason for legal caution, although one not commonly known, is that it is actually possible for subjects to resist Veritaserum." Eyebrows were raised at this. "It is admittedly difficult, and requires some of the same strength of purpose needed to defeat the Imperius Curse. It may be considered a form of Occlumency -- something you will cover later in your studies, although we won't expect you to show great skill in that area as proficiency is rather hard to achieve. More useful for most subjects, the 'Deception Draught' was invented in 1764 -- an antidote to Veritaserum for up to seven days. We are fortunate that it is both expensive and difficult to brew correctly."

Tonks scribbled the dates down in her notebook to give the impression of efficiency, although she was glad they weren't going to be tested on them afterwards. Magical history had never been her favourite subject. Or that of any of her classmates. Or, come to think of it, that of anyone she knew who had been educated at Hogwarts during the last half-century.

"Thirdly, and most importantly, however, there is no guarantee that even a subject completely under the influence of Veritaserum will give you correct answers. Does anyone wish to explain why this is?" He gazed around inquiringly. No-one seemed keen to stick their heads in the firing line.

Oh well, here goes nothing, thought Tonks. "Er -- because they might not know the right answers in the first place?" she said tentatively.

Featherstone looked at her with what might have been an approving expression. "Very good, Cadet ...Tonks, isn't it? It's always nice to see someone has stayed alert while I talk. It makes it all seem worthwhile.

"Yes, as she said, the most important thing to remember is that a Veritaserum subject can only tell you what they believe to be true. And this means that the answers they give you must always be treated with considerable caution, unless you have other reasons to believe that they are accurate."

He tapped the board with his wand, and a list appeared on it. "There are many ways for someone to mislead you despite being under the influence of Veritaserum, some of which are innocent, some of which are decidedly not so.

"Most straightforwardly, of course, the subject may simply be ill-informed. If they sincerely believe someone has tried to curse them, they will tell you so, even if they merely got in the way of a spell aimed at someone else. The contents of memories are often subjective and strongly influenced by personal experience and background, and unless you can use magical techniques more advanced than a Truth Potion, you will find it is not always easy to distinguish what actually happened from what someone thinks has happened.

"Then, of course, you may be interrogating someone who is in fact insane. I remember sitting in on an interview where the Veritaserum subject explained quite calmly and matter-of-factly, with precise detail, how he had assassinated Pierre Bonaccord. Well, needless to say, if that had been true we would certainly have had to radically revise our history books. The same man also confessed to the murder of Millicent Bagnold. I did consider asking Minister Bagnold if she had noticed this, but decided to let it pass."

The class sniggered quietly, and Featherstone continued, now with a sharper tone to his voice.

"More dangerous yet to the slapdash investigator are those who take precautions in advance. Fortunately, you will normally be interrogating a suspect who is under arrest, and will therefore already have confiscated their wand. This should prevent them using simple dodges such as sealing their throats against the potion or Transfiguring it before use. If you fail to take this simple step, then I'm afraid little of what I say will be of much use to you.

"However, there are other alternatives. It has long been a known practice for the more organised criminal elements to arrange for memories of their crimes to be wiped from their minds with a simple Obliviate, if they have reason to suspect that they will be interrogated with Veritaserum or other coercive methods. The technique can be dangerous to their sanity, certainly -- but then, so can a long stretch in Azkaban. Since memories tend to be strongly interconnected, usually there will be stray recollections or suspicious gaps that will show up under careful questioning, but many a lazy Auror has been fooled by such methods."

This statement made the class sit up and take notice. Uneasy glances were exchanged, and Featherstone's next point proceeded to drive the idea home.

"During the last war, in fact, the Death Eaters came up with a novel variant -- they used Confundus Charms on victims, or on expendable members of their own ranks who had fallen under suspicion, in order to plant actual false memories that incriminated somebody else. It is in the nature of such 'memories' to be very prominent in the mind while they last, and very difficult to distinguish from real memories, even by the victims. Since many people in the Ministry were none too fussy about who they arrested, there were several cases of entirely innocent people sent to Azkaban on the word of You-Know-Who's supporters, even when Veritaserum was used on them. Not the Department's finest hour."

Several of the class were open-mouthed in surprise. Tonks wasn't one of them, but she understood why, and shuddered. The thought briefly flashed across her mind that maybe there was a chance then that ... no. There were too many witnesses to that one.

"For those Dark wizards and witches who wish to retain the information in their memories without revealing it under questioning, and are not confident of their ability to resist the Potion, there is the alternative of a device called a Pensieve. I don't expect you to know much about them -- they're expensive, difficult to manufacture, and can be tricky to use -- although I hope that some of you will have at least heard of them.

"If you are unclear on the theory underpinning the Pensieve, it will be discussed in the Advanced Obliviation classes in your third year of training. But briefly, you may be surprised to learn that with practice, it is possible to actually extract thoughts and memories from a mind, rather than simply eliminate them. A Pensieve allows them to be stored, examined from an external perspective, and replaced later if need be." He paused. "Naming no names, obviously, but we in the Department feel certain that there are former Death Eaters walking around free who escaped by claiming that they were acting under the Imperius Curse, and who were able to afford and use a Pensieve to temporarily remove the evidence of their crimes."

Tonks could think of a possible name. And a face. A sneering, patrician face that looked on her as if she were something unclean, seldom encountered but loathed whenever she did.

"Which brings me to the final caveat. The reactions of those affected by the stronger forms of magic -- especially Dark Magic -- are also highly suspect. Imperius-cursed wizards, for example, may or may not tell you anything useful under Veritaserum. It depends on the relative strengths of the curse and the potion, and the powers of resistance of the individual wizard. There are other Dark Arts with similar effects, although they are mercifully rare." At the time, Tonks hadn't known what he meant -- obscure potions weren't part of the training course, which concentrated on bringing Auror candidates up to speed on the key material.

"And even some protective spells can affect what a person is able to tell you. For example, is anyone in this class aware of the nature of the Fidelius Charm?"

Tonks raised her hand reluctantly, as did a couple of other members of the class. She suspected that the others' reluctance was that they didn't want to be asked to explain a vaguely remembered charm only ever been mentioned in passing during their education. In her case it was because she had good reason to remember it being mentioned, and she didn't want to explain the reason why.

"A few of you? Good. For you others, this charm protects a secret and makes it impossible for anyone to learn it unless a designated individual chooses to reveal it to them. No potion or spell yet devised will enable us to force the information from anyone else, even if they have been told the secret." The students who had raised hands breathed a sigh of relief.

Featherstone looked directly at the student who had answered him before. "So, Mr Jenkins, will you now agree that Veritaserum is actually fairly useless stuff?" he asked briskly.

The young man gulped and fidgeted. "Er, I guess so, sir."

"Well that's a pity, Mr Jenkins, because I really wouldn't want you to go away with that idea," said Featherstone smoothly. The rest of the class snickered under their breath. "Now despite all the problems I have outlined, Veritaserum is actually fairly useful stuff. Miss Tonks, you seemed to be reasonably awake, would you like to tell us why this is?"

Tonks winced. Terrific, you just had to let yourself in for this, didn't you? She didn't have much choice but to hazard some kind of answer. "I suppose because ... well, because it still gives you information you didn't have before and you can always work on that and, er, test it out?" She held her breath, and crossed her fingers out of sight under the desk.

"Not too bad an answer," said Featherstone. "I'm sure you would rather not have had to give it, but as you see, Veritaserum is not the only way of making people talk." The class laughed out loud at this and Tonks reddened slightly. Featherstone, with the slight smile back on his face, allowed them a few moments to settle down before finishing.

"That of course is the other important thing to remember about Veritaserum. You will undoubtedly get something from its use, even if that something is rarely a complete solution to your case all gift-wrapped and tied with a little bow.

"The methods I've described for defeating Veritaserum all have one thing in common -- they require preparation. If you can catch people unprepared, then yes, you probably can get the information you need. You still have to ask the right questions -- if you flounder around without knowing what to talk about, you are unlikely to get anywhere -- but if you know enough about the case to keep your interrogation to the point, you will get valuable information.

"Now you should know that information obtained by Veritaserum is not a legal free pass in this country. Firstly, because of all the possible problems that I have described, its accuracy is subject to challenge by the accused at trial. This makes it vitally important to be able to show that your interrogation was properly conducted, and wherever possible the results should be backed up by additional evidence from other sources.

"Also, you are not supposed to use Veritaserum as an excuse for a general fishing expedition. Anything you learn from its use that cannot be plausibly related to the case at hand may not be used in court." He permitted himself another smile. "Of course, this is not an insuperable objection. Once you learn something, you have the opportunity to verify it independently, and that evidence is legally acceptable. So my advice, frankly, is to ask anything you wish to ask if you think that the information may help with other investigations.

"Finally, as I have already said, even the use of Memory Charms may not be a complete defence. You need to acquire sufficiently good interviewing skills to notice when there is a pattern of missing pieces which suggest that this technique has been applied. Of course, the fact that something is clearly being concealed is an important pointer in itself.

"I hope that when the time comes for you to conduct such interrogations for real, you will all have a working knowledge of the value and the pitfalls of these methods. You'll be getting training in this later during the practical lessons, and I look forward to seeing the reports. Don't let me down."

The class filed out thoughtfully. It had indeed been a memorable lesson.

*****

Monday July 27th 1994

Tonks found Smethwyck, O'Gregan and Cornworthy already in their cubicles when she arrived at Auror Headquarters.

"Nymphadora. Top of the mornin' and all that," said O'Gregan cheerily. Seeing Tonks' wince, Cassius Smethwyck quickly muttered to him under his breath. "Oh, sorry, Tonks then. We've got the Farley fellow on ice down in the interview room. Are you ready?"

They nodded.

"We thought the best idea would be for us to start the questioning and you and Cassius just sit there," added Cornworthy lugubriously, "so he doesn't know who you are, and starts to worry. If you want to ask anything you can chip in later."

"OK? Follow me then." O'Gregan led them down to one of the small rooms Tonks had only seen in passing since she'd joined. A youngish witch carrying a stack of parchment was waiting outside, her attempts to look prim belied by the sparkle in her eye. She was accompanied by a man in lime-green robes and a grey-haired wizard attired in neat burgundy.

O'Gregan handled the introductions. "This is Marcie Macmillan from the Wizengamot Administration Services --" he winked surreptitiously at her "-- Healer Boothby, and this will I believe be Morgan Harris, who is acting as Mr Farley's legal adviser. Shall we begin?"

Tonks followed the others into the room. Its only occupant was a scruffy, nervous-looking wizard, seated in the middle of the long edge of a narrow table, on which he was drumming his fingers (apparently unconsciously). There were three chairs on the opposite side in which O'Gregan, Cornworthy and Macmillan took their seats, and chairs on either side clearly meant for Tonks and Smethwyck.

Farley's adviser took a chair which had been placed next to his client, while the Healer placed a dropper and a bottle of clear liquid on the table and stood ready. The administrative witch cleared her throat.

"You are Mr Benjamin Allen Farley of 271 North Clipperhorn Street, Manchester?"

Farley glanced at his adviser, who nodded at him. "Yes, I am."

The witch started to read from a piece of parchment, in a bored voice that suggested she'd done this far too many times to find it anything more than a dull routine.

"Mr Farley, this warrant has been duly granted by the Wizengamot, who have ruled that you may be questioned while under the influence of Veritaserum in connection with the attempted murder of Mackenzie Ashford. The questioning may relate only to the matter at hand, but such answers may be received in evidence and taken into account in any subsequent court proceedings, subject to the right of challenge by either side.

"The questions and answers will be recorded --" Tonks suddenly realised that Cornworthy had placed an auto-dictation quill on the table in front of him, along with a gadget she didn't immediately recognise "-- but you may at your option have a witness of your own choosing present, provided that they agree not to disclose any information revealed in the interview that could jeopardise a current investigation, the life of a Ministry law enforcement official, or that of any other person, and that the Ministry may place a short-term Memory Charm upon them to enforce this at the discretion of the case Aurors.

"The interview will be conducted in the presence of a trained Healer, who is authorised to intervene if they feel that your life or health may be at risk. The Aurors may however use reasonable force to administer the potion if necessary."

She looked up. "Mr Farley, do you understand these statements?"

Farley gulped. "Yes ... er, ma'am?"

Marcie Macmillan winced. "Very well. I take it Mr Harris is your nominated witness, and you've both signed all the disclaimers?" Both of them nodded.

"Good. In that case, that's the formalities sorted. Healer Boothby, if you'd give Mr Farley the potion, I'll leave you in what I'm sure are the capable hands of Aurors O'Gregan and Cornworthy. Good-day to you." She gathered up her collection of parchment and walked out of the room, with a small wink to the Aurors.

The Healer drew a small amount of Veritaserum from the bottle and turned to Farley. "Put your tongue out then, Mr Farley," he said in the over-hearty voice it seemed all Healers were taught as part of their training. "This won't hurt a bit."

That's what you think, mate, thought Tonks as he put three drops of potion onto Farley's tongue with a cheerful "Swallow now, that's it!" She could remember only too well what it felt like from her training. There wasn't much actual physical pain -- a little nausea, a slight headache afterwards -- but the experience of having other people stomping through your innermost thoughts, despite you desperately trying to fight it, wasn't in the least pleasant.

Farley slumped back in his chair with an unfocused look, and O'Gregan rubbed his hands briskly. "Excellent. Now, Mr Farley, please describe what you did on the evening of the twenty-eighth for us."

Tonks had already read Farley's story several times in the interview transcripts, and listened carefully as he recounted his evening's activities in a dull monotone. Although the Veritaserum brought out a number of embarrassing details that would probably have been of great interest to Mrs Farley, the main points remained consistent.

He'd gone to the party. He'd noticed a real cutie strolling round the pub, knocking drinks back from the bottle like a trouper, and flirting with the better-looking wizards. He'd been taken aback when he realised that she was flirting with him too each time she passed by. Towards the end of the evening he'd finally succeeded in getting her undivided attention, and been amazed and delighted when he'd actually managed to pull her. They'd left the pub together. And then ... he was basically out of it until he woke up in Auror custody. He couldn't remember where he got the knife, or what he'd done with it, or where he'd been, or who he'd talked to -- in short, anything at all. He could vaguely remember a scuffle and being hit with a hex, but that was all. He wasn't even familiar with the part of London where the attack had taken place.

Tonks took a sideways glance at O'Gregan and Cornworthy, both of whom asked a few secondary questions about the events on the Common and the exact words the woman had spoken in the pub, although neither seemed surprised that Farley's story had held up. Presumably they'd already come to the conclusion he was telling the truth.

Cornworthy's other gadget turned out to be an Image Projector. He placed a small bronze-coloured ring on Farley's head -- it promptly adjusted itself to fit tightly around his temples -- fixed a matching ring to the top of the Projector, and prompted him to think hard about the appearance of the people he'd seen at the pub that night. Tonks watched in fascination as a silvery mist formed between the two rings.

She glanced over at Cornworthy with eyebrows raised in inquiry, mouthing "how does that work again?"

"Bit like an automatic Pensieve," he muttered out of the corner of his mouth while Farley was sweating with concentration. "Doesn't extract nearly as much detail, but then you don't need to know what you're doing to use one." Tonks nodded.

Images slowly took shape above the Projector ring one by one. Each time Farley confirmed that one of them was an accurate representation of someone he'd seen that night, Cornworthy tapped the Projector with his wand to store the image. The person they were most interested in was, of course, the woman he'd escorted out -- there had been no response to the request for her to come forward inserted in the crime section of the Daily Prophet, a result which had surprised none of them. Her face meant nothing to Tonks, nor to most of the others as far as she could tell, although Cassius had a distant look in his eyes that suggested a man trying to recall a hazy memory. Tonks made a mental note to ask him about it later.

The woman was indeed extremely good-looking, and fully justified Farley's description of her as a 'honey' -- blonde, blue-eyed, a figure with curves in all the places convention (and Bentley Williamson) deemed appropriate. Tonks made another mental note of the elaborate and distinctive waved hairstyle. One of these days she'd have to try it out. At least it might stop her mirror complaining.

Farley eventually ran out of people to project images of, and the Aurors looked at each other thoughtfully. "Had you ever met Mackenzie Ashford before you tried to stab him?" asked Cornworthy.

"No, never, not as far as I know," said Farley, still in the flat monotone.

"Have you ever been involved in the magical creature trade?"

"Well, not properly, like. Done a few deals from time to time."

Tonks, remembering what Featherstone had said about careful questioning, surprised everyone -- including herself -- at this point by throwing in a question. "Have you ever spoken to anyone in the trade about Ashford?"

"Only in passing, like."

Cornworthy nodded at Tonks in approval then turned back to Farley. "Describe these occasions and the people involved, please."

Farley began to recite again. "A few years ago I 'elped out this Greek bloke -- Papadopolous he called 'imself, don't think it was his real name, though -- who had some funny creatures he'd smuggled in and couldn't get rid of. Sphinxes, manticores, things like that. Well, I'd met this nutter up in Yorkshire who liked that sort of thing -- built his own private zoo he wasn't supposed to 'ave -- so I said I'd put them in touch for a commission."

Farley's legal adviser was looking decidedly worried. O'Gregan grinned. "Right, that's interesting, Farley, but what's it got to do with Ashford? And how were you involved?"

"The bloke with the zoo said he'd just bought some cages and stuff off Ashford and he wasn't too 'appy with them. I was just the middleman. I mean, I wasn't going to go near the beasts myself, was I? Tear your 'ead off soon as look at you. Anyway, he bought everything except this bloody great mutant 'ound thing. No idea what the Greek bloke did with that. Couldn't care less after I got my ten per."

Harris coughed hastily. "May I remind you, gentlemen -- and lady -- that confessions on matters not directly related to the Ashford case are not valid evidence?"

"Don't worry," said O'Gregan with a snort. "You're talking to Aurors here, not plodders from the Patrol who barely know one end of their wand from the other. We don't mess about with petty cr --"

"What was the man's name?" asked Tonks hastily before O'Gregan could get going.

"Arkwright, Nathan Arkwright, 'Aven't seen him in a couple of years now."

The Aurors exchanged looks. "Let's see if you know more than you think you do," said Cornworthy. "I'm going to show you some pictures of Ashford's relatives and their known associates. Tell me if you recognise any of them." He laid out a row of wizarding photographs on the desk, but Farley only looked at them blankly.

"Don't mean nothing to me," he said.

Cornworthy shrugged. "Try these. These are Ashford's main business associates and trade rivals."

Farley still looked indifferent. "That one's got a shop near where I live. Freddy Farnham. Sells pedigree Kneazles and stuff. Don't recognise anyone else there."

Cassius Smethwyck entered the fray for the first time. "Have you heard anyone mention a potion that acts on victims much like an Imperius Curse?" They'd agreed they had to ask this question at some point. Even if Farley had been part of a plot and the use of the potion a bluff, there was the off-chance that he'd admit to knowing more than he should, even if he'd been Memory Charmed to forget the plot itself.

Farley's eyes took on a look that was even more distant. "I overheard some Midlands blokes talk about something like that in that pub in the Magical Market in Birmingham. Couple of months ago maybe? They said somebody wanted it for a job."

Tonks caught Smethwyck's eye; from the look on his face, he was just as surprised as she was. "Describe these people, please, Mr Farley," he said urgently. "Do you know who they are?"

"No idea. Don't really know what they looked like, they was on the next table and they 'ad hoods over their faces. I didn't ask; it obviously wasn't like something I was supposed to overhear, was it? Must have been locals, though, you could tell by the accents."

Smethwyck shrugged, looking slightly disappointed. "What did they say about the, er, job that they wanted it for? Describe the conversation as closely as you can, please."

"They didn't say what it was exactly. They was talking about stuff they'd 'eard had been nicked. One of 'em said they knew someone -- Trollbrain, they called 'im -- his lot had a commission for some collector's item with protections on it. They couldn't get at it, and it was someone they wanted to get in with who was after the thing, by the sound of it --"

"'Trollbrain'?" interrupted O'Gregan. "Now did that sound like a nickname or just an insult?"

"Bit of both, I think. They said he got desperate enough to ask around for ideas, and someone down south told them about this funny potion from abroad."

"Did they say where they got it from?" said Smethwyck.

"Nah, just that this bloke they bought stuff off from time to time told them about it, and reckoned he could get some. The one who was talking said he thought whoever got it brought in a supply for stock."

"Did you ask around to see if you could find the supplier?" asked Tonks, excited.

"Not me, no! Bloody dangerous stuff by the sound of it, you'd 'ave to be a bit desperate to use it, wouldn't you? I don't want to get involved with Dark Magic stuff, you could get the Aurors after you. You want to keep away from that lot. Stitch you up if they don't like the look of you, everyone knows that."

Harris gulped. An evil grin appeared on O'Gregan's face.

"At least he understands the way we work. Now then, Farley boy, let's talk about who your dodgy contacts are -- anyone you know at the Transfigured Toad to start with, then any others."

Farley hesitated, but under the influence of the Veritaserum he reeled off a list of names. None of them meant much to Tonks, but the others nodded occasionally in recognition. She glanced at Cornworthy with eyebrows raised in inquiry; he gave a slight, chagrined shake of the head to indicate that none of the names suggested anything more than an involvement in petty crime.

The Aurors went over the events with Farley again, varying the form of the questions as they asked about his actions, and trying to catch him unawares. But the Veritaserum had apparently succeeded in forcing him to be an honest man, and his story didn't change from the one he's always told. Eventually, it became clear even to O'Gregan that they'd got about as far as they were going to get with this interview. A couple of security guards escorted Farley back to his holding cell, while the Aurors trooped back to their office in thoughtful silence.

O'Gregan threw himself down into his cubicle chair.

"Well?"



Chapter Notes:
Thanks to Emo Phillips and Jackie Mason for a couple of throwaway jokes. :)



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