Theme: Hidden depths, seeking of a greater purpose
July 24, 1998
That old two-way mirror of Harry's was a godsend to long distance talks with one Hermione Granger. Sure the distance made her voice softer and patchy, and the occasional crackle slipped through, but it was good to see her face every few days. Hermione said that her head disappearing in the fireplace scared her parents; her mother had apparently screamed and dropped a plate of scones the first time they had tried to talk over the floo network back in sixth year.
Hermione had proclaimed that this was better for her mother's nerves.
Ron merely preferred to keep his talks with her private and out of the family fireplace.
"Hermione? You there?"
The mirror flickered for a moment.
"Yes, just a minute, Ron."
"Fixing your hair again?"
"It's so hot here it makes my head sweat! I just need it out of my face."
Ron laughed, "I like your hair no matter what the weather does to it."
"There was sweat on my books!"
Ron cringed, yes that would make Hermione a bit mad.
Hermione sat down, her bushy hair pulled back in a braid and a cloth band wrapped around her head at her hairline. Hermione's face was quite red.
"Australia not agreeing with you?"
Her expression grew more irritated, much to Ron's amusement. Hermione was easy to irritate with silly, obvious comments if the timing was right.
"I'll be glad to go home, I'll say that much. I should have sent them to Canada."
"You said your dad always wanted to go to Australia though," Ron pointed out helpfully, "Your mum was just scared of all the deadly animals."
Ron thought Hermione's parents were hilarious.
"Those huntsman spiders are huge!"
"No! No! I don't want to hear about that!"
Great, his girlfriend was a closet sadist.
"So, how are classes going? Is the professor still fixated on ritual murders?"
"Yeah, in fact, you need to sit one of these classes to understand how disturbing it is. I can't explain it very well. I still think Lowell's a nutter."
Hermione pulled open a drawer at the desk she was sitting at and disappeared from sight for about a minute while she continued to talk to Ron. "I actually found a collection of his essays in a book at the wizarding library here, they're quite brilliant and I do think you should give them a read."
She popped back into view and held a rather thin tome up so Ron could read the title.
"Back up a smidge, Hermione, I can't read all of it."
Magical Power and Potential- Why the Concept of Pureblood Superiority is Stupid.
Ron's mouth fell open, "When was this published?"
Hermione winced, "The mid-seventies."
"He's clearly been insane for a long time. I'm surprised You-Know-Who didn't kill him." Ron leaned back in his chair and stretched before making himself comfortable again. "So what is it about?"
"Well, he talks a lot about how magical classification as good or evil is a human invention and it is all about intention; even supposed good magic can be used for dark purposes." Hermione opened the book to the table to contents to check something, "Though, unsurprisingly, the longest essay in here is about how Muggle-borns and half-bloods have more potential to be stronger magically due to different cultural influences potentially making them more creative and a lack of pureblood inbreeding making their magic stronger and their minds more stable."
Ron chuckled at that.
"It's a brilliant piece of satire to poke fun at the Death Eaters attitude. I imagine he went deep into hiding after this was published. I haven't found any other essay collections published after this from him."
"I'll check the Ministry library that book and see if he published anything else when I get a chance, okay? I think he and the Chief Librarian used to date or something so I can see if they have anything for when you get back."
Hermione perked up, "Oh, thank you Ron!"
Ron smiled, "Dinner when you get back?"
"I'll see you in two weeks."
As the mirror dulled and showed only his own reflection Ron could not help but give himself a smug smile. "I'm such a good boyfriend."
Now it was off another endless day at the Ministry where Ron would find strange quiet places to study. To his credit, he was almost done with the textbooks Kingsley had given him. He thought he was doing pretty well.
Anything suspicious that Kingsley had asked him to look out for seemed far from reality.
Ron, like most normal people, always had a dislike of things hitting him in the face. Especially when he was trying to sneak some midmorning pumpkin juice in the Ministry library without the chief librarian finding him.
Food was not allowed in here for some reason.
Ron peeled the memo off his forehead and unfolded it slowly to properly express his rage.
Got a lead on something interesting. Can you head down the Ministry archives? I'm trying to get a list together of people we may have to call for the war trials together. I need a copy of the sign in sheet for the last year to cross check some information.
Ron wished Reeve a short trip into one of the closets where the dangerous confiscated items were held before standing up. It was a chance to stretch his legs and the librarians were, from what Ron understood, trying to get into the closet where they had stored the controversial materials during the war so those items could be put back out for the public. It was just Madam Higgins at the desk and she was busy with other things.
Such as healing the junior staff who ran afoul one of the protective curses and then sending them right back in to continue doing battle with whatever other magic was in there, while saying it was part of their training.
It had been two hours and Madam Higgins was talking about how they might need a curse-breaker, adding that she may have laid those spells too strongly.
It seemed like a bad time to bring up bring up the books written by an ex-boyfriend.
Ron snuck out of the library quietly while one of the junior librarians accidently set her robes on fire.
He had to ask three different people where the archives were before ending up on the floor where the old courtrooms were at the very bottom of the Ministry. The walls were made of stone and it was very cold. He felt his teeth start to chatter loudly as he turned down a couple of short corridors to a wooden door with a warm light peering out from underneath the crack in the bottom.
Ron opened the door and was greeted by sudden warmth that stopped his teeth from chattering and he closed the door quickly behind him, breathed in that warm air and looked around the room.
The room was carpeted in a vibrant burgundy and there were doors that lead to the other offices or into the archives themselves. In this room there was only a secretary.
Ron walked over and coughed to get her to look up from her book.
Her first name was the only thing visible on her nameplate; her last name was hidden behind a stack of papers and books.
"Miss…" She had an unusual name that Ron was struggling a bit to make sure he pronounced correctly.
"Sahirah is fine," the woman cut in quickly as she put down her book and stood to shake Ron's hand. "I'm the records secretary.
Sahirah was a tall, pretty woman with long black hair pulled back in a ponytail with a few loose strands that fell into her face. Her figure was tall and willowy and brought her nose even with Ron's chin where her glasses rested on the edge of her nose.
"Ron Weasley, I was wondering if I could see the sign-in sheet for your department."
"Which one?" Sahirah sat back down at her desk and pulled out a clipboard full of papers. "The archives hold a lot of separate files and depending on what people are looking for is where they sign and what room I send them too."
Ron paused and reached out for the sign-in clipboard and flipped though it. The list only went back a month because nobody really wanted or needed to look though old paperwork on a regular basis.
It seemed to be the same people coming in to have a look at the archives.
"Where do you keep the old listings?"
"To look at the files? In the new memory room because we have nowhere else to store it right now." Sahirah raised an eyebrow. "Why do you need to know?"
"I'm looking for some information."
Sahirah's eyes narrowed. Ron thought it made her look rather feline. "Give me something specific and I'll help you out."
A panther. She looked like a panther.
"The sign in sheet for the entire last year."
She leaned back in her chair and played with the brooch on her high collar. "What for?"
Ron paused, "I'm from the Auror Department, we're investigating something."
Sahirah straightened and stood up and walked around her desk, a light of excitement in her eyes. "A mystery? I love mysteries! My job bores me to tears!"
Her wand was in her hand in an instant and motioned Ron to follow her down through a door. Ron followed and the door opened and Sahirah took off at a brisk walk down the stairs, her high heels clicking madly on the floor as the lights on the stairwell lit from either the noise of her shoes or from the motion of the two of them walking down the stairs.
She took him down another turn and the door swung open with a word from Sahirah allowing them to step into a room with a domed ceiling full of cabinets and shelves. The cabinets were plain and made of wood. The shelves were what caught Ron's attention first, each shelf held vials that floated and twisted with long shimmery strands of silver light inside of each pristine glass container. Some of the containers contained many of the glowing silver strands. Some of the strands were knotted together and struggling to come apart.
"We're going to move the files out and make this the official memory room in a year or two, so sorry about the mess. There is another cabinet down row C, next to the interview rooms. I'll check this one and meet you down there in a few minutes."
Sahirah immediately got down into the cabinet to start pulling out records of who was in the archive and when.
Ron moved closer for a better look at the shelves and looked at them carefully as he walked down the row while the scars on his arms from the Department of Mysteries battle tingled uncomfortably as if to remind him not to touch the weird shit he found in the Ministry. Though his hand still moved to wipe the light dust off a plaque under one of the orbs to see what it said.
K. Cole – October 1997
"They're memories." A voice behind him said quietly causing Ron to jump. "Sorry, you just looked like you were wondering about it."
Audrey had a soft voice naturally, but here she was whispering the way one would in a library. She had focused intently on the label beneath the vial and let her eyes linger on the name before biting her lip, stepping back and clutching her books tighter to her chest.
Ron got a quick look at one of the titles, Magic Seals of the Ancient World.
"Why are there memories down here?"
Audrey seemed to shrink and pointed at the Cole memory vial. "These are all from the war. Minister Shacklebolt wanted records from the survivors and the people who released the Muggle-borns from Azkaban." She moved so her back was facing the shelf across from Ron, a movement that reminded Ron of a frightened rabbit. "He says it's so we can track the atrocities, confirm the perpetrators and not forget what happened."
Ron nodded and took another look down the row, "Do you have any memories in here?"
"No," Her voice was firm. "I've been called to testify in the war trials, but I have not been asked to store my memories here. I made it clear to Shacklebolt that I would prefer to keep those to myself."
What an odd thing to say. Kingsley would never force someone to do something they did not want to do, especially if it involved something personal. It sounded like Audrey had to put her foot down about involvement with the memory room.
Audrey seemed to note his expression and clarified her statement. "He wasn't forceful about it. If my memories go into the historical record, I need to be more… detached from it."
"Oh, Audrey, I forgot you were down here," Sahirah came strolling down the aisle, her heels clicking on the floor. "Did you find everything you needed?"
Audrey shook her head, "I'm afraid I'm still looking."
She was pale.
Sahirah tilted her head and moved a bit closer to the shorter woman. "Are you alright? I heard you took a bad hit during that whole attacking the Ministry mess, do you need me to find you a chair?"
Audrey shook her head again, and put her hand up as if to ward off anyone who got a little too close. "I'm alright, Sahirah. Really."
"Okay, just let me know if you need anything."
Audrey nodded politely and exchanged a quick glance with Ron and walked down the aisle and followed a sign that said study room.
"She's been in here almost everyday for the past couple of weeks for one reason or another. She says she's studying. I don't know why she keeps coming down here if that's what she is doing. We don't have many books down here."
If Audrey was called for the war trials, perhaps she would have to provide a memory to help show the crime. It was something Kingsley was considering implementing for major crime trials, but there was always a risk of an altered memory.
Perhaps Audrey was considering pulling out the most damning memory she had for this trial in case it was required and needed a quiet place to find it and focus on pulling it out of her head in a way that could also secure her privacy by not revealing to much else about what happened before or after. According to Hermione, pulling out memories and altering them was a tricky business.
The place was very quiet, Ron noticed, Hermione would probably come and study down here too. Granted, there were not enough books to entice her down here to begin with at any rate.
A light glowed on Sahirah's bracelet, "Oh, I have to go back up to the office. Someone wants to look at the old essays about magical theory." She turned on her heel so quickly Ron was astounded she did not fall over. Sahirah pointed down the corridor. "You'll find a pensieve down that way if you want to view some of the memories in here." She pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket. "These are the sections where we keep some of our filing records, you may find what you are looking for in one of those." There was a clicking noise as she started towards the exit.
"Call me if you need me!"
Sahirah somehow ran at a mad pace towards the staircase without falling over and as the clicking of her shoes disappeared from Ron's hearing he turned and looked at the seemingly endless aisles of shelves before him. He examined the list carefully.
"Okay, how would Hermione start looking for information?" He looked around again, "There are no books here. Where would she start on the list?"
She was predictable like that.
Only, looking at the list, Sahirah had scrawled it down from memory so everything was out of order. Ron was going to have to rewrite this for his sanity so he would not miss anything while he was looking and it would save him a little bit of time.
He pulled the blank book Kingsley had given him out of his bag and sat on the floor to rewrite the information in such a way that he could work through the steps of finding the information in an organized way. There were a lot of places to look.
Hermione really needed to hurry back from Australia.
An hour later, Ron eventually found the record he was looking for and realized that it was really a load of nothing. It was the same ten people who came down on a regular basis to look at different parts of the archives. He copied the list with a spell and put the copy in his bag until he could give it to Reeve.
He was quite happy to leave the memory room.
It gave him the creeps.
Besides, he had to go see if he could find those books for Hermione. Though with the chaos in the library, he may just go after his afternoon lesson with Lowell.
As he came back out into the office a clock chimed for lunch, he waved goodbye to Sahirah who was packing up some things and stepped back out into the chilly corridor as his chattering teeth returned as he walked quickly to the lift. He could take a longer break from studying to go practice some of the spells in his books.
Ron stepped onto the elevator and rubbed his arms to generate some warmth. He was learning a lot. Auror training was much different from school, he was actually interested in the subject and was not just showing up to class for a grade. There were real world applications to what he was studying. It felt useful.
He felt useful.
It was a great feeling.
The lift stopped on the second floor with a sudden jerky motion that almost knocked the occupants of the lift to the floor. Ron stepped off quickly and made for his dad's office where he had put his lunch earlier that morning. He did not care to see Percy in the lunchroom. It might involve a really awkward conversation that Ron was not in the mood to have.
His dad was at a lunch meeting with Shacklebolt, Ron popped his head into the office and summoned his lunchbox and walked towards the classroom. He was going to eat outside the classroom door. He wanted a good seat in the back so he did not have to look at the pictures Lowell put out in to much detail.
Poor Fitz had a front row seat yesterday and threw up.
Ron made himself comfortable on the floor and started eating quickly. He realized it was the best way to get through the lesson. It would be a relief to switch professors in a couple of weeks. He heard the interrogation class was fun.
Between bites he would pull out his wand and point it at the empty vase across from him and practice some of the spells in the back of his strategy textbook. One was a spell of durability, a layer of magical protection on an object. It seemed the easiest one to practice with on a vase with the others being tracking spells that Ron might need to find other ways to practice, though tracking spells were difficult and easily manipulated by outside forces.
He flung the vase up and tried to chip it on the wall when a sudden blur of peacock blue robes dashed in front of him, broke his concentration and caused him to break the vase on the floor below.
Lowell's classroom door swung open, almost hit him, and closed with a click just as quickly.
"Merlin's pants!" Ron repaired the vase and leaned back against the wall, propped his bag on closer to the door as a form of protection and decided to try and take a short nap.
Until the sound of conversation came from the muffled classroom door caught his attention.
"Audrey, this is astounding!" The voice was muffled to the point it sounded like someone was talking into a pillow.
Ron stopped trying to sleep against the wall and pulled an extendable ear out of his bag. The ear moved to the door and Ron could now hear the conversation as clearly as if it was happening right in front of him.
"You like them? I've been working on this for the past couple of weeks. It passes the time when the Minister is in meetings."
"Not many wizards can create spells, especially ones that work. Tracking spells are notoriously difficult."
Ron paused, Lowell sounded pleased. Not a tone he used in front of the Auror trainees. That particular tone toed a line between disappointment and sarcasm.
"And you, you brilliant thing, actually created one! Does it actually work?"
"How do you think I'm getting you home by midnight?"
They both laughed and Ron heard the rustling of pages being turned in a book.
"I need something personal of the person I am tracking, and it doesn't last long, but it does work."
"A more powerful focus then? Any ideas?"
There was a sound of shuffling paper, like it was being moved about on a desk.
"A few, but they're kind of gory and I'll try them last."
"I won't press for details then. Just let me know when you figured it out."
"I have a few other ideas too, in the same vein."
There was a moment of silence.
Ron was quite intrigued.
"Audrey, be careful. Messing around with new, powerful magic has gotten a lot of ambitious young researchers killed."
"I know, I'll be careful."
It was quiet again. Just the sound of flipping pages and Ron felt his eyelids grow heavy.
"How have you been feeling after the… incident?"
There was an aggravated sigh, "Fine, except for this."
They stopped talking for almost a minute and Ron leaned closer to the door.
"Is this the hand you used to seal the book? It looks fresh, like it happened the other day."
Ron's eyes flew open. Seal? What does that mean?
He remembered the book she had been holding earlier in the archives.
"Yes, it's not healing like a normal wound. I think it might be cursed but it's not magically afflicted in any way I can tell."
"Did you show the healers when you were in Saint Mungo's?"
"Yes, this is as far as they got. It wouldn't heal anymore."
"I can't help you Aud, I'm absolute shit at healing spells," There was a deep chuckle, "It's a terrible war scar too, I mean, it looks like paper cut."
Audrey's laughed, it sounded momentarily untroubled, "I'm disappointed too. I'll let you finish getting ready for class in peace."
Ron struggled to put away the extendable ear as a rattle on the doorknob announced Audrey's exit.
"Aud, one more thing."
Ron pulled the ear back out.
"The head of security was looking for you earlier. He said you were seen heading towards the Department of Mysteries."
"What do you mean? I've been with the Minister and down in the archives by the old courtrooms most of the morning. I haven't even been near the Department of Mysteries."
Septimus made a low, thoughtful noise. "I just thought I'd ask. Dawson seemed concerned and a bit miffed you appeared to have left your post before your shift was over."
Ron could hear her fingers drumming thoughtfully on the door.
How could someone be in two places at once?
"Audrey, I'll help you figure this stuff out. We'll go over everything after work, okay?"
Ron finally shoved the extendable ear under one of his textbooks.
"Absolutely, I'll see you then, Septimus."
The door flew open and Ron quickly pretended to be asleep against the wall while the door hit his strategically placed bag. He imitated quiet snores for a better effect as Audrey stepped over his legs to walk quickly and quietly through the corridor.
A/N: This chapter and the next one were originally one chapter I split them when I hit 7k-ish. It's the same day, but radically different times. It seemed a good place to divide it. Plus there is a lot of stuff going on.
Audrey's a pretty gifted witch through necessity and natural talent, though that has it own set of problems. Messing around with powerful magic you don't entirely understand can get one hurt or killed. Audrey might be dealing with the ramifications of her choices in AFtGP for years to come and may be beginning to realize it herself.
There is a difference between studying for school as a requirement and schooling for something that you enjoy. Something to think about.
I have a large chunk of the last chapter finished and a short epilogue outlined. Next chapter should be up early next week.