Theme: Protection and dueling ability
July 27th, 1998
Ron tried to retrace his steps up to this point.
He had been walking down the long, dark back corridor that the security guard, Oddball had pointed him down for several minutes. According to the map Sahirah had given him it was a back way around the spinning room and most of the experiment rooms used by the Unspeakables. It was dark, eerie and the dim magelights gave him a slight headache from trying to look up ahead, the light he kept in his deluminator was not helping much with headache prevention.
It was also incredibly dusty and made him sneeze.
The silence was broken by a noise up ahead and Ron pocketed his deluminator and broke into a steady, quiet jog with the cushioning charms he had put on his shoes.
Suddenly, he found his feet flying over his head as he entered an open space and a cold, splitting pain down the back of his skull.
"Oh, you are not dumb enough to do this twice."
It was becoming very clear that he had run straight into one of Audrey's traps.
Ron turned his head, Audrey sat on a bottom step of a nearby staircase and crossed her arms, and clearly not feeling threatened now that he was on the floor. She looked smaller and eerier in the shadows of the room in a uniform that was too large for her slight frame. The ice at her feet had melted, but he could still feel the bitter cold beneath him. If he tried to get up he would find himself back on the floor.
"Ugh… How did you know I following you?"
"You sneezed and it sounded like a train! You should see someone about that!"
Nobody, absolutely nobody, could find out that was how he got caught. Thwarted by dust.
Audrey's foot tapped in irritation while she glanced around the room and peered behind Ron suspiciously, "You're not here alone, are you?"
Ron groaned. "You're right. I'm not. I'm here to help you."
Audrey looked like she had just been punched in face. "I'm sorry, what?"
"You know Frank Reeve?"
The ice melted beneath him while Audrey nodded. "Went to school with him."
Ron sat up and tried to ease the throbbing in his skull with a cooling charm before he tried to perform a healing spell on himself. Something he had actually never done before.
"Reeve's after you about something. He's been focused on it since our training class started with your teacher."
Ron could not focus on the healing charm he needed. His head was throbbing to badly to focus on what was sure to be the large goose egg forming on the back of his head.
Audrey made a thoughtful noise. "I'd fix your head, but I'm not a very good healer I'm afraid. Anyway, continue."
"We have evidence, Audrey. You've been seen in places you had no business being in by a few different people. I just want to know why so we can clear all of this up and you can go back to doing whatever it is you do for Lowell."
Her eyes rolled dismissively as she got to her feet, brushing the dirt off the seat of her robes. The security department wore combat robes like the Enforcers and the Aurors, the end was supposed to be at the knees; Audrey's went to the top of her boots. Ron could have sworn he saw something shiny sticking out of her right boot for a brief moment.
"First of all, five other people have my level of clearance."
"Secondly, I can go where the Minister can, within reason because I've been assigned permanently to his support staff."
Kingsley was careful to personally pick out his people. Audrey would not have clearance or work in the support staff office if Kingsley did not trust her.
Audrey tilted her head slightly, "Lastly, that's classified."
Ron got to his feet and kept his hand on the back of his head as the throbbing dulled. Audrey stayed where she was at the bottom of the stairs and peered up at him, as if she was still trying to figure him out. Perhaps also how much she could tell him without giving too much away.
Aside from the staircase, there was another corridor ahead of Ron and a couple of other doors off to the side of the room. This was not a highly used area by the Unspeakables, but it was traveled through. Possibly a back exit in case something got loose.
There was only the sound of the steady dripping of a leaky pipe down the back corridor. The air just reeked of mistrust. Audrey scuffed her boot on the floor while looking at him thoughtfully.
"You went turncloak on Reeve pretty quickly, why should I trust you?"
Ron found her wand pointed in his face.
"State your case Weasley."
Ron put his hands up in a sign of surrender while he tried to find a way to not put his foot in his mouth. This was it, if Ron was going to get trustworthy help to get to the bottom of everything that was going on, this was the moment. If he got this wrong, there would be a nasty duel that Ron could not be sure of the outcome of.
He remembered something Scully and Cadwallader had said at the bar.
Ron smiled, "You're not going to hurt me. You're just trying to scare me off."
"What makes you so sure?" The tip of her wand lit up with a bright red light. "If you have nothing to offer except ideas of my character, you can go somewhere else."
"How's Percy doing?"
Audrey's wand dimmed so quickly it was like flipping a switch; Audrey lowered her wand while her face turned a stunning pink. Ron kept his face impassive, attacking Percy's brother would not progress whatever was going on between the two of them, something that Audrey clearly enjoyed.
He made a note to listen to more barkeeps; Scully was clearly a man who knew a great many things.
"I don't think he would like his friend putting his little brother in the hospital."
Audrey's face took a blank expression. "I-I was not going to put you in the hospital."
She was probably going to rewrite his memories, something she mentioned doing to some poor toerags for Lowell.
Ron shook his head, "You wanted me to state my case? Alright then, as much as you pretend to be, you're not a bad person."
Audrey raised an eyebrow and adjusted the collar of her peacock blue security uniform. She took a step back to try and put some more distance between them and crossed her arms in front of her chest and hunched over slightly. She seemed to disagree with his opinion.
"I saw your file. There was a note about you protecting your dad-"
Audrey's eyes became the size of saucers before they narrowed coldly. Her voice was cold; Ron could see the ice on her fingertips and felt the temperature drop. "He's not my dad, he's my father. There's a difference."
All right, daddy issues.
"You could have disappeared, hid in plain sight, but you stayed to fight."
Audrey's icy eyes peered up at him through the shadow of her mousey brown hair. "I have a right to stay and fight for my home, my life, and my right to magic."
Ron pitied her. "That's all?" There was more to life then studying magic.
Audrey scuffed her boot on the floor and shrugged. "I couldn't leave Septimus, you've noticed he doesn't walk very well and he's very mouthy."
Ron made an agreeable noise.
"If you've seen my file, then I'm sure you've noticed I had no home left in that world anyway." She bit her bottom lip and took another step away from him and looked at the ground focusing on a particular crack in the tile. "Protection charms around Aran's place bought me more time to disappear. That's all."
Not protecting her muggle father probably would have gotten the man tortured or executed with the record she had in order to try and get her out of hiding. Ron had doubts that Audrey could live with that kind of guilt; even with what was a loveless relationship between the two of them.
"I don't think that's the whole story."
Audrey smiled darkly and looked at the wall behind him, "You're right, it's not, but the whole story is nothing that concerns you. Which is something I believe we have already discussed just a few days ago."
She pulled a small gold chain out of her pocket, like something that would be on a piece of jewelry and held it in front of her on an open palm. It glowed softly and small gold charm at the end pointed down a long dark corridor.
"You want to come with me?"
"You said you wanted to help clear my name. I have a lead, but if I'm right, I may need some help."
"You'll help me better by not knowing everything right now."
Ron felt rage start to simmer in his gut and creep slowly up his neck. No, he was not going to do this on her terms. Trust was a two way street and he did not care to walk into anything blind with someone who held all of the cards.
"If you don't trust me enough to be honest with me, go by yourself."
He turned and began to walk up the stairs. Ron stopped suddenly and turned back to Audrey, who looked very confused, complete with a doglike head tilt. She shrugged and turned to walk down the corridor following the little glowing chain in her hand that seemed to be pulling her in a particular direction and to a door halfway down the corridor.
Ron took another few steps up and pulled his map out of his pocket. Saying he never saw Audrey would not help get Reeve off her back. It would solve none of the mysteries around this place that Ron had been investigating. Lastly, Ron did not leave things like this unfinished.
He sighed, this woman was complicated and dangerous, and Ron was not sure how involved he wanted or needed to be to see this through. He could play by her rules for now and wash his hands of her until she came around for dinner at the Burrow. The other choice was to walk away now and let her deal with Reeve alone, which seemed to be how she preferred to deal with things.
The floor shook with such violence that Ron fell to his knees with a shout as his knees hit the stone and tile beneath him. He waited until the shaking stopped and moved slowly down the steps where a very familiar noise filled his senses.
The loud crackle and snap of battle magic from beyond the door Audrey had entered a few moments before.
That might not be good.
Ron finished his climb down the stairs and jogged to the door Audrey had disappeared through. He heard the sounds grow more intense and he pulled out his wand and flung the door open with a spell before dashing through the door with his shield charm up and ready.
He was promptly blasted back through the door by spell rebound.
That was not the smartest thing he had done today.
Ron got back on his feet and put up a shield charm again and walked back into the room.
What Ron saw when he entered the room was the weirdest thing he would see this week.
Though not as weird as Cat-Hermione in second year.
Audrey was getting to her feet and was looking around nervously, like she had dropped something, she was bleeding from a cut on her head. Her hands were empty and there was no sign of her wand. Ron looked over for her opponent and his mouth fell open.
It was another Audrey.
This one picking herself up off the floor clutching a bleeding arm as she glared at the other woman from behind an old desk. She walked out from behind the desk with a noticeable limp.
Ron looked around and took in the damage to the room that looked like it had a better chance of staying in one piece in an actual earthquake; it seemed to be an old office. He noticed something as he stepped forward for a better look to try and find out which Audrey was the real one, it was a wand peaking out from under a piece of wood. He picked up the wand and put it in his back pocket.
The Audrey who was bleeding from her head was now clutching her chest and staggered forward. There was still fight in her eyes.
"Hey, look what I got!" Ron held up the wand he had picked up. The women looked over at him stunned.
"That's my wand!" They both said in unison.
Well, this could be a problem.
"Ron," The one with a head wound said quietly, "I need that back."
"Don't listen to her, she's been impersonating me for weeks!" The other one gasped as she staggered forward.
"Homini revelare," Ron swished his wand and nothing about either woman changed. If either of them was in disguise or using polyjuice potion it should have revealed their true face.
The two Audreys in front of him were identical. It would be a difficult task to find the right one even if the right woman was here. He needed to ask a question only the real Audrey would know, but he did not know her that well.
Okay, what did he know about her? She has a wartime record, some shady connections, and is a gifted witch. She was also shy and easily embarrassed. He had to work this in such a way that the false one would not gain an advantage.
Information specifically from her file might be off limits too; to risky if the false Audrey had read it.
"I have three questions, answer them correctly, and prove your identity, you'll get the wand."
"How many apprentices did Lowell have before you?"
"Six." They answered in unison, glaring at each other as they did so.
Okay then, Ron, do better.
"What is the name of my brother who works in the Minister's office?"
"Percy." The Audrey who was bleeding from the head turned pink in the face. Ron made a disgusted noise, had an inkling of an idea and pressed on.
"How did you get that scar on your hand?"
The Audrey with the arm injury examined her hands closely in confusion. The real one punched her in the mouth and showed him her scarred hand.
Ron threw her the wand; Audrey caught it, fumbling a bit on the catch, and blasted the dazed impersonator into the wall. The force of Audrey's magic left the copy pressed against the wall a meter off the ground. The copy screeched as its head bounced off the wall and its hair fell in front of its eyes. "You were supposed to be meek and spineless! To invested in your books to let anything or anyone into your life!"
Audrey's eyes narrowed and glimmered like chips of ice. "Who made you, puppet?" She pointed her wand at the copy's chest, pulling it away from the wall and slamming it back into it while it cried out in pain. "Simulacrum can't stray far from their masters."
Simulacrum? Ron repeated the word in his head to try and figure out its meaning along with where he had heard it before. He was starting to think he had bit off more then he could chew with this case.
The simulacrum smiled, "Wouldn't you like to know?"
Audrey pulled it forward and flung the simulacrum over her head, onto the floor behind her with a resounding bang. Ron heard a cracking noise as the simulacrum landed on top of some of the rubble from the earlier explosion.
The thing screamed.
Ron winced and rushed over to grab Audrey's arm to stop her from doing it again. "Okay, you've made your point!"
Audrey rammed her elbow into his gut with such force; his grip on her loosened enough for her to go free. Ron doubled over trying to suck in the air that was forced from his lungs with a dry, desperate noise.
The simulacrum was lying on the floor, stunned from the blows Audrey had laid down upon it. Audrey's wand was lit with a red light that she brought down to the thing's chest that caused it's whole body to glow for a brief moment before it split open with a noise that reminded Ron of splitting wood and Audrey shoved her hand into its chest.
"Where is it?" She whispered as her hand moved around inside the simulacrum's chest.
Ron was started to get his breath back as Audrey gave a triumphant cry as the simulacrum twitched violently and gave a final sigh as she put the mechanical thing she had pulled out its chest next to its still body.
Audrey stood back up and walked back to Ron and knelt down next to him.
Ron was confused, "What did you do?"
She looked at him calmly, "You've never fought a simulacrum. They don't feel pain, and you have to remove their heart, or kill their master otherwise they will keep rising to fulfill their mission."
"You've done that before?"
"Spot of trouble in Germany a couple of years ago when I first started my apprenticeship. One of Septimus's contacts turned and we had to fight our way out." Audrey sat down and Ron followed her lead.
Magical research suddenly sounded a lot more dangerous then Ron had imagined. He wondered briefly how her career interview fifth year had gone over, because he did not remember a career pamphlet for clone murder.
"Why don't Aurors handle stuff like that?"
Audrey sighed, "Aurors are some of the greatest duelists in the world, but they don't have the…" She paused and moved her hand around to try and jog her thoughts. "Finesse, or obscure knowledge that researchers like me have access too to kill something like this. Most of us are solitary and bookish, hiding in libraries to write papers and reports for the journals. Septimus and I write papers too, but we're a bit unique for going out and applying it on field jobs when we get them."
His dad was right; the man was clearly an exceptional teacher considering how quickly Audrey had put the simulacrum down in a weakened state. Though it was not just teaching, Audrey had to have some exceptional magical talents of her own to merely survive her apprenticeship and the war.
"Do other researchers fight as well as you?"
"No," Audrey's face turned a deep crimson while she tried to stop the bleeding from the cut on her head. "Septimus was once an Auror, he's a proper warlock, likes to fight and throw spells around. I got good because that's what he likes to teach me. He wanted me to have at least a thirty percent chance of surviving the war considering I graduated school after Dumbledore died."
Those shadows under her eyes made her look older then nineteen.
"Your file said you've been working for him for two years?"
Audrey shrugged, "I did him a favor, he gave me a place to stay in the shop and then hired me on after I had, er… words with Fred and George about their firework testing."
"You weren't even out of school yet."
"I had to grew up fast. Septimus pushed me to go back to school for my NEWTs instead of quitting to work fulltime. He said my grades were to good not to go back. Not really a mindset that makes it easy to talk to people your own age."
"Any other reason you were investigating this aside from clearing your name?"
Audrey looked at the husk of the simulacrum for a moment before turning back to Ron. "I need to know who's behind this, and there's something else I need to find out about too."
"Do you think it's tied to this?"
Audrey shrugged. "I can't say, but a crime was committed." She bit her lip and pressed her fingers together. "Did you hear about what happened to Selene Scoresby?"
"The publisher in Diagon Alley?" Ron shuddered at the memory of even hearing about that and the rage in Lee's voice when he told the story. "Yeah, I heard about it on PotterWatch a while back."
"I knew Selene Scoresby." Ron gave Audrey his full attention. "She was an incredibly nice woman, when I heard the details about what had happened to her, I had to find her killer. Her daughter Serena, she deserves justice for what she saw happen to mother." Audrey's eyes were wet and she turned away to try and hide it. "I met Serena after the war, this ten year old kid was homeless and stealing to try and get by. We finally got her in with an old neighbor of hers a couple of weeks ago, but she comes to hang out at the Leaky Cauldron to play darts with a Cappie Garland, a kid Septimus decided to take in." Audrey wiped her eyes and they grew hard. Ron noted the boy's last name corresponded with the names in her file. "And she named Sergius Sloan as her mother's killer."
"Sergius Sloan? The Head of the Floo Regulations department?"
Ron's mouth fell open. This could shake up the Ministry; Sloan was a well-respected official even after the war.
"The very same. He's been investigating crime and corruption within the Ministry and has a history of going through my locker without a warrant. Sloan tried to interrogate me over a book I had in there a few weeks ago. He hasn't cared to try again."
That might explain how Sloan had run afoul Percy.
"I've been hoping to catch Sloan at some other nefarious things or corner him into a confession, but he's been good about avoiding me."
"How many people saw him execute Selene?"
"According to my sources, ten. Including her daughter, a few other children Selene was caring for and some shopkeepers who had not been run out but afterwards were threatened into silence. Fowler told me exactly what he saw after a couple glasses of whiskey so I could look into it." Audrey paused. "He also gave me the memory."
That memory was a damning piece of evidence, but memories could be tampered with.
"Is there anyone else who could give a memory to confirm what happened?"
"I'm working on that now, but he's pretty hard to find and he'll need convincing. It seems easier to corner Sloan and put the pressure on while I have a recording charm ready."
Well, she's either Gryffindor levels of brave or crazy and Ron was not sure which.
"Anyway," Audrey sighed and ran her fingers through her short wavy hair, she looked exhausted. Dealing with all of that would be incredibly stressful. "Where's your friend, Reeve?"
"I was going to meet him-" Before Ron could finish he had a thought. "Audrey, how far can a simulacrum be from its creator?"
Audrey blinked owlishly, once, twice and her mouth fell open. She got to her feet quickly and went to the husk, kneeling next to the simulacrum and picking up its mechanical heart, holding it in her hands for a moment. Still holding it in her left hand she pulled out her wand and whispered a spell that Ron could not hear. Audrey looked around quickly and the heart glowed brightly. She put the heart down and stood up.
"Depends on the creator, the source of the spell looks like it is coming from the entryway to the Department of Mysteries."
Where Ron was going to meet Reeve.
Ron felt his jaw clench and his temper flare. That son of a bitch! Reeve tried to frame Audrey so he could go about his business without any interference. What did he want?
"How do you want to handle this?" Audrey asked quietly.
Ron was a bit at a loss. There was no discernable motive that he could see right now. "I don't know."
Audrey gave him a hawkish look. "You're the Auror, I'm a civilian."
Vigilante if one wanted to get technical.
"I think arresting someone is more your job then mine."
"He made that thing to look like you! I think you get a say!"
"And he made me look incompetent, but that still does not make me qualified to be an Auror!"
Ron groaned and rubbed his temple, "You led a rescue operation."
Her face turned a luminescent pink, "I didn't mean to!"
"How do you do that?"
"I stopped asking that question a long time ago."
Ron's brain began to click together with ideas, he felt like he was staring at a chessboard. Audrey, the rook, had struck down the simulacrum pawn. Reeve, as the opposing king could be put in a checkmate with Ron acting as the knight in tandem with the rook.
"I might have an idea."
Audrey raised an eyebrow.
"But you'll have to trust me."
A/N: Sit tight for fight scenes. Something I enjoy writing, quite a bit.