17- Before the Sneak

“Goyle, for Merlin’s sake, this way!” Pansy Parkinson appeared to snap for the fourth time. The large disgruntled man halted where he stood before returning to Pansy’s side to face the chandelier lit hallway. “How many times have I told you not to lead the way, you’re no good at it.”
A few passer-by’s sniggered at Goyles apparent idiocy as they caught Pansy’s eye.

“Well maybe I would be if someone had given me proper directions.” Goyle muttered impatiently.

“Shut up.” Pansy hissed as she adjusted her hole on the large thick file under her arm. “We’re nearly there. Oh damn it, here you take these.” And she forced the overfilled file into Goyle’s arms allowing her to stride freely. “Just round this corner. There shouldn’t be many down here if any at all.” She added indicating the few workers who remained within the Department for the Minister’s Support Staff.
Sure enough, when she and Goyle turned right, they found the long corridor completely abandoned but for one man.
Taking a deep breath and wishing herself luck Pansy cried out “Well Runcorn, isn’t today your lucky day.”

The large, musclebound Wizard looked down on Parkinon as they approached. “My shift doesn’t end for another hour.”

“Only because I wasn’t due in until then.” Pansy quipped making Runcorn’s face twist in anger.

“Listen you little brat, you may think you’re top dog with the boss but you’re nothing but a runt with a fancy last name.”

“Riveting,” Pansy replied flatly making Runcorn’s face twist even further. “But Goyle here has business to bring her and I have a job to do, so be a good boy and tell her we’re here, okay.”

Runcorn glowered at the scrawny Witch menacingly before forcing himself to thud on the door to Umbridge’s office with a clenched fist, but before he could go any further the door swung open to reveal, not Dolores Umbridge, but Mosby Elfrin.

The breath seemed to have been knocked out from Pansy’s body at the sight of him, though it was Runcorn who stole the Minister’s attention. “Runcorn,” He growled in a rough voice. “Remind me again what my orders were when I entered this office?”

For the first time, Runcorn wore fear on his face. “Tha… That you and the Senior Under Secretary were not to be disturbed, sir… But I just thought-”

“You thought you’d go ahead and disturb us anyway?” Mosby interrupted mechanically.

Directly beside Pansy, she could feel Goyle tensing and could almost sense his desire to drop the stacked file and draw out his wand.

“Come now Albert,” Said an unnaturally sweet voice from within the office that made the hairs on Pansy’s neck stand up. “Apologise to the Minister. I refuse to have him think that my workers are completely insubordinate.”

“Please,” Runcorn started at once. “My apologise, Minister.”

Mosby considered the hulking man for a moment, his bloodshot eyes piercing Runcorn’s.

“I thank you again for your council Dolores.” Mosby called out as two cloaked figures glided over each of his shoulders. “I’m trusting you to convince Bomani or else I do it… my way…” He added, still glowering at Runcorn.

“I can assure you Minister, that shan’t be necessary.” The same sweet voice replied.

At this, Mosby finally tore his gaze away from Runcorn and for the first time noticed the two visitors.
“Parkinson,” He greeted with a calm air that no longer suited him and he began his way down the abandoned corridor, his two Dementor guards following closely behind him.

As they passed, Pansy could feel their mere presence draining the warmth from her; the final words she’d heard from Lucy Barns and Amelia Edgcombe echoing in her ear.

“Well, Runcorn?” Umbridge’s voice rang out sharply from within the office.

As though that were the signal for the man to snap out of a trance, Runcorn blinked rapidly, his breathing shaky and his face pale as he looked away from where Mosby had stood. “Sorry, ma’am.” He said quickly. “Parkinson’s here to see you.”

“Then send her in. You’re dismissed.”

Runcorn now looked as though he was about to snap Pansy in two which, judging from their sizes, he could easily do. “You best watch yourself, Parkinson.” He growled as he left his position, though his still pale face softened the threat. “Move it fatso!” He barked as he pushed past Goyle who then had to struggle to keep a hold of the file he was carrying.

Pansy watched as the towering man slumped away until he was completely out of sight.
The remaining pair caught each other’s eye before walking into Umbridge’s office with Pansy making quite sure the door shut behind her.

“Pansy and… Gregory? My, whatever has brought you two here?” Dolores Umbridge asked with the smile that Azkaban appeared to have permanently etched on to her face. Her colourless grey robes were as bland as ever with the exception of the few white hairs that were scattered across her shoulders. Her office however appeared to have finally become an exact copy of her old Hogwarts Office. Clearly she had succeeded in finally finding enough cat portraits to cover each of the office’s bright pink walls with at least a dozen of them, allowing them to look down on them all. What drew the pair’s eyes above all else however was the wand clutched in her stubby hand. Damn, looks like it’s going to be the long route then.

“I’ve brought you this morning’s paperwork ma’am.” Pansy answered. “And Goyle insists that he has some information that would interest you.”

“Really?” Umbridge said as she waved her wand. Instinctively, Goyle tensed up and flinched as she did so but all that was affected was the file in his arms which glided smoothly before her.
“Come now, Gregory,” Umbridge giggled. “You know I would never harm you don’t you? What have I always told you?”

Pansy’s eyes widened at this. While her mind was urging him, pleading him to remember, her hand was moving slowly towards her real wand.

“That we know what we’ve both been through and that alone gives us the responsibility to look out for each other.” Goyle recited and Pansy’s hand eased back to her side.

“Good.” Umbridge replied sweetly as she opened the file and took a quill from a nearby pot. “However, as for what you have to say to me, I’m sure it can easily be said in your charming reports.”

“Uh,” Goyle stumbled. “Well I was afraid of who else might see the report… ma’am.” He finished uncertainly.

“Would the report be about the little nuisance I ordered you to tail?” Umbridge pressed, not even looking at Goyle now but instead at the pieces of parchments that she had begun to sign.

“Yes ma’am.” Goyle replied. “And… someone else as well.”

“Oh?” Umbridge said in what was clearly feigned interest as she continued to sign pieces of parchment after pieces of parchment at a surprising rate though, Pansy noticed, her wand still remained in her other hand. Then, it occurred to her; just what had he said to gain the attention of the real Pansy Parkinson?

“It’s the Minister ma’am. They’re sleeping together.”

Umbridge’s head bolted up right. “What?” She exclaimed before checking the door behind them was in fact shut.

“What?” Pansy added quietly through gritted teeth.

“They’re sleeping together ma’am.” Goyle reiterated.

“P… Preposterous.” Umbridge said breathlessly. “I have people on him too and have had no such reports of-”

“She goes to his under a Disillusionment Charm,” Goyle explained to the two gawping Witches. “I believe she is trying to turn him to her ways of thinking ma’am. Against you.”

Umbridge considered this. She was staring directly at Goyle though it was clear her mind was wiring, piecing together what he’d said. “Do you have any proof?” She asked sternly. “Pictures or anything?”

Pictures? She was asking for pictures?

“Yes ma’am,” Goyle answered obediently. “They’re at my place though. I left them there in case-”

“Well go back and get them then!” Umbridge interrupted franticly. “Go! Now! Hurry! If that little slut is planning to turn the Minister against me then we must act! Now move!” She kept urging, not allowing Goyle to get a single word in.

“Um ma’am!” Pansy interrupted, physically moving between Goyle and the desk at which Umbridge sat at. “Wouldn’t it be more prudent to go there yourself? Avoid the risk of them being… intercepted.” She added as she indicated the rotund man behind her with her eyes.

Umbridge stared wildly at Pansy for a moment before something clearly slid back in to place in her head as her eyes darted to and fro from Pansy and Goyle and the ugly, permanent smile became prominent once again.
“Yes, yes you’re quite right Miss Parkinson. Gregory, we leave for yours, now.” And finally she circled around the desk until she and Pansy were almost nose to nose. “You are to stay here.” She ordered quietly. “Tell anyone who comes that I am on an errand for the Minister, and you are forbidden to say a word of this to anyone, do you understand?”

“Yes ma’am.” Pansy replied, trying not to gag on the heavy smell of perfume that oozed from Umbridge.

“Good. Come Gregory!” Umbridge ordered as she made her way to the door but the moment she had turned around, the moment Pansy was no longer within her sight and she was unable to defend herself, Pansy drew out Merietta’s wand. There was a flash of red and a loud thud as Umbridge hit the floor, unconscious.

“Good job,” The fake Goyle commented as he knelt down and began pulling at Umbridge’s hair. It wasn’t until after her companion had mixed the hair strands in with a fresh vial of Polyjuice potion however that he noticed that Marietta Edgecombe kept the wand trained on Umbridge. “Lower it.” He ordered in Goyle’s low, rough voice.

“Everything that’s ever happened to me is because of her.” Marietta replied in shakier version of Pansy’s. “She forced me to tell on Potter and that stupid D.A crowd. That’s when it started, that’s when it all began.” She could feel the curse building within her along with the burning tears. All of the loneliness, all of the pain, rejection, depression and so much more had all started with the Witch currently at her mercy. All she had to do was say the words.

“We don’t have time to argue.” The disguised Auror said, standing up. “Why do you think we didn’t kill Pansy? If someone comes in here and finds a body, this place will be on lockdown and we’ll never leave here alive.” The wand in Pansy’s pale, scrawny hand was beginning to shake now. “Damnit, think of your mother!” He bellowed as he drew out his own wand, but there was no need. At his last words Pansy’s wand arm slowly began to lower.
“Good.” Goyle said as he knelt back down beside Umbridge and tapped her on the head and murmured “Obliviate”.

After taking the unconscious Witch’s wand and downing the now tar-like Polyjuice potion, the American Auror finally took on the appearance of Dolores Umbridge.
“How do I look?” Umbridge was now asking after forcing herself not to vomit the potion back up.

“Hideous,” Pansy replied wirily. “But here.” And with a few waves of her wand, the oversized robes of Goyle had shrunk to fit the undersized Witch.

“Great,” Umbridge said as she looked over her new self. “Now for stage three. But first…” And with a swish of her wand, the desk chair came zooming from behind Umbridge’s desk before standing at attention before them. With a second wave, the real Umbridge was hurled unceremoniously into the chair. It’s passenger now in position, the chair scraped along the fluffy pink carpet until it returned to the desk with such an abrupt halt, Umbridge’s head fell into the hard wood with a satisfying thud.

The journey up to the Auror Office went surprisingly well in Marietta’s opinion. Clearly the employees of the Ministry had long since learned to look away whenever Umbridge came in to view and the added authenticity of her preferred guard only raised Marietta’s confidence in this part of the plan higher.

“The American Auror. I need to see him. Now.” Umbridge commanded as she grabbed the attention of a stumpy looking Wizard who had just entered the office himself.

“Oh! Y… Yes, of course ma’am.” The Wizard wheezed respectfully though his eyes never left the floor.
After passing through the still scorched and marked Auror Office the Wizard then led them down the corridor of interrogation rooms.
“Here we are ma’am.” Their guide announced once they’d stopped in front of the guarded room that Marietta had visited every day since the real Goyle’s capture.

“Good.” Umbridge said briskly. “We are not to be disturbed, understand?”

“Naturally!” The Wizard said with an uneasy laugh before nodding to the two guards that stood sentinel on either side of the door. At once one of the guards opened the door for the pair before backing away slowly.

Almost trembling with excitement, Pansy followed Umbridge inside.
Marietta did not think before now of how strange it must be for the Auror to enter a room and see himself hanging there in suspension but even she could tell that it had unnerved him. Umbridge’s breathing had grown quick and she seemed unable to look at the hanging figure directly.

“Hey,” Pansy said softly as they drew closer to the fake Auror. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” Umbridge snapped back. “Just wake him up and we can get out of here.”

Pansy nodded before raising her wand. There was a flash of red light and the figure stirred awake.
“Gregory,” Umbridge said sweetly, like a mother stirring her sleeping child. “Gregory, I need you to wake up.”

The sound of this familiar and comforting voice made the man’s eyes snap wide open and at the sight of the pair, tears began streaming down his face. “You… You came.”

“Of course we came.” Umbridge said and Marietta began to feel that the Auror was doing too good of a job at mimicking Goyle’s boss for her comfort. “Everything’s going to be alright. No one’s going to hurt you, okay?”

“She said you didn’t care about me!” The disguised Goyle blurted out. “She tortured me to get her mother’s location but I didn’t say anything, I was loyal!”

“I know you were.” Umbridge replied. “And I am very grateful to you for that.” At this, the Auror’s figure broke down into tears again. “However,” Umbridge said in a raised voice so as to be heard over the wails. “There is one more thing I need from you, Gregory.”

This seemed to cut the crying off completely. “Wh… What?”

“Gregory, I need you to tell me where we hid her mother.”

The Auror’s face twisted into confusion at this command. “Why… Why do I need to tell you? You already know, don’t you?”

“During my… confrontation with Miss Edgecombe,” Umbridge began. “She wiped the location from my mind after discovering it for herself. I need you to tell me Gregory, if we are to catch her.”

The prisoner was looking from Umbridge to Pansy now, clearly deciding on what to do next.
“Come now Gregory, we need to hurry if we’re going to catch her.” But still Goyle remained unsure and confused about what to do. Umbridge glanced back at Pansy wide-eyed, making her heart skip a beat, before turning back and saying “Now what have I always told you Gregory?”

At this, the Auror’s beady, tear-filled eyes were now fixed on Umbridge as the pair of them chanted “That we know what we’ve both been through and that alone gives us the responsibility to look out for each other.”

This seemed to have tipped Goyle into making a decision. Eventually, in a shaky voice, he answered “At you father’s estate, ma’am.”

A cold chill ran down Pansy’s spine as he said this.

“Ah, of course,” Umbridge answered. “Thank you Gregory but I need the address. It was wiped from my mind remember?”

The fake Auror shut his eyes tightly, clearly trying to remember the address. “You said it’s the big brown house on the Northern outskirts of Okewood Hill in Surry.” He finally answered in a rehearsed manner.

The pair spun to face one another, smiles creeping on both of their faces.
“Can you get us there?” Umbridge asked.

“Yes,” Pansy replied, her hand trembling now. “I think I can.”

“Lovely,” Umbridge said sweetly before nodding to Pansy. At once she raised her wand a second time and before the transfigured Goyle could say another word, there was a second flash of red and he returned to his unconscious state.
“Right, let’s get out of here.” Umbridge said and the pair ran for the door.

“Did all go well ma’am?” The wheezy Wizard that had shown them the way asked when he spotted them leaving the corridor.

“Yes, very.” Umbridge answered as she held Pansy back. “But tell me, all the possessions that were found on him and taken from his residence, what happened to them?”

The man blinked at her, clearly bewildered. “Uh well his wand would have been taken to storage as a spare… Is there anything in particular you were looking for ma’am?”

“Bring me all of it.” Umbridge ordered with a reproachful look from Pansy. “Everything you can find of his I want here now. Minister’s orders.” She added in a threatening tone.
At once the Wizard became wide-eyed and scurried off spluttering “Of course, right away” while signalling co-workers to help him gather the materials.

Within minutes they were before a work desk cluttered with the Auror’s belongings including large scrap books that Marietta recognised as thick notebooks, various magical devices considered unhelpful towards the war effort including Sneakoscopes and Decoy Detonators and several pieces of blank parchment.

“We believe that they were written on in Invisible ink, ma’am.” The Wizard commented as Umbridge examined every inch of a particular blank sheet.

“Yes, clearly.” Umbridge replied flatly before looking back at him. “I’ll be needing a bag for all of this.”

“Uh,” The Wizard stuttered. “We… We need special permission to sign… these… off…” But the man’s voice tailed away as Umbridge peered over the parchment paper and glowered at him.

“I thought you said time was of the essence.” Pansy said through gritted teeth as they left once an enchanted satchel had been found and every possession of the Auror’s had been stuffed into it.

“Trust me,” Umbridge replied as she gripped the satchel tightly. “What we just did was probably the most important thing we’ve done today.”

It was almost too easy now. All they had to do was climb up the stairs, cross the now jam-packed Atrium, ignore any and all requests directed at Umbridge and…

“We’re out…” Pansy breathed quietly as they turned onto the London street.

“You sound surprised.” Umbridge said with a small laugh. “Now, up to you.”

“Oh… yes.” Pansy spluttered. “Um but before we go you think you could..?” And she indicated her disguised body.

“Geez, do you hate being her that much?” Umbridge said as she drew out her wand.

“It’s not that,” Pansy said. “I just think Marietta Edgecombe is going to be more useful then Pansy Parkinson from here.”

“Fair enough.” Umbridge replied and after finding a secluded ally-way, he removed the effects of the potion and Marietta returned.

“Thank you,” She said as she looked over her own hands before offering one and not daring to think about her returned scars. “Here, I think I know where to start.”
The moment Umbridge’s thick stumpy hand enclosed around Marietta’s, the pair vanished with a crack.

A fresh, countryside Summer breeze struck the duo as they reappeared in what appeared to be the treeline of a wide, green farmland.
“This way.” Marietta ordered.

“Hang on!” Umbridge called out, grabbing Marietta by the arm. “Is this Muggle territory?”

“Yeah, why, what do you-? Oh…” She suddenly realised that two cloak-dressed women would stick out somewhat around Muggles.

“Got any clothes in mind?” Umbridge asked sulkily as she sat down in the grass and waved a wand around herself.

“Yes, hang on.” And with a wave of her own wand, Marietta’s black robes were replaced with a pair of light blue jeans and a thin green hoodie.

“Very nice.” The Auror said once he had transformed back into his original body. “Just give me one second.” And he pulled out from his own now undersized robes a long metallic leg. After attaching it to his stump with a single hard tug, he gave Marietta a single nod. She waved her wand again and the Auror’s robes changed into a pair of pale, well-worn jeans, a dark, quilted jacket on top of a thin checkered shirt and a pair of leather boots.
“Did you have to make me look like a farmer?” The Auror complained as he opened the satchel those at the Auror office had given him and pulled out the piece of parchment he had been examining.

“Look around at where we are, genius. What are you doing now?” Marietta pressed.

“Look, I know you’re eager but this needs to be done.” And, upon digging the tip of his wand into the parchment, its edges turned a bright shade of blue. “Just keep a look out and make sure I’m not overheard.” And with that he brought the parchment up to his face. “This is Auror Saxon Murphy, code-name bald-eagle, reporting in. Having escaped imprisonment I have been working alongside a level three on a pro-Confederation mission; their identity will be discussed in person in case message is somehow intercepted. Please respond ASAP. I repeat, this is Auror Saxon Murphy, code-named bald-eagle, reporting in alive and… Somewhat well.”

There was utter silence following this as the Auror replaced the parchment back into his bag.
“So… A level three, am I?” Marietta asked as Saxon stood up.

“Only on our list.” He replied warningly. “Now, I believe you have somewhere to take us?”

“Of course. Right this way Mr Bald-eagle.” And with a small snort of laughter, Marietta led the way across a winding country road and towards a small country pub that for the most part was completely hidden behind greenery.

“Did you fancy a drink?” Saxon asked in a sarcastic manner that Marietta chose to ignore.

“There are guys in here who know this whole county like the back of their hand. If anyone knows exactly where Umbridge’s estate is, they’ll be here.” And after crossing the gravely path, the pair reached the tiny door beneath the sign with The Swan’s Charm in freshly coated ruby letters.

It was a true country pub in Marietta’s opinion with the faint smell of beer wafting in the air, various novel pictures and portraits lining the dark brown walls and the quiet sounds of the locals chit-chatting being matched by the television that hung over the bar.

“Well I’ll be, it’s been some time since you’ve graced us Marietta.” A rounded, white bearded man proclaimed from behind the bar. “What’s it been now?”

“Over two years now, Lee.” Marietta replied with a forced smile as she and her Auror drew closer to the bar.

“Blimey, that long is it? Here I was thinking that strange fella in the robes had kidnapped yer.” Lee gave a wheezy laugh. “D’ya remember ‘im, funny little guy he was.”

“That’s right, that’s the last time I was here.” Marietta said, the fake smile struggling to remain in place as Saxon gave her a sideways glance. “But work sort of kept me in London for a while.”

The old barman laughed as he pointed a finger at her. “Eh, didn’t we always say you were going places. Marge always used to tell anyone who’d listen you’d do well, didn’t she, bless her soul. And I see you’ve brought a fella along.” He added cheekily.

Saxon gave off a nervous laugh. “Well we were passing through and Marietta wanted to pop in.”

“Ah, well you can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl, can ya?” He added with a wink to Marietta. “But we can catch up over a drink, what’ll you have?”

“Oh, we can’t stay too long-” Marietta started but was cut off by a second point of Lee’s stubby finger.

“Now don’t give me all that city malarkey and it’s on the house. Now… don’t tell me…” He said, screwing his eyes up in concentration. “Whisky and coke! Am I right?”

Marietta looked from the hopeful barman to the Auror beside her shrugging.
“That… That would be lovely, thank you.”

“Just a beer for me, barman’s choice.” Saxon answered when the finger had been pointed to him.

“Whisky and coke and a cold one coming up!” Lee exclaimed as he went around the corner.

“I didn’t take you for a pub regular.” Saxon mocked. “Especially after how Marge always told you you’d make it someday.”

“Oh, shut up.” Marietta hissed. “Pity was all these Muggles ever gave me. I only ever came here to get away from people who actually knew me and to drink.”

“And to meet Death Eaters.” Saxon pressed as he took a seat on one of the tall bar stools and leaned against the bar, not looking at her.

“It was one time.” Marietta answered in a rush. “And the first.”

Saxon finally looked at her. “So this is where Selwyn recruited you, is it? A Muggle pub full of people he’d like nothing better than to kill for sport.”

Marietta didn’t answer for Lee had just come bouncing back around the corner carrying their drinks.
“So, you’ve found yourself an American have ya?” He asked as he handed over the glasses. “Where abouts you from then?”

“Utah,” Saxon answered before taking a deep swig.

“Ah, beautiful place. And no need to tell me that you’re an army man. Unless you just like to get into a few scraps.” Lee laughed, indicating the faded scars on Saxon’s face.

“Yes, that’s right.” Saxon answered kindly. “Been serving since I left school.”

“Ah, it’s a proud profession to serve you country.”

“Yes,” Saxon replied with a sideward glance at Marietta. “It is, isn’t it. I just got back from abroad and Marietta here had promised me a trip around the different countrysides.”

Lee gave another booming laugh. “Well she would wouldn’t she, wants to show ya her roots!”

“Actually Lee,” Marietta interrupted after downing most of her drink. “One of the reasons I came in was to ask if you knew of a place my friend told me about.”

“Oh yeah?” Lee replied curiously.

“Yeah, he described a large brown-housed estate, on the Northern outskirts of here. Any ideas?”

“Brown-housed estate… Hang on. Oi, Davey!” Lee bellowed out and a decrepit stick of a man turned around. “That manor a couple of fields north, it’s a big brown building isn’t it? Only one for a good long while anyway, right?”

“Yeah that’s right!” The man replied in a weedy voice. “Wandworth Estate; beautiful place! Strange fella who lives there though, likes to keep ‘imself to ‘imself.”

“That’s the one; Wandworth Estate. You find and follow Highland Road up north, you can’t miss it.”

“Thank you Lee,” Marietta said before downing the rest of drink that she then realised she needed more than she thought. “But we really must be off now.”

“Oh, right, of course.” Lee said, the tone of disappointment unmissable. “Well don’t be a stranger, you hear? I know some of the others’ll be dying to catch up with you.”

Marietta chose not to respond to this but instead allowed Lee to say his goodbyes to Saxon, who had only gotten through half of his own drink, before waving the old bartender off herself.

“I was enjoying that beer.” Saxon complained once they had shut the pub door behind them.

“Oh shut up!” Marietta snapped as she looked around and drew out her wand. “Over here.” And she led the Auror around to the side of the pub where the cramped carpark resided.

“So first you use him purely for information and now we’re stealing a car from his carpark.”

“Well I’ve never been that far North of the county so unless you also have a broom in that damned bag of yours… Here.” She said, stopping in front of a bark blue Landcruiser. “This isn’t Lee’s, feel better?”

“If it means we get this over quickly.” Saxon replied as he watched Marietta tap the handle of the driver’s side door with her wand and unlock it immediately. “Know how to drive this thing?”

“Yes, actually, I do!” Marietta snapped, a little too harshly, as the memory of her first lesson crept painfully into mind.
The pair clambered in and, after starting the ignition with a second tap of Marietta’s wand, the car turned out of the Swan’s Charm’s carpark and drove away.

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