20- Choosing a Kiss

Marietta stared at herself in the mirror that hung from her wardrobe door. The jet black robes she wore were the cleanest she’d worn since the coup though her room couldn’t have been messier. Everything had been used, moved or thrown out completely in order to make Amelia Edgecombe to be more comfortable. She lay in Marietta’s bed in a deep enchanted sleep while a makeshift Potion Dispenser pumped the nutrients she had been denied into her weakened figure.

A sharp knock at the door made her jump and her hand twitch for the wand within her pocket but she felt her heart settle as the voice of Saxon asked “You decent?”

“Yeah, come in.” Marietta replied as she took in a deep breath in an attempt to calm herself down.
The Auror entered before gently closing the door behind him.

“You ready for this?” He asked.

“No, but since when has that ever mattered.”

Saxon cracked a laugh. “We’re in the home stretch here.” He said in a surprisingly comforting manner. “You get this done and-”

“And I get to relax in a cell for the rest of my life.” She interrupted, turning to look him in the eye.

“And your mother gets proper medical treatment as opposed to an Imperiused nurse and a homemade medical kit and you both get to leave Mosby’s reach.” Saxon continued. “Orford said he’s ready when you are.”

Marietta felt every muscle she had clench up as he said this. After their assault on Wandworth Manor, with nowhere else to turn, Orford had found himself sticking with the pair these past twenty-four hours and recovering at her flat.
“Does he… does he have to come?” She asked tentatively for the hundredth time since Saxon had made the decision. “I’m sure I could-”

“What? Convince Mosby that you single handily killed Umbridge and all four of her most loyal followers?” He stared at her with a pair of raised eyebrows. “We’ve discussed this, this is the best plan we have. We don’t have enough Polyjuice Potion to accommodate what might be a day-long mission, we can’t-”

“I killed his daughter.” Marietta hissed at him.

“A daughter that had imprisoned him and left him for dead because she was ashamed of him. He wants safe passage to America just as much as we do.”

“Can we not just try and Imperius him?” Marietta persisted in a pleading tone.

“Oh yeah, that’ll win his trust over.” He snorted. “If he broke free how do you think he’d feel towards us then?”

Marietta didn’t answer. She turned away instead to face her sleeping mother. “You promise me she’ll be treated well?” She pressed.

“I’ll see she gets everything she needs personally.” Saxon replied.

Praying that her faith in the Auror was not misplaced, Marietta turned and said “Fine, but I want either you or Tanya with her at all times until I get back and should we be ousted-”

“I know the plan, Marietta.” Saxon said calmly. “And I’ve been pretty fond of it since coming up with it.”
Although Saxon was giving her a small grin, Marietta felt like she could do anything but.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” And Saxon pulled out a sheet of parchment from his robes. “It’s got a Protean Charm on it, so anything you write on it will-”

“I know what a Protean Charm does.” Marietta snapped. It was just like those forsaken coins Potter and his friends had used.
“Let’s just do this.” Marietta said as she snatched thee parchment sheet and led the way out of her bedroom.

“So, we on the off then?” Orford asked as they walked into the living room. Although his complexion still looked somewhat grave, he was nearly unrecognisable to the man they had saved from his daughter’s prison the previous evening. His bright white hair was clean and shining and the pouchy eyes he had shared with his daughter had far more life behind them than they did at the manor. One of the first things he insisted on doing upon his release was empty out the contents of his Gringotts vault, something that Dolores had apparently tried and failed to do.
“See, that’s why you keep the details to your own personal account a secret.” He’d said deridingly as he levitated a large sack of gold away from the near-deserted bank. This along with the fine, emerald-threaded robes that he’d bought himself straight after seemed to have done more for his health than any charm or potion; or at any rate, the severe cough that had plagued him had subsided somewhat.

Pansy’s original wand being twirled in-hand, Orford looked up at the two expectantly from Marietta’s couch.
“Yeah, we’re on the off.” Marietta answered mechanically.

At once, Orford hoisted himself off the couch with a small groan that made Marietta’s heart sink and stood at attention before them. “Right then, the sooner we get there, the sooner we get to the States.”

“Just don’t do anything rash,” Saxon stated to him. “And follow Marietta’s lead.”

Orford bowed his head obediently with his hands up in a mock surrender.

Silently, her heart pounding as it had been too often these days, Marietta led the way out of her apartment with Orford at her heels.

Despite it nearing the end of the working day, the Ministry was as busy as ever. However, whereas once it would have been filled with workers discussing meetings and legislations, it was now crammed with Wizards and Witches swapping stories of their last Muggle hunt or excitedly talking about Mosby’s militarization of the entire Ministry with some even practicing their duelling skills in the Atrium causing chunks of green stone and marble to fall off the walls and ceiling when hit by a stray curse.

“Vell, vell, look who’s decided to come to work after all.” Said a sneering German accented voice from behind. Marietta turned around to see Rodine with Bomani by his side strutting towards them. While Rodine wore a look of appeased malice on his rat-like face, the tall and tanned leader of The Hunters appeared stern and narrow eyed and looked down on Marietta as though she were a complicated equation.

“I need to see Mosby.” Marietta stated but before she could press his location, Rodine cut in.

“And he needs to see you.” The threat in his voice was unmissable.

“Good,” Marietta replied, trying desperately not to let the fear that encased her show. “Then you’ll do us both a favour and tell me where he is.”

Rodine laughed. “I’d be doing you a favour by telling you to run.”

“Who is this?” Bomani asked, his attention now on Orford.

A small smile crept up onto Marietta’s face. “This is Orford Umbridge,” She announced. “Dolores’ father.”

“Umbridge?” Rodine exclaimed and he was now looking at Orford very carefully, clearly trying to spot the similarities as a twinge of fear glistened in his dark eyes.

“Mosby is in his office.” Bomani said in a stony voice.

“Thank you,” Marietta replied respectfully. “And why, may I ask, is he looking for me?”

“He vas looking for you to send off more forces to join Meng.” Rodine answered, his eyes still on the old man beside her. “Hexed some poor sap who worked for you after dey confessed to not knowing vare you were.”

Marietta’s heart sank. She was in trouble with Mosby already before they had even started.

“I wouldn’t go in expecting a warm welcome.” Bomani added warningly to her.

“Anyone who goes into Mosby’s office expecting a warm welcome is a fool to begin with.” Marietta retorted bitterly and, despite her every instinct telling her not to, she turned on the spot and continued to lead the way towards the golden lifts.

After the doors clanged shut behind them, Marietta found herself alone with Orford.
“Is it wise to continue when Mosby’s already mad at you?” He asked quietly. “From what little I’ve heard, he’s not one you walk away from having failed.”

This did not help Marietta’s already shattered nerves. “We stick to the plan.” She said shakily. “Better that we confront him than he confront us. But if something should happen, and I don’t make it…”

“I’ll tell Saxon what happened.” Orford said. “Given that I do make it.” He added darkly as the lift shuddered to a halt.

As the ringing voice of “Level One, the Minister for Magic’s Office and Ministry Support Staff” echoed within the lift, the golden doors spread open to reveal the floor to be just as empty as it had been when Marietta and Saxon had attacked Umbridge.

“This way.” Marietta ordered.

“I know,” Orford retorted indignantly as they started walking. “I’ll have you know I’d worked here longer than you’ve been alive.”

“Really?” Marietta said in curiously. “Which Department?”

Orford gave her a narrowed eyed stare. “Magical Maintenance…” He answered and Marietta suddenly found herself questioning the magical capabilities of her companion.

Silently they continued through the main hallway until they found themselves in front of the Dementor guarded office door.
Although the surrounding Dementors made it sound as though their voices were a great distance away, Marietta could hear the conversation taking place inside.

“She’s a child playing hero, Mosby.” One voice stated.

“She’s a threat,” Mosby snarled back. “She shook up the Confederation once, she will do it again and undo all of our work; and… I fear Benjin being right about her. Because if he was, she may indeed have a larger power backing her up.”

There was a pause following this. Taking the opportunity of silence, Marietta raised a fist. Feeling as though she were knocking on the door of death itself, Marietta wrapped her knuckles against it lightly. After the third light tap, the door opened and Marietta suddenly found herself under the gaze of, not only Mosby, but Bailey Miller and John Nolan as well.
As per usual with his meetings with Mosby, Nolan stood tall as a fiery figure in Mosby’s fireplace. Clearly, whatever life he was living over at the Scandinavian Ministry, it was one of luxury. He looked far healthier and happier than the man who had occupied the cell opposite her own at Azkaban, with a smart waistcoat under his unbuttoned robes and his dark red hair clean and full.
Miller however wore the same arrogant expression he’d always worn, his blond hair shining in the enchanted sunlight that poured into the office and the collar of his jet black robes stood up around his pale and pointed young face.

“You,” Mosby growled the moment his bloodshot eyes spotted her. “Where the hell have you been? You promised me that our transportation needs would outweigh all else, so why is it that when we’re about to send Meng the crucial numbers that he needs you are nowhere to be found?” Marietta was about to reply when Mosby spotted Orford. “And who is this?”

“Orford, Minister.” Orford replied. “Orford Umbridge.”

The mention of his last name clearly took Mosby’s interest though whether it was for the better or for the worse, Marietta couldn’t tell. “Explain yourself, Edgecombe.”

Miller was sniggering in the back as he leaned against Mosby’s desk, clearly enjoying Mosby’s anger. Nolan meanwhile looked down on the new arrivals with a smug curiosity.

“Sir,” Marietta began, her mouth becoming unbearably dry all of a sudden. “It’s Dolores Umbridge. She betrayed you.”

A cold silence stole the atmosphere of the room that Marietta felt had nothing to do with the Dementors standing either side of her.
“What?” Mosby asked coldly. “And your proof?”

Marietta wasted no time and delved her hand into her pocket to pull out the tiny box she had taken from Doran. Pulling out her wand with it, she tapped the box and said “I must not tell lies.” The box’s lid flipped open to reveal the tightly folded papers within. With a second tap the papers jumped out of the box and unravelled themselves in mid-air before hovering calmly around them without so much as a crease.
Marietta saw her chance to enter the office and walked in to join the others inside the circle of several dozen floating papers. “She had one of her men, Doran, keeping tabs on you.” She explained as Mosby stared at the details with wide eyes. “She had planned to send all of this to members of the Confederation with the American Auror Cecilia caught. In exchange they would grant her protection.”

“Protection?” Nolan pressed. “From what?”

“Us.” Marietta answered simply as Mosby grasped one of the papers and read it to himself. “I had my suspicions when she tried to cover up a Portkey she’d set up but when I caught Goyle keeping tabs on me, I interrogated him and discovered Orford.”

Mosby’s enraged eyes flashed back to Orford. “Discovered him? Where? What happened to you?”

“She kept me prisoner, Minister.” Orford said respectfully. “After I discovered her doubts about you, she hid me away in the dungeon of our family home. Marietta here rescued me.”

“And then what?” Mosby asked quickly, his eyes now turning to Marietta.

“That’s where we caught her. She, Pansy, Goyle, Runcorn and Doran had brought the Auror there to activate the Portkey but both myself and Orford were already waiting for them. Several hours earlier I tricked her into singing one of our jinxed parchments… It activated the moment she tried to hand these over to the Auror.”

Miller stared at her, aghast while Nolan retained his composure despite his breathing becoming heavier the more she spoke.
“And you then… What? Took on all of them?” Mosby asked doubtfully as he advanced on the pair.

“Umbridge was already down and dying.” Marietta explained, Her voice steady despite her feelings. “And the Auror was in no fit condition to fight. The moment we fell on them, he grabbed the Portkey and vanished. Didn’t even try to pick these up.” And she indicated the surrounding notes. “When we opened fire Orford killed Doran and I Runcorn and then together we overpowered Pansy and Goyle. You’ll find their bodies at the manor.” Marietta finished as she drew out the wands they had all used in their final moments along with the wand Saxon had taken from Umbridge and lay them on Mosby’s desk. “She even changed her wand so as to remain undetected. I’m sure whoever’s in charge of handing out new wands will vouch for me.”

Mosby stared at the wands before picking up Umbridge’s. Anger was bubbling to Mosby’s surface to the point of him shaking. With a low growl, Mosby twisted his hands and snapped the wand. Splinters showered the carpet as the Minister turned to Miller and said “Head to the manor and inspect the bodies and then check with our wand dispenser. Find out if this is true.”

Miller nodded before turning his wide, frantic eyes to Orford. “Wandworth Manor, son, you’ll find it in Okewood Hill in Surry.”

Letting out a grateful breath of relief, Miller ran from the office.

In the time the young man was away, Mosby circled around the documents apparently taking in every word, every detail and every possible jibe that he may take from Doran’s writing. Nolan stayed put though whether that was due to his curiousness in Marietta’s fate or whether he feared to move was anyone’s guess.
Nearly an hour later, Miller returned.

“It’s true, Mosby.” He said dryly. “The wand dispenser verified that Umbridge requested a new wand yesterday afternoon and we had a Healer confirm that Umbridge was killed by a Traitor’s Kiss with the others done in by Killing Curses.” Miller then looked at Marietta rather differently than he had ever done so before, as though she were some sort of childhood hero that he’d been longing to meet.

Mosby seemed incapable of looking at any of them. His eyes were failing to focus on anything as they darted from page to page, his breathing quickening as he ran his fingers through his hair, a few dark strands falling as he did so, until he finally spun around and slammed his hands against his desk sending the wands on top to the floor.

“To think I actually trusted her…” Mosby murmured. “Selwyn had been so desperate to recruit her I thought…” Mosby seemed to struggle. “I thought… I thought wrong. Selwyn was wrong.” Miller and Nolan were staring at Mosby now. “He believed that the Alliance could break the Confederation, and I still share that belief, but he thought that a united Alliance could rule in its place, that the promise of power would be strong enough to hold any council together. Obviously, this is not the case. I have been putting too much faith into those I clearly do not know and who do not have faith in me in return.” He then turned to the fiery figure of Nolan. “John, step through. I want you with me.”

Curious, Nolan obeyed and stepped through the flames and into Mosby’s office as the Minister continued “Tell me, did any of you know that the Malfoy family betrayed the Dark Lord because they grew to resent him?” No one answered for all were clearly too perplexed by this question to do so. “Draco Malfoy told me so himself during his captivity. It’s phenomenal, isn’t it? His most loyal and trusted and he treated them in a way that pushed them over the edge.” Mosby than turned to stare at Nolan. “I realise now that I have come too close to mimicking his mistake, by pushing those who have shown true loyalty while trying to satisfy the whims of those who would see me fall.” At this, Mosby reached out and gripped Nolan’s shoulder tightly. “For over a year we’ve been on the run together,” He began in a loud whisper. “Carrying out Selwyn’s plans and preparations, working tirelessly for the future we wanted. Do you believe that future is still possible?”

Nolan stared at him before replying “Now more than ever.” Mosby stared deep into the man’s eyes for what must have felt like an eternity for Nolan.
Then, for the first time, Marietta saw Mosby smile. The smile, however, was far worse than even his most furious expression. It seemed to be a maddening smile, as though Mosby had gotten all that he had ever wanted.

“Miller,” He then turned to the young man. “You have carried out some of the most important proceedings I’ve ever given, without fault.” Mosby then cupped Miller’s pale face into his hands. “Can I expect you to continue such trust?”

“Of course!” Miller exclaimed, a hint of fear in his voice. “This is everything I’ve ever wanted and it’s all thanks to Selwyn and you.” Again Mosby stared into the eyes as though they were reflecting his heart’s dearest desires. Then he turned to Marietta.

“And you, Selwyn’s secret Ministry mole,” He said as he advanced on her. Marietta was sure she was about to instinctively back away but fear paralyzed her to the spot until Mosby placed both of his hands onto her shoulders a gripped a tight hold of her. “You’ve killed more than any of us for this cause maybe even put together.” He then drew closer to her and whispered “Selwyn told me of your reasons for joining, you know. Your frustration with life, your anger… And I want you to know that I understood that and now I understand you.” Marietta felt a sickness the likes of which she had never felt before crawl throughout her body, as though every cell in her body was decaying.

“I’ve finally gotten to a point in my life… where I’m happy.” Marietta forced herself to say when she felt Mosby hand move from her shoulders to her face and force her to look him in the eye.

She daren’t blink. She daren’t breath. She daren’t do anything but look into those once handsomely dark eyes, those now bloodshot pools that seemed to be draining something from her as though Mosby himself had gained the powers of a Dementor.

“Good.” He said finally in a surprisingly calm tone. “You, Umbridge,” Mosby started, finally turning to the old man. “I thank you for your troubles and welcome your return, but you should go for now.”

Orford looked from Marietta to Mosby and back again clearly uncertain of what to do.
“Go,” Marietta ordered, though she hated the thought of losing her only real ally. “Back to mine, where I took you to recover, yeah?”

“Yeah…” Orford said, uncertainly. “Yeah, we’ll talk more later. Minister.” He finished with a curt nod to Mosby before turning on the spot and leaving the office.

“The Confederation believe Russia to be the deciding factor in this war,” Mosby began, addressing everyone in the room. “And they’re right. Loosing Russia was a blow for us,” Miller and Nolan were staring in disbelief at Mosby, as though they couldn’t believe the confession they were hearing. “Don’t misunderstand me, I will crush the Confederation the first chance I see but now it seems the most likely ending of this war will be the promise I made to Harry Potter.”
Miller and Nolan caught each other’s eye though it was clear to Mosby that Marietta was out of this loop for he said “Surrender, Harry Potter, or war shall be declared and all shall die. Well I can assure you I’m going to make that threat a reality. I will burn everything we have to the ground if it means ending those who oppose us and rule the ash heap that remains. And we will rebuild, my friends. Rebuild the Wizarding World the way it should have been all those centuries ago. How does that sound to you?”

“Rebuild the Wizarding World?” Miller asked in an awe-struck voice and Mosby nodded.

“Putting Muggles in their place.” Nolan said in a sinister whisper. “With us being the ruling kind.”

“The way our powers prove we should.” Mosby finished. “Clearly remoulding what is already set is impossible. The time has come for Wizard kind to start anew, and we shall be the new order’s founders.”

At once Miller stood, his hand trembling with excitement. “I’m in!” He declared in a shaking voice. “I want to see the world the way it was meant to be, to be a part of it.”

“Oh you’ll be more than just a part of it,” Mosby replied. “You’ll be the reason for it.” Miller beamed up at Mosby like a child would a parent promising a long wanted treat. “And Nolan?” Mosby turned to his closest ally.

“The rest of the council won’t like the sound of being thought of as expendable.” He reasoned though the desire in his voice was unmissable.

“Oh, they won’t be a problem.” Mosby answered darkly. “I fought tooth and nail to earn their trust and respect, spent sleepless nights planning our victories while they gorged themselves and wasted their time hunting Muggles all whilst whispering behind my back. For too long I have thought of them as allies and not as what they really are… a weapon. The most powerful weapon in the Wizarding world and all I need to do is hone it.”
There was a sinister smile on Mosby’s face now that put Marietta in mind of the lifeless permanent smile that Umbridge wore. It sent a tingle down her entire spine at the sight of it. Unable to look at the Minister any more she turned her attention to Nolan just in time to see what she knew all too well to be fear flash on his face. It had been quick but it had been there in the eyes for sure.

“My friend, how could I possibly refuse?”
How could he indeed, Marietta thought.

Clearly missing the inkling of doubt, Mosby clapped him on the shoulder. “Miller, assemble the entire council for an emergency meeting.”

Less than ten minutes later, Marietta found herself to Mosby’s right hand side opposite Nolan and Miller as the last of his war council took their seats within the emerald walled room. While the majority of them were used to the Dementors that now joined their meetings, Marietta noticed that a few had taken in the fact that there were more than usual this time, Bomani included. The lanky leader of the Hunters was watching the four heads of the table suspiciously as he surreptitiously murmured something to Rodine.

“I’m happy to see you all here.” Mosby announced as the last of them settled down. “On this grave occasion.”

“What’s happened, Mosby?” Bomani asked impatiently. “Your message said this was urgent.”

Normally, Marietta was sure that this manner of rudeness would have earned Bomani a scolding at the very least from the Minister, but Mosby appeared unfazed by the interruption.

“Dolores Umbridge is dead.” Mosby proclaimed. There was a gasp of silence at this before the bombardment began.

“What? How?” Bomani asked, a hint of fear in his voice.

“Was it Aurors?” A voice in the back sprang out.

“Well we crushed all of the resistances in this country, who else could it be?” Another answered.

“Dolores Umbridge was killed,” Mosby interrupted loudly. “By this young woman here.” And he outstretched his arm to indicate Marietta. “Umbridge betrayed us all.” He continued before any rabble could restart. “She released the Auror Cecilia had captured and planned to turn over information in exchange for safety from us. Marietta discovered this plan and thwarted her, killing the traitor in the process.”

“And how do you know that she is telling the truth?” Rodine pressed, staring at Marietta with a pair of narrowed eyes.

“Because all of the evidence is in Marietta’s favour.” Mosby answered. “Now, as I’m sure you will all agree, I cannot afford to risk something like this happening again.”
There was a murmur of agreement from the room though most just showed curiosity as to where Mosby was going with this but Marietta seemed to be the only one who noticed a Dementor gliding silently in front of the door.
“I’m glad to hear you agree,” Mosby said in an unpleasantly satisfied tone. “Then I’m sure none of you will refuse to sign one of these each.” And, with an almost lazy wave of his wand, dozens of parchment pieces flew from the inside pocket of Mosby’s robes, one landing in front of each Leader of the Alliance.

“No!” Bomani cried out amongst the other yells of protest. “Do you take us for fools, Mosby? We’re having nothing to do with your cursed contracts. They were for the employees of your Ministry only!”

“Technically they’re jinxed contracts, Bomani.” Mosby replied in a content manner and it was plain to see that he was enjoying this. “And of course I do not take you for fools, or else I would not have wasted my time giving the order.”

“Dat is it!” Rodine shouted angrily as he rose from his seat drawing his wand. “It is dis form of behaviour that drove Umbridge to betrayal! You see yourself as some Dark Lord who commands respect when you have done nothing to earn it! It is time to end your madness!”
Rodine slashed his wand but Mosby had already conjured a shield to deflect the curse, forcing it to rebound into the ceiling and rain down debris onto a number of Leaders. Rodine was about to strike again but, even in this seemingly disfigured state, Mosby still possessed the natural fighting spirit that had allowed him to defeat Kingsley Shaklebolt and that had earned him Selwyn’s deputyship before Rabastan’s arrival. With a stab like jab of his wand, Mosby blasted Rodine backwards into the wall behind him, leaving a noticeable crack where he had made contact. Rodine attempted to stand back up to continue the fight but Mosby’s next spell had already been conjured.
Thick black ropes flew from Mosby’s wand tip and wrapped themselves around his target, binding his hands together so that he could no longer move his wand.

“Help yourselves.” Mosby said as though someone had asked to start a buffet. At once a pair of Dementors pounced on the bound Leader, hiding him from view behind their ragged cloaks.
For what felt like years the only thing remaining of Rodine were his blood-curdling screams and pleas for help before something sounded as though it were gagging him. After a few short seconds of silent flailing, all three floor-lain figures fell still. Eventually the two Dementors stood back up to reveal what was left of the rat-faced man; an empty figure who stared blankly up at the cracked ceiling. Were it not for the rising and falling of the ropes around his chest, one would have thought him to be dead.

Shaken, Marietta looked away from the soulless man to see that a number of other Leaders had risen at the start of the fight, Bomani included, but had barely so much as drawn their wands. Marietta could tell that every one of their senses were on the Dementors now gliding closely behind each of them threateningly.

“Anybody else have a problem with my order?” Mosby asked calmly as he scanned the room.
The look on every one of their faces revealed the argument going on inside their heads as though it were written on them; have their souls sucked from their bodies or be Mosby’s loyal slave under penalty of being burned to death.
One by one each of them made their choice and sat back down to sign the parchment until eventually all had made their decision. Bomani held his head in his hands as though he were about to be sick.

“Good,” Mosby purred as he flicked his wand to recall the contracts back to him. “Now, each of you will assemble your followers and convince them to sign up as well. I don’t care how you do it be it lying to them or cursing them, they all sign up, understood?”

Obediently every single Witch and Wizard present nodded their understanding.
“Excellent, you will receive your contracts from Miller, and once that is done you will gather your numbers and use them to round up the gang Rodine called followers and offer them the same deal I offered you. Bomani,” He continued. “Send word to Cecilia that I want her, Cadmir and Naldo here at once.” Bomani looked up at his new master before giving him a single nod. “Meeting adjourned then.” Mosby said jubilantly and at once all rose from their chairs and began to line out of the room.

As the members of Mosby’s Alliance queued out of the room, Marietta turned her head to see both Nolan and Miller staring wide-eyed at Mosby, both breathless.

“Mosby, that was incredible.” Miller praised in an awe-struck voice.

“You intend to do the same to Cecilia and the others?” Nolan asked with an emotionless tone.

“Cecilia’s loyalty to Selwyn’s cause was concreate,” Mosby explained. “But her loyalty to me has been anything but. However, she is a talented Witch with a sharp mind and I would foolish not to include her, the same goes for Cadmir and Naldo. Meng and Felicia have done all that I have asked of them and more so I see no reason to rush their signing.”
He sounded like an enthusiastic collector to Marietta, planning out which pieces to bid for and when.

“And Akrahn Colby?” Nolan pressed but Mosby did not answer right away, instead he pondered over the name as he watched the last of his new devotees leave their company.

“He is too cunning a Wizard to fall for being asked here out of nowhere and far more capable of defending himself than Rodine was, nor do I think could he be tricked into signing; he’d recognise such a jinx at once. Has he been giving you any trouble?”

Nolan shook his head. “He’s been doing everything right so far and it’s mainly because of him that we have the numbers we do to face Russia’s border forces. He’s even stopped asking for passage to England.”

Mosby stared at the seat Kristain, Akrahn’s second in command, once sat in before his recall back to Scandinavia to fight alongside his superior. “If I knew why he wanted passage here in the first place…” He murmured to himself. “Leave him where he is.” He finally ordered. “But keep a close eye on him and should you see an opportunity to get him to sign… Well…” And Mosby pulled out a blank contract and handed it to Nolan.

“Of course.” Nolan said dryly as he pocketed the jinxed parchment.

“Uh, Minister,” Marietta began in a hoarse voice. “Perhaps I should return to my department to check up on my workers?” She even made the motion to leave, to do what she and Orford had come here to do in the first place and set up a Portkey for America but Mosby held up a hand.

“Marietta, do you not understand what all of this means?” He indicated where his council members once sat. “You have proven yourself to be one of my most loyal, you don’t need to bother yourself with such tedious things as heading a Department. I’ll have one of these cretins take care of that for you. No, all I require of you now is your confidence, your continued loyalty and your council.”
Mosby then looked at Marietta as though he had only just noticed something incredibly obvious about her. “In fact, now that Umbridge has shown her true colours and met her match in you, how would you feel in replacing her?”

Marietta stared at Mosby in disbelief. Every inch of her was attempting to will herself to decline the offer but Rodine’s limp figure was visible over Mosby’s shoulder.

“Of course, I would be honoured, Minister.”

Mosby looked as though she was the one honouring him. He raised his hand to her face and brushed his fingertips against the scars that had plagued her for the past decade. “I will find a way to be rid of them.” He whispered, the respectful voice of the old Mosby Elfrin protruding from the mouth of the current demented Minister like the snake from the skull of the Dark Mark. “I have treated your loyalty poorly in my term but you will see your reward. But for now, my friends,” He turned to speak to the three of them. “The time is nearing when Meng will strike, and we must discuss a plan for the return of the Supreme Mugwump.”

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