: From Out Of The PastAuthor/Artist
: story by misfit_ragdoll
, written by misfit_ragdoll
, illustrated by twilightsorceryCharacters
: Nymphadora Tonks/Hermione Granger, past mentions of Ron Weasley/Hermione Granger, Nymphadora Tonks/Remus Lupin, Ron Weasley/Pansy ParkinsonRating
: femmeslash, fingering, desk!sex, character deaths (oh, yeah, and Lysa, there's smoking in this part!)Themes/kinks chosen
: Everything Old Is New, lesbians, lingerie, kinky collaborationWord Count
: 18,650 (no, that's not a joke)Summary
: When Ron is murdered, Hermione turns to Nymphadora Tonks, P.I. to help her solve the case.Author's/Artist's notes
: At long last, it's finished. Much thanks from misfit_ragdoll
to everyone who read through drafts, shook their pompoms and generally kept me going when I didn't think I was ever going to get this finished. And to twilightsorcery
who I couldn't have done it without.
In the end, Hermione went quietly to the Ministry with me. If anything, I suppose I was slightly disappointed that she didn't try to escape or even protest very much. It was as if all the fight had been taken out of her, which didn't quite sit right with me. Hermione Granger had always been a fighter in her own odd way, hardly the rule-bound little swot that Harry Potter and Ron Weasley had first encountered on the Hogwarts Express at the age of eleven. Hell, she'd helped the two of them bring down old He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, so seeing her so defeated and docile just broke my heart.
However, once she'd been led away by Williamson and Dawlish, and I'd be left on my own, I couldn't quite let go of the things she'd told me. And the more I thought about it, the less sense it made. I didn't have to be a Ravenclaw to suss out that things were just not adding up.
Hermione had told me that she and Ron had agreed to an open relationship early on, once she'd admitted her penchant for women. From what little she'd said on the matter, the Parkinson bitch certainly hadn't been the first woman he'd been involved with, even if it had been more involved than any previous relationship. Hermione had also done a fair bit of experimenting although Ron hadn't been too chuffed about that eventuality. But he hadn't gone ahead and tried to off her, had he? If Hermione hadn't been jealous of any other bints Ron had had before Parkinson, then why the hell would she suddenly develop a case of the green-eyed monsters now
? Maybe she had hated Parkinson, but then why hadn't Hermione tried to off her
instead before she got her well-manicured hooks into Ron? Or, considering Hermione knew she fancied birds more, why had she cared at all? She ought to have been relieved that Ron had found himself a new playmate. Merlin knew I'd felt that way when my old man had got himself a new toy boy...
No, there was something drastically wrong with the picture, even if I couldn't put m'finger on it quite yet. It was going to require further examination. Starting with Hermione's office. * * *
Breaking back into Hermione's office was easier than getting into the Cunt & Nuzzle. Other than standard security spells which any office block would have, there was nothing special going on there. Any Auror worth her salt could get the lock open in a matter of seconds and I wasn't just any old Auror. Well, ex-Auror. Hermione hadn't taken the pains of hiding anything, really. Sitting right on her bookshelf, as bold as brass, was a unlocked chest, and inside an assortment of surveillance devices like the one I'd found in poor Ron's rooms. I'd obviously missed them when we'd been in here earlier. Couldn't imagine what had distracted me.
clever; they were all disguised as common household items such as a lamp, a snow globe, a pair of bookends and the like. I wondered if she'd gotten the idea of hiding them in plain sight from Portkeys. After careful study, I realised Hermione had dated them in hidden runes on the bottom of each and every one.
I locked the door behind me, then sat down to study the images play out in chronological order. Each one contained a different assignation between Ron and Pansy. A story began to emerge as I watched the flickering figures on the desk, an odd courtship between Ron and Parkinson unfolding over a long period of time. At first they were awkward with one another, clearly flirting but nothing much happening. Later, things started to heat up, until they were shagging like a pair of mad ferrets in the same manner as I'd seen before. A few were post coital, the pair of them talking intently amid kisses and caresses, practically glowing with bliss. Ron seemed to be more and more smitten by her as time went on. He'd never been particularly good at hiding his feelings; the bloke had always been a heart-on-his-sleeve sort, like most of his family. When he'd been younger, it seemed like he and Harry were the only two geezers on the planet who hadn't sussed out that Ron was desperately in love with Hermione.
All of this fit in with what Hermione had said. I suppose it would have been painful for any woman to see her man gazing at another woman with such open and unadulterated affection, even one who professed to wanting him to explore new avenues. I knew I had been similarly jealous of Remus's boys on several occasions, though never enough to want to murder 'em. Still, there was something ego-deflating about seeing the man you married mooning over someone else, even if you no longer really wanted him for yourself.
Having gone through all of that, I continued to search the room in order to find some other clues. I was beginning to grow a bit desperate, certain that there was more to Hermione's story than met the eye. Most of the books and parchments in the office pertained to Hermione's job, dry treatises on sentient non-human rights, laws and statutes from other countries on the same subject, drafts of bills and proposals on how to better the lives of such creatures. Hardly the stuff to incite anyone to murder. Except perhaps out of boredom.
I was close to giving up when I discovered an odd gap in the back of a drawer in one of Hermione's filing cabinets. It was an empty space, but the way the rest of the files fell, it looked as though something ought to have been there, but wasn't. A few revealing spells later, and there they were: a cache of files in a folder marked Parkinson, P.
. I had a butcher's at them, most of them containing documents and notes pertaining to Pansy's connection to a number of key figures in the Wizarding Government, including dates, times and places of various meetings with high ranking officials, as well as some low ones. They were all written in Hermione's ridiculously neat hand, methodically detailed and organised. So she'd been keeping a very close eye on Miss Parkinson. But why?
And what in Merlin's name did that have to do with Pansy's affair with Ron? This definitely would take some time to unravel.
I was definitely going to have to take the files with me for further study. I was beginning to get a bit nervous about being in Hermione's office on my own. While I knew she'd be in custody at the Aurors' Department for some time, I still didn't want anyone else catching me in there. There was more to this than just a simple crime of passion. I was sure of it. I went to stuff the folder into my bag and to my surprise, there was an ear-splitting shriek, like the sound of a horde of banshees all caterwauling at once. It was coming from
the files themselves. In my zeal to go through them all, I hadn't thought to check the bloody things for wards or security measures, and now I was paying for it. I threw a number of disabling charms on it but the cacophony only seemed to grow louder. No Silencios
or muffling spells did a bit of good. In the end, I had to scribble down the names of the people listed on the parchments and then leave the screaming papers on her desk, Apparating the hell out of there before someone came to find me. * * *
I scarpered off back home, more perplexed than before. Hermione was clearly up to her neck in something
, but what that was was beyond my ken. At the moment, all signs were pointing to Pansy Parkinson, and she was my only real clue at any rate. She'd been involved with Ron, Hermione had obviously been keep tabs on her. I reckoned there had to be something there, even if I was stabbing blindly in the dark at the moment to suss out what exactly that was. The first thing I needed to do was sort out who these other people were that Parkinson had been involved with and why. Hermione was too clever by half, so that meant there had to be some kind of method to her madness. All I had to do was be patient and it would all come together. At least, I hoped that was the case.
I started with some of my contacts, trying to get background checks on each and every one of the names on the list, find out who and what they were and why they might have some relationship with Parkinson. It didn't take very long and at that point, a pattern started to emerge. Each and every one of the people on the list had at some point or another been instrumental in blocking House-Elf reform laws. Well, there was one bloke who had no involvement at all, but from what my contacts told me, he sounded like he was just a rich bastard who'd been courting her. Rhys "Touch Me" Titus had a history of being a pervy git, so that was a definite dead end. The others, though...
I knew House-Elf reforms had been a cause Hermione'd been passionate about since she'd been at Hogwarts. She'd even started an advocacy group called Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare back in the day, she'd even tried to get me to help her out with it during the Order's glory days at my late cousin's house. However, there was no way in seven hells anyone was going to get me to wear a badge that said "S.P.E.W." on it, even for a laugh. Was it possible that Parkinson was somehow part of an anti-House-Elf cabal? I couldn't imagine why Parkinson would give a toss about House-Elves either way. Most of those old Pureblood families could care less about their servants — they just wanted someone loyal to do what they were supposed to when they were supposed to and to remain in the background at all time. That line of thinking would definitely warranted some further research.
I pondered a bit more about Pansy Parkinson and if she'd have had any possible motives for killing Ron. Nothing seemed to strike me — she looked happy enough in their little rumpy pumpy sessions, and if she'd wanted out, she didn't seem the type to be vindictive. She'd just have left his sorry arse and had done with it. Or perhaps thrown him over for a better prospect, but that didn't seem to be the case anyway. She and Ron had clearly still been together for all intents and purposes. Still, it couldn't hurt to find out more about her
, just to make certain.
Continuing on that line of thought, I decided to do some looking into Parkinson herself. Everything about her was clean, at least in terms of Death Eater connections and post-War activities. She was a horrible Pureblood bitch, but not one with a criminal record. I decided to dig a little further, pulling out my much-hated but oft-necessary copy of Nature's Nobility: A Wizarding Genealogy
to see if I could find out anything more about the family Parkinson as a whole. Peregrinus Parkinson was from one of the older Wizarding families, able to trace his unbroken lineage back for centuries. Of course, he had been one of the most vocal twats imaginable when it came to the concept of Pureblood Superiority — he'd even written several books on the subject before the War. From what I could tell, he'd never been an actual Death Eater, more in line with distinguished members of m'own family like my Great-Aunt Walburga and Great-Uncle Orion who supported the cause without actually bothering to get their hands dirty.
Her mother, Jacinta, on the other hand was a bit more muddied in terms of background. There was some mention of her being from an old family in Spain but very little else. There was something that seemed odd about that, but I had no idea what. With that in mind, I put the book away, gathered my gear and went off to the Ministry to talk to someone in the Wizarding Census Department. * * *
That seemed to be a fool's errand. There was no way to get into the Census Department, even though it was a musty old part of the Ministry no one ever bothered to visit anyway. Well, no one but the biggest genealogy anoraks who then went on to write boring tomes like Nature's Nobility: A Wizarding Genealogy
, that is. Apparently one needed to fill out parchments in quadruplicate and have them six weeks in advance even to gaze upon the scintillating scrolls and volumes contained inside, but I wasn't going to let a little thing like Ministry policy to stop me. I bullied my way up the ladder of bureaucracy, shouting and demanding to see a superior every time I seemed to have hit a wall.
Finally, I got to the top. To my surprise, the bloke who headed the Department was Mr. Rhys Titus, the same bloke whose name had come up earlier in that file of Hermione's in conjunction with Pansy Parkinson. This case was growing "curiouser and curiouser," as a famous Muggle once said. As they let me into his office, I decided a change of tack was necessary, along with a change of face. I certain didn't want him knowing I was nosing around in Parkinson's affairs or why. A new story was going to be needed. I turned my hair longer and blonder, enhancing my figure to what I reckoned a randy bastard like Titus would prefer.
He was a middle-aged Wizard, who probably had been good-looking in his youth, but now had run to seed. He had a bit of a paunch and his dark blond hair was thinning on top. "What can I do for you, Miss Tonks?" he asked, giving me a looking over. I knew he had a reputation for being a bit of a ladies' man, or at least would-be
ladies' man. I s'posed he liked what he saw, at least enough to turn on the charm.
"I'm trying to do a bit of research into my family, Mr. Titus," I replied in my most helpless voice, and batted my eyelashes. I hated having to play vulnerable female but in this case, it was warranted. I needed to get into those rooms and check up on the Parkinson angle. "It's a bit urgent, I'm afraid. There've been some awful rumours about my mother's family which I'd like to lay to rest."
"Your mother's family?" he asked, patting my hand and holding it just a bit too long. Clearly the chap had no clue who I was, which was both a blessing and a bit of a blow to my ego.
"Why, the most Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, of course," I replied, knowing that usually opened a whole lot of doors, especially where Pureblood snobs were concerned. It wasn't a card I liked to play often, loathing the entire lot of 'em, but in this case, it was a necessary evil. "Someone is trying to prove that my great-great-great-great Auntie Isla was actually a hag! Can you imagine?" Of course, great-great-great-great Auntie Isla was actually a bit of a heroine to me for being one of the first Blacks to tell her family to piss off and running off to marry a Muggle. But clearly Titus didn't know that either.
He looked suitably miffed on my behalf. "Well, I'm not supposed to do this, of course, but I can't see why it would hurt. However—" Yeah, I knew there would be some price to pay. Blokes like that are always so predictable. "I would like something for my pains. I'd be putting my job on the line for you, you see."
"Oh, of course. I understand the terrible sacrifice
you're making, Mr. Titus. What would you want in return?" If he asked for something like a blowjob right here and now, I was going to have to Stun him.
"Dinner?" Well, at least he was smooth when it came to dealing with birds. I had to give him that.
"I don't see why not. Perhaps later in the week?" Another flutter of my lashes and I could see he was hooked.
"Right this way, Miss Tonks," he said, fishing for his keys. I tried not to wince as he lead me towards the records room, his hand firmly on my arse.
Once I was in there and left to my own devices, I hit, as they say, 'pay dirt'. I was able to find the Parkinson family records and their family tree with the aid of some locator charms. There wasn't much information about Jacinta Calderon de Garcia in the annals which seemed odd. The Wizarding Census department worked the same way the Hogwarts rolls did; when a Witch or Wizard was born, their information automatically was recorded at the Ministry. The only time there was no previous record was if they were Muggles or from another country. However, when an British Witch or Wizard already in the archives married someone previously unlisted, their new spouse's information was added. It was very difficult to change the actual records although there were ways around it.
After some serious scrutiny and some very clever spell work of my own devising, I was able to suss out that that's what had happened with Mrs. Jacinta Parkinson. Someone, somehow had changed what little information there was on her. It had been well done, but it was there, between the lines. Granted, Jacinta had been from Spain and their record keeping might've been dodgier than our system but...it looked as if Peregrinus Parkinson had married himself a Muggle señorita.
Could that have been why Pansy had killed Ron? Because he'd somehow discovered her dirty little secret? I decided it was time to talk to the lady in question herself to find out for m'self.* * *
The Parkinson estate was on the outskirts of London, a big sprawling manor with well-manicured grounds to match. I could never really imagine what people did with all that space. Me, I was comfortable with my small flat and a few window boxes full of dead plants. I hadn't bothered to make an appointment to see Miss Parkinson, assuming that she'd just bolt if given any heads up about my arrival. She was home, surprised that a private investigator like me would want to see her about anything
. A nervous House-Elf showed me into the parlour.
Pansy was standing by the window, silhouetted by the light filtering in through the window, a cloud of fragrant smoke billowing around her as she smoked from an ornate silver cigarette holder. She looked up and stared at me, her mouth tightening into an annoyed pout. I had changed back to my normal visage, all pink hair and comfortable clobber, and from her sour expression, you'd have thought a Blast-Ended Skrewt had just come crawling up her front walk and invited itself to tea.
On the other hand, I could see what Ron Weasley had seen in the bird. She was a stunner of epic proportions. Tall and slender with a killer figure, dark bedroom eyes, a pert nose with a slight upturn, full, sensual lips which were painted deep scarlet. Her clothing was impeccable, clearly from the best couturiers the Wizarding World had to offer, showing off her incredible curves to great advantage.
"Pansy Parkinson?" I asked, trying not to stare.
"Miss Tonks." Her voice was husky and low. Definitely the kind that you'd want whispering naughty suggestions in your ear. "What did you want?"
"To ask you a few questions if that's all right. About Ron Weasley."
At the mention of Ron's name, her eyes narrowed and I saw her face pale beneath the layer of artfully applied and no doubt horribly expensive powder. "What about him?"
"Well, you knew him, didn't you?"
"Of course. We went to school together. He was a friend of that traitor, Potter's. A war hero, I believe." She raised her silver filigree cigarette holder and took a long drag, somehow turning it into an erotic display. Normally I find smoking a filthy habit but somehow, on her it looked good.
"There is that. But you were sleeping with him, weren't you?" I wasn't about to mince words with her.
"Wherever did you hear that?" Pansy replied, although I could see her hand trembling ever-so-slightly.
"Here and there," I said airily, coming a bit closer to her. I could smell her scent now; the heady smoke mingling with some heavy perfume. "You were
having an affair with him, now weren't you?"
"I—" She ran her eyes over me, taking me in more soberly now. "Well, what if I was?"
"He's dead, Miss Parkinson. His poor wife's a suspect. Only I don't think she's the one what done it."
"Let's say I had been sleeping with Ron Weasley. That doesn't mean I killed him. Or had any reason to." Pansy sashayed closer to me with a dancer's grace. It was a breathtaking display. She was damned lucky I was too clever by half to fall for such moves. It was very difficult not to.
"True enough. Although," I continued, "perhaps you were bored with him. Or he wanted too much from you. Or," I paused for a minute, trying to gauge her reaction, "he knew something about you you reckoned he shouldn't have."
She raised one perfectly arched eyebrow and looked at me coolly. "I don't know what you mean, Miss Tonks. Ron Weasley was...a bit of fun. No more, no less. Yes, I'll admit that I was having an affair with him. Well, had
an affair with him. I broke it off several weeks ago. He was a pleasant diversion but that was it. I enjoy the thrill of the chase and I admit there was some thrill to prising him away from that dreadful cow, Granger, but that's as far as it went. After a while, it turned into a crashing bore and I so hate to be bored."
"Hmmm. Is that so?" I scratched at my head, pretending to ponder the idea.
"I'm always looking for something new and exciting, Miss Tonks. Life's not worth living without its little intrigues." She gave me a sultry look, her dark eyes half-lidded, those scarlet lips forming a most attractive moue. "Perhaps you understand what I'm talking about?"
"P'raps." I heaved my shoulders in a diffident shrug.
Pansy cocked her head, studying me further as if I was an interesting specimen of exotic flora. "Oh, I think you do, Miss Tonks. You're a Metamorphmagus, aren't you? With a talent like that, I imagine the possibilities would ...endless
." Her lashes fluttered once over those eyes, giving me no doubt as to what she was suggesting.
"Oh, they are," I answered, giving her an enigmatic smile. I wanted her to be an ally, at least until I got the answers I needed.
I heard the slight intake of breath from her, her eyes flickering almost imperceptibly. She reached out and traced the line of my jaw with an exquisitely lacquered nail, as blood-red as her lips. "Perhaps you'd care to show me sometime?"
"Nah, doubt it. I'm not very keen on pretenders, m'self." I bit back a grin.
"Pretender? Whatever do you mean?" Pansy withdrew her hand as if she'd been burned.
"Nothing more off-putting than a Half-Blood bint posing as a Pureblood princess, is there, Miss Parkinson? At least I'm proud I'm a Half-blood...and my dad's a Muggle-born Wizard. Unlike your purely Muggle mum."
"My purely Muggle m—" Pansy started, then gasped. "What are you playing at, Miss Tonks? You presume to come into my house on the pretence of investigating Ron Weasley's murder, all but accuse me of that
and then to add insult to injury besmirch my family's honour on top of that? How dare you?"
I snorted. "Dunno. It's just my contrary nature, I s'pose." Her reaction to my words the final straw; my hunch had been right. Although the questions still remained — had Ron known about it and was it worth killing him for? "Did Ron know? Is that why you murdered him?"
"The only thing Ron Weasley knew — or wanted to know — was how to get into my knickers," Pansy spat, "and how to stay there. Do you honestly believe he'd have cared about my heritage assuming that pack of lies you just handed me was even true? His entire family is a pack of filthy blood traitors — one of his brother's is married to a Veela
"That's not what I asked you, Parkinson. I know exactly what Ron would've thought
. I'm asking you if you killed him because he knew about your mum."
Her nostrils flared and she took an angry drag off her cigarette before she answered me. "Certainly not." A furrow appeared in her forehead, marring her flawless features. "I think you'd better leave, Miss Tonks." With that, she picked up a bell, shouting for the House-Elf. I left before it even had managed to appear. * * *
Seeing Parkinson in such a state had left me elated. I definitely had a new lead to follow, even if I wasn't quite certain what direction it was going to take me. I just hoped it guided me as far from Hermione's guilt as was humanly possible. I just had to find out whether or not any of Parkinson's story was true; had she dumped Ron before he'd been killed? And even so, had she been back to see him for any reason after that? Hermione's recordings couldn't prove that either way, and obviously, the last one was the one she'd got had been his room and was clearly before their split. There had to be some other way to verify Pansy's comings and going from the Cunt & Nuzzle, but how?
Goyle certainly wasn't going to be of much help seeing how he was as thick as a brick. Even if he'd managed to observe something
, he seemed to be the sort of bloke who looked the other way when it came to what his tenants got up to. I didn't think any of Ron's neighbours would be of any use either. The turnover rate at the Cunt was pretty high and most of the boarders dodgy at best. So I reckoned most, if not all of 'em, would be schtum
when it came down to it. I went back to the files I'd seen in Hermione's office. They'd all been about House-Elf rights. Were there House-Elves at the Cunt? If there were, perhaps they'd seen something that could help me clear Hermione's name once and for all, including who had fixed the tray for Ron the night of his death.
I went back to the Cunt, stopping by Goyle's office first. "Why there you are, Greggy, old bean. How are you?" I said, flashing him my most winsome grin.
The sound of my voice startled him, causing him to splatter his takeaway curry all over the front of his shirt. Sadly, the large, smelly yellow stain did nothing to improve his looks.
"What'choo want?" he demanded, searching around for a napkin to clean himself up.
"I'm back to do my job, mate."
He snorted, wiping at the spilled curry with his big clumsy hands, only managing to spread the mess further. "I thought you'd been, done and gone. There's nothing more for you here."
"Oh, but that's where you're wrong, mate," I replied smugly. "I want to talk to your House-Elves."
"My what?" Goyle gawped at me, blinking in incredulity. "What'choo want them for? They don't know nuthin'."
"We'll see about that. Where are they?"
"Where'd ya think, you dozy cow?" he grunted. "Round the back. In the kitchens, like always."
I gave him a terse nod and then marched out the room, trying to wend my way into the boarding house kitchen. I just followed my nose, there was the faint scent of cooking food wafting through the corridor. It was hard to imagine what sort of House-Elves Goyle could possibly have gotten to work here, especially with the kind of reputation the Cunt had, but dodgier places had been known to have at least one on the premises. All that mattered is that the owner had one in his or her possession. I doubted anyone living here required gourmet meals or white glove services, but the bed-sits didn't have any kitchen facilities and I supposed there would be a common dining room somewhere in the place.
I finally found the kitchens, coming face to face with four of them scurrying round the kitchen, busily preparing a meal. "Wotcher," I said.
They responded with a series of loud, surprised squeaks. one of them dropping the tray it had been holding.
"Miss shouldn't be in here!" admonished the largest of the four. "This is Mr. Aloysius's place!"
"Yeah, yeah, I know," I replied dismissively. "He said it was all right for me to be here." I wasn't very fond of House-Elves, truth be told. We'd never had one when I was growing up, my parents were dead set against it, especially my mum. She had scared me with tales of the decapitated Elf Heads that adorned her Aunt Walburga's house for a start. It hadn't helped that Kreacher had been a nasty little piece of work. Yeah, I know, he fought on our side in the end and helped my cousin Regulus thwart Voldemort but I was never really comfortable around them. Being in the vicinity of four of them was more than disconcerting.
"Tasker will be checking with Mr. Aloysius!" the biggest one declared.
"Oi, don't get your knickers in a twist, mate." Did they even wear knickers, or just tea towels and pillow cases? I wasn't sure I really needed to know the answer. "Goyle, erm, Aloysius
told me to come back and speak with you. Yeah, you can go on and ask him or we could just have a bit of a chit chat and then I'll let you go back to your business. It won't take long, I promise."
They all blinked, staring at me with their big tennis-ball sized eyes. Tasker seemed to think about it for a moment, then relented. "We will answer Miss's questions. Then Miss will go. We has work to do."
The other three squeaked in assent.
"Right. Just a few questions then. Do you any of you know who Ron Weasley is?"
"Oh, yes, Miss! Binkly remembers Mr. Ron very well!" One of the others offered up. For some reason, I guessed it was a girl. "Mr. Ron was very kind to Binkly." She sniffled as she seemed to think about him. "Very kind."
"Mr. Ron was a mate of mine. A friend. I'm trying to find out who killed him."
They murmured amongst themselves and then a third, older and more wizened stated, "We are loyal House-Elves, Miss. We would never kill anyone!"
"Do any of you know who Pansy Parkinson is? Tall, pretty, dark haired. Visited Mr. Ron quite often."
"Binkly remembers her," she said with a nod. "Miss Pansy wasn't very kind, but Mr. Ron liked her very much." That set her tittering, making me wonder if Hermione's surveillance equipment had been the only thing to see them en flagrante delecto
The fourth one glared at Binkly. "Shhh! We mustn't be telling secrets!" This one also sounded like a female, thought slightly older than Binkly.
"Binkly is not telling secrets!" Binkly argued. "Miss Pansy was not a good Witch and Mr. Ron knew it! Binkly will say what she wants about her." The other three muttered to themselves, looking at Binkly as if she had just committed blasphemy.
"Do any of you remember when you last saw Miss Pansy? Was it recently?"
"Dipsy remembers seeing her last week, Miss," said the older one, as he scratched at a floppy, grizzled ear. "She and Mr. Ron had a row, Miss. It was very loud. Miss Pansy broke the china and Dipsy had to repair it before Mr. Aloysius found out."
"That—that happened more than once, Miss," Binkly offered up. "Miss Pansy had a temper."
"Did she now?" That wasn't much of a surprise, not really. "Did any of you see her here after that last row? Let's say the night Mr. Ron died?"
They all shook their over-large heads solemnly. "No, Miss."
So much for the idea that she'd killed him in some crime of passion. "Mr. Ron — he was killed with a poisoned cup of tea. Here, in his rooms. Did any of you bring him his tea that afternoon? I'm not accusing any of you of killing 'im. Hardly. Just thought, perhaps someone gave it to you to..."
"Most certainly not, Miss," Tasker insisted, looking put out at the very idea. "That is not possible. Everything is prepared here in the kitchen and brought up to the rooms."
The fourth Elf was a bit too quiet for my liking. Other than her chiding of Binkly, she'd kept silent. "You haven't said very much, have you...erm, what was your name again?"
"Maizy, Miss." She shuffled in place awkwardly.
"What can you tell me about Mr. Ron, Maizy?" I asked kindly, not wanting to frighten her.
She knit her eyebrows together, well the place where her brows would have been if she'd possessed them, as if trying to recall who or what Ron was. "N-nothing, Miss. He...he lived upstairs."
"Mr. Ron lived in room seventy six," Binkly reminded her. "Maizy is always forgetting!"
That clinched it for me. As I had begun to suspect, someone had obviously tampered with Maizy's memory. I frowned, then ordered Maizy to come closer. She seemed reluctant, looking over at her companions desperately.
Binkly scowled. "Miss is asking you, stupid Maizy!"
Tasker gave her a little shove for good measure.
I patted Maizy on the shoulder, trying to be reassuring. "Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you. Just relax, yeah?" I took a deep breath, drew my wand and muttered "Legilimens
." All Aurors had to learn at least rudimentary Legilimency during training. It was a helpful interrogation technique, especially when trying to determine if a suspect was telling porkies or not. It had been one of my better subjects, although I'd never tried it on anyone who wasn't human before. Working with a House-Elf was certainly a bit more difficult, especially one who was resisting to some degree.
There was definitely layers of obfuscation there, although whoever had done it hadn't had that much skill. I pushed past the barriers, trying to sort out the memories, finding the real truth of what had happened. Maizy was in a very large hall, with marble floors and ornately decorated walls. She was worried about having to serve so many people. She was young and frightened and did not like her owners at all. She looked up and there was a small group of masked Death Eaters looming over her, shouting orders at her. They have been keeping her busy for days, bringing messages back and forth between locations which changed all the time...
Maizy was terrified as spells were shot over her head, exploding into an array of bright colours. The woods lit up, then darkened again with a volley of rapid flashes, the sound of people crying out or falling all around. Her heart was pounding, her body aching as she ran from the Aurors, trying to keep up with her masters. Suddenly, she tripped and fell. Someone grabbed at her arm and she screamed, too frightened to even Apparate away...
Maizy was in a large office, standing in front of a large wooden desk, frightened and confused. A small woman with bushy hair and kind brown eyes loomed over her. The witch introduced herself as Hermione Granger and explained to Maizy that her former owners were either dead or in captivity, and she was being freed and relocated to a better, safer place. However, since it was not a Ministry Approved programme, it would have to be kept a secret, especially when the lives of many House-Elves would be at stake. Maizy eyed the pile of clothing on Miss Granger's desk curiously...
Maizy was introduced to Madam Hollingshead, an older Witch who smelled faintly of whisky and tobacco, but had a gentle smile. Maizy liked the sound of Madam Hollingshead's laugh and the way she sang to herself when no one was around. She was a little dotty compared to the Wizards Maizy had known before but she decided she would like working here, along with the other Elves: Dipsy, Binkly and Tasker. All the Elves were stunned when Madam Hollingshead offered them wages for their work and even time off for holidays if they wanted it...
Binkly was crying loudly as Madam Hollingshead explained she was going to retire, but turning ownership of the Crup and its content, including the Elves, over to Mr. Aloysius and his business partner. Tasker tried to argue that they belonged with Madam, not with the new people, but the old woman insisted they stay at the boarding house and work for Mr. Aloysius, that they were really the boarding house's staff and thus belonged to the building, rather than a person. Maizy was a bit confused by this idea, but she didn't quite understand all the rules of the Wizarding world...
Maizy peered through a keyhole, watching curiously as Mr. Aloysius and a tall, dark haired woman he called "Pansy" signed their names on a large, official looking piece of parchment. "Welcome to the boarding house business, Parkinson," Aloysius grunted as Pansy finished her signature off with a flourish, then set down the quill...
Maizy was loading up a tea tray with a variety of sweets, a pot of strongly brewed tea and a single cup and saucer. It was the same cup that had been in Ron's room on the day he died. She turned her head as she heard a foot step behind her, and then everything went to blinding
I shook my head, cursing under my breath as I lost the connection to Maizy. She looked shaken and pale, her little body quivering. "There there, now, I'm not trying to harm you, love. Just a little bit more..." I tried again, this time with a bit more strength behind it. There was that initial sensation of Maizy pushing back, trying to keep me out of her mind, but I managed to break through. "You!" Parkinson barked, giving Maizy a little shove. "Put this in his tea. Now!" She shoved a packet of what looked like bits of thick, black berries into Maizy's hands.
Maizy stared at it vacantly as if she was unsure of what to do. "But, Miss Pansy, this is..."
"I know what it is, Elf. I gave you a direct order." Pansy glared at her. "Are you disobeying me?"
"N-no, Miss!" Maizy squeaked, her small hands trembling, as she reached for the tea pot...
In a daze, her expression blank, Maizy set the tray down in front of Ron.
He nodded and smiled, immediately reaching for a fruit tart and shoving it into his mouth. "Fangoo," he muttered, his mouth full, then poured himself a cup of tea, raising it to his lips to wash down the pastry. He seemed fine, and then he began to twitch, his limbs flailing uncontrollably...
There was a bright flash of red from the surveillance chest as the spell shut down, and Hermione raced into the room. She ran to Ron's side as he slumped out of the chair, landing on the floor with a dull thud. "Ron!" she shrieked.
Ron convulsed, his blue eyes so dilated that the iris was barely visible. "Her-hermione?" he croaked, trying to reach for her, but failing miserably. "L-love?"
Hermione gathered him in her arms, tears streaming down her cheeks. "Don't die, Ron. Don't die on me! I won't allow it!"
"S-stop givin' m-me orders..." he insisted, clutching at her sleeve.
"I'll Heal you — just give me a minute to—" She started to fumble in her bag, trying to find something.
"You c'n do it," Ron mumbled. "Cleveres' witch ev'r...love...you..." He gave one last rattling gasp and then collapsed in her arms. Hermione began to wail, cradling his prone body to her chest.
At that point, Maizy threw me out of her mind completely, falling to the ground in a whimpering, gibbering heap. I patted her shoulder, a bit awkwardly. I didn't know if it was part of the memory-muddling or just misplaced House-Elf loyalty, but giving me the memories had broken Maizy, and soon enough those memories would break Pansy Parkinson. I now knew exactly what had happened and why.
Hermione had lied to me — and the entire Ministry for that matter— in order to protect Maizy and her fellow House-Elves. Even if they hadn't been complicit in Parkinson's plans, they had to have known what Maizy had done. The files I'd found in Hermione's office made sense now; she had been working for ages to liberate the elves and improve their lot in life. The draconian laws on the books currently said that if a House-Elf harmed a human being, it was in serious trouble. If the Elf could prove that the owner ordered it done, it would go free. However, if they couldn't prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, the Elf bore the full responsibility. Unfortunately, like most Sentient Non-Humans, the Wizarding world tended to discount House-Elves so it was never easy. Seeing how Maizy was also an illegally relocated Elf who had once been a Death Eater spy (at least by current law), and there were other relocated Elves' lives at stake, it was going to be very dicey indeed.
If I didn't play it carefully, the Ministry would hunt down each and every one of them and throw their wrinkled grey arses in prison. That wasn't something I could live with. I knew had to come up with a plan to get Hermione off the hook and protect all the House-Elves at the same time. This required some thought. * * *
I got out of the Crup and back to my office to sort it all out, convinced that I would be able to fix it all, somehow. As I went in the front door, I realised I could detect the aroma of sweet-smelling tobacco smoke in the air.
Pansy Parkinson sat in one of my chairs fingering her wand, her long, shapely legs crossed at the knees. Even in the dim light, she looked beautiful, but deadly, like a snake coiled to strike.
"How the fuck did you...?"
"Really, Miss Tonks. You ought to make sure your security wards are in place before you go out," she said dryly. "At least if you don't want unexpected company."
"What the hell do you want?" I asked, although I was pretty certain I knew the answer. I'd already let on that I knew at least part of her secret before I'd left her place and no doubt Goyle had tipped her off while I was interviewing his — their
She cocked an eyebrow at me, a smug smile forming on her face. "Why, to kill you, of course. Tomorrow they'll find you dead, having been ambushed by a burglar who ransacked your office. There will be no questions."
"Is that so?"
"Of course. And your little lover girl, Granger, will be indicted for murdering her husband." Pansy wrinkled her nose. "I, of course, will take a nice long holiday on the Continent until things calm down."
"Don't think so, love." I kept my eye on her, feeling a bit like a mongoose watching a cobra, wanting to keep her talking until I get some defensive cover. I edged towards my desk, one careful step at a time. "So, why'd you do it, Pansy?"
"That's Miss Parkinson to you
, you Half-Blood freak," she growled.
"Cauldron, kettle, black," I countered. I'd been called a lot worse by much nastier sorts than her, starting with my own traitorous flesh and blood.
"You can't prove that!" she exclaimed.
"Can't I? I've seen the records m'self, Pansy
...your doctoring job just wasn't that good. Sooner or later, they'll find out that your mum was an ordinary Muggle, not some Spanish bruja
. Is that why you killed Ron Weasley? Just to keep yourself looking Pure?"
"I killed Ron Weasley because he found out about it all. He and Granger were in collusion. They knew about my mother...my father spent his entire life covering up for her. He loved her with every fibre of his being, even if she was a Muggle." She all but spat out the word. "He believed she was the exception to the rule, that she was different than all the others. He fell in love with her on a trip to Spain and married her in spite of his beliefs. He couldn't have the rest of the Wizarding world looking down upon him or calling him a hypocrite, so they set about a plan to have our House-Elves cover up for her, casting spells and charms while making it look like she was the one doing it. It wasn't very often and people are easily fooled. No one ever bothered to check. They all knew the Academia de la Magia
was destroyed during the war against Grindelwald and never rebuilt. After that, the Pura del Sangre
just hired tutors to teach their children magic at home, or sent them away to Beauxbatons. My father just forged the proper documents, fixed things for my mother and then let our Elves do the rest."
"And what had any of this to do with Hermione and Ron?" I asked.
"They were working for House-Elf liberation. Granger kept trying to push through new laws and legislation. If our family's Elves were set free, they might talk and I couldn't have that. I've been systematically shutting down anyone who was even remotely sympathetic to their cause." She flashed me a predatory smile. "They were getting desperate."
"More like you were, sunshine."
"I wasn't going to let them ruin it for me. Not that filthy little Mudblood and her blood traitor of a husband. Even when he was in bed with me, he talked about her. He was still in love with her even though she had no interest in him that
way." Her lip curled up into a sneer. "I suppose you're more her type, aren't you?"
I shrugged, now partially covered by the desk. "It's over, Parkinson."
"No, Miss Tonks, I don't think so." She whipped her wand out with lightning speed, her lips starting to form the words "Avada Kedavra", but I didn't give her the chance. As the green light flashed, I dove behind the desk, the corner of it exploding into a shower of splinters. That really hacked me off as I was quite fond of that desk, it was old and worn but had a certain charm about it...and I'd already entertained thoughts of what to do to Hermione upon it as soon as she was released.
I threw up a shielding spell, then hit her with a Stunner, narrowly missing her by an inch. I tried an Expelliarmus
next, but she held on tight, then shot a Body-bind at me. Once again I rolled out of the way just in time, my old defensive lessons kicking in. A Confrigo
sent half of my book case crashing down on me; luckily I was able to use the desk to shield me from the worst of it. Parkinson wasn't half-bad when it came to duelling, but she was no match for me. Hell, I'd fought Bellatrix Lestrange and survived, I wasn't about to let one little bitch with an attitude take me out. I attempted another Stupefy, and this time it hit true. There was a bright red flare and then she went falling backwards, hitting the floor with a crash. I was up and on my feet, getting her trussed up like a Christmas turkey in record time.
And now I had an awful lot of cleaning up to do. * * *
Hermione was beaming as she stepped out into the sunshine, squinting in the bright light. She looked a bit worse for wear, but nothing a bit of fresh air and a decent meal wouldn't cure. She was already looking much better than when I'd first come to tell her that she'd been sprung and the whole ordeal over with for good.
"I can't believe you did it!" she blurted, slipping her arm through mine. "Tonks, you're an angel!"
"Ah, not so certain about that
, love. I did have to go through an awful lot to get Kingsley to see things my way – hardly angelic if you must know." I gave her a broad wink. "In the end, he did the right thing though, didn't he?"
"He pardoned all the Elves," Hermione breathed, still looking incredulous at the thought. "They'll never have to worry about it again."
"No, they won't. And he's got Pansy's entire confession in his Pensieve so there's no question that she'll be sent down for good. Kingsley's a great bloke," I said with a laugh. "Glad he came to the proper conclusion on his own, though. I'd have hated to hold a little fun against him just to get m'own way about things."
Hermione stared at me, her eyes wide. "I can't believe you'd have blackmailed the Minster for Magic just for me."
"I dunno," I replied, smirking. "I rather think it would've been worth it. In any eventuality, it doesn't matter. He did it out the goodness of his heart — though I always make certain to have a backup plan. It always works out better that way when I do."
That caused her to smile, then give me a very long hug. "Thank you, Tonks. I don't know what I would have done without you."
I buried my face in her hair, quickly pressing my lips against the crook of her neck. "Luckily, you'll never have to find out, love."
She drew back, cupping my face in her hand. "I know Ron would be grateful too. I wish—"
"I know, love. I know. I'd like to think he'd want to see you happy though." I felt myself blushing. "You are
happy, aren't you?"
Hermione nodded slowly, then drew me in for a long, lingering kiss that made my toes curl. There was no denying that she made me very happy, and with any luck, would continue to for a very long time. For once, I reckoned, my luck was definitely looking up.