Yes, but... by Aestel [Reviews - 16]
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Tonks pivoted as if to leave the office only moments after having entered it. “Not you too.” Rumors were flying fast if they had made it to Madam Bones already. Still, Tonks had undoubtedly been called in here for a reason, so she pivoted again and collapsed into one of the chairs facing the desk. Better to take this sitting down, she decided.
If Madam Bones had any observations regarding Tonks’ unusual interpretation of office etiquette, she chose not to voice them. “I hear your fiancé gave the Healers quite a talking-to.”
“And then marched straight away to the Patent Office,” Tonks added.
“What a charming man,” Madam Bones murmured, adjusting her monocle.
“So I’ve noticed.”
“Speaking of charming men,” the department head segued with the faintest of sighs, “our newest prisoner has apparently taken a shine to you as well.”
“Oh?” Tonks decided almost immediately that she did not like the sound of that.
“Would you be up to interrogating him? He’s been asking for you.”
“I would understand if you’re not feeling up to it, of course. After all, we wouldn’t want Professor Snape to scold us for taxing you,” she said a little too smoothly. Tonks was beginning to get the distinct feeling that the dour woman was poking fun at her.
“I’ll be fine,” Tonks said. “Only – why does he want to talk to me?”
“I suspect that’s something you should ask him,” Madam Bones suggested, looking down at the papers on her desk and shuffling them meaningfully.
“I’ll go do that.”
Avery was lounging on the bed in his cell when Tonks arrived. “So, I hear you’ve been asking for me,” she said. Behind her, the door clanked shut again and two guards resumed their posts at either side of it.
The bedraggled man raised his head. “You’re in late today.” To Tonks he looked like the kind of rat that rats wouldn’t associate with, except that he had the strange roguish charm of a psychopath. Never a good combination, she knew.
She seated herself at one of the chairs the guards had set up for her. “Had a bit of a lie-in with Sevvy-poo.”
Avery took the hint and joined her at the table. “That’s disgusting.”
“Don’t I know it. So, what’d you want to chat about?” As she bantered with the man, Tonks began to unpack the supplies she had brought in with her.
“Oh, nothing in particular. Figured if I had to be interrogated by an Auror I might as well get myself a pretty one who has a thing for Death Eaters. And I see you brought lunch for me.”
“I brought lunch for me. Figured as long as I had to interrogate you, I might as well take a moment to eat while I’m at it. But I did bring this for you,” Tonks said, sliding a glass of clear liquid over to him.
Avery frowned at it suspiciously. “And what’s that?”
“Coy one you are,” he said wryly. “Almost believed you for a second there.”
Tonks shrugged and took a bite of her sandwich. “You’ll be drinking it anyway. You can either drink it on your own or I can call in a few of my big strong Auror mates and they can make you drink it. Ooh, pickle.”
Avery rolled his eyes and tossed back the liquid. “I can name names.”
“So can I,” Tonks said.
“Of Death Eaters,” Avery clarified.
“Yes, I got that bit,” Tonks said. “Got anyone that’ll surprise us?”
Avery thought for a moment. “Er, no.”
“Good, then. Moving on.”
“Has anyone ever told you that you have a rather strange interrogation style?”
“My fiancé said much the same thing the other day. The way I see it, you Death Eaters have become too used to Moldyvort’s methods. Crucio, hex, hex, snide remark, debasement… a tad on the boring side, isn’t it? You really should try to keep an open mind about these things. You might even find you enjoy a change of pace. Er, actually, speaking of my fiancé, we’ve got an interview with the Prophet in half an hour, so if we could hurry this up a bit…”
Avery had set his feet on the table and was viewing his cell through the lens of his glass. If it had been any of several other Death Eaters, Tonks might’ve been worried by his eccentric behavior, but the read she got off Avery suggested that he was more relieved to be imprisoned than anything. Psychopath? Yes. Murdering bastard? Surely. The type to explode people into bits in order to attempt a breakout? Meh, not particularly. Avery had bought his freedom before; he was fairly confident he could do it again. This was the type of prisoner that she liked. “What can you give me?” he asked.
“A bloody nose.”
“Now, see, I didn’t even believe that.” Avery sighed and put down the glass. “You’re supposed to ask me what I can give you.”
Tonks finished half her sandwich and started on the other half. It was very good; she’d have to thank the Hogwarts house-elves for making it for her. “What can you give me, then?”
“That’s better,” Avery said. “Now it just might happen that I just might know a little something about some plans a Dark Lord of our acquaintance might have for some non-magical folk.”
Tonks took a swig of her own beverage. “Would your knowledge in this area be more detailed than, say, ‘killing as many of the buggers as possible while creating mayhem and hysteria’?”
Avery touched his nose and nodded. “It just might be, at that.”
“How much more detailed?”
“Not dates and times,” Avery said quickly. “I’m sure my arrest will put them behind in any case. But methods, methods I can give you… for the right price.”
Tonks scratched her ear, then took another bite of her sandwich. She decided she really ought to ask for the recipe as well. Not that her chances of making it successfully were all that good. “And what else?”
“Isn’t that enough?”
“For a corner cell in Azkaban, probably.”
Avery leaned forward conspiratorially. “What does a bloke have to do to get something more in the line of house arrest?”
Mimicking him, Tonks leaned forward as well. “I’d say he’d have to be very helpful. Something more along the lines of answering all of our questions and volunteering any extra tidbits that he happens to have on hand.”
“And if he was very helpful, what’s to ensure he would get this deal?”
“My word as an Auror.”
Avery leaned back again. “Now you seem like a nice lady… a bit barmy to be marrying Snape, but nice all the same… but you’ll understand if the aforesaid bloke didn’t find that very reassuring.”
Tonks brushed some crumbs off her sleeve. “I suppose I could have Madam Bones draw something official up… but it’d be awfully hard to convince her of your eagerness to help without some gesture of goodwill or the like… er, we were referring to you, weren’t we?”
Avery winked. “Got it in one, chickadee. So, what kind of juicy morsel would tempt Madam Bones?”
Tonks thought for a moment and then played a hunch. “I’ve heard rumors about some place that your crowd is gathering… some old underground Muggle place that you’re making into a stronghold - what can you tell me about that?”
Avery sat back farther in his chair and folded his arms across his chest. “Not as much as I’d like to be able to, believe me. Can’t tell you where it is, we just Apparate where we’re called. And I don’t know as I’d call it a ‘stronghold’ so much as a base of operations… there are these handy tunnels and pipes that would be convenient for that mayhem I’m not mentioning until I get my deal in writing.”
“That’s all you can give me?”
“I wish I could give you more, but Muggle London isn’t really something I’m all that familiar with.”
Something was nagging at Tonks, but she couldn’t quite pinpoint it. “It’s here in London?”
“That’s what I said, didn’t I?”
Tonks gnawed on a fingernail. “We’ve had people looking all over the country for it.”
“More fool you.”
“Be nice. All right, then, I’ll let Madam Bones know what you’ve told me, and we’ll see what we can draw up.” Tonks stood and gathered her things. “Thank you for your time, Mr. Avery.”
“Give my regards to Snape,” Avery said with an airy wave of one hand as he settled back onto his cot. “Oh,” he added eerily, “I wouldn’t take too long getting all that legal mumbo-jumbo ironed out – your Muggles don’t have forever.”
Tonks resisted the urge to respond, and instead walked over to the cell door. Only when the cell door clanged shut behind her and she was out of the prisoner’s sight did she allow herself to relax.
Her relaxation might have been premature, however. She endured another round of jibes about the previous night’s near-death experience on the way back to Madam Bones’ office. Only Aurors, she decided, could be so easily amused by a poisoning and an overbearing fiancé.
“Oh bugger it - I’m beginning to think like Snape,” she muttered to herself as she knocked on Madam Bones’ door.
The dour woman put aside the stack of papers she was reading from and gestured for Tonks to come into her office. “And what did our prisoner have to say?”
“The prisoner is prepared to provide us with information if we promise to keep him out of Azkaban.”
Madam Bones frowned. “What kind of information?”
“He says that You-Know-Who is planning a massive attack on Muggle London. They’ve got some sort of underground base here.”
“Are we certain this a real plot?”
Tonks nodded. “I’ve been hearing rumors about something of the sort. I did give him Veritaserum as well, though I’m not entirely sure that worked on him – he seemed in full control of what he said. Either he has found a way to counteract the Veritaserum, or he’s too disturbed for it to work properly.”
“And how much information can he provide us?”
It was Tonks’ turn to frown. “Not as much as we’d like, it seems. Can’t tell us when or where… but he did seem to know who, what and how.”
Madam Bones looked out her enchanted window for a moment. It was charmed to show a blustery autumn day, Tonks noted, despite the fact that it was currently midsummer. “That is not enough to keep him out of Azkaban.”
Tonks bit the corner of her lip for a moment. Advocating for the Death Eater made her feel dirty inside, but it was important that whatever Voldemort was plotting was stopped before it killed thousands of Muggles. “Y’know, the Muggles have this game they call ‘good cop, bad cop’ – it might be worth it to send someone else in to interrogate him while I’m out… someone terrifying.”
“It’s worth more than your job if you decide to nominate me for the task, Nymphadora Tonks,” Madam Bones warned with an arched eyebrow.
“Wasn’t thinking of you, ma’am. Not that I don’t think you couldn’t be terrifying, provided you wanted to be terrifying, of course… er… but I was thinking more along the lines of Mad-Eye Moody.”
Madam Bones’ eyebrow lowered only slightly. “Alastor Moody is retired.”
“Has anyone attempted to tell him that?” Tonks asked with a knowing grin. “I suppose there’s always that fiancé of mine who you’re all so fascinated with.”
“I suppose we could bring Alastor in as a consultant,” Madam Bones mused. “Have my secretary owl him on your way out.”
Tonks took that for a dismissal and stood up.
“And you had better hurry if you don’t want to be late for your interview with the Prophet,” Madam Bones said with a slight smirk. “After all, it’s rather widely known that your fiancé does not tolerate tardiness.”
Tonks waited until she had turned her back to her superior before rolling her eyes. “Yes, ma’am.”
Tonks turned to regard her supervisor as politely as she could, given the circumstances and her strong urge to flee the scene. “Yes, ma’am?”
“You know I do expect an invitation to this wedding of yours.” It might have been just a trick of the light on her monocle, but Tonks could have sworn she saw Amelia Bones wink.
The Atrium had cleared out for the day, apparently by order of the Minister of Magic himself. Torn banners hung limply from the walls and trampled signs littered the floors like forgotten leaflets in an abandoned train terminal. Tonks was pleased to see, however, that the Fountain of Magical Brethren still proudly sported their anti-Ministry signs. Apparently no one had seen fit to remove them yet.
Due to the earlier near-riot conditions, only those with “official business” were allowed to visit the Ministry for the rest of the day, although Tonks noted that Snape had nevertheless managed to haunt the place without being accosted.
“The underground place we’ve been looking for is here in London,” Tonks said by way of greeting. “Oh, and Avery sends his best.”
Snape raised an eyebrow at her. “Avery is a very dangerous man.”
“Y’know, I hadn’t realized that when he was hurling slicing hexes and the killing curse in my direction yesterday, but now that you say so, I believe it.”
“Sarcasm is unbecoming on you, dearest.”
“What?” Tonks asked with a quick grin. “Doesn’t it match with my hair?”
“Very little would.”
Tonks concentrated a moment and grew her hair out to mimic his own oily locks. “How about now?”
Snape took a step closer to her. “I shouldn’t have to warn you that I am also a dangerous man.”
Tonks matched his step forward and transformed her hair again so it had dark purple streaks. “You keep saying that, but so far you haven’t done anything to back it up.”
There was a speculative gleam in Snape’s eyes as he took yet another step forward.
“Aha! There’s our lovebirds, now!” The voice of Josephus Elkins echoed jarringly in the cavernous Atrium. Tonks turned to see him escorting a woman towards them. “Severus, Nymphadora, allow me to introduce you to the reporter from the Daily Prophet. She’ll take good care of you, I’m certain.”
The woman stepped forward and offered her hand. “Rita Skeeter. Delighted to meet the Ministry’s new wonder couple.”
A/N: So there you go... a long-awaited update. Sorry about that; bad stuff happened.
Many thanks to the wonderful Verity Brown for beta-reading and the fabulous Wartcap for britpicking!
Yes, but... by Aestel [Reviews - 16]