The Sugar Quill
Author: ilene  Story: Breaking News  Chapter: Chapter Three: Ted, Again
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Breaking News

Breaking News

Written by ilene

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Chapter Three: Ted, Again 

 

Ted Tonks stepped out of the fireplace, feeling as if he’d been pulled through a wringer.  His fatigue was not just the physical kind.  He could still smell the putrid smell of the sewer, the blood, and hear the screams and groans of the injured.  And if he closed his eyes, he could see the bodies, and parts of bodies.  Ted tossed his briefcase on the floor near his desk, as a wave of nausea washed over him that had little to do with the effects of the journey through the Floo Network.

 

While the Department of Magical Catastrophes was already at the scene by the time Ted arrived, their work had been limited to finding and securing the key Muggle witnesses to the scene, employing Memory Charms on the others...and removing the remains of Peter Pettigrew.  Not that there was much left to remove.

 

Peter.  Ted had met him a number of times, usually in the company of Sirius, James, and sometimes – though not recently, come to think of it – Remus.   He was a small, pudgy kid, who somehow seemed even younger than he actually was.  He didn’t remember having too many interesting conversations with him.  Peter had seemed to be one of those people who went through life smiling, nodding, and sometimes loudly voicing assent to the opinions of others, but without daring to state his own – that is, if he even had any.  He dealt with such people enough as it was, at the Ministry.  Who knew he had it in him to challenge anyone to a duel?  Much less Sirius?

 

His head swam.  He still couldn’t make any sense of it.  He hadn’t been able to talk directly to any witnesses, since that pompous Fudge had refused, declaring that “As the senior Ministry official on the scene, I must tell you that the Muggle Relations Department has no jurisdiction over this investigation”. 

 

He had barely refrained from pointing out to Fudge that, strictly speaking, the final jurisdiction belonged not to Magical Catastrophes but to Magical Law Enforcement.   But he’d gotten enough information from more talkative Ministry members at the scene to have an idea about what had happened, about what Peter had allegedly said to Sirius, and what Sirius had supposedly done.

 

“Wotcher, Daddy!” 

 

Ted’s thoughts were interrupted as Dora ran into the room.

 

“Wotcher, Dora!”  Ted smiled for what he thought must be the first time that day.  “I see you’re going with red hair today?”

 

“Just like Mr. Weasley at the Ministry,” Dora said.  “I like him! He’s so funny.  And he gave me plugs to take home!” 

 

 “Yes, he does have quite a collection of them, doesn’t he?” Ted said.  But Arthur Weasley, for all his eccentricities, was also quite helpful when it came to supplying him with leads on Muggle-baiting incidents. 

 

“Uh-huh,” Dora said, then clapped her hand to her forehead.  “Oh!  I forgot!  Mummy said I had to write him a thank-you letter!”

 

“Where is Mummy, by the way?” Ted asked. His smile began to fade, though he tried to maintain it for Dora’s sake.  What am I going to say to her?

 

“Mummy’s in the kitchen,” Dora said.  “She’s reading.”

 

“In the kitchen?” 

 

“Mmm-hmmm.”  Dora stepped toward him as if to take his hand, then jumped back.  “Daddy!  You smell like Dungbombs!”  She twisted her face, and her nose shrank to the size of a Knut. 

 

“Yes, I suppose I do,” Ted said, walking slowly toward the kitchen, Dora following him at somewhat of a distance.

 

“Were you out reporter-ing again, Daddy?”

 

“Yes, I was.”

 

“Mummy said you were going to be in the telly, so we went up to the treehouse, but you weren’t in the telly!  Oh, and then the newspaper came, and Cousin Sirius was on it!  He was laughing!”

 

At the mention of Sirius, Ted quickened his pace considerably.  He saw Andromeda, sitting at the kitchen table, the Daily Prophet laid out in front of her, with the screaming headline, “BLACK ATTACK ON MUGGLE STREET”, clearly visible.

 

“Andromeda?”

 

“Ted!”  Andromeda looked up, and he saw that her eyes were obviously red, even through her glasses.  “Ted, you’re okay!”

 

“Yes, but I can’t say the same for my clothes,” Ted said.  “Might be time to cast Incendi –” Ted broke off his words in surprise as Andromeda suddenly embraced him, with apparently no care in the world for the state of his clothing.

 

“Oh Ted, I saw it.  On the telly, I mean.  There weren’t any pictures of it in the Daily Prophet, except for...Sirius….”

 

“I know, Dora told me,” Ted said in a low voice.

 

“She doesn’t know,” Andromeda said.  “I mean, she knows his picture’s in the paper, but not why.”  She laughed nervously. 

 

Ted realized that it would be best to talk without Dora present.

 

He stepped back from Andromeda, and turned to Dora.

 

“Dora?  You remember what you said about writing a thank-you letter to Mr. Weasley?”

 

“Yes, Daddy,”

 

“Well, why don’t you go use Daddy’s desk and write it now?  I think I left a piece of memo parchment on top of it,” Ted said. “And I left a quill on the chair,” he added, remembering how he’d tossed it there before jumping into the Floo.

 

“I get to write a memo?”

 

“Yes, and the next time Daddy goes to work, I’ll fold it up and send it right to Mr. Weasley’s office.”

 

“Okay!”  Dora smiled, and trotted off.

 

He looked at Andromeda again, and sighed.  “So, what does the Prophet say?”

 

“Not much,” she said.  “Oh, it goes on and on about how terrible it was, thirteen people killed with a single curse…how it took twenty Hit Wizards to take him away…how he was laughing…and Peter, Peter was there, oh, Peter’s dead...little Peter Pettigrew…”

 

“And it says Sirius killed him?”

 

“Yes, but it’s strange,” she said.  “There’s nothing there about Peter being his friend, or why he…it makes it sound like Sirius just went crazy!  But it also says that ‘the circumstances make it appear to be a Dark incident’…of course, they had to bring up Regulus, too, and Bel…my sister.”

 

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Ted remembered his boss saying, when he’d first gone out to cover the story…it felt as if it had been days ago, not hours.

 

Andromeda looked at him, the unspoken question apparent in the expression on her face.

 

“Apparently, Fudge has declared most of the information classified,” Ted said, suppressing a snort.

 

“Fudge?  Since when does Fudge have the authority to do that?  Last I checked, Crouch was the Head of the M.L.E.”

 

“Well, Catastrophes was first on the scene,” he said.  “The M.L.E. chaps Apparated in a few minutes later, but…well, you know how it goes.  I’m sure Crouch has sent a whole flock of memos out to Catastrophes already about ‘clarifying jurisdictional matters’.  Fudge held some of the Muggles who were there so that M.L.E. could question them, but he let the Obliviators handle the rest, which, of course, means that there might have been crucial witnesses whose testimony will never be heard.”

 

“Oh, I’m sure Crouch will love that.  Fudge is such a…he’s not even head of his Department!”  Andromeda rolled her eyes.  “And what did the witnesses tell you?”

 

Ted couldn’t suppress his snort this time.  “Well, I’m sure they would have told me something, if I’d actually been able to talk to them.  But no, according to Fudge, Muggle Relations has absolutely no jurisdiction in the matter.  Never mind that a dozen Muggles were killed, and twice that number are in the hospital.” 

 

“Fudge is a fool,” Andromeda said.  “Especially when it comes to Muggles.  Muggle-borns, too.”

 

“I’ve noticed,” Ted said.  He laughed harshly, remembering the way Fudge had looked at him, as if he should be grateful that Fudge was deigning to actually speak to him in person.  

 

“So you don’t know anything, then, other than what’s in –” Andromeda gestured at the paper on the table.

”I didn’t say that,” Ted said.  “I talked to some people.  Frank was there, he told me what he heard.”

 

Andromeda nodded.

 

“Now, I know what you’re going to say, Andromeda.  Yes, I am glad that I never did challenge Frank Longbottom to a duel at Hogwarts.  And not only because he tells me about M.L.E. matters, either.   I mean, if I had, I’d probably have wound up sent up to Madam Pomfrey in a matchbox....”  Stop trying to change the subject, Ted, he thought.  You have to tell her!  She deserves to know.

 

He took a deep breath.

 

“Frank told me, some of the Muggles said, they’d heard Peter say, right before the…no, I have to explain, first.”

 

“Explain what?” Andromeda looked halfway puzzled, halfway annoyed.

 

“Well, you know how James and Lily went into hiding?”

 

“Yes, of course I do,” Andromeda said.  “But they didn’t hide well enough, did they?”  She looked angry now, though Ted wasn’t sure if the anger was directed toward the Potters for getting themselves killed, or at him for bringing them up.

 

“And you also remember, Sirius said he’d be going on a long trip?  That we shouldn’t expect to see him for a while?”

 

“Are you saying he went into hiding, too?” She laughed.  “Sirius would never do that!  Oh, he knew there were plenty of people who’d like to see him dead.  Bel…my sister, for one.  But he would never just run away.  He’s a Gryffindor, after all. Now, if he had a wife, and a baby, it might have been different –”

 

“No, I’m not saying that he was hiding,” Ted said. “Well, not for himself, anyway.  Listen, you know about the Fidelius Charm, right?”

 

“Of course!  So…you mean…” Andromeda looked at Ted as if a light had come on in her mind.  It was one reason he’d fallen for her; that way she had of suddenly putting everything together and coming up with the right answer in an instant.  “Sirius was the Secret-Keeper for James?”

 

Ted nodded.  “He was the Secret-Keeper for James, and Lily, and Harry.  For the secret of where they were hidden.”

 

“But the Fidelius Charm can never be broken!  How did the Dar…I mean, Vo...I mean, You-Know-Who…how did he find them?”

 

“Andromeda,” Ted said, “You know the charm is broken if the Secret Keeper tells –”

 

“No! Sirius would never have –”

 

“Andromeda.  This is what Peter said, before Si...before the explosion.  He said, ‘Lily and James, Sirius!  How could you!’”

 

“No, he couldn’t have!  That Muggle must have heard him wrong.”

 

“It was more than one Muggle,” Ted said.  “Look, I’m not even saying Sirius did tell.  But it does seem Peter thought he did.  And after that, they said Sirius raised his wand arm, one of them actually saw his wand…and then…”

 

“And Peter?  Did he draw his wand?”

 

“Probably,” Ted said.  “Some witnesses said they saw him raise his arm.  No one saw his wand.  But they did find it, after…it was on the ground. Along with his –”

 

That was in the Prophet,” Andromeda said.  “Something about his finger being the largest part of him they could find.”

 

“The largest part of him they could identify,” Ted said.  “And even that’s not…there were so many people there, Muggles rushing to work. My god, it was hard to tell sometimes…which body parts belonged to which….”  He shuddered. 

 

“Oh, Ted,” Andromeda said.  “You saw –”

 

“I saw everything,” Ted said.  “Well, I didn’t see Peter, they had to…clear him away before the Muggles came.” 

 

“And Sirius?  Did you see Sirius?”

 

“They’d already taken him away, too.  Straight off to Azkaban.”

 

“It was a Dark curse, then,” Andromeda said.

 

“Well, actually…Frank told me that it wasn’t, not really.  A simple Reductor, probably, or something like that, maybe a cross between that and Incendio.”

 

“But how could a simple curse …”

 

“Because there was a gas explosion.”  Ted found himself on the verge of something close to laughter.  “There was a gas line running under the street, along with a sewer line.  A little hole, a little spark…that’s all it takes.”

 

“Simple yet brilliant,” Andromeda said, then suddenly closed her mouth.  Ted looked at her, knowing what she was thinking.  How many times had she said that about one of Sirius’s little schemes?

 

After what seemed like a long, uncomfortable silence, Andromeda looked at him.

 

“So you think he did it?”

 

“I don’t know,” Ted said.  “I really don’t know. Frank said he’d tried to speak to him, but he was…well, still laughing, and speaking some, but it was nonsense, just raving, really.  Something about rats and worms, apparently.  Whatever happened, it must have been a big shock to him, enough to make him lose his mind.  Hopefully it’s temporary.  I’ve heard of that happening to Muggles, too.  Usually, they regain their senses with time, but it can take a while; months, even years.”

 

“Oh Merlin,” Andromeda said.  “What are we going to tell Nymphadora?”

 

“I don’t know,” Ted said again.  He felt foolish saying it, but he couldn’t think of anything else.  “Maybe something like, ‘Cousin Sirius was in a big accident, and he had to go to the Ministry to answer some questions about it.’”

 

“I suppose,” Andromeda said.  “But if he’s in Azkaban…if he goes in front of the Wizengamot…we’ll have to tell her the truth eventually.”

 

“I know,” Ted said.  The problem is, I don’t know what the truth is, anymore.

//
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