Chapter Three: The Shield
After two large tumblers of Ogden's Old Firewhisky, Liz finally stopped shaking.
A sad-faced Mrs. Everett looked down at the
stark white card lying on the pine table, then turned to her daughter. "Is
it true? Did you kill someone?"
Liz looked away, ashamed. "Yes, I did."
Mrs. Everett blanched. "But you Aurors
are allowed to, aren't you? By law?"
"Theoretically. But no-one has, not for
years now. Not since Crouch left the Department."
"But if you were in danger, wouldn't it
be permissible? Self-defence? You did have some nasty injuries when you came
home, love." Mrs. Everett's desperate search for justification almost broke
"It wasn't like that." Liz stared
down at her hands, and wondered how to begin. The barest details would suffice,
but they would still be enough to horrify her mother. "I was involved in an undercover
operation that went wrong. The person we were after murdered one of my contacts
- Rosa - and then attacked me. I injured him, but he managed to get away. I
chased him, and finally cornered him down a back street off Knockturn Alley."
She paused, tasting bile as she struggled for words. "I could have arrested
him. He was badly hurt, it would have been easy. But
I killed him, Mum.
I turned on him and used the Unforgivable Curse."
Mrs. Everett, eyes wide with shock, stared silently
at Liz for what seemed like an agonising eternity. Eventually, she spoke. "And
someone else knows what you did."
White-faced, Liz nodded. "After I'd done
it, I heard a noise behind me, and I suddenly felt like I wasn't alone. I couldn't
see anyone, but there are any number of charms they could have used to hide
themselves. I was bleeding badly and in a lot of pain, not really thinking straight,
so I didn't investigate properly. I just Apparated back to the office and went
straight to my boss. He sent me to St. Mungo's and said he'd go back and deal
with the scene. He came to the hospital later and told me that there had been
no sign of either body, Rosa or the man
nothing. Somebody had got rid
"Is that the reason you came home?"
"St. Mungo's discharged me after a few
days. Kingsley - my boss - told me to take a couple of weeks off. He'd told
everyone the suspect had given me a beating and escaped."
"You've been here longer than two weeks."
Mrs. Everett's voice was quietly firm. "Don't you think you should go back
to work? Especially if someone's trying to frighten you. Your boss might be
able to help."
Liz sighed. "I've been avoiding
it as long as I can. Kingsley sent me a note to ask when I might be coming back,
but I told him I still wasn't well." She paused. "I have been thinking
that it was time to face things." She glanced over at the card on the table.
"And now it really is."
Mrs. Everett's face set hard. "Do you know
who might have sent it?"
"No, but it must be someone involved with
the case. We'd been investigating a series of murders. Mostly women from the
the north end of Knockturn Alley."
"Prostitutes," replied Mrs. Everett.
"Don't spare my feelings, love. Say what you have to."
"The killings had some characteristics
of dark magic rituals. There's generally a group behind that sort of thing,
even if only one or two of them actually carry out the crime. The man I
well, he might not have been the only one. Another of them could have been there,
and followed me during the chase. Maybe that's what I sensed."
Mrs. Everett blanched. "Lizzie, might
they come after you? Are you in danger?"
Liz nervously ran a hand through her hair. It
was no use lying. "Possibly."
Mrs. Everett pointed her wand at the doorway
and muttered a hurried incantation. All the outer doors and windows in the house
locked immediately with a loud, metallic click.
Liz smiled grimly. "Thanks, but I doubt
if simply locking them out will work."
"What do you mean?"
"The group that we suspect are responsible
for these murders aren't ordinary criminals. Remember what I told you about
the people who want to bring Voldemort back? Well, we think this might be
them. They're wealthy and well-connected, not the sort of people you can just
haul in for questioning. They can afford good lawyers, and we'd need a cast-iron
case. That's why we set up the undercover operation, to try and catch them in
the act. They could be powerful enemies."
"Whatever have you got yourself mixed up
in?" snapped Mrs. Everett.
"Mum, I'm really sorry ... I don't blame
you if you hate me --"
Mrs. Everett's anger seemed to melt away as
suddenly as it had started. "Don't be silly, love. You're my daughter,
for Merlin's sake. I could never hate you. I didn't mean to be nasty, I'm -
I'm just scared, I suppose. I can't pretend I'm not shocked, but it must have
been a terrible situation to be in, and sometimes that can make reasonable people
do the worst things."
"It's tearing me apart, Mum. I took a life
- for revenge. How could I have done it?" Liz felt her throat constrict
Mrs. Everett placed a comforting hand on her
shoulder. "Well, of course you feel remorse, love. Be thankful that you
do. But that man would have killed you if he could. He murdered your contact,
didn't he? If you let all this get the better of you, it will be as if he did
take your life. You can't let that happen. Stop torturing yourself and face
up to the situation."
Tears welled up in Liz's eyes. She knew her
mother was right, and she was about to say so, but before she could reply, both
women were nearly jolted out of their skins, as sparks and a puff of smoke shot
out of the fireplace across the hearth rug. A disembodied voice echoed from
the depths of the chimney. "Yoo-hoo! Delilah! It's half-past six! You nearly
A flustered Mrs. Everett gasped for breath and
clutched at the neck of her robe. "Alberta! Hello! Oh, er
sure I'll be going to the WI tonight after all."
"Oh, Delilah, you promised!" The small,
grey head of an elderly woman hovered above the coals, a crestfallen look on
Liz frowned and motioned at her mother. "Go
on, I'll be OK," she whispered.
"Hang on a minute, Alberta, dear
Lizzie, are you sure? I don't think I should leave you alone."
"Nonsense. I'll be fine. You go and enjoy
yourself. You've had your hair done especially, after all. And I've got stuff
to get on with. I'm going to see if I can catch Kingsley before he leaves the
"Oh, well, in that case
is a good idea, love. You do that. I will go then, if you don't mind. You keep
the doors locked behind me. I won't be late."
"I'll see you in the 'Broomsticks at nine
like we arranged, Mum."
"No, Lizzie, it's too dangerous,"
said Mrs. Everett, alarmed.
"Don't worry, I'll be careful. Like you said,
I can't let them win. Anyway, off you go. You're keeping Alberta waiting. See
you at nine."
Mrs. Everett smiled. "All right then, love.
I'll see you there. Apparate straight into the pub, won't you? Aunt Ros and
Uncle Merc won't mind, I'm sure, if you call them first.
And when you get there, you make sure you sit with Aunt Ros until I arrive."
Liz nodded. "Yes, Mum. Don't fuss. Go."
Mrs. Everett, visibly heartened, picked up her cloak
and handbag from a chair near the door. With a swift "Coming, Alberta,
dear!" she cast a handful of Floo powder into the fireplace and nimbly
stepped in, announcing her destination.
As silence descended, Liz sank her head down
onto her arms on the tabletop for a few minutes. She felt drained and sick,
but she eventually dragged herself out of her chair and went off to the downstairs cloakroom.
She splashed some water on her face, brushed her hair and straightened her robes.
Finding a pot of Gorgeous Gloria's Powdered Glamour in her mother's make-up
bag, she sprinkled some onto her hands and rubbed them over her face. A moment
later, she examined her reflection in the mirror, and smiled, pleasantly surprised
to see that she now sported a peachy complexion and smart yet understated make-up,
instead of puffy, tear-streaked eyes and an anxious pallor. No wonder that
Gloria's a millionairess, Liz thought. Deserves an Order of Merlin, First
Class. Taking a couple of deep breaths to compose herself, she strode across
the hall into the dining room. She knelt down on the hearth rug, and, holding
back her hair, pushed her head into the grate. Whilst Floo travel would do at
a pinch when Apparition wasn't suitable, Liz didn't much like using the fire to
communicate, and she coughed a couple of times as she breathed in the warm, sooty air. She
found herself thinking yet again that the Muggles might just be on to something
with those telephones ...
As soon as Liz spoke the words "Auror Chief
Superintendent Shacklebolt", her boss's orderly, wood-panelled office in the
Department of Magical Law Enforcement swam into view. Seconds later the room
swirled round again before her eyes, and she found herself looking into a larger
but considerably shabbier room. She heard the hubbub of voices, and then a sudden
shriek of recognition from a tall young woman with unruly violet hair, who promptly
knocked a set of papers off the crowded desk in front of her into a nearby bin.
"Wotcher, ma'am!" The young woman
leaned across her desk towards a handsome young man in his mid twenties, who
had his feet up on another desk and was reading a battered paperback book. "Jack!"
she said, a note of excitement in her voice. "Look who it is! Inspector
Everett!" As she tugged at the sleeve of his scarlet Auror's robes, she
overbalanced and landed in a heap on the floor. The young man rolled his eyes
skywards and groaned.
Liz laughed, her spirits suddenly lifting at
the sight of them both. "Good evening, Tonks. Still wrecking the place,
"Hey, ma'am," said the young man,
guiltily tucking his book out of sight under a pile of grey parchment folders.
"Long time no see. We've missed you!"
"Hello, Jack," Liz replied. "Reading
on the job again? What's the matter, no criminals to catch? And don't call me
'ma'am'. It makes me feel about a hundred years old."
"You feeling better now then? Coming back
to work soon?" asked Tonks, who had by now picked herself up off the floor.
"Looks that way," said Liz. "Has
the Chief gone home for the day? His fire seems to be on re-direct."
"Nah, he's in a meeting with the top brass
upstairs, boss," replied Jack. "Been there all afternoon. Only us
here, catching up on paperwork. Everyone else is either out on a case, or at
home having a life."
"Who needs a life when you've got the privilege
of being one of the Ministry's finest, Auror Sergeant Williamson?" teased
Liz. "What more could you possibly want?"
Jack gave a grim laugh, and Tonks turned round
in her chair, knocking a mug off the end of Jack's desk, which promptly smashed
on the floor. He sighed, languidly pointed his wand at it, and, newly intact,
the mug flew upwards into his hand.
"Sorry, Jack," said Tonks. "It's
all right, though - there was only mould in that one."
Liz smiled, cheered by their banter. "Well,
I'll leave you to it. Tell the Chief I'll see him tomorrow morning."
She raised an eyebrow, and her voice took on a mock serious tone. "And
you two had better clear all your rubbish out of my cubicle, pronto. I know
what you're like when you're left to your own devices."
Jack grinned. "What, even my Chudley Cannons
blotter?" Liz made a growling noise at him in reply, and he hastily added
"Looking forward to your return, boss." He winked at her. "Missed
you cracking the whip around here!"
"In your dreams, Jack!" replied Liz,
with a laugh. "Anyway, I'll see you both soon. Good night!"
Liz pulled her head from the fireplace and shook
the soot out of her hair. As she stood up she caught sight of herself in the
mirror and noticed a large streak of ash across her cheek. "So much for
dear Gloria, after all," she grumbled, and then chuckled despite herself.
It had been great to see Tonks and Jack, and she knew now just how much she'd
missed their (in Tonks's case, quite literally) knockabout humour. She realised,
to her surprise, that she was quite looking forward to going back, despite what
might lie ahead.
The hall clock struck seven. There were two
hours to go before she had to meet Mum, but Liz didn't feel much like being
alone. She decided to go to the Three Broomsticks early. Perhaps she'd have
a drink with Uncle Merc while Aunt Ros worked in the bar, and maybe a game
of chess afterwards. She went upstairs, changed her robe and cleaned the ash
off her face, then went back down to put on her cloak. As she entered the kitchen,
she caught sight of the white card, still lying on the table. Suppressing a
shudder, she drew her wand and levitated the card and its envelope. Finding
a Spellophane bag in the kitchen drawer, Liz directed the items into it, and
sealed the bag firmly. It was a long shot, especially after it had been through
the owl post, but Magical Forensics might be able to find something, even though
she had a sneaking suspicion that the writer would be far too clever to have
left any clues. She walked back into the hall, opened the cupboard and placed
the bag gently in the pocket of her uniform robe. As she did so, her fingers
found her gold Auror's shield there, in its leather wallet, and she took it
out and held it for a moment. The Ministry insignia glinted in the candlelight.
Heart beating fast, Liz tucked it firmly into her cloak pocket, and then promptly
scolded herself. As if you'll need it for a trip to the pub. But the
familiar weight of the shield against her side was comforting, and she felt
as if she had regained something lost, a part of her identity. Whatever will
come, will come, she thought. And when it does, I'll be ready.
So far, we haven't learned a great deal of detail about the Aurors from canon,
apart from the fact that they specialise in catching dark wizards, and they
handle more serious cases than the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol. In the latter
respect, the split between British police detectives (regarded as more 'elite')
and ordinary uniformed police is similar. Therefore, since there's nothing to
contradict it as yet in canon, I've used the British police detective ranking
system - so, for 'Auror Constable / Sergeant / Inspector' etc., the real-life rank
would be 'Detective Constable / Sergeant / Inspector' and so on. Also, rank
initials are often used; 'A.S.' would mean 'Auror Sergeant', for example.
No doubt the next book will
prove me wrong ...