“Pleasure to meet you. How do you do?”
He flashes her a suave grin, showing off
a mouthful of brilliant white teeth. Persephone says nothing, and watches as he
casually pulls up a chair to join them at the table. He catches her eye as he
does so, giving her a quick wink. Affronted, she frowns slightly.
She clears her throat, finding her voice.
“I’m sorry, what?” she asks, bluntly.
“If we are to win this war, Ms Pellyn, we require a
competent Minister,” Dumbledore explains, patiently.
She sighs. “I know that, Professor,” she says. “I
just can’t comprehend why you would choose to use me for this.” Or him, for
that matter, she adds to herself.
“Trust me, Ms Pellyn, you are both well suited for
this, and have demonstrated the necessary skills ample times before,”
Dumbledore answers, smiling slightly.
He stands, and adjusts his robes. “Now, I trust you
will both keep this matter private for the time being, so if you will excuse
me, I have business to attend to up at the school.”
He nods his goodbyes, and heads to exit the office.
“Oh, Ms Pellyn,” he adds as an afterthought. “A July election sounds wonderful,
would you agree?”
* * *
To Ani, the world is simple. It is nothing more
complex than a swirl of colour and sound. She is naïve, as many nine-year-olds
often are, and content with being unaware of the turmoil developing outside her
She sighs, and pulls another book from her shelf.
She flicks idly through the pages, stopping to gaze longingly at the happy princesses
on the arms of their princes. She is not sure which she prefers: the tedious
hours spent in lessons with her mother, or the dull, lifeless moments of the
Three consecutive thumps sound from the room beside
her, followed by a high-pitched wail. She pauses, a page clutched in her hand.
Seconds tick by slowly, before her bedroom door is pushed open, revealing two
Ani regards them sympathetically, and purses her
“What have you done now?” she enquires, becoming slightly
The smaller one, Jiminy, removes a lampshade from
his head, clutching it tightly in his fists. He coughs. “Fighting.”
He lets out small yelp as his older brother stands
indiscreetly on his foot.
“We weren’t fighting,” Emmett states, as he sits
coolly on the edge of her bed.
“Then how –”
“That, Ani, is none of your business,” Emmett
interrupts. Jiminy nods fervently in agreement.
“None of your business,” he echoes.
“Then what are doing in here?” she asks, closing
her book and placing it on the shelf.
“We knocked over the bookcase and we need your help
picking up the books,” Jiminy explains, breathlessly.
Emmett glares at Jiminy. “You,” he states, “have a
Jiminy bites his lip, ashamed, and hangs his head.
Ani sighs, and regards the boys in front of her.
Emmett is staring back at her, calmly swinging his feet as he does so. Jiminy
has begun shredding the lampshade fabric, and is looking somewhat forlornly at
“So, you weren’t fighting,” Ani repeats, slowly,
“but you made the bookcase fall over?”
Emmett shrugs. “Wasn’t that difficult,” he boasts.
“Lot of uncontrolled magic that one’s got.” He tilts his head sharply in
Jiminy looks as though he is about to protest, but
thinks better of it, and takes a seat on the floor beside the bed. Ani frowns,
“Why are you sitting in here then? Haven’t you got
cleaning to do?” Her hands find her hips as she adopts a pose her brothers have
affectionately dubbed: the nagging mother.
“It’d be much more fun watching you do it,” Jiminy
Emmett beams proudly down at him.
* * *
The clock behind her strikes nine. It has been a
long day, and she is exhausted. Across from her, William has seemingly made
himself at home; his legs stretched out casually beneath the table, tie hanging
loosely from his neck.
She surveys him over the top of her jam doughnut.
She is apprehensive of the task they have been given, and feels it to be
slightly uncharacteristic of Dumbledore. She sighs, licking cream from her
“What a day,” William states, conversationally.
Persephone makes a non-committal noise in the back
of her throat. Silence falls between them, and William begins picking at the
label on his Butterbeer.
“I’m not going to do it,” Persephone says, bluntly.
William looks up suddenly from his bottle,
surprised. “I – What?”
Persephone shrugs. “It’s not going to work,” she
answers. “You’d never get the job, and no amount of planning on my part is
going to help you.”
William feels as though he has just been slapped in
the face. “You really don’t like me, do you?”
She takes a bite of the doughnut, purposely evading
“I’ve heard things,” she says. “Rumours and the
William raises an inquiring eyebrow at this.
Persephone throws the doughnut onto the plate in
front of her, choosing to ignore him. “You can’t honestly think the Ministry is
going to appoint a twenty-something nobody– ”
“I’m thirty-five,” he interrupts. “And there’s a
first time for everything.”
For Persephone, finding herself speechless is a
rare occasion, and yet, she realises rather grudgingly, he has managed to put
her in such a position twice in the last twelve hours. She frowns, saying
nothing. She has not known the man very long, but she finds herself labelling
him insufferable, and wishes for him to leave.
As though reading her thoughts, William stands and
straightens his tie, readying himself to depart.
“I’ll be awaiting your Owl, informing me of your
change of mind,” he states, formally.
Persephone stares blankly up at him. “You don’t
“Don’t I?” he asks.
He retrieves his coat from the back of his chair,
waving his arms about ridiculously as he shrugs it onto his shoulders.
“I’m not doing it,” Persephone replies, more to
herself than to William.
William pays her no mind as he crosses the room,
heading for the door. His behaviour puzzles Persephone to no end, and she often
finds herself wondering just why Dumbledore’s preposition has had such a
profound effect on the man.
“Why do you want this so badly?” she asks, softly.
“What’s in it for you?”
William falters slightly, his hand hovering over
the golden-embossed knob. He says nothing, ignoring her as he wrenches open the
door and stalks through it, allowing it to close roughly behind him, the slam
reverberating around the tiny room.
Persephone is left alone, staring after him,
* * *
Ani sits in her chair and waits, nose pressed
closely against the window. It is long past her bedtime, yet she remains
wide-awake. It is inevitable, she has decided, that should she sleep, she would
The street outside shows no sign of life. The trees
remain motionless, the bushes undisturbed. The minutes tick past on the clock
beside her, before the unmistakable rumble of an approaching car is heard.
Her breath catches in her throat, and her body
tenses, as she sits forward on the edge of her seat. The vehicle passes, with
no inclination of stopping, and she falls, deflated, back against the cushions.
It is hopeless, Ani concludes. Her aunt isn’t
coming. Resolutely, she drags herself away from the window and over to her bed.
Crawling beneath the covers, she sniffs, and wipes her eyes on the edge of her
blanket. She got held up at work, she tells herself. Aunty Perse wouldn’t just
forget like this …
On the footpath below, Persephone stares up at the
house, in particular the little upstairs window belonging to her niece. The
light has just vanished, the occupant inside abandoning all hope of her
arrival. She curses her job, Dumbledore, the Ministry, and the coral pink heels
she foolishly decided to put on that morning.
She lets herself in the front door, making her
presence known to those in the kitchen.
Emily Pellyn, tea towel and wine glass in hand,
pokes her head into the hall. She smiles warmly at Persephone.
“We’d begun to think you weren’t coming.”
Persephone sighs, removes her shoes, and winces at
the sight of her blisters.
“So did I,” she remarks. “Is that brother of mine home?”
“Not yet,” Emily says, returning to the kitchen and
throwing the towel on top of the stove. “Tea?” she offers.
* * *
The apartment is empty, bleak, and uninviting.
Cardboard boxes are stacked haphazardly against the walls, illegible markings
proclaiming their contents. Idly, he flicks on the light and weaves his way
over to the moth-eaten settee, dumped carelessly in the centre of the room.
It isn’t long before the unmistakable crack of his
brother’s Apparation sounds from the kitchen. He appears, looking expectant,
hair thoroughly mussed and falling in his eyes.
“Did you get it?” he demands, stepping eagerly
forward. His hand is outstretched expectantly.
“What, no hello?” he quips, jovially.
He is answered with an irritated stare. “Don’t play
games with me. Do you have it or not?”
“Elliot,” he states plainly, displaying his empty
hands. “Do I look like I have it?”
Elliot curses and kicks one of the nearby boxes.
“What am I supposed to do now?” he questions. “Turn up empty-handed? Fat chance.”
Elliot takes a seat on the windowsill, running an
anxious hand through his hair. He receives no sympathy from his brother, who
has now propped his feet on a stray box and is inspecting his fingernails.
“I would have had it,” he admits.
“Would haves aren’t any good to anybody, least of
all me,” Elliot says. “You had at least two good hours to get in there and out
again before anyone turned up. What were you doing? And don’t tell me you slept
in,” he adds as an afterthought.
“I had no such intentions, dear brother,” came the
answer. He shrugs as he continues, “He was earlier than expected, and there was
nothing I could do about it. You’ll just have to settle for tomorrow, won’t
Elliot sinks to the floor disheartened. “You better
bloody hope I don’t get killed for this,” he mutters.
A scoff can be heard from the settee. “Relax,
you’re not that important.”
Elliot sighs. Somehow, his brother’s words do
nothing to improve his mood.
* * *
The silence in the kitchen is awkward, Persephone
decides as she swirls her half-empty mug. The soggy biscuit crumbs become
clumped on the sides, and after a quick glance to see if she is being watched,
she swipes a finger around the inside, collecting them, before surreptitiously
licking it clean.
“That truly is disgusting, you know.”
Persephone arches an eyebrow at the newcomer and
says nothing. He laughs at her, dropping into an adjacent seat. A cup of tea is
placed in front of him as Emily finally emerges from in front of the sink.
“So, to what do we owe the pleasure of this visit,
dear sister? Need money to bail that flatmate of yours out again?”
Persephone leans back in her chair, folding her
arms. “Funny, Adrian,” she says. “Can’t a girl just pop in to say hello?”
“She was here to see the kids,” Emily interjects,
pushing the plate of biscuits towards her husband, “who, if you aren’t aware,
Adrian, haven’t seen you at all today.
“Nonsense,” Adrian counteracts. “Emmett was up
before five this morning. I had breakfast with him.”
Wishing to avoid an argument, Persephone feels it
necessary to interrupt. “What in the world was he doing up that early?”
Her diversion works. “He wanted to see the
sunrise,” Adrian states plainly.
From the look on Emily’s face, Persephone can tell
the other woman is thinking along the same lines as herself. “Are we talking
about the same boy?” Persephone asks.
“My boy?” Emily echoes.
“The very same,” Adrian answers proudly. “Guess
he’s finally taken an interest in the skies like his old man.”
Persephone laughs inwardly at her brother. “Showing
that Ravenclaw spirit at last, is he?”
It is Emily’s turn to laugh, this time outwardly.
“Heavens no,” she states. “If any of what Adrian’s told me about this warped
‘housing system’ that school of yours has is true, then Emmett’s far from a
Ravenclaw.” She smiles fondly. “That boy wouldn’t know the front cover of a
book from the back.”
Adrian reaches over and rubs his wife
affectionately on the shoulder. “He’ll make his grandmother proud come
September first, that’s for sure,” he says. “Slytherin material, young Emmett,”
he adds as a means of elaboration.
The question is on the tip of her tongue, and
Persephone longs to ask it, but a furtive glance in Emily’s direction and she
decides against it. Oblivious to her sister-in-law’s fleeting look, Emily
stands and yawns.
“I’m heading to bed,” she announces. “Ani has an
appointment in London early tomorrow. What time are you leaving?”
For a moment, Persephone feels the question has
been directed at her, before her brother answers, dolefully:
Emily sighs, pecks Adrian on the cheek, waves
dismissively at Persephone and exits the kitchen.
“How’s she taking it?” Persephone asks quietly.
Adrian looks up from where he has begun tracing
circles on the tablecloth. “Not well,” he admits. “I imagine it must be hard on
her, not even having the faintest idea of what she’s sending her son into.”
Persephone thinks back to that morning’s briefing
with Fudge, and it is with a heavy heart that she realises the double meaning
of Adrian’s words.
“It’ll be worse once Ani goes,” Adrian continues,
lowering his voice considerably, “and between you and me, I’m fairly certain
there’s nothing she’d like more than for Jim to be a squib.”
Persephone gnaws on her lip slightly, feeling not
the least bit sorry for her brother. “Mother did warn you,” she says finally.
Adrian doesn’t answer, choosing instead to drain
the final mouthfuls from his mug rather messily. “So, what’s new at the old
Ministry?” he poses, changing the subject.
For a simple question, Persephone decides, it is
certainly a loaded one. There is much she can tell him, from this morning
alone, yet she finds herself feeling apprehensive. She is unsure of the
situation herself, and it is making her head spin to contemplate it.
Dumbledore’s words from their meeting that afternoon float to the forefront of
her mind, and she shakes her head.
“Nothing,” she lies. “Business as usual.”
No secret plots going on here,
she longs to add, but holds her tongue.
“What about that fountain?” Adrian asks. “Looks to
be a right mess if you ask me.”
She agrees, thankful that the topic is a little
closer to what she considers a safe one. “Certainly is, quite like the mess the
Harpies are going to make of Puddlemere this weekend.”
Adrian chuckles. “Now that, dear sister, is