Author’s Notes: This part of the story is very dear to me. If you haven’t been reading all along, it should make sense, but superficially. If you have been reading all along, thanks! This is the part where Cath told me who she was.
Benjamin dies here, and it says in The Order of the Phoenix that they only found bits of him, so please be prepared for that – the dying, not the finding of the bits.
Finally, NightZephyr, my SQ beta, really went above and beyond the call of duty on this one. She didn’t just make my babbling make sense. She did it while on a much-deserved vacation when she had every excuse to make me wait, and she did some of it twice. I think she deserves an award. Luckily, J.K. Rowling herself plans on delivering one very soon. Thanks to NZ, this whole story should be posted before then. Thanks to JKR, the story has a universe in which to exist.
A Muggle to Remember
April 8, 1979
It was an unusually bright day in Cardiff, and the way the sun reflected off the pale bricks that paved pedestrian Queen Street made it seem brighter. The way the shopping families slowed their bustle to enjoy it made it seem cheerier, and the towers of the castle breaking the skyline made it seem almost familiar. Or perhaps the familiarity came from the countless stories Benjy had heard from his childhood friend Cath Davies about the city where she’d been born. She’d promised there were such things as beautiful days in Cardiff.
But Benjy Fenwick couldn’t dwell on memories, no matter how cheerful or bright the day seemed. Memories would distract him. If he let himself become distracted, he wouldn’t remember to keep his eye on Rhys Dearborn, let alone determine if Rhys was being followed by Dark wizards. And Benjy felt strongly that he owed it to Caradoc Dearborn to make sure that his brother was safe.
Besides being a personal matter, Rhys’s safety was Benjy’s job, a job he’d invented for himself to make the most of his own talents and needs. He needed to keep Rhys safe, as he’d needed to look out for Eustace and Algie Longbottom before him, and Sebastian Vance before them, and everyone back to Alfie Brewster, who’d been the first.
It had begun just a few months after Benjy finished Hogwarts. His position at the top of his class, his N.E.W.T. scores, and the quality of his final projects had secured him a coveted position in a Ministry think-tank. It was ideal for the Order, as he was practically expected to keep odd hours at the Ministry building and produce results only sporadically. The job gave Benjy the freedom to continue his work as Albus Dumbledore’s best-kept secret. But, away from school, the eighteen-year-old who’d spent almost half of his life collecting information about Voldemort’s supporters suddenly wasn’t hearing or seeing anything useful anymore.
Benjy had longed to be useful, but the other members of the Order didn’t want to risk revealing his carefully concealed loyalties by sending him on the kinds of missions they assigned themselves. And there was a the contingent who didn’t want to risk anything about Benjy – those who’d first met him when he was a tiny eleven year-old, terrified for his friends and family. To some of them, he’d never grown up. Marlene McKinnon had always been all-business, but Marlene was gone.
So Benjy had watched helplessly as the other Order members helped their cause. Worse, he’d watched helplessly as Voldemort’s Death Eaters retaliated for the Order’s efforts. An Order member was often hard to find and always harder to kill. But their loved ones weren’t. The Bones house was destroyed after Edgar turned an attack on a Muggle-born’s flat into a raid that landed four Death Eaters in Azkaban. James Potter’s parents were killed for his loyalty to Lily. The McKinnons. . . Ben Brewster had gone off after that. He’d marched right into a Death Eater meeting where he was meant to be conducting surveillance and cursed half of them single-handedly before Apparating out for help.
When Benjy had heard that, he’d panicked for Brewster’s younger brother, Alfie. Alfie’s patient, cheerful companionship had been one of Benjy’s few comforts during his homesick periods at Hogwarts. Alfie was a good friend. He would never be to Benjy what Cath Davies had been, but it wasn’t Alfie’s fault that Benjy had sacrificed having friends like Cath. Maybe, Benjy sometimes thought, some day, when Voldemort is defeated and his Death Eaters all in Azkaban. . . But that was a dream, and Alfie Brewster’s danger was real.
“I have to know he’s going to be safe,” Benjy had told Dumbledore. “I can do it. I’ll make sure no one else is following him, and no one will even notice me. They might see me, but they won’t think anything of it. I’m just another wizard. And then, if someone does try anything, I can stop them. Or even catch them. That would be useful, wouldn’t it?”
And so had begun Benjy’s days of hooded sweatshirts just-in-case, skulking around behind nervous wives and oblivious Muggle fathers. He’d brought in fourteen Death Eaters, and the only ones who had seen his face were in Azkaban now, with no visitors allowed. He’d had to use frantic Memory Charms a few times before Disapparating, but he’d always Portkeyed the ‘civilians,’ as Moody called them, to safety with not much more than the occasional scratch. Making sure the other Order members’ families stayed intact was the closest Benjy thought he could come to fulfillment.
This had been a quiet day with Rhys. He normally shared a cottage in Snowdonia with Caradoc. However, since Caradoc had disappeared shortly after reporting some sensitive information about Death Eater plans, Rhys had been reluctant to stay there. And Benjy always felt less conspicuous in a city. So now Rhys was visiting friends in Cardiff and staying in a small hotel situated between Central Station and the Queen Street stop on the local rail line. The afternoon had been spent picnicking in Caerphilly and Rhys was now trailing slowly home, window-shopping as he went.
The brightness of the day faded as Rhys drew closer to the intersection of Queen Street and High Street. The crowd thinned and quieted as shops prepared to close. Over the remaining strains of happy chatter Benjy could hear the evening traffic as they approached the end of the pedestrian haven. He feigned interest in a display of electronics while Rhys crossed over High Street to examine the posters in the window of a travel agency. Benjy did not follow, knowing Rhys would have to return eventually to reach his hotel.
Rhys checked his watch and headed back, as predicted. Benjy waited a moment to see if anyone else moved to follow Rhys across before tagging along himself. But Rhys and Benjy seemed to be the only lingerers. The streets were nearly deserted as everyone else hurried home to their families.
A part of Benjy was always saddened by anything that reminded him he had no family to hurry home to. His father had died quietly from a swift and surprising cancer during Benjy’s second year at Hogwarts. After that, Benjy had spent Christmases and summers with his Aunt Jean and her new family, although he’d always felt like a visitor there. Now he lived alone in a flat near Diagon Alley.
But Benjy’s current lack of anyone to go home to didn’t prevent him from wanting Caradoc to have someone at home – if he ever came home. And he could do little else to repay the Order members who worked so bravely to keep Muggles like his childhood friends in Devon safe.
The bookshop beside the Sandringham Hotel still had lights on and Rhys wandered in. Benjy was tempted to follow, but he knew he’d have a better vantage point from the street, so he grabbed a newspaper someone had left at the nearby bus stop and held it to his face. He’d practiced back in Hogwarts with Ben and Marlene the angle at which to hold reading material so that it looked like he was reading while he actually commanded a decent view of his surroundings.
A minute later Benjy dropped the paper. He’d been thinking of Cath, he reasoned, but he couldn’t be seeing her. She belonged at university in England. Or perhaps she was done with that by now. Still, she wouldn’t be here, walking toward him from the direction of the castle as though stepping out of his memories of simpler days. Her family had moved back to Cardiff when her mother’s mother died, but Cath hadn’t called the place home the last time Benjy had seen her.
That last time had been too long ago: the summer before Benjy’s seventh year at Hogwarts. And their meeting had been for too short a time as well. His visit in Ottery St. Catchpole had only overlapped with hers by a day. But this girl he saw now looked just like Cath: light skin, quick step, short dark hair curling at her chin.
And then she called his name in her voice. “Benjamin!”
He made himself glance at Rhys – still in the bookshop – and at the street, where the one pedestrian passerby was passing normally. Then he threw off the ugly American ball-cap he was wearing, which apparently wasn’t shadowing his birthmarks well enough anyway. Cath jogged the last few steps until she was so close he could touch her, and he angled himself so he could still see Rhys out of the corner of his eye.
“I thought I recognized you,” she said happily.
Benjy stared at her, wanting to share how pleased he was to be recognized by her, but unable to move a single muscle in his mouth.
“You do remember me, don’t you?” she asked. Sudden doubt dimmed her eyes and she chewed the corner of her lip while she waited.
Benjy found his voice quickly then. “How could I not? You still bite your lip the way you used to. You’re doing it now.”
Cath blushed and looked down. Benjy followed her eyes. “Those are probably even the same brown shoes you used to wear.”
“Stop it,” she said. “These are a whole size larger.” And, again, Benjy was too happy to speak. It was like she’d walked right out of his daydreams and nothing had changed.
He was on the verge of pinching himself when she looked back up and asked, “So, how have you been? What brings you to Cardiff?” No dream of his would ever ask that.
“I’ve been fine,” he answered in a vague voice. “Here on business.”
“Oh!” Cath exclaimed. “What do you do?”
“It’s boring, really,” Benjy said quickly. “I’m boring. What about you? What brings you here?”
“My Grandma Davies,” Cath said. “It’s her ninetieth birthday.”
“She bought you your first chemistry set,” Benjy recalled.
Cath beamed. “And the microscope when my mother decided chemistry was too dangerous, and she’s been helping me finance dental school now as well.”
“Wow,” said Benjy. “Dental school. . . Do you like it?”
“Oh, yes,” Cath answered, glowing even more, which Benjy hadn’t thought would be possible. “It’s where I met George.”
“George?” Benjy echoed.
In answer, Cath raised her left had to show him a sparkling ring. He didn’t know how he hadn’t seen it before. He thought he’d noticed everything about her. But the ring was a new accessory, not part of how he’d always remembered her.
“Wow,” he said again. He stared at the ring. It didn’t belong there.
“We were married this winter. We sent an invitation through your Aunt Jean, but she’d moved and left no forwarding address.’
“I know,” Benjy answered, tearing his eyes away.
“I do wish you could have been there. It really was lovely. And you could have come to the housewarming, too, although we don’t really have a house, just a flat near the university. . . “
Benjy listened in something like shock while Cath chattered on brightly about George and the flat. He hadn’t ever thought about her getting married. But she had, and he hadn’t been there.
“I’m aw-awfully h—” he started to say, but the part of his brain that he’d almost forgotten interrupted him. Rhys was leaving the bookshop and entering the small lobby of the Sandringham. Benjy looked back and forth between Rhys and Cath for a moment, torn. He felt his breath quicken.
“Benjamin, what’s wrong?”
“I have to go,” he blurted, heading for the hotel.
“Your business is in the hotel?” she asked, following him.
“No. Well, yes,” Benjy answered, flustered, halfway through the door. She stepped inside, around him.
“I should give you my number and new address,” she was saying, unzipping her small purse.
No, not now, not here, Benjy thought, trying to shepherd her into a corner while positioning himself so he could see Rhys and the street, but she stopped almost in the center of the room.
Benjy looked frantically around. He’d been relatively relaxed that day because the Death Eaters, if they were looking for Rhys, would likely still think he was in Snowdonia. But then Cath hadn’t been part of the situation. Now all the oversights were glaring. He hadn’t checked this room before she’d entered it. There were people here he couldn’t identify.
The man behind the hotel counter had extremely odd fashion-sense for a Muggle. Was it simply because he was South Asian? Benjy tried to remember if he’d known this was a wizard-run establishment. Two men in pinstripes loitered near the bottom of the stairs to Benjy’s right. Another man, possibly a brother to the one at the counter, was at the magazine rack to his left. Rhys was standing to the left of the main desk perusing a display of leaflets.
Benjy stared at the black and white checkered floor and tried to think. “You have to leave,” he mumbled to Cath. At the same time, he reached into his right pocket to hold his wand, and into his left pocket to have Rhy’s Portkey partially unwrapped and ready. Benjy never went anywhere without two touch-activated Order Portkeys disguised as paperweights in wrapping paper. One was for whomever he was watching. It would take them to King’s Cross station in London, from where just about anyone, wizard or Muggle, could sort themselves out. The second Portkey was an emergency escape for himself, in case he lost his wand or was caught somewhere with barriers against Apparition. It led to one of the guarded fireplaces at the Ministry – nowhere sensitive, in case it fell into the wrong hands, but somewhere he could get help if he were hurt.
Cath didn’t seem to have heard him. She was beginning to write. The hotel employee had finished whatever he’d been doing behind the counter and moved to its center. As Benjamin looked up and noticed this, one of the men on the stairs left the other and moved a few steps around the room, still talking with his companion. Then the man at the magazine rack moved and Benjamin began to sweat because they weren’t moving randomly.
One shifted, then the next, then the next, all moving clockwise, all on a four-second delay, a pattern Benjy himself had identified in Death Eater movements as they spread themselves evenly to surround their quarry. The movements he’d just observed weren’t perfect. Something was missing. But it was too close to their pattern to not take seriously.
“Cath, please, leave here now,” he said, taking her by the shoulders to turn her. She looked up, surprised, perhaps a little hurt.
They were moving again. The man who’d been on the stairs was behind Benjy now, between Cath and the door. The desk attendant’s brother had abandoned the magazine rack and Rhys was heading towards the counter. Benjy could feel his blood pumping faster. This was looking less and less innocent.
He followed protocol.
“Rhys,” Benjy called sharply, tossing the Portkey in Dearborn’s direction. Rhys turned just as Benjy realized the problem. There wasn’t a gap in the cycle as he’d thought. Nothing was missing. The men weren’t circling around Rhys. They were circling with him.
Rhys finished turning. He faced Benjy, flashing a horrible, twisted grin. Malicious laughter momentarily contorted the face that was so like Caradoc’s, and then Rhys caught the Portkey and disappeared.
But Benjy had no time for revulsion. Nor could he cling to protocol any longer. He had to improvise.
Benjy had Cath in the corner behind the magazine rack before she finished her scream at seeing Rhys disappear. He stood in front of the rack, a little to its left, and prepared to alternate Deflection Charms with Stunners. He promptly disabled the man who had been previously by the rack. He was the first danger. Then he turned to the desk-attendant and the pinstripes, who had now all drawn their wands.
They began to curse in earnest and Benjy knew within a minute this was not a battle he was going to win. But he couldn’t get out -- they were drawing him away from Cath. Slowly, but surely, their curses were luring him further towards the counter.
He remembered how scared he’d been that night in Ottery St. Catchpole when he’d thought Cath was about to be eaten by a wolf. According to Mr. Weasley, he’d saved her then, with his first bit of magic. He knew that, if he had to, he’d do the same thing with his last.
Crouched behind the wire magazine rack, Cath did not scream anymore. The room was full of shouting in a language she didn’t understand, smoke from singed magazines, and flashes of red, green, and yellow lights. She stopped trying to sort it all out and trained her eyes on Benjamin. He barely looked like himself, the person who’d known her better than anyone had before George. Now his familiar birth-marked face was transformed by very adult determination. And he was shouting those words she didn’t recognize, sending colored lights from a small black stick in his hand. The stick was less of a surprise than his demeanor. Cath had known since she was eight that there were such things as magic wands.
Odd aspects of Benjamin’s behavior over the years began to make sense in Cath’s head, but she paid them no attention. Benjamin was slowly moving further and further away from her corner. She wanted him back with her. She needed him.
Cath was about to call out to Benjamin when he turned and caught her eye. He shouted a word. It might have been, “Catch!” or it might have been her name. She realized he had paused in his spell-casting to throw something towards her. It was small, rounded, and dark blue, arching across the chasm between them.
It wasn’t the only thing hurtling towards Cath. In Benjamin’s pause, all three remaining men had sent out jets of light. Blue and red lanced towards Benjamin. Green came first and fastest toward Cath, who was no longer protected at all as she stood to catch what Benjamin had thrown her.
Cath watched as Benjamin took it all in, turned, and nodded. He shouted something and the magazine rack rose in front of her, meeting the bolt of green light and bursting into flames.
As the flaming magazine rack fell to the ground Cath could see Benjamin’s face relax just before the icy blue light struck from the side and froze him into a statue of himself. He continued to stare at her serenely as something hit her hard in the chest and she instinctively clutched at it; it was the paperweight-like object he’d thrown her.
While part of Cath was trying to identify the tugging sensation in her stomach, the red streak finally found Benjamin’s left arm. Although she felt herself tumbling forward, Cath’s eyes were trained on Benjamin. She watched him shatter, like a porcelain doll or a mishandled glass. Then she was lost in disorientation, but with the image of Benjamin flying to pieces still before her eyes. It had been only seconds since he’d saved her from the green light.
It was only a few seconds after that, although seconds seemed capable of holding eternities, that Cath found herself collapsed in a fireplace. Benjamin was gone. The other men were gone. There were no jets of light slicing the air and only a little bit of shouting coming from the two people hurrying towards her. The people were wearing the same shapeless robe-like garments Mr. Weasley had had on that night in the woods when Cath had first learned of magic.
The fireplace was located in some sort of expansive foyer. Shining walls rose high above like in an extravagant office building. Cath hadn’t thought there were magic office buildings, but she’d never really given much thought to magic at all, since it reminded her so strongly of the wolf and the terror.
“Good evening and welcome to the Ministry of Magic,” the robed woman recited, stopping Cath with no more than a foot outside the fireplace. “Please relinquish your wand and state your business.”
Cath stared dumbly, trying to think, but still seeing Benjamin.
“Wand and business, please,” repeated the woman’s companion, a burly man with blond hair sprouting out everywhere.
“Is – is Mr. Weasley here?” Cath asked desperately. It was a shot in the dark, but it seemed better than admitting she had no business.
“Arthur Weasley?” the woman prompted.
“Yes?” Cath guessed. She didn’t actually remember her Year Four teacher’s first name, but if any relative of his could be located in this place, she felt she had half a hope.
The man looked at her sharply. “You’re not a Muggle, are you?”
“Yes?” Cath tried again. She’d gone to Lord Muggle School. Maybe these people knew Mr. Weasley had taught there, although it was years ago.
The two guards were conferring. Cath caught snatches of it, phrases like, “Highly irregular,” “What’s he playing at?” and “He’s the one who can do Memory Charms.”
“Is he even still here?” the woman asked in a less-hushed voice once it seemed Cath’s fate had been decided.
“Most likely,” said the man. “There was a disaster in Manchester this morning. They’ll still be filing paperwork.” Then he’d instructed Cath to follow him. He took her in a fantastic sort of elevator and along a cluttered corridor to a tiny little office that reminded her distantly of a broom closet. Cath experienced the entire walk distantly. At the front her mind was Benjamin.
She remembered how quickly and firmly he’d pushed her into the corner and wondered how that could have been the same person who’s always let Margaret, Julia, or Ezra take the lead. She remembered how fiercely he’d shouted magic words at those men and wondered how it could have been the same boy who’d always spoken so gently. She remembered the determination in his eyes as he’d thrown her the precious paperweight, so different from the attitude of her friend who had always accepted things like his perpetual tardiness and lack of a television at home.
Cath wondered for a minute if he really was the Benjamin she’d known before she remembered the look in his eyes again. When he’d been satisfied that Cath was going to catch the paperweight and be safe, all the fierceness had dropped away. It had been her Benjamin staring at her, and it made her miss him so much.
Cath didn’t listen while the guard spoke to someone who was hidden from her view by a teetering stack of papers and a broken cuckoo clock. She was finishing her memory from the hotel. Part of her hoped that magic could fix anything, but she didn’t really believe that anyone could come back from that.
“I think he’s dead.” She didn’t realize she’d said it aloud, but the person behind the desk stood up. He was as tall as her former teacher, and as thin, and his hair was as bright, if perhaps a little less plentiful. He had the same kind eyes, although they were tired now. He looked slightly less silly in his wizard-clothes than he always had with the bow-tie.
“Who’s dead?” he asked sharply.
“Benjamin,” Cath answered.
Arthur had been exhausted from a long day, hungry for his supper, and cranky at being interrupted, until the girl spoke. It wasn’t the name that caught his attention. He’d known a dozen people named Benjamin. But her voice saying that name triggered memories. He flew back over a decade to a time when he’d known a smaller version of the young woman before him, a version with girlish socks and a slight overbite. She’d had a classmate named Benjamin: smaller still, with birthmarks like a Crup’s spots.
Arthur remembered Benjamin on the first day of school, polite and helpful with the register. I can help you take roll, if you'd like, until you learn our names. He remembered the boy chatting intelligently about aqueducts and catapults during cheerful detentions in the afternoon sun. He saw him covered in ink and pencil shavings yet still managing to look utterly resolute as he insisted he would never leave his village school. Because they don’t let you bring your friends! Two years later, he was begging Arthur to stop suggesting he attend Hogwarts. I don’t see how something that’s making both of us so unhappy could be the right thing. The last time Arthur had seen Benjamin had been when he’d left him at Hogwarts after his father’s funeral. The last time Arthur had seen Cath had been nearly four years before that, the weekend he’d let her see him Disapparate.
Arthur blinked and realized he’d been staring and that Hugh, the Floo guard, was now beginning to stare at him in return. He mumbled some sort of thanks to Hugh and escorted him to the office door, closing it firmly and whispering a charm for sound-dampening.
Then Arthur turned to face his visitor. He hadn’t spoken to her yet. She was beginning to shake slightly and chewing a corner of her lower lip. She hadn’t moved otherwise. She was still facing where he’d been at the desk.
“Cath,” Arthur said gently, causing her to jump and turn. “What makes you think Benjamin’s dead?” Wizards could do many things to themselves, and many things could happen to them, that could make a Muggle think they were dead. Benjamin was probably alive and well somewhere. Arthur was not prepared to entertain any other thought about him.
“I saw it,” Cath answered. “There were lights. And I watched him – fly apart.”
It was Arthur’s turn to be startled. “You mean he flew away? He disappeared?”
“No, I mean he flew apart. In pieces. Little pieces, like shards of –” She was interrupted by a wracking hiccup that squeezed tears from her eyes.
Beginning to realize just how extraordinary the events must have been to lead Muggle Cath to his office at the Ministry of Magic, Arthur conjured a handkerchief. He removed the cuckoo clock from his desk and Transfigured it into a small chair for Cath to sit in. Although the clock was supposed to be evidence of something, Arthur couldn’t remember what it was anymore and concluded it was probably unimportant anyway.
Arthur sat across from Cath, who had mopped her face and was now sniffing quietly while playing with something small and smoky-blue in her lap. Selfishly hoping to avoid the topic of Benjamin Fenwick flying to pieces, he asked, “How on earth did you get here?”
“I’m not sure,” Cath said, shaking her head. “Magic? I don’t have any idea where here is really, but I don’t suppose it’s anywhere near Cardiff. That’s where I was when I met Benjamin.”
“You’re right,” Arthur said. “You’re not in Cardiff. You’re in the Ministry of Magic, which is mostly underneath Muggle London.” He still didn’t know what sort of magic could have brought her there.
“Muggle London?” Cath echoed. “But Lord Muggle School’s not in London.”
“I know,” said Arthur. “It’s a long story.” He remembered telling that story to a wide-eyed eleven year-old on a July afternoon in his old car. The sun had been warm. He’d thought he’d been doing the right thing. He hadn’t thought of the eleven year-old’s life as half-over.
“Well, my story’s short enough,” Cath said. “One minute we’re talking on the street. The next minute, we’re in a lobby full of men disappearing and shouting magic spells that shoot around the room with colored lights. Benjamin threw this to me and I ended up here.” She held up the object from her lap.
Arthur asked to see and she handed it across the desk, somewhat reluctantly. It was heavy, a hemisphere of polished glass. The glass was a murky grey-blue, but, looking at it head-on, there was a shape in the middle, a silhouette in dark navy.
The shape was familiar to Arthur: a regal, long-tailed bird with its head turned to one side. He’d seen it stamped on countless parchments among the possessions of his brothers-in-law, sifting through them with his wife after their deaths. Arthur hadn’t been able to read a word on most of the parchments, but he knew who’d sent them: Albus Dumbledore.
“Where did you get this?” Arthur demanded.
The way Cath started made him regret speaking so sharply. “I told you, Benjamin threw it to me.”
“And then you found yourself here.”
“And then I was here.”
Arthur nodded. “Did you feel something first, like a tugging behind your navel?’
“Perhaps,” Cath said slowly. “I felt something. I thought I was going to be sick, but, now that I think of it, that wasn’t quite right. It was more of a tugging…”
Arthur looked back at the paperweight. It must have been a touch-activated Portkey. But he couldn’t imagine how Benjamin Fenwick, who was still a child in Arthur’s mind, would have been had in his possession a trinket of Dumbledore’s.
“I think you need to tell me everything you can about this evening,” he told Cath. And she told him, in detail. As she spoke, Arthur could see Cath realizing that Benjamin had had an inkling of what was coming. At the same time, Arthur began to understand how he’d had that inkling.
“He knew those men,” Cath was repeating, mostly to herself. “But how? And why? Why would he know men like that? He’s Benjamin. He wouldn’t be involved in anything –”
“I have to explain to you something about Benjamin,” Arthur interrupted tentatively. “Something that makes him very special.”
“You mean how he can do magic?”
“No,” said Arthur. “He is a wizard; there’s not much to explain there. But, our Benjamin, I think, was a very special kind of wizard.”
“You mean,” Cath asked, leaning forward, “that he can put himself back together?”
“No,” Arthur answered, although it hurt. “He’s really – gone. But there’s a reason.”
“Me,” Cath said. “It’s because of me he didn’t stop those lights.”
“No,” Arthur said quickly. “Don’t think of it like that. That was a choice he made, but it was one in a long series of choices that he made not knowing you’d ever come into it. I can’t say his choices had nothing to do with you, though, because they had to do with all of us.” He stopped because he knew he was being unclear.
“Let me try again,” he said, struggling to put into simple words the state of the wizarding world. “There are bad wizards. Those men in the hotel were among them. They support a sorcerer so evil that we don’t say his name.” Arthur shuddered just thinking of it. “And he’s so powerful, so terrifying, that most of us who don’t dabble in his Dark magic wouldn’t even know how to start to fight him. So we live in dread and fear, for ourselves, and our families, and any of our friends who don’t meet his standards. All we can do is keep our heads down and hope -- except for a few of us. There are a few, a very few, witches and wizards brave enough and talented enough to thwart him. They are led by a man who uses this bird—” Arthur pointed to the phoenix “-- as his sign. If it weren’t for them, we’d be in utter despair. I think Benjamin must have been one of those people who are fighting for the rest of the world -- in secret, though. We know the names of most of the others. Benjamin must have been a spy.”
There was silence as both of them digested the revelation. Arthur could see that Cath was having a hard time of it.
“I thought he didn’t care about us anymore,” she murmured. “I thought he’d moved on.” She used the handkerchief again.
“And he’s out there somewhere right now?” she asked, finally. “This evil wizard?” Cath looked terrified, like she would never sleep soundly again, and Arthur knew what he had to do. He reached for his wand.
Cath scooted back from his desk. “No,” she said firmly, although her voice trembled. “I can see in your face what you’re going to do. Like in books and movies. You’re going to make me forget. But I don’t want to forget.” She was looking at him with those wide blue eyes, like she had that night so many years ago in the woods.
“It’s the kindest thing to do,” Arthur said resolutely. “You’re scared stiff.”
“Yes, but I don’t care about me,” she said with passion. “I care about Benjamin. I want to remember him, what he’s done. If you make me forget, who knows what I’ll think of him? That he never amounted to anything and just drifted away? Somebody from our world ought to know what he’s done. How brave he was. How special.” She was nearly crying again. “Please, don’t make me forget him. You let me remember before.”
“That was different,” Arthur said weakly. “I thought you were a witch. I thought you’d know about us soon enough. I shouldn’t have done it.”
“You thought I was a witch?”
“Yes. I thought it was you who’d frozen the wolf. But it wasn’t. It was –”
“Benjamin,” she gasped.
Arthur nodded. “He had no idea he’d done it until I told him, two years later. It was unintentional magic.”
Arthur was trying to avoid Cath’s eye, but she wouldn’t let him. She pulled her chair right up to his desk. “He saved my life twice, Mr. Weasley. You can’t make me forget that.”
She was right. He couldn’t do it. But he couldn’t not cast the spell, either. Hugh would have logged Cath’s visit. Arthur would have to write a report, in which he couldn’t lie, and there were records kept of spells performed in the Ministry building. He looked at his wand and thought of all the Obliviates he’d cast in his career.
“Hold very still, Cath,” he said.
“Please, Mr. Weasley—”
“Just hold still,” Arthur repeated through gritted teeth. He could see her weighing her options. He had the wand. And a building full of wizards on his side.
“Obliviate!, The spell flew past Cath’s left ear and ruffled a pile of papers on Perkins’ desk.
Cath gaped at Arthur. He put a finger to his lips. She closed her mouth.
They didn’t talk as he led her back up to the Atrium, except for when Arthur recommended that Cath keep the phoenix paperweight in her pocket. Cath seemed lost in thought and Arthur knew he was. He was thinking of Benjamin, the boy with the Crup-like spots and eyes. Benjamin offering to help sweep up, and Benjamin, who didn’t understand the Trojan Horse. Benjamin, afraid of Molly. Benjamin, who didn’t know how his face had shone when he found the perfect wand. Benjamin, who cared about nothing more than the people he loved. Benjamin, who was dead.
Arthur took Cath through the Floo to Cardiff Castle, using a fireplace that was roped-off from visitors as needing repair and only functional outside of opening hours. A few Locking and Un-locking Charms had them on the street and Cath led Arthur the short distance to the Sandringham, where he misdirected anotherObliviate and from where she continued to the train station, barely more than half an hour delayed. Arthur muttered Muggle-Repelling Charms around the place, stepped into an alley, and Apparated home.
He got Molly alone in the kitchen as quickly as he could. She thought he wanted his supper, but that was the last thing on his mind. He needed her help. It wasn’t exactly prudent for someone with a wife and small children to send Albus Dumbledore an interceptable owl indicating special knowledge of an enemy of the Dark wizards. But Arthur couldn’t just leave Benjamin in pieces. Cath had made him promise that Benjamin would be taken care of properly, and remembered, and he would have promised himself those things anyway if she hadn’t asked.
“I need your help,” he told Molly. “I need a way to contact Gid and Fab’s old friends – discretely.”
Molly snatched back the plate she’d been about to place in front of him. “Why would you want to do that?”
“I have to tell them something.”
“No, you don’t,” said Molly, and Arthur knew he’d never get anywhere if he remained vague and cryptic.
“You remember Benjamin Fenwick?” he asked.
Molly nodded. “That sweet little boy you used to bring to the house. We should have him again to show Bill a thing or two about manners, and to ask if he’s done with your Hogwarts trunk, and--” She stopped at the look on Arthur’s face. Molly knew her husband well enough that she didn’t have to make him explain any more.
She pulled a chair beside Arthur’s and took his hand. “Never mind about the trunk,” she said. “Now I wish we’d given him more.”