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 Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. Anything pertaining to the Blackwell family belongs to me.

THE BURDEN OF BIRTHRIGHTS – The Binding

CHAPTER THREE:

Kingsley Shacklebolt was by no means a clock-watcher by nature. This morning, however, it was proving to be excessively difficult for him to go more than ten minutes without checking the annoying instrument.

There were simply too many things that needed to be done and there did not appear to be enough time in which to do them. His mind ran over the long list of things that he had to attend to as the supervisory Auror on duty; the list was growing longer by the minute. His duties for the Ministry of Magic were not the only things on his mind at the moment. He had some rather pressing information that he had to make part to some of his Aurors, That is if the bloody Blackwells would deign show up.

He ran a hand across his hairless scalp.

It was a good thing that he was already bald because the Blackwell girls' behaviour usually made him want to tear his hair out. How could they be so good at what they do and yet be so utterly irresponsible at the same time?

He had caught up with Tonks as she came into the office earlier. She seemed to have recovered nicely from the news. He had wanted to tell her first anyways, seeing as it pertained to her family. She had just given him a rare serious look and retreated to her cubicle.

He could set his mind to some Ministry business once he had apprised the Blackwells, most specifically Temperance, of this information.

Nine o'clock. Well, they should be arriving any minute now.

He gave up the pretense of doing any real work and sat back in his chair. He trained his eyes on the corridor that led from his far cubicle to the lift doors. He knew that he was a bit indulgent with the two of them, more so than a supervisor should be.

He knew just about everything there was to know about Temperance and Prudence Blackwell. Their father, Maximus, had been his mentor during his training days. He had, in turn, mentored both of Max's daughters when they decided to follow in their father's footsteps. They had large shoes to fill in the department. Kingsley felt that they filled them rather well. Both were more than proficient Aurors. Actually, they were both damn good ones, although for very different reasons.

Temperance worked very hard to maintain a high performance rating. What she lacked in talent, she made up for in sheer determination. When given a dossier, she would lock onto it like a starving dog to a bone. He knew for a fact that it was here, within the confines of the Auror's offices, that people saw the best sides of Temperance. She was one of the department's most trust-worthy workhorses.

Pru, on the other hand, was born with all the necessary gifts. She had one of the sharpest minds he had ever encountered. It went far beyond being bright or merely intelligent; with Pru it was almost as though she had a sixth sense. Her extraordinary intellect coupled with her physical prowess made her the best Auror candidate of her year. Pru's fatal flaw seemed to be the fact that she did not share her sister's powerful sense of purpose. It was more as though she had just woken up one day and decided that she would become an Auror seeing as she had nothing better to do with the next three years of her life. The twenty-three year old had grown, over the last two years of service, into a witch and Auror to be reckoned with. If Prudence would just focus her energies, she could go very far in her career with the Ministry.

He looked at the clock again. It had the cheek to inform him that it was only ten past nine in the morning. He heard a clatter hailing from the general direction of the lifts. He lifted his eyes to see Dawlish make his entrance. Dawlish had some company. Williamson, his lapdog, was following him close on his heels. Kinglsey wished that he did not so utter dislike his fellow supervisor, but that was how it was. Kinglsey did not trust Dawlish or Williamson for matter. He could not stomach toadies.

The made the perfunctory gestures of greeting to the two wizards and made a great business of looking through the files on his desk. He heard Williamson comment to Dawlish about Pru's latest obliviator inducing escapade and gritted his teeth.

She's twice the Auror you are. You're just still mad about her beating you soundly in front of the trainees. Serves you right for grandstanding in front of them without the skill to back the flash up.

He heard Dawlish make a rather disparaging remark about the nature female Aurors in general. Kingsley would have loved to get up and smash his fist into his colleague's face, however, he was no longer at liberty to stick his neck out any further than he already was. Being discrete and eating crow were to be the new way of operating from now on. His fingers tightened painfully around the dossier in his hand; Dawlish made a remark about Temperance's last operation and how she had cried her eyes out afterwards. That decision had been hard for her to make and Kingsley had supported her use of force. Dawlish had no heart and he certainly did not know the witches that he was so misguidedly bad-mouthing.

Kingsley Shacklebolt, however, knew just about everything there was to know about the Blackwells as a whole and considered himself fortunate to have known this family for nearly fifteen years. He held Maximus and Mathilda Blackwell in the highest regards. His mentor had been his saving grace during his nearly misspent youth. Mathilda had been the steadying force that pushed him to always do better. She coached and coaxed him through so many of the academic tests and trials of his training days to ensure that he would pass them all with flying colours.

He smiled at the memory of the sleepless nights spent poring over numerous tomes in the Manor library. Mathilda checked his research and none too gently instructed him on the proper way to gather information. When he asked her, repeatedly, to leave him be, she always answered the same thing.

"Sleep is not on my agenda Kingsley, there are two babies, two toddlers and four other children in this house. Sleep is not a luxury that I can indulge myself with."

She would then smile tightly at him.

"I might as well do something useful while between feedings and nappy changes."

She would then get back to business. She was always all business.

At the time, he had been an impulsive eighteen-year-old wizard and had not taken to her domineering manner lightly. Mathilda had not cared whether he liked her or not, she had simply gone about setting a structure to his life that he had not asked for or wanted at the time. The witch, upon hearing his situation, had taken it upon herself to move him into the Manor and set about filling in all the holes in his education.

She had been an un-forgiving but highly effective taskmistress and he loved her all the more for it.

Maximus had played an entirely different role in Kingsley's life. He had handled the physical and technical side of his Auror's education. The pleasant head of the Blackwell tribe was just as hard to please as his sister was when he was in mentor mode. Although Maximus had been recovering from injury, the older wizard had still left the hale and hearty young wizard bruised, battered and be-jinxed.

It hadn't been until Kingsley neared his certification as a full-fledged Auror that he had finally come close to besting his mentor in a wizard's duel. He still wasn't as adept as the Blackwells in fully physical duels, the likes of which they all seemed to delight in.

He looked around him cautiously; he was alone now.

Kingsley Shacklebolt fingered an old picture that was stuck to the wall beside him. He remembered that night that the Potters had died, the night that You-Know-Who had been defeated and the night that Sirius Black had become the iconic criminal of the Wizarding World. It all seemed so surreal to him now. A baby besting the Dark Lord. An innocent man going mad and being incarcerated while two loving parents lay dead… two of the finest wizards that he had ever met. It was hard fact yet it seemed like the worst sort of delusion to him now.

He looked at the picture that his fingers had been absent-mindedly tracing.

It was taken on New Year's Day, New Year's of 1981 to be exact. It was one of his happier memories. In the old photo, a younger version of himself sat proudly, with Max and Mathilda Blackwell, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Emmeline Vance, James Potter and so many other dear friends, at the dinner table feeling very grown up. The children sat in the foreground. Lily Potter was sitting with them, her son Harry in her lap. A 12-year-old Temperance sat next to her holding her little sister Honour in her lap.

Temperance was trying to imitate Lily. She looked as though she were the young mother's little sister. Lily was far prettier than Temperance ever would become, but a strange sort of resemblance was still there. Lily's loveliness came from her spirit, the intelligence and unselfish love that shone out of her eyes. Her utter happiness in that moment lit up the entire frame.

Kinglsey remembered the rather mad crushes that he had on both Emmeline Vance and Lily Potter. They had made him awkwardly over talkative. Both witches had borne his eager company with good-natured patience and grace.

Speaking of good-natured patience, his was wearing thin. Where the devil were Temperance and Pru? I can usually count on at least one of them to show up for work on time.

Habitual lateness was...well...habitual for Temperance. Pru, on the other hand, usually sent an owl ahead to explain away her tardiness or absence. That they both be missing at once could only meant one thing. That they had both gone out on the piss last night and gotten drop dead drunk.

He suspected that he knew the reason for this as well. As a supervisor, he felt that he knew them entirely too well; his intimate knowledge of their histories was both a help and a hindrance to him at present.

He massaged has fingers against his temples. The soothing massage did nothing to quell the sheer irritation he felt at the moment.

There are a million other things that I should be doing right now besides waiting for those two twits to show their hung-over faces.

Their fondness for a party usually did not bother him. He was usually rather ready for one himself, although lately there had been less and less time available for that particular past time.

Kingsley pulled one of the files out of the near stacks on his desk. He opened it and tried to make some sense of the information it contained.

It simply did not matter. None of it was relevant at the moment. Sirius Black was not in Nepal, he was not in Ethiopia nor was he in the Amazon Basin. He was here, in England, and he was not a criminal.

Kingsley ran his hands over his face, picked up the file and walked to Temperance's desk and dropped it onto its deceptively tidy top.

You deal with it. I don't have the tolerance for this right now.

He returned to his cubicle and pulled another file. He started to read but found that he couldn't concentrate on this one either. His mind kept making a beeline for memory land, starting with yesterday's meeting with his mentor.

He had rarely felt as uncomfortable as he had yesterday in the Hog's Head.

Maximus had not taken the news of the Order being reconvened or You-Know-Who's return with the gusto and energy that Kingsley had been expecting from the old warhorse. Max had, if anything, shrunken away from the news. Kingsley had expected to see that do-or-die gleam return to his friend's eyes. He had not expected Max to look as though he were about to lose his lunch.

Upon later reflection, and once he had gotten over his shock and disappointment, his teacher's reaction made some sense. This time the Blackwell name and tradition placed Max's children directly in the line of fire.

It had been a completely different story when it had been only Max and Mathilda facing down the foe.

He felt a spurt of sympathy for his old mentors. Both Maximus and Mathilda had lost quite a bit in that first war. Max lost his muggle wife, Joy's mother, to divorce. The French woman had not been willing to accept this hidden world that she could not belong to and its hidden dangers. She also had not been pleased to find that her husband was not as he seemed to be or that he had three other children of a magical nature. She hadn't ever found out about Grace.

Max had lost his first wife, also an Auror and Temperance's mother, to one of the first violent and open salvos of the war. Kingsley never had the pleasure of meeting Allison Blackwell, but he knew that she had been a much-decorated Auror and a highly respected witch. Her death in the autumn of 1975 had sent documented shock waves though the British wizarding community.

Kingsley privately felt that neither Max nor Tempe had ever fully recovered from her loss. Unlike most of Maximus' daughters, Tempe had, at age six, known her mother and the principles for which Allison had taken a stand.

His face tightened.

He knew it was a futile expense of emotion; however, he could not help the anger that burned in him when he thought of the witches that had born his mentor's other children. Unlike Allison Blackwell, there was very little to commend them.

Long ago he had taught himself not to judge the way other people chose to live their lives. Judgment clouded the brain's ability to see the facts clearly. There was nothing that he prized more highly than the ability to see things through eyes unfettered by emotional response.

Mathilda and Max had taught him that.

He shifted his eyes to the clock. It was now nearly eleven o'clock and far later than either of the Blackwells ever dared be.

Surely the news of You-Know-Who had not sent them on a bender? No, benders were more his thing…how much did they remember? Tempe, at nearly twelve, would remember the horror of the first war well enough. Prudence had been only nine at the end, her memories would be hazy and incomplete at best.

He looked back to the old picture and fingered it again.

So long ago…fourteen years…

He pulled it off the wall and examined the people caught within the black and white universe. It was a perfect moment caught in time.

Too much had changed since that happy day. He felt conflicting emotions rise to the surface of his stoic skin.

Gone. The Potters gone, Black convicted and surely a bit insane by now… and so many others…Dorcas…the Longbottoms' minds totally gone…Marlene…all the people that he once knew…and all this was to start again.

His dark eyes scanned the children in the picture.

His heart had stopped when Remus Lupin had given him his envelope and charged him with warning Maximus. Never had seven relatively small pieces of parchment seem to weigh as much. He knew that it was the names of the addressees that had made him nearly throw them away.

Mathilda, Temperance, Fidelia, Pru, Gracie, Joy and Ren…

They were very nearly the only semblance of family that he had, his had disowned him long ago. Max's had, in some ways, come to his rescue. His relationship to each Blackwell was very different in tone and flavour. Max and Mathilda were his mentors, his parental figures and his friends. He did not like to think of the life that he might have had without their influenceWith Tempe, being just seven years his junior, he shared a strong camaraderie; they related to each other as friends and colleagues with the greatest of ease, that is, when the blasted witch was not driving him up the wall as her supervisor. For the rest of the Blackwell children, save the prickly Fidelia, he held the status of a youngish uncle and he rather liked it like that.

Ahh… Bugger it. Fidelia!

Kingsley's mind sprinted up and out of memory land with incredible speed. He snatched up a piece of interdepartmental parchment and quickly scratched out the request for a lunchtime meeting with the witch. Had Fidelia been anything like her father or sisters, he could have just walked to her office and ask her to join him for a quick bite. However, unlike the other Blackwells, Fidelia was a real stickler of formalities. She was also, unfortunately for him, the best source of accurate information concerning that family of hers or anything else for that matter. Her job as an analyst for the Hitwizard Operations Head made her privy to far more sensitive facts, fiction and down right fantasies than Kingsley cared to think about.

He sent the memo on its way. He knew that he would be receiving a prompt response. He wasn't looking forward to their luncheon, should she choose to accept it, though. Talking to Fidelia was usually as pleasant as a wand misfiring into someplace sensitive.

Kingsley waited about twenty minutes for her response and, when receiving none, he resigned himself to tracking her down in person. Usually, she was predictably and almost irritatingly punctual. He guessed that all Blackwells were going to be a trial to him today.

He got up and walked down the corridor of cubicles. He passed Tempe's still empty desk, then Pru's. All sorts of unmentionable thoughts ran rampant through his head on the way to the lift.

They had better have a very, very good explanation for their truancy today.

The doors to the elevator opened and Kingsley found himself, at last, face to face with one of his errant Aurors. She did not look in the least bit ashamed to be showing herself for the first time at eleven-thirty on a workday.

He gritted his teeth at her irreverent expression. Any worry at her unexplained absence was instantaneously replaced by a tidal wave of aggravated annoyance.

She stood there before him, wearing the same clothes as the day before, bold as the brassy hair on her head. She even had the nerve to give him an annoyed look.

She stepped out of the elevator and crossed her arms. Temperance was not in the least bit pleased to see her supervisor, especially not when she was so late, especially not when he was giving her that bug-eyed look.

Her day had started pleasantly enough, but, from the looks of things, it was going to go rather quickly downhill. It was a real pity that the post-orgasmic glow didn't seem to be enough to keep the rest of her day at bay. In her opinion, there was no better cure for a hangover than some good sex. That dishy muggle man had not been a disappointment. The muggle had been more than happy to let her ride her headache into submission.

Well all right then, you caught me being naughty…let the coal-raking begin.

Kingsley gave her a royally fed up look.

"Blackwell, late again I see. That's five times in the last two weeks. Please do me the honour of meeting me in my office at one."

He followed his request with a very sharp look that told her that he wasn't in the mood for any of her excuses. So she didn't bother giving any.

Temperance felt her glow go the way of the Dodo.

"We have some rather important…business to discuss."

Yeah…I'll bet.

"And perhaps you will be able to enlighten me as to where your sister might be at present. I haven't heard a thing from her today."

Fuuuccckkk! So that is why he is so tweaked off. Where in Circe's name is Pru?

"By the way, there's been another Sirius Black sighting. I believe that the report has been waiting for you on your desk for quite some time."

Kingsley Shacklebolt gave a satisfied smile as he watched the red-headed Blackwell drop her bored demeanour and grow unmistakably interested in their conversation. She was very nearly twitching in anticipation. That predatory look, which he found so distasteful in person but so highly useful in an Auror, crawled into Temperance's now bright eyes.

"Really. Another one. Where?" she said as she fought to keep the raw enthusiasm out of her voice.

She could barely contain her hunger for new information. Shacklebolt was well aware that her desire to track down Black and return him to Azkaban had long ago stopped being her duty and turned into a personal vendetta of sorts.

His face remained impassive but inwardly he gave a shudder.

This was going to be a very hard thing to explain to her. Passion for vengeance like this is not likely to just dissipate.

Temperance's entire countenance had turned feral. A slightly mad look had crept quietly across the younger Auror's face turning her from a pretty witch into something else altogether.

Kingsley took a slightly apprehensive step to the side and backed into the elevator. He pointed to his watch warning her that he had not forgotten that he was to meet with her later and that she shouldn't conveniently forget this fact either.

Temperance watched the lift doors close. She spun on her heel and half ran down the corridor and into her cubicle. She had to admit that although thrilled that there was another lead to pursue, it was not quite enough for her to squash the feeling she had of being betrayed by Pru not covering for her this morning.

Where is my Amazon of a sister anyways?

That thought was not enough, however, to spur her to send an owl in search of her younger sister. She chose not to ponder Pru's absence; she had a labour of love to get to.

Tempe dropped into her chair and slowly opened the file titled 'Sirius Black Sightings 06/95'. She felt a delicious feeling shiver through her body.

In the back of her mind, Temperance realized that it was probably no entirely normal to get a nearly sexual thrill out of a 'sightings' report. She devoured the file's contents, her quill taking dictated notes as she went through it again and again, page by delectable page.

She had been dissecting the new information for nearly an hour when one of her colleagues rushed past her desk knocking over her waste paper basket.

She didn't even raise her eyes.

"Tonks! The bin please."

She heard footsteps thump back towards her.

"Oh, you're here. Tempe, disturbance in Vauxhall. Can't seem to find anyone else, would you mind …er… coming… with… me?"

Tonks' voice dropped off as Temperance raised her eyes to her co-worker. She had absolutely no desire what so ever to fly off to Vauxhall to deal with what was probably a rather benign situation.

Tonks shifted her weight from foot to foot and glanced leadingly at towards the hall door.

Temperance craned her neck around and scanned the room.

Bugger me. 'Course there is no one else available.

She got to her feet quickly and snapped up her jacket and wand. She nodded to Tonks and they headed towards the lifts.

As annoyed as she might be at the timing, it was an unwritten rule that Aurors should never go to the scene of a disturbance alone. This was one of the rare regulations that she agreed with whole-heartedly.

Had she been following this rule two years ago, her husband, Davy, might not be dead and she would not be stigmatizes as a rarity. The young witch widow was not common in such a long-lived society. The Tendo had been almost too glad to clad her in black at each Gathering. She didn't mind wearing the colour, it showed up rather frequently in her daily wardrobe. It was more that she really minded being told that she had no choice in the matter. Society tenets and all. But she didn't want to think about that right now, it was more of an on-going irritation in her life than a real problem.

They stopped in front of the lift. Temperance took a moment to judge their appearances and run the 'I am not a witch' checklist in her mind.

Black dragon-hide jacket and boots. Aww…it'll pass for some kind of treated leather. Dark trousers and a green t-shirt…that'll be good enough.

She ran her fingers through her wiry curls. Tempe suspected that they were in a semi-riotous mess. She had not taken much time to tame them earlier. She pulled a curl in front of her eyes and examined it while she waited.

Nice enough colour, dark copper, if a person was feeling generous. Odd orangey-brown if a person was of a more mean-spirited mind. But since I am always feeling generous… bloody marvelous hair colour if I do say so myself!

She grinned and released the curl. It sprung back to wherever it had come from on her head.

Hair…

She looked at her companion's head as they entered the elevator.

"Tonks, you might want to rethink you colour scheme," she said with a smile in her voice," The blue is gorgeous but I highly doubt that you'll blend in with the muggles with hair like that."

Tonks grinned at Temperance and screwed up her face.

"Right –o, Tempe. How's this?"

Tonks' hair turned into a cascading mass of brilliant canary yellow waves.

Tempe laughed.

"Closer."

Tonks' gift was a constant source of amusement among the younger Aurors.

The elevator doors slid open and they exited into the Atrium. Tonks adjusted her looks again. She coiffed herself with short blond hair and turned her eyes a very pedestrian shade of blue.

Kingsley Shacklebolt crossed the Atrium towards the lifts just in time to see his Aurors leave the building.

Now, that was either brilliantly timed on her part or the fates just have it in for me today.

He returned to his office armed with Fidelia's reticent divulgences. He had not made her privy to any of the information that he held, but had pumped her instead. She had grudgingly complied.

He settled at his desk to await Temperance's return and to try, in the mean time, to actually get something useful done. He was not ten minutes at his desk when he received an owl from Prudence. In it she explained her rather ridiculous situation. According to the missive, Grace had cast a spell that she was refusing to remove.

He started to shake with laughter.

That must've been some morning for Gracie to hex them all.

Pru was coming to work and had asked her boss if he wouldn't mind removing it for her, seeing as she couldn't vocalize the counter curse.

What he wouldn't have given to be at the Manor this morning…

He was still subject to the odd chuckle when he was owled by Tonks. The Vauxhall incident was requiring more time to sort out than previously expected and that Obliviators had to be called in.

Wonderful. Just wonderful.

Not only was he not going to be able to speak with Tempe, but he would also be subject to a mess of parchment work. Sometimes he really didn't much like being a supervisor.

The morning that had been so maddeningly slow turned into a hectic afternoon. While waiting for Pru to get her silent arse into the office, he received three more cases to investigate and two summonses.

"This is going to take all week to sort out," he said to himself as he sorted through the growing piles of parchment on his desk.

Trying to clear his desk was proving to be as easy as trying to prioritize chaos. He looked around peevishly. There was, of course, no one around that he could shove some of this work load onto. It was really miraculous that way this office could empty itself when there were dry cases to be taken on.

As if on cue, Pru strolled down the corridor to his cubicle.

"Nice of you to show yourself today, Pru."

She made a face at him and pointed to her mouth. He grinned toothily back at her. He knew, just by the way she was standing, that the enforced silence was driving her mad. Kingsley looked at the clock; it was two-thirty.

He knew, just looking at the state of his desk, that even by sharing his new workload with the talented witch, he would be out of the office for most of the week. He couldn't foresee, at the moment, when he would have time to talk to Temperance.

He looked up at her sister and a thought came to him. It was not the tactic that he had wanted to employ with Tempe but it was now the only really viable one that he had. By the looks of the topmost file on his desk, he would be spending the next few days in Egypt tracking down Ali Bashir and bringing him in for some questioning. An in voluntarily quiet Pru might just be a blessing in disguise.

He picked up his wand and placed an imperturbable charm around the cubicle.

Pru gave him a shrewd look and settled herself against his desk.

"I have something of an extremely sensitive nature to tell you Pru."

He looked at her sternly, gauging her response.

Pru crossed her arms and nodded to him to continue. All traces of her earlier discomfiture and impatience vanished. She looked him straight in the eye.

Kingsley felt a bit uneasy. Although he had known this witch for most of her life, her natural intensity still managed to occasionally unnerve him. He looked across the few yards separating them and searched for the words to best explain the situation.

He opted for the quick and simple approach. Beating around the bush would only aggravate the both of them.

"What I am about to tell you is not Ministry business Pru, it is Order business."

She nodded and leaned forward signaling that she was all ears.

"Sirius Black was an Order member during the first war, like you father and your aunt. But this you know."

She nodded slowly but her expression told him nothing and this was not a good sign with Pru Blackwell.

However, he had to continue.

"Black's position remains, to this day, that of a loyal Order member. He is innocent of the charges brought against him, although it would have done us a service if he had managed to do away with Pettigrew."

He stopped there and tried to read the witch.

She was not being very responsive. The only reaction to this information he could discern was the subtle tightening of the fabric of her shirt against her rawboned frame. He watched as the minute twitching of her muscles pressed and released the shiny purple material. Her expression remained completely non descript.

He was now finding the silence to be a hindrance and reached for his wand again.

"Finite Incantatem."

Still she said nothing. More disturbingly though, he could now hear the sound of her hoarse breathing.

Sweet Merlin…She's furious.

Shacklebolt was not entirely wrong. Pru was indeed furious, he was, however, completely wrong as to the direction her fury had taken.

They sat for a few minutes. There was no sound to be heard but rough breathing, the far away whoosh of the lift doors and the maddening tick of the office clock.

Pru released a long, deep breath, stood up and walked a few feet to the far wall.

"So…It was all in vain. Pointless really."

The calm in her voice brought Kingsley to his feet in alarm. He raised his wand at the ready. Pru's temper was not something to take lightly.

She made no movement and the clock continued to tick away deafeningly.

Prudence placed her hand gently on a place on her upper left arm. She massaged it slowly. Kingsley knew that under her shirt sleeve was a raised and scarred expanse of flesh; the physical souvenir of the day her brother-in-law Davy had been killed. Temperance and Pru had arrived too late to save him and she had been hit with a non-magical weapon. The liquid had burned through her skin. The healers had fixed her up, as they always did, but the witch always chose to keep her scars. She would not have them erased, vanity be damned.

"Pru," he said gently, "Black didn't have anything to do-"

"It was all for nothing! All those months…all the…"

Her voice was slowly climbing in decibel levels. Kingsley shot a quick look around them.

"Pru…quiet! Remember what we are-"

She didn't hear him. She let out a bellow of frustrated rage.

Right. Then it's back to quiet the enforced way. Imperturbable charms cannot cover that kind of sound.

The clock sounded the three o'clock chimes.

"Silencio Tota-"

She reacted with stunning speed. It seemed to him that in the space of a breath, Pru had ripped the clock off the wall and hurled it at his hand.

The clock smashed into Kingsley's hand with incredible force. His wand flew to the floor; the clock bounced off him and crashed to the floor, skidding to a halt under his desk.

Pru was back to breathing heavily, but his time her eyes made contact with his. Her clear, fine and fun-loving eyes were now clouded, slitted and ablaze.

"I know what I can or cannot say," she hissed at him.

He shook his hand and snapped back at her.

"Indulging ourselves, are we? Very responsible Pru, very responsible."

"What the fuck do you expect? You tell me that the dossier that Tempe and Davy…"

Her voice abruptly caught and she steadied herself. She shoved her shoulder against the wall, adopting a pose of incongruous nonchalance.

Kingsley watched her warily; he could see her brain hard at work, actively reconfiguring the pieces into a new picture.

Pru let out a sigh.

"Look. Sorry about the clock and your hand," she began.

He gave her a sardonic look.

That was as close to a heart-felt apology as I am going to get. Bloody Blackwells.

"It's not Black's innocence that got me going. I couldn't care less what his legal status is."

She raised a hand to stop anything that he might have to say.

"It's more the situation."

Her hands tangled in her hair and he saw her tug a few times at it.

"He did not kill Pettigrew or those muggles. Fine. Then how is it that we are only finding out about his innocence now?"

Pru gave him a hard look.

Ah yes, ever the skeptic, aren't you Prudence…

"Tempe is not going to take this as easily as I have," she warned.

Kingsley gave a laugh of surprise.

"You shouldn't be laughing, Tempe is going to go on a rampage the likes of which only she seems to hold the secret."

And get away with it, I might add.

Kingsley let out a groan.

Pru might do some violence to a highly irritating clock, Temperance…well…she might do some violence to some ministry officials.

"Kingsley, you know what the implications according to Tempe might be. I mean, we both know that she is likely to jump to some conclusions here that will be rather messy to clean up."

Pru made a face. She didn't relish being around when Tempe found out.

A really, really unpleasant thought dawned on her. She shot a look at Kingsley's desk, scanned his in-tray and slowly brought her eyes to meet his.

He was beaming at her. A beam full of prior knowledge and anticipated reactions.

"Oh no. No, no, no. I am not telling her, you can forget that idea right now."

"Fine Pru, I order you to do it."

She gave him an outraged look.

"And I order you to take this folder and do something about its contents."

Pru grabbed the dossier from her supervisor's out stretched hand. She stalked off to her desk to read her new case. She kicked her chair out from under the desk loudly, but before she sat down she opened the file and scanned its contents.

This has to be the most tedious drivel…Damn you, Kingsley…Don't blame you, just damn you.

She gave a quick smirk.

I would have passed this one along as well. It's gonna take for bloody ever.

A memo swooped past her head on its way to her boss' cubicle.

"Pru," he called to her, "Drop that case for a moment. It would seem that there are some trainees down in the gymnasium lacking an instructor. Care to work off some of that healthy rage of yours?"

She pivoted around, rather elegantly to Kingsley's eyes, and raised her hand to him. She made a rude gesture and loped off towards the lifts.

Pru gave a resounding snort of laughter.

Healthy rage…my arse!

Kingsley paused and went to retrieve the trainers' roster.

So, let's see, who didn't show?

He flipped to today's date.

Max? That's not like him. He lives to put trainees through his grueling paces. Sick bastard…

"What is today? National Blackwell skivving off day?"