Disclaimer:Character ain't mine. Hell, even the plot isn't really mine. I borrowed it from Rorschak's Blot and added a bit. About the only thing I think I can claim is the twin's toys.
The Return of the Gray Ghost
The next morning's issue of the Daily Prophet carried an interestingly fictitious report of the happenings of the night before, Penelope thought as she read the headline. 'Ministry Director injured in Death Eater Attack,' indeed. So the bastard got away alive… She read on. 'Walden McNair, Director of the Ministry's Magical Creatures Department; was admitted to St. Mungo's for injuries received while foiling an attack on an undisclosed location in Blackpool. "I just feel sorry that my friends was tortured and killed before I could get them away from them bastards," Director McNair told reporters from his bed. The Director was showing definite signs of Cruciatus exposure that even this reporter could recognize, as well as several obvious injuries. Director McNair's healer stated his patient's status was serious, but not life threatening at this time, but refused to comment if this brave man would be able to return to work, or if he would be forced to retire from his beloved job at the Ministry. We here at the Daily Prophet know that you, our public, join us in wishing this brave man a speedy and full recovery.' Penny snorted into her tea as she read the article. 'Sure,' she thought. 'It isn't easy to swing an axe with only one hand.'
While at work, Julia Crabbe limped back in this morning, completely ignored the 'Mudblood Bitch' and went directly to Melinda Edgecombe's office. Penny cursed as she failed to get one of the twin's extendible ears under the door before it was locked and silenced.
Half an hour later, Mrs. Crabbe stalked out of the office. When Melinda called for Penelope, she could tell her boss still had a bad case of the shakes as it took her three tries to order her lunch. Penelope stifled her grin until she was well away from the office.
As she was in the commissary picking up Melinda's lunch, Sharon came up beside her. And whispered, "Interesting article in the 'Prophet this morning, didn't you think?"
"Yes, a better piece of fiction would be hard to find," Penelope replied in the same low voice.
"So, I wonder how many of McNair's friends died last night in his heroic stance," Sharon asked.
"At least four and possibly seven." Penelope returned with a smirk. "It all depends on what happened at the after action report."
Sharon's eyebrows rose as she looked at the younger girl. "Care to drop by this evening and talk about it?"
Penelope correctly interpreted this as an offer to alibi her again tonight if needed. "Sorry, Sharon. I can't tonight, but I'll get with you later this week and let you know when."
"Okay. Anytime you need to talk, just let me know."
"Thanks, Sharon. You're a real friend." Penelope relied with a hug as she picked up Melinda's order and started back to her office.
Ted Dawlish, the rising star of the International Cooperation Department and brother of Senior Auror John Dawlish, saw the exchange from his seat, and had noticed them leaving together the night before.
As Penelope was passing his table, Ted snarked out "So the little Mudblood's going muff diving now, eh?"
Penelope spun around on him and glared at the man. "Why not? She's probably got more down there than you do!"
She stalked out the door to the laughter of the neighboring tables and Ted's fumbling to pull his wand. As he finally got his wand out, a hand dropped onto his shoulder and squeezed.
Arthur's voice was low and gravelly as Ted's arm went numb from the pressure point manipulation. "Penelope is a Weasley, the largest clan in Magical Britain. Her immediate family includes a curse breaker, a dragon handler, and two of the best pranksters in years. It also had three head boys and a head girl. The Dawlish clan is now down to yourself and your brother. You graduated last in your class, and John had to use most of the family inheritance to buy his way into the Academy because his DADA score was so low. That would be a good thing to remember when you think about what you were about to do."
Arthur had disappeared into the crowd by the time the white-faced man had a chance to pick up his wand and turn around.
Penelope stopped by the twins' shop after work, and had to call Molly to let her know she was helping the twins close up before coming home for dinner. Molly agreed but told her to tell the boys that they were expected for dinner if they were drafting her.
Penelope helped Fred and George clean up from the busy day's work. While cleaning up the 'Personal Protection' room, she asked Fred about the article. "Well, I'm not too sure what to make of it, really. About the best I can make out is that he had to come up with something to tell them why he was obviously injured on the night of a Death Eater attack."
"I think he's also trying to set himself up as a hero to the masses and to the Ministry. If he can get more notoriety, if something happens to Scrimgeour, he'll be the leading contender." Penelope replied. "If he keeps living through the attacks, he'll be able to play it up as everything happening to save lives as his doing, and any Death Eater casualties as his doing."
"We'd better get Dad in on this tonight. He's got the Ministry experience to see if he can even do that."
"I think you might be right, Penelope. With the number of people on Voldemort's payroll in the Wizengamot, if he can swing some the Neutrals, he can control the Ministry. Right now, the public is looking for someone to be seen as doing anything against Him, and if a Ministry employee is seen as a hero, if Scrimgeour is assassinated, he's a shoo-in."
"Looks like Mister McNair's going to have to have a little accident." Charlie growled.
"St. Mungo's says he's not going to be out for a few more days." Bill said.
"Time for a little planning." Penelope said, pulling out her book, some parchment and a quill. "The McNair household is just outside Nottingham…"
A week later the night skies in Nottingham flared bright for a moment before the forest went pitch black. "Wards are down." Bill whispered into his mirror.
Six quiet pops was all that was heard as the team infiltrated what had been the domicile of the McNair's for the last twelve generations. They quickly spread out in pairs, searching for the occupants of the manor house. Ministry records showed that, other than he and his wife, there were also three house elves to be worried about. It would not do, after all, to be found by the Aurors breaking and entering the "esteemed Director's" house.
The elves were easily found. As soon as the group apparated in, they heard a pop and saw what appeared to be thee desiccated miniature corpses in grimy, rotted pillowcases standing in front of them informing the intruders that they were ordered to stop all uninvited entry. Three quick stunners put the poor elves out of the fight. Penelope felt sorry for the elves and made a note to get with that deranged little elf that was stalking her pseudo brother-in-law to see what could be done to help the little buggers.
After that, it was a small matter to find the master bedroom. "Well, now, Mister McNair." Charlie sneered through his mask. "It seems we were interrupted the other night."
"No!" McNair screamed. "I don't have anything else for you! Get away from me, you psycho!"
"Nothing else for me, Walden? But we had just gotten started the other night. Reducto." The nightstand with McNair's wand on it exploded, showering the cripple with splinters. "Now, I think we have enough names for the time being. Let's start in on finances."
As the night wore on, the Gray Ghost extracted every bit of information from his unwilling host, including the fact that McNair had come up with the idea to claim credit for breaking up the attack on the Abbotts all on his own when he came to in St. Mungo's. His story had come about from desperation to explain his injuries in the best possible light. The last thing he was asked to do before oblivion took his memories of the last fifty years was to give his elves clothing.
A timed portkey dropped his inert body into the St. Mungo's emergency receiving area at three in the morning. Other than splinters, there was nothing physically wrong with the man. After he was revived, it became apparent that Walden McNair would never leave the hospital again. Aurors found the portkey to be a small leather bag, which contained a little less than two galleons in sickles.
At the Burrow, a tired Penelope drew a line through one of the names on a very long list.
At Diagon Alley, the twins were involved in a best two out of three Rock Paper Scissors game of the highest stakes. With a whoop, after thirty-seven tries, Fred came out the winner. George grimaced as he took the potion and chugged it down. To say that Augusta Longbottom was surprised to find out that she was the new Executive Trustee of the "McNair Foundation for the Victims of War" the next morning would be an understatement.
Penelope was not the only one to require a Pepper Up to get moving at work. It seemed that Madame Edgecombe was in an even fouler than normal mood. Quitting time couldn't come fast enough.
That afternoon, Penelope decided Evan Crosier would be the next logical person, given what had been said the previous night. While not supplying much in the way of financial aid to Voldemort, Crosier was passing on vital information. The Department of Mysteries was about to misplace one of its Unspeakables.
For the next week, Penelope shadowed the Unspeakable. It finally came to a head ten days after McNair's "memory lapse." Penelope was following Crosier towards the Leaky Cauldron when he suddenly cut down a back alley. Suspecting a trap, Penelope looked around for witnesses, disillusioned herself, and then rolled across the entryway to the alley, dodging two fast curses as she did so.
It took three tries to nail Crosier and his unknown partner, but they finally went down. Penelope was gasping for breath from the bludgeoner that had caught her a glancing blow. Notice-me-not and silencing charms were already in place, thanks to the ambushers. Stunning Crosier's accomplice a second time for good measure, Penelope spelled the Unspeakable-turned-muggle-raping-Death Eater-turned-victim upside down with a flick of her wand before searching him and finally awakening him.
The first things the Death Eater saw were two gray-clad legs. Looking down, he saw a gray cloak and mask, framed by blue sky. While this was cogitating, he realized the pounding in his ears had to be his hammering pulse, as the blood was fighting to return to his heart. Ergo, the Gray Ghost was holding him suspended in the air. If he hadn't been upside down, he would have paled at the prospect.
"W—What do you want?" He asked plaintively.
After a silent spell to disguise her voice, a gravelly bass answered. "Me? Not much. I'm just cleaning up the gene pool. Now, you can make this easy, or hard. Start naming names."
"I can't do that! The Dark Lord would kill me!"
"Ah, but you fail to realize something. You see, I'll kill you if you don't; and He's not here. I am."
Faced with a possible death later on or a sure fire death now, Evan Crosier took the better part of valor and began to sing. The dictation quill behind him took down every word. When he was done, Penelope looked at the wreck of a man critically before conjuring a cricket bat. Three strikes from the bat ensured the man would never walk again, nor would the rapist's equipment be of any threat to another human being. Three more ensured the same of his partner. The last thing Penelope did was to obliviate both men back to first year at Hogwarts.
Penelope was at home fixing Molly and herself tea when word of the vicious attack on the "upstanding Unspeakable and his good friend " was mentioned on the WWN. It appeared the Aurors were questioning the hag that found the men, trying to find out if she knew what had happened to them.
After her tea, Penny went out to the shed and made two more lines across her parchment and added to the growing list of possible supporters needing to be researched.
She was just finishing up her work when Arthur stormed into the shed.
"What the hell happened this afternoon?" a very red faced Arthur demanded.
"What do you mean, 'what happened,' Arthur? I saw an opportunity, and I took it." Penelope replied. "I tracked Crosier, I waited, screwed up his pitiful ambush, took him down and pumped both him and his baby raping friend full of Veritaserum and bled them dry. After that, I broke their legs, busted their laughable equipment, and wiped the last forty years from their minds. Were you going to say that they didn't deserve it? Or that-"
"What? No, Damn it! You went out without a backup! We aren't playing Silly Buggers here, Penny! These people want to kill us! You said yourself they were trying to ambush you. I don't want you going in without a backup."
"Oh. You're upset because I didn't have a tag-along, eh? Why? Because I'm a girl?" Penny asked, snidely.
"What?" Arthur asked, confused at this attack. "No! I don't want any of you kids doing this without a backup." Arthur slapped his hand to his face and pulled down slowly, trying to get his emotions in check.
"Sit down, please, Penny." Arthur said, pulling out a chair and doing so himself. He took a deep breath and tried again. "No, it's not because you are a girl, or that I think any less of you than one of the boys. I know you can hold your own with any one of us, and your talents at data gathering and correlation is far beyond any of ours. I don't want you going in without a backup because we ALL need to have a backup when we go into that sort of situation. You are worth ten – no, a hundred - of those bastards to all of us, Molly included. We love you just as if you were one of our own kids, Penny. We love you just as much as Bill, or Charlie, or even Harry and Hermione. All of you are our kids. We've lost Percy, and we don't want to lose any more. I'm not saying you can't go on missions, Penny. I'm just saying that you need someone you trust to have your back when you do it."
"You never had backup when you were the Gray Ghost." Penny mumbled, knowing full well she was going to lose this fight, but had to play it out to the end. As Percy would have said, she 'wouldn't be a Weasley if she wasn't stubborn.'
Arthur sighed. The reasons he had set foot on this path twenty years ago were evident every time he looked at his best friend at Christmas. Molly would hang two small ornaments on the tree with tears in her eyes. The ornaments that had been given to her by Fabian and Gideon. "I know, Penny. I did what I had to do at the time because I had no family I could trust to watch my back. Charlie and Bill weren't even in Hogwarts yet, Molly was a wreck, and Auntie Muriel was watching all three of them. If I had had my choice, Gid and Fabe would have been there every step of the way. Unfortunately, they were the reason I was doing it in the first place.
"I almost died a dozen times over when I was the Gray Ghost. I went to work and brewed healing potions in the bottom drawer of my desk to keep Molly from finding out.
"You don't have to do it alone, Penelope. We are family. We love you and will always have your back. We might not always agree with you, and we might try to talk you out of something stupid, but we will always back your play.
"Besides," Arthur grinned. "What would Molly do without her tea every night if you got into a situation you didn't come home from?"
"Okay, Pop. You win. No more hogging all the fun." Penelope said, unshed tears glistening in her eyes. "I guess it was pretty stupid going out on a job by myself."
"I prefer to think of this as a learning experience for you," Arthur said. "Now, young lady, what did you learn?"
"Hmm… You like Harry and Hermione as much as you like me?" Penelope answered with a grin.
Undeterred, Arthur asked "And?"
Penelope sobered and said "My family loves me for me and will kill me the next time I go out on a job without a backup."
"Well, perhaps not kill, but we will let the twins use you for a test subject for some of their new inventions for the store." Arthur said with a smile as he swept her into a fatherly hug.