Richard Proudfoot propped open the heavy oak doors that led to the Auror office and summoned his Pensieve from his cubicle. He set the object carefully down where he could stand by it and maintain a good view of the lift doors. The Pensieve was empty. It hadn't been safe to store memories where others could spy them out. Keeping his eyes on the only entry to the floor that was still passable he raised his wand and pulled long silver strings of memories from his head and deposited them into the Pensieve.
He'd rigged the lift doors so there would be enough of a delay before they opened for him to be ready to defend himself against any intruders. A small crowd of wizards each trapped in a Body-Bind Curse stood propped against a wall. They'd each made the attempt to enter earlier. He'd allowed a few to escape hexed but free to carry the tale that an Auror was defending Level Two against all comers. The news of his collection of living statues had done an excellent job of deterring invasion attempts. No one had tried to come through the door for some time.
Proudfoot believed that Level Two where the Aurors, the Wizengamot and the Muggle-born Registration commission had their offices had to be preserved. The records were all here, the documents saying who did what and who gave the orders.
Proudfoot had only secured the area moments ahead of the looters. He had known they would come. Collaborators and informers hoping to destroy incriminating evidence, victimized Muggle-borns wanting the names of those who had betrayed them, family members searching for information about their loved one's fate, all wanted what could be found stored in the files on this floor. Proudfoot was going to protect these files, preserve this evidence for the only people who had a right to it.
He could hear muffled screams and a crash as the lift rumbled past the second floor. The looters were contenting themselves with what they could find on the other unprotected sections of the ministry. He worked steadily extracting as many memories from the last nine months as he could before he was interrupted. The eyes of the immobilized attempted looters watched him as he worked. He'd separated the wandless from the others. Proudfoot wondered if they had come hoping to find their confiscated wands in Umbridge's old office, or was the need to discover the source of their misery so over powering that they came here first even before finding a wand for themselves?
When the call had gone out to join the Dark Lord at Hogwarts, the others had followed, but Proudfoot had ignored the call of the Dark Mark though it had taken every bit of will he possessed to do so. He had come to the end of his little adventure. For him it would end the same whether Potter or the Dark Lord won the confrontation. He found that when he learned that Potter had destroyed Voldemort, he wasn't surprised.
He could hear the sound of the lift as it approached and stopped at the floor. He readied himself and counted the seconds of the delay that he'd set into the doors. Kingsley stepped out followed by three teenaged boys. Unsurprisingly Potter had come, accompanied by two friends. One was definitely the red-haired Weasley boy whose face had recently shared so many wanted posters along with Potters. All four of them were stopped momentarily by the sight of Proudfoot and his pointed wand.
"Congratulations Kingsley, You won or rather he did," Proudfoot said gesturing at the boy with the scar on his forehead. "I've been waiting for you. You noticed the looters I'm sure. You will find that this floor remains untouched, but not for lack of trying of course."
Proudfoot smiled as Kingsley's quickly glanced at his little collection of prisoners, before returning his gaze to the man who had his wand trained on him. "So many incriminating files and so many people wanting to get their hands on them…" He swept his arms in a wide circle encompassing the entire level. His sleeve fell back revealing the Dark Mark on his arm. He'd meant to show them the tattoo; it made things easier.
The boys with Kingsley gasped, but Kingsley didn't look surprised. He put his hand on the shoulder of the boy on his left; the one Proudfoot had not yet placed. "Don't," was all he said. Kingsley had trained with Proudfoot and must have remembered how much the Auror liked to draw fire from an opponent with gestures that made him appear to be off guard.
"But the looters couldn't get in, because I wouldn't let them. I've been preserving things for you, but I don't suppose you're grateful to me for it."
"You were doing it for your friends," the boy that Kingsley had warned said, practically spitting the last word at him. "You were probably waiting here for them to join you."
Suddenly, looking at that angry face, Proudfoot knew exactly who this boy was. He'd seen that expression many times in his days of training. "That's Frank's boy isn't it?" he asked. "Of course he is. How fitting that the sons of the last war's martyrs, fought this one. Were you all looking for revenge or a chance to walk in your parent's shoes? But Kingsley, weren't you worried that these boys would all be lost like their parents were, or did it seem fair and right that they should risk the same fates?"
"Shut up!" Potter said, before Kingsley could say anything. Proudfoot wondered how much control Kinsley had over these kids. They had the look of troops who'd been in charge of themselves for a long time.
"Were you one of theirs even while Scrimgeour was minister? He was your mentor. Did you help them capture him?" Kingsley asked.
Proudfoot supposed he should have expected the question. "After they took the Ministry, Yaxley offered a few of us that they had captured a chance to stay on. I took what was offered me."
"You took that willingly?" Kingsley asked gesturing to Proudfoot's arm.
"Well, it depends on how you define the word, but I wasn't Imperiused, if that is what you mean. Some of the others may have been, but I wasn't."
"Why?" Kinsley asked. There was pain in his voice.
"Frank and Alice. Dying like Moody … to be killed and just disappear, transfigured into a bone and tossed some where for the dogs to worry -- well, that prospect was bad, but nothing compared to what happened to Frank and Alice. I wasn't willing to risk that."
Frank's boy had been staring at him with unblinking intensity, but he winced like he'd been struck at the mention of his parents. He resembled Alice. Proudfoot had always liked her. He groped for the kid's name. It was Neville. He remembered seeing it on an arrest order that had come down near the end. He hadn't been surprised by the sight of that name on an arrest order either. The stare on such a familiar face was unnerving.
Potter looked at him like he was something disgusting he found stuck to his shoe. The red-head's eyes went from one to the other. Kingsley remained calm.
"Why do you think the Dark Lord kept them alive after he took power? They were a constant example of what could happen to anyone who stood in his way, quite the concrete example."
"Dawlish?" Neville asked. "Is that why he joined you? Harry thinks he might have been Impiriused."
"I couldn't speak for Dawlish. He was confounded I think, but whether by his Death Eater rulers or one of the many he was sent to arrest I couldn't tell you. They brought us into the fold one at a time. Every traitorous Auror betrays in his own way," he said and laughed. None of them caught the line. Sympathetic to Muggles as these sterling people were, they had never bothered to read Muggle novels and were deaf to one of the most famous first lines in Muggle literature. "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Well the Aurors were now one uniquely unhappy family.
"If you're interested in the others… They took Imogen alive, but as a Muggle-born … well she disappeared. I don't know if she's in Azkaban or if they killed her straight off." Proudfoot had read Tolstoy at Imogen's insistence. She'd been his girlfriend until a short time after her eye had been cursed off in a duel gone wrong. Yes, he had always been shallow, he confirmed in his own mind. It was easier to think about leaving her than to consider what probably happened to her.
He suspected that Kingsley knew some of this, but he felt the urge to recite it anyway.
"Williams died defending Scrimgeour. Robbards is in St. Mungo's still trying to gain control of his limbs. Savage disappeared too. I think he was taken alive after the battle but we never saw him after."
"Perhaps he showed more integrity." Kingsley said.
"Perhaps. Have you checked the Janus Thickey ward? He might be in the bed next to Frank and Alice."
Kingsley gripped Neville's shoulder as the kid stepped forward. "I've been to the ward," the boy said. "He isn't there. They have no new patients, not yet anyway."
"Who knows after we free those trapped at Azkaban," Potter added to the other boy's remarks.
"Maybe you sent some of them there, yourself," the Weasley boy said.
Kingsley must have decided the boys were a bad bet for staying calm. "You three search the offices and check for traps and pull files. When you're done, move these people out of here. They've been trapped in those Body-Binds long enough." He turned to the frozen prisoners and said, "Looting will not be tolerated."
The boys didn't move. "I can handle him alone and we have a lot of work to do," he said. The red-headed boy kept his eyes on Potter and didn't start moving till Potter began to make his way down the hall. The Longbottom boy followed behind the other two after giving Proudfoot one last look. Kingsley was going to have his hands full with those kids. They'd spent the war fighting their own battles. They'd forgotten how to take orders.
Kingsley snapped a quick Bubble of Silence around the two of them. The Auror obviously felt that the collection of Body-Bound prisoners had heard enough of the ministry's business.
"We didn't all have the luxury of escape from the Muggle Prime Minister's office," Proudfoot said to Kingsley. "You weren't trapped here during the attack. You weren't taken by surprise."
"They came for me too," Kingsley replied. "But you shouldn't have been surprised. I warned you that Voldemort would take action when Harry turned seventeen."
"There's ready and there's ready. They had sealed the floor. Scrimgeour was surrounded. We had to fight our way just to reach him in that narrow hallway between our offices and his. Voldemort had more people placed inside the ministry than we ever expected. They had Thicknesse for Merlin's sake."
"We've captured him. We're holding him and the others in classrooms at the school until we get some order established."
"Is that where you'll be taking me?" Proudfoot asked.
"Are you trying to negotiate something – some loyalty from an old friend?" Kingsley glanced at the Pensieve standing just a few feet away. Then he looked into Proudfoot's eyes.
Proudfoot wouldn't look away but worked hard to keep his former friend out of his mind.
"Don't tell me you didn't commit crimes while wearing their Mark. I know better. They expect results from their minions. But I need information. You guessed of course, that's why you're giving it to me now."
Kinsley nodded toward the Pensieve. "You've set up that useful object. Why? Anything in there is mine for the taking and lost to you for trade. Are you trying to prove that you helped people while serving Voldemort? Are those the memories of those who should be grateful to you?"
Proudfoot said nothing. He knew his own crimes too well to try to alleviate them by trumpeting small pathetic acts of mercy. Lord Voldemort enjoyed forcing his new servants to do his work. Proudfoot had had to hurt others to keep from being hurt; that was life under the new rulers. He couldn't even claim to be Impiriused. He'd taken the Mark to avoid that fate, to maintain control over himself and how far he'd go in the service of the Dark Lord. He feared that there was no end to what he could be made to do as a mere tool of another's mind. His maneuver had accomplished little. He'd ended up doing what his new masters required of him. Sometimes he thought that he had lost contact with his old self.
The Dark Lord himself had welcomed him into the fold, had looked into his mind and had seen exactly why he'd joined, but he hadn't cared. Proudfoot thought the wizard was amused by his thinking. Many of those who served him did so out of fear. What was one more?
"I want information," Kingsley repeated. "First, I want to know where they have put Susan Bones. Amelia was a friend and a boss. I think I owe it to her to find her niece." He looked pointedly at Proudfoot. "There are so few of that family left."
"Nott has her. He's holding her at a small place he has in Wales."
Kingsley looked more angered than pleased with the information. "You knew this? You sat by knowing they had kidnapped Amelia's niece and did nothing for her after all they did to Amelia? But then you worked for them after they killed Scrimgeour – and tortured him. What more can we expect of you?"
Proudfoot shrugged. He'd been trapped. He'd joined them before they'd even finished with Scrimgeour. Hearing them question the poor man had made the choice easier by far. They had already killed Dumbledore, Amelia, and Moody. If they could crush them, than he had no choice. Every time he reported to Umbridge's office and saw Moody's eye watching him, stuck on her door like a trophy, all fight was sucked out of him. Sometimes he would wonder what the old war horse of the department would have thought of his betrayal, but then he would remember that the old man trusted no one.
"My memories of the war; all the crimes I witnessed, what I heard, are all in that Pensieve," Proudfoot said, but not speaking the complete truth. He'd kept a few of his own most despicable crimes to himself. There were some things he didn't want his old friends to know about, if he could help it.
"I've saved the records and files; all my reports are on my desk. Names, faces, they are all there. I've wrapped it all up with a bow for you, Kingsley." He lifted his wand. He saw comprehension dawn on Kingsley's face, and knew that he would have to act quickly. He had no intention of living through his own trial. He was done. Proudfoot pointed the wand at his own heart made sharp stab, twist and pull motions, said the word Annihilate and it was all over.