"Do you know who I am, my man?" Pansy demanded, and the watchwizard before her visibly shrank a little.
"Yes, Miss Parkinson, yes I do ma'am," he stuttered. "But I am afraid Ms Tonks is unavailable at the present moment. Perhaps if you wouldn't mind waiting..." he indicated the row of chairs opposite his desk with a slightly hopeful air. "I could maybe get someone else from the Auror office to come and speak to you?" He gave her what he obviously thought was a winning smile. Pansy was unimpressed.
"Do I look as if I want to palmed off with some office underling?" she demanded haughtily. "I wish to speak to Ms Tonks personally, and I do not wish to wait. Is that quite clear?"
The watchwizard gulped. "I will see what I can do ma'am."
"Thank you." Pansy bowed her head and condescended to take a seat on one of the chairs previously pointed out to her. The watchwizard gnawed his lip uncertainly. It was true that Pansy Parkinson was an important personage. Her savagely funny political column in The Daily Prophet was the tip of the iceberg. Her parties were legendary; her style advice was sought by celebrities and politicians alike, and it was an open secret that Rita Skeeter's gossip columns in both The Prophet and Witch Weekly were fuelled by Pansy and her network of full-time "observer/advisors". Pansy Parkinson had the ear of everyone from the Minister himself, the Headmaster of Hogwarts and the chief goblin at Gringotts right down to the more humble wizard in the street. It did not pay to get on her bad side. A word from her could break a witch or wizard forever - and had done so more than once.
Still, even for Pansy Parkinson, demanding to meet with the Head Auror at no notice was a bit much. So Watchwizard Derek Penriff thought to himself morosely as he called over a junior colleague to relieve him on the desk and headed for the lifts. He could have sent the junior to Ms Tonks of course, but that would deflect the trouble to the young lad who was new in the job and who really did not deserve quite such a rough induction as that would be. Derek Penriff was a conscientious man, and would take what was coming to him, however unfair it might be.
There would be punishment, he was sure of it. Ms Tonks, ten years Head of the Auror office, recently passed over for Minister in favour of the infinitely less able, but much more politically astute Percy Weasley, had a temper on her than no one in the Ministry could beat. And if there was one thing she hated - and had made sure that everyone knew she hated - it was being interrupted during the weekly Auror briefing meeting.
Why, oh why, Derek Penriff thought miserably, as he trailed along the corridor to the Aurors' briefing room, could Miss Pansy "I'm Too Famous and Too Influential to Slight" Parkinson not have waited until the next day to come in with her unreasonable demands. The Head Auror would not be happy to be summonsed on any day of the week, but on a Monday afternoon...
Derek Penriff took a deep breath to steady himself, knocked perfunctorily on the door and entered the briefing room. There was no point in waiting to be told to come in. He might wait all day for that, and it was better to get this over with.
Head Auror Nymphadora Tonks had changed since her days in the Order of the Phoenix. At forty-one, she was still a pretty woman - although how much of that was down to nature, and how much to her Metamorphmagus abilities was open to conjecture. But her previously happy-go-lucky nature had been changed irrevocably with the victory of Voldemort's party in the war. As a Half-Blood and one with a known alliance to what was now disparagingly called "The Potter Party" she had begun at a disadvantage in the brave new world. But she had acted with a ruthlessness that those who had known her in former days would not have believed, ditching those of her former allies who had survived and who retained their former loyalties as quickly as maybe. Perhaps her ascendance in the Auror office was helped by her undoubted abilities, but there was also the influence of her Black relatives who welcomed her back to the Pureblood fold readily enough once she cut all ties with her traitor mother and even with her own half-breed baby son. That both her Mudblood father and werewolf husband had died in the war was another point in her favour. They could be conveniently forgotten.
Now she turned to the unfortunate watchwizard with a glare that had sent lesser wizards to their knees.
"Penriff is it not?" she snapped. "Derek Penriff?" Somehow she made the fact that she knew his name sound like a threat. "Do you know what time it is? Do you not know that I must not be interrupted on a Monday afternoon? Do you know that?" She glared at him, her eyes darkening from grey to black as she did so. "For any reason. Any reason at all."
Derek Penriff gulped, but stood his ground.
"I know ma'am. I'm sorry ma'am," he stuttered. "But Miss Parkinson is here. Miss Pansy Parkinson." He emphasised the name as if there could be any doubt about which Miss Parkinson was meant. "And she is asking to see you. She refused to wait."
Incredibly, the imposing Head Auror's expression softened at the mention of the name.
"Miss Parkinson here?" she asked. "Very well, Penriff. Tell her I will be straight down." The watchwizard nodded, and retreated, hardly daring to believe his luck.
Back in the lobby, he passed on the message to an impatient-looking Pansy Parkinson, and took his seat behind the desk with a sigh of relief, wiping the sweat from his brow as unobtrusively as possible.
Head Auror Tonks was barely five minutes behind him, striding through the lobby with her cloak billowing behind her, and leaving lesser mortals gasping in her wake. She went straight to the waiting Miss Parkinson, greeted her with a stiff handshake and a slight nod of the head and led her into one of the small meeting rooms leading off from the lobby where they would not be interrupted. Derek Penriff permitted himself to wonder whether this was blackmail or merely Pansy Parkinson doing her impression of a good citizen and passing on intelligence that the Auror office should know. He wondered if he would read about the consequences of this meeting in The Prophet in the days to come.
In the tiny meeting room, Nymphadora Tonks regarded the younger woman with annoyance.
"Why did you come here, Pansy?" she asked incredulously. "You know as well as I do that to the world we must be seen as acquaintances and nothing more. What was so important that it could not wait?"
Pansy regarded her with a half-smile and a proud lift of the chin.
"This!" she exclaimed, lifting a tiny vial of gold liquid from where it had been concealed beneath her cloak. "This is what was so important. I went to Saint Mungo's, dearest and the test confirms it. I am pregnant. We are going to be parents!"
Derek Penriff heard muffled sobbing from behind the closed door and hoped that Head Auror Tonks was not giving Miss Parkinson too hard a time for interrupting her. He rather enjoyed her columns in The Prophet.