Author's Notes: Written for Lady Phoenix Fire Rose's Pairing One Hour Challenge/Hardest Challenge Ever on the HPFC forum with the pairing Macnair/Rookwood and the prompt "Agree to disagree".


Walden Macnair was sitting in the office that the Ministry of Magic had seen fit to give him – a small and rather pathetic office, he thought, but more than any Death Eater should have been given at all – and smoking a cigar, when Augustus Rookwood stormed in.

Walden looked up at him lazily. While he considered himself profoundly lucky to have work in the Ministry during the war, while work was so difficult to come by and while the Ministry was locked down so tightly, Augustus had not taken to it. Perhaps being a secret keeper was more stressful than working a desk job relating only in the vaguest of ways to the execution of dangerous creatures, but Walden had still often commented to Augustus that he ought to calm himself down.

"The Minister thinks there's a leak," he said, closing the door tightly behind him and fixing his small, watery eyes on Walden. "He thinks that someone who's working for the Ministry is passing information directly to the Dark Lord."

A man more prone to nerves would have been at least a little afraid to hear such a statement. Great care had been taken by the Dark Lord and by the few men that he had trusted to infiltrate the Ministry – Walden, Augustus, Lucius – in covering any hint that they might be reporting to the Death Eaters. But Walden was not prone to nerves. He was not important enough to be suspected and had, as a result, developed quite a sense of security in his job.

"And it's only taken him… what? Three years?" He tapped the ashes of his cigar onto the rather expensive rug and smirked at Augustus. "The man should get a medal."

"Don't you dare be glib about this!" Augustus grabbed the cigar away from him and threw it into the wastebasket. Smoke curled up and Walden wondered idly whether the ember was going to set fire to the papers that he had thrown away. "You have no idea the sort of danger that we will be in–"

"We will be in exactly the same sort of danger that we're always in, and that the rest of the men who work in the Ministry will be in," Walden told him. "The Minister will have no reason to suspect us unless you do something stupid."

"Unless I do something stupid? Unless one of us does something stupid!"

"But I'm not going to do anything stupid, you see." Walden took great care in speaking in the most patronizing voice he could muster, for he knew how it infuriated Augustus. "I'm going to keep my head down and be just as frightened as anyone else who works here about the possibility that information might be being leaked. And I'm going to try very hard to help catch whoever's doing it."

"But we're–"

"The Minister doesn't know who's leaking the information." Walden reached into his desk and lit up another cigar. "He hasn't got the first idea. He's just saying that he thinks there's a leak because he likes to make it seem like he has some idea of what's going on." He blew a smoke ring at Augustus's face and laughed as he coughed and waved it away. "If he did, they'd be arrested in a second. And since everyone still has their job…"

"You oughtn't take this so calmly!" he said, fuming. Colour was rising slowly in his face. "The Dark Lord wouldn't take it like you would! He would–"

"He would tell us not to draw attention to ourselves, as you very well know," he told him. He was losing patience quickly. "He would tell us that we shouldn't do anything that will make anyone suspect us even for a second, and panicking and running into someone else's office to share the gossip just might make someone suspect us, you know." The corner of his lip lifted in a little half-sneer and Augustus's face went quite red.

"I just thought that you might want to know. Seeing as how you people in the dangerous creatures department are going to have to submit to interrogation, just like I am."

"Oh, and I appreciate your warning," Walden said. He blew another smoke ring at him. "I always appreciate your advice as to how to keep myself safe. I just don't subscribe to your methods…"

"I'm sure I don't know what you mean," Augustus told him, wrinkling his nose.

"Oh, yes, you do." Walden tilted his head to the side, looking at him with a calmly appraising stare. "You see, when things go wrong, you run about in a frenzy and make a fool of yourself while trying not to be suspicious. Some of us prefer to act like everyone else is acting and not panic."