Readers might want to head back a chapter. It has significantly changed, seeing as I forgot two scenes when I was posting. Both are there now.
I Fall(out) to Pieces
"So, you're resigning because of this muggle war?" Rufus Scrimgeor asked incredulously. On the other side of his desk, Tonks squirmed slightly under his disbelieving stare. "Are you mad? There's no need to worry about some idiot muggles killing each other. We're perfectly hidden and safe."
"Sir, it was a family decision," Tonks replied. "If there's no bomb, we just apparate right out later on."
"So you're really looking for extended leave without pay?" he asked, leaning back in his chair. "The without pay is the easy part, the hard part is being allowed to return later."
"I thought it would be sir," she replied formally. The Head Auror grumbled wordlessly, rifled around in his desk and pulled out a piece of parchment. He scribbled something on it before passing it to her.
"Here's my recommendation," Scrimgeor said. "I don't want to lose you. You're damn good at what you do, and your metamorphic talents are very valuable. Moody even says you've got a lot of potential for Constant Vigilance, which for him is glowing praise. If this is what it takes to get you back here, that's what I'll do. Go, take that to Bones. She'll need to sign off on the leave."
"Thank you sir."
Tonks turned and left, quickly navigating the twisting, turning tunnels and corridors of the Ministry of Magic. The layout was anything but logical, with Departments, Offices and sections having been built by expanding charms as they were needed, rather than planned out. While the Aurors were stationed on the east side of the Ministry, the office of the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement was on the very reaches of the western most Ministry tunnels. Anyone wanting to pass between the two had to either floo to the entryway and fight through the crowds or navigate through the maze and fight through the crowds. Tonks preferred to walk so she didn't fly flat on her face when presenting her request for extended leave, something that seemed to always happen when she used the floo to the DMLE.
After nearly an hour's walk, Tonks arrived at the office of Amelia Bones.
"Come in," the woman called through the door at Tonks' knock. The metamorphic witch opened the door and stepped inside. She handed the woman the parchment.
"Extended leave for family reasons?" Bones asked after inspecting the paperwork for a moment. She tossed it on the desk and crossed her arms, half-glaring at the younger woman. "I'm going to be blunt about this. Are you pregnant?"
"No, but looking at it, I could understand why that might be a common assumption," Tonks replied.
"It's the most common reason I get these requests. Those are almost always granted and almost never end. The vast majority of young mother aurors choose to keep the mother and drop the auror. Very few come back. For Scrimgeor to give a recommendation, it means something," Bones commented, glancing at her subordinate's signature on the bottom of the page. The woman stood up, cranked on the Wizarding Wireless to a slightly louder than comfortable level and sat back down. "We can talk privately now. So what is the real reason you're requesting leave?"
Tonks explained, again, about the muggle war. She was getting aggravated about having to repeat the same facts over and over again for each person she met. Tonks was starting to understand why her muggleborn friends got so aggravated with magic raised friends some times.
"So, your family is going to spend time in the vault to wait out the war," Bones asked. "These bombs... I've read reports. There's a lot of history in the DMLE that never made it into Binn's lectures. Most people don't know that London, including Diagon Alley, had to be rebuilt in the 1940s and 1950s after the Germans bombed England. Are these bombs the kind that we can just go to another part of Britain to avoid?"
"No," Tonks replied flatly. "I don't really know the specifics myself, but Dad says these bombs carry someone called Radish-Anne, or someone like that. And she can-"
"You can stop the stupid pureblood act right now, auror, because I'm not buying it," Bones snapped.
"It's an invisible gas, I guess," Tonks summed up as well as she could, "that kills people who aren't even the targets of the bombs."
"Have you tried to make a report on this? People should know about the danger," Bones said. Tonks sighed as she rolled her shoulder to get a kink out. Her hair turned black to gray (pure gray, not the usual salt-and-pepper kind of gray), to the same green-black as the walls back to her usual pink as she sorted out her answer.
"I did think about it," Tonks admitted, "but decided not to when I saw what Fudge did to Harry Potter and Dumbledore. I'd lose my job or worse and just as many people would be dead in the end."
"Unfortunately I agree," Amelia Bones said. "These Vaults, how are they selecting people?"
"I'm not sure of the exact selection process, but blood tests, medical scans, and I think a lottery," Tonks explained. She pulled the informational folder from the inside of her coat and passed it to the older woman. "We're limited to five personal items. No animals or plants. Clothes count as personal items."
"Well, to be quite frank the muggles don't know that we know how to cheat," Amelia said. "Which is why we are going to cheat, cheat, cheat, cheat."
"What? We?" Tonks asked, her eyebrows reaching for the sky in surprise.
"There are a huge number of people out there that are going to die if these bombs fall," Bones explained. "You know it, I know it. Plus, if Dumbledore and Potter are right, Voldemort is back. Which means even more people will die. I remember Death Eater tactics from the last war. They manipulate people and populations using money, isolating or ruining opposition. They target families of those who resist. They don't have problems murdering children in the most horrific ways."
"And if the bombs fall, even if Dumbledore and Potter are wrong, we still have massive numbers of people dead or dieing," Tonks put in, though she fully believed in Dumbledore and by extension, Potter.
"Exactly. I want to smuggle some children of certain ministry officials into these vaults," Bones said, the Wizarding wireless still blasting in the background. "Susan is going into her 5th year. Rumor has it, that monster of an undersecretary is being appointed as a professor over Dumbledore's head. That puts pressure on me and almost anyone else with children there."
"I know some people who are good with making things," Tonks replied, thinking back to Sirius and Remus's list of inventions. "Maybe something like a locket that can be enlarged enough to walk into, like the trunk Moody was found in this spring."
"Good thinking," Bones replied. "Supplies, important files. It will also allow you to not be limited by the Vault rules."
"They do claim to have good reasons for the rules, but with magic, we can change the situations easily enough," Tonks agreed. "My mum will be glad to be allowed to bring everything. She was trying to narrow it down to five, but the pile still takes up the entire living room table."
"And remember, it's not like they're going to kick you out once the door's shut," Bones told her. She held up the leave request. "I'm going to sign this. If anyone asks, you're pregnant and proud as punch."
"I can fake it too," Tonks said, making her belly swell as if nearly to term.
"I didn't think of that, but it works in our favor," Bones agreed. "Do you object to the potential fallout of being seen as a single mother?"
"It's fake and I won't be here long, so I doubt it will matter," Tonks replied.
"Come up with ideas and we'll plan," Bones said. "When are the Vaults scheduled to close?"
"Late summer," Tonks replied. "So, two months, give or take."
"Should be enough time," Amelia said. "Next time, though, we'll meet at my house."
"Thank you, Director," Tonks said as the other woman turned down the radio.
"But I need that because Tomad's Guide to Advanced Arithmancy doesn't make sense without the Tobias compendium, and I of course need all my spell books. Oh and can't forget my wand. Number one on my list," Hermione said, not for the first time and not for the last. It had been three days since Harry arrived and the Granger household was frantic. Or at least Hermione was and to a lesser extent, Harry. Well, Harry was really just concerned about what would happen to Hedwig and his friends from school. Hermione was finding it impossible to narrow her list down to five items.
For the past hour, Harry had sat on Hermione's bed as the girl had a panic attack over the Vault-Tech informational.
"Hermione, put the list down and come to dinner," Menelaus called. Hermione, still muttering about what to bring, never heard her father's voice. Harry stood up, gently grabbed his friend by the shoulders and aimed the pacing girl towards the hallway. Hermione barely noticed where they were going until they arrived in the dining room with a full spread on the table.
"Hermione," Helen said sternly. "Put the list down and come eat."
Reluctantly, very reluctantly, Hermione put the list down and sat at the table. The four of them ate without speaking, since any conversation they'd had in the last two days had been co-opted by Hermione's List.
When Hermione's mother finally wiped her lips with the napkin and set it down, only then did conversation resume.
"Now, Hermione. You are not allowed your list or to make a new one for two days," Helen stated. Hermione opened her mouth to argue, but both parents held up hands to cut her off. "No, you listen. You are making this much more stressful than it really needs to be. First of all, scan all your books onto a holotape. Then all of them count as one item."
Hermione glanced down at her list. That one solution shrunk the list by about 85%.
"Now you only need to worry about the other four," Menelaus said.
"Three, I'm taking my wand," Hermione said. "But that's going to make it even harder. On the other hand, if I'm going to scan the books to holotape, that means I need more books."
The two elder Grangers sighed and shared a look.
Harry got the impression that "need more books" for Hermione was a lot like "Need more Vespine Gas" for Protoss.
"What do you say the two of you go to Diagon Alley tomorrow?" Menelaus Granger suggested. "Get out of the house, spend some time in London."
"That sounds good to me," Harry agreed.
"Great," he said. "You and Hermione can take a bus."
There were many reasons why heading to Diagon Alley might have been a bad idea for Harry. Of course, he wasn't aware of what they'd been printing in the Prophet, and he was so preoccupied by other things (since the Grangers had, between the three of them, successfully derailed his fixation on Cedric's death for the time being) that he didn't even think of the possible danger. As soon as the two teens entered the Leaky Cauldron they could almost feel an oppressive aura clinging to everyone. Their eyes followed Harry, and because she was with him, Hermione as well. These weren't the "oh Merlin, it's Harry Potter" eye he had felt before. These were the same kind of eyes he felt in second year when everyone thought he was the Heir of Slytherin.
"What is going on?" Harry asked aloud. He wasn't sure if he was asking himself, Hermione, the bar keep, Tom or the people staring at him.
"You'd best move along Mr. Potter," Tom said as his eyes flicked nervously between the crowd and the teens. He nodded towards the brick wall. "Go ahead."
Hermione gave the crowd a disapproving look. Her lips thinned, her eyes became steely and she tried her best to give the same presence Minerva McGonagall had impressed on so many. More than a few flinched. Hermione allowed herself a superior smirk before turning and marching out the open door to Diagon Alley.
The stares followed them there too, but Harry staunchly ignored them. He held his head high and walked forward. Unbeknownst to him, the very fact that he was walking through the Alley without reacting started to change opinions of him.
Most people in the Wizarding world had never met, nor even laid eyes on Harry Potter. They got all their news from the Prophet or the Wizarding Wireless. They had only seen the side of Harry that the press had wanted them to see. But here he was, unafraid, head held high walking with purpose through the cobbled street. So many of them tried and failed to reconcile the descriptions of an attention whore the Prophet and Ministry portrayed and the young man before them. Here, standing tall before them, he seemed noble, possessed of a higher purpose. Of course that illusion would have been shattered if they known Harry was just trying to ignore them, but they didn't.
Together, Hermione and Harry walked from store window to store window, looking at things here and there as they made their way to Gringott's to change some money. They didn't notice three wizards see the young man and apparate away to their master. They didn't see the members of the Order see him walking down the alley in broad daylight and start in shock. Not that either teen had any clue about the Order of the Phoenix.
They entered the goblin bank and Hermione changed some pounds to galleons.
"Will you be needing anything?" the goblin demanded of Harry.
"Um, I guess I should get some spending money," he admitted.
"Very well, Mr. Potter," the teller said before motioning towards a familiar door. "Please wait by the door and someone will be there to take you to your vault."
"Okay," Harry said. "Can Hermione come?"
"Who you let into your vault is your own business," the goblin replied. "If she steals from you when you let her in, it's your fault."
"Hermione won't steal from me," he replied just a bit tersely. The goblin seemed to grin cruelly at the boy's innocence, but ignored him as soon as Harry started towards the door to the bank-vaults. As the goblin led them down, Hermione watched as the cart rushed passed vault after vault. She'd never been to the vaults before, and this was quite a new experience. The goblin allowed Harry to open his vault and Hermione gasped at the glittering coins that seemed to decorate every corner in piles like waves on a metallic sea.
"Harry, you're rich," she gasped.
"I guess," he said noncommittally. He turned to the goblin. "How much do I have in here?"
"How should I know? It's not like goblins actually count your money, we just maintain the vaults," the creature snarled back. "What do I look like? A slide rule?"
"You run a bank but you don't count the money?" Hermione asked. "How does that even work?"
"You humans getting your coins or are you just wasting my time?" the goblin snarled. Hermione huffed in preparation for a sharply worded response, but Harry cut him off.
"Give me a moment to fill up," he said, scooping a bunch of coins into a bag. He packed it as full as he could and still be able to carry it easily. He tied the mouth shut and hefted it up. Gold, even magical gold, was heavy. It was not a large bag but felt like he was trying to benchpress Dudley.
"How much did you get?" Hermione asked.
"I dunno, I didn't count it," he replied as they got back into the cart. It wasn't long before they were at the surface. They stepped out of the bank and had the most unpleasant experience of the day.
"Well, well, if it isn't Potty and the Mudblood," a smiling Draco Malfoy said. He was flanked by Crabbe and Goyle the youngers, Nott and Flint, who had graduated a while back. They weren't even being subtle about blocking the pathway.
"Hermione, did you hear a strange squeaking sound?" Harry asked. "I'm sure I heard it."
"It was probably that ferret in the road," Hermione replied. "You know how they always are getting in the way. So many die each year in street accidents."
She turned and gave the blond boy a look that promised death. Malfoy sputtered and started to turn pink.
"So, uh," Malfoy enunciated, "uh, yeah! What are you gonna do about it?"
"Hmm..." Harry said. "Can't use my wand because we're not in Hogwarts, not that I think you'd care about a little thing like the law since you're still sucking on daddy's teat and he'd get you out of anything. Hmm... what can I do?"
"How about hitting you over the head with my heavy bag of gold?" Harry pondered as he swung the heavy burden at Malfoy's face. The blond tried to duck, but Harry was too fast and the bag was too heavy. It hit Malfoy right in the jaw, sending him flying to the ground. The other had their wands out and were snarling spells, further proving Harry's hypothesis that Slytherins don't believe the rules apply to them. Harry, however, just ducked down and picked up Malfoy. Stunners and other spells impacted on the insensate blond's back. The three soon-to-be 5th year Slytherins kept casting spells at Harry, who kept his Malfoy Shield up.
Flint, however, had turned his wand on Hermione, who had ducked to the side, her smaller bag of gold clutched to her chest. "Cru-"
The unforgivable spell was cut off after the first syllable as a tall black man with a badge, clamped a hand on Flint's bicep.
"Thank you Flint," the man said as he stunned the young man. "You made this so easy."
Four other quick spells hit the other Slytherins in the back.
"Mr. Potter, Miss Granger," the man said, showing them his DMLE badge. "Why exactly are you brawling in the street?"
"Malfoy and his goons accosted us, Sir," Hermione replied, answering the question he asked, not the question he implied.
"Yes, I was watching the entire time," the man said. He eyed the bag of gold still in Harry's hand. "And it was very stupid of Mr. Malfoy to try to summon a heavy bag of gold out of your hand, Mr. Potter. A very poor choice."
Harry and Hermione glanced at each other as they realized what the man was actually saying.
"Yes," Harry agreed. "Malfoy's stupid like that."
"Well, like father like son," the man commented. "Shacklebolt, Kingsley Shacklebolt."
"Nice to meet you," the two said in unison.
"Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got five young men to take to lock up," the auror said. "While they'll probably slither out of the charges, there's no reason the paperwork has to be filed right away. And things get lost some times."
"Terrible shame," Hermione said.
"Terrible," Harry agreed. "They should work on that sometime."
"When we have a free moment in the DMLE," Kingsley replied.
"Do you ever have a free moment in the DMLE?" Hermione asked.
"Sadly no," the auror said in a voice that suggested it was very much the opposite of "sad." He pulled out a sack and flicked his wand, allowing it to grow many times its size within, but remain the same without. Hermione stared at it in amazement as the auror levitated the unconscious boys into the sack before tucking it into his pocket.
Harry, on the other hand, was looking at the five abandoned wands.
"A shame those boys are so clumsey," he said as he stomped on Malfoy's wand, and was rewarded with a sharp snap.
"A real shame," Kinsley agreed, stomping twice, first on Crabbe's, then on Goyle's wand. Hermione agreed and stomped repeatedly on Nott's wand. Kingsley nodded seriously. "Terrible that only Flint's survived. On a totally unrelated note, did you know that if a spell is interrupted during casting, it still shows up when the wands are checked?"
"I did not know that," Hermione replied innocently. "What an amazing fact. I sure hope that comes in handy some day."
Harry nodded sagely.
"Well, best be off," Kingsley said. "So much paperwork to lose, I mean do."
They watched the auror march off towards the Ministry of Magic singing an innocent song. As soon as he vanished from sight, Hermione grabbed Harry's arm in an iron grip.
"Did you see that bag?" she demanded.
"Bag? What?" Harry asked.
"The bag! The one he put Malfoy and the others in!" she explained.
"Sure, what about it?"
Harry turned and really looked at Hermione. Really, really looked at her. On her face was an expression she had only worn a few times before. It was often a dangerous expression and this case he suspected would be the same. The first time he had ever seen it was in first year. Neville had threatened to tell the professors that they were sneaking out of the common room and Hermione had hit him with a full body bind. The next time he remembered that expression on Hermione's face was when she came up with the idea to brew the polyjuice potion. He'd seen it other times since then with the Sirius/Buckbeak rescue and then a few times last year.
This was an expression Hermione only wore when she was about to break the rules.
Harry swallowed nervously.