Prompt:"I know something of a woman in a man's profession. Yes, by God, I do know about that." (Elizabeth I, Shakespeare in Love) Amelia's just been made head of Magical Law Enforcement. One of her assignments is to liaise with the Muggle MI6 over the Voldemort threat. She and "M" bond (no pun intended) over being the first women in their respective professions. Maybe they comiserate over having to deal with talented rogues like Bond and Moody.
Title: "Blood Sisters"
Characters:Amelia Bones/Olivia Mansfield ("M")
Warnings: Character death, reference to extreme violence, angst. Some language.
Word Count:13,500 or so total
Summary: Amelia Bones finds common ground with her Muggle counterpart. Each of them finds a friend.
Author's Notes: The HP characters are portrayed as inspired by book canon. "M" is of course from movie canon. 007 is more book than movie, and more Daniel Craig than any of the others. Everyone is of course my own interpretation of them, and whatever canon departures there may be are mine.
"Blood Sisters" - Chapter One
Olivia Mansfield had instructed Moneypenny that she was not to be disturbed for any reason until further notice. She had also secured her doors and windows and activated the anti-surveillance device that Q had provided, and not even laser telemetry of her windows could pick up anything.
Of all of the instructions her predecessor had left her in private notes, the most emphatic of them all was the need for absolute secrecy when it came to the visitor she was about to receive.
Actually, she was still reeling from the fact of this person's existence, and had she not known the prior director of MI6 well, she would have thought it a joke or a sign of dementia. Of course, all of that had changed when the portrait on the wall had spoken to her requesting this appointment and giving all the appropriate code phrases precisely as delineated in the document stamped "Final Secret". The Queen was not cleared for Final Secret, and the PM had strictly "need to know" access.
It seemed that magic was real. Of course, the technology developed in her department would appear like magic to many, but still... M stared at the fire and reviewed her instructions. A person was supposed to emerge from the flames. Her counterpart in the magical world, in fact. A magician, or 'wizard', as her briefing had called these magic men. She hoped that they would not be the sort of man to dismiss her merely because she was a woman, but really, they had no choice in the matter. The job was hers, and she had earned it.
Part of her, a fairly large part, simply did not believe it. Her predecessor had never betrayed any sign of a sense of humour in life, but she would have been disposed to think of this as some farewell jape on his part but for the talking portrait. Moreover, this magical world had an official body analogous to her own. "Magic I 6"? She still was not convinced, and she knew full well that Q could make a talking portrait if he wanted to, but the jest seemed unlikely. In any case, the appointed time was at hand. The fire flared green, just as her briefing had told her it would, and she stood facing it whilst trying to quell the flutter in her stomach. She could not, however, completely suppress a little gasp when a person emerged from the flames.
"I am Amelia Bones, Head of Magical Law Enforcement for the Ministry of Magic. Thank you for receiving me on such short notice," said the tall woman before her.
"You're quite welcome. I am M, director of MI6. My briefing on the possibility of this meeting made it quite clear that it was to be given absolute priority. I do hope that you will forgive me for perhaps wondering for a bit whether or not my predecessor was barking mad."
"Hah! Quite forgiven, I rather expect that Sir Reginald's portrait's request came as a bit of a shock. Frankly, I did not expect to find a woman in this post."
"Nor did I expect one in yours," M said. "But I have to say that I find it encouraging. At least neither of us is likely to feel patronized."
"That can be a bit wearying, yes," Bones agreed as she polished her monocle before replacing it. "Floo travel is efficient, but I can never keep the blasted ash off my lens."
M found herself smiling at the woman in front of her, and she found herself approving of her as well. Amelia Bones stood upright and square, projecting strength and confidence. M also approved of the short, no-nonsense cut of her visitor's iron-grey hair, and the well-tailored suit that she was wearing. It looked like Saville Row, which was where M got her own business attire. M had wondered what her visitor would be wearing. She had also thought that whoever it was would somehow look different. Odd, even. Her assumptions had been inevitably coloured by the childhood tales of witches and wizards, and she had more than half imagined them wearing a pointy hat covered with stars and crescent moons, and flowing robes. Had she anticipated a woman in this position, she might well have predicted warts. But here was a fellow professional, and a very handsome woman. Someone she was sure that she could relate to even though she was a - witch?
For Amelia's part, she was both relieved and delighted. She had been prepared to endure condescension bordering on insult, and instead had been confronted by an obviously intelligent and competent woman in a position like her own. From her sensible shoes to her practical yet stylish haircut, this "M" person radiated confidence of a rare sort. Clearly, this Muggle woman had "seen the elephant", as the saying went.
"Do have a seat, Ms. Bones. Is that proper, or do you prefer another form of address?"
"The customary form of address is 'Madam Bones', but as we will be working closely together from time to time, I think 'Amelia' will serve admirably. We are, after all, both women in a man's job, as many would say."
"Ofttimes the best man for the job is a woman, don't you think? Would you like a drink? I have a splendid scotch," M said.
"Well said. You seem to be a woman after my own heart. Yes, a scotch would be just the ticket. My friend Minerva introduced me to it."
"Is she in your department, then?" M asked. Olivia was increasingly intrigued by her visitor.
"No, she's a professor. She teaches Transfiguration at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, as well as being head of one of the Houses."
Amelia took the opportunity to look around the office while M opened a sideboard and removed two squat crystal glasses and a bottle.
The office was much as she had expected, dark panelling, heavy leather chairs, a few bookshelves and paintings of naval battles. It had rather the air of a turn-of-the-century gentlemen's club.
M noticed her curiosity.
"I'm afraid that I've left things just as my predecessor the Admiral had them. Seemed a waste of funds to make it over when it's perfectly serviceable, and frankly it makes it a bit easier for me to deal with the alpha male types, as this office is a place they have grown accustomed to toeing the line in. Besides, the chairs are quite comfortable."
M poured the smoky liquor, set a glass on the table near Amelia's hand, and took a chair nearby.
"So, is it proper to call you a witch?"
"Indeed, and the men are called wizards. I understand that both words carry other connotations in your world," Amelia said with a smile as she raised her glass to her Muggle counterpart.
"The name 'witch' has been applied to me, yes. Usually when I've done something right."
"Yes, men often feel threatened by a woman in a position of power and seek to belittle them, at least in their own minds. You'd think that after a while people would stop being surprised and resentful when a woman proves to be competent at her job, but some of them never do," Amelia said.
"No, they don't," M agreed.
"Of course, they don't call me a 'witch' under those circumstances, but I have heard more than one muttered reference to me as 'hag' or 'harpy'. It's not worth bothering about so long as they do as instructed," Amelia said.
"I quite agree. Just so long as the mutter is indistinct enough to be plausibly passed off as some sort of gastric distress or something. One cannot tolerate insubordination, of course."
"By no means," Amelia agreed, and she took a sip of scotch. "Marvellous scotch, my compliments. But now I suppose we should get down to business. Have you ever heard of 'Lord Voldemort', usually referred to as 'You-Know-Who' or 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named'?"
"There was mention of the name in my brief on your world, yes. The information available to me indicated that he had been killed. Was that bad intelligence?" M asked.
"Wishful thinking, more like. He was certainly discommoded, likely disembodied for several years. Frankly, I am not really sure that he can be killed now. He's scarcely human at all, truth to tell."
Amelia took a swallow of scotch, as did M.
"And how did he manage that?" M asked.
"We aren't sure, other than that it involved forbidden magic, the very darkest sort of magic. We are dealing here with evil of the foulest sort."
"A madman, then?"
"More of a monster, really. One of those megalomaniacal zealots who knows how to play to people's fears and prejudices. I believe you had one of those in your world not all that long ago."
"Indeed. They do keep popping up, it seems. There is always an audience for fear and hatred." M fell silent, her thoughts drawn to the long list of people in her department that had died working to stop just this sort of thing. Amelia seemed similarly occupied. They shared a wan smile and raised their glasses in a silent salute to the fallen.
"Mad, yes, from our point of view. But he is nonetheless an extremely powerful and gifted wizard. I am also bound to tell you that he regards Muggles, that is to say non-magical humans, as lesser beings fit only for use as sport or slaves. Should he triumph in the coming war, he will seek dominion over your world as well as ours."
"I see. How may we be of assistance, since it is clearly in our best interests to do so?" M asked.
"Keep an eye out for unusual occurrences, inexplicable deaths or disappearances, even strange weather patterns. We are, of course, trying to round up as many of his followers as we can, but even with magic we cannot be everywhere at once. I brought along a few dossiers on his more prominent henchmen. Have a look at these..."
M's eyebrows raised as she looked at the pictures.
"These pictures really are moving, aren't they, or have I gone mad?"
"As I've only just met you, I can't speak to your sanity, but the pictures do indeed move. Fortunately these do not talk; I much doubt that you'd care for what they would have to say." Amelia smiled ruefully.
"We have our share of evil madmen as well, and it falls to my department to deal with them. Tell me, what will you do with these people should you find them?"
"We have a secure prison, and severe punishments for the very worst offenders that ensure that they will not repeat their crimes. Frankly, with this lot it is unlikely that we will be able to take them alive, in any case."
"Then if we should run across one of these individuals while they are committing a crime, may I assume that you would have no particular objection if we removed them? Or are they bulletproof or something?"
Amelia stared. Clearly, this Muggle woman was willing to make the hard choices when public safety was involved. She found herself warming towards her. Perhaps, just perhaps, here was a kindred spirit.
"No, they're not bulletproof. They are, however, absolutely ruthless and won't hesitate to kill. Many of them really enjoy it," Amelia said after a moment. "And there are spells that might shield them even if they appear to be completely in the open."
"From what you've said, I doubt that they would consider any of us Muggles to be a threat, though. That might give us an edge."
"It might at that, but you won't get but one chance at it." Amelia sighed. "I suppose I need to inform you of the sort of things these people are apt to do..."
The morning stretched into the afternoon, and Amelia was very impressed by the calm with which M received the news of the Unforgivable Curses, as well as the more common sort of destructive spells. She took copious notes and asked pointed questions, to which she received plain answers.
"Merlin, look at the time! I apologize for taking such a large part of your day, M."
"Merlin was real?"
"Imagine that... I don't begrudge the time, this is obviously critical intelligence, and I must compliment you; I have never received such a clear briefing, nor such direct answers to my questions," M told Amelia.
"We are both 'women in a man's job', we both know what it's like to be patted on the head and told to be a good girl, don't we? Well, there is nothing at all of good in what we've been talking of, and nothing to be gained by shilly-shallying about. Frankly, it was a relief to brief someone who listened and asked pertinent questions. I think you and I will get on rather well."
"So do I. As for pertinent questions, I shall doubtless have more in future. If I might detain you for a while longer I should start planning and would value your input," M requested.
"Certainly," Amelia answered, quite interested in what plans this intriguing woman might have.
M walked briskly over to her desk, sat, and touched a button on her desk. There came the sound of motors whirring and panels opening, and an enormous glass panel descended from the ceiling.
"You can see better from over here by me, Amelia, do drag a chair round for yourself if you like," M said.
Without thinking about it, Amelia levitated a chair over beside M's. M sharply arched one eyebrow but said nothing until Amelia had taken a seat.
"Handy, that. So that's magic, is it?" M asked.
"Of a basic sort, yes. I apologize if I startled you, M."
"More interesting than startling, and certainly nothing to compare with seeing you emerge from the fireplace. Now then, have you a list of attacks these people have carried out in 'my' world?"
"Yes." Amelia handed it over, wondering what on earth the clear glass panel had to do with things.
"No GPS coordinates," M muttered, "but the addresses will do."
M picked up a remote, pressed a button, and the panel came to life, displaying a glowing and highly detailed map of England.
"Remarkable," Amelia said. "I'm afraid our maps are on parchment, although some of them have a few useful features."
"I have this from one of my wizards," M told her. "Now then, I'll just input these addresses..." Red dots appeared on the map, each with a number beside it, and once she had plotted them all she refined the scale of the map so that the points of interest occupied the bulk of the screen. A further click on the control traced a line from point to point. "It's usually best to begin with basic police work. What sort of incidents were these?"
"Mostly kidnappings, though there were several instances of torture and we found two people dead. One home was severely damaged," Amelia told her.
"Which incident was that?" M asked.
Amelia had a brief sensation of vertigo as the image on the screen flickered, swooped, and seemed to be rushing at her. A moment later and they were looking at a perfectly clear image of the damaged house, as seen from above.
"The initial display was a computer-generated map, this is real-time satellite imagery," M explained. "The large display in the operations room has better detail, but this will serve well enough. Oh, this is classified, by the way. The quality of these images is not general knowledge. It looks like the cat survived, at any rate."
Amelia stared at the large ginger cat picking its way through the rubble.
"We have a network of satellites orbiting the earth. We can see virtually any spot on the planet, though we surely can't monitor every bit of the world constantly. I'll task one bird to this general area full-time now, though," M explained.
"This is astonishing, M. I had no idea things like this existed," Amelia admitted.
"I suppose magic is in the eye of the beholder, so to speak. It doesn't look exactly like an explosion. What caused this damage?" M asked.
"Blasting curses, fairly powerful ones. The effects are largely directional, which is why the debris is all towards the rear of the house. We found one body, and records indicate the man lived alone. The official verdict was a gas leak," Amelia explained. "We check for witnesses but try not to bother the scene more than necessary so as not to interfere with the local authority's own investigations."
M restored the map screen.
"The only thing that jumps out at me so far is that these are all fairly isolated dwellings, stand-alone homes on the outskirts of small towns. That indicates a certain amount of caution on their part, or do you know of a reason for these people to be singled out, Amelia?"
"Our assessment is that these are training exercises. Breaking in new recruits, as it were. The relative isolation is likely the determining factor for the enemy, I suppose," Amelia replied.
"Well, it's a thin start, but a start nonetheless. I'll review the imagery for these areas, but it will take time as I'll have to do it myself. How do I get in touch with you should the need arise?"
"Sir Reginald's portrait can get a message to me at any time. Would you do me the honour of serving as herald, Sir Reginald?"
"I should be delighted to do so, Madam Bones."
"I assume that the same will hold true for me, when I am in my office. That is indeed most of the time, but not always. I can give you my private mobile number," Olivia offered.
"Mobile telephone," M elaborated, showing the device to Amelia.
"We don't have these, and usually Muggle technology does not work well in magical areas, something about magic sort of scrambles things."
"I see. Well, we can try, let me get you one." M pressed another button and a panel in the wall behind her desk opened up. "This is a secure satellite phone, it's hardened against electromagnetic pulse interference and might work in your environment. I'll show you how it works..."
Amelia proved a quick study, and they worked out a means for her to charge the phone at need should it in fact work.
"I've brought you one of our sort of communication devices," Amelia said, and she handed M a coin. "I'm afraid you'll need to keep it in an inside pocket, it grows warm when there is a message for you. It will only be a notice that I need to speak with you. Frankly, I hope your device works, it is more efficient. Now, as to future meetings, especially at odd hours should the need arise, do you have a fireplace in your home?"
"Several, in point of fact."
"May I have your address? I can establish a secure connection to the Floo service, if you permit it. No one other than me will be able to use it."
"Certainly. Best to use the one in my private sitting room, second floor rear, on the east side of the house. I seldom have guests, but I do have a small staff. They are splendid people, but I am not at all sure how they would react to a woman emerging from the fireplace."
"I'm sure you are correct, M."
"Olivia, please. I know you won't take the name as a sign of weakness, Amelia. I do find it advantageous to require the use of 'Director' or 'M' for work purposes."
"Be assured that 'Madam Bones' understands that perfectly well, Olivia. And I hope that you won't take offence when I advise extreme caution should your people come in contact with any of these individuals. It would be best for them to withdraw at once and have you inform me of their whereabouts."
"I tend to agree, but of course if they are actively engaged in criminal activity we might not be able to wait, particularly if there are innocent lives at stake."
"Should that transpire, I recommend that you do not try and capture them. I'm sure that your people are quite competent, but this is something outside of their experience and training. Your people are prepared to kill?"
"I have people for that, yes."
Weeks turned into months, and as Voldemort's followers grew bolder Amelia called on Olivia more frequently, often late at night at her home. Amelia would emerge from the fire, they would exchange information, and then Amelia would disappear in green flames.
They were now more than at ease in each other's company, and indeed each had come to trust the other as they had rarely trusted anyone.
It had become a most effective collaboration. Perhaps more than that.
"This incident is going to be difficult to keep under wraps, Amelia," Olivia said by way of greeting when Amelia emerged from the fireplace in the sitting room of Olivia's home one evening.
"We've taken care of that, thanks to your prompt call. Anyone who saw that damnable thing now recalls seeing a brief meteor shower. But the enemy is getting bold indeed to cast the Dark Mark in the open like that."
"May I ask how you accomplished that? That thing is not something that would fade easily from memory," Olivia asked.
"We have squads to modify the memories of those who have witnessed magical events. I will admit that this case pushed them to the limit, however. Had you not informed me so swiftly, we might well have wholesale panic to deal with," Amelia answered. "It's a good thing that your phone works most of the time. Damned handy, that."
"From the reports I've read I assume that the Killing Curse was used on these people?"
"Yes, but only after abuses of many kinds. This attack served no purpose other than to gratify blood lust and spread terror."
"Bastards," M muttered.
"Of the 'utter' sort. I am sorry, Olivia, I feel as if I have failed you."
"You'd have stopped it if you could, I know that. Madmen are difficult to deal with in part simply because they are mad. This sort of senseless violence just doesn't occur to most people, but I'm paid to think about it. I do think that I'm going to have to brief my most senior operative on the situation, though. I hope that you've no objections."
"It's not my place to object. You know what is at stake here, and I trust your judgment, Olivia. Is it permissible for me to know the identity of this operative?"
"Certainly. His name is Bond, James Bond, and he has been on Her Majesty's Secret Service for quite some time now. I have a dossier on him, for your eyes only." She handed over a folder, and Amelia studied it in silence for a time.
"Remarkable," Amelia said at length, "but..."
"He is a sexist, misogynist dinosaur who has a regrettable tendency to think with his penis. He never met a vagina he didn't covet, and damned few of those that caught his interest escaped unplundered," Olivia finished, drawing a snort from Amelia. "However, his loyalty is beyond question and his effectiveness can't be denied. He does have a regrettable fondness for underpowered weapons and a tendency to get himself into the nastiest imaginable situations. And yet, somehow, he always emerges from them alive, with his willie firmly ensconced in a woman of singular beauty. I can't say that I like him, but the bugger does get the job done. Also, I admit that I have never heard a word of complaint from the women in question."
"He is a handsome devil, I must say. Given his proclivities, how does he respond to your leadership?"
"About like you'd expect, but his loyalty to the Crown compels him to obey. Mostly. He does have a tendency to exceed instructions and get caught in a tight spot. But he never turns, even under the most appalling torture, and he always gets the job done in the end. He drives me to distraction, but I cannot help but trust him."
"I have one a bit like that, bar the womanizing. Alastor Moody. People think he's crazy, seeing evil in every shadow. 'Mad-Eye Moody', they call him. He lost an eye on the job, along with a leg and various other bits; but he too gets it done, and he never kills without cause, no matter how rotten the bastard he encounters. Takes terrible risks, but he is a thoroughly honourable man. I much doubt that he will survive the current crisis." Amelia fell silent.
"They have to go out, they do not have to come back. Yes, I know the feeling. Even Bond, whom I personally don't like, even him, should he die, I'd miss him. And I would mourn him. Along with countless chippies, no doubt."
Amelia snorted, breaking the melancholy.
"Well put. Merlin, I wish that just once we could simply be two women who enjoy one another's company without all this horror and death. You're the only person I have ever known who truly appreciates what it is to be in a position like mine, like yours. It's hard sometimes, but..."
"We do it because we can, because it's needful. But we have to recognize that we are only human after all. It will do no one any good if we run ourselves into the ground, and so I have a proposal, if you care to listen," Olivia said.
"I am open to suggestions."
"My people can reach me at need, and I assume that the same is true for you, correct?"
"With maddening ease, yes."
"Then stay the night. I have a lovely guest room, and a marvellous chef. It might well save you the bother of a return trip if something else happens. What do you say?"
Amelia's initial reaction was to beg off, as she had always made a point of keeping a certain distance in her professional relationships. But now that the initial business had been completed she took a moment to look around the room and was a bit surprised to find that it was as contemporary as M's office was traditional. It was open and airy, the furniture was chrome and black leather and the walls a stark white, standing in strong contrast to the art that graced them. The paintings were bright slashes of color, and although Amelia's taste ran more to realism than abstract she found many of them very compelling. It was not at all what she had imagined.
This, she realized, was Olivia's own space, arranged just as she wished it to be. This was her, Olivia, not "M". Besides, Olivia was right, it might well save another trip.
"I would be delighted," she said.
No one in MI6 would have recognized the smile on M's face.
"Name your fancy. Babette can cook anything," Olivia said.
"Very, but don't let that constrain you."
"Beef Wellington?" Amelia asked hesitantly.
"Like you've never tasted," Olivia promised.
"I've brought along a file on Moody for you, Olivia. Shall we polish off the business before dinner?"
"Yes, I'll just have a word with Babette and be right back. Do make yourself at home. The loo is just there, should you need it, and please help yourself to the bar."
Olivia strode from the room and Amelia took the opportunity to have a closer look at the paintings. She found to her surprise that her eyes grew full as she looked at one of them. There was no image that she recognized, but it had such power that she could not look away.
Then she noticed the discreet "O" on the bottom right corner of the canvas.
Amelia went and rinsed her face and was pouring the scotch when Olivia returned.
"Thank you, Amelia," Olivia said as she accepted the offered drink. "Now then, Moody, is it?"
"Yes. I thought that you should know what he looks like, and you might as well fill in your man Bond as well. It is entirely possible that they will run into one another at some point." She handed a folder to Olivia.
"What on earth happened to the man?" Olivia asked when she saw the picture.
"Lots of things. He's technically retired, but I've prevailed upon him to render assistance. It is difficult to know whom to trust in these times, and I trust him. I'll spare you all the political intrigue, it's maddening, and I'm sure that you have your full share of it from your side," Amelia told her.
"Quite enough, thank you. I'll fill in 007 on him, and you might as well let Moody know about Bond, I think," M said.
"Ah, the double zero is a service designation for the Special Section. It's a very small, elite group of operatives. The double zero prefix indicates that they are authorized to use lethal force if they feel that it is indicated, even when it is not a matter of self-defence. They do of course have to justify such an action, but sometimes there just isn't time to clear things with me or the PM. We have other sections to administer less drastic solutions," Olivia explained.
"We call them Hit Wizards. Bit melodramatic, I suppose. In any case, I'll make sure Moody knows that Bond is on our side, and of course keep you up to date on anything we might find out regarding the Death Eaters."
"Death Eaters?" Olivia asked.
"You-Know-Who's most dedicated followers. They do the bulk of the dirty work. That thing that was in the sky is their symbol. It's burned into their forearms."
"Charming," Olivia muttered. "Can I get you a refill?"
"Will there be wine with dinner?"
"Certainly," Olivia said.
"Then no, thank you, one was enough to knock the rough edges off the day. These paintings are remarkable, are they your work?"
"Yes. Painting is my selfish pleasure, it helps me to work through certain - feelings," Olivia told her.
"The one over the bar brought tears to my eyes. Frankly, I have never experienced that from an abstract painting before," Amelia said.
"There is a lot of feeling in that one, yes. I am gratified that you can see it."
Amelia longed to ask her more about it, but thought it best not to.
A discreet knock on the door heralded the beginning of their dinner.
"Never. Never, ever, have I had a Wellington to compare with that, Olivia," Amelia said in deep content.
"Don't tell me, I didn't cook it. Babette, if you please?" she called out.
"Our guest has something to say to you." Babette turned to their guest and waited.
"About tonight's main course," Amelia began.
"Oui, madame," Babette answered, her brow furrowing in concern.
"That was the finest Wellington I have ever tasted, and I have had this dish in the best restaurants on the continent. I should like to shake your hand."
Babette flushed in pleasure, and extended a very elegant hand, which Amelia took gently so as not to damage it. A chef's hands are a treasure.
"My compliments, Babette, it is always a joy to witness a master's work. All the more so when one may eat it. Please to call me if you ever decide to leave your present employment."
Babette curtseyed and returned to her kitchen.
"Some friend you are. Trying to steal my chef."
"You can scarcely blame me. Are all of her dishes this good?"
"Every single one," Olivia promised.
Amelia slept very well, and blessedly was not called in to work, so she was quite cheerful the next morning. Finding that Olivia's staff had cleaned and pressed her clothes only added to the feelings of well being.
As did breakfast.
"Olivia, I cannot thank you enough for your hospitality. I haven't slept so well in months, and I've never had food like this. I do hope that you will allow me to return the invitation. The food won't measure up, I'm afraid, but you would be most welcome at my home."
"I'd love to, Amelia, and I'm so pleased that you slept well. Sleep is priceless in our line of work, isn't it? And often hard to come by. We'll arrange a mutually agreeable time. How do I get to your home?"
"I'll fetch you, either here or at your office, whichever is most convenient. You simply can't get there on your own, I'm afraid. The magical protections won't allow it," Amelia explained.
"Splendid. Thank you for the information on Moody, I'll be sure and let Bond know about him. It's good to have a contact with your people.
James Bond was not quite so thrilled with the whole thing.
"You can't possibly expect me to believe this, M."
"Not the sort of thing you expected to hear from 'The Evil Queen of Numbers', 007?" Bond did have the grace to look slightly abashed at that, but only slightly. "Tell me, would you find it easier to accept if it came from the Admiral?"
"Perhaps," Bond admitted after a moment's thought. M tossed him a folder, and had the satisfaction of seeing the shocked look the "Final Secret" stamp brought to his face. Wordlessly, he thumbed through the pages.
"I have to admit that it would explain some things that have puzzled me through the years, not that the unexplainable is much of an explanation. Why bring me in on this?" he asked.
"Because if something were to happen to me, we would be at a serious disadvantage until such time as my successor was chosen and able to get up to speed. I even admit that I had my own doubts until I met my counterpart in the magical world. But it's real, and the threat is growing. You will of course speak of this to no one, regardless of their rank or position."
"No problem there, I shouldn't like to appear barking mad."
"Study the photographs until you have those faces committed to memory, I'll have some conventional versions made up for use on the watch list. These people are not to be approached. Rather, I want to be notified at once if they are sighted."
"Yes ma'am," Bond replied. "And if they are posing an immediate threat to the citizenry?"
"That's what the double zero is for, Commander Bond."
Even M felt a bit of a chill at the cold smile on his face.
"This is your counterpart on the magical side of things. His name is Alastor Moody, and you can trust him as much as you can trust anyone in this business," M told him.
"What the hell happened to him?" Bond asked.
"Lots of things, reportedly. It is possible that you shall encounter him in the course of things, please refrain from killing him."
"I'll do my best. So this is real, all of it?" he could not resist asking.
"Very," she confirmed.
"Well, it's quite a piece of piss, isn't it?"
Amelia had Flooed to Olivia's office to apprise her of the latest developments concerning Death Eater activities. She watched Olivia update the map, fascinated as always by the technology.
Business concluded, Amelia stood by the fire to bid Olivia a brief farewell.
"I must say that I am looking forward to dinner with you, Amelia. I could do with a bit of country air. Things are as well arranged as we can get them, and I should be home in 30 minutes. I have to be seen to leave. Feel free to go ahead, I'll meet you there and then subject myself to this Apparition you speak of."
"I'll save you some scotch," Amelia promised, and she Flooed to M's home.
"I don't think I'll ever get used to that," M said, and she left her office, saying goodnight to Moneypenny and taking the lift to the garage.
She arrived home within the specified time to find Amelia staring at the painting over the bar.
"Truly, Olivia, this is remarkable," Amelia said in greeting.
"It's my favorite piece," Olivia responded. "I'll tell you about it sometime. Should I have a drink before we go?"
"It might be best not to."
Amelia took her by the arm and Olivia felt the world spin away.
"Christ! It's like being born, or squeezed through a garden hose," Olivia said.
"It's a bit disconcerting at first, yes. Come along, I have just the thing to settle your stomach."
Amelia's home stood in stark contrast to Olivia's. It was an English country cottage with an English country garden out back. There were paintings of fantastic (to Olivia) creatures on the walls, and the place had the feel of a comfortable and much-loved pair of boots.
"Rustic, next to your place, I know," Amelia said.
"It's utterly charming, Amelia. It reminds me of my childhood home, in fact. Although we didn't have portraits of - that is a mermaid, is it not?"
"Indeed. Daphne, say hello to my friend Olivia."
"Hello, Olivia, I'm pleased to meet you," the mermaid said, waving in a friendly fashion.
"If the stomach settling involves alcohol, I'm ready for it, Amelia."
Olivia was looking at the painting so hard that Daphne blushed a bit, and flicked her tail coquettishly.
"Don't mind Daphne, she's a terrible flirt. Come this way," Amelia said, and Olivia followed her. She did look back over her shoulder in time to see Daphne blow her a kiss, though.
Flirt, indeed, but she was truly beautiful.
Amelia had a proper pub in her home.
"Astonishing," Olivia said, and Amelia shrugged.
"I love a good pub, which should give you fair warning about dinner. This room is my great indulgence, and it comes in handy on the rare occasions that I have guests. I used to go to the local with my father, rest his soul. There is just something about a pub that feels like home to me, but my presence tends to mute the merriment at many of the more rustic ones that I prefer," Amelia explained. She moved behind the bar and set two glasses on the dark and scarred oak, and then produced a dusty bottle and poured.
"It's smoking, Amelia," Olivia pointed out.
"That's why it's called Firewhisky. Have no fear, it won't burn in other than the good way, Olivia. This is Ogden's best."
Olivia took a cautious sip, sighed down to her toes, and tossed off the remainder before sliding her glass across the bar.
"Give us another, barmaid!"
"Would you like to see the garden?" Amelia asked.
"Certainly. Lead the way."
Olivia followed Amelia down a hallway and through a door. She stepped outside and stopped in her tracks.
"Christ, Amelia..." she breathed.
The garden was a wonder, pristine and shining with life. It was meticulously arranged without being fussy, and it was in the shape of a "V".
At the apex of the "V" was a bed of flowers that Olivia had rarely seen, and she found herself drawn to it.
"Aren't these..." Olivia began.
"Anthurium, yes. I have to use magic to grow them here, of course. I suppose this garden is to me what painting is to you, but this particular plot is special to me," Amelia explained.
"It's a memorial, isn't it?" Olivia asked.
"Yes. One flower for each member of my service who has died since I joined. Not all of them on my watch, but they were all my brothers and sisters," Amelia answered.
Olivia made no reply, but set her glass on the ground and embraced her friend. This was something she understood perfectly. This was something she honoured. After a time she broke the embrace and retrieved her glass. She stood facing the anthurium and raised the glass high.
"Thank you," she said.
The sun was setting when they returned to the house.
"It's only shepherd's pie, I'm afraid," Amelia said.
"I was raised on the stuff. Nothing at all wrong with an honest shepherd's pie. I'll have Babette do her version next time you're over," Olivia promised.
"No doubt she makes hers out of Angel's kisses, or some such thing," Amelia replied.
"I've never asked, but I suppose it's possible."
Amelia's shepherd's pie was much more than adequate.
"There is no dish in all of Britain half so comforting as a good shepherd's pie, Amelia. I am quite in your debt."
"I'm nowhere near Babette's class, and I know it. But I will allow that my shepherd's pie is edible. Thank you for coming, Olivia. Somehow, in your company, I feel that we might actually win this thing."
"And so we shall," Olivia declared.
Amelia's home office was floor to ceiling books and scrolls, and Olivia found it fascinating even though she did not understand much of it.
"I know so little of your world, Amelia."
"Unfortunately, most of what you know is the bad. Would you be interested in seeing some of the good?" Amelia asked.
"I would absolutely love to. Is that permissible, though?"
"Your position and our current situation provides an exemption from the Statute of Secrecy. If our respective offices leave us in peace, I'll take you on a tour tomorrow," Amelia promised her.
"Splendid, I look forward to it!"
"It will involve more Apparition..."
"Bugger. Another Firewhisky if you please, barmaid."
Olivia headed to the bar, trailed by her hostess, who was stifling a laugh. Clearly, Olivia did not enjoy Apparition in the least.
As Amelia had felt about M in her home, Olivia felt that here in this room she was meeting Amelia the person, the woman, rather than the Head of Magical Law Enforcement. Amelia smiled more frequently here, laughed more easily, and in her congenial company Olivia felt much of the accumulated tension from her work draining away.
Their eyes met, and they knew without speaking it aloud that they had each found someone who really understood what it was to be a woman in the positions they held. The constant scrutiny, the almost eager anticipation of a mistake by some, and the amused condescension of others. They understood that they had to be better to even be seen as good, that they were widely regarded as lucky when they were right and "typical women" if they were even a tiny bit wrong. They understood what it was to have to fight for the respect that the titles they held would have afforded a man upon introduction.
They had each found a real friend.