The Ministry of Magic still feels somewhat homelike, to Theseus. His Auror years aren’t so far behind him, after all; he remembers well how it felt to simply walk to work every day. People still recognize him. A few clerks waves, former colleagues stop to chat with him in the halls. Normally, Theseus would stop and really talk, enjoy the company.
Today, he absolutely can’t. He’s on very important business. Minister Hector Fawley has invited Theseus to a private meeting, and “invited” here means “summoned” or “demanded his presence.” It really isn’t wise to keep the Minister for Magic waiting.
In the corridor where the Minister’s office is located, there are two Aurors on guard beside the door. One of them Theseus doesn’t know, but the other he smiles at and extends a hand. “Diana!”
“Theseus,” she says with a smile, shaking his hand.
Diana was one of his best, before he resigned his position to enter private life; they’d had a very lovely month-long affair before Theseus went to Canada on a business trip. By the time he got back three months later, Diana was stepping out with an attractive and pleasant Weasley boy working in Eeylops Owl Emporium, and Theseus wished her well.
“How have you been?” he asks, loitering for a moment.
“Pretty well,” Diana says. “You?”
“Never better,” Theseus says. “And your beau?”
She tosses her dark bob-cut hair and extends her hand. A ring glitters on her finger: “We got engaged,” she says, and her whole face glows with happiness.
Theseus claps her heartily on the shoulder. “Congratulations,” he says, and means it with all his heart. “When’s the wedding?”
“Don’t fish for an invitation!” Diana says with a laugh, and then leans in closer, whispering conspiratorially. “I’ve already asked Roger if you can be in the wedding party.”
“You,” Theseus says, bending to kiss Diana’s cheek, “are as amazing as ever. Is the Minister in?”
“He is,” she says, stepping back and assuming an air of total professionalism again. “And he’s expecting you.”
Theseus moves to open the door and hesitates only a little when the other Auror says dryly, “I wish you luck, Scamander.”
“Thanks,” Theseus says, and opens the door.
The Minister’s office is…opulent. The furnishings are the same as ever, serviceable and replaceable, but the cabinets of expensive equipment and important documents have been pushed back to the corners. In their place there have been shelves added, packed with expensive knickknacks and trinkets. Theseus would call that “clutter,” and he’d call the framed moving photographs on the walls “vanity,” and in general he’d call the man sitting behind the desk a “useless sod.”
Of course he doesn’t say that aloud. Instead, Theseus brings up his best smile and strides across the room. “Good day, Minister Fawley!”
The Minister, looking up from some dossier which he closes the moment Theseus is in the room, smiles his charming front-page-of-the-Prophet smile. “Mr. Scamander! Sit down, sit down,” he says.
Theseus swings easily into the chair. He doesn’t make a point of looking at the desk, but out of the corner of his eye he can certainly see his name on that file. Wonderful. Either a point is being made, or Fawley is not as sly as he thinks he is. In both cases Theseus is deeply unhappy.
“You asked to see me,” Theseus says, getting right to the point. “And it was all very cloak-and-wand, Minister, your message didn’t say why, only that it was urgent.”
“Well,” Fawley says, “I’ll get right to the point.”
He neatly stacks the folders and sets them aside on a tray, which scurries away on clattering metal legs. Theseus has to wonder who else is being looked over—if anyone at all. He waits as Fawley clears his throat and seals the door with an additional muffling spell.
Finally, the Minister looks at him. “You’re the best in the business, Scamander,” he says, and for a moment Theseus sees a glint of steel through the foppish robes the man wears. “You’ve done better as a private consultant than you did as an Auror, and we both know how well you did. Gringotts has hired you more than once, for Merlin’s sake!”
“Yes, I’m rather good,” Theseus says. He leans back, arms on both armrests, easy and relaxed. The American-style wand holster under his jacket digs into his ribs a little, reminding him that his wand is in easy reach. “But I don’t like to rest on my laurels. I assume that you’re looking to hire me?”
“Yes,” Fawley says. “But, you must understand, not in an official capacity.”
Alarms go off in Theseus’ head. “Unofficial business…? Minister, this is irregular.”
“This cannot be seen on official books.” Fawley folds his arms. “Some of those concerned are accountants looking at the books. Have you heard any…rumors…about the Sacred Twenty-Eight?”
“No,” Theseus says. “Only the usual melodramas.”
Fawley purses his lips. “You must understand my position,” he says, and Theseus can only think of a whiny First-Year at Hogwarts upset with his Charms professor for a bad grade. “I am facing a great deal of pressure to pursue Grindelwald at all costs. Only the Americans seem to understand the situation’s nuances—even other countries have been looking to us unfavorably! I swear the that the Chinese woman is laughing at me every time I visit the Assembly of the Confederation!”
Privately, Theseus thinks that Chairwoman Zhou must be laughing. Who wouldn’t? “What do I have to do with this?”
“There have been people going missing,” Fawley says, eyes darting from side to side a little. “A few members of the Sacred Twenty-Eight. Those boys from Hogwarts. Some others. And there are those who think that this is more than people going on an extended holiday, can you believe?”
Yes, Theseus can believe. He’s exchanged several terse letters with Sebastian Longbottom, present Head of the Auror Office and one of Theseus’ old friends, exchanging tips and proposing some theories. Obviously, Sebastian hadn’t shared those letters with the Minister.
“You want me to look into this?”
“This will still cost you, Minister.” Theseus doesn’t have to mention that he’s looking into this on behalf of two other sources—one pro bono and one paying frankly exorbitant amounts. No one involved here knows that anyone else has hired Theseus: he takes privacy seriously in this matter.
Fawley rises to his feet and begins to pace. “Of course you will be paid handsomely for your assistance,” he says. “Consider it a way to work for the greater good of English witches and wizards.”
Of course Theseus takes the case. He hashes out fees quickly enough, and since Fawley has relatively little interest in this to begin with Theseus is permitted to have free reign in his investigations. In practice, “security consultant” means anything from reinforcing banks to finding missing persons, so Theseus does know what he’s doing.
He’s rather disturbed by Fawley’s proposal that Theseus act “for the greater good.”
The phrase makes Theseus’ skin crawl.
Of course, with this new commission for the same case, Theseus does feel the need to notify both of his other clients. While Theseus believes in privacy, he mostly believes in privacy for the people who need it, and Fawley does not. His other clients will have an interest and will, perhaps, be able to lend him some advice on a starting point.
In one case, it’s a matter of dashing off a letter to Hogwarts and sending it by express owl. In the other, it’s a matter of sending a message through Gringotts Bank, summoning his client to meet at his office at her earlier convenience.
Theseus has just taken lunch when Leta Lestrange sweeps in the door.
“You called?” she says, sliding into the chair across from Theseus.
“I did,” Theseus says. “And you will absolutely not believe what I’m about to tell you.”
Leta leans back, arching her eyebrows delicately. “I won’t?”
“Minister Hector Fawley has asked me, under the table, to look into the missing boys and rumors about the Sacred Twenty-Eight.”
There’s a pregnant pause.
“No,” Leta says at last, “I don’t believe you.”
In the warm light coming in through his office windows, she looks like a statue. The figurehead of a ship, perhaps, carved from warm wood, boldly leading the ship onward into uncharted waters. This is the first time he’s seen her out of her fine robes and wearing common clothes, but then again Theseus shouldn’t be surprised. Leta is, after all, a Gringotts Cursebreaker. Rumor has it that she’s about to head off to perform an excavation on a hill fort in Staffordshire, something potentially dangerous, so the boots and trousers and waistcoat she wears make sense.
Theseus leans back in his chair. “Do believe it,” he says. “I called you because I want to review all the notes you have.”
“All of them?”
“Yes,” Theseus says.
Leta shakes her head. “Theseus, that’s a lot of information…a lot of people.”
“Easy solution.” He flicks his wand: “Accio paper and pen!”
Leta looks vaguely amused. “Are you going to draw me a diagram?”
“I’m drawing it for both of us,” Theseus says, laying out the paper and, slightly ostentatiously, smoothing it down.
He puts himself and Leta in the center, connected by a two-way arrow. “We are co-conspirators,” he says. “Who next?”
“Who else do you work for?” Leta asks. Above and below himself Theseus adds Dumbledore and Fawley, and then off to his left he places Sebastian Longbottom, who’s tangentially involved as he conspires with Dumbledore, exchanges letters to Theseus, and doesn’t trust Fawley.
“I think we’d better add the three missing people and the boys,” Theseus says, adding “Travers, Rosier, and Lestrange” at the end of an arrow from Leta. He adds another arrow, this leading to “Missing Boys” in a circle.
Leta points at a blank spot. “The Sacred Twenty-Eight, connected to me,” she says, making a slight face. “If we made a chart for all that we’d be here a century.”
“Right,” Theseus says, “though I think we’d better make it clear that things are a little split on opinions of what makes ‘the Greater Good’.”
He places Newt, of course, linked to himself and Dumbledore, because Newt is wrapped up in this because of that incident in 1926 and the second in 1927. Because Fawley mentioned her, Theseus attaches Ya Zhou.
And, though it feels incomplete, this seems like all they can do.
“No,” Leta says, after a moment’s study, “that’s not.”
She takes the pen from Theseus and, in perfect copperplate writing, scrawls “GRINDELWALD” at the farthest edge of the page. With angry dark lines, she draws a straight arrow from “Theseus”, “Leta”, “Dumbledore”, “Fawley”, “Ya Zhou”, “Longbottom”, and “Newt” to the name. Over them she writes “OPPOSES” in enormous letters.
“There,” Leta says, slamming down the pen, “now we’re done.”
It’s amazing, looking at it this way. Sometimes, Theseus thinks as he and Leta begin to go through her notes, hunting for clues of who’s doing what and who’s speaking to who, it’s overwhelming to see the opposition. To see “FOR THE GREATER GOOD” scrawled on the walls in Diagon Alley, to hear stories of attacks and desertions.
Yet on their little map, simple as it may be, there are so many more people who oppose Grindelwald than support him.
“We’re not alone,” Theseus muses, looking down at the paper after Leta makes her exit for the day. The late afternoon sun paints his office in muted bronze, and casts the paper in crisp bars of light on the desk. “I suppose there is some chance, after all.”