Her attire is what first brought the woman to the attention of people on the street. The day had been swelteringly hot; the humid, calm night gave no relief. People were seated in outdoor cafes, chatting amiably, drinking cool beverages, and wearing as little clothing as common courtesy and modesty would allow. Amidst this crowd of scantily clad people the woman appeared as though out of thin air. Her face was hidden in the shadow created by a large black hood attached to a long cloak of the same colour.
As she walked purposefully down the street a hush fell over the crowd, allowing them to hear the sound of her cloak brushing the ground. She looked at none of them and no one dared approach her. Though they could see little of her face they knew at once this was not a woman to tangle with.
At the corner the woman turned as though to enter the hotel, but stopped. Slowly she turned back; the crowd nearest her drew closer together. The woman paid them no mind. She lowered her hood, revealing heavily lidded eyes, scraggly hair and an even more daunting expression, which masked what was left of her beauty. She looked, not at the cowering crowd of people, but rather at the phallic edifice standing directly in her line of sight. It was quite clear she was not impressed with the landmark.
If such a look of disdain had appeared on anyone else’s face the people enjoying the warm evening would have said something or, at the very least, fixed the woman with a contemptuous look. They did neither, instead looking from her to the tower surreptitiously, feeling quite nervous. They all felt the same worry: that this woman, inexplicable as it was, could do a great deal of damage to them and their tower without much effort and even less remorse.
“You Muggles place a great deal of pride in something that could be destroyed with the slightest effort,” she said in a loud, mocking voice that caused the people to shiver. No one said anything, instead trying to watch more covertly. The woman cackled and disappeared into the building, leaving everyone to shiver again before beginning to speak rapidly about this woman: who she was and whether her words were a threat or the insane ramblings of a crazy woman.
Even inside the building the mysterious woman did not slow her pace. She waved her hand dismissively at the concierge’s greeting and walked quickly to her room as though she was late for a very important meeting, which was precisely the case.
Upon entering she did not immediately remove her cloak, but rather scanned the room. The only other person was a tall blonde woman who had her back to the door and was staring out the window. She turned when she heard the door close.
“No word?” Bellatrix asked her sister, who shook her head. Their guest was late, despite being told tardiness was unacceptable. It was so hard to find good help these days!
“I saw your performance down there, Bella. Do you really think it wise to be so conspicuous when the Aurors –“
Bellatrix laughed, cutting off her sister’s worried question.
“Cissy, I have told you already that after the incident with Potter –“ she stopped abruptly, gritting her teeth. The memory of how Harry Potter had yet again managed to escape was a sore spot. Letting out a loud sigh Bellatrix continued. “After the incident with Potter the Auror office is in such disarray that they would be hard pressed to catch us even if we walked right into the Ministry.”
Bellatrix joined Narcissa at the window and stared again at the Eiffel Tower, thinking. They would be leaving Paris tonight and she wanted the Aurors to know they had been there. The question was how to do it?
“No word on our guest yet? He’s playing a dangerous game, making us wait.”
“He’s been caught,” Narcissa said at once, an annoying panic in her voice. “He and a bunch of Aurors are surely –“
“Cissy, shut up.” Bellatrix snapped, turning to face her sister. “I have just told you we are not about to be discovered. Our source is imbecilic in many ways but most certainly not a moron. A few more hours and the Auror office will know we were here anyway.”
Narcissa remained unconvinced. She retreated from the window and sat on the sofa apprehensively, staring straight ahead. Bellatrix watched her for a moment but then returned her attention to the street below, feeling her patience start to evaporate. Their guest was supposed to have been waiting for her, and she was late arriving . . .
A weak knock at the door made Narcissa jump to her feet. Bellatrix turned, pulling her wand out.
“Go open the door,” she commanded and waited for her order to be carried out.
Narcissa’s tension eased as she opened the door and revealed a small, frail looking man. Quickly allowing him entrance the door was closed, casting shadow on him as he mopped a shining, nearly bald, head with his hat. He, like the Muggles on the street below, would only glance at Bellatrix briefly.
“You’re late, Perfidious,” she said, pointing at him with her wand. She was pleased to see him shudder. “What did I tell you about being late? Crucio.”
Perfidious began to scream in agony as he fell to the floor and began to twitch. Bellatrix kept the spell up for fifteen seconds before discontinuing it. He needed to be taught a lesson for keeping her waiting, but he was here to give her information and needed the ability to talk. She turned her attention to the window again, allowing Perfidious to recover a little before speaking.
“Explain your late arrival.”
“V – very sorry, m’am. The portkey from London was delayed.”
“You took a portkey here?” Narcissa asked, betraying her nervousness. She glanced at her sister, who returned her gaze with an admonishment to be quiet. Their guest, now kneeling before Bellatrix, chanced a glance at the two sisters.
“She’s just a little paranoid because it seems you don’t realize that international portkeys are tracked. Even now Aurors could be arriving. Was that your intention: to get us caught?” Bellatrix raised her wand again, pleased at how Perfidious cowered.
“No,” he said loudly. “No, I swear. No one knows I am m-meeting with you, m’am.”
“You’d better hope not.” Bellatrix lowered her wand again. “Now I trust you will make up for your tardiness with good news. What have you got?”
“Dolores Umbridge,” Perfidious said at once and then paused, perhaps wondering if he should continue.
“What about her?” Bellatrix asked, wondering if the woman had been able to worm her way out of the sticky situation she’d been in. It had been most displeasing her that the idiot had fled upon learning of Lucius’s arrest. Tracking her down and convincing her that it was wiser to go back to work had been a most boring two days. Sometimes Umbridge and Narcissa were a little too much alike.
“She – she was asked by Minister Shacklebolt to step down from her post as Senior Undersecretary. He didn’t think someone rumored to associate with Death Eaters should control such a high position.”
“Intriguing as this is, I see no way this will affect me. Care to explain?” Bellatrix asked, hoping Perfidious had a point beyond politics. He flushed, but continued.
“Well . . . she did leave the Ministry, but there was a huge outcry, largely because of the P.P.A. –“
“Yes, m’am. They’re a little known group of purebloods that think all of this anti-Mudblood ideology has turned pureblood pride into a crime. They’ve called themselves the pro-pureblood association.”
Bellatrix looked at her sister, who was smiling, though she could tell Narcissa was feeling as she was: what a horrible name!
“Could they not just make signs proclaiming their desire to go to Azkaban?” Narcissa asked in disgust. The tiny man fidgeted but glanced at Bellatrix again before speaking.
“The name does lack creativity. You were quite right, m’am. But I assure you that their views are quite certainly in line with your own – our own, I mean. They feel that the Ministry under Mr. Shacklebolt’s lead has made it nearly criminal for anyone to show pride in their pureblood status.”
“Too right,” Narcissa mumbled. Perfidious seemed bolstered by this. Though he remained kneeling he did chance a quick glance over at Narcissa.
“Yes. When Dolores Umbridge was sacked they raised such a protest that the Minister had no choice but to hire her back, though in a much lower position and under much stricter security. She returned, but I’m sure you can imagine how unhappy she is about it.”
“How unfortunate for her,” Bellatrix replied flatly. “Explain to me again, fool, how this – this P.P.A. as you call it – is relevant to me and my goals?”
Perfidious regressed to a frightened state as he glanced at her for a fraction of a second.
“Well, m’am, they are most interested in you and your case. They think you have been treated most unjustly by the Auror task force, especially by Harry Potter.”
“What has happened with Potter, then? A slap on the wrist for running off on his own?” This was Bellatrix’s question. The whereabouts of that irksome task force were of great interest to her. Harry Potter was the person she was most anxious to hear about though. He was the one who was going to help her resurrect the Dark Lord, after all. He might have got away two weeks ago, but he was not going to do so again.
Perfidious wore the same look of disdain as Bellatrix had when looking at that silly Muggle attraction.
“We don’t know a lot. He’s . . . well, m’am, he’s kind of disappeared, but I’m sure you’ll like what we do know.” He paused, waiting either for permission to go on, or for approval. Bellatrix merely jabbed her wand in his direction, impatient for him to get on with it.
“Minister Shacklebolt told him to take some time off after everything that happened, but he showed up at the Ministry the day Dolores Umbridge returned to start her new position. Apparently Mr. Potter had been under the impression she was gone for good. When he learned that the Minister had hired her back he was furious and shouted for so long that he was first reprimanded, and then suspended. The Minister, I can tell you, was more than displeased.”
“So where’s Potter now?”
“We’re not sure. He’s disappeared off the face of the earth.” From the tense nature of his body, Bellatrix could tell he knew this news was unwelcome to her. Harry Potter was a necessity in her long-term plans. She didn’t consider Potter a threat, despite his lucky escape, but she would still rather know his location.
“He was suspended, yet he is still in the Auror office, and on the task force, no?” she asked, her wand pointing in Perfidious’s direction again.
“Yes, but . . . news spread of your – the lucky escape he made a fortnight ago. Did you know that after that he left his girlfriend?”
“Of course we didn’t know that, fool. That’s why you’re here,” Bellatrix said impatiently. This pitiful, cowering little man was starting to get on her nerves. If he didn’t give her some news she could use soon . . .
“Yes. As far as I know he hasn’t talked about his reasons with anyone, but it’s a fair assumption, given his past behaviour, that he is trying to be noble again.”
“Is he?” Narcissa spoke up after several minutes of silence. She, for reasons unclear to Bellatrix, seemed happy with this news. She was smiling broadly. Annoyed that her sister was now humoring this inconsequential Ministry employee, Bellatrix raised her wand again.
“If you are done reporting gossip, would you please explain to me how this is relevant to your visit?”
“Bella, this is perfect,” Narcissa said. “He’s isolating himself again. He’ll be easier to get at now than he was before.”
“Assuming we can find him, of course,” Bellatrix said angrily. She’d never tolerated time wasters and she was not about to start. It was even more infuriating that her sister was siding with this pitiful, sniveling idiot.
Perfidious was visibly trembling now, his eyes locked on the tip of her wand. Narcissa, too, had fallen silent, watching petulantly.
“One last time, fool, what are you trying to tell me that will be relevant to your visit here?”
“Er . . . “ Perfidious said so silently he was almost inaudible. “I just thought you would like to know that, thanks to his uncontrolled temper, support for Harry Potter is on the decline especially among members of the PPA. And it is about to take an even bigger hit when the public finds out the pureblood he just left is pregnant with his child.”
“I knew it!” Narcissa said excitedly. Both Bellatrix and Perfidious looked at her, causing her to look away, though she was still smiling happily.
“An association proclaiming to take pride in their noble blood status would hardly care about the bastard child of a blood traitor.” Bellatrix turned her back and stared again at the Eiffel Tower, thinking.
It was mildly intriguing: the idea of Potter progeny, but hardly relevant to her long term plans. It wasn’t like the child could help bring back the Dark Lord. Whatever this PPA had to say about Ginevra Weasley’s child would neither help nor hinder her plans.
“Bella?” Narcissa asked uncertainly after several minutes of near silence. She turned around, looking at Perfidious first.
“Your information was sketchy at best, fool. And the fact you were late is inexcusable. You have wasted my time here tonight.” She raised her wand.
“No, no, no, m’am,” Perfidious pleaded, trying and failing to get to his feet. “I promise you will see the value of my information in time.”
“Perhaps. But I did not invite you here to provide me with information that may be useful at some future date. You’ve disappointed me. Avada Kedavra.” Her aim was true and she knew it. Before Perfidious fell, Bellatrix already had her back turned. She stared at the Tower again, barely registering the thump Perfidious’s body made as it fell to the floor, lifeless.
“Was that really necessary?” Narcissa asked.
“Yes. He was useless, a liability. Do you think I want the Aurors to know he was here and question him? He would tell them everything with the slightest provocation. The Auror office does not need any help finding us.” Bellatrix did not look at Narcissa and so didn’t know what her sister’s reaction was, nor did she care. “Are you ready to leave the Aurors our message?”
“This isn’t it?” Narcissa asked in surprise. “Bella, what do you have planned?”
“Question time is over. Come.”
The two sisters collected their scant possessions, preparing to leave. Narcissa did not heed her sister’s words.
“I think that some of what he told us will be useful. A child is a huge bargaining chip, Bella. Do you remember how Draco got involved with the Dark Lord?”
“Enough, Cissy.” Bellatrix stopped midway through the act of pulling her cloak on, seeing that her sister was not about to drop the matter. “What do you propose we do then? Abduct the child? What would we do with a little brat?” Narcissa turned away to raise her hood, a sure sign that Bellatrix had guessed her sister’s thoughts correctly. “Cissy, it’s not going to bring back your son. Let’s go.”
A breeze had cooled the hot air. Their cloaks flapped around them as they stood on a building close to the Eiffel Tower. Bellatrix knew the issue of Perfidious and his information was not going to be closed with her sister for a long time. Perhaps he had been right and she would be able to extract some useful information from it, but that would be for later consideration. She had one other thing to do before they left this filthy city.
“Bella, why on earth are we up here?” Narcissa asked irritably.
“So I can do this.” Bellatrix raised her wand, pointed it at the rusty old structure and cried, “Einsturz.”
An instant later the rather silent night was filled with the loud, ringing sound of crumpling metal as the tower fell. She watched it, feeling a slight sense of amusement. The thing had fallen with even less effort than she thought.
“The Aurors will know we were here now.”
“That wasn’t necessary, was it?” Narcissa was watching as lights began to turn on in the buildings around them. Bellatrix smiled and let out another cackle-like laugh.
“When in Paris . . . Come, Cissy, we have work to do.”
The two women vanished into darkness.