Resolution (Worth the Risk #56)

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It isn’t often that Hermione has a chance to go out for lunch at somewhere as posh as Z. She generally eats in her office, at Finnigan’s, or occasionally at a Muggle place around the Ministry. She certainly doesn’t spend so much on one meal that she could have taken the children out for dinner and still had money left over. Fortunately, she isn’t paying for lunch today. Ogden invited her, and she knows that he can afford to splurge. Still, after their meal, she offers to pay her share, and is relieved that he refuses. She doubts she would have had enough galleons on her, which would have been rather embarrassing.

After she leaves Z, she and Ogden part ways. He has an appointment with a healer, and she’s got to get back to work. Their conversation was informative, mostly due to what wasn’t said. They discussed the department’s cases, personnel, and the Ministry, and he told her about his treatments, in general, but he never said anything about when he plans to return to work or about a tentative diagnosis.

It might not mean anything at all, but she can’t help but think he knows more than he told her. The possibility of receiving a promotion and becoming Head of Magical Law is something that she has tried not to let herself think about too much. It would be challenging and a great career move, but it’s pointless to consider something that might not be a reality any time soon.

Now, though, it’s on her mind as she makes her way back to the Ministry. When she realizes that she’s thinking about it too much, she forces it to the corner of her mind and focuses on Ogden’s health. The promotion isn’t more important than that, after all. Hopefully, the testing that he’s going through this week will provide him some much needed answers for his own peace of mind. He seemed in good spirits during their meal, which is definitely a positive sign.

When she enters her outer office, she notices that Caroline is still out to lunch and that Teddy’s not at his desk. She also sees a woman sitting in the corner of the small waiting area. She blinks and tries to conceal her surprise when she identifies her. “Good afternoon, Professor Parkinson,” she says politely. She doesn’t have anything on her schedule until a meeting at three, so she’s curious why Pansy Parkinson is sitting in her office. “Are you lost?”

“I’m not lost, Mrs. Weasley. Your assistant, Mr. Lupin, went to get me a cup of tea,” Pansy says as she stands up. “I apologize for not making an appointment, but I didn’t want to wait.”

Curiouser and curiouser. “Well, you’re fortunate that I have a little free time right now. If you’ll follow me, please.” She unlocks the door to her office and walks inside, waiting until Pansy enters before she closes the door. “Ted will knock when he’s back with your tea.”

“I appreciate you making the time to see me. If I hadn’t come now, then there’s a good chance that I’d have convinced myself not to come at all.”

“Are you enjoying the summer holiday, Professor?” she asks politely as she sits down and puts away the file that she took with her to lunch. It’s frustrating to be caught unawares this way. Rose has said that she thinks she did well in Astronomy, so Hermione doubts it’s an official visit regarding Hogwarts.

“Quite. It’s always nice to be away from the castle for a short time and have an opportunity to catch up with old friends.” Pansy is frowning as she speaks, but Hermione isn’t completely uncertain that that’s not just a normal expression. She hasn’t had much to do with Pansy ever, but they are polite when their paths cross, mostly to avoid awkwardness during social events.

There’s a light knock on the door before Teddy opens it. “Sorry to interrupt, Boss, but I have a cup of tea for the professor.”

“Thank you, Mr. Lupin.” Pansy accepts the cup of tea, and it’s obvious that her hands are shaking when tea spills over the side onto the saucer.

Teddy arches a brow and looks at her curiously. She shrugs a shoulder before she says, “Thank you, Lupin. I’ll let you know if we need anything else. Oh, and please let Caroline know that I’m in a meeting when she returns from lunch.”

“Will do,” he says before he turns and leaves the room, closing the door behind him.

“I’d imagine that there’s a lot of catching up to do after spending so many months away at the school,” she muses, not at all sure if casual, polite conversation is required at this moment or not. While it’s tempting to ask bluntly why Pansy is there, she doesn’t want to push too hard in case it’s important.

“Yes, especially now that I’m teaching some of my friends’ children. There are always questions that I can’t answer.” Pansy takes a sip of her tea before she puts the saucer on the table beside her chair. “I met one of my oldest friends for dinner last night. Our conversation is actually what led me to come here unannounced. I couldn’t—I knew that I had to see you or I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.”

Well, that certainly sounds dramatic. Hermione isn’t entirely sure whether it’s sincere or simply Pansy’s normal behavior. She remembers the woman being somewhat theatrical during their years at school, after all. “Is our conversation related to my work or another area?”

Pansy looks away to stare at a large framed photograph of London that Hermione has hanging on the wall. After a moment, she looks back and straightens her shoulder. “It’s about Charles Warrington.”

Her curious detachment fades immediately with those two words. She sits up and reaches for a pen and parchment. “I’ll be taking notes of your statement,” she explains. “Anything you tell me will become part of the case record and might be used during the trial. Are you prepared to give an official statement and possibly be called as a witness?”

Silence greets her question. She has to make sure that Pansy is aware of the legalities, though, so she won’t listen to anything that she can’t potentially use in the trial. She’s already got information after her meeting with Malfoy that is inadmissible, so she doesn’t need to hear something important only to have the witness refuse to testify.

After the silence becomes uncomfortable, she lowers her pen. “Professor, if you’re not prepared for the potential of testimony before the Wizengamot, then I would recommend that you finish your tea and leave without saying anything more. You’re under no obligation at this point to remain.”

“You’re wrong.” Pansy looks at the front of Hermione’s desk and frowns. “I’m under a moral obligation, if nothing else. My friend told me that Charles had killed children--children who were younger than my students. If there is a chance that he might be released and allowed to repeat his actions when I might have been able to stop him, then I would be responsible for that.”

“Warrington’s choices are not your responsibility, Professor Parkinson. There are many reasons to offer testimony, but guilt, misguided or not, isn’t one of them.” She doesn’t point out that a defense could cross-examine and create doubt if there is nothing more than responsibility guiding actions. It’s one of the horrible realities about law.

“That’s where you’re wrong, Granger. I’ve felt responsible since I first read about the case in the Prophet. I’d just convinced myself that it was too late and there was nothing I could do. I was wrong, though. I know that you need someone willing to testify to help your case. I was told that a witness testimony would be important.”

Granger. It always seems to come back to that when she deals with former Slytherins. She tries not to classify people by their sorting, but it’s one of the few similarities that all Slytherins seem to share. She’s Granger, regardless of marriage or familiarity. Of course, this isn’t the time to dwell on that odd little fact of life. Pansy seems willing to give a statement, and she needs something tangible to resolve the weak areas of the case. Though it’ll depend what Pansy has to say before she knows if it’s the solid lead she needs or not.

“Are you prepared to give an official statement and possibly be called as a witness?” she asks again.

Pansy nods slowly. “I am.”

“Alright.” She writes down the date and time beside Pansy’s name and focuses. “How do you know the accused, Charles Warrington?”

There’s a moment of silence, and Hermione wonders if the entire meeting is going to go this way. If so, it’s going to be a long afternoon. Before she can ask again, Pansy clears her throat. “I went to school with him and my family knew his family. He was a third year when I started Hogwarts.”

“Were you friends in school?”

“No.” Pansy takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. “From October 1991 until June 1992, I was sexually abused by Charles Warrington.” Her shoulders sag, and she leans back in her chair. “That’s the most difficult thing that I’ve ever said,” she whispers.

Hermione doesn’t know what to say in response. There’s a part of her that suspected this might be what Pansy wanted to discuss, but it’s still surprising. Eleven years old. Hugo’s age. She curls her fingers into her palm as she forces herself to remain objective and not get personally involved in the testimony. “It will be difficult for a while, but I’m told it gets gradually better over time,” she says, speaking from the experience of interviewing other victims of abuse.

“Is it ever easy?” Pansy asks quietly. “Probably not. I’ve kept this secret since I was twelve, so it feels bizarre to be discussing it now. Last night is the first time that I’d ever admitted it to anyone.”

“It’s very brave of you to come forward,” she tells Pansy honestly. She knows that cases of abuse and rape aren’t simply black and white, so she can’t judge anyone who doesn’t report a case or feels ashamed to discuss it.

Pansy snorts. “It doesn’t feel very brave. If I’d done so when I was a child, he might have been sent away and never had a chance to hurt anyone else. I don’t think I was the first, which is disgusting when I think back on it and realize he was only fifteen at the time. I know I wasn’t the last, obviously.”

“No, you weren’t,” she confirms softly. She has a good idea who Pansy had dinner with last night, and she hates that she’s going to have to thank Malfoy. At least she understands now what he meant about having suspicions of another victim when he was younger. She looks at Pansy and concentrates on the testimony. “I’m going to have to ask you for details about that year. I need to know what he did to you as well as anything else that you think might be important.”

“I know,” Pansy whispers. She runs her hand through her hair before she looks at Hermione. “I’ll have to talk about it in front of everyone, won’t I? He’ll be there, too?”

“Yes,” she says simply. It’s not the time for providing possible alternatives or musing about different scenarios. Pansy has to be prepared to discuss intimate details of her abuse in front of strangers so that Hermione can be guaranteed the testimony will be solid.

“Will you need my medical records?”

“Did you see a healer after the abuse?” If there is medical proof to back up the testimony, that’ll be even better.

Pansy smiles wryly. “I can’t have children, Granger. The things he did to me—it’s not possible anymore. There are medical terms and words that I never really understood, but it wasn’t necessary to know anything more than that. It ruined my life even more than the nightmares of that year, since I couldn’t find anyone who would marry me without the promise of carrying on their bloodlines, and I’ll never have a child of my own.” She shrugs. “Now, I have everyone else’s children, even if it’s not the same.”

“Rose has told me that you’re a good professor. Coming from her, it’s a compliment.” It’s a brief break in her professionalism, but she can tell how much it matters to Pansy, so it’s difficult not to say anything at all.

“She’s brilliant, as much as it pains me to admit.” Pansy rubs her hand over her face and sighs. “Well, I’ve put it off long enough. Where should I start?”

Hermione sets up an automatic quill since she knows now that the statement is likely to be long and extensive. Once she’s ready, she looks at Pansy. “Start at the beginning.”

It’s nearly three when they finish. Pansy’s face is wet and her eyes are swollen from crying, and she looks pale after having to relive such horrible memories. Hermione’s sickened at what she’s heard, and she can’t believe that Warrington managed to get away with it at school, of all bloody places. The statement is more than she had hoped for, and she feels confident now about their chances of a quick victory. It’s what she wants most, though she hasn’t shared her goal with the team in case she’s not successful.

After she walks Pansy out, she goes to Caroline’s desk. “I need you to reschedule my meeting tomorrow morning to sometime next week. After that, contact Davis and tell him that I’ll be there tomorrow at ten to meet with Warrington for his preliminary interview. If Warrington has arranged for a defense that we’re not aware of, then Davis needs to contact them to be present at the interview. I’ll be taking Kevin with me, so let him know to be ready at half-nine.”

“Has he been to Azkaban before?” Caroline asks.

“I don’t think so. Go ahead and let him know the security procedures. If I’m wrong, he’ll tell you that he knows them. Tell Ron that my interview with Warrington is being scheduled for tomorrow and get any new information that he might have, if there’s anything he hasn’t given me yet. I have a meeting in ten minutes, so I’ll be leaving momentarily, but I’ll be back later.”

“Okay. I’ll alert Davis now, since it might take longer to reach him and it’s already the afternoon. You just had a review meeting tomorrow, so I’ll reschedule it for next Wednesday, if possible. That’s a relatively clear day for you, so far.”

“Sounds good.” She goes back to her office and sits down. She has to leave soon, but she needs a moment to compose herself after everything she’s just heard. After closing her eyes and taking several deep breaths, she stands up and gathers her files for the next meeting. It’s time to get back to work.