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otherville in ootp_united

WHO: Kingsley and Diana
WHAT: Snooping Looking for information
WHERE: Knockturn Alley
WHEN: Very soon after this
RATING: Not sure. PG or PG-13, depending

Kingsley was not snooping. Snooping implied hiding oneself, ducking in shadows, listening in on otherwise private conversations, and generally going about unseen. Which was exactly what he was doing, but he was one of the Good Guys, so it didn't count as snooping. No, this was gathering information. Yeah.

Currently, he was flying under the radar in Knockturn Alley, hidden by a rather good Disillusionment charm. Thus far, no one had taken any notice of him, not even to turn their head at the sudden sensation of someone walking by when there wasn't anyone there. Kingsley was good at Disillusionment.

He tucked himself into a tiny side alley between two dilapidated buildings as a group of indistinguishable creatures in black cloaks went by. Whatever they were, they weren't human. Knockturn Alley was getting more dangerous every day; a microcosm of the outside world.

He was just about to move back into the main alley when loud voices approached, sounding quite drunk. Kingsley pressed himself against the wall of one of the buildings, keeping to the shadows of the side alley despite the charm already concealing him from view. Drunken wizards could be dangerous...


Diana just stared at him for several minutes. Finally, she raised an eyebrow. Well, the least he could do was thank her for paying for his drink.

"You know..." she said dryly. "When we agreed to go somewhere, have a drink, and talk, I was laboring under the delusion that a conversation was defined as a time when people exchanged ideas, facts, sentences... It involves trading off..." She quirked an eyebrow at him. "I've monopolized things long enough. Why don't you take over?" she asked. "Is there anything you'd like to ask me...?" she suggested.

Sometimes secret operatives could be babies. Apparently she was going to have to hold his hand and guide him through this normal human interaction of the art of conversation. Poor soul.
Another thing that Kingsley had learned long ago was to let other people do the talking as much as possible. It was amazing the things you could learn if you left a big, yawning silence for people to get nervous about. The more nervous they got, the more they babbled to fill that silence, and the less caution they tended to use as they babbled. Diana, however, apparently knew this trick and wasn't about to fall for it.

"I could ask you what your search for information has turned up," he said at length. "But I have the feeling that you wouldn't be willing to tell me, and that it's none of my business in any case."

Who knew, maybe that tactic would work. Indifference had its own way of gathering information.
"You're wrong there," Diana remarked. "If we're on the same side, what I tell you can only help the both of us. If you're not, then what I tell you can only hurt me. It's the economic model of Nash's equilibrium. Brilliant muggle, he was..." But she didn't let herself get distracted this time. "Tonight, I didn't find out much except that morale is very high. They're gloating about how they have everyone in fear, so they feel victory is near. And some of them kept joking about a muggle man-- saying he was the most useful muggle the Dark Lord has ever come across. I thought I was going to be vomit," she said with disgust. "As for it being your business, it most certainly is. I'm not here for a competition, Kingsley," she said, a little crossly. "It's not first spy to the prize. There are lives at stake, so I'm willing to take a risk and tell you. The Dark Lord is out for everyone, we're all each other's business now." Perhaps that was the most revealing statement of Diana's frame of mind-- 'we're all each other's business now.' She firmly believed that. It didn't matter what nationality, liberal or conservative, pure-blood or muggle-born, there was a despot on the loose and united we stand and all of that jazz.
Kingsley was instantly on the alert. Caution or no caution, this could be a lead.

"A Muggle man?" he inquired. "Did you catch a name?"
Diana blinked. The transformation was subtle, but almost electric-- the sedate, cautious Kingsley was suddenly coming alive, going on the offensive. She preferred this one... and, for the first time that night, she believed him. He wouldn't be this interested if he didn't need to know something from the Death Eaters. This kind of quiet urgency was not easy to act out. She found herself relaxing slightly.

"No, I didn't catch a name. They don't really seem to believe in calling muggles by their names, or even knowing them unless it has some strategic purpose. They just call them degrading epithets, like... like animals. They kept making jokes about him though... Saying that once the Dark Lord had his way with him, he'd ring out like Big Ben... you know, the bell in the clock tower in Westminster? Since the bell is a muggle invention, they all thought this was terribly funny. I don't know if it was also a codename, he seemed to be a rather important muggle to them..." Diana revealed, not sure if this information would be of any help.
Big Ben...Death Eaters weren't exactly known for their wit, but it could be a play on words, a sick pun for their own amusement. And they had certainly been taking great pains to make sure that Ben stayed under their control.

"Did they say anything about where he was? Where they were keeping him?" Kingsley tried not to sound to eager as he asked this. "It could be important."
"They said that he was kept secure under the orders of the Dark Lord... That this time, there would be no interference. Now that you mention it, though..." She thought for a moment. "They mentioned something about his sister... Said someone needed to tie up that loose end. And then they started complaining about all of this work for two muggles, wondering what the Dark Lord was going at. They kept wondering aloud if this 'Big Ben' was worth all of the trouble of the security he was put under..." Diana wracked her brains for other details. "Actually, I think he would be kept away from the Dark Lord's usual strong hold-- the Death Eater who was complaining said something about being stretched too thin, with all of this trouble to hide him away. But that's all that I could glean," she said with a shrug.
Kingsley thought about this as he sipped his butterbeer. As long as Casey was in St. Mungo's, she would be relatively safe, but if the Death Eaters started actively seeking her out...

It would be far too risky at this point to use her as bait, and it was unlikely that Casey would consent to such a plan in any case. She had no real reason to trust the Order at this point.

Stretched thin...they wouldn't still be hiding Ben in Luton, would they? Yes, his crazy aunt was among Voldemort's cronies, but hiding in plain sight wasn't a Death Eater tactic.
Diana just stared at the man again. He had gone silent. Probably was thinking and scheming. She let him do this for a sufficient period of time before speaking up again.

"I can infer from your interest that there is a missing muggle, that he's important, and that you know his name but not his whereabouts," she stated calmly. "I have given you all of the details I know about it. Care to reciprocate?" she asked hopefully.
Kingsley sat in silent thought for a while longer. Diana had given him potentially useful information, but that still didn't mean he could trust her. Not true trust, at any rate. A spy for the Death Eaters could have plenty of reasons for throwing out a useful tidbit of information, including trying to size up what the Order knew.

And yet, Diana had not yet made any indication that she knew who he was, much less that he was involved in the Order. Either she was a very good actress, or she truly had no idea.

At last, Kingsley decided to be vague.

"I believe you're right in your assumption that this particular Muggle is very important," he said, keeping his voice low. "Why is still a mystery, but he may be in quite a bit of danger. And anything that the Dark Lord sees fit to shroud in such secrecy could be very dangerous for us."

"Us" meaning The Good Guys, presuming they both were...
It was Diana's turn to sit and stew in silence. "It's not just that it would be dangerous to us," she remarked. "It's also just... wrong. It's wrong for Vol-- er, You-Know-Who to hold any muggle and torture him. I mean, that's reason enough to do something. But, there's nothing to do without more information," she sighed, draining the last of her pumpkin juice. Diana was like most in that she didn't particularlly enjoy saying Voldemort's name. There was power in a name, as each witch and wizard knew. It was only when she was indignant or just plain angry. Then it felt like challenge to Voldemort.

Diana wasn't sure what to say or do with Kingsley now. She had shared her information and he had given her a limited piece in return.

"Do you have an address?" she asked at length. "You know... a Post Office box or something? I can owl you if I hear more. Like I said... if you're a Death Eater, I'm only going to get myself killed. If I keep going it alone like this, it'll happen sooner or later, anyhow." She wasn't complaining, merely being pragmatic.
Post office? Kingsley couldn't help raising an eyebrow. True, it was a tactic that had been used by some groups during the first war; the Muggle postal service confused purebloods, and the Dark Lord had little use for Muggle systems, so some of the touchier communications had been carried out via Muggle post, but those days were long gone. As for owls...

"I have a feeling that we will run into each other again," Kingsley said, getting to his feet. "And perhaps I will have information that you will find useful." Probably not, but it sounded good, and friendly enough without actually being an offer to share anything he might find out in the near future.
"Perhaps," Diana replied with a sardonic little smile. "Though if today's performance is any indication, 80% of the time I'm going to be the one coughing up bona fides." Bona fides were the intelligence term for verifiable intel that was given to show someone was who said they were. Diana realized she needed to tone down her vocabulary. She was going to give it away that she was a professional at this. It was better to look like an amateur which who just read too many espionage novels. She was way past that point, already.

She tossed some coins to Tom, giving the man more than the tab was. Diana was a rather prolific tipper. She wondered what to do now... it was rather late to be skulking about Knockturn Alley now. She had to admit after a rather stilted conversation, it was going to be very lonely in her flat tonight.
"We'll see," was all Kingsley said. He was already going over Diana's information in his mind, wondering how he was going to fill in the blanks. He could do some listening of his own, now that he knew what to listen for, and perhaps he could do a little talking, too...
"Erm... right." she said, pulling on her cloak again and just staring out the door at the darkness and the rain. It was going to be hard to walk away...

Berating herself for her reluctance, she turned and stuck out her hand. "Pleasure to meet you, however strange it was," she remarked cordially.

September 2008

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