(1937-12-13) Witness Protection
Details for Witness Protection
Summary: Why would anyone put somebody with a secret to keep alone in a room with Cassius Malfoy?
Date: December 13, 1937
Location: Wizengamot, MoM

As one of the 'star witnesses' to the magical artifact trafficing that was going on in southern France, Jacqueline had to come in to not only identify that the artifacts were real, but that the man on trial was doing what the government said. Of course, if she'd pulled the trigger a bit faster, none of this would be necessary, but no one is perfect. The Ministry has arranged for her to meet the start prosecution just so matters can be discussed and organized. Cassius has been told that a certain Jacqueline Strathcona is coming in to talk to him. He might remember her from school. And he might not. A rather chunky, freckled Ravenclaw who was always stuck in her books and socially awkward. Now she works as an appraiser for Gringotts, a perfectly boring Ravenclaw appropriate job. And she'll be here any minute.

The tiny dungeon office is quiet, with not so much as the sound of paper moving or the scratching of a quill. Cassius Malfoy sits back in his chair, still as the grave, his eyes focused on the single ornamentation in the room, rarely noticed by visitors: a wooden carving of a serpentine labyrinth hung high over the door.

And with that, there is a quiet knock. Once she gets an affirmation to come in, the door is pushed open to reveal… someone who surely cannot be Jacque Strathcona. Yes, there is a softness to her, but it's curves in all the right places. Freckles faded, hair screaming red, silk stockings and a black pin stripe suit hugging all the right places, she looks like an business man's wet dream, not a quiet bookworm. "Barrister Malfoy

And with that, there is a quiet knock. Once she gets an affirmation to come in, the door is pushed open to reveal… someone who surely cannot be Jacque Strathcona. Yes, there is a softness to her, but it's curves in all the right places. Freckles faded, hair screaming red, silk stockings and a black pin stripe suit hugging all the right places, she looks like an business man's wet dream, not a quiet bookworm. "Barrister Malfoy?" She inquires professionally, her voice matching the middle-class accent a bit better to the girl she once was. But she walks with confidence, not with shyness now. And something about her face looks always just a little bit amused at life.

The knock brings Cassius immediately out of his trance, and he sits up, intoning, "Come." When the woman enters, he rises politely, offering her a cordial smile. His utter shock at the sight of this heavenly creature is well masked. "Miss Strathcona, do come in." He gestures to one of the empty chairs across from him.

There is just a slight hint in her eyes that says make she catches that surprise, or, more likely, she's looking for it. The suit is still professional, but her black satin camisole beneath is cut low on her generous assets and her skirt a bit high. Yes, she knew who she was coming to see. She remembered the fact there had been no love lost between her and the Malfoys growing up. "I'm really… sorry about this. The whole thing is a bloody mess, isn't it?" She asks with a warm smile across full, pink mouth. No make up. She doesn't need it, really, complexion flush and warm. Pink in all the right places.

Cassius doesn't sit right away, moving out from behind his desk to a cabinet behind her. "Please don't apologize. Without messes like these, I wouldn't have employment," he jokes. "Can I offer you anything to drink?" He opens the cabinet to reveal a collection of decanters and bottles, along with a few tumblers.

Elegantly, she folds herself down into the offered chair and crosses her soft legs, tucking high heeled feet off to the side. There is no doubt Jacque is utterly comfortable in her own skin these days. She also takes a moment to look around his spare office, taking in every bit of personality that is, or isn't, there. Her eyes even linger on the snake across the door, but she doesn't say anything. "Ah… whatever you're having. I'm not picky. And yes, I suppose that is true. Still, the man is an idiot. This should all go smooth enough."

Elegantly, she folds herself down into the offered chair and crosses her soft legs, tucking high heeled feet off to the side. There is no doubt Jacque is utterly comfortable in her own skin these days. She also takes a moment to look around his spare office, taking in every bit of personality that is, or isn't, there. Her eyes even linger on the snake like labryinth above the door, but she doesn't say anything. "Ah… whatever you're having. I'm not picky. And yes, I suppose that is true. Still, the man is an idiot. This should all go smooth enough."

Sparse is right. There is very little to say much about Cassius in the tiny office. In fact, the size and lack of adornment seems to be in direct contrast with the man's wealth and influence. "Cognac, then. I hope you don't mind it in a tumbler." He appears by her chair, presenting her drink to her before taking his seat behind the desk again. "Now then, you were authenticating these artefacts in France when it was discovered that the man was trafficking them illegally. Is that correct?"

"Indeed. It turns out that Gringotts wasn't the only interested party in these artifacts. He was trafficking them to muggle authorities also, a highly dangerous proposition to start. I am told he was selling other things illegally also. But these are the artifacts with which I was dealing." Just in case he's wonderful at reading eyes or body language, Jacque keeps her gaze turned away and focused on her brief case as she says all those things, the story she's delivering not entirely the truth on her end. But it's the truth the Ministry wants out there. She removes several photographs from her briefcase, the artifacts spinning themselves in the pictures so every angle can be seen.

Jacqueline says, "Oh, and Cognac would be wonderful. I don't mind it in any sort of glass. I just like Cognac."

Cassius looks over the photographs briefly, nodding. "What I need to do with you is to go over how you will present yourself to the Wizengamot. The defense is going to try to discredit you, and make it seem as if all of this was an enormous misunderstanding caused by your mistake. So our job is to present you as the undeniable expert that you are."

Pale eyes flash back up in his direction, a brow arching, and there is just a moment of that socially abrupt nerd that comes out when she responds, "But I am an undeniable expert. I'm the best appraiser Gringotts has and I work for the British Museum. There is no way they could discredit me." It doesn't even make sense to her that they would try, she's that confident in her abilities. "But.. of course, Mr. Malfoy… whatever advice you want to give. I do suppose I'm just an art expert. Still not wonderful with people, even after all these years." A little, almost coquettishly shy smile catches at her lips.

"Your record will speak well for you," Cassius assures her. "But how you appear in court will make much more difference. Your behaviour, your mode of dress, even the tone of your voice will shape the Wizengamot's opinion. May I speak frankly, Miss Strathcona?"

"I'd be insulted if you did anything but. I'm not here to bandy pleasantries and eat scones over tea, Malfoy." The woman responds frankly, uncrossing her legs and sitting up just a bit straighter as the woman focuses her full attention upon his handsome, pale features. Jacqueline now meets his gaze, nothing to really hide and her mind all too curious about what he is going to say.

Cassius nods, explaining softly, "You are a strikingly beautiful woman, and you draw subtle attention to your physical assets. Deliberately, I assume." Though his eyes drift to her decolletage, his expression remains neutral. "This will not serve you well in court. They will use it against you. You must appear entirely professional, even boring. The sort of woman that is incapable of error, because she has no time for distractions. Pin your hair back. Wear closed robes. Ravenclaw colours would be ideal. Speak clearly and without inflection. Can you do these things?"

That makes her all out laugh, a deep, warm, throaty sort of laugh, her head thrown back. It really was truly amusing. "Gods, Cassius Malfoy, I did it for a good portion of my life, I'm certain I could do it for a few hours. Yes. I will be able to play the boring, perfect little librarian. Trust me. I've got it covered." Jacqueline winks to him after that, crossing her legs once again, still smiling.

Cassius finally smiles, apparently reassured. "Very good. Now, tell me about your encounter with the defendant. I need to know what details he is going to bring up that aren't in the case file."

There is something, for just a moment, that makes Jacqueline hesitate. Did he realize she'd slipped something in his drink? She was in his hotel room? She always took so much care not to be identified, but was it possible he knew? Surely not. Still, Jacqueline takes a few moments to concern things, her eyes dropping again as she reaches into her pocket and pulls out a pack of muggle cigarettes, busying herself lighting one instead of meeting his eyes. "As far as I know… everything is in the file. I got there… he and I had a few drinks, professional courtesies, I realized that there were competing buyers… knew some were muggles, and I reported it back to the government."

Cassius listens, nodding silently, letting her weave her tale without interruption. Then he flips the case file closed, sliding it to the side. He sits back, steepling his fingers together. "Miss Strathcona. Jacqueline. May I call you Jacqueline? Let me be as clear and direct as I possibly can. I have made a lifelong study of understanding the motivations and behaviours of others. I have spent the last seven years as a barrister, and three years before that as a clerk of the court. In that time, I have tried hundreds of cases, and I am lied to daily by the very best of liars. So please understand that when I say that I would now like to hear the true story of your encounter with the defendant, that I am coming from a place of expertise as thorough and hard-earned as your own."

His catching her in the lies doesn't make her jump or wince in a bit. If he hadn't just called her a down right liar, you'd think the notes were finished and she was ready to go back home. Jacqueline just meets his eyes again, considering exactly what she should say. She finally gives a little shrug, "That is the way it went down, ask the Ministry. Nothing else could have happened by the Ministry's decree. You work for them, don't you? That's all that matters."

Cassius sighs, shaking his head. "Ah yes. The Ministry's brilliance at work again. Let me tell you what happens when the Ministry tries to re-write the truth. Guilty men walk free. Period. This man will tell a different story, and if his barrister has even half the sense I do, he'll poke a thousand holes in yours. My job is to see that this man is convicted. But unless I know what he knows, we might as well drop the charges now. So, once again, Jacqueline. Tell me what you know." He levels his gaze intently on her now, a determined look in his eye.

If there was anyway to know what she was getting into, she may not have come tonight. But there was not. Jacqueline cannot imagine the risk her mind is at as she stares innocently into his eyes, keeping that enigmatic little smile on her mouth even as he opens up ever secret about the whole matter from her head. She blinks slightly, "I met the man for a drink. He… became ill." The flash of her, so subtly, slipping the poison into his glass. "I suspect he's made some enemies in his time." A flash of someone shadowed, handing her a packet. A photo of him, a dossier. The Ministry of Magic's seal is on the packet, but it destroys itself when it's opened. "He went back to his hotel room and quickly cleaned it out before the government could come in and take all the evidence." The ensuring battle in the hotel room. She strangling him from the shadows, he fighting back. A stab wound. Her polyjuice potion on a timer… The need to get out before the job was done. It was fast, violent and secretive. But he left.

Cassius sighs, lacing his fingers together. "That is the story you're standing by, is it? Alright, let's work with that, then. You had drinks with the man. He is going to say that you were trying to seduce him. Again, discrediting you. He might also suggest that you had something to do with his illness. Now you are culpable. If I were representing him, I would call attention to the many strange circumstances surrounding these events. My strategy would be to cause the justices to question the validity of the entire case, and to places a great deal of scrutiny squarely on you, as you are something of a key witness. Tell me, Jacqueline…do you want that kind of scrutiny on you? Few people care to have their secrets rooted out for others to see." He lingers in her mind now, intrigued by this femme fatale in her memories. This bears further exploration.

His words make her frown, just a bit. While Jacque has no clue how much he knows, she fairly well can guess that he's been able to read that almost all of those were lies. Now he's getting a flood of thoughts of doubt, fear that the Ministry is going to sell her out, worry that this is some sort of set up to burn her as an agent, and a desperate scrambling of her mind to figure out a way to get off the stand. Of course, her features are completely still. She's a great liar, on the surface. Probably one of the better he's ever come up against, he's just even better than her. She doesn't let her face betray her worries one inch. "No, in truth, I do not. I have better things to do than sit through the trial of some dirty art dealer… but… this is where they want me. If there is any way we can leave it at the witness statement and let me get back to work, I'd be a happy woman." Jacqueline admits, that statement a full bit of honesty, and she's suddenly considering the fact that all these Malfoy men are quite the pain in her side — handsome, good at their work, dangerous. But that Cassius seems leaps and bounds more intelligent than his brother, and that also makes him far more dangerous.

Brother? Now that gets his attention. Since he's already wandering around her mind, he follows that trail out of curiosity. "Unfortunately, it isn't up to me. If the Wizengamot calls you to the stand, you must appear. Naturally, I will do all that I can to protect you. We're on the same side, after all. But without full disclosure, my hands are tied. Jacqueline, beyond the bounds of this case, I have absolutely zero interest in this man, digging into your private life, or what really happened in France. I have far more important matters to occupy my attention. That said, within the bounds of this case, my concern is his conviction, and preventing the court from becoming a circus with you in the center ring. Anything you tell me will be used only in the interest of achieving that aim. The choice is yours."

He'd have to dig a lot deeper, or bring up his brother, to get the whole bit of information. But the vague thoughts near the surface is the fact that she might have to kill Cyril some day. When he gets himself in over his head or gets the attention of the government. And that she thinks she could do it too, she thinks he's sloppy. But experienced. And ever so handsome. But anything about how they met is buried far deeper and not being thought of, at the moment. She's far more worried about this trial and conviction, her mind now warring with itself, considering what the Ministry would do to her if she outted her associate with them to a barrister. What power it'd give him over her. She doesn't think he'd EVER imagine what she's doing now. Then there is a thought about how she'd like to see the look on his face if she admitted she did wet work for a living. He'd never believe her. A bit of a smile betrays her lips at that thought and she clears her throat. "I assure you, I wasn't trying to seduce him. And the ministry will be certain to get me off the stand if things are going poorly." She hopes.

Cassius shrugs, "It doesn't matter what you assure me of. It's in my best interest to make the court believe exactly what you are telling me. As for the Ministry…the Wizengamot is the Ministry. If I were you, I'd be asking myself why they're allowing me to be put up there in the first place, if it's an issue at all. You have one true ally right now, and that is me."

Silence lingers for a long, long time, doubts consuming her mind as she stares up to him. She's never had to sit before a Wizengamot before. She's also never fucked up a mission before. Why are they putting her through this? Jacque's pale eyes go just a bit wider, her heart fluttering tight in her throat, but the end of his statement is enough to make her eyes shut and body sink back into the chair. "I was supposed to kill him. The potion didn't work. He caught on, cleared out too fast. Now they managed to get him behind bars, but there is too much attention for him to just disappear."

Cassius's jaw drops open in shock…or at least the appearance of shock she had secretly hoped for if she'd admitted her wetwork to him. Might as well give the lady what she wants. "Kill him?" He looks her over, sitting upright in his chair. "No wonder you've been so secretive." He narrows his gaze warily. "Is my life in danger now? Surely, the Ministry didn't arrange all of this to justify eliminating me."

As he looks momentarily surprised, her brows arching a bit skeptically at his surprise. It wasn't totally what she expected, but she's not dwelling on it. His questioning about the ministry makes her frown a touch more, "Not that I'm aware. I think they geninely want this case tried, shut down, and shoved away. Hopefully it'll be half a day of questioning and then it will be all over." Jacqueline responds, but with the lack of eye contact and her own tension, her mind has scrambled. He cannot actually tell if she's being honest or not with that, her thoughts clouded to him.

Cassius sits back, relaxing a bit, though still slightly agitated. "If this was an assassination gone wrong, why haven't they sent in the Obliviators to alter his memories? Why risk exposing you like this?" He doesn't try to delve back into her mind just yet. The act itself can be quite distracting, and he doesn't want to give himself away.

"I… I don't know. Maybe it's some sort of sick punishment or test for not finishing the job. Maybe they don't want the Obliviators involved because then it'd give away my position. I… I don't work for the ministry, you get that, right? I don't exist. And if you breathe a word of it outside of this office, we're both dead. I really hope they don't have your office bugged, or we're fucked anyway." Jacque stares at him, eyes a touch dead, simply shut off of emotion or else he'd see the abject fear behind her gaze.

Cassius lifts a hand to calm her, "Please, don't panic. I assure you, my office is safe. I take my own privacy quite seriously. I'll give yours the same consideration." He rises from his seat, coming around the desk to pace in the small space. "This entire situation smells of a set-up, to me. Possibly for the both of us. Your handler might consider you unreliable now, and I have plenty of enemies in the Ministry, myself." He stops, looking down at her with furrowed brow. "This man. The defendant. He is guilty, yes? You've seen it yourself?"

"Yes. He is absolutely guilty. He was putting magical artifacts into the hands of a militant, anti-government group. Artifacts that could have been weaponized. He isn't just guilty, he was a threat to the French nation…and to England as well. It would have been far cleaner if we'd just taken care of him…" Jacque frowns just a bit deeper, reaching out and taking a deeper drink of her cognac, letting it warm down her throat and slightly relax her body, even if there is a new found level of tension in her due to this revelation.

Cassius nods, frowning. "Still cleaner to eliminate him 'attempting escape' or some other nonsense. No, they're up to something. This doesn't add up." He takes the other guest chair, near to hers. "Jacqueline, what I said is more true now than I realized. We need to watch one another's backs. I pray I'm wrong, but I don't see how I can be. This is messy, and we cannot be the only people to realize it. What is he going to say up there? Can he identify you?"

"I don't believe so. I was… so careful about the drink. And I know he didn't see me in the hotel, I was polyjuiced. So… he can identify someone, but it won't be me." Still, his assessment of the situation seems actually to be true, worry furrowing at her pale, lovely brow. Jacque takes another gulp of the cognac, finishing the glass before she sets it aside. Her fingertips reach for her cigarettes instead, something to keep her calm and focused. "I'm a good liar, Malfoy. I've been doing it my whole bloody life. You've just got sharp eyes to see through it. We… we make certain no one on the Wizengamot can. We'll be fine."

Cassius leans his elbows on his knees, nodding to her assurances. "You were to poison him, then? That was the illness you mentioned?" He chuckles softly, "It's no wonder you got close enough to do it, too."

"Yes… and I've never had issue with that poison or the dosage before…" Now more paranoia creeps into her eyes. Was she set up from the beginning? Did he have a warning? "Fuck…" Jacque exhales beneath her breath, pushing her free hand back through her hand and trying not to look nervous, but she's definitely not feeling her best over this all. Who thought, the quiet little Ravenclaw, all grown up and now this?

"So all he knows is that he got sick?" Cassius knows better, but he needs her to say it. "He might not even realize he was poisoned. Surely, he'll have suspicions, but he can't prove them."

"I…don't know. Probably. But he's a man in a dangerous business, he probably has his suspicions too." Jacque admits with a press of her full lips. Even worried, tired and tense, she doesn't look ugly. She looks elegantly pensive, and a bit vulnerable. For a trained killer.

Cassius rubs his chin thoughtfully, resuming his usual cool demeanor as he thinks through this. "It doesn't matter what he suspects. All that matters is what he'll say on the stand. But if he cannot identify you or link his poisoning to the Ministry, let alone prove it, his only hope is to deny his guilt, or to make a deal." He lifts his face to give her a smile. "I suspect we've already navigated the trap set for us. You said it yourself. I'm probably one of the few men that could hope to see through your deception. So why put you in the same room as me, unless that was the intention? Surely, it was expected that I would try to expose you, or that I would discreetly dig deeper and get myself into trouble doing so." He stands up, suddenly looking quite pleased with himself. He offers her a hand to help her up. "They underestimated us, Jacqueline."

The offer of his hand is examined for a few heartbeats, but she slips her fingertips into his and smoothly unfolds from the guest chair at his desk. Still, Jacque doesn't look reassured, a slight smirk upon her lips. "Why would you try to expose me?…To.. hurt the ministry? Aren't you a part of them?" She sighs quietly, straightening and squaring off her shoulders, that familiar confidence returning and a slightly dark smile crossing her lips. "But, we are strong. And smart. We will get through this."

Cassius lifts her hand to his lips for a chaste kiss. "I have enemies here, and I daresay very few of them understand me well. Most of my detractors believe some piece of fiction or another about me. So it isn't hard to believe that they would expect me to want to hurt the Ministry. I have chastised the Ministry for its secretive affairs in the past. No doubt they wanted me to make an example of you. But I won't do that. As you say, we are stronger and smarter than they are. We can be allies, not the enemies they wanted us to be."

The kiss draws a slight loft of her thin red brows, and a curious smile pulls over that full mouth. Jacque tilts her head, a few locks of red stealing across her shoulder with the motion. "…You would care to ally with a dirty half blood from Ravenclaw, Mr. Malfoy?" She asks him, her voice holding JUST a bit of mocking behind it.

Cassius sighs, holding onto her hand. "Jacqueline, I am not my father. I will not insult your intelligence by pretending that I do not have concerns over blood purity. But neither am I such a fool to think that a half-blood cannot be a talented witch and a valuable ally. Am I not, after all, the wizard that has called for the unification of wizards and Muggles?" He gives her a wry smirk, loosening his hold on her fingers, but only to allow her to pull her hand away if she desires.

The grip is loosened, but Jacqueline seems in no rush to actually pull her hand away. She finally offers, after a few long heartbeats, "You can call me Jacque…" It's pronounced like Jack, only the J has the french roll to it instead of the hard English sound. There is still a small grain of doubt in her eyes, but it's all done. There is naught they can do to change things, so she takes a breath, revamps her smile and squeezes his hand. "We'll see what happens. Here's to making it out alive." And, with that, she withdraws her palm and picks up her briefcase.

Cassius gives her a half bow at the waist. "Have faith, Jacque. We'll be fine. Though, we should remain in contact. I don't want any surprises coming our way. Not that I need to struggle for reasons to associate with a lovely woman such as yourself." He moves to get the door for her. "It's been a privilege. We'll speak again soon."

With that, Jacque gives him a small salute and disappears out the door, leaving behind the scent of sandalwood and vanilla in her wake.

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