(1942-01-01) Assimilation...or Not
Details for Assimilation…or Not
Summary: Things don't go as planned when Zack takes Norman to have his memories altered and start a new life.
Date: 1 January, 1942
Location: Whitchurch, Shropshire
Related: Immediately follows Questioning Norman

Zack leads the pair out of the tiny room and across the department to a little wooden stool upon which has been placed a broken pink umbrella handle. The Obliviator picks it up, instructs his companions to each hook a finger around it, and then eyes his watch, counting down. A minute and 37 seconds later, something seems to pull at their navels, and with a whoosh they're off.

The three are tossed unceremoniously out onto a frigid, snow-covered field that stretches out in all directions, surrounded by a number of little hills and one particularly large one. At the base of the large hill is a small collection of cottages, lights in the windows and smoke drifting lazily from the chimneys of all but one of them. The sun is well on its way down by now, and there's a chill breeze in the air. Zack, having managed to keep his feet, looks around for the other two.

Effie manages to land on her feet, but that doesn't really last long. She sways a little, closing her eyes, pressing her hands to her stomach. In doing so, this reveals one thing that her loose robes have hidden: the swelling curve of her bellin indicating pregnancy. The colour drains from her skin, and she dizzily stumbles off a few paces, dropping to her knees. Once on the ground, she is quietly, urgently sick, losing her lunch into the snow.

Norman lands in the snow in a heap of gangly limbs, face-first. When he emerges he sputters and coughs, clearing his mouth and nose of snow. Disoriented as he is, his first two attempts to get on his feet end with a very cold bum. When he finally gets upright, he stumbles over to Effie and rests a hand gently on her shoulder. "Miss Inspector? Are you going to be alright? Here, let me help you up."

Zack stares at Effie, not immediately understanding what she's doing. "Oh, gross," he says when he realizes, his face screwed up with disgust. "Couldn't you have done that before we left? You're making the snow not white. It's supposed to be white." Then he notices her swollen stomach, and his eyebrows shoot up in alarm. "Oh! You're having a baby! You shouldn't have come! I'm an Obliviator, not a Healer. I'm not trained in babies. What if you have it here?"

"No, I'm not having a baby. I'm pregnant. I'm also somewhat concussed. My goodness, get a hold of yourself, man." Effie shakes her head slightly, then takes Norman's hand. "Thank you, Norman. Do you mind if I call you Norman?" Her voice is a bit quavery, and she staggers as she rises to her feet." She closes her eyes, then sighs. "Are we going somewhere warm?"

Norman offers Effie a meagre smile, nodding. "Of course you can call me Norman. Don't worry, I'll look after you. I've been through this once before." He takes pause to look around at the snowy landscape. "Where are we? Why have you brought us here?"

"Okay," Zack tells Effie. "But you'd better not decide to have it now. And yes, we're going somewhere warm. Well, it's probably not warm now, but it will be once we get there. We're going to that house over there." He points to the one without any lights on. Then, with a brief glance at Norman, he adds, "This is a village called White Chapel. Or was it White Church? It's one of those. Or something like it." He wraps his arms around himself, looking uncomfortable. "Anyway, it's cold. Come on." He starts walking.

"You're a right idiot," Effie says affably to Zack. "Thank you, Norman. And don't worry. I'm early enough along. Just…. portkeys and I…. that's how we travelled — don't get much along. And I hit my head on the shelving and a couple rather heavy books landed on me. The healers recommended taking it easy. So…." She chuckles softly. "At any rate, let's follow him. It'll be warmer."

Norman nods to Effie, offering his arm all the same as they trudge off after Zack. "You still haven't told us why we're here, Mr. Obliviator." Though he was already dressed for the cold when Zack took him into custody, he wasn't quite prepared for this kind of cold, and he can already feel it penetrating his many layers.

"I'm not an idiot," Zack says. "I'm a highly skilled wizard. You're the idiot. That's probably not true. I didn't really mean it. I don't know if you're an idiot or not. You might be clever. It's difficult to tell." He frowns at Norman. "Yes, I know. I know what I have and haven't told you. I'm not an idiot. I just said that." He continues trudging through the snow towards the dark cottage. It won't take them much longer to get there.

"I can't just decide to have a baby. It doesn't work that way. And you don't know where we are?" Effie blinks, then takes Norman's arm, smiling. Yet she draws her wand with her free hand. "Just to be safe. Strange place…. I'll protect you if I can."

"There's something very off about that man," Norman mutters quietly to Effie. With a sight, he follows on. He hasn't really got much other choice.

"Well I don't know how it works," Zack says. "I'm a boy." He continues walking, but gives Effie's wand a look. "It's already safe. There's nothing here except M-… I mean, this place has been vetted by the Ministry for our purposes." He pulls out his own wand, but it's only to tap the door handle and unlock it. He opens the door and steps inside, flicking his wand to turn on the lights and pointing it at the fireplace, where a warm and crackling fire springs up. The cottage is small, but comfortable, with a cozy living room, a tidy kitchen, and a short passageway that leads to a bedroom and bathroom. It all likely looks pretty normal to Norman, but it looks quite bizarre to Zack, who stares at the furniture and decor.

"You were going to say something else," mutters Effie. "What are you hiding, Fudge?" She shakes her head slowly, then lifts her wand and murmurs quietly as she flicks it in a half-circle. "Homenum Revelio," she murmurs, then looks around. "Nice place…"

Norman gives Effie a helpless shrug, then tilts his head curiously at her spellwork. Was that supposed to be Latin? He shakes it off; a question for another time. "You have a lovely home, Mr. Obliviator. But I would very much like to return to my own. Please."

"Yes," Zack says to Effie, looking irritated. "Well, I was instructed not to say anything until we were here." He glances around the place. "Is it nice? It's hard to tell. It looks so strange. What?" He peers at Norman, confused. "Oh! Right. I can tell you now. Well, this isn't my home. It's yours. Your new one, I mean. I don't know what'll happen to your old one. This all seems very rushed, but I was told what to do. Let's see…." He turns his wand on Norman.

Effie gasps, and she moves to stand in front of Norman, putting herself between him and any spell that might be cast. "What are you doing? And why does he have to move? *My* family is sanctioned, and *they* never had to move…. You don't even know where we *are*! How can you do this to him? Why are you pointing your wand at him?" Her own wand rises, the position clearly defensive, the beginning position for a Shield Charm. "Explain, please."

Norman is stunned. Not by a spell, of course, but simply shocked into silence. He stares at the witch and wizard, mouth agape, bewildered at what is transpiring. What little context he has tells him this isn't good…for him or Effie.

Zack's eyes widen. "What are you doing!" he says. "Get out of the way. Hey! Don't raise your wand. I'm a Ministry official. You're a civilian tonight. Those were the terms for allowing you to come with." He relaxes his wand arm, pointing his wand at the ceiling for now, perhaps unwilling to point it at Effie. "He isn't being sanctioned. He was denied. Memory Charms are having less and less of an effect on him, so we're going to modify his memory instead. He'll live here as a Muggle with the other Muggles in the village. Those are my instructions. Now move out of the way and let me do my job. I'm the Obliviator!"

"You lied to us….." Effie shakes her head. "You lied to both of us. And how is he supposed to *live*? His livelihood is in London!" Her head shakes again, more vehemently. "This is wrong. This is so very, very wrong, Fudge. Please. I would like to appeal this decision. It isn't *fair* to him. It's cruel. Please. There has to be a way. We've harmed him so much already….." She closes her eyes, dropping her head and lowering her wand. Yet she does not step out of the way. "I wish to file an appeal immediately."

"Miss Inspector." Norman's voice is so quiet, so calm. "Please…don't get yourself into trouble over me. I won't have that. You've got your growing family to think about." Norman steps to Effie's side, exposing himself to Zack. "Alright, Mister Obliviator. Do what you have to do. But just know that you are a willing participant in a corrupt system in which the strong tread upon the weak."

"I didn't lie!" Zack complains. "I just didn't tell you everything. I'm not a liar! I was told to lie but I didn't. So I broke orders. I hate breaking orders. I hate this job. I want to-" He breaks off all of a sudden. "What? Oh, you'll let me do it? Okay, good. That's what you were supposed to do. That makes everything much easier. And I'll tell my boss about the corrupt system thing too. And then I'll ask about the appeal when I get back. Okay." Then he abruptly raises his wand again, points it straight at Norman, and mutters an incantation to plant false memories in the Muggle's mind.

Effie starts to turn away, and then she gives herself a firm shake. Her wand-hand trembles, and it takes every amount of self-control to keep herself from stopping this. She watches, she *makes* herself watch, tears running freely down her cheeks. "I'm sorry, Norman. I'm so very sorry," she breathes, her voice breaking. She, herself, seems broken, her shoulders slumping, her expression drawn and pained.

Norman's hands shake, though he tries to keep still. He shuts his eyes, waiting, enduring the lengthy False Memory Charm. Soon he won't remember who he is, or anything about wizards and magic. Soon, it will all be over.

Soon. Aaaaany moment now.

After Zack has finished with his wandwork, Norman cracks open one eye. "Um…how long does it take for this to work?"

Done with his handiwork, Zack looks over at Effie, slight concern etching his features. "Are you upset?" he asks. "You seem upset. You shouldn't be upset. He's just a Muggle. And it's against the law for him to know about us. So don't be upset." Then he turns back to Norman, confused. "What? What do you mean? It happens immediately. Did I do it wrong? I've never done it wrong before." Frowning, he points his wand at Norman and tries again.

"My parents are 'just' Muggles. My twin brother is 'just' a Muggle. If you say that again in front of me, I'll go from upset to very angry." Effie's eyes flash. "Yes, I'm upset! He's a charming man. And the vetting process normally takes quite a while. How was his case denied so quickly? It's not against the law if he can be properly sanctioned. And…. honestly, he says his friends and family think he's crazy. Sad as that is, even if he were to speak out, who would believe him? But…. I don't think he will. I think…." She looks at Norman. "I think that what he wants most is to know he isn't crazy."

Norman gives Norman an apologetic shrug. "I'm sorry. I just don't feel any different." Again he waits through the casting of the spell that should give him a whole new life, occasionally sending glances and shrugs Effie's direction. When it is complete, he sighs and shakes his head. "My name is Norman Arthur Mulligan. I own Charing Cross Books. You're wizards…and I don't think this is working."

"Okay, okay," Zack says, hunching his shoulders as though trying to make himself look smaller. "I didn't know you liked Muggles so much. And he's not charming. He's rude and unpleasant. He keeps blaming me for killing people. I've never killed anyone in my life." But when Norman once again fails to forget himself, Zack looks stunned. "No. I did it right that time. I made sure to do it right. You're supposed to be Roger Dunsworth the sheep farmer. What is your problem?"

"No. He's blaming wizardkind for not protecting London from the Blitz. The bombs that were falling. And so he feels that we are, in part, responsible for their deaths, because he feels we could have shielded the whole city. While I am not sure of that, he does make a valid point. And if you can't modify his memory, it's nothing he's doing. He's a Muggle, remember? No magic. He can't be doing anything. I'm afraid this is on you, Mister Fudge. And you can check my wand for the last spell, if you decide your fault somehow is mine. And I don't "like Muggles so much". It's just that I don't see them as anything other than people, just like us. No better, no worse. Just Muggles. They can't do magic. And you know, even though I see my parents quite often, I still don't understand how electricity works, and I still mess up using the telephone."

"To be fair, even I don't really know how electricity works." Norman shrugs and even manages a little smirk of amusement. "So, you carried out your orders, but nothing happened. I don't have any answers for you. But I'm definitely not Roger Dunsworth." A beat, then, "A sheep farmer? Really? I don't know anything about sheep. I get hayfever. Honestly, whose idea what that?"

"Okay!" Zack says to Effie. "I said I was sorry. And I didn't even say it was your fault. Stop blaming me for everything. Something is wrong with the Muggle. No one's immune to memory modification spells." He glances at Norman, distracted. "I don't know. It wasn't mine. I don't come up with the ideas. I don't even like being an Obliviator. I don't want to do this anymore." He looks around, at a loss. "I don't know what to do now. This wasn't covered in my instructions."

"Well, stop blaming him for everything, Fudge. What *do* you want to do, if not be an Obliviator?" Effie's voice is gentler now. "I can vouch that you tried. It looked to be a proper spell. There weren't any typical signs of failure… Something happened, but it isn't your fault, I don't think." She closes her eyes a moment, looking ill again.

Norman scratches his neck, pinching his lips up in thought. "Electricity!" He suddenly exclaims. "I don't know too much about it, but…maybe this is like electricity. Think of a light bulb. You can turn it on and off for months, putting more and more electricity into it. But one day, it just pops. Eventually the filament inside just can't take the heat any more, and it breaks." He looks between Effie and Zack for a pause. "I think…you broke me. I mean wizards. Something in my brain just couldn't handle the magic any more…and it popped." He shrugs, looking to them for some kind of confirmation of his theory.

Zack stares at Norman. "I don't know anything about electricity," he says. "None of that made any sense. You're speaking gibberish. You're saying I broke your brain. That doesn't make any sense." He turns to Effie. "Now he's blaming me for breaking his brain," he says to her. "Yes, exactly. That's what I said. It's not my fault. I don't like taking people's memories. It's mean. Are you sure you should vouch for me? Last time you vouched for someone, he got sent to be a sheep farmer. I don't want to farm sheep. I want to research magic again."

"Well, you've got to report back, at any rate. And he's not blaming you. You might want to consider studying English, Fudge. Yes. Distasteful as I find it, I will vouch that you've done as ordered. But that doesn't change what's happened here." Effie sighs, rubbing at the bridge between her nose.

Norman sighs at Zack. Of course the wizard doesn't understand light bulbs. "I agree. We should go back. Of course, then I imagine your superiors will try to find some other way to ruin my life. But…at least we'll be away from Roger Dunsworth's imaginary life." He shudders and starts for the door, stopping only once his hand is on the knob. "Um…how do we get back?"

"I don't want to study English," Zack says. "I want to study magic. And I know I have to report back, but I don't know what to do about the Muggle." He frowns at Norman as though this were all his fault, which he no doubt still believes. "I don't know how you get back. This was supposed to be a one-way trip for you. We can Apparate. Well I can, anyway. I assume Aurors have to know how to as well. But you'll have to stay here. Are you sure you don't want to be a sheep farmer? It's a nice cottage and there's a big field. I don't know where the sheep are right now though. Maybe you can go find them."

"How about you Apparate and talk to your superiors and then come back here?" Effie's eyes narrow. "I presume there is food here? I can wait with Mr. Mulligan until you return. Or I can drop him at my parents' home until there are new instructions. They're Sanctioned Muggles, and they will know how to host him properly. And I can ward their farm…. or we can set a Trace on him so that we can find out where he is, should he decide to leave. That way the law is not broken, your reputation is intact, and Mr. Mulligan can get a nice break from all of this without being treated like a prisoner."

"How about you Apparate and talk to your superiors and then come back here?" Effie's eyes narrow. "I presume there is food here? I can wait with Mr. Mulligan until you return. Or I can drop him at my parents' home until there are new instructions. They're Sanctioned Muggles, and they will know how to host him properly. And I can ward their farm…. or we can set a Trace on him so that we can find out where he is, should he decide to leave. That way the law is not broken, your reputation is intact, and Mr. Mulligan can get a nice break from all of this without being treated like a prisoner."

"I do not want to be a sheep farmer and you will not leave me here!" Norman suddenly shouts in an uncharacteristic outburst. "This is what I'm talking about! You just keep meddling in my life!" He turns to Effie, who has been his only lifeline. "Just please, take me home. M-my rights have been violated over and over today. If…if I'm not taken home right away, I'll go tell everyone in this village that there are wizards living among us! I'll do it! I'll tell them all about the Mysticked District and Diagon Alley…and Ollivanders Wand Shop, and Obliviation!"

"I don't know what to do," Zack says. "I don't make those kinds of decisions. Nothing like this has ever happened before." His eyes widen in alarm at Norman's outburst. "If he doesn't want to be treated like a prisoner then he shouldn't say things like that," he continues to Effie. "If he threatens to tell Muggles about wizards then the only option might be to send him to Azkaban. But that's not my decision either. We have to get him back to the Ministry so they can figure it out. Maybe I can get them to send another Portkey."

"Norman." Effie's voice is quiet, exhausted. "Please. Will you come with us… with me, and we'll get this sorted out? I'll get you home as soon as possible. I will do what I can to see to that. Please understand that our society is secret for a reason, and that, as rude as he might seem to you, Mister Fudge is only…." She sighs. "Only following orders, isn't he. But that doesn't make the orders right. But it's in his nature to follow them, maybe. Look, I don't know if we can get you home tonight. If my parents' home won't suffice, well. We'll see. If you've seen this much, maybe my home will suffice for the evening. I don't know. I will do what I can. I'm just trying to find a compromise that will work for everyone for the time being."

"Compromise?" Norman gawks at Effie like she just suggested that he perform a backflip on the spot. "I've been bullied and ordered about all day. I've done everything I've been told. But now you want compromise? No, Miss Inspector. N-no." He crosses his arms stubbornly. "I am a citizen of the United Kingdom. I have rights, and your so-called government is trampling all over them. Take me home, or I shall do precisely what your Ministry is so afraid of. If I'm going to be treated like a criminal, I might as well commit the crime I'm being punished for, shouldn't I? Take me home, and I keep my silence. That is my compromise." Norman nods firmly, folding his arms tightly to disguise his trembling.

"You have to arrest him," Zack tells Effie. "He can't go and tell everyone about us. It would create a lot of extra work for Magical Accidents and Catastrophes. Also, he seems to be delusional. You might want to take him to St Mungo's too. I don't know. I'm not a Healer." He wrings his hands for a moment, looking rather distressed. "Okay. I'm going to go back now and ask for help. I'll send someone out here and you can figure out what to do." He hurries out of the cottage and Disapparates with a soft pop.

"Technically, you haven't committed any crime I could arrest you for," answers Effie. "Not *yet*. As for getting you home…. even I have to wait for an answer. And… I only have one way, right now, to get you home. And right now it is dangerous for me to travel like he just did, and if I took you along I could kill both of us from sheer exhaustion. So…." Effie sighs. "So will you wait here until I've had a bit of a nap. Hopefully we'll have an answer by then. If not, well…. I will take you home. But I'll have to stay with you until I can get an answer. I am trying to see to your needs and rights and my people's needs and rights. And my child's. If I just let you go, I could end up in prison for life. I'm trying to help." She sways again. "Help me help you, Norman."

With Zack gone, Norman's fuse seems to be fizzling. He takes a deep, slow breath, and finally nods. "Alright…fine. We'll stay. But if I'm not being taken home by morning, I'll be making my own arrangements for transportation. Muggle transportation…and I make no promises about what I'll say." Leaving that vague threat in the air is about the only power Norman has, and he's clinging to it. "You…you should relax. An expectant mother doesn't need this stress. Go lie down. I'll see if there's any tea in the cupboards." Suddenly turning quite domestic, he shoos Effie toward the bedroom while he investigates the kitchen. It seems like it could be a long night.

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