Now he was sitting across from me, expecting answers and all I could think about was the salle de bains. He quirks an eyebrow at my silence and I reach over to place my bottle of water next to his.
"Can I use your bathroom?" I ask, rubbing my stomach.
"Oh, yes, of course." He stands as I stand and I hurry to the back of his office to his private loo. I take those moments to regain a steady breath and after I wash my hands, I take a quick glance at myself in the mirror and I'm relieved that most of the tension I was feeling is not evident in my face. I didn't want Whizzy to know I was scared of what could happen should I not be able to explain myself properly. I, myself, didn't like the fact that I felt any fear. Had this happened a year ago I would have locked all emotion out and ruled the situation with an iron grip. Needless to say, things are much, much different now.
I leave the bathroom and find Whizzy standing, his hands in his trouser pockets as he stares out the window. He hears me approach and turns, his eyes flickering to my stomach. "All right?"
"Yes." He motions for me to sit again and I do, resisting the urge to reach for the water again. Sighing, I finally look at him as he sits next to me. "I wish I could explain every discrepancy that you've found thus far, but I can't." He straightens a bit and I see an undescribable emotion flash in his eyes as his jaw clenches. "I can assure you, however, that I had nothing to do with whatever has happened here."
"The company was in your name, Aveline. The Wizengamot is not going to care whether or not you actively took a role in Cleansweep, but your managing CEO has dug a mightly deep hole with your signature stamped all over it."
"You believe me, don't you?" The question forces its way past my lips in a whisper and Whizzy watches me a moment before he looks away.
"Yes, I do. But what I believe does not matter."
"Yes, it does." I reach over and grab his hand tightly. "It does matter. You have the decision to press charges."
"Work for you. They work for you," I remind him firmly. Watching him, I realize now it must seem like I'm guilty and desperately trying to sway him into my favor. His eyes fall to where my hand grips his and I immediately release him, trying to regain my composure.
"You knew what Rousseau was doing here, didn't you?" The question is a quiet, but forceful one. When I lift my eyes to Whizzy, I feel the guilt spread through my chest as I see disappointment in his blue gaze and despite the last couple of months, I feel regret for allowing his family's company to be stripped and all but slaughtered.
"I had an idea when--"
"Damnit, Aveline!" He stands quickly, his hand raking through his blonde hair as he turns from me, his other hand resting on his hip as he paces. "If you knew, you should have stopped it--"
"I didn't know what was going on. I began to suspect right before I sacked him, and that is one of the reasons I did it. I didn't know the extent of what he's done to the company."
Whizzy whirls on me, his finger pointing and accusing. "You should have known. This was your company and you just handed it over to that slime and let him rip apart years of hardwork and tradition."
"You're right, I should have paid more attention and been more active in what was going on, but you could have as well. You still owned forty six percent of Cleansweep and I don't believe you stepped one foot in this building since you left."
"Since I was escorted out, you mean."
I huff, about to snap with a scathing reply, but I bite my tongue hard to keep the harsh words at bay. This wasn't what I wanted to happen and I use the arms of the high backed chair to push myself up. "Whizzy, if I had known to the extent of what Luc was doing, I would have stopped it." Or at least tried, since what Babette wants, Babette gets. "I promise you, I had nothing to do with any of this. If you feel it's necessary, press charges against me and send me to Azkaban. Merlin knows I would deserve it. And not just for what happened to your company." My voice trails off and I look away from him, breathing in deeply as the baby shifts. "I am sorry for everything that's happened to Cleansweep. I've tried to remedy what I could and it wasn't enough. If you give me a chance, I'll help you right everything. I will pay Cleansweep back what it lost, with interest."
"Even I do not have that kind of money," Whizzy retorts but I note the anger had seeped from his voice and I swallow hard, wanting to keep us on even ground.
"I'll do whatever it takes," I promise him, "to make everything right again. I know you're in a tough spot here, with the Board, your investors and clients. But I can right everything, if you give me a little time." Time to talk to Babette and find out why I am the one taking the fall for Luc. If she didn't fix this, I was going to be givnig birth in Azkaban, and for once, Babette was going to have to see I was not willing to make that big of a sacrifice for her.
"I do not know how this can be fixed, Aveline. The Board will give me a hard time if I let you walk out of here a free woman. The discrepancies go deep. They did not break the company but it came damn near close. A couple more months...weeks even..." He seems hesitant and for reason, won't look me in the eyes. I can feel his inner struggle and again I am amazed at the regret that I feel for putting him in this position.
"I suppose you could look at it a couple of ways," I begin quietly. "You could send for an Auror to escort me to Azkaban. I have already said I would deserve it and perhaps then the effect of our divorce would be mollified."
His gaze snaps to mine and his tone is firm, yet as quiet as my own. "That is not what I want. I would never do that to you."
"No?" I lift an eyebrow with a small smile on my lips and Whizzy is silent before he sighs and lifts one shoulder in a shrug.
"Perhaps after our divorce, yes, but we have both since moved on and I no longer hold that kind of resentment toward you."
"That's something," I chuckle. I am at a loss for what to say next, other than to plead with him to let me leave a free woman. I didn't want to use my baby as any excuse, though the idea of being put behind bars in that awful place has me resting my hand on my stomach again. It would destroy Charlie, although certainly the baby would be handed over to him to raise while I wasted away with Dementors swarming around me for the next twenty years--
I realize Whizzy is speaking and I blink, startled as I am driven from my morbid thoughts. "Yes?"
He takes my hand, squeezing it warmly in his own and my breath catches as he steps close to me. "I will adjust some things and take care of it. I believe you when you say you did not know what Rousseau was doing and if I can, I will make sure none of this touches you."
I exhale quickly, gratitude clouding me as I lean forward and hug him. He stiffens but then his hands rest awkwardly on my back before I pull away. "I'll help you." When Whizzy shoots me a funny look, I smile. "I'm an Auror, remember?"
"It is not necessary--"
"I'll help," I repeat firmly. "Luc may have used my name for what he did, but he's not as intelligent as he thinks he is. He probably slipped up somewhere and I can help you with that. I told you I would do whatever it takes to make this right, Randall, and I mean that."
Whizzy hesitates a moment before he nods. "Very well. I will have Sally set up a convenient time for the both of us to meet to look over the books I was given."
"And the Board?"
"I would not worry about them." His expression becomes grim as he glances at the door. "They like to think they run this company, perhaps if they did more than smoke their cigars and drink my scotch, they would have noticed Rousseau's actions earlier. If any one of them tries to force my hand, it will be just as easy to threaten to investigate their own personal expenses. Somehow I doubt that using company Galleons for frivolous items would count as a business expense."
"Why do you let them get away with that?" I ask, tilting my head to the side as Whizzy sighs.
"Most of them has been worked with my father. A couple even knew my grandfather. I have been lenient because of that fact. But not anymore. This is my company and it will be run as I see fit."
"You always have, Whizzy." I reach up and push a small strand of his hair back from his eyes before I clench my fingers and pull away. "Thank you, for hearing me out, and for giving me another chance."
"Everyone deserves another chance," he tells me. I look a him for a moment and I am thankful it feels as though part of the bridge I burned so badly between us has been mended. It certainly doesn't erase the past, or what's happened, but it felt nice to be able to stand in front of him and not see pure contempt. I reach out, touch his arm briefly in thanks, and turn to go.
"I look forward to Sally's letter," I tell him as I clasp my robes. "Thank you again, Whizzy."
He says nothing, but nods as I let myself out. Sally watches me, her eyes inquisitive as I approach the lifts. As they open, I glance at her and see her give me a small nod and smile before I step into the lifts. I decide immediately to skip the rest of my shift at the Ministry and go home to soak in a hot tub before Charlie gets home and I have to tell him what transpired today. The doors to the lift shut and I slump against the wall as my hand lifts to my chest where my heart is still beating rapidly. I was clinging to my freedom by a thread and I meant it when I said I would do anything to make things right at Cleansweep. Even if it meant spending more time with Whizzy than I was comfortable with.
With a loud sigh, I close my eyes and lean my head back against the wall. "Merlin, help me."