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The Sunday Massacre by SweetSorrow
Chapter 1: The Cloak that Whispers
The man is wearing a cloak that whispers. It is barely audible, but the dark material floats around his ankles with an unfair grace. It is as though someone is breathing into it, but the man is alone, merely a silhouette against the glowing electric lights penetrating the two glass doors. He glances up, his hood falling back slightly, his eyes hungrily scanning the numerous windows, most of them extinguished, all stacked upon one another hurriedly as they climb into the sky.
With a lazy flick of his wand, the glass doors unlock, swinging forward as though a powerful wind has ripped them open. He walks through them swiftly, his whispering cloak trailing behind him, making ghostly ripples through the air. The delicate, stubbly man from behind the security desk jumps up in alarm, but with another effortless twitch, his skinny body is propelled backwards. It hits the floor with a quiet, coughing noise and lies still.
The man ascends with similar ease and reaches his destination quickly. Flat three hundred-four is bright for the hour it is, a humming television set illuminating the walls harshly. A middle-aged woman is seated before it, watching it with sleepy eyes, a tub of ice cream in her lap. As the door clicks open, her head turns abruptly, and she squints as the light from the corridor tumbles onto the carpet. But the sight of the hooded figure coming toward her tells her something is wrong. She backs away, the blankets tangling around her, until she is touching the arm of the couch.
“Hello?” she calls feebly.
The man doesn’t answer. Instead, he lifts what looks to her like a mangled twig and points it at her. “Avada Kedavra!”
There is a flash of green that drowns the stuttering blues of the tele, drowning the woman as it sweeps through the night.
“Oscar, stop!” I say hastily through my teeth, glancing quickly behind me as his lips peck at my neck. They are wet and cold, and I don’t like them. I shrug my shoulder up to my jaw in an attempt to shield the skin he is so desperately trying to nibble at. He feels this, and steps away, looking at me as though my face has spontaneously Transfigured into that of an oddly mutilated cat.
“Why?” he asks, frowning. “I thought you liked it.”
I curse myself silently. He’s going to whine now, as he always does, and throw a whole damn tantrum, and my patience is running low as it is.
“I do like it,” I insist cautiously, wishing he wasn’t so close.
He grins his stupid grin that reminds me of a circus clown and leans forward. I see his nose coming toward me, about to poke a hole in my face. I turn my head abruptly, so his lips come crashing onto my cheek instead. I press my hands against him, trying to push him away. At this he makes a guttural sound of disapproval, and my eyes dart quickly down the isle for any heads peeking out from around the shelves.
“You said you liked it!” he whines, his face looking dejected, and I can’t tell if he’s serious or not.
I sigh. My voice is strained. “Oscar, I do…” I look at him helplessly. “Just…not here, okay? It’s early, and my boss is roaming around here somewhere, and he’s been looking for an excuse to sack me for ages.” Mr. Drabbleblatt is an awful man, I’ve come to find, who has an atrociously large nose he likes to stick in the air as he prowls. His face is round and pink, and his eyes are beady, and he cannot walk without waddling, which makes him look something like a hybrid creature between a penguin and a pig. I like him just as much as he likes me. Surely he would hex me the hell out of Flourish and Blott’s in seconds if he caught me snogging, working or not.
Oscar seems defeated, but he backs away, and I let my breath out steadily through my nose, hoping he won’t hear it. I turn back to the shelf of dusty books Drabbleblatt has told me to arrange, the damn beast. He’s purposely given me the biting ones, I’m sure of it.
“Why does he hate you so much?” Oscar asks, his eyebrows drawn together. “I mean, you’re too beautiful…”
I try my best not to cringe, for I know Oscar is watching me carefully. “I dunno,” I say, my voice turning sour as the spine of Slithering Slugs and Spike-Tailed Snails hisses at me. “I exploded some books in his face the first week or something.”
Oscar’s mouth drops open, and I can tell it is forced because his mouth is open far too wide. “No!” he exclaims, his voice purposely giving away the already obvious fact that he is, in actuality, not surprised. He is joking, but it only bothers me. “Bellie, you couldn’t have!” For some reason, I want to shout at him. “You’re much too perfect.”
That horrible, silly grin on his mouth, he makes a move to grab my waist, but I slap his hand down, rounding on him, my eyes dangerous. Alarm flicks across his face, and he backs away, his arms raised near his head, his palms out in apology. The moment is tense suddenly, and I panic. The sadness on his face is far more sincere than it had been the last time. A dreadful pang of sympathy leaks into me, and I let the air out of my lungs. It rushes quickly from my lips, a few strands of blonde hair flying away in the gust.
“Sorry,” I say quietly, even though I don’t feel I should apologize. “Here, just…pretend you’re a customer asking me for help.” What I really wish is that he’d pretend not to be there at all, that he’d go away, but I hold those words inside of me.
His face lights up at the idea, but flickers the way a candle might. “All right,” he chirps. He clears his throat loudly, and I wince, praying the noise doesn’t carry to wherever Drabbleblatt is lurking. “Excuse me, lovely miss?”
I look over at him weakly. He grins.
“Where might I find a book on love potions? You see, my girlfriend doesn’t love me anymore.”
Something tightens inside of me. “For Merlin’s sake!” I snap. I am livid. “Just because I don’t want you to be trying to eat my neck right now doesn’t mean I don’t love you!”
At least it makes the grin go away.
“Whatever,” he says, his face emotionless now. He makes a move to go, brushing past me briskly.
“Oh, Oscar, don’t— ”
But he turns around before I can continue, saying, “Just meet me down at Fortescue’s later, then? I’m working late tonight.”
I don’t respond, but he is already leaving the maze of shelves encasing us, his hair bouncing on his shoulders in his stride. I watch him go, fighting to keep my anger from bursting out of my throat. Damn him.
He disappears, and I let out a groan. I lean against the bookshelf, my forehead against the wood, staring down at the grimy, scratched surface of the shelf below. As hard as I try not to feel it, guilt runs uncomfortably through my veins, which I know is what he wanted. I feel as though there is a rock in my chest.
There is a papery, snapping sound, and the book in my hand flaps about angrily. It’s covers open and shut rapidly, emitting a very awful growling noise, and it catches one of my fingers. A sharp pain runs through it as though the damn book has teeth. “Dammit!” I pull my hand away and push the covers together, stuffing the book onto the shelf, not caring if it hasn’t been alphabetized as Drabbleblatt has so meticulously insisted.
“Bastard,” I mutter, but I don’t know if I’m talking about the book or Oscar.
I finish stacking them slowly, fearful that Oscar is lingering around the front desk, waiting to pledge his damn love for me all over again. But when I emerge from the towers of shelves and dust, he is gone.
Flourish and Blott’s is empty, save for a small, screaming boy and his mother who is desperately trying to read to him The Happy Unicorn has Lost her Horn! by an author whose name is far too adorable for my liking. Gretchen is there, too, standing lazily behind the counter, her glasses so low on her nose that they look as though they’re trying to escape.
“Mirabelle,” she says quickly when she sees me. Her voice carries an uncomfortable urgency. It’s alarmingly different from its usual fake, bubbly tone that makes me wish she’d get sent to a nursing home already. “You’re in the Prophet.”
My eyebrows twist. “I am?”
She nods. “Your flat was attacked.”
I lunge for the paper and snatch it from her hands. I can feel her wrinkly eyes looking at me with disapproval.
“Well, not your flat, but a flat in your building,” she says. “Some Muggle woman. The Ministry reckons it was a Death Eater, naturally.” Her words are fast and excited, but they hardly reach my ears. I can barely hear over the tiny black words printed in blaring lines across the front page.
“I’ve got to go,” I tell her, dropping the paper back onto the counter. “Tell Drabbleblatt my uncle just died or something, will you?”
Before she can tell me otherwise, my bag is under my shoulder and I’m stepping out into the foggy, suffocating air of the morning. But the fog disappears before it can flood my lungs, and I am instead being squeezed and stretched through the sickening darkness of Apparition. The paleness of the flat flashes across my vision, and soon I am standing on the carpet, feeling like feathers.
There is a man on my couch.