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Amidst the Ashes by TheHeirOfSlytherin
Chapter 3: The Second Message
Harry's eyes dropped from near exhaustion. He couldn't say how much sleep he'd gotten in the week since the murder had happened, but it couldn't be more than a few hours each night. He wanted so badly to blame it on the case, to say that he was too focused on catching the killer and that he'd sleep better tonight, but he couldn't. It was like this every year, every October he'd lose sleep right up until the end.
The end. God, how he hated Halloween. It always brought nothing but bad memories, nightmares he couldn't wake from. He feared this year would be the worst: Harry couldn't be sure how, he just felt it, the changes around him, the differences he had never seen before. Or had he just never noticed?
No. Something was happening, he could sense it. And it only ever led to trouble.
"But why now?" He whispered to himself. He couldn't bring himself to speak any louder, frightened he'd hear his voice crack; he couldn't cry any more. "Why this year?"
His thoughts were thankfully interrupted by a fierce knock at the door and he called whoever it was in quickly. Ron opened the door, ready to leave, his face grim. "There's been another one."
Harry stood up quickly. "You're sure it's the same killer?"
Ron nodded stiffly. "And there's a message."
It didn't take long to get there; as soon as they were out of the Ministry, Ron Apparated them to their location, a back alley just hidden from view. This time the body was in an open street, in full view of the people around them. Muggles and wizards alike who lived in the area had come out to know what was going on. Reporters grouped together, trying to get close to someone on the scene. Muggle police officers called to the scene pushed everyone back, cutting off the area with crime scene tape while the coroner handled the body.
"He's getting braver," Harry muttered, more to himself than to Ron. From the corner of his eye, he saw hs friend nod anyway.
"And scarier," came a voice from behind them.
They turned around quickly. "How long have you been here?"
"Since it was called in," David told them, smiling sadly. "I was nearby, I was on my way home."
Ron looked at him curiously. "I didn't know you lived near here."
David shook his head. "I don't, but I have to pass here. I said I was on my way home, I never said I was home." He turned to Harry, his stare hard and stern, as though Harry had done something. But Harry couldn't figure out what. "Not yet anyway."
Just as the man's gaze began to get to him, for what reason he didn't know, David turned away and it was gone. Harry ignored it, his mind saying exhaustion was causing him to see things. "The coroner wants to talk to you," the young Auror continued, nodding with his head. "You coming?"
"Yeah," Ron replied. "Come on."
David went ahead, leaving Harry and Ron to walk behind him. Harry rubbed his eyes with his hands, digging his palms in until it began to hurt and he groaned, moving them. "Are you okay?" Ron asked.
"Yes," Harry assured him, his tone heavy due to lack of sleep finally catching up to him. "I'm just gonna get this night over and done with; I'll find out what the coroner wants, talk to a couple of people to see if they saw anything, then I'm going to bed." He turned to his friend. "You won't mind if we go through the evidence in the morning, do you?"
Ron shook his head, his smile small and tight. "Of course not. If I had it my way, you'd go home now, but you won't listen."
Harry didn't have it in him to laugh at how right Ron was like he normally would. It was getting to him, he could tell. And he got the feeling other people were starting to notice.
That must have been what David meant; he thinks I should go home.
They stopped over the body and the doctor stood up. Harry looked away quickly, his stomach uneasy. "He added extra stab wounds to his second victim."
"That just shouldn't happen to any guy," Ron muttered. "Poor git. Is this killer sexually frustrated or just pissed with the world?"
Harry shook his head at the man's choice of words, while David shrugged his shoulders, unable to answer the question. He decided to leave the body to him. "Ron said there's a message."
David pointed to the wall behind him. "That one's for you."
Harry narrowed his eyes, glancing between the Auror and where the message was. "You mean you haven't read it yet?"
"No, I mean the message is for you," he replied, again pointing at the wall. "We've already got photographic evidence, but you need to go read it."
Harry walked over cautiously, nervous about his colleague's tone; that seemed to be the man's new thing since he got back, to unnerve him. Harry didn't like it. The wall was lit this time, this path surrounded with streetlights, and Harry didn't need to take out his wand to see clearly.
Tick tock, Harry Potter.
"Oh, no," he moaned. It wasn't the first time he'd been publically targeted and sent messages while on a case, but they had been during the beginning, starting in his training, when Death Eaters were taunting him by avoiding capture. This was something else entirely, another piece to the most confusing puzzle he had ever been given.
And what was with the reference to time? Was he running out of time? Was the killer counting down to something? He knew it would happen on Halloween, but when? Harry had no idea, no clue as to where to go or what to look for next. The one thing he did know; he definitely wasn't getting any sleep tonight.
Whoever was doing this had just made it personal.
When Harry finally got home, paperwork in hand (everything they had gathered during the week to do with the case, including tonight's murder, he'd brought home), he was surprised to see someone waiting stiffly for him on the couch.
"Ginny?" He questioned. "What's wrong?"
She raised an eye-brow upon seeing the files in his hand, bit didn't seem surprised. "You brought work home with you, I see. Again," she added, spite in her words.
Harry put them down onto the coffee table and removed his coat. "No offense, Gin, but I've had a bit of a bad day on top of a very bad week, and I don't have time for this."
"I got a letter from our daughter today," Ginny told him, getting straight to the point. "She wants to know of she'll see you when she and her brothers come back for the Halloween party."
"Of course she will, they all will," Harry said, glaring at the woman in front of him for even thinking he wouldn't see his children. "I don't work on Halloween, I have all afternoon with them."
Ginny scoffed and rolled his eyes, knowing he'd miss the point. "She wants to know if you'll be at the party, so will you be there?"
He sighed, running his hands through he already run through hair, and looked down at the ground, unable to look her in the eye. "No. I don't go to those parties. I won't."
"Not even for your daughter?" She asked.
"Don't do that!" Harry yelled. "Don't use my kids against me!"
"It's just a party, Harry," she tried to reassure, reaching out her hand to him. But he moved out of the way, his hand hidden behind his back. "You think you're the only one who feels this way," she spat. "Acting like you're the only one allowed, but you are not. We all feel the same way; we always will. But we have moved on, Harry. We have to."
Ginny raised her hands up in surrender, defeated. After ten years, she was giving up. "If you don't soon, you are going to lose everything."
She stormed past him and up the stairs, the door slamming behind her. Harry glared into the empty fireplace, throwing the first thing he saw at it, and watched it smash to pieces to the floor. Then he covered his head in his hand, trying with every ounce of self restraint he had not to scream. When he finally felt calm enough, he removed his hands and focused on what he threw, before running to it.
Harry grabbed the picture, lowering himself to the floor. Holding it close to his heart, he realized he was wrong this morning in his office; he could still cry.
A/N: Thank you to my amazingly brilliant beta, AC_rules, for helping make this chapter better. :)
I know this seems confusing, sometimes I wonder why I even tried to write this in the first place, but it's actually supposed to be confusing. It won't be confusing for long, though. Actually, it should start to make sense in the next chapter... Hopefully. :P Harry should make sense anyway.