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Chapter 1 : The Evidence of the Scream
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Author's Note: the characters of Tonks and the Weasley brothers, as well as the magical world they come from, is all the intellectual property of J.K. Rowling. The book Murder on the Orient Express, from which the idea of this story was taken, is the property of Dame Agatha Christie. This story is written in response to the "murder mystery" challenge set on the forums by stargazer. Also, a special thanks to timeturner, MadameSnape, and the rest of the people who gave their support and contributed ideas.
The clock struck nine as Nymphadora Tonks, who preferred to be called by her surname, burst through the barrier to Platform 9 ¾ of King’s Cross station. She cursed silently at her trunk, which was too heavy for her to lift onto the train before it left. The porter took it from her, effortlessly adding it to the baggage car.
“You better hurry up, miss,” he told her. “The train’s about to leave.”
Tonks ran to the first carriage and jumped on just as the engine began to roll forward in a huge burst of steam. She slowly walked up the aisle, looking for an empty compartment, or at least one with someone she knew. It seemed as though every compartment she passed was full of rowdy first years or serious-looking fifth and seventh years who didn’t look too happy about having to write their OWLs and NEWTs this year. Tonks smiled to herself, at least she had another year until she had to worry about that.
Finally, as she neared the front of the train, she found a suitable place for her to sit. The compartment was nearly empty except for two teenage boys with bright red hair. The younger of the two was covered in freckles, so much so that he seemed to have darker skin than he really did. Tonks grinned as she watched him drawing pictures of dragons on a slim notebook.
If there was one thing Charlie Weasley likes, she thought to herself. It’s dragons.
Across from him sat an older boy who looked quite different, though it was easy to tell that he was Charlie’s brother. His red hair was far longer and his build was slim and tall rather than stocky like Charlie. It would be Bill Weasley’s final year at Hogwarts and it was rumoured that Gringotts bank was after him to become a curse-breaker. At the moment, however, he was scratching his chin with a quill and scribbling notes on a spare piece of parchment.
Tonks struggled to open the compartment door and stumbled in. The two brothers looked up; Bill merely rolled his eyes and went back to his parchment while Charlie tried to hide a laugh behind his hand.
“Always got to make an entrance, don’t you?” he asked.
Falling into the seat beside him, Tonks stuck out her tongue. “Least I made it on time. It was close, I’ll tell you.”
Bill, with his Head Boy badge shining in the late summer sun, nodded towards her hair. “Nice colour. It matches your tongue perfectly. I’m sure your mum was happy about that.”
Tonks reached a hand towards her short, bubble-gum pink hair.
“She wasn’t happy, not that it matters at all,” she replied. “It’s not permanent or anything. Here, watch this.”
Screwing up her face, Tonks’ hair turned a rather ghastly shade of lime green.
“Is that any better?”
Charlie finally was unable to resist the urge to laugh out loud. “Rather looks like one of my dragons,” he said, holding up the sketchbook.
Bill muttered something about immaturity and stood, carefully tucking the parchment into his robes. Before he left the compartment, he turned back to the younger witch and wizard.
“Now, I’ll be off doing my rounds and I don’t want to hear anything about you two getting into mischief,” he declared, his voice serious. “That episode last year did nothing to help either of your reputations -“
”Oy,” Tonks interrupted. “It wasn’t our fault that Snape walked into the girl’s lavatory and...”
“But you admit that you had something to do with it,” Bill shot back.
“At least we’re not as bad as the twins,” Charlie, ever the peacemaker, commented.
Bill sighed, obviously thinking about his troublesome younger brothers.
“Thank Merlin they’re not at school yet. I won’t have to deal with the likes of them while trying to maintain some sanity as Head Boy. But please,” he added, his voice slightly desperate. “Don’t do anything you'll regret.”
“Of course we won’t,” Tonks promised, taking a small yellowback book from her jacket pocket (as she had not yet changed into her robes, having only boarded the train a few moments before). “I’ll be reading while Charlie draws his pictures. How much trouble could we possibly get into doing that?”
Bill looked as though he were about to say something in reply, but he merely shook his head and left the compartment, quietly shutting the door behind him.
Tonks slouched in her seat, trying to find a nice position for reading. At home, she was never allowed to sit like that as her mother always insisted that it was unhealthy and unladylike. But here, with no mother around to bother her, Tonks was quite comfortable sitting any way she liked. Opening the book, she turned to the first chapter and began reading.
“What is that book?” Charlie asked suddenly. “It can’t be a schoolbook, not with you.”
“It’s a murder mystery,” she replied, loudly chewing a wad of gum she’d stowed in her pocket before leaving for the station. “My dad likes reading them and I got hooked, though mum doesn’t approve. She says they’re too gruesome, but I tell her that being an Auror won’t be any cleaner or safer.”
He looked perplexed. “What are they, exactly?”
“It’s when a person gets murdered and a detective comes along and solves who did it. They’re really quite fun to read, you know, trying to guess who the murderer is.” She held up the book to show him the cover picture, which showed the body of a man lying on a floor with a knife sticking out of his chest. “This one’s about my favourite of them all. It’s called Murder on the Orient Express and it's about a horrible person who’s found dead on a train with a dozen stab wounds in him. The little detective guy goes along and finds out the most brilliant solution, which, of course, I won't tell you because that'd give it away. It’s quite ingenious, really.”
The expression on Charlie’s face was a mix of disgust and curiosity. “Merlin, those muggles write about strange things,” he said, shaking his head. “You’d never see anything like that in Flourish and Blotts.”
“Ah, you wizards are missing out on the best of literature,” Tonks replied with a wink.
She went back to her book and he to his drawings. Nearly a quarter of an hour ticked past as the two of them quietly kept to themselves while the sounds of the rest of the students leaked through the compartment door. During that time, the trolley witch passed by and asked them if they wanted any candy. Surprisingly for her, they declined her offer.
Tonks was just coming to the part when the body was discovered when a bloodcurdling scream rang out through the train. Both she and Charlie leapt from their seats and ran out the door to see where the screams were issuing from. The compartment next to them, closest to the front of the train, had its door open. Standing there was one of the prefects, a girl from Hufflepuff, her voice seemingly hitting the highest notes of the scale with her loud cries.
“Bloody hell, what’s the matter?” Tonks asked, trying to calm the girl down.
Unable to speak, the girl pointed to something inside the compartment, her hand shaking. Tonks left the girl and looked into the compartment, usually the place where the prefects met before going on their rounds of the train.
Its only occupant at the moment was a body lying on the floor in a pool of blood, a knife visibly sticking out of the stomach, just like the cover of Tonk’s book.
“What is it?” Charlie asked from behind her.
Tonks turned, her face a ghostly shade of white. “A very dead body. We’re in serious trouble, Char. Just wait until your brother hears of this.”
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