The scent of musty old books and the rich smell of weathered old leather were the first things he noticed as he entered the room. The library had not changed in the ten years since Harry had left Hogwarts. As he walked in the doors, he felt as though he was eleven all over again. He made his way to the restricted area and immediately spotted the familiar ginger hair of a Weasley.
Ron stood near several other professors with a grim look on his face. He had been offered the job as Flying Instructor after several years as a member of the Chudley Cannons. He had helped to improve the Cannons, so much so that they had won the League championship four years in a row. Ron was lauded as the best keeper that Cannons had ever had. He finally decided to retire after several years so that he could spend more time at home with Hermione, who was by then finished her healer training at St. Mungo's. Headmistress McGonagall had offered him a position on staff which he had happily accepted.
Harry nodded at Ron to indicate that he would talk to him shortly. As he ducked under the tape into the crime scene, he noticed the girl’s body was leaning against the bookshelf with a thick old book in her lap. It looked as though she was merely taking a nap. He looked over to see Hannah Abbott talking in hushed tones to Madame Pince. The elderly librarian was clearly distraught. She was wringing her hands and tears shimmered in her distressed eyes.
Colin Creevey was snapping picture after picture of the area while Michael Corner searched the crime scene with his wand, hoping to pick up some trace bit of evidence that would help them find the killer. The ebony wood of his wand gleamed as it emitted a pale yellow light which he scanned over the area. Harry headed towards him.
"What have we found out?" He asked in a gruff voice, trying to mask the pain and guilt he was feeling from looking at the dead girl. He knew that she died in order to torment him. Her blood was on his hands now.
Michael looked up at Harry with a grim look on his face. "Abigail Hanolan. Ravenclaw. She was only sixteen years old. Just a baby." Michael's sad eyes looked down on the young girl." Hannah is interviewing the librarian and Tonks is in with Headmistress McGonagall. We found another code" He gestured to the book sitting on Abigail's lap. "On the book." Harry waved Colin over and instructed him to get a few photos of the book before he picked it up.
Harry lifted the heavy text and turned it over in his hand. It was one of the books from the restricted section. Moste Potente Potions His mind flicked back to second year when Hermione had found the recipe for polyjuice potion, then it flashed forward ten years to his Auror training when he had spent hours reading through the book for the torturous potions courses at the Auror Academy. This book seemed to be a part of his life since the moment that he found out that he was a wizard.
The burnt inscription was another series of seemingly random letters. Yet, Harry knew it had to be more.
"What was a sixteen year old doing with a restricted book on potions? And what was she doing in the restricted section?" Harry looked at Michael and Colin. "Michael., can you go see what you can dig up about this girl? I need to know everything. Family history, class schedule, extra curricular activities, and who her friends are. Talk to everyone. Get me a report as soon as you can." Michael nodded before hurrying from the library. Harry turned to Colin. "Colin I need these photos in Cho's hands as soon as they are developed. Can you put a rush on that?"
"She'll have them in twenty minutes, Harry." Colin said before following the path Michael had taken.
Harry surveyed the scene again before turning to head towards Ron and some of the other teachers. He shook hands with the professors and muttered a few quiet greetings before excusing himself and Ron. He pulled Ron to a quiet corner where they could talk.
"Tell me everything you know, Ron. No matter how tiny the details are they may help us figure things out. Start with what a fifth year was doing in the restricted area." Harry started as gently as he could. He knew that his friend was still reeling from the death of one of his students. Ron nodded, a sad weary look in his eyes.
"Abby was actually a prefect for Ravenclaw, she was also a seeker for their house team. She is one of the best. I told her just yesterday that if she puts in the time training and practicing she could go pro after school. I… I can't believe she is gone. She was like a young Hermione, but without the fear of flying.“ He paused for a moment, chewing his lip. “Why was she here though? Madame Pince should have the note for the restricted section, so you could probably ask the professor who signed it. I can’t understand it myself." He stammered, the shock of his student’s death had shaken him deeply. He lifted his eyes to meet Harry's, "Find the bastard Harry, find the sick bastard who is murdering children and make him pay."
Harry nodded, that is what he wanted to do more than anything. "Is there anything odd happening here at Hogwarts? Anyone odd hanging about? Hearing any talk from anyone that seems strange to you?"
Ron was quiet for a moment, "There was a meeting last week with Headmistress McGonagall. The board has appointed a new Potions master, and the staff is very unhappy with their choice, but it has become the cursed position since Snape left, so there is no other choice. It is like the Defense Against the Dark Arts position was when we were in school."
"Who did they appoint, Ron?" Harry asked in a practiced casual voice. After years of Auror training as well as almost seven years as a full Auror, Harry had become adept in hiding his anxiety to those he had to interview.
"Draco." Ron couldn't keep the distaste from his voice as he spit out the name. Harry couldn't keep the surprise from his eyes.
"Malfoy?" He blurted out before he could stop himself. Ron simple nodded. Harry hadn't seen Draco Malfoy since they were teenagers. Shortly after Dumbledore was killed, Draco, along with Snape, had been caught by the Aurors and had been brought before the Wizengamot. After a lengthy investigation and an arduous court session, Snape had been sentenced to a life sentence in Azkaban. Draco however had been let off with a stern warning and along with numerous financial 'contributions' to various Ministry members. Since that day Draco had become the model citizen, he maintained that first his father and then later Voldemort himself had controlled Draco with the Imperius curse and he had been helpless to stop his actions. Harry had kept a close eye on him over the years, waiting for an opportunity to arrest him again but had yet to see the man step out of line.
Harry's mind began to race. Things started to click. Who wanted to see him suffer? Who hated him more than anyone else? Who had access to Hogwarts? And who was evil enough and clever enough to devise and execute this plot? He turned on his heel without another word and stalked out of the library, leaving a puzzled Ron in his wake.
Moments later he stormed into the potions classroom that he had despised throughout most of his years here at Hogwarts. Very little had changed, it was still dark, dank and dismal. He strode through the room intent on the potions masters office at the back. Just before he reached it, the door opened and a tall slender man stepped out. With his silvery blond hair and steely grey eyes, it could be no one other than Draco Malfoy.
Harry didn't miss a step; he closed the gap between them quickly. Draco watched him with a look of utter revulsion on his pointy face.
"You know, Potter, I would have been fine with never having to see you agai…" His words were violently stopped as Harry's fist connected with his pale face. The blonde man fell back against the doorframe, his hand gripping his jaw. "What the bloody hell was that for you miserable prat?"
"That was for Dumbledore, you smarmy wanker! You may not have cast the spell but you sure as hell caused his death." Harry growled as he rubbed his knuckles, that had just recently met with Draco's face, with his other hand. Then he drew in a deep steadying breath and continued in a very professional manner as though nothing had happened, "I'd like to question you on the death of Abby Hanolan."
Draco said nothing. He rubbed his jaw and glared at Harry.
"What can you tell me about Abby? You must have hated teaching muggle borns like her."
"You're a bloody nutter, you are!" Draco snarled.
"Why was a fifth year student in the restricted section looking up a dangerous potions book?" Harry continued as if Draco hadn't spoken.
"Go to hell, Potter!"
"Listen Malfoy, you either answer my questions now or you answer them after a few days in Azkaban." Harry's professional tone never changed, which seemed to infuriate Malfoy even more. His pale face now flushed with anger, Malfoy sighed resignedly and responded with a look of loathing.
"Fine lets get this over with, you overbearing git."
Cho grabbed the paper coffee cup to discover it was empty. She tossed it in the now overflowing waste basket in the corner. Crumpled papers, and discarded cups littered the area surrounding it. She ran her fingers through her tousled hair; with a practiced hand she twisted the dark locks into a loose knot, using her wand she secured it up on her head.
After hours of working, the table in front of her was completely buried beneath the papers scattered on it. She turned her attention back to the photograph. She knew it was a simple keyword cipher and if she had the keyword she would have it solved in moments. However without it, it was like looking for a needle in an extraordinarily large haystack. With a deep sigh, she pushed her chair away from the table, leaning back and stretching her arms above her head.
Cho had never met a code or cipher that she hadn't wanted to solve. She thrived on the challenge that it presented her. This cipher held even more weight because of the lives that may hang in the balance. However that wasn't the only reason for her desire to crack this code. The fact that Harry was depending on her made it more important.
Many years ago she and Harry had parted ways in a less than desirable manner. Her pain of losing Cedric, her first real boyfriend, had been devastating. She been unable to deal with the grief and guilt that she had felt and Harry had been dealing with his own issues caused by Cedric's death. Looking back on it now Cho could see that being so young had made them incapable to deal with problems that a mature grown up would have troubles handling. Her and Harry's hadn't been an acrimonious break up but it had not been pleasant either. They had gone their separate ways and had not looked back. Not until fate drew them back together so many years later.
"Bloody hell Potter! How many times do we need to go over this? I have told you everything I know about Abigail." An exasperated Draco rolled his eyes.
"We'll go over everything until I am satisfied that I have what I need." Harry sat on the desk behind him. "Now you said that…" A sharp knock on the classroom door interrupted him. Hannah Abbott's dark blonde hair poked into the room.
"Harry? Can I have a word with you?" Hannah asked in a businesslike tone. Harry followed her into the corridor.
"Have you heard from Micheal?"
"Not since I talked to him in the library. That was a couple hours ago. He is supposed to be getting me as much information as he can on the victim. Has he not checked in?"
"He's not here at Hogwarts, I checked the offices, Tonks has gone to the victim's family home but he hasn't shown up there. We've sent word to him but there is no reply. I am starting to get worried." Hannah looked genuinely upset. Harry was beginning to share her concern. One of his own was now missing.