“And they’re still counting,” Remus said grimly, rolling up his Daily Prophet and giving it to Sirius who had held his hand out for it mutely.
“What’s with all the grim faces?” Lily asked lightly. She sat down next to James, who beamed at her, oblivious to what his friends were talking about.
“There was a Muggle killing last night in Surrey,” Peter told her. “At least fifty-two dead.”
“Does the Ministry know who did it?” James asked sharply.
“They reckon it’s the work of some Dark wizard…there was some weird shape in the air after they left, a green skull with a snake coming out of its mouth…”
“That’s so horrible. How can the Ministry not know who did it? This is the third one this month!”
“The number of murders happening is rising,” Remus said. “Did you hear about the Lacey Hannigan’s dad? He was killed last week, she was sobbing about it in Charms club. Or the Hastings family…all three of them disappeared.”
“D’you think the one who’s doing it will come into the open about it soon?” Peter asked.
“No,” Sirius’ tone was harsh. “They’re trying to sow fear and distrust through this killings. To come into the open….that’d just give everybody something to rally against, wouldn’t it? This way’s much better for them. We’ll start wondering about the Ministry because they don’t have an answer…and…” He broke off, staring at a small sub-column on the newspaper.
“That’s it then, isn’t it?” James said. “This wizard’s trying to-”
A sharp intake of breath cut him off.
“Alcyone,” he said abruptly. “Where is she?”
“She hasn’t come down yet, but Sirius-”
He wasn’t listening as he hurried out of the Great Hall leaving the remaining four gaping after him
“Should we go after him?” Peter asked.
“I am,” Lily said decisively, grabbing her bag and went after Sirius.
Remus turned to James, the unasked question in his face.
James shook his head, but the rest of the meal was continued in silence as he puzzled over Sirius and Alcyone.
Lily checked her watch as she ran after Sirius. They had less than fifteen minutes until Charms.
“Password?” The Fat Lady unwrapped a Chocolate Frog, waiting for the answer. The picture of the wizened old witch on the card jogged Lily’s memory
“Venetia Vogrod,” she said firmly. “And you ought to keep that card out of sight.”
Without stopping to listen to the Fat Lady’s splutters of indignation, she stepped through the portrait hole to see Sirius waiting impatiently by the fire.
“She hasn’t come down yet?” she asked urgently.
“No,” he said tersely. “Could you go up and check?”
“Yeah…” She had just dropped her bag when Alcyone trotted down the stairs, looking harried.
“What time is it? I didn’t miss Potions, did I? Because I didn’t wake up on time because I was studying for potions rather late, and then when I woke up I looked at the clock and it had stopped, and then-” She paused for breath and Lily interrupted.
“All you missed was breakfast and we can get you an apple or something anyway so it’s all right…”
“Oh,” she looked enormously relieved.
“Alcyone,” Sirius began apprehensively, and Alcyone jumped, not noticing his presence in the room before. “Erm…er…well…are you…I mean…do you know somebody named Elisabeth Lerant?”
Alcyone nodded, her head tilted slightly in curiosity.
“Does-did she live in Surrey?” he asked apprehensively.
Lily’s face slowly drained of all colour as she made the connection.
“Ye-es...” she drew out. “But – why-”
He couldn’t bring himself to look her in the face.
Numbly, he handed her the newspaper, and she stared down at the name of her ten-year-old cousin under the names of those witches and wizards who were dead in the mass killing.