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Chapter 2 : Where Loyalties Lie . . .
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Ok, so my first day of work didn’t go too well. For a start, my boss is Granger, and worse than that - yes, believe me there is such a thing as being worse than the tragedy of Granger - I find myself returning home to none other than a row.
Great. I almost feel like a kid again.
Hanging up my keys and whistling to myself as I find my way through the house in the keen urge to simply get to bed and find peace within sleep, I’m stopped short than none other than Pansy Parkinson, her dark hair half-way down her waist, her body wrapped in a soft snowy white towel. She almost drops it at the very sight of me.
“Merlin, not you again,” I greet her with a faint scowl, my flesh darkening a shade in colour as I clearly allow the disdain to leak through into my iridescent smouldering eyes. “Don’t you have your own home to go to?”
A small sneer twists her bright peony lips as she sighs irritably, as if the question I have asked is entirely unfeasible. I mean, anyone would think that I was a tramp recently wandered in from the streets, the way this girl is thinking. When she speaks, my mouth all but gapes open.
“This is my home. Sorry to disappoint you Zabini, but Draco proposed. I live here now.”
She holds out a ring proudly. It gleams in the lamp-light and I stare at it in wide-eyed shock. There was me thinking that Draco had no commitment to this girl, and then he goes and does something like this? Its completely insane! What happened to the Draco who I used to laugh with, slamming hands together in triumph when he knocked up a girl but got away with the responsibility of it? And now he might actually want to settle down? What in the name of bloody Merlin is wrong with him?
Shoving past Pansy, I ignore the way her gloating face irks me so strongly and march my way along the creamy hallway, finding the man standing over a mug of coffee and glancing around as if he’s some sort of high-king of the world. Slamming down my fist on the counter, I glower at him in the inclination of confrontation.
“You can’t be serious.”
He glances up, seemingly rather surprised by my issue of greeting, and his silvery mirrored eyes narrow instinctively. With a slight snarl, he eyes me over, catching sight of my strained and work-fatigued face, a mar of annoyance cleansing his features from any warmth of cold. A heat sparks his gaze to daring and he shifts to get a better look at me.
“Her,” I throw my hands up in explanation. “Queen of Mood Swings, Lady of the Dark Temper . . . I mean, its beyond reason.”
“How exactly do you mean?”
I growl beneath my breath and begin to make my meal, pulling open the fridge roughly in a temper and selecting for myself a meal, shoving it beneath a heat spell before stabbing my annoyance at it with a fork. Poor food . . . I bet it wonders what it ever did wrong. Nonetheless, that’s beyond the point. This idiot has taken it upon himself to propose to none other than the Ice Bitch of Gloom, Pansy Sodding Parkinson.
“Well, let me start with the fact that she’s an irritating busybody, shall I?” I begin with annoyance etched like cold stone pebbles within the weight of my words. Tearing at the food from my fork I swallow before continuing. “Despite being a pain in the arse, she constantly takes it upon herself as a duty to tell me what to do.”
Draco turns away, a glower sweeping across his features, and I watch him coldly as he decides to ignore me. Finishing off his beer, he swigs it down and then leaves the room, swiftly exiting whilst Pansy calls to him from further up the hallway, dressed now in a silken black dressing gown, her lengthy raven hair kissing the column of her pale exposed throat, a purr sounding within her voice as she murmurs suggestively to Draco.
You get the point. She’s really settled herself in.
Looks like Zabini has to start looking for a new home, and to do that, I have to start working fast.
“What have we got?”
She glances up, surveying me through darkened honey eyes, flashing with a slight irritancy that causes me to frown. Glancing back down, she continues to stack her papers as if she hasn’t heard me. Its then that I realise this is deliberate. She’s just trying to wind me up, see how long I last before I explode. Fine. I’ll wait it out, wait until she finally decides that she’ll answer my bloody question.
“You’ve got an interview to attend to,” she speaks at last, venturing to pick up her tea and swirl it slightly, my eyes dropping to the liquid before she sips, sighs and places it back on the table again.
“What about you?”
“That’s neither here nor there,” she snaps irritably. “I’ve got a meeting with the Deputy Head of Law Enforcement in less than an hour. I’m sure you can understand my situation.” She smiles, a cold little smile that puts me on edge, ready to set my blood to boiling and my mind to seething, but instead I take the option of returning the smile sweetly, as if I hardly care. A glower ensues after that, but turning away, I begin to observe her office carelessly, my eyes straying over objects that she does not wish me to see. Obviously, by the cutting sound of her voice when she speaks again, such objects and photos are personal.
“Take your hands off that.” My hand automatically drops to my side and I turn to watch her with the faintest of smirks curling my mouth almost to the point of a grin. Her glare remains of ice as she continues, her voice just as firm and commanding as ever, the bossy streak something that is not lost on me. “I want you to research Lavender Brown - I want details on her lifestyle, her work, the people she associated herself with . . .”
I narrow my eyes. “And how am I meant to find that out?”
She proceeds to rolling her eyes. “Honestly, the way you speak its as if you’ve never had any training at all.”
Whoops. Did I neglect to mention that I haven’t?
“I want a full report at lunch. Unless that’s too difficult?”
I scowl and choose to ignore that last comment, turning away to face the door, grabbing my jacket on the way out and venturing onto the cold streets.
Out here, frost clings to the streets. It glitters on the curb, hemming tiny fragments of silver lace that is smutted to a sheen in the golden wash of the sun that sets a cleansing drench upon the cold. Frozen fingers dig into pockets, as if I’m casually trying to keep warm by that mere motion, and dispersing my existence through apperating, I turn a corner when I think no one is looking and feel the familiar tearing sensation ripping me away from one area to another.
The papers in my pocket are immediately pulled out as I study them thoughtfully, before glancing up at the house before me. This is the house of Parvati Patil - or rather, Finnigan. It’s a lot more spacious than I may have assumed it to be - hell, I thought it would be a dingy little place, similar to that of Lavender’s herself. Nothing special. This however, highlights an Irish mansion. This can only mean one thing.
The bint married Seamus Finnegan.
There’s so much I need to do. Mostly its taking notes from the Muggle forensics, seeing what they come up with, but I’m expecting a er, what do you call it, er . . . Phone call, later today. Apparently the brick the Ministry issued me with earlier this morning is a mobile phone . . . Sound weird to you? ‘Cause I have no sodding idea . . .
Dropping that thought, I step towards the house, crossing the glittering lawn where a forest of dew clutters the luscious trimmed grass. There’s a clear sign marking “Don’t walk on the grass”. Haha, well, I might as well keep up my rebellious streak. My shoes crush into the growth, crushing it down into the mud until the two become a thick surly swirl. A smirk passes my lips and I bury my hands into my pockets along with those many sheets of parchment. Its time to visit the gossip couple.
The door swings open only moments before I knock upon it - after all, I have to knock. Apparently its rude to apperate uninvited into people’s houses, and despite the identification inside my pocket, its probably best not to abuse that authority. Yet. There will be plenty of time for power corruption later.
A woman glares at me disapprovingly - obviously she’s seen me trespassing across that precious grass, although her eyes soften slightly when her warm dark gaze moves across me. There’s red lines around her eyes, causing them to look swollen. She’s obviously tried to use make-up to smudge it all away, although her hair is still slightly damp, and she’s dressed in a cotton dressing-gown that shields her body from view. Raising a hand to her dishevelled sheet of midnight hair, she smiles faintly and steps back, revealing a wide entrance hall, patterned in a rich furnishing of wood.
“Oh, hi Blaise.”
“Zabini,” I snap at her shortly, trying my best to look impressive. With a crisp air to my voice and a sharp piercing to my glare, I smirk inwardly. Its like playing that Muggle game Weaslebee was obsessed with in his seventh year at Hogwarts - Cludo It was amusing sometimes how he used to sit in the library whilst Granger taught him the strategies. Not that I was ever watching. Hell no, of course not. This could be fun. “You seem very wide-awake this morning, Patil.”
“Oh, well yes,” she begins, slightly taken-aback, although her eyes narrow at the word Patil. She’s married now, you see. “Of course I am. I’ve hardly slept a wink all night.”
“Not surprised,” I respond, my gaze automatically tracing the room, wandering across portraits of stormy-eyed Irish aristocrats, through magically entranced landscapes of rushing wind and the wild open stretch of sea. “She was your best friend, wasn’t she?”
She clears her throat softly and from the corner of my eye I catch glimpse of her giving a slight nod. She looks anything but comfortable. “Er, well yes . . . That is, up until a couple of years ago. Do you er, mind if I dress first?” She pats her dressing gown with colour rising to her cheeks. “I’ll make you some tea, if it helps.”
With that I turn my back on her in easy dismissal. Hell, its fun being in charge.
Whilst she’s gone, I try my best to provoke a suspicious mind. Parvati could simply be searching for an excuse to get away, to fix together some answers. How did she hear about the death? Why is she up so early? Why did she answer the door so quickly? Was she really watching me walk across the lawn, or was she about to go out, perhaps to conspire or something, to kill any evidence of witnesses who stood in her way? My fingers trace a soft varnished curve of wood, peering at it closely. Above it, there’s a candlestick, its metal frame slender with an over-layer of feigned gold. A noise to my left stirs me from my pensiveness and I quickly spin around, eyes falling upon Parvati, who is now completely dressed, a smile painted across her lips.
“If you’d like to step through to the parlour . . .?”
The parlour turns out to be a room dressed entirely in pink. I know - disgusting, isn’t it? I mean, you’ve got to be insane to like the colour. The hue is sickening - soft and warm and delicate, almost fragile. I refrain from wrinkling my nose up in disdain and instead concentrate on observation, picking out minor details as if they could represent some clue of the murder. Ridiculous, isn’t it? I’m already thinking it’s a murder when I haven’t yet had the post mortem. It could just be an accident, a single trip on the stairs. But nah. Such is life of an Auror - the forever searching mind.
A window looks out onto the gardens, where rosebushes are clustered together. These windows are thrown open and the faint scent of lavender drifts through along with an icy wash of breeze. It jerks my senses further awake. I walk the room once, eyes searching, before dropping into a chair and sitting back with a faint smirk. A fire burns palely, flames flickering, some dispersing in the light whisper of the wind, the others growing stronger from the very pulse of it. Wood snaps loudly and grains of dark ash scatter the surface of the hearth, the dark stone wall behind scorched black from the heat.
“So,” Parvati begins nervously after a small silence, automatically returning my attention to her. She’s sat in the opposite seat, back straight, hands folded together upon her lap. A very suspicious position, if you ask me. Anxious, like. But then, who wouldn’t be? I’m bloody hot, aren’t I? There’s always tension in a room when my presence enters it.
I sniff and lean forwards to pick up the coffee a house-elf has laid out on the table, along with a delicate flowery tray in which there are a plate of biscuits. I ignore the food, nod to the woman in careless gratitude and pull out a cigarette. She looks horrified by this - completely baffled, and I deliberately raise one eyebrow to observe her calmly.
“You don’t mind if I smoke, do you?” I enquire with a smirk, already lighting up.
“Oh no, of course not.” Her tone informs me that she does care, but with a quick grin I inhale and tap ash onto the table, sucking in again and releasing the intoxicant that cures my craving in a rush of breath and a satisfactory sigh.
Screw it, lets skip to the questions. Formalities are not my favourability.
“How long has it been since last you saw Lavender Brown, Mrs Finnigan?”
There, shape it bluntly. No need for sympathy around here.
She shifts at either the question or my tone, and sits up a little straighter, her eyes down-cast. “Too long . . .”
She gazes up sharply, her eyes suddenly abrupt, almost angry as they burn into me, locking with my eyes. One of my eyebrows only curves slightly in amusement at that sudden wrath, the woman’s smooth olive skin tinged with the red either from anger or fear, I have no idea.
“I suppose it was eighteen months ago, a couple of days before my marriage. She . . . wasn’t happy about it, to say the least.”
“I thought she was engaged to the Irish git?”
Her eyes narrow, her voice becoming rather stiff. “Yes, well. She messed that one up when she had an affair, didn’t she?”
She nods quickly, an abrupt movement that jabs through the peace and stings annoyance to the now fragmented air. “Yes. She and Seamus had been together through the last year of Hogwarts. Their ending was . . . rather gruesome, to say the least.”
“Really?” I inch forward a little in my seat, cigarette stuck between my lips as I murmur with interest. “I’d say it was a little more than gruesome, Patil. I’d say it was cold-blooded murder.”
“I’m not talking about that,” she hisses viciously, her glare turning to knives as she glowers at me with obvious distaste. “And please, its Finnigan, not Patil.”
I smirk. “You seem quite keen to leave your maiden name behind. Any particular reason?”
“Perhaps the fact that I’m married?” she scoffs, before narrowing her eyes coldly. When I offer no retort, she continuous, although not before picking up her tea and sipping from it delicately. Buying time to think, most likely - I’d say. “Lavender and Seamus were engaged to be married, although obviously marriage meant nothing to her. She . . . had issues. She always had to stay one step ahead of the game. She was covert. She couldn‘t stay still for too long.”
I nod. This is pretty much my problem. I’m restless. Scared of a relationship, of commitment.
“Seamus tried all he could to save her. Romantic holidays, dances, gatherings . . . Nothing was satisfactory. She always seemed to slip out of his fingers, to become bored. I knew Lavender better than anyone, and I’d say it wasn’t just one time she had an affair. It was more like ten. There were always . . . incidents. I’d come here to visit them, and she would either always be out, or dressed perfectly as if she intended to have guests, to provide some sort of entertainment.”
“She could just have been bored,” I observe darkly with a slight shrug. “Who’s to say she didn’t dress for herself? I mean, she was always a fashion freak.” Hell, I remember her too well, the taste of her lips on mine, an expert kisser, her throat rich with the scent of perfume, hair dressed immaculately in golden silken curls.
“No. She wouldn’t go that far just to please herself. She dressed for someone. Besides, Finnigan caught her at it once.”
My eyes widen. “Who?”
“There were several.”
“But which one?”
She swallows and looks away, a hand passing through her hair as her dark eyes come to rest on the window, as if reminiscing. Its annoying - I’m impatient. Finally she parts her lips to speak, still not looking at me, her voice softer than the faintest whisper.
I freeze. She spins her eyes back round to look at me, and we share a familiar discomfort. Draco was seeing Lavender? But, he’s with Pansy, he proposed and . . . My mind becomes a whirl. What if he proposed because he had to push Lavender out of the way? I mean, if she was what was keeping the two apart, maybe she had threatened him to tell Pansy, perhaps Draco thought she had to be gotten rid of . . . A redeemed Death Eater, Draco was capable of it. Come to think of it, I wasn’t even aware of where the man had been that night. In bed with Pansy, supposedly, or was that hours later? It would not be hard to apperate to Brown’s, share a meal with her, disappear back home once the job was done . . .
No. The thought was sickening. Draco’s my friend. How could I even suspect . . . ?
The answer came just as quickly. It was my job to suspect.
Drawing a breath, I rip myself from my thoughts, aware that Parvati is watching me very carefully. I offer her a precarious smile, one of quick recovery, and taking another drag of smoke, I swallow down the last of the coffee and fix her with a permanent stare, stamping out the cigarette on the table as she winces, allowing concentration to pour through.
She shrugs. “I don’t know. Quite a while, I’d say. Although she never brought him here - or at least, I wouldn’t have thought it. She was more clever than that. She had some other home that Seamus bought her, a flat in London to make it easier to travel to and from work.”
“Why couldn’t she apperate?”
“Her family. She wanted to be close to them. Her mum died a year ago.”
“And you and Seamus are together because . . .?”
A small smile flickers across her face. “He proposed to me a month later. I suppose I had always loved him, somehow.”
I nod and get to my feet; however, there’s one last question on the edge of my tongue that I must ask before I leave. Or rather, two, but the last is more necessary, for personal reasons. I don’t want to believe Draco had anything to do with this.
“I have to ask - where were you on the evening of Lavender Brown’s murder?”
She swallows, the word murder seemingly discomforting. “I was here. In the drawing room. Seamus had taken some time off work and we decided to spend it together. The house elves can vouch for us, but I doubt they are a reliable witness. Other than that, there’s no one.”
“How long has it been since you last saw Draco Malfoy?”
“Oh,” she pauses, as if straining to think. “I’d say about three weeks ago, in London. He was with her. Lavender.”
“But I thought you said you’d seen her eighteen months ago . . .?”
Quickly, she flushes red and stumbles to correct herself. “Well er, yes. I mean, that was when I last spoke to her, our last confrontation. She and Draco were together in a café. I caught sight of them on my way to Diagon Alley.”
The wail of a baby sounds from upstairs. My heart is beating quicker than its usual pace, my teeth automatically chomping on my lip.
“Thanks for your help. I’ll be around here soon if there’s any more questions I need answering.”
- - - -
Lunchtime passes swiftly - a vegetable pasty and a paper-cup of coffee, not much else. Wiping my hands on the grimy packaging, I feel the vibration on a phone inside my hands, and with a scowl I remember that this has been expected. I pull the piece of Muggle technology from my pocket, glancing down at it and frowning before flicking the flap open, searching for the correct button to press, yet already there’s a voice flowing from the receiver, and quickly I press it to my ear and grunt a greeting.
Ten minutes later I’m inside the department of forensic investigation. A woman in a crisp white coat with dark, tied back hair and high cheek bones is standing next to me, her slender figure just visible through that over-layer. A faint smile plays at my lips. She’s quite hot, actually. She’s muttering something about Aminotransferase enzymes, but I’m not really paying attention. My eyes are drawn to the body before us.
Lavender Brown’s corpse is resting cold and pale against a table. A sheet covers her body yet stops just above her chest, revealing the crevice of her collar bones, her lips faintly parted yet dried, blanched and frozen. Eyes stare continuously into nothing, and she once again reminds me of a broken doll, beauty fragmented by death. Her chipped-china eyes are beads, her every feature pristine, yet there’s an eerie silence about her that causes a tremor to run down my spine. The woman turns to face me once more, one dark eyebrow raised in questioning, as if waiting for some appraisal.
“Er, yeah,” I state, and this seems to be enough for her. She turns back to the corpse and points out a heavy wound to the back of the head which obviously Granger and I didn’t see before. We weren’t inclined to move the body. Yet I remember clear as anything that there had been blood there.
“Its too heavy an impact to have been caused by a fall. There has obviously been a deliberate collision, although there are no fibres or traces of what it could have been. Whoever has done this is an expert.”
“Hmmmm,” I frown. Obviously this woman wouldn’t know the skills of magic, the way a simple dab of potion can clear any sort of evidence up. A powerful potion, mind. I must go through Knockturn Alley at some point to see who last purchased some. That’s if that burke Borgin bothers to tell me.
“ - No sign of any platelets,” her voice swims back into my head once more, and I turn to frown in confusion. Cold eyes meet mine with some high amount of disdain, and a sigh rakes from the woman’s lips, as if she’s talking to a child. “Platelets - one of the main components of the blood that forms clots in which aids a seal . . . A sealing up of injured areas which thus prevent any kind of haemorrhage. This indicates that there was little time for her injuries to heal. She must have died straight after the blow.”
She begins to rant about how the body has been tested for temperature, how she’s taken several forensic samples to prevent any disruption to evidence less the body be allowed out from custody for any particular reason. My mind swims with confusion, but I nod along with everything this stuck up cow says. She blabbers on about how she’s sprayed water against Lavender’s clothing and pressed material thick paper to it to soak up any moisture or traces that remain - such as perhaps blood, human excrement, skin cells, hair . . . Nothing. No such luck.
I’m relieved immensely to return to the office, although there’s still millions to do. This job runs me off my feet, and yet somehow I find myself enjoying it. The secretary makes me a coffee as I begin to work on documents, piecing together everything I’ve discovered today, and standing up I know that I must question Lavender’s father, to see when last he saw her. That can wait until later, however. Right now my mind is preoccupied.
Could my best friend really be involved in this huge mess? And if he is, the question remains - where does my loyalty lie. With my friend? Or with the law?
Author's Note: Please if you read, review. :)
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