I glance up, eyebrows furrowed as I consider the woman before me. A dark sheet of hair falls forwards as she glances over a mixing bowl, slowly considering. A copy of Witch’s Weekly is left on the side, untouched with a glossy front cover showing a blonde witch with pouty lips.
“As good as murder can get,” I reply, trying to keep my voice entirely neutral I response to her pleasant tone. Whatever’s got her so happy I can’t imagine. I mean, its not as if Draco wants to marry her, does he? Sliding my form into a seat, I pick up the glass of water on the side and sip carelessly. “You?”
She doesn’t seem to pleased that I’m drinking her water, but save from the disgruntled line of her brow, there’s no sign that she’s protesting against it. “Yes. Draco and I agreed to go out tonight.”
“Yes,” she nods, fixing her stare upon perfectly manicured nails before raising it to regard me. “Draco’s taking me to visit his parents.”
Parents . . . This must mean Draco’s serious. Pansy’s fingers trail to massage her stomach and my own gaze follows the movement, as if trapped there. I raise a pair of eyebrows and she smiles.
“Yes. I haven’t meant them of yet and I think its about time, don’t you? Besides, Draco and I discussed it.” Discussed it? More like argued about it. Anyway, pug-face is still talking. “What with our engagement, and the marriage being in two weeks . . .”
“Two weeks?! What is he, insane?”
Her dark eyes narrow and she watches me coolly, as if I’ve just thrown a great insult at her. Well, in a way, I have, but that’s not the point. She should have expected it. There’s no reason for her to look so offended. The thought of things getting entirely rational is just weird. Well, anything rational accompanying Draco is weird.
“We can’t leave it too long. I might begin to show.”
“Show?” What the hell is she on about? Perhaps this marriage rubbish is just an illusion. Maybe this girl needs a trip to St Mungos. I’m about to offer to take her there when my mind suddenly speeds up and pairs everything together. The fingers resting on the navel, the engagement ring twinkling brightly, the marriage being in two weeks . . .
The slag’s pregnant.
My nose immediately wrinkles and I lean backwards in my seat as if to get as far away from her as possible. A mutter of “urgh”, escapes my throat, and pinning my palms across my eyes my mouth opens in an almost silent scream. Children? Children?! A child, a baby . . . My god, she’s serious. Releasing a gasp and remembering to breathe, I quickly press the water to my lips and swallow in great gasps, before sliding down a couple of inches in my seat and staring at her. “You’re . . .”
“Yes,” she nods impatiently, obviously not pleased with my reaction. She turns around and walks to the window, one hand running through a thick stream of dark hair as the other remains lovingly on her stomach. Her voice seems distant in a dreamy way as she speaks, as if she has desired such perfection since before her time. “Draco was most pleased.”
I raise my eyebrows, finding this declaration difficult to believe, and standing up as I walk over to the fridge, I pull the door open and peer inside, glad of the sudden rush of most delightful cold that cleanses my skin from the flustered heat I had been feeling earlier. Well, this news is weird. I mean, Draco wanting a kid is like Satan offering to foster a young and innocent child, or perhaps issuing a daily supply of cake to the elderly. Pulling out a bottle of wine I do not even attempt to find a glass, nor do I stay to drink it inside the room.
“Not having any dinner?” Pansy calls after me, her voice careless as she continues to stare into oblivion.
“Nope. I’ve had this disgusting news that’s made me lose my appetite.”
Picturing the scowl on the woman’s face, I shut the bedroom door sharply behind me, collapsing into my empty bed and taking a long swig of wine.
- - - -
My eyes crack open. Painfully shutting them once again, I shift uneasily to see a light directed in my face - the light of a wand. My head is aching and this small sample offers no antidote. A migraine explodes and it takes a moment or two to realise my situation.
I’m in my room. The bedroom is cloaked in a shadow of dark, and this offers a relief to my eyes as they sting into it. It must be late, because there’s no sliver of sunlight protruding through the gaping windows. Only silence and ebony ensue. Yet above me, there is the sound of breathing, and at my back there is the warm softness of the bed. Slightly drunken and with a mind that is screaming, I slowly inch my way into a sitting position as pain splinters through my head. The room half-shakes around me. The after effect of alcohol.
On the floor rests an empty wine bottle, along with a half-empty volume of vodka. A yawn presents to the intruder my teeth, but I’ve already worked out from the insistency of it all that this is Draco. “What is it?”
My voice sounds exhausted and restrained even to my own ears, and rubbing a hand through my hair to separate the damp strands from the beads of perspiration, my eyes become more flexible, adjusting to the light that is now warming in the clear separation from the dark.
“This.” Several ravels of shredded parchment present themselves to my view. Red. This crimson hue is slightly startling, and yet I know immediately that this is the after effect of a Howler. I frown at Draco as he allows the material to fall upon my bed, his silvery eyes narrowed and cold. Standing up and straightening from his position on the side of the bed, he walks to the window and throws the glass wide open. “Its been screaming at your door for the past couple of seconds. I’m surprised you didn’t wake up.”
Fully dressed in soft leather trousers and a grey shirt, he turns to appraise me, yet before my sleepy mind can appraise the context of exactly what he is saying, a sharp crack causes the pair of us to jump and from the corridor comes a large bang. Alohomora has quiet obviously blasted the front door into oblivion and now, standing slightly breathless with her chest heaving is a rather disgruntled Granger.
She seems to spot me lying in bed immediately.
“Pleasure,” I smile at her largely, inclining my head and sitting up a little straighter in bed, the sheets sliding along my chest to reveal my bare torso. She seems to hesitate for a moment as her eyes fall upon it, before her focus snatches back once more and hands raise to place themselves on her curvy hips.
“How many times?”
“How many times do I have to pound the dial in request of entry?”
“You seem to have found your way in easily enough yourself. Such initiative.” I smirk, something that is quickly replaced by a yawn. “What are you doing here at -” my eyes slide away to steal a glimpse of the dials on the digital clock before resting back on the woman before me - “two a.m.?”
“We have a case to solve.”
“I’m off duty.”
“That doesn’t count -”
“Would someone care to explain?” A cold, drawling voice sounds from the darkened corner and stepping forward to reveal himself in the array of wand-lit light, Draco announces his presence once more. Hell, I’d forgotten that he was even there. Creamy flesh highlights the piercing colour of his eyes, a sneer tugging at his lips at the sight of Granger standing inside his flat. Before either of us can come up with an answer however, another sound issues from the hallway and a gasp of shock sounds through the air. Pansy, dressed sleekly in her silken black dressing-gown, stares at each of us in turn before resting her full attention on Granger.
“Draco! What is this Mudblood doing in our house?” Technically, I might add, not a house. A flat is a small series of rooms built up to make a living space. Dependable on price range, the size can vary from large to small, and they are often built for travellers, business persons wishing to occupy a property near to the city/town/whatever they are travelling through, or, in my case, for those unfortunate sods who have to share because they cannot find a place of their own. Yeah, I know - this information is irrelevant, so lets tune back in and listen to the dopy old cow. “SHE IS DISEASED! HAVE YOU NO RESPECT FOR THE WELFARE OF ME AND THIS BABY?!”
A stunned silence follows, but I’m already taking the initiative and pulling on my clothes. A pair of pinstripe trousers follow a shirt, topped off by converse and a jacket, and quickly gripping hold of Granger’s hand and pulling her out of the doorway, I duck through the exit as a series of explosions in the voice of one Pansy Parkinson proceeds to wake up the whole floor.
Once outside in the sting of cold air, Granger wrestles her palm from mine and immediately the warmth of human flesh is robbed away. I turn to look at her when she stops, planting her feet firmly in the ground of the run-down grubby pavement. A dog barks from one of the distant alley-ways and from a distance comes the roar of drunken laughter. A rustle from a fox invading a dustbin causes me to startle and I turn to face it, wondering sharply why the hell a fox would be situated in London, but Hermione grabs my wrist roughly with further strength than I thought she owned and spins me back around to face her. Her expression is pinched and fuming.
“You never told me you lived with them.” Her voice is audible with disgust.
“You never asked.”
“And I suppose you share the same ideals as them? The whole Muggle-born issue and all.”
Its more of an affirmation than a question. This angers me a little and my eyes narrow with annoyance. “No actually, I don’t. And what has this got to do with waking me up in the middle of the night?” I’m still vividly aware of the pain inside my head.
“Just because I’m Muggle-born does not mean that I am incapable of my job.”
“Never said it did,” I mutter carelessly, pulling out a cigarette and lighting up.
“Good,” she sounds relieved, although there’s still a gaping wound remaining between the pair of us. “Now, there’s an issue we have to solve. Or rather, a murder. And don’t do that, it will kill you.”
I frown before realising she’s talking about smoking. With a careless shrug, I direct my attention towards the rooftops, frosted in silver by an array of sparkling stars. “So what? Gonna die some day anyway. May as well live my life doing what I want, rather than worrying myself about death. Hell of a lot of useless anxiety.”
“Is that what you think?”
“About smoking. About life.” She watches as I inhale a large drag of grey smoke before releasing it once more into the cold, driving breeze of refreshing night air. There’s something about the night that is so fresh, it inevitable to pay it every last drop of attention until some form of sound distracts you from it. “Anyway,” - like that. She’s constantly interrupting my peace. First, waking me up . . . Well, technically, Draco woke me up, but only because she sent me that stupid letter, and then now, she’s dragging me out of my calm and landing stupid things on me. Like murders. “My general point for this intrusion is the death of Gregory Goyle. We in particular were put on the case for belief of the victim being yet another of our original killer.”
I wrinkle my nose in confusion. “What do you mean? What evidence is there to support this?”
“Think about it. These people were at school in our year. That’s one link to be certain of. Furthermore, thus far both victims have been killed directly in their houses, without an inch of magic. Or at least that’s what the details recorded have directed into the information stats. That’s enough of a lead for me. Now, are you coming or not?”
Still slightly confused that the victim was Goyle himself, I’m stuck on thinking that all of this seems very close to home . . . Distracted, I hardly protest when Granger’s hand seizes my wrist, the warmth of her flesh sinking through so that I can almost imagine her fingerprints brushing against me, seeping into the traces of clear skin. With a large crack, a sickly feeling and a sudden impact of dizziness and disgruntled behaviour, I feel myself thrown into normality once more after what seems to be like endless churning. Sucking in a breath and releasing it in a warming vapour of cloud through the air, I relax and feel the tension melting from my shoulders.
We’re in a dark street, although that darkness is only partial as the sound of a car roars through, the speed of light beating it and pooling the tarmac in yellow-gold. The machine swerves and skids as it reaches the roundabout, breaking with a scream before roaring on, the exhaust shuddering and music pounding until both sound and light are lost from our sight. I blink with shock, wand clenched inside my fist as I turn to face Granger, eyes slightly widened. She shrugs and gesticulates widely towards the left. A steep, red bricked wall captures my attention, a barricade to a huge red building sporting iron bars that can be seen from the darkened windows that line it. A shudder walks my spine at the very vision.
“Muggle prison,” Granger explains dismissively, immediately creating the trigger of imagination that spirals to empty eyes and undistinguishable features, sitting in long lines as they stare at me, my body walking the corridor as I too watch them in glued fascination. “We’re in Reading, one of the less favourable areas. Still, leads to Reading central shopping centre - the Oracle, and from thereon all the clubs and so forth. The way we’re going offers no such leisure however.” She glances at her watch before dropping her hand once more to her side and hugging her coat about her figure. “Homebase is over there. Stacked with Muggle mechanic uses and homeware. Plants and the like. Next to that, toy shop, across the road a residential park. That’s the location we’re in. Run down. Now,” she begins to walk faster, the chill of the weather clearly affecting her, as when she speaks it is within gasps, her footsteps quickening and echoing on the tarmac as she keeps up her pace in an effort to keep warm. “This is King’s Road. Aside from the businesses, there’s poverty. This is where our murder has taken place, so don’t expect full co-operation from the locals during the investigation. Where there’s a lack of wealth there’s more than often a lack of mannerisms. I’m not being snobby,” she adds hastily at my pointed look, “but its true of Muggles. They battle for survival, not for who can hold the best dinner party. Whilst the majority of people around here are probably untroublesome, that doesn’t mean all of them are nice.”
I nod but say nothing, offering neither agreement nor contradiction. To judge someone on their state of income is not my idea of a reliable source, but hell - its two a.m. I’m not going to argue.
Allow me to explain the situation between myself and the current victim of this killer. Gregory Goyle has long since been a neglected friend of mine. Or rather, not friend. No, nowadays he’s more like an acquaintance - a disliked one. He was a worm of the past. In the days of the Dark Lord, he turned Draco and myself in as fellow Death Eaters in the desperation to save himself. In those days, he was a coward, yet he was one of us, and so we accepted him. Yet when the Dark Lord fell and the Light began to crush all, stamping out the last of the Darkness, Gregory Goyle was the first on their agenda. Renowned for his numerous torturing of Muggles, he had been tracked down by a couple of Aurors and stood on trail for Azkaban. However, before his punishment could be voiced, he blurted out a list of names useful to the Ministry, most of which were already either captured or killed. The night they came for us, Goyle’s promise of our involvement was on the tongues of those Aurors. We were severely punished. Faced with a lifetime of Azkaban, we were instead turned back into the magical world rather than the mundane. Someone argued our case - I dunno who, but somehow the Ministry changed their minds about us. Goyle however, was subjected to ostracism. He returned to the world alone and stripped of his magic, his wand snapped and with little gifted money, although the house provided and secured by the Muggle council was a generosity in itself. I haven’t seen him since. Needless to say, the situation is hardly one of grievance to me.
We reach an array of council houses, shabby and built of the same red brick that offers a structure to the prison at our backs. Even without looking at it, I can feel the eyes of the windows bearing into my back. it’s a weird thought, and somewhat disturbing, but the moon is ghostly in its pearly sheen therefore I need provide no excuse for being so quaint.
There’s no need to knock. The door is wide open. A reel of tape separates the building from any public intrusion, but there’s no need. Everything is dark. Such a shroud causes me to frown. Police patrol crime scenes in typical situations, so why not now? Biting my tongue to stop myself from asking, I find that I don’t have to. Already, Granger has opened her mouth to explain.
“The police haven’t been alerted yet. An alarm system detected the downfall of Goyle.”
“An alarm system . . .?”
She nods. “It was coded directly to the Ministry. A spell was used in front of Muggles. Lumos. That was it.”
I glance around and frown. “Lumos? But then surely the street lamps would . . .?”
“I was wondering when you were going to notice that,” she smiles. “All the lights in the street have somehow been suspended. You’ll notice too that there’s a sound proof spell has been enchanted around the house. That’s why I doubt we’ll get much by the means of witnesses.”
“What were you saying earlier about Muggles?” Curious, I follow her along the pavement, my eyes straying towards the grass; dew lingers in tiny beads of silver beneath the wash of moonlight, a monochrome effect taking over the house before us, which, despite the red of the others, is coloured bone white.
“They were drunkards. Just another set of locals or those from out of town. Two girls, no older than ourselves, estimated between eighteen and their twenty-one. They were Oblivated, unfortunately, before any information could be given. This was of course, before the corpse had been located.”
“Which was how long ago?”
“Around a quarter past one.”
“So the murderer couldn’t have stayed for long then?”
Granger’s shrugs and continues to walk. I follow. The sound of footfalls on the concrete of the paving that leads towards the house soon halts as soon as Granger steps inside. Already, the rush of dark moves forward to embrace her. I linger in front of the door and Hermione hands me a real of clear, stick tape.
“What’s this for?”
“Taking samples, of course. How much wine did you have?” Ah. I watch her disapproving look. She obviously saw the empty bottle then. Actually, I’m quite clear-headed now that the cold has snaked through my veins to refresh me. Still, I’d rather be asleep and dreamful in my bed anytime, rather than standing here and preparing myself to view the body of an old friend. Hermione jerks me back to reality and the cold once more as she presses a set of small plastic packets inside my hand. To place the evidence within.
Sticking the sample of tape to the brass door handle, I rip it off once more and place it inside one of the packets. Any fibres of clothing of the dust of skin will hopefully have been extracted. We can send this on to the science labs afterwards. Following Hermione further on inside, our wands light the way up the narrow staircase that winds onto the next level. It seems these small cramped houses are traditional for their lack of space, the cellar beneath the first floor, the narrow back garden and the stairs that leave you feeling nothing less than claustrophobic. The place reeks of take-away curries and kebabs. Disgusting. My wrinkled nose prevents me from worrying for a little while, but as I near the end of the stairs I feel the same old clutch of cold dread gripping at me. I’ve faced dead bodies before. Hell, I’ve killed, but just knowing what’s waiting for you is even more disturbing.
Yet when we reach upstairs, there’s nothing. A crumpled bed is blemished with flakes of crumbs, a dirty, unwashed window casting moonlight through in a pool of liquid silver, yet that light is fragmented due to the filthy glass, distorted in a way. Sheets trail along the floor, and there seems to be the relevance of a struggle. A squashed apple rests on the floor, along with a splatter of faint blood dripping over it, but that’s it. No body. Just an unwashed room.
Hermione turns to face me, her face pale and lit by the moon, her wand protruding a blast of light so that I squint and shield my eyes. She sighs but says little more. Instead, she pushes past me and already I’m finding my way downstairs, walking after her. Upstairs we can investigate later, once the corpse is located.
The lounge is our next location, followed by the bathroom, and finally the kitchen. Our final destination, with exception of the larder, I feel this is the destined spot. Somehow, the air seems to have dropped in temperature, although that might just be the tingle of ice I feel running down my spine. Every part of me is alert, my mind prepared for the worst shock possible, my hand trembling slightly against the grip of my wand. Yet somehow, I grab Hermione’s shoulder and pull her back. It doesn’t seem right that she should have to go first. I mean, its not like I want to protect her or anything, I just . . . Its just instinct.
Stepping through the doorway, I bite down hard on my lip. My eyes are ever-searching. They move towards a pile of dirty plates and saucepans, sliding over a sink stashed with brown water, a tap dripping and echoing through the night. My left hand is now clutched upon Hermione’s wrist, pushing her behind me and keeping her close, making sure my body acts as a visible shield should the . . . murderer, still be here.
There. On the floor, before us, a hand can be made out. Fingers still curled up, one pointing upwards, I follow its direction, my eyes travelling towards the wall. Indented in blood, inscription trails in beads of fresh scarlet, dribbling down the wall to reach the pale and rather large face of Goyle. But its not the face I’m looking at - not the wide, open eyes, not the bullet hole encrusted inside the skull.
No. it’s the writing, for what it says chills me further than the corpse upon the floor.
“Never gonna catch tomorrow,” Hermione voices the words aloud, her voice warming and yet filled with inexplicable dread.
I nod in response, releasing the tug my teeth hold upon my lip to speak what I know we both are thinking.
“Seems like we’ve got ourselves a serial killer.”
Author's Note: I apologise for my lack of response thus far in answering reviews for the previous chapter - however, rest assured, its due to being away, and now with this new chapter up, I'll be working to respond to reviews.