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Chapter 4 : Three: Holmes and Watson
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“Alright, are you lot ready for the next part?” Teddy asked, glancing down at his watch. It was already passing seven. When did Aunt Ginny say she’d be back again? Hopefully not too soon, there was a lot of story left to go.
Lily ran in from the loo, followed by James and Hugo, who each held giant plates of food.
“How can you two eat that much?” Rose grabbed a pastry from her brother’s pile.
Albus glanced longingly at his own brother’s plate, but stayed his hand. There were only so many liberties a younger brother could take with an elder.
“Looks like we’re ready then,” Teddy said, having determined just how he was going to start. “Everyone comfortable?”
Draco rushed after Professor Snape, his breath catching in his throat more and more with each corridor they entered. They weren’t going to the Slytherin Common Room, nor the Potions classroom, not even to the Great Hall – Draco expected that they would go off to interview suspects or hunt down the real murderer before they could get away. Instead, they were going back to the last place in the castle Draco wanted to ever be.
The scene of the crime.
Now lit with extra torches, the spot didn’t look quite so disturbing as before. There was nothing special about it – the stone floor and walls were like those of any other corridor in the school, and anyone who didn’t know about Potter’s death could have guessed that a murder had taken place in that spot. No blood. No black residue on the walls. No nothing. Just an empty corridor filled with the memory of death.
The cold eyes of Harry Potter still stared up at Draco, but only in his mind.
Snape saw nothing of what Draco did, however. But then again, he was far more experienced in these matters, and saw precisely what he expected to see in such a case as this.
It was impossible for any criminal to entirely remove the essence of themselves from the scene of a crime, whether they be muggle or wizard. A simple Scourgify could not wipe clean the slate of murder, there was far more to this than would have been seen by the eye of an amateur. Snape added a further grimace to his sneer. Malfoy would never be able to get his sorry arse out of this, not without someone who knew what he was doing in these sorts of matters.
Snape didn’t need to believe that he knew what he was doing. Such things were just too obvious to the observing eye.
“Look at that, Malfoy.”
Draco’s head swivelled around, trying to find the spot called “that”.
“Over there, can you not see anything?” Snape didn’t try to hide his derision.
“Sir, I don’t see anything.”
There was a moment of uncomfortable silence.
“And that, Malfoy, was my point.”
Draco blinked. “I don’t understand, sir.”
Snape flicked his hand in impatience, stooping to kneel for a closer examination of the ground. “Of course not.”
Pausing, Draco watched the professor examine each corner of the stone floor.
“What is it that’s not there, sir?”
Turning his face upwards at Draco, Snape’s eyes narrowed, then he let out a breath that, coming from anyone else, would have been regarded as a sigh.
“Look around you, Malfoy. What usually covers the floor in most areas, but is not found in this particular area?” He snapped at his syllables, causing Draco to wince at each t.
With an obedience his father would have sneered at, Draco first looked up the corridor, then turned to look down it towards the junction. He tilted his head. He squinted. He bent towards the floor. He stood high on the tips of his toes. There was something not here that should have been, but all Draco could see were the corridors themselves, bare of everything except...
“Why in Merlin’s name would someone steal a rug?”
His miraculous use of brain energy had made him forget the completely necessary sir.
Owing to such a miracle occurring, Snape decided to let Draco’s neglect of proper address pass for the moment.
“The question should rather be, was it here when you first saw the... Potter.”
Denial was always the Slytherin way.
Draco thought a bit. Then some more. He avoided Snape’s sharp gaze, instead following with his eyes the grout lines along the floor. There had been a body. Eyes staring upwards, magnified by the lenses of his spectacles. There had been that smell, the decay of life. Behind closed eyelids, Draco began to recreate the scene in his mind, pushing himself away from the disgust of Potter and of death to think of all the other things that had been at this very spot two hours before.
Had it only been two hours?
Perhaps a lifetime ago.
“Teddy, aren’t you getting a bit too much into things?” Rose’s question split the narrative that had been causing her cousins and brother to lean forward in suspense.
The narrator in question shook himself as one would when waking up. “Oh, sorry.” A slight flush rushed up his throat.
“Mr. Malfoy is an interesting person.” Albus saved the silence.
Some semblance of guilt appeared on Rose’s face, though she tried to hide it. Lily saw it and hid a smile behind her hands. Perhaps Scorpius was a more interesting person?
“How’d you learn so much about Professor Snape, Teddy?” Hugo asked, oblivious to his sister’s embarrassment.
Teddy shrugged. “Uncle Harry’s always happy to speak of him.”
“Not that Uncle Ron would agree with the things Dad says,” James added with a laugh.
A glare in his general direction quickly shut up the elder Potter son.
Anyway, having recognised that Malfoy was spending all available energy on remembering the traumatic event, Snape had gone on to search for any extraneous clues possibly left by the murderer. There was not much here, it seemed, but perhaps something would appear to the eye if he only looked closer.
The side of his face against the cooling stone, Snape observed the smallest defect in the ancient floor. Some lighter colour was showing through what obviously had to be a chip in the stone tile. How fascinating; it would have taken considerable force to produce such a mark. But with what sort of tool or weapon? No spell would cause something so small.
Such a small thing could alter matters in a large way.
By now, Snape’s patience with his subordinate – he amused himself with the thought of Draco as a kind of bumbling Boswell – was wearing thin. How long did it indeed take one to remember whether or not there was a rug on the ground underneath a dead body?
“Well, Malfoy? Can your supreme powers of memory assist you at this time?”
There was a moment in which Draco seemed to collect his thoughts, scattered as they must have been across the emptiness of his brain.
“I don’t think there was one, sir.”
Indeed, you don’t think at all. Snape kept this to himself: another stern retort could lose him Lucius’s monetary interest. His upper lip twitched, avoiding the usual sneer.
He started walking away, leaving the boy in the wake of his billowing robes. The giant black bat appellation given to Snape by many students of the time never suited him better. The only problem was that he had left behind him an extremely confused Draco.
The voice drifted down the corridor. “We have a post mortem to attend, Malfoy.”
Draco swallowed noisily, the spittle catching in his throat. The very idea of watching Harry Potter’s body be sliced open by a tearful Madame Pomfrey would do nothing for his appetite. Snape was doing the detecting anyway, he might as well carry on without Draco, who’d have been, anyways, much happier curled up between the silken green sheets of his bed.
“Come, Malfoy. It’s this or the dungeons.”
“Now you’re going overboard, Teddy.”
Albus avoided the cushion thrown at him by his brother.
“Shut up, baby face!”
No silken sheets, then. Life was cheap, but that didn’t mean he had to become Snape’s bloody slave if he wanted to free himself from the reaches of the dementors. He’d rather have his soul stolen away any day to having to kiss up to Snape all the time. Yes, now he had to be firm, be a Malfoy, for Merlin’s sake! What would his father think of him doing everything that a dirty half-blood told him to?
“Professor, I won’t be joining you at this affair.” There was some semblance of his father’s voice in his words, but he still felt them to be weak and ineffectual.
Snape stopped, or rather slowed because his feet did not quite stop.
“It is highly necessary that you accompany me, Malfoy. You are the only one apart from the murderer – if that indeed is not you – who has viewed the body untouched. Now come.”
“But what about Longbottom? He was there.”
The Potions Master did not bother to hide the rolling of his coal-black eyes. “Longbottom is currently under sedation in Gryffindor Tower. He was extremely upset.” A corner of his lips twitched upwards. “If it assuages your delicate constitution, there will be no incisions made. The cause of death was painfully obvious according to Madame Pomfrey.”
It was definitely a day to be confused. Potter had appeared untouched, so did that mean someone had used an Unforgiveable on him?
Already on his way down the corridor, Snape looked back for a moment. He had won this battle, perhaps even the war, but Draco was damned if he would allow Snape to dig him out of his mess alone.
“Not everything can be achieved with magic, Malfoy. There was a chip on the stone tile, and that, with the absence of the rug, leads me to believe that there was an object at the scene sharp enough to tear a hole in the rug and leave that mark upon the floor.”
Draco’s eyes narrowed. “But there was no blood, sir. If Potter had been hit by something, especially on the head, there would have been a wound for some sort.”
The victorious expression on Snape’s face revealed that he had led Draco to such a conclusion. “Indeed, Malfoy, but I never stated that Potter had been killed with the object, only that it had been there.” He flicked aside a strand of hair that had fallen into his face. “Find that object and perhaps you shall find the murderer.”
“Or another witness,” Draco added, feeling as though he was finally getting somewhere in this strange business of detection.
“Finally! He’s getting smarter!” It was James this time who interrupted, only to have the same cushion thrown back at him.
Snape’s only response was an indecipherable noise. At the other end of the corridor was the stately silhouette of Professor McGonagall, who, with hands folded before her, at first appeared to Draco as the figure of Death itself, already here to collect Potter’s damned soul. That is, of course, only if someone as annoying as Potter could possess something as noble as a soul.
“We are awaiting you, Severus.” Her voice rang down the corridor, yet it was not a yell, not even a call. The mere sound of it now gave Draco the chills – the grief was evident in the professor’s voice, if not in her face. “And you as well, Mr. Malfoy.”
McGonagall was also one of the few (other than Hagrid, of course) who could not be easily towered over by the menacing Snape. He stopped in front of her, gaze unyielding.
“Was there nothing to be learned from the Gryffindors?” He spat out the name.
The silence that ensued was terrifying.
“Apparently not,” she finally replied, glaring across at Snape. “Potter was out on his own.”
“So was Longbottom.” Draco’s mutter did not go unnoticed.
Her face tightened. “Indeed.”
She walked away before either Snape or Draco had the opportunity to add comment. Snape glowered in her direction, but followed in silence, his darkening mood enough to keep Draco, or anyone, for that matter, at a distance.
Draco thought about the mark on the floor and the missing rug, tying those things in with the burnt out torches and the fact that Potter had been alive when he’d first found him – those cries for help still echoing in Draco’s ears. His feet falling one-behind-the-other on their own, he imagined a poker – chip, torn rug, no fires – or a sword – but there had been no blood! – or maybe a spear – hitting the floor instead of Potter’s heart, then being used to knock Potter in the back of the head.
The more amusing thoughts followed.
McGonagall in the common room with a poker.
Snape in the Headmaster’s office with a sword.
Longbottom in the corridor with a spear.
Now all Draco was left to wonder was whether or not there had been any nearby suits of armour now missing its weapon. But first, he would need to know the cause of death, because only by knowing how Potter had died would he be able to, firstly, clear his name, then later, find the true murderer of Potter. If anything, Potter was more annoying in death than he had been in life.
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