Chapter 5 : Four: Abuse and Cruelty
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Now, what in Merlin’s name would Father think if he caught him thinking about a Muggle game? Only too much time spent in the same building with mudbloods and Muggle-lovers would create such a horrible, horrible state in a young pureblood wizard of the highest standing – that’s the sort of thing Lucius Malfoy would state, chin up and serpent cane held tightly.
That Draco had resorted to applying the present case to the game Clue only alluded to the intensity of his emotions at the current time. Those not accustomed to human emotion are, when finally inflicted with them, often prone to irrational thought. Not to mention that the very idea of attending Potter’s autopsy was rather stomach-sickening. How long until he turned as green as the trim on his robes? The last thing Draco wanted to do was provide amusement for a wretched half-blood like Snape.
Trailing in the wake of said half-blood, Draco tried to tie the facts of the case together in his traumatised brain. Potter had groaned, once, then expired. No sound of anyone rushing away, so they must have been gone before Draco heard the groan. One of the rugs was missing, presumably stolen (unconfirmed as of yet). There had been a chip in the stone floor, as though something had hit it recently (not necessarily related to the crime).
But those last two didn’t make sense. If Potter had been hit or stabbed with a metal weapon that would leave the mark on the floor, then why had there been no wound on the body? So he couldn’t have been hit on the head or stabbed anywhere. That excluded swords, knives, and other sharp instruments, but left anything blunt that could have given Potter a good wacking–
“That’s not nice, Teddy. It shouldn’t be a ‘good’ wacking.”
“He’s getting in character for Malfoy, Lils,” James said, leaning back with hands behind his head. “You gotta imagine this as though Malfoy’s thinking all this stuff.”
Albus was nodding. “It is a popular narrative style, actually.”
The others stared at him.
“As I was saying,” Teddy said after an awkward moment.
– in the chest or stomach where a blow of the right type could rupture a spleen or whatever organs there were to be ruptured. That would account for the groan Draco had heard: bleeding inside the body was fatal and painful. He knew that, a cousin on his father’s side had died before hitting the ground at a Quidditch match when he’d missed a bludger. So it was possible.
“Malfoy, are you presently occupied, or may we proceed?”
If anyone had wanted to bottle sarcasm, they would only have to place the beaker at the lips of Severus Snape.
They were inside the Hospital Wing now – Snape, McGonagall, Pomfrey, and himself – a mockery of funeral rites, Madam Pomfrey holding in her hand a small blade, Potter shirtless on the table. McGonagall had her handkerchief to her nose, whether to hide its redness or to keep out the smell, Draco couldn’t be sure. Only Snape appeared to be enjoying this, his mouth turned up in a please sneer.
Draco looked at Potter lying there. Looked like he was only sleeping. Any moment he’d leap up with a wild grin proclaiming it all to be a big practical joke. Draco wouldn’t laugh; he’d kill Potter himself.
Madam Pomfrey wiped away a tear and stood over Potter’s body, fingers lightly clutching the knife. She leaned closer and closer, the knife hovering over the underdeveloped chest. Draco’s eyes opened wide in horror, wanting so badly to close them, but he couldn’t, he couldn’t. He stared, the world shutting away from him, falling, falling. He just could not look away as–
Lily’s shriek filled the room. She burst into tears, huddling against Rose, who patted her back and managed to give Teddy a sympathetic shrug at the same time.
“Can’t do that to Daddy, he can’t!”
Teddy had the grace to look sheepish.
“He won’t get hurt, Lils,” Rose was whispering. “It’s just a story.”
The tears continued.
“Were you really going to tell that part, Teddy?”
Although the youngest of the group, Hugo remained unperturbed, a state which would have been blamed (by his mother) on his father’s callousness – “emotional range of a teaspoon” was the way she usually stated it.
Teddy looked at Lily. “No. Not at all. Come on, Lily, your dad will be fine.”
Her eyes stared up at Teddy. “But he’s DEAD!”
James snorted. “She’s got a point.”
“Please let me tell the story. You’ll see.”
Draco was out cold on the floor before Snape – who appeared grotesquely interested in Madam Pomfrey’s actions – could reach out and catch him. It was, of course, possible that Snape never meant to catch him in the first place, but he did move his arm in Draco’s direction as the fainting wizard fell.
He glanced over at McGonagall.
“He seems rather disturbed, Minerva.”
“I would doubt that he has witnessed such violence before, Severus.” Her voice shook, an abnormal weakness.
Snape crossed his arms, looking down at Draco’s prone form. “It does not clear him completely. There are still more questions than answers.”
“Yes, but his reaction does provide some evidence in his favour.”
“Evidence that he is a coward, perhaps.”
She sniffed at these words, the fingers of one hand curling into a fist. “It is the cowards who are most dangerous when cornered. You are right, Severus, this proves nothing.”
They both stared down at Draco’s body, as though contemplating their next actions.
He stirred, one hand twitching. Madam Pomfrey, abandoning the scalpel and frowning at the other two professors, knelt beside him, checking his pulse and lifting his eyelids.
“That was very irresponsible of you both,” she admonished while straightening Draco’s limbs in the attempt to make him more comfortable. “I’m extremely surprised that you should ever endanger a student in this way, especially you, Minerva.”
It was Snape who responded, his lips curled in a sneer. “And you say that, Madam Pomfrey, as the dead body of a student lies on the bed behind you.”
She glared at him, and he continued to sneer back. McGonagall, who had begun to feel slightly guilty, even in the presence of poor deceased Potter – just like his father, he looked, except for his mother’s eyes – and although she understood Snape’s reasoning for Draco’s non-innocence in this matter, she still had seen in the younger Slytherin’s eyes absolute fear, no glory, no hatred, only disgust and terror.
But if the culprit was not Draco, then who? She would have to speak to Albus immediately, have the entire castle checked for entrances and exits, for potential hiding places in which some Death Eater could still be lying in wait as the blizzard roared around them. Not safe to yet leave the castle – to leave was to perish in the storm – so they still had to be here. It was someone within Hogwarts itself who had murdered Harry Potter!
“And the melodrama continues,” Albus Severus muttered.
James laughed. “Yeah, Teddy, this is starting to sound like a bad murder mystery.”
Teddy let out a sigh. “But that’s exactly what it’s supposed to be. Any guesses as to who did it, yet?”
Finally, Rose spoke. “But you haven’t gone over the suspects well enough yet. Who exactly is in Hogwarts right now? You’ve only told us that Mum and Dad aren’t there.”
“Sure thing,” Teddy said with a grin.
There was a knock on the door to the Hospital Wing. Draco groaned, but did not wake. Madam Pomfrey quickly moved to cover Harry’s face with a sheet. McGonagall stirred, glancing to the door, her expression one of misery combined with determination. Snape did not lose his sneer.
“Well, well,” he said. “Who could that be?”
McGonagall snuck a glare in his direction. With the toe of her boot, she nudged Draco in the leg. “Up, Mr. Malfoy. I believe this will be the questioning period.”
Draco’s one eye flickered open.
“Yes, Mr. Malfoy. Up. Professor Snape will continue without you, otherwise.”
As he came back to consciousness – displeased that he had been left lying on the floor, what would his father have to say about this disgrace? – Draco heard the voices of the professors rumbling around him, felt the prod of someone’s boot, and heard Snape’s name spoken in a threatening tone. The image of a giant vampire bat came to mind.
He struggled to rise, body moving before his head could come to terms with what was actually going on around him. McGonagall pulled him up the rest of the way, their gentleness surprising.
“I believe that the interrogations are about to begin, Mr. Malfoy,” she was saying. “By the terms of your agreement with the Headmaster, you must also be in attendance.”
Draco rubbed the back of his skull, eyes flickering towards Potter’s covered form.
McGonagall shook her head. “That was a test. There is no need to perform a complete autopsy. Professor Snape believed that your reaction to such an event could gauge your innocence.”
He didn’t dare ask if it had. Anyway, something more pressing had come to his fuzzy brain.
“But what killed him? How do you know... Professor?”
McGonagall and Pomfrey exchanged worried glances. It was Madam Pomfrey’s voice that managed to provide the answer.
“Severe internal haemorrhaging.”
The words fell flat upon the stone floor, meaningless and misunderstood. Draco’s face must have expressed some sense of this lack of understanding, for Madam Pomfrey let out a very impatient sigh.
“He was bleeding on the inside, Mr. Malfoy. Surely you understand that.” She turned from the Slytherin, looking mournfully down at Potter, tears filling her eyes. “Poor boy. It would have been a painful death.”
Draco slipped away, stumbling against the next bed as he went. So it was like he had thought! Someone had given Potter that good wacking – a step too far! – and had ended up killing him. What a dirty way of doing it, having to actually physically hit the half-blood. Quite disgusting.
Only the Unforgiveables worked for killing someone off, giving them a good fright along the way (not to mention some great amusement for the one casting the spells). But who in a castle filled with magical people would resort to instead using brute strength? These days, there weren’t any Marcus Flints to place the blame on.
It was, at the very least, a way of proving his own innocence. As things went, Draco may have been the taller of the two, but in the past year or so, Potter had grown in size and musculature. In a physical fight, however fair or unfair, Potter would have won. That was why proper wizards never fought fist to fist – they did have wands for a reason.
The voices at the door distracted Draco from his rambling thoughts. The low grumbles echoed through the room, broken up by wracking sobs that caused each medical instrument to vibrate in place. He knew the voice, knew the sound of those sobs. Only one person – being – could manage such wretched noises.
And that, Draco supposed, would be his prime suspect. The giant Rubeus Hagrid. Large, potentially violent, and fully able to strike a fatal blow. He went to join Snape, head raised and feeling more confident than he had throughout this whole bloody mess.
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