Chapter 6 : Five: A Flair for the Dramatic
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“Can we go back to the story now?” Hugo curled up on the sofa, hugging a pillow.
Rose sat beside him. “So you’re enjoying it?”
Hugo squirmed as far from his sister as he could get. “Mr. Malfoy is funny. The professors made him faint!”
Albus sat in the window seat, leaning his head against the glass. “I’m surprised they would be so cruel.”
“Teddy knows how cruel McGonagall can get.” James was grinning as he plopped down on the floor. “He’s beaten me for detentions so far.”
Teddy deigned not to reply.
“So far?” Albus raised an eyebrow. “Mum won’t be pleased to hear that.”
Ignoring the glare between the Potter brothers, Teddy raised a hand for silence. “Lets get back into this, shall we? Ready, Lily?” She was sitting beside him, fearful but curious.
“Yes.” The word was barely more than a squeak, but it was enough.
“So,” Teddy said. “Draco goes up to Professor Snape and tells him of his idea....”
“That is the most idiotic proposal I have ever heard, Malfoy.” Snape flicked a strand of greasy hair from his face. “One would think that you had been possessed by Potter’s stupidity.”
Draco glowered in Snape’s direction, but the Potions Master was too busy examining the clothes Potter had been wearing. Not his school robes, but Muggle jumper and trousers. Potter had been ready to leave Hogwarts to enjoy a Christmas with the Weaselbys. It still didn’t make sense that he’d been in the castle instead of on the train. Certainly his friends had missed him?
“All I meant, Professor, was that it could have been an accident.” Draco stepped forward, his eyes avoiding the still-draped body. He swallowed before continuing. “Say Hagrid hears a sound in the corridor, thinks it’s someone up to no good, then attacks.”
Snape looked toward him, his lip turned up in a sneer. “And have you ever heard of Hagrid attacking anyone in the corridors, Malfoy? I daresay you would have been the first of his victims, had that been the case.”
There was no point in trying to talk to Snape. Professor Snape, ha! It seemed that, if the whole thing were up to Snape, Draco would be shipped off to Azkaban without a second thought. Was this the loyalty his father constantly talked about? If so, it was despicable. He’d have a good talk with his father about Snape. Let his father know just how things were between himself and the good professor.
Draco stood by the window, arms crossed in front of his chest, glaring down at the lawn. He could hear Professor McGonagall talking to Hagrid outside the Hospital Wing, her sharp tones against Hagrid’s rumblings. He liked his theory about Hagrid being a killer, even an accidental one, no matter what Snape said. It was a logical explanation that no Ravenclaw could dispute.
“Did you notice if Potter was wet when you found him?”
Snape was now holding Potter’s shoe, looking as though it smelled very bad. This wasn’t a surprise to Draco, not with all the Muggle blood running in Potter’s veins.
Draco shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“I don’t know, sir.”
“Yeah, I said that.” He paused, hanging on to the silence. “Sir.”
“It is not in your favour to be difficult with me, Malfoy. I should not have bothered to rely on your powers of observation in the least.”
Snape, tossed the shoe back on the table and moved to exit the room, his robes flapping like the wings of a vampire bat.
“Been listening to Dad’s school stories again, haven’t you Teddy?” Rose was trying her best not to laugh, the tears welling in her eyes.
“It’s for effect,” Teddy explained, but even he was grinning.
James sat up straighter. “Don’t tell me you’re going to make Snape the killer. That’d be–”
“Too obvious.” Albus finished the sentence for him, looking at his hands.
“You’ll see.” Teddy enjoyed being vague.
Draco stared after him. Was his confusion ever going to end?
He ran to catch up to Snape, who was by now already outside the doors, joining McGonagall and Hagrid. The latter took one glance at the draped body within and sobbed loudly, an obscene sound that echoed down the corridor. Snape’s sneer hadn’t yet left his face and wasn’t going to anytime soon.
“How could Potter have returned after the train had departed?”
Draco stood there, trying to remain invisible. Perhaps this was his role, to watch and observe while Snape did all the hard work. It seemed like a reasonable division of tasks. A Malfoy should never get his hands dirty.
Hagrid blew his nose into a towel-sized handkerchief. “‘e would ‘ave ‘ad to walk.”
“But the snow had begun by that time.” McGonagall narrowed her eyes. “Potter would have needed to walk through it.”
She did not need to add how unpleasantly cold it was outside.
“Would Potter have worn a cloak or jacket? That item was not among his clothes.” Snape tilted his head to one side.
“But would he have left it in Gryffindor Tower?” McGonagall stepped back, as though ready to run off and check.
If Potter had gone up to Gryffindor Tower to drop off his cloak, then he must have intended to stay in the castle for a period of time, longer than it would have taken to run back and catch the train again. So why would Potter have left his friends and the train behind? What reason did he have for coming back to the castle in the snow? Going back for something he’d forgotten? An arranged meeting? A fight with his friends that sent him back to the empty corridors of Hogwarts?
There were too many possibilities, all of which depended on what they would find in Gryffindor Tower. His trunk, his cloak (or jacket, that crude Muggle word)... and what else?
“Hagrid, was there any trouble with the carriages or the train?” McGonagall had turned to him, her voice still sharp. The shock of Potter’s death wasn’t entirely worn away yet.
Draco watched the Keeper of the Keys, the way he wiped the handkerchief beneath his nose, the way the tears glistened in his curly beard, the way he was shaking... but from what? Was it the utter anguish of losing Potter, or something else? Fear, perhaps?
“And you watched the train as it departed?” Snape had to lift his chin to glare at Hagrid, losing the advantage of looking down his nose.
“‘Course. Always do, don’ I? Weren’ nothing wrong. They jus’ got out before the snow started comin’ down bad.” He sniffed again, one hand clutching the handkerchief like it were a life preserver.
There were many ways off the train without getting noticed. Hagrid would have been distracted by something, most likely, and Potter had hopped off during that moment. With the snow blowing around as it was, Potter could have made it all the way to the castle without being seen.
Of course, Hagrid could be lying. Perhaps he’d walked with Potter all the way to the castle, then offed him once they got inside. But wait, that didn’t fit with the first scenario he’d come up with. If Potter had fallen, slipping on a wet floor, then why would Hagrid have left him? It was out of character for the half-giant, something that even Draco couldn’t deny. Hagrid would have done something, not left Potter to die alone.
So where did that leave him?
Nowhere, really. Back to square one.
Was he going to do this every time? Exclude every suspect as soon as they appeared?
He knew more about some of the details, but there were still too many questions to answer. And the professors weren’t helping at all. If anything, they were making matters worse, standing around gabbing while the minutes ticked past until the Aurors arrived....
“Are you finished, Malfoy?” Snape drawled, eyes boring into Draco’s head.
Draco blinked. McGonagall and Hagrid were gone, for how long, he couldn’t be sure.
“While you were in deep meditation, Malfoy, Professor McGonagall has left to search Gryffindor Tower, while Hagrid has been sent to explore the grounds for clues.”
If Snape stared at him like that any longer, he would burn a whole through Draco’s skull.
“What about....” He did not want to refer to himself and Snape as “us” – the thought of it disgusted him. “Me, sir? What will I be doing?”
Snape looked down the corridor. “I assume that you have since altered your opinion on Hagrid? He is a dunderhead, but an innocent one.”
Draco wanted to say no, but with so much at stake, he had to be honest.
“Yes, Professor. He couldn’t have done it.”
Snape’s eyes flicked back to Draco. “Good.”
“But where does that leave u– me? Who else is there?” He felt like a stupid weakling, having to rely so much on Snape’s brain, which was, as the professor continuously claimed, far more up to this sort of detecting thing. So far, all of Draco’s ideas had come to naught, and he was more than halfway to giving up. The wretched bunch of professors had proved him innocent, hadn’t they? He had nothing to worry about.
“There are still nearly thirty others within the castle who had the opportunity, Malfoy.”
Draco said nothing, wondering why Snape wasn’t going after them instead. Surely all of them had equal potential for being Potter’s killer.
“No one can be eliminated, even once reasonable doubt can be proven.” Snape began walking down the corridor, robes billowing around him.
“Do you think he wore his robes like that on purpose?” Rose mused, leaning back into the sofa with one eye closed. “I mean, everyone says he was like that.”
The room was silent until Albus failed to hide his laughter any longer.
“Now that is a very good question.”
James was shaking his head in disgust. “Are you two finished?”
Teddy just barely kept himself from grinning.
“But Professor,” Draco said, running to keep up. “How can we be sure who did it then, if no one can be eliminated as a suspect?”
A little smirk pulled at one corner of Snape’s mouth.
“You forget, Malfoy, that I am a Potions Master and that, in that position, I am capable for brewing the one key to discovering the truth.”
Draco felt as though he had a blank slate for a brain. Nothing... nothing... a potion, yes, but which one? There were so many of the blasted things.... but oh, that might be it. The potion that made people speak the truth without resistance.
But Snape had pulled ahead, probably knowing that he did not need to answer Draco’s question, as the answer was an obvious one. It was fortunate that he had recently brewed another batch of the glorious potion, one that he had always wanted to use on Potter. Now, of course, that would be impossible, but it would not mar the satisfaction he would gain from using it on whichever students still remained within Hogwarts.
McGonagall was following them, waving a hand to stop Snape’s progress.
“Ah, Minerva. I assume that Potter’s things were not to be found?” He stopped so suddenly that Draco almost careened into him. Now that would have been most unpleasant.
McGonagall’s eyes widened. “And how did you know that?”
The smirk was back on Snape’s face. He was enjoying himself far too much.
“It seemed a logical conclusion. Potter had not meant to return to the castle, but something drew him here all the same.”
“It must have been something dire for him to return in the snow.” McGonagall clenched her hands, her face pale. “And then all the way to that particular corridor. It must have been someone who knew him well.”
“What?” Draco blurted. How did any of this add up to someone who knew Potter?
Both of the professors looked at him as though he was entirely stupid.
McGonagall was the first to answer. “Isn’t it obvious, Mr. Malfoy? When given the opportunity, Potter will... would always play the hero. If someone claimed to be trouble, Potter would be the first there to offer assistance.”
Snape was watching Draco closely, too closely for Draco’s liking.
“That hardly limits the list of suspects, Minerva. Potter wasn’t exactly humble about his abilities in heroic matters. However....” He held the last syllable, pausing just long enough to produce a very annoying dramatic effect. “This information will limit the number of questions I shall have to ask each person within the castle.”
She raised an eyebrow. “So you will be starting the interrogations?”
Snape nodded once, and she hurried off down the corridor without another word.
Before Snape walked off again at breakneck speed, Draco asked another question.
“Does this mean that someone sent Potter a message when he was getting onto the Hogwarts Express, Professor? That someone planned this out ahead of time?”
There was a very long pause as Snape glared down at Draco.
Finally, he said, “I will not presume to make assumptions, Malfoy. We have no time to waste... or rather, you do not.” He turned to the window. “As you can see, time is running out.”
He left Draco to look out the window for himself. The snow was coming down more slowly and the wind had died down. The storm was nearly over, and he knew what that meant. The Aurors would come.
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