Romina Malloy-Thomas, Demetrius’ sister, sat at her tiny kitchen table, drumming her slender fingers on its surface as she stared at the large grandfather clock, willing it to move slower. Her husband and eldest son should have been here minutes ago…
Unable to keep still, she rose and went into each of her children’s bedrooms: sixteen-year-old Jasper and eleven-year-old Avenel. To her surprise Avenel’s room was empty, but as she opened the door to Jasper’s bedroom she spotted her daughter, sleeping on Jasper’s bed while Jasper was on the floor. Gently Romina shook her son awake.
He started, his hand going automatically for his wand beside him; then his eyes fell on his mother, and he breathed a sigh of relief. “Mum.”
“Why is Avenel in your room?” she whispered, careful not to wake her sound-asleep child.
Jasper shrugged. “She was scared. Have Dad or Peter come back yet?”
She shook her head. Just then she heard the door open, and she smiled. “There they are now.” Jasper followed behind her as she came into the kitchen to greet the remaining members of her family: her husband, Elliot, and Jasper and Avenel’s twenty-one-year-old brother Peter.
“Darling,” she said, and kissed Elliot’s cheek, then hugged Peter. “We were beginning to become quite worried.”
Elliot’s answer was a grunt as he took off his cloak, but she had expected that. Elliot hadn’t really spoken since he’d joined the Order; Peter did most of the talking. He had just been given the Auror status, to his immense pride.
“Been a rough night for us, Mum,” he said now, as his mother automatically began to brew tea. “We got called to a house not far from here. Brutal murder—an eleven-year-old girl.”
“Oh, the poor dear,” said Romina, not noticing her son’s hesitation. She slid two mugs of tea to Peter and Elliot, then prepared two more for Jasper and herself.
Peter paused. “It was Cora, Mum. Our cousin Cora. Uncle Demetrius’ daughter.”
The mug slipped from Romina’s hands at the words and shattered on the tile floor. “Is Demetrius—?” Numbly she waved her wand and repaired the broken mug.
“Heartbroken,” answered Elliot, taking a gulp of tea. “But Roselle is with him currently.”
“Avenel is going to be right torn up,” said Jasper, and Peter punched his shoulder. “Ouch! It’s true!”
“Shut up, you idiot, look at Mum!” Peter hissed.
Romina stared, completely in shock, and her husband got up and put his arm round her shoulders. “Mina, Mina, sit.”
She sat, her eyes large. “Cora,” she said bleakly. “Dear little Cora—though she wasn’t so small last I saw her. Demetrius and I haven’t been in touch since the summer. I wondered how they were, personally.” She looked to Elliot. “A few words weren’t enough. Such a beautiful girl, with that curly hair and those brown eyes and the slim body. I thought she was a colt, not quite grown into herself yet…what happened? How did she die?”
“Demetrius had…left the house—used every protection he knew, of course, you know how much he adored her,” said Elliot haltingly. He appeared just as shaken, despite his years as both Auror and Order member, as his wife. “But it wasn’t enough, Death Eaters got in—apparently they were looking for him, but they found Cora instead, and…and…I doubt either of them would have survived, even if Demetrius had been there.”
“Any suspects?” said Romina.
“We’re hesitant to point fingers, but I’d hazard a guess Antonin Dolohov was involved. It’s his style, at least: the four slashes. One from forehead to chin, one underneath both eyes, another diagonally to the left, the final to the right. He does them well. Very neatly, very controlled. Just long thin stripes, especially for the children. It doesn’t stop him from killing them, of course, but he shows a bit more delicacy when he makes the marks, and I would reckon he waits until they’re dead before doing it, not like with the adults.” Because he felt a shudder coming on, Elliot took another long gulp of his tea, and wished he were drinking brandy.
Romina sighed, a deep sad sigh. “Dolohov is a monster all the same. I went to Hogwarts with his aunt, Luciana. I hated her with a passion. She ended up marrying Adolphus Lestrange, had five children—the Lestrange siblings—”
“I have half my classes with Marina,” muttered Jasper. “I hate her too.”
“—but she died in the beginning of this war, and then her faithless arrogant husband married a woman twenty years younger than he was…I met her once. Zacharia Zabini Lestrange, same age as Luciana’s eldest child, and a thorough ninny.”
Jasper sniggered, and coughed up a bit of his tea as a result, but managed to swallow it just before it escaped his mouth. His mother rolled her eyes; he blushed, grinning.
“Fat load of good it did Adolphus. He hasn’t got a son off her yet. Why he needs another boy when he has two already…but the only son that is married and has children is the younger one…” Romina snorted contemptuously. “Surprisingly, his elder daughter up and wed Alastor Moody.”
Peter, mid-sip, gagged and began to cough just as Jasper had done. His eyes watering, he said, “Mrs Moody was a Lestrange? She didn’t look like one of…them. Even though she was married and a mother, and eight years older, I thought she was…” He coloured. “Well, she was pretty.” Actually, in his opinion, Nyssa Moody had been gorgeous, but he didn’t want to go into much detail on that. “And Alastor isn’t exactly handsome, is he? Not since he lost his eye, and he’s got that missing leg…”
“That was from a Quidditch accident when he was at school,” said Romina gently. “It was in the 'Prophet' and everything, it had parents wondering if Quidditch would be safe there.”
“Her death, his daughter’s death, destroyed him. Now…he’s thrown himself into the Order, heart and soul, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone else quite like he is,” said Elliot. “No one can match him in fending off grief.”
Romina smiled thinly. “You don’t know my brother.”