Chapter 13 : The Search
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Minerva and Severus were the first to arrive at the scene. Several passer-bys were screaming at the top of their lungs. If it hadn’t been for this, neither Severus or Minerva would have been any the wiser. What they saw when they arrived caused Minerva to cover her own mouth to stop herself from screaming.
Sirius Black’s body lay on the ground. Severus knelt down and quickly determined that he was dead. Lying a few feet away was a small brown purse that Severus recognized right away. He scuttled over to the purse and picked it up and began to rummage through it, hoping he was wrong about whose it was.
Minerva saw the purse and gasped. She asked, “Severus, is that Hermione’s purse?”
“Yes. She was here when this happened.” Severus pointed to the corpse at his feet. He looked up and quickly walked over to three people who were standing nearby. He then asked, “Did either of you witness what happened here?”
The tallest of the three answered, “Yes. They were walking towards the castle when a green light shot out of that alley.” He pointed to a dark alley less than three feet from Black’s body. “The man fell to the ground quickly. Then the Death Eater emerged from the alley.”
“Death Eater?” Severus asked in alarm.
“Yes. He was dressed like one of them, at least. The girl tried to curse the Death Eater but he disarmed her quickly, then he hit her across the face. While she was kind of stunned he threw her across his shoulder and looked straight at me. Then they Disapparated.”
Suddenly five Aurors Apparated right next to Minera, their wands at the ready. Right away they began questioning everyone nearby. After nearly an hour of interrogations the Aurors decided Black’s death was an accident and there was no need to investigate further.
“An accident! What about the witnesses who saw a flash of green light hit Sirius? What about the Death Eater they saw kidnap Hermione Granger?” Minerva asked heatedly.
“We’re very busy, Professor. We don’t have time to go investigating every supposed Death Eater sighting. If you ask me, Black committed suicide. As for Miss Granger, she probably freaked out and ran away. I have faith that she’ll resurface in an hour or two.”
“Suicide! First you think it was an accident and now you think he committed suicide! That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard! Just how do you think he committed suicide, if you don’t mind me asking? His wand is still tucked in his sleeve! Are you saying he used the Killing Curse on himself and then put his wand back in his sleeve?” Minerva screamed.
“Look! I don’t see anything out of the ordinary here! Besides, we’re not going to waste our time investigating the death of someone like Sirius Black.”
Minerva looked positively thunderous now. “And just what is that supposed to mean?”
“Sirius Black is a convicted murdered and a known supporter of You-Know-Who.”
“Nonsense. He was cleared of all of those charges!”
“Yeah? According to whom? Albus Dumbledore? Harry Potter? Neither one is a reliable source of information. Dumbledore was an old crackpot and Harry Potter was an attention-seeking prat! If you ask me, it was only mere luck and help from his friends that allowed him to triumph over He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named!”
“How dare you speak of Harry Potter like that? You know nothing of Harry or what he had to endure while Voldemort was alive.” All of the Aurors hissed when she said the name. “Oh, stop it! If it weren’t for Harry Potter and his friends – well, you know what it was like before he was stopped.”
The Auror looked slightly uncomfortable but went on, faintly defiant. “No one is denying that he stopped the Dark Lord. We’re merely saying Harry Potter is not someone who deserves to be glorified the way he is. There were far greater witches and wizards who lost their lives fighting You-Know-Who, who no one remembers or cares about. When it comes to the recent war, the only person anyone cares about is Harry Potter. Everyone else who died was simply a casualty of war.”
Minerva opened her mouth to protest some more, but Severus stopped her. “Give it a rest, Minerva. Your words wouldn’t penetrate an inch into their thick brains.”
“Never have I met such ungrateful – did you hear the things they were saying about Harry? They have no respect for those who gave their lives so others might live.”
“They do have a point, though, Minerva,” Severus said evenly. “There were many others who died fighting the Dark Lord, and they aren’t remembered.” Minerva, her dander well up, wanted to rebut but couldn’t think of anything to say.
The Auror who had argued with Minerva gestured to two of his underlings and they levitated Sirius’ body. The Senior Auror produced a rather decrepit felt bowler hat from a pocket within his robes and shook it out.
Minerva, realizing it must be a Portkey, darted forward just as he was raising his wand. “Wait!” she cried. “What are you doing? Where are you taking him?”
The Auror rolled his eyes and turned around. “To be buried with his family, of course. Why – what did you think we’d be doing with him?”
Minerva hesitated. “Well, I – I don’t know...you will see him properly looked after, then?”
“Of course.” The Auror’s stern face softened slightly. “We’re not barbarians, after all. We’ll consult Gringotts about his will, see that his last wishes are observed. Now if there’s nothing else...?” Minerva, still obviously uncertain but not knowing what else to do, shook her head. The Auror laid the hat on top of Sirius’ body and each of the others put a hand on it; quietly he muttered an incantation, and seconds later, in a whirl of color, they were gone.
Severus decided he would have to take it upon himself to discover who had altered the potion book and, most importantly, where Hermione was. After the Aurors were done showing off their incompetence, he returned to his quarters inside the castle. Knowing exactly where to look, he took out the doctored potions book Hermione had bought. Inside the book he discovered her receipt from Brown and Vane Books.
Severus closed the book and exited his quarters again. He left the castle grounds with rapid strides and returned to Hogsmeade. Finding the bookstore wasn’t very difficult. Rising high above the building was a huge billboard that advertised a special on The Life and Ruin of He Who Must Not Be Named. Severus stepped into the store and found it uncomfortably quiet. He walked down the center aisle, casting uninterested glances at the books on shelves to his right and left.
“May I help you, sir?” Romilda Vane asked. Severus looked up to find the source of the voice and saw her standing behind the counter. She must have been doing something beneath the counter because when he entered the store he hadn’t seen anyone behind it. Severus forced a smile and approached as Lavendar Brown entered from the back room.
Lavendar looked up at Severus and gasped, “Professor Snape!”
Romilda suddenly understood Lavendar’s alarm and backed up against the back wall. “Uh...how may we help you, Professor?” she stammered.
Ignoring their behavior, he pulled out Hermione’s receipt and said, “About a month ago Hermione Granger came into this store and purchased a book. I need to know everything you can tell me about this book – where you got it, who has handled it since you bought it, everything.” Severus slid the receipt across the counter. Lavendar cautiously approached the piece of paper and stared at it.
“I remember that day. She was looking for a rare book. We had the only two copies in England,” Lavendar informed him proudly.
“Do you still have the other copy?” Severus asked.
“I believe so.”
“May I look at it, please?”
“Yes, of course.” Lavendar went into the back room and reemerged a few minutes later with a large book under her arm. She set it down on the counter in front of Severus and took a calculated step back. He opened the book to the page on the Draught of Silent Sleep. He opened up Hermione’s copy to the same page. He set the books side by side and examined both copies. Suddenly he smiled.
Lavendar and Romilda stepped up to the counter and looked at the two books as well. Both of them gasped when they saw what Severus was smiling at. The book he’d brought, Hermione’s copy, had been tampered with. “Who handles your books when you receive them?” Snape asked.
“All of our new acquisitions are processed and cataloged by Xavier Bradley,” Romilda explained.
“Bradley. I would very much like to speak to him.”
“You can’t. I mean, he hasn’t shown up for work for the past five days. We don’t know where he is,” Lavendar clarified.
“Do you have an address for him?”
“Let me check our records.” Once again Lavendar walked into the back room. Romilda put on a weak smile, which made Severus even more uncomfortable then he already was. A few minutes later Lavendar returned with a small piece of parchment in her hand. She handed it to Severus and asked, “You don’t think Xavier Bradley altered this book, do you?”
“I don’t know. If he didn’t alter it himself, he might know who did. Thank you for all of your help.”
Severus pocketed the piece of parchment and turned around to leave the store. Just as he was about to open the door, Lavendar asked, “Does this have anything to do with what happened this morning? We didn’t witness the event, we just heard about it.”
“Is it true that Sirius Black was murdered?” Romilda asked.
“Yes. It’s true.”
Severus opened the door and stepped out into the street. A number of witches and wizards ambled up and down the main street, buzzing excitedly with conversation. There was no need to get closer to hear what they were discussing. This morning’s event seemed to be the popular topic of discussion.
He pulled out the piece of paper and read the address to himself. It would appear that Mr. Bradley had an apartment in London. Severus pocketed the piece of parchment again, then he turned and Disapparated with a loud Crack!
He Apparated into the lobby of the apartment building bearing the address Lavendar had given him. All around him witches and wizards were traveling via Floo on their various errands. He slipped past the concierge and sprinted up the stairs, slowing when he reached the third floor. He pulled the piece of parchment out of his pocket again. “Apartment 312,” he said to himself. He walked down the corridor, keeping an eye on the apartment numbers. Finally he came to number 312.
Cautiously he tried the doorknob. It was locked. Severus looked up and down the hall – he was alone. He pulled out his wand and pointed it at the door, muttering, “Alohamora!” A bright light shone in the keyhole as the spell unlocked the door and, ominously, it swung open of its own accord. Swiftly he stepped inside the apartment and closed the door behind him.
The apartment was small and a quick search revealed that it was divided into three rooms. The largest was the living area. As Severus looked around he noticed that there was very little furniture. He began to doubt that Bradley had ever lived here. The kitchen area was small, with just the basic appliances. The bedroom was even smaller, considering that a large portion of it was the bathroom. Severus began to feel sorry for Xavier Bradley. Still, something felt off.
Given the layout of the apartment, it should be bigger than this. Suddenly a bizarre thought entered his mind. What if the apartment is larger than it appears? He walked into the bedroom and began to feel around the south wall. He was right – a portion of the wall was false. He pushed lightly on the wall and it swung open, revealing a hidden room.
Snape looked around the small room and a bad feeling came over him. On the right wall was a collage of pictures and news clippings about Hermione. Surveying the many pictures, he discovered that they went as far back as her final year at Hogwarts. What worried him more was that some of the pictures had been taken as recently as two weeks ago. Some of them were of Severus helping Hermione in the Hospital Wing.
On the left side of the small room was a blackboard with something written on it. Snape stepped into the room to take a closer look. He examined the writing and realized that it was the recipe for the potion Hermione had been taking.
He cautiously turned the blackboard over, revealing still more clippings, attached to the other side. A small picture in the right hand corner caught Severus’ attention more than any of the others. It was a black and white photo of an old silo out in the country; Severus recognized it immediately. He finally understood everything that had happened in the past two months, and more importantly, he knew where Hermione had been taken. Severus quickly turned and left the apartment.