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Chapter 15 : The Surrey Slasher
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Hermione fell out of Harry’s fireplace, her body aching horribly from all the rough treatment it had endured. Harry rushed over to her and helped her to her feet.
“I’m fine,” she protested, shrugging off Harry’s arms. She pointed to the unconscious man on the floor. “He’s one of the Hunters—the leader.”
Harry sprang into action, checking Mark’s pulse. “This again, Hermione?” he asked, anger simmering in his tone as he looked at her with piercing green eyes.
“Harry, just believe me this time,” Hermione pleaded, deciding not to even mention Malfoy. If arresting Mark would get her job back, she’d be able to pursue arresting Malfoy later. “Check his wand.”
Hermione held out the Mark’s wand, her brown eyes begging Harry to trust her. After a short pause, Harry took it and aimed his own wand at it, saying firmly, “Prior Incantato.”
Shadowy versions of Mark’s past spells burst forth from the wand: there were stunners, Dark Curses, and also, Harry observed, more than one Cruciatus Curse.
As the shadows dissipated, Harry turned back to Hermione, taking in her haggard appearance as she stood before him defiantly. There was a bruise on her face, as well as many small cuts. Her hair was a mess and she looked exhausted. Her clothing was an over-large shirt that couldn’t be her own and a pair of pajama pants that had a bloody rip in them. She had clearly been through a terrifying experience.
“I suppose saying ‘I’m sorry’ wouldn’t quite cover it,” Harry said softly, his voice punctuated with regret and shame.
Hermione sighed in relief, sagging against the wall. Harry rushed to her and helped her into a chair. “Did he curse you?” Harry asked in a hushed tone.
Hermione nodded, unshed tears shining in her eyes. Hesitantly, Harry put his arms around her, and Hermione relaxed in his embrace.
“I’m so so sorry,” Harry breathed, holding her tightly for the first time since Ron’s death.
Hermione clutched him tightly, knowing that he was apologizing for more than one thing. They had not spent real time together in far too long, as both had been busy with their work and training. Their friendship had lapsed.
“I’m sorry, too,” she whispered back, inhaling the familiar scent of her best friend. A small sound from behind them interrupted the two.
Harry immediately snapped back into Auror mode, whipping out his wand and facing Mark. The stunning charm wore off and Mark blinked a few times as he regained consciousness. He looked down at the ropes binding him tightly and immediately began pulling on them.
“What is your name?” Harry asked sternly, a look on his face that would make even the most hardened criminal flinch. Mark was no exception.
“Mark Williams,” he answered immediately, cringing as Harry stood over him.
“Mark Williams, you are under arrest for using the Cruciatus Curse on an Auror, with other charges for criminal activity pending,” Harry said, opening the door to his office and calling another Auror in. “As you know, the use of an Unforgivable Curse warrants a lifetime sentence in Azkaban. You will have no trial for that crime, as you have already been found guilty. There will, however, be a trial for your suspected involvement in the criminal gang The Hunters, the prison sentence for which will be added to your lifetime sentence. Take him to Azkaban."
Once the room was empty but for Hermione and Harry, Harry turned back to Hermione and said meaningfully, “You’ll need to fill out the report for him tomorrow.”
A smile slowly spread across Hermione’s face as she realized what Harry was saying. “I’m back on the job?”
Harry nodded, smiling as he opened a drawer in his desk and tossing Hermione her badge. “I’ll have a new assignment for you tomorrow, since you completed this one admirably.”
“And the next raid?” Hermione asked stubbornly, not forgetting why she had done all of this in the first place.
Harry’s face tightened as he once more took in her appearance. She looked exhausted, yes, but not fragile. Her eyes burned brightly with life. “You’ll be my second in the next raid,” he sighed.
Hermione’s face lit up. “Thanks.”
“Will you please go home and get some rest now?” Harry asked, a wry smile on his face.
“I’d like that very much,” Hermione admitted, looking down at her clothing. She realized that Malfoy still had her wand. Not wanting to reveal this fact to Harry, she asked him if she could use his fireplace.
“Of course,” Harry said warmly. “Will you come over for dinner next weekend? It’s been much too long since we’ve all gotten together for a pleasant dinner.”
“I’ll be there,” replied Hermione happily, giving Harry one last hug before she stepped into his fireplace.
One dizzying Floo trip later, Hermione stepped out of her fireplace and into her apartment, already dreading what she would find. She walked into her living room, letting out a startled gasp.
The place was spotless—not a trace remained of the dead Hunter that Hermione had battled. All of her bookshelves were in repaired and in order—her door was intact and looked as good as new. Grabbing a knife from the kitchen, she quietly walked around her apartment, checking for intruders. Her bathroom was empty, her kitchen was safe—the only room left to check was her bedroom.
Hermione carefully pushed the door open, knife at the ready. The room was empty, but there was a small box on the bed. She carefully slit the tape on the box and opened it gingerly. She expected a bomb, some sort of curse, a severed hand—anything but what was actually in there.
A small kitten yawned and blinked as it looked up at her. The kitten was black and brown with a white chest and paws. Hermione gasped and dropped the knife on the floor. She scooped up the kitten in her arms happily, cooing softly to it as it began to purr. Forgetting everything, she curled up in her bed with the kitten, stroking its soft fur slowly. The kitten’s bright blue eyes slowly drifted closed as it fell asleep.
Hermione set the small animal gently on her pillow and eased off the bed, looking in the box to see if there was anything else. Much to her surprise, her wand was also inside the box. There was no note of any kind to explain who had sent this to her, but the last time she had seen her wand, it had been in Malfoy’s hand! Had Malfoy repaired her house and left her wand, along with a kitten, knowing that she had recently lost Crookshanks? No, she decided. Malfoy wasn’t that thoughtful. There must be some other explanation. But try as she might, she could think of nothing else to explain this.
As the adrenaline from capturing Mark and finding her apartment repaired wore off, she felt a sudden wave of exhaustion come over her. With the exhaustion came hunger, and she decided to eat before going to bed.
She put a pan on the stove and began buttering 2 slices of bread for grilled cheese. Before long, she was able to settle into her sofa holding a grilled cheese sandwich and a glass of milk. By the time she was finished with her sandwich, she felt her eyes sliding closed of their own accord.
“Time for bed,” she murmured to herself. After putting her dishes in the sink she collapsed into bed, barely having enough energy to snuggle the kitten into her arms before she fell into a deep sleep.
When Hermione arrived at work the next morning, she was given an enthusiastic hug from Gary before she’d even have a chance to sit down.
“Did you hear about Ractor?” he asked, sitting on the edge of her desk. He didn’t wait for Hermione to answer. “He was found dead in his house two days ago—he’d broken an Unbreakable Vow! No one knows how it happened, but a lot of people think he cheated on a girlfriend he’d made the Vow to.”
Hermione shook her head as she opened up the single file that was sitting on her desk. She knew exactly how Ractor had died and resolved to tell Harry sometime that day.
A black and white hand-drawn sketch of a man looked up at her. He had a narrow face and a strong chin, with short, curly hair and wide-set eyes. He looked to be in his late thirties. On the next page of the file were newspaper clippings.
“I’ll talk to you later,” Gary said, sounding slightly disappointed as he walked away.
Hermione pulled out the newspaper articles and began reading. They were reports of 9 different witches who had been strangled and then been horribly marked with the Sectumsempra curse. The Daily Prophet called him the “Surrey Slasher,” as all but one had been found in Surrey. The sketch had been made by a muggle witness, whose memory had been erased shortly after.
Hermione sighed in excitement. Her first real assignment had officially begun. But where had she heard the name "Surrey Slasher" before? It sounded vaguely familiar, and she remembered that she had heard Malfoy mention it at some point. She began by interviewing the Healer who had examined the bodies, seeing if there had been any clues left on the murdered women.
“They were definitely all killed by the same man,” the Healer, Janine, told Hermione. “The wounds all had the same pattern. He is a very violent man who was probably abused by a woman as a child. The fact that they were all strangled shows his hatred towards women. Also, they were all raped prior to being strangled. That fact was not released to the press.”
Hermione swallowed hard in distaste, trying to keep her cool, Auror-appropriate exterior. “Did he leave any evidence behind?” she asked, hoping that Janine could give her somewhere to start.
“This guy is extremely meticulous,” Janine said, shaking her head. “But we did find this in the pocket of his most recent victim—she was killed just yesterday, and I hadn’t had time to get this to the Aurors Office yet.” She held out a brightly colored circular coin. Deep purple, bright orange, and lime green colors swirled around the outside ring of the small object, and in the center was a very small moving picture of a scantily-clad woman dancing suggestively. “It’s—”
“A poker chip from Merlin’s Casino,” Hermione murmured, taking the poker chip in shaky hands. Her first clue! “Thank you for your help,” she said gratefully, leaving the woman’s office.
“Hey, Hermione!” Harry called, just as Hermione was getting ready to go to Merlin’s Casino to see what she could find out about the poker chip.
“Yes?” she said, looking up from her desk.
“How’s it going?” he asked. His black hair looked as it always did—tousled and messy—but his green eyes looked slightly worried.
“Good,” Hermione reassured him as she straightened up the quills and ink on her desk. “I’m headed to Merlin’s Casino to check out a lead.”
“Be safe, all right?”
Harry held up a hand in defense. “I do not doubt your ability; I’m just saying that these are dangerous people.”
“I’ll be careful,” Hermione promised. “How’s Ginny?”
Harry lit up at the mention of his pregnant wife. “She’s due in about two weeks—we’re so excited. Molly has barely left our house the past two weeks, and I can tell she’s hoping for a girl. But I can tell you’re itching to leave, so I’ll speak to you later.”
Hermione watched her friend walk away and shook her head. It would take nothing but time for him to finally stop worrying about her. She pushed him out of her mind, checked her Auror badge that shone on her black robes, and left the Auror offices.
It was nearly 3 pm when she reached Merlin’s Casino, a gaudy place lit up by thousands of fairies fluttering about the tall ceilings. The casino was not terribly busy at this hour of the day, so Hermione had no trouble finding her way around the many tables.
She asked every employee she could find if they recognized either the sketch of the criminal or the photo of the dead woman. The first few people she spoke to had noticed nothing, but Hermione had some luck when she spoke to the one of the bartenders.
“She was here two nights ago,” answered the teenage boy, wiping a glass with a clean rag. He stared with morbid fascination at the picture of the dead witch. “And she was with that man!” He pointed excitedly at the sketch.
Hermione grabbed his hand swiftly, bringing her face very close to the boy’s. “This woman is now dead, in case you couldn’t tell by the picture,” she hissed. “This is not a game. What can you tell me about them?”
The boy winced as she released his hand. “Sorry, ma’am. Uh, she was here, spent a lot of time at the Exploding Blackjack table—she came over here for a drink and that man came over. They talked for awhile and she left with him. Does that help?” he asked anxiously, looking chastised.
“It does,” she replied. She looked along the bartop; it was spotless. Nothing could give her a clue as to the killer’s identity. “Did they say where they were going?”
“No,” the boy replied, looking crestfallen.
Hermione sighed and turned to leave.
“Wait!” called the boy, rummaging behind the bar for something. “I found this under his chair after he left. I don’t know if it’ll be any help…” He held out a small, iron key.
“Thank you,” Hermione said, taking the key from him as a smile came to her face.
Once in the busy street of the wizarding village Ashville, she walked quickly to the nearest bench. She sat on a bench, feeling the warm summer breeze caress her skin. Luckily, she had a piece of parchment in her pocket, and she set it on her lap, aimed her wand at the key, and murmured, “Originalis Locato!”
The small key grew warm and glowed red as ink began spreading across the parchment in swift, delicate lines, as if being written by an invisible hand. Hermione watched in delight as a map began to take shape.
When the key grew cold, she knew that her spell was complete. Where before there had been just a piece of plain parchment, there was now a clear map, detailing the fastest route to the place where the key had come from. Hermione stood up, looking at the map. The place marked with an X was actually not very far from the village where she was.
Walking swiftly through the busy streets, Hermione followed the map, barely looking up. It took a mere twenty minutes of walking through the village before the map told her to take a turn down an ill-used and empty lane. She took more caution at this point, holding her wand in her right hand and the parchment in the left. The map led her down past an abandoned barn into a rather thick forest.
She was now on no more than a path through the trees, squinting to read the map in the dim light that managed to reach the ground through the tree canopy.
Seeing nothing but trees around her, Hermione began to doubt the accuracy of the map when suddenly, several hundred feet ahead she spied a small building. She immediately stepped off the road into the trees. She tucked the map into her pocket and began to creep up on the building from behind. It was a one-story abandoned cabin, made of rotting wood and nails.
Hermione reached what appeared to be the back door. It was locked, but she slid the key into the lock, softly unlocking it. Her wand held at the ready, she slowly pushed the door open. It slid open noiselessly, for which Hermione breathed a sigh of relief. She stepped inside, looking around as fast as she could. The one-room cabin was empty.
“No,” she whispered. This wasn’t right. The cabin wasn’t that far from civilization…if the women had screamed, someone could have heard them! She examined every inch of the room in the scant light that seeped through the cracks of the wooden ceiling, not wanting to light her wand.
Just when she was about to give up and leave, she heard a soft thud from far under her.
Hermione dropped to her knees, feeling the floor very carefully. It didn’t take much exploration for her to find the trapdoor in the corner. She lifted it up as quietly as she could, revealing a flight of stone steps leading downwards. She wished desperately that she had one of her Cats-Eye potions with her so she would be able to see in the dark.
Not daring to light her wand, Hermione felt her way down the steps as her eyes gradually adjusted to the near-darkness. Once she had gone down ten steps, there was a short hallway in front of her with a door at the end. The walls around her were made of stone—if she screamed, no one would be able to hear her.
She reached the door, which was shut. She could hear someone walking around inside the room. “Go ahead—I’ll follow in a minute,” a low voice said. Suddenly there came two cracks of disapparation.
Without further ado, Hermione slammed open the door, yelling, “Aurors—hands up!”
The man standing alone in the center of the room turned around, wand at the ready. His blonde hair shone in the dim light.
So who do you think it is? The last line kind of gives it away, but oh well. Anywayyyy, thanks for reading and drop me a review to let me know what you think if you have time =)
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