Chapter 6 : VI. Murder the Fifth (and Sixth and maybe even Seventh)
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Roxanne groaned. The tick of the clock on her bedside table incessantly interrupted her thoughts. The door of the tiny room was pulled tightly shut and the only light was that of a floor lamp. Folders stuffed with parchment were scattered across the top of her bed. One lay open, its contents sorted into two piles. She flipped over the piece of parchment in her hand and moved it to the already-read pile.
She had vowed to review every word of each of the four murders’ case files. Her mind could not wrap around the idea of James as the serial killer. The Aurors who had conducted the investigations had to have missed something, some small detail that would make all the difference. So far, she hadn’t found anything to suggest that her favourite cousin hadn’t killed four innocent people. .
The feeling of failure began to slither out from the dark recesses of her mind and dance a slow, taunting dance over her skin. Roxanne could feel a bubble of frustration rise in her throat and she blinked back the tears that had not already run down her face. She carefully rose from her bed so as not to disturb her piles of reports, interviews, and evidence inventory.
Her mouth was dry from the fire whiskey she had thrown back earlier, and she desperately wished she was still tucked away at her brother’s flat with the rest of the bottle. Life was so much simpler when she was only a brother’s little sister and a large family’s youngest cousin. If she was still a little girl, she’d be an adventurer instead of an Auror, she would be a lover instead of an adulteress, and a most importantly, she would be happy. Alas, she was not a little girl. She was a grown woman thrown into the midst of a murder investigation much too close to her heart.
She sighed. Perhaps a warm shower would help to clear her mind.
As the warm water coursed over her tired body, licks of steam filled the tiny room. Her mind relished the warm moisture, and her thoughts slowed to an almost manageable pace. The images of each crime scene played out before her eyes. Knott Sr., facedown in the alleyway behind the pub, McNair, facedown behind the Apothecary, the Apothecist standing watching the investigation only to become a victim days later in his own bed.
The Apothecist. Roxanne’s mind screeched to a halt and her heart leapt up into her throat. How could everyone have forgotten about the apothecist?
She fumbled with the nozzle to turn the water off and jumped out of the shower. Pulling a robe over her shoulders, she left the steam-filled room. She grabbed a folder from the piles on her bed and shuffled through the numerous documents within it. Finding what she was looking for, her knees gave out and she sunk down onto the side of the bed.
The apothecist was listed as a witness to the McNair case. The Mr. Turpin’s signature appeared on the line above the Auror whose signature had approved him as a witness in the case. The distinct curve of the J and the sharp stem of the P ignited Roxanne’s sense of urgency, and caused her stomach to roll over in her abdomen. The taste of bile entered her mouth, and she resisted the urge to vomit. If James had signed Mr. Turpin as a witness, there was no way that his memory had been modified at that point in time. It was one of the primary rules of dealing with witnesses. Roxanne could picture the page that the rule had been printed on of her Academy textbook. A subject who has had their memory modified in any manner cannot and should not be legally taken into consideration as a witness. Their testimony may still be obtained through other means and used for trial purposes, but never as a primary source.
James would have known and adhered to this ethical code. There was only one person who had spoken to Mr. Turpin after James had declared him as a witness and before the Apothecist turned up with a modified memory. Roxanne’s skin crawled, and her face paled. This time when her stomach turned she did vomit, narrowly missing the rubbish bin.
She fumbled for a quill, penned a note to Harry, and hurriedly dressed. Knowing that she would arrive there before the rest of the Auror department, she turned on the spot and Apparated into the night.
The incantation died on Teddy’s lips. The sound of John fussing from within the burrow carried across the thin night air. The thought of having his son so near while he was working was unsettling, but he reminded himself that Auror is on duty twenty-four hours a day. Afterall, somebody had to prevent James from being falsely incarcerated as a serial killer, he didn’t deserve the notoriety due to the true killer.
Teddy’s breath came in short shallow gasps, and a smile was plastered across his face. James stood directly in front of. He too had his wand clutched in his hand, but his eyes were shut, and his lips were murmuring some silent plea into the night.
The tree house was much smaller that Teddy remembered. As children, handfuls of the Weasley-Potter cousins could sit comfortably on the wooden floor, but now, he was sure that he could touch James’ shoulder if he took one step away from the doorway.
As though James had heard his thoughts, his eyes widened, and he stared across the short distance between the two men, his jaw slack.
“Bloody Merlin, Teddy.” James’ voice was a little more than a croak.
Teddy watched as he lifted his wand higher, to match Teddy’s own stance.
An ugly pang of guilt washed over Teddy, and he paused for a moment. His wand hung in midair, waiting for the completion of its master’s spell.
James heart raced, and his mind ceased to process anything but one thought. Only one of the two men would leave the tree house alive.
Roxanne placed her hands on the worn rope ladder and earnestly hoped that her instincts were correct. The tree house had always been a place of refuge for the cousins. They had each sought its refuge to avoid angry parents, nurse broken hearts, and disappear from the world. Perhaps now as adults, James had sought it for much graver reasons.
At the top of the ladder, she slowly pushed the pushed the creaky, wooden door open. As she had suspected, James and Teddy stood within the tiny square room. They were facing each other with their wands drawn. Intent on pressing duel in front of them, neither seemed to notice her appearance.
She inhaled deeply and swallowed. Emotions could not get in her way. An Auror was expected to be on duty in every situation. She raised her wand and jabbed it forward into the air, sending her stunner flying into the small room.
Teddy crumpled to the floor.
Roxanne’s wand hung limply in her hand and she stared at his motionless form.
She jumped at the sound of James’ voice and tightened her grip on her wand. It was one hell of a time to doubt her intuition.
“So, you’re so sure that I’m not the serial Killer, Roxy?” James’ face was glazed over a mixture of exhaustion and a hint of madness shone in his eyes. “Surely everyone suspects me by now? The cards haven’t exactly been stacked in my favour.”
“No, James.” Roxanne lowered her wand and pulled her cousin into a tight embrace. “I know you aren’t a killer. But the evidence does seem really convincing. You can’t blame anyone for –”
The sound of a curse racing through the air cut Roxanne’s words off. A red light flashed, and she doubled over at the waste. Long, deep gashes covered her torso, arms, and face. She slumped down onto the wooden floor; her breathing was ragged.
“I’m sorry, chief,” Teddy whispered. “You never were any good at stunners. You and your friend James here are the only Aurors who’ve actually done their job. And we can’t have that, can we?” He bent over and stroked the hair back from her still face.
James stared down at Roxanne. The life was rapidly seeping out of her. Teddy had murdered Roxanne. His mind repeated this fact, first as a whisper, but grew progressively louder until his head was ringing. He tightened his grip on his wand and looked up into Teddy’s face.
“And little Jamesie. The department must really be in a bad way if they can really believe you are their serial killer. My crimes have been perfect. I haven’t left a single loose end. I am going to be famous, Jamsie.” Teddy’s eyes shone manically through the dark interior of the tree house. “More famous than your dear dad, even. It’s a shame that the department had to go and make such a fuss about a couple of dead death eaters, and then the bloody family had to go and get involved, why, I –”
“Enough.” James had found his voice. “Enough Teddy. No one will believe that you are the killer with me around. Everything in those case files point to me. So, what are you going to do about it?”
Both men raised their wands. There was a flurry of motion. A green light rocketed across the refuge of the tree hous, crossing paths with a red beam of light, and both men fell, joining Roxanne on the floor.
Molly Weasley stood at her kitchen window; John was sound asleep over her left shoulder where his father had placed him nearly an hour ago. She had been surveying the activity in the garden since then, and her shoulder had since fallen asleep alongside the poor little boy.
Her emotions were mostly numb to the goings on outside of her window. All she knew was that Harry, Ron, and several other Aurors from their department were on scene, sorting out something very bad.
Outside, Harry sat on the damp earth. Approximately thirty seconds after arriving on scene, he had announced his resignation as head of the department and sat down in the spot he was he was still seated. Ron had eyed his best friend warily and hesitantly stood up to direct the investigation.
Harry limply held his glasses in his hands; tears streamed down his face. He had failed his Department. He had failed his family. Roxanne was dead, killed by a sectumsempra curse. Her lifeless body had already been taken to the Ministry’s morgue. Teddy was dead. His wide eyes and unmarred body suggested that an unforgivable had been his downfall. He too had joined Roxanne and Victoire in the morgue. Harry shuddered. James’ body lay at the base of the tree. From the appearance of the gashes and the amount of blood lost, he very much doubted that his oldest son was still alive.
“Oi. Harry,” the sound of Ernie’s voice echoed through the quiet night. The coroner waved his arms over his head towards his old schoolmate. “Harry, James is awake. But, this tonic will only keep him awake for a few –”
James was awake. Only somebody who was alive could be awake. A loud roar filled Harry’s ears and drowned out the rest of Ernie’s words. He scrambled to his feet as quickly as he could and rushed over to his eldest son’s side.
James was covered in lacerations in the very early stages of healing. A bag of tonic ran down and into his arm. He looked weak, and barely noticed Harry’s presence at his side.
“James, son,” Harry knelt down beside him. “Son, everything will be okay. We have Teddy’s wand. We know everything.” He forced an encouraging smile up from the pit of his stomach.
“Dad,” James’ voice was weak, barely more than a whisper. “It can never be okay. Victoire and Roxanne are dead. Teddy’s dead. Dad, I killed him. I did that to him.”
“Son, I’m sure everything that happened in the tree house will get sorted out eventually.” Harry tenderly brushed his son’s dark red hair from his face. “Right now you need to concentrate on healing.”
“I don’t care what the Department decides. I’m no better than he is, I’m a murderer.” James closed his eyes and felt the harshness of the world slip away into a warm, unconscious sleep, free of all pain.
Merlin, how they’d all fallen.
A/N: And that's it. They've all fallen down. I want to thank each of you for reading, reviewing and favouriting this. I really hope that you enjoyed this chapter. This is the first WIP that I have finished, and I'm really excited and sad about it being over. I'm toying with the idea of writing a follow-up. I'm not positive yet. So, What'd you all think?