Breath-taking chapter image by the talented Carnal Spiral @ TDA
I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work.
Nymphadora Tonks - Gretchen Mol
Murron - Leelee Sobieski
Chapter Ten The Greenhouses
Tonks couldn’t sleep at all that night. At about two o’clock in the morning, she surrendered to her insomnia and got out of bed. Her mum used to say that there was no point in beating a dead horse (or something like that) and Tonks was sure her brain was as useless as a dead horse. Exhaustion kept her from thinking straight, but she was too wound up to simply close her eyes and let her body relax.
The case was becoming too complicated--and too dangerous--for her to work alone. She needed Brodie’s help and yet, every time she stopped to consult with him or compare notes, she became aware that he was delving deeper into her world. And if she kept putting ideas of magic into his mind, letting them fester and formulate, she would have one hell of a time erasing his memories in the end.
If they ever reached the end….
Sometime just before dawn, Tonks decided that she had had enough of sitting cooped up in her room. She couldn’t help but remember something odd Murron had said the night before, something about unbroken, never-ending circles. The blood splashed so deliberately on the cottage wall taunted her sensibilities. This was a riddle she could solve, a riddle she had
to solve and Murron possessed the key.
In the uncertain light of the rising sun, Tonks dressed quickly and quietly. She left off her police woman’s jacket and cap and wore only a buttoned down shirt over a pair of slacks she had kept stuffed away in her traveling bag.
Brodie was still asleep, or so she guessed, and he wouldn’t notice if she slipped on her the brown, leather overcoat all Aurors on duty wore. With any luck, the residents of Willoway would recognize her authority as a Ministry official and give her the answers she so desperately needed.
Tip-toeing past Brodie’s room, Tonks managed to only trip once on the rumpled hall carpet before making it safely down the stairs. Outside on the town green, the world was quite silent. Flower garlands were draped atop the doorways of the shops, untouched by the absent breeze. The long ribbons of the May Pole hung like limp pigtails. Around the green, Tonks spotted the skeletal outlines of several wooden booths, set up, she assumed, for the following day’s May Day festivities.
Tonks had no desire to partake in the holiday and she hoped to be off the island by then. To see the residents of Willoway capering gaily about while in the midst of an increasingly violent crime spree made her feel more than a little unsettled.
The apothecary was likewise decorated for the celebration and when Tonks entered, she found Murron arranging a jar of daisies on the counter.
“Good morning, Auror Tonks,” she trilled, her eyes stopping on the brown overcoat and widening slightly. “Did Sergeant Brodie see you in that get-up?”
“Sergeant Brodie isn’t with me,” Tonks replied curtly. She met Murron’s gaze and held it as she removed her wand from her pocket. “It’s enough now, Murron. I want to know what’s going on.”
Murron’s nimble fingers ghosted over the flowers. She hummed quietly to herself. “Well, if you insist.”
“I do.” Tonks held her wand tightly, feeling the strain in her knuckles. She fought the urge to curse this woman into the next world, but managed to bite back her eager rage. “You can start by explaining last night. What did you mean about the unbroken circle? What does it have to do with the markings I found on the cottage wall?”
“What?” Murron dropped her hands back to the counter, her palms slapping the wooden surface lightly. “I don’t know a thing about that--I was only talking nonsense last night. Didn’t mean anything by it.”
mean something by it.” Tonks’s jaw threatened to lock as she spoke, the muscles in her neck growing taut. “I want you to tell me everything, Murron. If you’re honest with me, I’ll try my best to defer charges. This isn’t a game anymore.”
“I never said it was.” Murron turned from her and faced the mirror she kept behind the counter. With those same nimble fingers, she brushed her hair straight and began to braid it.
Reflected back to her in the mirror, Tonks could see Murron’s perfectly coy smile. Amused. Yes, she was amused by all this.
And here Tonks stood, sweating and panicked and fearing that her career as an Auror would be over before it started. Her resolve, which had grown more and more fragile with every hour she spent on Willoway, began to bend and break.
“The wandless magic,” she said and was amazed when her words came out as a growl. “Can you explain that?”
Murron did not reply at once, but clicked her tongue as the end of her plait came undone. Clearly, Tonks’s noisiness was bothering her. The mere notion of driving the seemingly ever-confident Murron to distraction gave her her second wind.
This time, she smiled determinedly.
“Why use wandless magic? It’s antiquated, surely. No more than dusty history back on the mainland.”
This seemed to get a suitable rise out of Murron.
“It takes a powerful witch or wizard to perform magic without the aid of wand,” she said, tying a yellow ribbon at the bottom of her neat braid. “And by the way, Mary MacFarlene told me how you were snooping around the school, complaining about what we’re teaching our children.”
Tonks spread her fingers out on top of the counter, her wand still pressed into her palm. “It’s my job to snoop. Remember, you people invited officials of the law onto your island…for our help.”
“Aye, but we only wanted the Muggle to come.” She said this softly, under her breath, so that Tonks could only catch the end of it.
Still, her hair nearly stood on end.
Murron was busy preening in the mirror now and Tonks felts her new fear fuel her sense of urgency.
“One last time,” she said, “I’ll ask you one last time. What is happening on this island? What are you and the rest of Willoway keeping from me?”
And then Murron did something dangerous. She laughed. She laughed as she threw her braided hair over her shoulder and swiveled her hips and showed just how much contempt she had for Tonks and Brodie and their entire investigation.
At once, Tonks felt her resolve shatter and as it did, she pointed her wand at Murron’s jar of daisies.
Shards of earthenware shot across the store. Murron gasped and, to Tonks’s great satisfaction, ducked, throwing her arms over her head. Daisy petals rained down like large snowflakes.
When the noise and chaos had settled into a dark silence, Murron looked up and scowled at her.
“Are you mad?” she cried, her voice cracking.
And Tonks couldn’t help herself. She smiled.
“Get out of my shop!” Murron waved her arms, trying to shoo Tonks as if she were an unwelcome street cat. “Get out! I don’t have anything to say to you.”
Tonks squared her shoulders, feeling the comfortable weight of her Auror coat settle about her like a protective shield. “And I promise you, Murron, you’ll be arrested as soon as I have the time to write up the charges. Obstructing a magical law enforcement official should be fine to start with, but I think I can find a few more to tack on…just for the fun of it, yeah?”
She turned to leave, her shoes crunching on broken pottery and destroyed daisies. But by the time she had reached the door, Murron had regained her composure, and she began to hum sweetly with all the pleasant delusion of a madwoman.
“You better mind that Sergeant Brodie,” she called.
Tonks fought the urge to turn around.
“You better mind him,” she repeated. “If I were you, I wouldn’t let him out of my sight!”
And before she had the time to digest Murron’s words, to decide if they were threats or not, the door of the shop slammed shut behind her.
Tonks knew that she was too riled to return to the Honeybee
and too shaken up to face Brodie after she left the apothecary. She realized at once that her investigation was still stalled, although it did give her a sense of grim satisfaction to know that she had scared Murron a fair bit. Kingsley probably wouldn’t approve of her exploding the jar, though. He was one of those stoic, quiet men who rarely seemed troubled in even the most trying of circumstances. Picturing his still, serene face made Tonks ashamed of herself. She’d lost her temper and an Auror couldn’t afford to be loose with her emotions.
In order to compose herself, she took a turn by the docks, passing the plane Brodie had flown into the harbor and several of the local fishermen’s boats bobbing on the slight waves. If she was being honest with herself, Tonks could admit that she didn’t feel completely at ease while wandering around Willoway anymore. Last night she had had quite a difficult time trying to drive off her attacker and she felt now, if she were in danger again and called for help, no one would come running.
She and Brodie had undoubtedly worn out their welcome on the island.
After walking the length of the docks, Tonks took a wide lane up around the village and into a neighboring field. She’d seen the road before, but had yet to explore it thoroughly. Now, she found she had to keep to the very center of the path lest she trip on the deep ruts that marred either side of the dirt road. This byway, she concluded, must see some heavy traffic.
Even the grass on the side of the road had been neatly trimmed and, in several places, Tonks could clearly make out dewy footprints that had lately trod across the carpet of green.
Then up in the distance, far enough that she had to squint her eyes, she caught sight of the sunlight glinting carelessly off a pane of glass. Crystal, clear glass. A metal framework kept the pane in place, which, she realized, wasn’t actually part of a single window, but of many, many windows.
She blinked and then smiled to herself. How silly! Didn’t she know a greenhouse when she saw one?
Tonks vaguely remembered her first experience with just such a greenhouse. She’d been five and her mother’s sister, Narcissa, had suffered a pang of rare guilt and invited Andromeda and her niece to her home while her husband Lucius was out. Tonks had never seen her mother sadder than she’d been on that day, and as a child, she couldn’t possibly be expected to understand the unfair intricacies of blood purity and family feuds.
Narcissa didn’t want her sister and her niece in the house for some reason, and she took them out onto the grounds, into the gardens and the greenhouses. Tonks remembered standing on a gravel path in a glass house, watching the condensation fog up the large panes and sweating madly in her pretty blue jumper and skirt. And the roses, the roses had been so red. They reminded her of pain, not physical suffering, but something less material. Something that happened within a person and left scars nonetheless.
Seeing the greenhouse now, Tonks felt a ripple of quiet nostalgia. Wasn’t it odd, though, for such a pretty greenhouse to be out in the middle of nowhere? But then she noticed, just behind the rise of a low hill, that there stood nearly two dozen identical greenhouses, set like unusual diamonds in the otherwise lush fields.
And she remembered that the island’s economy was based largely upon an export business. Willoway’s Ointments and Healing Salves. These greenhouses were used to grow their famous holistic herbs and flowers. Or she guessed.
Tonks was curious now. Exceedingly
curious. With a jolt, she realized that since she had set foot on the island, she had not seen a single jar of the much sought after product. Not a pot of lavender exfoliating cream. Not a single box of rosemary-scented soaps. And although she knew their business was thriving, there seemed to be little to no activity around the greenhouses today. In fact, there was no at all.
Tonks shifted her weight uneasily.
Something was wrong here.
She took the wide path leading off the main road into the fields. Like the highway, this lane was also marked with abundant signs of heavy traffic. Tracks from wagon wheels criss-crossed the dirt and Tonks spent so much time looking at her feet, watching to make sure that she didn’t twist her ankle in a rut, that she didn’t notice the piles of stones set about the door of the first greenhouse.
But then they were swimming under her lowered gaze like the glittering scales of a dragon. The rocks had been painted different colors, greens and blues and yellows and purples and were all exquisitely balanced in neat formations. Like cairns, Tonks thought. Or some type of folk art.
When she looked around, she noticed that every greenhouse was flanked by at least three sets of balanced stones and in-between the piles, yes, there they were, little figurines. Dolls made out of grass and willow leaves and straw. Dolls that all had red hair…no, tawny fur, sewn about their heads.
Her stomach rolled over. The magic she was seeing was quite primitive, the type of stuff superstitious Muggles used to keep out “bad spirits” and such. But the other magic, the sort that wasn’t visible but present, wafting on the air with an electricity that mingled freely with the heady scent of herbs and flowers, was undeniable.
She felt the spells at once. In Auror training, Moody had spent ages trying to teach her how to identify any given spell cast on an object or a place. He had a habit of casting twenty separate charms on a door or a shoe or something just as nonsensical and making her poke and prod until she had safely lifted anything remotely dangerous.
Her senses, finely attuned by her strict mentor, told her that there was nothing dangerous here now.
The spells cast around the greenhouses were weak, wards not meant to guard against humans, but animals. Wizards and witches often used such spells to keep unwanted critters out of their gardens and Tonks believed that the people of Willoway were attempting to do the same…on a much larger scale.
As she moved carefully beyond the first greenhouse, she was doubly surprised to encounter another spell.
It was hidden well and Tonks might have passed it over if she’d been in more of a hurry. But now that she’d felt it, there was no ignoring it.
The Homorphus Charm, commonly used to force an Animagus back into human form.
But why would the greenhouses need to be protected from an Animagus?
Suddenly, her mind became feverish with understanding.
The fox that had attacked Brodie and the figure who had attempted to disarm her were one and the same. An Animagus capable of changing its form and disappearing oh-so-innocently from a crime scene. An Animagus who could slaughter livestock as a fox and then use the blood to complete a ghastly, heathen ritual.
There was only one thing missing now, she realized. Motive.
And when Tonks stepped inside the one of the greenhouses, she understood. Expecting to find patches of herbs and flowers, all blooming now during the height of spring, when the weather was perfectly mild and welcoming, she found the soil bare. The crop had been blighted.
Someone had sabotaged the island’s entire industry.
Well, I think things are slowly starting to come together, which is good because there are only four more chapters left. ^_^
As always, I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to read and review so far. You support has been greatly appreciated.
The next chapter is in the works and I should have it posted in a few weeks. Until then, take care and be well!