Scorpius was in shock. His daughter, dead? It couldn't be. No.
True, he had only found out that Ophélie was his daughter a year ago, and it was just in the last nine months that he had got to know his daughter properly. Regardless, Scorpius' feeling of loss for his daughter, not to mention his hatred towards the killer — whoever he or she was — was immeasurable.
Auror Potter, who had arrived at the scene just minutes after Scorpius did, instructed Adam to take his friend home.
"Take a week off," Potter told Scorpius. "If you need longer, send me an owl. I understand. She's your daughter, after—"
"No." The word was out of his mouth before he could stop himself. Yet Scorpius knew full well that he could not rest until he found his daughter's killer.
"That's conflict of—" Potter couldn't complete his sentence.
"My arse," Scorpius spat. "Conflict of interest, my fucking arse. This is a heavy conflict of interest on your part too. If I'm off the case, so are you. Unless you're a hypocrite — and I've never taken you for a hypocrite before."
Silence. Faint words of warning, inaudible to Scorpius' pounding ears, were coming from behind him, presumably from Adam.
"He has a point," Auror Longbottom put in. "Dominique and Ophélie... they're your..." Longbottom continued speaking, but Scorpius no longer heard; instead, he heaved an inner sigh of relief. Potter liked Longbottom. He'd listen to him.
"Fine." Potter relented at last when Longbottom had finished reasoning with him. He jabbed a finger at Scorpius. "Any funny business and you're out. D'you hear?"
Scorpius nodded, realising how hard it must be for his boss as well. After all, Potter's niece was lying dead on the bed, a few metres away.
Scorpius couldn't stop himself from watching as a member of the Body Removal Squad levitated Dominique Wood into the air. Ophélie had already been removed from the scene, as had Matthew. Dominique's left arm dangled, lifeless, under the invisible stretcher, and Scorpius immediately noticed that her ring was missing.
"Hold on a second, please," he told the officer. Scorpius knew how bad it was, but he was grateful for the distraction because it meant that his mind was not able to linger on their dead daughter. "Her wedding ring's missing," Scorpius told Potter.
"What?" Potter replied sharply. He wasn't looking at the body, but directly at Scorpius.
"I've never seen her without her wedding ring," Scorpius said seriously. "Even when she was in the shower, she wouldn't take it off."
"OK," Potter said, his eyes still fixed on Scorpius', refusing to look at his dead niece. "Well, we'll look into that. I'll get the team to search the house for the ring. Nice work. Check on the wand," Potter ordered Longbottom. Potter's arms were folded as he regarded the scene, still unable to look at Dominique.
Auror Frank Longbottom II strode forwards and picked up the wand on the floor. Just after doing so, however, Longbottom paused, using his wand to levitate a cigarette, which had already burnt a hole in the carpet.
"Does — I mean, did Dominique smoke?" he asked. Scorpius and Potter shook their heads simultaneously. Shrugging, Longbottom directed the cigarette in the direction of an evidence envelope, before he performed the spell Scorpius dreaded the most: "Prior incantato."
As they all feared, the wand emitted a smoky shadow that clearly depicted Ophélie Wood, falling with a cry, a look of terror in her eyes; the sight was the most terrible Scorpius had ever witnessed, worse still because Ophélie's grey eyes, filled with horror, matched his own.
"Hermione! HERMIONE!" The only time Hermione Weasley could remember her husband's voice sounding so afraid was more than thirty years ago, when they'd been held captive in Malfoy Manor.
"What's the problem?" Hermione replied as calmly as she could, making her way downstairs immediately.
Ron was waiting for her at the foot of the stairs. "Dominique," he said breathlessly. "She — she — look!" Ron pointed at the fading Patronus near him and then looked at his wife again.
Hermione frowned; a second later, another stag Patronus materialised in front of her, bearing Harry's voice.
"Hermione — Dominique, Matthew and Ophélie are dead. It's connected with the Blood and Roses case. I can't say much more here, but you need to get to the Ministry now. I don't know where either of you are today, but I've sent a message to Ron and I've let Bill know. Alicia and Oliver know too. Alicia is in America at the moment, but she's on her way. Tell Molly and Arthur and then come to the Ministry."
Hermione's blood ran cold.
"Merlin's beard," Hermione breathed, her eyes wide with shock. "Dominique... and Ophélie... oh!" Collapsing on the stair she was standing on, her eyes filled with tears at the thought of her niece as the next victim. Despite Hermione's distaste for the Daily Prophet,she still read it daily. She, like the rest of the Wizarding community, was horrified at the serial killer's antics. Now, three weeks on, there were a total of ten murder victims.
Ron sat next to her on the bottom stair, hugging her. "It'll be OK," he murmured, even though he wasn't entirely sure this was true. "Listen to me, Hermione. We'll get to the bottom of this, I promise."
"She's always been such a good girl," Hermione sobbed. "And after Fleur died... Why would anyone want to kill Dominique?"
"We'll get them. Whoever did this, we'll—"
"We have to," Hermione interrupted, wiping her tears on her sleeve. She quickly regained her composure, her voice suddenly becoming sharp and brisk. "And we will. We'd better get going, Ron."
"What's going on, Mum?" Hugo's voice travelled down the stairs, worried. At the sight of his parents' grave expressions, he quickly jumped down the stairs.
"Dominique, Matthew and Ophélie are dead," Hermione echoed Harry's words. There was a sharp intake of breath from Hugo. "They're... they're victims of the Blood and Roses case."
"What?" Hugo said. "They've been murdered?"
"Yes, they have," Ron affirmed. "By who, we don't know."
"But we're going to find out," Hermione added determinedly.
Harry's — and now hers — words were still ringing in her ears: "Dominique, Matthew and Ophélie are dead..."
"What about Rose?" Ron and Hugo said at the same time.
"We'll tell her tomorrow morning," Hermione said in a hollow voice. Her husband and son nodded, just as a fresh wave of tears overcame Hermione. Ron hugged her again while Hugo patted his mum awkwardly on the shoulder.
Then, Ron remembered that he needed to notify his parents, and he was reminded horribly of the times he'd had to do that as an Auror and how he'd complained about it every time. It was different this time, for now (Ron shuddered at the thought) he was not only the bearer of bad news but a mourner as well.
Wiping her eyes with her hands, Hermione allowed Ron to haul her to her feet before steering her towards the door, Hugo at their heels. They were barely outside their house when they noticed the large crowd that had gathered there. Ron groaned; how could the press have got hold of the news so quickly?
However, there was no time to lose, so Ron took hold of Hermione's free hand and put his other hand on his son's shoulder before Apparating to his parents' house. It occurred to him, as he spun into fleeting oblivion, that he had never dreaded a visit to his parents' house more.
The Aurors stared in horrified awe as the smoky figure slowly dissolved into the air. At last, Potter broke the silence.
"Malfoy, tell us about the wand."
With trembling fingers, Scorpius stepped forwards, took the wand from Longbottom and immediately felt that it was familiar. He gasped as he ran his hands down it, recognising it.
"What's wrong, Scorpius?" Adam asked.
"This... this wand belongs to Rose Weasley," he said slowly. "Fourteen inches, rosewood and unicorn tail core. Useful for hexes and curses."
Adam and Longbottom stared at him, clearly wondering how on earth he could recognise Rose's wand.
"Hold on a second, Malfoy," Potter said. There were deep frown lines on his forehead. "Rose Weasley? As in my niece Rose Weasley, who just last year got into Magical Law Enforcement?"
"Yes," Scorpius replied. "The very same."
And how many other Rose Weasleys do I know, anyway?Scorpius wanted to say.
"We need to bring her in," said Longbottom. He looked apologetically at Potter. "And... it doesn't help that she owled me today, because she didn't come into work. She's definitely a suspect."
"Yes, I know that," Potter retorted. He took a deep, steadying breath, thinking carefully before giving out his orders.
"Malfoy, Nott, get down to Rose's residence. Bring her in for questioning and inform her that she is relieved of duty until further notice. You know where she lives?"
Both of the men shook their heads. Potter reeled off an address, and Adam hastily wrote it on a spare piece of parchment.
"And guys?" he added, his tone softening, before Adam and Scorpius could leave.
"Yes?" they said together.
"Be nice, OK? Since she's my niece and all." Potter almost sounded like he was pleading, and it surprised both Adam and Scorpius when he barked sharply, "And if either of you fuck around with her, especially if she's fully cooperating, you'll be on prison duty for the rest of the year. Understand?"
"OK," Adam and Scorpius both said in a monotone.
"I can't remember," said Rose for the fifth time to Harry. "I don't know what I was doing at that time."
Harry heaved a sigh. He was stuck. Why on earth would Rose lie to him, anyway? "Listen to me, Rosie," he said as kindly as he could, given the late hour — or the early hour, since it was just past midnight. "I hate to say it, but you're making things really difficult for me. You put up a struggle when two Aurors came to get you from your flat; your wand's been found at the scene. You're making yourself look really suspicious at the moment. I want you, please, to try your best to remember what happened today."
"But I can't!" she burst out. "I'm trying, Uncle Harry, I really am! But I can't remember anything. I swear, I'm not trying to be difficult! And you can't blame me for struggling," she added, annoyed. "What d'you expect me to do when I find Nott and Malfoy knocking on my door? Of course I had to hex Malfoy. He was hurling abuse at me — what was I meant to do?"
"He's just lost his daughter, Rose," Harry said wearily. "You can't blame him for being angry—"
"And I've just lost my cousins! How do you think I feel? Besides, it doesn't mean that he had to take it out on me, did it?"
Harry felt like saying "yes" — if Lily was murdered, Harry was sure he would have a far more violent reaction. But Rose was young; she didn't have children. She didn't know. "OK," he said, trying to maintain his patience. "OK. Forget about that now. Rose, I need you to tell me what you did yesterday."
Rose took a deep, steadying breath. "All right," she said. "Well, yesterday, I went to work as usual."
"Did you come across anything strange at work?" The fact that Harry was asking what was happening in his own workplace, the Ministry, did nothing to help the situation, because now he felt personally responsible for what had happened — regardless of whether or not Rose could remember it.
Rose shook her head. "Everything was normal. I came in at eight, like I do usually, and then I heard Malfoy and Nott talking about Ophélie. All this time, I thought Matthew was her dad, not Malfoy..."
"Cut it to the essentials, please," Harry interjected.
"OK, sorry. So, the day ended at work and I Apparated to the award ceremony where Dominique had been nominated for an award. After the ceremony was over, I went home. And there were no unusual cases yesterday — just the usual."
"What happened when you got home?"
"It was late, so I had a shower and went to bed."
"That's it," Rose repeated.
"You didn't go anywhere after—?"
"I went to bed," Rose said again.
"Can you remember what happened today, then?" Harry asked.
"Yes. To a certain extent, of course." Rose folded her arms and tried her best not to glare at her uncle.
Harry surveyed his niece over his tense, interlocked fingers before looking at a sheaf of parchment on the table. "It says here that you didn't come to work today, Rose."
"That's because Dominique owled me just before I was going to leave for work. I had to go to her place. I did owl in, though, to let them know."
"What did the letter say?"
"She said..." Rose began slowly. "She told me that... she was cheating on Matt."
"All right," said Harry after a moment, trying to digest the news of his niece's infidelity. "And why would she feel the need to tell you this? Why today, of all days?"
"Because Matt found out about it today. And poor Ophélie was stuck in the middle of it all."
"What could you have done to help with that?" he asked gently.
"After Ophélie was dropped off at the nursery, we talked. For hours. I think it helped — she definitely seemed a bit better once I'd calmed her down. And then she asked if I could collect Ophélie from school."
"When was this?" Harry's quill was writing everything down.
"Around three, I think."
"Rose, who was Dominique's lover?"
"She... she didn't say." Rose's hesitation did not go unnoticed by Harry.
"Rose, if you know who it was, you need to tell me."
"I don't know who... I have no idea who he was," she replied, her tone a little more certain.
Harry raised his eyebrows but continued, "OK. Then what happened?"
Rose thought hard. There was silence, and it stretched on for several minutes. "I... I don't know, Uncle Harry," she said finally. At last, she seemed to break down — a delayed reaction to what happened. "I'm sorry," Rose whispered through her tears, "but my mind's blank."
Harry waved his wand and wordlessly Summoned a tissue from a box in the corner of the room. Catching it singlehandedly, he passed it to his niece, frowning. He waited for her sobs to subside, before at last, he decided to explain the position he was in.
"Rose, you do realise that your wand was found at the scene and that that wand was found to have had performed the Killing Curses and drawn roses on all three of the victims' backs in their own blood, don't you?" The shocking reality of his family members' murders kicked in, even with Harry's use of the word "victims". Those "victims" included his niece and great-niece. He winced and tried not to think of them as family — one of the first things he had to learn in Auror training was that you could never get too close to the victims.
"But I don't know how it got there!" she insisted. "And I didn't kill them! Why the hell would I want to kill my own cousins?"
At that moment, a memo flew in. Harry slit it open and skimmed through it, his eyes narrowed in concentration.
"You're good at drawing," he continued quietly, as if she hadn't spoken, while he carried on reading. "Hermione's always told me that. You do it as a hobby. And Dominique's ring is missing. D'you know where it is?"
Rose shook her head.
"Can you remember if she was wearing it when you spoke to her last?"
She thought for a moment before nodding. "Yeah. She never takes it off, ever. Why?"
Harry sighed. "We're going to have to search your flat, I'm afraid, Rose."
"What?" She sounded outraged. "Why?"
"Tell me, Rose, for the benefit of the record, do you smoke?" Harry said, ignoring her protests. It was such an obvious question that Harry felt silly asking it.
Rose paused before replying, "You know perfectly well that I do. Are you going to lecture me on that, too?"
Harry shook his head. "A cigarette was found on the floor in Dominique's flat. There are several plausible theories that don't include you, but since you can't tell me what you were doing during the hours of five and seven p.m., I have no choice but to regard you as a suspect."
Rose crossed her arms. "Yeah? What's my motive?"
"Matt Wood's an ex of yours, isn't he?"
"And how the fuckdo you know that, Uncle Harry?" Rose hissed before she could stop herself. "I may be a fucking murder suspect, but you have no fucking right to nose into my personal life like that!"
"I didn't have to," Harry replied calmly, unperturbed by her sudden change in demeanour. "I already knew because Matt's parents, Alicia and Oliver, are both close friends of mine. You were open with your parents about your relationship with Matt until it ended. Your parents are my best friends and your father is my brother-in-law. If you remembered."
"OK, so that's my only motive? Well, at least it's just for Matt."
"No, actually," said Harry. "The other one is that you're jealous of Dominique for being married to Matthew. We're just not sure why you'd want to do in Ophélie, but when we find out, we'll definitely let you know."
"Godric," Rose breathed. "You're actually serious?"
"Deadly," Harry snapped. He turned off the tape and stood up, and even though he wasn't very tall, he still looked every bit the scary Auror to Rose. "This isn't a joke, Rose. This is a fucking murder investigation and the Minister, I'm sure you'll be ecstatic to know, doesn't give a shit that you're my niece or that you're my best friends' daughter. Everyone thinks you did it, you've as good as been caught red-handed, the Prophethas already found out, somehow, and arguing with me, being sarcastic with me, will not fucking help! And I am trying my hardest to get you out of this fucking mess, so you should bloody well appreciate it!" At last, Harry's temper had got the better of him, as had his language.
Yet it seemed to have worked because a moment later Rose mumbled, "I'm sorry."
"Me as well," he said after a moment, as his eyes lost the anger that had been there just a moment ago. "But I need some answers, Rose. Otherwise, there's no way you're getting out of that courtroom scot-free."
"But what the hell do you expect me to do if I can't remember anything?"
"Veritaserum," said Harry quietly.
"Excuse me?" Rose said faintly.
"You're going to have to take Veritaserum, since you can't — or won't — tell me where you were last night."
"We've got to eliminate you from the investigation, Rose. You're our prime suspect right now and that means you will remain in custody until it is clear that you weren't involved in the deaths of Dominique, Matthew or Ophélie. You were there — you were one of the four people present at the time of death. The presence of your wand is enough to prove that you were there around the time of the murder. The others, obviously, are the victims. So you need an alibi. The sooner you get it, the better. I'm sorry things are the way they are, but there's nothing I can do about it. All I can do, I'm afraid, is do my job," he finished softly.
"I don't want to," Rose declared. She couldn't take Veritaserum. If she did, all her secrets would be revealed — and to her uncle, no less. And she did not want that. "You can't force me to. After that law was passed, I have to actually consentto being given Veritaserum. And I fucking refuse."
With yet another sigh, Harry got up, and without a word, he left the room, intending to talk to his two best friends.
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