He still hadn’t cried. He’d screamed, shouted, sworn, kicked, punched and hit everything within a few inches of him that wasn’t human and Scorpius was becoming frustrated at his helplessness. Because not once so far had even a single tear fallen from his eyes. Initially, he had put this down to shock, but it seemed that the tears just didn't want to come out. Nevertheless, Scorpius felt a great hollowness in him, a void where his daughter had been for nine months. So far, that emptiness had not manifested itself into tears, and he didn't know if it ever would do.
Scorpius and Adam made their way to their shared office. The cubicles of the old days had long since disappeared, replaced with offices for practicality.
“So,” said Adam in a businesslike voice as he Summoned several files from the filing cabinet nearby, “why would Weasley want to do in Dominique in the first place?”
“Neither of them has any previous criminal records, do they?”
Adam shook his head, opening the topmost file. “But let’s look at Rose Weasley’s background first. Twenty-one, single — as far as we know — and with just the one brother, Hugo. Parents are Ron and Hermione Weasley, both of whom have an Order of Merlin, First Class, for fighting in the war. Rose seems to be a prominent member of the Wizarding community, having recently become a member of Magical Law Enforcement. No priors, nothing to indicate that she was responsible for any of the Blood and Roses murders.”
“Who says that she did the others, though?” Scorpius said, with a touch of anger mingled with frustration in his voice. “She could just be a copycat. Anyone who’s anyone would know the MO of the killer, so what if Rose just wanted to kill Dominique and Matthew?”
Adam shook his head. “The MOs are too similar — little details, like the precision of the rose and the fact that they were all positioned on a bed, that weren’t mentioned in the papers are consistent in this murder and in the others. There are noticeable differences, though; there was never a wand left behind, nor a cigarette. The previous murders all seemed to be pre-meditated, carefully planned out. This one seems hasty. But the question is, what’s Rose’s motive?”
“Matthew Wood is Rose’s ex. They went out during sixth year.”
“And?” he asked sceptically. “You think this was about—”
“Jealousy,” said Scorpius simply. “‘If I can't have you, no one can. Least of all my own cousin.’”
“OK, so while that might count as a motive for murdering Matthew and Dominique,” Adam reasoned, “it still doesn’t explain what happened to Ophélie.” He looked a little apprehensive of mentioning her name. Sure enough, Scorpius was unable to reply; his throat constricted and he could not speak.
“Let’s look at Dominique next,” continued Adam hastily. He set Rose’s file aside and opened Dominique’s. “Twenty-two years old, married to Matthew Wood, also twenty-two. Her father, William ‘Bill’ Weasley, was attacked by Fenrir Greyback in 1997. Her mother was part-Veela — died of cancer a few years back. We know that Dominique was close especially to her cousin, Rose Weasley. As recently as two days ago, she won an award for services to the Wizarding community — she was a voluntary Healer, although she never used the title. She has a sister, Victoire, and a brother, Louis. Her brother-in-law is a Metamorphmagus, Edward ‘Teddy’ Remus Lupin. Victoire is pregnant.”
“Teddy’s my—” Scorpius began to say automatically, but then he stopped himself.
Adam rolled his eyes. “I know he’s related to you. But that’s got nothing to do with it. Rose Weasley. She’s the only suspect in this case — so far.”
“Dominique and Rose are — were — good friends.”
“Any chance that Dominique liked girls?”
“None at all,” said Scorpius, without hesitation. “She was with Matthew.”
She also slept with me,
he added silently. Which makes her poker straight in my book. Even if...
His train of thought was interrupted by Adam again. “Did Rose ever seem to have problems with lesbians generally?”
Scorpius shook his head.
“What about with Matthew? Any problems?”
“I'm not sure,” Scorpius replied uncertainly. It didn’t seem right. Rose was a lot of things, but was she really capable of murder? It didn’t add up, now that he came to think about it. “She went out with him in sixth year — we all know that. But now? I don't know. We should ask his parents. And Rose’s.”
Adam nodded. “Ron and Hermione Weasley are here already, but they don't know about Rose yet. I suppose we’ll have to break it to them — unless Potter gets there before us.”
They began to make their way out of the Aurors’ office, but their path was almost immediately blocked by Longbottom and the newest Auror in their department, Amelia Macmillan.
“Where are you two going?” asked Macmillan rather annoyingly.
“To see Oliver and Alicia Wood,” said Adam staunchly. “Matthew Wood’s parents.”
“And Ron and Hermione Weasley,” Scorpius added. “Rose’s parents.”
“I’m sorry about Ophélie, Scorpius,” Amelia said sincerely. “She was a lovely—”
“Yes, thank you, Macmillan,” Scorpius nearly snapped. “Can we get going?” This was directed at Adam, who was watching him apprehensively.
He nodded. “Let’s fill them in first, though.”
As quickly as they could, Adam and Scorpius told them what they already knew about Dominique and Rose and what Scorpius suspected Rose’s motives to be.
“So far, though, the only clue we have is the MO, which matches the other victims in all respects except the fact that Dominique is — was — straight, Wood was a guy and—” Scorpius halted in his words, unable to continue.
“The girl was only three years old,” Adam finished hastily. “We’re as confused as you are. Anyway, the other evidence we have is the cigarette butt, which was found near the wand on the floor. It was still fairly warm when we found it, suggesting that the killer hadn’t been gone for long, and it’s consistent with the autopsy results, which say that the time of death was between five and seven p.m. In addition, there's Dominique’s missing ring, which — according to two people so far — she never takes off. We’ll have to confirm that one with her family and friends, but its disappearance definitely seems suspicious and makes the murder seem like a personal attack.”
“But all of the attacks were personal,” Amelia reasoned. “Not one of the Blood and Roses victims put up a struggle, and that means that they all almost certainly knew the attacker.”
“This one’s different, though, because before this our guy’s only done one at a time. This time, they’ve done three,” said Longbottom. “And one’s a man.”
The Atrium in the Ministry of Magic was so full of redheads that onlookers were beginning to stare, forgetting about their business. Admittedly, due to the late hour, the Ministry was not as full as it was in the daytime, but there were still many midnight workers trying to complete last minute reports.
Half of the Weasley family was there: Ginny, Arthur, Molly, Bill, George, Hermione, Ron, Hugo, Victoire, Teddy and Louis.
Oliver and Alicia arrived at the Atrium as the Weasleys waited for the lifts. As they squeezed into the two lifts, they all wore the same expression of grief. No one was talking much; there wasn’t really anything to say. The only sounds were the sobs of Victoire, Hermione and Molly. Ginny’s eyes, while red, refused to let the tears fall. The men tried to maintain their composure, patting the backs of their wives and children and nieces, attempting to comfort them without succeeding because their own hearts were throbbing with loss and shock as well.
Ron and Hermione stood without saying a word to each other in the corner of the lift, Hermione grasping her husband’s hand tightly. He returned the pressure, trying to reassure her that it was going to be OK, but he wasn’t even sure of that. The fact that their own niece, Ron’s flesh and blood, had been murdered by a cold-blooded serial killer did nothing to ease the situation. He couldn’t even try to placate anyone by saying she probably hadn’t suffered, because the likelihood of the murderer having allowed Dominique the mercy of a quick, painless exit was very, very small.
As they finally reached the floor for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, the Weasleys, Alicia and Oliver filed out of the lift. Since several of the Weasleys worked in the department, they led the way.
They reached the Auror Office. Harry was standing at the door, waiting for them. As soon as he opened it, Hermione lunged forwards and enveloped him in an overwhelming hug, sobbing into his chest.
Harry, still not entirely comfortable with comforting people, awkwardly patted his sister-in-law, trying to pull away from her to avoid suffocation. Ginny, far more composed but her eyes red from crying, simply held his hand as he spoke to the families.
“I can’t — you'll have to wait outside for a while, until we call you in for questioning. Oliver, Alicia, I'm so, so sorry for your loss — some Aurors will be with you shortly to question you.”
The Woods acquiesced, as did the Weasleys, with the exception of Bill. He shakily stepped forwards, his face stained with tears.
“Who did it?” he said hoarsely. When Harry didn't immediately reply, Bill took hold of Harry’s shoulders and shook him. “WHO DID IT?” he bellowed, so loudly that his voice echoed around the tiny room.
The Weasleys, Oliver and Alicia recoiled, frightened by the sudden burst of anger.
“We — we can’t tell you just yet, Bill,” said Harry quickly. “I... I’ll let you know as soon as I can. I promise.”
“Tell me. Tell me now and then I’ll go and kill the bastard.”
“I'm going to have to pretend I didn't hear that,” Harry replied, trying to maintain his temper again. Godric, Rose had already tried to make him angry, and it had worked. Harry did not think he could deal with much more. “It’s my duty as Head of the Auror Office to report death threats — you know that.”
“That’s my fucking daughter!” Bill yelled.
“Bill, please calm down.” Arthur’s voice seemed weighed down, yet as he placed his hand on his son’s shoulder, he appeared the calmest. “Harry will find whoever did this. Do you hear me? And we will let him get arrested and serve his time in Azkaban. You're not going to kill him, OK?”
Before Bill had a chance to reply, Harry whispered tentatively, “Ron, Hermione, I need a word.”
Still hand-in-hand, Ron and Hermione left Arthur softly placating his son and followed Harry into the office. They weren’t sure what to expect.
Harry took a deep breath and said, “OK, I need you to know that I have no idea what the hell this is all about. I don't know if she’s being framed, or if she’s actually — God forbid she actually—”
“Harry, what are you talking about?”asked Hermione, frowning.
“Look, you’ve got to understand that—”
“Mate, can you just say it, please? I'm sure we can deal with whatever you're about to tell us.”
“Where has Rose been today?”
“Work, of course,” said Hermione, as if the answer was obvious. “Right now, she’s probably in her flat.”
Harry shook his head. “She’s here. She’s a suspect for the case.” Hermione gasped while Ron’s eyes widened, shock silencing him for a second.
“What did you just say?” asked Hermione faintly.
“You mean my daughter?” said Ron loudly, his voice coming back and veering dangerously close to shouting. “You're saying that you suspect my Rose of murdering
her own cousins?”
“Ron, keep your voice down,” Harry pleaded. “Please—”
“I WILL NOT FUCKING KEEP MY VOICE DOWN! MY DAUGHTER IS NOT A FUCKING MURDERER!” Ron was yelling at the top of his lungs now. They could hear the voices of the Weasleys outside as they reacted to the new revelation.
“I'm not saying she was — the evidence is saying something different, though. Her wand was found at the scene,” Harry tried to reason. “We found out that the same wand killed all three of them. There was a cigarette found at the scene as well, and she might have smoked the cigarette before leaving. She can’t give us an alibi and she can’t even remember what she was doing today, during the time of death. She refuses to take Veritaserum, so we can’t tell if she’s telling the truth when she says she can’t remember.”
“THAT DOESN’T MEAN—”
“Ron,” said Hermione softly, “Ron, please stop shouting.” At his wife’s words, Ron stopped abruptly, but the angry tears in his eyes were still there. “Let’s talk about this,” said Hermione, in the same soft voice. “And this time, maybe it’d help if we used Muffliato.
A short while later, Ron, Hermione and Harry emerged from Harry’s office and headed towards an unused office where Rose was being held. Harry couldn’t help but give his niece special treatment; considering her official status as a suspect, she should have been held in a cell. But after all, as Ron very rightly said, there was no way Rose had done it. They just had to prove it.
When they reached the office, Harry opened the door, and his two best friends rushed inside, hugging their daughter.
Once Ron and Hermione were seated opposite their daughter, Harry spoke. “Rose, can you remember where you were between the hours of five and seven p.m. today?”
“No, I can’t,” she replied quickly.
“That’s OK, sweetie,” said Ron, clumsily patting her hand.
“Are you willing to take Veritaserum to prove that you can’t remember anything?”
Rose was about to shake her head, but her mother interrupted. “Rosie, it won’t do you any harm to take it. We’ve got to take you off the suspect list. Or else—”
“But why? It’s a complete invasion of my privacy. There are things I don’t want to tell you.”
“Like what?” Hermione countered. “Can you honestly tell me one thing that you know and that I don't know?”
Rose wanted to say. But instead of answering her mother’s question, she said hotly, “Do you actually believe that I could—”
“No, we don’t,” said Ron firmly. “You're innocent and we will prove it. But we need your help — your cooperation. Otherwise...”
“But the evidence is circumstantial!” Rose insisted. “Isn't it?”
“Look, forget the evidence for a second, Rose. I bet Bill and Molly and Victoire and Louis already suspect you,” said Harry honestly. Both Ron and Hermione looked outraged at Harry’s statement, but he quickly continued. “A few years ago, Bill lost a wife. Molly lost a daughter-in-law whom she claimed wasn’t her favourite, but everyone else said otherwise. And Victoire and Louis lost their mum. Now they’ve lost two others, both of whom were far too young to die. It can’t be easy for them. They're going to want someone to blame, and all the evidence is pointing at you, Rose — whether or not it’s circumstantial or concrete. You know that. Just take the Veritaserum, and we can know for certain that you didn't do it. And that way, we won’t split up your family in the process.”
“Don’t you trust her?” Hermione whispered, looking anguished. “Can’t you just believe her?”
“I can,” Harry said, “but the Ministry can’t. You know that, Hermione. So, Rose,” he pressed, a steely note to his voice, “what’s it going to be?”
Scorpius and Adam returned from their interrogation of the Woods, irritated at the little information they had gleaned. Matthew, it turned out, had had a lot of enemies due to his status as a popular Quidditch player. There were people who’d sent him hate mail simply because he had made them lose a bet, while others insisted that his team had cheated. After reading the first few letters, Matthew had simply binned them all, making it impossible to compile a list of suspects.
They were joined at their office moments later by Lonbottom and Macmillan.
“Did you hear?” said Longbottom. “Rose is finally going to talk.”
“She’s taking the...” Nott began.
“The Veritaserum, yeah,” finished Longbottom. “I don't know how they managed to persuade her, though.”
“What did the Woods tell you?” asked Macmillan.
“Nothing, really. They said that Rose and Matthew didn't have any problems, which may be because they didn't talk to each other much. They did say that Rose broke up with him quite abruptly, but that Matthew was kind of happy about it, because they weren’t the best couple.”
In the office where Rose was, Alicia and Oliver’s words were being corroborated by Rose.
Rose, taking a deep breath and managing a tiny smile at her father, who was sitting opposite her, raised the bottle of Veritaserum to her lips and drank.
“State your full name and date of birth for the record, please.”
“Rose Lima Weasley, 18th October 2006.”
Harry nodded, assured that the potion was working. “What was your relationship like with Matthew Wood?” Harry asked.
Rose answered, “We went out in sixth year and when he tried to grope me, I ended it.”
Ron and Hermione gasped, and even Rose looked surprised. “But... but you told me it was because...” Hermione started, but Harry interrupted.
“This isn’t the time, Hermione. Continue, Rose. Was there any hostility between you and Matthew after your relationship was over?”
“Yes,” Rose answered. Again, she looked shocked at how the potion was controlling her. “We weren’t on speaking terms until he married Dominique last year. Then, for the sake of everyone, we stayed out of each other’s way and we didn't argue when we were at family functions together. It was only a couple of weeks ago that we had a row.”
“Over what?” Harry prompted.
“Matthew was getting Ophélie’s surname changed to Wood. All this time, it had been Weasley.”
“Why did you have a problem with that decision?”
“Matt was a smarmy, arrogant git. He thought he was the best person in the world just because he was a Quidditch player. And Matt wasn’t even Ophélie’s dad. He had no right to her, and Dominique, for that matter, clearly didn't think much of him either if she was cheating on him.”
“So you knew about Dominique being unfaithful?”
“Yes, I've known for three years.”
“Who was Dominique’s lover?” he asked, ignoring the shocked expressions on Ron and Hermione’s faces at the revelation of Dominique’s infidelity.
“Gabriella Zabini,” Rose said immediately.
?” Ron said, before could stop himself.
Harry disregarded Ron’s interjection, asking, “How long were they together for?”
“When I was in sixth year,” she replied, even though she was stunned at how the words were spilling out of her, “I came across them snogging in Gryffindor Tower once. Just after that, we found out about Aunt Fleur, and since then, I don't know what’s been going on with Dominique and Gabriella. They asked me to keep it a secret, though, when I saw them in sixth year. They’ve had a thing ever since. It’s been on-off, as far as I know.”
“Do you think that Gabriella could have killed Dominique, Matthew and Ophélie?”
“No,” Rose said. “She loved Dominique. She’s gone through so much — I don't think she’s capable of murder. If anything, Matt would have killed Gabriella for being with Dominique, not the other way round.”
“Rose, where were you between the hours of five and seven p.m. tonight?”
“I don't know.”
“I said, I don't know.”
“She doesn’t know, Harry,” said Ron. “She’s in the clear now, isn’t she?”
Harry shook his head. “All it means is that Rose still could’ve done it, but just not known about it. She could have had her memory modified or wiped clean, even. The most that could do is reduce the murder charge to manslaughter—”
“What?” said Hermione. “But — you said that—”
“If she could remember where she was and have someone provide her with an alibi, then she would be fine. No one can corroborate that she was at home. So we don't know where she’s been between those times. She’s still a suspect, I'm afraid. But we’ll look into Gabriella’s file. Maybe she can help.”
Rose nodded, accepting her fate. The Veritaserum appeared to have calmed her down somehow.
“Gabriella’s the daughter of Blaise Zabini, isn’t she?” asked Ron. Harry nodded.
“Died a couple of years ago, Blaise did,” Hermione supplied.
With that in mind, Harry said a quick goodbye and left the office to meet Malfoy, Nott, Macmillan and Longbottom.
“You're all working overtime,” he announced. “Anyone got an issue with that, please let me know. Otherwise, dig up Gabriella Zabini’s file and while you’re at it, look at Blaise Zabini’s, too. Chase up anything suspicious and get back to me. Malfoy, Nott, did you get anything useful from Oliver and Alicia?”
“No,” Nott said. “They did say that Matthew got a lot of hate mail, but I doubt that Quidditch is a motive.”
“True,” said Harry. “At the moment, the only plausible motive is jealousy. But even that runs a little thin, because apart from Ophélie being in the wrong place at the wrong time — which is unlikely given that she was in her own house — why would anyone want to kill a little girl?”
This was met by silence.
“We’ll take a look at Zabini, then,” Nott said finally. “If you don't mind us asking, what’s the connection?”
“We happen to believe that Gabriella and Dominique were having an affair.”
Malfoy managed to look surprised at this. He and Nott exchanged a look.
“Do you two know her?” Harry asked, not missing a trick.
“Kind of,” said Malfoy. “She’s an ex.”
“So what do you think, Malfoy? Is she capable of murder?”
“No,” he said immediately. “At least, not because of jealousy. But I didn't know her that well. I can't really say.”
“Well, have a look at her file and see if you can find anything questionable. If you can, I want you two to find her and interrogate her. She might cooperate more because you know her.”
“All right,” said Malfoy.
A while later, Scorpius called his fellow Aurors over. He was looking at Blaise Zabini’s death certificate while drinking coffee.
“This is strange. It says that a house-elf accidentally put milk in his tea, and he died because of his lactose allergy.”
“What’s strange about that?” asked Macmillan.
Scorpius flicked through the file. “It’s weird because there is no other mention of lactose intolerance. And I know it’s a pain in the arse when you can’t eat anything dairy — my mum’s lactose intolerant, and it makes eating out a nightmare for her. Surely there would’ve been an incident in which he ate something he shouldn’t have?”
“What about Gabriella’s mum?” Longbottom enquired.
“She's dead, apparently. Funny. Gabriella never mentioned that to me.”
“OK... Scorpius, me and you will go to Gabriella’s place,” said Nott. “Macmillan, Longbottom, see if you can get anything else out of the Weasley family.”
Harry groaned when he saw there was a Healer waiting outside the Auror Office along with Bill, Oliver and Alicia. Once the other Weasleys had been questioned, they had returned home, as there was nothing else for them to do at the Ministry. Alicia, exhausted from her journey, had her face in her hands. Whether it was from grief or fatigue, they didn't know, but no one wanted to disturb her.
A new law had been passed recently that required everyone in the Ministry’s custody to be examined by a Healer to confirm that they were well enough to be held and interrogated. The law was a nuisance for Harry, not least because of the amount of paperwork.
“Hello,” he said politely, as he opened the door and held out his hand. The Healer shook it briefly before letting go.
“Healer Maira Parkinson,” she introduced herself. “And you are Auror Harry Potter. Lovely to meet you. Well,” Maira Parkinson amended, noting the expressions on Oliver’s, Alicia’s and Bill’s faces, “perhaps not, given the circumstances. Where is Miss Weasley?”
“You're going to have to sign in the visitor’s book first,” Harry told her, Summoning the book and a quill before handing it to her.
She smiled and quickly signed her name, writing the reason for her visit, before giving the book back to Harry. He placed it on an empty chair, nodded at Bill and Oliver and straightened up again.
“Now, let’s get this over with.”
They walked together towards the office where Rose was being held, passing Scorpius and Nott as they did so.
“We’re going to Gabriella’s place,” Nott told Harry. “Some things in her dad’s file don't add up.”
“OK,” Harry said. He turned to Maira, opening the office door. “This way, please.”
Scorpius and Nott opened the door and were at the Auror Office entrance when Scorpius spoke. “Was that Maira Parkinson?” he asked.
Adam nodded. “Look, she even signed in the visitor’s book. No one ever does that.”
Frowning, Scorpius lifted the book and looked carefully at the signature. It was neat and curly. The writing, too, was neat and almost calligraphic.
“Adam,” he said, “when was the last time you met a Healer whose handwriting you could read?”
Chapter End Notes:
What did you think? That box down there needs feeding. Could you do the honours? Also, no offence is intended to any doctors — I really haven’t met one with legible writing, though. Feel free to prove me wrong — in a review, preferably :)