A/N: A relatively short and quiet chapter. For that, I apologise. Necessary too, though. (V. long A/N at end)
“Wh–? Logan. What the hell?” I struggled to keep up, tripping over my own feet as Logan dragged me behind him. His fingers dug painfully into my wrist and my spluttered protests went ignored. “What are you – ?”
Logan didn’t let up. He marched determinedly forwards, his grip around my arm tightening as I fought angrily to release it. I didn't understand his behaviour but at the moment I didn't care. My thoughts were on the Three Broomsticks and the ghostly white face of that lifeless body. Closing my eyes as a shudder ran through me, I instead recalled Rosmerta's grief-stricken tears. I jerked my eyes hastily back open. Logan tugged on my arm and I forced my mind back to the moment. I ran to match his long strides as Logan pulled me along.
“Well if you’re just going to – ”
We reached the mouth of an alleyway and Logan abruptly changed directions. He took a firmer grip of my arm, leading me straight along the passage.
“Where are we going?”
I knew the question was futile. The back of the alley came into view as Logan pushed me ahead. Finally free of his grip, I turned to find myself backed against a brick wall. I stared mutely as Logan drew closer and tried again to decipher his behaviour. He stalked towards me, eyes never leaving mine; his arms came to rest either side of me, bracketing my head as he leaned forward. His arms rested against the wall and his body drew closer, but still we weren't touching.
“What are you doing?” I asked weakly. His mouth was a straight line as he tilted his head to look down at me. The warm heat of his breath brushed against my cheek and I looked up to meet his eyes. The expression there wasn't the intense, zealous one I'd seen or the mocking one I'd come to hate. It was something softer and stranger and altogether more unsettling. This should be a romantic moment, I knew – some kind of breakthrough for our relationship. But once again Lottie's image danced through my head.
I closed my eyes, leaning my head back against the wall on a soft exhale. I felt moisture pooling beneath my eyelids and willed it away. And then, with my eyes closed in that moment of stillness, I felt Logan's lips against my skin. It was a smooth caress that traced the line of my jaw, leaving sparks of fire in its wake. I caught my breath, leaning in to his touch as he placed a gentle kiss beneath my ear, at my temple and then tenderly by each eyebrow. His lips moved down to play sweetly at the corner of my lips and I felt the slight tease of his tongue. I turned my head and finally captured his mouth fully with mine.
The wall was hard against my back as I circled my arms around Logan's waist. I pulled him towards me, revelling in the heat of his body moulding mine. His fingers glided softly over my skin, smoothing gently against my neck and down along my arms. Breathless, I moved my hands upwards; one splayed tightly against his back as the other nestled in his hair. Our lips parted together and his tongue stroked lusciously against mine.
My every nerve blossomed in acute awareness and I allowed myself to give in to the moment. I indulged in the feel of his hard contours, the taste of his lips and the surprising comfort of his arms. I held him tighter. I kissed him harder. And then I opened my eyes.
“Stop.” I spoke the words against his lips. I turned my face away and his lips grazed my cheek. “Stop,” I repeated, extracting my hands from his hair. Logan became still. His face moved inches away and I turned to look at him. His expression was unreadable as he searched my face for an explanation.
“What are you doing?” I held his gaze, determined this time to get an answer.
“Thank you, Gertrude.” His quiet response was completely sincere. “I appreciate that you were on my side in there.” The complete wrong answer.
“Back off, Logan.” My voice was hard. He took one look at me and then two large steps backwards.
“Do you know what just happened in there? I saw a dead body.” My voice cracked at the words. “A woman was murdered.”
“And that's upset you.” Logan made to move forward but my furious glare stopped him cold. I was finally thinking clearly.
“Don't patronise me, arsehole. Of course it upset me; I have a soul.”
“What are you saying?”
“I'm saying you're a soulless bastard.”
“Gertrude.” His lips pressed together in a small frown as he regarded me carefully. “Why the crude language? You must know I wasn't to blame. I was out in the open the entire time. I'm sorry the sight upset you...” I ignored him.
“I need to ask you something. You have to answer honestly.” Logan didn't speak but I plunged onwards: In the face of death, life had suddenly become very real. “Have you ever killed anyone?”
He face became expressionless as I waited stubbornly for a response. We stood in silence for a full minute before he spoke.
“You don't want to ask me that.”
“Tell me the truth.”
“You don't want an honest answer.” He stared at me, seemingly unmoved by my demand.
“Maybe not. But I need it.” I was sickened by the entire situation, the bile rising in my throat. “How many Logan? How many sons? Fathers? Mothers? Daughters?”
“This is ridiculous, Gertrude.” He was angry now. He made to move forwards but I stopped him with one trembling, outstretched hand. He saw it and halted. “You're upsetting yourself. You’ve had a shock and now you’re lashing out. Why don't we walk back to the Castle?”
“Tell me!” I refused to back down.
“Okay.” He gave a small nod and looked me in the eye. “Zero.” My heart jumped into my throat. Oh, how I'd love to believe that. “I promise you I have never killed an innocent person. Male or female.”
“Ahh.” I laughed hollowly to myself. “There's the catch. And what's your definition of innocent? If a witch is born to Muggle parents, are they innocent?”
“I'm done with this conversation.”
“And I'm done with you.”
“What?” This took him aback. His beautiful blue eyes widened with surprise and to me they were suddenly loathsome. “Because I won't indulge your nervous breakdown?”
“No. Because you're the kind of person with whom this conversation is even necessary. You disgust me, Logan,” I spat the words in venom. “I don't even like you. I want nothing to do with you and we're over.”
“We're not over.” His tone was amused as I stormed past him. “Come on, Gertrude. You don't care about politics, remember?”
“I was wrong!” I swivelled around to face him, knowing in my heart I was finally making sense. “This is too messed up. Some things matter. Life matters!” Still he regarded me as though I were a child throwing a tantrum. “Fuck you, Logan. I'm not on your side. You're dumped.”
I was huddled with Daniel outside the Three Broomsticks. Except for a few witnesses waiting to speak with the Magical Law Enforcement Officers, the area was mostly empty. It had taken the Officers and their fancy badges to finally disperse the crowd.
“Come on, Dan. Let’s go. There’s nothing more we can add about what happened.” I was so tired. It had been a terrible day but I was beyond grateful to have my friends safe. It had been terrifying. At the same time, I couldn’t forget that there had been a tragedy here today and I just wanted to be back at Hogwarts.
“I’m waiting for Lily. She was one of the first people when they found... that body. She’s talking to the Officers inside.” The hesitance in his voice made it clear he was as uneasy with being this close to a murder scene as I was.
“She’ll be fine.”
“She’s my girlfriend. I’m not just leaving her.” I hadn’t really expected him to but it never hurt to ask.
“She doesn’t deserve you.”
“What?” I was too tired to be diplomatic.
“I’m being honest.”
“I thought you liked her?”
I had been so worried for Daniel trapped in that place. I’d been desperate to know he was okay and I didn’t understand why his girlfriend hadn’t been the same. She’d come tumbling out and told us about Sirius and James. It wasn’t until she saw me that she’d remembered Daniel; and I didn’t notice her looking for him when she went back in. Lily being Daniel’s priority when he had so clearly not been hers irked at me fiercely. But a woman had just died. And bringing this up now would seem ridiculous and petty.
“It’s just –”
“Save it, Clar. I’m going to see if she’s done.”
“Daniel!” I followed him back into the Three Broomsticks, where the officers were nearly done taking statements.
At the back of the room, Lily and Remus were huddled together and Daniel headed straight for them. Remus said something and I saw Lily look towards James Potter. Her eyes lingered until Potter looked up from where he was seated. I glared as they exchanged a small smile before Lily turned quickly away.
“Hey, Lily.” She looked up at Daniel’s voice.
“Hey.” She gave him a tired smiled. “Hey, Clar.” Her smile faltered at my glare. “Are you okay?”
“Let’s get going.” I ignored her question.
“Oh.” Lily looked towards Potter. “We were going to wait for James. Sirius had to leave. We thought we’d go back together.”
“Of course you did.” She stared at me in confusion.
“We’re all pretty shook up, Clar. And you know, he did a really good job getting people safe. He could have just made more trouble.”
“James has a responsible streak that he just couldn’t keep hidden,” Remus smiled. I held my tongue.
“Are you okay, Lily?” Daniel asked softly. He came forward and held her hands between his. “I mean, that must have been hell.”
“Personally,” I interrupted, “I’ll feel a lot better when we get out of here.” I could see the hallway I’d walked down not long ago. The body might still be there. “Please let’s just do that.”
“It’s okay.” Lily detached her hands from Daniel and stepped quickly away. The afternoon had taken its toll on her too. She was exhausted and drained. “You guys go. I don’t mind. I’m going to step outside for a bit; I’ll see you at the Castle.” She turned on her heel and made quickly for the back door.
“Lily!” Daniel made to go after her but I grabbed his arm and held him back.
“Leave it, Daniel. She wants some space. Let’s go back like she said.”
“But – ”
“Please.” I implored, holding more tightly to his arm. “I don’t like it here. Coming in and seeing Beck like that and then all that running around trying to make someone help. And right there,” I whispered, my voice lowering. “Right there, a woman died. Please, Daniel – can’t we leave?”
He looked from the plea in my eyes to the door Lily had just run through.
“Please. I know she’s upset but she wants space. And I need my best friend.”
Finally, Daniel nodded. Remus’ clear voice stopped us halfway to the door.
“Are you joking?” He stared at Daniel in disbelief and gestured at the door Lily had gone through. “You’re just going to leave her?” Daniel flushed slightly.
“She wanted some space.” Remus came towards us, shaking his head.
“You don’t believe that. Not for one moment.”
“Leave him alone.” I objected.
“And you!” Remus regarded me. “Bit selfish, don’t you think?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be rude but Lily’s a good friend - the same Lily that was just stuck in a room with a dead body and a grieving relative. She had to hold it together and try and offer some comfort. Her emotions are absolutely knackered. But you only seem interested in making Daniel do what you want.” Stunned, I gaped at Remus. I didn’t deserve that.
“That’s not fair, Lupin. Maybe you’re right about Lily but I’m not a mindreader. I can go ask...”
“Don’t bother.” Lupin cut him off. “You made your choice. I suppose I’ll –”
“Wait.” I looked to the side at this new voice and saw James Potter rise up from his chair. He’d finished talking to the Law Enforcement Officer. Potter’s face was completely serious as he made straight for the back door. “This arguing isn’t going to help Lily. I’ll go.”
Regulus and I walked side by side, arms brushing against each other as we took the long and meandering route back to Hogwarts. We hadn’t stuck around to talk to the Law Enforcement Officers. If they wanted to ask something they could come and find us. If not, we refused to draw attention to our involvement.
“You must be glad,” Regulus said. We’d passed Gertrude Beck on her way to the Castle. I’d asked after my brother and she’d stopped only long enough to say, ‘Don’t care. Dumped him.’ I frowned.
“She fought for him, you know. Then for her to be the one to dump him. It seems to have been over before it started.” I came to a stop and turned to face Regulus. My eyes filled with warmth as I stared up at him. “You were wonderful, though.” He gave an embarrassed half-shrug.
“You weren’t bad either. We make a good team.” I smiled my agreement.
“You think Malfoy will get in trouble? The Dark Lord...” Regulus shook his head.
“That’s not for me to say. What he did was unwise – Logan’s valuable.”
“As is Malfoy,” I pointed out.
“But everybody’s expendable. They’d be far more valuable if they knew how to work together.” I nodded.
“Is that why you got involved in the fight?”
“It’s not the only reason.” I looked at him inquiringly. Regulus took my right hand, holding it between both of his. “Your loyalty was with Logan and my loyalty is with you. I knew you’d stand with him. How could I not?” I looked away, my face heating up at his words.
“Reg... Sirius stepped in to help you.” I broached the topic carefully.
“He probably wants something to hold over me.” Regulus frowned and regarded me carefully. “You asked him to help, didn’t you?”
“Yes.” I spoke without hesitation.
“I don’t want his help, Audrey. I never want his help. He’s turned his back on us and there’s no coming back from that.”
“I understand, Regulus. I agree. But if it’s the best way to keep you safe, I’d do it again.”
“I don’t suppose I’m allowed to be annoyed, am I?” He gave a small smile.
“No. You’re not.” I held his eyes, smiling back into them. The warmth of his hand was a comfort against mine and after all that had happened, it was a blessing to be here with him in the fresh, autumn air. Leaning forward, I caught Regulus’ lips in a brief, soft kiss. “What?” I pulled away, laughing at his surprise. The faintest blush spread across his cheeks and I smiled at him wonderingly. There was something reassuring about the fact we could still make each other blush. “Reg...”
“Yes?” I leaned forward and kissed him again. This time I lingered, enjoying the softness of his lips moving against mine. Between us, our fingers interlinked and I pulled closer. Nestling deeply against him I felt almost peaceful.
“Oh.” Regulus pulled back.
“What is it?” In answer, Regulus nodded behind me. I turned and saw Logan taking large strides along a nearby path. He hadn’t seen us but that didn’t last long; I was glad Regulus had moved a more appropriate distance away. Logan spotted us and changed direction to come stand by our side. He offered a hand to Regulus.
“You did well today. I’ll make sure it doesn’t go unremarked.” I didn’t like the sound of that. Regulus working his way up the Death Eater ranks was not what I had in mind for our future. “Audrey.” Logan put a hand on my shoulder and peered down into my face. “You shouldn’t have got involved.”
“Excuse me!?” I was completely floored by the injustice of this remark. I took a deep breath. “Of course I would be involved, Logan. You’re my brother,” I replied levelly. “And I think I acquitted myself rather well.”
“You did,” Logan agreed. I frowned at him, only half listening. There was something strange about his manner. My brother seemed distracted. His eyes darted away as if thinking of something else before they came back to me. “But it should never have come to that. Of course you can fight – you’re strong, you’re a Carville. But I’d rather it never came to that. Do you understand?” I didn’t.
“Are you going to be in trouble, Logan? Have you spoken to the Officers?”
“That rabble of idiots and half-bloods? Why would I do that? I have to leave now, Audrey. I’ll see you soon.”
“I spoke to Gertrude Beck,” I called out, hazarding a guess that was what preoccupied him. He turned back around and gave me a sharp look. Now I had his full attention.
“What did she say?” He asked coolly.
“She told me you broke up. That you guys are over.” Logan gave a harsh laugh.
“Is that all?” I nodded. “It’s not over.”
“But she said – ”
“I don’t care what she said. It’s not over. Now goodbye, sister.” He exchanged a meaningful look with Regulus. “I have a prior commitment I simply can’t miss.”
“Where’s Sirius?” Gertrude asked.
“I don’t know. He took off and I’ve not seen him since.” Truth be told, I was a bit worried. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I already told you. I dumped him. Why wouldn’t I be?” I shrugged.
“I thought you liked him.”
“Can we talk about something else, please?” I frowned thoughtfully. That poor woman – killed in a full pub and nobody had known. Gertrude’s thoughts were in the same place. “What do you think happened?”
“I don’t know.” We’d run into each other walking back from Hogsmeade and settled quite easily into conversation. It was obvious how troubled Gertrude was by what had happened and I could hardly believe it myself. For once, we seemed on equal ground.
“The trouble is anybody could have flooed. But I suppose the floo network is being monitored so maybe it wasn’t that?” She seemed to be talking to herself more than me but I nodded along. Hopefully even a silent presence next to her was some comfort. “I just wonder if I’d gone in sooner... I could maybe have stopped it. Or at least spared Rosmerta finding out like that.”
“Come on, Gertrude. You did everything you could. It’s not your fault.”
“I know,” Gertrude insisted. “I really do. But still... I can’t help but wonder.” She gave a helpless shrug. “Anyway, how was your date with Sirius. You know – before all this happened.” I couldn’t help a small smile.
“I was actually enjoying it.”
“You were?” Gertrude raised her eyebrows in surprise. “That’s great, Ara.”
“Yes but now he’s disappeared.”
“That’s not about you.” Gertrude shook her head. “That’s about Regulus and Malfoy and Logan and his own messed up life. Don’t let that worry you.” I wasn’t sure it was fair to call his life ‘messed up’ but Gertrude Beck was being nice to me. She was trying to make me feel better. We were sort of having girl-talk. I couldn’t help a small laugh. Maybe we really were friends.
“I won’t. I mean, after all that’s happened now a date hardly seems important.” Gertrude shook her head.
“It’s more important than ever. Who you choose to spend your life with, even if just for an hour – it matters. It says something about you. I hadn’t thought of that until today. Or maybe I didn’t care.”
“Seeing what you did, discovering the body like that, it’s going to leave a mark. It only just happened –”
“I don’t want to talk about it, Arabelle. Please. I’m serious.” I nodded. “I just want them to find out what happened so Rosmerta can have some peace and we can all move on.”
“I know what you mean. Don’t think I’ll be in a hurry to come back here.”
“Oh, I’ll definitely be coming back,” Gertrude declared. “And you should too. I refuse to be scared away.”
“The Aurors will get involved and whoever did it will be found and sent to Azkaban soon, anyway. I’m sure.”
“I wouldn’t count on it,” Gertrude scoffed. “Haven’t you noticed how incompetent Ministry officials are? It’s just a question of whether they arrest the wrong person or nobody at all.”
“Miss! Miss!” We turned around at the rather high-pitched voice and saw a small man hurrying after us. “Miss.” He came to a stop, huffing and puffing. “I am glad I caught you.”
“What do you want?” Gertrude snapped. I raised my eyebrows. Clearly her newfound ‘niceness’ didn’t stretch to all. He doubled over, catching his breath and becoming even smaller.
“I’m looking for Gertrude Beck.” Her eyebrows narrowed and lipped pressed tightly together.
“I have it on good authority that she’s had about enough for one day,” Gertrude said. “She doesn’t want to see you.”
“Oh it’s not me, miss. It’s the Auror Office. They’ve just taken over and they have a few questions. Refusing to answer questions would be quite a suspicious thing to do.” He looked up at her shrewdly. “So will you see me now?” Her annoyance was obvious but there was little choice.
“Go on, Gertrude. You’d better head back. The worst that can happen is you help them find the killer. That’s surely got to be good?” She gave a small nod.
“You’d better go ahead without me, Ara. I’ll see you at the Castle.” Glaring at the man and with a heavy sigh, Gertrude turned to once again make the walk to Hogsmeade.
LONG A/N: 1) Sorry about my awful updating skills.. Real Life caught up with me :( If you've been with me from the beginning - wow, and double apologies. And extra shout out to everybody that reviewed. Knowing people are interested is definitely what insipired me to get words back on a page. I'm sorry I've kept you waiting so long.
2) Since it has been so long, I'm quite rusty. As much as I enjoy writing this story it's actually been more difficult to slip back into than I thought. (Maybe because some of my plan seems to have gone missing so I'm still reacquainting myself with what happens. The big things are still in place though. I sensibly put those plans on USB :) Some of the girls' heads have also been more difficult to slip back into than I thought considering I invented them! It's a strange thing :/ But I assume more writing will fix that.
3) Also, it's quite late and I'm posting this without my usual edits. (I'm half wondering if I'll reread it tomorrow and delete the whole thing :S) So whether it's the grammar, plot, characterisation or anything else is a bit off, feel free to point that out. I'd actually appreciate it. Been so long since I wrote anything fiction that I feel like even more of a newbie novice than usual!
4) As always - reviews most desperately welcome. I adore feedback! And now.. I shut up :)
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