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Chapter 8 : A Dark Mystery
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‘You know... the memory had to –’
‘ – have been taken from someone at the scene. Yes, we know Ronald,’ Hermione interrupted lazily from the sofa. Ron was lying down on the sofa as well, a tattered pillow placed on his head.
‘But what could have they wanted with –’
‘Flamel? We don’t know!’ Frustrated with his lack of understanding, Harry punched his pillow lightly as he interrupted Ron, following Hermione’s lead.
‘Don’t you find it odd – now this is new so hear me out – that a memory of Flamel is sent to Harry only a couple weeks after Flamel had supposedly murdered those three blokes? It can’t be just a coincidence, can it?’ Neither Harry nor Hermione answered Ron’s question, not for a lack of interest, but for a sheer lack of knowledge. Another minute passed before Hermione spoke, her voice soft and quiet.
‘I’ve been wondering... you know when the prophecy said something along the lines of ‘born to those that have thrice defied the Dark Lord’ or whatever it was?’ Harry nodded slightly as he glanced up; this had been something Harry had thought of the night before as he dreamt of his parents. ‘Could it be that... the memory was one of those defying moments?’
‘It’s possible,’ Harry muttered, his voice coming out much quieter than he even expected.
For the past two nights since viewing the memory, Harry had dreamt of his parents and of Sirius. The memory had jarred his memory, Harry’s thoughts dwelling on his lost family that he had never truly known. Unable to say anything else on the matter, Harry was utterly relieved when he heard the front door open that would undoubtedly change the topic of conversation.
‘It’s Ginny,’ Hermione muttered as she looked around. Ginny came in to the room, her hair a mess and her robes muddy. She walked with a slight limp and she looked exhausted.
‘Late practice I guess?’ Harry asked her as he got up and helped her take off her Quidditch robes. ‘You didn’t even change?’ he continued with a smile as he sat down with her, slowly massaging the back of her neck.
‘I just wanted to get out of there – I am just... so... tired,’ Ginny replied with a yawn.
Harry saw Hermione nudge Ron on the floor. Her eyes shifted towards the door as Ron wore a look of confusion on his face, his eyelids looking heavy. As she stood up, Hermione kicked him a little harder to gain his full attention.
‘I think we’re going off to bed. Good night you two,’ she said with a smile, Ron putting his arm around Hermione’s shoulders as they left the sitting room. Ginny looked up in to Harry’s eyes as she fell back on to the couch.
‘I-I miss you lately,’ she said quite simply. Harry’s heart instantly began to ache as he looked in to her brown eyes.
‘I know. But... that’s what happens sometimes and we have to be prepared for it. Being an Auror or a Quidditch player demands a lot of your time,’ Harry responded slowly as he stroked Ginny’s hair out of her face.
‘I just didn’t think it would be... this hard, you know? This early. I thought moving in together... we would see more of each other, that’s all.’ Ginny exhaled, staring off in to the fire for a moment before turning back to Harry.
‘It’s only been a month or so Gin. It’ll get better, you’ll see. I’ll tell you what – tomorrow night you’re off, right? How about after supper tomorrow, we go to Hogsmeade together. Just the two of us.’ Ginny smiled and closed her eyes tight.
‘I’d love that Harry.’
‘Let’s call it a date. I promise.’ Harry kissed the top of Ginny’s forehead, helping her up off the couch. ‘Is it legal to work you this hard?’
‘Davis believes we’ve got a championship caliber squad this year, but he says we need to put the work in if we’re going to go places.’ For some reason, Harry felt a sharp pain in his stomach at the mention of Ginny’s assistant coach.
‘Or they could just put you as Seeker and you could have been home hours ago,’ Harry replied that evoked a short, tired laugh from Ginny.
They left the room and began climbing the stairs, not speaking another word to each other as they walked hand in hand. As Harry crawled in to his bed that night, an excitement inside him replaced the frustrated and unknowledgeable state of mind from before. The subject of the memory was cast to the back of his mind; the thought of some much desired time with Ginny eased its way to the forefront.
‘And then she tells me I don’t have enough experience to make a criticism like that! Experience? I don’t think you need such a wealth of experience to know the difference between a Shrake and a Plimpy – nor to understand that a Demiguise in no way deserves that sort of danger rating!’
Hermione had barely eaten any lunch at the Leaky Cauldron that day. She had been too busy talking of her recent frustration with her superiors inside the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. Harry understood Hermione’s gripe in full; it was just last year when he himself had been in a very similar situation. Being the new person inside the Ministry did come with its growing pains.
Having been particularly busy, Harry, Ron and Hermione had not left for lunch until nearly three o’clock that day. It was not until they had entered the lift on their way back from lunch that Hermione had finally calmed down. Her face was somewhat red as she exhaled loudly, Ron rubbing her shoulders in an effort to calm her down. Still, even though he felt it slightly wrong to criticize a department he knew nothing about, Harry did not quite understand why Hermione’s department heads were giving her such menial and tedious tasks to do. Having come to no other possible answer, Harry’s only theory was simply jealousy on the part of her superiors. ‘Perhaps her bosses want to exert their power over the brightest witch of her age… maybe they feel threatened. It’s not like they don’t know who she is...’ Harry thought to himself as they reentered the Ministry after their lunch.
Though he could have been imagining it, Harry felt as if the entire Atrium had been put on mute. As Hermione continued to go on about her frustrating first days at work, Harry watched the witches and wizards around him, noticing their apparent preference to walk in pairs or small groups. The young man selling editions of that day’s Prophet held up the front page, showing the headline.
FUDGE SPEAKS: MINISTER WEIGHS IN ON RECENT ATTACK; BREAKS SILENCE
Having been well acquainted of the lead article, Harry tried to re-immerse himself in to Hermione’s conversation to no avail. He walked by the exact spot where the exploding potion had gone off, remembering how the entire Ministry had been immediately evacuated as the immediate investigation began. The number of screaming, agonized faces had been moved to St. Mungo’s in as orderly a fashion as Harry thought possible, taking in to account the horror of the moment. As Harry thought back on the attack (noticing the much brisker pace that nearly every Ministry worker was taking as they either entered or exited the Ministry) he subconsciously closed the golden gate of the lift, slamming it close after a few purple memos flew in.
When the lift arrived at Hermione’s level, she bid a quick goodbye to Harry and Ron as she arrived on her floor, stomping her feet quite loudly as she walked down the hall. Within seconds, she disappeared from view, the echoes of her footsteps falling in to nothingness as the lift descended downwards.
‘She’s always been a bit mental,’ Ron said with a playful shrug, defusing the anguish that had been produced with hearing of Hermione’s frustrations.
Though Harry and Ron both obviously cared deeply for Hermione, having to listen to her for an hour straight about the same subject had grown slightly tiresome by their lunch’s end. Ron spoke again about the only other subject Hermione had mentioned during their lunch break as they re-entered the Auror Office a few minutes later.
‘But she’s right – we really need to make a move on the Swelling Solution mate. Deciphering that message could give us some answers about that memory. Who sent it and why.’
Harry nodded as he sat down at his cubicle, glancing towards the corridor that led to the Potion-Making Room. The image of a smiling Florian and his bright magenta and silver robes distracted him for only a moment as he smiled back, turning to look back at Ron. Truthfully, he had been quite busy at the Auror Office over the past few days; Williamson had put them in the Simulation Room every day that week, testing them on their spell knowledge and execution. While rubbing his knee that he had fallen on a dozen times after taking a steady dosage of Stunning Spells (in order to practice his shielding and evasive dodging of the jinx) Harry made a decision.
‘Let’s do it. Who knows – soon, we might not be in the Auror Office. It’s possible Williamson assigns us to some sort of task.’
The chair screeched on the floor as it was kicked back hard. Surprised, Ron looked up at Harry, a brave look quickly overtaking his face as he got up suddenly from his own chair.
‘A-Alright. You’re right – we may not get another chance. Just – er...’
‘What?’ Harry asked as Ron trailed off.
‘Well we... we don’t really know how to get it, is all.’
‘Then we’ll just have to improvise, won’t we?’ Harry said confidently, quickly striding through the rows and rows of cubicles. ‘Not like we haven’t done that before, right?’ Though Harry tried to keep up his confidence, not having the knowledgeable Hermione at a time like this made Harry feel a twinge of uncertainty.
They briskly walked down the corridor, arriving at the faded green door of the Potion-Making Room after a few paces. Remembering how Mosteban and Williamson had entered this room before, Harry and Ron both retrieved their wands from their pockets, each pointing their own at one of the brass handles. Not knowing exactly what to do, Harry mimicked the way in which Williamson had waved his wand, Ron following his lead on the second knob. After a moment, the door clicked and it drew open, Harry exchanging a somewhat relieved look with Ron. The aromas of the room reached his nostrils, its faint, eerie glow enveloping around them as they entered.
‘I guess only Auror recognized wands can open the door. That must be the trick,’ Ron muttered as the door closed behind them.
‘Now all we have to do is find the Swelling Solution,’ Harry said as he looked around at the countless cauldrons and potion brewers around the large room. Seemingly endless rows of cauldrons were being watched over, each concocting a different potion.
‘Maybe we should split up. It might take a while to find it in here,’ said Ron, pointing at all the different levels the cauldrons were sitting on. A couple of wizards whisked by them quickly, a wheelbarrow carrying a variety of plant-like ingredients weaving around the cauldrons as it kept up behind the two wizards.
Harry made his way to the right, quickly scanning the labels of the cauldrons to see what they contained. He nearly ran in to a wizard who was carrying a stack of boxes; at the last minute, Harry lifted his head and dodged the man who came bounding through. Harry ascended up the steps to the next level, noticing that cauldrons on this level were smaller than the ones on the lower level. Unable to see Ron through the misty fog, Harry continued down the row quickly, wondering if his friend had any luck so far. For a moment, he felt light-headed, shaking himself and moving on from the fumes of a small cauldron full of a bluish-grey liquid.
‘Aha,’ Harry muttered to himself as he saw what he was looking for.
A small cauldron labeled ‘Swelling Solution’ stood in front of him, a fairly chubby wizard stirring its contents carefully. Clearing his throat, Harry made his way up to the man, standing a few paces back from him as he continued to stir. After the man had apparently not noticed Harry for a few moments, Harry addressed him, not really knowing what he was doing.
‘Er, excuse me.’ The chubby man glanced up at Harry, continuing to stir his concoction. ‘I was wondering... I mean... well... could I have some, er please?’ The man stopped his stirring, looking up at Harry before shifting to a small desk beside him, a wealth of papers littering the top of it.
‘Do you have an order?’ the man said gruffly as he began to sort through the papers. Harry’s heart sank slightly.
‘Er, no. No, I don’t. I was wondering if I could –’
‘No order, no potion I’m afraid. This order here’s just about done for someone else.’ Harry looked at the man as he returned to his stirring not believing his ears.
‘How long would it take for me to get some if I placed an order now then?’ pressed Harry.
‘It be... at least a fortnight in my estimation. Just need to see your wand and your reasoning as to why you require it,’ the man replied, still not looking up from his cauldron.
Harry was quickly searching his mind for a possible answer – anything that would enable him to obtain some of the Swelling Solution. Frustratingly, he came up empty.
‘Henry! Would you give me a hand with this?!’ a man called from a row above them. Apparently, the man he had been talking to was named Henry as Harry saw the chubby man leave his cauldron of Swelling Solution, jogging down the aisle and up the stairs a few feet away.
Harry shook his head; he was so anxious to reveal the message concealed within the piece of parchment. Now that it appeared that he would be unable to get any of the potion that he needed, he was quickly growing disappointed. Harry looked in to the cauldron, seeing the solution bubbling slightly. Though it was difficult to tell in this light, Harry saw that the potion seemed to be one of a pale orange. He glanced to the desk Henry was working at, seeing a small collection of vials. Looking around him in as inconspicuous a manner as possible, Harry looked down at the potion, seeing it bubble slightly.
Pressing his lips together, Harry made up his mind, retrieving his wand from his pocket and muttered ‘Wingardium Leviosa’. Pointing his wand at one of the vials as he spoke the incantation, Harry cautiously levitated the flask towards his non-wand hand. Quickly glancing around him to see a few wizards focused on their own cauldrons, Harry took the large wooden spoon that had been placed beside the cauldron, thrusting it inside the Swelling Solution and scooping out a healthy dose. He poured it in to the large vial, spilling some of its contents on to the floor below him. Breathing fast, he looked around to make sure that no one was watching, scooping out a second spoonful and relaxing somewhat at how easy his deception seemed to be.
‘Alright, just one more scoop will do it I think,’ Harry thought to himself as he concentrated on filling up the vial right to the brim. He was growing quite excited inside, knowing that he would be able to view the message along with his friends. ‘Just a little more… just a little more… and – ’
‘POTTER!’ Harry nearly dropped the vial at the sound of the voice, dropping the spoon next to the cauldron. ‘Is that you Potter!’
Harry recognized the voice as Williamson’s. He shielded the vial from Williamson’s view, turning his back and crouching as he shoved a cork in to the opening of the vial. Fumbling it slightly, he hung on to the vial slightly as he slowly turned, fearing the worst. He knew that he had been caught. Out of the mist, Harry saw his department head ascend the same stairs that he had just moments earlier, looking quite furious as he made his way across the row.
‘I’ve been looking everywhere for you! Is Weasley with you?’
‘Er, yeah, sir. But what –’
‘There’s been an attack, Potter! We’ve been trying to leave the department but none of us have been able to find you!’ Harry kept a tight grip on the vial of Swelling Solution that he held behind his back, exhaling in relief.
‘Oh, well... my apologies sir... I was just –’
‘WEASLEY! Get over here! You two follow me!’ Williamson interrupted as he motioned for them both to follow him. Harry joined up with Ron on the main level of the room, Ron looking quite white in the face as they arrived in the better light of the Auror Office.
‘I couldn’t find it Harry – did you get it?’ Ron whispered as they followed Williamson from a few paces behind. Harry nodded, flashing the vial of pale orange to Ron before thrusting it in to his pocket.
‘You two go notify Mosteban – he’s probably going to want to be there for this...’ Williamson muttered, shaking his head. ‘Last I heard he was in the Auror lounge. Tell him to meet me by the fireplaces. I’ve got to round up the rest of my unit.’
Harry and Ron made their way to the lounge, stepping in to the narrow hallway and removing their wands from their pockets. They each placed their wands in to one of the divots around the handle, hearing the door unlock. Harry caught himself as he opened the door, seeing something very strange from the left side of the room. By the fireplace, he could see the image of what appeared to be Mosteban, his head firmly entrenched in the fireplace. His eyes wide, Harry closed the door again silently, leaving it open by only a couple inches. He looked around at Ron as he left it open a crack, pressing his ear up to the opening so that he could hear what Mosteban was saying.
‘You better not fail me again – last time was close but we need to do better next time,’ he heard Mosteban mutter, Harry opening the door another inch so he could hear more clearly. ‘We won’t always have chances like that my friend... you know I can only do so much to help... being at the Department and all... Yes I know I’ve got to be careful... No of course I don’t want to arouse any sort of... suspicion... Well, you know who I mean – his position with the both of us makes him quite dangerous. I’m counting on you to deliver…’
Harry saw Mosteban exit the fire, pulling his head out of the emerald flames quickly. It took Harry a moment to clue in. He pulled his head back quickly, hoping that he had not made a noise that would make Mosteban notice them. Without breathing he turned to Ron who wore a blank expression on his face, clearly not knowing what to make of it. He opened his mouth to speak to his friend, but a voice interrupted him.
‘Who’s there? At the door,’ Mosteban growled, quickly pacing across the lounge. Harry opened the door quickly, not wanting Mosteban to know that he had overheard him.
‘Williamson wants you to meet him by the fireplaces – there’s been some sort of attack, I think he said...’ Harry said, looking in to the suspicious eyes of Mosteban.
He could feel the Head of the Aurors consider him for a moment, his expression one mixed with anger and fear. After a moment he stiffly nodded, striding past Harry and Ron and out of the lounge door.
‘That was close mate,’ Ron said once Mosteban’s footsteps had faded away. ‘Who was he talking to through the Floo network? I didn’t know these fireplaces could do that.’
Harry motioned for Ron to stop speaking, pointing at a wizard who appeared to be fast asleep on the couch. He had a tray of some particularly delicious looking danishes sitting on his stomach, some of them half eaten and some of them littering the floor around him.
‘Later,’ Harry replied quietly, turning and leaving the lounge.
Harry and Ron headed back to the fireplaces where Williamson had told them to go, but the thought of what he had just seen occupied Harry’s mind fully. ‘What was Mosteban doing?’ Harry thought to himself as he closed the door to the Auror Lounge behind him, striding down the narrow hallway once again. He did not have much time to dwell on it as Williamson began barking orders immediately after they had arrived at the fireplaces.
‘Alright, listen up everybody! We’ve been called by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement to investigate the scene! They believe the crime has been committed by some dark wizards – possibly even a Death Eater. For all you new Aurors –’ Williamson paused as he eyed a couple members of his unit including Harry and Ron, ‘ – let this serve as your first glimpse in to what we do. Let’s look alive.’
Harry saw Mosteban absent-mindedly stare at the Aurors in Williamson’s unit. Harry was slightly taken aback at the sheer amount of Aurors that were apparently needed for one investigation, not understanding what it was that had happened. After contemplating this for a moment, Harry came to the conclusion that it must be for experience purposes.
‘We’re going by portkey so as to not disturb the crime scene through the Floo Network,’ Mosteban growled.
Now that Harry had gotten a good look at him, he saw that Mosteban’s eyes were bloodshot, dark circles forming under his white, pasty looking skin. He looked as if he had not slept in weeks, a short, scraggly beard occupying his usually clean-shaven face. Mosteban caught Harry staring at him, Harry turning towards Ron once he realized that Mosteban had noticed.
‘Gather around,’ Williamson said as he retrieved a large spatula out of his pocket.
Holding the spatula out in front of him, Harry, Ron and half a dozen members of Williamson’s unit grabbed on to it, the spatula turning to a light blue colour after only a few seconds. Harry felt the familiar sensation of being pulled by his navel as he saw the fireplace of the Auror Office disappear from his view. Instantly upon arriving, Harry felt a cold wind sting his face, looking around to see large, rolling hills disappear in to the darkened horizon.
‘Let’s move,’ Williamson said as he collected himself, pointing towards a small cottage about a hundred feet away.
Harry could see no lights inside the cottage as he began to walk towards it, having no idea what he would find there once he arrived. Knowing that something significant had just occurred there, a sinking feeling enveloped Harry’s insides. He and Ron brought up the rear, following Williamson and Mosteban who were leading the charge.
‘Do you know what’s going on?’ Harry muttered to Ron who merely shrugged his shoulders, both of them focusing on the cottage that was growing closer with every step.
As he got closer, Harry could see that the cottage looked exceptionally old; it looked as if it would blow over at any moment with the wind. As far as Harry could see, there were no other structures in sight along the rolling hills. It seemed to Harry that he and Ron were the only ones who had no idea about what they were walking in to.
‘You look tired, mate. Don’t you get any sleep anymore?’ a tall Auror up ahead of Harry said to his counterpart. To his left walked a thin, pale man who Harry could make out from the moonlight.
‘I... Well I don’t get much sleep this time of the month...’ the Auror trailed off.
Having had a lengthy experience with werewolves in the past, Harry could tell in an instant that this Auror was one. His scraggly beard coupled with his deeply lined and scratched face told him all he needed to know, remembering how Remus Lupin had looked during nights when the moon was nearly full.
‘You sure you should be out here then? Mosteban would have a fit if he sees you here.’ The second Auror nodded at the tall Auror’s statement, turning his face so that Harry could not see him. ‘Just... blend in if you can, that’s what I’d do...’
As another small gust of wind rippled through his messy hair, something sudden caught Harry and Ron off guard that stopped them dead in their tracks. Mosteban and Williamson had disappeared from view in an instant, almost as if they had apparated away silently. Every other Auror in Williamson’s unit made no sudden or surprised move, continuing on the same path that Mosteban and Williamson had. Harry was shocked to see that as the rest of the Aurors walked, they too disappeared in to nothingness, soon leaving Harry and Ron all alone in silence.
‘What the bloody...’ Ron started, unable to finish his sentence in wonder.
‘C’mon, Ron,’ Harry said, grabbing his friend by the arm. ‘We need to follow Williamson’s lead.’ Harry did not want to be viewed as any less of an Auror than the others, though he was still not certain about what would happen to them if they kept walking.
Slowly, Harry and Ron cautiously paced forwards. It was not long until they reached the point where the Aurors had disappeared and after closing his eyes, Harry felt a very awkward sensation. The wind was instantly extinguished and Harry was suddenly much warmer than he had been before. There seemed to be a great deal of chatter around him, opening his eyes to see that there were many wizards and witches walking about in every direction. Perhaps the biggest difference was that the small, old looking cottage had now vanished completely and replacing it was a modern, two story home that looked as if it had been plucked straight out of one of Aunt Petunia’s home magazines.
‘This was the home of Claudia Gibbons,’ Harry heard Williamson call from his right. ‘She was found dead in her home just hours ago when the alarm inside her home went off alerting the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.’
‘Gibbons was an employee of the Ministry, her main objective in her older age being to take care of one Nicolas Flamel,’ Mosteban said, emphasizing the last name to the surprise of Williamson’s unit. ‘Her house was equipped with one of the most complex and sophisticated magical alarms we have – after she had been killed, the house sealed itself off. Meaning that no one – and I mean no one – could apparate in or out, use the Floo network, use a portkey or walk out the bloody front door without us lifting the seal. It has also been used in order to ward off any wandering Muggles. You saw the seal right before your eyes as you walked up here. After checking with the Ministry, we’ve found no record that there were any problems with it whatsoever. They found no killer when they arrived,’ Mosteban continued, referencing the wizards dressed in blue robes to his left, ‘so that’s why we were called. Because this is what we do. Keep your eyes open now.’
Mosteban trudged off in another direction, Williamson leading the rest of his Aurors through the white-picketed fence and up the pathway that led to the front door.
‘That Flamel bloke is popping up everywhere. Pretty good for someone who we thought had been dead,’ Ron said, but Harry was not listening. He was watching Mosteban talk to one of the wizards in blue, looking very tired and uncaring as to what he was hearing from him. There was something about Mosteban that made Harry feel like he was hiding something.
When Harry stepped in to the house, a dozen or so other Ministry wizards and witches were already inspecting it. Harry saw them muttering a few incantations he had never heard of before as they waved their wands over certain pieces of furniture. He saw another wizard with goggles that reminded him of ones he had seen Branson use last year. The house was very dressed up, decorated impeccably with expensive looking linens and carpets. The only thing out of place in the impressive living room was the fact that on the far side of it was the outline of a woman covered in a white blanket, small pools of blood staining certain parts of the sheet. Suddenly, the seriousness of the situation hit Harry hard.
‘Definitely killed through multiple impacts to the head and chest,’ a wizard dressed in blue told Williamson. ‘Someone dueled her to the death and showed no remorse for it – she was probably knocked back in to this window here, before being hit with the Cruciactus Curse, the trauma causing the excessive bleeding.’ Harry glanced at the broken window on the far side of the room, the red velvet drapes flapping slightly in the wind.
‘Now how could they have gotten out – you said your personnel searched the entire home, correct?’ Williamson asked the man who nodded. ‘Maybe... maybe it was someone who had knowledge of the seal? Or worse...’
‘What is it, sir?’ Harry asked his unit head who broke out of his long contemplation at Harry’s question.
‘Or worse, perhaps someone inside the Ministry turned off the seal... But that’s a worst case scenario without any of us knowing.’ Williamson strode off in the other direction, moving over to see the deceased Claudia Gibbons from up close.
‘Bloody hell,’ Ron said, looking at the overturned furniture that was stained with blood and penetrated with shards of glass. ‘Why would someone kill an old lady caretaker for?’
‘I don’t know...’ Harry muttered more so to himself than anything else.
Harry looked along the walls, seeing a great landscape picture of a lake alongside a great mountain that hung over the fireplace. His eyes followed the picture to the mantle where a portrait of an empty, round table of chairs occupied the entirety of its frame.
‘Hey... Hey whose portrait is that?’ Harry said aloud amidst the commotion of the room, striding over to it in order to get a better glimpse. ‘Hello? Is anybody in there?’
Harry was taken aback by the whispery voice that he had heard. Ron somehow managed to hear the voice emitting from the frame as well, his eyes opening wide as he looked at the portrait confused. Pushing his way past Harry, Ron closed in on the portrait to the point where his noise was almost touching the canvas.
‘What – Who was that?’ Ron corrected as he addressed the whispery voice, speaking very quietly to the empty frame.
‘I said... s-second floor,’ the whispering voice said again.
This time, there was no doubt to what they had heard. Astounded that no one had noticed this portrait sooner, Harry made an indication with his hand that told Ron to follow him. Harry exited the living room and quickly galloped up the staircase that stood in the main foyer of the house. Jogging up the stairs, Harry saw the same scarlet carpet of the front foyer follow his feet up the wooden stairs, clutching on to the elegant looking wooden railing as he reached the second floor.
‘Over here!’ Harry heard the voice call out as they reached the top. The voice was a little louder but in the darkness it was hard to tell what direction it was coming from.
‘Lumos,’ both Harry and Ron muttered.
Harry quickly found a portrait of a man sitting in a comfortable looking armchair hanging above a small table in the main hallway of the second floor. There was a small pot of slightly wilted roses occupying the tables’ surface. The only difference in this portrait from the one downstairs in the living room was the fact that there was only one single chair placed in front of a black background instead of a round table in a pub. Occupying the singular seat was a black cloaked man. He had naturally wide eyes and dark brown hair that matched his thick goatee. Harry quickly looked down at the nameplate beneath the frame which read in a curving black script ‘Willard the Worrier’.
‘Hello... Willard is it?’ Harry asked politely, seeing the man’s eyes quickly shift in every which direction.
‘Y-Yes, th-that is c-c-correct, s-sir,’ Willard squeaked.
‘What did you see Willard?’ Ron asked softly, his wand tip illuminating the face of Willard who squeaked yet again before answering.
‘I d-did not s-see much, I’m afraid. I was r-r-regrettably t-too afraid to l-l-look! All I s-saw was a m-man... h-he had l-long h-hair and he was w-wearing a mask and a b-black c-cloak! B-But that’s all I-I c-c-can s-say!’ Tearfully, Willard began to exit his frame.
‘Please Willard – we’re trying to find who did this,’ Harry pleaded, causing Willard to reluctantly sit back down in his seat.
‘I d-did hear s-something,’ Willard continued. ‘The m-man was y-yelling and threatening to d-do t-t-terrible things to m-my owner. He kept asking about wh-where N-Nicolas Flamel w-was and wh-where he could f-f-find him. And he s-said if she d-didn’t t-tell him, he was going to k-k-kill... oh!’ Willard shrieked, nervously twitching in his seat as he shifted his look from Harry to Ron.
‘And what happened to this man when Miss Gibbons’ house sealed? Where did this man go?’ asked Harry. Willard took a moment to collect himself before responding.
‘I-I don’t know. B-but I did not h-hear or s-see him l-leave, I assure you of th-that!’ Harry looked to Ron who nodded, his eyes almost as wide-eyed as Willard’s.
‘Thank you Willard, you’ve been a lot of help,’ Harry said quickly with a nod, turning around and bounding back down the stairs before he could hear Willard respond. He and Ron arrived back in the living room after sprinting down the main floor hallway, pausing once they had entered the room as they searched for Williamson. After a few seconds of searching, they eyed Williamson who was standing near the fireplace conversing with a wizard in blue and Mosteban.
‘I just... I don’t see how the killer could have escaped. This one stumps me Mosteban,’ Williamson said, pounding his fist on top of the mantle.
‘Unfortunately I tend to agree – we don’t even have an indication as to who did this, though we could hazard a guess as to who...’ Mosteban replied gruffly, pointing to the scene behind him.
‘It was a male Death Eater, we do know that much,’ Harry said strongly as he strode over to the fireplace. Mosteban shot him a look of great dislike, his eyes squinted as he surveyed Harry.
‘And how do you know this Potter?’ asked Williamson.
‘Willard told us. He’s the one who occupies that portrait just over there – he also has his own portrait on the second floor.’ Williamson’s eyebrows shot upwards, turning to Mosteban with a small smile on his face.
‘You’ve got my attention, Potter,’ a clearly intrigued Williamson continued.
‘Well he didn’t see much... but he said that he saw a masked man with long hair threaten Miss Gibbons. He said the man threatened to kill her if she didn’t tell him where Flamel was...’
‘Sounds like a Death Eater, as we suspected,’ Williamson said with a clap of his hands. ‘From what we’ve learned about the Death Eaters, only the top members are carrying out their tasks. There are only a handful of long haired, experienced Death Eater we know of. Good work you two.’
Williamson patted Harry and Ron on the back as he walked in between them, Mosteban not moving in his stance. However, Harry was not done yet.
‘Oh and sir... we think we know where he is...’ Williamson stopped dead in his tracks, whirling around to look at Harry once again. His face was full of intrigue, a flash of surprise mixed in to his disposition.
‘And where might that be Potter?’ Mosteban growled skeptically from in front of him, Harry meeting his unwavering, cold stare with one of his own.
‘Well if the seal has remained... what if he never left? What if... he’s still in here...’
Most of the Aurors and Ministry personnel had come to a standstill having overheard the tail end of Harry’s speech. Mosteban looked at Harry with a look of disbelief, breaking his stare with Harry as he managed a short laugh that seemed to echo throughout the silent room.
‘Potter... Do you really believe that after all this time we wouldn’t have been absolutely sure... that whoever killed Miss Gibbons was not in this house? That is insulting to not only myself, but to all of us here, including those from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement!’
‘Well sir,’ Harry began as he felt his temper rise, trying hard to keep it under control, ‘as you have already instructed me, no one would even be able to leave the house after it sealed in the first place. After speaking with Willard... there doesn’t seem to be any other explanation.’
‘If you’re so intelligent, then how about you prove it then?’
Mosteban’s question seemed to stump Harry. There was a long pause between Harry and Mosteban, everyone else in the room fixated on the two of them. Looking over Mosteban’s shoulder, Harry saw two blue robed wizards chatting quietly with each other, their eyes focused intently on Harry, small smiles forming on their faces. After searching his brain, Harry was unable to come up with anything, Mosteban seeing this look of disappointment etched across Harry’s face.
‘That’s what I thought... so why don’t you leave the work in the hands of those who are far more experienced and –’
‘You could use the Revealer Charm,’ Ron suddenly interrupted, turning to Harry who shot him a confused look. ‘You know, Homenum Revelio?’ Instantly a spark went off in Harry’s mind after Ron’s brilliant save.
‘Exactly. Take a quick head count and we can cast the charm. If the charm reveals that there is one more human in this house than what we have here then we know a Death Eater is here somewhere,’ Harry finished in a way very reminiscent of Hermione. He nodded at Ron as the commotion started in the room once again, every Auror surprisingly discussing what Harry and Ron had brought up.
‘Twenty of us,’ Williamson said a minute later, whispering something afterwards so that only Harry and Ron could hear. ‘Sometimes as experienced as I am, having seen so much... I tend to forget that sometimes the simplest of things can offer the greatest rewards... In essence... victory has defeated me.’
Harry grinned, seeing Mosteban look in the opposite direction as if he was disinterested in what was going on.
‘I’ll do the honors then,’ a wizard in blue called out, raising his wand in front of him. ‘Homenum Revelio!’
It only took a moment before it happened. Small, liquid-like red lines formed from the tip of the wizard’s wand, forming a tally in front of him. Williamson quickly paced over, counting the lines in his mind. After finishing, he got a second Auror beside him to do the same, nodding his head at Williamson after he was done.
‘Twenty,’ Williamson exhaled. ‘It was a good thought you two – good work today.’
As if all the life and excitement had been sucked out of him, Harry’s eye caught the view of the disgruntled face of Mosteban who shook his head, the rest of the Aurors resuming their previous conversations. He saw Mosteban cross the living room, resting his arm on a pillar situated on the threshold of the hallway. His eyes closed.
‘It was worth a shot mate,’ a disappointed Ron muttered.
Puzzled by the crime, Harry’s mind drifted to Nicolas Flamel, the man who seemed to be showing up everywhere in Harry’s life over the past few weeks. Though he was unable to draw any sort of connection, Harry wondered if the memory, the three murders that Flamel had apparently committed and the crime scene in front of him were related in any way. ‘They have to be, don’t they?’ Harry thought to himself as he stood still beside Ron. Then, he heard a voice that made him jump, not only because of what the voice was saying, but because of how loud it was.
‘SOMEONE’S BEEN KILLED!’ the voice yelled, Harry turning to see that it belonged to an Auror who had just entered the house. Once he had reached the living room, the man stopped as he placed his hands on his knees in apparent exhaustion.
‘Well we can see that Boland!’ retaliated an annoyed Mosteban.
‘No, no – not here! At the Ministry! At the Auror Office! A man in the lounge – poisoned!’ Boland exclaimed in between his long breaths. No one in the living room seemed to know how to properly react. There was a quietness that made Harry’s skin crawl.
‘Wh – that’s impossible!’ Williamson finally managed. ‘What happened?!’
‘They just found him now! Dead! The food that was in the lounge – someone had poisoned it!’
Chaos ensued in the living room; everyone seemed to forget about the task at hand. Some Aurors and Ministry officials apparated away quickly after leaving the house and the seal’s boundaries. Others merely sat down on the furniture while some struck up conversations with another, discussing the mind-blowing events that they had just learned. In the middle of it all was Harry, too dumbfounded to speak or do anything else other than eye the emotionless and straight faced Head Auror from a distance.
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