Chapter 3 : Information
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Auror numbers at Hogwarts dwindled as three days passed since the murderer had struck and no leads were found. The trail was going cold, the birds were eating the bread and soon Hansel and Gretel wouldn’t be able to escape the witch and find their way out of the deep, dark woods.
When James went on his rounds, asking questions, ring bound notebook in hand, the students were very co-operative. Most outright admitted they hadn’t seen a thing (and why should they, they were supposed to be tucked up in bed, oblivious to the world, although James knew that there were some rule breakers out and about after curfew that night; there always was, it was one of the reasons that prefect rounds were created in the first place), but there were a few strange stories circulating, floating about through the gossip mill, most told by some eccentric people. One such tale, sprouted by Erasmus Berry, stated that aliens were to blame; they always were the perpetrators of some villainous, heinous act in popular culture.
James highly doubted intelligent life organisms from outer space had a part to play in the murder of Professor Peach however- there was a niggling feeling in his stomach that stated plainly it was something rather crueller than a rudimentary alien attack.
He huffed as he turned away from another unsuccessful interrogation, (not that it was the second years fault, she was a Ravenclaw after all) flipping through pages of useless notes.
“Hi James,” The scent of soap and clean cotton alerted him to the arrival of Lily Evans, though he barely managed a ‘hey’ to acknowledge her presence.
“What’s the matter?” She pressed lightly. Lily’s feather light touch on his arm revived him back to the land of the conscious. Worry clouded the emerald eyes that were so well known to him; she was a worrier, a mother hen. That’s what Lily Evans was, a mother hen, through and through.
“No one seems to have a clue as to what happened to Professor Peach,” James tapped his quill against his notebook in frustration, the feathers becoming bent in the process. “All the people in this castle and no-“He let out a huff of disbelief, shaking his head. He didn’t finish his sentence, instead he let it hang, percolating through the air. Lily didn’t ask him to finish, she didn’t have to, she could complete it herself.
The two journeyed on in quiet, James pensive, Lily worrying.
“You’ll solve it,” Lily whispered, startling herself and James.
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” he chuckled lightly, swaying into Lily- he never could walk in a straight line, something his mother often chided him for as a child when they traversed the streets of Wizard London.
“It’s not a vote of confidence, it’s me telling the future,” Lily nodded in mock seriousness.
“So, you’re a weïrd sister now huh?”
Lily let out a peal of laughter, throwing her head back slightly.
“As long as that means you’re the porter,” She replied, mischief in her eyes. “Yes.”
Satisfied that James was not about to jump off a cliff out of desperation, Lily walked away, a small smile still graced her features. Little did she know, that the boy who had put it there, wore the same expression as he watched her go farther and farther, up until she rounded a corner and fell out of sight- though even then he still gazed after her image that was etched into his brain.
The day passed and night fell. In the cover of darkness, James, along with his trusted sidekick (who hated to be called sidekick, he preferred the term ‘associate’) Sirius stole down corridor after corridor before reaching the place where it all began.
Why Professor Peach was in the library no one knew. He had his own, personal extensive library in his quarters, a third of which was displayed in the Ancient Runes classroom. There were so many books to behold, they adorned every wall and covered every topic and subtopic within the study of runes. The thought of more tomes elsewhere was simply unimaginable. Why the killer chose to kill Professor Peach in the library rather than in his bed was also a question that could not be answered. Too many questions, too many theories- James needed concrete evidence rather than ambiguity.
“You ready?” James whispered to his companion.
Sirius nodded, before realising he was invisible. “Yep.”
With a swish of his wand, a door down the corridor creaked noisily open- it was a disused classroom after all.
The two Aurors standing guard shared a look, the older one smug. The younger grumbled unintelligible threats and stalked off towards the source of the sound. Sirius followed, wand in hand, exuding the essence of a true marauder. James sized up the remaining Auror; he was clearly the senior out of the two and clearly corpulent - any form that he might have had in his youth had gone to seed. His long sideburns and brown corduroy flares showed a failed attempt at trying to fit in with the latest muggle fashion, although why he should need to left James nonplussed. Was he not told his next mission was at Hogwarts? James shook his head.
Time to get down to business.
A flick of the wrist and a candle sprung to life at the other end of the corridor.
The senior Auror raised an eyebrow, frustrated that his protégée had not reappeared to do the legwork. After waiting for a few seconds in vain for his colleague to return, he set off to his downfall at the hands of a student and marauder.
Once the Auror had been ‘disposed’ of, James ducked under the meagre tape barring his entrance and entered the crime scene, holding his breath.
Sirius was already crouched beside the place of death.
Unlike in most American, Hollywood produced crime or horror films, there wasn’t a white outline dictating Professor Peach’s body position at the time of its discovery. There was however a pool of blood, that James knew before the body was taken, had collated around the head. Sirius scooped up a sample of blood that was beginning to congeal, rubbing it between his fingers- with rubber gloves of course to not contaminate the evidence.
“Let’s get samples of every material we can find,” James sighed. Hopefully, the Aurors will have left something. Sirius withdrew a set of vials with a flourish, handing half to James.
“Yes, let’s,” he agreed rather grimly.
They worked until dawn, until their shadows lengthened and the library was covered in a celestial pinkish yellow light. Beauty found in an ugly place with an ugly secret.
James eyes itched with lack of sleep, Sirius’ eyelids drooped, but a feeling of success was evident.
All the vials were full, with samples of blood, fibres, hair and a queer white speck that had no place nor could it be named. The two pocketed the evidence and traipsed out of the library, on guard just in case any of the Aurors had come to during their investigation.
Loud snores suggested otherwise.
Luckily for James and Sirius, who were tired beyond belief, the day that had just begun was a Saturday. This meant that they could sleep whilst Remus (and just Remus, Peter, although a nice lad, would not have gone well with the delicate scientific equipment that scattered the dorm- he had enough troubles in Potions, what would he do with burettes and distillation funnels?) could experiment and find out just what their evidence actually told.
When they awoke, they found Remus still tottering about, whilst Peter sat on his bed, arms and legs crossed- that way nothing could be damaged or broken.
Remus was clad in a white laboratory coat and goggles that looked remarkably like scuba diving equipment. The outfit made him seem, in the boys’ opinions, 10 times smarter and older. It was a look that James himself wanted to try out for a day. The scientist added a blue liquid to 10 test tubes, and placed them inside a pool of water.
“What d’you just do?” Sirius inquired, scratching his belly which growled at the opportune moment. He ignored the prompt to eat, his concentration never vacillating.
“I added Benedict’s Reagent to each of the samples, then put the samples in a water bath. It can detect sugars which might help us find out what the substances are. The water bath is just there to regulate the temperature because it needs to be hot for it to work.”
The boys all ‘oh’-ed in unison. Everything was much simpler when Remus explained it.
Peter pointed to a conical flask which held a fuchsia liquid within and squeaked “What d’you do to that?”
Remus swivelled around to the experiment in question. His furrowed brow turned into a smile.
“Oh, I added phenolphthalein. It turns alkaline solutions pink and acidic and neutral solutions colourless. It’s mainly used in titrations and it’s an indicator of sorts. I would have used universal indicator since that can tell you exactly what pH a substance is, but I ran out.”
James nodded, his lips turned up in an odd frown like appreciation gesture, his arms crossed over his chest. His eyes raked over the equipment strewn rather haphazardly across the room. He didn’t understand what 90% of the objects were or what Remus was doing when he tinkered
with them, he just had to accept what his friend told him.
“So, can you tell us what happened?”
Remus hesitated, removed his goggles and perched them atop his head, lines apparent around his eyes where the plastic had indented itself on his skin .
“Not really, the evidence isn’t comprehensive enough, it doesn’t tell us anything that we don’t already know. The blood you found was a match for Professor Peach’s, if it matched anyone else’s, we would have been onto something, that would have suggested that there was a struggle and the Professor fought back damn well,” James cursed lightly under his breath. “That white stuff you collected was interesting though.” Eyebrows raised simultaneously.
“What is it?” Sirius queried, a manic glint within his eye. The possibility of knowledge...
“Dandruff?” James questioned in surprise.
“Yep, dandruff. Now, that means that we have the DNA of our criminal, though I haven’t been able to find a match for anyone. That means, whoever this guy is, he’s been on the down low before and this is probably his first murder.”
The conversation went stagnant for a few minutes as James, Sirius and Peter processed this information.
“So, we’re looking for a lead pipe wielding murderer with an inflammatory skin condition on his scalp?” Sirius summed up.
“Yes,” Remus confirmed, still adding liquids to solids and solutions to solutions, a pipette never far from his hand.
“Brilliant, just brilliant,” James sat down, grabbing a handful of his, thankfully dandruff free, hair.
Peter clapped his shoulder. “It’s not that bad, at least we have some information now!”
James smiled at the attempt to cheer him up, though it wasn’t as successful as Lily’s had been.
At that moment, a small timid third year boy burst into the lair of the big scary seventh years. He tripped over his laces as he scurried into the centre of the room.
“What’s the matter?” Remus asked genially, though his garb didn’t help convey his friendly tones.
“Professor Dumbledore wants everybody to assemble in the Great Hall. Apparently he’s going to give a speech on the death of Professor Peach!” The boy’s eyes grew wide as he finished his sentence and he scrambled out as fast as he scrambled in, even tripping over his laces again.
The four boys turned towards each other.
“I suppose we’d better get to the Great Hall then,” James slumped, leaving the dorm, his friends following hot on his heels.
A speech on the late Professor? Now wasn’t that all something they’d like to hear.
When they entered the Great Hall, the four found that the house tables had been scuppered in the place of solitary chairs that faced the top table. People intermingled, Gryffindors with Hufflepuffs, Hufflepuffs with Ravenclaws, Ravenclaws with Gryffindors and Slytherins with no one. They located four free seats next to each other and sat down, eager to hear Professor Dumbledore speak.
Over the next ten minutes, people still flooded in from all parts of the castle, the dungeons, the grounds, the kitchens, the towers, the classrooms, everywhere except the library. Aurors stood guard at the entrance to the Great Hall, though they were different Aurors to those that James and Sirius had encountered on their escapade the other night.
When all the seats were filled, Dumbledore held up his hands, and the room fell silent immediately.
“Now,” his deep voice rumbled, full of magic and light. All within its vicinity were enraptured. “Over the past few days, Hogwarts has been coping with a loss that I’m sure most of you have heard about,” He paused to look over his audience, his eye glinting when his gaze fell upon the band of friends. “Professor Peach was one of the greatest colleagues that I have ever had the pleasure to work with. He was an asset to the school, a brilliant teacher, a brilliant mind, a brilliant friend,” Dumbledore paused again. “I’m certain that all of your hearts will go out to those loved ones that he has left behind. But Professor Peach didn’t just die. He was murdered, which is why I called all of you here today. I want you to be on your guard and to give any information that you might have, because we will find out what happened and who committed an act of such brutal violence. We will bring justice, swiftly and righteously. It is important in times like this that as a school we stay bonded and strong, only then can we fight the forces that threaten the peace that we live in.”
Dumbledore stepped down from his podium, his mouth set in a straight line. There was no clapping like there was at the start of term feasts, just a quiet acceptance that rang in the air.
Professor Peach was dead and his murderer was on the loose.
As the Great Hall began to filter out and the students went back to normalcy, James, Sirius, Remus and Peter walked up to the top table, where Dumbledore still sat in the high chair, fatigued, his eyes had lost their spark. No other teacher was present, even McGonagall, James noted with sympathy.
“Sir,” The boys chorused. Albus Dumbledore smiled and his eyes twinkled again, regenerated.
“Now, what would four boys such as yourselves wish to be doing inside a hall like this with an old coot like me?”
Remus stepped forward. “The murderer has dandruff,” he stated simply.
“Dandruff?” Dumbledore echoed James’ reply to the revelation, his mouth agape.
“Yes, dandruff. Just thought you ought to know,” Sirius added with a wink in the headmaster’s direction. The marauders then proceeded to saunter out with a certain panache that none of the other students had or could hold a candle to. Dumbledore could only shake his head and chuckle.
He’d chosen the right people to be on this case, without a shadow of a doubt.
A/N: I kind of just wrote this really quickly because the queue was really short, so forgive me if you find any typos or errors. All scientific things are correct to my knowledge- I used Benedict’s Reagent yesterday on urine, so, yeah, but if you find any inconsistencies, please tell me xD The Weïrd Sisters and the Porter are from Macbeth which belongs to Shakespeare and Hansel and Gretel belong to the Brothers Grimm.
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