Chapter 4 : Report
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Narcissa walked the grounds of Hogwarts, her pale face and pale hair stood out, an anomaly, a beacon. She stuck close to the castle, her back never once leaving stone- stealth was always one of her strong points. She climbed stair after stair, her hand never straying to the rail, her pace never slowing. Narcissa withdrew her arm, her pale arm, and opened the set of wooden (albeit, slightly rotten) double doors at the top of the tower.
A back greeted her arrival, a back swathed in a plush coat. Her breath rose in the air, warm meeting cold. ‘Dragon’s Breath’ she used to call it. She used to exhale profusely during the winter months, just to see the vapours curl in the wind. It used to enthral her- now it was just a reminder that it was bloody freezing outside. Winters in Scotland were never kind. Narcissa licked her sore lips, though she knew it would only aggravate the pain even more.
“Hello dear Cissy,” the back said disdainfully. Smoke rose from where it stood, but Narcissa knew that it wasn’t merely ‘Dragon’s Breath’, but cigarette fumes mixed in too.
“You know I asked you to stop calling me that years ago.”
She went and stood next to the back, the back of Sirius Black. If anyone else should happen to stumble upon the tower, they’d find themselves greeted with two backs instead of the previous two.
“Since when did I care?” Sirius took a long drag and offered Narcissa a draught. Narcissa declined with the wave of a hand.
Clouds rolled by as Sirius smoked his cigarette into a stub which he then ground into the stonework, leaving behind a small circular scorch mark.
“What d’you want?” He asked, his voice husky from the tobacco and phlegm that coated his oesophagus, signalling an oncoming cold.
Narcissa paused before answering, breathing in the remnants of what was once on fire, what once glowed bright. It was dead too now.
“I want to help your investigation into the death of Professor Peach.”
Sirius turned around, leaning his elbows on the wall, his chest protruding and his head lolled back to see the stars.
Narcissa moved to stand in front of him, forcing him to look into her eyes. Grey met grey, the only indication that they were in fact related, as opposed to strangers.
“That’s not important. What’s important is you need my help and I’m offering it.”
Sirius’ lips turned up into a frown.
“Who said we’re investigating?” He replied nonchalantly, adding a shrug in for good measure.
Narcissa scoffed. “You wouldn’t be you if you weren’t. Besides, that Potter has been going around questioning everybody he meets and whatever he’s doing, you’re never far behind. Deal?” She struck out a hand.
Sirius considered it for a while before walking off, shouting an ‘I’ll think about it’ as he swung the doors open without ever looking back.
“Bloody Potter,” Narcissa muttered under her breath and watched the night sky glimmer in all its glory.
A week had not passed since the death of Professor Peach, yet normal daily routines were being reinstated into Hogwarts. The Aurors had gone, with the exception of the odd one or two lurking about around the school. The library had been put back in business, any remainders of the altercation that had occurred were cleared away apart from the flowers.
James relished in the Monday morning rush, students arriving to breakfast late with shirts untucked, fourth years in a huddle scribbling and cobbling together last minute homework, even first and second years trading chocolate frog cards.
As he spread his marmalade on his already buttered toast, owls flew overhead delivering messages, not that he had spared a look, his parents owled him yesterday and they surely wouldn’t have anything of importance to say within the space of less than 24 hours. A large barn owl however promptly landed eloquently beside the toast rack James had just been about to reach out for.
The golden eyes of the animal fixed him with an unblinking stare, as if to say ‘What are you waiting for, human?’
James took the letter attached to the bird’s leg tentatively, Sirius sniggering opposite. Okay, so he had a slight fear of owls, but their claws were quite big in his defence and their beaks were pretty sharp.
“Afraid of owls, eh James?” Marlene McKinnon winked at James as she linked arms with Mary McDonald, Lily trailing slightly behind- the aisles only admitted two people at a time.
“Shove off McKinnon,” He replied with a roll of the eyes and a tongue stuck out in her direction. The girls giggled and walked on.
“What does it say?” Sirius kicked his leg under the table after they had left.
“If you let me read it,” James smirked at Sirius’ impatience. He never could wait for anything, always one to jump the gun and act before he thinks. “Huh, Dumbledore wants to see me this evening.”
“Has he found out anything?” Remus queried, scooping up a heaped spoonful of cereal.
“Doesn’t say, just says we have to discuss ‘the report’, whatever the hell that is. Oh well, I’ll found out tonight I suppose.”
The rest of the day was torturous, for all four boys. For Sirius, he had to deal with the agony of having to be patient. For James, Remus and Peter, they had to deal with the greater pain of Sirius’ constant questions and elbow prods, all the more excruciating due to Sirius’ pointy, bony elbows. It was a relief for all when 7 o’clock came around and James left for Dumbledore’s office, even if Peter and Remus had to deal with the odious task of controlling Sirius.
James retracted the hand he was about to knock on the door and entered. Dumbledore sat behind his desk, his head resting in his left palm. The customary glint in his eye was slightly diminished, but a smile still played on the fringes of his lips. James sat when Dumbledore motioned to sit with his hand- he had not forgotten their last meeting.
“Do you have it sir?” He questioned nervously, fingering a slightly worn, slightly smudged note in his pocket, the note from breakfast. He still hadn’t worked out what ‘the report’ was, not that he wanted the headmaster to know.
Dumbledore handed over a slim black file wordlessly. James skim read the paperwork, the occasional word or phrase jumping out. The coroner’s report. The minute lines on his face deepened considerably the more that he read. Near the end, he began to rub along his chin with his fingers, the stubble that had been left unattended to for several days rough on his sensitive tips.
“So, the cause of death was definitely the lead piping to the head?”
“Yes,” Dumbledore replied, unable to utter more than one syllable.
“And the bruises?” The murderer strangled Professor Peach whilst he was beating him to death? Did they get any finger prints, surely they got finger prints?”
“Alas,” The headmaster sighed heavily, sitting straighter in his chair. “No.” James swore under his breath, the profanities causing Dumbledore to raise a reprimanding eyebrow. “-it seems as though the culprit was wearing gloves of some sort, he left no DNA behind whatsoever,”
“Except the dandruff.”
“Except the dandruff,” Dumbledore echoed with a slight bow of the head.
“Mmn,” James mused, again rubbing his thumb and forefinger along his jawline. “How come they never found any latent magical residue? The killer had to be a magical being of sorts, otherwise he couldn’t enter or even see Hogwarts and he had to be human to handle a lead pipe and have dandruff, so he would have said at least one spell, right?”
“Maybe he knew it could be tracked? Maybe he’s a muggleborn or a squib who finds muggle methods of murder easier than magical methods? Who knows?”
James massaged his temples. Playing detective was hard work.
“Where d’you think the killer is now sir?” He asked, placing his elbow on the arm rest of his chair.
“Honestly James? I have no idea.” Dumbledore admitted.
“I don’t like this. This-“ He waved his arms about to emphasise his point. “-uncertainty, this ominous feeling hanging over me, I don’t like it.”
Albus studied the boy in front of him. Such a burden for one so young...
“Maybe you shouldn’t –“ He started.
“No. I’m going to see this through to the end sir, right to the end,” James protested, resolute.
“Fine,” The old man relented. “But you’d better get going, it’s almost curfew.”
James heaved himself out of his chair, his movements slow and laborious, the wood creaking, released from the weight and pressure of the teenage boy.
“Bye Sir,” He smiled, hesitant. He had just cut off the man rather rudely, would he be irritated?
“Goodbye James.” Albus smiled back, the twinkle in his eye fully back.
James walked away from the headmaster’s office and closer to the heart of the castle. The fourth floor was deserted, it was the History of Magic corridor and its desolation required no explanation. Just as James was thanking his lucky stars for granting him the peace and quiet that was so rare at Hogwarts, the soft sound of cloth brushing against stone rang in his ears.
He whipped around, wand extended.
“You’re going to take somebody’s eyes out if you persist in taking your wand out for every minor sound you hear,” The nasally voice of Severus Snape drawled.
“Leave me along Snape,” James thrust his hands into his pockets where they tightened into fists. He began to walk away when Snape spoke.
“Professor Peach got what he deserved, the blood traitor,”
James continued to walk.
“You shouldn’t defame the names of the dead.”
“You’d better watch your back Potter, if blood traitors are getting killed...”
Again, James continued to walk.
“Rather be a blood traitor than a Death Eater,”
“Y’know,” James slowed his stride down subconsciously. “It’ll be your mudblood girlfriend next.”
James turned around slowly. Severus’ resulting grin was triumphant.
“What. Did. You. Say?” He gritted out, pronouncing every word with exacerbated venom.
“I said,” Snape looked over James’ shoulder with a flick of his charcoal eyes, smugness emanating off of him in waves. “your mudblood girlfriend’s going to be next,” he whispered in a voice so quiet that James almost missed it. But he didn’t.
James grabbed Snape by the lapels of his robes, shoved him roughly against the wall and pressed the tip of his wand against his throat. Snape only grinned wider.
“If you eve-“
“Hello Lily,” Snape choked out, cutting James off effectively, beaming.
James dropped Severus abruptly, allowing his adversary to crumple to the ground. Snape’s smile never faltered. James turned to Lily, eyes wide.
“Lily,” He croaked, voice hoarse.
Lily Evans merely shook her head, red hair fanning out. The glare in her eyes horrified James to the core, but the feeling of being doused in ice cold water was more prevalent, the feeling of what could only be described as guilt. Clutching her books to her chest, she stalked off, her back ramrod straight.
“Lily! LILY!” James called, leaning on one foot.
“Uh oh, trouble in paradise,” Snape smirked.
James ignored the Slytherin on the floor, it was fighting with him that got him into this mess, a mess that he never seemed to learn from. He mentally smacked himself on the forehead.
“Lily!” James ran after the redhead whose swiftness and long legs projected her at a walking speed that he could not begin to comprehend- his idea of walking was a leisurely stroll at a sloth’s pace. “Damnit Lily, where d’you go?” he muttered to himself, pulling out a folded piece of parchment. “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” Green ink lines drew themselves, forming a map of Hogwarts more intricate and magical than any that had been created previously. James’ eyes roved over classrooms and staircases, before he located the familiar dot of ‘Lily Evans’ in the girls’ toilet on the 5th floor. James set off, robes flying behind him.
“Lily?” He knocked on the toilet door. “Lily? I know you don’t want to listen to anything I have to say right now, but, I’m sorry an-“
“You always say sorry, but you always make the same stupid mistakes! You’re a bully and a tyrant and I can’t believe that I thought any different of you!” Lily’s voice shouted back from behind the shelter of plaster and cubicles.
“Lily, please. I tried, I honestly did, but he was goading me and I know that’s not really an excuse, but-“ James faltered. How could he tell her that the person who had been her best friend previous called her a- that word? “Lily, I couldn’t listen to him call you a- he called you a, a, a mu-mudblood and I couldn’t take it, I’m sorry.” James knocked his head back onto the stone wall. Silence.
James listened for several minutes, listened for any sign that Lily was going to come out and talk to him, more than he deserved at that moment. Nothing happened. He strolled away slowly, hoping, hoping against hope, that she would come and forgive him.
Lily listened to the footsteps receding, then broke down into uncontrollable sobs.
When James returned to the dormitory, he wasn’t exactly expecting to be hailed by a flock of owls. The birds flapped their wings irritably and dug their claws into pillows and duvets alike.
Sirius, Remus and Peter were making several failed attempts at trying to get the owls out of the dorm, each sporting several gashes that would need to be attended to.
“My, argh, my order arrived,” Remus huffed, handling a particularly large owl that was flailing and writhing in his grip.
“At night?” James asked, incredulous.
“I didn’t want anyone to see, it was a fairly large order. The company I got it off offered night deliveries so I ticked that when I filled out the form. It was a pretty shady business though, probably supplied equipment to dodgy characters.”
“So, what did you buy?”
“I’ll show you after I get these, mfff, RUDDY BIRD! After I get these owls out of the dorm, so get out of the bloody doorway and muck in.”
James dilly-dallied, before rushing to the aid of his friends, birds or no birds. 10 minutes and plenty of scratches later, there was not an owl in sight. Peter flopped on the floor, unable to support himself any longer. Remus wiped strands of hair clumped together with sweat away from his forehead and began to rip open cardboard box after cardboard box. Odd bobs and ends made of metal came out and he began to assemble them together under the watchful eyes of James, Peter and Sirius.
“So, what is it?” Sirius asked, pulling out his finger to touch the machine, but was quickly swatted away by Remus.
“This is my baby, my GC-MS. It can tell you what any substance is, as long as the substance has been tested and recorded before.”
James looked around the room. Remus’ science equipment was slowly taking up all the space, tubes and flasks stored under beds, Bunsen burners hidden at the bottom of trunks and tongs in the underwear drawer.
“So, that GC-MS can basically take any sample and tell us what it is?” Peter’s eyes were wide (well, as wide as his small watery eyes could go) with wonder.
“Yeah, pretty much.”
The conversation lulled as the new information was fully taken in.
“So-o,” Sirius started, drawing all attention away from the new fangled science equipment to him. “Narcissa talked to me last night.”
James frowned. Hadn’t the Blacks disowned Sirius? What would Narcissa want with Sirius?
Sirius took a deep breath in. “She wanted to help us. With the investigation.”
James’ frown deepened and Peter bit his lip whilst Remus ran his fingers through his hair.
“Do we let her?” Sirius questioned.
“I don’t know,” James admitted. “I mean, why in the name of Merlin would she want to help us? It’s not like she’ll get any monetary gain or anything out of helping us, so, why would she offer? Does she just want to stop our investigation from the inside, does she want to get in Dumbledore’s good books, what does she want?”
Sirius sighed. “She wouldn’t say, that’s why I didn’t outright accept or refuse her offer, I wanted to confirm with you guys, what you thought was best.”
Remus took his elbow off its resting spot on top of his new GC-MS and stood up straighter, only to lean against Peter’s bedpost a few seconds later. “It would be good to have her on the team, she’s a Slytherin right? She can feed us information from the lair of the snakes, there’s no way they’d offer anything up voluntarily to us, but to her-“
“-they might just,” Peter finished, bobbing his head along.
“Of course,” Remus continued. “We don’t have to tell her everything, until we’re sure her motives are, y’know, not malevolent or in any way against us.”
“So, we’re all for it?” James addressed the room, those hazel eyes of his flickering to meet the eyes of his friends, brown, grey and blue.
“I’m in,” Remus shrugged.
“Heck, why not? Cissy always was pretty harmless, scheming, but harmless,” Sirius grinned, mania in his eyes.
Peter merely squealed and bounced his head up and down, the perfect picture of a nodding dog.
“Alright, sounds like she’s in, but we’re keeping a watchful eye on her, she’s on probation. Chuck me my bed socks will you Padfoot?”
Remus reabsorbed himself into the manual of his new machine whilst Peter found interest in the chocolate frog card he had discovered in his robes- it was Ptolemy after all, a rare card indeed. Sirius reached down to get James’ fluffy red and gold socks from underneath his own bed and proceeded to chuck them in his direction without looking. When an indignant ‘Oi, my face!’ rang out, Sirius just chuckled and continued in his getting ready for bed routine.
It had been a long day, and tomorrow, he’d have to tell Narcissa the good news. ‘Bully for me’ he thought sardonically.
A/N: So, Narcissa’s going to join the crew! I know she’s technically older than Sirius and therefore should have left Hogwarts already but oh well, I wanted to write her in, so I took liberties. Why does she want to help? You tell me. A GC-MS is a Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometer. In the GC part, a sample is vaporised and the gases separate in a column. Then in the MS part the molecular ion peak is detected and recorded for each separate element and compound. It’s this that tells you the formula mass of whatever you put in and therefore you can work out what it is. I would have had Remus explain to the boys fully how it works (Remus is good at explanations, isn’t he?) but there would have been too many questions from them :P Just a note on the science, I understand this is set in the 70s, and much of this science wouldn’t have been around, but at this point, it is my belief that the Wizarding world was much more advanced. And what was that with Snape? :O The bastard! From here on in I’m hoping it’ll get more exciting :D
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