Chapter 2 : Aftermath
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Albus walked through the scene of the Palmers’ house with the other Aurors, all scouting for clues and information.
Whilst Danny immediately headed upstairs for Cara’s room, Harry towards Jack Palmer’s study, Ron towards the library, and the other Aurors scattered around, Albus headed towards a shelf. On each of the tiers stood racks after racks of photo albums, all labeled for a specific event or year.
Pulling a random photo album out that was titled France 2012, Albus flipped open to the first page and saw a picture of a young girl with blonde hair standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, grinning at the camera.
Like all Muggle photographs, this first photograph did not move.
Cara Palmer’s smile froze in the time, her happiness for that moment paused.
If there was one thing that Albus hated about Auror work, it was the pain of someone’s death that he had to deal with.
Walking through the life of a person, retracing his or her steps from the last breath he or she took on Earth all the way back to the beginning, was the most difficult part.
He had only had to go through this process one time. A psychopath had taken to killing his estranged family. Everyone from the murderer’s parents to his third cousin were dead.
Trying to sort out the pieces together of a family’s life hadn’t been easy. Albus had nightmares for the longest time of his own various family members, threatening to kill him by holding him at their mercy to the pointed end of their wands.
Albus hadn’t admitted to anyone these nightmares, not even Danny.
Trying to retrace Cara Palmer’s steps until her death was going to be even more difficult. This time, his best friend’s sanity and the entire notion of justice was on the line.
Who would want to kill a family of Muggles?
The Muggle Prime Minister’s family, no less.
All of the Muggles in Great Britain were in an uproar, and it didn’t help that tensions in Muggle international politics were already soaring.
Albus didn’t know much about those things, though the bits and pieces that Molly liked to entertain the entire family at the biweekly family dinners were enough to tell him that the Muggles’ side of the situation wasn’t any better.
The new Prime Minister and Jack Palmer’s right-hand man was Cameron Richardson; Shacklebolt had met with him the previous day. Albus wouldn’t be surprised if Richardson had accused Shacklebolt and the Ministry for being responsible for the Palmers’ death.
“You alright? You’ve been staring at that picture for the past 5 minutes.”
Albus looked to his left- the direction the voice had come from- and nodded at his co-worker, Adam Aldridge.
“Yeah, I’m just trying to make sense of everything,” Albus replied, closing the album and placing it back on the shelf.
“So you don’t know?”
“What do you mean ‘I don’t know’?” Albus asked, turning around to face Aldridge, who had an incredulous look on his face. Albus wanted nothing more than to wipe off the smirk that was tugging at Aldridge’s expression.
In a tone that suggested Aldridge’s feeling of superiority, he informed, “The Palmers knew about magic. Your friend, Sanford, apparently broke the rules by telling Cara Palmer about Hogwarts and magic. Apparently, Sanford gave them periodic updates.”
“What about it? Jack Palmer was the bloody Muggle Prime Minister. Of course he knew about magic. And I don’t see what’s wrong with Eleanor Palmer knowing about magic if her husband and her daughter both knew. It’s not like they told anyone,” Albus snapped. He was at the end of his patience with Adam Aldridge.
Aldridge had been pestering Danny for days, and he was quick to act like a kiss-arse in front of his dad and his uncle, both of whom were determined not to show any favoritism and in turn made things far more difficult for not only Albus himself, but also for Danny.
Aldridge rolled his eyes and snorted.
Folding his arms and relaxing his entire body as if they were just discussing the latest Quidditch results, he retorted, “Does it matter if they didn’t tell anyone? They’re a liability. Whoever did this clearly didn’t like having Muggles know about magic so they start up top as a warning. It’s going to be a series of mass-murdering Muggles unless the Obliviators step in and remove the memories of the Muggles who know about magic.”
“Did Shacklebolt get a ransom note?”
“Then why would you think that getting Obliviators to step in would do the job?” Albus countered, his competitive nature heating up.
Aldridge smirked as if Albus’s go at him had been exactly what he had been waiting for. “Well, it’s just a theory for a solution that can possibly work.”
Albus opened his mouth to counter Aldridge’s statement but he got there first. Aldridge told Albus in a would-be casual tone, “Your father’s really taken with my theory, though. It makes sense, after all. The Palmers know all of the recent news of our world, and Jack Palmer’s the Muggle Prime Minister. You know how tense things have been getting in the IMC and the ICW because of Muggle politics. Fear for the safety of our kind would make people become mass-murderers if they think it can help.”
The IMC, or the Department of International Magical Cooperation, had indeed quite a handful on their plates; Molly had often complained that her job was now five times harder because the Muggles were fighting amongst themselves internationally.
The ICW, or the International Confederation of Wizards, were practically supervising every single thing that the British IMC were doing, another fact that had Molly complaining loudly and Albus’s Uncle Percy reprimanding Molly’s attitude.
The fact that Aldridge did had a point in this theory made Albus even more annoyed than the pompousness and stuck-up attitude.
It was a good theory, after all.
Albus wasn’t quite sure how to react: should he simply brush it off as if it was no big deal or should he just walk away and silently accept defeat?
“So what if your theory may be true? It doesn’t answer the question to the actual mystery here that I’m trying to solve: who killed the Palmers?” Albus would much rather throw up slugs than have his pride bruised on the account of Adam Aldridge.
Adam smirked again. He was worse than McLaggen, who liked to think that he was Merlin’s gift to the world. Apparently his father had been just as insufferable.
“Hey, don’t take out your frustration on me. I’m just trying to help you out. We all know how special the Palmers were to Sanford,” Aldridge replied.
Without waiting for Albus to reply, he stalked off, leaving Albus feeling angrier than ever.
Albus balled his fists up, clenching them tightly to attempt to release his anger. He could almost see red spots due to anger.
Who was he, Adam Aldridge, to smirk as if he was going to be the one with a promotion at the end of this whole mess when the Palmers were like Danny’s family?
Adam Aldridge had no right taking this case away from Albus and Danny; all he cared about was a bloody promotion, and the thought angered Albus even further.
“You might want to calm down before Uncle Harry puts you in an anger-management class,” a voice commented quietly from behind Albus.
Whirring around, Albus locked eyes with his cousin Lucy, who worked for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement under their Aunt Hermione.
“What are you doing here?” Albus hissed, letting out a sigh of frustration. Lucy was infamous for not wanting to mix her personal life with her work life, and Albus wasn’t sure which side of Lucy he would be able to deal with today.
Lucy rolled her eyes. In a casual tone, she told her cousin, “The Auror Office is still under MLE, and this entire issue has been getting out of hand. The Muggles want news, and we can’t get the truth with the Muggles interfering every other minute. Minister Shacklebolt’s Muggles’ Liaison Office has been doing a terrible job of handling the Muggle-and-Magical relations, so the MLE has to step in. I’m here on behalf of Hermione Weasley, our aunt, because no one else is competent enough. Does that answer your question?”
“My dad should be in Jack Palmer’s study and Uncle Ron is in the library,” Albus told Lucy as he read the titles of the small collection books in a shelf next to the photo albums’ shelf.
There were books like Diplomacy, and the British Government and the Constitution, but also books such as Jane Austen’s completed works. Albus vaguely wondered why they were out here in the living room rather than in either Jack Palmers’ study or the library.
The living room didn’t exactly seem like the storage places for important books that Jack Palmer might have referenced during his time as a student or as a Muggle politician.
“I know, I already talked to Uncle Harry. I was just looking around when I saw that little encounter you had with that brunette co-worker of yours. What’s his name? Archie or something like that?” Lucy commented, moving to stand beside Albus and looking intently at the shelves.
Albus glanced at Lucy, trying hard to mask his confusion at Lucy’s openness. Lucy hated acknowledging her family during work, and Albus wasn’t quite sure why Lucy wanted to chat about Adam Aldridge.
“That was Adam Aldridge, the git. Did you hear his theory as well?”
“Of course I did, that’s why I’m talking to you,” Lucy replied in a considerably quieter tone. Quickly glancing behind her to make sure the others were occupied with examining the house, she went on. “Don’t do something you’re going to regret. If you interfere with Aldridge’s investigation, you can get yourself put off the case and doing busy-work.”
“I didn’t know you cared so much,” Albus muttered back, turning on his side so he can keep an eye out for his co-workers in his peripheral vision.
He wasn’t sure how well people would take with the idea of Lucy and Albus seemingly casually chatting.
Lucy pursed her lips, turning to face Albus. With her arms folded, she said, “I don’t care about you, but Danny. This is major. The Palmers killed? They’re not just the Muggle Prime Minister and his family; they’re Danny’s family, basically.”
“I know that! If you care so much about helping Danny out, then give me the list of every single Muggle that is noted to have a knowledge of magic,” Albus replied quickly and quietly, throwing a curveball at his cousin.
An expression of shock flashed across Lucy’s face before she hid it again in an unreadable expression. “I can’t do that.”
“Sure you can. Don’t just talk the talk, Lucy. That’s what Aldridge is. He’s all talk, and he can’t investigate shit. Help me out, and I’ll actually solve this. You’d be helping Danny, too. You know he’d want nothing more than to figure this out,” Albus said, hoping his tone would sound like the right balance between pleading on his best friend’s behalf and casual.
Lucy sighed, drifting her eyes away from Albus and towards the Palmers’ residence, now swarmed with Aurors trying to solve this case before the Muggles’ international politics can blow up in the Wizarding folks’ face and before a dangerous magical murderer on the loose can do even more damage by killing innocent people, including Muggles.
Albus watched his cousin carefully, reading between the lines of her cousin’s thoughtful expression. He just hoped that appealing to Lucy’s hidden soft side for her family and friends would work.
He not only for himself so Aldridge can see that Albus wasn’t just an Auror because of his connections, but also because Albus had to bring justice for his best friend.
“If you want help, then be at my office tomorrow at five. I can’t guarantee anything, but I’ll see what I can do.”
Albus resisted the urge to fist-pump as Lucy stalked away with a warning glare that told him, Be careful.
Danny knew he was supposed to be “collecting evidence,” but he didn’t care.
He didn’t care that Mr. Potter probably insist he take a few days off and pull him off the case. He didn’t care about anything, a feeling only intensified as he threw open door to Cara’s room and closed the door behind him.
It looked exactly the same as he remembered it. The walls were painted a pale pink with white lace acting as trimming as it decorated the walls. The large window that overlooked the backyard still held several framed photos, each depicting one thing that Cara cared more about in this world.
Taking quick strides across the room, Danny picked up the first photo, a beautifully taken picture of her horse at her grandparents’ house in Cheshire. She had named her horse ‘Paper Doll’ because of a name she had seen on the television. Danny remembered teasing her for ages on such a name.
Fresh tears prickled in Danny’s eyes. Paper Doll’s picture blurred in his vision, and there were pangs stabbing at his heart.
He didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye.
The last time Danny had seen Cara was a year ago, when she departed for the States to do some research on American history.
The two of them had made plans to spend a week after she returned in the Isles of Scilly. They’d been scheduled to depart in just a week and a half… Danny having long ago scheduled the time off from work. Cara had just finished up an internship assisting a professor at a university, and both were well deserving of the much needed holiday and chance to catch up.
They never got that chance.
He didn’t even get a chance to apologize.
Regret filled Danny’s heart as he tortured himself with the thoughts of what their vacation would have been like. The last Cara had departed, they had another row. It started when Danny had arranged for his then girlfriend, Emerald Baylor, to meet with Cara.
Unfortunately, Emerald and Cara immediately disliked each other from the very first second thanks to Cara telling Emerald her scarf didn’t match her trench coat and dress.
The night had gotten worse when Emerald started talking about the issues the IMC and ICW had been having due to the Muggles, and Cara had taken immediate offense.
Political debates were already horrible, but an argument between a magical person and a non-magical person was even worse.
It had almost returned Cara back to her previous state of hatred for magic, when Danny offered to take Cara back home via Apparition.
Danny still remembered how cross Cara looked when she slammed the front door on his face, her anger and frustration for their conflicting lives very much evident.
What a silly argument, Danny thought to himself as his bottom lip trembled. It would be exactly his luck that his last memory of Cara is her bitterness towards his magic.
Emerald Baylor had been long out of the picture, anyways. Danny felt even more stupid thinking that he let someone like Emerald get in the way of Danny and Cara.
Danny and Cara. That is the way it should be; not just Danny and not just Cara. It was Danny and Cara, and it would always be Danny and Cara.
Tears rolled down his face as he tried exhaling evenly to calm his staggering breaths. Grabbing a tissue from Cara’s nightstand, he hastily wiped the tears as he sat down on her bed, the whiff of perfume catching his nose.
The vanilla perfume that Cara liked to use as lotion right before going to bed was too much for Danny to handle as he broke down, wrapping his head in his arms by his knees.
It was his fault; he didn’t protect her. Danny made a promise to Cara after her coma that he would never again let her feel pain.
That was another promise that Danny had broken. He promised to never abandon Cara, yet he did. He promised to never lie to Cara, yet he had. He promised to never let Cara feel pain again, yet Cara was now dead.
Cara, Danny’s precious Cara that was so vivacious, spirited, and passionate in every single possible way… Cara was dead, and Danny, with his magical abilities that should have made her life an infinite times better, did nothing.
Cara was dead, and Danny was alone.
Cara was dead, and it was all Danny’s fault; he broke promises to her, and he hadn’t been there for her.
What had he been thinking, anyway?
There was nothing more important in the world to Danny, but Cara Eleanor Palmer, and now, she was gone forever.
Author's Note: Hello! Thank you to my wonderful beta, Jchrissy (Jami), for editting this chapter and to Nitra for her lovely review! What did you all think of this chapter? Albus and Aldridge? Danny's reflections?
Please leave a review, and let me know any thoughts you have! (:
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