Chapter 2 : Awakenings
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Grumbling he donned an undershirt and pants and dragged himself to the door. Gazing through the peephole, he could see his superior, Head Auror Gawain Robards waiting impatiently outside. Harry muttered several incantations and waved his wand thrice, dispelling the enchantments surrounding the entrance. Releasing a heavy sigh, he manually unlocked the deadbolt and opened the door.
“Sorry to wake you, Harry,” Robards apologized. “Afraid there’s been a serious incident that simply can’t wait,” he added grimly.
“Where?” Harry asked. Despite six years having passed since the Battle of Hogwarts ended, the young wizard still feared the worst when he received this late-night visits. Despite their best efforts, rogue dark wizards still remained at large and there were few more appetizing targets than his closest friends and their families.
“The Corinthia…” Robards said solemnly, running a hand through his thick, golden hair.
Harry breathed in sharply. “Hell…”
“Come in then,” Harry waved, shutting the door behind them. “Do be quiet though. Ginny’s asleep.”
“No I’m not,” the fiery-haired witch said from the entrance to the bedroom as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Looking toward the kitchen she spotted Robards and offered a tepid smile. “Hello, Gawain.”
The Head Auror took a sip from the coffee he had brought with him. “Hello again. Sorry about the hour.”
Harry looked at his wife. Even in her pajamas, with her hair mussed, her natural beauty struck him. The moonlight entering through the lone window in the kitchen barely reached her face, illuminating the freckles that spattered her cheeks. He immediately went to her, stroking her hair back and giving her a peck on the lips. “Sorry, Gin…I tried not to wake you…”
“Well…” she said, a wry smile creeping onto her face, “perhaps if you weren’t so clumsy…anyway, I’m interrupting,” she finished, sharing one last look with her husband before retreating to bed.
Robards gestured toward the bedroom with his head. “Get dressed. I’ll fill you in on the way.”
Several minutes later, having donned his black suit and tie and kissed Ginny goodbye, Harry met his boss on the street outside his flat.
“Who?” he asked simply.
“Hughes,” Robards replied. “Just about bad as can be, given the situation.”
“Scene’s secure of course. Two of the Department’s best patrolmen. I’ve made sure nobody’s entered.”
“Good,” Harry nodded. “I don’t want any premature conclusions clouding my thinking.”
“Naturally,” the older wizard said. Robards looked around them before ducking into an alleyway. “Safe to apparate?”
Harry nodded once more and with two pops, they were off.
Across the city, Ron Weasley was shaken awake by a hand on his shoulder. His eyes shot open immediately and he grabbed his wand from under the pillow next to him, poking the person standing over him in the chest.
“Wha? Who?” he stuttered as his vision came into focus. “Bloody hell, Harry! You could knock!”
Harry smirked at his disoriented friend. “Never as much fun that way.”
“Bastard,” Ron said crossly. “You know Hermione could’ve been here…”
“The night before the biggest hearing in the last few years? I don’t think so,” Harry chuckled.
Ron scowled. “What are you here for anyway?”
“Not just me,” Harry tutted. “Gawain too.”
“The Corinthia,” Harry said simply.
“Bloody hell.” Ron muttered, shaking his head. “Should I–”
“No. Official channels all the way on this one.”
“Right. Suppose she’ll find out soon enough.”
Harry changed the subject. “Any idea where we might find Neville tonight?”
“Haven’t heard from him,” Ron shrugged. “He’s really not taken the news about Luna and that Scamander character well I don’t think.”
“Oh?” Harry cocked an eyebrow.
“Yeah. Been spending a lot of time at the Leaky from what I hear. I suppose that’d be a fair place to start.”
“Get dressed then, mate,” Harry said. “We’ll wait for you to Floo over.”
Inside the Leaky Cauldron, Neville Longbottom sat alone at the bar, staring at a tumbler of Firewhiskey. This was the fourth consecutive night off that the young auror had spent sitting in this same barstool. Sighing, he picked up the tumbler briefly, noting the beginnings of condensation on the glass and dumped some salt on the napkin it had been resting on. Setting it back down, he scanned the room for a sign of anyone he knew. He was met with only disappointment. He should have known better than to expect a familiar face in the crowd on a Tuesday night. As he tilted the glass back and set it down again, he was confronted by the young, blonde bartender who was wearing an amused smile.
“You know, most people that come here actually drink,” she teased.
“Well…as you ought to know by now, I’m not most people,” Neville shot back.
“No,” the bartender said, shooting him a flirtatious smile, “you’re most certainly not. You’ve turned out to be nothing like I imagined you’d be when we first met.”
Neville laughed and leaned closer to the young witch. “Come on, Hannah,” he whispered, “close up early tonight. Let me take you someplace.”
Hannah Abbott blushed and flicked her hair back behind her head. “You know I can’t do that. I’d lose loads of galleons. Not to mention disappointing all these toothless old men you seem intent on hanging around with. Besides, where would you take me? It’s already after one!”
“I’m sure we could think of something…” he whispered.
“Merlin, Neville!” Hannah gasped. “To think you always used to be so quiet and shy–” The blonde girl stopped abruptly, lowering her voice to a whisper. “Harry and Ron…” she said quickly.
Neville looked toward the door immediately as Hannah stepped away. Immediately he noticed his two old friends were not alone. As they searched the crowded room, he waved his hand in the air to signal them.
“Ah, Neville, Ron thought we might find you here,” said Robards, eyeing the glass of Firewhiskey warily. “Been here long?”
“No sir, just a bit. Haven’t even had a drink yet.”
Robards sniffed the air lightly.
Neville furrowed his brow disapprovingly.
“Had to be sure. Serious business tonight. It’s a good thing you’re decently dressed. We’ve got to get a move on,” Robards said, patting Neville on the back and gesturing for him to join Ron and Harry near the door.
As they exited, Neville cast a look back at a disappointed Hannah Abbott, emphatically mouthing ‘I’m sorry’ across the room as he was dragged out the door.
After an uneventful trip in a Muggle taxi, the four men arrived at the Corinthia Hotel London and immediately made their way inside. With its high ceilings, elegant stone floors, and ornately-carved furniture, the establishment oozed wealth and status. The group immediately proceeded through the lobby, following Robards down a short hallway to the left where they waited for a lift to arrive.
“Room 1218,” Robards said quietly.
Neville and Ron opened their mouths to speak but were quickly silence by the Head Auror’s raised hand.
“We’ll talk inside,” he finished.
Shortly, the pair of golden doors farthest from them on the right opened with a soft ding. After a swift ride to the twelfth floor, they made their way to Tobias Hughes’s room. Nodding curtly at their arrival, two wizards dressed as hotel staff stepped aside and allowed them to enter.
Harry stepped in first, immediately noticing the old wizard’s dead body lying at the foot of the bed, eyes gazing past its far edge toward the clock on the bedside table. Its red numbers now read 1:48, with a small dot indicating AM. As he made to move forward, he discovered the broken wand at his feet. Lifting his own, Harry drew a magical line from the doorway to the object and again from each side wall to where it was located. According to his measurements it was roughly nine and one-half feet from the door and just two inches left of the center point between the two side walls.
“Nev, check the bathroom would you?” Harry asked, watching as his former classmate moved into the clean, well-lighted room to their left.
Once Ron and Robards had stepped inside, Harry turned around, allowing the door to close. They parted as he raised his wand to check the door. His detection spells illuminated a few potential pieces of evidence in the vicinity. First, caught in the side of the gold ring around the peephole was a single strand of gray hair. Next was a small stain that would have been unnoticeable to the naked eye just inside the closed door. Harry signaled to Ron that the evidence should be collected before stepping carefully over the wand in front of him.
He regarded the body carefully. Hughes had died lying on his stomach. From the wounds in the man’s back, it was apparent that he had been stabbed twice with a sharp object and based on their size, Harry speculated that it had most likely been a dagger. Looking around the room, there appeared to be no sign of a struggle. Whoever had killed the older wizard had taken him by surprise.
“Go ahead and lift it,” Harry said to Ron. “Neville, figure out a way to conceal it so we can get him out of here.”
Both men nodded. Ron raised his wand and used the mobilicorpus charm to levitate the body, placing it on the stretcher that Neville had transfigured the small entry table into.
“First to guess his next move doesn’t have to do the inventory,” Ron whispered.
“You’re on,” Neville replied. “Hmm. I say he checks the carpet where the body was.”
“No way,” Ron scoffed. “Tracing charm.”
Behind them, Robards chuckled. “Looks like you’ll both be splitting the work.”
Ahead of them, Harry had crossed the room and was casting detection charms on the sitting chair, table, windows, and curtains on the far side. Despite his most careful searching there wasn’t a shred of evidence to be found on any of them.
“Now, he’ll do the tracing charm,” said Robards, gesturing toward the dark-haired wizard as he raised his wand.
“Vestigium magicus,” Harry stated, drawing a circle with his wand and poking its invisible center.
Immediately, a faint yellow color fell over Hughes’ body. A few minutes later, the lights in the room were illuminated with a light blue hue. A faint red trail crossed from the corner where Harry now stood to the other three’s position just in front of the doorway. Harry tilted his head to the right and furrowed his brow, his mouth drawing into a frown. A few minutes passed without incident until a deep green line originating a few paces from Harry shot to the area where the body had been. Shortly the lights in the room were again illuminated with the same blue and a small white mist appeared just in front of him. Looking further, Harry noticed that a small white dot had appeared at some point just in front of Ron’s chest. Waving his wand, all vanished.
“What you reckon, Harry?” Ron ventured.
“Hughes cast some positive magic on himself. Probably after he came in from the weather," he answered, beginning to pace. "Killer was waiting for him somehow. Put out the lights with something non-verbal…that must be when Hughes lit his wand. Seeing it must have been what made the killer cast to disarm. Then at some point Hughes gets his wand broken…”
“Maybe stepped on it in the dark?” offered Neville.
“What about the hair and blood over there though?” Harry asked.
“Maybe the killer stomped it,” Ron said. “Came over and roughed him up a bit by the door. Explains the hair and the stain…blood maybe.”
Harry nodded. “We should check the body for confirmation. And then the question is where those wounds came from and when. Hughes got led over here somehow…maybe after the incident at the door. Then he gets either the Killing Curse or the stabbing. Turned the lights back on when it was done.”
“Interesting…” Robards mused.
“Interesting?” Neville asked.
“Yes…quite. Our killer was either foolish, trying to hide the Killing Curse with the stabbing…or merciful to an extent. Killing Hughes before the loss of blood could do the job.”
“Whoever it was certainly kept their hands clean enough,” Harry muttered darkly. “We’ve got nothing about who they are…aside from that they’re magical.”
“Fat lot of good that is,” Ron grumbled. “Anything in the bathroom, Neville?”
“Afraid not,” Neville answered glumly.
Harry pocketed his wand. “Let’s get everything from this area up too. See if we can find anything. I’ll get working on the background…see what we can learn.”
“I’ll inform the Department that we’re done here. Try to handle the circus from the press as well, at least until they learn you’re running this thing, Potter. Longbottom, you’ll make arrangements about the body and get back to help Weasley with the inventory.”
Each nodded in turn as Robards turned his attention to Harry.
“Potter, you’re double lead on this. Report your initial findings to the Department’s Trial Division. They’ll probably assign a special prosecutor. Then follow up with the Minister. The hearing will have to be delayed.”
As Robards made to leave, he turned back and fixed each of his aurors with a meaningful stare. “Welcome to our little piece of hell, gentlemen.” Spinning around again, he left the room briskly, leaving the three friends to handle the mess.
A/N: One big challenge with this chapter was the investigative techniques that an auror could utilize. I’m not sure I went quite deep enough with it, but hopefully what Harry did doesn’t come across as beyond the scope of reasonableness. Another was bringing these characters together while dealing with some of the “spoiler” material about each of their personal lives. It won’t play a huge role in the story, but will come up here and there. I would also love to hear people’s thoughts on my writing the canon characters. I usually avoid them unless it’s an AU fic, but I’m trying to get over that so I can publish some Post-Hogwarts stuff, which I always enjoy musing about. Let me know what you think!
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