Chapter 2 : R is for Revelations
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Penelope’s grandmother looks frailer than I remember her being the first and last time we met. Clearly, being apart from her son and granddaughter was counterproductive for her health, despite the fact that it was her own actions and opinions that caused her family to be split up, even before the war began. When Penelope and I were at school, she used to speak often of her beloved grandmother; her father’s mother, the wife of a bishop. Yet, she always referred to her as someone who’d passed away when she was a child — it wasn’t until my fifth year and her seventh that I discovered her grandmother was in fact alive, and that was only because I met her quite by accident.
“Hello, Rebecca,” she says softly.
I nod to acknowledge her, determined to remain polite even to someone utterly reprehensible. My parents raised me to have manners and I have no intention of shaming them by giving in to the burning desire to ignore the woman who made Penelope’s school years an utter hell. Suddenly, I remember Oliver, who is standing beside me and staring at Mrs Clearwater with a bewildered expression.
“This is Oliver Wood,” I explain, gesturing towards my friend. “He’s a friend of mine — and of Penelope, too. Oliver, this is Edith Clearwater, Penelope’s… grandmother.”
As far as I’m concerned, using that word to describe Mrs Clearwater is deplorable, and yet this is not the time or the place to be discussing ethics and morals. Fortunately, Oliver is quick to compose himself, smiling as he extends his hand to shake the old lady’s. I’m both grateful and disappointed that he’s present: while he can distract Mrs Clearwater until I’m able to appropriately word the announcement of Penelope’s death, I’m not able to ask her why she’s come to Penzance after all those years to see a granddaughter she’s only seen once in the past nine years, because that would mean telling Oliver a secret that Penelope never wanted told.
“How have you been?” Mrs Clearwater asks, and immediately I can’t resist gulping. Clearly, she has no idea what’s been happening in the last few days. “Rebecca, are you feeling quite all right? You seem to have gone rather pale.”
I’d love to say that no, I’m not all right at all but I know that she and Oliver would pester me with questions if I did.
“I’m fine,” I answer, before pointing at a coffee shop across the street from the train station. “Shall we have a coffee and catch up?”
Mrs Clearwater appears receptive to the idea and nods, and Oliver, ever the gentleman, takes her suitcase from her and begins to walk ahead at a much brisker pace. I’m tempted to follow him, but duty calls for me to match my pace with the pensioner next to me. It takes just a couple of minutes before we’re seated at a table in the corner of the cafe, where her suitcase and my weekend bag are able to be placed on the floor without anyone being at risk of tripping over them. Mrs Clearwater asks for a tea and scones for us to share, and I order a mocha as usual. While Oliver is queuing up to purchase our order, I seize the moment to ask the question I’ve been dying to ask since I first saw her.
“What are you doing here?”
“The policeman called me… the one Penny was dating, you know. He said he saw that I wasn’t registered as next of kin, but he felt I deserved to know as well, since Penny and I became closer these past few months, before… before…”
I’m dumbstruck. I have no idea which subject to begin complaining about first: that Penelope was dating a Muggle police officer — since when?! — or that Mrs Clearwater thinks her presence here will contribute something, but the admission that seizes my attention most is the fact that she claims to have gotten closer to Penelope recently.
How? When? Why?
Before I can ask any of those questions, Oliver returns with a tray laden with our drinks and a large plateful of scones with three smaller individual plates, unwittingly interrupting our conversation. I hold my tongue from saying anything further, not wanting to break the promise of secrecy that I made Penelope, but her grandmother clearly has no qualms about doing so.
“Rebecca, I have always loved my granddaughter. I missed her terribly all those years — I sent her letters and cards and presents every Christmas and birthday, and her parents never handed them over. That isn’t my fault. But when I attended my son’s funeral, when I found out that Penelope had come to her senses —”
“—She didn’t come to her senses,” I interrupt. “She was terrified for her life; for her parents’ lives. There are people who don’t like Muggle-borns, who believe that all Muggles should be exterminated. She was taking the safest option —”
“—My husband and I were right, Rebecca. We told Michael and Diane that it was madness to allow Penelope to sin —”
“—Enough,” I say, standing up and abandoning my drink. “Mrs Clearwater, the people who Penelope was running from — who I’m running from — are small-minded, bigoted bastards. She was scared. She was scared because she knew what they’re capable of. They’ve killed, they’ve tortured. It doesn’t matter if their victims are mothers or fathers or children; none of them are spared. Why? Because they were magical but they came from non-magical families — something that they couldn’t help. Something that Penelope couldn’t help. She didn’t choose it or ask for it — she was born a witch, not made one just because your son and his wife didn’t fit your idea of perfect parents. You locked her out of her own home in the rain without a coat or shelter, just because she accidentally levitated the toaster. You wished that your own granddaughter had never been born just because she was magical. How does that make you any better than them?”
“Bex,” Oliver begins, but I ignore him and pick up my bag before leaving the cafe.
I can’t handle the woman; I tried to tolerate her momentarily, but her sheer ignorance cuts to the bone. I have no idea what Penelope was thinking when she reunited with her grandmother, assuming that Mrs Clearwater was telling the truth, although she has no reason to lie. In fact, if she met Penelope’s Muggle colleagues then it must be true, because that was something I never did.
“BEX!” he shouts again, this time just as I’m about to step into the road to cross it. Sighing, I retreat and remain on the kerb to the annoyance of the driver who stopped at the zebra crossing, who honks loudly to convey his unhappiness.
“What do you want, Oliver?”
“I want you to tell me what’s going on with Mrs Clearwater. Penelope never mentioned her; is that the reason why? Because she was a bigot who hated magic?”
I nod. “She’s a devout Christian; her husband’s a bishop, so somewhat high up in the Church. In their opinion, magic is a sin. It’s a sign of disrespect against God, because only He should be allowed to wield that kind of power. When Penelope got her visit from McGonagall, to tell her and her parents about Hogwarts and the wizarding world, her grandparents took it badly. Pen’s parents supported her, and the family fell out.”
“That’s no excuse for doing what she did to Penelope,” Oliver protests. “One of the Puddlemere Chasers is the son of a vicar, and he and his family get along great.”
“I know,” I sigh. “My point is that things were different. Penelope was different. The Penelope I remember would never have spent more than five minutes with her grandmother, let alone introduce her to her boyfriend and colleagues. The Penelope I knew hated lying to the Muggles around her, so she tried to distance herself from them, but the one I keep hearing about from the Thames Valley police and that woman and even you — none of it correlates with my best friend. I know we both probably changed in the last six months, but she’s barely recognizable. I don’t know who she is, and I’m scared, Oliver. I’m scared because my best friend is dead and I don’t know why or who killed her and I want to find out. I want to get justice for her but I don’t have a bloody clue where to start.”
Without saying another word, Oliver steps forward and wraps his arms around me, squeezing tightly. I hold on to his back, unwilling to let him go. I don’t know what I’d have done without him here; he’s filled in the blanks that I’ve been missing — I’d have looked stupid if I turned up alone at the police station and not known anything about this ABC.
“We’d better go,” I eventually say, taking a step back. “I don’t want to arrive at the police station too late.”
Oliver nods and the both of us begin walking over to the taxi rank — we’re both strangers to Penzance, so it’s probably the quickest option to get a taxi even if we have to pay a few extra pounds for it. I’d love to Apparate there, but I’ve never been before and I can’t risk reappearing in plain sight without knowing where the local hidey-holes are, not to mention that the station is probably surrounded by CCTV; I really doubt the flimsy excuse of a faulty camera is going to explain my sudden appearance.
“Rebecca!” Mrs Clearwater calls from the doors of the cafe, hobbling towards us. I’m guessing that she’s seen the direction we’re heading in and guessed our next course of action, but I really can’t bear to be near the woman for much longer with the bad memories of her from our first meeting two years ago still haunting me.
So I pretend that I didn’t hear her, and I walk away.
Detective Inspector Prentice of the Penzance CID was absent when Oliver and I visited the police station earlier, having been called out to work on another case. However, the officer who I spoke to scheduled me for Penelope’s formal identification at the hospital at five o’clock this afternoon, and assured me that DI Prentice would do his best to be there, especially as he apparently has some questions to ask me. I’m not entirely sure what those questions are, but I’m planning on co-operating nonetheless. Hopefully, if I play the part of grieving best friend well enough to convince him that I’m harmless, he might let his guard down enough to let slip some facts that might help me find the murderer.
After all, I’ve been falsifying both parchmentwork and paperwork since my sixth year at Hogwarts, even working from home back when I was young and ignorant enough to think that my parents wouldn’t suffer for any law-breaking I did, and in those four years the Muggle police have never suspected a thing. Given that track record, and the fact that ABC has accumulated fifteen victims without yet being caught, I don’t have much faith in their crime-solving success.
To pass the hours between now and my appointment, Oliver has convinced me to check in at a local wizarding inn instead of the Muggle hostel I was planning on staying at. At first I was reluctant, until I realized that the inn he was talking about is the one where my best friend Leanne grew up, and Oliver clinched the decision by revealing that our friends will be there, including Lee. Not only do I have the opportunity to reconcile with my friends just this once, but I have the chance of confronting Lee about his friendship with Penelope and the fact that he was apparently the one who found the body. That’s why Oliver and I are walking towards the Penzance Pirate right now, which is nestled near the coast and hidden from Muggles’ sight, not unlike the Leaky Cauldron.
When we reach the front doors, he gestures for me to enter first and I do so. Immediately, the first thing to catch my sight is a portrait of a bearded pirate with an eye patch and a sword, bellowing loudly. In front of the portrait, my friends are gathered; Fred Weasley is sitting at a table with a chess set sitting upon it, his black player pieces grinning triumphantly — clearly, he’s winning this game. Sitting next to him is his twin brother George, the lack of one ear starkly visible from the angle I’m standing at, whispering into Angelina Johnson’s ear. Opposite them, on Fred’s other side, Lee, Katie Bell and Alicia Spinnet are sitting around another table. From the look of things, Lee and Alicia appear to be competing over who can balance a beer mat on their nose for longest while Katie is laughing — possibly at the ridiculous sight of two fully-grown adults making fools of themselves. It might also be the fact that the white queen on the chessboard is demanding to attack one of Fred’s pawns, despite the fact that if she does, she’s vulnerable to his knight — and that’s not mentioning that Fred has a castle that’s able to check the king if he moves it now.
Seeing no-one sitting at the table opposite Fred, I walk over and grin, recognizing the creation — which was only an idea the last time I saw the Weasley twins. “Is this the invention you were talking about last time I saw you — the chess pieces charmed to give misleading advice?”
There is a loud roar of “CHEATER!” from the pirate in the portrait, followed by several curse words and a demand that Fred walk the plank. Clearly, the pirate was Fred’s chess opponent, something that I didn’t realize. However, he doesn’t appear to care about the pirate’s opinion, instead jumping up to hug me tightly.
“BECKY!” he grins. “Guys, Becky’s here!”
“Fred, my ribs!” I yelp, feeling Fred’s strong arms threatening to crack one of my rib bones with his overenthusiastic hug. “Ah! Oxygen, Fred! I’m losing oxygen!”
To my relief, Fred lets go of me but has a quizzical eyebrow raised. “What’s oxygen?”
For a brief moment of lunacy, I contemplate giving Fred a crash course in chemistry but quickly decide against it. If he was anyone else, I’d probably put the time I wasted in Muggle summer school to good use, but even without knowing about science, the twins have created so many inventions and diversified into Muggle products enhanced by magic that I dread to think what exactly they’d be able to concoct if they knew about all the chemicals that exist in the Muggle world.
“The Muggle word for air,” I simply answer, taking a step backwards and wincing when I realize I’ve failed to notice something quite blatantly obvious.
My friends are drunk. At half past three in the afternoon.
I’m about to scold them for being so irresponsible, given the circumstances, when I feel a tug at my sleeve and turn around to see Oliver sitting on one of the bar stools while Leanne is standing behind the bar. The pirate begins shouting more insults at Fred, and he turns around to retaliate, so I seize the opportunity to join my friends at the bar.
“You let Fred play chess with your ancestor?” Oliver is asking Leanne as I approach, his expression one of incredulity.
“It was either let him play with a harmless portrait or risk him getting himself into trouble,” she explains. “I wasn’t here this morning; I went to meet up with a friend of mine because he was likely to know how organizing a Muggle funeral works, and when I got back my dad had already plied them with alcohol. I’ve been keeping an eye on them since I got back and I’ve watered down their drinks, although in all honesty, I think they need the break from reality.”
I nod. “Fred and George have a brother who’s in danger in the Ministry; even though he’s disowned their family and they call him a git, I know they’re worried. Lee’s got >Potterwatch to worry about, Katie’s still not over being cursed back in seventh year, Alicia’s boyfriend is on the run… and now Penelope’s dead.”
“Getting drunk isn’t going to solve any of those problems, Bex,” Oliver protests. “It’s madness.”
“They’re in denial,” I answer, shaking my head. “I’m sure they’ll grieve in their own time, but I think they just need to pretend that everything’s fine, just for a few hours.”
Oliver scoffs. “If they really missed Penelope, they’d be doing her proud. Look at you; you’re perfectly composed and all you’ve drunk today are mochas. Why can’t they be like you? Why do they have to get drunk in the middle of the day and cause chaos instead of doing something?”
“People grieve in different ways —” Leanne begins, but is cut off by Oliver climbing off his stool and storming off through the open doorway marked “Guests Only”, which presumably leads to the bedrooms of people staying overnight at the Pirate.
I haven’t even had the chance to explain that I’ve had slightly longer than my friends to process the fact that Penelope is gone. It seems that Leanne is right, and Oliver is dealing with his grief differently, but that doesn’t mean that he’s allowed to snap at or insult the rest of us. I step forward to follow him, but when I hear Lee call my name, I stop and turn to face him.
“Bex,” he begins, but doesn’t say anything else.
I want to say something, but I’m not sure what. I don’t know what I can say, given that this man I remember sitting next to in our very first class together when we were kids; who used to be my biggest supporter when he commentated the Ravenclaw Quidditch matches against Hufflepuff or Slytherin; who I consider one of my closest friends, may just have murdered my best friend. I don’t want it to be true. I don’t want to consider that Lee could be a murderer, although I can’t deny that right now, he’s the only person with motive.
“I’m sorry,” I mumble, before squeezing past my friend and leaving the pub.
I can’t stay here any longer. I can’t banish the visual of Penelope from my mind’s eye; the sight of her lying on the cream carpet in a pool of blood, a bloodied kitchen knife discarded a couple of metres from her, her hand pressed against her wound and her chest heaving as she tried to speak. I wish that it wasn’t true. I want to pretend that it never happened.
But I can’t.
The room is dark, illuminated only by a bare bulb that clearly needs to be replaced, judging from the little light emitting from it. A desk is situated immediately beneath the bulb, in the middle of the room. Upon the desk, there are several folders crammed with paperwork. A leather-gloved hand reaches out to pick up a thin file from the top of a precarious tower of folders and places it on the desk before opening it. Contained within are several photographs, and one by one, they are picked up and perused in the dusk.
The first photograph is of a young man on a broomstick, his purple robes billowing behind him as he flies through the air. Behind the man, there are other similarly-clad people flying above a crowd holding up banners with the words "PUDDLEMERE UNITED".
This photograph is not required just yet.
The next three all contain girls: the first, of a blonde girl standing in a gardening centre with a cigarette in between her lips, being glared at sourly by the employee behind the counter. The second, of a dark-skinned young woman sitting in a coffee shop talking closely with a redheaded man obscured from the camera's view by another customer. The last picture has been ripped out of somebody's family photo album, depicting a brunette girl sitting on a bench and feeding ducks with two small children next to her.
None of those are needed at present, either.
A newspaper article is next, depicting flame-haired twins beaming at the camera as they stand in front of their entrepreneurial new business, Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. Underneath it is a covert photograph taken at an awkward angle through a dirty window in order to avoid being caught. In it, a young man with dreadlocks fiddles with a radio, a wand in his hand and a wary eye at the door in front of him. Beneath that is another picture, taken in the light of day, of a young woman standing in the doorway of a pub with a sheaf of paperwork in her hand, the pub's sign above her revealing its name and her location: The Penzance Pirate.
These aren't the correct photos being searched for, either.
Yet another photograph is in the pile, this one the most difficult to obtain — in fact, the slight blur of the young woman's features is because she had glanced back quickly just as the camera button had been pressed. Despite the imperfectness, she is still recognizable with her dark brunette hair and her large chocolate eyes, which are filled with uncertainty as she blends into the crowd, her vividly red coat easily lost among a sea of brightly-coloured attire.
Soon, this picture will be needed — perhaps sooner than originally anticipated.
However, at present it is not, and so the photograph of the girl who ran away is brushed aside to reveal the image at the bottom of the stack; at last, the desired picture. In it, Penelope Clearwater is beaming as she converses with a colleague, her blonde curls gleaming as they catch the sunlight. She is holding a case folder close to her chest, careful not to let anyone see the label upon the jacket. This picture was taken just a fortnight or so after the investigation began, and even then, she was suspicious. If only her suspicion had been noticed earlier — but never mind. It is too late now for regrets.
Momentarily putting down the photograph of Penelope, the gloved hand reaches down to the second left drawer of the desk to retrieve a good quality envelope with a stamp already upon it and a fountain pen. A pause is taken to write the address of Penzance police station upon the front of the envelope, the words flowing easily from memory, before Penelope's picture is turned upside down and the fountain pen is pressed against the back of the glossy photographic paper to write his note — short, brief, not fitting the usual pattern of long-winded taunting. Hopefully, that will convince the country of the simple fact that Penelope’s death was not part of the plan.
I did not kill her.
And then, carefully, a familiar signature is imprinted beneath the words.
Author's Note: AAAHHH! So what do you think of how things are progressing so far? I was really careful with my wording in the third section, so I'd love to hear your theories based on this new information -- I love hearing theories ;) Is there anything that seems confusing? Do you feel that the people here are relatable so far? Please leave a review if you have time -- even one line would make my day! Thank you for reading! ♥
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