Chapter 1 : Chapter One
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Welcome. It’s nice of you to join us. Let me introduce you to the cast…
There are nine of us here. Parvati Patil with Seamus Finnigan, her fiancé. Her twin sister, Padma, and Seamus’s best friend Dean Thomas. Parvati’s best friend Lavender with her husband Michael Corner. Daphne Greengrass and Theo Nott. And Pansy Parkinson, who owns this place.
Except last night, Parvati Patil was murdered.
And I was the one who did it.
It’s always seemed bizarre to me that after there’s been a murder, they try and keep everyone who was there in the same place. The Aurors shouldn’t even be here, since there’s been no dark magic involved, but they’re all about looking after their own. Perhaps I should have thought of that before I killed Parvati Patil, but it’s too late to consider things like that now. Anyway, the Aurors are swarming all over the place and we’re not allowed to leave until they say so. Apparently it means that the murderer won’t be able to get away, but really, when you think about it, it just makes my job easier. Now none of the others can get away.
I should probably explain what’s going on. The nine of us – well, eight now, I suppose – are here for the weekend at the country house that Pansy Parkinson owns. Not together, of course; Pansy runs this retreat as a business, and there’s a spa and golf course and all sorts. Like a Muggle hotel resort for witches and wizards. She isn’t often here but just happened to choose this weekend to come and check on her staff, bringing two of her old friends along in the process. Everyone else is here for a break – not the brightest idea – and we all just ended up having to rub along.
Incidentally, Pansy Parkinson is rumoured to have slipped some poison into her Muggle-born husband’s food so that she could get this house. Never proven, but people talk all the same. Maybe I shouldn’t think about that right now, but I couldn’t really have chosen a more ideal setting for these murders.
It’s Saturday morning. We only got here yesterday and there’s already been a murder.
What a shame.
So now we’re all sat in some fancy room that is known as the drawing room – seriously, there’s even a plaque outside the room saying that – waiting for the Aurors to come in and call us out one-by-one. They locked us all up in here when they first arrived about an hour ago (well, they might not have locked the door but I haven’t tried to check yet. Don’t want to look like I’ve got a guilty conscience) and we’ve been here since, hanging around in silence. Michael Corner is pacing up and down, and Theo is muttering to himself in the corner, but apart from that, we’re all silent. All looking round the room suspiciously at each other, wondering which one of us is the murderer.
Nobody has cried yet. Which helps me, of course, because it means that I don’t have to fake the emotion there. Shock and surprise are much easier to act.
Finally, finally the door opens again and a grizzly old Auror comes in. Harry Potter’s the new Head of their department but the Ministry has at least shown some sense and stopped him from getting involved, since he knew the victim well. The Auror introduces himself as Proudfoot and then clears his throat before scanning us all suspiciously.
‘We’ll speak to all the staff working here later on but the first people that we need to interview are those in this room. I’m afraid that you’re all suspects in this murder at the moment.’
A few of the others murmur, as if they hadn’t realised that the reason we were holed up in here was because they might be the murderer. They’re not, of course, but the Aurors don’t know that.
‘How long will these interviews take?’ Theo asks, irritated. I don’t blame him, to be honest; I don’t think that he’d spoken two words to Parvati since they all arrived yesterday. But it was the wrong thing to say, clearly.
‘They’ll take as long as they need to take, Mr…’ Proudfoot retorts, leaving his statement trailing off.
‘Nott,’ Theo replies sullenly. ‘Theodore Nott.’
‘Nott.’ Proudfoot’s voice wraps around the name and it’s laced with suspicion. Old habits die hard. ‘Right then, we’ll interview you first then, if you don’t mind. Right this way.’ Extending his arm, he gestures out of the room and along the hallway to the manager’s office, which they’ve taken over for the interviews. I have to stop myself from snorting in amusement, because it’s so evident that Harry Potter isn’t leading this investigation. If he were, they wouldn’t be picking on the son of a former Death Eater straight away.
Still, it’s all the better for me. Theo gets up with a stony expression on his face and follows Proudfoot out of the room, and the door swings shut behind them. We wait.
Eventually, I’m called in for my interview. I’m in the middle of the group, which I take to be a good sign – not prime suspect, but not the least suspected either. From the stories I’ve read, the least suspected normally ends up being the one arrested for the crime – whether they did it or not.
‘So, can you tell us when you last saw Parvati Patil?’ Proudfoot asks me. There’s a woman sat next to him, and I assume that she’s another Auror, but she’s not said a word throughout this conversation. I’m wondering whether that’s a good thing or not, but I don’t let myself think about it too much. I can’t afford to let my act slip for even a second.
Still, it’s hard not to pause when he asks me the question. My mind flashes back to the last time that I saw Parvati Patil, when I wrapped an invisible magic cord around her neck and strangled her to death. When she choked and suffocated and then dropped to the green of the golf course and I left her body there for the groundkeepers to find this morning.
‘Last night, at dinner,’ I lie smoothly, just a second later than I should have spoken. It’s not enough to cause suspicion – the shock has clearly got to me, and I’m thinking hard to remember everything correctly. I wouldn’t want to mislead the Aurors investigating this sad matter.
‘And what time was this?’
‘I think we finished dinner around half eight or nine?’ I pause for a moment. ‘We all sat down together at about half six, and then left at about half eight, I think. I went straight to my room – I had some letters to write. I didn’t see anyone after dinner.’
Proudfoot nods and makes a note of this, as if it corroborates other stories.
‘And the nine of you – were you here together as a group?’
‘No,’ I say, shaking my head. ‘We came separately. We know each other from school but we’re not all friends.’
‘Right, thank you.’ He makes another note and then glances at the woman beside him, as if they’re almost finished with this interview. It’s been brief and painless, at least from my point of view. Nothing they’ve asked me has made me that uncomfortable, and I’ve said nothing to cast suspicion on myself.
‘Before you go,’ the woman pipes up. I jump a little from the surprise of hearing her speak – she’s still not introduced herself – and try to keep my expression calm. ‘Can you think of any reason that someone would have to murder Parvati Patil?’
I frown slightly. Do they normally ask things like this when interviewing suspects? But I’ve got an answer ready; after all, I’m nothing if not prepared for this. ‘Well, I’m not sure…’ I start. ‘Except…’
This hesitation is important. It shows that I’m reluctant to cast suspicion on anyone else, it shows that I’m not trying to deflect the suspicion from myself.
‘Yes?’ the woman asks, leaning forward. This is typical behaviour too; show an interest in what I’m saying, encourage me to trust them.
‘Well, I’m not sure, but yesterday, in the afternoon, I overheard a conversation on the stairs…’
‘Go on,’ Proudfoot encourages, relaxing his strict expression to try and seem less scary. Not that I’m scared of him, but he doesn’t need to know that. ‘This could be really important to our investigation. Any information you’ve got could help us catch the murderer.’
‘Okay.’ I take a deep breath. ‘Well, I was walking up the stairs to my room when we all arrived yesterday and I heard someone saying to Parvati – at least, I think it was her, it might not have been – anyway, they said something like “can’t you see that he’s obsessed with your sister?” and she said something like “no, don’t be ridiculous” and then I heard the voices arguing a bit more, but I couldn’t tell what they were saying.’
The woman has been scribbling all of this down as fast as possible and I wonder why the wizarding world hasn’t caught up with Muggle technology yet and doesn’t have something to record what I’m saying.
‘So these voices,’ Proudfoot starts, almost excited, as if he knows that he’s onto a lead. ‘You think one was Parvati. Do you know who the other’s was?’
‘No,’ I say, shaking my head. My voice is apologetic. ‘I’m sorry. I’m not sure who it was, I couldn’t hear properly.’
‘You don’t know if it was a man or a woman?’ this is the woman again, and her left eyebrow is arched in disbelief. Shit.
‘I think it was a man. The voice sounded quite deep, but there was a lot of other noise so I can’t be sure.’
‘A man.’ Both of them write this down and exchange glances which are full of knowledge, and they’re clearly both suspecting the same person at the moment. Which is exactly what I was hoping for.
‘Yes.’ I nod just to reassure them and Proudfoot quickly hides a smile.
‘Right, thank you. I think that’s all we need right now. But you’ll understand that we have to ask all of you to stay here for a few more days while we carry on investigating this. With a bit of luck we’ll have this wrapped up sooner rather than later and you’ll be free to leave.’
‘Of course,’ I respond, smiling.
‘Oh, and… I’d ask you not to mention the conversation that you overheard to anyone else while you’re here. It could be key in helping us solve this murder.’
‘Okay.’ Nodding again, I stand up, shake the offered hands and leave the room, returning to the drawing room where everyone else is waiting.
The Aurors staying here is going to make my plan a lot harder to carry out, but not impossible. And once the interviews are over, it’s time for the second stage to begin.
Author's Note: This story is a bit of an experiment for me, so I hope you liked it! Do you have any idea who the murderer is yet? I'd love to hear what you think!
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by James Jameson