Chapter 5 : Interruption
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Sunlight poured through the large window and into the small room, painting everything a pale yellow colour and warming her cool skin. Blue was rubbing himself against the legs of her chair, purring quietly.
It was Monday morning, and although Alice could hear the unmistakable sounds of cars honking and buses roaring outside, she felt surprisingly at ease, having slept more than enough the night before.
She’d just turned the page to the Magizoology column when she heard a faint crack come from right outside her kitchen.
Alice paused in her movement, heartbeat quickening, before grabbing her wand out of her robes swiftly, conscious of the fact that she hadn’t been expecting anyone. She could feel Blue halt in his movements below her.
There was a cry of “Alice!” before Emma all but burst through into her kitchen, smiling widely and auburn hair a mess. Her dark green robes shimmered as they caught the morning sunlight. Upon seeing her, the girl in question visibly sagged in relief, letting out a loud sigh. Blue went back to purring below her chair.
“What are you doing here, Emma?” She asked. Emma stopped in her tracks. “It’s eight in the morning!”
“It’s actually eight-thirty,” Her friend corrected. “And I brought breakfast.” As she said this, she lifted the two brown bags she was carrying, as if to show Alice how obvious the whole thing was.
Alice looked at them, uncomprehending.
“I—you can’t just barge into my flat whenever you please, unannounced!” She continued. “I thought you were a murderer, or something!”
Emma looked vaguely confused. “Uh, I’m sorry?” She said, though it came out sounding more like a question. “I thought it would be fun to have breakfast together.”
Alice rubbed at her eyes, suddenly feeling much more exhausted than she truly was, and much less relaxed than she’d previously been. So much for a calm morning, she thought drily.
“Couldn’t you have waited thirty more minutes?” She asked, sighing. “You almost gave me a heart attack.”
“Really?” Emma asked in surprise. “I think you’ve been spending too much time at the Office, Alice.”
“Ha,” Was the unamused reply, but Emma ignored her, grinning away.
“Fine, I’m sorry, I just like being at your flat, okay?” She responded. “Can I sit down now?” She gestured to the table between them.
With a bright smile, her friend all but skipped over to where she sat, setting the two brown bags onto the table as she did so.
“I brought croissants,” She explained. “Though I think we’re going to need plates—I’ll get them!” She exclaimed.
“Uh, alright,” Alice replied, still unused to Emma’s early morning energy. It was quite the contrast to her personality in the mornings, which was usually nonexistent. “They’re in the cupboard beside the fridge.”
Emma made her way over. As she went to close the cupboard door, plates in hand, she paused, peering at the fridge closely.
“Is this a wedding invitation?” She asked after a short silence, glancing back at Alice. Alice nodded, taking a sip of her coffee. “Whose wedding is it?”
“My sister Charlotte’s,” She said, and set her mug down. Blue was pawing at her leg, meowing. She bent down and scooped him up into her arms. “She’s getting married in April,” Alice explained as she scratched at his head.
“Oh, you didn’t tell me that!” Emma cried, turning to stare at the invitation once again. “A spring wedding—seems fancy.”
“Hardly,” Alice answered, letting out a snort. “We’re not posh or anything.”
“Well, either way, loads of people spend absolutely insane amounts of money on weddings,” Emma replied, setting both of their plates down. She took the croissants out of their bags, giving one to Alice. “You know, I’ve never even been to one,” She said after a moment, frowning slightly in thought.
“To a wedding?” Alice asked. Emma nodded. “Really?”
“Yeah,” She replied. “My family’s small, so weddings are kind of a rarity. At this point the next wedding I go to might be my own,” She explained, grinning.
There was a silence as they both chewed on their food, Alice lost in thought. She’d been to at least a few weddings—her family was large, her mother being a child of four and her father of three. She’d probably been to one every five years or so because of that, and she enjoyed them, if only because she got to see her extended family, most of whom lived outside of London. Her parents had actually only moved to the city for work.
“Well, you could always come to my sister’s wedding, if you wanted,” Alice said. Emma looked up at her, surprise etched onto her face. “With me, I mean.”
“Really?” Emma asked her after a moment.
Alice nodded, grinning. “And we could even wear matching dresses—”
Alice let out a laugh at Emma’s expression, “Just kidding.”
“Alice,” Emma put a hand over her chest dramatically. “You don’t kid around with those kinds of things. Next you’ll be telling me that you’re pregnant.”
“Oh,” Alice frowned. “Had I forgotten to?”
Emma scrutinized Alice’s face, brows furrowed. “Honestly, I can’t tell if you’re joking. You have a great poker face,” She explained. “Either way, I’d love to come to your sister’s wedding, if we don’t wear matching dresses, that is.”
“Great,” Alice said, smiling brightly. Emma was still squinting at her. “I’ll make a copy of the invitation for you.”
A few minutes later, Alice and Emma were by the fireplace in the living room, Alice with a handful of Floo powder in her hands. Emma had insisted they Floo to the Ministry (which Alice had obviously objected to, but then had realized her friend didn’t share her passion for flushing herself down public toilets).
They had both just stepped into the fireplace when Emma turned to her, a serious expression on her face.
“The baby,” She said, pausing dramatically. Alice nodded grimly.
“Gilderoy Lockhart’s,” She replied.
Emma let out a bark of a laugh.
“Always knew he was your type,” She said, before Alice threw the Floo powder down, and they were both engulfed in green flames.
“No, Emma. Kingsley Shacklebolt is still alive…” Alice was telling her friend slowly. “He’s just retired.”
It was later in the day, and Alice and Emma were talking at the former’s desk. Emma had turned to Alice a few minutes ago and had asked her, a frown on her face, whether the old English Minister for Magic was still alive, since she’d somehow heard the news that he’s died in her last year at Ilvermorny.
“Are you sure?” Emma asked, glancing at the Daily Prophet in her hands. Shacklebolt’s wrinkled face blinked back at her under the headline 15 Years Since Shacklebolt’s Reign.
“Uh, yeah?” Alice responded. “I was reading that interview this morning before you arrived.”
“But I am positive that I heard he died. How is it possible that in five years I never realized he was alive?”
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Alice responded, though she secretly thought it wasn’t unlike Emma to be so gullible. “You obviously heard wrong, because Braithwaite interviewed him last month.”
Her friend looked down at the newspaper once again, brows still creased. “That was last month, though…”
Alice groaned. “Emma—”
“As far as I know, Shacklebolt’s still alive, Ashworth,” A voice suddenly interrupted. “He was over at my parents’ last weekend.”
Both girls glanced up at the interruption. Potter was standing by Alice’s desk in his black robes, dark hair as messy as ever and a pile of parchment in his arms.
Alice immediately felt her chest tighten, as if a hand was gripping at her heart. She shifted her gaze to look at a point on her desk.
“And good day to you, Potter,” Emma was saying, eyebrows raised. “Joining in on the debate, I see?”
“I wasn’t aware it was a debate,” He replied seriously, though his lips were twitching.
“It is indeed a debate. And I won’t be convinced that easily,” Emma continued. “So, what, Braithwaite interviewed him a month ago? And he came over to your house for tea last weekend?” She asked, rolling her eyes. “As if that proves anything at all—he could have died yesterday, for all we know, and I’d be right in thinking he was dead.”
Alice, smiling slightly, kept silent, though she couldn’t keep from rolling her own eyes at Emma’s dramatics.
“Right,” Potter replied after a moment, sounding amused. “Well, sorry for interrupting your… debate, but I needed to speak with Woodward.”
Alice finally glanced up. “Oh, um—” She let out as she locked eyes with Potter.
“Oh, she’s all yours,” Emma interrupted cheerfully. “Though, just so you know, she does bite, Potter.”
Then, before Alice could process what had happened, Emma was already rolling away on her wooden swivel chair, newspaper in hand.
There was a pregnant pause, in which Alice felt her face turn bright red as she realized what Emma had said. “So—”
“What do you—”
As she let out an awkward chuckle, Alice was already wishing the conversation would come to an end. Why did Emma have to leave her alone with Potter, especially after saying something so odd, she couldn’t understand. It was as if Emma took pleasure in making her uncomfortable.
“Um, what can I help you with, then?” She finally asked.
“Yeah, sorry to bother you,” Potter replied, running a hand through his hair. Alice nodded, trying not to stare too much. “But I had a few poison-related questions.”
“Oh,” She replied intelligently. For some reason, she seemed incapable of speaking like a normal person around Potter. It didn’t help that every time she caught a glimpse of his tall frame or messy hair, all she could think about was what she’d said to him at the Leaky or, even worse, what she’d admitted to Emma at the bar on Valentine’s Day. “Right, of course.”
“I would’ve asked somebody else,” Potter continued. “But Jones is in Ukraine, Patel is off on maternity leave, and Higgins is in Scotland… investigating a werewolf settlement, I think.”
“Right,” Alice responded once again, nodding.
David Jones, Anika Patel, and Antoine Higgins were fellow Aurors who’d specialized in Poisons during training, as Alice had. All three of them were older and far more experienced than she was, so were the ones who usually got the burden of all the questions coming from other Aurors.
Aurors who’d specialized in Poisons were few and far between, primarily because most decided to specialize in “exciting” fields such as Stealth and Tracking. These fields were admittedly far more useful, since Dark Wizards rarely employed poison as a means of murder—Alice imagined it had something to do with the fact that The Killing Curse was much simpler than brewing or procuring a dangerous potion.
However, this meant that although all Aurors were required to study Poisons during training, most of their knowledge in that department became rusty after a few years of working primarily in the field they’d specialized in.
Alice wasn’t quite sure how functional this new system was, since it resulted in forgetfulness on the part of Aurors, but there wasn’t much to do about it. Thirty years ago, the Department of Magical Law Enforcement had deemed the Investigation Department of the Auror Office too impractical, communication-wise, and had instead divided up all the Office’s tasks by specializations, and that was that.
“I wanted to get your opinion on the murder that happened in Redding two or so weeks ago,” Potter was saying, handing her a piece of parchment. Alice glanced down at it—it was the autopsy report of Lewis Chapman. “It says here,” Potter pointed to the bottom of the page, “That no traces of poison were found in Chapman’s body.”
“Yeah,” Alice replied slowly, frowning. “Yeah, I remember. Nor in his apartment… Um, didn’t he die from an Unforgivable?” She asked, looking up.
“Well, that’s the thing,” Potter replied, gaze trained on Alice’s. “It seems to me that it’s unlikely he was murdered by the Killing Curse.”
“What?” Alice asked, frowning. “You were at the scene yourself, weren’t you?” She hadn’t been at the scene, but she’d seen pictures, and she had no doubt about what kind of Unforgivable that had been. “All the evidence points to the fact that it had been an Unforgivable.”
Potter scratched at his forehead. “Yeah, I was there, but it doesn’t add up,” He responded. “We’ve questioned everyone he knew, and come up with nothing. He wasn’t a threat to anybody.”
Alice, still frowning, glanced back down at the report in her hands. “Well, I don’t know… We obviously didn’t question everyone, then,” She said, then paused. “I honestly don’t think poison has got anything to do with Chapman’s death, if that’s what you’re getting at,” She continued. “Nothing came up in the autopsy report, and I would’ve immediately noticed if there were any signs of—”
“But what about the Draught of Living Death? That wouldn’t have come up on the report, right?” Potter interrupted her.
“What?” Alice asked again, staring at his shining eyes. “I—what do you mean?”
“Well,” Potter paused. “It’s just a theory, really, but I think Chapman died from an overdose of the Draught.”
There was a silence. “You mean, like, a purposeful one?” Alice asked. “Suicide?”
Potter nodded. “I know it sounds completely bonkers, but I wanted to know if it was possible.”
“Uhh—” Alice replied slowly, mind whirring. “Have you talked to Bennett about this?”
“Yeah, he thinks I’ve lost it.”
Alice let out a short and loud laugh. “Well, maybe you have,” She responded as Potter grinned down at her. “But I guess it isn’t impossible. Why do you think it’s suicide, though? I mean, do you have any proof?”
“Well,” Potter began, running a hand through his hair. “It’s more of a... hunch, really,” He said. “First off, nobody seems to have wanted Chapman dead. There’s also the fact that his apartment wasn’t tampered with in any way—”
“Wait,” Alice interrupted him. “I thought Thompson said they’d found evidence of magic having been used to unlock the front door—”
Potter rolled his eyes. “Yeah, they did, but even a complete amateur would erase traces such as those,” He replied.
Alice frowned in thought—it was quite true. “That’s true,” She said slowly. “What are you saying, though? That it was… staged, or something?”
“Yes, exactly,” Potter continued, hazel eyes shining. “That part was, unquestionably, which is another factor. Also, his eyes—”
“What are you guys chattering about?”
Potter broke off, turning around. It was Margaret, smiling at them in her lilac robes. Though she stayed quiet, annoyance immediately spread through Alice’s chest for having had her conversation interrupted.
“Oh,” Potter said after a moment of silence. “Hey.”
He gave Margaret a small grin. Alice looked away, pretending to review the report in her hands.
“Hey, Alice,” Margaret finally said. Alice glanced up to see her smiling.
“Uh, hi, Margaret,” She responded awkwardly. She wasn’t sure if it was because Potter was around, but Margaret was acting… off, as if they were simultaneously the greatest of friends and complete strangers. It was hard to define—perhaps it was just that: Margaret was acting, ignoring the fact that they barely talked to each other nowadays, except for the thankfully few and far between times she’d talk at Alice about her love life.
“D’you mind if I borrow James for a minute?” She was asking.
“Yeah, sure,” Alice responded, glancing at him. “I mean—well, no, I don’t mind,” She corrected quickly, face warm.
Margaret gave her another smile, before subtly gesturing for Potter to follow her.
“Uh, well, thanks for the help,” Potter said, turning to Alice. “I’ll let you know if anything else comes up.”
“Of course, anytime,” She responded, giving him a small smile. “Oh, almost forgot,” She said, and handed Potter the report in her hands.
“Right,” He said as he took it, grinning slightly at her. “Thanks.”
After a parting wave from Potter and another bright smile from Margaret, Alice was left alone, looking over a random parchment on her desk.
“…You’re still coming to mine tonight, then?” She heard Margaret say as they walked away.
As Alice tried to block Margaret’s voice out, Emma rolled her way back to her desk.
"I heard everything," She said after a moment.
"Yeah, figured,” Alice replied as she glanced at her friend. She paused. “Thanks for your comment, by the way. Way to make things awkward.”
“As if it could’ve gotten any worse,” Emma replied, rolling her eyes. “Your tension is through the roof. And anyway, it worked—Potter was totally chatting you up.”
"What?" Alice asked in disbelief, frowning. "You’re the one who made things awkward by telling him I—I bite!” She exclaimed. “Also, our tension is not ‘through the roof’, and he was not chatting me up—"
"Well, even Margaret noticed your little talk," Emma explained. "Why do you think she came over so suddenly?"
"I don't know why, and it doesn't matter, because we weren't flirting," Alice replied, feeling defensive. "Why can't two members of the opposite sex talk without it being labelled flirting? We were talking about death, for Merlin’s sake."
Emma shrugged lightly. "Death can be sexy. Just look at Shacklebolt’s."
“What?” Alice asked as Emma let out a laugh. “Death is not sexy whatsoever. And I thought you’d have realized by now that Shacklebolt—”
“I’m just messing with you, Alice,” Emma interrupted her, still laughing. “Relax. Shacklebolt’s alive, got it,” She said. “Though I do still stand by the fact that death can be sexy.”
Alice raised an eyebrow. “Really? And how so?”
"Well, what about films noirs? Those can be sexy."
“That is not relevant—”
“It is so relevant,” Emma interrupted her. “Horror movies can be sexy, too, come to think of it.”
“Oh, just roll away, Emma,” Alice replied, turning back to the parchment on her desk and shaking her head. “Please. I have work to do.”
“Aw,” Emma replied, sounding amused and entertained all at once. “You said ‘please’. That’s cute. I bet Potter would like that.”
“Emma, I’m serious,” Alice replied, though she could feel her face warming up. “I’d really appreciate it if you’d let me be before I hex you.”
“I doubt you’d hex a fly, Woodward,” She said. “And don’t think I didn’t hear your little Freudian slip, because I did.”
“What?” Alice asked once again, turning back to see Emma grinning at her in triumph. “I—”
“Oh, don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about,” Emma said. Then she put a hand to her chest, eyelashes fluttering. “‘Yes, of course I mind that you’re taking Potter away from me, Margaret—didn’t you see that we were about to snog, you idiot?’”
“Fuck off, Emma,” Alice replied, feeling her face burn. “I don’t sound like that.”
Emma let out another laugh. “I think it’s a bit too early in our friendship to be telling me to fuck off, dear Alice,” She replied lightly. Alice sighed—she didn’t know why, but Emma seemed to enjoy making fun of her a bit too much.
“I don’t care,” Alice responded. “You’re impossible.”
“Whatever you say,” Emma sang. “But Potter totally wants to shag—”
“—the living daylights out of you!”
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. I absolutely loved writing Emma’s dialogue, she’s just so sarcastic all the time. She and Alice balance each other out quite nicely, I think.
Please leave a review telling me your thoughts! What did you think about James’ appearance and Chapman’s murder? Do tell! Reviews are honestly what keep me motivated. They also let me know that at least ~someone~ is reading and enjoying this story. So, please leave a review, even if it is a short one!
Thanks for reading,
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