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Chapter 55 : Year 6: Autumn Winds
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A head appeared in the doorway to Ron’s office, making him look up from his stack of parchments and frown at the sight of the perfect, yellowish, wavy hair on top of said head. Jack Marwick took a step forward and leaned against the doorframe, forcing his lips into a strained smile and crossing his arms over his chest.
“What, Marwick?” Ron sighed, gesturing towards the large pile of paperwork on the desk in front of him. “I’m a little busy…”
“You’ll have to save that for later,” Marwick said. “We’ve got a mission. You’re coming with me.”
Ron, despite his unliking of his colleague, immediately dropped his quill and stood up. “What’s going on?” he asked, grabbing his cloak and pulling it on as they started walking.
“A girl has been found dead in her flat,” replied Marwick. “By her landlord. He came rushing into Robards’ office just a little while ago. He was in shock, mostly rambling, so Robards wants us to check it out.”
The rest of their walk towards the fireplace in the Auror Office was quiet. Ron didn’t mind – he liked Marwick better when he didn’t speak, and though he wanted to know more about the assignment, he suspected neither Marwick nor Gawain Robards would have been able to tell him anything else at that point.
They arrived in the fireplace of the Leaky Cauldron moments later, and after waving quickly to Hannah Abbott, who was standing in the bar, stirring a clear cauldron containing some strange-looking, blue liquid, and Ron managing to avoid old Tom and his long, difficult-to-escape chats, he hurried alongside Marwick out the back and down the main street of Diagon Alley. The early winds of autumn blew his hair from his forehead and made his cloak flutter out behind him, like the superhero capes he had seen in the few comic books that Harry kept in his bookshelf, which he had managed to nick off his cousin Dudley as a child.
The building was situated just in the quarter that separated Diagon Alley from Knockturn Alley, and a handful of sketchy characters were strolling down the street, lurking in the nooks between the old houses or, in one case in particular, looking up at the two Aurors passing by from her spot crammed in under the steps leading up to a building, her body wrapped in a blanket and dirty, grey hair framing her hollow cheeks. Ron stopped, sticking his hand in his pocket to find a couple of Galleons for her, but Marwick grabbed his arm and pulled him along, casting a glance at the poor woman and shuddering.
Then he said, “Here it is,” and stopped in front of the highest building on the street, eyeing it up and down before stepping forwards to enter. “Merlin knows why anyone would want to live here.”
Ron resisted the urge to sigh heavily. “Flats are cheaper here,” he said. “Not everyone has the luxury to choose.”
“Personally, I’d rather live in a Muggle London than here,” Marwick said as they started climbing the stairs. “Fourth floor,” he informed Ron over his shoulder.
“I live in Muggle London,” Ron said. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“I’m not saying it is,” Marwick defended himself, now a little out of breath as they had made it up the stairs rather quickly. “I don’t have a problem with Muggles – my Dad is a Muggleborn, you know.”
They both fell silent as they stopped in front of the right door. Marwick reached out a shaky hand and opened it, and Ron took a deep breath as he stepped over the threshold. They remained quiet as they slowly made it through the hallway and into the little living room, both with their wands stretched out and eyes wide open, as if expecting someone to jump out from behind the old piano or crawl out from under the couch, ready to attack.
But apart from Ron and his colleague, there was not a soul in the flat, only a body, lying under a window with her black hair spread out across the floortiles, her arms along her sides and her eyes staring without seeing up at the ceiling. She was pretty – tall, slim, and very pale – and Ron felt a strange sort of sting in his chest as he tried to estimate her age. She couldn’t be much older than him.
“Damn,” Marwick mumbled, breaking the almost painful silence. “I know her.”
Ron’s head flipped towards him. “You do?”
“Well, I don’t know her personally, but I recognize her,” Marwick said. “She was a few years above me at Hogwarts. A Slytherin. What was her name again? Mary? Marion – yes, I think it was Marion. Marion Nott.”
“Nott?” Ron echoed. “As in Theo Nott? As in Nott, his Death Eater father?”
“Possibly,” Marwick said, taking a few steps closer and kneeling down next to the young woman. He lifted her head very gently to examine the back of it, and then her arms, and her legs. “No visible injury,” he rapported.
“Probably the killing curse, don’t you reckon?” Ron said, looking around the room. “Everything looks normal in here too. No signs of a duel taking place… Unless the killer cleaned up thoroughly afterwards. Has she got her wand on her?”
Marwick nodded and pulled it out of the girl’s inner pocket and handed it to Ron, who closed his fingers around it and mumbled: “Prior Incantato.” A shadow emerged from its tip – at first, Ron couldn’t tell what it was, and it slowly changed colour until it was faintly green, and it shot away and into another shadowy shape – the shape of the girl that was now lying a few feet away, dead.
“They used this wand,” Ron said, staring at the murder weapon in his hand as though he was expecting it to strike again if he took his eyes off it. “They used her own wand to kill her.”
“Clever,” Marwick said. “That way, if we catch the murderer, his wand won’t give him away. Unless… do you think she may have killed herself?”
“And then put her wand back in that pocket?” Ron said. “Not a chance.”
Suddenly, there was a banging noise on the front door that almost made him drop Marion Nott’s wand, and that sent Marwick jumping back to his feet and spinning around while pulling his own wand back out.
“Do you think it’s them? That they’re back?” he whispered, and Ron followed his example and stuck his hand into his pocket without responding.
The door burst open only moments later, and two figures stumbled in – one with well-trimmed, black hair, still as tall as when Ron had last seen him, but significantly heavier, with broader shoulders and wider chest, and one with a very familiar, white-blond hair and pointy chin.
“Stop right there,” Ron said, “and hand over your wands.”
The two men straightened up – Draco Malfoy with a look of disgust on his face, and Theodore Nott while shouting:
“Where’s Marion? Is shere here? What have you done to her, Weasley?”
“Wands,” Ron repeated, “now.”
When neither one of the intrudors obeyed, he flicked his own wand and exclaimed: “Expelliarmus!” catching the two wooden sticks in the air and sticking them into his own back pocket.
“We are Aurors Marwick and Weasley,” Marwick said matter-of-factly. “What brings you two here? Coming back to finish what you started, have you?”
“What the hell does that mean?” Nott grunted. “I needed to see Marion, I heard–“
“What did you hear?”
“Is she… is she…?”
“She’s his cousin,” Malfoy said, taking a step forwards. “He just wants to know if she’s all right. We heard some crazy man came running into the Ministry saying she was attacked…”
“That would be her landlord,” Marwick said, nodding.
“We’re sorry to have to tell you this,” Ron said softly, “but it’s true. Your cousin appears to have been murdered.”
Nott, who had practically been jumping up and down, grimacing and looking around ever since he entered the flat, as though he had had to try very hard to keep himself from rushing forwards and examining the scene that was currently blocked from his view by the large old piano, suddenly became very still. Every line on his face smoothened out and he sort of fell backwards, leaning towards the wall behind him as though his own legs were no longer strong enough to hold him up.
“Is there any family that we need to notify?” Marwick asked.
Nott seemed unable to respond, so Malfoy shook his head. “Just Theo,” he said. “His dad is in… in Azkaban. His mother’s dead. And Marion’s parents aren’t around either.”
“Dead?” Marwick said.
“Yes, the mother is,” Malfoy explained. “The father hasn’t been around since she was one or two. Not since before we were born, anyway.”
“Do you have any idea,” Ron said, “who would have done this to her? Any boyfriends, or enemies who would…?”
“No boyfriend. As for enemies… they tend to come with the family name, as of lately.” Malfoy grabbed Nott’s arm and looked back at Ron. “May we leave? Or do you need any more help to do your job?”
“Asking these questions happens to be part of my job,” Ron said, his eyes narrowing before he shook his head. “But you can go. We may bring you in for further questioning, but we’ll send you an owl.”
And without another word, Malfoy took the wands that Ron held out towards him, spun around, and, dragging Nott behind him, disappeared back out the door.
“So this is the girl whose murder Ron is investigating?” said Ginny two days later, lying in bed with the Daily Prophet on her lap and Harry’s arm behind her head. “Does he think it has anything to do with the fact that her uncle was a Death Eater?”
“We’re not supposed to discuss that,” Harry sighed, grabbing the paper off her and folding it up, so that Marion Nott’s photo was no longer blinking up at their newly awake, a little rosy faces. “But who knows? It’s possible. Though it seems like someone wanting revenge on Nott would go after his son, not his niece.”
He had literally just woken up to find his wife reading the Prophet, but she had been up for hours – so far, she had been on the loo three times (two of which had been to vomit) before she had decided to go downstairs where yet another pile of letters and another parliament of owls were waiting on the front porch. She had grabbed the newspaper off of one of them but left the letters to be – ever since announcing her pregnancy at a press conference with the Holyhead Harpies a few weeks earlier, hundreds and thousands of letters had arrived. Harry, remembering the hate mail Hermione had received at one point during their Hogwarts years, refused to let Ginny touch any of them, but sometimes opened a few himself and read them aloud to her over breakfast. Most were well meaning, though he had thrown a fair few on the fire and only muttered something about those prats never getting near his child when Ginny had asked what they had said.
“How are you feeling today?” Harry asked after placing the Daily Prophet on his nightstand, his arm still tucked in under Ginny’s head. He kissed her forehead before placing his other hand on her belly, which had taken a round shape, and was visibile as of a few weeks even when she had clothes on.
“Not too bad,” she said. “I still can’t believe I don’t fit into my jeans anymore, though.”
Harry chuckled. “That happens when you’re pregnant, you know.”
“Yes, but I can’t be getting too fat,” Ginny argued. “I’m supposed to be back on the Quidditch pitch before the season is over, remember? That means I’ll only have about four months after he’s born…”
“So we’re still calling the baby ‘he?’” Harry said, raising his eyebrows at her, and she grinned.
“You know we can find out at our next checkup, right?”
“Do you want to?”
“To be honest,” Ginny admitted, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to wait until February.”
“Good,” grinned her husband, “because I feel the same way.”
“Are you still hoping it’s a girl?”
“No, I don’t mind what we have,” Harry said. “I just have a feeling it will be a girl. And I know you said you wanted one, after living with so many boys all your life.”
“Yeah, but… if it’s a boy, that means that the other children we may have one day will have a big brother,” Ginny said, lifting her head to look at him before placing it on his bare chest instead. “And I may complain about it, but having older brothers is kind of nice sometimes too.”
A loud growling kept Harry from replying, and they both burst into laughter. Ginny sat up and stretched her arms over her head, placing her own hand over Harry’s, which was still resting on her belly.
“I guess we’d better go downstairs and make you some breakfast,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll be able to eat for a little while, but I’ll come sit with you.”
Ten minutes or so later found them at their kitchen table, Harry opening a few of the letters while chewing on his toast, and Ginny sipping on a cup of tea, the one thing she felt she would be able to consume without having it all come back out again the same way.
“’Dear Mrs. Potter,’” Harry read from a small piece of parchment, “’congratulations on the baby, but please don’t spend too much time with it. I want the Harpies to win the leage next year too.’ How nice, huh?”
“Don’t worry,” Ginny smiled and placed a hand over Harry’s. “I’ll find a way to spend time with the baby and win the Quidditch league again.”
“Sounds good,” Harry grinned. “Oh, here’s one girl saying she should have been the one to carry my baby… Look, she even sent a photo of–“ He paused, noticing the look on Ginny’s face and smiled. “Let’s just throw that one on the fire, eh? Moving on…” He grabbed another letter and let out a sound of surprise as he started reading it. “This one’s from Neville!” he announced. “And there’s a card… Wow, he must have got the entire staff to sign it, look, Gin… Ha, listen to what McGonagall wrote: ‘This means I am most certainly retiring before the next decade. I survived two generations of Potters, but I doubt my heart can take a third.’”
“Oh, bless her,” Ginny said, “with the way you and your father were, that’s probably a wise decision.”
Harry grinned and started shuffling through another pile of letters. “Isn’t that Luna’s handwriting?” he said, handing a card to Ginny, who instantly turned it around and started reading.
“She’s enjoying Bolivia,” she announced to Harry. “And I’m supposed to stay away from some creature that makes pregnant women scatter-brained…”
“Too late for that, isn’t it?” Harry grinned as he stood up and walked over to the sink to wash his plate. “Was it yesterday that I found your wand in the fridge, after you’d been looking for it for hours?”
He laughed at the look on Ginny’s face, and then walked over to her and pulled her to her feet, wrapping his arms around her and placing a soft kiss on her lips.
“I just – ooh!” said Ginny suddenly, her eyes widening and her hands grabbing Harry’s and placing them on her belly. “Do you feel that?”
Harry pressed his hands against her without breaking eye contact, his pupils widening as another grin grew across his face. “It’s kicking?” he said. “It’s… That’s amazing. There’s really a little person in there.”
“Yeah,” Ginny said, placing her arms around his neck and leaning her forehead against his. “It’s quite incredible, isn’t it?”
Harry nodded, not moving a muscle, his eyes still glowing and his mouth slightly opened. Once the kicking stopped, he put his arms around her again and pulled her closer. Outside the window, the winds were picking up golden leaves from their lawn and sending them dancing in the air before the earth would pull them back down, but Harry was too busy looking into Ginny’s brown eyes and the little golden dots in them to even notice.
“And for the record,” he said, “you’re the only one in the world that I would want carrying my child.”
“Good to know,” Ginny smiled. “You’re the only one whose child I’d want to carry.”
“Looks like we got ourselves a good deal then, didn’t we?”
Ginny rolled her eyes and leaned forwards to kiss him. “Yeah, I guess we didn’t do too bad…”
A/N: I really hate to keep you all waiting for the chapters like this and I'm really sorry. I've got about a month left of studying and about two months back, I also got a new job, so I've been insanely busy these last weeks. Just know that I never stop thinking about the story and that I will never just give up on it. Sometimes it just takes a little longer, I guess.
Thank you again for being the amazing people you are and for reading and reviewing. It means the world to me xxx
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