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Episode number and title: # 3: A Murder Up North
Episode writer: [livejournal.com profile] vaysh11
Episode editor(s): [livejournal.com profile] incandescent, [livejournal.com profile] chantefable
Episode summary: A young girl is found dead, the granddaughter of a former Minister for Magic. The wizarding world is in shock, but Dawlish has a new cold case for Harry: He is ordered to investigate another murder from the war. Both the victim and the accused were Death Eaters. Three of them are still doing time in Azkaban.




11 August, 2006 – a Thursday

The North Sea crashed against the rocks with never-ceasing strength. Auror Williamson stood at the window and stared down at the turbulent waters. The clouds hung low and the water-splashed cliffs seemed devoid of life. Not a gull hovered near the stony hole from where all of Azkaban's waste was dumped into the sea. Williamson let out a quiet sigh. No surprise, really, that even a hardened criminal like Mulciber was begging to get off the Rock.

ep3


"... the casting of an Imperius on Unspeakable Broderick Bode... the wilful murder of Fabian and Gideon Prewett... aiding and abetting the massacre of Marlene McKinnon, her brother, her sister-in-law, and their two children..." The scribe was a small man. His Adam's apple kept bobbing whenever he looked up from the list of crimes and waited for Mulciber to grunt his reply.

Release interviews at Azkaban could drag on forever, especially when the prisoner had won a certain notoriety and was up for early release because of health reasons. But they were already wrapping up the First War. Williamson had been a young man during the first of the wizarding wars, freshly recruited into the DMLE back then. And yet he still he remembered the dead bodies of the McKinnons lined up in the morgue. The public had never heard the details of the killings, the way the children were tortured to extract intelligence from their parents and aunt. Williamson was Muggle-born, he'd grown up in Newham before everything was knocked down and gentrified. He'd seen his share of violence and death, before and after entering the Aurors. But back then, on that cold morning twenty-five years ago, he'd lost his breakfast in the loo at the sight of what Unforgivables could do to the body of a seven-year-old boy.

"...unlawful breaking and entering of the Ministry of Magic in the night of June 17, 1996... Imperiusing a security guard... aiding and abetting the Death Eaters Tom Riddle and Augustus Rockwood in dismantling the security wards to the Department of Mysteries... attacking with intent to kill a group of underage students from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry... accessory to the murder of Sirius Black... destruction of –"

"Yes, damn it, yes." With a harsh rattle of his chains Mulciber put both his hands on the table.

The scribe startled back, his chair scraping over the bare floor.

"Just let me sign the bloody parchment," Mulciber said. "We've gone through all of this a hundred times at my trials."

The scribe looked at his superior first, Reeves from the parole board, who sat in the corner with his head against the wall, all but asleep with open eyes. He shrugged and pointed with his chin towards Williamson.

"Continue with the reading," Williamson said. "Mulciber, hands off the table. And shut the fuck up and only answer when asked. It's not our fault this scroll goes on and on like a bloody loo roll."

Mulciber withdraw his arms and placed them into his lap like before. He had been a big man once. Now he was still tall but without the bulk of muscles and fat he looked almost frail. Cancer of the liver. The healers had confirmed it was terminal. He had six months to live, perhaps a year. In what little light came through the dirty windows, his skin looked jaundiced, the sickly colour of death.

Williamson sympathised with the man, he did. The temperature in the damp room had be close to freezing. Over on the mainland, it was summer. The scroll in front of the scribe still went on for several feet. But there was no way around the reading of the crimes. Standard procedure. A last stern reminder of the power of the Wizengamot; a last chance for MLE to gather information from the inmate. The scribe was reading off the scroll again, faster now, a bit breathless. He did not look at Mulciber when he stopped for him to affirm his crimes.

"No."

The quill dripped ink onto the scroll, and the scribe quickly placed it on the stand. "Er, beg your pardon?"

"I said, no. I did all those things you've read. But not this one. I've never laid my hands on the Russian."

In his corner, Reeves sat up. Williamson tried to recall what the scribe had just read – accessory to the murder of Sirius Black, destruction of the Brockdale bridge, abduction, torture and killing of Octavius Pepper, first-degree murder of Igor Karkaroff...

Karkaroff. The Russian. The turn-coat. Williamson had been a member of the investigation team back then. He had hated it, they all had hated it. Back then he could have not cared less about who killed this piece of Death Eater scum. It had been a clear-cut murder investigation – motives, missing alibis, evidence from the crime scene had all been established. As much as he remembered, it had been the only clear-cut case in a whole year of twisted, violent crimes and the Auror Department a mess what with Head Auror Bones dead and Thickeness a puppet in the hands of You-Know-Who.

"What do you mean?" Williamson stepped away from the window and towards the table. "We had a witness who saw you at the scene of the crime. We had proof, irrefutable proof, that Dolohov cast the Morsmordre over the shack where the body was found. You and your cronies killed him."

Mulciber's jaw tensed, he squared his shoulders. "We were up north in that village, and Antonin left the Dark Mark above that shack. But we did not kill him." He chuckled dryly. "I would have loved to get my hands on him, after he'd grassed us up. I volunteered for that job."

"But you were there, up in..." Williamson searched his mind for the name of the place where the dead body of Igor Karkaroff had been discovered, more than ten years ago. A small village in the North Yorkshire Moors, with only Muggles living there. He remembered railroad tracks and sheep and houses built with roughly-cut stones from the area. "In Goathland," he said.

"Oh, we were up there, Portkeyed right in front of the shack." Mulciber leaned back, his eyes on the scroll trailing to the floor. "But we never laid hands on the Russian. Someone had been there before us. Choked the life right out of him." He looked up, right into Williamson's face. His eyes were clear and bright, a sharp contrast to his sallow skin and his hands that had not stopped trembling since he'd entered the room. "We left, Auror. Antonin cast the Morsmordre, on His orders. We never talked about it later because the Russian was dead and that's all we wanted. We were sent up north to give him what he deserved. And he got it. But not from us. If it says on this bloody scroll I strangled Karkaroff, then your records are wrong."

The scribe looked from Williamson to Reeves and back. His knuckles around the quill were white. Williamson sat down on the one remaining chair at the table, moving slight closer to the side of the scribe who sighed with audible relief.

You needn't be a coward to be afraid of this dying man who had a reputation for utter ruthlessness. Mulciber was intelligent, dangerously so. A specialist for the Imperius Curse, Karkaroff had said when he'd given the testimony that got him out of Azkaban. Come to think of, it had probably been Mulciber who'd held Head Auror Thickeness under Imperius all those months until the Ministry was officially taken over by You-Know-Who.

Mulciber would lie expertly if he needed to come up with a clever design to get him off the Rock. But he was leaving Azkaban. This interview was nothing but a formality. Mulciber was dying, killed by an enemy he could not fight – his own body, his own pure-blood cells. There was no reason for him to lie.

The Karkaroff murder had to be reopened. Williamson checked the scroll – Dolohov, Nott, Rosier. They had been part of the "job" up in the village of Goathland. Rosier was dead, but Nott and Dolohov were still in prison. Both high-ranking Death Eaters, both convicted of many crimes. It wouldn't make much difference to either of them whether they were acquitted of the Karkaroff murder or not.

Williamson felt Reeves watching him expectantly. There was no need to act on Mulciber's words. After the interview, the scroll went back into the depths of the Record Rooms. Mulciber's face was unmoving, eyes trained on an invisible spot on the wall behind Williamson, hands in lap as told.

Someone had got away with murder. The murder of an ex-Death-Eater, Headmaster of a school known for its bigotry. Williamson felt a brilliant idea coming on. Oh, Dawlish would be so pleased. What with disappearance of the Squib girl and the Prophet all over the Aurors, this was exactly the headlines they needed. They'd reopen the Karkaroff case. New evidence from a release interview. Standard procedure. Williamson could not suppress a smile. The scribe gave him an odd look. But it was too good to be true. A reopened dust case from over ten years ago – it was perfect for Potter's Cold Case Division.

*


14 August, 2006 – a Sunday

Benjy was always eager for sex after a Quidditch victory. Especially if he had caught the Snitch that decided the game. But if it was a victory against the Wigtown Wanderers, United's archenemy since the days when the Wanderers all bore the same name, Benjy's randiness equalled that of a werewolf in heat.

Saturday's match had been a friendly game, off season, in the middle of August. But it had been the Wigtown Wanderers who'd left the pitch beaten, and the Golden Snitch had fluttered within Benjy's tightly closed fist.

The morning after, Benjy still had not come down from his sexual high, despite a night of multiple orgasms and steaming sex in the bath. He had come on to Draco after breakfast, no matter that they both were already dressed for the day: Draco in his Sunday robes for brunch at the Manor, and Benjy in the ripped Muggle jeans that Draco could never resist.

Now his robes were lying in a pile on the Persian rug and Benjy was lying prone in one of the armchairs in Draco's living room. He was moaning into the back rest, one hand splayed upon the leather-bound tome of Theories of Transubstantial Transfiguration, the other below him, wanking furiously. Draco still wore his white shirt and tie; he'd just opened the lacings of his black twill trousers. There was something quite arousing about the sight of Benjy's pert arse, the faded blue jeans wrapped around his muscled thighs and Draco's cock sliding up and down the freshly showered crack. He was not fully hard yet but getting closer, what with Benjy's gasping loudly whenever Draco shoved him deeper into the velvet upholstery.

Draco reached around Benjy's waist and wrapped his hand around Benjy's fist that gripped his cock.

"Don't come yet, you little slut," he whispered in Benjy's ear, just the right amount of calculated roughness in his voice. He felt the effect on Benjy at once, an involuntary spasm that rippled through his body and made his arse cheeks tremble. Draco tightened his fist around Benjy's hand, making him stop all movement. Hot precome dribbled on Draco's thumb and Benjy was shaking with the effort to not thrust into Draco's fist. Blood and need gathered in Draco's cock; a delicious heat coiled in his groin. He spared half a thought for lube but when Benjy was like this, needy and gagging for it, he could take a little pain. Draco moved backwards, to line up his cock and –

Whoosh!

There was no doubt where the sound came from – the fireplace was right behind Draco. Who was coming through the Floo was the much more pressing question. For a petrifying (and boner-wilting) moment Draco wondered whether he was so late for the Manor that Mother was Floo-calling him. Then he heard the tell-tale shuffle of feet catching their balance after half-falling, half-hopping out of his fireplace.

Potter.

Draco groaned inwardly. He should have listened to the tiny voice in the back of his head that told him – repeatedly – not to take his wards down for Harry Potter. No matter that they had shared a macabre sort of a bonding moment over tea after discovering the skeletons of Draco's relatives.

Benjy had gone very still beneath him, as if not moving would somehow Disillusion them. What bloody business did Potter have here, anyway, on a Sunday morning, too?

Well, there was nothing for it. The bespectacled git was waiting before the fireplace, a bit flabbergasted, if Draco interpreted correctly the sharp intake of air behind his back. He righted himself and for a moment considered shoving his softening dick back into his pants. But... this was Potter. Potter who hid in the Golden Hind from all the single witches dreaming about marriage to the Golden Boy. When the Prophet interviewed Benjy about Potter's inclinations, he'd been a bit too certain that Potter was still a ladies' man. At least Draco thought so. For he'd watched Potter for years, and he'd seen him checking out blokes even back at Hogwarts. He'd seen him staring at tightly-clad arses and biceps, broad backs and sharply cut, unshaven jaws. And not only checking out the competition or just mildly curious about how the other half lives. No, there was a hunger to Potter's staring that said I want that – to fuck, touch, bite and squeeze. Draco knew those stares and that hunger only too well himself.

Which is why Draco Malfoy – gay and the only heir to one of the oldest pure-blood families in Britain, a faded Dark Mark on his left arm – slowly turned around, half-hard prick long and glistening pink, and he drawled, trademark smirk and all, "Your sense of timing, Potter, leaves something to be desired."

ep3_rai


Potter stood there with his Auror robes wide open, shirt with half the buttons in the wrong holes, hair unkempt, the usual state of affairs for Potter. The rest was not. He never looked so pale, so tired, his shoulders stooped as if he carried a burden much too heavy for one man alone. Draco wanted to take back his words at once. And he would have hurried to make himself presentable but for the look in Potter's absurdly green eyes. For there it was, unchecked and visible for all the world to see – the hunger, the need.

Potter's eyes were trained on Draco's cock. He moved the tip of his tongue along his bottom lip. It glistened red like cherries. An unconscious move, it had to be, but the effect it had on Draco was undeniable. Heat plummeted south, stirring an overwhelming desire, wild and wholly unexpected. Draco's thighs trembled. His breath came fast. He was painfully hard within short seconds, from a look and a lick. Pathetic. And yet it felt so...

"Draco? Who is it?" Benjy's voice, still slurred with arousal, came from the armchair.

"Er..." Potter, articulate as always, took a swift step back. He landed right in the brass set of fire irons. The poker and prongs swayed in the stand, tilted and then crashed to the floor with a clatter and bang so loud it made Draco jump and Benjy yelp with startled surprise. Potter stood unmoving, as if he was made of brass himself, staring down at his boots beside the prongs.

"Potter..."

Potter's head snapped up and he searched Draco's face. Whatever he saw there made his jaw tense. He pressed his lips together and averted his gaze, away from Draco (away from his hard cock) towards the fireplace. Hurt, disappointment – Draco wasn't sure what had just passed over Potter's face but it stung. Badly. Yes, he wanted Potter's approval. He wanted this precarious camaraderie they had established in the last weeks.

"Potter," he said again, pulling his trousers over his unruly dick that just would not stay in his pants. "What is it?"

For something was clearly wrong. More than catching Draco with his cock up Benjy's arse at half past nine on a Sunday morning. Potter looked as if he hadn't slept a wink, and no matter this brief, odd, deliciously arousing moment between them, Draco knew Potter was not losing sleep over him.

"Um." Potter searched the mantelpiece, his gaze moving from book to candle to the picture of Mother and Father, where he lingered for a moment, then to the old-fashioned keys of the Manor gate.

He was searching for Floo powder, Draco realised. Finally, he had his fly closed over his erection. He stepped towards the fireplace and reached for the jade pot hidden behind the roses on the mantelpiece.

"Did something happen to my cousin?" Handing Potter the pot, Draco felt like he should apologise, But then, Potter had walked in on him and Benjy. In Draco's flat. If an apology was called for, it was Potter who needed to say it. Instead, he took a pinch of Floo powder without even meeting Draco's eyes.

"Thank you." Apparently, now that he could leave, Potter had found his voice again. "Helena is in her holding cell in the Ministry for all I know." He pulled his wand from the sleeve of his robes. The next moment the ashy pile of wood sparked into a crackling fire.

No apology, no explanation why he had shown up unannounced and unexpected – nothing. Draco was too baffled to stop him but Potter hesitated, hand with the Floo powder pausing over the flames. He looked over his shoulder at Draco.

"I'll be at our office. If you can tear yourself away from..." A brief glance towards Benjy and a shrug and the fire flared green. Potter was gone before Draco could even think of an answer.

"My, my. The mighty Harry Potter is too straight for a bit of naked arse, it seems." Benjy chuckled, rolled off the armchair and disappeared into the loo.

Too straight for a bit of naked arse.

Draco didn't think so. He'd checked out Potter's crotch as he'd left. And the bulge Potter had been sporting as he'd stared at Draco? Definitely not too straight for a bit of naked arse.

*


14 August, 2006 – later

What kind of wizard hangs himself?, Malfoy had said, and the words kept circling in Ron's head. Jacob Wilfing had been an average bloke from what Ron could tell. His girlfriend was gorgeous, though, a witch with shining dark black hair who'd given Savage a stern dressing-down when he'd insinuated Mr Wilfing might have had another woman on the side. Thirty-two years old, a procurer of potions ingredients for J. Pippin's Potions, his parents lived in the West Country near Tintagel, and he'd owned a flat in London – that's the kind of wizard Wilfing had been.

Now he was lying dead on the floating slab of stone in the Ministry's morgue, naked but for the white cloth covering his torso. A few light globes hovered above and in their cool light the skin of the dead man seemed artificial, like someone had poured a thin film of wax on him. Eyes closed, cheeks slack and jaw spelled closed, his hands lay uncurled at his sides. Ron had seen corpses that had looked so much worse, so much more obviously the victims of violent crime. And yet, there was something odd about Wilfing's body. If only he could lay his finger on it.

"I hope this is worth my time, Weasley." Robards stood on the other side of the floating stone. The light reflected off his gold-rimmed glasses. The man didn't much look the part of the seasoned Auror. He was at least three inches shorter than Ron and sported a pot-belly that spoke of too many hours in the pub and not much time out in the field.

But Robards had listened to Ron, because a hunch is a hunch, and here they were, on a Sunday in the Ministry Morgue with a supposed suicide.

"I really appreciate you letting me take a second a look, sir."

Out in the streets the Sunday Prophet was screaming in huge purple headlines of the outrage that was the murder of Opal Leach. 'The Auror Department is failing wizarding Britain,' was one of the more harmless headlines. The body of the murdered girl was in a room three doors down the aisle. Mediwizard Barnes had just finished the autopsy. When he had come over to bring Wilfing's body out for them, his hands had been trembling.

"Dawlish's not in," Robards grumbled. "He's owled, said, Sunday's not part of his working week. What he means is, I'm not coming in on a weekend for a Squib. Williamson is furious. They are examining the body of the Leach girl right now. I have to get back there in a few. So let's get this business over with. Let's see what your hunch's worth, Weasley."

His feral smirk made Ron wonder whether they actually taught that smirk in Slytherin house. Robards still would come to work, wearing a snake-patterned green and silver tie on occasion. Never, when he and Harry had dreamed of becoming Aurors and rid the world of Dark wizards once and for all, had Ron imagined that he'd be working with so many Slytherins.

Robards gave him a nod, and Ron pulled off the white cloth.

An average bloke, he couldn't help thinking again, as Wilfing's torso was revealed. Not especially fit, but not scrawny, either. Bloodied red stripes formed a clearly visible line around his throat, with dark bruises above and below. There were scratches and abrasions on Wilfing's neck. Just above his collarbone was more bruising, a colourful display of purple and red on his white skin.

Robards stepped closer and bent his knees to bring his face level with Wilfing's upper body. "Give me the story. What do we know?"

Ron had his notes ready. Wilfing's file was on Dawlish's desk, coloured grey for suicide: inaccessible to a regular Auror like Ron if he went strictly by the books. But Parvati had a thing for Ron and while they had never talked about it (and never would), it meant Ron could get information from the Head Auror's office more easily than most other people. There wasn't much to Wilfing's file. It hadn't taken Ron five minutes to jot down the results of the autopsy. He cleared his throat.

"The body was discovered five days ago, sir. By a team of Obliviators. They were called to Obliviate a cleaning woman who had stumbled upon a magical artefact. Er ... the receptionist of the hotel is a wizard who lives in the Muggle world. He notified the Ministry."

"Go on." There a faint trace of disdain in Robards' voice. He apparently did not approve of wizards living in the Muggle world.

"The Obliviators found Jacob Wilfing dead in a Muggle hotel room. Turned out, the cleaning lady wasn't shocked so much by the magical artefact but by the man hanging dead from the ceiling. Obliviator Headquarters called the Aurors."

Robards nodded. He knew all of this, of course. It had been Ron, Robards and Savage who had responded to the call. Wilfing had hung from a large wrought-iron hook in the ceiling. Ron suspected that once a chandelier may have hung from it. Judging from the plush but shabby lobby, the hotel had seen better days.

"What was the magical artefact, by the way? The one the cleaning woman saw?"

"A Snitch, sir."

Robards looked up with raised eyebrows. "A Snitch?"

"A gift for his girlfriend's son, sir. The new whizzing kind. It's controlled with a spell. It must have been in one of Wilfing's pockets and when he died the spell ended and the Snitch worked itself free." Ron had figured this one out mostly because the Whizzing Snitch had been invented by George and was sold at WWW. Ron had quite a few escape from his own pockets, too.

Not that Robards seemed impressed. "What does Barnes have on the time of death?" He walked around the dead body, still crouched, examining every inch of the dead body. Ron was strangely reminded of a rotund crab circling its prey.

"Between midnight and six Tuesday morning." A six-hour window was very unspecific for a ligature strangulation. But despite all his fancy spellwork Barnes had been unable to give them a more precise time. "Barnes says Wilfing must have been sick. There was evidence that he'd been taking potions."

"Potions, huh?" Robards rose from his crouched position. "So, the man is dead five days. He's under a Stasis Charm, correct?"

"Er ..." Ron quickly glanced at the body. No lividity, no rigor mortis, no bloating or other signs of decay. All bodies still needed for evidence in an Auror investigation were put under a Stasis Charm. Why would Robards even ask? "I am sure that's what Mediwizard Barnes –"

"Is there anything in the autopsy report about injuries unrelated to the broken neck, Weasley? Little small wounds, look a bit like vampire bites?

What the – "No, sir. Why do you ask?"

"Come here for a second." Robards beckoned with two fingers, one of the arrogant gestures he was famous for. It was why he would never make Head Auror, Ron was sure of it, no matter that the gestures were wholly unconscious. But Shacklebolt despised any kind of arrogance.

He stood at Robards' side. "Sir?"

"Look, Weasley." Robards pointed at Wilfing's shoulder, then moved Wilfing's right arm away from the body.

There were marks, all right. The dead skin spotted bluish dots, lines of them, in irregular clusters of two or three. How in Merlin's name had they missed those? Ron reached out and touched the clusters that covered all of Wilfing's right shoulder, some even as far up as his neck. They should have seen them when they had taken the body down from the hook, when they had removed the rope, when they had Apparated Wilfing to the Ministry.

1


"How..." Ron's throat was dry. "How could we have missed these? There is nothing... He took a quick glance at his notes, but there wasn't a word in the file about puncture marks.

Robards should his head. "We didn't." He pulled his wand from the sleeve and cast a Revelio.

Immediately green light seemed to encase the body, covering every inch of skin and hair. The light was soft and wholly translucent; the body looked as if it was wrapped in a diaphanous green veil. The small wounds were clearly visible underneath the Stasis Charm.

"Revelio Totalus," Robards incanted quietly but with perfect, powerful enunciation.

A vicious shudder tore at the Stasis Charm. Only on second glance Ron realised it was only the light around Wilfing's shoulders, his neck, the sides of his torso and – oddly – his ankles that was in danger of fading. He blinked, startled. There was a soft snap – and the Stasis Charm was securely in place again.

"That's what I thought," Robards murmured. He waved his wand over the small wounds, muttering an incantation under his breath. No shudder this time, but small ripples seemed to move through light.

"What is that?" Ron had drawn his wand by instinct, unaware of the movement until now.

"Some kind of fancy Disillusionment Charm." Robards stepped around the floating stone to the other side of the body. Ron followed him. There were blue dots on the skin there, as well. "Or rather, the magical trace of the charm. It's worn off, obviously, or we wouldn't be able to see the marks. Someone wanted to make sure those wounds were not discovered." He gestured at Ron with his chin. "Your hunch was a good one, Weasley. You may become a passable Auror, after all." He shot Ron his most arrogant smirk but for once Ron did not mind. Praise from Robards' mouth was unheard of on Level Two.

"It's not a suicide, then?" he asked.

Robards examined Wilfing's ankle. "Go get Barnes. They don't need him with the Leach girl." He propped up his glasses and brought his face so close that his nose touched dead skin. "Not baby Kneazle bites," he mumbled, obviously speaking to himself. "Blackthorns, perhaps? An Aesculin poisoning would be very unusual..."

Ron walked to the door. When Robards worked on a case like this, he was better left undisturbed. He was just about to leave the room when Robards called out behind him.

"A suicide? Not bloody likely." He scoffed, turning Wilfing's foot. "I'll eat my broom, with nothing but salt and bacon grease, if this is a suicide. Hurry, Weasley. Get that fool Barnes over here."

*


14 August, 2006 – even later

Draco had not even changed out of his Sunday robes. He'd rushed by Floo straight from the Manor's huge fireplace to the Ministry's Atrium. Stupid Potter had probably long gone home. He had not answered Draco's quickly scrawled owl (I need to see my mother. Will be in the office the minute I can leave). Surely the unbred git had no inkling of the importance of Sunday brunch with one's mother and how Draco could not simply bow out of a ritual when it gave his mother a sense of permanence after her world had fallen apart.

But Potter would be mad at Draco, something which he was not looking forward to. To be around an angry Potter was like being stuck in Dante's fifth circle of hell. And of course it was all because of Potter's saving fetish. Salazar, Draco did feel bad for Opal Leach, too. He might not share her political views nor those of her famous family, but nobody should die that young. Not after the wizarding world had just come out of a war. Not ever.

When he'd arrived at the Manor, Mother had both the Sunday Prophet and the Quibbler spread on the table in front of her. She was pale, paler than she had been in months. The news was splashed all over the front pages: Opal Leach, granddaughter of the famous Nobby Leach, the first Muggle-born Minister for Magic, had been found dead after she had gone missing four days ago. The Aurors had not revealed the specifics of her death but rumour said it had been violent and painful, the deed of a lunatic.

opal-animated


The wizarding world loved Opal. She had been a beautiful, nineteen-year old Squib who had used her family's money and influence to further the cause of 'non-magical witches and wizards', as apparently Squibs preferred to be called. Just a couple of weeks ago Opal had been in the Prophet with an article, a passionate, personal plea for allowing Squibs admission into Hogwarts, to learn – even if only theoretically – about their magical heritage.

The article had caused Father to cancel his subscription to the Prophet, only to have Mother renew it the moment she'd heard what her husband had done. Draco's parents had not spoken with each other for days. Even now, Squib rights were a forbidden topic at the Malfoy breakfast table.

Of course it was ludicrous to even think of granting Squibs such privileges. They were without magic, nearer to Muggles than to wizarding kind. Draco was all for giving them special schooling and helping them find a place in the magical world but Squibs at Hogwarts? There was just no good sense in such a proposal. Granted, Draco knew only Filch and the elderly woman in the Ministry cafeteria who brewed his Earl Grey to delicious perfection. She, at least, seemed happy enough.

He had not shared his views about Squib rights with Mother today. She was shaken enough by the dreadful news. During tea, she had read aloud Nobby Leach's interview with his granddaughter from a couple of years ago, reprinted by the Quibbler. You had to admire the great wizard for his astute arguments and the level-headedness of his beliefs. Clearly, Opal had inherited both his gift for politics and her charisma from him. Had she not been a Squib – had she not been murdered – she might some day have become the second Muggle-born Minister for Magic. Granger, ever canvassing for a new and noble cause, surely would have made it happen.

Draco quickly walked towards the lifts. The Ministry was empty, as was to be expected on a Sunday afternoon. Still, the silence felt odd on a day like this, when the body of one of the most promising political activists had been found dead in a small street in Muggle London. Even the newly restored fountain of the Magical Brethren had stopped spouting water into the pool.

A clattering and jingling greeted Draco when he reached the golden gates separating the Atrium from the lifts. The security stand was deserted, but to the right, the golden grille slid back from a lift, the doors opening as a voice announced, "Level Eight. Entrance and Reception Area of the Ministry of Magic."

Briggs stepped out, dressed in pearly dark robes, his long grey hair tucked back into an elegant bun. For a moment Draco was too shocked to even close his mouth after his jaw had dropped open. Briggs. What business could father's lawyer possibly have in the Ministry, on a Sunday, the Sunday when Opal Leach had been found dead?

"Mr Malfoy." Briggs inclined his head and moved past Draco. A few smooth steps brought him through the golden gates and into the Atrium. He was gone in whoosh of fire before Draco could even return his greeting.

Draco shook his head. This did not bode well. He had to find Potter. Fast.


CLICK HERE FOR PART TWO

Date: 2013-11-09 12:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] omi-ohmy.livejournal.com
Ooh, mystery! And the perfect moment for art, too.

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