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Stuck On a Puzzle
Albus S. P. & James S. P. & Rose W. & Scorpius M. - Words: 124,604 - Rated: T - English - Mystery & Romance - Chapters: 11 - Reviews: 33 - Updated: 28-06-2018 - Published: 17-08-2016 - by Rose Wazlib (FFN)

17/9/2016


She Only Loves Me When I'm There
If she wants this to be
She'll have to see the things I have had to see
Maybe she would know
Maybe she would care
She only loves me when I'm there
I don't want to live like this anymore


Rose Weasley was a pretty girl; there was no sense in pretending anything to the contrary, but nor was there sense in pretending that it was hard for her not to be eclipsed by her living shadow.

However, while Chandra Thomas's face and body was composed of nearly everything a teenage boy could ask for, Rose Weasley was unique in the sense that once somebody had laid eyes upon her they were rarely to forget her. Dark like her mother and taller than any other girls in her year level and many of the boys; a head of bushy, dark red hair cropped to her shoulders; large, brown eyes set too wide for her thin face; a dappling of dot-to-dot freckles that spanned her nose and sallow cheeks and ran like constellations over her stick-figure arms.

Striking was the word that came to mind in regards to Rose Weasley, but whether she was to be sought after by hoards of Hogwarts boys like her small, busty best friend was unlikely. She was too thin in the opinion of Scorpius Malfoy, and it was the type of thin one would associate with an adolescent younger than fifteen who was yet to grow into their limbs.

It wasn't the toned, adequately curved and well-proportioned thin of Zaina Faheem; Zaina Faheem, whose tendrils of black curls seemed to fall down her backs for days and whose modelesque legs went on for even longer; Zaina Faheem, who was assured by all that she was the most beautiful girl in school, a statement which was only called into debate by the existence of Chandra Thomas; Zaina Faheem, who could not be expected to harbour anything but indifference for a girl like Rose Weasley.

Scorpius struggled to remember the last time, if ever, he had exchanged words with the aforementioned redhead. He paid little attention to her, and had not done otherwise for the last five years, even in spite of her frequent and irksome habit of beating him in exams, and he saw no reason why he ought to deviate from this routine. Presently, however, he did not have much of a choice in the matter when his girlfriend seemed so inexplicably determined to have their coach ride up to the school dominated by their assault on the girl.

'I mean, who does she think she is?' Zaina demanded, as if he was responsible for wishing Rose Weasley into existence. 'Waltzing into the prefect's meeting halfway through?

'I suppose being part of that family she's used to behaving however she likes,' he replied, knowing it was his queue to insult the redhead.

'I know!' huffed Zaina, though her tone was so laced with anger that it sounded less like an agreement than an accusation. 'I mean if you or I or anyone else had come to that meeting late we never would have heard the end of it from the head girl. I suppose they are cousins of course, but don't get me started on her…'

'I won't,' Scorpius told her, but Zaina seemed unwilling to acknowledge the hint.

'It's not like anybody likes her,' she proclaimed. 'Everyone just has to pretend to be nice to her and Potter because of their parents.'

There was a twittering of agreement from around the stagecoach directed at Zaina from her four faithful companions, and, encouraged by this, Zaina continued.

'I mean Chandra Thomas is the only person in school stupid enough to actually want to be friends with that girl,' she informed them. 'She's so standoffish.'

'We're here,' said Scorpius as the coach began to slow at the foot of the castle, and he had thrown open the door before it had come to a complete halt.

He waited at the foot of the coach to offer Zaina his hand as she climbed out, knowing he would answer for it later if he failed to do so and prompting a trill of giggles from his girlfriend's friends. He had spent more of his summer than he would have hoped for in their presence, and this unfortunate predicament gave no sign of waning now that they were back in the castle.

His suspicions were confirmed when he and Zaina were joined at the Ravenclaw table not only by Zaina's quartet of devotees but his three dorm-mates, which, Scorpius was pleased to note, at least put Zaina's incessant attack on Weasley and Thomas into intermission when he was informed via Kienan Cornfoot and Mori Akiyama's joyful jeers that Connor Davies had begun sleeping with Thomas.

'Doesn't it bother you how much time she spends with Albus Potter?' inquired Isabella Moon once the sorting ceremony had ended and they had begun piling their plates with food.

'Why would I? It's not like the git would try anything with her,' replied Connor, to which he received hearty agreement from Kienan.

'Well, I heard he and Cassandra Kettleburn are done,' offered Louisa Edgecombe.

Harbouring no essence of desire to discuss Albus Potter's love-life, he turned to Zaina and asked low enough to as not to invite any of their so-called friends in on the conversation, 'Why aren't you eating?'

'All this food here is too heavy, Scorpius,' she retorted, in a voice that told him she had expected him to know better.

'So you're planning on starving to death? That's attractive.'

'Oh, Zaina, that's so silly,' declared Martha Turpin. 'You're so skinny!'

Zaina sat patiently as compliments of a similar nature were thrown at her from around the table and Scorpius passed the remainder of the feast in silence. Solitude is what he had most craved upon returning to the castle, and he was determined to earn himself some before retiring to Ravenclaw tower.

It was this determination, therefore, that spurred him into slipping through the crowd of students upon being dismissed by Professor Sinistra, stealing away out into the entrance hall before Zaina could get a hold if him.

Avoiding the congestion on the Marble Staircase, he slipped out of the entrance hall into one of the off-shooting corridors which was significantly less populated, occupied only by a few older Slytherin students who he knew were in a habit of using it as a short-cut down to the dungeons, but he knew also concealed a hidden staircase through the castle's south wing that led upstairs to the owlery.

He deduced Edmund Goyle and his cohorts were on the same path as him as soon as he started up the staircase, but had paid them little attention. They were on good terms, or as good terms, he thought, as one could be with somebody with the mental capability of a bowtruckle, and while he would have chosen Zaina's friends for company before them they were of no concern until he exited the staircase on the sixth floor and heard Edmund Goyle call his name.

'Oi, Malfoy.'

He rounded on them to see the four Slytherins clambering up the stairs and spilling out into the corridor.

'Evening.'

'You got time to talk?'

'Not really, actually. It's nearly past curfew.'

'Fuck curfew,' proclaimed Clement Rosier.

'Okay, I'll let Professor Sinistra know about this change of administrative procedure.'

'It won't take long,' Lucien Runcorn assured him.

'Go on, then.'

'Not here,' Rosier hissed at him. 'Somewhere private.'

Scorpius eyed him carefully. He was certain that whatever Rosier deemed in need of discretion was doubtlessly unsavoury. He glanced towards his golden watch and, seeing he had only fifteen minutes before he was due back in Common Room, reluctantly agreed. He permitted the Slytherins to lead him down a side passage that steered them towards the Charms corridor, Goyle leading the way.

'So, what is it?' he asked once Goyle had allowed them to a halt in a silent, torch lit corridor with walls adorned with heavy, ancient tapestries.

In a voice that Scorpius knew he intended to be far more sophisticated than it was, Goyle proclaimed, 'I have a proposition for you.'

'I appreciate the offer, but I'm seeing somebody.'

'It's serious, Malfoy,' said Runcorn disapprovingly. 'You've got to promise you're not going to mention it to anyone.'

And that was what accounted for his predicament when, several minutes later, he vanished the tapestry to find the Potter boys and Finlay Jordan frozen in the mouth of the concealed passageway, caught in the act of eavesdropping. All three Gryffindors wore the same expression of incredulous panic, and had he not known immediately the severity of the situation, he would have relished the look of consternation across James Potter's face that had surmounted his self-adoring grin for perhaps the first time in his life.

'Looky, lads,' Edmund Goyle sung gleefully to Scorpius and the Slytherins, though the fury in his eyes was unmistakeable. 'Looks like we've found some new friends. Alright, boys?'

Scorpius could see Albus's Potter's eyes flickering between each of the five wands, apparently uncertain which posed the greatest threat, while James's brow was creased in contemplation, before the Quidditch captain finally cleared his throat.

'Good, mate,' he replied. 'And you?'

'Good now that you've decided to make our evening a bit more interesting,' Goyle hissed back. 'Accio wands!'

With a flick of his wand Goyle brought the three wands flying from each of the Gryffindors's pockets and over their heads. Goyle's free hand lunged for them in their air, but he missed hopelessly and they landed across the hallway with a loud series of clatters.

'What did you hear?' demanded Beaumont Burke. 'Come on, Potter, speak! We don't have all night!'

The weedy brunette gave his hand a threatening twitch, and Scorpius watched James extend an arm sideways to make a would-be barrier between Burke's wand and his younger brother's chest. 'Temper, temper, Burke.'

'Let's not be stupid about this,' warned Lucien Runcorn, his dark eyes darting around the group from beneath a dark fringe. 'Look, Potter, just tell us how long you were there.'

'Nuh-uh, I'm afraid it's not going to be that simple, Lucien,' Clement Rosier informed him.

'Yes, Clement, it is,' urged the prefect, but he went ignored.

'Didn't your father ever tell you it was rude to eavesdrop, Potter?' drawled Rosier.

'Oh, our father says a lot things,' said James. 'What about yours, Clement? I suppose it's hard to have a chat when he's in a prison cell-'

'You shut your mouth!' spat Rosier.

'You'll pay for that one, Potter,' growled Goyle. 'Cruc-'

In an instant Scorpius's arm flew away from the Gryffindors to mark Goyle, his wand fixed upon the enormous Slytherin, and from the corner of his eye he saw that Lucien Runcorn had done the same, bellowing as he did so, 'Edmund, no!'

'Who do you think you're doing, Runcorn?' snarled Goyle, redirecting his wand at these new potential assailants.

'I'm stopping you from doing something you'll regret,' snapped Lucien. 'Now everybody's going to shut the hell up and we're going to have a nice little chat, okay?'

Fixing Goyle with a loathsome glare he dropped arm to his side, but Scorpius was not so quick to do, keeping his wand trained upon the giant of a boy with his eyes narrowed watchfully.

'Now,' said Lucien bracingly, returning his wand to the three Gryffindors. 'I think I asked you how long you'd been listening?'

James opened his mouth to retort, but Finlay quickly intervened with a hurried proclamation of, 'We weren't listening. We saw you come down here and thought we'd throw a dung bomb.'

'Is that so?' asked Rosier in a drawl. 'Because we came up the hidden passage in the south wing, so I don't know how you could have managed to see us come up here.'

The Gryffindors were silent, and after several seconds Beaumont Burke demanded, 'You better start talking soon or hexes are going to start coming.'

'And even you three aren't thick enough to realise that there you're outnumbered,' Rosier informed them, a livid smile forming across his face. 'Not to mention you're unarmed.'

'Yes, the thought had crossed my mind,' James told him pleasantly. 'But I think you might have found yourself in a position of a bit too much power than you can handle.' His raised arm shifted to Albus's shoulder, ready to lead him away. 'So perhaps it would be best if we all bid each other goodnight and we'll see you tomorrow at breakfast-'

James had little time to withdrew his arm from Albus's shoulder before Goyle's hex flew at them, and they both dodged away, Albus crashing into Finlay Jordan as he did so, and the Beater hurriedly caught the younger boy's arm to keep him from stumbling.

'Got yourself another little bodyguard, Potter?' taunted Rosier. 'Is this your job now, Jordan, when that Weasley bitch is unavailable?'

'Yes, she and your little girlfriend would make much better playthings than you three,' Goyle informed them gleefully, and the hunger in his voice when he spoke of Chandra Thomas made Scorpius's skin crawl. 'But I suppose you'll have to do – Incarcerous!'

Had the spell worked properly, Scorpius knew that Albus would have been bound too tightly to stand, but the ropes merely looped themselves around his arms, pinning them to the sides of his body, and, clutching hold of the end of the rope that had flown from his wand, Goyle tugged the Gryffindor closer, and the boy had no choice than to obey other than falling flat on his face.

'Now, Potter,' said Goyle, raising his wand to Albus's temple with his eyes fixed upon James, 'tell us what you know or your little brother's no longer gonna look much like your famous father.'

'Edmund, this is pathetic,' snapped Lucien. 'Let him go-'

'What, and let them tell the whole school about what they've heard?'

'We didn't hear anything-' spluttered Albus in a panic, but the menacing twitch of Goyle's wand persuaded him to fall back into silence.

'So what if they heard us?' Scorpius found himself asking. 'We haven't done anything wrong, and if you want to keep it that way I wouldn't touch him if I were you.'

Rosier and Goyle's eyes jumped to the Ravenclaw, watching him with mutinous eyes, sizing him up; Scorpius was taller than the rest of them, even Runcorn and Goyle, and while he was leaner than the whole bunch of them, he was sure that he could best each at wand-work; the trouble was that there was only one of him and four of them.

'You're right,' said Goyle finally, and Runcorn emitted a huge sigh of relief.

'Thank god, now let's get downstairs before anyone comes along-'

'Yeah, I'm definitely not gonna touch him,' continued Goyle over Runcorn's recommendation. 'Malfoy can do the honours.'

Without thinking, Scorpius felt himself emit a huff of laughter. 'What do you think I'm gonna do? Torture him? This whole thing's starting to get boring-'

'Do it,' commanded Goyle, and his wand flinched across to Scorpius. 'Come on and prove to us we're not going to have to worry about any loose ends with you.'

'You've got to be joking-'

'Do it, Malfoy!' spat Rosier, he too turning his wand on Scorpius. 'It's either him or you.'

Scorpius eyes lay fixed upon Goyle and Rosier's bared wands. 'What is it you want me to do?'

'Make him talk,' said Goyle without hesitation. 'I don't care how, but you better hurry, or you're pretty little face will no longer be pretty enough to keep your little whore girlffriend interested.'

The mention of Zaina had the desired effect and he could feel the heat rising in his face with his temper. Had he had any Ravenclaws with him, or perhaps had the Gryffindors still retained their wands, he would have bowed to the desire to curse Goyle on the spot, but with shaking hands and a pulsing heart he told himself to be sensible.

'Or perhaps we should ask her opinion on this?' drawled Goyle, and there was something close to longing in his voice. 'Perhaps your girlfriend would like to see what we're capable of-'

His lips moved so slightly, and his wand's twitch seemed so innocuous, but the impact of the hex was instantaneous, and it was all that James Potter needed. The great crash of exploding bricks at the far end of the passageway, caught in the road of Scorpius secret spell, drew the panicked attention of the Slytherins as he knew it would, and their heads and wands whipped away from him to find the source of the ruckus, and James Potter lunged.

His fist caught the side of Beaumont Burke's face, causing the stocky Slytherin to give a yelp of pain and stumble over, and James did not need more than that to snatch the wand from his hand.

The Slytherins spun back at the sound of Burke's cry, but Finlay Jordan had already thrown himself across the passageway to snatch up the wands, and now joined James in raising their arms to the Slytherins, and before any of the four could register what had transgressed, both Gryffindors bellowed, 'Expelliarmus!'

He had been expecting it and his instantly conjured shield charm was enough to allow him to keep hold of his wand, while the Slytherins were not so lucky, and he heard the sound of four wands clattering onto the stone floor as he himself turned and broke into a run. His decision to explode the bricks would attract attention, and even now he could hear hurrying footsteps from the direction of the Charms rooms of someone coming to investigate.

He rounded the corner of the passageway as he heard James cry out the incantation for a severing charm, freeing his brother of Goyle's conjured ropes and shouting to his companions, 'Al, Finlay, move!'


Hecate Hall was silent when he returned that evening and the scent of the wisteria that grew thickly across the manor's façade mingled with the soft scent of smoke from the season's first fire that his wife had left dwindling in the hearth before retiring upstairs to their bedroom.

Even his aching hunger was not enough to persuade him to deviate from his direct journey from the front door, which he shut as quietly as he could, up the stairs to his beckoning bed.

Theirs was the last of the many rooms spanning the long, torch-lit passageway on the manor's second floor. When their children had been younger they would sleep with the door ajar, to better hear their calls in the night or to allow them to crawl their way through their covers between their parents after bad dreams, but now the door was pulled shut and he eased it open as close to silently as he could.

Their bed sat beneath the window, wisps of moonlight sneaking in through cracks in the curtains, a sliver falling on his wife's cheek and illuminating it as she lay in a huddle, her knees pulled up to her chest as she slept. Age had treated her kindly and she did not look all of her forty years. Her porcelain cheeks, marked with a ridge of faded freckles, remained unlined, while his own face held the lines and scars of a man older than himself, the grey streaks in his hair seeming more prominent every time he allowed himself to check them in the mirror.

He undressed, throwing his robes over the armchair that sat in the corner, and eased himself into bed beside her and she gave no sign of stirring, no murmur of disruption as she lay rigid across the rift in their bed sheets between them, a stillness that could only be conscious.

'Are you awake?' he croaked through the darkness.

'Yes,' she murmured back, not turning to face him.

'Did I wake you?'

'No, I was waiting to for you to get back.'

'You didn't have to.'

'I always do.'

Years ago, when they were first married, he would find her every evening that he worked waiting in the living room, nestled in an armchair, her head propped up in her hand, fighting sleep and waiting for the assurance that he would return home breathing, but the years wore on, and with every step higher in the Auror office he took his nights would wear on longer, and with three children in need of wrestling into bed she would no longer find the strength to stay sitting up in the silent house waiting for him to arrive, and the guilt that that knowledge left him with had long been resident deep within the back of his mind. He shifted onto his side and his hand moved numbly across the pillows, bridging the void between them, and his fingers grazed he bare skin on the back of her neck.

She did not move into the touch as she once would have, and she lay in silence as if had had made no contact at all, until his fingers trailed into her hair and brushed the silky tendrils from her cheek, and he shifted a little closer to her.

'Don't, Harry.'

'Sorry.'

'Do you know what time it is?'

'Yeah.'

She was silent, allowing the weight of the unasked question and unoffered apology to fall in on him. He withdrew his hand from her pillow, but his eyes did not leave her, trained on her crimson hair cast bronze by the moonlight.

'I came home as soon as I could,' he told her in response to her unspoken scolding. 'There was no way we could get away any earlier. Hermione's still at the office. She's been made Head of Department.'

'Oh,' she replied in a murmur. 'That's good.'

'With everyone stationed at the homes of the higher ups I was the only one left to escort Kingsley home and then we couldn't hold the reporters off any longer. They wanted to know what went on with Flint and Urquhart.'

'Well, what did go on?'

'We don't know, Ginny. We probably never will know. They're dead. Who knows what they were after.'

'And you still think it's safe for the children to be at school?'

He caught the sigh the surfaced in his throat before he spoke. 'Hogwarts is the safest place they could be, Ginny.'

She shifted beneath the covers, turning to look at him over her shoulder, the light from the window catching her sharp, dark eyes that she fixed piercingly upon him. 'Are you saying we're not safe here?'

'No, that's not what I'm saying.'

'What about Ron and Hermione? If Gamp is dead, and Hermione's his replacement-'

'It's not like that,' he assured her. 'Gamp had a lot of enemies.'

She raised herself to sit, brow-arching, lips pursed. 'So it's true? This is about blood equality?'

'No,' he told her, though after second's pause for reflection he added, 'it's too early to say.'

His reassurance did not sooth her and she remained sitting upright, gazing at him like a cat watching a mouse, the blankets falling away to pool around her waist, her naked flesh gleaming in the darkness, and he could not look away from her. 'You're hoping it's not,' she informed him, accusation in her voice. 'You don't want to admit that that's the way it looks.'

'Just because it looks a certain way doesn't mean it's the truth.'

'Don't give me your press-release voice,' she warned. 'I'm not stupid. I know what this means. If people start to believe there's another war between Pure Bloods and Muggleborns then our family's going to be at the centre of attention. If my kids are going to get hounded-'

He pushed himself up, fighting back the ache in his head from his exhaustion, raising a steady hand, signalling for her to calm herself, and told her in a soft, gentle murmur, 'Ginny, stop.'

It was the type of voice which, years and years ago, he would not have thought he would need to use with her, but the countless evenings in which he had not returned home, the many visits made to St Mungo's as he lay there bleeding, the hoards of journalists that followed her children down the street whenever they ventured out of Godric's Hollow had forced him to learn to sooth her; the temper she had always had had only been exacerbated by the anxieties which a life with Harry Potter instilled in a person.

His hand moved to touch her, her soft skin pristine beneath his calloused fingers, and he gripped her shoulder, feelings her bones within his clasp, and she did not shrug him off. There in the darkness and her worry she looked just as she had at seventeen when he had made love to her for the first time.

'Nobody's going to get anyone near the kids. I won't let them. You know that.'

She hesitated, and he knew she was mulling her doubts over in her head, before she resigned to nod. She dropped his gaze, looking smaller now than she had in her rising temper, and his hand moved from her shoulder to her cheek, and she permitted herself to lean into his touch before raising a hand to touch his, her finger kneaded his knuckles, and he guided her back down onto their pillows, and they lay watching each other.

'Hugo's in Gryffindor,' she murmured to him. 'Neville sent an owl.'

'That's great.'

'Yeah.'

'How was your day?'

'Fine. I just had to edit a few articles.'

'Can I read them?'

'When they're in the Prophet you can.'

His face cracked into a smile, which she returned, and he moved to kiss her, and she returned it, but flinched away before it could be allowed to grow deeper.

'Harry, I'm tired.'

He pulled away and, staring at her, gave a nod. She held his hand but only to guide it away from her, back across the no-man's land onto his side of the bed. He had not thought he had room in his head to be irked by this, but it seemed he did, for he suddenly felt the urge to turn away so as not to have to look at her, and he did just that.

'I'm sorry,' she told him through the darkness.

'It's fine.'

He knew she was punishing him, but for what he did not know, and though he would have loved to deny he knew she had a thousand reasons to choose from, and yet he promised himself that his own anger was permitted. Twenty-three years of living and breathing in symbiosis within the old manor house and she chose to lie beside him in the pitch-black silence rather than speak the misdemeanours riffling through both of their minds.

He opened his mouth to voice these thoughts to her, or at least that's how he would later tell himself it would have happened, had he not then be roused by the sharp sound of the window above their bed being rattled.

She was bolt upright in an instant, her hand whipping to her wand, ready for the day of reckoning she had always planned for.

'It's an owl,' he told her, defaulting back to his hushing assurances, and he rose to rip back the curtain behind their bed. 'It's just an owl.'

He fumbled with the latch at the window, watching his wife in the corner of his eye as she returned her wand to the bedside table, feeling her burning eyes upon him. It was a Ministry owl, it's sleek feathers pruned and it's amber eyes watching him as it waited to enter the bedroom, a loathsome blue envelope attached to its leg.

'It's the middle of the night,' Ginny told him in a bristling voice as the cool September air washed over them and the owl hopped inside to offer its leg to Harry. 'This is unbelievable.'

He did not reply as he tore open the envelope and scanned the letter, addressed to him from the Minister's under-secretarial office.

'What do they want?'

'It's Gamp's house elf,' he informed her. 'She wants to give a statement. She knows who killed him.'

Ginny said nothing as he folded up the letter and raised his wand, igniting it with the tip of his wand as was procedure with all discarded Ministry materials, and waited for the owl to depart before he the window and pulled himself up from their bed.

'You're not going back in now, are you?'

'I'm sorry, Ginny.'

'You can't be serious,' she hissed at him, watching with incredulous fury as he pulled his robes back on. 'This is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.'

'I don't have a choice-'

'Every night,' she spat. 'Every fucking night, Harry.'

'Ginny, I'm sorry, but they need me-'

'How many nights did you even spend at home this summer?' she demanded. 'You may not want to see me-'

'You know it's not like that-'

'-but I thought you'd at least want to be with your children before they go back to school for another whole year. You can't even see them onto the train without getting called into work!'

He urged himself not to rise to her bait and instead focused on fastening the clasps on his coat.

'Is this how you pictured our life would turn out?' she asked him, her voice nearing a yell. 'You speak to Dennis more than you speak to me, Harry! More than you speak your own children!'

'I can't talk about this now.'

'You can never talk about this! You're never home long enough!'

He snatched up his wand and took a step towards the bedroom door. 'I'll be home as soon as I can-'

'Oh, don't even bother!' she hurled at him, and with that she turned away, pulling the bed covers over her, flinging herself back onto the pillows into which she buried her face, like their daughter had done throughout her childhood tantrums, but, turning away, he pushed them both from his mind and strode from the bedroom.


She had never been a subject of attention. It was extraordinary to her that, as she would often ponder as she alone in her bed, how two people that that looked so alike could inspire such different gauges of response from those around them with their mere materialisation.

When she looked at photos of her sister's at the age she was now, just shy of nineteen, she could trace her sister's eyes and long, spindly arms and the sharp ridge of their jaw as if they were her own, their tendrils of blonde hair the same silver that gleamed even in the dimmest of light, neither as pristine as their mother but more earthly and perhaps more beautiful for it.

And yet there was a difference, she knew; she had never once been mistaken for Victoire, despite the face that they shared so many similarities. Victoire lived in grace; she walked with it, she thought with it, and she spoke with it, and grace was perhaps the first and greatest of Dominique's deficiencies. When she was younger she had tried to imitate her sister; had paced her bedroom practicing the girl's long, fluid, dance-like strides; she had stood before her mirror throwing her hair over her shoulder in the way Victoire so often did, but any efforts to match her sister in grace, or in anything in life, had gone unaccomplished, and so she had wallowed into her nook of inferiority that life seemed to the want her to belong to.

But now, on that chilling evening when the fog hung low over London and the Muggles donned thick trench coats to ward of the frost, as she strode through the cobbled alleyways from Whitehall to Charing Cross Road, she felt anything but ordinary. The presence of Teddy Lupin seemed to have lifted her from her willowy little body and flung her into another. The idea that the passers-by would look at them – see them laugh together, see their hands graze each others as they walked – and believe them to be lovers exhilarated her. Gorgeous Teddy and gorgeous Dominique, happy and simple and easy.

Dominique had had few boyfriends in her life and those that she had had now seemed tragically feeble when measured against Teddy, who offered her his scarf and held the door of the Leaky Cauldron open for her and asked her what she would like to drink once they had found seats at the back of the crowded pub.

'I don't mind,' she replied, for her endeavours with alcohol usually occurred alone in her parents's garden with a bottle of firewhiskey and she was ignorant of what drinks were considered fashionable by people like Teddy.

'Go on, I'm buying. Mead? Pint of ale?'

'Whatever you want.'

He gave a rather teasing sigh of exasperation and grinned at her. 'I'll surprise you,' he told her, and he returned from the bar a moment later with two large goblets of steaming honeyed mead. 'Here you go. I told the bartender to put in a bit of schnapps, too. Thought it would warm us up.'

He took a seat across from her and she gave him her thanks, taking an even sip of the mead. It's warmth coursed through her shivering body but she placed the goblet back on the table, telling herself to sit on it; she could not afford to lose her wits around Teddy.

She realised suddenly, as if having been hit by a rogue bludger, that she had nothing to say to him and was swamped by a fleeting panic, only to be reassured when Teddy pondered aloud, 'I'm going to miss Hannah. That new inn-keeper doesn't give me discounts.'

Dominique nodded and took another small sip of her mead. 'Don't worry, she still owns it. She'll be back next summer.'

'Would have been nice to see her before she left for the school. She's been supplying me and the boys with ale since we were fifteen, after all – but don't tell Harry that.'

Dominique gave a giggled and watched Teddy recline in his chair, raising his hands behind his head, his muscles rippling beneath his shirt, and he asked her, 'Remember when the whole lot of us would be together every weekend? All the cousins and everyone? It's a pity that doesn't happen anymore, don't you think?'

Dominique gave a shrug. 'I suppose.'

'Remember when we were still at school and then we'd come home for the summer and every other day there'd be some big dinner for something or other at your Gran and Grandpa's?'

'Mhm.'

'And then we'd all go to the Quidditch World Cup together. Remember that year Fred and his girlfriend snuck all that firewhiskey out of his Mum's study and then he fell out of the top box?'

'How could I forget that? Angelina was livid.'

'Yeah, but the last few years hardly anybody has come along with Harry and I. Al broke my heart the day he announced he didn't like Quidditch. Same goes for you.'

'Excuse me, I never even pretended to like it.'

'Yes, but you did grow up and decide you were too cool for family dinners. Every time I've been over at Shell Cottage lately you're hiding up in your room.'

Dominique raised her goblet to her lips in the hopes of obscuring her reddening cheeks. 'Sometimes I have to take paperwork home with me.'

'Alright, alright, you're excused,' Teddy assured her. 'I just miss seeing everyone, you know? You especially.'

This information did nothing to help her reddening cheeks. She had no response and instead allowed herself to have a heaping sip of mead.

'So, how's work been anyway?' he asked her.

'Fine.'

'Dom, come on. Nobody's around.'

She placed her half-empty goblet back on the table and gave a shrug. 'I'm sure Harry's going to fire me any day now.'

Teddy scoffed. 'Don't be dim, he'd never do that.'

'He would so. I'm absolutely hopeless,' she informed her glumly. 'He only gave me the job for my parents' sake. They're utterly horrified that I hadn't decided what I wanted to do by the time I finished my NEWTs. I mean, Molly's getting pretty important in the German Ministry, and Fred's off travelling, and Victoire's practically running Gringotts now and she's only twenty-one.

'Give yourself a break. You only finished school in June. And Victoire only got that job because your dad pulled some strings at the bank.'

'Yes, but she got about three promotions within her first month,' Dominique reminded him.

'Yeah, well, Victoire's a bit of an anomaly.' He said it with a grin, but apparently the look on her face urged him to reconsider his words, and he added quickly, 'I mean, when I was eighteen I had no bloody idea what I as going to do with myself. The only reason I took this job in the Beast Division is because Nan told me she was going to sell my broomstick if I didn't pay her back for that trip me and the guys took to Greece after graduation, but I'm glad I did it now. Maybe once you get settled in you'll realise you like working for the Auror Office.'

She drained the last of her mead, set the goblet heavily back on the table, and proclaimed rather daringly, 'I hate working for the Auror Office.'

He gave one of his growling chuckles before folding his arms over the table and leaning closer to reply, 'Is that so?'

'Yes, it's so. I'm the worst secretary in the world. If I had a sickle for every memo I've lost I'd have enough in the bank to retire tomorrow. Once I even managed to set fire to an incident report from Ernie MacMillan when I was trying to join the hearth up to the Floo network.'

'Yeah, well, who'd want to read a field report from MacMillan anyway?'

'Mostly I hate sucking up to people,' she informed him matter-of-factly. 'These people come into the waiting room expecting me to jump for joy when they ask me to make them a cup of tea. Do you know how many wizards have told me I should be wearing shorter robes to show up my legs since I've worked there?'

'You're joking.'

'Seven! And then when I don't immediately drag them off for a romp in the broom cupboard they look at me like I've just spat in their face!'

'That's fucked. Who said that to you? Which department were they from?' Teddy demanded, and the genuine anger in his voice surprised her enough to remember herself, and she was immediately humiliated by the aftermath of her outburst.

'I don't remember,' she muttered. 'I don't think they were Ministry workers.'

'Say something to Harry. Those pricks should be ashamed of themselves-'

'It doesn't matter,' she assured him. 'Really, I don't care. It just bothers me sometimes. Forget I said anything.' She dropped his gaze and turned her eyes to the empty goblet before her. 'I should probably get home…'

'Don't you dare. I'm getting you another drink.'

She began to protest but he dismissed her with a wave of his hand, and in the moment he left her sitting alone at their table she suddenly despised herself. Who did she think she was to waste his time with her pitiful babbling?

She glanced up to see him returning, levitating two pints of ale over his shoulder and clutching two shot-glasses in his wand-free hand, one of which he forced between her fingers. 'Have that.'

'No, Teddy, I shouldn't-'

'Cheers,' he told her in response, downing his own shot before dropping back into the seat across from her.

Knowing how it would look to decline, she knocked back the shot, the firewhiskey hitting her stomach with the comforting warmth she was all too familiar with.

'Good,' he told her, lowering the pints of ale onto the table top with a swish of his wand. 'Now drink up.'

'Let me pay you back-'

'Dom, just shut up and drink.'

Stifling a sigh, she took hold of her pint and pulled it towards her. 'I'm sorry,' she muttered. 'I'm wasting your night – you must be terribly bored by all this-'

'Not at all,' he assured her. 'And don't you dare think for a second that any of the problem in the Auror Office can be in any way attributed to you. Everyone knows it's always in total disarray. I mean, even Harry doesn't have any idea what's going on half the time.'

Dominique gave a heavy sigh, sipped her ale and gave a reluctant nod. 'I suppose.'

'I mean look at the state the office was in today when I came up and saw you. Everyone in administration was going completely mental.'

Dominique gave a sombre nod.

'And then there's that rumour about those two wizards dying in their cells-'

'How did you know about that?'

Teddy cocked an eyebrow at her. 'So it's true?'

'No – well, yes, it's true. But Teddy, you can't tell anyone that. Please.'

'Of course not,' he assured her without hesitation. 'It doesn't have anything to do with Gamp dying, does it?'

Dominique shook her head and drank deeply from her pint. 'Harry doesn't seem to think so, or at least that's what he said in the incident report for the Head Office. But the problem is that the Auror Office was in such a state this morning that nobody bothered to check why the Head of Department hadn't turned up to work. His poor house elf had to find him dead in his study when she went into to freshen the fireplace.'

Teddy took a rueful sip of her ale. 'Blimey. That's a mess.'

'Exactly,' said Dominique, gazing into her half-finished pint. 'Teddy?'

'Yes?'

'Have you ever thought of leaving?'

'What do you mean?'

'You know, like…' She paused for thought, pondering the amber dregs of her ale as if they held the solutions to everything that had plagued her throughout in her brief little life. 'Like just apparating somewhere. Anywhere. As long as it was far away.'

'You mean like what Fred and his girlfriend did?'

'Yes, but… no, not like that. Because you wouldn't come back.'

She could feel his eyes upon her but did not have the strength to meet his gaze. Several seconds passed in which he gazed at her and she drained the last of her pint.

'Is that what you want to do?' he asked her.

'I don't know,' she murmured back. 'Maybe. I think about it sometimes. Don't you?'

He gave a shrug and sipped his ale. 'Not really. I suppose I did when I was a bit younger, but I guess I grew out of it.'

And with that the five-year age gap between them bubbled to the surface of her mind. She was a child to him, she told herself; a silly, spoilt child, throwing a tantrum. 'Oh.'

'But I do know what you mean,' he assured her. 'When my Nan invited her sister to live with her I thought about getting out of here for a while. I really hated the idea, even though I had already moved out when she started talking about it.'

'I don't blame you,' Dominique promised him darkly. 'Those awful, awful people… Just the thought of being around them makes me feel ill.'

'They're not that bad.'

'But they're Death Eaters!'

'They were Death Eaters,' said Teddy slowly, 'but they came back to our side, didn't they? I mean they didn't get sent to Azkaban, and if they escaped Azkaban after all the trials then they must have been able to prove they were sorry.'

Dominique wanted desperately to agree with him – it was so easy to agree with him – and yet she could not will herself into it.

'I mean, you know Harry,' Teddy continued calmly. 'He'd hardly have let them walk free if he had any doubts about their allegiances. And honestly, if you met them you'd see how sorry they are. Even before Lucius got sick they never left their house. You can practically smell the self-loathing on them.'

'Good,' hissed Dominique.

'You've got to forgive people sometimes, Dom,' he told her softly, and the gentleness of her voice reminded her of her father, and she despised it. 'After the war Narcissa was the only family my Nan had left – except for me, I suppose, but how much comfort can a baby offer when your daughter's just died? And when Lucius fell ill they'd already sold off their house elves because after the laws changed it got harder and harder to keep them. So Narcissa really had nobody else to help her. I mean, they're sisters – it's like you and Victoire.' That name, as always, ushered in unwelcome reality, of which Teddy seemed blissfully ignorant, for he continued. 'I'm sure there's nothing she could do that would make you hate her forever.'

'No, I suppose not,' she lied.

'My Nan's a very noble person,' Teddy informed her. 'It's just the way people were raised back then. Family first, you know? And Narcissa's family, no matter what she's done in the past. She and Lucius have lost people too.'

'Have you ever seen it?'

'Seen what?'

Dominique could not find her words for the forbidden thing and so she substituted by giving a rigid jerk of arm, and his eyes whipped to her forearm.

'Oh,' he muttered. 'Yeah.'

Dominique's eyes swelled. 'What does it look like?'

'It's pretty grotesque, to be honest with you. It's so faded now you wouldn't know what it was if you didn't already know, you know what I mean? It's just this big, black smudge on his arm, but he's half-dead anyway – I know I shouldn't say that but it's true. He's even thinner than you are, and his skin just kind of hangs off him, so maybe if you saw it on someone younger you'd be able to make it out a bit better.'

'Do you ever talk to him?'

'I used to when they first moved in and I'd go round to visit, but he's hardly conscious anymore. He's been bedridden since Christmas. He doesn't have very long left, and I wouldn't be surprised if Narcissa goes pretty soon after him.'

She could not bring herself to look at him; she sat staring into her lap, awash with a mixture of guilt and shame and disgust. In a faltering voice who sought the answer to that which plagued her. 'Do you think I'm awful?'

Teddy's response came in his soft, gorgeous voice. 'Dom, what do you mean?'

His placidity didn't soothe her; had anything like malice or loathing or contempt ever crossed the mind of the man sitting before her? It seemed unlikely, and yet these were things that dominated Dominique's mind for most of her waking moments.

'For talking about them like that.'

'Dom...' His voice was a soft touch; it was firewhiskey; it was everything she had ever wanted since she was old enough to know what want was, that voice of his. 'You're the farthest thing from awful there could ever be.'

The severity in his tone caused her to look up, finding his bright, brown eyes fixed upon her in an unwavering gaze that both unnerved her and excited her, and the great desire to touch him washed her; to reach for him across the table, to feel the flesh of his bloodied hand, to know the shape of his hollow cheeks beneath her fingers tips, to trail the indentations across his chest from his arching collar-bones and over his ribcage and further onwards…

And then she caught sight of the woman who was impossible not to see in any room she entered, her scarlet robes wrapped around doll-thin frame as she strode in the pub's front door from the cold, her silvery hair seeming to illuminate even the corners of the drab room, her gleaming eyes finding the two familiar figures at the table in the back, and any electricity Dominique had felt within herself died.

'What is it?' Teddy asked at the look of her face, and he threw a glance over her shoulder to follow her line of site. 'Oh, Vicky…'

'Teddy,' gushed Victoire when she reached them, accompanied by scent of violets that she always carried with her, and the kiss she gave her boyfriend made Dominique's skin crawl, because it was the same kiss Dominique had imagined over and over again in her head as she lay awake at night. 'Dommy, what do you think you're doing stealing my man for the evening?'

Teddy laughed, as did Victoire, but Dominique could not manage it, as she was busy watching where Victoire's hands touched Teddy as she took a seat beside him, her slim, manicured fingers clutching his forearm, and as much as she tried to ignore Dominique saw him leaning into Victoire's touch.

'Ooh, look at all this,' trilled Victoire, nodding at the empty glasses that lay across the table before them. 'Teddy, you better be prepared to carry Dommy home.'

Teddy laughed again, before asking his girlfriend, 'How'd you find us?'

'Darling, how long have I known you?' asked Victoire teasingly. 'And how many times has Hannah owled me begging I come apparate you to your flat from here at three in the morning?'

'A few times, I suppose.'

'A few times?'

'Okay, Vicky, no need to embarrass me when we have company,' Teddy chortled, slinging an arm around her bony, ballerina shoulders. 'How was your day?'

'Oh, the usual. Mr Jones just will not leave me alone. The number of times he visits my office in a day – it's unbelievable. If I was his wife I'd be putting a leash on him.'

'Can you blame him? He's only human.'

'Oh, Teddy, stop,' warned Victoire, smiling that sickly smile that Dominique had watched her give him since she had learnt how at the age of eleven. 'So what's news from our great Ministry? It must have been hell over there today.'

'Yeah, Dom was just saying the office was crazy.'

'Oh, no, Dommy,' cooed Victoire, giving her sister a sympathetic pout. 'Were you able to keep up with it? Was anyone there to give you a hand?'

'I didn't need a hand,' replied Dommy tersely.

'Yes, but you must have had people coming into the office all day. Oh dear, you didn't wear that to work, did you?'

Dominique glanced down at the teal cloak she was wearing. 'What's wrong with it?'

'Oh, Merlin, Dom. Hasn't poor Harry got enough to worry about without having to think about whether or not his secretary is looking decent or not? You really must start wearing makeup to work, dear. You've got those perpetual bags under your eyes. You'll scare away anyone who comes into the office.'

'God, Vicky, I think you could do with a drink,' Teddy told her before Dominique could respond.

'Sherry, please, darling,' Victoire told him as he got to his feet. She watched him go, the exquisite smile on her face, and once he was in line to order she turned back to her sister. 'Bed time, Dommy.'

'What?'

'Dom, please, we've been working all day and we need some time together,' Victoire informed her sister matter-of-factly. 'You'll understand when you get a boyfriend.'

'I've had boyfriends before,' snapped Dominique.

Victoire gave a chiming laugh. 'They don't count, dear. You know they were all hopeless.'

'You never even spoke to any of them.'

'I can tell by looking, darling, and try as hard as you might at warding everyone off with that scowl of yours, you know you can do better. Now please, Dom. You're alright to apparate, aren't you?'

Dominique sent a glance towards the bar where Teddy had reached the front of the queue. He said something to the bartender, prompting the woman to dissolve into laughter. She could have gazed at him for hours, but Victoire's watchful eyes told her that wasn't an option, and she tore her eyes away, getting to her feet.

'Thank you, Dommy,' sighed Victoire. 'I'll take you out for tea tomorrow, okay?'

'It doesn't matter,' she murmured, and she slipped away, hurrying for the door before Teddy could catch sight of her departure.


There were many things Albus Potter disliked about his brother, and even more things he disliked about himself, and very few of those things overlapped. The things he disliked about his brother were the things most people disliked about him, and that usually encompassed his brashness, his unruliness, his arrogance and his unfortunate knack for perception that not infrequently ended in shed tears on behalf of others.

The things Albus disliked about him self were far less interesting, something along the lines of his distinct ability to be utterly ordinary spare for, of course, the uncanny number of genetic characteristics he shared with Harry Potter.

Comparatively, James Potter looked as much like Harry Potter's son as any boy with black hair, for the raven mess atop their head was where their similarities ended. James had the soft, dark skin of his father's father and a face that looked like no one in particular. His high arching cheekbones belonged to Lily Evans, and his strong, square jaw brought to mind Gideon and Fabian Prewett. Brown-doe eyes linked him to his mother and sister, who were as similar as his father and brother, while his towering stature was that of the Weasley men.

A lifetime of Quidditch left him strong and limber and he was unafraid to allow his shirt to ride up whenever he reclined in his chair to give a great yawn, exposing his dark, toned abdomen. He walked with a swaggering gait that neither his brother nor father had the vanity or carelessness to attempt, and his knack for draping himself over any armchair or table or school desk whenever he felt the desire to ease the weight of his feet gave the impression of a boy who was both perpetually lazy and perpetually at ease, not matter how much you wished him to be otherwise.

Even now, with blood smeared across his knuckles from the punch he had thrown at Burke, his chest heaving for breath, slumped against the wall of the torch-lit seventh floor corridors, was there some whisper of glee about him; some twist of a smile that pulled at his lips as he stood double-upped, mirrored by his younger brother, who was fighting to swallow as much air into his lungs as he could.

The elder Potter recovered first, straightening up, towering over his brother, raising a hand to sweep his unruly black hair from his eyes, and gave a sigh that Albus could not help but think sounded vaguely satisfied.

'You alright?'

Unable to find words through his panting breath, Albus replied with a feeble nod.

James heeded him no further concern and his dark hand dived into the pocket of his robes to withdrew the folded slip of yellow parchment, muttering to it as he gave it a tap with his wand, before unfolding the weathered map and scanning it. 'Where the hell did Finlay get to? Oh, good, he's downstairs – oi, he's there with Elise Bagman. He's supposed to be staying away from her, the git. He better not try anything…'

Albus eased himself up and fell back against the wall beside James, raising a pale, twitching hand to wipe the sweat from his brow. 'Where'd the Slytherins go?'

'Fear not, Ducky, they're on the run back to the dungeons.'

'And Malfoy?'

'Hold on… Ravenclaw tower, I guess? Wait, no… Oh, there he is, going up to the owlery.'

'The owlery?' croaked Al. 'Who does he need to send a letter to at this time of night? He's going to miss curfew.'

'Look, Al, I don't know if I've ever told you this but I'm not a mind reader. Now pull yourself together, would you? I don't want to be seen going into the common room with you when you're on the verge of a heart attack.'

James wiped the map clear and stowed it away in the pocket off his robes, before setting off down the corridor. He strode with that spring in his step he always managed to maintain, that slouching, swaggering stride that was militant and serene all at once, and Albus hurried after him, still clutching the stitch in his chest.

He fell into file with James and asked in an undertone, 'What was all that about, anyway?'

'Elise Bagman? Oh, nothing, only I bought Finlay a bottle of rum last term to stop him asking her out and he doesn't appear to be honouring it.'

'No, not bloody Elise Bagman-'

'Oi, leave her alone, she's got gorgeous legs.'

'I don't care about her legs-'

'Liar.'

'Oh, shut up, James! I'm talking about the Slytherins! I mean, did you hear what they were muttering about? Goyle seemed furious to think we'd been listening, don't you think?'

'I don't know. I try not to think about Goyle if I can help it. Bagman offers a much nicer mental image.'

'Did you read the Evening Prophet?'

'There's an Evening Prophet now?'

'I'm serious, James,' grumbled Albus. 'The Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement's been killed-'

'Seriously? Dad will be thrilled.'

'That's not funny-'

'I know it's not, I was simply stating a fact.'

'But this could be really bad,' insisted Albus. 'And if the Slytherins are involved-'

'Tell me, Ducky, do you enjoy living in a perpetual state of anxiety?' asked James matter-of-factly, and Albus fell silent, unsure of where his brother was headed. 'I mean have you ever spoken to Goyle? That kid's a bloody moron, and Rosier's a total lunatic. Tell me exactly how they could possibly be involved in murdering a Ministry official.'

'But what if they are?'

'And what if you die in your sleep tonight?' inquired James as they started up the winding staircase to their Common Room. 'What if the roof of Gryffindor tower caves in and we're all killed in an instant? What if a meteor hits the earth and Great Britain's wiped off the map? What exactly do you propose you or I do about it?'

Albus glared at his brother as they approached the Fat Lady's portrait for he was stumped for a retort, as he often was in combat with James's cyclical babbling. It was typical of James to talk of such matters so loftily; life and death and war mattered as little to the boy as their mother's reprimands or their father's sighs of dismay.

'You know the password or what?' James asked, pulling the younger Potter from his reverie.

'What? Oh, yeah. Scurvy grass.'

'Time for bed, I think, dear,' advised the Fat Lady as she swung forward on her hinges to reveal the portrait hole.

The brothers scrambled through to find the Common Room bustling with activity, more so than would generally be expected if it had not been the first night back in the castle and the students were not bristling with excitement at being reunited with their friends.

'Just my luck, Corrina Peakes is all alone,' said James, and Albus followed his eyes across the Common Room to a group of seventh year girls that sat giggling beside the fireplace.

What this meant, Albus knew, was that while the brunette was not alone in actuality, she was unaccompanied by Tessa Mishra, who James had taken the liberty of ridding himself of two days before they were intended to return to school.

'See you later, Ducky,' James told him, before he disappeared through the crowd to join the girls by the fire, and Albus was left alone to do his own scan of the Common Room. Rose, like James's ex-girlfriend, was no where to be found and, accepting that in Chandra's absence she must have already retired to bed, Albus trudged away up the stairs to the boy's dormitory, which he found blissfully absent, the other fifth years not yet having returned from their start-of-term revelling.

His trunk had been left waiting for him at the foot of his four-poster and, having checked the bathroom to ensure he was truly alone, he wrenched it open to extract his pyjamas and his journal. Once out of his robes and into his bed, he flipped open his journal to the appropriate page and began to scribble.

1st of September 2021

Saw Cassie today. She didn't want to look at me.

Chandra is shagging Ravenclaw Quidditch captain Connor Davies.

Rose joins the long list of people to lose their virginities before me.

I think Malfoy and the Slytherins might try to murder James and I.

I don't think my plan is going very well.


He had become accustomed to returning to the Auror offices and finding them deserted in his many late night ventures into work, but that was not the case this evening. The Ministry bristled with activity, wizards and witches from every department darting through the corridors in a feverish attempt to reconcile the madness of the day.

He could not afford to stop despite the various attempts of co-workers to approach him for news and insight, and he did not dare to slow his pace until he found Dennis Creevey waiting for him in the Auror admissions office, wearing the same look or morbid contemplation he had throughout the day.

'What took you so long?'

'I just got here. I'd already made it home when I got the owl.'

'Well, come on. Who knows how long we've got before she starts weeping again.'

Dennis wrenched the door open and Harry paused before following him through it. His mind was still lingering in his bedroom at Hecate Hall, and he could not afford it to. He told himself Ginny would be waiting whenever he returned, as would her fury, and they could scream at each other sooner or later, but scream at each other they would.

With this harrowing though, he straightened his robes and strode through the doorway into the interrogation room. It looked identical to the dozens of interrogation rooms manned by the Auror office, occupied by a single cedar-wood desk and two stony-faced guards flanking the door. The only discrepancy was the tiny house elf that sat at the desk, knobbly elbows at the table and her long ears poking out between her long fingers as she buried her face in her hands.

'Leave us,' he told the guards, and they obeyed, leaving himself and Creevey to take seats at the desk across from the elf.

'Hello, Lula,' Harry told her, with as much warmth as he could muster at this late hour. 'It's very nice to meet you. My name's Harry Potter, and I'm the head of the Auror office.'

There was a murmur from behind the elf's hands so slight that he almost missed it.

'I'm sorry?'

The elf lowered her fingers ever so slightly to allow Harry to gaze into a pair of bulging, blood-shot blue eyes. 'I know who you is.'

There was a time when this recognition that this statement suggested may have embarrassed him, but he had been doing this job too long, and anything that stood in the way of him and reaching a punctual conclusion did no more than irk him.

'That's good, and this is my colleague Dennis Creevey. We're here to ask you a few questions about last night and see if we can help find out what happened to Mr Gamp.'

At the mention of his name the elf gave a great squeak of despair and buried her face back deeply into her hands. Dennis and Harry exchanged looks of dismay, before Harry began once more in his gentle prodding.

'Now, Lula, I understand this is a very tough time for you,' he informed the elf, 'but we really want to know who did this to Mr Gamp. You want to help us do that, don't you?'

Lula gave a great shudder before emitting a long, high sob. 'Oh, my master… my poor master…'

'Yes, Lula, I know,' said Harry, struggling to keep the impatience in his voice in check. 'But you told my staff that you had seen who had attacked him-'

'I did! I did! I know who done it! Bad mad done it!'

'Yes, and we want to catch this bad man,' urged Dennis. 'Had you ever seen him before, Lula?'

'Oh, master… my master… gone…'

'Yes, Lula, but that's why you have to talk to us,' insisted Harry. 'Your master – who hurt him?'

'Can't say… can't say. Lula must not.'

'Lula, we give you permission,' Harry assured her. 'And I'm sure Mr Gamp would say it's okay-'

'It is not okay! Not okay for Lula to say!'

Creevey opened his mouth to protest, evidently incensed, but Harry held up a hand to silence him.

'Has someone ordered you not to tell?' asked Harry gently.

'Not allowed… shouldn't tell… oh, my master…'

'Lula, please. You don't need don't need to punish yourself. If someone has told you not to tell then they're going to be in trouble, and so we can explain that you didn't have a choice. You know you'd be helping your master if you tell us who came to the house last night. Do you think you can do that?'

Lula hesitated before giving a slow, shuddering nod.

'Thank you, Lula. So can you tell us.-'

'My master!''

'Yes, Lula, exactly-'

'It was him! He is hurting him!'

'Yes but who?'

'My master!'

'Yes, Lula, we know,' Harry told her with a definite bite in his voice. 'But we need to know who did it-'

'I is telling you! He did it! My master!'

'Gamp killed himself?' asked Creevey incredulously. 'Are you sure?'

'No!' snapped Lula, her voice quivering with anger, and she raised a shaking hand to brandish it at Harry. 'My master – my old master!'

From the corner of his eye Harry saw Dennis turn to him to exchange looks of revelation, but Harry kept his eyes fixed upon the elf. 'Your former master killed Mr Gamp?'

'Yes!'

'But who's your former master?'

Lula shook her head furiously before bringing it down to hit it heavily against the table. 'Can't tell – shoudn't tell-'

'Lula, please, who was your old master?'

The elf pressed her eyes shut, colour rising in her grey face as if she was threatening to burst, before she opened her mouth a shrieked, 'Malfoy! Mr Malfoy!'

Harry gazed down at the elf in astonishment, lost for words, before the elf raised her hand to the ceiling, and first there was a creak, and then there was a shuddering sound of snapping, and then with a monstrous crash and a cascade of bricks and plaster Lula had brought the ceiling down upon them.


Song credit: She Only Loves Me When I'm There by Ball Park Music.

A/N: I know I didn't post the previous chapter more than a week ago but I've just had all this built up in my mind for so long and I just want to get it out as soon as possible (also I have exams soon and might have to take a break from writing).

Scorpius was finally around for something substantial, even though his view of Rose at the moment isn't the favourable and nor is anyone else's apparently, but I'm hoping I can change that. Several of you seem concerned about Albus, but I promise his situation won't always be so unfavourable. His luck will change very shortly.

So, what did people think? Does anyone have any questions yet? Is anyone desperate to see what happens next? If so please let me know by reviewing, no matter how brief or disapproving. I promise any form of review will definitely speed up my motivates as without reviews I literally have no motivation to write.

As always thank you so much for reading!

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