Lydia was waiting for me late the next morning when I rolled in to Agnelli's, her head surrounded by the usual cloud of blue bubbles.
“Any new skips?” I asked in a whisper as she cashed out my body receipt for Harmon Ladd. I could hear Angelo in his office and didn't particularly want him to come out and yell at me again about Knapper.
Man, pick it up, felons, a girl needs to eat here. I suppose I wasn't so dependent on the capriciousness of petty criminals now that Scorpius had a real job, but he hadn't actually been paid yet, so I was still feeling the pinch of urgency to catch the next skip.
Here's the thing. Normally, people resurface eventually in their familiar haunts. Being on the run is tough, and eventually most people slip up. They come back to what's familiar when they think the stink has died down and the coast is clear. And sometimes you get the ones who are so confident in their own sense of rightness that they never bother to hide. Those are my favourites. Their egos trip them up and they're often an easy collar.
But then there were the ones who vanished, like they'd been wiped from the planet. The smartest of the bunch wiped the memories of everyone who knew them, gave themselves a new appearance, and went to an entirely new place. That sort of criminal has usually committed a crime so heinous that I wouldn't touch them with a ten-foot wand, and Dino Agnelli has to track them down, though occasionally one turned up out of the blue.
One skip had gone underground for two years, given himself an entirely new identity and everything. It was as if he'd never even existed. I'd been starting to think maybe we'd all hallucinated the entire thing when he turned up one night standing next to Angelo at a cockatrice fight in Wales. Angelo had a picture above his desk of himself with the skip tied up at his feet and the victorious cockatrice in the background. Naturally, he'd held onto the guy until the fight was over before taking him in to Magical Law Enforcement. I'm pretty sure he won fifty Galleons on the cockatrice, too.
I escaped before Angelo found out I was there, and took my twenty Galleons from Harmon Ladd's capture straight to the grocery store. I wish I could say I took it straight to the bank, but actually Scorpius and I had had so little money for the past year that neither of us actually had a bank vault. We spent the money almost before we got it.
I spent the afternoon playing housewife. I'm not very good at it, true, but I had a vague feeling that I should contribute to the cleaning and cooking and whatnot now that Scorpius was working a nine to five. Besides, I couldn't really do anything until evening anyway. There wasn't much point going to a pub in the afternoon. Nobody would be there. Better to wait until after dark. I made my way through our small flat, trying to remember the household spells I used to know before I moved in with Scorpius and he started doing everything for me.
Once the bathroom had been haphazardly cleaned, I took a short break to catch up on my reading. When I woke up, it was to the sound of the locks turning on the door. Crap, was it that time already? I jumped off the couch and started pretending I'd been dusting all along.
Scorpius rolled his eyes at me as he came in. “Don't bother, Rose, I could hear you snoring from the hall. How was your day?”
“I cleaned. It was awful. But I bought food with Ladd's bounty.”
“How very domestic of you. Ah, butterbeer.” Scorpius cracked open a bottle and plopped down on the couch next to me, kicking off his shoes and slouching heavily. “I hate paperwork with the fire of a thousand dragons. I don't think I'm cut out for this working-every-day stuff.”
“We're a pair, aren't we?” I said affectionately.
He closed his eyes and put his head on the back of the couch, and I snuggled up against him.
“Did I mention I agreed we'd have dinner with my parents tonight?” he asked, eyes still closed.
I managed to hold in the groan. I really didn't like having dinner with the Malfoys. Just walking around Malfoy Manor made me feel rather uncomfortable. And peacocks make me sneeze.
“I tried to tell them we were busy, or out of the country, or possibly dead,” Scorpius went on, “but my father rightly pointed out that we haven't seen them in almost a month.”
What a nice month it had been, too. A thought occurred to me. “He didn't see you at the Ministry, did he?”
“Thank God, no. I can only imagine the sort of fit my father would throw if he found out I was working there when I ought to be playing Lord of the Manor with him. No, I had an owl from him this morning before I left.”
I thought about what Lydia had said about the Malfoys and decided to run it past Scorpius first. “You know Lydia Agnelli, right?”
Scorpius looked at me askance. It must have seemed quite the non-sequitur to him, but hell, he ought to be used to those from me by now. “Yes?”
“She suggested that maybe I should ask your parents if they know anything about Knapper. You know, cause of your granddad...”
He looked thoughtful. “Yes, but Grandfather's gone, and I don't know how much of his business my father was actually aware of. I know he was a Death Eater too, but only very briefly. He hasn't been involved in anything shady since the war. That I'm aware of,” he added fairly. “I doubt he knows anything, Rose. That was all a long time ago.”
“You're probably right.”
We sat in silence for a few minutes. I don't know what Scorpius was thinking about, but I was thinking how strange our relationship must seem to the war generations. His aunt had tortured my mother, and later my grandmother killed that aunt. And yet here Scorpius and I sat, curled up together, as if none of that had happened. Life is weird. I had grown up around the great heroes of the war while he had grown up with the great villains, but I think it was easier for our generation to see the individuals rather than the family. And I think it helps that my uncle testified at the trials, and ensured that Draco Malfoy didn't do time in Azkaban. Otherwise we probably wouldn't be sitting here together. I'd send Uncle Harry a card, but it would probably just give him indigestion to think that it was his fault his niece was living with a Malfoy.
I decided I'd had enough of that train of thought and asked, “What time should we leave, then?”
“We've over an hour still,” Scorpius said with a glance at his watch. He gave me a long kiss. “Want to go to bed? I could use a pick-me-up before we go see my parents.”
That sounded a good idea to me too. By the time we had gotten showered and dressed again, we were running a bit late.
“I ought to know better than to trust your five more minutes,” Scorpius grumbled as we walked up the steps to Malfoy Manor.
I shushed him and rang the bell. A house-elf answered, and I could hear my mother's voice shrieking in my head, but I let it show us to the drawing room, since that was protocol at the Malfoys'. Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy were seated in ornately carved and uncomfortably upholstered chairs, and Scorpius and I took the equally uncomfortable and expensive divan.
“Good evening, Scorpius,” Mrs. Malfoy said, and turned a chilly smile on me. “Good evening, Miss Weasley.”
Mr. Malfoy inclined his head at us. There was a drink in his hand, the amber liquid swirling as he tilted the glass back and forth.
I knew Mr. Malfoy didn't care for me. He'd only been rude to me once, the first time I'd been introduced to him, and I think Scorpius must have said something, because he'd been polite ever since, though quite frosty. Mrs. Malfoy seemed to like me just a bit more, though I rather thought she saw me only as a brood mare for potential grandchildren, and I suppose my father's pure blood made up for my mother's lack thereof in Mrs. Malfoy's eyes, though she'd rather Scorpius made a lovely pureblood marriage. I have to admit, sometimes the only thing that kept me smiling around Scorpius's parents was thinking about how my dad told me that Mum had once socked Mr. Malfoy in the eye. Picturing this gave me a great deal of amusement. Scorpius had even got a chuckle out of it when I'd told him the story. I think sometimes he'd like to sock his father in the eye. I honestly don't know how they managed to produce such a lovely young man. Maybe he'd been given a personality transplant on the Hogwarts Express.
“Good evening, Mother. Father,” Scorpius said in polite tones.
This was pretty much the extent of things at the Malfoys'. Rich people are so weird. At my parents' house, we just walk right in and announce ourselves, and my mum usually hugs me when she sees me. Mrs. Malfoy hadn't seen her son for a month, yet she simply sat there in her immaculate, elegantly tailored robes, and bestowed a restrained smile on him. It made me want to get up and tap-dance or something, just to see what they'd do. I repressed the urge, and the house-elf brought Scorpius a small glass of the firewhisky his father was drinking, and a small gillywater for me. I hate gillywater.
Scorpius made polite conversation with his parents, talking about nothing. I don't know how he does it. It must be something about growing up wealthy. I usually let him do all the talking when we're at his parents' house. They don't want to hear from me, anyway. I spent the time looking around surreptitiously at the paintings in the room. The Wiltshire mansion where the Malfoys live was far too grand for my taste. They had to have a house-elf to take care of it. I couldn't get my head around the idea of owning another being, so having one of them was out, but I sure as hell would never clean a house this big if I lived here. Not that I clean the flat we live in. Somehow I couldn't see Scorpius cleaning this place either.
Scorpius's grandfather passed away years ago, and his grandmother lived in the manor with his parents, but I never saw her. Mrs. Malfoy had politely told me that her mother-in-law was too frail to join us for dinner, but Scorpius had told me it was because she couldn't stand the idea of having dinner with a Weasley. Worse, a Weasley who wasn't even pure-blood. Poo on her, I say, although it did kind of hurt. After all, she was Scorpius's gran. I wanted his family to like me. It seemed unlikely to happen.
At precisely seven o'clock, we all got up and went into the dining room. We ate in silence until the house-elf had dishes of sorbet appear in front of everyone, then it began: the hinting that Scorpius was leading the wrong sort of life.
“There's a charity function at the Ministry next weekend,” Mr. Malfoy began in his cold voice. “Your mother and I plan to attend.”
Scorpius murmured something non-committal that might have been “How lovely” and might have been “Bully for you”, I couldn't tell.
Mr. Malfoy was watching his son with a frown. “You should have more concern for your birthright. You've never shown an interest in the donations the Malfoys have always made. Wasting all your time being an unemployed layabout.”
My dad and Mr. Malfoy had something in common there. I kept my chuckles to an internal monologue, and ate my sorbet. Let Scorpius deal with his parents. He was much better at it than I was. I was picturing my mum socking Mr. Malfoy in the eye again.
“I'm a painter, Father, I'm not unemployed,” Scorpius said calmly.
“A painter. What kind of job is that for a wizard? Any Muggle can be a painter. Why do you have to be a painter?”
Maybe if he said the word a few more times, it would lose all meaning and Scorpius would magically turn into a high-powered barrister who headed charitable organizations on weekends.
Scorpius manfully ignored his father, and took a slow and deliberate bite of his sorbet. Mr. Malfoy eyed him unpleasantly. I pretended I was on the beach in Majorca and couldn't hear any of this. I suspected Mrs. Malfoy was doing the same thing.
I wondered if Scorpius was going to tell them about his Ministry job after all. It seemed unlikely to please his father, though watching Draco Malfoy hyperventilate when he heard his only child was working a lowly Ministry job in a department that worked with Muggles would probably make the evening worthwhile, at least for me.
Scorpius didn't bring up the Ministry job, and the Malfoys went back to eating in silence. It was such a weird contrast to eating with the Weasleys, where one had to shout just to be heard, that it sort of felt unreal. Maybe I was hallucinating the entire dinner, which surely meant all calories consumed tonight did not count. I brightened, and had another glass of wine.
Scorpius turned to me after we'd finished our sorbet. “Rose, didn't you say you had to work tonight?”
Had I? I did have to, but I didn't think I'd said anything to– oh, he wanted to escape. Yippee. I patted my lips theatrically with the linen napkin. “Yes, I do, actually. Thank you for a lovely dinner, Mrs. Malfoy. It was wonderful to see you both.”
Neither of us spoke until we'd made good our escape from Malfoy Manor. The evening seemed even more surreal when we were back in our comfortable little run-down flat. Once we'd plopped down on the couch, Scorpius threw an arm around me.
“Is it wrong of me to prefer your family?”
“They are a friendlier lot,” I agreed. “You didn't tell your parents about your job.”
“Seemed unlikely to go over well. Thought it was best to keep it to myself.” He rubbed a hand over his eyes. “Besides, the job is only temporary, right? Until you catch Knapper.”
“Yes, speaking of that... I actually do have to work tonight.”
He didn't look surprised. “Where are you off to?”
“A pub over in West London. There was a note mentioning it in Knapper's house, I thought I'd check it out.”
“Want me to come along?”
Scorpius on a job was even more of a liability than my cousin Fred. I love the man, but I didn't want him coming along. “No, I'll be fine.”
“Let me know if you need me.” He yawned. “I'm going to bed. I've another long day of boredom to look forward to tomorrow. Do you know, the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts bunch hasn't filed anything in fifteen years?”
I wasn't sure what sort of pub this was. Fred's only hint had been 'seedy', so I wore a set of slightly ratty robes that needed patching at the hem, and hoped I'd fit in. I used a colour-switching spell to darken my hair for the night as an extra precaution. Sometimes not being obviously a Weasley pays off.
The Merman's Tail was even worse than I'd been expecting. It had probably not been cleaned since it had opened, and it was filled with the sort of witches and warlocks that had to be tracked down by real bounty hunters like Dino Agnelli. I had a distinct feeling I was out of my depth here, but I ponied up to the bar anyway and ordered a firewhisky. I wasn't even sure what I hoped to find here, but I didn't think asking around about Knapper was a good idea, so I kept my mouth shut and my head down and let the conversations going on around me filter through my head.
No one really caught my attention, although I did enjoy listening to a very long and involved conversation between two witches about their plan to go to America and look for gold and start a reserve for battered hags. They ought to have their own show on the Wizarding Wireless Network, honestly. A few men tried to come over and sit next to me, but I waved them away.
I had almost given up the night as a bad job when, just at closing time, I heard what sounded like the name Pulford coming from a few people down. I strained to hear who had said it, and then the same voice wished the bartender a good night.
“Night, Hiram,” the bartender said, and I looked up to see a man in his late thirties or early forties, with thinning blonde hair and a friendly smile, red-nosed from drink. He reminded me a bit of my uncle Charlie. They had that same sort of older-bachelor air about them.
I left my third whiskey half-finished at the bar and followed the man out of the pub, Disillusioning myself as I left. I wasn't as good at it as Victoire, but it ought to be good enough for a dark night like this.
He walked a bit unsteadily a few blocks down, clearly too drunk to Apparate home, turning three times into narrower and narrower alleys, and my shoulderblades were itching by the time he finally stopped at a ratty old door. I watched him go in and saw a sliver of light from a window at what must be a basement flat.
I wrote the street name down on my hand and Disapparated. Scorpius was sound asleep when I finally crawled into bed, wondering if I'd really heard the man say Pulford.
I woke late. All right, I almost always get up around eleven in the morning, so technically I woke at the usual time. Occasionally I get up earlier if it seems likely that I have to pick someone up in the morning, but honestly, almost all my work gets done in the afternoon and evening. Why get up early?
I went to the kitchen and made toast, eyeing the eggs and wondering if I could fry a few without burning down the flat. It was nice that Scorpius had a job so we wouldn't wind up living in a cardboard box and all, but I really missed him being home and doing the cooking. I stood at the kitchen counter and ate over the sink so I wouldn't have to wash a plate, and thought about the bloke in the pub.
Hiram, the bartender had called him, and I knew the street he lived on. I wondered if Lydia could find out who he was based on that. I was betting she could, so after I finished my toast, looked longingly at the eggs again, and got dressed, I headed to Knockturn Alley.
Lydia wasn't at her desk when I got there, and I stood for a moment debating whether to knock on Angelo's door and check for her in there. I really didn't want to talk to Angelo and have to listen to him barking at me about Knapper. I poked around Lydia's desk for a moment and then realized the time. She was probably at lunch.
Sometimes I forget about normal people hours. I sleep late, stay up late, and eat at strange times, so I often forget that Lydia takes her lunch around midday. I'd only just eaten breakfast.
I set off for the Leaky Cauldron to look for her, and sure enough, she was at the bar with a plate of fish and chips in front of her. She waved to me, her mouth full, and I slid onto a barstool next to her.
“Morning,” I said, snatching a chip off her plate.
“It's not morning, Rose, it's afternoon,” Lydia said, rolling her eyes. “Any luck with Knapper yet? Angelo's going spare.”
“I think I found something, but I need you to check on someone for me.”
“Sure. Give me a few hours and I'll see what I can find out about him.”
I wrote down the street and name I'd learned, and then left Lydia to her lunch. I decided I might as well take a look around in this Hiram bloke's neighbourhood, so I Apparated back to the Merman's Tail and retraced my steps.
Once I reached his flat, I did a loop around the surrounding area. It didn't look any better by daylight. Run-down tenements that were held up mostly by magic loomed over the narrow cobbled streets. This was clearly a wizarding slum, and I wondered if Muggles could even see it.
The street Hiram lived on had bits of rotting newspaper strewn about, and a pile of kitchen refuse piled next to a low stoop next door to his flat. I stepped over a decaying celery stalk and looked up at the clotheslines overhead that stretched from one building to the next, making the alley claustrophobic. It seemed as if the buildings were leaning too far, caving in.
There was nowhere for decent surveillance. I didn't think it was possible to have a less-visible location and yet have nowhere for a person to hide. The only obvious solution was to get Victoire to Disillusion me, but she was sure to want to come along. Frankly, I wanted her to. I hate doing surveillance alone.
I Apparated to the Lupins' and barged right in without knocking. Teddy wasn't home, and Victoire never cared if I just came in. That's what family was for, right?
She was in the backyard, watching her two little boys flying about on toy brooms. They had a toy Quaffle and were tossing it at each other. Neither one of them could catch it, but this didn't seem to bother them. Remus was five and Johnny was almost three, and the baby, Dora, was only a couple of months old. Victoire said they weren't done yet, that Teddy wanted a few more kids. Dad said they were trying to give Gran and Gramps a run for their money.
“Oh hello Rose,” Victoire said, giving me a welcoming smile as I sat next to her in a lawn chair.
“Hi Victoire.” I noticed she had a bag of pretzels at her feet and grabbed a handful. We sat in silence for a while, watching the boys on their brooms. They were shrieking with laughter as they flew, though the brooms couldn't go very fast and only rose about a foot or two off the ground.
“Does Johnny still think he's a manticore?” I asked, popping a pretzel into my mouth.
“Yes, but not when he's on a broom. Teddy told him that manticores can't ride brooms, so he's a little boy right now.”
“That's nice.” I grabbed a few more pretzels.
“Are you hungry?” Victoire asked, watching me. “I can make you a sandwich.”
“Could you fry up some eggs for me?” I asked hopefully.
Victoire laughed, and got up. I followed her into the house, glancing over my shoulder at the two boys.
“Are they all right alone?”
“Oh, yes,” she said vaguely. “The backyard is enchanted so it's basically a padded cell, and I can see them out the window.”
I sat at the kitchen table and paged through the latest issue of Witch Weekly while Victoire fried a couple of eggs. She added a few sausages to the pan, and the sizzling made my stomach rumble. I needed a housewife. Well, what I really needed was to find Knapper so Scorpius could go back to being the housewife again. I decided not to call it that to him. Men can be so touchy.
“What have you been up to?” Victoire asked as she set the plate in front of me.
“This and that,” I said, distracted by the food. I took a bite of eggs and added, “I think I have another lead in the Knapper case.”
“I have to check it out some more, see if it pans out. Might be nothing.” Yum, sausages. Maybe I should learn how to cook.
Victoire perked up a bit. “Surveillance? Do you need some company? Teddy gets home in about an hour, I can go with you after that.”
“That'd be great.”
I killed some time by throwing the Quaffle around with Remus and Johnny while Victoire did some chores. Remus couldn't throw very well, but he was a better catch than Johnny, who had a hell of an arm but no aim whatsoever. Maybe he'd grow into that. I could see Johnny as a Beater and Remus as a Chaser, and wondered if they'd play on their house teams. Teddy hadn't played Quidditch, but about half my cousins had: James and Lily, and Fred and Molly. She'd been a spanking good Keeper. My dad had liked to give her tips on that, but I don't think she'd listened.
Teddy finally came home, and he grinned when he saw me in the backyard with the boys.
“Hi Rose,” he said, leaning against the door frame. “Come to play some Quidditch?”
Before I could say anything, Victoire bustled up to him, a basket of laundry in her arms. “Oh there you are, dear. I'm going out with Rose, I need you to stay with the children.”
Teddy gave me a suspicious look, and put his arm around his wife. I let them have a few moments, and went back to the boys.
Victoire came back twenty minutes later, looking a bit flushed and happy. “Come on, let's go,” she said.
I rolled my eyes at her and came inside. Teddy went past me to go outside to his sons, and I could see his hair was mussed. I did not want to know if they'd been doing what I thought they'd been doing, so I didn't say anything.
Victoire was in the living room, stuffing nappies into a bag.
“What are you doing?” I asked, nonplussed.
“I'm going to bring Dora.”
“You can't bring a baby along,” I said, completely horrified. What was she thinking?
“It'll be fine,” Victoire said in a businesslike tone. “I'll put her in a sling and carry her. She likes to be close to her mummy.”
“You're mental,” I said, shaking my head. I don't know where she gets it from, the rest of us Weasleys are totally sane. Really.
Johnny popped up next to the door as we were leaving, his bright red hair a little sweaty from playing outside. All the Lupin kids had Weasley-red hair, even though they were only a quarter Weasley. I sometimes wondered how long it would take to breed the Weasley out of someone. Five generations? Ten?
“Where are you going, Mummy?” he asked, though his R's were pronounced as W's. Victoire thought it was sweet. I wondered if he did it on purpose.
Victoire immediately turned on her happy-mummy high-pitched voice. “I'm just going out with your Auntie Rose for a little while, my precious. You be good for Daddy, now, all right?”
Johnny's little face screwed up in anger. “I want to come too!”
“This is just for grown-ups, my duck. You may come next time.”
“I want to come now!” Johnny yelled, stomping his little foot. I backed away from what was clearly an unexploded bomb of a child.
“Bugger off, my love,” said Victoire, still in the happy-mummy voice.
Johnny scowled at her again and buggered off.
Victoire shut the door behind us and smiled brightly at me. “Ah, motherhood,” she said.
Since we had the baby along, we couldn't Apparate, so we took the two somewhat ageing Cleansweeps that Victoire and Teddy had in their broom shed and set off, baby Dora strapped securely to her mother's chest in a purple sling. We landed a few streets over from our target, and Victoire Disillusioned the three of us, though I'm not sure it was actually necessary to Disillusion the baby. She was probably inside the spell on Victoire, but whatever. We chose a rather dirty corner of the alley Hiram lived on, and settled in.
I really hate surveillance. It's the worst part of my job. I'd rather chase someone down or get hexes thrown at me. The tedium of surveillance makes me crazy, which is why I so often bring Victoire along. She, like me, often has nothing better to do, and is perfectly willing to drop her kids at her mother's house and come out with me. My other cousins almost all have proper jobs, so I couldn't take any of them even if I wanted to. Victoire was also quite a capable witch, possibly more capable than I am. Certainly more level-headed. I had never seen her fight, but something told me she wouldn't lose her head and be a liability.
We cast Muffliato around us so we could have a chat. This is a spell my father taught me, saying it would be useful, although my mother got a pinched expression when he mentioned it. It isn't a Ministry-approved spell, which is probably why she doesn't like it, although Dad says she used it during the war.
After an hour of chatting and looking at nothing, Dora woke up and started fussing. Victoire rearranged her top and I looked away while she nursed her baby. I don't mind women doing that, but this was my cousin, I didn't really want to see quite so much of her.
I couldn't see much through the little window to the basement flat, though a light was shining in whatever room it looked into. I hadn't seen any movement, but he must be in there or there wouldn't be a light. I was rather pleased that he didn't have a curtain on his window like Pulford did. A small slice of his flat was visible, a small battered table and a single chair next to what looked like some kind of a little piano.
When Victoire finished, she held out the baby to me. “Here, hold her for a minute while I get straightened, would you?”
I took Dora gingerly, holding her cradled in my arms. I'm not very comfortable with babies. The idea of having one had never particularly appealed to me, especially after seeing how miserable Dominique was during her pregnancy. But I looked down at the tiny sleeping face, her little lips wiggling a bit, and suddenly I sort of wanted one. What the hell would I do with a baby? I can't even fry eggs.
Victoire readjusted her top and gave me a little smile. “Have you and Scorpius thought about having kids yet?”
“We've never talked about it,” I said, still staring down at Dora. “I can't even imagine us having one.”
“Yes you can,” Victoire said matter-of-factly.
I chuckled and passed the baby back to her. “All right, it would be fun to see a red-haired Malfoy, wouldn't it? But I'm not going to have one any time soon. Besides, we're not even married. Dad would kill me if I got pregnant before I was married.”
Victoire rolled her eyes as she settled Dora back into the sling. “I think he would kill you if you married a Malfoy anyway.”
“Scorpius's dad wouldn't be too happy with him for marrying a Weasley,” I admitted, “but I think both of them are getting used to the idea the longer we live together.”
There was a sudden movement in the window, and we both fell silent. Someone walked past the window, and I caught a flash of sandy hair.
“Is that him?” Victoire whispered.
I nodded, and we watched through the window as he went past twice more, then sat down.
“That's a harmonichord,” Victoire said, staring through the window. “I've never seen one in person.”
“What the hell is a harmonichord?”
“Remember when Louis dated that Lithuanian witch, the musician?”
I had tried to repress that period. She was one of Louis' more obnoxious girlfriends, though she'd played beautiful music. Fortunately, after a couple of months she'd run off with a travelling symphony orchestra and left Louis for a flautist. Louis had been quite cut up about it, but the rest of us had been pleased to see the back of her.
“Well, she used to lecture us about pianos and the like. She played them all, you know,” Victoire added, rolling her eyes. “A harmonichord is sort of like a piano crossed with a violin. They're quite unusual, apparently.”
We watched Hiram playing for a while, though we couldn't hear anything. His flat must be sound-proofed. I'm sure his neighbours were grateful. After a while, he got up and went out of sight, into another part of the flat that we couldn't see, and the light went out.
I got a sudden creepy feeling, much like I'd had when we'd sat outside Balthazar Pulford's house, but no curses came out the window. I was about to tell Victoire we ought to go when she glanced at her watch and said, “I'd better get home, Rose. The children probably have Teddy hogtied in the garden shed by now.”
I flew back to the Lupins' with her and deposited the Cleansweep in the broom shed, then Apparated back to Knockturn Alley once Victoire was safely in the house. I went back to Agnelli's and caught Lydia at her desk as she was packing up to go home.
“There you are,” she said. “I found out about your man Hiram.”
I smiled at her gratefully. “You're the best, Lydia.”
“His name is Hiram Worthing. He went to school with Balthazar Pulford apparently, they both left Hogwarts the same year. Neither of them went past O.W.L. level. Hiram was married, wife ran off and left him about two years later, no children, no siblings, parents both dead now. He worked low-level clerk jobs for a while, and I can't find any record of current employment.” Lydia handed me a sheet of parchment covered with her neat handwriting. “Here's the notes on everything I found out. I looked into Pulford a bit more as well. Nothing on current employment for him, either.”
“Maybe they're artists like Scorpius,” I said lightly, folding the paper and tucking it into my shoulder bag.
“I doubt it,” Lydia said. “Everyone I spoke with said Hiram was a nice man, but kept to himself mostly. Quiet and polite. He seems very boring, honestly. You think he has something to do with Knapper?”
“Well, he's friends with Knapper's half-brother, maybe he knows something about him.” I didn't mention that seeing Worthing moving about inside his flat had given me the same creepy feeling that Pulford had given me. I decided I didn't want to bring Victoire along any more on this case. The whole thing was giving me a bad feeling.
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