Chapter 4 : IV. Murder the Fourth
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James shifted his weight from his right foot to his left foot and pushed his glasses up his sweaty nose. His mouth was dry. He swallowed roughly despite his throat’s heady protests. The world around him seemed to be moving in slow motion.
Victoire was dead; she had been murdered.
Her body had been found her sitting room not even an hour earlier by her aggrieved husband, now widower. Teddy was still in shock.
James looked over to where Teddy sat. His face was pale and his grey eyes were wide and listless. He repeatedly ran his left hand through his hair, which now stuck up at various angles. John was hugged tightly in his right arm; his small blond head rested over his shoulder. James shook his head. If there was any good in this situation, it was John’s childhood innocence. The horror of the scene would not be remembered.
Law Enforcement officers swarmed the lawn, taking orders from the handful of Aurors that dotted the property. The Aurors spoke privately to one another in hushed voices, as though their volume coincided with increased levels of reality. From what James had heard, they were afraid that their department would be crippled from the inside out. They worried that he, Roxanne, Teddy, and Ron would be unable to keep an impartial mind in the forthcoming investigation and that Harry would not be able to continue running the department.
James drew a deep, rattling breath into his lungs. His cousin had been murdered. Victoire was dead. He’d be damned if he was going to allow his entire family be set aside as the victims. He was an Auror, a hand of the law that was not happy to sit idle. He needed to know what was happening with the investigation. Blowing the breath out of his stiff lungs, James spotted his father in a huddle of Aurors.
“Dad,” James said, approaching the group of Aurors clustered around Harry. The Head Auror’s face was drawn and his eyes were blood shot. “Dad, what’s happened? Do we know anything? Whose case is this?”
“Jones is heading up the investigation.” Harry’s voice was distant, and he did not make eye contact with his oldest son.
“Jones?” James ignored the senior Auror’s look of indignation at his question. “But he’s already been assigned to a case. That first Death Eater that was found in an alley.”
“You know that we’re dealing with a serial killer, don’t you?” James jumped at the sound of Teddy’s voice behind him and turned to look for its source. Teddy continued speaking. “I saw the body, Sectumsempra, just like the others.”
“Teddy –” James’ voice was sharp. “– your wife has been murdered, and you’re still concerned with whether or not there is a serial killer loose in London. How exactly do you explain the connection between two Death Eaters and Victoire? Just give it up already, Ted. There is no serial killer.”
James felt a hand on his shoulder, and knew that his father was right behind him.
“James.” Harry’s voice was low. “Teddy’s right. I do think that we are dealing with a serial killer. And given what’s happened here, I’m pulling you and Ted off of the McNair case. Jones is going to oversee the investigation for all three victims, though it seems that the old Alchemist is our only lead at the moment.”
“You’re pulling me off of the case?” Teddy set John down onto the grass. His eyes welled up and his voice cracked. “Damn it, Harry. I’ve lost Victoire already and now my case too? You can’t do this to me.”
“Teddy.” James patted his shoulder. “Come on, mate. You have to hold it together for John’s sake. Let’s take a walk.”
Teddy hoisted John back up into his arms and eyed James appreciatively. “Thanks James, but I think I need to be alone with my son for a moment.” He turned his back on the cluster of Aurors and walked away.
“James,” Harry said. His voice was soothing to James’ ears. “I’m sorry about pulling you from the case, son, but I knew you’d understand.” James shrugged. “Now before I leave to talk to Bill and Fleur, I have to ask you a question. What time exactly did you leave Victoire alone this morning?”
James eyes flew up to meet Harry’s. “You can’t be serious.” He half expected to see a jovial smile plastered over his father’s face.
“I certainly hope that you have an answer for that, James. The other Aurors will ask you the same thing. Now why don’t you go home? We can’t have you lingering around here or have family members contaminating the evidence.”
Home sounded like a beautiful idea. James gave his father a reassuring nod. He couldn’t help but feel guilty as the taste of the tea Victoire had made him resurfaced in his numb mouth.
Kara paced back and forth across the flat’s tiny kitchen. A crumpled piece of parchment was clutched tightly in her hand. Tears welled up under her eyelids and slowly trickled out, leaving wet streaks on her freckled cheeks. In the eight years she had been dating James Potter, she had never personally received a letter from his father.
Under any other circumstance she would have studied the envelope, nostalgically noting the similarities between the father and son’s untidy scrawl, but this was not any other circumstance. Victoire was dead; she was violently murdered in her sitting room. James had been the last person to see her alive, and had avoided his father’s questioning on the matter.
Kara choked back a sob that threatened to erupt from her body. Surely Harry had just mentioned James’ lack of alibi in casual passing and didn’t actually consider his eldest son a suspect in the murder investigation of his niece. Surely Harry just wanted Kara to be aware of the situation so that she could make sure James was alright when he got home. She took a deep, rattling breath in an attempt to calm herself.
The sound of the flat door opening in the sitting room made Kara jump. She chided herself as James walked into the kitchen and forced herself to smile across the kitchen at him before turning to stir the pot boiling on the stove top.
James could feel the unsettled air in the room. Kara had probably heard about Victoire’s murder. He sighed and walked behind her at the stove, gently rubbing her tense shoulders.
“I’m guessing you’ve heard, then?” James practically whispered. The atmosphere of the room felt as though it would shatter if he spoke too loudly.
She turned to face him. “Were you really the last person to see her alive?” Her voice mirrored James’ in volume. “What did you do when you left there? Merlin, James. Didn’t you think it might be important to answer your dad when he asked you these questions earlier?”
The accusation in Kara’s words stung, as did the fact that his father had written her.
“Kara, come on. You can’t possibly doubt that I had nothing to do with this. I left Victoire’s and went to London. I was checking out the Apothecary. Thinking of going and talking to the suspect on my own, see if I could make any progress with him.”
“But no one can really know that for sure, can they?” Her lips quivered and a tear ran down her cheek.
“No, I guess they can’t.” James stared into Kara’s eyes and planted a firm kiss on her cheek. “Don’t you worry, though. Jones will figure out who did this to her. You watch. He’s the best.”
“You’ll be a suspect, then?” The words felt blasphemous on her lips. “Is that why you got pulled from the case?”
“Of course I’m not a suspect.” James couldn’t help the air of irritation that slipped into his voice. “My dad thinks that we are dealing with a serial killer. He thinks that Victoire’s murder is related. I got pulled from my case because Victoire is family. Jones is overseeing the investigation of all three related murders now.”
Kara’s heart fell in her chest. “James, do they know that you were covered in blood the night McNair was murdered?”
“Kara, I told you. I was dueling Jones and got cut.” He walked away from her and took his seat at the table. “It isn’t relevant to the case. If I was a suspect, my dad wouldn’t have sent me home to you. Love, let’s just eat our dinner and leave the crime solving to the Aurors, eh?”
“You’re right,” she kissed the top of his messy, dark red hair. “I love you. Are you going to be home this evening?” She took her seat at the table.
James frowned. He knew that he had promised to stay home with her tonight, but he had already made plans to meet the apothecist. “We’ll see, love.”
Roxanne sat on the sofa. A large album sat open in her lap. Pictures of the Weasley cousins littered the pages. Birthday parties, Christmases, summer gatherings by the shore at shell cottage, and casual quidditch matches at the burrow stared back at her from her captured memories. In the centre of most of the photographs was her oldest, beautiful blonde cousin whose body now lay lifeless in the ministry’s morgue. Sobs choked through Roxanne’s body. She loved Victoire’s husband, and for that, she was guilty. She slammed the album shut and stared up at the ceiling.
A soft rapping at the door pulled her from her grief. She stood up from the sofa and haphazardly wiped the tears from her face before answering the door. A stone faced, red-eyed Teddy stood in the corridor. A sleeping toddler was clutched in his arms.
“I didn’t know where to go, Roxy.” Teddy’s voice was distant. “I just, didn’t know what to do. Harry told me I couldn’t be at the house while the investigation was going on.”
Roxanne stretched her arm around both Teddy and John. She couldn’t imagine what they were going through. Pulling back from them, she took John from Teddy’s arms and took him to her bedroom. She tucked him into the bed and laid a sympathetic kiss on the little boy’s head before returning to Teddy in the Kitchen.
“Teddy.” Roxanne paused in the doorway. He was standing where she had left him. His arms hung limply at his sides and he stared unwaveringly at the floor. “Teddy,” she repeated a bit louder.
“I heard you the first time, Roxanne.” Teddy voice was distant, his eyes still fixated on the floor. “I really don’t want to talk right now. Let’s just sit.”
“Sure, Teddy.” she reached and grabbed his hand, leading him from the kitchen to the sitting room.
Together they sat on the sofa in silence. Roxanne’s eyes monitored his drawn face. He stared straight forward, at nothing in particular. The clock about the crooked, ragtag bookshelf ticked away the time. The sound was an obtrusive intrusion on the uncomfortable silence that had filled the room. Sunlight that had been streaming in the window when they had first sat down had faded, only to be replaced by the dim light of dusk.
“I got pulled from my murder investigation.” His voice startled her, and she had to blink her eyes to be sure that she hadn’t imagined it. “Damn it. I got pulled from the fucking investigation. How could Harry do that to me?” His voice echoed in the room.
Roxanne could not find anything to say, and stared back quietly at her screaming lover.
“He knew damn well that the idea of the murders being related was my idea. It should be me investigating the serial killer. John’s mother is dead. And now Jones is on the bloody case.” He had jumped to his feet and was pacing the compact room.
“Teddy, I, er –” words swam in her head, but refused to make their way to her mouth. She needed to say something. “Jones is a fantastic Auror. He’ll catch whoever did this to Victoire.”
“Aye. He’s bloody fantastic. I’m sure he will.” Teddy sauntered back to the sofa and sat down. “I’m sorry for yelling, Roxy. It’s been a hell of a day.” He pressed a firm kiss to her cheek.
“I know, babe.” She turned her head and planted a gentle, chaste kiss on his lips. “You can stay here as long as you need to. Why don’t you try to rest a little? I need to pop over to Fred and Dom’s flat. Make sure that they’re both doing alright. I’m stopping at the apothecary on the way there to pick up a few things, do you need anything?” She picked up her hand bag and walked into the kitchen.
“Roxy, you’re amazing. Do you know?” Teddy rose to his feet, smiling weakly after the dark skinned woman. “I don’t need anything, but I think I’m going to take a walk while John’s sleeping. Just need clear my head. I’ll be sure to lock up when I leave.”
The smell of sulphur and other light metals pervades the air. A darkly hooded figure’s nose recoils in disgust. The thought of potions brewing brings nothing but the taste of bad memories to the figure’s mouth. The interior of the cramped shop is dark, allowing the figure to blend into the near silent night.
The dark figure knows that the target is not in the shop. No, it is much too late for the old man to be here. By this hour, he is likely to be upstairs, tucked securely into his bed. Unless of course he was outside, ruining somebody else’s near-perfectly executed murder like he seemed apt to do. A witness is much too large of a liability, especially now that the Auror department was keen to the existence of a serial killer. Being apprehended now, only three, soon to be four murders deep, was out of the question.
Given the appropriate time and another handful of victims, and notoriety will be attained. The dark figure smiles and turns towards the stairwell to the flat above the shop.
From outside on the street, nothing implies that a serial killer is in the process of murdering a fourth victim. A brief flash of red light shines out the Apothecary’s upstairs windows for a bare second. Then, everything is again dark. The only difference is the swelling of pride in the dark figure’s chest and the Apothecary, dying in his bed.
James pulled his hood down from his head and fished in his pocket for his pocket watch. It was time. He knocked on the shop door, granting himself entrance when nobody answered. As expected, the interior of the Apothecary was dark.
He cautiously made his way through the shop to the stairs that lead to the Apothecist’s flat above the shop. The fifth stair groaned in protest, and he jumped at the sound. His heart beat loudly in his chest. At the top of the stairs, the flat door stood ajar. James smiled; his guest had left the door open for him. He slipped in the front door and froze.
The apothecist lay in the narrow, rickety bed in the corner of the minute flat. His torso and face was slashed, and the sheets were soaked with fresh blood.
James closed his eyes. His witness was dead.
When he opened his eyes, he looked over the scene in front of him. The taste of bile filed his mouth, and he doubled over at the waste. The remnants of Kara’s dinner heaved up from James’ stomach and onto the apothecary’s Oriental rug. He knew that he needed to get out of this victim’s flat; he needed to go somewhere and process all of this.
James’ mouth pulled up into a half smile. He knew exactly where he should go to clear his mind, but first he needed to call in this victim.
He pulled a gold coin from his pocket and tapped it with his wand.
“Teddy, Teddy,” James called out into the coin. “Teddy, we have another body.” He slipped the coin back into his pocket and Disapparated from the scene.
A/N: So I've had this chapter written for a long while, and it's been so hard not posting it right away. But now it is posted. Tadah! Only two chapters left... As always, thank you for reading this. I'd love to hear what you have to say about it.
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