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Tainted Angels by Dracana

Format: Novel
Chapters: 4
Word Count: 15,502
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Horror/Dark, Mystery, Romance
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Draco, Pansy, Ginny, Blaise (M)
Pairings: Other Pairing, Draco/Pansy, Harry/Ginny

First Published: 07/26/2007
Last Chapter: 12/01/2007
Last Updated: 12/01/2007

Summary:
A m a z i n g banner by MajiKat ll Dedicated to MajiKat
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Blaise has never fallen in love. Relationships have passed in a breeze - no strings attached. That is, until he finds Hermione. Thrown together as two Aurors working on an investigation to track down a serial killer, Blaise finds that maybe, the Mudblood's not so bad after all . . .
Please note, this does not follow on from DH. AU.


Chapter 1: Meeting Hermione
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I throw back the curtains to the blissful stretch of morning rays, gazing out onto the city before me and greeting it with a widening yawn. Grinning to myself, I swing my arms backwards and forwards, hearing the joints crunch with that amazing, poetic sound that reaches my ears and cuts through my mind with pure joy.

Another beautiful morning. Another beautiful day.

Since the defeat of the Dark Lord, I’ve become quite used to the peace that’s fallen across the world. Its like a blanket of silk, full of vibrancy and energy, crammed with potential and freedom. The mark that was now grime against my wrist caused me to simply writhe in disgust, but it is faded now, the etch of a stain that echoes my past.

A hot shower is a blissful rinse against my skin, and sighing in deep solace, I allow the troubles of yesterday to wash away, shimmering as silver-like threads of memory that are fragmented with dirt, grinning as the drain sucks them all away. A new day, a fresh start.

As I dry myself, I hum softly, dragging a t-shirt over my head, nodding in approval at the reflection that stares back at me. Blaise Zabini - god of all things beautiful. Or so they tell me. With a smirk, I dismiss that satisfactory face, the chiselled pale features far from my mind as a voice calls to me from along the hallway.

“Are you ever going to get a job?”

Draco Malfoy peers around the door and I rise a pair of dark eyebrows at him, the classic Zabini smirk gracing its way in a narrow cut across my flawless features. Draco Malfoy - blonde, muscular, slightly taller than me and hell, if I wasn’t into girls, I’d shag him. But that’s hardly the point. A small smile was playing on my friend’s face as he watches me sizing him up, but before I can open my mouth to retort, Pansy Parkinson wraps lengthy arms around my friend’s body, her curvy frame fitting perfectly against his body as he turns to embrace her in return and catch her mouth inside his lips. I watch them with risen eyebrows until they have the courtesy to realise that I’m still there, and pulling away from Draco, Pansy sends me a scowl.

“Are you still unemployed?”

“Funny, if you two weren’t apart for so much of the time, anyone would think you shared one brain-cell. That’s twice I’ve been asked that question this morning.”

Pansy is around quite a lot actually, but not as often as she pleases. I know she’s been hassling Draco for a key to the flat for longer than necessary now, but for some reason or other he continues to put her off. That’s why she doesn’t like me much. Where I help fund the cost of the flat, she could just as easily take my place. Still, the bint’s got to be grateful - at least Draco lets her sleep in his bed rather than casting her out whenever he feels like it. She’s intolerable. Kind of pisses me off.

“Funny,” she growls, her voice clipped and sharp, eyes bitter as they run over me. “You neglected to answer the question.”

A sigh escapes my lips and I have to restrain myself from rolling my oh-so heavenly dark blue eyes. Yeah, truly they are. When people look into them they just want to drown themselves, ‘cause they know they can never have me. Yeah, same old story, over and over. No one can deny me, but I can easily swat them aside. In truth, I still haven’t found the “right” one, if there is such a thing.

“Actually, I do have a job.” I pick up a suit jacket that I’ve slung over the radiator and shrug my body into it, feeling the perfect fit as the sleeves rub against my wrists. Running a hand through my soft raven hair, I feel it fall into place and lean against the doorframe, considering Pansy with as much disdain as I can muster.

“You do?” Draco’s mouth drops open in incredulity, regarding me with such belief that I know I should be annoyed with him. However, the situation is far too amusing and so I simply nod, taking on the composure of one who is absolutely serious.

“Yep. I’m on my way there now. See, suit, polished shoes, wand . . .” I tap my thigh and feel the wood against my leg; magic is something that I haven’t used in a while now. I’ve been enjoying the Muggle life, slumming it out, practically living on the sofa and watching what people like to call a “television”. I’m not looking forward to my job of course, but it can’t be too bad, can it? I mean, how hard can it be to be trained as an Auror? Piece of cake.

“What is it Blaise?” Draco calls after me as I make my way towards the door, lighting up a cigarette and shoving it between my lips, grinning through it as I call over my shoulder, “Auror.”

Whether Draco suddenly felt a random spurt of anger to stamp his foot, or the toilet decided to wrench itself free of the tiles and begin to walk about, I don’t know, but more likely to the point - I’d say Pansy Parkinson just fainted.

- - - -

Two coffees and five smokes later, I finally arrive at what the Wizarding world like to call the Ministry of Magic. There was the telephone box thing, bright red and standing out in the midst of the London crowd way too much if you ask me, but I apperate there without anyone noticing me, dial a few numbers and descend to the great grand hallways of the Ministry.

Its crammed full, people packed into the sandwich of walls like a moving blob of colourful butter. In fact, if you ask me, I’d venture to say that there is mould in that butter. I can almost smell the stench that rises from a number of armpits and man, I’m telling you, its worse than both onions and garlic put together. Talk about keeping away the vampires . . . These people have the odour to keep away a thousand Muggles if they continue like this, or anyone with any sense - aka - moi.

Weaving my way through them all, I find a lift and step inside. I swear, I hold the world-record for not breathing in particular duration of time. Next time I’m bringing Gillyweed and sticking my head in a fish tank. Seriously, these people are running the Wizarding world and they haven’t even been taught the valuable lessons in personal hygiene. Anyway, I soon find my way to the department of law, and crossing the corridor in an arrogant swagger, I allow myself a glimpse around for anything that looks appetising.

All that I found was a wrinkled old prune with a face like a crumpled rich-tea biscuit and three less-than iridescent middle-aged women, bickering to one another from their desks. My eyebrows rise an inch higher and they fall silent when I enter. I can’t help it, seriously. I give them a wink. Its a small, heartless gesture, out of the kindness of my heart really, but its enough to make them swoon.

Hell, they love me already.

Its just a shame that there’s someone who doesn’t. In fact, I’m inclined to think that what this particular person feels towards me is the exact opposite of love, if you count casting me a filthy look of disapproval and a savage nudge in the ribs on her way out a fierceness of hate. ‘Cause I certainly do. Shame really, she’s actually quite pretty . . .

Sorry, I’m skipping ahead here. Let me rewind back to the start.

Knocking on the office door, I find none other than Granger sitting at her desk, hands spread across the smooth flat wood, as if soaking in its emptiness as she stared down at a stack of files. Her bushy brown hair is piled neatly on her head, her lashes creating warm shadows against her creamy hued skin. A steaming mug of coffee immediately catches my attention, but I quickly dismiss that and instead focus on this woman who Draco created a life of living hell for. Draco likes to do that sometimes. A special home-brewed recipe of insults and hexes. Ah, the good life.

“Zabini,” she greets me, glancing up, her hazel-eyes flashing a shade darker with cold as she sweeps me in with one glance. I can tell she’s straining for professionalism inside her voice, but she can’t help but to lace it with disdain, something that causes me to feign innocence. “When I saw your name in the file, I was hoping that there might be another that went by that name.” She picks up her coffee and sips, sniffing disgustedly in my direction. “Unfortunately, those hopes have been shattered.”

“Not very nice,” I inform her, trying to appear hurt. Taking a seat opposite the woman, I lean back casually in my chair and yawn. “Alright if I smoke in here, beaver?”

“Most certainly not,” the frost in her voice is clearly audible now and I smirk visibly. “And whilst we’re working together, you’ll address me as either “Granger”, “Auror Granger” or nothing at all. Understood?”

“Auror Granger? Sounds hot. Hang on . . . did you say we were working together? As in Blaise and Hermione? As in - you and me?”

“You heard correctly.” She begins to gather her files together, stacking them into her bag and slipping it over her shoulder. Its an ordinary sort of bag, but somehow typically Hermione. She’s made it belong to her with its very tartan colour - old style. It looks heavy, as if she’s crammed a million and one things in there she can think of, including the kitchen sink. “Now hurry up, or we’ll be late.”

“But I’ve only just got here,” I protest vehemently, shaking my head after her in complete incredulity. “Granger, what the hell . . . Aren’t you meant to explain the procedures? Teach me how this is all supposed to work?”

“If I sat here telling you the strategy of this job, then we’d be sat here all day whilst people are getting away with murder. Now come on, you’ll learn your own strategies on the way. There are no rules, Zabini. Those are the ones you develop for yourself.”

Staring after her in confusion, I finally shrug and hurry along to catch up.

- - - -

The creamy wash of sky stretches like ice-cream, blended in with the pulsing strawberry sun. My eyes follow it as we walk along, Granger’s pace fast and leaving me breathless. We’ve apperated, but can go no further in that department. We’re going to a Muggle village, after-all, and that means we’ve got to be anything but conspicuous.

Ah, whatever. Check me out, trying to be all knowledgeable. I dunno what the hell is going on.

“Granger, slow down, will you?” I call after her angrily, my voice half wrung with imperative, half divided into something interrogatory.

“There’s no time to slow down, Zabini - by the time we get there a thousand pieces of evidence could have gone.”

That’s Granger, forever the worrier.

When we get there, it turns out we should be worrying. There’s a dead body lying across the stairway, a mass of golden curls framing a delicate almost china-like face, blue chipped eyes staring wide at the ceiling, as if the woman is simply a doll, a broken toy with a narrow stream of blood leaking from her skull.

“Lavender Brown,” Granger’s voice rips through the silence, shattering it in half as my jaw gapes open. When I said I’d become an Auror, it was because it sounded exciting, not to mention that it was to push aside the constant pressure from others to do my share of work. I had no idea I’d be looking at . . . well, dead bodies. Shaking my head helplessly, Hermione turns to regard me sternly, nodding down to the body pointedly. “Well, don’t just stand there . . .”

“Well what do I do?”

“Use your initiative. Take a look around, gather up some evidence. Merlin, haven’t you the faintest idea about being an Auror? What about all your training?”

I stare at her, gormless. “Er, what training?”

Her eyes widen a fraction and I quickly decide its time to do some work. Did I mention I’m brilliant at forging signatures? Bewitched a few people with my charms when I told them I was capable for the job, got a few old doddery fools to sign off some papers. As for the males, well - that’s where the Imperius curse comes in. Yeah, bad I know - that accompanied by my own hand writing down names on parchment that were needed, well . . . I suppose that’s how I got my job. Good money it pays, too.

My eyes begin to search for anything obvious. A small spell tells me that there is something else in the house, and stepping over the body, I force my legs to move and carry me up the stairs. Everything is darkened and silent, such a heaviness that cloaks the rooms into shrouds of darkness. The curtains are still fast-closed, meaning that she must have died last night. Sliding through one of the doorways, I find to my relief that the only other presence in the house is that of a cat. Tickling it with extended fingers I begin to pace the room, filing any details I can into my head that are out of the ordinary.

“So, what have you found?”

I turn to face Hermione with a half-shrug, to which she rolls her eyes and scowls. “Come on, I’ll show you what to look for . . .”

I follow her back out onto the hallway, where she crouches at the edge of the stairs. “There are some things that don’t need to be done with magic. It simply requires our minds.” I watch as her hands spread across the carpet, yet I’m distracted as a stray strand of hair kisses the woman’s vulnerable pallor of neck. Unable to control the smile that spreads warmly across my lips, I falter when Granger’s voice continues, bringing me back to the empty hallway we are in. A thread of dread sinks its way into my skin and floods across my mind, but I continue to remain still as Granger’s voice throbs into my ears. “You see here? There’s no blemish in the carpet.”

“So?”

She sighs with impatience. “So,” a pause as she allows that annoyance to echo in ripples throughout the air, spurring into my essence that I really must pay attention, “that means she didn’t simply fall. Or if she did, then she didn’t just trip over the carpet, did she? She either tripped over her own feet, or she was pushed.”

My eyes narrow as she turns to look at me, awaiting my appraisal. “You really believe she was murdered?”

“Use your brain Zabini - Lavender Brown was not clumsy. She wasn’t intelligent, but she wasn’t stupid either.”

“So? It was dark, she could have just lost her footing.” The curtains are closed, after all . . .

“You really believe that?”

“Maybe. Shouldn’t I?”

She doesn’t answer that. To decide upon the actual time of her death, I begin to make my way back downstairs, taking care to ignore the body where a thin trickle of blood cascades in a twisting river along the carpeted floor. The kitchen shows signs of two people - there’s liptick on one of the mugs, something Hermione snaps that we can use Muggle sources for to measure who’s DNA it is. If its Lavender’s, then we can probably presume the other cup was used by a male, or a visitor who does not feel inclined to use make-up. A couple of plates lay discarded in the sink, and quickly I glance at Hermione, all hostility forgotten as I become involved in the mystery.

“Was there any signs of another inside the bed?”

Hermione frowns. “I don’t know - I haven’t been in there, have I? That was your job.”

Nodding, I return, but finding the bed crumpled on but one side, I quickly decide that only Lavender slept there last night. A frown etches my smooth features and I begin to chew at my mind with questions of fervent exaggeration. The questions however are too large, and finding Hermione back downstairs, I find her stood leaning against the door, a quill moving across a sheet of parchment that’s pinned to a clipboard.

“So?” she lifts her eyes to watch me, and with a shrug, I turn away. My eyes fall on the girl once again. I can’t say I ever knew her very well, but still . . . I can’t deny that the sight of her body is kind of depressing.

“I dunno.”

“Brilliant,” sarcasm oozes from her voice, so that I turn sharply and face her with both a glower and a scowl. She meets my frosty gaze with one of ice, and I can’t help but feel that if this was any other she was working with, she would show a kindness towards them, telling them that it was ok, it was their first day, that they had done well . . . But no, this is I, Blaise Zabini. Stupid bint’s probably just jealous of my hair.

“So what now?”

“Well, we send an owl to the Muggle authorities, or rather, a er, phonecall . . . We get in contact with the Ministry and get them to issue someone to take the body away. We’ll order a full check-over of the house . . . They’ll inform us if they find any fresh evidence.”

“And that’s it?” I raise my eyebrows with surprise, urging her to do more than simply stand around waiting. She returns my question with a shrug, allowing silence to wash over the hallways before venturing to reply. Several quill-scratches later, I might add.

“There’s not much else we can do right now. We’re Aurors. We’ll chase down evidence when we’ve got a better lead. Right now I’ve got a meeting with the Head of Law Enforcement, and I’ll have to explain the situation to a couple of Muggle detectives.”

“And what about me?”

She glares. “Do as you like, Zabini. You know your job.”

With a loud crack, she disappears. I feel slightly stranded, like I’m floating on empty water with nothing to eat or drink, but what can I do? She’s the boss, after all . . .

With one last look at the body of Lavender Brown, I take in her night-gown, the coils of curls that tangle at her neck, the blood that stains their golden purity, and then with a snap, I apperate out. Apperating spoils evidence, which is why we did not use such a method of transport in the first place, but now we’ve gathered what we can, its up to others to finish the mess that we’re not inclined to clear up.

- - - -

I finish off the day with a lunch break, accompanied by research. Lavender’s friends consisted of Parvati Patil - that much I know, but who she’s kept up with in the past is a little more difficult to track down. Just after noon, I received an owl that contained a letter on Muggle research, forwarded by a Ministry official. The information consists of a pile of letters belonging to Brown, accompanied by a piece of black hair. Cat hair, that was all. They didn’t run any tests on it because I told them not to. After all - I saw that cat. She was completely raven in colour.

Lavender Brown - slut of the school . . . I suppose I oughtn’t include that in my notes. I went out with her once, but that was years ago. Besides, its not like anyone would even remember. It was back when we were sixteen or something, just after she’d gotten rid of that mutt Weasley.

“So, what have you come up with?” Granger asks, and I glance up to find that its later than I thought. The artificial light from the feigned windows informs me that the day is hardly long overdue. Granger shoves some coffee towards me in exchange for the notes I hand in her direction, and I sip contently, feeling the fatigue clutch at me as I finally realise what time it is.

Eight thirty. I should have finished work well over two hours ago.

“Not bad,” she replies unenthusiastically. I can see that she also is tired, simply from the strained look on her face and the hair that she has let loose over her shoulders. A sigh escapes her lips and she reaches for her coat, waving her wand with an “Accio”, and pulling the warmth of its material around her. “Don’t work too hard,” she adds regrettably. “Its your first day, after all.”

“Not bad, eh?”

“No, not for someone who’s got less sense than brains.”

I frown, trying to deicide if that’s a compliment or not . . . Is she calling me brainy, or just plain senseless, or -

Suddenly I realise I haven’t used my sharp-tongued wit since this morning. I’ve been so busy my mind hasn’t even cornered that realisation until now.

“Shame your brain stole the quality of your looks, Granger,” I retort waspishly, “if you swapped the two around, you might actually be pretty.”

“Like you, you mean?” she snarls, grabbing her handbag and slinging it over her shoulder, all possible acceptance between one another shrunk away as we return to our bickering. “Forget it, Zabini. I wouldn’t expect you to think outside the walls of your own being. You might realise one day that vanity isn’t everything. Until that time, don’t talk to me.”

Huh. Pretty impossible, seeing as we’ve been slammed together as business partners. I open my mouth to snarl some pretty insult in return, but the sound of her shoes are already distant echoes upon the floor as she strides away, leaving me in the empty darkness, feeling incredibly . . . old. Like one of those men who spends all his time at work because he’s got nothing to go home to. And what have I got to go home to?

An empty bed.

Author's Note: I like to eat my reviews with coffee . . . Or rather, I relish my reviews as I grin at them with coffee - in other words, please do review if you read. :)

Chapter 2: Where Loyalties Lie . . .
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Chapter Two

Ok, so my first day of work didn’t go too well. For a start, my boss is Granger, and worse than that - yes, believe me there is such a thing as being worse than the tragedy of Granger - I find myself returning home to none other than a row.

Great. I almost feel like a kid again.

Hanging up my keys and whistling to myself as I find my way through the house in the keen urge to simply get to bed and find peace within sleep, I’m stopped short than none other than Pansy Parkinson, her dark hair half-way down her waist, her body wrapped in a soft snowy white towel. She almost drops it at the very sight of me.

“Merlin, not you again,” I greet her with a faint scowl, my flesh darkening a shade in colour as I clearly allow the disdain to leak through into my iridescent smouldering eyes. “Don’t you have your own home to go to?”

A small sneer twists her bright peony lips as she sighs irritably, as if the question I have asked is entirely unfeasible. I mean, anyone would think that I was a tramp recently wandered in from the streets, the way this girl is thinking. When she speaks, my mouth all but gapes open.

“This is my home. Sorry to disappoint you Zabini, but Draco proposed. I live here now.”

She holds out a ring proudly. It gleams in the lamp-light and I stare at it in wide-eyed shock. There was me thinking that Draco had no commitment to this girl, and then he goes and does something like this? Its completely insane! What happened to the Draco who I used to laugh with, slamming hands together in triumph when he knocked up a girl but got away with the responsibility of it? And now he might actually want to settle down? What in the name of bloody Merlin is wrong with him?

Shoving past Pansy, I ignore the way her gloating face irks me so strongly and march my way along the creamy hallway, finding the man standing over a mug of coffee and glancing around as if he’s some sort of high-king of the world. Slamming down my fist on the counter, I glower at him in the inclination of confrontation.

“You can’t be serious.”

He glances up, seemingly rather surprised by my issue of greeting, and his silvery mirrored eyes narrow instinctively. With a slight snarl, he eyes me over, catching sight of my strained and work-fatigued face, a mar of annoyance cleansing his features from any warmth of cold. A heat sparks his gaze to daring and he shifts to get a better look at me.

“What?”

“Her,” I throw my hands up in explanation. “Queen of Mood Swings, Lady of the Dark Temper . . . I mean, its beyond reason.”

“How exactly do you mean?”

I growl beneath my breath and begin to make my meal, pulling open the fridge roughly in a temper and selecting for myself a meal, shoving it beneath a heat spell before stabbing my annoyance at it with a fork. Poor food . . . I bet it wonders what it ever did wrong. Nonetheless, that’s beyond the point. This idiot has taken it upon himself to propose to none other than the Ice Bitch of Gloom, Pansy Sodding Parkinson.

“Well, let me start with the fact that she’s an irritating busybody, shall I?” I begin with annoyance etched like cold stone pebbles within the weight of my words. Tearing at the food from my fork I swallow before continuing. “Despite being a pain in the arse, she constantly takes it upon herself as a duty to tell me what to do.”

Draco turns away, a glower sweeping across his features, and I watch him coldly as he decides to ignore me. Finishing off his beer, he swigs it down and then leaves the room, swiftly exiting whilst Pansy calls to him from further up the hallway, dressed now in a silken black dressing gown, her lengthy raven hair kissing the column of her pale exposed throat, a purr sounding within her voice as she murmurs suggestively to Draco.

You get the point. She’s really settled herself in.

Looks like Zabini has to start looking for a new home, and to do that, I have to start working fast.

-------------------------

“What have we got?”

She glances up, surveying me through darkened honey eyes, flashing with a slight irritancy that causes me to frown. Glancing back down, she continues to stack her papers as if she hasn’t heard me. Its then that I realise this is deliberate. She’s just trying to wind me up, see how long I last before I explode. Fine. I’ll wait it out, wait until she finally decides that she’ll answer my bloody question.

“You’ve got an interview to attend to,” she speaks at last, venturing to pick up her tea and swirl it slightly, my eyes dropping to the liquid before she sips, sighs and places it back on the table again.

“What about you?”

“That’s neither here nor there,” she snaps irritably. “I’ve got a meeting with the Deputy Head of Law Enforcement in less than an hour. I’m sure you can understand my situation.” She smiles, a cold little smile that puts me on edge, ready to set my blood to boiling and my mind to seething, but instead I take the option of returning the smile sweetly, as if I hardly care. A glower ensues after that, but turning away, I begin to observe her office carelessly, my eyes straying over objects that she does not wish me to see. Obviously, by the cutting sound of her voice when she speaks again, such objects and photos are personal.

“Take your hands off that.” My hand automatically drops to my side and I turn to watch her with the faintest of smirks curling my mouth almost to the point of a grin. Her glare remains of ice as she continues, her voice just as firm and commanding as ever, the bossy streak something that is not lost on me. “I want you to research Lavender Brown - I want details on her lifestyle, her work, the people she associated herself with . . .”

I narrow my eyes. “And how am I meant to find that out?”

She proceeds to rolling her eyes. “Honestly, the way you speak its as if you’ve never had any training at all.”

Whoops. Did I neglect to mention that I haven’t?

“I want a full report at lunch. Unless that’s too difficult?”

I scowl and choose to ignore that last comment, turning away to face the door, grabbing my jacket on the way out and venturing onto the cold streets.

Out here, frost clings to the streets. It glitters on the curb, hemming tiny fragments of silver lace that is smutted to a sheen in the golden wash of the sun that sets a cleansing drench upon the cold. Frozen fingers dig into pockets, as if I’m casually trying to keep warm by that mere motion, and dispersing my existence through apperating, I turn a corner when I think no one is looking and feel the familiar tearing sensation ripping me away from one area to another.

The papers in my pocket are immediately pulled out as I study them thoughtfully, before glancing up at the house before me. This is the house of Parvati Patil - or rather, Finnigan. It’s a lot more spacious than I may have assumed it to be - hell, I thought it would be a dingy little place, similar to that of Lavender’s herself. Nothing special. This however, highlights an Irish mansion. This can only mean one thing.

The bint married Seamus Finnegan.

There’s so much I need to do. Mostly its taking notes from the Muggle forensics, seeing what they come up with, but I’m expecting a er, what do you call it, er . . . Phone call, later today. Apparently the brick the Ministry issued me with earlier this morning is a mobile phone . . . Sound weird to you? ‘Cause I have no sodding idea . . .

Dropping that thought, I step towards the house, crossing the glittering lawn where a forest of dew clutters the luscious trimmed grass. There’s a clear sign marking “Don’t walk on the grass”. Haha, well, I might as well keep up my rebellious streak. My shoes crush into the growth, crushing it down into the mud until the two become a thick surly swirl. A smirk passes my lips and I bury my hands into my pockets along with those many sheets of parchment. Its time to visit the gossip couple.

The door swings open only moments before I knock upon it - after all, I have to knock. Apparently its rude to apperate uninvited into people’s houses, and despite the identification inside my pocket, its probably best not to abuse that authority. Yet. There will be plenty of time for power corruption later.

A woman glares at me disapprovingly - obviously she’s seen me trespassing across that precious grass, although her eyes soften slightly when her warm dark gaze moves across me. There’s red lines around her eyes, causing them to look swollen. She’s obviously tried to use make-up to smudge it all away, although her hair is still slightly damp, and she’s dressed in a cotton dressing-gown that shields her body from view. Raising a hand to her dishevelled sheet of midnight hair, she smiles faintly and steps back, revealing a wide entrance hall, patterned in a rich furnishing of wood.

“Oh, hi Blaise.”

“Zabini,” I snap at her shortly, trying my best to look impressive. With a crisp air to my voice and a sharp piercing to my glare, I smirk inwardly. Its like playing that Muggle game Weaslebee was obsessed with in his seventh year at Hogwarts - Cludo It was amusing sometimes how he used to sit in the library whilst Granger taught him the strategies. Not that I was ever watching. Hell no, of course not. This could be fun. “You seem very wide-awake this morning, Patil.”

“Oh, well yes,” she begins, slightly taken-aback, although her eyes narrow at the word Patil. She’s married now, you see. “Of course I am. I’ve hardly slept a wink all night.”

“Not surprised,” I respond, my gaze automatically tracing the room, wandering across portraits of stormy-eyed Irish aristocrats, through magically entranced landscapes of rushing wind and the wild open stretch of sea. “She was your best friend, wasn’t she?”

She clears her throat softly and from the corner of my eye I catch glimpse of her giving a slight nod. She looks anything but comfortable. “Er, well yes . . . That is, up until a couple of years ago. Do you er, mind if I dress first?” She pats her dressing gown with colour rising to her cheeks. “I’ll make you some tea, if it helps.”

“Coffee.”

With that I turn my back on her in easy dismissal. Hell, its fun being in charge.

Whilst she’s gone, I try my best to provoke a suspicious mind. Parvati could simply be searching for an excuse to get away, to fix together some answers. How did she hear about the death? Why is she up so early? Why did she answer the door so quickly? Was she really watching me walk across the lawn, or was she about to go out, perhaps to conspire or something, to kill any evidence of witnesses who stood in her way? My fingers trace a soft varnished curve of wood, peering at it closely. Above it, there’s a candlestick, its metal frame slender with an over-layer of feigned gold. A noise to my left stirs me from my pensiveness and I quickly spin around, eyes falling upon Parvati, who is now completely dressed, a smile painted across her lips.

“If you’d like to step through to the parlour . . .?”

“Sure.”

The parlour turns out to be a room dressed entirely in pink. I know - disgusting, isn’t it? I mean, you’ve got to be insane to like the colour. The hue is sickening - soft and warm and delicate, almost fragile. I refrain from wrinkling my nose up in disdain and instead concentrate on observation, picking out minor details as if they could represent some clue of the murder. Ridiculous, isn’t it? I’m already thinking it’s a murder when I haven’t yet had the post mortem. It could just be an accident, a single trip on the stairs. But nah. Such is life of an Auror - the forever searching mind.

A window looks out onto the gardens, where rosebushes are clustered together. These windows are thrown open and the faint scent of lavender drifts through along with an icy wash of breeze. It jerks my senses further awake. I walk the room once, eyes searching, before dropping into a chair and sitting back with a faint smirk. A fire burns palely, flames flickering, some dispersing in the light whisper of the wind, the others growing stronger from the very pulse of it. Wood snaps loudly and grains of dark ash scatter the surface of the hearth, the dark stone wall behind scorched black from the heat.

“So,” Parvati begins nervously after a small silence, automatically returning my attention to her. She’s sat in the opposite seat, back straight, hands folded together upon her lap. A very suspicious position, if you ask me. Anxious, like. But then, who wouldn’t be? I’m bloody hot, aren’t I? There’s always tension in a room when my presence enters it.

Concentrate.

I sniff and lean forwards to pick up the coffee a house-elf has laid out on the table, along with a delicate flowery tray in which there are a plate of biscuits. I ignore the food, nod to the woman in careless gratitude and pull out a cigarette. She looks horrified by this - completely baffled, and I deliberately raise one eyebrow to observe her calmly.

“You don’t mind if I smoke, do you?” I enquire with a smirk, already lighting up.

“Oh no, of course not.” Her tone informs me that she does care, but with a quick grin I inhale and tap ash onto the table, sucking in again and releasing the intoxicant that cures my craving in a rush of breath and a satisfactory sigh.

Screw it, lets skip to the questions. Formalities are not my favourability.

“How long has it been since last you saw Lavender Brown, Mrs Finnigan?”

There, shape it bluntly. No need for sympathy around here.

She shifts at either the question or my tone, and sits up a little straighter, her eyes down-cast. “Too long . . .”

“Specifics.”

She gazes up sharply, her eyes suddenly abrupt, almost angry as they burn into me, locking with my eyes. One of my eyebrows only curves slightly in amusement at that sudden wrath, the woman’s smooth olive skin tinged with the red either from anger or fear, I have no idea.

“I suppose it was eighteen months ago, a couple of days before my marriage. She . . . wasn’t happy about it, to say the least.”

“I thought she was engaged to the Irish git?”

Her eyes narrow, her voice becoming rather stiff. “Yes, well. She messed that one up when she had an affair, didn’t she?”

“An affair?”

She nods quickly, an abrupt movement that jabs through the peace and stings annoyance to the now fragmented air. “Yes. She and Seamus had been together through the last year of Hogwarts. Their ending was . . . rather gruesome, to say the least.”

“Really?” I inch forward a little in my seat, cigarette stuck between my lips as I murmur with interest. “I’d say it was a little more than gruesome, Patil. I’d say it was cold-blooded murder.”

“I’m not talking about that,” she hisses viciously, her glare turning to knives as she glowers at me with obvious distaste. “And please, its Finnigan, not Patil.”

I smirk. “You seem quite keen to leave your maiden name behind. Any particular reason?”

“Perhaps the fact that I’m married?” she scoffs, before narrowing her eyes coldly. When I offer no retort, she continuous, although not before picking up her tea and sipping from it delicately. Buying time to think, most likely - I’d say. “Lavender and Seamus were engaged to be married, although obviously marriage meant nothing to her. She . . . had issues. She always had to stay one step ahead of the game. She was covert. She couldn‘t stay still for too long.”

I nod. This is pretty much my problem. I’m restless. Scared of a relationship, of commitment.

“Seamus tried all he could to save her. Romantic holidays, dances, gatherings . . . Nothing was satisfactory. She always seemed to slip out of his fingers, to become bored. I knew Lavender better than anyone, and I’d say it wasn’t just one time she had an affair. It was more like ten. There were always . . . incidents. I’d come here to visit them, and she would either always be out, or dressed perfectly as if she intended to have guests, to provide some sort of entertainment.”

“She could just have been bored,” I observe darkly with a slight shrug. “Who’s to say she didn’t dress for herself? I mean, she was always a fashion freak.” Hell, I remember her too well, the taste of her lips on mine, an expert kisser, her throat rich with the scent of perfume, hair dressed immaculately in golden silken curls.

“No. She wouldn’t go that far just to please herself. She dressed for someone. Besides, Finnigan caught her at it once.”

My eyes widen. “Who?”

“There were several.”

“But which one?”

She swallows and looks away, a hand passing through her hair as her dark eyes come to rest on the window, as if reminiscing. Its annoying - I’m impatient. Finally she parts her lips to speak, still not looking at me, her voice softer than the faintest whisper.

“Draco Malfoy.”

I freeze. She spins her eyes back round to look at me, and we share a familiar discomfort. Draco was seeing Lavender? But, he’s with Pansy, he proposed and . . . My mind becomes a whirl. What if he proposed because he had to push Lavender out of the way? I mean, if she was what was keeping the two apart, maybe she had threatened him to tell Pansy, perhaps Draco thought she had to be gotten rid of . . . A redeemed Death Eater, Draco was capable of it. Come to think of it, I wasn’t even aware of where the man had been that night. In bed with Pansy, supposedly, or was that hours later? It would not be hard to apperate to Brown’s, share a meal with her, disappear back home once the job was done . . .

No. The thought was sickening. Draco’s my friend. How could I even suspect . . . ?

The answer came just as quickly. It was my job to suspect.

Drawing a breath, I rip myself from my thoughts, aware that Parvati is watching me very carefully. I offer her a precarious smile, one of quick recovery, and taking another drag of smoke, I swallow down the last of the coffee and fix her with a permanent stare, stamping out the cigarette on the table as she winces, allowing concentration to pour through.

“How long?”

She shrugs. “I don’t know. Quite a while, I’d say. Although she never brought him here - or at least, I wouldn’t have thought it. She was more clever than that. She had some other home that Seamus bought her, a flat in London to make it easier to travel to and from work.”

“Why couldn’t she apperate?”

“Her family. She wanted to be close to them. Her mum died a year ago.”

“And you and Seamus are together because . . .?”

A small smile flickers across her face. “He proposed to me a month later. I suppose I had always loved him, somehow.”

I nod and get to my feet; however, there’s one last question on the edge of my tongue that I must ask before I leave. Or rather, two, but the last is more necessary, for personal reasons. I don’t want to believe Draco had anything to do with this.

“I have to ask - where were you on the evening of Lavender Brown’s murder?”

She swallows, the word murder seemingly discomforting. “I was here. In the drawing room. Seamus had taken some time off work and we decided to spend it together. The house elves can vouch for us, but I doubt they are a reliable witness. Other than that, there’s no one.”

I nod.

“How long has it been since you last saw Draco Malfoy?”

“Oh,” she pauses, as if straining to think. “I’d say about three weeks ago, in London. He was with her. Lavender.”

“But I thought you said you’d seen her eighteen months ago . . .?”

Quickly, she flushes red and stumbles to correct herself. “Well er, yes. I mean, that was when I last spoke to her, our last confrontation. She and Draco were together in a café. I caught sight of them on my way to Diagon Alley.”

The wail of a baby sounds from upstairs. My heart is beating quicker than its usual pace, my teeth automatically chomping on my lip.

“Thanks for your help. I’ll be around here soon if there’s any more questions I need answering.”

- - - -

Lunchtime passes swiftly - a vegetable pasty and a paper-cup of coffee, not much else. Wiping my hands on the grimy packaging, I feel the vibration on a phone inside my hands, and with a scowl I remember that this has been expected. I pull the piece of Muggle technology from my pocket, glancing down at it and frowning before flicking the flap open, searching for the correct button to press, yet already there’s a voice flowing from the receiver, and quickly I press it to my ear and grunt a greeting.

Ten minutes later I’m inside the department of forensic investigation. A woman in a crisp white coat with dark, tied back hair and high cheek bones is standing next to me, her slender figure just visible through that over-layer. A faint smile plays at my lips. She’s quite hot, actually. She’s muttering something about Aminotransferase enzymes, but I’m not really paying attention. My eyes are drawn to the body before us.

Lavender Brown’s corpse is resting cold and pale against a table. A sheet covers her body yet stops just above her chest, revealing the crevice of her collar bones, her lips faintly parted yet dried, blanched and frozen. Eyes stare continuously into nothing, and she once again reminds me of a broken doll, beauty fragmented by death. Her chipped-china eyes are beads, her every feature pristine, yet there’s an eerie silence about her that causes a tremor to run down my spine. The woman turns to face me once more, one dark eyebrow raised in questioning, as if waiting for some appraisal.

“Er, yeah,” I state, and this seems to be enough for her. She turns back to the corpse and points out a heavy wound to the back of the head which obviously Granger and I didn’t see before. We weren’t inclined to move the body. Yet I remember clear as anything that there had been blood there.

“Its too heavy an impact to have been caused by a fall. There has obviously been a deliberate collision, although there are no fibres or traces of what it could have been. Whoever has done this is an expert.”

“Hmmmm,” I frown. Obviously this woman wouldn’t know the skills of magic, the way a simple dab of potion can clear any sort of evidence up. A powerful potion, mind. I must go through Knockturn Alley at some point to see who last purchased some. That’s if that burke Borgin bothers to tell me.

“ - No sign of any platelets,” her voice swims back into my head once more, and I turn to frown in confusion. Cold eyes meet mine with some high amount of disdain, and a sigh rakes from the woman’s lips, as if she’s talking to a child. “Platelets - one of the main components of the blood that forms clots in which aids a seal . . . A sealing up of injured areas which thus prevent any kind of haemorrhage. This indicates that there was little time for her injuries to heal. She must have died straight after the blow.”

“’Course.”

She begins to rant about how the body has been tested for temperature, how she’s taken several forensic samples to prevent any disruption to evidence less the body be allowed out from custody for any particular reason. My mind swims with confusion, but I nod along with everything this stuck up cow says. She blabbers on about how she’s sprayed water against Lavender’s clothing and pressed material thick paper to it to soak up any moisture or traces that remain - such as perhaps blood, human excrement, skin cells, hair . . . Nothing. No such luck.

Boring.

I’m relieved immensely to return to the office, although there’s still millions to do. This job runs me off my feet, and yet somehow I find myself enjoying it. The secretary makes me a coffee as I begin to work on documents, piecing together everything I’ve discovered today, and standing up I know that I must question Lavender’s father, to see when last he saw her. That can wait until later, however. Right now my mind is preoccupied.

Draco Malfoy.

Could my best friend really be involved in this huge mess? And if he is, the question remains - where does my loyalty lie. With my friend? Or with the law?

Author's Note: Please if you read, review. :)

Chapter 3: Chapter Three
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Chapter Three
Never gonna catch tomorrow


“Good day?”

I glance up, eyebrows furrowed as I consider the woman before me. A dark sheet of hair falls forwards as she glances over a mixing bowl, slowly considering. A copy of Witch’s Weekly is left on the side, untouched with a glossy front cover showing a blonde witch with pouty lips.

“As good as murder can get,” I reply, trying to keep my voice entirely neutral I response to her pleasant tone. Whatever’s got her so happy I can’t imagine. I mean, its not as if Draco wants to marry her, does he? Sliding my form into a seat, I pick up the glass of water on the side and sip carelessly. “You?”

She doesn’t seem to pleased that I’m drinking her water, but save from the disgruntled line of her brow, there’s no sign that she’s protesting against it. “Yes. Draco and I agreed to go out tonight.”

“Oh really?”

“Yes,” she nods, fixing her stare upon perfectly manicured nails before raising it to regard me. “Draco’s taking me to visit his parents.”

Parents . . . This must mean Draco’s serious. Pansy’s fingers trail to massage her stomach and my own gaze follows the movement, as if trapped there. I raise a pair of eyebrows and she smiles.

“Yes. I haven’t meant them of yet and I think its about time, don’t you? Besides, Draco and I discussed it.” Discussed it? More like argued about it. Anyway, pug-face is still talking. “What with our engagement, and the marriage being in two weeks . . .”

“Two weeks?! What is he, insane?”

Her dark eyes narrow and she watches me coolly, as if I’ve just thrown a great insult at her. Well, in a way, I have, but that’s not the point. She should have expected it. There’s no reason for her to look so offended. The thought of things getting entirely rational is just weird. Well, anything rational accompanying Draco is weird.

“We can’t leave it too long. I might begin to show.”

“Show?” What the hell is she on about? Perhaps this marriage rubbish is just an illusion. Maybe this girl needs a trip to St Mungos. I’m about to offer to take her there when my mind suddenly speeds up and pairs everything together. The fingers resting on the navel, the engagement ring twinkling brightly, the marriage being in two weeks . . .

Hell.

The slag’s pregnant.

My nose immediately wrinkles and I lean backwards in my seat as if to get as far away from her as possible. A mutter of “urgh”, escapes my throat, and pinning my palms across my eyes my mouth opens in an almost silent scream. Children? Children?! A child, a baby . . . My god, she’s serious. Releasing a gasp and remembering to breathe, I quickly press the water to my lips and swallow in great gasps, before sliding down a couple of inches in my seat and staring at her. “You’re . . .”

“Yes,” she nods impatiently, obviously not pleased with my reaction. She turns around and walks to the window, one hand running through a thick stream of dark hair as the other remains lovingly on her stomach. Her voice seems distant in a dreamy way as she speaks, as if she has desired such perfection since before her time. “Draco was most pleased.”

I raise my eyebrows, finding this declaration difficult to believe, and standing up as I walk over to the fridge, I pull the door open and peer inside, glad of the sudden rush of most delightful cold that cleanses my skin from the flustered heat I had been feeling earlier. Well, this news is weird. I mean, Draco wanting a kid is like Satan offering to foster a young and innocent child, or perhaps issuing a daily supply of cake to the elderly. Pulling out a bottle of wine I do not even attempt to find a glass, nor do I stay to drink it inside the room.

“Not having any dinner?” Pansy calls after me, her voice careless as she continues to stare into oblivion.

“Nope. I’ve had this disgusting news that’s made me lose my appetite.”

Picturing the scowl on the woman’s face, I shut the bedroom door sharply behind me, collapsing into my empty bed and taking a long swig of wine.

- - - -

“Get up.”

My eyes crack open. Painfully shutting them once again, I shift uneasily to see a light directed in my face - the light of a wand. My head is aching and this small sample offers no antidote. A migraine explodes and it takes a moment or two to realise my situation.

I’m in my room. The bedroom is cloaked in a shadow of dark, and this offers a relief to my eyes as they sting into it. It must be late, because there’s no sliver of sunlight protruding through the gaping windows. Only silence and ebony ensue. Yet above me, there is the sound of breathing, and at my back there is the warm softness of the bed. Slightly drunken and with a mind that is screaming, I slowly inch my way into a sitting position as pain splinters through my head. The room half-shakes around me. The after effect of alcohol.

On the floor rests an empty wine bottle, along with a half-empty volume of vodka. A yawn presents to the intruder my teeth, but I’ve already worked out from the insistency of it all that this is Draco. “What is it?”

My voice sounds exhausted and restrained even to my own ears, and rubbing a hand through my hair to separate the damp strands from the beads of perspiration, my eyes become more flexible, adjusting to the light that is now warming in the clear separation from the dark.

“This.” Several ravels of shredded parchment present themselves to my view. Red. This crimson hue is slightly startling, and yet I know immediately that this is the after effect of a Howler. I frown at Draco as he allows the material to fall upon my bed, his silvery eyes narrowed and cold. Standing up and straightening from his position on the side of the bed, he walks to the window and throws the glass wide open. “Its been screaming at your door for the past couple of seconds. I’m surprised you didn’t wake up.”

Fully dressed in soft leather trousers and a grey shirt, he turns to appraise me, yet before my sleepy mind can appraise the context of exactly what he is saying, a sharp crack causes the pair of us to jump and from the corridor comes a large bang. Alohomora has quiet obviously blasted the front door into oblivion and now, standing slightly breathless with her chest heaving is a rather disgruntled Granger.

She seems to spot me lying in bed immediately.

“Zabini!”

“Pleasure,” I smile at her largely, inclining my head and sitting up a little straighter in bed, the sheets sliding along my chest to reveal my bare torso. She seems to hesitate for a moment as her eyes fall upon it, before her focus snatches back once more and hands raise to place themselves on her curvy hips.

“How many times?”

“You what?”

“How many times do I have to pound the dial in request of entry?”

“You seem to have found your way in easily enough yourself. Such initiative.” I smirk, something that is quickly replaced by a yawn. “What are you doing here at -” my eyes slide away to steal a glimpse of the dials on the digital clock before resting back on the woman before me - “two a.m.?”

“We have a case to solve.”

“I’m off duty.”

“That doesn’t count -”

“Would someone care to explain?” A cold, drawling voice sounds from the darkened corner and stepping forward to reveal himself in the array of wand-lit light, Draco announces his presence once more. Hell, I’d forgotten that he was even there. Creamy flesh highlights the piercing colour of his eyes, a sneer tugging at his lips at the sight of Granger standing inside his flat. Before either of us can come up with an answer however, another sound issues from the hallway and a gasp of shock sounds through the air. Pansy, dressed sleekly in her silken black dressing-gown, stares at each of us in turn before resting her full attention on Granger.

“Draco! What is this Mudblood doing in our house?” Technically, I might add, not a house. A flat is a small series of rooms built up to make a living space. Dependable on price range, the size can vary from large to small, and they are often built for travellers, business persons wishing to occupy a property near to the city/town/whatever they are travelling through, or, in my case, for those unfortunate sods who have to share because they cannot find a place of their own. Yeah, I know - this information is irrelevant, so lets tune back in and listen to the dopy old cow. “SHE IS DISEASED! HAVE YOU NO RESPECT FOR THE WELFARE OF ME AND THIS BABY?!”

A stunned silence follows, but I’m already taking the initiative and pulling on my clothes. A pair of pinstripe trousers follow a shirt, topped off by converse and a jacket, and quickly gripping hold of Granger’s hand and pulling her out of the doorway, I duck through the exit as a series of explosions in the voice of one Pansy Parkinson proceeds to wake up the whole floor.

Once outside in the sting of cold air, Granger wrestles her palm from mine and immediately the warmth of human flesh is robbed away. I turn to look at her when she stops, planting her feet firmly in the ground of the run-down grubby pavement. A dog barks from one of the distant alley-ways and from a distance comes the roar of drunken laughter. A rustle from a fox invading a dustbin causes me to startle and I turn to face it, wondering sharply why the hell a fox would be situated in London, but Hermione grabs my wrist roughly with further strength than I thought she owned and spins me back around to face her. Her expression is pinched and fuming.

Charming.

“You never told me you lived with them.” Her voice is audible with disgust.

“You never asked.”

“And I suppose you share the same ideals as them? The whole Muggle-born issue and all.”

Its more of an affirmation than a question. This angers me a little and my eyes narrow with annoyance. “No actually, I don’t. And what has this got to do with waking me up in the middle of the night?” I’m still vividly aware of the pain inside my head.

“Just because I’m Muggle-born does not mean that I am incapable of my job.”

“Never said it did,” I mutter carelessly, pulling out a cigarette and lighting up.

“Good,” she sounds relieved, although there’s still a gaping wound remaining between the pair of us. “Now, there’s an issue we have to solve. Or rather, a murder. And don’t do that, it will kill you.”

I frown before realising she’s talking about smoking. With a careless shrug, I direct my attention towards the rooftops, frosted in silver by an array of sparkling stars. “So what? Gonna die some day anyway. May as well live my life doing what I want, rather than worrying myself about death. Hell of a lot of useless anxiety.”

“Is that what you think?”

“What?”

“About smoking. About life.” She watches as I inhale a large drag of grey smoke before releasing it once more into the cold, driving breeze of refreshing night air. There’s something about the night that is so fresh, it inevitable to pay it every last drop of attention until some form of sound distracts you from it. “Anyway,” - like that. She’s constantly interrupting my peace. First, waking me up . . . Well, technically, Draco woke me up, but only because she sent me that stupid letter, and then now, she’s dragging me out of my calm and landing stupid things on me. Like murders. “My general point for this intrusion is the death of Gregory Goyle. We in particular were put on the case for belief of the victim being yet another of our original killer.”

I wrinkle my nose in confusion. “What do you mean? What evidence is there to support this?”

“Think about it. These people were at school in our year. That’s one link to be certain of. Furthermore, thus far both victims have been killed directly in their houses, without an inch of magic. Or at least that’s what the details recorded have directed into the information stats. That’s enough of a lead for me. Now, are you coming or not?”

Still slightly confused that the victim was Goyle himself, I’m stuck on thinking that all of this seems very close to home . . . Distracted, I hardly protest when Granger’s hand seizes my wrist, the warmth of her flesh sinking through so that I can almost imagine her fingerprints brushing against me, seeping into the traces of clear skin. With a large crack, a sickly feeling and a sudden impact of dizziness and disgruntled behaviour, I feel myself thrown into normality once more after what seems to be like endless churning. Sucking in a breath and releasing it in a warming vapour of cloud through the air, I relax and feel the tension melting from my shoulders.

We’re in a dark street, although that darkness is only partial as the sound of a car roars through, the speed of light beating it and pooling the tarmac in yellow-gold. The machine swerves and skids as it reaches the roundabout, breaking with a scream before roaring on, the exhaust shuddering and music pounding until both sound and light are lost from our sight. I blink with shock, wand clenched inside my fist as I turn to face Granger, eyes slightly widened. She shrugs and gesticulates widely towards the left. A steep, red bricked wall captures my attention, a barricade to a huge red building sporting iron bars that can be seen from the darkened windows that line it. A shudder walks my spine at the very vision.

“Muggle prison,” Granger explains dismissively, immediately creating the trigger of imagination that spirals to empty eyes and undistinguishable features, sitting in long lines as they stare at me, my body walking the corridor as I too watch them in glued fascination. “We’re in Reading, one of the less favourable areas. Still, leads to Reading central shopping centre - the Oracle, and from thereon all the clubs and so forth. The way we’re going offers no such leisure however.” She glances at her watch before dropping her hand once more to her side and hugging her coat about her figure. “Homebase is over there. Stacked with Muggle mechanic uses and homeware. Plants and the like. Next to that, toy shop, across the road a residential park. That’s the location we’re in. Run down. Now,” she begins to walk faster, the chill of the weather clearly affecting her, as when she speaks it is within gasps, her footsteps quickening and echoing on the tarmac as she keeps up her pace in an effort to keep warm. “This is King’s Road. Aside from the businesses, there’s poverty. This is where our murder has taken place, so don’t expect full co-operation from the locals during the investigation. Where there’s a lack of wealth there’s more than often a lack of mannerisms. I’m not being snobby,” she adds hastily at my pointed look, “but its true of Muggles. They battle for survival, not for who can hold the best dinner party. Whilst the majority of people around here are probably untroublesome, that doesn’t mean all of them are nice.”

I nod but say nothing, offering neither agreement nor contradiction. To judge someone on their state of income is not my idea of a reliable source, but hell - its two a.m. I’m not going to argue.

Allow me to explain the situation between myself and the current victim of this killer. Gregory Goyle has long since been a neglected friend of mine. Or rather, not friend. No, nowadays he’s more like an acquaintance - a disliked one. He was a worm of the past. In the days of the Dark Lord, he turned Draco and myself in as fellow Death Eaters in the desperation to save himself. In those days, he was a coward, yet he was one of us, and so we accepted him. Yet when the Dark Lord fell and the Light began to crush all, stamping out the last of the Darkness, Gregory Goyle was the first on their agenda. Renowned for his numerous torturing of Muggles, he had been tracked down by a couple of Aurors and stood on trail for Azkaban. However, before his punishment could be voiced, he blurted out a list of names useful to the Ministry, most of which were already either captured or killed. The night they came for us, Goyle’s promise of our involvement was on the tongues of those Aurors. We were severely punished. Faced with a lifetime of Azkaban, we were instead turned back into the magical world rather than the mundane. Someone argued our case - I dunno who, but somehow the Ministry changed their minds about us. Goyle however, was subjected to ostracism. He returned to the world alone and stripped of his magic, his wand snapped and with little gifted money, although the house provided and secured by the Muggle council was a generosity in itself. I haven’t seen him since. Needless to say, the situation is hardly one of grievance to me.

We reach an array of council houses, shabby and built of the same red brick that offers a structure to the prison at our backs. Even without looking at it, I can feel the eyes of the windows bearing into my back. it’s a weird thought, and somewhat disturbing, but the moon is ghostly in its pearly sheen therefore I need provide no excuse for being so quaint.

There’s no need to knock. The door is wide open. A reel of tape separates the building from any public intrusion, but there’s no need. Everything is dark. Such a shroud causes me to frown. Police patrol crime scenes in typical situations, so why not now? Biting my tongue to stop myself from asking, I find that I don’t have to. Already, Granger has opened her mouth to explain.

“The police haven’t been alerted yet. An alarm system detected the downfall of Goyle.”

“An alarm system . . .?”

She nods. “It was coded directly to the Ministry. A spell was used in front of Muggles. Lumos. That was it.”

I glance around and frown. “Lumos? But then surely the street lamps would . . .?”

“I was wondering when you were going to notice that,” she smiles. “All the lights in the street have somehow been suspended. You’ll notice too that there’s a sound proof spell has been enchanted around the house. That’s why I doubt we’ll get much by the means of witnesses.”

“What were you saying earlier about Muggles?” Curious, I follow her along the pavement, my eyes straying towards the grass; dew lingers in tiny beads of silver beneath the wash of moonlight, a monochrome effect taking over the house before us, which, despite the red of the others, is coloured bone white.

“They were drunkards. Just another set of locals or those from out of town. Two girls, no older than ourselves, estimated between eighteen and their twenty-one. They were Oblivated, unfortunately, before any information could be given. This was of course, before the corpse had been located.”

“Which was how long ago?”

“Around a quarter past one.”

“So the murderer couldn’t have stayed for long then?”

Granger’s shrugs and continues to walk. I follow. The sound of footfalls on the concrete of the paving that leads towards the house soon halts as soon as Granger steps inside. Already, the rush of dark moves forward to embrace her. I linger in front of the door and Hermione hands me a real of clear, stick tape.

“What’s this for?”

“Taking samples, of course. How much wine did you have?” Ah. I watch her disapproving look. She obviously saw the empty bottle then. Actually, I’m quite clear-headed now that the cold has snaked through my veins to refresh me. Still, I’d rather be asleep and dreamful in my bed anytime, rather than standing here and preparing myself to view the body of an old friend. Hermione jerks me back to reality and the cold once more as she presses a set of small plastic packets inside my hand. To place the evidence within.

Sticking the sample of tape to the brass door handle, I rip it off once more and place it inside one of the packets. Any fibres of clothing of the dust of skin will hopefully have been extracted. We can send this on to the science labs afterwards. Following Hermione further on inside, our wands light the way up the narrow staircase that winds onto the next level. It seems these small cramped houses are traditional for their lack of space, the cellar beneath the first floor, the narrow back garden and the stairs that leave you feeling nothing less than claustrophobic. The place reeks of take-away curries and kebabs. Disgusting. My wrinkled nose prevents me from worrying for a little while, but as I near the end of the stairs I feel the same old clutch of cold dread gripping at me. I’ve faced dead bodies before. Hell, I’ve killed, but just knowing what’s waiting for you is even more disturbing.

Yet when we reach upstairs, there’s nothing. A crumpled bed is blemished with flakes of crumbs, a dirty, unwashed window casting moonlight through in a pool of liquid silver, yet that light is fragmented due to the filthy glass, distorted in a way. Sheets trail along the floor, and there seems to be the relevance of a struggle. A squashed apple rests on the floor, along with a splatter of faint blood dripping over it, but that’s it. No body. Just an unwashed room.

Hermione turns to face me, her face pale and lit by the moon, her wand protruding a blast of light so that I squint and shield my eyes. She sighs but says little more. Instead, she pushes past me and already I’m finding my way downstairs, walking after her. Upstairs we can investigate later, once the corpse is located.

The lounge is our next location, followed by the bathroom, and finally the kitchen. Our final destination, with exception of the larder, I feel this is the destined spot. Somehow, the air seems to have dropped in temperature, although that might just be the tingle of ice I feel running down my spine. Every part of me is alert, my mind prepared for the worst shock possible, my hand trembling slightly against the grip of my wand. Yet somehow, I grab Hermione’s shoulder and pull her back. It doesn’t seem right that she should have to go first. I mean, its not like I want to protect her or anything, I just . . . Its just instinct.

Stepping through the doorway, I bite down hard on my lip. My eyes are ever-searching. They move towards a pile of dirty plates and saucepans, sliding over a sink stashed with brown water, a tap dripping and echoing through the night. My left hand is now clutched upon Hermione’s wrist, pushing her behind me and keeping her close, making sure my body acts as a visible shield should the . . . murderer, still be here.

I freeze.

There. On the floor, before us, a hand can be made out. Fingers still curled up, one pointing upwards, I follow its direction, my eyes travelling towards the wall. Indented in blood, inscription trails in beads of fresh scarlet, dribbling down the wall to reach the pale and rather large face of Goyle. But its not the face I’m looking at - not the wide, open eyes, not the bullet hole encrusted inside the skull.

No. it’s the writing, for what it says chills me further than the corpse upon the floor.

“Never gonna catch tomorrow,” Hermione voices the words aloud, her voice warming and yet filled with inexplicable dread.

I nod in response, releasing the tug my teeth hold upon my lip to speak what I know we both are thinking.

“Seems like we’ve got ourselves a serial killer.”


Author's Note: I apologise for my lack of response thus far in answering reviews for the previous chapter - however, rest assured, its due to being away, and now with this new chapter up, I'll be working to respond to reviews.

Thanks for reading.


Chapter 4: Chapter Four
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Chapter Four

A dribble of blackcurrant drips off the side of the surface, a low sounding trickle splashing to the mouldered orange linoleum floor. Hermione’s back upstairs, examining that apple. She wants to take it as a sample of evidence, to check if the DNA of the blood matches to that of Goyle’s. Furthermore, there’s skin scrapings in the covers of the bed, hairs dressing patterns across the floor, saliva from the rim of glasses and cups. But nothing seems to show that an intruder has been here. Well, nothing but the visible struggle in the bedroom, the dead body downstairs in the kitchen and the writing on the wall.

So, the revolver. Pinpointing which direction the shot came from isn’t hard, but it also isn’t a job I feel I want to do, especially at 3 a.m. in the morning. That’s right - we’ve been here for hours, and now I’m sick of the damp, dingy conditions. Fact is - Gregory Goyle was a lazy arse. His house shows evidence of that.

“Come on,” I say to Granger at last when three thirty four strikes and my eyes are becoming bleary. “Lets get some coffee.”

She reaches the edge of the stairs and peers into the kitchen, her eyebrows risen and a disapproving manner falling across her face. I laugh suddenly, stepping backwards almost onto the corpse until I’m stopped by the woman’s scream, and quickly straightening myself and correcting my area of direction, I pass Granger a wry grin.

“What’s so funny?” she demands, her voice bordering harsh and her brow furrowed with increasing annoyance.

“Funny?” I rebuke her sharply, reaching around to pull my jacket further about my chilled body. “Nothing. Just the fact that having a coffee startled you so much.” I wave a dismissive hand around the kitchen - or rather, crime scene, before rolling my eyes and taking a step towards her. She backs away and allows me to pass on into the hall. “I don’t mean have a coffee here. Hell no, that’s sick and wrong. Lets go into town.”

“You realise, don’t you, that its almost four a.m.?”

“And? There’s always somewhere open.”

“I doubt that very much.”

She follows me anyway. We shut the door firmly behind us, fastening a locking spell upon the doors and windows, making sure the scene cannot be disturbed. Heading out into the early morning, dawn has yet to cut across the sky. The darkness is laced with indents of stars, the misty moon already contemplating its surrender to the approach of a bright morning. The clear sky tells us that tomorrow is simply a dream away, or rather in our case - a couple of hours doing nothing.

Granger’s right. There is nowhere to go. All the shops are boarded up for the night, safely stashed and locked away, their contents with them. We walk along Broad Street, as far as Virgin Megastores, before turning back and finding our dull, grumpy way into the Oracle. Expansive as it is, even the shops by the steaming misty river Thames deny us entry. In the end, Granger stops, sighs, and turns around to face me.

“Look. They’re all closed.” I mutter something moodily in response but she ignores me and continues. I hate being proved wrong. “Lets go back to mine. Its only an apparition away, and besides - we may as well restore our strength and find what little sleep we can before morning arrives and we have to return here.” Her nose in pinched heavily in disgust as she glances around, but I don’t question it. The invite pleases me somewhat, although I have no idea why. Surely it would be easier for me to return to my own apartment, but her eyes quickly narrow as if reading my thoughts. “You simply can’t go back to your flat. I know you’ll never wake up. You need someone to kick you into action.”

“I’d prefer it if you didn’t kick,” I grumble, but she ignores me and hurriedly gives me a quick description of her house, before giving up at my puzzled, tired frown and quickly reaching for my wrist, tearing me away from the deserted desolation of the shopping centre and away into what I can definitely assert as being named Oxfordshire. I suppose the rolling countryside helps.

Granger shoves a key into the lock, twisting it and forgetting that she could more than likely just blast the whole place open with magic. Outside, the garden path is neatly curved and fringed with dripping leafless trees, naked and exposed to the oncoming Winter, and a light dazzle of misty rain has formed over the fields that stand to the rear of the house, the sound of trickling water echoing from a snaking river that flows gushing and silver across icy shards of rocks.

“Are you coming?”

I lift my eyes to catch Granger regarding me with amusement. My eyebrows furrow and I shrug, following her inside, noting her neat cream carpet and quickly kicking my shoes off. What am I supposed to call her outside of the work environment? Hermione? Plain Granger? Boss, Miss? Entirely confused, I brushed the thought aside and settle on avoiding voicing her name altogether, fingers wandering over the softly partnered pastel-hued wallpaper, following the woman further into the hallway and coming to a halt in the lounge. Granger waves me towards a seat and I accept, watching as her hand flicks on the lights by a simple Muggle switch, stirring electricity, charged by electrons - or so I studied at school. The woman disappears again, leaving me alone as I hear the hiss of the kettle and take the opportunity to glance around.

The mantelpiece holds a dozen pictures framed in silver, each one showing some captured antic of the past. One seems particularly brighter than the others, and my eyes find it immediately. I recognise them all - the two Weasleys, Granger and Potter. Ginny’s hair is bright and vibrant in the array of sunshine falling across it, marking it in fiery crimson, one tanned and freckled hand resting across her stomach. She’s sat with colourful fruit-juice beside her, a smile spread across her lips, yet it is an expression that does not quite reach her eyes. She looks young still, probably still in school. We had a fling once - me and her. It didn’t end too well. My eyes travel to the figure besides the girl, Potter, older than when last I saw him, yet his eyes are shining with happiness, the old familiar scar cutting its mark across his forehead. Granger and Ron Weasley are also sat at this white laced table, fingers entangled with one another and a ring glittering superbly against the clear-cut blue sky that fringes the detail of the picture. All of them move, Granger obviously amused about something, and her eyes drift towards her partner - Weasley, beaming before turning once more to face the camera. Rather than creamy, her flesh is lush bronze, contrasting superbly against the lilac of her dress.

Other pictures include late nights in the park, Granger and Weasley walking through glittering escapades of frozen water, mountains glaring at their backs. In one of the pictures is a baby - a young child wrapped in the warmth of a cream blanket, eyes wide a dark with tufts of dark hair visible behind a bonnet. A hand flashes into existence for a moment, the child clutching one finger around its own minuscule ones, before the hand quickly disappears once again and the picture turns blank. I frown, peer and watch the motion again, before shrugging and moving on to view the next, although the child is still strong inside my mind.

The clearing of a throat startles me to turning around, leaving me facing a pair of strong, cold eyes and a flinty tone of voice. “Finished prying yet, have you?”

I bite my lip anxiously, determined to make a joke of it, but for once words fail me and I stare levelly back at Granger. “I was merely interested. The photos are on display. I didn’t touch anything.”

She says nothing and turns away, placing two steaming mugs on the varnished coffee table between the pair of us. She runs a wary hand through her hair and with that one movement, the tension melts away. I drop into the seat nearest to me, pick up the coffee and begin to sip, saying nothing. Granger does likewise and peels off her shoes, lifting her feet with a comfortable sigh as she sinks further against the sofa. Silence ensues, but it is a warm sort of pause, a brief hesitation to allow us time to breathe. My eyelids droop and I finish my coffee, tossing the dregs into the fire Granger has set to burn. She follows my movement but still says nothing.

We sit in companionable silence until the outside world seems to warm. A large flat of bay windows offer a highlight of silver gold as the sun begins to climb in it rise. Suddenly everything is alive with heat, a refreshened awakening as the day begins to fall into place. I turn my head slightly to catch sight of Granger. Her eyes have fallen closed, the length of her eyelashes casting shadows against one side of her pale face. The other side is captured by the arrays of liquid gold, the very light soaking through her hair and causing her to look like a goddess. I frown and scoff at myself - this is Hermione Granger, Mudblood and one of the triumvirate concerning Weasley and Potter. She’s not pretty and alluring. She’s just a dirty nobody.

Shaking my head at myself, I still can’t help but to enjoy breathing in the faint fragrance of the woman’s perfume that drifts across the air. I tell myself I’m just hungry for a woman - and Granger is female. Its no surprise I suddenly find her attractive. Sinking further against the sofa, I feel my eyes slowly close, burning into the dark that rests behind them, slipping through into the delight of sleep.

- - - -

I left Granger pouring through the crime scene early this morning, attempting to find any evidence that might prove of worth and lead us to our killer. I, on the other hand, travelled to Knockturn Alley, passing through the familiar pub - the Leaky Cauldron, and disappearing down the winding cobbled street that leads into familiar darkness.

I was awoken early this morning by the soft touch of hands running through my hair, the heat of breath against my cheek. Stirring, I moaned faintly and blinked open my eyes, a smile already formed on my lips, only to find the room empty. Frowning, I sat up and stretched a yawn. Granger could be heard clattering about the kitchen. The clock informed me it was six a.m. I couldn’t have had more than an hour’s sleep. But that wasn’t what concerned me - it was the longing and feeling I woke up to.

I dismissed it, forcing myself to prevent such stupidity. It was just the tendrils of a dream hanging over me still.

Now, the chill threads icily through my cloak that tries to offer a drench of warmth, something defeated by the uprising wind that tears through the narrow alley. Like most of the travellers passing through this area, I keep my hood up, my eyes glinting faintly beneath such a formulation of velvety shadow.

“Borgin,” I greet the oily mutt who is shuffling about his shop, piling the odd potion against a shelf, waving a duster to polish bottles to a gleam and waving his wand here and there. What a stupid git. He’s been stuck here for years.

He turns at the sound of my voice, his eyes widening vacantly before he begins to scratch at his eyes in recognition. “Zabini? That you? I didn’t hear the opening of the door.”

I inline my head and glower at the floor with annoyance. How did he know it was even me? True, I used to hang out here a lot as a kid, whilst Draco marvelled over variations of poison, but we rarely bought anything, and when we did, it was cheap but deadly. The old sod used to get pissed at us and shove us out the door. He sniffs disgustingly and leers at me so that I have to gnaw my lip in an effort not to fidget.

“You buying this time? ‘Cause if not, you can get out.”

“I’m looking for a potion,” I snap irritably, my eyes running across the many shelves where vials contain bright, twisting hues and smouldering colours. Each potion looks dangerous and rare in its own way, but with so many to choose from, I’m more than certain that I need Borgin’s help, unless I wish to be stuck here for years. He’s shifted away from his counter now, following me with his arms folded and his eyes narrowed suspiciously. I turn and face him sharply. “If I wanted to clear something away without using a wand, what potion would I select?”

“You’re not very specific, are you boy?”

I resist the urge to roll my eyes. “My fingerprints are all over something they shouldn’t be. If the Auror’s catch any hint of me being there . . .” I pull my hood down and regard him seriously. “I’ll pay double the price if you can just recommend something to me. I need to remove fibres of skin, fibres of everything, and I can’t use magic, because more than likely they’ll perform a detector’s rinse, to check for the last spell.” With elegance, my fingers trace the vials, and Borgin’s eyes follow my movement, his anticipation easy to sense in his less than cool composure.

“You gettin’ at something boy?”

“Eh? What?” I frown, feigning confusion.

“Someone else -” He pauses and shakes his head, quickly cutting himself off at realisation.

“Where’s the potion?” I enquire impatiently, and he hands one to me, a tall vial of ebony liquid that probably smells like - “Wait, you said something about someone else . . . This portion has been tested before, right? It’s not just a scheme of yours . . .”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” he seethes, straightening and holding his chin tall and proud. “Loads of people have bought this before, and I ain’t had no complaints -”

“Did anyone buy it recently? In the past couple of days, maybe even weeks?”

He looks nervous, and points me towards the door with a gnarled finger. “I don’t know what you’re on about. It’s none of your business, now go on, get out, or I’ll inform the authorities of everything you and that Malfoy used to buy, and that wouldn’t be too good for your non-too clean record, would it? Get out!”

Well, at least I didn’t have to pay for the potion, even if I failed in receiving any suspect names. Scowling, I walk away from the shop and through the winding alleys, the cold starting to drive in.

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