Once Charlie had gone, Tonks leaned over the body once more, this time looking more closely at the face. Its unearthly calm bothered her greatly. How could anyone who was being stabbed seem so calm in death? she wondered. Then she smelt the horrid stench coming from the prefect’s mouth.
Swallowing the bile that had rushed up her throat, Tonks backed away from the body, coughing. No one’s breath, not even Professor Snape’s, smelt that bad. Obviously, this was more than just a simple heat-of-the-moment crime: this stabbing had been premeditated.
An idea suddenly popped into Tonks’ head. She ducked to look under the seats. If it was as she thought... There, under the seat closest to the window, was a small glass vial, like the sort that was used in upper year Potions classes. Pulling another of her mother’s tissues from her pocket, Tonks gently picked up the vial and sniffed it. Her head began to swim and her eyelids became heavy before she shook herself out of a near-stupor.
Now that’s a strong sleeping potion, she thought, holding the vial away from her face.
There were plenty of strange things in the compartment for her to find. She quickly went to work to find them all before they arrived at Hogwarts. The least she could do was gather all of the evidence for the authorities and present it to them upon arrival. If Bill had done anything, it was alert Professor Dumbledore of the murder and he would in turn tell the Aurors, who would most likely be waiting at Hogsmeade for the train.
Charlie, meanwhile, was not having an easy time with the students in the rest of the train carriage. While some were as closed-mouthed as clams, others spouted off nonsense about shadowed figures and mysterious noises. Charlie wished he had been given a simpler task, or at least one that did not have to do with interrogating uncooperative people.
“Did you see or hear anything unusual around 9:30?” he asked for what seemed the millionth time. “Any shouts, yells, crashes...”
The second year he was interviewing looked up at him with wide blue eyes and shook her head very slowly, not taking her eyes off of Charlie’s face. Feeling dejected, he thanked the girl and left the compartment.
Were all these people both blind and deaf? he asked himself. Or did they just not care?
He knocked on the door to the next compartment, not expecting anything to come of this interview. The voice that answered his query was gruff, but affirmative. Charlie entered to find only one inhabitant, a tall Ravenclaw boy who looked to be in his seventh year, with the hint of a beard growing on the dark skin of his cheeks.
“You ‘ere about the problem up in the prefect’s compartment?” the boy asked with a thick accent that Charlie couldn’t place.
“Yes,” Charlie replied, suddenly feeling nervous. He had a feeling that this boy knew something, Charlie could see it in his eyes. “I was just wanting to know if you saw or heard anything suspicious before the girl’s scream.”
“Aye, I saw your brother go by, lookin’ like he was in deep thought,” the older boy replied. “But I don’t suppose you’re thinkin’ that ‘e did it?” Charlie shook his head. “Nah, didn’t think so. Well, there was also someone else walkin’ by, but I didn’t get to see ‘oo it was.”
Charlie blinked, trying to translate the other boy’s words. “Really? Can you describe them at all for me?”
“Well then, let me think a bit,” the boy said, screwing up his pliable face in thought. “They was not too tall, per’aps a small person from the lightness of their footsteps, but you never know, they could’ve been sneakin’ ‘bout the place.”
Leaning forward with anticipation, Charlie asked, “Did you see anything? The colour of their robes or hair...?” He left the question hanging.
After a moment’s hesitation, the boy replied. “Aye, they be wearin’ black and ‘ad dark ‘air. Not like yours at all, mate.”
Charlie sat back, trying not to show his disappointment. Probably half the people on the train had dark hair, and everyone who’d already changed into their robes would be wearing black.
“Thanks,” he managed to say, closing his notebook and rising from his seat. “If we need anything more from you - “
”I’ll be ‘ere,” the boy interrupted with a grin. “Don’t you worry.”
In the next compartment, Charlie fared a little better, though not at first. The occupants, a group of Slytherins who had personally known Gilbert Moriarty, were not willing to tell Charlie a bit about the personality of their old housemate. It would take Tonksian methodology to make these potential witnesses talk.
“Why should we be telling you anything?” a hard-faced seventh year asked. “What makes you think that we should talk to a Gryffindor about all this?”
Charlie bit his lip, knowing that Tonks would easily retort that it was the right and just thing to do. But Charlie was not as outspoken as she was, it would take quite a lot of smarts to gain the trust of these Slytherins.
“We have to find who did it because...” he began, trying to keep his voice from cracking. Then an idea hit him. “Because we don’t know if they’ll strike again. You never know, with these murderers.”
“Are you saying that they might come after us?” a dark-haired girl squeaked in fear.
Charlie nodded sombrely, playing into the role. “Yes, I do. Please tell me all you know about Gilbert Moriarty. To know all about his character might lead to the villain before anything else....happens.”
If there was one difference between Slytherins and Gryffindors, it was that, although ambitious and ruthless, Slytherins were only out to save themselves. Bravery or courage simply did not figure into the equation. As soon as Charlie Weasley had uttered those words, the group of Slytherins shuddered and glanced at each other suspiciously, as though they thought the murderer in the room with them (which, Charlie noted, was indeed possible. All at once, they began to speak.
“Right old bastard he was,” a fifth year boy was saying. “Thought himself better than the rest of us, just because he was now a prefect and we weren’t. He wasn’t my friend, I’ll tell you that much. He was too arrogant even for the likes of me!”
“Moriarty was worse than Snape and McGonagall put together,” a fourth year girl complained. “I’ve never met anyone so bossy in my life. It was always ‘do this’ or ‘do that’ from him, never a word otherwise. Like he knew the rules and we didn’t. He used to be bearable, but oh my gosh, over the past year he was the last person I’d want to spend a moment with.”
“I just feel sorry for his dorm mates,” the dark-haired girl piped up. “At least the rest of us could get away from him sometimes.”
“Was he very smart?” Charlie asked, cutting into the ruckus.
“Definitely,” a blond fourth year boy replied. “Smart as a Ravenclaw he was. Knew all the answers all the time, and he let everyone know it. Was hoping for all O’s on his OWLS in the spring. Personally, I think that he would’ve got them, too.”
“Wouldn’t let anyone get ahead of him either,” a fifth year girl added. “Anytime that someone would beat him at something, he’d be right beastly to them for days. Thought he was the pick of the crop, he did.”
“Did he have any real enemies? Like, people who would kill to be rid of him?” Charlie wondered aloud, leading the Slytherins on in their unpleasant eulogy of the dead boy.
“Not really,” a small, dark boy said pedantically. “No one liked him, but no one hated him either. Lots of the younger students looked up to him as a bit on an idol. The rest of us bore his bossy arrogance. He was a pain, but not a bad chap.”
“He was nasty, but not horrible,” the blond boy agreed hesitantly. “I can’t think of anyone who would have hated him that much. Like, he could say some rotten things at times, and that could make someone want to...want to kill him, I suppose.”
All of a sudden, the compartment went quiet. The Slytherins avoided each others’ gazes, looking at the floor, the ceiling, or out the window, but not at each other. Charlie realized that it had finally hit them that Gilbert wasn’t coming back; he was gone forever. Closing his notebook, Charlie quietly left the compartment, leaving them to their silent mourning.
As he travelled back up the carriage to where the body was, he saw Tonks coming towards him, a look of shock and what seemed to be fear on her face.
“Charlie, we have a big problem,” she said, her voice hushed so that no one else could hear. “I think I know what happened and it’s not at all good.”
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