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It's amazing how fast Magical Law Enforcement will arrive with the proper motivation. Tell them your neighbour has hexed your garbage bin or transfigured your cat, they might send someone over in a week. Tell them you found a dead body while breaking and entering illegally, and they pop right on over.

Okay, so I didn't tell them about the breaking and entering illegally part. I told the desk officer I had found the body when I came over to question the owner of the home in relation to one of my skips, implying I had seen the body while looking over the fence. Most of the MLEs knew me, or knew who I was, at this point, so none of them seemed surprised to see me on the scene.

The investigator in charge of the scene, Phineas Hibbitt, was one I'd known since my first days as a bond enforcement agent. Hibbitt was a nice enough guy, nearing retirement, half a dozen grandkids, and a belly that spoke of years of enjoyment of beer and ale. I liked him. He seemed to like me. When he saw me, he smiled broadly and came over to shake my hand.

“Good to see you again, Rose. I see you found us a body.”

“It wasn't my fault,” I told him.

“It never is,” Hibbitt agreed. “You're getting to be something of a legend in our department, you know.”

I perked up a bit. Hey, I was flattered, what can I say.

Hibbitt smiled at me and pulled out a notepad and a quill. “So, walk me through it.”

Like that was going to happen. I walked him through it, leaving out all the bits I didn't want the MLEs to know. “I've been searching for a skip, Lenny Graves, and I turned up Mr. Gormly's name in connection with him. So I came over to talk to him, but there was no answer at the door. I came around the side here and peeked over the fence, and I saw the body. So I sent for the Ministry straight off,” I added virtuously.

Hibbitt nodded, still smiling as he scratched away at his pad of paper. Whether or not he believed me, he said, “Okay. We'll let you know if we need anything else from you, Rose. Give your dad my best.”

I hung around outside the gate for a bit, hoping to overhear the MLEs say something helpful or at least interesting, but eventually Hibbitt turned around and gave me a very distinct wave goodbye. I took the hint and went home.

I came home to find Scorpius in the middle of turning his sketch of Lenny playing guitar into a painting, humming softly to a tune I didn't recognize. The preliminary stages of a painting always look a little weird to me. I reserved judgement on whether or not this one would be any good, and set my shoulder bag on the table. Scorpius didn't look up from his work.

“Hi,” I said. He ignored me, or didn't hear me. Possibly both. I turned to Lenny, who was sitting on the couch, reading an Auror novel that my brother had given me last week. I hadn't had a chance to read it yet.

“Whoa,” said Lenny, engrossed in the novel. “So his girlfriend was a double agent all along!”

Didn't they know I was a legend? I sighed and poked around the kitchen, making myself something that nearly approached a ploughman's lunch. I was halfway through the bread and cheese before Scorpius looked up and finally noticed me.

“Oh hey, you're back. How did it go?”

I glanced at Lenny, who seemed totally enmeshed in his book. I didn't really want to talk about finding Gormly's body in front of him. I pursed my lips, debating whether or not to wait until we'd gone to bed to tell Scorpius about it.

“That good, huh?” Scorpius said. He cleaned off his brush and set it down on the tray of his easel, then came to sit next to me at the table.

“I tracked down a lead, a man who'd been taking over Annable's territory as soon as he was killed,” I told him in a low voice.

“Your use of the past tense has not escaped me,” he responded dryly. “What happened to him?”

“I found his body in the backyard. Killed with a shovel, it looked like.” I pointed at the back of my head to indicate where the blow had struck, and added, “I called the MLEs. They said I'm getting to be legendary.”

“That doesn't surprise me at all,” Scorpius said, but he cracked a smile. “Only you, Rose. So now what? Who do you think killed this guy?”

“I have no idea. It could have been anyone.” I sighed and glanced over at Lenny. If he'd overheard anything, he wasn't showing it. “I'm not sure what now. I have to think about what to do next. I need a new lead.”

“Something will turn up. It always does.”

“I'm not a private investigator,” I said uneasily. “I don't really know what I'm doing.”

“Maybe you'll luck out and someone will kidnap you.” He leaned closer and sniffed at me. “Do you smell like a farm for a reason?”

I rolled my eyes. “I tried to pick up Parmenter this afternoon.”

“Ah.” He leaned back, grinning. “What did he do now?”

“The usual. Hey,” I said, remembering the thing I'd been meaning to ask him. “Do you remember a girl named Ambrosia Heggs? From Hogwarts?”

There was no recognition in his eyes. He shook his head. “No. Should I?”

“I ran into her, and I have no idea who she is, but apparently she was at Hogwarts with us.”

“Maybe one of Hugo's ex-girlfriends,” Scorpius suggested. “She wasn't in our year, I remember our entire class. It wasn't that big.”

“I didn't think so. Oh well.”

Scorpius rubbed his fingernail against a patch of green paint on the back of his hand. “Hey, Rose, I need to go out for a bit. Can you stay home with Lenny?”

“Yeah. Where are you going?”

“That art agent. I'm going to bring over my paintings.”

Oh, right. I'd all but forgotten his plans with the agent and that portfall he'd bought. “Of course. You definitely should go.”

“Um.” He paused, picking at the paint patch again. “I need to pay him a fee, he said, standard to start up a new account. Some kind of processing thing.”

“Okay.” I looked at him warily. It must be a lot of money or he wouldn't be acting this way. “How much is it?”

“Five hundred pounds.”

“How much is that in Galleons?” I asked suspiciously. It sounded like a lot, but I didn't really know much about Muggle money.

“About a hundred,” he admitted.

I'm pretty sure my eyes bugged out. “Um.” Oh, holy Kneazles. Nearly half a month's rent. We didn't have an extra half a month's rent. Hell, we didn't have this month's rent yet at all.

This was his dream. It was his dream, and I couldn't step on his dream. You didn't cast your mates into the cacky, and you didn't tell your boyfriend his life's dream wasn't worth a hundred Galleons. It was worth it. Of course he was worth it.

But that was a lot of money.

“Okay,” I said, trying to keep my voice even. “I didn't get the bounty on Parmenter, but we can see if Lenny has any money on him.”

“I thought he was going to pay us,” Scorpius said in a low voice, his brows drawn together.

“He is, I just haven't been able to take him to Gringott's to get it. I can't exactly let him parade down Diagon Alley, he's a wanted criminal. They'll turn him in to the MLEs if he shows his face in the bank. Let me just see if he has anything on him.” I patted Scorpius's shoulder reassuringly and then went over to Lenny.

He looked up at me when my shadow fell across the open pages of his books.

“What's up, man? You're in my light.”

“Do you have any gold on you, Lenny?”

“I think I have ten Sickles,” he said, and fished around in his pocket. “Whoa, a Galleon.” He handed me a handful of coins, and I brought it over to Scorpius.

“You'll have to get the rest from our stash,” I told him.

Scorpius sighed, and got up from the table. I followed him into the bedroom and watched as he pulled a mokeskin pouch from under the mattress. I'd had it for years, but it looked good as new. Those things last practically forever. We'd been keeping our money in it since we'd moved in together. Yeah, we don't have a vault at Gringott's. Usually we spend whatever money we do have as fast as we get it. The money that was in the pouch now was supposed to go toward this month's rent. It wasn't enough yet to cover it, I knew that much, but I wasn't sure exactly what was in there.

“There's just enough, but that only leaves us about five Galleons until Lenny pays us,” Scorpius said after he'd emptied out the pouch. He didn't look too happy about this.

“I'll get Parmenter tomorrow, then we'll have his bounty,” I promised. “Just take the money for your fee.”

“How much is the bounty on Parmenter?”

“Twenty-five Galleons.”

His face fell. “Maybe I shouldn't-”

“No!” I sat down next to him on the bed. “This is your dream, babe. You've been trying to break into the art world for years. Maybe this is your ticket to fame and fortune. You should do it. I'll get Lenny exonerated and we'll have plenty of money to last a couple of months at least.”

Scorpius leaned over and kissed me softly. “When I'm a famous artist, we're moving to Majorca, and we're going to lie on the beach every day.”

“Okay.” I kissed him back.

After he'd gathered up his art and his gold and taken off to exchange it for Muggle money and then go visit the agent and do artist-y things, I went into the living room and sat down next to Lenny.

“This book is awesome, man,” he said, tapping the pages. “It's so real.”

I'd read the back cover. There were spies, counterspies, Aurors, Dark wizards, and a conspiracy that included the Muggle Prime Minister. I didn't think 'real' was strictly accurate. Hugo had said it was hilariously bad. But if it was keeping Lenny happy, it was fine by me. “How are you feeling, Lenny?”

“Pretty good, man. It's weird how different everything is when you're sober,” he told me cheerfully.

“I'm sure,” I agreed absently. There had to be a way to clear Lenny. There were ways around Veritaserum, so a confession under its influence could be argued around in court. A person could tamper with their memories, or have them tampered with. What I needed was concrete proof that someone else had done it. I wasn't sure how to get it, though. I'd had a good feeling about Gormly, but he was officially a dead end now.

“Thanks for helping me,” Lenny said then, drawing my attention. I looked over at him and found him smiling at me, and he looked like the old Lenny again, the Lenny I'd known at school. “And for believing me.”

I smiled back. “We'll get you out of this yet, Lenny.”

“Man I hope so,” Lenny said. “I don't want to go to Azkaban. You should hear some of what goes on there.” He tapped the book again with a knowing look.

I needed ideas for what to do next. I couldn't talk to my dad about it, I'd have to be so vague as to make the conversation useless. I couldn't talk to Lydia, and Scorpius didn't know anything about this stuff. I could only think of one person I could talk to who wasn't likely to turn me in if I told the whole story, but might have some good ideas.


“Hi Rose.” Teddy Lupin smiled at me as he opened the door. His eyes and nose were a little red.

“Hi Teddy,” I said, stepping inside out of the drizzling rain.

Teddy sneezed. “Bloody cold won't go away. Victoire's in the kitchen,” he said, waving me in.

I could hear the little Lupins screaming to each other upstairs, accompanied by loud thumps and the puppy's barks. Most make-believe from the two Lupin boys involved a lot of punching and kicking, and occasional body-checks. A lot of their 'games' would have gotten them thrown out of the National Quidditch League for unnecessary roughness. Teddy and Victoire took it all in stride, though. You would think they didn't even hear the screaming.

My cousin Victoire was in the kitchen, supervising some bread dough that was kneading itself. She smiled at me when she saw me. Victoire and I were pretty close these days. She was almost seven years older than I was, and you'd think we wouldn't have much in common. She was a mum of three small children; I was a bounty hunter. But Victoire liked to tag along with me when I did surveillance, and any time I'd discussed cases with her, she came up with very insightful comments and good ideas. She was probably a lot smarter than I was.

She was definitely a better cook than I was. I eyed the sugared biscuits cooling on the counter, and she laughed, dusting her hands off on her apron. She'd put on a few pounds lately, I saw, as the apron stretched across her belly. She never really lost all her pregnancy weight, though, so maybe I just hadn't noticed before. Victoire was an adorably round puffball of a woman with ginger curls even redder than mine. She looked just like our Gran, and I swear it made her Granddad's favourite of the grandkids. She was the oldest of us, too, which always gave her a one-up, but still, she looked the most like Gran. I was sure it biased Granddad in her favour. She got away with absolute murder around him and always had.

“Go ahead,” Victoire told me, waving at the biscuits. “But don't let Remus or Johnny see you eating them, I told them they had to wait until after dinner.”

I grabbed two. “I'm a grown-up, that rule doesn't apply to me.”

“I'm not sure they count you as a grown-up, Rose,” she told me, eyes twinkling.

I glanced around and made sure Teddy couldn't overhear me. “Can I talk to you about something in confidence?”

“Yeah. Come on outside.”

We went out to her back porch, and I cast a Muffliato spell so if Teddy came near, he wouldn't hear a word. While I trusted Victoire not to turn me in, I wasn't so sure about her husband. He might think he was doing it for my own good. Teddy had an overly inflated sense of right and wrong sometimes and frowned on things like harbouring murderers. He was such a stickler about that kind of thing.

I explained the whole situation about Lenny to Victoire as fast as I could. Victoire made a great sounding board when I had trouble turning up a felon. She thought differently than I did, so she often turned up things I hadn't noticed or got ideas I hadn't, and didn't seem to mind if I pretended they were all my ideas to my boss.

She was frowning by the time I finished explaining. “Are you sure Lenny didn't do it, Rose?”

I nodded. “I don't buy it for a second.”

“All right,” she said, accepting this at once. “And you think this Gormly person had something to do with it.”

“Yeah, I think so. He moved right in on Annable's territory. It should have taken a few days for someone to realize he was dead and take advantage of it. But he was outside the Grinning Troll the next morning. If he were friendly with Annable, he would have known Skone doesn't put up with that sort of thing on his turf, so the fact he was there at all... I think he killed Annable to take over his business.”

“It makes sense,” Victoire agreed thoughtfully. “But there's no proof.”

“I know. Someone came in and used Lenny's wand to kill Annable. Lenny didn't see a thing, and the neighbours claim they didn't see anyone, either, just that someone had been fighting with Annable and Annable was afraid.”

Victoire pursed her lips. “Hmm. What about this blonde woman your friend the barman told you was looking for Gormly as well?”

“I'm not sure what to make of that,” I admitted. “I don't know if she ever found him, or who she was. I think that's a dead end unless I can get another lead on her. Skone didn't have her name, only a vague description.”

“Honestly, Rose, the only thing I can think of is to find out what the MLEs know about Gormly's murder.” Victoire shook her head. “You have a lot of dead ends, but that's still open to you for investigation. I think you should look into it. It may give you an idea where to go next.”

She was undoubtedly right, but the only ways I could possibly get that kind of detail on an open murder case was to try to wheedle it out of Jack (he'd already given me the case file on Lenny, and I didn't really want to try to get any more out of him – I didn't want him to get in trouble at his job for it) or to ask my dad. Of the two, my dad was more likely to be persuaded to pass along confidential Ministry information, if I could get him alone and feed him. I wasn't so keen on talking about Lenny to my dad – didn't want him finding out I already had Lenny in custody and hadn't turned him in yet – but I reckoned I could talk around that well enough.

Before I could thank Victoire for talking it out with me, one of her kids came outside. I waved my wand to remove the Muffliato spell.

“Mummy,” began her eldest son, Remus. “You need to come upstairs and punish Johnny. He needs a time out. In the corner. And no dessert.”

“Why?” Victoire asked. Her voice goes up in pitch when she talks to her children. It was the strangest thing, but she'd been doing it since Remus was born. I wondered when she would give up and address them in her real voice. Well, when she wasn't angry with them, that is. Her voice dropped quite a bit when she was shouting.

“He kicked me in the face,” Remus told her, leaning against her with a mournful expression and a distinct lack of any obvious pain. “You should punish him.”

Victoire patted him on the head rather perfunctorily. “Well, you're not bleeding, or crying. Do you need me to take you to St. Mungo's?”

“No!” This was said emphatically, with his eyes wide. Victoire's kids lived in fear of St. Mungo's. I had no idea why. It wasn't as if anything bad had ever happened to them there. The Healers had removed Remus's extra arms in a trice that one time he'd gotten a hold of Victoire's wand.

“Were you playing a game?”


“Were you kicking him in the face as well?”

She should be an MLE, honestly. Or a lawyer.

“Yes,” Remus admitted. “He wanted me to kick him.”

Victoire gave him a kiss on the top of his head. “I think you're fine. Go apologize to your brother, and tell him he has to apologize to you, or I'll send Daddy up to deal with both of you.”

“But I don't want to play with him any more. He's not my friend now.” Remus clung to her arm more tightly.

“Then go find something else to do. I'm trying to talk to your Auntie Rose.”

“But Mummy-”

“Go away, Gerald,” Victoire said, shooing Remus away. He ran off back into the house, probably to juggle knives or invent new forms of mathematics. I never put anything past the Lupin kids.

I eyed her. “Who's Gerald?”

“Oh, Remus has decided he wants to be called Gerald now,” she told me cheerfully, as if one's child using an alias were the most normal thing in the world.

“Do a lot of five year olds need assumed names?” I asked warily.

“He's six now, Rose. Remember, you came to his party?”

Yeah, I had pretty much repressed Remus's birthday party, but cheers for bringing it up again. Of course, I couldn't say that to my cousin, so I kept it to myself and just smiled at her, hoping she would take that as whatever answer was more appropriate than 'your kid's party made me never ever want to have children'.

“That reminds me,” Victoire began, giving me a significant look. I had no idea why. “Johnny will be four next month-”

“What, already?” I interrupted. “I thought he was just turning three.”

Victoire gave me a look. “Rose, you're his godmother.”

Was I? Oh, right. I think she'd told me that once or twice. God, what had I been thinking when I agreed to that? I didn't think it was my fault; after all, I must have agreed to it when she was pregnant with Johnny, and I couldn't possibly have predicted how he would turn out. No one could have predicted Johnny Lupin.

“Anyway, I wanted to give you a heads-up so you have some ideas for presents. No toy wands, we don't allow them,” she warned me. “And no Muggle toy guns, either. Granddad gave the boys some for Christmas that shot actual pellets and I had to throw them away.”

The thought of the Lupin boys with guns made my blood run cold. What was Granddad thinking? And how did Gran not find out about that and put a stop to it? Maybe she had thought they were just play weapons, or didn't know what a gun was. Either way, the idea of my buying guns of any kind, toy or not, was highly bloody unlikely.

“I already had to remind Louis not to give them anything inappropriate,” Victoire added. “Honestly, he has no sense whatsoever. Dominique managed to give them age-appropriate toys even before she had a child of her own. Even Albus gave them a lovely gift at Christmas, and he's a bachelor too.”

I noticed she hadn't mentioned what James or Fred had given them. Neither of them were likely to select anything even remotely appropriate, much like Louis. I despaired of my cousins sometimes, really. Apparently Victoire did too. Even of me – she felt she had to give me the same reminder she gave Louis. Hmm. I didn't think I was as bad as him. What did I give her kids for Christmas? I think Scorpius had picked it out, actually, whatever it was. He and Hugo could be trusted to choose gifts that wouldn't anger parents but would still make little boys happy.

“Speaking of Louis,” I said, remembering my run-in at the wandmaker's. “Do you remember if he ever went out with a woman named Ambrosia Heggs?”

Victoire shook her head. “Not that I recall, but he doesn't always introduce his, um, short-term relationships to me. Why?”

“I ran into her and apparently we knew each other at school, but I don't know why. Scorpius says she wasn't in our year, so I thought maybe she was one of Hugo's ex-girlfriends, or one of Louis's.”

“I don't think so. What does she look like?”

“She was pretty, kind of in an average way, blonde hair, blue eyes. About my age.” Something was nagging at me, but I didn't know what it was. “It's bugging me that I can't remember who she is.”

“I always feel like an idiot when someone remembers me but I don't remember them,” Victoire agreed.

Teddy stuck his head out the back door. “Are we eating tonight, or what?”

“Sorry, dear. Rose, let me know what your dad says, all right?”

I left the Lupins to their dinner, promising to update Victoire on the case. Teddy didn't ask what we had been talking about. He never does. I think he preferred not to know what I was doing, especially if his wife was going to come along.


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