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Chapter Two
dreams filled with silver and gold

 


gorgeous image by vendetta at TDA.


Zauberei Dorf, Germany, 1941.

The village of Zauberei Dorf in southern Germany has been there for centuries, unique for its dense magical population. Though witches and wizards are scattered about central Europe and often integrated with Muggle populations, Zauberei Dorf is a miniature magical city in its own right, with apothecaries alongside drugstores, gardens filled with magical plants and herbs, and a primary school which teaches entry-level Charms. On a clear day, wizards and witches on brooms could be seen rising above the little brick houses, whirling through the air. But when der Meister came to Germany and began to extend his mighty, sly reach over the magical population, Zauberei Dorf became one of his main bases. The great mansions are inhabited again, and the Secret Police crept through the night. Few of the citizens dare draw their wands outside of their homes, lest they be accused of inciting trouble. People have been taken away for doing less.

As the war sets in, Zauberei Dorf is both one of the safest and most dangerous places to live: there is no need for the enemy to bomb a city they are not aware exists, yet sometimes the people of the village wish they could brave the bombs and fade into the anonymity of Berlin with their magic to protect them, rather than be rounded up like cattle.

Ada Treuherzig is, by all accounts, a plain sort of child. Her father is a Muggle and her mother a witch, and they had gotten along famously. Many Muggles who had long ago proven to be friendly to the wizarding community or had even integrated themselves into it were welcome in Zauberei Dorf, and Ada’s family is no exception.

Ada is home from Durmstrang – the school became more dangerous and darker in the last year, and Ada decided that she felt far safer at home with her beloved Mamma and Papa. She has hair the color of sand and very pale eyebrows and eyelashes, giving her the look of always being surprised. She is of average height and prefers to wear brown, humble Muggle dresses when she is not required to adorn herself in the fine and expensive uniforms required of the witches at school, but when she braids her thin hair in long, stringy plaits, she tied red ribbons around the ends, a bright, vibrant contrast against her plain dress.

The tension in the air in the village of Zauberei Dorf is touchable, particularly in the districts populated by magical folk who have intermarried with Muggles. Ada’s parents command that she not walk alone at night. The neighbors start to disappear, and sometimes she can hear the sounds of people in the houses around them as they pack up in the night. It becomes common to hear the loud crack! of Apparition in the alleyways, and to see hard-faced wizards with robes bearing the sign of der Meister – the triangle-eye with the line running down the center, glowing golden. Ada comes home from buying bread one day to find her mother sewing the image onto a pair of robes for each member of their little family to wear. Ada’s grandfather, the eldest Herr Treuherzig, who has lived with his son’s family for years and likes to grumble good-naturedly about magical folk, does not protest adorning the robes, which convinces Ada that this is not something to speak about. A bowed head and silent tongue is the best protection.

Yet silence is easily defeated. The name of der Meister is whispered on everybody’s lips. It is a name he chose for himself, a name which suits the sort of secretive power which he exercises over the people of the empire. There is the Fuhrer, as well – but he is different. It is easy enough for a witch or wizard to Confund one of the S.S., but Der Meister’s army operates in darkness and secrecy. People say he has banshees and Dementors on his side, that he can send them after his enemies to haunt them, to take away their souls and those of their children. Some whisper that he has Death himself on his side, like a figure from a nightmare – that he cannot be killed like a mortal man, that he is something far mightier than that.

Nobody quite understands who der Meister is targeting – some say it is the Muggleborns and Muggle spouses of wizards, or the Jews, or those who had sinned in tainting their blood by mating with Muggles, like Ada’s mother. Others whisper he destroys those who refuse to support his principles and do not agree to work for the large Ministry he is assembling across the empire. There are other rumors in Ada’s neighborhood that der Meister did not care about blood nor loyalty – that he did not need either, for fear is enough to subdue even the wisest and most powerful of folk.

His soldiers, die Guten, come to the Treuherzig home in the night. Ada is in her nightdress, scraggly red ribbons hanging from the ends of her braids, and she stumbles to her bedroom door as light floods in the gap beneath the wooden door. Her parents and her grandfather are already there, her grandfather wrapped up in his warm robe, the one which always smells like smoke from his pipe. A look of fear flashes across his weathered face as he sees Ada standing there, staring at the invaders – he shakes his head slightly, but they have already seen her, and one wizard gestures her forward, at the same time flicking his wand in her direction so that her own wand soars out of her bedroom and into his hands. She shall never be caught without her wand again: only once, when they finally catch her and take her away. But there is still a long way to go until that day. The lead die Guten grins at her, revealing crooked teeth.

His name is Gregore Gottschalk, Ada later learns, and he is a hardened creature, with no sympathy left for those who irritate him. He has cold eyes and thick arms and skin like iron, incapable of cracking. And he is hated by the people of the district, for he has developed a liking and a legacy for torturing his victims before he exterminates them, the squirming and screaming bringing a gleam of joy to the rocky face.

What happens next will become seared on Ada’s memory. It will haunt her in the moments when she thinks she is able to sleep – the terror on their faces will torment her as she wakes, sustained through her dreams. Their faces will follow her to Nurmengard. Her mother and father swear that the whole family is all magical – they plead, they wring their hands before der Meister’s men.

Ada’s mother is handed a wand and asked to Levitate one of the old cushions knit by Ada’s late grandmother, and she did so, tears streaming from her eyes. One of the men holds his own wand to Ada’s head as a threat for her mother, who is motioned to the other side of the room. Ada is handed a wand – the cushion rises, wavering, once again, knocking against the old chandelier and letting the little hanging gems twinkle in the light from the lanterns. And Ada’s father and grandfather – well, they do not have a drop of magical blood in their bodies. They are told to drop to their knees and bow their heads, hands behind their backs. Her father – a kindly, scholarly man, with a brown moustache and ink-stained hands. Her grandfather, round and white-bearded, his robe wrapped around him, engulfing him in the smell of his pipe.

Ada clings to her mother, her arms wrapped around her neck, the tears mixing with her own, crushing the red ribbons against her mother’s chest. And as she weeps, she vows something to herself, a thought. She is going to kill Gregore Gottschalk.

**



Louis Weasley, Apprentice Auror.
July 7th, 2027. London, UK.


Different magical governments vary in their methods of training future Aurors, but I have always been quite reluctant about Britain’s. The slow process and sudden streaming of Apprentices into certain disciplines was almost enough to convince me to move to Paris and train there instead – indeed, my mother being French, I have dual magical citizenship. However, my mother warned me that my accented French probably wasn’t strong enough, and I had very little experience with writing French since primary school before Hogwarts. My parents had opted to send my sisters and I to a local school in St. Austell, the city closest to our seaside home in Cornwall, which taught languages, but at Hogwarts the subject matter was far more limited.

A proud Ravenclaw, I devoted myself at Hogwarts to doing the best possible in the courses required to become an Auror. They only took the best, and I fancied following in my uncles’ footsteps and being hired as a Dark Wizard catcher. There was something very glamorous yet also humbling about being an Auror, and I spent a great deal of time day-dreaming in school about the recognition I could get from the media and from my friends – “Auror Louis Weasley catches notorious Dark Wizard- Auror Louis Weasley is the hero of the hour!” It was a lovely dream, and one which came with sweat and long nights in the library under Madam Pince’s eagle eye.

My mother had long complained about the schooling system at Hogwarts – she found it especially unfair how difficult it was to achieve an “O” at O.W.L or N.E.W.T level, yet that was all that employers looked at when hiring recent graduates. In Beauxbatons, she explained, magical jobs were won through the merits of the candidate, not only how they looked on paper. Despite the fact that I outmatched most of my year mates – earning one “O” in History of Magic and “E”s in all of my other subjects, I was rejected from the Auror trainee program my first year out of Hogwarts, and ended up spending the year living at home instead, Apparating into the Ministry every day to work as an assistant in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. I also took a couple courses by correspondence to raise my results, and was finally accepted to the Auror program, a year later.

Now, entry into the Auror trainee program is not exactly assurance that one will become an Auror. The program lasts for three years, and half our class was cut from the program within the first eight months. The coursework, which ranged from detection spells to dueling to first aid Healer training, including some special seminars such as “how to Apparate without spinning on the spot,” varied from incredibly taxing to unbearably dull. Emily Longbottom was my first and only lasting friend from the program – she had applied directly out of Hogwarts, therefore being a year younger than myself, and was so perky and silly that there was never a dull moment.

“I feel like the work we do is far too theoretical,” Emily had confessed one day when we were in the Ministry archives, researching an old case from the 1960s concerning a breach of the Statute of Secrecy by a hag and a troll. “I mean… sure, I have good researching skills, but I feel like I would meet a Dark Wizard and not know her if she looked me in the face. I can’t wait to be an Apprentice.”

The other three trainees who survived their first year of training were all a year younger than myself, and Mickey McLaggen, a brawny ex-Gryffindor who excelled at dueling and had a loud, booming voice usually proclaiming his own triumphs, never let me forget it.

“Think I could take old man Weasley in a good, old-fashioned Muggle rumble?” he would say, patting his biceps. He was muscular, sure, but in a way that Emily liked to whisper “was only five burgers and six missed workouts away from growing a beer belly.” Emily was great like that – she could be mean, but she only ever used her sass to make other people feel better.

Quentin Chang-Lu was a nice enough bloke, though he never really picked sides. He was quite pleasant but fiercely ambitious, and would always put someone else down if it meant bringing himself up in the eyes of the Aurors who were training us. He was – according to Emily, who got a little loopy-eyed when he came close – extremely pretty, for a bloke, which made me scoff and even feel a little heavy twinge somewhere in my gut.

The fifth and final member of our training year was Ermengarde Wilks, a serious-faced girl who never laughed and performed spells with deadly accuracy. Emily and Ermengarde were both painfully aware that witches were significantly underrepresented in the Auror force, and Emily explained to me a few months ago that there was a certain stigma about women being in positions of both authority and high risk.

“It goes back centuries, and is changing very slowly,” she had said, jutting her chin out, serious for once. This was part of why Eugenie Bones, my new partner in the Crouch case, was such an enigma – she had been top of her class, recognized already as one of the best investigative Aurors of her cohort, and to top it off, didn’t “take crap from anybody.” It was often said that once a female Auror got together with a male coworker, her career was over and nobody would ever take her seriously – though the men could sleep around as much as they liked, in witches, sexuality was seen as a sign of weakness.

“But I know you don’t think like that, Louis,” Emily had told me after explaining what she was up against. “You’re one of the good guys.”

Am I, though? I wondered. I thought about Lucretia.

“Who exactly is Lucretia?” Bones asks me now, twirling her quill round and round her pale fingers. She has turned out to be a very good listener – we are waiting for Proudfoot to appear to discuss the Crouch case, so I have been telling her about my trainee woes without acting too grateful that she actually wanted to work with me. The three days since investigating Azkaban have been spent theorizing possible suspects with motivation to kill Crouch, with a focus on those with the skills or Ministry access to go about breaking into Azkaban.

We already examined the records at the mainland office for the prison – the witch with the purple lipstick who worked in the large warehouse there was proving most useful. She had records of when visitors arrived, though not when they left, as wizards visiting the prison usually Apparated home the moment their feet touched the mainland. Bones had nodded grimly and was focusing on two visitors in particular, which we were going to explain to Proudfoot and ask for permission to investigate them farther. The Auror system of investigating was fickle, and as these particular wizards were highly placed in their professions and highly valued members of wizarding society, we required special permission in order to follow up on the leads.

“Don’t worry about Lucretia,” I say, feeling my cheeks turn a little pink. Girls like Lucretia Levanne and Eugenie Bones were so different, it was as if they existed in different realms. “I’m quite curious about what Proudfoot will have to say about these suspects, frankly. Did he give you quite free reign with the Arietta Silver case?”

“No,” Bones says blandly, twirling the end of her long ponytail around her fingers, dark strands very vibrant against her white skin. “He had to be very tough with me – I was unproven, and all the leads were very weak. When we arrested the killer…well, the Ministry prefers a smoother arrest, and it was messy, messy.”

“You’ll have to tell me about it later,” I offer, but am spared her answer when Proudfoot comes into the room, followed by my Uncle Harry – the husband of my dad’s baby sister, father of my obnoxious roommate and the man who saved the wizarding world from Lord Voldemort back when he was seventeen and still had all his dark hair placed on top of his head. Uncle Harry looks tired – his face is drawn and he has a shadow of darkness along his jaw. His thinning hair is flecked with gray and his glasses are dirty – he hastily tries to clean them on the collar of his robes when Proudfoot’s back is turned.

“Hullo, Aurors,” Proudfoot says, leaning back in his chair. He opens a folder and dips his quill into the ink, hand hovering over his parchment. It’s been spelled to only be read by the writer. “Now, Harry, today we’re talking about the Crouch murder, which Bones and Weasley accepted. The pair visited Azkaban three days ago, and the Necrowizards have since been in to remove the body to the morgue. It appears he was killed with the Killing Curse, and with no signs of a struggle – the more interesting thing is the unusual position of the body.” He passes Uncle Harry some photographs, where I can make out the stiff, splayed limbs of Crouch, stuck up on the wall.

Harry’s bushy eyebrows raise slightly, but he only nods and returns the photographs. “Louis, congratulations on your first real assignment,” he says, smiling at me from across the desk. I nod slightly as Bones hides a smirk behind her hand. Maybe I haven’t been containing my excitement as well as I thought. “Now, I assume you two have cooked up some suspects? Was there anybody who visited the prison during the appropriate timeframe – God knows the prison keepers are understaffed and don’t have eyes in all places.”

“I spoke with the head keeper, and he said nobody had been in to visit Crouch for years,” Bones explains, tapping her fingers against her knees. Today, she is wearing a set of very tight, expensive-looking robes in a dark shade of midnight blue, and a long leg in black tights pokes out from beneath them. “However, we have two men whom I believe would have good reasoning to go after him, and they both visited the prison that day.” She leans forward slightly, and balances her pale, pretty chin on one hand. I notice she’s not wearing polish – Lucretia, for one, is always wearing polish, and it’s usually chipped.

“Weasley?” I blink – in my study of Bones’ nails, I’ve missed a question from Proudfoot. “Care to explain the first lead?”

“Erm, yes, sorry,” I say, sitting up a little straighter. “Right, well Albert Runcorn – he’s the…”

“Senior Advisor of the Foreign Affairs Office,” Uncle Harry finishes grimly, but there is something amused in his eyes – a story he is not sharing. “He worked for the Ministry during Lord Voldermort’s regime, though he repented at the end of the war and pleaded Code Nine.” Code Nine is an Auror euphemism for claiming one had been under the influence of the Imperius Curse or some sort of Legilimency or mind control, and was therefore not responsible for their actions – many wizards were spared Azkaban and even returned to their Ministry posts due to the leniency of Code Nine. The most famous case of a Code Nine during the Second Wizarding War was Pius Thicknesse, who was the Minister for Magic under the control of a Death Eater, yet has climbed the ranks once again to be another contender for the Minister position in the coming election. “I’m sorry, Lou- Auror, carry on.”

“Yeah, well Runcorn visited Azkaban in order to file some papers concerning the deportment of foreign prisoners,” I explain. “But he was there during the right time, and we believe that as a former victim of Code Nine, he might have motivation to murder or harm former Death Eaters. But more interestingly, we also traced his family history, and it appears that Runcorn is a relative of Crouch’s on his mother’s side. He was Crouch’s mother’s brother.”

“Very interesting,” Uncle Harry says, glancing at Proudfoot. “Well, Crouch’s father was a very highly placed Ministry official, and being linked to his son’s crimes supposedly drove him mad. His son was the one who killed him – I reckon this might harbor some hard feelings among the family.”

I nod – I had done some research into the sordid and tragic history of the family, and Crouch really was a rotten bloke. “It would have been a crime of violence, not any real gain, Bones and I were saying. I mean, Crouch was only a shell. The man who committed the crimes is long dead.”

“Very good,” Proudfoot says, lifting his quill from the page again. “Yes, well you have my permission to investigate Runcorn – you know the proper procedures, Eugenie.”

“Of course, sir,” Bones says. “Immediately – this could be a coincidence. Half the wizarding world in related in some way, and there’s no obvious motivation, really. Crouch wasn’t bothering Runcorn or affecting him in any way. In some ways, I find our next lead far more plausible.” She glances at me.

“Draco Malfoy,” I blurt out. Proudfoot raises his eyebrows, while Uncle Harry’s face is expressionless. “He was visiting that evening – visiting his father, Lucius, who went to Azkaban despite pleading clemency, Code Nine, coercion, you name it, he pleaded it – after the war.”

“Draco himself was just barely spared prison,” Harry adds. I remember a faint old story about a school-age grudge between my Uncles Harry and Ron and Malfoy. “He bought his way back into the Ministry’s good graces by offering up huge sums of money for reforming the Ministry and rebuilding magical infrastructure – well, erm, some people say the money wasn’t so much offered as taxed and taken, but it was there all the same.”

“Yes. And Malfoy is currently employed at Gringotts as an investment coordinator,” Bones chips in. “Not only is he placed at the scene of the crime, but he was a Death Eater himself, a reformed Death Eater, and may be lashing out and trying to harm and punish other ex-Death Eaters. It could be a psychological thing – ex-Death Eaters and other members of organized crime in the past have been known to lash out at their former companions, out of guilt and anger.”

“This murder feels very calculated and planned, however,” I add. “This took some skill, and while both Runcorn and Malfoy are frequent visitors to Azkaban and have strong alibis for being there, it seems a little too obvious they would go through the regular administration route. So we’re keeping our eyes open.”

Proudfoot and Harry both nod.

“There is another thing I learned from speaking with the head keeper,” Bones says. “We don’t have any specific leads on it, but the keeper did say he saw a figure down the corridor, speaking with one of the inmates by the looks of things. It was two floors above Crouch’s cell, and he described the figure as a man wearing dark robes.” I can’t help but snort slightly at this – it’s a rather useless and vague description. Bones’ pale eyes shift over to me.

“Did he not try to apprehend the man?” Proudfoot asks, his face twisting as if he’s tasting something sour. “All visitors are meant to report to the keepers when they come to Azkaban, for these exact sorts of reasons.”

Bones shrugs one of her thin shoulders. “Well, he didn’t. And he said the man vanished into the air.”

“Apparated? No, you can’t Apparate on or off the island of Azkaban unless you are a house elf,” Harry says, correcting himself. It sounds like he’s repeating something Aunt Hermione has drilled into his head.

“We thought perhaps an Invisibility cloak,” I tell him. Harry sucks in his cheeks and tenses a little in his chair. “Now, Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes has control of the market on those, as they’re the only ones licensed to sell them in Britain. So assuming the intruder was British, he must have bought his cloak from the shop – after all, they’re known to stop being less effective after about two weeks, and if he’s truly dangerous than he would have wanted a fully functioning cloak. So that’s something we’re going to pursue as well.”

The Aurors nod and spare a few moments to congratulate Bones and I on our progess. I can’t help but smile broadly at this, and wish that Emily and Mickey McLaggen and the rest of my fellow Apprentices were here to witness this – Louis Weasley, receiving praise at last! However, the conversation quickly moves to other possible leads and how we are going to confront the ones we do have.

Proudfoot also suggests a new angle to the case in the form of wizards who call themselves human rights protesters, who have been campaigning in the media against the Dementor’s Kiss as a form of capital punishment. I vaguely remember my sister Victoire and cousin Molly having one of their infamous political debates about this issue last month at the Burrow – Victoire was saying something about the activists having the right to protest while Molly was insisting they were poorly informed about the actual numbers of criminals who have been subjected to the Dementor’s Kiss in the past few decades, and are therefore just stirring up smoke.

“So you’re saying they could have killed Crouch as a statement of how inhumane it is for a body to be kept alive after the soul has been taken?” Bones confirms, a tiny diamond of skin appearing between her eyebrows as she scribbles furiously on her pad of parchment. She has quite messy handwriting when she’s not using the Quik-notes quill to take notes, unlike Emily, whose penmanship is impeccable.

“Yes, and a lot of these protesters are quite religious as well – perhaps they meant to display Crouch as a sort of Christ or martyr figure,” Proudfoot adds. “It is worth investigating anyway, Bones. Here – I think we’re wrapped up here, if you want to come with me and chat with Sheila she can refer you to the correct archives with information about the group. You and Weasley can make an appointment with the archivists – Weasley, I believe one of your cousins is working there, if I’m not mistaken.”

Bones follows Proudfoot out of the room, but Uncle Harry lingers, putting a hand on my shoulder. “Listen, Louis… I just wanted to make sure you’re alright, dealing with this. I know… well, Crouch killed and hurt a lot of people before he was subjected to the Dementor’s Kiss. And I know you didn’t sign up to be an Auror so you could avenge, erm, the bad blokes.” He grins wryly. “Ron had a really tough time with it when he first started.”

“It’s alright,” I tell him, feeling a little touched. “I should almost consider it practice, I suppose. Practice for when the person’s life really does matter…” I wince at Uncle Harry’s drawn expression. “Sorry. That’s not what I meant. But I want to find out who did this – I do.” He nods at me and smiles – I am dismissed.

“Oh, and Louis-” I spin around, my fingers on the door. Uncle Harry has his glasses off and is massaging his forehead with his fingers. “When you get home tonight, could you tell James his mother is stopping by the flat tomorrow morning, or perhaps the morning after? I just don’t want any repeats of last time she came over, though I think she kind of enjoys making him squirm.”

“Of course, I’ll let him know,” I say, grimacing slightly. The last incident was awkward, to say the least, as Aunt Ginny had shown up when James had come home early from a night out with a girl in tow. Allegedly, Ginny had walked into the kitchen just as things were getting fun on the kitchen table – one of James’ favourite locations for hanky-panky, to my irritation. One of the pitfalls of having parents who still paid for our flat in London was the easy parental access, but at least I was the youngest child in my family and my parents couldn’t be bothered to keep up to date with all the details of my life.

“Are you and Auntie Ginny coming with us to visit the new place for Grandad and Nan? My mum’s been fussing about it for days, and James said he would come...” I cut myself off, but finish the sentence in my head. …if he isn’t too hungover. There are some things parents don’t need to hear, and I’m grateful for a moment that uncle Harry is a notoriously poor Legilimens.

**



“How are things going with Lucretia, anyway?” Emily Longbottom asks brightly, setting a paper bag of groceries from the deli down the road on my kitchen table. She pulls an apple out of the bag and moves to rinse it at the sink.

“Oh, same old really,” I say, grimacing. The casual business with Lucretia, while not being something I’m not proud of, exactly, isn’t really the sort of conversation to have with sweet, innocent Emily, who wouldn’t understand how blokes work. “I couldn’t help but notice you passed over the cookies in favour of an apple, Ems, but I just can’t resist a good chocolate chip.” I crack open the plastic tin and sink my teeth into one of the chewy cookies.

“I’m trying to eat a little more healthy and lose some weight this summer,” Emily replies, crunching into her apple. She grins at me, baring her teeth – her mouth is a little wet from the fruit and she has a piece of apple skin stuck between her front teeth. “So how is the Crouch case going?”

I sigh. “Well, we had that meeting with Proudfoot and Uncle Harry today – it was quite brilliant, actually, though we’re nowhere closer to having any obvious killer.” I stand up and move from the kitchen into my room, leaving the door open as I pull off my robes and clothes and change into a more comfortable pair of gray track trousers. I sling a shirt over my shoulder and move back into the kitchen, opening the windows and letting the cooling evening air trickle in. The air smells a bit like smoke, as if somebody is having a bonfire – or perhaps Mrs. Trickle’s cats from downstairs have knocked over another candle.

Emily giggles and pokes my stomach as I move by, and I jump back. “Oi! I’m ticklish!” She brushes her fingers against my skin again, and I swat her hand away, laughing despite myself. “Emily, stop. You know being ticked makes me have to wee.”

“You are such a loser,” she says, pulling her hair up in a knot on top of her head. “Crikey, it’s hot in here.”

“Yes, well the flat downstairs may or may not be on fire,” I say with a straight face, and move to put the milk and other groceries away. “James owes me money big-time, by the way. He hasn’t been shopping in weeks. He’d be starving if it weren’t for me.” I sit down next to Emily, pulling my shirt over my head.

“You’re so skinny,” she comments, glancing at my arms.

“Thanks, just what every man wants to hear.”

“It’s not an insult, Lou,” she replies, taking another bite of her apple. “I wish I could be that skinny. And no, do not give me that look, mister. I’m not fishing for compliments, I honestly just wish I could snap my fingers and be skinny, like Eugenie or Molly or… or Ermengarde.”

“Okay, first of all, never wish you look more like Ermengarde,” I tell her. Ermengarde is one of our fellow apprentices who has a very pinched face and is flat as a board – she’s about as sexually appealing as a carpet. I take advantage of the moment to look Emily over – she has a perfectly lovely body, with nice curves and a pretty face with round cheeks and a large smile. She really has nothing to be complaining about, but I’m not sure how to tell her that without sounding like a creep. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, Molly has the body of a ten-year old boy. So you should just be… content with your own lady bits, yeah?”

Emily laughs. “Thanks, Lou, but you shouldn’t say that about your cousin – she’s gorgeous, and she’s my friend. I know, I just get a little insecure sometimes, being around all these tiny people at work.” She glances at me, turning a little pink and blushing. “Imagine if I fancied a boy who looked like you, and I’d just crush him if we were hooking up. I think I have a bit of a tendency to fancy blokes who are too small for me.”

I feel myself getting a little annoyed, but remind myself that this is Emily, and she’s my friend. So I stand up, pluck the apple out of her hand, and replace it with a cookie – I don’t really know what else to do. “Trust me, if a bloke like me was lucky enough to pull a girl like you, your weight would be the last thing on his mind,” I tell her, and ruffle her fringe. She smiles and takes a nibble of the cookie. It’s a good moment.






Author's Note: Thank you so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed this chapter, and learning a little bit about the suspects. Credit is also due to Rumpelstiltskin, whose Murder Mystery challenge inspired this story, though I didn't have time to participate. A huge thank you to the amazing Emily, red_headed_juliet, Sian and Kiana who all left me such lovely reviews on the first chapter - you guys really made my week. ♥

The chapter title is taken from the song Sonny's Dream by Ron Hynes.

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