“All right,” says Ragnar, when the team reassembles on Wednesday morning. “What do you have for me?”

He takes a seat at the round table, looking at Ada expectantly. Clearly, he expects her to lead the discussion. But Ada elbows me underneath the table. We glance at each other sideways, and she winks at me. Does she want me to tell Ragnar about our interviews with the Slytherins? I look up at Ragnar, who’s gazing sternly around the table at the four of us. He is the most terrifying person I’ve ever seen. I shake my head frantically, widening my eyes at Ada, who rolls hers.

“Fiona,” she says. “Why don’t you recap what we’ve been up to for the team?”

Fighting the urge to stomp on Ada’s foot, I clear my throat. “Well, er, we did some house calls to the Slytherins in the Harris’ year. I took a few, Ada took a few. Most of the people we talked to--”

“You split up for the house calls?” says Ragnar.

I blink. Ragnar’s ice-blue eyes are impassive, unreadable. Damn it, what does he want to hear? I realize suddenly that this is exactly what Ada was talking about the other day, when she told me to be a stone wall.

“Yeah, we did,” I hedge.

Ragnar folds his hands together on the table. They’re large and square, and covered in calluses. “How did yours go?”

“They went…” I squint at him. “...well? They went well.”

His eyes fix on mine like a pair of drills. I stare back at him, waiting for him to say something.

“Good,” he says finally. “Did they have anything interesting to say?”

“Not too much,” says Ada, taking mercy on me. “A bunch of them are under the impression that Rachel was having an affair with Tony. Apparently, they dated for a bit in high school before she got together with Ken, and they’ve been seen together since.”

Nice one, Rachel,” sniggers Darren.

Ignoring Darren’s nonsense as usual, Ragnar nods. “There could be a motive in there somewhere.”

“I was thinking,” I volunteer, “maybe there was someone else, a third party, who had feelings for Rachel and got jealous, and decided to get rid of the competition, you know, in one fell swoop.”

Ragnar looks over at me again. “Not a bad thought,” he says. “It’s a good practice, though, to keep from leaping to specific conclusions about what might have happened. You’ll want to keep all your information in the back of your mind. Have it available, but don’t let it inform your decisions.”

“Oh.” I nod, feeling my face go red.

“Don’t ride her too hard, Ragnar,” mutters Charlie just loudly enough to be audible -- and I feel my face go redder still.

“And what did you lot come up with?” says Ragnar, and there’s a just a slight edge to his voice that indicates for what I think might be the first time that he can, in fact, hear Charlie when he speaks.

“Absolutely nothing,” says Darren, sitting forward. “We scoured the libraries here, looked around Knockturn Alley, even visited Hogwarts’ restricted library for good measure. Couldn’t find anything about a remote version of the Imperius Curse.”

“Well then, you’ve got your work cut out for you,” says Ragnar. “Keep looking. Lynch, Smith, you seem like you’ve got a handle on yourselves. See if you can think up some new leads to pursue for the week. If anyone’s got questions, I’ll be in my office.”

Ragnar sweeps out of the room in his usual style, leaving the rest of us with whiplash.

Ada turns to me, grinning. “Right. I’ve a few ideas.”

“Get a room, ladies,” sneers Darren from across the table.

Ada raises her eyebrows at him. “Have fun doing research for another three days,” she tells him, sliding out of her seat. “Come on, Fiona, let’s get some coffee and talk next steps.”

Ada and I decide to spend the week doing secondary house calls with the Harris’ family and friends, interviewing the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw students from their year, and looking around the crime scene for more leads. I conquer my fear of the crime scene, which seems like a depressing idea even as I take pride in myself.

“It’s just weird, you know?” I tell Rose and Jasper as stand in line to order drinks at Ogreman, the hippest bar in magical London. It’s packed with tattooed, mangy-haired wizards and witches from all around the world. “Like, I need to stop caring about people for my job. It’s natural to be freaked out by a roomful of blood that’s practically still wet, right? Like, if you’re freaked out by that it probably says something good about you. But I’ve got to shut down the soft, human part of myself that responds to violence in that way.”

“Merlin,” says Jasper, looking around at me. “And you haven’t even had a drink yet.”

“She’s stress-venting,” says Rose knowledgeably. “That’s good, that means she’ll probably put out once she gets drunk. Of course, it could go the other way, and she could just start crying uncontrollably.”

“I’m not--” I start to object, but Rose has already elbowed her way up to the bar, and is leaning forward just a bit too close to the cute bartender to order our drinks. I turn to Jasper. “I’m not putting out,” I mutter to him stubbornly.

He shakes his head at me. “Tell it to the Wizengamot, darling.”

I sigh and cross my arms, looking around at all the hipsters. It’s pretty difficult to see anyone’s face because the bar is so damn dark. The only lights in the place are little torches that illuminate the paintings various paintings of ogres dressed in formal wear that cover the wall.

After Rose has gotten our drinks -- a Firewhiskey soda for herself, a Cursed Pumpkin ale for Jasper, and a Gillywater and tonic for me. I glare down at the glass as she hands it to me.

“I asked for a Butterbeer,” I remind her.

“Can’t hear you,” says Rose vaguely. “Music’s too loud.”

“You heard me before, and I was farther away,” I grumble. Ignoring me, Rose leads Jasper and me away to a secluded table, where we plop ourselves down.

“I hate this place,” she says happily, looking around at the ogre portrait that’s hanging on the wall behind her. It leers down at us, adjusting its yellow, plaid silk tie, which clashes fashionably with its blue dress robes. “Our generation is just terrible, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” I agree, putting my Gillywater down firmly on the table. “We have a hell of a lot to answer for. I mean, our music?

Rose shakes her head sadly. “It’s just so terrible. Just really so, really, terrible.”

“I sort of like it,” says Jasper, bopping his head along to to the blaring music. “I mean, is this bloke’s voice a little on the screechy side? Yeah. Sure, it is. But it grows on you.”

Oh,” says Rose, her eyes widening suddenly. “Fee, don’t look around, whatever you do. That bloke with the stupid haircut, the nose-kisser, he’s at the bar.”

“Xavier?” I instantly turn and look, despite Rose’s protests. Sure enough, Xavier is standing in line at the bar, along with the two friends from the jellyfish party. I can just make out their forms in the dim light. “Oh, Merlin.”

I haven’t contacted Xavier since last weekend, and he’s made no effort to get in touch with me, either. I know I should be relieved that he hasn’t Owled me or popped by the flat, because it saves me the trouble of rejecting him. Still, the lack of interest stings me a little.

I turn back around. “We need to leave. Right?”

“Nah,” says Jasper. “You need to drink. Bottoms up.”

“What?” I frown. “How will drinking help?”

“No, Jasper’s right for a change,” says Rose, picking up my glass and pressing it into my hand. “Two drinks in, actually one knowing you, and you’ll forget he’s even here.”

“No.” I shake my head. “I told you, I’m a bloody Auror, and I’m not letting you corrupt me with your -- your heathen ways.”

“Oh, I’m Fiona and I’m so responsible,” says Jasper disgustedly. “Fine, as you clearly seem to know what’s best, why don’t I flag down Mr. Nose Kiss for you?”

“What? No!” I say hurriedly, but Jasper’s already gotten to his feet and begun to wave very deliberately at Xavier and his mates. “Sit down, you beautiful monster,” I hiss, grabbing a handful of his robes and pulling him back into his seat.

“Fuu…” Jasper huffs. He nods at me, impressed. “You’re actually pretty strong, you know that?”

“Yes,” I growl at him, “I’m a damn Auror.

“Fee,” says Rose urgently. “He’s coming over?”


“The nose man, he saw Jasper and he’s walking over here right--”

“Can you at least stop calling him the nose man, you’re making it sound like he has a fetish or something,” I hiss.

“Well, who’s to say that he doesn’t have a nose fetish, Fee?” Rose retorts. “All you seem to know is that he really likes your nose.”

“Rose. Stop. Stop. Listen.” I tell her through gritted teeth. “If you say another word -- and I swear I’m not joking about this -- I am going to frame you for murder.”

“Er, hi,” says a familiar voice behind me.

I look around at Xavier, who’s grinning slightly sheepishly and holding a bottle of beer. I throw a half-glance back at Rose and Jasper, who are wiggling their noses at me, and then get to my feet.

“Fancy meeting you here,” he says. “I love this bar, don’t you?”

“Of course you love it,” I tell him. “You’re an effing hipster.”

He laughs, so handsomely that my stomach seems to flip over. “So, I hear you’re an Auror? That’s hot as hell.”

“Where’d you hear that?” I ask.

“Erm.” He bites his lip, tilting his head slightly to the side. “I fly with a friend of yours. Applebee Arrows.”

My jaw drops. I stare at Xavier for several seconds, and then groan, letting my head fall backwards in dismay. “You fly with James Potter?

“Oh, snap,” says Jasper’s voice behind me.

“Yeah,” says Xavier ruefully. “Funny story, actually. I was planning to send you an owl on Sunday, I’d thought up a cheeky message to write and everything--”

“What was the cheeky message?” I ask.

“Ha.” Xavier shakes his head, sighs, and takes a long sip of his drink. “All right, then. It was ‘owl look forward to dining with you on Friday, if you’ll oblige.’”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” says Rose loudly from the table.

“Wow, yeah, that’s good,” says Jasper, “you know, because ‘owl’ sort of sounds like ‘I’ll.’”

I turn around to glare at her, and then face Xavier again with a cheerful smile. “You were saying?”

“Yeah.” He looks a bit embarrassed. “Well, I thought I was being clever. But anyway, then Potter accosted me before practice on Monday -- I mean he bore down on me, like, the second I set foot on the pitch.”

I stare at Xavier, flummoxed. “But -- but -- what? What did he say to you?”

“Basically that he doesn’t think it’s sound for me to go chasing after one of his ex-girlfriends,” says Xavier, shrugging. “I told him it was none of his business, but then I figured, I dunno, maybe it’s better to let sleeping dogs lie.”

“That,” says Rose, “is not the correct usage of that expression.”

“D’you want to grab a different table?” I ask Xavier, throwing another vicious glare over my shoulder at Rose and Jasper.

“Sure, yeah,” says Xavier. “Cool.”

We fight through the crowd of magnanimously drunk hipsters, and find ourselves a free table on the other side of the bar. Xavier sits down opposite me, and puts his bottle down on the table between us.

“Want to share my beer?” he says, pushing it toward me.

“No,” I sigh. “I’m on a case right now, so I’m not letting myself drink.”

“You were drinking last Saturday,” he points out.

“Yeah,” I admit, “but that was only because I met this really sexy bloke and I didn’t know how to act around him.”

Xavier grins smugly. “You’re talking about me, aren’t you?”

“I am, yeah.” I smile at him -- then frown, remembering what he’s just told me about James. “I can’t believe James would tell you to lay off me. We haven’t spoken to each other in over a year.”

“He’s missing out,” says Xavier, making me smile again.

“Your tattoo is so hot,” I say breathlessly, as Xavier tosses his shirt onto the ground. “I hate myself for thinking it’s hot, I know that it makes me a rubbish human being, but I can’t help it, it just is.”

“Just go with it,” says Xavier, gathering me up in his arms. I let my fingers trace over the smooth rise of his biceps. “Although, actually, I get the feeling you’re objectifying my body, and I should tell you, I demand to be treated like a gentleman.”

“Oh, shut up,” I say, and kiss him.

It’s about one in the morning, and after a long and soulful conversation and a few games of darts in Ogreman, we’ve finally made our way back to Xavier’s bedroom. I vaguely register a few band posters on the walls, and a gigantic bed cozy-looking, gray duvet, but I’ve had a couple of drinks and I’m having trouble focusing on anything besides Xavier.

He kisses me back, laughing, grabbing a handful of my hair with one hand. “You’re really cool,” he says between kisses. “But your friends are arseholes.”

I laugh, smoothing my hands down his back, feeling the hard, rippling muscles packed underneath his skin. He’s fitter than James was, no doubt about it. Not, I remind myself, that it matters how he compares to James. “They mean well,” I breathe, as Xavier starts to kiss a line down my neck. “They’re just trying to get me laid.”

“Doesn’t seem like you need too much help when it comes to that,” says Xavier. He pulls my robes down around my shoulders, and grazes his teeth against the skin at the base of my neck. “Will I see you again after tonight?” he asks, his lips moving against my neck. “Or are you going to disappear on me again?”

“To be fair, we disappeared on each other,” I remind him, my hands leaping up to unfasten my robes. Xavier grabs me around my hips and lifts me up onto his bed -- I tumble backwards onto the soft duvet, which smells warmly of Xavier. “But no, I won’t. I should tell you though, I’m not really looking for anything serious at the moment.”

“Fine by me,” says Xavier, his voice husky as he pulls my robes down around my legs.

A/N: Hi! Sorry for the short chapter -- I’m going to be busy for a few weeks, and won’t have time to update, so I figured I’d just post this before I go. In the next chapter, Fiona will confront James, and get some news that totally changes the case. Happy holidays, and please review! :)

Track This Story:    Feed


Get access to every new feature the moment it comes out.

Register Today!