|SIYE Time:7:19 on 23rd February 2018|
Strangers at Drakeshaugh
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Category: Post-Hogwarts, Post-DH/AB, Post-DH/PM
Genres: Drama, Fluff, General, Romance
Warnings: Mild Language
Summary: The locals in a sleepy corner of the Cheviot Hills are surprised to discover that they have new neighbours. Who are the strangers at Drakeshaugh?
Hitcount: Story Total: 169992; Chapter Total: 3446
Awards: View Trophy Room
Interlude: Muggle Interface Team
Detective Inspector Roberta A. Wood stared out from her fourth floor hotel room window. Below her lay Sheffield Town Hall and the Peace Gardens. It was quarter to nine on Sunday morning, and the almost empty streets reflected that fact. The few folk who were out and about were all wrapped up warmly. As she buttoned up her blouse, she watched coats flap and brown leaves skitter across the paths.
The sky was bright and almost cloudless, and the pale sun was moving slowly up through the sky. It seemed that the night of the full moon–the Hunter’s Moon–had passed without incident, because the anticipated killing had, unfortunately, happened days earlier. Even so, Bobbie had been worried. The latest victims had been discovered before the killer had had time to place them; perhaps he would kill again, simply to make a point.
The “Werewolf Murders”–they’d have to find a new name, she realised–was now the Auror Office’s biggest murder case in years. When the vampire known as Red Jack had landed in Whitby five years earlier, he’d managed to kill ten before they had stopped him, permanently. Since then their biggest case had been a triple-murder. Bobbie thought back to the vampire case, remembered her despair as the body count had risen, and shivered.
There were four, but with the killer still on the loose that number could easily rise. And it could rise quickly, especially if the killer continued to target two victims instead of one. Bobbie’s determination to catch whoever, or whatever, was responsible burned like lava in her veins. All she could do was work hard to make sure that four didn’t become five, or six, or more. They had to catch the killer before anyone else died. But they’d said that when they were first called in, and then there had been only two victims.
Running her fingers through her short, tousled, brown hair, Bobbie sighed and turned away from the window. Taking a blue and gold scarf, her Puddlemere hat, and a pair of leather gloves from her wardrobe, she placed them on top of the Auror-issue hex-proof coat that was lying ready on her bed.
Her hotel was centrally located. It was close to the crime scenes, and no great distance from South Yorkshire Police’s central police station. Unfortunately, the Wizarding World worked to different jurisdictions; the Sheriffs’ Offices were all based on borders that had become obsolete in the Muggle world more than a millennium earlier. Consequently, the Aurors were operating out of the York Sheriff’s office, sixty miles away.
They could just as easily have been operating from London, Bobbie reminded herself. Harry had moved their centre of operations to the “Office of the Sheriff of Deira” solely for her benefit. For the Aurors, the location didn’t matter.
She’d been half-listening to the television news as she’d stared out of the window. Fortunately, the headlines were routinely political. There had been nothing new about the case, simply a report about “no more incidents” overnight. It was always useful to know what her fellow Muggles knew, or, at least, what they thought they knew.
Bobbie hadn’t really expected to hear anything on the news. She was confident that, if there had been any developments in the Muggle investigation, the local police would have contacted her. Her Auror colleagues would normally have contacted her, too, but the Muggle Interface Team knew that her husband had Apparated up from Piddletrenthide the moment his Quidditch match ended. Because of the case, she’d missed his last three games, and she’d missed him. Last night, for the first time in a week, he’d spent the night with her. That was reason enough for her colleagues to ensure that she finally had a night off.
Moving to the foot of the bed, Bobbie noted the time. It was time to leave, so she switched off the television and walked over to the bathroom door. Her husband was completely incapable of taking a quick shower.
‘My meeting’s at ten, Ollie, and it’s in York,’ she called through the bathroom door. ‘I need to get down for breakfast now!’
‘On my way,’ he called. The bathroom door opened within seconds, and he emerged wearing only a pair of black briefs. ‘Sorry, Rab,’ he told her as he dried his hair with his wand. His smile banished her annoyance. ‘Just give me a minute, okay?’
Bobbie nodded, sat on the edge of the bed, and watched him dress. ‘Will you get some time off after the meeting?’ he asked, hastily pulling on a pair of clean socks and picking up the trousers he’d been wearing the previous evening.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘I’ll be free after the briefing. With luck I should be back by noon. We could go out into the Peak District and find a pub for Sunday lunch. Dennis says this is a beautiful part of the country. When I get back, I’ll be off duty until ten tomorrow, when I have to go into the police incident room.’ As he pulled on his trousers, and picked up the shirt he’d been wearing the previous evening, she shook her head and gently scolded him. ‘You could have brought a change of clothes with you, Ollie.’
‘I brought clean underpants and socks. I’ll Apparate home and get a few more things when you leave for York, if you want me to stay over again tonight,’ he offered, pulling on his shirt.
‘Of course I do,’ she told him. Standing, she stepped over to him and gently ran her hand down his bare chest. ‘I’d come home every night, if I wasn’t stuck almost two hundred and fifty miles from the cottage.’
‘I know,’ her husband assured her. Turning to face her, he picked up his shirt. ‘It’s a lot easier for me to Apparate up here than it is for you to fly home, Rabbie-girl. We don’t want to take any unnecessary risks, do we?’ His large hands gently caressed her swelling stomach, and he kissed her.
‘We’d better go,’ she reminded him.
The moment Bobbie opened the hotel room door, the door to the room diagonally opposite also opened. To Bobbie’s surprise, Trainee Auror Ellie Cattermole peered out. The trainee’s hand was inside her jacket, almost certainly holding onto her wand. Bobbie smiled at the teenager.
‘Morning, Mrs Wood,’ she said. ‘And, Mr Wood,’ she added rather breathlessly as Bobbie’s husband finished buttoning his shirt.
‘Is Stan in there with you?’ Bobbie asked.
Ellie blushed scarlet and shook her head wildly. ‘No,’ she protested. ‘He... Well... I... No, it’s... It’s not like that, Mrs Wood. Auror Cresswell was supposed to be here, but he wanted to go back to London last night; he said he had a date. I volunteered to stay here, to take over from him. Senior Auror Webb said it was okay, as your husband was with you. He said that setting up Surveillance Charms would be good practice for me, especially if I was going to be your, your, er…’
‘My minder,’ Bobbie said, smiling. ‘Don’t worry, Ellie, I know how much Al Webb worries about me. After all, even after all these years, I’m still the poor defenceless Muggle! Have you had breakfast yet?’
The tiny, dark-haired girl shook her head.
‘Then why don’t you join us?’ Bobbie asked.
‘Thank you,’ Ellie said.
‘I’m sure Ollie will give you his autograph, too,’ Bobbie said.
‘Puddlemere fan, are you?’ her husband asked.
Ellie nodded, and burbled an incomprehensible reply.
‘Ollie, meet trainee Auror Ellie Cattermole.’
‘Cattermole...’ he said. ‘Are you related to the Tornado’s Seeker, Maisie?’
‘How many times do I have to tell you? Call me Bobbie,’ Bobbie said as they walked through the car park towards the black Range Rover. ‘We’re all on first name terms in the Auror Office, Ellie. We’re a team, we rely on each other.’
‘Yes, Mrs… Bobbie,’ Ellie said. ‘But, Mr… Oliver… he doesn’t call you Bobbie; over breakfast he was calling you Rabbie.’
‘Sometimes it’s Rab, or Rabbie-girl,’ said Bobbie, smiling. ‘You pay attention, that’s good. Ollie’s the only person who uses those names. I’m Roberta, and you’re Eleanor. You get Ellie, and I get Bobbie, I always have. But Ollie is a Scot, so… It started as a joke.’ Bobbie grinned at the girl’s puzzled expression, but didn’t expand on her explanation. ‘You should call Harry by his first name, too.’
‘Auror Prother...’ Ellie stopped. ‘Polly said I should never call him Harry.’
‘She did, did she?’ Bobbie smiled. ‘There are only two people in the office who call Harry Sir, or Mr Potter: Polly and Lavender,’ Bobbie told the trainee. ‘And they only do it because they know how much it irritates him,’ Bobbie added as she unlocked the car and climbed into the driver’s seat.
‘Seatbelt,’ she reminded the trainee.
Ellie obediently buckled herself in and waited. Bobbie looked at her passenger and realised that her young companion had no idea what was expected of her.
‘See that pole over there?’ Bobbie asked, pointing at the slender steel column in the corner of the car park.
‘Yes,’ Ellie replied.
‘That thing at the top is a CCTV camera; it’s watching the car park. Can you discreetly disable it, or conjure a hood over it, something–anything–to hide our departure?’
Ellie pulled out her wand and looked around the car park. An empty supermarket-branded plastic bag was being blown across the ground. The trainee directed her wand at it, and the bag fluttered as if caught in a sudden gust of wind. It slowly rose into the air twisting in the wind and finally covered the lens.
Bobbie checked the area, making sure that no one was within sight, turned on the car’s invisibility booster, and pulled up on the steering wheel. The car rose vertically from its parking space.
‘Thanks, Ellie. You can get rid of the bag now,’ said Bobbie as the invisible car continued its ascent.
Ellie flicked her wand. The bag fluttered back towards the ground, landing neatly into a litter bin. Bobbie set the compass for York and put her foot down. Ellie yelped.
‘Is this your first time in one of the flying cars?’ Bobbie asked.
‘Yes,’ said Ellie. ‘I left school in July, and started in the Auror Office three weeks later.’
‘Two months on the job, and you’re already in the field! Harry wasn’t kidding when he said he was putting everyone he could onto this case. If, when you qualify, you end up working with me in the Muggle Interface Team you’ll use these cars all the time,’ Bobbie said. ‘It’s the quickest, and easiest, way to get to a crime scene without making the local police suspicious.’
Ellie peered out of the window. ‘How fast are we going?’ she asked.
The top speed on the ground is one-forty miles per hour. It’s the same in the air. It’s something to do with…’
‘The inbuilt Portkey enchantment,’ said Ellie, filling in for Bobbie’s hesitation. ‘The entire vehicle will have been enchanted to fly. Normally, speed wouldn’t be an issue. But because of Tobin’s Portkey Law, all other movements of the Portkeyed object are restricted. Because of the Portkey, the car can be Enchanted to fly or to move magically fast, but not both.’
‘It’s something like that. I’ll take your word for it,’ Bobbie said as they sped towards York. ‘Speed isn’t usually an issue, because we’d just use the Portkey on the car, but...’ She shrugged. ‘I’m pregnant, and the Healers advise pregnant women against the use of Portkeys. Are you okay? You look a little nervous. Does flying worry you?’
‘Flying doesn’t bother me at all,’ Ellie said. ‘I played Chaser for Ravenclaw, but…’ she shrugged and looked nervously down at the ground before finally admitting her worry. ‘This isn’t a broom! Can I ask–this meeting we’re going too–what’s it for?’
‘On big cases like this, Harry likes to know everything,’ Bobbie said. ‘He wants to see the crime scene, and he’ll be expecting updates from everyone.’
‘Oh,’ said Ellie worriedly.
‘Don’t be frightened of him,’ Bobbie advised. ‘Just tell him what you think, but be prepared to explain your reasoning. And whatever you do, don’t bullshit or make excuses.’
‘Okay,’ Ellie said. ‘Do you know where we’re going? Have you ever been to the York Sheriff’s Office?’
‘Susan, Lavender, and I were based there for a few weeks when the vampire arrived in Whitby,’ said Bobbie.
‘Oh,’ Ellie said again. ‘Have you… did you use the RANDOM system in that case?’
‘We tried, but it wasn’t much use,’ Bobbie admitted. ‘There were too many variables. We didn’t know enough about vampires. But it’s proving less reliable than ever in this case.’
‘Do you… do you trust Mr Corner?’ Ellie asked hesitantly.
‘He fought in the Battle, Ellie. He’s Dumbledore’s Army, and you know what that means. Plus he’s married to an Auror,’ said Bobbie. ‘Harry trusts him. But why do you ask? If you’ve got suspicions, don’t keep them to yourself.’
‘It’s just, well…’ Ellie leaned forward to make certain she had Bobbie’s full attention. ‘Everybody says his predictions have been inaccurate. But that’s not right! Inaccurate is the wrong word! It would have been bad enough if the system had simply been inaccurate. It hasn’t, it’s been misleading. Mr... Harry has put a lot of people on this case, but half of them have been checking the alibis of various werewolves, and now they’re in London researching Mr Robards, simply because the RANDOM system. The only people to have made a breakthrough are you and the rest of the Muggle Interface Team. And you’ve been working with the Muggle police, following the evidence, not the predictions.’
Bobbie sat in silence and pondered the teenager’s words. ‘You’re right,’ she said. ‘We’ll tell Harry.’
‘Mrs Corner will be there!’ Ellie protested.
Bobbie and Ellie walked into the meeting room to discover that they were the last to arrive. Three trios of Aurors, three specialists, and Harry were all waiting for them.
‘Morning, Harry; morning all,’ said Bobbie cheerfully. She’d checked her watch before entering; it was two minutes to ten so they weren’t late.
‘Morning all, hello, Mr Webb,’ Ellie mumbled as she walked over to take her place alongside Aloysius Webb. Webb acknowledged her with a doleful nod. Bobbie moved to join Polly Protheroe, Trudi Corner, and Dennis Creevey, the current members of the Muggle Interface Team.
At the front of the room, Harry checked his battered old pocked watch. ‘It’s not quite ten, but everyone’s here.’ he announced. ‘Let’s get started.’ His assessing eyes passed over everyone in the room, hesitating for a moment on the Muggle Interface Team.
‘We now have four dead Muggles,’ Harry announced grimly. ‘Thanks to Fenella, Dacia, and Anne in Specialist Services,’ he gave the three women a grateful nod, ‘and to Bobbie and the Muggle Interface Team’–he turned to acknowledge them–‘we now know a lot more about our killer. Now not even the craziest of the Daily Prophet’s editorials can continue to claim that the killings were carried out by a werewolf.’ He looked across at the three specialists. ‘Fenella, can you show us the crime scenes, please. Everyone, I want you all to take a careful look at all three scenes, particularly the latest site.’
Pushing her thick black-rimmed glasses up her long nose, Fenella Boot silently lifted the tripod on which her Projector–a complex sphere covered in lenses and mirrors–was mounted and walked into the centre of the room. After carefully setting up the tripod, she tapped the Projector with her wand. The tripod inverted and flew up to the ceiling, where it stood just as though it was still on the floor. Fenella then pointed her wand at the Projector. The meeting room, and the tripod, flickered and vanished. Bobbie, and everyone else, found themselves standing in the flickering and disjointed image of the first crime scene.
‘The image may be a little unstable,’ whispered Fenella apologetically. ‘The fixed projector in the office is better than this portable one.’
‘It’ll be fine, Fenella,’ Harry told her. Then the discussion began.
When the image was finally changed to show the third crime scene, Al Webb’s team, Terry’s team, and Harry himself began a careful examination of it.
Bobbie and the Muggle Interface Team all stepped back into the wall of the image. They had been inside the actual place, carried out the original examination, and seen the bodies in situ, so they allowed the others to take in the scene. Caitlin Satterley and Jack Tuffnell, the latest victims, lay on the floor. Ellie looked down at the bodies and shuddered. Despite the fact that they’d been turned to stone, the wounds were very visible. After allowing the others to take a look around the scene, Harry beckoned Bobbie and the team forwards.
‘Polly, Bobbie,’ said Harry.
As the two women stepped forwards, Bobbie looked across at Polly. The tall goth’s mouth creased into a knowing smile, and Bobbie was transported back to the first time they’d met; the day when Polly, Susan, and Lavender had walked into Buckingham Palace Road Police Station had changed her life forever. A lot had happened since. Lavender was married, a mother, and apparently happy. Susan had married and separated. Polly, after a long sojourn in New Zealand, had returned unchanged, apart from the addition of several more tattoos, an eyebrow piercing, and a nose stud.
‘Another year, another case,’ Polly told Bobbie before turning to face the other Aurors. ‘Welcome to the werewolf’s lair,’ she told them. Somehow sensing her boss’s glare, Polly glanced across at Harry. ‘I know he’s not a werewolf, but that’s what the press are calling him.’
‘We aren’t,’ said Harry firmly, shaking his head.
For a moment, Bobbie thought that Polly would argue, but the Auror Office’s Senior Healer, Dacia Skoll, noisily cleared her throat, so Polly surrendered and began again. ‘Yeah, you’re right; sorry Dace. Welcome to the killer’s lair. We found it using basic Magical Law procedures, the stuff that any Sheriff’s Bailiff should know, and what Bobbie calls “good, honest coppering.” You tell ’em, Bobbie.’
‘We were ahead of the local Police in finding the lair, but only because–unlike them–we knew that the first two victims had been killed before the full moon and then petrified,’ Bobbie began. ‘Of course we alerted the Muggles the moment Ellie found that two people were missing; we need to keep the police on our side.’ Bobbie turned to the trainee. ‘You did a good job wading through their missing person’s reports, Ellie, thanks.’ Ellie gave a modest smile. ‘Unfortunately, we were too late to save them,’ Bobbie concluded sadly.
‘You could never have saved them, Bobbie,’ the Healer, Dacia, interjected. ‘They were killed the moment they went missing. By the time their parents had reported their disappearance to the police they’d already been dead for hours and, as you can see, they’d been petrified, too.’ The Healer looked around at all of the assembled Aurors. ‘You all thought you had time to save them. You didn’t, so don’t blame yourselves for failing.’
‘The only good thing to come out of this is that Polly’s team managed to find this place,’ Bobbie continued, indicating the magical image in which they stood.
It was a shell of a building. Once, long ago, it must have been a vehicle repair garage. There was a plank covered pit in the centre of the concrete floor that had caused much excitement when Polly, Dennis, and Trudi had entered the place. The pit had, however, contained only cobwebs and ancient oil stains. A couple of wooden benches lined the walls. They, too, were stained with oil and they bore the gouge marks and graffiti of a well-used workplace.
‘This is the place where all four victims were killed,’ Polly said. ‘The fact that we’ve found it must be causing the killer some problems. But it will cause us problems too, because–if he intends to continue killing–he’s going to have to change the way, and where, he operates.’
‘How did you find this place?’ asked Ellie nervously. The young trainee, barely out of school, had begun to raise her hand before asking the question and had only just managed to stop herself. Some of the older Aurors were smiling indulgently at the youngster.
‘That’s easy, Ellie,’ Polly said. ‘We knew the general area to search because of the work you and Bobbie did with the local rozzers.’
‘Even without the magical complications, the police were struggling to make sense of the case,’ Bobbie told the trainee. ‘Apart from their injuries, the first two victims had nothing in common. Jamie McLuckie was a middle-aged homeless man; Eleanor Fearn was young and female with a house and a job. The police were aware of McLuckie, and they’d tried to get him into a shelter, but he always walked out. He was known to sleep rough in the local parks in the Burngreave area. Eleanor Fearn didn’t work anywhere near Burngreave, or where her body was found. But early last week the police finally managed to extract some information from her phone.’
‘The police couldn’t understand why her mobile phone wouldn’t work,’ Dennis Creevey interjected. ‘We think that it was damaged when she, and it, was petrified and then turned back again.’
‘Their tech guys finally got into her text messages on Monday, and they found a boyfriend. He was their suspect for a while, but we checked; he’s a Muggle, a welder.’ Bobbie looked at the faces of the few Purebloods in the room. ‘He makes his living by melting bits of metal together,’ she said by way of explanation. It didn’t help, the confusion grew.
‘It really isn’t important,’ Dennis Creevey interjected. ‘But if anyone really wants to know, ask me later. I did a lot of wand-welding while I was building the Caterham... my car.’
‘He’s innocent, so like Den says, it’s not important,’ Bobbie agreed. ‘But I realised that the route from her workplace to his flat took her through Burngreave, and so did the police. I volunteered to have my people look at the location for them. When–a couple of days later–Ellie found the missing couple, we realised that they would have been walking through Burngreave when they vanished. The location was definitely the link between the victims, and we quickly managed to narrow it down to a fairly small area, a triangle with sides about a mile long. So I told Polly, and...’
‘And, to finally answer your question, Ellie,’ Polly took up the tale. ‘How did we find them? It wasn’t difficult. The Killing Curse leaves traces. You’ve only been with us for a few weeks. The forensics part of your course is at least six months away. When you work with Anne, and the rest of the Analysis Unit, you’ll find out all about it. The simple version is that, provided you get close enough, a well-tuned Dark Detector will pick up traces of Dark Magic. The Darker the spell, the more powerful the trace, and the longer it takes for the traces to fade. Four killing curses over a nine week period leaves a pretty obvious signature, believe me! Big Den, Trudi, and me split the area into a grid and got out our Dark Detectors. It didn’t take long for Den to get a hit on this building. He called us up, and we all went in’
‘Based on the readings, it looks like all of the victims were somehow lured inside the building and killed the moment they were out of sight,’ Dennis added.
‘There was nothing magical in the place, just the trace of the Killing Curse,’ Polly continued. ‘Anne’s tests show that all four spells were cast by the same wand. We’re dealing with a cold-blooded Muggle-killer who’s now taken four lives. There is no sign of any other Dark Magic spells.’
Anne White, the dark-haired, bespectacled, and sturdily built Head of the Analysis Unit stepped forwards. ‘That’s not quite true, Polly,’ she said quietly. ‘The latest two victims are… I got to look at them a lot sooner than we got access to the others. Dacia and I re-examined the two latest victims this morning. I found indications of the Imperius Curse on both bodies.’
‘But nothing else?’ Polly asked the question that had been at the back of Bobbie’s mind. ‘No one is trying to turn themselves into another Dork Lord, are they?’
‘Definitely not,’ Anne said. ‘We can be sure, because the act of killing is an integral part of that spell, and we’d certainly be able to find traces of it.’
‘What spell are you talking about?’ asked Ellie.
‘Classified, sorry,’ said Polly. ‘That’s information for fully qualified Aurors only, Harry’s rules.’
Harry nodded. ‘I’ll tell you when you pass your final exams, Ellie,’ he told her.
‘Why did you go in?’ asked Terry Boot. ‘Why not lie in wait for him?’
‘Four recent Killing Curses, Terry! Two of them only a few days old!’ said Trudi Corner angrily. ‘We had to see what was inside. We knew there was no one alive in the place, but there might have been something, a clue. We were trying to save two lives. We failed, but bloody hell, we couldn’t just sacrifice them, could we?’
Terry looked startled by the ferocity of her outburst, but said nothing.
‘I gave the order to check the place,’ Polly told Terry firmly. ‘But we’re not stupid, we all checked for other spells. We found, and disabled, four different types of alarm spell, but we all missed the fifth.’
‘Whoever we’re dealing with is very accomplished,’ Trudi said. ‘I’ve never seen anything like that alarm spell before. Anne and I are still working on a way to detect it.’
‘It’s regrettable, Terry,’ said Harry. ‘But our first priority was to find these two.’ He indicated the figures on the floor. ‘And we did.’ He turned to address everyone. ‘Now you all know where we are. Anyone got any suggestions or theories?’ Harry asked.
‘I know that you don’t think he’s the killer, Harry, but,’ Trudi Corner lifted her hand and raised a finger for every point she made. ‘Gaheris Robards believes that his family were killed by werewolves; the RANDOM System has identified him as a prime suspect; he had access to the werewolf jaw used to fake the wounds, and he’s missing. That’s four reasons why finding him should be our top priority. We’re not looking hard enough.’ She glared at Terry.
‘Gaheris is one priority, Trudi,’ Harry told her. ‘Terry’s team are doing their best. It isn’t easy to find people who want to stay lost.’ He looked down. ‘And there were times when I was thankful for that fact,’ he added quietly.
‘Despite the publicity in the Muggle and Magical press, there haven’t been any sightings,’ Terry said mildly. ‘I know what the System says, Trudi, and I know that you’re worried about Michael; he’s working himself into the ground. I’m his friend, remember? But we can’t put everyone onto looking for Robards.’
‘And we won’t,’ said Harry firmly. ‘Gaheris Robards has a motive, I suppose, but it’s tenuous at best. Why would he wait more than forty years to take his revenge on Greyback? Why would he kill innocent Muggles? And why would he ask for Greyback’s release?
‘In order to kill him, of course,’ said Trudi.
‘Gaheris’ brother was Head Auror, Trudi,’ Harry said. ‘If he’d wanted revenge he could have done it years ago! If someone can find some evidence to convince me that, three months ago, something happened to Gaheris which turned him from a museum curator to a vengeance filled Muggle-killer, then I’ll put all our resources into finding him.’
‘We’ve found nothing like that, Harry,’ Terry said. ‘In fact the evidence points to him being abducted. His clothes are in his house, his larder was full, and his bank account hasn’t been touched. There is absolutely no indication of any Dark Magic at his house or at the museum. Having heard what Anne’s just told us about the victims, I’m beginning to wonder if he could have been Imperiused and walked out to his death. Perhaps we’re looking for a dead man while the killer laughs at us.’
‘If he’s anything like his brother, Gaheris would be difficult to Imperius,’ said Harry. ‘I’m going to allocate another squad to the search for Robards, Trudi, but not for a few days. Susan and her team are back from Transylvania. They’re due a few days off, but I’ll put them on the search for Robards as soon as they’re back in the office.’
‘I didn’t know they’d closed the case,’ said Trudi.
Harry shrugged. ‘There’s no reason why you should. The Transylvanian authorities are keeping it quiet. They don’t want to encourage any more budding Van Helsings to extinguish innocent vampires. Susan contacted me yesterday the moment they arrived in London. I asked them to call at Drakeshaugh for her mission debriefing. We briefly discussed this case while she was there.’
‘Then why aren’t they here?’ Trudi asked.
‘Dominic hasn’t seen his family for a month,’ said Harry evenly. ‘And none of them have had a day off since they went to Transylvania. They deserve a few days. At least we all get to go home to our families every night. Well, almost all of us do, sorry Bobbie.’
‘Don’t worry, I’ll be putting in an overtime claim, and asking for the time off in lieu to be added to my maternity leave,’ Bobbie told him.
Harry nodded, but Trudi wouldn’t be stopped.
‘It’s fair enough about Dominic. He’s got young kids,’ said Trudi, pursuing her point. ‘But Camelia doesn’t sleep, and Susan doesn’t have a life outside the Auror Office.’
‘Camelia is looking into a potential security breach at Drakeshaugh for me,’ said Harry. He was watching Trudi carefully as he spoke. She, like everyone else, looked puzzled.
‘Several Muggles appear to be able to walk straight through the protection spells around the place,’ Harry explained. ‘We think that it’s something to do with the party invitations we sent out. I’d be grateful if everyone who was invited would hand the invitations back. I hope you don’t mind.’
‘Les is keeping a scrapbook,’ Dennis said. ‘She calls it “my life with a wizard”. I’m pretty sure that’s where ours is.’
Terry shrugged and looked at his wife, who looked horrified. ‘I, um, I, er, I Vanished ours once I’d written it on the calendar,’ Fenella admitted. ‘It had your address on, so I thought that would be best.’
‘That’s okay,’ Harry told her. ‘In fact it was probably the most sensible thing to do, Fenella.’
Trudi shrugged. ‘I haven’t thrown ours out,’ she said. ‘But Michael might have.’
Terry gave a short laugh. ‘You know that’s not true, Trudi,’ he said. ‘Stop covering for him. Michael never throws anything out. It will be lost in a filing system only he understands, I guarantee it.’
‘If you still have it, Trudi, I’d like them back,’ Harry said. ‘But that’s a minor matter; it’s got nothing to do with this case. So, if no one has anything else to add, we’ll close the meeting.’
There were murmurs of agreement and, as the meeting broke up, Stan Cresswell made a dash for the door. ‘See you later, folks,’ he said.
‘Ellie wants a word with you, Harry,’ said Bobbie. ‘In private, if that’s okay.’
Harry nodded and glanced at Ellie, who was blushing. Harry’s gaze immediately moved to Stan, who was halfway out of the door.
‘Nothing to do with me, Harry,’ Cresswell protested.
‘It’s about the case,’ Ellie whispered. ‘But it’s, um…’
‘If no one else wants to say anything, you can all leave,’ said Harry. ‘Fenella, can you leave the final image up for a while, please. Give me half an hour.’
‘We won’t be that long,’ said Bobbie.
‘Give me half an hour, Fenella,’ Harry repeated. Once everyone had left, he fixed Ellie with his bright green eyes and ordered, ‘Tell me.’
‘Tell him what you said to me on the way here,’ Bobbie ordered.
Rather reluctantly, Ellie did as she’d been asked.
‘Thanks for not saying anything during the meeting, Ellie,’ Harry told her when she’d finished voicing her concerns. He stared at her, and at Bobbie. ‘I’m going to tell you both something, and I don’t want you to tell anyone else, understand?’
‘Yes,’ Ellie and Bobbie confirmed.
Bobbie wasn’t sure what to expect, but Harry’s next words surprised her. ‘Come out, Susan,’ he said. A magically concealed door opened, and Susan Bones stepped out.
‘Susan! Have you been in there all the time?’ Bobbie asked, embracing her friend.
‘I wanted her to know what was going on,’ said Harry.
‘Why the secrecy?’ Bobbie asked.
Harry pulled a folded invitation from his pocket, carefully opened it, and showed them the names of the invitees. ‘As I said, yesterday we had an intruder at Drakeshaugh,’ Harry reminded them. ‘She tracked us down with this. I gave Trudi a chance to say something, but she didn’t.’ He shook his head sadly. ‘I’d like to believe that she was simply trying to protect Michael, because we all try to protect Michael.’ He turned to Ellie. ‘Michael was, well…’
‘The Carrows tortured him; they subjected him to the Cruciatus Curse for a protracted period,’ said Susan brusquely. ‘He can be fragile.’
‘Even so, I really can’t believe that Michael, or Trudi, or both of them are involved,’ said Harry.
‘Harry’s intruder, Frances, had been subjected to a crude and hastily cast memory charm,’ said Susan in her usual clipped and efficient manner. ‘We’ve done a few tests on her, and we think that the caster was interrupted. Unfortunately, she’s lost several years of memory. We’re working to restore it, but it may take weeks. Apart from us, only Dominic, Camelia, Harry’s family, and a family of Muggles know we have her.’
‘I want it to stay that way,’ said Harry. ‘Frances’ arrival at Drakeshaugh has given us some new leads. I was telling the truth about Dominic, but Camelia spent the night keeping an eye on Drakeshaugh, and my neighbours, for me. Fortunately, it looks like our intruder was acting alone. If anyone else had been watching us, Camelia would have found them. Tomorrow I’m going to send Camelia into the Ministry to look at Michael and his colleagues. She…’ Harry hesitated. ‘She isn’t as close to Michael as the rest of us. I thought about adding her to the Muggle Interface Team, because there’s no one in the office who hasn’t known Trudi since she joined.’
He turned to face Ellie, ‘But I’m wrong, there is, isn’t there? I’m going to move you out from Al Webb’s team, Ellie, and put you into the Muggle Interface Team. Bobbie says you’re a good investigator, so you deserve the chance for some real field work. If you see anything suspicious, report it to me, Bobbie, or Susan, but do not tell anyone else.’
‘Yes, Harry,’ said Ellie eagerly.
‘Good,’ Harry told her. ‘But be careful.’ He turned to address Susan. ‘When you get into the office tomorrow, Susan, you’ll find that someone from Hermione’s office has asked us to look into potential security breach at the Ministry. It seems that a member of the Ministry security staff, Frances Sidebotham, has gone missing. Ostensibly, you’ll be trying to find her.’
Susan gave a wry smile, ‘Shall I bring her in? We can see if this is the place she was running from.’
‘Yes,’ Harry said, giving Bobbie and Ellie a “don’t say anything” look.
Susan opened the concealed door into the room where she’d been hiding. It led into a small store room in which a confused-looking round-faced young woman sat. Susan solicitously escorted her into the room.
‘Hello, Mr Potter, hello Aurors,’ the woman said.
‘Hello, Frances,’ Harry said. ‘Do you recognise this place?’
‘This isn’t the room I walked through when we went into that cupboard,’ the woman said nervously. She looked around the crime scene Image, saw the petrified bodies, and squealed. ‘What’s happened here? Where is this place? How did I get here?’
‘Do you recognise this room?’ Harry asked. ‘Is it the place you ran from?’
She stared, her face creased in thought. ‘No,’ she said.
‘But you told us you were in Burngreave,’ Harry said.
‘I was,’ she confirmed. ‘Is this Burngreave? Where is it? Is it one of the old factory units near Bower Street?’
‘I don’t know,’ Harry told her, ‘but I’ll find out.’ He turned to Bobbie, ‘I probably don’t need to tell you but…’ He hesitated.
‘I was planning to check out the ownership of this property,’ she said, indicating the Image in which they still stood. ‘Someone must have been paying rent on it, and the police will be trying to find a name.’
‘Good,’ said Harry. ‘On your way out, ask Fenella to take Images of all of the surrounding streets. Tell her it’s your idea, but I agree.’ Harry took another look around the image. ‘The more I look at this place, the more convinced I am that our killer is someone who is at home in both the Muggle and magical worlds.’
‘Which rules out Gaheris Robards,’ Ellie observed.
‘Oh, he’s already ruled out,’ said Harry. ‘He’s been positively identified as the man who told Frances to run.’
‘I hope he’s okay,’ the young woman said anxiously.
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