|SIYE Time:14:53 on 24th February 2018|
Category: Post-Hogwarts, Post-DH/PM
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Death, Disturbing Imagery, Extreme Language, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use, Violence
Story is Complete
Summary: The last thing Harry Potter wants is to be lumped with a trainee Auror, especially not one that idolises him. As he guides her through the realities of being an overworked Auror and tentatively settles into adult life with Ginny, a dark plot brews on the horizon...
Hitcount: Story Total: 42148; Chapter Total: 2032
Awards: View Trophy Room
He watched them from an arched stone nook on the elaborate roof of Twilfitt and Tattings, hidden in the shadows and high up in the cold night air. He could see the corner of the alley where he had left Rookwood below, and, through omnioculars, he saw the swarm of Aurors, scuttling around the body, cordoning off the alleyway, comforting the terrified, shaking man… He held back a snicker at the pathetic display, remembering how the man had shrieked and stumbled back onto his fat arse…
With remarkable control, he slowly twisted a dial and zoomed in on her. There she was, the idiotic girl. Even in the green hue of the nocturnal vision, he could see that she was pale, a look of disgust on her pinched features. She stood grimly talking to another Auror, shaking her head slightly and pointing back along the alleyway she had walked down, ignoring her shivering father behind her.
She checked her watch and ran a hand through her wispy hair, looking tired and stressed. He smirked. The silly, stupid girl. She couldn’t keep her mouth shut. Loud and proud about working with Harry Potter, with no awareness of her surroundings and her vulnerability. It had been so easy…
He shifted uncomfortably on the hard, cold stone. He felt exposed, but he was certainly not visible. He had picked this place carefully, everything was as it needed to be…
But where was Potter? Where was he? Gritting his teeth in frustration, and carefully twisting the dials with fingers numb with cold, he scanned the Aurors, excitement tingling through him.
He could see the tops of their heads, some hidden by the rough stone wall of the narrow alleyway. They crouched over the body, then conjured a tent around it, the flash of a camera just visible through the thick white canvas thanks the omnioculars. Outside of it, some of them crawled up and down the alleyway like insects, while others crossed their arms and stamped their feet against the cold September air as they stood guard.
Perhaps Harry Potter wouldn’t come. There were already so many Aurors here, and they were sure to move the body soon, perhaps Potter wouldn’t come at all. A childish rage of disappointment swelled in him at the thought. He wanted to see Harry Potter’s reaction, he wanted to see the look on his face when he saw his work, see if there was any recognition…
He felt as though he could cry. Why wasn’t he here? Where was he? Perhaps he’d got him all wrong, he was sure that he would come at once, night or day, he would be first on the scene, yet there was that stupid girl and that useless lump Dawlish and Proudfoot staring gormlessly at the slogan on the wall and Jesus fucking Christ where was he?
A faint crack echoed in the air, and he turned his omnioculars back to the edge of the alleyway, his lips bursting into a gleeful grin.
Harry appeared in the alleyway between the backs of the shops of Knockturn Alley and Diagon Alley, though his mind was still very much at home with Ginny. There was a great deal of commotion already, and he could see curious shop owners and residents peering out of open windows, trying to catch a glimpse of what had attracted the swarm of Aurors, despite the chill in the air.
‘Potter! Where’ve you been? You were sent for nearly an hour ago!’
‘Fuck off, Dawlish,’ Harry snapped back. ‘Where’s Higglesworth?’
‘I’m here, Boss,’ came a quiet voice. She looked rather alarmed at his anger.
He tried to soften his expression and voice, but the most he could manage was a growl. ‘Right, let’s get this over with, I want to go home. Show me where he is, then.’
She led him down the narrow alley. Aurors were on their hands and knees, searching the ground for clues. The light from everyone’s wands cast a pale blue glow over the gently undulating cobbles, from which weeds were wrestling their way through the cracks. ‘Why were you here?’ he asked her. ‘Your note said you found the body.’
‘Dad and I went to the White Wyvern-’
‘The fuck were you doing in there?’
Even in the pale light, he could see her blush. ‘Dad wanted to. I don’t know. Anyway, there was a cat, I followed it-’
His scoffing tone displeased her, and she gave a scowl that reminded him of Hermione. ‘I don’t know, I just did, all right? Look, I’m sorry I had to call you out in the middle of the night, but there’s no need to talk to me like that-’
‘All right, all right, sorry,’ he said impatiently. He couldn’t stop thinking about Ginny, and her accusation about Theia, and the mixture of anger and guilt was driving him to a kind of paranoia. He kept glancing over his shoulder, as though expecting to see someone following him, but with the entire department there it was no surprise that he was being looked at. Theia still looked irritated at him, but she nodded ahead.
‘There he is,’ she said quietly, holding open a large white tent for him. As he entered, Bessie glanced over her shoulder, and edged aside to let him see.
Even Harry, who had seen his fair share of gruesome scenes, stopped dead in his tracks, revulsion catching in the back of his throat.
Rookwood was propped up against the wall in a sitting position, his legs stretched out in front of him, his arms dropping down with the palms facing upwards. His head lolled back, his face pointing up at the white canopy. Yet even if he had been alive, he would not have been able to see it, because his eyes had been gouged out.
Dried blood, almost brown from the exposure, stained his waxy skin, but beneath it, Harry could see bruises, burns, cuts, swellings; all the signs of a vicious and relentless attack.
‘How long’s he been here, d’you think?’ he asked Bessie.
She crouched and took another photo before answering him. ‘Not long, I reckon. Rigor mortis has started to set in, but not quite, and who ever put him here must have been able to move his legs into that position. So he can’t have been dead longer than eight hours.’
‘Doesn’t look like he was killed here,’ said Theia. ‘Everything’s too clean, we’ve been going up and down the cobbles but we can’t find any sign of blood or a struggle or anything.’
‘What’s in his mouth?’ Harry said sharply.
‘His mouth. He’s got something in his mouth.’ There was a slight bulge in his cheeks. Harry had only noticed it because of the many hours he’d spent over the past three years staring at Rookwood’s mug shot, noting the hollowed cheeks even when he was of a good weight.
Bessie shuffled forward, and, with gloved hands, opened the stiff jaw of Augustus Rookwood.
Something fleshy tumbled out down Rookwood’s tattered robes, something thick and soft looking. Harry assumed it was vomit, but as Theia shone her wand light on it, he saw otherwise.
‘Is that… some kind of meat?’ she asked.
Harry crouched next to Bessie, leaning over Rookwood’s legs, peering at it closely. He slowly turned his head to meet Bessie’s grim expression. Bessie gave a sharp nod.
‘I think we may have found the rest of Livia Rookwood,’ he said. He heard Theia groan, and looked up to see her turning away, a hand thrown over her mouth. ‘Are you going to throw up?’ he demanded. ‘You better not throw up, Theia.’
‘No, I’m not,’ she snapped, turning back. ‘I’m fine. What’s got into you? Get off my back.’
He shook his head, muttering under his breath, but even Bessie raised an eyebrow. ‘Play nice, Mr Potter,’ she said sternly. She looked him up and down shrewdly. ‘Did we interrupt your beauty sleep?’
‘I’m just tired,’ he said, frustrated.
‘We’re all tired, pet,’ scolded Bessie. ‘You’re not the only one who was tucked up in bed, you know, that’s the reality of the job. Unless you’re a big shot like Robards or not committed like Longbottom, you have to be here, and you have to be nice to your trainee. It’s not like you to be such a-’
‘Can we get back to the chunks of human heart?’ he grumbled. He scratched the back of his neck. He wished he could send everyone away. He felt like they were all staring at him, even though they were scouring the scene outside the tent. Something was putting him on edge.
‘It looks like it’s been coated in something,’ said Bessie. ‘I’ll do some tests back in the morgue and get back to you.’
‘I guess we’ll be looking for his eyes now,’ Harry said.
‘Oh, they’re in his pockets,’ said Bessie. ‘Our culprit didn’t fancy taking them, and wasn’t very neat about getting them out.’
‘Charming,’ he said with a sigh. ‘You taken all the pictures you need?’
He nodded, and stood, looking down at the body. ‘Poor sod, some of those injuries look old. He’s been alive all this time, we should have been searching harder for him.’ He looked at Theia. ‘So there’s been nothing found on scene?’
‘Well,’ she said hesitantly. ‘There’s this. We don’t know what to make of it though.’
She gestured, and he followed her out of the tent and around the corner, where Proudfoot stood, staring at the wall. There, in red, dripping letters…
He was staring. The world was spinning.
Theia’s voice sounded far off. It felt something like sand falling through his fingertips, he stared at each letter, each stroke of paint filling him with dread, taunting him with the horrible suspicion that had played on the edges of his mind.
He raised a hand, ran it into his hair and kept it there, gripping the top of his head as though trying to root himself to the ground. He swore quietly. Dozens of faces were flying through his head, each one less believable and more painful than the last.
‘Harry,’ Theia prompted again. ‘Does it mean something? It seems really familiar to me, but I can’t quite-’
He brought himself back into focus. ‘Yes,’ he said quietly. He lowered his voice so that even Proudfoot couldn’t hear. ‘Has Bessie taken photos of this?’
‘Yes, well, one of her team has-’
‘Good, get rid of it now then,’ he said firmly.
‘Wha-? But shouldn’t we…?’
‘The press can’t see this. Nobody must know.’ He gripped her shoulder. ‘I mean it, Theia, this needs to stay private.’
‘Of course, the whole case stays private, I wouldn’t-’
‘Nobody, Theia,’ he said, and he could hear the authority in his own voice. ‘Not your parents, not your friends, no one. This is crucial. It will make sense to a lot of people.’ She looked completely bewildered, so he glanced around, and leaned closer to her. ‘You remember it from Hogwarts,’ he whispered despairingly. ‘The D.A.’
She pulled back, grim realization crossing her face. ‘I’ll tell Bessie’s crew to get on it.’
Harry looked around as she walked away. He already knew it was hopeless. He could see people leaning out of their windows, craning their necks to try and peer into the tent. No doubt they had all seen the slogan on the wall too. He hoped desperately that he had it wrong, that there was no connection, it couldn’t be anyone he knew, not one of his friends…
He began to pace, trying to get a feel of the place. Why would a body be moved and dumped here? It was rather secluded and compared to the bustle of the streets either side, but the body itself had not been hidden or disguised in anyway. It had been propped up, with the intention of someone seeing it. Perhaps not now, in the middle of the night, but clearly someone was meant to discover it.
He gazed at the tall buildings that loomed over the little alley. Any one of the occupants could have stumbled across it, putting their cats or their bins out. Perhaps it had been one of them?
He thought he saw a glint of something metallic near the domed roof of Twilfit and Tattings, and stared up at it, feeling that same paranoia that had followed him all the way up the street, but as he was about to go and investigate, a drunken shouting caught his attention.
Theia was standing over a pale, distressed man sitting on the floor, wrapped in a blanket. She was gripping his hand and pleading with him to stand, but he trembled and shook his head, babbling incoherently.
‘Is everything all right?’ Harry asked as he approached.
Theia looked horrified, embarrassed, and she tugged on the man harder. ‘Yes, fine, honestly- don’t worry, I’ve spoken to someone about the writing- Come on,’ she hissed at the man. ‘Get up!’
‘All that blood- All the… All the…’
‘Is this your dad?’ The sight of her embarrassment had made him feel guilty for being so rude to her all night, so as she sullenly nodded, he crouched down to the man’s eye level. ‘Mr Hopkirk?’ he said gently.
‘Harry Potter!’ the man blurted out, his eyes growing as wide as saucers.
‘That’s right,’ Harry said cheerfully. ‘You’ve had a bit of a shock, but I’m sure Theia can take you home. Up you get, go and have a nice big glass of water and a good rest.’
‘Nice job on You-Know-Who, mate,’ Mr Hopkirk slurred, looking rather awed.
‘Thank you,’ said Harry politely. ‘Do you need help getting up?’
‘No, no, no,’ mumbled Mr Hopkirk drunkenly, raising a swaying hand. ‘I can look after meself. Don’t trouble yourself, you’re a war hero, you’ve been through enough. Do you miss your parents? I couldn’t stand mine, haha.’
‘Oh, my God, I’m so sorry,’ Theia muttered, hiding her face as her father pulled himself up using the cobwebbed wall.
‘Don’t worry about it,’ said Harry reassuringly, as Mr Hopkirk confusedly alerted those nearest to him that Harry Potter was here.
‘I’d have taken him home earlier, but someone said he’d have to give a statement-’
‘I heard you was doing that bird from the Harpies, the redhead,’ said Mr Hopkirk loudly. ‘Nice one.’
‘Dad!’ Theia looked so humiliated that Harry was faintly surprised she didn’t apparate away on the spot. ‘I’m so sorry, he’s not usually like this, honestly, he’s usually very smart and-’
‘It’s all right, you can’t pick your family,’ said Harry kindly. ‘We’ll take a statement from him tomorrow, when he’s sobered up.’
Mr Hopkirk turned and started to stagger away before Harry could seize him, but he’d gone less than a meter before there was a yowl and he tripped face first onto the cobbles. Harry was still rather annoyed about Hopkirk’s comment, so didn’t rush forward to help him up like the other Aurors, but then neither did Theia.
Under the lights of their wand, the speckled ginger thing Mr Hopkirk had tripped over sauntered casually towards Theia. ‘Is that your Kneazle?’ Harry asked her, as it rubbed against her legs.
‘What? Is that what it is? I thought it was just a weird cat.’
‘Yeah, look at his tail.’ He pointed to the tuft at the end of the cat’s tail, and the Kneazle sat, gazing up at Theia.
‘It’s not mine, I don’t know anything about Kneazles,’ she said. ‘It’s the one I followed down here, I swear it was trying to show me the body. It was following me when I went into Shyverwretch’s shop too. I think it’s a stray.’
Harry raised an eyebrow and smiled wryly. ‘Not any more. You better take him home.’
‘My mum’d kill me,’ she replied, though she had already bent down to pick him up.
‘Well if you don’t show up at work tomorrow, I’ll know why,’ said Harry. He looked back at Mr Hopkirk, who was being heavily supported by an Auror. ‘Look, take your Dad home, get some rest. Come in after lunch. I’m sorry I was a bit…’
‘Rude?’ she prompted.
‘Yeah. My head’s elsewhere… You did well, raising the alarm and everything.’ He nodded to the Kneazle in her arms. ‘And you’ve made a handy friend for life. I’ll hang back here and make up for being so late. See you in a few hours.’
Theia had not been expecting it, but she could hear loud, shocked laughter coming from Harry’s cubicle. She hurried towards it through the busy department, ducking out of the way of a speeding memo, to see Longbottom leaning over the back wall of the cubicle, looking down at Harry with a delighted and amazed grin.
‘It’s not funny, Nev,’ she heard Harry groan.
‘Sorry, mate, but it is. It really is. I’m surprised you’ve still got all your bits, she must have been furious. You’ve got greater will power than me anyway.’
‘So that’s it? You’ve got no advice?’ Harry was leaning back on his chair to look up at him, rubbing his head anxiously.
Longbottom shook his head, still fighting back laughter. ‘Nah, why don’t you talk to Ron about it?’
‘Oh, really funny, Neville, thanks, that’s-’
Theia coughed awkwardly, and Harry looked over his shoulder with a relieved expression. Longbottom, still snorting with laughter, ducked back into his own cubicle.
‘Great, you’re here,’ Harry said distractedly. ‘Lots to discuss.’
‘Is everything all right?’ Theia asked cautiously, looking to where Longbottom’s head had just been.
‘Yes, all fine,’ said Harry.
But Longbottom’s teasing voice quickly sounded through the cubicle wall. ‘Have you got any post, Theia?’
Harry didn’t even turn, simply raised a fist and gave the cubicle a loud thump that made the photo frames on his desk rattle.
‘Er… No, was I supposed to get post?’
‘Ignore him, he’s not funny,’ said Harry loudly. ‘He was just dropping off Bessie’s results from the morgue.’
Theia sat as Harry pushed a heavy looking file towards her. As she opened it, she couldn’t help but wince slightly at the photos of the body she had seen just a few hours before. ‘Bessie worked quickly,’ she remarked.
‘Yeah, I owe her, she’s been great. Her and Neville took a closer look at the heart and found that it was coated in belladonna.’
‘Is that what killed him?’
‘Yes… But Bessie found pieces of heart in his stomach that weren’t poisoned,’ he said grimly.
She felt revolted. ‘You’re joking? That’s disgusting!’
Harry nodded despondently. ‘It looks like he was being forced to eat it over a long period of time. It had been frozen, and had preservation spells on it. Not to mention all the injuries…’ He gave a heavy sigh, and took the file back from her. ‘I’m concerned that Cormac McLaggen may be in a similar position. We need to find him before he ends up like Rookwood, but given the escalation I doubt we have as long.’
Theia agreed. She had thought the same. ‘I read a criminology book recently,’ she said hesitantly. ‘It had a part on how it’s almost impossible for humans to be completely random, there’s always a pattern. And I was thinking… There’s very clear patterns here, aren’t there?’
Harry considered her. ‘Yes, there are. What have you noticed?’
He sounded a little like a teacher, and it soothed Theia somewhat. She was in her element here; as a Ravenclaw, the desire to impress with knowledge was almost second nature. ‘Well, we have two couples. The women murdered on scene and body parts taken. The men both vanishing. One of them has now turned up dead, and it looks like he was tortured with the heart of his wife… The women aren’t the targets here, are they?’
‘No,’ said Harry quietly. ‘They’re not. They’re being used to get at others.’ His face darkened, and he took a brief glimpse at the photos of smiling redheads and the chubby toddler. ‘It’s horribly common. Using loved ones. It can be anyone, really, but I’ve found overwhelmingly it’s women and children that are used. They become pawns in bloodthirsty arguments between men.’
‘Why?’ asked Theia. ‘Surely brothers or friends would be-’
‘No,’ said Harry shortly. ‘I mean, sometimes, yeah, but women and children… The sort of men that do this, and it tends to be men, they see it as tapping into a natural, territorial urge to protect. It’s the fastest way to get someone to do what you want, and even criminals love someone. The person doing this knows this. They want to cause the maximum amount of pain possible, so they choose what they believe to be innocent, weak, and precious to the person they want to hurt. The person doing this is angry at the men, not the women.’
His words had sparked a memory in her. ‘When I was at the pub, last night, my Dad mentioned you…’ She told him about the threatening, hooded man, and her gut instinct that had made her want to flee.
Harry listened intently as she rambled, waiting patiently for her to finish. ‘Well, it might be something. There’s plenty of people out there that have less than friendly thoughts about me.’
‘But don’t you think the timing is a bit coincidental?’ insisted Theia.
He paused, scratching at the stubble on his jaw. ‘Potentially. And he had an accent, you say?’
‘Yes… It might have been German? Or Polish?’
‘It may have been our mysterious friend Dubrow,’ Harry said, grabbing a quill and scratching something down in his notebook. ‘I spoke to Carrow in Azkaban, and she said he was a Durmstrang boy, which is why he wouldn’t be in our records.’
‘I’ll make contact with Durmstrang right away then,’ she said quickly. ‘It’d be good to get a profile and see why he’s in the country, at the very least he’s caught up in all of this-’
‘Yeah, but it’s not him,’ Harry said easily. He caught sight of her crestfallen face, and gave a sympathetic smile. ‘Did you see The Prophet this morning?’
‘I usually don’t bother with it, but this morning’s headline was all about our case,’ he said with an exasperated tone. ‘We’ve managed to work under their radar so far because no one really cares about disgraced criminals getting murdered or disappearing. Pansy Parkinson’s death generated some interest, but the more exciting news of the day was Daphne Greengrass’s new lingerie photoshoot. But what’s changed now?’
‘The crime scene was gruesome, and public,’ suggested Theia.
With that, he gave a nod, and reached into his drawer, pulling out a copy of the newspaper. The picture on the front page showed the slogan on the wall, so clear that it could have been taken from the alley itself.
‘But how?’ she exclaimed desperately. ‘I got them to clean it off right away, Harry, I really did!’
He raised a hand to stop her. ‘I know you did. This isn’t your fault. Our perpetrator wanted the slogan to be seen, and it was. Looks like this photo was taken from one of the buildings nearby and sold to the press. It’s to be expected.’
Theia stared at it miserably. It still felt like a failure. When she had been able to think more clearly, after some sleep and away from the hassle of dealing with her father, she had been able to recall the D.A graffiti easily. She had never helped them write it, of course, but she remembered the fury of the Carrows, the dark excitement of seeing the propaganda-fighting photos, the pride and inspiration that had come from spotting new messages on the walls. Seeing it associated with something so awful was crushing, and it was now that she noted how tired Harry looked.
‘You think it must be someone in the D.A then?’ she asked him quietly.
He took a long time to answer. ‘We’ll have to look into it,’ he said at last. ‘Or it could be someone who didn’t like the D.A… Someone who’s unhappy that it’s starting to look like an old boys club. There’s a feeling that to get a good job in the Ministry nowadays you have to have the right connections. They could be trying to discredit it. It could be that.’
She could hear the hope in his voice, and see the torture on his face. She swallowed. She wondered if she was brave enough to ask the question on her lips. ‘What if it’s someone you know?’ It was barely more than a whisper, but she knew he had heard her.
He gave a throat clearing cough, and turned back to his desk, rifling through parchment. ‘Anyway, that’s why I don’t think it’s some random bloke from Durmstrang,’ he said briskly. ‘When you’ve filled in that paperwork, we’d best go get that statement from your Dad. The quicker we are, the more chance we have of finding McLaggen alive.’
He was pleased with himself. He had done well. It was all over the press. They were finally taking notice, and soon perhaps more people would join. More people would understand.
Maybe they would find their coins again.
He reached into his pocket and felt it. Cold. As cold as it had been for over three years. But they would start to wonder. They would start to talk. And then he could recruit them. They would understand. They had all lost people too. They couldn’t be happy.
A choked whimpering drew his attention, and he slowly turned his head to the squirming Cormac McLaggen. He was braver than Rookwood had been, but still terribly annoying. ‘I don’t even remember you,’ he said loudly. ‘Let’s talk this through, I’m sure it’s all just a big misunderstanding-’
‘That’s what makes it so much worse, Cormac,’ he replied coldly. He advanced, pulling out his knife, and Cormac flinched. But he stood over him, looking at the chained, wet, pathetic creature before him. Cormac looked up at him, breathing heavily. ‘You don’t even know what happened to some of those people, do you, Cormac?’
Cormac’s expression didn’t change, he still stared up with gritted teeth and an irritating lack of fear. ‘I’ve done my time,’ he said.
‘No,’ he said. ‘You haven’t.’
Cormac’s screams and yells echoed through the tunnels, like a wounded animal, which, he realized with relish, was exactly what he was. Rats scarpered at the sound, the water splashing from their tails, and the knife glinted in the low light beneath Cormac’s crimson blood.
After a few minutes, he stepped away. He cleaned his hands with distaste on a rag. He did not enjoy this part. It wasn’t like him, it wasn’t who he really was. But it was necessary. It was deserved. Someone had to step up and see justice served.
Just as he had done with Rookwood, he would wait a while before the next part of the punishment. He had to be hungry for it to work.
‘I’m going to go now,’ he said calmly to the still howling McLaggen. ‘But I will see you tomorrow.’
He left, splashing through the cold, filthy water to a rusted metal ladder. He ascended into a grey dusk, in the middle of a scrubland littered with rubble, a burnt out car, dumped furniture, and bordered with piles of litter.
He pulled a sheet of corrugated iron back over the entrance to the sewers, and used his wand to clean up the tell-tale signs of blood and water. Then he stashed it in a nearby abandoned fridge, removing has backpack which he swung casually over one shoulder.
It was only a ten minute walk, but the air was cold and he could smell rain on the air. At this time of the year, Hogwarts was warm with cosy fires and squashy armchairs, all the delightfully twee trappings that had once made him believe that it was the best place in the world.
Muscled-looking young men sat in a bright yellow car, which pulsed out a heavy bass line. They stared at him as he walked past, and though he looked down at the pavement to avoid trouble, inside he was not afraid. Their world was laughably safer, vastly more pleasant, than the one that had pretended to welcome him.
The orange street lamps were beginning to light up as he reached the building. A woman was shouting at her kids from a balcony, and someone was standing by the entrance in their pyjamas, smoking.
He entered. Someone had pissed in the lift again.
He climbed the stairs.
There she was, the idiot girl. He’d got here just in time, she was putting her key in the lock.
‘Busy day?’ he asked her.
She turned, and smiled at him. ‘As usual.’
‘Thought of a name for your Kneazle yet?’
‘No, not yet! And I’m so sorry he attacked you like that, I had no idea they were so vicious, I really need to read up on them.’ He laughed, and put his key in the lock too. Gently does it…
‘Want to come to dinner?’ she asked him. ‘Mum’s nearly forgiven me for staying over the other night, and I need you to charm her.’
‘You read my mind,’ Dennis replied with a smile.
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