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SIYE Time:21:08 on 20th October 2017


The Aurors
By FloreatCastellum

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Category: Post-Hogwarts, Post-DH/PM
Characters:Harry/Ginny
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Death, Disturbing Imagery, Extreme Language, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use, Violence
Story is Complete
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 298
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: 37914; Chapter Total: 2098
Awards: View Trophy Room






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The room was bare, with only the table and chairs in the middle. Thin windows near the ceiling allowed light in, but gave a suffocating feeling as they cast narrow squares of light over the concrete floor. Theia and Harry sat in silence, their Quick-Quotes-Quill poised in anticipation, staring at the silent and sullen Shyverwretch.

‘Why don’t we start with the plans of Azkaban you had in your shop?’ prompted Harry.

‘No comment,’ Shyverwretch growled back.

Harry tilted his head to the side. ‘Come on now, Shyverwretch… You’re right at the middle of this web. Clearly you’ve got yourself in too deep with something.’

Shyverwretch simply glared at him, hatred etched in his face.

‘You had pages and pages of these plans,’ said Theia calmly. ‘You’re not going to be able to pretend you had nothing to do with it, you didn’t even try to hide them properly. You may as well make this easier for yourself, and work with us.’
Shyverwretch didn’t even look at her, he continued to stare at Harry with the same deep loathing, his fingers curling into fists on the table. Harry stared back, a slight smile on his face. ‘Do I bother you, Shyverwretch? I hope I’m not antagonizing you at all.’

Shyverwretch inhaled deeply through his large nose, his knuckles turning white. ‘You think you know it all, don’t you Potter?’

Harry leaned back casually. ‘Why d’you think that, Shyverwretch?’

‘You think you’ve got it all sorted, your grand plans… You swanned into your role as a war hero and started changing things, making all the decisions, whatever took your fancy, well it’s our bloody country and we were here first!’

‘Who’s “we”?’ asked Harry, his expression still relaxed.

‘You don’t know what the fuck you’re doing,’ jeered Shyverwretch. ‘Both of you, I’m older than both of you put together. Little children playing at politics and war, that’s all you are.’

‘Played at war, did I?’ asked Harry lightly.

‘Played. Played and mimicked and exaggerated your stories, well we see through you, Potter, we see that you hid in the wilderness until it was safe to come out, and we see that you quite happily stepped into the powerful roles thrown at you afterwards. Hypocrite,’ he hissed.

Theia had a million questions, yet no urge to ask them. She knew the answers would come.

Harry scratched at his stubbled jaw. ‘What, so you’re unhappy with my political influence? Understandable, I expect a lot feel the same. And then you and your old mates from Azkaban, you thought you’d break out, yeah? Then what would happen? Would you overthrow me? Hope that I’d resign from the embarrassment of a mass breakout?’

Shyverwretch scoffed. ‘Arrogant child. It’s not just about you.’ He turned his gaze slowly to Theia, who sat with her face as still as stone. ‘You’re tiny,’ he taunted. ‘Still a little girl. You won’t realize what you’re doing. He’ll fill your head with stories about the “regime” and “corruption”. But him and his friends make up the head of government, and one… by… one…’ he walked two fingers across the desk, ‘…they’re crushing anyone they don’t like… Anyone who disagrees with the way they think things should be run… Hypocrite,’ he hissed again.

‘So not just me, then?’ said Harry, who sounded almost cheerful. ‘Me and all my friends? Anyone in the new system? This was meant to be a political break out, was it?’

‘You worked for the previous Ministry, didn’t you, Mr Shyverwetch?’ said Theia. ‘You reopened your shop after losing your job when Minister Shacklebolt came to office.’

There was a long silence. Shyverwretch seemed to have realized he had said too much, and returned to his sulk, staring at the table. But Harry kept his small, knowing smile, and soon Shyverwretch couldn’t resist again, his bitterness and anger burst from him reluctantly.

‘You think you’re noble, and good, but you’re just as shit as the rest of us!’ He looked at Theia again, pointing a finger at her. ‘The sooner you learn that everybody wants something in this world the better. Potter’s no different. He wants his Mudblood friends in high places and his little army painted as angels. Doesn’t matter that he breaks his own rules, that he does things even the Dark Lord himself considered brutal…’

Harry laughed. ‘And what on earth would that be? I’m no saint, but that’s quite the accusation.’

Shyverwretch’s mouth pulled unpleasantly into a smile. He continued to look at Harry, but when he spoke, Theia knew it was directed at her. ‘You know what my job in the Ministry was, don’t you?’

‘You worked in the morgue,’ recalled Theia. She found that although she felt quite calm, she was breathing deeply. ‘Must have been a lot of bodies to deal with.’

‘Hundreds,’ Shyverwretch said, his voice rolling over the word like it was a sweet, delicious thing. ‘That’s why I was hired… There was so many of them we didn’t have time to prepare them all before burial. I would help preserve them. Make sure there was enough time. We treated them with dignity.’

‘Well that’s not true, is it?’ said Harry sharply. ‘The reason there wasn’t time was because you stored them until the morgue was full, then made various communal graves up and down the country. You buried them without their wands, without headstones, their families don’t even know where they are, they can never grieve-’

Shyverwretch slammed a fist on the table, and though she didn’t jump, Theia couldn’t help but blink and breathe in sharply. ‘And you did that to us. When you killed him… Then you burnt him in the Hogwarts grounds in front of a greedy press, with no dignity, never said where the ashes were, you treated him with no respect-’

‘He didn’t deserve respect,’ said Harry coldly. ‘You seem to have him confused with a politician. This was no difference of opinion. He was a murderer. Evil in its purest form.’

‘He offered his opponents at the Battle of Hogwarts the chance to dispose of their dead with dignity,’ said Shyverwretch. ‘Yet noble Harry Potter and the honourable Kingsley Shacklebolt did not offer the same courtesy.’
‘And this was treating a body with dignity, was it?’ asked Harry, pushing a photograph across the table.

Shyverwretch looked down at the body of Livia Rookwood. He did not look repulsed, but there was something Theia could only assume was genuine pain in his eyes and he saw the bloody scene. ‘I did not do this,’ he said softly. ‘I knew Livia…’

‘I know you knew her,’ said Harry loudly. ‘She bought belladonna from you recently, didn’t she? Don’t deny it. She had no garden to buy it herself, and you’re old mates. Looks to me that she was involved in your little plan to help dozens of people escape from Azkaban.’ He pulled out a piece of parchment from the manila file on the table. ‘We found this, in your shop, a potion for a very nasty looking potion which combines concentrated belladonna with nerium oleander. Was my colleague correct when she suggested the fumes themselves would be deadly?’

Shyverwretch said nothing, and Theia felt satisfied.

‘So then I suppose the plan would have been to get these fumes in the staff room and kitchens, knock ‘em all out in one while the prisoners you liked had the antidote and made a break for it, correct?’ Still Shyverwretch said nothing. ‘But Livia Rookwood, she loved belladonna, didn’t she? Did she offer to help brew this potion? It takes a long time to make, and you usually just sell poisons and venoms as they come. I doubt you’re a very talented potion maker.’

Shyverwretch’s jaw was twitching slightly. ‘I wasn’t the ring leader in all of this, you know. But yes, she said she would make the belladonna concentrate.’

‘Who was the ringleader then?’ asked Harry. ‘This Dubrow character you mentioned?’ Shyverwretch stared down at the table again. ‘Because you’re not giving us much help, so we’re having to come up with theories ourselves. I don’t think it’s quite right, but let’s try this out, shall we?’

Shyverwretch leant his elbows on the table, running his hands up over his face and onto his balding head. ‘I had nothing to do with this,’ he said quietly, but Harry ignored him.

‘See, how we’ve worked it out so far is this… Livia Rookwood comes to you to buy this belladonna, or perhaps you come up with this plan together and sell it to her. You have some kind of fall out, maybe you’re a bit pissed off that you’re not getting the shining role in sticking two fingers up to the Ministry that you thought you were getting. You’re not making the potion, after all, and you’re not one of the ones smuggling in the antidote. I’ve got some other Aurors chasing up the common visitors to Azkaban, and your name isn’t in the book. It’s increasingly looking like you’re just there to provide a meeting space and somewhere to hide the plans, isn’t it? That doesn’t seem very fair. A lot of risk and you won’t even have an exciting role to play.’

Shyverwretch was staring at him from underneath a heavy frown, his breaths deep with anger.

‘So maybe you and her have an argument. It gets a bit tense. Her husband comes and beats you up, tells you to back off his wife. Trashes your shop up and what you thought you could pass off as a common-place burglary suddenly has Aurors crawling all over it. Probably a big mistake reporting it in the first place, wouldn’t you agree, Theia?’

‘Most definitely,’ she said coolly.

‘I imagine you were pretty embarrassed and angry. Looks like the only magic he used was a reducto curse on your table, and yet when we examined your wand when you entered it looks like that was actually you. He did it all the Muggle way, and you couldn’t even fight him off?’ Harry gave a low tut. ‘That is embarrassing.’

Shyverwretch was very red, whether from embarrassment or anger of a mixture of both Theia wasn’t sure, but his hands were white-knuckled fists again, and the tenseness in his body made her think of a predator ready to strike.

‘You couldn’t fight us off very easily either,’ she added. ‘You gave up very easily. You’re just a weak old man really, aren’t you? Your bones are frail after so many years handling dangerous substances. Not that great with a wand either, we barely needed to disarm you yesterday.’

‘You don’t want all that getting out, do you?’ said Harry quietly. ‘Not in Knockturn Alley. You’d be eaten alive. So maybe you go and pay the Rookwoods a visit. Maybe your temper gets the better of you.’ He tapped the photo in front of Shyverwretch. ‘You don’t need to be very strong to stab a woman. Especially not if she can’t see very well.’

Shyverwretch’s eyes flicked up from the photo to meet Harry’s.

‘Belladonna in her eyes,’ Harry said softly. ‘You sold it to her. Everyone knew it was a habit of hers. She wouldn’t have been able to see you until you were really close.’

Shyverwretch closed his eyes and gave a long, low sigh. ‘You’re wrong,’ he said. ‘It wasn’t me.’

‘You’ll have to start convincing us then,’ said Theia. ‘Because we can just keep collecting evidence.’

Shyverwretch paused for a long time, staring at the photo. ‘The man who attacked me… Dubrow. He wanted the whereabouts of some of my customers. The Rookwoods were on the list he wanted.’

‘And you gave in to him, did you?’ asked Harry. Shyverwretch nodded. ‘Who else was on the list?’ Shyverwretch was silent.

‘I think, given the circumstances, the decent thing would be to tell us so no one else ends up like Livia,’ said Theia coldly. ‘We still haven’t found Augustus Rookwood, after all. Isn’t he a friend of yours? He could be in danger.’

Shyverwretch remained silent, his expression resentful and unyielding. Harry waited patiently for a good, minute, before saying ruthlessly, ‘whoever did it took her heart. That’s why there’s so much blood.’

Shyverwretch closed his eyes again. He seemed much older when he did so. ‘Both Rookwoods were on the list,’ he said finally, his voice hoarse. ‘And others, I don’t remember them all, I couldn’t answer them all.’

‘Well you better start remembering fast,’ said Harry loudly. ‘Because at the moment it sounds like you’re making it up as you go along.’

‘I don’t remember,’ said Shyverwretch, still staring at the table.

‘You’re lying,’ said Harry. His voice was low and rapid, anger reverberated in his voice like a tremor. ‘I know a liar when I
see one. You might think I know nothing, Shyverwretch, but let me tell you, you’re nothing special. I’ve met a hundred men like you and I’ll meet a hundred more. Each of you desperate to prove yourself, each of you fancying yourself as the next man to step into Voldemort’s shoes but none of you have an ounce of the talent required, none of you can cope when reality comes calling, and all of you, always, prove yourselves to be nothing but self-serving cowards. You think you can wriggle out of this like you did before but the walls are closing in and I know I will find you at the centre of it all.’

He grabbed the quill, which had been scribbling furiously of its own accord, and slammed it onto the desk, before abruptly rising and leaving. Theia hurried after him, feeling just as confused as Shyverwretch looked.

‘Are…Are we done questioning him?’ she asked as the door swung shut behind her.

‘Yeah,’ said Harry casually. ‘Phil,’ he shouted over at a nearby Auror. ‘Could you stick Shyverwretch back in the holding cell for me?’ He turned on his heel, now walking backwards and held up a hand. ‘Good work!’

‘I- Really?’ she asked, awkwardly high-fiving him, slightly concerned she had misinterpreted the gesture. ‘But my ideas about him being angry at the Rookwoods was wrong-’

‘Yes, but we got him talking!’ He looked delighted, buzzing with energy, his rapid change of mood and tone was befuddling. ‘He revealed more than he realizes, and we’re so close to finding the connection, it’s almost in reach… We’ll question him again when we’ve got a bit more evidence, he should be easier next time.’

They had arrived at the case wall, with the various faces and unknown silhouettes looking down at them from behind the magical web of connections. Harry looked very intently at the picture of Shyverwretch. ‘There’s something still not quite right, but the connection’s definitely there.’

‘Do you think he was telling the truth then? About this Dubrow guy?’

‘Yes… But we need to find out where Rookwood is. And who else might be in danger… I’d bet my last galleon the reason Shyverwretch isn’t talking is because he’s protecting someone, it would be good to find out who.’

‘I can start doing that,’ offered Theia. ‘I’ll look into his family and friends and see if there’s anyone in particular that stands out as important to him.’

He nodded and considered her for a moment, then glanced at his watch. ‘Let’s grab some lunch first, you deserve it. I’ll pay.’

‘Really?’ said Theia excitedly.

‘Sure,’ he said, looking a little sheepish. ‘The Leakey Cauldron does good burgers.’

She practically bounced her way to the pub, and as they ordered, she had a sneaking suspicion that he was trying to apologise for the way he had spoken to her the night before, particularly when he assured her that he’d been very impressed in the interview room.

He took a large gulp of his butterbeer, and continued. ‘And I know I’ve been a bit harsh… I was thinking about it last night and I haven’t been very friendly to you.’

Theia felt herself blushing. ‘You’ve been fine-’ she began to insist, but he shook his head.

‘Don’t pretend. Just… Tell me about yourself.’

‘Oh,’ said Theia, feeling flustered. A waitress came over and silently served them their food, and Theia temporarily busied herself moving the napkin out of the way. ‘Erm… Not a lot to tell really…’

‘I don’t remember you from Hogwarts,’ Harry said apologetically. ‘And you were in a different house, I didn’t know may Ravenclaws.’

‘You knew Cho Chang,’ Theia blurted out. Her face was very hot.

Harry gave an awkward cough, and lightly scratched the side of his face. ‘Yeah, I did. I got along better with Luna Lovegood, though, did you know her?’

Something inside of Theia was screaming. This was just too awkward. She wished he would go back to being mean to her. ‘I knew of her,’ she said hesitantly. Luna was weird, and she’d always frightened Theia a bit. But she’d been envious of the girl’s closeness to the glamourous and exciting Gryffindors that had been in the inner circle of the D.A, and so she’d drank up gossip about her just as the others. ‘Didn’t you date her briefly?’

‘Huh? Oh, no. We went to one of Slughorn’s things as friends and I think the gossip took a life of its own. What about you, though, who did you hang out with?’

‘Er… Well, Judy, Dawlish’s trainee.’

‘Poor girl.’

‘And Cora Montgomery.’

Harry frowned. ‘I recognize the name, did she have a sister?’

Theia paused. ‘Yes, the year below me. Josie.’

Something seemed to have clicked in Harry’s mind, and he looked back down at his food. Theia wondered if he knew what had happened to Eugene Montgomery.

‘What about your family?’ he asked distractedly. ‘Any brothers and sisters?’

She shook her head. ‘Just me.’

‘What do your parents do?’ he asked, before taking a large bite of his burger.

Theia sat up a little straighter. She knew Harry had liked Quidditch, she remembered watching him at the matches. ‘Daddy’s a broomstick engineer,’ she said proudly. ‘He works for Cleansweep, he does the suspension charms and cushioning charms and what not.’

Harry raised his eyebrows. ‘That must be interesting,’ he said. ‘Quidditch family then?’

‘Oh, no, Daddy’s rubbish at flying, and I’m not much better.’ Harry looked rather confused, so she hastily continued, waving around a chip to try and make her point. ‘He’s more interested in the mechanics of it all, you know, he’s hoping to come up with something that could revolutionise brooms the way the cushioning charm did. He thinks if he can find a way to improve the safety, reduce the accident and fatality rates, you know, and patent it, it could really put the family name on the map.’

‘The Higglesworth charm?’ Harry asked, amused. ‘Definitely got a quaint ring to it.’

Her stomach lurched a little, and her excitement caught in her throat. ‘Er… Well, it would be Hopkirk, for him.’

‘Oh, sorry, I didn’t-’

‘It’s OK,’ she said quickly.

An awkward silence fell, and they both tried to fill the pause by eating. Finally, just when Theia thought she could stand it no longer, Harry spoke up again. ‘What about your mum then? What does she do?’

‘Nothing very interesting… She’s a Muggle, her job is really boring.’

‘I was raised by Muggles,’ said Harry cheerfully. ‘Her job can’t be duller than my uncle’s, he worked for a company that made drills.’

Theia gave a small giggle, and the humour made her forget that she wasn’t with a friend. ‘Actually I think she spends most of her time trying to set me up,’ she said, as though she were talking to Judy. ‘She’s annoyed I went to Dad’s for dinner last night so tonight I have to go round and meet this Muggle student that’s moved in next door. It’s always Muggles, never a wizard,’ she gave an exasperated huff and a roll of her eyes.

‘Might be quite nice to hitch up with a Muggle,’ said Harry. ‘Get the best of both worlds.’

Theia shrugged. ‘I guess.’ She doubted he’d be saying that if he could see the drab grey estate her mother lived in. ‘I feel like I can probably do a bit better than some random Muggle student though, and I’m not sure how well I can pretend to be a police officer. It’d be a lot easier to date someone in this world.’

Harry chuckled. ‘Not always.’

‘You’re dating Ginny Weasley, aren’t you? I love her, got a big poster of the Holyhead Harpies above my dresser.’

‘I thought you didn’t like Quidditch?’ he asked.

‘I don’t, really, but-’

‘Sorry to interrupt,’ came a deep voice. They both looked up to see Proudfoot and Longbottom looking very serious.
Harry groaned. ‘Please tell me it’s good news, Neville…’

Longbottom smiled. ‘Would I interrupt your lunch to share good news? You’ll want to come and see this.’
Harry sighed and grabbed his jacket. ‘Come on then, lunchtime’s over. This better be important, Nev…’

***

‘Bloody hell…’

The blood drenched the sheets, trickling down and pooling in a deep, dark red on the glossy wooden floor. Like Livia Rookwood had been, the woman in the bed was stretched out with her arms spread like the wings of an angel, staring up at the ceiling with glassy eyes and a horrified, slightly open mouth that looks as though it had poured with blood. Her pug-face was pale under the blood, and her brown hair was so drenched in it that it was a dull burgundy against the pillow. Across her neck was a slash, like a grotesque smile.

‘Don’t come too close, Theia,’ Harry called over his shoulder.

‘I’m all right.’

‘You sure? You can sit outside if you-’

‘I’m fine,’ she said, approaching, and as he looked at her he saw the she was quite calm, although her jaw was tense and her face a pale green pallor.

‘I thought you spoke to her yesterday?’ he asked Neville. ‘You said she was no use.’

‘Yeah, very cagey, knew exactly what we were up to. But we thought we’d come back today and try again, and… Well, this is how we found her.’

‘Have you called Bessie yet?’

‘Yeah,’ said Williamson. ‘But her team’s busy, they can’t come for another hour.’

‘Is that Pansy Parkinson?’ asked Theia abruptly. She pressed her lips together very tightly, staring at the body with a certain hardness.

Harry wondered if she remembered her from school, if she had also been on the receiving end of Pansy’s cutting sneers. ‘Yes,’ he said gently. ‘I find it’s easier to think of them as characters, not people.’

She gave a jerky nod, before turning to Neville and Proudfoot. ‘What did she say yesterday then?’

‘Not much of interest,’ said Proudfoot. ‘Basically told us to get off her property, come back when we had a warrant.’

‘We thought if we came back she might think we had one,’ said Neville. ‘Might give something away. But there was no answer and I just got a funny feeling.’

Harry nodded. He knew it well. That Presence that could be felt, that trace of death in the air. ‘How did she seem? Nervous?’

‘Nah. Same as she always was.’

‘Do you think it was sexual?’ asked Proudfoot, his eyes sliding across Pansy’s blood-soaked nightdress.
Harry sighed, pacing at the base of the bed slightly, his eyes fixed on the body. ‘Normally I’d say yes, but this… This is different.’ He paused. ‘Do we know if she’s been seeing anyone?’

‘No idea,’ said Neville. He scrunched his nose. ‘Didn’t she always have a thing for Malfoy?’

‘He’s engaged to Astoria Greengrass,’ said Theia. ‘She was in my year.’

‘She could have still been having a thing with this Malfoy bloke,’ said Proudfoot.

‘Maybe,’ said Harry doubtfully. ‘Theia, that can be your job, find out if she was seeing anyone. It’s a bit odd that we haven’t heard anything about Rookwood after his wife has turned up murdered, and I’m not sure it was him… If this is connected, which it probably is, whoever’s doing it might be targeting loved ones.’

‘Why d’you think it’s connected?’ asked Proudfoot.

Harry looked at Theia. ‘Theia?’ he prompted.

She looked rather startled, and her pale face regained some colour as she blushed, but she took a deep breath. ‘It’s another Muggle-style murder,’ she said breathlessly. ‘With a knife again, and however they got in there doesn’t seem to have been much magic used. Although the throat has been cut, there’s also stab wounds lower down on the body, I expect they were inflicted after death?’ she said cautiously, looking to Harry for reassurance.

He nodded at her. ‘Maybe. There’s no defensive wounds on her arms, so at least it was quick for her.’

‘That’s why I went and fetched you,’ said Neville. ‘I thought it sounded a lot like your case. Did you notice her tongue’s missing?’

Theia looked revolted, horrified, but apart from a slight tremble of her lip, she remained composed and looked at Harry. ‘Like Livia Rookwood’s heart.’

‘It is very similar,’ said Harry. ‘And odd that she might have been involved in the Azkaban breakout too.’

‘Maybe someone was trying to stop it,’ suggested Proudfoot. ‘Doing our jobs for us.’

‘Bloody hell,’ balked Neville. ‘Vigilantes? That’s all we need.’

‘Well we’ll need to talk to Carrow again then,’ said Theia suddenly. They all stared at her. She blushed furiously, possibly realizing that she’d given an order to three of her superiors, and began to babble an apology, but Harry spoke over her.

‘That’s a good idea, we need to find out exactly why she had her name written down. Right, let’s start digging about, see if we can see anything interesting. Try not to move anything before Bessie gets here though.’

They began to search the room, and then the rest of the house, rifling through the life of Pansy Parkinson. Harry had never cared to get to know the girl at school, swiftly identifying her as a mean Slytherin girl, but it was remarkable how much of her he could read in the place in which she lived.

The flat was small, modern, and very white. At first glance it gave the appearance of luxury, but as he looked closer he could see that the wooden doorknobs were simply painted gold, the paintings were merely prints, and the neat minimalism may have been out of necessity rather than taste.

The books on the shelves were trashy romances, the magazines on the coffee tables were filled with eye-watering priced clothes, and the kitchen cupboards were filled with shelves and shelves of diet books, all with conflicting advice.

‘Two toothbrushes in the bathroom,’ Neville called, and Harry joined him in the cramped, damp little room. ‘She must have been seeing someone.’

‘Hmm… How long term d’you have to be to have your own toothbrush at the other person’s place?’ asked Harry. He had no idea. He and Ginny had been intense, and quick to meld into each other’s lives.

‘Would depend on the couple, I suppose, but… Me and Hannah started leaving stuff at each others after about six months.’

‘Oh yeah,’ said Harry suddenly, feeling rather irritable. ‘I’ve got a bone to pick with you. What’s all this about you leaving? Making me even more short-staffed.’

Neville grinned at him good naturedly. ‘Sorry, mate, I-’

‘Moving to Hogsmeade, getting a job at the school, all getting a bit close, isn’t it?’ His tone was teasing but kind, just enough to make Neville glow with embarrassment and turn to rummage through Pansy’s makeup bag, chuckling slightly.

‘You’re one to talk, carrying that ring about for months-’

‘Sssh, keep your voice down!’ Harry urged, glancing anxiously over his shoulder. ‘It’s just you and Ron I’ve told, anyone else hears about it and it’ll be in the papers before I get the chance to ask her.’

‘Well ask her then!’ said Neville exasperated. ‘Nothing in here…’

He moved to the hair care products on the windowsill as Harry scratched the back of his head awkwardly. ‘I can never decide how to do it. Look at me, I’m standing in a murder scene. It’s hard to find inspiration for romantic plans when all you do all day is find stuff like this.’

‘Exactly why I’m going into teaching,’ said Neville, light-hearted in tone, but seriousness in his frown. He checked the cistern of the toilet, before glancing up at Harry with an honest expression. ‘This job, Harry… It was fine when we were rounding up Death Eaters, fixing things, getting our own back… But, we’ve pretty much finished that now, and… I want a happy life with Hannah. I feel like there’ll be a bit less blood teaching.’ He leaned over to peer down the corridor at Theia, who was digging through a cupboard in the hallway. ‘Speaking of blood… Can she… Can she handle it? She looked like she was going to be sick.’

‘Yes,’ said Harry defensively. ‘She’s getting there.’

‘She better get there quick,’ remarked Neville. ‘Someone running round cutting out hearts and tongues, it’s enough to turn anyone to teaching.’
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