It had been a long time since he had last been here. So long, and yet, not nearly long enough. It wasn't long enough because he had hoped to never, ever return here for as long as he lived. But here he was, not for a social call-there was no one here to greet him anyway, but rather, for work.
Harry was in Privet Drive as an Auror, because the Dursleys had been murdered by a wizard. Or so he had been told.
It was the Minister of Magic who had told him about it. The Minister (Kingsley) himself didn't normally give the Aurors their cases-those went through the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement (Hermione), before being passed to the Head Auror (Harry), who then delegated the cases to the Aurors working under him (like Ron). But today, it was Kingsley himself who had gone to Harry directly, giving him the case.
Aurors didn't normally get to work cases that were personal to them in any way, because it caused conflicts of interest, but this...this was different, and Kingsley knew that. If there was any backlash, they would deal with it later, but right now this situation was far too important to ignore or let someone else handle...
Privet Drive looked exactly the same as Harry remembered it. In fact, if it weren't for a few new cars sitting in the drives, Harry would have thought time hadn't even passed here over the past handful of years.
The houses looked the same. The trees looked the same. The flowers looked the same. The grass looked the same. The fences looked the same. Everything was as immaculate as always.
In silence, Harry entered Number Four, dispersing and then recasting the magical barrier placed on the door to prevent anyone else (magical or Muggle) from getting in. This was his case, and he would be handling it alone, unless he asked for help.
Everything in here looked the same too. Really, if it wasn't for the thick, lingering scent of death, Harry would never have been able to tell there was something wrong in the house.
The first body was in the sitting room. Harry stared down at the remains of the uncle who had made his life a living hell for sixteen years. The uncle who would never move, or yell, or breathe again.
Vernon Dursley was slumped on the couch in front of the (new) television, a nearly full mug of tea and a plate of his favourite biscuits sitting on the table at his side. Unless his personal schedule had changed over the years, which was unlikely, he'd probably been watching the evening news when he'd died. Which meant he had died eighteen hours ago, at the latest, seeing as it was noon now, and today's evening news wasn't due to be broadcast for another six hours.
There was no blood to be seen, Harry noted. Other body fluids, yes, those were normal after death, but there was no blood. Frowning, he examined the body...his uncle, a bit closer. He couldn't see any external injuries at all. There were no visible signs of poison either, though it wasn't something that could be ruled out entirely just yet.
Pulling out his wand, Harry cast a diagnostic charm. It was basically the same spell medi-wizards used on their patients, only this one was specifically meant to be used on the dead. Even the incantation was the same. It was only the wand movements that showed the difference, though it was just a difference of twitching your wand at the end rather than flicking it, (it had taken Ron agesto get it right).
"...The Killing curse?" Harry murmured to himself, a bit surprised. Whatever he had been expecting, it certainly hadn't been that.
With his uncle's cause of death now known to him, Harry moved on. He found Aunt Petunia in the kitchen. Judging by the pot of sauce on the stove and the chopped vegetables on the cutting board on the counter, she'd been in the middle of preparing dinner. ...Did she cook now because she enjoyed it, or because she had no choice since Harry wasn't around to do it anymore?
Petunia Dursley was sprawled out on the floor, no doubt having fallen dead there. Just like with her husband, there were no signs of any external injuries or poisons. She'd been killed the same way as him too, Harry confirmed a moment later.
Leaving the kitchen, Harry made his way upstairs and opened the door to his cousin's bedroom, the room he'd only ever been allowed to enter if he was cleaning it. Dudley Dursley was in a similar position as his parents. He'd been using his (new) computer when he'd died, no doubt waiting for his mother to finish making dinner. Just like his parents, he too had been hit with the Killing curse, and had no other injuries or obvious signs of, well, problems.
With a deep frown on his face, Harry decided the next step would be to explore the house-just to see if there was anything out of place. Though a few years had passed since he had last been here, he didn't expect to see many changes. The Dursleys were a family of habit-especially his aunt and uncle, and people like them didn't change things very often.
Despite being a grown man nearing his mid twenties, Dudley was not only still living with parents (which wasn't the end of the world), but kept his bedroom as messy as always.
There were new electronics and clothing ("Well, that's not surprising."), cash hidden under the mattress ("How original, cousin."), an almost empty carton of a cheap brand of cigarettes in a jacket pocket ("So he was still smoking, huh? Wonder if Aunt Petunia ever found out.") and a small picture of a very attractive woman Harry vaguely recognized as a Muggle bikini model who'd been quite popular when they'd been teenagers ("Really, Dudders?"). Finding no clues, Harry moved on.
His aunt and uncle's bedroom looked exactly the same as before, and had nothing interesting to tell him. The guest bedroom smelled a bit like wet dog, signalling that Aunt Marge had probably been over until recently, but had nothing to tell him beyond that. And Dudley's second bedroom...
The locks and pet door were gone, and in fact, the entire door looked to have been replaced. Back when they'd been about fourteen, Dudley had, at one point, carved his initials into the door to signify that it was still his room, even though Harry was using it. Those initials were gone, which told Harry that this was definitely a new door.
The room was...a mess, to say the least. It looked like Dudley had taken it over as his second bedroom again the moment Harry had left when they'd been seventeen. There was just junk everywhere. Junk and dust. It didn't look like anything in this room had been touched in months, if not years.
Checking the bathroom on his way, Harry made his way back downstairs, before pausing in front of the cupboard under the stairs. Despite the fact that he hadn't been locked in there for years, and certainly couldn't ever be locked in it again, Harry actually had to steel himself before he was able to open the door.
Squatting down, Harry stared inside the cupboard. "Merlin," he muttered, "I can't believe I used to sleep in here. It's so...tiny." He wasn't exceptionally tall by any means, but he certainly wasn't anywhere near the size of his childhood self either. But this was just...it was hard to believe he had been able to fit inside there for literal years.
It was being used as a storage space now, as it always should have been, but Harry didn't see anything particularly out of place. The rest of the house, the backyard included, was no different.
Whoever had killed the Dursleys hadn't left any physical clues, and he was sure even Muggle police would have trouble finding anything, seeing as the Dursleys looked to have just been hit with Killing curse wherever they'd been sitting or standing. There were no signs of forced entry or a struggle either, meaning the killer had probably gotten in using the unlocking charm, and caught the Dursleys off guard. They also seemed to have killed them quickly, because it didn't seem like Aunt Petunia had been alerted by Uncle Vernon's death, or Dudley by the deaths of either of his parents. Harry figured the killer had been in and out in barely five minutes at the very least, and certainly no longer than ten.
But no physical evidence didn't mean no evidence at all. It was possible that the killer had left something behind. Something most wizards didn't even know about, let alone actively thought about.
A magical signature.
Every wizard and witch had their own magical signature. It was basically like a fingerprint. No two people could have the same signature, even if they were twins (twins would have similar signatures due to their genetics, but it wouldn't be identical). And a magical signature was always left behind when a wizard would cast a spell, no matter what spell it was. There was a way to mask a signature and, essentially, erase it from an area after casting spells, but that wasn't a well known spell at all, and was used very rarely.
Standing in the sitting room, Harry cast a spell used to detect these magical signatures. It was a complex spell that used rather intricate wand work, but he had since gotten used to using it.
He detected three different signatures.
The freshest signature was his own, which didn't surprise him. The second one, that was slightly older than his, was Kingsley's. That didn't surprise him either. Kingsley had already told him he had been here to confirm the situation himself (not to mention turn the TV and stove off and cast a house wide stasis charm to prevent decay), before assigning the case to Harry. The third signature, however, was one that caught Harry off guard.
It was older than his and Kingsley's by some hours, but it was one Harry recognized. One that had no business of being in Privet Drive in general, let alone inside Number Four. And yet, here it was, as clear as a crisp, spring morning.
The third and final signature belonged to none other than Bill Weasley.
Yo! Glad to see a positive response to this. I know this isn't the most popular pairing or genre, so I was a bit hesitant. Forgot to mention this last time, but chapters should all be around the same length-around 1500ish words, discounting any AN's. Some may go a couple or few hundred words over that, but never under. I also just started writing chapter six, and I'm hoping I can keep a bit of that head start. I'd like to have at least one chapter as backup at all times, if that makes sense. Anyway, thank you to all readers so far!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Harry was confused, to say the least. Bill's magical signature being here meant Bill had been in the house, but why would he have been when Harry was the only person around here he knew, and Harry himself hadn't been here in years? What business could he possibly have had with the Dursleys of all people?
He didn't believe Bill had been the one to kill the Dursleys or anything, because really, why would he? But the magical signature had been left behind at approximately the same time the Dursleys had died, meaning Bill had been in the house at the time the Dursleys were being killed.
Had he seen something? Did he know something? Or was this something else altogether? A good friend of his or not, Harry had to ask. He had to know. He had to do his job.
Doing a final walkthrough of the house, and double checking the signatures, Harry left Number Four and vanished from Privet Drive in a quiet, secluded corner. He stopped by the Ministry first, letting Kingsley know what he had learned, and informing him that he could tell the Muggle authorities that the Dursleys had died of a gas leak-the safest option when it came to deaths via the Killing curse.
And once he was done with that, Harry apparated over to Bill's flat. Bill had lived with Fleur over in Shell Cottage back during the war, as the two of them had been married at the time. But after a while, they had both realized that they were more in love with the idea of one another, than actually being in love with each other.
They'd realized that when they started noticing that they were irritated with one another more often than they weren't. It wasn't that either of them were bad people, or had been doing anything wrong, but their lifestyles and personalities annoyed one another once they'd been exposed to them long term, and the tension of the war had vanished. As it turned out, maybe they really hadrushed into the relationship and marriage.
So they'd discussed things and come to the decision to just divorce. Neither of them were happy with how things were going, so ending things before they got worse was the best thing they could do, they figured.
Fleur, who had been missing France very much, returned to her home there, and had since married another man she was much happier with, gotten a job she enjoyed, and was currently pregnant with her first child. She and Bill still kept in contact though, because even though they hadn't liked being married to one another, they were honestly still good friends.
Bill himself had bought a small flat in London, not too far from Diagon Alley where his younger brothers Fred and George lived, he and Fleur having left Shell Cottage as a vacation home for their families at first, before choosing to instead gift the place to Ginny and Blaise Zabini, who Ginny had married not too long ago. Bill preferred being in London anyway. He was used to living around havoc and the sea was a bit too peaceful for him.
Harry had been to Bill's flat more times than he could count, but he had never had to go on a professional scale before. He wasn't entirely sure how he was supposed to conduct himself right now.
Bill was home today, with it being one of his rare days off work, and when he found Harry at the door, he let him inside, a welcoming smile on his face.
Harry gauged him carefully, but Bill didn't seem at all troubled or anything, and had the same charming smile that he always did around Harry. He certainly didn't look like he'd killed three people less than twenty four hours ago.
"Harry?" Bill's smile faded into a small frown of concern. "Are you alright? You've been standing there staring at me for a whole minute now."
Harry blinked, and then nodded slowly. "I'm fine. Can we...sit?"
"Yeah, sure. Do you want something to drink?"
Harry took a seat on one of the couches, and invited Bill to sit as well. "No, that's alright. I'm actually here for work."
"Work?" the older man repeated curiously. "Did something happen?"
"You can say that." Harry hesitated, then said, "Have you heard about what happened to the Dursleys?"
Bill blinked. "Your relatives? No, why? What's happened?"
"They're dead. Killing curse to all three of them, in their house."
Bill's eyes widened, and his lips parted. "That...what? Are you serious? They were killed by a wizard? Why? Do you know who it was?"
"Not yet," Harry replied with a shake of his head. "I just started investigating. But...Bill, I need to know. Where were you at six yesterday evening?"
"Me? Why...?" He stiffened, immediately understanding the implication behind Harry's words. "Why are you suspecting me?" he questioned. His voice had lost the calm quality it usually had, and had instead grown hard.
"I found your magical signature in their house. It was left behind at the same time as their deaths."
Bill stood. "And you think I'm the one who-?"
"No," Harry interrupted firmly. "No, I don't. I don't think you had anything to do with it. I've known you since I was fourteen, and I know you better than you think. You have literally no motivations to do anything to the Dursleys. And really, if you didn't do anything to them when you found out how they treated me all those years ago, you definitely wouldn't do anything now, when all of that's just old history. ...Bill, please sit."
Slowly, body still stiff, Bill sat back down. "Then..."
"But the fact remains that your magical signature was in that house, and was left behind at the same time they were killed. That's not a coincidence. If you really weren't in that house-and I do need to hear you say that, then I think this is an attempt to frame you for killing them."
Bill nodded, and looked Harry in the eyes. "I wasn't in that house yesterday," he said firmly. "I've only been there once, and that was years ago when I went with you, my brothers, and Hermione. I've never been back, not alone, and not with anyone else."
Again, Harry looked at him closely, and then relaxed slightly, the sigh leaving him betraying relief. He had already been sure that Bill was innocent, but hearing him say it made him believe it all the more. "I know this is seriously unprofessional of me, but I'm positive you're being framed and have nothing to do with this."
But why Bill was being framed, and why the Dursleys had been the ones killed, neither of them had any answer to.
Suddenly looking exhausted, Bill rubbed his hands over his face. "I need a drink," he muttered, mostly to himself.
"Did you want one?"
Harry shook his head and gave him a rueful smile. "Still working, technically. Wouldn't say no to some coffee though, if you have any."
With a nod, Bill made his way into the kitchen, out of Harry's sight. Harry watched him go, and then sighed softly. This entire situation really made no sense to him at all. The Dursleys being the ones who were killed meant it obviously had something to do with Harry himself, but...what was the intention behind their deaths? What was the motive?
Murders typically tended to have bad motives, but that wasn't always the case. And right now, Harry honestly didn't know if the killer had intended to do something good or bad by killing the three Dursleys.
Had they done it thinking they were helping Harry? The public knew at least a bit of how the Dursleys had treated him when he'd had to live with them, though they didn't know the details. And Harry was still the Boy-Who-Lived, the Saviour, the one who had defeated Voldemort. Had someone been offended with the way the Dursleys had gone unpunished for their terrible deeds towards him and taken their punishment into their own hands, thinking that Harry would be pleased?
Or had the killer thought to accomplish the opposite? Had they instead thought that Harry deserved to be punished for his role in the war, perhaps, and killed the Dursleys to somehow show they weren't intimidated by him? Maybe they'd thought that Harry was too good a person, and even the deaths of his not so loving relatives would bother and upset and offend him?
Harry wasn't sure which option was more likely, and he supposed in the grand scheme of things, it didn't really matter either way. No matter the killer's intentions, they had killed three innocent (mostly) Muggles, and that wasn't something that could just be brushed off, whether they had a 'good' motive or a 'bad' one.
And things were made even more complicated with Bill's involuntary involvement. Bill had nothing at all to do with the Dursleys, save for his connection to them through Harry, but that was a connection all of Harry's friends shared, so that couldn't possibly be the only reason he had been chosen to be framed for the killings.
There really were just far too many questions running through Harry's mind right now. Questions that had no answers, as far as he could see.
That's it for now. I'll try to post the next chapter in a couple of days. I think I'm catching a cold again, which is annoying, but the weather around here's been weird over the past few days. Comments? Kudos?
Yo! Sorry about the wait. Things got super busy. They've calmed down for the next two or three days, but are going to get busy again. I should be able to start updating properly after the eighteenth or so. Anyway, thank you to all readers so far!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Bill returned a few minutes later, mugs in hand. He passed Harry his own, sat back down beside him, and sipped his own drink, whatever it was. Harry did the same with his coffee, hoping it would wake him up a bit more, and for a moment or two they simply sat in silence, contemplating. Finally, it was Bill who broke the silence and spoke.
"Where do we start?"
Harry blinked. "We?"
Bill shot him a grin. "Did you really think I wasn't going to end up giving you a hand with all this? Especially when whoever this asshole is, has decided to get me directly involved? Unless you're about to give me one of those daft lines about not wanting to put me in danger."
"No, no, that's not it. I know you can take care of yourself, and you're way more sensible than I am, not to mention less reckless. Having you help will probably make things easier, rather than harder. But we'll have to run it by Kingsley. I'd rather keep things at least somewhat official, you know." Harry sipped more of his coffee, then said, "First thing's first, though. I need your alibi. You said you weren't where your magical signature was left. So where exactly were you at six yesterday evening?"
"I was at the twins' flat, actually."
"Fred and George?"
"Hmm." Bill inclined his head. "They've been trying to create some new products, and something went wrong with one of them. Fred spent hours dealing with the effects of it while George tried to get rid of it, before eventually asking me for help. He, George, flooed me at..." Bill frowned, thinking back. "It was after five, but before five thirty."
"Did George floo from his flat to here?"
"Yes, it was a floo call, actually. We only spoke for a minute or two, and then I flooed over to their flat."
Harry nodded, a small frown on his face as he listened. "That's good for us, actually. There'll be a record of the floo call. I'll check that later. What happened once you got there?"
"George told me what happened, and I starting trying to help Fred. They'd been casting different kinds of spells, and two of them ended up colliding and caused a strange reaction, in that it sort of turned into a hex that immobilizes whatever it hits-in this case, Fred."
"Wait, so, a finite didn't help?"
"No, none of the usual spells had any effect. It took me a while, but eventually I managed to free Fred."
"How long did that take?"
"Over an hour, at the very least." Bill raised his mug to sip, but lowered it before he could. "I'm pretty sure I left around half past six, and flooed back here straight after, and I've been here ever since."
"Did anyone else know you were with the twins? ...Well, I suppose they wouldn't, since you didn't exactly plan to go there or anything."
"Percy knew, actually."
"He dropped by the twins' flat as well. It was...just past six, I think. Six ten, six fifteen, something like that. He was looking for Ron. Apparently he'd borrowed something from him, and wanted to give it back, but couldn't find him anywhere, so he came to ask the twins if they knew where he was. You know how often Ron drops by their shop."
"Ron? Yesterday Ron was...oh, oh right. Yesterday was 'date night'."
Bill raised a brow. "Date night?" he repeated slowly, a smile creeping onto his face.
Harry grinned. "Hermione insists. She said her parents have always had a date night once every couple of weeks, where they go out to a fancy restaurant and eat and enjoy each others' company. They used to leave her with a babysitter, or something like that. She says it's a very healthy thing to do when living a busy lifestyle."
"And what do Ron and Draco think about that?"
Harry laughed. "Draco pretends he doesn't enjoy it, but he clearly not so secretly does, and Ron just goes along with it because they all love each other and whatnot. It's weirdly adorable."
Bill laughed too, then sobered. "Well anyway, yeah, Percy just came looking for Ron, but he only stayed for a couple of minutes, so we could tell him what was going on. He tried helping too, but obviously wasn't sure how, so he figured it was better if he just left so he wouldn't be in the way."
"...Huh, well that's strangely tactful of him."
"Heh, well, even Percy has to grow up emotionally at some point." He sipped his drink then said, "In any case, I got Fred freed not long after Percy left, and I stayed around a while just to make sure he was alright, before finally coming back home. I didn't even leave this general neighbourhood, let alone London."
Harry nodded. "Okay, fortunately for us, you've got a good alibi that can be proved easily. Honestly, I was worried you were going to say you were here alone, sleeping at the time, or something just as...difficult to prove as truth. Veritaserum helps, but there are some who know how to counter it, so it's not used on its own anymore, thanks to everything that happened during the war. They like using memories or witness statements, and things like that, along with the truth potion."
"So what are you going to do?"
"Talk to the twins and Percy to see if they can back up your alibi. It's not that I don't believe you, because I do, it's just procedure, and the more proof we have, the better. I'll also have to verify that your floo was connected to the twins' at the time you said, both to go and come back-that'll further your alibi." Setting down his empty tea mug, he added, "But I think one of the most important things I-sorry, we have to figure out is why your magical signature was somewhere you were nowhere near at the time. I have a feeling figuring that out will lead straight to the killer."
Bill nodded slowly, setting his own mug down next to Harry's. He was quiet for a moment, contemplating, before finally speaking again, his eyes focused on the younger man. "How do you feel?"
"The Dursleys have died, Harry, and you saw their bodies first hand. I know you didn't like, or even care for them but...it must have affected you. How're you holding up with all this?"
Like Bill a moment before, Harry remained silent, thinking his next words through, before saying, "Honestly...I'm not really sure."
"What do you mean?"
"I...I hated the Dursleys-loathed them, really," Harry said. "I spent so many years suffering because of them, even if they weren't around, and even right now, though I haven't lived with them in almost eight years, I'm still suffering from the effects of the time I was forced to spend with them."
Harry looked away, his eyes locking onto a spot on the wall that he was staring at unseeingly. "It feels a bit weird to know they're gone forever and can never come back. They can never do or say anything to me ever again. Not that they even have since I left when I was seventeen, but...now I know it's forever. It's just...kind of hard to believe, you know?"
"Yeah..." Cautiously, Bill moved in a little closer to Harry, silently offering both comfort and support, though he made sure not to touch him. Harry didn't really like being touched very much, thanks to those relatives of his, he knew. "This killer, they took something away from you. They took away your chance to get proper closure from the Durslesy, no matter what form that closure may have taken. ...Does it upset you that they've died?"
"...Not as much as it probably should," Harry admitted quietly. "Part of me wants to say they deserved what happened to them, but is that really true? I think they did definitely deserve some kind of punishment for everything they did over the years, not even just to me, except...I don't really think death was that punishment."
"I can hear a 'but' at the end there, Harry," Slowly, Bill set one of his hands down on Harry's arm. It was a light touch, one he was willing to remove immediately if Harry showed discomfort, but he didn't, so Bill kept his hand where it was. "Tell me, Harry. You'll feel at least a little better once you say it out loud."
"I'm relieved that they're dead," Harry blurted out, speaking so quickly, Bill only just barely caught the words. "Does that...make me a bad person?" he asked in a whisper.
Bill's eyes widened, and he took Harry by the shoulders, turning him so they were facing each other. "No, no of course it doesn't, Harry!" he said earnestly. "The Dursleys were horrible to you, and you have every right to feel relieved to never have to deal with them again."
"No, listen." Bill's hands squeezed Harry's shoulders tightly. "Even if you're relieved they've been killed, aren't you here doing what you can to find out who did it?"
"That's my job, though," Harry protested.
"It is, yes, but with this particular case, you and Kingsley are the only ones who even know so far, right? You two easily could have just given the Muggle authorities a rubbish excuse and brushed it all under the rug to be done with. You don't really need to find out who killed them, but you're still doing it. You're investigating. You want to find out who committed this terrible act, even if the act was performed on the people you hated so much."
"...This has a lot to do with you too, you know," said Harry, eyes still not quite meeting Bill's. "How do you know I'm not only investigating so I can find out who's framing you, and damn what happened to the Dursleys?"
Bill smiled, just slightly, seeing right through the words. "Because I know you, Harry. I know the type of man you are. Murder offends you, no matter the killer, and no matter the victims. You would still be doing everything possible to investigate, even if I wasn't involved in the slightest. That's just the type of person you are."
Harry said nothing, and he knew Bill didn't expect him to either.
I don't know why, but I actually really like this chapter-particularly the end conversation there. Anyway, that's it for now. Comments? Kudos?
"I know I'm the one who insisted on joining you, but is this really alright? You're not going to get in trouble or anything, are you?"
Harry flashed Bill a grin. "You're starting to sound like Hermione, you know. Anyway, that's why we're here. I want to let Kingsley in on what I've learned so far, again, and let him know you'll be helping. Oh, but we won't, and can't tell anyone else. Not Ron and Hermione, and none of your other family. Absolutely no one can know any details."
"Is nothing being told to the public, then?" Bill asked curiously.
"The press will be told the basics about the case-that the Dursleys have been killed and that I'm investigating, along with the gas leak excuse that's been given to the Muggles about their deaths, but that's it. Other than that, if anyone asks, we're going to answer in the usual ways-leads are being investigated, but to protect the investigation, none can be spoken of at the time. They aren't going to like it, they never do, but it's all they're going to get."
"So definitely no mention of me, then."
"Nope, no mention at all."
Bill frowned. "I'm definitely not complaining or anything, but is there a reason for that?"
"There is, but we can talk about it with Kingsley, or else I'm just going to end up repeating myself."
So they did just that, entering Kingsley's office, where the Minister stood, his back to them, gazing out of the window with it's fake weather view. He turned when they entered, and to his credit, barely raised a brow at the sight of Bill, before gesturing for them to sit. And once they had, Harry began to speak.
"As I confirmed earlier, the Dursleys have been killed via the Killing curse in their house on Privet Drive. The killer entered and left within ten minutes, or so I believe, as there are no signs of them lingering around. The three magical signatures I discovered in the house belong to the three of us here in this room. Bill has an alibi for the time of the Dursleys' deaths. He claims he was with Fred and George at their flat. I'm going to be confirming that after this, in the form of checking his and their floo connection records, and speaking to the twins. I have no other leads at this time."
Kingsley listened to all this in silence, and then inclined his head slowly. "I also believe Bill had nothing to do with this, and urge you to confirm his alibi. Once you have that, your next move should be trying to find out how his magical signature was left there."
"That's what I was thinking too," Harry agreed with a nod. "I was telling Bill that figuring that out is what's probably going to lead to the killer. I did a couple of walkthroughs of Number Four, but the killer doesn't seem to have left any sort of evidence behind. If they happened to leave physical evidence, the kind Muggles tend to collect," he added for Bill's benefit, "then there's little we can do about that, since Wizards don't tend to care much about fingerprints, or hair and skin samples, or other forms of DNA. Even if we find anything like that, it won't get us anywhere. But there doesn't appear to be any magical evidence left behind."
Bill frowned. He was used to curse breaking, but crime solving was something different altogether. He really wasn't sure what was going on, or what had to be done next. "I just want to know, what can't my involvement in this be brought up to anyone?" he asked curiously.
"There are two reasons for that," said Kingsley before Harry could speak. "The first is to keep you safe. Whatever the killer's motive was, and however Harry may have felt about the Dursleys, Harry Potter's relatives have been murdered, and you know how...fanatical some of his, er fans are. If they think you did anything to hurt Harry in any way, they may attempt to harm you."
Harry scowled when he heard this. It was crazy people like that that continued to prevent him from living even a semi-normal life. Whether their craze was because they loved or hated him, he didn't care. They made it impossible for him to just live. Even his friends were affected by it. Neville had once accidentally hurt him with a stray spell, and when the public had somehow found out about it, poor Neville had started getting death threats for daring to hurt their Saviour. It infuriated Harry to have to deal with people like that.
Paying no mind to Harry's straying thoughts, likely because he knew exactly where they were straying to, Kingsley continued speaking to Bill. "The second reason to keep it quiet is because it might actually help lead to the killer."
Bill's brow furrowed. "How's that?"
"Right now, the only people aware of your involvement in this are the three of us here in this room, and the killer. If we say nothing about you, and someone brings up your involvement-meaning, your magical signature being left behind at the crime scene, then that person will be considered very suspect, because unless they are the killer, or have been told about it by the killer, they should have no knowledge of it."
"Oh, I see." Bill's face lightened with understanding. "That makes sense. I'm a bit annoyed I didn't realize that myself."
Kingsley chuckled softly. "Don't worry about it," he said with a wave of his hand. "But now you understand why we would rather not reveal that it was your magical signature that was left behind?"
"Yeah, but..." Bill looked over at Harry, who was seated in the chair beside his own. "How are you going to ask the twins and Percy if I was with them, without telling them why you're asking? Because you said they can't know the truth either, right?"
"That won't be that hard, honestly," said Harry with a half shrug. "I'm close friends with the twins, and go by their place pretty often, so it isn't unreasonable for me to just drop by and either wait for them to tell me what happened-which is pretty likely because they tell me everything, since I still help fund their shop, or just casually bring up that I heard something happened yesterday, which would prompt them into telling me themselves. But I'd rather they be the ones to bring it up on their own. It'll be less suspicious that way."
"What about Percy, then? You two aren't nearly as close as you and the twins are."
Harry scratched his chin as he thought, absently aware that Kingsley was remaining silent on purpose. Harry was Head Auror, and he had to prove he still deserved that position, after all. Kingsley couldn't give him all the answers.
"Percy might be a bit harder to get the information out of," he conceded. "Like you said, we're not particularly close, so even me just approaching him randomly will be pretty strange. And I can't really ask anyone else to do it, because that'll be just as odd."
As he spoke, Harry took what appeared to be a small ball of clay from Kingsley's desk, and began kneading it in his hands, though he didn't actually look at it. Bill looked at Kingsley, who didn't react, confirming the Weasley's suspicion that this ball of clay was something Kingsley left on his desk for this exact reason. Did Harry think better when he had something to fiddle with? For some reason, that didn't really surprise Bill.
"And even if the twins tell me Percy showed up, it won't really make sense to go to him just to ask him that," Harry continued. "That would be weird too. I think..." He squeezed the clay in his hands, then balled it up again. "I think the best option would be to just pretend to bump into him by chance, and mention hearing that he was looking for Ron. Whether he's actually already met up with Ron or not doesn't really matter-it'll just give me an excuse to bring up the twins telling me that he dropped by yesterday. That is, I'll do that if I find the twins version of the story isn't good enough of an alibi."
Kingsley nodded. "Yes, those were my thoughts as well. There is little else that can be done to confirm Bill's alibi without arousing anyone's suspicion, be they friend or suspect. In this case, with so few leads, the best thing you can do is trust your instinct, Harry."
"Do you always rely on instincts in these kinds of cases?" asked Bill.
Harry smiled slightly. "You'd be surprised at how vital that's actually turned out to be. It's not like following instincts will solve every case or anything-they still require a lot of work, but...I've learned to trust my gut." He sobered again, and looked across the desk at Kingsley. "What are the odds of the killer striking again, and framing Bill even further?"
Bill froze, lips parting, though no sound left him. Kingsley passed him a glance, but kept his focus on Harry.
"What are you thinking?" he asked the young Auror.
Setting the rolled up ball of clay back on the Minister's desk, Harry said, "Honestly, I'm having a hard time judging this. The Dursleys were targeted very deliberately, and no doubt because of me. And I don't think this is the first time this person has killed either, but that in itself doesn't mean much, because a lot of people were forced to kill during the war. I think my main concern is that I can't figure out whether this is a 'one and done' sort of deal, or three and done, in this case, or if they want or have to kill again.
"If they do kill again, would they continue seeking Muggle victims with connections to me? What will they do if they find out there aren't any more Muggles in my life? Will they choose to target Muggles with only vague connections to me, like Hermione's parents? Or will they instead choose magical victims? But of course, it's also possible they only wanted to kill the Dursleys and that's it. And that's something that could benefit them thanks to the lack of evidence they've left behind. The less action they take, the less likely it is that we'll be able to locate them. That's not a guarantee, obviously, but it's possible."
"Do you think they have some kind of problem with me too?" said Bill. "There must be a reason they chose to frame me."
"I was wondering that too," Harry said with a nod. "Did they choose you because they know you, or know we're close friends? Or was it because they know of some vague connection between us? Or did they, somehow and as unlikely as it might be, just so happen to choose you by chance?"
Unable to stop himself, Bill released a soft sound of frustration. He had been hoping talking to Kingsley would give him some answers, but instead of getting answers, Bill had really only been left with more questions.
Why was this happening?
That's it for now. Comments? Kudos?
"There's something I want you to do," said Harry abruptly, once he and Bill left the Minister's office.
"What is it?"
"I want you to go to Number Four and check the place out for yourself. Kingsley's already had the bodies removed, so you don't have to worry about that or anything."
Bill shook his head. "That wasn't my concern. I mean, yeah, it's good they won't be laying there, but...why do you want me to go there? And why alone?"
"I have to follow up on confirming your alibi," Harry explained, "so I've gotta talk to the twins first, and then see what I can do about Percy. I'm not sure how long that'll take. You said you aren't doing anything today, right? You're a Curse Breaker, which means you know a number of strange spells others haven't even heard of. I was wondering if you might be able to figure something out about the killer's identity if you went to Number Four and played around with some of those spells for a bit. Maybe you know one that can interact with magical signatures or the like."
Understanding, Bill nodded, and crossed his arms over his chest. "I can't say for sure whether I know anything that'll help, but I don't mind giving it a shot. I can already think of a couple of things to try out."
Harry grinned. "Thanks. Here-" Pulling out his wand, he waved it over the older man, "this will get you through the barrier set up at their door. No one else besides you, me, and Kingsley can get into the house, magical or Muggle, so don't try letting anyone in or anything."
"'Course. Alright, I'll head over, then. I'll come by your place once I'm done."
When Harry agreed, the two split up, Bill heading off for the closest apparation point, so he could apparate over to Privet Drive. While he did this, Harry made his way to the elevators. He had floo records to check...
Bill hadn't lied when he'd said he had only been to Number Four, and by extension, Privet Drive, only once. He, all of his siblings, Hermione, and Harry had all gone not long after the war had ended. Harry had needed the closure (not that he'd gotten any) of being there and seeing the place, and the Dursleys, one final time-this time without the threat of Voldemort in the way, and they had gone with him...well, less for emotional support and more because they had a few choice words (or choice pranks in the twins' case) for his darling relatives.
That had been a few years ago now, but things really didn't look any different. It was actually kind of weird. Finding Number Four wasn't particularly difficult, since all the houses had numbered plates. He was able to sense Harry's barrier spell the moment he approached the front door. It was a strong ward, he noted, and was actually a mix of both Harry and Kingsley's magic, but it let him pass without any problems, thanks to the spell Harry had cast on him before they'd split up.
Entering the house, Bill scrunched his nose a little at the smell, feeling fortunate that the stasis charm that had been placed throughout the house had been able to prevent the smell of death from getting worse than it was.
He ignored the cupboard under the stairs as he stepped forward, aware that if he paid it even the slightest bit of attention, it would only serve to anger him. He had never been as angry before in his life as he'd been when he'd found out about this cupboard being Harry's room for so many years-and a place he'd often been locked in again many times even after starting at Hogwarts.
In silence, and trying not to think about the events that had gone on in this house to his dear friend, he made his way into the sitting room. Harry had told him where all three bodies had been found, so those were the rooms he was most interested in checking with his spells.
Despite this only being his second time here, and especially considering the time gap between his two visits, Bill was genuinely surprised to see that nothing really seemed to have changed at all. But he pushed that thought out of his mind quickly enough, and pulled out his wand instead.
With a firm enchantment, he waved his wand in a long, high arc, and it didn't take him long to get his results. Frowning, he moved into the kitchen to do the same thing, getting the same result there. The same thing happened when he went upstairs into Harry's cousin's bedroom.
Aware of at least two more spells that could possibly be useful in these particular circumstances, Bill tried them both, again, in all three areas. Every single time, he received the same result as before.
The results were...strange, though, and he wasn't sure whether they were actually correct or not. But three different spells cast three separate times each had all given him the same thing, so how could they be wrong? Once or twice could easily have been a coincidence, but nine? There was no way this was a coincidence.
The results weren't exactly good though. No, Harry wasn't going to like this at all, Bill figured.
At that same moment, Harry was making his way through Diagon Alley. He had checked both Bill and Fred and George's floo records back at the Ministry before he'd left, and was pleased to see that there was indeed both a magical and written record of the connections of the two floos.
At five twelve yesterday afternoon, Bill's floo was connected to the one in Fred and George's flat, the connection started by the latter floo. It remained connected for two minutes and forty one seconds before the connection was broken. This was then followed by their floos being connected again briefly as a method of transportation, going from Bill's flat to the twins'. Then, at six thirty eight, nearly an hour and a half later, their floos were connected briefly once more, again as a method of transportation, going from the twins' flat to Bill's.
While the records couldn't show who exactly had been using the floo, the times matched up with what Bill had told him, and using these records along with his testimony and memories would be good enough to clear him of suspicion. Or should be, at any rate.
Not wanting to risk anything, Harry decided he wanted to speak to Fred and George anyway. Getting more evidence to prove Bill was innocent certainly wouldn't hurt the case, after all.
Ignoring anyone who looked his way in the alley, Harry entered the twins' joke shop, finding it as busy as always-the con to having to investigate in the middle of this particular day. Although, to be fair, the twins' shop was pretty much always busy.
It was George who spotted him first, waving him over and leading him into a back room where it was much quieter than the raging bustle of the shop's front area.
"Hey, Harry. How's it going?"
Harry smiled and shrug. "About the same as always. How've you been?"
"About the same as always."
Harry laughed. "Business looks as great as usual."
George nodded proudly. "Yep, things are booming alright." He grinned. "Fred and I have been looking into creating some new products. It's not like things are getting boring or anything, but we're still competing against Zonko's, and that old man's got some tricks up his sleeve that we'd like to get ahead of."
Hoping this was going to lead into what had apparently happened yesterday, Harry raised a brow, not really feigning interest. "New products, eh? Anything you can tell me about them?"
George's grin only grew. "Nope. Top secret." Then he rubbed the back of his head, smiling sheepishly. "Mostly because Freddy and I don't really know much about them yet. We were aiming for one thing, but ended up with something that can't exactly be put out on the market."
"What do you mean?"
George frowned now. "We were trying to charm a particular object with a couple of different spells. Apparently, those spells don't mix really well, because when they collided, they ended up immobilizing whatever it hit-in this case, Fred."
Harry frowned. "Fred? Is he alright?"
"Oh, yeah, he's fine. Had a bit of a scare though. I couldn't free him from the immobilization. All the general counter spells weren't working for some reason. I kind of freaked out and ended up asking Bill for help-flooed him at his flat and he came right over to give me a hand."
"So Bill's the one who managed to free Fred?"
George nodded. "Yeah. He said that when the two charms collided, they sort of merged together and ended up creating a strange kind of hex. Took him a while, but he eventually managed to find and use a counter. Fred was pretty relieved. Had to piss though."
Harry laughed. "I can imagine! Man, sounds like you guys had a pretty eventful evening."
"Percy came by too," said Fred, entering the room to join them, greeting Harry with a grin.
Harry waved and grinned back. "Percy? Wow, that really is eventful. He doesn't stop by your place often, does he?"
"Not really, but he didn't actually come to see us."
"Why was he here then?"
"He was looking for Ron," said George.
"Borrowed something from Ronny, he said," Fred added, "and he wanted to return it."
"But he couldn't find him at the Ministry or at his flat."
"He knows Ron comes here all the time, so he thought he'd check with us, but we hadn't seen him either."
"Wasn't yesterday his date night anyway?"
Harry nodded, confirming that. "Yep, he clocked out a couple of hours early so he could head home to get ready. Not sure where the three of them went this time, but I think Draco was saying something about France-Hermione loves it there."
Fred shook his head exasperated. "Lucky ducks, getting to go abroad just to have fancy dinners."
"Don't Ginny and Blaise do that too?" Harry asked.
"Nah, not anymore. They used to, but now that they've got the ocean in their backyard-literally, they don't really bother. I think Gin was saying something about them just doing a yearly or biyearly thing now."
Harry nodded. "Yeah, makes sense."
"Well anyway," said George, "we've been yakin' your ear off. You here for anything in particular?"
Feigning hurt, Harry placed a hand over his heart. "I didn't realize I needed a reason to come here. Isn't seeing you two enough of a reason?"
Fred and George exchanged a glance, then smiled slyly and slid in close on either side of him, getting in far closer than necessary.
"Careful there, Harrykins," said Fred.
"Otherwise we might think you're here to flirt with us," said George.
"Or maybe you're here for something a little more than just mere flirting?" asked Fred, sliding a hand down Harry's arm.
"Something a little more...fun, perhaps?" asked George, mimicking the gesture, but to Harry's other arm.
With a little laugh, Harry reached up to tug at their hair, quickly putting a stop to their wandering hands. "Come on, it's nothing like that. It's just been a while since I was last here, and I happened to be around on another errand and thought I'd drop by to see how things are going." He poked them both in the chests. "No need to get yourselves all worked up. Put those things back in your pants."
The twins pulled away, both of them laughing as well. Flirting with Harry was practically a pass time of theirs, mostly because they liked seeing him blush, though he was getting much better at controlling that now than he'd been able to before. They knew Harry wasn't interested in them beyond what they already had. He saw them as brothers, so entering in a relationship with them would just be weird.
Besides, the twins already knew that Harry was interested in one of their brothers. And from what they'd seen so far, it kind of seemed like that brother was interested in Harry too. The problem was that neither Harry nor Bill seemed to have realized that just yet.
That's it for now. Comments? Kudos?
Fred and George confirming Bill's alibi was something Harry was infinitely pleased about. He left their shop a few minutes of amusing banter later, and decided he didn't really need Percy's statement. The floo records and both twins would be more than enough, he was sure. Besides, interrupting Percy at work was like asking for trouble. If he was told he needed more proof for Bill's alibi than he already had, then he'd try talking to Percy, but until then he was satisfied with the information he had.
But everything had taken a bit longer than he'd planned, and it was starting to get late. Exhausted, Harry made his way back to his own flat-a small place about fifteen minutes walking distance from the Leaky Cauldron.
Harry wasn't exactly sure why, but a number of people had actually been surprised when he'd bought a flat instead of moving into Grimmauld Place or fixing up the house in Godric's Hollow and living there.
Live in the house his parents had died in or his godfather's first and last prison? Why wouldn't he want to do that? Many seemed to be horrified that he wasn't living in either place, and some had gone as far as to say he was dishonouring their memories-both people he knew and complete strangers had given him this...opinion of theirs.
Harry thought those opinions were as disgusting as they were unwelcome.
Growing even more tired just by remembering those daft opinions, Harry entered his flat with a heavy sigh, and headed straight into the kitchen to make himself some coffee. He had more work to do, and needed to keep himself awake.
His flat was in a Muggle complex, protected mostly with magic. Having spent so many years in the Muggle world, Harry wasn't really ready to just give up all the Muggle conveniences he had grown up with. So when he'd gone house hunting, he'd specifically searched for places with proper plumbing and electricity and functioning kitchens.
It wasn't that magical homes didn't have those things, because some of them certainly did, but most didn't. And the few places that did, where either bad, or in locations Harry didn't want to be in. So in the end he chose a Muggle complex.
Bill lived in a Muggle complex too, but because it was so close to Diagon Alley, it was almost entirely inhabited by wizards. Harry's was a bit further away, and because of that, the only wizards besides him were two middle ages witches who had been married for the past twenty years, apparently. Their flat was on the other end of the complex though.
Since he lived alone, even with his stronger magic, the Muggle things weren't affected by magic, which Harry liked. He never had too many people over at once either, so there wasn't much of a threat. He like it much better this way anyway...
Finished preparing his coffee, Harry brought the cup with him into his desk. He wasn't expecting Bill for a few more minutes, so he decided to take the time to work on his case notes. Relying on memory wasn't always the best thing to do, even for wizards, so Harry liked writing things down, mostly so he would be able to refer back to said notes if he needed to, especially when he started overthinking things-a bad habit he tended to have.
Sitting at his desk, Harry picked up his pen, opened up his notebook, and began to write, sipping his coffee in between sentences. And as he did this, he thought, reflecting back on what had happened, debating and wondering, trying to predict.
It was a fact that the Dursleys had not only died, but also been killed. It was also a fact, at least in Harry's opinion, that there were probably people, magical and Muggle both, who wanted the Dursleys dead.
Those in the magical world probably only had problems with them due to Harry himself, and their connection to one another. Those in the Muggle world were different. Some had probably always known how exactly they'd been treating Harry over the years, and had either been incapable of doing anything to help, had just not realized it until too late, or had been unwilling to get involved.
But the Dursleys, all three of them, had done and said plenty for many Muggles to want them dead. Reasons that didn't have anything to do with Harry at all. The reasons would be more petty than anything else when it came to Aunt Petunia, but everything about her in life had been petty, so why would the reason for wanting her dead be any different? Uncle Vernon and Dudley had more serious reasons involving actual crimes-assault, extortion, blackmail, fraud, breaking and entering, substance abuse, the list could easily go on.
And while it was always easily possible a Muggle somehow aware of the magical world had simply either convinced, or bribed, or blackmailed, or bought someone magical into killing the Dursleys so it wouldn't come back to them, Harry didn't really think a Muggle was behind this.
The crime seemed solidly magical, and felt too...personal to just be a hired hitman. But maybe it was personal because he was the one investigating. Everything about this case felt personal to him.
Realizing that, Harry tried to look at things a different way. If he were investigating this like any other case-if he and the Dursleys hadn't been related, but they had still been killed the way they had been, what would he think? How would he look at the victims and the scene and the suspects?
First, he would have been more thorough in the walkthrough of the house, looking at things far more carefully than he had. He would have looked deeper into the Dursleys as well, and attempted to find out how exactly they were connected to the wizarding world. It wasn't exactly rare for wizards to target Muggles for no reason other than that they were Muggles, but he would have checked anyway.
Having known the Dursleys exceptionally well, and having lived with them in that particular house for nearly two decades, Harry hadn't needed to check the house or the Dursleys too deeply, but that wasn't usually the case. He'd have done the same thing with Bill too, if he hadn't already known him as well as he did.
Number Four and by extension, the Dursleys, didn't look like they had been targeted randomly. In fact it looked very deliberate. The fact that it had happened at six in the evening-during the evening news, in other words, was also suspicious. From personal experience, Harry knew that that was one of the very few times of the day where Privet Drive was essentially deserted, everyone inside watching the news.
Had the killer then staked the place out, waiting for the moment they would be sure no one would witness anything? They had then slipped into the house without notice, gone into the sitting room and killed Uncle Vernon without notice, gone into the kitchen and killed Aunt Petunia without notice, gone upstairs, directly into Dudley's bedroom and killed him without notice, and then left the house without notice.
They had also used the killing curse seemingly without hesitation, and had then somehow managed to put Bill's magical signature throughout the crime scene, and on top of all that, likely done all of this in less than ten minutes, judging by the serious lack of evidence.
So what did that tell him? It told him the killer was a skilled wizard. It told him the killer was comfortable either killing or using the killing curse. It told him the killer had some knowledge in not so common magical spells. It told him the killer was patient, or at least knew how to plan things out down to small details. It told him that this was a very deliberately planned murder.
So it gave him some insight into the killer, some insight into what they seemed comfortable with, and how they may have done things, but it he didn't know of a concrete motive just yet, and it definitely wasn't enough to determine the killer's identity.
With a sigh, Harry jotted down his last thought, drained the last of his coffee, and then pushed himself to his feet. The flat was quiet as he made his way back to the kitchen to get more coffee, and had only just set his mug at the side table next to his favourite armchair in the sitting room, when there was a knock on the door. Aware it was Bill, mostly since he could sense his magical signature, he let him in right away.
"You have bad news," said Harry immediately, quickly recognizing the expression on Bill's face.
"You didn't find anything?"
"I did find something, it's just not...good."
Harry shut the door, locked it, and looked up at the older man. "What is it? What did you find?"
Bill sighed. "I picked up on the magical signatures you were talking about earlier-Kingsley's, yours, and mine. Kingsley's signature, and your own as well were completely normal. My spells didn't pick up anything odd about them at all, which makes sense. My own signature was...different."
"Different?" Harry echoed. "How so?"
"It...was mine," said Bill, his brow furrowing slightly. "Definitely mine, but it was..." He hesitated, unsure of how exactly he could put this into words to explain it. "It seemed like my magical signature was masking another one-a fourth one."
That definitely caught Harry's attention. "There's a fourth signature there? But my spell didn't-"
"It wouldn't have. A normal magical signature detection charm would never be able to pick up on it. It's incredibly subtle. The spells I used are charms that check for layers of curses-curses placed on other curses, basically. They pick up on very small amounts of magic that are generally hidden under larger, more obvious amounts."
"So," Harry frowned deeply, "what you're saying is that like those curses you usually use these spells on, your magical signature was somehow placed on top of another magical signature, which blocked its presence from my detection charm?"
"Pretty much," said Bill with a nod.
"Were you able to determine whose signature this was? The one yours was masking?"
Bill hesitated visibly. "It was Neville's."
That's it for now. Comments? Kudos?
Yo! Sorry about the wait-shit health, still trying to deal with it, no I'm not better, but I'm doing what I can. Thank you to all readers so far!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"What the hell!?"
Bill winced, but nodded. "It's definitely his," he said before Harry could ask. "I don't know him as well as you, but I've been around him enough to be able to tell that much. My spell's results listed his name too-Neville Frank Longbottom."
"You're positive? There's no mistake?"
"I am, and I used three different spells three different times each for each of your relatives, so that's nine times in total, and it was his signature every single one of those nine times."
Harry dragged his fingers through his hair, looking both confused and aggravated. "But-but how is that possible? How could he have-no, no it obviously wasn't him. Neville has as much reason for killing the Dursleys as you do."
"He was framed too, then?"
"Yeah, he must've been." Leading the way through the flat, Harry took at seat in his favourite armchair, but didn't reach for his coffee. "I'm going to have to check Neville for an alibi too," he said as Bill sat down on the nearby couch. "He should've been at work and nowhere near Privet Drive at any point, but I have to make sure."
Harry didn't answer at first. Really, he didn't have an answer. "Do you think Neville's magical signature was planted too? The same way as yours was? Maybe it's masking another signature?"
"I'm...not sure if that's possible," said Bill slowly. "I'm not saying it's impossible," he added quickly when he saw Harry's frown, "but I've never heard of someone layering more than two spells or signatures. The more you layer, the more unstable the final product becomes, and the more likely it is to be noticed." He stood up again. "Tell you what. I'll speak to some colleagues-don't worry, I won't tell them why I'm asking or anything, but I'll see if any of them have dealt with more than two layered spells."
Harry regarded him closely, then sighed and nodded. "Alright. So long as you're careful not to let anything about the case slip, it's okay. I really hope you can figure something out here, because I'm seriously way out of my element here." This kind of magic was something Harry wasn't at all familiar with.
"I know," said Bill quietly. He didn't say anything else-had nothing else he really even could say. He knew Harry was beginning to feel a little helpless with the situation, and he knew this was a feeling Harry really hated. Bill couldn't blame him. Harry had spent a lot of his life feeling helpless. Having to feel the same way again in his career-a career he was in charge of, it was terrible.
"You don't have to do that now," said Harry when he realized Bill hadn't actually moved beyond standing up. "It's late-you may as well get some sleep and ask around tomorrow. There's no point doing it now. Everyone's probably heading to bed anyway."
Bill blinked, checked the time, then nodded. "True enough." He made to turn around, but paused again, hesitating. "Are...are you sure you'll be alright alone?"
Harry cracked a smile. "Of course I'll be fine. I'm not a kid, Bill."
Bill sighed inaudibly. "I know you aren't. ...Alright, I'll head out, then." It wasn't that he thought of Harry as a child or anything, because he clearly wasn't. It was just that he was kind of...worried about leaving Harry alone right now. He was saying he was alright, but Bill was sure he was lying about that. How could he possibly be okay after what had happened?
But he left Harry's flat regardless. He couldn't stay if Harry didn't want him to, and he certainly didn't want to abuse Harry welcoming him into his home whenever he wanted. Bill sighed again. Hopefully Harry would make it through the night without getting too overwhelmed.
The moment the door shut behind Bill, Harry felt a sense of regret. He probably should have asked Bill to stay. Being alone for an entire night likely wasn't a very good idea right now. He'd been fine during the day when he'd had a lot to do, but now he had hours to stew on things, and Harry knew that when he stewed, he stewed hard.
He could have still asked-could have just hurried to the door and called Bill, he was probably only just down the hall. But he couldn't. He didn't know why, but he just couldn't bring himself to actually get up and do it.
He just stayed where he was, seated in his armchair, and in an attempt to squash the urge, he just reached for his coffee instead, only to grimace at the taste. It had gone cold. Well, that was fine. He knew he could just cast a heating charm on it, but coffee before bed wasn't a particularly good idea anyway. He needed sleep if he wanted to stay focused tomorrow.
With a heavy, drawn out sigh, Harry decided it was best for him to head to bed too. He returned to his study first, and added what Bill had told him to his notes, and then began preparing for bed. He was exhausted. Hopefully he would be able to sleep undisturbed tonight.
The darkness should have been terrifying-would have been for most, but for Harry it was comforting. The silence was too. He was alone as well, he realized. That didn't bother him either. These were things Harry liked. Things he wasn't used to, but had always taken solace in. But they were also things that reminded him about how lonely he had always been, and often still felt.
The loneliness had been instilled in him when he'd been a very young child. But he'd never really actually gotten used to it. You could think you were used to being lonely, but you never really would be-that was what Harry had learned. But he'd always pretended otherwise. He'd always pretended he wasn't lonely, mostly because the Dursleys would have loved knowing he was. They'd always used things like that as a weapon against him-always, without fail.
Harry wasn't surprised when the scene formed around him. He'd been thinking about the Dursleys, so it was no surprise to him that their house materialized before him in this deep darkness.
The house was the same, its contents too. The only strange things were the corpses. All three of the Dursleys lay dead in the middle of the sitting room, their faces pale and peaceful. The sight filled Harry with an unnatural hatred. Maybe the Dursleys didn't deserve to die, but they certainly didn't deserve peace. Now they had both.
"Why can't you guys just tell me who did this?" Harry said in a mutter, only half aware he was talking to himself. "You never used to shut up, and now you can't even say a word?"
Of course, there was no answer. Harry hadn't really expected one. They were dead, after all, and corpses couldn't talk. That was probably a good thing though.
Why was he here? Why was he seeing this? What was the point of any of this? He already knew the Dursleys were dead. He already knew how he felt about it. He already knew he had no clues to figure out who had done this.
Were the Dursleys going to continue haunting him even now?
Harry woke abruptly. He stayed still where he was, blinking up at the ceiling slowly, staring at the blurry stain over his head. Though the dream hadn't been a nightmare, and nothing had actually happened, Harry didn't really feel like he had gotten much sleep. He still felt as tired as he had before he'd gone to bed the night before.
Deciding it would maybe be better not to think about it, Harry checked the time, cursed when he realized it was later than he'd expected, and heaved himself out of bed so he could get ready for what was bound to be another long day.
He had to make a trip to Hogwarts, and he wasn't really looking forward to it. It wasn't as if he hated being there or anything-Hogwarts would always be a place he considered home, but there were just...too many memories there. Good memories, yes, but also many bad ones. He'd suffered a lot when he'd been there, and it was hard to forget that even despite the good memories.
But he didn't have a choice. He had to talk to Neville-had to do so in person too, so going to Hogwarts wasn't something he could avoid, even though he sort of wanted to...
Just like Number Four, Hogwarts didn't look any different than he remembered either. The castle and her grounds were as massive and magnificent as always. But even then Harry felt a bit of dread. He couldn't forget the war that had taken place here when he'd finally been able to defeat Voldemort. A long, gruelling, deadly war.
He tried to push the memories back behind their shields, and walked through the grounds, approaching the greenhouses. Considering the time, it was most likely that Neville was in the middle of a lesson, and Harry didn't really have the time to wait for it to end.
He heard voices as he approached, and followed them to Greenhouse number one. The door was open, so he poked his head in, only to blink in surprise when he saw the professor heading the class.
"Professor Sprout?" he called, entering.
The woman turned. "Oh, well hello there, Mister Potter. I didn't realize you were coming here today. Is there something I can do for you?"
"I'm sorry to interrupt, but I was looking for Professor Longbottom," said Harry. "I have something urgent I need to discuss with him. Is he here?"
"No, but..." Professor Sprout, looking somewhat confused, said, "Have you not heard?"
"Professor Longbottom appears to be missing. It's been at least a week now since he's last been seen here at Hogwarts."
And that's it for now. Again, so sorry about the wait. It seems like a medication I was put on for an autoimmune issue had depression as a side effect, which made my already existing depression so much worse. I really haven't done much writing at all over the past few months because of it. I'm now on a different medication, because apparently the first one wasn't even working, so hopefully my depression levels will go back to their normal crappy self along with my already piss poor updating schedule. Comments? Kudos?