[This is a work of ‘fanfiction’, essentially a tribute to the world created by JK Rowling. No infringement of copyright is intended, and neither is any commercial exploitation.]
The thing with Malfoy, Rose found herself thinking as she feverishly pulled on first her coat and then James' invisibility cloak, is not that I dislike him so much as the fact that he's so irritating. Albus or James would reason it's hereditary but I don't know...he was really quite all right until that Valentine's Day incident last year – and why I am thinking about him when I should be concentrating on what I'm going to do now is something I can't figure out either.
She had reached the cave – there was no one left outside, so she guessed everyone had entered, including the fake George. Must remember to check on the real Uncle George when this is over – no wait...he might be in real danger – what if this woman has harmed him seriously to make sure he couldn't make it here? She looked back, wondering which way to go. If she went to look for George and something happened inside, she knew she'd feel she might have been able to do something for them - on the other hand if she didn't go and something had happened to her uncle, she'd never be able to forgive herself.
Rose pursed her lips. She wasn't sure it was the right decision, but it felt like the best one in the circumstances. She pulled out her wand from its holder in her coat and fired a flare in the direction in which Scorpius had gone, followed by two more. Sure enough, in a few minutes the blond boy was standing before her and looking around, bemused. Rose slipped the invisibility cloak off her head just enough to show her face.
“Bloody hell, Weasley, you scared me!” Scorpius exclaimed with a start.
“Don't talk - I need a favour. Can I trust you, Malfoy?”
“I don't know – can you?” He sounded offended.
“I don't know either, but I don't have a choice. I want you to run to Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes as fast as you possibly can. I think my Uncle George might be hurt – or worse. If he is, please send for help.”
“I...sure...what's going on, Rose?” he asked, in a serious tone.
“I can't explain now, Malfoy, just go - run!” she whispered urgently, and then slapped her forehead with her fist. “I'm an ass!”
“Not compared to the rest of your family,” Scorpius couldn't resist saying.
Rose didn't bother to respond – she pointed her wand past him and said, “Accio broomstick!”
The broomstick that the imposter had ridden flew from its hiding place and sped towards them. Scorpius held out a hand and caught it with the ease of an expert. Which he was, seeing as he played seeker for Slytherin’s Quidditch team.
“Wait for me in the village,” she said, before pulling the cloak over her head again.
“I'll call that a date, Rose,” said Scorpius, climbing onto the broomstick, “even if you don't!”
Rose thankfully had not heard the last remark. She ducked into the cave, wondering whether it was large enough to fit the fifteen or so people she had seen gathered outside. As it turned out, it was not. In fact there was no one in it at the moment. Where the hell have they gotten to, Rose wondered, people don't disappear into thin air like that, not even if they are the D.A. She walked around the cave, treading carefully. There were rats and other debris strewn around the floor, which she was careful to step around. It was as she reached the leftmost corner that she found what she was looking for – a well-concealed trapdoor. In fact, it would not even have been visible to most people, but she and her friends had not spent a considerable amount of their time exploring Hogwarts Castle for exactly similar entrances to secret passageways without picking up a knack for locating them.
Not every trapdoor opens in quite the same way – Rose knew that well. Thankfully, she had picked up a nifty little spell from a book she had found at home for just this sort of situation. “Nokaeteb Noxos” she whispered, pointing her wand at the metallic hinge that jutted ever-so-slightly out of the stone surface. The wall around the hinge glowed briefly, showing the outline of a door, then the outline moved slowly to the right.
So it's a sliding door. Now how can a girl get in without the folks inside noticing. Even an invisibility cloak can't get me through without the movement of the door being pretty obvious. I'm sure Mom would have a spell for this situation too. Probably could turn the stone into Jell-o or something and slip through unnoticed. However, as was generally informed to her twice a week in school, she was not her mother. Rose stepped gingerly around the door. The magical outlines had now disappeared. She tried to press against the door to check if she could hear anything, but as might have been expected, the door had been soundproofed from within.
No way in. So much for all my efforts! she muttered, unless...
Thinking almost too fast to quite comprehend what she was doing, Rose quickly drew her wand and pointed it towards the ceiling of the cave. “Lumos,” she said in a quiet tone, briefly lighting up the cave before she muttered the counter-spell. Just as I'd hoped – icicles!
As the cave darkened again, Rose pointed her wand straight towards the largest growth of icicles – a bunch about four feet in length not far from the hidden door that hung down like stalactites from the ceiling. Mustering up all her concentration, she said, as loudly as she dared, “Sectumsempra.”
She allowed herself a small smile as she felt the powerful spell course through her arm and flow straight towards the cave's ceiling. She held the spell for not more than a few seconds, but it was enough. She could hear the crack of the cutting spell spread through the ice formation and shrank into herself as she watched it crash to the floor below. She had wanted a distraction, and she had got it. The sound reverberated through the cave for what felt like several minutes. In fact, Rose wouldn't have been surprised if it had been heard in Hogsmeade and neighbouring villages. When she finally took her hands off her ears, she was duly rewarded by the sound of creaking hinges.
Rose positioned herself flat against the wall near the gap that was opening up where the door had been. Her father came out first, in a blaze of colour, followed by Uncle Harry and Neville. All three had their wands drawn.
“Don't see anything, mate,” said Ron.
“Over there, on the floor,” said Harry.
They walked past Rose towards the splinters of ice. Seizing her opportunity, she slipped past the door unnoticed. There was a small passage, hardly six feet long, which led to a rudimentary arch carved into the stone. Rose stepped through the arch and found herself in a large room, well-lit by floating torches similar to the floating candles in the Great Hall back at Hogwarts. The room was longer than it was wide, with a long table at the centre. It wasn't a round table, thankfully – for a moment, Rose wondered whether her family had been trying to emulate King Arthur – in fact it was like a modern conference table. As would be expected, the members of the D.A. were seated around it, all evidently in a state of alertness. That noise I made outside must've really got them thinking, she thought. Rose stealthily made her way closer to the table, careful to tread lightly. The room was made of mostly roughly hewn rock and there were a few dark niches here and there. She made straight for the one furthest from her mother. She had no reason to believe that Hermione Granger included seeing through invisibility cloaks amongst her many abilities, but there was no point taking chances. Rose crept into a corner just behind a short blonde woman whom she instantly recognised as her friend Martin's mother, Luna.
The room continued quiet for a while, until Harry, Ron and Neville returned.
“Just some icicles that fell outside,” said Harry with a shrug.
“Icicles?” asked Hermione.
“Little solid blocks of water that form on hard surfaces when the weather is cold. They fall sometimes when the temperature begins to rise.” The completely superfluous explanation came from the imposter version of George Weasley. Rose felt herself flush. This woman or whatever she was had some cheek!
“Sarcasm the latest prank invented by Weasley Wheezes, eh, George,” Hermione responded with a smile.
“Anyway,” said Harry, as he walked back to the head of the table, “let's leave that aside and get back to the reason I've convened the D.A. again.”
“Yes, it's been so long, Harry – is it something serious?” The question came from Parvati.
“Honestly, mates – I don't know for sure yet. It may be, it may not, but my gut instinct says I should be sharing this with you.” He took a look around the room. “Not as many as we used to be, are we?”
“People move on and move away from the things that they once found exciting, Harry. Not everyone wants to always be saving the world,” Neville said quietly.
“Well, that's besides the point – which I should be getting to, or you folks will be throwing stuff at my head. I trust most of you are familiar with the name Hernwig Hubstein?”
There were nods all around the table. Rose herself felt that she had heard or seen the name somewhere. On a book-cover back home, she recalled.
“Just to recap,” continued Harry, “Mr. Hubstein was the German Minister for Magic – or Chancellor or whatever they call them out there – until five years ago. Prior to that, he was the Head of the Department for International Magical Co-operation in his country. He's also famous for his research into Eastern Magical traditions and forms and has published over a dozen books on the subject, including Beastly Barbarian Savages of the East and Holy Smoke! He's also very...dead.”
Rose thought she saw the hint of a smile on Harry's face as the import of his words sank in around the table. Always the showman, eh, Uncle Harry? she questioned him mentally.
“It happened about a week ago. You'll be wondering why it's not been splashed around newspapers around the Wizarding world yet – my only answer is that the German press is not as free as our own – in fact, Hubstein owned the three biggest 'papers in the country and his lawyers are suppressing the story. Not sure what they intend to achieve, given that the man was pretty scandalous while alive, but there you have it.”
Harry paused to take a drink of water. Rose contemplated her favourite uncle as he raised the glass to his lips. He had not changed much from the photographs of him from his student and “Battle of Hogwarts” days that she had seen so often. His face was still youthful, his figure still on the thin side and his hair still rather messy. He loved to laugh, often saying that if his days battling Lord Voldemort had taught him anything, it was the importance of laughing whenever you could. Aunt Ginny was different – more distant, somehow. Rose was a little afraid of her, and slightly resented her for the patronising manner she adopted when speaking to her father. She brought her mind back to bear on the scene before her though, as Harry was resuming.
“He died suddenly in his own dining room. He was discovered by his house-elf the next morning. It was assumed to be an Avada Kedavra that did him in, as the body seemed to show all the typical signs of an AK murder. Moreover, since his mistress was missing, it was also assumed that she must have been the murderess.”
“I take it from your careful usage of the word 'assumed' that what you just said was not actually what happened?” asked the imposter George.
“Well, let's put it this way – when the German Auror department got in on the act, they couldn't prove that was what it appeared to be. There wasn't the slightest magical trace in the room. They interrogated the portraits and were informed that he had been reading at the table when he suddenly went stiff and fell to the ground. There was nobody else in the room at the time. That's when they called me to come and see if I could make any better sense of it.”
“And could you?” asked Parvati.
“I think so. But to explain, I'll have to step back in time a bit. The thing is, Ginny and I have known Hubstein for a while – had known him, I mean. We met at a Ministry-sponsored event a few years after Voldemort's death. He was still the Chancellor back then. I didn't particularly like him, but you have to be polite to a Chancellor and when he invited us to visit his place we really weren't in a position to refuse. About a year later we received a formal invitation to spend a week with him at his winter getaway in the south of France and so we sent the kids to stay with Ron and Hermione and took off.”
“It was bloody awful,” Ginny took over, “I mean, the house was absolutely gorgeous, it was obvious that the man had good taste and lots of money and knew how to spend it, but it really got on our nerves after a while. He seemed to revel in orgies and wild parties The place would fill with hordes of beautiful people every night and Firewhiskey would flow like water. The next time around he invited us to his home in Bonn – it was much later, almost five years after that first time - it was quieter and a much nicer trip, overall. As you know, he was also the foremost scholar of oriental magic and his library was a treasure-trove of information.”
“That's also when we met his then-mistress – Raylene her name was, if memory serves me right, and she can't have been a day older than twenty-five. We visited him three more times, and each time he had a different woman whom he introduced as his 'special friend' – each one seemingly younger than the last one,” Harry said, beginning to walk around the table towards where Neville was sitting. “Not something we thought very highly about, but that was his choice and it wasn't really our place to comment on it. He was hospitable enough and as Ginny pointed out, his knowledge of the different streams of magic was formidable and if one overlooked his libertine ways, he was not a bad sort of chap. It was a bit of a shock when I got a call from my counterpart in Germany saying the old man was dead – he must've been in his seventies but he'd always seemed terribly alive.”
“Why wouldn't he feel that way, given the fact that he was cavorting with women old enough to be his grand-daughters?” Ginny smiled sardonically.
“Anyway, I went over last Saturday. Checked out the scene of the death and all that. It was as they said – no sign of magic having been performed. His own wand showed that the last spell he had cast had been to cool his glass of wine. There was no trace of the trophy mistress either. She seemed to have disappeared as well – so it was pretty reasonable to assume that she was responsible, but we just couldn't figure out how she had done it.”
“That's right – assume it's the mistress who did it!” said Luna Lovegood.
“Circumstantial evidence, Luna,” said Harry with a good-natured smile. “For a couple of days we continued looking around the house to see if anything was missing to indicate the motive and speaking to Hubstein's friends to know whether they knew of any reason why the girlfriend should have killed him. No one seemed to have an idea. We had neither motive nor a murder method – until, that is, I happened to speak to an old friend of mine who supplied me the answers I needed.”
“Harry flatters me, really. It wasn't me who got him on the right track – in fact it wasn't an old friend of Harry's at all. It was an old enemy. Does anyone here remember Professor Snape?”
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