There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt. - Erma Bombeck
A tragedy is a treacherous kind of thing, synonymous to many words in our language. Agony. Despair. Misery. Inevitable.
It can be small, like the fallout with your partner that announced itself during the last couple of weeks when you fought every other day. Or big like the car crush when you warned your best friend to take a taxi but he insisted to drive home himself, drunk enough that he could barely stand.
The only thing that a tragedy leaves is the hollow feeling of having failed miserably and you wonder: Could I have done anything otherwise? Could I have saved whatever happened?
You watch it grow and in front of your eyes like weed in a beautiful garden.
You can do nothing to stop it from growing.
You can do nothing to stop it from ruin.
The only thing left to do is to mourn what could have been.
Saturday, 20th September
6 days until the next murder
"You look distracted."
Hermione looked up in time to see a perfect brewed cup of Latte Macchiato be placed right in front of her. The smell was rich and earthy and filled her to the throat.
"I'm sorry. It's just that the Voldemort deadline is getting closer," she said, dragging the cup closer. Her hands warmed up around the hot carton that held the coffee. It was a soothing feeling.
"Right. Someone at work mentioned it the other day. It's only a week now, isn't it?" Tom took his place on the other side of the table and looked at her with more interest and intensity as she ever saw on man looking at her. He was everything she ever wanted love to be. And it felt glorious to be at his center.
"Six days," she said and grimaced from the sheer pressure that answer held. Six days were a blink of an eye. Six days were the warming phase for someone like Voldemort. She bet he'd sit somewhere and prepare for his next big spectacle while all of them were slowly getting insane with each passing hour. It was almost as if she could hear a clock in the back of her mind, ticking slowly to something big. Her skin prickled in anticipation. She took a sip from her cup and noted with pleasure that he thought about adding sugar into it.
Tom placed a hand upon one of hers to run his thumb over the her skin in a soothing way. His fingers were warm and soft. She entangled her hand with his.
"You do your best, Hermione. I'm certain you will hunt him down soon."
"Not soon enough." She took another sip from her Latte with her free hand and traced the mounds of his knuckles with her index. "While we're on it, I wanted to talk to you about Regulus Black."
"What's with him?"
"Do you happen to know where I can find him?"
"I have little hope for you to actually find him anywhere," Tom let out a small laugh but it was neither pleasant nor friendly. The sound was a bitter taste of something that tainted the conversation and it stirred something in Hermione that she couldn't quite place.
"What makes you say that?"
"Regulus… He had a hard time the last year." Tom leaned back, out of her reach and sighed. "There were problems with his mental health in the past, but last year was particularly difficult. One day he suddenly cut all ties with us. No more calls. No more messages. No more visits. It was as if we never existed for him." It was easier to place the sound of his voice now: worry. Hermione reached out and took his hand carefully into his again and Tom let her. "That's why I'm particularly surprised that Abraxas could somehow persuade him to come to that exhibition last week."
"Have you heard anything since? I tried to get some informations in the bureau, but they could only tell me his last known address was five years prior." She had phoned Neville last night but he wasn't able to find anything useful about Regulus Black. A couple of therapy sessions. A lot of different physical addresses, but none current. Some petty offenses but none grave enough for a conviction; most of them for scandalisations after rallies. As far as the PDN gave away, Regulus Black was nowhere to find.
"I can give you an old address. But I'm afraid I don't have any other informations about his whereabouts. Perhaps you can ask Abraxas. Somehow he must have gotten him to attend the exhibition after all."
"That will do. Thank you."
"Anything for you, my love." He took a new fountain pen out of his jacket pocket and scribbled the address on a notes page of his weekly calendar. When he handed it over it was pristine and sharp, just like everything else about him. "I heard Bellatrix was smitten by you?"
She smirked in response, but didn't give anything else away.
A smirk was on his handsome face and while it would have scarred anyone else it fitted him like a second skin. The clean-cut slope of his lips suddenly reminded her that she didn't fell in love with his looks, but with a brilliant mind. She leaned closer and kissed him over the steaming cups between them.
Kissing him was closing her eyes and sinking into a warm embrace of the sea on the first day of July, when the sun was high and hot and spelling love on your shoulders. It was easy to lose control. She didn't mind how dangerous that made them.
Last known address of Regulus Black
Sunday, 21th September
5 days until the next murder
Hermione was knocking on the front door for the third time, but there was still no answer. In the dim light of the grey morning the block of flats looked deplorable and unspectacular and as if no one had lived in it for quite a while. One of the windows was broken and taped with something that looked like baking paper and each time the wind whistled against it, it left some sort of grotesque melody.
"I don't think you will have luck with that one, girl."
She turned around and saw a man limping towards her. His clothes were shreds and dirty, with holes in the hem of the coat. Yellow teeth were showing between split lips. Life on the street painted him in grim colors.
"That bloke. Haven't seen him since weeks." He stopped at the bottom of the stairs, leaning his body against the handrail. When he looked at the door he didn't seem concerned.
"Weeks? Are you sure about that?" Hermione approached him and flashed her police badge. He looked surprised, but it was gone when the second passed.
Seems like Regulus got a lot of visits from the police. I couldn't find as much in the files. I wonder if Sirius has anything to do with it. I need to get Neville on that track.
"Absolutely, Detective. Five days a week I'm around this area. The church gives free food out for the homeless and I never miss a meal." He showed his teeth again and the dimples on his old skin made him look ten years younger.
Hermione wanted to tell him that she was a special agent, no detective, but let it slip. Her profession clearly wasn't the most important part in this conversation.
"Do you know him?"
"Barely. He was a nice one. Gave blankets out when the temperature dropped below zero." He sat down on the cold steps and stretched his leg out. Slowly he started to rub the knee on the limping leg. "He was an artist. In summer you could find him on the streets sketching people. But lately he was sort of distant. Good ol' depression got him I say."
She nodded thoughtfully. It wasn't uncommon for artists to fall into some kind of depression during winter. But she doubted it was the only reason for Regulus' change.
"Did he ever mention Voldemort?" she asked the man and watched his eyes go big and round of fear. Nearly everyone knew of Voldemort these days. How could they not? It was concerning that a name alone could bring so much terror into people's minds.
"Not to me," he said solemnly. Then, he added as an afterthought, "He didn't like to talk at all."
Hermione nodded slowly, already deep in thoughts when she bid her goodbyes.
The melody of the broken window followed her all the way to her car.
Sunday, 21th September
5 days until the next murder
At some point in between the commercial about toilet paper and the teaser for the next episode of Grey's Anatomy, the pizza came. She paid the delivery guy 10£ as a tip and poured herself one of the cheapest red wines she had on hand into a large Ikea glass.
Crookshanks took his place between her legs once she sat cross-legged on the couch. He loved the small cramped space. Especially when Hermione was close enough to ruffle his fur.
Her phone buzzed with a new message.
Did you catch Regulus?
Sadly not. He was not around. The people in the area haven't seen him in a while. Are you out of work?
I got out a couple of hours ago. Had some errands to run. Abraxas cornered me after work and I used that opportunity to ask him about Regulus. Seems like he met him in an art gallery three weeks ago and invited him spontaneously. He said he thought it would bring us all closer again, but his plan didn't work out.
Abraxas also wants us to go on a couple date with his newest fling.
Thank you for asking him. I'll try his brother next.
What did you say about the date?
Is this against his girlfriend or against couple dates in general?
Both actually. But in Abraxas' case: girlfriends. Plural. I don't see the appeal about spending time with someone that will be forgotten and replaced in a week again. He could actually accept the loss of the love of his life and continue with his own, if he wouldn't be so adamant in denying it.
Love is not as simple. And never easy I guess.
Love should be easy, dear. Like breathing.
Love was easy with Tom.
It was one of the reasons she trusted him so effortlessly. She felt as if she didn't need to be soft anymore. She could be fierce and strong and bold with him, without being afraid that someone would hurt her for it. There was no disguise, no mask. No shift between them.
Suddenly her phone rang.
She pushed the pizza box away and reached over the table. It was almost midnight by now and she was about to pass out from exhaustion, but the thought alone that it could be Tom was enough to make her heart flutter. The caller ID however flashed Draco's name and picture. She thought about putting the call off and ignoring it for now, but it was Draco and that was reason enough to get it.
There was an absolute absence on the other side, expect for the heavy breathing. For a second she thought someone else had called her, but the caller ID was still the same. Something like dread made itself room between her bones. This spelled trouble.
"Draco, what happened?"
"I'm sorry," he said and the static echoed barely in his voice. She could hear him breathe, heavy and burdened. "It's Ron."
Her world started to spin. She could hear Draco's voice but it meant nothing. In that moment, in that clarity, something grew in the pit of her stomach. Fear. Then the world simply stopped. And she fell into darkness.
A tragedy always leaves the taste of blood on its trail.
I am sure she could taste it too.
I could have been a lot of things that day.
Kind. Lenient. Humane.
I chose to be merciful instead.
Mercy is such a painful thing to show, don't you agree?
Mercy always leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.
Because you realize once a tragedy is in motion, not even mercy will stop it.