Against the cover of the night, sirens sounded through the red-light district, moving towards the heart of Canal Street. Harry Potter puffed out the last plume of smoke and dropped the cigarette butt to the ground, grinding it with the heel of his foot. He pulled the collars of his coat up to keep away the sleet.
"All clear, sir."
Harry nodded curtly and made his way into the dingy motel that was now crawling with paramedics, police, and crime scene analysts. He swiped the water and snow off of his coat, weaving past the chaos. Room 109. He had guessed right. When stopped by the officer, he flashed his badge. Liaison. The uniformed man looked up at Harry, silently questioning. Harry tilted his head towards the entryway. The man stepped aside and murmured, "It's a bloodbath in there, sir."
Victim number 9.
He was laid out on the bed, naked with his arms above his head and legs spread so his feet pointed to the two corners of the room. His face was twisted into a mask of terror and agony. His torso was split open, revealing his innards. The precision scalpel cuts were in the shape of an autopsy procedure – the letter Y. Blood caked on the body and soaked into the sheets. The metallic smell filled the room, masking the stench of the bowel movement the victim had as he was killed. Harry glanced around the room. Curtains closed, bathroom door closed, closet closed.
"It's the same."
Harry turned to look at the Detective Martin Blake. "Hmm…" he answered. Next to Harry, the detective was dwarfed in more ways than one. He didn't mind. He didn't notice trivial details such as Harry's meticulous clothes and sharp appearance. He didn't notice the blank eyes and serene mask. He needed all his attention to be focused on the crime.
"No wallet. And if this case is like the last few, I'd wager this man is not in our database," Martin said, rubbing his stubble. "I need a coffee," he sighed, leaving Harry's side.
No wallet. No clothes. No identity. Harry made a slow survey of the scene before him. This victim was laid in the same ritualistic display as the last eight. Except… Harry leaned in closer, eyeing the flaps of skin that were pulled apart. Clean. The cuts were getting cleaner. There was no hesitation in the way the skin was cut away. He ran his eyes up to the man's face. He was in so much pain. Moving further up, his arms were against the headboard, wrists crossed. No bruising. "The victim was incised premortem," the coroner informed. Harry's keen green eyes ran down to the victim's ankles. No bruising. "I will have the report done by tomorrow."
Harry nodded absently, glancing at the bedside table. He frowned when the noticed the draw open an inch. He looked to see if anyone was watching him. After he made sure no one was, he wedged his pen into the opening, using it as leverage to pull the draw out a few more inches. Nestled beside the Bible was a white folded piece of paper. He flicked it open with his pen.
Harry quickly withdrew his pen and pushed the draw closed with his knee. He turned to the bathroom, grabbing gloves from the coroner's kit and fitting them onto his hands. He opened the door and flicked on the lights. Ordinary. Never touched. He caught Martin's reflection behind him. "No fingerprints," the detective said, peeking inside the bathroom with Harry. "None. What does he do, wipe the whole room?" Martin was frustrated. They had no leads, no clues, and no suspects. These were the perfect crimes. Harry was holding out on him. "You aren't giving us the whole picture, are you?" he asked. Harry piqued his brows before sidling away from Martin and opening the closet. It was empty except for the extra pillows and blankets on the top shelf. "You don't expect us to solve this one, do you?" Martin asked, leaning against the wall and sipping on his coffee. "If you don't want us solving it, why doesn't your department just take over the case? Which is my subtle way of asking who the fuck you work for." Harry allowed himself a small smile, flicking his eyes at the detective. "Bet that works wonders on the ladies," Martin muttered, rolling his eyes.
"I wouldn't mind a coffee," Harry said softly.
"Ah! He speaks!" Martin said, shoving the cup into Harry's hand. "Take this one. I'll grab another." He stalked away. Harry moved towards the bed again. The coroner was writing on her chart intently. The fingerprint analyst was by the doorjamb, trying to find the non-existent fingerprint. The crime scene photographer was busy with the body. Harry opened the draw and pulled the note out, hiding it in his hand.
"Found something?" the photographer asked, looking at Harry.
"Just the Bible," Harry murmured, closing the draw. He knew there was nothing else to find. But what he had found was monumental. He knelt down beside the bed and quickly dropped the note into an evidence bag, which he stowed into his pocket.
"I already checked. No blood on the carpet," the photographer said from the other side of the bed.
"Mhm," Harry murmured without thought, getting up.
"Oi! Keep those rats away," Martin shouted, scowling at what Harry assumed were reporters. "Can I bring in the rest of the team?" he asked Harry. He was met with a nod. Martin leaned back and waved in more staff. Harry pushed past them and out into the corridor with Martin. "So… Give me something to gnaw on," he said, looking at Harry intently.
Harry gave him an apologetic shake of the head. "Thanks for your help," he said, characteristic line he spoke after each crime he visited with the detective.
"Yeah, whatever. Just be glad I like you, Potter," Martin grumbled.
Harry was out of the motel a couple of minutes later. He kept his eyes on his shoes as they sloshed in the snow. He shrugged off the cold. He turned onto a side road and disapparated.
Harry yawned, rubbing his hands over his face. He let his fingers run through his hair as he read through the files.
"Ugh, you're pale as a vampire," Katie Bell said, walking into the office.
"Sorry," Harry sighed.
"Did you just apologize to me for being pale?" she asked playfully.
Harry blinked at his notes before looking up at her. "Um… Yeah. So I take that back," he said.
"When did you get here?" she asked, sitting down. Harry didn't answer, busily writing. "Harry," she said, looking at him. He studiously ignored her. She groaned in disgust. "You never left?" she asked.
He finally glanced up. "While you were asleep, I was at the next crime scene," he said.
Her jaw dropped. "Another one?" she gasped.
"Yes. Ninth one. Canal Street. Room 109. Same MOD. No fingerprints. But get this." He dangled the evidence bag in front of him. Katie scrambled off of her chair and snatched the bag. "Found it in the bedside table."
"It's what he is calling himself, I guess."
"This is huge!" she crowed. "He left us a fucking note! Prints?" Harry rolled his eyes. She waved her hand flippantly and said, "Doesn't matter. He left us this! He left it! This could be the big break."
"Sure hope so," Harry said.
"Talked to Robards yet?"
"He hasn't come in yet, so no. But I've already written up a profile on Y."
"If that doesn't get you into his good books, I don't know what will," Katie said with a smirk.
Katie laughed uproariously, nodding in ascent.
Gawain Robards was the Head Auror. After the War, his team had been greatly reduced due to death and injury. The impressive team of twenty had dwindled to a quarter of its size. He had a team of ten now. Five were new recruits. It was difficult to garner fresh blood because of the scare behind the intensive training regiment the trainees went through. Harry was among the five new graduates to make it in. Robards saw Harry as a potential threat to his position. He was hell bent on making Harry suffer through what little time he would spend being an Auror. That meant grunt work, mountains of red tape files, and cold cases being pushed onto Harry.
The new recruits were made to share a single room, which led to organized chaos and scattered paperwork that flowed into each other's space. One wall was lined with glass, letting in the, much needed, natural light. It kept them awake even after all-nighters. The desks were arranged in rows, a makeshift aisle forming in the middle. Two of the walls had floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with files and books that no one bothered reading but everyone insisted on keeping. Much like the Ministry, filled with people no one bothered meeting but everyone insisted on keeping.
The door swung open, slamming against the wall. "I come bearing gifts!" Anthony Goldstein announced with a wide grin and a box of steaming pumpkin pasties. Katie had the box in her hand in a matter of seconds, planning on hoarding them at her desk. "Hey!" Anthony snapped, frowning. "At least let me grab one."
"Merde!" Aldric Bouvier swore, scowling as he stomped into the office.
"Good morning to you too," Anthony said, raising a brow.
"Fils de salope!"
Aldric looked up as though he had just noticed the occupants of the room. "Oh… Sorry," he murmured, blushing.
"The sweet sounds of cringe-worthy language. Love it," Katie said with an impish grin. "Anyways, as much as I'd like to hear who you're talking about, we have more important news to discuss. Guess what Harry found?"
"What?" Anthony asked, looking interested.
"Our ninth victim."
"And," Harry added. "He left us a present." He held up the note.
"Whoa!" Anthony took the bagged note from Harry. "You're welcome? That's sick. Does he think he's doing us a favor?"
"Apparently so," Katie nodded. Aldric looked over Anthony's shoulder, frowning at the words. "Harry's done up a profile. Let's hear it, Harry."
Harry swallowed his bite and picked up the parchments. "We know the victims are always male wizards. We'll call the killer Y, since that's what he calls himself. There is never a sign of struggle. Minimal magical interference is seen in the bodies. If he uses a potion, it dissipates from the body quickly. He cuts them with Muggle techniques, not his wand."
"Well, all the victims we have so far have been somehow affiliated with the Dark Army," Katie said
"So Y thinks he is purging the world of the last of Voldemort's followers? That must be why he left the note," Anthony filled in.
"But the men were acquitted," Harry added, nodding at his fellow Aurors to continue.
"And so Y is taking matters into his own hands," Katie thought aloud.
"Maybe 'e lost 'is family in War?" Aldric said. "Revenge?"
"But the men were acquitted," Harry repeated deliberately. The three stared at Harry blankly. "You don't want to know why they were acquitted?" Harry asked.
Anthony's eyes went wide. "Oh…" he breathed. "They gave us information…"
"Yes, they did," Harry answered. "The victims gave us names, locations, and dates. Which means the killer is…"
"Still a follower of Voldemort," Katie said, blinking at the note. "Then the note?"
"The note's not meant for us."
"Okay, spell it out for me," Anthony said, holding up his hands to bring the conversation to a standstill.
"Y is one of Voldemort's followers and he is killing men who betrayed the Dark Army," Harry stated.
Aldric sighed, massaging his temple. "You are sure of zis? Because if you are… ve have suspects."
Anthony smiled slowly as Aldric's words sunk it. "Holy hell! We have fucking suspects!" he exclaimed, pumping the air with his fists.
"And potential victims," Katie said, rushing to the door. "I'll get the files started," she informed her team before striding to the filing room.
"This is the big break!" Anthony said with a surprised laugh. "Good going, Harry!"
"Just doing my job," Harry said with a shrug.
Harry rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, kicking off his shoes and shuffling to the dark kitchen. He flicked on the lights with a wave of his hand. He poured himself a glass of Firewhiskey and walked to the dining room. The table was covered with files, photos, and maps.
Y and his victims were Harry's life.
All the bodies were found in motels in red-light districts around England. The first body was in room 101, the second in 102, and so on. The victims started showing up in their radar after the two similar murders. This was three years ago. Now there were nine bodies. All men were laid out in the same ritualistic manner. No fingerprints, no lasting traces of magic on the body. Y was a ghost; a ghost of the Dark Army. The first scene had been grisly. Blood stained everything, overflowing liter after liter and soaking into the carpet. The cut was imprecise and the skin was torn jaggedly. The murder weapon was deemed to be a crude knife. The second scene was a drastic improvement, as though Y had learnt his lesson. From then on, the crime scenes have gotten more clinical and neat. The first few victims were killed as an act of revenge. Now Y saw himself as something more – an artist and a hero.
The note unsettled Harry. Y was becoming more resilient and confident. Confidence leads to a feeling of superiority, which leads to more killings. Y is going to start killing more frequently.
Blaise Zabini, victim number 4. Harry had seen the photograph so many times that he had become desensitized. He stared at the image of the mutilated body, a familiar face. A familiar face twisted into an expression of torture. He is no more than the shell of a broken man. Harry added a copy of his profile onto the pile of files.
He moved away, sipping on his drink. He needed sleep. He needed to keep his mind from racing. He walked to his bedroom and pulled off his Auror robe, hanging it on the closet door. He was too tired to change. He plopped down onto the bed, grabbing his book from the bedside table. He settled against his pillows, crossing his legs. He finished his whiskey in a loud gulp, wincing as the heat burned his throat. He read the words in the book, unable to comprehend the meaning. He made a sound of frustration, placing the book facedown on his chest and closing his eyes. He hated sleep. Because sleep meant nightmares. He wondered why there weren't any Sleepless potions. What potion would Y give his victims? Does the potion cause them to lose control of their will to fight? Or is it a physical reaction? How does Y choose his victims? Why kill them this way? What goes on in his head? Does he think murder is justified? Who could it be? Why use Muggle tools? Cutting them open is horrifying. What is he trying to find? Find… Found…
"I found it!"
"What did you find?"
"My dream flat," Blaise said, holding his key up proudly.
"You can afford a flat?" Harry asked, earning a smack on the head.
Blaise pressed the key into Harry's hand and leaned in. "That's your key," he whispered. "Come visit me…"
Harry opened the door. Blaise was screaming silently as blood flowed from his chest. The faceless killer ran the scalpel through the skin as though slicing through soft butter. Harry could do nothing but watch, falling to his knees. Blaise turned his head to look at Harry, pleading. Blood pooled around Harry, staining his clothes. He tried to scrub it off of him, but that only caused the blood to color his hands red.
Harry opened his eyes and turned around, wiping his tears against the pillow. A second later, he was asleep again.
"Damn it! Did you read the paper?" Anthony asked, throwing the Prophet onto Harry's desk. The front page read, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named Reaches from Beyond the Grave.
"What?" Harry gasped, smoothing the paper out on his desk. "Robards…"
"He talked to the fucking press! What the hell is he thinking?"
"Kingsley is going to be pissed…" Harry muttered. The article outlined the crux of the case, from the nature of the victims to the theories. "He might as well have given them the entire case file," he said in anger.
"What does he expect us to do now? The place is going to be crawling with reporters soon."
"He nearly chewed me up yesterday for the 'half-arsed' profile," Harry said, scanning the article. "And now he gives it to them like it's the best shot we have."
Anthony sighed in frustration. "Look, whatever. We'll just have to work around all the bull. We've been doing that for years, haven't we?"
"This is going to make some people very happy," Katie said, finishing up the article.
"For many different reasons."
Y killed a victim every three to four months. Which meant the Auror team had three to four months before the next body was found in room 110. Due to the lack of clues and substantial information, the cases were pushed away to make room for more pressing matters. The note may be the evidence that makes the case relevant again. The fact that the murders happen on Muggle grounds has made investigation difficult due to jurisdiction issues. Due to Kingsley's ties with the British Prime Minister, the cases were handed from the Muggle authorities to the Wizard authorities with relative ease. And, as Martin had said, Harry was a great liaison between the two worlds.
"Just wait 'til we start getting tips," Anthony chortled.
"I'm trying not to think about it. Robards will probably make us listen to all the statements. He wants all the glory and none of the spilled guts," Katie said, vehemently shoving the papers into a rough pile.
"You think he could give us the boot on the case?" Harry asked. He hadn't thought of that scenario.
"Who knows? If it becomes a huge case, yeah. He'll probably want to handle with the old-timers," Anthony said.
"Don't let them hear you," Katie said in mock fright.
"He'll go on and on about how we aren't the least bit qualified to handle such a big case."
"We've been on the team for five years!" Harry said. "How much more qualified do we have to be?"
"Politics. I say leave it be."
"And don't worry, Harry," Anthony added. "You'll be on the team for sure. No matter what Robards thinks, Kingsley will want you on the task force. The Muggles actually talk to you about their cases. A first, from what I have heard."
"As long as you don't intimidate them, it's quite easy to work with them, actually," Harry said, dipping his quill in ink.
"You have the patience, more like it."
The three looked up when Aldric made his usual unusual entrance. His eyes were wide as he staggered in, leaning against his desk. "'E… 'e vill speak viz you, 'Arry," he said in astonishment.
Harry raised his brows while Katie shrugged. "Try again, Al. This time with a bit more detail," Anthony said slowly.
"Holy shit," Harry swore, nearly tripping over his feet as he stumbled around his desk and sprinted out of the room. He skidded down the corridor and stopped in front of the Head Auror's office. He knocked twice before throwing the door open. Robards looked up from his parchment, frowning when he recognized Harry.
"What is it?" the stocky man asked.
"Malfoy," Harry stammered. "He's agreed to talk to me. I need a visitor's badge."
Robards looked shocked. "I'm sorry?" he asked.
"To Azkaban. I need a visitor's badge."
Azkaban. Once the most dreaded island prison to house criminals. Compared to before the war, the facility was now a paradise. Dementors no longer guarded the inescapable building. The prison was a fortress of security charms and wizard wardens. Thestrals guarded the parameter, their keen eyes able to catch the slightest movement. There was one entryway that served as both the entrance and exit. Harry was wanded by three surly looking wizards in grey robes. He glanced up the high vaulted ceiling made of what looked like grey marble. The security desk was in the middle of the large stone room. Once Harry was let through, he strode to the desk. "Auror Harry Potter here to see Lucius Malfoy," he said quietly. The man nodded curtly, flicking his wand at one of the concealed doors that were scattered around the room. A guard stood at the door, beckoning Harry to follow him.
Lucius Malfoy was the only living ex-Death Eater the Ministry had captured who was part of Lord Voldemort's most trusted inner circle. Unfortunately, for the past ten years, he had been silent. His life sentence in Azkaban did not require him to cooperate with Auror investigation. He was not required to give information. But that hadn't stopped the team to try wheedling names out of the man. In ten years, Lucius had not asked for a visit. Now he insisted on Harry Potter. If Lucius Malfoy insisted on seeing Harry Potter, he will see Harry Potter. Harry was escorted to the interrogation room. The room was bare except for a table and two chairs. "He will be in shortly," the guard informed Harry. The Auror nodded and took one of the seats, trying to keep his nervousness at bay. The information Lucius could give Harry promises to be monumental. Harry hoped that was the reason for the visit.
Harry looked up when he heard the step clips of shoes against polished stone. For the first time in ten years, Harry laid his eyes on Lucius Malfoy. Gone were the long, blond hair and the aristocracy. Donning a red uniform and wearing his hair short, this man looked nothing like Lucius Malfoy. Harry stood up as Lucius entered the room. The guard cast a few silent spells in the room before turning to Harry and saying, "If you need anything, I will be by the door."
"Thank you," Harry murmured. He waited until the guard had closed the door to look at Lucius again. Lucius stared back impassively. "Have a seat," Harry said, waving at the chair. Lucius sat down and Harry followed suit. "Why did you want to see me?"
Lucius smirked without bite. "No time for pleasantries?"
"I assume you didn't call me to exchange pleasantries."
"Fair assumption," Lucius murmured. "I have information."
"But you want something in return."
Lucius nodded. "It's how information works, isn't it? You have something I want and I have something you need," he said.
"Unreasonable demands can't be met," Harry warned mildly.
"This demand is not unreasonable."
"Let's hear it."
Lucius sat back, hands on the table. "Protection," he said.
Harry frowned. "He can't touch you here," he said.
"Not for me…"
Harry sat back as well, mirroring the prisoner. "Oh…"
"Promise me protection and I will tell you what you need to know."
A/N: Ugh, gory enough? Might have something to do with the fact that I'm listening to Enrique Iglesias on repeat. I guess I'll listen to this song as I write all the chapters. Which means the story will only get worse from here. By worse, I mean better.