He'd just been sitting there when they arrived, covered in blood and smiling a gentle, far away smile which reminded a few of the really old hands of the capture of Sirius Black. Not that the gentle, far away smile was in any way comparable to Black's near hysterical laughter. It was the sheer wrongness, the unearthliness of the expression which was reminiscent.
"Mr Potter?" Strike knelt next to the boy and gently touched one blood-soaked shoulder.
"The aurors will then arrive." Potter's voice was as distant as his expression. "Never before the death...but always immediately after the death. Never when they might help, always just after it ceases to matter. Sirius told me that they'd never show up until there was death and he was so right."
"Mr Potter, what happened?" Strike was starting to feel very uneasy indeed, and half a glance told him that the entire team felt the same thing.
"They died." Potter's smile was truely beautiful and totally unearthly. "They gave so much pain...but they just died when faced with pain themselves...I had to, Aunt Petunia never did like blood on the carpet."
"Well, there's plenty of it now." The comment came from somewhere behind and Strike couldn't bring himself to issue reprimand. The carpet was sodden with blood. The viscous fluid was everywhere and dripping sullenly through the furniture.
"Get a clean-up team here then...we'd best get this boy over to the ministry." Strike briefly scanned the boy, and was not surprised to get back a report that the boy had no active magic on him. They already knew from the house wards that only Potter and his relatives had passed the wards in the past three days...or to be accurate, the relatives had been in and out regularly, Potter had arrived three days previously and hadn't shown up as passing the wards since.
"Think he'll get out of Azkaban on an insanity plea?" The query came from one of the newest team members.
"Not with the Diggory death so unclear." Strike had stunned the boy before he got to his feet. "Might have if it was just this case...but with a wizarding death to his name? He'll have to be innocent to not end up in Azkaban."
"Nothing in evidence which might prove him to be a victim." The report came in a rather flat tone.
"I would have been surprised if you had found something." Strike checked the boy's degree of unconsciousness before attaching the portkey. "Report?"
"Cut and dried, sir."
"Fudge will have a field day with this." Strike hesitated briefly, then shrugged and moved out. He had a feeling that the wizarding world were not going to take kindly to Potter's fall from grace. He made a note to himself to suggest to Bones that it might be adviseable to remind everyone the importance of professional behaviour...probably be important to make sure the boy's roster of guards was policed.
"Does anyone think they have some good news for me?" The query chilled the massed forms to the bone. Did their Lord want some good news? Did their Lord think that one of them had done something against orders? It was a deadly uncertainty.
"M-my Lord?" The daring soul was Wormtail, and not for the first time Snape found himself wondering whether the Sorting Hat couldn't actually determine the difference between courage and pure stupidity. There were enough times when he wondered whether the hat was unable to determine the difference between ambition and ego.
"You have good news, Wormtail?" The Dark Lord's question slid across the room with a deadly softness.
"No, My Lord." Wormtail cowered back among the black robes.
"Ssomeone has been unforgiveably foolish." Voldemort seemed inordinately interested in his fingers. "When I find out who framed the Potter Boy, they are going to regret ever being born." The words hung in the air for a long moment.
"Potter?" The shocked and injudicious query came from somewhere on the left and no one even twitched as the curse flew from the Dark Lord.
"My Lord." Lucius Malfoy had waited patiently for the curse to end and for Voldemort to relax before he stepped forward and knelt.
"Permission to depart for the Ministry." It went unspoken that the blond was concerned that Fudge may have unforgiveably committed political suicide in his determination to silence the Potter boy.
"Go." There was a pause until Malfoy had finished his departure and the doors had closed. "Sseverus?"
"My Lord?" Snape had quickly stepped forward and knelt.
"Go, find out what the Headmaster intends to do."
"My Lord...if he asks me?"
"Tell him the truth, I will deal with the person who did this." This was a pronouncement which worried all, for it was the habit of the Dark Lord to punish all for any crime and the Dark Lord did not sound anything but homicidal at the present moment.
"You were too quiet." It was a rather dogmatic statement which drew Snape's attention away from his reverie.
"Mm?" Snape looked up and blinked, Black had settled into the chair across from him and folded his arms.
"A meeting which practically begged you on hands and knees to snark and snipe...and you didn't even sneer. What was so interesting?"
"They consider themselves to be the 'light', the 'good' guys." Snape fell silent a moment. "I do not envy Potter at all."
"First I'm going to ask why you're simply talking to me?"
"For the terribly simple reason that you're the only person here who has not inspired me with a deep desire to murder them." Black rubbed his face with a tired hand. "He can't have, he's the Boy-Who-Lived." It was a squeaky imitation of what too many horrified voice had said during the meeting. "Even his friends are basing their defence off his reputation. Did you hear even one person say, Harry wouldn't have done that...or at least not without justifiable cause?"
"You believe him capable of murder?" Snape studied Black curiously.
"Everyone is capable of murder, it's just a question of finding the right trigger." Black studied Snape for a long and silent moment. "I know Harry is capable of murder...if he'd had his way I would have been dead long before you came through that door."
"What saved you?"
"Cat...Harry's not blind enough to sacrifice the innocent just to achieve his goal...I had a cat sitting on me and Harry hadn't the finesse to know he could get me without taking the cat as well." Black gave a shrug. "Harry hesitated because of the cat and Remus entered before he managed to dislodge said cat. Chaos ensued and Harry realised that the matter wasn't clear, even if it was the truth, which it wasn't. Hence, I know Harry's capable of murder, provided you find the right trigger...so, why don't you envy Harry?"
"Because you are the only person who does not see him via rose-coloured glasses of fame and hysteria." Snape gave a slight shake of his head. "One person in an entire society...even Dumbledore never forgets, for all his 'I'm you're favourite grandfather' behaviour."
"Can I ask...is there even a hint that this might have been a plot by his nastiness?"
"No." Snape watched Black's expression fall and then counted to ten within his skull before reopening his mouth. "It is, however, his nastiness' stated intention to deal with whoever framed Potter...and no one ever survives being dealt with."
"Someone framed Harry for murder...and it wasn't with his approval?"
"We know Harry has a mental connection to his nastiness...we also know that Harry has a spectacularly bad response to dementors...use your head."
"He's getting nightmares from Harry?" Black's brows headed up fast.
"No, but he's getting a good dose of depression down the link."
"That's not a good thing?" Black seemed more than a little intrigued.
"No...put it this way, Black, if he doesn't figure a way around this depression soon he's going to simply kill his way through the population."
"How...surely Harry's not in Azkaban already?"
"He's at the Ministry under dementor guard...and his nastiness is cursing a up a storm that he's not in a position to raid the ministry."
"Good luck, Snape...sounds like you'll need it."
"I do." Snape's expression was grim as he pushed to his feet and stormed off, leaving Sirius Black to try and figure out all that had, and hadn't, been said.