Here's another long one for waiting so long! Sorry this took so long. Life is one hectic coincidence after another. Hope you enjoy and tell me what you think about the change in prospective!
"Ah, there you are."
Snipely glanced over his shoulder at Harker and another officer, a woman named Jeanette Kirby. The two hurried down the stairs to where Snipely was surveying the corridor Ronald Weasley died in. It had been left untouched save to remove the poor boy's remains, what little there was. The beast had not found much taste for head, various organs, and bones.
"Do you have the results of the tests?" he inquired, gazing at the blood stained walls with less horror and more curiosity.
"No, gov," Kirby answered, handing over a folder. "There's a backlog at the test center, but they have assured me-"
"I don't want to hear about what they have assured you, Kirby. Miss Granger and Mr. Malfoy go on trial tomorrow. I want an airtight case and I cannot present one if I do not have the tests."
"I don't see how it's relevant," Harker muttered as Snipely stepped carefully around a dried scarlet pool. "Surely we have enough evidence to convince the Wizengemot."
"That is not the point. All of our evidence is circumstantial. I want the whole thing locked down. I want the scenes tied together. I want proof Granger and Malfoy were present. I want to nail those two sick bastards in the ass with how much proof I have before seeing them off to a Dementor's Kiss, do you understand? Those two loons have it in their heads to make it out as if they had nothing to do with it, or at least Granger does. Malfoy seems to want to take all the blame on himself, but I won't have it. I want them both."
"But we already have all of the evidence we need from here. What more are you looking for?"
Snipely picked up a tuft of dark blue fur before turning to his two subordinates. "Tell me, do either of you know anything about what it is that we're looking for? The beast, that is."
Kirby and Harker exchanged glances before shrugging. "There was rumor it might be a Mngwa or some beast from Japan. They never really got to finish examining it when it escaped."
"Nasty creatures, either one. Dangerous and never actually been seen by any living soul, save right before imminent death. You saw the looks on those poor souls' faces, hm? Straight terror, greater than even that Basilisk." Snipely rolled the fur around between his fingers, frowning. "The Mngwa is native only to East Africa while the Japanese one is, well, Japanese. So how do you suppose Granger and Malfoy put their hands on one?"
"Is it important?"
Snipely's gaze was so severe that both officers took a step back. "Important? A bloodthirsty unknown creature is on the loose in the castle and you dare ask me if I think it's important how it got here? How two teenage students got their hands on a creature so vicious, it kills without mercy or hesitation?"
Kirby swallowed hard before nodding. "I understand, gov. I'll go check in with some contacts from Rwanda. See if they know anything."
"It should have been done a long time ago," Snipely muttered as Kirby moved away. "All this time being stonewalled by McGonagall, only to have another death to contend with."
A note zoomed in, stopping short of Harker's face. Snipely watched Harker carefully as the man read the parchment.
"They have finished searching the second and third sublevels. Nothing. Sir, if Miss Granger and Malfoy are in charge of this thing, then maybe it only attacks when they tell it to. Do you think we will really have much luck finding it?"
"I have no doubt that we will not find it, Mr. Harker. That is not the point."
Snipely walked several paces before gesturing to the wall. "What do you see?"
"Anything strike you about them?"
Harker looked closely. "Nothing, really."
"Sir, I don't understand-"
"Something feels very odd, Mr. Harker," Snipely said over his shoulder as he headed back to the stairs. "Very odd. I want a full report on my desk by midnight or I'll have you fed to that werewolf they just brought in. I hear he's very hungry at this time of the month."
Snipely returned to the ground level. The castle was eerily quiet, having been abandoned by all its inhabitants a while ago. The Ministry had forced Hogwarts to close in light of Ronald Weasley's death, an event that shook the whole student body. Word had soon gotten out that Granger and Draco were involved, as well as Blaise Zabini and Harry Potter. Things got so out of hand that at one point The Daily Prophet had headlines out that read HARRY POTTER MURDERS BELOVED FRIEND, which was immediately pulled for a less sensational headline DEATH EATER'S SON SLAUGHTERS MINISTER OFFICIAL'S DAUGTER.
The Weasley family was in the middle of this media frenzy, so much so that they barricaded themselves in the Burrow. Unfortunately, this did not keep them from enduring constant Ministry presence, with Snipely at the lead. His primary interests were Ginny Weasley and Luna Lovegood. Zabini and Potter had been surprisingly non-compliant despite urges on the part of Xenophilius Lovegood and Arthur Weasley respectively. Snipely had questioned both girls repeatedly, but neither divulged information and instead insisted on being allowed to see the boys, who were being kept at the Ministry as vital witnesses. Snipely had been granted the use of Veritaserum on Zabini and Potter, but the Wizengemot felt it would be overstepping its bounds in letting him use the truth serum on those being tried for murder.
Others had been brought in on questioning, including Celeste's friends, a few of Ron's classmates, the Head Boy, Theodore Nott, along with some other Slytherins, and Rubeus Hagrid. All of Celeste's friends declared Granger incompetent against Celeste, not very pretty, and that the muggleborn witch held a grudge a mile wide against Celeste for having gotten Head Girl. Ron's classmates all commented on a blow out between the deceased and Miss Granger right before the winter break that seemed to fester into ill feelings at the start of the new school year, though they did not know much on the subject. They did mention that Granger was largely missing from all activities outside of her schoolwork. Nott related a row between Celeste and Granger, as well as seeing Hermione sneak off multiple times during the night. When asked why she was never apprehended, Nott shrugged and stated that he had better things than to trade words with a mudblood, though Snipely felt there was some dark attitude towards Granger that nonchalance could not hide. The other Slytherins had the same tone, even more so against Malfoy, who they all spoke ill of. Rubeus Hagrid tried to say very little, but ended up revealing that Granger had done some inquiring into the Mngwa creature. Follow up with Madam Pince and a quick review of the Restricted Section, which put the librarian into some kind of rage, confirmed that line of reasoning.
Snipely went up to the second-floor girls' lavatory. After displacing a rather obnoxious and teary-eyed ghost, Snipely had been able to uncover some well-hidden grooves in the wall, as well a good idea of what had gone on in the restroom. The growing size and length of the claw marks related to Snipely an interesting point. That the creature they searched for now had not always been as menacing as it was now. At one point, it had been very small.
"This explains how she got it into the castle," he murmured, running his fingers over the marks. Still, for all of this mounting evidence, something about these walls and the ones down in the dungeon bothered him. His fingers once again clasped the blue tuft of hair and in his mind's eye he brought up a picture of that poor decrepit beast Charlie Weasley had brought into the Ministry. The magical creature department had been all a buzz. They had thought they had finally caught the elusive Mngwa. But the tests had returned inconclusive and the rate at which the creature healed only seemed to increase with the amount of pressure they put on Malfoy to come clean about how he came into possession of such a creature.
There was another thing that irked Snipely about the whole case. Granger and Malfoy. While Malfoy was perfectly content to take all of the blame for something he clearly could not have done on his own, Granger seemed torn between telling the truth to keep everyone else out of trouble and hiding some grave piece of information. Whatever the information was, Granger seemed to think it would do more harm than good revealing it because, even after returning several times to hear her side, she refused, saying only that she was to blame for every thing that happened. Yet she did not seem to want to own up to the deaths.
His lip curled. The selfless attitude of both lovers was admirable, but foolish. Both of them would see Azkaban and a Kiss. Trying to protect the other through this game of 'I did it' would get them nowhere.
"Damn it, Mr. Snipely," he heard Harker mutter and turned to see the man walk in. "You're not supposed to be wandering around alone in the castle."
"This area is well lit."
"Celeste Gibbons was attacked in a well lit corridor."
Snipely shrugged, following Harker out. "I have someplace to be. If you don't have any updates…?"
Harker shook his head. "No. They're still doing sweeps, but it's like I said. We're not going to find anything."
Ignoring the last part, Snipely headed up towards the Headmistress' office. He used the floo to get back to his office, where he found Arthur Weasley waiting for him with Ginny and Luna.
"Arthur, how are you?" he said curtly, going to his desk without looking at the two girls directly. "I'm sorry I missed the funeral. So busy."
"I understand that, Frank. But…would it be alright if I spoke with Hermione?"
"I'm afraid that's out of the question."
"Arthur, you are the father of one of the victims that Miss Granger is being charged with murdering. I cannot in good conscience let you visit with her, even for a moment. Besides, her trial is tomorrow. No visitors allowed the night before."
"It's ridiculous that you think Hermione would murder Ron," Ginny snapped and Snipely finally turned his astute gaze on her.
"The only ridiculous thing is that there is any trial at all. With the amount of evidence that I have, it would be unnecessary to go before the Wizengemot. But, such are the rules of the land. I'm sorry, Arthur, but I must insist on you leaving. I do have loads to do."
"We want to see Harry and Blaise."
His eyebrow rose. "Quite. Well, they are being kept under watch as witnesses until this whole thing is over. You may see them tomorrow after the trial."
"They're not being charged, then?" Arthur said and Snipely shook his head.
"Oh, no. At least not for murder. But the Ministry does not look a kind eye on aiding murderers in their plots. I am sure they will receive some kind of punishment for their behavior in the events."
He gestured to the door, lips pressed in a thin line to assure his guests he had no interest in continuing the conversation. Arthur sighed and ushered the girls out. When the door was closed, Snipely sat down, flicking his wand at some boxes in the corner. Papers and items pertaining to the case floated out and about his office, slowing when they came directly before him. He laced his fingers together, resting his chin atop his hands as he carefully examined all the evidence again. With the test results, he would have everything he needed to close the books on Miss Granger and Mr. Malfoy. He would convince the Wizengemot of their twisted love affair, which obviously started some time at the beginning of the school year. Two hurting people thrown together by their mutual hatred of Celeste Gibbons. Perhaps Miss Granger was coerced out of her relationship with Ronald Weasley. Either way, they came together with a beast as their glue and, after standing Celeste's slants one last time, they set their beast upon the helpless girl. But it was not over. Ronald Weasley stood in their way, or perhaps just in Malfoy's way. Testimony will prove that Mr. Weasley, after having turned Hermione away at the end of last year, returned to her side. This caused Malfoy to spiral into such a jealous rage that he set the creature on Mr. Weasley.
He almost smiled at visualizing all the hands raised for a guilty verdict. But he could not. There, floating in front of him, were photos taken of the walls in the dungeons and in the lavatory. They showed him the full view, leaving no part uncovered. For all the guilty verdicts in the world, there was something wanting in these photos. Something in the photos of the dungeon that was lacking in those of the lavatory. Some clue that would make the verdict more satisfying for having been discovered.
He snatched two photos, glaring at them. "What am I missing?" he growled. Furious with himself for not seeing what was clearly eluding him, he made the long trip to the cells. Entering the long corridor, he paused in the shadows at the sound of voices.
"Please. Just, do this for me."
"I won't. You are not going to-"
"It's over, Draco…I've accepted that."
There was a clang as someone banged against the cell bars. "You listen to me, you stupid muggle! This is not going to end with some Dementor getting the last kiss out of you!"
Soft, sad laughter echoed off the dank walls. "You've been so irrational, do you realize that? Your feelings towards me and in this whole situation. So irrational."
"And you haven't been mental?"
"I think the only mental thing I did was convince myself I could handle this." The laughter turned to choked sobs. "I won't remember any of it! They'll…I don't want to lose my soul, Draco. I'll go to Azkaban, but I…I can't forget any of you!"
Snipely's lip curled. Emotional moments was where he drew the line.
"Miss Granger, I need to speak to you."
"You stay away-"
Snipely flicked his wand at Malfoy's cell and a large stone slab sealed it off, making any of the irate blonde's comments mute. The Minister had put in a request to let the two have a moment together as long as someone was monitoring the conversations, something Snipely had fiercely rejected. Letting them have one last moment alone was so horribly inconvenient. But apparently he had been ignored.
He came to stand in front of the cell where Miss Granger was curled up on her cot, crying into her hands. Rolling his eyes, he rapped against the bars.
"Miss Granger, I do not have the luxury of time. Look…LOOK!"
She started, shocked at his angry outburst. He took a deep, calming breath before holding up the photos.
"Look at these if you would."
Insolent to the end. An unbecoming trait. "Your retorts are not welcome," he snarled. "Look at these now."
She came to the bars, glaring at him. "How does your conscience feel putting an innocent boy in Azkaban?"
"Tomorrow, quite, when the Wizengemot finds you both guilty."
"Then why are you here again?"
"What good is a solid case without more concrete for good measure? The photos."
She glanced at them with disinterest, clearly not caring anymore about her fate. "What about them?"
He searched her face for some hint. Some sign that the nagging in the back of his mind was justified. She noticed his intense gaze and, with a frown, took a better look at the photos. Her eyes lighted on the lavatory first and she touched it with a faint smile on her face. Good memories. Then her gaze turned to the dungeons and her countenance changed, but not in the way he expected. He thought he would see some remorse, some sadness that coincided with her behavior thus far. But instead, there was anger. Dark rage filled her brown eyes, especially as the image changed to show the hall where Ronald Weasley had met his end. It was so unnatural, so fierce that Snipely returned the photos to his pocket. She closed her eyes, tears falling down her cheeks as her hands clenched to fists.
Snipely left, making sure the cells were secure so that no more conversations could take place between the two students. He returned to his office, staring at the particular corridor that had brought out so much fury on Miss Granger's face. It was the same corridor that had bothered him earlier. It was strange that it was only this hall that brought that reaction. The corridor where it was believed Mr. Malfoy might have been attacked had obtained some of the same markings, yet had not elicited such a response. He enlarged both photos, paying careful attention to the grooves in the walls.
With a thought, he went up to the magical creature department. "Madam Biera," he said, tossing the photos in front of her. She scowled.
"Mr. Snipely, I have other things-"
"I need you to date those for me."
"You are not the only officer who needs my services."
"I am the only officer with a major murder trial going up before the Wizengemot tomorrow," he snapped. "I need those dated. Now."
She glared but did as she was bid. Everyone in the Ministry knew of Snipely's brusque attitude, mostly from experience, and most were accustomed to simply doing as he asked. He was an excellent officer with a near perfect record. The Auror department constantly tried to recruit him as his dogged personality matched Moody's, but he consistently rejected any offer. He preferred chasing convictions to chasing Death Eaters. He liked good motive and strong evidence, and Death Eaters lacked both.
"Here," she muttered after twenty minutes. "Now leave me alone."
"I'll have a question or two in a few minutes, so no." He stood there at her desk, staring at the dated grooves. Two dates caught his attention and he shoved the photo back in her face. "I thought you were good at your job."
"I thought you were a professional!" She snatched the photo. "Snipely, you cannot-"
"Look at you stupidity," he interjected with a sneer. "That can't possibly be correct!"
She looked at the two dates he referred to and rolled his eyes. "Despite what you think, Mr. Snipely, I am not incompetent at my job. That is why I run my department and not you. Those dates are correct. Go ahead and get someone else to date them. They'll only tell you the same thing and not nearly as accurate."
He walked away in the middle of her tirade, not nearly as interested as she thought he was in why she was at the top of her field. Back in his office, he let the photos float in front of him.
"You're still here?"
He glanced to his door where Harker and Kirby were. "What?"
"It's nearly midnight, gov."
Snipely frowned, looking at the clock. "And you interrupted me to tell me the time?"
Harker came in, handing over a folder. "Just thought I'd give this to you. Results on the blood and fur."
Snipely turned to Kirby without opening the folder. "What do you know?"
She glanced at Harker with a frown. "Um, well my contact got back to me. Said there was rumor that some mad witch doctor down in Kagera got a hold of a skeleton and used it to conjure up a few beasts."
"That kind of magic requires a living creature."
"Funny you should mention it because the trade minister just got an owl from Japan. Looks like they don't have an accurate count on the amount of bakenekos in the country."
"Something of a mngwa, but for Japan. Anyway, maybe our witch doctor gets his hands on one and uses it to make a hybrid of sorts. My contact says that the doctor sent a large package out of Tanzania last year and the rumors stopped about that time."
"Think he shipped one up to Granger or Malfoy?" Harker said.
When they received no answer, the officers looked to Snipely, who had finally opened the folder. There was a look strange displeased look on his face.
"What is it, gov?"
"We have a problem." He stood, tossing the photos at them. Harker noticed it first; the two dates Snipely had been staring at for hours.
"That's not possible."
Rolling his eyes, Snipely tossed over the folder. "Did you bother reading it before you gave it to me?"
Harker blushed. "I thought you would want to-"
"Don't assume something so idiotic next time. Read the results."
Kirby frowned. "Two…but that's not possible."
"Really?" Snipely's lip curled in derision. "You believe so?"
"Two DNA samples," Harker muttered, looking up at his boss. "So there are two of these things?"
"Those two really didn't want to take their chances," Kirby said with a wan smile. Snipely threw his inkbottle at her.
"Idiot! Look at the photos!"
Frowning, they both looked down. What had been eluding Snipely for so long was finally very clear. Kirby's eyes widened.
"Oh, good Lord!"
Snipely nodded. "Quite right."
"They were fighting."
"Yes. That's the only possibility. Other wise the two marks don't make any sense. Not put in at the same time like that. The DNA results prove it, too."
Harker looked up at Snipely, worry clearly written on his face. "What does this mean?"
Snipely's mouth turned to cotton. "It means that I need to speak to Miss Granger and Mr. Malfoy one more time."
We're coming up on the home stretch!