A/N Thank you to everyone who read and for the lovely reviews for last chapter. To this chapter: a bit more Ron/Hermione interaction in the midst of new developments for the murder investigation. Hope you enjoy...
Disclaimer: yeah, right...
Chapter 24: Together
Ron let out a low whistle as a handsome mansion came in sight. Perched on a small hill and surrounded by the shade of majestic oaks, it exuded opulence and taste.
"Think of the upkeep," Harry told him jokingly. "Even with magic, this one has to be quite a bit of work to take care of. Besides, you have a house."
"Yeah, about that," Ron said as his hand nervously raked his hair and he stopped in his tracks. "I s'ppose that you and Ginny will want some space once you finally get hitched."
"Ron," Harry interrupted in a somewhat tired voice, "you can stay as long as you want at Grimmauld Place."
"I knew you'd say that," Ron replied quietly. "But it's not just to give Ginny and you some privacy. I want to get my own place and..."
Ron stopped and hesitated, trying to muster the courage to say what was on the tip of his tongue. Harry came to his rescue and completed the sentence with a broad grin:
"And take Hermione with you."
"Well, yeah," Ron finally admitted. "Although I don't want anything that posh," Ron added as he took another look at the mansion and used an elaborate brass knocker to advertise their presence.
They were greeted by a house-elf who quickly took them to a study bathed in the afternoon sunlight.
"Thank you, August," a plump woman told the elf.
She rose to her full height, which couldn't have been more than five feet, and introduced herself as Phoebe McPherson before asking them to sit down.
"Mrs McPherson," Harry began, "thank you for seeing us. We are with the Auror department and are investigating the murder of Jocasta Jameson. I believe she was one of your acquaintances."
"She was. I was sorry to hear what happened to her. Jocasta and I hadn't spoken in seven years but she didn't deserve to die."
It was refreshing to see one of Jocasta's friends actually show sympathy.
"And why weren't you in speaking terms?" Ron enquired.
"Some silly thing. Flavia Caldwell. She was a friend of mine, and of Jocasta's too. Something sinister happened between the two of them. A man, I believe. But they stopped talking to each other. I chose Flavia's side until she died. I haven't spoken to Jocasta since then."
"A man, you say?" Ron asked again.
Phoebe laughed mirthlessly.
"Yes, Mr Weasley, a man. Believe me, only men can create rifts like that between women."
She touched his hand for a moment and added seductively:
"Maybe you know something about that."
Ron swallowed hard while Harry barely suppressed a snigger.
"Do you have any idea who this man was?" Harry pursued in an attempt to divert Phoebe's attention away from Ron.
"I don't know for certain, but I suspect it was actually Jameson himself, Jocasta's husband. He was another reason why my estrangement from Jocasta was never mended. The man is despicable. I don't know what either Flavia or Jocasta found in him."
"We can't comment on that," Ron said diplomatically. "You say Flavia Caldwell died a while back?"
"Seven years ago. Killed herself. I'm sure you can find something in the old issues of the Prophet."
"We'll look," Harry supplied. "Any other enemy you would know for Jocasta?"
"Well, her circle of friends is worse than a bunch of harpies but I don't think any of them would go to the length of murder. Petty disparaging was enough. I think Jocasta was quite alone and that her elf was probably her closest friend."
"Thank you, Mrs McPherson," Ron said to close the meeting. "Please feel free to owl us if you find something else."
"Have you heard from Neville and Higgins?" Ron asked as he painstakingly wrote a summary of their visit with Phoebe McPherson.
"No," Harry replied.
"It's gonna be a fun talk with Jameson, asking him whether he cheated on his wife with Flavia Caldwell and pushed her to suicide."
"Probably enough of a bastard to admit it," Harry said with unhidden contempt for the husband of their murder victim."Ron, how do you think we'll go about finding more about Caldwell?"
"Well, McPherson told us we may find more in old issues of the Prophet. I reckon Caldwell was involved in the same kind social circle as Jameson. That's what fills Witches Weekly and the Prophet's gossip columns. I think a trip to the library is in order," Ron said in his best Hermione imitation.
"She'd be proud of you if she heard you," Harry deadpanned and there was no need for them to clarify who the 'she' was. "Although she might jinx you first for imitating her."
"Just don't tell her about it, all right?" Ron pleaded.
"Tell me about what?"
Hermione had just appeared in the door, still wearing her work robes and carrying what looked like a slim leather satchel but that actually held two dozen files. Ron rose abruptly, knocking some parchment off his desk as he made his way to her to give her a light kiss.
"Hi, Love," he greeted her in a voice too high to deny he had indeed been talking about her.
"So, what is Harry not telling me about?" she pursued with mild amusement.
"Ron wants to go to the library to research something."
An expression of amazement and pride crossed her face.
"I'm impressed," she finally said.
"It's about our case. We got a new lead this morning and we need to dig more about a woman who died seven years ago," Ron supplied.
"Well, it is quite fun to go through old issues of the Prophet," she replied with enthusiasm. "I'll be happy to help you," she started.
"Sounds like old times," Harry said with a big grin.
"But we'll have to wait until tomorrow as the library is now closed," Hermione finished. "I actually came here because the house was empty. You are at work later than me," she said with a raised eyebrow.
"We're waiting for Higgins and Neville," Ron explained. "We agreed to meet back here tonight."
"I see," she replied as a small smile graced her face. "Well, I actually have some news about the elf centre. Your Dad came through, Ron. He helped us secure the location. Not ours yet, but we have the permission from the Ministry to use it for the next six months. Of course, we can purchase it before that to make it ours if we have the funds."
"That's great news, Hermione," Harry enthused.
"That's fantastic," Ron echoed.
"Yes. I'll make sure to get your Dad a nice Muggle present. But to the point, we'll need to go there and start the cleanup."
Both young men sighed with discontent.
"Yes, yes, I know the pair of you doesn't really care for tidying up," she said admonishingly, "but we are wizards, aren't we? It honestly can't be as bad as Grimmauld Place when we had to clean it up. I plan to go tomorrow night after work."
"Fine, I'll come with you," Ron said, although without much conviction.
"Harry?" Hermione turned expectantly towards Harry.
"I... Ginny and I have something scheduled tomorrow," he replied apologetically. "I can come the next day, though."
"Then, it's settled," Hermione said with an air slightly reminiscent of the one she had sported when she had hatched a plan to brew Polyjuice potion at the tender age of thirteen, earning her affectionate smiles from both Harry and Ron.
They waited another fifteen minutes for Neville and Higgins to arrive, chatting happily about the new Centre. Finally, Higgins and Neville made their way in the bullpen area where only Harry, Ron, and Hermione remained. They both looked somewhat disappointed.
"Miss Granger," Higgins greeted Hermione pleasantly.
"Mr Higgins, nice to see you again. Neville," she greeted her old friend with a tight hug he happily returned. "I was actually on my way out," she added before waving to all of them and disappearing in the fireplace in a puff of green smoke.
"You sure she doesn't want to join our department," Higgins asked wishfully before pursuing, "the interview with McPherson? How did it go?"
Ron and Harry related what they had learnt from Phoebe McPherson and the new lead they were exploring.
"That's interesting and may tie into what the elf told us. In my experience, people do mad things when matters of the heart are involved," Higgins said pensively.
"Like throw armies of canaries," Harry said under his breath just for Ron to hear.
"So, how did St Mungo's go?" Ron asked as he surreptitiously kicked Harry and had the satisfaction of seeing his friend's snigger morph into a scowl.
Neville went on to explain what had transpired at St Mungo's.
"We waited for a few hours in hiding but nothing happened. However, we have the place monitored so it should be a matter of time."
"What about the medi-witch? Lambert? Is she going to stay under the Imperius curse?" Ron asked.
"No, but she's working with us and will continue to play this game," Higgins said. "It's clear the poor lass isn't the fastest bird in the owlery," he added.
"Isn't that a risk?" Ron enquired.
Just as he did, a tawny owl made its way to the room.
"I thought they had banned the bloody birds," Higgins said quietly.
The owl flew closer to Ron and Harry and offered its leg, on which a small pouch had been tied.
Ron retrieved it and read.
"It's addressed to Harry, Hermione, and me," he announced somewhat perplexed.
He was about to open it when Higgins yelled sternly:
"Don't touch it!"
As he said that, the older Auror used his wand to cast a spell that enveloped the pouch into a bubble and levitated it away from Ron's hands.
"This'll have to go through security first," he explained. "Don't you find it odd that an unsolicited package gets delivered here and is addressed to not just Potter and you, but Miss Granger too?"
"Constant vigilance," Ron muttered under his breath.
"I see Mad-Eye left an impression," Higgins said mildly as he performed another spell that vanished the parcel. "Don't worry, if this package is safe, it'll be in your hands within two days. Now to go back to your question, Weasley, yes, having Miss Lambert is a small risk as she can be easily Imperiused but it's a calculated one. We don't want to change too much so as not to raise suspicion. Someone'll have to come and take these phials eventually."
"Eventually being the keyword here," Neville added in a yawn which was soon imitated by Harry and Ron.
"Well, looks like we're all knackered. Time to go home, lads. Good night."
He hadn't thought walking would help. After all, he was Lucius Malfoy and had other means of transportation, much more magical than his feet. But here he was, strolling in the squalid side alleys of Diagon Alley. His head was held high, even if his smooth wand was well within his fingers' reach in the inside coat of his cloak. How could his only son, his flesh and blood live here?
Yet, Draco was very much the purpose of his visit. He still couldn't believe what had happened that morning. Cissy had shared what she and Draco had done for this past year, had explained how this had achieved what she had said it would all this time. She had also told him how he wouldn't be part of the donation, as much as it pained her. And then she had done something she hadn't done in almost two years, she had kissed him. It'd been short, barely a touch of her soft lips but it had reminded him why he had always come back to her, and only her.
Cissy had been all he had expected in a wife: Pureblood, well bred, beautiful and quite clever. She could also be scheming and manipulative but he found that quite endearing about her. She hadn't been wild or mad like her two sisters. And most importantly, she had loved him and given him a son. And he couldn't deny that a life without her was something he couldn't contemplate. He needed her. Did she still love him? Her actions from that morning inclined him to think that part of her did. Yet, the mother in her hadn't forgiven him for the estrangement from Draco. So, he was doing what was necessary. What good would it be to get some of his old power back if he had nobody by his sides? He needed Cissy and if conquering her back implied making amends with that ungrateful son of theirs, then be it.
Draco didn't even try to hide his displeasure at seeing his father and for a moment thought of slamming the door in the older man's face.
"Father," he greeted Lucius curtly.
"I need to talk with you, Draco," Lucius started.
"You know, that sounds familiar. Last time you did this, you came with that bizarre idea that Mother was cheating on you.
"I know she wasn't," Lucius interrupted and for the first time in his life, Draco saw some modicum of remorse show in his father's eyes.
"All right. Then why are you here?" Draco asked as he opened the door and let his father in the small flat.
There was a long silence, growing heavier with each passing second until Lucius finally answered in a somewhat shaky voice:
He took a pause and breathed deeply before adding pleadingly:
"You're my only son."
"And it took you nineteen years to figure that out?"
Lucius sighed. He should have foreseen that Draco wouldn't make things easy.
"Whatever I did was never enough," Draco continued. "Even when I had my life threatened on a daily basis."
"Draco," Lucius pleaded again. "I never wanted you to be part of it in that way. I just wanted to bequeath you the power and status owed your name."
"That backfired, didn't it?"
Lucius turned around and whispered softly:
"I knew it had gone too far when the Dark Lord charged you with that mission. He wanted to take from me what I treasured most. Your mother and you."
Draco was about to lash out when the meaning of his father's words finally reached his brain and caused him to open and then close his mouth silently, not unlike a goldfish. He then remembered his father's penchant for acting and wondered how much of that statement was genuine.
"You never did much to prove that," he finally managed to say.
"Nonsense, I always gave you the best there was," Lucius replied with some heat as he turned around to face his son again.
And that was the problem with Lucius Malfoy, he thought material possessions were the pinnacle of love.
"I know you wanted more, Draco. The words, the nurture. But that was your mother's role. It just... well, I lost everything," he finally said.
"You still have the Manor and a very well-endowed vault at Gringott's," Draco remarked harshly.
"What does it matter if you and your mother aren't part of it."
Draco remained silent for a moment, absorbing this until-then-unknown side of his father. He noticed that the older man seemed completely sober and wondered if the absence of spirits had contributed to the sudden realisation. Or there was a doubt, still insidious, that his father was using him, playing a game. What had Greengrass said? That the Malfoys had a track record of double crossing everyone. Well, his father was definitely a leader in that area.
"Your mother was right. I was denying things."
"And you stopped?" Draco replied sarcastically.
"I know why she did things and it worked."
"Would you be that supportive had her plan failed?"
Lucius was silent for a while, which was as good an admission as there could be in Draco's mind.
"I would be," Lucius finally replied. "I wish I had been earlier."
"And you won't be part of the donation to St Mungo's," Draco pursued relentlessly.
"She told me that. She also told me you're working for Greengrass."
"Yes, I am and I've decided to continue to do so."
"I'm good at potions," Draco simply stated, "and he gave me a chance," he added in his head. "Besides, Greengrass is very influential and has the favour of the St Mungo's Board and is also endorsed by the Ministry."
A small half-smile started forming on Lucius's face.
"You've learnt well from your mother. But there are others who could be influential and much friendlier to our family."
"Are there? Perhaps you've eschewed the real world for too long, Father," Draco said sardonically.
At seeing his father's look of discomfiture, Draco softened.
"I know who you're thinking of. And trust me when I say it's best not to associate with him."
"Why not?" Lucius asked, his curiosity suddenly piqued.
Draco debated about how much to reveal while still not breaking his vow. Did he really want to tell his father? After all, he had the situation perfectly under control right now, didn't he? He had mastered what his father had raised him to do. While Lucius Malfoy may never be proud of his son's potion-making skills, he might approve and even draw a certain pride at seeing his son so skilled in the art of Machiavellian manipulation.
"Let's just say it's not in our best interest," Draco finally said.
He then wordlessly Summoned an old edition of the Prophet he had purposely kept, opened it at the correct page and passed it to his father. Lucius read in silence and things suddenly became clear.
"I see," he finally said.
"Anyway," Draco said as he rose and walked in the direction of the door, a not subtle indication that the visit was over, "Mother made the right decision and I will continue working with Greengrass, whether you like it or not."
"I don't," Lucius confirmed.
"And I don't need your approval anymore," Draco half-lied. "I suppose I'll see you and Mother at the party Granger is organising," he told his father as he opened the door for him.
"Yes, I'll be there with your mother, for your mother as I have no interest in the little vermin or the Mudblood who supports them."
"I figured that much out," Draco said. "And you might want to start calling her Muggle-born. She did keep you out of Azkaban, after all," Draco replied, not knowing where the urge to suddenly defend Granger had stemmed from and trying to ignore it. "Good bye, Father."
Lucius turned around and Draco almost expected to be admonished for his impertinence but instead, Lucius spoke softly:
"I am, Draco, I am proud of you."
And on this, he Disapparated with a faint popping noise.
"This is really big," Hermione said brightly.
"Yeah, and I'm sure it'll be fun cleaning it up," Ron said. "Like Grimmauld Place."
"Don't let Harry hear you," Hermione replied with a smile.
"The house wasn't his back then. Are you sure we can't use Kreacher to help us?"
"Ron, why would we use elf labour to clean up something that will become a centre to help elves?"
"Because Kreacher is much better than I am at cleaning spells and because we pay him," Ron offered with what he hoped was a smile charming enough to sway Hermione.
Instead she stared at him with an icy look.
"All right, all right, I'll do it with you."
"I hope you're talking about the cleaning up of this place," she said with light amusement as she swished her wand and cobwebs magically disappeared from the room they were in, releasing a few spiders to scamper in recesses.
"It's not fair to bring the beasts in the mix," Ron said with a shudder as his eyes seemed transfixed on the spot where a spider no bigger than a knut had vanished. "But it can be what you want," he added playfully.
"I'll keep that in mind. Let's start with this room. I already removed the spiders," she said merrily as she used her wand to siphon grime and dirt off various surfaces.
He joined in, assisting her with the many cleaning spells his mother had taught him from an early age but that he had never bothered to truly use. He kept glancing surreptitiously at Hermione. She had shed her Ministry robes and changed into a comfortable pair of jeans that espoused her bum in a way that made his blood roar. Her hair was pulled into a messy ponytail at the nape of her neck and wild curls escaped every which way, which she kept blowing off her face. And she was wearing the Weasley jumper she had at last received last Christmas, a shade of blue that had instantly become Ron's favorite colour. Of course, she could have had a purple and neon green polka dot jumper and that would have instantly become his new favorite colour.
It was wandwork but she didn't mind manually moving the odd assortment of furniture that was left. She soon got overheated in the thick woolly jumper and removed it, wearing an old Chudley Cannon t-shirt of his underneath, although he was sure there was no possible way he would have fit his lanky but tall frame in the current size of the t-shirt.
"Is that really what you're wearing when you go to work?" He asked her.
"No, that's just for you," she replied half-way between amusement and seduction.
They worked in companionable silence, ridding room after room of grime, dust, and odd magical pest that might have found refuge in the building that hadn't seen any usage in the last three years. He didn't mind the work as it gave him an opportunity to be alone with Hermione. He was just trying to figure out how he would bring the topic of the flat that his father had mentioned that morning when he had stopped by his office to thank him. His father had indicated the flat was just a block over and was also available at a rent defying all competition.
His attention shifted back to her and he noticed she had paused in her work and was now intently looking at him while biting her lower lip, a sure sign she was nervous about something. He replied with an easy smile:
"There is a flat that is available not far from here. It's in a building owned by the ministry but they are renting it out. It's in terrible shape and would need to undergo extensive rehabilitation and even then it might not be great but then of course, there's magic."
She paused briefly to catch her breath as the whole thing had come in a single flow. Before he had the time to even speak, she opened her mouth again:
"Well, I was thinking, since Harry and Ginny are getting married, well, I know, not right now, but they may want some space. I know Harry won't kick us-me," she quickly corrected, "out any time soon, but here's the thing, I am planning to move out of Grimmauld Place. And this flat looks like a good opportunity as it's not far from the ministry and also conveniently located close to a nice Muggle neighbourhood. And..."
"Hermione, are you asking me to move in with you in that flat?" he asked her as his ears reddened noticeably.
"Well... I... Yes... I suppose I am," she stammered as a faint blush bloomed on her cheeks.
Ron was silent for a moment, digesting her request and all the emotions that swam in him. There was amazement that they had had the same idea, pure elation at the prospect of sharing a flat with her and nobody else, admiration for her boldness and a little bit of annoyance at seeing her beating him up again at taking the initiative on a major milestone in their relationship. But above all, there an all consuming love that made him catch her around the waist and lift her in a whirlwind as he rained thousands of kisses on her.
When he put her back on the floor, she was still laughing giddily and catching her breath, one hand still wrapped around his wrist and the other one resting on her heaving chest.
"I guess that's yes, then. Now, we'll just have to break the news to Harry."
"I was going to ask you the same, you know. Dad mentioned the flat and well, yeah, I don't want to be around Harry when he's gonna be doing Merlin knows what with my sister."
"Ron!" she admonished him good-naturedly as she picked up her wand and aimed it at an old desk that had been left behind after the ministry had abandoned the building.
"Well, that's the truth," he defended himself with a broad grin as he imitated her and started flourishing his wand at the desk, his attention still fully on her as she laughed merrily.
He heard her scream as a cracking noise echoed through the small room. He turned toward what he thought was the origin of the noise and his heart almost stopped as his breath hitched and air fought to get in and out of him.
She was in front of him, writhing in abject pain as a faceless voice repeated Crucio over and over. In front of him stood a massive and transparent wall that drew blood from his knuckles as his fists hit it in vain. He could see her waning as the pain sent her body in an almost convulsive state. He could see his hands now bloodied and his inability to get through the wall as she gave her last breath and lay motionless as the faceless voice erupted in a cackling laugh.
"Dead... Little Mudblood is dead..."
And a softer voice was calling for him, gently but insistently but he couldn't -or didn't want- to follow it. Instead, he just crumbled to the floor, bloody-handed, his face strewn with tears and his character completely and utterly defeated. The scene in front of him vanished and was replaced by one featuring a tall red-haired man with his back turned, who seemed to be walking away. He heard a shaky "Riddikulus" and the man, who he realised was himself, was tethered to some kind of bungee cord that always brought him back bouncing in an almost comical manner, before everything vanished and he was back in a room empty except for an old desk.
The voice was gentle and urgent at the same time, yet so familiar, so soothing.
He slowly opened closed and opened his eyes, to see Hermione looking at him, her face etched with worry and her brows tightly knit in anxiety.
"'Rmione," he muttered feebly, as relief washed over him.
"It was a Boggart," she told him softly.
He now could put two and two together and understood that it had all been a Boggart. A stupid Boggart, one that took the shape of his worst fears.
"Did... did you see?" he asked her with a slight hesitation.
"I did," she answered solemnly.
"You banished it?"
"Yes, I did."
"I'm not leaving you again," he said weakly.
"Obviously not," she replied shakily. "I have you tethered on a bungee cord. That's all I could think of to get rid of the Boggart," she said as she lowered her eyes.
"Thank you," he told her feebly as he felt exposed, more than if he had been naked, and it wasn't as if she hadn't seen him bare before. He reached for the hand she was holding out to him, and was relieved to see his hand devoid of blood, the skin on it unbroken and smooth, except for little arc-shaped scars left by a vicious canary attack. She helped him up to his feet, amazing him with the strength her small body contained. She then engulfed him in a tight hug, uncharacteristically at a loss for words that might bring solace. What could be said in such situations?
A few minutes passed when neither one would let go. Neither was crying, just finding comfort in the presence of the other. Ron couldn't help having a foreboding and nagging feeling. Every time he had been close to reaching a new level of happiness with Hermione, something had happened, usually at his hand, that had fucked everything up. She had asked him to a Christmas party and he had ended up snogging Lavender. They had been dancing together and he had been about to kiss her when bloody Deatheaters had crashed Bill's wedding. She had been his closest ally and friend and he had abandoned her, unable to withstand the mind games the wretched locket had played on him. They had just had time to reconcile before Harry had uttered the taboo word and got into what to now lived as the worst day of his life. The Battle despite everything else only ranked second because for all the losses, they had found each other, the silver lining as Hermione liked to call it.
And now, she had just accepted to share a flat with him, and just him, and he couldn't help thinking something bad was about to happen and that the Boggart was just some kind of omen.
"I know it was probably worse for you than me," she started.
"What? No...," he yelled with indignation.
"Shush," she said soothingly as her index fingers landed on his lips. "Let me speak. If it weren't for you yelling for me, I wouldn't have made it. Just remember that."
And she kissed him softly, almost chastely, standing on her tiptoes. She pulled away from him, resting her head on his shoulder.
"I love you," she said in a barely audible whisper.
He didn't answer, just brought her closer to him and wrapped her in the heat of his body.
The subject of the Boggart didn't surface again, even as Harry joined them the next day, making up for his absence the previous day by working twice as hard. The work on solving Jocasta's murder occupied much of their time, including trips to the library to consult old archives of the Prophet and Witches Weekly where Hermione had been able to locate more information about Flavia.
Neville and Higgins did catch someone retrieving the phials but it was obvious he was another Imperiused victim and knew nothing about who was behind everything. Neville and Higgins had worked with both this man and Lambert to trigger their memory and figure out who might have Imperiused them on a regular basis. They had been able to narrow it down to someone working at St Mungo's which only left them with a few hundred potential suspects. They were going methodically through the roster of the hospital along with the organizational chart to see who would have had knowledge of all the processes. It was tedious but had allowed them to slowly but surely narrow the field to about fifteen people, some of whom were in influent positions.
On the third day, Higgins walked back in and announced:
"I talked to Cooper who specializes in tracking illegal traffic of potions and poisons. I thought it might be good to compare our list to suspected poison peddlers. Longbottom, here's Cooper's list. See if it helps narrow your pool of suspects," he asked as he handed the piece of parchment to Neville who eagerly snatched it and went on to work.
"Potter, Weasley, this went through security and is deemed safe and devoid of nefarious spells and enchantments," Higgins quoted as he held out the small pouch that had been owl-delivered two days before. Maybe you should invite Miss Granger since it's also addressed to her. Security said it looks like it's a memory."
"I'll send her a message," Ron said quickly before a small silvery terrier came out from his wand and was sent to find Hermione through the endless corridors of the ministry.
"Beautiful Patronus charm, Weasley. A small terrier, really?" Higgins asked with good humour.
It took a few minutes for Hermione to show up just as Higgins left the trio alone with an Auror department-issued Pensieve.
"I have to be back in a few minutes," Hermione announced as an opening, "Hobbes didn't appreciate the Auror department using my boyfriend to Summon me with a Patronus," she concluded in an imitation of Hobbes' mild and slightly whingy voice.
Harry dropped the memory from its container into the pensieve, being the most experienced of the three with the entire process, and they ducked their heads all at once. They waited for the memory to play out for them, silent witnesses of events that had transpired in a past that might or might not be distant.
"The bastard! He's got some gall to send us this fucking memory of everything else."
"We can't confirm it's him," Harry said in a calming voice.
"Can't we?" Ron asked with scepticism.
"All right, we can," Harry said having recognised the voice without a doubt even if the face had remained hidden.
"But that's not the important part," Hermione interjected. "Did you listen to what was said?"
Ron gave a loud sigh before saying:
"Yes, I did. We know who the source of the poison is. I bet you he'll be on Neville's short list."
A trigger had been set in the back of Hermione's brain, something else she had seen or read somewhere else and that she couldn't put her finger on.
"We do," Harry confirms. "That doesn't tell us who killed Jocasta."
Hermione's face lit like a light
bulb as she finally connected the two things that had been in the back of her mind.
She switfly went to Ron's desk and her eyes quickly found what she was looking for. Triumphantly, she held it out to Ron and Harry who soon registered the same look of realisation.
"Love, you're a genius," Ron said as he absently kissed her hand. "Harry, I think we might have a suspect."
A/N We'll find out next chapter who that suspect is. Thank you for reading!