"Well, it was the same old story. It was all about money. And – there was another man in the offing." Gwen began. "It transpired that she had married Archibald only because she had heard he had inherited a vast sum of Galleons from his late aunt."
"Then Mabel Tancock was right after all." Honoria murmured. "She was a …" The word she used made Miss Carthew raise her eyebrows.
"Well, she was clever. She wrapped him round her finger, perhaps even used a love potion. She was an accomplished potioneer, as we know."
"Even though she doesn't know how to conjure the Dark Mark correctly," Isabelle remembered.
"But she knew how to make Invisibiliserum," Honoria said darkly, fumbling her amber collar.
"From the beginning she made sure that Archie gave her everything he owned," Gwen continued. "She bought expensive jewellery, and robes, and they both went to opulent parties. But she was greedy, and wanted more. They also bought a mansion. Archibald finally needed money, because he wanted to please his lovely blonde wife. So he borrowed the money from none other than Walden Macnair."
"Did you get any more information from Macnair?"
"No. Macnair is as silent as a grave." Jonathan frowned. "And he's got some powerful protectors."
"And then Eleanor began carrying out her lethal plan? Why?"
"She had had enough. She despised Archie. She despised weakness, she said," Jonathan told them. "She wanted a good life, some nice things, a bit of luxury, she said, which means more money."
Did they use Veritaserum on her? Gwen thought. That doesn't sound like sweet lovely Eleanor.
"In the end she wanted to get rid of Archie because there was another rich admirer. So she proceeded to action. She told her husband she wanted to work with him in the Department of Mysteries. He helped her to get in, which isn't very easy, but she acted the sweet and loving wife. In the Department of Mysteries she had the opportunity to steal the runespoor fang venom from the Brain Room. And, of course, much more possibilities to divert the Aurors' attention from her. She bought the rest of the ingredients in the disguise of Suplinius Crow, for which she used Polyjuice Potion. She was really a proficient potioneer."
"She really confessed everything?" Isabelle asked, in surprise.
"Yes, as a potioneer she seemed to know what Veritaserum could do to her in her function as an Unspeakable. She was really frightened when the Aurors put the bottle on the table." Jonathan looked grim. "Apart from that, there was the evidence of the poisoned energy drinks."
"How did she explain her absence in the Planet Room?" Miss Carthew asked.
"Ah, now we're talking about the specific execution of the crime," Gwen nodded, and took a sip from her glass. Hugh hurried forward to pour her some more champaign.
"She used a Time Turner," Gwen explained. "I knew that two were missing in the Time Room, since Roberta had told me so, yet she had asked me to keep quiet about it. Pity I forgot about it afterwards. It later turned out that one Time Turner had been given to an excellent Hogwarts student in order to give her the opportunity to attend several subjects at the same time. Since this wasn't to be spread around, no one removed the Time Turner from the inventory. And the other one was stolen by Eleanor."
Everybody looked impressed.
"Eleanor used her invisibility cloak quite a lot, didn't she?" Miss Carthew asked.
Gwen nodded. "Yes, but she forgot that their magic is fallible. Obviously her gems shone through it."
"Did she make the tank explode?" Isabelle asked.
"Yes. She wanted to get more runespoor fang venom. I remember that she told me once that she wanted to leave the Department of Mysteries. Perhaps she thought that she'd better seize the occasion to get at the stuff as long as she was still working down there. Or perhaps she just decided to steal it on the spur of the moment. Perhaps it's already become a habit with her. On that day she came from the Planet Room, and the Brain Room was empty. She was just leaving Bob's office, when Firmin entered. How she managed to lock the door so that I couldn't open it, I don't know. She was wearing the invisibility cloak again, but knew that it would look strange if the door closed without anyone being there, so she threw a hex towards the tank. She said she just wanted to produce a slight diversion, like making the brains jump out of the tank or something like that, but her spell was too strong, and the whole thing burst."
"Very clever of her to come later and help with the mess," Honoria snorted.
"Yes, she was clever." Gwen munched some crisps. "Perhaps her only mistake was to leave the mug that still contained traces of the poison. I suppose she wanted to dispose of it after the murder, but was disturbed by Roberta leaving Timothy's office. She didn't know that there were such early visitors."
"And she cast the Dark Mark as a red herring. Evil, isn't it?" Isabelle said.
Miss Carthew shuddered imperceptibly. "Perhaps you," she bowed slightly towards Jonathan and Gwen, "would never have noticed that it was a fake Mark if there hadn't been another Dark Mark…"
Everybody went silent for some moments. Only Napoleon's purring could be heard.
"These are hard times we live in," Honoria murmured. "Eleanor wasn't a Death Eater, or she would have known how to conjure a Dark Mark. And yet she was as evil and reckless as any of You-Know-Who's followers. On the other hand the real death-eaters openly harass muggles and even cast Dark Marks in the sky."
"So we must stand more united and strong than ever before," Hugh said, slowly raising his glass. The others followed his lead. The champaign sparkled in their glasses.
In spite of that solemn outlook the evening turned out to be very enjoyable and pleasant.
Jonathan told them that Archibald's brain had been buried beside his urn under the beech in the grove.
Isabelle wanted to know what Crow was investigating, whispering – as a true Unspeakable – into Gwen's ear, but Gwen couldn't tell her, as he had never informed her about his work, even after they had found out who the murderess was.
Gwen reminisced about her and Crow shaking hands and closing their "fruitful" cooperation:
Agatha Hill had summoned them both to her office, and expressed her gratitude for their "excellent team effort and contribution to the investigation".
What she didn't tell her friends was how Agatha Hill had sent Crow away (who had been scowling) and talked to Gwen in private, thanking her for the special part she had played in tracking down the murderess.
"May I ask you a question?" Gwen had asked her, her stomach giving a funny jolt.
Agatha Hill had nodded and given a small smile.
Gwen had coughed slightly. "In the course of our investigation we found out that Archibald and … his colleague were probably working on … horcruxes?" She had emphasised the last word like a question.
Agatha Hill had looked at her with sharp steel-blue eyes. "You are right," she said after a short pause for reflection. "We are trying to investigate this very dark magic. It's very difficult and dangerous. I can't tell you anything more about it. Perhaps I can tell you that there are rumours that knowledge about this magical discipline might be needed one day. I got a hint from … never mind. I must impress upon you the necessity of keeping this top secret. Even… from the Minister of Magic." She had looked very serious. "I could, of course, modify your memory." Gwen had given a slight gasp. "I will have to modify the memories of other people who have gained knowledge about our new research field. I want you to tell me who they are."
Gwen had gulped. "It won't do them any harm," Agatha Hill had told her.
"Well, Isabelle, Honoria, Jonathan, and Mrs Beresford, I think," she had admitted uneasily. She didn't mention Miss Carthew. "But I wouldn't want you to modify their memories."
"All right, then, let me think. Perhaps an Unbreakable Vow will do. Mrs Gautier, Miss Brum, and you are Unspeakables anyway. And Mr Hope and Mrs Beresford are Aurors. Moreover, I trust you'll stay with us in the Department of Mysteries, won't you?" She had smiled.
And Gwen had smiled back, and nodded. So Mrs Hill had heard about Mrs Beresford's offer to train for an Auror, which she had declined. Without a lot of help I would never have found out who the murderess was, she had thought, and my defensive spells leave also a lot to be desired.
Ademarus and Isabelle had been happy to welcome her finally back to the team. "To investigate the Gautier waves," Isabelle had laughed merrily.
Gwen stirred the fire, and remembered all that, smiling again. Jonathan was her last guest, the others had all left.
She looked up. "Fancy a cup of tea?", she asked him.
"No, thanks," he took her hands into his. "Gwen?"
"I'd like to ask you a question…," he cocked his head.
"Fire away," she said.
"Who is Norma?"
Gwen looked at him and took a deep breath. "I'm glad you ask me that. Norma and I were an item. We lived together in London for some months. But it's been over for some time. Only that she still hasn't realised it. She keeps writing to me, but I don't read her letters." She adjusted her glasses. "I'd like to know who's given her my address," she added as an afterthought. "Yet another mystery…"
"So you are…Lesbian?"
"No, I am bisexual. That's different."
"And what does that mean exactly?"
"That I might be attracted by men or women."
He looked at her. She sighed.
"That is all. There are a lot of different ways to be bisexual, or to live as a bisexual, you know, it also depends on the witch or wizard. Like any human beings we have different ways to feel, to love,… well, and to live what we are. For the moment I'm in love with you. As you are with me, I think."
"And… what about your feelings towards Roberta?"
"You noticed that, too?"
He smiled, and stroked her cheek with one finger. "I love you," he said simply. "I should notice."
She looked at him fondly, and threw her arms around him. "You are wonderful," she said, and kissed him.
"But you still won't work with me as an Auror?!", he pretended to complain.
"I'm a researcher, not an Auror," she laughed, "I'd be too afraid to chase dark wizards. I'll always be afraid for you! And I love my job in the Brain Room."
"Now, what about Roberta?"
"I fancied her. I fell in love with her. These things happen to me. I can love different people at the same time. Can't you?"
They looked at each other for a while.
"I will try to understand," he said slowly, now looking serious.
She gave him a squeeze.
"And what is Roberta going to do now?", he asked.
"She told me she's going to split up with Timothy. She doesn't want to be his secret love while he's still married. And he doesn't want to get a divorce, as it seems. She doesn't want to be my love, either, just for your information. And I think I'm over her now. She's going on leave for two weeks, "taking Amber Dancer for a holiday", trying to come to terms with herself, and trying to recover from all the strain."
Jonathan looked suddenly excited: "Oh, that's a good idea. What about us? Shouldn't we go on holiday? Just you and me?" He beamed at her, hopefully.
"Yeah, you're right. Let's do that!" Suddenly, Gwen felt incredibly light-hearted and happy. "We really deserve it! Where do we go?"