|SIYE Time:8:34 on 27th July 2021|
The Body In The Closet
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Category: Hogwarts Express Challenge (2006-3)
Story is Complete
Summary: Shortly after leaving Hogsmeade station, a Death Eater is found dead on the train. Harry quickly takes charge of the situation and soon discovers that in addition to there being no evidence besides a dead body in a closet, two girls have gone missing and seem to have disappeared entirely from the train. One of them is a quiet third year with very few friends and even fewer enemies. The other is Ginny Weasley.
Hitcount: Story Total: 3063
Here's my submission, goaded on my Sir Ollivander, Silver Phoenix, and Khrys. Read at your own risk.
At first, there was no sign that this would be an abnormal train ride. The wheels clacked against the tracks, as usual. The students shouted and did magic for the last time, as usual. Harry Potter sat in a compartment with his friends, as usual. In fact, the first thing that was unusual at all was the scream.
Just outside the compartment where Harry and his friends sat, an ear-piercing scream rent the air. Everybody in their compartment was instantly on their feet, wands out, as Ron wrenched open the door. As soon as he took in what was outside the door, he visibly recoiled.
Harry looked over Ron’s shoulder and felt his mouth drop open and inwardly shuddered. A small girl had backed herself up into the wall, her face as white as a sheet, her mouth still open, although she had stopped screaming. She looked as if she was about to faint now. Across the corridor from her, a closet that normally held old odds and ends stood open. Falling out of it was what looked like a dead body.
Hermione was the first to get her senses back about her. She quickly went over to the small girl and tried to comfort her in some way. “Hey, it’s okay. You’re going to be all right. This is all just a big mistake. You just need something warm to drink, or maybe something to eat. How about some chocolate? That always helps. Would you like that?” she asked the girl, who couldn’t have been more than a first year. The girl couldn’t even bring herself to nod or shake her head. Hermione turned to Harry, Ron, Neville, and Luna, who were still standing in the doorway of their compartment. “Figure out what’s going on,” she hissed, then re-adopted her soothing tone and led the trembling girl away still talking about sweets and something about a featherbed.
“You’ll want to take that down from there,” Luna told the air in front of her in a dreamy way. She pointed at the body. “People are starting to come out, and I’m not sure if they would want to see it.” Harry shook himself and nodded. Luna was right. He motioned to Ron, and together they pulled the body from the closet and into their own compartment.
Nobody quite wanted to touch it. First off, it was of course a dead body. However, it also wore long, dark robes and had a death white mask over its face. Clearly a Death Eater. There was also blood, quite a bit of it.
“It came from the throat,” Harry finally declared. He still had yet to look under the mask to see exactly which Death Eater this was. He focused his whole concentration on the large wound at the throat. “Somebody obviously slit his throat.”
“But who? And why?” Ron asked, staring down at the body as well. Neville, on the other hand, had retreated to the other side of the compartment and was obviously trying to stay as far away from their Death Eater as possible.
“I don’t know,” Harry murmured. Why indeed was it a Death Eater dead this time instead of an innocent victim? Before he could muse any more though, Hermione came back into the compartment, carefully closing the door behind her.
“Do you know anything?” she asked, her voice brisk and not at all friendly.
“No, Hermione. All we know is that there’s a dead Death Eater who got his throat slit somehow,” Harry said patiently.
“Well I do. A girl has gone missing.” If she hadn’t had everyone’s full attention before, she had it now. “That’s right, it seems like she’s just completely disappeared from the train. Her name is Imogene Walker; she’s a third year. Apparently she doesn’t have very many friends, she’s really quiet and doesn’t talk much. But it seems that she left to go use the bathroom right before the train left Hogsmeade and she never came back. Her friends stopped me as I was coming back from taking Sally to lie down and asked me to look for her.”
Ron let out a low whistle. “A dead Death Eater and now a missing girl? This isn’t good.”
“Actually, not a missing girl, Ronald.”
“Another one? Who else is gone beside this Imogene girl?”
“Well, if you’d open your eyes a little, you’d notice. Ginny never came back from the bathroom either.”
This seemed to hit the entire compartment hard. Ron looked around as if to make sure Ginny wasn’t just hiding in the corner or something. Harry frowned. “She’s popular. What makes you think she didn’t just go hang out with her friends?”
“I walked the whole train earlier, when I did my prefect’s rounds. She wasn’t in any of the other compartments.”
There was a stunned silence.
“There’s another one,” Harry finally said. Everybody turned toward him, unspoken questions filling the air. “Another Death Eater I mean. There has to be. Two girls gone and a body in a closet? Yes, that makes sense. There were two Death Eaters, but this one,” Harry motioned at the body, “did something stupid so the other killed him. Or the other wanted all the glory to himself.”
“And the girls?” Neville asked quietly, speaking for the first time. “How do they fit into this?”
Harry had obviously not figured that out yet for himself. “Maybe we should go look out there,” he pointed out the door, “and see if we can find anything…”
“Brilliant, Sherlock, let’s look for clues,” Hermione said contemptuously.
“Do you have any better ideas?” Harry challenged her. For a moment Hermione only glared at him, but finally she turned away.
“No,” she admitted.
“Well, let’s go then.” The five of them trooped out of their compartment and into the hallway. “Look for anything that doesn’t seem to fit. Anything,” Harry told them as he got onto his hands and knees to search on the floor. He could hardly see the floor beneath his hands; his mind was consumed with guilt and frustration. Ginny’s missing, he thought bitterly. She’s missing and it’s all my fault. Why else would Death Eater’s be on the train but to come after me? If she’s be hurt at all, I’ll never forgive myself.
“There’s not anything,” Neville said from within the closet. “At least, not that I can see.” He pulled out what looked like an old wand. “I’d bet somebody misses this.”
Hermione turned and took it from him with a sigh. “I can only imagine,” she said exasperatedly as she drew her own wand at waved it over the other, muttering something under her breath. After a moment, the wand shot sparkling letters out of its tip that hovered in the air in front of her.
Hermione frowned. “That can’t be right.” As if to make the wand change its answer, she shook it a little. “That spell find out who this wand belongs to. But there’s no way that wand could belong to Imogene Walker, right?” She posed the last question to the others, who had stopped searching to stare.
Luna shrugged. “Perhaps somebody stole it and hid it from her and she just never found it. That’s happened to me in the past.”
Hermione continued to stare at the words until they faded. “What a coincidence…” She finally shook her head and said softly, “At least now we have something of hers to give to–” she abruptly cut herself off, although the rest of her sentence hung silently, ominously in the air. Her family.
The guilt Harry had been feeling before suddenly intensified. Now an innocent girl has been dragged into this. Hermione’s right, she’s probably dead. And Ginny… He mentally shook himself and concentrated on the floor in front of him. Surely, even though the effort seemed hopeless, there was something. Surely there was some indication…
“Who was the Death Eater?” Hermione asked, finally seeming to have given up. Harry shook his head.
“I don’t want to know,” he began, “but we should find out.” He slowly got to his feet and led the way back into the compartment. Kneeling beside the Death Eater, he steeled himself for who he might see beneath the mask and gingerly reached out to pull it away.
The face beneath the mask caused him some confusion, for it seemed to be too young to be a Death Eater, and was one of the few female Death Eaters he had ever seen. Hermione gasped and backed quickly away from the body.
“That’s her,” she said in a shaky voice. “I’m sure of it. There’s nobody else…” She swallowed audibly. “That’s Imogene Walker.”
Beneath his freckles, Ron turned white.
Harry leaned against a wall and sighed deeply. “Imogene got in the way. So our Death Eater killed her and dressed her up as a Death Eater because he knew we wouldn’t check…he knew we wouldn’t…” Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! he chastised himself.
“Cast a locator spell,” Hermione said suddenly, breaking through the silence that filled the room. “The clothes most likely came from the original Death Eater, so if you cast a locator spell on them, it’ll show us where he is.” When she was greeted with blank stares, she groaned and stepped toward Imogene’s body, pushing up the sleeves of her robes. The spell was obviously complex, as Hermione seemed to be muttering continually under her breath for quite awhile before she finally performed a tricked maneuver with her wand and directed it at Imogene’s body. When the spell hit the robes it suddenly shot into the air in the form of an arrow. “Well, that’s odd…” Hermione murmured. “It’s supposed to show us the location of–”
Harry interrupted her. “I think it is. Follow it!” The arrow had shot off down the corridor, and then came back as if to check that they were following. The entire group quickly followed it down the corridors as it led through several cars of the train until it finally came to the last car.
“He has to be somewhere here,” Ron panted. “This is the last car.” The arrow however shot through the door that led outside.
“Should we go?” Neville asked, staring at the door as if willing it to vanish. He was answered by everybody else rushing to open the door.
Instead of tracks rushing past behind them they found another car. “This isn’t supposed to be here,” Hermione said warily. Harry pushed past her to the next car.
“That would fit with everything else that’s happened today,” he told them as he wrenched open the door. He steeled himself for what might be inside before looking in.
He recoiled visibly, but then hurried in the cart. The others shrugged at each other and quickly followed him in.
The sight that met their eyes was more welcome than it may have been the week before. In the car, Harry held Ginny in a tight embrace and, as they watched, pulled her into a passionate kiss. When they finally pulled apart, he pushed some of her hair out of her eyes. “I thought you were dead,” Harry whispered. Ginny looked up at him, her face pale and her eyes looked fearful.
“Me too,” she finally said. Harry wrapped his arms around her again and nestled his face in her hair, content for the moment. Somebody cleared their throat behind him. Not at all ashamed, Harry turned, keeping a hand around Ginny’s waist.
“What happened?” Ron asked, not sure whether to throw his arms around Ginny himself or give both her and Harry a death glare.
Ginny took a deep breath. “When I went to the bathroom, I was just coming down the corridor back to the compartment when I saw a man come into the car where our compartment was. I could tell by looking at him he was a Death Eater, so I hid. But then I saw a girl…she didn’t see him until…” She swallowed and blinked furiously for a moment. “He killed her. But she screamed. So he hid her away and disguised her so nobody would know. He could hear people and probably thought they would come for her. So…when he ran, I followed him. He came back here, and I hit him from behind before he knew I was here…he left the door open. He’s over there now.” She nodded at a corner where an unconscious man was magically bound.
For a moment, everyone openly gaped at her. Ginny’s pale face turned slightly pink. “We should probably get help now. I just thought I didn’t want to leave him here by himself…”
Harry nodded. “Next question: Who gets to watch the Death Eater?”
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