In the East of England, there stood a field. It was not a particularly good field. The soil had been left alone for almost ten years, and very little was managing to grow in its dust. The local villagers had simply given up on it and the house. Rumor had it, a terrible murder had occurred inside, and it rather put anyone off on purchasing the property. Unsure what to do with the place, the villagers simply contented themselves to ignore it. Sometimes the older residents would whisper about the old Fallon place. Some said they'd found a body in a locked room with no visible marks. Others said the old Mister Fallon had been found ripped to pieces in the back garden. Some whispered his wife had simply eloped with a lover. Naturally, Mister Fallon had offed himself. Most people considered this final account rather lacking in imagination, and it was not a popular view.
The field, for the most part, stood empty.
And then, on a random Tuesday afternoon, it was busier than it had been in years.
"Blimey, Advani, where the hell are we?"
"Long Riston. Bit east of Beverly."
Two people had appeared in the field very suddenly. The pale man stumbled slightly, dusting off his heavy cloak. The woman, Advani, moved with a desperate sense of urgency. Rather shorter than her companion, he caught up quickly. Most notably, the darker woman wore a simple red bindi on her forehead. Dark brown robes streamed behind her, her boots raising clouds. She rolled the sleeves of her rust-red sweater as she went, withdrawing a long stick from her pocket. It glowed ominously.
"Alright, but why are we here?" The man pressed, looking over at his companion. Advani said nothing, her dark eyes scanning the barren field as she walked. She began to run, and the man breathed an annoyed sigh, before quickening his pace. "Advani!"
"He's here," She whispered hoarsely. The man skidded next to her, gaped, and turned to retch. The sick spattering of vomit was almost deafening. He coughed, choked, and retched again.
Advani stooped, looking sadly at the small body in the dust. He was eleven. His name was Henry Klopper. He, along with fourteen other children, had disappeared over the past few weeks. They were only noticed by the Ministry when they'd all failed to show up for Hogwarts yesterday. Henry Klopper had been the last child unaccounted for, and the fifteenth corpse to be found in the past twelve hours.
"Parminder...You didn't say... were they all like this?" her companion managed, regaining his composure. He crouched next to Parminder Advani, trying to make sense of the mess. Klopper’s face was perfectly peaceful. He might have been sleeping. The rest of his body lay open, as if he had simply popped, like all the others. His organs sat untouched in the mud. The smell was overpowering. Parminder had to fight the urge to retch.
"Yes," Parminder said in a hollow voice. "Every single one of them."
The field continued to exist, unawares. The patchy grass waved idly in the wind, and the dust settled over a tiny, cold face.
The pair didn't leave the field until the sun had long since sunk into the sky. Several other strangely dressed men and women had popped into the field. They had scoured the property extensively. After the last photographs were taken, the remnants of the body were tenderly lifted onto a stretcher. The moon was high in the sky when people began to blink out of sight. A little before midnight, the field was empty as it ever was.
Parminder sat in a particularly bland cubicle. A plain series of motionless photographs lined her walls. A small nameplate read Parminder Advani
, upended beneath a stack of files. She ran a hand through her dark hair. She'd pulled off the sweater, revealing a wrinkled white tank top. Her brown pants and boots were still covered in dust. Her brow furrowed as she sorted through the photographs for the fiftieth time.
Fifteen children, all muggleborns, that had been missing for as long as two months and as recently as eighteen hours. They all showed up on September 1st as mangled corpses, left on the outskirts of various villages, waiting to be found. Each childs’ face remained intact, but their bodies... the thought made her stomach churn. Parminder closed her eyes tightly. She wanted very dearly to erase the past few days.
The entire Auror's office was completely packed, even though it was three in the morning. Teapots were being perpetually refilled. Quills were scrawling across huge sheafs of parchment, visualizing data. Photographs covered the walls, the same fifteen faces. Witches and wizards were sending and receiving owls, arguing, ferrying test results back and forth. Parminder had never seen the office like this. Proudfoot assured her it had been like this at the start of You-Know-Who's second war—before he had taken over the Ministry, at least. It wasn't a comforting thought.
Parminder pinched her brow. She'd been up for over thirty six hours now and working on the case for almost all of them. She’d visited every site, had tried to track the dark magic on the air and found nothing. They still didn't have a suspect, and they had no idea where to start... she groaned quietly. She was supposed to be the Go-To Girl here, the expert tracker. Why hadn’t she been able to find any hint, any leads
to follow? She’d even resorted to scrying, which had produced nothing useful. She hadn’t felt this useless in years, not since the war…
"Parm," a familiar voice interrupted her pity party. The man stood beside her chair, looking almost soulless. Parminder sat up straighter as he looked at the photographs on her desk. "Any ideas?"
“Nothing yet.” Parminder shook her head. The man’s eyes were locked on a small boy, Robin Yates. Robin’s hair was a peculiar shade of white blond, his smile toothy. They had almost identical noses.
"How's your family doing, Sean?" Parminder asked him. Sean seemed to come back to reality. A grim smile creased a few wrinkles on his forehead.
"They're okay. Pepper’s taken the kids to her mum’s villa in Spain...It’s probably an overreaction, but she feels it’s…"
"Safer," Parminder finished for him. Sean looked at her, looking overwhelmed. Parminder knew the feeling. She'd written Hogwarts as soon as they had realised muggleborn children were being targeted, and she had been all but useless until she'd received confirmation that her brother was safe. She didn't blame her colleague for getting his newborn twins out of the country. After all, he was muggleborn himself.
"Yeah," Sean managed in a small voice. "Is your family...?"
"They're safe," Parminder managed, glancing to the only framed photograph on her desk. Her parents were enjoying their holiday in India. Suresh was at Hogwarts. She was lucky. There were fifteen families out there that didn't have such great fortune.
Sean nodded. He squeezed her shoulder reassuringly.
“You look wrecked. You should get some sleep, come back with a clear head.”
“Who could sleep at a time like this?” Parminder snapped. Shame flooded her instantly. Snapping at her coworkers wasn’t productive in the slightest. He looked sympathetic. Did he blame her? She wanted to believe that the office didn’t hate her, but she couldn’t help but wonder. She had failed. Parminder could always
find the trail. This was her specialty, and she couldn’t do anything. Frustration burned in her stomach. Sean was right, of course, but it didn’t make the shame sting any less. She pushed herself out of her seat, looking at the office. Almost three days and still there were no answers. The Minister was breathing down their necks, the public demanding the perpetrator’s head now. Reporters dogged every Auror’s footsteps, complicating their work even more. Parminder tried not to cry. All she could smell was spilled entrails and dust.