Who: Zacharias Smith, Emelda Vane
Where: Ministry, then Smith Manor
When: 1 May 2002, evening
Any complaints that Zacharias would have made about being dragged in and interrogated about something he thought was a closed case vanished the moment he learnt that Blaise was dead. Blaise was dead. Murdered. Blaise, a peer. How? Why? Who would do such a thing?
Well it wasn’t Zacharias, that was for sure. A point that he adamantly made over and over again, for several hours. It was just past ten at night when they finally let him go. He exited the office and was pleasantly surprised to find Emelda outside.
“Are you all right?” Emelda asked without preamble, stepping forward and touching Zacharias’s face as if to reassure herself he was real. “I did not think they would keep you so long. What were they asking you?”
“Dumb questions,” said Zach. He put his hand gently over hers. “‘Did you kill Blaise Zabini?’ I mean, as if.” He rolled his eyes, then mollified his expression. “I hope you weren’t waiting for ages. You didn’t have to.”
“I wanted to,” Emelda said simply, with a little shrug. She didn’t add that she’d also been hanging around the DMLE in the hope of picking up more facts surrounding Blaise’s murder. Not because she thought it would make a good story, but because she wanted to discover the truth. There were already so many rumours flying around the village about what had happened.
“Are you hungry? Did they feed you?”
Zacharias snorted. “Nah. I wouldn’t be able to answer any questions if I had my mouth full, would I? To tell the truth I didn’t really notice being hungry, but now that you mention it… what’s really open at this time of night, though? Might as well go back to mine.”
He gave her a small smile. “You’re welcome to come, of course. Have you eaten?”
“No, not yet,” Emelda replied. She also hadn’t noticed being hungry, and suspected she was running on a combination of adrenaline and anxiety. Having your boyfriend hauled in for questioning over a murder tended to do that to a person. “Your place it is,” she said, linking her arm through his for Side-Along Apparation.
“Just sit wherever,” said Zacharias, once they were safely in his house. “Make yourself comfortable.”
He started rummaging through the pantry. “Uh, what do you like… we’ve got um… food.”
For a moment Emelda briefly considered asking him to make something vegan, just to see how he would cope, but then she changed her mind. She wasn’t in the mood for teasing him, and she suspected he would only wake up the house-elf to cook it for him.
“Scrambled eggs, please,” she admitted. They were her ultimate comfort food. “But only if they came from free range hens,” she added sternly, sitting down on one of the kitchen chairs and tucking her feet up underneath her.
“Yeah, sure,” muttered Zach, to whom eggs were eggs and as long as they came from chickens, he was satisfied. Besides, he didn’t do the shopping.
“Scrambled eggs, scrambled eggs, scrambled eggs…” Zach found the task was not made easier if he repeated the name of the dish as he cooked.
“Eh. Do you think Wyn’s gone to bed yet?”
Emelda got up and peered over Zach’s shoulder at the sad congealed mess of burnt scrambled eggs. What a waste. “They might do a late-night delivery service. Or if not, Angelo’s.” She was too tired to offer to cook.
Zacharias managed to wheedle a vegetarian pizza out of Angelo’s with a vague promise of goodwill and favours at a later date. He cut off the Floo and returned to the table.
“One pizza on the way,” he told Emma. He sat down and twiddled his thumbs. “So…” he felt like he wanted to discuss what happened, but what was there to say?
“So,” Emelda echoed, before deciding she might as well go ahead and ask the questions she wanted answers to while they were waiting for their pizza to arrive. “Did they say how long ago Blaise was — well, when he was — he was missing for quite some time before, you know, he was found.”
Well, that was just great. She seemed to have lost all grasp of English. Maybe she was more tired than she thought, but she just couldn’t bring herself to say murdered out loud. A little involuntary shiver went through her.
“Yeah,” agreed Zacharias. “But they didn’t offer a lot. I guess they wanted to pin it on me if they could and they didn’t want to let on what they knew in case I was going to twist my story to fit. I can’t believe they dug up the graffiti nonsense again. I mean, I thought I was cleared.”
“Well, they still have not caught whoever Imperiused you,” Emelda said reasonably. “Maybe they thought you had been Imperiused again. I suppose they do not want to rule anybody out at this stage… although they will need to start narrowing down the list of suspects at some point.”
“Lucky me,” drawled Zacharias. “I really hope there isn’t a real graffiti artist in town or I’m going to be pulled up for that forever and ever. Hang on — I think I hear Angelo.” He rose from his seat. “I’ll be right back. Oh, I almost forgot — where are my manners — do you want a drink? Help yourself to anything you want.” He strode off.
Conversation about murderers naturally trailed off while they were eating, but after the pizza was finished and they’d somehow ended up on the sofa in the sitting room with Emma’s head tucked under Zach’s chin, she said sleepily, “Do you think they are getting close? The DMLE, I mean, to finally solving the case?”
Zacharias tried to shrug but ended up with a yawn instead. “Sorry,” he said, “I’m not implying the topic is boring. Or maybe it is. Law enforcement is bloody dull. But that’s not your fault,” he said, gaze flicking down to her. He tucked an arm around her waist. He would have remarked that they ought to go to bed, but he didn’t want to make Emma uncomfortable, in case she thought he meant they ought to go to “bed”. Since that awkward conversation weeks ago he hadn’t broached the subject again, and he didn’t find he was suffering without it. She might be inexperienced but Zacharias wouldn’t classify her as particularly shy. He figured once she felt ready she would gladly inform him so — and for the meantime he was happy with the company of a girlfriend who actually put some effort into living up to the second half of the word.
“Would you be angry if I made the house elf fetch us a quilt?”
If Emma had still been awake she would have protested that yes, that was unfair, that Zacharias had legs and he could use them rather than waking up his poor overworked house-elf. But as she had drifted off to sleep moments earlier, she understandably said nothing. It turned out that Zach’s chest made a perfect pillow for her head.
Huh. Emma had drifted off already. Well, Zacharias wasn’t going to wake her to ask permission to use his house elf in his own house. He signalled, and soon he was propped against numerous pillows with a fluffy blanket draped over both of them. Not exactly four-poster luxury but it was cosy enough. He closed his eyes.