August 1st, 2021
"James, I wouldn't move your King there if I were you," his father warned, fighting a smile. He was watching his two sons play Checkers against each other and Albus was, invariably, sweeping the floor.
"Why's it so important that we learn a Muggle game anyway?" grumbled James, his brown eyes scanning the board for a safe place he could move his solitary King where Al's four Kings couldn't murder him.
"Because," said his father, his eye twitching as James almost moved his King to a spot he thought was safe (but obviously wasn't from his reaction), "when I was nine years old, I beat my cousin no less than thirty-seven times in this game over the course of the summer. I'd like to say I'm a bit of an expert at it." He shrugged. "I wanted to see if my children would inherit my mastery."
"It's okay, Dad, I don't think James needs anymore reminders that he's the family failure," smirked Albus as he killed James's last pawn, leaving him with only the one King.
James seethed for a moment. His brother was right; he really, truly sucked at Checkers but he figured he wouldn't seem so bad if he wasn't playing against Al. Albus beat him in pretty much every game he played against him, except Quidditch. In James's humble opinion, he was very intelligent, he just paled slightly in comparison to Al's genius.
"Be nice," his father scolded, but his green eyes crinkled in amusement. He knew by now that James and Albus sometimes didn't act friendly, but they were one hundred percent of the time best friends and partners-in-crime.
"So, Dad..." James said as he moved his King to a safe spot. "How was work today? Anything interesting happen?" His father had come home at five like always, but he had noticed his impatience. His father kept playing with his ring or turning the charmed coin in his hand or ruffling his already-messy black hair. Being the Head Auror, he got all the reports that came into the office and was the one who was responsible for worrying about most of them. James could tell his father itched to tell his mother what was going on, but she had gone for tea with Hermione Weasley, her sister-in-law. James had watched his father send messages twice now while they played Checkers.
"Nothing, really," his father responded, not meeting James's eyes. His dad was a terrible liar, especially when it came to lying to his kids' faces.
When Al's three Kings (James had managed to kill one off) had finally cornered James's only King, there was a loud crack! outside and their father was instantly on his feet.
"Er--good job, Al," he said distractedly as he left the living room for the hall, where their mother was putting away her things.
James picked up his King and launched it at Albus. It hit him in the chin and James stood up quickly before his brother could lunge after him. "Good job, Al!" he repeated his father's words, but in a mocking manner. He abandoned Al with the Checker board and ran up to his room, fetching his charmed glove before coming back down and resting his hand on the office door.
"The Minister for Magic has a bodyguard?" his mother was saying, doubtfully.
"Yeah, the Undersecretary advised that he employ one after the Unspeakable was brutally murdered in his building," said his father grimly. "The guy wasn't an Auror or anything, just a qualified bloke from Magical Law Enforcement, I guess. But he didn't show up to work today and his friend found him dead in his bedroom. Raked to bits, very bloody. The pictures made me throw up a little inside my mouth."
"Is it connected to last month's case?" asked his mother worriedly.
"I don't know. But...there's another interesting bit. The curse cast on him was Sectumsempra."
There was a little gasp, but James didn't understand why that was important or significant. He didn't even know what the spell did, but it had apparently resulted in a very bloody scene.
"But the only one who knows..."
"I know," his father sighed. "But, you know, there are spell inventors out there who could probably make a horrible spell like that. It's..." He shook his head. "Strange. Again. But with the bodyguard murdered, we're thinking someone might be after Shacklebolt so he's getting a whole squad of Aurors to guard him at all times in the Ministry building, and then two to follow him home and guard his house."
When their conversation faded into the little, meaningless details of it all, James pulled off his glove and escaped back to his room. He put the glove in his drawer like he always did and brooded over what he had heard. Another murder...there weren't big or strange murders very often, James knew. A lot of it was accidents or Death Eaters running around but it had been fairly peaceful for most of his life. He had heard stories from when he was young and how the remaining Death Eaters had to be brought to justice, but things had been very quiet since then. James sat back in his bed. He didn't know the significance of the curse Sectumsempra, but from how seriously his parents had taken it, he wondered whether it was a crucial factor in the murder.