I own nothing but the plot.


Amelia Bones stepped over the threshold of the MacNair home to join the Aurors who were taking photographs and collecting evidence. Kingsley Shacklebolt stepped up beside her.

"Report," the director of the DMLE ordered.

"Same as the other two," Shacklebolt said. "The entire family was seated at the table. Their dinner is prepared and partially eaten. They're all dead. No sign of forced entry and the doors are all locked from the inside. Whoever killed them took them completely by surprise. Got in, killed them, got out again without detection or any evidence of their movements."

"Any indication as to how they were killed?" Bones asked.

"None," Shacklebolt answered. "There's no marks of any kind on the bodies and no residue of dark spells."

"So it's not the killing curse?" Bones asked.

"Definitely not," Shacklebolt confirmed. "This appears to be something new."

"Great," lamented Bones. "Just what we needed. Anything else unusual or noteworthy?" she asked.

"Yes," confirmed Shacklebolt. "We found scraps of red and white paper on the floor next to Walden MacNair."

"From a howler? The same was found at Crabbe and Goyle's. Did MacNair have a Mark?" Bones pressed.

"Yes," Shacklebolt said, with a grimace. "He has the Dark Mark." The two law enforcement officers moved further into the house, examining the deceased family still seated at the table. A few flies had started to gather around the bodies and the food. A large beetle was crawling up the wall.

"So," Bones said with a sigh, "we have a possible vigilante serial killer going after suspected former death eaters."

"I don't know, boss," Shacklebolt said. "Can you really be a former death eater?"

"Even if not," Bones answered, "I highly doubt that MacNair's wife or children deserved to be killed." Shacklebolt nodded his agreement. They watched as a Magical Forensics specialist gathered up the pieces of the Howler and placed them in an evidence bag.

"What do you think, Shacklebolt?" Bones asked her top Auror.

"The killer was obviously in the house already but wasn't a dinner guest. There are no missing places at the table settings. The intruder arranged for a howler to be delivered, and as the family was distracted with it, they struck?" Kingsley theorized.

"But all the doors were locked from the inside," said Amelia. "Where did the killer go?"

"We confirmed that it's Macnair's own magical signature that did the locking," said Shacklebolt. "There's anti-apparition and anti-portkey wards over the entire house. I don't know how he got out."

"Any luck finding out what the howler said?" Bones asked.

"No," said Shacklebolt. "As usual, it shredded itself as soon as it finished what it had to say. We pieced together what we could, though. Whatever it was, it wasn't in English, nor any other language we're aware of."

"Again," said Amelia, "the same as Crabbe and Goyle." She paced around the dining room, looking for any clues that might help her solve the mystery. Auror Dawlish entered the house and came up to Shacklebolt and Bones.

"The neighbours all report a horribly loud noise that blasted through the neighbourhood at exactly 7:00 PM," Dawlish reported. "Whatever it was, it didn't last long, but gave everyone who heard it a splitting headache for a few minutes."

"Could that have been the Howler?" Amelia asked.

"Could have been," Shacklebolt said. "Send a Howler of noise to distract the family, and since there were no actual words, we wouldn't be able to get a clue from it."

"Go ahead and finish up here," Bones ordered, "and I'll report to the Ministry. Let me know if you find anything else or have any ideas."


The Daily Prophet - The Howler Strikes Again!

Another respectable family is struck down by The Howler, writes Rita Skeeter, special correspondent. Walden MacNair, a hard-working and honest ministry employee, and his family met with tragedy last night. Everything seemed the picture of normality for the happy family as they sat at their table to eat their dinner. Little did they know that they were playing host to an uninvited guest.

The serial killer who is rapidly becoming known as The Howler slaughtered the family in cold blood last night. Walden (45), his wife Teresa (39), and their two sons Malcolm (9) and Ian (7) were all killed nearly instantly. Their bodies were found still seated at the table, their meals half-finished. The only sign of foul play was the horrified expressions frozen on their faces.

The MacNair family killings add to the body count of The Howler. Two weeks ago, Hector Crabbe (39) and his wife Evelyn (34) was the first to fall to the fiend. Their son Vincent (15), a fifth-year student in Slytherin house at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, was attending school, and thus was spared the fate of his parents. Sadly, the boy is now orphaned. Exactly one week later, Vincent's friend Gregory Goyle (15), a fellow fifth-year Slytherin, found himself in identical circumstances as his father, Vincent Goyle Sr (39) and mother Agnes (35) were killed similarly.

Amelia Bones, head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, declined to comment on this story before publication. A thorough investigation by your Daily Prophet reveals, however, that the Aurors have no hints as to the identity of the mysterious killer. The only physical clue was the remnants of a Howler on the floor. It was this signature which had earned the killer his name. Howlers were also left at the Crabbe and Goyle households on the nights they were killed. Confusion is running rampant in the DMLE with Lead Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt wildly speculating that the victims were somehow to blame for being murdered. Each of the heads of houses for these families was at one point in time suspected of being henchmen for You-Know-Who. All of them were cleared of all charges after You-Know-Who's disappearance. (For a full biography of Kingsley Shacklebolt, including the recent revelations of his involvement in a subversive anti-ministry movement, see page 23.)

"This is clearly the result of the dangerous and criminal rantings of Harry Potter," said Dolores Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic. "He has been spreading lies that You-Know-Who has returned, which we all know to be false. Someone out there obviously has believed him and is acting on the childish stories of the Boy Who Lived to attack the innocent men he falsely accused of resurrecting You-Know-Who, as well as their families. It is to be hoped that seeing the horrific consequences of his untruthful statements will guide Harry Potter to mend his ways, silence his lies, and place his trust with the Ministry, where it belongs."

Dolores Umbridge, in addition to her post as Senior Undersecretary, is currently serving as the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She has also recently taken up the position of High Inquisitor, serving as the Ministry's eyes and ears in the school, where she is fighting to keep our children safe.

We at the Daily Prophet demand that the DMLE and the Aurors step up their investigation and catch this killer before he strikes again! It is also to be hoped that Harry Potter is made aware of the hazards his words can unleash when in the hands of a lesser publication. - Rita Skeeter


Harry Potter left Professor Umbridge's office just as dinner was being served on Saturday evening. His eyes blurred with tears born less from pain than from the constant and never ceasing torment. His latest round of detentions was in response to his interview in The Quibbler. Professor Umbridge was determined to silence him. His wrist was still bleeding, and the words "I must not tell lies" was now etched permanently into his skin by her blood quills. There was a constant, dull ache in his stomach that was half hunger and half stress-induced nausea. He was losing weight he couldn't afford to lose, but he just couldn't face the crowds anymore. Ducking into an empty classroom, he pulled out the Marauder's Map and checked for any patrolling teachers, prefects, or for Filch. Everyone was at dinner in the Great Hall, and Umbridge was heading there now. Seeing that his path was clear, he darted out of the castle and headed to the greenhouses. No one but Ron and Hermione would miss him, and not even they would be expecting him. He hadn't attended a meal in the Great Hall for weeks. What little he ate, he sneaked from the kitchens.

Once inside Greenhouse 2 he rechecked the map to ensure he was alone, then pulled out a piece of red parchment and an envelope. Taking out his wand, he cast a silencing charm around him. He took some earmuffs that were hanging on the wall and donned them. Holding the parchment close to a potted plant, Harry tapped the Howler once with his wand before pulling the adult mandrake out far enough to uncover its mouth. The unholy scream filled the small bubble of space that the silencing spell allowed, and soaked into the waiting parchment.

Harry stuffed the Howler into its envelope, being careful not to let the blood from the cut words on his hand soil the parchment or envelope. He contemplated the red envelope in his hand. He had almost skipped this week. Harry kept thinking about the two MacNair boys. He hadn't known about them. Then came another week's worth of detentions. The burning words in his wrist changed his mind again. He must not tell lies. It would be a lie to believe that death eaters sons would be anything but death eaters themselves.

He left the greenhouse, cancelling the privacy bubble that kept anyone else from hearing the cry of the deadly plant. Hedwig swooped down from the owlery and landed on his arm. She always knew when her wizard had something for her to deliver. At first, he had tried to use a school owl, but Hedwig would have none of that. He tied the red envelope to her leg and whispered the name of its recipient to the snowy owl.

"Lucius Malfoy."

Hedwig took off to deliver The Howler's latest missive to his prey.

FIN