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Author: ilene  Story: A Touch of Moonlight  Chapter: Chapter One: An Intriguing Interview
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A Touch of Moonlight Chapter One

A Touch of Moonlight

 

Written by ilene

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Author’s Note: To those of you who have read this chapter before, I have made a few small changes to reflect the revelations of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  This makes the story compatible with post-Order of the Phoenix canon, and introduces spoilers for JK Rowling’s latest work.

Chapter One: An Intriguing Interview

 

Curie da Silva sat scrunched up on the bottom of the large armoire in her uncle’s office.  Curie had discovered years ago that not only was the inside of the armoire magically expanded so that a human could fit on the bottom shelf, the doors were enchanted as well, so that she could look through it from the inside, but no one could look in.  She hadn’t resorted to such a childish method of spying for a while, and she didn’t really relish sharing a space with her uncle’s many strange artifacts and specimens, but this was important.

 

Her uncle had been advertising for a new field worker.  A part-time position, he’d said, just to help out on the more dangerous cases.  Curie knew the truth, though.  Her uncle wanted someone to “assist” her…which actually meant, to act as her child-minder.  Of course, he just didn’t think eighteen-year-old girls had it in them to be full-fledged, independent trackers and exterminators of all the foul Dark Creatures that plagued the world.

 

Curie thought this an absolute load of rubbish.  Eighteen-year-olds worked in the Ministry of Magic, of all places.  Although, considering what her uncle thought of the Ministry of Magic, she supposed he wouldn’t take that as a good argument, either.  Bah. 

 

Luckily, so far no one had applied for the new position had been at all qualified for it.  Most wizards who were fit for such a job would much rather have a full position, which paid more.  But tonight, her uncle was expecting yet another applicant, who he was very keen on.  So much so, that Curie had stuffed herself into her childhood hiding place, to see exactly what the fuss about this wizard was all about. 

 

The door opened, and her uncle appeared, limping slightly as he always did.  The applicant was right behind him.  Hah!  He isn’t much older than I am, Curie thought.  The wizard couldn’t have been any more than twenty-five years old, and Curie bet he was even younger than that.  He was taller than her uncle, but that was no great feat.  He was also quite thin and pale, as if he’d just recovered from an attack of ague, and his eyes looked much too gentle to ever have stared down any fierce beast. 

 

I seriously doubt he’ll be the one, Curie thought with a sense of relief, as the applicant placed his bags on the floor and sat in a chair in front of her uncle’s desk.  She could preserve her independence a little longer.

 

**********

 

Remus J. Lupin looked across the desk at the short, stocky man with a graying beard who sat in the chair behind it, reading a letter.  The yellowing parchment contained the words of Albus Dumbledore, and Remus had read it through often enough to know by heart the praises it contained.  Yet the thought of those words still made him color slightly, and even cringe a little inside.  It was too bad that even Dumbledore’s recommendation usually held little weight when held against the truth of what he was.   But perhaps this was as he deserved, considering that even Dumbledore did not know what he was truly capable of, the depths of foolhardiness Remus had been guilty of, even at times when he looked as human as any wizard. 

 

The letter was an old one, written in Remus’s last year at Hogwarts, and so was confined to Dumbledore’s observations of his high marks in Defense Against the Dark Arts, great dueling skills, ingenious Charms work, and leadership abilities.  He had appreciated that praise the most.  While he had enjoyed giving guidance to younger students even as early as third year, when he’d given much advice to the second years on what subjects to take, he had never dreamed of becoming a prefect.  He had almost collapsed with shock when he’d opened the usual letter from Hogwarts the summer before his fifth year to find a shiny prefect badge tucked in with the parchment.  But even then, he had felt more trepidation than joy, and his first thought had been to wonder how he could be a reliable prefect when he was out “sick” every month.  And while he had tried to carry out his duties, he’d often felt like a fraud, an imposter, considering all the rule-breaking he’d been involved in, among other things.... 

 

But you always feel like an imposter, don’t you, a small internal voice taunted Remus.  You belong in this office, as much as a fox belongs in a henhouse.  

 

Remus had managed to silence that voice for the most part, though not completely, during his years at Hogwarts.  But after the deaths of James, and Lily, and Peter…and a strange feeling he’d had, towards the end, that James and Lily had been shutting him out, as if they distrusted him…the old doubts had come back, strong as ever.  The fact that he continued to have trouble finding and keeping a job hadn’t helped his self-confidence any.  That was one reason why he hadn’t bothered asking Dumbledore to update his letter.  Most of what he had done in the fight against Voldemort was confidential, anyway.

 

The short man, whose name was Mr. Grapple, looked up from his letter.

 

“Well,” Grapple said, “I am quite impressed by your references.”

 

“Thank you, Mr. Grapple,” Remus said.

 

“Professor Dumbledore has written one of the most – er – entertaining letters I have read in a long time.  A great man, Albus Dumbledore.  I’ve met him – some years ago, when he was leading the fight against Grindelwald.  But I suppose that was before your time. Ah, yes, it must be just words in the pages of history books to you – but I lived it.  I’m sure Dumbledore would have defeated He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, if it had come to that.  Quite a pity that he did not become Minister of Magic!  If anyone could have straightened out the Ministry, he would have been the one. As it is – ” Grapple let out a sound halfway between a laugh and a snort.

 

            Remus had to struggle not to respond in kind.  Instead, he just said, “I am sure Professor Dumbledore would appreciate your words of support.”

 

Grapple nodded, then got up from behind the desk.  “So now, Mr. Lupin,” he said, “Let us start the practical part of this interview.”

 

He led Remus out of his office, into the hallway, and gestured at a large grandfather clock at one end of it.  The door must have been sealed with a Containment Charm, but it was rattling, and sometimes, the entire clock would shake and jump, scraping against the wall.

 

“In here is a Dark Creature whom I have captured, and held inside this clock as a test for any wizard who wishes to join us.  You have fifteen minutes to defeat the creature, starting from when I open the doors.  I will observe, and, of course, intervene if I sense any danger to your life or limbs.”

 

Remus drew his wand, and looked at the clock with just the slightest bit of nervousness.  Despite what Grapple had said, he doubted that even an experienced Dark Creature catcher like Grapple would care to keep any of the extremely dangerous beasts in his own home.  Of course, he doesn’t know that he just invited one right into his office.  He knew quite well that Grapple would consider this job totally inappropriate for him, if he knew what Remus was. But at least he hadn’t had to tell any blatant lies to his prospective employer, at least not yet. 

 

“Good luck!” Grapple stepped back, and pointed at the clock with his wand.  The door opened, and Remus stared into the workings of the clock. 

 

All he saw was a large, round, silvery orb.  He silently cursed.  Of course.  A Boggart.   Quite an ingenious test, to surprise wizards with their greatest fears  and weed out any imposters, like myself…

 

Remus half expected Grapple to yell “Monster!” or even blast him with some spell.  Surely he had ruined any chance he had for the job now, but he might as well go through with defeating the Boggart. 

 

He thought for a moment, then pointed his wand at the silvery sphere, and shouted,“Riddikulus!”  The Boggart turned into a large round ball of Gouda, complete with red wax rind…and a large, plump rat happily munching away at it, a rat that looked exactly like Peter. Oh, Peter, Peter, he thought.  Did I ever tell you how it helped me to think of you when I was faced with a Boggart?  Peter, who had never shown any sign of suspecting Remus of anything, who had foolishly gone after Sirius and been blown to bits for it.  Remus shook his head hard to cut off his train of thought before memories of Peter… and James and Lily, and Sirius (damn you, Sirius!) swamped him, perhaps even caused him to shed tears, though he thought he had shed all of his tears long ago.

 

He turned to face Grapple, but couldn’t bear to look him in the eye.  “Well, Mr. Grapple, I’m sure you saw all of that.  I suppose I’ll be going now.”  Remus began walking toward Grapple’s office, where he had left his bags.

 

He heard Grapple rush after him.  “Going? Why?”

 

Remus turned around.  Grapple was standing right behind him.  The man was fast, despite his short legs and slight limp.

 

“You don’t have to spell it out for me, Mr. Grapple.” Remus said, still unable to look him in the eye.  “I know you find me unfit for the job, and I apologize…“

 

“Why?  Because you fear nothing but your own future?”

 

“My future?

 

“Yes, I see there is a small flaw in the design of my test.  I should have known that even for wizards as young as you, there are those whose greatest fear is not of any monster, but of how their future will unfold, how their lives are fated to proceed…and end.  After all, it has been only three years since the fall of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.  Quite understandable…”

 

Remus couldn’t believe his ears at first, then was overwhelmed with relief.  Of course, he thought.  He thinks I saw a crystal ball! 

 

“Yes, I have lost many friends to Voldemort,” Remus said.  Grapple shuddered slightly, then looked at Remus with even more respect.

 

“And you can still bear to speak his name.  You are quite brave.”  Grapple paused for a bit. “But of course, you were in Gryffindor.”

 

Remus nodded.

 

“It is rather unfortunate, that most of us are afraid to say his name,” Grapple said.  “I suppose one day the fear will subside.  After all, it took many years after the fall of Grindelwald for our world to recover.  I have friends who kept the wards on their houses active for decades.  But perhaps it was not a total waste of their time and effort to so, since they did not have to rebuild them when another Dark Lord began to rise.  I suppose it is the way of the world…the Dark Side is always looking to rise again.  As the great Auror Alastor Moody would say…constant vigilance is necessary.”

 

They were both back in Grapple’s office now, and Grapple sat down behind his desk.

 

“Well, Mr. Lupin, although it is unfortunate that I could not observe you in the field…what I have seen is enough.  I am going to offer you the position.  As I said earlier, as long as you work at least half the month, you may set your own hours…after consulting with your partner, of course.  ”

 

“My partner?”

 

“Yes, I prefer that all of our field workers be paired, though many work alone on the more mundane jobs.  You will be paired with Silver.”

 

“Silver?”

 

“Not her given name, of course.  Many of our workers prefer to go by code names.  Indeed, I have a policy about this…’Tell me no lies, and I will ask you no secrets.’  If you wish to go by a code name yourself, that is fine.  There is a contract, but I do not require you to sign it.” 

 

“But if I don’t sign it, then how…”

 

Grapple pulled out a roll of parchment from a drawer in his desk, and something else.  A small, thin dagger, with a sharp tip.

 

“You have heard of how wizards who cannot read or write, make their mark?”

 

Such illiteracy was quite rare in the present, of course.  Remus thought back, to the History of Magic classes that he had spent most of his time sleeping through.  Then he remembered.

 

“Yes, I have.”

 

“Would you prefer that method?”

 

Remus thought for a while.  He wasn’t sure how much it would help, since he had already told Grapple his real name.  On the other hand, he did not think Grapple was the type to go looking about in Ministry records, even the certain Registry on which he could find the name of Remus J. Lupin…with an asterisk, no less, denoting “fully qualified wizard”.   That was quite a rare feat in England, and as far as he knew, he was the only one who had received a full education after being bitten.

 

“Yes, I would prefer that.”

 

“Very well.”  Grapple held the contract and dagger out to him. 

 

**********

 

Curie looked on as the young wizard held the dagger up to his thumb.  She was intrigued to see that his face showed no change in expression, that he did not flinch as he pierced the side of his thumb with the dagger.  He let the blood flow until it quite covered the surface of his thumb, pressed his thumb against the parchment, then lifted it away, leaving his thumbprint.

 

Then he took out his wand, pointed it at the cut thumb, and softly said, “Remedio”.  The cut quickly healed over.  “Ah, quite intriguing,” Uncle Grapple said.  “Hopefully, you will not have much need for that spell in your work.”

 

“Thank you for your concern,” the young wizard said, “I hope so, too.  I can heal minor wounds like the one you just observed, and it is useful at times, but I would not call myself a true Healer.” 

 

“So then, Mr. Lupin,” Uncle Grapple said, “I suppose that you would also prefer to have a code name?”

 

            “Yes, I think that would be advisable,” the young wizard – Lupin – said.

 

            “Do you have any name in mind that you would want to be called by?” Uncle Grapple said.

 

            “Well…”  Lupin seemed to think for a moment, then said, “No, not really.”

 

            “Perhaps your parents or friends gave you a nickname or two when you were young?”

 

            “No, not at all,” Lupin said, but Curie saw that he looked at the floor and colored slightly as he said this.

 

            “All right…let’s see if I can come up with something, then,” Uncle Grapple said.  If he had noticed Lupin’s reaction to his question, he made no sign of it.

 

            After some moments went by, Uncle Grapple clapped his hands together, and asked,

 

            “I take it you are quite proud of being a Gryffindor?”

 

            “Well…I do try to live up to the ideals of my house…”

 

            “I also saw, when you faced the Boggart, red and gold sparks from your wand. So…well, unfortunately, we already have a ‘Golden’, and ‘Red’ might cause some trouble when dealing with Muggles…”

 

            “I’ll be dealing with Muggles?” Lupin sounded surprised.  Must be a pureblood, Curie thought.

 

            “Well, of course.  Much of our work concerns creatures running loose in Muggle land…or, wizards who can’t control their, er, interesting creatures the way they should.”

 

            “Shouldn’t the Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures take care of that?”  Lupin said, saying the name of the Department in a voice that sounded like a sarcastic imitation of a pompous government official.  Curie stifled a giggle.

 

            “Well, Mr. Lupin, if you were a wizard with, say, a renegade Fwooper flying about driving all your neighbors insane – would you like to inform the Department and be a hundred Galleon-fine poorer for it?  And probably have your pet destroyed as a dangerous creature?” 

 

            Lupin laughed.  “Yes, the Disposal Committee; well, the whole Department can be quite – er- overly cautious at times…” Hmm, Curie thought.  Seems Mr. Lupin has had a run-in or two with the Department himself.  But then Lupin added, rather hastily, “At least, that’s what I’ve heard.” 

 

            “Well, Mr. Lupin, what you have heard is, unfortunately, quite correct.  Of course, as you may have guessed, the Department does not always look too kindly on our work.  However, considering the number of wizards who call on us for aid, I suspect that if we were to be shut down, the Department would find itself quite deluged.” 

 

            Lupin nodded.

 

            Curie wouldn’t have been surprised if her uncle had taken the opportunity to tear into the Ministry further, but he did return to the original subject.

 

            “Now, back to the subject of your code name…I take it you trace your family back to France?”  

           

            “Well, my great-great-uncle Arsène made quite a name for himself in the Muggle world in the nineteenth century, as a master of disguise, among other things.  He was a powerful Metamorphmagus…well, at least according to family tradition.”

 

            “Yes, I remember hearing tales of his exploits…though I believe Muggles nowadays think he was just a character in a book.  But to get back to you…what if we use the French word for ‘Red’?  How does ‘Rouge’ sound?”

 

            Lupin thought this over for a moment, then said, “I have no problem with that.”  Though Curie noticed that he glanced down at his pale hands afterwards.

 

            “All right, then,” Uncle Grapple said.  “From now on, you will be known as Rouge, and no one will be told of your true name.”  He reached into a cubbyhole in his desk, and handed Lupin – no, Curie told herself, he’s Rouge now – a folded sheet of yellowing parchment.  “I am returning Professor Dumbledore’s letter to you.”  He smiled.  “I am sure you will meet – I daresay, even exceed – my expectations.  Welcome to Grapple’s, Rouge.”

 

            Uncle Grapple and Rouge stood and shook hands, then Uncle Grapple led Rouge out of the office. 

 

Curie remained hidden in the armoire, in case her uncle returned.  Well, this Rouge seems to know what he’s doing, at least, Curie thought.  Her uncle had seemed quite impressed by him, and Curie wondered what Rouge’s Boggart had been, and how he had set about defeating it.  At least he hadn’t run away screaming “It’s an Augurey!  An Augurey! I’m doomed!” like the last applicant had. She hadn’t known that anyone still believed Augureys forecasted death, instead of rainy weather.  And Rouge had actually said that – name – that name that even made her uncle shudder.  Not to mention cutting into his thumb without flinching.

 

Maybe it won’t be that bad having a partner, after all, she told herself.  Maybe.

 

**********

 

Author’s Note: Arsène Lupin, the Gentleman Thief, was created by the French writer Maurice Leblanc, first appearing in the story "L'Arrestation d'Arsène Lupin" (The Arrest of Arsène Lupin)  in 1905.  To describe him succinctly, he was somewhat of a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood, a French gentleman who was a burglar by night.  He stole mostly for the thrill of carrying off the perfect crime, and from those who could afford to be robbed.  He is also a detective and a master of disguise (even disguising himself as a police chief and being assigned to investigate his own crimes!)  It made sense to me that this Lupin might well have been a wizard who used magic to help him in his crimes.  I got this summary of information from http://www.geocities.com/jessnevins/vicl.html and there is also a French website devoted to him at www.arsene-lupin.com

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