The Sugar Quill
Author: Grace has Victory (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Crown of the North  Chapter: 2 The Man who Disappeared
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CHAPTER TWO

The Man who Disappeared

Thursday 21 July – Sunday 24 July 1983

Perthshire: Perth, Dunkeld, Pitlochry, Foss.

Rated PG-13 for explicit lycanthropy.


In fact they did not walk very far on that first day. Ivor and Hestia were virtually dancing down the pavements, but with a fine disregard for direction or route, and those who had risen early to take the Dundee bus wanted to set a more reasonable pace. Emmeline Vance was managing the map, but with so many frowns that in the end, Kingsley gave it a swift glance and announced that he would navigate. Sturgis Podmore was apparently enjoying his reunion with Remus and Emmeline, and he wanted to talk about the Order of the Phoenix, so Ariadne fell into step with Glenda Foster. Remus, although replying to Sturgis, never left her side; he seemed very happy to pay her so much attention and very glad of the excuse of her parents’ orders to be able to do so. The Kincarden barn owl hovered discreetly after them, fluttering from tree to tree.

Glenda, however, was not in the mood for conversation, and Ariadne wondered if she were already regretting the melancholy excursion.

As they left the elegant Georgian streets of Perth, Hestia slowed down and stopping singing. She waited for Glenda, which gave Ariadne, who walked long distances every day at home, a chance to quicken to a more comfortable pace. It was almost amusing how Remus lengthened his stride to accompany her. But letting him see that she had noticed would remind him that she was his job. She asked him instead, “Remus, what were you doing on the day Caradoc disappeared?”

“Some of us from the Order spent the afternoon together. I remember it because it was the last time I saw James and Lily Potter before their son Harry was born.”

Once again, she wondered what he was not saying. She wanted to ask him more about the Potters, but Sturgis appeared on her other side, saying, “Your memory is better than mine, Remus. Did any of us talk about Caradoc that evening?”

“Not that I remember. I didn’t hear that he’d vanished until after Harry was born, so before this morning I never made the connection that Caradoc was killed on that day. Or night.”

“Night? What was special about that night?” asked Sturgis.

“Nothing in particular. I just remember walking with Sirius Black – who was still a friend in those days – in the blinding rain, staring at the full moon, talking about James.” Remus was looking at the ground as if he did not want either of them to meet his eye. “Obviously what I’m asking myself now is: how many of those people knew Caradoc had been sent into a Death Eaters’ den?”

Sturgis swore loudly. The noise drowned out Ariadne’s next question. Remus only looked politely at Ariadne so that she could repeat herself. “You’re meaning – did Sirius Black know where Caradoc had gone? Was he the one who tipped off the Death Eaters?” She had not realised that Remus had known the infamous Black, but it made sense if they had worked for the Order together.

“It probably isn’t a helpful speculation,” he admitted, “but the possibility is crossing my mind.”

“Never mind speculation,” Sturgis interrupted. “What about the danger now? If we’d realised this earlier… we’re going to have to change the itinerary for this excursion. The original plan didn’t include Macnair territory, and it had us camping up in the mountains on Sunday. It looks as if we’re going to need to avoid open spaces on that night.”

“We have no reason to believe that there is any danger,” said Remus smoothly, “so don’t go putting frightening ideas into your friends’ heads.”

“I still want the youngsters to be spending Sunday night with civilisation,” said Sturgis. “It’s starting to sound as if Pitlochry itself is nearer the mark anyway. That means slowing the whole thing down.”

Ariadne did not know what Remus meant when he agreed that “loitering would be safer”. However, Sturgis had a word with Kingsley, who, without checking the map, led them unerringly to a camping ground only a couple of miles out of Perth. Fortunately they were able to hire a site despite not having booked; Emmeline paid the manager in Muggle money, and they set up their tents – by hand, since the site was full of Muggle campers. The Kincarden owl settled in a tree beside Emmeline’s tawny and Ivor’s Scops, all of them trying to look as if they had nothing to do with the campers.

The next two days were equally slow-paced. On Friday they only walked as far as Dunkeld. They left their bags inside their tents and spent the rest of the day walking through the larches, photographing the Hermitage, exploring the cathedral and the Ell House. On Saturday they made a very leisurely pace to Pitlochry but, instead of camping, they hired a cottage just outside the town.

At five o’ clock on Sunday morning, Hestia pulled Ariadne’s covers from the bed. She was not smiling. Glenda, obviously sleep-deprived, tip-toed to Emmeline’s bunk. She hesitated, but Hestia encouraged her with a nod, and Glenda daringly pulled off Emmeline’s covers. Emmeline began to mumble something cross, but then thought better of it.

“Today’s the day, then?” said Ariadne.

Hestia nodded. Five minutes later they were dressed and hammering at the door to the other bedroom. Sturgis’s voice called out something that sounded like a complaint, but Ivor’s voice reminded him, “Lay off. Today’s the reason we came here.”

They were all out of the cottage before six. Hestia and Glenda led the way, not speaking to anybody else, although Ivor tagged closely behind them. Ariadne and the others lagged a respectful distance back. Kingsley, who had taken charge of all the maps and memorised them, pretended to consult one about the route. But they all knew that the only possible plan was to follow the River Tummel until they reached Macnair Castle unless they first encountered anything that looked like a Death Eater meeting place.

The silence was almost deathly; they could hear every rustle of the leaves, every fall of their own feet. Their owls were silent. They passed no human settlement. They met neither hikers nor fishermen. There was not even a sign of past tourists, a footprint in the mud or a cigarette butt. Yet the light was so strong – almost blinding, despite the shade of the trees – that it was difficult to imagine that anything Dark had ever happened here, or even to remember that “Dark” was only a metaphor and that Death Eaters might kill in open sunshine.

“What are we expecting to find?” Emmeline murmured. “The grass scorched where the Death Eaters passed?”

“Skulls in the river?” offered Kingsley.

“Trees carved with the Dark Mark?” added Sturgis.

“It’s three years since Caradoc came this way – if this is the way he came,” said Emmeline. “And two since the last Death Eater meeting.”

Remus had said nothing. He was keeping so close to Ariadne that she felt he would have held her hand if she had let him. She knew he was worried about the day’s excursion, and it was obvious why.

They had ambled along the riverbank for about three hours when Hestia pointed upwards and left. “That’s it!”

Ariadne saw nothing for several paces more, and then suddenly it snapped into view: a huge Gothic castle with a yawning portcullis, and pinnacles and turrets clinging to the rose-beige walls at impossible angles, doubtless held in place by Dark spells. A spine-shivering chill had invaded the summer air, and she could see a face through a lancet window…

A face. Although wrapped in a wimple, complete with thirteenth-century filet cap, the face was not at all ghostly. It was young, female, and very much alive, with huge haunted eyes…

“Stand back!” Remus had a hand on her shoulder and was pulling her away, but she was hardly aware of him. She was still staring at the face high up in the window, sure that the stranger was staring back at them. “Ariadne!” Remus was speaking more urgently now. “Come away from the castle.

It was the first time she had ever felt angry with Remus. The longer she stared at the girl in the window, the more distinctly she could see the face. It was a face she had never expected to see again. When Remus’s hand tightened on her upper arm, she wrenched her eyes away and saw that he was terrified.

To oblige him, she began to step backwards. Instantly, the castle vanished and the air was warm again. She looked exactly where the castle had been, but all she could see was trees, hillside, and then a ruined kirk beside a cluster of houses that announced themselves to be the village of Foss.

“The castle is invisible,” she breathed, “unless… ”

“Everyone stand back!” Kingsley had latched on, and his voice cut into her thoughts. He grabbed at Glenda Foster, none too gently, and said, “We’ll talk later – stand back from the castle.” Suddenly everybody was taking notice of him, and they all scuttled backwards. “Keep walking,” said Kingsley, “we need to move.”

After they had moved a hundred yards back the way they had come, they stopped and sat down at the bank. Glenda, despite all attempts at nonchalance, was in tears, and Hestia had buried her face in Glenda’s shoulder. Remus did not budge from Ariadne’s side, but he addressed the whole group.

“It isn’t safe to investigate that castle any more. Whatever it is, it’s Dark magic.”

“But we didn’t actually go near it,” said Ivor. “It was like telescope vision. We could see every detail – the cracks in the bricks, the faces at the windows – but we weren’t in fact very close to it.”

“We were too near,” said Kingsley soberly. “We couldn’t see it at all until we crossed some kind of boundary. Then we saw everything. We must have stepped over some kind of magical territory marker – Ariadne, do you still think it’s Macnair’s territory?”

“I do; the village of Foss was clearly marked.”

“I suspect a Muggle tourist would see Foss and nothing else,” said Emmeline. “Only wizards who step inside the Macnair border could see the castle. Which means that – if they saw us seeing them – they would know we are wizards. That would put us in danger of retaliation even if we had innocent intentions. Which we haven’t, exactly.”

“I think we should have lunch in Pitlochry,” said Remus. Sturgis gave him a significant glance, which he ignored, and nobody argued.

Those who could not Apparate held on to those who could, and they relocated themselves to the cottage. Ariadne had not expected Side-Along Apparition to be so disorienting; her head was spinning as they walked across to the lawn outside the Festival Theatre and sat down to recover from the long hike.

Ariadne was thinking about the face she had seen at the window. She had met most of the Macnair clan at one time or another (and had not liked any of them), and this had not been a Macnair face. Obviously, they would not be living there alone; there would be all kinds of employees and visitors. Yet, despite the quaint costume…

“The face at the window… It looked so exactly like somebody… ”

“A ghost?” offered Sturgis.

Remus accepted Ariadne’s assertion that it was definitely not a ghost, but suggested, “An illusion? We’re dealing with magical vision here, so don’t assume that anything you saw was literally real.”

“But it was not just the face. The expression. It was so… so like a person I used to know.” As long as everybody else was concerned with Dark wizards and Caradoc Dearborn, it seemed wrong to throw another mystery into the composition. If the face were not literally real, then was it a specific torment designed for herself? But why would Walden Macnair bother with such a weak and random ploy? She could not make herself think about Uncle Macnair. Perhaps she should, but her imagination was entirely taken over by the image of the very familiar face in that very foreign place.

The face of Veleta Vablatsky, who had died three years ago.

Nobody was very talkative, and in the end it was Glenda who said, “We can’t mope. We should do something with the rest of the day. How about Blair Castle?”

“I’ve had enough of castles,” said Sturgis. “And enough outdoor hiking. How about the salmon ladder, or the distillery?”

They made a list of the tourist traps and visited them at a very leisurely pace, between long hours of sitting on the grass. Oddly, Hestia and Glenda seemed to be avoiding each other. Hestia clung to Ivor’s hand, showing very resolute enthusiasm for salmon and whisky, and even some genuine laughter at Ivor’s jokes. That left Ariadne to seek out Glenda, who clutched at her arms and seemed unable to speak.

“It’s been a frustrating morning,” Ariadne offered. “We’re yet none the wiser.”

“But I think we are.” Glenda steered Ariadne down the street. “I’d never heard of Macnair Castle until you mentioned it. And now it just reeks of Caradoc’s last hours. I was thinking about it all morning, wondering how far he went before they caught him, and whether he was aiming for the castle or some spot in the open countryside, and whether he walked along the river-bank or left it to cross the fields… I’m feeling I want to survey the area on a broomstick. Yes, I know, it’s stupid. Looking for a sight of burned grass.”

“It all has to be exquisitely painful for you.”

Glenda nodded as if she found this hopeless statement comforting. She kept close to Ariadne all day, alternating among wanting to talk about Caradoc, wanting to talk about looking for him, wanting to talk about Pitlochry, and wanting to be left in silence.

Ariadne found herself not only walking with Glenda, but thinking her thoughts, feeling her feelings, missing Caradoc in his absence, living the frustration of never being quite certain that he was really dead. When Glenda lapsed into another silence, it took Ariadne a moment to remember that she had never actually known Caradoc; he’d just been the Prefect in her first year at Hogwarts, a mere name to a face.

She looked around for Remus, realising that he had finally eased up in his vigilance in order to mingle with Sturgis, Emmeline and Kingsley. Just as she began to hope that he had finally let himself forget that she was his job, he turned his head to meet her eyes, then nodded, acknowledging that she was with Glenda and safe. He was still marking her every move. He did not consider himself to be on holiday at all.

So she was very surprised over dinner when Remus announced that he had an appointment in Hogsmeade. “I can’t avoid it gracefully. I’m putting Sturgis in charge of you, Ariadne. Just in case any Dark wizards decide to attack in front of the Muggles.” He was smiling, but she thought he sounded grim. “Have her back at the cottage by dark.”

“But we’re going to the Festival Theatre tonight,” protested Hestia. “The play doesn’t end until after ten.”

“Not tonight.” Remus sounded almost sharp. “Tomorrow perhaps. But Ariadne is not to be out after dark tonight. Give me your word on that, Sturgis, or I will Apparate her back to Inverness-shire now.”

Ariadne had never heard such desperation over a simple appointment. “It’s all right,” she said, “I’m tired. Why do we not go to the theatre tomorrow when Remus can come too?”

Several of her companions looked as if they would like to protest further, but nobody did. After dinner they walked through Pitlochry – even the evening air was warm – back to their cottage. Remus frowned at the door, bolted it, and Disapparated.

It had been a long day, yet somehow nobody really wanted to go to bed. The Kincarden barn owl was looking reproachful at not having been given any work, so Ariadne wrote a quick note to her parents to say that everything was going well, despite her own lurking suspicion that something was about to go very wrong. They played several rounds of Exploding Snap, but nobody’s mind was on the game. After a while they put the cards away and talked. At first they avoided the subject of Caradoc. Then they could only talk about Caradoc. They stopped to watch the sunset, and Ariadne wondered where Remus really was. He might well be in Hogsmeade for all she knew – it was not in fact very far away – but she knew that this was another of his mysterious “appointments”. She also wondered what impenetrable danger he feared outside in the dark – something about which Sturgis and Emmeline apparently knew but were unwilling to discuss with the rest of them.

At sunset they felt justified in lighting a fire, even though it was only a standard hearth and not a camp fire. Kingsley made a very good blue flame “in honour of North Sea gas”, and he turned it orange and then pink at the flick of a finger. Emmeline conjured a toasting fork and began to make raisin toast from a loaf she had bought in town. Ariadne guessed that Hestia and Glenda were still restless about Caradoc; but her own mind could not leave the subject of Remus. She wondered if Sturgis and Emmeline had some good reason to worry about him and his “appointment”.

Then they heard it. A long, low-pitched, lonely howl.

Ariadne froze to the floor, trying not to hear the message that the howl was bringing. Glenda murmured something about “someone tormenting a dog”, but Ivor was already suggesting, “A wolf.”

“It can’t be a wolf,” said Kingsley. “Wolves have been extinct from Scotland for three hundred years.”

Ariadne glanced instinctively beyond Kingsley to the window, where a huge moon, unquestionably full, was clearly visible on the horizon. Hestia followed her gaze and asked, “What about a werewolf?”

The animal howled again. Emmeline leapt to her feet and said, “He’s in trouble.” Sturgis, also pulling to his feet, said, “Not necessarily,” but Emmeline persisted, “We have to look.”

Ariadne’s head was pounding. Remus had wanted her indoors tonight. He must have remembered it was the full moon. And she remembered his words: in the blinding rain, staring at the full moon. The night when Caradoc disappeared. Remus had been trying to tell Sturgis, without upsetting anybody else, that Caradoc had disappeared on the night of the full moon. Caradoc… at the jaws of a werewolf?

“Friends,” said Sturgis, “we have to go out and check this ‘werewolf’, just on the off-chance that it isn’t someone’s mistreated dog and it isn’t properly restrained.”

“You’re leaving us?” asked Glenda.

“You’re in charge, Glenda,” said Emmeline. “Don’t for any reason allow any of the others to leave the cottage.”

Had Remus known that there was a werewolf in the area? Or was he just being cautious? He had taken his task of protecting her on this holiday very, very seriously. But if caution were so important tonight of all nights, why had he persisted in keeping his appointment in Hogsmeade? Those appointments… had not Janet written that they happened once a month? Something was forcing itself into her mind, something so fantastic that she felt stupid for considering it.

Glenda nodded soberly. Horrid imaginings were apparently entering her own mind as she opened the door for Sturgis and Emmeline and then barred it behind them. But Ariadne was not thinking about Caradoc. She would not, would not, imagine anything so horrible about his fate until she knew for sure that there had been a werewolf in the area on the night he died.

“Do you know any good Stunners?” That was the last they heard of Sturgis’s voice, floating through the moon-flooded night. “Good, we’ll Apparate towards the sound, a hundred yards at a time… ”

But Remus has a secret. The voice took over Ariadne’s thoughts as soon as she had withdrawn her mind from Caradoc. Not a guilty secret, but certainly a painful one. That evening in November when she had been home from school, and he had insisted that he had to keep his appointment… he had followed her outdoors, he had Disapparated… She had walked around the farm, doing his jobs for him in the dusk, doing no end of out-of-school Charms, or coaxing William to do them for her… it must have been dusk – it had been after four o’ clock – but it had actually been quite light, because…

Because it had been a full moon that night.

Every full moon, Remus went out to keep his “appointment”. And every morning after, he was sick and wasted with an illness that nobody recognised.

Ariadne sat down on the sofa, holding her head in her hands. Glenda, who obviously believed that Ariadne shared her images of Caradoc’s horrific end, sat down next to her and threw her arms around her shoulders. Ariadne hugged her friend back, but did not admit that she was not thinking about the man whom she had barely known. She was not thinking of the victim at all, but of the attacker.

Her whole mind was emblazoned with the horror of being… the assailant, the destroyer, the mindless monster… knowing day after day that month after month one would lose all human control to the bloodthirsty predator inside, would become the vessel of its acts of carnage… She sobbed bitterly.

Remus Lupin was a werewolf.

//
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