The Sugar Quill
Author: Jess Pallas  Story: For Want Of Silken Thread  Chapter: A Challenging Case
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4: A Challenging Case

4: A Challenging Case

 

Derbyshire, February 1964.

 

 This was certainly proving to be a challenging case.

 

Reynard Lupin rubbed his hands together sharply, blowing against his chilled fingers to ward off the encroaching cold. Darkness was creeping in fitful shadows across the battered ruins of the deserted farm that served as the base for the joint operation between the Auror division of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and the Werewolf Capture Unit attached to the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.

 

Rey belonged to neither. The best title to fit his role in this, he supposed, was that of some manner of attaché; the representative sent, as always in such cases, by the Head of the Extermination and Pest Control Division of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures because he did not appreciate the idea of going out into the dangerous cold himself. And representation was needed. The Werewolf Capture Unit was a fine body of strong, quick, hunting men capable of the kind of speed and violence necessary to bring down a rampaging beast immune to magic – but they really hadn’t half a brain between them. That was what Rey was for.

 

He was proud to be widely regarded as one of the best in the business, an expert in both the humane capture and necessary dispatching of troublesome magical beasts. There were very few creatures in the magical world that he was not capable of dealing with – from simple Boggart removal to rogue Griffin capture, Reynard Lupin could be relied upon to get results. To the horror of his wife and fascinated delight of his young son, he had even begun to collect some of the finer specimens, storing them in the old lean-to at the side of their mercifully remote cottage home in order to study their behaviour.

 

He learned enough in that time to consider writing a book someday, if he were ever to find the time. He wondered sometimes if the time should be found sooner rather than later. His job was often exciting but at times the basic work could become almost routine – banishing Boggarts, digging out Red Caps, caging pixies. More often than he liked, he found himself almost wistfully wishing for something a little more interesting.

 

But this case was something different. A real challenge.

 

Feral werewolves. Two of them.

 

Rey did not often deal with werewolves. His intense dislike of them was well known enough that his boss tended to deliberately and quietly divert most werewolf capture liaison cases to one of his colleagues. It was not as though there was a great deal to do on such cases – the Werewolf Capture Unit did the grunt work after all – and so Rey had not minded greatly. But a recent flurry of utterly routine Grindylow nettings and Bundimun scrapings had left him almost in despair; so when a request was routed through for an experienced attaché for this joint operation to bring down the pair of ferals whose exploits had been splashed all over the news, Rey had jumped at it.

 

His boss had not approved. Ares Rowen, head of the Extermination and Pest Control Division was an old friend of his father; a stern and crusty old sod that had in his day been as respected an operative as Rey was. Ares had summoned him into his office as soon as the request had reached his desk and suggested quietly that, given his history with werewolves, it was, perhaps, not such a good idea.

 

“It’s not that I don’t think you can do this,” he had intoned in his gravelly voice, regarding Rey cautiously over the rims of his glasses. “Indeed, with Stebbins off sick with that Malaclaw bite, Lanark chasing that loose mountain troll in Scotland, and Riever on holiday, you are the most experienced liaison I can send, apart from going myself, of course.”

 

Rey had pictured the rotund, grey-haired, bespectacled form of Ares Rowen out in the field chasing ferals through wood and mire and bit back a smile that would not have done any favours for his career. Ares had been the best in his youth after all and he should not mock him, even silently. Someday he might be the one trapped behind a desk by injury or girth.

 

“But Reynard; you and werewolves.” Ares was shaking his head. “Given what happened with your sister and that Argent fellow… I don’t think it would be… wise.”

 

In spite of himself, Reynard had fought a surge of rage at the mention of that name. He controlled it carefully. “Ares, really, I appreciate your concerns, but I’m thirty-seven years old now, not some angry teenager. I’m a professional. I will not let personal issues interfere with my work. I can do this case. Please.”

 

Ares had sighed deeply. “Rafe Lupin was one of my oldest and dearest friends,” he said softly. “I’d feel like a traitor if I didn’t watch out for his son.”

Reynard had nodded. “I know. And I’m grateful. But I don’t need protecting. I can look after myself.”

 

Ares had stared at him for a long moment. Then he handed him the case file.

 

“Buxton, Derbyshire,” he informed him reluctantly. “The ferals are known as Fenrir and Hel Greyback. You’ll be liasing with Rudolf Bolt of the W.C.U and that Auror chap Alastor Moody.”

 

And so here Rey was, deep in darkest Derbyshire, awaiting the impending reports on the current location of the two loose ferals so that he could do the necessary liasing and formulate a plan of action. He had been surprised when Alastor Moody had shown him the official permit he had been handed – permission for mission members to use Unforgivable curses in the capture or execution of their prey. But then with all the publicity in the Prophet about the antics of these two, their so-called “reign of terror,” perhaps it was not so unexpected after all.

 

Bolt had long since vanished inside for a meal and a good smoke – about all he was good for apart from being told where to point his weapons, to be honest. Moody, on the other hand, was lurking a few yards to Rey’s left, staring at the sky and the heavily waxing moon with a distinct edge of distaste.

 

Rey had known Moody for six years now, his partner on several other joint operations between their departments in the past. A year or two his senior, the Auror was a grizzled, well-scarred but practical man who, like Rey, had a reputation for getting the job done. In spite of his gruff demeanour, Rey liked his straightforward approach to his work.

 

“I didn’t think they’d send you, you know.” Moody’s dark eyes were still fixed on the moon as he spoke, leaning casually against the side of a battered barn. “When I asked Rowen for you a year or so back, during that business with that half-feral nutter in Surrey, he told me you didn’t work werewolf cases. Said you had personal reasons.” He grinned. “It was a pleasant surprise when you Apparated in. I was expecting that useless fool Stebbins.”

 

Rey shrugged, following the Auror’s gaze to glance at the starry sky overhead and a moon too close to full. “He never told me you’d asked. I only found out about this case by chance. I do have personal reasons not to like werewolves, but I certainly won’t let them interfere with my work.”

 

“Had a bad run-in with one, did you?” Moody inquired.

 

Rey gritted his teeth. “No. But I don’t want to talk about it.”

 

It was Moody’s turn to shrug. “Fair enough. How’re Diana and the little one?”

 

Rey grinned in spite of himself. Here was a subject he would willingly discuss. “Not so little these days. It’s his fourth birthday in a couple of weeks. Diana and I are taking him up to visit his Grandpa John at the farm. He loves it there – he keeps chasing the sheepdogs and asking where the Puffskeins are.”

 

Moody chuckled. “It seems like only yesterday that you were showing him off as a pink little bundle in the Ministry Offices. I swear I’ve never seen a grin that wide before or since. You looked like you’d pinned your lips to your ears.”

 

It was Rey’s turn to laugh. “Do you blame me? For more than ten years we tried every which way to have a child of our own. We’d all but given up hope when Remus came along. He’s our miracle.”

 

The Auror smiled, the expression odd on his grizzled face. “I was glad for you – still am. Can’t think of a couple who deserved it more. I have to say though – it surprised me that, after trying so long without success, you didn’t give up and adopt.”

 

Guilty memories flooded Rey’s mind – determinedly, he bit them back. No. He was not going to think about the boy again. He had made the choice and that was the end of it.

 

“We thought about it,” he admitted softly. “Almost did adopt,  in fact. But we – well, I – changed my mind. It just wouldn’t have been the same. And now I’m glad we waited. Remus is a dream come true.”

 

Abruptly, Moody stretched, hauling himself upright. “Getting nippy out here,” he commented. “Might head in and grab a bite to eat.” He paused, patting his friend on the shoulder. “It’s good to have you on the team, Rey. But if you do have any werewolf issues, clear them out your head right now. We can’t have them in the way in the field.”

 

With that, the Auror strode away, disappearing into the pool of light spilling from the farmhouse kitchen. Rey watched him go with a sigh.

 

Werewolf issues. In spite of his pureblood heritage and his own father Rafe’s well-noted dislike for half-breeds, he had not had any werewolf issues until he had met Loki Argent.

 

The worst part was that he had liked him. Argent had been a quiet man, given to moodiness at times and with a tendency towards the morose, but he had not been – had not seemed – a bad man and Rhea had adored him, which had been a big plus to his cause. Rhea, Rey’s big sister, forthright, lively and idealistic, a relentless champion of causes, mostly those their father despised. Rhea and their father - they had been so similar and so different at the same time, cut of the same cloth in character but with very different ideas about the world; their clashes had, at times, been spectacular.

 

Rafe Lupin was not a cruel man or an evil one – he had been supporting Dumbledore against the rise of Grindelwald for some time – but he was very much the old-fashioned pureblood and had very definite views. And Rhea was a wild child, a rebellion waiting to happen in the uncertain days of the Muggle war with Germany and wizarding war against Grindelwald. Rey had always taken more after their quieter mother, keeping his head down and letting his relatives slog their problems out unhindered. But he had loved Rhea dearly, admired her fighting spirit and respected her views.

 

Her latest mission had been werewolf rights. There was much talk in the Ministry at the time of creating a Register of Werewolves in Britain; Newt Scamander had suggested it and even begun a study to examine its feasibility. Her father was a staunch supporter of the idea but Rhea had been appalled. Fresh out of Hogwarts, being pushed towards a Ministry job and a nice pureblood husband by her father, she had abandoned his hopes and dreams and set out to make her own.

 

She took the Ministry job; but only in the hope of gaining independence from their father’s money, although she had promised both Rey and little Rolphe, their younger brother, that she would not leave them. Every free moment she could spare she spent on her campaign, drafting her brothers in to help whenever they were home from Hogwarts. And then she had met Argent.

 

Rey had not known he was a werewolf at the time. It was only later that he discovered just why his father had so despised this apparently harmless man. They had met only twice, secretly, once over the summer and again at Christmas when Rey was a fifth year, smiling to see his sister’s happiness as she clung to Loki’s – Argent’s – arm. He had returned to Hogwarts as usual the following January and settled back to await the usual flood of his sister’s chirpy correspondence.

 

Nothing came.

 

It was not until he went home for the summer that he was told that she had gone.

 

She had eloped with Argent just after he had returned to school.

 

Rolphe had never recovered from this apparent betrayal by the sister he had idolised; turning to his father for support, he became the model son that Rey had somehow never managed to be. It was he who made the pureblood marriage and took on the respectable career – it came as no surprise to Rey, on his father’s death seven years before, that all but a pittance of the family estate and fortune had gone to his brother’s perfect family. Rey’s lone rebellion in his life – his insistence upon marriage to Muggle-born Diana Griffith, daughter of an ordinary Welsh farmer – had never quite been forgiven. He tried for many years to regain his father’s favour, even to the point of… But he had decided not to dwell on that. And though the rift thinned over the years, he had never quite succeeded.

 

But Rhea had vanished. And then there was nothing. No more campaign, no letters to her brothers, nothing. Nothing until she showed up in St Mungo’s two months later…

 

Gods, he still had nightmares about that awful day – he was only grateful that his father had insisted on keeping Rolphe and his mother away. Even Rey was to have been excluded had he not happened to forgo the pre-school shopping trip to Diagon Alley that year and stay at home.

 

He had been at home that morning when the owl arrived. He had watched as his father’s face turned white as a corpse’s, watched him dash from the room and Apparate into nothingness without a glance or word of explanation to his son. For hours Rey had waited, wondered, torn between going in search of his mother, or awaiting his father’s return. Finally, as he had stood poised before the fireplace, Floo powder in his hand and the name of the Leaky Cauldron on his lips, yet another owl had swooped in through the open window and dropped a letter into his hands.

 

The terse missive was written in his father’s scrawling hand. It told him that his sister was in St Mungo’s. He, Rolphe and their mother were to wait at home until he called.

 

Rey had seriously considered obeying. Briefly.

  

Then he had deposited the note on the prominent table in the main hall and hurled the Floo powder that was still in his hands into the flames.

 

He had not needed to ask the welcomewitch where to find Rhea. He could hear her screams all the way from reception.

 

For a confused moment, Rey wondered if he had been mistaken when he followed the terrible sounds of her agony to a maternity ward. A glance inside explained everything.

 

His sister was in labour. And it was not going well.

 

She was screaming. But this was not the pure effort of childbirth – over and over again, Rhea was screaming her plight. He had tricked her into leaving. He had held her against her will. He had forced himself upon her. She did not want his child. She had just wanted to go home. She hated him. She hated Loki Argent.

 

Over and over again. Those same words.

 

And then their father, looking haggard and anxious in one corner of the room, had glanced into the doorway and seen him.

 

He had been all but hurled from the room. The porter was browbeaten into escorting him back to the fireplace and ensuring that he was well and truly gone.

 

And so Rey had waited.

 

His mother came home soon after, all alone; by blessed chance, Rolphe had encountered a friend in Diagon Alley and had been invited to stay the night. Rey reluctantly told her of what he had seen, and instantly regretted it when his mother began to weep. Despite his efforts to comfort her, she continued to cry until well into the evening.

 

Suddenly, the fireplaced glowed and his father stepped out of the ominous green flare. His eyes were haunted.

 

Rey had known then his sister was dead.

 

The labour had been difficult. The stress had been too much. Both mother and child had been lost, his father said. And Argent was at large.

 

Rhea was gone. Rey’s impulsive, vivacious sister had been stripped of her verve, her dignity and her life. That werewolf had tricked her, deceived her, killed her spirit and taken advantage of her for his own ends. And now she was dead.

 

And it was all his fault. Argent.

  

If Loki Argent hadn’t killed himself before Rey had found him, he would have happily done the job on his sister’s behalf.

 

Werewolf issues indeed.

 

“Mr Lupin! Mr Lupin!

 

Rey started violently. Lost in the thoughts of his past, he had not seen the swooping broomstick of one of the Auror scouts drop sharply into the yard in front of him.

“Sir, we’ve found them! The ferals, they’re less than a mile from here!”

His brain snapped into focus. “Send a message to the other scouts; tell them to keep the ferals in sight but don’t let them see you if you can help it and certainly don’t approach them. Then join Mr Moody and me in the farmhouse with every scrap of information you have about their location. Understand?”

 

 The man nodded eagerly but Rey had barely noticed, his professionalism clamping down over his feelings as he turned on his heel and rushed towards the farmhouse. This challenging case was coming to a head and this time there would be no mistakes.

 

They would bring the ferals down.

 

It was time.

 

 

//
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