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Shay Weber-Li

I'm dead in the water, can't you see?

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Shay Weber-Li

It had started with a demonstration in the ministry’s cavernous atrium. Shay could still remember some of the colorful slogans wielded like bludgeons by angry vampire advocates as harried-looking security wizards herded them toward the visitor’s entrance: No fangs, no freedom! Equality for part-vampires NOW! Vasile Petrescu is a liar!

 

Weary and hell-bent on making it to her desk so that she could enjoy her morning coffee in peace, Shay hadn’t taken much notice of the protesters at the time. She did, however, recall a few snatches of conversation from a couple of middle-aged, gossipy ministry witches she’d shouldered past. They’re angry now? Wait until they hear that the ministry gave him a research grant from the diversity fund.

 

Now, months later, Shay also couldn’t get one particular slogan out of her mind. Vasile Pretrescu is a liar. So said B.L.O.O.D., and now, so said several family members of the part-vampire graduates of Petrescu’s so-called rehabilitation center. There had been much fanfare in the press when the graduates, most of whom had previously subsisted at least partly on blood, had been tested and found to have no trace of human blood in their systems.

 

It had really worked, or so it seemed: Petrescu could cure part-vampires, could make them into completely normal people.

 

But the graduates’ families disagreed. There was something different about their rehabilitated relatives. They were oddly aloof, or they had lost huge swathes of memories, or they were gaunt and sickly, or they were no longer capable of holding any conversation more complex than a brief discussion about the weather. Some claimed the part-vampires had lost their emotions, their personalities, their identities. Others whispered about ill treatment and dangerous experimentation under Petrescu’s roof, ostensibly in the name of curing the residents vicious instincts.

 

Shay wasn’t sure who to believe, but she still couldn’t get that slogan out of her head, just like she couldn’t shake the way her skin had crawled in the presence of the one part-vampire graduate she and Richard had managed to interview, a young man with oddly pale, clouded eyes. His answers to their questions had been brief, detached, and empty of emotion. He assured them that everything was fine: his eyes were clouded from Petrescu’s therapeutic potions, and his family’s concern, while appreciated, was unfounded.

 

He was happy, he’d said. But he’d never smiled once.

 

She’d left the interview room in a furious stew. “Something’s wrong,” she’d muttered to Richard, almost before the door shut behind them. “We have to go to Cumbria. Nothing good happens in bloody Cumbria.”

 

They apparated onto the grounds of the Petrescu Rehabilitation Centre on a foggy morning under a dome of clouded gray sky. The large stone building that housed the facility sat at one end of a long, overgrown lawn tangled with brush, looking simultaneously lonely and foreboding. Shay raised her wand with a muttered “homenum revelio,” but the spell caught in the wind and turned up nothing. She quirked an eyebrow at her partner. “Either my spell doesn't recognize vamps, or nobody’s home.”

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Richard Fowler

“Mm.” Richard grunted in the deep simple way that was his manner. Fierce eyes the color of a clear sunny day took in his surroundings. What was surely once a neatly trimmed lawn was overgrown with a jungle of weeds and dandelions. Spiderweb cracks surrounding rock sized holes in two, no three, of the front windows told the grizzled Auror all he needed to know. The bold blood red graffiti screaming 'PART TIME VAMPIRES, FULL TIME TRAITORS' was the cherry on top of his suspicions. If there was anyone still here, it would only take a quick two flicks of a wand to cast a Repairing and Scourgifying Charm. No, it was clear this building was abandoned and a smirk twitched beneath his graying bushy mustache. “Over under Petrescu didn't renovate this building himself. I think it’s safe to assume he relinquished rights to this whole facility, don’t you?”

 

It was the only good news Richard and Shay obtained on this entire investigation.

 

It started off seemingly innocent enough. Pestrescu, some quirky researcher, applied and won some diversity promotion grant from the Ministry. Over the course of the investigation, Richard reviewed the application thoroughly. The Romanian born wizard claimed to want to provide education, resources, protection and innovative treatment for part vampires to blend in with magical society. Richard was all for it; he knew the wonders the Wolfsbane Potion did for werewolves and ultimately, his job. He strongly believed these part vampires should be able to go indistinguishable in society as long as their blood thirst and vicious nature was curbed. 

 

According to the reports that flooded in, that wasn’t exactly the case. The part vampires weren’t in control of their urges like how the Wolfsbane Potion allowed werewolves to fight their animal instincts and keep their mind. Family members, loved one, employers, neighbors had all come forward with concerns regarding every single one of the now ten “graduates" of Pestrescu’s program. 

 

They were alarming. 

 

Richard’s inclination of the part vampire he and Shay had interviewed was that the lights were on but nobody was home.  The part vampire’s being, their personality, was like a watered down version of their former selves prior to the rehabilitation program. The interviewee wasn’t the exception in this innovative program. They were all like this as per the loved ones' reports. 

 

“Knock knock,” Richard’s scarred fist pounded against the door sarcastically but protocol was protocol. Casting a Sonorus silently on himself, he continued “British Ministry of Magic Department of Law Enforcement Aurors Richard Fowler and Shay Weber-Li here. If anyone’s home, present yourself with your hands in the air and don’t do anything dumb.” 

 

Only silence and an impending sense of trouble in what they were about to find greeted the pair. 

 

"Shocking."

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Shay Weber-Li

“Looks like he’s done a runner,” Shay agreed grimly. “Reckon he's left any skeletons in the closet for us?”

Inwardly, she was kicking herself for failing to fully comprehend the urgency of the investigation. The families’ reports had been concerning, but they’d trickled in gradually as the graduates finished “treatment” and many of the complaints had seemed nebulous or insubstantial. Protocol needed to be followed—they couldn't get a warrant to search Petrescu’s facility without probable cause—and, well, they had other ongoing investigations too, didn't they?  Murders and disappearances and crime rings. There was always another case to work, even with help from their newest batch of Auror recruits. It had taken Shay meeting a Petrescu Centre graduate herself for the disturbing nature of the situation to truly sink in, and now it seemed that the realization had come too late.

 

She just hoped that Petrescu hadn’t taken his remaining patients with him. Or done worse. She had stumbled across her fair share of lifeless bodies over the years, and they always meant the same thing: failure. A life that hadn't been saved, help that had come too late.  

After standing back to let Richard take the lead in announcing their presence, Shay waited a beat in the inevitable silence. As expected, the looming house remained cold and silent, responding to her partner’s summons with nothing more than wind whistling through shutter cracks. Once a suitable amount of time had passed, she flicked her wand at the door, sending it crashing open with a loud bang.

Shay winced, already picturing the look of exasperation on her partner's face. “Not very subtle. Sorry, old habits.”

She stepped cautiously over the threshold, past a slightly burnt and splintered door that now hung off its hinges. The interior of the building was dark, aside from a bit of dim sunlight struggling through the cracked windows and grimy panes, so she lit her wand. As she lifted it to survey the room, a rat scurried though the pool of light cast by her spell. She saw a reception desk, peeling wallpaper, framed certificates and newspaper clippings under cracked glass. She imagined that the room had once been designed to impress ministry examiners and visiting reporters. Now, though, everything seemed to have fallen into a state of disrepair; or perhaps it had all been destroyed in a fit of rage.


As Shay took another step forward, wanting to examine the framed ministry grant acceptance on a nearby wall, a shrill cry suddenly split the dusty air.

 

She turned in time to see the shape of a large, winged creature seeming to swoop down from some invisible perch in the darkness. It dove at Shay and she ducked instinctively, cursing and calling out a warning to her partner. “Get down!” The shadow flew over her head and collided with the wall, leaving deep gouges in the wood paneling. She twisted around and saw a faint shimmer out of the corner of her eye before the creature darted away again.

 

No, not a creature. Magic. A ward.

 

The shadow circled back around for another attack, and Shay quickly threw up a shield spell to protect herself and her partner. As it passed through the light streaming through the open door, its shape came into clearer focus. She would have snorted if she hadn’t been busy avoiding the enchantment’s very real bite. A vampire bat. Typical.  

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