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Ruth Champlin

They Say the Danger’s Gone Away, But a Fire’s Still Alive

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Ruth Champlin

Quiet footfalls moved across the dry grass; calculative and cautious as their creator observed her surroundings. Ruth Champlin was no stranger here. She recognized each tree and one, an oak, was a former favorite of hers. The woman stepped up to it now and placed a hand on the trunk, regarded the rough texture. “They’ve always said this forest was dangerous” she whispered thoughtfully, “but didn’t anticipate the forest finding them, did they?” Though the question was aired for no one in particular, she turned to meet Rayya’s gaze. “Find anything yet?”

 

There was a thick sort of aura that’d fallen over the grounds since things were secured. All was still, eerily so, and Ruth knew that even in the calm a new storm might still be brewing. A lone wolf couldn’t rid Hogwarts of its protections on its own unless there was a group of someone’s with intent also. And no average student would’ve been strong enough to break them, so who’d done it? Why? Were they still nearby?

 

It was her job to seek out answers, but Ruth had a feeling it wouldn’t be an easy feat. There was nothing obvious in the near vicinity and that could only mean that the following hours were destined to turn into a full-scale expedition.

 

“We’ll need to go further in” the auror finally concluded, and her wand was withdrawn. Its illuminated tip easily cut through the shadows of the thick foliage ahead of them. “There’s something out there that will make sense of all this and I’m not leaving until we uncover it. Why don’t you head down that way”, she gestured to the left, “and I’ll search over here? Then we can cover more ground.”

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Rayya Borage-Brown

Rayy watched her younger partner with almost the same scrutiny she gave the surrounding area and found neither focus point appealing. Seeing Ruth in a state of rapture over a tree would have been enough to make her turn on her heel and leave - this was not the place to be admiring the flora - but she was professional enough to smile politely, nod and hold her inner teen well away from the frontline.

 

She was anything but happy to be here. Sure, as a kid, she’d had her fair share of adventures in the edges of the forest. Didn’t most Gryffindors? It was almost an expected rite of passage! But then there had been an adventure she hadn’t signed up for and...Nope, she wasn’t going to go there, not when there was so much at stake. No Rayy needed her head in the game and not stuck in a pensieve.

 

”It is dangerous, now more so than ever. Let’s not forget that! This place has a way of handing you your backside when you least expect it,” she muttered back and looked away from Ruth and the tree unable to handle it.

 

Nothing in the immediate area seemed out of place and that was a pity; they’d be stuck here for hours as it was like looking for a Knut in a niffler’s nest. Rayy scowled at Ruth’s suggestion of splitting up. It was a valid suggestion and the best course of action but that didn’t mean Rayy’s heart didn’t skip a few beats.  She wanted to whine ‘do we have to?’ like some petulant child. Nor could she really suggest that they remain together. She badly wanted to do both! Keeping her misgivings to herself Rayy merely nodded and started to the left before she stopped.

 

”Ruth? Don’t let your guard down in here, okay?” Rayy asked. Try as she might, she hadn’t been able to stop the slight quiver in her voice, her words slightly off. “Red sparks if either of us need help, green if we find anything.”

 

Sensible precautions to make really and ones that Ruth couldn’t object to. Rayy turned down the path she’d been allocated, eyes carefully scanning the ground around her. She had no clue what she was looking for but knew that she’d recognise it when she saw it.

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Ruth Champlin

Splitting up wasn’t the most ideal option; two adults were much more difficult to take down than one alone and Richard’s little tango with fate was still very fresh in everyone’s minds, but with a region this vast there really wasn’t any other choice. It was either split up now or risk being on the investigation for weeks and in that time any proof or evidence of anything could easily disappear and become untraceable to all. Ruth wasn’t willing to take that chance. Her partner’s clear showing of hesitation, however, had the woman raising an eyebrow at her. “If I didn’t know any better, I might think you’re scared. Ray”, she paused a tick and shook her head; “They’re just puppies. Can’t imagine you haven’t faced far worse.”

 

The precautions voiced to her were silently taken note of, but no further time was allotted to them than just the second it took for Ruth to turn away. She left Rayya behind and dutifully moved further into the greenery, every step made careful and calculative, as the risk for contamination was so great here. The soft earth of the forest floor easily gave way to her weight and taunted the auror with the threat of it. ‘Watch out’ the squish of the mud practically sang to her, ‘I’ll destroy your case… I’ll destroy everything…’

 

She took heed as her gaze vigilantly kept watch over both her steps and the space surrounding her. Nothing could afford to be missed.

 

Including, but not limited to, the imprint of an abnormally large paw.

 

The brunette had barely managed to make it five feet further inward when she noticed it and instantly she stopped where she was. “Well, hello there” she quietly whispered, and slowly her eyes lifted to survey the neighboring ground.  There seemed to be other prints nearby, but they were difficult to make out under the scattering of leaves and brush. So she brought an end to her illumination and redirected her wand to the nearest print. “Appare vestiguim” Ruth called, and it plus the others grew more prominent, practically beckoning her to follow the path they drew in the earth.

 

She tracked them without a second thought; through the thick brush and vines. She followed them until she couldn’t follow them anymore... because they’d disappeared, replaced instead by scuff marks and human shoe indentations instead.

 

Ruth paused at the new discovery and took the opportunity to survey the area again. Her heart was beating intensely, the quietness and sense of being very much alone finally getting to her. Something had happened here. Was this where they’d transformed? Were there others? Multiple? Nearby? Now?

 

Redirecting her wand to the skies, she shot a fury of green sparks upward, unwilling to take on such a threat alone.

 

And that was when she noticed the papers in her peripheral, billowing like leaves across the forest floor.

 

------------------------

 

Appare vestiguim- the tracking spell; reveals and illuminates traces of recent magical activity, shows magical footprints and track marks in the area.

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Rayya Borage-Brown

“Just puppies, my arse!” Rayy muttered though she didn’t respond to the other part of Ruth’s little spiel; anyone with half an ounce of sense would be, at least a little, scared of tromping through this forest. And wasn’t that they very definition of courage and being a Gryffindor? Acting in the face of your fears? Getting on with the job at hand even when you’d pay the entire contents of your vault to be anywhere but here? So was she scared? Hell yes! Had she faced bigger and badder? Also hell yes!” Going down under a mound of Inferi certainly ranked up there as one of the scariest events in her life, second only to almost dying on the rocky shore of her favourite lake, and it was equally tied in ranking to the last time she spent an extended time in this forest. That location was seared into her brain and even now she wouldn’t have any trouble in finding it. In this case all roads didn’t lead to Rome, they led to the dark clearing that had been the prison for so many students!

 

So yes, a bunch of not-so-cute-and-decidedly-deadly ‘puppies’ was almost, but not quite, a walk in the park! The vision of Richard going down still vividly clear. Rayy scowled as her wandlight did diddly-squat to illuminate more than a few feet of dark shadows. It only seemed to enhance them and it worked to set her nerves jangling. Without the light was better and it worked much better to see things that were easily missed, like the bent stem on a low bush. Some creature had passed by but whether it was a werewolf or not, she couldn’t tell.

 

A few feet ahead there was another but the ground was heavily littered with leaves under hard-packed dirt, not overly conducive to footprints. If there were any, her eyes couldn’t see them. There was the odd scuff mark but far more reliable was the disturbed foliage along the narrow path. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to enhance the evidence.  “Appare Vestiguim!” A gold swirl of light followed and highlighted a trail of broken tips that was easily followed. And follow it Rayy did...up until the point where her foot made a crunching sound that wasn’t fallen leaves.

 

She stopped and knelt down to one side, carefully shifting the leaves away and finding broken glass. “Hmmmmm,” she mused, “what are you doing here, I wonder?” A flash of green dragged her attention up from the ground. Ruth had found something too and Rayy made the call to study the broken glass in as greater detail as she could. She then duplicated the memory and siphoned it off and into a spare vial to be used in a pensieve later. She carefully gathered the glass and placed it and the vial in a warded pocket designed to keep things safe.

 

The trail of damaged foliage led in the direction Ruth’s sparks had come from, probably a mid-point of both their paths. Moving quickly it only took Rayy a few minutes before she found Ruth. “I take it you found something? Show me yours and I’ll show you my find.”

 

===============

Appare Vestiguim: illuminating track marks with pretty golden light...kind of like fairy lights but better.

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Ruth Champlin

The papers were a curious sort of thing to see this far into the thick of the forest. Ruth might’ve expected to find them closer to the edge, where students were more likely to seek out a nice tree to rest under and get their homework done… but here? Few children would be trying to do any sort of assignment in this deep and there were far too many sheets for any sort of Hogwarts essay anyway. Her curiosity was firmly piqued. Another moment was given for the sparks to burst and illuminate the night sky, long enough for Rayya to get wind of them, and then the auror went to investigate further.

 

A sheet of parchment was caught between a leaf and neighboring branch and she took the opportunity to quickly pluck it up and illuminate her wand’s tip again. She held it up to the front and began reading…

 

Administrative Data

 

 

Date: February 21, 2039

Type of Being Used: Werewolf

Approximate age, weight, or size: 12 Years, 40 KG

Sex: M

 

Potion Status: Administered  

 

A. Study Objective: To determine the differences in strength between a non-potion and potioned werewolf subject.

 

 

B. Description of Experimental Design:

 

1. Subject will be tested on immunity to spell effects. In a controlled environment, the subject will be exposed to the freezing charm, stunning spell, and others as listed in following document.

2. Determinant of spell reaction, intensity of spell effects will be increased to test endurance and strength of will.

 

 

Method of Restraint: ...

 

 

The woman’s blood was boiling fiercely by the time she reached that line, and she couldn’t take more. Her fingers were white from clutching the sheet so tightly and her eyes looked straight ahead, yet saw nothing. She was too lost in thought now, her mind raging over the idea that anyone in their right mind would have the idiocy to experiment on a child, any child, so young. Time lost all meaning as she let her emotions temporarily overcome her.

 

And then footsteps were heard approaching and a strained expression was turned to meet Rayya. “Something” Ruth deadpanned, and she gestured to the ground beneath them. “There are shoe prints mixed with wolf. They likely transformed here, unless they had friends with them…”

 

She held the paper outward then, “and I found this.”

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Rayya Borage-Brown

“Paper?” Rayy asked, shooting Ruth a puzzled look even as she carefully took a corner of the offered piece. She relit her wand and peered at it. The puzzled look got deeper and she blinked several times when she got to the end, shaking her head she went back to the top and allowed the significance of it sink in. By the time she had read it through again, her face had gone to furious.

 

”Testing on children...they’ve had at least one but if that experiment needed a follow-up and they need more, where do you suppose they’ll get those test subjects?” she muttered. A sick dread filled her stomach. How many had been infected? Was there going to be a mass kidnapping now? “Do you think they’re hoping to nab one of those bitten tonight? Some folk are as likely to boot their child out over this. It might not be hard to obtain a test subject.”

 

Rayy looked around, scanning for more papers and added, almost as an afterthought, “I found some broken glass a few hundred metres from here. I studied the location, duplicated the memory and siphoned it out for a pensieve. It could be completely innocent, a long lost vial from collecting potion ingredients but it might not be as well. But your find is a much higher priority. We need to look and see if there’s more.”

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Ruth Champlin

The sudden terseness that fell into her voice was difficult to control. Her whole goal, motivation, purpose in life was to prevent another child from suffering at the hands of the sick and yet somehow yet another twisted soul had managed to slip through the cracks long enough to strip an entire entity away from a twelve year old. And for what purpose? Research? What was the point? What were they after? Those questions and more swam through Ruth’s mind as she watched Rayya read the document for herself, and then yet another query was raised which she’d not even thought to wonder in the midst of her disgust.

 

But it was just as important. More so than anything else, even.

 

And yet… she only had one response to give.

 

“They won’t be given the chance” Ruth answered darkly, “Someone will need to send word back to Hogwarts that all students even suspected of being bitten will require extra security until further notice.  The upmost precautions should be taken until those responsible are found. No risk can be afforded, for the sake of their safety.” She was on a roll, anger fueling her as she then turned to continue searching through the brush for something more. This search, however, only lasted but a second before her attention was drawn back to Rayya again.

 

“Glass? Do you still have it? What could look like a vial could be something else entirely.” Her eyes drifted back to the grass, where another slip of white caught her attention. It was much more battered than the others, torn even, but writing could still clearly be seen written across the front. Quickly, Ruth went to snatch it and read, hungry for more information.

 

Thaddeus Roseclaw.

 

“Rayya, check the glass if you can. For anything. Please.”

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Rayya Borage-Brown

“Of course I have it...though I did kind of step on it and it crunched...probably into smaller pieces as it didn’t feel whole when my foot landed on it,” Rayy replied. Wrecking evidence was high on the list of things not to do but since it has been covered in wind-blown leaves it was going to have to be considered an extraordinary piece of bad luck. And she had every intention of examining it but not before taking care of the matter to notify the others to up the security of the injured students. 

 

Rayy conjured her sparrow patronus and recorded the message as succinctly as possible, “Attention: Security detail on all students injured by a werewolf, suspected kidnapping plot.” She then tapped her badge and sent the same message to the rest of her colleagues. The silvery patronus was gone before she’d even finished notifying the others. Hopefully they were wrong and this wasn’t a plot to gain more test subjects and she’d just ordered a grand waste of resources because risking the alternative was unthinkable!

 

”Now onto the glass eh?” She asked, pulling it out of her warded pocket. It looked woeful, there were several larger pieces but the vast majority consisted of small splinters and dust. “Too bad I didn’t see if before I made it worse.”  

 

It took several minutes of complex spellwork before the broken glass had given up all its secrets but the magic indicator showed she hadn’t finished.  Okay, so she hadn’t checked for a runic matrix but when she did, that came back negative and still the glass showed that there was more to find. This was one time she wished she’d been dumped in Ravenclaw because they were brainy people and she was missing something...something quite big...but what?

 

“I’m missing something...my brain is...oh! Thank you Merlin!” She exclaimed and went back to work on the glass. Sure enough after doing one last check the indicator light went out and left Rayy with more questions than answers.

 

”Well there’s good news and bad news and sticky news. The good is that the glass was a vial before being broken and it’s a definite clue. The bad news is the vial contained a good portion wolfsbane potion and it wasn’t taken but was made into a portkey. The sticky bit is did the werewolves touch the vial with the intention of drinking it and unwittingly being brought here or did they want....know and willingly went along with it?”

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Ruth Champlin

The printed name was far from unfamiliar. SNARLL had been on their radar for many weeks; initially placed there through concerns about their pen pal program and then pushed higher up on the list when an anonymous op-ed was released. Supposedly something had been going on for a while, but digging up viable proof of any sort proved to be difficult. Leave it up to an attack on Hogwarts grounds to finally provide them with evidence. It was maddening that it’d taken this for it to happen, but now that it had Ruth wanted to ensure that nothing was missed. They couldn’t afford it; one mistake, dozens of injured children, was one too many.

 

Ruth made sure to carefully store and preserve each parchment she found. The sheet with the name joined the research paper in a secured side-pocket of her robes, enchantments protecting them from any sort of future tampering. And then she was back at it again, digging through the foliage for more. A good few additional papers were found before Rayya finished her examination of the glass, and it seemed to be enough to start filing a case, at the very least. Among the new sheets discovered, five of them described further experimentations with children.  

 

Her partner’s ‘Thank you Merlin!’ drew Ruth’s attention away from her search and back to the woman in front of her. She stood there quietly, her eyebrows raised with interest while Rayya spoke, and then a fresh dose of fuel was unleashed onto her internal flame. “I fear that answer’s already been given to us” she replied quietly. She reached into her pocket, withdrawing the papers again and holding them out to her. “There are at least six documented instances here of child experimentation and all of them were werewolves.  What is the chance then, really, of a pack of wolves showing up with this and unintentionally attacking a school?”

 

“And there’s something else…”

 

Pulling out one sheet in particular, Ruth went and handed over the page with Roseclaw’s name. “I hope the others have managed to do more than kill wolves, because it would be nice to have at least one to question. If not, though… we could always try and catch ourselves a Thaddy.”

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Rayya Borage-Brown

“Six?!” Rayy choked out, horrified . “There’s evidence that they’ve experimented on six children?”  

 

Rayy blanched as she pictured six young children, locked away in some dank, horrible cell, being used as a mad experiment of some sort. They might have been werewolves but they were first, and foremost, children. That they were out there somewhere was something that was going to haunt her with ‘what if’s’. And Ruth had a point, it didn’t look good that the events of tonight were just a horrible and tragic accident.

 

“We’re going to have to find those poor children and we can’t let any of the students be snatched either, “she muttered. “The thought of children being used for someone’s crackpot idea...wait...what?”

 

If Rayy thought the dungbombs had finished falling she was sadly mistaken and when Ruth’s offhand toss had sunk in, it was enough to make Rayy stagger backward a step or two. “Dead?” she asked. “We’ve killed some? Crap!”

 

Move, she needed to move! She started pacing in a tight circle, her mind running at a million miles an hour. The horror of it all making it next to impossible to think. That one of their own felt they had no other recourse but to use the killing curse? That they actually were in a position where that was an option? That they actually could summon the words...the hate...and have the spell work? It rocked Rayy to her very core! Her brain sent the objections and validations hurtling around and around, unable and, perhaps, unwilling to let them stop because if they did...

 

”Who?” The worked hurtled out of her mouth at the exact time the previous thoughts came to a screaming stop. “What else don’t I know?”

 

Merlin she wanted to be sick...was going to be sick... Rayy dove for the nearest bush and hurled. But even as her stomach contracted against the enormity of the idea that someone she thought she knew could actually kill someone her brain was still on the task of gathering evidence. One stick looked a lot more out of place than the others in her line of sight and she went over to collect it once she had finished the more immediate task.

 

Using magic to carry it, she brought her latest find back to Ruth. “Looks like my inopportune moment was useful for something.” Her words came out grumpy and probably failed completely in trying to lighten the mood. “Let’s see if this can give us anything more.”

 

The next few moments were spent in blissful ignoring of the leaden fact of a dead werewolf and a colleague who could kill. But the answers gleaned were not satisfactory as providing any details on who owned the wand. Spells used, however, was informative. “Cedar...nine and....ummmm.....a half inches...good bit of flexibility....but not too much...last few spells...breaking wards... and hmmm...looking for magical enhancements in objects....well, well, well. Guess we’ll be trying to track your missing owner next as well...Olivander’s in the morning.”

 

 

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