"With ambitious aim/
Against the throne and Monarchy of God/
Raised Impious war in heaven and battle proud/
With vain attempt."
Book I: lines 41-4 Paradise Lost by John Milton, 1667
The sky was clear when Rose apparated into the designated area that night. The full moon in all of its silvery glory lit up the lonely Scottish moor, painting it in pale contrast to the dark sky. A few miles away the small town of Clensdale tried vainly to compete with its light, but the yellow glow was barely noticeable.
The team had already arrived in full combat regalia. Their leather over coats shimmered with protective charms, and the white unicorn embroidered on their left arm was a clear indication of their purpose.
Rose herself had abandoned the muggle day-wear in favor of her familiar dark pants, dragon-skin boots and white linen shirt. Her uniform over coat was buttoned and belted to protect her chest, but it flared around her legs. Some wizards preferred the more traditional robes, however Rose felt they constricted her movement, and then there was the constant fear of being hoisted in the air by her ankle to show the world her more intimate garments.
There was a certain degree of ambiguity among the ranks of the team, the dark coats blending into the shadows until they looked like one lifeless blob. Only the distinct white sigma above the unicorns on their arm gave them any rank.
James cleared his throat at the sight of her and gestured for Rose to approach. She nodded, wary of speaking in the nearly silent environment. The Aurors moved aside, with her wing-like stripes on her arm she outranked them, but it was James, with two diamonds, that was her superior and thus the Auror in charge of the mission. It was funny, how a little symbol on the arm could hold so much power over another.
"Auror Sergeant Weasley." James greeted formally in a low voice.
"Auror Inspector." Rose greeted back. "I want to thank you."
"Accepted." James gestured to the map on the table in front of him. "What can you tell us?"
Rose pointed to a single square on the map, a small house set apart from the others at the edge of town. "Missy Briggs, eight years old, blonde. She will be his next victim." Rose glanced at the full face of the moon. "He will strike at one thirty. The door to the house is unlocked; I suspect carried out before his transformation. Usually he will wait in some sort of shed or structure behind the house." She tapped the map and the Briggs home sprang up in three-dimensional glory, as well as the surrounding landscape. She smiled, recognizing her cousin's magical signature. "Albus really out did himself this time."
"What can I say; my brother is a bloody genius." James shrugged.
Rose knew; she had helped the small, dark-haired man with the runic work that would allow flexibility in the maps positioning. Five stones, placed in a specific pattern around a geographic area of three miles, would produce a sort of resonating affect, allowing a complete image of the area encapsulated. Rose wasn't really sure how the magic worked, but the runes she had developed for the project had been so complicated that it had given her a headache for a week.
She examined the map and pointed to a grove of evergreens in the back of the house, small, obviously planted in the last decade, but the thick foliage would mask existence even the largest werewolf. "There. He'll be there."
"Good." James gave a sharp nodded to a near-by Auror who passed on the message. "Any further advice?"
Don't get bitten. Rose wanted to say, her eyes flashing with worry. "He will be in control of all of his thoughts, treat him like a wizard, but don't get to close the claws…for obvious reasons." She handed him a packet of power from her pocket. "This is silver dust, take it."
"I thought silver didn't have an effect on werewolves."
"It doesn't. But it absorbs] magic more than most metals. The bag is the really important part. Get this in his lungs and it will paralyze him for the rest of the night."
James muttered "Lumos," and examined the runes she had burned into the leather pouch. "You say Al is the genius…." He smiled. "What happens if we inhale this by accident?"
Rose furrowed her eyebrows. "Nothing," she replied in confusion. "It only works against werewolves." Doesn't he have any idea how runes work? I thought he got a NEWT in that class.
"Of course, thanks cousin." James hefted the bag and flashed a smile. "Stay inside the wards."
"Yes, mother." Rose replied, a smirk on her face. She watched as James directed the team to disapparate, leaving her on the cold Scottish moor alone.
Rose tapped the map and it disappeared back into its two-dimensional state. The actual map was made from some kind of hide…and she recognized the runes underneath the ghostly images of the town as the ones she had given Albus all those months before. He had a unique gift in seeing the potential for magic, an inventor of sorts turned Auror that had developed more useful objects for the Department than all the Unspeakables combined. Nevertheless he turned to her when it came to researching and developing Runic magic.
It was a hobby that had turned into a passion during her last year at Hogwarts, when the Ancient Runes professor had asked for a final project. Most of her peers had done the obvious, sewing runes into clothing for protective or good luck measures. Rose had been stumped for ideas, researching old practices in the library, hoping to look for a project that could be both unique and impressive. It was in the restricted section that she had found something of a crossover between Ancient Runes and Dark creatures. A blade forged of purified steel, burned with runes at every fold, developed by a Vampire hunter in archaic Germania during the second century. It had earned no more than a mere mentioning in the text, but it had sparked Rose's curiosity.
It was well documented that the goblins used runes to hold magic in steel, such as the Sword of Gryffindor that hung in the office of Professor Longbottom. It also served as a signature, making it easily indefinable to those of the same magical affinity, or sparked loyalty within the object toward its creator.
The use of Runes had faded within the magical community as the art of understanding had died with the old ways. Most preferred temporary charms that were profitable in the commercial world, for they would fade in a few months or years, forcing the buyer to buy again. Runes, if used correctly, had the potential to be extremely powerful, and hold magic in the most subtle way for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The common application of runes involved embroidering them in fabric, but the result was as equally weak. For the act simply preserved a charm, rather than twisting the magic itself.
Rose had studied for weeks on the practice of molding magic, driving herself nearly ill with the combination of her obsession and the stress of the upcoming NEWTs. A week before the final was due, it had suddenly clicked. Suddenly, runes became more than just scratches on a paper that she had to muddle through to read, she could understand their properties and purposes. Rose learned that the act of drawing runes did not bend magic, bending magic created runes.
That week she stayed up for several nights in a spare potions laboratory, forging a blade of pure steel into the rough form of a dagger. Every time she would fold the red-hot blade, she would twist the magic around it, sealing the wrinkle with its specific rune, as one would pound wire flat into its desired design. To bend and hold magic was exhausting, as she had to use her own core to supply the power.
The result was not a beautiful work of art. Apparently forging steel was as delicate as bending magic, and required just as much skill. It was slightly curved, and vaguely resembled the athame used in some Asian magical cultures by Healers. The runes were not visible, layered within the metal and would only appear when it was being used for its intended purposes. The steel itself was smoky, from her rather clumsy forging skills, and the leather hilt had been less than skillfully designed.
Bringing the knife to her Professor had been a nervous experience. The others had their runes cheerfully displayed on their scarfs or hats. One boy had even layered a wallet with anti-theft sigils. Her blade looked grim in comparison.
Her Professor had called her after class and asked her to explain her project. She had stuttered through her research, describing the runes she had used to give the blade power with hand gestures. It had been rather confusing, as many styles had been used. Rose had taken runes from whatever corner of the world she could, as her magic had not been very culturally selective in the forms it took when she bent it to her will.
Her professor had listened to her quietly with a patient gaze, and when she stuttered to a stop he had pressed the dagger into her hand and asked her to demonstrate what it could to. Rose refused, and in shame explained that the blade would simply kill.
"Every dagger can kill, Rose." He had responded. "But a dagger with its own mind can learn to get past any armor to do what it was made to do. A very powerful weapon you've made, and an excellent application and integration of what I have attempted to teach you in class, but an also an object of very dangerous potential. I trust that you will do the right thing, and melt it down."
Rose had agreed to do what he asked, but when it had come time to fulfill her promise, she had only seen the work she had put into the blade, and everything she had learned from it. Instead she had packed it away its sheath, determined to never show again the fullness of what it was.
Daggers were not an unusual sight among the Auror ranks, so keeping it at her side was not a target for gossip. Wizards rarely resorted to physical combat, but occasional one would need to act in the absence of a wand.
Thinking back on her first real encounter with bending magic with runes, Rose touched the lumpy hilt of her old creation. It hung from the belt at her side, on the opposite hip of her wand. She had never felt the need to use it, but felt safer and more complete with it nonetheless.
As she stared at the map in front of her, she heard the faint howl of the wolf, and her heart leapt in her chest. They found him. Rose thought, bile in her throat. She kept her eyes pinned to the map, not wanting to look in the direction of that eerie noise. Almost unconsciously she traced the path of the previous kills. Determining the next victim had been as simple as glancing at a map. The attacks had happened in a two miles radius, in almost complete circle of homes. All she had to do was figure out which houses in that radius fit the wolf's MO. Missy Briggs was the last eight year old to still live in that specific area.
The wolf howled again, and her fingers twitched toward her wand. Her eyes flashed through the dim, muscles tense, as she convinced herself to remain where she was. Every instinct was driving her into the night, into the hunt. I can't. Rose bit her lip and turned away. James said to stay here, and that is what I am doing. Stay inside the wards, where you cannot be hurt. She gritted her teeth. As if I cannot take care of myself. I received a NEWT in Defense Against the Dark Arts, and no one has read more books about werewolves than me.
The sound of the wards popping ripped her from her thoughts. Rose's head shot up, breath catching as she saw the dark figure in the horizon slump over to the ground. Her feet were moving before she could evaluate the situation, and she slid to her knees at the fallen wizard's side, her over coat billowing out behind her.
The man was barely breathing, his face covered in blood. She turned his neck to feel for a pulse, recognizing his features as Alexander Ross, a senior Auror of twenty years. He was bleeding from several places and a quick analysis spell told her of three broken rips and a fractured femur.
Alexander's lips were moving, and Rose recognized the words 'Portkey.'
Of course. She searched through his pockets to find the small muggle penny they kept on their persons at all times. It was a direct link to St. Mungo's. She pressed in into his hand. "Alexander." She said, gripping his shoulder hard. "Auror Ross. What has happened?"
His words were barely a breath, and Rose leaned her ear against his lips. "Dead." He whispered. "All dead."
In a flash he was gone, leaving her alone on the windy Scottish moor. In the sky above, the face of the moon seemed almost mocking.
Rose felt frozen. She knew she should contact the headquarters, to call in for back up…but she hesitated. Rose could very well be leading more Aurors to die without knowing how something so basic as a werewolf could cause a senior Auror to claim the team was dead.
"James is going to kill me." Rose whispered, before grasping her wand and turning on her heel.
She arrived just outside the house where Missy Briggs lived. The windows were dark, and the home looked relatively undisturbed. The evergreen trees had been marked with curse burns. There was no sign of James, the werewolf, or the rest of the Aurors.
"Lumos." Rose whispered, casting her light into the shadows. She walked through the trees, conscious of the soft rustling sound the needles made against her robe. Her boots squelched in the morning dew. It was quiet. Too quiet. Where was the werewolf? Rose wondered, her heart pounding frantically in her chest.
A crack resounded behind her and she turned suddenly, her foot catching on a root and sending her tumbling the ground. Her face hit the wet grass, and only when she scrambled to her feet did she realize the dampness was not from dew at all, but blood. Dark blood that shimmered in the moonlight and the fading illumination of her wand. She attempted to wipe the mess off her cheek with her sleeve, only to find that she was practically covered in the stuff.
She moved her wand frantically over the ground, trying to discover the source of the mess. It became too plain that the trees held more than roots and rabbits underneath their broths. Her team lay in the shade, pale faces and blank eyes looking up at the sky. Her mind clicked into overdrive and she attempted to suppress her panic. James. She thought, ignoring the bodies of her dead comrades around her. James isn't in these trees. He must have gone after the werewolf, it finish the job once and for all. I need to go after him.
Rose's mind flew frantically back to the map, to the circle of victims, and at its center, a cluster of buildings. A tavern. She remembered. A flower shop and a grocer. Before she had time to reconsider her actions her body had turned, and she landed with a slight pop just outside the bar.
The noise was almost shocking. She had been surrounded by such eerie silence and the neon glare and rowdy noises of the tavern hit her like a rampaging Pegasus. Blinking she looked out into the street, hoping that the muggles in the pub had remained unaffected by the horror in the shadows.
A quick search of the premise gave her nothing, and Rose swore, stamping her foot on the ground. She had been wrong…again. This time James might be the one lying bloody on the ground. Her heart wrenched at the memory of her team, good witches and wizards all, but she quickly stored her grief away. Aurors died in the field, it was something Rose figured she would have to come to terms with sooner or later.
Maybe more made it to St. Mungo's. I hadn't counted, please Merlin let it be so. Of course, that might have meant she was alone against the wolf. James could be very well lying in a hospital bed by now. How could a wolf do all of this damage? We have trained for werewolves, they are nothing we haven't seen and fought before. None of them had used Wolfsbane-that was true. Rose had known this mission would be dangerous; she had still underestimated their assailant.
Shaking her head the witch turned back into the night, the streets glowing blue and red with the lights of the pub. Just as suddenly, a flash flew by her face, brushing back her hair and slamming into the wall of the building behind her. Rose dove out of the way, rolling as she hit the ground and getting to her feet quickly, wand up and ready.
Her eyes searched the alley ways of the street, and upon a slight movement she blasted off a stunning spell. It was blocked, sending it into the road where it dented the asphalt.
Her dueler stepped out into the open, muggle clothes contrasting the cloak around his shoulders. At his side, a wolf padded, its jaws soaked with blood. The tuft of the tail and the thickness of its snout revealed its species almost immediately.
"Fuck." Rose growled. The werewolf had been working with another all along. A caretaker perhaps, one willing to unlock doors to little girls' houses so the beast could steal them from their bends. A wizard who would lock the door behind their crime, making it seem as if a ghost had done the deed.
It also explained her dead comrades. A wolf could not have caught them by surprise, but they had not moved into place expecting a wand wielding wizard.
"I thought I dealt with you all." The wizard said, tilting his head, as if puzzled by her existence. Under his hood, he had very pale skin and dark hair. "Never mind, I always liked epic conclusions."
"Monster." Rose spat, lifting her wand. "How could you do that to little girls? You'll never see outside Azkaban for this."
"I've always liked little girls." The wizard grinned. His free hand patted the top of the wolf's head. It growled. "And my wife here was so willing to oblige to getting them for me. Too bad they never lasted long. Their wounds you see. Muggles don't do well to werewolf bites."
Rose decided it was enough. "Stupefy!" She shouted, flicking her wand.
The wizard blocked it and the wolf lunged across the street at Rose. She rolled out of the way, and found herself between the pair, a growling wolf on one side, and a murderous wizard on the other. Protego. She thought, and the wizard's orange curse crashed against her shield. Before Rose could retaliate the wolf sprung again, forcing Rose to back up against the wall beside the entrance to the pub. She could hear the televisions on, and hoped that none of the muggles would see what was sure to be a gruesome scene.
A cutting hex passed through the werewolf without a thought, and Rose kicked out, catching the ensuing beast in the side. It yelped, rolling backwards to the feet of her husband. The wizard snarled, and Rose was once again forced to shield.
Flashes of energy pulsed menacingly around her, breaking her shields fast as she could put them up; ever was the growling of the wolf, snapping at her heels, forcing her to slide against the wall in an attempt to offer some space between them.
A split second was all it took to have Rose's hand slip, and she was lying flat against the sidewalk, her wand clattering across the road. She groaned, and pressed a hand against her chest where the curse had struck. It ached dully, the brunt of the damage having been absorbed by the runes sewn into her robes. She could feel the locks breaking, the magic unwinding. Whatever protection the runes had provided slipped away as the thread holding the pattern was destroyed.
Above her the wizard and his wolf-wife loomed, grins on their faces. "I know you missed your dinner, dear." The wizard chuckled and gestured toward Rose. "Why don't you feast?"
Rose made a small noise in her throat and scrambled backwards on her elbows, pain blooming in her ribs as she did. The werewolf licked its chops in a rather dramatic gesture, and moved toward Rose, saliva dripping from its blood-red tongue.
No. Rose thought, and she stopped trying to get away. There was no way she was going to lie down and submit to being eaten. That was not the way she was going out. Her gloved hand found the dagger at her waist and she drew it, the metal making a ringing noise against its sheath.
The wizard laughed. "You think my wife will be fazed by a little pig-sticker like yours? She's a werewolf you jar-headed bitch."
The wolf leapt, and Rose surged to meet it, her knife out. She felt the hot breath and the pinch of claws before her hand was buried in the creature's chest, hot blood spurting from the wound like a fountain. The animal gave a tremendous howl before slumping to the side, still. Rose pulled the knife out and found her feet. The runes on the dagger glowed white before disappearing into the dusky interior. She faced the wizard, baring her teeth.
He stared wide eyed at the dead werewolf, his jaw flapping. Rose collected her wand and disarmed the man, binding him tight before she stunned him into unconsciousness.
Slumping against a wall Rose let her breath out, and her mind calm. She needed to call in the incident, needed back up and a retrieval team…needed to do something, to keep moving. But at that moment, Rose found she could do nothing at all. James was missing. She hoped he was at St. Mungo's, and that she had not overlooked his body in the grove of trees. The wolf was dead and its partner was in control. She…Rose looked down at her upper left arm where the wolf had clawed her. The wounds were deep and in much need of healing. They would leave scars, certainly, but it would not change her. Only the bite of a werewolf could turn a human.
She returned to the warded circle, and called in the incident. She placed the body of the wolf on the ground and laid her prisoner next to it. She hoped that the wizard…whatever his name might be…would remain unconscious. Rose thought she might be sick if she heard the sound of his voice.
The Aurors were quick on arrival and took care of the situation immediately, removing the bodies of her four fallen team members, four of ten, which was slightly reassuring, and collected the prisoner and dead werewolf. Claudius, the young, stuttering wizard, had been among the fallen. She was silent through the ordeal, not speaking until her uncle arrived on the scene, disapproval in his facial expression.
"Auror Weasley." He gruffed, motioning her to follow him. They stepped outside the ward circle, away from the others.
"Uncle. Is James…?"
"He is alright. He will heal." The stoniness of Harry's voice spoke bounds about his current state. Rose usually observed her Uncle's hot temper and rarely his cold. The former was louder, but the latter was far more frightening.
"You were not supposed to be here." Harry continued. "And when you were, you left your post, you forgo calling for support in a blatant disregard from your superior's orders and decided to rush into the fray without backup, endangering your life as well as possibly, the lives of others. It was both irresponsible and immature."
Rose bowed her head. "I know." At least James is alright; at least six are still alive.
"If you were anyone else, you would lose your job. Be thankful I hold family in high regard. Tomorrow, you will need to see me in my office. Tonight, I need to clean up this mess."
Rose watched him stalk away with a heavy heart. He was right. She should have called it in when Alexander first fell through the wards, or when she saw the dead amongst the trees. James had left her in the wards for that purpose, to hold home ground, and she had failed him. If she had not been so rash, had decided to stay home instead of butt into the mission like an eager rookie, James might have assigned another to her position, an Auror that would have probably done their job-followed procedure, and…not have caught the werewolf. With the team dead or in the hospital, the wizard and wolf would have gone free, free to kill more little girls for some sick, twisted pleasure.
"Maybe he'll see that." Rose whispered to the moon. It remained silent.
A/N: Thank you to all those who have been reading an reviewing, as well as those who are currently following this story. If you are wondering where or how Supernatural will come into the plot, just hang tight. Thanks!