Chapter 29 : The New Strain
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There was a knock on my door shortly after I got up. Groaning, I grabbed the bottle of hangover potion and drank it from the bottle as I walked to the door. I opened it and found Matt, looking just as awful as I felt.
“Thank Merlin,” he muttered as he grabbed the potion bottle from my hand. “I'm all out. Al drank it all before heading to work today.”
“Al had to work today and still drank as much as he did?” I asked as I shut the door and followed Matt into the living room.
“He's just doing paperwork,” Matt answered. “It's not like he's got a mission or anything.”
“Still,” I said. “That was fairly dumb of him.”
“I take it you don't have to work today?”
“No,” I said. “My plan is to do absolutely nothing today.”
“I'll join you,” Matt said.
Matt and I did exactly that. We stayed in all day, laying on the couch and drifting in and out of sleep. We played a few rounds of gobstones once we felt a bit more human and then ordered takeaway for dinner. It was very enjoyable, especially since Matt and I hadn't spent much time together lately, save for around the full moon.
The Rusty Bludger continued to do well throughout the rest of the weekend. It received a great review in the Sunday edition of the Prophet, something Dillan was ecstatic about. I didn't return all weekend since I had to work on Monday and didn't want to test out anymore Quidditch team themed drinks.
Monday arrived and I spent the entire day anxiously awaiting the time when my last appointment would be over and I'd be able to find Rose. I was thankful that Dillan would be at the pub all night because I'd probably be at St. Mungo's much of the night.
“Amy! There you are!”
I'd just walked out of my study when I saw Rose hurrying up the corridor, a stack of parchment in her arms. She looked slightly shocked, which piqued my curiosity.
“Rose, what is it?” I asked as she reached me. I gestured her into my study.
“I've been trying to find you all day,” she said as I shut the door behind us. Rose set the parchment down on my desk and began pacing the room. “It's the results.”
“You've already analyzed them?” I asked.
“Merlin, no,” Rose said. “The psychological analysis is going to take weeks. I just did preliminary analysis. Comparing the results to the demographics and such.”
“And?” I asked.
Rose stopped pacing and turned to me. “It's the preliminary results of the strain of lycanthropy compared to the level of remembering full moons. I haven't done much yet and it's all very basic, but I found something odd about the results so I looked at the genetic samples from all the participants. And obviously this will need to be checked by you as well as a genetics healer, but I think I'm right-”
“Rose,” I said. “Just tell me what you've found.”
“It's the New Holland strain,” Rose began. “I think it's mutated. It's very subtle, so I'm not surprised it's been overlooked before, but Amy, this could be what you're looking for.”
My mouth fell open and I stared at Rose. I had to sit down. The room began to spin. I blinked a few times and continued to stare at Rose. Mutation. How had I missed this before?
There are three strains of lycanthropy. All three are very old and were discovered centuries ago, when healers first began studying lycanthropy. They were all mutations of an original strain, although it was not clear which strain was the original, or even if the original strain was no longer in existence. The three strains are the Eurasian strain, the New Holland strain, and the Mundus strain.
The Eurasian strain was the one most commonly seen in the United Kingdom, which made sense as it originated somewhere in Europe or Asia. It was also the one most commonly found in Africa, due to its proximity. The New Holland strain was most commonly found in Australia and New Zealand. It was the most recently discovered strain, although it was still centuries old. The Mundus strain originated in North America and traveled to South America sometime after its origin. The Mundus version was the second most common in the United Kingdom, with the New Holland version being quite rare.
Everyone involved in the study had been genetically tested in order to discover their particular strain. Most had already been tested, since both Morris and I test all of our patients. Matt had the New Holland strain, as did the werewolf who bit him. Sophie had the Eurasian strain, as did Teddy's dad. Since Victoire's dad had been attacked by the same werewolf who infected Teddy's dad, he had a few of the genetic markers of the Eurasian strain. Jamie had the New Holland strain, despite the fact that he'd been attacked in Wales. Kate Young's little brother had the Eurasian strain. There were only eight participants in the study who had the New Holland version, Matt being one of them.
“You're kidding,” I replied, after I composed myself.
Rose shook her head and sat down in the chair next to mine. “It's slight, but it got me curious. Three of the eight participants with the New Holland strain have slightly different genetic markers in the lycanthropy gene. One of them is your brother, and the other two aren't on Wolfsbane, either.”
“And the reason they're not on it?” I asked.
“They've tried it and it doesn't work,” Rose said. “This could be it.”
I nodded. This could be it. It could also be nothing, a simple coincidence. I needed more data and I needed it as soon as possible. “I need more, Rose. I need more people with the New Holland strain.”
“I know,” Rose agreed. “But it's so rare here.”
“Jamie has that strain,” I said quietly.
“One of my patients. Wolfsbane doesn't work for him, either,” I explained. “What about those with the Eurasian and Mundus strains? Does Wolfsbane work for all of them?”
Rose nodded. “That's what makes me think this is it. They're not all on it, but it works for all of them.”
“Dammit,” I muttered. “How could I have possibly missed this?”
“I told you, it was really slight,” Rose said.
“But it's so obvious. I've looked at the DNA so many times,” I said.
“Look, there's no point in beating yourself up over it now,” Rose reasoned. “You need to concentrate on getting more data.”
“I know,” I said quietly. “But for that I have to contact the hospital in Australia.”
“It's been years,” Rose pointed out. “Chances are they don't even remember your dad or your brother. Plus, there are people here who have the New Holland strain who weren't in the study. Put an ad in the Prophet. This will be easier than the study since it won't require them to come back. All they'll need to do is come in, fill out a questionnaire, and get a DNA sample taken.”
“Good point,” I agreed. “And I can let kids participate in this one.”
“See? You've got a plan.”
I got up. “I need to see the samples.”
Rose took me to the lab and I spent a few hours looking at the samples and comparing the markers. Rose was right, of course. It was there, plain as day, that Matt's DNA sample did not match the majority of the samples from those with the New Holland strain. Neither did the other two participants whom Wolfsbane did not work for. By some stroke of luck one of the genetic researchers was still there and he agreed with Rose and I. Matt, as well as the two other participants, did not have the regular New Holland strain of lycanthropy. It was something new entirely, although it resembled the New Holland strain more than the Mundus or Eurasian strains.
I worked well into the night. I created an ad for the Daily Prophet and sent it off, requesting that they print it as soon as possible. I also drafted an ad for a few professional journals, hoping that other healers would send their lycanthropic patients along to me. After much consideration, I also sent a letter off to the head healer at Eastworth Hospital in Australia, asking them to send me DNA samples from anyone with the New Holland strain.
By the time I returned to my flat it was well after two in the morning. Dillan was already there, asleep on the couch. I felt a pang of sympathy as I realized he was probably waiting up for me, but it didn't stay long. This discovery was huge and Dillan would understand. I tucked a blanket around him and headed to bed. I lay awake for two hours letting the excitement of the discovery come over me. This was the closest I'd gotten in my entire career of researching lycanthropy and the Wolfsbane potion. If it proved correct, it could be the biggest discovery in lycanthropy since Belby invented the Wolfsbane potion decades ago.
I found it very hard to keep my discovery to myself the next day, but I had to. I shared it only with Morris, which brought the total number of people aware of it up to four. Until I was sure, I needed to keep it to myself. The last thing I needed was a lot of press attention before I was even sure of the discovery.
Throughout the day one thought kept plaguing me. Did the strain mutate after a person was bitten? Or was it a strain that began years ago and had been passed on by the bite? More specifically, did the werewolf who bit Matt have the mutated strain of New Holland or not? It didn't matter to the initial discovery, but it would be important to figure out later on.
Most werewolves had no idea who infected them because werewolves run off immediately after biting someone. The only way they're caught is if others are around during the attack and they're able to capture the werewolf. Matt's attacker was caught, giving him the rare knowledge of who his attacker was. I couldn't remember the name of the werewolf, though, just that he'd been imprisoned for a few years.
I left work around seven and decided to go to my parents' house to ask about the werewolf who bit Matt. Considering the fact that they rarely clued me into anything back then, there was a chance they knew more about him than I did. I just hoped I'd be able to get information out of them without telling them about my discovery. I didn't want to get their hopes up.
“Amy, what are you doing here?” Mum asked after I walked into the house. She and Dad were on opposite ends of the couch, reading books.
“Just came to see my wonderful parents,” I answered as I gave her a hug, and then Dad a hug.
“You never visit on weekdays unless there's a Lycanthropic Children Foundation meeting,” Mum said.
“You got me,” I said as I sat down. I grabbed a few chocolates from the dish on the coffee table. “I've got a few questions, actually.”
“What about?” Dad asked.
I took a deep breath. “I need to know all you know about the werewolf who bit Matt.”
Dad closed his book and stared at me. Mum's eyes grew wide. I offered a half smile.
“What prompted this?” Dad asked quietly.
“It's for my research.”
“Have you found something?” Mum asked. I could hear the anticipation in her voice.
“I can't say anything. It's on-going research.”
“But, Amy, this has to do with Matt-”
“Julie,” Dad said, “she's right. She can't say anything about on-going research.”
“I still think we've got a right to know,” Mum said.
“Well, we don't,” Dad muttered.
“Can you just tell me, if you know anything?” I asked, not wanting to spark an argument.
“His name was Silas Humphrey,” Dad said quietly, staring at the cover of his book rather than me. “He was held in captivity for two months before his trial and then got ten years in prison. He never got parole, since it's illegal for werewolves who've bitten people to get paroled in Australia.”
“So, he got out in 2021?” I asked, counting in my head.
Dad nodded. “Yes. That was the last I heard about him. He was required to check in with a Werewolf Control Unit employee every full moon for two years after, but he fell off the fact of the planet afterward. Could be dead for all I know.”
“I hope he's dead,” Mum muttered.
“Julie, he was remorseful. Remember the trial? He was crying and completely upset about the whole thing.”
“He could've prevented it!” Mum exclaimed. “And transforming near a Muggle campsite? It was stupidity on his part and I can't forgive him for that.”
Dad sighed. “Julie, there's no need to rehash this.”
“Apparently there is, since Amy needs the information for some reason she won't tell us,” Mum said resentfully.
Oh, boy, I thought. Mum really wasn't going to like what I had to say next. “Unfortunately I need more than that. I need to find him.”
Mum groaned and put her head in her hands. “You're kidding, right, Amy?”
“I'm not kidding,” I said. “Do you know how rare it is for someone to know who bit them?”
“Of course I know,” Mum snapped. “I also know that Matt doesn't want to talk to the man.”
“Matt doesn't have to. This is purely for my research. Look, I'll tell you part of it-”
“Amy, you don't have to,” Dad interrupted.
“It's fine,” I said. “I need DNA samples of as many werewolves with the New Holland strain as possible, and I also need to compare samples of those with New Holland who've infected people with those who they infected. I need Silas Humphrey's DNA.”
“And this has something to do with the Wolfsbane?” Mum asked.
It was so much more than that, I thought. I'd make history if this proved correct. “Yes, something to do with it.”
“Fine, fine! Find Silas Humphrey. Just don't involve your brother.”
I hadn't thought about whether I'd tell Matt what I was doing. Part of me wanted to protect him and not bring up that part of his past, but the other part of me knew he had the right to know.
“Let's just see if she can find him first. You're going to need a private investigator, Amy.”
“I know,” I replied. “One of Victoire's cousins is a PI.”
“Whatever it is you're doing, Amy, good luck with it. I know you'd only do this if it was absolutely necessary. I hope you find him,” Dad said quietly.
“Thanks Dad,” I said.
To say I was nervous about meeting with Victoire's PI cousin was an understatement. I knew him, of course, and I wasn't nervous about him. I was nervous about the process, about what I'd have to tell him, and about finding Silas Humphrey.
Victoire's cousin, Bradley Weasley, had his PI office in Knockturn Alley. Victoire assured me he was exactly the same as he'd been at Hogwarts and that the only reason he was in Knockturn Alley was because more people who frequented that section of London needed a PI than those in Diagon Alley. Due to my work schedule, I had to make an evening appointment on Thursday, the one day a week that Bradley had evening hours.
Knockturn Alley was sketchy during the day and at night it was downright scary. Dillan hadn't wanted me to go but I made the appointment anyway because I didn't have a choice. He didn't have much to say to that, but I could tell he was upset about it. I didn't even tell Mum what time I was going or about the fact that the office was in Knockturn Alley.
Dillan needn't have worried and I got to Bradley's office in one piece. It was one of the nicer buildings on the street. A bell tinkled as I entered, but no one was in the front room. A desk sat in the middle of the floor with a few shabby chairs along one wall. A few peeling posters of Quidditch teams decorated the walls. Filing cabinets stood behind the desk. All in all, it wasn't the nicest place and if Bradley hadn't been the PI, I probably would've left.
“Hello?” I shouted. “Bradley?”
“Come on back!” Bradley replied.
I walked down a short hall and entered the only open door. It lead to a small office with another old desk and a few patched chairs. More filing cabinets stood along one of the walls.
Bradley Weasley was about two years older than Matt. He was a tall man, although that wasn't noticeable because he was sitting behind the desk. His red hair was messy, he was wearing a pair of patched robes, and there was stubble on his face. Bradley, son of Percy and Corrine Weasley, was Percy's second disappointment in a child. The first was their eldest daughter, Georgia, who refused the Ministry internship Percy secured for her just out of Hogwarts and played professional Quidditch instead. Despite the fact that she now played for England, Percy still considered it a disappointment. Bradley was Percy's second chance of having a child work for the Ministry and he also refused, choosing instead to become a PI. Again, he ran a successful (albeit shabby) business, but was still a disappointment. Georgia and Bradley's younger brother, Cedric, followed in his Uncle George's footsteps and worked at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, mostly in research and production. Again, Percy had been disappointed when Cedric refused to work in the Ministry, but was slightly more proud of Cedric than of Georgia and Bradley. I wasn't sure what Bradley's younger twin sisters did for a living, but they were only 19.
“Amy!” Bradley greeted me with a strong handshake. “Never thought you'd need a PI.”
“Neither did I,” I said as I sat down. “Interesting place you've got here.”
Bradley grinned. “Dad hates it. Usually I've got a secretary, but she says working here isn't worth getting murdered after dark so I can fire her if I like, but I don't care to. She's grouchy and about sixty years old, so she can stay as long as she likes.”
I laughed. “The older nurses get away with just about everything at Mungo's.”
“Must be an old people thing,” Bradley said. “So, Victoire didn't tell me much about why you're here.”
“I didn't tell her much,” I replied. Victoire had begged me for details, claiming that she needed intelligent conversation and speaking baby talk all day to the twins was making her stupid. “And if I can help it, I can't tell you much. Do you require your clients tell you why they need to find someone?”
Bradley burst out laughing. “I'd never make any money if I did. In fact, I'll give you the spiel I give everyone. If you need to find someone for illegal reasons, don't tell me. I'd be required to tell the Ministry.”
I blinked. “Do you really get people who need to find people for illegal reasons?”
Bradley shrugged. “Probably. I think half the people I help want to find people who owe them money. Once they do when I find them...well...I'm sure they don't all use legal means to get what's owed to them.”
I shuddered. “I don't need anything like that. But it's going to be a hard case; I can tell you that.”
“I'm always up for a challenge,” Bradley said.
“Well, what would you say if I told you chances are this bloke I need to find is probably not in the country?”
“I'd say that would be a challenge,” Bradley said. “I've only done that twice.”
“Really? You've been in business for how many years?”
“Five years,” Bradley said. “Took me a while to figure things out, after Hogwarts. But I'm telling you, most people just want me to find people who owe them money, and they don't usually leave the country.”
“This bloke, I can pretty much guarantee he's not in the country,” I said. Most werewolves, even if they wanted to, did not have the means to move to a new country.
“Should be fun,” Bradley said. “Well, tell me everything you know about him.”
“His name is Silas Humphrey,” I said. “He's a werewolf-”
Bradley let out a low whistle. “They're notoriously hard to find.”
“I know,” I replied. “But you'll be able to find a record of him until 2023. He was in Gardinham, the Australian prison, from 2011 until 2021 and had to check in with the Werewolf Control Unit every full moon until 2023.”
“He bit someone?” Bradley asked as he scribbled furiously on a piece of parchment.
“Yeah,” I said quietly. “Years ago.”
“Do you know anything else about him?” Bradley asked. “Any known places of residence? Family members?”
“I think he lived near Brisbane when he bit someone,” I answered. “But I don't know an exact location. No idea about family members.”
Bradley nodded as he continued scribbling. “If you think of anything else, let me know as soon as possible.”
“I will. How long does it usually take you to find people?”
“Some I find within a day and others take weeks,” Bradley said. “This one's going to be tough. Now, the way I do payment is half up front and half after I find the person. Obviously if I don't find him you don't have to pay the second half.”
“Sounds good,” I said as I pulled a handful of gold out of my pocket and set it on the desk.
“Thank you,” Bradley said as he put the gold in a drawer. “I'll keep you updated. So, do you mind me asking why you need to find this bloke?”
“Can't say exactly,” I said as I stood up. “It's for work, is all.”
Bradley nodded. “I'll owl you soon.”
I left the little shop and Disapparated quickly. As I did so, I couldn't help but wonder if I should have gone with a different PI. One with a little more experience, perhaps. But then again, I needed someone who didn't ask many questions and Bradley seemed to be the best for that.
A/N: Mundus means 'new world' in Latin. Australia used to be called 'New Holland.' That's where those two names came from. I think Eurasian is pretty self-explanatory. Thanks so much for all the reviews!
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