Ormesby led Lupin around a corner and into another tiny room, where a single battered but sturdy wooden chair stood facing a table with several rather more comfortable-looking chairs arranged behind it.
It came as a most unpleasant shock to Lupin that one of these was occupied by none other than Cornelius Fudge. For the Minister for Magic himself to sit in on a Magical Law Enforcement Patrol interrogation was unheard of -- bang went the last chance of this being some trivial matter.
To cap it all, standing at either side of the table were two towering, black-cloaked Dementors. They turned their hooded faces towards Lupin as he walked through the door, and the bad feeling he had about the entire situation got abruptly worse.
Ormesby stalked over to the table, scowled at Lupin, pointed to the chair opposite and ordered, 'Sit!'
Lupin sat; so did Ormesby. He picked up a quill, dipped it in ink and set it at the top of a roll of parchment, where it remained balanced on its point.
'Now, Mr Lupin --' Ormesby began, the quill copying down his every word.
'I say, shouldn't he be chained down?' interrupted Fudge.
'He's not under arrest yet, Minister,' said Ormesby.
'But a werewolf --' said Fudge.
'Well, it's not standard procedure, but if you insist ...' said Ormesby, looking not at all displeased when Fudge did.
Ormesby conjured up a set of heavy iron chains that wrapped themselves around Lupin, binding him to the chair. Under ordinary circumstances, Lupin would have hinted that the Office for Werewolf Support Services might take a dim view of this treatment, but with Sirius in the building he didn't dare risk either prolonging the interview or annoying Ormesby.
Fudge frowned. 'Shouldn't those chains be silver?'
'No,' said Ormesby in a very definite voice. 'Short of a killing blow, steel will do as much damage as silver to a werewolf that isn't transformed, and unlike silver, injuries caused by steel can be healed magically. If we used silver chains and he cut himself struggling, it could be grounds for a complaint of cruel treatment. He is only here for questioning.'
Lupin didn't like the sound of this one bit. Ormesby seemed to be implying that he expected Lupin to cut himself struggling. Whilst Lupin's previous visits to Magical Law Enforcement Patrol headquarters hadn't exactly been fun, he had yet to become a victim of police brutality. On the single occasion he'd been in any real danger of being wrongfully charged with a crime, Dumbledore had stepped in to vouch for him, and that had been the end of that.
The leftmost Dementor made a hollow, rattly noise deep within its throat. The room grew suddenly colder and darker, and Lupin felt a sharp surge of misery and guilt. He hadn't deserved Dumbledore's help. He had abused and betrayed Dumbledore's trust, both before and after --
'Where were you on the afternoon of July the thirteenth?' asked Ormesby, jerking Lupin back to the present.
When the question finally sank in, Lupin realised with a nasty jolt that he'd been brought in to be interrogated about Harry.
Lupin had naturally been aware that the Ministry was investigating Harry's disappearance, but he hadn't expected much to come of it -- not so long as Fudge was still burying his head in the sand about Voldemort being back. During their most recent conversation, Dumbledore had told Lupin that the Minister now had some crackpot notion that the whole thing was a plot to embarrass him by unknown political enemies.
If Fudge had fixed on Dumbledore and his allies as the persons responsible, events had taken a serious turn for the worse. Not only would the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol have no hope of catching up with the true perpetrator, they'd be thwarting the efforts of the one group of wizards who did.
Lupin did his best to hide his panic, putting on an expression of innocent helpfulness.
'July the thirteenth?' he said mildly. 'I'd have been at home in bed the entire day. There was a full moon the night of the twelfth.'
'Can anyone corroborate that?' demanded Fudge.
As it happened, on that particular day, for the first time in close on fourteen years, there had been someone who could corroborate that, but Lupin didn't think the fact that he'd been harbouring an escaped mass murderer would go down well with the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol as an alibi.
'Er -- no,' he said. 'I never have visitors on the day after a full moon, I'm too ill.'
'Exactly as I said, Minister,' said Ormesby. 'A werewolf is one of the least likely creatures to be responsible for this incident. I was a member of the Werewolf Capture Unit for five years, and I've known Cornish Pixies to put up more of a fight than the werewolves we caught on the day after the full moon. Of course, by then, the damage was usually already done ...'
'But it would fit the absence of bodies,' Fudge argued. 'If he ate them ...'
'Two adults and two fifteen-year-olds, leaving no traces behind?' said Ormesby sceptically. 'Transformed werewolves can't eat meat, let alone cloth or bone, and --'
'Can't eat meat!' echoed Fudge in disbelief. 'Of course they can eat meat! Wolves are carnivores, meat's the only thing they can eat!'
'Wolves are carnivores, yes, but a werewolf isn't a wolf,' Ormesby explained patiently. 'Or at least no more so than a vampire is a man. Werewolves bite humans to drink their blood, not to eat their flesh. In fact,' he continued, obviously warming to his subject, 'surviving a werewolf attack is a fairly simple matter: just lie still and let the beast lick at the wound until sunrise. The trouble is that few wizards manage to keep their heads well enough to follow this advice -- they'll panic and struggle and end up bleeding to death from multiple bites ... but then, "survive" almost inevitably means "survive as a werewolf", due to the increased contact with the creature's saliva and the greater amount of time the bite is left untreated. Many would prefer to run the risk of being killed for even the slimmest chance of getting away clean.'
Ormesby gave Fudge and Lupin a genuinely happy smile, quite at odds with the extreme gruesomeness of his dissertation. Fudge's face had gone thoroughly green, and Lupin felt nearly as sick as Fudge looked. Lie still and let the beast lick the wound ... That was what he had done, not from choice but because at three years old he'd been far too small for his struggles to have any effect.
Lupin gave a shudder of remembered horror.
His Aunt Lis had tucked him into bed at a rather earlier hour than he was accustomed to, and thus he had still been awake to hear her going out the back door. As his mother had so strictly warned him to remain in the house that evening, he had scrambled out of bed to go and call his aunt back indoors.
The instant Remus set foot in the garden, the werewolf had pounced, knocking him off his feet, flopping on top of him and sinking its teeth into his arm. More than twice his size, it had had not the slightest difficulty holding him pinned down whilst it lapped up his blood ...
The Dementor to Lupin's right took a long, rattling breath. A penetrating coldness swept over him. It cut through his robes, through his very skin, freezing his insides, dragging him under. He was falling, falling through white fog, falling onto hard, rocky dirt, where the werewolf's contented growling filled his ears as its teeth scraped the bone of his arm.
His fingers scrabbled desperately at the ground as he fought to pull himself free, but it was no use. The werewolf was simply too much bigger than him. It probed at the wound with its rough tongue, sending waves of pain through his arm, pausing only when the bleeding slowed to bite down once more and draw fresh blood. The nightmare seemed to go on for ever ... Remus' terror grew almost past endurance ... his heart was ready to burst in his chest ...
Then, in the distance, he heard his mother scream, and felt the weight of the monster lift off him as it charged her down.
'Stupefy! ... Stupefy! ... AVADA KEDAVRA!'
In a blinding flash of green light, the werewolf fell to the ground and changed back into his Aunt Lis.
The fog rose up again, then cleared slightly. Remus was indoors now. A poultice of herbs was being pressed to the bite. It seared the wound with a blazing agony a thousand times worse than the werewolf's tongue, but he hadn't the strength left to yank his arm away, and he'd long since worn out his voice with screaming.
Through a haze of pain, he could hear his mother crying.
'I said she was cowardly, I said she didn't look that ill! I told her if she was too afraid to hunt the werewolf with us, she could at least watch Remus for me. Oh, Lis, Lis!'
She broke down once more into great, racking sobs.
'Exactly why the Ministry advises that this sort of thing be left to the Werewolf Capture Unit,' said a cool, satisfied voice. 'Rogue werewolves nearly always turn out to be local residents -- when members of the public insist on taking matters into their own hands, they often end up either killing a friend or relative, or leaving us with yet another monster to deal with ... in this case, both. You were teaching at Hogwarts when Sirius Black was in the area, were you not, Mr Lupin? ... Mr Lupin? ... Mr Lupin!'
Lupin was back in the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol's interrogation room. He stared at Ormesby in appalled recognition.
'It was you ...' he said stupidly.
The wizard sent by the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures to investigate his aunt's death and Lupin's becoming a werewolf -- it had been Ormesby.
'What are you talking about?' said Ormesby sharply.
Lupin shook his head, slumping down as far as his chains would allow. He felt weak and nauseous; his robes were drenched with cold sweat, and not just because of the terrible memories the Dementors had forced him to relive. Lupin didn't normally believe in evil omens, but for Ormesby, who'd represented the Ministry on what had arguably been the most horrific occasion of Lupin's life, to also be presiding over this enquiry -- it could not bode anything good.
Disclaimer: All characters and concepts from the Harry Potter series copyright J K Rowling.
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