Floo Network

Autumn 69
[Castle Combe] My hidden treasure chest, my golden grand piano

Started by M. B. Montgomery, May 16, 2021, 08:59:12 pm

M. B. Montgomery

The last few days had been a strange ride. Sid was still looking for answers, but they were heard to come by. Dumbledore had kindly agreed to letting him take a few days off in the wake of what had happened with Callum and Vanora Emslie-Clarke. Rather than staying at Hogwarts, Sid had returned home, to the village of Castle Combe. After the relative austerity of living at the school, it was strange to be back in his massive country estate with every conceivable luxury. He'd once treasured it, now it felt ostentatious. Not for the first time he thought that it was rather lonely too. Ever since his wife Bonnie had passed away the halls had felt painfully empty. Worse, every corner still reminded him of her.

Normally, the memories were unwelcome. His mixed feelings about his wife's passing had never fully resolved. It was difficult to decide if he wanted to be sad about her loss or angry about it. The reality was somewhere in-between and difficult to admit to. What kind of widower resented his dead wife? He'd thought he'd finally managed to move on as well, except then Vanora had called via the floo opening old wounds and pulling him into a new mystery. It really started with the question of who Vanora even was. She looked so much like Bonnie it made his heart ache.

Sid had learned in conversation that Vanora was a "niece" of Bonnie's, but he wasn't sure that he believed that story. Vanora claimed that she didn't remember her parents and had in fact been raised by her grandparents. Sid thought that bit rang true, but of course it didn't really answer any of his questions. The older generation Clarke's had long since since passed, preventing him from asking them. The most promising place to look appeared to be Bonnie's old study and diaries. So here he was, trying to find out something. Many other question still stood in the room. Did she really suffer from the same malediction as his wife? How had she ended up embroiled with Death Eaters? 

Probably, he should call his mother. Being a seer there was a chance that she would have an easy way of finding out more. However, the mere thought of his mother's sanctimonious attitude stopped him from doing so. No doubt, he'd get another lecture that marrying Bonnie Clarke had been the worst decision he'd ever made in his life. Even now that Bonnie was gone her speeches didn't become any easier to listen to. Wasn't mourning her for the last 20 years enough punishment already?

The weather had brought a warm October to England. Noon approached and Sid found himself taking his reading material outside. Somewhere in these diaries there had to be mention of Vanora and where she came from. Surely, Bonnie had left a hint for him somewhere.

And thus the picture that presented itself was a rather strange one. Here he was, dressed in traditional thawb and bisht, reading amidst a quintessentially English garden of late-blooming roses, lupines, larkspur and mallows kept alive a little longer than would be natural by the diligent spell work of his gardener. White marble statues, fancy wrought iron garden furniture, fragrant cinnamon tea, dates and honey - the perfect blend of Kuwaiti roots and English upbringing.

Just about to start a new diary, Sid was interrupted by one of his house elves.

"A Mr Rynne for you, Sir. Says he is with the ministry."

Sid nodded. He'd been expecting this visit. In fact, it had taken the ministry a little longer than he would have anticipated. Maybe, that was good news. He hoped they had found something in Inverness that would start to explain what had happened. Hopefully, Mr Rynne came with more than just questions. Sid wanted answers.

"Alright. Please bring him here. We're also going to need another tea set. Maybe some biscuits?"

Elf dismissed he waited for Mr Rynne to brought to the garden.

Garrett Rynne

It would be safe to say that the Auror Offices had been running Garrett ragged the last few months as more and more problems arose as of late. Mysterious disappearances, dark whispers, and hooded figures skulking around the magical parts of London had taken up much of the Auror's time and efforts. If he was being honest, Garrett couldn't recall the last time he had gotten a full nights rest. Pinching the bridge of his nose and squeezing his eyes shut one last time, Garrett felt with his free hand in the inside pocket of his woolen coat. Somewhere in there floating around was the small scratch book he held onto in order to write down any necessary information. Most of the time he didn't need it but lately with the lack of sleep he found himself not wanting to forget any scrap of information no matter how seemingly small it was.

There had been an emergency call put in for an attack on a wizarding home in Inverness. Immediately Garrett had been sent out with a few other Aurors and Ministry officials to handle any matters they might encounter, especially when it was mentioned about a dark mark swirling above the dwelling. The sight of it had made Garrett's stomach clench and twist in an unsettling manner. Upon arrival he had met with a man named Montgomery, not anyone Rett was familiar with. Their first meeting had made him a little suspicious of the man and more so upon doing a bit of digging into his background. A newly appointed professor at Hogwarts, had been living in Morocco for the last 20 years, some minor theft charges that didn't seem too serious but Garrett knew you could never be too sure of people. Especially coming across the fact the man had not one but two wands registered. Interesting... Checking into the victims, Vanora and Callum he didn't find anything too out of the ordinary, though some holes missing in their background that Rett stored away in his memory for later inquiries.

The man had given little information to Garrett, judging by the man's demeanor however he assumed that much of what was going on was entirely new to him including the victims. Rett had kept the interview short, reading some distress from the man as it was and anticipated not much else was going to be gleaned from their conversation for the evening. Returning from the scene, he spent a great deal of time trying to painstakingly compare it to some other cases for any connections between them but hadn't come up with any. One would think that would make him relieved but all it had done was frustrate the man more. It was like he was back to square one and now having to visit the assumed family member, he felt that frustration even stronger burning in the pit of his belly. Garrett hadn't wanted to come empty handed and had little information to offer but was hoping at least that something the man would say could also trigger a new revelation in the case.

Upon his arrival, Garrett took some time to study the outside of the estate. It looked grander than anything Garrett could imagine and rarely ventured to. Often Ministry functions brought him to various homes but even then he felt uncomfortable and out of place among such fine living. Sweeping a hand through his hair, he made his way towards the front door. A sturdy knock and almost immediately he was greeted by a house elf.  Garrett gave a polite nod and greeted the elf.

"Good day, I'm here on behalf of the Ministry," Second nature to flip out his credentials and flash them to the elf as he continued, "-in regard to the case Mister Montgomery had called in previously. Is he at home today that we may speak?" Formalities always felt a little strange on his tongue but unfortunately were part of the Ministry's ways. With how things had been recently, Rett didn't want to take any chances coming off one way or another even to a house elf. It was bad enough that at times the wizarding community seemed torn on their opinions involving Ministry matters. Waiting for the house elf to return, he followed along behind the elf as he led him deeper into the home. Trying not to stare too much, Rett kept his eyes mostly to himself and only looked at things he thought could tell him a little more about Montgomery that the man might not be so forthcoming with himself.

Finding their way to the garden, Garrett gave a nod in greeting to Montgomery and extended his hand. "Afternoon, I hope I'm not interrupting anything. I would have sent an owl ahead but I felt you'd rather hear from me in person." He eyed the man before him closely. He didn't appear to be someone who would secretly wipe out his family and blame it on death eaters or be involved with them... but Garrett had been surprised plenty of times before.

M. B. Montgomery

Sid tidied his robes while waiting for his guest to be led to his garden. He had been half-expecting to see the case assigned to Shore, Crane or one of the other aurors he was familiar with. Rynne was not a name he recognised at all. Hopefully, the man wouldn't be difficult to work with. Sid didn't have much patience for people who were sticklers for procedure. Thankfully, the man who emerged through the Victorian garden arch looked pleasant enough. Younger than expected, though Sid decided that wasn't a bad thing.

"Welcome," he said at the same time as auror trying to greet him. "Oh no, you're not interrupting at all. I was just working on some research." Sid tidied Bonnie's diaries into a neat pile and pushed it to the side of the garden table. As he did, he wondered how much the auror office knew about the Clarke family history. If there was one thing Sid was certain of, it was that he was not the only person his former wife hadn't be forthright with. She'd been the queen of her empire of lies. Hopefully, this chat wouldn't throw him another curveball. His mind was still working overtime trying to make sense of Vanora and how she fitted into the story. 

"Why don't you have a seat. Can I offer you some tea? I have an excellent Kuwaiti cinnamon tea, or perhaps just a good old English Breakfast blend?"

Sid paused awkwardly. "Um, I do appreciate you coming in person. It's been a strange couple of days for me, but at least Vanora and Callum are making a full recovery. I've been assisting with replacing wards and security at their property. However, I'd rest easier knowing the culprits were apprehended and more wards would not be necessary."

He averted his gaze and sighed. "But that's not case, is it. You'd have owled if this were just a courtesy to apprise me of the outcome of your investigation." Sid knew how things usually worked. The auror office was always overworked. If somebody came out for the sake of a conversation, they usually wanted or needed something.

"So tell me how I can help?" Sid wondered what there could possible be that he could contribute. The perpetrators had been gone by the time he'd arrived in Inverness. He didn't know Vanora and Callum or their history. Aside from the very obvious skull and snake mark he hadn't seen any remnants of magic. Of course, he could offer to investigate. However, he'd have thought that the ministry had forensic spell experts that were better at establishing a trace through arithmancy than he was.

Maybe... No, he didn't want to think about that. Sid willed himself to be patient and hear the man out.

Garrett Rynne

"Thank you." Garrett gave a nod at the offer to tea and took a seat. "Actually, something with cinnamon sounds like it would be great. If it isn't too much trouble." He felt stiff. Awkward formalities were never something he enjoyed but the man seemed kind and genuine in his manner.

Right to the point. He smiled and shifted his back against the chair in thought before answering Montgomery. "I apologize again for what happened. Though you are correct. I can't quite promise any good news regarding the who or what attacked them." The truth was more than a simple, 'I don't know.' Which aggravated the auror to no end. He had wanted to find answers not just for this man but for himself and the others suffering similar problems as well. Clearing his throat he continued. "There have been some links to other recent cases that the Ministry has been looking into. I've been going over different files and comparing similar themes from each one. There are still plenty of questions and blank spots however. Which..." He wanted to let Montgomery know he shared in his frustrations but wasn't sure he could still trust him. It wouldn't be the first time he had assumed a family member or close connection to a victim to be innocent just to be proven otherwise shortly after.

Plus, this man already knew that. He wasn't ignorant.. he could tell just from the lack of correspondence up until today. "Is there anything you can tell me about Vanora and Callum? We've checked into their backgrounds but there was not much to make sense of that would warrant an attack of this magnitude. Perhaps if you gave me more about what they did, they jobs, people they might have been in contact with it could connect me to another case? Some other lead I could go off of?" He hated this. It was like grasping at air and having to go on almost nothing then rely on a witness from the scene who seemed to know just about as much as he did was not sitting well with him. Still, if there was anything at all he could learn... often the smallest of details made all the difference.

"We've seen this symbol before and often at the places of attack." Garrett took a piece of parchment from the inside of his pocket and set it on the table. A snake slithering from a skull, twisting around itself. "I know I already asked but does it mean anything to you?" The repetition of questioning was always a grueling one. Except it did tend to yield better results the second or third time around. Sometimes on scene anyone he interviewed was too preoccupied or upset to have enough time to consider the questions he rattled off to them. It was in the moment he saw them a week or so after that they had time to digest and would remember things that could shed some light on a case.

M. B. Montgomery

"You've made the right choice," Sid said with a little smile. He called on one of the elves, to request a fresh pot of Kuwaiti tea and then focused his attention on the Aurora before him. Though he was putting in a brave face, Sid thought that the man seemed a little bit lost. Or was that overworked? Weary? He tried several terms on for size. Going through the motions. That was it.

Things had to dire, because the questions he was asked next were ridiculous. Why ask him about what he knew of Vanora and Callum? He'd already stated he'd only just met them that night. Surely, there had to be someone in their lives that could give more detailed information. Like that awkward guy who claimed to be their friend, but who was so passive and compliant it made Sid's blood boil. Eoghan something or the other.

"I wished I could tell you something. Unfortunately, I only met Callum and Vanora that night, a couple of minutes after the attack had already happened. Vanora's a Clarke of course and if you've done your homework on me you'll know that I was married to Bonnie Clarke for a long time. So I've since learned Vanora is my niece in law, but that's about the extend of my knowledge. My wife was estranged from her family and - let's just say she didn't really like telling me about herself." Now there was an euphemism for Bonnie's web of lies. But what could he say? Venting his anger about his wife to the auror in from of him would not solve the case.

" I'm sorry this can't be very useful information, but it's about as much as I know for sure. Anything else I could give you would just be speculation. There's a possibility Vanora's a maledictus, that runs in the family. However, I don't know if she is. It's not the kind of question you ask your long lost niece in law during a personal emergency."

Then came another question and this one was loaded.

"The mark? You really don't know? Or you're checking out what I'm willing to tell you? I have an idea what that is. Well, heard rumours about it anyway. These usually show up above the homes of muggleborns. Sure you're aware of the Finlay case recently. But yeah, that's how the bloodist fanatics identify themselves these days. Skull and snake."

Garrett Rynne

Garrett pulled his head to one side and eyed Montgomery closely. He gave a steady nod, brows lifted and seemed satisfied with the reaction. It had been similar to that evening so there was obviously nothing more this man knew beyond what he had said or could speculate on the two victims. Tension easing from his shoulders, he lifted his hand as an apology was given. "It's all useful even if it doesn't seem to be at this moment. Sometimes things just take awhile to come to around. I'm a patient man." He felt like there was a terseness to part of what Montgomery said. Perhaps there was something there more personal than he was willing to divulge. That was fine, it might not be relevant to the case. For now.

One word in particular bobbed around inside his thoughts. A maledictus? Now that was interesting.

"Yes, I'm aware of the Finlay case. There have been a few others as well but I find it interesting that the use this time seems to break the pattern up until now." He paused and studied the man across from him. "I didn't mean to make it seem like you have some test to pass, I apologize. It isn't exactly in my job description to be very trusting or expect people to give information in such a forthcoming manner."

"I also don't want you to think I take you for some sort of man who lives with his head under a rock." Of course he had done his homework. Montgomery was absolutely in no way shape or form someone he would want to be on the wrong side of. He was a brilliant man, knew of his work at Hogwarts and any part of his past he could get his hands on. In truth, Garrett found himself respecting Montgomery the more he dug up. "What I mean to say is I'm sure you know more than the Ministry may allow the general public. I find it hard to believe that you are anything but ignorant to that little scratch at the back of your neck. Judging from what I read about you and the little we have spoken I get the impression we have much in common." His instinct was telling him to trust this man but experience was giving an intense push-back in warning.

He cleared his throat. "I came here with an interest more personal that I should most likely admit now than a purely professional interest to your family's case, though I understand its importance. Especially with everything that has transpired recently." Garrett's expression darkened, a hand rubbing along his lower jaw deciding how best to go about this. His emotions had been boiling inside his skull for some time and the more the Ministry tried to manipulate the truth, or keep things nice and tidy.. the more angry he could feel himself getting.

"I believe there is more going on than the Ministry is willing to admit to even to us in the Auror department. If indeed Vanora is a maledictus than that proves a greater concern and to who she may have been affiliated with that possibly lead to her being targeted in such a way. This mark," He prodded a finger rather hard at the drawing as he spoke. "This has been burned into the sky over homes that had more than just muggleborn families as targets. More than simply one or two 'random' families linked to solid magical backgrounds and ties to the Ministry even." He could feel his frustrations starting to get away from him and leak into his tone, clearly starting to appear agitated.

M. B. Montgomery

Sid looked thoughtful. This was taking an interesting direction. He was not sure if this was some sort of interview technique or if the auror in front of him was serious. If he was, Sid couldn't deny being sympathetic. The ministry's approach to the current situation seemed too cautious. He wanted to like Minister for Magic Jenkins, but it was difficult when her policies seemed to be so short sighted. She'd dealt swiftly with the pureblood riots following the squib marches, but it didn't appear as if she was gaining the upper hand. Some of the rioters had issued public apologies, but it all felt a bit surface-level only, fell flat just shy of being believable. There was a deep undercurrent of the situation that Jenkins just turned a blind eye to. 

"Ah, not a fan of current policy then." Sid commented wryly. "Can't blame you. I suppose your department must be hamstrung by stronger measures not being sanctioned. Nothing to be concerned about, right." He gave a little smile as he aped some of the politician's rhetoric. "Magical Britain is safe. We are doing all we can. Just an unfortunate incident."

"I was head curse breaker at Gringotts before you were born, young man" Sid offered as an explanation for his attitude. "I hear things. It's hard not to. The patrons in Knockturn are less concerned with Madam Jenkins' communication policy. Things are moving. Though I am not sure how fast. I think a few people have seen the writing on the wall now, but nobody is quite ready to take a stance. I think people are deluding themselves into believing that fascists can be reasoned with and are relying on the government to deal with matters. Unwise, there are a lot of sympathisers in the ministry. I'd know. I play chess with some of those fools on the weekends."

He gave the auror a weary look. "It's only a matter of time until all of this escalates out in the open."

Sid took a sip from his cup of tea. "So, what have you got? I might be able to help you."

"I suppose I should say that the malediction theory... well, it might not matter even if I am right. It's been running in the family for at least two or three generations, but I am not privy to the story behind it. My wife never saw fit to educate me on the matter before her final transformation. Her family, the Clarke's are a secretive bunch. I didn't make the inner circle. The precious little I do know is that Bonnie's father - Bonnie's the name of my wife - used to be quite active in the resistance against Grindelwald. Big supporter of muggle rights. He used to grandstand about it on family occasions once he had a bit of alcohol in him. But I mean he's been dead for 30 years, so I don't see how that would lead to an attack on his granddaughter now."