(1939-08-02) A Step In the Right Direction
Details for A Step In the Right Direction
Summary: After receiving a letter from Madeline that indicated she had more information, Rena makes a trip to the Evans family farm.
Date: 1939-08-02
Location: Evans Farm
Related: Suspension

There's the sound of laughter at the Evans farm - returned since the news that St. Mungos had found a cure for Perry. Four children are playing in the yard and tossing a ball while Sally, Madeline's springer spaniel, barks and tries to capture the ball. Miriam, the youngest child at only four years old, manages to drop it and the dog seizes this opportunity to take the prize. "Sally! Bring it back!" Madeline giggles - as the game changes to 'chase Sally.'

Rena can't remember feeling so drained of life and happiness as she has over the last— how many days has it been now? She can't even remember anymore. Night and day have blurred together so many times since the horrors of the attack on Diagon Alley that clocks have lost their meaning. However, she hasn't slipped so far as to loose sight of the important things. One of those important things is Madeline - and not merely because she sent a rather intriguing letter to Rena that prompted her visit to Hogsmeade - but also, because she's a friend.
Pausing at the gate, Rena draws a small breath of the country air and closes her eyes momentarily. It feels good to be warmed by the sun… She can smile again, at least a little. "Maddie," she calls out to the girl as she comes in sight, waving her hand lightly. Despite her best efforts, the poor kid is likely to notice how pale and wan she looks. It really can't be helped.

"Rena! Hi!" Madeline exclaims, living her German 'brothers' and 'sister' to chase her dog, she instead dashes towards the auror, wrapping her in a great hug. "They found a /cure/!" she says excitedly - but softly. Saul, Asher and Miriam don't know about magic, after all. "Uncle Perry's going to be alright! Isn't that wonderful? Oh I'm so glad you came! I bet you've been horribly busy - my mom baked a pie, it's for after dinner, but I bet since you're here we could eat have a slice with some tea!"

Rena returns Maddie's hug quite warmly. In fact, she holds on a good deal longer than she normally would. Truth be told, she's giving herself time to blink back the tears burning in her eyes so that she can better compose herself.
"I 'eard." She says, finally letting the girl go with a smile. I've never been so relieved and 'appy to be given news like that in my life. "It'll be alright now. They'll think twice before they try to outwit us again, yea?"
Glancing at the other children, Rena smiles and offers a friendly little wave in their direction. Got to keep up appearances for the kiddies' sakes. "Pie, eh?" She then says, beginning to walk toward the house slowly. "Give me a pie over a cake any day of the week, says I. I've always loved 'em far better. You get more out of a pie… maybe we can convince your mum."

"Let's go try!" Madeline agrees, bouncing on ahead of Rena. "You guys keep playing!" she calls to the other kids - who don't seem about to argue. But only because they didn't hear the word 'pie.'
Madeline opens the door to the house, gesturing for Rena to have a seat in a tidy little sitting room - a fireplace in one corner, and even a spinning wheel. "Mum had us go berry picking - and we made jam, and pie, and ate some with fresh cream. Don't you just love sugar?" she asks. "I'll go find mum - I think she was going to iron - and put some tea on. Just give me half a tick!" she girl says brightly before dashing off. "Mum! Miss Lee's here!"

Although Rena continues to smile, she says little in reply to Maddie's barrage of questions, other than to offer the occasional agreement. If she weren't so mentally and emotionally drained at this point, she'd be more of her bright, chipper self.
Left to her own devices as the girl runs away to find her mother, the small redheaded woman takes a moment to look at her surroundings and actually comprehend them. The wholesome homey nature of the house exudes warmth, love, care and kindness. Doing one slow turn in place, and holding her handbag close to herself, she finally comes to a stop beside the offered chair and takes a seat to wait. The lady of the house will undoubtedly find her visitor looking like a lost mouse by the mantelpiece.

There are pictures scattered about - a picture of Madeline's parents when they were younger, a wedding photo, a picture of baby Madeline… There's even a picture of Madeline and her three Jewish 'siblings' - taken in the hopes that they'd feel more at home, with their photo on the mantel. Beside one of the chairs is a basket of knitting, and there's a radio, currently switched off. An old farm cat snoozes on a cushion near the fireplace.
Madeline can still be heard chattering excitedly, and then dashing into the kitchen. She fills a kettle and sets it on the stove, while Gladys comes in, wiping her hands on a rag tucked into her apron. "Miss Lee - I'm glad you could come. Madeline was so anxious to speak to you, though after everything that happened… Have you found who did it, yet? Though I suppose that would have made Madeline's newspaper as well."

Her upbringing was not conventional by any means, but Rena was raised to treat her elders and betters with respect. And so, when Gladys arrives, she pops out of the chair immediately to stand up and greet her. Again, though sincere, her smile is faded and tired: "Wish I could tell you, M'am. I'm afraid I can't discuss the leads the Ministry 'as uncovered thus far, though - you understand."
Pausing uncertainly, Rena resumes her seat with a little sigh: "It brightened my day considerably to get the letter from Maddie," she offers. "It's nice to 'ear good news for once. Pardon my being a bit selfish, but I 'ope it means my man will be coming 'ome from the 'ospital now that a cure's been found. Name wasn't in the article," here, she glances down, trying not to sound annoyed by that fact. "But, I'm sure 'e did 'is utmost in trying to find the cure."
Turning her attention back to Madeline, Rena then says curiously: "I suppose I ought not beat around the bush as they say. What's all this with the great big flower?"

Gladys' concern turns to relief as Rena expands on her 'man's' involvement with the hospital "Oh, I do understand. And I wish you all the best in finding these people. Naturally… we're quite concerned." Her gaze shifts towards the kitchen. "And we're grateful for you, and your gentleman. It was hard to keep Madeline's hopes up."
She glances towards the kitchen, where a chair or a step stool can be heard scratching on the floor, while Madeline shoves it into place to get at the tea cups. "Madeline ran into a recent graduate who had some light to shed on the situation. I'm sure Madeline will want to tell you herself. Miss Lee," and here Gladys crouches, having not taken a seat herself. "It /is/ safe, isn't it? Sending Madeline back to school."

The hesitation in the coming of Rena's answer may speak volumes louder than her words. "I wish… I wish I could tell you, m'am. As I told you back when I enlisted Madeline's 'elp, this whole thing could be rumors - or not as terrible as it may seem, at least. But now, with the speech given at the end of the term, and everything that's 'appened the last few days, I just don't 'ave any solid answers. I don't feel safe about Professor Flint. For all I know, 'e means well - but is misguided and going down a dark, dangerous path… or 'e could know exactly what 'e's doing."
Pausing uncomfortably, the redheaded woman glances out the farmhouse window momentarily to collect herself before continuing: "I can only promise to do my very best to remove Flint's influence and to clean up the school. If worst comes to worst though," she remarks with a smirk, "I've still got my old books. Between myself and others, we could tutor children."

Shifting a little, Rena shakes her head: "Sorry, best not go running down that path before we know what's what… What did our master spy find?"

"Well. I suppose we could always send her, and bring her home if things aren't going well." But it's clear none of this sits well with the woman. Madeline is her /only/ child - as much as she adores Saul, Asher and Miriam, she knows she's meant to give them back one day. "Oh, just a girl in a flower shop talking about magijugend breaking wands. I hope it is useful to you, to bring you all the out here."
As she talks, Madeline bounces back in, letting out a complaining sound. "Moooom!" she cries, while Gladys climbs back to her feet. "I was gonna tell her! I put the kettle on and got the cream and sugar like you asked, but I didn't touch the pie." She drops into a seat next to Rena, whispering loudly, "She didn't trust me not to cut huuuuuuuuuge pieces."
"Her time is valuable, Maddie, she's a busy woman. I'll go slice it. Then after her tea, she can head home." She takes a moment to study the woman's somewhat gaunt, and haggard appearance. Perhaps a little sandwich, as well.

It'd take a mother to look at Rena and understand that the woman has been neither eating nor sleeping normally since the tragedy. She was scarcely managing that beforehand - now it's become worse.
"Never too busy for a friend, though, M'am," Rena says with a warmer smile for Maddie's sake, now that she's re-entered the room. Leaning in to whisper back to the girl, she says: "Too bad you can't use a doubling charm on pies, eh?" -An idea that's just terrible enough for Maddie to love.
Resuming a more dignified position, she asks: "What 'appened with the girl in the flower shop? Can you tell me exactly what she talked about? The more you can remember, the better. I'm all ears."

Oh, the idea sticks to Madeline's brain, alright. "There's a doubling charm?" she asks. "Why /can't/ you use it on pies? I want twice the pies!" It's almost the best idea ever. She muses on this for a moment, before her brain jolts back to the flower shop.
"Oh yeah! We were talking about the Ice Queen - Ria Sykes. I guess she helped start the Magijugend at Hogwarts! And Briar said she used dark magic, and I asked if she really, really did. And she said, well, that we don't really know what they do at the meetings, because if they talk about it, their wants break and so I asked, what do mean the wands break? and said said how Lucian got a band on his wand when he joined, but then after her quit, his wand broke and he had to get a new one. That's what she said. So maybe if you talk to her, she'll know even more, but that's what she told me, and then she had to get back to work. And that's just the sort of stuff I'm supposed to be trying to find out about, right?" she asks eagerly. "I mean, without asking any questions but - well - /she/ brought it up!"

"You know," Rena says in a puzzled way, looking up thoughtfully, "I ain't sure it can't be used on food. I only know of the spell and what it generally does. Now, I wonder." She's almost as bad as Madeline is…
Dragged back down into reality by the seriousness of the situation at hand, Rena listens to the girl's tale intently. With each word, her expression becomes increasingly thoughtful and concerned. If this is true, they now have a more solid case to go on - and leads to follow. Up to now, it's been like following wisps of smoke, hoping to catch hold of one and keep it. Now, they may just have something.
"Well… now, there's something, and no mistake." She finally says, breaking the silence. "Maddie, you did a great job. You did exactly as you should've and didn't make it seem like you were asking questions." Here, she flashes a reassuring smile: "You've got a natural knack for spy work, you 'ave."

"I do?" Madeline practically squeals as she bounces in her seat. "I just knew you would want to know! I was so glad I heard her say that, 'cuz I thought it could be real useful. And if you can get rid of the Magijugend, and maybe in Professor Flint, then I can tell everyone how I helped the aurors crack the case!
"'cept if I do…" she muses more quietly. "Then maybe I won't be so useful next time. People might not tell me stuff if they know I've helped the aurors."
While she's thinking over this, Gladys returns with a tray to set at the little table between Rena and Madeline. There's two pieces of pie - one larger than the other - two tea cups, a steaming kettle, cream, sugar, and a little cucumber sandwich. "Now - don't ruin your supper, Madeline. Just the little slice and the tea for you. You hear?"
"Yes, mum," she promises.

Perhaps it is the kindly company; perhaps the new lead that will breathe some life into the disturbing case of the wands, but Rena actually feels like she has a bit of an appetite again. Both the sandwich and pie (to say nothing of the tea) appeal to her a great deal.
She manages to fix her tea and begin eating the cucumber sandwich while Madeline talks. Swallowing, she tilts her head to one side and remarks a bit wryly: "That's the problem with spy work. If people know you're a spy, you're out of a job. So, I'm afraid you'd 'ave to 'old off on telling people about your smart work - unless you'd like to get out of the business. Not that it'd be a bad thing. Spies don't usually 'ave very long careers - and I think your family'd be 'appier if you did." Turning to Gladys with a grateful smile, Rena then says: "Delicious, M'am. Thanks for the extra bit of food. I ain't been eating regular-like since I can't remember when."

A moment's pause ensues while the young Auror considers, chews, and rolls the information around in her head. "First thing's first. I need to speak with this Briar, perhaps - and then take the information to my boss. If we can pull the chair out from under Flint, 'Ogwarts may be saved from segregation yet."

"I'd feel better if it was just this once," Gladys agrees, wondering if her talkative daughter can /really/ keep this a secret once the case is closed. "And you can stop by any time, Miss Lee. We'll find a spot at the table," she promises. "I should get back to ironing," she adds, nodding to Rena before she leaves.
"Briar Crocker," Madeline supplies. "She was one of the prefects - in Adam's house. Hufflepuff. She's always been real nice." Most Hufflepuffs are. Madeline, for her part, has tucked into her piece of pie, letting out appreciative sounds. "Mum makes the /best/ pie."

Madeline giggles as she adds, "My da' didn't tell my mum, but Briar said the most perfectly awful word. I've I ever said, I'd have my mouth washed out every night for a month!"

"Thank you, M'am - I'll remember that when I 'appen to be out this way." Rena replies appreciatively as Gladys takes her leave.
Having finished her sandwich, Rena sips tea and then answers Madeline with a nod: "Briar Crocker - I'll be looking 'er up as soon as I get back to London. The faster I nip 'round and work out the kinks of this case, the better." Starting in on her pie, then, she is quite preoccupied with the deliciousness of the food for a time. However, Maddie's remark about Hufflepuffs causes her to chuckle: "Well, I'm an 'Ufflepuff - and folks generally seem to think I'm pretty nice. So, I reckon that 'olds true."
Arching an eyebrow at the girl's comment about Briar speaking an awful word, Rena pauses with her fork in mid-air before saying: "I suppose it'd be wrong for me to ask what it was, then. I wouldn't want you to get your mouth washed out with soap. That stuff tastes dreadful."

"Oh, it's loads worse than 'mudblood,' and that's the worst I'd ever dare to say," Madeline whispers loudly, before adding, "I don't think you'll have any trouble finding Briar. She's American." She sets aside her last few bites of pie to concentrate on her tea - that way she can leave the taste of pie in her mouth until supper time! "Mischief wasn't any trouble when he brought the letter, was he? I've been working with him. We're practicing a come here command, a fly away command, and a drop it command."

Did Mischief cause any trouble when he delivered the message? Well…

Rena looks up, pondering the question and recalling how she came in the door to find Mischief, the Raven, pestering poor Aeric (Takeshi's owl). The latter was trying to get his prerequisite daytime shut-eye atop his perch when he found himself being danced around by a pestiferous blackbird who was circling him like a crazed Indian from a cinema film.
"Oh, no - no trouble at all," Rena says with a smile, shifting her glance slightly. "'E's quite the clever blade, that bird." She adds, tucking back into her pie.

Rena very much enjoys the remainder of her short time at the Evans farm. Something about the place has a way of restoring one's spirit; perhaps it's the country air, but more than likely, it's just the family itself. Now that she's been re-nourished and the case revitalized, she can head back to London with a deeper certainty of her purpose. Flint had better be watching his back.

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