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Shifts, Chapter 35: Infiltration, pt. 4 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shifts, Chapter 35: Infiltration, pt. 4
Ack, just trying to follow the timeline here... I'm starting to think Harry might have a point with being annoyed at Snape. By the apparent sequence of events, he must have waited hours before deciding that, gosh, they sure seemed to be taking a long time getting back from the forest.

:brain hurts from painful timeline:

Anyway, Dora, Remus, and Sirius are at Grimmauld Place. Kreacher has injured Buckbeak and Sirius is already in a huge temper over it (they don't yet realize that the noise and rushing around masked Harry's call in the kitchen). A silvery-white image of Snape appears and ascertains that Sirius is not, in fact, being tortured in the Department of Mysteries.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




"What are you on about?" Sirius asked. "What's happening?"

"Dolores Umbridge caught hold of Potter in her office," Snape said, sounding quite annoyed at Harry. "He had his head in her fireplace. He refused to tell her what he was doing, so she called me to provide her with Veritaserum--"

"You didn't--"

The image of Snape cast a withering glare in Sirius's direction. "While I would shed few tears over Potter betraying your whereabouts, he also knows a good deal too much about the Order to allow her to interrogate him under Veritaserum. I told her it would take a month to prepare. She was quite displeased."

"But that's not even a lie," Dora said.

"I see you haven't yet had the pleasure of interacting with Dolores Umbridge," Snape said. He looked again at Sirius. "Potter was quite agitated. He seems to have fallen asleep during one of his exams and dreamed that the Dark Lord had captured you and taken you to the Department of Mysteries."

"He's trying to lure Harry out!" Sirius said.

"That would be my guess."

"Where is he now?"

"I left him in the Headmistress's office, with a handful of his compatriots, guarded by Umbridge and several members of the Inquisatorial squad."

"Well, go back and tell him that I'm fine and he's to stay where he is. We're coming for him."

Snape raised his eyebrows. "Coming for him?"

"Tomorrow. Just get him where you can see him until then."

"Potter doesn't always make himself easy to see."

"Well, pull him in with a Summoning Spell, if you need to. Just get him there."

Snape looked like he was about to argue, then the figure's head turned sharply. "I have to discontinue this conversation," he said. "Other students in my care have just arrived."

The figure disappeared.

"We've been blindsided," Sirius said.

"We thought he was safe at Hogwarts," Dora said. "Until last night, he was. There was no way to know that he'd lose McGonagall and Hagrid at the same time."

Sirius looked at Remus. "What's the plan?"

"For now, we trust Severus Snape."

"We've had plans I like better, mate."

"I know." Remus sat down. "Right now, he seems to be safe from Voldemort--I doubt Umbridge will let him run off the grounds if she's upset with him. I don't like her tactics--or her--but at the moment, her fortress mentality may be our best hope."

"Yes, because Harry has no skill at escaping the inescapable." Sirius took a deep breath. "All right. But if we haven't heard from Snape again soon, I'm going there. To hell with Fudge, to hell with the Dementors, and to hell with Azkaban."

"We'll go with you," Remus agreed.

It was a waiting game. Dora finished preparing the ingredients for the potion and set them to simmer over the magically controlled fire. She drew a protective line around the cauldron, blocking it for four feet around to anyone nonhuman. "I don't like that I know that spell," she said, "but I suppose it's handy enough now." The potion would have to brew for three and a half hours, and Sirius grudgingly agreed to allow that to be the timeframe in which he would accept waiting for word from Snape.

They didn't talk much. Remus found himself wanting to hold and kiss Dora, and hated himself for thinking of such a thing. Dora herself fretted over the cauldron, checking the consistency of the potion more than she normally did and finally just biting her lip and staring at it, occasionally concentrating and changing the color of her hair. Black, red, green, purple, finally settling into her favorite shade of pink.

Sirius sat down periodically, but mainly paced the length of the kitchen. At one point, he left and started to bellow for Kreacher, who didn't answer.

"Do you suppose he got through?" Dora asked. "Harry, I mean. Do you suppose he called here?"

Remus nodded. "I'm almost certain."

"While we were upstairs with Buckbeak."

"I imagine so."

Remus stood to get a butterbeer--more for something to do than for any great desire for it--and Dora came to him, slipping her arms around him and pressing her cheek against his chest. He held her. The beating of his heart slowed, although he hadn't realized how quickly it had been going.

She gave a sigh of relief.

Sirius's search for Kreacher didn't last long--he seemed unable to stay away from the kitchen--and he returned to find them there.

Remus pulled away. "I'm sorry."

"Sorry about what? Do you think I wouldn't be hugging a Dora if I had one just about now?"

Dora let go of Remus and opened her arms. "Come here."

She embraced Sirius, who calmed visibly, at least for as long as it lasted.

Moody arrived two hours after Snape's message, and concurred with the idea that it was an ominous development. "There's something happening," he said. "I didn't even need my Invisibility Cloak at Malfoy's. Wore it anyway, of course, but there wasn't anyone there. I found a room in the cellar that looks like it's been used a lot."

"Aunt Bellatrix?" Dora asked.

"Definitely a witch," Moody agreed. "Someone--I'm betting on Narcissa--had given her perfume, though it remained quite untouched. And if she was there, her husband was there. And if her husband was there, I'm willing to bet his brother was. But they're not there now."

"What about Aunt Narcissa?"

"At the Ministry," Kingsley Shacklebolt said, coming down the stairs. "I saw her leaving Fudge's office with him. Your mother's going to love this, Tonks--Narcissa was saying how glad she was to see Hogwarts brought under better Ministry control, and she hoped he would exercise 'equal diligence' in curtailing much of the 'nonsense' that goes on at St. Mungo's."

"Wonderful."

"Was Lucius with her?" Remus asked.

"No. Why?"

Moody related his account of searching the Malfoy home.

Kingsley pounded his fist into the stone wall. "Dammit! I've asked permission to search that place more times than I can count, and Bellatrix Lestrange was there all along! Bloody-damned Fudge!"

"Why are they all out now?" Sirius asked. "I've been living as a fugitive for almost three years. Going out isn't a simple matter for me, and I at least have something of a disguise. Or has Bella learned to turn herself into an asp or whatnot?"

"Not that we know of, but I wouldn't count it out."

Sirius got up and started pacing. "What time is it, Dora?"

Dora checked the hourglass she'd set beside the cauldron. "We have an hour and a half left to wait, Sirius."

"Dumbledore expects to be here at ten," Moody said. "I saw him to tell him what I'd found. He was on his way to meet Amelia Bones at her home, hoping the Wizengamot can find a way to oust Fudge and Umbridge legally."

"Wait," Dora said. "We haven't tried that yet?"

"Of course we have, but at the moment, anyone who disagrees with Fudge is in danger of losing his seat."

"What are we waiting an hour and a half for?" Kingsley asked.

Sirius told him, very briefly.

"I don't like this at all," Kingsley said.

Remus was forced to agree. "I would have expected Severus to have got back to us by now. I think we need to start seriously thinking about getting there. Now."

"Your potion..." Dora began.

"Damn the potion. The full moon isn't for another three days. I'll take it late tonight."

She nodded. "I'll stabilize the fire to keep it from overbrewing." She went to the cauldron and began a complicated series of spells on the flames.

"This isn't a wise idea," Kingsley said. "I could Apparate there myself and see what's happ--"

There was another flash of white light. This time, Snape didn't wait for the image to entirely resolve itself before speaking. "Potter is missing."

"What?" Sirius bellowed. "What do you mean, missing?"

"The Headmistress never returned from the Forest with him."

"It's been hours!"

"I realize that, Black." Snape's image, now resolved, looked over its shoulder. "Has Dumbledore arrived there yet?"

"We're expecting him at ten o'clock."

Snape pursed his lips, then went on. "The students at my door were from my House. They're all members of the Inquistorial Squad, and had been left holding Potter's companions in Umbridge's office. There was apparently a scuffle, and it took some time for me to sort it out. Potter has apparently trained his group well this year." Snape looked like it had caused him physical pain to admit this. "They were able to retrieve their own wands as well as Potter's and Granger's."

"So Harry has his wand and an army?" Sirius asked.

"I would hardly call five students an army."

"Which five?" Remus asked.

"The remaining Weasleys, Granger, Longbottom, and the Lovegood girl."

Remus estimated their strengths and weaknesses. "That's it," he said. "We're leaving."

"I believe you should ask Dumbledore," Snape said. "Before you rush the Order off into a confrontation--"

"The confrontation is already here."

"Then leave Black behind at least, to tell Dumbledore what has happened."

"Like hell," Sirius said.

Kingsley frowned. "He does have a point."

Sirius looked at Remus. "It's your call. I'll abide by your decision."

"As long as it matches yours?"

Sirius rolled his eyes. "You need me there, Moony."

Remus fought a wave of nausea. Dumbledore had asked him if he could send Dora into danger, and he hadn't known how to answer it. It had seemed so easy then to simply say that he'd find it difficult to send anyone into danger, because there had been no need for it. But there was a need now.

And no one had asked about sending Sirius into danger. After all, Sirius was just a friend, just a part of his past, not a part of his future. How difficult could it be to bring a mere friend into danger?

Remus stopped his thoughts from their circling panic. He had agreed to take charge when Dumbledore was absent, and the choice was his and his alone.

There were ten convicted Death Eaters on the loose, more when those who had never been caught were factored in, not to mention Voldemort and Peter, and if Moody was right, they were on the move. Harry was leading a group of five children, and they could be nearly anywhere, although they were almost certainly headed for London. Harry's band would be outnumbered at least two to one and almost certainly outmatched.

Remus closed his eyes.

"We'll need every hand," he said. "Sirius goes."
38 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
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From: (Anonymous) Date: February 14th, 2005 07:23 am (UTC) (Link)
I have chills, Fern. Just....wow.

I did pick up the folowing missed article:

Kingsley frowned. "He does have point."

I'm torn between desperately awaiting and dreading the next installment at the MoM. I still have chills. You have such a gift with this story.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 14th, 2005 07:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Ack, me and my missed articles. Grrr. I'll go catch it.
izhilzha From: izhilzha Date: February 14th, 2005 07:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Sirius looked at Remus. "It's your call. I'll abide by your decision."

*whimper* Cruel, cruel Fern! The whole exchange is in character...but laying that particular burden on Remus' shoulders.... *curls up in misery*

All that to say--keep it up. I can't wait to read the next chapters, much as I dread them.
awaywithpixie From: awaywithpixie Date: February 14th, 2005 07:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh this is another fine chapter... I was hoping things could go on forever and ever, but now it's getting closer to the end, I can't bear it!

My favourite line: "Sorry about what? Do you think I wouldn't be hugging a Dora if I had one just about now?"
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: February 14th, 2005 07:42 am (UTC) (Link)
I've been feeling vaguely on edge for days, with Shifts playing in the back of my mind... my housemates were teasing me about it earlier... they'll understand when they escape from their Homework Prisons and I make them read it.

On the one hand, every installment that ends with our heroes not yet at the DoM means that the story will last just a little bit longer - but on the other hand, llskdhoel,sdmqle'qdfnql;;er!!!!

Typos both times you used the word "Inquisitorial"
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 14th, 2005 12:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Typos both times you used the word "Inquisitorial"

I think when I make the same mistake twice, it qualifies as a misspelling rather than a typo. ;)
murgatroyd314 From: murgatroyd314 Date: February 14th, 2005 08:36 am (UTC) (Link)
There was another flash of white light. This time, Snape didn't wait for the image to entirely resolve itself before speaking. "Potter is missing."

"What?" Sirius bellowed. "What do you mean, missing?"

"The Headmistress never returned from the Forest with him."

"It's been hours!"


You're missing some information in the communication between Snape and Grimmauld Place. As of the last time they talked, Snape said Potter was with Umbridge in her office, and now everyone's talking as if they know about the trip to the Forest.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 14th, 2005 12:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oops, overediting. Cut the explanation. I'll fix it.
ajaxbreaker From: ajaxbreaker Date: February 14th, 2005 09:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh dear... Fern, this is nailbiting stuff! I love getting a look at the behind-the-scenes of the DoM battle. But putting the responsibility of Sirius being there on Remus... Poor thing.
Can't wait for the next chapter!
mrs_who From: mrs_who Date: February 14th, 2005 12:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is just wonderful! You have us all on the edge of our seats, you do know that, don't you????? :) I've been keeping up with the installments but haven't had time to comment. These have been absolutely wonderful and I'm amazed at the bounty of your imagination!!

"I left him in the Headmistress's office, with a handful of his compatriots, guarded by Umbridge and several members of the Inquisatorial squad."

"Well, go back and tell him that I'm fine and he's to stay where he is. We're coming for him."

Snape raised his eyebrows. "Coming for him?"

"Tomorrow. Just get him where you can see him until then."

"Potter doesn't always make himself easy to see."

"Well, pull him in with a Summoning Spell, if you need to. Just get him there."


It seems that it ought to be "keep him where you can see him until then" not "get him" and a sticking charm vs summoning spell.

Snape comes back later to say:

"Potter is missing." "The Headmistress never returned from the Forest with him."

It seems it should jump right to "Potter is missing. He went into the forest with the headmistress hours ago and hasn't returned." Someone could ask the details and Snape could give the "the students at my door..." speech. I think you're missing a few bits of info, though.

Precisely where are the Order going? Into the forest or straight to the MOM? The last thing Snape says is that Harry is in the forest. Are the Order heading there first? Doesn't Dumbledore tell Harry that FIRST Snape searched the forest and then he realized that Harry and Co went to the MOM and he contacted the Order about it?


fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 14th, 2005 12:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
No, he says he contacted them and then searched the Forest. I'm going to have them take a wrong turn first to burn some of that extra time. Damn, but these guys were slow on the uptake!
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: February 14th, 2005 12:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Argh, Fern, you're evil! lol. ;)
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 14th, 2005 12:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't know whether I feel more awe that your writing is so brilliant or agony at the direction in which this story has to go. Wonderful, but dreadful at the same time! Mary
butterflysteve From: butterflysteve Date: February 14th, 2005 01:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
By the apparent sequence of events, he must have waited hours before deciding that, gosh, they sure seemed to be taking a long time getting back from the forest.
I was about to say that he probably had to deal with Malfoy and the I.S but...
"The students at my door were from my House. They're all members of the Inquistorial Squad, and had been left holding Potter's companions in Umbridge's office. There was apparently a scuffle, and it took some time for me to sort it out... you already covered it.
Excellent chapter-part as always and I can already feel the tears welling up.
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: February 14th, 2005 01:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
And no one had asked about sending Sirius into danger. After all, Sirius was just a friend, just a part of his past, not a part of his future. How difficult could it be to bring a mere friend into danger?

And that's Dora's job, and Sirius was always the one starting the danger way back when, and I think Fern is making a comment on blind spots about relationships here, aren't you.

"We'll need every hand," he said. "Sirius goes."

*whimper*
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 14th, 2005 03:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think Fern is making a comment on blind spots about relationships here, aren't you.

Who, me? ;)
sprite6 From: sprite6 Date: February 14th, 2005 02:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh my GOD! Remus had to make the call! I'm...I don't know what to say. Damn, this is going to hurt.

Love this line, btw:

"Potter has apparently trained his group well this year." Snape looked like it had caused him physical pain to admit this.

Thank you for making Snape such a git.
chicleeblair From: chicleeblair Date: February 14th, 2005 03:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Mon Dieu!! It was Remus' decision? That totally adds to the guilt when Sirius dies :(
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 14th, 2005 03:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I think Remus is going to have a load of guilt. Possibly too busy blaming himself for it to even occur to him to blame Harry.
olympe_maxime From: olympe_maxime Date: February 14th, 2005 03:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

You're KIDDING!

Is this what 'You are the murderer!' is about???

Oh, no, Fern, PLEASE!
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 14th, 2005 05:43 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: You're KIDDING!

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

That's it?!!!


NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

Unfortunately, you do know that you're killing us ;)

Lauryn, saying not so nice words right now
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 14th, 2005 04:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, this is awsome! Yes, guilt for Remus, impending doom, great stuff, AAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!! I'd be saying I want you to hurry up and finish except that I know where it's going. More AAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!! Yet, I'm somehow hoping you'll be able to come up with something that fits canon but lets Sirius live. At the risk of being repititious, AAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!

All right, so I'm not up to brilliant commentary at the moment.

As for delay reasons, I think you've got it pretty well covered. I can only add that the school must have been in pretty major chaos. Everthing Harry and his friends had done as distractions must have stirred things up. Then, it probably wasn't long before most of the school knew Umbridge had Harry and some of his friends in her office along with the squad. The Head of Gryffindor House, who might be the only person left who can keep the rebellion against Umbridge from going from restive students to peasant uprising (torches, scythes, guilloutines), is out (and out violently at Umbridge's hands, which the whole school knows), and Dumbledore's Army (who had to be able to figure out plenty of the true story about Dumbledore's removal, since they knew Marietta's altered memory story wasn't what happened. They must have a pretty good idea Dumbledore sacrificed himself to protect Harry, which might make them all see Harry's safety as that much more important to them) has just had their leader taken and may start acting like a locomotive on a downhill run and no breaks at any moment.

Once the squad got beaten up and the other four took off, Snape might have had his hands full and been unable to get out of crowds of fighting students for some time, much less verify that anyone had even gone to the forest. He could have taken logical steps at the start, making sure the brooms were secure, no one had used Umbridge's fire to go anywhere, and all the other fires were essentially bugged, and then tried to get things under control enough to find out what was going on.

I also wouldn't put it past the centaurs to do something misleading, although I can't see them condescending to send a message to the castle or through Firenze.

Also, the Order might have had some reason to delay getting to the Ministry if Kingsley had taken steps to put up extra security. Given the way they rushed in when they got there, I don't know how it could be made reasonable, but Harry was surprised there was no one at the desk when he came in. If the Death Eaters had taken out someone but were still arranging for whatever messages were supposed to go through so that it seemed someone was there, they might have been able to do the same to any extra Aurors Kingsley had put up around the Department of Mysteries (I'm assuming Kingsley wouldn't be able to put in more than a couple as extra guards. He has the excuse of suspicious things having happened there before, a tense and angry situation, and the fact that he only needs to make it stick till Dumbledore's ready to move. Appeasing Fudge long term to maintain working relations is no longer a big issue).

Maybe it was even Fudge, working under Malfoy's influence, who removed the guards and had them sending false updates to Kingsley. Malfoy may be in a similiar position to Kingsley at this point. Keep Fudge under control for a few more hours before it doesn't matter anymore.

And that's assuming the Death Eaters weren't managing a few other monkey wrenches to try and delay or mislead the Order.

Ellynne
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