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Shades, Chapter Six: The Unforbidden Forest, pt. 1 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shades, Chapter Six: The Unforbidden Forest, pt. 1
Tonks has relocated to Hogsmeade (along with Dawlish, Savage, and Proudfoot, with whom she is not getting along). Her school friends, including Sanjiv McPherson, who lives in Hogsmeade regularly, have helped her move in. After they go, she realizes that she has a direct view of the Shrieking Shack from her window, which is not going to be especially helpful in keeping her mind off of a thick-skulled werewolf of her acquaintance. ;)

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




If Tonks had thought that being part of a contingent of only four Aurors, far from the distractions of London, would encourage her colleagues to let go of their hostility toward her, Monday and Tuesday would have cured her of the misconception fairly quickly. Dawlish barked instructions at her; Proudfoot and Savage ignored her whenever they could. After three Dementor attacks in a week, Tonks had suggested that they arrange some classes on casting the Patronus charm--in at least one of the cases, a witness who should have been able to defend her companion had been present--and Dawlish had agreed, and proceeded to assign Proudfoot to the detail, as Tonks's Patronus would, he said pointedly, be far too disturbing for civilians. When she wondered aloud if there was any pattern to the attacks--Hogsmeade was a small village to have drawn so much Dementor attention--Savage sneered that she seemed to be a bit behind on things, if she was just figuring that out. Savage and Dawlish split up the interviews of victims' families between themselves, and Dawlish ordered Tonks to investigate the stretch of road outside the school walls where two of the attacks had taken place.

She had never in her life had difficulty getting along with people; it had come naturally to her from the start. Once or twice, she'd met someone with a vague hostility toward shapeshifters, but she'd been able to win most of them over, and the ones that were left were scattered enough that she'd been able to let it roll off of her back entirely, and she rarely saw them after initial meetings. The only person she knew of who had actively disliked her for an extended period had been Snape, and as dislike for students was something of a default position for him, she hadn't let it bother her. She just doubled her efforts in his class, giving him no excuse to mark down her assignments, put up with his constant docking of house points, and thought of it as a point of solidarity with the rest of the student body.

There'd been a few people suspicious of her when she began work after finishing her training--it was the year after Sirius's escape, and her familial connections were quite well known--but it had only been an undercurrent. She hadn't rocked the boat, because until the Monday after the disastrous end of the Triwizard Tournament, she'd been able to roll her eyes and point out that it wasn't as though she was about to help the murdering lout. But when she'd gone to Kingsley to find out what had killed poor, kind-hearted Cedric Diggory, and he'd told her the story that Harry was telling, and that Harry had told another story the previous year, a story that had been verified only by three confused students and werewolf...

Three bright Hogwarts students and Remus Lupin. She didn't know the students in question, but it seemed odd to doubt such specific matching testimony. And Remus, she knew, wouldn't make up such a story.

Suddenly, a wall had gone up between Tonks and nearly everyone else in the Division. They lived in some insulated reality where they were a righteous defense against he worst in wizardkind. She lived in one where an innocent man was being hunted and tormented because the Ministry refused to listen to a man she knew was trustworthy.

Going to Dumbledore had been her only option. She was grateful to discover that Kingsley Shacklebolt was persuadable (and Mad-Eye had long been persuaded), but any thought she'd had of a friendly, collegial work life had disappeared the moment she'd realized that Sirius was innocent. All year last year, there'd been suspicion and distrust. When she'd been injured fighting alongside Sirius and Remus, her dual loyalties exposed beyond hope of reconciliation, the fact that she'd been right all along seemed to serve only to turn the suspicion into outright hostility.

She tried not to care about this--in the scheme of things, it was only marginally more important than the color of her hair--but she was failing miserably in the endeavor. Sanjiv tried to jolly her out of it over drinks on Tuesday night, doing wicked impersonations of the others on the team, but Tonks only smiled in a perfunctory way. She didn't want to scorn her colleagues; she wanted to get along with them. She'd got along with the Order last year, but now the Order was scattered, and she was alone.

She was very relieved on Wednesday morning, then, when an owl arrived at breakfast, from Minerva McGonagall up at the school, offering to help with the perimeter investigation, as it involved school property.

Or, at any rate, the McGonagall equivalent of offering, which was a curt comment that she would meet Tonks next to the Hogwarts gates at eight-thirty to ascertain any level of danger to the school posed by the Dementor presence.

The mists were still swirling through the streets when Tonks left the Hog's Head, and though she knew that the breeding season was coming to an end and the mists generally started to dissipate as the morning wore on she still felt cold and isolated and lonely.

McGonagall first appeared as a blurry shadow standing beside the school gates, becoming clearer as Tonks came closer--a formidable woman in her later years, standing knee-deep in fog, her lips pursed and her arms crossed against the mid-August chill.

"Morning, Professor," Tonks said.

McGonagall smiled. "Minerva, please. I need some way to remember that you're not due in my class in a few weeks."

"All right. Though it may take some practice." Tonks started up the road that led away from the lake and hugged the wall skirting the northern extent of the Forbidden Forest. "I suppose that requires reciprocity..."

"Don't worry, Miss Tonks, I know you dislike your given name. Though you really will need to stop using your schoolgirl nickname at some point."

"Maddie didn't." Tonks looked over her shoulder, and noticed that McGonagall was smiling in her small way, trying to make small talk with someone she clearly still had a hard time not considering a student. "It's right here," she said, stopping by a non-decript part of the wall. "Two of the attacks were here. Martin Hamilton--the bloke who kept the ledgers--was the first. Don't know what he was doing out at night by himself, and there's no one to ask. A bit further down is where Pyrrha Newcastle and her apprentice were attacked. They were gathering some kind of night-blooming thing. Pyrrha got a good Patronus out and it got Justine clear of the attack, but they got hold of Pyrrha. Justine told Proudfoot that she didn't realize Pyrrha wasn't following until she was halfway back to town."

"Hmmm."

"You disagree?"

"Did you know Justine Warren? A clever girl, but not a very brave one." McGonagall moved on, further away from the school, the wall and the road unchanging around her. "The third?"

"A cousin of the family that owns Zonko's. He was attacked behind the shop. They've closed up."

"I'm sure Mr. Filch will be happy to hear that," McGonagall said. "Does there seem to be a pattern?"

"Nothing we've found. It wouldn't be a good place for Dementors to build a colony. Not enough people to feed on."

"Miserable creatures."

"Could they have come from inside the Forest?" Tonks asked. "Is there any protection coming out of the school?"

"There are places to get in and out, but they're well-protected in both directions. This isn't one of the points of egress. There's one a bit further up, but a Dementor wouldn't be able to open it."

"Professor... er, Minerva... the Forest is a bit of a weak link at the school, isn't it?"

"It's not as secure as Professor Dumbledore would like it to be, no. That's why it's forbidden to the students. There are magical connection points in the Forest that have been there since long before the wall was built around it, and even Albus isn't entirely sure where all of them lead." She stopped and looked at the creeping vines on the wall. "There are protections. Some are deliberate. Albus has set up barriers that keep most of the beasts of the Forest far from the castle, even the more, shall we say, aggressive ones. I don't think it would be possible for uninvited Dementors to enter the main part of the grounds."

"What about dark wizards?"

"The wards prevent them from Apparating into the Forest and we've seen no evidence that humans can travel through the magical connections, if they even know where to begin, but I believe it to be worthy of concern. Perhaps only a minor concern--Riddle knew his way around the Forbidden Forest well, and if he hasn't made use of it in either war, I admit to finding it unlikely that he can--but still."

"I'll look into it."

McGonagall sighed as they rounded a bend in the road and stopped in front of another section of vines on the wall. She examined it, the frowned deeply and pointed her wand further down the path they were following. "Do a detection spell, Miss Tonks. In the other direction."

Tonks cast the spell in the direction of Hogsmeade, trying to discern people in Invisibility cloaks, disguised as objects, or simply hiding in the mist and shadows. No one appeared. She turned back to McGonagall. "What was that?"

McGonagall nodded, then reached between the vines and touched the wall with her wand. She closed her eyes.

Nothing happened at first, then, slowly, the vines changed shape, pulling at the stones, creating a low arch. Red light seeped into the empty spaces between the stones, then the new shape settled. McGonagall grimaced, then bent at the waist and went through. Tonks followed.

She found herself in the shadow of a giant, gnarled tree, and the Forest stretched away from her in all directions. McGonagall muttered and straightened her back, then waved impatiently at the arch. It closed like it had never been there. "I'm too old to crawl about in the Forest," she said. "As you can see, it's bigger on the inside than it is on the outside."

Tonks looked up, startled to discover that the turrets of the castle--which had been clearly visible from the road--were entirely invisible. "How much bigger?"

"It varies. This is a very old magical site, Miss Tonks. And there are many mysteries inside of it that the Ministry has never quite got around to classifying. It's grown, you know." She picked her way over a stream, looking utterly out of place. "Other magical places have shrunk away, and they come here. Some are good places, I'm sure, but here at the edges... watch yourself."

Tonks nodded. "It just expands to hold whatever comes to it?"

"Mysteries, Miss Tonks," McGonagall said. "Though in this case, mysteries which need to be solved. It's not especially safe to have an utterly unpredictable magical environment closed in with us."

"How do you recognize the opening?"

"It takes me a few tries. I almost passed it." She pointed up at the hoary old tree. "This reaches over the wall. On the other side, it looks like an ordinary pine, except that it has four cones that line up perpetually above this spot on the wall."

"Right."

"The spell is entirely nonverbal. You simply have to picture exactly what I just showed you. You have to have been shown to do it, and I trust you will keep the information to yourself."

"Of course. How... er, do we find our way back out, if we go any further."

"Don't go in any further than you can remember how to get out. It is unfortunately precisely that simple."
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Comments
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: September 18th, 2005 11:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
You know, I'd never even thought of the Forbidden Forest being a pathway; interesting point.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 19th, 2005 03:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
It does seem to be a weak point, but I'd give bonus courage points to any bad guy who got past all the beasties in there.
trinity_clare From: trinity_clare Date: September 18th, 2005 11:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
First?

This is a good one, or at least the part that it leads into will be a good one. This, being part 1 of a chapter, doesn't have much to say for itself except the perpetual good writing. And McGonagall!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 19th, 2005 03:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, it's definitely lead-in sort of stuff. Glad the writing worked!
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: September 19th, 2005 03:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Haven't commented on the last few sections, but have definitely not stopped reading. Haven't got especially much to say this time, either, other than to just share the fact that at the description of the magical places that shrink away and come to the forest to stay, I literally was staring at the screen and going "oh, cool!!" aloud...

And I'll second the McGonagall love. She's been one of my favourite characters from the very beginning of the series, and you write everyone well. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 19th, 2005 03:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Glad you like the idea. I figure in a densely populated country with a lot of magical history, there's probably some habitat loss that needs to be magically solved somehow.

And I also love McGonagall. She's everyone's favorite decidedly uncool teacher--so utterly uncool that she's, well, cool.
harriet_wimsey From: harriet_wimsey Date: September 19th, 2005 04:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I do love McGonagall. And now that I think of it, it makes since that she would feel too old to walk through the forest--it wasn't long ago that she was in St. Mungo's. This is shaping up to be a great story.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 19th, 2005 03:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
She's also pushing 80. :)

I'd love to see, in canon, McGonagall as a powerful witch. She must be pretty spiffy to be one of the few animagi registered in the country.
olympe_maxime From: olympe_maxime Date: September 19th, 2005 12:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ooh... Plot begins to happen. Forbidden Forest exploration - me likey! I wonder why it's generally known as the 'Forbidden Forest', though, if it's only students that are forbidden from entering it (and even that not too strictly)? Or is it known by another name to the folks at Hogsmeade?

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 19th, 2005 03:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
About a week ago, someone somewhere on the net pointed out that it's never actually referred to as the Forbidden Forest by the characters, just in a chapter title. So I don't know how they refer to it!

And yes. Plot. That meant thinking up something for the story to be about, which always makes me nervous. That "about" thing kills me every time. ;)
toothfairydevil From: toothfairydevil Date: September 19th, 2005 07:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
i'd always assummed that since most wizards in london must have gone to hogwarts (is there another school?) that the name of the Forbidden Forest would have just stuck with them.
(no subject) - feylin17 - Expand
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 19th, 2005 03:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, at some point, I realized that I'm not going to finish the story about how she ended up there, so I may as well just reference it in passing. ;)
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 19th, 2005 03:10 pm (UTC) (Link)

from Violet Azure

Oooooh, yea! Love to see the plot thicken and how the Forbidden Forest is going to play a role. I really like the direction this took--I guess the chocolate worked! ;) I'd love to see some Tonks/Hagrid interaction and it was cool seeing Minerva.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 19th, 2005 03:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: from Violet Azure

Chocolate always works. ;)

I wanted to parallel Tonks and Remus, both in magical forests--lost in the woods, you might say. :) I also wanted to work in the Dementors, given Tonks's mental state.
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 19th, 2005 07:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: from Violet Azure/woods

Wow, that's a great theme! I like how in "Shifts" there was this motiff of disguises and the "shifting" between fact and fiction, RL and spy life. I think the idea of finding one's way "through the woods" is great for Tonks and Lupin in this story, especially since Greyback's made a referrence to Little Red Riding Hood.

Good thing Grawp has been relocated! ;) It would be interesting to see if Tonks runs afoul of any centaurs.
sannalim From: sannalim Date: September 19th, 2005 09:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
a story that had been verified only by three confused students and werewolf...

Three bright Hogwarts students and Remus Lupin. She didn't know the students in question, but it seemed odd to doubt such specific matching testimony. And Remus, she knew, wouldn't make up such a story.


At the time she didn't know the students, of course, but surely, from interacting with the kids last year at 12GP and from getting to know Remus better, she would have guessed by now which three children it was?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 19th, 2005 11:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
I meant at the time, but you're right, that needs to be clarified.
dalf From: dalf Date: September 20th, 2005 07:17 am (UTC) (Link)
First off Typos -
Sorry if someone else pointed these out already:
*They lived in some insulated reality where they were a righteous defense against he worst in wizardkind.
*non-decript: Is this a typo? nondescript?

The bit about the turreets of the castl being visable form the road. DOes that mean when they inter the forrest they pass throuhg some sort of extra diminsial space and end up further from the castle?

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