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Shades, Chapter Six: The Unforbidden Forest, pt. 2 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shades, Chapter Six: The Unforbidden Forest, pt. 2
Okay, many days ago, I left McGonagall and Tonks in the Forbidden Forest, looking for signs of Dementors who have been attacking around Hogsmeade (as well as other places), including two spots on a road outside the wall that surrounds the forest. McGonagall tells Tonks that the forest is bigger inside than it is outside, and that she shouldn't go any further in than where she can remember her way back.

I'm way off my map here.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




McGonagall led Tonks further in, following the bank on the far side of the stream. After fifteen minutes, they reached a small, sunlit meadow, where bluebells nodded lazily above the natural grass. A few fairies darted from bloom to bloom, buzzing cheerfully, and Tonks could see a few bright cocoons on the leaves of the trees around the clearing. At the center of the meadow was a short, low wall with a gate in the center of it. No road led in either direction from it.

"Do you know where this one comes out?" she asked McGonagall.

"No. Once--when I was a schoolgirl--I saw a demiguise appear here and thought it must open to the Far East, but subsequent thoughts suggest that the demiguise was there all along and only became visible when he realized I wasn't dangerous." She looked wistfully at the gate. "I tried it once. It didn't take me anywhere."

"You?" Tonks grinned, genuinely amused, and oddly touched to be included in McGonagall's confidence. "You just walked through what's probably a magical portal without having the faintest idea what was on the other side? You are a Gryffindor."

"Yes, Miss Tonks, I am." She smiled. "I've learned to hide it somewhat in the intervening years."

"It was a dare?"

"No."

Tonks waited a moment, but no elaboration appeared to be coming, so she chided, "You've told me this much. You might as well tell me the rest."

McGonagall went to the gate and scanned the tree line on the far side of the clearing. "I trust you won't share the information with my current students?"

"I could agree to that."

"I didn't get along well with my classmates first year. Or second or third, really, but this was first year. I decided that I should run away from school and live in the Forest. I slipped along the inside wall and followed this stream, but it tends to move--I should warn you about that, don't trust the streams here--and I got entirely lost. I found myself here at moonrise. I was so embarrassed about getting lost that I thought I should try to slip away entirely, so I tried the gate."

"How did you get out?"

"My Head of House came looking for me."

"Professor Dumbledore, wasn't it?"

"Yes. He wasn't pleased with me that day. Foolish chances, you know."

Tonks tried to imagine a girlish Minerva McGonagall in tightly woven plaits being dressed down by a younger Dumbledore, and laughed at the picture in her mind. "I like this place," she said.

"I thought you could do with seeing it," McGonagall said curtly.

"Thank you."

McGonagall sighed and started across the meadow, leading Tonks toward the trees on the far side. "I remember Remus as a boy," she said, not looking back. "We were all concerned that he wouldn't be able to fit in. He hadn't had much time with others his age. And he might have withdrawn, but James Potter pulled that group of boys together and wouldn't allow any of them to pull away. James made brothers of them, and Remus became an outstanding young man. It was extraordinary. It ended badly, but that doesn't change how extraordinary it was to see."

Tonks didn't answer.

McGonagall glanced at her, obviously considering going on further in this vein, then seemed to change her mind abruptly. "The further into the Forest we've come, the less evidence I see of Dementor presence," she said.

"There hasn't been any mist since we came through," Tonks said, glad to be back on the topic of work. "A bit drifting over the wall, but everything I've seen here has been normal ground fog."

"Are you satisfied that they aren't coming through from the Forest?"

"Not entirely, but if they were coming through at that point, I think we'd have seen more evidence along the way. And I can't see Dementors abiding that clearing for long."

McGonagall nodded. "If you feel you need to investigate further, I extend you every invitation to do so. Just use the entrance I showed you."

"Thank you. Now, do you remember the way out of here?"

McGonagall followed the stream for a bit, decided that it had meandered away from the wall while they talked, and checked a small compass-like instrument that she carried. She adjusted their path, and soon Tonks saw the wall looming ahead, the mists dancing beyond it. McGonagall let her open the portal from this side, and they slipped back into the chill beyond. The mists were starting to burn off in the morning sun; the Dementors were apparently slowing their breeding somewhat.

"Very well then," McGonagall said, leaning down to close the arch. "Then we've--"

"Stop," Tonks said, drawing her wand.

McGonagall was instantly alert, her wand drawn.

The mist was cold--icy, really--and although it was now mid-morning, the light was dimming. Tonks could hear the tell-tale rattling in the air.

("Who are you and where is Nymphadora Tonks?")

She forced herself to move through the cold, through the sluggish feeling in her muscles, turning around and scanning the mist. "Where is it?" she whispered.

When the movement came, it came quickly, and from everywhere at once.

Like living smoke, the Dementors seemed to form themselves from the mist, gliding toward them rapidly, converging on the wall.

Tonks cast her Patronus into the main mass of them and saw McGonagall do the same, but the others kept moving toward them, unheedful of their compatriots' flight. Three converged on McGonagall.

"Expecto patronum!" Tonks called again, and the wolf leapt from her wand, driving itself into them, pushing them away.

Tonks ran to her. "Are you all right, Professor?"

"Fine... behind you."

A cold hand fell on Tonks's shoulder and her arm went numb.

("Half-blood freak... I'm going to kill your daddy and then I'm going to kill you...")

Tonks clenched her teeth. "Shut up, Bellatrix," she hissed, pointing her wand over her shoulder. "Expecto..."

(The smell... the smell of the small, seedy flat... the stink of wolfsbane disgorged in the last extremities of pain, the stupid waste of a life. "It happens... More often than I'd like to say.")

"Expecto..."

She was in a closed world of mist and cold and death. Something brushed against her neck and she felt her head being pulled around, a long finger prodding her chin, a lover asking for a Kiss.

"Ex... pec..." Her eyes closed.

"EXPECTO PATRONUM!"

She heard the spell called, echoing and faraway, and then she was gone.

She didn't know how much later she awakened at the Hog's Head, but the sun was high in the sky, and glittered on the roof of the Shrieking Shack in the distance. She still felt curiously numb, like she had fog running in her blood.

McGonagall was sitting in the cane chair by the window, nervously thumbing through one of Tonks's books, and another woman was fussing at Tonks's potions cauldron. She lifted her head to see better, and recognized Madam Pomfrey. By the smell of it, she was brewing something with a heavy cocoa base.

"'s that?" she asked.

McGonagall set the book down with a snap and hurried over. "You're awake."

Tonks nodded. "I think I am. It's all a bit echoey, isn't it?"

"It will pass," Madam Pomfrey said, bringing over a goblet of whatever potion she'd brewed. "Here. Drink this. I hope you don't mind my making use of your cauldron; I haven't kept a store of this on hand since they had Dementors guarding the school."

Tonks sniffed it. "Hot chocolate?"

"Largely," Madam Pomfrey admitted. "Enhanced a bit with some billywig stings and other things to help you back."

Tonks drank it, and the cold started to dissipate.

"I wasn't sure I'd got you in time," McGonagall said. "I pushed off two of them, but when I turned around, there were four battening on you. I thought one of them had kissed you. I'm glad we were outside of the school. I Apparated us out of there."

"Thank you." Tonks pulled herself up to a sitting position, feeling dizzy and neauseated. "They were waiting for us."

"I think so as well. I got the entrance closed before they came, and they can't reopen it, but I'd assume that was their intention."

Madam Pomfrey frowned deeply, and prodded Tonks to drink more of the chocolate potion. "Do you think those horrors are trying to get back onto the school grounds?"

"They are something that frightens Harry," McGonagall said.

Tonks let the potion work into her blood. She was warmer now, but things still felt far away. "There are more obvious ways to try. I think it's the Forest itself they're trying to get into."

"Why?"

"I don't know. I doubt they've got anyone's agenda in mind. They're beasts more than beings. There's just something in there that they're drawn to." She drew her blankets up. "Thank you for taking me out of there, Pro-- Minerva. I can't believe I let them get that close. I'm usually better with them."

"There were quite a lot of them, and they started out close," McGonagall said, closing the subject definitively. "You should get some sleep. Your wand is on your desk."

"And I've left enough potion to get you through the day," Madam Pomfrey told her. "Every two hours at least. I've told Dawlish that you're not to return to duty today."

"Dawlish knows?"

"He is your supervisor," McGonagall said.

Wonderful, Tonks thought. Now, they'll think I'm incompetent as well. She smiled faintly and said goodbye to the other women. When they left the room, she dragged herself from her bed and went to the window, her legs feeling wobbly and gelatinous. She saw McGonagall and Pomfrey walking up the road toward the school. The day was clear now, the mists burned off entirely. The sky was a shocking blue, and the rooftops of Hogsmeade glinted dazzlingly.

She drew the curtain and went back to bed. At some indefinable point in the afternoon, she awoke to feel something warm beside her, a phantom touch on her face. She couldn't see anyone there, but she knew she wasn't alone, and she was protected. She drifted into a more natural sleep, and when she woke up again, he was gone.
13 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
chicleeblair From: chicleeblair Date: September 24th, 2005 03:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Where is Nyphadora Tonks? Should be Nymphadora

That's the only nitpick I found. Beautiful section, I can just see schoolgirl!McGonagall!! And the end.... Awwww!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 24th, 2005 03:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
:facepalm:

Yes, it helps if I can spell my POV-character's name, doesn't it? :)

Glad you liked the rest. I'm feeling my way here.
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: September 24th, 2005 04:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hey, one time Word changed Nymphadora into "Nymph Dora" on me. I posted the chapter only to get very confuzzled reviewers!
tunxeh From: tunxeh Date: September 24th, 2005 03:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't really have a lot to say about this chapter, but I'm enjoying it.

I'm curious why McGonagall should so quickly make the leap from Dementors trying to enter the grounds to a threat to Harry specifically, though.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 24th, 2005 03:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
She was just tossing it out there as a possibility--they're all concerned about Voldemort trying to get at Harry, the Dementors are on Voldemort's team, and Harry's afraid of them, so she guesses that's a reasonable idea.
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: September 24th, 2005 04:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
("Who are you and where is Nymphadora Tonks?")

*Heart breaks*

Well, all her memories were heartbreaking, but there's something about that being the first one that came to mind.

And the implication that Remus was beside her while she was sleeping... man, I don't know, you're confusing me as to how I feel about Remus! ;) (To the point where I'm having Tonks and my OC, Remus's sister, yell at him in my fic...)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 24th, 2005 07:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
He's a frustrating git, isn't he? :)

I think that not being recognized for any reason by the man she loves is a particular sore spot for her because so many people have difficulties identifying her and she thinks of him as something of a haven from that.
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: September 24th, 2005 09:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ohhh... :(
jesspallas From: jesspallas Date: September 24th, 2005 05:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Poor Tonks...:( She's really having it rough, isn't she? Though there was something very moving about the phantom hint that Remus came to check on her...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 24th, 2005 07:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Moody needs to stop lending him that cloak, though.
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 25th, 2005 01:55 am (UTC) (Link)
I had a feeling that some of her recent conversations with Remus would become Dementor fodder. Frankly, I'm surprised that she can even cast a patronus this year, so she did pretty well. Good thing McGonagall was there. I'm glad that Remus showed up also, though, I agree, he needs to stop skulking around in that cloak.

It's always a pleasure to read a new installment.
Maureen
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 25th, 2005 05:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, for someone who's depressed, she's doing damned well in HBP. It's a pet peeve of mine when people go on about how badly she's doing in the story. True, she has morphing issues. But she's competent and strong when she helps Harry and she fights well in the battle (what we see of her). She's holding things together pretty well despite the depression, so, honestly, more power to her.
hairy_hen From: hairy_hen Date: September 26th, 2005 08:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hi, I just finished reading here--definitely enjoying it a lot. It's interesting, I really liked Shifts but had thought the realisation of Remus/Tonx was rendered AU by the way they were portrayed in HBP--but apparently this is not the case. It's great how you're making it all fit together, canon and previous fan fiction alike. Keep it up!

I particularly liked the stuff with the Dementors and the forest in this chapter. I had a similar idea about them being able to get into the forest though not the school grounds themselves; you develop the concept nicely here.
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