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Shades, Chapter Nine: Patronus, Part 2 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shades, Chapter Nine: Patronus, Part 2
Okay, I made my NaNo word quota, so that means I can do a Shades segment. What's the reward for writing? I get to write!

It strikes me that I either have the exact right hobby for me or really need a new one.

Anyway, the Hogwarts Express arrived in Hogsmeade under constant guard from the Hogsmeade contingent of Aurors. When Tonks realized Harry didn't leave the train, she found him and escorted him to school, where Snape insulted her... you know, the canon scene. ;) Weary, she walks back to Hogsmeade with her Patronus by her side; it dissipates when she reaches the village.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




A phoenix feather was waiting on the floor of her room when she got back, and she groaned--she was cold and tired, and had hoped that any messages she found would be from Remus, and that after reading them and being assured, she could sleep.

No such luck.

She wondered what Dumbledore--

She stopped in the middle of bending over to pick up the feather, her traitor imagination supplying the answer even before she'd formed the question:

Nymphadora, I'm very sorry to have to tell you this... In a war, sometimes we lose our dearest...

She ran from the Hog's Head, barely noticing the sound of her feet on the cobblestones, and worked the security charms at the Shrieking Shack. She remembered to check to see if anyone was watching--no one was--but she didn't think she'd have stopped if the whole village happened to be having a picnic at the gate. She flew through the house and dropped into the tunnel, slowling only when it became too low and narrow to maintain her run. She could hear the ragged sound of her breath echoing in the silence.

Her pace dropping off, her mind stopped racing along with her. "Dumbledore would have come himself," she muttered aloud. "Stupid. He wouldn't just send a feather. He'd come and he'd tell me. He'd tell me as soon as he knew."

It made sense. But she couldn't stop her mind from qualifying. He'd have come himself... except that he keeps the Order business as quiet as he can around students, and he had to be there when they arrived. He wouldn't just send a feather... unless it was an emergency. He'd tell me as soon as he knew... except, of course, that her work today had involved looking after Harry, and that was too important to risk her mind not being there.

She stopped beneath the tunnel's exit beneath the tangled roots of the Whomping Willow and took a deep breath. Running frantically to Dumbledore and frightening half of Hogwarts by dashing in when they'd just been assured they were protected was hardly professional behavior, and it wasn't justified. Dumbledore was not a cruel man, and if her dire imaginings were true, he'd have found a less alarming way to contact her. Even if he hadn't come himself, he might have contacted her parents, or Molly Weasley, or even Mad-Eye. It wouldn't be a vague feather, summoning her to a shadowy meeting.

He had things on his mind other than her connection to his werewolf spy.

She let her breathing become slower, and cleared her mind. She couldn't just go tearing onto the grounds, or even casually walking onto them. Disillusionment wouldn't be effective if she happened to pass close by a student, and would in fact cause suspicion. She would need to blend in.

Transfiguring her clothes would be easy--change her everyday clothes to a Hogwarts robe, Conjure some insignia. Any other time, she'd just morph herself into a teenager and stride right up to his office, but that, just lately, was a bit problematic. She considered this in a muddy sort of way, her mind insisting on battering her with imaginary calamities and getting in the way of her job, which wasn't acceptable.

She would just have to do without.

She Transfigured her jeans and long, half-robe top into a simple black robe--not quite a school robe, but inconspicuous--and pulled herself up from the tunnel. The grounds were quiet and dark when she touched the knot on the trunk that would keep the tree still until she was clear of it. There was no sign of Hagrid, no sign of patrolling staff, hardly any movement. The castle itself, however, was alive. Candlelight flickered in all of the towers, and even at a distance, Tonks could hear the laughter of students reunited after a trying summer, sharing their stories with one another. She slipped through a passage into the staff room--checking it quickly with a Detection Spell first and finding it empty, and wishing that she had something like Harry's map to get her in and out--and let herself into the corridors.

People were passing here and there, but no one took much notice of her. She overheard an older student ask her friend if there was another new teacher this year, and her friend groaned something about hoping it meant there would be an alternative teacher for Defense Against the Dark Arts, and then they were out of earshot. No one else commented on the odd adult walking among them.

The students needed to be more careful.

She arrived at Dumbledore's office to find McGonagall standing beside the stone gargoyle that guarded the staircase. She nodded curtly, turned to the gargoyle, and said, "Acid Pops."

It leapt aside.

Tonks climbed onto the rotating staircase behind her, wanting to ask why she'd been summoned, but not wanting to reveal her more fearful imaginings. McGonagall glanced back at her curiously, but didn't press her to talk. She knocked on Dumbledore's door.

"Enter."

They went into the circular office, where Dumbledore was sitting at his desk in a dressing gown and nightcap, writing notes in an open ledger. He finished, and Banished the book to a shelf beneath the Sorting Hat. "Ah," he said. "Nymphadora. Severus tells me that you brought Harry safely to the gates earlier. Thank you."

"It's my job," Tonks said. Her voice sounded tinny in her ears. If there were news about Remus, it certainly would have come out first. So why wasn't she particularly relieved?

"You did it well." He indicated two chairs, and Tonks and McGonagall took them. "I'm also given to understand that there was an incident on the train. Harry's face was still quite bloody when he arrived."

Tonks winced. "I should have cleaned that up when I healed him. I didn't even think about it."

"Miss Granger was more than capable of the task," Dumbledore said. "I am more concerned about what caused the condition. Did Harry share that information with you?"

"It was the Malfoy boy," Tonks said quickly. "I don't think he'd mind my telling you."

McGonagall frowned. "Harry and Malfoy have been at one another's throats since they arrived. I should have tried harder to discourage it."

Dumbledore looked troubled, but didn't say anything about Draco Malfoy. Instead, he looked at his fingertips on the desk for quite a long time, then said, "I'm afraid I've come to the conclusion that I shall be away from the school fairly often this year. I'd hoped to have finished this summer's investigations earlier--or at least to have made more headway on them--but, alas, there is much left to do. Minerva, as always, I trust you to see to the safety of the students in my absence."

McGonagall nodded.

Dumbledore looked at Tonks. "Nymphadora, I need you on the ground in Hogsmeade. Voldemort may well consider any absence of mine to be a ripe moment to infiltrate Hogwarts. For that reason alone, I wouldn't leave if it could be avoided. But as it cannot be avoided, it should be used--I want you to keep your eyes and ears open, discover who may be inordinately interested in my comings and goings."

"Yes, sir."

He frowned. "There is another matter of some concern..." He looked up at the portraits. "Phineas, will you kindly return to Grimmauld Place and tell Alastor and Weasleys that all is well, and the train arrived safely?"

From his portrait, Phineas Nigellus spoke up indignantly. "I hardly think it is necessary for me to be your message boy on such a--"

"Phineas, please."

He huffed out of the frame, looking mortally insulted.

"I would rather not share this with Phineas, for fear he will share it with the other portraits at Grimmauld Place, particularly Mrs. Black's. She is quite likely to frighten off a promising avenue..."

"A what?"

Dumbledore proceeded with caution. "I returned to Grimmauld Place yesterday," he said. "My intention was simply to meet with Hestia Jones. I took Kreacher with me as a kindness; he wished to retrieve items from his den. I paid little attention to him until he came screaming back into the kitchen, insisting that the Order had been stealing from him."

"Stealing from him?" McGonagall interjected. "Oh, for heaven's sake!"

"To the best of my ability to ascertain, he's quite correct. All of the photographs he salvaged from our rather thorough housecleaning have been removed. Upon inspection with Kreacher's grudging assistance, we also discovered that several pieces of jewelry were missing, all old family pieces, few of any great intrinsic value. Kreacher was quite beside himself."

"Photographs and old family trumpery?" Tonks asked. "And Kreacher didn't take them?"

"No. But I surmise that someone has smuggled them out of the house, and that they have a willing buyer."

"Bellatrix."

He nodded. "It's a foolish chance to take, but most who have seen her agree that she is not entirely in her right mind. She may be challenging Sirius's will the only way she can--by re-acquiring everything she values."

"Only the Order can enter the house..." McGonagall said, her voice trailing off as she realized the implications. "We have a traitor."

"We have an opportunist," Dumbledore corrected her. "And, I might add, an opportunist to whom Sirius rather casually gave permission to ransack family valuables, so he probably feels quite morally pure. Or as pure as Mundungus Fletcher ever feels."

"Dung is selling to Bellatrix?"

"Dung is stealing what there is a market for. He may not have come to the conclusion that the final owner will be Bellatrix Lestrange. We can't even be entirely certain. But I am interested in finding out where these items go after he relinquishes them. I've asked Kingsley to keep a eye out for Mundungus's sales in London, and I would very much like for you to do the same in Hogsmeade, Nymphadora."

"If I see him, I'll--"

"You'll let him make his sales, and follow where the items go. They may lead you to Bellatrix, and where you find Bellatrix, we may all find Voldemort."

"I'd like this a lot better if you told me you'd asked Mundungus to pretend to be a thief," Tonks grumbled.

"As would I." Dumbledore smiled faintly. "And speaking of people who I've asked to pretend some rather unsavory things..."

Tonks's heart jumped into her throat. "Have you heard from Remus?"

Dumbledore's response to the question disturbed her more than anything else she'd seen today. His eyes widened in surprise, and he stood up. "I meant to ask if you had. He hasn't checked in after the transformation?"

The world went glassy. "No," Tonks heard herself say. "Molly hasn't seen him. When you first sent the feather, I thought the worst..."

"I wouldn't send a feather," Dumbledore said. "Not for that."

"Not for what?" a voice said from above, and Tonks looked up to see Phineas Nigellus settling back into his frame.

"Phineas, I need you to go back."

"What, am I now meant to tell them that their precious little angels have been well fed and are now settled in their beds?"

"Tell Alastor Moody to put on his Invisibility Cloak and find Remus Lupin and have him contact us. Immediately."

Phineas left without making any rude comments, though he did turn his nose up.

Dumbledore gave Tonks a kind look. "In all likelihood, he has simply not had a chance to contact us, but when he checks in, I will impress upon him the need to surface at some regular interval. Would you care to wait?"

She nodded.

McGonagall tried to reassure her, and Dumbledore had the house elves bring up food from the kitchens, which remained untouched as one hour passed, then two. Conversation lagged. Phineas went back and forth to London, breezily informing them on each return that Mad-Eye was still out and about. Finally, Dumbledore told him to stay put, and sent Fawkes to wait and bring back word.

Just before midnight, a bright fireball lit the room, and Fawkes emerged from it, carrying a scrap of parchment. He dropped it onto the desk. It was in Mad-Eye's large scrawl, and Tonks could read it upside down.

Lupin safe, it read, and her heart slowed measurably. No chance to talk to him; Greyback hovering. Will go back and try and catch a word before he sleeps, but thought you--and whoever else might be worried--would want to know he's in one piece. Moody.
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Comments
soonest_mended From: soonest_mended Date: November 3rd, 2005 07:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Been reading your work for quite a while, but I can't remember if I've commented before. Hi, I'm Elise (the Great). ;)

Does it reflect badly on me as a Harry Potter fan that I panicked for a moment when Tonks got the feather? I really should know by now that Remus doesn't die.

Also, I am feeling the Phineas-love. He just doesn't get enough attention from most folks. I'm addicted.
inkpenpaper From: inkpenpaper Date: November 3rd, 2005 08:20 am (UTC) (Link)
I read part one SURE the train was about to be attacked...

I think Fern is just a good writer.
soonest_mended From: soonest_mended Date: November 3rd, 2005 05:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not sure she's human, actually. *shifty eyes* I mean... NaNo *and* fanfiction? That sounds suspicious to me...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 3rd, 2005 06:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
You caught me. I'm really a writing robot. ;p
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 3rd, 2005 06:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
I adore Phineas. I really must write more of him sometime after November.

Heheh. I was a little concerned that it wouldn't work to build tension about something we know isn't true, but I'm glad it worked.
hermia7 From: hermia7 Date: November 3rd, 2005 07:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
As others have already said, it really is incredibly effective. I've always liked how you managed to work on the side stories concurrent w/ canon without 1) overplaying the importance of what your characters were up to (suddenly Tonks and Remus save the world! Harry Who?) 2) Squishing and shoving and molding the canon events to fit your story until they're practically unrecognizable or 3) being boring. I adored Shifts and am liking Shades even more, and I too keep forgetting that we already know that both of them live through the year!
(Deleted comment)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 3rd, 2005 06:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. There are times with this particular story that I feel very much at loose ends, so I'm glad to hear that it works together.
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: November 3rd, 2005 10:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Man... this is good. Really good.

I'm afraid I don't have much to say other than that.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 3rd, 2005 06:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gosh, I demand more! ;)

(Obviously, not really. I'm very happy with "good." :D)
bronells From: bronells Date: November 3rd, 2005 12:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love how you build up the tension in the part. Even though I know that Remus is still very much alive because of canon, I can't help but be drawn by your writing into the panic that Tonks feels. Looking forward to the next section as always! :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 3rd, 2005 06:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Phew... I'm glad that knowing the outcome didn't make Tonks's worry seem overblown. I was going to have her just grousing at having to go back up to the school, but then I realized that if I got a vague message to make a command appearance when someone I loved was AWOL, I'd immediately jump to the conclusion that something dire had happened.
olympe_maxime From: olympe_maxime Date: November 3rd, 2005 03:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
I loved everyone in this bit: Phineas (and his snarky, if entirely fair, comment about the "little darlings" being tucked safely in bed), Dumbledore (for whom I have new respect through your fic; I've been feeling let down by OotP and slightly put off by his weirder comments (flighty temptress, anyone?) in HBP), McGonagall (and her feelings about the Harry-Draco rivalry), and Dora, of course, whose depression you do such a great job of detailing without going even slightly overboard.

And I feel as if I should be down on my knees thanking the cosmos for your decision to continue writing Shades through NaNo, even.
olympe_maxime From: olympe_maxime Date: November 3rd, 2005 03:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oops. Phineas said "precious little angels", didn't he? I swear I have the memory of a sieve.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 3rd, 2005 06:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah, Shades is my break from NaNo. :)

I'm particularly glad that you don't find Dora's mood overblown. I'm very aware that any solid case of depression or anxiety skates right up to the edge on that, and I'm always worried about crossing it.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 3rd, 2005 05:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've misplaced my copy of HBP so I could be getting names mixed up, but isn't Hestia Jones the member of the Order we're told is already dead at this point? Or did you mean Dumbledore was checking on something in relation to her death? Or am I just miserable with names?

I loved Tonks' comment that the students should be more careful. She calms down, transforms her clothes to blend in, then is upset that it works. Oh, yeah, this woman is stressed.

The thefts from Grimmauld Place sound a lot more worrisome here than when Harry discovered them. Of course, Harry's thought at the time wasn't about being robbed himself or about what this might mean in terms of the Order and Voldemort. His first thought was that someone he'd thought of as a FRIEND of Sirius was stealing Sirius' things, which says so much about Harry's world view. It's immature in some ways but, in other ways, it says a lot about him that he saw this in terms of people he cared about and in terms of what loyalty and friendship mean.

Tonks, as an auror in the middle of a war and looking for hidden dangers, immediately sees it in terms of danger and betrayal. She also needed very little help from Dumbledore to see who was the most likely person to be wanting these things. She actually needed Dumbledore to bring her down a notch. The threat they're dealing with is an opportunist, at this point, not a traitor.

So, on the one hand, Tonks may be a little primed to overreact at the wrong moment. On the other hand, being set to go off that way could save her life, especially if her coworkers don't get in gear and start seeing her as one of the team whose back they should be guarding.

I loved McGonagall's comment about Harry and Draco. I can't imagine it happening, but the story might have gone very differently if Harry and Draco hadn't been such enemies. I can't quite see the two ever bonding, even if it had been Draco Harry and Ron had saved from the troll instead of Hermione. Possibly, if they'd been on the same Quidditch team, which is pretty close to being on the same side of a battle fighting a common enemy, things might have been different. As it is, taking on Dumbledore and winning would prove, in its way, that he's every bit as good as the boy whose taken on Voldemort and lived to tell the tale.

Ellen
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 3rd, 2005 06:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
The dead order member is Emmeline Vance. I know this because I almost made Dumbledore go to meet Emmeline in my effort to use lesser-used Order member names, and then I remembered that Tonks was one of the investigators at the scene of Emmeline's murder, so that wouldn't work quite right. ;)

I loved Tonks' comment that the students should be more careful. She calms down, transforms her clothes to blend in, then is upset that it works. Oh, yeah, this woman is stressed.

Stressed, and going in with really different expectations. When she goes undercover, she generally has changed herself completely--she thinks she ought to be morphed into a teenager. I think it hasn't really sunk in that when other people go undercover, their disguises aren't quite as complete, and she's certain that an "incomplete" disguise ought to be sticking out like a sore thumb. Of course, she's also keenly aware of security issues, and probably really doesn't like that the students aren't properly suspicious of total strangers in the school.
tunxeh From: tunxeh Date: November 3rd, 2005 06:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
The comment about Bella being Dung's buyer adds a lot of tension here, if one remembers the end of HBP and the locket from Grimmauld...probably a subplot you need to be careful of, though, unless you want to be made AU by HP7.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 3rd, 2005 08:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, it's more or less going to be left moot when Dung goes to ground after Harry calls him on the thefts, so I probably don't have to go too far into it.
clumsymaniac452 From: clumsymaniac452 Date: November 4th, 2005 03:13 am (UTC) (Link)
There's always something on the periphery of Tonks' life isn't there? If it isn't Remus, it's work, and if it isn't that it's horrible workmates or even worse relatives. It's just so suffocating and frustrating. The poor thing can't catch a break, can she? Also,
"and her friend groaned something about hoping it meant there would be an alternative teacher for Defense Against the Dark Arts"
HA!
snorkackcatcher From: snorkackcatcher Date: November 6th, 2005 11:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Finally caught up with this -- nicely done as always, I really do like the way you fill in the scenes we don't see in the books in such a convincing way. Especially nice to see references to Tonks becoming aware of the Mundungus situation this early in proceedings. (I'll admit that's a personal thing: I'd always found Tonks' behaviour odd in the Harry/Dung scene, but put it down to redherringness; but when I reread it recently it dawned on me that maybe she -- and Aberforth? -- already knew what was going on and were trying to let Dung get on with it, and she'd been the one to pop up and stop Harry with ... whatever that spell was?)
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