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Shades, Chapter 23: Gray Christmas, pt. 3 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shades, Chapter 23: Gray Christmas, pt. 3
Father Montgomery got word to Bill, who got Tonks in Hogsmeade, and the two of them went down to Huntsford, a village in the forest where Montgomery's church is. Tonks disguised herself as a nun, hoping people would see the uniform and not look too closely at her face. When they got there, they found old Mag, who has figured out quite a bit thanks to Sweet overhearing, and believes there is time pressure. She confirms that there is an available gate, but doesn't think it's useful. Tonks realizes that even with the gate, there might be some issues with actually trying to coax turned werewolves through it. She wants to see it, and asks Mag to take her in. Father Montgomery gives her a bag full of charity items for the children as cover.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




Mag kept looking over her shoulder as they made their way deeper into the forest, flicking her eyes up at Tonks's face and then flicking them back down. Tonks thought there was something ironic about a werewolf being afraid of a shapeshifter, but she found it more sad than amusing. Neither of them said much as they walked--Mag was too nervous, and Tonks was concentrating all of her energy on holding a morph she could have held in her sleep six months ago.

After fifteen minutes of kicking through the snow and dead leaves, Mag slowed and entered a clearing. In the center of it, its lines softened by clumps of clean white snow, was the gate. Beyond it, Tonks could see the gray sheen of a pond or a lake. Mag cocked her head to one side and held up her hand to indicate that Tonks should stop.

"Girls?" she called. "I've charity for you!"

There was no answer.

Mag nodded and gestured Tonks forward. "Reckon you can undo... whatever it is you did. If they were about, Evvie'd be out here already."

"I'd best not," Tonks said tightly, and knelt by the gate. Like the one in the Forbidden Forest, it had no particular distinguishing features, except that it was standing by itself in the middle of nowhere. She flicked her wand at it and caught the traces of the spell. It was real. "We can use it," she said.

"Still leaves a question of how."

Tonks stood and looked around. There were several high evergreen trees, and the clearing was wide down to the side of the pond. "I could circle on my broomstick," she said. "Use some prodding jinxes." She wrinkled her nose. "I can't say I fancy using dragon-prodding jinxes on children."

"Werewolves, Sister," Mag said, apparently forgetting entirely that Tonks wasn't really a nun. "Don't you start thinking you'll cuddle them when they've got their claws out."

Tonks nodded vaguely, listening with half an ear and scanning the clearing for other resources. If she prodded them along from above, they might run for the woods instead of the gate. She sighed. "Mag, how do they feel about fire?"

"Fire?"

"Flames, you know."

"We're mostly dead afraid of it. Got my fur singed once, you know. In a right uncomfortable place, too."

"If there were a fire blocking the other exits, would they try to get away from it?"

"You can't burn down the forest, Sister. The ones of us left will need it."

Tonks turned to her and smiled. "I can contain magical fires. They won't burn anything I don't tell them to burn. And it's just Dora. You don't have to call me 'Sister.'" She went back to the gate walked around it. She would need to meet with Maddie, learn the spell she would need to open it to dark creatures. And then she'd need to destroy it before Greyback could use it.

That would mean people on the other side. She supposed she could count on Bill and Fiona--Fiona had experience and would be exceptionally helpful--and possibly Fleur and Sanjiv. It would be on school grounds, so perhaps McGonagall or Snape could help. Well, McGonagall at any rate; Tonks didn't want to imagine Snape's reaction to helping a dozen young werewolves. Hagrid would be useful and--

"Hallooo!" Mag called suddenly, and Tonks straightened up, grabbing Father Montgomery's bag of charitable donations just as a woman and two little girls ran into the clearing, pelting one another with snowballs.

Well, the girls were, at any rate. The woman looked like she was ready to do bodily damage to them, and to Mag, on whom she advanced. "Who is this?" she demanded, throwing her arm in Tonks's direction, but not looking. The girls stopped their game and watched it all, wide-eyed. "Who is it, Mag?"

"This is Sister Dora, from the church," Mag said, looking genuinely frightened. "The Father wanted to send her to talk to the girls while she gave them their Christmas charity! She means no harm, Mina."

The woman--Mina--stalked over to Tonks and grabbed the bag, dumping its contents unceremoniously out on the snow. She tossed the toys aside without looking. "You got food?"

"Not today," Tonks said. "Just clothes and toys for the children."

"And what were you meant to talk about?"

"Why, the Christmas story, of course!" Mag said. "Why else would she be here?"

"Christmas story? You don't mean that rot Lupin's got them reading about ghosts and money and suchlike?"

"No, the real one."

Mina shrugged, unconcerned, and picked up a colorful woolen scarf. She wound it around her own neck. "All right," she said. "They can have the clothes, but I think they've had enough stories this month. If I have to hear one more thing about Tiny-bloody-Tim out of their mouths..." She shook her head. "Coral, get the other girls. Go ahead, Evvie. You can pick first, on account of catching all those fish yesterday."

One of the little girls ran back, and the other came forward, eyeing Mina nervously. She glanced up at Tonks and smiled brightly. She was an extraordinarily pretty child, with a turned-up, freckled nose and a cloud of curly reddish-brown hair. She patted Tonks's arm. "I like your dress," she said. "Mine has holes in it. Have you any new dresses?"

"Well, let's see," Tonks said, and started through the pile of clothing. "I imagine this might fit you..." She held up a blue dress. "It's a bit light for winter, but let's see if there's a coat..."

Coral returned with four other girls, and as Mina didn't question anyone's absence, Tonks guessed that was all of them. Six girls. One, who hung behind, was the scarred girl who had once been Vivian Waters. She approached the pile gingerly, darted her hand in without looking, and grabbed whatever was nearest at hand.

"Don't you want to look?" Tonks asked.

She turned away, so that the scarred half of her face was in the shadows. "No. It doesn't matter. This is a warm coat. I was lucky. The other girls can be prettier." She drew away.

"Are there any boys?" Tonks asked, deciding that feigning ignorance would be an excellent way to get information.

"Not here," Mina said, her eyes narrowed.

"There are five boys," Vivian muttered quietly, then bit her lip and added quickly, "I mean, if you have clothes for them or whatnot."

Mina glared at her. "You didn't catch anything yesterday, Sweet. Put on your coat and go hunting, or you won't have anything to eat."

"She can have one of my fish," Evvie said.

"She needs to hunt," Mina corrected, and there was no further discussion of the subject. Vivian pulled on the coat (which was far too big for her) and slunk away.

"I do have some things for the boys," Tonks said, putting half of the toys and all the boys' clothes back into the bag. "Could I see them?"

Mina looked at her coldly, then shrugged. "I reckon they're up at Lupin's. The men are all off foraging."

"All of them?" Mag asked.

"He went off this morning," Mina answered, not bothering to specify who she meant. "Reckon he doesn't want to be out-thought by Lupin."

Tonks tried to imagine Greyback out-thinking Remus on any issue and came up blank. "This Lupin keeps track of the boys?" she asked.

"No, he's off, too. Didn't I just say the men were off?" Mina shook her head. "He lives in a little house sort of thing, and the boys like to go there. He's got them books," she spat the last word. "The girls go as well, when it's not so close to the moon. But I wanted them hunting instead."

"All right," Tonks said.

"Well, are you going or not?"

"I don't know where..."

"I'll take you!" Mag jumped in.

"I think not," Mina said. "I'll take you."

The tromp through the forest this time was sullen and angry, and the wordlessness concealed no curiosity. Mina clearly wanted the intruder in and out as quickly as possible. They rounded a low hill, and Tonks heard boyish laughter just before she saw the run-down old tool-shed. A skinny blond boy was sitting on a rock by the broken door squinting at a tattered paperback. Inside, Tonks could see three more boys. These seemed to be playing cards.

Mina shoved her forward. "All right, then. But no stories. They've had enough stories."

The blond boy heard this and stood up, putting a twig in his book to mark his place (as she got closer, Tonks realized he was about a third of the way through The Hobbit). He looked at her warily. "Who're you?"

"I have presents for you!" she said, not wanting to identify herself as "Sister Dora" to anyone else, and wishing she had taken the time to make up a different name. She hadn't intended to meet anyone other than Mag today.

"You can come in then," the boy said pompously. He wore a skull on a string around his neck. "My name is Blondin, and I'm in charge here while Lupin is gone."

"Is that so?"

"Is not so!" someone else yelled. "He said we were all in charge of it."

"We can't all be in charge," Blondin said. "That's stupid. And I'm alpha."

Someone made a wet raspberry sound as Tonks followed Blondin into the shed. It was very distinctly Remus's space--he'd made a little stone table, and there were sums tacked to the wall and battered books piled in a dry corner. A half-filled barrel of fruit stood at the foot of a tattered blanket, topped by a sign that said, "Don't touch. For drying." The boys were playing with a new deck of cards, and Tonks considered asking where they'd scrounged it from, but Mina was still standing impatiently at the door. She guessed the boys to be between nine and thirteen years old. Bobby Alderman was not among them.

"What a nice place for you to play," she said.

"Lupin's all right," an olive-skinned boy told her. "Lets us use his things, anyway."

"For all the good this rubbish does you," Mina grumped.

"Well," Tonks said, "I've brought some winter clothes, and I think there are some games. Some plush animals, though I suppose you're all too big for those."

"We could chew on them," Blondin suggested, pulling a stuffed bear out of the bag and tossing it to the olive-skinned boy, who bit its ear and growled.

"Watch your mouth, Blondin," Mina warned.

Tonks got down to her unexpected business of the day, helping the children sort through Father Montgomery's charity. She learned some of their names, and was helping the one called Hamilton find a pair of gloves when they all heard footsteps outside.

"What's all this?" a perfectly familiar voice said, and Tonks swallowed hard.

For a while, while she'd been doing her work, she hadn't thought about her morph at all, and she assumed it hadn't shifted, as no one had made any comments about her face melting, but now she was suddenly very aware of it, and the strain of holding the false face became paramount in her mind. She stood up and turned to the door. "Hello," she said.

Remus, his arms full of fruit, eyed her suspiciously, then with dawning horror. "And what," he repeated, "is all of this?"

"Sister's bringing charity," Mina said. "She's just about done."

"I apologize if I'm disturbing your home. It was an impromptu visit, and Mina thought the boys would be here." Tonks lowered her eyes. "You must be Mr. Lupin. The boys have been telling me about you."

"Yes." He went around her and dropped the fruit into the barrel, lifting the sign and replacing it after the augmentation with a graceful little move. His shoulders were tense. He looked at the pile of clothing. "It was good of you to bring them clothes. They need them."

"They're from the father," she said. "He sent me."

"She came with Mag." Mina snorted. "Like Mag couldn't have come back on her own. She was supposed to tell stories."

"Perhaps some other time, Sister," Remus said. "It's nearly two o'clock, and I'm sure you have somewhere else to be."

"Yes, I do."

Remus nodded. "All right," he said to the boys. "This time I really am going away for a few days. Keep the fruit in the cold. I'll be back for the moon."

"That's almost a week!" Hamilton complained.

Remus reached under his table and pulled out a spiral notebook. "I've left sums here, and if you look in the last section, I wrote out some things for you all to get. We'll try a science experiment when I get back, if we have what we need."

There was a great deal of jostling for the notebook, and Tonks was entirely forgotten.

Remus looked at Mina. "I'm headed toward the village. Perhaps a bit of foraging in their shops, if you follow."

"Get sweets," Mina said.

"I'll walk the sister back."

Mina shrugged and sauntered off, and Remus grabbed the nearest boy, who happened to be Blondin again. "You're in charge. Don't rip the pages."

Blondin nodded.

"And thank the sister."

The boys all shouted thank-yous over their shoulders, and Remus led Tonks out onto a path that she supposed led for Huntsford.

"I've seen no one I know for a long time," he said.

"Well, I--"

"Which is a very good thing."

"Oh."

"Because people I know have no business being in this forest."

"Well, some of them just might, Mr. Lupin. In theory. They may have business here that doesn't directly concern you, whether you know them or not."

He stopped. "I suppose that's true. Still, I'm glad I haven't seen anyone. It's not safe. You never know who else might be lurking about."

They walked in silence for some distance, Tonks a few steps behind Remus. "The children seem to love you," she offered.

"They're good children."

"I want to help them."

He stopped. It was beginning to snow, but already Tonks could see the shapes of the village behind the thin white veil. "I know you do," he said. "The village is just ahead. Follow the road."

"All right." She pulled ahead of him onto a narrow strip of snow-dusted road that curved away toward a steeple, then turned and looked him full in the face. "Happy Christmas, Mr. Lupin."

He smiled faintly. "Happy Christmas. Whoever you are. And be careful." He disappeared into the snowy wood.

Tonks started down the road, but wasn't even halfway to the village when a tall, thin form materialized out of the worsening snow. She recognized a flash of red hair, and then Bill Weasley was pulling her off the side of the road. "I saw you from the bell-tower," he said. "Montgomery let me go up there to keep watch." He looked over his shoulder. "There are other men moving about in the woods. Off to the other side. I think they're just watching you, but I think we should go. Now."

"Yes, it would be brilliant to Apparate out while they're watching," Tonks said. "Come on then. We'll go back to the village and find some quiet spot. But not from the woods."

"And if they get to you before we hit the village..."

"I don't know about you, but I'm not unarmed. They are."

Bill looked at her crossly, but seemed to see the sense in it. They set a quick pace back to the village, and, though Tonks heard the leaves rustling several times, no one came out to attack them. She sang some nervous Christmas carols, hoping to make it seem that Bill was just "Sister Dora"'s assistant, coming to look for her, and she supposed it must have worked. Greyback's people certainly wouldn't have let her out of the forest if they'd really thought she was a spy.

They reached the church at two-thirty, and Apparated out from the cellar, getting back to Hogsmeade as a different squall coughed out its last snowflakes.

This will work, Tonks thought as she went back to her room and got ready for her shift. I have what I need. All I need to do is cast the spell, and hope we can get them out before Greyback is suspicious.

But she couldn't shake the feeling that it just couldn't be that simple.
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Comments
riah_chan From: riah_chan Date: May 8th, 2006 05:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Argh! The suspence! The unexpected meeting! You are killing me!

I had a thought though... does Greyback know what Tonks smells like? (I can't remember.) If he does, he might recognize it in the places that she was.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 8th, 2006 01:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
He can usually recognize a scent on Remus--my guess is that he smells Remus a little bit differently, rather than smelling Tonks, or rather that he perceives a lot of little clues and interprets them as smell because of his wolf fixation--but I don't think he'd especially recognize her scene somewhere else.
singingtopsy From: singingtopsy Date: May 8th, 2006 05:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Sweet, so when Remus starts his School for Little Lycanthropes after the End Tonks will be fully behind him.

You always seem to post either late (so I lose sleep) or early (so that I'm late for school). Not that I have to compulsively read every installment of Shades, no, wait, I do :). You write a "page turners" (page clickers?), if the expression can be used...*wanders off to bed wondering what will go wrong with Tonx's brilliant plan this time*
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 8th, 2006 01:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, sorry--I'm a late night writer; always have been, most likely always will be. ;)
singingtopsy From: singingtopsy Date: May 9th, 2006 12:35 am (UTC) (Link)
At least I'm reading it three hours earlier; the comment was a bit tongue in cheek.
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 8th, 2006 05:45 am (UTC) (Link)
It won't be that simple.

And, after all that, Tonks can now go to work, just as if she hasn't already put in a full day's worth.

Ellen
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 8th, 2006 01:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
One definitely can't accuse her of sloth.
gloryforever From: gloryforever Date: May 8th, 2006 05:54 am (UTC) (Link)
It can't be that simple :(

But thanks for the update!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 8th, 2006 01:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
It can't be that simple :(

How very true.
lady_moriel From: lady_moriel Date: May 8th, 2006 06:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Squeee, new Shades chapter...part...thing!

She went back to the gate walked around it.

Typo?

Tonks tried to imagine Greyback out-thinking Remus on any issue and came up blank.

I love that line.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 8th, 2006 01:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
That definitely needs an "and." Thanks; I wouldn't have spotted it.
other_girl87 From: other_girl87 Date: May 8th, 2006 06:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Yay! Brilliant as usual...this post totally made my (very hectic) day. Thank you.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 8th, 2006 01:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
You're welcome!
aeterna13 From: aeterna13 Date: May 8th, 2006 01:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gah! It's so unnerving to hear Tonks call Remus "Mr. Lupin". Well, their whole conversation--acting like they didn't know each other--was unnerving in and of itself.
greyathena From: greyathena Date: May 8th, 2006 01:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was so nervous throughout this entire chapter . . . can't wait to see what happens next considering the wolves are already a little suspicious . . .
buckbeakbabie From: buckbeakbabie Date: May 8th, 2006 02:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I haven't commented in a long time. I'm really enjoying the direction this is going.

Great way to have Greyback recognise Bill. He really should have hidden his hair.

I can't wait to see if the plan is going to work!
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 8th, 2006 09:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Maybe this is a dumb question, but why would the werewolves mention hunting and "the moon" to a nun? Tonks is disguised as a Muggle nun, right?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 8th, 2006 11:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think they're probably passing themselves off as vagrants living off the woods, so the hunting wouldn't particularly ring any bells, but you're right--the moon talk needs to be rethought.
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 9th, 2006 11:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Great update! Gosh, this situation makes me nervous.

- Whitney
dalf From: dalf Date: September 4th, 2006 11:27 am (UTC) (Link)
I cannot shake the feling that the little ruby and the favor she is owed is going to figure into the escape. At first I thought it was going to be in the forbidden forest, maybe Greyback gets through and the sprite takes care of him but not I think this whole dark magic and opening the portal is a bad idea. Maybe the lady in the lakw knows how to travel by water form one forest to another.
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