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Shades, Chapter 29: The Poison Well, pt. 2 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shades, Chapter 29: The Poison Well, pt. 2
Back again. Finally updated the table of contents page; I really have to update the chapters that have been uploaded, eh?

As nothing else is going on, I think I'm going to go back and establish that the last scene took place on Friday, the day before Ron's birthday.

Dawlish is acting very irrational, and turned nastily on Tonks when she was friendly with the visiting Weasley twins, who were the cause of some unusual lights a neighbor had seen in the deserted Zonko's shop. After her shift, she writes to her father for advice, then goes to meet the twins for dinner.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




"So, where are we going?" George asked as they headed out of the village along the muddy road. "Some great club you know?"

"Oh, yes. Very exclusive," Tonks said. "So exclusive that I'll have to Obliviate you if you watch me undo the security charms."

"Sure you will." Fred grinned.

"I will. I mean it quite sincerely. I'd like to keep the number of people who know these spells as low as possible."

"Don't you trust us?"

"Sure. Now turn your backs." She stopped.

"The Shrieking Shack?" George said, noticing where they were. "Are you sure it's all right to go in there?"

"Do you ever talk to your brothers?"

They frowned, apparently not understanding what she meant. The twins were technically in the Order, but apparently had been too busy with the shop to keep up with the running gossip.

She sighed. "Well, the ghost of the house is perfectly friendly," she said, then winked. "As long as you solemnly swear that you're up to no good."

"You two are talking again?" Fred said. "That's great!"

Tonks gave them a noncommmital "Mmm," then worked the spells and let them into the garden. Remus had aparently been puttering around out here; the dirt from the excavation of the moon-window had been moved to a dead flowerbed and surrounded with attractive rocks. A square-ish area toward the back had also been cleared and flattened, though Tonks couldn't begin to guess what he meant to do with it.

The back door opened and Remus came out, looking confused. "Dora. And Fred and George. I wasn't expecting anyone."

"Well, you have food. I know; I brought it." Dora shrugged. "The twins came up for Ron's birthday tomorrow. Thought you might like to see them, but if you're going to be antisocial..."

Remus rolled his eyes. "Come on in. I'll get something together for supper. Dora, you know where the butterbeer is. Why don't you bring some up? Fred and George... just have a seat in the kitchen I suppose. It's liveable."

Tonks watched Remus head to the pantry to gather food, then went down to the cellar for the butterbeer. As she slipped through the door, she saw George lean over and make a whispered comment to Fred, who laughed and nodded wisely.

It was a pleasant enough dinner, for all of that. The twins had plenty of gossip from Diagon Alley, and were extremely interested in the magical reinforcements that Remus was making on the cellar. "If they keep holding," Remus said, "I'm going to try to build an outbuilding in the back. That's how my father had it set up when I was small, and it's... more pleasant than the cellar."

"Turning it into quite the cozy little place," Fred said.

Remus snorted. "The Shrieking Shack is never going to be a cozy little place."

After dinner, they played cards for an hour or two, and the twins' manic energy almost made it feel like Sirius was back with them. Remus--to Tonks's surprise--invited them to stay at the house for the night, a novelty which delighted them. Fred affected an innocent expression and asked where Tonks slept; she cuffed the back of his head and returned to the inn.

She slept fitfully, with unformed dreams about violent outbursts of temper. Sirius stalked through her mind--not the comforting, humorous presence she'd felt with the twins, but the viciously temperamental ghost haunting his family home, throwing Kreacher across the kitchen, screaming at his mother's portrait. She tried to run from him, and the house became a maze, the portraits jeering down at her, and she heard something crashing, crashing--

She opened her eyes.

Someone was hammering on the door.

"Tonks! Tonks, get up!"

"'m awake," she muttered, rolling out of the bed and letting her bare feet slap onto the floor. She'd slept in a pair of shorts and an old t-shirt, and she didn't care if anyone saw her in it. She opened the door.

Dawlish was standing there, looking quite upset, apparently forgetting that she was a bad Auror who just leaned on Dumbledore's good name to survive.

"What is it?" she asked.

"There's been a poisoning at the school."

"What?"

"Something got through," he said. "I don't know how we missed it. We've been checking so many things..."

"Who was poisoned?"

"I don't know. A student. No one knows how yet."

"What kind of poison was it?"

"They don't know. It happened in the Potions master's rooms--"

"Snape?"

Dawlish crossed his eyes at her. "Snape teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts. Slughorn is Potions."

"Oh, right," Tonks said. For her, it was a great change, but she supposed that to anyone older than she was, Slughorn would be the obvious name. And it didn't matter. "And he didn't analyze it?"

"I'm sure he is," Dawlish said, a bit of his usual waspishness coming back, "but if you don't mind, I'd like an Auror's presence in this. And you've always been the Potions dabbler. Go up to the school. Find out what it was and how it got there."

"Right."

"Now!"

"D'you mind if I get dressed first? It's a bit cold to walk up there in shorts."

"Fine," Dawlish said. "But make it quick. I don't know where old Slughorn's loyalties are. He was a Slytherin. And even if it's not his fault, I wouldn't put it past the old goat to cover up for how it got there."

Tonks, who didn't know Horace Slughorn at all, didn't have an argument. She shooed Dawlish out of her room and grabbed the nearest clothes at hand (a pair of patched blue jeans and the jumper Molly had given her for Christmas), then sent a Patronus ahead to the school. Minerva McGonagall met her at the gate.

"I'm glad of any help you can give," McGonagall said, letting Tonks in. "Two students now. Hogwarts isn't safe anymore."

"Who is it?"

"You weren't told?" McGonagall paused in the quick pace that she was setting for the castle, and turned around. "It was Ron Weasley. Harry Potter's best friend."

"Ron! Have you sent for Molly and Arthur? The twins are in town and--"

"We've sent an owl to Molly and Arthur. There are enough people running madly around that it's probably best for the twins to wait before they come anyway."

"Is Ron all right?"

"I don't know." McGonagall reached the great door and entered the castle, waiting impatiently for Tonks to get through before she closed it. "Harry gave him a bezoar, which kept him alive. Poppy and Horace are analyzing several things that may have caused it, and Poppy is putting him through several general antidotes."

"Dawlish sent me to help them."

McGonagall sniffed. "Sent you to keep an eye on them and not let them cover anything up, more likely."

"That's why he sent me," Tonks admitted. "I actually came in order to help."

"They're in the Potions classroom," McGonagall said. "I need to get back to the hospital wing."

She left Tonks alone and scurried off. Tonks quickened her steps and ran down the stairs to the Potions dungeon. Her feet still carried her there without any thought, and she could feel years falling away. By the time she got there, she half-expected to find Snape glowering over one of her N.E.W.T. creations. Instead, she found a more cheerful-looking room than the one she'd left, though Poppy Pomfrey and a huge man she assumed to be Horace Slughorn looked grave as they measured ingredients into cauldrons.

Still, Madam Pomfrey found a smile. "Nymphadora Tonks!" she said. "I'm very glad to see you." She turned to her companion. "Horace, this is Nymphadora Tonks. She was a marvelous Potions student. Just a bit after your time. She used to come down in her spare time and help me brew antidotes."

Slughorn gave her a disinterested look.

Madam Pomfrey grimaced. "She's Andromeda Black's daughter. Bellatrix and Narcissa's niece?"

Tonks widened her eyes. "That's really not the way I tend to introduce myself."

"Oh, I remember the Black girls," Slughorn said. "Pity Bellatrix ran mad. Clever girl." He looked at Tonks with more interest. "Yes, I see it in you. You've got the same cheekbones. If you're as good at Potions as your mother and your aunts, I'm glad to see you here!" He shoved a cauldron across to her and gave her a battered box of Chocolate Cauldrons. "There was a love potion in these--the Weasley boy ate it accidentally. Check to make sure there's nothing else, would you? It was his birthday. He got quite a few treats."

"I think it was the mead, Horace," Madam Pomfrey said carefully.

"I think you're right," he said, and she looked surprised. "But no chances, no chances. I don't know how that mead would have been poisoned; it's been in my cupboard for months."

Tonks started to analyze the cauldrons (which did, indeed, contain a strong love potion), and didn't voice what she thought was an obvious point--that teachers' belongings were not and never had been sacrosanct among Hogwarts students. Instead, she kept her eyes focused on the diagnostic potions she was adding to the Chocolate Cauldrons and tried to make her question sound casual. "So... my aunts were good at Potions? I'm afraid I don't know them very well."

"Oh, yes," Slughorn said, eyes gleaming. "Both of them, and your mother as well. I recommended her for Healer training, you know."

"I'm sure Auntie was thrilled," Tonks muttered. Her mother's training hadn't started until two years after she'd been burned from the Black family tree.

"Yes, well, Walburga always had her own view of things," Slughorn said, as lightly as if Auntie's oddities were no more dangerous than Luna Lovegood's wild theories. "We smoothed it over. Or Regulus did, at any rate. Good boy, that one."

Death Eater, Tonks thought, but didn't pursue it. "My cousin Draco..." she said lightly. "Does he know his Potions?"

"Oh, he's nothing compared to the Potter boy, but he's competent enough, I suppose..."

It was hardly the answer she expected--no one had ever mentioned Harry having the slightest talent in Potions--and it didn't point any fingers at Draco. She let it drop. Dumbledore had told her not to investigate Draco Malfoy.

They worked together for several hours, Madam Pomfrey making frequent runs to the hospital wing with new antidotes. Tonks didn't know who had originally brewed this poison--which, they discerned, had in fact been in the mead Slughorn had given Ron--but it was astoundingly complex, designed to have a chain reaction with the various antidotes that would be tried. Slughorn stopped his disturbing reminiscing about the various members of Mum's family that he'd taught and concentrated on following the trail of toxins. She'd lost track of time when they tracked down the last link in the chain and sent Madam Pomfrey up with the final dose.

"He'll still need to rest," she said when she came back down. "We've put enough potions in him to tire his poor body out. But I think he'll be all right. Molly and Arthur have just arrived."

Tonks glanced at her watch, then looked at it again, shocked. It was after seven o'clock.

"I should go back to the village," she said. "Two of Ron's brothers are here. Professor, would you meet us at the gate in half an hour or so?"

Slughorn nodded distractedly, cleaning up the work area. "Wish I'd had you while I was here," he said. "You would have been interesting."

"Snape didn't think I was interesting."

"Severus has his own set of interests. I'm glad to have met you, Miss Tonks. Give my regards to your mother."

"Whenever I see her," Tonks muttered, heading for the Whomping Willow, thinking that it was likely to be a while, unless they got the communications in Sri Lanka in order. And knowing Mum, she'd probably decide to stay for a few months more anyway, helping where she could help. She'd be in the midst of some fever epidemic, standing in the middle of...

...the Shrieking Shack.

As she came up through the trapdoor, a warm hand touched her elbow and guided her up. For a moment, her mind didn't process the small figure that stood in the candle-lit entrance hall, or the larger, hunching figure beyond it.

She blinked. "Mum?" she said. "Dad?"
13 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
buckbeakbabie From: buckbeakbabie Date: July 24th, 2006 06:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Awww, her parents are back. Thats very nice. Tonks could do with some support.

You've captured Slughoorn very well. I love how he's not interested in her until he finds out that she's a Black.
lilacsigil From: lilacsigil Date: July 24th, 2006 08:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Slughorn is excellent - highly intelligent and capable, but focused entirely on what he wants to see. Madame Pomfrey handled him very well! I also enjoyed Remus's interaction with the twins - he seemed very much cheered up by his former students.

Dawlish crossed his eyes at her.
I'm not sure what this sentence was meant to be.
snorkackcatcher From: snorkackcatcher Date: July 24th, 2006 10:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Nice to see Ted and Andromeda back, and good stuff from the twins -- I imagine they would cause the local Aurors some problems! Good job Poppy didn't tell Slughorn Tonks was a Metamorphmagus, or he'd most certainly have tried to colelct her. :)

Minor quibble: if the person putting together the poison took such care to deal with antidotes, wouldn't they have chosen one that a bezoar didn't work on in the first place?
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 24th, 2006 03:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I liked Slughorn in this, which I didn't always in the book. He pays no attention to Tonks until he knows she's a Black and makes tactless comments about her aunts that no one who really understood the family would make, but he also sounded sincerely interested in her once she'd registered on his radar. I don't know if it was sincere, but a person like Slughorn has should be better at that than he often seemed around Harry (and Harry's experiences make him automatically uncomfortable with any hint of attention based on his "Harry Potter"-ness as opposed to just being Harry).

As Dumbledore pointed out, Draco's murder attempts were more symbolic than real, so I don't have a problem with him not picking a rare poison a bezoar wouldn't work on. Probably his big concerns were a poison that was less likely to be detected, one that was less likely to be traced back to him, and possibly some general concerns about a poison that would work well with the mead (harder to detect flavor, one that wouldn't breakdown and become harmless if the mead wasn't drunk for a long time but that wouldn't chemically interact in an odd way with the mead if it was kept for that same period of time, and perhaps some concern about it how the poison acted or how fast it acted [for example, if the poison was hard to detect and the symptoms looked like a heart attack, Dumbledore's death might have been passed off as natural]).

As for the bezoar, from what we've been told about them, I assume they neutraliz poison immediately. As such, Ron wouldn't need other antidotes. However, Ron still suffered the initial damage caused by the poison which needs to be repaired. He also could have things that need to be flushed out of his system.

Ellen
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 24th, 2006 03:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I was looking at it, and Ron is still in the hospital wing at least a week later--he's still there when Harry is sent there after his last Quidditch game--so I'd guess that the bezoar does only very basic work. It must just stop the lethal effects, but not necessarily the non-lethal ones.
ella_menno From: ella_menno Date: July 24th, 2006 03:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Excellent bit all the way around. I especially liked how Poppy modified her introduction of Tonks to Slughorn, and how it changed the way he treated "Bellatrix and Narcissa's niece". Fred's slightly off-color comment was quite in-character for him; I also liked how seriously Tonks takes the security of the Shack. I have no doubt she'd have Oblivated the twins had they not listened to her instructions.

Now that things are picking up speed, I'm getting anxious to know what's going to happen next...I think it's time to haul out my copy of HBP again to refresh myself on the upcoming chain of events.

(Oh, and I have to say it: Yay! for Andromeda and Ted coming home!)
dreamer_marie From: dreamer_marie Date: July 24th, 2006 03:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Minor typo:
Remus had aparently been puttering around out here; the dirt from the excavation of the moon-window had been moved to a dead flowerbed and surrounded with attractive rocks.
Other than that, great chapter. It's good to see some other characters. And Slughorn, too.
*hugs her Sluggy*
a_t_rain From: a_t_rain Date: July 24th, 2006 04:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yay for GoodWithPotions!Tonks! And your Slughorn is so perfect -- cheerily tactless and self-centered, but not a bit of harm in him.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 24th, 2006 05:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, just noticed (probably because I skipped breakfast), did Tonks work till seven at night with no meals?

Ellen
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 24th, 2006 08:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Probably, though it's not important. Poppy might have brought them sandwiches on one of her runs. ;) I don't think the Aurors get union breaks...
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 24th, 2006 08:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
She's tougher than I am. My IQ drops several points for each skipped meal. By the end of a day like that, I'd be lucky to tell which end of a potion bottle was up while spilling acid on my shoes. I do envy people who don't fall into that category.

Ellen
tree_and_leaf From: tree_and_leaf Date: July 25th, 2006 02:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
I liked the way you did Slughorn here - I like Slughorn a lot, for all his faults, but he often seems to be badly misread/ written by the fandom. His take on Bellatrix struck me as perfectly in character. On a brit-picking note, though, I thought 'pity she ran mad' sounded a bit curious - is this the normal US phrase? I don't think I've heard anyone say anything other than 'pity she went mad'.
dadaginny From: dadaginny Date: August 6th, 2006 04:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Very good part. I liked immensely how you put Slughorn into the story. I can't wait for your next part!
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