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Stray, Chapter Seven: Paying Calls, pt. 1 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Stray, Chapter Seven: Paying Calls, pt. 1
Okay, back in the saddle. I'll try and keep it interesting while Sirius is waiting to get back to Harry. He's found out that Remus's neighbor has a Floo connection and will be gone on the 22nd of November, and written back to Harry to tell him to get the Common Room clear. The next morning, Tonks shows up as a "surprise check-in" on Remus, and is troubled by the piles of newspapers Sirius has left lying around as he read up on the tournament the previous night (finding out, to his chagrin, that Karkaroff is the Durmstrang headmaster).

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




Dora didn't come back that week. On Tuesday, an unpleasant young man named Williams payed a less than neighborly call on Remus, insisting on going through his letters (Sirius's correspondence with Harry was stowed under a loose board, and luckily, the owl bearing his return note hadn't arrived until the next day) and trying to trap him in conversation. Remus batted him aside easily with brief, cordial answers. Sirius chewed on the strap of his bag during the entire visit, leaving it wet and slimy when he picked it up. Williams didn't come back. Ichabod Dawlish, a prissy little plodder who had trained with Frank Longbottom--and even Frank's patience hadn't been long enough to keep from occasionally complaining about him to the Order--came on Thursday, and made only a perfunctory exam. He clearly disliked Remus, but at least seemed to understand the notion that he needed some kind of authorization to search the house, as he apologized coolly for Williams' behavior, saying that he was "young and overeager." After he left, Sirius tried to apologize for causing so many problems, and was batted aside as easily as Williams for his trouble.

Kingsley Shacklebolt arrived on Saturday morning, with a much more satisfactory apology, a promise not to delegate any more of the surprise check-ins, and a deck of cards. He also brought a box of dog treats for Sirius.

Remus served him lunch. "I must admit, I was quite genuinely surprised by Williams. I knew enough Aurors through their training to know that they know better."

"I'm honestly surprised you never trained," Kingsley said, taking bread. "There weren't any rules about werewolves then--"

"No rules," Remus said. "But I think we both know that the codified rules aren't the only ones in play."

"True."

Remus gave him a sheepish grin. "Besides, I only got an Acceptable on my Potions O.W.L. Lily Evans tried to convince Slughorn to let me in anyway, but for once, he didn't go along. I was just as glad. I'd have blown something up or poisoned someone if I kept going in that class."

"I think they only require potions to make sure you're serious," Kingsley said. "Most of us don't have time to do our own potion-brewing, unless it's specifically what we're known for. Tonks is very good at it--did you know she's trying to learn how to brew Wolfsbane Potion? She's been trying to get an appointment with Damocles Belby for weeks."

"She shouldn't waste her time on that," Remus said. "I'm sure there are more important things for her to do."

"I, er..." Kingsley frowned at his tea, obviously reaching for a segue. "I don't suppose you know exactly what she's been wasting her time on this week? Not that it's necessarily being wasted, but I have no way to know, as she's not telling me why she's always running off at the end of every shift."

"If she hasn't told you, I can't imagine why you think she'd tell me. I'm the one under surveillance."

"Yes, our covert spying operation," Kingsley muttered. "It just occurred to me that she's, er, friendly with you..."

"What's that tone meant to mean?"

"Nothing," Kingsley said quickly. "Only that I thought she might have taken on a hobby and mentioned it to you."

"She hasn't said anything," Remus said.

"Whatever it is involves Hogwarts. She owled Minerva McGonagall from work."

"Perhaps it's something to do with the tournament," Remus said. "Though I'd think she'd talk to Mad-Eye about that--didn't he train her?"

"Kept coming in two years after he'd supposedly retired just to 'put the finishing touches on,' though technically, I suppose I'm the one listed as training her," Kingsley confirmed. "But he seems bloody busy this term. Can't even get him to join us at the Three Broomsticks for a drink when we're up to check security. I think he's taking 'constant vigilance' to new heights."

"I'm just as glad." Remus poured himself some tea. "Is everything secure? What are the crowds going to be like?"

"Larger than you'd expect at what it costs to get in for any of the tasks," Kingsley admitted. "But we've worked with Dumbledore to keep all of the champions safe from madmen in the crowd. It's Potter, of course, but Death Eaters aren't the only thing we're worried about. I wouldn't put it past some of the Irish Quidditch fans to hurl a curse or two at Viktor Krum. They think he ended the match too early, and Ireland didn't get enough glory in the final score."

"I'd think the Bulgarians would be more upset with him."

"They know there was never a chance. They just wish he'd caught it sooner, but it was the first time it was really out."

"What do you know about the other two champions?"

"Not much," Kingsley said, and pulled out a folded copy of the Daily Prophet (Remus's subscription hadn't started yet). "And you won't find out much about them here. It appears that Rita Skeeter has decided to focus on Oliver Twist. I mean, Harry Potter, of course. How could I have made a mistake like that?" He grinned.

Remus scanned the article on the front page, his eyes increasingly bemused. "This is... er... an interesting portrayal of Harry."

"Oh, you should see the middle-aged witches at the Ministry ooh-ing and ah-ing over it."

"Harry's got to be mortified. Do you suppose she'll do a piece on each of them?"

"I'm sure she'll focus equal attention on each one who's the Boy Who Lived." Kingsley tapped the paper. "Though I'm sure Viktor Krum--or Vintner Krup, as Rita has it--appreciates not being chosen for the star role this time."

Remus looked less than convinced by his reasoning, but said nothing.

After he left, Sirius transformed and took the paper, which carried something claiming to be an interview with Harry. He wasn't at all sure who Rita had really talked to--Oliver Twist seemed as good a bet as any. She'd chosen to portray him as a pitiful orphan boy who only thought about the loss of his parents, and apparently cried frequently and dedicated all of his heroic endeavors to them.

"I rather expect him to burst into song at any moment," Remus said. "With full backing from a troupe of harpists."

Sirius stared at the page and tried to reconcile this with Harry, who wrote such painstakingly casual letters and named whatever problems he was having as lightly as he possibly could. And then he imagined James, reading about his son weeping melodramatically at night. He closed his eyes and shook his head. "The other boys have got to be making his life hell. We would have."

"I think I saw Harry pass about three words with his 'close friend' Colin while I was there."

"What was he doing talking to Rita Skeeter in the first place?"

Remus shrugged. "Colin's Muggle-born. I doubt he knows Rita's reputation for, shall we say, embellishment. Last I knew, he was interested in newspapers. He probably just thought it was a fine chance to speak to someone who worked at one."

Sirius looked incredulously at the paragraph in which fourteen-year-old Harry was said to have "at last" found love, and tried to imagine what on earth was going through Rita's head to come up with such a thing. Even if Harry was in love with Hermione--and Sirius realized that he hadn't the faintest idea about that, despite a year of watching them--the idea that he was somehow coming into it late...

He shook his head. "Doesn't Rita have anything better to do? Wasn't she in Bertha Jorkins's year? She could profile Bertha and get people talking about her disappearance. It might even be good to dramatize it a bit."

"Rita? Do something useful?"

"Good point." He read another paragraph, skipped to the end to learn nothing at all about "Vintner Krup" and "Flora Delacroix"--with no mention at all of Cedric Diggory, who would perhaps have become Hickory Dickory Dock, the way Rita had written it--then set the silly thing aside. "If James were here, I think he'd curse Rita's writing hand. She'd write nothing but nonsense poetry for the rest of her life."

"Rita would find a way to make it work to her advantage," Remus said. "At least until Lily replaced all of her ink with Erasing Effusions."

"That's what Harry needs them for. Neither of them would much fancy being turned into inspirational stone gods." Sirius smiled, but it felt strained, as, of course, none of this would be necessary if James and Lily were here in the first place. Harry would be an average boy. He looked down at the newspaper again. "Do you really think the Durmstrang champion is glad to have the attention elsewhere? Or do you think he'll hold it against Harry?"

"I doubt any of them are happy about it. Harry's the youngest, he's not meant to be in the tournament at all, and he's overshadowing all of them."

"But Karkaroff's student--I don't like the idea of him having some grudge against Harry. What do you know about him?"

"Only that he's a spectacularly good Seeker. I haven't heard any rumors about him, though I don't really keep up with the private lives of famous Quidditch players, and all I saw of him the day I was at Durmstrang was a sullen boy on his way to class."

Remus seemed disinclined to speculate any further on the subject, so Sirius got out the World Cup papers again, reading whatever he could find about Viktor Krum. It wouldn't hurt to tell Harry to be careful about anyone too close to Igor Karkaroff.
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Comments
sreya From: sreya Date: June 30th, 2007 02:49 am (UTC) (Link)
*giggling* Oliver Twist... that's cute. I think if Sirius weren't so worried about him and with such limited contact, he'd be inclined to tease Harry about that article!

And a bit of concrit...
Sirius tried to apologize for causing so many problems, and was batted aside as easily as Williams for his trouble.

You might want to rephrase this, or break it into another paragraph, because at first I thought Sirius was apologizing to Dawlish somehow, and then I thought maybe you'd accidently said Sirius instead of Remus, but that didn't fit right either, and finally figured out Sirius was apologizing to Remus after Dawlish left. Um... yeah, confusing.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 30th, 2007 04:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Oops, could've sworn I had "After he left..." at the beginning of that sentence, but I must have erased it for some unfathomable reason. Thanks for catching it; I probably would have mentally added it on a read-thru and not noticed!
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 30th, 2007 04:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Much as I like "Oliver," the mental picture of Harry surrounded by perhaps a hundred dancing, singing, House Elves ("Food, glorious food . . . ") . . . .

Yes, well, really liked this.

So, did Williams just check Remus' mail because he's an annoying git or are do they have grounds for suspicion?

By the way, I love reading a prequel where I really don't have any idea where it's going.

Ellen
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 30th, 2007 04:46 am (UTC) (Link)
So, did Williams just check Remus' mail because he's an annoying git or are do they have grounds for suspicion?

Well, they all informally suspect that he's in contact with Sirius--hence the frequent visits--but Williams is way out of line. If they had actual grounds for suspicion beyond thinking that it's probably the case that Sirius is in contact with him, they'd probably have a search order.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 30th, 2007 08:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Is it bad that I really want to see something on deathly_lollows like that?
hermia7 From: hermia7 Date: June 30th, 2007 05:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Whee, this is so fun.

The only thing that seemd a bit off was the overemphasis on the mispelled Champion names. I think it's funnier (or less jarring) if you either don't use the Krum one on first mention, or on second mention say "to learn nothing at all about Krum and "Flora Delacroix"--with no mention at all of Cedric Diggory, who would perhaps have become Hickory Dickory Dock, the way Rita had written it--" The repetition feels a bit forced.

(You know how much I love your stuff--any crit is DEFINITELY constructive!)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 30th, 2007 03:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'll think about it if I end up fixing this for SQ. (Could get obsoleted in 21 days, after all. ;p)
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 30th, 2007 03:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sirius's correspondence with Harry was stowed under a loose board, and luckily, the owl bearing his return note hadn't arrived until the next day

I think maybe the hadn't arrived in that sentence should be a didn't arrive. Or else replace the until the next day with a yet. The tense just seems a little weird. And I'm going to respectfully disagree about the names- it seems like a very Rowlingesque touch to me.

Great installment- I love Sirius and Remus reminiscing about James and Lily. I wish Harry had gotten to hear them do so more often.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 30th, 2007 03:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's a good point; that's an awkward verb tense there.

I think hermia was talking about the repetition of the Viktor misspelling, rather than including it at all.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 30th, 2007 03:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oops, that one was me.

Rene
dreamer_marie From: dreamer_marie Date: June 30th, 2007 03:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I wouldn't put it past some of the Irish Quidditch fans to hurl a curse or two at Viktor Krum. They think he ended the match too early, and Ireland didn't get enough glory in the final score.
Someone's been in fandom too long... And Oliver Twist FTW!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 30th, 2007 04:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Someone's been in fandom too long

I don't know what you mean by that... ;p
aebhel From: aebhel Date: July 5th, 2007 04:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Sirius stared at the page and tried to reconcile this with Harry, who wrote such painstakingly casual letters and named whatever problems he was having as lightly as he possibly could.

Yep, that's Harry. I love this adult perspective on him - it's a whole new way of looking at the situation he's in.
13 comments or Leave a comment