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Stray, Chapter Seven: Paying Calls, pt. 2 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Stray, Chapter Seven: Paying Calls, pt. 2
May as well keep going. Nothing better to do. :)

Though I think I have to go back and say it's the twenty-first that the Brodies go away, since midnight of the 22nd would be staying out late on the 21st. I'll figure it out later.

Sirius is planning his call to Harry and doing research about everything he thinks he should talk about. Tonks is suspicious, and has abruptly taken on some mysterious new hobby that has involved owling McGonagall, though Kingsley has no idea what she's on about, and Remus is equally mystified. Sirius has just gone back to the papers around the time of the World Cup, hoping to find something more about Viktor, but he's not coming up with much. He still thinks it's a good idea to warn Harry about Karkaroff's student.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

Sirius prevailed upon Remus to go to Diagon Alley and buy newspapers from France and Bulgaria to learn all they could about Harry's competitors. The English translation of the Bulgarian paper cost more than Sirius had anticipated--apparently, fewer people made the text magically available--so they had to settle for reading the French paper in its original.

As far as Sirius could tell, Cedric Diggory was the only one with cause for truly sour grapes--both of the other champions had large feature articles in their home countries--but Remus considered Cedric above suspicion, based on his own experience and Dora's clear fondness for the boy.

According to the French paper, Fleur Delacour was the granddaughter of a Veela (ironically, from Bulgaria), but no one seemed to have any issue with that. She had distinguished herself during her second year at Beauxbatons by capturing a dahu before a Muggle was able to photograph proof of its existence, and had continued to show a flair for drama since. Her headmistress, Olympe Maxime, had been interviewed, and spoke of her with obvious fondness--"Fleur is one of the bravest and brightest students I have ever had the pleasure of teaching." The photograph showed a simply beautiful girl with wide blue eyes and long white-blond hair, smiling coolly at something beyond the edge of the picture. She blinked slowly, and her hair seemed to flutter in the breeze. Sirius guessed that this page was hanging in any number of Beauxbatons dormitories this year. Possibly pinned to the bed hangings.

The article about Viktor Krum didn't ease Sirius's mind much--there was no hint of any Dark Arts practice, but it was clear that Karkaroff was taken with him, and the other students interviewed implied strongly that he received preferential treatment from the headmaster. Remus suggested that it was no more than Karkaroff responding to Krum's Quidditch fame, but there was no way to tell. There was almost nothing of an interview with Krum himself, which the reporter seemed to take as a matter of course, referring to Krum as "as silent as he is about the Quidditch pitch." He claimed to particularly enjoy magical history, which reminded Sirius uncomfortably of Regulus, who'd nearly memorized Nature's Nobility. Remus rolled his eyes at the comparison and countered with Harry's friend Hermione, who had apparently achieved a similar feat with Hogwarts, A History.

Sirius still didn't especially like it. He added it to the list of things he meant to discuss with Harry. He'd have to memorize the list; there was no handy way to check his notes in a floo conversation.

Kingsley continued the check-in visits, and Sirius began to remember him at school. He'd been a gangly first year Ravenclaw with very tall hair, and had worn dark glasses whenever Flitwick had let him get away with it. Sirius wasn't entirely sure--he thought he might be making up the memory--but thought he might have rooted for Gryffindor in every game except the Ravenclaw game, and had particularly rooted for James. He seemed to look up obscurely to Remus now, despite the constant surveillance and the awful state of Remus's life. Sirius thought he might have been one of the little boys who'd picked a prank war with James, just for the glory of it. James had gone along with great delight, saying that someone would need to pick up the torch the next year, and had sworn all of the Marauders to a pact that they would only respond with spells they'd known in their own first year. He could hardly ask Kingsley, though, and Remus had forgotten the incident entirely.

Dora was apparently still engaged in whatever new hobby had caught her attention, much to Kingsley's annoyance, and Sirius's increasing agitation. The last time she'd visited, she'd seen something, and he didn't like not knowing how she was following up on it.

Remus disappeared on Wednesday morning, leaving a full breakfast for Sirius, but not telling him where on earth he was actually going to transform (though it wasn't on the island, as Sirius checked every possible corner, including the hogboon's mound). Sirius worked himself into a temper about the high-handedness of being left behind on the one occasion when his company could do some good, but when Remus came back the next day, bleeding and ill, it was impossible to stay angry. Instead, he played nursemaid until Kingsley showed up with a potion from Dora, who sent word that she was sorry she couldn't come to look after him as she had last month, but it was the only time Professor Kettleburn had been able to meet with her. She'd also sent along a large box of biscuits that Andromeda had made, and Remus shared them out later, when he started to feel better.

The day of the call, Saturday, was wet and cold and rainy all afternoon, and the time seemed to tick by in infinitesimally small increments. Remus decided to have another go-round with the hogboon, and Sirius joined him this time, nipping at the miserable thing for an hour or so to keep it busy while Remus tried to break the seal that Calum McAlister had put on the mound to keep his own interests and personality bound into the hogboon's mind. It was a nasty piece of dark magic; Sirius was surprised that Mum hadn't tried it. She probably just thought it too rustic for her rarefied social circles. Either that, or she couldn't find a hogboon to bind herself to in London.

They went in for lunch at two o'clock, having got exactly nowhere. They were both cold and covered with mud, and the mead Remus broke out went down very easily.

"When do we go over?" Sirius asked.

"Not quite yet," Remus answered, poking his wand at a fresh hole in his robes, trying to prod the frayed thread back together. "I don't want to just sit around Dona's house forever."

"But we should go early enough to make sure they're gone. If we have to Apparate somewhere else to break in, we need to have enough time."

"How's eleven o'clock?"

"A long time from now," Sirius said.

"I have a deck of cards around here somewhere."

Sirius shook his head. "I don't think so." He smiled. "This is my first time out really trying to help Harry. I'm actually nervous, if you can believe it."

"Try pretending to sleep on the Hogwarts Express while he's talking about murder plots with Ron and Hermione. I thought I'd jump out of my skin. I was sure I'd do something wrong."

Sirius grinned. "If I know you, it was harder to pretend through the sweets cart."

Remus made an obscene gesture in his general direction.

"Why didn't you just pretend to wake up, and have a conversation with him?" Sirius asked. "Tell him that you used to change his nappies, for heaven's sake?"

"He was thirteen. He'd have run screaming right off the back of the train if I'd mentioned nappies."

"Well, you could have told him you know his parents, anyway."

"If I'd told him that, he'd have asked me a million questions about James and Lily, but never got around to what he really needed to know."

"He needs to know about James and Lily."

"I know. But at the time, Dumbledore thought... well, there was no way to tell what I knew without talking about you, and no one thought he could handle knowing... what we all thought we knew." Remus looked down. "I'm sorry about that."

Sirius would have told him it was all right, but it wasn't. Instead, he shrugged and picked up the morning paper, in which Rita Skeeter had taken time off from the tournament to insinuate that a senior Ministry official had made an appointment in his office based on less than objective qualifications. There was a reminder that the First Task was coming up on Tuesday--a secret task known only to the tournament's officials, to test the courage of the champions in the face of the unknown--and the Daily Prophet would, of course, bring full details. Sirius was willing to bet it was a dangerous creature guarding something, and the champions had to get past it, which ought to be child's play for Harry after escaping Dementors. Surely, Dumbledore wouldn't allow anything on Hogwarts grounds more dangerous than that.

The afternoon grew dark, and Sirius nearly got himself gored when he forgot to greet Buckbeak before feeding him. They needed to go for a flight soon--Buckbeak was getting excessively ill-tempered. Sirius thought about flying him over to the Brodies' place, but regretfully decided it was too much of a risk.

At eleven o'clock, Sirius transformed and followed Remus out to the cove. The moon was still large enough to cast a silvery light on everything.

"We're clear of the Apparition barriers around the house," Remus said. We should Apparate to the cove over there; I don't know how far Dona's security goes."

"All right."

"I really am sorry that I ever believed you were guilty, Sirius. You have no idea how sorry I am about that."

Sirius sighed. "You weren't the only one."

Remus nodded, then turned and disappeared. Sirius followed.

There was nothing in sight near the cove when they arrived on Dona's island, though Sirius could hear the bleating of sheep just over the rise. They were gathered around Dona's front door, eating from a trough. They were a lot dirtier than Sirius had expected them to be.

The house was empty.

Remus took a seat by the door, then Disillusioned himself. "If I see them coming back early," he said, his voice seeming to come out of a nowhere, "I'll run a flame line under the door and burn your foot. Get out right away if I do. You can finish whatever you have to say in a letter."

Sirius nodded, then used a highly illegal hex to get through the door's lock, and let himself in. He lit the fire, tossed in a handful of floo powder, then bent into the awkward crouch this method of communication required. The world spun around him, the tight rope of fire cinched his neck, and a moment later, he was looking out at the Gryffindor Common Room. Harry was sitting in one of the coveted armchairs, looking over at something on the table. He looked worn and stressed, and all of the nervousness Sirius had felt melted away. It was just Harry, who needed him.

He turned, then smiled warmly and said, "Sirius, how're you doing?"
16 comments or Leave a comment
sugarannie From: sugarannie Date: July 1st, 2007 11:08 am (UTC) (Link)
You know, reading this, I noticed that I never even thought about the newspaper coverage of the Tournament in the press from other countries before. It's a really interesting aspect...

Anyway, I may repeat myself, but I like every new chapter you post, and am always glad if there's a new one to read :-)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 1st, 2007 05:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I just figure every newspaper has a version of Rita on staff somewhere, and of course, they'd take more interest in the "local" champion. Part of me would really love to see the Quibbler's coverage!
From: tonkstipied Date: July 1st, 2007 11:25 am (UTC) (Link)

what the heck is Dora up to?

im just so intrigued. thanks again
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 1st, 2007 05:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: what the heck is Dora up to?

You'll find out soon. She's asking a lot of people a lot of questions, though.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 1st, 2007 11:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Lovely, as always!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 1st, 2007 05:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 1st, 2007 03:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I looked up hogboons and now know what they are, but what's a dahu? I haven't found that one yet.

Lots of nice, little touches. The image of Kingsley as a kid is just wonderful. I like his attitude towards Remus and Sirius' attempts to trace its origins. Also, this helps lay the groundwork for what's coming.

Does Remus have a good cover story set for why he's going to be at Dona's house? It seems like he could have one ready if he can't clear out in time. He saw something suspicious? Not great since he'd prefer no one think of anything suspicious happening. He had an emergency and needed to use the floo? Not bad, and he could try talking to Dumbledore or Tonks - or Ted and Andromeda (he'd need a good, Remus style reason to call them that late. Medical concerns after his recent transformation probably wouldn't pass muster. Concern for Dora might work, especially if she's not there, but might backfire if she is).

I realize you're not planning an making Dona a major character, but can I hope that maybe she mentioned to one of her husband's doctors that a werewolf is living one island over? And that the doctor might be Andromeda or Ted? Just a thought . . . .

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 1st, 2007 05:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Does Remus have a good cover story set for why he's going to be at Dona's house?

Not really, but I don't think it's going to be a factor. Dona may come back later in the story--I've got a little subplot bunny--but I don't think she's going to give them any more than time pressure here. There may be a little race out.

But yes, Remus should have at least come up with a story. He didn't, though.
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: July 1st, 2007 05:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Maybe it's my own take on the Marauders, but I think Sirius was the fast-talker who got them out of trouble.

Could be a cute out-take, the two planning a cover story.
thornyrose42 From: thornyrose42 Date: July 1st, 2007 08:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Just putting my two Knuts in but in my personal reality I've always seen Peter as the one who spun the tall tails (hee!) to get them out of trouble, we do see him trying to do it in PoA, but he is playing to an extremly tough crowd and doesn't quite manage to pull it off. But I reckon that his patter back in his school days would have been quite convincing and many people would have been fooled by his story in PoA.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 1st, 2007 09:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I generally have them splitting the duty... whoever's not actively pranking is telling the lies about it. I'd imagine the nature of the lie would change from boy to boy--Sirius with some grand story that no one would believe (but would cover up whatever was really going on), Peter with some sincere emotion or desire for help, James with a plain old story, Remus with something that would seem utterly plausible until you figured out it had no grounding in reality.
thornyrose42 From: thornyrose42 Date: July 1st, 2007 05:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

I've been reading your stories for ages now, but have never actually gotten around to reviewing. Shame on me.

I am enjoying this new story of yours immensely, (although I think that my favorite will always be Shifts because you absolutely nailed the atmosphere of an English public school and the people who inhabited that little world were just so real. By the way I am so glad that in your own personal canon future Daniel gets to become part of the family, I adore Remus and Tonks' kids and I really hope that we get to see more of them at some point After The End. Which really isn't that far away now!)

I also have a great fondness for your Andromeda and Ted. (They have a special place in my heart, I adore the way that we fanfic writers can create our own versions of them, all with their roots in the few canon facts that we have.) It was probably your interpretation of the Black Sisters relationship that encouraged me to delve in to their minds myself. The bit in Shifts when we see that Andromeda has cut out pictures of her sisters weddings from then newspaper to stick on her wall is just an amazing bit of imagery and has a palpable poignancy that has stuck with me. And the fact that Cissy still comes to tea... it makes me smile every time.

Gosh I sound like a hopeless fangirl.

But I should really start telling you why I love the story that your writing at the moment.

Well, Sirius as the viewpoint character for a start, I've got a bit of a soft spot for him as well. Interaction between him and Remus will always, always delight me. This part is especially heart string tugging because what I find myself thinking is that this is his last year of freedom and when I see how much good it is doing him...

Darn doomed characters....

Anyway, thank you so much for this third chapterish glimpse into your world.

(Oh and also, your Peter is spot on)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 1st, 2007 05:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for delurking! It's nice to meet you.

The Black sisters are awfully interesting. I liked them just kind of messing around in Shifts, but the second chapter of HBP really nailed it home. These girls are messed up, but obviously quite devoted to each other. Even while Cissy is threatening Bella, it's hard not to notice that, when in trouble, they seek each other out.
thornyrose42 From: thornyrose42 Date: July 1st, 2007 08:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh yes, that family loyalty is still holding strong, blood is thicker than water after all.

It was That Chapter for me as well, never mind the enigma that is Snape look at all this brillient sisterly interaction, I actually fell in love with the character of Narcissa at that point. I mean yes she is Ever So Evil, insulting Sirius just a couple of cahapters later, but at the same time we really get shown by JKR that you don't have to be on the side of Light to be part of a loving family. Look at all that motherly love.

What i find really interesting though is trying to work out not only Cissy and Bella's relationship from that little snippet, but also trying to squint around teh edges to see how Andromeda would have fitted into the dynamic.
dreamer_marie From: dreamer_marie Date: July 1st, 2007 05:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
She had distinguished herself during her second year at Beauxbatons by capturing a dahu before a Muggle was able to photograph proof of its existence, and had continued to show a flair for drama since.
Was it a left-sided dahu or a right-sided dahu? :-) I hadn't heard of the dahu in quite some time...
Great chapter, as always. I love your backstory about Kingsley, especially the part in which he likes to wear dark glasses. It reminds me of "Harry Potter and the Year of Living Stupidly" and "Harry Potter and the Chocolate Factory", in which Kingsley is portrayed as a guy who's seen too many action movies and who thinks he's in one.
tree_and_leaf From: tree_and_leaf Date: July 1st, 2007 10:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've just googled dahu, and am amused, as my granddad used to tell me similar stories about sheep....
16 comments or Leave a comment