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Stray, Chapter Nine: The First Task, pt. 1 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Stray, Chapter Nine: The First Task, pt. 1
Ack, I just realized, there are two Y.A. titles coming out this year named Stray. Oh, well.

Okay, well... not much set-up needed just now. It's first task time.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




Sirius woke up long before dawn the next morning, wanting to go to Hogwarts and try to talk to Harry, knowing that the last thing Harry would need to day was the distraction of worrying about his godfather being caught on the grounds and packed back off to Azkaban. Although he was pleased with himself for applying complex reasoning--he could almost hear Lily saying, in her falsely incredulous tone, "My goodness, James, you never told me that Sirius had a brain, too!"--it was a distant sort of pleasure, far outweighed by the desire to be out there taking action instead of cooped up in Remus's drafty shack in the middle of nowhere.

Remus shuffled out, puffy-eyed and half-asleep, around eight and grunted some sort of greeting before starting to get himself breakfast. He made a sound that was probably an offer of food, and Sirius turned it down absently. He waited until Remus had some tea, then said, "The first task is this afternoon. The dragons."

"I know."

"It's going to be on the Wizarding Wireless Network, isn't it?"

"I imagine so," Remus said. "But I don't have a radio."

"I thought perhaps you'd take your dog over to the mainland, perhaps hole up in a wizarding pub."

"Do you know of one that would let a dog stay all day?"

"Well, maybe..." But it was a fair point; he sighed. "I suppose I'll read about it in the morning."

"I'm sorry. I should have found one to borrow. I'd like to hear it myself, now that I think about it."

Sirius thought about offering to give him money to Apparate to the mainland and buy one, but decided it would probably take too long. Instead, he settled himself into a restless morning of wandering aimlessly around the shack while Remus tinkered with the walls, to get them to resist the wind better.

After a while, Sirius transformed and went outside, thinking that he might have a nice dig in the hogboon's mound to pass the time. He was just discovering that the ground was well and truly frozen when he heard someone coming up behind him. He'd almost transformed when he realized it wasn't Remus that his canine nose was picking up.

He turned slowly. Dora Tonks was standing at the base of the mound, looking at him coolly. A portable wizarding radio was tucked under her arm.

"Come on, then," she said, then nodded at Remus's door and headed toward the shack. Sirius padded after her.

Remus opened the door when Dora knocked, and looked at her with honest surprise. "I thought you were in Morocco."

Dora smiled. "Reckon Kingsley thought a day was long enough to keep me from tripping over my own feet and falling straight into a trial in front of the Wizengamot. Clearly, Kingsley doesn't know me very well." She held up the radio. "He gave me the day off, and I thought you and your dog might want to hear the tournament." Sirius gave her a happy bark and leaned in to lick her hand, but she raised her wand at him. "Lick me and I'll be forced to curse you," she said.

Sirius whined at her playfully. She gave him a squint, turned up her nose, then gave in and scratched between his ears.

Remus grinned and took the radio, Conjuring a table for it in the living room. He tuned it carefully and found the pre-task programming, which seemed to be a rousing account of Triwizard Tournaments of the past, though Sirius wasn't entirely sure, since he was ignoring it as much as Remus and Dora were.

"Kingsley was by yesterday," Remus said.

"I know. He told me. He also told me that he's been looking for Pettigrew and not finding a single trace."

"But you believe me."

"If you were going to tell a lie like that, you'd make sure it was backed up." Remus opened his mouth to continue the conversation, but she held up her hand. "I don't want to talk about this," she said. "It can't go anywhere good. Now... tell me about the boy who's about to be beaten utterly by a Hufflepuff no one knows much about."

"I don't know of a boy by that description," Remus said loftily.

"Oh, come on, Remus. I've never pestered you. Do you seriously--no pun intended--think he can beat a sixth year?"

"I think Harry can do what he decides to do," Remus said. "What makes you think Cedric will win?"

"Hufflepuff pride."

"Well, as long as it's such a reasonable extrapolation of his skills and temperament..."

"What do you think it's going to be?" Dora asked.

"Why would I know?"

Dora raised her eyebrows. "That's not an answer, Remus. Charlie Weasley's in town. A lot of the old crowd got back in touch."

"I don't know Charlie or Bill, just the other five."

"Charlie's a dragon-keeper. He won't tell anyone why he's here."

"Are you ever surprised?" Remus asked her fondly.

"I'm always surprised. Aurors are just surprised a bit earlier than everyone else, so we have time to be smug and all-knowing." She stuck out her tongue, then turned her hair yellow with black, badger-shaped stripes in it.

"Festive," Remus said.

Dora suddenly turned her wand on Sirius. "Helga Victrix!"

In a flash of light, Sirius's fur turned bright yellow. Badgers marched up his forelegs. He looked indignantly at Remus, who snickered, pointed his own wand and said, "Godric Domitor." The yellow turned scarlet, the black became golden lions, which prowled threateningly across his pelt and settled on his haunches. With a further flick of Remus's wand, his already full ruff abruptly grew out into a proper mane.

The volume on the radio abruptly went up, giving a generic sort of fanfare that they'd apparently chosen for the Triwizard Tournament. A breathlessly excited actress gave a stirring speech about the grand tradition they were following, then began to introduce the champions.

"He's made his mark on the world of Quidditch, becoming Bulgaria's most famous wizarding son. He's led his year at Durmstrang since he began his education. But who is Viktor Krum?" This purple introduction was followed by the sounds of screaming Bulgarian Quidditch fans, heavily-accented appreciations from his parents, and a garbled comment from someone Sirius thought was an odds-maker. "But Hogwarts is a long way from the seven lakes of Rila... does Krum have what it takes to win the Triwizard Cup?"

Another burst of fanfare music interrupted, then was replaced by oversweet strains of harp. "In the gilded halls of Beauxbatons, she is something of a queen, adored by boys, envied by girls. Her marks are higher than any of the other champions, and her charm work has been called innovative and imaginative. Is Fleur Delacour your champion?" More interviews confirmed that Fleur was beautiful and smart, though Sirius noted that the boys were breathless and the girls perfunctory in their praise. Only Olympe Maxime seemed genuinely warm.

The fanfare came again, then broke into a rousing chorus of the Hogwarts school song, awkwardly set to the tune of "Rule, Britannia!" The announcer, more excited than ever (Sirius thought she might embarrass herself soon), continued. "And for the first time in Triwizard history, the two champions from Hogwarts! One, the brilliant and talented Cedric Diggory, known for being stalwart and true. The other, known to all wizardkind... the boy who lived!..."

This faded into a paean to Harry, and Dora gave a frustrated sigh. With any luck the coverage wouldn't get back to Hogwarts and cause Harry more trouble than he already had with his classmates.

She finally finished, leading into a dramatic drum roll. "And now," a new voice piped in, "Triwizard Judge and Commentator, world class Beater for the Wimbourne Wasps... LUDO BAGMAN!"

Sirius inched closer to the radio, willing Harry to be first, to get through this, in one part of his mind. Another part was back at Hogwarts, remembering Ludo on the pitch. He'd been a few years ahead of them and had only played on the same team as James for one year (Ludo's seventh). James had said, with great admiration, that Bagman was a right nutter with a Beater's bat, and had ended up putting up a poster of him when he made the Wimbourne team. It was that smiling face Sirius pictured giving the commentary, though he knew that time would have changed it.

"Welcome, welcome to the first task!" Bagman said, and the crowd at Hogwarts cheered for several seconds. "As you know, the champions have no idea what they will face in this arena. They must be prepared for anything. As each champion faces his test, the others remain securely out of view. And now... the first task!"

There was the snapping sound of a Concealment spell breaking, and the crowd gasped.

"Yes!" Bagman said. "Our champions will be facing dragons! Our first champion, Cedric Diggory, will take on this vicious Swedish Short-Snout, to get to the golden egg hidden in her clutch... and only with the egg will he have what he needs to face the second task in February!"

Sirius glanced up at Remus, who seemed rather pale now that it was actually happening. Dora was biting her lip in anticipation.

The crowd roared again as Cedric Diggory entered the arena, and the Triwizard Tournament began.
30 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
chienar From: chienar Date: July 11th, 2007 04:20 am (UTC) (Link)
"becoming Bugaria's most famous" should say Bulgaria's

great as always
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 11th, 2007 04:24 am (UTC) (Link)
No, see, the mistake is in canon. Krum really comes from the magical lost kingdom of BUGaria. Yeah. Funny thing, the spell-check was picking it up, I stared straight at it, and couldn't see what was wrong, so I just chalked it up to being an unknown possessive. :eyeroll: I'll fix that.
keestone From: keestone Date: July 11th, 2007 03:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, the slash potential! ;p
alkari From: alkari Date: July 11th, 2007 04:39 am (UTC) (Link)
You awful woman! Fancy leaving it Yet Another cliff-hanger like that.

Great Remus- Tonks interaction as usual, and I love the way you show that she accepts Sirius with the scratch between the ears, and then the Hufflepuff / Gryffindor colour battle.

"I'm always surprised. Aurors are just surprised a bit earlier than everyone else, so we have time to be smug and all-knowing." LOL - great line!

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 11th, 2007 10:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks!

Tonks isn't very good at rejecting people, and given that she was already questioning the issue... yeah. I can't see her rejecting someone that Remus accepts fully for long. The cognitive dissonance would get her.
emmyaward From: emmyaward Date: July 11th, 2007 05:12 am (UTC) (Link)
oh, cliffhanger! *moans*

I haven't been reviewing this at all, which is awful of me, but I've really enjoyed it all so far. The depth you've gone into with the baackstory is just fantastic, and I really, really love your characterisation, and the dynamic you have established between Sirius, Remus and Tonks.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 11th, 2007 11:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like writing a friendship dynamic among them--they're kind of forced into an awkward place, but all three of them are decent people, and the characters end up working well together.
i_autumnheart From: i_autumnheart Date: July 11th, 2007 06:33 am (UTC) (Link)
You do stop in the most emotional places :)

I loved the image of Padfoot all done up in Huffleuff and Gryffindor colours - I'd love to see a picture of that! I hadn't actually thought about what Tonks' being a Hufflepuff would mean for her approach to the tournament in the first place - kudos to you for including that extra dimension.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 11th, 2007 11:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
When I initially picked Hufflepuff over Ravenclaw for Tonks (and the choice was between those two over typical fannish pique about the "minor houses" ;p), it was mostly because I thought it would be really interesting if someone who joined the Order was largely motivated by disgust over the lie about Cedric Diggory's death. Because I've changed the timeline a bit, that may not end up being the main reason, but it'll still be a factor in how she sees things.
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: July 11th, 2007 08:00 am (UTC) (Link)
All over fantastic, with especial delight over "Helga Victrix" and "Godric Domitor."
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 11th, 2007 11:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I do love my English-Latin translator site. :)

Thanks!
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: July 11th, 2007 11:44 am (UTC) (Link)
The fanfare came again, then broke into a rousing chorus of the Hogwarts school song, awkwardly set to the tune of "Rule, Brittania!"

LOLOLOL! I didn't catch this when I read it last night, but today, it's cracking me up.

And a side note regarding your blog title:Spewing out too many words since November 2003

I most respectfully and vehemently DISAGREE.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 11th, 2007 11:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
LOLOLOL! I didn't catch this when I read it last night, but today, it's cracking me up.

I aim to please. (It doesn't fit particularly well, but the opening works with "Hogwarts! Hogwarts! Hoggy warty Hogwarts" fitting nicely to the "Rule Britannia, Britannia rule the waves" part.)
aeterna13 From: aeterna13 Date: July 11th, 2007 01:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
You know, I've found that the lyrics of the school song are almost a perfect match with the Jupiter theme from "The Planets" suite by Holst. Ehhh, you have to chop off one of the "Hogwarts" at the beginning, and it presents even more of a range issue than even the Star-Spangled Banner (you've really got to start it low in your range if you want any chance of finishing it without going screamingly high) but it's a gorgeous melody, and from what I hear, it's somewhat of an anthem in Britain.

Great segment as always.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 11th, 2007 11:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
What scares me about these sorts of tunes is that they often started their lives as pub songs. I don't want to think about a bunch of guys who'd been in a pub too long, linking arms on the way out and stumbling down the street trying to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner." Not because of sentiment, just because it's a frightening thought...

Thanks.
(Deleted comment)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 11th, 2007 11:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm hoping there's enough left of my ficverse for there to be a "rest of this" after 7/21! ;p

I like 'Puff pride!
dreamer_marie From: dreamer_marie Date: July 11th, 2007 04:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I loved how Tonks and Remus played with Sirius's fur. I'm glad that Tonks isn't being too mean to him (though I doubt he appreciated being turned yellow...).
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 11th, 2007 11:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like to play with normal things people might do, like dressing up their dogs for sports games. Of course, Remus's spell wasn't exactly more dignified for Sirius. And Tonks wouldn't have aimed that one at him if she hadn't suspected that he'd be indignant about Hufflepuff colors...
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 11th, 2007 08:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Love it, absolutely love it! I feel sheepish calling attention to one tiny typo: it's "Britannia," not "Brittania."
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 11th, 2007 11:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
No, thank you--that's the sort of thing I need to be told, or I'll blithely go on missing it. I use these comments for help in cleaning up!
excitedrainbow From: excitedrainbow Date: July 11th, 2007 10:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's strange getting anxious at cliffhangers that end in canon scenes, because we know what happens next, but I'm still feeling worried for them all. I suppose it draws on our feelings of when we first read the book, combined with how well you've written the perspectives of these characters.

Oh god, that image of Sirius with the Hufflepuff colours and symbol on him is priceless! Hee, Dora and her Hufflepride! I like her wariness of Sirius, even though she's inclined to believe them, and also her line about Aurors and being surprised, it was great.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 11th, 2007 11:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's strange getting anxious at cliffhangers that end in canon scenes

I'm particularly glad to hear that, as I was worried throughout this that people would think I was just wasting their time going over the First Task, but it's important enough to Sirius that I wanted his PoV on it, even if it means a chapter largely comprised of three people listening to a radio!
sharonaf From: sharonaf Date: July 12th, 2007 12:36 am (UTC) (Link)
"In the gilded halls of Beauxbatons, she is something of a queen, adored by boys, envied by girls. "

You know, I've wondered about this since GoF came out. All the Beauxbatons representatives were girls, weren't they? So is it a girls-only school, or do the girls just happen to be the more advanced students in it? Or maybe there are boys who enter separately from the girls? Or of course I may simply have misunderstood something in the book. It's been a while since I read it.

I particularly like your description of the introductory commentary. :-) Especially how various people describe poor Fleur!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 12th, 2007 12:48 am (UTC) (Link)
The movie had Beauxbatons as a girls' school and Durmstrang as a boys' school, but that's not the way it is in the book--at the Yule Ball, Parvati dances with a Beauxbatons boy, who summons one of his friends for Padma to dance with. We just didn't meet any of the boys from Beauxbatons or girls from Durmstrang. It was a weird decision for the movie, since it made it seem that eastern Europe was populated by men, western Europe by women. Only England, apparently, can reproduce on its own!
sharonaf From: sharonaf Date: July 12th, 2007 12:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
*grins* So it would seem...
Thanks for the correction!
Although, perhaps, if in Eastern Europe only men can inherit wizarding abilities, and in Western Europe only women can inherit wizarding abilities, you wind up with a failsafe against wizards getting closed-minded. They must either marry Muggles or people from different countries. But what would the children of a French witch and a Bulgarian wizard be? ;-)
From: tonkstipied Date: July 13th, 2007 04:12 pm (UTC) (Link)

awww

really good. i was away again for a long long time, doing this now www.myspace.com/harrypotterweekingalway

Have a great week
and thanks for your writing
prelud From: prelud Date: July 14th, 2007 02:55 am (UTC) (Link)
In a flash of light, Sirius's fur turned bright yellow. Badgers marched up his forelegs. He looked indignantly at Remus, who snickered, pointed his own wand and said, "Godric Domitor." The yellow turned scarlet, the black became golden lions, which prowled threateningly across his pelt and settled on his haunches. With a further flick of Remus's wand, his already full ruff abruptly grew out into a proper mane.
LOVE. I think I`m going to pay for a comission art of this.
kiwi_kimi From: kiwi_kimi Date: July 15th, 2007 03:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Nice! A good cliff-hanger ending.

One small typo: "Harry would need to day" - "to day" should be "today".

A small quibble: I don't think Remus would have much trouble finding a pub that would let a well-behaved dog stay all day, as long as Remus kept buying drinks for himself.

And a comment: I haven't come across the term "odds-maker" before. I think "bookmaker" or "bookie" might be a more likely usage in Britain.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 15th, 2007 03:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Heh, I thought "bookie" sounded too American! ;p

I'll change that to Remus saying that he couldn't think of a pub that would let him stay around with his dog all day without buying drinks. How friendly, to let the dogs in!
kiwi_kimi From: kiwi_kimi Date: July 15th, 2007 06:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Just in case memory was playing me false (it's a long time since I lived in England) I checked the OED, and "bookie" is definitely used in Britain (where it dates back to 1885 at least). So it's a colloquialism used rather widely in anglophone countries.
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