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Teddy Lupin and the Daedalus Maze, Chapter Twenty-Six: Fort Potter, pt. 3 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Teddy Lupin and the Daedalus Maze, Chapter Twenty-Six: Fort Potter, pt. 3
Teddy's been in London for the first of his evaluations with the DoM. He goes to Harry's for dinner, and the kids show him a fort they've made in the courtyard, with bits of junk from the attic of 12GP. Teddy and Harry talk; Harry gives him some pictures of his parents, then promises him that even when they disagree, he'll be supportive. Teddy asks him to keep an eye out for anything odd that's coming out of the DoM, because he doesn't think the Unspeakables are treating the Maze with quite as much respect as it ought to get. Meanwhile, he's told Maddie that he next wants to look into Faith.

Note: I realized while writing that, never having had a written communication with a Catholic priest, I'm not sure of the proper "sign-off" from Alderman in a letter. Eg, a lawyer might write, "Sincerely, Jane Doe, Esq." Does anyone happen to know?

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




By Wednesday, Teddy was regretting his decision to move to Faith. He couldn't think of any good questions, except for trite, common things. Every time he pictured himself bringing up something like, "If God exists, why is there evil?", he winced. And he guessed that they wouldn't think much of something as selfish as "If God is just, then why did Fenrir Greyback outlive my father?"

He scribbled them down anyway, hoping they would lead to something incredibly wise to ask, but by supper on Wednesday night, he was hopeless on the subject.

"Why don't you ask Brother Francis?" Frankie asked, scanning the text of a manuscript his father had sent to him for editing. "He's always offering 'help of a spiritual nature.'"

"He's a ghost," Teddy said. "I don't think they think very deeply."

Frankie shrugged. "What about that werewolf priest? I'll bet he's got a lot."

Teddy didn't really want to nick Père Alderman's questions, but he couldn't think of anyone else, so after he finished pudding, he went back to his dormitory and wrote a letter, explaining that he just needed help thinking of Faith questions to ask, things that wouldn't be so selfish or silly.

On Friday morning, a tattered-looking owl came from France. It held up its foot for Teddy to take its message. Teddy gave it the rest of his breakfast.

Dear Teddy, Père Alderman had written, I'm not entirely certain how to advise you. Of course your questions are personal--it's a deeply personal matter. Don't imagine that when I presented myself to the parish priest in Nyons that I was consumed with abstract questions about the nature of the universe, or how many angels could dance on the head of the famous pin. Quite to the contrary, I asked what you did--how could Lupin be gone while Greyback was still alive? How could a good man lose his chance at happiness, and what did it mean for all of us? I went there in the pit of a great despair, because I had lost all faith that the world could be kind. If the world could give him a tiny, fleeting taste of happiness, only to snatch it away forever, why should any of us have hope in anything? As the Psalmist wrote, "Out of the depths, I cry to Thee," right? Only I was mostly screaming at, rather than crying to.

I expected the priest--Père Marcel--to talk about eternal rewards, and I was quite prepared to go on a rampage about how eternal rewards oughtn't replace the chance at being happy here on earth, but he just let me talk. And then he said, "No, Robert, you're right. There is nothing just in what you describe. God Himself would weep at such a thing." A bit after that, I confessed everything to him, including my lycanthropy, and we asked questions of a much more personal sort than you're proposing.

I've never come to a satisfactory conclusion, so I don't expect that you've got a trite answer ready to be patted into place as soon as you're ready to put it there. After all, you never did anything at all, and were also horribly cheated. It's a perfectly decent faith question. My only caution is that it's a painful one, and you might not want to go deeply into it in front of the near-strangers who are evaluating you.

Oddly, I suspect this is a conversation you might have had with your father and mother. During the last year of the war, I'd started to study Catholicism, largely to honor a man called Father Montgomery, and I had a long and fruitful conversation with them. Your mother was a woman of faith and good hope--a solid Protestant, but she didn't hold my own explorations against me. Your dad was baptized Catholic, but after his bite, his family asked a lot of angry questions of their own, and the questions led them in quite a different direction. He spent a good part of his adulthood rather sour on God. I expect that the three of you might have had some very interesting conversations. If you still dream as you once told me that you did, you might find it profitable to ask them... though their situation may well change the equation entirely.

It's not the easy questions about Faith that are interesting (and I do suggest that your instinct about what you call "silly" questions is more on the mark than your worry about "selfish" ones, though I'd merely call them "often-asked"), but the questions that are hard, and they will always come from deep inside you. Don't marginalize them.

On the other hand, as I mentioned, these
are personal matters, so you may wish to ask more academic questions, like how faith functions in the context of community. I recall reading a thinker (don't ask who, I can't find my notes!) once who said that only faith can truly create a civilization--whether it's faith in God or faith in some secular ideal, or some combination thereof--because creating a civilization requires profoundly unnatural behaviors, like restraining your instinct to kill your neighbor and claim his pretty mate, which ultimately happen because we have some sort of system that we take on faith. I don't know if that's true or not, but it's nice and impersonal.

Does that help at all?

I will admit that I'd enjoy talking to you about it this summer, if you have a chance. You'd be surprised how infrequently I get to talk about these things!

In faith,
Fr. Bob Alderman


Over his printed name, he'd scrawled, in his large, mostly illegible, and vaguely violent hand, "Alderman."

Gratefully, Teddy scribbled the question about community down on his notes, and circled it. He thought uncomfortably of Jeremiah Galdreward and his brother, coming to fratricide, but surely, the new Maze would take him somewhere different.

He didn't think he could force one of his dreams. He'd tried once or twice with only marginal results. Besides, the idea of forcing one of them just to argue with his parents about religion didn't seem appealing. Instead, he just wrote a thank you to Alderman, and went to the library after supper to get background on faith and community-building. Geoffrey Philips, who happened to be picking up a book from Madam Pince at the same time, looked horrified.

When he got back to his room, there was another owl, this one from James, who wanted to tell more stories of Fort Potter. He'd decided that the paperweight Kingsley had given him was really an especially magic portal, which would take them anywhere in time, as long as they were all sitting on Uncle Harry's school trunk. Al and Lily were apparently happy to play along, though Meg did not approve. Teddy wrote back, suggesting that they find proper costumes, so they wouldn't stand out. He mentioned that "Grannydromeda" would be able to help, figuring she'd know to let them into Mum's wardrobes if they asked.

He went to sleep.

He found himself again in Dad's memory, the Day of the Hawk, but it wasn't entirely the memory in the ring. For one thing, Teddy was there himself, not looking out through Dad's eyes. For another, Grandmother Julia was nowhere to be seen. Finally, Dad, a very small boy in the dream, was wearing a bright white shirt and a McManus tartan kilt. One arm was covered in a leather gauntlet for the hawk to land on, but it was far away now, just a speck.

Dad was sitting on the low stone wall, Teddy standing behind him, in Grandmother Julia's usual spot. Dad's head was tilted back, his eyes fixed on the faraway hawk. He raised the gauntleted arm hopefully, then lowered it again with a sigh.

"He'll come back," Teddy said. "You feed him."

"I know." Dad turned, and Teddy realized that, despite appearances, he was not a small boy at all. "But I sometimes wonder if it would be better if I just let him fly away and hunt on his own."

Teddy shook his head. "You don't make him come back. He wants to."

Dad gave him a small smile and said, "I've heard that before."

"Well, you should listen to your elders," Teddy said, and grinned. The hawk was starting to circle down. "Budge over." Dad slid over, and Teddy sat down beside him on the wall, looking up at the bird himself. He could also see from the hawk's eyes, the two boys sitting far below. It didn't seem strange to see both.

He and Dad didn't talk much more, just passing mentions of the weather and the passing birds, but they sat together there on the cool Scottish cliff, listening to the waves as Dad's hawk circled slowly down to them.

Teddy woke up on Saturday morning feeling rested and safe.
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Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 11th, 2008 08:17 am (UTC) (Link)

Sign-off

The sign off a priest uses will in most cases not differ from that one would use socially. In the case of Pere Alderman, where he knows Teddy personally, and is/was a family friend(?) he would treat a query more expansively than he might from a perfect stranger: i.e., for a stranger he would give a straight and correct answer, but for a friend he would try to look at the reasons behind the query and using his knowledge of the circumstances of the querist he would extend a warm offer of understanding and continuing help on a personal basis, which would not necessarily depend on the querist being a believer.

Hope that helps
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 11th, 2008 08:28 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Sign-off

I wrote my previous posting before reading your episode, i.e. arising only from your pre-posting query. I think you got the tone of Alderman's letter just right. Remember a priest, be he RC, Protestant or Jewish, is still a person and motivated by the same social rules as the rest of society. A stanza from Belloc may be appropriate:

From quiet homes and first beginning,
Out to the undiscovered ends,
There's nothing worth the wear of winning,
But laughter and the love of friends.
thornyrose42 From: thornyrose42 Date: October 11th, 2008 11:49 am (UTC) (Link)
You know one thing (out of many many things) that I like about you writing, on Teddy in particular, is that you don't shy away from the really tough questions. Obviously Life and the DoM require us to ask the big questions but it is so rare that you see them addressed in fanfic or in a lot of published works as well. So yes, thumbs up.

Also you age your characters really well, Alderman in particular.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 12th, 2008 02:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! I'm with Alderman--easy questions aren't interesting. :)
illudwinnepooh4 From: illudwinnepooh4 Date: October 11th, 2008 01:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I searched my e-mail archives for sign-offs from my childhood priest, and the two he used were "sincerely" and "with love & affection," so I think more or less anything goes. "In faith" is certainly appropriate, although it might be a little overuse of the concept since the whole letter was regarding faith. "God Bless" might be a different way to phrase it, although Alderman might think that would make Teddy (a non-Catholic) uncomfortable. "Love and prayers" is a favorite of my uncle, who is a Catholic friar.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 12th, 2008 02:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I like "love and prayers." I think I'll switch to that, if your uncle wouldn't mind being cribbed for fanfic!
gabrielladusult From: gabrielladusult Date: October 11th, 2008 02:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Reminds me of a joke:

A Franciscan and a Dominican were debating about whose order was the greater. After months of arguing, they decided to ask for an answer from God when they died. Years later, they met in heaven and decided to go to the throne of God to resolve their old disagreement. God seemed a bit puzzled about the question and told them he would reply in writing a few days later. After much deliberation, God sent the following letter:

My beloved children,

Please stop bickering about such trivial matters. Both of your orders are equally great and good in my eyes.

Sincerely yours,

God, S.J.

The S.J. indicates God is a Jesuit -- I don't know the initials for all the orders, but if Fr. Alderman has an order, then he would possibly include it, although if he considers this correspondence with Teddy more informal, possibly not. When we registered for our church here, the Priest's printed title in the response letter was Rev. Msgr. Joe Blow because he is a Monsignor, but that was a canned official response. I haven't had a personal letter from a priest in a long time -- but I may be able to dig something out of my wedding file later.

I thought Alderman would have said 'proverbial' pin instead of 'famous' -- but perhaps he wouldn't use the term proverb so loosely.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 12th, 2008 03:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Ha! I think that may be the most Catholic joke I've read. Of course, as a lapsed Protestant who's spent a long time as a Jew, I needed the footnote. :)

You know, until I went back and re-read, I thought I had written proverbial!
hermia7 From: hermia7 Date: October 11th, 2008 02:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, LOVELY letter.

Re. the sign-off, we're Episcopal and call our priest Father Simon; he signs emails with whatever is appropriate (best wishes, look forward to seeing you, etc.) and then signs his name "Simon+"! Love him.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 12th, 2008 03:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, that's a good thought, too. I've seen that from Lutheran pastors.
willowbough From: willowbough Date: October 11th, 2008 02:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I heart Alderman. He's so good for Teddy, and he seems to have a real knack for cutting through the angst and coming straight to the crux of the matter. Not to mention helping Teddy put his spiritual and emotional issues into perspective.

Intrigued by Teddy's dream too. It's always good to see Remus, even in such an atypical guise. Hope this means Teddy's getting closer to figuring out the Animagus conundrum.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 12th, 2008 03:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Perspective is something Teddy needs--and not necessarily in the sense of seeing things as smaller than they are. I think he really needed someone to tell him that his anger is at something utterly huge.
malinbe From: malinbe Date: October 11th, 2008 02:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
My uncle/godfather is a Catholic priest. He signs off by adding "P" before his name (for "Padre"- which would be "Father"). Soo... "Fr. Bob Alderman" is great. If you have anymore questions, I'll be glad to be of help.
I'll review the chapter later, gotta go.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 12th, 2008 03:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmm. Be careful what you offer. ;p

Seriously, I need to find out a bit about the process--both internal and external--of converting from Protestantism to Catholicism. If you know of any good resources, I'd like to take a look!
kt_tonguetied From: kt_tonguetied Date: October 11th, 2008 03:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
i would love to see Teddy's questions answered! *is still deeply wounded by the injustice of it all*

very nice ending to the installment, nonetheless :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 12th, 2008 03:50 am (UTC) (Link)
*is still deeply wounded by the injustice of it all*

Tell me about it.
daksian From: daksian Date: October 11th, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
"If God is just, then why did Fenrir Greyback outlive my father?"

I have an answer to that, but it's a bit of metafiction as well as "God's justice". Remus and Dora Lupin had to die so that Teddy could live the life Harry Potter should have had if he hadn't been with the Dursleys. The literary reason for Teddy's very existence is to draw a parallel to Harry's own life, and to show 'what might have been'. So the 'justice' is in this case is to balance out what was wrong with Harry's home life as a child.

This of course begs the question...who's going to balance out what was wrong with Teddy's life as a child?

Somehow, I think these answers would not only infuriate Teddy Lupin, but Harry Potter as well.

Anyway, I liked Alderman's response. I think it was reasoned and compassionate and respectful, things that Teddy needs to approach this kind of issue.

And I loved the symbolism of Teddy's dream. Teddy, you're the hawk, you know that, right?
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darth_pipes From: darth_pipes Date: October 11th, 2008 09:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like Alderman too, he's a terrific character.

Good post, Fern.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 12th, 2008 03:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. Alderman was always one of my little pets, I have to admit. :)
hungrytiger11 From: hungrytiger11 Date: October 11th, 2008 10:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oddly enough, my favorite part is that Meg Does Not Approve.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 12th, 2008 03:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Meg's very picky, you know. ;p
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under_crisis From: under_crisis Date: October 12th, 2008 01:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
i find that i have to think about the questions posed by pere alderman... i haven't quite absorbed the whole thing yet, and i really have to go in a bit, as it's sunday night and monday morning's a grinch.

anyway, just to let you know i am a catholic, but i think the whole "rev./rev. fr. so-and-so" would appear mostly on formal missives or reports. oh, i have a distant relation who's a monsignor, so his title is msgr. instead of rev. i'd have to ask my mum about it. but, since father bobby is a personal friend of teddy's, i think he'd address himself as more of an uncle, or whatever teddy usually calls him to his face. (which, i have to admit, i don't really remember any more).

and like someone mentioned, if the priest belonged to an order, like the jesuits or dominicans, there are initials at the end of his name denoting his affiliation.
tree_and_leaf From: tree_and_leaf Date: October 13th, 2008 09:23 am (UTC) (Link)
went to the library after supper to get background on faith and community-building. Geoffrey Philips, who happened to be picking up a book from Madam Pince at the same time, looked horrified.


This bit really made me smile!

About the letter: I don't think Alderman would sign off using 'Fr'; that seems too formal for the sort of letter it is. If he's a member of an order he'd probably write the abbreviation after his name - Bob Alderman, SJ/ OP/ OFM/ whatever (respectively: the Society of Jesus i.e. the Jesuits, the Order of Preachers, i.e. the Dominicans, and the Order of Friars Minor, i.e. the Franciscans). But he wouldn't necessarily be a member of any order, and if he's a parish priest he's more likely to be a 'secular' and a member of no order, though it wouldn't be impossible for him to be something else.

'In faith' sounds a bit odd; it's partly because it sounds a bit American - I think if a British person would say that at all, they'd write 'yours in faith,' but it also sounds - I'm not sure; given that Teddy doesn't share his faith, it sounds a bit too much like something written by someone who feels the need to demonstrate their piety, which Alderman wouldn't. Though given the theme of the letter, I suppose he might write it even though he wouldn't normally (but then . Most of the priests I know tend to sign off the same way anyone else would, though I do know one chap who tends to write 'Blessings, X'
amamama From: amamama Date: October 14th, 2008 06:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Hm, I managed to skip this part... Well, lucky for me - because now I got to read loads of interesting comments. :) Great chapterlet, I love Alderman's letter to Teddy (and the way you don't shy away from the good questions in life in your story), but this part made me stumble a bit: ..., but the questions that are hard, and they will always come from... - don't you have a "that" too much in there? At least to me, "but the questions are hard" makes more sense. Alderman is great, and I do hope he and Teddy will have some good conversations in the summer (and that we'll get to read them, of course!). I'm a very spiritual person, though I prefer not to attach myself to any religion as I find them to be human constructs that are limiting, and all the priests I've come in touch with have been rather closed-minded. Alderman, otoh, I think I could've had some interesting conversations with. Possibly other priests as well, but I don't have a need to seek them out.

Cheers!
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 21st, 2009 01:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
My Great uncle always signs "now and always in him, love ..." giving a religious note to a private letter, which might be appropriate for Alderman. It really depends which order he is from. Jesuits tend to be less formal but very educated, Franciscans homely in their traditions and I am not so well informed about the other orders. I sort of imagine Alderman as one of the mendicate orders (beggar priests), rather than the teaching ones like the Jesuits and the Marists.
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