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Repost: Stray, Chapter Five: Interlude (1): Bonfire Night - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Repost: Stray, Chapter Five: Interlude (1): Bonfire Night
Okay, interlude! One thing I've missed in the Teddy stories has been breaking out every few chapters to do do multi-POVs.

In this one most of it was still all right, though I edited the Dumbledore section to include something about Grindelwald, and tweaked a few thought processes about the whole Triwizard plot.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




The night was long, the air crisp and cold, the dark sky lit more by fireworks and bonfires than by the tiny sliver of moon that had appeared.

Across the land, people gathered casually with old friends and new to enjoy one another's company, or at least to endure it.




There were no fireworks at the Crouch household, though Peter Pettigrew could see them going off not far away. Although little attention had been paid to Bonfire Night at Hogwarts (according to Hogwarts, A History, this had been a conscious decision to keep the nastier politics of the the Catholic-Protestant split outside the school walls), when he'd lived with the Weasleys, it had always been one of his favorite days. In rat form, he would sit in the children's hands, passed one to another, while they expressed awe at the fireworks. The twins, the year they were eight (Peter's last Bonfire Night at the Burrow before Percy took him off to school), had done something to the Filibuster's Fireworks to make them louder when they exploded. Ginny had sat beside Ron, and they'd let out great whoops of joy with each explosion, trying to drown out the sound with their own laughter. Percy had--

"Wormtail."

Peter turned. He had once pretended not to hear. He wouldn't do so again in a hurry. "Yes, master?"

"See to our host. He's becoming tedious again."

The Dark Lord was perfectly capable of re-casting the Imperius Curse, but it pleased him to have Peter do this, so Peter did it. He pointed his wand at Bartemius Crouch, Sr, who was sitting by the fire, looking about wildly, and said, "Imperio."

Crouch immediately became docile.

"Have you milked Nagini?" the Dark Lord asked Peter.

"Yes."

"And the supply of Polyjuice Potion is ready for our guest when he arrives?"

Peter sighed. He'd grown to hate the cabbagey smell that had seeped into every corner and nook of the house, but this business was nowhere near started, if they meant to go through with this insanely complicated plan. It would be all year. Peter had tried to suggest using another witch or wizard for the blood the Dark Lord needed--Amelia Bones had come to mind--but aside from the Dark Lord's obsession with getting Harry's blood, as Barty Crouch the younger had pointed out, it would be nearly impossible to find a formidable foe among the adults who wouldn't be able to fight them long enough to get away, or expend all of his blood trying. And Barty Crouch, of course, wanted it all to depend on him, so he'd concocted this mad scheme to snatch Harry in a moment of glory, and--

"Wormtail!"

"Yes, master. The potion is ready."

"Good. My loyal servant has arrived." The Dark Lord pointed his wand at the door, which opened to reveal what appeared to be Mad-Eye Moody, though even as Peter watched, he could see the long, grizzled gray hair retreating toward Barty Crouch's head. The wooden leg dropped to the floor.

Crouch hurried across to the great chair where the Dark Lord sat, and dropped to his knees. "My Lord," he said, "it is done. Harry Potter is in the Triwizard Tournament."

"I am well aware. Your father was able to recall the events in great detail with the proper encouragement. Wormtail!"

Peter shuffled over, staying to the shadows. "I have your potion," he told Barty.

Barty looked at him briefly, as he might look at a house elf who had performed adequately, but with no distinction. "You had no difficulties with it?"

Peter couldn't stop himself from glaring. "I got the first batch all right without you."

"At least until the end. If I'd tried to drink that, I'd have gone up like yon fireworks."

"It wasn't time to add the last ingredients yet," Peter said through clenched teeth. He'd been nearly finished, the potion brewing for most of its month, by the time he'd carried the Dark Lord here. Crouch had simply put the finishing touches on it, the Dark Lord going on at length about how Peter would undoubtedly bungle it. It made Peter long for his school days, when he'd kept quiet about his skills in potions (it had seemed only natural to not crow about being better at something than James or Sirius), but his friends had all known about it. Now, he seemed to spend all of his time protesting that he knew what he was doing while everyone else snidely accused him of being incompetent. "Did you bring the hair?"

Crouch produced a few hairs with bloody roots on them, and Peter took them over to the cauldron that bubbled steadily over the fire. He ladled some into a broad cup and dropped in the hair; the potion turned a deep blue. Barty took it and Peter filled a jug that he'd charmed to prevent the smell from coming out.

"Did you bring the boomslang skin?"

"Right out of Snape's cupboard," Barty said. "I think I'll be able to make the next batch myself. There's a handy spot in my office, and I won't have to slip out here with the Auror's hair."

"You see, Wormtail," the Dark Lord said, "how well he thinks things through."

Peter caught himself just short of rolling his eyes. That would have been dangerous.

"And what," the Dark Lord asked Barty, "do you make of my old friend Severus?"

"He betrayed you."

"Ah, haven't they all..."

Peter turned his back on them, and let the conversation wind out without input. He had no idea what to make of Snape himself--years at Hogwarts, sneaking around after curfew as a rat, had given him neither an idea of what had made Dumbledore trust him nor a notion of whether or not that trust was justified. The way his life was going, Snape would be revealed as a loyal Death Eater, much more useful than old Wormtail, anyway.

But it wouldn't be this year. He'd given nothing away to Crouch, either.

Was this really better than Azkaban?

He wasn't sure... but he was sure it was better than death, and death had been the promise from Remus and Sirius if he even tried to escape them. He didn't think either of them had made that promise lightly. Only Harry had been able to stop them last spring, and Peter didn't think he'd be able to count on that again, even if Harry were inclined to make the attempt.

"Wormtail! Wormtail, attend to me."

Peter took a deep breath, then turned back to the life he had chosen.




It was the first party Daffy and Maddie Apcarne had thrown together since the wedding reception, and it was a great success, given that it was a weeknight and everyone needed to be at work in the morning. At least half their year at Hogwarts had come, as well as a handful from other years, and their back garden was crowded and buzzing with conversation. Even Cathleen Mullet, still fresh from the World Cup last summer, had managed to make it, and she was basking in the glow of the bonfire, where a guy in an obvious parody of Bulgarian robes was burning merrily. She was baking an apple over him. Conrad Peale, a Slytherin who she'd gone about with at Hogwarts for a year or two, was leaning toward her attentively, and she didn't seem to mind renewing their acquaintance. Charlie Weasley, up on holiday, was taking every opportunity to look smug about something to do with the Triwizard Tournament, and needling Cath a bit about the Irish team needing to find a better Seeker if they ever expected to beat Bulgaria again. Sanjiv McPherson was entertaining a crowd with stories of young Cedric Diggory, who they'd all known every bit as well as Sanj knew him, but a story was a story, and Sanj told them well. Maddie had got herself lodged in what looked like a less than stellar conversation with someone's drunken companion (Lizzy Blandeshin's, Daffy thought), and Daffy might have gone over to get her out of it if he hadn't spotted Tonks sitting by herself on a low, rocky rise, off in the shadows, looking uncharacteristically thoughtful.

He made his way over and sat down beside her.

"They already caught Guy Fawkes, you know," he said. "You don't need to look for clues in the bonfire."

She grinned. "Sorry."

"Is something wrong?"

"No. Well, yes. Maybe."

"A clearer answer has never been had." Daffy put his hand on Tonks's shoulder. He'd seen Tonks slip into dark moods before. It wasn't common and rarely lasted for long, but they were so jarring in comparison to her usual personality that each one seemed to stand out, like a little black hole in time, sucking everything else into itself. He had no desire to see another one descend. "Can you talk about it, or is it one of those work secrets you girls are supposed to keep?"

She started to say, "It's work," but stopped. "Daffy, can I ask you something hypothetically?"

"Sure."

"I think someone is lying to me. If it's the lie I think it is, he's got a damned good reason to tell it, because I'd have to tell the truth to people who could... hurt him."

Daffy raised his eyebrows. "This is work, then."

"Yes. And no."

"And maybe?"

"Maybe so." She smiled in a perfunctory way. "I think... if I weren't an Auror... I might be telling similar lies. I think..." She bit her lip. "It's just that he thinks he's pulling wool over my eyes, and he's so damnably pleased with himself for doing it. But of course, he has to do it. If I ever find out for sure what I suspect... And shouldn't I be trying to find out for sure? Isn't that what I'm meant to be doing? But I don't want to know, if it is true. So he has to keep lying, and I have to keep believing, even though I don't, and--"

She'd started waving her hands and Daffy caught them. "That's a lot to think about, Tonks."

"Trust me, I know. There's not much room left in my skull."

Daffy patted her hands. He had a brief, absurd image of himself as a wise, older married man, giving advice to a callow young girl in the ways of the world. He'd periodically felt this way since the wedding, and both Tonks and Sanjiv had made fun of him mercilessly when he started to act on it. "Look," he said, "you know what's right. You know what your conscience tells you."

"No, I don't. That's the problem!" She shook her head. "I trust... this person. The one who's lying to me. And if he's doing it, he has a good reason. And I can't just ignore it, even though Kingsley says I'm meant to. But also, it's my job. My responsibility."

Daffy flailed in his mind, having no idea whatsoever how to advise her. Instead, he just put his arm around her shoulders and gave her a little squeeze. "It'll come to you," he said. "When you need it, you'll know."

"I hope so."

"In the meantime," Daffy said, Summoning over a guy that hadn't been dressed yet, "let's do some symbolic human sacrifice. You can dress him up as Scrimgeour..."




Albus Dumbledore looked down at the black surface of the lake far below. Some students--almost certainly the Weasley twins and Lee Jordan--had snuck quite a distance down the bank, and were setting off fireworks. This was strictly against school rules, and Dumbledore hoped they'd thought to invite guests from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons.

Reflected in the window, he could see the silvery light of his Pensieve. He'd barely used it for ten years, but lately, it had seemed necessary again.

For Harry.

There were things Harry would need to understand one day, and if Albus meant to teach those things, he would need to more fully explore them himself, a prospect he didn't especially relish. It would lead, in the end, to things he didn't care to let back into his life. But who else knew? Who else might have the clues he'd accumulated over the years? Even he wouldn't have them if he couldn't get enough distance to see how it all fit together. The thought of Nurmengard crossed his mind--if anyone would have an insight on this, it would be Gellert Grindelwald--but he chose not pursue it. What Gellert knew, Albus had learned in the end. What he needed was already in his mind, once he could see the pattern it made.

Eventually, he would need to find a way to let Harry into this rumination, at least as far as knowing the history--a direct invitation, he felt, would be met with puzzlement and lack of engagement--but not yet. Not until he himself had a sense of what was happening.

So many scattered truths and fractured lives, so many people each holding a piece of a puzzle and believing it to be whole. But how to join them, to bring them back together...

He shook his head and turned back to his desk. He prodded the Pensieve with his wand, and Sirius Black rose from the mist, a boy with slightly wild eyes, almost truly rendered in the silvery substance. Another stir brought up Regulus Black--a thinner, more nervous duplicate of his brother. The two circled one another, back to back, then sank back into the basin. Another prod brought up their mother and father--Walburga, beautiful and hot-tempered; Orion, three years behind her in school, in awe of her, or perhaps superstitious dread, at least when he'd been Albus's student. Walburga had once tormented a young half-blood orphan called Tom Riddle. Tom had retaliated then by humiliating Orion, two years younger than he was, and Walburga had got a month's detention over her own payback for this, which had destroyed several of Tom's essays and spoiled his perfect marks for the term. Albus didn't know the details of what had stopped this Slytherin in-fighting, nor did Horace Slughorn, but both suspected that Walburga's younger brother Alphard--her first bullying victim and one of her last--had slipped a Calming Draught into her pumpkin juice. Tom, of course, was simply better at biding his time. Dumbledore doubted that Tom Riddle had forgotten any slight in his life, and the shattered ruins of Walburga Black's family undoubtedly pleased him, whether he'd personally engineered it or not.

There was a rap at the door and Albus waved his wand to open it. Minerva McGonagall came in with a bottle of port. Albus Conjured two glasses, and they sat down without saying anything. It was an old, comfortable routine.

"Bugga Black?" Minerva asked, looking at the Pensieve with distaste but not much surprise. The two girls had been in the same year, and had loathed one another on sight. "It's probably good that Alastor isn't here tonight. He'd curse your Pensieve just to be on the safe side."

Albus smiled. "Yes, I imagine he might."

Minerva took a sip of her port, then set the glass down thoughtfully. "Albus, this business with the Triwizard Tournament--it's setting half the school against Harry, and Gryffindor against the other houses."

"There's nothing to be done for it, Minerva; it's a magical contract. Whoever hoodwinked the Goblet knew that."

"I don't like this business."

"Nor do I."

"I feel half-blind here. There are things outside these walls that are moving, but we can't compromise--"

"I know, Minerva." Albus set down his glass. "We need eyes on the outside, and we need a safe place to gather information. Hogwarts is the safest place to keep information, of course, but it's not an entirely inconspicuous place for outsiders to come and share it, even this year."

"Our old headquarters..."

But Albus was already shaking his head. "It's no longer safe. James held a lot of the protections, and when he died, they were shattered. We'd have needed a new headquarters if things hadn't turned out as they did that night."

Minerva considered this. "Is it time to call them together again?"

"I don't know," Albus admitted. "Since it became clear that Lord Voldemort was seeking the Philosopher's Stone, I've considered it. That was one of the reasons I wanted Lupin here last year, and is certainly why I called Alastor this year." He thought of bringing up the problem of Sirius Black as well--the rather large issue of hiding a fugitive from the law--but Minerva knew nothing of the truth of what had happened. Was it time to tell her? Had there been a reason not to? "We'll wait and watch," he finally said. "And as long as Harry is within our reach, we'll protect him."




"Come on now, Dennis," Colin said. "We can get around this way."

Dennis struggled over a pile of rocks, and Colin caught his hand to steady him on the other side. They'd followed the Weasley twins out forty minutes ago, and they still hadn't quite got a good angle on the magical fireworks. Dennis wanted to send a wizarding picture of them back to Dad, and he wanted to take it himself this time. Colin had promised to teach him how to develop it properly.

"We're almost at the gate, aren't we?" Dennis asked. "I could take a picture of that as well."

"It doesn't really do anything," Colin said. "And the Dementors aren't there this year, so there's nothing to see."

But Dennis was already heading off down the road toward the gate. He'd come across the lake and not got a proper glimpse of it yet.

Dennis stopped abruptly just short of the gate and pointed, eyes wide. In the night, they heard a soft grunt of pain.

Colin squinted into the shadows. Lying on the far side of the gate was a wooden peg, heavy and splintered. "It's Professor Moody!" he said, and ran ahead, not worrying about losing house points. If a fellow lost his leg, that wasn't the sort of thing you snuck away at to avoid a bit of humiliation. "Professor Moody?" he called. "Are you all right?"

The next grunt was startled, and Colin saw an arm jerk up. It looked like Moody was sitting with his back to the far side of the gate.

"Who is it?" he growled. His voice sounded strange and thick.

"It's the Creeveys," Colin answered. "Colin and Dennis. Do you need help?"

"You're past curfew." A hand reached out and grabbed the wooden leg, and a moment later, Moody himself appeared around the gate, magical eye roaming about. Colin wondered briefly why he'd needed to ask who they were, since the eye could see around corners, then realized that, of course, he hadn't had time to memorize everyone's name and face yet. He'd have no reason to know them. Moody narrowed his eyes at them, then said, "Reckon we've caught each other here."

"Sir?" Dennis said, shaking.

"I'll tell you what," Moody said, giving them a wink. He sounded quite drunk, actually, though he didn't smell like liquor. "I won't mention your little Bonfire Night excursion, and you don't mention mine. Not exactly proper for a teacher who can't keep his own leg attached to fault you for seeing a firework or two."

Dennis laughed. "Don't worry, sir. We've helped our Aunt Primsy with worse than this."

Moody joined the laughter heartily, and led them back up to the castle, telling them ribald stories that Colin didn't think he'd have told students sober. It was fun, in a strange way, but Colin still felt acutely uncomfortable, as he had when he'd found a magazine his father's workshop that he didn't think he was meant to have seen (not that this had stopped him from leafing through it thoroughly).

They lost no points that night, nor did anyone else hear of Mad-Eye Moody's Bonfire Night binge.




By ten o'clock, there was no danger of a surprise visit from an Auror. Dora hadn't told Remus as much, but she had mentioned that they were on a skeleton crew during night hours, and it seemed unlikely that they'd waste Aurors on fishing expeditions. So far, it had proved to be right, and he was tired of trying to carry on a conversation with a dog, so he said, "Oh, for God's sake, Sirius, transform."

The great black dog lay down and rolled over, and when the roll was complete, he was Sirius again, a foolish grin on his face, basking in the heat of the bonfire. "You're sure they're not spying on you from the sky?"

"Reasonably, yes."

"They haven't hired the hogboon to report on you?"

"The hogboon knows who's not exactly putting a full effort into expulsion." Remus poured a glass of firewhiskey and gave it to Sirius, who raised it without making a toast and downed it. He supposed he should be putting more effort into the expulsion he'd agreed to do, but it was difficult to muster enthusiasm for the task when success carried no bonus and meant that the landlady would sell the island out from under him. As she'd had no success for ten years, he didn't think she'd question a few more months.

"Why does it put up with you, anyway? I thought they were ancestral guards."

Remus shrugged. "Some vague, distant connection on Mum's side. Which means she wasn't quite as Muggle-born as she thought she was--only a wizard can put himself into a hogboon."

"I'd give good odds that a lot of Muggle-borns are descended from disowned Squibs," Sirius said.

"They've never found any evidence of it if they are. And not every family disowns its Squibs."

"True. That could be one of the perks of being born into the Noble and Most Ancient..." He held up his glass. "To the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black," he said, and drank. A grimace crossed his face to match whatever memory had come. "Don't let me do that again," he said.

"And how do you propose I stop you?"

"Good point." Sirius sat forward. "How am I going to talk to Harry, Remus? Sending owls back and forth is absurd, and there are some things he needs to know. I was thinking about calling him by Floo. I'd have to make sure he's alone in the common room."

"I'm not on the Floo Network," Remus said. "I don't suppose you've still got the keys to your parents' home--God knows no one else can get in there."

"No," Sirius said.

Remus supposed it had been too much to hope for--the old place would have been a nearly perfect place to hide, but if Sirius could get in, he probably would have thought of it already. It wouldn't be a happy memory, but for Harry's sake, Remus was quite sure that Sirius would risk facing the ghosts of the Blacks--his own personal hogboons. "All right," he said. "I think the people on the next island are magical. I'm not sure, so we should take the boat over to investigate rather than Apparating. If they're out, maybe we could use their fireplace."

"Can we go tomorrow?"

"If your head isn't hurting you too much."

Sirius relaxed with a smile and looked up at the auroras, which were twisting across the sky like ropes tonight. "It's not so bad up here in the country," he said, then sat up. "What was that?"

Remus strained to hear. Over the wind, he could hear, very faintly, the bleating of sheep on the neighboring island, but nothing else. "What was what?"

"That high-pitched whining sound. I think it's on the next island."

Remus rolled his eyes, realizing that he had already heard what Sirius had. "Sheep," he said. "City boy."

Sirius laughed, and Remus wasn't entirely sure whether it was relief at having his fear allayed or amusement at having successfully fooled Remus into thinking he really didn't know what the sound was. "So, talk to me. You made friends with my cousin. Who else have you made, er, friends with?"

He waggled his eyebrows obscenely on the word "friends," and Remus shook his head wearily. "Well," he said, "I had a torrid affair with a lovely young starlet a few years ago, but I was afraid she was just after my money."

"A perfectly reasonable fear, of course."

"And there was a madcap business with an heiress from New York, but I think she just wanted to attach herself to my reputation."

"And don't tell me--the Greek Quidditch star was only interested in your looks."

"You know my trials and tribulations well, Sirius."

"What, you're not going to ask me?"

Remus calculated how the joke would go over in this mood, then went ahead and said, "I know--it must have been a real wrench to walk away from that ravishingly beautiful Dementor..."

Sirius's laughter rose, high and free, with the sparks of the bonfire, across the lines of the aurora, fading into the stars above the North Sea.

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Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 16th, 2009 09:37 am (UTC) (Link)
> "I think someone is lying to me. If it's the lie I think it is, he's got a damned good reason to tell it, because I'd have to tell the truth to people who could... hurt him."

I think there might be a "not" missing in this.

Really enjoying the story so far. I thought I'd read the previous posting of these chapters, but perhaps not.

Alex
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 17th, 2009 07:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Where's the 'not'...? (It's quite possible that I've totally missed it.)

Whether it's re-read or a first read, I'm glad you're enjoying. ;)
From: severely_lupine Date: March 16th, 2009 11:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Wonderful. It really is nice to get these little glimpses of other people now and then.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 17th, 2009 07:36 am (UTC) (Link)
It's very freeing after doing tight POVs.
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: March 16th, 2009 12:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I missed the interludes, too!

You know who is always made of win? McGonagall is always made of win.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 17th, 2009 07:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Always and in all matters. :)

I need a "Stray" icon--can I use that Tonks and Sirius-in-dog form one you did?
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: March 17th, 2009 11:54 am (UTC) (Link)
YES A MILLION.
malinbe From: malinbe Date: March 16th, 2009 03:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love this. Yay for multiple POVs! The Dumbledore/McGonagall interaction is so interesting.

And it's really nice to see Sirius so fine.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 17th, 2009 07:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Sirius has his really, really good moments, and a lot of them come in GoF.
From: spitc1899 Date: March 17th, 2009 01:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Ever since this chapter went up the first time, I've wondered - what does Sirius see when he toasts the Noble and Most Ancient?

I love it just as much as the first time.
(Deleted comment)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 17th, 2009 07:38 am (UTC) (Link)
With Sirius, it could be anything, couldn't it?
silvery_wraith From: silvery_wraith Date: March 17th, 2009 07:17 am (UTC) (Link)
oh, Fern. How is it you hit all my buttons perfectly for every character in this interlude? I loved Albus and Minerva's port session and I especially loved the last bit with Remus and Sirius. 'City boy', indeed. This interlude shows how comfortable Remus and Sirius are together, even after all these years.

I love your characterization, it's just so spot on!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 17th, 2009 07:38 am (UTC) (Link)
It's good to have old friends who know all of your tics. I think they both need that.
vytresna From: vytresna Date: March 17th, 2009 12:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
"They already caught Guy Fawkes, you know," he said. "You don't need to look for clues in the bonfire."

Huh. Once I had a dream where we all thought out elaborate theories about who sent that letter, though. ("We all" being orphans accustomed to lots of Gothic motifs. Even my dreams are swathed in oblique irony.)

Even if the Triwizard Plot is well within Voldemort's sense of total melodrama, for some reason it feels more right that it's Barty's doing. I think it's partly that Voldemort is, after all, the main villain, and partly that Barty's melodrama makes Voldemort look like Keanu Reeves.
mollywheezy From: mollywheezy Date: August 17th, 2009 05:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love the multiple points of view, especially the Creeveys, since that was so unexpected.

I think my favorite line was, "This was strictly against school rules, and Dumbledore hoped they'd thought to invite guests from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons." LOL

Also loved Tonks' confusion--very well written!

LOL again at Remus' ending joke. ;)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 17th, 2009 06:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! I just glanced at my "Recent Comments" page and noticed you've been reading... I appreciate all the comments!
17 comments or Leave a comment