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Stray, Chapter Fourteen: Security, pt. 2 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Stray, Chapter Fourteen: Security, pt. 2
Sorry this is so late. I really have to get in the groove here. When I'm really cooking on a story, it's like finding a beat and dancing, but now, I feel like Harry in at the Yule Ball, waiting for someone to start steering. ;p

Speaking of which...

Sirius is feeling out of sorts when Remus goes off to transform the week before Christmas, and is glad when Dumbledore distracts him by showing him the cave in Hogsmeade where he'll be going. Unfortunately, after Dumbledore leaves, he's still restless, and starts wandering in dog form, finding himself on a path he and the other Marauders had often taken that leads him to the Shrieking Shack. Once inside, he thinks about the last time he was there, knows he should go back to the island like a sane fugitive, and so drops down into the tunnel and heads for Hogwarts.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

The tunnel seemed longer now than it had when they'd all been young and on a grand lark. Sirius had noticed that strange phenomenon last year, when he'd first started using it to gain access to Hogwarts. He wondered now if it had always seemed this long to Remus--a long, twisting passage that led ultimately to pain and fear. Or had it seemed shorter? Too short, even, as emerging from it would mean another night of horror?

Maybe it had depended on which way he was going. Going this way, he'd have just been coming back to Hogwarts. Or...

Sirius lost the train of his thought, which happened a lot in dog form. That, he considered one of the primary benefits of being an Animagus: you could just make the thoughts that were circling like vultures fly away after some other distraction.

He padded along the uneven floor, his eyes going automatically to the ghost-like reminders of his boyhood that had been left behind. Here was the overhang Remus had backed into once as he walked them partway back one morning, telling them that they really oughtn't do this anymore. He'd got taller than he thought he was, and had hit his head mid-scold, landing on the floor, and sending all four of them into gales of laughter. There was a scoring in the rock from a time when James had very unwisely tried to transform in the tunnel. And about halfway back, if he were to roll onto his back--which he did--he could see the place where they'd drawn their animal forms in candle smoke on the rock, each doing his own while the others chanted nonsense about the power of the smoke. Sirius's dog was clumsy and lopsided, with a lolling tongue that was quite monstrous if one thought about it. James's stag looked like it had been painted in a high cave by Neanderthals. Peter's rat was just a triangular face with two dots for eyes, and clumsy whiskers. Remus had needed to be different. He didn't care to draw the wolf. Instead, he'd represented his deep animal nature by using the smoke to black out a large, uneven rectangle, then wiping clean a circle in the center as the full moon.

Sirius stretched out, transformed, and looked at the remains of these drawings, which would undoubtedly have been rubbed out long ago if students had ever used this tunnel. They seemed primitive and powerful to him, somehow, like god-figures drawn by ancient Celtic tribesmen, which he was trying to decipher from the far side of millennia. Slowly, he got to a half-sitting position, and reached up with his right hand to touch each of the icons, even bloody Wormtail's, though he was tempted to give it a good swipe. He'd almost done so when the thought of Mum's family tree with all of its ashy erasures intervened. He let his hand rest on the prehistoric, out-of-proportion deer, and said aloud, "This would be a lot easier if you were around, mate."

The deer stared mutely at him.

He rolled over and transformed again, letting Padfoot shake off the momentary attack of morbid depression as he finished the trek to the Whomping Willow. Carefully, he raised his wand among the roots, making sure it didn't go above the sightline from the path. "Conspectus," he whispered.

The spell did not project the world above onto the cave wall, as he and James had hoped it would when they designed it (James had been reading about submarines, and desperately wanted a magical periscope for the purpose of emerging from the Willow tunnel), but it did magnify sounds, and if anyone happened to be nearby, it would make the wand vibrate wildly. The wand remained still in Sirius's hands, and the only sound was the wind in the grass. He groped for the knot that stopped the branches, then pulled himself up and out.

The sky was gray, and owls flew about on their extended courses. A ship was moored in the lake, and some utterly mad boy jumped off of it and into the freezing water as Sirius watched. He was considering going in after him, in case it was a serious danger, when another boy followed suit, and faint laughter came across the water. Apparently, the madness was catching.

Sirius looked around uncertainly, not knowing what he was looking for. It would be ridiculous to hope that Harry himself would be out here, standing by the Whomping Willow, waiting for a visit. Dumbledore wouldn't appreciate his presence, and McGonagall, even knowing who he was, would kick him out, and probably take twenty points from Gryffindor in the bargain. He sniffed the air hopefully anyway--if all else failed, Crookshanks might be out--but didn't catch the scent of anyone he was particularly familiar with.

He wandered aimlessly toward Hagrid's. Through the window, he could see two very large people talking. They didn't look like an interruption from a friendly stray would be welcome. He turned and padded along a shadowy path, finally emerging near the Quidditch pitch. He supposed he was hoping to see Harry after all, but the only people there were three girls, two of them on broomsticks, and a third sitting on the box of Quidditch balls, looking supremely bored. Not having anywhere else to go, Sirius sat in the shadow of the equipment shed and watched. The girls on broomsticks were both good fliers, and seemed to be batting a Bludger back and forth between them. The blond girl smacked it at the small black-haired girl, who missed by a fraction and swerved expertly around it. Sirius recognized her as the Ravenclaw Chaser from watching games last year. The girl on the ground, who had curly hair, checked her watch.

Finally, the blond girl dove on the Bludger, took it in her stomach, and trapped it with her arms. She circled down and popped it into the box, and the Seeker followed her down, landing gently and gracefully. "I should have been a Beater," she said. "That's quite satisfying, actually. Marietta, you should try it!"

The curly-haired girl looked aghast. "I don't think so, Cho."

The blond signaled good-naturedly for Marietta to get up from the box, and she struggled the Bludger into it, locking it securely. "I don't know what Cho's got to be in a Beating mood about," she said, grinning. "I'd love to be at the apex of a Seeker love triangle. So deeply romantic!" She laughed and feigned fainting.

"That's because you've never been there!" Cho said. "Katie, why in the world didn't you tell me Harry Potter was looking at me? You're on the Gryffindor team with him--didn't he say anything?"

Sirius leaned forward, interested now.

The other girl, Katie, laughed. "If you didn't notice, I think you may be the last person on the planet to miss it."

"It's not funny," Cho said. "He was very nice about asking me to the ball, and I think I hurt his feelings."

Sirius growled low in his throat.

"Well, you'd already said yes to Cedric at any rate," Marietta put in. "Of course, I suppose if you want to go with Harry instead, Cedric would understand. I mean, he is Harry Potter."

Cho made a horrible face. "Marietta!"

"So who do you want to go with?"

"Cedric. He's been my friend for years! I didn't even know Harry liked me. But he is awfully nice, and I'm sorry... well, you know. I'm sorry he feels bad about it."

Sirius sat back warily on his haunches, not sure what he was supposed to think of that--he couldn't very well dislike a girl who was sorry, but he was quite sure he ought to dislike her.

Marietta looked from Cho to Katie, and something about her seemed very familiar to Sirius, in a none to pleasant way, but he couldn't place it. "Well, you're going with Cedric, and I'm sure Harry will go with someone. He can't really have trouble finding a date! I'll bet he'll go with Hermione Granger."

All three girls stood up, Cho and Marietta carrying the ball box between them. They came toward the equipment shed where Sirius was hiding, and opened the door.

"Who do you reckon Viktor Krum will take?" Marietta asked. "I heard him tell someone he had a date, but he won't say who it is. Do you think it's Fleur Delacour?"

Cho snorted. "I seriously doubt it. He's not nearly pretty enough for her to be seen with."

Katie laughed to herself.

"What is it?" Cho asked.

"I was just thinking, it's too bad she's not a Seeker. Then all the Champions would be Seekers. You can almost see the book title: Seeking Glory. Or Yours For the Seeking, or..."

"Very metaphorical," Cho snapped, then shook her head. "Let's go back to the castle. It's cold out here."

Sirius watched them go off, then followed an old, overgrown path behind the pitch to the edge of the Forbidden Forest. He sniffed at rocks and tree trunks, catching the scents of dozens of students who'd passed this way. He also picked up McGonagall's scent, and a trace of Harry's--he lingered there a while--and then, on a tree partway into the Forest itself, a familiar scent that he couldn't place. It brought up hazy thoughts of Regulus, but many things seemed to be doing that this year. Karkaroff, maybe? He'd never had a good sniff of Karkaroff (thank God for small favors), but maybe he'd got close enough at some point that he recognized it and was thinking of Death Eaters, and that brought Regulus to mind.

That didn't seem right, but he didn't have another working theory.

He followed the line of the Forest closer to the castle, then finally turned and trotted around the building itself. He passed the windows of the Hufflepuff Common Room, which looked down into its square basement area. The other Hogwarts champion, Cedric Diggory, was curled up in an armchair, scribbling on a piece of parchment and holding his golden egg. A girl with a long red plait was studiously reading the Daily Prophet. Sirius went on his way to the area under Gryffindor Tower. He looked up hopefully, thinking Harry or Ron or Hermione might be looking out the window, but there was no response.

Frustrated, he went to the base of the wall, dug himself a shallow bed in the dirt and dead leaves, and went to sleep.
21 comments or Leave a comment
From: severely_lupine Date: May 17th, 2009 07:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Sirius in the shadow of the equipment shed -- "sat", perhaps?

He's not nearly pretty enough her to be seen with -- That's worded rather oddly, isn't it?

Sirius is a sad, sad man.

Hm. What is it that's reminding him of Regulus, I wonder?

Sleeping on Hogwarts grounds while transformed is a bit reckless, no? What if he transformed back while unconscious?

I hope you get your rhythm soon. It can be annoying when the story isn't coming as easily as you'd like it to. :-)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 17th, 2009 07:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Yup, that needed a "sat," and the second needed a "for."

gloryforever From: gloryforever Date: May 17th, 2009 07:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Oooh, I get a reward for staying up late! :D

Cho snorted. "I seriously doubt it. He's not nearly pretty enough her to be seen with."

Maybe pretty enough FOR?

I'm right there with Sirius. Cho ought to be disliked. A lot.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 17th, 2009 07:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Caught the "for." :)

I don't actually dislike Cho. I think she's a pretty normal girl.
tree_and_leaf From: tree_and_leaf Date: May 17th, 2009 02:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like the bit about the smell (Crouch-as-Moody, presumably?) A nicely doggy touch!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 17th, 2009 06:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. Alas, I can't have Sirius figure it out. Wish I could! But yes, that's what he smells.
willowbough From: willowbough Date: May 17th, 2009 02:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sirius and the past--he seems to have a love/hate relationship with it. Understandable, as it appears to contain his best and worst experiences. Enjoyed getting his dog's eye view of Hogwarts and its denizens.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 17th, 2009 06:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Don't we all have a love/hate relationship with the past, though? :)
hermia7 From: hermia7 Date: May 17th, 2009 05:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sirius transforms at the end of the tunnel, to clear his head, but raises his wand without turning human again.
You have a "to" instead of "too" in the bit about Marietta seeming familiar.

I am very curious about where this is headed, and I won't be online to find out for more than a week!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 17th, 2009 06:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
:headdesk: Ah, yes writing in one's sleep. Somnascribulance?
malinbe From: malinbe Date: May 17th, 2009 05:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I'm so worried about Sirius right now. What is he thinking, sleeping in the Hogwarts grounds?
The girls' conversation was really nice and interesting.

Too bad canon dictates when he gets to meet Harry- I wish there would have been more of Sirius!!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 17th, 2009 06:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think he's just feeling petulant.
etain_antrim From: etain_antrim Date: May 17th, 2009 06:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nice. Loved the conversation between the three girls. I'm feeling even more bad for Sirius -- he really is living more for the past than for the present or the future. I loved the rock art in the tunnel and the other reminders of their boyhood. Too bad Harry didn't wander out and give Sirius the reward he was waiting for.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 17th, 2009 06:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
That would have been nice. Alas, I'm pretty sure we'd have heard of it!
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 17th, 2009 07:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ooohh man... the drawings in the tunnel made me sniffle. To think that no-one will ever see them... and how Sirius must miss James...
The idea of McGonagall taking points off Gryffindor if she saw Sirius made me giggle again, though.

~Hermione Stranger~
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 17th, 2009 08:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Also, nitpick: Sirius recognized her as the Ravenclaw Chaser from watching games last year. Shouldn't that be "Ravenclaw Seeker"?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 17th, 2009 09:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oops, yes, especially since being a Seeker is part of the conversation!
alkari From: alkari Date: May 17th, 2009 10:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
Poor Sirius. In these last two instalments, with his thoughts flicking between his relationship with parents and Regulus, and then showing the memories of MWPP, you've managed to capture how much Hogwarts was his 'real' home, and how James especially was his 'real' brother. Curling up at the foot of the Gryffindor wall is so sadly symbolic of his longing for the only home and family that accepted him.
silvery_wraith From: silvery_wraith Date: May 18th, 2009 07:33 am (UTC) (Link)
I really want to just pet Sirius and tell him it will all be ok...but it won't be! Sirius is literally stuck between the past and present. He needs something to distract him and pull him out of that funk and the best he's going to do is live in a cave for a few months. I wish JKR had done more with his character. Good thing we all have you, Fern! Thanks for another great chapter. I know how frustrating hitting a snag in your writer's stride can be, hopefully things get better for you soon enough.
From: glynngriffiths Date: May 20th, 2009 02:57 am (UTC) (Link)
"This would be a lot easier if you were around, mate." Fern, you break my heart with things like this. Still, broken-hearted and all, I loved the image of Sirius looking at the tunnel drawings, and the parallel you drew with prehistoric cave drawings. In some ways the boys who drew those animals seem nearly as far away as the people who drew in the caves at Lascaux (and elsewhere).

I enjoyed overhearing the girls' conversation on the Quidditch pitch, and I appreciate Sirius' dilemma with Cho - to like her, or to dislike her... I often have the same problem myself.

And now I'm all caught up to you! Yay! (But sad because I don't have back-log of Stray to read and now I'll have to be patient and wait.)
mollywheezy From: mollywheezy Date: August 18th, 2009 10:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
I loled at Cho, Katie, and Marietta's conversation--especially at Sirius' growling at Cho. ;) I can't believe it never occurred to me before reading this that 3 of the 4 champions are seekers!

Sirius' looking at the drawings in the tunnel was really touching. Poor Sirius. *Hugs him*
21 comments or Leave a comment