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Stray, Chapter Fifteen: Christmas in the Dark, pt. 2 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Stray, Chapter Fifteen: Christmas in the Dark, pt. 2
It's Christmas in the Orkneys (I'm not in a Christmas frame of mind, but I'm playing some carols to get there), and Sirius knows that he has to be leaving soon. Instead of getting maudlin, he decides to decorate the place using what's there, something the Marauders had once done at Hogwarts. He and Remus get the place spiffed up with such things as old shoe sleighs and a serving spoon star. Meanwhile, Dora is planning to come up. She admits to being jealous of the Yule Ball, so Sirius has promised her that they'd have one of their own, and he'd teach her to dance.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




Over the next few days, Dora brought several amusing articles from the Prophet, the Quibbler, and a gossip rag called The Whisper, all of which were devoted to speculations about the Triwizard champions and their love lives. The French champion was to attend the ball with one Roger Davies, who was described as "a modest and unassuming Hogwarts boy, stunned by his good fortune." Remus laughed at this until he had to wipe tears from his eyes, as the Davies boy was apparently seen with a different girl every week, all of them madly in love with him, and he thought he quite deserved it. Cedric Diggory was to attend with Cho Chang, the pretty Ravenclaw Sirius had seen during his tour of the school. No mention was made of her rejection of Harry.

"Why would they mention that?" Dora asked, absently stringing snail shells onto a piece of string that would wind around the tree as a garland. "She's going with Cedric. He is a champion, you know."

Sirius snorted.

Dora gave a frustrated little grimace. "I know you're partisan to Harry, but really, Sirius, Cedric is a good bloke. He's got a good heart."

"It's true," Remus said as he came in from the kitchen, carrying three warm mugs of mulled mead. "I'm rooting for Harry, but I've nothing against Cedric. He spent a lot time last year helping some of the more nervous fifth years get ready for O.W.L.s."

"And I'm rooting for Cedric," Dora announced. "Someone around here has to. I got him settled when he was in first year, and I got his father--a Gryffindor, by the way--to deal with him being a Hufflepuff, and I helped him with potions. And when he was in second year and I was in seventh, he ran to me for help to keep Percy Weasley's rat from being tortured by some of the bigger boys, so I hope he wins." She stopped and frowned, seeming to replay the sentence in her head. "Well, we thought it was Percy's rat, anyway."

"Too bad he didn't let it keep going," Sirius muttered.

"Well, I know what Mr. Pettigrew did, but I wouldn't want someone setting his feet on fire." She looked to Remus and looked away, disgusted, when he didn't jump in to back her up.

Sirius shook his head. "What about the Durmstrang one? Who's he Imperiused into going with him?"

Dora scanned the articles from the Quibbler, then switched to the Prophet and shrugged. "A mystery girl," she said. "Seems to be frustrating the old gossips to no end that they can't figure it out."

"And which of Harry's mythical dates do you suppose is the actual one?" Remus asked. He picked up the paper. "Let's see... Romilda Vane. She's a third year now. I somehow doubt it."

"Why?"

"She makes your cousin Narcissa look deep and soulful."

"Ah."

Remus went on down the list. "Oh, certainly, Daisy Elgar. Second year Hufflepuff. She did have a crush, I heard it over tea, but then so did"--he scanned--"Hannah Abbott, though she was too nervous to admit it. Hmm, Ginny Weasley isn't on here."

"Ginny Weasley?" Sirius repeated. "Ron's little sister, who writes to you??"

Remus nodded. "Quite pretty, and likes Harry. I suppose it was too obvious to be speculated on."

"His best mate's little sister, and you think that's obvious?"

"I know it's an odd concept, but sometimes, when you have friends, they actually like your family."

"I liked your family, mate, but if you'd had a sister, she'd've been sacred. And of course, you wouldn't have stood a chance with a girl in my family."

"Hey!" Dora interjected. "I'm in your family, and I'd have no reason to say no to Remus."

This brought down silence, in which Remus completely froze, then regained his composure and said, "On that note, how are Ted and Andromeda...?"

Christmas Day came two days later. Sirius slept until it was actually light, by which time Remus had already been up for two hours.

"Having a Christmas bout with the Hogboon?" Sirius asked.

"I made it breakfast," Remus said.

"Professor Lupin, I believe you're not giving your full attention to this assignment."

Remus smiled. "Your present is on the ottoman."

Sirius looked over. There was a small, flat package there, wrapped in parchment that Remus had decorated with little ink drawings. "You didn't need to get anything. You're letting me live here."

"That's no fun," Remus said. "Anyway, it's something I already had. I got it out of Gringotts while I was away, before I transformed. I'd nearly forgotten about it. It's actually yours anyway."

Curiously, Sirius Summoned the package and removed the parchment without ripping the drawings. On top was a picture from James and Lily's wedding, showing all five of them (unfortunately, Wormtail was right in the middle and couldn't be ripped out) standing under the evergreen arch where they'd taken turns keeping guard on the wedding. It had been the living room in his flat, and he understood what else was in the package. He opened the little wooden box--despite Remus's protestations, this hadn't been his, and was obviously new and a gift--and he found a bit of clumsy needlework Lily had once tried and given him (it was gold lettering on red cloth and said, in off-center and crooked letters, "Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus"). She'd made it in a fit of domesticity after learning that she was pregnant, and Sirius had laughed at it so heartily that she'd decided to give it to him for his flat. Framed. He'd hung it proudly between the two front windows and tormented her with it every time she came by. Under it was an album full of photographs of the four of them together as children--most were rather impolite--and a little plaque that had hung over the dormitory. Sirius had made this and it read, "The brand new and totally ignoble House of Marauding." He'd taken it to his flat and hung it over the door there. And there was a letter from Lily, written not long before she'd died, giving him a newsy account of life in Godric's Hollow. It included a picture of Harry on his toy broomstick, chasing the cat.

Sirius looked up.

Remus shrugged a bit self-consciously. "I didn't keep anything that was just yours because... you know. But I took all of that out of your flat before your mum could get to it."

"Best Christmas present ever, mate. I thought I'd lost everything." He grinned at the pile of worthless junk, which meant everything. "Though I think that these days, the plaque belongs here." He Banished it to the top of Remus's door, and affixed it with a Permanent Sticking Charm. If the old bat who owned the island wanted it down, she'd have to knock down the whole bloody shack.

They went about the business of getting breakfast for themselves, and knocked around aimlessly until nearly one. Sirius had gone outside to feed Buckbeak when he heard high voices singing. He transformed and poked his nose around the side of the house.

Three figures, all with white-blond hair, were coming up over the hill toward Remus's house. Fiona Brodie was in the middle, Elspeth and Kirsty on either side of her. The wind caught snatches of song, getting louder and steadier as they came.

...first wizard heard
an angel sing...

...a whisper on...
night wind...

...-cond wizard heard
a cherub's trilling laugh
His old, tired soul was stirred
And he, singing, raised his staff!

Three wizards saw a star
One night so long ago
In hot dry lands afar
They let their magic flow!


They reached the little platform in front of Remus's door as they began the verse about the third wizard, and didn't pause in the music as Fiona reached over to knock on the door. It opened and Remus stepped out. He looked genuinely surprised. They joined hands and finished the song.

Remus clapped, but looked at quite a loss. "Well, I, er... wasn't expecting this!"

"Did you like it?" Kirsty asked. "It was my idea. We thought you and Mr. Foote and Snuffles might be all alone here, and I wanted to sing Christmas songs. 'The Three Wizards and the Star' is my favorite."

"It was my dad's favorite, too," Remus said, then glanced over and noticed Sirius. "Why don't you come in?" He looked over his shoulder and seemed to make a decision. "Mr. Foote is out walking around. I'm sure he'll be back soon."

"We had our puzzle from him this morning," Elspeth said. "I wanted to do it right away, but Kirsty wanted to come and say thank you."

"Well, I'm... we're delighted to have you. Come in, please."

Sirius waited until they were inside, then transformed and waited a decent amount of time before going inside and acting surprised to see them. He was genuinely surprised when Kirsty ran across the room and hugged him. "We love our puzzle, Mr. Foote," she said.

Sirius had nearly forgotten sending it, but said, "Well, I'm so glad!"

Kirsty beckoned to her sister. "We didn't have anything to buy you, so we'd like to sing you whatever your favorite Christmas carol is."

"I don't have a favorite. Why not sing yours?"

"We already sang Kirsty's favorite!" Elspeth said before Kirsty could speak. "Do you like 'Harka Harold'?"

It took a moment for Sirius to recognize "Hark! the herald" in this, but he'd already nodded, and the girls stood up very straight and sang for him. He sat down in the tartan chair to listen, and as they went into the third verse, he happened to glance across at Fiona, who was beaming at them, even though they were off-key and clashing with one another. He wondered what it would have been like to have a mother like that.

Fiona had also brought a hamper full of homemade sweets: fudge, oatcakes with cranberry sauce, rich fruit cake, and--though this wasn't homemade--a bottle of a local wine made from strawberries and rhubarb ("Orkney grown rhubarb!" she declared), which was unexpectedly good.

The sun was already going down by three-fifteen, and the shack was lit only by Remus's fire, in front of which the Brodie girls were dancing when there was a knock at the door. Sirius made himself as scarce as he could, since he couldn't very well transform, but it was only Dora. She came inside, eyebrows raised, and said, "My, this is going to be quite a crowded Yule Ball after all, isn't it?"
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Comments
From: severely_lupine Date: June 2nd, 2009 07:50 am (UTC) (Link)
that would wind around the tree -- Did I miss something? I thought they didn't have a tree.

She looked to Remus and looked away, disgusted, when he didn't jump in to back her up. -- Ahhhh yes. I have to say, for some reason I loved how eager he was to kill Peter in the Shrieking Shack.

"Ron's little sister, who writes to you??" -- Didn't Remus already mention to Sirius that Ginny liked Harry?

"I'm in your family, and I'd have no reason to say no to Remus." -- Bahahahaha! And once again, Dora brings the awkwardness.

Oh, what a sweet and lovely gift. And nice job including the DH photo in there. I'm sure poor Sirius would be rather put out to know that Snape defaced and stole it.

Sirius made himself as scarce as he could, since he couldn't very well transform -- I just got this really hysterical image of Sirius flailing around in the little house desperately looking for a place to hide every single time someone knocked on the door. ...Well, it's difficult to explain why it's so funny, probably, but if you were inside my head right now, you'd be laughing.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 2nd, 2009 07:56 am (UTC) (Link)
I thought they didn't have a tree.

Heh, I should probably put that in quotes. I mean the sod tower that's serving as a tree. :)

I was trying to think of a gift, and the idea of that letter came. I've wondered since DH came out how in the world it would have ended up in Sirius's room, because, while I can get to Walburga getting his stuff, I can't make myself believe that she'd keep Lily's letter for him and put it in his room.

(And you're right, going back, I did mention Ginny's crush earlier--curse slow-moving stories! But the gist of the conversation was more about whether Harry should act on it rather than whether Ginny's crush existed. I should probably put something in there about Hermione, too. I meant to.)

Edited at 2009-06-02 07:58 am (UTC)
From: severely_lupine Date: June 2nd, 2009 08:09 am (UTC) (Link)
It does make sense for him to get it that way. :-)

Yeah, I'm familiar with that problem, trying to remember what you've already said. And yes, the conversation makes sense and is quite fun, it's just Sirius's shocked reaction at the news was a bit odd.
malinbe From: malinbe Date: June 2nd, 2009 02:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, the Brodies are so sweet. They must have been so lonely. Remus' gift almost made me tear up, and the gossip mags had me LOLing. You need to have their reaction when they learn that the mystery girl was Hermione.

Funny how Harry doesn't even know Romilda Vane or Daisy Elgar! It's hilarious.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 3rd, 2009 06:21 am (UTC) (Link)
I'll definitely put in that reaction if it fits.
From: glynngriffiths Date: June 2nd, 2009 05:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
This was brilliant. For someone writing Christmas in June - in a not so Christmas frame of mind - you do a bang-up job. (I love the image of you sitting about listening to carols in the summer to get in the mood. Also, major points for writing bits of your own carol!) I especially liked Remus in this - his knowledge of the students, laughing at Roger Davies, and going over Harry's possible dates (most of whom Harry doesn't even know at this point!)- he was great. The arrival of the Brodies was wonderful, because now it really is a bit of Yule Ball, isn't it? And I'm awfully glad Sirius sent that puzzle and got a hug for it. He could use more hugs. Perhaps the best, though, was Remus' gift to Sirius; brilliant tie-in of Lily's letter and how it made it back to Grimmauld Place for Snape/Harry to find.

P.S. The 'brand new and totally ignoble House of Marauding' is made of awesomeness.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 3rd, 2009 06:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Yup, there are people to dance with now!
miss_polyhymnia From: miss_polyhymnia Date: June 2nd, 2009 06:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Lovely installment--I especially like Remus's gift to Sirius, and the gossip about the Yule Ball.

One nit-pick: I believe Romilda Vane was a fourth-year in HBP, making her a second year at this time.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 3rd, 2009 06:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Oops, you're right. I had it in my head that she was in Ginny's year, but I guess she's a year behind.
etain_antrim From: etain_antrim Date: June 2nd, 2009 09:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm enjoying seeing S. and R. have a happier than expected Christmas! Loved R's gift to S. It's perfect: thoughtful and low cost -- just what I'd expect from Remus. I also liked the idea that R. gave the hogboon a gift! The Brodie's are good neighbors. Mrs. Brodie has relaxed quite a bit considering she knows the worst about both R. and S., but being saved by them probably helped. I'm glad she was able to look at their behavior to her family and judge them on that basis. The Brodie daughters are very appealing. No wonder Sirius remembered them when ordering gifts. It's great to have more to read in this universe!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 3rd, 2009 06:23 am (UTC) (Link)
I think Mrs. B really just needed a touch of human contact, of whatever nature.
alkari From: alkari Date: June 3rd, 2009 01:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Glad to see your muse has returned. I guess those reindeer galloping around the 'tree' will have to jump over the strings of shells. Lovely scene with Fiona and the girls - "Harka Herald" indeed! but so sad to think Sirius was wondering what it would have been to have a nice mother like that.

One minor thing: perhaps get a Brit to check use of the term 'rooting for'? Out here, if you said that, you'd get a few raised eyebrows because 'rooting' has a far more vulgar slang meaning. So I'm not sure whether it's OK in British English in the sense you use it.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 3rd, 2009 06:23 am (UTC) (Link)
That definitely sounds like something that needs Brit-picking, then.
willowbough From: willowbough Date: June 3rd, 2009 04:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Charming! It's good to see Sirius have this little bit of holiday cheer before moving into a cave to eat rats and watch over Harry. Also enjoyed the way you integrate bits of canon from later books so their appearance has more resonance.

Nice wizarding carol--your own invention?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 3rd, 2009 06:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Yup, that was mine. I mentioned it in the Christmas chapter in Hunter's Moon, and I thought it would be fun.
mollywheezy From: mollywheezy Date: August 18th, 2009 10:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
I absolutely love the presents that Remus had for Sirius!

The little girls' singing for them is so sweet!

My two favorite lines:

"I'm in your family, and I'd have no reason to say no to Remus."

"She makes your cousin Narcissa look deep and soulful."--Best description of Romilda Vane EVER! :D

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