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Stray, Chapter Sixteen: By the Light of the Dark Mark, pt. 3 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Stray, Chapter Sixteen: By the Light of the Dark Mark, pt. 3
Continuing with the scorchin' hot pace here...

The Brodies' island has burned, and they need to find a place to go. Kingsley is suspicious that there may be a mole in the department, since they were attacked after Dora brought the button in, so he doesn't want to use Ministry resources to hide them. Sirius--reluctantly--admits that he knows a safe place: 12GP, Home Sweet Home.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




Boxing Day dawned quietly on the island, late in the morning. It was raining, muffling any sound but the patter of drops on the ocean and the land. Dora had gone out to sleep in the tents with the Brodies, and Remus was asleep in his room. For the moment, Sirius was alone. He hadn't slept. He tiptoed outside to Buckbeak's paddock and put a hand on the hippogriff's neck.

"Looks like it's time to move on," he said. "Don't worry, I won't force you into London, but I have to make a trip there myself. I suppose it's time to get used to being Disillusioned again."

Buckbeak, who was Disillusioned nearly full time now (the Charm needed renewing at the moment), didn't offer any sympathy.

Sirius Summoned over a crate and sat down on it, stroking Buckbeak's feathers. The dark mood was hovering over him. Yesterday afternoon, it had seemed the furthest thing possible, but now, it seemed imminent, a cloud waiting to burst like and let the Dementor-thoughts rush down like the cold Scottish rain. Buckbeak gave him a nudge with his great beak.

Sirius smiled and patted him. "Don't worry," he said. "I don't have time for it right now." Buckbeak made a sound that Sirius interpreted as a question, and answered, "Oh, you know. A godson to protect, a cave to get settled into. And the house still reeks. I should try to get the smell out before I take Fiona and the girls there. It's mostly rotted azaleas, but I imagine Kreacher will kindly enlighten anyone who asks as to why they rotted there. Along with Mum."

"Sirius?"

In the eerie rain-silence, Sirius almost thought that Buckbeak had spoken, but the voice was female, a fact that was somehow a more convincing argument than the idea that hippogriffs were not one of the chattier varieties of magical creatures.

Dora was standing at the far side of the paddock, her arms crossed over her chest. The rain spilled over an Umbrella Charm, wrapping her in a shifting, glistening sphere.

Sirius smiled and expanded the crate he was sitting on. "Pull up a chair," he said. Dora broke the Umbrella Charm, and water fell around her with a splash. She came over and sat down beside Sirius. He put his arm over her shoulders. "What brings you all the way to this side of the shack?"

She smiled. "I went in to see you and you weren't in the house. I guessed you were out here with Buckbeak. I talk to my cat when I feel like it. Why wouldn't you talk to your hippogriff?"

"There's a certain logic in that, when you mention it."

"Fiona gave me her statement," Dora said. "We went over to the island as soon as there was any light. Nothing left. And there was nothing that would have been of any value to anyone else."

"Goddammit."

"We should get them settled in... the new place as soon as we can. It wouldn't be good to let the girls get used to it here and then rip them out again."

"I'm still not sure about this. There'a a mad house elf there, or there was when I went back last time--"

"You've been in?"

"I had to get the vault key last year."

"Oh. Right."

"But the house elf was always mad. Kreacher. Bane of my childhood, Mum aside. He was Mum's spy."

"You don't think--?"

"No. He belongs to me now, whether he likes it or not. He can't disobey me."

Dora wrinkled her nose in distaste, but didn't say anything. "Don't you remember anything nice?"

"At Grimmauld Place? Are you mad?"

"Come on, Sirius, they're my family, too. I'd like to think there was something there."

Sirius thought about it. "There are a few amusing portraits, but of course, Mum Banished them to the attic as soon as she noticed I liked them. And she stuck me with Phineas Nigellus, the most obnoxious Headmaster Hogwarts ever had."

"He's my great-great... great? grandfather?"

Sirius counted. "Yes, I think that's right. Miserable old codger. Reg and I called him Grayfur."

"Grayfur?"

"He wanted us to call him great-great-grandfather, but who can say that? So he said we might call him 'greatfather.' That took about half an hour to turn into 'grayfather,' and then I stumbled over it and said 'Grayfur.' Reg thought it was funny because the portrait has a little gray in its hair."

"Grayfur," Dora said, and grinned. "I'd like to meet him."

"I somehow doubt that." From nowhere, a memory surfaced--old Grayfur, assigned to babysit, bringing in gossip from Hogwarts. In truth, Sirius had never really minded him, at least nowhere near as much as he minded the rest of the house. He shrugged. "Well... maybe. He's funny, if you get his sense of humor. Of course, I'm not sure he ever knew that he was joking, so it may not be his sense of humor particularly."

"Grayfur the portrait," Dora said. "That's something. And what about your father? You always talk about your mother."

"Dad wasn't really there. I don't mean that he didn't talk or pay attention to Reg and me. I mean... he just seemed to be biding time. He's the one who grew up in the house, but Mum took it over. I think once she got an heir and a spare out of him, she just thought of him as a library book she'd forgotten to return."

"And somehow, it turns back to your mum. I shall just have to get you to really tell me about her sometime."

"Nothing to tell," Sirius said. "'Murderous harpy' about sums it up. She loathed me as much as I loathed her. I imagine she liked me well enough before I learned to talk, but I don't really remember any of it."

Dora looked like she was considering pushing the subject, and Sirius remembered that her father was in some sort of Healing that involved long conversations about the past. In the end, she decided to let it be. She stood up and held out her hand to haul him up beside her. "Come on, Mr. Foote. It's time to get moving. We'll need to get them settled in before you go up to Hogsmeade."

When they got inside, Remus had made breakfast, which the girls were eating dully. Fiona had stopped at a cup of coffee.

Sirius forced himself out of the gray cloud. "Well," he said, "today, we're going to London. I'm afraid it's not the nicest place I'm taking you to, but it'll be safe."

Kirsty nodded solemnly.

Fiona finished her coffee and said, "Well, I won't be idle while I'm there. Perhaps I can make a bit nicer than you think."

"I wouldn't bother," Sirius said. "But you're welcome to try. Just... be careful." He frowned. "All right. There are three of us and three of you, so Side-Along Apparition is the best bet. I'll take Fiona, Remus, you take Kirsty, Dora, you take Elspeth. Do you both know the neighborhood well enough to get to the little alleyway beside the house?"

"James and I Apparated there a few times," Remus said.

"And my parents' church is down near there," Dora added. "Mum walked me by now and then. Of course, we couldn't go in."

"Good. Is everyone ready?"

There was general assent to this.

Sirius sent the two pillow-cases full of clothes ahead, then led the way past the Apparition border. He offered his arm to Fiona. She took it, and he pulled her out into the void. A moment later, they were in a foul-smelling, rubbish-filled alley. The neighborhood had really gone to rot.

"You can't be seen here," Fiona reminded him.

"Right." Sirius Disillusioned himself as soon as Remus and Dora appeared with the girls. He said, "Wait for the door to open," and went ahead.

He and Regulus had built a secret passage through Dad's security, toward the end of the years they'd actually spoken to one another. To Sirius's relief, Regulus had apparently never snitched about it, as it had still been there last year, and was still here now. He grasped the sodden silk braid, closed his eyes, and followed it until he smelled the rich, rotting scent of home. He let go, undid Dad's security on the door, and opened it.

Remus, Dora, and the Brodies had come out far enough to see, and were playing at being sight-seers. Dora hurried them all inside, and Sirius shut the door behind them.

"INTRUDERS! FOUL HALF-BLOODS! DARK CREATURE!"

Sirius ground his teeth and waved his arm at the life-sized portrait on the wall. "Nymphadora Tonks, meet your dear Aunt Walburga. Remus, I'm sure you remember her."

"Not exactly a forgettable woman."

"INGRATES! TRAITORS! PEASANTS!"

"Oh, and I see she's noticed me," Fiona said.

Sirius brought her forward. "Mum, Fiona Brodie. She'll be staying for a bit, and you'll SHUT UP about it."

The portrait didn't even pause in its stream of curses.

Sirius shook his head. "Well, I did warn you. I'll see what I can do about her. Best to just avoid her for now."

He led them further inside. Kreacher appeared at the top of the kitchen stairs, glowering sourly at them.

"Master has brought guests," he spat, as if it were a dirty word.

"Yes, Master has, and you'll treat them properly."

Elspeth, who was roughly Kreacher's height, stepped forward hopefully, with her arm outstretched. Kreacher sneered and vanished.

Sirius looked apologetically at Fiona.

"We'll make do," she said. "We should get settled."

Sirius directed them to the bedrooms, warned them again not to touch anything, and watched as the house swallowed them.
22 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
silvery_wraith From: silvery_wraith Date: June 17th, 2009 07:11 am (UTC) (Link)
I love sections that include Sirius delving into Black family politics. Sirius has Mummy issues, the poor boo. Dora's so sure Bugga and the family isn't as bad as Sirius paints them; I'd like to see her reaction when faced with the cold hard fact that Bugga was BSC along with the rest of the family.

I have a feeling that if Ted had ever gotten Sirius on the couch Sirius could talk for days and still not scratch the surface.

I don't know how I feel about Fiona and the girls being exposed to Grimmauld pl. Fiona's an innocent bystander and the girls are so young. I hope nothing happens to them.

That last line slayed me. You did a great job in summing up Sirius' emotions; the house is poison and will leterally kill you slowly. They're all going to need some hugz by the end of their stay.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 19th, 2009 05:52 am (UTC) (Link)
I have a feeling that if Ted had ever gotten Sirius on the couch Sirius could talk for days and still not scratch the surface.

No kidding. I think that Dora's likely right that there are decent people in the family--Bugga wouldn't have burned them off if she didn't loathe them--but Bugga herself is pretty irredeemable.

Sirius's feelings about the house aren't necessarily the truth about it, but they're certainly his truth about it.
alkari From: alkari Date: June 17th, 2009 08:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah yes - 12GP "swallowed them" - excellent imagery. I also liked Kreacher's "Peasants!" followed by Fiona's comment about being noticed :)

And just how long is it before Kingsley and Sirius meet 'officially'?! *adds to Kingsley love* Hiding the Brodies at 12GP is rather a dead giveaway about Remus and Dora pretending that they don't know anything Sirius's whereabouts, isn't it, because I'm sure the Ministry's tried to get into 12GP before now.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 19th, 2009 05:54 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't think it'll be nearly as long as I was planning. Kingsley's just not dumb enough to miss it, and I like him too much to leave him out of the story! I'm starting the interlude now, and I think I'll have him pretty much getting the shape of things, if not all the details.
tree_and_leaf From: tree_and_leaf Date: June 17th, 2009 09:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Help - Grimmauld Place is awful, but you do evoke it well.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 19th, 2009 05:54 am (UTC) (Link)
I love that spooky old manse. I'd totally live there.
From: glynngriffiths Date: June 17th, 2009 01:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Phenomenal last line. And I do love when Sirius talks about his family; he has this great affected detachedness that isn't really, well, detached at all. It's so interesting.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 19th, 2009 05:54 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't think Sirius is constitutionally capable of actually being detached and disinterested.
willowbough From: willowbough Date: June 17th, 2009 01:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Poor Sirius--and to think that 12 GP in OoP had actually been spruced up a bit by then. At least Fiona seems to be taking the move and Mrs. Black in stride.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 19th, 2009 05:56 am (UTC) (Link)
Fiona's tough. She's obviously not going to last there up until the next year, since she wasn't there, but I think she can handle being yelled at by a crazy portrait.
malinbe From: malinbe Date: June 17th, 2009 02:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
*waves*
HELLO BUGGA!

I have to say, I've got a thing for portraits that yell insults. They are so funny.
Not so funny for two young girls, though. They'll be terrified soon.

Beautiful last line.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 19th, 2009 05:56 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah, yes, Bugga. Like Greyback, she's fun because there's just not that much beyond her realm of action and dialogue.
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: June 17th, 2009 03:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Which section do I need to reread to find out how Fiona discovers it's Sirius?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 19th, 2009 05:51 am (UTC) (Link)
This one. She's close to Azkaban--they'd come by with his wanted poster.
From: severely_lupine Date: June 17th, 2009 04:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
but now, it seemed imminent, a cloud waiting to burst like and let the Dementor-thoughts rush down like the cold Scottish rain. -- Is there an extra "like" in there? That first one doesn't seem to be connected to anything.

I'd love to know what Remus's reaction was whenever he hears about the "Greyfur" thing, considering it does rather sound like a nickname suited to a werewolf.

"Oh, and I see she's noticed me," Fiona said. -- LOL! I do rather like Fiona.

Aw, poor Elspeth. Though one might hope that if she keeps trying, Kreacher might loosen up, considering how he seems to appreciate it when people are kind to him. Though it might be different with someone who's not his master.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 19th, 2009 05:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Hermione tried to be friendly to Kreacher, too--no dice, as he saw her as an intruder right up until he got the locket and realized that they understood him. I imagine his reaction to a six-year-old running up for a hug would be something like McGonagall's even at the best of times, though. ;p
From: severely_lupine Date: June 19th, 2009 06:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah, true. I suppose niceness itself wouldn't outweigh impurity in Kreacher's mind.

There are a number of characters it's rather amusing to imagine a six-year-old trying to hug.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 17th, 2009 04:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
In the eerie rain-silence, Sirius almost thought that Buckbeak had spoken, but the voice was female, a fact that was somehow a more convincing argument than the idea that hippogriffs were not one of the chattier varieties of magical creatures.
Hehehe! Sometimes, our brains think very strange thoughts, don't they?

"Come on, Mr. Foote. It's time to get moving. We'll need to get them settled in before you go up to Hogsmeade."
I thought Sirius didn't tell Dora where he was going? But then, I might have missed something in my exam madness.

I hope we get to see a lot of Phineas. It's odd, the people who might or might not be joking are always the funniest, and then you never know whether to laugh or not. I have one teacher like that (or rather, had), and I still don't know whether he wanted us to laugh or not. And now I'll never find out, because I'll never see him again, moahahahaha!

~Hermione Stranger, in post-finals celebration~
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 19th, 2009 05:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Hehehe! Sometimes, our brains think very strange thoughts, don't they?

They certainly do. That came into Sirius's head because it was my train of thought. ;p

I thought Sirius didn't tell Dora where he was going?

He didn't, but she immediately followed up with, "Yeah, uh-huh, I'll keep the other Aurors away from the school."

You know me--if I can find a way to work in Phineas, he'll be there, snarking at everyone in sight.
etain_antrim From: etain_antrim Date: June 17th, 2009 06:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Another great chapterlet. Sirius's description of life in his family is sad, both for the reality and for how much it still hurts him. I wish the Brodies best of luck in 12 GP. They'll need it.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 19th, 2009 05:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. Sirius really exudes having been hurt by being burned off that tree, no matter how much he claims to detest the lot of them.
toastedcheese From: toastedcheese Date: July 8th, 2009 05:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Commenting to say thank you for entertaining me at work; my summer job includes 7-14 hours a week of showing the same two fifteen minute 4-D movies to tourists, and I can only play so many hours of cell phone games... so I had the idea of downloading Stray onto my iPod and catching up on it! I really enjoyed it, and look forward to future installments. :)
22 comments or Leave a comment