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Chapter Twenty-One: The Restricted Section, pt. 2 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Chapter Twenty-One: The Restricted Section, pt. 2
Sirius, needing more information for Harry, has decided that he needs to go to the archives to look things up, not an easy task for a fugitive on the run, but hey, he's hanging around with the son of the former archivists, who knew how to sneak in and out when he was little. In short, Remus and Sirius have broken into the archives to read up on what was going on after the war, and Remus has found an article by Sirius's mother called "BLACK WIDOW DENOUNCES WEB OF LIES." (Sirius assumes the wording is unintentional.) Sirius sits down to read it.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




What Remus and Dora had been telling him--that Mum had gone completely round the bend and off the track--was obvious by the end of the first paragraph. Oh, Sirius recognized the tropes well enough; she'd always been slightly paranoid and certainly prone to thinking the worst of Dumbledore and the Ministry (that those two entities didn't like one another terribly well never appeased her dislike of either of them). But this nonsense had found a new level, and Sirius found himself thinking again of finding her body there in her parlor, of the knife across her wrists, of her instructions to Kreacher to continue piling flower petals around her.

Had she, at the last extremity, simply barricaded herself in against her imagined enemies, finally escaping them in the only way she could imagine?

He shifted uncomfortably in his chair, and forced his mind away from the thought of her. Mum would not have killed herself, no matter how mad she'd been. She'd probably had the dagger on her lap as she lay in wait for conspirators who stalked her fevered imagination.

And so it ends, she had written. You celebrate the fall of the Dark Lord, as though he were the greatest threat we knew. You celebrate the triumph of Albus Dumbledore, and the fall of the House of Black. But ask yourself, as you celebrate--who reaped the rewards of this war? Was it the Dark Lord? No! Decidedly not--neither he nor his followers ever achieved any notable ends.

Those who benefited from the war were Albus Dumbledore and his radical cultural takeover, and Bartemius Crouch, the power-mad judge who took it upon himself to imprison without trials and send numbers we may never know to the Dementors of Azkaban. It is this same Crouch who you adulate, and this same Crouch who you are priming as Minister for Magic.

I know that Crouch took one of my sons. My eldest was taken without a trial, for the alleged crime of killing one of Dumbledore's minions. Who's to say why that Curse was cast? Certainly, my son was given no opportunity to explain his actions. Who knows what Pettigrew might have done to precipitate it? All we have are the reports of Muggles, who are hardly reliable, and who--quite conveniently--were Obliviated by Crouch, and are therefore unavailable for further questioning.

My second son disappeared, after rumors of his alliance with the Dark Lord surfaced. Is he in an unmarked grave at Azkaban, put there by Crouch? Or was he killed by Dumbledore's people, and covered up?

Rumors! Anyone who dared to challenge their administration suddenly found himself the victim of "rumors." Perhaps we should wonder where those rumors originated.

My late husband, Orion Black, had a weak heart, and the loss of our dear son Regulus undid him, weakened him further, and he could no longer go on. Had he gone off to face their killers when he died? Or did he simply lose his strength? Perhaps it was something more insidious than either.

These are questions to which we have no answers, questions that must be asked, but never will be, because Crouch and Dumbledore control all the agencies that might pursue the truth.

Seek it out on your own. See who has come out of this with all the advantages, and see who has been left with nothing. Then ask yourself--who really began this, who really caused this pain to all of us? Ask yourself--and in the asking, you'll have the answer.


Sirius looked up. "So they listened to the crazy business about Dumbledore and Crouch plotting out the war together for their own benefit, but no one wondered about what she said about Wormtail?"

"Other than Mrs. Pettigrew?" Remus lifted up the page he was reading. "She wrote quite a distraught letter to the editor the next day, and that was all there was."

"What about Dumbledore? Or...?"

"Or me?"

"Well, I was going to say Andromeda, but all right."

Remus shrugged. "I didn't read it very carefully. I thought she was just making noise and trying--rather belatedly--to pretend she'd given a damn about you. God knows what Andromeda thought; we haven't talked about it."

Sirius scanned it again, his chest tightening absurdly at the paragraph she'd written about him. It was the only defense she'd ever given him for anything, and she'd been mad as a march hare when she'd written it. He shook his head, and re-read further. "She might have been right about Dad. I tried to go to the funeral, but of course, she turned me away. Screamed that I might have killed him."

"I remember. You told us."

"But I could see him going after someone he thought had taken Regulus. He wouldn't have said anything about it, because he never said anything about anything. But he might have gone into the war." Sirius sniffed. "Of course, if Regulus really did leave the Death Eaters, he was probably chasing the wrong people."

"Or the right ones," Remus said. "What if your Dad had figured out that Regulus left them? Some of the Death Eaters were quite good with potions."

Sirius considered this carefully, then shook his head. "We'll never know, and it doesn't matter now, does it?" He shrugged. "I doubt it, though. Mum doesn't seem to have suspected, and he never thought anything without asking her permission first."

Remus frowned. "Anyway, let's get going. You can see from your mother's note what sorts of things were on the public's mind about Crouch. They didn't believe her, exactly, but I'd wager it was on a few minds when they thought about what happened to Crouch's son. Do you want the transcripts from that trial?"

"Featuring my dear cousin Bella? No, I heard enough about it at Azkaban. None of them are around the tournament to be bothering Harry."

"What about Karkaroff?" Remus Summoned more articles. "Parts are left out, the Prophet was being a little more cooperative back then."

"What parts?"

"Probably accusations against people he claimed were Death Eaters. There was a lot of that going around, and after a few suits, the Prophet stopped printing the names of the people accused. Though rumor has it that's where Barty Crouch, Junior's, name first came up."

"Let's have them, then." Sirius took a pile and began to dig through the mess of Igor Karkaroff's trial. He'd been in Azkaban for quite a long time before it. No one had expected him to walk free, but apparently, he'd provided the name of a "high level" operative, and had been allowed to go back to whatever Eastern European hole he'd crawled out of to join Voldemort. Sirius impatiently Summoned the follow-up, when he'd been named Headmaster of Durmstrang, but there was nothing there that he hadn't expected--a great deal of outrage and indignation in Britain, with the governors of Durmstrang shrugging all of it off, and pointing out that it had been Britain's problem, anyway, not the Continent's.

"What about Lucius Malfoy?" Remus asked. "Do you think he could have anything to do with it?"

"I think he could have a hand in anything," Sirius said, and Summoned a few articles about the Malfoys. "But honestly, I doubt he'd plan something that would put his own son's nose out of joint."

"Good point." Remus flipped through a stack of cards. "There's nothing on the French headmistress. She's supposed to be quite exemplary."

"Bagman?"

Remus frowned at the cards. "I can get you years worth of Quidditch information."

"Snivelly?"

"Dumbledore trusts Severus."

"But is there anything?"

Remus went through several locator spells, then shook his head. "Just his appointment to Hogwarts, and a few quotes over the years."

"Still, he was one of Bella's little cultists, and Reg used to follow him around."

"I remember he used to humiliate Reg every time you tormented him. I doubt they were grand friends. Besides, he's a half-blood, remember? And he was always Lily's friend, right up until--"

"Until he started calling her a Mudblood," Sirius reminded him. "He was up to his greasy hair in Dark Arts, and when push came to shove, he started hurling nasty names at the only person outside Slytherin who could stand him. And a very particular sort of insult at that. As far as I'm concerned, if it flies like a harpy and sings like a harpy..."

"Dumbledore wouldn't hire a Death Eater, Sirius. Don't get Harry started on that."

"Fine. But I don't like it. Even without the Death Eater business, I find it a little too easy to think that Snivelly has a grudge against James's son."

"No argument there," Remus said. "But he's not really involved in the Tournament. Let's get back to the judges..."

Sirius ground his teeth, but went along with it. Dumbledore had his faults, but he wasn't likely to keep someone around who was going to hurt Harry.

If Dumbledore was wrong, though, and Snape was involved, then he'd find out just how easy he'd had it with James.
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Comments
alkari From: alkari Date: September 7th, 2009 08:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Excellent update. I really like the way you've worked in the canon from DH about Dumbledore being manipulative (which Harry and Snape had come to realise), and also the way Mrs Black 'got' Barty Crouch so devastatingly right. And of course, her very perceptive question about Wormtail and the lack of follow-up or rigorous examination of all the facts. She may have been off her tree when she wrote the article, but there were certainlyl some kernels of truth in her ravings.

And how very sad for poor Sirius, seeing that the only time his mother came out and defended him openly was after he had been sent to Azkaban. (It's a wonder she didn't come right out and say that Sirius, who'd run away and abandoned his proud family, was the last person to go over to Voldemort.)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 8th, 2009 02:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Well... Crouch didn't actually engineer the war for his benefit. But yeah, there are probably a few bodies buried at Azkaban that people don't know about.
alkari From: alkari Date: September 8th, 2009 03:00 am (UTC) (Link)
LOL - I didn't mean that Crouch Snr engineered the war! But you show how Walburga certainly saw through his ambition, and she nailed it in terms of what he would do for power in pursuit of his own career, even though he may have disguised it as 'for the good of the community'.

And how that rings true at times in certain areas of politics today ...
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: September 7th, 2009 09:35 am (UTC) (Link)
an the fall of the House of Black

And?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 8th, 2009 02:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Oops, yes.
willowbough From: willowbough Date: September 7th, 2009 01:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
That there was a hint of sanity in Ma Black's mad ravings makes it all the more disturbing. It's interesting to compare Sirius and Remus's theories now that we know, canonically, what actually happened. Looking forward to the next!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 8th, 2009 02:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. Mad people aren't always wrong (though I truly believe that conspiratologists generally are...)

Edited at 2009-09-08 02:53 am (UTC)
etain_antrim From: etain_antrim Date: September 7th, 2009 04:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
You've done a terrific job of showing how bittersweet it is for Sirius to read his mother's article -- very nicely done!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 8th, 2009 02:53 am (UTC) (Link)
I think Sirius really has to turn his more ambivalent emotions about his mother off, or they'd really drive him crazy.
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 7th, 2009 04:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interesting. I like the way you did Mrs. Black, suffering more from paranoia at this point. Once you take her "they're out to get me" POV into account, her position is fairly well argued and thought out. I know Sirius would hate to hear it but, if he'd been given a fair trial and released - and been able to bring himself to hang out with his mum a bit - her downward spiral might have been reversed at this point.

Granted, she'd need to reconnect with people other than Sirius, and I certainly don't mean to stick this all on him. But the loss of both her sons, one to unknown causes and one to causes she _knows_ don't add up, followed by her husband's sudden death, was a devastating triple punch. Most of her generation that she had maintained ties with seemed to have also been gone at this point. Creating or strengthening bonds with people who weren't just her age but who she shared some history with - even if it wasn't entirely friendly history - might have done a great deal for her (hard as it is to imagine McGonagall, Mrs. Longbottom, and Mrs. Black bonding over tea).

Anxiety reducing medication might also have helped immensely.

And I've got to stop with the medical treatment of fictional characters who I know didn't get it and whose stories are not going to be rewritten. But still.

Ellen
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 8th, 2009 02:54 am (UTC) (Link)
It really was a very nasty series of blows. No matter how nasty she was before, I think that sort of thing would be what would drive her over the edge into raving hag we saw in the portrait.
silvery_wraith From: silvery_wraith Date: September 7th, 2009 06:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh Walburga...just too little too late. That was immensely bittersweet to read, Fern.

Seems like Sirius is well on the way to following in his mother's footsteps between his own downward spiral and his suspicions of Snape not being taken seriously.
alkari From: alkari Date: September 7th, 2009 09:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
and his suspicions of Snape not being taken seriously. Well, Sirius was very largely right - Snape *was* a Death Eater, and as we saw when he came to Dumbledore begging for Lily's protection, he didn't give two hoots for James (understandable) or for poor little innocent baby Harry. Nothing Snape ever did was for Harry himself as a person, and for all that he carried a torch for Lily, Snape spent six years being thoroughly vindictive towards her son.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 8th, 2009 02:55 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah. Sirius is dead right about Snape, except in which side he's (technically) on.
chrischewscud From: chrischewscud Date: September 7th, 2009 10:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, the Black Family legacy: brilliance and insanity.

Man, I would've loved to see Sirius go at Dumbledore for the sh** he put Harry through!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 8th, 2009 02:55 am (UTC) (Link)
He may have at some point, like when DD suggested that no one tell Harry what was going on over the summer. Maybe I'll have a chance to write that.
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 8th, 2009 12:05 am (UTC) (Link)

i'm confused on what exactly is sirius doing?

what information is he looking for?

and good to know he takes what his mother said with a grain of salt.
I mean if Walburga didn't like Dumbledore before of course she wasn't going to start liking him. and the way i see it she agreed with the whole DE mind-set of blood purity and hated people like Dumbledore because of differences
so of course when tragedy strikes home is she going to blame herself? no she blames dumbledore. and the same way she tried to justify her prejudice, she comes up with a story to justify keep on hating Dumbledore

and there is this quote i don't understand:

"If Dumbledore was wrong, though, and Snape was involved, then he'd find out just how easy he'd had it with James."

what is he meaning by that?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 8th, 2009 02:57 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: i'm confused on what exactly is sirius doing?

i'm confused on what exactly is sirius doing?

He's wasting a month between getting Harry's letter and responding to it. ;p

You're right about that last line. I'll see what I can do with it. But what he basically means is that Snape thinks James was the worst of them and put him through hellish taunts in school, but if Sirius finds out he's trying to hurt Harry, he's going make James look like his dearest, bosom friend.
From: severely_lupine Date: September 8th, 2009 02:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Besides, he's a half-blood, remember? And he was always Lily's friend, right up until--"

"Until he started calling her a Mudblood," Sirius reminded him.


This addresses a question I've wondered about since DH: did Lupin and Sirius know that Lily and Snape were friends? On the one hand, you'd think they'd notice it, but the utter lack of any sort of comment on the subject at any point makes me think that, while I'm quite sure James knew, maybe the others didn't.

I feel as if I might have already mentioned this on a previous section of this story, but I can't remember.
alkari From: alkari Date: September 8th, 2009 02:55 am (UTC) (Link)
but the utter lack of any sort of comment on the subject at any point makes me think that, while I'm quite sure James knew, maybe the others didn't.

I don't think you can assume that. Firstly, the utter lack of comment at any point is probably explained by "JKR plot requirements", so that Snape's motives and true allegiance were kept mysterious until the very end. Secondly, you have to admit that Harry himself is the most UNcurious person about his parents!! He sticks his nose into all sorts of things about Voldy, yet never bothers about his parents. There he was in GP during OotP, both before school started and over Christmas, and he never seems to have asked either Sirius or Remus anything at all about his parents, yet Sirius was James' best friend! For a kid who stared so longingly into the Mirror of Erised in PS, and who loved Hagrid's photo album, Harry's lack of curiosity about them is one of the most striking features of the books. Of course, the fact that Lily was once friendly with Snape is not the sort of thing either Sirius or Remus would bring up in casual conversation, given the obvious mutual loathing between Snape and Harry.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 8th, 2009 02:59 am (UTC) (Link)
That. Also, I suspect that none of them, including Lily, had the slightest idea how important the friendship was to Snape, something that would have been helped along immensely by the fact that Snape turned on Muggle-borns instead of turning on Voldemort's people. (I mean, his tormentors were pure-bloods, and he was a half-blood. His best friend--only friend?--was Muggle-born, but he turned against her? Not exactly showing a face to anyone not in his head that would suggest the relationship had any importance to him.)
alkari From: alkari Date: September 8th, 2009 03:11 am (UTC) (Link)
True. Snape was hardly likely to wear any "unrequited love" badge on his sleeve around school, after all, especially when that person was a mere Mudblood. And he would never, ever let anyone see how much her rejection had hurt him.

I totally agree with you that not even Lily herself ever appreciated or understood how much she still meant to Snape. She probably assumed that once she had ended things that night outside Gryffindor tower (and especially after she took up with Snape's arch-enemy James!) that Snape would have totally dismissed her as just some childhood fantasy that he'd grown out of, now he was in with all the big boy Death Eaters.

From: severely_lupine Date: September 8th, 2009 10:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah, yes, I see your point. It's so easy to see this from Snape's POV, it's easy to forget that it probably wouldn't have looked like much to outside observers.

Though it still pisses me off that both Snape and Lupin died before Lupin found out the truth about him.
From: severely_lupine Date: September 8th, 2009 10:19 am (UTC) (Link)
You've got a point there. It does seem pretty likely that this can be explained by Rowling wanting to keep it a surprise, and by questionable characterization of Harry in regards to his parents. I still can't get over that part in PoA... "You knew my father." "Yes, I did." "Oh, neat. Now, what were you saying about Patronuses?" Riiight.
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 8th, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
I always figured that Harry, having been raised with almost no concept of what family means, was so bombarded at the beginning with people telling him how much he looked like his parents, and how brave and clever and gifted they were, that he pretty quickly reached a set of conclusions about them that satisfied his curiosity. By the end of the first book he knew that he looked just like his dad, that he had his mother's eyes, that they were both top students and gifted wizards, Head Boy and Head Girl. His dad was a Quidditch hero, and they both died to save his life. For an eleven-year-old boy, what more do you need to know? I don't doubt that when he gets older and has kids of his own, he's more interested in learning about who his family is and where he came from. The only question is whether there will be any way at that point for him to satisfy his curiosity.
littletwitchy From: littletwitchy Date: September 8th, 2009 05:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Remus frowned. "Anyway, let's get going. You can see from your mother's note what sorts of things were on the public's mind about Crouch. They didn't believe her, exactly, but I'd wager it was on a few minds when they thought about what happened to Crouch's son. Do you want the transcripts from that trial?"

"Featuring my dear cousin Bella? No, I heard enough about it at Azkaban. None of them are around the tournament to be bothering Harry."


The irony is delightful! Crouch Jr. is really quite clever about everything.
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