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The Clue In The Cauldron, Chapter 1: The Best Fort In the World - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
The Clue In The Cauldron, Chapter 1: The Best Fort In the World
I'm going to try some serious speed writing, like I haven't done since "Forest Guard." I need to kick start my brain, which has been non-functional even with prompts to steer it lately, so I'm going to try James's second year. He's cheerful and young, so I'm thinking Hardy-boys-esque, nothing too long. But I'll try to write every day, and maybe at a short chapter a day-ish, I can come up with a reasonably sized story before NaPoWriMo in April.

It's not great, but it seems to at least be breaking through the block. (The icon is my messing around take on James and Al, via Illustmaker (obviously). Anyone have a better one?)

I'll make a page to keep track of it pretty soon. If it seems to be working, anyway.

The Clue In The Cauldron

Chapter 1:
The Best Fort In the World

From above, the island looked mostly deserted. It rose up, lonely, from the stormy north sea, its stone-layered cliffs facing the choppy water with the air of old men who'd seen everything, and were no longer interested. A single, dilapidated shack stood at the foot of a round hill that those who knew such things would recognize as an ancient burial mound, though such an expert would sniff at the poor condition of this particular find, which had obviously been thoroughly ransacked, and even had an open pathway into its labyrinthine interior. Someone had left a bowl of stew there, which was now cold and congealing. The stew was the only sign of habitation... surely no one would want to live in the thin-walled shack that was up to its windows in high island grass.

Moving into the interior of the island, a hand-dug hole atop a hill suggested that whoever had left the stew might have been looking clumsily for treasure at some point, but had only uncovered a vast pile of Orkney rock, which sat in the middle of the hole for no apparent reason. No one was at this excavation to explain it.

Moving toward the east face of the island, where the cliffs were highest, the sound of high, childish laughter coming from a cave in the cliff's wall would have been entirely surprising to anyone approaching from above.

Not that anyone was going to be approaching it any time soon, a fact which delighted eleven-year-old Albus Potter, who was thoroughly tired of being jostled in the streets of London by people who looked at him blankly, then just about worshipfully when they noticed that he looked exactly like his father. In London, his messy black hair, green eyes, and specs made it impossible to go about with his friends in public, or even with his brother (James had it easy, as he looked like absolutely no one at all, unless one counted some Prewett cousin any number times removed, or perhaps Great Aunt Petunia). In London, when Al walked about outside, he could see people point at him, and hear whispers like, "Harry Potters son... Named for Albus Dumbledore... And Severus Snape, if you can believe it... must be so difficult, poor child..."

Here on the island, though, Al was just Al, soon-to-be Hogwarts student like any other, though at the moment, his brother James had woven a deep fantasy in which both of them, along with their sister, Lily, were pirates searching for lost treasures here in the catacombs beneath the island. Teddy Lupin, who owned the island--the whole island--after having come into a good bit of gold, was playing along, having morphed himself into an old miner who was telling them about the great curse on the whole cave. Teddy was Dad's godson. James called him their "godbrother," a relationship which did not, to Al's knowledge, exist, as Lily pointed out every time James said it. At the moment, though no one was saying it, he was mostly their babysitter, as Mum and Dad had gone off to Majorca for their fifteenth wedding anniversary. This was a great relief to all three Potter children, who had expected they'd need to stay at the Romp with Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione, but were instead staying here for the weekend, at what all three agreed (and for James and Lily, this was an increasing rarity) was the best fort in the world.

"Aye, mateys, be careful here," Teddy whispered, looking over his shoulder. He'd turned his hair white and made his face old and craggy, but otherwise looked like himself. "It's a bit slippery. Captain James might want to give pirate Lily a hand."

"I'm not a pirate anymore," Lily announced. "I'm a knight."

"You can't be a knight," James said.

"Why not?"

"You're a girl."

"I'm a girl knight."

"Well, then, Captain James can give Lady Lily a helping hand," Teddy said irritably, then looked at Al. "Unless the first mate wants to step in?"

Al shook his head. "First mate steers clear."

"Wise man," Teddy said. He dropped the accent and pointed ahead with the glowing tip of his wand. "There's room to follow along beside this stream, but stay behind me. I'm actually serious about that."

They pushed further into the cave. Teddy had to Conjure torches for the walls now, as they'd turned away from the cave mouth, where the broomsticks they'd used to get here were all resting. The flames cast flickery shadows on everyone's skin, and Lily's red hair actually seemed like fire.

They walked along a narrow mossy stone ledge that actually hung over an underground stream. Al's mind morbidly turned to stories of the cave where his namesake had once had to drink poison to reach a Horcrux, but he didn't mention that, as no one else seemed to be thinking of it.

"Have you been this far before?" James asked Teddy, scrambling forward.

"No. I just found the stream yesterday. I saw it cascading while I was flying." He reached out an arm and stopped James's advance. "And I told you to stay behind me. I'm not very interested in going to the Leaky Cauldron on Monday and saying, 'Oh, by the way, Uncle Harry--I dropped your firstborn off a cliff and he went into the North Sea."

"I will!" Lily offered.

"I think it would make Hannah a little angry," Al said. "I doubt she wants everyone to remember her grand re-opening as the time Harry Potter lost it completely."

Lily shrugged, unconcerned. In her backpack, her dolly, whose name was Megrez Cassiopeia Deneb Vega Potter, called "Meg," nodded enthusiastically. She'd been outgrowing the stupid thing until Uncle George had re-charmed it so it would now agree with her and say the things she wanted it to say.

"Well," James said philosophically, "it'll only be a little while before he loses it completely anyway. When the Hat Sorts you into Slytherin--"

"It's not going to!"

"--then we'll all have to stop talking to you, you know. You'll have to go live with the Malfoys."

Teddy swatted the back of James's head. "I wouldn't worry about that, Al."

"About being Sorted into Slytherin?"

"About anyone not talking to you. I have lots of Slytherin friends."

"Yes, but they're not normal Slytherins," James said, pushing the tease. "You know--all sneaky and borderline evil, like Al."

"I'm not sneaky!" Al said.

"But you're admitting to being borderline evil?"

"Oh, shut up."

James laughed, then came back easily along the ledge and hooked his arm over Al's shoulders. "Calm down," he said. "Everything will be fine. My friends and I will look after you."

Al pulled away. "I don't need looking after."

"Oh, but Silas was already planning to put you down for naps, and Michael Prince promised to make sure you eat your vegetables, and Ahmed's going to get you up in the morning, and Robert's going to--"

"--get a black eye if any of them try any of that," Al said.

James just laughed.

"I want to see more," Lily said, going up to Teddy and taking his hand decisively. "We'll just leave the pair of you behind." She turned up her nose.

James and Al looked at each other and rolled their eyes, then followed Teddy and Lily further into the cave.

James felt that they'd been walking for days by the time they reached the little spring that was the source of the stream, and he was spinning a story in his head about being lost in caves that really led to secret passages that allowed fast travel without Apparition.

Alas, this particular cave just ended in a dank area around the spring. There were no secret passages or messages.

Teddy grinned sheepishly. "Well," he said, "now we know."

"I like it," Lily declared, sitting down beside the water. "Can I drink some?"

Teddy Conjured a glass, scooped up some water, and pointed his wand at it. A fizzling silver light went through it, leaving bubbles in its wake. He shrugged. "Looks like it's fine," he said. "Have at it." He handed Lily the glass.

She drank. "It's the best water ever," she said.

Teddy made glasses for all of them. James decided that this was one of the rare times that Lily was right.

They all sat on ledges of shale to share their well-earned drink, and there wasn't much talk until Lily said, "What sort of party is Hannah going to have?"

"It'll be a grown-up party," Teddy said. "Nice dress robes and so on. But there'll be a cake. She's getting it from the Gudgeons."

Al stretched his legs out. "I don't understand. It's not like the Cauldron was ever really closed. It was just under Obscuration Hexes."

"People couldn't stop in for drinks or supper," James told him. "She's going to open up everything."

"And it'll look different," Teddy added.

James was not impressed with a building looking different. He just hoped she wasn't going to turn it into some ferny coffee shop. He'd seen a few shiny things arrive for her at Hogwarts last year, and some actual ferns really had disappeared from the greenhouses. He didn't think Neville Longbottom would collaborate in a Ferny Felony, but he'd seen men do some odd things after they got married. He was going to meet his friends at the party to plan next year, but it didn't seem like there'd be much to do there.

"I'd rather stay here," James said.

"No luck," Teddy told him. "You're not staying alone, and I'm going."

"I want to see what Hannah's done," Lily said. "I hope there are lots of flowers."

James groaned.

Teddy laughed. "All right, I think we've found everything to be found here for now. Shall we go back and have lunch?"

This was amenable to everyone, and Teddy took them all up to the surface by Side-Along Apparition. They found themselves in a low area between two shallow hills. With a flourish, Teddy twirled his wand and set it to digging a well.

James was watching this with interest, then he slapped his forehead. "Our brooms! We took our brooms down!"

Teddy rolled his eyes and said, "Accio brooms," and his broom and James's new one came flying up over the sea cliff. "Come on"," he said. "Let's get back to the house. I'll set the tent up by my cellar hole, and we can all be the first people to live where my new house will be."

"Can we see the pictures again?" Al asked as they started to move.

"Of course."

"And hear about all of it?" Lily asked.

Teddy grinned. "Sure."

James didn't ask for anything in particular. Whatever the house would be, the island was already the best place he knew.

They made their way up to the center of the island, and Teddy pitched the wizarding tent he'd bought. It was very much to James's liking--the inside had log walls, and a braided rug, and looked like someone's old hunting lodge. Here, Teddy brought out the pictures his architect had drawn, and told Lily again about the eight guest rooms and the ballroom and how the master bedroom would be all by itself on the top floor, so you could see the whole island from it. She asked who he would marry. He said he didn't know, which was more or less right, as Teddy was too young to worry about such things. Besides, everyone except Lily knew it would be Ruthless Scrimgeour.

After they ate lunch, they fell into a drowsy, pleasant sort of silence, which James endured for nearly ten minutes before he said, "I was thinking about a story."

"No!" Al said.

"I want to hear," Lily said.

Teddy Summoned a scroll. "Is it about going back to school?"

James wrinkled his nose and shook his head, starting to spin the story of the boy lost in the caves that would take him anywhere in the world.


Why would he write about school? He was a second year, after all. He already knew what would happen there.


23 comments or Leave a comment
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: February 26th, 2010 07:41 am (UTC) (Link)


All about my Jamie!!

Shows you what Al knows about godsibs -- gossips, as we say nowadays!

When I was little, I called my cousin/godmother "Goddie Joan".
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 26th, 2010 07:44 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Huzzah!!!!

My godmother's daughter is my mother's goddaughter. I always call her my godsister! And she's 22 years younger than I am.
tree_and_leaf From: tree_and_leaf Date: February 26th, 2010 12:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yay, more from the younger generation!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 26th, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
My brain keeps going there. It makes me happier, as they have a future, as opposed to the Marauders 1.0.
etain_antrim From: etain_antrim Date: February 26th, 2010 03:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Fun start! It will be lovely to catch up with James, Teddy, and the others.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 26th, 2010 11:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I hope so!
From: severely_lupine Date: February 26th, 2010 03:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Woo! I actually haven't read this yet (have to go to work soon), but I'm looking forward to doing so tonight. I hope this helps with the block.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 26th, 2010 11:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hope you like it!
From: severely_lupine Date: February 27th, 2010 01:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I do! I don't think I've ever read a Hardy Boys book, so I'll just have to wait and see what something like it looks like.
maz333 From: maz333 Date: February 26th, 2010 04:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yay! This is adorable. I just adore your young Potterlets, and of course the lovely little insert about Teddy definitely marrying Ruthless--according to James, no less!--was priceless. Good luck jumpstarting your muse; it seems to me this is the perfect way to do it!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 26th, 2010 11:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, James just knows that's inconceivable that Ruthless won't stick around. ;p

I hope the muse gets a good shock; she's been sticking her nose up a lot lately and needs one.
sidealong From: sidealong Date: March 1st, 2010 04:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Little does young James know what's really in store for Ruthless... funny stuff.
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: February 26th, 2010 06:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
HOORAY. I am so looking forward to this!!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 26th, 2010 11:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm kind of looking forward to it, too. It's sort of a Hardy-Boys vibe, I think. I never tried one before.
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 26th, 2010 08:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
This looks like it will be a lovely lighthearted ride for us!
Do you know if you'll keep switching back and fourth between Al and James? I rather like the contrast. I do love your Teddy, and your Potterlets.
Do you think you might get back to the ten-thousand prompt list, after NaPoWriMo?
Very glad to see you back!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 26th, 2010 11:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'll switch back and forth, though probably not in the same chapter like this. The next two chapters will be James, then I'll go back to Al, I think.
willowbough From: willowbough Date: February 27th, 2010 02:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Cool! A new story, and it looks like fun. It will be interesting to read James's adventures now. Glad to see you writing again.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 27th, 2010 07:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Good to be writing again!
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 27th, 2010 07:22 pm (UTC) (Link)


it will be cool to see more on your take on the next gen.

althought i hope fandom didn't influence you and Al ends in slytherin in this, just because of the reference in the epilogue.

if anything he seemed a hufflepuff.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 27th, 2010 07:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: interesting....

Oh, Lord, no--James is trying to freak him out, thus explaining his concern, but these kids are half Potter and half Weasley--they roar in their sleep.
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 28th, 2010 04:02 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: interesting....

oh good. because the fandom cliche of Al in slytherin, i blame more of the diehard slashers than in REAL characterization, is of sl;ytherin Al just because of his second name is stupid

sidealong From: sidealong Date: March 1st, 2010 04:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: interesting....

Al could want to be his own man, to be known for something other than looking just like his Dad. Being a child of Harry Potter might give one a strong desire to prove one's self. Ambition.

(Similar reasoning to why Harry was considered for Slytherin. I don't think it was just because of the Harrycrux scar.)
sidealong From: sidealong Date: March 1st, 2010 04:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yay for the Next Generation!

Your post about stopping work on the fic requests only went through to friends, I think. I got it via google reader, but can't see it on livejournal.

Anyhow, I'm just so happy to read a James and Albus story from the great Fern! Teddy conjuring those drinking glasses in a cave was a bit spooky though. What age are you writing Lily and Hugo?

Shiny things arriving for Hannah at Hogworts? Was she living there prior to opening the Leaky Cauldron? I love that James notices details so well, like the missing fern plants!
23 comments or Leave a comment