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The Clue In The Cauldron, Chapter 3: A Sudden September - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
The Clue In The Cauldron, Chapter 3: A Sudden September
Oh, hey, I haven't had a canon scene in the new generation for a while! As always, canon dialogue by JKR. And not only a canon scene, but a scene from "Marauder's Roost" and in the next chapter, a ficlet, albeit with different POVs (and apparently, from the comments, I've since changed the names of all of James's friends, then added one, since I wanted five in James's year instead of a matchy-matchy four Marauder set-up).



Chapter 3:
A Sudden September


The remainder of August seemed like forever to James after the party.

The disappearance of the cufflinks never seemed to go anywhere. Dad didn't seem to think it was worth much time. Teddy kept coming down from the island for supper. James wrote a story for Lily, who'd started crying a lot when she realized she'd be at home alone next year (in the story, a princess's favorite knights went off to fight a troll, and she was sad to be alone, but ended up having a fine adventure with the king and queen), which she pretended not to like, but was seen reading several times. The family went to Diagon Alley for books and Al's wand, and they bought him an owl for letters. Dad looked wistfully at a snowy owl, and Mum encouraged him to buy it, but he ended up not doing it. (James had his own owl, a black and white spectacled owl he called Lucy--after Saint Lucy, who Teddy said was patron saint of eyesight--which had been a gift last year.) Al picked out a black long-eared owl and named her Nyx, after the Greek goddess of night. James tweaked him a little about how it would go well with Slytherin decor, until Mum told him she'd have him on kitchen chores if she heard it again.

James spent a lot of time with his cat, Martian. The addition of Lucy to the family had meant that he could either bring Martian or Lucy, and, as Mum and Dad had reminded him, Martian didn't carry letters. James personally thought it wasn't fair that he could only take one pet, but Mum and Dad were both death on him trying to get any special privileges. He was still trying to work that out, but made no headway. Meanwhile, he gave Lily the heady responsibility of keeping Martian company, which she seemed to like, despite being more attached to her dog, Arf.

In truth, he also spent a lot of time with Lily. She drove him quite mad all the time, and was always picking fights, but he knew he'd end up missing her, as he had last year (he'd known Al was only a year away, but it seemed like it would be a very long time before he'd be with Lily much again). As a result of so much time together, by the time he was packing his trunk, they had no less than six arguments going. Al made himself scarce. He seemed to be winding himself up. James thought he needed someone to take the mickey out of him, but every time he started, Mum gave him a look that told him to think of another activity.

The last days of summer were full and long and hot, and seemed like they would go on forever, even after the tickets for the Hogwarts Express came, even when Kreacher closed up the trunks, even when the calendar page turned at midnight, and autumn dropped unexpectedly from a hazy summer sky. When James saw the tiniest scrim of frost at the bottom of his window before dawn on the first of September, he refused to believe it.

Even the rush to get the car packed--for a trip of only a few streets, really, which was very silly, but then, it was better not to have the Muggle neighbors staring--didn't seem entirely real. The day was too sunny, too crisp to be real. It was like something out of a dream, at least until they were actually in the car, owl cages perched on their laps, Al staring out at the world like a trapped animal.

James shook his head. Someone needed to get Al out of his terror, and he guessed, as big brother, that it was his responsibility, even if it meant kitchen chores. Being eldest meant that you sometimes had to make sacrifices. He tapped Nyx's cage. "Should have painted that green and silver," he whispered.

"Shut up," Al hissed.

"Really, it would have looked great, and those black feathers..."

Dad looked over his shoulder when they hit a traffic light and said, "James."

James stopped talking, but looked at Al wisely.

Al glared back, which was a big improvement over looking scared.

They had to park across the street from the station, and while Mum and Dad loaded the trunks and owls onto trolleys, Lily started sniffling. "I want to go with you," she told James.

James tugged on one of her braids and said, "You hardly want to be around when I'm at home."

"That's different. I want to go to school with you."

"Buck up, now, stiff upper lip and all that rot. Come on, now. You'll have plenty of fun with Mum and Dad."

The trolleys were loaded, and Dad waited for the light to change to cross the street. He reached out absently for Lily, who clung to his arm. Al went ahead nervously, and, after a moment of trying to decide which of his siblings to set straight, James followed--Dad had Lily well enough in hand, and it was Al he'd have to be looking out for this year.

"Come on, Speckles," he said, hooking an arm around Al's neck. Al looked up with horror at the nickname, and James decided to use it often, even though it had been an afterthought. "It'll all be grand. No need to be nervous. I understand the Slytherins only eat one or two firsties every year now."

"I'm not going to be a Slytherin," Al said through clenched teeth.

"Well, you know, you might be..."

The sound of trolleys caught up with them as Dad said, "It won't be long, and you'll be going, too."

"Two years! I want to go now!" Lily cried, and James turned briefly to glance at Mum, Dad, and Lily coming toward them.

"I won't!" Al declared--finally, in the midst of everything, losing his temper. "I won't be in Slytherin."

Mum came through the door and gave James an exasperated look. "James, give it a rest!"

"I only said he might be," James protested, giving Mum his best grin, which she'd said reminded her of her brother Fred. "There's nothing wrong with that. He might be in Slyth--" He stopped. Mum didn't have the "He reminds me of Fred" look so much as the "I am within an inch of Hexing you silent" look. There was no defense against it, and no point to trying. Mum was a youngest. She didn't really understand his job very well. He took his trolley, which she was pushing, and nodded eagerly, hoping she'd just let it go, then sped inside. Al would probably want a maudlin moment, anyway. Al loved his maudlin moments, and sure enough, the last time he glanced back before going through the barrier, he saw Al going over to Dad to have some kind of meaningful conversation.

James pushed through the barrier and into the steam-hidden crowd. Michael Prince had said he was going to be here early and wait for James and Robert, and Silas and Ahmed were going to commandeer a compartment. The Weasley cousins would be coming and--

James stopped as a pair of figures leaning against a wall came into view. They were snogging in a completely disgusting way, for a public place. He recognized Victoire's long blond hair, and--

"TEDDY?"

The name was out before James had even fully registered just whose blue and green hair was blocking out Victoire's whole face.

"JAMES!" Victoire pushed Teddy away from her and bared her teeth, looking every inch a veela in a rage. "What are you doing here?"

But James couldn't answer. This was... well... He blinked as Teddy turned around and said, "Teddy?"

Teddy grinned. "Yes, James?"

James pointed at their cousin. "That's Victoire."

"It is?" Teddy asked, making his eyes go wider than would have been possible without a morph. "How did that happen?"

"But you're... well... she... It's Victoire."

"Yes, James," Teddy said. "I came to see her off. Would you terribly mind going away now, so that I can finish?"

"But--"

"James, leave!" Victoire said, waving a small fist in his direction.

James shook his head in disbelief, willing the image to go away. When had this happened? Victoire was just going to go visit him if she happened to pass her Apparition test, but they'd known each other a very long time without needing to snog and...

He looked up, and they had disappeared.

"Right," James said. "No, wrong. Just wrong."

"What, talking to yourself?"

He turned around.

Michael was standing there, smiling. "Highgold's not here yet. I've staked out a spot for the trolleys. Spots and Bear are already on the train. We're set."

"Yeah, thanks, Snout... I, er... did you see that?"

"What, your cousin and your friend Lupin eating each other's faces?"

James held up his hand. "Let's not put it quite that way, all right?"

"All right," Michael said. "But, like I could admire Lupin any more..."

"Ew," James said. "Can you watch the trolley? I have to go back and find my family. You know, those people who are supposed to be... related to each other."

"I'll need to enlighten you on the definition of 'related' later."

James went back along his path, ignoring the steam and everyone else. Teddy and Victoire. Teddy and Victoire. Of course, Teddy had never been really related, except in the weird number of cousins way that everyone in the wizarding world was, but still...

Did anyone else even suspect this? He was sure someone would have mentioned it earlier if anyone had known. And who would have known? Why would anyone even think it? Teddy was family, just like Victoire. It was... wrong.

By the time he spotted the rest of the family--Aunt Hermione and Uncle Ron and the kids had shown up now--he was quite eager to tell it, to make sure they didn't hear it from anyone else, as it might be a bit upsetting. He hurried forward. In the heat, he ran out of breath quickly, and was practically puffing when he bumped into Al's trolley and said, "Teddy's back there!" He didn't really register anyone's face. "Just seen him. And guess what he's doing?"

No one took a guess, which James considered poor form.

"Snogging Victoire!"

He looked from Mum to Dad to Aunt Hermione to Uncle Ron. None of them seemed to understand.

"Our Teddy! Teddy Lupin." He shook his head. "Snogging our Victoire! Our cousin! And I asked Teddy what he was doing..." (This wasn't entirely true, but it sounded better than saying that he'd felt compelled to tell Teddy who he was kissing.) "He's snogging her!"

Lily, who had stopped crying about not going to school, actually clapped her hands, then whispered, "Oh, it would be lovely if they got married! Teddy would really be part of the family then!"

James blinked at the thought of this. Since when was Teddy not a part of the family?

Dad apparently agreed with this, as he smiled and said, "He already comes around for dinner about four times a week. Why don't we just invite him to live with us and have done with it?"

This seemed like a better plan to James, if Lily really needed convincing. "Yeah! I don't mind sharing with Al--Teddy could have my room!"

"No," Dad said, "you and Al will share a room only when I want the house demolished." He checked his watch. "It's nearly eleven, you'd better get on board."

There was a rush of activity for a moment--including Mum absurdly asking James to give their love to Professor Longbottom, who hadn't made any of the end-of-summer festivities because of the mandrake turf war--then James braced himself and started in on Al again, trying to jolly him out of nervousness. He gave up and ran on ahead, giving them a brief wave while Al made up some new drama.

Robert Highgold had arrived, and he and Michael were trying to push James's trolley along with their own to get to the train. He took it to the loading door, and they all boarded. They found Silas and Ahmed waiting at a compartment about halfway down. They'd welcomed a few firsties in, but had made sure there was more than enough room for everyone and their pets and luggage. James took a seat on top of his trunk and waited for Al, who he finally spotted and waved in. "Go on," he said. "Go to the window, Dad will want to follow the train and wave to you."

"Follow the--"

"Go on, you'll see."

Al looked around. He seemed to have lost his nervousness, and excitement was building in his face. James wondered what drama Dad had resolved for him. He leaned against the window, looking surprised to see that James was right, that Dad really was running along beside the train, waving. James let him have it to himself; he'd got it last year.

The train picked up speed, pulling away from King's Cross, out of the steam and into the crisp, cold sunshine outside. Al turned away from the window, smiling, and sat down on one of the seats. Silas offered him a Cauldron Cake, which he turned down.

"Dad said it would be all right," he said.

"What would?"

"If I'm Sorted into Slytherin."

"Well, of course he said it," James said. "And anyway, you're not going to be."

"Then why've you been saying...?"

"Well, you're just really funny when you start jumping around like that."

"Besides," Silas said, "you don't need to worry. James has a plan that, if you do get Sorted somewhere else, we'll kidnap you and bring you back to Gryffindor anyway."

Al laughed and put his feet up on Silas's trunk, right above a silver swirl-shape that decorated the side (James had asked what this did last year, and Silas had said, "It's a very powerful spell, which magically decorates the side of a trunk"). "Well, then, who's worried?"

Michael leaned toward James. "So, do you have the..." He opened his hands to simulate opening the Marauder's Map.

James pointed to the stranger firsties and said, "Textbooks? Sure I do."

"Oh," Michael said. "Right. Well, I brought cards."

They played scratch until Birmingham, then talked about classes a bit--the firsties wanted to know what was hard and which teachers were nice--then, from Rugeley to the Yorkshire Dales, James made up a story for them. It was about a vampire who lived on board the Hogwarts Express, and only fed on the first day of school. At the end, when he had everyone more or less mesmerized, he flicked his wand and opened an upper compartment, letting a pile of robes fall on a firstie's head. She screamed, then laughed, and everyone moved on. The rest of the way, they just got to know the firsties--Al signaled that he'd rather introduce himself than have James introduce him, probably because he was afraid of being introduced as "Speckles"--and did discourses on the Houses. The subject of Quidditch came up somewhere around Killin, and occupied the last leg of the journey to Hogsmeade. James had got his broom this year, and was planning to try out for the empty positions. All of them, if they'd let him, just so he could get one. He wasn't sure if he wanted to be a Chaser like Mum or a Seeker like Dad or a Beater like Nana and Uncle George. The Keeper wasn't going anywhere, or he'd give that a try as well. Why not? Quidditch was Quidditch, and it was all brilliant.

It was quite dark when they pulled into the station, and by the time the luggage was sorted out, a cold drizzle was coming down as well. James followed Al down to the boats before getting on the carriage (his friends were saving a seat), and took the scarf off from around his own neck. He put it over Al's, doubling it up.

"It's colder going across the lake," he said. "Mum'll have my head if you get sick."

"Right."

"And those are Gryffindor colors around your neck. I'll see you at our table."

"And if I'm not?"

"Then I'll come visit you wherever you end up."

Al looked at him shrewdly. "Really? No disowning me and making me eat slugs?"

"You know better than to believe a word out of my mouth when I say things like that."

"Right, first lesson, don't trust your only brother."

James felt a bit ashamed of himself on that, and patted Al's shoulder. "I said you can't believe me, not that you can't trust me. You can. You know that."

Al nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, I do."

"Firs' years!" Hagrid called. "That means you, too, Potter. Well, one of you, anyway, and the other's got a carriage waiting."

"Right," James said. "Don't fall in the lake."

"Don't get eaten by a thestral."

"I'll keep that in mind."

James smiled, and sent his brother down to the lake.

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Comments
From: severely_lupine Date: March 2nd, 2010 06:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Wonderful. Very nice integration of the canon scene. I actually read another author's attempt at the same thing (this scene from James's POV) and well, let's just say yours is far better. (Unfortunately, this other author gets so much press that I think he thinks he's much better than he is. He writes an entertaining enough story, but he plays a little fast and loose with canon. He has James sharing a dorm room with Teddy in his first year, if that gives you an idea.)

Very much enjoying this. I'm still hoping Al ends up in Slytherin, but I'm sure it'll be fun wherever you put him.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 2nd, 2010 06:42 am (UTC) (Link)
How exactly does it work, to have two people in different years share a room, even if you work the math out somehow to have them together instead of James starting right after Teddy leaves? (I'm honestly curious--we never saw mixed age dorms, and I'm wondering what the mechanism is!) FWIW, since in mine, James's year comes in after Teddy's exits, James is, quite literally, living in Teddy's dorm room.

Edited at 2010-03-02 06:44 am (UTC)
From: severely_lupine Date: March 2nd, 2010 06:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, that wasn't the only weird thing. He also had all the years and houses having classes together. There's literally one class where James shares it with a third year Hufflepuff and a sixth year Slytherin. And McGonagall is Headmistress, which makes it even more confusing. Like I said, fast and loose. Though this was retconned with the next book, where it's mentioned that there was some headmaster between Snape and McGonagall who switched things all around and mixed the years together, then it goes back to how it should be. So many logical/canon problems with the story. Though I agree with you, the math would seem to indicate that James and Teddy were never at school together, from what I could figure.

I actually wrote a review of the story here, if you're interested. It goes into some more detail about what worked and didn't work, IMO: http://severely-lupine.livejournal.com/82057.html#cutid1
viatrix03 From: viatrix03 Date: March 2nd, 2010 06:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Wonderful as always, Fern; thank you! 'Twas fun to see the boys getting on the train and the Teddy-snogging-Victoire episode again. I'd forgotten about that!

I was especially touched by the understanding in your portrait of the sibling relationships. As an eldest, I had to laugh out loud at James' Mum was a youngest. She didn't really understand his job very well. He's quite right: it's our job to tease them perpetually, be annoyed with them, and to look after them--that they might regard our approach as "smothering" and "overprotective" is pure misinterpretation. (I'll be ceding some of my "looking after" duties soon--to my brother's bride :) Anyway, you write all that beautifully.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 2nd, 2010 06:45 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm always pleased when siblings report an accurate portrayal. As an only... well, it's all just observational stuff!
tree_and_leaf From: tree_and_leaf Date: March 2nd, 2010 01:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, poor James! *hee*
willowbough From: willowbough Date: March 2nd, 2010 03:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
I always admire the way you blend canon and fanon, and this installment is a particularly fine example of that. Also, it's reassuring to see that James and Al are actually close, in spite of the fraternal ragging.
malinbe From: malinbe Date: March 2nd, 2010 04:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
All this brotherly love is terribly sweet. POVJames' dismay at Teddy and Victoire is believable and quite funny, especially when one knows what James doesn't.

I don't remember where Albus ends up in your universe, which is lucky, because now I am intrigued and will be all surprised. If I'm lucky enough, I will avoid thinking too mch about it during the day or I'll probably remember.
etain_antrim From: etain_antrim Date: March 2nd, 2010 06:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
James's dismay at finding Teddy and Victoire in a lip-lock is very cute. I'm sure that at the age of 12, he never really considered that Teddy might be seeking romance! He's a good big brother -- as the eldest, I worried about my siblings but was not quite as deliberate in trying to help them emotionally, I'm afraid.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 3rd, 2010 05:16 am (UTC) (Link)

Rose?

This was nice...but I was kind of expecting a bit of Rose being Hermione-like on the train, or maybe Rose doing something different, very un-Hermione like, your unique take on her...after all she probably would have been on the same compartment right? ...So was kinda disappointed that she was cut out of the scenes completely.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 3rd, 2010 05:37 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Rose?

I totally forgot about her, to tell the truth! Ha. I'll see if I can work in where she was in the next chapter. One thing about "live" writing--can't go back and work it in now!
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 3rd, 2010 02:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
doesn't Percy have a daughter called Lucy? It just seems like it would be a bone of contention if there was a cousin and a pet named the same thing in one family! loving it so far.
sidealong From: sidealong Date: March 3rd, 2010 06:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Love the kids perspectives of their parents (Harry & Ginny) Love Al's last line.

I'm oldest of 6, and I remember following my sis around during her wedding pictures (prior to the ceremony) trying my best to crack some jokes, and get some real smiles out of her. I think my efforts weren't appreciated, I wasn't successful in jolly-ing her out of her nervousness. Ah well...
easleyweasley From: easleyweasley Date: November 19th, 2016 11:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

Excellent

Neville as 'Boy Who Lived' is always a difficult one.

But I know I can rely on you to carry it off.
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