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The Clue In The Cauldron, Chapter 12: The Roundhouse - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
The Clue In The Cauldron, Chapter 12: The Roundhouse
James is rather humiliated in his first Quidditch game, scoring a goal and having it credited to the other team because he wasn't supposed to be playing Chaser, but Gryffindor wins anyway when he catches the Snitch (he's not terribly impressed with this skill). During the party, Rose Weasley tells him that she's managed to do a basic translation on the runes Silas gave her before he disappeared, which appear to be a basic fairy tale written in bad Irish. It involves a prince in a tower and a creature called a Pooka. James tries to finish the tale in order to find Silas. When Al asks if he thinks he's on "the right track," he has an epiphany of how Silas might have gotten off school grounds: The Hogwarts Express once had a spur onto school grounds, and had needed a magical way station--a roundhouse that expanded magically--to turn around. Al is skeptical, but as it's the only thing to do, James informs everyone that they will be catching a train the next day.

James has an owl that I named Lucy, after St. Lucy, but was then reminded that JKR's family trees have a cousin named Lucy. To avoid confusion, the owl is now Lucia.



Chapter 12:
The Roundhouse


Unfortunately, it rained on Sunday, too hard to go out and explore anything. James was still game to try it, but Michael Prince pointed out that any clues would be difficult to see, and possibly flooded: "I don't especially fancy getting pneumonia to play one of you hunches, and we don't even know where to start looking."

"Fine," James said. "Library?"

"What are we looking for?"

"The train."

No one had offered a good argument for this, so James called brought his dormitory mates, then called Celia, Al, and Rose for good measure. They set up a headquarters in the section on the Goblin Wars, where it was reasonably certain that no one would bother them. Harris Decker, the new library apprentice, looked like he wanted to ask why they were looking, but Madam Pince gave him a stern look and he went back to the desk.

Al had come up with a history of wizarding railways in Britain, which mentioned the spur but didn't give details. He was utterly absorbed in it. James considered pointing out that it was useless in their current project, but decided to let it be. Who knew? Maybe he'd come up with something. Or maybe Al's grand destiny was to create a new wizarding train that would dwarf the speeds of the new Muggle ones, and this was the very afternoon he'd stumble on it.

"What have you got?" Rosie asked, looking up at Celia from behind a stack of books she'd chosen on Expansion Charms (judging by the expert way she went directly for certain pages, James guessed she had some of them at home).

Celia shrugged and dropped a pile of leather bound books on the table. "A few journals and memoirs from students who showed up while the spur was here. Maybe one of them mentions if they got off by the lake or in the forest or right at the front door."

Ahmed took the top one. "With our luck, it's at the White Tomb, and we'll have to break in and disturb Dumbledore to find the Charm."

"That's morbid," Michael said.

"Morbid, but true." Ahmed made a face as though he had already started smelling the inside of the tomb, then started reading.

"I'm sure they'd have discovered any Charm work before the tomb went up," Robert said.

Celia grinned. "Oh, not if they weren't looking. Why, I reckon we'll have to send Spots in ahead of us. He's smallest--"

"Al's smallest," Ahmed said.

"Not actually," Rose said.

"Shh."

James looked over his shoulder. Harris was looking at them nervously over his raised hand. He shrugged self-consciously. James nodded.

"It's not in the tomb," Michael said.

"And if it is, we'll find another way," James said. "Let's not bother Dumbledore."

"I still think we could ask his portrait," Al said. "It likes me."

"If Dumbledore knew of a way into the school or out of it, he'd have sealed it up when Sirius escaped," James said.

"Oh, right. Except for the Shrieking Shack tunnel."

"The what?" Robert asked.

"The ditch that runs off toward Hogsmeade from the Whomping Willow, it used to be a tunnel that went to the Shrieking Shack, which was the most haunted house in Britain before Teddy burned it down and--"

"Shh!"

Conversation was cut off again. James took one of the books in Celia's little pile. It seemed like as good an idea as any. It belonged to a Slytherin named John Rice, and didn't talk about the train. He was about to cast it away when his eye fell on a familiar name.

Ah, the days at Hogwarts! Quite stunning, really. I walked along the path beside the Forbidden Forest, and looked toward the lake, which was glowing in the afternoon sunlight. In my mind even now I can see my compatriots lounging there--Belvina Black, sunning herself, as always, while Herbert Burke read the poems he constantly wrote for her. Looking on with hopeless jealousy was our dormitory mate, Horace Slughorn, who was a good fellow, but never entirely up to Belvina's standards...

"Slughorn!" James slapped his forehead. The others looked up. "Of course, he was quite old, I forgot, he'd have been here when the train was, but he wasn't the sort to think about things like that!"

"Do we know where to find him?" Robert asked. "Who is he?"

"He used to teach Potions. But mostly, he likes to collect famous wizards. God, Dad gets letters from him all the time. He's spending his retirement in Paris, eating French food and--"

"Shh!" James looked up. Harris had come over, looking vexed, and said, "Really, I don't care if you talk, but if I don't stop you, Madam Pince will have my head."

"It's all right. I'm going. I need to send a letter."

"Do you want us to keep looking?" Rose asked.

"Yes, of course," James muttered, and left. He went up to the dormitory and fished for a quill and parchment. He started to simply explain the situation to Slughorn, but it occurred to him that this was likely to get back to adults who would tell him he was being foolish, so he decided to spin a little story, telling him instead that Al had got interested in the history of trains, and was wondering where the spur at Hogwarts had come in. It sounded plausible, so he took it up to the Owlery, where Lucia was giving him an impressive frown.

"Sorry," he said, "I haven't sent any letters!"

She looked at him dully, then stuck out her foot and turned up her beak.

He attached the letter and said, "Could you take it to Professor Slughorn, please?"

She nodded and took off without a backward glance.

"I could have brought the cat, you know!" James called after her.

None of the others reported finding anything when they returned to Gryffindor (Rosie had got distracted in the library and not come with them, but Al said she'd looked quite annoyed with the whole process), and there didn't seem to be anything else to do for the rest of the afternoon. James asked Al for introductions to his actual dormitory mates, and invited them down to the Common Room for a Hex War. They refused, even though he promised that the second years would only use first year hexes.

The group dispersed, leaving James more or less alone in the Common Room. He sat down in one of the chairs by the fireplace.

"If you want a hex war," someone said from the chair beside him, "I do need someone to hex that doorknocker so it only tells riddles. Stupid ones." Victoire leaned forward, smiling, her long blond hair coming down in silky curtains around her face. "I don't know if a second year could do it, but you do seem bored..."

"The Head Girl wants me to go hex the way into another House?"

"The Head Girl knows nothing about it," Victoire said airily. "And frankly, the Head Boy was the one responsible for that horrible dress the poor Fat Lady was wearing this morning, and I think it needs some payback."

James laughed. "Then I'm forgiven...? You know, for at the station."

"Not in the least, but you know more stupid riddles than anyone I know. Do you want to come help me? I might need to find some way to see if there's anyone in the way... you wouldn't happen to know of a way I could do that, would you?"

"Why do I think you know I do?"

She grinned. "Teddy introduced me to it when I was a first year."

"I'll help," James said. "But first, you have to tell me something."

"What?"

"This snogging business... has that been going on since then, too?"

"No. The snogging business is relatively new, except for... well, it's new."

"All right, then."

"Thank you for your permission." She pulled him up by his hand. "Come on, let's go."

James nodded and followed her out. "Do you want to be Invisible?" he asked.

"No, I think we're fine with a bit of guidance."

"Do you have a Marauder name? I know Teddy's called Wings."

"Teddy isn't a great one for giving Marauder names. I note you've named everyone except your brother."

"I'm still working on that. I tried Speckles, but he didn't like it."

"What's yours?"

"I'm James Potter... I'm Prongs, of course."

"I think you should try to be more original." Victoire led them toward the mural across from the Room of Requirement. "Teddy says he hasn't had a letter from you. He thinks you're angry at him."

"I've been busy."

"I told him so." She sighed. "James, the adults are working on this business with your friend."

"Well, they're not finding him, are they?"

"They will."

"I hope so," James said. "I hope he's not hurt."

"Do you really hope they'll find him, or are you hoping you'll be the one to do it?"

"Why does everyone ask that? I want him found. Rosie thinks I'm trying to make a name for myself, and I'll bet Teddy thinks I'll cock it all up, and--"

"Teddy has reasons to worry about that, seeing how often he did so himself." Victoire shook her head. "James, absolutely no one thinks you won't make a mark on the world. You don't have to start saving people at twelve to do it."

"Am I out here with you so you can lecture me?"

"No, you're out here because I don't know many riddles. Lecturing you is a side benefit." She rolled her eyes. "Never mind. Let's get to Ravenclaw."

James got out the Marauder's Map and saw no one in the way. They went together to the door knocker and Victoire argued with it for a long time before she found a way to add some charms to its repertoire of questions. It wouldn't, to her disappointment, only tell riddles, but she did manage to open it up. James gave her a few of the worst riddles that Lily's dolly, Meg, liked to tell. She told him that any Ravenclaw would overthink and never get the answer to "How did the dragon heat things up?" (it was "by catching a cold"). They went back to Gryffindor Tower together without either of them bringing up personal matters, and Victoire sent him up to his dormitory with strict orders to never mention that she and Story Shacklebolt were still running their war from the high perch of Head Boy and Head Girl.

Two days later, Al's owl, Nyx, returned from London with an answer to one of his letters, and the news that Dad would be up for his annual teaching visit next week. Al, who was finally getting past people looking at him strangely, groaned at the thought of a resurgence. James assured him that Dad was a good enough teacher for it to be worth it.

On Friday, Lucia returned at breakfast, bearing a letter in old copperplate handwriting. James took it.

Ah, the younger Mr. Potter! it began. What an interesting letter, and how pleased I am to hear from you. Were I still at Hogwarts, I would certainly be inviting you to a dinner party at this point! Your brother as well. An interesting hobby he's developed.

"What hobby?" Al asked.

"Trains," James said. "You're dead fascinated by them."

"Of course. How could I forget?"

I'd nearly forgotten that the Hogwarts Express once came inside the grounds. The strange things that slip one's mind with age! Oh, yes, we rode in through the gates, and always waited for the roundhouse. They expanded it outward, and we always looked forward to seeing where it would take us, though naturally, the train was sealed and we could only look through the windows.

"Yes, but where was it?" James muttered.

Let me see, I recall that we came along the lake. The train made a lovely reflection in it. The roundhouse wasn't close to the door, though; it would have been a distraction. There was a sort of secluded glade by the lake. You can see it from the top of the Astronomy Tower--or from the Headmaster's Office--but on the grounds, the hills often hide it. I caught a few students there in my time, sending up fireworks.

James closed his eyes. He thought he knew the place--Uncle George had told him about a good place for fireworks on the lake shore. He thought about it through classes, and late that night, checked for it from the top of the Astronomy Tower.

The next morning, he gathered the others at the door outside the Great Hall and said, "I know where we're going to look... are you with me?"

As the sun was shining brilliantly, despite a certain chill of the October air, no one was averse to the idea of an outdoor adventure. As it was daylight, there wasn't even a need to hide it. James made a point of waving to Professor Longbottom on the way out.

The walk around the lake was pleasant. A colony of fairies was settling in for the autumn, wrapping themselves in bright leaves, and the Giant Squid swam lazy laps beside them (Robert tossed it some breakfast). They came to the clearing just before noon.

"This is fabulous!" Michael declared. "I don't care if there's a cursed roundhouse here, I'm coming back for fireworks."

"I have some from Uncle George," Al said. "They were a present."

"Then we're set for Bonfire Night." Robert looked around. "What... er... what are we looking for, James?"

"Not a clue," James told him. "Just see what there is."

They fanned out into the clearing with no further discussion. Al started crawling around in the high grass. Ahmed examined the pebbles on the shore. Robert took the trees on the north side, and Michael took the ones on the south. Celia climbed up a rock pile to survey things, and Rose started drawing a map. James took the center of the clearing, trying to leave his mind open to just about anything.

It didn't take long--the clearing wasn't very large--before Al discovered two even lines of black cinders, long overgrown with grass and invisible, but easy to feel if you were digging around in the grass. Everyone came over to admire the find, except for Celia, who took one look and then got down onto her hands and knees to see how far she could follow them. James was about to tell her it was a good idea when she suddenly stood up and said, "I've got something else!"

"What is it?" James asked, hurrying over.

"Well, I tried to brush a pebble away, but it didn't move, and--" She bent over and clawed away some of the dirt. "Well, look. It's a metal loop." She put her finger inside of it and started to pull.

"That's great, we--" James started, excited, then stopped.

There was a low rumble in the earth.

"Celia, you'd better stop..."

But it was too late.

A great aperture opened in the ground, and from inside of it, something growled.

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Comments
amamama From: amamama Date: April 20th, 2010 11:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Woohoo! you're back on track. *grin* Quite literally too - I love this, and hope I won't have to wait long to find out what Celia woke up. Growling, inside an aperture that opened in the ground, with a rumble? Ooohh! Sounds deliciously dangerous. And cliff-hangerish. So please don't leave us hanging for long! *puppy eyes*

Seriously, though: Great instalment!
sidealong From: sidealong Date: April 20th, 2010 12:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nice dose of fernwithy to start my day! Love the Slughorn letter, and the way James' relationships are developing.

Hate the cliffhanger though! Great chapter even so!
willowbough From: willowbough Date: April 20th, 2010 01:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think what I liked best was the interplay of three generations here:James's, Teddy/Victoire's, and Slughorn's. And welcome back to the classic cliffhanger ending...I think.
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 20th, 2010 02:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Fluffy!

OK, probably not, but I can't think of anything else.

Ellen
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 21st, 2010 01:52 am (UTC) (Link)

Fluffy!

That was my thought too. I don't think JKR ever said what happened to him, after all....

I absolutely love the Potter-lets and Weasley-ets interaction, Fern. They definitely sound like siblings/cousins who grew up together (and can press each other's buttons!). Victoire playing big sister, while still being a partner in crime, was marvelous. Love James' owl, too. I'm still in denial about Hedwig, but it looks like you've given James a Hedwig of his own to keep him in line!

Looking forward to the next one!
From: maxzook Date: April 20th, 2010 04:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

Two typos

For some reason your typos always seem to come up in the opening paragraphs ...

I don't especially fancy getting pneumonia to play one of you hunches
should be your hunches

so James called brought his dormitory mates
double verb

Great chapter, love the cliffie!
etain_antrim From: etain_antrim Date: April 20th, 2010 06:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
There's a lot to like in this installment -- Slughorn's letter, Victoire and James, and then, oh my heavens, the cliffhanger! Very nice all round.
hermia7 From: hermia7 Date: April 20th, 2010 08:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Love Slughorn's letter. That man is very easily led.
malinbe From: malinbe Date: April 20th, 2010 09:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
That was a GREAT chapter! I love trains. And things that growl. I can't wait to find out what Celia unleashed on the Hogwarts grounds.
From: severely_lupine Date: April 21st, 2010 03:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, dear...

She grinned. "Teddy introduced me to it when I was a first year."

I thought Victoire found out about the map in Teddy's first year. It's in FG, isn't it?

"I'm James Potter... I'm Prongs, of course."

He's James Sirius. He should be, like... Prongfoot or something. I agree with Victoire, though. He definitely needs something more original. Although I'm not sure if non-animal types really ought to get Marauder names.
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