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Dance by the Light of the Moon, pt. 1 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Dance by the Light of the Moon, pt. 1
Ever since I read Carrie, I've wanted to try something in that semi-epistolary style. And what the heck? I haven't done any serious style experiments of late, and it would be a different way to attack The Prank (I think). I don't know how many parts this is going to be, though I promise it's not just going to be Remus's point-of-view this time. He's just opening it. Snape will have his say as well, and so will several others.

From Memories For Harry, the unpublished memoir of Remus J. Lupin, addressed to Harry J. Potter:
It would be easy for me to tell you that none of us expected it to happen, and equally easy to tell you that we knew all along that it would. But life is rarely easy, as you've noticed, and the truth, as it so often does, lies somewhere in between. You know that things had never been particularly good between Snape and our little group. We didn't make Snape's life easy, and Snape made a lifelong habit of tweaking James and Sirius's noses. Why was it like that? I couldn't tell you. I could follow it back from prank to prank, retaliation to retaliation, and we still wouldn't get to the root of it. I sometimes think you'd need to go back to Grindelwald, and from there... who knows?

All I can really do is isolate the particular chain of events in our sixth year that led to it, and even now, looking at it and thinking about it, I can't tell you what made it unique, why it went as far as it did, or why so much changed after it... or why so much didn't. So the beginning of the story I'll tell you isn't really the beginning of it all, nor will the end be a satisfying ending (it certainly wasn't for any of us at the time). But it's something you should know and understand as well as you can.

Because for you, it did change everything...

From Regulus Black, age eight, letter to Sirius Black, when the latter had just departed for school:
...and Mum says I'd best not be sorted into Gryffindor with you--she's being very, very Mum about that--but even if I'm not, I'm sure we'll have such fun together when I come! Please tell me everything and everything and everything...!

"What I don't understand," Peter said, reaching across the breakfast table for the salt, "is how they got to the elephant."

James laughed into his orange juice, and Sirius rolled his eyes. Remus shook his head and said, "What do you mean?"

"I mean, the blind men. You know, the ones that've got hold of different elephant parts, and the one with the tail thinks it's a snake, and the one with the leg thinks it's a tree, and all that. How did they get to it? Did they all go in together to try and find something? Or did someone set them up? Were they all from some blind men's village, and they heard something crashing about in the trees? Or did they all just happen to wander into the jungle from different towns, and run across the thing by accident?"

"Peter, it's just a fable," Remus said, trying not to laugh. He was never sure whether or not Peter was being serious.

"I know that. But, you know... how does it happen that they're all fondling an elephant? And why does the elephant stand still for it? It's been bothering me ever since Evans told it in Muggle Studies, is all."

"I'll go ask her," James offered. "Hey, Evans!"

Down the table, Lily Evans gave him an exasperated glance, and he sat down again, grinning. Remus thought James would grin daffily at Lily if she were in the process of vivisecting him.

Once he'd finished his momentary reverie, James leaned forward. "So," he whispered, "who's for a bit of an adventure tonight? Ten galleons says that Kettleburn's got a dragon off in the far paddock, and that's why it's off-limits."

Sirius started to smile, then shook his head. "Detention. Remember? With McGonagall."

"That bit with Snivellus?"

Sirius nodded, utterly unrepentant. Snape had called Peter a coward in Care of Magical Creatures three days earlier, and when they'd seen him in the library later, Sirius had charmed a spare quill to crawl up Snape's neck like a spider, causing Snape to scream in surprise and revulsion and draw attention to himself before he realized what it was. Madam Pince had turned Sirius over to McGonagall, and McGonagall always gave him detention. "It's my witty banter," Sirius had said. "She just can't go without it."

"Pity, that," James said. He looked at Remus and Peter. "What about the pair of you? Care to have a look?"

"I--" Peter started, but then stopped, distracted by laughter from the Slytherin table.

Remus looked over, and tried in vain to think of something that would keep Sirius from turning his head or looking over his shoulder. Anything. Nothing came in time.

Sirius glanced over casually, without much interest at first, then the group of Slytherins parted enough for him to see. Regulus Black, dressed in a towel wound around him like a house elf, was scurrying from person to person, serving them breakfast from a large tray he carried. They were laughing at him, insisting that he produce food from the tray that hadn't been prepared, or jabbing him to make the whole thing tip precariously.

From the front table, Remus heard the shrill voice of Professor Jackson, the elderly Head of House at Slytherin. "What is going on?" she demanded, and there was a series of sharp clicks as she she came down to her students. "Mr. Black, I demand an explanation."

Regulus looked nervously from one to another of his housemates, then said, "Nothing ma'am. I was just overheated and thought I'd cool down a bit."

Sirius was halfway across the room by that point, but stopped when Regulus fixed him with a glare and turned his back. James had followed, and Remus realized that he was most of the way there himself now, and Peter was puffing away a few yards back.

Sirius started forward again, looking to reach through the crowd and pull Regulus out, but changed course in the middle of the action, headed for...

Remus groaned.

Narcissa Black was sitting quietly, sipping her morning tea as though nothing untoward were happening, when Sirius pulled her around to face him. "Why are you letting them do this?" he asked. "I thought you were the one obsessed with family honor."

As James, Remus, and Peter reached them, Narcissa was casually drying a spot of tea that had splashed onto her robe when Sirius pulled her around. "Regulus is doing this to make up for your cheek," she said. "It's his choice. To show that the family is still loyal, a point for which you seem to show no concern at all." She turned around again and went back to her breakfast.

Sirius gritted his teeth and flexed his fists, and James yanked him back by the cowl of his robe. Remus looked at him and shook his head, leaning forward slightly so that the prefect's badge would show. Not that it would really stop Sirius from hitting Narcissa if he was determined to do so, but it was the only thing Remus could think of to do.

Peter looked nervously between James and Sirius, then made a great show of checking his watch. "Perhaps we should get to class," he said. "Kettleburn's been a bit foul about us being late just lately."

James, still holding on to Sirius's robe, nodded, although they had nearly fifteen minutes before they were expected in Care of Magical Creatures. "Good thought. We'll have a nice, brisk walk down there."

Sirius looked at him sullenly, unfooled, but relaxed his fists. "Fine," he said. "Let's get our things." He started back toward the Gryffindor table, and Remus thought the crisis was past, but halfway there, Sirius swerved back around, reached through the crowd of Slytherins, and dragged his younger brother out by the scruff of his neck.

"Get dressed, Regulus," he hissed. "Now."

Regulus pulled away. "You're not in charge here." He started to go back to his table, the turned around again, glaring. "I'm doing this because of what you did, so if you want to beat someone up for it, look in the mirror." At that, the Slytherins cheered, and cleared a place for him to sit down. Severus Snape sat across the table from him, watching the entire exchange with an unpleasant expression on his face.

Sirius looked across at Snape, started to say something, then apparently thought better of it and stalked away. James and Peter followed.

Remus remained where he was for a moment, not entirely sure what he was watching, then Andrew Parkinson said, "What do you want, Lupin? New clothes? It'd have to be an improvement." He laughed, and conjured a towel with the Hogwarts crest on it.

Remus shook his head and went on.

"What was that about?" James asked when he got to the table.

"I was trying to decide if I had authority to take points," Remus lied. "I suppose I don't, if Regulus isn't admitting that they're making him do it."

"They're not." Sirius reached across the table and tossed him his book bag. "Bloody little git thinks he's being a right little family hero." He picked up his own bag and started out, Remus and the others following in his wake. "Of course, he's probably right; Mum will just love it. Stupid little idiot. And for a Slytherin, what's this loyalty business? Isn't that meant to be Hufflepuff? Why are the Slytherins suddenly worried about loyalty, anyway...?"

He went on in this vein all the way down to the first of Kettleburn's paddocks, complaining and kicking at loose stones he found on the ground. To Remus's surprise, James didn't try to jolly him out of it. Instead, James had a rather thoughtful expression on his face that was quite alien to it. When they finally reached the paddock, James put a hand on Sirius's shoulder and just said, "Mate, you need to calm down."

Sirius took a series of loud, deep breaths, then nodded. "Right, right. I don't know how I ended up with such a stupid brother, but right. I need to... calm down." He stuffed his hands in the pockets of his robes, went to the far end of the paddock, and started the feeding routine for Kettleburn's colony of Dugbogs. Peter followed him after a moment.

"Has he said anything to you?" James asked quietly, not looking at Remus.

"About what?"

"Anything that happened this summer. He's been getting into fights since we got on the train last month." He sighed. "I know. It sounds like every year. But it's different. Haven't you noticed that it's different?"

"Yes. But if he hasn't told you, he definitely hasn't told me."

"Sometimes, you're easy to talk to. Mainly any time the moon isn't full." James shook his head sharply and rolled his eyes. "Come on. Let's go feed Dugbogs."

By the time they reached Sirius and Peter, Peter had managed to jolly Sirius into a better mood, and they were having a contest to see who could throw the mandrake-based slop furthest with a single flick of the ladle. Both of them were fairly well covered with the foul mix, and Remus and James were more than happy to join in until Kettleburn, exasperated, appeared from the Forest and made them start cleaning up. By then, the other N.E.W.T. students had started to arrive as well, including Snape. Sirius studiously ignored him for the moment.

They spent class wading in the low, marshy ground Kettleburn had created for the colony, checking the Dugbogs for injuries (they tended to bite one another if they happened to collide) and studying their log-like camouflage. They tended to flock to Remus--some of the smaller predators tended to do so, much to his embarrassment, as though they might benefit from dropped prey--but Kettleburn had helped him out by constantly praising his ability to gain the trust of animals, so no one questioned this skill anymore. When they'd finished, they stepped onto dry ground and began doing cleaning spells on their clothes, and Kettleburn wandered over to check on the injured Dugbogs they'd found.

Remus had nearly convinced himself that the morning's squall was over, that Sirius was back to himself, when Snape brushed by on his way back to the castle.

Sirius reached out, almost casually, and slammed Snape against the low wall of the paddock, nearly forcing him in. He grabbed the front of Snape's robes and leaned forward. "This is between you and me," he said. "If you bring my brother into it again, I'll make you sorry."

"Go ahead," Snape said quietly. "Make me sorry."

Sirius just continued holding on to the front of Snape's robes for a moment, then pulled him up and tossed him back onto the path with an easy motion. He sat down on the wall himself afterward, taking those strange loud deep breaths again. James made his way over, and Remus followed. They sat beside him, Peter a bit off to one side, uncomfortable where a joke didn't seem right. A Dugbog tried to crawl up beside Remus, and he pushed it down.

"Look, Sirius," James began.

"I know."

"You have to stop," Remus said. The Dugbog crawled industriously back up and he picked it up absently, meaning to put it back in the paddock. "I... I mean, as your friend. And I can't just keep ignoring..."

"What are you, going to take points from me, Moony?" Sirius smiled faintly. "I--LOOK OUT!"

Remus jerked his head around in time to see Snape with his wand raised. A spell flew at them, and they moved aside. Remus flung the Dugbog back toward the paddock, which was quite an unfortunate choice. The spell hit it dead center, and a gash appeared in its hide, widened, and split, spilling its grayish innards onto the marshy ground.

Kettleburn splashed over and picked up the dying animal. He glared at Snape. "I don't care what's going on among you lads," he said. "But I've told you at least a dozen times not to throw your curses near the animals. A week's detention. And I'm writing to your father."

Snape blanched, then curled his lip. "Of course. Black attacks me out of nowhere for no reason, but I end up in detention."

"If Mr. Black throws a Cutting Curse at one of my animals, I assure you, he'll receive the same punishment. Report here at seven o'clock tomorrow night."

Snape went up the hill, muttering and cursing to himself.

Sirius, James, and Peter went up a few minutes later. Remus stayed to help Kettleburn with the Dugbog's body, which seemed the right thing to do, as it wouldn't be dead if he hadn't thrown it aside like a bit of scrap parchment. When he got back to the Great Hall for lunch, the others were laughing and joking, and relaxed, glad that at least this was over.


22 comments or Leave a comment
gryfny From: gryfny Date: April 7th, 2005 06:04 am (UTC) (Link)
I like the style if that's anything. :)

But really it caught my attention right away, and I can't wait to see your interpretation of the "Prank".
gryffin23 From: gryffin23 Date: April 7th, 2005 09:56 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm not really one for Marauders' fics in general but this is shaping up wonderfully and I'm enjoying your characterization of Sirius, James, Remus and Peter. I'm especially glad that you've made Peter likeable. After all, why on earth would the other three have been friends with him if he were the snivelling coward we know from PoA right from the beginning? I like your interpretation of Narcissa as well. I can't wait to read the next bit.
siegeofangels From: siegeofangels Date: April 7th, 2005 10:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, I really, really like this. SO much tension.

I like seeing the Sirius-Regulus dynamic, and how that was probably a huge part of Sirius' life at school. A lot of Marauder fics don't really go into it. The tea-towel thing seems horribly realistic.

Yay, Fern-fic early in the morning! :)
beaustylo From: beaustylo Date: April 7th, 2005 11:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Aww, poor dugbog!

This was really powerful. Extremely well done and I'm enjoying it very much already. Actually I think you should write more Marauders era stories because you handle them in a way that seems extremely accurate. You're already painting a picture with enough depth to truly explain the prank. Brava!

mistralcat From: mistralcat Date: April 7th, 2005 11:20 am (UTC) (Link)
I love how every single bad thing that happens to each of them is because of their personalities, especially Sirius and Snape. That was the age when everyone was telling you to be yourself, but the minute you were, you did something wrong. You've captured it perfectly.

I especially liked ExtremelyLiteral!Peter at the beginning!
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: April 7th, 2005 11:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, good start! I always thought Regulus had something to do with it as well.
rj_anderson From: rj_anderson Date: April 7th, 2005 12:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Remus thought James would grin daffily at Lily if she were in the process of vivisecting him.

Best. Line. Ever. And a really good beginning to the story -- I'm not a Marauder-fic person in general but I really like what you've done with Peter, and all the rest of the crew seem very well handled too.

I keep meaning to read Shifts since everybody I know is talking about it. When I get some free time it's definitely on my list of Things To Do...
of_polyhymnia From: of_polyhymnia Date: April 7th, 2005 01:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really liked this- I've started reading more Marauder fics, and your style and characterization are very good. I especially liked the opening 'memoir' paragraph. Awesome!
chocolatepot From: chocolatepot Date: April 7th, 2005 01:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
How do you live with yourself, knowing you're so cool? Honestly, the nerve.

I like the Sirius-Regulus thing; it's a completely new take on it, I think, thought I can't pinpoint quite why. Maybe because Reg is neither cute-little-brother-wronged-by-Sirius, nor is he evil-little-twit-who-adores-the-Dark-Arts.

I didn't want to be the first to mention it, but "But of them were fairly well covered with the foul mix," doesn't really make sense>
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 7th, 2005 02:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ooops! That's the problem with late-night typing. Should be "Both of them."
rainingtulips From: rainingtulips Date: April 7th, 2005 02:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
My first reaction when I saw this was "Yay! Squee! A Marauders fic!" because you don't get many good ones (at least I haven't found many). But after reading it, it's even better than I expected. I love your characterization of Sirius.
a_t_rain From: a_t_rain Date: April 7th, 2005 02:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, I don't usually read prankfic, but this looks like good stuff. I like Remus' formal, reflective writing style, and the bit about the elephant fable was so adorably Peter-ish. Poor guy -- while he's obviously quite bright on some level, his mind just plain works differently from everybody else around him, and I've always thought that was what got him into trouble...

So the beginning of the story I'll you isn't really the beginning...

Missing word here?
willowbough From: willowbough Date: April 7th, 2005 03:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Beauteous. It seems that in most fandoms, there's always some incident that nearly every writer feels compelled to tackle--and the Prank is clearly one of those in the HP universe. I've read several takes on it, so I'm eager to read yours. And isn't the epistolary form fun to play with?
prplhez8 From: prplhez8 Date: April 7th, 2005 04:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
As I've been following alot of the thought process behind this fic over at the quill, I felt intrigued to read your interpretation. I'm sucked in from the word go. It is a unique and haunting begin to the tale, Remus' words. They fit well with the canon character that we know of today. All of your characterization is hauntingly real. Sirius is just that much of a tortured soul and yet a jacka** at the same time. Peter is the hanger-on and yet he still plays his part. James, the best friend, does his job well, and yet still seems at loose ends with this version of Sirius.

The whole thing just about makes you ache. The bit with Regulus is ingenious (which you are 87% of the time and its a bit annoying really). Its real and surreal at the same time.

I'm greatly looking forward to the prank itself.

From: (Anonymous) Date: April 7th, 2005 05:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ugh. The incident with Regulus was sheer brilliance. I went from a casual to a tense reading state (My mouth gaped opened and uttered, “No he isn’t!”). Unbelievable.

I liked James' characterization. James at “loose ends” (as hfleming8’s stated) with Sirius’ more-than-erratic behavior is a great set up for his thought process throughout the year and story.

And, of course, your Narcissa is always a pleasure to read ;)

olympe_maxime From: olympe_maxime Date: April 7th, 2005 05:42 pm (UTC) (Link)

List of things I love about this fic

1. Extract from Regulus's letter. Makes the Regulus bit in the main story ever so poignant. This is just how I'd imagined the Sirius-Regulus relationship, actually.

2. Remus telling Harry, "Because for you, it did change everything..." Oh, wow.

3. James being the one that knows exactly how to handle Sirius when he's angry (i.e. letting him kick at stones until he's blown off steam, and then telling him to calm down).

4. The way Snape isn't absolutely and only pitiable. Even though he gets the short end of the stick in this incident (I suspect it was the more common occurrence) I can see flashes of his malevolence. What's got me thinking, though, is why he's 'lookng unpleasant' when Sirius is trying to protect Regulus at the Slytherin table. According to what the Marauders know of him now, he should be gloating, shouldn't he? Typical of Sirius and James to miss this aberration.

Thing I kinda don't get:
"Sometimes, you're easy to talk to. Mainly any time the moon isn't full."

- was James teasing Remus? Was he being snarky? I thought Remus was pretty strightforward with his answer.. Gah. I'm missing something.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 7th, 2005 06:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: List of things I love about this fic

Well, a gloating look would be pretty unpleasant to Remus. Which I suspect is what the expression is.
izhilzha From: izhilzha Date: April 7th, 2005 05:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love this whole idea, and am pleased that you're going to tackle the Prank. I often avoid Marauder fics because few author bother to work out the charaterization as carefully and realistically as I would like. There'll be no issue over that with you--and I am very excited by this first bit.

Because for you, it did change everything...

...no tears at work, nope, *sniff*...

And the entire exchange between Snape and the boys at class was fantastic, particularly the bit where Remus stayed to help Kettleburn with the Dugbog's body, which seemed the right thing to do, as it wouldn't be dead if he hadn't thrown it aside like a bit of scrap parchment.

I will be looking forward to more installments of this.

Oh, and re: epistolary fic, you're definitely the first I've seen tackle the Prank this way (or HP fic in general)...except for me, and Night's Candles only has snippets of said letters (one of which does concern the Prank). I am quite amused by this coincidence of ideas. :-)
maple_clef From: maple_clef Date: April 7th, 2005 06:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Excellent! As usual, I think your characterisation is on the money (with respect to everyone!). I look forward to the different POVs in the subsequent instalments, and will be interested to see how they colour and shape the narrative...
marukka From: marukka Date: April 7th, 2005 07:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really like your Marauders era fics, something about the way you write it really makes me feel it fits into the HP-verse. And I also have to say I like your take on Snape (possibly because you don't write him as the focus of the story, he works really well as a side character).
victorialupin From: victorialupin Date: April 7th, 2005 11:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I absolutely adore the characterization in all your stories, and this one is no exception. You got me interested in the story from the first paragraph, and I'm interested to see where it's going (both plot-wise and style-wise).

I'd also like to praise your characterization of Remus in particular, because I feel that 99% of authors don't really 'get' him. Your Remus is completely in-character, and I love the fact that while he still tries to be a good prefect, he also acts like a perfectly normal teenage boy. Especially with the line: Both of them were fairly well covered with the foul mix, and Remus and James were more than happy to join in. It's so refreshing to see a fic where Remus doesn't say something along the lines of "No, I'm not going to join in, I'm just going to wait for Professor Kettleburn to arrive; after all, this school, not play-time." I loathe the characterization of Remus as someone who never has any fun; your version is much nicer.

Lastly, I loved Peter at the beginning of the story. Looking for an explanation for everything, even in the most simple fable, is something that I've often done.

From: inyron Date: April 8th, 2005 12:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Very, very nice.But then I already knew I loved the way you captured the Mauraders. :) I'm just so happy to see another school-time fic!
22 comments or Leave a comment