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Shades, Chapter 22: French Leave, pt. 2 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Shades, Chapter 22: French Leave, pt. 2
Chapter Fifteen is up at SQ, with some of the choppiness fixed and an inconsistency repaired.

Dumbledore arranges for Alderman's family to disappear by faking a magical accident. They come to the Shrieking Shack. Fleur arrives to take them to her grandmother in France.

Fleur stepped forward and smiled nervously. "I 'ave the place 'ere," she said, handing Fiona a bit of parchment with the coordinates and several photographs. Fiona checked them, then passed them to Tonks. The sanctuary residents had set up their Apparition point well--subtle markers that Muggles wouldn't notice, yet distinctive enough for a witch or wizard to concentrate on. There was an evergreen bow stretched between two trees, and a wildly flowering vine draped over an arrangement of rocks. It wouldn't be flowering anymore, of course, but the picture was enough to give the shape of the land, so they could hold it in their minds, and distinctive enough that the thought would take them where they needed to be.

When they'd all had a good look at it, Fiona picked up Electa and Roald picked up Jason. Tonks took the cat (Granny would undoubtedly turn up her nose about this later). Dumbledore looked kindly at Electa, then they all Apparated.

A part of Tonks had expected it to be warmer in the south of France, but they were high in the mountains, and the air wasn't much warmer than it had been in Scotland. Electa looked around in a frightened way, shivering, and Fiona drew her close. The cat dug her claws into Tonks's cloak. High above the Apparition point, Tonks could see a house built on the mountain. Fleur was looking up toward it.

"Where's Dumbledore?" Roald asked.

Tonks looked around, alarmed. Dumbledore hadn't arrived with them. "I don't know."

"We should get inside," Fleur said. "I'm sure 'e will be along. I--" She smiled suddenly, her face lighting up. "Gabrielle!"

She started speaking rapid French, and ran to a bundled little creature who was bounding down a mountain path. They embraced, and Fleur led her over to the group. The little one--Gabrielle, Tonks guessed--looked curiously at Electa. Electa frowned for a moment, then waved.

"My grandmuzzer is sending a sleigh for us," Fleur said. "It will be warm, no?" She hugged Gabrielle again. "This is my sister," she said. "She 'as come to say 'ello. Say 'ello, Gabrielle."

"'eh-llo," Gabrielle said, and dipped a little curtsy to the Crowlers. Around her scarf and under her hood, Tonks could see strands of silky, white-blond hair like Fleur's.

"This is Madame and Monsieur Crowler," Fleur told Gabrielle--in English, and Tonks guessed that the little one was trying to learn the language--"and these are Electa and Jason."

Gabrielle took a few steps over toward Electa, who Fiona had put down. "I... 'ave... dolls," she said, and smiled.

Electa gave her a hopeful look.

Bells jingled in the night air, and Tonks looked up to see a large blue and silver sleigh coming around the bend on the road leading up the mountain. It was pulled by, of all things, a white hippogriff. Fleur ran up and bowed briefly, and the hippogriff bowed back. She patted its neck and said, "'ello, Mirabelle! 'ow is my old friend?"

Then she lapsed into French and fawned over the hippogriff until a soft, compelling voice said, "I welcome you to my home."

Tonks caught motion from the corner of her eye, and turned to see Roald walking forward, his face blank, Jason nearly forgotten in his arms.

"Grand-mère!" Fleur said, and put a hand over her face.

Tonks looked to the sleigh again and blinked. At first, she hadn't even seen the woman against the snow. Her skin was dead white, her hair silvery, her robes the same white as the snow. But her eyes were pale blue, her lips a strange and inviting red. It was an unusual, striking beauty, hypnotic. She looked no older than thirty. Slowly, she wrapped a scarf around her face. Roald stopped, looking confused.

"You are safe here," Fleur's grandmother said. Her words were clearer than Fleur's, and marked by a fully unidentifiable accent. "You will please join me. I am Valeska Delacour."

"Thank you for having us," Fiona said, bowing. She straightened. "I'll learn French as quickly as I possibly can, and try to be helpful to you."

"The language is of no consequence," Valeska said. "Many are spoken here." Fleur climbed into the sled and said something quietly in French. Valeska nodded. "I do not mean to be"--she glanced at Fleur--"cold?" Fleur nodded. "I am... it is often better for me to keep a distance from--" She gestured at Roald.

Fiona smiled faintly. "I appreciate that, Madame Delacour."

The scarf over Valeska's face moved slightly, and Tonks guessed that the smile had been returned. Fleur spoke to her again, and she looked down directly at Tonks. "You and yours have taken on a great work," she said. "I am glad to be of help to you."

"I'm grateful that you could be," Tonks said. "I hope I don't bring you trouble."

Again, that enigmatic movement of cloth. "I think Fenrir Greyback will give me no trouble," she said and raised her hand. It had turned into a sharp talon. As Tonks watched, it turned back. "Please join me. It is too cold to remain outside."

Tonks helped the Crowlers into the sleigh--she gave the cat to Electa, who introduced her to Gabrielle--and was about to climb in herself when there was a pop behind her. Albus Dumbledore appeared with a satchel. The bright corners of children's books were clearly visible poking out of it. He came to the sleigh and placed the bag beside Electa.

"I couldn't find your books," he said, "so I thought you might enjoy some of my own. It took more time to find them than I'd anticipated. I seem to have acquired a good many of them over the years." He smiled, and looked up at Valeska. "My dear Madame Delacour," he said. "It is lovely to see you again."

To Tonks's utter shock, Valeska was blushing. "Yes, yes... eh, thank you. Sir. And to see you."

Dumbledore winked, then looked at Tonks. "I'm afraid I can't stay. Will you and Miss Delacour be able to get the Crowlers settled in?"

"We'll be fine," Tonks said. "Thank you for everything."

"I wish only that it was all unnecessary," Dumbledore said. He nodded quickly to the Crowlers, then ducked back to the Apparition point and disappeared.

Once he was gone, Valeska returned to her crisp and business-like manner, and directed all of them into the sleigh. She had a strong warming charm on it, and there was no need for blankets. Fiona and Roald huddled together with Jason between them. Electa and Gabrielle spoke to one another excitedly in separate languages for the entire trip.

Mirabelle took them up the path, flying them over a heart-stopping gap halfway up. They landed on the other side with a thud, and the hippogriff looked back at them with a cheeky wink. Tonks wondered if Buckbeak would like to make her acquaintance.

"What's so funny?" Fleur asked, arching an eyebrow at a laugh Tonks hadn't realized had been aloud.

"I, er..." She covered her mouth. "Sorry. I seem to be playing matchmaker for a pair of hippogriffs."

Fleur grinned broadly. "I thought the same when I met Buckbeak. Fine, eh... friends they would make, wouldn't they?"

Valeska steered the sleigh into a clear area in front of the house Tonks had seen from the Apparition point. From this vantage point, she could see several other houses stretching back into a wild mountain wood. The door of one of them opened, and two tiny bundled figures rushed out. They spoke a garbled French that Tonks couldn't even begin to make out, but it was clear from their behavior that at some point in their lives, they'd been house elves. They eagerly helped Fiona out of the sleigh, and led them all to a small, neat house at the edge of the wood. The fire was already burning, and something that smelled lovely was simmering in a cauldron over it.

Valeska unlocked the door, and let them in. "This is your new home," she said. "It has been empty, but we have been trying to make it comfortable for humans. There is beef sarmale"--she nodded to the cauldron--"which was my late husband's favorite food."

"When my son arrives..." Fiona began.

Valeska nodded. "We are building--and hope you will help to build--areas for the young werewolves to transform. Many of us here are not human and can look after them and see they do not hurt one another." She looked around. "If you find that something is lacking, my home is the next over. You may ask anything of me, though I cannot make a promise to find everything you would like. I will make an attempt."

"Thank you," Fiona said.

"Keep the little ones inside tonight, until they have had a chance to meet everyone, and for everyone to know they are part of our home and not..." She stopped, blinked. "Not food," she finished simply. "I do not mean to upset you. They are in no danger as parts of this community. But they will need to be introduced as such."

"Per'aps we should let the Crowlers settle in?" Fleur suggested.

"Do you need anything?" Tonks asked Fiona.

"Just Robert."

"We'll get him."

"Would you like to settle in now? Do you need me to stay?"

"I think we should settle."

Valeska tapped her shoulder. "You will join us for dinner? More sarmales."

"If you'd like..."

"We would," Fleur said. "Come, Gabrielle!"

Gabrielle, who had been chattering to the cat in French, turned somewhat regretfully. She kissed Electa's cheek. "I will... come back?"

"Oh, yes, please!"

Tonks looked at Fiona again. "I'll be here through supper, then. If you think of anything..."

"I will." She turned away, and faced a new life and a new world.

Tonks followed Valeska back out into the snow.
13 comments or Leave a comment
singingtopsy From: singingtopsy Date: April 20th, 2006 06:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh...and now you need to write out Dumbledore's and Valeska's past relationship ;).
Wonderful as always! Staying up late apparently has a few benefits...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 20th, 2006 06:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh, I think she just has a crush. ;)

Glad you liked it!
singingtopsy From: singingtopsy Date: April 21st, 2006 12:13 am (UTC) (Link)
sreya From: sreya Date: April 20th, 2006 01:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oooh, I love this! And it's so funny, but the bit with the sleigh and the house in the hills reminded me of the White Witch from Narnia. :~p Not very obviously, but just enough to make me grin.

"Valeska tapped her shoulder." The "her" here is a bit unclear, it seems like she's tapping Fiona's shoulder at first since that was who she was talking to last.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 20th, 2006 07:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
That was one of those things I noticed halfway through writing--oops, White Witch allusion!--but decided I couldn't avoid, since it was winter and the veela are what they are. ;)

Good catch on the "her"; thanks.
ella_menno From: ella_menno Date: April 20th, 2006 03:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
I just know I'm going to embarrass myself with this comment, but I can't help myself.

I love your writing, and I loved "Shifts," and I love "Shades," but there is something about this chapter that's already making it one of my favorites out of everything you've written. It's so...rich, and alive, and vibrant - it sparkles, if I can use that word without sounding like an idiot. Which I probably do, but frankly, I don't care right now - just. Thank you, for writing this and for sharing it.

*blushes, and creeps away*

hermia7 From: hermia7 Date: April 20th, 2006 04:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
it sparkles, if I can use that word without sounding like an idiot.
Actually, I thought the same thing!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 20th, 2006 07:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thanks! (Both of you.) And you're more than welcome; I write to entertain myself as much as anyone else, so it's no chore.
From: boldsunshine Date: April 20th, 2006 06:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Tonks looked at Fiona again. "I'll be here through supper, then. If you think of anything..."

"I will." She turned away, and faced a new life and a new world.

Fabulous lines :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 20th, 2006 07:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
hymnia From: hymnia Date: April 22nd, 2006 05:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
A great installment, as always.

This bit of dialogue is confusing:

"Do you need anything?" Tonks asked Fiona.

"Just Robert."

"We'll get him."

"Would you like to settle in now? Do you need me to stay?"

"I think we should settle."

Are only Tonks and Fiona speaking here? It seems like Tonks should be saying both "We'll get him" and "Would you like to settle in now...", but those are two separate quotes. I can't decide if there's another speaker in there somewhere, or if a line is missing, or if those two lines need to go in one quotation, or if there's no mistake and I'm just missing something that other readers will figure out easily enough. But I was confused, so I thought I'd point out that that bit might need some attention.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 22nd, 2006 06:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nope, very good catch! I missed it entirely, and don't remember what on Earth I meant to be between those two lines. Thanks!
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 26th, 2006 01:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love this. I love your characterization of Canon characters and I love the creations you've given life to on your own. Thanks for posting this. I always enjoy reading your work!

13 comments or Leave a comment