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Stray, Chapter Four: Auror Borealis, pt. 2 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Stray, Chapter Four: Auror Borealis, pt. 2
Sirius took a very long route back to Britain, taking nearly two months from the time he initially replied to Harry to actually make his way back to Remus's temporary place in the Orkneys (Remus is supposed to be expelling a hogboon as part of his rent, but he's, erm, a bit lackadaisical about it). When he gets there, he discovers Tonks, having a friendly, casual dinner. Remus keeps his silence because there's nothing Tonks can do, and there's too much conflict of interest for her. Sirius is more upset--for the moment--with the passage of time that her growing up reflects. Remus tries to jolly him out of it, and just as they are settling into a talk, an angry-looking snowy owl appears at the window.

Noticed a weird goof trying to write from Sirius's POV, which needs some retconning. In Sirius's initial letter back to Harry, he says that Dumbledore has brought "Mad-Eye" out of retirement. But at the time of the trials in front of Crouch (Karkaroff's)... around the time Sirius went off to Azkaban... Moody still has both eyes. There's no reason Sirius would habitually call him "Mad-Eye." Probably excuse: Not really thinking about it. Retcon excuse? Must have been called that before he got the eye!

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

Sirius frowned. "That's Harry's owl. Did he send word to you when I told him I was coming back?"

"What?" Remus stood up, a puzzled expression on his face, and went to the window to let the owl in. "No."

She soared to the floor and landed in front of Sirius, giving him a hearty peck on the ankle before lifting her leg and showing him a very tattered piece of parchment.

With a sinking heart, Sirius realized: "She must have been following me. I stayed a few days in a couple of places, but she must have got off track there. She knows it here, and must have followed me directly..." He looked at Remus. "I went west from Brazil. I've been most of the way around the world. She's been all the way around it, if she's been following."

"For how long?"'

"I started... almost two months ago. I don't know how long ago Harry answered. Did he write to you in between?"

"Write to me about what?"

"His scar," Sirius said. "He didn't tell you? It was hurting. He wrote to me for advice, and I told him I was coming back straightaway. I just assumed he'd written to you as well."

"Harry?" Remus shook his head. "Harry probably dithered for a day before deciding to write to you, and you're his godfather. He doesn't ask for help easily."

"But he'd asked you last year..."

"When I was his teacher, and not until after his encounters with Dementors had cost him a Quidditch match and his broomstick."

Hedwig hooted insistently, and scratched her talon in the air.

Sirius quickly unfastened the parchment.

Dear Sirius, Harry had written. I reckon I just imagined my scar hurting, I was half asleep when I wrote to you last time. There's no point coming back, everything's fine here. Don't worry about me, my head feels completely normal. Harry.

Sirius raised an eyebrow at Remus. "Don't tell me--you taught him the fine art of communication by letter, as well." He tossed the parchment to him.

Remus caught it. "He's lying."

"I caught that much. Do you know anything about curse scars? I don't trust this at all."

"No one knows about scars from this particular curse. Harry's is the only one. It could mean nothing, or it could mean everything."

"That's not going to be helpful to him."

"I don't imagine so, no."

Sirius sighed. "Do you have a bit of parchment and a quill?"

It was mostly a rhetorical question--as long as Sirius had known Remus, no matter how poor, he'd had at least one tattered quill, a scrounged ink bottle, and a piece of scrap parchment. Sirius wrote a brief note back to Harry, not pretending to believe a word of Harry's protestation, and promising him that he was somewhere safe. He looked at Hedwig--lovely, smart animal... out of place anywhere near her--and quickly added an instruction not to use her. It wouldn't do to have such a distinctive owl dropping by, especially if Remus's place was being watched. Different owls coming and going wouldn't attract much Auror attention, but the same one visiting frequently? It was nearly asking to be checked. He closed with an admonition to tell Dumbledore about the slightest twinge in the bloody scar, then gave Hedwig back the letter. "You can rest here, tonight," he said. "But take that to Harry in the morning."

Hedwig glared at him, then showed him her tail and buried her head beneath her wing.

They drank for an hour and talked about inconsequential things. Sirius went out and got Buckbeak from the hill and brought him down into the flat land behind Remus's house. He'd caught dinner on his own.

Remus told Sirius to take the tiny bedroom that night, on the rationale that he was the guest, and hadn't slept properly for some time, and furthermore, Remus had to get up early to start dealing with the hogboon, and--

Sirius hadn't been in a mood to argue. He went to the room, which was barely big enough for the sagging, moldy-smelling bed, and collapsed into the pillows. He dreamed of London. He was with Dora, but Dora as she had once been, not as she was now. She was wearing bright green pigtails, each tied with a hank of oversized yarn. They were walking together in the square outside of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, but she couldn't see it and started to cry. Sirius crouched down and cuddled her.

"There now," someone else said, and Sirius looked up, entirely unsurprised to see Regulus, also a young child, though dressed in Death Eater's robes and carrying his mask. He had crouched on Dora's other side, and was patting her shoulder. "You'll see, it'll all work out. You're still blood."

And then he became blood, a fluid statue, pulsing with his heartbeat. He reached out and touched Sirius's forehead, smearing him with gore, then dissipated in an explosion of scarlet mist that drenched both of them. Dora continued to cry, unmindful of what had happened, then looked up suddenly. "Why, he was right!" she said, and laughed. "It's right there! Can we go in now, Sirius?" She smiled, her teeth very white in the midst of all that red, and tugged on his hand.

He woke up to a thin northern sunshine reaching feebly through the bedroom window, and went out to find the rest of the house deserted. Remus had left a note on the table, a shopping list with a symbol at the top that they'd used in Hogwarts to tell one another to break a spell on hidden letters. Sirius broke it and read, Have whatever you'd like for breakfast. Rest if you want to. I'm working on that hogboon; as Dora reminded me, I really am meant to be doing so. His mound is the hill on the other side of the house--it's a good thing you didn't choose that one to tie Buckbeak on. If you come out--or get too close to the windows--it might be wise to transform. Dora Tonks is not the only Auror prone to paying rather abrupt calls on me this year.

Sirius burned it, then took the first thing that came into his hands for breakfast--a single slice of bread. He wasn't planning to eat Remus out of house and home.

In the daylight, the shack was rather cheerful, in a truly hideous, back of beyond sort of way. The windows were small but clean, and let in a lot of light. The furniture was as battered and mismatched and the carpet threadbare, but it was impeccably neat. A small work table, possibly once a child's play table, sat beside a narrow bookcase, and Sirius smiled fondly at its contents. One book, its place carefully marked. A pile of other books stacked by the front left corner. A bottle of ink, a cup of quills. And two piles of parchment, one clean and unused, the other obviously bits of used scrap. It was a touch of complete familiarity--Remus's workspace. He had always made a point of saving any important correspondence, but couldn't afford fresh paper for a second copy, so he used old scrawlings, sketches, and notes. Seventh year, when he'd been applying frantically for apprenticeships he had never believed he'd get, he'd actually used the back of essays he'd saved from earlier years.

Sirius leaned over them. The letter on top of the current pile seemed to be written on the back of a class list, which made sense, as the letter he'd copied onto it was a report on his teaching last year. Sirius probably would have left it alone, except that Harry's name was near the top. The date on it was in late August.

Mad-Eye, Remus had written. If I'm not to be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts, I'm rather glad you are. I shall tell you about all of the students you should know, but I'm sure you'll be particularly interested in my third year Gryffindors, who will be your fourth years--Harry and Neville will both be in that class. Neville has lost some of the ability they both had as babies to crawl into trouble headfirst (I'm sure you remember Frank Levitating half of headquarters trying to find them when they'd crawled under Lily's cauldron to play with Arabella's kneazle, and managed to get Silencing Solution all over themselves), but as I'm certain you've heard, Harry has honed it to a fine art...

The rest of the letter appeared to be less a report on his class than a reminiscence about each particular student. It was several pages long. Other than his third year Gryffindors, he had long entries on Fred and George Weasley ("I recommend giving them detention as soon as possible; they collect detentions from all of their professors, and you wouldn't want to push them into doing something drastic to get one from you"), a girl called Pansy Parkinson ("Off-putting at first, but actually quite a good student who has good observations in class"), a Slytherin named Adrian Pucey ("Watch where he sets his 'good luck charm'--I suspected more than once when it was on the floor that he was using it to look up the robes of the girl beside him, but I couldn't prove it"), a Ravenclaw named Luna Lovegood ("She's very sharp; don't let her dreamy look fool you"), and several others from all of the houses. His note on Narcissa's boy, Draco Malfoy, was uncharacteristically brief: "Bright and ambitious." Sirius supposed no more was needed--they both knew what sort of man Draco's father was, and what he'd undoubtedly been raised with. If he had behaved in some manner that wouldn't have been expected from that, Sirius was sure that Remus would have noted it.

"Enjoying my personal correspondence?" Remus asked behind him.

"Well, it's more interesting than the letters you sent me. I never got to hear about tea with second-years or charms for voyeurs." He put the letter down and turned around. Remus had come back in, covered with dust and looking perfectly comfortable. "How is Mad-Eye, anyway?"

"Grown into his nickname," Remus said. "He lost an eye not long after you--well..."

"Ended up in Azkaban," Sirius prodded.

"Yes. He got it replaced with a magical one. Now when he stares at you like he's looking right through you, he probably actually is."

"Is he enjoying teaching?"

"I haven't actually heard from him. I suppose he feels awkward about it. Or is just too busy. The other schools should have arrived yesterday for the Triwizard Tournament."

"What day is it, anyway?"

"Halloween," Remus said. "Did you want a pumpkin to carve? I'm sure Hagrid could spare one if-- Sirius, are you all right?"

"Fine," Sirius said, but he was suddenly deeply cold, all the way to his bones. "But not entirely in the mood to celebrate this particular holiday."

Remus paled. "I'm sorry, Sirius. I... the first few years... But... I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking."

Sirius shook his head and sat down on the sofa. "The worst part of it was that James always loved bloody Halloween. You know he and Lily would have had the place decorated. They might even have been wearing costumes when Peter gave them up. They might have--"

"Sirius, don't. Don't do this to yourself."

"The first Halloween after Harry was born, James wrapped him up in gray blankets and said he was a flobberworm. I remember, two or three days before they died, he said he'd made Harry a little cloth hat with prongs on it. Our little joke. He didn't have it on when Hagrid carried him out. They must have already put him to bed."

"I don't know what happened to it," Remus said quietly. "Would you like some tea?"

"No, I don't want bloody damned tea. Or chocolate," he added before Remus suggested it.

Remus took a deep breath and ground his teeth, and set about making lunch, with which he brought both tea and chocolate. Sirius took both; neither helped.

The rest of the day passed in at an excruciatingly slow pace. Sirius replayed that horrible Halloween thirteen years ago, nearly minute by minute. He'd spent the day at ease, working on his motorbike, and simply thought it might be a good idea to go check on Peter, who'd been so nervous lately. And then Peter's house had been empty. And then...

Over and over. Last year, it had driven him into Hogwarts castle itself, where he'd screamed at the Fat Lady while she demanded passwords he didn't have. Finally, he'd slashed at her with a knife.

If he hadn't done that... if he'd just gone to Dumbledore's office... if... if...

Remus brought him supper. They ate. Sirius transformed into a dog in a last ditch effort to make the useless thoughts stop circling. It worked. He fell asleep by the fire.

And that was how he spent his first full day back in his homeland.
14 comments or Leave a comment
beceh From: beceh Date: June 16th, 2007 05:39 am (UTC) (Link)


Noticed a typo: I assume you mean horrible instead of "that horribly Halloween thirteen years ago"
beceh From: beceh Date: June 16th, 2007 05:41 am (UTC) (Link)
oh and I forgot to say that I loved Remus's notes on his former students, especially the reminiscing about Neville and Harry as babies hehehe.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 16th, 2007 06:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Yup, thanks. Too many adverbs are bad enough when they're occupying adverbial spots. They don't really need to occupy adjectival ones.
thunderemerald From: thunderemerald Date: June 16th, 2007 06:59 am (UTC) (Link)
So, so sad....

As for the Mad-Eye thing... I always just assumed that the nickname was from the magic eye, and that Sirius had been keeping up with these things. I mean, Fudge's newspaper in PoA can't have been the only news he'd gotten from the outside world that whole time, right? And as I'm sure Aurors have reason to visit Azkaban now and again, it's a possibility that Mad-Eye himself might have shown up at some point.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 16th, 2007 02:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Still, Sirius wouldn't have been talking with him and using the nickname. I'm aware that my Aunt Ellen has been called Ellie for a very long time, even has it on her church name badge, but she was "Ellen" to my mother and "Aunt Ellen" to me, and if I were talking about her to a third person, it would take a few puzzled looks before I'd remember to say, "Oh, I mean Ellie!"
thunderemerald From: thunderemerald Date: June 17th, 2007 04:45 am (UTC) (Link)
That's a fair point, but possibly the newspapers call him Mad-Eye? If they did, and that was Sirius's only connection to the outside world for 12 years, it would stand to reason that he'd adopt the name in his head.
alkari From: alkari Date: June 16th, 2007 01:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
*claps hands happily* Another chapter!

The Halloween memories were so sad, though I loved the idea of baby Harry dressed as a Flobberworm! Your 'independent Harry' rationale for not asking Remus for advice about his scar was interesting: I wonder would Sirius ever think that perhaps Remus had never suggested to Harry that he (Harry) could always write to him, and that he'd like to stay in touch?

A couple of little points. First, Sirius obviously cares for animals - may I suggest that he'd make sure Hedwig had something to eat and drink after such a long flight. You just have him telling her that she can rest there that night, but then take the reply back to Harry in the morning. Sirius may be careless and insensitive about some things, but the way you show him caring for Buckbeak, I think he'd take similar care of Hedwig (especially as she's Harry's owl!).

There also seems to be a typo in that paragraph about Remus and his writing. "He had always made a point of saving any important correspondence, but could afford fresh paper for a second copy, so he used old scrawlings, sketches, and notes." I think it should be "couldn't" afford fresh paper.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 16th, 2007 02:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I was messing around with that Hedwig section for ages, and I could have sworn I had him feed her, but you're right--totally forgot to mention it. He definitely fed her at some point!

I doubt it occurs to either of them that Harry would have needed explicit permission to write--Remus spends time during Shifts actually being miffed that Harry didn't write, even though the only thing he said was, "I'm sure we'll see one another again."
chengiz From: chengiz Date: June 16th, 2007 01:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
A little typo: Hedwig would seem out of place 'herE', rather than 'her'.

Loved it otherwise. Am in a rush, sorry.

-Olympe Maxime
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 16th, 2007 02:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oops! Thanks, spell-check wouldn't have caught that.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 16th, 2007 05:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
First, a couple of typos -

"The furniture was as battered and mismatched and the carpet threadbare"

Shouldn't that be "The furniture was as battered" _as_ something else?

Second one -

"He had always made a point of saving any important correspondence, but could afford fresh paper for a second copy, so he used old scrawlings, sketches, and notes."

Perhaps he _couldn't_ afford fresh paper?

By the way, does Sirius know what happened to Neville's parents? Even if he knew Bellatrix had attacked them with unforgivables, would he know they're still hospitalized and semi-catatonic? That may come as another shock to him.

Liked the bit with Regulus and Dora, although I'm still working out what Sirius' subconscious was telling him. I like that Regulus was that strange combination of innocent yet threatening, dressed as a death eater yet accepting Dora.

Oh, also, I posted the pirahna recipe on the other chapter (whistles innocently). Just thought you'd like to know.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 17th, 2007 12:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Yup, definitely should be "couldnt."

I think Sirius probably would have made it his business to find out what had happened to the Longbottoms, but I'm not sure... I'll see how the story is going before I decide.

And yes, it was "as" something else in the beginning. I think I'll just take out the "as."

Thanks for the piranha recipe. I'll have to try that with some less dangerous fish sometime.
chocolatepot From: chocolatepot Date: June 17th, 2007 01:31 am (UTC) (Link)
OMG I love this area of time, there's this fic (Sirius-centric AND written by Fern, joy!) and I'm still coming of the Doctor-induced high, so please excuse incoherency!

I love love love this fic so far! And Harry and Neville being babypals is one of my favorite things EVAR so that was BRILLIANT as well!

Massive, massive love.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 17th, 2007 01:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love the idea that Harry and Neville would have been raised side by side--it's just this notion of what might've been that appeals to me.
14 comments or Leave a comment