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Stray, Chapter Eight: A Tale of Two Shapeshifters, pt. 3 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Stray, Chapter Eight: A Tale of Two Shapeshifters, pt. 3
I shouldn't be starting this so late, but oh well.

Tonks has figured out a whole lot of inconvenient things about Animagi, and is not happy that it's even vaguely possible that Remus has let her scratch the ears of a wanted fugitive (though she carefully avoids making a definite connection, so she won't have to bring him in). She demands the truth, and Remus tells her about Peter, but points out that the Ministry has already accepted an official story, and isn't going to bend. She thinks this is just his cynicism talking, and goes off, determined to present new evidence. Sirius is sorry to cause trouble, Remus ignores the apology, saying that it's Peter's fault, and the Ministry's, and Voldemort's. He's worried that Tonks is going to lose her job if the Auror Division figures out just what knowledge she might have come about.

Meanwhile, Sirius has just made the call to Harry, who is deeply nervous about the First Task.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

Remus's subscription to the Daily Prophet began on Monday morning, the twenty-third of November. Sirius, sleeping in the living room, got the owl first--since the subscription was paid, he didn't need to pay the owl--then unfolded the paper as the bird flew off to the south. On the front page, a picture of Hogwarts took up most of the space. "Triwizard Task Tomorrow!" the headline announced in two-inch letters that scrolled along beneath the photo. Crammed into the last eighth of the page above the fold were a few paragraphs about luminaries who were expected to attend.

Beneath the fold, someone had finally mentioned Cedric Diggory (in passing), and Viktor Krum actually got half a paragraph of his own. This article, not written by Rita Skeeter, was focused mostly on the rampant speculation about the tournament. What would the first task be? Who had the best odds? A hag in Cornwell had hinted that she was preparing a gingerbread castle with a cage in it, and a witch in Wales made a snide comment about the thin French champion running in horror from that much food. Officials denied the hag's assertion that they'd requested the gingerbread house; she said she'd certainly welcome visitors to it anyway, and gave its Apparition coordinates, along with a price for a tour (she was offering a special package to families who wanted to stay in her "luxury cage" and be fattened up on fine chicken for a week). Someone claiming to be a Ministry employee had leaked that a Sphinx had been imported from Egypt. The reporter couldn't resist mentioning that several dragon-keepers from the preserve in Romania had been spotted cavorting with Quidditch players and a handful of famous singers in a less than sober state at The Hairy McBoon, a dance club in Edinburgh's tiny magical neighborhood that had apparently gone and got popular in the past twelve years, but they didn't get any more attention than a strange speculation about Heliopaths from an anonymous source insisting that Fudge had access to an army of them. The last paragraph was the ritual rehashing of the "Boy Who Lived" nonsense, and Sirius hoped that Harry wasn't subscribing.

"Is that today's?" Remus asked, shuffling out of his bedroom.

Sirius tossed it over, keeping back the crossword puzzle for later. "Harry'll be all right with dragons, won't he?" Sirius asked. "Do you think he'll come up with the Conjunctivitis Curse?"

"If he doesn't, Ron or Hermione will."

"Ron Weasley is apparently not helping."

Remus looked up from the paper, which he was holding in one hand while he used his wand to slice bread with the other. "You're joking!"

"Apparently he's jealous."


"What's that 'hmm' about?"

"It was bound to happen eventually. He'll get over it. It couldn't have come at a worse time for Harry, though." He thought about this, then said, "I take it back. Better now, when it's just a game. There are a lot of worse times it could happen."

"What is it, the fame business?"

"Partly, I'm sure. But I'd wager that Ron has had more than a passing thought about how little Harry needs the gold the winner gets."

"What does that matter?"

"It doesn't matter to Harry any more than it ever mattered to you and James," Remus said. "Peter and I, on the other hand, thought about it a lot."

Sirius curled his lip. "Weasley'd better be more like you than bloody Peter."

"Ron is Ron," Remus said. "If he were in a mood to betray Harry, Dora wouldn't have had to do all that detective work. He knows how you got away, after all."

"Why in hell would it matter that Harry has gold? He's willing to share it, I'm sure. I always was, and so was James. What an idiotic thing to worry about."

"Spoken like someone born with a great deal of gold," Remus said.

"Are you telling me you honestly cared about that, you prat?"

Remus frowned. "You're not actually trying to discuss it, are you? You just want to have a go at Ron."


Remus waved his hand indulgently. "Go on, then."

Given permission, Sirius couldn't think of anything to say that didn't sound rather petty upon consideration. "Fine," he grumbled.

Remus picked up the paper and began to scan the other articles. "Ron will come around," he said. "And he won't do any damage to Harry in the meantime. Did you know he's Gideon and Fabian's nephew? Their sister Molly is his mother."

"Molly who always sent the--"

"--soup, yes--"

"--that was so good?" Sirius remembered the Prewett brothers bringing over cauldrons of steaming soups and stews to the Order, saying that Molly always made too much. Then he remembered them torn and bleeding on the floor of their flat. They could be idiots sometimes, but no one would question their loyalty. He hoped that Ron was like them, and this was just an idiot phase. And that the idiot phase would end very soon.

It was pouring for most of the morning, and Sirius and Remus spent the time separately, Remus half-heartedly responding to an advertisement for a teaching post in China, though he spoke no Chinese dialects at all, Sirius doing the crossword puzzle. The key letters, which glowed when he got them in place, ended up with a banal saying about the power of home, which marched smartly around the page twice and then disappeared. He entered his time under Remus's name, but wasn't in the top fifteen solvers for the day. For a little while after he'd run away, he and Regulus had vied with one another in the top five every day, and there had been at least once, just before Regulus left the Death Eaters, that Sirius thought he might have tried to send a message through the daily puzzle, though he hadn't been able to prove that Reg had tampered with it. He'd been the top solver that day, though, and the message had been, "The branches of a family tree never break." Of course, even if he had sent it somehow, it was a trite message that didn't actually mean anything.

Just past noon, Kingsley Shacklebolt arrived, looking more than a little bit vexed.

"Lupin?" he called.

"I'm here!" Remus went to the door while Sirius transformed and let in a blast of cold rain along with Kingsley. "Just out enjoying the weather?"

Kingsley dried his robes with a charm and growled, "What's going on with Tonks? And I want a real answer." Sirius felt his heart sink.

"What do you mean?" Remus asked.

"That's a question, not an answer."

Kingsley looked over his shoulder, then shooed Remus into the kitchen. "Look, I've got her contained. Mainly by sending her off on a Snorkack hunt in Morocco. She talked to Albus Dumbledore. Called him by floo at the crack of dawn, before her shift started, as far as I can tell. About the story Black told him the night he got away."

Remus regarded Kingsley distantly. "What did Dumbledore say?"

"You know what he said. The same thing Black Confunded the children into believing, about Pettigrew."

"And now you doubt Dumbledore?"

"Dumbledore wasn't a witness!" Kingsley hissed. "And yes, I know you were, and I also know that you haven't made a peep about it, which means anything you say now is questionable. Which I told Tonks. And got an earful of a temper I didn't even know she had."

"Did she say why she's suddenly so interested?" Remus asked casually.

"No. That's why I'm asking you."

"I'm not Dora's keeper."

"There's something going on here," Kingsley said. "I'm being damnably generous with you, Lupin, mainly because I like you and I think you got a raw deal last year. You could at least try to be a little bit grateful to me for not sending up Williams and Dawlish."

"I am grateful," Remus said. "Would you like to stay for lunch?"

"She wants to introduce it as new evidence."

"What are the chances of it working?" Remus asked. "The real chances, as opposed to the chances in Dora's imagination."

"I don't know. We've all seen records of Black's arrest. He was raving mad."

Sirius growled; Remus stepped on his tail in warning. "Imagine the scenario if Peter were still alive. Two of his best friends dead, a third betraying them."

Kingsley frowned. "All right, I can see it, but sympathy isn't evidence. In hard evidence, we have a brutal attack on a portrait, an attempt at a thirteen-year-old boy's life, the eyewitness testimony of a Hogwarts professor that he was threatening students, and of course all the evidence of the original crime. Meanwhile, there's not a shred of evidence that Peter Pettigrew is anything but honorably dead. With a citation for bravery from the Ministry--an Order of Merlin. How quick do you think the Ministry is going to be to re-open that can of flobberworms?"

"That's what I thought. Will you try to explain that to Dora?"

"Oh, I tried. I got her to at least go through me. I didn't put it to her quite this way--just told her that it was always better to go through channels--but the Ministry has had quite enough of the Black family lately. Andromeda protested your dismissal--"

"She did?"

"Oh, yes. At length. Narcissa spreads Malfoy money around like icing on a cake, which Fudge loves and everyone else resents, as it always comes with strings attached. And do you want to know the best part? Bellatrix has started raving again."


"Oh, yes. We heard from the Azkaban guards--the human ones, of course. She kept her mouth shut for years, but suddenly, she's started going on, moaning all night about the Dark Lord this and the Dark Lord that again. Their opinion is that she may have decided that Sirius is the Dark Lord these days."

Remus snorted. "Of course."

"Yes, well. The point is that the whole damned family is a pain in everyone's unmentionable parts, and if Tonks starts upsetting the apple cart--"

"I tried to explain that to her."

"I'll try again when she gets back."

Remus Summoned over some bread and sandwich meat, then looked at it thoughtfully. "What would the Ministry do if you or she just started to look for Peter Pettigrew?"

"I'm sure they'd have told me not to waste Ministry resources on it if I'd told them about it." Remus looked up, surprised, and Kingsley shrugged. "I don't believe Dumbledore is quite that gullible," he said. "But I've been looking since summer, and I've found nothing. Do you think I should include Tonks in it? I haven't wanted to put her in the middle, but as she's gone and put herself there..."

"And it all comes back to finding Peter," Remus said.

Sirius lay down as they continued the conversation, trying to find a subtle way for Dora to press on with her stubbornness, without getting herself in trouble, and always, it came back to Wormtail... and Wormtail wouldn't be found until Voldemort decided to let him be found.

Or until I do, he thought. Naturally--Sirius Black, the new Dark Lord, head of the Ancient and Most Noble House of Royal Pains in Everyone's Arse. Why not? It made as much sense as anything else.
18 comments or Leave a comment
victorialupin From: victorialupin Date: July 9th, 2007 05:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Remus half-heartedly responding to an advertisement for a teaching post in China, though he spoke no Chinese dialects at all

I laughed at this for a split second, but it's really so sad. He's such a wonderful teacher and ... *sigh*

Great job, as usual. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 10th, 2007 02:43 am (UTC) (Link)
He really should be working, but at the same time, he's not in a great mental place this year. Answering impossible job ads generally doesn't work out so well... :)

From: spitc1899 Date: July 9th, 2007 05:57 am (UTC) (Link)
And NOW I can go to bed. Not that I've been staying up hoping for another section or anything like that. I'd never do a thing like that . . . ;o) Wonderful, as usual. *cheers for Kingsley*

Oh, and I love the last paragraph.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 10th, 2007 02:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Kingsley's made of awesome. Tonks is part of the family and seems to make a lot of decisions based on gut feelings, but Kingsley just joined the Order and started protecting his fugitive instead of trying to catch him. That's cool.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 9th, 2007 06:15 am (UTC) (Link)
I bet he could have gotten a job as a Muggle teaching English in China.

Although he'd have had to turn it down since it would have meant leaving Sirius alone, not to mention bailing out on Harry at a rather critical time.

And he would have been in a very crowded, heavily packed city where he stood out like a sore thumb, not exactly a great combination if you're a werewolf who may need to get away in a hurry once a month - especially if, at worse, you don't want people to be sure it was you heading around that corner right but never coming out the other side.

Makes me want to say bad things in Mandarin just thinking about it.

I wonder if there are any magical quarantine laws? There are supposed to be different varieties of werewolf, and countries might get pricklish about someone with a strain not currently present in their territory showing up.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 10th, 2007 02:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Although he'd have had to turn it down since it would have meant leaving Sirius alone, not to mention bailing out on Harry at a rather critical time.

Which is probably why he doesn't apply for jobs he thinks he stands a chance of getting. He may not even send his response to this one! Though, yes, sticking out like a sore thumb while being Remus is also not the best idea ever.
kiwi_kimi From: kiwi_kimi Date: July 9th, 2007 06:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Among all the nice things in this chapter, I especially like the conversation about gold. Sirius, raised in privilege, just doesn't get it.

"Why in hell would it matter that Harry has gold? He's willing to share it, I'm sure. I always was, and so was James. What an idiotic thing to worry about."

"Spoken like someone born with a great deal of gold," Remus said.

Exactly, Remus. Exactly.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 10th, 2007 02:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Having grown up on the very lowest rung of the middle class ladder, then going to a school full of rich kids who thought nothing of talking about what they did at the summer place or the various trips they'd taken to cool spots the world over, I had a lot of sympathy for Ron in GoF. I just remember one friend of mine saying that his grandmother sent him money to get a new winter coat, and would I like to go with a bunch of the guys to shop. At Filene's. I assumed he meant the Basement, because, well, he was a college student. But it turned out that his grandmother had blithely given him two hundred dollars to get a designer coat of the sort that bankers might wear as they went to catch taxis from the high finance job to a meeting across town. I didn't know you could buy a coat that expensive--I thought of $50 as a pricey sort of proposition--but there they all were, not a two-digit price in sight. I felt like I was in a truly foreign place.
beceh From: beceh Date: July 9th, 2007 07:03 am (UTC) (Link)
"Sirius Black, the new Dark Lord, head of the Ancient and Most Noble House of Royal Pains in Everyone's Arse."

Tehehe. Loved that. Great chapter. :-)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 10th, 2007 02:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks... Sirius's bitter sense of humor is fun when it strikes him!
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: July 9th, 2007 11:58 am (UTC) (Link)
and always, it came back to Wormtail... and Wormtail wouldn't be found until Voldemort decided to let him be found.

Or until I do, he thought. Naturally--Sirius Black, the new Dark Lord, head of the Ancient and Most Noble House of Royal Pains in Everyone's Arse. Why not? It made as much sense as anything else.

Oh, Fern. That's bloody brilliant.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 10th, 2007 03:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. He'll have occasion to think more analytically about why Bellatrix is raving again, but I think the concept would sort of irritate him on its own...
satakieli From: satakieli Date: July 9th, 2007 02:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
What a great setup with the crossword! Both a really awesome magical extrapolation and interesting from plot and character-development points of view. Of course, if Lupin isn't a regular solver, it could provide some Auror fond of crosswords with a clue to Sirius's location... but I'll try not to worry too much about that.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 10th, 2007 03:02 am (UTC) (Link)
He probably solves often enough for it not to be an issue. Just figured I may as well do something with Sirius and his crossword puzzles, and Reg's been too quiet lately. ;p
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 10th, 2007 12:06 am (UTC) (Link)
I love the idea of Regulus trying to send Sirius a message.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 10th, 2007 03:04 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't know which I like better--the idea that Regulus was trying to send a message, or the Sirius saw his name by the trite little message and was desperate to believe it was a message.
(Deleted comment)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 10th, 2007 03:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Soon enough--she has to get it painfully through her head that she's not going to be able to save the day.
excitedrainbow From: excitedrainbow Date: July 11th, 2007 12:07 am (UTC) (Link)
*pets Dora*

She's going to come down to Earth hard.

Oooh, Regulus and that crossword. I like Sirius's response to that 'message'.

Oh Sirius, you really do not get it about money. I liked that exchange between him and Remus, and Sirius's thoughts on Ron, it was interesting to see his response to Ron's jealousy.

Kingsley! I do like how you've written him, it fits in with what little we've seen of him in canon. Can't wait for the next bit :)
18 comments or Leave a comment