"I'll give you twenty Galleons if you do the paperwork," Harry said, moving quietly behind the neat little cottage. "I've done enough writing for Umbridge."
"Not a chance, mate," Ron said. "I'm meeting up with Hermione, and I covered you last time you and Ginny wanted to go out."
Harry made a face, but couldn't very well argue. Ron had been unexpectedly decent about the situation with Ginny, especially once Harry had moved out of the Burrow. He sighed, and led the way into the clearing.
"Dolores Umbridge!" he yelled at the door. "You're under arrest by order of the Ministry!"
There was no answer.
"You reckon she's home?" Ron asked.
"They're usually blasting away at us by now if they're around," Harry said. "But be careful. She may be hiding somewhere."
Ron nodded and raised his wand, ready to Curse anything that came out of the door as Harry forced the lock and opened it. Nothing came.
Harry did a few quick sensing spells, checking for security hexes, then shook his head and went inside. "Umbridge!" he called.
"She's not here." Ron sauntered in and looked around, his face pained.
Harry shared the opinion. Umbridge's hideout had all of the horrid little plates from her office at Hogwarts, along with framed versions of the pamphlets she'd written. There was a picture of a young Dolores on the wall, with a broad-faced woman who had to be her mother. They wore matching bows in their hair. Some kind of air-sweetening spell was hanging like heavy perfume.
"She definitely lives here," Harry said. "Let's just wait for her."
Ron agreed, and sat down on the edge of a doily-covered pink chair. Harry sat across from him. "What are you and Hermione doing? I mean... if it's anything I want to know about."
Ron laughed. "No idea. She wants to go see a new film. Star Wars?"
"That's not new. I saw all three of them when Dudley got them for Christmas one year."
"Well, there's a new one out."
"Oh. Huh. I should see it. Sounds fun." He thought about it. "Do you think Teddy's old enough to sit through a film?"
"How long are they?"
"Two hours, maybe."
"At a year old? No. Anyway, my sister might have to kill you if you stand her up for the baby again."
"Good point." Harry put his feet up on Umbridge's delicate little table, knocking over a few of her pictures. "You know, I haven't played my big brother part yet."
"You know--treat Hermione right, or I'll have to do something drastic."
"Hmph. First of all, she's not really your sister, and second, even if she was your sister, she's ten months older."
"Details." Harry grinned. "You know, I should have a look around here. See if Umbridge has anything suitable to subject you to if you break Hermione's heart. Maybe another quill."
"Hermione doesn't need Umbridge's help. All she needs to do is send more canaries at me."
"And all Ginny needs is that Bat Bogey hex of hers, but that didn't stop you from threatening to hang me by various unmentionable body parts if I hurt her again."
"That wasn't a threat. It was just a bit of helpful information."
"Well, I can be helpful, too."
Ron laughed. "Harry, every time Hermione and I have one of our rows, you hide under the table and wait for it to blow over. Which it always does."
Harry thought about this. "That's very true. I'm not good at this sort of thing."
"That's what everyone says--'You know Harry Potter, no good at all when it comes to looking after people.'"
"Complete rubbish," Harry agreed.
A painted kitten on a plate mewed an emphatic agreement.
"Well, there you have it. I--" Harry stopped, cocking his head. "I heard something outside. Disillusion."
Harry slipped under the Invisibility Cloak, and waited.
Otherwise, in a challenge a while ago, you did a story of Julia Lupin asking Dumbledore to let Remus into Hogwarts, and Dumbledore mentioned that he had met Remus as a child. When and why was that? I'd like to hear about it.
Irma Pince kept the best library in the British wizarding world, and Albus Dumbledore rarely found a need to look elsewhere for materials he needed. She had a vast store of magical practice and philosophy texts, as well as historical information, scientific information, and contemporary popular culture (though she turned up her nose while ordering this).
However, there were things in the world that there was no need to put into the Hogwarts library, and some which Albus had considered it prudent to preserve at a distance from himself. Gellert's letters, for one thing--Albus didn't want any of his students going down those particular paths. Dreary minutiae of Ministry business were also of no use to Hogwarts students, and Irma had drawn the line at collecting pamphlets and arcana of the various issues faced by wizards in the past.
All of these things (and more) were kept in the dusty archives building in Diagon Alley, down a twisting side street not far from Florean Fortescue's shop. Calvin Simms had been the archivist until twenty years ago, when his apprentice, John Lupin, had taken over. John had been a shy and unassuming boy at school, but Albus had always liked him--if someone tripped and fell, John was always the first to go over and help him up. Unexpectedly, ten years later, Julia McManus--a bright Muggle-born girl who had served as Head Girl during her seventh year--had expressed in interest in the same obscure job. Filius had tried to dissuade her, as there simply weren't any posts, but she'd been unflappable in the odd desire, and had presented herself to John as an apprentice. The next year, Albus had received an invitation to their wedding. The Ministry hadn't increased any funding for the archives, but the newly-married Lupins seemed content to simply share the job. They'd lived in a flat above the archives for a bit--Filius had got regular letters from Julia at first--then John had inherited a house, and they'd expanded the archives up into the flat, creating a lovely space to sit and read. Dumbledore was taking advantage of it on a summer day, perusing the genealogy of the Gaunt family, of Little Hangleton, when he was interrupted by the approach of a fire-breathing dragon.
Or at least the stuffed version of one. It had plush scales and bright eyes, and it breathed very lifelike smoke and cold-flames from its snout as it flew.
"I'll save you!"
The little boy appeared at the top of the stairs, wearing a blanket as a cloak and carrying a cardboard sword with a painstakingly decorated hilt (Albus guessed that Julia had done this; she'd had a wonderful eye for art as a student). Another piece of cardboard served as a shield. It had a coat of arms which contained crossed wands, a dragon, a hinkypunk, and a zebra, all etched on a rising hawk. Beneath the hawk's left wing was a highly ornate "R," and below its right were three leaping rabbits.
Albus looked up from his work and feigned alarm. "Oh, dear, and here I've forgotten all I know about dragons."
The boy climbed up on a chair and waved his sword. "Don't worry. I know all about dragons. I shall slay it."
He jumped down and began to chase the toy around the room, leaping nimbly from place to place until finally caught it and threw it to the floor. He did some sort of elaborate "spell" on it with his sword, which was apparently sufficient to end the motion charm, as it lay inert. The boy knelt and paid homage to it. "I'm sorry I had to kill you," he said, "but you frightened the guest. You must never do that."
"Thank you, good sir," Albus said. "I fear my dragon-slaying skills wouldn't have been up to the task. I am Albus Dumbledore. May I ask who saved me?"
The boy stood up and bowed. "I'm Sir Remus Lupin," he said, then added confidentially, "I'm a knight. Mummy dubbed me."
"A knight! You don't say!"
Sir Remus nodded happily, and climbed up into a chair on the other side of Albus's table. "There's a treasure here," he said. "The dragon was trying to keep me from finding it. Do you want to help me look?"
"Oh, my treasure-seeking skills have atrophied somewhat," Albus said. "I think you're better suited to the task, Sir Remus."
"Right, then." He slithered out of the chair and began poking around in the corners of the room, now more detective than knight (the sword, in fact, changed into a Muggle magnifying glass...a John Lupin Charm if Albus had ever seen one). Albus pretended to keep reading, but let his eye rest on the boy. In looks, he favored Julia strongly, with light brown, wavy hair that came to the same widow's peak on the left, and a little pink bow of a mouth. His eyes were an unusual tawny shade. Like Julia, he was quite thin, and Albus suspected he was tall for his age, though his experience with children under six was somewhat limited. On the other hand, there was a lot of John in him--harder to name, but quite easy to see.
It was clear that he didn't spend a lot of time with other children. His vocabulary was quite advanced--a sure sign of spending a lot of time with adults--and, once he completed his "rescue" of Albus, he began to un-self-consciously chatter to himself in several voices. He seemed to have created friends for himself, including one "Arfus" and one "Maggie." Arfus was something of a nag who kept telling him not to do things, and Maggie appeared to be a princess in whose name Sir Remus carried out his heroic deeds. Sometimes, he acted as a detective, others as a knight, and still others as comic book superhero. These personalities merged easily into one another in a stream-of-consciousness play that Albus could only begin to follow the logic of.
The boy needed friends.
After a while of this, he seemed to get tired. He went to a low shelf full of colorful children's books, and brought one to the table where Albus was sitting, even though there were several empty tables in the reading room. He sat down and opened the cover, and began to read. Albus noted with some amusement that he adopted Albus's own pose, tipping his head up to read through half-glasses which didn't exist.
"Do you like to read?" Albus asked.
"How long have you been able to read?"
Remus straightened up with some pride. "My daddy taught me when I was four. I can read three hundred and seventy-six words."
"And count them, apparently," Albus added.
Remus laughed, and poked his nose back into his book, more normally this time. It was a simple child's book called Jerry the Jarvey, and Remus was reading it laboriously, but did seem to be enjoying himself. Albus turned back to his own work. They read together without incident until Julia came up, looking mortified.
"I'm so sorry. Remus, you're meant to be sleeping. And you know you're not to bother guests up here."
"It's quite all right," Albus said. "I was saved from a fire-breathing dragon."
This didn't seem to ease Julia's mind.
"Mr. Dumbledore doesn't know about dragons," Remus said.
Julia put her hand over her face, and shook her head. "He's five," she said, by way of explanation.
"An excellent age," Albus said, then looked over at Remus. "While we've had a fine time here, you neglected to tell me that your mother expected you to be elsewhere. A good knight always obeys his mother."
Remus looked stricken, then sighed heavily and got out of his chair. "I'll sleep then," he said. "I'm a good knight."
"We'll see about that later," Julia said, and shooed him toward the stairs. She looked over her shoulder. "Did you need anything else, Professor?"
"No. I am quite delighted with what I've found."