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Repost: Stray, Chapter Seven: Paying Calls - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Repost: Stray, Chapter Seven: Paying Calls
I mostly added things here, particularly a conversation about the statue in Godric's Hollow. Some clean-up and clarification as well.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

Dora didn't come back that week. On Tuesday, an unpleasant young man named Williams payed a less than neighborly call on Remus, insisting on going through his letters (Sirius's correspondence with Harry was stowed under a loose board, and luckily, the owl bearing his return note hadn't arrived until the next day) and trying to trap him in conversation. Remus batted him aside easily with brief, cordial answers. Sirius chewed on the strap of his bag during the entire visit, leaving it wet and slimy when he picked it up. Williams didn't come back. Ichabod Dawlish, a prissy little plodder who had trained with Frank Longbottom--and even Frank's patience hadn't been long enough to keep from occasionally complaining about him to the Order--came on Thursday, and made only a perfunctory exam. He clearly disliked Remus, but at least seemed to understand the notion that he needed some kind of authorization to search the house, as he apologized coolly for Williams' behavior, saying that he was "young and overeager." After he left, Sirius tried to apologize to Remus for causing so many problems, and was batted aside as easily as Williams for his trouble.

Kingsley Shacklebolt arrived on Saturday morning, with a much more satisfactory apology, a promise not to delegate any more of the surprise check-ins, and a deck of cards. He also brought a box of dog treats for Sirius.

Remus served him lunch. "I must admit, I was quite genuinely surprised by Williams. I knew enough Aurors through their training to know that they know better."

"I'm honestly surprised you never trained," Kingsley said, taking bread. "There weren't any rules about werewolves then--"

"No rules," Remus said. "But I think we both know that the codified rules aren't the only ones in play."


Remus gave him a sheepish grin. "Besides, I only got an Acceptable on my Potions O.W.L., and that was only with a lot of help. Lily Evans tried to convince Slughorn to let me in anyway, but for once, he didn't go along. I was just as glad. I'd have blown something up or poisoned someone if I kept going in that class."

"I think they only require Potions to make sure you're serious," Kingsley said. "Most of us don't have time to do our own potion-brewing, unless it's specifically what we're known for. Tonks is very good at it--did you know she's trying to learn how to brew Wolfsbane Potion? She's been trying to get an appointment with Damocles Belby for weeks."

"She shouldn't waste her time on that," Remus said. "I'm sure there are more important things for her to do."

"I, er..." Kingsley frowned at his tea, obviously reaching for a segue. "I don't suppose you know exactly what she's been wasting her time on this week? Not that it's necessarily being wasted, but I have no way to know, as she's not telling me why she's always running off at the end of every shift."

"If she hasn't told you, I can't imagine why you think she'd tell me. I'm the one under surveillance."

"Yes, our covert spying operation," Kingsley muttered. "It just occurred to me that she's, er, friendly with you..."

"What's that tone meant to mean?"

"Nothing," Kingsley said quickly. "Only that I thought she might have taken on a hobby and mentioned it to you."

"She hasn't said anything," Remus said.

"Whatever it is involves Hogwarts. She owled Minerva McGonagall from work."

"Perhaps it's something to do with the tournament," Remus said. "Though I'd think she'd talk to Mad-Eye about that. They're quite close."

"I know," Kingsley said. "But he seems bloody busy this term. Can't even get him to join us at the Three Broomsticks for a drink when we're up to check security. I think he's taking 'constant vigilance' to new heights."

"I'm just as glad." Remus poured himself some tea. "Is everything secure? What are the crowds going to be like?"

"Larger than you'd expect at what it costs to get in for any of the tasks," Kingsley admitted. "But we've worked with Dumbledore to keep all of the champions safe from madmen in the crowd. It's Potter, of course, but Death Eaters aren't the only thing we're worried about. I wouldn't put it past some of the Irish Quidditch fans to hurl a curse or two at Viktor Krum. They think he ended the match too early, and Ireland didn't get enough glory in the final score."

"I'd think the Bulgarians would be more upset with him."

"They know there was never a chance. They wish he'd caught it sooner, but he got it the first time it was really out."

"What do you know about the other two champions?"

"Not much," Kingsley said, and pulled out a folded copy of the Daily Prophet (Remus's subscription hadn't started yet). "And you won't find out much about them here. It appears that Rita Skeeter has decided to focus on Oliver Twist. I mean, Harry Potter, of course. How could I have made a mistake like that?" He grinned.

Remus scanned the article on the front page, his eyes increasingly bemused. "This is... er... an interesting portrayal of Harry."

"Oh, you should see the middle-aged witches at the Ministry ooh-ing and ah-ing over it."

"Harry's got to be mortified. Do you suppose she'll do a piece on each of them?"

"I'm sure she'll focus equal attention on each one who's the Boy Who Lived." Kingsley tapped the paper. "Though I'm sure Viktor Krum--or Vintner Krup, as Rita has it--appreciates not being chosen for the star role this time."

Remus looked less than convinced by his reasoning, but said nothing.

After he left, Sirius transformed and took the paper, which carried something claiming to be an interview with Harry. He wasn't at all sure who Rita had really talked to; Oliver Twist seemed as good a bet as any. It certainly hadn't been Harry. She'd chosen to portray him as a pitiful orphan boy who only thought about the loss of his parents, and apparently cried frequently and dedicated all of his heroic endeavors to them.

"I rather expect him to burst into song at any moment," Remus said. "With full backing from a troupe of harpists."

Sirius stared at the page and tried to reconcile this with Harry, who wrote such painstakingly casual letters and named whatever problems he was having as lightly as he possibly could. And then he imagined James, reading about his son weeping melodramatically at night. He closed his eyes and shook his head. "The other boys have got to be making his life hell. We would have."

"I think I saw Harry pass about three words with his 'close friend' Colin while I was there."

"What was he doing talking to Rita Skeeter in the first place?"

Remus shrugged. "Colin's Muggle-born. I doubt he knows Rita's reputation for, shall we say, embellishment. Last I knew, he was interested in newspapers. He probably just thought it was a fine chance to speak to someone who worked at one."

Sirius looked incredulously at the paragraph in which fourteen-year-old Harry was said to have "at last" found love, and tried to imagine what on earth was going through Rita's head to come up with such a thing. Even if Harry was in love with Hermione--and Sirius realized that he hadn't the faintest idea about that, despite a year of watching them--the idea that he was somehow coming into it late...

He shook his head. "Doesn't Rita have anything better to do? Wasn't she in Bertha Jorkins's year? She could profile Bertha and get people talking about her disappearance. It might even be good to dramatize it a bit."

"Rita? Do something useful?"

"Good point." He read another paragraph, skipped to the end to learn nothing at all about Krum and "Flora Delacroix"--with no mention at all of Cedric Diggory, who would perhaps have become Hickory Dickory Dock--then set the silly thing aside. "If James were here, I think he'd curse Rita's writing hand. She'd write nothing but nonsense poetry for the rest of her life."

"Rita would find a way to make it work to her advantage," Remus said. "At least until Lily replaced all of her ink with Erasing Effusions."

"That's what Harry needs them for. Neither of them would much fancy being turned into inspirational stone gods."

"Don't visit the Hollow," Remus said, and shuddered.

Sirius considered this, then wrinkled his nose. "Oh, they didn't."

"They did. It's right in the middle of town. The pair of them and Harry."

Sirius tried to imagine a statue of James and Lily looking like the very stone gods he'd mentioned. It was too far-removed from any reality he'd known to even cause a tug of his depression. He shook his head. "Tell me you've at least gone and put a funny hat on it or something."

Remus looked surprised. "Er... no. It hadn't occurred to me."

"Well, have some respect. We'll have to go there for his birthday or whatnot. I reckon he'd like that."

"I, er... well..." Remus blinked, then said, "You know, you're probably right. Don't know why I never thought of it. We'll give Lily a Quidditch rosette, too. Though you'd best go as a dog." He knitted his eyebrows together and stared at Sirius in a bemused way.

"Why are you looking at me like that?"

"It's just... that was..." He shook his head. "Never mind. We'll visit them and give them something to laugh about."

This decided, Sirius looked down at the newspaper again. "Do you really think the Durmstrang champion is glad to have the attention elsewhere? Or do you think he'll hold it against Harry?"

"I doubt any of them are happy about it. Harry's the youngest, he's not meant to be in the tournament at all, and he's overshadowing all of them."

"But Karkaroff's student--I don't like the idea of him having some grudge against Harry. What do you know about him?"

"Only that he's a spectacularly good Seeker. I haven't heard any rumors about him, though I don't really keep up with the private lives of famous Quidditch players, and all I saw of him the day I was at Durmstrang was a sullen boy on his way to class."

Remus seemed disinclined to speculate any further on the subject, so Sirius got out the World Cup papers again, reading whatever he could find about Viktor Krum. It wouldn't hurt to tell Harry to be careful about anyone too close to Igor Karkaroff.

Sirius prevailed upon Remus to go to Diagon Alley and buy newspapers from France and Bulgaria to learn all they could about Harry's competitors. Neither of them spoke Bulgarian (or even anything related), so they were forced to obtain a translation spell. The French paper, Le Voyant, they both read in the original.

As far as Sirius could tell, Cedric Diggory was the only one with cause for truly sour grapes--both of the other champions had large feature articles in their home countries--but Remus considered Cedric above suspicion, based on his own experience and Dora's clear fondness for the boy.

According to the Voyant (and its breathless reporter, Sébastian Tremblay), Fleur Delacour was the granddaughter of a Veela (ironically, from Bulgaria), but no one seemed to have any issue with that. She had distinguished herself during her second year at Beauxbatons by capturing a dahu before a Muggle was able to photograph proof of its existence, and had continued to show a flair for drama since. Her headmistress, Olympe Maxime, had been interviewed, and spoke of her with obvious fondness--"Fleur is one of the bravest and brightest students I have ever had the pleasure of teaching." The photograph showed a simply beautiful girl with wide blue eyes and long white-blond hair, smiling coolly at something beyond the edge of the picture. She blinked slowly, and her hair seemed to flutter in the breeze. Sirius guessed that this page was hanging in any number of Beauxbatons dormitories this year. Possibly pinned to the bed hangings.

The article about Viktor Krum didn't ease Sirius's mind much--there was no hint of any Dark Arts practice, but it was clear that Karkaroff was taken with him, and the other students interviewed implied strongly that he received preferential treatment from the headmaster. Remus suggested that it was no more than Karkaroff responding to Krum's Quidditch fame, but there was no way to tell. There was almost nothing of an interview with Krum himself, which the reporter seemed to take as a matter of course, referring to Krum as "as silent as he is about the Quidditch pitch." He claimed to particularly enjoy magical history, which reminded Sirius uncomfortably of Regulus, who'd nearly memorized Nature's Nobility. Remus rolled his eyes at the comparison and countered with Harry's friend Hermione, who had apparently achieved a similar feat with Hogwarts, A History.

Sirius still didn't especially like it. He added it to the list of things he meant to discuss with Harry. He'd have to memorize the list; there was no handy way to check his notes in a floo conversation.

Kingsley continued the check-in visits, and Sirius began to remember him at school. He'd been a gangly first year Ravenclaw with very tall hair when Sirius had been a seventh year. He had worn dark glasses whenever Flitwick had let him get away with it. Sirius wasn't entirely sure--he thought he might be making up the memory--but thought he might have rooted for Gryffindor in every game except the Ravenclaw game, and had particularly rooted for James. He seemed to look up obscurely to Remus now, despite the constant surveillance and the awful state of Remus's life. Sirius thought he might have been one of the little boys who'd picked a prank war with James, just for the glory of it. James had gone along with great delight, saying that someone would need to pick up the torch the next year, and had sworn all of the Marauders to a pact that they would only respond with spells they'd known in their own first year. He could hardly ask Kingsley, though, and Remus had forgotten the incident entirely.

Dora was apparently still engaged in whatever new hobby had caught her attention, much to Kingsley's annoyance, and Sirius's increasing agitation. The last time she'd visited, she'd seen something, and he didn't like not knowing how she was following up on it.

Remus disappeared on Wednesday morning, leaving a full breakfast for Sirius, but not telling him where on earth he was actually going to transform (though it wasn't on the island, as Sirius checked every possible corner, including the hogboon's mound). Sirius worked himself into a temper about the high-handedness of being left behind on the one occasion when his company could do some good, but when Remus came back the next day, bleeding and ill, it was impossible to stay angry. Instead, he played nursemaid until Kingsley showed up with a potion from Dora, who sent word that she was sorry she couldn't come to look after him as she had last month, but it was the only time Professor Kettleburn had been able to meet with her. She'd also sent along a large box of biscuits that Andromeda had made, and Remus shared them later, when he started to feel better.

The day of the call, Saturday, was wet and cold and rainy all afternoon, and the time seemed to tick by in infinitesimally small increments. Remus decided to have another go-round with the hogboon, and Sirius joined him this time, nipping at the miserable thing for an hour or so to keep it busy while Remus tried to break the seal that Calum McAlister had put on the mound to keep his own interests and personality bound into the hogboon's mind. It was a nasty piece of dark magic; Sirius was surprised that Mum hadn't tried it. She probably just thought it too rustic for her rarefied social circles. Either that, or she couldn't find a hogboon that would have her.

They went in for lunch at two o'clock, having got exactly nowhere. They were both cold and covered with mud, and the mead Remus broke out went down very easily.

"When do we go over?" Sirius asked.

"Not quite yet," Remus answered, poking his wand at a fresh hole in his robes, trying to prod the frayed thread back together. "I don't want to just sit around Fiona's house forever."

"But we should go early enough to make sure they're gone. If we have to Apparate somewhere else to break in, we need to have enough time."

"How's eleven o'clock?"

"A long time from now," Sirius said.

"I have a deck of cards around here somewhere."

Sirius shook his head. "I don't think so." He smiled. "This is my first time out really trying to help Harry. I'm actually nervous, if you can believe it."

"Try pretending to sleep on the Hogwarts Express while he's talking about murder plots with Ron and Hermione. I thought I'd jump out of my skin. I was sure I'd do something wrong."

Sirius grinned. "If I know you, it was harder to pretend through the sweets cart."

Remus made an obscene gesture in his general direction.

"Why didn't you just pretend to wake up, and have a conversation with him?" Sirius asked. "Tell him that you used to change his nappies, for heaven's sake?"

"He was thirteen. He'd have run screaming right off the back of the train if I'd mentioned nappies."

"Well, you could have told him you know his parents, anyway."

"If I'd told him that, he'd have asked me a million questions about James and Lily, but never got around to what he really needed to know."

"He needs to know about James and Lily."

"I know. But at the time, Dumbledore thought... well, there was no way to tell what I knew without talking about you, and no one thought he could handle knowing... what we all thought we knew." Remus looked down. "I'm sorry about that."

Sirius would have told him it was all right, but it wasn't. Instead, he shrugged and picked up the morning paper, in which Rita Skeeter had taken time off from the tournament to insinuate that a senior Ministry official had made an appointment in his office based on less than objective qualifications. There was a reminder that the First Task was coming up on Tuesday--a secret task known only to the tournament's officials, to test the courage of the champions in the face of the unknown--and the Daily Prophet would, of course, bring full details. Sirius was willing to bet it was a dangerous creature guarding something, and the champions had to get past it, which ought to be child's play for Harry after escaping Dementors. Surely, Dumbledore wouldn't allow anything on Hogwarts grounds more dangerous than that.

The afternoon grew dark, and Sirius nearly got himself gored when he forgot to greet Buckbeak before feeding him. They needed to go for a flight soon--Buckbeak was getting excessively ill-tempered. Sirius thought about flying him over to the Brodies' place, but regretfully decided it was too much of a risk.

At eleven o'clock, Sirius transformed and followed Remus out to the cove. The moon was still large enough to cast a silvery light on everything.

"We're clear of the Apparition barriers around the house," Remus said. We should Apparate to the cove over there; I don't know how far Fiona's security goes."

"All right."

"I really am sorry that I ever believed you were guilty, Sirius. You have no idea how sorry I am about that."

Sirius sighed. "You weren't the only one."

Remus nodded, then turned and disappeared. Sirius followed.

There was nothing in sight near the cove when they arrived on Fiona's island, though Sirius could hear the bleating of sheep just over the rise. They were gathered around Fiona's front door, eating from a trough. They were a lot dirtier than Sirius would have expected them to be, and quite smelly.

The house was empty.

Remus took a seat by the door, then Disillusioned himself. "If I see them coming back early," he said, his voice seeming to come out of a nowhere, "I'll run a flame line under the door and burn your foot. Get out right away if I do. You can finish whatever you have to say in a letter."

Sirius nodded, then used a highly illegal hex to get through the door's lock, and let himself in. He lit the fire, tossed in a handful of floo powder, then bent into the awkward crouch this method of communication required. The world spun around him, the tight rope of fire cinched his neck, and a moment later, he was looking out at the Gryffindor Common Room. Harry was sitting in one of the coveted armchairs, looking over at something on the table. He looked worn and stressed, and all of the nervousness Sirius had felt melted away. It was just Harry, who needed him.

He turned, then smiled warmly and said, "Sirius, how're you doing?"

The last time Sirius had seen Harry, he'd been fighting Dementors, had been thrashed by the Whomping Willow, had learned that everything he'd known was wrong, and was in the process of rescuing a fugitive from certain death. He'd looked considerably less miserable then. The relief in his face at seeing Sirius was beyond a vague desire to talk to his godfather, or a need for advice. He wondered how long it had been since Harry had seen a friendly face other than those of his two mates in Gryffindor.

"Never mind me," Sirius said, "how are you?"

Sirius saw Harry's lips start to form the word "Fine," but it never came out. Instead, said, "No one believes me!" He dropped down to a more comfortable position, sitting cross-legged, and looking Sirius in the eye. "They all think I entered myself, Sirius! Why would I do that? What kind of a nutter would I have to be to put myself up for it? But they all think I did it, and that I'm just after fame and money. I don't need fame and money. I have enough money, and I don't want to be famous. Rita Skeeter--she's a reporter--"

"I know..."

"--she wrote a horrible article, and everyone's talking about it, and they think I told her not to talk about the others, and I didn't, I wish I hadn't talked to her at all, or that she'd talked to Cedric, too, and even if I did talk to her, I didn't say what she said I did. I mean, I wouldn't... I don't talk about..." He shook his head sharply. "Everybody keeps quoting it at me."

Sirius winced inwardly, knowing perfectly well that he'd have done the same at Hogwarts, but Harry didn't need to know that just now.

"They keep offering me handkerchiefs and teasing me about crying for my parents--I don't!" he interjected fiercely, as though Sirius had accused him of such a thing. "I mean, not that I don't wish they were here, I really do, but how could anyone cry that much? Would they want me to be crying all the time?"

Sirius started to tell him that of course they wouldn't, but Harry seemed to need to talk more than he needed to be reassured just yet. The reassurances could wait and the warnings about Karkaroff could wait. Harry obviously needed to get quite a lot off of his chest.

"And Ron!" Harry said helplessly. "My best mate, remember? He doesn't believe me. He thinks I snuck in and didn't let him in on the secret of how, and he's not talking to me, and Hermione says he's jealous. Jealous! Why would anyone be jealous? He acts like I asked for it. He's spending all of his time with his brothers now, and he's not talking to me, and... Jealous! Because I've got someone trying to kill me. Because I've got to do this tournament, and it's supposed to be for people who've been in school three years longer than I have, and now Hagrid's just shown me what's coming in the first task, and it's dragons, Sirius, and I'm a goner."

Sirius waited for a long time, to make sure Harry had finished. He didn't know of a good way to fix any of Harry's problems, and he didn't know whether to explain that he understood what it felt like when a friend didn't believe you--but sometimes they ended up guarding the door at risk to their lives and freedom afterward anyway--or to just go to Hogwarts and throttle Ron Weasley within an inch of his life. Both options seemed equally attractive. In the end, all of Harry's social problems would either work themselves out or not, and Harry seemed to know it. The only place he'd stopped to get an answer was at his most pressing practical problem: dragons. And there were other practical problems that he didn't know about yet. And heaven only knew when Fiona Brodie would come home with her girls.

"Dragons we can deal with, Harry," he said, "but we'll get to that in a minute. I haven't got long here." He looked around to see if he could see the clock beside the fireplace reflected anywhere, but he couldn't. "I've broken into a wizarding house to use the fire, but they could be back any time. There are things I need to warn you about."

Harry seemed to deflate, and Sirius wished that he'd taken a moment to at least offer reassurance, but it was too late now. "What?"

"Karkaroff," Sirius said. "Harry, he was a Death Eater..."

Harry's eyes widened as Sirius told him exactly who the visiting headmaster was, what he had done to get out of Azkaban, the rumors of Dark Arts at Durmstrang. Karkaroff had apparently put on a convincing performance of anger when Harry's name had come out of the goblet, but Sirius didn't care--once a Death Eater, always a Death Eater. If he'd genuinely left, he wouldn't be in a posh position somewhere. He'd be under the ground with Regulus.

Or wherever Regulus was.

Granted, if the Death Eaters he'd put in Azkaban ever found him, that's exactly where he'd be, but barring outside help, he only had to worry about other people who'd also made a compromising choice or two. Their secrets, he was apparently keeping. That was enough, in Sirius's book, to keep him firmly in the "suspicious" column.

"So... what are you saying?" Harry asked. "Karkaroff's trying to kill me? But--why?"

That, of course, was the key question, and the one Sirius didn't have a clear answer for. All of his misgivings about the tournament, the reappearance of the Death Eaters, the strange movements since the disappearance of Bertha Jorkins in Albania...

"Yeah, but... it's not very likely like she'd have walked straight into Voldemort, is it?" Harry asked when he mentioned this last.

Sirius considered it. He knew from the Prophet that the Ministry was trying to fob off the whole business on Bertha being scatterbrained and forgetful, but he remembered enough of her to know better. "...she was an idiot," he said. "Very nosy, but no brains, none at all. It's not a good combination, Harry. I'd say she'd be very easy to lure into a trap."

"So... so Voldemort could have found out about the tournament?" Harry said. "Is that what you mean? You think Karkaroff might be here on his orders?"

Sirius realized that was exactly what was troubling him. The sudden movement north, the attack on Moody, the mysterious appearance of Harry's name in the cup, the magical contract he couldn't escape--all of it reeked of Voldemort, who had always loved his little traps. It would also please Death Eaters, Sirius thought, to disrupt what was meant to be a happy, if dangerous, event. They took perverse pleasure in spoiling fun, which was why James and Lily had insisted on an all-day wedding reception with a lot of dancing right at the height of the war... and why there were no pictures of all of them together at the party. They'd all had to take part of the day to watch the perimeter.

But was Karkaroff the agent?

If he was, that was the most disturbing part of the whole scenario, because Karkaroff, like bloody Wormtail, wouldn't go back unless Voldemort was the strongest person to whom he could attach himself. And unlike Wormtail, he had options. If Karkaroff was acting on Voldemort's orders, it would be indisputable proof that Voldemort was growing strong again. And why would that be?

Bloody Wormtail. Sirius deeply wished, for the thousandth time, that he really had killed him.

But Harry didn't need to worry about Peter Pettigrew this year. Dumbledore knew the truth and Sirius had no doubt that the castle had been cleared entirely of its rat population.

"Whoever put your name in that goblet did it for a reason," he said, skipping most of his thoughts. "And I can't help thinking the tournament would be a very good way to attack you and make it look like an accident."

Harry gave him a shaky grin. "Looks like a really good plan from where I'm standing. They'll just have to stand back and let the dragons do their stuff."

"Right--those dragons," Sirius said. He wiggled both of his feet to make sure his toes weren't on fire. Fiona had to be coming back soon. But he shouldn't have given Harry quite the history lesson he had... the dragons were coming before Karkaroff, and Harry was right. They would serve perfectly well, and Sirius doubted he'd know any of the simple ways to get around them, because he'd only had one year of Care of Magical Creatures, and dragons were a N.E.W.T. level subject. He remembered Kettleburn warning them never to try and disable a dragon alone--just get it distracted and get around it and out of its way as quickly as possible. "There's a way, Harry. Don't be tempted to try a Stunning Spell--dragons are strong and too powerfully magical to be knocked out by a single Stunner, you need about half a dozen wizards at a time to overcome a dragon--"

"Yeah, I know, I just saw."

"But you can do it alone," Sirius said, trying to decide which approach would be simplest. The eyes--they were the weak point. Conjunctivitis Curse--it was the best plan. "There is a way, and a simple spell's all you need, just--"

Harry jumped suddenly and held up one hand, his face turning paper white. "Go!" he hissed. "Go! There's someone coming!"

Sirius tried to whisper "Conjunctivitis Curse," but Harry had already stood and turned his back.

Sirius pulled his head back through the Floo network, not peeking into the handful of fires between here and Hogwarts.

There was no line of fire on the floor. He put the fire out, but continued to wait.

The door tipped open slightly. "Are you done?" Remus asked.

"I want to go back," Sirius said. "We got interrupted. Maybe..."

"Sirius, if you got interrupted, Harry will think it's over and go back upstairs. And you don't know who'll be in there if you go back."

"You do it, then. I'll stand guard."


"I'll buy Fiona more Floo Powder. Tell her you needed to come over and make an emergency call..."

"...and broke her security spells?"

"Oh. Right."

"You stand guard," he said. "I'll check. Warn me if you see them." He turned to go inside, but suddenly, the light in the living room turned bright green.

"Damn," Sirius said. "They're using the Floo."

Remus hissed a less than polite word, then muttered something that included, "...should have thought... damned lucky..." as he slipped outside and closed the door, the snick of the lock covered by the crash of a little girl spinning out of the fireplace, tunelessly singing, "The PHAN-tom of the opera is THEEEEERE..."

A moment later, a light bit of laughter joined it, then a scolding, "Will you girls settle down a bit, now? It's time to sleep!"

"Come on," Remus said. "We can't go back."

Sirius looked in the window as they went by. Fiona and the girls were dancing in a circle, Kirsty singing off-key, none of them seeming to see anything off-kilter. Perhaps if they stayed, a distraction spell, or a sleep charm, or...

"NOW," Remus hissed, and the sheep began to bleat loudly.

Fiona started to the door to check on what the racket was.

Sirius ran, seeing Remus's squelching footprints in the grass ahead of him until they reached the Apparition barrier. A quick burst of magic cleared up the marks, and then they were clear, and they Apparated.

"That," Remus said as soon as Sirius appeared on the McAlister island beside him, "was a lot closer than I like. Why didn't we think of them using the floo to get there? It's the most logical way to go..."

"Neither of us has traveled with children for a long time," Sirius said. "And it wouldn't have made a difference. We got away clean."

"Right," Remus said, starting up over the rise. "Right. I'll find some way to pay Fiona back without her noticing. I'll--" He stopped suddenly and threw his arm off to one side. "Transform. Right. Now."

Sirius transformed, puzzled. It was close to one o'clock in the morning. The check-ins were never after hours. He padded up to the top of the rise and looked down at Remus's house.

Buckbeak, perfectly visible, was prowling back and forth. A lamp was lit, and through the window, Sirius could see pink hair reflecting the firelight.
22 comments or Leave a comment
izhilzha From: izhilzha Date: March 18th, 2009 06:51 am (UTC) (Link)
*cue dramatic music*

Oh, Fern, it's so awesome to be reading this--thank you.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 18th, 2009 01:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's good to have it out again. :)
demonoflight From: demonoflight Date: March 18th, 2009 07:52 am (UTC) (Link)
That was great! Hah, I really enjoyed Sirius' memory of Kingsley as a first year.

One nitpick, though... I thought Dawlish's given name was John?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 18th, 2009 01:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
John? Must have missed that one somewhere!

Somehow or other, I just got a really clear picture of first year Kingsley in my head--a smidge bigger than a leprechaun, and way too cool for school.
demonoflight From: demonoflight Date: March 18th, 2009 06:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, John. Jo named him after the co-host of Pottercast, John Noe, who's quite the Dawlish fanboy. =)

Too true about Kingsley! He was probably too cool for the universe from the moment he was born.
miss_polyhymnia From: miss_polyhymnia Date: March 19th, 2009 02:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Aw, but "Ichabod" just fits his personality so much better...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 19th, 2009 04:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I liked Ichabod. And yet, I find myself more distracted by the phrase "quite the Dawlish fanboy." :blinks:

Well, just goes to show, there's someone for every character. Leaves more Rufus Scrimgeour for the rest of us, I guess. ;p
silvery_wraith From: silvery_wraith Date: March 18th, 2009 07:59 am (UTC) (Link)
dun dun DUN. I can't wait for the next part! I don't know why but I can't remember Dora's reaction-- that will keep me in suspense!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 18th, 2009 01:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Good! A little suspense in a repost is hard to come by. :)
From: severely_lupine Date: March 18th, 2009 08:37 am (UTC) (Link)
"chewed on the strap of his bag" -- *snerk* Ah, it's the little things in life.

Dawlish -- Presumably this is the only Dawlish we know of? I just read an old interview with Rowling that said his first name was John. Or is this a different Dawlish?

Oh, man, the thought of Auror!Remus... haha, wicked cool. But maybe that's just because I'm picturing him and Tonks as some kind of crime-fighting duo in spiffy costumes. They could have been, like, wizarding Mulder and Scully.

Hahaha! Even Kingsley sees it. Poor, oblivious Remus. (And he criticizes Harry's ability to spot such things.) Either that or he's in denial already.

Oh, that bit about the statue was... funny and sweet and sad, especially that Remus hadn't thought of any of that. I can imagine the fuss people would make if they did such a thing, but if they knew who they were, they could hardly get at them about it.

"What do you know about the French champion?" "Not much. Only that her daughter's going to marry my son one day and provide me with lots and lots of grandchildren, who will also be your relatives thanks to my boinking your cousin." If characters had random flashes of foresight, it might make the story less interesting, but it would be momentarily hilarious.

Oh, hey, you've got Kingsley as a Ravenclaw. Totally. I think it's his air of always having it together. That, or it seems like he'd look good in blue.

A prank war, how cute. Have you written more specifically about that? It seems vaguely familiar.

LOL, that bit about pretending to sleep and the sweets cart was just hilarious. And really, how could they have believed he was asleep? Silly kids. Although it would have been a bit odder if they'd opened the door and he'd immediately hugged Harry and told him he'd missed him and said he'd gotten much bigger in the past twelve years. Pity, though. I would have loved to hear that nappies conversation.

Bah. It's all well and good for Lupin to feel guilty about believing Sirius was guilty, but are they ever going to address the issue that Sirius thought he was the traitor based on nothing at all? At least Remus had so-called evidence for what he believed. The only reason Sirius could have suspected Remus was because he was a werewolf. Makes me wonder if, deep down, Sirius didn't have a little prejudice of his own, to choose Remus over Peter as the traitor. I suppose if one wants to give Sirius the benefit of the doubt, it could be that they simply didn't think Peter was smart or talented enough to betray them like that, but really.

Regarding that bit about Sirius nearly being gored by forgetting to greet Buckbeak... Didn't you say in that chapter where they flee Brazil, when Sirius approaches Buckbeak, that bowing isn't really necessary any more?

Maybe this is my memory playing tricks on me, but wasn't there something about Sirius's head appearing just for an instant first, making sure Harry was alone, before he actually appeared and stuck around?

"Or wherever Regulus was." LOL Oh, Sirius, if you only knew. ... Seriously, I wish there was some way he could have ever found out what (in your version) happened.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 18th, 2009 01:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Must have missed the "John" interview, or at least that part of it.

At the reference to "stone gods," which was in the first draft, I just felt like the statue had to be addressed. Of course their reaction would be totally different from Harry's (and I wonder what they'd make of learning Teddy's Marauder obsession... though at least they play with him).

I think it's the fact that Remus never wakes up even to grumble, "'lo, kids," then is fully awake and alert for the Dementors that made me assume he was faking.

Buckbeak's just in a bad temper from being tied up. Sirius is right--he just needs a good flight.

If Sirius's head appeared, I forgot about it. So, if it did, I'll just toss in a quick check around before the conversation starts.
From: severely_lupine Date: March 18th, 2009 02:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Apparently she mentioned it on the first Pottercast interview. She named him after one of the guys from the Leaky Cauldron site who kept asking about him.

I love Teddy's Marauder obsession, but you're right. I do wonder what they would think of it.

I think you're probably right about him faking sleep. Otherwise, one wonders what he was doing the night before to make him so tired that he'd go right to sleep in the middle of the day, right after boarding the train, when he knew that whatever student came in wouldn't have a clue who he is and might either be uncomfortable or play a trick on him. Plus sleeping through a whole conversation like that, for however many hours the trip was... really, unless it was the day after a full moon, he probably would have been awake. So it seems he may have somehow planned to just happen to be in the one that Harry found and wanted to keep an eye on them or something. The more I think about it, the more I want to know the story behind it.

Haha, yeah, I suppose if he was restless and irritable, that would do it.

I checked on that floo thing, and I think I must be remembering a different instance or something. Though it does seem odd that Sirius wouldn't do a quick check. Hmm, now I wish I could remember where something like that may have happened. I did notice that he told Harry to meet him at one a.m. though. It's in Sirius's letter on the last page of The Weighing of the Wands. And if it's one a.m. on the 22nd, then they'd be waiting around to leave on the 21st. Or am I missing something else again? That's quite possible. It's been several years since I read that book.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 18th, 2009 09:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
That thing with Sirius checking for a second to see if the common room is crowded or not happens in OotP, Sirius's first Floo-call to Harry in response to Harry's letter about his horrible first week back to school.
Glad to be of help!
From: severely_lupine Date: March 18th, 2009 11:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! Oh, that was gonna bug me.
lollapulizer From: lollapulizer Date: March 18th, 2009 03:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Young Kingsley FTW!
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: March 18th, 2009 04:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's true, I've read this before and it's still suspenseful this time around.

I think I remember the head flickering in and out to check when Harry is alone, too, but if it's not at that part in the book I'm not sure when it was. Hmmm, perhaps will have to go and see if I can find it.

This is so good, Fern - I am really enjoying rereading these parts, and am looking forward to the rest of it immensely. :)
malinbe From: malinbe Date: March 18th, 2009 04:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, the statue :( I hope you write the part when they go and do that. It has to be fun.

BTW, I'll leave you another response on yesterday's entry about plot for this fic. In an hour or two, I'll have lunch first :)
dreamer_marie From: dreamer_marie Date: March 18th, 2009 08:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow, you did expand on the original!
*looking forward to the next installment*
tencups_i_swear From: tencups_i_swear Date: March 19th, 2009 12:45 am (UTC) (Link)
This is so awesome!
[love your reference to the statue]
You do such a good Sirius and Remus! It amazes me everytime!
*LOVE* <3
chrischewscud From: chrischewscud Date: March 19th, 2009 06:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hahah, I love the added bit about the statues in Godric's Hollow. Please include James' birthday!
From: glynngriffiths Date: May 19th, 2009 04:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
He shook his head. "Tell me you've at least gone and put a funny hat on it or something."

Remus looked surprised. "Er... no. It hadn't occurred to me."

"Well, have some respect. We'll have to go there for his birthday or whatnot. I reckon he'd like that."

"I, er... well..." Remus blinked, then said, "You know, you're probably right. Don't know why I never thought of it. We'll give Lily a Quidditch rosette, too.

*This* is why they need to be together! I love your Remus and Sirius reconnecting as adults, but still (especially Sirius) with that Marauder sense of humour.

And the description of Sirius remembering Kingsley was brilliant, though it also gave me pangs (thinking of James does that). The prank wars sound incredible - I hope that Sirius gets the chance to ask Kingsley about it when they get reacquainted. If not in the story, then definitely something to keep in mind when ficlets are called for... :)
mollywheezy From: mollywheezy Date: August 17th, 2009 08:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Poor Harry! I've always felt so sorry for him at this point in canon. I'm old enough to be his mom and just want to hug him, poor kid.

And it once again broke my heart that Harry wouldn't ask Remus for help! Especially since that wouldn't have been illegal. I really liked your explanation of why Remus didn't tell him about Lily and James. I have wondered that before.

Cliffhanger! Must. Read. Next. Chapter. . . ;)
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