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Stray, Chapter Fourteen: Security, pt. 1 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Stray, Chapter Fourteen: Security, pt. 1
It's mid-December, and Sirius and Remus have just had a very pleasant day out Christmas shopping, after which they had lunch with Dora. She and Sirius had a little contretemps about the value of preserving the nature of wizarding Britain, but they made up.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

Remus was irritable again the next day, and when Sirius checked the calendar, he wasn't surprised to see that the full moon was only three days away. Remus had always got like this in the dormitory--complaining that he was going to get behind on his assignments, or miss some amusement at the school (which did disproportionately seem to fall on full moons, because of the good light), or miss a test. Sirius had tried to jolly him out of it then, but James had said to let it go--"Give him a break, mate. He's about to get every bone in his body stretched out and twisted; if he wants to complain about missing a card game, let him." The sentiment had struck Sirius as wise not just because of the advice to let him be, but because James had understood right away that, no matter how much Remus tried to blame his ill temper on his illness, it was really plain old human resentment of it. It hadn't occurred to Sirius until later that James had made the same sorts of assessments about him, only that James always seemed to do exactly the best thing.

It was on the days that Remus stormed around and cursed about missing shows on the radio and interrupting his Christmas non-shopping that Sirius found himself missing James most. Dora had her own charms, and he was glad to see her for supper two days after their visit in her flat, but she was different. Everything was different.

Remus disappeared the next morning after breakfast, giving a resigned sigh and saying that he had to go to one of the miserable shacks the Ministry had set up. Sirius offered to go along as Padfoot, but Remus refused, offering no reason, which put Sirius out of sorts as well. He was brooding by the fire, considering Disapparating to the Brodies' island, when Dumbledore's phoenix dropped from the ceiling.

"I imagine you're alone today. Would you care to see your accommodations in Hogsmeade? I am there alone at the moment, if you would care to send your Patronus. If this is a convenient moment for you, I would be delighted to meet you by the stile in the Hogsmeade Road."

Sirius was happy enough for the distraction that he didn't take any time to think about his answer. He sent his Patronus ahead only as long as it took him to bundle up and go out to the Apparition barrier. He Disapparated and landed on the Hogsmeade Road.

Dumbledore was waiting beside the stile, Fawkes riding majestically on his shoulder. Hogsmeade was covered with a light dusting of snow, and their breath rose in two thin columns of steam.

Dumbledore smiled. "I'm glad to see you, of course, but let us practice discretion. If you would?"

Sirius transformed.

Dumbledore turned, and made a motion as if signaling a stray dog, then walked up the road and into the hills. Sirius followed. The walk seemed almost aimless, just a stroll in the highlands, heading toward the sharp hills that fringed Hogsmeade. Dumbledore stopped and looked over his shoulder as they reached a wall of rock, then turned and disappeared into it. For a moment, Sirius thought he might have Disapparated, but then his eyes caught the nearly hidden shadow of the cave entrance. He went in, and transformed.

The cave was small and none too warm, but it seemed dry. There were smoke marks on the roof, showing that it had been used before, and boulders were strewn in a rather congenial seating arrangement. Sirius sat on one of them. "This will do," he said.

"It's no Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place," Dumbledore said, smiling faintly.

"Thank God for small favors." Sirius looked around. "I suppose I can't bring much along. Dora's got me a new wardrobe, but if anyone sees it, they'll know someone's been shopping for me. Glad I kept the Azkaban spring collection after all."

Dumbledore sat down, letting Fawkes glide around to find his own perch. "You needn't go that far, Sirius. If no one sees you, then no one will care about your wardrobe."

Sirius shrugged, but didn't say anything. If he were caught, then the Azkaban robes would be safer, as they wouldn't implicate anyone else. "So you used this during the Grindelwald war?"

Dumbledore nodded. "Gellert Grindelwald broke any number of espionage laws, looking for escapees from his his labor camps. Minerva McGonagall, Augusta Longbottom--she was Gussie Crane, then--and Amelia Bones went into Germany several times to rescue prisoners, and they brought them here until they could find a safe place elsewhere. I imagine you've guessed that the protections are somewhat more complete than a rock ceiling over your head."

"I thought that entrance was suspiciously hard to see."

"You didn't see it until I let you."

Sirius laughed without any humor. "Dad would like that one. He'd try to collect it from you."

"Your father would have needed no help from me on security spells," Dumbledore said, then frowned. "You had to enter your childhood home to get access to your gold. I know there was no key in your flat, and they certainly wouldn't have allowed you to have the key in Azkaban."

Sirius nodded hesitantly.

Dumbledore went on. "No one else has been able to enter. I suppose Walburga is..."

"I buried her," Sirius said.

"Yes. We all assumed it. But at some point after your imprisonment, she activated all of your father's security spells, and no one could get in to check on her."

"I wondered," Sirius said. "She'd rotted in there. Her house elf was bringing her flowers, but she'd never said to bury her, so he hadn't. I wondered why no one else had found her."

"I'm sorry."

"About what?"

Dumbledore, wisely, did not pursue the subject. "How did you get in?"

"Regulus and I had a way in and out. It was the last thing we ever worked on together. Besides, I suppose the miserable old place is mine now, not that I'd ever go back in. Most of Dad's spells would recognize the owner."

Dumbledore stroked his beard, appearing to consider something, then sighed and shook his head. "What are your Christmas plans?"

"Nothing in particular. I think Remus means to stay around the island. Dora mentioned that she might take some time from her parents to come say hello. Do you think Andromeda--?"

"No." Dumbledore stood up and crossed his arms. "Not yet. I would allow young Miss Tonks to make the determination; she's closer to the situation than either of us. But Andromeda took your imprisonment quite hard. She felt that she'd been betrayed, and it may have hardened her feelings more than you imagine. She had to re-interpret all of her memories, and that sort of thing takes time to undo."

Sirius nodded. "Anyway, I'd guess you'll be at the Ball."

"Oh, yes, I'm quite looking forward to it. We've got the Weird Sisters coming."

"Dora likes them."

"Several of them were in school with her, though all in Ravenclaw. They played frequently, and many of their fellow students are avid followers. I rather miss their performances myself, though Kirley Duke once destroyed a fine set of my dress robes to make a costume." He looked over his shoulder and smiled. "And with that," he said, "I do have a school to run, and to which I should return before my absence is noted."

He left the cave. Sirius transformed and leaned out until he saw him disappear, then nosed his way further out into the clearing. There wouldn't be much to eat here among the rocks. There might be things hibernating, but nothing would be scurrying around. He'd have to scavenge in the village. He let Padfoot's strong, sturdy legs carry him, following his nose and instincts to see what the path of least resistance would be. He passed a house that smelled strongly of dogs--there were at least six in a fenced in kennel, and he thought he could pick up several more. It might be a good place to scrounge a meal, but clearly, dogs being cared for would have a harder time slipping away. He turned up a hill, and into a thin line of scrubby pines. It seemed familiar, and his feet knew every undulation on the path, but it wasn't until he saw the roof of the Shrieking Shack peeking between the trees that he recognized it. He and James and Remus and Wormtail had come down this path many times. Eagerly, he ran up it.

None of the vaunted tourists appeared to be on the road at the moment, so he dashed across the overgrown garden and pawed away several dead weeds that had been laid over the cellar door. The door itself was long broken in, and he jumped through the hole and into the house. It was as he'd left it last year, after the confrontation with Harry. Their footsteps were fuzzed over by a new coat of dust, but still identifiable. The long track where he'd dragged Ron Weasley was cruelly clear.

What sort of mad notion had that been, dragging Harry's best friend and breaking his leg?

Well, there was nothing to be done about it now. He had no idea what he was doing in the Shrieking Shack, another mad notion. He ought to go back to the island, get things ready for Remus's return after his transformation, and wait out his bad mood.

Instead, he trotted over to the trap door, still open from their last departure. He jumped down into the tunnel, and started to make his way to the Whomping Willow.
19 comments or Leave a comment
alkari From: alkari Date: May 13th, 2009 06:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Another great instalment! Just what I needed after an afternoon of drudgery.

I think this sentence is phrased a bit awkwardly: "The sentiment hadn't struck Sirius as wise not just because of the advice to let him be, but because James had understood right away that ..." I *think* it should be "had" and not "hadn't". Also, would Sirius refer to his father as "Dad" - somehow, I can't ever see Orion Black as appreciating such a casual term, even from his elder son!

"The Azkaban spring collection" - LOL. Grey grunge must have been the IN look that year.

You know, that key to Sirius's vault puzzles me. WHY would his key ever be in No. 12, when he hated the place? Are you suggesting or assuming that the Ministry gave it back to Walburga after he was thrown into Azkaban? Would they have given her all his other things as well?
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 13th, 2009 07:14 am (UTC) (Link)
The more I think about it... I think it's likely that everything Sirius owned,that wasn't confiscated by the Ministry (as evidence), went to Walburga as his closest living relative. Like his vault key. And the letter and picture from Lily (DH).

Otherwise, I think we'd have to assume that the vault key he used wasn't stictly his, but the key to a Black Family vault that had become his by default.
alkari From: alkari Date: May 13th, 2009 07:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, that seems to be the only explanation that makes much sense, because Sirius also had the two-way mirror which he gave Harry in OotP. Though it's a wonder dear old Walburga didn't toss the whole lot out!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 13th, 2009 07:27 am (UTC) (Link)
I'd think that it wasn't his key until he inherited it.
alkari From: alkari Date: May 13th, 2009 07:40 am (UTC) (Link)
Why not? He had his own vault with the money from Uncle Alphard - he even refers to 'his' vault in POA when he tells Harry about the Firebolt. He may well have got access to all the Black money and the family vault when he inherited, but he obviously had his own stuff too.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 13th, 2009 01:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's a good point. I was thinking he probably just lost that vault with his arrest, but it could easily have been a key going to to Bugga.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 13th, 2009 07:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, I haven't done too much with Orion, and I don't know him very well, but I think that in the Shifts-verse, on the few occasions I've had Sirius mention him, it's been as "Dad."
silvery_wraith From: silvery_wraith Date: May 13th, 2009 04:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Somehow I can see Sirius being much closer to his father than his mother. Not the greatest of chums, but in comparison to the relationship with Walburga.
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 13th, 2009 08:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I can too... although, I can also see Sirius calling him 'Dad' just to irritate him. (Especially if they really did prefer the more formal 'mother' and 'father' addresses.)
From: severely_lupine Date: May 13th, 2009 07:24 am (UTC) (Link)
You know, I always kind of wonder in your fics why Remus is so adamant not to let others around when he transforms. He should have no problem with letting Sirius, as long as he's a dog, since that's what he did for years in school and it never seemed to be a problem. And didn't Remus say in PoA that with the Wolfsbane he was just a harmless wolf? That seemed to imply that other people could be around him when he was on it. I doubt he would have used the word "harmless" if he really meant "safer, but still a maneater".

That bit about the Grindelwald war makes me wonder if you've ever written any sort of fic about Minerva and the others during that time. It would be interesting, I'm sure.

Haha, yeah, it was a bit odd of him to break Ron's leg (that part in the book rather shocked me, actually). I suppose one might guess he wasn't entirely in his right mind that year, being on the run, hunted, alone, and consumed with revenge.

Uh-oh. He's not going to try to see Harry, is he?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 13th, 2009 07:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Well... no wolf is harmless, so I took that with a grain of salt.

I think Remus is just wound up and has gotten uncomfortable over the years with people knowing what he goes through. He probably makes about a million excuses to himself, but it all boils down to being embarrassed and self-conscious.
From: severely_lupine Date: May 13th, 2009 07:36 am (UTC) (Link)
I always took it to mean that Remus retained his human mind while on the Wolfsbane, so he would be harmless. However, I'm more than willing to accept your interpretation, as it's plausible enough and you've written it so well.

And the embarrassment thing does make sense.

You know what I miss? The stories you wrote before DH came out, where you had them living happily ever after. Maybe, one day, you can write Safe and just pretend you didn't read those little bits at the end about them being dead. I certainly do.
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 13th, 2009 02:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
I miss the happily-ever-after stories, too! But I think Fern is far too canon-compliant to consider writing any, although I think I saw one once that took all the canon mentions into consideration and still let them live. It was a bit far-fetched, but what does that matter when it gives us live! Remus and Tonks raising Teddy?
willowbough From: willowbough Date: May 13th, 2009 01:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
I appreciate the insight into James and his own take on Remus's bad moods pre-transformation--it's a pity JKR never developed the character more. And Sirius at Hogwarts--no doubt he'll find some kind of mischief to get caught up in!

On a tangent: reading the Teddy-verse has given me a whole new perspective on the Weird Sisters. Just think: Donzo isn't even a glint in his father's eye yet!
etain_antrim From: etain_antrim Date: May 13th, 2009 03:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Lovely as always, Fern. James sounds wise -- and how nice that even long gone his advice helps Sirius understand what Remus is going through. You write Sirius so that we can see his madness creeping up on him, and also see how it builds from his own intrinsic qualities. If his life had been less fraught, he may have been able to stay sane, but he would always be impulsive and active. Azkaban and the Second Voldemort War are not helping...
silvery_wraith From: silvery_wraith Date: May 13th, 2009 04:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Azkaban Spring Collection: LOL.
It's almost heartbreaking to see Remus so out of sorts before the full moon. However, it's more heartbreaking that Sirius is more than willing to accompany him but he's off to the Ministry cages.

I really think that Andromeda would have been a great asset in joining the Hide and Seek: Sirius Black Edition. Sirius really needs someone who understands him (not saying that Remus or Dora don't) and how one never really gets over being disowned. I don't get why everyone is so against it.
I like how you're slowly showing Sirius' mental stability slipping. He might have been ok after Azkaban with some help but he didn't stand a chance with so many stress factors still in his life.
chrischewscud From: chrischewscud Date: May 13th, 2009 09:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Glad I kept the Azkaban spring collection after all.
Haha. I love the way you write non-depressed Sirius.
malinbe From: malinbe Date: May 14th, 2009 02:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Very nice! Sirius revisiting the old haunts is either very healthy or very unhealthy.

The chat with Dumbledore was great, and I'm glad things are moving forward.

From: (Anonymous) Date: May 20th, 2009 02:03 am (UTC) (Link)
There is something truly delightful and incongruous about having a conversation with Dumbledore about the Weird Sisters.

And Sirius is going to get himself into trouble, isn't he?
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