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Stray, Chapter Eighteen: Relocation, pt. 3 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Stray, Chapter Eighteen: Relocation, pt. 3
Sirius is in Hogsmeade, at the cave. Remus has brought Buckbeak to him, and tried to jolly him out of his feelings of uselessness. He's also brought the newspapers, and they've seen Rita's article about Hagrid. Sirius is angry at Dumbledore for giving Hagrid the encourage that ought, in his opinion, have gone to Remus during the previous year.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

It didn't take long after Remus left for Sirius to start questioning his usefulness again. For all the good he was doing Harry here, he might as well be staying in the Orkneys. Or at Grimmauld Place with Fiona. If she'd been anywhere other than Grimmauld Place, the frequent night-time promptings in his mind might well have caused him to be with her anyway.

He did go back twice in the first two weeks of his stay. The first time, it had occurred to him that he might not have given Fiona and the girls proper warnings about the attic, which was full of dangerous bric-a-brac and rude portraits, but she said he had, and once she mentioned it, he remembered. They had a pleasant dinner together before he returned to Hogsmeade. The second time was a week later, on Wednesday, and he hadn't made up an excuse--he'd done his rounds in Hogsmeade twice, and Padfoot's too frequent appearances at crowded places might be noticed, and he was bored. He thought of going to Remus's, but as Remus had just sent an owl saying that he was going to transform in some godawful shack instead of in the company of a friend in a cave, he wasn't really in a mood to discuss the subject. He went to London and tried Dora's flat, but she wasn't home, so he made his way over to Grimmauld Place, where Fiona had forged a safe little space in the girls' room. Dumbledore had apparently instructed Phineas to keep an eye on them, and, much to his disgust, they adored him completely.

Sirius helped Fiona tuck the girls in, then they retreated to the kitchen, another (relatively) safe space. Kreacher eyed them with deep suspicion, then retired to his cupboard.

Fiona smiled faintly and watched him go. "You know, if you don't wish to sleep in that cave, Sirius, you've no need to."

"I know, I've a room here--"

"You know which room I'm inviting you to."

Sirius nodded, then laughed. "Actually I don't. You're not still sleeping in that mausoleum of a guest room, are you?"

"I am. I've made it quite nice, actually, if you ignore the mirror's commentary."

"That's not something I'd thought of. I'm not sure I want that mirror's commentary if..." He shrugged. "Well. It's been quite a long time. I may not be in perfect form for a judgmental looking glass." They sat in comfortable silence for a moment, then Sirius sighed. "Besides, your--"

"My husband." Fiona nodded. "I know. There's no chance of getting him back. The Healers, they all say I ought to move on."

"But you're married, aren't you?"

"It's actually a gray area. I've been down at the Department of Mysteries a few times, trying to figure it out. Is Dougie alive or not? His soul's not with his body, but his body's still breathing. Is the marriage to the soul, or the body? Or both? The law doesn't know, and neither do I."

"I, er... I have to admit, I never really thought about the question."

"Nor did I until it came right up to me. And even then--it's all all snarled up in my head. With two little ones in the house, I didn't really have time to think about it. Until now, when you've fallen into my life without me making any effort for it." She held out her hand, and Sirius took it. She smiled. "You're a fair-built man, Sirius Black. You know it, too."

He caressed her fingers. "Well, as long as all of this is based on such a spiritually meaningful connection..."

She didn't laugh. "I'll leave the spiritual connection business to the young, where it belongs. They've all the time in the world to worry for such things. I'm happy with being comfortable."

"I don't even know if I'm old or young," Sirius said. "I think I should be young--"

She waved a hand. "You're certainly not old. Thirty-four, is it?"

"But sometimes, I still feel twenty-two."

"And sometimes, I feel like a barefoot lass on a farm. But I'm not."

Sirius looked at the fire, and felt suddenly lower than he had since Azkaban. James, if he'd lived, would be dealing with even more responsibility than Fiona--a fourteen year old son in grave danger. Kingsley Shacklebolt was younger than Sirius himself was, and was rising in the Auror department at a rapid rate. Dora was twenty-two, or nearly so, and she was at the start of a promising career, and obviously falling in love. Even old Snivelly, despite his adolescent behavior, was moving ahead, going on with his career, even seen as a figure of respect. Even Remus--who seemed to have been sleepwalking for the last decade or so and had all the insecurities of his childhood--had developed that... adult-ness. They'd had that time, they'd grown.

Sirius wanted the last thirteen years back. Badly. He didn't want to be too old to worry about such trifling matters as a spiritual connection. He wanted to grow into that sort of weariness, and--

"Are you all right?"

"Fine," he said, and let go of Fiona's hand. "I just... well, I ought to get back."

"If you really want to."

He nodded. "Yeah. I, er... I haven't thought about these questions as much as you have."

She looked down, her face growing distant. "Yes. I suppose you haven't. The invitation is open."

"I'll think about it. Believe me. I'll think about it quite a lot."

He left as soon as he saw her smile again.

The next morning, he went back to his futile patrols of Hogsmeade. There wasn't as much food thrown out as he'd expected, and when he got hungry, as Padfoot, he wasn't nearly as averse to killing and eating vermin as he might otherwise have been. In fact, he rather enjoyed killing rats.

In his first two weeks in Hogsmeade he learned several things, none useful.

Madam Rosmerta's son (an obsequious little toad named Mervyn) wanted to run the Three Broomsticks by some fascinating new business strategy he'd picked up in London, and she repeatedly told him where he could stow such an idea.

Rita Skeeter drank quite a lot at night, and droned on endlessly about scintillating tidbits she knew about various public figures. She was never drunk enough to slip about books she hadn't written yet, but she simply loved intimating that she had information about anyone and everyone. Sirius was curled up under the bar at the Hog's Head one night while she went on... and on... and on about rumors she'd heard about the Beauxbatons Headmistress and her "interest" in the pretty French champion. Aberforth Dumbledore finally got rid of her by handing her a drink that, judging by her reaction, must have tasted something like Wolfsbane potion. She made a show of gagging and ran out into the street. Aberforth gave the rest of her dinner to Sirius. Sirius suspected that he knew more than he let on.

Rufus Scrimgeour, who headed the Auror Division, was a sour old man who didn't trust anyone. He rejected an advance from Rita, which Sirius thought was probably a mistake.

The owners of Honeydukes were having marital problems of some sort.

Mad-Eye Moody was in the grips of a great paranoia about the tournament, as he wasn't even making time to visit his old friends. Most of them seemed to find this an endearing quirk of his.

The owner of Zonko's raised the prices on most of his items the day before the visit from Hogwarts.

Severus Snape had no more friends in Hogsmeade than he had anywhere else. Which was his own damned fault--the one friend he'd ever had, he'd managed to alienate by calling her vile names.

All very useful, vital knowledge, he was sure.

On Friday, the day before the Hogsmeade visit--Sirius planned to see if he could catch up with Harry--he was padding down the road toward a house were a dog-loving woman lived. She'd often fed him scraps. He had no idea what her name was, because she always referred to herself as "Mummy." There was an abandoned shed along the road, and he'd never paid any attention to it, but as he passed it in the shadowy late afternoon, he could see the flickering light of a candle inside. He turned off the road, and began to sniff along the bottom of the shed's walls, until he found a good-sized missing chunk. He couldn't see faces, and the candle had a heavy scent that blocked the smell of the men, but he could see two pairs of boots, and hear two low voices.

"If you want 'em," one of the voices growled, "you'll have to give me a little cover. And give them a little push in the right direction."

The second voice was higher and calmer. "Yes, I'm aware of that. You'll be well-looked-after once our plans are complete."

Sirius perked up his ears.

"Glad to hear it. We've been moving a round a right lot since you stabbed us in the back last time. We got a place now, down in the forest, and I wouldn't mind keeping it. Got a couple of good caves and--"

"Yes, we'll see to it," the other voice said impatiently. "As to the other matter of what you call a 'push in the right direction,' perhaps you would be willing to clarify?"


"What did you have in mind?"

"Oh. Well, I reckon a lot of us have got to thinking that the Ministry takes good care, and means well. Hell, Dumbledore had one of us in, even he did get sacked."

Sirius felt his heart start to beat faster.

"And how would you have us change that?"

"Well, they've got that network of places for us tomorrow. Damned prisons. Old barns mostly, and shacks and sheds like this. Ain't a natural place for us."

"So you've said."

"So--I think you ought to make an example of one of 'em what thinks he's safe."

"Ah. I think I know a perfect choice. It's just a question of figuring out where he'll be."

There was a pause, then the first, gruffer voice said, "Well, I reckon I know which one you mean, and that one's one of mine."

"Lupin worked for Dumbledore," the second voice said firmly. "I think it can be safely assumed that he's no longer 'yours'."

"What's mine is mine," the first voice grumbled, but it was weak now.

"And what's yours, should you wish our protection, is ours to do with as we please. You can go back now." There was a brief green flare, and Sirius guessed that they'd set up an illegal Floo connection. A pop a moment later left the shed empty.

Sirius nosed the door open and went in. He checked carefully for any remaining trace of habitation, but all that was left was a smoldering campfire on the floor, and the sparkle of excess Floo powder around it. The last scent of the candle was seeping into the wood, and he couldn't identify either scent over it.

But he didn't need to know who.

He knew what mattered.

He had to get Remus before he went off somewhere, thinking he was safe.

He transformed back to human shape, and Disapparated back to the Orkneys.
28 comments or Leave a comment
From: spitc1899 Date: July 11th, 2009 08:41 am (UTC) (Link)

I really like Fiona.

And . . . you just can't get away from Greyback, can you? He's as nasty here as he is later. Well done. :o)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 12th, 2009 09:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Greyback is too much fun to leave alone. :)
From: tree_and_leaf Date: July 11th, 2009 11:43 am (UTC) (Link)

I like Fiona, and I must admit I wish Sirius would accept her offer. But time's running out... Excellent cliff-hanger - an unexpected, but very logical, twist.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 12th, 2009 09:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well... it was a twist when I looked at the calendar and said, "Gah, Sirius can't be in Hogsmeade that weekend! No way he wouldn't be following Harry around!"
willowbough From: willowbough Date: July 11th, 2009 01:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
I enjoyed the early parts of this chapter with Fiona and Sirius's findings in Hogsmeade, but the last part really made me sit up and take notice. Greyback! ::shudders:: But it makes sense that he'd be on the move too, once Voldemort started coming back. Looking forward to the next!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 12th, 2009 09:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd guess everyone was starting to move. Greyback couldn't very well Disapparate to the clearing--he's not the sharpest knife, magically speaking--but he's pretty well organized by HBP.
dreamer_marie From: dreamer_marie Date: July 11th, 2009 03:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, dear...
*bites nails*
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 12th, 2009 09:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, that's trouble.
malinbe From: malinbe Date: July 11th, 2009 04:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Bloody Fenrir Greyback. There's an unexpected twist.

Fiona is so brave. Good for her.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 12th, 2009 09:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't think Sirius has any idea how brave it was for Fiona to just... invite. Cute men have no idea that they're unapproachable.
etain_antrim From: etain_antrim Date: July 11th, 2009 04:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
He may not be mature by his own reckoning, but your Sirius is certainly self-aware and introspective. I enjoyed the Hogsmeade gossip -- most not directly useful, but which has the potential to be important later. That's quite a cliffhanger at the end!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 12th, 2009 09:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think he might be a little too introspective, but maybe when the depression is starting to hit, he gets more thoughtful. As long as the thoughts are suitably maudlin.
alkari From: alkari Date: July 12th, 2009 02:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
LOL at the girls adoring Phineas, and his outward disgust (though I suspect he's secretly rather pleased about it, especially seeing he had quite a large family himself at one stage). Enjoyed the interaction and developing relationship between Sirius and Fiona. (I hope Sirius *does* get to ignore that mirror at some stage!).

And Greyback is into the picture early. Nothing like adding some torment for poor Remus and giving Sirius something else to worry about.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 12th, 2009 09:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm sure Phineas is pleased as punch. You don't have that many children and become the Headmaster of a school if you don't like kids.
alkari From: alkari Date: July 12th, 2009 10:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, indeed. Phineas was the one who had the biggest family on that tree, so as you say, his outward dislike of kids is clearly a carefully put-on front. I could see him being fond of Sirius too, and - had he lived - I could also see Sirius as wanting a large family of his own. I like the way you have him helping Fiona look after the girls and tuck them in, etc.
silvery_wraith From: silvery_wraith Date: July 12th, 2009 10:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's nice to come back from vacation to an update of yours, Fern. =D

Sirius, do stop being a fool and take up Fiona's invitation. There's not enough time for your indecisivness!
Oh dear, Greyback coming out of the woodwork. I really hope Sirius gets to Remus on time! It's so disturbing how he really feels that Remus is ~his. You're so good at writing despicable characters!
alkari From: alkari Date: July 12th, 2009 10:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Even though one part of me wants them to get together, I actually like Sirius being 'indecisive' in terms of Fiona already having a husband. For all that he can be impulsive about things at times, Sirius has a very strong moral compass, so I'm glad they had a talk about the situation.
silvery_wraith From: silvery_wraith Date: July 13th, 2009 12:22 am (UTC) (Link)
As much as I harped on about Sirius' indecision I agree--if we knew that he was going to live another 20 years.
Unfortunately, we know Sirius doesn't have the luxury of time on his side and that's why I'd rather he toss the moral compass out the window. Fiona's a big girl and knows Sirius is not in a situation to give her what she had with her husband Dougie. I doubt she's expecting that much from Sirius.
alkari From: alkari Date: July 13th, 2009 01:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Unfortunately, we know Sirius doesn't have the luxury of time on his side and that's why I'd rather he toss the moral compass out the window But that's surely looking at things with the benefit of perfect post-Book 5 hindsight! At this point in Book 4, Sirius himself is fully determined to live and do whatever he can for Harry, so you can hardly blame him for having these concerns and being a little reticent. And yes, Fiona is a big girl but she also has no idea of the future, including whether or not Dougie would survive, or whether there was the possibility of a future with Sirius.
From: severely_lupine Date: July 13th, 2009 08:52 am (UTC) (Link)
I have to say, if forced to choose, I'd actually rather Sirius not take her up on the offer. Though it does get me wishing for some kind of AU where eventually things got sorted out and they got married and had a bunch of kids.

I think somehow it feels like if things really did cross the line of Sirius taking her up on her offer, it would be a lot harder to explain why he never mentioned her in Shifts at all (one of the problems with writing them backwards like this, I guess).
From: severely_lupine Date: July 13th, 2009 08:47 am (UTC) (Link)
the one friend he'd ever had, he'd managed to alienate by calling her vile names. -- So does this mean you're going on the theory that Sirius knew Snape and Lily were friends? I have to say, this seems a bit fuzzy, canon-wise. On the one hand, James would have kept a close eye on Lily, which means Sirius probably would have as well, which means they'd have noticed her hanging out with him. On the other hand, if he'd known they were friends, why didn't he ever breathe a word of this to Harry, even when Harry told them what he'd seen in Snape's memory?

Greyback's back? And the Death Eaters are planning something bad for Lupin? Well, crap.
alkari From: alkari Date: July 13th, 2009 11:08 am (UTC) (Link)
I suspect that the non-disclosure bit about Lily and Snape was a careful plot device by JKR, who wouldn't want the Lily-Snape friendship to be so obvious way back in Book 5. Plus there wasn't a lot of time for Sirius to talk about Snape's memory, because they were talking via Floo under difficult circumstances. Given Harry's dislike of Snape (let alone Sirius's) Sirius was hardly going to say to Harry: "Oh, and by the way, you mother and Snivellus were actually good friends before she came to Hogwarts and before he started called her a Mudblood." :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 13th, 2009 07:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd say that it's basically Sirius and Remus's dislike--the friendship between Lily and Snape didn't seem to have been a secret to anyone. For heaven's sake, he camped out outside Gryffindor Tower to talk to her.

In fact, I suspect it was because JKR didn't decide to do it until she realized it would be a Snape-fan crowd-pleaser, but that's neither here nor there. The way it was set up, it would certainly have been common knowledge. Remus went most of the school year without mentioning that he was one of James and Sirius's best friends because it was useful to the plot for Harry not to know (so we have to assume he was under instructions), and if Sirius didn't mention Lily and Snape's friendship, I don't think it even needs that much justification--Sirius loathed Snape (and Remus couldn't care less about him), so I doubt they had much truck with his friendship with Lily. They probably didn't realize its importance to Snape (I'm not sure even Lily realized that), and even if they did, I can't see them really caring all that much to tell Harry about it.
alkari From: alkari Date: July 13th, 2009 09:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Exactly. And Harry - IF he ever talked about his parents to Sirius and Remus! - would have been more far concerned about them as people, and their friendship with Sirius and Remus, than with Snape, whom he hated too. As you say, there is also the strong likelihood that no-one in the MWPP group realised Snape still carried a torch for Lily; they'd have assumed he'd gone off with his DE friends after LIly gave him his marching orders. Especially when Lily and James got together.

From: severely_lupine Date: July 13th, 2009 11:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hm, yes, I see what you mean. From their perspective, it probably wasn't a big deal, and I quite agree they didn't realize what it meant to Snape. Though I'm still surprised that there was never even a comment from Sirius or something when they're talking about how Lily didn't like James at first, maybe making some offhand remark about how her taste in friends wasn't all that great back then. Unless they thought it was just a pity friendship on Lily's part.

I don't think it was a last-minute addition on JKR's part, though. I was about 90% sure that Snape had a thing for Lily before DH was published, and as soon as I saw the chapter art for the silver doe, I knew it was Snape's Patronus, so there were definitely hints all the way along. I'm more inclined to think it's another example of JKR not mentioning things that might naturally have been mentioned just because the plot requires it not to be mentioned yet.
miss_polyhymnia From: miss_polyhymnia Date: July 13th, 2009 03:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ugh! Greyback! And I'm guessing that was Lucius Malfoy who was talking with him, since later on he seems to be rather connected with the Malfoy family. Ew, even just thinking about him (Greyback makes me shudder).

I enjoyed the bits of Hogsmeade gossip, especially the one about Zonkos raising their prices. And *of course* Aberforth knows more than he lets on!
From: glynngriffiths Date: July 15th, 2009 11:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Ooh - Greyback makes an appearance! I'm both excited and worried to see what happens next - the perfect mix of anticipation and trepidation. :)

Also, I loved the Fiona/Sirius interaction - Fiona's wonderful - and the catch-up on what's happening in the village. That really helped me form a great mental picture of Sirius' days there.
mollywheezy From: mollywheezy Date: August 19th, 2009 01:49 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm actually surprised Sirius didn't take Fiona up on her offer.

Now I'm worried about Remus . . .
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