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Stray, Chapter Nineteen: Decoys, pt. 3 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Stray, Chapter Nineteen: Decoys, pt. 3
Sirius, transformed, hides out in Remus's place, hoping to catch the Death Eater he heard plotting in Hogsmeade. Shortly after moonrise, someone comes scratching at the door. He blasts it in. It's a masked man who smells of cabbages. He thinks Remus is just trying to pull something over on the Ministry by leaving a dog, and decides to leave "one dead doggie" as a message. He's holding his wand against Sirius's head.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

Suddenly, the wand whipped backward, the man beneath Sirius giving a sharp gasp of pain as his wrist was wrenched back.

"Out of the way!" Dora yelled, swooping in on her broomstick and firing spells from above.

Sirius jumped to give her a free shot, but the Death Eater was up like a shot, running for cover... and his wand.

Dora flipped off of her broomstick and rolled along the floor. Whatever clumsiness she felt on a dance floor, it was clearly not a problem here. She shot from under her side, and the Death Eater had to jump away from his wand to dodge it.

Sirius moved to transform.

"Stay!" Dora yelled.

The Death Eater rolled over quickly, landing on his wand. He looked up, his mask making his face blank and empty... but Sirius knew he was gloating.

Dora had Disapparated directly from the barn before. It wasn't secured against that.

The Death Eater laughed once, then disappeared.

"Dammit!" Dora shouted. She Cursed a pile of rotting hay, sending it up to the rafters in a whirl of sweet-smelling smoke. "God damn it!"

She raised her wand to Curse something else, but Sirius transformed and caught her arm. "Before we burn the place down," he said, guiding her arm away.

She hissed through her teeth. "Fine. All right." She looked around. "Did we get anything?"

"Nothing we didn't have," Sirius said. "Neither did he, though."

"Are you sure?"

Sirius looked around. The barn was a mess from the quick, fierce fight, but nothing seemed permanent. He went over to the place the Death Eater had Disapparated, which was near the little nest Remus had put together for him to wait in. There was the old blanket, a few books, including the one he'd been reading...

He frowned. There was something wrong, but he couldn't place it. He shrugged. "I think he just tore my book. Probably not vital information for him to think that Remus reads Zoltan Burr."

Dora smacked her head backward into the wall quite suddenly, then drew away, rubbing at the bruise. "I can't believe we missed him two on one."

"I could have transformed."

"And he could have got away and said, 'Guess who's hiding out in Lupin's transformation spot, with Tonks keeping guard'?"

"From a Death Eater..."

"You're a Death Eater, as far as they're concerned" Dora said. "Remember? Azkaban, twelve years? All someone would have to do was deny that he was the one in the mask."

"I should have pulled his mask off, while I had him down."

"I doubt it would've done any good."

"What do you mean? We'd know who he was."

"He smelled like he'd been swimming in Polyjuice Potion," Dora said. "Didn't you pick that up?"

"I couldn't smell anything except cabbages."

"Which is what Polyjuice Potion smells like. He could have looked like anyone." She wrinkled her nose. "I spilled a whole cauldron of the foul stuff while I was training. Took me a week to get the smell of it out of my flat. I'd know it anywhere."

Sirius frowned. "Why would you need to know how to brew a shapechanging potion? It's sort of like teaching a phoenix how to do an Incendiary Incantation, isn't it?"

"Who says I'd be brewing it for myself?" Dora shrugged. "I asked Moody the same thing. He said--"

"Constant vigilance?"

"More or less." She pounded the wall with her fist, then shook her head. "All right. At least I got the other locations secure--"

"You did?"

"I don't sit around headquarters and knit toe socks, you know."

"I just meant... well, good thinking. I guess it was possible that we wouldn't catch him."

"Yeah. Just possible." She smiled wearily. "I have to invent a way to track Disapparition."

"You'd have better luck with the toe socks."

"You've never seen me try to knit." She tried to smile, but grimaced instead, and slammed her fist into the wall again. "I thought we had him! Why the hell can anyone Disapparate out of someplace like this? And why didn't I think of that? I did it myself, for God's sake!"

"I didn't think of it, either," Sirius said. "Otherwise, I could have bitten his throat." He went to her. "Sometimes, it doesn't work."

"It should work. Goddammit, that was stupid. Overlook one stupid thing--"

"Dora." He kissed her forehead. "Come on. I've been bested by Wormtail. Twice. This bloke's better than Wormtail."

"How do you know it wasn't Mr. Pettigrew?"

"Because there's no way he'll beat me three times." Sirius forced his mouth into a smile, and winked. A dark mood was swirling into his mind. Wormtail. Bloody, god-damned Wormtail. Wormtail had bested him, all right. And it had been three times. The first had been in convincing him to go along with the idiotic plan to change Secret-Keepers. Then there'd been the business the morning after, and after that... last year.

Dora smiled, then sighed. "I'd best get back to London and tell Kingsley about our little adventure."


"Well, because the Division needs to know there's a Death Eater on the loose with a particular bone to pick with Ministry-compliant werewolves. And that Greyback's shown up again, while I'm at it."


"You could go spend the rest of the night at the cave with Remus. Keep him company."

Sirius checked the moon, but remembered that Remus hadn't been entranced with the idea of company. "No. He didn't want me with him in the first place."

"He's an idiot sometimes."

"And yet?" Sirius raised his eyebrows.

She nodded. "And yet." She shook her head again, then straightened herself up, got her robes in Order, and Disapparated.

Sirius considered--briefly--staying in the barn for the night. He didn't have pressing business elsewhere. He could fix the door, but that might interfere with whatever story Dora and Kingsley concocted, and as it was, a cold rain had started, and it was making the place even more uncomfortable than it had been when the night had begun. The cave was out--Buckbeak wouldn't let him past at this point, if he was protecting Remus. There was the island, but the thought of listening to the rain and wind on the north sea while sitting alone on the tartan armchair was suddenly too depressing to stand.

The thought of just going back to Hogsmeade as Padfoot and intruding on Moony's self-pity occurred to him, and he might have done it, but somehow, the thought seemed foolish. He wasn't wanted there. Remus made all the excuses about his safety, but in the end, that was what it came down to. Remus didn't want or need him around. Dora had to go off to London and not knit toe socks. Dumbledore was off doing Dumbledore-ish things. Harry was perfectly well served in school, with old Mad-Eye Moody hovering over him like a ghoulish guardian angel. And James and Lily were dead.

The depression circled further in.

They should have won tonight. Dora was perfectly right about that. Stupid, ridiculous overlooking of the obvious problem.

He ground his teeth, then gathered up the few things he'd brought and went to Grimmauld Place.

Fiona didn't seem surprised to see him. The girls were in bed. She had a pot of tea, and Summoned a cup for him.

"Do I want to know what went wrong?" she asked. "Or even what you were doing?"

"Most likely not."

They drank their tea quietly.

"I tried to get some work done in the main drawing room today," Fiona said. "Do you know it's infested with doxies?"

Sirius nodded. When he'd found what was left of Mum's body, the doxies--all quite well-fed--had made quite a racket.

"I did my best, but they're still there."

"Doesn't matter," Sirius said.

"It matters when we're trying to live here. I don't want the girls bitten."

"Oh. Right. I'll... I'll try something tomorrow. I don't really know that much about doxies."

"I didn't mean it that way. I meant, I don't mind trying to get rid of them myself. I'm living here, after all."

"I need to find you a better place. No one should have to be here."

"But you came back anyway. You don't have to." She stood and came around the table, reaching down to him with an open hand. "Come on. It's time for bed. I'll take care of you."

Sirius took her hand, and accepted her invitation.

He woke up the next morning not immediately certain where he was. He'd never slept in this particular room before. He was alone in the bed, but he could hear Fiona and the girls downstairs, probably in the kitchen.

At first last night, he'd just fallen asleep beside Fiona. That had seemed all he was capable of, and she'd just smiled and said, "It's all right, beds are occasionally used for sleeping." Her warmth had somehow staved off the black mood, driven it away from his dreams, and some time in the small hours of the morning, he'd awakened, and found her still beside him, still awake herself. It had been quite different from the frantic memories of the girls he'd hired as a younger man--he was quite sure he would have, at that point, defined it as "boring"--and he imagined it was different than it would have been had he been in love with her, but it had been nice.

He Summoned his robes from a chair across the room, where Fiona had left them cleaned and folded. Dressing, he wondered what he might say to her, let alone how he might act around Kirsty and Elspeth.

He braced himself, and went downstairs.

Kirsty and Elspeth ran up from the kitchen when they heard him on the stairs. "Mither said you were here!" Kirsty said, throwing her arms around his waist. "Elspeth and I have been making things again."

"Have you now?"

Elspeth nodded, worming in beside him. "I made you another bookmark. You have lots of books here!"

Something tried to click in Sirius's mind, but didn't quite make it. "Well, I don't read most of the books at Grimmauld Place. They can be a bit rude."

Kirsty laughed. "We made more like before, with pictures of us. Mither says no more, though, she's run out of the ones in her purse. So you can pick one more." She fanned out five paper bookmarks, with little photographs of the girls waving from them. He hadn't really paid attention to the one they'd given him before, just popped it into--

He stood up straight.

It had been in the Zoltan Burr novel he'd brought with him.

And it hadn't been there after the Death Eater had Disapparated.

Fiona appeared at the top of the stairs. "Good morning, Sirius. I, er... well..."

"I'm sorry," he said.

"Not entirely what a woman likes to hear... at breakfast."

"No, no." Sirius freed himself from the girls and started to kiss Fiona, then drew away. "Before I... Fiona, I think I might have brought you more trouble."
26 comments or Leave a comment
dreamer_marie From: dreamer_marie Date: August 9th, 2009 10:42 am (UTC) (Link)
That was... quite a chapter: the attack, the depression, the romance, and then the realisation that the girls are in more danger. I hope it's not that bad. What on earth could the Death Eaters have against them? If it's the button, then they're even more paranoid than I thought.
vytresna From: vytresna Date: August 9th, 2009 11:59 am (UTC) (Link)
The button is completely unrelated to this as far as they know - it's the connection to Remus that they'll know about.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 10th, 2009 03:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Depending, of course, on who "they" are.
willowbough From: willowbough Date: August 9th, 2009 01:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Neat trick of getting around the Death Eater's identity--and it heightens the mystery too! I'm rather glad Sirius and Fiona got to have that bit of comfort, even knowing that it won't go anywhere.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 10th, 2009 03:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah--much as I'd like to have Sirius have a real love and a deep connection, we know from canon that it wasn't there. But a grown-up sort of comfort-ship that both parties know is just a comfort-ship... that could fit, and would be good for him.
kt_tonguetied From: kt_tonguetied Date: August 9th, 2009 03:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
AHH! So many conflicting emotions in just one chapter!! You have such a way of making me forget about this story between updates and then making me starve for more once I finish!!!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 10th, 2009 03:38 am (UTC) (Link)
I'll try not to keep you hungry for so long. ;p
From: yesaffirmative Date: August 9th, 2009 05:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
I certainly hope the mirror was kind. ;)

Great chapter.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 10th, 2009 03:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Or that she got bed curtains. You know, talking mirrors and quasi-sentient portraits may well explain why bed curtains seem to be more common in the wizarding world...
From: spitc1899 Date: August 9th, 2009 05:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, havens. I just barely caught back up, and it's wonderful!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 10th, 2009 03:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Glad you like it.
gloryforever From: gloryforever Date: August 9th, 2009 06:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, such a great chapter!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 10th, 2009 03:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Wish it hadn't taken so long!
gloryforever From: gloryforever Date: August 10th, 2009 03:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Anything from you is well worth the wait (but then again, you must have heard that before ;-))
chrischewscud From: chrischewscud Date: August 9th, 2009 07:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh no!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 10th, 2009 03:40 am (UTC) (Link)
etain_antrim From: etain_antrim Date: August 9th, 2009 07:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
This was a plot-filled installment! Sneaking in a mention from Dora that "Moody" had her making volumes of polyjuice is clever, and explains how Barty Jr. had the quantity he needed to last nine months. Way to go closing another little plot hole! But now you've left me worried about Sirius and his black moods, and about the safety of Fiona and her girls. Sadly, I know what happens to Sirius, confirming that there is reason to worry and that there's nothing you can do about that. Instead, I'll focus my concern on the Brodies.
kt_tonguetied From: kt_tonguetied Date: August 9th, 2009 09:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
BAAA I DIDN'T THINK ABOUT THE POLYJUICE THING!! *freaks out even more than before*
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 10th, 2009 03:40 am (UTC) (Link)
Actually, I have Peter brewing his Wolfsbane--that was just an explanation of how she knew the smell. It really was Moody having her do it.
From: severely_lupine Date: August 9th, 2009 08:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh dear.

I do wonder who that Death Eater was, though...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 10th, 2009 03:41 am (UTC) (Link)
So does Sirius.
tencups_i_swear From: tencups_i_swear Date: August 9th, 2009 10:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 10th, 2009 03:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Definitely could be a problem.
malinbe From: malinbe Date: August 10th, 2009 12:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, no, Fiona and the girls...

It was nice to see Tonks kicking ass again. Even if she didn't chatch him, she still showed how good she is.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 10th, 2009 03:42 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad she did. It's really hard getting the adults to seem competent while accomplishing absolutely nothing.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 10th, 2009 12:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Another excellent chapter! As always, your writing is well worth the wait. Thanks!
26 comments or Leave a comment