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Stray, Chapter Twenty-One: The Restricted Section, pt. 1 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Stray, Chapter Twenty-One: The Restricted Section, pt. 1
Sirius has gotten a letter from Harry describing what happened the night he solved the egg clue. Wanting to make sure he has his information correct (as well as take up an insane amount of time between the receipt of a letter in Hogsmeade and an answer at Hogwarts), he and Remus decide to visit the archives, where Remus's parents used to work. They decide it might be the wisest course of action to do this on one of the six days a week that the archives are currently un-staffed. So Sirius goes to London, transforms into Padfoot, and meets Remus (who's waiting with a collar and lead) outside the Leaky Cauldron.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

When they'd come to Diagon Alley for Christmas shopping, either Sirius had been too giddy to notice the wary glances thrown Remus's way or people had been infused with a holiday cheer and generosity that was no longer present. No one said anything, but Sirius could feel their eyes as Remus led him through the pub. One man at the bar had been looking at the door, and turned away abruptly. Another just glared over his drink.

Sirius growled at them.

"You're not helping, Padfoot," Remus whispered as they slipped out the back, into the alley. He tapped the bricks to open the archway, and they went on into a Diagon Alley considerably more dreary than the last one they'd visited.

Sirius recognized the end of Dora's little row of flats as they passed it, and he looked up, offering a hopeful yap.

"Oh, I know," Remus said fondly, as though talking to his dog. "You recognize Dora's, don't you boy? But she's off at work, today."

Sirius whined.

"Yes, it's tragic." Remus tugged on the lead and pulled Sirius along past a few robe shops and a dusty looking shop that seemed to sell used items of various sorts. Just beyond this was a path that led between two buildings, and on the right side, housed in an old store, were the archives. Remus paused to check the hours, then led Sirius a bit further down the path, abruptly turning at a dustbin. He checked the alley to either side, then cast a buzzing sort of spell to hide his voice from any passers-by. "All right," he said. "I can't get in there anymore myself, but do you see that little window up at the first floor?"

Sirius barked.

"Good. I used to sneak in and out that way when I got bored while Mum and Dad were working. It leads into my old bedroom--back before we had the farmhouse, though of course I didn't start doing this until a lot later, when I just went to work with them because they couldn't afford to have anyone stay with me. I have no idea what's in it now. Can you make the jump onto the fire escape on the flat next door?"

Sirius measured it with his eyes, then barked again.

"Good. My parents always locked the window magically, so I had to come up with a way to open it around the magic. Muggle style. I thought of myself as quite the cat burglar." He smiled fondly. "I can still see the marks on the window, so it can be lifted out. I'm not sure how you'll do it as a dog. Perhaps you can make the jump up there, then transform and Disillusion yourself?" Sirius nodded. Remus went on. "All right then, it's a bit tricky, but you have to lean over the railing, then press the window in toward the bottom. I worked it so it catches a little bit, and falls like a hinge. Just catch it before it falls and breaks. Put it through onto the floor, so we can put it back. Then come down and open the cellar door." He pointed to steps that led down from where they were standing to a red door.

Sirius marveled at the thought of little Remus Lupin--who pretended that he ought to have been in Ravenclaw if the Sorting Hat hadn't been punch-drunk--crawling around on the outside of a building, sneaking out through this tiny window. He shook his head, then measured the distance up to the fire escape and crouched down on Padfoot's strong legs. He made the jump easily, then transformed and Disillusioned himself as Remus had suggested. The window was creaky and didn't move easily, but it did move. There was no way an adult could fit through it, but Padfoot could wriggle through.

"Remus," he whispered down harshly.


"Levitate me over, I won't be able to grab hold."

Remus cursed under his breath at this flaw in his plan--opposable thumbs were rather a necessity for making the climb--but nodded. Sirius transformed, and jumped into thin air. Remus's spell caught him handily, and he scrambled through the window and landed, paws akimbo, on the floor of what now appeared to be an office. He transformed one more time, and put the window back.

There was no time to explore the office, as he didn't want to leave Remus standing outside, so he just did a quick spell to make sure he was alone in the building, then ran down the stairs to the cellar. He undid the lock, opened the door, and beckoned Remus inside.

Remus ducked in and looked around the haphazard stacks of files in the basement. "What a mess," he said. "I can practically hear my father going on about it."

"I hear your dad every time you open your mouth," Sirius said. "And if you ever say that about my parents, I may have to kill you."

Remus laughed, and started upstairs. "Your dad wasn't so bad."

"Right, just paranoid and quite whipped."

"Smart, though. I've been admiring the spells on Number Twelve. I never really had a look at them before. I doubt I'd have been able to come and go as much as I did here."

"You've got that right," Sirius said. "Reg and I didn't figure out how to sneak in and out until I was in fifth year and he was in fourth. We had to work a blood spell to convince the security hexes that we belonged there. That still works, too. It's how I got in for my Gringotts key last year."

"No one will ever accuse the Blacks of being stupid," Remus said as they came up onto the main floor of the archives. The windows that looked onto the street were magically blocked to keep sunlight from damaging the old scrolls. Remus looked around wistfully.

Sirius hadn't been here often when they were boys; only once really stood out. Remus had sent an owl saying he was in town and bored, so Sirius had collected James and Peter to come keep him company. Julia Lupin had been at the desk under the cast iron scrollwork, cataloging what looked like the driest bits of reading Sirius had ever seen. She'd smiled when they'd come in, and asked if she could escape with them. Her head, as always, had been wreathed with cigarette smoke. It wasn't the first or last time that her resemblance to Remus had struck Sirius, but that time, he had, for some reason, pictured Remus in drag, sitting there waving a cigarette around, and it had started a laughing fit that hadn't stopped all day. John Lupin had leaned over from a hanging alcove and asked what was so funny, and he'd had a jovial smile that always seemed to be there, no matter how little money they had...

Sirius shook his head. He hadn't loved the Lupins as he'd loved the Potters, but they'd been good people, and the world was poorer without them.

"Where do we start?" Remus asked.

"You tell me, I don't know my way around the archives."

"I know my way around the archives, but what do you want to start looking for?"

"Oh. Right." Sirius considered Harry's letter, then pulled it from his pocket and read it over again. He hadn't said anything about Karkaroff, and Sirius knew quite enough--Karkaroff had been a Death Eater. He didn't think there was anything to be gleaned from those trial transcripts. "Let's see, who's involved with the bloody tournament? Crouch, we should get the records of what he's been up to. And I'd like to get a general idea of what happened at the trials, nothing in particular--old Prophets ought to do it. I'd like to read the letters."

"About how Crouch fell from grace?"


Remus went to a large card file, and began to pull cards, seemingly at random. He stopped. "Sirius?"


"Do you want to read the stories about your mother? Or her article?"

Sirius ground his teeth. "She was involved, wasn't she? That was what you and Dora said."


"Then I want to read them. She wrote an article?"

"It's quite mad."

"Well, then it'll be nostalgic," Sirius said. "Let's start with Mum, shall we?"

Remus sighed, apparently not thinking this was an exceptionally good idea, then tapped the card he was holding and said, "Accio."

Somewhere above them, Sirius heard a file drawer open, then a newspaper fluttered down the stairs, flapping its pages like birds' wings. It opened to the center, and there, in all of her dubious glory, was Mum. It was the first photograph of her Sirius had seen that even came close to matching the mad portrait that now hung in the house. Her hair, usually neatly kept, was loose and wild, more white than black. Her eyes scanned quickly around, as though she expected an attack from any direction. The headline was unintentionally funny (at least Sirius thought it was unintentional): "BLACK WIDOW DENOUNCES WEB OF LIES."

Sirius sat down and began to read.
18 comments or Leave a comment
malinbe From: malinbe Date: September 2nd, 2009 01:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like that title, though I can't but feel sorry for old Walburga.

Sirius marveled at the thought of little Remus Lupin, who pretended that he ought to have been in Ravenclaw if the Sorting Hat hadn't been punch-drunk, crawling around on the outside of a building, ...

There's something odd with that sentence. It took me a minute to figure out that the one crawling around was Remus, NOT the Sorting Hat.

I love old things. Ohh, those files will be interesting. I can't wait for the trips to the past!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 2nd, 2009 01:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I changed those commas to dashes; does that clear it up?
malinbe From: malinbe Date: September 3rd, 2009 02:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, that's much better! Thank you!
willowbough From: willowbough Date: September 2nd, 2009 01:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nothing like rattling the bones of the family skeletons, and the Blacks have more than most. Liked the memories of young Remus and his parents--you did such a good job of fleshing out his past. It makes sense on so many levels that he'd be the product of two mild-mannered intellectuals, who were probably braver and tougher than they thought they were. Looking forward to the next!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 2nd, 2009 01:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think they'd have to be, though maybe they didn't discover it until Greyback entered their lives. (Though John must have had some big ones in the first place to insult Greyback, come to think of it.)
vesta_aurelia From: vesta_aurelia Date: September 3rd, 2009 04:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't know -- sometimes the most powerful insults are from academics who announce the truth....because that's their Grail.

To not claim and announce the truth... their every cell revolts.
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 3rd, 2009 07:12 pm (UTC) (Link)

care to explain?

because your comment is hard to understand and it seems like a good "reflecting on this fic"

you are talking about the fic, right?

vesta_aurelia From: vesta_aurelia Date: September 3rd, 2009 08:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: care to explain?

ah -- sorry.

I was thinking that the Lupins could have quite inadvertantly insulted Greyback by publishing or announcing something about him that was True(tm) but he didn't like.

And they strike me as the kind of academics who would pursue uncomfortable Truth(tm) over comfortable pablum any day.
mollywheezy From: mollywheezy Date: September 2nd, 2009 01:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Really loved this chapter, especailly the description of the archives and Remus' parents. I enjoyed that Remus had Marauder tendencies even as a small child. ;)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 2nd, 2009 02:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
And he probably thought as little of them as a defining point as he does later on, thinking that the others were the brave and daring ones.
silvery_wraith From: silvery_wraith Date: September 2nd, 2009 03:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Aw...the image of little rebel Remus sneaking out is so cute, even if he was in danger of falling a good ways off the building!

Oh dear, Sirius is in for it in the next chapter. Not that I'm complaining! Angst ridden Sirius is my favorite =D. I can't wait to see what is going to be revealed at the archives.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 2nd, 2009 06:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think it doesn't occur to kids until they're grown-ups that, you know, they could have really gotten hurt.
etain_antrim From: etain_antrim Date: September 2nd, 2009 04:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love watching your Remus and Sirius together. The Marauders still ride! That mischievous side is one of the many things that makes Remus so lovable. Unfortunately, JKR failed the character by not showing that side of him, a side that must have been there given his adolescence.

Poor Sirius, though. This next part won't be fun.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 2nd, 2009 06:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I think she got it in the boggart scene... ;p
chrischewscud From: chrischewscud Date: September 2nd, 2009 04:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, I'm intrigued.

Though it occurs to me, this bit really shows a critical difference between Sirius and his mother. He has a sense of humor (imagining Remus in drag), but his mother had none whatsoever. Maybe it was her inability to take a joke (especially one of Sirius') that first put the two at odds, way before Sirius cared about politics.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 2nd, 2009 06:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
That would fit thematically with Rowling and her interest in the joke shop, wouldn't it? And lacking even a rudimentary sense of humor probably would contribute to going nuts.
summoner_lenne9 From: summoner_lenne9 Date: September 2nd, 2009 06:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
And now I can't wait to read this story....

(And I find that headline ridiculously funny as well. Good job on it! :) )
maz333 From: maz333 Date: November 29th, 2009 06:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Reg and I didn't figure out how to sneak in and out until I was in fifth year and he was in fourth. We had to work a blood spell to convince the security hexes that we belonged there. That still works, too. It's how I got in for my Gringotts key last year."

Loved this for many reasons--first of all, that brilliant Sirius didn't figure out how to do this until fifth year. A nice little gem to show just how incredibly intense those wards were. And then, I just had to laugh that Sirius and Regulus did a blood spell in order to sneak out. Now that's commitment.

So glad I'm finally able to catch up! This is great!
18 comments or Leave a comment