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Stray, Chapter Twenty-Two: Déjà Vu, pt. 1 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Stray, Chapter Twenty-Two: Déjà Vu, pt. 1
Okay, I didn't plan on writing tonight, but I fell asleep on the couch after work, and now, at 12:30 in the a.m., I'm wide awake and having my supper. :eyeroll:

Anyway, Sirius and Remus were wasting some time in London, and went over to 12GP to include Fiona and the girls in the time-wasting. Fiona wasn't there--the girls said she was visiting Dougie. Tonks appears, sends the girls upstairs, and tells Remus and Sirius that Dougie died that day--he was poisoned by a plant, and Fiona is now in Kingsley's office being interrogated for his murder.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

"We need to get down there," Sirius said.

Dora's jaw dropped, and she shook her head. "Sirius, I'm not marching you into the middle of Auror headquarters. You're wanted for murder yourself, in case you've forgotten."

"I could go as Padfoot..."

"Sirius, don't be an idiot," Remus said. "I'll go with Dora and find out what's going on--"

"Neither of you has to come with me!" Dora ground her teeth. "I'm going to go back and find out what's happening. Remus, I told the rest of the division that Fiona's been hiding in a Muggle hotel not far from St. Mungo's. I need you to go there and fix up the records so it looks like that. We'll just say the girls are visiting their Uncle Padraic."

"I--" Sirius started.

"And you," Dora said, turning on him, "get the hard job. Those two little girls you like so much? Well, they're fond of you, too, so you're probably the best one to be gentle with them when you tell them that their father is dead and their mother is in trouble. Unless you think they ought to find out about it from Kreacher and then be left on their own to deal with it. I'll come back as soon as I can to give all of you more details."

Sirius's innards turned into some kind of cold jelly. "I don't know, that's not--" He looked up the stairs. "I don't know how good I'll be at that."

"You'll be fine," Remus said, then looked at Dora. "Which hotel?"

They started speaking quickly to one another, making plans in an odd sort of shorthand, and it was obvious that Sirius's part in the conversation was over. He took a deep breath, looked up the stairs, then started up. By the time he reached the top, Remus and Dora were gone.

At the end of the second floor corridor, he could see a blond pigtail flapping out of a door.

"Kirsty?" he called. "Elspeth? Come on out. We need to talk about something."

Tentatively, Kirsty followed her pigtail out into the corridor. She was leading Elspeth by the hand.

Sirius sighed and Conjured some pillows. He wasn't sure why he didn't want to take them down to the parlor or the kitchen and sit in proper chairs, but he went with the instinct.

"What did Miss Tonks want?" Elspeth asked. "Her hair wasn't funny today."

Sirius waited for them to sit down on the cushions and absorb that he wasn't very funny himself.

"What is it?" Kirsty asked.

"Something bad has happened."

The girls looked at each other, then burst into questions over one another. "Is it Mither? Was there an accident? Is she--?"

Sirius held up his hand. His stomach turned lazily over. He imagined what they would say when he told them the truth--they would accuse him of wanting this to happen, of stealing their mother of...

He drew his breath sharply, trying to pull away from the panicky train of thought. "It's your father," he said, and saw the girls look at one another oddly. He braced himself and went on. "He died this afternoon."

Elspeth blinked owlishly, and Kirsty said, "He did?"

Sirius nodded. "I'm very sorry. It looks like someone might have poisoned him. That's why Miss Tonks came. They're investigating."

"Oh, good," Kirsty said. "I hope they catch him!" She swallowed hard. "I remember Daddy. He used to take me fishing. You were too little, Elsie."

"He's not in St. Mungo's now?" Elspeth asked. "Mither said he might get out someday."

"He's dead," Kirsty said. "That means he's not coming out. He's never ever going to talk to us. He's all the way gone."

Elspeth looked at Sirius somberly. "Are people all the way gone when they die?"

"I, er... I don't know. Nobody knows."

"I've heard of ghosts," Elspeth said.


"And angels," Kirsty added. "Are there angels, Sirius?"

"Could Daddy talk to us if he was an angel?" Elspeth asked.

Sirius floundered, trying to work his way out of this metaphysical business and back into the fact that the girls' mother was up for the murder. "There's something else..."

"Mither said that Daddy's soul was lost somewhere and maybe someday he'd be all together again. Are people all together when they die?"

Sirius shook his head at Kirsty and raised his shoulders. "I don't know, Kirsty. Really, I don't. But there's something else--"

"Heaven?" Elspeth suggested.

"No, not about that."

Kirsty frowned. "It is Mither," she said suddenly. "She's hurt, or she'd be telling us herself!"

"She's not hurt," Sirius said, forcing his voice to be as soft and even as he could, not wanting to cock up the situation any more than it already was. He thought of Dumbledore, carefully telling him that Reg had gone missing. He took a breath. "Do you remember when I said the Aurors thought someone had poisoned your dad?" The girls nodded. Sirius swallowed, then said, "Well, they're talking to your mother right now, to make sure she wasn't the one who did it."

Kirsty sat back hard enough to thump her head on the wall. "No! No, she wouldn't! She never would!"

"I know," Sirius said, though part of mind was wondering if he knew that at all. She might even think it a kindness to the poor man.

"I said maybe he should die once," Kirsty said, starting to breathe hard. She stood up and started pacing. "I said it, and Mither said we must never ever EVER wish such a thing, because we don't wish living people to be dead, not even bad ones, and Daddy wasn't bad, he was just hurt--"

The rant was broken by Elspeth's sudden, loud wail. Kirsty crouched back down to cuddle her, and Sirius cuddled both of them for a long time, none of them saying anything of consequence.

At last, they calmed down. Sirius gave their shoulders a squeeze. "Come on," he said. "Let's go down to the parlor and wait for Remus and Dora--Mr. Lupin and Miss Tonks--to come back. They'll be able to tell us more."

He led the girls downstairs, and set them up in the parlor, ordering Kreacher to bring them hot chocolate, and then stay out of the way. This didn't stop the elf from muttering about "people of a lower sort," but thankfully, the girls didn't notice, and Sirius opted not to draw their attention to it by scolding him.

"Is there heaven?" Elspeth asked after a long time.

Sirius sighed. "I don't know."

"But what do you think?"

Sirius didn't think the true answer to that question--that he'd never really troubled himself to think about it--was a good thing to say. It occurred to him that it really was odd that he hadn't. Oh, true enough that he didn't especially care if Dad was tinkering with the security on the pearly gates or Mum was enjoying a slow roast somewhere, but there was the matter of James. It hadn't even occurred to him to wonder if James was watching from some perch. Probably on a broomstick, tossing a celestial Quaffle around with the Prewett boys.

As much as the image amused him once he thought of it, though, he couldn't quite believe it. "I think," he said, "that when someone goes, what's left... I don't know. Stays with us, perhaps?"

"Like a ghost?" Elspeth asked.

"No, that's not really what I mean."

"He means he doesn't believe," Kirsty said coolly. She went to the fireplace and sat down moodily.

"It means I don't know," Sirius snapped, more testily than he would have liked. He cursed himself silently, then said, "I'm sorry, Kirsty, I really don't know. Heaven's a nice idea, though, isn't it?"

She shrugged. Sirius fell silent, feeling quite out of his depth.

Dora arrived twenty minutes later, looking grave, but not as frantic as she had earlier. She told the girls that Fiona was fine, but worried about them, then waited for Remus, who arrived fifteen minutes after she did.

"I took care of the hotel," he said without preliminaries. "It's so close to St. Mungo's that I think they ignore magic--witches and wizards do stay there when someone's ill."

"That's why I picked it," Dora said.

"Oh. Right. Good call. At any rate, their records show that Fiona signed in a week ago. I also left her a letter from the girls in the mailbox for her room, saying how much they're enjoying their visit with Uncle Padraic. I hope they don't realize that neither Fiona nor Dougie had a brother."

"He's a friend of the family that they call uncle," Dora said. "Fiona's come up with a whole story for it; I'll fill the girls in if they're called. Right now, Kingsley's going along with it and letting me check on them."

"Does he suspect?"

She raised her eyebrows. "Given that the temperature dropped about twenty degrees when I said I'd take care of it, I'd say he does."

"Where's Mither?" Kirsty asked, ignoring all of this.

"She's..." Dora paused, then spoke softly, giving a gentle, Hufflepuff-ish smile. "She's all right," she repeated. "But the Aurors need to ask some questions, so she's staying somewhere safe until they've finished up."

"Where?" Kirsty asked.

"An island, up in the North Sea. Not far from home, really."

Sirius clenched his jaw, carefully going with Dora's avoidance of the word, but he suspected even the girls really knew the name that had been left unspoken:

23 comments or Leave a comment
tencups_i_swear From: tencups_i_swear Date: October 15th, 2009 08:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Dun. Dun. Dun.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 15th, 2009 02:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
shiiki From: shiiki Date: October 15th, 2009 08:16 am (UTC) (Link)

The poor, poor family.

I don't believe Fiona had a hand in it at all, but I think someone out there has figured out an easier way to get rid of her than murder ...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 15th, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
True enough.
mollywheezy From: mollywheezy Date: October 15th, 2009 12:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow. Poor Fiona! I still do not understand how the Ministry can hold people who have not been proven guilty at Azkaban! *grumbles at the Ministry*

I loved Dora's scheming and Remus' helping her.

It was such a lovely detail that Sirius conjured pillows in the hallway and cuddled the girls when they were upset. He certainly did that right.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 15th, 2009 02:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
I still do not understand how the Ministry can hold people who have not been proven guilty at Azkaban! *grumbles at the Ministry*

Well, they don't seem to have any other place to hold people while they await trial, and we didn't hear anything about bail. Maybe there's bail. But that would deprive me of a chance to have Sirius break into Azkaban. ;p
izhilzha From: izhilzha Date: October 15th, 2009 06:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oooo. Was that a teaser for what's coming. *waits eagerly*
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 15th, 2009 06:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh-heh... next week, on Stray... ;p
malinbe From: malinbe Date: October 15th, 2009 02:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
I am furious. That poor woman, she's only a suspect! I really really hope Azkaban has lower levels with little Dementor presence. VERY VERY LITTLE.

Hasn't any of these people ever seen the Human Rights Declaration Act?
I am disgusted.

The conversation about Heaven was actually very interesting. It was nice to see a glimpse of not-so-cute Kirsty. She's eleven after all, just about to go nutsy with puberty.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 15th, 2009 02:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hopefully, there is a lesser security area where they can hold people waiting for trial, but yes, these guys need something between "free as a bird" and "maximum security hell-on-earth."
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 17th, 2009 03:58 am (UTC) (Link)
I had no idea that you could break human right regulation in fiction. And probably not. Britain reluctantly passed a minimalist human rights act in the 1990s, it would not be surprising if more conservative wizards lag considerably behind that. Besides which, you wouldn't want to actually COPY muggles ... :)
lollapulizer From: lollapulizer Date: October 15th, 2009 02:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
That is so not cool. I always hated that in Potterverse there's only one prison for the hardened criminals, the I-did-something-stupid criminals, and the suspected criminals who may be innocent.

But I know that Fiona will be okay.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 15th, 2009 06:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, when you have a population of under 10,000, it's probably hard to justify maintaining two separate holding facilities. Proportionally, there probably aren't that many criminals!
willowbough From: willowbough Date: October 15th, 2009 03:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Poor Sirius--few things more awkward than having to break news of that magnitude to children. Or handle the inevitable questions afterwards. His uncertainty about the existence of an afterlife rings true as well. And now Fiona's in Azkaban for questioning--brrr.

Looking forward to the next!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 15th, 2009 06:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was trying to think of what Sirius would believe. I think of Remus as an "angry atheist" type--he's outraged at God for not existing. But Sirius? I just don't see him giving the matter all that much thought until it's thrust at him.
etain_antrim From: etain_antrim Date: October 15th, 2009 04:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well Sirius did a fine job of telling the girls, at least right up to the end when Kirsty proved how smart she is. But I think that when she's older, she'll appreciate Sirius being truthful. My heart hurts for Fiona. She does not deserve any of this, but then, neither Sirius nor Remus deserve how life has treated them either.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 15th, 2009 06:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't think she necessarily doesn't appreciate it now. She's just tired of getting roundabout answers from anyone, and that's what she's thinking of it as.
From: severely_lupine Date: October 15th, 2009 10:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, man, poor Fiona again. Though it should be interesting to see what the others do while they have to take care of the girls. Also, I really liked this phrase: "tinkering with the security on the pearly gates". Lovely use of imagery, especially with your characterization of Orion.

Great seeing a new part up so quickly. :-)
alkari From: alkari Date: October 16th, 2009 03:43 am (UTC) (Link)
if Dad was tinkering with the security on the pearly gates or Mum was enjoying a slow roast somewhere

*snorts at images* Has visions of Mum alongside him, checking the purity of the peraly gates - or else being impaled on a spit which is turning slowly over a nice bed of coals!

Sirius did a good job with the girls - explaining Death is never easy, especially in such a situation, and he handled it well.

I know you are not going to leave Fiona in Azkaban, but I do wish you didn't have to torture all your characters quite so much, LOL.

From: (Anonymous) Date: October 16th, 2009 04:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Sirius tried, but I'm ready to hit him for never having prepared himself to deal with little children who've just lost a parent.

I know, I know, illogical. He wasn't nearly as bad as children's picture book by an atheist that was supposed to help children deal with death. It had a heavy emphasis on repeatedly telling kids that their loved ones were gone, never coming back, were buried in the cold ground, and decomposing (really. I showed it to some other librarians and asked if it was just me or if the author seemed to have issues. The consensus was issues [be an atheist if you want but respect it if you're talking to some kind of theist, even if they are a minor. And don't tell someone grieving over a loved one that their theology is wrong and yours is right if you're the only one this argument makes feel better and they're the one it makes feel worse]).

Interesting that Sirius at least pictures his dad as someone who would go to heaven if there was one. I do wonder about his mom. Obviously, she had a lot of problems, but my biggest images of her go to when she was equally obviously not mentally competent. She believed in blood superiority but also believed - to some degree - in protecting her "lessers" - or she did if they were House Elves in her family's service.

And the son who was supposed to most reflect her thinking died partly on behalf of a House Elf. Certainly, Regulus died (or came very near to dying [wink, wink]) to stop a man he knew would snuff out a House Elf's life without a thought. It does make me wonder.

Oh, and what's the status again of wizarding extradition in Brazil? We know Sirius wasn't but would Fiona be safe there?

From: bookworm_91 Date: October 17th, 2009 04:04 am (UTC) (Link)
I think Mrs Black has a bit of a feudal mentality. Unfortunately the dates mean I can never say that she was a little slow in entering the 2nd Millennium, she's definitely stuck somewhere around the 12th-14th Century, when it comes to looking after her lessors. The objectionable bit about that attitude is the paternalism of it: she assumes that they cannot take care of themselves.
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 18th, 2009 03:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
And, depending on how much it dictates their lives, it can make life pretty horrible for the "lessers" even when it's well intentioned.

I think I feel too much sympathy (or maybeit's pity?) for Mrs. Black. Yeah, she made Sirius' life miserable and helped hand on a long list of hang-ups, but the image that's come to dominate is of an old woman driven insane by her own fears after she'd lost everyone she had (except Kreacher). Even blasting people off the family tree seems more pathetic than vicious. I know a lot of it was done by saner people and there's no reason to think Mrs. Black did it only after she'd lost her mind, but I think of a crazy, isolated woman trying to convince herself that SHE cut THEM out rather than admit they were lost to forces beyond her control (death for Alphard, prison for Sirius, and Andromeda because she chose Ted over the clan and she knew better than to knock on the door of Grimmauld Place after she'd done it).

That feeling just gets emphasized when Sirius makes his not exactly perfect attempt to discuss death with two children. Now that I've had a little time to absorb it, it seems like what really upset me is Sirius, like his mother, not really having the tools to deal with loss and being a bit at sea when other people need his help dealing with it.

Angry atheist or not, I can't help thinking Remus would have dealt with it a lot better even if the girls came away knowing Remus didn't believe their father was having any kind of afterlife.

You do get the nuances of the characters down really well, you know. I always realize it when it takes me that long to express what felt like it was happening in the subtext of a much shorter conversation.

orange_crush42 From: orange_crush42 Date: October 17th, 2009 05:47 am (UTC) (Link)
What a great chapter! I know you've said you've been having trouble getting into the groove with this story, but I have to say: you are bringing serious game with this chapter.
23 comments or Leave a comment