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The Clue In The Cauldron, Chapter 11: The Right Track - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
The Clue In The Cauldron, Chapter 11: The Right Track
Okay, so Rosie managed to translate from very bad Irish a story that Silas had been carrying around. James, being told it sounds like one of his, thinks that the best way to solve the mystery is to write the rest of the story.

Chapter 11:
The Right Track

"So, we start with the prince," James said, pacing in front of the fireplace. "The Pooka captured him, and he's trapped there."

"Oughtn't we talk about how the Pooka got him there?" Ahmed asked. "At least, if this is to have any value. Which I'm not clear on. Si was carrying around a story and so it has to be what happened to him?"

"Do you have a better lead?" Celia asked, leaning at him threateningly.

"No. I just don't know if this one is any good."

"Well, it's all we've got," Michael said. "Go on, Potter."

But James was biting his lip in a way Al knew very well. He had no idea what came next. This was the part where Al and Lily usually jumped in with ideas, or Teddy took over if he was there. Al didn't have any particular ideas. So he said, "Er..."

James looked up hopefully. "Al?"

Al scrambled for something. "Well, you could say what the tower looks like, at least until something comes to you. That's what you usually do."

"That's when I'm just writing."

"So, write."

James took this more literally than Al intended, and Summoned his quill, ink and parchment. He scratched at it a little, sitting down at a small table to do so, then said, "All right. It's in the woods. But on a hill, and there's one window, and you can see the sea, and... and... and it's round. Like Gryffindor Tower." He wrote a little more. "The prince has been tied there for weeks now, and he doesn't know why. Or how he got there. One minute, he was with the king in a safe place that no one can be taken out of, and then he was in the tower, the same one he'd heard of."

"Did he see any Vanishing Cabinets?" Rosie asked.

James chewed on the end of his quill and said, "No, there were no Vanishing Cabinets. Those had been destroyed years ago."

"So there has to be another way out of the school," Robert said. "A tunnel, or... something."

"The... the prince wouldn't have walked into a tunnel, and someone would have noticed him being dragged," James said. He frowned at his parchment, then got up. "All he really knows is that he was with his father in a safe room, and then... then..." Another bite of the lip, but he got moving before Al jumped in. "He might have left the room. Any way out of the room, they'd know. But he and his father couldn't have got far."

"Is he alone in the tower?" Michael asked. "You haven't mentioned his dad."

"Right, they must both be there." James groaned. "This is stupid! I can't think of it in the real world."

"What would you do in your story?" Ahmed asked.

"I'd be the prince, and I'd be getting out of there."

"But you can't, so you have to wait to be rescued," Michael said. "So what are you going to have your rescuers do?"

James concentrated deeply, then sighed. "I don't know. My rescuers always know where they're going to look. Once they did know, they'd follow the tracks to get there, get him out, and come back and--"

"--find a treasure?" Al suggested.

"Or have one given to them." He shook his head. "I need to think about this more. Sorry. I thought maybe I could do it off the cuff."

"It's all right," Rosie said. "I'm here in Gryffindor. Can't I get the tour?"

"Why didn't you just ask the Hat to put you here?" Al asked.

"Oh, right. I'm sure I know more than all four Founders." Rosie sighed. "Anyway, I like Ravenclaw. Really, I do."

Celia slid down off the back of the sofa and said, "Come along, I'll show you the girls' dormitories. You probably could have asked any of your cousins, but--"

"I only asked because I happen to be here!"

"Come on, then."

Al watched the girls disappear, thinking that it was simply unfair that Rosie got to see a part of Gryffindor Tower that he wasn't allowed to see, then turned back to the boys. Michael had got out his potions homework, and Robert and Ahmed were working pulling out their Charms books. James was staring morosely at his parchment.

Al sat down beside him. "I bet you'll get it sooner rather than later."

"You don't have to coddle me," James said. "I will get it." He scribbled a little. "Teddy always says I'm good at figuring out villains. I just have to think like one. Why would someone take Si anywhere? He hasn't got anything. Since the trunk's at the Ministry, he doesn't even have that, so he can't steal anything."

"What about ransom?" Al asked.

"His uncle's at Azkaban, and his dad's with him."

"We don't know that."

"Well, he was with him when he disappeared, and you'd think if he was meant to be getting a ransom together, he'd have surfaced."

"Oh, right."

"Spots is right. I have to figure out how he got there before I can figure out anything else. There has to be some way off the grounds that everyone missed, even during the war."

"If we find it and Silas is all right, we can add it to the Marauder's Map and use it."

This brightened James's outlook quite a lot, and he smiled widely, then shook his head and said, "Maybe, but maybe not. Maybe it's something bad." He looked again at the translation Rosie had made of Silas's notes, then said, "I know it's got to be in here somewhere."

Al looked around, judged that no one was listening, then said, "James are you really sure you're on the right track? I mean--"

"What did you say?"

"Are you sure this is where you mean to go...?"

"No, the other. The right track... I wonder..."

Al waited a moment, then said, "Are you going to tell me what you're thinking, or do I have to guess?"

"There's a way into Hogwarts! We take it every year! The Hogwarts Express!"

"Er..." Al tried to find a way to say it delicately, but there really wasn't one. "James, the Hogwarts Express stops outside the gates. We already know that they didn't go outside the gates."

James stood and started pacing. "But it didn't always. There was... it was a hundred years or so ago, when they first built it. Maybe it was more than a hundred years, I don't know." He flicked his wand and said, "Accio Hogwarts, A History."

Al raised his eyebrows as the book came down. It was the new, revised edition that Aunt Hermione had edited and tried to get all of them to read. "You actually have that?"

"Have it and have read it," James said. "There are good stories in here. Did you know that there's a chapel in the school? It's a classroom now, but the Fat Friar used to preach here, and once, he married these two seventh-years whose families didn't want them to get married. Quite a row. The boy's father's the one who killed him. Strangled him with his own beads."

Al blinked. "All right."

James thumbed through the book. "And before the train, Muggle-borns used to get here by following their post owls. Some students didn't make it until October!" He squinted at the index, then flipped to a page about three quarters of the way through. "Right, here it is." He read: "When the steam engine which would become the Hogwarts Express was first introduced, it was meant to serve as a conduit for all of wizarding Britain, with Hogwarts as only one of its stops. It travels at speeds which could only be achieved by magic in its day, but which are now surpassed by Muggle transit. It was to allow passage from London to Aberdeen in relative ease--"

"Why not just use the Floo?" Al asked. "Or Disapparate?"

"I'm getting to that," James said, and continued. "The dream was quite short-lived, as most wizards considered their native modes of transportation more efficient and less influenced by so-called 'Muggle-lovers.' The track had been laid between London and Hogsmeade, with spurs that went to Birmingham and Sherwood. An additional spur to serve Godric's Hollow was planned, but never built. The function of carrying students to and from school had been included as part of the original plan, so a spur was built onto the Hogwarts grounds. The train would enter the gate and travel to its roundhouse, where it would be turned and set back on its northerly route. As there was not enough space for a full Muggle roundhouse, the train entered a small building, which temporarily expanded space for the turn. This expansion, for the amusement of students, often extended into an amusing place that they would be happy to see--a great forest, a far off country, a corner of the Empire they hadn't imagined...." James looked up. "That's it. It's a way off the grounds."

"Except the spur isn't there anymore," Al said.

"That's true, they cut it off and started dropping us at Hogsmeade Station in"--he checked--"1904, because there was a dark wizard, and they didn't want anything coming into Hogwarts that wasn't part of Hogwarts."


"So, that doesn't mean the roundhouse isn't still here."

"I think someone would have noticed it, don't you?"

"Not if it was torn down, and they didn't know the Charm was still there."

"What makes you think it is?" Al picked up the book, checked to make sure no one was looking, and read the paragraphs James had been looking at. "Dumbledore would have been alive. You don't think he'd have left it there?"

"Dumbledore was off doing Dumbledore-ish things then," James told him irritably. "He hadn't come back to Hogwarts yet. He might have even still been with Grindelwald. I don't know when that happened."

"But he'd have known it used to be there, and he'd have checked--"

"I know he's your namesake, Al, but he could have missed it. He didn't even know about the Room of Requirement, and Dad said that even Dumbledore said he didn't know everything about Hogwarts."

"Why that?" Al asked "Just because I said 'right track'?"

"That just made me think of it," James said. "I was trying to think of ways off the grounds, and when you said 'right track,' it made me think about the train and that it might still be working. Can you let me think of it for a while?"

"Well, yes, but--"

James stood up and tapped Michael's shoulder to get the others, then waved over Celia and Rosie, who were coming down the girls' stairs.

"You have something?" Celia asked.

"Tomorrow," James said, "when it's light--we're going to catch a train."


10 comments or Leave a comment
amamama From: amamama Date: April 16th, 2010 07:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Heh. Yup, there he goes. *g* I love this, and it's just the way it often is, isn't it? Someone says something in an offhand comment that triggers a memory of something else that might just prove to be the right place to go. And no matter whether they find Silas or not, they'll have a jolly good time scampering around. Love it!

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 16th, 2010 07:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Isn't that how it almost always works?
willowbough From: willowbough Date: April 16th, 2010 01:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Cool! James has an idea, and now they're about to begin a Boy's Own adventure, though the girls get to come along too. Looking forward to the next!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 16th, 2010 07:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
I hope it will work well!
alphabet26 From: alphabet26 Date: April 16th, 2010 04:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Love James and Al here--just so very brotherly.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 16th, 2010 07:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
I want them to be. I like the idea that they needle each other like all get out, but are really close.
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: April 16th, 2010 05:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
I am super-excited about this development. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 16th, 2010 07:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm just glad it's going somewhere!
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 16th, 2010 07:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oooh, more undiscovered secrets at Hogwarts!

If I may be a little nitpicky, "for the amusement of students, often extended into an amusing place" sounds a bit repetitive to me - "for the entertainment of the students", maybe?

~Hermione Stranger~
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 16th, 2010 07:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I caught that on a read-through and winced. ;P
10 comments or Leave a comment