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The Clue In The Cauldron, Chapter 13: On the Edge - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
The Clue In The Cauldron, Chapter 13: On the Edge
Didn't I leave them all knitting or something?


Okay, James has discovered that the Hogwarts Express used to come onto the grounds, and he and his friends head out to find the site of the magical roundhouse where it once turned. They learn from Horace Slughorn (who came to school when it was still in place) that the roundhouse was in a secluded clearing by the lake where students like to send up fireworks, and they go to explore. Al finds the remains of tracks, but it's Celia who finds the key--an old, buried handle, which she pulls up.

Which opens up a hole in the ground, out of which something is growling.

And, oops, I noticed halfway through that I broke my every-other-chapter POV pattern. I'm going to leave it in James's anyway, though.

Chapter 13:
On the Edge

"Stand back!" James called, but it was too late.

The hole in the ground widened out to where the others were gathered around Al's find. They ran, but Ahmed, who was standing furthest back, flailed with his arms, and fell backward.

"Spots!" James ran around the edge of the expanding hole. He could see Ahmed's hands gripping an outcropping of rock that was moving with the expansion. Beneath, his legs were kicking into nothingness. Beyond his legs, James could see two glowing points, smoky and hazy in the deep darkness.

"Help!" Ahmed cried. "Get me out!"

The hole finally stopped opening, and James flung himself at the edge above Ahmed. He leaned over and reached. There was about a foot separating them.

The thing in the hole snarled, and the glowing points began to rise up. James could hear harsh, scratchy breaths now.

"Snout! Claws!" he yelled to Michael and Robert. "Celia! Get that thing off us! Rosie and Al, lower me down."

One of his ankles was taken, but the other wasn't. He craned his head up to see Rosie looking at the whole tableau with maddening thoughtfulness.


She shook her head. "No, we're doing it wrong. I'm lightest. You and Al lower me in."

"You're not strong enough to pull up Ahmed," Al said.

"Somebody pull me up!" Ahmed screamed, and his feet kicked down. Out of the corner of his eye, James could see Michael's and Celia's spells heading toward the creature in the dark. It flinched as one touched it, but didn't stop.

James ground his teeth. "You're right," he said, and flopped upward. "Rosie, get down there."

Rose wriggled down into position, and Al and James each took one of her ankles. Carefully, the lowered her into the dark.

"Catch onto my hand," she said. "And hold on tight, because James is right, I'm not very strong. I'm just a rope."

"I can't let go!" Ahmed called. "I'll fall if I only have one hand."

"Celia!" James called.


"Do you know a feather-weight charm?"


"Well, hit Spots with it, will you?"

She called out the spell irritably, between curses sent down into the dark. James decided that he needed to learn that one fast.

"Good thinking!" Rose said. "Ahmed, I'm grabbing your wrists. When I do, let go." She swung hard, and James almost lost his grip on her ankle, then she said, "I've got him! Pull us up!"

The thing beneath them snarled, and James and Al yanked as hard as they could. Rosie came up quickly; Ahmed snagged at the place the hole opened, but he managed to grab onto the grass. Each of them took hold of him, and they yanked. He came up like a rosebush root.

"That thing is coming up!" he called, and grabbed for his wand (which, thankfully, had not tumbled into the abyss with him). "Get it!"

James leveled his wand.

Then the earth closed up.

One of Celia's spells hit the ground and left a pockmark in the sod.


James looked up.

Professor Longbottom and Professor Robards were coming around the turn in the lake, wands raised, faces flushed.

"It was an accident," Celia said. "I didn't know anything would open up."

Professor Longbottom put his wand away. "Celia, how many times do you have to be told to think before you do something?" He rounded on James. "And don't tell me this wasn't your idea."

"We were just looking for the roundhouse. We thought..." James bit his lip. "That is to say, I thought it might be a way off of Hogwarts grounds that no one had thought about and--"

Robards shook his head in disbelief. "So, thinking that, instead of mentioning it to anyone, you brought your friends and family down here to open it yourselves?"

"Detention," Professor Longbottom said. "You know--"

"Detention," Professor Robards said, and James caught an uncomfortable shift in Professor Longbottom's stance. Robards went on, "My detention. I'll think of a good one for you, but all of you, it'll be a week. Miss Weasley, I'll let your Head of House know. And ten points from each of you."

There was no arguing. The teachers started to lead the way back up to the school, and James's group lagged on behind them.

"I don't think I should lose ten points," Ahmed said. "Falling into some monster's mouth really ought to be punishment enough."

"And Celia and I ought to get twenty points each," Michael said. "We hexed a monster. That's pretty good, right? That would balance it out."

"You're not getting points!" Robards called back.

James took in a sharp breath. The others weren't looking at him, but he could hear Rosie in his head saying that he was just doing it to make a name for himself, and Victoire telling him that no one thought he wouldn't...

He wondered if Dad had ever had to deal with people thinking he was just trying to show off. He'd have to ask.

Ahead, he could see Professors Robards and Longbottom arguing quietly. He inched on ahead to try to catch the gist of it.

"...didn't appreciate being stepped on," Longbottom said.

"I'm sorry about that," Robards told him. "But... I am head of Gryffindor now."

"Any teacher can assign detention." Longbottom shook his head. "No, I'm sorry. I'm still having a little trouble adjusting. I apologize. I should have let you take the lead. But it's James. And Celia. Celia's Vivian's girl. I've been listening to Vivian cross wands with her on this for years, and--"

"And maybe that's why I need to be the one doing it at school. They still think of you as family..."

James fell back, annoyed at both of them. All of the children had made a pact, sealed by a smoke ceremony at Fort Potter, to treat Neville Longbottom like any other professor at Hogwarts. He never slipped up on that, but apparently, Professor Longbottom did, and Robards had read it the wrong direction.

The irritation faded when they got back to Gryffindor (sans Rosie, who'd been banished to Ravenclaw by Flitwick with the instruction to please use the brain she obviously had before following her Gryffindor cousins off on rash adventures), and other Gryffindors came along to congratulate them. Most didn't mind the points lost, as the novelty of finding a new and unexpected thing on the ground more than offset them. A few of the seventh years grumbled, as they wanted the House Cup for their final year, but Victoire set about organizing them to earn the points back, if they were so concerned. Marie and Aimee rallied to the cause, and soon the points ceased to matter at all.

By Monday morning, the whole thing had taken on a kind of glamor. Michael was being consulted as an expert on Defense Against the Dark Arts, Ahmed was telling his story of battle with the creature to anyone who would listen, and a fourth year boy made the mistake of asking Celia out. Robert claimed to find the whole thing silly, but James noticed him writing a long letter to his Muggle parents, and guessed he was telling the tale his own way.

The Ravenclaw response was apparently somewhat different, as Rose came fuming over to the Gryffindor table at breakfast, sat beside James, and said, "I'm not allow to get less than perfect marks for a week. That's how I'm supposed to earn back the ten points."

"I can see why you like it so much there," James said, and handed her the salt for her eggs.

She took it. "I didn't put myself there, the Hat put me there."

"And you were so disappointed with it."

She took a few bites of her breakfast, then said, "Well, it's nice in some ways, but--" She stopped. "James, it's your dad."

James sat up straight. Dad was, indeed, coming in from the room behind the Head Table, talking casually to Robards. He greeted Professor Longbottom with a fond wave, then turned to scan the Gryffindor table.

James threw a piece of bacon at Al, and pointed as Dad started to make his way up. He looked decided amused.

"I understand," he said when he reached James, "that I'm going to have to forgo taking the three of you to Hogsmeade for supper this week. Detention all around." He tugged Rosie's hair. "I was worried about you, but I see you're doing fine."

"Tell it to my housemates," she pouted.

Dad laughed.

"Er... what are you doing here?" Al asked. "I mean, not that we're not glad to see you--"

"I suppose in all the excitement, you forgot that I sent a letter?"

"Oh! Right! Your teaching time."

"Yes. Also, it seems some wild students opened up a passage out of Hogwarts, and now I have to have Aurors up here to look into it." He grinned fondly at James. "Nice work. Don't even think about going back there."

"You and Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione would have."

"Yes, and the Pooka down there would have tried to mince us, and we'd have barely escape to tell the tale. As your father, I feel an obligation to tell you not to do that. But, really, nice bit of work finding it. Good thinking." He looked at the bench like he wanted to sit down and join them, but didn't. "I'll be seeing first, second, and third years tomorrow. I was going to take the lot of you into town for supper--I have a note from Hermione for Rose--but since I can't, let's have lunch by the lake."

"At the roundhouse?" Al asked.

"As far from it as is humanly possible," Dad said. "Meet me by the White Tomb. We'll find a spot from there."

With that, he returned to the teachers.

James's morning classes were Potions and Herbology. Potions needed his attention--he'd managed to melt four cauldrons last year because he'd let his mind wander--and in Herbology, he found himself distracted by what he'd heard Robards and Longbottom talking about, so it all went rather quickly. Since he was already outside, he was the first to arrive at the White Tomb.

He stood before the door and tried to imagine Dumbledore lying inside. The doors had been sealed with extremely powerful magic, of course. Dad said it was to make sure no one disturbed Dumbledore, but James had heard some older boys talking last year. They apparently broke into tombs for fun during the summers--it seemed an odd sort of fun, but they didn't take anything, just explored--and they'd said the seals on Dumbledore's tomb were stronger than anything they'd ever come across.

James supposed it was just because Dumbledore was famous, so more people would try to get in. Dad had hexed up the Death Eaters graves, too, though he'd also gone to the trouble to hide them in a Muggle graveyard at Voldemort's house.

"You don't really need to go in."

He looked up. Dad was smiling, but looked rather wary.

"Just waiting for you," James said, and turned away from the tomb. Dad had Al and Rosie with him, and together, they walked away from the tomb and toward the lake. They turned toward the opposite shore from where the roundhouse had been, and finally settled on a flat, grassy area.

Dad Conjured a blanket to sit on, then did a quick Warming Spell--"late October really isn't a recommended time for picnicking up here"--and produced a picnic basket full of food that Nana had obviously sent along.

The meal was pleasant enough. Dad took the mickey out of James for scoring ten points for Slytherin in his first Quidditch game, then asked after all of their classes. It was the first time James had heard either Al or Rosie talk about school. They both seemed to be enjoying things, though they had a sharp difference of opinion about Professor Gardner, who taught Transfiguration. Al thought him brilliant, and Rosie, who had spent a lot of time with Professor McGonagall, declared him "bloody useless."

"What do you think, James?" Dad asked.

"I like Gardner all right." James looked out across the lake. "So... it was a Pooka in there?"

Dad sighed. "I suppose we couldn't leave that out, could we?"

"I found it."

Dad nodded. "Yes, it's a Pooka, like I said this morning. No idea how it got there."

"How do you handle one?"

"By staying away from it?" Rosie suggested.

Dad nodded. "We'll call that good for now. We're having a time with it ourselves."

"What do they do?" Al asked.

"They're very strong, and they like to drown people, so it's not surprising that it would take up near a lake."

"A horse drowns people?" Rosie asked. "That doesn't sound right."

"It also crushes them, drags them around--it's famous for picking up drunkards and taking them on terrifying rides. It's a shapeshifter. It can appear as nearly anything. Right now, we've got it magically contained in the roundhouse, which is why I don't want you near it. I'm not joking about that, James."

He changed the topic, and the rest of the picnic went quite well. He gave James some Seeking tips that he seemed to have been saving up in the hope of using them one day, and told stories about his time at Hogwarts that had somehow been overlooked by history books. James was perfectly happy with this.

When they were walking back to the castle, Dad sent Al and Rosie on ahead, and held James back with a hand on his shoulder.

"I know," James said. "Don't put Al and Rosie in danger again, and--"

"No." Dad considered this. "Well, yes, let's avoid that if possible. And avoid putting your dormitory mates in danger as well. As I hear the tale, it wasn't Al or Rosie who actually fell in."

"Er... yeah."

"But you did a good job getting him out." Dad sighed. "You know what you did wrong already. That's why you have detention. And I'm guessing you know the fun part of it--I remember life in Gryffindor."

James didn't answer.

Dad put his hands on his hips. "But I want to make sure you know that you did a lot of things right, James. You followed a hunch, you asked people for information, and you took care of your friends when you got there." He smiled. "I'm proud of you."

"But don't do it anymore."

"Exactly. It's a mixed message. You'll have to square it yourself." He tousled James's hair (James glanced around to make sure no one was looking). "I just wanted to tell you what you did right. I can't very well do it in front of other students. Don't want them trying. But I seem to recall sometimes wanting to hear, 'Yes, good job.' So... job well done, glitches aside."

"Thanks, Dad."

"Well." He squared his shoulders. "We'd best get back. I'd wager you have an afternoon class?"


"And I have sixth year NEWT students to impress with my vast wisdom. Let's go."

Feeling considerably more solid about things, James followed him back to the castle.


16 comments or Leave a comment
hermia7 From: hermia7 Date: April 22nd, 2010 12:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
LOVE: He wondered if Dad had ever had to deal with people thinking he was just trying to show off. He'd have to ask. Ha!

And this!! “But I seem to recall sometimes wanting to hear, 'Yes, good job.' So... job well done, glitches aside.”
Oh, I do love your adult Harry. He is so exactly what I would hope the book-Harry would grow up into, and I love how aware he is of the things that made him nuts as a teen. I have a bit of trouble sometimes because we’re the exact same age and he’s soooo much more advanced than I can see myself being 7 more years, but he also got started on the parenting a few years ahead of me!

A few typos (I can tell you’re finally feeling this again; writing fast!):
...the novelty of finding a new and unexpected thing on the ground more than offset them.
I think should be “grounds”?

Rose came fuming over to the Gryffindor table at breakfast, sat beside James, and said, "I'm not allow to get less than perfect marks for a week.”
Needs to be “allowed.”

...as Dad started to make his way up. He looked decided amused.
Lost the “ly” on “decidedly.”

“Yes, and the Pooka down there would have tried to mince us, and we'd have barely escape to tell the tale.”
Same as the others: needs to be “escaped.”

Finally, some wording choice things (do you want this stuff, now that Sugar Quill seems to be defunct and you aren't revising these chapters?):
“breathing” instead of “breaths” for the monster, maybe?
“flopped upward” isn’t possible, I don’t think. How about “flung himself back up”?
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: April 22nd, 2010 04:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

“flopped upward” isn’t possible, I don’t think...

Sure it is! Remember the Fosbury Flop?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 23rd, 2010 06:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Late night typing.... ugh. ;p

I really think Harry will make a great adult. We see it a little in the epilogue with Al, but I think you can extrapolate it generally, because it's so true to the kind of adult he wanted when he was a child. I think we all do our best to be the kinds of adults we either wanted or enjoyed having.
willowbough From: willowbough Date: April 22nd, 2010 01:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I always enjoy the generational interplay in your stories. Harry seems to have found the effective middle ground between punishment and praise when it comes to situations like these. And James is showing some introspection about how his actions are coming across to others.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 23rd, 2010 06:04 am (UTC) (Link)
James is a smart kid, I think, but maybe more like his grandfather than his father--not necessarily all that thoughtful by nature. But because everything that happened has happened, he has the benefit of everyone else's hard lessons learned, and the worst aspects of his grandfather's personality are tempered by his father having the right approach to him. I think.
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 22nd, 2010 01:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
So there really was a Pooka down there! Good for them! And good for Harry, as others have mentioned.
Also, love to Neville. I'm glad he and Vivian are clearly on friendly terms again. Pity about Hannah, though. (JKR never said they had to _stay_ married, did she?)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 23rd, 2010 06:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I love a good marriage in a story. So Neville and Hannah stay together. But I think Viv does find someone. In a challenge, I made up a nice man from Oaxaca for her. :D
sidealong From: sidealong Date: April 22nd, 2010 02:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Love Harry holding James back to tell him the things he did well. Good parenting must be uncharted territory for a boy who grew up with Vernon & Petunia. But I guess it's a new adventure for anyone really.

I don't have much sense of how big the hole was, or why they couldn't tell what it was. Dark? Shape shifting?

Fun chapter!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 23rd, 2010 06:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Eep, you're write. Totally unclear set. The hole started out about two feet and grew to about fifteen. And they couldn't see the Pooka because it was way deep down in the dark.
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: April 22nd, 2010 04:13 pm (UTC) (Link)


If there's anything more adorable than James, it's Dad!Harry, and if there's anything more adorable still, it's father-and-son Harry-and-James!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 23rd, 2010 06:07 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Awwwwww!

I will always <3 Harry.
malinbe From: malinbe Date: April 22nd, 2010 05:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Harry truly is a wonderful dad, isn't he?

I thought the kids managed VERY well on their own! They obviously inherited some useful traits.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 23rd, 2010 06:08 am (UTC) (Link)
They did a very good job, and who's Neville kidding about having any notion that they'd run for help before checking out a lead?
etain_antrim From: etain_antrim Date: April 22nd, 2010 08:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
The kids' adventure must have added a few grey hairs to Harry's head, but he is wise and fair and a really good Dad. I'm loving spending some time with James, who is clearly his own self while also bearing a resemblance to his father and grandfather.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 23rd, 2010 06:08 am (UTC) (Link)
By the last book, Harry really had become quite wise--not just intelligent (I thought he always was), but actually wise. I think it will serve him well as an adult.
mollywheezy From: mollywheezy Date: April 28th, 2010 01:33 am (UTC) (Link)
I absolutely ADORED Harry in this chapter. Best. Dad. Ever! :D
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