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The Clue In The Cauldron, Chapter 16: An Unapproved Arrangement - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
The Clue In The Cauldron, Chapter 16: An Unapproved Arrangement
It's Christmas, and the kids are home for the holidays. All is well, except that Teddy and Victoire are being googly with each other, and Rosie is angry at not being the designated smart one in the group. At the Romp on Christmas Eve, they find a book (English written in runes) that says the Pooka can be summoned by a descendant of Brian Boru--or that it can collect a debt from same.

James got two chapters before, so now Al does.

Chapter 16:
An Unapproved Arrangement

Christmas at Grimmauld Place was an old routine, only missed once in Al's lifetime (when Fenrir Greyback had escaped Azkaban, and they'd had Christmas at Grannydromeda's to keep Teddy safe). The early morning was for the Potters. Dad made breakfast and everyone opened presents. Later, the extended family would come--Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione, Uncle Bill and Aunt Fleur and their brood, Uncle George and Aunt Angelina and the kids, Nana and Granddad Weasley, Uncle Charlie if he was in town, and Teddy and Grannydromeda. That bunch would stay all day, and that number of cousins could generally get a good game going. After an early supper, other people would come by. Uncle Percy usually came then, for a little while, but mostly it was the old Dumbledore's Army. It was when Al would have a chance to see Luna Scamander (she always brought an interesting creature), and Cho Morse, and Lavender Brown, and Parvati Patil. Seamus and Padma had been coming together for the last two years, and Professor Longbottom would come by as plain old Neville. Everyone would have a word or two with Dad, then they'd fall off into their own groups, and everyone would have a lovely time. Al liked it. He sometimes wished there were something in the evening, to finish it all off, but still--it was quite fine to see everyone.

But it was the morning he liked the most, the morning when it was just Dad, cooking Muggle-style in the kitchen, telling stories about when he'd been a little boy at Aunt Petunia's. Al had an idea that it hadn't been fun, but Dad always told the stories like he'd been watching a very funny play about the Dursleys that no one had made him be in. He'd had to cook and clean then, and he always said that he kept cooking and cleaning Muggle style because it was important to remember that he used to live under the stairs. At some point in this, Mum would usually raise an eyebrow and say, "Yes, dear, it's not nearly as big a legend without you being so deeply humble."

Nothing was different this year. Al found his presents on his bed. Lily had given him a new set of quills, Dad had got him flying things (with a note that said, "For next year, of course"), and Mum had got him a lot of new clothes. There was a little envelope from James. Al opened it, expecting a story, but it had just said, "Come to Dad's office after breakfast for your present."

James said nothing during breakfast about what the surprise might be, though he and Dad had stopped a conversation abruptly when Al had come in. Lily carried on a chattering commentary, and by the time they'd all finished, Al had nearly forgotten about it.

Dad set the dishes to washing themselves, then nodded to James. James tugged on the sleeve of Al's pajamas. "Come on," he said.

Curiously, Al followed. When they got to the top of the kitchen stairs, James picked up a lumpy brown package. They went upstairs to Dad's office.

"Well, Al," Dad said, "your brother has a Christmas present for you."

"Right," James said. "I... well, I asked Dad if I could give it to you, since he gave it to me."

Al frowned. "Why?"

"Well, obviously, you need it more than I do, if you're going to be sneaking about!" He held out the package eagerly.

Al took it, and loosened the strings. The wrapper fell away, and something silvery slipped out. He grabbed it, and looked. "It's the Invisibility Cloak!"

James grinned. "All my dormitory mates know where I go and what I do, but you have to slip out sometimes. Besides, I never have to sneak through a crowd with everyone staring at me. Dad said it was okay if I gave it to you. As long as it stays in the family, right?" He looked at Dad.

Dad smiled. "I was actually very pleased that James thought of it. And I don't even think it's because he ran out of gold while he was shopping."


"So I'm going to tell you the same thing I told him when I gave it to him." Dad sat on the edge of his desk and thought for a second, then said, "The Cloak's been in our family longer than... well, longer than anyone thinks. It's important that we just say it came through the family, though. Can you remember that?"

Al nodded.

"I know it has a lot of excellent uses, and I fully expect you to take advantage of them, but remember, it's really there to keep you safe. You and people you love. Take good care of it."

"All right." Al let the material slide under his fingertips, marveling at the feel of it. "Dad--is this the one you were wearing in the Great Hall when... you know?"

"Yes. But there's to be no talk of that on Christmas." He shuddered. "Hopefully, you'll find more amusing uses for it."

Al promised that he would, then ran upstairs and put the Cloak in his trunk.

The family started arriving half an hour later. Uncle Bill was first. Victoire came out of the Floo and looked around eagerly, then frowned. "Er... Teddy and Andromeda aren't here yet?"

"They should be here momentarily," Dad said, looking bemused.

"Oh, good. I really need to talk to Andromeda," Victoire said, and went upstairs, a pile of packages flying along behind her. There was a round of hugs and Happy Christmases, and by the time they were finished, Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione were coming through, Nana and Granddad hot on their heels (quite literally, as Nana stepped on a hot coal that Hugo had kicked out of the fireplace). Al got put on coat duty, and carried piles of them up to James's room, which had been designated as the cloak room for the day. By the time he got down, the whole family was there, and Teddy was occupying himself with deliberately paying attention to everyone who was not Victoire. Al was momentarily relieved by this, but he saw Teddy glance up at Victoire, and she gestured for him to continue talking to everyone else.

Al didn't pay any more attention to it. The cousins all retired to the battered old tent that had been their fort when they were small, and entertained themselves with a massive card game until supper. After that, the visitors came and went, and Al was pleasantly dizzy from the activity by evening. Teddy had to leave a little bit early, as he had to work Boxing Day. Al heard Victoire say, "Uncle Harry, could we talk in your office?" but he didn't pay any attention. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the pair of them leave with Grannydromeda.

After everyone left, Kreacher tried to clean up, but Dad told him to take the evening off and enjoy his new present (it happened to be a new wood polishing charm worked into a soft cloth that he'd been hinting he'd like, but Dad forbade him to use it outside his cupboard for the night). When Al went to bed, he checked in and found the old elf cheerfully polishing every fixture in his cupboard. He asked if young master would like to try, but Al told him it looked like a bit more fun than he could handle without getting any sleep.

Boxing Day was long and lazy, and Al was quite content to just let things keep going as they were, but of course, Boxing Day meant supper at Shell Cottage, with most of the same crew as yesterday. Victoire wasn't there when they got in, and Aunt Fleur kept checking her watch, and had finally set out supper before the door opened and Victoire swept in, Teddy in her wake.

"We have an announcement!" she declared, but before anyone could even ask what it was, she waved her hand around. Something bright on her finger caught the light.

Beside Al, James looked stricken. "That's...."

"We're engaged!" Victoire squealed.

Teddy had the good grace to look awkward, but it was undone by the idiot grin on his face.

Al looked at Dad, expecting him to look shocked, but instead, he looked like, of all things, he'd expected it.

"What do you mean, engaged?" Aimee demanded. "I'm sure you don't mean engaged to be married..."

"In fact, I do," Victoire said. "I asked Teddy, and he said yes. And I asked Harry and Andromeda's permission to ask."

"And you gave it?" James said, dumbfounded. "Dad!"

Al had no idea what to say.

"I still think you're too young," Uncle Bill said. "But... you made a good argument."

"A good argument!" James stood up, shaking his head. "But... you're... Teddy!"

Teddy sat down decisively, and changed the subject. "James, Al... why don't you come up to the Roost with me tonight, spend the night?"

"No." James said.

"Not so much an invitation as a command," Teddy said. "We're going to have a little talk, you and I."

Al tried to beg off, on the grounds that he hadn't said anything that needed a "little talk," but James wouldn't let him off the hook. He seemed to think Teddy needed to be talked down. Mum and Dad didn't step in to save either of them.

After supper, Teddy gathered them up, evaluated their coats, and Conjured heavier ones for them. "It's colder up there," he said, and tossed powder into the Floo. "Marauder's Roost!"

James balked. Teddy said, "Go."

James went through. Al followed. He spilled out into the ramshackle little room Teddy lived in at the base of Hogboon Mound, and Teddy himself followed after.

James crossed his arms.

"What is your problem?" Teddy asked.

"She's... you're... family!" James said. "It's disgusting."

"Teddy's related from Dad," Al offered. "Victoire's related from Mum."

"I think Teddy doesn't think he's related at all!"

Teddy ground his teeth. "Look, James, I can almost see your point of view, which scares me a little, but first off, technically, I'm not related. Second, if I were, Al's right--it's not on the Weasley side. And third, you don't get to make the call."

James was just starting to gear up, Al could see, and Teddy didn't look in the mood for it. So Al just took a few steps backward. Neither noticed. He took another. And another. He reached the door and stepped outside.

The night sky was aflame with auroras, bright smears of red reaching feathery fingers into the sky and painting the island in strange, muted shadows. Al turned and ran for the sea cliffs, feeling the lights above him like living things, like they were the hawk Teddy could turn into. Despite the row going on in the shack behind him, a kind of wild joy bubbled up. He got to the cliff and shouted out over the North Sea. There was no one to hear him, unless someone at Azkaban could, but he thought that might be a little far. Here, at the highest point of the cliff, Teddy had put up a stone post. On it were carved a wolf, a dog, a stag, and a rat, and at the top of it, a magical flame burned, warning ships of the rocks (Al guessed that it would look like a lighthouse to Muggles).

He lay down on the grass, ignoring the wind. The coat Teddy had Conjured was very warm. He looked up at the aurora, which seemed to be splitting, seemed to be two red flames in the dark, red flames like the breath of the pooka, red like...

Al frowned and sat up. He ran his hands over the Marauders' totems.


He looked over his shoulder. James and Teddy, their argument forgotten, were running up the hill toward him.

"Sorry," he said when they reached him. "There was more air out here."

"Yeah," James said. "I, er... that is... er..."

"We've come to an agreement," Teddy said.

"What kind of agreement?" Al asked.

"I marry Victoire, and James shuts up about it." Teddy grinned.

Al felt he was supposed to make some comment about how he'd managed to get James to come around, but something else was nagging at his mind. He touched the totems again.

"You like that?" Teddy asked. "It's to warn ships, and--"

"I guessed that," Al said, and bit his lip. "Teddy?"


"If people can turn into animals, can animals turn into people?"

"Not that we know of," Teddy said, looking wary. "Why?"

"Well, not turn into, but look like?"

"The Hogboon can," Teddy said. "It's not exact, but... what are you getting at?"

James slapped his forehead. "Of course! Why didn't I think of that? It's a shapeshifter!"

"I'm missing something," Teddy said.

"The pooka," Al said. "It can look like a lot of animals."

"Including us," James said. "Can't it, Teddy?"

"It's not really my area," Teddy said. "But I am interested in shapeshifters, so I've read a little. I can't see any reason why it couldn't. It can appear as almost any animal, and we are animals, after a fashion. Why?"

"Well," Al said, "we've been trying to figure out how a pooka secreted away Silas and his father. But--"

"But what if Si's dad was never there at all?" James asked, then slapped his forehead again and fell to the grass. "Al, you're brilliant."

"I might be wrong..."

"So what? It's still a brilliant idea."


31 comments or Leave a comment
amamama From: amamama Date: April 29th, 2010 09:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Oooh! Brilliant. I've got goosebumps. True, I have been secretly waiting for something like that, but still. Yay! And I love the engagement, of course, and the auroras. Auroras are magical.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 1st, 2010 02:36 am (UTC) (Link)
I really want to see an aurora.
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: April 29th, 2010 12:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
You know what I really like about your James? The way he doesn't care if what they're working on at the moment is even right, just so long as it's exciting. The last couple lines of this really sum him up, and I love it.

ALSO, I loved the description of the Auroras. And I totally get Al's desire to run and holler underneath them. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 1st, 2010 02:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, an idea doesn't have to work out right or be proven to be a good idea!
sidealong From: sidealong Date: April 29th, 2010 01:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

"Teddy's related from Dad," Al offered. "Victoire's related from Mum."


... technically, I not related. Second, if I were, Al's right--it's not on the Weasley side.

You lost a word here: I "AM" NOT related!

It's great to see Teddy's relationship with Harry's sons. Fun chapter! Yay!
sidealong From: sidealong Date: April 29th, 2010 03:57 pm (UTC) (Link)

invisible cloaks

P.S. I love that James gave the cloak to Al. You've got to wonder if the Potter kids know the "fairy tale" of the 3 brothers. That's a pretty cool thing for a big brother to give up. And a bit more fair, since James has the map.

I've got to wonder if Auror Harry has a new invisibility cloak. Seems that he'd consider his real cloak safer with his kids. The difference between THE cloak, and a regular invisibility cloak might be too apparent to his colleagues. After all, Dumbledore didn't ask to use Harry's Cloak, when the order was standing guard duty, and sharing a couple of cloaks.
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: April 29th, 2010 02:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
I know this is Al's chapter, but still -- our James!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 1st, 2010 02:37 am (UTC) (Link)
I do love James. :D
willowbough From: willowbough Date: April 29th, 2010 02:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm--James a wee bit jealous of Victoire having a primary claim on "our Teddy"? Shades of Teddy resenting Ginny's claim on Harry! And a breakthrough in the case? Even better. Looking forward to the next!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 1st, 2010 02:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Who, James? Never!
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 29th, 2010 02:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Clever, nasty Pooka (mental image of a kid walking along with his dad only to have it suddenly NOT be his dad . . . . I suppose pookas shouldn't be held to moral standards they probably can't understand, but that's NASTY).

Getting back to James, I realize, for him, Teddy is more or less an older brother and Victoire is more or less an older sister - and, even if they weren't, Teddy is close enough to being one of the gang that the idea of him LIKING a girl - in a like-like way as opposed to the nonthreatening other kind - is freaking him out as badly as if this were Al getting engaged and everyone taking it seriously and being happy about it - What nightmare world has he stepped into?

But, he's still hilarious.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 1st, 2010 02:39 am (UTC) (Link)
It really is nasty, isn't it?

For James, it would have to be weird, I think.
maxzook From: maxzook Date: April 29th, 2010 03:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
At some point in this, Mum would usually raise an eyebrow and say, "Yes, dear, it's not nearly as big a legend without you being so deeply humble."

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 1st, 2010 02:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, Ginny really has Harry's number there.
etain_antrim From: etain_antrim Date: April 29th, 2010 04:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
It is a brilliant idea, Al! And Fern, very nice lead up to the brilliant idea!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 1st, 2010 02:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. I hope it works out.
From: severely_lupine Date: April 30th, 2010 04:53 am (UTC) (Link)
How interesting that Teddy included Wormtail in the totem. Though I suppose, if nothing else, his story is an important warning.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 1st, 2010 02:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, Wormtail was a Marauder, whether he went bad later or not. Teddy can't just write him out of history!
malinbe From: malinbe Date: April 30th, 2010 05:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nice one, Al! You solved your first mistery! We are so proud.

*wipes little tear*
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 1st, 2010 02:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, he has a good future ahead of him!
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 1st, 2010 02:21 am (UTC) (Link)

Stop the presses! stop the presses! I got updates on the boston library situation!

I been talking to a friend of a friend who lives in Boston, and he send a letter of concern to the major.

here is the response he got:Dear Mr. ******:
Thank for sharing your concerns about the Boston Public Library's Microtext and Newspaper Department with Mayor Menino. Mayor Menino has has been assured by BPL officials that the BPL is committed to providing access to its collection of genealogical and historical materials through microform, print, manuscript, and digital formats.
Be assured that the public will continue to have access to materials in Copley Square, only in a different location in the building. Experienced staff will continue to assist researchers throughout the Central Library. The most-used resources will be readily available in Copley Square. The Library also anticipates offering public service at the City of Boston Archives Center, where they propose to provide much improved access to a range of historical materials that were formerly stored in difficult to access remote storage locations.
More information on the BPL budget is available online at www.bpl.org/budget. The BPL will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available.
Office of Mayor Thomas M. Menino
Correspondence Staff
1 City Hall Plaza
Boston, MA 02201

I'm not really sure if what the letter says is Good or Bad news, but I thought I should let you know.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 1st, 2010 02:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Stop the presses! stop the presses! I got updates on the boston library situation!

It means they're closing the departments, but will, for those who are determined and know exactly what they're looking for, be able to squeak a few films by. (That "most-used" part is the one that's very suspicious. Er, yeah. So, the plan is to get rid of the rest, and hide what's left in some other location.)

The point is that there's no reason whatsoever to CLOSE THE DEPARTMENTS. It makes no sense, except that Menino and Ryan don't like the look of it.

Edited at 2010-05-01 02:41 am (UTC)
cleindori From: cleindori Date: May 1st, 2010 04:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Haven't commented on one of your story updates in ages, but I've been following along and really enjoying this new one. I love your next-gen characters. :)

Ginny's "deeply humble" comment -- *snerk*

James' reaction to Teddy and Victoire -- perfect, and priceless.

Teddy's Marauders totem -- gorgeous.

Al's idea -- creepy, yet fantastic!
From: tree_and_leaf Date: May 3rd, 2010 11:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, brilliant twist. And rather chilling...
31 comments or Leave a comment