March 1st, 2005, 3:19 am
OK, this is probably going to be an exercise in insanity since it's an attempt to complete a novel-length fanfic before HBP comes out, but at least the time frame of this story overlaps the second half of OotP and it's mostly OC-centered, so it might survive Book Six relatively unscathed. Keep your fingers crossed.
I can make some claim to owning Linus Berowne (he has, in fact, appeared in canon, but he's only had one line and no name) and many of the other characters, but the world and concepts are entirely J.K. Rowling's. Not making money, etc.
Please post feedback here! (http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?p=1913529#post1913529)
Chapter One: In the Jaws of Monsters
The Quill and Quirk, in the village of Raven’s Glen, was the most popular gathering place for writers and journalists in wizarding Britain. The walls were lined with leather-bound volumes; old Bert Booker, the landlord, could be relied upon to settle any bet concerning obscure literary trivia; and the home-brewed ale was beyond compare. (Sensibly, Bert eschewed the pumpkin flavor that was unaccountably popular in most wizard pubs.) The great French playwright Pierre Malecrit had slept in one of the upstairs rooms at the Quill and Quirk on his tour of Britain in 1775. Messrs. Flourish and Blotts had met there for the first time in 1860. And the toast that would change Linus Berowne’s life forever was drunk one night in December of 1995 with four pints of the Quill and Quirk’s Curiously Strong Ale.
Linus set three of the glasses in front of his companions and raised his own. “The Ministry giveth and the Ministry taketh away,” he announced solemnly. “Blessed be the name of the Ministry. To the end of a beautiful relationship.”
“To that nest of liars, d*mned liars, swindlers, and fools,” added Thersites Mason. Thersites drew political cartoons – not very well – for the Quibbler, and this was his usual verdict on the Ministry. “Wish they were rotting in hell, all of them.”
“So you’ve done it, then?” Kathy Hudgins, who published a feminist magazine called Madam, gave Linus a sharp look.
Linus took a gulp of the Curiously Strong Ale before replying. “Almost finished. The cartoons are upstairs in my study, and I’ve only got to put the animation spells on before I send the whole thing to the printer’s. I don’t see any reason to keep putting it off. They’ve only buried their heads farther and farther in the sand these past six months, and if we don’t speak out, who will?”
Linus had been writing and illustrating the most popular comic book in wizarding Britain, The Adventures of Martin Miggs, the Mad Muggle, for a quarter of a century. Martin’s misadventures had long since settled into a comfortable routine, full of subtle irony that was lost on the children who collected the books obsessively and, often, on pureblooded adult wizards. His hapless title character kept stumbling across the wizarding world and getting Memory Charmed by a pair of dutiful but inept Ministry officials, Grampus and Storge. (The latter insisted that his name was properly pronounced Stor-ZHAY, as his family had been pureblooded since the Norman Conquest, but nobody else paid much attention. Storge was in fact notorious for believing all sorts of absurd nonsense, giving rise to the popular slang expression, “a pile of Storge.”)
Inevitably, the oblivious Obliviators would bungle something – by leaving behind a magical artifact, or saying the wrong thing as they were setting Martin on his way – and then have to go back and Memory Charm him yet again. It was, of course, obvious to any reasonably intelligent reader that it was the Ministry, not Martin, that was mad; and seen through the innocent eyes of the title character, much of the rest of the wizarding world fared little better. The serial skewered the superstitions, quirks, and petty failings of the magical community.
Even in better times – before a new character called Tabitha the Toad Lady began to grace the comic book’s pages – the wizarding government had not taken well to people who poked fun at its self-importance and obsession with secrecy. Linus, however, had always been able to slide under its radar. The more intelligent employees were often among his biggest fans, while the others considered Martin Miggs beneath their notice. The hordes of children who devoured every issue were almost as good as an Invisibility Cloak.
But this time, as everybody at the table knew, Linus was about to blow a comfortable love-hate relationship of twenty-five years straight out of the water.
Martin Lovegood, who had good-humoredly lent his name along with his wide-eyed, vaguely clueless expression to Linus’ title character, said, “Good for you. But I hope you were able to get the word out about Fudge baking all those poor goblins in pies before you packed it in. Did you?”
“Sorry, Martin,” said Linus, winking at Kathy over Martin’s head. “Couldn’t quite figure out how to work that in.”
“Tell us about it,” said Kathy.
“It starts off in the usual way,” said Linus. “Martin gets the idea that he’s seen a monster in his garden, and he runs around frightening all his Muggle neighbors by telling them about it. So the Ministry officials are frantically trying to Memory Charm Martin and convince everybody who’s spoken to him that there’s no such thing as a monster. And then the next dozen pages are the normal slapstick stuff – only Grampus and Storge are having a bad time of it, because for some reason darkness has fallen in midafternoon, and the ground’s gone all spongy under their feet.
“And then in the next-to-last panel, you finally see the big picture. I’d better draw it for you so you can get the full impact.” Linus took a quill pen out of his pocket and wiped a page of the latest Quibbler clean with a Vanishing Spell.
“Watch what you’re doing, you fool!” Thersites protested. “That was my best cartoon this week!”
“Well, if that’s your best, I’d hate to see the rest of them,” Linus retorted. “This’ll be the only decent bit of drawing the Quibbler’s seen in years.”
He sketched a rough version of the panel in which it became clear that Grampus and Storge were actually INSIDE the monster, who was swallowing them all whole, along with the entire Ministry and most of the rest of wizarding Britain. The creature had a face like a snake, with lidless red eyes and slitted nostrils.
I say, Grampus, you don’t suppose we might be in a bit of trouble this time?
Nothing to worry about, Storge. Just keep repeating after me: There’s no such thing as a monster. There’s no such thing as a monster...
“Pointed stuff.” Bert Booker, who had been watching the cartoon take shape over Linus’ shoulder, let out a low whistle.
“And in the very last panel,” Linus added with grim satisfaction, “Tabitha the Toad Lady shakes hands with the monster and smugly congratulates herself on delivering her country into its jaws.”
“Are you sure that’s not libel?” asked the landlord.
“I’m a satirist,” said Linus. “A licensed fool, if you will.”
“I wouldn’t bet on being licensed much longer.” Kathy frowned. “I’ve been getting the inside story about what’s going on at the Ministry from Amelia, and let me tell you –”
“Oh, believe me, I know,” said Linus. “By this time next week, Martin Miggs will be banned in Britain and I’ll be out of a job. But they won’t find it so easy to confiscate every issue that’s made it onto the street. Parents will be borrowing them from their children, and they’ll be passed around in the back rooms at the Ministry and hidden under the floorboards. It’ll be the most valuable thing I’ve ever drawn. It’s a shame everyone but me will be profiting from it.”
“There’ll always be a job for you at the Quibbler if you need one,” Martin offered. “I could use a good cartoonist ... er, another good cartoonist, I mean,” he added quickly. He was not in time to stop Thersites from gulping down the rest of his drink, slamming the pint glass down on the table, and swearing eloquently as he stormed out of the pub.
“Oh dear,” Kathy commented drily. “I do believe you’ve upset him.”
“He knows he’s not very good,” said Martin defensively. “He says so himself all the time.”
Kathy rolled her eyes. “That’s exactly why he’s sensitive about it, you prat.”
This made good sense to Linus, but Martin was looking clueless again. They spent another hour or so drinking and talking, ending up in a friendly argument about a story Martin Lovegood was planning to print in the next edition of the Quibbler. Martin, it appeared, was a firm believer in a secret organization with nebulous goals called the Order of the Penguins, whose representatives hid out in an Unplottable building in Muggle London when they were not busy infiltrating Gringotts, Hogwarts, and the Auror Corps. Linus and Kathy, as usual, attempted to explain why this was a completely daft idea, with their customary lack of success.
After the pub closed, Linus Apparated home. His cat, Chess, met him at the door and streaked outside without bothering to greet him.
Linus lived five miles from Raven’s Glen, the nearest outpost of civilization, and the house felt very big and very empty, as it often did on winter nights. Somewhere in the distance, a dog howled. Linus poured himself a last drink and stood gazing into the darkness for a minute or two; then he sat down at his desk and prepared to execute the complicated series of animation spells that would bring the last-ever number of Martin Miggs, the Mad Muggle to life.
March 4th, 2005, 1:38 am
A scratching sound disturbed him some minutes later, as if a pair of claws were being raked across the wood of his front door.
Silly cat, Linus thought, wanting out one minute and in the next. Well, he wouldn’t mind a bit of distraction from his work. No question he’d made the right choice and he’d never regret it after taking the plunge, but this was one of those moments before making an irrevocable decision when you felt it in every nerve...
He set his drink aside and opened the door. “Here, Chess,” he called into the night. “Come in, you daft old tomcat. ... Chess? CHESS!”
He shaded his eyes and scanned the darkness for the gleam of white that would give away the cat’s whereabouts. The lawn was eerily dark, the full moon shadowed by clouds. The wind rattled and moaned in the branches of the bare trees.
Linus lived more than a mile from his nearest neighbors, which usually suited him just fine, but on nights like this he had to admit the solitude was a bit spooky. He called to his cat again, trying to make his voice carry over the rising wind.
Suddenly a flash of white teeth caught his eye, but they didn’t belong to Chess. An enormous thing came hurtling out of the night, a great dark blur of fur and claws and flailing limbs.
He grabbed his wand and shouted “Stupefy!” but his aim was off. A jet of red light just missed the beast as it flew at him, snarling and growling
The thing’s jaws clamped shut on his leg just below the knee. There was a sound of ripping cloth, and a pain more intense than anything he’d ever felt...
He choked out another “Stupefy!” through gritted teeth, and this time the thing fell still at his feet.
Blood was pouring from the torn flesh, but no bones had snapped. Could be worse, he told himself as he sat down heavily on the stoop, knees weak with relief. He’d have to get it seen to, but it would be all right –
Then he cast Lumos, and his world changed.
The thing that was lying unconscious on his doorstep had thick tawny fur, enormous paws, an odd-looking tufted tail, and a long snout. Except for the blood that stained its jaws, it might almost have been a large dog stretched calmly in front of its master’s fireplace. But Linus knew it wasn’t.
He staggered to his feet, fighting a wave of nausea that had suddenly come over him, stumbled into the house, and slammed the door shut behind him.
Somehow he made it to the fireplace, clinging to the walls for stability, and threw a handful of Floo Powder into the flames.
“St. Mungo’s,” he gasped, almost falling across the hearth.
The whirlwind journey through the Floo network destroyed what little sense of well-being he had possessed. He dragged himself out of the fireplace onto the sparkling white tiles of the hospital emergency room, and immediately vomited all over the part of the floor he wasn’t busy bleeding on. Way to make an entrance, he thought. On the bright side, it did guarantee that one of the mediwitches rushed to his side almost immediately, although she seemed more concerned with cleaning his body fluids off the floor than actually treating his injuries.
“Name, sir?” she asked in between rounds of Scourgify.
“Wizard or Muggle?” The mediwitch cast a critical eye over his jumper and trousers.
“I arrived by Floo Powder,” Linus pointed out, “and I knew enough to come here instead of bleeding to death at home. What do you think? Wizard.”
“Do you know how you received those injuries, Mr. Brown?”
“Berowne,” Linus corrected her automatically. “I was bitten by a werewolf.”
“There, there,” said the mediwitch as if she were talking to a child. “I’m sure it can’t have been a real werewolf.”
“I’m sure it WAS,” said Linus, “and I’m the one who saw it.”
“Werewolves aren’t dangerous any more,” the witch continued in the same irritatingly soothing tone. “The Wolfsbane Potion –”
“Sod the Wolfsbane Potion, I told you I was BITTEN by one! Let me see a real Healer!”
“Sir,” – she drew herself up sharply – “mediwizards and witches are fully qualified to deal with all situations requiring magical first aid.” She rolled up the cuff of his blood-soaked trousers, and gasped. “How did you do this to yourself?”
“I didn’t! Are you deaf, woman? The werewolf did it TO me.”
“Alienist!” the mediwitch shouted over her shoulder. “I’ve got a possible self-inflicted injury with delusions of lycanthropy.”
“I haven’t been attacked by an alien,” said Linus. “It was a werewolf.”
“An Alienist,” the mediwitch explained patiently, “is a special kind of Healer trained in ... well, helping people who are having ... difficulties with reality.”
“I know what a bloody Alienist is.” Linus gritted his teeth as a fresh wave of pain swept over him. “I was attempting to make a joke, which I’m not surprised you didn’t understand because you’re apparently stupid as well as deaf. I, on the other hand ... am neither stupid ... nor mad.” He delivered the last few words between gasps for breath, feeling increasingly lightheaded and ill.
The Alienist arrived just as his legs finally gave out and he sank to the floor. Linus was relieved to see that she was a middle-aged woman who looked like she didn’t take nonsense from anybody, and the first thing she did was point her wand at him and murmur “Sanguisiccare.” Most of the blood vanished, and she bent down to examine the wound.
“This was inflicted by a werewolf,” she said positively.
“Impossible,” said the mediwitch.
“Nevertheless, it seems to have happened,” the second woman replied. She placed a hand on Linus’ shoulder. “Can you hear me, sir?”
“Yes. Deafness isn’t catching, last time I looked. Neither is stupidity, thank God.” Almost as soon as the words were out of his mouth, he regretted his rudeness; he had no reason to think the Alienist was as much of a fool as the mediwitch.
“My name is Healer McRae, and I usually work with cases of spell-induced mental damage. I’ve just given you first aid, but this is a serious injury and it needs to be treated by a specialist. I’m going to fetch Healer Pye from the Creature-Induced Injuries ward. Until then, you shouldn’t try to move or do anything at all. Now, I don’t think you need an Alienist just now, so will you be all right if I leave you for a minute or two?”
Linus nodded. He wasn’t thrilled about being left to the mercies of the mediwitch, but at least intelligent help was on the way. Luckily she had found some paperwork to keep her busy; he answered her questions about his home address, next of kin, and general state of health mechanically, clenching his fists tightly when the pain threatened to overwhelm him.
Then he had a moment of realization and utter horror. The flesh around the edges of his wound was turning greyish and sprouting long hairs. It felt as if his skin were burning. Slowly, the affected area spread, until a band of infected flesh encircled his leg.
The band constricted with a sudden burst of agony. He wiped away the tears that had unexpectedly blurred his vision and forced himself to look. He had a normal thigh and knee. A normal foot that had begun to swell and throb, the circulation nearly cut off. But in between, some three inches of his leg had become a wolf’s leg, sinewy and hairy.
He was turning into a werewolf. Inch by inch, inexorably.
He was going to be a werewolf for the rest of his life.
“Mr. Brown?” said the mediwitch. “Mr. Brown? Can you hear – I mean, are you all right?”
March 8th, 2005, 2:23 am
Wherein some actual canon characters put in an appearance...
He spent the next few days in a haze of pain and delirium, unconscious of the publishers who were waiting in vain for the latest number of Martin Miggs or the hungry cat yowling on his front steps. Bert Booker noticed that Linus hadn’t occupied his usual corner table in some days and hoped he wasn’t ill; and Martin Lovegood thought there was something sinister going on and made a mental note to ask his contacts at the Ministry if they’d overheard anything, before he became distracted by the latest round of Blibbering Humdinger sightings. Kathy Hudgins did ask Amelia Bones, who eventually managed to trace Linus’ whereabouts to the Dai Llewellyn Ward; and so the news of his injury filtered back to Raven’s Glen. But Linus knew nothing of this, either.
And he knew nothing at all of the gloved and hooded figure that slipped in through the unlocked door of his house one evening, made a swift and silent search through the papers on his desk, and removed the pages of the comic book he had been working on before his injury.
* * *
Remus Lupin wiped his boots on the mat in the front hall of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, dropped a heavy parcel emblazoned with the Flourish & Blotts crest on the floor, and yawned. It had been a long, cold night.
“How was guard duty?” Sirius asked.
“Boring. Rainy. Nothing of interest to report. If I were a Death Eater, I wouldn’t be out on a night like this.”
“That’s what those b*stards want us to think.”
“I know.” Remus shivered and yawned again.
“They shouldn’t send you out this close to the full moon.”
“I’m fine. Really.”
“Please.” Remus made a move toward the kitchen.
“Sit down. I’ll get it.”
Remus didn’t argue; he was bone-tired and he knew that Sirius liked nothing better than playing the consummate host. After a few minutes his friend returned with toast and jam as well as well as coffee, and he discovered that he was famished as well.
Sirius allowed him to eat for a few minutes in silence, and then asked, “Did you get Harry a Christmas present, like I asked you?”
“Yes. Accio shopping!” The Flourish & Blotts parcel flew across the room and landed on the coffee table. “Practical Defensive Magic. Latest word on the subject, and full-color illustrations.”
The ghost of an old familiar smile flickered across Sirius’ face. “Leave it to you to get him books. I suppose you read the first volume while you were on guard duty?”
“Well, all right, I did, but I used a Drying Charm. You can hardly tell the difference.” Remus looked over the books doubtfully. “Do you think I should have bought something more exciting? I never can tell...”
“No. I reckon he’ll get more use out of those than he’s getting out of that Firebolt I gave him.” Sirius flexed his fingers menacingly. “If I could get my hands on that b-”
“And I picked up a few other things,” said Remus quickly, hoping to get his friend off of the subject of Dolores Umbridge. He unwrapped a bundle of newspapers. “Here, I brought you The Prophet and The Quibbler, and a couple of the Muggle papers – not that they’ll have much news of interest, but at least the writers are halfway sensible.”
Sirius gave the headlines of the Daily Prophet a cursory glance, made an irritated noise, and flipped straight to the crossword. “Heads in the sand, as usual. They didn’t have Martin Miggs?”
“Not a one. The girl in the shop said it hadn’t come in at all this week, but nobody knows why.”
“That doesn’t sound good. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
Remus nodded. “It sounds like Martin Miggs finally went too far, and that ... woman had the issue suppressed.” He slammed his coffee mug down on the table, the force of the gesture conveying what his language had not, and paced to the window. “Sometimes I have to pinch myself and wonder if we’re still in Britain. I never thought I’d see the day it could happen here.”
“It’s bloody absurd. It would almost be funny if people’s lives weren’t on the line. The only place we can get any proper news is a comic book.”
“The Quibbler’s not too bad as long as you remember to read the headlines and skip the stories.” Remus turned away from the window and tried to force a smile. “Well, except for the bit about you being a singing sensation. They wouldn’t have come up with that one if they’d ever heard you massacring Christmas carols.”
Usually the words “singing sensation” were enough to send both men into a fit of unholy mirth; but on this raw December morning, nothing seemed very funny at all.
“That means she’ll be having The Quibbler suppressed next. Mark my words,” said Sirius darkly.
March 12th, 2005, 1:59 am
Chapter Two: At St. Mungo’s
The post-owl swooped in through the single window on the Dai Llewellyn Ward and began pecking insistently at Linus’ knuckles.
Suppressing a groan, he opened his eyes and untied the envelope from the owl’s leg. It was the first post he’d had in the two weeks since he had been admitted to the hospital – which was, he realized suddenly, a bit surprising considering that it was the height of Christmas-card season.
He opened the letter.
I have put up with a lot of things from you over the years and no complaining, but this is the limit. I mopped up the bloodstains when I came over to clean and feed the cat on Tuesday cause I didn’t know what happened to you, but now as I know the truth I won’t be coming over to any more. You couldn’t pay me enough to work in a house with werewolfs. You can do for yourself from here on out, and my husband says you better hope I didn’t catch (the next two words were crossed out) lincan lykanth werewolf from your blood or there’ll be hell to pay.
Very truly yours,
Gladys Gudgeon (Mrs.)
P.S. The cat is IN.
P.P.S. If you meet Gilderoy Lockhart, could you get his autograff for me?
Linus crumpled up the sheet of parchment and threw it into a corner of the ward. Illiterate, ignorant woman, he thought. What she’d said about him was bad enough, but couldn’t she at least refrain from venting her prejudices on a helpless cat? If she’d had the sense to shut Chess out, he would have been able to get along catching field mice. He was a sensible animal, which was more than Linus could say for most human beings. Locked inside the house, he'd probably starve.
The truth was that the letter stung him more than he would let on, even to himself. Mrs. Gudgeon had been his cleaning woman for fifteen years, and although he had long since learned not to expect intelligent conversation from her, they’d always had a perfectly pleasant working relationship. She’d even baked cakes for him on his birthdays – lopsided and burnt around the edges, usually, but at least her heart was in the right place. Or so he’d thought.
The trainee Healer on the ward, a sandy-haired young man with freckles and a likeably ugly face, was standing beside his bed.
“What is it now?” Linus asked grumpily. “More potions? I’ve already had three this afternoon.”
“No.” Healer Pye’s face was earnest. “I was wondering if you might be able to spare a minute or two to chat about your condition.”
“I think not.” Linus waved his hand around the nearly empty ward. “I’m expecting a visit from the Minister for Magic. And the Queen. They’ll be here any moment now.”
Ignoring this, Healer Pye sat down in the chair next to his bed. “I know this has all been a bit of a shock for you, but believe me, it’s not nearly the life sentence it was when you were growing up. We haven’t actually found a permanent cure as yet, but there’s been a tremendous amount of progress in potion-making over the last few years, and with proper care and precautions there’s absolutely no reason you shouldn’t be able to live an almost normal life.”
“Almost normal,” said Linus. “Very interesting way of putting it. Do go on.”
“It’s a painful illness, but it’s not progressive. And you’ll have a normal life expectancy and all that.”
“I see,” said Linus. “In other words, it doesn’t kill you, it just makes you wish it did.”
“It’s hardly as bad as all that. Many people affected by lycanthropy go on to lead very full and satisfying lives. You’ve heard of the Wolfsbane potion, I suppose? It won’t stop your body from transforming physically, but it makes the beast completely controllable if you take it every day for a week before the full moon. Basically, while you’re under the influence you have the body of a wolf and the mentality of a human. No bestial urges or anything like that – that’s all urban myth, you understand. Very few side effects at all. And it’s nowhere near as expensive as you’ve probably heard. The Ministry subsidizes it.”
“Suppose I’m in the mood to indulge my bestial urges?” Linus asked.
“If I don’t feel like taking this Wolfsbane stuff some month. Let’s say I want to track down the bloke who bit me and I think having a human mentality would cramp my style.”
Pye looked genuinely shocked for a moment, but recovered his breezy professional manner. “Oh. Well, naturally that’s not an option. Taking Wolfsbane is required by law.”
“Under penalty of...?”
“Six months in Azkaban. Longer if you injure anyone.”
Pye quickly backtracked to the long list of benefits from the potion, which was a subject he clearly preferred, but Linus paid little attention to the details. He was beginning to feel slightly ill again, and the tray of boiled chicken and lemon jelly that the mediwizard on duty brought in for his supper did little to dispel this feeling.
After supper, the ward was invaded by a tribe of carolers from a local church. They sang “The Little Drummer Boy,” which Linus firmly believed to be the most irritating Christmas carol ever written, with a screechy-voiced woman in hot pink robes putting in the pa-rum-pa-pum-pums, and began passing out tracts.
“Have you found Jesus yet?” the pink-robed woman asked. Her speaking voice was even shriller than her singing one.
“Why?” asked Linus. “How long ago did you lose him?”
Fortunately, he sounded grumpy enough to make her go away. It occurred to him afterwards that this might not have been, strictly speaking, nice, but he dismissed the thought at once. Since when were werewolves expected to be nice?
There was only one other patient on the ward, a woman who rarely spoke and had flatly refused to tell the Healers what bit her, so Linus spent the rest of the evening in undisturbed solitude. It was a relief at first, but he found himself getting bored as the hours wore on. He counted the cracks on the ceiling and contemplated the only portrait on the ward, which depicted a wizard with long, silvery hair and a peculiarly savage expression. It was labeled URQUHART RACKHARROW, 1612-1697, INVENTOR OF THE ENTRAIL-EXPELLING CURSE.
Linus gazed at Urquhart Rackharrow for a long time, wondering who on earth had decided he would make an appropriate decoration for a hospital ward. He wondered so hard that he fell asleep, and woke up the next morning to discover that a new patient, a middle-aged wizard with thinning red hair and bandages all along his side, had been moved into the bed opposite him.
When the hospital staff noticed he was awake, Linus was subjected to thin porridge, lukewarm tea, and a second and rather more tiresome lecture about making the best of life with his condition, this time from Hippocrates Smethwyck, the senior Healer on the ward. Hypocrites would be a more appropriate name, Linus decided after five minutes of conversation. Pye, at least, had appeared to be in earnest when he said prejudice against werewolves was all outmoded superstition; Smethwyck kept eyeing Linus shiftily, and he seemed to be trying not to sit too close to him.
After the older Healer finally gave up, Linus was left alone with the red-haired wizard, who unfortunately seemed to be in a conversational mood. “I’m Arthur Weasley,” he said cheerily. “Nasty leg injury you’ve got there. What happened?”
“I was bitten by a werewolf,” said Linus shortly. “Unclean. You don’t want to talk to me.”
Arthur clapped his hands together. “Oh, there’s no need to be that way, of course I want to talk to you. What an extraordinary coincidence!”
Linus narrowed his eyes. “What makes you say that? Are you the one who bit me?”
Arthur chuckled. “Oh no, of course not. It’s just that I’ve got to know one rather well over the past year or so. Very nice man, finds the condition quite easy to manage. I expect you will too, once you get used to it.”
This was such a phenomenally stupid remark that Linus decided not to dignify it with a reply. Unfortunately, Arthur took his silence as encouragement, and Linus had to spend the next quarter of an hour listening to his new roommate natter on about his token werewolf acquaintance, who, it soon appeared, was not only a great friend of the family but practically a candidate for sainthood. The sort of person who bore his affliction bravely, never seemed to be the least bit bitter or depressed about anything, didn’t call attention to himself but was an absolute model of quiet kindness, and was liked and admired by everybody who knew him. He was not liked and admired by Linus, who was soon heartily sick of hearing about this paragon.
“I’ll give you another bite,” he threatened at last, “if you don’t shut up.”
Arthur fell silent and eyed Linus nervously. He began to think there might be perks to his condition, after all.
March 16th, 2005, 6:27 pm
The "lines from a Muggle poet" are from Macbeth, and my use of the word "Alienist" to mean, basically, a wizard psychiatrist is borrowed from nineteenth-century Muggle usage via Caleb Carr.
This scene takes place simultaneously with Harry's first visit to St. Mungo's -- it's the bit where Tonks and Moody have left the family alone with Arthur. Moody, it can safely be assumed, is off visiting other ex-colleagues in another part of the hospital.
Hope McRae brewed the next week’s stock of Memory-Replenishing Draughts with her usual care, although the chances that they would actually help poor Gilderoy Lockhart, or any of the others, were slim. She sighed, and picked up the tray of potions.
Over the wing of the hospital where Hope and her fellow Alienists had their offices, some forgotten hand had scrawled half a dozen lines from a Muggle poet:
Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
Raze out the written troubles of the brain
And with some sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse the stuff’d bosom of the perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart?
They could. That was the entire problem, Hope thought in her occasional moments of bitterness. Wizards had a single “sweet oblivious antidote,” the Memory Charm, at their disposal, and they used it recklessly and indiscriminately. Hope had often been called in to heal the damage from amateur attempts at Obliviation – often, self-Obliviation, though strongly worded public service posters throughout the hospital warned of the dangers of casting a Memory Charm upon oneself.
And because Obliviation was such a simple and easy way to relieve a troubled mind – or so it seemed to the general public, who didn’t have to deal with the long-term consequences – the Alienists’ efforts to develop better solutions went largely unfunded and unregarded. Many of Hope’s old-school colleagues seemed reluctant to think of her as a Healer at all.
She delivered her stock of potions to the Spell Damage wing and made her rounds among the long-term residents while Miriam Strout, the Healer in charge of the ward, was on her lunch break. Broderick Bode, she noted, seemed a little better than usual. He was aware of her presence and appeared to be trying to communicate, though his speech was unintelligible. Hope thought there was some prospect of his recovery; he hadn’t been there long, after all. The ones who stayed on the ward for six months or more were usually incurable.
She spent half an hour helping Gilderoy Lockhart practice his writing, firmly deflecting his attention back to the quill and parchment whenever he attempted to flirt with her. He would probably never fully regain his memory, but she was hoping he would eventually re-learn enough life skills to survive outside of St. Mungo’s.
Hope was about to turn her attention to the last two patients – the ones everyone, save herself, believed entirely incurable – when she noticed a new visitor on the ward. She was a woman no older than twenty-five, who had a mop of short hair in a vivid shade of pink and a box of chocolates under one arm. “Could I see Alice Longbottom, please?”
Hope was a little surprised by the request. The Longbottoms received many visitors, to be sure, but most of them were elderly relatives who came to see Frank and treated his wife as an afterthought. Alice had been an orphan of no particular family, and the Longbottoms had been less than enthusiastic about the match. She was also twenty years younger than her husband. To the longtime Aurors who visited occasionally, Frank was a respected colleague of many years and Alice a half-forgotten trainee.
“Of course you may. But I’m afraid the chocolates will have to be sent to the front desk, so we can inspect them for tampering. And I’ll have to stay in the room. It’s nothing personal. Hospital regulations for visitors who aren’t family.”
The young woman nodded. The Longbottoms were still, after all these years, high-security patients.
Hope had observed many different ways of managing the problem of carrying on a conversation with someone who was, to all outward appearances, an adult, but who might not have the mental capacity to understand a word you were saying and was definitely unable to reply. Some visitors spoke very slowly and emphatically, with broad gestures, as if the Longbottoms were foreigners. Others (and even Healer Strout fell into this category) seemed to regard them as overgrown children and resorted to baby talk. Still others fell into an awkward silence after a minute or two. This woman kept up a steady stream of easy chatter, as if Alice were a friend of a friend she was meeting for coffee.
“Wotcher, Alice ... d’you mind if I call you Alice? I’m Tonks. Mad-Eye’s told me so much about you, and I have a picture of you in my cubicle at work, so I’ve sort of got to thinking of you as if I knew you. I think you must have been about my age when it was taken, or maybe a little younger – it would have been right after you and Frank got engaged, and they had a party for you at the office.
“I’m glad we’ve finally met, because I’ve thought about you a lot. I don’t know if anybody’s ever told you about this, but there’s a fund named after you. It’s there to support promising young female candidates going through Auror training. I was the most recent one, only qualified a year and a half ago, but there have been loads of others – Agnes Sowerbutts, and Bianca Twogood, and Kathleen O’Farrell – well, she’s dead actually, but she was a very good Auror. And Helena Jourdemayne, she’s on maternity leave, but she’ll be back. You were a bit of a pioneer for all of us. You’d be pleased if you could see the Auror Corps now, it’s almost forty percent women. Anyway, I just wanted to stop by and say thanks. I really admire you, and I hope you’d be proud of me...
“Oh, and I brought you some chocolates, but I’m afraid the Healer on duty says they’ve got to be inspected first. Perhaps it’s just as well, that way you’ll have them just in time for Christmas...”
The visitor chattered on for a few more minutes, then looked at her watch. “Oh dear, I’ve got to go. A friend of mine is being treated downstairs – Arthur Weasley, you might know him from the Ministry. This great big snake took a chunk out of him, but he’ll be all right – anyway, I need to see him before I leave. Have a good Christmas, and I’ll come back after the holidays and tell you about everything that’s been happening at work.”
She turned to Hope. “Is it all right if I come back in a few weeks?”
“Oh yes, absolutely. Come as often as you like. Visitors are the best thing for her.”
“Then I will. I’m glad I can do something to help ... I mean, it’s silly but I feel a bit responsible...”
It was not until after she had gone that Hope began to wonder what she meant. She could understand why the young Auror, who had surely been only a child when the Longbottoms were tortured, might feel grateful toward Alice. But responsible?
March 20th, 2005, 2:05 am
Short scene, mostly straight out of canon. Will post a longer one next time 'round...
Meanwhile, Arthur Weasley was also having visitors. His oldest son, Bill, stopped by during his lunch break, and almost as soon as he had gone, the rest of the family crowded into the ward: a plump red-haired wife, a pack of red-haired and freckled teenagers, and one dark-haired boy with glasses, who looked exceptionally morose. Perhaps, Linus thought, he’d been fathered by the milkman and was feeling depressed about it; he certainly didn’t seem to belong with the rest of the family.
Actually, he looked like Harry Potter, but this seemed so unlikely that Linus immediately dismissed the thought. He feigned sleep and tried to tune out the visitors’ chatter, although this was hard to do when he was clearly the topic of conversation.
To give Arthur credit, he attempted to lower his voice, but didn’t lower it far enough. “That fellow over there ... bitten by a werewolf, poor chap. No cure at all.”
“A werewolf?” asked his wife. “Is he safe in a public ward? Shouldn’t he be in a private room?”
For a fleeting moment, Linus wondered what would happen if he started growling and tearing his pillow to shreds with his teeth, but he decided this would bring on more trouble than it was worth.
“It’s two weeks till full moon,” said Arthur reassuringly. “They’ve been talking to him this morning, the Healers, you know, trying to persuade him he’ll be able to lead an almost normal life. I said to him – didn’t mention names, of course – but I said I knew a werewolf personally, very nice man, who finds the condition quite easy to manage...”
“What did he say?” asked one of the teenaged boys.
“Said he’d give me another bite if I didn’t shut up,” Arthur admitted.
The boy and his twin regarded Linus with newfound respect.
The visitors moved on to other topics of conversation after that, and some of the fragments Linus caught were tantalizing – something about the Prophet and the Ministry wanting to cover something up – but unfortunately, the Weasleys could keep their voices low when the subject wasn’t werewolves. Two more visitors joined them when the teenagers went out. One was a woman in her early twenties who might have been yet another daughter, although Linus wasn’t sure, because she seemed to have dyed her hair bright pink. The other was Mad-Eye Moody, a well-known ex-Auror whose Muggle alter ego – Peg-Leg Pat the Paranoid Please-Man – had appeared in the pages of Martin Miggs more than once.
The conversation became even quieter, but Linus heard enough to work out that the boy had been Harry Potter, after all.
Linus was not a great believer in heroes. He had always maintained that the most logical explanation of the events at Godric’s Hollow was that Lord Voldemort and Lily Potter had fired off Avada Kedavra at each other more or less simultaneously, and the child had nothing to do with it at all. By the same token, he felt that the press had greatly exaggerated most of the boy’s achievements since then, good and bad. Harry Potter, he believed, was mostly a humbug, although that was no fault of his own.
But now he felt sorry for the boy. He would never have the luxury of being ordinary. Linus didn’t have that luxury either, any more.
It was – he realized with a jolt – half-past-five on a Friday afternoon. His friends would be gathering in the Quill and Quirk for happy hour. Martin Lovegood would be buying round after round of drinks if the Quibbler had sold well that week, and mooching off of the others if it hadn’t. Little Thersites Mason would be ranting about the Ministry, Gringotts, Hogwarts, the Prophet, Puddlemere United, and just about every other institution of wizarding society that had annoyed him this week. Kathy Hudgins would be drinking Curiously Strong Ale by the pint and shooting dirty looks at the writers from Witch Weekly with their perfect nails and rainbow-colored mixed drinks. They might be wondering where Linus had been for the last two weeks, or perhaps they’d already heard and were gossiping about what had happened to him.
He supposed he’d never be able to have a quiet pint with friends again. He would fade out of everybody’s mind, the way that Skeeter woman had after she disappeared – not that anybody really missed her. Perhaps they wouldn’t miss Linus, either. He had a sharp tongue and a sharper quill, and both had made him enemies over the years. The Quill and Quirk crowd acted friendly, to be sure, but he had occasionally been surprised to learn that people who were perfectly cordial to his face disliked him intensely. His ex-wife, for instance, had seemed quite fond of him until the day she packed her bags and walked out, leaving a blistering note accusing him, among other things, of “emotional strangulation,” whatever the hell that was supposed to mean.
He turned over in bed and allowed the thin fog of depression that had been darkening the corners of his mind to roll in and blanket his entire consciousness.
March 22nd, 2005, 11:35 pm
Having read many, many "Remus' conversation with the werewolf in St. Mungo's" scenes, I can safely say that mine is by far the weirdest. You can blame the good folks at Godric's Hat (http://p070.ezboard.com/bgodricshat) for the various theories about the Entrail-Expelling Curse; I take full responsibility for everything else.
Chapter Three: Company and Cats
It was Christmas Day. The hospital ward glittered with golden stardust and strings of icicles; a mediwitch with a puckish expression had even hung mistletoe over Linus’ bed, although he thought his chances of getting a kiss (then, or in the future) were slim. He hadn’t had so much as a Christmas card, and although the rational part of his intellect told him that the post-owls had probably delivered them to his house, another corner of his mind was filled with a cold black fear that nobody would ever want to have anything to do with him again.
There seemed to be even more people crowded into the ward than the last time Arthur Weasley’s family had visited; perhaps they had friends visiting over Christmas, or perhaps Weasleys simply multiplied very rapidly. Linus, torn between irritation and envy, curled up on his side and hid a smirk as he listened to Arthur describe Healer Pye’s latest experiment – which had not been entirely successful.
“Well, they’re called stitches, Molly, and they work very well on – on Muggle wounds...”
The wife, who seemed to be a hysterical type, let out a piercing screech and launched into a tirade that gained volume and pitch at an alarming rate.
At this point, Arthur’s three oldest sons abruptly decided they wanted a cup of tea, and a slightly built, shabbily dressed man who did not appear to be part of the family detached himself from the group and meandered over in Linus’ general direction. He had a nondescript but vaguely pleasant face; his brown hair was beginning to go grey, and Linus put his age at around forty-five at first glance. Then, noticing that the stranger had a quick, fluid step and slightly boyish features, he revised his estimate downward by ten years.
Just then Molly hollered, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN, THAT’S THE GENERAL IDEA?!?” in tones that made every other ambulatory person in the room duck and cover; but the stranger nonchalantly inspected the portrait of Urquhart Rackharrow with the detached air of a visitor to an art gallery.
At last he turned to Linus and remarked, with a vague smile, “I was just wondering, what is a portrait of the inventor of the Entrail-Expelling Curse doing in a hospital ward?”
“I’ve been wondering that for two weeks myself,” said Linus. “I thought it was a gruesome way to die at first, but perhaps it’s some sort of extreme enema?”
The stranger stared at him for a moment and then burst out laughing, a sound which at once warmed Linus’ heart and made him miss Friday afternoons at the Quill and Quirk acutely. “But why the Dangerous Beasts ward, of all places?” he asked when he could speak again.
“Maybe a beast swallowed someone whole, and they used it to rescue him,” suggested Linus after a moment.
“Can’t you just see it,” said the stranger, “somebody brings in a Lethifold with a huge bulge in the middle, and this Rackharrow bloke does his stuff, and ... They’d have a job cleaning up the ward after that one. How does one come to invent such a curse in the first place, I wonder? What do you experiment on, and why do you bother?”
“Because you can?” said Linus, who had been a Ravenclaw at school.
The stranger shrugged. “Can’t think of a better reason, myself. I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Remus Lupin.”
Linus recognized the name at once. It had been all over the papers a year and a half ago. Ironic, he thought. The only normal conversation he’d had in the two and a half weeks since he was admitted to the hospital had been with another werewolf.
“Linus Berowne,” he said a bit reluctantly. There was a good chance Lupin would recognize his name as well.
“That sounds familiar ... Martin Miggs, right?”
“Right.” Linus blushed and tried to remember exactly how biting the issue of Martin Miggs he’d drawn after Lupin’s resignation had been. It wasn’t that he’d had anything in particular against werewolves; he was in the business of poking fun at the wizarding world’s prejudices, not giving in to them. It was just that the whole situation was ripe for mockery.
As far as he could remember, the comic in question had featured the half-senile Professor Stumblebum being required to attend a seminar on “Common Signs That You Might Have Hired a Dangerous Beast.”
ACROMANTULA: Worker’s optometrist charges four times as much as normal. Other staff members mysteriously disappear.
BASILISK: Workplace is decorated with statues that nobody can remember commissioning. Other staff members, if any are left alive, take to wearing mirrored sunglasses and carrying shields.
CENTAUR: Insists that all staff meetings be held on the ground floor. Secretary files sexual harassment lawsuit after new hire tries to make small talk about the unusual brightness of Uranus.
And so on through:
WEREWOLF: Accepts payment only in Galleons and Knuts. Funerals of other staff members take place at four-week intervals.
“You needn’t look so embarrassed,” said Lupin. “I thought it was funny. Dumbledore enjoyed it too. He’s one of your biggest fans.”
Linus’ opinion of Professor Dumbledore, which had never been as low as he pretended it was, went up another notch. It took a wise man to laugh at himself.
“The silver allergy business is a myth, by the way. Bit of good news for you.”
“First bit I’ve had all month,” said Linus gloomily.
Lupin nodded. “I suppose they’ve been telling you it’s not as bad as you’ve heard, and you’ll be able to lead an almost normal life and all that?”
“Yes. That was exactly the phrase both of the Healers used.”
“Well – they’re right and they’re wrong. Medically speaking – it can be rough, and you can expect to feel tired a fair bit of the time and very ill at the full moon, but it’s no worse than any number of other conditions. It’s the social and legal aspects that ... Oh hell. Has anybody counseled you about your legal position?”
Linus shook his head. “Too busy trying to persuade me being a werewolf is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.” (Or off, he added mentally, as the case might be. He wondered what you did with your clothes when you transformed. He didn’t think he knew Lupin well enough to ask.)
“I see. I’m a bit rusty on some of the laws themselves, so I shouldn’t like to say anything very specific until I have a chance to look them up – but I’m afraid things are looking bleak at the moment. And I suppose I don’t have to tell you that people with our condition aren’t exactly popular dinner guests, at any time of the month.”
“Do I know it! I’ve been in this hellhole for more than two weeks, and I haven’t heard so much as a word from anyone.”
“How did it happen?” asked Lupin. “That is – if you don’t mind talking about it?”
Linus didn’t; he launched into the story of the night he was bitten, gaining animation and fervor as he went on and doing a credible impression of the stupid mediwitch. He was a natural raconteur, and one of the things he’d missed most over the last two weeks was having an audience.
Lupin was frowning slightly by the time he finished, as if something about the account didn’t quite add up, but all he said was, “You live alone, then? Any family?”
“Just my daughter, but she lives in Montana. Says she likes the wide open spaces. I get along with her all right, but I don’t reckon she’ll be back any time soon. Haven’t spoken to the ex-wife in years, so she doesn’t really count.”
“I see.” Lupin looked thoughtful. “Do you have any pets? The transformations are easier if you’ve got company. You probably won’t be comfortable having a human around, especially if they’re still adjusting your dosage, but you won’t pose any danger to animals.”
Linus sighed. “I had a cat. He may well have starved to death by now. Bloody cleaning woman decided she wanted nothing more to do with me when she found out why I was in hospital, so he hasn’t been fed in more than a week.”
“Oh. Would you like me to check –”
Linus pounced on the opportunity before his visitor had a chance to think better of it. “Please. Nice of you to offer. If you wouldn’t mind, would you be able to stop by every couple of days to fill up his food dish and make sure he’s all right?” He gave Lupin his address and fumbled around in his dressing table for his key ring. “Actually, I’m not sure the place will be locked – I’m pretty sure I didn’t lock it after I was bitten, and my cleaning lady forgets half the time. Forgot, I mean. But here’s the key if you need it. Make sure he has plenty of water, and you’ll find everything you need in the kitchen. Thanks so much, it’s very kind of you.”
“Not a problem. I’m fond of cats, myself. ‘Til we meet again, then. And merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas to you, too.”
Linus settled back against the pillows and reflected that Arthur’s werewolf friend was really very likeable, after all.
March 26th, 2005, 3:36 am
Perched in a window seat at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, Tonks toyed with a bit of holly and frowned. “Did he mention whether anybody from the Division of Magical Law Enforcement had been around to see him?”
“He didn’t say so,” said Remus. “Why? Should they?”
She nodded. “The usual procedure would be to send someone around as soon as he regained consciousness to take his statement. How did the bite happen, what did the werewolf look like and did he notice any identifying markings, and so forth. Spreading lycanthropy is a pretty serious crime, and it looks a bit funny if they haven’t made any effort to identify the other werewolf.”
“I don’t know that they haven’t. Perhaps Berowne simply didn’t mention it.”
“Perhaps. But I haven’t heard any reports of werewolf attacks at work, either, so I have a feeling something’s gone wrong somewhere. See if you can find out whether anybody’s spoken to him next time you see him.”
“Will do. To tell you the truth, I thought something was off about his story, myself. I mean, what was a werewolf doing out on a full-moon night without Wolfsbane? And after his first Stunner missed, how did he manage to survive the attack at all? It sounded like the other werewolf must have aimed low, going for the leg rather than the throat, but they ... we ... don’t usually do that. It’s against instinct.”
Tonks bit her lower lip and looked thoughtful for a moment. She said, perhaps a shade too brightly, “Would you mind if I come with you when you feed his cat? I’ll take over at the full moon, if you like.”
“Sure. I was planning to go there right now, if you’re ready.”
They Apparated to Linus Berowne’s house, which was nestled at the edge of a forest, a good half-mile from his nearest neighbor. Remus tried the front door and discovered that it was unlocked; Berowne’s outdoor cloak was thrown carelessly over a bench, and the place had an untidy, lived-in feel that betokened its owner’s hasty departure.
The cat dishes that stood on the kitchen floor had long since been licked clean and dry; Tonks refilled the water bowl at the tap, while Remus rooted through the pantry and found a large sack of dry cat food. There was, however, no sign of the cat himself.
“I hope he hasn’t starved to death,” said Remus.
“Cats are resourceful. I reckon he could fend for himself for a while.”
“Maybe,” Remus said doubtfully. He began to make cat-calling noises.
“D’you know what he looks like?”
“Berowne didn’t say, but he’s sure to be black and white. His name’s Chess.”
“Here, Chess. Puss-puss!”
This time Remus thought he heard a faint meow, but no cat appeared. “Perhaps we’d better have a look around the place.”
They made a short tour of the house. There were some wet paw-marks around the toilet, and a smear of blood and mouse fur on the cellar stairs, but still no cat in sight.
“Does his desk look wrong to you?” Tonks asked when they reached the study. “I mean, it seems too neat and tidy, compared with the rest of the house.”
Remus nodded. “And he said he had been working on the latest Martin Miggs when he got up to let the cat in, and now everything’s all cleared up ... The cleaning woman could have done that, of course. It’s probably nothing.”
Tonks cast an intensified version of Lumos and inspected the room. Her eyes fell on a smear of mud on the carpet. “Somebody’s been here after the cleaning woman,” she said. “I’m willing to bet this place has been burgl– OOF!”
“What happened?” Remus asked as he helped her off the floor.
“I just tripped over something invisible. This place is starting to give me the creeps.”
“You’re always tripping over invisible things.”
“Am not. I can usually see them just fine after I’ve fallen over them.” Suddenly she drew in her breath and gripped his arm. “Look.”
Remus found himself staring at a magnificent set of gleaming, pointed teeth in the semi-darkness. They were fixed in a broad grin, and they did not seem to be attached to anything. The hairs at the back of his neck prickled, and he felt a drop of cold sweat run down the side of his face.
Without another word, both Order members reached for their wands ... but what sort of spell did you use to defend yourself against a mouthful of disembodied teeth?
Very, very slowly, a whiskered nose and a pair of pointed ears appeared above the grin. The fuzzy outline of a large, ginger-striped cat materialized, beginning with the face and ending with the tail.
Remus waited for his heart rate to return to normal. “A Cheshire cat,” he said, feeling unspeakably foolish. “Of course. ‘Chess’!”
“Funny creatures, aren’t they?” said Tonks with interest. “I’ve never seen one before.” The cat rubbed against her legs and purred ingratiatingly as she bent down to stroke him. He was thin, but seemed otherwise healthy. “Been lonely, haven’t you, mate? We’re here to take care of you.” She looked up and said to Remus, “Why don’t you take him downstairs and see that he gets a bite to eat, and I’ll try to make a list of everything on the desk and take some photographs. Then you can ask Berowne if anything’s missing next time you see him.”
“Mmm. Do you really think we should be going through his papers?”
“Well,” she said, “it sure does look like we won’t be the first, doesn’t it?”
April 2nd, 2005, 6:33 pm
Sorry it's been a while since the last update. Real life getting in the way.
"Everything not compulsory is forbidden..." is, of course, a nod to T.H. White's wonderful The Once and Future King.
Link back to feedback thread (http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=46578).
Linus Berowne laughed heartily when he heard about his visitors’ adventure with the Cheshire cat – a shade too heartily for Remus’ comfort, although he was relieved that his new acquaintance seemed to be in good spirits. “I’m sorry I forgot to warn you – I’m so used to him appearing and disappearing that it completely slipped my mind. Cheshires make wonderful pets, you know, very friendly and intelligent, but some people do find them unnerving.”
“I don’t mind about him now that I know. Just startled me a bit, is all.” Remus sat down beside the bed and tried to work out how to approach the subject of the suspected burglary. “Er, I didn’t mean to pry, but we had to go all over the house to find the cat ... and there’s something else you should know. I think someone may have broken into your place. Or walked in, anyway – it wasn’t locked.” He described the appearance of the study and showed Berowne the photographs Tonks had taken and the list she had made of the items on the desk.
The older man looked grim. “Someone’s been there, all right. They’ve taken the latest Martin Miggs.”
“Odd thing to steal,” remarked Remus.
“Perhaps not so odd. This issue was a bit politically sensitive, to say the least.”
“Ah. As a side note, has anyone from the Division of Magical Law Enforcement contacted you about the bite?”
Berowne shook his head.
“I’ve got a friend who’s an Auror, and she tells me they’d normally take a statement from you and try to identify a suspect. See if you could remember any of the markings on the wolf who bit you, that sort of thing.”
“Oh, that’s right, there’s a Registry somewhere, isn’t there?” Berowne appeared to be thinking this over, and suddenly asked, “Have I got to register? Just what are my legal rights, anyway.”
Remus ran a hand through his hair; this was the bit he had been dreading. “Yes, you’ve got to register. They’ll send someone around the first time you transform to take photographs, and then you’ve got one week to go around to the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and place your name and address on file. As for your legal rights in general – it’s a long story, but basically, most of the discrimination against werewolves was social rather than legal until two years ago, when Dolores Umbridge pushed the Werewolf Protection Act through the Wizengamot.”
“Tabitha the Toad Lady.”
“Yes. And Tabitha-speak being what it is, naturally the law doesn’t protect werewolves from anything at all, except the danger of possibly being able to find paid work or pass as a normal human being. You’ll be issued an identity card with a little scarlet W on it, which you have to keep on you at all times and present to anyone with whom you have business dealings, including your landlord and any prospective employers (who can’t, in any case, employ you unless they can demonstrate that there are no non-lycanthropic candidates willing and able to do the work). If you take the wording of the law literally, you’ve got to show it to shopkeepers as well, although there isn’t one in a hundred who cares.”
“In other words, they’ll take your money gladly enough, they just won’t let you earn any?”
“How is that going to work for me, as a cartoonist?”
“That’s the big loophole,” said Remus. “We can still publish, even if we can’t do anything else. You’re lucky in your choice of career. So am I, in some ways, although I expect Martin Miggs sells better than scholarly articles about the migrational habits of the hinkypunk.”
“Is that what you do? Sounds fascinating.”
“Oh, it is. Only nobody else seems to think so, for some reason... I’m afraid the publishing business is all the good news there is, though. Everything else is pretty bleak. Under the Werewolf Protection Act, we face stiffer penalties for most crimes than the general population – everything from being drunk in public to manslaughter...”
“So much for supplementing my income with a life of crime. Got it.”
“And any Ministry official can search our homes, detain us for up to seventy-two hours, or force us to take Veritaserum – all without a warrant. Also, we’re obligated by law to take the Wolfsbane potion every day for a week before the full moon. How are your potion-brewing skills?”
“Rusty. I haven’t used them much since I was at school.”
“It’s tricky stuff. Easy to poison yourself if you don’t know what you’re doing. Unless you’ve got a friend or acquaintance who can brew it for you – I’ve been fortunate that way – you’ll have to get it from St. Mungo’s. It tastes vile, and it gets worse the longer it sits around. And the law says it has to be taken in front of a witness. So much for privacy and dignity ... Have I cheered you up enough yet?”
“Oh, exceedingly,” said Berowne. “Let me see if I can sum this up. Everything not compulsory is forbidden, and everything not forbidden is compulsory. Is that about right?”
Remus laughed. “Spot on.”
He had, in fact, given a highly simplified and clinically detached description of the legal consequences of lycanthropy; it was the best he could do to soften a picture that included an unspeakable amount of human misery. He’d known people who lost the will to function after they received the bite, some who had even committed suicide. But Linus Berowne was going to be all right, he thought with a growing feeling of relief. He had a ready sense of humor, and he seemed to be taking it for granted that life would go on, if not precisely as before.
“One question.” Berowne was no longer looking him in the eye. “You said werewolves got heavier penalties for most crimes. What happens when the victim is another werewolf?”
A small chill ran up the back of Remus’ neck. Perhaps Berowne was not going to be all right, after all.
“If you’re thinking of revenge, don’t. It’s not worth it. Bitterness isn’t worth it. Besides, whoever bit you can’t be said to bear any responsibility for it, not in human terms. A werewolf who hasn’t taken his potion has no reason, no will, and no control over his actions – only the instinct to kill. And if you deliberately reduce yourself to that, you are letting the beast win.”
He decided not to mention his own doubts about the location of Berowne’s wound. The possibility that this might have been a deliberate attack, by a werewolf in full possession of his senses who intended to infect rather than to kill, didn’t bear thinking about. And it would certainly do no good to Linus if he started to brood about it.
April 7th, 2005, 3:03 am
"The first werewolf ever was a king of Arcadia" = Lycaon. His story is in Ovid's Metamorphoses.
Et in Arcadia ego = "I, too, am in Arcadia" or "Evan in Arcadia, there am I," depending on how you choose to parse it.
Chapter Four: Adjustment
By now Linus was well enough to get around with the aid of a cane, though still troubled by nausea and dizziness. After Lupin had gone, he limped to the window and spent some time gazing out over the bleak, rain-soaked little courtyard of St. Mungo’s, considering his prospects for the future. He was, he was beginning to realize, incredibly lucky that he hadn’t burned his bridges yet. The political climate, plus certain immutable facts of wizarding biology, would have guaranteed many dark and difficult years ahead.
Up until the age of thirty-five or so, wizards and Muggles aged at more or less the same rate; after that, for reasons nobody fully understood, wizarding metabolism began to slow down. At fifty, most wizards could still blend in among Muggles of the same age, though they seemed more youthful-looking than average; by sixty-five, they began to look remarkably well-preserved; at eighty, their continued good health seemed uncanny by Muggle standards; and by ninety-five it was patently impossible. Those who had chosen to live partly or wholly in the Muggle world generally had to move and change their names more than once as they aged in order to avoid awkward questions, and lifelong friendships with Muggles were rarely possible. The compensations for the ordinary wizard, of course, were immense: more healthy, productive years in the middle of life, followed by a long, mellow old age surrounded by great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. For werewolves it was less clear whether the extra years were a blessing.
Linus had considered himself in the prime of life when he decided to jettison his career at the age of sixty-seven. He had hoped to resume drawing Martin Miggs in a few years, once the political climate was more congenial, but in the meantime he’d been looking forward to a long sabbatical, perhaps supplementing his modest savings with a part-time job in a bookshop or giving drawing lessons.
He now had to face the prospect of chronic ill health and a considerably more straitened life. It would still be a long life – the Healers had assured him that lycanthropy was neither degenerative nor fatal – but he would be unfit for work several days a month; Wolfsbane, even with a partial subsidy from the Ministry, was expensive; and under the current laws he was virtually unemployable, even if he could find an employer willing to work around his frequent illnesses and uninfected with the wildly irrational prejudices that still surrounded werewolves. Martin Lovegood’s long-standing offer of a job at the Quibbler was no good to him; Thersites could do the same work, just not very well. He literally couldn’t afford to throw his career away for a political statement now.
Back to work, then. He picked up the Christmas card that had finally arrived from his daughter in America and began doodling on the reverse side, hoping to hit on something funny, but nothing came to mind. He was feeling depressed again, and somewhat to his surprise, he found that he missed Arthur Weasley, who had gone home that morning.
Arthur had turned out to be a great fan of Martin Miggs, although some of the questions he asked suggested that he regarded it in the light of an anthropological study rather than a comic book. Linus was not surprised; he did his best to take the p*ss out of both cultures equally, which meant purebloods missed at least half the jokes. He was a little startled when Arthur went into raptures on discovering that Linus had been raised by Muggles and insisted on asking his expert opinion on his Christmas present of screwdrivers and fuse-wire. (Linus’ private opinion was that the Boy Who Lived was something of a cheapskate, but he refrained from saying this aloud.) But on the whole, Arthur was all right. He’d flattered Linus by asking him for signed copies of Martin Miggs for his daughter Ginny and his eldest son Bill (the children in the middle regarded themselves as too grown-up for such childish things), and Linus had been happy to oblige.
That was it. Martin Miggs could have a run-in with Arthur, or rather, with a similarly enthusiastic but clueless “expert” on Muggle affairs.
Tell me, Mr. Miggs, is it true that your people actually purchase breakfast cereals from the leprechauns? How on earth do you keep them from disappearing before you eat them?
He picked up his quill and began drawing energetically. The law couldn’t take that away from him.
* * *
A week before the full moon, one of the mediwizards escorted Linus to the basement of St. Mungo’s for his first dose of Wolfsbane. He was a good deal better by now, able to walk about the corridors and spend his mornings caricaturing the passers-by in the hospital tea shop, but the Healers told him he would have to stay under observation until his first transformation had passed.
There were about a dozen men and women standing around in a dimly lit corridor, waiting for the potion to arrive. They looked, for the most part, haggard and unwell; one ancient man leaned heavily on a walking stick, almost too weak to stand. Remus Lupin was not among the group, and Linus remembered that he’d intimated that he had acquaintances who normally brewed the potion for him. None of the others were people he had ever seen before, and they did not seem particularly friendly. They gave him sidelong glances with sharp, curious eyes, and when he ventured to say hello, the only person to respond was a flinty-faced woman who waved a hand toward the far end of the hall and muttered, “The queue ends back there.”
Linus wandered back in the direction she’d indicated and stood in what he thought was the proper place, behind an unshaven young man who smoked incessantly, although it was certainly the most disorganized queue he’d ever seen.
They were all wearing wizard robes – well-worn and often ill-fitting, as if they’d been bought secondhand – and Linus found himself wondering what happened to Muggles who were bitten by werewolves. He also wondered which of these people had bitten him. Frankly, they all looked unpleasant enough to have done it.
“They’re late again,” said the flinty-faced woman after half an hour. “They must think we haven’t got anything better to do than stand around all day.”
The young man blew a stream of smoke toward the ceiling. “And they’re bloody well right. We don’t.”
“Patience,” murmured the old man with the walking stick. “I’ve ... been ... living ... with ... this ... since ... nineteen ... fifteen...”
“There he goes again,” grumbled the woman who had spoken first. “Good luck getting him to shut up.”
Several of the other werewolves also rolled their eyes as the old man began to reminisce; Linus thought he’d rather listen than stand around in total silence, himself, but then he was hearing it all for the first time. It was the story of eighty years of quiet desperation, told by a man who had seen many miracle cures come and go without fulfilling their promises.
“And they said, when this Wolfsbane stuff came in, in three years’ time they’d have figured out how to stop the transformations altogether, or at least make them completely painless. Well, it’s been six ... seven years now, and not a sign ... Millennium’s approaching. Another thousand years of werewolves, who’d have thought we’d make it this far. We go back to ancient times, you know. The first werewolf ever was a king of Arcadia ... Et in Arcadia ego. That’s a good one, that is.” The old man gave a wheezy chuckle.
“Don’t mind him,” said the young chain-smoker to Linus. “He’s rambling. There they are with the potion.”
It was another hour before Linus got his first dose of Wolfsbane, because there was only one mediwitch in charge of the cauldron – the stupid one, from the night he’d been admitted to the hospital – and she insisted on watching each werewolf swallow every last drop of the potion, and then filling out a witness form with elaborate care, before she dosed the next one. By the time Linus reached the front of the queue, the potion had cooled and congealed into a black, lumpy substance with a smell and taste like sour milk.
As he tried to suppress his gag reflex between sips, he ventured a question. “I was wondering about something. All the people who were here today seemed to be witches and wizards. What happens to Muggles who have been bitten?”
The mediwitch looked uncomfortable. “Well, it’s very rare for a Muggle to survive the initial attack, Mr. Brown. Most of them don’t even know a werewolf when they see one, and they couldn’t begin to defend themselves against one.”
“But if they do survive?” he persisted.
“We take care of them. A couple of wizards from the Werewolf Capture Unit go to their homes and fetch them a week before the full moon, and they stay at St. Mungo’s for a week so we can administer them the potion and watch over them while they transform. They stay separate from the other patients. Queuing for the potion seems to upset them.”
“I can’t imagine why,” Linus commented.
“And then we Memory Charm them after the full moon and send them on their way for three weeks. It’s all quite decent and humane. They don’t remember a thing about it.”
“Just as a matter of interest,” said Linus, “how long do you think your employer would tolerate it if you didn’t show up for work for a week every month and you couldn’t offer any explanation for where you’d been?”
“Well, of course they aren’t going to be able to hold down a job,” she said as if this were self-evident. “They’re werewolves.”
“And you think it is decent and humane to kidnap people once a month, wipe out their memories of a quarter of their lives, and make them go through life as a werewolf without even having a rational explanation of why they’re ill and unemployed all the time?”
“It’s for their own good,” the mediwitch said in a tone that made it clear the conversation was over.
Linus drained the goblet and waited for her to finish filling out his paperwork. As he always did when he was confronted with a particularly spectacular piece of bureaucratic absurdity, he began making mental notes for a new episode of Martin Miggs’ adventures.
April 10th, 2005, 3:01 am
Shall auld acquaintance be forgot,
And the days of auld lang – BANG!
A shower of purple sparks spelling out “HIPPOGRIFF DUNG” slowly fell from the ceiling and faded, marking the first minute of 1996.
“I’m George, Mum!” protested the twin Molly had collared. Privately, Remus was almost certain that he was Fred, but he had long since decided on a policy of noninterference where the Weasleys’ domestic disputes were concerned. He had already chosen to ignore the fact that Ginny had mixed a generous amount of red-currant rum with her butterbeer and was getting quietly and experimentally drunk as she played Exploding Snap with Ron and Hermione.
Alastor Moody, under normal circumstances, would have hollered for everyone to duck and cover when the fireworks started to go off, but tonight he only giggled weakly and continued playing the piano. Remus took this as a sign that his hip flask contained something much stronger than the usual dandelion juice.
Bill and Fleur Delacour were dancing; Arthur, still a little stiff from his wounds but in good spirits, offered his arm to Molly, who allowed herself to be distracted from berating the twin. Briefly, Remus toyed with the idea of asking Hestia Jones to dance, but when he spotted her on the other side of the crowded room, she was talking to Sirius and they seemed to be getting on very well. He wouldn’t have spoiled that for the world: it might, just maybe, be what Sirius needed.
The New Year’s party showed every sign of going on until three or four in the morning. Only Harry had gone to bed early, looking dispirited and standoffish as usual. Remus had ached to follow him and make him talk about what was troubling him, but he knew it would do no good; the boy wasn’t confiding in anybody, and if he had been, he would have chosen Sirius instead.
He refilled his champagne glass and had a rather incoherent conversation with Mundungus Fletcher about the odds on the Holyhead Harpies match, which concluded with Dung offering to “‘ave a word with a bloke wot knows about fixin’ these things” if Remus decided he wanted to place any bets on the outcome. He declined politely, and decided to slip away and go to bed. It was pleasant having a house full of people for once, but it was also exhausting, and at this time of the month, he felt in need of some down time.
Tonks cornered him in the hallway, looking flushed and ruffled. “I’m so glad I finally caught you alone,” she said breathlessly. “Kingsley and I were trying to follow up on your friend with the invisible cat, and what we found is amazing. Or rather, what we didn’t find.”
Kingsley stepped out of the party room, pulled the door closed behind him and nodded gravely. “We couldn’t locate any records of werewolf-related incidents filed in the last month. In fact, nobody seems to have reported a werewolf attack in well over a year.”
Remus tried to make sense of this, and wished he’d had less to drink. “Are you sure it’s been filed in the right place?” he asked at last. “Aren’t you always complaining about the way important papers get misplaced all the time?”
“They do,” said Kingsley. “That’s why it took us so long to get back to you. But we’ve been through every nook and cranny of the D.M.L.E., and there’s literally nothing...”
“And then Dawlish caught me going through some papers from the Werewolf Capture Unit on my lunch hour, and he completely lost it. Threatened to sack me.”
Remus raised an eyebrow. “Can he do that? I mean, what possible grounds would he...”
“Well,” Tonks admitted, “I did sort of liberate them from the W.C.U. offices without permission. But everybody does that – I mean, it’s such a headache to go through the proper channels – and I meant to bring them back as soon as I finished. Anyway, I read enough to know that they haven’t heard anything about Berowne, either.”
“That’s odd,” said Remus, trying to sound casual. It was, in fact, a good deal more than odd, and he didn’t like the implications at all. Suddenly he felt very sober. “Try not to get yourself sacked, all right?”
“Will do. But I’d like to meet your new friend after he gets out of St. Mungo’s.”
On the afternoon before the full moon, Linus got his first look at the room in which he was to transform. It was small, square, and antiseptically clean. The door contained a small glass window so the Healers could observe the transformation and an official from the Registry could note the color and markings of his wolf form. The padded walls were otherwise perfectly monotonous. They were the shade of green which is supposed to be calming, but in fact reminded Linus of bile. There was a white porcelain water bowl in one corner of the room, a basket lined with a blanket in another, and several old newspapers spread out on the floor near the opposite wall – to be used as a toilet, he realized.
His overactive imagination had been picturing steel bars and shackles, but in an odd way, this practical, institutional arrangement seemed worse. It took him a moment to figure out why he felt that way. This wasn’t a prison cell, it was a kennel.
“Do I get a chew toy as well?” he asked the mediwitch.
“Like a rawhide bone, or a little squeaky mouse. That sort of thing.”
She gave him a funny look. “That’s not part of our standard equipment, but if you like, I’ll check with the Healers and see if it’s allowed. I don’t think anybody has requested one before.”
“Never mind,” said Linus, feeling more depressed than before. Sarcasm was a human weapon; he’d have to cut it out for the next twelve hours. As she cast a twelve-hour Imperturbable Charm and shut the door on his little room, he tried not to think too hard about the fact that in some people’s eyes, he would never be human again.
The sheer agony of the transformation was nothing like anything he had ever felt before. It was surreal, maddening, like being immersed in scalding water with stiff hairs pricking at your skin from the inside.
At length the pain subsided, leaving him with the shivery exhausted feeling one has after great physical stress. Linus opened his eyes. The first thing he noticed was that the bile-green walls had gone a dull shade of grey. This was an improvement rather than otherwise, but it was a bit disconcerting to find himself color-blind. He turned his head for a look at himself. Grey fur, grey paws, grey tail. How exciting.
He thumped his tail against the floor experimentally and sniffed the air. The odor of disinfectant was overpowering, and he even caught a few whiffs of printer’s ink from the newspapers on the opposite side of the room. He tried burying his nose in his fur to get away from the smells, and then remembered that the bloke from the Werewolf Registry would be taking photographs and he really didn’t want to be captured on film sniffing his own bum, so he got to his feet and tried to look as dignified as possible. This proved to be a lost cause, because he wasn’t used to being four-footed and his paws went splaying in all directions the first time he tried to stand up.
After a few minutes’ practice he got better at walking. He tried pacing to the other side of the little room. Click-click-click-click-click. He discovered that his toenails needed trimming. Sounds were more intense, too, when you were a wolf.
He paced back. Click-click-click-click-click.
So this was being a werewolf. It wasn’t quite what he had expected. He was already beginning to be bored out of his mind.
He decided to check out the newspapers and see if he could still read. He could. In fact, his mind seemed to be in perfect working order; he’d be able to tell the Healers that the dosage for the potion was just right. Unfortunately, though, he was unable to turn over the pages with his paws, which meant he was stuck with some advertisements and a week-old editorial page from the Daily Prophet, which was up to its usual level of idiocy. After reading three paragraphs of an exceptionally vapid opinion piece about why any public criticism of Minister Fudge whatsoever would hurt Britain’s standing in the international magical community, Linus felt a growl rising in the back of his throat. He turned his attention to the personals.
What was it with single witches these days? Why did every last one of them seem to be looking for a man who enjoyed moonlit walks?
He threw his head back.
Linus let his mouth fall open in a lupine grin. Now that was satisfying.
Transforming back into a human was every bit as bad as turning into a wolf. This time, the hairs retracted into his skin, leaving him with a wild urge to rip up his arms and root out whatever was left of the beast. Linus lay flat on the floor of the little room for some minutes, feeling sick with pain and horror; but gradually, his nausea gave way to relief at having hands and feet and human features and ordinary, dull human senses.
He’d left his clothing folded in a corner, unsure whether the transformation would damage it or not. Before he had a chance to get properly dressed, his nemesis the mediwitch bustled in with a clipboard.
“Well, well, it looks like your dosage is still going to require some adjustment. Have you any idea how long after the transformation it was when you lost control of your mind?”
“I didn’t,” said Linus, clutching his robes against his body and hoping to preserve some semblance of modesty. “Perfectly sane all night long.”
She looked at him suspiciously. “But you were howling.”
“Yes, I was. You’d howl too if you were locked up in a ten-by-ten room, your whole body hurt, you were facing a lifetime of pain, illness, and discrimination, and you had nothing more interesting to do. Have you got any more questions, or may I finish putting my clothes on now?”
“Not yet. You’ve got to have a complete physical before you can go home. Regulations.”
Linus gritted his teeth and forced himself to be extremely polite to the mediwitch for the next hour, lest she take it into her head to delay his release from St. Mungo’s. She poked and prodded his very sore body, ordered him not to Apparate or do any heavy spellwork for at least seventy-two hours, and sent him home by Floo powder with a vial of pain-relief potion.
The place smelled musty after having been empty for so long, and the general disarray of the place – usually so familiar and comfortable – now struck him forcibly and seemed a little sordid. Chess, obviously annoyed at his owner’s prolonged absence, sniffed at him with an air of studied indifference and promptly went invisible. To Linus’ surprise, the cat’s food and water dishes were almost full; Lupin must have sent a friend around while he was incapacitated. Good. He really didn’t feel like bending down to fill them or, for that matter, expending any unnecessary energy at all.
He limped upstairs, swallowed most of the pain reliever at once, and crept into bed, pulling the down quilt up over his shoulders. A few minutes later, the weight of a cat landing on the mattress and the ticklish feeling of whiskers against his face told him that he had been forgiven for disappearing. He didn’t bother opening his eyes to check whether Chess had decided to turn visible again. That would have required effort.
He was awakened – he didn’t know how much later – by the creak of a floorboard downstairs.
Instantly alert, he reached for his wand, ignored the protests of his aching muscles, and cautiously eased his way into the hall. At the top of the stairs he stopped short. A small, unfamiliar figure was bent down in front of his grate and seemed to be kindling a fire.
April 13th, 2005, 10:51 pm
Props to seeker for correctly guessing the identity of Linus' uninvited guest...
Chapter Five: Celia
The intruder, oddly enough, proved to be a petite, pink-cheeked woman with mild blue eyes. Her hair was entirely grey, but she moved with a sort of brisk energy that suggested she could not be much older than Linus himself. He could scarcely have imagined a more harmless-looking individual, but as his house had already been burglarized once, he was not inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt.
“Freeze!” He stared down the full length of his wand at her. “Put your hands up, back away slowly, and explain what in God’s name you think you’re doing in my –” He broke off with a start, recognizing the woman. She had been a prefect during his first three years at Hogwarts, and once upon a time, fifty-odd years ago, he’d had a bit of a schoolboy crush on her. “Celia Roper? In the name of all that’s wonderful...”
“Celia Lupin. My son asked me to check on you, and I thought it seemed a bit chilly in here.” She eyed the business end of his wand, which was still pointed at her, and added, “As you appear to be well enough to look after yourself, I shall be quite happy to go away and leave you alone. Unless there’s anything in particular you’d like me to do for you.”
Linus lowered his wand and promptly turned into a gibbering idiot. “I’m all right, but – Merlin, I’m sorry – what you must think of me! I don’t go around threatening old schoolmates as a rule, it’s just that I’ve had a housebreaker lately and you ... er, startled me a bit. You see, your son never mentioned you were coming – Is he normally absent-minded, by any chance?”
Celia’s lips twitched slightly, and Linus wondered why he hadn’t noticed the family resemblance at once. “Sometimes.”
Suddenly Linus remembered the cat-feeding incident, and certain impressions he’d had of his new acquaintance’s personality solidified. Before he could stop himself, he blurted out, “Or does he have a passive-aggressive streak and a taste for practical jokes?”
She laughed out loud. “Well, that too, I’m afraid.”
“I see. Well, to tell you the truth I probably deserved it, but it can’t have been very nice for you, having me on the point of Stunning you for housebreaking. Allow me to make it up to you.” He squinted at the mass of grey clouds outside the window, trying to work out what time of day it was. “Er, would you like some tea? Lunch? Wine?”
“Tea would be lovely, thanks. Would you like me to make it? You can’t be feeling very well.”
He wasn’t. The initial surge of adrenaline had worn off, leaving him shaky at the knees and very tired. “If you don’t mind, I’d appreciate it. Tea bags are in the cupboard on the far left, and everything else is about where you’d expect it to be.” He sank down in the nearest chair, feeling grateful that no further activity was required of him.
“Do you take sugar?” she called from the kitchen a few minutes later. “I’d offer lemons, but they seem to be looking rather ... furry at the moment, and I have a feeling the milk is probably worse.”
Oh, right, all the food in the house was a month old. Thank goodness she hadn’t accepted his impulsive offer of lunch. “Actually, they’re werelemons. They always get that way at the full moon,” he said, and she rewarded him with a snicker. “Just sugar would be fine, thanks.”
Celia reappeared in the living room with a couple of teacups and some slightly stale biscuits on a tray, and settled into the chair opposite him.
“So, er, what have you been doing with yourself since we left school, Mrs. Lupin?”
“Celia, please. I’m a philosopher.”
He stared at her. She wasn’t wearing beads or dreadlocks, and she certainly didn’t seem to have been smoking mandrake leaves. “Really, truly a philosopher?” he asked.
She nodded. “I write big books about contemporary issues in magical ethics. Very dull. Nobody reads them.”
“It doesn’t sound the least bit dull,” said Linus. “What sort of issues do you write about?”
“Things like ... oh, what it says about a society when they congratulate themselves on abolishing the death penalty but replace it with the Dementor’s Kiss, and why we think it’s more acceptable to use Obliviate on Muggles than on wizards, and whether there’s really such a thing as Dark magic, and if so, how do we define it ... Those kinds of questions, the ones nobody wants to talk about. You’re quite right, it isn’t dull at all. Just socially unacceptable. How about you?”
“I’m a cartoonist,” said Linus. “I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Martin Miggs, the Mad Muggle?” Merlin, that sounded childish after Contemporary Issues in Magical Ethics.
Celia smiled. “Of course I’ve heard of it – who hasn’t?” She took a sip of tea and tilted her head to one side. “I suppose you’re Muggle-born, then? You’ve got all the culture-clash humor spot on.”
“May as well be. My father was a wizard, but he was killed in a Splinching accident when I was two and my mother remarried, so I was raised more or less completely in the Muggle world.” Linus shrugged his shoulders, which were aching. “Now and again, people get offended by something in Martin Miggs and write in to accuse me of being a ‘self-hating Muggle-born.’ It’s always amused me that I’m neither.”
“Well, I am Muggle-born, and I don’t find it the least bit offensive. Martin’s wife reminds me a little of my mother, actually.”
“Really?” said Linus. Martin’s wife, Maisie, was highly enamored with the Color-Changing Lipsticks and Self-Pouring Teapots that kept making their way into her life, much to the dismay of Grampus and Storge, whose duty it was to confiscate these objects.
“Mum was a bit of an eccentric character,” Celia explained. “Tried to be more of a witch than most witches, really. She liked to use candles instead of electricity, and she wrote her shopping lists with quills and parchment, and wore robes everywhere even though she always looked ever so slightly wrong in them – like a little girl playing dress-ups.”
Linus nodded. “You’ve got to learn the culture as a child, otherwise it’s never quite right. Same way with pureblood wizards trying to blend into the Muggle world, they just can’t.” For years, Martin Miggs had poked riotous fun at a Ministry official by the name of Bartemius Crouch, whose theoretical knowledge of Muggle costumes and customs was impeccable and whose performance, in situations where he had to pass as one, was always quite, quite wrong. Crouch, sadly, had put an end to things by threatening legal action.
“Oh, dear, no. My husband used to wear pinstriped trousers and a tie when we went to the seaside. I never did make him see what was wrong with it.”
“How did your father take to your mother going around in robes?”
“Oh, he didn’t. He wasn’t really part of our lives by then.”
“Wizardry does funny things to families,” said Linus.
“It’s always the same story, isn’t it?” said Celia meditatively. “There are the children for whom the Hogwarts letter comes as a glorious escape, and then there are the parents and brothers and sisters left behind.”
“It was an escape for you?”
Celia nibbled at one of the biscuits with a faraway look on her face. “We lived in a little house on a dingy little street, and I had good marks at school but we all knew there wouldn’t be any money to send a child to university, and if there had been it would have gone to my older brother, because he was the boy, you know. We hadn’t anything in particular to look forward to ... I supposed I would work in my father’s shop for a while, and marry someone very much like my father. And then, just a few months before my twelfth birthday, I woke up to see an enormous snowy owl outside my bedroom window. And that was the day everything changed. At first it was like living in a fairy tale...” Her voice trailed off.
“Well, my mum was thrilled. I remember when she went with me to Diagon Alley to buy my school books. We spent hours looking in the shop windows, and she looked just like a little girl herself. Everything was so new and bright and magical. My father and my brother didn’t go with us ... they weren’t thrilled, not so much. I don’t know whether it was jealousy or fear, or ... Well, in fairness to them, I have to admit they had reason to be unhappy. They lost both of us to the wizarding world. Me for the usual reasons, away at school ten months of the year and half a stranger the rest of the time. And Mum, because she fell in love with a man she met in the Leaky Cauldron.”
“She divorced your father?”
“Not until many, many years later. Because Prospero – I can’t call him my stepfather, they were never legally married – and my mother both tried to play it off as if they were only friends, and they may have fooled themselves for a while, as well as everyone else. But I think she left my father in her heart long before that, and he knew it, too.” She broke off and looked embarrassed. “Goodness, I’ve told you all the family scandals, and we’ve only known each other for an hour. As adults, anyway.”
“It’s all right. I promise I won’t repeat any of it.” Linus looked up at the clock, and was surprised at how much time had gone by. “Won’t your husband be wondering what’s happened to you?”
“That would be rather difficult, as he’s dead.”
“It’s all right. It was fifteen years ago.”
“Fifteen years ago” usually signified one sort of death, in particular, and it was an unpleasant and painful subject for most wizards. Linus changed the subject, but an edge of awkwardness had come into the conversation, and Celia said a few minutes later that it was time for her to be getting on home, after all.
April 17th, 2005, 9:24 pm
The spotty-faced young man at the Werewolf Registry stamped Linus’ new identity card with a red W. “That’ll be five Galleons,” he said in a bored voice.
“Five? For what, pray tell? For the privilege of being discriminated against?” He’d already handed over fifteen Galleons for the card itself and another three for his photo; this was becoming ridiculous.
“For the stamp. I gotta eat.”
“And just how much work does it take to stamp an ID card? Can you explain exactly how what you just did is worth five Galleons?”
“Well...” The young man sounded even more bored. “It’s not like I get to stamp them things very often. Most of the time I just sits ‘ere.”
“So if I send more business your way – say, by biting ten people a month – will your fees go down?”
The young man continued to look bored for a moment or so, and then his eyes suddenly lit up. “Yeah! I don’t mind workin’ out a deal.”
“Never mind. I don’t fancy life in Azkaban.” Linus handed over his five Galleons and tried not to be too disturbed by the youth’s evident disappointment.
* * *
“Have you had any counseling since your bite?” asked the next nameless bureaucrat, the one in charge of actually creating Linus’ Registry entry.
“Sort of,” said Linus. “That is – a lot of the Healers came around to talk to me while I was in St. Mungo’s.” One of them, the McRae woman, had even succeeded in making him feel a good deal better. She hadn’t tried to lecture him, just listened.
“That won’t do. I need proof that you’ve seen a werewolf counselor before I can add you to the Registry.”
Linus was about to roll his eyes heavenwards when a sudden, happy thought struck him. “Does that mean a counselor who’s a werewolf? Because I know a bloke who’d be happy to –”
“No, it means someone with an official license to counsel werewolves. You’ll have to visit Werewolf Support Services and make an appointment.”
“I see. And where is Werewolf Support Services?”
“They’re in the Beings Division, at the Ministry Annex on the other side of London. But we’ve got a fast Floo connection you can use.”
The offices at the Ministry Annex were much shabbier than the ones in the main building; the carpet in the waiting room was threadbare, and the room seemed to be full of women with crying babies for some reason. A harassed-looking secretary claimed at first that Werewolf Support Services had no appointments available for the next three weeks. Linus protested that he was required by law to place his name on the Werewolf Registry within one week, and he needed an appointment first. The secretary insisted that all of the counselors were fully booked. Linus pleaded. The secretary stood firm. Linus Transfigured a chair into a sleeping bag and threatened to camp out in the lobby of the Beings Division until he got an appointment, straight through the full moon if necessary. The secretary made several hasty Floo calls and discovered that an appointment had miraculously opened up that very afternoon.
* * *
The “counseling session” consisted of an earnest-looking man in owlish eyeglasses reading a series of questions off of a sheet of parchment, and recording Linus’ answers in the spaces provided.
“Question Thirty-Seven. Do you advocate the overthrow of the Ministry by force or violence?”
“Well, I used to prefer force,” said Linus, “but I think after today I’ll have to go with violence.”
The counselor took off his glasses and peered at him over the parchment. “That wasn’t meant to be an either-or question,” he said seriously.
“Right. I suppose you’d better put down ‘no’.”
“Question Thirty-Eight. Are you prone to unreasonable fits of rage?”
“Certainly not,” said Linus. All of his fits of rage, including the one he was experiencing at the moment, were entirely reasonable.
“Question Thirty-Nine. Which sounds better to you, world peace or a nice, juicy steak?”
“World peace.” Actually, Linus would have settled for the steak, as he had considerably more evidence that steaks actually existed in the real world, but he supposed that would have sounded bloodthirsty.
“Question Forty. Do you ever have revenge fantasies?”
“Right, that will be all.” The counselor signed the bottom of the parchment. “Here’s your questionnaire. Don’t lose it or you won’t be able to get your dose of Rabies-and-Distemper-Preventing-Potion.”
“My dose of what?”
“Down the hall. Don’t go back to the Beasts Division without it, or they’ll only send you back to us.”
Miraculously, Linus managed to get his name added to the Registry late that afternoon, after jumping through several more bureaucratic hoops. He hurried away to the designated Apparation point in an alley behind the Ministry, conscious that he had promised to meet Remus Lupin for a drink in the Leaky Cauldron, and he was already half an hour late.
“Drink up,” said Lupin, pushing a mug of beer in his direction. “It’ll take the curse off having to deal with the Ministry. I hope the Registry didn’t treat you too badly.”
Linus took a sip of the beer. Pumpkin, ugh. Young people today had no taste. “The Registry,” he said, “is the most spectacularly idiotic organization I’ve ever come across. Not to mention corrupt, useless, and in blatant violation of basic human rights. Hasn’t anyone thought to protest this?”
“It’s a bit hard to get werewolves together for a protest. The Ministry can make things quite miserable for us if we get on their blacklist.” Lupin shrugged. “By far the easiest and most pleasant way to get on with our condition is to have as little contact with the Ministry as possible. Best not to get worked up about it.”
“Well, by God I think we should get worked up about it! How many years have you been putting up with this kind of treatment? And what makes you think it’ll ever change if we keep putting up with it?”
“Look, let’s not argue about this. It isn’t any use.”
Linus nodded, although he privately felt Lupin was going to prove a less than satisfactory friend if you couldn’t have a good knockabout argument with him.
The younger man took a sip of his drink and attempted to make his change of subject sound offhand. “You know, with your burglary and everything, I’ve been thinking there’s a chance there was something funny going on with your bite. Would you be willing to meet with a couple of Aurors and tell them your story?”
“You want me to meet with more Ministry drones?” said Linus. “Lucky me.”
“They’re friends of mine. Good people, and it would be entirely unofficial. I think it’s our best hope for finding out who bit you.”
“All right,” said Linus. He was, after all, anxious to learn this, and he had a particular reason for wanting to stay on Lupin’s good side. He drained his mug, and asked, in a fake-casual voice that was at least as good as his companion’s, “Oh, by the way, would you mind giving me your mother’s address? I’d like to send her a proper thank-you note for looking in on me.”
* * *
I wanted to thank you for your kindness, and once again offer my heartiest apologies for taking you for a housebreaker. Tea and biscuits seem like rather poor compensation, so I was wondering if you might be interested in joining me for dinner at the Grindylow Grill next Friday at seven?
It took Linus almost half an hour to compose two sentences, and even so, he hesitated for a moment before tying the letter to the owl’s leg. The Grindylow Grill, he thought, would be a good choice; neither too rough-and-tumble nor outrageously expensive. It was obvious from the Lupins’ mode of dress that their means were modest, to say the least, but both mother and son had an air of determined pride that suggested they would be unwilling to accept hospitality they could not reciprocate.
Linus toyed with the idea of including Remus in the invitation, so that it would sound less like he was trying to pick Celia up, and almost immediately rejected it. He was, in fact, trying to pick her up, and the less confusion about that, the better.
April 21st, 2005, 2:43 am
Chapter Six: Devil’s Snare
Linus hesitated for a moment at the threshold of the Quill and Quirk, and then cursed himself for a coward. There were, after all, no laws against serving a werewolf a drink, and he felt sure that Bert Booker would be the last man in the world to turn away his custom. Whether he’d have anybody to drink with would be another question, but there was only one way to find out.
The hum of conversation fell silent when he entered the pub. The sound of his boots echoed on the flagstoned floor.
One of the staff writers from Witch Weekly whispered something to her colleague and tittered nervously, and three men sitting near the bar abruptly got up and went out. Linus recognized one of them as a bookseller who had been – so he thought – a casual friend.
“What’ll it be, Linus?” said Bert, who seemed determined to ignore this sudden depletion of his clientele.
“The usual,” Linus managed to say. He’d never realized before how awkward it was to be the only person talking in a crowded pub.
“Sure you don’t want the Christmas ale instead? This’ll be the last of it, and you’ve not had any this year.”
“All right. Pint of the Christmas ale. No, make that a half.” He decided that he would have one drink, consume it as rapidly as possible, and never return. That was the best way to make a statement without subjecting oneself to prolonged social humiliation.
He glanced around the room; it was full of people who had somehow managed to spread out themselves and their belongings to cover every available seat, although Linus would have sworn there had been quite a few places left when he went in.
Then Martin Lovegood caught his eye and waved him over to a table in the far corner, where he was sitting with a few of the Quibbler’s staff. Linus collected his drink, handed Bert two Sickles, and tried to restrain himself from overwhelming Martin with gratitude.
“Long time no see,” said Martin happily. “I’ve just heard the most exciting news. I’ve been in touch with an order of monks in Greenland who think they might have found the legendary Toenail of Icklibõgg. I’m hoping to send one of my staff writers out to authenticate it. Of course it’ll be difficult, we’re a little short-staffed at the moment because Don and Janet are hot on the trail of the Blibbering Humdinger in Alberta, but we’ll work something out. I mean, Greenland isn’t that far from Alberta, comparatively speaking, so they can stop over on the way home. Only I wonder how the Humdinger will take to the monastic life. I understand it normally drinks only champagne, though where it finds champagne on the Canadian prairies is something I haven’t been able to work out. Perhaps there’s a spring of the stuff. I should send Janet an owl and tell her to see if she can find it...”
There had been times in the past when Linus had been irritated by Martin’s habit of rabbiting on about his bizarre theories without the slightest regard for common sense or his audience’s interest. He vowed never to let it bother him again.
Kathy Hudgins, who had made no such resolution, bustled up to their table while Martin was still trying to figure out the logistics of sending so many staff writers on so many wild Snorkack chases. She rolled her eyes slightly when she figured out what Martin was on about and caught Linus in a fierce embrace. “How are you feeling? Was St. Mungo’s very horrible? Merlin, you’re so thin.”
“The lycanthropy diet,” Linus explained. “If they could take out the risking life and limb part, they could probably market it.”
Kathy snorted. “I wouldn’t put it past Witch Weekly to do just that. We’re doing an exposé on diet and beauty potions in the next issue of Madam, and you wouldn’t believe what goes into some of those things. They're selling young women a bill of goods, and a hell of a dangerous one at that...”
“Their own fault if they buy into it,” grumbled Thersites. “If you think you can go around saving every little chit with fluff for brains from her own stupidity, you’re even more of a fool than you look.”
Before Kathy could retort, a booming voice called, “Well, HELLO HELLO!” and Kathy’s friend Amelia Bones joined them at the table. In addition to having an impressively deep voice for a woman, Amelia was slightly deaf, and she operated under the assumption that the rest of the world was slightly deaf too.
“Here’s the Griselda Marchbanks interview I promised you,” roared Amelia. “I’m sorry it’s so late, but you won’t believe how hard it was to track her down. For someone who’s a hundred and sixty-eight, she keeps busy ... You won’t publish this under my name, will you? If anybody on the Wizengamot finds out I’ve been moonlighting as a staff writer for Madam, I may as well A.K. myself right on the spot.”
Linus refrained from pointing out that if Amelia wanted to keep her involvement with Kathy’s magazine a secret, she probably shouldn’t speak in a voice that could be heard in the next town over.
“I’ll publish it under the name Horatia Ditheringspoon,” Kathy promised. “That’s what I call our political correspondent, and I haven’t written any material for her lately.”
Most of the articles in Madam were, in fact, written by Kathy and published under various pseudonyms. She said this was less trouble in the long run than correcting your staff writers’ mistakes and trying to think up ways to avoid paying them, which was how Martin Lovegood spent most of his time.
“Did you figure out why Madam Marchbanks resigned?” asked Martin eagerly. “Because I’ve got a theory – this is just between you, me, and the lamppost, mind – that she might have eloped with Stubby Boardman, who’s quite innocent of course...”
“She resigned because of Umbridge,” said Amelia. “No mystery there.”
Linus, naturally, took advantage of this opening to recount the epic tale of his sufferings at the hands of the Werewolf Registry, and the new laws that reduced him to the status of a second-class citizen.
“Stupid, bigoted cow,” said Kathy when he finished. “I can’t believe I was fool enough to have Horatia write up an endorsement for her when she was up for her first term in the Wizengamot.”
Linus, Martin, and Thersites stared at her. “You endorsed her?!?”
“Well.” Kathy took a large swallow of her beer and looked awkward. “It was a few years ago, and she hadn’t exactly shown her true colors yet – and with men outnumbering women three to one on the Wizengamot, I really did think any female appointee was a good thing, regardless of her politics. I’m not proud of it.” She reddened and muttered, “In fact, I’m starting to feel like this whole situation is my fault. Sorry, Linus.”
“It’s all right,” said Linus. “It’s not as if anybody actually pays attention to the endorsements in Madam.”
Kathy wadded up her cocktail napkin and threw it at him. “Thanks, mate.”
“Only trying to help.”
“‘S what comes of doin’ endorsements,” slurred Thersites. “Get to pretendin’ one on ‘em’s better ‘n the other ... this is the result. Politicians, Dark Lords, Dark Lords an’ politicians, they’re all knaves an’ fools. Only kind of magic they do is taking from the public ... that little ... little ... less than little wit ... that they have.” He slumped face-forward into his glass of Curiously Strong Ale.
“I think you owe an apology to Amelia, Thersites,” said Kathy coldly, but the cartoonist gave no sign of having heard her. (Linus, who had noticed long ago that Thersites had a habit of passing out at moments that were supremely convenient for Thersites, wasn’t so sure.)
Martin examined his inert employee and shrugged. “If he doesn’t wake up in time for the next Quibbler,” he said to Linus, “do you think you could do an artist’s rendering of the Toenail of Icklibõgg?”
“Sure, Martin. My pleasure.” Linus didn’t have the foggiest idea what the Toenail of Icklibõgg might be or what it was supposed to look like, but he suspected nobody else did either, and in any case he would have done anything for Martin at that moment. He would have done anything for all of them. It was shaping up to be a normal evening and he was profoundly grateful for it.
April 23rd, 2005, 11:03 pm
Sorry for the shortness of this scene -- longer update coming soon.
“Healer McRae! Hope! HOPE!”
The other patrons in the shop turned and stared at Hope as the voice from her handbag grew louder. Grumbling, she extracted her Calling Card from its depths. That fool of a Miriam Strout again, she thought. The chief Healer on the Longbottoms’ ward was a kind, motherly soul, but Hope was privately of the opinion that she had the brains of a flea. She seemed incapable of handling the most minor of crises by herself, and she was forever bothering her colleagues during their off hours.
The Calling Cards, which had a small amount of Floo Powder incorporated into the parchment, were a recent advance in technology that allowed the Healers to remain in constant contact with each other. Hope regarded them as a decidedly mixed blessing.
The small image of Healer Strout in the corner of the card was looking distinctly breathless. “Oh, Hope – do come quickly – it’s Broderick Bode. He’s –” Miriam blurted out something incomprehensible about a pot-plant and burst into tears.
If Bode had knocked one of the plants over and Miriam seriously thought she needed Hope’s help to clean up the mess, she was so going to die as soon as Hope got her hands on her. The Alienist gritted her teeth and Apparated to St. Mungo’s.
The sight that greeted her on the long-term residents’ ward was as grotesque as it was bizarre. Broderick Bode lay stretched out on the floor, almost hidden by the undulating coils of what looked at first glance like an enormous snake, but which proved to be a plant. His face was purple and swollen; his hands were clutched about his throat, frozen in a desperate attempt to disentangle the plant’s tendrils.
Miriam was alternately darting forward with her wand out, casting every spell that came into her head at the plant, and retreating as the vicious tendrils crept closer about her feet.
“What is it?” shouted Hope over Miriam’s shrieks and the noise of the spells.
“The card said – a Flitterbloom – but I don’t think...”
Another tendril shot across the floor like a reptile’s tongue, and something from a long-forgotten Herbology lesson clicked in Hope’s mind. “Got it. Devil’s Snare. Incendio!”
Scorched black by a blast of fire from Hope’s wand, the plant retreated as swiftly as it had moved forward.
There was one thing to be said for Miriam; she was all right so long as there was someone else around to think for her. Together, the two women burned the Devil’s Snare to a crisp and attempted to resuscitate Bode, but they could find no sign of a heartbeat and after several minutes they had to concede defeat.
“It’s so – horrid,” sobbed Miriam, who had gone all to pieces as soon as it became clear that they could do nothing more for the patient. “And he was – getting better – too. They hardly – ever get better here...”
“I know,” murmured Hope, looking around the room. The other patients were mercifully oblivious to the horror of the scene that had passed; Frank Longbottom stared blankly at the ceiling, and Alice was toying with the curtains around her bed, humming tunelessly. Gilderoy Lockhart wandered up to the two Healers, smiled his most dazzling smile, and asked if he could interview them about their marvelous victory over the plant. The only person on the ward who seemed at all mindful of Bode’s death was the portrait of a supercilious-looking witch in sixteenth-century costume, her pale blonde hair arranged in elaborate ringlets. She turned up her nose with an expression of distaste and stepped out of her frame, no doubt planning to take refuge on a ward where she wouldn’t have to witness such unpleasantness.
Miriam pulled herself together and led Gilderoy back to his own bed, and Hope steeled herself for the grim round of paperwork and investigations that always followed an unnatural death.
April 27th, 2005, 12:23 am
The death of an obscure Ministry employee on a ward for severely damaged mental patients made little stir in the wider world; it was entirely overshadowed by the news that ten Death Eaters had escaped from Azkaban. This unprecedented event threw the Division of Magical Law Enforcement into a frenzy of damage control, and it was not until some days later that Linus was finally able to meet with Remus Lupin’s Auror friends on their lunch break.
Both of them turned out to be young – hardly more than kids, to Linus’ jaded eyes. One was a black man of about thirty, with a shaved head and an earring. The other, who introduced herself, improbably, as “Tonks,” was a girl who looked like she should still be in school; she had streaked her shoulder-length blonde hair with green and purple for some reason. Linus wondered what on earth the person who recruited them had been thinking, but then, being an Auror was the sort of job where you were lucky to make it into middle age with all your original limbs, so perhaps they were short on volunteers.
The girl, however, endeared herself to him by saying she liked his cat, and the man proved to have an organized, businesslike manner that impressed Linus favorably. He had brought copies of all of the entries from the Werewolf Registry dealing with living or recently deceased people, including Linus’ own.
“You’re a cartoonist, I believe?” he asked, proffering a set of colored pencils. “Could you try your hand at drawing the wolf that bit you?”
Linus agreed readily, and spent the next few minutes sketching the animal as well as he could from memory.
“Hmm.” Tonks examined the drawing. “Scraggly-looking tawny fur, darker on top and lighter on the belly, tail tipped with black, and the right ear half chewed off. Are you sure about all those details?”
“Pretty sure,” said Linus. “It may have been the left ear, but I don’t think so.”
“Sound like anyone we know, Kingsley?”
The black wizard frowned and looked through the sheets of parchment from the Werewolf Registry with elaborate care. “No,” he said at last.
The girl’s voice was sharp. “What d’you mean, no?”
“The closest match is Berowne himself – he’s got everything except the ear. That isn’t too surprising in itself; most werewolves tend to look like the one who created them. But I can’t find any other werewolves who match the description at all. And I take it you didn’t bite yourself?” Kingsley looked at Linus and smiled.
“I’m not that insane,” said Linus. “Yet.”
“Remus tells me the issue of Martin Miggs that you were working on was somewhat politically inflammatory, is that correct?” Kingsley asked. “Could you tell us more about it?”
Linus gave a short explanation, with illustrative sketches. Kingsley half-smirked at some of the jokes, and his younger colleague laughed out loud, but by the time he got to the final panel they both looked sober.
“In other words, you were implying that Dolores Umbridge was in league with – with You-Know-Who?” said Tonks.
Linus forced himself not to shout “Voldemort!” at her. Superstition annoyed him, but she was one of the few Ministry employees who had shown the slightest inclination to help him. “That’s about it.”
She whistled softly. “I’ve got to hand it to you. Sounds like you got on two very powerful people's blacklists at one go.”
“Or one very unholy alliance,” said Linus, who had not changed his mind about Umbridge’s loyalties.
Kingsley shook his head. “There’s no indication they’re working together. But it’s true that the Ministry couldn’t be doing more to help ... him ... if they were trying.”
He and Linus spent a few minutes bickering about whether this was more likely to be accident or design, and then Tonks, who had been looking impatient, returned to the subject of Linus’ burglary. “It sounds like it would have to have been somebody who knew what you were planning. That narrows the field considerably.”
“Not only that,” said Linus, “it’s got to be someone who knew exactly where to find the cartoons, because they went straight to the desk in my study and didn’t disturb anything else. And that means they were in the Quill and Quirk earlier that night, or else they talked to someone who was.”
“Can you remember exactly who might have overheard you?” Kingsley asked.
Linus thought it over and frowned. “That’s the problem. The pub was fairly empty that night and we weren’t talking loudly enough for anybody else to catch what I was saying, so it’s got to be one of my friends.”
“Who was there?”
“I’m trying to think ... Martin Lovegood and Kathy Hudgins for sure. Kathy’s friend Amelia Bones sometimes joins us, but I don’t think she was there that night, and she’s sea-green incorruptible anyway. And there are usually one or two of Martin’s staff hanging about, but that night it was only Thersites Mason. Martin said something rather tactless to him and he ended up walking out, but that was well after I told them about the cartoons.” Linus frowned. “It’s impossible. Kathy’s Muggle-born and Thersites’ father is a Muggle, they’d never be in league with the Death Eaters. I don’t see how it can be anyone but Martin, but I don’t believe it. The man’s a bit of a flake, but I’d trust him with my life.”
“Let’s not jump to conclusions,” said Kingsley. “We have no reason to think the Death Eaters are involved at all.”
“I do,” said Linus. “Have you ever seen that Umbridge woman in short sleeves? I ask you.”
Kingsley sighed. “At Auror Headquarters, they generally expect more proof than that.”
Tonks changed the subject. “What can you tell me about the people who work at the Quill and Quirk? I mean, in a pub people are always coming around to collect the empty glasses and things, but they sort of blend into the scenery and you don’t notice them half the time.”
Linus considered this. “Bert Booker was around for part of the conversation. I remember, because he asked me whether it wasn’t libel. But he’s owned the place for thirty years, and he thinks being a barman is one step lower than the priesthood. Anything he overhears from his customers is under the seal of the confessional, as far as he’s concerned.”
“Priests have been corrupted before now,” said Kingsley thoughtfully.
“What’s his bloodline?” asked Tonks, who had seemed receptive to Linus’ Death Eater theory.
“Pure,” Linus admitted. “But I’d stake my life he isn’t the one.” He grasped at a hopeful idea that had suddenly struck him. “Perhaps Kathy told Amelia Bones, and then Amelia went somewhere else, and someone overheard her talking about it. I don’t think she’d ever let anything slip to someone she didn’t trust on purpose, it’s just that Amelia’s idea of talking quietly is –”
“A dull sort of boom,” said Tonks. “I know. I used to work down the corridor from her.”
“So your working hypothesis is that Kathy Hudgins left the pub and spoke to Amelia Bones, and after that, Madam Bones said something about what you were planning in some other public place that was still open at that hour – but quiet enough for her to be overheard by yet another person. And at some point after that, this other person set a werewolf on you,” said Kingsley. “Approximately what time frame are we talking about here?”
“Between twenty-past-eleven and midnight,” Linus admitted. “All right, when you put it like that, it doesn’t sound very likely.”
“Anything’s possible,” said Kingsley, although it was clear from his face that he thought it wasn’t. “Could you give us the full names and addresses of all these people so we can follow up? Not Amelia Bones – we know where to find her – but Mr. Lovegood, Madam Hudgins, the other man – Mason, is it? – and the barman?”
Linus wrote them down, but he felt deeply uneasy as he did so. Informing against one’s friends to the Ministry was Simply Not Done in the world of the Quill and Quirk. But then, he told himself, arranging for one’s friends to be attacked by werewolves was Simply Not Done either.
“One last question,” said Tonks. “Are you ever planning to publish anything similar to the cartoons that were stolen?”
Linus shook his head. “I can’t afford to. This is the only job I can get.”
“If you ever change your mind, I’d advise you not to tell anyone about your plans,” said Kingsley.
It was a warning Linus did not need.
May 2nd, 2005, 1:40 am
Link back to feedback thread (http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=46578&page=5), since it's been a while since I've included it in an update.
Chapter Seven: Mutually Beneficial Propositions
Linus stirred his drink absently and looked around the Grindylow Grill. It was the most popular restaurant in Diagon Alley, crowded on a Friday evening with young couples and parties of Ministry workers, but he wondered if it would be too flashy for Celia’s tastes. A miniature river snaked around the bar and meandered through the tables, carrying small boats loaded with drinks and plates of food. You had to move quickly to snatch your order away from the restaurant owner’s pet Grindylows, which swam about in the river and flexed their long fingers.
Celia was going to show up, wasn’t she? Surely she wouldn’t have accepted his invitation to dinner out of sheer reluctance to give offense, if she didn’t intend to keep their appointment.
He tried to shake off a general impression that the Lupins would probably do a lot of things out of sheer reluctance to give offense.
And then there she was, dropping into the seat opposite him before he had time to get up and pull out her chair. “Sorry I’m late. Lecture at the Muggle Studies Institute, and the question-and-answer session went on forever. They always do when you’ve got somewhere important to go.”
So dinner with him counted as important. He liked that.
“What are you having?”
“What? Oh. I was thinking about the wild boar with mushrooms. Or maybe it’s more like regular boar with wild mushrooms. I can’t remember which, but anyway, it’s very good.” He realized that he was babbling, and forced himself to stop.
“That sounds nice. I’ll have the same.”
Linus scribbled 2 Boar with Mushrooms (Wild) on one of the order pads and dropped it onto one of the boats that was winding its way downstream.
“How have you been feeling?” Celia asked after a moment’s silence.
“Better. More or less normal, these last few days. It hasn’t been nearly so bad as the first month was.”
She nodded. “That’s how it with Remus, I remember. We were terribly afraid that he was always going to be as ill as he was right after he was bitten, but once we were finally able to take him home, he was running around and playing within days. It helps to be in familiar surroundings, of course. Madam Pomfrey told us that the first few months after he started school were quite rough.”
Linus was startled; he’d vaguely supposed that his new acquaintance must have become a werewolf some time after his school years, as he was patently a qualified wizard and an educated man. “Just how old was Remus when he was bitten, anyway?”
“Six,” said Celia casually.
“Six? Good God. It must have been awful for you.”
She sat expressionless for a moment, then nodded. “You can’t explain to a child that age why he has to go through that sort of agony, much less why people are going to blame him and hate him for something he can’t help ... And, well – everything was harder in those days. There wasn’t any Wolfsbane Potion, then. My husband did most of the preliminary research, actually, and just about everybody thought he was mad. Pity he didn’t live to see himself vindicated.”
“How did you – handle full moons?”
“Restraint spells. Imperturbable Charms on the cellar. Hope. One way or another, we got through.” She twined her fingers together and looked at the floor. “And a lot of Healing spells, afterward. Werewolves attack themselves when there’s no other prey, you know. There’s just enough humanity left in them that they can sense it, and it maddens them.”
Her tone was so matter-of-fact that it took a moment for the full horror of her meaning to sink in. “My God, Celia, I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry.”
“He was such a brave little thing. Never once cried or complained when we were restraining him, and he must have been in terrible pain.” Suddenly, her reserve broke down. “I used to be so afraid he’d bleed to death one night ... and there would be nothing we could do, we couldn’t go to him because he’d kill us. Our own son! My husband and I used to keep vigil outside the cellar door with a candle ... listening to all those inhuman noises, the snapping and howling and flesh being scratched raw ... and being afraid all the while that they’d stop.” She blinked the tears out of her eyes and looked up at him with a weak smile. “I’m sorry, Linus. As first-date conversations go, I think this one leaves a little to be desired.”
“It’s all right. It’s absolutely all right.” He reached for both of her hands and squeezed, hard. (Good, at least she knows this is a date, said some traitorous part of his mind, but he immediately dismissed the thought as unworthy under the circumstances.)
“I don’t usually talk about this very much. It’s just that, you know, one rarely has the chance to talk to someone who has any idea what it’s like.”
He shook his head. “Honestly, I couldn’t begin to imagine what it was like. When I think about my daughter at that age...”
Celia looked up sharply. “I didn’t know you had a daughter.”
Linus retrieved their two plates of boar and mushrooms from the grip of a Grindylow, and explained about his brief and fairly regrettable marriage – which also left something to be desired as first date conversation, in his opinion, but at least she didn’t run away screaming.
By the time they found their way to a Muggle jazz club that was a fifteen-minute walk and a thousand worlds away from Diagon Alley, the conversation had taken a lighter turn, toward Linus’ plans for Martin Miggs and his attempts to create a working sketch of the Legendary Toenail of Icklibõgg. At the end of the evening, he Apparated to her front door and saw her in, and asked her if he’d be seeing more of her. He was not surprised at all that the answer was yes.
May 4th, 2005, 1:52 am
OK, I'm going to try to finish off this chapter before I leave for vacation on Thursday (one short, but important, section still to come). After that, the story will be on hiatus for a couple of weeks, but don't worry -- I promise it has NOT been abandoned!
Thanks to everybody who's read and left feedback so far!
It was five-thirty in the afternoon, nearly the end of the workday at Auror Headquarters. Tonks was just packing up her things when a rocket-shaped memo soared over the top of her cubicle wall and glided in for a landing on her desk. I’ve been looking up our cartoonist’s friends. See me after Dawlish and Scrimgeour go home. K.
Kingsley, she thought in amazement, had to be either superhuman or equipped with a Time-Turner. Everybody else had their hands full checking out reported sightings of the escaped Death Eaters, and here he was with enough time left over for a side investigation.
She waited until their older colleagues had left the building, and then popped round to Kingsley’s cubicle and sat on the edge of his desk. “What’ve you found?”
“First of all, here’s Martin Lovegood.” Kingsley removed a sheaf of parchment from the top drawer of his desk. “Forty years old, lives near Ottery St. Catchpole. Arthur and Molly know him, and they seem to think he’s a good sort, but the Ministry has a file on him six inches thick. I made copies of everything that looked pertinent, but here’s the gist of it. He’s been publishing the Quibbler since 1972. Before that, he worked for the Daily Prophet. He was one of the first people to see You-Know-Who for what he was, apparently, and he was fired from the Prophet for predicting another war when nobody wanted to hear it. So he went off and started his own magazine – all conspiracy theories, all the time. Just about everybody thought it was a joke, but Bartemius Crouch, Senior took it seriously enough to start this file. He thought the more off-the-wall stories were a blind, and Lovegood touched on real scandals in the Ministry too often for it to be a coincidence. Lovegood, incidentally, reported in 1984 that Crouch’s son’s ghost was haunting his house in Northumbria, and that he’d vowed revenge for the way his father let him die in Azkaban.”
“Haunting – Ohh!” said Tonks. “So Lovegood might not be a complete loony, at all.”
“Actually, he probably is. At least nowadays. By all accounts, his wife kept him semi-grounded while she was alive, and after she died he went off the deep end. Even if he started off making up some of the nuttier stuff as a clever dodge, he apparently believes in it now.”
“How long has she been dead?”
Kingsley flipped through the parchment. “Five years in March.”
“One daughter. She’s fourteen and a fourth-year at Hogwarts. Takes after Martin quite a bit, according to her school reports. Bright but dotty.”
Tonks frowned. “D’you think Umbridge might have been threatening her? He doesn’t sound like the sort of person who’d pass information to her under normal circumstances, but if his daughter’s well-being was at stake, she might have talked him into it.”
“Good thinking. I wouldn’t put it past her, that’s for sure.” Kingsley made a note on one of the sheets of parchment and took out a second, much thinner, file. “Next, Katherine Hudgins, fifty-two years old, publisher of Madam. Never married, no children. Friends describe her as the driven type – not much time left over for anything except the magazine. She seems clean, from all I can tell. Well-known businesswoman, donates a lot of money to Muggle-born rights. And Amelia likes her. It’s hard to argue with Amelia.”
“Did you know her magazine endorsed Dolores Umbridge?”
Kingsley looked startled. “No, I didn’t! Well, that would explain why the Ministry hasn’t been digging up any dirt on her. Are you sure?”
“Positive. I almost canceled my subscription over it.”
“She printed a retraction.”
“Hmm. She could have noticed she was losing readers over it, and done the pragmatic thing. Still, it doesn’t fit with everything else I’ve heard about her politics. She’s solidly anti-Fudge and anti-discrimination.” Kingsley turned to the third file, which was also fairly thick. “Thersites Mason,” he said. “Thirty-one, single, has worked for the Quibbler for about three years, fired from several previous positions. His old Head of House described him as having ‘difficulties with authority’.”
“And his Head of House was...?”
Tonks looked at the ceiling and whistled. “How do you go about having ‘difficulties with authority’ with Flitwick? That’s like not getting along with Father Christmas.”
“I don’t know, but Flitwick doesn’t seem to have been the only one, going by his record with employers. He’s also had a few minor brushes with the law. Drunk and disorderly, illegal animation of Muggle pornography, a few brawls at Quidditch matches – in which he came off the worse, by the way. Walks with a limp since the last one. Anyway, he didn’t contest any of the charges and paid his fines like a good boy. Everybody who knows him seems to agree about his character: He doesn’t like anybody, but he likes the Ministry least of all. And most people describe him as all mouth and no action.”
“Has he got a motive?”
“None that I can see. What can you say about a man who doesn’t give a d*mn about his reputation, doesn’t believe in causes, and doesn’t seem to be really close to anybody, not so that he’d care if Umbridge was holding them hostage?”
“I’d say he sounds like he could be a very dangerous man, under certain circumstances.”
“Touché,” Kingsley admitted.
“What about the landlord – Booker, wasn’t it?”
“He seems to be out of the running. He was tidying up the pub with two of the bar staff until well after Berowne was bitten, and he was in someone else’s company the whole evening.”
“Still – he is their boss, so couldn’t they be covering for him?”
“It’s just possible. You might want to follow up on that if you’ve got any free time – you’re young and unknown, they’ll talk to you. But again, there’s the problem of motive. Unless Umbridge had some hold over him that we don’t know about, he hasn’t got one.”
“Do you think Berowne’s idea that ... that You-Know-Who was behind the attack is worth pursuing?”
“Not much chance of that,” said Kingsley. “It’s in You-Know-Who’s best interests to keep a low profile, and it would be much harder for him to seduce one of Berowne’s friends than it would be for a Ministry official.”
“Unless Berowne is right, and he’s got his own pet Ministry official to do the negotiating for him.”
Kingsley shook his head. “I looked up the Umbridge family at the British Archives of Magic. You might be interested to learn that they were all killed by Death Eaters seventeen years ago. Except for our Dolores, who was on holiday in Jamaica at the time.”
Tonks snorted. “Might have been a conveniently arranged holiday, if you get my drift.”
“It could have been. But I don’t believe it was. For one thing, there’s no evidence for it, and for another, I think her behavior shows exactly the opposite. The way she’s been treating Harry and anybody who believes Harry – well, it isn’t normal denial, it’s hysteria. This is a woman who’s so terrified of You-Know-Who that she has to lash out at the messenger. She can’t acknowledge for a minute, even to herself, that he might be back.”
For the first time since she started work at the Ministry, Tonks felt a faint stirring of empathy for Dolores Umbridge, but she pushed it firmly aside. The woman didn’t deserve it, not after everything she’d done, but Kingsley was right. She wasn’t a Death Eater.
May 5th, 2005, 3:53 pm
One last, quick update before I go...
Throwing caution to the wind, Linus took Celia to the Quill and Quirk on their second date and introduced her to most of the crowd. Fortunately, Thersites wasn’t around to scare her off, and she seemed to get along well enough with Kathy Hudgins and the two Quibbler staff writers who were present. Martin Lovegood regaled her with his own theory of Magical Ethics, which was very detailed and involved a lot of metaphors drawn from Zen and the art of broomstick maintenance. Celia listened politely and drank a great deal of blackberry wine.
“Martin’s not really as mad as he seems,” Linus explained, after Lovegood had finally run off to buttonhole a self-proclaimed Seer he was hoping to interview. “Most of the time there’s a grain of truth in his ideas. Well, some of his ideas, anyway.”
Kathy snorted. “What about the time he said he’d had a vision of God, and She was a blonde Muggle woman waiting for a delayed train?”
“Maybe not that one so much.”
Celia laughed and refilled her glass. The Quill and Quirk’s homemade wine was potent stuff, and the Lupin reserve, apparently, was no match for it. Before the evening was over, she was kissing him in the back room of the pub, in front of Kathy at that. Linus decided at once that he enjoyed this state of affairs, and resolved to buy her more wine, more often.
He wasn’t sure afterwards whether he invited her over for coffee or she invited herself, but either way, he arrived home with Celia clinging to his arm and chattering away about their school days in a considerably less polished accent than her usual precise academic diction.
A letter was waiting for him in the front hall. Linus’ name and address were written on the outside of the envelope in a precise, unfamiliar handwriting. The seal was also unfamiliar: a circle of green wax with the impression of a serpent eating its tail. A pair of owl feathers lay on the table next to the letter. They were pure white.
He opened the envelope.
Dear Mr Berowne:
You may not remember me, but I was a year or two ahead of you at school. Recently, your unfortunate situation has been brought to my attention. I hope you will not think I am presuming if I say that the plight of people with your condition in our society has been of great interest to me for some time. I should like to offer you a proposition that I believe will prove mutually beneficial. Please send a return owl informing me when you will be available to meet with one of my representatives.
T. M. Riddle
Linus read the letter, frowned a little, and passed it to Celia. “Do you remember him at all? Head Boy one year, wasn't he?”
“Ooh yes, Tom Riddle.” For a philosopher, Celia had gone remarkably giggly. “He was two years behind me, and all the girls had mad crushes on him. Minerva walked in on him in his underwear in the prefect’s bathroom once, and we were all too jealous for words ... not that anything ever came of it, bit of an ice prince he was, I don’t remember him seeming really interested in anybody. Flat out turned down Julia Madigan when she asked him to the Yule Ball. I never had a try myself, but then I hadn’t found out how much fun chasing after younger men could be.” She stood on tiptoe and kissed Linus on the chin. “I do believe you’re jealous. You needn’t be. I think I’m becoming a bit fond of you, you know.”
“I’m not jealous,” said Linus, feeling slightly put out. “It’s just that I’d like to know what’s going on. Do you have any idea what happened to him after school? I mean, it’s been fifty years since I’ve so much as heard of him, and here he is practically ordering me to meet with one of his representatives, and I think it’s a bit odd, to say the least.”
Celia shook her head. “I don’t know what became of him. Just about disappeared off the face of the earth, he did, as far I can remember. He might’ve gone back to the Muggle world – some people do – but it’s funny, ‘cos I don’t think he was very happy about being Muggle-born. Wouldn’t talk about his home life at all.” She fingered the letter, looking puzzled. “To tell you the truth, I’ve always had an idea he was dead, but obviously he isn’t.”
“What House was he in?”
“Slytherin. That might be why he didn’t talk much about being Muggle-born.”
“You’re sure he was Muggle-born, then?”
“Where else would he have come from?” Celia said vaguely, and Linus, who had no idea where Tom Riddle had come from, didn’t offer any other suggestions.
She put the letter down and took him by the hand. “Do you mind if I stay for a while?”
“Not at all,” said Linus, and forgot about T. M. Riddle for the time being.
May 28th, 2005, 4:25 am
I'm back! Here's a link back to the feedback thread (http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=46578&page=6&pp=20) so people can find it.
Many thanks to caelius for suggesting the City of Ys as a setting for this chapter and the next one. (It's an actual location from Breton legend, although I have Rowling-ized it considerably.)
I wanted to let Remus give Sirius an unequivocal yes to the question he asks in this chapter, but I'm trying to hedge my bets with regard to HBP compliance, so sadly, it'll have to go unanswered until JKR lets us know for sure.
I have, on occasion, recced a fic by Rowan Redford called Two Down (http://www.thedarkarts.org/authors/rredford/TD.html), on the grounds that it contains the only known use of cryptic crossword clues in Harry Potter fanfiction. Well, not any more. It's still by far the cleverest, though.
Chapter Eight: The Drowned City
Linus wrote back to Riddle the next day, asking him what he was doing these days, where he lived, and what exactly was the nature of his proposal. Riddle’s reply, to say the least, was evasive. It concluded:
... My organisation is an international one, and it would be most convenient for you to meet with one of my representatives at the Café Lanval in the City of Ys, on the fifth of February or as soon thereafter as you find yourself sufficiently recovered to make the journey. All of your questions will be answered at that time.
I await your reply with eagerness.
T. M. R.
The City of Ys lay off the coast of Brittany – not on an island, but actually under the sea. It was, naturally, inhabited only by wizards, and survived in the memories of local Muggles only as a dim legend of the past.
Celia frowned slightly when Linus told her about the proposed meeting. “Rather a long way for you to travel, so soon after the full moon. Do you know anyone you could stay with?”
Linus shook his head. “I told Remus I was thinking of traveling to Brittany – I didn’t go into detail about why – and he gave me the address of another werewolf who lives in Ys. The name was something like Bis... Bisclarvaux, I think ...”
“Oh yes, Giles Bisclavret. He was an old friend of my husband’s. I think you’ll like him.”
“To tell you the truth, I wasn’t planning to look him up. I mean, I barely speak the language, and it’s awkward trying to make polite conversation with somebody just because you both happen to be werewolves. ‘So tell me, do you like to transform with your clothes on or off, and by the way, where were you on the night I was bitten?’ It just doesn’t make for good small talk.”
“I see what you mean.” Celia still looked concerned.
“Honestly, Celia, I’ll be fine. If I’m not feeling up to the journey home, I’ll get a room at an inn or something.”
“Do you know, I haven’t seen Giles in years. I think I just might go with you.”
Linus wasn’t quite sure whether Celia meant she was in the mood for a romantic getaway or whether she thought he might need backup, but either way, he was pleased.
* * *
The duty of brewing Remus’ Wolfsbane Potion was shared among the handful of Order members who were capable of it, in a loose sort of rota. At the end of January, it was Severus Snape’s turn, a ritual which Remus always dreaded.
While Kingsley and Tonks generally signed the Ministry witness forms automatically and allowed him to take the potion in the privacy of his own room, Snape insisted on standing in the doorway and watching every swallow. Remus couldn’t very well object – it was the law – but he always felt a bit like an exhibit at a zoo. He tried offering his former colleague tea, partly because it would seem less awkward if they were both sitting at the table with something to sip, and partly because his mother had instilled him with a vague but unshakeable conviction that most problems got better if you offered people tea.
“No, thank you,” said Snape. “It isn’t your tea to give away, is it? I shouldn’t like to get you in trouble with your very ... charitable host. After all, I don’t imagine you have anywhere else to go.”
Remus eyed the stone jug that stood at the end of the sideboard. If his aim was good enough, Snape would never know what hit him...
He firmly dismissed the thought and reminded himself that he was at least better off than Linus, waiting in the St. Mungo’s queue for hours. The chances that Snape would be willing to brew an additional dose of potion for him were slim to none, but Remus resolved to ask Kingsley, who would be taking his turn next month, if he’d mind preparing a little extra.
The tension in the room grew palpable when Sirius entered. Predictably, he and Snape bristled at each other for a minute or two; Remus kept one hand on his wand in case he needed to separate them by force; and at last the Potions Master suddenly remembered an urgent appointment and Disapparated.
Remus immediately allowed the vein of sarcasm he’d been suppressing while Snape was present to find release. “Would anybody else like to watch me take my potion?” he inquired of the ceiling. “Should I start selling tickets?”
“Bit snippy today, aren’t you, mate? This is my kitchen, you know.”
Remus let out a long, slow breath. “I’m sorry. Just feeling a bit out of sorts, and it doesn’t exactly help that Snape keeps watching me as if he thinks I’m going to pour the Wolfsbane down the drain if he blinks for an instant.”
“I wish I could do that for you,” said Sirius after a moment.
“I know. So do I.”
“I could have, you know. Your dad always used to say I could have a career in Potions if I liked. I would have done, too, if it hadn’t been for the war and that bloody rat.” He reached for the bottle of Ogden’s Old Single Malt and poured a generous amount of it into a glass, slopping some of it onto the counter, as usual. “Can’t even fix myself a drink, these days. D*mn tremors.”
But, Remus knew, his friend’s shaking hands weren’t really the problem. If you spilled a cauldron of potion or added too much of an ingredient, you could always throw it out and start again; he’d seen Tonks do it all the time. But if your concentration lapsed, you were sunk – you could never be sure whether a given batch of potion was safe or not. And Sirius, since Azkaban, was prone to unexpected blackouts.
“Would you like one? It’ll take the curse off the Wolfsbane.”
“All right,” said Remus after a moment’s hesitation. Technically, he shouldn’t drink so soon after taking his potion; but he’d done it before and his liver hadn’t actually fallen apart yet, and Sirius really shouldn’t be drinking alone.
“Cheers, old mate.”
Sirius took a sip of the firewhiskey and stared into space with a puzzled frown. “Was something I meant to tell you. It’s gone, now.”
He reached for the paper and began solving the crossword. He had not been having one of his good days, and Remus wondered if this was really the best idea. Even if you were entirely in your right mind, the Daily Prophet's cryptic crossword tended to make you feel as if you weren’t. It was the three-dimensional kind, and the clues liked to skip from page to page and play hide-and-seek with the solver.
“Thirteen Forward,” he said after a moment, fraying the feathers on his quill impatiently. ‘British king turns Spanish sovereign head-over-ears,’ four letters. Does that mean anything to you?”
Remus considered this. “Lear?” he suggested. "Anagram of real."
“Mmm. Then that would make L the last letter of Eight Down ... let’s see ...” Sirius speared a clue that had been wriggling its merry way through the society pages with the tip of his quill. “‘Desire a testament.’ Four letters.”
“Will,” said Remus after half a second’s thought, trying not to think about the fact that it had been an easy clue. Very easy, and Sirius had not even attempted it.
“That’s what I was going to tell you. I’ve been making a new will. Old one was a joke, dated from ‘78 when we first joined the Order. I left half my worldly goods to the rat.” He launched into several minutes of unprintable invective against Peter Pettigrew. “I’d like to name you Harry’s legal guardian, if I’m pushing up daisies before he comes of age. Or worse.”
Remus’ hand tightened around his glass. “Whatever do you mean?” he asked in a voice that sounded a great deal less offhand than he’d meant it to.
“In case I’m not as immune to the Azkaban flu as we thought. You know.”
“You’re not going mad, Sirius!”
Sirius let out a raw, mirthless laugh. “On the contrary. I think we both know there’s a better than even chance I’m going to be a gibbering wreck in a few years. If not sooner.”
Remus fought to suppress a growing sense of panic. “Don’t talk like that. Don’t even think like that. It’s nonsense.”
They stared at each other across the table with wide frightened eyes.
Sirius spoke first. “Look at us, will you? A pair of brave Gryffindors and we can’t even face up to a few simple truths. Old Godric would be so proud.”
Remus didn’t say anything. There wasn’t anything to say.
“Anyway. Harry. Will you, or won’t you? I could ask the Weasleys if they’ll take him in, but I’d rather it be you. You’ll teach him how to be a man, not treat him like a child.”
“I’ll think about it. But I hope there’s no need for it.”
“So do I.” But a note in Sirius’ voice suggested that he thought it was a vain hope.
Remus paced to the window and gazed out over the rain-soaked street. It was four o’clock in the afternoon and the sky was as dark as lead. The winter had gone on too long already, he thought. Too much rain, too much darkness. Anybody would be depressed.
He knelt by the hearth and poked a splint of wood into the fire. When it burst into flame he stood up and began to light the candles one by one.
He must have lit two dozen or more before a sharp bark of laughter interrupted him. “What the hell d’you think you’re doing? This is like living inside a Christmas wreath.”
“Bringing on spring.”
June 3rd, 2005, 6:38 pm
I expect this will be rendered wildly off-canon by HBP, since JKR has promised we'll learn what Mr. Pettigrew has been doing all this time. Ah well.
Apologies if I go overboard with the travel-writing here. I like my version of Ys.
As he waited for the Wolfsbane potion at St. Mungo’s that week, Linus noticed that the old man in the queue seemed to be growing frailer and frailer. On the day before the full moon he collapsed.
Linus rushed forward, as did the young, unshaven wizard with the smoking habit. Together they propped up the old man and attempted to revive him while one of the women in the queue tried to flag down a Healer; but before she returned, his breath rattled in his chest, grew slower, and finally stopped altogether.
“He’s gone,” said Linus, after feeling for a pulse.
“Maybe the best thing for him,” murmured a middle-aged witch with a careworn face. “He wouldn’t have survived another transformation, not the way he was looking.”
They stood silent, in scattered groups of three or four, gazing on the still and terrible face of death. Millennium’s approaching. Et in Arcadia ego.
Linus shook himself. The light in the corridor was harsh and the tiled floor institutionally clean. This wasn’t Arcadia; and already two of the Healers had come to carry the old man away to a pauper’s burial.
* * *
A few days after the full moon, Linus and Celia traveled to Brittany.
Linus was still feeling too drained from his transformation to Apparate, and Floo Powder was not suitable for travel across water, so they went to the Office of International Magical Travel and took a Portkey to Ys. It was just as well, Linus thought, that the Ministry would have some record of their journey. For some reason he felt uneasy.
The streets of Ys were sleepy and cobblestoned. High city walls and sophisticated charm-work kept the sea at bay, and the sand-colored buildings shone with an unearthly light that seemed to come from nowhere in particular. They had a flat look, as if cut from paper. When you looked up, you saw rippling blue water and the underbellies of fish instead of sky and clouds.
They stepped into the Église St-Blaise to see the famous enchanted stained glass windows made by some nameless medieval artisan. The maker must have been a Muggle-born, Linus thought, or someone else with a foot in both worlds; he had been as skilled with lead and glass as with the charms that had brought the windows to life. Angels beat their shimmering wings under the roofbeams; in the great window at the end of one transept, the serpent writhed beneath the rustling trees of Eden and Eve wound her shining hair about her; on the opposite side of the church, earth and hell heaved up their dead under the roiling clouds of the Day of Judgment.
It was like no church that Linus had ever seen. Even after being filtered through the windows, the light that stained the floor had a certain otherworldly quality, almost unholy in its intensity. A gargoyle stuck his tongue out at them as they passed.
The bells in the church tower were tolling the noon hour as they walked out into the street; and far, far above them came the faint echo of answering bells on the mainland. No breezes stirred, and even the shouts of children playing pickup Quidditch in the town square seemed muffled.
“It’s a beautiful city,” Linus mused, “but there’s something eerie about it. Don’t you think?”
Celia nodded. “They call this the Drowned City, and the water over us is the Baie des Trépassés – the Bay of the Dead. They say there was a princess named Dahud who ruled this city at the beginning of the age of witch-burning, and she was obsessed with protecting her people from Muggle persecution. And so she opened the floodgates in secret one night and let in the sea wash over the city. Those inhabitants who couldn’t perform a Bubble-Head Charm drowned, the others survived. Later, of course, they extended the charms to cover the whole city.”
“Remind me again which side was meant to be doing the persecuting in this story?” said Linus.
Celia shook her head. “It’s always hard to tell, isn’t it? That’s the ugly truth that most scholars of Muggle-wizard relations refuse to acknowledge.” They walked on for a moment in silence. “That’s the Café Lanval over there, by the way, at the far end of the square.”
The place Riddle had selected for their meeting was a small, busy café, crowded mostly with working-class local wizards, although Linus noticed a few patrons in well-tailored robes that seemed to be of an English cut. Business travelers, he supposed. Celia, who spoke good though slightly accented French, ordered a bottle of white wine and they sat around sipping it rather nervously, trying to pretend they were there for pleasure instead of business. Half an hour after the appointed time, Riddle’s representative still had not shown and Celia, who had already downed two glasses of wine, excused herself to go to the toilet.
Seconds after she had gone, a short, plump Englishman with thinning blond hair bustled into the café and sat down at Linus’ table. “I’m sorry to have kept you waiting. My name is Michael Sharpe, and I work for T. M. Riddle – as a factotum of sorts.”
Linus shook the gloved hand the other man offered him, but he had a bad gut feeling about this meeting already. Willing his voice to remain steady, he said, “Perhaps, before we go any further, you’d care to tell me who T. M. Riddle is and what his business with me might be.”
“Gladly,” Michael Sharpe said with a slightly forced smile. “He is the head of a political and philanthropic organization of international proportions, but he lives very simply. Likes to keep out of the limelight. He believes that only with sacrifice and humility can we build a newer and better world. A world, in your case, where people with your ... regrettable affliction will no longer be oppressed.”
“Sacrifice and humility,” Linus repeated thoughtfully. “If that entails giving Mr. Riddle large sums of money, you’d better tell him I haven’t got any to spare.”
“Oh no, you misunderstand,” said Sharpe, still smiling. Linus was more convinced than ever that the man was playing a part. “What Mr. Riddle wants is your confidence and your loyalty. And your help in gaining the loyalties of those similarly afflicted.”
“I don’t know of any man who stopped at wanting loyalty, in the abstract,” said Linus. “In practical terms, tell me again what Mr. Riddle wants.”
Sharpe opened his mouth to reply, but just then a female voice shouted “Stupefy!” and a bolt of red light caught him full in the face. He slumped forward, unconscious.
Linus, along with most of the other patrons, turned his head toward the back of the café to see where the Stunner had come from. There stood Celia, rigid and trembling, her wand hand still outstretched.
The three or four well-dressed wizards who had been scattered throughout the café got to their feet as one man and opened fire, sending several nasty hexes straight at Celia’s chest.
June 7th, 2005, 3:28 am
I have finally accepted that the only kind of French I can write is bad French. This time, I went to town.
Chapter Nine: French and English Werewolves
“Protego!” Celia hollered, just before any of the well-aimed spells could hit her.
Beams of light went bouncing off in all directions. The other patrons ducked for cover; a bottle of wine exploded as a Reductor Curse hit it, and the proprietor yelled something angry in French.
“Impedimenta!” shouted Linus, and one of the attackers fell, but another fired a Bone-Shattering Hex at Linus from behind. Celia, fortunately, had him covered. She deftly blocked the hex and countered with a jet of blue light that caused the second man to fall to the floor in pain, but he still had his wand out and kept firing spells from under one of the tables.
Linus tried to Stun the others, but they, too, had shielded themselves behind the furniture and kept blocking his curses. Celia was shouting something about Death Eaters, but that couldn’t be possible. Could it?
A bright red beam of light caught her as she tried to make her way to his side. Her head struck a corner of a table as she fell.
Linus barely had time to process this. Something inside him said oh no not Celia please no, and without regard for his own safety he dodged his way through the spells that crisscrossed the room, took her by the shoulders, and dragged her toward the fireplace. One of the men darted out from under a table and tried to grab her feet, but Linus blasted him straight through the back wall of the café.
He pushed the unconscious Celia into the fireplace before him, tossed in a handful of Floo Powder, and did his best to pronounce Giles Bisclavret’s address correctly, hoping against hope that they’d end up in the right place. The Floo Powder took effect with its usual dizzying speed, and moments later they tumbled out onto the floor of an unfamiliar room in what was evidently a private home.
“Collofocus!” Linus sealed the fireplace behind him just as the owner of the house, a tall and imposing-looking wizard of about sixty, came into view.
“Er ... bonjour,” said Linus.
“Bonjour,” said the other wizard politely, but his hand was gripping his wand.
“Excusez-moi, Monsieur,” Linus continued feverishly. “Je m’appelle Linus Berowne. Je ne veux ... trespasser, mais c’est une emergencie. Je suis un fugitive pour ma vie, et cette femme est molto ... tres ... mauvaise. Nous sont attaques dans le Café Lanval. Elle pense que c’est les ... les Personnes qui Mangent la Mort.”
The wizard, who had been bending over Celia with an expression of grave concern, looked up with a slight spark of amusement in his eyes. “I believe that it would be better if you spoke English. Please explain again who you are and what has happened to Celia.”
They carried Celia to the sofa, and the other man fetched some blankets to cover her. Meanwhile, Linus recounted the story as coherently as he could, up to the point where Celia Stunned his contact. “I don’t know why she did it, but I think she must have had a pretty good reason.”
“If I know Celia at all, I am certain that she had an excellent reason. Please go on.”
“And then three or four other men – Englishmen, I think – all attacked us at once. Celia seemed to think they were Death Eaters –”
“Ah!” The light dawned on Bisclavret’s face. “Les Mange-Morts. What made her think so?”
“I don’t know, but that’s what she said just before they hit her. She’s only Stunned, as far as I know, but she fell and hit her head on a table, and she may have a few bumps and bruises from when we were getting away. There wasn’t time to be gentle.”
Bisclavret nodded, and they began to check Celia for injuries. Linus was struck, more forcibly than he’d ever been before, by what a small woman she was, hardly larger than a child. He cupped one of her hands in the hollow of his palm, and it almost disappeared. To his relief, her breathing and pulse were strong and she had no visible wounds. “Ennervate,” he said, and after a moment that seemed like an age, she opened her eyes.
“We’re at Giles’ place. How –”
“Shh,” said Linus. “Don’t try to sit up just yet. Are you hurt?”
She wrinkled her forehead a little, as if giving the question careful attention. “Not really. My head hurts a bit, but it doesn’t feel concussed or anything.”
“Drink,” said Bisclavret, handing her a cup of a Restorative Potion, and she sipped obediently.
A warm flood of relief washed over Linus, leaving him shaky at the knees and a bit sharp-tongued. “D’you mind explaining why you decided to Stun a perfect stranger in a crowded café?” he demanded.
“Because he wasn’t a stranger at all. His name is Peter Pettigrew, and he was a good friend of my son’s when they were growing up.”
Bisclavret looked as astonished as Linus felt. “Peter Pettigrew died fourteen years ago. At least, if you are speaking of the famous Peter Pettigrew.”
“Yes,” said Celia with a wry smile, “that’s exactly why I didn’t like seeing him at your table.”
“Even so, what made you think they were Death Eaters?” asked Linus.
“One of them was tried as a Death Eater during the war. Avery, I think his name was. He said he was acting under the Imperius curse, but Remus went to school with him, and he didn’t believe it for a minute.”
“Remus seems to have a lot of old schoolmates mixed up in this,” Linus remarked.
“He certainly does. I think I’d better send him a message and see what he can tell us.”
June 11th, 2005, 4:06 am
Special thanks to everybody who offered their thoughts at my livejournal when I posed the question of why Dumbledore hadn't publicized Tom Riddle's true identity, especially yma2, catkind, and ani_bester. Collectively, they came up with much better explanations than my own embarrassingly lame guess (which was that Dumbledore was so afraid of spawning copycat Dark Lords that he didn't want to reveal anything about how LV got to be who he was).
The post from the City of Ys was delivered by a complicated chain of animal messengers, including rays and seagulls, so it was some hours before they heard from Remus.
Toward evening, Giles Bisclavret rummaged around in the kitchen and came up with some cheese and paté and a couple of long, thin loaves of bread. He apologized profusely for not having enough food in the house to offer them a proper meal, but Linus and Celia assured him that it looked wonderful and, after all, he could hardly have expected a pair of uninvited guests to come tumbling out of his fireplace. They were having a pickup supper when Remus Apparated into the room, swayed slightly, and collapsed into the nearest chair.
He gave Celia a wan smile. “Hi, Mum. What’s happened? Are you all right?”
“I’m fine, thank you. You shouldn’t have tried to Apparate in your condition. Did you come all the way from England? What were you thinking?”
“I was thinking my mother had been attacked by Death Eaters. That’s what you said in your letter, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, but I didn’t mean for you to – Never mind. You’d better have something to eat, and we’ll talk afterwards.”
Remus attacked what was left of the bread and paté with an eagerness that was already becoming familiar to Linus. Once the post-transformation sickness finally wore off, you were ravenous.
“Right, then,” he said when he had finished eating. “You’d better tell me the whole story from the beginning.”
Linus took Riddle’s letter out of his pocket. “The beginning would be about two weeks ago, when I received this letter. I wrote back, he proposed that I meet one of his representatives in France. Have a look for yourself.”
“Good God,” said Remus after reading through the letter. “Do you know who T. M. Riddle is?”
“Old schoolmate of ours,” said Linus. “I don’t know exactly what he’s doing these days, but based on the way my meeting with his representative went, I get the impression he’s sort of a shady character.”
Remus’ mouth twitched slightly. “That would be something of an understatement,” he said. “T. M. Riddle is otherwise known as Lord Voldemort.”
A stunned silence greeted this announcement. After a moment, the tension was broken when Celia demanded, “And you didn’t tell me this before ... why?”
Remus had the good grace to flush. “Classified information.”
“I ... gave ... birth ... to ... you!”
“I’m sorry, Mum. If I’d known anything about the letter Linus got, or about this meeting, I would have told you – but Dumbledore doesn’t want the information to go beyond people who need to know, at least not now.”
“Why?” Linus asked. “Is old Stumblebum afraid it’ll get out that he had a role in shaping the Dark Lord, or is he worried that the Death Eaters’ precious little feelings will be hurt if they find out their leader is Muggle-born?”
“Half-blood, actually,” said Remus.
“Half-blood. Whatever. Give me one good reason why he’s been sitting on this information all these years.”
“You, as a half-blood, ought to see why. Think about it this way. Riddle is the product of a mixed marriage. Muggle father, pureblood mother from an old family. And he’s gone as bad as a wizard can possibly go. You know, and I know, that this doesn’t reflect on us. But the active Death Eaters are far outnumbered by the pureblood faction that’s sitting on the fence – people who don’t agree with Voldemort’s measures, and may even be horrified by them, but are still steeped in the old prejudices. To them, he’s living proof that mixing bloodlines really does lead to disaster. In other words, there’s apt to be a massive backlash against half-bloods like you and me if this gets out, much of it from people who are prepared to tolerate us at the moment.”
Remus did not meet their eyes as he finished speaking, and Linus had the feeling he was still keeping something back.
“I’ll risk the backlash any day,” he said. “Making it public that Voldemort isn’t a pureblood would have ten times the propaganda value.”
“And I don’t believe it makes the slightest difference what the propaganda value is.” Celia’s voice was sharp. “How do you expect people to make the right decisions if you don’t trust them with the truth?”
“You’re right.” Linus slammed one of his fists into the opposite palm. “He’s got no bloody right to conceal the truth when it might cost people’s lives.”
Remus got to his feet and, for the first time since Linus had met him, raised his voice. “How was he supposed to know that? It’s not as if you told anybody before you dragged my mother into a Death Eater ambush!”
“Please,” Bisclavret interrupted. “Calm down, all of you. Remus, I have known your mother longer than you have, and it is my experience that she does not permit herself to be – what was the expression you used? – dragged into any place where she has not freely chosen to go. Mr. Berowne, I do not think Professor Dumbledore’s motives are terribly important just now. What matters is that you are safe.”
“No,” said Remus quietly. “The two of you just faced a room full of Death Eaters, and you have every right to hear the truth. I’ll give it to you. But I need your word that what I’m about to tell you doesn’t go beyond this room.”
“You have mine,” said Linus.
“And mine,” said Bisclavret.
Celia wavered, obviously torn between principle and curiosity. At last she nodded.
“Tom Riddle is the sole living descendant of Salazar Slytherin.”
“WHAT!?!” Linus nearly choked on the bread and cheese he had been eating. “But - but the Heir of Slytherin business is a myth. Idiotic superstition invented by bigots. Everybody with half a brain knows that.”
Remus looked at him with a slightly twisted smile. “I don’t say that all the mystique that’s grown up around it is true. Most of it isn’t, as it happens. But Riddle’s ancestry is a verifiable fact. You can look it up in Nature’s Nobility if you don’t believe me.”
“So in other words,” said Bisclavret slowly, “if I understand the political situation in England correctly, to reveal this information would turn a madman whom a handful of people believe to be Slytherin reincarnated ... into someone who actually is.”
“Precisely,” said Remus. “So, Mum, you see why I made you promise to keep this quiet.”
Celia did not look altogether convinced. “I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one, Remus. But don’t worry. I’ll keep my word.”
“Fair enough.” Remus dropped the subject and resumed examining the envelope that had held Riddle’s letter. He frowned. “He knows where you live, Linus,” he said. “He didn’t just send the owl to find you, he wrote the address out. And he knew exactly what he was doing when he sent Peter to meet you in Ys, of all places. You’re a stranger here, he knew you’d be in poor condition to Apparate, and you can’t leave the city by Floo Powder. If you hadn’t known that Giles’ house was a safe place for you to go, you would have been trapped.”
Celia shivered. “Diabolical.”
“About the only good news is that Voldemort didn’t know of your connection with Linus, or he would hardly have sent Peter, of all people, to meet with him. The bad news is that he certainly knows now.”
“Are we in any danger?” asked Celia.
“I’d be happier if there were some protective spells around both of your houses. I can arrange to have it done tomorrow – I know people, it won’t be a bit of trouble – but it’s probably better if you don’t go home tonight.”
“You are most welcome to stay here,” said Bisclavret courteously. “You too, Remus. I think you had better not try to Apparate again tonight.”
Remus, who had been yawning broadly for the last few minutes, did not protest. Linus realized that his own legs felt like lead after the day’s excitement, and he suspected his host was feeling the aftereffects of the full moon as well.
Bisclavret lent him some clean pajamas and showed him up a narrow flight of stairs to one of the guest bedrooms. He prepared for bed quickly and blew out the candle, but before he had been lying between the sheets for long, there was a knock on the door.
“Come in,” he called, and Celia sat down on the edge of his bed.
“Thought you could do with a bit of company,” she whispered.
“I’m tired, Celia,” he warned her. “Very tired.”
“Oh. I’ll go back to my own room if you want me to.”
“I didn’t say that. Not at all.”
He shifted over to make room for her and fell asleep within minutes, his arm underneath her body and the comforting weight of her head on his shoulder.
June 19th, 2005, 12:23 am
Sorry it's been so long. Double update, to make up.
Somebody at FA was helpful enough to tell me that "Giles" ought to be "Gilles," so -- he is now. (I got the name "Pernette" straight out of my ever-trusty Book of Werewolves, so if that one is misspelled, you can blame Mr. Baring-Gould and not me.)
There was no dawn in the city of Ys, and Linus wasn’t entirely sure why there was night or day; but when they woke, the thin white curtains had begun to glow with a light that came from nowhere in particular. Celia threw them open and they looked out over a cluster of roofs shingled with shells and a winding city wall the color of the ocean floor. It all seemed less uncanny than the day before, and Linus was amused to see a couple of post-rays glide overhead with their bundles of letters, looking for all the world like long-tailed birds.
They went downstairs to find Remus and Gilles already at breakfast. There were pots of rich, strong coffee and hot milk on the table, and fresh croissants from the bakery around the corner.
A small, pale woman whom Gilles introduced as his sister Pernette stopped by halfway through the meal and joined them for a second cup of coffee. She spoke little English and seemed very shy. Even Remus, whose French was excellent, was unable to engage her in conversation, although she favored Celia, who seemed to be an old friend of the family, with a smile.
The Bisclavrets left for work soon afterward, and Celia went back to the guest rooms to tidy them up before they left.
“What does Bisclavret do for a living?” Linus asked.
“Something to do with the city government, I think,” said Remus.
“I gather French laws about employing werewolves are different from ours, then?”
“Yes. And there’s less overt prejudice here than there is in England.” Remus helped himself to another croissant and buttered it absently. “I like France. I lived in Paris for three years.”
“Why don’t you move back?”
“Too much work to do at home.”
Linus had a feeling that this “work” didn’t have anything to do with the migrational patterns of the hinkypunk, but he doubted Remus would tell him if he asked. He turned the subject back to Gilles Bisclavret instead. “He doesn’t look nearly as unwell as most of the werewolves I’ve met in England. Nor as defeated.”
“No. I suppose not.”
“Doesn’t it make you angry? That so much human suffering is avoidable?”
Remus carefully brushed the flakes of pastry away from the table, and paused for a moment before he answered. “Don’t get to thinking it’s a paradise here. The laws are less restrictive in France, and people are less likely to insult you to your face, but you’ll notice Gilles and his sister have never married. Same sort of social stigma.”
“His sister’s a werewolf too? But I thought it wasn’t hereditary?”
Remus looked embarrassed. “In the old days, and especially in little provincial villages like the one where the Bisclavrets were born,” he said slowly, “it was common to allow a lycanthropic child to bite his siblings. The thinking was that the children could keep each other company when they transformed and would pose no danger to each other, instead of having to worry that one of them would get loose and kill the others every full moon.”
“My God. I can’t believe any parent would do that. That’s barbaric.”
“That’s what my father said when he met Gilles and Pernette’s parents. This would have been many years before I was born – Dad was a young professor at Beauxbatons then, very progressive in his thinking, detested ignorance and superstition in all their forms. And being Dad, he told them so to their faces. Well, Gilles’ mother just reached for her rosary beads and said, ‘Pray heaven you never have to make such a choice yourself, Professor Lupin.’ He never forgot that moment. He must have told me that story a thousand times.”
“And – did he?”
Remus shook his head. “I’m an only child. And I can’t imagine they would have let me bite any of the others if there had been others. Gilles is an old friend, and they’ve seen what it’s done to him. He was the one who was bitten first, you see, and his sister hasn’t done nearly as well as he has. I don’t think he’s quite come to terms with the guilt, even though it wasn’t his choice to bite her.”
“Poor man,” said Linus. He wondered what it would be like to have to live with the knowledge that he’d bitten somebody.
“Er, on that note, may I ask you something? This is awkward, but I gather you and my mother are becoming ... well, have become something more than friends?”
“Yes,” said Linus. “You might say that.”
“Do you think that’s fair to her?”
“Fair?” Linus hadn’t been thinking about it in terms of fairness. “We like each other. At least, I like her and she gives every impression of liking me. I think that’s all that matters.”
“But it’s more complicated than that, unfortunately. You have to consider the nature of our condition – Oh, hi, Mum.”
Neither of them had heard the door open, and they sat in some embarrassment as Celia looked them over.
“Remus, if you are under the impression that I don’t know what his illness entails,” she said slowly, “I think you might have a little trouble supporting that proposition.”
Remus flushed scarlet. “Right, Mum. I’ll just mind my own business in the future, shall I?”
“That would be a good idea, yes.”
“Am I allowed to say congratulations, and I wish you the best of luck, and all that?”
Celia smiled. “That you may.”
Chapter Ten: Ghosts From the Past
Remus insisted on escorting Celia home and double-checking the new protection spells around the house. She felt, on the whole, that he was being overprotective; he hadn’t done anything of the sort for Linus, who was likely to be the Death Eaters’ most immediate target. Nevertheless, she was glad of his company because it gave her a chance to ask him the question that had been tugging at her mind since the day before.
“Peter Pettigrew is a Death Eater. Is Sirius Black one as well?”
His voice was a shade too calm and matter-of-fact, the way it always was when spoke of that Halloween night fourteen years ago. “No, Mum. He’s innocent. He’s always been innocent. They switched Secret-Keepers, you see, a week before the Potters died. Peter was the one who betrayed them and killed all those people. And then he faked his own death.”
Mother and son met each other’s eyes. “Are you certain of this?”
“I would trust Sirius with my life.”
She watched him closely as he checked the last of the security charms, his hands quick and competent. He’d always been rather too fond of his friends, quick to forgive and make excuses, but he was a sensible young man – Well, not so very young any more. She was used to the grey streaks in his hair by now, but she always felt a pang of sorrow when she happened to notice them.
“I’m not going to ask you if you are sheltering him,” she said at last, “because it’s probably safer for everyone concerned if I don’t know. But if you should happen to see him, tell him I am sorry I believed him guilty.”
“Stay for a bit and have a cup of tea?”
“I’d like to, Mum, but I’m due back in London. Take very good care of yourself, and let me know if you see anyone suspicious hanging around, all right?” He kissed her on the forehead and Disapparated.
She made tea for herself and sat down in the living room, thinking.
This house, she sometimes thought, was full of ghosts. Oh, not the sort of ghosts that walked and talked and glided through walls; hers were invisible. They were the shades of a tall, bearded Frenchman with a voice that filled the house, and four boys who had often lounged around the room during their school holidays, laughing and chattering and plotting their next bit of mischief. Even now, she could almost see a tall dark-haired youngster with a roguish smile loafing in one of the chairs with his feet up on the coffee table ... and another, smaller boy toasting sausages by the fire, his face glowing with heat under his fair hair.
Sirius Black had always been good with potions. He used to spend hours in the backyard laboratory, helping her husband with his experiments; and he’d eventually confided in René, not completely, but enough for the Lupins to understand something of what his home life had been. Celia had thought she understood the demons that drove him to betrayal and murder, and, as the years wore away, she had forgiven him in part.
Now, it seemed, she had a great deal of understanding and forgiving left to do. She would have to start over again. If she so chose.
She sipped the tea and let her mind take her back to the past. The fair-haired boy offered a bit of sausage to a spotted kitten, coaxing her out from under the ottoman where she’d taken refuge from James Potter’s teasing. (The kitten was another of the household ghosts; Celia had buried her in the back garden seven years ago. She had been a very old cat when she died, and she’d outlived James who had been so young and vital.)
Linus had a cat, she thought irrelevantly. And the remote farmhouse where he lived didn’t have any resident ghosts. Or if it did – she realized that he had never talked much about his daughter or her friends – they weren’t her ghosts.
It had a nice view, too. Green fields and low winding stone walls. She walked to the window and looked out over the soot-blackened brick houses of a nondescript city street, and the next-door neighbors’ laundry hanging out on the line.
She remembered twelve-year-old James and Sirius raiding the neighborhood clotheslines and dressing up in frilly aprons and black lace brassieres. How she’d scolded them, and how she’d laughed afterwards! She realized, with a slight ache in her throat, that she didn’t want to leave this house and this city. Linus probably didn’t want to leave the comfort and privacy of his own home, either, and she certainly didn’t want him to give that up for her.
But she wanted him. Love was complicated when you were older.
And then he was right there on the front walk, motioning for her to take down the charms that protected the house for a moment and let him in.
“It’s funny,” he said as he scraped the mud off his shoes. “I’ve always liked living alone in the middle of nowhere, but there’s something suffocating about being sealed inside your house and knowing the rest of the world is sealed out. It gets lonely very fast.”
Celia nodded. “It’ll take some getting used to.”
“How long do you think this is going to last? Are things ever going to be normal again?” There was a plaintive note in his voice that made her want to reach out and take him in her arms; but being a Lupin, she handed him a cup of tea.
“I don’t know. Remus didn’t seem inclined to give me any hints.”
“Would he know?”
“I’ve suspected for a while that he knows a great deal more than he’s telling me,” said Celia. “Minerva McGonagall does, too, and we’ve been friends since we were schoolgirls. I get the impression they might be part of a secret society of sorts – like the ones you kept hearing about in the last war, but nobody seemed to be sure they existed.”
Linus nearly choked on a sip of tea. “A – secret society? McGonagall the perfect prefect? Are you sure?”
“I’m not sure of anything. It’s just a feeling.”
“Why do you think they aren’t telling you what they know?”
“Honestly? This is going to sound absurd, but I think it might be because I’m a Ravenclaw. I get the sense that whatever they’re involved with – it’s a bit of an old Gryffindors’ club.”
Linus nodded. “It’s funny how much of your adult life gets determined by your old school House. Where you drink, who your friends are, where your loyalties lie ... If you have any loyalties, that is. That’s the whole problem with us Ravenclaws, isn’t it? We’re not going to kowtow to Dumbledore just because of who he is, and we’re not going to stop asking the hard questions just because it’s inconvenient for our cause.”
“But that is a sort of loyalty,” said Celia positively. “Just because it’s loyalty to truth and not a particular party line, that doesn’t make it any less real or less valuable ... They need our sort of people. And they’re not having any of us. That’s what stings.”
June 22nd, 2005, 9:34 pm
Remus pulled Minerva McGonagall aside as the next Order meeting was breaking up. “Might I have a word in private?”
Her face, as usual, was unreadable; he couldn’t tell whether his mother had told her anything about the Riddle incident, or whether the request had taken her by surprise. “In here,” she said crisply, motioning him into what had once been a pantry and was now a makeshift archive for the Order’s records. “What is it?”
“It’s about my mum. She’s stumbled across some information ... well, she’s stumbled across Peter Pettigrew, actually, and she nearly got herself killed because she didn’t know everything we know. I think she’s got a fairly good idea what the Order does and that you and I are involved. I also think she’d be willing to help out. I’d like to propose her for membership, and I was hoping you’d second it.”
“Your mother has already been considered for membership,” said Minerva. She did not add, “and rejected,” but her tone conveyed this clearly enough.
“What? ... When – ... Why?”
“Not everyone who wishes to defeat You-Know-Who is suitable for membership in the Order,” she said evenly.
“I’m aware of that, naturally, but – May I ask exactly why my mother is considered unsuitable?”
Minerva opened a cabinet drawer and removed a large file folder. “It’s nothing personal, Remus. She’s been my friend for sixty years. And it isn’t that I doubt where her sympathies lie. It’s a question of temperament.”
“Are you saying you don’t think she’s brave enough? She’s seen her husband and her mother die at Voldemort’s hands, for God’s sake. And she walked straight into a Death Eater ambush last week. And made it out alive.”
“Celia’s courage is not the issue,” said Minerva, opening the file folder and spreading its contents out on one of the shelves. They consisted of copies of Celia’s publications, notes from her lectures on magical ethics, and a petition to abolish the use of dementors at Azkaban, dated some ten years earlier. “What is at issue are certain of her political and moral beliefs.”
“What about them?” Remus demanded. “I signed that petition myself. You took me, didn’t you?”
“But your mother was the one who wrote it, and who made quite a name for herself as a crusader for prisoners’ rights – the rights of the very people who have now broken out of Azkaban and rejoined their master.”
And also the rights of the owner of this house, Remus thought, but he refrained from saying it aloud.
“And your mother publicly affirmed her belief in Bartemius Crouch, Junior’s innocence as recently as a year ago – while he was engaged in an unprecedented series of kidnappings and murders.”
“That was an honest mistake,” said Remus, struggling to suppress his irritation. “And she was hardly the only one who made it. All it proves is that she didn’t have the facts she needed to make an informed judgment. I’m proposing to let her in on them.”
“It’s part of a pattern. Here’s an article of hers dating back to the first war, in which she says flat out that Crouch’s father did more to recruit new Death Eaters than You-Know-Who ever did.”
“There’s some truth to that.”
“Perhaps. But 1979 was not the time to voice it, not when they were killing people every day. And how about this lecture, where she claims that the Dark Arts do not exist? I’m sure all the people who’ve been hit with the Killing Curse would be gratified to know it’s an illusion.”
“That isn’t what she’s saying at all. She’s saying that all magic has the potential for misuse, and we’re being arbitrary when we label certain spells or creatures as Dark and fail to acknowledge their legitimate uses, and when we gloss over the fact that things we don’t consider Dark can cause just as much damage –”
Minerva sighed. “Yes. I understand that I have oversimplified her position. But the point remains that Celia deals in shades of grey; that is her work in life. And our work requires us to recognize that some things really are black and white. Your mother is a very dear friend of mine, but she has no place in the Order.”
Her voice contained a note that Remus knew, from long experience, meant there would be no further discussion of the topic. “Very well. May I at least tell her as much as she needs to know for her own safety?”
“Yes. We have never sought to withhold information from people who genuinely need it.”
That sounded fine in principle, Remus thought, but the trouble was that you never knew when people were going to need it until they decided to have lunch with Death Eaters of their own accord.
Minerva put most of the documents back into the folder and left the archive room. Remus was about to follow her when he noticed that one of his mother’s articles had fallen to the floor. He picked it up. It dated from shortly after Millicent Bagnold’s resignation, and the title was “The Ethics of Retreat.” He skimmed the first few paragraphs; they dealt with the question of whether one had the moral obligation to accept an appointment to a public office in which one had the potential to do much good, and the other candidates were likely to do just as much harm. No names were mentioned, but the application to Albus Dumbledore and Cornelius Fudge was unmistakable. His mother’s criticism of Dumbledore, he remembered, had been a good deal more specific and pointed in private.
Minerva hadn’t mentioned that particular piece of writing, but he had a fleeting, bitter, and entirely unworthy thought that her sense of loyalty to her boss might almost match that of another female Hogwarts staff member.
The dementors were hungry tonight. They swarmed together in the halls of Azkaban, prowling in the shadows outside his cell like jackals waiting for an ancient lion to breath its last. He had seen them stake out other cells before, as one prisoner after another went mad and lost the will to live. So it was his time now. He walked toward the bars with a curious calmness and a thrill of something like fascination. At last he was to see what no man looked upon and lived.
The nearest dementor lifted its hood. Its eyes were like weeping sores and its white skin was ancient, paper-thin and wrinkled. It was so close now that he could feel its rotten breath on his face. Incongruously, its lips as red and wet as his cousin Bella’s lips at fourteen. It was Bella and her face was a death’s head now.
Be mindful of me, she whispered in his ear, and her voice was gentle like the voice of a lover. As I am today, so must you become tomorrow. There is no remedy.
He turned his face to the bars and gave his lips to her. Her mouth was sweet for an instant, and then it was the cold and yawning mouth of the grave –
“Wake up! Padfoot, wake up!”
Someone was shaking him and slapping him in the face. Dementors didn’t slap. Bella slapped sometimes. Like the time he Transfigured her hair ribbon into a snake. Silly girl – it hadn’t even been poisonous. Had that been yesterday?
His eyes focused first on the candle burning on the nightstand, and then on a figure in a dressing gown who was sitting on the edge of the bed. Oh. It was only Moony.
“Breathe deep. Easy, old mate. I’m right here.”
“You didn’t have to get up,” he tried to say through chattering teeth. It came out gibberish. He took a deep breath and tried again. “I’m fine.”
“You’re not fine. I could hear you all the way down the hall.”
He put a hand to his face and was embarrassed to discover that there were tears on his cheeks.
“I kissed Bellatrix once,” he said irrelevantly. “When I was thirteen and she was fourteen. Upstairs in the attic.”
“Did you?” Remus’ voice was light and matter-of-fact. “Well, I’m glad your taste improved. Sit up. Have some chocolate.”
His stomach felt sick; but he forced himself to break off part of the large bar of chocolate Remus was holding out to him, and he nibbled at a bit of it. Slowly, the shivering that racked his body subsided.
“Better?” Remus asked after a moment.
“Y-yeah.” He took another bite of chocolate and pushed his hair out of his eyes. “It’s nothing. Stupid, really. For some reason I always go to pieces when I dream about those dementors. I don’t know what’s the matter with me.”
“I don’t blame you. Any sane person would feel that way about dementors.”
“Well,” Sirius retorted, “how much more of a loony do I have to be before I can stop feeling that way about them?”
They looked at each other in the candlelight and laughed until they were shaking helplessly – not so much because the joke was funny, but because it was a joke, and because there were two of them to share it, and because Azkaban hadn’t won yet.
June 28th, 2005, 9:14 pm
Once again, apologies for the somewhat erratic updates -- between work, the dissertation, and a modem that got struck by lightning and left me without Internet access at home, I've been rather busy.
Chapter Eleven: Throwing Dead Ferrets at the Stars
“What do you say we take Buckbeak out for some exercise?” Sirius asked. They had been sitting on the bed for half an hour, licking the chocolate from their fingers like a couple of schoolchildren. He had stopped shaking and his mental state seemed much improved.
“At half-past-three in the morning?” said Remus. Then he shrugged. They were both wide awake anyway, and it wasn’t like there were any better hours to exercise a hippogriff in the middle of Muggle London. “Sure, why not?”
Sirius Summoned a sack of dead ferrets from the cellar, cast a Defrosting Charm on it, and slung it over his shoulder. They un-tethered the hippogriff and carefully led him up the attic stairs to the rooftop.
Remus threw the first ferret at the sky with all his strength, and Buckbeak took off with a great beat of his wings and caught it in mid-air.
“Two Sickles says I can hit that chimney-pot with the next one before he catches it,” said Sirius, reaching into the sack.
Sirius went into an elaborate wind-up before launching the ferret at the chimney-pot. Buckbeak turned, dove, and snatched up the ferret with his claws just inches from the target.
“Ha! Pay up!”
Sirius reached for another ferret. “How about that television antenna on the second house over? Double or nothing...”
The sack was nearly empty, and their moods a good deal lighter, by the time Remus decided to broach the subject of his mother and Linus Berowne.
“You know about as much about lycanthropy as anybody else I know, including my mother” he said. “Let me ask you something. Would you consider having a relationship with a werewolf, if one was interested in you?”
Sirius looked down at the roof. After a moment he muttered, “Moony-I-think-you’re-a-wonderful-person-and-a-wonderful-friend, truly-I-do, and-I-can’t-think-of-anybody-I’d-rather-have-with-me-for-a-spot-of-throwing-dead-ferrets-at-the-stars-at-four-in-the-morning-or-any-other-reasonably-nonromantic-activity, and-if-you-do-prefer-men-I’m-happy-for-you-and-I-hope-you-find-somebody-really-nice...” (he paused for breath) “... but –”
Remus was leaning against the chimney, doubled over with laughter. “Pads, I’m not propositioning you. That isn’t what I meant at all,” he said when he could speak again.
“Oh. Good.” Sirius looked relieved, but mystified. “You know a girl werewolf, then? One who has a thing for ex-convicts with nightmares and a stairwell full of house-elf heads?”
“No. It’s about my mum. She and Linus are, well...”
“Really? Good for her. He sounds like a decent sort of bloke, from all you’ve said about him.”
“Oh, he is. Very decent. It’s just – when it’s one’s mother and all, and when she’s had enough hard things to deal with in her life already...” He picked up the last ferret and flung it skyward; Buckbeak snapped it up in his jaws.
“She knows what she’s getting into, doesn’t she?”
“That’s what worries me. I mean – knowing everything she does, why would she want to?”
“Tell me something, mate,” said Sirius shrewdly. “When’s the last time you were with somebody? In the thinking-about-happily-ever-after-and-cubs sense, I mean.”
Remus stiffened slightly. “That’s a fairly personal question.”
“I’m a personal sort of guy. Answer it.”
“Emmeline Vance,” Remus admitted.
“Good God, that was fifteen years ago. Unless you got back together with her while I was out of commission.”
“Well, you might recall that Emmeline didn’t exactly take kindly to the news that her boyfriend had a bad habit of turning into a wolf at the full moon. Might leave claw marks on the new furniture and all that. I came to the conclusion that most other women would be of the same general opinion.”
“That’s not how Em tells the story,” said Sirius.
“Oh, isn’t it?” Remus looked into the sack to see if there were any ferrets left, remembered that there weren’t, and asked with studied casualness, “Pray tell, how does Emmeline tell the story?”
“Her version was that she had no problem with your illness. She had a fairly major problem with the fact that you’d been lying your head off for the better part of a year.”
Something twisted unpleasantly in his stomach. Thinking back on everything that had passed between him and Emmeline, he began to suspect Sirius was right ... but he didn’t much like contemplating it.
“So I’d say if he’s being up front with your mum – and it sounds like he is – and she doesn’t mind about him being a werewolf – then where’s the problem?”
“None. No problem, I suppose.” He felt uncommonly silly, and noticed for the first time just how cold it was up on the roof.
“Should we stay out here for the sunrise, or go back to bed?”
“Back to bed,” said Remus with feeling, and then he remembered how it was that they had come to be out on the roof at such an ungodly hour in the first place. “That is – if you’re sure you’re going to be all right...”
Sirius had already started coaxing Buckbeak back down the steps. “I’m fine, old mate,” he said lightly. “I always did say there’s nothing like a good night of ferret-throwing to take your mind off your troubles. It’s done wonders for me.”
Remus highly doubted that Sirius had ever said anything of the sort before in his life, but he was too exhausted to argue the point. Back in his own room, he curled up under the blankets and was fast asleep within minutes.
The door of the Quill and Quirk swung open one evening and a slight murmur ran through the pub. There stood a woman who was just barely recognizable as Rita Skeeter, who had disappeared nine months earlier. Her hair hung limp around her face, and her eyes were bloodshot behind glasses that were missing several fake stones.
She stood in the doorway for a moment, glaring at the other patrons as though daring them to comment on her appearance, and stepped up to the bar. “Triple firewhiskey,” she mumbled. “Neat.”
She was swaying on her feet in a way that suggested she’d had several already, but Bert served her without comment.
“What d’you suppose is the matter with her?” whispered Kathy. “And where’s she been for the last nine months?”
“Dunno,” said Linus, “but I can’t say I’ve missed her.”
“Nobody’s missed her,” said Thersites. “That woman is an complete waste of good oxygen. If she’d just go back to the muck heap she crawled out of, Bert might be able to get the stink out of this place in a few weeks’ time.”
To their astonishment, Martin Lovegood stood up and waved Rita over to the other end of their table, where he was sitting with a couple of the Quibbler’s junior reporters. “Everybody,” he announced, “meet Rita. She’s our newest staff writer.”
“Er’m ... hi, Rita,” said Janet Macmillan, who was only a year or two out of Hogwarts. Everyone else at the table was silent.
“What are you writing about?” Janet asked after a few moments.
“‘S a secret,” slurred Rita. “Stupid ... little girl ... won’ let me talk till ‘s published.”
“Oh,” said Janet, sounding unenlightened. Kathy leaned forward and mouthed “Little girl?” at Linus, who shrugged.
“She was the one who broke the Lupin story, wasn’t she?” Thersites asked Linus.
“Might have been. I wouldn’t be surprised.”
“Better keep away from her, then. She won’t let her claws out of you until the whole world knows about you.”
“The whole world does know,” said Linus. “It’s a matter of public record, isn’t it?”
“It’s not in the papers. Yet. You think people will keep buying Martin Miggs if they find out you’re...?”
“A werewolf,” said Linus. “It’s not an obscenity and I’m not bloody ashamed of it. And yes. Yes, I think they will.”
Belatedly, he realized that he had been speaking too loudly. Rita took her acid-green quill out of her crocodile handbag and perked up visibly. “You’re a werewolf now? How does that make you feel? Vengeful? Savage? Bloodthirsty?”
"Take that quill and shove it, Rita."
“‘Interview With the Werewolf’,” murmured Rita, not in the least discouraged. “I can see the headlines now...”
July 1st, 2005, 2:54 am
Credit for the "idol of idiot-worshippers" and "not so much brains as earwax" lines goes to Shakespeare, as always.
At the end of February, Remus asked Kingsley Shacklebolt if he’d mind brewing an extra dose of the Wolfsbane potion for Linus, a request to which Kingsley agreed at once.
To his surprise, it was Linus who refused. They had both been invited to tea at his mother’s house, and Remus extended the offer when Celia was busy washing up. “No, thank you, Remus. It was kind of your friend to offer, but I’d really rather get it from St. Mungo’s.”
“He’s perfectly competent. He’s an Auror, and they have to be up on their Potions. And he’s had lots of practice.”
“It isn’t that. I prefer going to St. Mungo’s.”
Remus was astonished. “You can’t possibly. I used to hate every minute of it – standing in a queue for hours, being stared at by every passer-by and treated like you’re sub-human, trying to choke down the stuff when it’s stone cold and all lumpy...”
“That’s exactly why I need to go there. Because it is nasty and dehumanizing, and most of the people there have no other choice.” Linus toyed with the rim of a cup of cold tea. “I saw a man die last month. He was very old, and he just collapsed in the queue one day and never got up.”
Remus put down the biscuit he had been eating. “Good God. That’s awful. But surely – your being there isn’t going to make things better for anybody else?”
“No, it won’t. But I still believe it’s the right thing to do.” Linus studied his friend’s face and added hastily, “Please understand that I’m not judging you or trying to make any kind of statement. This is the right thing for me because of my work. If I’m going to give ordinary people – the kids who read Martin Miggs – some sense of what being a werewolf is like, I need to know what it’s like myself. I need to have lived it. Do you understand?”
“You’re planning to do a werewolf story line in Martin Miggs?”
“You can bet your last Galleon I am.”
Remus stared at him. Linus could, of course, find humor in the unlikeliest of places. But old men dying alone in hospital corridors?
* * *
“Feeling better?” Celia asked, fluffing up the pillows.
Linus nodded. Celia really was an ideal person to have around in the aftermath of a transformation. She brought him homemade soup and made sure there was always a generous supply of tea and painkillers at his bedside, but didn’t embarrass him by fussing over him too much. But then, he supposed, she had plenty of experience with this sort of thing.
“Oh, by the way...” She reached into her handbag and pulled out a copy of The Quibbler. “I brought you a bit of light reading. I think you’ll find it of interest.”
Linus glanced at the front cover:
HARRY POTTER SPEAKS OUT AT LAST:
THE TRUTH ABOUT HE-WHO-MUST-NOT-BE-NAMED
AND THE NIGHT I SAW HIM RETURN
“Holy... So Martin’s found something to do besides chasing Snorkacks. Good for him!” He turned to the page with the interview. “Rita Skeeter? So that’s what she was doing in the pub with him – but ... How bizarre.”
“You know her?”
“She used to write for Witch Weekly. Sob stuff about celebrities. Complete treacle.”
“This doesn’t seem to be complete treacle, exactly.”
“No. I should say not.” Linus settled back against the pillows and began to read the article. “Bloody hell, how awful for the kid ... He’s naming names, I see ... Malfoy? Well, either the boy’s madder than the Prophet’s made him out to be, or he’s got a hell of a lot of guts. Or both... This man called Wormtail sounds like our friend Sharpe.”
“It’s definitely Peter Pettigrew. That was his nickname when they were at school. I never did find out where it came from. I suppose it must have been rather cruel, boys being what they are.”
“Well, this pretty much knocks out Martin as a suspect.” Linus closed The Quibbler with considerable relief, and handed it back to Celia. “He’d never have printed this if he were in league with Voldemort, would he?”
“Unless it’s all a pack of lies that Mr. Riddle wants out there to mislead people.”
“Stop being so logical, Celia. You’re confusing me.”
“For what it’s worth, I do think this story is the truth. He wouldn’t have given an accurate description of Peter if it were a plant.”
“Were you fond of Peter Pettigrew?” Linus asked suddenly.
“Yes, I was. He wasn’t a good-looking child, and he was very much a follower so people tended not to notice him, but he was a bit like an eager, good-natured puppy. And he was always laughing, that’s what I remember most about him ... It’s terribly sad. That whole generation destroyed, and for what?”
“For us and our contemporaries, apparently. Doesn’t it make you proud, watching the young ones fight the wars we started?”
She shook her head. “It isn’t our generation’s doing, either. It’s a social sickness, and its roots go very far back.” She began to tick off the generations on her fingers. “It goes in cycles. Riddle grew up in a world terrified of Grindelwald and his Muggle allies. And Grindelwald was reacting against the old brand of pureblood prejudice, which was the product of seventeenth-century witch hunters, and I daresay they were driven on by real Muggle-baiting. And so forth, back to the day when the first cave-witch found out she could do things with a piece of wood that nobody else could do.”
“So what do you suggest we do about it, Madam Ethicist?” Linus couldn’t resist asking.
Celia considered for a moment before answering. “Bring it out in the open. Teach our children how we came to this and what our choices are, instead of handing their history classes over to a dead man who hasn’t changed a word of his lectures in a hundred years. And for Merlin’s sake, stop lying to the world about Riddle’s origins. If the wisest and best of us are afraid of the truth, what hope is there for the rest of us?”
“Everybody’s afraid of the truth, Celia. It’s the scariest thing there is.”
“Yes.” She tapped the cover of the Quibbler and sighed. “They won’t believe a word of this, you know. It’s too terrifying. They’ll just say Martin made the whole thing up, or if he didn’t, it’s one more sign that the poor child’s deluded.”
* * *
Celia was wrong. By the time Linus was feeling well enough to go down to the Quill and Quirk, he found Martin and most of his staff there in a highly convivial mood. The March issue of the Quibbler had gone into a second printing within a day of its release, and public demand for the magazine showed no sign of letting up.
“Tell me something, Martin,” said Linus as soon as he managed to have a private word with his friend. “What made you decide to hire Rita Skeeter to write that story?”
“Oh, I didn’t,” said Martin. “She approached me after she’d already written up the interview. Seemed quite gung-ho about having it published. In fact, she positively insisted that I shelve the Crumple-Horned Snorkack article until next month and print this one instead. I didn’t want to do it, but of course, she turned out to be right. Funny how these things work out.”
“Why do you suppose she felt so strongly about it?”
The question had plainly never occurred to Martin before. He considered it for a moment and shrugged. “I imagine she thought it was an important story. One the public needed to know.”
“This is Rita Skeeter you’re talking about. Last I heard, her idea of an important story was the juicy details of Ludo Bagman and Celestina Warbeck’s divorce settlement.”
Martin took a sip of his gillywater with onion and looked thoughtful. “People change,” he suggested after a moment. “Rita’s changed a lot since the last time we saw her, now that I think of it.”
This was undeniably true; however, in Linus’ opinion, the chances of Rita Skeeter having spontaneously changed into a crusader for truth, justice, and Harry Potter were slim to none. And what had she been saying about a stupid little girl who wouldn’t let her talk about the article before it was published?
A pint and a half later, he found himself musing about what Celia had said about truth. He decided to try an experiment.
Rita stood at the far end of the bar, holding forth to a crowd of middle-aged witches about her encounter with the Boy Who Lived. The account she was giving them seemed much closer to her usual style than the article itself. “Tears coursing down his stricken face, he pleaded with me to help Cedric Diggory’s family receive justice...”
He wondered if he could really bear to have himself spoken of in such terms, but he hesitated for only a moment before pulling her aside. “You know that ‘Interview with the Werewolf’ article you were thinking of publishing? Well, I’ll give you the interview. But you’re going to write down exactly what I say without any embroidery or embellishment, and it’ll be published on my terms. If I don’t like something, out it goes.”
Rita’s eyes narrowed. “And what makes you think you have any right to dictate what I can publish?”
“I’ve had a word with a certain stupid little girl,” said Linus.
He had no idea what the effect of this statement was going to be; but it proved to be immediate and gratifying. Rita choked on the maraschino cherry in her drink, spluttered ineffectively for a few minutes, and took a quill out of her handbag. It was an ordinary, white, un-enchanted one.
She began to jot down notes un-enthusiastically, but when he got to the saga of his sufferings at the hands of the Werewolf Registry, her eyes lit up. “Do I understand this correctly? The Ministry employee in charge of issuing werewolf identity cards actually offered you a cut of the proceeds if you went around biting other people?”
“Yes,” said Linus. He felt a twinge of conscience as she began to write furiously. She was clearly making the spotty-faced young man out to be the greatest threat to the public since Lord Voldemort himself. Moreover, he was pretty sure that he had just blackmailed Rita, although he hadn’t the foggiest idea how.
When he told Thersites Mason about his plan half an hour later, the Quibbler cartoonist seemed less than encouraging.
“We’re all members of the press, aren’t we?” said Linus. “Why not use it to get the word out?”
“Ah yes, the press,” said Thersites dismissively. “That great idol of idiot-worshipers. They’ll eat it up, all right – for a good fifteen minutes, and then they’ll move on to the Next Big Thing. But not before they’ve savaged you and spat you out ... You, of all people, ought to know that the public hasn’t as much brains as earwax... They don’t love anybody for long.” He stared into the depths of his drink and murmured, “Nobody loves anybody for long. You’ll find that out just like I did.”
Linus decided to ignore this last remark, as he didn’t have the foggiest idea what to say to it. “You think I should tell her not to publish the interview?”
“Go on. It’s your own funeral. Wouldn’t trust that Skeeter woman as far as I can throw her, though ... or Martin either.”
Linus felt a chill at the back of his neck. “What are you saying?”
“Nothing,” said Thersites, and even after Linus bought him several double firewhiskeys in hopes of loosening his tongue, he refused to say another word.
For a moment, he toyed with the idea of chasing Rita down and telling her not to publish the article, after all, but she had already left the pub. He reminded himself firmly that he wanted this story out there, not so much for himself, but for an old man who had died without a Knut in his pocket or a friend’s hand to comfort him.
July 6th, 2005, 3:46 am
I wanted to call this chapter "Three Dog Night," for reasons that will shortly become evident, but decided werewolves weren't exactly dogs, as such.
Chapter Twelve: The Wolf at Thersites Mason's Door
Tonks tapped her wand on the front door of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place and waited for the locks to slide away. Sirius had long since told her not to bother ringing the doorbell. “You’re family,” he’d said, and added in a darker tone, “and this place may be yours sooner than you expect.”
Remus was reading a book in one of the armchairs in front of the fireplace, and a large black dog was stretched out on the hearth with his head resting on his front paws.
“Wotcher, coz,” said Tonks. She bent down to scratch the dog’s ears, and he greeted her with a feeble thump of the tail.
He looked droopy. Not just his ears, his whole body.
She gazed into the fire and tried not to think of the summer holidays when she was a little girl: picnics in the park and games of hide-and-seek, and a laughing teenaged boy tossing her toward the sky. Even later, when the war had begun and most of the grown-ups talked in grave hushed voices, her Sirius was always joking and teasing...
“I wanted to marry you when I was little,” she said absently. “I don’t think I ever told you before.”
“What?” Remus dropped the book on the floor and looked altogether startled.
“Not you. Him.” She patted the dog on the flank and he managed a canine smile, his lips curling back over his yellowing teeth.
“Oh.” There was a slight flush on Remus' thin cheeks as he picked up the book. “Well, I daresay you weren’t the only girl with that particular ambition.”
She lay on her stomach and watched a thin, bright line creep along the embers, and the grey ashes flake away in its wake.
Some minutes later, Remus’ voice interrupted her reverie. “I was just going to make some hot cocoa. Would you like some?”
Tonks sat up. “I’ll help,” she offered.
He gave her a slightly bemused look – her help in the kitchen was not usually much in demand – but she glanced toward the black dog, and he nodded. “Thank you.”
She followed him down the low-ceilinged stone steps to the kitchen. “Do you know why he’s being a dog tonight?” she asked when they were out of Sirius’ earshot.
“Self-medication, I think. I understand that was how he fought off the dementors for so many years. I know it sounds a bit nutty, but it’s better than ...” He nodded towards the bottle of firewhiskey that stood on the kitchen counter.
“He seems like he’s in a bad way, lately.”
Remus turned away and began rummaging in one of the cupboards. “He is,” he said after a moment, and his voice had an odd, hollow sound. “And it seems to be getting worse, not better. I keep telling myself it’s just the weather. I know it ought to be spring by now, but it doesn’t feel like it.”
“And how are you?”
He stood there with a bottle of milk in one hand and a saucepan in the other, looking surprised and faintly embarrassed. “I’m all right. Honestly. You needn’t worry about me.”
“It’s just that my mum – used to come here to look after Great-Aunt Hydra when she was dying, and there was nobody else to do it – and I think it’s harder on the families and friends than anything...” She clapped her hand to her mouth when she saw the look on his face. “Oh Merlin, I don’t mean that Sirius is anywhere near that bad. Or will be.”
“I know you don’t.” He made the cocoa quickly and dexterously, as if he’d had a great deal of practice, and dodged the subject. “I didn’t realize your mother looked after old Mrs. Black. I had the impression that she wasn’t exactly welcome here after her marriage.”
“She wasn’t,” said Tonks, “but Mum can be very determined.” She thought of telling him all about how Andromeda had clung to the role of peacemaker, making her home a neutral zone in a war that pitted brother against brother; how she’d got very little thanks for it, and watched the last fragments of her family crumble – but, after all, Remus didn’t need to hear about her mother’s problems. He had plenty of his own.
He took the pan of cocoa off the fire and filled a couple of mugs. “Would you mind taking those upstairs, please?”
She nodded, and concentrated very hard on not spilling or dropping anything. He followed with a large bowl of cocoa which he placed on the hearthrug in front of Padfoot.
“Can dogs have hot chocolate?” Tonks asked.
“Animagi can. The biology’s different, you know.” Remus stroked the dog’s side. “Drink up,” he said firmly. “It’ll help, old friend. I promise.”
Padfoot sniffed at the dark, steaming fluid and began to lap it up, slowly at first, then with growing enthusiasm.
I read your intervew in The Quibbler and I just wanted to say that I think you are very brave for speaking out like that, and I did not know that werewolfs have it so hard or that it was’nt contaje catching except at the full moon. I am writing to say that I am sorry about the way I treated you and I will clean your house for free if you like (once). My husband Davey says that he is sorry too, and he says hello and he hopes that you are well.
Did Rita Skeeter tell you about meeting the Boy Who Lived? Is it really true that he went mad from a broken heart because his girlfriend dumped him for Viktor Krum? Well, I think she is a nasty little piece of goods and Davey thinks so too.
Linus read the letter and smiled. It wasn’t so much that he was eager for Gladys Gudgeon’s friendship – clearly, she hadn’t changed much – or even for a free housecleaning. It was that this letter, and a dozen others that had arrived since the publication of his interview in April’s Quibbler, proved that Thersites had been wrong. People were listening.
Chess jumped up on the desk and knocked over a jar of quills, but Linus was in far too good a mood to mind. He scratched the cat under the chin and set him on the floor.
Then he picked up the quills and reached for his sketch pad, feeling that it was time for the second step in his campaign. Idly, he began to draw one of Martin Miggs’ neighbors being treed by a werewolf that had torn out the seat of his pants. He was toying with several different ideas about the direction the story line could follow when something began to nag at the back of his mind.
Thersites had discouraged him from publishing his story. Had he been wrong about the public’s response? Or was he afraid that Linus’ narrative would expose some guilty secret of his own?
Thersites had left the pub early that night. Linus, who was no great expert at astronomy, wondered whether the moon had been up yet. Come to think of it, he couldn’t remember whether he had ever seen the Quibbler cartoonist on a full-moon night. And there was the way Martin kept offering him Thersites’ job...
He could hear Mason in the back of his head right now. Nobody loves anybody for long...
Thersites might be a half-blood, but Linus knew that he’d been through a great many jobs already. He’d lost them to drink and contentiousness, and seen Muggle-borns hired in his place. He was, Linus thought, the type of person who would gravitate toward a bigot whose philosophy made him feel superior to a quarter of the wizarding world. What did he have to lose?
He thought back to the werewolf that had bitten him. Mangy-looking cur. Looked like it had been through the wars.
His first instinct was to head straight down to the Quill and Quirk and introduce Thersites to his fist, but he thought better of it. He tore off a fresh sheet of paper and wrote to Tonks and Kingsley:
... I have reason to think Thersites Mason is the werewolf who bit me. And I believe he’s in league with Voldemort.
July 10th, 2005, 3:12 am
Eee, less than a week to go before this is all rendered obsolete. Well, forging ahead...
“What makes you think you can trust Berowne?” Mad-Eye Moody demanded when Tonks asked him to help her stake out Thersites Mason’s house at the next full moon.
The question startled her. “Why wouldn’t we be able to trust him?”
“I don’t know, lass, but when you’ve been in the business as long as I have, you learn every man’s got his dark side. And when a known werewolf tells you to be outdoors in a particular place on a full-moon night, that ought to put you on your guard. Now, tell me, did you and Shacklebolt turn up any connections between this Mason and the Death Eaters?”
“No,” Tonks admitted.
“Half-blood, didn’t you say he was?” said Moody shrewdly. “Father a Muggle and attended Muggle primary school?”
“The Death Eaters do take half-bloods sometimes,” Tonks pointed out.
“When they’re wizard-raised with no ties with the Muggle world, and in a position to offer You-Know-Who something he needs. Ne’er-do-well cartoonists don’t qualify, especially if they’re werewolves to boot.”
Tonks tried to shake off an uncomfortable feeling that Moody was right. “So maybe Linus is wrong. That’s what we’re going there to find out. But that doesn’t mean he’s luring us to Mason’s to attack us.”
“Doesn’t mean he isn’t, either.” Moody started to rummage through his closet. “Tell you what, I’ve got something here that should come in handy for this night’s work ... no substitute for constant vigilance, mind, but useful protective gear ... now where did I put them?”
He extracted a couple of the most extraordinary-looking garments Tonks had ever seen from the depths of the closet. They were voluminous, greyish-purple, and stiff enough to stand up by themselves, and every square inch seemed to be covered in buckles, clasps, and straps. They reeked of a mixture of goat and mountain troll.
“Sweet Merlin, Mad-Eye,” said Tonks, trying not to gag on the smell, “what are those?”
“Graphorn-hide body suits. Werewolf-proof, and they camouflage your scent so the wolf can’t tell you’re human. Now don’t argue with me, lass, just put yours on.”
Tonks stepped into the smaller of the two suits and fumbled with the fastenings, groaning inwardly all the while. She was fond of Mad-Eye, and respected his knowledge as an old-timer, but that didn’t change the fact that he was completely batty. She would have liked to take Kingsley instead, but work and Order business kept him too busy. Besides, Moody was the one who could see through the walls of Mason’s house.
She tried to take a step forward and immediately fell flat on her face. The suit was almost as rigid as a board, and hot. She was already starting to sweat.
“You don’t want to move too fast when you’re wearing one of those,” Moody explained unnecessarily. He advanced, walking just like Frankenstein in the old horror movies her father liked to watch, and extended a hand to help her up. “We’d best Apparate to Mason’s place. We won’t be able to bend over far enough to fit in the fireplace, and brooms are flat out.”
* * *
“Can you see inside?” Tonks asked, lying flat on her stomach and peering up at the square of light that was all she could observe of Thersites Mason’s front room. The spring night was warm – uncomfortably so, if you happened to be nearly immobilized by a Graphorn-skin body suit – and the window was open, but she hadn’t seen so much as a flicker of motion or the shadow of Mason himself.
“Aye, if you’d stop interrupting. Takes a fair bit of concentration to see through walls, you know.”
“Sorry, Mad-Eye.” She squirmed around on the ground, trying to find a position that was at least bearable, and forced herself to remain silent. The moon had risen, and the sooner he ascertained whether Mason had transformed, the sooner they could leave.
“I see him,” said Moody after what seemed an age. “Little man, walks with a limp, right? Well, he’s no werewolf.”
Before Tonks could reply, they heard a howl from the woods behind them and a crash of branches.
Tonks struggled to extract her wand from the belt of her body suit, an operation that required numerous contortions. She could tell from the muffled swearing next to her that Moody was faring no better.
The werewolf raced straight past them and plunged toward the house. Tonks caught her breath as she caught a glimpse of it in silhouette against the window. It was missing one ear.
She heard a ripping noise as the beast’s teeth tore into the window screen. Knowing that she had to protect Mason, yet reluctant to bring the creature any closer to them, she sent it flying through the air with a Banishing spell and prayed the landing would disable it. It hit the ground on the other side of the house with a sickening thud, yet a moment later she saw it dragging itself around the corner for another attack. This time it streaked toward the open door where Mason stood, roused by the noises outside.
Before Tonks could hit it with a Stunning spell, Mason raised his wand and sent a curse flying at the shape in the darkness. The werewolf yelped, caught for a moment in a flash of white light, and limped toward the two Aurors.
Now aware that the creature that had destroyed his window screen wasn’t human, Mason lifted his wand hand again. “AVADA –”
The werewolf dived for the woods as Moody and Tonks Disapparated.
* * *
She aimed for the Order headquarters, as she and Moody had previously agreed. She was startled when they landed, almost on top of each other, in a dark place filled with barking, snapping, growling noises. A pair of large beasts seemed to be scuffling with each other. For a wild, disoriented moment she wondered if she had somehow ended up in the creature’s den, and then remembered that Grimmauld Place had its own resident werewolf. Who knew how often these smelly body suits would come in handy? she thought wryly.
They heard a pop, and then a husky voice whispering “Lumos.” Her cousin Sirius stood in the middle of the room with one hand resting firmly on the neck of a large silvery wolf, which was now sitting calmly at his side. He had shaved, and looked altogether better than he had the last time she’d seen him.
“Phew,” he said. “What have you two been doing, rolling around in a goat pen?”
“It’s Graphorn skin,” Tonks explained. “It’s meant to protect against werewolves.”
“Moony won’t do you any harm. He’s perfectly docile as long as he’s taken the potion, it’s just that you startled him – landing here like that.”
The wolf thumped his tail on the floor as if to confirm these words, and gave Tonks a slightly hurt look.
“Wotcher, Remus. I didn’t mean you. Other werewolves.”
“We were near eaten by one tonight,” Moody put in, “and an inch away from being Avada Kedavra’d when we Disapparated here. Let no one tell you there’s no reason for constant vigilance.”
Sirius and the wolf exchanged a look. “Go on and tell us about it. But for God’s sake take those things off first. You can leave them in Kreacher’s den – it’s foul enough in there ...”
Tonks and Moody were only too glad to obey.
When they returned, she looked at Remus with some curiosity. It was one thing to know, on an intellectual level, that your cousin’s quiet, bookish friend had a habit of turning into a wolf on full-moon nights. It was quite another to see it for yourself. The enormous silver-furred beast lay with his head on his massive paws and his tail tucked underneath him, looking rather ill at ease with the visitors.
“He’s a bit fussy about his privacy,” Sirius explained, “but you’re friends, he’ll get over it.” He sat down on the floor next to the wolf and placed one hand between the animal’s ears in a companionable and slightly protective gesture.
“Are you sure? We don’t have to stay –”
Remus shook his head vigorously and bent one ear forward with his paw.
“No, he’d like to hear about your evening,” said Sirius. “So would I. It sounds interesting.”
Tonks recounted the story of Linus Berowne’s tip-off and their stakeout at Mason’s, with several interruptions from Moody about the virtues of graphorn skin and CONSTANT VIGILANCE. When they finished, Remus rolled over, went completely limp for a moment, and then looked up at them with a quizzical expression.
“Did Mason kill the werewolf?” Sirius translated.
“We weren’t sticking around long enough to see,” said Moody. “He’d have killed us if we had. We were right in his line of fire.”
“All the same, I take it he’s no longer Suspect Number One?”
Tonks nodded. “Somebody wants him dead or disabled, and presumably it’s the same person who arranged for the attack on Linus. And somehow I don’t think it’s a jealous rival cartoonist.”
July 23rd, 2005, 4:13 am
I'm back :) And making a brave attempt to retrofit things so that they're HBP-compliant, as you'll notice with this installment. (All in all, I didn't get too badly shafted by all the new canon, so I think it's more or less doable. In fact, Tonks will have some thoughts about Snape, much later on, that are flat-out eerie in light of future events...)
I just realized I haven't posted a link back to the feedback thread in forever, so here (http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?p=2660881#post2660881) it is.
Chapter Thirteen: Wulfric the Werefowl
It was late in the afternoon of the day after the attack on Thersites Mason, and Remus was stretched out on the sofa with a cup of willow-bark tea and Kingsley’s copies of the Werewolf Registry records. Some of the names were dimly familiar to him, others entirely unknown. None of them, as far as he could tell, had any Death Eater connections apart from Fenrir Greyback and his pack of wild werewolves, but they were being tracked by the Ministry and had been miles away on the nights of both attacks.
He sat up and tried to look nonchalant when Tonks stopped by after work. It was awkward, facing somebody for the first time after they’d seen you as a wolf – you never knew how they were going to react ...
She dropped down casually on the opposite end of the couch, as if nothing unusual had happened last night. “How’re you feeling, mate?”
“No worse than usual.” Remus took another sip of the tea and grimaced at the bitterness. “Any news?”
Tonks nodded. “Kingsley and I went back to Mason’s on our lunch break,” she said. “The werewolf’s alive. We followed its tracks until they disappeared in the woods. Mason’s Killing Curse hit a tree. All those little springtime leaves were withered like ashes, and there were dead birds lying all around it.”
She shivered, and he thought, not for the first time, that she seemed too young for the work she was doing. “Did you have a chance to interview him?”
“We tried. He wasn’t exactly cooperative – said he didn’t need any Ministry rats poking their noses into his business, and he’d thank us to get out before he set the new dog on us. We told him he might be in danger and offered to have someone from Magical Law Enforcement keep an eye on him, but he wasn’t having any of it. Swore up and down he didn’t know anybody who might have it in for him.”
“I take it there’s not much you can do about it, then.”
“No. He told us in no uncertain terms to go away, and we don’t suspect him of anything, so we have no grounds for contacting him again. The dog’s a vicious-looking one, maybe it’ll be all the protection he needs.”
“Or maybe you should send someone from the Animal Cruelty Division to protect the dog from Thersites.”
She snorted. “Yeah, I wouldn’t sell that man a dog I liked, that’s for sure. Oh, by the way, I think you’ll get a kick out of this.” She took a rolled-up comic book out of her handbag. “It’s just come out today.”
Remus glanced at the subtitle of the latest number of Martin Miggs. “The Adventures of Wulfric the Werefowl?”
“Read. You’ll like.”
Wulfric, it appeared, was a Muggle friend of Martin’s who had the bad luck to be bitten by a werewolf one night. Grampus and Storge, with their usual talent for bungling everything, hit him with a Memory Charm so powerful that it left him dyslexic – with the result that instead of turning into a wolf every full moon, he became an unusually bloodthirsty chicken.
Linus had outdone himself with the animated illustrations of the fanged chicken, standing on tiptoe on a lonely peak and flapping its wings at the moon. Bok-bok-bok-AROOO-bok!
The Ministry claimed to be incapable of deciding whether Wulfric should be the responsibility of the Department of Dangerous Mammals or the Department of Dangerous Birds, so it kept shuffling him around from one to the other. The truth was that a minor official had come up with the brilliant idea of keeping him in permanent administrative limbo because the Ministry needed the eggs – having failed to notice that Wulfric was, in fact, a rooster. (Wulfric, in the background: Cock-a-doodle-DUH!)
It was all there – the petty, self-serving officials, the moronic laws, the prejudices – and it was hilarious. By the time he finished reading, he had forgotten about the cooling cup of tea that stood on the coffee table. Laughter was a far more effective pain reliever.
Tonks looked at him and grinned. “Told you you’d enjoy it.”
He pulled his dressing gown around him and got to his feet. “I’m taking this upstairs to Padfoot. He could do with a good laugh.”
“It’s selling brilliantly,” Linus enthused a week later. “Much better than I could have hoped. I thought there would be a drop-off after I went public about being a werewolf, but people don’t seem to care. I think they’ve finally worked out that ink and parchment can’t bite you.”
He glanced over at Celia, having just realized that she was only half-listening. She’d barely touched her dinner, and she kept twisting the napkin with her hands.
“What’s the matter?” Linus asked.
Consciously or unconsciously, she spoke with the rhythms of her childhood, not with the precise Hogwarts accent he was used to hearing from her. “I went to see my brother William today. We’ve been living on opposite sides of the same city nearly all our lives, and we’ve not spoken in fifty years... And I thought, we’re neither of us getting any younger, and he must be running out of time ... seventy-six this year, he is.”
Linus nodded. “Muggles do get a raw deal.”
“So I went to the Muggle library and looked up his address, and I went there. He lives in a dark little house, next door to a tattoo parlor ... First thing he said when he opened the door was ask me if I’d repented and cast off my sins, and I said that would depend on which sins he had in mind, and he said witchcraft and devil-worship. So I told him I’d never worshiped any devils as far as I knew, and I could no more cast off witchcraft than cut out part of my own body.”
“Oh, hell, Celia...”
“And then he said – he was almost shouting – ‘If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee, for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, than that thy whole body should be cast into hell.’ And more in the same vein ... He accused me of having led our mother into adultery, though how I’m meant to have done that when I was only twelve is beyond me ... And he told me to come back if I ever renounced wizardry, but until then I was no sister of his and not welcome in his house.” She sighed and shook her head. “It’s mad. I can’t say I believe in any sort of higher power myself, but plenty of wizards do ... It’s not like you can’t be magical and be a Christian.”
“Of course not. You can even be an irritating, smug, self-righteous Christian who preaches to a captive audience in hospital wards, if you like. The Muggles needn’t think they have a monopoly on that sort of thing.”
“And you can be the right sort of Christian as well, the kind who actually pay attention to the business about loving your neighbor and judging not, that ye be not judged. I’ve known plenty of those, too. But what kind of religion is it that tells you to cast off your own flesh and blood? ... I think it was some of the things he said about Mum and Prospero that hurt the most. Because they loved each other, and they’re dead, and they paid with their lives for their love ... Isn’t that enough for him? Do they have to be in hell too?” She shook her head again, as if struggling to clear it. “I don’t understand it. I never will.”
Privately, Linus thought that he did understand, at least a little. Celia had been very pretty as a girl, and she was, to his admittedly biased eyes, still a good-looking woman. She’d had a hard life, of course, but you wouldn’t know that to look at her. He wondered what it was like for a man nearing the end of his life to face a sister who was still proud and hopeful and vital, who made no apologies for what she was, and who must seem unnaturally, eerily youthful to Muggle eyes. And then, Celia might be poor by wizarding standards, but she was well-traveled and well-educated, and her brother surely hadn’t had those opportunities. Jealousy was a vile beast, sometimes...
“The thing is,” she said, “if the times were any different, I’d just let it go. But we’ll be at war in a matter of weeks or months – if we aren’t already – and they’ll come after the Muggle family members just like they did the last time, because they are cowards at heart and it pleases them to attack the defenseless.”
“Your mother, I take it, was one of the ones who died the last time?” Linus asked.
Celia nodded, and he covered her hand with his own.
“I’m sorry. But they might not come after your brother at all, you know, since he cut his ties with our world years ago. And even if they do – well, he threw you out of his house, and I think that puts an end to any obligation you had to look after him. It might be better to stay out of it and let things take their course – that’s what we’re generally supposed to do with Muggles, isn’t it?”
Celia withdrew her hand and flushed. “In my line of work, we call that the Doctrine of Non-Interference,” she said. “It’s the fundamental idea behind the Statute of Secrecy, and I happen to think it’s the most pernicious piece of excuse-making that ever disguised itself as an ethical principle. It’s the reason why we can’t relieve Muggles who are in pain or warn them when they’re in danger.”
“Surely it’s got its uses, though?” said Linus. “I mean, that’s why Muggle-baiting is so wrong, isn’t it? Because if people and things don’t belong to our world, we ought to let them alone.”
She shook her head. “That’s the orthodox line of thought, but I’d say Muggle-baiting is wrong because it’s about power, and about reinforcing differences. It’s rubbing in the fact that they’re The Other, and they’re helpless in our hands. Whereas letting them know magic exists can only make them less helpless. And in time, I believe it would go a long way toward erasing the differences...”
The conversation had, by this time, become a problem in ethical theory as far as she was concerned. Linus argued with some of her points, agreed with others, and generally steered the discussion far away from Celia’s brother, and Celia did not revisit the topic.
July 28th, 2005, 3:40 am
In which I probably invite unfavorable comparisons to the many other writers who have also made a stab at this "missing scene." Ah well. 'Twas fun to write.
“Don’t try to tell me Snivellus didn’t do it on purpose.” Sirius turned on his heel, away from the fireplace where Harry’s head had been a minute before, and threw on his traveling cloak with such violence that the fabric ripped. “He did it out of spite and malice and as an insult to James’ memory, and I swear I’m going up to Hogwarts this very minute, and I am going to make him sorry he was ever born ...”
“I am not letting you commit suicide. And if you make one more move toward that door, I will hex you.”
Remus’ wand was already in his hand; and he was not, Sirius knew, the sort of man who made empty threats.
“One of us will have to talk to Snape, I agree with you about that. But it doesn’t need to happen this very minute, and considering that the Umbridge woman is no doubt waiting to sink her claws into the first thing that moves, it’s probably better if we wait.”
Moony tactfully refrained from mentioning that he was in no mental state to take on a task requiring finesse or diplomacy at the moment, but Sirius could read between the lines. He flung himself down on one of the Thestral-hair armchairs with ill grace.
“Right, then,” said Remus, “let’s reason this out. Point one, Severus Snape is a vain and insecure man. To the point that he can’t bear to be the subject of student jokes and rumors, even the most ordinary and harmless ones. Trust me on this; I was his colleague for a year. There is no way – none – that he would have let Harry see a scene like that on purpose, no matter how bad it made James look.”
Sirius had to admit this had the ring of truth. “All right. So he didn’t do it on purpose. But he’s threatening to stop the Occlumency lessons, and – ******, he knows he’s putting all of our lives at risk. I’d like to give him a taste of –”
“Point two. Bullying him is not going to get you anywhere. He’s not short on physical courage, whatever his other attributes – and if you go in there like a living reminder of how things were between us at school, you are going to shoot everything we’ve worked for to hell. And point three, he hates me less than he hates you. And believe it or not, I find him slightly less insufferable than you do.”
Sirius laughed. “In other words, you’re a born diplomat and I’m not. Is that what you’re trying to tell me?”
“Well – yes. That also. Plus, you’ve got a price on your head. So all in all, I think I ought to be the one to talk to him.”
Sirius walked to the sideboard and poured himself a stiff firewhiskey. Everything Moony had said was undeniably true, but – d*mn it all, there were some things a man needed to do in person. “Harry’s my responsibility,” he said slowly, “and if I can’t do even this much for him – I’m not much of a godfather, am I?”
“Yes, you are. You made him feel a bit better about James, at the very least.”
James who should have been there to comfort his son himself. Sirius took a sip of his drink and gazed dully into the fire. After fourteen years the pain was still raw.
“I wish we’d had a chance to tell Harry about the good times.” he said, and was surprised at how plaintive his own voice sounded. He took another gulp of whiskey and muttered a few death threats in Dolores Umbridge’s general direction.
“There will be time for that.”
Patience, Sirius thought, was one of Moony’s most irritating features. The trouble was that it came naturally to him. He’d never understood about the sense of urgency that had driven Sirius and James since they were children, the need to seize life and devour it before it slipped away from you. It was as if he had been born knowing he had plenty of years ahead of him, and they had not...
He blinked, trying to shake off the morbid notions that seemed to stalk him lately, like black beasts crouched in the dim corners of the house.
“You’re right,” he said, though it hurt him to make the admission. “You’ve got a better chance of making Snape see reason than I do. And I can’t very well walk into Hogwarts castle, especially with the Ministry’s puppet Headmistress running the place like a prison camp.”
Remus watched his face for a moment. “I think both of us should go. You’re Harry’s legal guardian, and it’s your place to make decisions about his education. And I, of course –” he got up and poured himself a firewhiskey – “will be there in my capacity as emergency surgeon.”
“To extract my foot from my mouth, if necessary?”
“Got it in one.” Remus grinned. “I have a feeling we still know a bit more about the castle’s secret passages than Her High Headmistress-ship does. And you look like you’re in need of a good maraud.”
“To marauding.” Sirius lifted his glass, feeling suddenly more cheerful.
“Cheers.” Remus tossed back his first sip of Ogden’s and contemplated the play of the firelight on the small diamonds of cut glass. His mouth twitched slightly. “You know, it’s a pity Harry didn’t get to see the time you and Prongs turned Snape into the Easter Bunny. He would have liked that one better.”
They had settled into a companionable evening of drinking and reminiscing about James when they were interrupted by a resounding crash from the fireplace.
“Way to make an entrance, Fred,” said a very familiar voice.
“Just call me Father Christmas.”
“Charmed, Mr. Christmas. I’m Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Is that your broomstick or mine?”
“Can’t tell, Mr. Reindeer. I think they got tied in knots when we went down the chimney.”
Remus and Sirius glanced at each other and, as one man, set their glasses down. Using a combination of magic and brute force, they extracted a tangle of teenaged boys, broomsticks, and a heavy iron chain from the fireplace.
“Perhaps you’d care to explain how you got here?” Remus asked Fred and George.
One of the twins brushed some soot off himself. “Well, it was a long cold flight from Scotland, so Mr. Reindeer and I decided to experiment with Floo-Powder enhanced broomsticks, but I reckon we still need to get a few bugs out.”
“I meant,” said Remus, suppressing a smile, “why aren’t you at school?”
“Well, it’s like this –”
“We decided that full-time education wasn’t really the best way to develop our unique talents –”
“As much as the Inquisitorial Squad made good guinea pigs, we felt we had a humanitarian duty to bring our products to the wider world –”
Remus silenced them with a look. “I’m disappointed. I really am. The two of you may not believe it of yourselves, but even as fifth-years you had as much brains and raw talent as most of the N.E.W.T.-level students I’ve seen. You’re two months from finishing your education, and I think you have the potential to –”
Sirius contemplated the twins. There were welts rising on George’s arm where the chain had hit him, and something uncomfortably familiar about both boys’ manner: he recognized the cavalier flippancy that concealed real anger and hurt. “Moony. Let them tell their story before you lecture them.”
“Moony?” said Fred.
“As in Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs?” George looked gleeful.
“Ah,” said Remus. “That would be where Harry got the Marauder’s Map, would it?”
“We bow down to your greatness,” said Fred, prostrating himself and smearing soot all over the hearthrug.
“I’d rather you didn’t,” said Remus, but he was smiling.
George turned to Sirius. “And you are...?”
“Padfoot.” Sirius grinned. “You can bow down to me if you like. I never refuse obeisance.”
The twins saluted him and slapped him on the back instead of bowing, showering him with more soot, but the meaning seemed to be the same.
“Where are Wormtail and Prongs?” asked Fred.
Sirius looked around at the wreckage of his childhood home: the black smudges on the rug, the piles of moth-eaten robes in the hall, the tattered curtains that hid malevolent portraits from view. Only moments after being hailed as a legendary prankster and treated by a peer by the boys, he felt very old and weary. “That,” he said, “is a very long story.”
August 3rd, 2005, 10:30 pm
The "a scorpion, a piece of paper, or any other sort of bug" sentence was actually penned by one of my students. You can't make stuff like this up.
Chapter Fourteen: Sanity in Grimmauld Place
Severus pulled the door of his office shut, filled his favorite quill with red ink, and sat down to mark the latest set of essays from his second-year Hufflepuffs. The dictionary defines a potion as “a drink or liquid dose, as of medicine or poison.”
Thank you, Mr Cauldwell, he wrote in the margin of the essay. I would have had no idea what I have been teaching all these years without a Muggle dictionary to enlighten me.
Wizards have been brewing potions since the dawn of time, however, in today’s ever-changing society in which we live in, potions are an ever more important topic. Whether they are used for murdering or curing people, or just for getting high.
Severus read no further. He penned a neat red T at the bottom of the essay, stabbed the paper a few times with his quill to relieve his feelings, and turned to the next paper in the pile.
When one is brewing a potion, you must make sure that no forrain material falls into the calldron. No matter whether it is a scorpion, a piece of paper, or any other sort of bug.
Evidently Hagrid had not covered insect taxonomy in Care of Magical Creatures. Severus added a few well-chosen comments in the margin and clutched his head to keep it from exploding.
A knock at the door interrupted his work. Although not a sociable man, Severus almost welcomed the distraction from the stack of essays – but that was before he saw who the visitors were. Lupin, looking irritatingly smarmy as usual, and Black, with high-handed arrogance smeared all over his aristocratic features. He wondered idly how the Ministry’s most wanted criminal had contrived to get into Hogwarts Castle, but even as schoolboys, those two had always managed to appear and disappear in complete defiance of the laws of physics.
“I’ve come to have a word with you about Harry’s education,” said Black, not bothering with a greeting.
“Potter’s education is, to the best of my knowledge, in the same abysmal state it has been for the last five years,” said Severus. “The boy is not entirely devoid of intelligence, but he has made no effort to apply himself to the study of potion-brewing. If you are concerned about his marks, I suggest that you have a word with him, not me.”
A few muscles twitched in Black’s jaw, but after a fleeting glance at Lupin, he said in an even voice, “This isn’t about Potions, and you know it, Snape. It’s about the other subject you were hired to teach – Occlumency.”
Severus heard, or thought he heard, a faint emphasis on the word hired. D*mned upper-class pureblood drones. Most of them had never done an honest day’s work in their life, and somehow they thought this gave them the right to look down on those who did.
“Potter has made even less effort with Occlumency, so I terminated his lessons. I see no point in giving private lessons to a pupil who has shown no aptitude for the subject and no willingness to learn.”
Lupin strolled over to the bookcase and inspected the volumes that lined the shelves with studied casualness. Severus knew this was a pose. Despite being the son of a famous Potions researcher, his former colleague was appallingly ignorant of the subject, and the book titles couldn’t have conveyed less to him if they had been written in ancient cuneiform.
“I was under the impression,” Lupin said airily, “that the responsibility of deciding whether a student is fit to study a given subject rested with the student’s Head of House. I take it Minerva agrees with you, then?”
“I have not yet informed Minerva of the worst of Potter’s behavior during our lessons. I might add that this is as well for Potter.”
Black stepped forward and leaned over the desk, gripping its edge so tightly that his knuckles went white. “Did you inform her of the worst of yours?”
“I cannot imagine what you mean,” Severus said coolly, although he felt a tiny prickle of fear. If Minerva found out that he had grabbed one of her cherished Gryffindors hard enough to leave bruises and thrown a glass jar of cockroaches at his head –
“I mean,” Black said through his teeth, “you weren’t exactly an innocent little lamb set upon by vicious bullies, no matter how it might have looked to Harry. Did you tell him you hit Lily with a Scorching Hex so badly that she carried the marks until the day she died? And why? Because she was Muggle-born and she had the audacity to hurt your precious pride.”
The memory brought back a confused haze of emotions: the vicious, perverse joy he’d felt at causing the Mudblood pain; the rush of shame when the pleasure subsided; mingled pride and lust when Narcissa Black had offered him her hand and told him he’d done well; and fiercer and more bitter shame at the recollection of everything that had followed. Severus felt his cheeks burning, but he mastered his scattered thoughts and told himself firmly that the only thing he needed to feel just now was relief. At least young Potter hadn’t told his godfather he’d been assaulted by a teacher...
“It was twenty years ago, Sirius. Leave it be.” Lupin took a deep breath and turned to Severus. “What matters, in the here and now, is that Harry has to continue his Occlumency lessons. If he doesn’t, we’re all at risk, including you. In fact, I’d venture to say you have more to lose than any of us.”
This was an eminently reasonable point, which meant it irritated Severus all the more. “We wouldn’t be at risk if the Potter boy would leave the war to the adults. You may make a practice of confiding sensitive information to him, but I certainly didn’t ask to have a brat snooping into my deepest secrets.”
“You know perfectly well why Harry hasn’t got the luxury of leaving the war to the adults,” said Lupin.
“Yeah,” Black put in, “and he’s making a better job of fighting Voldemort than you are. If your deepest secret is that Lily Evans saw your underwear once, you can’t have found out much in what, fifteen years of spying?”
“Sirius, why don’t I do the talking, all right?” Lupin gave Black a single, sharp look, and Black took a step backward.
“What’s the matter, Fido, is the lead too short?” Severus taunted. Then, as he looked from one man to the other, a sudden, diabolical inspiration struck him. “Or won’t the little wifey let you wear the trousers in the family?”
He had been braced to defend himself against a magical attack, and he didn’t see Black’s fist until it connected with his jaw. A moment later, he was lying flat on the floor of his office.
“That,” he said coldly as he gathered the remaining scraps of his dignity, “was assault. I give both of you three seconds to get out of this office before I summon the Acting Headmistress. I need hardly remind you what awaits you if she catches you here.”
Black shot him a look of pure venom, and Lupin gave one last, despairing glance around the room before they stepped into the fireplace.
“You idiot!” said Remus as soon as they were back at Grimmauld Place. “We were on the edge of making him see reason, but you couldn’t resist scoring a few cheap points, could you? And if you couldn’t have left things to me, why in hell couldn’t you at least not have punched him? Have you grown up at all since we were schoolboys?”
He kicked the edge of the fireplace, sending up a shower of sparks, and immediately felt a good deal better. It was a great relief to be alone with somebody who didn’t expect him to be a model of calmness and restraint.
Sirius flushed. “Even you can’t say that I should have taken that lying down. That was a direct insult to my masculinity.”
“On the contrary,” murmured Remus, looking at the ceiling, “I rather think it was a direct insult to mine.”
This drew a laugh from his companion, though it was a short and bitter one. “Touché, Moony.” Sirius hit the mantlepiece with his open hand, hard, for all the world like a house-elf that had just been ordered to punish himself. “You’re right. I can’t be trusted to do this sort of work. Or much of anything else, either.”
“Sirius ... Pads, I didn’t mean –”
“I’m no use to anyone. Most of the Order would be thrilled if I just went and disappeared – like Kreacher...”
“That isn’t even remotely true,” said Remus, and proceeded to illustrate this point with numerous examples of people who would not be at all thrilled if Sirius disappeared – Dumbledore, Tonks, Kingsley, Mundungus, even Molly after the events of last Christmas. Before he reached the end of the list, he realized his friend was no longer listening. Sirius had meant that he felt like disappearing; and the thought of what this might entail made Remus shiver.
“You don’t have to go all calm and gentle like that – like you’re visiting a mental ward at St. Mungo’s. I think I liked it better when you were calling me an idiot.”
Remus rubbed his temples, feeling as if he were trying to hold a bursting dam together with Spellotape. “Tell me what you need. You idiot.”
“I don’t bloody well know what I need. That’s the whole problem.”
Much later, spending a sleepless night huddled in front of the fire, Remus remembered there were people who did know. Alienists, weren’t they called?
August 6th, 2005, 5:38 pm
I'm off to the beach and probably won't be able to update for another week or so, but I thought I'd leave you with a cliffhanger to chew on...
Thursday afternoons at St. Mungo’s had become routine now, whenever Tonks could spare the time from work. Her visits with Alice were a welcome distraction: the Order stood poised on the brink of warfare, unable to make a move until their enemy showed his hand, and her attempts to discover who was behind the attack on Linus Berowne had turned up only dead ends. Linus had said that Thersites Mason had implicated Martin Lovegood, but Lovegood seemed to be entirely clean. If he had any connection to the Death Eaters, the Ministry had certainly failed to trace it – and the Ministry had devoted a remarkable amount of time and resources toward investigating a man who appeared to be a harmless eccentric.
On her last few visits to the Longbottoms’ ward, she had kept an eye out for Hope McRae, but the Healers were always busy, and a couple of weeks had passed before she had an opportunity to ask the friendly Alienist the question that had been nagging at her.
“Have you ever treated people who have been exposed to dementors?”
“Oh yes.” Hope put down the tray of potions she was carrying and sighed. “More than a few of the patients on the long-term ward are ex-Azkaban. Served their time, but never recovered from the aftereffects.”
“Can you – do anything for them?”
“Sometimes. We can treat depression with Cheering Charms, and there are potions that seem to help with the nervous effects. And the old standby, chocolate.”
Tonks nodded. She knew this much already; Remus was a fair hand at a Cheering Charm, and she’d brewed quite a few of those potions herself over the last few months.
“We try to give them some time in the courtyard every day. Dementors are hole-and-corner creatures, so sunlight and open spaces counteract the effects. But some of the patients can’t tolerate being outdoors. They’re too used to being surrounded by walls and bars, and they go mad without them.”
Sirius could have tolerated it. Hell, he was starving for it and they couldn’t give it to them. Not when he was the most wanted man in the wizarding world.
“But in the end, it’s the person’s life-circumstances that seem to make most of the difference. If they’ve got friends or family and some sort of work to do – someone to support them and something to keep them going, their odds are much better. Of course many of them are just disconnected – unfit for work, no means of support, families have cut them off. Most people who have spent more than five years in Azkaban commit suicide, eventually.” She shook her head. “That place is barbaric. Whatever they’ve done, they’re still human. It shouldn’t happen in a civilized country.”
“No,” said Tonks softly. “It’s horrible.”
The Healer gave her a sudden, sharp look. “Is there any particular reason why you’re interested?”
It was on the tip of her tongue to confide in the woman, to ask her exactly what friends and family could do to help. She didn’t have to mention names – she could say she had a relative who’d been in for burglary – no, a friend – No. For once in her life, she regretted introducing herself by her surname. With that knowledge, Hope could easily trace her connection to Sirius Black, and if she had any suspicions at all, it would be her responsibility to report them.
“I’m an Auror,” she said at last. “I suppose you always want to know – what will become of people after you arrest them...”
The Alienist drew up a chair and sat down next to her. “It isn’t your fault, love. You didn’t write the laws and you didn’t fill that godforsaken island with the worst monsters that ever preyed on the human mind. Think about it this way. If it weren’t for Aurors like you, there would be an awful lot more people on this ward in the same condition as the Longbottoms.”
Tonks took some comfort in this thought. “Is there any hope Frank and Alice will get better?” she asked.
“Perhaps,” said Hope cautiously. “More hope now, I’d say, than there’s been at any time in the past thirteen years. Do you know anything about potion-making?”
“A fair bit, yes. It’s part of my job.”
“Have you heard of herb o’ grace?”
“It’s rue mixed with Charmed water from Merlin’s Spring, isn’t it?”
“Yes. Old, old folk remedy for a mind troubled with remorse. Well, I’ve tried the same thing with rosemary and used it as a base for various memory potions, and the results are promising. I think they’re beyond all possibility of a complete cure, but Alice, in particular, might regain some language use. There are times when she really seems to be trying to communicate.”
Tonks grinned. “That’s brilliant. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for you.”
“Thanks, but keep in mind that this is very, very experimental. I haven’t even told the family yet – I don’t want to give them false hope.” She gave Tonks a meaningful look that was clearly a plea for her not to repeat the news.
She stopped in at Grimmauld Place that evening to find Padfoot curled up on a heap of old blankets, and Remus looking out over the square with his elbows on the windowsill and a distant expression on his face. She told him everything the Alienist had said, not sugar-coating the part about suicide, and watched the lines on his forehead deepen.
“I’m taking him out tomorrow,” he said at last. “I don’t care about the risks. Would you stay here and cover for us in case anybody from the Order drops by?”
“Naturally. I’ll tell them you’re upstairs having a threesome with Buckbeak, will that do?”
“You’ll do nothing of the sort,” he said. But he was smiling, and she thought – not for the first time – that she liked his smile very much, and enjoyed being able to coax it along.
Linus had just delivered the latest Martin Miggs to his printer, an errand that he no longer entrusted to owls. He decided to go for a walk in the park; he was fond of Muggle London, and he could justify an idle afternoon as research. To recreate Martin’s world properly, he had to keep up with Muggle fashions and customs. Those portable telephones, for example – you wouldn’t have seen those a few years ago – and the teenagers racing around on the new sort of skates with all four wheels in a row...
He was surprised to recognize Remus Lupin walking toward him on the path. He had an enormous black dog with him, a shaggy beast that looked just like a Grim.
“I didn’t know you had a dog,” said Linus. “Is he new?”
Remus shook his head. “I’m just looking after him for a friend.”
“A friendly beast,” Linus commented as the dog bounced forward to greet him, putting both of his paws on his chest.
“But a very ill-mannered one.” There was an odd little quirk to Remus’ mouth, as though he were sharing a private joke with himself. “Snuffles, sit down!”
The dog ignored him and bounded straight into the middle of a flock of pigeons, filling the air with feathers.
“Shouldn’t he be on a lead?” asked Linus.
“That’s an excellent idea,” said Remus. “I shall have to pick one up on the way home if he doesn’t behave.”
The dog growled and gave him a reproachful look, but Linus noticed that he stayed very close at heel for the rest of the walk. “Animals are wonderful, aren’t they? It’s almost as if they can understand everything we say.”
“Yes. Remarkable, isn’t it?”
They walked along the edge of the small lake in the middle of the park, the dog setting a brisk pace and occasionally wading in for a swim. (“Don’t shake!” said Remus when he came out of the water, and after a single regretful glance at the two men, the dog obeyed.)
They had reached the far end of the lake by now. Remus sank down on a park bench, and Linus was only too glad to join him; it was a few days after the full moon, and he was still feeling tired and achy.
“I was just wondering,” Linus said after a moment. “If you had a Time-Turner, and you could go back to when you were six years old and stop yourself from being bitten – would you?”
Remus patted the dog absently and gazed off into the distance for a minute or two before he answered. The dog looked up at him with an intent expression, as if he wanted to hear the answer too.
“No,” he said at last. “Don’t get me wrong – if they ever find a cure, and I hope they will within our lifetime – I’ll be the first one to take it. But changing the past – that means changing the person you are, and maybe ... changing who other people are. I don’t think I could make that choice.”
The dog relaxed and stretched out on the grass.
“Would you?” Remus asked Linus.
Linus thought about the question. Four months earlier, the answer would have seemed obvious – but if he hadn’t been bitten, he wouldn’t have met Remus or Celia. And he wouldn’t have had the slightest idea that he was on somebody’s enemies list. Tom Riddle would have been a half-remembered name from his school days, and werewolf rights Somebody Else’s Problem.
He wouldn’t know an awful lot of things, and to an old Ravenclaw, knowing was important.
“I suppose not,” he said at last. “I’m ... I wouldn’t say I’m glad that it happened, exactly, but perhaps it was meant to happen.”
Remus nodded and stroked the dog behind the ears. “I feel the same way, I suppose.”
The great black dog curled up in the sunshine with an unmistakable air of contentment.
Hope had been keeping long hours lately, working on her Potions research after she finished her regular shift at St. Mungo’s. It was past dusk when she finally set out for home. She locked her office and went out the back door of the hospital, taking the shortcut down the alleyway that led to the hospital’s designated Apparation point.
Somebody standing in the shadows pushed his wand behind her ear, and before she had time to react, a rough and unfamiliar voice whispered, “Imperio.”
Hope had no experience at resisting the curse. She went under without a struggle.
August 22nd, 2005, 3:30 am
Sorry it's been so long since the last update -- I've been visiting relatives and trying to pull together syllabi for my classes this fall. The next few posts may be rather sporadic, as well.
I am indebted to Gordon Korman, author of the Bruno and Boots series, for the idea of horseradish cake. The rest of this scene is the product of one too many late-night games of Trivia and my own deranged imagination.
Here's a link back to the feedback thread (http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?p=2858241#post2858241).
Chapter Fifteen: Quadruple Quandary
“To friendship,” said Sirius, refilling the wine goblets from one of the dusty bottles he’d dug out of the cellar. Tonks, Hestia, Kingsley, Mundungus, and Moody echoed the toast.
Remus took a sip and rolled it around on his tongue appreciatively. Whatever else the elder generation of Blacks had been and done, they did have excellent taste in wine.
He’d been a bit dubious when Tonks had suggested that having a dinner party might be a good thing for Sirius, but their host was clearly in his element, proposing toast after toast and urging the guests to take third helpings. Lasagna was Remus’ one real culinary accomplishment, and he thought it had turned out rather well. Hestia had brought over a vegetarian casserole, which everybody enjoyed except Dung Fletcher, who poked at it suspiciously for a moment and then claimed to be allergic to vitamins. Tonks had made her famous Pineapple Surprise Cake. “It’s called Surprise Cake,” she explained, “because I invented the recipe when I used horseradish instead of baking powder by mistake, and surprisingly it didn’t turn out too badly. Also I can never tell beforehand whether I’m going to burn it or not, so that’s another surprise.”
The cake surprised Remus by being edible. The horseradish, he thought, brought out the flavor of the pineapple and added a certain zing.
“Anybody for Quadruple Quandary?” Sirius asked, clearing the dishes away with a flick of his wand. Quadruple Quandary was a popular wizarding game in which you had to come up with an element that four items drawn at random from the Bag o’ Esoterica had in common. Points were awarded for wit, accuracy, and surrealism.
Hestia reached into the Bag o’ Esoterica. “The original manuscript of Hélas, Je me suis Transfiguré mes Pieds, a Demiguise pelt, parsnip wine, and a Nimbus 2000,” she read.
“Things with the letter I in them,” said Kingsley.
“Accurate but boring. One point,” Hestia arbitrated. “Other team?”
“Things I’ve stolen,” said Mundungus promptly, raising a laugh from most of the other guests.
“You have not,” said Hestia. “The original manuscript?”
“Come to my flat ‘round midnight, love, and I’ll show you,” said Dung with a leer.
Hestia looked distinctly uncomfortable with this proposition, so Remus took over the Bag o’ Esoterica and the position of moderator with one swift motion. “I’d like to have a look at that manuscript, Mundungus.” He made a brave attempt at leering back, although he wasn’t sure it was all that successful, as he hadn’t had much practice.
“Ladies only,” mumbled Dung, turning red, and Remus drew the next round of items.
“A Knight bus, the Starfish Without Stick, The Monster Book of Monsters, and a flobberworm,” he announced.
“Things that can kill you,” said Moody promptly, “if you don’t practice constant vigilance!”
“A flobberworm can’t kill you!” Kingsley objected from the opposite side of the table.
“It can if you choke on it,” suggested Tonks, Moody’s teammate.
Remus shook his head in astonishment. “How can you possibly choke on ... oh, never mind, it’s you. Two points for surrealism. Other team?”
“Things that can move, but don’t have a brain,” offered Sirius, provoking an extended argument about the anatomy of flobberworms that was settled only by a consultation with the Encyclopaedia Sorceriana. (Nobody, however, disputed the essential brainlessness of the Starfish Without Stick.)
Feeling the beginnings of a headache, Remus plunged his hand into the Bag O’ Esoterica once again. “An Egyptian tomb, a gargoyle, a packet of Ice Mice, and the maw and gulf of a ravined salt-sea shark.”
What these four items had in common remained a mystery, because a raspy voice from Kingsley’s pocket interrupted the game. “Calling Auror Shacklebolt. Auror Shacklebolt.”
“Excuse me for a minute. That sounds like Tight-Ar- ... I mean, Titus Dawlish.” Kingsley fished a Calling Card out of his pocket and stepped out into the hallway.
When he returned, his face was grim. “They’ve just discovered a St. Mungo’s Healer who was waylaid on her way home from work and nearly killed. It seems she had something to do with mind-altering potions, so Dawlish got it into his head that it was someone who traded in them illegally, but I don’t think that adds up. Why would she be bringing potions home from work with her?”
“Mighter been addicted to ‘em, couldn’t she?” Dung suggested. “I’ve always thort them ‘Ealers wouldn’t be ‘uman if they didn’t indulge a bit, on the side, like...”
“Perhaps,” said Kingsley diplomatically. “I’ll make a note of it. Anyway, there was only one witness – a Muggle beggar who was sleeping in the alleyway where the Healer was attacked – and his story isn’t too clear, but as far as I can make out, they used Imperio on her and followed it up with a powerful Memory Charm. She’s unconscious, and there may be permanent brain damage.”
Remus frowned. “But they didn’t use the Killing Curse?”
“You’re bright, lad, but it’s plain to see you’ve had no Auror training,” said Moody. “Avada Kedavra’s a deal too risky for everyday use. Anyone could see the flash of light if they did it outdoors, and it takes a powerful bit of magic. Most wizards wouldn’t be able to cast any other spells or Disapparate for a few minutes afterwards.”
“Do we know anything about this Healer?” asked Tonks.
“Forty-five, unmarried, lived alone. She was an Alienist – worked mainly with spell-induced mental damage, and also did a bit of general counseling. Colleagues thought well of her. Her name’s Hope McCrae or McRae, I didn’t catch the spelling – What’s the matter?” Kingsley broke off and looked at Tonks, who had started visibly.
“I know Hope McRae,” she said quietly. “I saw her last week when I went to visit Alice Longbottom. She was ... she was such a nice woman. I can’t believe anyone would want to hurt her.”
“The Death Eaters don’t care about nice, lass,” said Moody.
“Oh, I know. But still – Why would they have gone after her?”
Sirius, who had been leaning back in his chair with half-closed eyes and what Remus liked to think of as his “Genius at Work” expression, suddenly sat bolt upright. “The Longbottoms were on the same ward as Broderick Bode, weren’t they? D’you reckon there might be some connection? Could she have seen or heard something about the person who sent him the Devil’s Snare?”
“Could be.” Kingsley scribbled a note on the back of his Calling Card. “Odd that they would have waited so long to act, though. Bode received the plant in December.” He stood up and beckoned to Tonks. “We’d better get going. Thanks for your hospitality, Sirius.”
Mundungus and Hestia edged toward the door and said good night shortly afterwards, leaving only Mad-Eye Moody to sit by the fire and talk over the news with the house’s two permanent residents. Remus kept a sharp eye on Sirius, but he seemed alert and engaged, and he asked pertinent questions. One thing hadn’t changed since their school days, Remus decided: he was at his best when he had an intellectual problem to chew on. It was – he thought, suppressing a laugh that was highly inappropriate to the occasion – sort of the mental equivalent of a rawhide bone.
August 26th, 2005, 2:44 am
Hope McRae was recovering, and seemed alert, when Tonks interviewed her at St. Mungo’s a few days later. She was sitting up in bed and reading a paperback mystery novel, and the Healer in charge of the ward said there would most likely be no permanent damage to her mental function or magical abilities. However, she remembered nothing of the attack, and any attempt to break the Memory Charm would put her in grave danger of losing her sanity.
“Do you know of anybody who might have had any motive to assault you?” Tonks asked.
Hope thought about the question for a long moment. “No.”
“Are you certain?” Tonks ran through half a dozen profiles of possible attackers – a deranged former inmate of St. Mungo’s, a relative upset about a patient’s lack of progress, a professional rival. She dropped “someone who might want to put a stop to your research” in among the other items. Hope neither reacted nor suggested a possible name.
“Can you tell me anything about herb o’ grace?” Tonks asked on impulse.
“Herb o’ grace...” The Alienist looked dazed. “We learned about it in training, but that was years ago ... It’s got something to do with rue, hasn’t it?”
“No. Rosemary is for...” Hope pressed her lips together and wrinkled her forehead, as if she found concentrating on this subject intensely difficult. “For remembrance. Quite a different family of herbs.”
“Do you remember a patient named Broderick Bode, who died last January?”
“Yes, of course.” Hope seemed to be back on comfortable territory. “He was strangled by Devil’s Snare. Terrible. Miriam Strout called me in, but we arrived too late to save him.”
“Can you remember if he had any visitors in the last few days before he died?”
“No. I’m only on the long-term ward for a couple of hours a day; Miriam would be the best person to ask about that – but no, I’m sure they have asked her. We were both questioned very thoroughly.”
“Are you finished yet?” asked the ward Healer rather brusquely. “She needs to rest.”
“Yes. I think so. Could I speak to you out in the corridor for a moment?” Tonks felt certain that the key to the attack lay with the research on memory potions. And despite the fact that Hope seemed able to answer questions about Broderick Bode, she was not ready to dismiss her cousin’s theory that the two incidents were connected.
“Do you know anything about the project she was working on?” she asked when the Healer had shut the door. “Something to do with memory potions, wasn’t it?”
The Healer – Vivien Armstrong, according to the sign outside the ward – shook her head. “You know more about it than I do, then. She spent hours here in the evenings doing research, but she was very closed-mouthed about her work.”
Tonks outlined what Hope had told her on her last visit to the ward.
Healer Armstrong thanked her, but said there were many kinds of memory potions and without knowing exactly which ones Hope was experimenting with, it might be difficult or impossible to reproduce her research. “Her notes are missing, you know. We just discovered it this morning.”
“Oh God. She must have been ordered to destroy them or hand them over while she was under Imperius.”
“Yes.” Armstrong looked grave. “And the other problem with recreating her experiments is that Hope was a Potions researcher in a thousand. Nobody else at St. Mungo’s has her brand of intuition. We’ll try to carry on with her work if we’re able to reconstruct it, but it won’t be the same, not at all.”
“She was hoping she might be able to restore Alice Longbottom’s memory. Did you know?”
“So that’s what she was looking so happy about. And, of course, it gives whoever attacked her a motive – If the Longbottoms could give a full account of what happened to them in those last few hours, people who have been walking around free for fifteen years could be in Azkaban.”
Armstrong clicked her tongue. “Utterly wicked, I call it.”
But where, Tonks wondered, did Broderick Bode fit in? Had he overheard something the Longbottoms had said in a lucid moment, or had his work as an Unspeakable made him a target? “Do you keep records about the patients she was treating?”
“Of course. They’re in the basement.”
The Healer led Tonks down a maze of staircases and corridors, to a long, low room whose walls were lined with file cabinets. “Under normal circumstances, these records are confidential,” she explained. “We never share them with anybody except the patient, including Ministry officials, unless there’s a compelling reason to do so.” She gave Tonks a questioning look.
“There is,” said Tonks. “I’ve got reason to think the attack on Healer McRae might be related to the one on Broderick Bode. If that’s the case, other people might be in danger as well.”
That did the trick. Bode’s death had been the biggest scandal to hit St. Mungo’s in years, and the hospital staff was anxious to avoid a repeat performance. The Healer handed over the keys to a file cabinet marked "Lobalug Poisoning - Morecambe’s Disease" and left Tonks alone in the basement. “The ones you want are labeled Mental Damage. Hope’s worked here since 1979, so you can ignore anything older.”
She sifted through a number of folders containing case histories of Mental Damage patients. Most of them had been treated by Hope McRae at some point, but apart from the Longbottoms and Broderick Bode, none of the names were familiar and most of the notes entirely routine. She was a little troubled to see how many of them were Muggles suffering from the cumulative effects of multiple Memory Charms, but that seemed beside the point.
Hope had not been officially on duty the night of Bode’s death, but had apparently been called to the scene as soon as the Healer in charge of the ward had discovered his plight. A hospital administrator had interviewed her soon afterwards about the events of the night. Tonks read the transcript with great care, but was unable to discover any possible clues, and the information dovetailed with what Hope had told her in their brief interview. She hadn’t been present when the Devil’s Snare was delivered and she had no idea where it might have come from; she knew nothing about the patient’s work apart from the bare fact that he was an Unspeakable; and he had not produced any coherent speech in her presence. Tonks had the distinct impression that her opinion of Healer Strout’s professional competence was not very high, but while this was mildly interesting, it didn’t seem to shed any light on the crime.
With an uncomfortable, clutched-up feeling in her stomach, she picked up the Longbottoms’ files and began to read through them. The first few pages were yellowed with age and gave a clinical yet chilling account of the couple’s condition when they first arrived at St. Mungo’s.
My own flesh and blood did this. Why in hell couldn’t I have had the ordinary sort of Horrible Auntie who knits scratchy jumpers and collects porcelain knickknacks, hmm?
She paged through the later additions to the file: the record of long hopeless years, cures attempted and failed, signs of improvement that went nowhere. Hope had scribbled a few notes about her experiments with Memory Potions, but they were cryptic; if she hadn’t had the benefit of the Healer’s own explanations, Tonks wouldn’t have been able to make head or tail of them, and as it was, she learned nothing new.
She was, nevertheless, more convinced than ever that Hope McRae had been attacked because her work promised to restore the Longbottoms’ memories. She couldn’t find any information that provided the ghost of another motive.
She was replacing the files in the cabinet when a folder labeled Lycanthropy caught her eye. Tonks reached for it, hesitated for just a moment, and then snatched it up and tucked it under her robes. She’d bring it back, of course. After she had a chance to compare the contents with the Registry.
September 1st, 2005, 2:02 am
Left this little tag-end off the last post because I couldn't, for the life of me, decide what to name my other werewolf. He had a more lupine, and more literary, name to begin with, but for various reasons I decided it wasn't quite right for the story.
Kingsley unwrapped the memo that had just landed on his desk. Meet me at HQ for lunch. Found something important. Tonks. Whatever her discovery might be, she must be excited about it, he thought. Her handwriting had never been what you’d call elegant, but this time it was so untidy he could hardly read it.
He made his excuses to Dawlish, who had been threatening a lunchtime meeting, and Apparated to the house in Grimmauld Place. Sirius looked only mildly surprised at having company, and immediately went down to the kitchen to fix sandwiches.
“Hope you’re hungry,” Remus commented. “He’ll make enough to feed a small army.”
Tonks Apparated into her favorite window seat, promptly got tangled in the curtains, and pulled them down about her ears. “What’s going on?” Kingsley asked her as Remus was trying to work out how to repair them. “Any leads?”
“Not about the attack on the Healer. But I’ve found something else entirely.” She removed a folded sheet of parchment from her handbag. “I found this when I looked up the records for lycanthropy patients at St. Mungo’s. A man named Sam Barker. Treated for a werewolf bite in July of 1994, but the Registry has no record of him. And – get this – he lost most of his right ear when the wolf mauled him.”
Kingsley was baffled for a moment, and then the significance of this detail hit him. He slapped his knee and whistled. “The werewolf that bit Linus Berowne was missing the better part of an ear,” he explained to Remus. “Do we know where this Sam Barker lives?”
“About fifteen miles northwest of Raven’s Glen,” said Tonks. “That’s consistent with the direction from which he approached Mason’s house. If he was the werewolf who attacked Mason, that is,” she added as an afterthought, with a quick glance at the older Auror.
Kingsley had lectured her more than once about jumping to conclusions, but he had no intention of doing so this time. He turned back to Remus. “You know Berowne better than we do. Should we tell him?”
Remus frowned. “I don’t know,” he said after a moment. “He’s got a right to know, but at the same time – I’ve got an idea that he may still be thinking of carrying out vigilante justice, and I’d rather he didn’t.”
“If this man is the one, he’s got some people backing him who are very powerful. And very dangerous,” Kingsley pointed out.
“Then I think you should take Linus with you when you confront Barker, rather than leaving him alone to brood over the news. Have you got enough evidence to bring Barker in for questioning ... Oh hell, I forgot, you don’t need evidence, do you?”
“No, we don’t,” said Kingsley, feeling somewhat embarrassed. “Sorry, Remus.”
Remus shrugged. “No need to apologize. You may as well get some use out of that idiotic law.”
Tonks was all for collecting Linus on the spot and going to Barker’s house to arrest him, but before they had a chance to work out a detailed plan, the Calling Card in her handbag went off. It proved to be the perpetually needy Dawlish, who, deprived of his lunch with Kingsley, settled for ordering his most junior colleague back to work at once. She muttered a few swear words, grabbed a couple of sandwiches off the tray Sirius had just carried into the room, and Disapparated.
“I could go with you,” Remus offered after she had gone. “He won’t know I’m not from the Ministry.”
Kingsley nodded. He wasn’t sure what he was going to find at Sam Barker’s house, but he preferred to go there with as much backup as he could.
“Need a guard dog?” Sirius offered eagerly.
Kingsley and Remus exchanged a look. “No. Not this time. Sorry.”
Chapter Sixteen: Barker, Mason, and Fraser
Linus listened to the other two men’s story in silence. If they had come to him with this information in January, he would have tracked down Sam Barker in a flash. Now? He wasn’t certain what he wanted to do, but he felt painfully conscious of the fact that Celia would not approve of revenge.
Kingsley helped him out of his perplexity. “I was just going to question him, and I was wondering whether you wanted to come along. You’ll have to stand back and not get involved, of course, but I thought you might like to be there in case any question comes up about what happened on the night you were bitten.”
“Fair enough,” said Linus. “Let’s go.”
They Apparated to a ramshackle cottage at the edge of a forest. A scruffy-looking wizard shambled to the door after they rang the bell three or four times. He appeared to be in worse physical shape than any werewolf Linus had met: so underweight that he was almost cadaverous in appearance, with sunken eyes and lusterless hair. In addition to his mangled ear, he had scar damage on both arms and half of his face.
“Who are you and what do you want?” he demanded.
“Kingsley Shacklebolt, Auror Division. I’ve come to ask you a few questions – under the authority of the Werewolf Protection Act.”
Barker blanched visibly and took a step backward, as if about to let Kingsley into the house, and then blocked the door again and said, “What are you talking about? I’m not a werewolf.”
“You’ve just told me you are,” said Kingsley in a grim voice. “Now let us in – or do I need to take you to the Ministry?”
Barker stepped aside and let his visitors into the house. As they filed past him, he got a good look at Linus’ face for the first time and swore under his breath.
“That's about right,” said Kingsley. “You’ve met Mr. Berowne before, I take it? Are you familiar with the penalties for infecting someone with lycanthropy, or would you like me to go over them?”
“I know what they are,” said Barker in a dull voice.
“Then you’ll be pleased to hear we may be able to swing a deal for you. We know you didn’t act alone, Mr. Barker. Somebody sent you to attack this man.”
Barker was silent.
“An Auror’s testimony counts a great deal before the Wizengamot. Tell us who, and I’ll be able to get you a reduced sentence. Possibly even a suspended one,” Kingsley offered.
“Nobody sent me,” said Barker.
“Are you telling me you took it into your head to attack this man – a stranger to you – for no reason at all?”
Barker looked as if he were in the grip of some internal struggle. “Yes. Yes, that’s exactly what I am telling you.”
“That admission is worth seven years in Azkaban,” said Remus quietly. “Men go mad in far less time than that. Screaming for mercy when there’s no one to hear them, beating their wrists against the walls in the hope that they’ll open a vein and end their lives, turning into shadows and shells of themselves ... Are you sure you don’t want to change your story, Sam?”
Remus turned away and took a step toward the window – seeming, for reasons Linus could not guess, more shaken by his own words than his listener was. “I don’t care,” said Barker defiantly. “Rather be mad than dead.”
Kingsley pounced on this admission. “So somebody did send you. And you’re afraid this person will kill you if you talk, is that it?”
“All right! Maybe somebody did. But I’m not naming names, and that’s final.” Barker looked down and muttered, “Might give you a hint or two if you know where to look.”
“Fine,” said Kingsley. “Tell us what you can, and I’ll see what I can do for you. But no promises unless it’s useful.”
“Why don’t you start with why you were willing to infect another man?” Remus put in, in a voice that Linus would have categorized as “deceptively pleasant.”
“Put it to you this way. Imagine you’re in the position I was about two years ago. Mauled by a werewolf, going to be ill for the rest of your life, and if the word gets out you’ll never be able to work again.”
“That doesn’t take a lot of imagination, as it happens.” Remus’ voice was still mild, but Linus thought he caught a savage undertone.
“And let’s say a person with connections approached you. Somebody who could keep your name off the Registry and see that you got the potion for free, and offered to pay you generously – in exchange for a few favors at an unspecified date. Let’s call this person ... Tommy.”
All three of the other men tensed.
“You’d think that was as good an offer as you were going to get, wouldn’t you? Nobody else in the Ministry offered to do much for me, so I don’t reckon I owe anybody anything.” He turned to Linus but could not quite meet his eyes. “Besides, I said that I wouldn’t kill you. That counts for something, doesn’t it? The other bloke, I was meant to kill.”
“What other bloke?” asked Kingsley.
“Runty little fellow, walks with a limp. I dunno his name.”
“His name is Thersites Mason,” said Linus in a menacing tone, “and he’s a friend of mine.”
“Some friend,” said Sam. “He was the one who tipped Tommy off about you. Told me exactly where to find the papers when I broke into your house.”
Linus’ stomach knotted. So he’d been right the first time. He should have seen it before.
“Why would ... Tommy want to kill his own spy?” asked Remus.
Sam looked faintly taken aback for a moment, opened his mouth as if to say something, and then closed it again. “Said Mason drank too much and was getting too loose with his tongue,” he said at last, “and he’d done all the useful work he was good for and needed to be silenced. So I go there at the next full moon, get hit with a couple of nasty curses coming out of nowhere before I can finish the job, and on top of that Mason tries to AK me. Well, that sort of experience makes a man think things over, you know? I reckon Tommy don’t really care which of us ends up silencing the other. Probably planning to finish the other one off afterward. So I decided to stall. Said I was ill, and it’s close enough to the truth. Never have felt well since I was bitten.”
“That’s not surprising,” said Remus with a shrewd glance at the other man’s wasted face. “The Wolfsbane you’re getting from your boss is very poor quality. Probably toxic. If I were you, I’d take my chances with the Ministry, unpleasant as some of the people at the Werewolf Registry can be.”
“How do you know so much about it?” Barker asked.
“I’ve been a werewolf since I was six. But somehow I’ve never sunk low enough to consider murder-for-hire a valid career choice.”
Barker stared at him, a slow flush rising in his sunken cheeks. He made no resistance as Kingsley cast a Tracking Spell and an Anti-Disapparation Jinx on him.
“You’re under house arrest for now,” said the Auror, “but you’ve given us useful information, and we’ll deal fairly with you.” Kingsley looked up at the other two men when he finished. “On to Mason’s?”
“Yes, I think so,” said Linus grimly.
September 4th, 2005, 3:55 am
Thersites turned out not to be at home, but they found him at the Quibbler office with Martin Lovegood. They were discussing the illustrations for an article about something called the Rotfang Conspiracy, which apparently involved spies within the Auror Division who were attempting to undermine the Ministry through Dark Magic and gum disease.
“I reckon you’d know something about that, Thersites,” said Linus loudly. “The part about traitors and spies, I mean – though I’m not sure your gums are in such great shape either.”
Kingsley gave him a startled look. It was possible, he realized belatedly, that the Aurors liked to approach situations like this with more finesse. He didn’t care. He felt as if this was his battle to fight. Sam Barker had been a stranger, but Thersites’ betrayal was personal.
Thersites didn’t ask him what he meant, which sealed his guilt as far as Linus was concerned. “How about Lovegood? If you’re going to talk about traitors, you should take a look at him.”
Linus rounded on Martin. “You too, Martin?”
“What?” said Martin, looking even more wide-eyed and clueless than usual.
“Did you pass on information about the issue of Martin Miggs that was stolen – and arrange for me to be bitten?”
“Certainly not! But if Thersites did...” Martin got to his feet, scattering scraps of parchment all over the floor, and did his best to look menacing, which was not his natural state. Unfortunately, he was gripping a quill in his fist instead of a wand, but Linus appreciated the effort. “He’s scum. I should have known.”
“I was looking out for myself. You were going to fire me and give him my job,” said Thersites petulantly.
Martin looked furious. “No, I wasn’t, but by Merlin I am now!”
“You can’t.” Thersites’ voice was triumphant. “He’s a werewolf now, and you can’t hire him as long as I’m willing to do the job.”
Linus had heard enough. He reached for his wand. “I believe the exact wording of the Werewolf Protection Act is ‘willing and able’,” he said. A beam of searing white light shot in Thersites’ direction.
A moment later, Thersites was gaping at his right hand with a shocked expression. There was no blood, no other disfigurement, but his index finger was missing.
After a few seconds of stunned silence, Kingsley’s deep voice echoed through the office. “If this is your notion of standing back and not getting involved, Berowne, I think you could do with some more lessons.”
* * *
“I’m sorry,” Linus explained in considerable embarrassment. “I got a little carried away there.” He wondered what Remus must be thinking of him; he knew, by now, how his young friend felt about werewolves who resorted to a life of violence and revenge, conforming to the worst stereotypes civilized society could throw at them.
“I don’t blame you,” said Remus shortly.
Linus looked at him in surprise. He had a tight, grim expression on his face.
“I don’t like people who betray their friends,” he explained.
Linus nodded and changed the subject. “Where do we go from here?” he asked. “Can’t you do more to them than house arrest?”
Kingsley shook his head. “I’d like to arrest them both on conspiracy with the Death Eaters, but I need Barker’s testimony to make it stick, and even that will be a tough sell in the current political climate. Most of the sane members of the Wizengamot have resigned, and the rest of them have their heads in the sand. They’re not going to be very impressed with a werewolf’s testimony that he worked for somebody called ‘Tommy.’” Kingsley thrust his hands in his pockets and admitted, “To tell you the truth, I’m not all that impressed with it myself. There’s not much to connect them with You-Know-Who, and I’ve got this feeling that something about Barker’s story is a little wrong.”
“Voldemort tried to recruit Linus,” Remus pointed out. “One way or another, he knew that Linus had been bitten and where he lived. So if he isn’t getting his information from Barker and Mason, where is he getting it? It’s not like Lord Voldemort can just walk into the Ministry and check the Registry. I hope.”
Linus laughed mirthlessly. “He might have, if he offered the spotty-faced kid a fat tip.”
Remus was not to be distracted. “And it’s consistent with the way he worked in the last war. Get Fenrir Greyback to bite some poor soul, give him free reign to preach his doctrine of revenge, and in a few months you’ve got a new recruit ripe for the taking.”
“That’s part of what’s bothering me,” said Kingsley. “Why hasn’t he used Greyback for any part of this? What made him choose a new man who doesn’t seem to be involved with Greyback’s pack at all? And if he can’t walk up and check the Registry, as you say, however did he manage to keep Barker’s name off of it?”
Remus had no answer.
* * *
Linus was at home a few days later, trying vainly to think of an amusing idea for the next Martin Miggs, when he was interrupted by a sharp knock at the door.
“Mr. Berowne.” It was not a question. “Fraser, Beasts Division, Werewolf Capture Unit. Let me in the house. It’s the law.”
Fraser showed his identification, the standard Ministry-issue card embedded with anti-forgery and anti-theft charms. Linus was aware that it was, in fact, the law. He disabled the protection spells and ushered the man into the house.
“I’ve been having a word with a man named Mason. It would seem that he’s disabled for life, and the last person to see him with both hands intact was you.”
Linus’ mind raced. Of course, Thersites – bitter, vindictive Thersites – would turn him over to the Werewolf Capture Unit. He wondered if his contempt for the Ministry had always been a pose, or whether he had merely jumped at an opportunity to use it for his own ends.
“Don’t worry.” The Ministry agent gave him a smile that might have passed for an attempt at friendliness if it had extended to his eyes. “I don’t care how Mason lost his finger. He was a good-for-nothing anyway, and if you cooperate, it was an accident as far as the Werewolf Capture Unit is concerned.”
“What is it that you want me to do?”
“Nothing very difficult. I’ve just come to ask you a few questions. But just as a precaution – Expelliarmus!”
“Give that back!” Linus made a grab for his wand.
Fraser locked the wand in his briefcase. “You’ll find I’m within my rights to hold it while I’m questioning you. Amendment Number Eight to the Werewolf Protection Act, signed into law three weeks ago.”
Linus silently cursed himself for not keeping up with recent legislation; he had no idea whether Fraser was telling the truth. “Very well. You want to ask me a few questions. And if I don’t give you a few answers?”
“That isn’t an option.” Fraser gave him a hard stare, as if defying him to ask why it wasn’t an option.
“I see.” Linus struggled to keep his voice neutral. He reminded himself that he did not want to antagonize Fraser more than necessary.
“Anyway, I’m not asking you to incriminate yourself. Just tell me exactly what Mason and Barker told you about their connection with each other.”
“Why don’t you ask them?” asked Linus.
“Because I’ve come to find out what you know, and what you intend to do next,” said Fraser. There was an unpleasant gleam in his eye, and Linus felt certain he was one of Tom Riddle’s minions.
“That’s my business,” he said, but suddenly he felt sick. The only reason Riddle would care how much he knew or suspected was if he was trying to decide whether Linus knew too much to live.
“Your business became the Ministry’s business on the night you were bitten,” retorted Fraser. “If you refuse to answer my questions, I have the right to detain you for seventy-two hours or interrogate you under Veritaserum. I think I prefer the Veritaserum. It’s quicker.”
He opened his briefcase and took out a small vial.
“I’ll talk,” said Linus quickly. There were ways of beating Veritaserum, he knew, but they all required either a wand or training he didn’t have. He improvised hastily. “Sam Barker told me he bit me and tried to attack Mason because he found our cartoons offensive. Defamatory to werewolves, he said. He’s had a grudge against me ever since that professor up at Hogwarts resigned –”
“You must think I’m as stupid as Grampus and Storge,” said Fraser without a trace of a smile. He seized Linus by the collar, pushed him up against the wall, and tried to force the Veritaserum down his throat.
Out of nowhere, four long red gashes appeared on Fraser’s face. He yelped and went into a frenzied dance, beating wildly at the air around his head. The vial of Veritaserum fell to the floor and shattered.
“Get – it – off me,” Fraser gasped, scattering drops of blood all over the kitchen. “Whatever – the hell – it is –”
Above him, a blur slowly materialized and coalesced into the outline of a cat sporting a broad grin.
September 17th, 2005, 3:49 am
(Haven't abandoned this, I swear, just have a few too many real-life things going on at once.)
Link back to feedback thread (http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=46578&page=9&pp=20).
Chapter Seventeen: Ninety-Three Diagon Alley and Twelve Grimmauld Place
While Fraser was still hollering and wiping blood out of his eyes, Linus grabbed his wand from the briefcase that was lying on the table, pulled Chess off the Ministry agent’s head, and Disapparated to Celia’s. As soon as she let him in the house, he gave a hasty explanation of what had happened and added, “I don’t think we can stay here. We’ve been seen together in public too often. It’s only a matter of time before Fraser comes looking for me.”
Celia nodded crisply. “I think you did the right thing. I don’t believe we ought to feel obligated to obey the Ministry under the circumstances. You see, the social contract –”
“Celia, could you try not treating this as a problem in magical ethics for a change?” Linus snapped. “Did you miss the bit where I was almost arrested? Or possibly handed over to the Death Eaters, if Fraser’s in with them?”
She bit her lower lip and looked considerably shaken, as his words started to sink in. “Right. Sorry. I’m going to get in touch with Remus. If I’m right about – about what he’s involved in, they’re bound to have some sort of hideaway.”
“Do you know where he is?”
“No, but he always told me to cast a Patronus Charm if I ever needed him in an emergency.” She threw a window open, and he watched as a silvery owl took wing from the tip of her wand. Linus followed suit, just in case, and his own mockingbird Patronus soared after the owl.
Remus’ head appeared in the fireplace after a few tense minutes. He listened to Linus’ experiences with a serious expression, and then said, “As soon as I’m out of the way, pack whatever you need and take the Floo Network to number Ninety-Three, Diagon Alley. Got that? I’ll meet you there and explain matters to the proprietors.”
Proprietors? Linus and Celia looked at each other in puzzlement.
Celia packed a change of clothes and what looked like half the contents of the bookcase, until Linus pointed out rather sarcastically that there were, in fact, bookstores in Diagon Alley. He took Chess into his arms and they both stepped into the fire.
* * *
Ninety-Three Diagon Alley turned out to be a shop that had not yet opened for business. Two red-haired teenagers were putting up shelves and unpacking crates with great energy; they looked vaguely familiar, but it took Linus a moment to place them as two of Arthur Weasley’s sons.
Remus nodded at the boys. “Fred, George – I’d like you to meet my mother, Celia Lupin, and her friend Linus Berowne. They’re in a bit of trouble with the Ministry and they need a safe place to stay – I hope for only a day or two, possibly longer. I expect they’ll be happy to help you with the shop if you ask nicely. And,” he added as an afterthought, “if you so much as think of using them as guinea pigs for any of your experiments, I’ll tell your mother about those Venomous Tentacula seeds you bought from Mundungus.”
“Understood,” said George “... Moony.”
Fred Summoned some tea and sandwiches from the back room, and Linus told the story of his encounter with Fraser for the third time in an hour, this time at a much more leisurely pace, concluding with a fairly good imitation of Fraser dancing around with an invisible Cheshire cat on his head.
Fred and George made much of Chess when they had heard this bit; they stroked and patted him and insisted on feeding him salmon and cream until he put a stop to it by throwing up in the corner.
Tonks and Kingsley arrived after half an hour. Tonks looked paler and more troubled than Linus remembered, and her manner was businesslike. “Are you quite sure it was a real Ministry identification card you saw?” she asked Linus.
He nodded. “I know one when I see one.”
She looked grave. “The anti-forgery charms make them impossible to fake, and they go blank if somebody tries to use a stolen one. Which means there’s a Death Eater in the Ministry – unless ... You’re absolutely positive Sam Barker said he was working for You-Know-Who?”
“He said he was working for somebody he’d call ‘Tommy.’ He didn’t give any details about who this person was, except that he had contacts who could keep Barker’s name off the Werewolf Registry and supply him with Wolfsbane.”
Tonks, who had been about to take a bite out of one of the sandwiches, put it down uneaten. “This doesn’t add up. At the time Sam Barker was bitten, You-Know-Who was a helpless cripple living in an abandoned house. He had a grand total of one man and a snake in his service, and the man was supposed to be dead.”
“You’re right. Summer of 1994, wasn’t it?” said Remus thoughtfully. “You wouldn’t care to make that autumn, would you?”
“You’re thinking it could have been Crouch, Senior, under Imperius?” said Kingsley.
“I was,” said Remus. “But I think she’s right. The timing’s all wrong.”
Kingsley nodded. “I’m more and more convinced that this isn’t about the Death Eaters at all.”
“But they tried to recruit me,” Linus protested. “And Barker all but told us he was working for Tommy Riddle.”
There was a crash from the back of the shop as Chess knocked over a stack of packing crates. Fred Weasley attempted to ply him with another bit of salmon. “Settle down, you silly tomcat...”
“Say that again,” said Tonks suddenly.
“What, you want me to call you a silly tomcat, too? Okay.”
“No. You know something?” she said. “I think Sam’s friend is a girl-Tommie and not a boy-Tommy. Because really, I don’t know that many Ministry employees who are powerful enough to fix the Werewolf Registry and corrupt enough to bribe someone to bite Linus. And one of the ones I do know about has a thing for cat-related kitsch.”
“Umbridge,” said Kingsley. “Now that makes sense. It would certainly explain why they wanted to suppress the cartoons. I wondered why You-Know-Who would care.”
“I don’t expect Riddle wants the general public to associate him with Umbridge either,” Linus couldn’t resist pointing out. “It might tarnish his reputation.” But in his heart, he was sure the Aurors were right.
“Right, then,” said Tonks briskly. “Next stop, Scotland.” She glanced up at the Playwizard calendar on the wall of Fred and George’s back room, and frowned. “Bloody hell, the O.W.L.s have just begun. That means they won’t let any visitors onto the school grounds except for the outside examiners.”
“But surely that doesn’t apply to Aurors,” said Celia.
“Think again,” said Kingsley bitterly. “We’d have to obtain a warrant from the Ministry to enter the castle, and if we put down ‘arresting Dolores Umbridge’ as our reason, I can guarantee you that the paperwork would conveniently get lost. The woman’s got a finger in every pie.”
* * *
“Easy, Beaky boy. I know it hurts, but hold still, will you?” Sirius pressed a fresh pad of Acromantula silk against the hippogriff’s bleeding leg. “Moony, would you pass me that bowl of murtlap balm?”
“Here.” Remus frowned. “How do you think he did that to himself?”
“Probably been kicking at the walls again. Hippogriffs aren’t meant to be kept indoors.” Sirius patted Buckbeak’s neck and gave him a look that was full of fellow-feeling. “Poor old thing probably thinks he’s in prison. He’s more right than he knows. Sometimes I almost miss Azkaban. It was exciting, knowing your soul might get sucked out if you slept with your mouth open.”
Remus chose to ignore this last remark. “There isn’t any blood on the wall.”
“So?” Sirius didn’t seem much interested. “Maybe he was kicking something else.”
“Maybe.” Remus didn’t find this explanation satisfactory; but he would have been hard pressed to explain why he cared, so he let it go.
Sirius gave Buckbeak a last pat and allowed the hippogriff to nuzzle his shoulder. “Let’s go downstairs and have a drink before the others get here.”
Remus followed him down the stairs and watched as he poured a generous measure of firewhiskey into the glasses. “To danger, excitement, and sudden death,” he said recklessly, throwing himself down into one of the chairs by the fire. “Or to watching the dust settle on the house-elf heads, whichever happens first. Let’s hope something happens to break the monotony around here.”
September 26th, 2005, 2:11 am
Apologies for the length and lateness of this scene; this was another one of those canon-character scenes that ended up kind of taking over. I had Snape fire-chatting with the folks at 12 GP originally, and then remembered that Dumbledore specifically said he didn't, and implied that he'd been in touch with the rest of the Order through Patronus ... which inevitably led to questions about how this works, and what is Snape's Patronus anyway, and what about Sirius and Remus?
They had not finished their first round of drinks when something did happen, although it was almost certainly not the brand of excitement that Sirius had been hoping for. A silvery raven flew in through the window and perched atop one of the bookshelves.
“Ah, Black,” it croaked in a voice suspiciously reminiscent of Severus Snape. “You are well and enjoying your leisure as usual, I take it?”
“You know **** well the word ‘enjoying’ doesn’t come into it,” Sirius snapped. “I’m dying by inches of boredom in here.”
“That would be a welcome development rather than otherwise,” said the Patronus, “but as no more heroic cause of death seems to be imminent, I shall report back that your godson’s worries are groundless as soon as you produce the usual signal.”
“Wait!” Sirius demanded. “Harry’s worried? Why? D*mmit!” The raven merely cawed, pretending that it had lost the power of human speech.
“Snape’s lucky to have a Patronus that can talk,” Remus commented. “Too bad it always tells you more than you need to know.”
Sirius snorted. “Yeah, really. Anyway – the usual signal. Right.” He reached for his wand.
“Would you like me to – I mean, you haven’t been having trouble with –”
“No, it’s all right. Expecto Patronum!”
Remus had not seen his friend’s Patronus in more than fifteen years. It was looking fuzzier around the edges than he remembered, but it hadn’t changed its essential form: a large, exotic-looking bird with a high crest. When they first learned how to cast a Patronus in seventh-year Defense, even the professor hadn’t been able to work out what it was.
“Did I tell you I finally found out what that silly-looking bird is?” Sirius said after it had flown off with the raven. “Well, actually I still don’t know what it’s called, but there were hundreds of them in the islands, after Buckbeak and I escaped.”
“Did you like it there?”
“Yeah, it’s beautiful – green mountains and the bluest water you ever saw. You lie on the beach at night and listen to the water lapping and the wind blowing through the palm trees, and there are more stars than you’ve ever seen ... I’m going back there. After all this is over.”
“So that’s why it’s your Patronus. I always wondered.”
“I guess so. Funny it took me so many years to find out what it meant. Is yours still the same as ever?”
“You’re not ever going to let me live it down, are you?” Remus’ Patronus had earned him weeks of ribbing from his friends after they saw what form it took. “Yes. Expecto Patronum!”
The silvery dove circled the room and settled on Sirius’ shoulder. “I’m not about to laugh at peace, mate. Not after everything that’s happened.”
They watched as the dove’s outline blurred and faded, becoming indistinguishable from the dust of Twelve Grimmauld Place.
“Care for another drink?” Sirius asked.
“Just water, please. It’s coming on full moon.”
Sirius poured another generous measure of firewhiskey for himself and settled back into his chair. “To the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, which you’ve got to be a madman if you’ve got thoughts of joining, that’s not to say you wouldn’t be welcome if you do.”
“What do you mean, join the house?” Remus wondered how many drinks Sirius had consumed before his arrival and wished he had chosen something stronger than water, after all. “Don’t I already live in it?”
“I’m not blind, old mate. I’ve seen the way you look at my cousin. You fancy her.”
“Certainly not,” said Remus, trying to keep his voice light. “I don’t think Lucius would approve.”
“You know which cousin I’m talking about, you prat. I can’t help noticing that you and little Dora seem to be getting on rather well – and you’re always whispering together, and you jump apart as soon as I walk into the room...”
That was true; but it was because they were whispering about Sirius. Most of the time, anyway. “We’re friends,” said Remus firmly. “That’s all.”
“And you had two slices of that Pineapple Surprise Cake. If that isn’t a clear sign of a man in love, I don’t know what is.”
“It was a good cake,” Remus insisted.
“It. Had. Horseradish. In. It.”
“Yes, I thought it was a very original recipe. Maybe you’d be able to appreciate it if Kreacher hadn’t brought you up on boiled chicken and mush ... Where is Kreacher, anyway? Have you seen him lately?”
“Bloody hell, Moony, will you stop changing the subject?”
“Not until you try talking about something halfway sensible for a change.”
“Fine. Have it your way. But if the two of you should ever decide that you want to be more than friends – well, I think you’d be good for each other, that's all.”
Remus shook his head in disbelief. “How in the world do you reckon I’d be good for her? I mean, even if you leave aside my whole problem with the moon, I’m far too old for her and living on your charity –”
Sirius looked as if he were about to argue, but before he had a chance to say anything, the bolts on the front door slid apart and “little Dora” walked in, with a bottle of wine and several cartons of food from the Chinese takeaway under her arm. Remus greeted her with relief that was mingled with a touch of reserve. It had been a startling and unsettling conversation, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to think too hard about how he felt about her. When Alastor Moody and Kingsley Shacklebolt arrived a few minutes later, he busied himself pouring drinks and setting the table; but for some reason she always seemed to be at his elbow, making him feel uneasy and distracted.
After dinner, the conversation turned to Dolores Umbridge and what connection she might or might not have with the Death Eaters.
“There’s nothing,” said Kingsley flatly. “And I’ve been working overtime all week trying to dig up some connection. The woman’s a nasty piece of work, but she’s clean.”
“Or she’s very good at covering her tracks,” said Tonks. “I think Linus was right on the mark with that cartoon of his. Why else would she have gone to so much trouble to suppress it?”
Kingsley shook his head. “Even if her background wasn’t what it is, the psychology would be all wrong,” he said. I’m not saying she hasn’t done as much damage in her way as the Death Eaters have in theirs – but she hasn’t got the mind-set that makes people inclined to dabble in the Dark Arts. Every Dark wizard I’ve known has had a healthy disregard for the rules, and that woman worships them.”
“You young ones put too much stock in psychology,” Moody replied. “The woman’s got the soul of a Death Eater, mark my words, and I doubt she’d shrink from the Dark Arts if she thought she wouldn’t get caught. I’d not be surprised if she was the one who sent the dementors after Harry last summer.”
The others exchanged glances over Moody’s head. “No offense, Mad-Eye, but that one was worthy of the Quibbler,” said Sirius after a moment.
“All right, laddie, what’s your theory about how the Death Eaters knew to recruit Berowne?”
“I’ve been thinking,” said Sirius airily, leaning back in his chair, “because really, there isn’t anything else to do around here, and I was wondering about that, and also about the Healer who was attacked a few weeks ago, and that Unspeakable fellow who was murdered ... Bode, right?” He leaned forward, and the front legs of the chair hit the floor with a thump. “It all seems to come back to St. Mungo’s, doesn’t it?”
Remus frowned. The trouble with having friends who were geniuses was that they never made sense. “Could you expand on that?” he asked after a moment.
Sirius opened his mouth, but before he could speak, he was interrupted by a loud croak from the window. Severus Snape’s Patronus had returned.
“The Potter boy,” it announced once it had got everybody’s attention, “seems to have disappeared. He had Miss Granger with him the last time he was seen, and several other students appear to be missing.”
Sirius got up and strode toward the window. “What d’you mean, disappeared?” he demanded. “Your master’s meant to be their teacher, why wasn’t he keeping an eye on them?”
“He was – insofar as one can keep an eye on a loose cannon who keeps charging into the Forbidden Forest without warning, and without so much as a by-your-leave. He seemed to be under the impression that you were in some sort of danger.”
“What the hell are you talking about? What kind of danger?”
“His exact words were ‘He’s got Padfoot at the place where it’s hidden.’ I must say, by-the-by, that it seems absurdly childish for a man of thirty-six to use a schoolboy nickname with his ward, but his meaning was clear enough. The boy believes you to be held captive at the Department of Mysteries, and I can only surmise that he and his friends have gone there.” The raven hopped onto the mantlepiece. “The boy is certainly fond of playing the hero. I suppose he gets it from his sainted father. On the bright side, he seems likely to inherit a tragically short life-span, as well.”
Sirius swore loudly and lunged at the bird as if to wring its neck. Because Patroni were insubstantial, he hit the wall instead and bruised his knuckles rather badly. Remus and Kingsley pulled him back.
“Control yourself, Black. I am certainly not the one who put the boy in danger. I have only come to report his absence and to see if there are any volunteers willing to save his skin.”
“Yes, yes, we all volunteer.” Tonks looked as if she were on the verge of attacking the raven herself. “Is there anything more?”
“I have brought a message to Dumbledore, and he should be arriving here shortly. I need to see if I can track down the rest of the Order, so I suppose Black may as well fill him in on events. It will make him feel useful.” With this parting shot, Snape’s Patronus vanished, and the room filled with a flurry of chatter as the Order members pulled on protective gear and reached for their wands.
Sirius stood up. “I’m coming with you.”
There was a moment of silence. Kingsley, Tonks, and Moody all looked at Remus. Sirius did not.
“You shouldn’t let him get to you,” said Remus. “It’s water under the bridge now, and his loss if he can’t let go of the past.”
“I’m not letting him get to me.” Sirius’ voice was weary. “It’s just that James trusted me to look after Harry, and if – when I see him again, I don’t fancy having to explain to him why I stood by and did nothing while his son was in danger. And – well – if I can’t do this much for the Order, what am I supposed to do? Stare at the house-elf heads and go slowly mad?”
It took Remus several seconds to realize that the others were still staring at him. The combination of Wolfsbane and alcohol was doing funny things to his perceptions, and he felt as if he were looking at them all through a curtain of water. All except Padfoot, who was just – himself.
After a moment, he nodded. “Right. Let’s go.”
October 3rd, 2005, 2:47 am
Apparently I have Pallas' Syndrome, because I just split my first chapter, in part because I ended up dipping into the HBP timeline. There were going to be eighteen; now there are nineteen.
Chapter Eighteen: After the Battle
“I wonder why Remus hasn’t sent word.” Celia looked out over Diagon Alley and drummed her fingers on the windowsill. “It isn’t like him to be late.”
“Perhaps he’s got ... other things going on.” Linus glanced toward the copy of the Daily Prophet that rested on top of a crate of Skiving Snackboxes. The paper had come late that day. When it finally arrived, the headlines were at once sensational – DEATH EATERS CAPTURED IN MINISTRY BREAK-IN; PUBLIC CALLS FOR FUDGE’S RESIGNATION – and frustratingly guarded. He couldn’t tell who had been involved in the capture, and the paper was silent on the subject of injuries and deaths.
The handful of shoppers in the street below huddled together in tense frightened knots, and even Fred and George Weasley seemed subdued. They had locked themselves in the back room for most of the day, experimenting with something they called Shield Hats. Only the occasional ricochet of a deflected spell or muffled burst of swearing let their guests know that the twins were still in one piece.
“Perhaps we ought to help the boys stock some of the shelves in the main room,” said Celia, coming away from the window at last.
“We don’t know what’s supposed to go where,” Linus pointed out.
“Oh. Right.” Celia toyed with her bracelet – an inexpensive bit of costume jewelry that had been a present from Remus – picked up the paper as if she were planning to read it for the fourth time, and almost immediately put it down.
“I expect he’s got more important things to do than trying to worm a confession out of Dolores Umbridge,” said Linus.
“Yes. Yes, I suppose he would.”
“We could go and speak to Umbridge,” said Linus suddenly. “Remus is just as much an amateur as we are – and this is really my battle to fight, not anybody else’s.”
Celia looked at him as if he were utterly mad. Perhaps he was; why else would he have suggested that they take themselves off to Scotland on a day when most people were afraid to leave their houses?
Then she laughed. “Why not? It’s not as if we have anything better to do. I’ll just leave a note for Fred and George, and we’ll be off.”
Rubeus Hagrid, who had been friendly with Linus until he was expelled in their third year, let them onto the Hogwarts grounds with only a minimum of scrutiny. His face darkened when Linus said that they wanted to speak to Dolores Umbridge, but cleared again when he grasped that the interview was not likely to be a pleasant one for Dolores.
“Ar, yeh’ll find the old harpy in the Hospital Wing, but good luck gettin’ anything out o’ her.”
“Why?” asked Linus. “What happened?”
“Couldn’ keep from meddlin’ with people she knows nowt about, could she?”
Linus and Celia looked at each other, puzzled. This was certainly an accurate description of Umbridge, but as an explanation of how she came to be in the Hospital Wing it was rather cryptic.
Poppy Pomfrey, who presided over the Hospital Wing, was a near-stranger to Linus, but she greeted Celia like an old friend – one of the few perks of having an illness-prone child, Linus supposed. His own daughter had rarely had much wrong with her, and when she did, his ex-wife was the one who generally got called in.
“What can I do for you, Celia?” Poppy asked after the introductions had been made.
“We need to see Dolores Umbridge. I’m sorry to interrupt your work, but we need some information from her – it’s important.”
“Well, you see...” Poppy looked awkward. “I need your word that this won’t get out – we’ve had enough trouble with the Ministry as it is – but the fact is, Professor Umbridge has met with – with an accident.”
“What sort of accident?” asked Celia.
“A run-in with centaurs, apparently.”
“Centaurs? She’s been shot with arrows?”
Poppy shook her head. “Not a scratch on her, and no sign of what they did to her, but she appears to be too traumatized to speak. Frankly –” she looked around the ward and lowered her voice – “it’s my opinion that all they had to do was lay hands on her, and she went into shock from the insult. Small-minded, bigoted woman – can’t abide what she calls ‘part-humans’... Anyway, you’re welcome to visit her, but I don’t think she’ll be in any condition to help you.”
She drew the curtain away from a bed at the end of the ward. Dolores Umbridge lay flat on her back, her eyes fixed on the ceiling. Her tangled hair was spread out on the pillow with bits of twigs sticking out of it at odd angles. Incongruously, there seemed to be the remnants of a pink ribbon buried somewhere amid the snarls.
“Madame Umbridge?” Celia tried cautiously, but the patient gave no sign of noticing the visitors.
Linus tried a more direct approach. “I’m Linus Berowne. Martin Miggs, remember? You set a werewolf on me once to shut me up, but it didn’t work.”
Dolores Umbridge continued to stare blankly at the ceiling. Her face was slack and expressionless, rather less toadlike than it had been, though still distinctly unattractive.
“Poppy?” asked Celia. “Is there any way we could have access to her office?”
The nurse looked dubious. “It’s against the rules – but since it’s you – and since it’s her...” She gave another quick glance around the ward and took a ring of keys out from underneath her robes. “Follow me.”
“Good God,” said Linus when he got his first glimpse of Umbridge’s office. “It looks like – like Madam Puddifoot threw up all over it.”
Poppy and Celia laughed nervously.
“Where do you think she would keep – anything that might incriminate her?” he wondered aloud, with a sidelong glance at Poppy, who shrugged.
“There,” said Celia after considering the office’s furnishings for a moment. She indicated a cabinet that was nearly obscured by an enormous vase of flowers and covered with a lace tablecloth. “One doesn’t put tablecloths on things with drawers, normally – and she seems to have gone out of her way to block it with the other furniture.”
While looking through the cabinet, Linus thought that Celia might be right, but Dolores certainly had an odd collection of incriminating items. Among other things, he discovered a sharp-looking black quill, the point of which seemed to be stained with rust-colored ink; a vial that looked as if it had once contained some sort of potion; and innumerable copies of Rita’s interview with Harry Potter.
And, in the very bottom drawer, he found the January issue of Martin Miggs.
It was hard to believe that it had been worth the trouble of breaking into a house and destroying a man’s life, and that only six months earlier. The animation had worn off, and the cartoons were tattered bits of paper covered in dated jokes; a curiosity more than anything.
“Are you going to publish it?” Celia asked.
“It’s too late, now. Its time has passed.” Linus folded the sheets of parchment in two and slipped them into the pocket of his robes. “I’ll keep it. As a memento.”
“A memento of what?”
“I don’t know. The power of human folly.” He looked around the deserted office, with the flowers beginning to wither and the garishly colored kittens skipping silently from plate to plate, and wondered if its owner would ever return to it. “Come on. Let’s go home.”
A/N: I wrote this scene prior to the publication of HBP (I tend to skip around a lot), and I've decided to leave it as it was, although it's now clear that Umbridge has gotten much less of a comeuppance than I'd hoped. Some villains, alas, are untouchable.
On the bright side, I've been working on a HBP-era story set in the same universe, and one of Umbridge's co-conspirators is well positioned to serve a useful role. So sometimes things work out for the best :)
October 7th, 2005, 1:55 am
And the last of the loose ends gets wrapped up, although this will come as no surprise to SnorkackCatcher, who has spoiled himself already.
I've gotten quite fond of the idea of Snape / Narcissa since HBP. She strikes me as far more likely to be his type than Lily was...
The night after the Department of Mysteries battle, Remus was keeping a lonely vigil on a ward at St. Mungo’s. It had been nearly two days since he’d slept, and the full moon was drawing ever closer. His bones ached and he felt lightheaded.
He hadn’t known that Metamorphmagi reverted to their true physical form when they were unconscious. The fine, straight hair spread out against the pillow was closer to brown than blonde, but otherwise she was the spitting image of a young Narcissa Black. No wonder she preferred bubble-gum pink spikes.
Tonks stirred, for the first time in the twenty-four hours he’d been here, and he felt his knees go weak with relief. He hadn’t realized, until that very moment, how dreadfully afraid he’d been that they were going to lose her too.
Her eyes opened. “Malfoy,” she murmured.
“He’s been arrested,” said Remus quietly. “Almost all of them have been arrested. We did well.” He couldn’t bring himself to tell her about Sirius yet. Not after they’d fought so hard to save his sanity, for so many months. There would be time enough in the future. A thousand tomorrows wouldn’t bring him back.
“No.” She struggled to sit up. “Malfoy ... here.”
“You’ve been dreaming. Go back to sleep. You’re safe here.” He brushed a few strands of hair away from her face and pressed his hand against her forehead. She didn’t seem to be feverish, but he couldn’t tell for sure.
She wouldn’t look straight at him. She was gazing across the room, her face furrowed in concentration. “Not Lucius,” she said at last. “Another Malfoy.” Apparently satisfied with this conclusion, she sank back against the pillows and closed her eyes.
Slowly, he turned his head. She was right. There was another Malfoy staring at him through cold grey eyes, wearing Lucius’ selfsame sneer.
Remus felt slightly dizzy, until he took in the fact that the aristocratic wizard was merely oil and canvas, confined to the portrait frame on the opposite wall. His blond hair was curled and tied back with a velvet ribbon, in the style of some forgotten generation, and his pointed face was similar – though not identical – to young Draco’s.
The plaque at the bottom of the frame read: APOLLODORUS MALFOY (1690-1832). PHILANTHROPIST, HUMANITARIAN.
The first thing that popped into Remus’ exhausted mind was a joke that James Potter used to tell about twice a day, until Sirius threatened to convert him into venison steaks if he didn’t stop: “If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?”
Old Apollodorus definitely looked like he was that sort of humanitarian. Probably liked people just fine if they were well roasted and served with the right vintage from his cellars. He stood in front of the portrait, giggling weakly.
And then, as if from beyond the veil, he heard Sirius’ voice. It all seems to come back to St. Mungo’s, doesn’t it ... The Longbottoms were on the same ward as Broderick Bode, weren’t they? D’you reckon there might be some connection?
But they’d never been on this ward, had they? Unless there were more portraits of Malfoys lurking around...
The image of Urquhart Rackharrow, inventor of the Entrail-Expelling Curse, floated into his mind. Not a Malfoy by name. But he had a Malfoyish sort of face: silvery hair, pointed brow, forbidding expression.
Lord Voldemort had known about Linus Berowne’s injury. He’d known exactly where Linus lived, too, and hadn’t Linus given Remus his address on the day they met?
He tried to silence the pounding in his head. Between exhaustion and the approaching full moon, he wasn’t entirely sure he was thinking straight – but if he was right, it was urgent – He went out in the corridor and flagged down a passing mediwitch.
“Madam,” he said urgently. “Do you know where the portrait on that ward came from?”
The mediwitch looked blank. “I don’t remember when it came, but it’s probably from one of the donors. Hideous frame, isn’t it? People are always giving us family heirlooms they don’t want, and then putting on airs about their generosity.”
“People like the Malfoys?”
“Those were the ones. How could I have forgotten? They’re always sending us old family portraits, and being ever so particular about where we hang them, talking all sorts of rot about how this one can only go on a third floor room on the south side, because the light is meant to hit it at a certain angle on winter afternoons. Why they can’t just keep them in their own home if they’re going to fuss so much, I don’t know.”
Remus only half heard her. His mind was racing. It was past dawn now, and he thought he might be able to get in touch with Kingsley before he left for work. “Have you got a Calling Card I could borrow?” he asked at last. “I need to get in touch with a friend. Right now.”
“My half-blood niece?” said Narcissa Malfoy. “Are you positive? ... Will she live or die? ... Has anybody been to see her? ... Describe him for me ... Are they lovers, do you think, or just friends?” (Apollodorus’ answer to this last question was decidedly noncommittal, and Narcissa made a mental note to make further inquiries.) “Thank you, Apollodorus. That will be all. You may return to the hospital, if you would be so kind.”
Apollodorus bowed low and stepped out of the portrait frame.
Narcissa stood in the shaft of sunlight that filtered down from the skylight in the portrait gallery, contemplating the news he had brought. Although the June morning was chilly, she wore a low-cut gown in the shade of rose that showed off her creamy shoulders to their best advantage. She would need every advantage today. She hoped the Ministry officials who came to question her about her husband’s activities would be male. Men were easy to manage.
When they came, she widened her eyes and assumed a distraught expression. “I had no idea ... He didn’t tell me where he was going ... he goes away in the evenings sometimes and doesn’t come back until morning ... I thought he had a mistress, but this is even worse, isn’t it?”
Without committing herself to too many specifics, she contrived to give the impression that their marriage had been in difficulties that were mainly Lucius’ fault, that she was patient, long-suffering, and slightly stupid, and that her husband was not in the habit of confiding in her.
She thought it was working. Williamson, the young Auror who asked most of the questions, seemed to be looking at her breasts rather than her eyes, which was always a good sign. She intensified the bosom-heaving a bit.
“Calling Auror Williamson. Auror Williamson.” The deep, slow voice seemed to come from the Auror’s back pocket.
“Just a moment, please.” Williamson took a business card out of his wallet and carried on a hasty, whispered conversation with it. When he looked up, his expression was grim and his manner considerably less courteous.
“There’s just one other thing, Madam Malfoy. I apologize for the inconvenience, so we’ll have to seal off your portrait gallery.”
“Seal it off?” Narcissa looked up at him with widened eyes and fluttering lashes. “Why, whatever do you mean?”
“With a magical barrier, so that nobody can access it. Unless you prefer for us to confiscate the portraits.” Before she could decide which of these alternatives would be less disastrous, he added, “You see, we have reason to think your husband has been using them to communicate with his cohorts. Of course – ” she thought she caught a faint smirk on Williamson’s face – “we don’t suspect you of being involved in anything of the sort, so I’m certain you’ll have no objection.”
Outmaneuvered, she thought, and mentally resorted to language that was most unbecoming to a lady, though highly characteristic of a Black. Aloud she said, “Yes, of course. Whatever you think best.”
After Williamson and his companion left, she paced the ground floor of the house, trying to ease her anxious mind. She was already longing for her husband or, at least, a faithful friend. She thought of Bella first; but her sister would not sympathize with her fears for her son. Should she send for Severus? No, she decided, not yet. The Dark Lord was bound to have worse in store for their family than the Ministry had. She would wait, she thought, until she needed his help; and he would give it to her. Oh, he’d play hard to get; he would enjoy being the one in control of the situation; he would probably make her beg, just as he had begged her, once upon a time, not to marry Lucius. And she would play along and give him a taste of power, but she’d keep the greater part of it in her own hands.
Men were easy.
October 13th, 2005, 1:34 am
And three final scenes from the first days of the war...
Chapter Nineteen: Epilogue
“Well,” said William Roper. He was a stern, rugged old man, much taller than his sister, and as he stood in the shadowy front hall he had the look of an ancient lion defending its den. “Have you come to repent of your ways before it’s too late?”
Before it’s too late, Celia thought. And how will we know when that is? Perhaps it was too late twenty-five years ago. Perhaps fifty. “I’ve come on another errand,” she said. “I came to tell you that my world is at war again. As it was fifteen years ago.”
It had been fifteen years since their mother’s death. She thought she saw him startle a little, but his voice was even when he spoke. “And what concern is that of mine? Let the armies of Babylon destroy one another.”
“It’s your concern because they’ll want to destroy you too, if they can find you,” she said, biting back a wave of irritation. “The first people they always go after are the Muggle relatives of witches and wizards.”
Celia opened her handbag and took out a smooth round stone that might have been equally at home edging a garden path or resting on a desk as a paperweight. She set it down on the hall table. “Listen to me. This is a transportation device called a Portkey. It’s Charmed to activate if somebody grips it for thirty seconds together, so make sure you don’t do that until you need it. It will take you to a safe place. If you want to take someone with you –” it occurred to her that she didn’t even know if William had ever married, or if she had nephews and nieces – “make sure they grasp the Portkey at the same time you do.”
“I need none of your witchcraft. My trust is in a greater Power.”
“You don’t understand, William. You are powerless against these people. You’ll be killed in your own home like our mother was if you don’t use it.”
“I do not fear them. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” William stepped farther back into the shadows and asked, “Why do you keep coming here when you are not wanted?”
The question caught Celia by surprise, and as she tended to do, she fell back on her intellectual principles. “I am here because I believe in protecting the weak against the strong. I think it’s the proper use for our powers.”
“I am protected,” William insisted. “And there is no proper use for your powers. Go, if you have nothing more to say to me.”
How is it that I can’t get away from stubborn men? she thought. And then, almost before she knew it, she was hearing Linus’ voice in the back of her head. Celia, could you try not treating this as a problem in magical ethics for a change?
Her hand had been on the doorknob, but she drew it back. “I’m here because you are my brother. That’s why. And I’m not going away until I’m sure you understand what I came to say.”
He took a step toward her. “I’m surprised you remember that,” he said quietly. “You never seemed to care about it before. You and our mother both. You went away and left us without a second thought.”
So this wasn’t about religion or magic at all. It never had been. “I want you to know that Mum had second thoughts. Many of them. She never stopped talking about you until the day she was killed, you know – never stopped being hurt that you wouldn’t speak to her and Prospero, that you wouldn’t even acknowledge that she was still alive...” This wasn’t helping, she realized, and let her voice trail off.
“Aye, take her part,” said William. “You always did.”
“No.” She looked up at him and swallowed her pride. “What she did was wrong. And I was wrong, too. I never tried to patch things up, and you’re right, I never really looked back. But I’m trying now. I know it’s too late for ... for some things, but I’m doing my best to see that you’re safe.”
“I see,” was all he would commit himself to; but something in his face had softened.
“Will you promise me that you’ll keep that Portkey in the house?”
He looked at the stone with distrust. “Must I promise to use it?”
“No. That will be your choice, if and when the time comes. All I want to do is make sure you have that choice.”
“Very well,” he conceded. She wasn’t entirely sure whether he had relented, or whether he was simply hoping that she would go away if he agreed, but she supposed it didn’t really matter. He had the means to save his own life if he chose to.
“Thank you, William. And good luck to you.”
“God be with you,” he said unexpectedly, and they clasped hands for a fraction of a minute before she left the house.
October 20th, 2005, 2:30 am
I wrote the first draft of this scene before HBP was released. A number of the details, obviously, have been added or changed since then. Not one word of the last paragraph has, although its implications are now much darker than I intended them to be. Such are the pitfalls of working with other people's canon.
Tonks had been released from St. Mungo’s three days after the battle. Her ribs ached, and she felt slightly dizzy when she stood up; but she knew very well that her injuries could have been worse. Much worse.
It was the non-physical damage that hurt the most – the loss of her cousin and the persistent feeling that she could have taken out Bellatrix. She replayed the battle again and again in her head; she’d been so close. And then, on the first day she’d been fit to return to work, Amelia Bones had been murdered in her home. Stern but fair, Amelia had been the cornerstone of the Division of Magical Law Enforcement. Without her, it felt as if the Ministry was about to collapse on their heads.
She had soldiered on – she had work to do, as they all did – but she had not been greatly surprised when she woke one morning and found that her Metamorphmagus powers had deserted her, leaving her with plain mousy hair and a pale, delicate face that was far too much like her Aunt Narcissa’s for comfort.
Remus had found her in the house in Grimmauld Place one day, pretending to polish the silver, really rubbing a rag over an old goblet again and again and fighting back tears. He said she shouldn’t dwell on what might have been. It wasn’t fair to Sirius and it wasn’t fair to herself. She saw the sense in it – he was always sensible, really, and always kind. She set the goblet on a shelf and looked up to thank him, and she realized that his eyes were bright with unshed tears as well.
It was as if she was looking at him for the first time, seeing him not as an older friend who always seemed to know the right things to say and do, but as a man. All in a moment, her easy comradeship with Remus had turned into something quite different, something awkward and prickly and exhilarating, and she wasn’t sure what to do with it. She would have liked his advice on what she was about to do, but at the same time she felt as if it had suddenly become impossible.
She fingered the fragments of parchment that her colleagues had found on one of the captured Death Eaters – Mulciber, the specialist in the Imperius Curse. They bore notes about Memory Potions in a feminine hand, and one of the Healers at St. Mungo’s had identified the handwriting as Hope McRae’s. The Alienist had been released from the hospital and was recuperating in the country, they said, but it would be some time before she was able to return to work. Her memory of everything related to the potion she had been working on had been erased, precisely and completely.
Kingsley, who was still in charge of the McRae case, had taken possession of the notes and brought them to Order headquarters; but neither he nor Tonks had sufficient theoretical knowledge to continue Healer McRae’s research, nor enough spare time to learn.
Sirius might have been able to do it. She winced as a fresh twinge of pain shot through her side.
But they had one remaining hope, if he consented to take on the work. She had asked Severus Snape to meet her here at headquarters, as she didn’t feel fit to travel as far as Scotland.
The door slid open noiselessly, a full ten minutes before she expected him. “Hello, Nymphadora,” he said, staring at her with unblinking black eyes as if he was seeing a ghost.
“Severus. Um, hi.” She got to her feet, and promptly knocked the chair backward onto the floor. “I need to ask you a favor.”
“So I gathered.” His face was inscrutable once more, but it had betrayed him for a moment. She tried to reconcile his work for the Order with the extraordinary discovery she had just made. Severus Snape had once been in love with Narcissa Black.
“It has to do with a problem in experimental potions.”
“Wolfsbane, I suppose.” He waved a hand dismissively. “Tell Lupin I haven’t the time, but if his health has been troubling him again, I can recommend an excellent veterinary surgeon.”
She gritted her teeth and refrained from pointing out that they were coming into the summer holidays. He would only argue (truthfully) that he had quite enough to do as Order member and spy; her only hope was piquing his interest in Hope McRae’s research for its own sake. “No. Memory Potions, actually.”
She outlined the situation, explaining what Hope had told her and showing him the notes they had found in Mulciber’s pocket. She did know enough about Potions research to couch it as an academic problem, and to recognize that it was an intriguing one. As she spoke, she watched his face and was pleased to see that he was tempted.
“A fascinating little theoretical puzzle,” he said at last, laying a slight stress on the word theoretical. “Unfortunately, I am certain it has not escaped your notice that the rest of the Order seems to regard me as a mixture of messenger boy and trick dog, and has no compunctions about ordering me away on dangerous errands at all hours of the day or night. I simply do not have the time to spare for a project with no immediate, practical applications for the war effort.”
“But it does have practical applications,” Tonks protested. “Especially now that a group of Death Eaters have been captured and are awaiting trial. If we could recover the memories of people who were injured in the first war and get them in a fit condition to testify –”
“People such as Frank and Alice Longbottom,” he said evenly.
“Well – yes, exactly. We’ve never been sure exactly how many Death Eaters were there that night, or whether we caught them all –” She stopped short, remembering how he’d looked at her when he entered the room and feeling that she had just made a horrible blunder. The Longbottoms’ torture had been a regular family reunion; Rodolphus had brought his younger brother along, and even the Crouches had been distant connections. Snape might suspect, or know, that Narcissa had been there as well. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
The look in Snape’s eyes was keen and hungry and ugly. It made her think of the bitterest kind of hatred, the kind that had once been something else entirely. But his voice, when he spoke, was perfectly controlled.
“Indeed. I shall try to find the time,” he said, folding Hope’s notes neatly and tucking them into the pocket of his robes. “I thank you for bringing this to my attention, Nymphadora. It promises to be very interesting indeed.”
She watched him leave the room and tried to shake off the faint chill that had crept up the back of her neck. He was doing good work for the Order – and had done, for more than fifteen years. His motives didn’t matter.
November 6th, 2005, 2:42 am
And, at long last, we arrive at some kind of conclusion. Please post any final comments here (http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=46578&page=10&pp=20), and apologies for making you wait so long -- there were a few lines that just weren't jelling, and also I've sent off thirty-odd job applications in the last two weeks, so it's been really hard finding time and mental space for anything else.
It was, Linus thought, just as well that he and Celia hadn’t waited for her son to accompany them to Hogwarts, because almost two weeks passed before they saw Remus again. He spent nearly every day at her house: listening to the Wizengamot proceedings for the selection of a new Minister on the WWN; reading the reports about the Brockdale Bridge disaster and the hurricane in the West Country in the Muggle papers; watching Celia pace and fret and polish the family photographs that stood on the mantelpiece. He noticed that she had put a new one up, a black-and-white Muggle photograph of a young man dressed in the style of the 1930s.
“Is that your brother?”
“You didn’t go to see him again! After everything he said to you?”
“I had to make sure he knew how to look after himself. There isn’t much else we can do – not when we know so little – but at the very least we ought to share what we do know with the Muggles.” Celia picked up the purple Ministry leaflet, “Protecting Your Home and Family Against Dark Forces,” that had arrived with the Prophet that morning and frowned at it.
“It’s mostly useless advice,” said Linus. “‘Don’t enter buildings with the Dark Mark over them, and if you see an Inferius, tell the Ministry if you aren’t already dead. Never would have worked that out on my own.” He picked up a quill and began to sketch a perplexed-looking Martin Miggs reading a security leaflet. “Help me think of some more. ‘Should you witness anybody attempting to break into the fabled Hall of Prophecy, do nothing at all because the Hall of Prophecy ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT EXIST.’ ‘If a friend, colleague, neighbor, or family member insists on being addressed as ‘Lord Whatchamajigger’ or ‘You-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’, it is a sign that they may be the next Dark Lord. Alert the Ministry at once so they can begin denying this person’s existence immediately’.”
“And always call them ‘Yoo-Hoo’ for short,” said Celia, her lips twitching slightly, “because Dark Lords hate that.”
“Good one,” said Linus, jotting it down. He felt pleased that he’d managed to make her smile; she had been so worried lately, and he knew there was nothing he could do. Where, he wondered, was Remus?
They spent half an hour thinking up increasingly absurd security tips. It had almost begun to feel like a normal, pleasant afternoon when a dank mist blotted out the sun and what had been a bright summer day turned chill and dreary.
“Dementors?” Linus asked, and Celia nodded.
“I think I’d better see to the garden,” she said, getting to her feet. “There’ll be a frost tonight if they settle here. Could you be a dear and put on some hot chocolate while I’m out?”
“I’ll go with you,” Linus offered, but she shook her head and said that she would be all right.
He heard Remus’ footsteps on the doorstop while she was out. It took only one glance at his friend’s white, hollow-cheeked face for Linus to see that something was very wrong, perhaps never to be right again.
“Sit down,” said Linus. “You look like you’ve been out too long. Let me get you some hot chocolate.”
He reached for the saucepan on the stove, but Remus shook his head. “It won’t help.”
“What’s the matter?”
“It’s a long story. Very long ... Have you ever heard of the Order of the Phoenix?”
“Is it anything like the Order of the Penguins?” asked Linus.
“Penguins?” asked Remus vaguely, with a shadow of his old smile.
“Never mind. One of Martin Lovegood’s mad theories.”
“Then Martin Lovegood’s theories might be closer to the truth than you think. But never mind about that. I’d better begin at the beginning.” He leaned forward and placed a hand on Linus’ arm. “I want to tell you a story so that you may tell it to the world. I cannot find any laughter in it now, but I trust that you will, one way or another. It’s enough of a comedy of errors to be right up your alley, and the villains are Martin Miggs’ usual foes. Government bureaucrats who cared more about saving face than they did about justice, ordinary people – and I count myself among them – who failed to see the obvious when it was staring them in the face, and a few out-and-out scoundrels.
“This is the story of an innocent man who spent twelve years in Azkaban...”
“Whew,” Linus said when he had finished. “Don’t ask much, do you? I think that’s more of a tragedy than a comedy, any way you look at it.”
“Please,” said Remus. “I know it’s not exactly your usual line, but I need you to get the word out. The Ministry knows he’s innocent, but they’re keeping it quiet, and they’ve put pressure on the Prophet not to go public with the story. Can you do anything?”
“Yes, I can. I’m staff cartoonist for the Quibbler now, so I should be able to get Martin Lovegood interested as well. And ... I’m sorry, Remus. He sounds like he was a good man.”
“He was. Thank you.”
Remus looked steadier, if not precisely cheerful, now that he had told his story. When Linus offered him a cup of cocoa for the second time, he accepted it; after a sip or two, he was no longer so deathly pale.
Celia came in from the garden, her arms full of flowers, and began trimming the frostbitten leaves over the sink. She acknowledged her son’s presence with a casual nod and a word or two of greeting, although Linus knew for certain that she had been worried sick in his absence. He would never completely understand the Lupins, he decided. He only knew that he was enormously fond of them both.
“Have you been following the papers, Mum?” Remus asked after a moment.
“Yes. Both the Muggle and the wizard ones. You can hardly get away from the news these days. Be a dear and put these on the end table in the hall, will you?” She handed Remus the vase of flowers, which bloomed incongruously bright against his shabby robes.
“Things are going rather badly.” Remus didn’t say, precisely, that he had knowledge that went beyond what had been written in the papers; but both Linus and Celia understood that was what he meant. “That’s why I haven’t been around much. I have a feeling it will get worse.”
“Yes,” said Celia quietly. “But we’ll get through, one way or another. We’ve always done before.” She reached for Linus’ hand, and their fingers twined together.
“You think so?” said Remus. He looked as if he were on the verge of saying something else, but seemed to think better of it.
“I know so,” said Linus, before Celia could answer. “Now, let’s go round to the Quill and Quirk for a drink.”
Thanks to SnorkackCatcher for inspiring the last line :)
I realize there are a few loose ends left untied; initially, that was intentional since I didn't know which way JKR would go in HBP and I didn't care to take a guess; now, it leaves things open for an HBP-era sequel, which I've been working on in my odd bits of spare time. No promises when it'll be finished, though, because real life is baring its teeth and growling at me at the moment.