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The Order of the Phoenix and the Purloined Prophetess



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  #41  
Old January 27th, 2004, 6:35 pm
Lady deMimsy  Female.gif Lady deMimsy is offline
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Chapter Thirty: Medea

“What does he mean, ‘DON’T GO HOME’?” I exclaimed. “My wife is at home.” I grabbed my car keys and lunged for the door. Remus held me back – he was stronger than he looked, but I was heavier – next thing I knew, I’d knocked him down. The rat Fred had been levitating fell to the floor with a plop. I looked around and saw that Fred, Tonks and Reg all had their wands pointed straight at me. I froze.

“Will you – listen to reason – Jack,” Remus gasped, “or do we have to – bind you up – like Mr. Nott there?”

“I’ll listen,” I said. He picked himself up off the floor and rubbed his jaw where I hit him, and I felt contrite. “Sorry about that.”

“Don’t mention it. Trust me, you would not find it easy to do me any permanent damage, and you don’t have a chance against four of us.” He looked me in the eye and I realised his threat had been serious. “You’re not going anywhere except Grimmauld Place. I don’t know what’s going on and I’m in no position to make any promises, but I’m certain Alastor will do everything possible to keep your wife safe. I can also virtually guarantee that there is no way you’d be able to help.”

He was right, of course. I shouldn’t have come in the first place; I couldn't do a thing except stand back and be protected, placing an additional burden on the others. I swore under my breath. I hate being this powerless.

A second owl flew into the shop. This one was clutching a longer letter and a packet labelled Pixie-B-Gon, which looked like the same one that had been sitting on my bedroom windowsill for weeks.

Jack –
I hope Alastor’s note didn’t scare you too much, he can be a little paranoid sometimes. Your wife is fine. She’s here at headquarters. Please use this Portkey to join her. We’ve just arrested Medea Nott outside your house and we’re checking the neighbourhood for other Death Eaters. Everything’s under control. You have nothing to worry about.
– Kingsley Shacklebolt


This wasn’t precisely as reassuring as Kingsley seemed to think it would be, but it helped a little.

Tonks opened the packet and turned it upside down. A small blue pellet fell out on the counter. “You’ll have to help us transport Nott as well,” she explained. “Take one of his hands, and make sure you both touch the Portkey at exactly the same time. Got it?”

I nodded, breathing a little easier. At least I was useful for something in their world.

“We’ll see you at Grimmauld Place.”

Travelling by Portkey was a new and dizzying experience for me. I had the wind knocked out of me as I landed underneath of Jephthah Nott in the front hall. Harriet helped me up, grinning. “Did you have fun getting here? I think it’s the best way to travel ever.” (She also likes roller coasters. I don’t.)

I looked around the hall. The others had already Apparated from the shop. An auburn-haired woman was lying on the floor, bound and gagged just like Jephthah. Unlike Jephthah, she was still struggling actively against her bonds, and there was a wild, mad light in her eyes. Kingsley Shacklebolt was standing over her with his wand firmly pointed in her direction. He looked solemn.

“What happened?” I asked.

Kingsley explained, “Harriet spotted Medea destroying the model of Hogwarts in your garden and guessed who she was from Madame Rosmerta’s description. She remembered about the packet of Pixie-B-Gon, Portkeyed herself over here, and told the other members of the Order. Your wife has enormous presence of mind and, if I may say so, extraordinarily good luck. She was very fortunate that Medea didn’t see her first – and that you told her everything about your work for the Order. That probably saved her life.”

“Medea would have killed her?” I blurted out before I could stop myself.

“I hate to be so blunt about it, but – yes.” said Kingsley. “I’m not going to undo her gag until we’re ready to interrogate her, but if you could have heard her when we arrested her – well. She was only coherent part of the time, but she was definitely in a homicidal frame of mind.”

Mad-Eye Moody had arrived while he was speaking. “That’s putting it mildly, Kingsley,” he said. “The woman’s a raving psycho. The good news is that there don’t seem to be any more Death Eaters involved. She seems to have tailed Larry and Reg to the Evanses’ house a few nights ago and decided on her own to attack them.”

“But why would she want to do that?”

Kingsley looked at us with an odd, troubled expression before he answered. “The particular form her mania takes is a homicidal obsession with Muggles who know about the wizarding world and find it ... too attractive. By the way – good thing you built that model. She couldn’t resist wrecking it before going after the people in the house, and that gave your wife time to get away.”

I stared at him, feeling dazed. So many little pieces of luck; so many things that might have gone wrong.

Severus Snape Apparated into the room with his potions kit. “Get the Veritaserum ready,” ordered Moody.

I glanced over at Remus and saw that he had gone very white. “All right?” I asked.

He nodded, with visible effort.

I crossed the room to where he was standing. “No one’s going to think any less of you if you take some time out,” I said quietly. “It’s been a long day, and the full moon is less than a week away.”

“No. It isn’t that. I’m fine. Really.”


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  #42  
Old January 28th, 2004, 8:37 pm
Lady deMimsy  Female.gif Lady deMimsy is offline
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Chapter Thirty-One: Interrogations

Part One


Veritaserum. My stomach lurched, and I bit down on my lower lip, hard. You fool, said a small, mocking voice in the back of my head, what did you think they were going to use? Chocolate syrup?

“Sure you’re all right?” whispered Tonks. I felt her hand tighten on my arm.

“Yes. It’s just – I really don’t like Veritaserum. There’s no reason why I would have to be present when you question them, is there?”

“No, of course not.” She didn’t ask any questions, but she kept a firm grip on my arm, and Jack was looking at me with concern. Embarrassed, I muttered that I would explain later.

They questioned me for forty-eight solid hours after Lily and James died. No sleep, no food, the occasional glass of water when I became too hoarse to speak. I suppose it wasn’t really the Veritaserum that made those two days into the stuff of my nightmares, it was everything else – the bullying, the way they told me about Sirius and Peter in the most brutal way imaginable, the absolute refusal to believe I didn’t have something to do with it. We wouldn’t do that to our prisoners – I hoped – and yet I couldn’t face watching it.

Besides, Veritaserum makes every guilty secret and dark thought you’ve ever had come spilling out, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to know everything about our prisoners. I’d begun to have another, horrible suspicion about the content of one of those confessions.

Across the hall, Severus Snape was saying something to Alastor about the correct dosage of Veritaserum for a man of Jephthah Nott’s size and weight. Like everyone else in the room, he seemed perfectly calm and collected, but it occurred to me that he was probably the only other person present who had experienced its effects in the immediate, personal way that I had. He wouldn’t mind witnessing the Notts’ interrogation; he would regard it as a job that had to be done, and done correctly. And I had called him a coward?

I thought back to what he had written about balance and measure, and accepted that there would always be a certain uneasy balance between our personalities.

Severus, our resident crew of Aurors, and the prisoners disappeared into a couple of the upstairs bedrooms for several hours. I tried to distract myself by reading Edgar Allan Poe, while Jack brought Harriet up to speed about the morning’s events with many interruptions from Reg. We found a packet of crisps in the kitchen and called it lunch, ignoring Kreacher’s offer to hunt down a yeti and fry it up for us. (He is currently working on a manuscript entitled Gilderoy Lockhart’s Guide to Exotic Cookery, although he hasn't yet found a publisher for Gilderoy Lockhart's Guide to Extreme House Cleaning.)

At long last, Tonks came down the stairs. She sat down next to me on the sofa and buried her forehead in her hands. She looked like she’d had a long day. I put an arm around her shoulders and asked what was the matter.

“Veritaserum doesn’t work on people who are barking mad, that’s what’s the matter. Medea has confessed to at least twenty murders already, and some of the people she named as her victims are still alive. We can’t get her to keep her mind on this crime long enough to learn anything useful from her. Alastor’s still trying, but I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere.”

Kingsley’s words about Medea’s obsession with Muggles who were too much in love with our world had triggered something in the back of my mind. I glanced at Jack. If I was not mistaken, the same question was troubling him as well. “Of the victims who aren’t alive,” I said cautiously, “is there a chance she really did kill any of them?”

“Yes.” She paused. “Do you want to know more?”

“No,” I said, feeling once again that I was an unspeakable coward. But, I told myself, even if the woman upstairs was my grandmother’s murderer, what difference did it make? What was I supposed to do with that information now?

“Do you, Jack?”

“Yes.” He was very pale, but he looked at her steadily. “Please.”

“I cannot say for certain whether she killed your adopted parents. We may never know that. But I will tell you that she believes she did.”

While he was still taking this in, Kingsley and Severus came out of the other room where they had been interrogating Jephthah Nott. “Think,” Kingsley was saying heatedly. “You must have made some mistake with the Veritaserum. Did you forget any of the ingredients?”

“I don’t make mistakes,” said Severus coolly. (I repressed a sudden, juvenile urge to hex him. It didn’t help that I knew he was right.)

“Then he must have some way of resisting the potion.”

“You and your colleagues may brew a version of Veritaserum people can resist. I do not. The man is telling the truth.”


  #43  
Old January 29th, 2004, 10:48 pm
Lady deMimsy  Female.gif Lady deMimsy is offline
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Congrats to seeker and SnorkackCatcher for anticipating this latest plot twist on the feedback thread. Hope it doesn't come across as too anticlimactic now.
_____

Interrogations, Part Two

“I don’t buy it,” Kingsley insisted. “How can he not know some of these things?”

“Easily,” said Severus. “They are Death Eaters. They don’t eat together, they don’t sit around drinking wine for hours after their meetings, and they don’t gossip. They are professionals.”

“Feeling nostalgic, are we?” muttered Tonks under her breath.

Harriet and I looked at each other. “Tea,” we said simultaneously.

Once he had a mug of tea in hand, Kingsley explained in a calmer tone, “We made good progress at first – he confessed at once to being a Death Eater named Jephthah Nott who operates the Happy Hippogriff under a false name. He maintains that his wife is no longer officially a Death Eater, but she has been helping him for a long time by pumping their son Theodore for information about Hogwarts, and Jephthah confided in her about his own work.” He took a swallow of tea. “He adores his wife, by the way. Kept begging us not to hurt her. I wouldn’t put it past him to try to shield her if he’s able to resist the potion, but on the other hand, this part of his story is consistent with what we’ve learned from other sources.”

Harriet’s words came back to me: Death Eaters are human, too, aren’t they? Life would be so much simpler if they weren’t.

Kingsley continued, “Nott also admitted to passing himself off as Boardman in order to gain access to Larry’s office and steal the toenail clippings. Finally, he confessed that he persuaded his wife to impersonate Fidessa and detain the real Larry at the Three Broomsticks.”

“What’s the problem, then?” asked Tonks. “It sounds like he’s given us more than enough evidence to bring charges.”

“He balked when we came to the actual night of the crime. He insists that he didn’t kidnap Sybill – his contact did. And conveniently, he claims not to have the slightest idea who this contact is or where he – or she – took her.”

“Then how did they communicate?” asked Jack.

“He presumes that his contact has a key to the shop, but he claims he doesn’t even know that for certain. The contact came in at night and exchanged notes with Nott, and Nott says he left Larry’s toenail clippings on the counter for the contact to collect, and agreed to get Larry out of the way on the night in question.” Kingsley shook his head. “That’s the part I think is completely unbelievable. He must have some idea about this person’s identity if they worked so closely together. How would he not recognise the handwriting, or the personality?”

“And I consider it absolutely believable,” said Severus smoothly. “You have studied how these people operate from the outside, but I have lived it. They work in an atmosphere of complete secrecy and distrust.”

“I said you had the wrong man, Moony.” Reg looked at me accusingly. “You wouldn’t listen.”

I would never have expected Reg to agree with Severus about anything, but of course he was a former Death Eater too; I keep forgetting because he has such an unlikely personality for it. If they both found Nott’s story plausible, I thought they might have a point. “All right,” I said. “I’m listening now. What makes you think he’s the wrong man?”

“Because he’s not a performer,” said Reg promptly. “He was about the most unconvincing singing sensation I’ve ever seen. Nobody but Larry would have bought his Stubby Boardman act for a second, and we don’t even know Stubby Boardman. You think he could pass himself off as Larry long enough to get Sybill to leave the tower?”

I groaned. Leave it to Reg to come up with something like that. Severus, I was pleased to see, looked equally disgusted.

“You might be right,” said Tonks. “I thought there was something all wrong about him when he came into Larry’s office, and we were only in the same room for about a minute.”

I looked to Jack for support. I hadn’t realised until that moment how much I had come to count on Jack to be a voice of reason. To my surprise, he said, “I think Reg’s on to something. First of all, kidnapping Sybill sounds like a mission for two, and if Medea wasn’t officially involved, it stands to reason that Voldemort would have put somebody else on the job. And secondly, Larry’s a pretty colourful character, and he was Sybill’s boyfriend. It would have taken some acting ability to pull it off.” He paused for a moment. “May I ask a rather stupid question?”

“Go ahead,” I said.

“This Peter Pettigrew everyone keeps talking about – he isn’t the same person as your school friend Peter? The one with the wicked gift for imitations?”


  #44  
Old January 30th, 2004, 9:36 pm
Lady deMimsy  Female.gif Lady deMimsy is offline
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Sorry for the shortness of this post, but I thought I'd give everybody one last opportunity to guess before I reveal Sybill's whereabouts...
_____

Chapter Thirty-Two: Closing the Net

Part One


“Unfortunately, yes,” said Remus grimly. He outlined Pettigrew’s career in a few words and added, with a slightly twisted smile, “And, of course, he wouldn’t have needed a key to get in and out of the Happy Hippogriff Dead Rat Emporium – he probably played dead and stowed away with the delivery man. He has a talent for that sort of thing.”

Tonks nodded. “Yes, I think you’ve just identified Larry’s contact. But that doesn’t help if we don’t know where to find him.”

“I can see one obvious lead,” I said. “Didn’t anybody think to follow up on what he was doing in Spirit’s End or whether he’s been back?” I asked.

Obviously I was Not Thinking Like A Wizard, as usual. They all looked at me as though I’d grown a second head – assuming second heads aren’t normal in their world.

“I think we can take it for granted that he was after me,” said Remus, who was clearly trying not to make me feel like my question was idiotic, but didn’t quite pull it off.

“But – unless there’s more to the story than you’ve told me, that’s sort of a backwards assumption, isn’t it? I mean, I can see how you would have an excellent motive for going after Pettigrew – forgive me, not that I’m saying you would – but he hasn’t got any particular reason to have it in for you. How do you know he wasn’t spying on someone or something else?”

“What else is there to spy on in the neighbourhood?” asked Tonks.

“I don’t know,” I admitted, “but there are other wizards in the area, aren’t there? You said yourself that your parents live there, and the restaurant owner obviously has connections...”

“I wish my parents would move!” she said suddenly. “I offered them half my inheritance, so I know they can afford it – but my dad’s a right stubborn old ... Well, anyway, he says he was born in Spirit’s End and he’ll die there. And don’t even get me started on my mum...”

“She’s a Black, little cousin,” said Reg gently. “Running scared isn’t her style. As for the rest of us – I think we should go for a curry.”

* * *

Vikram Prajpati’s restaurant was more crowded than it had been on my previous visit. We spent a couple of hours waiting for the other diners to clear out so we could speak to the owner. We were all exhausted, tense, and starving, so that was probably just as well. The others analysed the case all through the meal (except Reg, who was too busy ogling the proprietor’s daughter). I didn’t feel like talking much. After waiting so many years for an answer about what had happened to my family, I don’t know why receiving a non-answer left me so shaken and confused, but it did. Harriet kept saying comforting things in whispers, but of course the only person who knew exactly what I was going through was Remus, who quietly telegraphed sympathy from across the table. Sensible man. Why hadn’t I known when to stop asking questions?

The couple at the table behind us left the restaurant at last. Vikram approached our table. “Would you like some rice pudding or mango ice cream?”

I shook my head, and so did most of the others. I’d already eaten so much I was about to burst.

“No, but we’d like another round of Kingfishers and some information,” said Tonks. “Do you have a minute to chat?”

“Yes, of course,” said the restauranteur, sounding courteous but bewildered. His eyes rested on Larry, who had closed the Quibbler office early and joined us. “Where is your girl friend tonight – the one with all the beads?”

“That’s what we came to find out,” said Larry. “But how do you know who I am?”

“Weren’t you in here with her about a month ago? You came by Floo powder just at closing time. We were not serving dinner any more, but I sold you some lamb pasanda to take away.”

Larry looked utterly baffled.

“He had a little accident with a Memory Charm just after you saw him,” said Reg quickly. “We’ve been trying to figure out how it happened, actually, and we were hoping you might be able to help. Do you know where he and his girlfriend went after that?”

“I am sorry, no,” said Vikram. “My daughter and I were busy cleaning the kitchen. I suppose they went out in the street somewhere.”


  #45  
Old January 31st, 2004, 2:36 pm
Lady deMimsy  Female.gif Lady deMimsy is offline
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Well, sure enough someone tumbled to Peter and Sybill's hideout, so I'm going to go ahead and post the rest of the chapter now. MAJOR props to SnorkackCatcher, who should consider a career as an Auror if the Snorkcack catching doesn't work out.

But I liked the alternate theory (Sybill being holed up at Remus' flat) very much as well.
_____

Closing the Net, Part Two

I looked out the window. It was a quiet evening in Spirit’s End: a handful of drunks staggered out of the off license with bottles in brown paper bags; a pane of glass smashed somewhere down the block; and across the street, a depressed-looking customer drifted out of Madame Monica’s Mystical Tarot Reading.

A depressed-looking customer drifted out of Madame Monica’s Mystical Tarot Reading!

A few little things came together in my head ... a sudden rash of attempted suicides in the Spirit’s End tube station ... and a detective story I had read once ... “Remus, this is going to sound completely mad – but have you got your copy of Poe?”

“I think so.” He fished his tattered briefcase out from under the table and unknotted the string. “Toothbrush, invisibility cloak, chocolate, reading material. Yes. Why?”

“There’s a story in there. It’s about a blackmailer who steals a letter he has to keep intact and within his own reach at all times, but hidden from the people who are searching for it. Just like Sybill Trelawney’s kidnappers have to keep her close at hand, because they never know when she’ll make another prophesy.” I wondered if this analogy was too far-fetched, but he was listening with interest. “So in this story by Poe, the thief hid the letter in plain sight – in a place so obvious everyone looked right past it.”

He stared at me for a moment, and then his eyes drifted to the gritty street outside. “I read the story you’re talking about this afternoon. The thing that tipped the detective off and made him look twice was an envelope that was a little too dirty and worn out and insignificant-looking, as if somebody were trying to emphasize its unimportance...”

I nodded. “Like this neighbourhood. And in particular, like a certain fortune-telling business with a shady reputation.”

I saw the light begin to dawn on some of the others’ faces, although Larry still appeared confused. “Right, then,” Tonks said briskly. “The first thing we need to do is scout the place out and confirm whether you’re right, and then – if it’s at all possible – we’d better get Sybill out safely before we try to make any arrests or do battle with her guard, because I don’t trust her not to lose her head.”

“That’s a pretty tall order, little cousin,” Reg commented.

“I think we can pull it off,” said Remus. A strange light came into his eyes and intensified as he flipped through the pages of Poe. I realised I was looking at a master plotter at work. “We can certainly manage a facsimile,” he muttered. “The trouble would be getting her in and out of the place without attracting notice...”

“We could use a diversion, like they did in the story,” I said. I started reading over his shoulder to check the details. “How are you at madness?” I asked Reg.

“Madness is what I do best,” he said confidently.

“Now, we just need a scout to investigate the place and report back to us,” said Remus. “Preferably someone who can pass as an ordinary Muggle customer, since they won’t expect trouble from that quarter.”

“I’ll do it!” Larry offered. “I do undercover reporting all the time for the Quibbler. But I think it would be better if I posed as one of those Muggle law enforcement chappies checking to see whether they had the proper permits. Who knows, I might even end up with enough material for an expose of illegal fortune telling businesses. Do you think I should call myself ‘Officer Larry’ or ‘Please-man Larry’?” He transfigured his fork into something resembling a sheriff’s badge from an old Western and pinned it squarely over his stomach.

The rest of us eyed him dubiously. “No,” said Tonks. “We’ll need you to look after Sybill as soon as we spring her, but for this part, we have to use someone we’re sure they can’t identify by sight. Jack would do, except Pettigrew might have been in the dead rat shop this morning and got a good look at him.”

After a moment of silence, I realised they were all looking at my wife. “Oh, no,” I said.

“Oh, yes,” said Harriet cheerfully, as if she were planning a day at the park instead of a raid on the Death Eaters. “Sorry, hon, I’ll be careful, but it’s the only way.”


  #46  
Old February 8th, 2004, 2:09 pm
Lady deMimsy  Female.gif Lady deMimsy is offline
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Continuing from where we left off, before various Unfortunate Interruptions...
____

Chapter Thirty-Three: Harriet Investigates

Jack lent me his Instant Message Book in case I needed an emergency means of communication, although we planned to use Muggle methods to signal each other.

I kept my eyes wide open as I crossed the street and knocked on the door of Madame Monica’s, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. A misty voice called, “Come in, my dear,” and I entered a room filled with a dim red light and the scent of incense. A middle-aged woman draped in scarves and bangles sat behind a table spread with Tarot cards. A short, plump, balding man with some sort of prosthetic arm perched on a stool in the corner of the room, chewing anxiously on the end of a quill. He was surrounded by great heaps of parchment and looked more like an overworked clerk than a villain.

“Good evening,” I said to the woman.

“Good evening, my dear, how pleasant to see you in the physical world at last. The Inner Eye perceives you are troubled about Things Hidden – is it not so? – but the cards will bring all to light,” she said. “I shall read them for you...”

“Five quid,” interrupted the man.

She turned on him and said in less misty tones, “My dear Peter, true Seers do not concern themselves with mere Pecuniary Matters. My Gift is at the disposal of all who seek help, regardless of whether they may be encumbered with Filthy Lucre, or in the Depths of Penury.”

“I know, I know,” he said wearily, “but You-Know-Who will have my head if you keep giving readings for free. It’ll look – well, he’ll be out of business if the place doesn’t turn a profit.”

It sounded like they’d had this argument before, and the woman usually won. It also sounded like You-Know-Who had left Peter in charge of the fort. Perfect. I settled the dispute by handing Peter a five-pound note.

The woman dealt out three cards face down, shut her eyes for a moment, and turned the first one over. The man in the corner took a swig of sherry from the open bottle on the table and began to scribble furiously as she spoke.

“The first card, my dear, is the King of Swords, a very powerful card indeed. I sense a man of volatile temperament in your life ... yes, and violence that may turn deadly. You must beware of him, and yet I fear you shall not be able to escape him, for he is in complete command. Yes, I regret to say that you will most likely become his victim ... unless, of course, the second or third card reveals a secret that shall destroy you first.

“The second card is the Seven of Cups. I sense temptation, my dear, and I am sorry to say you will succumb to it. I warn you not to do the thing you are thinking of doing ... and yet I fear it is too late, for you have already made a fatal decision. If you are to have any hope of saving yourself, you must avoid the element of water at all costs ... and earth, air, and fire, just to be on the safe side.”

She turned over the third card. “The Page of Cups, reversed, a card that represents Dark Essences, sad reflection, and the terrible consequences of emotional excess. Alas, my dear, you will be seduced into doing evil ... distracted from your true purpose ... and you will have a most unpleasant encounter with a man in tights who carries a fish in a cup – ”

My mobile phone rang. “Excuse me just a minute,” I said. “Hello?”

“My dear,” said the woman reprovingly, “one does not disturb the Resonances of the Future with the Concerns of the Moment.”

“Shall we go ahead?” asked Jack.

“Yes.”

“How many of them can you see? I’ll count slowly. One ...”

“Yes.”

“Really? Well, that makes things easier. Tonks says we can’t rule out invisibility cloaks or Disillusionment charms, though, so they’ll have to be careful. How many exits? One ... Two ...”

“Yes.”

“Front and back?”

“That’s right.”

“What colour are her robes? Black ... white ... red ... orange ... yellow ... green ... blue – ”

“Yes.”

In the background I heard a female voice saying “Tell her to be more specific!” and Jack replying, “What do you mean, more specific?” Tonks picked up the phone, sounding slightly exasperated. “Periwinkle ... turquoise ... indigo ... robin’s egg ... peacock ... cobalt ... teal ...”

“Yes, that last one, I think.”

“Anything unusual we should know about?”

“No.”

Jack picked up the phone again. “See you in a minute, dear. And take care. Love you.”

I turned the telephone off and settled in for the rest of the reading, which took a very ominous turn indeed and left me in no doubt that True Seers do not take kindly to interruptions.


  #47  
Old February 9th, 2004, 5:55 pm
Lady deMimsy  Female.gif Lady deMimsy is offline
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Chapter Thirty-Four: Springing Sybill

After Harriet’s telephone call, I stopped by my parents’ flat, which is just around the corner. [Arcanum charmed against Arthur Weasley.] My dad and a couple of his mates were sitting in the middle of a large pile of lager cans, watching a Chudley Cannons match on the Muggle television he bought at a secondhand shop and charmed to pick up Quidditch.


“Wotcher, guys. Is Mum around? Oh, hi, Mum. Can’t stay but a minute – I just ran up to see if you had any teal robes I could borrow.”

“Teal robes? Well, I don’t know. Really, Nymphadora, I don’t know why you can’t spend some of your salary on clothes for yourself instead of borrowing mine all the time ...”

“Dark turquoise will do if you don’t have teal. I’ll be wearing them in dim light.”

“Dim light?” she said hopefully, starting to rummage through the wardrobe. “Nymphadora, does this mean you have a boyfriend?”

Oh no. Cue up the Spanish Inquisition. “Yes, Mum, I guess I sort of have a boyfriend.”

“What’s his name? How tall is he? Is he related to anyone we know? Where does he live?” I managed to ignore most of these questions as she sorted through an ever-growing pile of robes and came up with some nice plain teal ones. Bless Mum and her infinitely capacious wardrobe. I changed clothes hastily, tucking my Sneakoscope under the robes, as she continued, “Now, I do think you should change into some normal hair if you’re going to wear those – perhaps something about shoulder-length, with golden-brown highlights. And I should really lend you some jewellery ... my Saturn earrings would be perfect, but one of them went missing ages ago. Is this a formal occasion?”

“No, it’s very spur-of-the-moment. In fact, I’ve got to run right now. Thanks loads!”

“Wait, Nymphadora, you haven’t even said what his occupation is!”

Werewolf!” I called over my shoulder as I headed out the door.

As I bolted down the stairs, I heard her voice echoing from above. “Nymphadora, will you stop being so snarky...”

I transformed myself into a bony and relatively nondescript middle-aged woman. It was possible that Pettigrew might notice his customer bore a strange resemblance to the prophetess herself, but not likely. I was counting on the fact that Sybill just isn’t Sybill without her accessories.

“Ready?” asked Remus. He seemed a bit edgy.

“Whenever you are.” I shot him a quick look. “And don’t look so serious. This is going to be fun.”

He vanished under the invisibility cloak, but I could feel his hand on my elbow as we walked into Madame Monica’s.

“Good evening,” I said in my primmest voice. “I’ve never consulted a fortuneteller before, but I’m so dreadfully worried that my husband has been unfaithful and I was hoping you might be able to help me.”

“Of course, dear,” she said, laying out the cards. “Although I regret to say that I can already tell from your aura that I may have some rather bad news for you. Never put your faith in men, my dear...”

Out in the street, Reg began banging on something and shouting, “THE GOLDEN ELEPHANTS ARE FLED UNTO THE HILLS ON THE SEVENTH DAY! COME OUT, COME OUT, YE SINNERS, AND REPENT! PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TO HIPPOGRIFFS! OH, WOE, WOE, WRATH AND WRACK AND RUIN APPROACH, AND YET MORE WOE! IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT, AND I FEEL FINE!”

Peter rushed to one of the windows and lifted the curtain to see what was going on. Swiftly, I moved to Sybill’s side of the table.

“Shh, don’t make a sound,” I whispered. “I’m here to take your place so you can escape. Larry’s waiting for you behind the building.”

She looked at me suspiciously. “How do I know it’s really Larry?”

So the woman wasn’t a complete fool after all. I restrained myself from telling her to use the Inner Eye. “He sent a message. He said to tell you he misses his little Blibbering Humdinger. Now, give me all your scarves and beads – quickly – and your glasses – and go!” I heard a police siren outside, and hoped Reg wasn’t about to be arrested.

“But I can’t see!” she protested.

I pointed her in the direction of the door and gave her a shove from behind when she hesitated. She stumbled forward.

Peter turned around before she made it out the door, but I had already settled into Sybill’s chair and was adjusting her glasses. He noticed nothing amiss except a bolting customer. “Stop! You can’t leave without paying!”

“My dear,” I murmured, “you must not pursue her as it would only delay her journey to her destined end, which will be far more unpleasant than anything you could devise. And it is bad luck to leave a reading unfinished, so with your permission I shall read the remaining cards for you.”

“Must you?” asked Peter with a small sigh and a large swallow of sherry. “This is the fourth time today, and it seems like my luck gets worse with every reading.”

“Well, dear,” I said in my most spiritual voice, “each new reading bears within it the potential for change.” I contemplated the Knight of Wands for a moment and began inventing feverishly. “Alas, my dear, I foresee a troublesome journey ahead of you ... You will go to Egypt and fall victim to the Curse of the Pharaoh’s tomb ... which will cause you to be thrown from a very fat horse ... Beware of animals that are an unusual colour, and also of men in armour who carry big sticks ...” I was afraid this sounded too prosaic, but Peter gulped.

I turned over a second card. “The Nine of Pentacles, an omen of very great danger indeed ... If I were you, dear, I would avoid large birds and unusually small trees, and above all, you must beware of a woman who wears a pancake on her head ...” Larry and Sybill must be well away by now, and the Sneakoscope hadn’t gone off, which meant we had only Peter to deal with. I glanced over to the corner where I knew Remus was standing and gave him the signal. “But alas, I am sorry to say that even if you take warning from what I have said, great trials and tribulations approach on swift wings, and a hidden enemy lurks very near indeed ...” Or perhaps a not-so-hidden enemy. Remus dropped the invisibility cloak as I raised the level of doom, defeat, and despair a notch.

If I had blinked just then, I would have missed the swift, sideways glance that passed between the two men. It was the same look I share with my dad when my mum is being particularly impossible – one part sympathy and one part amusement, with the kind of mutual understanding that doesn’t require any words lying underneath it all.

It vanished in less than a second as they became predator and prey.


  #48  
Old February 11th, 2004, 12:16 am
Lady deMimsy  Female.gif Lady deMimsy is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5990 days
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 128
Well, I am proud to say that for once, I've managed a small plot twist that wasn't altogether anticipated by my loyal crew of feedbackers. Apologies to those who feel cheated out of a final Remus-Peter confrontation, but perhaps I'll write it one of these days...
_____

Chapter Thirty-Five: The Rat Who Ran

As I shouted “Expelliarmus!” Peter threw open the curtains of the window behind him, and a limp figure in a shiny red miniskirt and fishnet stockings fell directly on top of him.

Sweet, holy ... We’d been so busy figuring out how to get Sybill out safely that nobody thought to ask what had become of Madame Monica.

He shoved her in front of him and gripped her throat with his magical arm, not taking his eyes off of me. “Don’t move an inch, Remus, or I’ll kill her!”

I froze. Behind me, Tonks must have made a move that Peter wasn’t expecting, and several things happened all at once. “Syb – ” he squeaked, relaxing his grip for an instant; Tonks hollered, “Accio hostage!” and Madame Monica went hurtling through the air; I ducked a flying spike-heeled shoe and lunged for Peter; and next thing I knew I was flat on the floor staring at an impossibly tiny crack in the floorboards where the thin end of a tail had just vanished. He’d been no more than an inch from my fingertips.

“I didn’t know half those words were in your vocabulary,” Tonks remarked casually, offering me a hand as I picked myself up from the floor.

I hadn’t either. “Pardon me,” I said.

“No problem. I’m impressed, actually. You didn’t have to swear at yourself so much, though. I should have taken him out first.”

“Bit hard to do that without hitting Madame Monica with whatever spell you used. No. He was mine and I lost him. Stupid, stupid, stupid.”

Well, there would be time to beat myself up later. We had only a few minutes to get out of there. Tonks examined Madame Monica and said she appeared to have been hit with a powerful Stunning spell, but she was otherwise unharmed. Meanwhile, I gave the place a quick search for evidence against Sybill’s kidnappers and anything else that might be useful. The stack of parchment surrounding the stool in the corner looked like Exhibit A. Every page was covered with a handwriting I knew almost as well as my own, although it was shakier and more cramped than I remembered, and occasionally it wavered as if he had been drinking heavily. I flipped through the papers.

“Oh, my dear, it is almost kinder not to say ... but the cards reveal that a deadly enemy lies in your bosom like a serpent, and alas, I foresee many troubled years ahead of you. Do you trust your husband, my dear? I wouldn’t be too sure if I were you. Beware of all men, for they are treacherous creatures at the best of times, and for you, I am sorry to say, they shall prove fatal...”

“The Six of Pentacles – reversed. I regret to say that is an ill-omened card, very ill-omened, where investments are concerned. My poor dear, I wish you had come to me a year ago when there might have been some hope. I urge you to sell all your stock at once, but I fear that ruin is already unavoidable...”

“Oh, my heart – the Ten of Swords! I do not mean to alarm you, but have you made a will, my dear? I advise you to settle your affairs whilst your body still lingers in this mortal realm...”


I forced myself to smile. “Imagine having to listen to Sybill for a solid month. If it were anyone but Wormtail, I’d feel sorry for him.” (Wormtail? Where the hell had that come from? Pettigrew. Pettigrew. Pettigrew.)

“You do feel sorry for him,” she said gently.

“No. Yes. No. Ask me in ten years – if I’m still alive.”

She glanced up from the unconscious woman, but said nothing for a moment. I wondered how much she had seen, and whether she suspected me of having let him escape on purpose.

“I felt sorry for him too,” she said at last. “I mean, you don’t expect Judas bloody Iscariot to jump six feet in the air when some batty middle-aged woman offers to tell his fortune.”

“Don’t think that way. I mean it. It’s a dangerous trap to fall into.” I added untruthfully, “I never think about those days myself. It’s all quite dead now.”

She was looking at me with a strange, faraway smile. “I’m not so sure about that. Did you hear what Reg said while you and Jack were working out your plan in the restaurant?”

“Do I want to know?”

“Yes, I think you do. He said, ‘That’s the Moony I remember. I was beginning to worry we’d never see him again.’”

“Did he?” I felt slightly warmer and fuzzier about my misspent childhood. “I have to admit, I did have fun plotting that out. Well, let’s go. We can’t take her with us if we Apparate, so it’ll have to be Floo powder, I guess.”

I tucked Peter’s wand and all the parchment into my briefcase, and we each took one of Madame Monica’s arms and carried her across the street to the restaurant.


  #49  
Old February 11th, 2004, 11:07 pm
Lady deMimsy  Female.gif Lady deMimsy is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5990 days
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 128
Hey, you didn't really think I was going to let Reg get away without being arrested, did you? What kind of fun would that be?
____

Chapter Thirty-Six: Regulus Black and the Muggle Aurors

She was a petite, dark-haired woman with a crisp voice and an air of authority. She would have been very attractive if she had been saying anything other than, “You’re under arrest for disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace.”

Oh, all right, she was very attractive. I dig birds in uniform. Yow.

But being arrested was bad news. I considered my options. I could easily Disapparate, of course, but then I’d have to come back and memory charm the two Muggle Aurors, and I remembered too well what happened last time I tried to use Uncle Alph’s wand for the Obliviate spell. A Muggle Auror running around with somebody else’s lost memories would be a disaster waiting to happen – especially if she happened to get Kreacher’s. I’m not well versed on the finer points of law enforcement in the Muggle world, but I’m pretty sure her superiors would have some awkward questions if she came into Auror headquarters mumbling, “And a worthless blood traitor and shame upon the house of Black the prisoner is,” under her breath. On the whole, I decided it would be safest to go quietly and wait for one of the others to bail me out.

The other Muggle Auror was an older man who seemed more laid-back. “Take it easy, we’re just going to let you sober up for a spell, and then you can go your way.” (As a side note, I had only two bottles of Kingfisher lager with dinner, and I don’t know why everybody leaps to the conclusion that you’re drunk just because you happen to be banging on a lamppost with a cricket bat and hollering about the end of the world. What are people supposed to do when it is the end of the world, hmm?)

That reminds me, I need to give Vikram his cricket bat back. And I wouldn’t mind seeing more of his daughter.

Reg, would you please stick to the point? Your private opinions about every woman in London have NOTHING to do with our records. – R. J. L.

Remind me again, WHO thought every detail of his conquest was worth recording here? – R. B.

Your cousin did all the conquering. And I didn’t put in every detail. Not even close. – R. J. L.

Well, anyway, I figured I’d use my Instant Message Book to signal the other members of the Order after we got to headquarters, but the Aurors took it away, along with my wand. (They didn’t seem to believe me when I said I was a conductor and it was my baton; they kept examining it and running strange-looking machines over it.) They did say I could use the telephone, which is a sort of Muggle communication device, but when I made a serious attempt, the older Auror advised me to sleep it off and try again in the morning. Well, how was I to know you weren’t supposed to wear the part with all the little holes in it on top of your head?

They threw me in a cell with two other disorderly and disturbing people. One of them was huddled in the corner of the cell puking, and the other one spent most of the night tearing yesterday’s newspaper into tiny pieces and growling, although he occasionally became lucid enough to demand money to ride the train. (I don’t think he noticed there weren’t any trains in gaol.) After a while I tried growling right back and we became reasonably friendly, but I can’t say he was one of the most intellectually stimulating conversationalists I’ve met. All in all, I was relieved when the older Muggle Auror came back in the early hours of the morning and said my brother-in-law had come to collect me.

Brother-in-law, Moony?” I smirked. “I didn’t realise you and Sirius were that close. Is there anything my little cousin ought to know about you?”

He crumpled up one of the pieces of newspaper that littered the cell and threw it at me. “Well, I wasn’t sure they’d release you into my custody if I wasn’t a member of the family, and Jack’s had a rough day, so I didn’t want to wake him up and ask him.”

Judging by his face, Jack wasn’t the only one who’d had a rough day. I would just as soon have been locked up for a few more hours and let him get some sleep. “Couldn’t Nymphadora – ”

“She could,” he said, yawning, “but I felt responsible, seeing as how it was my plan that landed you in gaol in the first place. I’m sorry, Reg. You must have had a bad night of it.”

“Don’t mention it,” I said. “I could be mistaken, but I’m under the impression that I may have caused you a small amount of trouble on one or two occasions when you were a prefect.”

“You might say that, yes,” he replied gravely.

“I think these things all even out in the end. Especially between friends.”

The younger Muggle Auror seemed much less stern than she’d been on the previous evening; she even offered us coffee. I signed a receipt and she handed me my wand and Instant Message Book. “My partner and I enjoyed reading your manuscript, Mr. Black. It’s very entertaining.”

Moony and I looked uneasily at each other. I remembered how much he dislikes performing memory charms. “You realise, of course, that it’s a work of fiction,” I said.

“Naturally.”

We finished our coffee and walked out into the grey light of early dawn.


  #50  
Old February 12th, 2004, 11:04 pm
Lady deMimsy  Female.gif Lady deMimsy is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5990 days
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 128
Sigh ... next to the last chapter already! I shall miss writing this...
____

Chapter Thirty-Seven: Sybill’s Story

Upon returning me to the safety of the North Tower, Professor Dumbledore restored this Instant Message Book to me, its rightful owner. I was greatly perturbed to discover that Minerva McGonagall had been writing in it, and I foresee that I shall have words with her in the near future about the tragic destiny that invariably awaits those who appropriate the possessions of others without permission.

Mr. Lupin said my experiences must have been very upsetting and he would understand if I didn’t feel like writing about them just yet, but all in all, I cannot complain. I will not say that I enjoyed being kidnapped, but it was not as miserable an experience as those who are constrained by the Mundane Concerns of the Corporeal World seem to imagine. Naturally, it was a great shock to be invited on a romantic outing to an elegant restaurant in London by dear Larry, as I thought, and to find myself in a nondescript slum with Peter Pettigrew. But after a few initial moments of consternation, I came to accept my destiny with resignation and a certain grace, as befits a true Seer. For I am certain that it was destiny; the Inner Eye would not otherwise have been so easily blinded to my companion’s true identity. I believe that the Fates led me to London so that I might use my gift to aid those in truly dire circumstances, including dear Peter himself, who was really quite kind to me.

He must possess enough of the Sight to perceive that I was fond of sherry, because he brought me a bottle one evening in the first week of my captivity and presented me with a fresh one whenever it was running low. I shared with him, of course, for I sensed at once that he was a Soul in Torment, and sherry is very consoling when one is overwhelmed with the sorrow that a thorough contemplation of the Past, Present, and Future inevitably brings. I am grieved to say, however, that poor Peter seems past consolation in some ways. The Inner Eye, helped along a little by his own admission, informed me that he is well over his head in treacherous waters from which I fear he shall escape only by drowning.

While I disapprove of exploiting the Gift for profit, I must confess that running a tarot-reading shop in a Muggle neighbourhood is a less arduous career than attempting to initiate the thankless sons and daughters of our own kind into the sacred mysteries of Divination. My pupils at Hogwarts frequently exhibit a most trying lack of faith in the Sight and seldom remember to rinse out the teacups at the end of class. The vast majority of my clients at Madame Monica’s could have given them lessons in how to behave in the presence of a true prophetess. They were, almost to a man and woman, silent, reverent, and deferential. I understand that three or four of those with particularly tragic destinies even attempted to take the fulfilment of my prophesies into their own hands at the nearest Underground station, rather than waiting patiently for their impending doom to catch up with them. This shows a level of selfless devotion to the will of the Fates that is rare in this degenerate age. Mrs. Evans was an unfortunate exception to this general rule. I am grateful to her for the small role she played in my rescue, but she needs to do something about that fellytone.

I am grateful to Mr. Lupin and Miss Tonks as well, but I feel obliged to warn them that they possess a touching but sadly misplaced sense of kindness. They insisted upon knowing the names and addresses of the attempted suicides so they could offer chocolate and reassurance, when it would be far more honest to advise these unfortunate souls to put their affairs in order and prepare themselves for the voyage to the Next World. Moreover, I must remind both of them that I have been forecasting their own demises for years, and it is high time they stopped procrastinating and got on with it.

I also wish to record my profound thankfulness, esteem, and friendship for dear Sir Cadogan, who raised the initial alarm and has since been a rock of strength for my beloved Larry in these difficult times. As for Larry himself, words cannot express the extent of my affection and regard for him. Let it suffice to say that I foresee that when I next leave my tower the circumstances shall be far happier than on this last occasion, and they will involve an expedition in pursuit of a Cross-Eyed or Herbaceous Aberflooie.

Hey, what about me? Doesn’t dear Mr. Black deserve a mention or two, after my brilliant diversion and my run-in with the law? And what about Jack? – R. B.

Seeing as how her mentions usually take the form of delicately phrased invitations to expire, I don’t mind going without, myself. – J. M. E.

I think it’s rich how that traitorous little *$#% is “dear Peter” but she doesn’t seem to be on a first-name basis with the rest of us, INCLUDING A CERTAIN PERSON WHO WAS HER COLLEAGUE FOR A YEAR. Bloody ingrate. – N. T.

Hey! Lay off my finance! – L. L.

Huh? How do the Quibbler’s finances come into this? – R. B.

I don’t think they do, actually. It sounds like Larry and Sybill have some news for us... – R. J. L.


  #51  
Old February 13th, 2004, 9:38 pm
Lady deMimsy  Female.gif Lady deMimsy is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5990 days
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 128
Whew! The saga endeth ... sort of. (I hope this last post will wrap up most of the loose ends; I realize that it ends in an odd place, but just trust me, if I followed these characters all the way to Hogwarts, they would shortly become embroiled in a new set of complications that are best dealt with in another story altogether )
____

Epilogue: One Week Later

Kingsley and I signed the final report on the Trelawney kidnapping and dropped it on our superior’s desk. It was a dry, businesslike document that managed not to make any of us sound too incompetent and conveniently left out the fact that the case had actually been solved by a Muggle. Personally, I preferred the untold story that filled the pages of our Instant Message Books.

Madame Monica spent several days in St. Mungo’s recovering from her month under a Stunning spell, but she didn’t seem to have suffered any permanent damage. Unfortunately, she remembered almost nothing of what happened after Pettigrew overpowered her, but we had more than enough evidence against him and the Notts in any case. Before we modified her memory and released her, she insisted on kissing each and every one of the people who participated in her rescue. (I’ve still got the lipstick stains on my forehead to prove it.) I could be wrong, but I think Remus was the one who really interested her. Tough. I got there first, and he says he doesn’t care for spike heels.

Peter Pettigrew remains at large. Jephthah Nott is about to be tried before the Wizengamot as an accessory to kidnapping and active Death Eater, and he will almost certainly be back in Azkaban in a matter of weeks. Medea Nott is in a heavily guarded private room at St. Mungo’s. Ironically, she seems to be more dangerous and more devoted to Voldemort than her husband, but she will probably never be mentally competent enough to stand trial. We’ve reopened the files on some of the crimes she confessed to, but fifteen-year-old murders of Muggles are a fairly low priority at the Ministry these days, so we may never learn the truth about the fate of Lily and Jack’s parents.

Jack seems to be taking things well. He says he’s come to terms with the fact that he doesn’t have to know everything about the past, as long as his family is safe in the present. We’re seeing that they are.

We’ll also be looking after Theo.

His name doesn’t appear in the official report, and it won’t be mentioned at his father’s trial. Our story is that Jephthah’s botched first attempt to kidnap Sybill put us onto the Notts’ trail. But we’re concerned about his safety all the same, and it’s fair to say that from now on, Theo will be the second most carefully watched student at Hogwarts.

Someone also needed to break the news to him about his parents – the sort of job that always gets delegated to junior Aurors and, especially, to women. “I don’t know what they’re thinking,” I grumbled to Kingsley as I prepared to leave work early. “Lord knows gentleness and tact aren’t my strong points. I feel sorry for the kid.”

“I think you’ll have help,” he said with a wink. “You’ve got a couple of visitors waiting outside, and they said they meant to come with you.”

I didn’t have much time to wonder who they were, because one of them didn’t have the patience to wait outside for very long.

“Wotcher, Stubby. Nice robes.” (Harriet taught him how to tie-dye while she was staying at Grimmauld Place. He took to it with enthusiasm.)

“Thanks! Want me to do yours?”

“Maybe later.” I wasn’t in a tie-dyed mood just now.

He drew me aside into an empty cubicle and said quietly, “He’s going to be all right, little cousin. Not right away, but the thing about growing up with parents who are no good is – you know, even if you can never talk about it. And it’s almost a relief when someone else acknowledges it.”

We walked out into the corridor where my other visitor was sitting on a bench. I certainly wouldn’t have expected to see him here. Or rather, I would, but not today.

You ought to be home resting up,” I said, trying my best to sound Molly-ish and motherly, which is almost impossible to do when you’re being kissed very thoroughly indeed in the hallowed halls of the Ministry of Magic. (Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of a shocked-looking Percy Weasley hurrying past.)

“I have been. I’m all right now that I’ve had a decent day’s sleep. Comfrey essence works, you know.”

I watched him closely as he got to his feet. He was a bit pale, but he moved without the painful stiffness I’d never been able to bear watching. I felt an unexpected surge of tenderness for Larry Lovegood.

Speaking of whom...

“We’ll have to get Moony some new dress robes,” Reg announced. “Guess who Larry asked to be best man?”

“He didn’t!” I said. “Well, congratulations.” I hoped to goodness Sybill wouldn’t expect me to be a bridesmaid. I try to be a nice person, but there are limits.

“Well ... actually ...” Remus said awkwardly, while Reg leaned against the wall laughing.

“What is it? C’mon, out with it.”

“He didn’t exactly ask me. He asked Sir Cadogan. I just get to hold the portrait.”
______

THE END


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