The Order of the Phoenix and the Purloined Prophetess
Disclaimer and miscellaneous author's notes:
Almost nothing about this story is original. I owe nearly all of the characters to J. K. Rowling (although I have sometimes invented personalities when she has supplied only names), the inspiration for the plot to Edgar Allan Poe, and assorted minor debts to everybody from Jane Austen to Jimi Hendrix. I am writing this for fun and it would be a positive miracle if I made any money off of it.
This is a sequel to Counsel, Guardian, Intruder, Heir, although I will try to explain the background as I go along so new readers won't get confused. It's set in the autumn of 1996, opening about a month after the end of "Counsel, Guardian..." (No attempt has been made to coordinate the plot with the actual phases of the moon in 1996. The moon in this story is a fictional moon. It is full when I say it is.) I'm toying with the idea for a third, interlinked story that involves a different set of characters during the same time period; I don't know whether it'll get off the ground, but for the purposes of this story, all you need to know is that there's more going on in the Remedial History of Magic class than the adults are aware of.
This story is about the trouble the adult members of the Order of the Phoenix get into when Harry and his friends aren't around to keep an eye on them. They are much more unruly and uncooperative than the kids, so I've thought it best to employ a mode of narration that allows them to argue, offer multiple perspectives, and correct each other when necessary. It sounds very confusing when explained, but becomes much simpler once you've seen it in action, so I'll let the characters explain how it works as we go. Anybody who is confused by the prologue will probably be mostly unconfused by the end of the first chapter, and entirely unconfused by the fifth. Bear with me.
Also, several characters insisted on keeping secrets from each other. A spell called the Arcanum charm allows them to do this.
Text that used to be Arcanum charmed, but isn't any more, is green, like this
Text that is still Arcanum charmed is orange, like this.
I've done my best to stick to British spelling and usage to make things sound more authentic. UK readers should let me know if they spot any mistakes.
The book Hairy Snout, Human Heart is mentioned by JKR in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and the account of its nature and authorship given here is the product of my own imagination. It should not be confused with Loz's fic of the same title.
If you haven't read "Counsel, Guardian ...," there are two new characters you need to know about.
John Michael Evans ("Jack") is Lily's adopted brother. He is six years younger than Lily and eight or nine years younger than Petunia. He was adopted at the age of ten, and therefore does not know Petunia well -- and there are a lot of things he doesn't know about Lily, either. He is a lawyer who has done some pro bono work for the Order. He and his wife, Harriet, are Muggles, but their son, Mark, is a wizard who is about to begin his first year at Hogwarts. Jack's adopted parents are dead. We find out more about what happened to them here.
Regulus Black ("Reg") is Sirius' long-lost prodigal brother, and he's one of the good guys now. Apart from that, he's kind of hard to explain. I think I will let him introduce himself.
Prologue: Six Characters in Search of an Editor
You don’t know about me, without you have read a fanfic by the name of Counsel, Guardian, Intruder, Heir, but that ain’t no matter. That fic was made by Ms. Lady DeMimsy, and she told the truth, mainly. There was things which she stretched, but mainly she told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied, one time or another, without it was Albus Dumbledore, or Minnie McGonagall, or maybe Mr. Jack Evans, but he ain’t one of us and he gets some things wrong. Why, even ol’ Moony over there has been known to tell some –
Reg, what on earth is the matter with you? Why are you writing in that ridiculous dialect? We are NOT poling a raft down the mighty Mississippi! – R. J. L.
Take it easy, Moony! I’m just trying to liven up the story a little. – R. B.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a good-looking single wizard who has just come into possession of the family estate must be in want of a secret society to share it with –
That’s even worse! I’m not going to let you read any more of my books if you’re going to abuse them like that! – R. J. L.
I’m not abusing anything! I’m just looking for a good way to start our records. – R. B.
Who put you in charge of keeping our records anyway? Give me that book! – R. J. L.
You have your own book! [Text Arcanum charmed against Remus Lupin.] Ha ha! Now I’m invisible! - R. B.
I heard you do that! And they’re all my books! Give it back! – R. J. L.
Gentlemen! You can’t fight in here, this is the War Room! – N. T.
Huh? – R. J. L. and R. B.
Good one, Tonks! Nice to see that somebody in your world knows her classic movies. – J. M. E.
What’s a movie? – S. P. T.
Good to see this works for you, Jack. I’ll explain about movies later, Sybil. I think we ought to decide who’s in charge here before this turns into total chaos. We should appoint somebody to act as a General Editor to settle disputes and make the decisions about who should be recording which events. – N. T.
Excellent idea, Tonks! Why don’t you do it? – R. J. L.
Too much going on at work – and besides, as my old Head of House used to say, I lack certain necessary qualities ... such as the ability to behave myself. I don’t mind serving as Assistant Editor if we decide we want one, but I think we need somebody who – – N. T.
I’ll do it! I’m a proffesional editor! – L. L.
Well, that’s very kind of you, Larry, but the rest of us wouldn’t dream of taking you away from your important work at The Quibbler. – R. J. L.
In other words, you can’t spell and you tend to embroider the truth. We’re looking for somebody trustworthy and reliable, with time on their hands... – N. T.
Oh no, my dear, it’s so sweet of you to think of me, but although I’m only teaching part-time this year, I find the routine of work in the physical world so fatiguing. It clouds the Inner Eye. Of course, if all of you were quite sure you wanted me, I do have the slight advantage of being able to see the past, present, and future, while those who have not the Gift can perceive the world in only three dimensions – – S. P. T.
NO!!! – N. T., R. B., R. J. L., and J. M. E.
Excuse me, Sybil, all I mean is I think you might be a little too close to this whole situation emotionally. What we need is someone objective, with an outsider’s point of view. Like Jack, for instance. I think he’d be perfect – he takes notes on everything, and he’s got an organized, legal mind. – R. J. L.
But I’m a Muggle and there are all sorts of things I don’t understand about your world. I think you should do it. – J. M. E.
Me? – R. J. L.
Seconded. Remus was the one I had in mind all along. – N. T.
I agree! It would be a great simbolic gesture if we elected him – just the sort of thing that would lend support to the cause. – L. L.
What cause? – J. M. E.
(Larry, could you please not talk so much about the cause.) I’m very flattered, but I’ve never edited anything before, and – – R. J. L.
Oh, come on, Moony, don’t be so modest! You’d be brilliant! – R. B.
What do you think, Sybil? – L. L.
I think Mr. Lupin would make a fine editor, but alas, I fear he is not long for this world. The Inner Eye – – S. P. T.
Just as a matter of interest, Sybil, do you see anybody in this room who you think is long for this world? – N. T.
No, my dear, I regret to say that I sense we are all drawing close to the brink of a precipice from which we shall never return. – S. P. T.
Right, well, if we’re all about to buy it, it shouldn’t matter who’s editor. But I think those of us who don’t plan on dying in the near future are all agreed. – N. T.
Well – all right ... – R. J. L.
And there have to be some ground rules about Arcanum charms and things. How about we all agree not to use the charm unless there’s a good reason for it, and to put a note in the margins if you do use it, and add another note if you decide to lift the charm later? – N. T.
Is “it’s private” a good reason? – R. J. L.
You’re the boss. You decide. – N. T.
Then yes, I think it should be. However, we should probably have a rule against Arcanum charming anything against everyone else on the task force. Don’t commit it to paper if you’re not going to let anybody read it. But what about Jack? He isn’t going to be able to ... – R. J. L.
Good point. Jack, if you’ve got anything you don’t want one of us to read, you can ask any member of the Order you trust to put the Arcanum charm on for you. – N. T.
And we need to be able to tell who wrote what and when, so make sure you initial your marginal notes, and if you add anything at a later date than the original text, make a note of that so things don’t get too confusing. Now, I guess I’d better start by explaining about the Instant Message Books and how they work, and then Sybil can tell us about her conversation with Dumbledore, and somebody else can pick up the story with the meeting today... – R. J. L.
The first chapter is sorta long and exposition-y, so I'm going to split it into two parts. Be patient, things will get much more exciting soon.
Chapter One: A Newspaper, a Letter, and a Package
I walked slowly away from Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station after seeing my ward and his young cousin off on the Hogwarts Express. I had rumpled Harry’s hair and told him to stay out of danger and said all the foolish things middle-aged people generally say when dealing with the young, and narrowly managed to rescue eleven-year-old Mark Evans from falling off the platform, and filled both of their pockets with chocolate which I hoped they would not need for medicinal purposes. Now Mark was in the responsible hands of Hermione Granger; Harry, I had to admit, was fully capable of taking care of himself, although I couldn’t help worrying about him; an eventful summer had come to an end. Harry, who had been living with me for the last two months, had brought a remarkable assortment of guests into my flat, including a real live Crumple-Horned Snorkack and the long-lost brother of an old friend. The place would seem empty now that it was just me and the cat.
Mark’s parents, Jack and Harriet, were waiting for me just outside the barrier. They are not wizards, so they had been unable to see their son off on the train. Jack was a cheerful, blond solicitor of about thirty who had spent most of the summer doing some work for the Order. I had met Harriet less often, but she seemed kindhearted and fascinated by our world; she reminded me of a younger version of my favourite grandmother, who had also been a Muggle. I liked them very much, but I wasn’t in the mood for company, and I would probably have declined their invitation for coffee if there hadn’t been a news item in The Daily Prophet I was trying not to think about.
Jack insisted on paying for my coffee, which was just as well, because the only Muggle money I could find in my briefcase was a couple of the round silvery coins with the lions on the back, and I didn’t think that would be nearly enough. By way of repayment, I tried to amuse the Evanses with all the anecdotes about my school days I could remember that didn’t involve my breaking hundreds of rules
[Editor's note: The end of this sentence, and a couple of short passages later in this chapter, are Arcanum charmed against Jack Evans. I’ll explain about the Arcanum charm in a minute.
Six weeks later: Charm lifted. R. J. L.]
... or almost eating innocent villagers.
“You seem distracted,” said Harriet. “What’s up?”
I didn’t want to tell her, but I could see no way around it. They had every right to know. “There’s been another prison break at Azkaban,” I said. “You know what that is?”
“Yes. That’s pretty bad news, isn’t it?”
I nodded. “It could be worse,” I said quickly, trying to think of how. I untied the tangle of twine that held my briefcase together and reached for the morning’s paper so they could read the details for themselves. Underneath the Daily Prophet was a small envelope embossed with the Hogwarts crest and a large, clumsily wrapped package. It took me a moment to remember that I’d shoved the morning’s post into the case and forgotten all about it. The package bore a return address in Diagon Alley that I recognised as Fred and George Weasley’s joke shop, which meant it probably wasn’t something I wanted to open in the middle of a Muggle coffee bar in a crowded railway station. I handed the paper to Harriet and opened the envelope instead.
Meeting at the usual place 2:00 this afternoon. Bring Jack Evans with you. If you have time and it’s not too painful, please tell him everything about what happened last June, especially about the thing they were trying to get their hands on.
“Jack. I’ve had a note from Professor Dumbledore. He wants you to come to one of our meetings today.” I tried to sound casual, but this was distinctly odd.
“And me?” asked Harriet eagerly.
“I’m afraid he didn’t mention you, and it’s likely to be classified business. Probably legal matters.” From what I had seen of the Evanses, they seemed very much in love, and they were both intrigued with our world. Whatever this was about, it was going to be hard on Harriet. “Listen, Jack, there are some things I have to tell you about before this meeting, but I can’t talk about them here. Have you got an hour or two?”
“Sure. I took the day off to say goodbye to Mark.” He’d probably also taken it off to spend some time with his wife, I realised, feeling a twinge of guilt and wondering what I was about to get him involved in.
“Let’s go somewhere quiet for lunch,” I said. “It’s a good idea to eat before our meetings – there tends to be a lot of wine consumed. And I know just the sort of place where we can speak freely, if you don’t mind going out to my neighbourhood.”
My little corner of London, Spirit’s End, is not exactly a bustling business district. Besides the tiny Indian restaurant where I took Jack, my street has a betting shop and an off license, both with heavy bars on the windows, and an establishment called Madame Monica’s Mystical Tarot Reading, which is shrouded in red velvet curtains so nobody can see inside. Harry, who has become friendly with some of the other teenaged boys in the neighbourhood, tells me this place is reputed to be a cover for a less respectable sort of business.
Moony, you can’t go repeating scurrilous rumours without proof! I think one of us should check the place out so we can include a detailed report about its nature. – R. B.
Reg, I don’t care what you do in your off hours, but let’s keep our official records family-friendly. – R. J. L.
Speaking as a journalist, I agree with Reg. We have a proffesional responsibility to get to the bottom of these acusations. I volunteer to do some instigative reporting! – L. L.
Speaking as an editor, I think we also have a responsibility to posterity. Your daughter did a fine bit of fighting at the Department of Mysteries this spring, and I’m sure she’d be inspired by reading about her father’s work for the Order. I was thinking she might enjoy receiving one of these books as a Christmas present. – R. J. L.
I wouldn’t want to be your enemy, Moony. – R. B.
No, you wouldn’t. – R. J. L.
As I was about to say before this round of interruptions, the restaurant was a quiet, dimly lit place where we could talk in private. A few weeks earlier, after noticing that the proprietor’s daughter bore a striking resemblance to the Patil twins, I had asked some discreet questions and made two interesting discoveries: the tandoor oven was connected to the Floo network, and they accepted Galleons. I anticipated a tussle with Jack over the bill – I had been to his very large and pleasant house in Surrey, and he had been to my cramped little flat full of secondhand furniture – but it was a battle I had a chance at winning. He knew I’d come into some money recently.
As we ate, I told him about the founding and purpose of the original Order of the Phoenix, explained how it had come to regroup more than a year earlier, and finally gave him a short account of the events that had led to the death of my closest remaining friend at the Department of Mysteries. Jack had heard part of the story, having spent much of the summer trying to keep Sirius’ legacy out of the wrong hands, but much of it was new to him. He knew nothing about the destroyed prophesy, which was, I assumed, what Dumbledore meant by “the thing they were trying to get their hands on.”
When I’d finished, Jack turned to me with a puzzled expression. “What does all this have to do with me?”
Wasn't going to post more until tomorrow evening, but I'm bored and I want to get to the part where I do my Sybil Trelawney voice, so what the heck. Feedback is always nice. People who are wondering why the Weasley twins have been reading Shakespeare will have to read my other story to find out.
A Newspaper, a Letter, and a Package, Part Two
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” I confessed. I couldn’t think of any relationship between the lost prophesy and comparative wizard and Muggle inheritance law, Jack’s field of expertise. Nor did it seem to have any connection with his son Mark; at least, I hoped it didn’t.
Jack thought for a moment. “Tell me something. Does Professor Dumbledore always pay a personal visit to Muggle parents whose children are eligible for Hogwarts?”
“No, he does not. He would usually send an owl to parents who are already aware that our world exists – many of them are, it tends to run in families – or send one of the other professors. He visits in person if there are special circumstances.” I didn’t mention that I had been one of those children with special circumstances.
“You know he visited Harriet and me at the beginning of the summer.”
“Yes. You mentioned it the first time we met. I assumed it was because of your sister.” Jack was the adopted brother of Harry’s mother. His parents had died around the same time as James and Lily, under circumstances I did not understand. “He might have thought you’d need persuading that Mark would be safe at Hogwarts.”
“Do you think he was checking me out? That he had some sort of plan for me even then?”
“It wouldn’t surprise me at all, but I don’t know. I wish I could tell you more.”
“It’s more than enough, Remus. You’ve told me why and for what my sister died. Thank you.”
But I hadn’t told him everything. For the most part I left myself out of it. The trouble with the story of my life is that when people who don’t know me very well hear it, they usually respond in one of two ways: either they snatch up their children and hastily make their excuses on the off chance that I might decide to sprout fangs in broad daylight; or they start speaking in excessively soothing tones and hide the kitchen knives and anything else I might use to off myself. (I have no intention of doing either of these things.) As I have said, I liked Jack Evans. We were becoming friendly. I didn’t want to spoil it yet.
Jack looked at his watch. “We’d better go if we’re going to make this meeting.”
“You go ahead,” I said. “Don’t forget I can travel much faster than you can.”
It wasn’t until after Jack left that I remembered about the package and decided to open it. It looked like a trying day and I could use a good joke or two.
A large, heavy book slid into my lap, followed by six small notebooks. I recognised the big book at once – a lovely Victorian illustrated edition of Shakespeare that I last remembered reading at Grimmauld Place, months earlier. I had never seen the notebooks before. There was a note:
Sorry about borrowing your Shakespeare without asking. We’re sending you a free copy of our new invention to make up for it. Don’t worry, it’s not going to turn you into a canary or anything. It’s a sort of communication device. Jack Evans was telling us about e-mail and things, but this is better. They’re called Instant Message Books.
Here’s how it works: You keep one of the books for yourself and give the rest to your friends. Anything you write in one of the books will appear in the others as well. They’re permanent and unerasable, so choose your words carefully. If you write anything you don’t want a particular person to read, just say “Arcanum ad” and that person’s name, and whatever you’ve written will be invisible to that person only. If you change your mind, say “Patefacio,” and the charm will be removed. The Arcanum charm makes things vanish seamlessly – there won’t be any visible blank spaces, and if you miss a whole page, subsequent pages will renumber themselves. The person you’ve charmed it against won’t be able to tell.
Hope you can use them. We found loads of great ideas in Shakespeare.
Gred and Forge
Not too many jokes, then. I smiled at their absence. Despite the fact that my first act during my brief period of gainful employment had been to shoot chewing gum up a poltergeist’s nose, most of my former students persist in regarding me as a proper, respectable, scholarly sort of person. I wondered what Fred and George would say if they ever connected me with a certain piece of parchment that I happened to know had been in their possession for years.
You shot gum up Peeves’ nose?! How’d you do that? – N. T.
Little spell I invented. I’ll show you some time. – R. J. L.
I didn’t have any concrete plan for the Instant Message Books at this point. Frankly, coming up with five friends would have puzzled me. Well, there was always Harry. I thought I might send one to Hogwarts after the train arrived. I hadn’t the slightest idea what to do with the other four, but if I stayed much longer to think about it, I would be late for the meeting. I put them back in my briefcase, paid the bill, and stepped into the kitchen for a word with the proprietor. “Hello, Vikram. Mind if I step into your tandoor for a sec?”
All right, last of the rapid-fire updates, just wanted to get the plot moving in hopes that I might receive some feedback, whether good, bad, or indifferent.
Chapter Two: The Plot
It is not often that I descend from my tower into the turmoil of the Physical World, and still less often do I leave the sanctity of Hogwarts, the only home I have known for many years. Nothing short of Professor Dumbledore’s personal request could have persuaded me to undertake a journey as far as London. I had, of course, foreseen grave disturbances in the coming months, but in my concern for others, I had paid little attention to my own immediate future. Thus it was that although I am a prophetess and the granddaughter of a prophetess, Professor Dumbledore’s explanation of my own involvement in these Ominous Events came as a shock.
He summoned me into his office this morning. Minerva McGonagall and Severus Snape were already there. They are my two least favourite colleagues, but I try to be tolerant because I have sensed that both are nearing the end of their life-threads, which are soon to be shorn by the Fates.
“Sybil,” he said gently, “I’m afraid I have some distressing news for you. You are aware that one of your prophesies was lost in a battle that took place at the Department of Mysteries last June?”
“Yes, naturally, my dear,” I replied. “I was aware of it years before it happened, but I did not care to say anything at the time for fear of upsetting people.” (I distinctly heard Minerva snort, which I thought very rude of her.)
“Well, there has been a prison break and many of the Death Eaters involved in that battle have escaped from Azkaban. You know, of course, that Lord Voldemort – ” I shuddered at the mention of the Dread Name – “was anxious to lay his hands on the prophesy; now that he has been thwarted in this desire, we have reason to think that he will be equally anxious to lay his hands on the prophetess. We have received intelligence that he may induce some of his followers to come after you.”
“Me?” I said. “But, really, I’m not a very good prophetess at all. Madame Umbridge said so herself.” (I must confess that I had not foreseen the day when I would be grateful to Dolores Umbridge. The Inner Eye works in mysterious ways.)
“We are aware of that,” said Snape coldly. “Quite frankly, I think the task of guarding you is a waste of our time and resources, but nevertheless it has to be done.”
“Are you going to be guarding me?” You must understand, my dears, that the presence of Severus Snape has a peculiarly chilling effect on the Inner Eye, and I feared I would be unable to carry out my duties as Divination professor under his auspices.
“Several people are going to be guarding you,” said Professor Dumbledore reassuringly. “Your fellow professors have their own duties to attend to, so I think it advisable to bring in some volunteers who are not members of the Hogwarts staff. The three of us are about to make a short trip to London in these last few hours before term begins, and we would like you to join us so you can meet your guardians.”
“All the way to London?” I said. “But I never got an Apparation license – and I don’t like the Floo network, it makes me dizzy.”
“I am afraid, Sybil, that you will have to be a little dizzy,” said Minerva, and I’m quite sure she added, “More so than usual, that is,” under her breath as I stepped into the fireplace. My hearing is very acute.
We landed in the basement kitchen of a house – oh my dears, I sensed the vibrations – that had seen Tragedy. It was a cursed house, a doomed house. I felt the urge to cry out, yet restrained myself because of the great number of people present. Most of them were strangers, that is, people whom I had not yet beheld in the Physical Plain, but I recognised two former colleagues who had each held the Defence Against the Dark Arts post for one year. That is an ill-fated position; indeed, I was surprised to see that Professors Lupin and Moody still existed in this mortal realm, for I have long felt Grave Misgivings about both of them. I saw one of my old students as well. She had bright scarlet hair this morning, and she seemed determined to challenge my powers by her very presence, for I had predicted her death many years ago. I do not like this sort of behaviour in a young lady; it savours of defiance.
A tall, dark, handsome man whom I did not know offered me a goblet of wine. I was sorry to hear that he was the owner of the house, which meant he was almost certainly doomed.
Then, my dears, I was struck dumb by the sight of a man whose singular appearance impressed itself on both the Outer and the Inner Eye. He was large and tall, with a ruby-red face and jet-black hair, and he wore a bright green checked suit that made everyone else in the room look pale and colourless beside him. He was a Presence, my dears. He bowed deeply, and with old-world courtesy he kissed my hand and pressed a business card into my palm. It began to recite a rhyme of exquisite beauty and sincerity.
Chapter Three: The Meeting
Larry Lovegood is my name, crusadin’ with the facts is my game. My paper publishes all the news, and the best exclusive interviews. I’m a champion of wherewolf rights, and a Snorkack catcher on summer nights. My paper’s name is The Quibbler, we nose up news just like a niffler.
My buiseness cards recite all that in three-part harmony. I handed one to Albus Dumbelldoor...
Hey! Don’t call the Headmaster that! – R. B.
... when I visited him last week to ask if my daughter could bring Arjeplog, her pet Crumple-Horned Snorkack, to Hogwarts this year. It was a blow to say goodbye to the Snorkack when I had almost succeded in convincing the sientific community that they exist, but Luna’s about all I have in the world, and I don’t like to refuze her anything. Professor Dumbelldoor seemed very interested in the exclusive interview with the Boy Who Lived that I’d published earlier that year. I was proud of that piece; I considered it my third most important bit of work, after exposing Cornelius Fudge’s appalling treatment of the Gringotts goblins and founding the Help Out Wherewolves League (H.O.W.L. Ha ha! Get it?)
Dumbelldoor and I talked for a long time, and he ended up by extending an invitation to a top-secret meeting at a tightly guarded house in Grimmauld Place. The meeting took place in what had once been a large, old-fashioned kitchen, but was now converted into something resembling a War Room, plastered in maps of Britian and of most of the magical settlements in the country. I looked around the room in amasement! I pride myself on knowing things long before anybody else in the wizarding world will believe them, but I hadn’t known about the Order of the Pheonix.
Hukt on Pheonix wurkt fur mee! – J. M. E.
Huh? – Everybody else.
Never mind, sometimes Muggle humour doesn’t translate very well. – J. M. E.
I had an ilustrious crowd of people to hand buiseness cards to that afternoon: I recognised several Aurors, one or two highly-placed officials at the Ministry of Magic, and a large number of Hogwarts professors who I recognised from Luna’s descriptions. Two of them caught my eye immediately. A professor in a spangled shawl and large glasses sat at Dumbelldoor’s side: she was a fine figure of a woman, and she positively glittered! I handed her my card and introduced myself.
“My name is Sybil,” she said. “I read your paper faithfully, and I have always thought its editor must be a man with deep knowledge about spiritual matters. I myself am gifted with the Sight.”
Her conversation was charming, her voice pleasingly misty. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her
[Arcanum Charmed this bit against Jack Evans as well. Sorry, Jack and Larry. Editor’s privilege.
Six weeks later: Charm lifted. Please forgive me, Jack. R. J. L.]
... until I noticed a man who had to be the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor my daughter had mentioned to me a few years earlier. He was a youngish man, with light brown hair flecked with grey, and he had a pinched, drawn look about his face that I knew well. I’d had many of them in my office over the years, although you didn’t often see that look nowadays.
“I’m very interested in your cause,” I explained after I introduced myself and handed him a buiseness card. “I even wrote a book about it once.”
“Wherewolf rights, of course. My book was called Hairy Snout, Human Heart.”
“Ah.” He had develloped a slight twitch to his mouth, a symtom I hadn’t noticed in any of the others. “I thought that was supposed to be a first-person account.”
“Well, it was supposed to be, but I couldn’t find a real wherewolf willing to come forward, so I figured I’d just write the thing myself and try my best to make it sound authentic. I like to think I made a good job of it. Don’t you think so?”
“I apreciate your efforts,” he said. “Very much. I’m sure many other people do too.”
“Would you be interested in doing an exclusive write-up for The Quibbler? We can’t pay, but I’d let you take credit for the book if you like.”
“I’ll think about it.”
I congratulated him on being so courajous and long-suffering. It is a terrible thing to be a wherewolf.
[Editor’s private note, Arcanum charmed against everyone except Tonks and Reg: Indeed it is. I have little personal experience with wherewolves, but I understand they spend most of their time wandering around the Forbidden Forest in circles, trying to find their way out. Fortunately they hardly ever bite anybody as they suffer from a chronic inability to locate their prey.
Werewolves are quite different. They don’t like being patronised. – R. J. L.]
Dumbelldoor called the meeting to order. “I am sure you have all heard the troubling news of the prison break this morning. There are dark times ahead, which we must all band together to survive. It gives me great pleasure, however, to remind all of you that the points of light in this darkness are constantly growing in number. Our society is about to expand once more.
“It is time,” he continued, “that we formally recognised three people who have made great contributions to the Order in recent months, and will, I hope, be willing to join our number on a more official basis. First, Larry Lovegood, editor of The Quibbler, the alternative paper that broke a story more conventional journalists were afraid to touch. Second, Jack Evans, a soliciter who has spent much of the summer working to help us retain this house as our headquarters. Finally, Regulus Black, the new owner of this house, who has generously continued to make this space available to us.”
Everyone clapped! Wasn’t it nice of him to mention me first?
He nodded to the glittering woman on his right. “I would also like to introduce a guest of ours, Professor Sybil Trelawney, Divination teacher at Hogwarts. As many of you know, Professor Trelawney has made two prophesies which have had considerable bearing on recent events, and we have been reliably informed that Lord Voldemort may attempt to capture her before she makes a third. Her safety is our highest priority at the moment.
“Although many of you are already working on urgent tasks for the Order, we will need several volunteers for a special task force to help keep Professor Trelawney safe and monitor the movements of those who may be attempting to kidnap her, with the hope of returning them to custody. First of all, it will be necessary to have a contact at Auror headquarters.”
A young, striking redhead at the far end of the table raised her hand.
“Thank you, Miss Tonks, I think you will be an excellent choice. We will also need several bodyguards for Professor Trelawney, people who have no pressing responsibilities elsewhere and are free to spend at least one week at a time at Hogwarts. The school term begins in a matter of hours, so one of you will have to be able to leave immediately.”
I volunteered eagerly! The Quibbler practically runs itself, and I was dying to see more of Sybil.
“Thank you, Larry. You too, Remus and Regulus. How about it, Mr. Evans – shall we make this a joint effort from all three of our new members?”
The young blond man in Muggle clothing looked startled. “But I can’t – I mean, I’m – ”
“I’m well aware that you’re not suited for guard duty. I have another task in mind for you.”
Evans still looked puzzled, but he nodded. “Whatever it is, I’d be delighted.”
“Then, if the three of you will follow me, you will be formally initiated into the Order.”
Another longish chapter, and a rather emotionally heavy one if I've written it right, so this will be another two-parter...
Chapter Four: By Candlelight
I had met Professor Dumbledore only once before, when he visited my wife and me to tell us Mark was eligible for Hogwarts – and, I now suspect, to determine whether I was eligible for something else. On that occasion, he struck me as a genial, chatty, and entirely harmless old man. It was not until the meeting that I grasped that I was in the presence of one of the most powerful wizards in history, and I became aware of this only gradually, not so much because of his own demeanour but because of the way everyone deferred to him.
At the end of the meeting, he took the three of us aside – Reg, Larry Lovegood, and me. He led us down a dark corridor that began in the back of the kitchen and handed us each a slim white candle. “Traditionally, new initiates carve their initials and the date in the base of the candle.”
Reg and Larry did this by tapping the candles with their wands. I looked at mine in some puzzlement, and finally took a ballpoint pen out of my pocket and used it as a makeshift chisel.
“What’s that?” asked Reg with interest.
“Muggle quill,” I explained. Reg was almost as interested in Muggle life as my old friend Arthur Weasley, but he had led a more sheltered life than Arthur and often required translations. The police, for instance, were always “Muggle Aurors,” to him, and once, after I left a newspaper at his house, he remarked that this Saddam Hussein sounded like a very Dark wizard who was probably using Unforgivable Curses on his own people.
“You mean you have a tool for writing and carving candles? Weird.” Reg looked impressed.
“Well, it’s not for carving candles exactly, but – Never mind. Would you like to keep it? I’ve got lots of others.”
Reg pocketed his new possession, looking very proud of it.
Dumbledore opened the door at the end of the corridor and we entered a small, dark chamber, heavy and sweet with the scent of melting wax. A long table nearly filled the room. A hundred or so candles stood upon it, more than half of them lit, others with the wick ends still glowing as though they’d just been blown out.
“Yours will light as soon as you take the membership oath,” he said, giving us each a piece of parchment with some words written on it.
I, John Michael Evans, an initiate of the Order of the Phoenix, swear to serve the Order faithfully, never to betray its secrets or name my fellow members, and to assist to the best of my capabilities in the struggle against Lord Voldemort.
It was a deceptively simple oath; not until I heard Larry stumbling over the last word did I understand that it contained a subtle test. I had a great deal left to learn.
The candle in my hand burst into flame as I finished speaking.
“Would you like to put yours here, Jack?” Dumbledore asked softly. He motioned toward a small cluster of candles at the far end of the table, only one of which still burned with a thin, bright flame. “Beside this one, I think. It is your sister’s.” He indicated one of the burnt-out candles.
I picked it up and saw that it did indeed bear the initials L. E. and a date some four years before her death. I had always remembered her as my big sister, but it was brought home to me now that she had been very, very young, closer to Mark’s age than mine, when she lit this candle.
The wick of Lily’s candle glowed a little brighter as I placed mine beside it.
“Yours too, Regulus,” He indicated another burnt-out candle from the same little group. “This is your brother’s.”
“You don't think he'd mind – I mean, we didn’t always get along...”
“I think,” said Dumbledore slowly, “that if he had known the man you would become, he would have been proud to have you by his side.”
“How do you know whose they are without looking at the initials?” I asked.
“Old men remember odd things. Besides, that group of candles has – certain identifying marks, if you know what to look for.”
On careful examination, I saw what he was talking about. The candle he had shown to Reg had a small scorch mark, as if it had been forcibly snuffed out and then relit at some later date. One of the other ones near it was the only one on the table that seemed to have been extinguished completely.
“Shouldn’t little Nymphadora be with the rest of the family?” Reg asked.
Dumbledore considered this for a moment. “Yes, she should. She joined with a boyfriend who didn’t last – that is, he’s still a member of the Order in good standing, but he didn’t last as a boyfriend. I don’t think she’ll mind if I move hers.” He picked up a candle from the other end of the table and placed it beside the one Reg had just lit.
I considered the candle that had been burning alone a moment ago, and was now surrounded by three of its fellows. Suddenly ours looked like intruders. “Er ... are you sure the person who lit that one won’t mind having company?”
By Candlelight, Part Two
Dumbledore’s reply seemed absolutely cryptic. “Have you ever studied natural history, Jack?”
“Natural ... history? No. I know a fair bit about inheritance law and model-building, but that’s about it.”
“Neither have I. But Professor Hagrid, our Care of Magical Creatures teacher, informs me that wolves are pack animals. Not in the sense of carrying a pack, which would probably not be a good idea at all, but of being happiest when they can run with one.” I stared at him, bewildered. “Yes, I believe we are doing the right thing. If I am wrong – and I have sometimes been very gravely wrong about matters like this in the past – I take full responsibility upon myself.”
I could make neither head nor tail of this, and I wondered for a moment if he were going senile, but there was a spark behind his spectacles that suggested exceptional intelligence and alertness. Besides, Reg appeared to find this speech perfectly sensible. “I think you’re right,” he said, with unaccustomed soberness, as he left the room.
“Where should I put mine?” Larry asked, a little too loudly. I jumped involuntarily.
“Do you have any family members in the Order?” Dumbledore asked.
“Nope – it’s just me and little Luna,” he said. It wasn’t until then that I realised he was the father of the dreamy-looking girl I’d met at Harry’s birthday party. They didn’t look much alike.
“Then you may place it anywhere on the table.” He chose the most conspicuous spot, closest to the door.
As Larry followed Reg out of the room, Dumbledore motioned for me to stay. “Do you understand why we need your help?” he asked.
“I don’t understand anything at all,” I said. “Why am I here? What am I supposed to do?”
“Nothing, yet. Just keep your eyes open. But if anything goes wrong and the Death Eaters do kidnap Sybil Trelawney, we have reason to believe they may try to conceal her somewhere in the Muggle world. They cannot kill her – she is only valuable to them if she can make another prophesy – and I don’t think they will risk hiding her in any location known to us. That is where you come in. We need somebody who knows both cultures intimately, in a way that few of our people do. Even Muggle-born wizards have been immersed in our world since the age of eleven. I am beginning to think that is the great weakness in our system of education. You, on the other hand, grew up hearing your sister’s stories, and as an adult you’ve made an extensive study of our world – while still knowing your way around your own. If any Muggle can think like a wizard, you can. If Trelawney vanishes, we think you have a better chance of finding her than anybody else would.”
I shook my head in amazement. I was certain now that I didn’t know how to think like a wizard at all.
“Do you have any questions?” Dumbledore asked.
“I have three,” I said. “Am I the first Muggle to join the Order?”
“Yes. But you almost certainly won’t be the last. I believe we will need mutual openness and cooperation if any of us are to survive the times that lie ahead.”
“What about my wife? How much can I tell her?”
“That is up to you. But you must bear in mind that the more she knows of your activities, the more likely it is that this knowledge may put her in danger. And you must not say anything to anyone else, other friends or family members.”
“I have no other family members.” Petunia and her family didn’t count; I hardly knew them. That brought me to my last question. Strictly speaking, it had nothing to do with my mission, but it had haunted me for half my life and I wanted an answer. “Today I learned why Voldemort murdered my sister. But why did he kill my parents?”
“I cannot answer that, Jack.”
“Can’t, or won’t?” I demanded.
I walked out of the candlelit room feeling disoriented and troubled. As Dumbledore had said, I’d known about the magical world since I was a child, younger than Mark – but the last few hours had made me realise that in some ways I knew nothing of it. Suddenly I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to tell Harriet. I remembered the look on her face as we’d said goodbye to Mark that morning: confident, cheerful, ever so slightly envious of our own son. She’d told him to write every day. Not because she was anxious or afraid, except in the ordinary way that parents are always anxious about their child’s first time away from home, but because she couldn’t wait to hear the stories he would have to tell. And I had felt the same way, until right now.
It may sound strange that I hadn’t connected the wizard world – Lily’s world, and now Mark’s – with danger before, but you must understand that it was a way of life I took for granted from the ages of ten through sixteen, and that my involvement with it came to an abrupt end when my sister and parents were killed. I had never associated their deaths with magic, but rather with the moment when magic went out of my life.
Chapter Five: Some Mundane Organizational Matters
My mum always said being an Auror wasn’t a suitable career for a girl. She wanted me to go in for Household Spells instead – I would have been hopeless. I couldn’t wait to see her face when I told her I was on a Special Task Force with three of the most eligible bachelors in London. Well, all right, so one of them was my cousin Reg and another was Larry Lovegood. I didn’t have to tell her about that part.
The third one has got a set of disadvantages all his own. – R. J. L.
The following text is Arcanum charmed against Larry Lovegood. – N. T.
Excuse me, would you mind charming it against Jack as well? – R. J. L.
Jack? You haven’t told him? – N. T.
Not yet. – R. J. L.
All right. But I think he’ll have to know sooner or later. – N. T.
Six weeks later: Charm against Jack Evans lifted at editor’s request. – N. T.]
At the moment, our General Editor’s chief disadvantage was that he’d drunk far too much wine and kept having fits of the giggles whenever anybody mentioned Hairy Snout, Human Heart. Reg and I looked at each other and silently agreed to do this as frequently as possible. He doesn’t get in that sort of mood often any more, but when he does we try to encourage it.
“Come on, Moony, think what it would do for your career. The public doesn’t want to read scholarly monographs in obscure Eastern European journals, they want to read Hairy Snout, Human Heart.” Reg grinned.
“S-stop saying it! You’re killing me!”
“Have you actually read Hairy Snout, Human Heart?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, snickering. (Dumb question, he’s read everything.) “It’s about the second silliest piece of tripe ever written on the subject, after that Lockhart man’s book. But at least Lovegood’s heart is in the right place, which is more than I can say for the other one.”
“What’s the matter with Lockhart’s book?” asked Reg. “Kreacher was just telling me about some of his exploits. I thought the part where he did the Homorphus charm was very impressive.”
“The problem with the Homorphus charm is that it turns a live werewolf into a dead human. Which I’m sure didn’t bother the good citizens of Wagga Wagga in the slightest, but from my perspective it leaves a little something to be desired.”
He was still smiling, but there was a definite edge of bitterness in his voice. Reg and I exchanged glances again, and fell silent.
Larry Lovegood reentered the kitchen with Sybil Trelawney, who was listening with great interest to the story of his recent expedition to Sweden. They were followed a moment later by an unusually subdued-looking Jack Evans. “Well, now that the whole task force is here, we should work out how we’re going to do this,” I said. “There are four of us guarding Sybil, so I think it would work best if we split the next month into one-week shifts – ”
“Excuse me,” said Jack, “but I’m not on guard duty. I can’t enter Hogwarts at all.”
“I know,” I said. “I was talking about myself. I can take the time off from work, you know.” I had almost two months of holiday saved up; I’d been thinking of going to Thailand or Australia, but this sounded like more fun.
“I don’t know that I like this,” said Larry in a tone I considered very patronising. “Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, but to my mind this is a man’s job.”
“My cousin can take care of herself,” said Reg.
Remus nodded. “We’re all in this together.” But he was looking at Reg uneasily, and I suspected he wished one of us wasn’t. “One of us needs to leave in a few hours ... I think it may as well be me, since I’m terminally unemployed and have nothing else to do around here. But somebody will have to feed my cat.”
“I’ll look after her,” I said. My parents live in Spirit’s End, right around the corner from Remus. “I have to request time off from work two weeks in advance, so I can’t do anything until the third week. Who’s free the second?”
“I am,” said Reg.
“Then I’ll take the fourth week,” said Larry, looking disappointed. He and Trelawney seemed to be getting along very well. They had scarcely taken their eyes off of each other during the whole meeting.
“We need some way to stay in touch with each other,” said Jack. “And with Professor Trelawney, too, in case she gets separated from her guard. I don’t mean to sound like a total Muggle – but have you ever considered getting mobile phones?”
Remus blushed, and I burst out laughing. Neither of us was likely to forget his one attempt at using Jack’s phone. “They won’t work at Hogwarts,” he said. “There’s so much magic around the place that most Muggle inventions go haywire. But I have something even better. We can use it for keeping records as well.”
He explained how the Instant Message Books worked and handed each of us one. That’s when we tried them out and, after a few minutes of total anarchy which are already recorded here, appointed Remus as editor and laid down a few ground rules. The other professors escorted Sybil back to Hogwarts; Jack, still looking dazed, went home.
“Look after Reg, will you?” whispered Remus as he was leaving. “I don’t know what Dumbledore was thinking, letting him volunteer.”
“I’m sure he had his reasons,” I said. “I’ll do my best, but I don’t know if it’s humanly possible to look after Reg. Reg is sort of like a force of nature.”
“I know,” he said, sighing a little. “But do your best. I mean – this business of old school friends turning up, and then getting themselves killed – it’s not something a person can be expected to go through an infinite number of times, you know?”
“I understand.” I watched as he drew his cloak around his thin shoulders and quietly went out.
[The following text has been Arcanum charmed against all other task force members except Larry Lovegood.
Much later: Charm lifted – N. T.]
As soon as he’d gone, Larry motioned me aside into the hallway. “I’d like to have a word with you about your werewolf friend,” he said. “He isn’t looking well at all – much worse than any of the others I know.”
“He’s not ‘my werewolf friend,’ he’s Remus,” I snapped. “And I bet he’s under a lot more stress than any of the ‘others’ you know.”
“Look, I know about werewolves. I wrote the book on werewolves. And let me tell you ...” He whispered something in my ear.
“Out of the question,” I said when I understood what he was getting at. “Completely absurd. I’d trust him with my life. We all trust him with our lives.”
“All the same,” said Larry, “keep your eyes wide open. And see me at the Quibbler office if you want to know more.” He handed me another business card and walked away.
I was left alone in the kitchen with Reg, who had suddenly turned pale and slumped against the wall, his face beaded with sweat. He was clutching his left arm.
My own (very, very silly) twist on the Stubby-is-Regulus theory...
Chapter Six: Gilderoy Kreacher and Stubby Black
I don’t have any children that I know about. (When I first returned to my human form, I thought for a while that young Hermione Granger was mine, but Moony informed me in no uncertain terms that she was not.) But if I ever become a father, I will pass along this piece of advice for future generations: It’s always a bad idea to get a tattoo when you’re drunk. But if you must, you should go to a proper tattoo parlour instead of entrusting the job to an amateur like Lord Voldemort – or Tommy-boy, as I prefer to call him. We’ve been on intimate terms in the past.
“Poor Reg,” said my cousin Nymphadora, handing me a cup of water. (I knew her when she was in nappies, so I can call her Nymphadora if I want. I’ve only known her as an adult for a month, but I like her a lot. She’s got brains and spirit.) “Does it hurt very much?”
“Oh, it’s nothing,” I said. “Not as bad as decapitation, and it doesn’t burn nearly as much as taking a bath in lye. On the whole I’d say it’s fair to middling.”
She looked even more concerned than before. “What are you going to do about it?”
“What do you mean, what am I going to do? We knew it was coming, and this is one summons even I’m not crazy enough to obey. Unless I can turn up at one of their meetings and take a bunch of them out before they know what’s hit them.” I’d been a real Death Eater for only a day or so, but that was more than enough for me. My cousin was looking critically at me, so I added quickly, “And I’m not about to do that. Not unless we all agree it’s the right time.”
“I mean, now that you’re back, you’re in a lot of danger. Voldemort doesn’t exactly take kindly to people leaving his service. I wish you hadn’t volunteered for this mission. You’re not safe anywhere but here.”
“Come on, Nymphadora, you’re getting worse than Moony. What am I supposed to do, not leave the house for the rest of my life? What good would I be to you then?”
She knew I was right, of course. She’s a Black on her mother’s side, and none of the Blacks take well to being shut up indoors and told to keep out of danger. My brother’s last few months must have been nearly unbearable. I wasn’t going to let the same thing happen to me.
“Well,” she said, “at the very least you ought to be in some sort of disguise.”
“Naturally I’ll be in disguise,” I said. The pain in my arm seemed to be fading, or else I was getting used to it. I felt like myself again, and I’d just looked at a framed newspaper clipping on the wall and had a brilliant idea. “Wait just a minute, I’m going upstairs to get some things.” I grabbed some hair gel and writing paper as a gift for the attic’s occupant.
The other members of the Order had spent more than a year clearing my family’s old junk out of the house, but I was willing to bet the place still had a few secrets. Up in the attic, I tapped on one of the floorboards, which slid aside to reveal that there was a space between floors large enough for a man to crawl inside. I brushed aside the cobwebs and felt my way to the corner where I remembered stashing a small collection of contraband items from my teenage years. Half a bottle of firewhiskey (now with a more powerful kick than ever), an ancient turntable with a dozen or so records, and a ukulele. My parents would have killed me if they knew I was listening to Muggle music, let alone playing it, but I’d always had dreams of being a professional singer. Now I had a shot at making them come true.
I strummed the ukulele experimentally and sang a few lines of Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride.”
“Hold it! Is you the Bandon Banshee?”
“Oh, hello, Kreacher. No, I’m Reg Black, your new master. I brought you a present,” I said, proffering the hair gel.
“Oh, thank you, new master! Gilderoy is almost out of hair gel, and Gilderoy has an interview with Witch Weekly in an hour! I is winning their Most Charming Smile award again!” Kreacher broke into a grotesque grin. “But why is Gilderoy wearing this filthy tea towel, sir?”
I’d better explain that my first act after claiming the family estate was to place a Memory Charm on our house-elf, a malevolent loose cannon with far too much compromising knowledge about the Order. Unfortunately, my evil cousin Trixie had taken my own wand sixteen years earlier, and I was still getting used to old Uncle Alph’s, which is the one I use now. The charm backfired in a pretty spectacular way, leaving Kreacher with somebody else’s stray memories. Arthur Weasley and Mad-Eye Moody spent two days debating whether this was really possible, until finally Moony stepped in and said that I had never confined my adventures to the realm of the possible before and he certainly didn’t expect me to start now. I think that is a good description of me.
Anyway, nobody minded about what happened to Kreacher. At least he seemed much happier now, and there was no longer any danger of his talking about anyone except Gilderoy Lockhart. I felt a little guilty, though, so I try to bring him something every time I come up to the attic.
“Brought you some stationery, too,” I said.
“Master is too kind. Practising joined-up writing is Gilderoy’s favourite, favourite thing, sir!”
Kreacher settled into a corner to work on his joined-up writing while I fine-tuned my new secret identity. All I needed now was something to wear. After trying on several dozen outfits from the wardrobe in the attic, I settled on a pair of rhinestone sunglasses, a single clip-on earring from a pair my cousin Andromeda had once owned (a miniature glow-in-the-dark Saturn with a levitating ring), and some sky blue dress robes with sequins.
You should have seen the look on Nymphadora’s face as I strolled into the kitchen tuning my ukulele. “Oh, Reg! Where on earth did you find that get-up?”
I grinned. “Who’s this Reg person? I’m Stubby Boardman, innocent singing sensation.”
Well, now I've introduced the narrators ... most of them, anyway ... and we can get this guarding business in gear. (Apologies if this plot is taking a while to develop, by the way -- I couldn't resist having a little fun with the different voices and characters, especially the ways they handle guard duty...)
Feedback is always welcome.
Author's note, 1/4/04: Made a minor edit to this chapter because I realized there's something specific about Theo's backstory that virtually guarantees Remus would remember him by name. It's not key to the plot of this story, it's just that I'm slightly obsessive about keeping my little world internally consistent. Edited text is in purple.
Chapter Seven: Guarding Sybil, Week One
Editor’s note: The marginal comments signed S. S. were made about five weeks after the main action of this chapter takes place. I respond to some of his accusations elsewhere. Here I have allowed them to stand without comment. – R. J. L.
I stuffed a set of spare robes into my briefcase, fed the cat, and Apparated into the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. “Hello, Rosmerta. I’d like two bottles of your best sherry, please.”
“Remus! How nice to see you again! Have you gone back to teaching at Hogwarts?”
I shook my head. “Sadly, no. I’m here on other business.” I put the sherry into my case, which was now bulging at the seams, and turned to go.
“Aren’t you going to stay for a drink?”
“Not tonight, Rosmerta, I’m in a hurry. But I’ll be back.”
* * *
I gave Sir Cadogan the password to the North Tower ("Uther Pendragon") and presented the two bottles to Sybil. Plying her with sherry turned out to be one of the best ideas I’d ever had. She was usually fast asleep by eight o’clock in the evening, and within three days she had begun to address me as “dear boy” (I am thirty-seven and look considerably older than my years). She even stopped foretelling my impending demise and kept me amused with a series of predictions that were much less likely to come true. The ones I can remember included my becoming librarian-in-chief at the British Archives of Magic, marrying a much younger woman, and providing Harry with a whole family of godchildren. Actually, many of her prophesies these days were taking a matrimonial turn, as I noticed while listening in on her classes, and she had become more popular with most of the female students than ever. I attributed this to the influence of Larry Lovegood.
Speaking of Harry, I’d seen him only briefly on the first night – just long enough for me to explain why I was there, and for him to tell me Mark had been Sorted into Gryffindor. I had very little time away from the North Tower; Minerva or Severus would relieve me now and again, but they were both busy with their teaching duties and clearly eager to spend as little time with Sybil as possible. Harry, in any case, was rarely alone, and if the other students saw me they would ask awkward questions. But I hoped to catch him after Remedial History of Magic on the fourth evening. I had to face my usual ordeal first, though. Promptly at nine, Severus Snape turned up in the North Tower with a goblet of potion.
“Would you like to join me for a drink? I’m sure you won’t want any of this, but there’s sherry.” I don’t know why I bother asking. He has never accepted.
I’ll tell you why you bothered. You condescended to me so you could pat yourself on the back and tell yourself you were a better man than I was. Don’t ever try to pretend there was any friendship or liking or remorse involved. – S. S.
“No, I don’t care to. And don’t even think about having any yourself. You know mixing alcohol with the potion makes it useless.”
“Of course I know that,” I said. (Almost anything that would improve the taste makes it useless. I sometimes suspect him of making this up.) “You don’t have to remind me.”
“I’m just making certain. You have been known to be irresponsible in the past.”
“Once,” I said, “under extraordinary circumstances. If two of your old friends turned up in your students’ company when one of them was supposed to be dead and the other one a convicted murderer, you’d forget about everything else too.”
“If that happened to me, I would alert the Aurors and the Ministry. Not try to play the hero myself.”
I forced myself not to make the obvious retort: most of his old friends deserved life in Azkaban; only one of mine did. I didn’t need an argument with him tonight. “Could you do me a favour, Severus, and spell me for an hour or so?”
“Going to visit your ward?” I nodded. “A foolish risk to take. I knew you’d indulge him too much. None of the other children get to see their families until Christmas, and that’s how it should be. Toughens them up. He doesn’t need special treatment.” (Sometimes I wonder if Severus lives in a parallel universe. I can’t conceive of any other reason why he would think Harry needed additional toughening up.)
“I don’t care how you think things should be. I’m going to see him.” I choked down the rest of the potion, grabbed the invisibility cloak I’d been issued, and left the tower before he could say anything more.
Remedial History of Magic ended at half past nine. I waited in an inconspicuous niche in the corridor and watched the other students file out: Vincent Crabbe, Gregory Goyle, two earnest-looking Hufflepuff girls whom I barely remembered, and then Professor Binns, who was followed by Theo Nott, walking with his head down as usual. His dark hair was falling in his face and he seemed even thinner than I remembered. Finally, the last two students appeared. I stepped out of the niche and pulled off my cloak. “Hi, Harry and Neville. How’s everything going?”
“All right,” said Harry quietly. There seemed to be a shadow on his face that I knew all too well.
Neville, on the other hand, seemed genuinely happy, though puzzled as to what I was doing at Hogwarts. I admired some obscure botanical specimens of his and told them all about guarding Sybil. They were both in stitches when I got to the part about Larry and her latest round of predictions. All the same, there was always a look about Harry that I didn’t like, and I was relieved when Neville left us alone together.
“Been practising the Occlumency thing I taught you?”
“Yeah. It’s going pretty well – although I don’t think Snape likes it very much when he gets to see himself from my perspective.”
“I’ll bet,” I said, smiling. With an attempt at casualness that fooled neither of us, I asked, “Scar hurting again?”
“It’s not so bad,” he said dully.
“Yes, it is.” The shadow I’d seen was the look of chronic pain and the physical and mental exhaustion that comes with it. I recognised it because I’d often seen it on my own face, from childhood upward, but the sight of it had never hurt me like this before.
Funny how there was always one face you didn’t recognise it on. – S. S.
That is the trouble with children – even other people’s children. You can’t bear for them to face things you can endure perfectly well for yourself. You want to tear the world apart and rebuild it so everything that’s gone wrong in the past will go right for them. Most of the time we don’t pull off the rebuilding part. Perhaps it’s just as well that I won’t have children of my own.
I gave him the only comfort I had to offer: the truth. “Listen, Harry. I know this has to be awful for you, but we’re almost certain you’re not the one he’s interested in this time, and there’s always going to be a member of the Order here if you need help or someone to talk to. And – ” I struggled to find the right words for something I had always taken for granted but had never talked about before. “The thing about pain is – it expands to fill as much of your mind as you allow it, and then it takes more. It is very easy to let it become the defining feature of your life. You will have to fight this temptation – every waking moment, maybe even in your sleep. Do not let yourself stop caring about other things. It will be very hard, but it is possible. All right?”
“Yeah. Thanks, Remus.” He’d never called me by my first name before. I remembered too much about being sixteen to comment on it, but it was hard to conceal the elation I felt.
“One more thing. When you’re doing lessons with Professor Snape, don’t forget what we talked about before you left. Be easy on the man.”
“Yes. All right.”
An admirable sentiment. Where was it twenty-one years ago? – S. S.
* * *
I’d spent more time with Harry than I had meant to, and Severus looked extremely displeased when I returned to the North Tower. He didn’t say anything until the following evening, when he dropped a bombshell. “You’ve been spotted,” he said. “One of my students saw you in the corridor and overheard part of your conversation with the Potter and Longbottom boys. Fortunately he doesn’t seem to have caught anything of great import – more in the nature of idle gossip, from what he told me. I hope you think a cheap laugh at Professor Trelawney’s expense is worth the risk. I am inclined to disagree.” (He loathes Sybil. Not much moral high ground there.)
“Which student?” I asked, trying to keep my voice level. “It wasn’t Draco Malfoy, was it?” Draco had met a few members of the Order at an ill-fated party I’d hosted over the summer; if he saw me here, he might be able to put together more of the pieces than I’d like.
“No. Fortunately for you, it was not.”
What I actually said was “Nott,” not “not.” Not that it matters. – S. S.
This spelling buiseness is really knotty! Ha ha! Get it? Knotty! – L. L.
Lovegood, you’re an idiot. Shut up. – S. S.
Last edited by Lady deMimsy; January 5th, 2004 at 1:10 am.
Chapter Eight: Guarding Sybil, Week Two
Moony, your chapter titles are so boring! I think this one should be called “Sir Regulus of the House of Black, Dashing Undercover Agent and Singing Sensation.” – R. B.
“This is ridiculous,” said Professor McGonagall. “I thought we agreed that Sybil’s guards should remain as inconspicuous as possible.”
“Well, Minerva, there’s more than one way of being inconspicuous.” Dumbledore was on my side, so I was pretty sure I’d get my way in the end. “Remus is about as quiet and careful as they come, and Theo still spotted him. I don’t think it’s a bad idea for Regulus to have a plausible story explaining why he is at Hogwarts – and this one certainly fits his personality and his style.”
“Do I get any backup musicians?” I asked. “How about it, Minnie? I hear you play a mean saxophone.”
“You were misinformed,” she said sternly, but I could tell she wanted to smile.
“There’s Hagrid,” said Dumbledore with a twinkle in his eye. “He plays the drums.”
I picked up my ukulele and walked at a leisurely pace toward the North Tower. Getting past the portrait was always my favourite part.
“Stay, varlet! Knowest thou the password?”
“Yea, verily, ‘tis ‘Sir Dodenal le Sauvage.’ And hail, brave Sir Cadogan! Remember me, Sir Regulus of the house of Black? I come hither on a quest!”
“What manner of quest, varlet? Thou look’st more like a strolling minstrel than a noble knight.”
“‘Tis a musical quest!” I strummed a few notes on the ukulele. “If ye would be of assistance, I charge ye to find good Sir Hagrid and any other staff members of musical inclination, and tell them I’ll be holding auditions in the Divination classroom at half-past-three.”
“I go, I go! Be of good cheer, Sir Regulus, and I wish ye luck on your musical quest!”
I found Syb nodding off over a bottle of sherry and Moony curled up in an armchair in front of the fire. He looked a shade paler than usual, which was quite an accomplishment, but he laughed out loud when he saw my disguise. “I should’ve known you’d come up with something like that, Reg ... or do you prefer to be called Stubby?”
“I think I like being called Sir Regulus of the House of Black. All the best singing sensations get knighted nowadays.”
“Don’t push your luck,” he said, smiling. “Listen – you do understand this is very serious, don’t you? Don’t leave Sybil alone, even for a second, and don’t go running after any suspicious people on your own – tell Sir Cadogan to spread the alert. And take care of yourself, Reg. If you get into trouble this week, I might not be in any condition to rescue you.”
“I know. I do take some things seriously, believe it or not.” I gave him a light punch on the arm as he rose to go. “Take care of yourself too, Moony. Stay well.”
“That’s impossible, I’m afraid, but thanks for the thought.” He stepped into the fireplace and was gone.
Sir Cadogan returned with Hagrid, who, as it turned out, didn’t so much play the drums as bang on them at random, and Filius Flitwick, who was generally able to drown him out with his accordion. That meant we had to arrange everything as a polka, but all the same, I thought we sounded all right. I don’t think old Syb liked us practising all afternoon in her tower, but she didn’t have a choice in the matter. I wasn’t about to let Moony say I hadn’t been a responsible bodyguard.
Minnie was kind enough to take over guard duty for a few hours so Dumbledore could introduce me to the students at dinner. “We have a special guest this week, a world-famous singing star who has graciously agreed to come out of retirement in Barbados for a series of performances at Hogwarts this autumn. Will you please give it up for ... MISTER STUBBY BOARDMAN OF THE HOBGOBLINS!”
There was a smattering of applause. I was surprised not to get a more enthusiastic response...
Reg, you do know it’s been sixteen years since Stubby Boardman was a big star, right? – N. T.
... but I stepped forward and began to strum my ukulele. I’d chosen one of the Hobgoblins’ biggest hits:
SINCE my BAY-by left-a me
Ah, WHOA, whoa, WHOA, whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa
I’ve been HEXED, vexed, and CURsed as can be,
Oh NO, no, NO, no-no-no-no.
Most of the students sat there in stony silence, but a few had started clapping along to the music. Luna Lovegood, Neville Longbottom, and one thin, dark-haired boy at the Slytherin table seemed especially enthusiastic. Slightly encouraged, I launched into an old Muggle tune:
Purple Haze, all around
Don’t know if I’m comin’ up or down.
This didn’t seem to go over as well – none of the purebloods knew it, and the Muggle-borns thought it was their father’s music. I had to do something radical to save the situation. I looked desperately around the hall. At last my eyes fixed on Sev Snape, who had been eyeing me as if I were a particularly loathsome piece of fungus. I polkaed toward the High Table.
I feel funny, but I don’t know why,
‘SCUSE ME while I kiss this guy!
Uh, Reg? There’s something you ought to know... – J. M. E.
Don’t you dare tell him, Jack! This is priceless! – N. T.
Hagrid gave a resounding bang on the cymbals as I planted a loud, wet smack on Sevvie’s cheek. The hall exploded in laughter and cheering which continued through the rest of the set.
Stubby Boardman was a big star again.
Longish chapter with a natural cliffhanger two-thirds of the way through, so again, I'll be splitting this one into two parts. Feedback is cool.
Chapter Nine: Full Moon Fever
[This entire chapter has been Arcanum charmed against Jack Evans.
Four weeks later: Charm lifted. For the record, I am a complete prat who does NOT deserve Jack’s friendship, but I’m glad he seems to think otherwise. – R. J. L.]
If any of my readers are curious to know what the aftereffects of the werewolf transformation feel like, they should wait until the next time they have the flu, go for a five-mile run, fall down a long flight of stairs, and drink three or four bottles of cheap wine. And then do it all over again the next night. And the next. About the only things that help a bit are drinking a lot of fluids and sleeping, and you can’t usually sleep very well because you’re feeling too miserable. I’m perfectly sane and safe as long as I’ve taken my potion, but it doesn’t do wonders for my temper. I prefer to stay away from people at these times.
Toward the middle of the second afternoon I’d finally dropped off, only to be woken by an enormous Great Horned Owl pecking at my hands. I rolled over and tried to ignore it. It started pecking at the back of my neck instead. Painfully, I opened my eyes and untied the note from its leg.
I know this is a bad time, but you must come to headquarters at once. You can have your old room back and we’ll see that you get your potion. Plan to stay for a long time. Send your cat and anything else you need by return owl. DO NOT GO OUT OF DOORS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. DO NOT STAY IN SPIRIT’S END LONGER THAN NECESSARY.
It took just about all the energy I could summon to load a protesting Felicity into her cat carrier, send her off with the owl, and Apparate at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. I nearly collided with Mundungus Fletcher, who looked almost as unsteady on his feet as I felt, though for a different reason. "'Sup, Loopy?"
“Mundungus, why am I here?”
He put both hands on my shoulders and gave me an owlish stare. “Tha’s a very interesting metasiv– metafishical question ... oh, screw it. If you ain’t sure of your porpoise ... purpose in life, mate, don’ ‘spect other people to give you the answers.” And he passed out more or less on top of me.
Jack Evans dragged Mundungus off of me. I tried to ask him what was going on, but for some reason what I actually said was, “Porpoises are cute. I saw some when I was on holiday in Greenland once.” What was happening to my brain?
Jack gave me a strange look. I didn’t blame him. “Are you all right? You don’t look well at all.”
“Nothing serious,” I said. “Migraine.” By trial and error, I had discovered this was a useful lie when dealing with Muggles: they seemed to accept it as an adequate explanation of why I needed to be shut up in a dark room and not disturbed. With Jack, however, there was a new complication.
He nodded sympathetically. “I get them when I’m under stress,” he said. “You’d better have one of my pills, you look very bad.”
Remembering Arthur Weasley’s experiment with Muggle medicine, I wasn’t sure this was a good idea, but Jack insisted. Finally I gave in. I was in a reckless mood: I figured it probably wouldn’t kill me, and even if it did, in a few hours’ time I’d be feeling so wretched anyhow that I wouldn’t mind.
Larry Lovegood entered the room. “Whoa, what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be – ”
I cut him off before he could say anything else in front of Jack. “That’s exactly what I’d like to know. Do you have any idea what this is all about?”
“Beats me. Some Indian-looking chappie came to the house and spent about half an hour talking to Dumbledore in private. I asked him if he wanted to give an exclusive interview for the Quibbler on The Inscrutability of Eastern Magic, but he just rushed out. Completely ignored me.”
“Where is Professor Dumbledore? I need to speak to him.”
“He’s upstairs in the library – but listen, you look terrible. You’d better lie down. You look just like all those poor people with your affliction used to before – ”
I stopped listening and stormed up the stairs. Whoever the mysterious Indian guy was, I thought he had the right idea about how to deal with Larry.
I found Dumbledore deep in conversation with Severus Snape, who had a goblet of the Wolfsbane potion in his hand. “What’s going on? What are you doing here in the middle of the day, Severus – don’t you have a class to teach? Has something happened at Hogwarts? Is Harry all right?” I realised I was shouting at them, and forced myself not to ask any more questions.
“I’ll explain everything in just a minute, Remus, but you’d better drink that first,” said Dumbledore in what I thought was an infuriatingly calm voice.
“It’s four hours to moonrise, for Christ’s sake! I don’t need potion, I need an explanation!”
“Drink. You look like you’re about to collapse. You might not be in any shape to take your dose later.”
“I am not about to collapse!” I snapped, trying to ignore the way the library had started to spin around before my eyes. This was clearly the library’s problem, not mine.
“And yes, Harry’s fine, this isn’t anything to do with him.” That was something, anyway. I managed to swallow most of the potion. “You, on the other hand, may be in considerable danger.”
“I, too, would like to know what this is about,” said Severus. “I cannot imagine what could be urgent enough to warrant calling me away in the middle of a lesson.”
“I’ve just had a visit from a man named Vikram Prajpati, who owns a restaurant in Remus’ neighbourhood. He thinks he saw a suspicious-looking rat dart behind his tandoor oven.”
I grabbed hold of a bookshelf in a desperate attempt to hold the room down and steady it.
“And?” Severus’ voice seemed to come from far off. “It is hardly surprising that someone saw a rat in some greasy curry house in the middle of the slums, but I fail to understand why this calls for a Potions Master. Surely this Mr. Prajpati can call in an ordinary exterminator to deal with it, or he can convert it to Rat Vindaloo if he prefers.”
“This was a different kind of rat. It had a silver paw.”
I lost my grip on the bookshelf as everything went dark.
Hope all this Arcanum charm business isn't too hard to follow; unfortunately, it'll get worse before it gets better. (Who has what information when is going to be important, by the way; I'm not just doing this to be annoying.)
Full Moon Fever, Part Two
The morning light was streaming in through the window and Tonks was sitting at the foot of my bed. It took me a moment to recognise her because she had on what I like to call her “let’s not shock Remus when he’s ill” hair, which was a demure shade of brown. (Actually, I’m not at all shocked by electric blue or pink hair. I think I like it.)
“Morning, sleepyhead. Brought you some tea.” She spoke lightly, but I could tell from the way she was looking at me that she was concerned.
I sat up and sipped the tea, which eased the dryness in my mouth. “Have I lost a whole night?” I asked incredulously. That had never happened before. Transformation itself is painful on a grand and epic scale: not the sort of thing you sleep through.
“You were out cold. You had all of us worried to death for a while. Dumbledore said it was probably just stress and exhaustion and it was better not to revive you. What’s the last thing you remember?”
“Talking to Albus and Severus in the library ... and I think I heard Severus ask whether he should call in a Healer or a veterinarian, but I might have been dreaming.”
“He said that?” She looked indignant.
“He’s said a lot worse over the years. I almost look forward to hearing what he’ll come up with next.”
“But saying it over your inert body is a bit callous, don’t you think?”
“I don’t know that he said anything of the sort. As I said, I may have dreamt the whole thing.” (Privately, I was certain that I hadn’t. I wondered, not for the first time, why I always end up defending people I really don’t like.)
“Well ... never mind. How are you feeling?”
I took stock of myself for a moment. The back of my head felt bruised, and I wondered if Snape had taken his revenge for something Sirius did to him once, but apart from that – “Not too bad. Better than usual, actually. Maybe there’s something in those pills of Jack’s.”
She gave me a strange look. “What? Jack’s been giving you pills?”
“Yes – some sort of Muggle pain reliever. Yes, I know you shouldn’t mix remedies, but he practically forced me to take it, and I think it really does help a little.”
“It shouldn’t,” she said. I didn’t see why not. Plenty of Muggle inventions are perfectly good. “You’re absolutely sure you’re better? I mean, I’ve never known you to complain.”
“I’m fine,” I said, which was a slight exaggeration, but at least I thought I could stand up now without blacking out. “And I’ve never known you to fuss about my health – which is one of the things I like about you,” I added pointedly. One Molly Weasley in the house was enough. I reached for my shoes.
“No, don’t try to get up yet. Just stay quiet and drink lots, OK? Accio juice!” She spilled only a little of it on the sheets. “Is there anything else I can bring you? Can you face breakfast?”
I shook my head; I wasn’t feeling that much better, and besides, I wasn’t sure I wanted to see the results if she tried to Summon a plate of food.
“Listen, there’s somewhere I need to go, but Molly and Jack are here. Call them if you need anything.” She left the room – rather abruptly, I thought. A minute earlier, she’d looked like she was about to settle in for a nice long chat.
I drank the juice and tried not to think too hard about what Peter Pettigrew was doing in Spirit’s End.
I'm not sure how I feel about my Tonks-voice. Being American, I can't hope to do Cockney slang, and also, JKR has shown us just enough to suggest that her character has a serious side but not enough for me to get a good grip on what that side is like. Oh well. Suggestions for improvement are welcome on the feedback thread
Chapter Ten: A Visit to The Quibbler
[This chapter has been Arcanum charmed against everybody in the Order except Regulus Black – N. T.
Much later: Charm lifted.]
Why me, little cousin? Isn’t Moony supposed to be the editor? – R. B.
[After five minutes with no response.] All right, Nymphadora, be that way. – R. B.
My errand took me to a large, rundown commercial building that housed a number of seedy-looking businesses: Speedy Sal’s Secondhand Brooms, the Happy Hippogriff Dead Rat Emporium, the headquarters of the Kwikspell Correspondence Course ... and the Quibbler office, which consisted of a single room at the end of a short, dimly lit hallway at the back of this building, just past the toilets. One window looked out on a garbage-strewn alley behind the building. The place smelled of a mixture of ink, stale tobacco, and Larry Lovegood’s feet. When I came in, he was clipping his toenails with one hand and reading Unfogging the Future with the other. This was the closest thing to actual work that seemed to be going on; a couple of reporters were drinking coffee and chatting about holidays in Macedonia, and the cartoonist had an empty firewhiskey bottle on his desk and appeared to have passed out. The walls of the office were plastered with pieces of parchment covered in upside-down runes and photos of a spacey-looking teenaged girl standing next to an enormous white animal with a spiked tail and several humps on its back.
“My daughter Luna and her Crumple-Horned Snorkack,” Larry explained. “Hello, Miss Tonks, I thought you might be coming in today. Would you be interested in making a donation to H.O.W.L.?”
I gave him five Galleons, more to get him in a good mood than because I had any faith in his capabilities as an activist. “Larry, I need to talk to you in private.”
“Why don’t you all take lunch or something,” he said, waving his hand in the general direction of the office staff. Although it was only ten o’clock in the morning, they all perked up, including the inert cartoonist, and rushed out in a body to the pub across the alley.
“Excuse me, but would you mind not having your feet on the desk while we’re talking? It’s sort of disgusting.” I bit my tongue, remembering too late about the good mood part.
“Sorry,” he said, smiling affably. He didn’t appear to be offended.
At the end of our conversation, he unlocked one of his desk drawers and pulled out a five-year-old copy of the Andorran Journal of Dark Creatures. “You want proof, don’t you? You can read this if you don’t believe me, and you might also want to go here.” On the inside cover of the journal, he wrote down the address of an apothecary’s shop in Knockturn Alley.
Er, Nymphadora, did you just Arcanum charm your whole conversation against everybody? I thought we agreed we wouldn’t do that. – R. B.
No, I didn’t Arcanum charm anything – I left it out entirely. He made a suggestion that I don’t like to repeat without rock-solid proof, especially since it did come from Larry, so there’s a good chance he doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. But if he is right, it’s a matter of grave importance and I wanted to record the fact that we had the conversation. And if anything happens to me while I’m on guard duty, I want you to go to Larry and ask him about it. – N. T.
All right. But I wish you’d stop being so mysterious! – R. B.
Trust me, Reg, I can’t. – N. T.
As I turned to go, a strange man burst into the office, clutching a yellowing copy of The Quibbler. He was gaunt and dark-haired, with slightly stooped shoulders and a sour, thin-lipped mouth. He seemed very angry. “Where is Lovegood? I need to speak to him about this outrage!”
This sort of thing must have been a common occurrence at the Quibbler office, because Larry didn’t seem fazed at all. “Larry Lovegood is my name, crusadin’ with the facts is my game. My paper publishes all the news – ”
“News? Slander and libel is more like it. Linking my name with a convicted murderer – ” He seemed to notice me for the first time. “Who are YOU? Are you this Doris Purkiss woman?”
“Er, no. My name is Tonks.”
“Then this doesn’t have anything to do with you, so get out of here! I have some private business to discuss with Mr. Lovegood.”
I looked him in the eye. “I don’t know who you are, but I’m pretty sure this is Mr. Lovegood’s office, not yours. I’ll thank you not to order me around.”
“I’m very sorry, Miss Tonks,” said Larry, “but I think you’d better leave me alone with Mr. – er ...”
“Boardman. Stubby Boardman.”
Happy New Year to all!
Chapter Eleven: Jack Gets a New Client
Jack! Jack! Are you there? I need council! – L. L.
Council? – J. M. E.
Legal advise! I need your help NOW! The Quibbler is being sued for libel!!! And the story’s over a year old, and with everything that’s happenned I guess it can’t possibly have been true, but I thought it was when I printed it, and I was only quoting Mrs. Purkiss and we all know Sirius Black WASN’T a mass murderer at all, so shouldn’t it be all right? – L. L.
OK, Larry, why don’t you take a deep breath and tell me the whole story from the beginning? – J. M. E.
All the way from the beginning? OK. – L. L.
Larry Lovegood is my name, crusadin’ with the facts is my –
You can skip that part, Larry. I know. – J. M. E.
All right, then I guess the beginning was about a year ago, when I met a woman named Doris Purkiss at a bargain sale I was holding in Little Norton to benifit H.O.W.L. – the Help Out Wherewolves League, that is, one of my favourite charities. She had an intresting story to tell about Sirius Black, or rather Stubby Boardman – I suppose they can’t be the same person any more – at least not if this is really Stubby Boardman, since he’s obviously alive. Wait, and he seemed to think Tonks was Mrs. Purkiss a minute ago – so he can’t really have met her – I guess she WAS lying. If the man in my office is Stubby Boardman, of course. That isn’t good, is it?
Larry, this makes NO sense. – J. M. E.
Excuse me for interrupting, Jack – are you still at Grimmauld Place? Where in the house are you? – N. T.
Downstairs hall, why? – J. M. E.
Great. Look directly behind you, and you’ll see a framed article from The Quibbler hanging on the wall. Read that first. It will make things much clearer. – N. T.
(Read the article, thanks, Tonks.) Larry, are you still there? If I understand this, you published an article about a year ago alleging that Stubby Boardman and Sirius Black were one and the same; Doris Purkiss was your principle source for this article; and a man claiming to be Stubby Boardman is in your office right now threatening to sue for libel because you accused him of being the same person as a mass murderer, is all this correct? – J. M. E.
Yes. – L. L.
And what have you said to him? – J. M. E.
He didn’t give me a chance to say anything! He comes barrelling into the office and grabs me by the shoulder and pins me against the wall, and so I reached for my wand and hit him with a Stinging Hex, which made him let go of me, and then I ran out of the office and locked him in. And then I got my Instant Message Book out of the lavetory so I could get in touch with you. I generally keep it in there because that’s where I do my best writing –
Wait, wait. Are you saying you GOT IN A FIGHT WITH THE MAN WHO’S SUING YOU AND LOCKED HIM UP? – J. M. E.
And you LEFT A COPY OF OUR RECORDS LYING AROUND IN THE LOO OUTSIDE THE QUIBBLER OFFICE?!? – N. T.
Wow, Larry, I’ve got to hand it to you. You’ve made stupidity into an art form. – R. B.
My dears, cease to abuse him, for all is well. The Inner Eye informs me that Larry has done no harm, and indeed he may have saved us all, for I perceive that Mr. Boardman is destined to bring us a Message in the Hour of our Deepest Need. – S. P. T.
Well, you’d better let him out of the office so he can deliver it, then! – N. T.
I do not mean that he bears such a Message at the present moment, only that this will come to pass in the fullness of time. – S. P. T.
Larry, you need to let Mr. Boardman out of your office at once. Don’t discuss the article, and even if he gets aggressive, don’t let him goad you into saying or doing anything. Tell him you’re not going to make any statements until your solicitor is present. OK? – J. M. E.
And don’t EVER let your book out of your sight again! I’ve seen the set-up at the Quibbler – the toilets are out in the hall and they’re shared with other offices! Anybody could have walked in! Bloody hell, Voldemort could have read our notes ten times over! – N. T.
Would everybody please calm down? The first thing I did when I got these books was Arcanum charm them against Lord Voldemort and all known Death Eaters. But I can’t promise there aren’t a few new recruits out there, or people we don’t know about, so Larry, please don’t leave your book in the men’s room any more. – R. J. L.
Hi, Moony! Good to see you’re back in the world of the living! – R. B.
Did you Arcanum charm them against Stubby Boardman too? – L. L.
No, Larry, I did not. Stubby Boardman is not a Death Eater. – R. J. L.
I just asked because maybe part of the reason he was so angry is that he found out Reg has been impersonading him in Scotland. – L. L.
Wait ‘til he finds out I did more for his career in one night than he has for the last sixteen years! – R. B.
Have you let him out of your office yet? – J. M. E.
Yes, I unlocked the office and said I wasn’t going to make any statements except in the presents of my soliciter, just like Jack told me to. Mr. Boardman seemed calmer, almost like he was a different person, so you see getting locked up didn’t do him any harm at all! Maybe it gave him some time to cool off. Anyhow, he gave me his card and said he was going to see his own soliciter and he’d be in touch. He went out quietly.
My whole staff was still at the pub, so I had the office to myself at last. I sat down to send another owl to Sybil. Writing to her is always a great comfort. She has such a deep spiritual understanding of people’s feelings.
Chapter Twelve: Guarding Sybil (Week Three)
When one is gifted with the Inner Eye, one soon becomes accustomed to peculiar sights. Nevertheless, it is Unsettling to behold oneself entering one’s own tower, as if one had become disconnected from one’s own body and was watching from Outside the Corporeal Realm. Such was the sight that met my eyes as I looked up from the last of the sherry that dear Mr. Lupin had procured for me. I had not fully appreciated Mr. Lupin until this last week. Despite his somewhat unprepossessing appearance, he was an infinitely more satisfactory bodyguard than Mr. Black. I am not fond of modern music.
I was, as I said, deeply Unsettled at this apparition. In short, I screamed.
“No worries, Sybil,” said a voice that was plainly not my own, but that of Miss Tonks. “It’s only me.” She winked, and assumed her natural form – if one can call pink hair natural.
“You startled me, my dear,” I said. “It is not that I did not foresee your coming, but the external shape you assumed was something of a shock. The Inner Eye perceives only essences.”
“Sorry,” she said in a tone I thought insufficiently repentant. “I should’ve warned you, but we all agreed this was the best way for me to keep a low profile. I promise I’ll only do it when I leave the tower if it bothers you.”
“See that you do,” I replied, speaking more sternly than I am accustomed. Nymphadora Tonks was always an exceptionally trying young lady, forever breaking teacups in Divination class, and the years since she had left Hogwarts had changed her very little.
I informed her that I hardly ever descend from my tower, but she insisted on taking most of her meals in the Great Hall and going for long walks in the evening. “No sense in my staying shut up in this tower while somebody’s trying to kidnap you,” she said. “If the Death Eaters are planning to make a move, I’d rather give them the opportunity and let them come after me instead of you.” It is not that I found her absence objectionable in itself, but she had an annoying habit of asking Severus Snape to cover for her. He has not the Inner Eye, and is decidedly unsympathetic to the delicate sensibilities of those who do.
I did not care to make either Miss Tonks or Professor Snape aware of the substance of my correspondence with Larry Lovegood, but his owls were the one thing that made the third week of my peril bearable. He wrote at least once a day, and although his spelling left something to be desired, the sincerity of his concern and tenderness was breathtaking. I had no wish to expose our letters or my poetry to the Prying Eyes of those who would not understand their hidden depths, so I spent many hours locked up in my Inner Sanctum, which I find a most congenial place for writing.
Her Inner Sanctum? – J. M. E.
That’s what she calls the loo. – N. T.
So she and Larry really are a match made in heaven! Who knew? – J. M. E.
One evening when Professor Snape took over guard duty, he appeared to be in a particularly foul mood.
“I sense that you are troubled in your mind, my dear,” I said. “Would it help if I crystal gazed for you? Many people find it soothing.”
“I do not require soothing.” He almost spat out the last word. “As it happens, I have a very good reason to be agitated. I don’t suppose your crystal ball can tell me who has been tampering with my Potions kit?”
“Your Potions kit?” I must confess that I had expected troubles of a deeper and more spiritual nature. Severus Snape had always impressed me as a profoundly Tormented Soul.
“Yes, Madame Trelawney, my Potions kit. Those of us who teach real subjects require the proper equipment.”
“Ah...” I gazed at the swirling mist in the crystal ball. “Yes ... yes ... I see the shadow of a sinister man entering the castle by stealth ... I perceive that a theft has indeed taken place.”
“You are wrong. Nothing at all has been taken.”
“Then how do you know someone has been tampering with the kit?”
“Because it looks as though some of the bottles have been replaced in an extremely clumsy manner. Several have their labels facing in the wrong direction, and one was put back in the wrong place altogether. You may find this difficult to understand, Madame Trelawney,” he said, casting a critical eye around the Divination classroom, “but I am a man of order and method. The slightest imprecision in my work can make the difference between life and death. It is my job and my nature to notice these things.”
At this point, my body double and bete noir entered the room and tripped over a footstool with a crash which absolutely shattered my concentration and made further crystal-gazing impossible. “Somebody just tried to kidnap me,” she announced cheerfully. “Didn’t have any trouble fighting him off, of course. I don’t think he expected to have an agile twenty-three-year-old Auror on his hands. Wish I’d got a good look at his face. All I could tell was that he was thin and dark-haired.”
“That describes at least half of the Death Eaters we know,” said Snape. “Your little charade has put you at considerable risk without furthering our knowledge in the slightest. You take after your cousins, Miss Tonks.”
She grinned. “I think I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“It is not. I seem to be the only one in the Order with any subtlety or patience ... the only one who knows how to work in secret ... and to bide my time ...” He went out.
She stared after him, and a strange, distant look came over her face. Sensing that she, too, had troubles of her own, I began at last to warm to her. “Have some tea, my dear. I shall read the tea leaves for you, if you wish, but the Inner Eye perceives a great part of your problem already.”
“Does it?” she said absently.
“It sees all, my dear.” (Besides, with girls of that age, the problems are always the same.) “I sense that a man has been preying on your mind. He is not to be trusted.”
“Which one?” she asked.
I smiled enigmatically. Experience has taught me not to give specific advice to the young about their love-troubles. Even when they are warned by one in possession of the Sight, they always pick the wrong one.
Pick me, pick me! I’m trustworthy and you already know the Black genes are good! What d’you say we run away to Vegas and get hitched? I bet Stubby Boardman would be a huge hit on the Strip! – R. B.
Don’t be silly, Reg, enough of us have married our cousins already. – N. T.
All right, I’m being serious now. Pick Moony. Especially if the other bloke is Snape. – R. B.
[Five minutes later.] Nymphadora? Are you still there? You’re not angry, are you? – R. B.
[Two minutes after that.] See, nobody ever likes it when I try to be serious. – R. B.
Chapter Thirteen: An Idyll and a Crisis
I was looking forward to my shift at Hogwarts for more reasons than one! Sybil and I had been exchanging several letters a day, and we were both looking forward to meeting once again in the Corporeal Realm, as she so beutifully put it. I hoped to see my daughter as well. And finally, I planned to do some recruting for the cause. Remus Lupin told me there was a sixth-year student named Hermione Granger who would probably be intrested in joining H.O.W.L.
[Private notes exchanged between Reg Black and Remus Lupin.]
Moony, I mean this in the nicest possible way, but are you nuts? It’s a good cause in theory, but the man’s an idiot! You said yourself that he didn’t know the first thing about what it’s like to be a werewolf! I don’t even want to know what would happen if he tried to spell “lycanthropy.” – R. B.
I know. I’m hoping Hermione will figure out for herself what it’s like to have someone take up a crusade on your behalf without asking your permission. – R. J. L.
Have I ever told you you’re a lot more devious than you look? – R. B.
Thank you. – R. J. L.
Luna introduced me to Miss Granger on the first evening. Not only was she very interested in my activisim on behalf of wherewolves, she told me all about a sosiety she founded called S.P.E.W., which does the same sort of work for house-elves. I could have listened to her for hours! It is terrible the way they are treated – no pay, no holidays, no proper clothing! She helped me get an exclusive interview with a house-elf named Dobby, who told me a heartrenching tale about his former life in a household of Dark wizards. I made a mental note to interview Regulus Black’s house-elf, Gilderoy, as well. He is a very famous author who has written more than a dozen books, so I think it is very suspicuous that he is still running around in an old tea-towel. Who is really getting the income from his work, I wonder?
Oh, no ... – R. B. and R. J. L.
Meanwhile, Sybil and I were getting along beautifully! She’s so spiritual, and I love the way she dresses! And she was interested in all the articles the Quibbler has published about famous seers, like Nostradaymus, Sydney Omarr, and Madame Cassandra Vlabatsky. She even said she might consider writing a weekly horoscope column for us.
Within days, the North Tower seemed just like home. Much more comfortable than home, actually, because Sybil is a great decorator! It occured to me that my house in London really needed a woman’s touch.
Luna joined us most evenings when she wasn’t over at Hagrid’s visiting Arjeplog. It was wonderful to see my daughter again, but I couldn’t help thinking how sad it was that she had to be motherless. One evening I asked her how she would feel about having a stepmother. She must have liked the idea, because she came over all dreamy and didn’t speak for a long time! “Well, Daddy,” she said at last, “I don’t think I’d mind anything that makes you really happy.” Wasn’t that sweet! “But I don’t think you should propose to her just yet. It’s better to take things slowly and buy her gifts and things.”
Luna thought a necklase made of butterbeer caps would make a lovely gift, but Sybil said she was more partial to sherry. I decided that a necklase made of sherry corks would be a nice compromize. Of course it would take Sybil a long time to drink all the sherry first, but I’m a patient man. It took me six years to uncover the truth about Cornelius Fudge controlling the national Quidditch team with the Imperius curse because he was betting against them in all the World Cup games.
The next evening, I asked Professor McGonagall to take over guard duty for a while. It was a rench tearing myself away from the North Tower, but I wanted to pick up some sherry at the Three Broomsticks so I could get started right away on Sybil’s necklase.
I asked Madame Rosmerta for a bottle of sherry to take away.
“That seems to be a popular order lately,” she commented. “Why don’t you stay for a while and have something for yourself, love?”
“Don’t mind if I do,” I said. “I’ll have a vodka and pumpkin juice.”
As I sat at the bar sipping my drink, a stunningly beautiful woman with red-gold hair approached me. “Aren’t you Mr. Lovegood, editor of The Quibbler?”
“Larry Lovegood is my name, crusadin’ with the facts is my game. That’s me.”
She sat down next to me and began to talk in a rapid undertone. “My name is Fidessa Fauntleroy, and I work at the Ministry of Magic. I’m not supposed to talk about this, but I think the world should know the full truth about what happened to Dolores Umbridge, who has been away on a leave of illness since last spring. I want you to write an exposay.”
As noted above, I made a small and non-plot-significant edit to chapter 7. It's coded in purple.
An Idyll and a Crisis, Part Two
I borrowed a pen from Madame Rosmerta and grabbed a handful of cocktail napkins to write on. Fidessa gave me the best scoop I’d had in years! It had everything – a cover-up at the Ministry, an unpopular public official getting her comeuppance, and a wonderful human rights angle. You see, during Dolores Umbridge’s time in office, she’d been the author of several unusually vicious pieces of anti-wherewolf legislation. Ironikly, after Madame Umbridge spent a night in the Forbidden Forest last spring, she had been discovered to have a wherewolf bite herself – in, shall we say, an intimate portion of her anatomy! Of course her former colleagues at the Ministry were working feverishly to conceal this. They had locked Madame Umbridge away in a top-secret private ward at St. Mungo’s, where she lay shackled to the bed and guarded by Aurors with silver bullets. I listened to Fidessa in fascination and filled half a dozen cocktail napkins with notes. This story was so hot it smoked! If it didn’t sell a thousand new subscriptions to the Quibbler and bring comfort to oppressed and persecuted wherewolves all over Britain, I would be very surprised.
It wasn’t until I heard Rosmerta calling for last orders that I realised it must be almost eleven o’clock, much later than I had intended to stay in the villiage. I hurried back to the North Tower.
“Halt! Know ye the password?” said Sir Cadogan.
“Er...” He changes them all the time, and I don’t know a whole lot about knights and things.
“‘Tis one of the famous ones this time.”
“Sir Lancelot? Sir Galahad? Er ... Sir Rhosis, Sir Cuselephant? Sir Gawain?”
“Pass, brave Sir Larry!”
I climbed the ladder only to find that Professor McGonagall had already gone. The tower seemed deserted. I assumed that Sybil was in the washroom, which is where she usually hides from Professor McGonagall. They don’t seem to like each other very much.
“Hello, darling, I’m back.” There was no answer. I tapped softly on the washroom door. “You can come out now!” Still no answer. I banged on the door and then rattled the knob.
The door was unlocked and the room was empty!
“Sybil!” I shouted, running through the tower. “Darling! My little Blibbering Humdinger! Where are you? SYBIL!” She was nowhere to be seen.
I remembered Dumbledore’s instructions and rushed down to the portrit at the base of the tower. “Sir Cadogan! Raise the alarm!”
“God save ye, noble sir! Have ye a quest for me?”
“YES!” I almost sobbed.
“Be of stout heart! Is it some maiden, some passing fair and gentle damsel in distress? Alas, I have a soft spot for the ladies! I swear upon my sword that Sir Cadogan shall neither rest, nor take food or drink, until she receives rescue and succour.”
I sank down on the landing, relieved to find someone who shared my own feelings so completely. “It is. She is a sweet and innocent lady, and I fear she has fallen into evil hands.”
“A dragon? A Questing Beast? A giant? Or perhaps some wicked, scurvy, treacherous wizard?”
“Wicked wizard,” I gasped. “Tell all the other portrits, will you?”
“Fear ye not, Sir Cadogan will save the day!” He clanked out of the frame, followed by his pony.
Feeling a little better now that such a brave knight was on my side, I hurried off to Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place to alert the rest of the Order.
Chapter Fourteen: Minerva’s Statement
I, Minerva McGonagall, Transfiguration mistress at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, am writing this in Sybil Trelawney’s Instant Message Book, which she left behind in the North Tower at the time of her disappearance on the 28th of September. Larry Lovegood’s account of the night’s events, which I have just finished reading, contains several discrepancies with my own recollections. I feel it is my duty to make the other members of the Order of the Phoenix aware of these inconsistencies.
First of all, Mr. Lovegood seems to imply that I deserted my post before he returned. This is absolutely untrue. I never left the Divination classroom between eight o’clock, when he left for Hogsmeade, and eleven, when he returned. I spent the entire time sitting in an armchair marking Transfiguration essays. I had a clear view of the washroom in which Sybil had locked herself. It has no windows and no door other than the one directly in my line of sight, which never opened. Short of setting up an unauthorised Portkey, I see no way for Sybil to have left the washroom during the entire time I was there.
Forgive me for asking this, Minerva, but there’s usually a roaring fire in the Divination classroom and I know from experience how easy it is to fall asleep over a stack of essays. Are you positive you didn’t doze off at any time during the evening? – R. J. L.
You don’t need to apologise; that is a fair question. I don’t think I did, but I can’t absolutely swear to it. – M. McG.
In any case, Mr. Lovegood and I saw each other and spoke briefly after he returned. He asked me how the evening had gone; I said that it had been very quiet, and we wished each other good night. In light of this, I find his statement that I was absent completely inexplicable.
Mr. Lovegood’s version of his conversation with Sybil upon his return is also not strictly accurate. What I actually heard him say as I left the North Tower was, “Hello, darling, it’s safe to come out now – that old she-gorgon is gone!” I appreciate that he may have left off the “old she-gorgon” part out of politeness. (I have been called much worse in my time. I must, however, point out that the expression is redundant, as gorgons are by definition female.) What I find harder to explain is the fact that I believe I heard Sybil reply to him, although her voice is very low and there is a slight chance I may have been mistaken.
Finally, and most tellingly, Mr. Lovegood states that he discovered Sybil’s absence right away and raised the alarm almost immediately. After I left the North Tower, I stopped by my office to drop off the essays I had finished marking, went to the kitchens for a cup of cocoa and a late snack, and finally returned to my own bedroom, all of which could not have taken me less than twenty minutes. The portrait of Godric Gryffindor in my room did not give me the news of Sybil Trelawney’s abduction until ten minutes or so after that, which would have been around half past eleven. I have no idea how Mr. Lovegood accounts for the missing half hour.
I am not accusing Mr. Lovegood of anything; that is a matter for the other members of the Order to determine. I do believe I have described the events of this evening accurately and faithfully, to the best of my recollection.
Thank you, Minerva. I think you’d better keep Sybil’s book with you in case there’s anything you’d like to add. Has anybody got any questions about her statement? – R. J. L.
I have a few. Did you, at any point in the evening, speak to Professor Trelawney or have any indication that she was in fact in the washroom? – J. M. E.
Yes, I called out to her when I came in at eight, and she said she didn’t want to be disturbed. I heard nothing from her after that. – M. McG.
Secondly, this Sir Cadogan sounds very eccentric – is he reliable? – J. M. E.
When it comes to spreading alarms, yes. He’d wake the dead. – M. McG.
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