Chapter 1: PROLOGUE: The Journal
THE CAT AMONG THE PIGEONS
based on the works of J. K. Rowling
(with a reverent nod to Agatha Christie, the queen of crime stories)
~ § ~
“But inside your sob-sodden Kleenex
And your Saturday night panics,
Under your hair done this way and that way,
Behind what looked like rebounds
And the cascade of cries diminuendo,
You were undeflected.
You were gold-jacketed, solid silver,
Nickel-tipped. Trajectory perfect
As through ether.”
― Ted Hughes
~ § ~
PROLOGUE – The Journal
16 March 1998
New York City, USA
If you didn’t count the fact that it was the end of the world, it was just like any other Monday, really. Too hot for winter, too cold for spring.
The promise of rain hung over the never-sleeping anthill of Manhattan, and the Star-Spangled Banner rattled on the neighbouring building like a windsock. A No-Mag cargo ship had got wrecked in the harbour, and its crew was desperate to save an entire load of what seemed like tea.
Bertrand L. Carneirus had been following the ship’s vicissitudes from his office window since 8.54 AM, to be exact, and he was definitely rooting for the sea. At least he would not be the only one to go bankrupt today…
Not that he wished for all that delicious tea to be lost, of course – Bertrand L. Carneirus was a benevolent man. This was merely an observation in statistics: A Most Likely Turn of Chance.
The antique wall-clock struck ten; and the tall, square-shouldered wizard turned away from the window with a sigh, running ink-smudged fingers through his greying hair. The night shift was over – it was time to engage his daily tasks as Chief Editor of the reputed New York Ghost…
No one really knew what the Editor was doing whenever the lights went down in his office, and his writers and lectors and redactors went home to their loved ones. Bertrand L. Carneirus, for his part, did not have any loved ones: he had a newspaper, an age-old name, a (some would say) ridiculous sense of duty, a No-Mag painting of George Washington on the wall, and – most importantly – a gigantesque budget deficit. But the show had to go on; papers had to be written and printed and delivered; and people needed to be informed, even if no one was really buying The New York Ghost anymore.
The hidebound, black-and-white paper encompassed the entirety of perceptible universe, as far as Bertrand L. Carneirus was concerned – his father had edited it, and his grandfather, and his grandfather’s father before them; it was only natural that he should, too. Even if people did not truly care about “should”-s these days…
“So it has come down to this, eh, Georgie?” The editor muttered absent-mindedly under his breath. He folded his notes on The Siren’s Surreptitious Stockings with mild disgust before locking it in his drawers with a flick of his wand. “Pulp fiction reviews. I could just as well change my pen-name to Groggy Gerald.”
“Interesting,” said George Washington’s portrait in a sly voice. “I think I’d go for Naughty Neville. Or, Néville le Néfaste. Everything sounds better in French.”
Carneirus could not decide what was more surprising – the fact that a No-Mag portrait had just spoken to him, or that glancing up, he found that the bewigged figure of George Washington had been replaced by a blonde, cheery-faced painting of a medieval bard. At second glance – the editor realized – it wasn’t even replaced; the figure of the bard had merely walked over Washington’s, claiming all the place within the thin golden frame.
“Mornin’, Neville,” said the bard leisurely. He took a sip from a neatly painted crystal glass of what looked suspiciously like whiskey (the colours were much brighter than his own). “How are the Haughty Hags today?”
“How did you know…?!” Carneirus choked. “You – are you spying on me?! Who are you, anyway, and what are you doing here?”
“Oi, My Beard!” The painting gasped in mock surfeit. “Even Poirot went one question at a time, you know. I should probably make you suffer for each and every morsel of information like a Sphinx, but –” here, he took another sip of whiskey, “as you may have noticed, I’m not a Sphinx. I’m Myrddin. As in, Myr-ddin, with a nice rolled ‘r’. And the reason I am trespassing at Uncle George’s is that I have something for you. I think they call it A Letter to the Editor.”
Carneirus blinked stupidly. “A letter… from a reader?”
“More of an aspiring writer,” said the painting with a sigh. “My apprentice. Worst luck you can imagine. She is probably going to be murdered in a few days, poor girl. Most of my students were, to be honest… but her, that’s one I do regret. She didn’t turn Dark, you see – at least, not full-time. A smart one, too. Anyhow, she’s got a story for you, which I am to deliver without making fun of your face. I’m pulling a real effort here, not that you’d care, of course... Will you at least close your mouth, my boy…?”
Carneirus complied, with a rush of motion that knocked his teeth awkwardly against each other; and he gave a short, nervous laugh.
“All right, sir, just to be clear – you would have me believe that you are a portrait of Myrddin – the Myrddin, as in Merlin the Wild, the legendary warlock we know from our Chocolate Frog Cards – and that you have a so-called apprentice who is… why am I wasting my breath anyway?!”
“Just the thing I was asking myself,” said Myrddin emphatically. “You have quite the reading to do.”
With that, the painted figure sank its hand into the pocket of its cloak, and revealed a thick, purple-ish journal, which seemed ostentatious, somehow inapposite on the canvas. Leaning closer, Carneirus thought he could see why – it was as neatly lined, as clear and sharp as a photograph. So clear and sharp in fact, that it seemed almost… real.
“Come on, Neville,” Said the portrait, handing the picture forward. “Are you a Muggle, or what? Take it!”
“What…?” Carneirus barked. “You want me to reach into your portrait? But that is impossible! I, a living person, cannot reach…”
“And I, a bulk of brush-strokes cannot – within Gamp’s Third Law of Transfiguration – trespass into a Muggle portrait which is not even my own, yet here I am,” said Myrddin, visibly bored. “Then again, Gamp was an invalid. Any other questions on magical theory, Neville?”
“My name is Bert,” said Carneirus, slightly offended, but he extended his hand all the same. As soon as his fingers touched the canvas, he felt a surge of warmth; and the thick, hardcover journal slid into his palm. Shocked, aghast, he stumbled back; the book slipped from his fingers, and landed unceremoniously on the floor, right in front of his feet.
“How on Earth…”
This was inexplicable, impossible – this was unlike any kind of magic he had ever seen. Intriguing. Mysterious. Frightening. Carneirus’s heart was beating fast as he lifted the journal from the floor and paged it through with trembling fingers. It was a simple thing of a popular No-Mag brand, filled from the first page to the last in small orderly letter. The editor’s eye recognized the type when he saw it – it was the work of a well-travelled hand, prone to saving paper.
Glued to the inside of the front cover, he found a letter folded into four (also written on No-Mag paper, which, coming from an apprentice of Merlin, was surprising at the very least). Carneirus detached it and smoothed it out. It read:
14 March 1998
Dear Mr Carneirus,
I am writing to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed your review on Rita Skeeter’s latest bestseller, ‘The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore’. I understand that the book is getting popular in the States, and I feel obliged to offer two capital corrections:
One: Dumbledore was not killed – he had staged his own death.
Two: The British Ministry of Magic did not “change policy via democratic transition”. The British Ministry of Magic has been overtaken by a psychopath who calls himself the Dark Lord, has two weirdly cut holes as a nose, and harbours a teenage girl obsession over every single person who has ever crossed him in any way. And let’s face it: he won. I don’t know if you have heard our current Minister for Magic speak through the radio or anything, but next time you do, I advise you weigh the chances of a) him being perpetually on heroin or b) him being under a nice thick Imperius. I’ll let you calculate the probability of each.
You might ask, of course, how do I know anything about this – well, that’s what this journal is all about. To be brief: in May 1993, Cornelius Fudge, then Minister for Magic, asked Albus Dumbledore for advice on how to abolish Ministry debts towards Gringotts bank. Dumbledore suggested the reopening of ‘The Sequestrum’ – a series of ancient vaults which the Goblins have long abandoned due to their extremely dangerous nature. My friend, William Weasley and I were requested for the job as experts, and we have accepted. Unknown to Fudge, I made a further agreement with Dumbledore: essentially, he wanted a spy in the Ministry, and I wanted to get rich.
I started writing this diary in the winter of 1995, after a long and dangerous mission for the Order. My life had turned upside-down, and I needed to clear my head (that’s why women write diaries in the first place, isn’t it?). I had no idea what I was doing, or where it was going to take me. It felt like writing a book – I am quite skilled at mind control, and that allows me to recall things a lot clearer than most people can. Writing events down had always felt like living through them again: sometimes thrilling, sometimes funny, sometimes heart-warming…
…until everything turned into one perpetual nightmare. Today, Dumbledore is dead; The Dark Lord has won; the Order of the Phoenix is scattered; and I am scribbling this note in a dark cellar, alone with my fancy Death Eater mask.
In my diary, I have announced the end of the world multiple times – when my wand was broken, when I promised Moaning Myrtle that I’d be her flatmate in the plughole, when Sirius Black asked me to marry him, and so forth – but now it really IS here, and I need to part ways with this diary. To throw the proverbial cat…
You know what? I want you to publish this bunch. I want everyone to read it. I want everyone to see it… and most importantly, I want someone suicidal enough to carry on with the things I would still have to do if I wasn’t going to be killed.
The very thought of people plunging into my past – my preconceptions, my sex life, my journeys, the things I’ve seen – makes my head spin, but I don’t think I have a choice. I know the power of spotlight; and this diary might be the only proof, the only living testimony you’ll ever hear about Magical Britain today. Which is, to be quite honest, totally fucked.
Have a good read,
P.S.: Sorry about whatever Myrddin might have said/done to you.
P.S. 2.: We also have this ongoing debate about who is whose apprentice. Choose a side.
Carneirus took a deep, shaky breath. Lucy Dawlish was not the kind of name he had expected to find at the end of such a letter – it sounded too simple. Too ordinary…
“Why… why me?” He managed, eyeing the painting on the wall. “If this is all true, then – then this is quite the story… a scandal… a sensation…”
Myrddin laughed merrily. “You will find out.”
Carneirus wetted his lip. His eyes stopped above an entry from December 1995, which began with the words Dear Sirius Black. Again that name, Sirius Black…
“Is it – is this real, though?” He said in a throaty voice. “Or fiction? Because if it is real, then…”
“Look – I cannot, in good conscience… hullo? Myrddin…?”
No one answered; and when Carneirus raised his head to reprimand his unwanted visitor, he found himself staring into the grave face of George Washington again, frozen into the speechless eternity of No-Mag portraits.
Journal in hand, the editor sank into his favourite chair, and started reading.
Chapter 2: A Rupture in Permanence
6 November 1995
I’ve been brooding over this page for more than an hour in the morning. I was thinking about a very good first line. It’s probably been very stupid of me – on a Monday morning, it’s hard enough to form words, let alone lines. At the end, I almost felt like I had something, though. It was on the tip of my tongue, I mean, quill, but then I realised I was late, and Griphook was going to yell at me. Now, if someone starts yelling at you in a high-pitched elfish voice on a Monday morning, you’ll develop terrorist tendencies within an hour. Trust me.
So that’s how I ran, and bumped into Bill’s girlfriend in the entrance hall, and covered her new jacket in coffee. Her coffee, to be exact. Hah-hah. I heard her saying putain de merde under her breath – now, my French leaves much to be desired, but I know that wasn’t your average morning greeting. So at the end, you could say that my Monday morning was really successful – not only did I earn the title of putain de merde, but I also got yelled at by Griphook in the end.
Where were we...? Oh, I know. First lines. Lines that will get the non-existent reader hooked. I mean, if I’m ever going to read this again, I’ll have to be hooked, huh? Let’s try again.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a diary must be in want of a...?
…see, that’s the problem with intertextuality, also known as Trying to Sound Meaningful When You Don’t Have a Clue. What the hell must I be in want of…?
…or should I turn it all around? A single woman in possession of * something * must be in want of a diary…?
It is true that a diary generally helps. I’ve written diaries before, especially when I broke up with Myron or Bill – whenever I broke up with Myron or Bill – or when my life suddenly turned upside-down, only to turn back again when I’d already gotten used to walking around on the tip of my head. If that metaphor makes any sense. I’m no good at metaphors. Or writing. Or anything like that.
And that’s how I got stuck. You don’t know me yet, so I’ll tell you one thing: I don’t like being stuck, that’s why I’m writing this big bunch of nonsense right now. This is one of those times when my head gets full of shit, so it all needs to be shovelled out, leaving stains on the paper.
…metaphor of the year. Worthy of a Golden Quill!
So – let’s do a recap, because that’s what we always do at the Business Department of Gringotts. A recap is supposed to summarize things you have been doing nothing about all day, such as, you know, your job. You’d think that working in a bank is somewhat more stressful, and I assure you, it is, but my situation is somewhat complicated. Ever had a fake job before because you were a secret agent? A double agent? Ever been stupid enough to write about that in a diary? No? Well, then welcome to the Inspiring and Most Adventurous Life n’ Times of Lucy Dawlish!
(That’s me. Just so you know).
Anyway, we have already established the following: (1) I work at Gringotts, (2) I am a putain de merde and (3) I like disgusting metaphors. Now that we have the gist, we can move on to less important subjects, such as (4) this diary was a birthday gift from Remus, and (5) it was my birthday on Friday. Also, (5.1) that was the shittiest birthday I’ve ever had. I mean, if we don’t count the one I spent in jail in China. And for the sake of tension, drama and my Golden Quill aspirations, let’s say we don’t.
So, Remus remembered my birthday, which is touching. He sent me a note on Friday, and wrote “Fortescue’s, 5 PM” on the back of it. That’s where and when we met. He bought me a huge chocolate soufflé and gave me this diary, far out of his budget... He really shouldn’t have, but this is Remus we’re talking about – he likes giving things, and with such enthusiasm that you can’t even think about refusing.
This diary has already grown on me anyway. I love that it’s all new and smooth and purple and actually made of Muggle paper. A nice little Extension Charm and it will serve me for years. Provided that I’ll be writing it for years, of course. Consistency isn’t one of my virtues. But in case this actually becomes a thing, and I find it, let’s say, a few decades later, I’ll try and include some background information here and there, such as –
Things to know about Remus Lupin
One: He’s a friend of mine, and I look up to him. He’s one of the cleverest and most literate people I know.
Two: I’ve considered shagging him, but I guess I like him too much for that.
Three: He makes the best hot chocolate in England, and he always has sweets in his pockets. His daily sugar consumption is deadly, but you know what? Not only his teeth are perfectly fine, but he is also thin. I really hate him for it.
Four: He is one of those guys who have genuinely torn and patched jeans and cloaks and stuff. I’ve talked him into having long hair once, saying that he would look hardcore instead of penniless. (Didn’t work).
Five: HEART OF GOLD. Like, really. He is the sweetest person in the entire universe.
Six: He is a werewolf, and he almost killed me this summer. I never told him about it – he’d get really upset, you see.
…so, I unwrapped this diary, thumbed it through, and while I was thumbing it through, I thanked Remus awkwardly at least four times. I felt special. My friends always give me rare Muggle comics for my birthday, or Firewhiskey, or a new pair of dragonhide gloves, or perhaps some real fine weed – and Merlin knows I love all those things, but with Remus, it’s different. Books. Notes. Sweets. And now – a diary. He actually treats me like a normal person. How thoughtful of him.
Well, yeah. Remus is one of those rare kind and empathic people. I often wonder how on Earth can he be best mates with Sirius fucking Black. I really don’t feel like getting into that right now, but I must, because that’s where the story goes. See, after we’ve spent the whole evening together (talking about poetry and the Ministry’s new educational directives and illegal Crup-breeding and the best way to brew a Shrinking Solution) Remus asks me, just asks me out of the blue if I planned to go you-know-where today…
Okay, so I think we might just need another interruption –
Things to know about “you-know-where”
One: It’s a secret headquarters. Like in crime stories. So exciting.
Two: It belongs to the Order of the Phoenix, which is Dumbledore’s underground organisation. (Normally, it fights You-Know-Who, but nowadays it’s obliged to fight the Ministry, too. Sigh).
Three: It’s got a pretty little Fidelius Charm on it, so I can’t tell you where it is or how to get there. I can’t even tell you how it’s called. What I CAN tell you, on the other hand, is that I like the décor. Very original, but not quite family-friendly.
Four: …no, it’s not a brothel.
Five: The members of the Order can go there anytime they want to, and our meetings also happen there. The basic idea is that if one day you’re glommed, at least there’s a place where you can hide. See, the Ministry doesn’t really like Dumbledore and his followers these days.
Six: I don’t really go there anymore, because there is a person in there that I can’t stand. Namely, Sirius Black. (Yes, he is THAT Sirius Black. But that’s another story).
…so, essentially, Remus asked me a question there that he could have answered himself. Namely, if I planned to go you-know-where today, or tomorrow, or anytime in this century. NOPE. I told him so. But then he goes, “you could at least stop by and say hello. I’ve been told someone was missing you.” And I’m like, “WHAT?”
See – last time I saw Sirius Black, he called me a – quotation mark – fucking slut – quotation mark – and slammed the door right into my face. And he refused to talk to me. He also refused to tell me why he would suddenly refuse to talk to me. I have absolutely no clue. I think that’s what having a girlfriend might feel like.
I swear, the guy’s skull is made of iron, or diamond, or perhaps Hagrid’s tea biscuits… he’s just SO FUCKING STUBBORN. He also has these mood swings. Pretty scary sometimes – like, Take One: everything is nice and dandy. He smiles so much his cheeks crack up and we get on like a house on fire. And then suddenly BOOM, Take Two: He goes all emo, screams my face off and he looks at me as if he wanted to feed my brains to his Hippogriff. That’s how it goes. And you can’t, for the love or Merlin, find out what the heck just happened. You go with the flow. You yell back, but you don’t stand a chance. He’s better at yelling and being scary and offending people anyway. He’s an expert.
I’ve had a phase like that, too, a few years ago. It can escalate to what Muggles call manic depressive, but if you ask me, it’s just… it’s just like, I don’t know, you hang in space and you’re perpetually angry with everyone. It’s only that sometimes, you forget about it, because it’s either anger or nothing, see. And I get that, I really do, and if I was in Sirius’s shoes, I’d probably be manic depressive, too, but I just can’t put up with that. Nobody put up with me in that phase, either. Just Ronan. And Bane. But I’m not going into that now.
…anyway, that day, I’ve seen the red flag and left Sirius Black. Permanently. But now Remus looks at me and he goes, “Well, it’s not easy for him, you know, being locked up like that. It gets the worst out of him sometimes.” To which I say, “Okay, but when he’s mad like that… he’s a lot scarier than…” (There, I swallow the word “you”; that would be a shocker, because human-Remus doesn’t know about wolf-Remus having lashed out at me, and the scars, and all). So I say, lamely, “…I don’t know – I think my Boggart might turn into him screaming like that.”
Remus is my favourite person, really. He didn’t get mad, or judgemental, or anything. He just smiled, and said that I should see Sirius, after all. “He has a bad temper, but he’d never hurt you.” (Faux). “I think he really misses you.” (Double faux). I didn’t respond to that, so he went, “And it’s his birthday, too.”
Great. One more reason to remember the guy…
I told you that this was my shittiest birthday ever, well… I might have been a bit dramatic. Remus made it a lot better – we talked about this and that, as easily as we always do, until Fortescue told us he was closing the shop. We said our good-byes, then he waved and left. All the way home, I was thinking about Sirius Black and how I would murder him if he ever dared to call me a fucking slut once again.
You know those inner conversations with yourself, right? When you imagine someone’s gonna say/think/do this and that, and your thoughts escalate, and things suddenly seem a lot worse than they really are. I do that a lot – I create alternate universes this way, and I sometimes forget that they only exist in my head. Then I take it all out on people.
Maybe that’s why Sirius called me a fucking slut, after all. He doesn’t really have any reason to miss me. Remus is always too nice with people, that’s why he assumes that others are, too. No. He definitely can’t be missing me – after all, I’m not missing him, either, am I? Asshole.
Where were we again? Oh yeah, shitty day. Guess what: I get home, emotionally devastated by the things Imaginary Sirius Black said to me – and my landlord is waiting for me in front of the flat. Turns out his son’s house burned down, and he needs the place. Right now. I have forty-eight hours to move out. The perks of renting off-paper. (Happy fucking birthday, Lucy!)
I got so freaking pissed that I packed my stuff the next morning and moved into the Leaky Cauldron, or else I’d have hexed my landlord. I can’t hex him, he’s a Muggle – the whole Ministry would get involved, and stuff. I’ll have to look around for another place to live, though, because there’s no way in hell I’m gonna continue stumping up eight Galleons a day. This is my first decent job in years, and I need the money I’m earning.
10 November 1995
I might just sell you for a few Sickles by the end of the year. The average rent for a London flat in wizarding circles is 80 bloody Galleons a month. I’ll spell it out for you: E-I-G-H-T-Y. Once again, it took me a huge effort not to start hexing the shit outta people when they gave me prices like that. It goes as far as 150.
Next place I tried was Muggle London – no luck there, either. To be clear, I have quite the salary at Gringotts, but if I continue throwing my gold out of the window, I’ll never manage. I don’t want to depend on the goodwill of someone else. I want a place of my own – a place I can rent to other people when I’m not in Britain, so POOF, I won’t have to go on scavenging Knuts in my purse at the end of the month. I could try outside the city, of course, but I’m complete shite at Apparating, and I don’t want anyone to notice it. People would ask themselves all kinds of unnecessary questions – such as, how the hell did she get her exam papers if she can’t properly Apparate?
I made a decision: in protestation against the crazy lodging prices in London, I’m going to spend the next months in a tent. Then, once I have the coin for it, I’ll buy a flat. There you go. Now, if you think I’ll run home to Mummy in a few days because I caught a cold, you’re mistaken. I have nowhere to go, and I know how to survive in the wild (or in a park, for that matter). Also, it might have escaped your attention, but I’m a witch.
I’m also kind of stubborn, I guess.
By the by, I’ve had the strangest impression today. I was having my usual Friday after-hours-session with Minister Fudge, and I think someone was following me. Maybe even watching us…
…Merlin, that sounded apocalyptically terrible. Please believe me, it wasn’t about me getting under the table or anything. I was just doing my job as a double agent – namely, leaking information about Dumbledore to Fudge. And tomorrow, I’m going to leak information about Fudge to Dumbledore. There is, however, one capital difference in my two ways of leaking information. Namely: when it’s about Dumbledore, he tells me what to say. When it’s about Fudge, though, I leak everything – every blink of his eye, every stupid little thing he says.
I wonder if Fudge will ever find out that I’m letting him on.
Anyway, I’ve been having this mild impression of being followed for some time now. It’s very subtle, and I think if it wasn’t for Ronan and his teachings, I wouldn’t feel anything. Whoever does it is an expert. I don’t know what to do. I don’t really want to tell Dumbledore, he’d go all mother hen over me.
Maybe he’d lock me up with Sirius. Merlin. I’m definitely not telling him anything.
12 November 1995
I’m so bloody confused. And perturbed. And overwhelmed. And… jeez. Okay. So first things first: I have set up my tent now, which is definitely a plus. Hyde park, small cliff, near a lake. I drew some protective enchantments around it. It’s warm inside, the mattress is okay, my belongings are safe. (Most of my belongings would fit in a suitcase without an Extension Charm, anyway). I swear, I have no idea why I haven’t thought about living in a tent before. The only setback is that I have not much to do at weekends. But that’s nothing compared to the MAJOR setback Dumbledore has now put in front of me. I’ll get to it later…
The Order had a big meeting yesterday, which meant that I had to go “you-know-where” and meet Sirius Black. As a fully functioning, reasonable adult, I have of course done my best to be late from the meeting and slide quietly to the shadows as soon as I entered the room…
Ha! That’s what I imagined. Of course the bloody chairs were placed in a wide circle, and OF COURSE the only empty chair was facing no one else than Sirius Black. I mean, why am I even surprised?!
It was a drama in the making. Enter Lucy, with as much dignity as she can muster. She Waits Respectfully Outside the Circle until Dumbledore finishes his sentence, then Smoothly Apologizes for Being Late. Dumbledore Accepts Graciously and Shows Her to the Remaining Chair, on which she Settles Elegantly and Looks Right Through Sirius Black who Looks Right Through Her as well…
I really hate sitting in circles – like, where should I look? At aforementioned Sirius Black, who is Definitely Not Looking At Me But It Still Feels Like He’s Staring…? At Severus Snape a few chairs away, making the exact same face as the stuffed house-elf head that hangs on the wall above him…? Or perhaps my feet? But that would have been just meek, eh? Not my kind of thing.
I settled for looking (mostly) at Remus. He glanced up every now and then and smiled at me; and when we all took a break from the meeting and McGonagall’s chair emptied beside me, he occupied it and we went on talking about Shrinking Solutions as if we’d never stopped. Dung dropped by, too. He conjured a bottle of gin out of his bag, and we tasted it. See, I went on a long mission earlier this year with Remus and Dung, and they’ve sort of grown on me. And Sirius, too, but he just wouldn’t come over.
The rest of the meeting was all about Hagrid. Dumbledore had sent him to Minsk (quite the end of the world, mind you) to try and negotiate with Giants. The thing is, You-Know-Who teamed up with them in the First Wizarding War – he had promised them stuff and led them on. Most of the giants are still convinced to this day that the only reason You-Know-Who didn’t keep his promises was his downfall. It never clicked into their daft brains that He was never going to help them in the first place… Anyway, Dumbledore had sent Hagrid as his ambassador, since he’s a Half-Giant and all. Long story short, the Death Eaters got there first, and things didn’t go quite well. That’s me putting it nicely.
Dumbledore seemed unperturbed by Hagrid’s story, but I was watching the others – McGonagall did flinch once or twice, Dung was shaking his head and repeating “oh boy” all over under his breath; Remus sat stoically, hands folded in his lap, but his eyes had somewhat darkened; and even Sirius gave up his Looking Right Through Me and Not Talking. He said that we should start taking precautions, like, right now. With which I quite agreed, to be honest. I’ve met a Giant once, and bloody hell. You don’t want to cross them.
All in all, I thought things looked pretty grim back then – hah-hah. My ass. Watch this: when the meeting finally ended (an hour after my favourite sushi bar closes on the corner of Charing Cross Road, mind you), I’ve had an entire row of people hanging behind to Talk Secretly to Me in that bloody parlour.
First came Hagrid. He wrings his hands (quite comical, the bloke, his hands being bigger than my upper arms), and he goes, “can I talk ter ‘ee?” And I’m like, “yeah, sure.” So he explains to me – he fucking explains to me that he BROUGHT BACK A GIANT WITH HIMSELF from Minsk, then LET IT LOOSE IN THE BLOODY FORBIDDEN FOREST, because watch it: THAT GIANT IS HIS HALF-BROTHER and he just couldn’t leave it behind. Turns out that “Grawp” is “a bit bitey every now and then” and “he’d need some schooling”. “So, er,” Hagrid says, and he looks at me with enormous dark puppy eyes, “thought you could help me tame ‘im a bit…” I blink a few times, and I’m like “That wasn’t NEARLY one of your best jokes.” And he’s like, “Nah, fo’ real, I think you could learn ter talk to ‘im… and you could talk to the Centaurs, too, they ain’t accepting ‘im…” And I’m like, “Can’t imagine why…” At that point, Hagrid shrugs apologetically, and he goes, “Well, since you’re going ter be there anyway…” And before I could beg to differ, I glimpse that Dumbledore’s waiting for me in the back of the room, along with Snape, and my stomach shrinks. What the HELL could those two be wanting from me?!
…well, essentially, what they wanted was my soul, or life blood, or something like that. Guess what: from January on, I’m going to spend one weekend a month at Hogwarts. You could say that it’s not that bad… now watch it: I’m gonna spend those weekends giving extra lessons to Seventh Years in Defence Against the Dark Arts.
FACT: I don’t have a NEWT in Defence Against the Dark Arts. I’ve always been rubbish at that subject, which is mainly why I dropped it after Fifth Year.
DILEMMA: How on BLOODY EARTH am I going to teach those kids anything at all…?! I’m a dragon trainer, for Merlin’s sake... And an accountant, for the sake of appearance. There’s an infinite number of ways this could go wrong.
Dumbledore and Snape don’t seem to share my concerns. They explained to me that given the Ministry’s new-found ambition to control Hogwarts, there’s no one else who could fill this position other than me – a supposed spy of Fudge. It’s quite possible that I’m going to be double-checked, though, so Snape will be supplying Umbridge with fake Veritaserum, just in case.
Now isn’t that bloody beautiful. I’m going back to Hogwarts as a flag-bearer of Dolores Umbridge. Merlin, the kids are going to hate me. They’ll probably pull evil pranks on me and stuff. At least, that’s what I’d do…
…so I trudge out of the room, thoroughly exhausted and feeling quite blue, and then comes the icing on the bloody cake. None else than Sirius Black calls after me in his croaky deep voice, and he goes “Can we talk?” I turn back to look at him, and he is, like, half-hidden in the shadows of the next room and I can only see his eyes shining out of the dark, as if he’d previously organised the entire scene with a Muggle film crew. And I say yes, because I’m curious, see. I instantly remember him calling me a fucking slut, though, so I keep a good distance from him – far enough that I could slam the door into his face if I must, but close enough that I could lay him a Legendary Slap if he gets nasty once again.
Instead of getting nasty, though, he merely said that he was “a bit rash sometimes”, and that he didn’t mean to call me “you know… that”. I squinted at him, impressed by his ability to navigate around the word “sorry” as if he would choke on it; and he went on, quite awkwardly and inconsequently, “…it’s not like you owe me anything. It’s not like we were… I just… I just thought we had something.”
I stared at him like an idiot – I swear, I just couldn’t figure him out. So I said, tentatively, “Well, we did have something until you called me a fucking slut for absolutely no reason at all.”
Him: “Absolutely no reason at all, is that it? Well of course, after all you just hooked up with that one guy on Donaghan Tremlett’s bloody wedding!”
Me: “How on Earth do you know about that?”
Him: “From the fucking Witch Weekly, you lying bitch!”
Me (shrieking): “YOU read the Witch Weekly?!”
I mean – let’s take a moment to appreciate this. You’ve got to understand the enormity of the revelation. There’s this frightening big man – Azkaban fugitive, supposed mass murderer, absolute badass and ex-Auror and anything you want… and he reads the Witch Weekly… I don’t think I will ever get over it. Or advocate it. Or accept the fact that it’s real.
Long story short, I was cracking up like hell. I just couldn’t, for the life of me, stop laughing. Flapping my knees, tearing up, that kind of thing. And Sirius was just standing there, watching me – arms crossed, Angst Lord Style, making the room’s temperature drop by, like, a degree per second. And suddenly, he goes, “Are you fucking done?” So I wipe my eyes, still grinning, and I’m like, “Yeah… sorry. I just… do you do the horoscope tests, too?” And there I was. I cracked up again… I was trying, biting my fist and stuff, but it was the kind of laughter that washes over you like a storm, and you just can’t do anything to stop it.
And then Sirius goes, “Well… that’s what I was talking about, anyway. For you, it’s nothing, but I assumed… it doesn’t matter what I assumed. Yes, if you’ve been wondering, I read the Witch Weekly – as long as I’m locked up in this hellhole, I’ll read anything and everything I can put my hands on. Every little morsel of information I can get – so too bad. If you don’t want your escapades to be discovered, quit your famous friends.” That sobered me a bit, and I also found my voice, so I was like, “Yeah – well. You read it in the Witch Weekly, so it must be true, right?” He rolled his eyes and said, “There’s photos, and all.” I bit my lip – laughter was breaking out again – and I said, deadpan, “You know that wasn’t a man, right?”
Oh, that moment. That Moment. It was so fucking precious. If I had a Pensieve, I would re-watch it on sleepless nights on an infinite loop. Sirius looked at me, eyes large like silver Sickles, and he choked, “What?”
“Yeah,” I said, “that was Dora morphed into a man. We pranked my ex, you know. The guy in the fur-coat. I even wanted to tell you about it, it was absolutely hilarious. Most satisfying thing I’ve done in my entire life. If you don’t believe me, ask Dora.”
He didn’t say anything for several seconds – he was just staring at me, and I was snickering under my breath (reminiscing, you see). And then he said, “So after all, you never…” Then I glanced up at him and I suddenly felt blue again. I only shrugged. He reached out to touch my face but dropped his hand back very awkwardly, then he said, in a whispery-shaky voice, “I shouldn’t have said that, princess…” I snapped up at that. “Oh, so now I’m suddenly >> princess << again?” And he was like, “I should’ve listened to you... but when I saw you in that magazine with that guy, I mean, Dora, I was just so goddamn furious, you know? Like, I wanted to set the whole house on fire, or something…”
I think that was the point where I kind of forgot that I had left him “permanently”. Not the first time, and probably not the last. You know how it goes. Well, at least I had the integrity to mention that he always wanted to set that house on fire, anyway. (See, he really doesn’t like it you-know-where).
He kind of smiled at that, and he said that when I was there, it was almost tolerable. He also said that he’d been wanting to talk to me ever since September, but he just couldn’t, because I never came to meetings. He even sneaked out a few times to see me in my flat, but he just never made it to the door.
You’ll probably think I’m an idiot – but when Sirius Black tells you stuff like that, touches your face and shit, calls you princess and promises you the world, well… at that point, you can’t really do anything to stop him. That’s the bloody problem here.
So here we go again. See you at the next heartbreak.
As for why and how exactly Dora disguised herself as my Incredibly Hot Boyfriend… well, one day I’m going to explain that, too. Not now, though. See, I didn’t get that much sleep last night. Ahem.
- Rating is due to language, violence and adult themes. The only reason that I did not rate this ‘M’ is that ‘M’-rated stories tend to focus primarily (or solely) on sexuality; which, in this case, could not be further from the truth.
- This is a STANDALONE story, but it is consistent with my other HP fics. It takes place a few months after my ‘Gadding with Ghouls’, where relationships were established between three of the four main characters (Lucy, Remus and Sirius). You don’t have to read ‘Gadding with Ghouls’ to be able to understand this one, but it sure helps.
- For obvious reasons, I can’t call this story canon-compliant; but I stick to the idea that it’s “canon-reverent”, in the sense that while I am altering a few events, I also do my best to respect JKR’s portrayals of the characters.
Chapter 3: "The Guy in the Hat"
19 November 1995
Had a pretty boring week, but at least Sirius decided to help me out with the DADA stuff. He was an Auror, and all, before things got shitty for him, so he kinda knows what he's doing.
There are other things he is NOT doing, though, such as keeping his hands off me.
I still feel like someone's following me around, so I'm taking extra precautions whenever I go you-know-where. I could tell Sirius about it – very tempting. He'd probably offer me to stay, and that would be wicked, but I don't want him to think that I'm a) a coward or b) taking advantage of him. He's being disconcertingly nice these days… almost like a normal person.
Whatever this thing is between us, I don't want to screw it up. I'd much rather continue living in a tent.
25 November 1995
Wanna hear an unknown tale form Beedle the Bard? Here you go –
Once Upon A Time, there was an idiot who gamed away a purse-ful of gold in one evening. WHOOSH, motherfucker!
You can guess who that person was, right?
You don't know me very well yet, so here's your bit of explanation: me getting blacked-out-drunk is something that happens… occasionally. Or maybe a bit more often than occasionally… Still, you can't really call it a drinking problem. It's a lot more subtle than that. I mean, if I were an alcoholic, I could see a Healer. No Healer can free you from yourself, though, and it's myself that I'm having a problem with. Drinking, smoking and doing stupid shit are just tools to get away, to forget about all the things I could do if I wasn't myself.
Like saving up. I just decided to do that a few days ago, and it's already clear that I'm not gonna keep up with it.
Sometimes, I ask myself why I am even keeping a diary. When you look at it, it seems totally useless to fill up pages and pages with the fruits of my latest bad decisions. It's kind of addictive, though, because it's good. I mean, my writing itself is probably not good, but it gives me perspective.
Anyway, here goes the tale of The Guy in the Hat and the Purse of Gold...
...I saw Sirius on Thursday evening. Talking, sipping whiskey, shooting hexes at each other, that kind of thing. I managed to drag him out of his current Darkly Dramatic Mood (quite an achievement, if you ask me). Due to some unplanned, but somewhat foreseeable consequences, I happened to oversleep the next morning; and I also happened to be late from work. Again.
(Griphook screamed the hairs off my head, one by one, if you must know. If it wasn't for Dumbledore and the Sequestrum, I think he would've had me fired on the spot.)
During my remaining office hours, I tried to be as silent and productive as humanly possible, and I was overly attentive with everyone. But then… well, you know how the saying goes: One heart attack – no heart attack. I was ready to lock the office and sneak down to Sequestrum level to do some real work, when I noticed a giant owl at the window. It had a letter addressed to me, written in this neat cursive I didn't recognize. You know what? I hereby desecrate this diary by sticking it in.
17 November 1995
The Graves Residence; Manhattan, New York City, USA
I imagine that my letter might come as a shock – the last time I saw you, we did not exactly part on friendly terms. I hope we can put all those inconveniences behind us and focus on the future, which gets me to the subject of my letter.
Percival and I are coming to England for Christmas, and we thought we would profit of the occasion to see you. Though estranged for so long, we are still your family; and family is a force to be reckoned with.
Are you perchance available to meet on the twenty-seventh of December, two o' clock, in the Goblin's Gallows, right over Gringotts Bank? I remember their chocolate is quite excellent… and unlikely as it might seem, your Uncle is truly fond of chocolate.
Please answer at your earliest convenience.
Hoping to see you soon,
Well. Okay. So I know this diary is starting to look like a textbook with these small framed passages scattered over the pages, but I just can't help it. I like making lists…
Things to know about "Rowan Graves"
One: She is my great aunt. In case you're not a genealogy expert, I spell it out for you: she is my granddad's sister. From my Mum's side.
Two: She is married to Percival Graves, the omnipotent Auror god. Which makes said omnipotent Auror god my great uncle.
Three: We've met only once, and it was fucked up. That's me putting it mildly.
Four: There must be some second thought behind her sudden decision to contact me. See, my family members don't usually pop out of thin air, saying "Hey Lucy, let me love you!"
You might be thinking that this is a paranoid reaction to have to a message of how-do-you-do from your auntie, but trust me, you haven't met my family yet.
I read that sodding letter thrice over, and while I was wondering what I should do about it, the owl kept on screeching like Robert Plant on cocaine. I knew it was going to keep on pestering me till I answered.
…I'll stick the draft in. You deserve it.
(date & place)
Gringotts Wizarding Bank, Business Department, Desk 27*
Dear Aunt Rowan,**
I would be glad to see you.*** If there is anything you need to do in Gringotts, don't hesitate to let me know. I think I can help you overstep a few – in your case, unnecessary – security barriers.****
By my friend's expert opinion*****, I confirm – chocolate in the 'Gallows is excellent.
See you after Christmas!
* sounds CLASSY. Functions: a) you won't have your parents/landlord/etc "accidentally" opening your mail. b) In Case of Necessity: conceals your real address. c) In Case of Necessity/2: helps you conceal the existence of Boyfriend N°2 from Boyfriend N°1 (don't ask).
** slight PULL of FAMILY CHORDS.
*** EMPHASIS via HIATUS. Implication: "…as much as you'd like to see me."
**** implied SENSE OF UNITY via DISCREET BACKSLAPPING.
***** Author's Note: I have no fucking clue because it's a deluxe restaurant, and I'm a hobo.
…so I sent the letter, hoping I hadn't just signed my own death sentence – and that is when clouds started to gather for the shitstorm. See, I didn't want to go "home" yet. Don't blame me. To tell the truth, it's a bit depressing to fumble your way through a messy tent at nightfall...
Not that I'm complaining or anything. It's charmed, it's equipped by all kinds of things I could possibly need, and sleeping there is okay - but when I have to spend an entire evening in that tent, I get kind of lonely. And not the peaceful kind of lonely, when you watch whatever stupid Muggle film you like and you slide down a whole bottle of vodka alone just because you can… No. It's more, like, existential-lonely. And that stuff is frightening as fuck: that's why I prefer anything else to my tent these days. Like hanging out with Dora. Or walking around in Diagon Alley. Starting conversations with random blokes so they take me to expensive bars. Stopping by you-know-where. That kind of thing.
To be honest, I was kind of contemplating to see Sirius, but that would've been the third night in a row. Way too much. Never let a bloke make himself indispensable...! So I walked through Diagon Alley, looking for an open bar or something. There was the Leaky Cauldron outside, of course, but I'd been there a thousand times with a thousand people, and I was just pissed at Tom, anyway. Offering a room like that for eight Galleons a night really is a crime. Food's not even included. And he's the one always complaining about bad times and pinch-pennies.
Eight Galleons. My ass. Myron and I used to get rooms there for three in the good old eighties. Almost ten years ago. Feels more like ten millennia, though…
I was at this point of my thinking when I had the same weird feeling that is now becoming normality: that of being followed. It frustrated me to no end, which is why I decided to do something about my paranoia, like, RIGHT THEN AND THERE.
I have fits of this "right then and there" sometimes – maybe that's why I was a Hatstall between Gryffindor and Slytherin. You know, when the "right then and there" kind of thing kicks in, it's the end of the world for me. I can't control whatever stupid shit I'm going to do next. Like this time. Whoever was following me, it was time to give them the middle finger! So I took a deep breath, waved at my common sense as it dissolved around the corner, and trod down to Knockturn Alley.
Because what on Earth could happen, right…?
My inner Sherlock suggested that whoever was following me (I'd like to imagine a darkly handsome man, kinda like Sirius but better shaved), they had to fit into the snobbish milieu of Gringotts to be able to watch me every day; consequently, they had to stand out from the grime of Knockturn Alley. I mean, you can change your face and your clothes with a few quick spells, but your posture? Your manner of speech? Your gestures? No-no. You need to work harder on those. Therefore (I thought), if Mr Mysterious wanted to follow me closely enough, he had to take a risk,and with a growing risk grows the probability of error.
...yeah. Don't look at me like that. In the heat of the moment, it did seem like a sensible idea.
I roamed Knockturn Alley for the better part of an hour, but I saw nothing suspicious – I mean, nothing particularly suspicious for Knockturn Alley. It seemed that I was imagining things: that no one was after me (or they decided not to take the risk of being discovered). My paranoid feeling eased little by little, and I was starting to feel stupid… and thirsty.
Long story short, I walk into a bar… then another and another… and somehow, I find myself in this casino-like place, filled with suspicious-looking Goblins, a few old crones, and a group of wizards in weird scarlet cloaks. They're having a poker night and given that I'm already a bit tipsy (okay, maybe more than a little), I decide to join them. Dung showed me a few card tricks back in Transylvania, after all… and those, paired with my mental abilities, can be kinda useful at the table…
Now there's something that I forgot to mention. You know, I've always had a knack for Occlumency. It made an excellent liar out of me when I was a kid. I've been doing it for as long as I remember, well before I even realized what I was up to… And I think it was my last year in Hogwarts when I realised that it worked the other way around, too, so that Legilimency was possible. No one ever taught me, but if I concentrate, I can sort of slide into unprotected minds. I mean… I can't hear people's thoughts like a real Legilimens, but I can guess when someone's lying, or hiding something important (or checking me out when I'm not looking). Now imagine that at a poker table. If I wasn't completely zonked out, I'd have been INVINCIBLE. I was still doing pretty good, though, at least up until the point when I had the equivalent of, like, 1000 Galleons in chips. Then I managed to lose all that money in one shot. BOOM. I couldn't fucking believe it.
The problem was that I had cheated, you see. Big time. I didn't have half the coin on me, so the Goblins were starting to get nasty, then insistent. So I drew my wand… and ta-daah, that's how you find yourself in the middle of a bar fight at 1 AM in Knockturn Alley.
One of the weird scarlet wizards found my purse and ran off with it – I tried out Sirius's Stickfast Hex on him and he got stuck in the doorway like a fly in a catcher. It was a delight to watch. The others, however, decided that if I play poker so carelessly, I must be stinking rich; so they started demanding all the gold I didn't have. You know how it goes. I don't really know what happened then, because I was mountain troll-drunk, as Dora would put it… but suddenly, someone grabbed my arm. It was Remus, of all people. So I was like "You?! Here?!" (Or - respectively to my then-state - the accurate letter-to-sound representation might rather be, "oooo?! eeeeeee?!")
And Remus said pretty much the same thing, I guess, although he must have been in a state adept to pronounce consonants.
I think he also said a string of other words, from a register that he doesn't normally use.
Remus tells me that he dragged me out of the bar (without my purse) and we clambered away. And of course, where else can you go in Knockturn Alley than… That's right. Another bar.
Remus put me down in a corner like a sack of corns (I actually remember that one!), then he walked to the counter and came back with something that looked suspiciously like a Dragon's Wrath. Then, he asked if I was feeling all right, in a tone that evoked a faint, but quite menacing impression of a displeased Professor McGonagall.
I tried to say "Peachy," and also "Thank you so much, you're a wonderful person" before he could have said anything else – as a means of prevention, you know. What truly came out of my mouth, though, was unfortunately a bit less clear. Remus said nothing for an awfully long time – actually, he was looking at me in a way that I almost sobered. Then he was like, "What do you think you're doing?!" And I was like, "Not a clue. That's the fucking point."
Remus, like the saint he is, still didn't get judgemental; and an Awkward and Sometimes Tearful Conversation ensued about me feeling lonely, me being unused to normal people's timetables and lifestyles, and me being a bit of a loose cannon, honestly.
I normally wouldn't say so, but okay – let's admit that I have some… issues. The thing is, I've been travelling the world for five years before Dumbledore asked me to work for the Order. I'm 25 now… It's been a while since both Hogwarts and the Scamander Academy, where I was given the boot after a year because I stole a Hungarian Horntail's egg. Okay, and I might have also slept with the rector's husband. But that's not important right now. The important thing is that I've completely forgotten how to, I don't know, do the things normal people do…? Pay your rent, eat your vegetables, spend fix hours at fix places. Through those five years on the road, I got used to doing whatever the fuck I pleased and whenever the fuck I pleased, without any rules or commitments. And you know, sometimes these things sort of… crash down on me.
At some point, though, during the mission in Transylvania, something changed; and I don't recognize myself anymore. Maybe that's what they call an identity crisis.
Like this time. I thought I would find solace in going on a bar trip along Knockturn Alley, but things changed… I changed… the entire world changed, and the solace I've ordered is bloody nowhere.
…anyway, I was kind of breaking down in that bar in the middle of the night, and Remus was holding me and everything. Suddenly, as I squinted out above his shoulder, I noticed a dark figure leaning tiredly against the counter (long cloak, hat, face in the shades), and I realized that the same guy had been watching me playing poker. So I did, like, the stupidest thing you can do when you realize someone's following you: I stared right at him - and so did Remus. His arms tensed around me, so sudden and so hard that I almost jumped. He was watching that stranger with an expression that reminded me of, you know, the wolf.
Then poof, we Disapparated.
Things get a bit blurry afterwards. I remember arriving somewhere I've never been before, and I remember half-shrieking "where's the fuckin' loo?!"
And then, well, you can probably figure out what happened. I won't spell it out for you.
This morning, I woke up in Remus's bed with a cup of Remus's bloody perfect hot chocolate steaming on the nightstand, more hungover than I've ever been in my entire life. And Remus himself, this absolute SWEETHEART had slept on the couch. I swear, I'll never deserve this kind of friend. He's incredible.
It wouldn't be me, of course, if I didn't manage to anger him all the same. Because while we were having breakfast, he casually told me that the guy in the hat appeared to be following me. And I was like, "I've had this vague feeling that someone was after me anyway. At least now we know."
And Remus goes: "You knew you were being followed and told no one?! Lucy, this is important!"
Me: "I knew you would switch to Shining Knight mode."
Him: "Well, I bloody well should! It could be a Death Eater!"
Me: "Okay. I promise I'll tell Dumbledore... But no one else. I don't want anyone else to know about it. Especially not Sirius. Okay?"
I really hope he got the message. If Sirius Black learns about the suspected "Death Eater" following me, he will personally murder him. And then he can go right back to his Azkaban cell.
Now don't get me wrong. Sirius is not like that. I mean… most of the time, he's a nice guy. The thing is, you never know when the naughty Sirius kicks in – the Sirius you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. The Sirius who, I think, would be perfectly capable of murder.
Hell, he once broke a Muggle's nose because he was looking at my legs.
As of now: I'm still here with Remus. It's Saturday morning (okay… maybe afternoon), and we're having the time of our lives. Him – reading a study in Transfiguration Today. Me – writing. The bloody rain – falling. The guy in the hat –
Well, I hope he shat himself. I'd definitely have, if Remus ever looked at me like that.
ADDITION: It's a bit later. We made brownies, and I've got to tell you – while I was mixing the dough, something occurred to me.
Remus was standing next to me in this ridiculous apron I turned to pink when he wasn't looking. He was breaking up a chocolate bar with his bare hands instead of magic, I don't know why. And I asked him, "How did you know that guy was – you know, a bad guy?" And he's like: "I didn't – but I knew he was using Polyjuice potion." Me: "Okay, but how did you know that?" Him: "I could smell it." Me: "Smell it?! Like – you know, like…"
Then, we both stopped what we were doing, and we stared at each other. And Remus said, quite grimly, "Yeah. Like wolves do."
28 November 1995
Slept with Naughty Sirius yesterday. I've got to make the distinction, I think, because I'm torn between not wanting to see him ever again and being pretty darn curious to find out what on earth happened to him in jail that fucked him up like this.
I just can't figure him out. One minute he seems far away and a bit aloof, like most of the guys who were actually into me… and I start to feel like well, maybe… then next thing I know, he tosses me away like trash.
I think I should start believing in karma, because that's what I usually do to people. I toss them away like the trash they are. And now that it's being done to me, I can tell you it's bloody disconcerting. It's like I am trash, too. It's like shagging myself.
The bad thing about shagging yourself is that you can't walk away from it.
Not that I couldn't walk away from Sirius Black if I wanted to. It's just that I don't think I even want to.
30 November 1995
(Setting = after work, out in Diagon Alley. Some alcohol – obviously – involved.)
REMUS: So you're actually keeping a diary!
ME: Kind of. I really wish I could write better, though – you know, the sort of text you'd read with Received Pronunciation and all.
REMUS: You can read anything with Received Pronunciation, though.
ME: I'm talking concise phrases. You know. If I do that, I forget what I wanted to say in the first place. Same thing when you're, like, real angry and all you can suddenly say is "Don't get me started!" And you're all red and blabbering like a fatted turkey…
REMUS: …and then you walk home, prepare a tea, jump into the shower and with the jet of hot water comes a fleeting inspiration of verbal rape.
ME: Verbal rape?
REMUS: I mean, you fuss over the way you could've said "I'll boot your effing balls to Kingdom Come" instead of "Don't get me started". And you're very pleased with your own ingenuity, until you realise that it wasn't really you but Tony Harrison.
CONCLUSION: Remus fucking Lupin is a fucking poet. I love him so much.
A 'Dragon's Wrath' is a wizarding cocktail that warms you instantly and has the convenient side-effect of making you spit orange flames.
Rowan Graves is my friend Hirfael's OC – in fact, our HP stories take place in the same universe, and some of our characters are related, although the main happenings of her side of the story occur in her 'Relic Hunters'. Be sure to check out her profile and works! :)
Wanna know who is following Lucy and why? Find out in Chapter One of Hirfael's 'Tales of the Graves'!
Chapter 4: Episodical Affections
4 December 1995
I know that’s kind of hard to imagine at this point, but there’s more to my life than getting in trouble and sleeping with Sirius Black. It’s been a month, and I haven’t even told you about my job.
Guess I should, though, no matter how complicated it is. Because trust me, it is complicated. When people learn that I’m a Gringotts clerk, they usually treat me like a rock star without even asking what I exactly do there. Do I sweep the floors? Do I prepare Griphook’s morning coffee? Do I sit in a bureau all day?
My job interview for the Greatest Wizarding Bank Ever included myself, Director Ragnuk and Minister Fudge who gave us both an hour-long lecture about the Importance of This Project on A Wide Political Scale, Bringing Wizards and Goblins Together, and all that jazz. As if it wasn’t all about Ministry debt, and Dumbledore conspiring with the Goblins right under his nose. I was supposed to be interviewed, you know, and I don’t think I spoke more than my greetings.
…oh boy. That’s one of those memories – the ones that come back to me when I’m trying to sleep but they make me cringe so hard that I just can’t. Here it goes – we’re sitting in the ‘Gallows (where you can’t have a mocha for less than five bloody Galleons) and Fudge is just going on and on, and I’m positive he wouldn’t stop before I DIE out of embarrassment. I’m folding my skirt this way and that way. Director Ragnuk is drumming on the table. I taste my tea, and it’s too bloody sweet. Then Fudge FINALLY leaves the room, and Director Ragnuk gives this quiet, almost courteous snort under his breath. And he goes, “D’you think he keeps his brains in his hat, pretty? Takes ‘em down on occasion?” And I’m like, “What brains?”
It was supposed to be my first day at work. All tidied up – high heels, makeup, not smelling like leather and dung for once – and you can’t imagine how nervous I was. I’ve never had an office job before, just ones where I had to serve pints or tame dragons. Or dig Bill Weasley out of the occasional hole… Anyway, I didn’t have a clue what to say or how to behave. I only knew that Goblins were not humans and that they liked gold, underdone steaks and phrases with a double meaning. Oh, and that they probably pissed on the Wide Political Scale Fudge was going on and on about.
I think Director Ragnuk decided that he liked me. Perhaps that’s why I wasn’t immediately fired when I broke that super expensive vase in Griphook’s office. You could say that it was nothing you couldn’t fix with a single Reparo but you’d be wrong; Goblin artefacts are loaded with magic, and breaking-then-repairing them modifies a fat lot of things about their nature.
If you overlook the fact that this information was screamed at me in an unnaturally high-pitched voice, it was an interesting lesson. Professor Flitwick sure as hell forgot to mention that the vase you repair with a spell will no longer be the same exact vase as before. As I understand, it all has to do with continuity, consequentiality and some other Arithmancy stuff entirely beyond my grasp.
OTHER THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT GOBLINS
First: they’re great liars. Talented. Subtle. Clever. They know how to sprinkle general (and often harsh) truths with a bit of exaggeration, or retaliation, or doubt… and your own imagination does the rest. All in all, you gotta be really darn careful with them.
Second: Once you tick them off, they have bad temper – save perhaps Ragnuk, who is just perpetually sardonic instead. Maybe that’s why they chose him to be the Director.
Third: They’re one closed community – extremely closed and extremely self-protective. Only, sometimes there are clan wars and everyone gets murdered over stupid shit. I’ve never actually seen a clan war, but Griphook told me about one that was fought over a bag of diamonds and another one in which Clan 1 stole Clan 2’s Welsh Green egg and replaced with a river stone.
Fourth: IMPECCABLY PROFESSIONAL. Not a Knut goes missing from the vaults. Not one client walks out the door unsatisfied. We’re all dead serious about our jobs here, or else we’re immediately given the boot.
…that’s Gringotts for you. No random coffee breaks. No yawning. No quickies with the good-looking accountant from the neighbouring box. Just work. Huh. I remember walking home after my first day in the Business Department, convinced that I’d never racked my brain so much in my entire life.
Then, there are the Goblins who roam all over Knockturn Alley by night. If those little guys are bank clerks, then I’m a reincarnation of Merlin. So one day, I asked Ragnuk if he had to do something about blackmail, Leprechaun gold and money laundering – just occasionally, you know. And he was like, “No. That’s my brother.” And that’s how I met Gnarlak, this shady ex-gangster who is allegedly “a good guy now”. He uses more four-letter words than Sirius and I combined and his cigs kick like a Hippogriff. I personally think he’s brilliant.
Then there’s Griphook, my supervisor, about whom you already know that he yells a lot. He started off as an engineer in the mines, but Ragnuk figured that he had a knack for negotiation and put him to the upper circle of the Business Department. Now he’s my boss. It’s also him who taught me how to set currency rates.
I never thought I’d say this, but I love my job. It’s fascinating. Imagine that the Head Auror in the United States tells something loony about prisoners’ rights, or it turns out that Bulgarian economy is falling. Well-well… Scandal Ensues – impeachment procedures, that kind of thing. And we, at the Business Department of the only International Wizarding Bank in Europe, get to decide if the dragots should be cheaper today with 4,534 Knuts because Edward Limus is an asshole, or on the contrary, the Bulgarian basilisk-eyes should gather plus two-twenty because three days later, it turns out that the economy rumour was just created out of political enmity.
Now that I understand how currency rates are being calculated, I find this awesome. Really. It makes you strangely powerful to sit above that table and joke about Veela-chasers and vegetarian vampires while you raise the value of money with a snap of your fingers. My Dad always wanted me to be “influential” – well, here you go, old man…
This is my diary, though, so I’ll have to be honest: the truth is that power aside, Gnarlak’s hilariously incorrect jokes aside, EVERYTHING ASIDE, the power of public opinion scares the shit out of me. Hard to describe… but let’s say it is an avalanche. Once it gets out of control, there’s no stopping it; and if you happen to stand at the wrong spot… well, you blink once and poof, you’re six feet under.
All you need is a story that catches attention, and you have opened the gold-mine. ONE single revelation about the fact that X is corrupt and Y cheated on his wife lowers the value of money in entire COUNTRIES.
15 December 1995
I finally cornered Dumbledore you-know-where after the Order meeting. Super hard to speak to the man – he always looks like he’s off to save the world in five minutes, and he doesn’t have time for your shit. But this was important. See, I’ve been increasingly bothered by my auntie’s letter last month, and I wanted Dumbledore to know about it. You know, just in case… and I have also promised to tell him about the guy in the hat, if you remember. The trick was to somehow get around Sirius, because I didn’t want him to hear any of it.
So we hurry into this dark room, and we sit down in a pair of moth-eaten armchairs. I light my wand and whisper, “There is something I have to tell you, Professor…”. And Dumbledore’s like, “Obviously,” but he doesn’t say anything else, he just waits. So I tell him what happened, and I say I am certain my relatives want something from me, but I don’t know what.
Dumbledore only smiled and said that everything was going to be all right, and I didn’t have to worry, and that he was happy to hear from my aunt and uncle. “They’re great people,” he said thoughtfully, and there was something weird about his expression, something I could not quite put my finger on; so I asked, “Do you know them well?” And he was like, “Well enough.” Me: “Will you tell me about it?” Him: “One day.”
So that was it. See, I sort of wanted to tell Dumbledore the rest, I really did, but at the moment, it just seemed ridiculous. I tell you what – the guy in the hat wanted my money. He saw me in that bar and kept following me through the night. Then Remus gave him the fright he deserved. End of story.
I mean, why the hell would anyone want to follow me? I’m just being paranoid. And I’m sure Dumbledore has plenty of other things to worry about.
When Dumbledore was gone, I looked around in the room. Must have been a living room or a bureau once, with a long back wall, covered in this faded tapestry thing. It was a giant version of the Black family tree – not at all surprising, since you-know-where had once been the home of the Blacks.
Sirius never really talks about his family, but I already know that the terrible screaming portrait in the corridor is that of his mother, Walburga Black; and that the grumpy old house-elf, Kreacher had once been the Blacks’ beloved family servant. I know all about wanting to ignore your roots, so I never really asked Sirius for more detail – now, though, my curiosity got the better of me, and I scanned the tapestry. I was mostly searching for the Corbitts – see, my Mum was a Corbitt, and I know that they were one of those Sacred before my granddad took a Muggle-born wife to have Mum and her sister Lucy.
Hm. I might have been named after her. I don’t know.
Anyway, I did find one or two Corbitts – respectively, from before the ominous marriage of my granddad happened – but I also found a few other unpleasant things. For example, the spot where Sirius should have been was replaced by a neat dark hole of burnt fabric.
He did tell me that he ran away when he was sixteen, but I somehow never figured that it was that bad. He also had a brother who died embarrassingly young, and not a word… so much for being honest with me, I guess.
And that’s not the worst. As I was reading that tapestry all over, I found a branch, right next to Sirius’s – his cousins. Three sisters. Narcissa Black, Bellatrix Black, and another black hole.
It was that Bellatrix Black. The one who married off to Rodolphus Lestrange, became one of You-Know-Who’s servants, and killed my mother.
Sirius’s cousin. Now isn’t that fucking ironic. How – I mean, really, HOW could this family produce someone like him? But wait, it gets EVEN WORSE. At further inspection, I could read a letter ‘A’ next to that Bellatrix (the rest was burned) and I instantly realized…
Andromeda. It had to be Andromeda. Dora’s mother. My best friend’s mother, and I spent half my summers in her house. She made me lemonade and brownies, and bought me ice cream, and her sister murdered my mother and she never told me a word about it. Neither did Dora.
Does she even know, though?
…so that was fucking it, I had to sit down. I tried to cry, but of course I couldn’t. I can never cry about Mum, not even after all these years. The lump is always there in my throat, but there’s no swallowing it.
Anyway, I was sitting there, curled up in a ball of angst, and suddenly I heard the house-elf’s slouching steps on the parquetry. As usual, he was going on and on about all of us being blood traitor scum and Sirius smelling of booze (he’s kind of right about that one). I glanced up, as suddenly and maleficently as I could manage, and of course he was all like “Kreacher hasn’t noticed young Mistress”, blah-blah-blah.
I was on the verge of sending him down to fucking hell like I always tell Sirius not to, but I noticed something in his hands. A golden medallion. It was the same thing we’ve dumped into the trash, like, more than three times already. Apparently, it is important for Kreacher, although he doesn’t tell us why. He’s all paranoid about it, as if we wanted to destroy the thing, or something. But why would we? Sirius would probably just toss it out like trash and be done with it; Dung would probably game it away; and the rest of us… well, I don’t know.
I think I’d take it to Borgin & Burkes. I once bought a candleholder there for Bill; it had the habit of shouting obscenities in the most random situations you can imagine. He loved it. Of course, that was before he had that stupid Veela girlfriend.
Anyway, back to Kreacher – as soon as he realised that I saw the medal, he was gone. Like, poof. Maybe he hid it under his bed, or something. I don’t know where he sleeps, and I don’t know why he would care so much.
There’s something profoundly weird about that medallion. Or Kreacher. Or both.
I was thinking about this all evening. I didn’t even realize that I’d left without saying hello to Sirius.
I hope he won’t get all Lord Byron about it.
23 December 1995
STATUS QUO: So… You-Know-Who might have just tried to have me killed. (COMMENTARY: But why?!)
CONSEQUENCE 1: I don’t know what to do now.
CONSEQUENCE 2: I’m stuck you-know-where for Christmas, along with Sirius, the Weasley family and Harry Potter. Yes. THE Harry Potter.
Okay. So I’ll try to tell you what happened. I’ll try to give it some semblance of sense.
Arthur Weasley sought me out on Thursday after my meeting with Fudge and offered me to exchange shifts. Now… about shifts. Thing is, there’s something in the Ministry that You-Know-Who would very much like to have. It’s not technically a weapon, but let’s stay with that. Anyway… the Order has to constantly watch the thing, right under Fudge’s nose. So here we are, doing a job most of us couldn’t be less qualified for… because the people who ARE qualified are ignorant asshats.
Now look me in the eye and dare tell me that’s not typical.
…back to Arthur. So I met him in the elevator (it was just the two of us so we could talk), and he explained to me that he was about to have a meeting the next evening that he had to absolutely attend, (kind of rare for the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office, mind you), and that it would save his life if we could change shifts.
Well, it didn’t really save his life at the end, but I’ll get to that later.
I said yes, of course – I mean, he’s always been nice to me, plus he’s in the Order, too, so why wouldn’t I help him out? Anyway, I ended up taking the shift that Thursday evening instead of him. Then, I spent the rest of the night in this wicked Muggle club, trying not to drink my face off.
Next morning, I went to work – neat robes, pretty hair, lipstick, high heels. And I wasn’t even late. Hah. See that, Griphook…? I was so proud of myself, you can’t imagine.
It was a perfect day. Light snowfall. Comfy music in Diagon Alley. Barely noticeable hangover. Gingerbread discount at Fortescue’s. And on top of it all, I ran randomly into Remus after work and he invited me over for dinner. We resumed our previous conversation of almost a month ago (that’s one thing I absolutely adore about Remus; he’s just so easy to talk to). He made hot chocolate and we played Carcassonne until late in the night. Very late. It was new moon, so Remus was at his best, all cheery and lively. You’d barely think it was him.
And then everything escalated. Quickly.
It could be, I think, four in the morning. My dragon was burning off the roof of Remus’s castle and Remus’s pigs were eating up all the corn I’ve grown for eight bloody turns. In the meantime, Remus’s Chief Knight took to poking the dragon’s nose with his lance, squeaking be-gaune, fell bestiole! Be-gaune! in his hilarious French accent. We were both waiting for my dragon to start spitting fire again, and in fact, there really was a sound of cracking fire coming from somewhere in the room – only, it was not the dragon figurine but the fireplace.
It was Dumbledore. He stared right at me, as if he was trying to see through my bones (I really hate it when he does that), and he was like, “There you are.”
We continued to stare at him, and he said, “Arthur Weasley is currently being treated in Saint Mungo’s. He’s been attacked.”
Remus and I looked at each other above the table, and a Somewhat Theatrical Scene followed, in which Remus accused me (very rightfully) of not having told Dumbledore what was going on with the guy in the hat. I was trying to explain myself but Remus was really mad at me and he threatened to tell Sirius. I felt that it was time to, as Gnarlak puts it, calmer le jeu; so I said, “Remus, look. You guys are not my parents, or something –”
At that point, Dumbledore cleared his throat, so we suddenly realised that he was still there and swallowed the rest of our argument quite awkwardly. And he was like, “I have been looking for you for the better part of the last hour by Sirius’s bidding, in fact, who would be ready to shake the Minister himself from his sleep if it meant finding out where you were.”
Dumbledore graciously ignored that I had turned bright pink, and he said he would also appreciate if I revealed whatever Remus believes I should have told him. And when Dumbledore asks you something like that, you’d better obey.
You might forgive me if I admit that I cut the Knockturn Alley part somewhat short, though.
So it turns out that Arthur got bitten by You-Know-Who’s giant venomous snake, and if we hadn’t exchanged shifts, it would’ve been me. In fact, the entire Order thought I’d gone missing because Arthur forgot to tell them about our agreement, and Dumbledore had to personally restrain Sirius from breaking into the Ministry to look for me. He quickly streamed Harry and the Weasley kids into his house instead so he could play the Responsible Adult.
Well-well. Guess I should go missing a bit more often.
Anyway, the situation didn’t fully register in my brain until Dumbledore said, “Now you Floo through to the Headquarters, and you don’t move a step until I say so. We still do not know what might lurk in the dark.”
So I’m like, cautiously: “Wait a second… Professor Dumbledore, do you mean that the snake… the attack… that it was meant for ME?” And Dumbledore looks at me sharply, and he’s like, “We do not know.”
Well, I tell myself, shit.
I stared at my dragon as it roamed over Remus’s village on the Carcassonne board. The houses were reduced to ash; and on the opposite side, my mayor was herding my archers upon the town walls to shoot Remus’s impetuous pigs.
And I felt as if all blood had been drained out of my body. As if I could faint in any second. As if the world was going to end, or something.
But of course it didn’t.
This was just an assassination attempt.
…so that’s how I found myself you-know-where before dawn.
As soon as I was through the Floo Network, Sirius rushed into the room, wand drawn – paler and more scruffy-looking than ever – and I swear, the look in his eyes was enough to freeze the blood in my veins. Merlin. You don’t wanna get to the wrong side of that man.
Thankfully, Sirius thought of actually looking around before he started blowing shit up (that’s a first!) so he stopped short and stared at me. I stared back at him, and we were both standing stupidly for several precious seconds. Then he said, “Fucking finally!”, he crossed the room in three long strides and kissed me so hard that I suddenly couldn’t quite breathe.
I would’ve been happy to leave it at that, but of course he had to switch into mother hen mode, like “you look pale, princess” and “are you all right?” and “what happened?” and “where the fuck have you been anyway?!”. To which I said, quite awkwardly, “I was playing Carcassonne with Remus” – and that’s how I found myself in the crossfire of his sick temper once again. Because how dare I, and it’s past 4 AM, and he was worried sick, and all that jazz. I said that he wasn’t my Dad or something, so he worked himself all up once again and he said that of course he wasn’t, because unlike my Dad, he was there for me.
At that point, I called him a fucking asshole, and he looked like he was going to shatter his whiskey glass on my head or something, but he suddenly just held my face in between his hands and he kissed me again. I was wondering if I should bite him like real bad or something, but I didn’t. I don’t know why. I had to fight back tears instead, which is kind of hard to do with another person’s tongue in your mouth. Luckily, I’m an expert.
At least the whiskey glass remained intact. We’re gonna need that shit.
Naughty Sirius went to sleep, and Nice Sirius ended up carrying me to his room and tucking me in as if I was a little girl. Nothing even “happened”, you know. I was actually very thankful for it. I mean, not because “nothing happened” but because he tucked me in. I don’t think anyone else than Mum has ever tucked me in.
I asked Sirius if he knew Arthur was all right, and he said that he was alive. There was a short pause, then he added thoughtfully, “I guess that qualifies as all right,” and I burst out laughing. Dunno why. I sometimes just laugh at things Sirius says, even if they’re not funny.
Then, he blew out the candle on the nightstand and told me that I should sleep, and that he’d get downstairs to look after the kids. I said okay, of course, but I was actually quite upset he’d leave. I don’t like to be alone in his room – the air is dry and heavy, and I can only wonder what sorts of things had happened there between him and his terrible parents, or what sorts of thoughts does he have before he sleeps. Not that my own pre-sleep expatiations are usually very cheerful, mind you.
I know he was trying to be nice, but it would have been decidedly nicer if he’d just locked the door and shagged the living soul out of me.
At least I’d know where we stand.
Yeah. That’s the problem here. I’m frightened.
It’s not that he got furious at me for nothing once again, or that he had been worried about me that frightens me so much. Nor the suspicion that someone has been following me. Not even the fact that if not for Arthur’s meeting, I would probably have bled to death alone in a dark underground chamber.
It’s just that I don’t fucking know where we stand.
It’s hard to explain… but this is my diary, my sanctuary of Being Honest… because I sure as hell cannot be honest in real life. And because of that, I’ll try to give you –
LUCY’S REVELATIONS ON THE NATURE OF RELATIONSHIPS
Part One – General Overview and Hypothesis
As soon as you grow tits and generally become a woman instead of a silly little girl, you’ll very soon learn that there are guys like this and guys like that. And if (like myself) you refuse to marry yourself off to the first bloke who got into your panties and juggle each Knut out of his low-paying Ministry job, you’ll also learn that there are affairs like this and affairs like that. There’s friendly shagging, casual shagging, shagging because you’re sad, shagging to get revenge, shagging to help someone get revenge… and so forth.
In any case, there’s some invisible LINE that you never CROSS, because that would mean getting INVOLVED. And in most cases, that’s no good for anybody.
Usually, though, you learn that the hard way.
Part Two – Personal Exemplification
Let’s face it, I’ve been with a certain number of men. Your average Pureblood miss would say I’ve shagged half the world; a real hooker, on the other hand, would probably consider that I’ve seen nothing. Everything is just a matter of perspective.
People usually think I’m a gold digger, and maybe they’re not entirely wrong. I was a gold digger once. I still have nightmares about it sometimes.
See, when I ran away from home, I had nothing but my school stuff, and my Dad’s service car. I stole it. I was still underage, and I couldn’t just run away on foot – that would’ve been so… slummy, you know?
Anyway, school was over in two years and I decided that I wanted to make something of myself. I applied to the Scamander Academy in Canada but my grades dropped after the second semester because I had to work overnight to be able to, you know, eat and stuff. It wasn’t like Hogwarts. Essentially, I lost my scholarship because I had to buy food somehow; and the only way I found to pay my tuition – to get a false certification that it had been payed, that is – was to get into a nasty underhanded affair with the rector’s husband.
Only, the lines were not that clear. He was actually quite good at pretending to love me, which is why I found out so belatedly that he was an asshole (and so I did my best to pretend that I was still only digging for his gold). Face-saving operation, you know. Better to be called a vulturous little bitch than a naïve one.
See, I’m not playing the victim here. I knew exactly what I was doing. Well, most of the time. And I wasn’t hoping for a miracle, either. Well… not at the beginning.
I told you that bit about learning things the hard way, haven’t I? I thought that man cared for me. I thought his wife was a nasty crone who kept him in check. I thought he was going to leave her, and everything was going to be all right.
Guess what… I was wrong. What a surprise, eh?
Part Three: Behavioural Analysis
I think I’ve been continuously avenging that gold-digging thing. Ever since. I take it all out on people because I can’t figure it out by myself. It’s not even that I do it on purpose; most of the time, I just don’t realize that I’ve been doing it again. And from that point on, it’s basically me dumping the guy before I’d get dumped. Sometimes, it’s literally a race.
And then cometh the weeping and gnashing of teeth, Remus would probably say now, and point his finger to the ceiling.
He’s too good for this world, Remus. When he’s not a giant manslaughtering wolf, that is.
Part Four: Conclusion by Foresight
So that’s why Sirius continues to frighten me with his… episodical affection. Sometimes he seems like the coldest person I’ve ever met, but some other times it’s evident that he actually does care about me.
I never wanted him to. Merlin, I didn’t. He deserves WAY better than me… and he’s not an idiot, Sirius. He’ll figure it out, too, as soon as he’ll be out of that terrible house and he could walk free once again. He’ll realize that there are plenty of fish in the sea, most of whom are not nasty and unbalanced like me. And if I continue caring about him the way I do, that will hurt like a bitch…
ADDENDUM: It’s not like I’m incapable of loving people, you see. I have a heart, too, and I do love Sirius in my own way – or at least, I care about him. Pretty much. It’s just that I want to keep my distance, because every time I grow to trust somebody, they spit right into my face at the moment I’d expect it the least.
And let’s face it: I’ve been horrible with so many people – why would I deserve kindness or care, then? Even in Muggle fairy tales, it’s not the dirty witch who gets the prince but the blushing little maid who could never hurt a fly.
I guess Muggles aren’t idiots, either.
So there I was, thinking about such cheerful things for the remainder of the night. And when I had relatively calmed down about the prospect of Sirius leaving me (I don’t know, are we even together…?) my mind switched into alertness, and I started theorising how the hell could Arthur survive. Who noticed he was there…? How could the help arrive in time…? Does You-Know-Who actually want us to know it was him…? I wrecked my brain for possible explanations, but nothing came up, other than the somewhat far-fetched concept that You-Know-Who was pulling a Lockhartian stunt, and it was actually a fake snake that bit a fake Arthur, and the Healers that were to treat him in Mungo’s were currently being slaughtered with Muggle kitchen knives to hide the evidence.
At that point, it occurred to me that I might be a little bit tired, so I conjured a flask of Sleeping Draught from my bag.
Sirius didn’t come back at all. Guess he was with the kids.
That being said, I don’t think I can look the Weasley kids in the eye now. I mean… their dad almost died because of me, and Mrs Weasley still hates me because I’m Bill’s ex.
Wait until she finds out that I’m Charlie’s ex, too.
26 December 1995
Actually, Christmas ended up quite nice. We buried the hatchet with Mrs Weasley – now she’s all for hating the idea of Bill’s new girlfriend. I’m kind of a partner at that, so we’re cooking together and stuff. Her, Sirius and me. I never thought this would happen, it sounds like a play from Beckett.
Anyway, It’s cheerful in here. We have fake snow and lanterns and a giant Christmas tree; we eat a lot, we drink a lot, the twins are progressing with their wicked Wizarding Wheezes, and – hold on – Sirius found an old guitar in the attic so he’s now giving random concerts of God Bless Ye Merry Hippogriffs and so on. Or stuff like Wish You Were Here, on better days. He actually can sing a bit.
I think this might be the happiest Christmas I’ve ever had.
I’ve taken all my remaining days off, so I won’t have to work between the holidays. I’m not really writing these days, because everything is relatively O.K. – and when everything is O.K., you take it for granted and just forget to tell about it.
One thing I’d really like to talk about, though, is Harry Potter. The boy is SO NOT what I expected. We have only spoken briefly in August – I managed to sort of cheer him up before his hearing in the Ministry for underage magic, so I think he’s okay with me. He’s Sirius’s godson, and they’re very close.
I didn’t really want to get into that at first. I’ve rarely been with guys who had kids, or anything along those lines, because the kids were annoying – I mean, when it’s just for a night, nobody cares, but you wouldn’t want to get into something like that on the long term. And let’s face it, this is becoming long term now. Maybe.
Anyway, Harry’s super cool in that respect. Might have something to do with being a teenage hero, being threatened all the time and having to save the world, like, two times a year. I really admire him for all the shit he takes from the Ministry. As I hear, Umbridge is giving him a really hard time, calling him a liar, banning him from the Quidditch pitch (he’s a wicked Seeker) and punishing him all the time… so what does Harry do? He organizes a SECRET STUDENT SOCIETY against Umbridge and the Ministry. Now if that’s not 100% punk, I don’t know what is.
And he’s a nice person. I’ve learned that only recently. See, one day I was struggling with my Patronus Charm, alone in that room with the tapestry. I was trying to get it right before that day’s DADA training with Sirius, and of course I couldn’t do it. The Patronus Charm is something that I simply can’t do – think of something happy and conjure some immaterial guardian in front of you that will chase your monsters away! Because a fucking memory can remedy all! Go on, girl, help yourself! (Ridiculous).
So I was getting all worked up about my Patronus, and Harry caught me swearing quite colourfully under my breath as I stared at my silver cloud of utter defiance. And you know how it is – you just feel it when someone’s watching you. I did my best to smile and I said, “You didn’t hear anything, yes?” Harry grinned, but then he looked at me all seriously, as if he wanted to say something but wasn’t sure that he should. And suddenly, he’s like, “It doesn’t have to be a happy memory, you know.”
Him: “I was struggling with that, too. I’m not a happy person.”
Me: “How astonishing.”
Him: “Yeah. So, you know, it’s just… sort of…”
Me: “Sort of…?”
Him: “So, it’s… you think of something like a shield. Something that makes you think, like, ‘sod off Dementor, I’m having none of your crap.’” (Pause). “Something worth fighting for. Because Dementors make you feel like nothing really matters, but that’s not true.”
I stare at him, completely stunned, and he becomes red as his scar, and he says, “I guess that doesn’t make that much sense, but…” And he has clearly no idea what to say next, but I’m like, “Actually, that changes everything.” I rummage my brain a bit, I try again, and –
Well, of course, no Breakthrough happened. But Harry’s positive that it was a lot brighter this time. What a sweetheart.
The unofficial soundtrack for this chapter would definitely be ‘Back to Black’ by the magnificent Amy Winehouse. (“Sans mauvais jeux de mots”, as the French put it).
The Muggle board game ‘Carcassonne’ technically appeared in 2000, but I’d like to think that a more complicated (and political) Wizarding version exists since ages.
Lucy’s family background merges with my friend Hirfael’s stories (in fact, our HP fics take place in the same universe, given that some of our characters are related). Anything and everything about the Corbitt clan belongs to Hirfael, respectively.
Thank you for having read this far. Please review if you liked this! (Or if you didn’t) .
Chapter 5: In Mendacium
NOTE: my upcoming summer adventures will not allow me to respect the promised 12 th /21 st updating schedule (that's why this one came early, for instance). I'll keep updating rhapsodically until September. From that point on, everything should go back to normal.
29 December 1995
Dear Sirius Black,
Stop reading my diary above my shoulder. You're not that subtle.
Yes, this is a diary.
No, it's not about you.
Well, okay. I sometimes do write about you. Mostly calling you an asshole.
…NO, YOU CAN'T READ IT.
Ignore Sirius, he just discovered your existence. I have no time to worry about it right now.
Well, here I am at 25, talking to an empty stack of paper. If it's not the end of the world…
- Still serving my sentence you-know-where. Tent's packed up, and all. Long story.
- Met my aunt and uncle on the 27th, as requested. Everyone survived and Gringotts is still standing. You can call it a success.
- Not a hobo anymore. Got my own place, and not some tiny flat – an entire house!
- Haven't seen said house yet, because Lucius Malfoy is doing his best to find some fault in the papers. Come to think of it, he can suck a certain part of anatomy I don't possess.
- I should be getting up, but it's just so cosy here. As cosy as you-know-where can get, I suppose. Sirius's posters are making me a bit self-conscious, though. Do Muggle girls generally have bigger tits than us, or is it just the angle?
Let's get back to 27 December, anyhow. Wednesday. Calm and very cold. Snow everywhere.
I got up early, told Sirius that I wanted to have a bath and sneaked downstairs to leave as quickly as I could. Not even the house-elf noticed me. I was real proud of myself.
Now that I think of it, I haven't seen the sorry thing for quite some time now.
Anyway – I was walking along the corridor. I could already see the door, just a few steps away; and then Sirius, this sneaky asshole grabs me from behind and whispers "Goin' somewhere, princess?" in my ear quite venomously. It happened so suddenly that I shrieked, so the portrait of his Mum woke up and told us what filthy blood traitor scum we were, just in case we'd forgotten. Apparently, we've levelled up now, because we're also "living in sin".
That particular insult worked Sirius up pretty much, and as per usual, he took it all out on me. He accused me of "surely seein' someone else, the cheeky Veela you are". So I worked myself up, too, and I called him this and that. Just the usual stuff. I broke his favourite whiskey glass and it was pretty awful.
I'm sure that the Weasleys heard us, but pretended that they haven't, you know.
Eventually, I had to tell Sirius that I was about to meet my relatives. I hoped that would calm him, but nope. He continued to lash out at me like "you don't trust me with shit, and that's not fair, I always tell you what's going on", which is totally not true, by the way.
I was so strained that I burst into tears like a stupid toddler... and after a full minute of standing awkwardly and not talking, his social skills kicked in. Never knew he had those.
He suddenly became quite decent – kissed the top of my head, cradled me in his arms, that kind of thing. But he just wouldn't stop with the bloody questions, so I figured I had no choice but to tell him what was bothering me and all. That is to say, I had to do a briefing on my family.
It's just that my Objectively Emotionless Account somehow turned into a lament on How My Family Despised Me, and How Unfair It Was.
Not that Sirius wouldn't get it.
In fact, to truly understand where I am now and how I got there, it might be useful to record said lament in writing, too. You could say it's stupid, but Remus tells me that sometimes you need to "get things out of your system", so I figured I could try.
Watch out for the ink patches and crossed-out paragraphs, though, because I'll be writing decently from now on. Queen's English and all – I mean, with the occasional 'fuck' and 'cunt'. You know how it goes.
LUCY'S LAMENTATIONS, vol. 1.
Everything begins with the root cause of my Dad's general resentment towards my person (oi, dat phrase!) – which is, I think, the fact that when the Death Eaters came knocking in '81, ten-year-old me survived and my Mum didn't.
And when I say that, I don't mean to shout at the devil. I genuinely think that I kind of ruined Dad's life even further that day... and sometimes, when I drink too much, I'm genuinely sorry for it, too, even if my primary instinct is to feel thankful that I'm alive.
It's hard to explain without making my Dad come off as an absolute monster, but I don't think he is one... See, he loved Mum very much, to the point of complete adoration; and I don't think he was ever allowed to live his grief when she died, because of, well, me. I still remember how everyone tried to console him saying "you haven't lost everything… you still have a daughter…" and he couldn't go "well, who gives a fuck?" because noblesse oblige and all that.
Of course he lost everything. Mum was his everything and he lost her, so that qualifies as losing everything, doesn't it? I don't know if he even wanted me. Never asked. Anyway, I turned out to be the kind of big-mouthed, rebellious kid he sure as hell never wanted, and the fact that I wasn't wanted made me even more rebellious. Because… you know the things Dads do – like, talk to you? Spend time with you? Throw the occasional Boggart out of your cupboard? Threaten to hex your boyfriend if he ever gets naughty…? Well, my Dad never really did any of those things. He has always been awkward around me, and cold, and reserved, and stuff like that, as if he was afraid to get too attached. I'm not saying that he is solely responsible for me being generally awkward, cold and reserved around people and not wanting to get too attached, but let's say he played his part.
So that's John Dawlish for you. Senior Auror, Order of Merlin III and so forth. Never met a more boring, more thick-headed, more insufferable josser. See, it's enough to start talking about him to get me all worked up again. Granted, I don't think he's the devil but I actually am very cross with him. We're not even on casual speaking terms. I barely say hello when I meet him in the Ministry.
For the sake of justice, I must also mention that I was the worst sort of neglected, attention-seeking kid, and as a teenager, I did my utmost to make Dad's life hard. Like in Fifth Year, when I thought it would be a really good idea to elope to New York with Myron Wagtail – my then-boyfriend – the week before our OWL-s. And that's where Aunt Rowan and Uncle Percival came into the picture.
Let's play a situation game: I've skipped off Hogwarts, and you are my Dad. What do you do?
a) Contact my Headmaster or Head of House, inquiring about me first.
b) Try and contact me directly.
c) Go look for me yourself with a Ludo Bagman-look on your face.
d) Heat up your long-estranged bonds with my Mum's distant family – as in: the head of the U.S. Magical Law Enforcement and his wife – and design a MACUSA manhunt for me.
Hmm. I don't know. Which of these seems a sensible option for you?
The MACUSA got me easily, and I was dragged into Woolworth to be questioned, because as it happens, our little trip with Myron made us illegal immigrants in the US. So that's how I met my great aunt and uncle for the first time, at 16. Through the glass of a bloody prison parlour. Suffice to say, we couldn't exactly appreciate the sparkle of kinship Dumbledore was talking about when he finally appeared and saved the day. No sparkle for me, I suppose…
Yeah. It was, in fact, not my Dad but Dumbledore who got me out of custody, brought me back to school and pushed me through my OWL-s. I won't forget that... That's why I've agreed to work for him in the first place.
...so I told Sirius all this, and for once, he listened without calling me daft or anything. It somehow felt right.
I might have already mentioned that Sirius Black was a stubborn person. And not only that. I'm positive that he has the thickest skull in the entire universe.
Thing is, he categorically refused to let me out of the house alone, since "that fucker in the hat might still be following you", and "the attack on Arthur might have been meant for you, you shouldn't forget that", and "I won't sit here on my arse knowing that you could get killed in any minute".
Well. I think you can already see where this was going – he high-handedly decided that he would be coming with me. He wasn't taking no as an answer... And I know it's terribly selfish of me, but I gave in. Because, how do I put it… Sirius has a certain allure when he's being assertive. I like it. I like that he's having none of your shit, and you can't really bend his will.
He's not perfect – far from it – quite a bit rash and moody, downright rude sometimes… but if you bother to dig through all his layers of fuck you and I don't care, you realize that he has a good heart. And that's not something you get every day.
So yeah. Sirius was coming with me. But I had to disguise him first, so I grabbed a Witch Weekly from a few issues ago and chose the first photo that I liked. It was a page-sized quiz thing: you had to pair the names of famous wizards with pictures from their youth.
I found this dreamy-looking guy with wavy blonde hair and mismatched eyes. He was so pretty that I thought it was a painting, at first. I was in a real hurry, so I didn't even check who it was. Anyway, I did my best to morph Sirius into that man, but I had no time for the mismatched eyes, so I just kept his own.
The bastard has dreamy eyes, by the way. Clear grey, almost silver, like whirls of mist in a snowstorm.
(Took me minutes to come up with that metaphor).
I think they go well with blonde hair, too. Two silver stars.
Uh… where was I again?
We were supposed to meet my aunt and uncle in the Goblin's Gallows for lunch, at two. Diagon Alley. Ground level of Gringotts, right on the corner.
You could say that the 'Gallows is everything I hate in a nutshell. You walk in, and everything's made of marble, rosewood and so forth. Eating there for a week could cost you more than a particularly bad turn on the World Poker Tour…
Director Ragnuk owns the place on paper, but Gnarlak is the one who knows the drill. I'm positive that all the employees are spying for him. I imagine they'd have quite the information to offer on chaps like Corban Yaxley or Lucius Malfoy – known Death Eaters who like to pay their weekly homage of Look At Me I'm Stinking Rich there…
We Flooed to the Leaky Cauldron and walked through to Diagon Alley; and I realised that I had absolutely no clue how I was supposed to act in a snobbish shithole like the 'Gallows. I haven't been conditioned to do that. So there I was, freaking out in the middle of the street. I mean, you can see the situation: there's Sirius, protected by nothing but my magic from being recognised and carried off to fucking Azkaban... and I'm the one to freak out…
He was so nice with me for once, though – took me by the arm like a gentleman, and he was like, "No worries, princess. Just smile and be pretty. Think you can do that?"
Me: "Smile and be pretty. Right."
Him: "Oh yeah. And try not to say 'fuck' and stuff, you know."
Me (dutifully): "Smile and be pretty and don't say fuck."
Him: "You're a natural."
As soon as we entered the 'Gallows, we were stopped by a Goblin valet who asked if we had a table reserved. I mumbled something indistinctly, and Sirius said in a calm reassuring voice that we were here on "a due meeting with Mr and Mrs Graves". He handed our coats over as if that was the most natural thing in the world (I forgot my wand, so I needed to take mine back super awkwardly for a moment). Anyway – we got a remote table that was cut off from the rest of the hall with a folding screen. Sirius called for a Firewhiskey ("double, three ice cubes, thank you very much") and ordered me a lemonade before I could have even uttered the word spirit.
Then he draws the folding screen in an inch, mutters a quick Muffliato, grins at me above the table, and he goes, "Heads up, princess – your Swiss aristocrat boyfriend is here to save the day."
Me: "My WHAT?!"
Him (unfazed): "Guess I can still do the accent. Name's, let's say, Geoffroy de… huh. I don't know. Geoffroy-de-quelque-chose. I'll make something up on the way. You can call me Geoff."
Me: "That's weird."
Him: "Yeah – and even more importantly: it's posh. You'll get the hang of it."
Well, he got the hang of it for sure. When our drinks arrived, he snapped his fingers like a genuine rich twat and he was like, "Everything's on me, yes? And then some. Vault 711." The Goblin just nodded and left us, and I suddenly felt like I was going to explode; but he just snorted, and told me that he'd bought Harry a new racing broom in '94 while he was on death row in six countries, and the Goblins didn't bat an eye.
Well – if you ask me, they actually did bat an eye, and the information had been sold at a price that could buy me another estate. It's just that someone paid more than Fudge, so he never got it… I made a mental note to destroy all account on that particular transaction, but I didn't have much time to think about it, because my aunt and uncle arrived shortly. Quite the expectations they must have had of me...!
The last time we'd met, I was this baby-faced 16-year-old – obnoxious, loud, sarcastic, using four-letter words like commas. (Not much changed, in that respect). But now here I was, a bank clerk… tight tweed dress, pale rosy lipstick and shit. I was hiding my real face just as much as Sirius was, and I thought that for bloody once, I had a chance to make things right; so I promised myself that for the rest of the day, I would do my best to Smile, Be Pretty and Not Say Fuck.
Needless to say, it didn't always work out. But I shouldn't go jumping forward like that.
My relatives haven't changed at all – they were still powerful-looking elderly people. Uncle Percival still somewhat handsome (although he might be Dumbledore's age, or so), and Aunt Rowan still somewhat charming, with green eyes that shone out of her face like little lanterns. They must be great people if you know them well; but at first sight, they seem as posh and intimidating as humanly possible.
We both stood up – I forced my "hello"-s out weakly, and Sirius flashed a smile, kissed Aunt Rowan's hand in a Trademark Posh Way, then shook hands with my Uncle. And he goes, "Monsieur Graves, it's such an honour – I know I'm being inappropriate, and this meeting is not about me at all, but I'm so excited to meet you, sir; I've heard so much about you from Mademoiselle here…"
Me (trying not to crack up): "Aunt, Uncle, this is Geoff – I mean, Geoffroy, my…"
Sirius (tilting his head): "I believe the appropriate term would be 'compagnon', or perhaps 'not-so-secret admirer'."
He presented himself on some mazy French name he'd must have made up right on the spot. It was quality acting, really – I couldn't quite understand why my aunt and uncle both stared at him as if they'd seen a ghost. After some cringy silence, though, Uncle Percival clears his throat, and he's like, "Austria?" And Sirius goes, "Suisse de l'Ouest, s'il vous plaît," (and I catch a breath, because damn, that fake Swiss accent is sexy).
For the next twenty minutes or so, we gave an impressive demonstration of small talk (capricious weather; new Floo network regulations; the Ministry's educational directives; rapidly changing Gringotts rates) while our lunch was served. It was so telling – the way we exchanged glances, the way we kept any mention of You-Know-Who and his rumoured return out of the conversation, the way we stayed on the surface of any topic.
Still, talking about insignificant shit helped us all relax a bit, and with that relaxation came my chance to attempt Legilimency. Not dead on, of course… just slightly. It's not like you have a switch in your head that allows you to navigate between ears and mind, and it's not like you lose your physical hearing once you're doing Legilimency, either.
It's a bit like doing meth, actually. Your brain loads all impressions within an instant, and things don't make sense for a while, but suddenly, they all crystallize in your brain and you feel like a god. That was the sort of Legilimency I could do without a wand or a specific purpose; and it helped me understand the following:
- Neither Aunt Rowan nor Uncle Percival gave a single fuck about the weather, or Gringotts, or our Ministry.
- They were constantly alarmed by Sirius's presence for some reason.
- They were hiding something from me (especially my aunt).
- This was not a chance meeting – they have come to England specifically to see me (again: especially my aunt).
I could feel her thoughts whirling under the surface of her mind, and I couldn't help but look. Looking doesn't mean seeing, though (there's a piece of Centaur lore for you) and I was hit by an avalanche of memories without sense – which I hereby record as accurately as possible.
"…I don't know what to do, Grandmother," said a shadow in a tall mirror. "I don't understand what I'm seeing. One day, she fishes for gold in the ditches of Knockturn Alley; and the next day, the Minister helps her tweed coat on, and she looks like a queen…"
…there was an opening in a dark forest: a clearing cut by nature, as if with some giant filleting knife. In the deep valley underneath, there was a fortress, and she walked in…
"…why, young lady?" Aunt Rowan was sitting behind a table, looking at sixteen-year-old me through wand-proof glass. "Why did you do it? I can only help you if you tell me what happened." I looked up at her, then turned away without a single word...
…two hands hung entwined in an inferno of blue flames, and there was a shadow on the other side… a man… and he was turning back…
Next thing I knew, both I and Aunt Rowan were standing, and yelling at each other at the top of our lungs. Her, like "…get out of my head! I SAID, GET OUT!"; and me, like "IT WAS YOU! ALL THE TIME, IT WAS YOU! YOU SPIED ON ME!"
Both Sirius and my Uncle looked quite ready to draw their wands, but my Aunt collected herself and sat back in her chair. And she's like, suddenly calm, "No surprise, of course. You're just like him."
Me: "Like who?"
Her: "My brother, Reynard. Your grandfather. He is a Legilimens, too."
Me: "What? I'm not – wait, why hasn't anyone told me about that?!"
Her: "Our family is very reserved about it."
Me: "Reserved, is that it? Because spying on me, that's the definition of 'reserved'!"
My voice was rising again. My Uncle said that I had no right speak to Aunt Rowan like that, and I said that I spoke the way I damn well pleased.
At this point, Sirius loudly requested a bottle of "something dry and red, please", and told the serving Goblin that he would "greatly appreciate" if they could carry on with Stravinsky in the background. So I raised my eyes to see a blurred sea of faces turning quickly away from us. In the back of the hall, the band did resume Stravinsky if you've been wondering, and I suddenly felt like I wanted to die.
Uncle Percival's lips froze into a thin, straight line, but Sirius – again – saved the day by his flawless pretence of Everything's Okay, Thank You Very Much. He drained the rest of his whiskey, smoothed a tress of hair behind my ear, and looked expectantly at me, like, "Mademoiselle, I think this would be the moment to use the A-word. You know."
The first thing to come into my mind was 'asshole', but thankfully, I was able to find an alternative. I apologized, explaining that I was trying to be subtle with the mind-reading thing, it's just that you never know with people…
"I can't force anything specific out of your minds, though," I said. "I'm no real Legilimens." Then I took a shaky breath, surprised at my own sincerity. "Was he? My – my Granddad, I mean."
"He is," said Uncle Percival. He still looked somewhat grave, but at least no one was shouting anymore. When wine was served, he waved it away and ordered a cup of chocolate ("dark, with a whiff of Firewhiskey") to which Sirius said, "Fine taste, monsieur"; and they exchanged this almost friendly look over the table.
All in all, the atmosphere was ready to be fucked up again.
"The guy in the hat," I said sharply. "The one who kept following me all the time. Did you send him, too?"
"Yes," said Aunt Rowan. I asked why; so she looked me in the eye and she said, "For the same reason I've been trying to look after you since we've first met. Because you're family."
I felt some dangerous heat rising in my chest, the same kind of heat I usually feel before I fuck shit up. "I'm not a family person," I said icily, "so do enlighten me… how exactly does sharing my blood give you the right to spy on me?" (There, Sirius squeezed my shoulder, quite visibly, and I took a deep breath). "I mean… we've met only once, and not under the best circumstances. I probably owe you an apology, by the way… but it's been seven years! Why would you suddenly decide that you care about me, after all – what happens to me… where I go… the people I meet…"
My voice was outright VICIOUS now, and I squeezed my wine glass as if it was one of those stress-balls, you know. Aunt Rowan looked oddly hurt, but Uncle Percival just narrowed his eyes and asked, "Are you used to being followed?" And I was like, "Not necessarily, but I can recognize when I am."
Him: "Not necessarily?"
Me: "Look – I've been travelling with a curse-breaker for five years. I'm not telling you that I've never got into trouble. But being followed all through London has gotten on my nerves lately. I mean, if you're asking for news, you could always send me an owl…"
"And would you tell us if you needed help?" Aunt Rowan snapped. "Would you bother to tell us anything else than 'I'm fine, thank you'?"
There was a LONG, cringy silence; then Sirius quipped, "Make no mistake, Madame – she could be livin' under a bridge with a bunch of sans-abris, hiding from the Magical Gouvernance every day; and say, pas de problème. Nice of you to inquire..."
"You're not being helpful!" I snapped, but that wasn't true. He was being IMMENSELY helpful, offering something that I never knew he had in himself: some easy comic relief, some impressive ability to act like everything was okay. And he was not only helpful, but right, of course. Hell, I never really tell anyone what's going on with me…
"Thought as much," said Aunt Rowan in a strange, stern-but-light tone. "And that is why we're here today. Lucy, your Grandfather and I happen to share the opinion that your current Hyde Park residence leaves much to be desired. Wouldn't you agree?"
For a moment, I could only stare stupidly at her. I was mortified to the BONE. I couldn't even imagine what a disgusting gold-digger I must have looked like with the fake Swiss Boyfriend on my side… my job in the bank… and the tent… and she knew about Knockturn Alley and all…
I got to tell you that I had to swallow some bile right there. You didn't need Legilimency to find out what was going on in my head, though, so my Uncle said, in an extremely discreet and reserved tone:
"Rowan was worried about you – we both were – and we thought it was not yet too late to offer you the kind of support you have always been deprived of. You are not alone. You have a family – a name. You are not only a Dawlish, but a Corbitt, too, like your mother and your grandfather. You have a place to go."
"And for that reason," Aunt Rowan added, "Reynard and I thought that the Corbitts' ancient family home should be given over to you."
I would have probably been less surprised if she had turned into a winged pink unicorn or exploded into an avalanche of Bertie's Botts. So I'm like, "You travelled this far just to give me a house…?!" And my Uncle explained that it was an old mansion that lived through all kinds of wars and so forth, and that it was still protected by enchantments that I wouldn't be able to break without him.
I thanked them, somewhat confusedly, and told them I couldn't accept such a gift because in a few months, I'd be able to buy my own place. Aunt Rowan said that she knew I could (and I'm actually positive she told me the truth), but she insisted that I should have the Corbitt house, after all. "You really need to stop thinking you're a bad person, Lucy," she said, and I wished she would stop looking at me like she cared, because why would she…?
Well-well. If I couldn't only stare at her like a stupid fucking cow. Then Sirius drew his familiar Enraged Sharp Breath, and I knew that as soon as we were on our own again, I would need to do some quality explaining.
The rest of the afternoon was full of unpleasant surprises. I'll make you a list:
One: Turns out that Gnarlak and Uncle Percival are age-old enemies. Seriously, we hopped into his office to do the paperwork, they saw each other, and the North Pole froze back again.
Two: The current Head of the Magical Heritage Committee – the guy who is supposed to endorse the paperwork for my new house – is none else than Lucius Malfoy. Trust a Death Eater to brighten your day!
Three: Aforementioned Lucius Malfoy was there all the way long while we signed the papers and he questioned Sirius on his family background, as if he knew we were bullshitting everyone. But how could he prove that there is no Geoffroy de what-was-it AT ALL? He can't do that, right? RIGHT?!
Four: The Corbitts have quite unorthodox views when it comes to the safeguarding of their family vault. The Lestranges have dragons, the Malfoys have the Thief's Downfall… and the Corbitts have a Dementor. A bloody Dementor. Consequently, the Patronus Charm is kind of the first thing that the Corbitts learn, so they could have their coin, you know. Seems like I'm genuinely unfit to be related to them, because I can't, for the life of me, do a corporeal Patronus. I just can't.
When we got to the vault, I made a complete fool of myself. I couldn't even raise my wand… I could only think of the fact that I was a complete and utter failure for my family. Pathetic… so the Dementor kind of lashed out at me immediately.
…Sirius to the rescue. And what does he do?! Like, magic or something…? Nah, that would have been too easy, eh?
Oh, Merlin. You should've seen it. This fucking invalid JUMPS FORWARD and GRABS the Dementor with his BARE HANDS – I insist, he PHYSICALLY GRABS the thing, rotting fingers and dark hood and all, and he THROWS IT OFF ME then YANKS IT BACK into the darkness, like, WHOOSH, MOTHERFUCKER!
Then, he suddenly remembers he's still supposed to be Swiss, so he's like, completely unfazed, "Such a peste, those creatures. Je les déteste"; and my aunt goes, all softly under her breath, "wow." And my uncle gets all snappy for some unfathomable reason.
I can't even imagine how horrible it must have been for Sirius to see one of those depressing shitclouds again. We haven't talked about it afterwards. I sure as hell won't bring it up. But the fact that he was able to TOUCH a Dementor is somewhat disconcerting.
My aunt and uncle promised they would owl me as soon as the paperwork was done, so the whole meeting thing ended on a positive note. At least I felt like it did, until we rounded a bend in Diagon Alley with Sirius – now on our own again – and he gave me his Girl-You're-So-Screwed kind of look.
Clearly, he would go for a frontal attack. ("So what is this Hyde Park Residence thing again you never bothered to tell me about?")
Me (lamely): "Nothing…"
Him: "If you didn't have a flat – but you DID have a flat, and a landlord, as far as I know…"
Me: "I no longer live there, you know – sudden thing, I had to move out…"
Him: "Out – where?"
Me: "Just – here and there, you know."
Me: "Okay, so I'm staying at Remus's, sometimes. And Dora's. And the Leaky Cauldron. And…"
Him: "Are you fucking kidding me?!"
Me (vigorously): "Siri…"
Him: "Don't fucking Siri me, woman! Why haven't you just TOLD ME?! What on BLOODY EARTH do I need to do for you to trust me?! Rescuing you from a vampire's lair? Tick! Throwing a raging werewolf into a river so it wouldn't eat you?! Tick! Obliviating your Dad?! Double tick, GOD DAMN IT…!"
Him: "Just tell me why. Why would you hide such a thing from me? You could be hurt. You could be robbed. You could be – I don't know…"
Me (suddenly angry): "And haven't it crossed your ingenious mind that I was – I don't know – ashamed…"
Him: "Ashamed of – what? Merlin's bloody… Lucy Dawlish, don't tell me that you have been livin' off the streets because I'm going to… I don't know what I'm going to do, but you won't fucking thank me."
If I could choose between being there and being anywhere else (Azkaban, and Nurmengard, and the downmost depths of hell included), I'd have chosen ANYWHERE ELSE without a second thought. I felt like crying… like running away… like hexing the hell out of him. I swallowed hard, and I said (very quietly): "I didn't want you to think that it was all about having a place to go. Me and you. Because… because it wasn't. It isn't. I didn't want you to think that I…" I bit my lip. "That I was taking advantage of you. I'm not. I'd rather… I don't know. There are a lot of horrible things I'd rather do."
It was as close to a confession as I would ever get, and he knew it. I knew that he knew – he stared at me in the same way he had stared at me over the table in a downlit lounge in Transylvania a few months ago, the day he had waded into my life and decided that he wouldn't leave.
So yeah. I think I might have just admitted right then and there that this was more than the occasional shagging… that we had something… that I did trust him, after all… you know, that kind of thing.
But then a chamber pot fell off a high window-sill right next to us, followed by the cackle of children and a very dazzled-looking blue cat; and we realized that we were still out in the open, that Sirius was still on death row in six countries and that we had to leave, like, real quickly.
- Rowan Graves is my friend Hirfael's OC – in fact, our HP stories take place in the same universe, and some of our characters are related; although the main happenings of her side of the story occur in her 'Relic Hunters'. Be sure to check out her profile and works! :) The Corbitt family, in its entirety (along with the vault-guarding Dementor) is an artistic "propriety" of Hirfael.
Thank you for reading this far! Let me know if you liked this (or if you didn't).
Chapter 6: Personal Investments
30 December 1995
Time’s slipping away. Only four days to go and I’ll have my own house, can you imagine that…?
It’ll do me good. My brain knows that it’s past time I took some distance from Sirius, but if there’s no pushing factor, I’m afraid I’ll never do it.
Earlier this evening, Remus and I played Exploding Snap with the kids, and we accidentally set the Black family tapestry on fire. Ron Weasley was like “blimey, look, everyone’s disowned”, and we all cracked up like crazy. And then that nosy Muggleborn girl (I always forget the name; will scratch this out if it comes back to me) anyway, she says, all self-consciously, “I hope Sirius won’t be pissed off about it,” and then Ron’s like “nah, I think he’d probably piss IT off.”
And there we went again, practically howling with laughter. Here’s to a likeable generation!
After dinner, though, I decided to set the bloody thing right. Not because Sirius would get sleepless nights over it or anything, but rather because of, well, Kreacher. I don’t need him bothering Sirius again. He’s unsettled enough as he is, now that Christmas is over and everyone’s leaving… Anyway – I solved the tapestry-problem, and I was just about to leave when I noticed Kreacher’s medallion once again. It was locked inside a vitrine in the far end of the room – and that’s where we’d found it first, too, before Sirius tossed it into a trash-bag. Kreacher must have placed it back into the exact same position as it was before. Why?
I had half the mind to open the vitrine and have a look on that ugly golden thing, but my Sherlocking was interrupted by Harry. He hesitated in front of the door. He knew I was in there and I knew he was out there, so we both spent a very stupid ten seconds waiting, I suppose. He then came in and asked me if I had a minute. I said yes, of course – I had this mild irrational fear that he was going to ask me about my Patronus again, so I guess I was weirdly relieved when he said, in medias res –
“Sirius tells me you’re good at this mind control thing.”
Me: “You mean, Occlumency?”
Him: “I guess…? You know, I’ve had that vision about Mr Weasley. I mean, I saw him being attacked in my dream, while it was happening. No one knows how this is possible… or it’s just that no one bothers to tell me... Anyway, Mad-Eye said something the other day about Vol – I mean, You-Know-Who possessing me…”
I reminded Harry that Mad-Eye also said things about people Vanishing their asses by keeping their wands in their hip-pockets, but it didn’t really make a difference. Then I jokingly asked him if he was concerned more about his ass or his mind, but Harry just said “Both, I s’ppose,” like, dead serious, and I knew something was really off. And then he goes, “Can you look into my head, or something, and tell me if I was being possessed or not? I mean… I want to know if it’s possible. In case it happens again. You know. If – if it’s not too much trouble.”
If it’s not too much trouble, he said. Merlin’s ass.
I was so taken aback that I stared stupidly at him until the curiosity on his face turned into mortification. Then, I had to grab Harry James Potter by the arm, and turn him around, and explain that people didn’t normally let other people in their heads.
(Such an adorable kid. I ask him if he could trust me with that kind of thing, and he’s like, “Well, Sirius said I could,” in a slightly surprised tone, as if Sirius Said was some kind of divine enunciation).
So I had to bring back a specific memory, dissect it, and look for the signs of possession.
Of course, things would’ve been much easier if I had any idea just what the signs of possession were.
Ronan always told me that I was smart enough to overcomplicate things, dumb enough to drive myself in face of unsolved enigmas, and eccentric enough to keep chewing on those enigmas nonetheless… and I think he wasn’t entirely wrong.
The safest route would have been to flat-out refuse Harry, as the whole experiment was about as irresponsible as your experiment can get… but I didn’t wanna let the kid down. He’s the Boy Who Lived, after all. And I think he’s cute.
I told Harry that I was going to enter his mind first – just the surface –, and then he was going to enter mine to get the hang of things. Probably not the easiest way to get down to it, but if your first experience with mind control is bad, you’re going to suck at it.
Yeah. Well… wandering around Harry’s head turned out to be a REALLY bad idea. It’s hard to recall what I saw, but I’ll try for the sake of documentation:
…Harry is sitting behind a desk in a horrible room: pink walls, doilies and china plates everywhere. Dolores Umbridge is standing above him. Harry is writing the same sentence over and over with a strange, large quill: “I Must Not Tell Lies”. The edges of the paper are stained with blood…
…Harry is running through a forest with two shadows on his side – Ron and Hermione… They’re fleeing breathlessly from some faint green gleam. It filters through the shroud from the skies…
…An enormous, purple-faced man is hollering insults at him…
“…you are a great wizard, Harry,” says a very young Hermione. She’s sitting on something that looks like a giant, wrecked chessboard…
…Harry is walking through the corridor in the Department of Mysteries…
I lost my focus at that point; and when you lose focus while doing Legilimency, you have a very good chance to find yourself back in your own head, along with the subject of your examination.
…Dumbledore and I are standing on top of the Astronomy Tower, looking down on a pair of Thestrals as they glide over the forest below us. “I can’t do it, Professor,” I mutter. “They’re going to give me the boot.” Dumbledore looks down on me (he seems terribly tall from that angle), and he takes his hat down, placing it on the balustrade. “Again,” he says. “See what you can do with this.” And he hands me his own wand…
“…such a shame,” says my Dad over his desk at the Ministry. “What were you thinking, running off like that? But that is what you have always been doing, haven’t you? Letting people down without a second thought! Disappointing people… Where did I go wrong? When did you become such a freak, I wonder…?”
…Sirius is kneeling half-naked in a river; I’m washing his wounds and stitching him up but he continues swearing like there’s no tomorrow. The water is becoming deep red…
…I Occluded, and we were back in reality as abruptly as we’d left it. Harry stared at me with an odd expression on his face, asking, “What happened to Sirius?”
Me: “He is an idiot, that’s what happened to him.”
Harry: “Was that in Transylvania…? Dung tells stories about that mission all the time… how he was terribly injured, and how you guys barely escaped alive, and stuff…”
I kept a very straight face and told him to ask his godfather.
It only occurs to me now that it was a very bad idea.
ADDENDUM: It’s time to clarify a few things about The Transylvania Fiasco, as we call it. Plenty of rumours and misconceptions around… give it a few years, and it will become one of those legendary Order missions everyone claims to have participated at, but no one actually remembers.
Again: for the sake of documentation, I’ll give you –
The Transylvania Mission Endgame
A Tragicomedy in Four Acts
Act One: LUCY and REMUS are trapped in a VAMPIRE’S CASTLE by BARTY CROUCH JR and his BUDDIES.
Act Two: LUCY has a NARROW ESCAPE back into the VILLAGE, without her WAND; where she GETS ACQUAINTED with SIRIUS and after some UNIMPORTANT and ENTIRELY INNOCENT COMPLICATIONS they TEAM UP.
Act Three: LUCY and SIRIUS rescue REMUS from a SHADY DUNGEON but are SOMEWHAT RESTRAINED by (1) the VAMPIRE and (2) the FACT that it is a FULL MOON’S NIGHT.
Act Four: (meanwhile) MUNDUNGUS is PLAYING POKER in the CASTLE’S HALL, which is his idea of DISTRACTING the BAD GUYS. He CHEATS and a FIGHT ensues, in which MUNDUNGUS loses one of his TEETH to ELDRED WORPLE – his greatest SACRIFICE for the ORDER.
There you go. If you want the Explicit Version, ask one of the boys. You’ll have three different Versions depending on who you ask. Degree of accuracy may vary.
…back to us.
Now that Harry was a little bit more at ease, I entered his mind again, openly searching for the memory in question. We watched together as You-Know-Who’s giant snake slid through a tunnel. Harry was right, it didn’t feel like a dream – no, it was a memory.
I didn’t even notice anything weird at first. The snake sniffed around, found Arthur, bit him and everything was gone with a flash. I went back to the beginning, then halfway back again, and again… and when I did that for the third time, it occurred to me that Harry’s memory didn’t look like a proper memory at all. It felt like watching a Muggle movie cut together from different angles. As if there were more than one pair of eyes watching… but that was impossible…
I flashed back to the beginning once again, trying to find the moment when I first got wind of some strange intruding presence…
Next thing I know, Harry’s screaming in pain.
I think it was his scar.
Words can’t describe how terrified I was. Like, what if I fucked up Harry Potter’s brain, or something?! Logical Me knew it was impossible but Concerned Me continued to insist that I was the biggest fucking idiot on the entire planet.
Anyway – I immediately withdrew from Harry’s mind, then I conjured a block of ice and pressed it to his forehead. I couldn’t think of anything else. His cheeks were hot, as if he had fever or something, but his skin didn’t redden. He was pale as a ghost.
I told him that it was okay (no, it wasn’t), that things like this would occasionally happen (no, they wouldn’t), that he just had to breathe slowly, through his nose, and he was going to get better (okay, that was a safe bet). Harry kept nodding along with everything I said, and he seemed at least as embarrassed with me soothing him as I felt with trying to soothe him. Then the door swinged open – enter Sirius, ready to murder me if I did anything bad to his godson (a second later, though, we were consoling Harry together).
I was starting to make sense of what I had seen, and I told the boy that You-Know-Who had possessed the snake, not him; and that he’d seen everything from the point of view of the snake because he’d been in You-Know-Who’s head. Harry asked if I was sure about that, and I said yes. So he thanked me super awkwardly. And when we heard Mrs Weasley’s call for dinner, he practically jumped on the opportunity.
I was about to tell Sirius that I had kind of lied, but he thanked me, too; and he sounded so relieved that I held my tongue. He’s is so strained nowadays… and he worries about Harry enough as it is. You can call it lying, and maybe it makes me a bad person, but I just didn’t wanna work Sirius all up again.
I will investigate, though... read a few books on mental possession, write to some of my shadier acquaintances, that kind of thing. Because something is not okay here. Your brain is supposed to be a lonely place, even if you’re not controlling it. Switching your point of view WITHIN a memory is decidedly not normal.
Might be one of You-Know-Who’s dark fuckeries. Maybe a full-fledged illusion thing. I don’t even know if that exists… but if I was a Dark Witch, I’d definitely work on my illusions.
Oh, and… it might be because of the fright, but I’d completely forgotten about that memory with Umbridge and the bloodstained parchment. WHAT THE HELL?! What is that woman even doing?!
Guess I’ll need to launch a thorough investigation once I’ll be back at Hogwarts.
What’s a LOT more important, anyway: Sirius stayed with me for several more minutes in that room while the others were gathering for dinner downstairs. He held me in his arms as if we were a real couple or something. I’d really like to have a sneak peek into his head, to see if he’s just shagging me or if he actually fancies… you know… my person…
My logic tells me that he’s made far too much personal investment already, as Remus calls it. But I’ve been promised a million things a million times by a million people and look at me… still single and mildly alcoholic.
I just don’t wanna read things too far.
31 December 1995
Never told you about Dora and me before. Shame!
We’re a dream team, I’ll have you know. Me: a Gryffindor; her: a Hufflepuff and two years my junior… but at Hogwarts, we’ve still been thick as thieves. And now that we’re both in the Order, it’s like we’ve never parted ways.
Dora is, like, all the girly friends you’ve ever wanted to have. AT ONCE.
You can get drunk with her.
You can steal cars and break into shops with her (less now that she’s an Auror, but you’d be surprised how many things can be done with the right incentive).
You can rage over guys with her (and she’ll rage harder than you).
You can also go shopping with her, or cook with her, or do any of those stupid everyday things, really. No matter what you’re into, she will be your Quality Sidekick. As long as you don’t call her Nymphadora.
That’s what I have always liked about her. Whatever stupid shit I do, she rolls with it without second-guessing or judging me.
Anyway, we were sitting in the kitchen you-know-where the other evening, and she suddenly said that she wanted to talk. We sat ogling each other for almost a full minute before Dora’s hair turned bright red with embarrassment… which was a sign that she wanted to talk about…
It was about a bloody AUROR MISSION.
Essentially, Dora asked me if I could still read minds (now… her, too!). I said yeah, and she launched into this long and detailed explanation on the Ministry and the Unspeakables…
My Dad had told me about them once; they work at the Department of Mysteries and they look extremely punk rock in their fleeting dark cloaks. Like the Men in Black, but cooler. As for their occupation – no one knows what they’re doing exactly, but let’s say they’re busy with shit you don’t wanna know about and would hardly even believe.
And apparently, one of those Men in Black – let’s call him Agent B – got hospitalized a few months ago after having tried to steal the Weapon.
The attempt left Agent B with lasting damage (loss of memory, speech disorders, panic fits and so forth). Dora suspects that he’s been Imperiused, but the Department of Magical Law Enforcement won’t let the Auror Office investigate, because Agent B is still being kept in St Mungo’s. He’s getting better, though… not capable of conscious speech yet, but Dora says I might be able to pluck some information out of his brain before Fudge and his council decides that the entire case is too delicate and they call it a day.
So, SITUATION ANALYSIS: the Ministry won’t do its job, so it falls to bloody me to solve the crime. And Dora has to risk her own job (on paper) to actually do her job (in real life).
You’re probably thinking that I should stay well out of this, don’t you? Well. Look… my favourite colleague is a former gangster; I spy on the Minister for Magic for an underground organisation led by an allegedly insane wizard; my closest friend is a werewolf and I sleep with a “mass murderer”…
At this point, I don’t think that breaking into a closed hospital ward would make things worse.
3 January 1996
Sorry I didn’t say it sooner, but: HAPPY NEW YEAR!
It’s not very happy, though… at least as far as I’m concerned.
My current situation could be depicted with a huge pile of dragon dung drenched with rain. Yeah. A several feel tall oozing, ugly-brown thing that can’t seem to decide which way it should collapse.
It all started with Dora and me – we’ve made a wicked plan for the infiltration of St Mungo’s. It was New Year’s Eve and all, which led us to the misconception that we both deserved some means of moderate amusement.
(Don’t look at me like that… I’ve been grounded for almost two weeks now, remember?!)
Well. Long story short… I don’t know what happened – like, I don’t have the SLIGHTEST – but apparently, we’ve made the cover of the Witch Weekly with half of the Weird Sisters (and some other old schoolmates).
And we both happened to wake up in the Paracelsus Ward of Saint Mungo’s.
Must have been a pub crawl or something… I had to be really drunk already to go on a pub crawl involving Myron Wagtail, though…
Thankfully, “nothing happened” – if we’d made up or something, it would have surely made it into the papers, and Sirius would already be back in Azkaban for double murder.
I might have killed myself first, though.
CONSEQUENCE OF THE ABOVE: I’m 25 years old and I still had the nerve to arrive to an important meeting straight outta detox. Like – okay, it was for the Order, but I felt kind of bad when we rushed into you-know-where ten minutes late and Dora stumbled over that ugly troll-leg of an umbrella stand.
(You see?! My conscience is stirring. Merlin, I’m not supposed to have a conscience – am I getting old, or what?)
That aforementioned bad feeling of mine soon turned into exhilaration, though, as I had to sit through various presentations on What I Should and Shouldn’t Do.
(1) Mrs Black, who laid us all her usual insults (but this time she forgot that Sirius and I were living in sin)
(2) Snape, who made nasty comments on me and “the night life in Knockturn Alley” making all the second-hand allusions to Myron Wagtail (Could he be reading the Witch Weekly, too?!)
(3) Moody, who cited fifteen possible ways of getting caught by Death Eaters via our example (I guess his lecture was mostly aimed at Dora but let me claim some of the credit…).
(4) Dumbledore, who questioned me in detail about the mind-reading incident with Harry and made me promise that I’d never do something like that again. He didn’t seem the least bit concerned about the rest, though, and I can’t thank him enough for that…
(5) And finally – unsurprisingly so – Sirius, who somehow seemed more upset by the knowledge that I woke up in St Mungo’s than anything else, although he did his best to avoid the subject entirely (and managed it for about twenty seconds).
There’s one thing that bugs me, though – he made me promise that I wouldn’t do anything rash or stupid from now on, even if it feels good, or even if it seems to help the Order. And… I think that our Agent B-related quest with Dora kind of fits into the intersection of those two categories.
(Is Sirius a Legilimens, too, or something?!)
It will be hard for me to break that promise – and I know that when I will, Sirius will only understand that I broke it, not that it was hard. Which makes it all the harder…
I’ve promised Dora that I’d help her, though.
I can’t leave her alone in this, can I?
The Transylvania Fiasco can be read in its full glory in my ‘Gadding with Ghouls’.
Chapter 7: Percival Graves Breaks the Law
4 January 1996
Finally got my new crib yesterday. Kudos to Lucius Malfoy, though, because he really did try to eff things up – the glitch he found was that I don’t, technically, bear the name of Corbitt.
See, the properties of such ancient families are not normally given over to hobos like me.
I just can’t believe it, you know. Something stinks here. I mean… one day, Dumbledore knocks on my door like Gandalf the Grey, drags me out on an adventure, and WHOOSH – everything changes. People like Remus and Sirius stumble into my life. I get decently paid. I go on secret missions to nettle the Ministry. The Corbitts land me their Darlington estate of, I think, at least half a million in Galleons, with several acres of forest, hills and whatnot around…
And nothing happens, you know?! No apocalypse. No mental breakdown. It’s not even that I’m doing that wicked Muggle hallucination thing. This is actually happening. Right now, I’m sitting in my new kitchen – bigger than the last three flats I’ve lived in –, smoking my good-morning Lucky Strike, and I wonder where’s the disaster in all this.
When is it going to collapse?
Sirius insisted that he would come with me to get the keys – somewhat ironic, as I’ve been listening to his tirades on how reckless and stupid I was since New Year’s. Bloody hypocrite.
(I swear it was a lot more enjoyable when he was doing the Naughty/Nice thing. I never knew which face he was going to wear next).
I let him come with me, though – would’ve been kinda suspicious if I’d have suddenly broken up with my rich Swiss boyfriend, I guess. So I morphed him back into that blonde beauty and we did our best to look like a happy couple who don’t fantasize about strangling each other.
Honestly, it’s terrifying to realize how rich I’d gotten.
Make no mistake, everything figures on the papers Malfoy was harassing me with. X acres of land, Y square feet of rooms and all that jazz. They’re just numbers – all right, I immediately understood that the property was big, but until I actually set foot there, I didn’t realise just how astonishingly huge it was.
We met my aunt and uncle in front of this giant wrought-iron gate with the Corbitt family sigil over it (two snakes entwined in a field of black and green, below them the family words: Primus inter pares – hypocrisy much? – and a red rose which somehow reminded me of the Tudors). It felt like entering Versailles or something, although you could tell that no one had lived there for a while. At one side, the hedge seemed a whole four inches taller than the other. (!!!)
Then Uncle Percival opened the gate with a flick of his wand and we came through. It was like getting hit square in the chest – a gripping, powerful, weighty sensation. I suddenly felt a pound heavier, as if I was compelled to carry something with me for the rest of my life. I think it wasn’t just one spell, but the combination of many.
The place seemed as well protected as you-know-where… but why in Merlin’s name would the Corbitts need such security measures? They’re one of those families, aren’t they…? The ones You-Know-Who would never touch.
I was at that point of my thinking when Sirius came within range of the spells, too, and he stopped dead in his tracks. “The Fidelius…” He said. He looked like he was going to faint, or something, and I felt this sudden rush of COMPLETE PANIC – what if my charms were going to break? What if his real face was going to be revealed…? Nothing happened, though – he remained perfectly Swiss.
“So you recognized it,” said my Uncle in a funny voice. “May I ask how?”
“Le sentiment,” said Sirius softly. I suddenly admired him so damn much for keeping the façade.
My Aunt looked at him with sudden interest and asked if he’d already cast one. “No,” he said. “But I’ve seen one break.”
There was a long silence, interrupted only by the crunching sound of our steps along the gravelly garden path. I felt guilty that I’d let Sirius put himself in danger for me with so much at stake for him – but I also felt really, really grateful that he had my back. Not many people would do that for me, you know...
I’m bad at thank you-s, and I couldn’t have said anything in front of my relatives anyway, so I just squeezed his hand. He didn’t push me away.
My new house looks actually more like a castle. I shit you not. So huge… so ancient… and beautiful. A bit Gothic, but more Roman than Gothic. I mean – oh, that’s misleading. It’s not, like, Hogwarts Castle-huge, or anything. Might be the size of a cathedral, but not as high, either… Fancy stonework, gargoyles and ivy-clad walls, with lots of windows looking to the east and west. Long story short, it’s the kind of home ancient wizarding families are expected to have.
I can’t breathe. Are the Corbitts expecting me to live in THAT?!
I have to admit that there were some not-so-decent thoughts running around in my head as we walked ‘round the estate. See, my Mum was a Corbitt, and she died when I was ten – meaning that I remember her, quite clearly – and she never really mentioned her family. We lived in the Dawlish family home, passed on from Great-Grandpa to Grandpa to Dad and so forth. Huge Victorian-style house in White Oaks. We had that, and my Dad’s salary… and a fancy weekend house in Nice that we rented to old couples practically all year… but that was it.
I hardly ever saw anything outside bloody White Oaks and I sure as hell never saw the Corbitts. Where the heck had they been…? Why didn’t they, I don’t know, send me at least some candy for Christmas if they were that stinking rich…?
Did Mum have some row with them, or something? Was Mum someone like me, someone who didn’t fit in? Someone who wouldn’t apply to the Terms and Conditions?
Now, that seems like a very feasible explanation. I like the thought. But if I’m right, if Mum was a rebel, then how, just HOW did she end up with my horrible, boring Dad…?!
And why would the Corbitts reappear just now? Why did my Grandpa suddenly realize that I existed and why did he get so generous? Why, why, why?!
Family mysteries aside, it might be useful to walk you around in my new crib. Just in case.
First, we have a proper entrance hall. The floor is a mosaic of black and white marble tiles, with armoured figures standing vigil along the walls like in bloody Hogwarts. The Corbitts have plastered their family tree upon the wall like the Blacks – it is placed above a giant fireplace reserved to Floo network connections, I suppose.
The rest of the castle is just… just HUGE.
Things I Now Have at Home:
- an armoury(!)
- SEVERAL dining rooms
- a big-ass kitchen
- a LIBRARY!!! Full of books the Corbitts no longer needed…
- a Potions laboratory
- a giant cellar filled with who-knows-what
- a Great Hall, like in Hogwarts (much smaller, of course). My Aunt tells me that those crazy-ass Corbitts did DUELS there. I wonder if anyone had ever died…
- entire SUITES for living. There’s one I really like – it has two connected bedrooms and a long balcony, facing the lake.
- …oh yeah. I have a lake, too. And a forest. And a greenhouse. I’ll give it a boost.
And things are in much better state than expected. I thought I’d have to pour at least five grands into it – renovation spell experts, cleaning crew, professional inspection and all that jazz – before selling everything off. Because let’s be honest, what in Merlin’s bloody name would I do with a big-ass estate like that…?
But as we walked it through, I felt increasingly disturbed by the fact that I liked it.
I feel drawn to the place. I think it’s homely, and beautiful. I kind of feel like staying, honestly…
I should probably wait a few quiet months, then sell the whole thing off before it grows on me too much, or before the You-Know-Who-situation escalates. That will send property prices under fucking sea level.
My Aunt told us a few things about the house while my Uncle was busy with breaking the Fidelius and the other security spells, and I must tell you that she had one very interesting slip of tongue.
We were walking through the corridor on ground level, and I saw a huge black halo around the entrance of the dining hall, as if the wall had been burned or something. Sirius practically jumped to have a look at it. It’s his Auror side, I guess – been repressed for so long, and now it has a chance to shine again. He said, “Wow – that was some massive piece of Dark Magic right there,” and my Aunt answered, deadpan, “Right it was, Gellert!”
And I don’t really know why I got it within the blink of an eye – it might have been some latent knowledge, or the conversation I’ve had with Dumbledore after Transylvania or maybe my Legilimency – but I completely fucked up Sirius’s chance to say “C’est Geoffroy, Madame!”, and I broke in, with the gentle delicacy of a Hungarian Horntail,
“Gellert? As in – Grindelwald?”
They both stared at me, quite unnerved, then something changed in Sirius’s eyes. It was some sparkle of excitement that flared up, then died out instantly (made me feel light-headed – bloody amazing eyes. I’ve told you). Anyway, he clearly understood something that I didn’t, and decided to act on it.
“Est-ce vrai, alors?” He said under his breath, clearly enough to be understood. “Je lui ressemble…?”
“Yes – yes you do,” said my Aunt quietly. “Disconcertingly so. To the point of absolute confusion.”
“Vous n’êtes pas la première de me l’avoir d…” Sirius shook his head, and I guessed that for once, he had genuinely forgotten that he was supposed to speak English. “…I’ve heard that before … but I never knew it to be true.”
“But how do you know?” I insisted, suddenly wishing I had Dumbledore’s ability to mentally X-ray people with my eyes. “Did you meet Grindelwald? When you were young? Did you know him?”
For a moment, Aunt Rowan seemed at least as uncomfortable as I, when we were talking about my Hyde Park Residence. “I’ve had the mischance… long before he did any of those unspeakable things. I wouldn’t have thought….” She shook her head. “It doesn’t matter.”
I suddenly felt very sorry for Aunt Rowan, I don’t really know why.
“So…” Sirius grinned abruptly at me. “I look like a mass murderer from the forties. Now isn’t that hilarious.”
We looked at each other and cracked up like the Weasley twins after the occasional poop prank. I’m pretty sure that Aunt Rowan thought we were nuts.
The whole key reception and property check and everything had gone quite smoothly – I was impressed with ourselves, really. Naturally, it wouldn’t have been us if we hadn’t fucked it up in the end. Or, for that matter, if Dumbledore hadn’t fucked it up for us.
We were saying our farewells when suddenly, Fawkes popped out of thin air in a flash of scarlet flames, as he occasionally does when his master wants something from me. Slightly more grandiose than sending an owl, mind you… a phoenix is exceptionally hard to ignore, given that the average wizard sees only one of its kind in their entire life (if ever): this one.
I can’t really describe the utterly and completely DEAD silence that settled between us. Then Fawkes squawked in his unearthly voice and laid his golden eyes straight on me.
“It is from him, isn’t it?” Said Aunt Rowan. All warmth had vanished from her voice, and I felt tension – underlying tension, so tight and so violent that it made me jump. “From Dumbledore. Why would you be getting messages from Dumbledore?”
My eyes widened, and I was suddenly taken over by utter dread – what if she and Uncle Percival were one of those people, too? One of those who thought Dumbledore was crazy…?
Luckily, Sirius was there to help me out.
“It’s got to be about the job, yes?” He said excitedly, then turned to my Aunt with sudden pride. “Mademoiselle is going to teach at Hogwarts – sudden fallout of staff… I hope I’ll get a glimpse! Beauxbatons, ce n’est que de règles… Are there really merpeople around? And Acromantulae!”
“Don’t get your hopes up,” I said, deadpan. “The Forbidden Forest is forbidden for a reason, you know. Werewolves and stuff.” I turned back to the Graves’. “Excuse us, really. It’s been a pleasure.”
“Pleasure,” said Aunt Rowan rigidly.
“Pleasure,” Uncle Percival nodded. He was holding her, in the same way Sirius was holding me.
Three very awkward seconds passed – perhaps we’ve all been waiting for signs of some kind of affection, some kind of connection that should be there in just any family – but there was none of it. Too much distance, I guess; and too many secrets.
Distance is like a thicket, sometimes. Not some wide dimension, but on the contrary: a very restricted one. You can’t see through it, you can’t see through the idea that the other person is too far away from you, that they wouldn’t understand.
We’ve nodded our goodbyes and they walked away, followed by Fawkes’s unblinking golden eyes. Then, suddenly, my Uncle turned back and looked at me very seriously.
Fifth of January, said his voice in my head, breaking through my mental barriers like some immaterial filleting knife. Morning. 8 o’clock. Door to the Department of Mysteries. Alone.
I believe it qualifies as something rash and stupid, but I decided I would go.
On another note, Dumbledore actually just wanted to talk about the job. No illusions, though: I’m sure he knows that Sirius was there with me in bloody Darlington.
That’s just Dumbledore. He knows things.
5 January 1996
Sitting at Fortescue’s with Remus, sippin’ some real fine chocolate. He accepted to be my guest for bloody once (it’s a full moon’s day).
I’m busy today, but I still have, like, two hours before we launch our Secret Questioning Operation with Dora, so I thought I would tell you about my meeting with Uncle Percival this morning. Now, let me familiarize you with some information so you could fully appreciate what lies ahead:
Things to know about Percival Graves
One: He was Head of the MACUSA for decades.
Two: I think he had once been Minister for Magic in the U.S. for, like, a year.
Three: Been leading the U.S. Magical Law Enforcement ever since. Respectively, he’s That One Guy You Don’t Wanna Cross, and that’s basically how he looks, talks and walks around. Essentially, he’s a living lawbook.
Four: I’m pretty sure he struggles with serious OCD.
Five: Dumbledore told me once that, I quote, “Percival Graves is not a man who would despise anyone. I hope you will have the chance to understand that.”
Guess I understood that today.
We met in front of the door to the Department of Mysteries as he had suggested. Morning. Eight o’clock. With absolutely no one around. I must say that he picked the spot quite well.
Uncle Percival was already there when I arrived (long dark coat, silver scarf and all), looking as nervous as a legendary Auror can get. We exchanged cautious greetings, and then he’s like, “I don’t have much time… your Aunt doesn’t know I’m here, and she will not, either. I am acting against my better judgement. Have I been clear?”
“Yes… of course,” I stammered.
To be quite honest, he could’ve said you will break into a Wizengamot hearing wearing a dragon costume and dance polka on the pulpit and I would’ve said yes, Uncle, of course, Uncle…
He did nothing of the sort, though. He just looked me in the eye and said “We guessed that you work for Dumbledore.” I tried to interrupt, but he raised his hand. “Not a word! Rowan and I… we are familiar with Dumbledore’s ideas of mutual benefit and personal agreement. We cannot – will not – tell you what to do, and we don’t want to know about any of it, either.”
“He’s not crazy,” I said in a very small voice. “Dumbledore, I mean. Please believe me, Uncle, he is not.”
“Of course he is not,” said Uncle Percival. He leaned closer. “Listen… if something happens… if you need a way out of whatever you have gotten yourself into, I want you to have this.” He pulled a small object out of his pocket and pushed it into my hands. “Use it if you have to. I will know when you do, and I will make sure you don’t get in trouble.”
I turned the thing over, then opened it. It was a small pouch. Leather. Painted navy blue…
A passport, and an ID behind it. And a domicile card. And a wizarding visa. All bloody empty.
I stared at my Uncle, eyes wide like Galleons. I wanted to thank him eloquently, but all I could say was, “What on Earth…”
“Use it, if you have to,” he repeated, voice filled with self-hatred. “Fill in any name, it will work.”
“But how…” I shook my head. “And why…”
At that moment, the elevator sprang to life near us. Someone was coming – and next thing I knew, Uncle Percival disappeared. I don’t know where. I don’t know how. You can’t bloody Disapparate in the Ministry. But then again – he is Percival Graves.
There is one thing I’d really like to know, though – what was that about Dumbledore and mutual agreements?
There must be quite the story behind.
Some masochistic part of me likes going down to the Department of Mysteries, by the way. There is always something lingering in the air – it’s what the Centaurs call “the song from beyond”. It’s the same feeling you get around Thestrals: the touch of some great invisible hand that could pick you up any second and take you away. Like – death. When you’re not used to the feeling, it’s frightening, but there’s so much more to it.
The Centaurs think that death is a liberation: the moment when your soul breaks the boundaries of your body and flies free to acquire knowledge that was beyond the capacities of your physical self. That is why we can’t communicate with our dead: they talk in ways we don’t get, and we could not answer even if we understood them. The only exception to that rule are ghosts – Ronan had always pitied them, and Bane thought they were a waste of time.
One day, I’ll tell you about Ronan and Bane, too. You know what? I’ll make an entire list of Beings and Beasts Who Have Shown More Fatherly Feelings Towards Me Than My Own Father. But I’ve rambled again.
Remus just scribbled a note on my napkin. It goes,
“there will be time / to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet”
…I’m afraid you’re about to meet them.
…that’s Eliot, right? Is it? Or is it just his subtly impertinent way to say I look like hell today? Sure as hell I haven’t slept much, but I’m still far from beating Remus Lupin, the Sassy Sovereign of Sub-Eye Shadows.
7 January 1996
Had a GIANT row with Sirius today. Sort of a final one… I know it sounds ridiculous at this point, but I can’t see us reconciling over what just happened.
I regret nothing, though. It had to be done.
…I mean, it’s not that I’m not angry about it, or that I’m bending things my way… or that I’ve already quit crying like a baby over this piece of paper… (Pathetic!). It’s just that – and if some guy ever puts me up the duff, I’ll tell my son/daughter the same thing – so essentially, it’s just that you’ve got to have some integrity, for fuck’s sake.
You should have things you allow people to do, and things you don’t. That’s the foundation of everything. That’s how you go on when the guy leaves you (because it’s usually not an IF, but a WHEN); that’s how you pick up your pieces and put them away into yet another box saying that you’ll repair them on the way, but you never fucking will.
I hooked up with Sirius under the condition that there’d be no controlling me, or reprimanding me, or keeping me from doing things… because then, I would get nasty. And I promised I won’t (physically) keep him from doing stupid shit, either.
The Code of Mutual Respect and the Frontiers of Personal Space, I’d call the thing if I ever had the perseverance to write it down. My ars vitae, if you will. Or the word might rather be lex vitae. Not that I care that bloody much, though.
Long story short, Sirius had promised that he wouldn’t cross the lines I’ve drawn for him. But today, he did; so I got nasty, and he got even nastier, and things exploded in a cataclysm of nastiness. I don’t really feel like talking about it – we’ve told each other off the way we often do. It’s just that we’ve gone further than ever…
And then Sirius launched the kind of speech I’d been expecting for a while. It starts with the evergreen classic “Seems like I only manage to hurt you rather than make you happy(…)” and it goes as far as you can imagine. I was still in my nasty mood, so I laughed and I said that it wasn’t original; and then Sirius said that it was ME (me!) who wasn’t original because I was probably doing the same thing with every man I met, over and over again. (“You start easy, yes? Well, at least one gets to shag you before you get so fucking vicious!” )
Yeah. Sirius Black told me that. There are earwitnesses.
Anyway, something snapped in me RIGHT THERE, and I gave him this GIANT BACKHANDED SLAP. Like, echoing giant. Nose-bleeding giant. Charlie-Weasley-taught-me-and-he-is-an-expert kind of giant. Powered by some accidental magic, too.
I must admit that I’m proud of that one. It had to be painful…
Anyway, I stormed out of the room and through the parlour. We were after an Order meeting, and everyone who remained there suddenly tried to look as busy as you can get (save for Snape, who was staring at me as if it was still Christmas or something).
I got out of that horrible house and shut the door with a Colloportus (loud enough that Sirius’s Mum would wake and call him a filthy blood-traitor all over again). Then I came back here, to Darlington, and I cried for three fucking hours in a row. Like a pathetic toddler.
I guess I really did fancy the guy. But it doesn’t matter now, does it? Seems like he gave up on me, like all the others.
I hope I broke his nose, or something.
I think you would expect to know why that row with Sirius broke out in the first place. So… unfortunately, our secret little mission with Dora didn’t go unnoticed; and Sirius deemed it “reckless and entirely unnecessary”, saying that I was “endangering myself” and “putting myself into situations I was not qualified for” and “Dora is an Auror, remember that”, and “you promised”, and “you’re not a fighter, for Merlin’s sake”. Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.
He flat out told me that the Death Eaters were going to get me for having investigated the case of Agent B.
I think he’s going nuts in that house.
You could say that Sirius has a right to his opinion, and that’s perfectly OK. He can have his opinion. And you know where he can shove it.
It’s not like Dora didn’t ASK for my help – most of the time, people ask for help when they need it. And it’s not that I’ve been unhelpful, either. After all, I’ve just acquired EXTREMELY valuable information that the Order couldn’t, under any circumstances, have gotten without me. I’m such a terrible person, huh? Such an idiot. Such an incompetent tool.
I’ll tell you about Agent B when I’ve managed to calm down. At least a bit.
Sirius fucking Black. Hurts me rather than makes me happy. My ass.
He was one of those creatures (very few of whom are humans) who mattered to me. He still matters to me, I reckon. How could he talk to me like that?! Guess he was just in it for the shagging, like everyone else. Funny how surprised you can still get. Why is it so DAMN astounding that he doesn’t love me?
I’m utterly and completely unlovable.
It’s just that I was starting to think – honestly, I was starting to think that Sirius would be able to put up with me. On the long term. But why would he even try to? It doesn’t make sense. Once You-Know-Who’s exposed, the Order will find that Pettigrew guy and have him thrown into fucking Azkaban where he belongs. Then Sirius will be freed, and he’ll get on with his life.
Plenty of fish in the sea. He’ll be a fucking celebrity. Why would he go on wasting his time on nasty me?
Guess I’ll fetch Dora for some Ritual Raging Over Guys. Does wonders. You should try it whoever you are and whoever you’re into. It’s not about being a GIRL that matters and it’s not about raging over a GUY that matters, either – it’s the Raging itself, and its Rituality.
…no, you’re not the only person who would like to thrash Lucy with a dead fish right now.
Feedback is always appreciated!
Chapter 8: Alastor Moody, Prophet
9 January 1996
All right. So that’s it. I fucked up. I’m a colossal idiot.
Holy Merlin. Someone, kill me, please! Then bring me back with some Dark Magic and kill me again…!
I guess this is my wake-up call to tell the whole story the way I should, like, in order – but I just can’t help it, I need to start with the worst. So: remember Broderick Bode? Agent B? The Unspeakable guy we questioned with Dora?
Well, he’s DEAD. Like, physically. Not breathing, that is. Killed, eliminated, extinguished. Caput. The Prophet vaguely mentions an “accident,” but getting suffocated by a Devil’s Snare in your sleep doesn’t qualify as an accident if you ask me.
Let’s face it, it’s our fault. Dora’s and mine – if we haven’t questioned him, maybe he wouldn’t have come into crossfire… Gonna tell you the whole story, anyway. You know, just in case I’d need to clear myself in front of the Wizengamot.
Throwback to 5 January, afternoon: it was a clear, cold Friday. The calm before the shitstorm.
Dora was done in the Ministry at noon, for bloody once. After lunch, we Flooed to Saint Mungo’s, with the innocent-looking (and unabashedly hypocritical) pretext to visit the Longbottoms in the closed ward.
It was the perfect alibi, to be sure – I’ve visited them before with Dad. My parents had liked them a lot, as I understand. Dora continues to visit them every year, and she tells me that it’s always the same thing. “Alice and Frank” stare at her blankly, and they don’t respond to anything…
I think the Longbottoms have a son. Maybe he keeps visiting them, too – must be the absolute worst thing in the universe. I mean, I’ll never quite get over the way Mum died; but at least – how do I put this? Well, at least things ended there. Mum can’t open her grave to haunt me… but to have your parents alive but not speaking, not reacting, not recognizing you… that kind of puts things into perspective, eh?
I’ve told Dora a thousand times that she shouldn’t go visiting. She’s just torturing herself and the Longbottoms won’t recognize her, anyway. Bellatrix Lestrange had Crucioed them to insanity, that’s the point. They don’t get shit. I’m not even sure if they know who they are.
Thankfully, the Healer in charge didn’t share my pragmatic approach, and she allowed us a full hour, all alone with the crazy/otherwise incapacitated people in the hospital room. And here goes the next piece of advice for my never-to-be-born child: Don’t you allow yourself to get depressed by the prospect of visiting a closed ward, honey. Things could always get worse.
For example, you could meet your ex there.
Well. One day, I might write an epic on How I Met Gilderoy Lockhart – not a happy tale, and not one I’m proud of. Let’s say we’ve travelled together for a while, quite on the other side of the planet. I think I’ve always known he was a hoax – he, on the other hand, still doesn’t know that my name is not Dorothy. Well, that’s kind of the point. He knows nothing today, because his mind has been wiped blank. Completely blank, I checked.
It was horrible to see him like this, huddled up alone in the castle he’d made of blankets, signing photos for himself. “This is one of his unreachable days,” the healer said. “He’s making progress, though – you should’ve seen him at Christmas!” And she pats Gil on the back like you pet a six-year-old, then leaves the room.
That, probably, is the only way to handle this: just turn and walk away. Because there is nothing to do.
I’ve been with the guy for what, three months? Not even that long, I suppose. I don’t know why I am even shocked. I can’t talk about it with Dora, though, without telling her about a period of my life she doesn’t know shit about (and probably shouldn’t). And I can’t tell Sirius either, now that we’re not on speaking terms and all.
Remus might understand, though… yeah, that would be the solution. Remus, and a bottle of vodka.
I wonder why do all the geniuses end up like Dumbledore and You-Know-Who – “let’s-see-the-big-picture”-guys, standing on pedestals above ordinary people. Why can’t they just get down to creating spells that cure brain damage instead…?
But I’m not here to talk about philosophy, or my exes, or Dora’s ways of agonizing herself. Let’s get right back to the point. And the point is that Broderick Bode was constantly talking in his… well, let’s call it sleep. It wasn’t any language I speak or have even heard of. Utter nonsense, most likely; and his mind, when I looked into it, was nonsensical, too – a salad bowl of memories and impressions without any principle of time or causality, trapped in a whirl of movement.
It was so hard to keep control that I had to use textbook Legilimency in the end (spellwork and all), and my head hurt like a bitch. Unmanageable avalanches of information hit me at once. I couldn’t make any sense of them… But then, somewhere back in the physical world, Bode resumed his unintelligible monologue, and I glimpsed one precious memory in a remote corner of his mind.
I saw him walking through the Department of Mysteries, with a sense of purpose; I felt his urge to look, to find something there, to steal it… I saw him walk through an aisle, deep into a labyrinth of shelves. He was almost there, he found the thing… now he only had to reach out, and take it… but he couldn’t take it, it was unauthorized, not to mention that horrible things would happen to him if he tried. Still, he had to take it, he NEEDED to. That was the only option. His urge to do it was extremely strong, without any logical foundation at all. It was like having a destination with no starting point. Then Bode reached the hall he’d been looking for, the one that stored a thousand pale-gleaming orbs… he stopped in front of a shelf to take one… to reach out… touch…
…and I suddenly realized just what those orbs were, and why would Bode want to take them; and I also recognized the effects of the Imperius curse.
Next thing I knew I was screaming and biting my fist because the headache came back, worse than ever. Then Dora sort of panicked, and we’ve had a very narrow escape from the healers. We hid in the loo. I took a Muggle Xanax pill (shame on me!) and stared blankly into space for a whole ten minutes while Dora was continuously asking me what the heck was going on. I went on massaging my head for a few more minutes, the abruptly, I looked up at her and said that I was going to Dumbledore, like, RIGHT FUCKING THEN.
So she looks at me funnily, and she’s like, “You both have that. It’s amazing.”
Her: “Sirius and you. The Don’t Cha Mess With Me-voice.”
Me: “I guess so.”
We left it at that.
(Also, fuck Sirius).
Charlie Weasley told me once that some things I do can only be explained if you suppose that I have some giant immaterial balls in my panties. Well… rushing openly into Dumbledore’s office on a Friday afternoon was definitely one of those things.
Now, don’t look at me like that… For someone who had just gone through an hour-long Legilimency session, I was pretty neat. Modest cleavage, uncomfortable high heels, solid makeup, elegantly arrogant demeanour – all in all, I wore my Ministry-face. My legs weren’t even shaking as I stormed through the door, unannounced, the way Dumbledore had specifically told everyone not to.
(In my defence: those sassy guarding statues annoyed the living hell out of me. How the fuck am I supposed to know that Dumbledore has switched to Muggle sweets now, and the new keyword that opens his Merlin-forsaken office is Mars chocolate?!)
Anyway – I stormed through the door, about as gently as an enraged Vipertooth, like, “PROFESSOR DUMBLEDORE!” You know, I had completely forgotten that Hogwarts was a big-ass institute, now infiltrated by the Ministry. And of course, with my usual luck, I happened to stumble upon Umbridge herself, right as I came through the door (I almost knocked her over in fact), and she stopped mid-sentence, quite unpleasantly surprised if you ask me.
Thanks to Bode, my head was about as clear as the Black Lake, but I still recognized the need for improvisation. So I’m like, “Headmaster – I’m so sorry for being late… I honestly have no excuse…” (Small NOD to THE FAT FROG). “…and sorry for interrupting whatever I interrupted. I might as well… wait outside.”
The Fat Frog (false-sweet voice): “I was under the impression that you would start instructing students at the end of this month, dear.”
Me: “Yes, I am, but today, I’m supposed to…” (A very good SHOW of SUDDEN MORTIFICATION). “Oh! Professor Dumbledore! Please tell me that my briefing is today, and not the other Friday! You sent me an owl…”
Dumbledore (lightly): “Oh… the briefing. How could I have forgotten! Please, make yourself comfortable.” (Slight TILT of his HEAD). “Dolores – I appreciate your concern, but I firmly believe that Professor Flitwick’s expertise is highly sufficient to keep his position. He has my full support in that respect. Now – if you would excuse us… Miss Dawlish shall need to get back to London soon, and I have completely forgotten about her briefing.”
The Fat Frog didn’t look very convinced, but she backed down all the same. You just can’t say no to Dumbledore, I suppose…
I asked what Umbridge’s problem with Professor Flitwick was, and when Dumbledore said “his Goblin ancestors”, I had this slight fit of nausea; but then he leaned back in his fancy chair, like, “Tell me why you came here.” And I, who know Dumbledore relatively well compared to other people who claim to know him, heard the unspoken part of the sentence, too: “…and it better be VERY important.”
So I was completely honest for once, and told him everything; and Dumbledore stood up from his chair, and began pacing up and down in the room the way he often would, back in the day, before he’d teach me some interesting shit.
“So you entered his mind…” he muttered, “and you saw what he did… I knew it was possible, but the risk seemed too great… it has been done before, but usually, the intruder’s mind cannot bear the strain… are you all right? How do you feel right now?”
“Dizzy. Something like… like when you’re smoking, ah, you know, weed.” I said lamely. Somehow, it wasn’t hard to imagine that Dumbledore would know what smoking weed felt like.
He looked at me sharply. “Can you recall your previous day?”
I suddenly could not, so I kind of panicked and Dumbledore dragged me straight down to the Healing Ward, where Madame Pomfrey streamed an entire goblet of Dreamless Sleep down my throat. I stayed there until late in the evening, when Snape woke me up (as pleasantly as you can imagine), and I Flooed back you-know-where to an Order meeting (minus the Hogwarts staff). It was then that I had that big-ass row with Sirius. But I have already told you about that.
So here we are. Broke up with my man, an Unspeakable dude died because of me and I still have fits of migraine.
10 January 1996
Very beautiful cover of the Prophet today. “MASS BREAKOUT OF AZKABAN” and stuff. Looky that. While Dolores Umbridge is preoccupied with my old professor’s supposed Goblin ancestors, the woman who murdered my mother is roaming free with nine – nine – of her buddies.
The Ministry’s answer to everything: “Sirius Black gathers his old master’s servants around himself”. Oh for fu… no. You know what?! I won’t even bother to write it down. I’m utterly and completely DONE with our government. Not to be naïve or anything – I know that politics is just about money and notoriety and Orders of Merlin – but damn it… is Fudge really too thick to realize how badly this will backfire when You-Know-Who goes out into the open?!
I wish the Aurors would just leave Sirius be. I mean – we’re over, and everything, but the guy hasn’t done shit. He is You-Know-Who’s enemy. He’s worth more than all of Fudge’s stupid Aurors combined. And I know he reads the Prophet – it must be awful to sit there alone in that dark house and read about how everyone thinks you’re a terrible monster.
And the woman who murdered my mother is now roaming free… Maybe she’ll come for me, too. Or Dad. How is THAT supposed to make me feel?
13 January 1996
Everyone’s upset about what happened to Bode. Kind of puts the incident of Sturgis Podmore in perspective… See, the guy was known to be overly eager to prove himself in front of Dumbledore and – especially – his boss, Kingsley Shacklebolt… In August, he broke into the Department of Mysteries, too, but he was caught before he could try anything. He’s in Azkaban now.
We all thought that he was just being irresponsible, but now I wonder… what if he had been Imperiused, too? Hell, what if Fudge himself is Imperiused, and that’s why he won’t believe the rumours about You-Know-Who…? And if that’s true, do we still stand a bloody chance?!
Mad-Eye tells me that I should have, according to all logic, become insane upon entering Bode’s mind – on the other hand, Mad-Eye is known to get slightly dramatic when it comes to the foresight of possible disasters.
He also said, however, that Bode was going to be murdered within a week, and we all kind of laughed. And BOOM, he gets murdered. Why now, I wonder…? Did someone figure out what we did with Dora? Or has anyone thought about the possibility of inspection? Or is the whole thing connected to the fact that Bode was reportedly getting better…?
They say that the Unspeakables have no families, but that’s bullshit. Everyone has some kind of family, even me. I wonder if anyone misses the guy. Probably not many people. Still… he didn’t deserve to die like that. Who knows, maybe that sexy young healer from Floor 2 is on the brink of some epic discovery that could reverse brain damage. Maybe he could have saved Bode… or maybe the bloke was predestined to think he was a teapot until the end of his life. Now we’ll never know, because Dora and I dug too deep, and uncovered hell.
Now that Bode is dead, I don’t feel half as justified about our little adventure as before. And I wish I hadn’t bitchslapped Sirius, or rather: I wish I hadn’t let the situation escalate to a point where a bitchslap was necessary.
The worst thing is that he was kind of (I repeat: KIND OF) right. I usually let people shag me before I let them realize how awful I actually am. But hell, I’d never get laid if I didn’t, okay? Everyone needs to get laid sometimes.
Well, it’s not like it matters now. It seems that Sirius gave up on me anyway, and honestly, I can’t blame him for it. I’m a fucking mess.
Maybe the Death Eaters will come for me, after all, like he said, and Crucio the shit out of me. Never been Crucioed before, but I think there are things that hurt more.
14 January 1996
This kitchen is just too bloody big, you know?! Makes me feel even more alone than I already am. Not like it’s a new thing.
Merlin, I really need to get over my constant underlying need for romance. It’s just not gonna happen okay…? I have always wanted a man who would fight for me, and Sirius Black did fight for me until he discovered I was not worth fighting for.
And that’s the bloody problem here. If I want the romance kind of thing, I have to become a person who deserves it. Or maybe I should just find a guy who’s okay with fighting for me, while being too much of a fucking invalid to see how I really am.
Okay. Done with the drama for today, I promise.
15 January 1996
Dora decided that she likes Remus, and she won’t stop pestering me about it. She says that he can’t take hints, and sometimes just kind of “floats in space”. I’m convinced that (1) Remus understands more of said hints than Dora herself and (2) that he floats perpetually in some higher dimension than us, ordinary humans. That’s where his strokes of genius come from.
I told Dora to persist. Maybe that will work. She should probably get Remus very drunk and abruptly start snogging him, but that’s just not Dora’s kind of thing. She wears latex and stuff, but she can be such a blushing maid sometimes.
And I’m not convinced if she knows that Remus is a werewolf. He’s my closest friend now. I’m supposed to keep his secrets… but then again, Dora is my childhood friend and you’d want your childhood friend to know that she’s dating a werewolf.
And I haven’t forgotten what Remus can do when he’s not himself.
16 January 1996
Rode around Darlington this evening. Property’s still fucking huge. And yes… I said rode. Turns out that the estate has an entire colony of Thestrals. They even figure on the papers and stuff, I just haven’t noticed it yet. Anyway, I befriended one of them, and I named him Morpheus (not very original, I know). Still, I have a fucking Thestral. How awesome is that?!
Morpheus is one of the most punk-rock pets I’ve ever had. He looks like some leathery goth unicorn. Without the horn. Eh. You get my meaning.
I think I actually like living here, by the way, even if it makes me feel like an evolutional failure for not having a family to fill it. This place is truly wonderful, especially the library. You probably wouldn’t think, but I like reading. You can learn loads of interesting stuff from books, especially if you don’t believe everything their authors say.
I’ve been thinking about writing a little update for Aunt Rowan. Like, the house still stands, you’re welcome to stop by if you ever come around. But that’s ridiculous, isn’t it? The Graves’ live in New York, and the rest of my family doesn’t care about me. Why would anyone bother to visit…?
It took me a while to realize, but it kind of hurts that my Grandfather didn’t come with my aunt and uncle. To visit me. I mean, I don’t even think we’ve met. I should have asked about him... maybe he and Mum were at odds, like me and Dad.
Although I think Dad would kind of mollify if I died and left a kid behind. He’d raise him (or her), and he’d probably be a lot nicer than he’d been with me. It would make him feel validated.
Anyway, what I wanted to say is that I really like it here, although there’s something strange about the mansion itself. I feel like someone’s watching me – especially when I prepare to sleep. At times, I wake up at night, and I hear (or I think I hear) someone walking around. Creak of floor-boards, rustle of fabrics, that kind of thing. Doors that I’ve left open are sometimes closed, or the other way around. Some other times, I walk down to the parlour in the morning, and the curtains are withdrawn, although I’m totally sure that I’d left them closed the previous evening. A family ghoul, maybe…? But that doesn’t make sense. Those things moan like bad whores.
Off to make some plans now. I’m starting my Hogwarts teaching sessions this weekend. So Not Thrilled. Thank Merlin it’s just one weekend a month…
18 January 1996, dawn
Had this stupid dream, and I wanna write it down QUICKLY before I forget it:
Sirius was roaming around in this Wizengamot judge uniform. He just wore it for Halloween, but everyone believed that he was a real judge, or something like that. Anyway, he worked in the Ministry (which looked like my Dad’s Victorian-style house for some reason) and he ordered everyone around. Also, Remus was Minister for Magic and I was supposed to have a briefing with him, because I was this detective kind of thing. So I went to the briefing, and Remus gave me the boot because I couldn’t speak perfectly in Shakespeare quotes; but then Sirius told me that I could have my job back if I uncovered a criminal in a day. I panicked and went immediately after it because Uncle Graves called me on the Floo, and said very reproachfully that the grass was too long in Darlington and I really needed to cut it down; and with a Muggle lawn mower, because my lawn mowing spells weren’t precise enough. So I needed gold to buy a Muggle lawn mower, see. I searched through some files and I uncovered that Fudge had a secret porn career under the nickname Sassy Solomon – I gathered the evidence and all, but Remus wouldn’t believe me. Sirius had me convicted for fraud with his sexy blonde secretary, and they both laughed at me and told me what a perv I was, and then they made out, so I watched Sirius make out with that blonde secretary in kind of a slo-mo. Everyone was calling me a liar, and I felt like the world was going to end or something.
Then I woke up, crying.
Shit, I thought this would be funny. I always rest convinced that I can’t get more pathetic, and then BOOM – here we go!
Hah. Bet he’d make out with her secretary right in front of me if he had one.
Or might not even feel the need to do it. I haven’t heard about him in two weeks.
21 January 1996
Phew. Never thought I’d say this because I’ve always loved it there, but: FINALLY going home from bloody Hogwarts. My first teaching experience was approximately as terrible as it could get. Now, I’m jolting homewards on the Knight Bus, which is almost full. Plenty of destination priorities… and an entire hour of Stan Shunpike looking at my tits when he thinks I can’t see it.
I should set him up with Dora. At least she would no longer complain that someone’s ignoring her tits.
Sorry ‘bout the bad writing, this bus is a death-trap. Once I get home, though, I’ll be way too tired to do anything, so better get down to it right now, while that stupid old hag snores down at me from the gallery.
I actually had my first set of Defence classes planned, which is a pretty good start knowing my usual level of organization. (Basically, I asked Remus what he would do, so the credit is not really mine, either).
Anyway, I thought I was prepared to teach… hah-hah. My ass. First, I had to get through the Initial Preconceptions (the kids had expected Umbridge’s evil twin sister to walk into the classroom, or something…), then the fact that I’m a foxy blonde in high heels, not even a decade older than them, and they’re gonna have to obey me. I guess that’s the hardest part; and since I’m not supposed to act like, well, me in a classroom, I pretty much fucked up the keep-your-dignity part.
At the beginning, it wasn’t so bad. We sat in a circle, and I asked the kids who they were, what subjects they were taking – you know, basic briefing thing. There are the Weasley twins (only they weren’t there this time, because they were doing detention with Snape), then two other Gryffindors (Angelina Johnson and Lee Jordan), a rather dramatically narcissistic Ravenclaw (Roger Davies), another Ravenclaw who is already One Hundred Percent Stressed about the NEWT-s (Patricia Stimpson) and two Slytherins, thick as thieves (Adrian Pucey and – Merton Graves).
And you know, there is always that one kid. That anthropomorphic incarnation of the Devil himself, who wreaks havoc with every breath and fucks shit up within the blink of an eye. Back in my day, I was that one kid; and in my new classroom, that one kid appears to be Merton Graves. I think this calls for the kind of thing I haven’t done in a while – a list…
Things That Are Wrong About Me Teaching Merton Graves
One: He plays in the Weird Sisters. At bloody seventeen. He’s only finishing Hogwarts because he promised his Daddy that he would. How touching.
Two: …consequence of Point One: he speaks daily to Myron Wagtail, that piece of shit. And I’m sure as hell he’ll tell him about me.
Three: He is – if I remember correctly – the great-grandson of my great uncle, which makes us cousins on some level, I suppose…(?) anyway, we’re RELATED. Ugh.
Four: He’s an annoying little piece of crap. Oh, and he’s spoiled. Daddy has to be some Honourable Rich Bloke who has no idea what his son does at school because he’s too busy building his career. I recognize the type when I see it.
…anyway, I immediately suspected that Merton Graves would make my life hell, and voilà, he set to it. Friday evening’s lesson was a minor disaster; the two Saturday lessons major ones; and after today’s three-hour session in the morning, I climbed the stairs to Moaning Myrtle’s toilet and cried there for an entire hour. It wasn’t really sadness, just… helplessness. And strain. So much strain.
Honestly, I was on the brink of telling Dumbledore that I couldn’t do this. Teaching is just not for me, especially if I have to act like a Ministry moron, and only graze the surface of all the shit I’m supposed to teach. Honestly, I thought I was all right. Nice, and all. I didn’t use four-letter words with those little gits. I was ready to answer their questions.
I just wasn’t ready to put up with the passive aggressive shit of that kid Merton Graves – always asking trick questions (he’s a smart one, I grant him that), always pointing out the logical anomalies of defensive magic, always getting back on points and topics that would reveal that I’m not, in fact, a DADA expert…
I know he was doing it on purpose, and I also know that he felt validated every time I slipped, or made a mistake, or lost my train of thought. Today, he stressed me out so much that I started messing up my spellwork, too. It was pretty fucking awful. That little shit!
I think that’s how I’ll call him from now on. The Little Shit.
Eventually, I put myself together, though; I assured Myrtle that no, I was rather not keen on becoming her flatmate in the plughole; and trod down to the dungeons to tell Snape about my next teaching weekend. I don’t want him to retain the Weasley twins again, they might be the only ones who take my side in the war against Little Shit…
Snape was busy, as always, and – weird – he had no qualms about rescheduling any detentions he might have next month. He even let me have a look at his Draught of Living Death.
I wonder how the snarky bastard does it. It was clearer than a full moon’s night.
We’ve always had an antagonistic-but-fruitful relationship: him, the Head of Slytherin house and me, the Gryffindor with a rather distinctive knack for Potions. And not all my memories of him are bad ones. For example, when I blew up my first cauldron, he gave me detention. I was supposed to write down “I’m a student, not a flailing mandrill” three hundred times, but Snape had been working over a bubbling cauldron right next to me and that seemed a lot more interesting. So I started asking him questions (why do this? why do that? when should the rat brains come in? why should you stir it only counter-clockwise? what would happen if you added Butterbeer to it?), and once I broke through the necessary amount of ice and walls, he started answering me, as he would do for the next six and a half years.
I mean, whenever he felt like it.
Occasionally, though, he would even start conversations with me, like today. I was wondering aloud if adding mint to the Draught of Living Death would make its surface smoother, when suddenly, Snape cut right through my sentence, out of the blue, saying:
“I’m rather immersed with a research on Portkeys these days.”
Me: “…why Portkeys? Not very potion-ish, mind you.”
Him: “There are not many I would trust with the inspection of such powerful magic. It’s more complex than you might think.”
Me: “More complex how? It’s just a shortcut through the dimension of space.”
Him: “A shortcut with many restrictions. If your Portkey were, for example, to have an appointed destination within a Fidelius Charm, only those who share the Secret would get to the desired place.”
Me: “Okay, but what would happen to the others?”
Him (darkly): “That is what I am researching now. There are many possibilities. Nullified effect… randomized destination… death… an eternal state of limbo within a wormhole-like dimension of space…”
Me (increasingly interested): “Whoa…”
Him: “Do you know how to do one? Did they teach you at school?”
Me: “The spellwork theory was a question on my Charms NEWT, but we never actually did it at school. Dumbledore taught me, though. After my fifth year. But there was a lot more to it than what the books say.”
At that point, there was a noise in the corridor, and Snape glanced up abruptly at me. His eyes were very dark, and icy, somehow.
“You should get going. The High Inspector said she would like to have a word with me this evening.”
…and that was it. Trust Severus Snape to bring up a super interesting topic, then abandon the conversation at his earliest convenience. Merlin, he must have some issues, too.
You know, I can’t help but think that he told me about Portkeys for a reason. I just can’t figure out why.