Chapter 34 : Chapter 34
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Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Severus Snape : February 1, 1992
You didn't walk in on anything that day ! He was teaching me to dance for the ball -- which I tried to tell you but you wouldn't listen! You not only can't talk to your students, you can't listen to them either. Do you have any idea how humiliating that was for me? I wasn't that kind of girl -- I'm STILL not that kind of girl ! ! ! ! Concern is one thing, but bursting in like you did, handing out detentions and taking away points is another. See what I mean about you being mean?
There -- I feel much better having gotten that out of my system. It's been bugging me for years. Getting to know you has been thereputic in some ways.
Now; "pretending to be happy" and being decent to people are two different things. You might feel happier if you tried acting like you were. Being nice when you don't feel like it isn't "being dishonest", it's being polite. Even if you're miserable, what good does it do to make everyone else miserable too?
Severus, you really need to get out of there. That's no way to live, being depressed all the time. You're wasting your life sitting there in that dungeon, hating your job and vegetating. You talk about pushing your students to reach their full potential, but what about your potential? You're not going to reach it living the way you are now. When I was one of your students I just thought you were cruel and spiteful, now I realize you're just depressed.
And Severus, I won't deny that I'm curious about learning unforgivables, I just don't know that it's a good idea. I worry about what darker nature may be lurking somewhere deep down inside myself -- I'm his daughter after all. Besides, we don't want to give Professor Dumbledore a heart attack, do we? Nevertheless, I will come visit you over summer if you want me to.
And one more thing I need to say that I don't think you'll like. (Sorry). Don't put that kid in detention to keep him out of the match ! You're doing the same thing to him that you were doing to me when you gave me detention to keep me from going to the ball. If you harass him for no apparent reason he'll end up hating you for it. I know I did -- though I don't anymore now that I understand you better.
But if anything does happen to Harry....I might just help you brew up the aforementioned poison. He isn't that corrupt, is he? What a waste of a life.
Take care of yourself, please.
Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Rubeus Hagrid : February 3, 1992
Don't be silly --- you are a teacher. I learned more from you than I ever learned from Kettleburn. People learn better by doing than by sitting in a stuffy classroom listening, at least in my experience.
Take training owls to carry mail for example. Remember that fall when I helped you train a new batch for the school owlery? In my Care of Magical Creatures class we read about the process, but reading about it doesn't teach you half so well as actually doing it does. People generally just buy an owl and stick it on a perch and take for granted that it will do it's job. They have no clue the work that goes into it or the relationship of trust and respect between trainer and bird. You learn to appreciate animals more when you work with them, and that's something I got from you. If not for you I might have ended up specializing in potions or something -- and then I'd have to go after Snape's job.
I'm getting to practice my own teaching skills a little bit here. I have some friends who couldn't afford formal magical education so I've been helping to tutor them. Every week they make a little more progress which is very gratifying. It's very time consuming, but I don't regret it.
Sounds like things are nice and cozy there in the cabin. Say hello to Fang and the salamanders and the mice for me. I think mice are cute, but my mother would never let me have any because she thinks they're 'vermin'. I can't wait to get back to Hogwarts where I can have access to all the interesting creatures I want.
Letter from Charlie Weasley to Cerridwyn Howard: February 10, 1992
Sorry it's been a while since I wrote last, but things have been crazy here. A friend of mine and fellow researcher named Dmitri was almost killed by a dragon the other week. Quidditch games have been suspended.
There was a dragon sleeping near where we were playing, hidden in the brush and snow. We have this one woman -- really husky -- who got a bit exuberant and the quaffle landed on the dragon. Dmitri didn't see it until he was almost on top of it and swerved about a second too late. He got hit head on by a really wicked blast of fire.
You're always saying that Quidditch is a waste of time, but it taught me good reflexes. I got the dragon's attention and distracted it by making it chase me until the others got Dmitri out of harm's way. I only got singed a bit --- but don't tell my mother !
Dmitri was in bad shape so a couple of us strapped him into a harness and flew him to the nearest healer, thirty miles away. We stayed over a few days to make sure he was okay. He still isn't conscious as far as I know, but they say he's going to make it . They're not sure if they can fix the scars though.
Great idea about sending dragon doo to Fred and George. I could use a good laugh about now. I wouldn't even mind paying the extra shipping rates at this point. I think I might give it a try.
No, my mother doesn't know about Saskia and I don't want her to. She'd blow it completely out of proportion. What was she doing discussing my love life anyway? Is your mother that way? Does she drive you crazy even from thousands of miles away?
Sounds like your band is starting to take off -- just don't get bit by anything.
Well, today has not been the most fun day I ever had, even if I hadn't been dragged to Diagon Alley against my will. The dementors were loose in the commune again.
Remus seemed very pensive when I picked him up for practice, but if anything was bothering him, he wouldn't say. Whatever it was, I'm sure he forgot about it once we arrived at the commune and found it in chaos. Most of the inmates were milling in the courtyard, staring up fearfully at the building. I knew instantly what the trouble must be and felt my stomach give a sickening lurch.
"Wonderful." said Remus in a frustrated tone. "Do you feel comfortable splitting up to deal with this? It will go faster."
"Sure. Don't worry about me. I can handle it."
"Right then." he said grimly, pulling out his wand.
"I hope they suck your guts out through your nose!" called Yestin Plunkett as we passed him.
"Nice to see you too." said Remus over his shoulder as we continued on.
"What is his problem?" I asked heatedly.
"No brains." growled Royal. He and Celestia were standing in the shadow of the building with their children huddled around them, two girls and two boys. "Would you please get rid of those horrors before we all freeze to death out here? I'd do it myself but somehow I don't think punching them will work and I don't have a wand. And you'd better tell that to Mel if you see him."
Remus shook his head in disbelief. "He has to stop doing that. One of these days he's going to hit a dementor and be kissed. Kerri, you take the righthand side, I'll take the left. If you find Mel, tie him up if you have to, but don't let him take a swing at any dementors."
I nodded, trying not to laugh despite the seriousness of the situation. With one last glance over my shoulder at Remus, I started up the stairs and almost collided with a teenage couple holding hands and clutching a poker.
"Where are they and how many?" I asked.
"Two on the third floor. That's where we just came from." panted the boy.
"Thanks -- run for the courtyard -- none are out there."
Holding my wand before me in the combative position I took the stairs two at a time until I reached the third floor landing. Peering down the hall I was just in time to see a tall, black figure emerge from an apartment door. "Expecto Patronum!" I shouted, and my little winged boar flew full tilt down the narrow corridor, straight at it's target.
If dementors could show surprise, that one would have. It paused, looking my direction, face obscured by it's hood. Once it realized it was under attack, it turned and went back into the flat from which it had just emerged.
This was not ideal. "NO!" I gasped, even as a shrill scream rent the air from inside the apartment.
My patronus had swung around for another charge and beat me to the door. I got there just in time to see the dementor actually break through the window to escape it. Acting quickly, I repaired the glass and fortified it to prevent the dementor from coming back in that way. Then I turned to an older woman who was cowering behind a chair in a corner. "It's gone. Stay in here and lock the door. I think that's safer than trying to get downstairs."
I didn't wait for a reply as I turned on my heel and reentered the hall, my patronus scurrying around my ankles. It's presence was comforting and I felt very calm in spite of the situation. "Let's just go see if we can find the other one." I told it quietly.
The hall was eerily empty and quiet as I passed door after closed door. It reminded me of an old horror movie I'd seen once about a cursed hotel. I startled as another hulking black figure suddenly appeared at the end of the hallway, and started gliding in my direction.
Once more my patronus charged. The dementor swooped backward quickly to the intersecting corridor at the far end of the hall. A second figure appeared suddenly at it's side wielding what looked like a Quidditch beater's club.
"No Mel ! Get back!" I shouted, hurrying to intercede and praying I wouldn't be put into another position where my only recourse was to attack the dementor by hand. I did not want a repeat of the last such encounter. Fortunately, the dementor was shrinking away from my patronus which had wedged itself between it and Mel. We watched as it retreated down the hall and swooped out of the window at the far end.
"They can fly?" asked Mel, distractedly.
"Not that I know of. They must be using the ledges. I don't care -- let's just fix the window so it can't get back in. Go ahead -- you know how. "
With a satisfied sort of grin, Mel stuck the club through his belt and pulled out his wand. "Reparo." he said, giving it a quick wave. "Awesome."
"This spell will make the glass unbreakable. Infragilius." I showed him.
"Infragilius." Mel repeated. "I'll remember it."
"Are there any more dementors?"
"Probably. Usually they come over, ten at a time and split up between the two wings. Tell me how you do that get-rid-of-dementors thing."
"Not now -- you aren't ready." I said impatiently as I started back toward the stairs. "We'd better get rid of the others. Stay with me -- Remus told me to keep you out of trouble."
"He did? What a jerk. You know it totally sucks getting saved by a girl."
"I won't tell anyone." I distractedly promised, listening for sounds of more trouble. Taking the stairs two at a time, we reached the fourth floor landing. "I've chased out two, so that leaves three assuming you're right." Cautiously, I peered down the dimly lit passage of securely shut doors. All was quiet. "Somehow I think if they were on this floor we'd see or hear some sign. Let's go to the next one."
We ran up another flight of stairs and found the fifth floor corridor as deserted as the fourth.
"Pretty much all we can do is lock the doors and wait it out." said Mel. "I'm sick of living this way."
"I don't blame you."
A sudden disturbance caught our attention as someone rounded the far corner and burst into the hall. It was Streak, stark naked, jumping up and down to taunt two dementors gliding toward him.
I fought an unholy urge to laugh. Remus had warned me about Mel's habit of hitting dementors, but not Streak's habit of flashing them. "This is what werewolves do for exercise?" I asked Mel.
"That and howl at the moon."
Streak was now barreling in our direction with the dementors in pursuit. "Run like hell." he gasped as he passed us, running down the stairs two at a time.
Mel and I backed onto the landing as the dementors bore down on us. I couldn't see their faces beneath their hoods, but it was evident that they were more interested in catching up with Streak than us. Not that I blamed them.
"Expecto Patronum!" Mel and I shouted in unison.
Naturally Mel's spell had no effect, but my plucky little winged boar reappeared and charged the dementors, who swooped down the stairs to escape it. In their haste, they almost collided with Streak who ducked into the nearest landing just in time to get out of their way.
"Whoo-hoo!" Streak cheered, jumping up and down like a maniac.
"Will you PLEASE put on some clothes?" I begged as I passed him, anxious to make sure that the dementors didn't run into anyone else on the way down and create more havoc. In a wry corner of my mind I could see the humor of the situation. It reminded me of one of those old cartoons where the good guys and bad guys chase each other in and out of a random set of doors in seemingly endless pursuit. All we needed was some campy pop song in the background.
By the time we caught up...Streak trailing behind, still completely naked... three dementors had congregated beneath the stairs and were trying to force entrance into a large iron door. Relentlessly jogging along on it's stubby little legs with the occasional push from it's wings, my patronus tore after them, making them scatter. Mel, Streak and I watched them from the stairs as it forced them out the front doors and into the courtyard.
"YES!" exclaimed Streak, energetically bouncing up and down beside me.
"STOP THAT !" I exclaimed, looking everywhere but at him. "We need to go cut them off -- Royal had his kids out there when Remus and I got here."
Together, we burst through the doors and into the open air just as Remus's great silver stallion charged past. Remus was standing in the middle of the courtyard, wand in hand, watching the last of the dementors disappear over the walls.
Streak quickly retreated to the far end of the yard to avoid Royal who was looking at him with murder in his eyes and his hands over the eyes of one of his kids. The excitement over, the people who had taken refuge outside began heading in. Yestin Plunkett shot me a resentful look as he passed, probably disappointed that I, like Remus, had survived the encounter intact.
"Got a problem?" Mel shouted at his back, raising his beater's club again.
But Yestin didn't spare him so much as a glance as the doors closed behind him.
Remus joined us, looking with disgust at Streak who was jogging toward us in all his naked glory.
"That was great." panted Streak brightly. "Great job."
"Cold?" asked Remus dryly.
"Yeah -- think I'll go get dressed. Kerri's freaking out."
"Which is nothing to what Royal will do if he gets his hands on you. I'd avoid him for a while were I you."
"I'll be careful." Streak promised as he headed inside.
"There --- look --- you can see his scar." Mel told me, pointing.
"No thank you." I said flatly.
"Are you all right?" asked Remus.
"Besides being flashed by Streak....I'm fine. You?"
"No harm done. I had Basil and Augustus with me until we became separated. Have you seen them? I last saw them heading downstairs."
"No." I answered, and then a light went off in my brain. "Unless.....wait a second." Turning toward the building I headed inside, going right to the iron door beneath the stairs. I gave it a yank and found it secure. "Anyone in there?" I shouted, banging on it with my fist.
There was a pause, a creak on the other side, and then the door came open, grating heavily on the floor. Basil and Augustus were inside along with a very annoyed looking girl who slapped Basil hard on the arm before storming out of the room and up the stairs.
"I can't trust you alone for one moment." said Remus, who had followed me inside.
"What?" asked Basil with a guilty grin.
"What is this room?" I asked, looking over his shoulder. It seemed to go down in to a basement-like area that was large enough that I couldn't see how far back it went. The walls were thick stone cut right out of the ground and the place was very damp and dreary.
"This is where we used to have to go during full moons back before the potion was invented." Basil explained. "The ministry would send officials to lock us in. Parents still have to lock up their kids who are too young to take the potion yet. No one can hear you down here."
"I know." said Augustus in a reminiscent sort of way. "My daughter was conceived down here."
"That's more than I needed to know." I told him. "This place is built like a bunker...you could set this up as a safe room against dementors."
"It wouldn't work." Remus vetoed. "You'd never be able to evacuate the entire population quickly enough or safely enough."
"Yestin would get in and lock everyone else out." said Mel. "And Basil would get in here with all the girls and not let anyone else in."
"You're just jealous." Basil smirked.
"Has anyone seen Brand lately?" asked Mel.
It turned out that no one had seen him so we all started upstairs feeling a bit anxious. Fortunately, our worry was shortlived as he met us halfway up to Basil's room along with a fully clothed Streak.
"Everyone okay?" he asked. "I was holed up in my apartment with my neighbor. He doesn't get around like he used to."
"Great...everyone in one piece." said Basil, clapping his hands. "Who wants popcorn? Nothing like a little party after a game of hide and seek with dementors."
So that's what we did, and we never actually got around to formal practice, though we did take out our instruments and experiment a bit. We're a rock band first and foremost but it's fun to sometimes just play around with different things. I played them a couple country music songs which they listened to with careful attention.
"Some parts of that sound almost Celtic." was Brand's verdict.
"Well, some types of country music came from Celtic originally -- from Irish and Scots immigrants who settled in the hills." I told him.
"Hey listen." said Mel, who apparently had other things on his mind. "When can we start learning to fight dementors? How come when I said 'expecto patronum' nothing happened?"
"Because it isn't just 'point and shoot'."
"You have a lot of basics to learn first." Remus added. "The patronus charm is seventh year material at Hogwarts. You simply aren't ready."
"When will we be?" asked Streak, sounding disappointed.
"Realistically, not until next year at least, and that's stretching it. It depends upon your progress....no one ever said it would be quick and easy. Nothing worth having ever is." said Remus in response to more disappointed faces all around.
"The harder you study, the better." I added. "Streak is doing the right thing in reading my books and learning the theory behind the spells. You'll have to understand the theory behind the patronus charm to work it."
"This obviously isn't formal school." Remus pointed out. "You are responsible for your own progress -- and you are coming along better than I would have expected."
"Well let me read some of those books when you finish them, Streak." said Mel determinedly. "I'm sick of running from dementors. The sooner I can kick their ass, the better. Do dementors have asses? I've never seen a dementors ass, but they must have something they sit on. Do dementors sit?"
"I have no idea -- look it up." I laughed. "If you can't find it in one of my books then try the library."
Apart from the dementors it was a pretty nice evening. The guys are so fun to be around because you never know what will come out of their mouths next. Do dementors have butts ? Honestly.
Remus, in contrast was unusually quiet, and had a very thoughtful expression on his face. I asked him about it as we headed downstairs a couple of hours later.
"I was thinking about your safe room idea."
"But you said it was a bad idea."
"No. I said that it wouldn't work. There might be a way, however. I was reading about a spell last night that involves teaching a door to recognize a photo of your enemy and refuse entrance. You know we have an advantage over dementors...something they don't have."
"Magic." I promptly supplied.
"Precisely. They can't break spells because they can't perform magic. There would be no way for them to break that charm, leaving physical attack as their only recourse. Well, it would be very easy to fortify the doors against that as well."
"What a great idea."
"Perhaps." said Remus with a smile. "It still needs work. Putting a single safe room at the bottom of the stairs would not work. It would be dangerous trying to evacuate everyone there. It would be wiser to place at least one safe room on each floor of each wing. That would mean people being willing to open up their flats to their neighbors though, which might prove difficult. "
"I'll bet the boys would help. So would Royal."
"And Royal has influence so others might follow his lead. Give me time to think things through a bit more, and then we may go run the idea past him."
"Sounds great." I agreed.
"And something else -- about this ball. Could we hire someone to fill in for us on the paper route that night? That way we won't be pressed for time."
"Are you sure?" I asked, wondering if he could afford to miss another day's pay.
"Of course." he said, shooting me a knowing look that told me he understood my concern. "Do you have a dress yet?"
"Yes. A white one. Tonks had hysterics -- she thought I should wear a brighter color, but I had to buy used and it was the right size and didn't have any flaws. I like it."
"And that's the thing that matters."
So the day wasn't a total wash and ended on a cheerful note. I'm just tired I guess after running all over Diagon Alley this afternoon and then all over the commune tonight. I'll be glad when this ball is over and things settle down.
Author's Note : Thank you so much for all the kind reviews. I absolutely live for them.
Next Chapter : Kerri and Remus attend the Valentine's Ball.
Remus and I separated with guilty starts at the sound of a key in the lock of the front door. My heart was pounding so fast that I could hardly breathe --- and when had he put his hand on my waist?
"Hot cocoa?" asked Tonks brightly as she swept into the room. "Any left for me?"
"No." I said a bit stupidly, staring in shock at Remus who looked equally stunned at what had just happened and slightly ashamed too. I watched him struggle to master himself.
"I need to be going." he said, his usual pleasant smile strained. "Good night. Tonks -- Kerri."
I nodded dully and didn't try to stand up. I was shaking so hard that I knew my legs would never support me. What would have happened had Tonks not walked in just then?
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