The Sugar Quill
Author: Rugi (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: A Model  Chapter: Chapter Three: Too Many Answers
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Remus fled from Dumbledore’s office at a near run

Chapter 3

Too Many Answers


The Hogwarts Great Hall was one of the most impressive magical sites in all of England.  Its ever-changing ceiling, the rows of House tapestries, the very vastness of it made it one of the prime points of interest for summer tourists.  And they never saw it full of chattering students, proudly wearing their House colors and demolishing their breakfasts before class.  They didn’t get to see Albus Dumbledore, most powerful wizard of the age, calmly devouring heavily buttered toast.  The first day of school at Hogwarts was worth traveling far to see and a thousand students did so every year.


Atropos had never attended Hogwarts.  What she had seen of it since her arrival by Floo powder a week ago had been her own chambers, several dark corridors, and Dumbledore’s office.  All of her meals had been taken while working.  Preparing the first sections of a model required total attention and left no time for touring the castle.  This first breakfast should have been an awe-inspiring experience.


But Atropos’s first view of the Great Hall in all of its school year glory was ruined by the fact that she felt as if she’d been hit in the gut with a sledgehammer.  Lupin’s stricken face had stuck with her as she ran through the halls and the full import of what they would be asking Black to do sunk in.  Sickening guilt was not an emotion she was accustomed to dealing with.  It was all she could do to stop her face from showing her feelings. 


When she had decided to go to Dumbledore about her discoveries regarding Sirius Black, she had been filled with anger about being lied to and about being manipulated.  She had wanted someone to know that she hadn’t failed with her model, that she was still the best.  But she had also wanted to make the truth about an innocent man common knowledge.  She acted with the intention that justice, long over-do, would be meted out upon Peter Pettigrew.  Dumbledore’s revelation about Voldemort had seemed like the culmination of the events that started with the Black model.  She hadn’t really needed to think when he asked for her help.  Well that’s the problem of course.  I never really thought what fighting against the Dark Lord would mean.  I never thought I would be throwing Sirius Black to the lions for the best of reasons.


It was all very well to be piously willing to surrender your own position and status in society, especially when it wasn’t that much of a sacrifice.  But when the true sacrifice was to come from someone wholly unassociated to you, who deserved much better?  The knowledge that Voldemort’s downfall was worth one man’s unhappiness was a bitter consolation.  Twelve years in Azkaban and two on the run and we’re supposed to tell him that he has to lie low for the rest of the war and allow his betrayer to go free unchallenged?  Isn’t there some kind of limit on the amount of misery that can be inflicted on a person?


She approached the High Table and met the eyes of the Headmaster.  His powerful presence gave her a stirring of relief and hope.  It seemed that somehow he could make things right in the face of her own powerlessness.  Or at least he would take on the responsibility. 


The seat at his left was empty and he gestured amiably for her to sit, “I trust, Academic, that you were able to find your way through the castle?”  He passed a plate of sausages.  The other teachers murmured polite greetings as she settled herself the she acknowledged inattentively.  Atropos was careful to keep her eyes on the Headmaster.  She didn’t feel equal to keeping up a polite conversation with anyone.  Dumbledore smiled gently.  Maybe he thought she was nervous about all of the stares she was receiving.


She smiled back rather stiffly, “Yes sir.  The portraits were kind enough to direct me.”  When she had been able to rise above her haze of guilt, she had felt like a fool, rushing through the castle while Medieval nobleman and Georgian ladies shouted directions at her from the walls.  She took a deep breath,  “Sir I have something I need to speak with you about.”


But Dumbledore was already rising to get the attention of the Hall.  Breakfast was unusually well attended that morning because the Prefects had been ordered to make certain that all of the Fifth and Sixth year students would be present for the announcement about the oneiromancer recruiter.  The older students were all fidgeting in their seats, unaccustomed to being forced to linger over their food.  The only truly quiet table was the Ravenclaws’, some of whom actually knew more about Dumbledore’s future topic than just the word “oneiromancer.”


Atropos sat impatiently through his introduction, concentrating on keeping a social smile on her face.  She barely heard what he said though; she was too distracted to care what Dumbledore told the students about her.  When he was finished he sat down and turned to Atropos his face impassive, “You wished to ask me something?”


Looking into his eyes, Atropos swallowed hard and forced out her question, “Have you read the Daily Prophet yet, sir?” 


The Headmaster’s face changed from one unreadable expression to another.  He turned his head to watch the approach of the mail owls.  When he spoke his voice was expressionless, “I have.”


Oh this doesn’t sound good.  Please please please don’t say what I think your going to say.  Her stomach began to churn and she fought to keep her words level and conversational for anyone who was casually listening, “Sir I need to know, Lupin needs to know, whether you have discussed our plans with …” she hesitated over the dangerous name.


When Dumbledore answered he continued to stare out at the Hall and he sounded ineffably weary, “You will find in life, Academic Merriman, that even such as I sometimes put off until tomorrow unpleasant business that should have been finished yesterday.” 


“Sir,” she said weakly, unsure really of what she would say but feeling the need to say something.  He raised his hand to stop her words.


“But I have begun to set the right actions into motion.” He said unhappily, “Our friend will be arriving in a few days time.  And I daresay we will have more than one painful discussion ahead of us then.”  Dumbledore’s eyes remained fixed on the crowd of students.  Curious, Atropos followed his gaze to a group of three teenagers bent over a newspaper and ignoring their food.  One, a tall boy with red hair, had his hand braced against the shoulder of his dark-haired friend.  A young girl was seated on the opposite side of him talking urgently.  When Atropos looked at Dumbledore questioningly, he smiled sadly, “Mr. Potter and his friends,” he said.


Harry Potter, Black’s godson.  Pettigrew betrayed him and his parents.  He won’t be happy about Black taking the blame and Pettigrew going free either.  And now I have to tell Lupin that Black doesn’t know a thing.  I suppose that will be the first of the painful discussions.  Atropos rose from her chair and murmured her farewells.  She completely ignored Professor Flitwick polite chatter as he escorted her to the room she would be meeting the students in.  She was too busy mentally preparing herself for her next meeting with Lupin. 


* * *


The Gryffindor table was buzzing with restless, cranky students.  No one but the First Years had wanted to wake up early and assemble for Dumbledore’s speech.  Ron teased Hermione that her first real job as a Prefect had been rousting everyone out of bed at a disgustingly early hour.


Harry idly picked through his food while he waited for Dumbledore to begin.  Hermione was keeping Ron busy reading through a list of questions.  She was hoping to find one that didn’t produce a helium balloon squeak from her friend but so far had had very little luck.  Harry was rather surprised that Ron hadn’t decided to rebel yet.  With uncharacteristic tolerance, Ron sat through question after oblique question despite the high-pitched results.


When Harry saw the blue-robed woman enter the Dining Hall he tapped Hermione’s arm to get her attention and indicated the woman now seated next to Dumbledore.  “That’s probably the onnymanter.  Unless Professor Figg has finally arrived.”


Hermione frowned, “Oneiromancer, Harry,” she corrected.  “Those are the special robes so it’s probably not Professor Figg.  But she certainly doesn’t look very happy to be here does she?”


“Well maybe she didn’t want to get up early either.  Pass the toast Ron.  Wake up Ron!”  Harry waved an arm at his friend.  Ron was staring at the new witch fixedly.  It would have been funny except his expression was odd, one almost of anticipation -- although that wasn’t quite right.  Ron blinked at Harry, wordlessly handing him the toast.  When Harry looked at Hermione curiously he saw that she too had noticed Ron’s sudden preoccupation.  But she wasn’t confused.  Her expression was extremely intent.  She looked from the woman to Ron and then pulled out her quill.  She wrote something on the question sheet and slid it over to Ron.


A rueful grin went across his face as he read over her note and nodded.  “Well aren’t you clever?”  He whispered and she smiled back triumphantly.


When they saw that Harry was itching to ask what was going on Ron quickly passed the parchment to him.  At the very bottom of the sheet was one question:


“Does it have anything to do with her job?”  The words “it” and “job” had been carefully underlined for emphasis.


Harry immediately turned to his friend, who looked immeasurably relieved to have been able to tell them some of the news he had bottled inside.  But before Harry could ask Ron anything, Dumbledore began his speech.


“As some of you may already know, the Academy of Oneiromancers has honored Hogwarts with a recruiter this year.”  The witch seated next to him smiled stiffly at the assembled company.  She looked as if she wished herself elsewhere.  “Academic Atropos Merriman will be meeting with students from each House to discuss the possibility of training for the Academy entrance exams.”  Dumbledore surveyed his students and paused briefly as if to gather his thoughts, “In light of the events of the past year and the rise of Darkness, now more than ever, I wish you to consider deeply what your plans for your future and life are.”  The Hall seemed to freeze.  It was as if Dumbledore had said something obscene.  Even the teachers shifted uncomfortably in their chairs.  The Headmaster continued on, seemingly unconscious of the change, “The scheduled meeting times for each Year and House are posted around the Hall and attendance of the first meeting is entirely voluntary.  But I would certainly encourage you to be present for the introductory presentation.  Now, please enjoy the rest of your meal.”  He quietly sat down amid a rustle of talk, though whether it was about oneiromancy or his oblique reference to the Dark Lord was anyone’s guess.


“But what does an oneiromancer do?”  Lavender’s clear voice cut through the babble around the table.  Everyone turned to Hermione, plainly waiting for a complete explanation. 


“I … I don’t really know.”  She seemed disconcerted and faintly chagrined that her store of information failed the first time it was actually sought after by the whole Tower.  “I’ve heard it mentioned in some histories and I know the Academy of Oneiromancers has contracts with several countries and businesses.”  She hesitated, “But nothing says what they do for them exactly,” she finished lamely.


“Predictions.”  The entire table gaped at Ron.  He blushed bright red but looked back at his amazed classmates defiantly.  “They make predictions about people and … and things.”  Harry realized suddenly that he must have skipped some word that would have made him squeak.


“What?  Like Professor Trelawney?”  Seamus’s voice was incredulous.  Lavender scowled at him and Hermione snorted.


Ron began to sound defensive and slightly harassed, “I don’t know what its like.  That’s what the meeting’s for.”


“Well since I happen to know that their entrance exams are supposed to be incredibly difficult, I can’t imagine that they are at all like Professor Trelawney.”  Harry shared a smile with Dean over that.  Hermione’s disgust for the Divinations teacher had become something of a school joke.  Even Ron seemed to recover at her words and hid a grin by ducking his head.  Under cover of the arriving mail owls he poked Hermione’s shoulder.


“Oh, I don’t know Hermione.  Maybe it’s an Inner Eye Exam.”  His voice grew misty and he said with momentous emphasis, “Oh Miss Granger we cannot accept you, for you would require special corrective lenses.”  Hermione’s half-suppressed giggle became an outright laugh when her Daily Prophet was deposited on Ron’s head by a lazy school owl.  She snatched it away from him only to have Harry grab it from her when he saw the front page spread. 


It was like a nightmarish return to his Third Year.  Underneath the headline, a wizard photo showed an alternating view of a weeping father clutching two small children and one of Sirius’s starving desperado pictures.  Harry frantically read down the article which claimed that Sirius Black was attempting to spread fear and unrest through England by manufacturing a false return of He Who Must Not be Named.  There were references to the Quidditch World Cup and Barty Crouch Jr.  But the final straw was Minister Fudge’s pledge “to seek out and destroy any who threaten the safety and stability of the wizarding world and to resist the efforts of those who through wild rumors attempt to destroy the happiness that we have all fought for so bravely.”  The meaning was obvious.  Protests against Dumbledore’s end of the year speech had been pouring all summer.


It made Harry feel frankly nauseated.  He had been shocked by Fudge’s blindness before but seeing it in action was a thousand times worse.  Ron wordlessly moved behind him and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder.  Hermione was whispering to him words he couldn’t hear in a frightened voice.  He could understand her terror.  The people who should have been protecting them were attacking those who actually were.  And Voldemort was not one to ignore the opportunities that Fudge was offering him.


* * *


Ron Weasley was beginning to feel slightly overwhelmed. 


When Hermione had hesitantly approached him with her list of questions, far from being annoyed, he had been filled with gratitude.  He knew that, although she was intensely curious about what he was being forced to hide; she also understood how much he needed to unburden himself.  It meant a lot for someone to sit up with you until two in the morning patiently phrasing and rephrasing vague questions and still getting no answers in return.  He had been so happy when she had finally figured out the connection between his enforced silence and the oneiromancer. 


But the discovery hadn’t really counted for much.  He still couldn’t tell her or anyone else what was worrying him.  He hadn’t liked being treated like a child by his family.  He had resented the late night meetings which his older brothers had been allowed to attend and he had been excluded from.  But now he knew what a handful of other’s did and he absolutely hated it.  It was horrible to walk about full of interesting information that you couldn’t share.  And he was starting to believe that people who successfully kept secrets had never had close friends.  Real friends aren’t really going to accept “I can’t tell you.” If it hadn’t been for the spell, Harry would probably have beaten it out of me.


But it wasn’t just the enforced silence.  He hated the fogginess the spell put in his mind when he thought about the forbidden subjects in mixed company.  The moment the oneiromancer entered the room, it had been as if his brain was stuffed full of cotton.  Now his only hope of freedom was Academic Merriman, who hadn’t looked all that approachable in her dark blue robes at the Head Table.


She looked like she would rather be anywhere else and I’m supposed to ask her a favor?  And that’s not everything.  Oh no!  Fudge has to go on proving to all of us that he’s a complete idiot.  You-Know-Who could probably sit on his duff and Fudge would arrest us all and do the hard work for him!


Ron had tried to be a comfort to his miserable best friend, but he been hopelessly distracted by his own worries.   He did manage to help Hermione shepherd Harry toward their first class.  And he had just the presence of mind to note the meeting time with Academic Merriman for the Gryffindor Fifth and Sixth Years.  He had been ordered to attend, after all.  And how am I going to explain to everyone why I am so interested in taking an oneiromancy exam?  I’m sure everyone will believe that I suddenly love doing extra work!


Patting Harry’s shoulder and muttering to himself, Ron tried to focus his thoughts on Charms class.  He also tried to ignore Hermione, who was muttering questions experimentally under her breath and giving him considering looks.  Ron gritted his teeth.  He needed to talk to this oneiromancer as soon as possible.


* * *


After Atropos had left for her breakfast and fact-finding mission, it had taken Remus some time to stir.  He had briefly considered leaving the stifling room, but discarded the idea almost as soon as it came to his mind.  He was in a no state to meet anyone.  The last thing he needed was for frightened students to write home that they had seen the oneiromancer’s werewolf secretary charging wild-eyed through the halls of Hogwarts.  He sat slumped in a chair instead, searching for a solution that didn’t mean agony for his best friend.  It took ten minutes of deep and pained thought for him to realize thinking was useless.  There simply was no kind way of telling Sirius what they were planning.


While Remus had to admit the truth of it, this conclusion gave him little comfort and less to do.  The only work he had was related to the model and he felt that he couldn’t bear to look at the Pettigrew questionnaires.  He jumped out of the chair, nervously prowling the room.  He stopped moving when he felt the low growl building in his chest.  It was very close to the full moon.  Now more than ever he had to be aware of his behavior.  Remus refused to allow the feral side of him to have anymore of his life than it had already stolen.  He turned to the desk intent on finding some task that was utterly boring and thus utterly human.  His foot brushed the parchment set on the floor and he suddenly had yet another problem to deal with.


The inked wheel began to glow, each spoke a different color, and the twine-held stones created fiery vertical lines from the floor to the ceiling.  Remus gaped as the parchment burnt away, leaving behind a gleaming outline of the wheel that had been drawn on it.  The offending foot was still on the parchment and he gingerly began to lift it off.


“Stop!”  Atropos had just finished cajoling the door into letting her into the room.  She spoke slowly, “Do not move.


Remus obediently froze.  She rushed over to the desk where she had placed the chalk he had purchased several days ago and rifled inside the box for the correct color.  Approaching him slowly, as if he would startle or explode, she waved the pink chalk like a weapon, “What did you do?”


“Nothing!” He said insistently.  The dark pupils of her eyes stood out against the pale iris.  They seemed to drill into him.  Atropos never allowed people to toy with her models.  Remus sighed, “Well no, not nothing.  I touched it with my foot.  I should know by now to avoid doing that, shouldn’t I?”


“Mph,” was all he got from this sally.  She knelt down near him, hiking up her robes, and bent over his feet.


“Are you going to hem my robes for me now?  I admit that I prefer Gladrags.”  The humor of their strange position was beginning to amuse him.  Because he had literally frozen his arms in place when she yelled, he looked rather like an ill-dressed mannequin.


“No.  Actually, I am outlining your feet in chalk.  Do they do that in magic-primary school?”  She finished with one foot and moved to the other, “Though I should tell you that the model has singed your hem in places.”  Rising to her feet she pulled out her wand, “Now keep your feet absolutely still.  And put your arms down, you look ridiculous!”  Pulling out a wand covered in what looked like black lacquer, she muttered a spell softly, tapping his head and each shoulder once.


Remus felt a curious tingle starting from the crown of his head and eventually pooling at his feet.  Atropos stepped back and nodded, “You can move away now, but please! Don’t smudge the chalk!”


When they were both comfortably seated away from the still glowing wheel, Remus waited for some sort of explanation.  Instead she just stared at him, looking utterly bemused. 


“Are you waiting for me to ask what just happened there?” he finally said.  “Have I ruined a week’s work with my foot?”


Atropos started, “The work?  No no!  Just the opposite.  I was expecting it to take much longer.”


Trying not to forget that she was technically his boss, he leaned forward and asked with elaborate patience, “Expecting what to take longer?” 


“The anchoring of the model.  Normally it takes weeks to find something strong enough to be a foundation.  And I’ve never really used a person before.  Though it is possible.”  She trailed off and stared into space with a dreamy expression on her face.  She really loves this work, he realized.  Remus felt oddly touched by this discovery.  Academic Merriman often seemed too driven to enjoy doing anything enough to love it.


Coming out of her haze, Atropos blushed slightly and rushed into an explanation, “What this means is I can start the main part of the model without worrying about it shifting around under me and changing my parameters.”  Her voice grew excited, “I meant it when I said it should have taken weeks, Remus.  You’ve put us far ahead of my schedule!”  Filled with new energy, she snatched up one of his completed questionnaires.


Remus grinned, feeling infected with her excitement, but the happiness faded when he saw the Daily Prophet resting on the desk where he had left it.  Suddenly solemn he asked quietly, “What did Albus say?”


Atropos didn’t look up from the parchment she was reading but her thin hands tightened, “He said Black would be here in a few days.”  She swallowed, “And he said that he doesn’t know anything yet.”


Remus was silent for some time.  Suddenly he spoke up, “A few days?”


“That’s what he said, yes.”  Remus sat back in his chair pinching the bridge of his nose.  “What?”


“In a few days I’ll be recovering from my Transformation.  It’s a little like being run over by freight train.  Lovely.”  When his mind caught up with his words he looked up quickly.  Atropos’s expression seemed trapped between sympathy and fascination.  Despite the situation, Remus almost laughed out loud.  Well at least that solves the problem of how I can broach the topic of my sick leave.


* * *


At around 4:00 in the afternoon of the same day, the Fifth and Sixth Year Gryffindors sat stiffly at the desks of an unused classroom.  They were waiting for the recruiter to come and do whatever it was Academy recruiters did.  Ron was seated at a desk next to Hermione.  Surprisingly few people had been shocked that he came to the meeting.  Fred and George, both Seventh years and thus disqualified from attending, had grinned at him in a knowing way he hadn’t liked and looked pointedly at Hermione.  She had blushed for reasons Ron didn’t want to think about.  He was also not thinking about Lavender and Parvati, who had giggled.


Harry wasn’t there.  He was still brooding over the news from that morning and Ron had been forced to reluctantly leave him to it.  Neither he nor Hermione had liked to leave him alone but Harry, at least, seemed to understand that there was more to their attendance than … whatever it was Fred and George thought.  Ginny had settled down to entertain him by wheedling him into a game of exploding snap.  Which was certainly better than allowing him to fret over something he couldn’t change.


Ron and Hermione sat silently in their seats, both listening to the soft chatter of their classmates.  When Academic Merriman swept into the room though, the murmur of voices stopped.  She was wearing the dark blue robes from that morning and this close they could see the half-lidded eye that was stitched onto the shoulder.    Smooth black hair surrounded her face and her pale eyes swept across the room.  She smiled at them slightly.


“Fifth and Sixth Year Gryffindors,” she said musingly, “I will admit freely that I have not done this before so I will be basically following the guidelines set by my superiors.”  She took a deep breath, as if she was going to begin a recitation, “I am here to make myself available to students interested in taking any one of the exams required for entrance into the Academy of Oneiromancers.  They are taken in the beginning of what would be your Seventh Year and are extremely taxing.  I encourage anyone who is unwilling to fulfill the extra work required for preparation to leave now.”  She smiled slightly when no one in the room so much as twitched.  “For those who are interested, I will meet with you regularly to form a sequence of study that will help your preparations.”  She smiled vaguely around the room, “Any questions?”


The room was silent except for the shuffles of discomfort that were coming from the back.  Lavender Brown finally plucked up her courage and asked in a small voice, “But what does an … an oneiromancer do exactly.”  She blushed red and sunk down into her seat.


But Academic Merriman’s face relaxed into a smile, “Well done!  Asking the question that everyone else had on their minds!  Simply stated, we use symbolology and arithmancy, to name a few of the disciplines, to create artificial models of the pasts of people and events that are designed to extrapolate their futures.  Do you read Witch Weekly ten day horoscopes?”  Lavender nodded timidly.  “Many of those are produced by our students.”


Hermione Granger now piped up, “Why is the test given in Seventh year?  Why can’t we take it whenever?”


The Academic grinned, “I am afraid I will have to answer by saying that those are the rules.”  She paused, “The Academy receives many more qualified applicants than it could ever accept.  We use rules like the testing schedule to thin out the ranks a little.”


With two questions asked the class grew braver. Arms began waving in the air.


“Will you be staying for two years?  Until we’re all ready to take the test?”  This was a Sixth Year from the back.


“The Academy will certainly have a recruiter present for that amount of time at least.  Whether or not that will be me … I don’t know.”  She sounded like she hoped it wouldn’t be.  “The same holds for Mr. Lupin, who was unable to attend this meeting, but who you will no doubt see later.”  This made most of the class smile.  Professor Lupin had been a popular teacher and almost everyone at Gryffindor Tower was glad to have him back in some sort of capacity.  A rush of practical questions followed.


Ron sat low in his seat waiting for them all to finish.  But the last question made him perk up and also ended the meeting.  Seamus Finnegan asked why the magic hadn’t been used during the war against You-Know-Who.  Everyone fell silent.  They were all thinking about Dumbledore’s frequent admonishments.  Ron jerked his head up, wanting to see what she would say.


The oneiromancer seemed to hesitate, sounding for the first time slightly unsure of herself, “For that question, I must refer you to the Headmaster.  It was he who went down that particular avenue of research.”  These words caused a rustle across the classroom. 


Evidently choosing to end the meeting on an uncomfortable note or perhaps not wanting to answer any more difficult questions, Merriman briskly clapped her hands together once and asked for students who were still interested to leave their names, gesturing for the class to leave.  Most, impressed by her elaborations on the amount of work involved, simply left.  But a few rose and approached her desk to sign up for a private talk.  If Ron hadn’t shocked the Gryffindors by attending, he did manage to stun those still present by signing his name to the list.  But his spectacle was overshadowed by Hermione’s refusal to sign the form.  It just didn’t seem like her to turn down the extra chance at learning something difficult.  Even Ron, preoccupied by his own troubles, was startled.  Before he could comment though, the oneiromancer looked at the sheet and then looked at him.  Her eyebrows rose in a slight gesture of greeting.  It suddenly occurred to him that he would be spending every week talking to this strange witch.  On the way back to the Gryffindor Tower he forgot to ask Hermione about her lack of interest in the new field of study.


* * *


Selim Crowlet carefully placed the seventh cube of mahogany wood on the edge of the wheel he had drawn on the floor.  Four other blocks, in different shapes and types of wood were also on the rim of the wheel.  He carefully drew a rough image of a book on the top of the last piece and stepped back.  A sigh of satisfaction left his lips as he watched the lines he had drawn begin to glow with an inner fire.  No one was better or quicker than him at building foundations.


* * *


AN:  As always, many thanks to Yolanda who makes sure my story is readable.  And thanks to Gwena Lanish, who always has to read it first. 

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