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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
“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
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
“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
Ron began to sound
defensive and slightly harassed, “I don’t know what its like. That’s what the meeting’s
“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
“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
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
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
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.
Atropos had just finished cajoling the door into letting her into the
room. She spoke slowly, “Do not
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
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
“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
Trying not to forget that she was technically his boss, he
leaned forward and asked with elaborate patience, “Expecting what to take
“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
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
Hermione Granger now piped up, “Why is the test given in
Seventh year? Why can’t we take it
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 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
* * *
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.