For probably just as many months I've had a sequel to Ceremonial Idolatry written, but it's been sitting on my computer for ages. So I figure it's time I trotted this thing out for people to take a look at before it goes to the big sites. It's pretty much the same theme as the above story, this time Auror Diogenes is at Hogwarts though.
He took little Suzie to the Junior Prom
Excitable boy, they all said
And he raped her and killed her, then he took her home
Excitable boy, they all said
Well, he's just an excitable boy
After ten long years they let him out of the home
Excitable boy, they all said
And he dug up her grave and built a cage with her bones
Excitable boy, they all said
Well, he's just an excitable boy
Granted, it was a risk, but one that Auror Susanna Diogenes felt was worth taking. Besides, no one would really blink twice at her going to visit her old head of house at Hogwarts before she retired for good this time? Professor Paulina Rosencrantz, head of the noble Hufflepuff house, had been saying for many years, since Susanna was a wee firstie really, that she was going to be retiring soon, but it finally was coming true. Professor Rosencrantz felt that it was time to travel, and she should be spending some more time with her grandchildren anyway. So what if she just so happened to run into the headmaster and they shared a brief talk about one of his old students? Hogwarts was one of the few places one was safe from both ‘former’ Death Eaters and Ministry lackeys.
Professor Rosencrantz met her down at the front gates, wrapped in a heavy cloak that just about swallowed her round little figure to ward against the frigid December weather. There was a quick hug of greeting, and the two hurried into the castle.
“Oh, it’s wonderfully warm in here,” Susanna sighed once they were in the front hall.
“Warm and quiet,” Professor Rosencrantz agreed. “It’s one of those years where most of the students have decided to head home for the hols. I rather like the change of pace.” The old woman pushed some frizzy white hair back into her plait. “Let’s head up to my quarters. We’ll have a house elf send up some tea. You still prefer Darjeeling, don’t you?”
“You know me too well.”
The professor’s quarters were warm and cozy, with all of the paraphernalia from her auror days displayed on the walls. This was what inspired Susanna to become an auror, seeing this strong woman defending those who needed it, and the professor had helped her gain entrance to the training school, something she would be eternally grateful for. Hogwarts would be losing a truly fine Defence Against the Dark Arts professor, even though Susanna felt it was long past time for her to retire.
Susanna settled into one of the armchairs by the fire, stretching out her feet and warming her toes. The heels she was wearing were not at all sensible for a December tromp through Hogwarts grounds, but she was a bit of a slave to fashion. “Thank you truly for inviting me up here,” she said.
“Oh, it’s always lovely to see one of my former students, especially such a success story like yourself,” Professor Rosencrantz grinned, the lines around her eyes crinkling deeply, a sharp contrast to the youthfulness of her smile.
She smirked. “A thirty-five year old unmarried workaholic who spends most of her money on clothes and vacations? Most of my friends think I’m a bleeding failure, and need to find a husband before I am old and unmarriageable.”
“Horse crap.” Professor Rosencrantz was known for her bawdy tongue, which she fought hard to keep from slipping out in front of the students. In college Susanna had come to believe that she could put Chaucer’s Wife of Bath to shame, and she was no shrinking violet at all. “I think I was married once, and believe me when I say it wasn’t worth it. I was fresh out of Hogwarts, and married the neighbor boy because my parents thought it would be a nice match. After two years of that I’d had it, so I packed my suitcase, ran off for Florence, and never looked back.”
“Ahh, Florence,” Susanna sighed. “Wonderful art there. And the shoes! I tell you, the muggles have it made when it comes to fashion.” She plucked gingerly at her auror robes, worn out from the workday. “These robes are so 16th century.”
“My mother truly would have despaired of you,” Professor Rosencrantz chuckled. There was a sharp crack in the room behind them, and she turned around. “Oh, lovely, the tea’s here! Just put it right on the table, love.” The house elf nodded and put the tray down. “Oh, and dear, if by any chance you have some sfogliatelle down in the kitchens there…” she trailed off and winked at the elf, who nodded in reply with a sneaky grin. Her time in Italy left her with a weakness for the flaky pastry, which benefited Susanna just as well.
When the elf had departed, Professor Rosencrantz turned to Susanna. “Now, why are you really here?”
Susanna blinked. “How—how did you--?”
“I was an auror since before you were born, these things are ingrained in me now. While I adore seeing one of my favorite students, I can also tell when they have something on their minds.”
She sighed. “I’m not sure if I should tell you this, I wouldn’t want you to get involved in this whole mess.”
“Let me guess, someone in the ministry told you not to talk about it otherwise you may find yourself stationed someplace very unpleasant?” Professor Rosencrantz groaned and rubbed her forehead, her large amber ring glistening in the firelight. “Things haven’t changed since I was there, that’s for sure. They’re still just as medieval as ever. Fudge doesn’t help either.”
“That’s for sure. Fudge is a half-wit. Were all the wizards so addled after the war that the person they thought was best for the job of Minister was the most incompetent dolt out there?” Susanna sat up and tucked her feet under her, careful not to jab herself in the arse with her shoes. “If you’re sure though…as I know you know, Azkaban has a number of prisoners in there who have graced the halls of Hogwarts in recent years. Some of them have an infamy that rivals Caesar.”
Professor Rosencrantz nodded sagely, divining quickly exactly who she was talking about. Susanna continued. “Well, some of the other prisoners in Azkaban, those who sport some rather ugly tattoos leaning towards the serpentine side, are saying that this infamous traitor…wasn’t the traitor. He was the patsy who took the fall.”
“Well,” the professor sighed. They sipped at their tea. “Now I see why you wanted to speak to Professor Dumbledore.”
“Yes. I don’t know the truth of this rumour or not, consider the source, but what I’d like to do is get an idea of this prisoner’s character. Maybe I can find out some truth that way. I already went straight to the top with this, spoke directly to Fudge, and he basically said that this prisoner is unequivocally guilty, and that no more questions will be tolerated, else I’ll permanently be manning the towers at Azkaban.”
“That’s for sure. I’m hoping Dumbledore can give me some insights into how this person was, to see if he really could have done what they said he did.”
“Well, let’s get it over with now then. Afterwards we can pop down to the Three Broomsticks for a pint. I get the feeling we’ll need it.” Professor Rosencrantz accio’ed the floo powder from down off the mantle, and tossed a pinch into the fire. “Albus Dumbledore’s office!”
After a moment Dumbledore’s head appeared. “Good evening, Paulina. What can I do for you?”
“Albus, would you mind popping down to my quarters for a few moments? A former student of ours has a few questions she’d like to as you.”
“Of course, I’ll be right there.” His head disappeared as the fire flared deep green, and he soon stepped out of it, dusting soot off of blue and crimson robes. “Miss Diogenes, what a pleasure to see you,” he said as Professor Rosencrantz drew up another arm chair for him.
“Same here, Professor Dumbledore,” Susanna smiled. “I wish I was coming on more pleasant business though.”
Dumbledore settled himself into the chair. “Well, let us see if we can help you with this. Please, ask whatever is on your mind.”
Susanna nodded, and ran a hand through her light brown hair, tugging distractedly on the ends of it. “There are a few things going on in Azkaban right now, people saying things about a certain Sirius Black, and I just want to know what sort of person he was at school. Was he the sort of boy where it was obvious that someday he’d slaughter thirteen people all at once?”
Dumbledore helped himself to a cup of tea and sipped it. “Hmm. Sirius Black always had a temper, was quick to anger, and quick to throw a punch. Some people would call him an excitable boy, to use a turn of a phrase. He could be dangerous, if properly provoked, which, alas, wasn’t hard to do. He was very intelligent, and a strong wizard, but sometimes his common sense just wasn’t there.”
She leaned closer. “Properly provoked. Would you say being accused of being a traitor, of being the cause of your best friends’ death, would be sufficient provocation to act in a rash manner?”
“What exactly are you saying, Susanna?” Dumbledore arched an eyebrow at her, and his face was solemn.
“I’m not saying anything. Even you aren’t fully protected from the likes of Fudge here at Hogwarts, as much of a fortress that it is. In this case, the less you know the better.” She tugged at the ends of her hair again, her stomach a knot of nerves.
“I think I shall be safe from Cornelius Fudge,” Dumbledore said, a slight grin coming back to his face. “Now what were you trying to say?”
Susanna licked her lips, removing a trace of Darjeeling from them. “Some of the other inmates out at Azkaban have been saying things that implicate someone else as the traitor that led the Potters to their death. These are not just petty thieves either; these are some of the most infamous death eaters out there. If they’re lying to take the piss out of us they’re not having much luck because no one is listening.”
“Except for you.”
“If you scream loud enough and long enough someone eventually will hear it. It just so happened it was me.”
“And they’re screaming that Sirius Black is innocent?” Dumbledore asked with a glance down his long nose.
“They’re screaming they want the certain someone who led to their master’s downfall rotting away in prison with the rest of them.” Susanna refrained from saying who this person was. A dead man really wasn’t the best witness on the stand.
Dumbledore sighed and placed his tea cup back on the table. “As I’m sure you’ve realized these are not exactly the most trustworthy of people. However, Sirius Black had proved during his years at Hogwarts that he was in possession of a temper that was riled far too easily. I trust you to keep this in confidence, but during his years at Hogwarts his temper got so badly provoked by another student that he almost lead him to his death. This would have also led to another student, who was in fact a close friend of Mr. Black’s, most likely dying or at the very least being imprisoned as Azkaban as well. Sirius Black is extraordinarily reckless and thinks more about himself over anyone else.
“Also, if you know anything about the Black family, you’ll know that they are one of the more…rabidly pureblooded out there. Sirius’s brother and at least one of his cousins are known Death Eaters.”
“Yes. A spy that I had in the Death Eater ranks at the time told me in confidence that he overheard Bellatrix Lestrange and another Death Eater speaking about how they’d like to draw Sirius back into the fold. Apparently, they succeeded.”
“So you’re convinced that Sirius Black is guilty of all charges leveled against him,” Susanna said. She had to admit to hoping for a more helpful answer than that.
“I’m saying that if he isn’t guilty, I shall be extremely surprised.” Dumbledore stood up, robes falling into place around him, and moved towards the door. “Now if you’ll excuse me, Fawkes looks like he’s about to have a burning any minute now, and I’d like to be there for him. It was lovely talking with you Susanna, and I hope to see you again soon.” The twinkle was back in his eyes, but his step was a bit less springy than it had been.
“Professor Dumbledore?” Susanna called out after him, leaning over the back of her chair to look straight at him.
“The Azkaban Death Eaters are saying that Peter Pettigrew was the traitor. He was the one who gave You-Know-Who the information about where the Potters were living that led to his downfall,” she blurted out.
Dumbledore nodded slowly, face not revealing anything. “I shall keep that in mind. Have a good night Susanna, Paulina.” He walked out and closed the door quietly behind him.
Susanna collapsed into her chair, covering her eyes with her hands. “Oh, that didn’t go well at all.”
“On the contrary,” Professor Rosencrantz said, getting up and reaching for her cloak. “You’ve planted a seed in his mind, and it’s planting itself in there. Even if it doesn’t come up again for years, the idea is there, and someday it just might come in handy. Now let’s go get that pint. You look like you could use it, you need some more color in your cheeks.”
“I think I’m going to need something a little stronger than a pint,” Susanna said, stretching her back as she stood up.
“The Three Broomsticks will have whatever your heart desires, dear. And it’ll give me a chance to test out my silencing spell, see if I’ve still got it. We don’t need anyone eavesdropping on us, do we?” Professor Rosencrantz said with a wave of an amber-ringed hand.
"Oh, not at all. If you see me wandering around looking as if I was the victim of an extraordinarily heavy Obliviate spell, though, you'll know it's because someone overheard us."
"Well, we'll just have to make sure that doesn't happen."
* * *
The first shot of firewhiskey burned as it went down. Madam Rosmerta was kind enough to supply them with the whole bottle, which sat safely by Professor Rosencrantz's elbow to prevent Susanna from diving into it too eagerly. She clanged her empty glass on the table, then rested her head on her folded arms. "I just don't know what to do."
"Let's start simple then," the Professor said, sounding every inch the teacher. "Do you believe he's guilty?"
She picked her head out of her arms and stared balefully at the bottle, then reached out and poured herself another shot. "Of the explosion, yes. Do I think he did that because he was a Death Eater on the edge? No. Do I think he was the one who betrayed the Potters? No, I can't think that either, from what I've seen. Too many Death Eaters are screaming for Peter Pettigrew, as dead as he is, to pay for what happened to their master." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "Hell, we're not even sure Black has the dark mark! No one's gotten close enough to ever check. I think he snapped after learning that his friends were dead, and lashed out at the real traitor, unfortunately taking him and twelve other people out in the process. If only there was a trial! But Fudge is too mule-headed to ever concede he was wrong on anything."
"There's quite a few politicians out there who are like that; Fudge isn't a solitary case."
"I just...I get the feeling that this isn't going to go away. That Black isn't going to be like the rest of his fellow inmates and rot quietly away in Azkaban with the rest of his cronies. D'you know that he's still sane? When I was out at Azkaban, what was it, about four months ago, we had to go by his cell. He was at the door there, staring out through the bars at us silently, with an intelligent look in his eyes. He wasn't stark raving, or even reduced to a pile of drool in the corner. He's been out there for five years, by rights, he should be dead by now.
"But he's not dead. And my gut instinct is telling me that his story won't go away either. And that somewhere down the line this whole thing is going to explode, and we're going to be in for a veritable shit storm."
Professor Rosencrantz sighed. "I wish I could give you an answer for your dilemma. I never dealt with being an Auror during wartime, I was too busy playing mummy, and trust me, when it comes to it, the importance of your child trumps any war that's going on. But no matter." She looked down at the table, her body slumping slightly.
Susanna raised her shot to the skies, watching as the whiskey reflected the firelight. "Here's to you, Sirius Black," she muttered with a sarcastic note in her voice. "God help us everything works out right for you, otherwise we're all in trouble." She tossed the shot back and slammed the glass down, shattering it and sending the shards skittering out into the night.