Disclaimer: Refer to chapter one.
Part 8:Tales of Camelot
A.k.A, Arthur and Guinevere
Morgana and the Doctor
Sirius and… Sirius.
A/N: Sorry it took so long to update, but that's life. I hope you're all still reading, and I also also hope you enjoy!
In this chapter: Not everything I'd planned for this chapter played out quite the way I wanted it. I blame the goats. What does happen is: James discovers a plot, Sirius eats goo, James gets a date, the Doctor gets a Date, Morgana finds the TARDIS. The TARDIS has a laugh.
The tale of the world in monochrome
"What was it, third level to the left or to the right?" James wondered aloud, but there was no answer save for his own echoing words. He sighed. Why was it that when he had to give Sirius directions to wherever, he didn't mess up once, but when he had to follow his own directions he invariably ended up going the wrong way?
He took some turns without managing to get his bearings back and sighed. All in all, these dungeons weren't so much unlike Hogwarts' own, and he was used to underground mazes… but somehow, he couldn't manage to get where he wanted to be. Namely, pestering Sirius for help with Guinevere. Or against her; if the plonker he called a brother wanted him not to date her so much, he should at least be of some manner of help.
But was he there when James needed him most?
Where was he? Mocking the Torchwood lot, where by all rights, he should have been helping — nay, protecting James from a potential inter-temporal, multi-dimensional, event of … possible incest.
James still wasn't even sure she was his great great great great-something-great grandmum. Oh gods of Quidditch…
Point in fact was, Sirius was specifically not where he was most needed right now, and James was going to make his day hell for it. And hide behind him when Guinevere was nearby.
He walked a little further, his light footfall quiet as a ghost in the hallways born out of years of practice, and after a handful of turns and a couple of flights of stairs up — when had he gone so deep? — he finally heard a familiar voice.
"…Just… just no torture. Please."
Huh? James inched closer, instinctively keeping close to the walls.
And then he nearly fell into an open cell himself.
"Ow, dammit—" he muttered, raffling himself up and giving up any pretence of sneakiness. It wasn't even needed, after all.
"…I really wonder what they do for fun other than maim people and burn them and stuff," Sirius was saying, and then, "… I'll see what I can do. See to it that you live up to your end of the deal."
Huh? What deal was he on about? James frowned, back into sneak mode again. Sirius wouldn't ever strike a deal with that lot. Not. Ever.
But Sirius was already leaving, and James was about to follow, when, "You can't be serious, Yvonne," stopped him. One of the Torchwood — though Sirius liked to call them 'Torturewood' — agents said. He sounded anxious enough to make James stay put. "We can't hold up that sort of bargain, you know that!"
"Hush now, Tomlinson," Yvonne the hag hissed. "There's nothing else we can do, now can we? We promised to take the biomagnetic frequency transducer off, and so we will."
"Not complain," Yvonne replied confidently. James was around the corner now, so close he could almost see her blond hair in the torchlight. "He wants it off, we'll get it off. That is the deal."
"Yeah," another male said from further down. "It's hardly our fault if he snuffs it."
"Natural causes, as it were," a fourth voice chimed in. The others chuckled. James bristled.
"Naturally," Yvonne sounded smooth. "With that trioptic glycerinic retroneural biomagnetic vortex impulse transmitter in his head it's only natural he'd cop it. Hardly our fault."
James decided he'd heard enough. Whatever that retrothingy was, he needed to warn Sirius about it. In a blinking, his cloak was around his shoulders, and he hurried past the cells after Sirius, stopping only to make Yvonne's long hair tie itself in strands to the bars.
Her panicked screeching was a fantastic background music to his ears.
Now, to find Sirius…
Crossing the courtyard, James saw him. Again, he frowned; Sirius had been dressed in a black doublet, not a red one… And, he established upon coming a little closer, he used to be rather taller last he saw him. Could it be the whatsitsface thing the Torchwood lot had been on about? This Sirius was less like the Sirius James was accustomed to and more like a midget. And he was leaning against a stable door, looking in and completely oblivious to the world around him.
"What are you doing with my face?" the midget asked. James' eyebrows rose, even the voice was different. It was the same timbre, but it sounded… different. Younger, somehow. Had Sirius gotten himself de-aged again? He'd babysat him enough for a lifetime when they'd gotten into Salazar's stuff at Hogwarts already…
Well, he mused, sticking his hands in his pockets, even de-aged Sirius could be of help with the present problem. Sirius was Sirius no matter his age, after all.
He was honestly surprised when he heard Sirius' voice answer: "Nothing yet. But I could do something with it, if you want it rearranged."
The midget Sirius seemed to be amused. He shook tar-black hair out of clear grey eyes, exactly like Sirius did, and his laugh too, was identical. If a bit more squeaky and girly-sounding. He couldn't be older than ten, James decided, shedding his cloak. But, and this was amazing — just a bit, he had previous experiences with Harry to compare— the kid was identical to Sirius to the last detail.
"You're welcome to try," he said, grinning confidently as he reached into a pocket. "But my face wouldn't be the one rearranged. I once charmed Rubelius' nose—" But what happened to Rubelius' nose, and who Rubelius even was, were lost on James. There was a loud commotion everywhere all of a sudden.
It all started with a loud… BANG.
James, the midget Sirius and Sirius all whipped around towards the source of the noise, identical looks of expectation on their faces.
"That wasn't mine," James established, when the smoke started coming from the upper floor of the castle. There were startled shouts as well, and some serving girls were hurrying to the well, for water no doubt…
"Not mine, either." Sirius had poked his head out of a stable window, and was scanning the courtyard at large. Alarm bells started to toll next, and suddenly there were more cries, this time from the dungeon area.
"No! No, back off and don't touch that!" was followed by loud braying. James snorted.
"Donkeys? That's…" Sirius commented, leaning curiously out the window, the better to see.
"… Mine," James finished for him, crossing his arms. Sirius gave him a questioning look. "I lost my way in the dungeons," he added for an explanation. "So many corridors… I had to put markers around the place."
"I know what you mean, I left them a few presents down there myself." Even as he spoke, the ground started to shake.
BANG YAY YAY YEEEHAW BANG RAT-TAT-TAT BANG!
Everyone minus Sirius —the proper one, in James' mind- ended up flat on the ground, covering their heads.
"Looks like they opened them," he commented, snickering. "Oh get up, James you dolt. It's just some fireworks."
"Aaaah get it off me! Get it offff!" came from the depths below.
"Okay, some move around and grab you," Sirius amended. "But still, just fireworks. Nothing to worry ab—" SPLAT.
Everything went blue.
From the upper floors of the castle, a huge blue blob erupted, half cloud, half gooey something, engulfing the courtyard, the stables, the horses — everything.
"Out." Sirius finished in a deadpan tone, even as people started pouring out of the castle, some screaming and frightened, others — most notably, the wizards and witches of the place — more annoyed than anything. Some were even amused. "Not mine, that one."
"It's not mine eith—" James started, but he was interrupted mid-sentence.
"Mine," said the young voice squeaky voice of Midget Sirius behind them. He was only half splattered in blue, the teeth grinning up at them both were stark white, and the eyes shining with mischief were such a clear grey they looked like diamonds. The creepy sort of diamonds. "Seriously though, what are you doing with my face?"
"Reminds you of someone, doesn't he?" James asked conversationally, looking between the older Sirius and the young one. Gods, but they were identical. Talk about dominant genetics. "What's your name, midget?"
"Watch who you're calling a midget," came at once. Sirius' and James' eyebrows rose in unison and astonishment at the sudden change in the kid's demeanour. He puffed himself up proudly — which was quite a bit, even despite the bucketful of blue goop all over him he managed to make an impression — and drew his wand, an elaborately carved ebony affair James had seen before, many times, in Sirius' — the proper Sirius' — hand. "I am the lord Sirius Odin Pendragon Black, of the First House of Myrddin!" The Midget Sirius squeaked as he waved his wand around forcefully.
"That's a mouthful," James commented. Sirius shrugged.
Hush, you'll only make him mad, he told him with a pointed look.
Like I used to make you mad? Sirius Orion Hellion Soren Pendragon Black of the Smoked Kipper and the Frozen Eel? James retorted with a shrewd glance of his own.
Sirius rolled his eyes. Exactly like that, Potter. 'S not our fault we get saddled with a bedtime story of a name, now shut it.
…And Prince of the Snow-capped Mountain Peaks of the Great Snowdonian Shores…
Shut it. Snowdonia has no shores. Around them, the blue smoke started to turn into a miniature tornado, which lifted some of the people running around like headless chickens a few feet in the air, whirling them about like… well, stuff tornadoes blow away.
It did when you flooded it…
I was bored. Now shut it.
"And you'd do best not to forget that!" Sirius Odin Pendragon Black yelled over the din. James then realised his best friend's lung power was also inherited. Interesting, how that worked.
Sirius watched him thoughtfully for a moment, as though he were weighing his options, even as James looked ready to start mocking, and all the while the people in the tornado spun round and round. Some were whooping and cheering even, but then, as this was a time long before wizards had to be careful not to catch Muggles in their spells, nobody was really making a fuss over it.
"I won't," Sirius promised solemnly.
"Good," The midget flailed his arms around in a huff, and there was a collective thudding of people dropping to the ground, pointed by a loud, "OW!" that came from rather too close by. Sirius Odin Pendragon Black looked behind him to see what had happened, his earlier outburst completely forgotten. There, holding his nose and glaring in a most familiar manner was…
"Snivellus." Sirius spat it out, already striding forward. What the hell was he doing here?
"You bwok' mah nowwws!" Snivellus howled furiously, eyes watering as he raffled himself up, wand already shooting sparks. Lord Sirius Odin Pendragon Black backed away sharply.
"It was an accident," he explained. "I didn't see you were behind me."
"You sdubbid liddle dwebb!" Snape shouted, spraying them all with spittle and nasal blood. "You'll bay fod dis— Cdu… Coo…"
Sirius and his duplicate both cocked their heads as one. James frowned. All three waited for Snape to get his words out. Four, if you count Snivellus' wand. It was the only one with patience.
"Dabbit. Cwoo… Cdoo… Cru… aha! CRUC—"
"Whoa!" Sirius yelled.
"Hold it!" shouted James.
In a blinking, the now alarmed Lord Sirius Odin Pendragon Black was swept behind James, and Sirius grabbed Snape by the collar of his robes, which hadn't escaped the splattering, and slapped his wand away before the curse could out.
"Gods, you're slippery," he said through gritted teeth. The gnashing sound in the background, though, was coming from James. He was a grinder. "What the hexing hell are you doing here?"
Let me have at him! James was all but shouting in Sirius' head.
I saw him first. Stand in line, Potter.
No fair. Your ancestor started it, your turn's over.
How does that make any sense? Sirius looked at James in confusion. He got his go, now I get mine, because I saw him first, and then you can have a go…
I am underrepresented in this time!
Want to call the king in? Lord Potter of the Gryffindors? Maybe you can have a go after the whole court has-
Fine, fine, make it quick then. Sheesh.
"What's your name, then?" Sirius asked aloud, batting the man's hands away from his face. "Hey… That's weird… It's not quite him, this one's older," he told James, who rolled his eyes impatiently.
"Who cares? He tried to curse your— the Lord Thingy here!"
"The nose looks all right to me," Sirius stated, his attention back on the not-quite-Snivellus. "It's all properly crooked and everything."
"Looks like an improvement from here," the Midget Sirius — er, sorry, the Lord Sirius Odin Pendragon Black — chimed up from behind James. James decided he liked the kid.
"De liddle basdard b'oke mah nows!" the older Snivellus raged. "Ah will whib hib fffod budishbed!"
"Really, now?" Sirius retorted, snorting. James chuckled.
"What's he on about?" the Lord Sirius Odin Pendragon Black asked James at a whisper.
"He's saying he wants to tan your hide," James translated. He got a confused look in return. "Y'know, tear you a new one?" Midget Sirius blinked at him uncomprehendingly. James let a very deerlike, very impatient snort. "He wants to whip you for punishment. Don't worry," he added, when the Midget Sirius flinched behind him. "We won't let that happen."
"Ah will whib you fod budishbed," Sirius mimicked. "Don't you know who you're addressing?"
"Really," James added. "It might not go well for you. The Lord uh, Sirius Odin Pendragon Black here is right, it's an improvement from where I'm standing."
"But if you prefer, I can realign it. Allow me," Sirius offered, landing a sound punch in this Snape-look-alike's face. There was a loud crack, followed by an almighty howl. "There, much better. Don't you agree?"
"My turn," James said at once. "I want to realign it too."
"By all means, Lord Gryffindor. Here, hold him steady. He's rather slippery."
"Why thank you, Lord Black."
"And now, it's Lord Sirius Odin Pendragon Black's turn. So you learn never to curse hi—" Sirius was getting into stride, but was also interrupted, this time by squealing.
"SDOB! SDOB!" Not-Snape yelled, wriggling free of James' hold and scrambling for his wand— Only to find James' glowing wandtip all but pushed up his nostril.
"You'd do best to leave now," he snarled. "And forget even trying to hex him again. You've been warned."
Snape raffled himself up and fled.
"Did you have to let him go? It was his turn!" Sirius gestured at his carbon copy.
"I don't want a go," the kid said.
"Well in such a case as this, you say 'I'll pass' and forfeit your turn in order to let me go again," Sirius explained patiently.
"All right, I shall remember next time. But I shall always pass with him. Severance Prince gives me a fright."
"Severance?" Sirius and James chorused with identical surprised laughs. Lord Midget Black nodded sheepishly. They looked at each other, cottoning on at the same time. "His ancestor!"
"Ah, imagine if we wiped him out from this time," James crooned.
"I should've had another go," Sirius added dreamily.
"It's actually still his turn," a voice said behind them. King Uther had arrived.
It was a passable copy of the king; all splattered in blue as he was, it was hard to tell if it was the real deal or not.
"You, my young Lord, should use your turn to clean this up," the King told the Midget Sirius. "Amusing though it is to be blue, dinnertime is due in a short time and we'd appreciate if our food wasn't covered in this gooey substance."
"Wait a sec— you did the kitchens?!" Sirius the elder shouted in alarm.
"Um… I should think so. Why?"
"Start with the kitchens, Lord Black," James advised, pushing the boy in the right direction. "Like, now. I put a little something away, y'know, for emergencies, so don't even panic," he added to his Sirius before he started to hyperventilate, pulling a roast chicken from his pocket. "Just brush off the lint, yeah? Oh. Too late for that, eh? Well, chew it slowly and it might last— Never mind that, then. Here's a beef pie."
"You never answered my question, though," the little Sirius said.
"You're still here?" James asked, now rather alarmed as well.
"I just want to know. Who are you?"
"Haven't you guessed yet?" Sirius asked back, now holding only half a pie and in a much improved mood. He winked, "I am you, as a matter of course."
"I knew it!" The little Sirius grinned and dashed off, whooping ecstatically. King Uther excused himself, having decided to supervise the dinner preparations.
"That's a lie," James said, watching the Midget Lord go. "Why would you lie over this?"
Sirius shrugged one shoulder.
"I just know my family tree."
James watched him patiently. He didn't know Sirius' family tree, after all, something Sirius often seemed to forget. That was one Black trait he'd never lose, no matter what: they all implicitly believed their history was — or, in the more arrogant cases, should be — known by everyone.
"Well… What did you want me to say? I'm sort of your descendant, only sort of not because you won't get to see next Christmas?"
"Oh. Didn't know that he'd…" James jabbed a thumb in the tiny Sirius' direction. Sirius nodded grimly.
"In a freak accident of some sort. After the Yule next year or so."
"In that case, you have a point, mate."
"'Course I do. As usual. Nobody should know about how it's going to end. It's not really fair, is it, and he's like, ten." Sirius polished off the rest of the pie carelessly, then added, "He's too young to figure it out, and I don't think he ever will. He won't get the time to, will he. You got anything else on you? I wouldn't say no to that mulled wine of yours…"
"Here. That's all I got left," James replied, handing over some cold beef, but his spirits were brought down. The madness over the past few minutes had wiped the conversation he'd overheard in the dungeons right out of his mind, but now he was thinking about death and just how much death sucked, especially a Sirius' death, it was back.
"Help me out here," Sirius was saying, however, sloshing through a mass of blue goop as he went back inside the stables, completely oblivious of the impending demise they needed to prevent. James followed musingly, wondering how to bring it up to Sirius when he was in such a good mood. Or not quite; he'd grown fond of that first Sirius of the Black line, as had James… And he was trying to do something to keep the nastier bits of the kid's life —or death— out of his mind. They had learned the hard way that such things couldn't just be stopped.
"Man… what are you doing here?" James asked when Sirius picked a wooden shovel from a corner.
"Cleaning up the mess, there's something I want you to help me with."
"Oh no! Look! Just look at the hay!" James pointed at a stack in the corner, horrified. It was completely drenched in the blue goop.
"We'll get the goo off, and it'll be good as new," Sirius said soothingly. "It's just a little—"
"Ruined! When I see that kid again, I'll wring his neck and he won't even get to see this Yule! There's limits to pranks!"
"C'mon, it's not so bad. The goop tastes just like chicken. Have you tried it?"
"You're eating that?!"
"I'm…" Sirius had the decency to look abashed. A glob of the unidentified blue substance dribbled from his hands to the floor.
"Don't say it!"
"But I'm really, really h—"
"No, no, no! You're not eating that stuff! And I'm not going near that hay! I'll have more brought in, this is unacceptable." James stamped outside in a huff. "Stablekeeperrrrrr! Oy! You there, trot yourself over here, now!"
"You sure dig this lording thing, don't you?" Sirius asked when James came back five minutes later, into a pristine-looking stable. Even the horses were happily munching on only slightly teal-coloured oats.
"Yeah, well. It's handy. 'Choo up to?"
"This here. For the lot downstairs." Sirius stepped aside from his creation, so James could have a look. "They seem awfully bored."
James had a look-see and burst out laughing.
"And that's a—"
"Wicked! And those are…?"
"Do you think they'll like the entertainment?"
"I… I[m not so sure about that, no," Sirius admitted. "But I know that I will."
"As will I. We should get your duplicate to tag along. He can learn a thing or two."
"All right, let's finish this then…"
For the next few minutes, they worked in a near silence. It was all, "Pass me more dung," and, "Hold the head up higher," and, "What was the freezing charm incantation again? The timed one?" Until at last…
"What went on with Artie and his girl?" Sirius asked, adding some finishing touches to his masterpiece. James looked up from where he was putting flames into jars and putting little name tags on them before handing them to Sirius.
"She was dumping him when I went to see her," James answered, and told him all about his close encounter. By the time he was done, Sirius was frowning in thought.
"How are we working that?" He asked at length.
"Man, I dunno. I could be a berk to her."
"Give it a whirl, but something tells me that's just not the thing of it."
"What else can I do?"
"Well, you did rescue her from near-death…"
"Technically, we both did?"
"Not to her, we didn't. To her, well. You did. That's… kind of a little bit of a bigger deal than buying them a drink or voting for them during the wet t-shirt contest."
"Yeah but she's…"
"At your nine o'clock."
"Um, good day," Sirius said instead, waving a hand behind his back to make a large clump of hay — James' freshly cut hay, dammitall — cover the pranking masterpiece they'd been working on.
"How do?" Guinevere greeted them excitedly, curtsying with a dazzling smile. She looked nothing like she had last James had seen her, when she stormed off to do some embroidery or something. She had washed, and changed into an extremely… enticing… dress with a deep… cleavage of… utter irresistibility.
Gods, but why was she off-friggin-limits?
Great-great-great-gran! Think frills and wrinkles! Sirius' voice shouted in his head. Gah, that stupid mindlink.
Get a hold of yourself! Berk! Be-A-Berk!
"Meep." James managed.
I'm tryinnnng! James was suffering. He hated being mean to girls. Because, well, he liked them. A lot. And usually, they liked him back, even if Sirius maintained he had poor taste. Sirius was just too picky, which was weird because he could hound girls like the best of them when he felt like it… And with pretty much any result he desired, which James secretly envied him.
But it was a while since Sirius had hounded anything except eateries. And now, James had to make the one girl he really, really, really liked aside from Lily… hate him, or worse, lose interest in him.
If we don't get it done, your bloodline will change dramatically. Gah, couldn't Sirius get out of his head? It was hard enough without him playing prompter. Think of yourself with acne. Think freckles and moles. Think wavy brown hair! You wouldn't be you!
Okay, okay. I'm sold.
"What are you doing?" James asked, in his best demeaning tone. It was good; Guinevere stopped in her tracks. "Can't you see we're busy here?"
"I… I just wanted to see you, lord James…" she said, confused. Of course she was! Gah, he'd been nice to her last time, and this morning over breakfast as well — but she was his gran! Of sorts.
"I don't see what for," James answered coolly. He was inwardly thinking of Crazy Doris and Pimply Patsy, and how he'd treat them if they dared to jump him. "Why don't you go back to your sewing or something?"
"Sewing?" Guinevere echoed, shocked. "Do you think I, Guinevere of Carmelide, daughter of King Leondegrance, am a common seamstress—"
"Er… no, not at all," James was alarmed at the sudden outburst. In the background, Sirius facepalmed.
They're all pretty big on big names and titles, aren't they? Sirius chuckled in his head.
Shut up, Sirius.
"Then what, pray tell, do you take me for?"
"I… Ahem." James straightened up at Sirius' unspoken prompt, "I merely thought it would be a fitting occupation for you, rather than disturbing me."
"Is that so?" Gods of Quidditch and the Holy Snitch. She looked so pretty when she was furious, all flared nostrils and pouty lips, blushing deep red and glaring at him so… so…
Focus, Prongs! Sirius rolled his eyes. Of all the times for James to get the Potter Inarticulate Stuttering Syndrome… also known as the PISS.
"Uhm. Yes. It is so. I… I think. I'm actually pretty sure it is so. Yes."
"I shall disturb you far beyond whatever it is you are doing in this stable, sir," she snapped back. "You, Lord Potter, will be getting out of this boring castle."
"You're kicking me out?" James was dumbfounded. Guinevere rolled her eyes.
"You, sir lord, shall take me for a picnic, tomorrow morning. Whether you feel like it or not." That said, Guinevere patted his bum, gave it a little pinch that made James jump, and swept out of the stable with a regal, "Good day to you. And to you, Lord Black."
"Ta," Sirius waved. Her dress had hardly whipped around the door, when he fell about laughing. "That went well," he managed between guffaws.
"Oh… Sharrup." James ruffled his hair in frustration. What was he going to do now?
"I can just see it," Sirius went on. "I'll be best mates, nay, blood-brothers with this freckly, red-haired, gangly kid named something like… Like Ronald Weatherby or something. You'll see when you turn into him."
"No! I can't lose my perfect Potter features!"
"You're already having a picnic with her! Next step is a wedding — if she waits long enough for it, which I doubt — and you'll cancel yourself out. Or become your own great-great-great-great-times-a-million grandfather. Like that." Sirius snapped his fingers in front of James' nose. James gave a small jump.
"There has to be something we can do!" he exclaimed desperately.
"Yep. I'm sure there has to be something."
"I have no idea," Sirius grinned widely at him. The bastard was enjoying it! How could he? This was so… so… serious!
"You don't know?" Now James was alarmed.
"I appreciate the brilliant complexity of the problem, but that doesn't mean I have a solution to it."
"So glad I've got you."
"Let's just get her back on track." Sirius clapped James on the shoulder, then turned to the -now utterly unimportant- prank concealed under the hay.
"Make Artie more appealing to her. Give us a hand, there's a good man. Grab the legs, and mind the fire imps..."
"Can it be done? Honestly, the bloke's a sleeping potion." And I'm so, so lost.
No, you're not. You're right here. And, "We'll have to try. It's either that or a disturbance that gets her off her picnic idea."
"Is there something big enough to make her change her mind? Maybe a bomb—"
"Explosives aren't invented yet, mate."
"Thanks for your invaluably useless help," James muttered, downcast. He didn't really expect Sirius to clap him encouragingly on the back.
"C'mon, let's go to the kitchens and grab a bite, I'm sure we can figure something out to get her to like Artie again and forget all about you."
"Can't you stop thinking about food for like, one second?" James muttered miserably, but he knew Sirius couldn't, and he also knew how he got when he went without food for over half an hour, so he allowed himself to be led first to the dungeons to drop the recently-finished masterpiece of pranking off, then to the kitchens — which were thankfully clean and smelling of the most mouth-watering smells ever to have reached his nose. Everywhere he looked, there were trays laid out for the banquet…
And Artie, as Sirius liked to call the bloke, was laid out in a corner, all but draped over a table full of bottles.
"You knew he'd be here?" James asked Sirius, frowning.
"After what you told me, it was just logical he would… he's having at the cider," Sirius replied matter-of-factly. "Hi, Rosie," he told a young, cheerful witch who was presently charming cheese into being and sticking it into floating rolls. She smiled at him, a tad too brightly James thought, and floated a large platter of goodies Sirius' way. "She's the pastry chef," Sirius whispered at James. "I'm seeing her after the banquet," he informed. "She's bringing some buns filled with roast... I am in love."
"She's not your great-great-great-gran or something?" James groused. Why could Sirius be in love and not him?
"Nope. No Black's ever married a Templeton."
"I hate you right now, you know?" James muttered. Sirius nodded but didn't look particularly disturbed by the idea.
"He's completely snockered," Sirius commented, watching Artie snoozing on a table. He reeked like he'd taken a swim in a barrel of alcohol.
"Do you think it can be done?" James asked.
"Wha, getting drunk?"
"Getting Gwen to like him," James specified impatiently. "I mean, would you?"
"I don't know if I could answer that," Sirius replied musingly, watching Arthur appraisingly. So did James, only he was hating every dirty-blond strand of hair, every inch of wine-splattered cloth on him. "Nope, I can't, actually. I don't roll that way."
"I'm serious!" James hissed, but instantly he was kicking himself for his blunder. Sirius tried to resist answering for a grand total of two heartbeats. He grinned past his mouthful of apple roll.
"No. I am."
"Shut up, Sirius."
"I love you too."
"Wha's yeh doin'ere?" Arthur was looking blearily up at them both and tried to glare at James, who winced. The bloke was so drunk, he was flammable. Sirius, though, grinned.
"Hello, Artie," he said brightly, pulling up a stool and sitting down in front of him. "How's things? Mind if I have some of that cider?"
"Lousy," Artie complained. "Gw—Guin— Genvierere. She dump'd me. Ssshe dos'n' luv me 'nymore."
And she never will again, at this rate— James bit his lip with worry. Sirius, though, poured out two goblets and handed him one, with the very sort of charm and confidence James himself had lost.
Och, come on Prongs — we'll put this right in a snap.
"What if I tell you we," Sirius turned to Artie and gestured between James and himself, "can help you get her back?"
"Wuzzat?" Artie looked blearily at Sirius. Sirius gave him his brightest, most winning smile. The sort that had anyone of a female gender —and some males too— at his feet in a blinking. Artie wasn't really the exception.
"I said," he replied quite clearly, leaning forward and thus causing Artie to do the same, "we can help you get Guinevere back. James is very sorry she is so very attentive towards him, and wishes nothing more than to rectify that error. Would you accept our assistance?"
Let us now leave Arthur to dissect Sirius' words and move on to a far darker, danker place… which is presently filled with the smell of goats.
The Tale of Elaine the Paine from Aquitaine
Morgana peered into her scrying basin and huffed. It was only half full. Why did it take so long to fill? It was a simple thing, really, get a goat, extract the scrying fluid, fill the basin. But Mordred was taking ages.
In the background, Mordred was in a rotten mood, extracting the fluid that was oh-so-important for her scrying to be successful amid the mixed baleful and frightened bleatings of a black goat, a black-and-white goat, a brown goat, a grey goat and an all-white goat.
"Hold still, you pea-brained beast," he muttered angrily, holding what one day would be known as an eye-dropper, in its rather enormously over-sized version and trying to stick it in the proper goat orifice for the extraction.
"It's hardly surprising they don't like it," Morgana said languidly. She loved Mordred to pieces, but sometimes she felt like blasting him up into them. Like now. Those Malefois, they were all so impatient. And whiny. "If you were a bit gentler with them when you extract their—"
"Get some other animal then," Mordred interrupted. "Can't you use Flobberworms? They're so easy to look after—"
"No, no. No. Only goats will do, mark my words. You are the apprentice here," she replied. "One day, all dark wizards will use goats to scry and create spells. You'll see."
"Yeah, but goat spit? You know there are far more productive ways to use goats. Why not goat milk, for example? Or goat blood? At least it would be faster than getting your ruddy basin full of slobber."
Hm. Goat blood. Hadn't thought of that one, Morgana realised, frowning.
"Keep at it," she decided anyway, making a mental note to look into the blood thing. It would work as well, it would look loads darker and frightening, and it would also fetch them a good supper or two… besides goat horns were good for other things, and their hides could be used to make blankets and the sort… She didn't use the milk as a rule, because it was good for her beauty baths. And for drinking and making cheese, sometimes after she had bathed in it (although she would never tell Mordred that, he loved goat cheese). The rest however… maybe it wasn't such a bad idea. The spit thing was dreadfully time-consuming, not to mention, her scryings were always blurry, slimy, and full of bubbles.
She decided to go for a walk, thus allowing Mordred to fill the basin in his own time. She needed some fresh air, and hopefully would find a dull-enough thatcher who'd take payment for the roof in leprechaun's gold.
In the end, she found neither fresh air — it was Dunging Monday, so everyone was rolling cartloads of animal poop to the fields — nor a thatcher, dull or otherwise. Instead, she happened across something far, far more disgusting, and later, across something far more interesting.
First, she almost knocked into Severance, who was running as fast as his bony legs would carry him, his already filthy and greasy self made worse by a bucketful of what looked like congealing blue goat-spit thrown over his head, holding both hands to a bloodied face and sobbing out curses in a barely understandable Old Saxon (which will here be reproduced as barely understandable English, to avoid confusions).
"Watch where you're going!" Morgana warned, stepping aside just in time to avoid a collision.
"B'lady!" he sputtered, skidding to a halt and almost managing to avoid splattering her with blue and red. Morgana stepped further away from him, sneering in disgust.
"What happened to you?"
"B'lady, dat basdard Black b'oke mah dows! A' de odda basdad Black b'oke mah dows doo! A' dat Bodder basdad b'oke did id agaid—"
"I sent you to spy on them, not to get into fights with them!" Morgana chided. "Did you at least find out what ripped?"
"What's that, "dibe"?"
"Dibe, da's wha ribb'd."
"Sorry. I couldn't catch that. Come again?"
"Dibe, b'lady. Dibe!" Severance wailed.
"I am losing my patience, Severance. And stop spraying me with your filthy muggle blood."
"Dibe! Dibe ribb'd! I sby'd a' he'd 'eb say dibe ribb'd, a'd de dibe lo'd, lo'd C'ouch wuz all wo'ed be-c'cause de udive'se is collabsi'g, a'—"
"Severance Prince, you are a disgrace. You're not making any sense, any sense at all! Speak clearly, and get those hands off your fa— never mind, keep them on there, you're bleeding all over me. Now, slowly. What. Ripped?"
Severance wailed in frustration, but he did as he was told. He took a deep breath, and, letting out a steady spray of blood, goo, and spittle, he tried to explain yet again, what he'd overheard.
"Dibe i' wha's ribb'd," he said, as clearly as he could manage. Which, as you may have seen, wasn't much. "De dibe lo'd, Grouch, 'e said da' dibe is collabsid, collabb…sigg, a' da de udivedse is doo. A' Bedlid said da' 'e's god a dibe bachid, a' Black said 'e wads do use de Bilosophe' Stode do fix id…"
Morgana slapped a hand over her face. "You know, you should have come straight to me with the news, rather than getting into a fight with the lord Black," she shook her head in vexation. "I should turn you into a bat, but you'd be too greasy to fly. What is so hard about it? Just go in, spy on Merlin and Uther's visitors, bring me back one useful piece of information—"
"Bu' I was goi'd do see you!" Severance wailed. "B'lady Bogada, belieb' be, I hea'd a'd cabe ove' bu' da' liddle basdard Black b'oke bah dows!"
"Shut up, Severance. You're the worst spy in creation. All you've given me is a headache. You can't tell me what ripped that's got the lord Crouch here with those two others, or even what the Muggles are doing. By Circe, you can't even speak properly. Go fix that nose of yours, and may it stay crooked for every generation to follow."
"Do'h! Bweese do'h do da'!"
Morgana rolled her eyes.
"Shut up, Severance, and go away." She gave him a dismissive wave to point her statement, and cleaned herself with a wave of her wand. "I'll have to go do your job myself, and that's all on your head I'll have you know."
"Hush, I said. Leave now, you're vexing me. Be glad I didn't turn you into thatches for my roof. Now begone."
And she strode purposefully (and regally) towards the Camelot Castle walls.
Almost nearly practically to the walls, because she was Morgana le Fay, feared and well-known by all, and she was certain Merlin, Uther, and those 'basddads' Black and Gryffindor and Crouch would hex her first, ask questions later.
She decided to disguise herself, and that required… a little privacy, first off. So she deviated from the main path, making her way into a thicket while she pondered who she should pose as while in the castle.
Not one of the serving girls, for sure. Last time she did that, she had been tasked with cleaning the outhouses, and she couldn't use magic to do so— who would ever have thought the brats were under constant supervision?
Then there was that other time she'd snuck into the castle posing as a noble lady, but curse her bad luck, that very same snobbish wench just had to arrive the very next morning!
And she wouldn't ever forget the time she had decided to pose as one of the maids to the lady Guinevere— she had been made to follow her around everywhere, listen to her nonsensical drivel all day long, help her dress and get changed a million times before her ladyship was satisfied with her appearance, had to brush her hair, empty her chamber pot, place clean rushes on her floor… Gods, she'd been so worn out at the end of the day she'd even forgotten to spy!
No. This time, she decided, would be different. Hm. What to do? Who should she be? Someone of rank, but not high enough to be noticed. Someone who would be implicitly given free run of the castle, and not tasked with silly serving duties. Someone… who could easily be seen talking to anyone and make nobody suspicious.
Yep, that was a toughie, especially with what Court had become of late. She was an avid reader of Witch Weekly. She was in the loop.
Morgana mentally ran down a list of courtiers, briefly stopping to wonder about the time-travellers. The Lords Black and Gryffindor were certainly of age, but were they married yet? And what about the Lady Crouch? Where was she? Not in the castle, the Crouches liked to remain in their Devon Estates… But… maybe if she impersonated, say, the Lady Cicely of …No, she was in the castle, wasn't she? Oh, where was the gossip column when she most needed it?
That's right, it was covering the roof.
She walked about aimlessly, changing wardrobes with a flick of her wand every now and then, deep in thought.
"Oh! That's it!" she exclaimed to herself. She had been rehashing the last list of courtiers at Camelot, and one of the names missing was Elaine of Aquitaine, one of Pellinore's brats. And Pellinore was surely out after the Questing Beast again, therefore nobody would bother her about anything! It was well-known that Elaine (well, that Elaine, there were too many to count lately) was rather fond of her amorous affairs, and she wasn't entirely ugly.
Particularly not after a good beauty-enhancing charm, which Morgana could recite in her sleep (and often did, although she would never admit it to anyone).
She waved and flicked her wand, chanting to herself, and her shining black hair shifted hues until it matched Elaine's blonde, as did every last of her features; her high-boned cheeks became rounder, her lips poutier and redder, her eyes shifted from blue to green and she added a bit to her hips, which swayed this way and that as she walked daintily to the castle, giggling to herself in a fashion that was nothing like her usual bearing.
Yep, she was a good actress. And she was secretly proud of it.
But her inward celebration died before it had properly started. She had reached a small clearing on her way to Camelot Castle… and what she saw there was most unusual.
There, humming with magic and surrounded by blooming shrubs, stood a blue box.
A large blue box, just like the one that good-for-naught Severance had told her about, with the words "POLICE PUBLIC CALL BOX" carved on it, and what looked like doors, and a curious-looking little contraption to the side which made a 'ding' sound when she tapped it.
Morgana circled the thing a few times, trying to make sense of it. There was a keyhole on one of the doors, but it was so tiny she doubted a regular key would ever open it.
But she was curious.
If this was the contraption used for travelling through time, she wouldn't even need to go to the castle to spy on anyone— she could just take it.
Or at least look inside.
She cast Alohomora to open it, but all she got for her troubles was a blast of power, which landed her a few feet away, her recently-charmed hair sizzling and on end.
"Oh, that's the way you want to play it, huh," she muttered, raffling herself up from the forest floor. "You picked the wrong witch to mess with— Incantus Cancelo!"
Morgana sniffled, circling the strange wooden box yet again. Maybe it needed a pass word?
What could it be?
"Time," she tried.
"Police public call box!" she said imperiously. "Open before me!"
Hummmmmmm, went the box. Was it mocking her?
"Box call public police!" Sometimes things were scrambled or backwards, so… "Call Box Public Police! Xob Llac Cilbup Ecilop! Llac Xob Ecilop Cilbup! Ecilop Cilbup Llac Xob!"
Half an hour later, she was hungry, rather badly vexed, and still staring down the immovable box.
And she was quite certain the thing was laughing.
"I give up. Stupid thing. Stupid Severance. Stupid Crouch." Her eyebrows rose. Of course! He would know the spell needed to open the box! And, she decided, he would definitely forget he was married to that hag of a witch, Blanche.
She cleaned herself up and redid her hair, added a few more bits to her figure in strategic places, and marched resolutely to the castle.
That Lord Crouch would never even know what hit him.
In the meantime, in the castle...
The Paths Where Love Taketh Us...
"So," Sirius clapped his hands together, surveying the drenched Artie critically. "We have noticed that Guinevere is very susceptible to the things one can do, so I figure you need to impress her."
He and James had resorted to a universally-accepted remedy for drunkenness: Drenching in ice-cold water. This meant that Artie was, aside from wet, also suffering the beginnings of a hangover and possibly frostbite. In addition, he was miserable — a fact which made James feel infinitely better— and only stared dimly at Sirius. They were in the courtyard of Camelot, which was presently windy —James' doing— and deserted because everyone with an ounce of sense was getting ready for the banquet. The best food was usually gone within a few minutes, a factoid Sirius was well aware of.
"Wha?" Artie asked him blankly. Sirius sighed. His stomach rumbled.
Gods, what I do for you, James.
For me?! I'll happily date Gwen—
Frilly granny knickers!
Freckles! Brown wavy hair!
SHUT UP, SIRIUS!
Alright, Ronald Weatherby.
Okay, okay! Stop it with the Weatherby already! James huffed, sticking his hands mulishly in his recently invented pockets while Sirius gave him his most insolent grin.
"What," Sirius enunciated clearly, turning to Artie once more, "are you good at?" Artie blinked slowly at him. James was tempted to facepalm, but Sirius carried on patiently. "We need to know what you're good at, so we can see how you can impress her," Sirius reminded.
"This." Artie said, "I'm good at this." He gestured around him. Sirius and James had a turn at blinking dimly in response.
"Wha?" James asked.
"You're good at… standing?" Sirius ventured hesitantly.
"What are you, thick?" Artie scoffed. Sirius raised an eyebrow. "Jousting, of course. I'm the champion of Camelot. Where have you been? In Mercia?"
"What's Mercia?" James asked.
"What's jousting?" Sirius asked.
Artie facepalmed, but after a few moments — and a drying charm courtesy of James— he explained the basic traits of the Medieval sport of choice to the boys.
"Simple as," Sirius said, once he and James had grasped the gist of it— basically bashing others to a pulp using Muggle weaponry whilst taking care not to be bashed in yourself— and learned that there were four main parts to it: the melee, horseback jousting, archery and one-on-one swordfighting. "It's going to be easy, then. All we need is for you to beat James in a joust—"
"What?! Why me? Why not you?" James interrupted. Sirius rolled his eyes.
"Because we're trying to impress the Lady Guinevere, remember? She's not got the hots for me, does she? It's the Lord Potter she wants to have a picnic with, and as you know, that shouldn't happen, because of the Weatherby—"
"Okay, okay, let's impress the lady, then." James heaved a sigh and ruffled his hair. Not only was he not allowed to give into his impulse of wooing Guinevere, now he also had to get himself bashed with clubs and skewered with swords and trampled by horses and whatnot for it. Gah.
"Brilliant!" Sirius exclaimed, and Artie grinned.
"Um, so…" James ventured, having been deep in thought for a few moments, during which Sirius and Artie were planning the event for the following morning. "What's jousting like, exactly?"
And what of the Lord of Time?
Yep... Still Got It.
The Doctor walked lazily down one of the many hallways of Camelot Castle, adjusting his brown trenchcoat. He had spent a very interesting day in Merlin's company after the boys and Uther had left, and he was rather confident he could seal the rip in time and space; Sirius hadn't stayed long after a heated argument over why dragons should be a protected species, which might have invented environmentalism a couple of millenia or so too early, so the lad had missed a most interesting planning session.
The Doctor had finally gotten to talk wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff to his heart's content, and found out that these wizarding blokes were more up his alley than he'd given them credit for. Besides, he'd had a blast helping to hide Merlin's now Truly Secret Work Chamber. The Doctor chuckled to himself. He'd be surprised if anyone could find the room now.
Starting with Merlin.
The earlier distraction with the blue goo had served them both to hide the chamber, and once it was hidden, they lost track of time because nobody bothered them for the rest of the day.
And now he rather felt like bothering someone else.
He made his way to the Great Hall, where he could already hear laughing and music. The Middle Ages might be low-tech to a fault, but the Magical Middle Ages were, he found, right up his alley. There was no shortage of entertainment here, at any rate. And just in case there was, he had a banana in his pocket. That usually helped break the ice quite effectively.
"Lord Crouch, fancy seeing you here," a musical, rather breezy voice said behind him. The Doctor turned, wondering why, why people insisted on telling him to crouch all the time.
"Uh… you talkin' to me?" he asked the… beautiful witch in an elegant white gown who was swaying towards him with a charming smile on her face.
"How is the lady Blanche?" the witch asked, now close enough for him to smell roses on her. Roses with an undertone of… goat. He wasn't about to judge, though. Persil had not been invented yet, had it?
"Er… the lady who?"
"Oh, you always were such a jester," she told him, swaying closer to him still. He instinctively took a step back. "And, I hear, you have been travelling." Now she was playing with his tie, which he tugged back into his possession. "Where did you get that interesting coat? In Mercia? Hispania? Or did you journey further?" She whispered that last in his ear, making goosebumps rise all over his skin. He didn't think it was just because she smelled like a stable.
"A bit further, yeah…" The Doctor tugged his coat away from her hold now, only to look up and find her face had come uncomfortably close to his. "I don't believe we've met, lady…?"
"Elaine," she laughed, patting his arm. "Surely you remember me, although I've grown since I last saw you…" she did a bit of a funny jiggle with her hips, like a bell, as if to demonstrate what, exactly, had grown since then. "I've fond memories of you, sir lord, very fond." That last was delivered in a suggestive sort of whisper, which made the Doctor rather… nervous.
He was over 900 years old, after all. He'd been around.
"Uh," went the Doctor. "I… yes, I can see that… er… lady Elaine. That's close enough, thanks. I can see quite fine from here." She, however, was nothing if not persistent. "Oh," he added, thinking on his feet. "Is that dinner I smell? Yum, I'm starving," he added brightly, echoing Sirius' favourite phrase and backing away. "I'll be on my way, shall—" his intended ploy was foiled as a set of shimmering pink lips landed smack on his own.
"Blimey," he breathed against Elaine's mouth. "I thought you people were more reserved in this day and age."
"That— that was…" Elaine whispered, every bit as incredulous as the Doctor himself.
"Quite fun, thank you," he told her quickly before she could move in for a second go. "But I always like to keep my snogging short before meals to, well, preserve my appetite, and dinner is where I should be heading right about now." He took off before she could say another word. "Nice meeting you, Elaine, er, Lady!" he called over his shoulder, already hurrying down a random corridor towards some random stairs and out of sight. He completely missed Elaine's huff and wry smile as she followed more slowly.
"Oh, but I have got you, lord Crouch."
"Boys!" the Doctor fairly leapt over one of the tables in the Great Hall, which was buzzing with courtiers and servants, most of whom were carrying heavy-looking silver trays this way and that. "Boys! I'm so glad to see you — you've got to hide me."
"Wha?" Sirius asked. Unsurprisingly, his face was half buried in a formless edible something.
"Why?" James wanted to know. The Doctor looked over his shoulder, ducking under the table right after.
"Because of her," he hissed, jabbing a thumb towards Elaine.
"Ooh," James commented. "'Choo want to hide from her for? Oh!" he gasped, hazel eyes suddenly wide. "Is she your gran too?"
"Don't be stupid, his gran's not even from this planet."
"Har har, I'm Sirius Black, I'm a nerdnerd and I expect everyone to understand the nonsense I—"
"Well," the Doctor interrupted halfheartedly. "She might be. She liked to visit places too. Mind you, she'd be a bunch of atoms just about now."
"Whasanatom—" James started, but the Doctor ducked under the table.
"Shh! She's coming!"
"Holy Snitch, she's fit."
"Don't you dare, James."
"Oh, all right, gah," came the long-suffering tone, and a split second later, the Doctor was covered with a familiar sort of see-through fabric. Elaine passed him without a glance, clearly still looking for someone. Him.
"I really like this thing."
"You would," James murmured. "I wonder why you'd want to hide from… her." He nodded in Elaine's direction.
"She keeps wanting to snog me—"
"Like that's a bad thing."
"Oy!" the Doctor exclaimed at a hiss. "It is. Sometimes."
"But if she's not your gran, then what's the har—"
"That's not the point! I don't want to be snogged."
Cutlery clattered on the table, and both boys stared at the invisible spot where the Doctor was, shocked and open-mouthed.
"What? Snogging isn't everything." The Doctor hissed from under the cloak. Sirius started chewing again, but neither boy lost his stunned expression. The Doctor rolled his eyes. Teenagers, ye gods.
Up next (unless something happens to change the tale again): Sirius will get his dragon. James learns to joust. Sirius blows stuff up, James blows stuff up, Severance is articulate again, and Morgana finally succeeds at taking… something... from the Doctor.