Note: Please allow me to take this opportunity to remind my beloved readers that I am currently in the process of editing and podficcing my complete archive. I believe all of my stories can be better, reflecting my deepening understanding of the characters, and in some cases, fixing problematic elements and tropes which, through my own ignorance, have crept into my work over the years.
Once each story has been edited, I will make a podfic (mp3 audiobook version) to go with it, to increase reader accessibility. Podfics can be downloaded from my AO3 archive, which is also under the name picascribit. AO3 also allows readers to download ebook versions of stories.
You can see which stories have been edited and podfic'd so far by checking the story summaries here in my FFN archive.
Thank you for your time and kind attention. And now, A Conspiracy of Cartographers ...
The first time Remus Lupin died, he was six years old.
The sun was streaming through his window that morning, there was a warm, springy feeling in the air, and Remus woke up smiling. He had had the dream again - the great, black dog who sometimes came to play with him while he slept, and kept him safe from nightmares. Those were always the best dreams. He wondered whether he should have asked his parents for a dog for his birthday, rather than a trip to the seaside.
Mr and Mrs Lupin had promised to take their son out of school for the day if the weather was fine, and drive an hour and a half to the coast, just the four of them. Not that Remus didn't enjoy the company of other children, or that he didn't like getting presents he could unwrap, but he had always liked doing things more than having things, and sometimes, when no one else was around, his father would do magic.
Marcellus Lupin was a wizard. He was a quiet, reserved man who saved his broad smiles mostly for his wife and children. During the week, he worked at the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures in the Ministry of Magic. Remus had once been allowed to visit the Ministry with his father, and had stared, round-eyed, at the people in their colourful robes, and their casual use of magic.
Remus's mother, Sylvia, was a Muggle. She told everyone her husband worked for the RSPCA, and frequently warned Remus and his almost-three-year-old sister Natalie not to mention magic or wizards in front of other people. They lived in a Muggle neighbourhood, and Remus attended the primary school up the road, where he was already beginning to show promise as a good student.
Remus secretly hoped that he would be a wizard like his father one day, and he got a funny, excited feeling in his belly every time Marcellus mentioned Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry or the Ministry, but there had been no sign of magic in him yet. This did not bother Remus; growing up was still a long way off, and in the meantime, he had a family who loved him and plenty of friends to play with. He was a bright, mischievous boy, always inventing games that other children enjoyed playing, even if they sometimes got dirty or into trouble. At the end of a day of school or play, his parents would have supper on the table, and afterwards, his father would read to him, or his mother would sing, and then it would be time for sleep.
On this particular bright March morning, Remus pulled on his clothes haphazardly and rushed down the stairs and into the kitchen where his parents were making breakfast.
"There's my birthday boy!" said Marcellus with a grin. "Finally decided to join us, have you?" He ruffled his son's white-blond hair fondly.
His mother scooped him into a one-armed hug, her other hand busy turning the eggs. "Happy birthday, Sweetheart."
Remus gazed up at his father with large brown eyes. "Do some magic?" he begged.
His father put on a comical thoughtful expression, and then reached for his wand from the sideboard. He flourished it at the toaster. Piping hot slices of golden-brown bread leapt into the air, did several backflips, and landed with a plop on the plate set at Remus's place, where they began busily buttering themselves. Remus flashed a gap-toothed grin of delight, and his sister squealed her joy from her highchair at the end of the table.
"When are we going?" Remus asked, stuffing toast into his mouth. He wondered whether eating magicked food would make him more likely to end up a wizard.
"When you've finished your breakfast," his mother told him. "Chew, Remus. If you choke to death, no one will be going to the seaside today."
Remus swallowed and giggled, used to his mother's half-serious dire warnings about the consequences of everything. He made himself slow down, even though every second he couldn't feel sand between his toes was pure agony, and not to be borne.
After breakfast, his mother bundled up Natalie - it was not that warm, she said - and insisted that Remus put on a jumper and find his jacket, while his father loaded a picnic basket and blanket into the car.
Sylvia drove and Marcellus sat half-turned in his seat, entertaining the children with a few chapters from Five Children and It - already a favourite of Remus's - and singing nursery rhymes which Remus was far too old to admit he still loved. He was especially fond of rhymes that mentioned magic or witches, ever since his father had told him that these had started out being sung for young wizards, and had only found their way into the Muggle world by accident.
"There was an old woman tossed up in a basket,
Seventeen times as high as the moon;
Where she was going I couldn't but ask it,
For in her hand she carried a broom."
Natalie was asleep in her carseat by the time they arrived at the coast. There were no other cars besides their own in the carpark; it was too early in the season, and a weekday besides. Remus felt a tiny thrill at the thought of having the beach all to himself. The tide was a long way out, and the flat expanse of sand called to him like a siren song. Impatiently hopping from one foot to the other, he helped carry the blanket to a spot reasonably sheltered from the wind, while his mother wrangled his sister out of the car and his father handled the picnic basket.
"Can I take my shoes off, Mum?" he asked the moment the blanket was spread out and his sister deposited on it.
"Not yet," she told him. "It's too chilly, and I won't have my only son dying of pneumonia. Maybe after lunch."
Remus sighed melodramatically. Lunch was years away.
His father stood up and smiled, reaching out a hand. "C'mon, birthday boy," he said. "Let's go exploring."
He was really too old to be walking down the beach holding his father's hand, but since there was no one there to see, Remus didn't mind so much. He loved exploring with his father. Marcellus Lupin knew all kinds of magical secrets that were hidden from Muggle eyes, and they were bound to find something interesting.
They strolled a ways down the sandy stretch to where rocks captured microcosms of life in their tidepools. Remus poked at anemones to make them close their petals, then waited for them to reopen so he could poke them again. Dipping a hand into the sun-warmed water, his father would point out this or that, giving Remus the names of everything. Remus drank in the knowledge along with his own sense of wonder at so many different kinds of life.
"Oh, look at this!" said Marcellus, delighted, plucking a tiny, green creature from the depths of the pool and showing it to his son. "It's a vertoleon snail. Doesn't look like much, does it?"
Remus shook his head, peering at the tiny snail.
"Vertoleon slime," his father informed him, "is a key ingredient in a number of antidote potions. And the crushed shell can be used to strengthen restorative draughts."
Marcellus gently returned the miniature gastropod to its home, and the two of them moved on to the next tidepool. By lunchtime, they had uncovered a Cassandra crab - which an awed Remus was informed that, if eaten, would induce strange and often false visions of the future - and a stone that his father said looked just like a fossilised Hinkypunk, though he might have been joking.
By the time they returned to the blanket, Remus's mother had spread out a wealth of sandwiches, sliced fruit, cold meat pies, juice, crisps, and - best of all - chocolate cake. Remus begged her to let them start with the cake, but she shook her head, smiling, and gave him a gentle push in the direction of the other food, reminding him again to chew.
It was too windy for candles on the beach, and when the time came at last for cake, Remus complained bitterly that if there were no candles to blow out, how could his wish ever come true? So his father put six "magical, invisible, wind-resistant candles" on the cake, and declared himself impressed when Remus managed to extinguish every one of them on the first try.
The cake was delicious, though Remus thought it a terrible waste of icing when Natalie managed to smear quite a large handful of it into her hair.
"It's s'posta go in your mouth, Nat!"
When Remus had finished his cake, he lay down on the blanket, feeling full and sleepy. His parents fell into talking about his father's work, which they often did during quiet moments, and the sound of their voices lulled him into sleep for a time. He was awakened by his mother's voice, suddenly sharp.
"They should just lock them all up," she was saying. "Or make them wear some kind of sign so people will know what they are. Dangerous beasts shouldn't be allowed to just roam free."
"It's not like that, Syl," Marcellus argued gently. "Most of them, most of the time, are just normal folk, trying to get by and live their lives. This new legislation - all I'm really trying to do is convince Leach to make sure that they have access to safe, secure facilities, and that their whereabouts can be confirmed during full moons. It's for their own protection as much as anyone else's."
Sylvia pursed her lips, unconvinced. "But that Greyback -"
"He's half the reason why we need the new legislation," admitted Marcellus. "The man is out of control, even when he shouldn't be. But we can't prove he was responsible for those attacks. The only way to do that is to make sure all the others are registered and accounted for, and the only way we can do that is with new legislation."
Remus sat up and tugged at the laces of his trainers, bored by any discussion of his father's work which did not directly involve magic. Casting an imploring look at his mother and receiving an absent nod in response, he kicked off his shoes and socks and buried his toes in the warm, dry sand. The tide had turned and was beginning to come back in, and Remus felt a strong desire to put his feet in the water.
Wading out until the tide washed and rushed over his skinny ankles, Remus looked down at the sand swirling around his toes. He saw small, darting fish in the water, and wondered what they were called. There were shells, too. He knew the names for some of them, and said them softly to himself as he picked them up. The ones he didn't know, he put into his pocket to ask his father about later.
Turning, he began to wander down the beach. It was still deserted, and he knew that, so long as he could see his parents and they could see him and he didn't stray too deeply into the water, he could range as far as he pleased.
I'll find another Cassandra crab, he thought to himself, and I'll eat it and find out if I'm going to be a wizard.
Better yet would be to find a Psammead, like the one in the book his father was reading to him. They were sand fairies, so why shouldn't one live on a beach like this? Once he caught it, he could make it grant his wishes. He could ask to be a wizard, then, and to have a wand to do spells with and a broom to ride on, and he would ask for a puppy, just like the black dog from his dreams.
But there were no Cassandra crabs to be found, nor any sand fairies either. There was only the beach and the magic of his own imagination.
Pockets bulging with shells, Remus sat down in the sand and began to build the sort of castle he imagined a Psammead would want to live in. Perhaps he could entice one of the elusive, grouchy creatures to come to him. He scooped the sand together with a large shell, raising precarious turrets, reinforcing with small sticks, and decorating with colourful shells, pebbles and beach glass. He was completely lost in his task when a shadow fell across him.
"That's a nice castle," said a raspy voice above him.
Remus looked up to see a man of about his father's age standing over him. He was taller than Marcellus, and broader through the shoulders, and he had long, greasy hair and sideburns. His clothes were odd, reminding Remus a little of the sorts of things he had seen worn on his visit to the Ministry. There was something about his smile that Remus did not like, but he didn't feel prepared to abandon the castle he had put so much work into.
The man crouched down beside him. Remus could smell him. He liked his smell less than he liked his smile.
"Do you like Fizzing Whizbees, boy?"
Fizzing Whizbees were a magical sweet with which his father had surprised him once or twice. If this man had Fizzing Whizbees, he must be a wizard. As much as Remus loved the idea of magic, and had enjoyed the exhilarating feeling of floating around the room when his father had given him the sweets, he knew he was not supposed to take anything from strangers, and even if he hadn't known that, Remus didn't think he would have wanted to take anything that this man offered him.
He stood abruptly and backed away. "I have to go," he said.
The man also rose and shrugged. "Suit yourself, kid."
Remus turned and walked away down the beach as quickly as he could, realising too late that he was still headed away from his parents. When he glanced back over his shoulder, he could see them still, a long way down the beach. The man had vanished. Remus's heart was pounding, though he wasn't sure why he should be scared. After all, nothing really scary had happened.
To calm himself, he waded out into the cool water again, and took the shells out of his pocket to examine, discarding a few that were the same as another. The sun was beginning to set, and it was getting more and more difficult to distinguish between the shells.
Natalie was just as bored by her parents' conversation as her brother had been, but her permitted range was much more limited. She had napped for as long as she could, and dug in the sand with a shell she had found, then fussed when her mother had prevented her from putting the shell in her mouth. But finally she had found something to distract her.
"Pretty!" she said, pointing.
The upper curve of the full moon could just be seen rising out of the sea, casting a long, silver path across the water in the dying daylight.
Marcellus turned pale and looked at his wife. "Where's Remus?"
Remus stood, water lapping at his knees, watching the moon rise. The glowing orb made him think of a shining silver Sickle, and he raised his hand, as if to pluck the coin out of the sky. He could hear his father calling his name from a long way off, but he wasn't quite ready to go home yet.
And then he heard a sound much closer. A soft growl which raised the hairs on the back of his tender neck, and the splash of a foot and a foot and a foot and a foot in the water behind him. Very slowly, Remus turned around.
The beast seemed almost to be made out of the same substance as the gathering darkness. Water poured from its huge paws as it stalked slowly towards him.
"Padfoot?" he whispered in a high, scared voice.
But the eyes were wrong. They were not the moonlight-pale eyes of the black dog that was his totem and his protector, but a savage yellow that sent a chill down his spine.
He could hear his father shouting. As Remus whirled to run to him, the beast leapt. Remus screamed. A wave of power blazed out of him, bringing the snapping jaws up short for an instant, but it wasn't enough - not nearly enough to save him.
He did not dream about the black dog again for more than five years.