Disclaimer: I am not J.K. Rowling. I do not own Harry Potter nor the Harry Potter universe. I am not TSR, Hasbro, or whoever it is who holds the RAVENLOFT intellectual property rights, either. I do not own Ravenloft.
Note: The following experimental piece contains references to the second edition AD&D version of 'Ravenloft', and is based in part on material in the 'Domains of Dread' sourcebook and the Van Richten Monster Hunter's Compendiums released to accompany that version of AD&D.
Terminology: Vistani are a sort of Ravenloft version of nomadic (horror setting) gypsies. They travel in wagons/'traditional gypsy caravans', are mysterious, and are a closely knit people who do not easily trust 'outsiders'. 'Vistana' refers to an individual such person; 'vistani' refers to them in groups or collectively.
Further note: This piece is rated as 'horror' to be on the safe side (it is Ravenloft, after all) and as 'T'.
For now (in March 2020) this is a one-shot.
Frank Longbottom hated golems. There were things around which were considerably more dangerous to fight (and indeed in some cases which – from a survival point of view – it was frankly best not to even begin to try to fight), but from Frank's perspective few things exemplified just how twisted and wrong at times the world into which Hogwarts and dozens of its pupils and staff had been sucked almost a decade earlier than a golem. A golem was a figure (often, but by no means exclusively human-shaped) fashioned and given unnatural life by the sheer obsession of a usually deeply disturbed man or woman. It was an abomination, born usually of unreasoning grief or some much less savoury madness, and frequently fashioned out of hideous materials – Frank was actually lucky on that count this time, in that the one which he was currently facing had only been shaped out of glistening slick clay; golems formed out of pieces scavenged from several 'donors', living or dead, were unfortunately far more 'usual' for such creatures.
And it went without saying that any creation arising from the circumstances of most golems was going to very quickly end up with an utterly hideous personality and (after the destruction of its creator, usually at its own hands) a truly warped set of goals.
Any day that Frank Longbottom got to permanently remove any such creature from the face of this world was, at least once the battle was over, a good day in his book. Of course, that required having to confront, usually at close quarters, and thoroughly dismantle the abomination first, though.
Frank had read the works of the scholar Rudolph van Richten on golems, and those of a number of other, lesser, authors on the topic, and he knew how to handle most golems; he was always wary of the possibility of surprises, mind you – in these lands, assuming anything to be 'always as read' was a good route to injury or death – but insomuch as it was possible and prudent to have a plan of action, he had one for most types of golem.
And so far, the plan was working against this one.
A volley of gouts of fire, from his wand, once he'd lured the thing into emerging from the bog that it inhabited, then close in on it, with the Sword of Gryffindor, and take it apart piece by piece whilst it was still relatively slow and vulnerable from the fire. The Sword of Gryffindor was incredibly useful for dispatching the horrors that lurked in the shadows, or occasionally strode brazenly in the open in these lands; it had been especially so since it had been immersed in a font of water blessed by a priest five years ago. Frank wasn't sure whether or not it was possible for the effects of that 'bath' to be worn away with time and battle though, so tended to return the Sword of Gryffindor to a bath in such blessed waters every so often, or after a mission where the sword had seen particularly heavy use.
This particular golem finally toppled, with a thud, and Frank wiped and hastily sheathed the Sword of Gryffindor, then pulled the flask with the specially prepared iron filings and rock salt powder from his belt and began to pour it over the pieces of the fallen golem, grinding the powder in with his boots. Piece by piece, the golem stopped twitching, and trying to reassemble itself, and then, there was finally silence, apart from Frank's heavy breathing. Then – a sign that this particular evil had been laid to rest – the wind sighed across this stretch of moorland, and natural sounds began to start up. A frog croaking somewhere. A bird starting to sing. Creatures which had been silent, for fear of the unnatural presence that had been in their midst for days, letting loose their voices now that it was gone.
Frank stood there for a few minutes, catching his breath, and listening to the chords of the wilderness reasserting themselves; and then, he wiped the sweat from his brow, peeled off the good chainmail shirt he'd been wearing for protection in the event that the thing had started to throw things his way before he could slow it much and stowed the chainmail shirt in his enchanted bag, and went to look for the vistani.
Frank Longbottom was not entirely enamoured of the vistani – tribes of wandering gypsies, some of them craftsmen or traders, some of them travelling entertainers, some of them little more than thieves – but unfortunately he needed them. In the twelve months after Severus Snape had concluded his education at the 'Salazar Slytherin Institute for Wanded Magic and Medicine' Severus Snape had conducted a whirlwind tour of the lands known as 'The Core', experiencing a series of wild adventures – and racking up a list of several highly powerful and dangerous enemies too. But, whilst he had been about it, Severus Snape had also made the acquaintance of (and gained the friendship and respect of) a number of vistani tribes, and ever since he had disappeared at the end of his year of controlled chaos (taking Lily Evans with him) the vistani had been Severus' only intermediaries and means of communication with those from Hogwarts whom he had formerly known. Every now and then, a vistana would turn up in Port-a-Lucine, with a letter from Severus for Professor Slughorn, and the professor would usually write a response and hand it over with a coin or two for the return delivery service to said vistana, and the vistana would disappear – and that would be it until the next letter arrived. The vistani, as individuals or as a people, had means of travelling that could apparently shake off any pursuit, and Severus never mentioned anything in his occasional letters to the professor that indicated his current location. Wherever Severus was, he wasn't telling his fellow former Hogwarts associates.
This presented a problem for Frank Longbottom – for Frank needed very badly to meet with Severus Snape. Severus had tumbled to secrets of how this world and magic on it worked far faster, and in far deeper ways, than anyone else from Hogwarts of whom Frank knew. Severus Snape had at least half a grip on how anything could be done, or such was Frank's distinct impression, and right now Frank needed advice and practical direction on one particular topic in respect to matters magical.
Fortunately, Frank's need wasn't particularly critical at the moment – it wasn't as if anyone had incurred a deadly curse, as it was reputed that might have happened in Lily Evans' case, prompting Severus' year of frenetic activity, in the quest to cure her – but Severus was the only expert whose word right now that Frank wanted on one particular topic that was concerning him. This meant that, in between other things, Frank was always on the lookout for vistani, and for chances to run errands for them, which might incur sufficient favour or prestige that they would disclose to him the current hiding place or location of Severus Snape.
To date, Frank hadn't made much headway, or at least not on the getting them to disclose anything count; most of the errands which he'd completed for Vistani had hopefully made the world at least a slightly better place in which to live, though…
This clay golem, on an Invidian moor, had been the latest task that Frank had sought out in the hope of gaining a useful answer to his Severus question.
Frank was always careful to be clear, when asking work from vistani, that he had moral and ethical standards about what work he would be prepared to do. He didn't want to be asked to spite some merchant who had earned the vistani's ire or to carry out a piece of thievery for them (or to give possible offence by refusing any such a task). Dispatching obvious monsters and the like were things he usually needed to have the fewest qualms about. Frank was sure that – in a universe where the events of that Hallowe'en night a decade earlier had not dumped him into this place – he would have ended up as an auror instead of a whatever-it-was (sword and wand wielding 'trouble-shooter'?) that he was now.
Although if he had ended up doing undercover auror work, Frank supposed he might have had to deal with sorts much, much worse than vistani.
After a stiff walk across the moorland, Frank arrived back at the vistani encampment – which at least was still here. On one occasion Frank had returned from a particularly tricky struggle with a vampire (and the vampires of this world were considerably less pleasant than those of Earth, on multiple counts) to find that the vistani who had guaranteed him 'do this for us and we will take you to see that man you wish to meet' had upped sticks and vanished. There hadn't been any sign apart from the remains of their campfires that anyone had recently been there, let alone how or where they'd gone.
Frank had put that one down to experience, and didn't press any of them for promises or guarantees after that. He didn't want to force them to lie to him.
The brightly painted wagons of this group were circled, there was smoke rising into the air from the fires, and a sound of chatter and mirth from within.
The old woman – the raunie – who led this particular band of wanderers was waiting for him at the edge of the circle of wagons. The less polite might have thought of her as a withered old crone, but as far as Frank was concerned she was elderly and a bit physically frail. It was difficult not to offer her his arm for support, although she probably didn't need it – but in any case it might give offence if he broached the subject and implied she might be infirm instead of letting her requesting assistance on so personal a matter if she wished for it. She had her pride after all – especially when it came to dealing with those who were not of her people.
"That was speedily done." she commented.
It had been a couple of days, as far as Frank was concerned, but if she said it was 'speedily done' he wasn't going to argue. She possibly meant compared to how long she had expected the task to take, but some vistani had strange concepts of time anyway.
"Most of it was spent shopping for the materials to finish this particular one off." he said modestly.
"Hmmm." she subjected him to a particularly piercing stare.
Frank politely waited.
"You are looking for a friend of the vistani." she said.
"I am." Frank acknowledged.
"Have you heard of a man named 'Elphias Doge'?" she asked.
Frank thought about that for a few moments.
"The name seems slightly familiar," he admitted, "but I cannot currently put a face or background to him."
"He came with the same fortress through the mists in which you arrived in this world." the raunie said. "Your road to the one you seek goes by him. It is not my place to pronounce judgement on what someone does who does not bother the vistani, but it may be your place to do so, when you meet him. He is… engaged in 'research'."
"Thank you for the information, ma'am." Frank said.
"You would have found it out sooner or later anyway, if you lived long enough. I have merely sped you on your way a little." She paused. "The man Elphias Doge: there may be something which looks like a cat with him, should you meet him, but it will assuredly be something which is not an even remotely normal cat. That: that I warn you because it was at one time a matter deeply personal to me."
And then she abruptly turned and shuffled off.
Frank watched her go, aware it was not prudent to intrude within such a camp unasked, until she disappeared from sight around the corner of a wagon, then turned himself, and started off for the nearest settlement.
As he went he turned the name over and over in his mind… 'Elphias Doge'… Had that been the name of some old friend of Professor Dumbledore who had been visiting the castle, perhaps on that fateful night?
Professor Slughorn would surely know.
And what was that about a cat?
In the background, I think that Hogwarts got sucked into Ravenloft probably on Hallowe'en in 1976, possibly whilst a Death Eater attack on the castle was taking place. I'm a bit unclear on what canon Frank and Alice Longbottom's ages are, but am assuming that for the purposes of this story they were probably still at school (in their final year) at that point. They married soon after arriving in Ravenloft, and by the time of this piece have two children (Neville and Evelyn). Alice is at home looking after the children.
Going back to 1976, and its arrival in Ravenloft, various groups of witches and wizards fled Hogwarts and the battle raging there into the mists which had surrounded the castle. Horace Slughorn and one group ended up (either immediately, or after a short time) in Dementlieu, where Horace set up a school to finish training Hogwarts pupils and to tutor locals in reading, writing, philosophy, and so forth. More Hogwarts refugees made their ways their over time.
For those not familiar with Ravenloft, 'The Mists' are a fog which sometimes rises up in a place or surrounding a place, and those entering The Mists can end up stumbling out of them somewhere dozens or even hundreds of miles away from where they entered. Some areas ('Islands of Terror' and 'Clusters') are permanently surrounded by The Mists, cut off from travel except through them.
Hogwarts is currently an 'Island of Terror', floating in the mists somewhere.
Ravenloft being Ravenloft, a fair number of very unpleasant Hogwarts pupils managed to turn themselves into literal monsters with their corrupt and evil ways. (If I update this piece, 'Mulciber' and/or 'Avery' may show up as examples of such.)
And Ravenloft being Ravenloft, it is not a good place to be a werebeast of almost any kind; except for the local 'were-raven' variant, those who are were-beasts for any time always end up as evil monsters. (And 'cures' for those infected with lycanthropy require hunting down and destroying the werebeast who infected a given individual - which is a problem if said 'progenitor' is Fenrir Greyback and a world away, back on the Harry Potter universe version of Earth.) A 'best case' scenario for Remus Lupin is that his friends had to put him down (and then quite possibly killed themselves in guilt/shame.)
Hogwarts witches and wizards are in some ways exceptionally powerful in terms of spellcasting in this story, since they are still assumed to function under 'Hogwarts' magic use rules, rather than the limited spells per day of second edition AD&D spellcasters. They are still subject to 'Powers Checks' however (i.e. possibly being corrupted) if they engage in the use of magic which might be considered necromancy, etc, etc.
Severus Snape was intelligent enough and in the vicinity of some very rapid object lessons to figure out that being evil was really not a good idea. He decided to pass on it and to angle for 'Byronic hero' - and it wasn't exactly as if Lord Voldemort and being possibly recruited by him were potential factors any more.
This piece is currently an experimental one-shot, although there are possibilities (e.g. Frank's quest to see Elphias Doge) for future development.