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Shifts, Chapter 9: Teachers, Part 3 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shifts, Chapter 9: Teachers, Part 3
Okay. We left Remus waking up from a nightmare. Dudley is being intractable, Alan has insisted that Remus and Dora come to a picnic on Saturday, and Remus has decided that he'd better bring his dog along to make sure said dog doesn't make an appearance in Hogsmeade.


Table of Contents and Summary So Far





Alan had no objections to a canine addition to the guest list. He and Anna had lost a beloved dog a few years before, and he offered to bring out all of its toys. Anna, he assured Remus, would be delighted as well.

"If I'm going to be Disillusioned for the walk anyway," Sirius said late Saturday morning as they got ready to leave, "is there some reason I need to transform just to walk to the car park?"

"It's easier to put a lead on you when you're a dog."

"And you think I'm going to run?"

"I think I'd rather keep everything on the safe side. We're taking enough risks taking you out."

"Where's the old Gryffindor courage?"

"Somewhere back at Hogwarts."

"We should go back and pick it up. What do you say?"

"I say I'm going to exercise my Gryffindor courage by facing you down this morning."

Sirius pouted extravagantly, but it was his old, high-spirited pout, and Remus was actually glad to see it. Then he grinned and transformed, wagging Padfoot's tail eagerly as Remus put a collar and leash on him.

"Ready?" he asked.

Sirius nodded his head and Remus put the Disillusionment Charm on him.

"Don't run too fast. I'd look a little odd suddenly being yanked ahead by thin air."

Remus was fairly certain that Sirius was trying not to go too fast, but more than once on the way to the car park, he was obliged to walk faster to keep up. When he got there, Dora was sitting on the bonnet of Ted's car, drinking orange juice from a paper cup and watching his approach with a slightly amused smile. "Getting a bit of morning exercise, are you?" she asked when he got to her, then swatted at a spot near her hand, where Remus could see the vague distortion of Sirius licking at her fingers.

"Get in the car," she said, opening the back door and pretending to reach for something as Sirius jumped in.

Remus climbed into the passenger seat as she slid in behind the wheel. "We'll need to make a stop at the market. I told Alan I'd bring paper dishes for Snuffles back there."

"Already on it," Dora said. "Also, I set up a telephone in Dad's computer room, with a machine to answer it and say we're not in. I've got the number to give out to your friends."

"Oh, thank you. I... "

"You can pay me back out of that fat check you got Friday," she said lightly, rolling her eyes.

"Right," Remus said. The salary at Smeltings was a bit larger than his Hogwarts salary, as it didn't include room and board, but he was still paying off at least seven researchers his parents had hired to try and cure him, not to mention the three months back rent over which he'd been evicted. The landlady had also insisted that he pay for damage to the floor of that miserable shack, claiming that he'd obviously damaged it during transformations. That it was no more damaged when he left than when he came in hadn't made any difference--he couldn't afford representation, and it wouldn't have done any good anyway. So he had that bill to pay as well. All told, out of the roughly four hundred and sixty galleons he'd gotten for the month of September--a little over two thousand pounds--he'd have about seventy to get him through October. Minus whatever it had cost Dora to set up a telephone for them, but he wasn't about to discuss his finances with her. She would certainly offer to pay for it herself, and he had no intention of allowing it.

The day was bright and crisp, a bit windy for an outdoor gathering, but pleasant for all that. By the time they got to Alan's home, it had taken on the golden cast of early autumn, and Remus was very glad to be out of the city.

He took the Disillusionment Charm off of Sirius just before Anna Garvey spotted the car and came out eagerly. "Dora! Raymond! I'm so glad you could come." She opened the back door. "You must be Snuffles!"

Sirius gave her a dog grin, then licked her face.

Anna laughed. "Aren't you a friendly one? Come on out back. I made Alan buy you an extra steak!"

"Oh, he's fine on kibbles," Dora said breezily, getting out of the car.

Sirius barked and jumped up, knocking her back against the car. She scratched his head and laughed. "Try to behave yourself with these nice people," she cooed, and kissed his snout.

Remus reached down with the lead, but Anna waved her hand impatiently. "We've a fence out back. You won't need to chain him to anything."

The back garden was quite heavily populated with Smeltings faces. Most of them, Remus knew in passing, but he had a feeling he'd spend most of the day flailing around for names to match them, Sirius trotted eagerly into a group of small children playing ball under a tree, and within minutes had become the object of the game--tossing to him, letting him fetch, petting him and scratching his belly. He looked deliriously happy.

"Ah, Lewis!"

Remus turned. The Headmaster was weaving his way through the teachers. He was wearing a cotton tee shirt with an advertisement on it and horrible plaid shorts over dark socks. Remus had seen pure-blood wizards make better attempts at looking like common Muggles. Beside him, he saw Dora struggling not to laugh, the corners of her mouth twitching madly. "Hello, Headmaster Blythe," he said. "I don't believe you've met my wife, Dora?"

Dora stuck her hand out and transformed her near-laugh into a brilliant smile. "I'm so happy to meet you. I didn't think anyone would succeed in getting Raymond near a computer."

"Yes, yes, necessary things. He's got quite a bit better at it, answering his e-mail and so on. He may join us in this decade yet."

"I'm trying," Remus said.

Blythe nodded. "Yes, of course. Joe Levinson is here. Those are his grandchildren--and mine--playing with your dog. He asked if I could send you over." He pointed to a table in the back of the garden, laden with liquor bottles and plastic glasses. Beside it, Joe Levinson was sitting in a folding chair, his cane between his knees, watching the proceedings. Miriam was flitting about nearby.

"Oh, certainly."

"My wife is anxious to meet yours--apparently Anna and Miriam are singing her praises. D'you mind?"

"Not unless Dora does."

Dora shrugged, and let Blythe lead her away.

Remus went over to Joe, pulling another folding chair over from a stack against the fence. He sat down. "How are you feeling?" he asked.

"The same," Joe said. "The boys?"

"They're doing reasonably well in history. Dudley passed a surprise quiz."

"What sort of quiz? Multiple choice?"

Remus wrinkled his nose. "No. I don't care for guessable quizzes. Short answer."

Joe laughed. "Not trying to make friends among the students, are you?"

"I'm trying to teach them history. But I'd be happy to make friends with any of them who wish it despite my academic cruelties."

"What are you working on at the moment with the fifth formers?"

"We're covering the early days of the Third Reich. International relations and so on."

Joe grimaced. "Bloody Hitler. May his name be erased. Or relegated to footnotes in dull tomes, which is the same."

"Well, it is important to remember."

"There are six million other names I'd prefer to remember. Including my parents."

"I'm sorry."

Joe shook his head. "No, I am, really. I'm afraid I've had a few drinks." He sighed. "They sent me to England to live with my aunt when I was six. They saw what was coming enough to do that. And then they stayed. A bit of an historical mystery, that. Do you think your new club would like the question?"

"I think the class might like it, actually. Have you asked it with your fifth formers in the past?"

"At Smeltings? I'm not entirely sure I'd like to hear their answers. I talked about it with some of my boxers once. Dudley became quite enraged... at my parents." He shook his head. "The new club... how is it going?"

"Marvelously. Stephen Wells and Daniel Morse are doing an excellent job. When you get back, I'm sure they'd like your help."

"Thank you, Lewis. But we both know I'm not coming back."

He seemed to shrink into the chair, meditating on the head of his cane, where his hands were bunched.

"You know, Joe," Remus said, "I think maybe we should get you to a sunnier part of the yard. It's a bit cool here in the shadows."

"And a bit too close to the port?"

"Well, I wasn't going to say it in so many words."

"It's all right. Just not too close to my grandchildren. I don't like them to see me like this. We brought them up for a day in the country, not a day to watch Granddad moping."

Remus helped him to a spot on the wooden deck, near the glass doors that led into the Garveys' house. In the kitchen, he could hear Dora laughing with Anna, Miriam, and some other women he assumed to be other faculty wives. He thought Alan might be in there as well, but none of the other men seemed to be. It made him uncomfortable.

"Are you set?" he asked.

Joe nodded.

"I should see if I can help in the kitchen," he said.

"Aren't you the modern fellow?" Joe said, grinning.

"I do my best," Remus said.

Alan was stacking steaks onto a tray on the kitchen table. He declined help in this endeavor, as he was almost finished, and hoisted the tray up to go outside. "Now, let's see if Blythe has managed to get the fire started."

Dora and the other women were all chopping vegetables for a salad. She tossed a carrot at him and told him to go outside and see how Snuffles was.

"Really, I'm capable of chopping vegetables..."

Anna Garvey made a slapping motion at the air. "We've just finally got rid of Alan. How can we have girl talk if our husbands insist on coming in?"

"And since you're the one we know the least about--" one of the other wives said.

"--that means you're the one we need to get gossip about," another finished. "And we can't very well press your wife for information while you're sitting here."

"So, out with you," Anna said. "You can help Alan pretend to be a great outdoorsman if you really feel that you need to."

Alan didn't want help either, and most of the rest of the faculty seemed to be involved in conversations already, so Remus wandered over to the tree where Sirius was playing with the children. There were three girls and two boys, and they'd given up the ball in favor a pull toy of some sort. One of the boys held one end of it, while Sirius grabbed the other in his mouth and shook madly, pretending to try and take it away. The boy ran around in a circle and Sirius spun with him.

"Is Snuffles being good?" he asked one of the girls.

"Oh, is he your dog?" She bent down and put her arms around Sirius's neck, kissing his fur and interrupting the tugging game. "He's a wonderful dog!"

Sirius licked her face.

The boy who'd been playing sat down and scratched at his chest. "His name is Snuffles?"

"Yes. I'm Mr. Lewis, from the school."

"I'm Eleanor Levinson," the girl said. "That's my brother, Michael."

The boy smiled.

The other three children introduced themselves as Laura, Catherine, and John Andrews, Blythe's grandchildren. All of them had questions about Snuffles--how old was he, how long had Mr. Lewis had him, did he especially like any games--and asked Remus if he couldn't come to every Smeltings picnic, as there was no one else there who was any fun at all.

Through all of this, Sirius was gloating in a less than canine way, but Remus didn't begrudge it (children humanized pets anyway; they wouldn't see anything untoward about his behavior). He scratched the top of Sirius's head and left him to the children.

Dinner was delicious--Alan had not needed any help with preparing the steak. The Smeltings faculty, freed of the school's usual requirements, seemed comfortable and friendly, eating with plastic forks from paper plates balanced on their laps. Remus didn't think he'd accomplished anything for his assignment, but he was glad to have come.

They left when the sunlight had turned into long, golden rays, the last moments before sunset began. The children made a great fuss about saying goodbye to Sirius, the girls all kissing his snout and the boys roughhousing him all the way to the car. Dora and the ladies kissed one another's cheeks, and Remus found his shoulder being clapped repeatedly by men whose names had suddenly found places in his mind.

I could stay here, he thought. There's nothing stopping me. I could be this person.

But through the crowd, he saw Joe Levinson, more sober now and smiling with the rest, and he knew... if he didn't do everything he could to solve this problem, if he just settled into his life at Smeltings, then Dudley would be right--he'd be stealing someone else's life.

"The appaerance charms would be a right pain after awhile, as well," he muttered as Dora pulled out onto the road.

"What?"

"Nothing."

As soon as Dora turned a corner, Sirius transformed and leaned forward. Remus quickly Disillusioned him.

"Great plan," Sirius said cheerfully. He was practically bouncing with manic energy. "I don't suppose they'd let dogs on campus?"

Dora laughed. "I don't think so."

"I'm glad you had fun," Remus said.

"Oh, I didn't just have fun. I was working."

"Yes, I could see how arduous it was."

Sirius laughed again.

"Lie down in the back seat, will you?" Dora suggested. "You still cast a shadow if someone flashes a light in here."

The back seat creaked. "She was blonde."

"Who was?"

"The witch in the pub. Ellie Levinson said that she overheard her grandfather telling her grandmother that he still had nightmares about 'that blonde woman.' Ellie thought he'd seen a ghost somewhere. And then the conversation went on about ghosts for a bit. Then John Andrews said that maybe Levinson had been robbed on the street, and Michael said that it was definitely about something that happened in a pub, as he'd overheard talk with his father. They eavesdrop quite a lot."

"And?"

"And then they talked about haunted pubs."

"Blonde," Remus repeated.

"Narcissa," Sirius said complacently. "I'll put money on it right now."

"I won't bet against you, but I'm not entirely sure. There are other blonde witches, you know."

"Narcissa's pretty hair... it's the first thing anyone ever noticed about her. And usually the last. What do you think, Dora?"

"I'll ask Mum to sound her out next time she drops by."

"Be careful not to let her know we're suspicious, if it is her."

They talked about other things for the rest of the ride, and Sirius transformed back into a dog for the walk back to Grimmauld Place. (He promised not to wander if Remus agreed to forgo the lead, and Dora talked him into capitulating.) It was dark by the time they got inside, but the fire in the kitchen was already burning. Four Order members were sitting around the table.

Molly Weasley raised an eyebrow dubiously at the entourage, and Arthur grinned as Sirius transformed. "Did you have a good day?"

"The best," Sirius said.

Kingsley Shacklebolt frowned impressively. "Sirius, if you're seen in England, I'm going to have to--"

"He wasn't seen," Dora said. "Auror on the case here. You don't think I'd let a dangerous fugitive like that get out if I saw him, now do you?" She morphed out of her Dora Lewis face, letting the clothes sag a bit as she adopted her more-or-less normal way of looking. She tapped the fourth Order member, who was asleep at the table. "Dung! Is that my veil?"

Mundungus Fletcher straightened up and pushed the veil away, his unshaven face above the billowy witches' robes, making him look particularly absurd. "Oh, right. You're back."

"Mundungus has been in Hogsmeade today," Molly said. "And he said he's seen some interesting things."

"Well, what is it?" Sirius asked.

Dung smiled. "Hogwarts has got itself a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Anyone want to guess who it is?"
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Comments
leelastarsky From: leelastarsky Date: August 31st, 2004 05:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, very enjoyable! Especially the last line. :~)
Do you think your new club would like the question?" Um, probably just me being particularly daft, but what was the question? Why his parents sent him away but stayed themselves? I just wasn't quite sure. Excellent passage btw.
atropos87 From: atropos87 Date: August 31st, 2004 12:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Lovely stuff. Particularly the part about Remus wishing for one minute that he could have a "normal" life - I found that really poignant.

Can I Britpick for a minute though?

* "stop at the market" - unless you mean a street market (which I think you don't) then this isn't the right term. Remus would either stop at the "supermarket" or at "the shops".

* "that big fat check" - we spell it "cheque", but I know that you don't always anglicise spellings so you probably knew that already. More importantly it would be really unusual for a teacher to be physically paid by a cheque even in 1995. Pretty much all professional people get paid by a direct transfer into their bank account through the BACS system. Remus would need a Muggle bank account, and would need to learn how to use a cash point (bwah!).

* On another point to do with Remus' pay, he would be paid net of income tax and national insurance which would be paid to the Inland Revenue on his behalf by the school. That would be about 25% of his monthly pay, so out of his £2000 he'd only actually receive £1,500 [/accountantgeek info dump]

* "kibbles" would probably be better as "dog biscuits"

* we sould be more likely to use "tartan" than "plaid"

* we have "back gardens" instead of "yards"
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 31st, 2004 01:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Check continues as "check." I don't do Brit spellings.

Heh, I forgot to do the tax. Living in Taxachusetts, I should remember to do that, eh?

I thought I'd caught all the bloody yard/gardens! Grrrr. I was thinking about that one, too. It just doesn't work for me if I'm at anything less than Moody levels of constant vigilance.

I was thinking more of dry dog food than dog biscuits... anything that would be called?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 31st, 2004 01:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
(As to the check itself, he'd need to have one to open an account--I think his persuasion charm was probably a bit more effective than he thinks it was, since no one questioned that! I don't want to get too much into the nitty gritty of the financial details--probably he had Ted walk him through how to set up an account with his first check, which is why Dora knows how "fat" it was, without in fact having any concept of how much of it flies right away.)
atropos87 From: atropos87 Date: August 31st, 2004 04:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Again, fair enough. There's a lot of financial nitty gritty Remus could get embedded in if he really wanted to, but I think it's probably best avoided :)
chienar From: chienar Date: September 1st, 2004 06:22 am (UTC) (Link)
just a thought, but since it has been said that Gringott's returns whatever Muggle monies they receive into the muggle circulation, converting it to Wizard monies for those who use them... would it not be plausible that Remus could have set something up through them for his banking... or perhaps Gringott's has a liason with a muggle banking establishment?
atropos87 From: atropos87 Date: August 31st, 2004 04:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Being more of a cat person myself I can't really enlighten you further on the dog biscuit question - sorry.

Fair enough with the check / cheque thing. I know you've talked about Brit spellings versus Brit speak here in your journal before but I wasn't sure whether you would normally change it because Dora was speaking or not.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 31st, 2004 02:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

Fabulous, as per usual

I love the way that you do the interaction between the faculty members and their families. Good to see that the children enjoyed playing with Snuffles and that he got some good information out of it.

One note: you might want to point out that the situation at the beginning of World War II was that Great Britain gave out a certain number of entry visas to endangered children, but refused to allow their parents to come with (sadly, they were among the most generous of the world's countries). Basically, Joe Levinson's parents probably never had the opportunity to leave wherever it was he was from, unless he came from a particularly wealthy family.

Continuing on, if I haven't offended you with that little bit from my undergraduate days (History major, did quite a bit on WWII), could you please give us what happened when the women were alone in the kitchen? How well was Tonks able to keep in character?

I look forward to more,

Blithe
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 31st, 2004 02:11 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Fabulous, as per usual

Joe's parents aren't a major issue. They did, in fact, stay voluntarily--they were in the underground--and the salient point is that Dudley was furious with them, getting themselves in trouble like that.

Dora and the ladies will be back. Remus isn't really noticing it, but she's really making friends with them.
(Deleted comment)
castaliae From: castaliae Date: August 31st, 2004 04:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I quite enjoyed this chapter, (along with the other recent ones I just devoured. I love how you play the interaction between Remus, Tonks, and Sirius. Thanks.
chienar From: chienar Date: September 1st, 2004 06:27 am (UTC) (Link)
As always... I love reading your stuff, I hadn't realized how much I missed your writing until I started reading it again. Shifts is coming along wonderfully, as is of a sort (and I still say that you should leave the bit about Trevor as is!)

Don't get discouraged.

And if you dare do so.... I'll send Brady to cheer you up! :P
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 1st, 2004 07:48 am (UTC) (Link)
EEEK! :)

Now, that brought a smile to my face. Brady. :snerk:

(Yes, everyone. Old, old writing buddy here. Good to have old RL friends on my f-list. :))
kt_tonguetied From: kt_tonguetied Date: March 4th, 2008 11:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
*snort* yay!! I adore that last line!
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