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Shifts, Chapter 11: Interlude (2), Part Two - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shifts, Chapter 11: Interlude (2), Part Two
I think this may be the longest Shifts break yet, but let's see if we can't get back on track. Remus is out of the loop, howling at the moon in some forsaken shack. Dora and Andromeda are on their way to diagnose Levinson.


Table of Contents and Summary so Far




"I'm not certain of this idea," Joe said for the sixth time in two hours.

Miriam gave him a warning look. "It's a bit late. It would be rude to turn them away at this point."

"I don't understand this. Lewis seems like such a sensible fellow, really..."

"And you like Dora perfectly well. Why shouldn't you like her sister?"

Joe made a nose in the back of his throat and Miriam turned back to the front window. She'd been married to the man since nineteen-fifty-eight, and she knew how to translate it: I'd love to argue, but I can't win.

A small car came around the corner. It was too dark to see it clearly, even in the bright moonlight, at this distance, but unlike the other three small cars that had come by, this one was slowing, pausing at homes whose numbers Miriam knew were not clearly marked. She was not surprised when it stopped in front of the door.

"They're here."

Another throat-sound, but when Miriam looked around, she saw that he was watching the door with the same guarded curiosity that he'd given to the medical specialists he'd seen. She understood why he was surly about whatever cure they were trying--it had to be easier if he didn't get his hopes up--so she did her best to be patient. But if he was rude to Dora Lewis's sister, he'd answer for it later.

The bell rang, and Miriam opened the door. Dora, dressed in a flowing blue sort of affair (topped with the ever-present flowered hat), came inside and hugged her. "It's so nice to see you again, Miriam," she said.

"And you, dear. Is this your sister?"

Dora stood back and gestured to the woman who had come with her, a pretty brunette who seemed to be costumed as a carnival gypsy. She floated inside, glanced around, and smiled at Miriam. The resemblance between the two women was pronounced, but Miriam couldn't put her finger on a single feature they actually had in common.

"Yes, this is my sister," Dora said.

"Andromeda," the other woman said, extending a hand (bangle bracelets jingled on her wrists as she did so).

"Goodness," Miriam said, shaking the hand. "What a pretty and unsual name."

Andromeda came into the house, seeming to sweep it with her large eyes, which seemed to look like Dora's but didn't. "I believe we all need to find our true names," she answered obscurely.

Dora grinned and gave Miriam a slightly sympathetic look. "She knows what she's doing. I promise." She tapped her sister's shoulder. "This is Miriam Levinson," she said.

Miriam smiled. "The grouchy fellow in the chair is my husband Joe."

Joe tried to stand up, but Andromeda swept across the room to him and hovered so that he wouldn't be able to do so--a more effective tactic, Miriam thought, than simply telling him that he didn't have to. She would have to try it sometime.

"Dora tells me you've been ill," Andromeda said.

"Just a bit," Joe muttered.

"Mmm." Andromeda frowned, her face set and serious, and for a moment, she looked like a doctor more than a mystic, despite the garish scarves.

Dora followed her in. "Er... don't you want to clear his aura or whatever it is you do?"

The look faded and was replaced with a daft smile. "Yes. I'll clear the energy in the house. Illness is a state of mind, and it's caused by bad energy trapped inside. Let's see if we can't get some of it out."

She started going around the room, shaking the beads that hung from her waist and waving a bunch of sweet smelling herbs that she pulled from her handbag.

"Do you know if this works at all?" Miriam asked Dora quietly when Andromeda was at the other side of the room.

Dora, who had been watching her sister carefully, turned. "Oh, I know. It looks a bit strange, doesn't it? But Raymond has aches and pains, you know..."

"Arthritis?"

"I suppose. Anyway, my sister has been able to help him. I hope she can help Joe. I suppose it may be a bit more than aches and pains, though."

"If she can make the aches and pains go away, that will be quite enough for an evening's chanting."




Andromeda Tonks spent nearly half an hour chanting nonsense and sprinkling the Levinson home with dried parsley (slightly Transfigured so it wouldn't look too familiar) to cover up a diagnostic spell that she'd performed the moment she entered the house. She had worked with spell damage patients long enough that it had hardly even been necessary--curses, like germs, tended to radiate into the things the sufferer used regularly, and she'd felt this one the moment she'd come through the door. It was a sour sickroom smell, left on most of the surfaces in the house like a pile of used handkerchiefs. While Joe himself was being cured--if Dora could find a way to get him into St. Mungo's to be cured--someone would have to come here and cleanse the place with real magic.

She did what she could in the course of the absurd pantomime, working a muttered Scourgify or two into the nonsense about powers of the moon and the spirits of the perfectly unhaunted house. Levinson would spread the curse he was carrying around again before long, but for a week or two, he would probably feel a bit better here, which would at least support Dora's credibility.

When she'd finished, Miriam Levinson brought out a plate of sandwiches, and they ate a light snack together. Dora spoke with the two older people easily and freely, laughing at stories Joe told of his life as a teacher, and listening with interest to Miriam's tales of her grandchildren. She wore her role in the same casual way that she wore Arabella Figg's horrid hat.

After awhile, Andromeda became a bit more comfortable herself, though the effort it took to keep secrets seemed to tie her tongue--how in the world did Dora make it look so easy? By the time they went to the kitchen to help Miriam clean up, she had at least managed to create a consistent back story for herself, though she wasn't prepared to tell stories from her fictitious past. (Dora helpfully filled in a bit, consciously or unconcsiously giving Andromeda stories from Ted's mother's life, which was flattering in its own way, as Dora had always idolized her Granny Tonks, but also disconcerting.)

They laughed quite a lot while they wiped the dishes off--an oddly pleasant group ritual that magic made unnecessary--and when Dora nipped off to the toilet, Miriam continued talking to Andromeda.

"You know," she said in a conspiratorial tone, "we're all quite jealous of your sister."

"All?"

"The faculty wives."

"Ah. Why jealous?"

"I believe Margaret Thatcher was on Downing Street the last time Joe looked at me the way Raymond looks at Dora. And she hadn't been there for long."

Andromeda could suddenly hear the pounding of her heart very clearly. "What do you mean?"

"Well, maybe that was an exaggeration, but it's been awhile."

Andromeda forced a laugh. "No, I mean, how he looks at her. What do you mean?"

"Oh, you must have seen them together... maybe you're just used to it. They always look like they're not quite going to make it all the way home." Miriam waggled her eyebrows.

It's part of the act, Remus had said.

But just how good an actor was he?

Andromeda smiled tightly, hoping that she was still projecting her character.

Nymphadora is a grown woman, she reminded herself. And there are worse men she could choose than Remus Lupin. Who went to school with Ted and me, for heaven's sake, and babysat her, and was her Latin tutor, and...

Stop.

She took a deep breath. She didn't know why she should react this way to the very idea. She didn't know a great deal about Dora's romantic life, or if she even had one. The last thing she'd heard was when Dora was in her sixth year at Hogwarts, and the first boy she'd kissed (one Daffy Apcarne) had started dating her best friend, Maddie. It hadn't seemed to bother her much, and she'd stood up at their wedding last year

(how could her school chums be getting married already? what happened to all that time that used to be ahead of us?)

without incident, though they'd joked at the reception that they couldn't decide whether she was Maddie's maid-of-honor or Daffy's best woman. If there'd been any other boys--or men--Dora hadn't mentioned them to her, or to Ted.

And she was twenty-three years old.

There was no reason in the world for Andromeda to feel panicky at the notion, and she chastised herself for the feeling rather harshly.

"Are you all right, dear?" Miriam Levinson asked.

She looked up. "Oh, er... a bit tired from all the... negative energy cleansing."

Miriam nodded wisely and pulled out a chair for her.

After Dora came back from the toilet, they gathered their things and said their goodbyes. Dora relaxed her morph as soon as the car was off the sidestreet, and her hair--mid-length and gray for her role as Remus's wife--retreated and stood on end. She let it darken to its natural black, but didn't bother with her usual florid colors. Physically, she looked quite a lot like Bellatrix (with the exception of her eyes, which were wide and bright, like her beloved Granny Tonks's), but the way she carried herself and her habitual expressions were so different that very few people ever noticed it.

"So?" she asked.

"You'll need to find a way to bring him to St. Mungo's."

"Then it is a curse."

"A rather complex one." Andromeda looked out the window at the passing trees and houses. "You're very good at your job, Nymphadora."

She glanced over, surprised (Andromeda saw the reflection of this in the window). "Thank you. You weren't bad yourself."

"I was sure I would say something wrong."

"You didn't."

"You seem so comfortable with them."

"I like Joe and Miriam. You should meet Alan and Anna, too."

Andromeda laughed. "You never did have a problem making friends."

Dora shrugged and turned onto a larger street. "Most people are nice. And I can look like anything they're comfortable with, so why not?"

Andromeda turned again and looked at her, loving the curve of her cheek and the moonlight in her hair, and most of all loving the easy smile on her face, so unlike any of the other women to whom Andromeda was related. And yet, she was a Black, in so many ways, though she hated to hear it and had rejected it in favor of being purely "Tonks" these days--Sirius's fearlessness, Bella's ease and charisma in leading conversations, even a bit of Narcissa's concern for looks (though with Dora, it was less a question of vanity and more one of simply taking pleasure in creating her various appearances). She even had a bit of poor Regulus in her, in a desire to be what made people comfortable.

Ted was the strongest imprint on her--thank heaven--but she carried the rest of the family with her as well (more strongly, in Andromeda's opinion, than Narcissa's boy, who was considerably more of a Malfoy than a Black). It had been a good combination.

"Mum?"

"What?"

"Is something wrong?"

"No, why?"

"You've just been looking at me for about three miles now."

"I just love you."

"Oh. Is that all?" Dora winked. "Nothing important, then."

"Pure maternal trivia."

They smiled at each other, both of them knowing, of course, that it was the most important thing of all.




Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, was empty except for its master.

Again.

Sirius could hear the echo of his footsteps as he paced the hallways. He felt like he was searching for something, but he didn't know what it was or if he really wanted to find it. He passed the fireplace, lingered there, the thought of contacting Harry stalking through the corridors of his mind.

But last night had been close. Too close.

He hadn't told Remus about Umbridge nearly reaching him--it would confirm too many concerns, and nothing, after all, had come of it.

Except to frighten Harry, Remus pointed out in his mind.

Duly noted.

With some effort, he turned away from the fireplace.

He was also aware of a dull anger at Remus and Dora, which was unfair but unshakeable. They were right--Andromeda was the best choice to help in tonight's project. But they were all supposed to be in this together (or so Sirius had thought, though no one had precisely told him so), and this plan had been made without his involvement on any level.

Unfair.

It was past midnight now--another reason not to try contacting Harry--and even Kreacher wasn't up scurrying about. Mum's portrait was snoring in the front hall, which should have been a relief but wasn't, as Sirius thought that even a fight with Mum would be better than pacing alone.

The house was too confining, too dreary, too warm. He couldn't go onto the street, as much as he would have liked to, but he supposed he could go into the courtyard garden. No one else went there. The rest of the Order seemed to respect it as his private haunt, though he didn't recall ever expressing affection for it. Or maybe they just didn't want to go sit among the Black family gravestones.

Sirius didn't especially want to, but at least there would be fresh air and a queer sort of company. He took a bottle of firewhiskey and a glass along with him, and went out onto the moonlit paths. Regulus's gravestone was near the statue at the back of the garden, and Sirius sat down on it, as had become his habit at some point he didn't care to think about. He poured himself a glass of firewhiskey, and poured a dollop into the ground over his brother's grave. He supposed it wasn't precisely normal to sit on one's dead Death Eater brother's grave and share a drink with him, but there was no one here to see it, so it didn't count. "Cheers, Reg," he muttered and drank.

He took his time. Firewhiskey wasn't a drink to be tossed back like butterbeer. The moon sank lower and the shadows deepened.

He should clean the place up, clear out the weeds in the garden, make it more cheerful. Harry would come again next summer, after he'd spent a week or two with his aunt, and really, it shouldn't be so dreary for him. If it was the only place they'd have, then it should be something other than the nightmare it was.

Of course, maybe they'd find Pettigrew and clear his name, and he shut the house up again and buy another, a cheerful one in the country like the Weasleys had, which Harry loved so much. And perhaps he could still marry and have children of his own. He ran down a mental list of the women of his acquaintance and realized he would have to be free long enough to meet a few more, as they were all married, related to him, or otherwise unavailable. Except for Minerva McGonagall, he supposed, and amused himself by imagining asking Professor McGonagall to go for a ride on his flying motorcycle (he pictured her sitting behind him with a prim, stern look on her face, her robes totally immobile in the slipstream wind).

No. He liked McGonagall, and had liked her in school--Transfiguration had always been his favorite subject--but she simply wasn't... well, she wasn't.

He finished his drink and went inside after the moon had set, feeling his way in the dark by running his hand along the outside of the house. It had an unpleasant fungal feel to it. He cleaned up a few dishes in the kitchen, leaving most of the mess untouched.

Shortly after dawn, the front door opened and Mum's portrait began to screech. He was already most of the way up the stairs when the umbrella stand fell over and something thudded on the floor. He sprinted the rest of the way.

Remus had pulled himself up to the bottom stair when he got there, and his eyes were closed as he prepared to drag himself to the second one. Sweat was streaming down his face.

"What did you do to yourself?" Sirius asked.

Remus didn't open his eyes. "Cut," he said, lifting his arm. The side of his robe was covered in blood. "I threw myself a bit while I was transforming back. Just a muscle spasm. I went into a chair. It broke. The leg caught me." He tried to pull himself up to the next riser, failed, and put his head on his knees.

"Why didn't you heal the cut?"

"I didn't realize how deep it was until I tripped."

"I'll get it." Sirius went to the parlor for his wand, calling back, "Don't try those stairs. I'll levitate you up."

"I can make it."

"I didn't give you the option."

"Are you still awake from yesterday?" Remus asked when he came back, finally opening his eyes.

Sirius didn't answer him. He just healed the cut--a six-inch gash with a large splinter of wood still in it--and levitated him up to the first landing, where his room was.

"I need to go to Andromeda's," Remus muttered, exhausted.

"Andromeda's?"

"The telephone is there. To call Smeltings. Can't go in."

"You sleep. Dora can call Smeltings."

"Who's going to call Dora?"

It turned out not to be necessary--almost as soon as the question was out, the door opened again, and Mum started screaming about half-blood freaks. Sirius looked down the stairs, where Dora was righting the umbrella stand. "At least it wasn't me this time," she said when she noticed Sirius looking at her. Then she caught sight of Remus, leaning against the door frame, and ran up the stairs. "What did you do to yourself?" she asked.

"We already covered that," Remus said.

"I hate what this business does to you," she said. "I hate it."

Between the two of them, Sirius and Dora managed to get him to his bed and convince him to stay there. Sirius put a warming charm on the bedding, a trick for which he grudgingly credited Wormtail, who had first decided to try it in the Hogwarts infirmary when he'd been taking Muggle studies and learned something about how they controlled aches and pains.

"I should call--" he started.

"I'll go to my parents' and call Smeltings," Dora told him. "You sleep."

He had followed her order before they even got out of the room.

"So, did you and your mum see Levinson last night?" Sirius asked when they got into the corridor.

"Yes. I'll tell you both about it later."

"Can you stay for breakfast?"

She shook her head regretfully. "Not if I'm going to make a telephone call before I go to work."

"Oh. Right."

"I'll be over for dinner, though. I promise." She hugged him. "That's from Mum, by the way."

"Give it back to her," he said. "And add a kiss on the cheek."

Dora agreed and left, leaving Sirius alone in the hall again, with Remus snoring upstairs and Mum's portrait gearing up for a new day's invective.
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Comments
leelastarsky From: leelastarsky Date: October 9th, 2004 03:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Wonderful as always. :~)
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: October 9th, 2004 07:04 am (UTC) (Link)

Oh my.

Fern, it was worth the wait.
mrs_who From: mrs_who Date: October 9th, 2004 09:14 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Fern! That was certainly worth the wait. I've been pasting it into Word, and Shifts is up to 119 pages with small print and very narrow margins. I bet it's quite a bit longer in the standard 12 pt. with standard, wide margins! This is going to be a tremendous thudding tract! Yea!

There were a couple of typos that Word picked up, but - to be honest - I don't recall where.

You really managed to move things along with this "little interlude"! Wonderful!! I enjoy the little forays into each character's POV, particularly how you worked Miriam's POV, then Andromeda's POV, than (having TOnks nip off to the toilet) you gave us that TELLING interaction between the two women. (Look like they won't "make it home" indeed?) It was very slick. Very crafty - and felt like the balancing of scales. I liked it.

JKR gives us only a bit about Tonks' appearance - heartshaped face, short, pale skin, dark eyes, and ever changing hair - but I did appreciate your allowing us to see YOUR Dora thru her mum's eyes. You make her sound lovely and sweet - I do hope someone draws your Tonks sometime!


Who's going to take Remus' class tomorrow? Joe? Dora? Will there just be a sub or will something important-to-the plot happen? What was that serious spell -- one that will SPREAD (if I read it right) -- to other muggles??? Who did it? What does Dudley have to do with it? What does Harry have to do with it? Oh - mysteries-a-plenty!!!

I have to give a nod to your Sirius. You write him better than JKR herself, you truly do manage to convey his instability and slow spiral in a way which evokes not only pity but also real affection from your readers. JKR didn't really make us love Sirius in Ootp, and I think she intended to, before she killed him off. Your writing does make us love him -- perhaps even more so because we know what's coming.

Brilliant, Fern. It was worth waiting for. Thank you! (And I must be completely cheeky and tell you that I hope you're back in the swing of it! I can't wait for more.) :-)



fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 9th, 2004 11:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks.

I don't think the curse can spread to other Muggles (or witches and wizards), just that it kind of sticks to surfaces, and re-inforces Joe's illness, like sleeping on a germy pillow when you've had a cold makes it last longer. (I don't think Andromeda understands the concept of "germs" as well as she thinks she does.) Sadly, I'm still working on how Dudley is a trigger for it, and if the curse was actually meant for Harry and just happened to trigger on poor Joe, or if it happened because Joe pissed someone off.

I'm glad you like Sirius in this. I never expected to enjoy writing him, but he's a very talkative character, so I just let him get on with it. ;)
lyras From: lyras Date: October 11th, 2004 09:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Just wanted to add my twopenn'orth and say that I really enjoyed this chapter.

In your comment above, you've given me an awful lot more to think about in terms of this curse! I was sort of assuming that the people who attacked Joe & Dudley in the pub put the curse on Joe, in a fit of pique that he'd interrupted whatever plans they DID have for Dudley. I'd not got anywhere near the idea that maybe the curse was meant for Harry (although I suppose if Dudley is some kind of trigger, then this would be the only viable reason for doing it that way). However, in this case, if it's triggered on Joe, wouldn't it also trigger on other people who spend a lot of time with him, like Piers? Just a few thoughts off the top of my head. I'll be interested to see where you go with this one!

I loved Andromeda's reaction to the idea that Remus might have feelings for Tonks. I did have one small quibble with the last line in the car scene, though - I think you could just leave that as "They smiled at each other." We all know (don't we?!) that it's "the most important thing of all", and I really don't think you need to hammer the point home. That's just my opinion, though, and you, of course, are entitled to yours :).

Anyway, thanks for putting in the time to write this, because I'm really enjoying it!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 12th, 2004 06:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! I'm still not sure about the curse, which is probably why I'm struggling, though I sat down last night and did some story planning. It's not all set in stone, and it's pretty vague, but hopefully, I'll have something coherent in place.

On the last line... yup. That was totally cowardly writing. I was going to stop at "Pure maternal trivia"--no follow-up action--and go straight to Sirius, but I was gripped by sudden panic. "Oh, no! I haven't given them an idyllic relationship, I know there's a theory out there that they don't get along, and Andromeda has just expressed rather strong reservations against my known OTP... I'd better clarify that it's not a bad relationship, just in case what I already wrote wasn't clear enough!"

It had been a bit too long since I did a Shifts post. Stage fright or something. (Someday, I'll have been writing long enough to beat stage fright, but I have a feeling that's a long way off. And anyway, the butterflies are all part of the fun, even when they do lead me astray...)
dipsas From: dipsas Date: October 10th, 2004 12:22 am (UTC) (Link)

Chiming in

Just a quick line to second everyone who's said it was well worth the wait...

liebchen127 From: liebchen127 Date: October 10th, 2004 10:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Chiming in

And I second dipsas's entry.
chienar From: chienar Date: October 10th, 2004 04:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Chiming in

I'll third that.
harryhermione73 From: harryhermione73 Date: October 1st, 2005 05:36 am (UTC) (Link)
I think, of all the chapters I've read so far, the scene in this one with Dora and Andromeda in the car...that was just, just lovely. It's the kind of rapport I wish I had with my mother, and the sort of relationship I'd like to have with my daughter, if I had one...

This random rec from a stranger has turned out to be such a treasure, I can't believe you've been hidden from me for so long, lol. I hope to read more from you in future.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 2nd, 2005 02:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, thanks! I'm glad I checked my recent comments page; what a nice surprise.
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