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Shifts, Chapter 12: Substitutes, Part 4 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shifts, Chapter 12: Substitutes, Part 4
Okay. I wrote this longhand while having dinner after work. Let's see if I can read my own handwriting.

It's Halloween, and Remus has just returned from a happy place at Smeltings to find Sirius drunk and glowering at his family tree.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




In an instant for which he would never fully forgive himself, Remus Lupin thought: Leave me alone. I'm happy. This is your problem, not mine.

Then the surprised irritation shattered, and it was just Sirius, drunk and haggard, but somehow as young and bewildered as any of his students. It wasn't right that this should be so, that Sirius Black should have gone from being a protector and a leader to needing protection and guidance, but it was so, and fate had left only Remus to provide it.

He squatted down and put his hand on Sirius's elbow. "Come on," he said. "Let's get you into a chair. There's a draft."

Sirius gave him a sour look, but allowed himself to be led to one of the threadbare armchairs. He jerked his arm away when he was sitting down, and muttered something that ended with "...not my bloody-damned father."

Remus ignored it. "What happened?" he asked.

Sirius gave him a look that was both disbelieving and furious, then raised his wand. A bottle of firewhiskey and a heavy crystal glass shot across the room and hit Remus in the chest, then hovered in the air in front of him.

"Have a drink, Moony."

Remus took the bottle and glass and set them on an end table. They flew up again.

"Have a drink," Sirius said again, darkly "Drink to James and Lily."

Remus closed his eyes. Of course. He'd had thirteen Halloweens of new experience since that awful night in eighty-one, and he'd done all he could to normalize it, to not make the holiday into a ghastly personal haunt, but for Sirius, Halloween would always and only be the ultimate horror, the line of demarcation between life and death, potential and waste, trust and betrayal. It had been bad last year, marked by a deep depression; Remus had stayed up with him, but he'd refused to talk. This year, trapped in the past, it had come alive, and all of his anger and bitterness had come with it.

Remus poured himself a glass of firewhiskey and raised it to the patch of burn marks on the tapestry that he assumed had once been the Potter family, as it was here that Sirius had thrown the last round. "To James and Lily," he said, and drank.

Firewhiskey was Charmed to bring up strong images of any subjects being toasted with it, and his mind was filled with visions of James flying, James laughing madly after a prank, James disappearing beneath his Invisibility Cloak. They broke to a single image of Lily, clear and distinct. She was weary, sitting at a table in the Gryffindor common room, trying (unsuccessfully) to get him to talk about their prefect duties, particularly about controlling Sirius and James. He had been sleepy, watching the flames from the fireplace catch the golden chain of her necklace, and she had said, out of nowhere but quite clearly, Do you want to kiss me? and his mind had run for cover, stammering over a no, stuttering around a yes, finally stopping his mouth from saying anything at all other than "James likes you," which had at least caused the terrifying invitation to be permanently revoked (with an enraged lecture about about treating girls as property, if he recalled correctly). Neither of them had mentioned it again, to anyone.

Sirius was watching him warily when he came up from the firewhiskey images. "What does it make you see?" he asked.

"James and Lily. What would you expect it to make me see?"

Sirius wasn't interested in pursuing the subject further. "When I drink to James," he said, "I always remember the night I ran away, when I got to his place and he opened the door and let me in. It was cold and raining outside. And it was night. But I was warm when I went in, and it was dry, and all the torches were burning. They all smiled and welcomed me."

"They were good people."

"And when I drink to Lily, it's the morning after my brother died. She never liked me--"

"She made you Harry's godfather."

"She let James make me Harry's godfather." Sirius sighed. "She never liked me, but that morning, she wrapped me up in a blanket and talked to me and listened to me. I must have been a horrible mess."

Remus couldn't think of anything to say. It had been the morning after a full moon, and he hadn't found out until considerably later.

"I killed them."

"No you didn't," Remus said, more by habit now than by thought. "Voldemort killed them. Peter helped."

"I gave them to Peter. I should have given them to you. You wouldn't have broken. You never break." He stared morosely at the empty glass in his hand, then summoned the firewhiskey.

Remus said nothing.

Sirius laughed bitterly at the ceiling. "I kept saying how I didn't want it to be you, but who else could it be, really? It was the only explanation. And you play things so damned close. I knew--all of us knew--how much you could cover up if you wanted to, at least if no one was living in your room. And if you were... we couldn't risk it... " He wiped a hand across his face. "I can't even blame Peter. It was me being too clever by half, though every time James objected, it was Peter who pressed the idea, now that I think of it. But I didn't argue with him." Sirius reached across and grabbed Remus's arm. "I didn't argue."

Why the bloody hell not? went through Remus's mind, but what he said was, "I believed the worst of you as well. Peter saw to it well. I didn't think you were a spy before... before. But after? I kept remembering things. A lot of them were things Peter mentioned, with the caveat that he didn't want to mention them, but he just had to."

"And the rest?"

"The rest of what?"

"Why you believed. Other than what Peter told you that he didn't want to tell you."

Again, Remus bit down on a string of responses which boiled down to, You suspected me without a shred of evidence; why should I explain it? He took a deep breath. "Schoolboy antics," he said. "Reinterpreted through what I thought I knew on November the first."

"Right."

Remus looked down into his glass, where tiny blue flames were making patterns on the surface of the firewhiskey. "I sometimes wonder if we do the same with Peter."

"Wormtail is a Death Eater," Sirius said, his voice cold. "In case you forgot."

"But how long?"

"He was passing information for at least a year, and I'll wager Voldemort spent some time buttering him up before he started spying. Maybe back at Hogwarts. Did you ever think of that?"

"No. And I don't think it now."

"Right." Sirius sank back into his chair, poured himself another glass of firewhiskey, then held it in both hands like a small boy might cradle a mug of hot chocolate. "I wish it was then," he said. "That night. I wish I'd stayed with Peter--told him that they'd go for me first and he could get away or some such thing, rather than trying to get their attention. I wish--"

"I wish it, too," Remus said, cutting him off. "All of it."

Sirius drew his knees up to his chest and said no more. Remus let his gaze wander to the tapestry, at all of those ragged, ashy marks that had once been people who had lived under some part of the shadow of this house. Somewhere in the ashes that drifted down from the absent names, James and Lily would appear, a line between them, and Harry's name beneath their own, and possibly all the other children they might have had if Voldemort had never targeted them.

A glass crashed to the floor and he looked over to see Padfoot jumping down from the chair. The great dog trotted to the parlor door, and Remus heard him make his way down the corridor. A series of claw taps marked his progress to the kitchen.

Remus finished his glass of firewhiskey and followed him down.

Padfoot had curled up in front of the kitchen fire and was watching the flames in a dazed and stupified kind of way.

Remus sat down beside him and scratched the scruff of his neck until he fell into a troubled, twitching sleep, then dropped a blanket over him, went back to the parlor, and didn't sleep.




They didn't speak of it in the morning.

11 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: October 22nd, 2004 09:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
irritation stattered

evidence; why shoud I explain it

Oh, this was magnificent.

I've never really understood why they suspected each other. Peter's connivance and poisoning is the perfect explanation.

Excellent chapter. Just excellent.
From: inyron Date: October 23rd, 2004 12:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Just noticed, the last sentance should probably be "they didn't".

But the section was fantastic, really, especially for an angst addict. Loved the Remus and Lily bit.
liebchen127 From: liebchen127 Date: October 23rd, 2004 01:22 am (UTC) (Link)
This was brilliant. Your Sirius and Remus are absolutely convincing and you've got a wonderful way to describe things... I especially liked the paragraph about Sirius holding his glass of firewhiskey with both hands like a small boy might cradle a mug of hot chocolate. Very, very well written.
dipsas From: dipsas Date: October 23rd, 2004 01:49 am (UTC) (Link)
...and even in a section like this, you manage to work in those wonderful little details. Given the copious amounts of Firewhiskey downed in fanfic, I loved the original touches you lent it here. The idea of it being charmed to show images of those toasted to and burning with tiny flames, is just brilliant. (Could the last one possibly have been mentioned somewhere in canon? In that case, where? If not, well - that's how convincing this is.)

I think there was another typo - Why the bloody hell not? when through Remus's mind, I assumed it should be "went". Typing something up after a script is the worst...
vytresna From: vytresna Date: October 23rd, 2004 01:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Will Widdershins was drinking it in "At the Hog's Head," I believe. I thought the flames were red, but I might just double-check. Galadriel Waters made some cryptic comment about the blue flames at the DoM, anyway. And it probably doesn't coincide with my own views. And she's probably insane as usual.

Anyway, love the references to your long GP ficlet. Not to mention the whole thing, but I figured that was a given, Shi-obsessive as I am.



fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 23rd, 2004 02:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Honestly, I'd forgotten that we saw anyone at all drinking it; I just popped it in because it made some kind of cockamamie magical sense to me at the time.
leelastarsky From: leelastarsky Date: October 23rd, 2004 04:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Firewhiskey was Charmed to bring up strong images of any subjects being toasted with it,

I cannot describe how PERFECT that is!!! And brilliant. That and the little blue flames on it. I think this is the first fanfic I've read where Firewhiskey was MAGICAL as well as alcoholic! Wonderful, wonderful!

Wonderful chapter too.
ajaxbreaker From: ajaxbreaker Date: October 23rd, 2004 12:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
FernWithy, this part was absolutely fantastic! You got so many emotions across: Sirius' and Remus' guilt, nostalgia, sadness and anger, and it wasn't at all overblown or artificial. I especially loved the first paragraph, and how it made Remus so brilliantly human and sympathetic. Bravo!
lyras From: lyras Date: October 24th, 2004 03:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, this is powerful. Firstly, I love your idea of firewhiskey evoking images of the people you're thinking of (sort of the opposite of drinking to forget?!).

Remus looked down into his glass, where tiny blue flames were making patterns on the surface of the firewhiskey. "I sometimes wonder if we do the same with Peter."

Secondly, this conversation is wonderfully powerful and thoughtful - you've really captured the issues that must lie between the two of them on nights like these.
castaliae From: castaliae Date: October 24th, 2004 04:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Very nice. I must admit my favorite part was that first line because it was so achingly human. It completely captured what everyone of us has thought for even just a moment. Excellent.
mrs_who From: mrs_who Date: October 25th, 2004 11:36 am (UTC) (Link)
*gasp* This was absolutely marvelous, Fern. I was very pleased with your two earlier bits which really moved things along, however, this pause in the plot was just so bittersweet and wonderful. Thanks so much!
11 comments or Leave a comment