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Shifts, Chapter 15: "You Are The Murderer!", Pt. 4 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shifts, Chapter 15: "You Are The Murderer!", Pt. 4
Days off are nice. For sleeping a lot. Really a lot. Late in, a couple of naps. Sweet. Of course, now it's 1:04 am and I'm in a good noontime place, but hey. This is my writing hour. If only I could get the rest of the world to bend to my schedule's will.




Anyway, it seems I (a mod, of all things!) was wrong about the Quill guidelines on R/T! (Well, didn't follow an alteration that's several months old, and that amounts to the same thing.) Yay! So I'm happy to say, Shifts is going up at the Quill (check it out, right at the top of the list). Started on Thursday; I'm not sure how often I'll be putting up chapters, but I'm doing the little fixes (like Alan's name, Remus's title in the earlier chapters, etc) as I go. That'll be the final form of the text, I think, though "creatures" is not in fact spelled "createres," and I have no idea how I managed to forget to correct that when I spell checked. Must have hit "ignore" instead of actually fixing it. :facepalm:

So, back to the story at its present point. Remus and Tonks go to a meeting called by Kingsley (though Remus, per Dumbledore's orders, takes control of it) to discuss how Sirius should be handled. They agree to keep a casual, surreptitious watch on him. On the way home, Remus tells Dora that he plans on telling Sirius exactly what happened and what the decision was.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




Dora decided to leave him at the train station, grumbling about a pile of paperwork she'd been neglecting. "Kingsley's been letting me slide," she said, looking out at the gray and rainy street. "I think he's not going to be happy with me on Monday. I'd like to make sure there's nothing he can hang it on."

"Do you really think he'd take it out on you? That doesn't seem like Kingsley."

"He's responsible for a major search, and he's deliberately bolloxing it and wasting Aurors' time. I think it gets to him sometimes. Tomorrow is going to be one of those times."

Remus nodded. "I suppose I can understand that."

"Tell Sirius I'll come by later if I can get out from under. And don't start yelling at him."

"I wasn't going to."

"Or lecturing him."

"I wasn't going to do that, either, Dora. I was there last night, remember?"

"Yes. I'm sorry. Do you think he'll be all right?"

Remus didn't know if it was possible for Sirius to ever be completely all right again, but he nodded. "Sirius is a bit bent," he said. "Not broken."

She hugged him, holding on tightly in the chilly November afternoon. "I always think of him laughing," she said. "Always."

"So do I."

She pulled away, leaving one hand resting lightly on Remus's arm. "I just... Last night, I felt... " She shook her head, turning away. The breeze felt considerably colder. "Tell him I'll come by later," she said again. "I'll find something fun to do."

"I wouldn't recommend a murder game."

"I actually think he'd have fun with it," she said. "You're the one who makes great symbols of everything, not Sirius. But it takes eight people, so I'll have to think of something else."

He watched her walk away then turned up his collar against the wind and crossed his arms over his chest. He needed a new winter cloak rather badly, but needs and means weren't going to overlap until at least his January check. December would pay off the last of the unpaid fees to his former landlady, but it would also need to include Christmas, after all, and this year, he was right in the middle of a group instead of on the fringes. There were certain financial disadvantages to not being alone anymore.

He rolled his eyes at himself. The best cloak money could buy wouldn't even be a poor substitute for being around people again.

Sirius was making a half-hearted attempt to clean out a narrow linen cupboard along a third floor corridor when he got back, and he listened to Remus's report on the meeting while shaking out a moldy tablecloth. While Remus spoke, he inspected it, seemed to spot any number of faults, and as Remus finished the account, Sirius pointed his wand at it and incinerated it.

"A statement?" Remus asked, looking at the ashes.

Sirius shrugged and pulled a pair of green crystal candlesticks from the cupboard, where they had spent heaven knew how many years gathering dust in the back. They were shaped like snakes, and made a logy attempt to wrap themselves around Sirius's fingers. He set them distastefully down on the floor, where they writhed stodgily for a few seconds before losing interest and becoming still. "A moldy tablecloth," Sirius said. "No statement. I expected something like this."

"They were going to do it secretly. I expect most of them guessed I would just tell you, but some of them may still think it's a secret."

Sirius smiled bitterly. "Of course. You know Sirius Black. He's crackers, not thinking straight. He'd never notice a pattern." He sighed. "So I'll have spontaneous visits from Fleur Delacour coming, will I? Well, who could argue with that? She's a pretty girl."

"She's eighteen."

"And more than a little besotted with Bill. But pretty. And I can practice my French. Who else?"

"Molly, of course. Arthur, if he can."

"Of course."

"Bill will probably come."

"I like Bill. Bill's all right."

"Dung."

"I'll give him those things." Sirius pointed at the candlesticks. "Before he decides to steal them."

"They'll probably bring in Moody, though he wasn't there today."

"Lovely. He'll have plenty to be vigilant about here. And they say I'm mad?"

"And Emmeline Vance."

"Oh, no. I absolutely draw the line at Emmeline Vance. Totally unacceptable."

Remus was about to ask why, but then he noticed--somewhat to his surprise--that Sirius was grinning broadly. "Right, right," he said, playing along. "She might go on a wild house repair spree, and we can't have that."

"Too right."

"Are you really all right with this?"

"Of course. What thirty-eight-year-old man wouldn't be thrilled at the prospect of a string of babysitters?" He closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. "I'm sorry. I know. It's my fault. And really, I don't entirely mind the notion of having company here while you and Dora are out doing... whatever it is that you seem to need to do in tandem so often these days."

Remus ignored the insinuating tone, though he was glad to hear it--it was just purely Sirius. He'd learned to ignore it many years ago. "I'm sorry that it wasn't something we needed to do yesterday. It was just--"

"Just fun with some friends," Sirius said, his voice kind. "And you did need to do it. Just because I'm cooped up in this miserable place doesn't mean you should be. And I do mean that. I'm not just saying it."

They drifted around the house for the rest of the afternoon, Sirius finishing up with the linen cupboard, Remus going through boxes of Black family books, some of which, it had been decided, should be given to the Hogwarts library, where Madam Pince would undoubtedly promptly put them into the Restricted Section for the use of any student with an Invisibility Cloak, a gullible teacher, a small illegal animagus form, or a talent for picking locks. And possibly for N.E.W.T. level students with an academic purpose in mind, though it struck Remus as an unlikely scenario.

After dinner, Dora came by with a game she'd bought at Zonko's called Jury of Jarveys, which required them to come up with short--and often rude--answers to complex questions on the cards provided. If the answers failed to be both pertinent and amusing (as judged by a floating contraption that glowed a kind of sick orange), the player would acquire one feature of a jarvey. The last player with human features won (at which point, the jarvey charms on all the players were immediately reversed, although the winner was for some reason "awarded" a jarvey nose which would last for an hour). Dora made a particular effort to be cheerful, and Sirius responded to it. Remus lost the game rather quickly and ended up watching Dora and Sirius insult one another and the game for nearly an hour through beady jarvey eyes until Dora--deliberately, he thought--used a nonsequitor in her answer and lost. She congratulated Sirius on a well-played game, kissed his twitching nose, and left.

Sirius's mood started to flag before the nose charm wore off, and by the time they'd finished cleaning up, he was short-tempered and surly. He picked a fight about the book collection (something about wanting to burn quite a lot of it but knowing that Remus would go on about ideology, though Remus had never expressed any ideology about them that he was aware of and Sirius would burn his fingers off before burning even his mother's books), then went upstairs to feed Buckbeak. Remus would have followed, but he found Kreacher in the dining room, setting out the snake candle holders and putting several of the books from the library on display on the sideboard. By the time he'd finished rectifying this, Sirius had retired to his bedroom, and he didn't come out again.

Remus went to bed just after eleven and fell asleep quickly, finding himself in a dream before he was entirely aware that he'd drifted off.

They were all in Dora's flat--the Order, his Smeltings friends, the Tonkses, several of his students, both Muggle and magical. Dudley and Harry were in the kitchen together, looking at an album full of wizarding pictures. James was telling them who the subjects were while Lily fussed at Dudley's short hair. Daniel Morse had settled in with Hermione and Ron, and the three of them were happily going through Mrs. Black's books. Andromeda Tonks hovered over them with a concerned expression on her face. Albus Dumbledore was having a drink with Peter, who waved cheerfully when Remus went by. Joe Levinson was growling at Snape about his mistreatment of students, while Minerva McGonagall, wearing the flowing, flowery dress that Anna Garvey had worn yesterday (but looking every bit as stern as usual), was dancing a stiff tango with Vernon Dursley. They marched on by, arms pointing starkly outward, and unveiled the long dining room table from Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, which Dora's flat had stretched somewhat to accomodate. There, his head flanked by the snake candles, was Sirius Black--sixteen years old again, and dead.

Remus just stared at him for a long time--or perhaps for no time at all, since the motion around him seemed to stop completely--then he felt warm arms slip around his waist from behind. Dora stood on her tiptoes (he couldn't see her, except that of course he could) and rested her chin on his shoulder. "Have you solved it yet?" she asked, completely ignoring the body on the table.

"No," Remus said weakly. She ran her hands over his chest and kissed his earlobe. She seemed to take this as a matter of course, and Remus felt powerless to protest it, though he wanted to remind her that her parents were here, and they trusted him with her, and it was totally inappropriate for her to behave in such a way. He caught one of her hands and kissed her palm. "I haven't solved it. Have you?"

She slipped around from the side and stood beside him, her arms still companionably around his waist, regarding the body with interest. "I think I know," she said. "Sirius would know."

"Of course Sirius knows," Remus said irritably. "But he can't very well talk, can he?"

"I don't see why not," Dora said. "He just doesn't want to."

"I should have brought him along," Remus said.

Dora shushed him. "You're not supposed to say that. At least if I'm right in my guess. Check your book."

Remus frowned. "I lost my book."

"Well, you really should find it, or someone else will. All of your secrets are in there! You'll lose, silly." She kissed his forehead (how she did this easily from her height when they were both standing wasn't something he questioned) and disappeared into the crowd, morphing into Dora Lewis as she did so. Several of the people in the room gathered worshipfully around her as she started telling jarvey jokes.

"Are you looking for your book?" Ginny Weasley asked him, holding out a small, leatherbound diary. "You can have mine if you like."

"No, really. That's all right. I need mine. Those are your secrets."

Ginny nodded wisely. "I think Sirius has yours. You should ask him."

"But he's--"

"I think I've got it solved," Ginny confided. "But Harry won't tell me if I'm right, and Tonks says I'm not persistent enough." She went away.

Parvati Patil and Piers Polkiss were cheerfully planning a wedding and declaring happiness about not having to re-do any monograms. Parvati offered him a star chart she'd done for Sybill's class, but that wasn't his book either. Kingsley frowned and said something about not even being able to keep track of his own belongings, and Phineas Nigellus--who had for some reason been painted onto the door--told him he really was hopeless. James just glared at him and refused to discuss the subject of the book, and Lily told him that they'd both had a chance to read it since they'd died, and James hadn't reconciled himself to some of the secrets yet. Ted Tonks told him that he didn't really need a book, and did he really think he could lie to a Seer, but allowed that he, like Ginny, thought that Sirius would have it. Alan Garvey shook his head and reminded him that he should have stored it on his computer like a normal person.

Finally, he drifted back to the table where Sirius's body was stretched out. "Do you have it?" he asked.

Sirius, being dead, didn't answer, but when Remus looked down, he saw a colorful little book now resting on his chest beneath his crossed hands. The title was How To Host A Murder, and of course he didn't need it now, because he knew what the secret was. He knew what he was supposed to be hiding. He took it anyway.

Most of the writing was faded--he could see Lily's name very faintly, with the words ...kiss me? a bit down the way. He saw a chart of the moon's phases, barely discernable from the natural wrinkles of the page. His Qualified Teacher Status, faded to gray, had been pasted to the side, with the word "Fraud" stamped across it. Someone had drawn Dora's eyes at the top of the page, and framed it with her cupped hands, as though the whole page were her face and she was resting her chin on her palms. He saw himself (though how he saw himself when it was all just words, he didn't know) coming down the kitchen stairs to yell at Sirius. But scrawled above all of these faded etchings, most completely illegible, was one dark line of writing, in deep red fading to brown:

"YOU ARE THE MURDERER."

I feel a bit...: content content

17 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
beaustylo From: beaustylo Date: November 14th, 2004 05:37 am (UTC) (Link)
That was an absolutely amazing dream sequence! And it was very true to the nature of dreams, both odd and creepy. And of course that was the perfect ending to this chapter.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 14th, 2004 07:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! It had wandered a bit, and it needed to come back. And I love writing dreams.
From: inyron Date: November 14th, 2004 05:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Great section. That dream was surreal and fantastic. I liked Lily's contribution.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 14th, 2004 07:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I almost didn't put Lily and James there, but if Sirius is sixteen and Peter's talking to Dumbledore, then why would Remus be editing out people just because they're dead?
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 14th, 2004 07:52 am (UTC) (Link)
I agree that the dream sequence was wonderful. It was non-sensical and prophetic all at the same time. Good job.

LL
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 14th, 2004 07:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Dreams are too much fun. Someday, I'm just going to write a book that's one dream sequence after another.
sannalim From: sannalim Date: November 14th, 2004 01:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
where Madam Pince would undoubtedly promptly put them into the Restricted Section for the use of any student with an Invisibility Cloak, a gullible teacher, a small illegal animagus form, or a talent for picking locks. And possibly for N.E.W.T. level students with an academic purpose in mind, though it struck Remus as an unlikely scenario.

*LOL!*

Wow. What a way to bring this chapter full-circle.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 14th, 2004 07:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! :)
izhilzha From: izhilzha Date: November 14th, 2004 02:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh wow...maybe my favorite bit in Shifts, to date. Love the whole dream sequence.

And my word, you and I really have similar views of Remus and his attitude towards Sirius (I did finish that short story...). Probably why I can never wait for more Shifts.

Keep up the excellent work.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 14th, 2004 07:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Which short story? Where is it? :)

I'm glad you liked it. The dream wasn't in the original outline, but it seemed to be needed.
izhilzha From: izhilzha Date: November 14th, 2004 08:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
The story is one I referred to several chapters back, when you had written a scene that was very close (in spirit) to part of my fic, which made me decide to finish mine asap. :-) Now it's up at the Quill!

Night's Candles

It is kinda--well, I don't know if depressing is the right word--it's a Remus fic, post-OOtP.... *shrugs*
dipsas From: dipsas Date: November 15th, 2004 03:30 am (UTC) (Link)
You do realise that a new piece of Shifts is the kind of thing that merits an extra slice of cake and a fresh cup of coffee, don't you? :) Hrmph, that is to say, thanks for all the work you're putting into this. It's really enjoyable to follow this story.

(And yes, the dream sequence was brilliant. I thought at first that the most essential bits were to be the R/T hints, and then you went off to hit me in right in the stomach with the much more sinister ending. Very, very good.)
katchuri From: katchuri Date: November 16th, 2004 06:00 am (UTC) (Link)
I keep hoping that someone else will pop up and britpick, so I don't end up looking like the bad gal every time.
No such luck.
I really hope you don't mind me sticking my nose in.

Just a couple of things:
"bolloxing" - it's actually "bollocking", and the sentence should probably be "bollocking it up". However, bollocking tends to mean more of a telling off, or a thrashing, although it is correct to use it. Perhaps a better word would be "cocking", as in "cocking it up", which just means doing things wrong or badly and doesn't have the other nuance.

British English - "check" is spelt "cheque" over here, when it's talking about money. Also, Remus would probably refer to his "pay slip" rather than just the single word, or perhaps "wages".

And I'm afraid "Sirius is a bit bent" made me smile. While I've heard the expression "bent, not broken" used, it was while I was a child. "Sirius is a bit bent" to any Brit would be implying that Sirius is gay, bent being just one of the words used for it (pooftah, homo, a whoopsie, nancy boy, etc being others).

All that said, I really am in awe that you can write British English so well - I know damn well that I could never do it with American, and that's with all the television and films we see over here. Well done!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 16th, 2004 07:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Hey, as long as you soften it with the occasional pat on the head, I'm good with it.

So "bent" means gay. Here, it means more like, "a little crazy." Hmm. Of course, pretty soon, "A little crazy" will mean "gay" somewhere. (:mutters in a frustrated way about losing perfectly good words one after another, including, not to put too fine a point on it, "gay." Though we seem to be making progressing getting "lavender" back into the color spectrum.:)

I'm not sure I can use "cocking it up" without giggling. I guess maybe. It just sounds a little, erm, dirtier than I normally picture Tonks talking! (I'm assuming cock means the same thing there that it does here--though that may be a misplaced assumption--and it's analogous to "f--king it up.")

Generally speaking--well, always speaking--I spell American. I'll use British words because the characters speaking would use that cadence, but spelling isn't about the characters, it's about the author. An American author using British spelling is saying on some level that American spelling is invalid and needs to be "repaired"--kind of like an American affecting a British accent because she thinks her own "sounds dumb." (Now, if I've been reading a lot of Tolkien, I've been known to slip and use "travelled" instead of "traveled," but I'll also accidentally pick up accents if I've been listening to them long enough; that's accidental, and also natural.) "Pay slip" gets around that better, though.
katchuri From: katchuri Date: November 16th, 2004 11:14 am (UTC) (Link)
To be honest, cocking up is a lot less rude than bollocking up! On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being about the level of "damn", and 5 being the f word and the c word (although personally I'd class that one as at least 7), cock would probably come in at a 2, and bollocks as a 3.
Put it this way, kids would probably use "cocking it up" in front of a teacher, they might not if if was bollocking, perhaps because bollocking has more of a gay sex meaning.

As for spelling, I wasn't sure - there are some sites I've found out there that Britpick the spelling too. But yes, Remus would more likely use "pay slip".

I hope you don't mind, but I'm adding you as a friend.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 16th, 2004 12:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
, perhaps because bollocking has more of a gay sex meaning.

And I thought we had a lot of words for that!

I never mind friends. :)

That's so weird. Does "cock" there refer to, erm, boy bits? It's slightly less rude than the female equivalent here, but definitely not a word to be used in front of a teacher. However, Tonks isn't from here, so if you say that's normal, I'll take your word for it! (:realizes how easy it would be for a nefarious Britpicker to get a giggle or two by passing wrong information:)
katchuri From: katchuri Date: November 16th, 2004 01:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yep. Cock is boy bits.
But also a general purpose word for "mate" in parts of the country ("All right, cock?" being a greeting in the Black Country and parts of the North west I think). Which is possibly why it isn't quite as rude a swear word, despite its meaning.

And if you think this is bad, think what happens when someone says "fanny" in all seriousness.

I had an email, years ago, that offered fake travel advice for visitors, including telling people that "Mind the Gap" at tube stations was referring to great big bats that lived in the stations, and that the noise of the train would wake them up so they'd sweep down on passengers, so correct positioning on hearing "Mind the Gap" was to clutch your head and look scared. I wish I still had it - I'd look it out for you. Rather like the Monty Python sketch with the fake Hungarian phrase books, really.
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