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Shifts, Chapter 16: Fraying, part 1 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shifts, Chapter 16: Fraying, part 1
Okay. Let's try this again, without the stalled out writing. (The problem is that I'm in a doldrum section of OotP, when Harry passes days and days with nothing happening. And I realized that Dudley being stubborn can only play so long with why it needs to take the better part of a year to resolve that plot-line!)

Chapter One is up at the Quill.

Anyway,

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




Remus knew St. Mungo's better than he knew most of the houses he'd lived in as an adult. There had, of course, been freqent visits before the invention of Wolfsbane Potion--visits to tend injuries he couldn't heal for himself, or infections that he'd developed from wounds he'd healed too quickly in the early morning hours. For awhile, he'd earned some money coming in to help newly bitten werewolves adjust. Now, of course, this was considered a position of trust, and forbidden to him under the new werewolf laws.

And of course, he'd come here to sit with people during their illnesses--his mother, his father, others. And he'd been here the night Harry was born, sitting with Sirius and Peter. The Longbottoms--with one-day-old Neville--had stayed with them for awhile as well. Remus had done all of the runs for tea and gifts.

He knew his way around without every needing to look for signs, and many of the people he passed in the corridors were familiar to him. Mehadi Patil stopped him to talk for awhile and vent her frustrations about what was happening at Hogwarts. "Padma is beside herself, worrying about her O.W.L.s--they're not getting any practice for the practical part of the exam!" Remus assured her that he was sure the girls would both do well, and then noticed as slight smile at the corners of her mouth and a gleam in her eyes... Mehadi was not an easy person to fool, and he had a feeling that she knew full well that her daughters were getting all the practice they would need.

He took his leave of her as gracefully as he could--she was a kind woman, but, like Parvati, exceptionally talkative--and went down a narrow staircase to a corridor which had once been lined with housekeeping cupboards. Its appearance hadn't changed, and most of the doors would still open on mops and non-flying brooms. But at the end of the corridor, three benches had been installed, and one of the cupboards had a sign on it, announcing it as Ted Tonks' office. This was an experimental kind of Healing he was doing, an odd combination of Divination and Muggle psychology, with a healthy dose of skills education. He hadn't had any spectacular successes yet.

The door was closed, and Remus sat down on one of the benches, looking up at a portrait of a medieval caretaker, whose descendants had become wealthy and had chosen to sponsor Ted's program. The portrait was engaged in cleaning its own canvas, and muttered a sour hello before going back to its business.

After fifteen minutes, the door opened, and a smiling, vacant-eyed man with curly blond hair came out, still talking.

"...and she writes me every week," he was saying as Remus stood up. "Don't you think that's awfully nice of her, Mr. Tonks?"

"It's Ted," Ted said patiently, coming out behind him. "And yes, it is. Won't it be nice when you can write back to her?" He noticed Remus and smiled. "Gilderoy, I don't know if you remember my friend Remus. He was a few years behind us in school."

Gilderoy Lockhart looked at Ted with puzzled joy. "We went to school together?"

"Yes, Gilderoy."

"We must have been grand friends!"

A look of deep sadness crossed Ted's face. "Yes," he said. "Actually we were. Ah, there's Healer Strout to take you back up to the ward. You keep practicing!"

Lockhart nodded, never losing his vacant smile as the Healer led him away. Remus felt a moment's pity for him, then remembered that the Curse he was suffering from was one he'd meant to cast at Harry and Ron.

Still, he really had been a friend of Ted's, so Remus tried not to let his distaste show on his face.

"What can I do for you, Remus?"

Remus had no idea whether or not the portrait had a loose tongue, so he lied. "I had an odd dream, and I thought I should discuss it with a Seer. Could I talk to you?" he asked. "Or do you have an appointment?"

"I always have Gilderoy last on my schedule," Ted said. He gestured into his office. Remus went in, and Ted went to sit behind his desk. There was an enchanted window here, showing the street outside, which Remus guessed Ted had made for himself. He flicked his wand at the door and closed it. "Since I quite sincerely doubt you need me to See for you," he said, "what do you really need? And speak freely--I check for Listening Charms several times a day in here."

"Well, I did have a rather odd dream, though I don't remember most of it. Something about killing Sirius." He thought there might also have been something about Dora, but it wasn't something he cared to discuss with Ted. "But I expect it's only a bit of stress on my part. I really have no intentions in that direction. I'm just worried about him."

Ted leaned forward. "How bad are things?" he asked.

"I don't know. Saturday night, I'd have sworn he was done for, but yesterday, he seemed... well, not fine, but back in his normal pattern."

"What happened on Saturday?"

Remus told him about the events on Saturday, and yesterday's meeting to discuss them. He didn't share any details about what had happened in the kitchen when they'd gotten home--he didn't think it was right to explain Sirius's precise state--but he tried to stress that Sirius had not been well-balanced. Ted listened closely, but with a kind of professional distance that Remus hadn't expected.

When he finished, Ted sighed. "Andi was afraid he might try something like that. I wish he'd done it when we were home. We had a plan of sorts."

"What was it?"

"Er... It involved one of the cats getting out, and chasing it, and... I didn't say it was a good plan." He stood up, took a handful of floo powder, and tossed it into the fire. "Love," he said to the flames, "you might want to come down here, if you're free."

Andromeda appeared in the fire a moment later, dusting ash from her hair. "What is it? Remus!"

"Hello, Andromeda."

"It seems that Sirius paid us a visit on Saturday," Ted told her.

"Oh, dear." Her words were mild, even dismissive, but Remus saw her eyes darken. She sat down. "I'm assuming since I heard nothing that our constant contingent of every Auror other than our daughter didn't see him there."

"He was in dog form," Remus said. "We don't think they know about it. But Kingsley sent them away anyway, chasing a false lead."

"But if no one knows..."

"Kingsley didn't trust him to stay transformed."

"How foolish does Shacklebolt think he is?"

"It's not a question of his intelligence," Remus said. "Kingsley doesn't trust his judgment."

"Is he right?" Ted asked.

Remus thought about it, longer than he would have liked to. "I think he overreacted. This time."

"I spoke to Dumbledore," Andromeda said out of nowhere. "I went to Hogsmeade, met with Poppy, got into the school... it was an ordeal. It's a fortress there."

"Did he tell you..."

"He told me that he wanted to tell me. But that my sister and her husband are too close to me."

"You couldn't tell them," Ted muttered. "Fidelius..."

"Doesn't cover what I might unwittingly bring in to the Order."

Remus started to protest, then thought of Dudley Dursley, who had avoided him all day in school--not Cursed, but triggering a Curse. And it was back to Narcissa again.

And Narcissa Malfoy was effectively untouchable.

"Whatever their reasoning," Ted said after awhile, "the company of everyday watches will help Sirius. I've been concerned about his connections to the world."

"They're fraying," Remus said. "The threads. And I don't think he's going to try very hard with the Order's babysitters. He's looking forward to catching them in lies. Hestia is with him now. She told him she was planning to study a chizpurfle colony in the cauldrons in the attic."

Andromeda snickered despite herself. "Chizpurfles?"

"Chizpurfles. She didn't even lie well--quite flustered. He was annoyed with her this morning."

"And you're angry with him," Ted said.

Remus looked up sharply. "No! I'm concerned... I'm worried about him."

"That is a nasty thing to say, Ted," Andromeda said.

Ted squinted, like he was about to say something else, then shook his head instead.

They talked for awhile longer, not reaching any conclusions. Remus was starting to feel slow and mentally numb. He headed back to Grimmauld Place at six-thirty, and found Sirius and Hestia in Buckbeak's room. Hestia's nervousness had faded somewhat as she examined the hippogriff--she was a skilled magizoologist--and Sirius was watching her carefully, stroking Buckbeak's neck feathers to keep him calm while she treated an infestation of chizpurfles near the place that feathers gave way to fur.

"I think I've got them," she said, adding a bit of thick Potion and then stepping back.

"Well, there you have it, Buckbeak," Sirius said. "Aren't you lucky that Hestia stopped by today?"

Her nervousness returned as she came around. "D'you think he'd let me pet him?"

"Be good," Sirius said.

Hestia bowed, and Buckbeak returned it. She patted his face happily, then looked at Sirius and blushed. He rolled his eyes at Remus when she looked away.

After she left, Sirius gave Remus an incredulous look and said, "She really did study the damned chizpurfles all day. I know more about the little beasts than anyone could ever want to know." He spent the rest of the evening complaining about Hestia, and Tuesday evening, he complained about Molly, with whom he'd managed to have a full-fledged yelling fight about where Harry should spend Christmas. It continued throughout the week.

Meanwhile, Dudley had withdrawn completely at Smeltings, not making any effort to talk after Remus had needed to rebuff him at the full moon. In fact, Dudley had gone back to outright hosility. He earned another three days in detention for bullying Daniel Morse, whom he accused--in front of several other students--of harboring a crush on Remus. Daniel, never particularly thick-skinned, had barely managed not to cry. The history club found meeting notices defaced. And Dudley stopped turning in his homework altogether.

By the end of the second work week, Sirius wasn't the only one who was fraying around the edges. Tests and essays started to accumulate, and Remus barely had time to mark them between Sirius's rants at home and Kreacher's constant attempts to toss them into the fire, pretending to believe they were rubbish. He finally took to going to Dora's flat for an hour or two after school each day, to complete his work. The Order's babysitters didn't care for this state of affairs.

On Friday, Remus came straight home, opting to mark third form tests on Saturday, after a get-together at Alan's. He found Sirius alone in the kitchen, steaming.

"Where's...?" Remus blanked on who was meant to be here.

"Fleur," Sirius said. "It was Fleur. I told her she could go home."

"And she went?"

"She didn't want to. So I ordered her out." He stopped and breathed harshly for a few seconds. "I shouldn't have been so harsh with her. She's barely more than a child."

"That's true."

Sirius turned. "You have to make them stop, Remus. Please. I won't leave. I'll swear on James's name if you want me to, and you know I won't break that."

"I know." Remus's head began to pound dully. "I'll talk to Kingsley on Monday. He's out of the city now on some sort of business." Of course, Monday was the day that his second-form classes had fairly large projects due, but he supposed they wouldn't be expecting them back immediately. He rubbed his head, and started up the stairs. "I'm going to get some sleep," he said.

"You're not eating?"

"I ate at Dora's." He went upstairs without looking back.
6 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
azaelia_culnamo From: azaelia_culnamo Date: November 19th, 2004 04:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Sirius really is having a rough time. :( And it sounds like Dora is on his side - though honestly, that's kind of expected. Dora probably sees it as a way to bond with someone she lost as a child, and probably ignores the dangers. Assuming this is in the same universe as Doll Army (and wasn't there a reference to it somewhere?), they were very close when Dora was young.

I have a question though - are both Remus's parents dead? I wasn't sure, since you never mention them dying in LoD, but I suppose they could've died afterwards. :(
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 19th, 2004 04:34 am (UTC) (Link)
His mother's dead as of the epilogue to LoD; I assume his father died later on.
azaelia_culnamo From: azaelia_culnamo Date: November 19th, 2004 09:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, right. Too bad about his parents, but it does make sense that they both died. :(
sprite6 From: sprite6 Date: November 19th, 2004 06:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Remus has the patience of a saint. I like Sirius, and I know he's going through a rough time, but honestly. He hates being alone in the house, but he gives all his visitors such a hard time. It's exasperating.

But believable, and IMO you've done a great job exploring his depression in a way that's consistent with canon.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 19th, 2004 07:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks.

I'm working up now to why he's having dinner drinking alone (enough for even distracted Harry to note in a vague way) just before Christmas.
antonia_east From: antonia_east Date: November 22nd, 2004 01:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
None left. *sniffs*

Fantastic, of course. Remus is so wonderful and Sirius is just the right combination of pitiful and infuriating. I've friended you so I can follow the updates. I hope you don't mind.

Antonia
6 comments or Leave a comment