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Shifts, Chapter 18: Whispers From the War, pt. 1 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Shifts, Chapter 18: Whispers From the War, pt. 1
Okay, Chapters 15-17 are at HB. Coding and spell-checking and fixing stuff... ah, the tedium. But at least Ted and Andromeda are no longer going to a cabin in scenic Nottingham, but instead to a holiday cottage on the moors. And Sirius is no longer "bent." Or, if he is, no one's talking about it.

We've also run out of the scenes I have listed to do! Ack. And a week and a half to kill before Harry goes to Number 12. Maybe I should do something with, you know, the plot or something. Just for kicks.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

There was a hard frost on the ground outside the carriage house, and he could see his breath as ice in the air. He didn't know how long he'd been sleeping with neither fur nor blankets, but his skin had a disturbingly numb feeling to it. He had a vague recollection of transforming back, but he'd been worn out and had just curled up for what should have been a few minutes. It had still been dark then. It was quite light now.

He checked himself very carefully for injuries (nothing; thank heaven for the Wolfsbane and good luck), then did a warming charm while he pulled on his clothes. Next month, he'd put a warming charm on whatever place he found before he transformed. Sleeping naked in the winter was not a game for a man approaching forty. He briefly considered Apparating to the alley near Number 12, Grimmauld Place, but decided that would be a bad habit to get into and Apparated to the Leaky Cauldron instead, to catch a bus home.

He arrived in a cacophony.

Mrs. Black was screaming, but Sirius was paying no attention to her, because Kreacher was standing on the stairs, some bit of tattered old lace clasped to his chest, weeping.

"Give it here!" Sirius demanded. "I didn't tell you to go through the cartons upstairs, and I definitely didn't tell you that you could keep clothes."

"I am a good elf," Kreacher protested. "Took it from storage, like cleaning. Master knows that Kreacher didn't steal, and Master didn't give Kreacher clothes. Kreacher just picks them up to take care of them, like always."

"I didn't tell you take care of Mistress's clothes. I was going to go through them tomorrow--"

"Master was going to destroy them! Master was going to destroy Mistress's wedding robes!" Kreacher sat down on a step and tugged the robes closer to himself, crying into them so genuinely that Remus actually felt sorry for him. "Everything, everything, everything..." he wailed, banging his head against the railing with each repetition. "Master spoils everything..."

"Oh, will you STOP IT?"

Remus touched Sirius's shoulder.

Sirius jumped. "Oh. You're back."

Remus didn't feel like shouting. He didn't really feel like being in the middle of an argument. He pointed at the portrait. "Your mother," he said.

Sirius nodded and grabbed one of the curtains. Remus grabbed the other, and they silenced her after a moment of struggle, leaving only Kreacher's wracking sobs. Remus leaned on the newel post. "Kreacher," he said, "if you give me the robes, I'll see to it that Master doesn't destroy them."


Remus held up a hand.

"Filthy, unnatural hands on Mistress's robes..." Kreacher sniffed, backing up the stairs. "Mistress would not allow it!"

"Fine," Sirius said, raising his wand. "I'll incinerate them from here."

Kreacher leapt over the railing--Remus hadn't thought the elf could move that quickly--and insinuated himself between Remus and the wall. He looked around Remus's knee. "The werewolf said you wouldn't."

"Not that it's any of his business"--Sirius gave Remus a reproachful look--"but he also said that you had to give them to him."

"I won't hurt them," Remus said. "I'm too tired to do much damage."

Kreacher looked up at him, eyes full of hate, and resentfully handed him the crumpled ball of fabric. As soon as it was in Remus's hands, the elf flew across the hall, buried his head in his arms against the curtains that hid Mrs. Black's portrait, and began to weep again, begging Mistress to forgive him for being faithless and allowing unclean hands to touch her things.

Remus sighed and looked at Sirius. "They're wedding robes," he said. "They're not going to hurt anything."

Sirius made a curt gesture with his hand and went toward Buckbeak's room, where the hippogriff had already made short order of Mrs. Black's everyday clothes, her linens, and most of her furniture. Remus took the wedding robes to a bureau on the second floor landing and put them carefully away, Charming the drawer against Kreacher's intrusions (he wasn't entirely sure how fluid house elf enslavement was, and didn't want to take the chance of accidentally freeing him). Then he went to bed and slept until shortly after noon.

Sirius was in the front room when he got up, reading a stack of magazines that someone had brought for him. They were fanned around him on the sofa, the pictures smiling and waving up at random corners of the ceiling.

"Sorry about that business earlier," he said when Remus came in. "I'd already had the same argument with Kreacher once last night. I suppose I was a bit short."

"I put the robes in the bureau," Remus said.

"What did you promise him I wouldn't incinerate them for?"

"Why did you want to?"

The door opened, and Mrs. Black's portrait started screaming. Sirius pointed over his shoulder toward the doorway and raised an eyebrow as if to say, Do you really need to ask? He got up and went to the entrance hall, and a few seconds later the screaming stopped. When he came back in, Dora was with him. Her hair was blue today, though in its usual spiky style. Remus wondered if that was a cut that she'd actually physically had done, the style it relaxed into. He'd never thought to ask.

"Wotcher, Remus," she said. "How are you feeling?"

"Better than usual. A bit tired."

"And very nostalgic," Sirius muttered bitterly, and related the tale of the wedding robes.

Dora shrugged. "If you don't want them, I'll add them to my collection. I have four Muggle-style wedding gowns, but nothing wizarding-style. No robes at Oxfam."

Sirius shook his head. "I don't think so. Mum would probably have them Cursed to strangle any half-blood who tried to put them on."

"I can break a Curse, Sirius."

"Fine. Take them if you want them. I--"

From somewhere above the mantelpiece, someone said, "Ahem."

They all looked up.

Phineas Nigellus was leaning idly against the frame of a painting of Tintagel. His painted hair bounced a bit in the wind from the stormy sea. "Not to interrupt matters of such great import," he said, "but Dumbledore wishes to speak to Lupin."

"Does he want me to come up to Hogwarts?" Remus asked.

"No. Too long. He is on his way to Hogsmeade as we speak, and asks that you Apparate here"--he pointed to the picture--"to the wizarding section, of course"--he raised an eyebrow, as though he'd expected Remus to head off to the Muggle tourist area--"and speak to him face to face."

"What's this about, Grayfur?" Sirius asked.

"As I have told you on countless occasions, if you are incapable of 'Great-Great-Grandfather,' you may call me 'Greatfather,' and if you are incapable of that, you may use my name. You may not refer to me as 'Grayfur.'"

Tonks grinned. "So, what's it about, Grayfur?"

Phineas gave a long-suffering sigh and shook his head. "I imagine if you were meant to be told, the instruction would not have been to have Lupin Apparate to a different location." With that, he walked out of the frame.

"Dumbledore knows it was a full moon last night," Dora grumbled.

"Yes, he does," Remus said. "And I imagine that whatever he needs to discuss is important enough to ask me to meet him anyway."

He expected to have to dance around a promise to tell them whatever Dumbledore said, but they both seemed to accept that he wouldn't make such a promise, and only expressed a hope that he would be able to tell them later. He bundled up against the ocean wind.

There was no one in the square, so he slipped into the blind alley to Apparate (safer going than coming in), and came out on a secluded part of the rocky Cornish coast. Like Diagon Alley, it was a wizarding place carved into the middle of a relatively busy Muggle area. Unlike Diagon Alley, hardly any wizards or witches came here. It was nothing more than an historical site, and not even one that was closely watched by someone aiming to earn a galleon in the tourist trade. When Remus arrived, he was alone except for a mossy statue of Merlin, long strafed by the wind and saltwater. A wooden bench overlooked the sea, and he went to sit down on it.

His parents had brought him here as a child--he remembered his father, who had been obsessed with learning wizard history, lamenting the lack of visitors--even before he'd been bitten. He wondered why Dumbledore had chosen the spot.

"I apologize for calling you so soon after the full moon."

Remus looked over his shoulder.

Dumbledore was standing behind him, leaning on a staff and looking eerily like the statue behind him. He came around the bench and sat down beside Remus, looking thoughtfully out over the sea. "I used to come here often," he said, "and seeing the painting at Sirius's home reminded me that I wanted to come here again. It's a good place for gathering one's thoughts, and one is rarely interrupted by eager young wizards seeking to understand the history of magical Britain."

"What's happened?" Remus asked.

"Nothing yet." Dumbledore frowned. "Severus Snape has been made aware of certain movements in Lord Voldemort's circle. A build-up for some kind of action. He's been unable to ascertain what it is, but there is certainly a plan in motion."

"Does it have to do with the prophecy?"

"I'm not sure. It seems a logical assumption. If it is about the prophecy, then Harry is in a great deal of danger when he leaves Hogwarts. But it may not be that at all. And Harry is having a rather bad year at school--I'd rather not trap him there over the holidays if it can be avoided at all."

"I'll talk to Molly and Arthur about shoring up the security at the Burrow while he's there. And he'll come to Grimmauld Place on Christmas Day to stay with Sirius for the rest of the holidays."

"A good plan. It may not be Harry after all. It may be..." He shook his head. "I hope to have more information in time, but several tongues have fallen silent recently. Lord Voldemort is becoming more vigilant with his underlings."

Remus nodded. "I see."

"There is another matter."

"What is it?"

Dumbledore took a deep breath. "Last night, no fewer than four werewolves were spotted loose. I'm sure Nymphadora Tonks will be able to tell you something about it when you see her--she was called in for extra duty to help."

"Loose...?" Remus's heart sped up. "I was in--"

Dumbledore shook his head. "No, you are not in any way suspect. Even the Ministry is well aware that you were in the safe house network."

Remus considered this piece of information, and what Dumbledore meant by bringing it up. Four loose werewolves under the full moon, roaming about...

"Was anyone bitten?"

"We haven't heard anything yet."

Remus closed his eyes. "Voldemort," he guessed. "He's approached the werewolves. Promised them a bit more freedom."

"I wondered if you had heard anything."

"No. I haven't spoken to another werewolf in nearly a year, and that was only briefly."

"I think it would be wise to renew your acquaintance," Dumbledore said.

A gust of wind burrowed through the layers of Remus's clothing, and he shuddered. Of course. "What about my assignment at Smeltings?"

"It still needs to be done. And I presume that if Smeltings is anything like Hogwarts, your headmaster would be less than pleased with a mid-year resignation." He smiled. "I haven't asked anyone else to leave a job, Remus. I'm not going to ask you to do so. Tell me... what do you make of young Mr. Dursley?"

Remus briefly related the events of the year, and his concerns about the Curse that was operating on Joe Levinson (Andromeda had apparently reported on what she'd seen, so it wasn't entirely new to Dumbledore).

Dumbledore nodded thoughtfully. "Yes... That's something I'll leave in your hands. Obviously, we need to find a way to reverse it and discover who's responsible. But for the moment, I need you to follow up this business with the werewolves."

"Is there some reason you didn't want to discuss it in front of Sirius?"

"I'll leave it to your judgment whether or not to tell him. But I have reason to believe that if Voldemort is indeed trying to contact werewolves, he will be doing it through the only one of his loyal servants who has long experience with one."


Dumbledore nodded. "Keep your eyes open."
39 comments or Leave a comment
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myf From: myf Date: November 28th, 2004 03:40 am (UTC) (Link)
*glee* Really good. Poor old Remus - he seems to get lumped with everything. This ties in so beautifully with canon. I know you get told that all the time, but still - I can't wait to find out what Remus has to say when he gets to St Mungos later on.

One thing:
He arrived in a cacophony.
sounds a little odd to me. Would 'arrived to a cacophony' be any better?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 28th, 2004 09:51 am (UTC) (Link)
Would 'arrived to a cacophony' be any better?


Glad you liked it!
antonia_east From: antonia_east Date: November 28th, 2004 04:00 am (UTC) (Link)
It is a brilliant istallment and I love the thought of that convesation taking place by the sea.
You are taking mentions in canon and making a story out of them really well - I think your Christmas theory works here. I have difficulty in seeing Snape return to Voldemort after being vouched for as a spy by Dumbledore, so him as a collector of information is far more believable.

And Remus and the werewolves ... oh, poor Remus. I agree, I can't wait for the converstaion he has in St Mungos.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 28th, 2004 09:51 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm really hoping I can make the Christmas theory work. I've got to put on the gas here if I'm going to beat JKR--since book 6 is undoubtedly going to prove me wrong, I'd best finish this while I can still believe in it.
lyras From: lyras Date: November 28th, 2004 04:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Catching up on over a week away from LJ, so I need to be brief, but this is another excellent chapter. Considering you're bemoaning the fact that nothing's really due to happen until Harry arrives for Christmas, you're certainly managing to keep things interesting! I do think you write Kreacher very well, btw.

And what a plausible explanation for Peter's absence in OotP. That's a great idea.

Nice to see some Dumbledore action, as well - we haven't seen much of him yet, but then we don't in OotP, either.

Looking forward to the next instalment!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 28th, 2004 09:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, we know lots about what Dumbledore isn't doing that year, but not very much about what he is doing, other than chatting with the other headmasters' portraits and reading cryptic portents from his little instruments. What's the old dude up to, anyway?
chocolatepot From: chocolatepot Date: November 28th, 2004 04:57 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you thank you!

I must thank you for putting up the next few chapters. You may not know it, but I am your biggest fan. I check back far too often for the next installment, even though I know that it isn't possible for you to get the next chapter done that quickly.

Thanks ever so!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 28th, 2004 09:47 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you thank you!

You're quite welcome. :) Glad you're enjoying.
sreya From: sreya Date: November 28th, 2004 05:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Kreacher leapt over the railing--Remus hadn't thought the elf could move that quickly--and insinuated himself between Remus and the wall. He looked around Remus's knee. "The werewolf said you wouldn't."

That is just such an incredibly sad image. I can see them all so clearly -- Sirius glaring, Kreacher worked up over the wedding dress, and Remus absolutely exhausted but still trying to make peace. (Dang, I wish I could actually draw, instead of just mock it with photoshop!!!)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 28th, 2004 09:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! As always, I also wish I could draw. :sigh:

Kreacher... you gotta feel sorry for him in a kind of twisted way. Like Snape, he's pretty much at the mercy of people he loathes, and he's being forced to watch his whole life history dismantled by the same people.
leelastarsky From: leelastarsky Date: November 28th, 2004 05:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Ooo, exciting! I loved the description of the statue of Merlin and the choice of meeting place. Delicious.

Do they know Harry's been banned from Quidditch yet? I can't remember if you'd mentioned that. (need to go back and re-read! ;~) )

I really liked the stuff with Kreacher at the start too. :~)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 28th, 2004 09:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, Dung told them about the banning earlier. They were less than thrilled.

Glad you liked. And, frighteningly, I'm starting to get a soft spot for Kreacher.
azaelia_culnamo From: azaelia_culnamo Date: November 28th, 2004 05:45 am (UTC) (Link)
First, I wanted to thank you - I just saw that on the review challenge, you recc'd one of my fics! :) That's really sweet.

Anyway, onto the fic... that's disturbing, the fact that its possible Voldemort's trying to offer Werewolves freedom. And the fact that some would actually go that far. Remus is going to have to try and stop at least one of them.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 28th, 2004 09:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, given the state of werewolf life, quite a few of them might be more than a little ticked at the establishment. If I were Voldemort, I'd go for it.

(And you're welcome.)
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 28th, 2004 08:06 am (UTC) (Link)
And finally, somebody offers a sensible explanation of how a newly-bitten werewolf came to be in the Dai Llewellen Ward, at least two and a half years after the invention of the Wolfsbane potion. One of the things I love about *Shifts* is the way it provides a whole behind-the-scenes story that fits in seamlessly with OotP, and often makes complete sense out of details that are rather mysterious in canon.
- Nora
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 28th, 2004 09:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. I had wondered about the new werewolf, though I'd sort of written it off as not all werewolves taking Wolfsbane potion.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Expand
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 28th, 2004 09:36 am (UTC) (Link)
The use of a magical part of Tintagel as a setting seems a nod to Dolenbyd's _Becoming_ (on SIYE). No? I suppose it could just be a coincidence... Remus and Dora and wedding robes, oh my, too bad we don't see Remus react to hearing about that part of her costume collection.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 28th, 2004 09:40 am (UTC) (Link)
I've never read that--I have a whole Merlin theory going in "Blood in the Earth" which I try not to reference too often, but which creeps in from time to time. However, it interests me... where's SIYE?
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Expand
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 28th, 2004 10:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Sorry, I have to leave this anonymously, but I'm not a LJ user. However, I just have to say I discovered your story on the Quill Friday night and loved it so much I came here to find out what's happened on the chapters that haven't posted there yet. I am so impressed with the thought you've put into fleshing out OoTP from the Order's perspective. Your characterizations are spot-on, love your take on Remus, Tonks, Sirius, Kreacher and Dudley, as well as the new characters you've introduced at Smeltings. Any plans for doing this same type of thing with HBP???? I'm just greedy, I guess. Anyway, thanks for brightening up my weekend and I'll definitely be looking for more!!! Cheers, Mary
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: November 28th, 2004 10:33 am (UTC) (Link)

You know, she has a point.

If HBP is at all delayed, you should do this for GoF.
castaliae From: castaliae Date: November 28th, 2004 01:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
As always, I enjoyed the update. You've such a handle on your characters that it seems seamless (yuck alliteration) that we should be invested in the characters, even Kreacher.

Given the last scene, what is your view of Remus' position in the Order hierarchy, and is there a hierarchy?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 28th, 2004 04:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
It think of it as sort of loose hierarchy, with people doing their own things, directed by Dumbledore, and when Dumbledore isn't readily available, Remus is the point-man who has final authority. Everyone else is pretty much on equal footing in theory, and some know about some assignments while others know about others. Remus, presumably, has a good idea what everyone is doing, though Dumbledore is probably holding out on him a bit (seems to be a habit), or not telling him things because ther's not enough time to cover everything.
jesspallas From: jesspallas Date: November 28th, 2004 02:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really do love this and your other stories - your Remus and Tonks and their history are just wonderful. :) I love the way this story fits around canon events and in some cases explains them in ways that OotP itself didn't. :)

And now werewolf problems - poor Remus, he really does have so much on his plate.

BTW - you said you'd put the next three chapters up on the HB page, but I can't see them on the main Shifts chapters page. Am I overlooking something obvious or is there a delay? :)

Oh and PS - may I put you on my friends list?

Pallas. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 28th, 2004 04:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, you can put me on your friends page. I like friends. :)

Oops, forgot to put them on the main page! You can get to them through the Table of Contents (linked at the top of the post). I won't be able to get in until later. Dial-up connection, and I'm expecting a phone call. :(
mylla From: mylla Date: November 29th, 2004 12:10 am (UTC) (Link)
This chapter, and reading everyone's comments speculating about what the Order is doing and knows, just reminded me of something I've been meaning to ask - have you mentioned Sturgis at all? He's really one of the mysteries of the Order, as far as I can see - just sort of vanishes after his arrest, which we don't really hear the Order talking about in the book (do we?). I'd like to hear their point of view on that. I know it's long past the time when it happened, now, but I was just wondering if you'd considered it.
mrs_who From: mrs_who Date: November 29th, 2004 04:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.

Fern, I can't keep saying, "this was my FAVORITE bit so far" and yet it was. Really excellent work, Fern.

Did you plot out this part or write it intuitively? Every single character was in top form, your descriptions were so brilliantly clear, and the imagery was astonishing and the whole thing tightly written. Kreatcher cowering, Mrs. Black wailing, Tonks with the blue hair, Dumbledore standing Merlin-like (Darn! That was just perfect.), and your explanation for the werewolf in St. Mungos. I adore backstory and you are just a candy shop of it!

A load of plot movement, beautiful descriptions, great characterization, and all tight as tight can be. Well done!!

(one tiny edit: Her hair was blue today, though in its usual spiky style. Remus wondered if that was a cut that she'd actually physically had done, the style it relaxed into. Should it be "OR the style it relaxed into?)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 29th, 2004 06:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Did you plot out this part or write it intuitively?

I did a quick outline of the next ten days or so, to get Remus out of the house overnight the day Harry arrives and busy throughout the holidays. The Kreacher part was intuitive. I like it when they wake up like that. :)

Should it be "OR the style it relaxed into?)

It was more of an amplification than an alternative--was this what she'd chosen to have her hair look like when it wasn't morphed at all? Just another weird thing that he's started wondering about...
sprite6 From: sprite6 Date: November 29th, 2004 08:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
What a cliff-hanger! I can't wait to read Remus and Tonks's discussion about this!
39 comments or Leave a comment
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