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Shifts, Chapter 18: Whispers From the War, pt. 3 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shifts, Chapter 18: Whispers From the War, pt. 3
Neither Sirius nor Dora was especially thrilled at Dumbledore's order for Remus to find out what's going on with the werewolves, especially when they find out that he suspects Peter's involvement. Remus lets their objections wash over him.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




Sirius's opinion had not changed on Monday. He believed not only that Peter posed a particular danger to Remus, but that it was unthinkable that Remus should go after Peter alone. Peter, in Sirius's opinion, was his. The thought that Remus might see him and not kill him, despite Harry's guarantee that he'd be killed if he transformed that night, appeared to be disturbing him as well.

After work, he went to Dora's flat, meaning to discuss the subject of Peter's silver hand with her, hoping to put her mind more at ease, and get whatever information she had been able to pick up about the spell. It was possible that the hand wasn't even real silver; many spells produced a silver-like appearance. Of course, if he got close enough to Peter to have any sort of metal hand actually punch through his flesh, he suspected that its silver content would be least of his problems. Muggles rather liked the notion of killing a werewolf with a silver bullet, and it would certainly be the safest way to do it--even a shot to a limb would cause an extreme reaction for a transformed werewolf, so it didn't require much precision--but a knife, a bullet, or a metal hand exploding the heart would do the job quite efficiently as well. But he opted not to point this out to Dora. She knew it intellectually and it would eventually occur to her that Peter was as much a danger to anyone else as he was to Remus--no one was like to survive a close-up attack by someone punching into his or her chest--but he needed her to calm down, not start worrying more.

Remus reached her door and fished in his pocket for the key she'd given him last week ("You're out of school before I'm out of work half the time; if you're going to mark papers here, you'll need it"). The door across from hers opened and one of Dora's neighbors slipped out, an elderly lady with an empty mesh bag in her hand. She smiled with relief when she saw Remus, though he had no idea who she was or why she would be happy to see him. "I'm glad you're back," she said. "I don't know who the young lady was that you and your wife had house-sitting this weekend, but her friends were making a great deal of noise on Saturday night, thudding some great heavy thing up the stairs after dark. I thought they were burglars. You might want to speak to her."

Remus blinked. "Er... she's my wife's niece. Well, cousin, I suppose. I'll talk to her. About her friends."

The neighbor wandered down the narrow stairs toward the street, and Remus opened the door, turning on the overhead light. He didn't need to wonder what Dora's friends had been carrying up; the desk was directly across from him, his papers stacked neatly on it, his old cloak folded over the back of the chair, the Smeltings textbooks he'd left here lined up between bookends on the top. A small electric lamp was set off to one side.

He went over to it. Dora had slid two of the photographs Sirius had taken under the glass on top, and set out a leatherbound desk set, with about a dozen pens, a pair of scissors, and a letter opener in a cup at the corner of the blotter. She'd put plain paper, lined paper, and his Smeltings letterhead in the drawers. His eyeglasses were folded in front of the textbooks (he'd forgotten leaving them here, and had to Conjure a new pair on the way in to work this morning). She'd put a little yellow note against the books, her dark, unexpectedly even handwriting saying, "Look! A workspace that's not the kitchen table! Mad idea, isn't it? Love, Dora."

Remus sat down, a curious itch behind his eyes, and peeled the note off. There was a wastepaper basket beside the desk, in front of the small table where Dora had the telephone and a few Muggle pictures she had of her Granny Tonks and her father. The telephone cord fell against the edge of the desk and slipped underneath it to the jack in the wall.

Feeling dazed for no reason he could place, he set down his briefcase and started to pull out the day's work. Dudley Dursley, shockingly, had turned in his essay. He had also been well behaved and polite in class, and appeared to be clean and wearing clean clothes. The essay was neat and free of any obvious errors, another shock. He didn't quite make a fourth shock--it was still a pedestrian paper in which absolutely no thought on the subject was evident. But it was a major improvement, and Remus noted it both in the mark and in his comments before moving on to the tests he'd given his first form class.

After awhile, Granny the cat bestirred herself from her afternoon nap to wind around his feet a few times and beg to be picked up (she was no longer up to just jumping). Remus scratched her head for a few minutes, then let her wander over to her favorite armchair, where she promptly fell asleep again. By the time he'd been working for an hour, the strange daze had worn off, and he'd switched the harsh overhead light for the small desk lamp. When Dora came home at seven and turned the overhead back on, its brightness took him by surprise.

"I wasn't sure you'd still be here," she said. "Places to go, Death Eaters to hunt single-handedly and all that."

He rolled his eyes. "Dora, you go after Dark Wizards alone, too."

"I'm an Auror. It's my job."

"And I'm a member of the Order of the Phoenix."

She sighed and let her hair relax out of a madly curly style she'd chosen for the day. "All right. Yes, I know. But I'll worry."

"And I'll be careful."

"Promise?"

"I promise."

"Do you like the desk?" she asked. "I had my friends over on Saturday to bring it up."

"The woman across the hall mentioned that they were a bit loud."

"Her? She thinks I'm too loud if I take a shower too late at night." Dora sat down on the sofa and curled her legs under her. "Do you like it?"

"It's... very nice," Remus said, his earlier discomfort with it returning. "It's quite a lot, really. How much do I owe you?"

"For a piece of furniture in my flat, bought to keep my kitchen table clear?"

"Dora, honestly. This is expensive. And you've put a lot on it."

"It's second hand," she said. "And I was looking at it and it looked a bit empty, so I decorated it. And my mates from Hogwarts brought it up here, so it's not as though I had to hire someone."

"Your friends from Hogwarts?"

"Well, I couldn't move it up here by magic and I couldn't move it up here the Muggle way by myself..."

"What on Earth did you tell them?"

"That I'm having a mad love affair with a Muggle," she said. "It's quite the scandal. They know I was lying, but they have no idea whatsoever what the truth is."

"Did you tell them about Voldemort, and Harry?"

She looked at her hands. "No. I've been feeling guilty about that, too. I should. Really. They're just so happy. And Maddie's pregnant!" Dora blushed. "I mean, she's... happy," she said again. "It didn't seem fair to bring You-Know-Who into it. But I should have told them. I was going to tell Sanjiv, but we got talking, and then the next thing I knew, he was leaving, and then Kingsley called me in to work for the night." She shook her head. "I'll talk to him later. I should have before. He'll want to be in this. Daffy and Maddie as well."

Remus had heard the names before--many, many times--but he'd never met any of Dora's school friends, so he couldn't advance an opinion. It occurred to him that none of the younger Order members had brought in their school friends. Where were all of the people who had idolized Bill Weasley? Or Charlie's teammates? When Remus had left Hogwarts, the group he'd been in had largely stayed together, and he suspected that Harry's would do the same. But Dora's generation seemed scattered and unfocused as a group, a few of them apparently acting as guardians so that the rest would be able to continue their pleasant drift through young adulthood. It was quite alien.

Dora got up and went to the kitchen. "Do you want something to eat? I was going to watch Coronation Street. You could stay."

Remus glanced down at his pile of work, and saw that he only had two test papers left. "No. I have business. Trying to--"

"Werewolf business."

"Yes, werewolf business. And if I didn't, I'd be going home to make sure that Sirius is all right."

She nodded. "Right. I should go over there. I will go over there. I just need to eat first."

"You seem very tired."

"I spent most of the day writing reports. I hate that. And I talked to that last werewolf, the one who was slinking around in the gardens."

"What did she say?"

"Not bloody much. She definitely gives the impression that it was deliberate, though."

Remus quickly checked the last ten answers on the last paper, then turned around. "Did you check her forearm?"

"No Dark Artwork. Yet."

"Did she say anything about... anything?"

Dora thought about it, then shook her head. "I'm sorry. No clues. She did say that the garden belonged to a former boss who'd sacked her when she was bitten. We're looking for him, but he seems to have been out of town."

"Vengeance. It fits." Remus put his papers in his briefcase and closed it. "Will you take this back to Grimmauld Place when you go?" he asked.

She nodded. "Where will you go?"

"I know a few names. I'll see what I can find out."

He left a few minutes later, and started following a list he'd made of werewolves whose whereabouts he knew. Two of them turned out to have moved since he'd last heard of them, with no forwarding addresses; the third had never left her parents' home, and while she was more than willing to talk, her mother was too busy berating Remus for being careless and costing other werewolves their livelihood for her to get a word in edgewise. "Mothers," she said at the door with an embarrassed shrug.

Remus, whose mother would have swallowed nails before treating a guest so rudely, just nodded.

Tuesday and Wednesday went the same way, with different people on his list. Thursday, he had to oversee a history club meeting, and was surprised by a visit from Dudley Dursley--still quite put-together--informing him that the psychologist had declared him fit to return to the boxing team. This had been announced as though Remus had done everything in his power to stop it. By the time he left Smeltings, it was late and he was tired, and he had no energy to track down hostile strangers. He Apparated back to London. While he was waiting for a bus across town, he saw a small, chubby little boy tugging at his mother's fur coat while she ignored him to read a magazine. He thought nothing of it at the time (except that she was a cruel woman), but the image kept coming back to him as the evening went on.

When he got back to Grimmauld Place, Kingsley, Dung, Mad-Eye, and Emmeline were sitting around the table with Sirius, all leaning forward and talking very intensely. Sirius beckoned him over.

"We've got a theory here," he said. "I don't like the sound of it."

Remus sat down. "What is it?"

"The Hogwarts Express," Kingsley said. "It runs for the holidays, of course. And if Harry is going to the Weasleys'..."

"...and if Voldemort is planning something big," Emmeline added.

Kingsley didn't actually say anything, just spread his arms as if to say, There you have it.

Mad-Eye took over. "What we've got to do is make sure that Harry's not where he's expected to be. Get him off that train. And don't let him travel alone."

"And the rest of the students?" Emmeline asked. "What about them? Is it perfectly all right for You-Know-Who to attack them as long as Harry's off the train?"

"He'll have people watching in Hogsmeade," Mad-Eye said. "He'll know if Harry's not there."

They wrangled with the question for several hours, finally opting to find some way of getting Harry back on the last day of term that would include the presence of an Auror, having him in such a presence during any forays out of the Burrow or Grimmauld Place, and then getting him back to Hogwarts in an unexpected way. They all--Sirius included--looked to Remus to approve the plan, and he did so, though something was tickling at the back of his mind, both about whatever Voldemort's plan was, and about his search for Peter. The image of the woman and her chubby son kept coming to him.

He was nearly asleep when it it hit him. He'd noticed them and paid attention to them because he'd seen the dynamic before. When Peter Pettigrew had been a boy, he'd often seemed to be James and Sirius's shadow, almost physically clinging to one or the other of them and seeking attention. Sometimes, it had even been Remus. And Remus remembered thinking how easy it was to make Peter happy--just give him the attention he wanted. It had seemed very strange to him, until he'd visited Peter over the holidays, and watched him following his mother around, trying to get her attention and failing miserably.

He didn't know where Peter was.

But Mrs. Pettigrew was less than four miles from where he was lying.

Remus wondered if she'd had any visitors recently.
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Comments
antonia_east From: antonia_east Date: December 5th, 2004 04:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, I'm the first! Brilliant chapter as ever, I liked the way Remus reacted to the desk, and also the quick character sketch of Peter at the end.
sreya From: sreya Date: December 5th, 2004 06:10 am (UTC) (Link)
her dark, unexpectedly even handwriting

*rolling eyes* Yes, Remus, she has been writing for a few years!

I love how you keep working in these reminders that Remus is struggling to see Dora as an adult. I'm roughly the same age as Dora, and I still run across these odd tics with the adults who knew me as a child. It helps round out the story.

On another note... dang it, anyway, bringing in Mrs. Pettigrew reawakened an old, uncooperative plot bunny.
azaelia_culnamo From: azaelia_culnamo Date: December 5th, 2004 06:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Same here! But one that was killed by OoTP anyway.

I feel sorry for Tonks - she must be worried, I know I would be. But I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't think the silver hand is anything dangerous, unless its pure silver, and JKR is using the theory that it's dangerous to Werewolves; however, in legends, Werewolves aren't supposed to be nice DADA teachers either...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 5th, 2004 09:35 am (UTC) (Link)
*rolling eyes* Yes, Remus, she has been writing for a few years!

Oh, I think he just expects, with her personality, that she'll have wildly illegible handwriting (written quickly, large, scrawling), and he keeps running into that more careful, hardworking, Hufflepuffish side that surprises him no matter how long he's known her.
sreya From: sreya Date: December 5th, 2004 10:14 am (UTC) (Link)
I did think of that, but I guess I took it to be a part of her personality that Remus -- and others -- take to be immaturity.

Yet another risk of early-morning fic reading, I suppose!
vytresna From: vytresna Date: December 5th, 2004 06:45 am (UTC) (Link)
I just had a dream where I asked a spokesman for JKR if Peter's mother was still alive, and he confirmed it. He also confirmed R/S, mind, but it's still spooky.

Did I ever tell you how much I hate indirect thinking? Or, for that matter, thinking that's one step too direct. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. Choose your weapon. Anyway, my allergy to indirect thinking just fired up. As did my Umbridge-itis.
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 5th, 2004 10:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Little difficulty with point of view at the very start: the first paragraph appears to be Sirius' pov but then suddenly the "he" at the start of the second paragraph refers to Remus. Confused me. Chapter as a whole is good, as always, though. The part about Peter's hand felt a bit like fan-speculation but on reflection it would be natural for the characters to speculate about it too.
Hexnut
sprite6 From: sprite6 Date: December 5th, 2004 07:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Good ending to the chapter! It'll be interesting to see how Remus's interview with Mrs. Pettigrew goes. The detail with the boy on the train was nice, and quite clever.

I love the desk, btw. It's like Dora is moving him into her apartment, bit by bit, without him realizing it.
stars_fell From: stars_fell Date: December 6th, 2004 05:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
I cannot tell you how happy I was to find this story had more than two chapters online. :D I've been steadily compiling a list of HP fics I'd like to rec one day, and you're actually under the category of "read every damn thing she writes". Your Remus just flat-out makes me happy. He's not infinitely tortured, but he's not exactly carefree either, and he actually has a sense of humor. I feel the way you write him fits his character perfectly, and actually reminds me very much of my favorite professor, which (I cannot stress this enough) is a very good thing. :) It's people like you who make me wonder why I even bother writing when there are such talented scribes out there.
From: luwanda26 Date: December 8th, 2004 05:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I absolutly love Shifts. I stayed up way too late last night reading it. I could I friend you, I love your HP essays.
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