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Shifts, Chapter 19: That Awful Man - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Shifts, Chapter 19: That Awful Man
You know, chapter names are hard. I'm sitting here not writing the chapter for ages, because I'm trying to think of a name. And the one that I came up with is goofy. Oh, well. Or maybe that's just, um, procrastination. ;)

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

Remus managed to get out of the house before noon on Saturday, but it was a close thing. Sirius had argued rather vociferously that he should be involved in any hunt for Peter, even in preliminary stages like this. Remus had finally had to remind him that Mrs. Pettigrew still believed he had murdered Peter, and his presence would not be an inducement to free conversation. And when that failed to have any effect whatsoever, he was forced to simply put his foot down and say no. Sirius threatened to follow anyway, but by then, Dora had finally arrived, and backed Remus up (much to his relief).

He decided to walk to the Pettigrew home, hoping the cold air would clear his head. It wasn't any great distance, though of course the Muggle residents of Grimmauld Place could have walked for hours without finding it.

In the wake of the Blitz, there had been nearly as much magical as Muggle building, and Peter's neighborhood was one of several tiny "bubble" neighborhoods in the greater London area that had been built around that time. It was protected by many anti-Muggle Charms, but since none were foolproof, it presented a decorous Muggle facade, just in case of unexpected visitors. Remus supposed that such a visitor might find it odd at night, when he discovered that all of the light in the windows came from torches and the carefully constructed streetlamps didn't light up at all, but in the daytime, it was every bit as buttoned-up as Privet Drive.

Peter's house was at the corner of Asphodel Avenue and Flitterbloom Way, with a large willow tree in front. Remus had only visited a few times as a child--Peter hadn't liked people coming to his home--but he remembered it well enough. He'd been surprised. The state of Peter's possessions had led him to expect a more humble abode. It had become clear rather quickly, though, that Peter's mother simply spent her money elsewhere. The Pettigrews weren't rich--at least not in comparison to Sirius or James--but Mrs. Pettigrew insisted on living as though they were, even if it meant skimping a bit on school clothes and supplies.

Remus rang the bell.

A young man wearing a dark robe not unlike a school robe opened it and bowed. "May I help you?" he asked.

Remus smiled. "My name is Remus Lupin. I'm here to see Mrs. Pettigrew," he said.

"I'll see if she can take visitors."

The butler disappeared for a few minutes, leaving Remus standing in the vestibule. This room had changed a great deal since he'd last been in this house. Now, it was lined with pictures of Peter--Peter as a baby, Peter as a small, chubby boy, Peter in his Hogwarts robes. There was a picture there that included Remus and James, but it had been cut in an uneven shape on one side, where Sirius had been. All of the Peter Pettigrews smiled and waved down at Remus.

It was a far cry from his childhood, when his actual presence in the house had been largely ignored, and Mrs. Pettigrew had sighed and asked why he couldn't take care of himself as well as his new friends did.

"Mrs. Pettigrew will see you in the conservatory," the butler said, appearing silently at the door and beckoning. He led Remus through a parlor and a dining room, to a small, sunny room at the back of the house that had been filled with large, leafy plants. On the one windowless wall was a shelf with a small box on it, surrounded by more pictures of Peter and cuttings from the Daily Prophet about his death.

Mrs. Pettigrew sat in a wicker chair at the center of the room, her gray-blonde hair piled up in ringlets on her head, wearing a diaphonous pink robe. Her face, so like Peter's, was actually quite lovely on a woman. She disguised the weak chin by letting ringlets fall around it and cast shadows. "Remus," she said, holding out both hands. "How good of you to visit."

Remus shook one of the profferred hands, then sat down opposite her. "How are you, Mrs. Pettigrew?"

"As well as can be expected for a lonely old woman." She gave a dramatic sigh. "I should be surrounded by grandchildren, Remus. Little ones to listen to stories and give presents to. It's not right for a woman to live beyond her son and have nothing to show for his life."

Well, Remus thought, you should see the 'child' he managed to raise last year. He bit his tongue on it, not especially wanting to be thrown out, although if Peter had been here, Mrs. Pettigrew was a better actress than he gave her credit for. "I'm sorry," he managed to say.

She smiled in a distant way. "I read in the Daily Prophet that you're a--well, that you, er..."

"I am."

"It's horrible the way they treat your sort," she said, her tone suggesting that she didn't care much one way or the other how werewolves were treated. Remus was, nevertheless, grateful--she could as easily as not have simply thrown him out. "You were always the most considerate of Peter's little friends. I suppose the Aurors have been around you since that murdering traitor escaped?"

"I've talked to Aurors," Remus said.

Mrs. Pettigrew sniffed. "They came here quite a lot at first, to warn me that he was free. Then they didn't catch him. Then, if you please, a black fellow came and told me that Black accused Peter of having done that horrible thing. The gall of it! And the gall of even entertaining the notion! He said you'd vouched for it, but I'm sure it must have been a Confundus Charm, or perhaps the full moon made you see things or believe things. That's right, isn't it, Remus? You haven't betrayed Peter?"

"No," Remus said, "I most assuredly have not betrayed Peter."

"I knew you hadn't. I knew Peter wouldn't have chosen all of his friends so badly. Even if you are a... a..."


"Yes, that." She sat back in her chair. "The Aurors," she muttered. "They come and insult my son, but they can't seem to bother themselves to actually catch the man who killed him."

Remus struggled not to stand up and yell, not to take the complacent woman in the wicker chair and shake her until she saw sense. "I'm sure they're looking very hard," he said.

"Hmph. I don't trust them any further than I can throw them," she said. "Imagine, suspecting the murder victim of a murder!"

"They need to examine all the possibilities, Mrs. Pettigrew."

Her eyes narrowed. "Do you see that box on the shelf, Remus? That's all that's left of my son. Don't discuss 'possibilities' with me." She tightened her lips, as if preparing to spit. "I won't deal with them anymore. I just won't. That awful man is out there, and I don't believe they'll do a thing about it. Why, I didn't even--" She stopped.

"Didn't what?" Remus prodded.


"Was there something you didn't tell the Aurors?"

Mrs. Pettigrew looked furtively around the conservatory, then leaned forward in a conspiratorial way. "Black sent me something," she said.

"You didn't tell the Aurors that a wanted fugitive sent you something?"

"They'd just send that black man again, and he'd ask questions about Peter instead of... him. I don't like that man."

Remus frowned. He hadn't realized that any of the Aurors had followed up on the testimony he'd offered, but of course, Kingsley would have. He just wouldn't have found any evidence. Clever Peter. "What did Sirius Black send you?" he asked.

Mrs. Pettigrew looked at him slyly, then pulled a plain envelope out from under her chair. She handed it to Remus. "This," she said. "It came on Halloween."

Remus lifted the flap on the envelope. Inside, there was a brittle lock of hair, forced into an even curl. It was blonde for most of its length, but near one end, it was a medium, mousy brown. "What is it?" he asked.

"There were rumors. About my late husband and his chippie of an assistant. All untrue, of course."

"Of course."

"She disappeared. That's her hair. She used that awful cheap dying Potion, and let the brown show under it as often as not." She reached under her chair again and pulled out something smaller. "This was in the envelope with the hair," she said. "My husband's wedding ring." She handed it to Remus. "I don't know if you remember when Mr. Pettigrew died..."

"Of course I do. Peter was beside himself." Remus examined the ring, a nasty idea forming in his mind. "That was in seventy-eight, wasn't it?"

"Yes. They said it was a Potion-brewing accident. But if it was an accident, then why would someone take his ring? When would someone have done it?" She reached for the ring and took it back, and twisted it convulsively around her little finger. "I think Peter must have defied that man somehow, and it was revenge, killing his father. Was he always vengeful, Remus?"

The simple answer, of course, was yes, but while Remus couldn't antagonize Mrs. Pettigrew, he also found himself incapable of giving her any information that would confirm her view of events. "Why would he take vengeance to your husband's assistant?" he asked. "Peter didn't care for her much, as I recall."

"Who knows why a madman does something?" Mrs. Pettigrew said breezily. "Perhaps he was trying to set Peter up even then."

"And he sent it to you now..."

"Clearly, he thought I would give it to the Aurors and they would start thinking it was Peter." She pursed her mouth, vaguely troubled, and Remus wondered exactly how many lies she was telling herself unconciously to support this... and how many she was telling consciously. She smiled vaguely. "Oh, dear," she said. "I've gone on and I haven't even offered you a bite to eat. Would you like something, dear?"

"Oh, no, really I'm--"

But she had already rung a small silver bell, and a moment later, her butler appeared. "Please bring some fruit salad for Mr. Lupin and myself," she said.

"Right away, Madam," he said.

"He's only a day-hire," she said disdainfully when he left. "But a widow by herself can't afford a house elf to do these sorts of things."

Remus forced a smile. He ate a tasteless fruit salad with her and they shared memories of Peter, Remus just letting his mind adopt the position that they boy they were talking about was long dead and properly mourned. When they finished, he asked if he might take the hair along with him.

"Whatever for?"

"To, er... " Remus thought about it. "To see if I can use it to trace the murderer."


By showing it to Dora and Sirius and seeing if they think it says anything about Peter's whereabouts.

"I'm not sure," he said.

"Can you smell it and track him? Is it a... werewolf sort of thing?"

"That would be a useful side effect," Remus said. "Unfortunately, it's not the case. I'll have to use more mundane methods."

She nodded, her eyes wide.

She didn't stand to see Remus out when he left. When he looked over his shoulder, she was staring across the leaves of her plants with a vacant look on her face, twisting her late and less-than-faithful husband's wedding band around one finger after another.

I feel a bit...: sleepy Nyquilized

9 comments or Leave a comment
myf From: myf Date: December 8th, 2004 10:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, Remus. It would have been so easy to say 'Yes, a werewolf thing,' and intimidate her into allowing him to take the hair, but he's got too much integrity.

Oh, and typo: hair dyeing. Currently missing the 'e'.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 8th, 2004 10:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Snerk. Yes, that does make a slight difference in meaning, doesn't it?
beaustylo From: beaustylo Date: December 9th, 2004 04:08 am (UTC) (Link)
This was fascinating. I've always wondered about Mrs. Pettigrew and I'm so glad that you chose to explore this avenue. Everything seemed very appropriate in the setting, particularly the shrine to Peter's murder with finger in a box and all. You're doing an absolutely marvelous job with this story and I'm truly jealous of the way you can write an entire chapter of this originality and high quality in one evening. Keep up the great work!
sreya From: sreya Date: December 9th, 2004 06:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Very nice. Mrs. Pettigrew's aspirations to a higher class are very appropriate somehow.

I think I'm far more sympathetic to her than Remus is, though. While he wanted to shake her, I felt absolutely awful for her. She's thought of her son as a hero/victim (seems in this more victim than hero) for so long now that I doubt she'll ever really be capable of understanding the truth, even should her son stand right in front of her and say it himself.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 9th, 2004 07:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes. I think Remus may well think it's a total fake in order to get attention--after all, she never thought much of Peter when he was alive, and now all of the sudden she's building shrines to him? Playing the grieving mother to the hilt?

And of course, Peter betrayed all of them, so Remus, no matter how reasonable he may want to be, is probably pretty bitter.
mrs_who From: mrs_who Date: December 9th, 2004 07:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Well done, Fern!

I think I'm being a bit dense with the lock of hair and ring bit.

It's possible that my questions/comments tie in with your post about stating (or not stating) the obvious in your writing. You gave three examples of ways to play the scene between McGonagall and Tom Riddle. I agree with you that the last scenario -- the more "vague" if you will -- was better. But the reader already knew Riddle was evil, so playing it vague made the scene chilling. JKR has often used obvious "telling" to get across what might otherwise be misconstrued -- things the reader *didn't* already know but must know for plot purposes. Sirius's death for example. Everyone would wonder if he was REALLY dead (and continue to wonder it no matter what she says in interviews!!) so she had Dumbledore say unequivocally that Sirius WAS dead. So, when there's something the reader might misinterpret, it is sometimes necessary to state the obvious.

That diatribe brings me to the question about the ring and hair. It sounds as though you want the reader to assume that Peter murdered or had murdered not only his father's mistress, but his father, too? This is a HUGE plot development and not something we know from canon, and so it would say a lot about Peter (who I imagine from this set up we'll be seeing) and about the type of person he is. It would mean James and Lily weren't his first betrayal or his first association with murder. It might mean he wasn't just Voldemort's weak flunky.

Am I getting it? I do hate to be dense, but I wasn't sure whether you were being vague and didn't want to spell it out that Peter murdered his father and mistress, or whether you intend to implicate someone else in their murders-- perhaps the mysterious blonde woman who attacked Joe?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 9th, 2004 07:14 am (UTC) (Link)
That's certainly what Remus suspects--it's his nasty suspicion. I tend to think that someone "solved his problem" for him, and that was how he was drawn in at first, along with, "You're already in it, don't try to back away." But honestly, I'm finding out this one along with Remus. We don't have any canon yet. Though I have an oogy feeling, dealing with Peter, that there will be a canon ball coming in Book 6. Nevertheless, this arc is only a couple of chapters, so I'll go ahead and write it.
azaelia_culnamo From: azaelia_culnamo Date: December 9th, 2004 10:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Poor Remus - must have been so hard not to just blurt out the truth. At least Dora wasn't there, she would've definitely lost it. (Or would she have? Maybe not, she *is* an Auror).

I feel bad for Mrs. Pettigrew - and will feel even worse if/when she finds out the truth, that her son wasn't a hero... :(
sprite6 From: sprite6 Date: December 11th, 2004 09:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's an interesting chapter. Your portrayal of Mrs. Pettigrew is marvelous; her comments abour Remus and Kingsley are particularly well done, I think. She's just so shallow and phony.
9 comments or Leave a comment