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Shifts, Chapter 19: That Awful Man, pt. 3 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shifts, Chapter 19: That Awful Man, pt. 3
Let's see... foggy daze... I think I left them all in the kitchen at Grimmauld Place, safe and warm...

I didn't? ;)

Oh, right. I left Remus hanging by his fingertips from a house in Kent. He's trying to get a better view when someone comes up behind him, wondering if he should have sent an invitation by owl.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




Remus let go of the window ledge and dropped to the ground, ignoring the pain in his knees and ankles when he landed. He reached for his wand, but he knew it was too late.

"Expelliarmus!"

His wand flew away from his grasping fingertips, and into a small, dark shadow in the garden, just outside the sphere of light from the window.

"Hello, Peter," he said.

Peter Pettigrew stepped forward, smiling eagerly, silver hand outstretched. Remus looked at it in disbelief, and Peter shrugged sheepishly and put the hand down. "Good to see you," he said. "I hoped you'd come."

"Who do you have in there?"

"I don't know. He wasn't my choice. Some anti-werewolf type as I understand it. I imagine there are a few of those you might like to get hold of by full moon." He smiled in the wavery, self-deprecating way he had when they'd all been children together and he'd done something especially to please one of the others. Despite his gray and thinning hair, he managed to look boyish... except for his eyes. His eyes darted around in their sockets like rats in round cages.

"Nervous about something, Peter?" Remus asked.

Peter tapped his upper lip with the tip of his tongue. "Nothing to be nervous about. Old friends and all."

Remus estimated the amount of time it would take Dora and her team to respond to the signal he'd sent (he really hoped that she hadn't run into another emergency), and how long it had been since he'd sent it. He didn't think he'd need to keep Peter talking for too long. "Then give me back my wand," he suggested.

Peter held the wand up, looked at it, then shook his head apologetically. "No," he said, lowering it. "No, I don't think I can do that. Not until we talk a bit, at any rate."

"What's Voldemort planning?" Remus asked.

Peter jumped as though someone had pinched him. "What do you mean?"

"I know this business with the werewolves isn't important to him. He has other Death Eaters back to handle his important business."

Peter bristled. "I'm offering to help you."

"The only help you can give me is the help I just asked for. Or hasn't Voldemort even told you what he's planning?"

"Stop saying his name," Peter hissed.

"All of that caretaking last year, and all you're really privy to now is an errand make false promises to dark creatures."

"They aren't false. Werewolves will be free to exercise their natures." Peter smiled in an unpleasant way. "Yes, Remus. Even your nature."

"So what you're offering, even presuming its truth, is the opportunity for us to live down to our worst elements."

"I'm offering a chance to justice out of those idiots at the Ministry. Or I could tell you who organized most of the raids against werewolves last time. I'd wager you'd enjoy taking a bite from him." He laughed nervously. "Then again, who'd want a mouthful of Snivellus Snape?"

Remus tensed, wanting to throw back another casual insult, to wrong-foot Peter again, but this time, Peter's aim had been true. Werewolves had been suspected of collusion in the last war, and Remus had no doubt that some had gone along with it. But for those who hadn't, there was a very quick reminder about Voldemort's views of mixed blood and mongrels. There'd been torture, both physical and emotional, and there had been murders. Several murders. Remus had not elected to talk about these things, even with his friends, but of course they'd noticed that he was upset by it.

And now, here was Peter, bringing it up, and telling him what he supposed he should have known all along, after what had happened at the Whomping Willow.

It had been Snape--Snape who still looked down his nose at Remus, who had cost Remus his job, who had been willing to send both Remus and Sirius to Azkaban because he was unwilling to listen. And that had all been after he'd presumably joined Dumbledore's side.

Peter's unpleasant smile widened. "Yes," he said. "I thought that would get your attention."

"It's ancient history," Remus muttered.

"Is it? He was one of the Dark Lord's. He tortured and murdered and... well, other things you might expect him to do. Dumbledore keeps him on year after year, no matter how badly he teaches or how cruel he is to his students. The things I heard Harry and Ron say in the dormitory!" He sighed dramatically. "You forgot your Potion once, and and it's on the street with you. That has to bother you."

There was a very distant set of pops. Peter didn't appear to notice them. Remus looked at his own wand, now tucked into the sash that cinched Peter's robe at the waist. He thought about trying wandless magic--a simple Summoning Charm, perhaps--but it would take too much concentration. Peter would notice long before he was able to do anything, and would either transform (taking the wand with him, as it was part of the clothing he was wearing), or simply raise his own wand and send a Death Curse in Remus's direction.

Better to keep him talking, try to get close. He took a few casual steps forward, his arms crossed, looking vaguely at the sky. "Even if it does bother me," Remus said, "this business here is no solution. I've no interest in being a wolf all the time, and Voldemort won't have any use for a poor half-blood otherwise."

"The Dark Lord always has uses for those Dumbledore trusts."

"Yes, you'd know that, wouldn't you?" Another step. He was an arm's length away now. "Uses. A handy tool to be picked up when he needs you and discarded when a better tool comes along."

"You don't--"

Remus moved quickly, hopefully not giving Peter time to realize what was happening. He threw all of his weight sideways, toppling Peter to the ground and knocking his wand away, then planting his knee on Peter's chest and ripping his own wand from under the sash. He pointed it at Peter's throat. "How dare you?" he spat. "How dare you even ask me?"

"Remus, Remus," Peter said, his voice weak and trembling again. "I've tried to be a friend, I've tried to help you, and all of the others..."

"We both know you don't believe--"

Pain, as sharp and clear as shattered crystal, ripped through his left arm.

He looked down. Peter's silver hand was clasped around his elbow, pushing the joint inward, crushing the bones. A wave of faintness washed over him, and Peter shoved him down, scrambling to his feet and grabbing for his fallen wand.

"How dare I?" he asked, picking it up as he dropped back into the shadows. Remus could no longer make out his face. "I gave you a chance." He raised the wand. "Ava--"

A spell came out of the darkness, knocking Peter's aim off and distracting him from the task at hand. He looked up, then tucked his own wand into his sash and transformed. Remus heard him scurrying into the underbrush.

A moment later, Dora ran into the small area of light and knelt down beside him. "Are you all right?" she asked brusquely.

"Except for my arm."

She winced when she looked at it. "Splint it for now," she said. "I'm sure Sirius and I can sort it out better at home. Right now, my partner's inside."

"There are at least two men in there, keeping another one captive. That one's been bitten."

She nodded in a distracted way. "There are three of them. We don't go in without having a good idea what we're facing."

"Do you need help?"

"I'm on duty," she said firmly. "Come in, but don't help unless it's an emergency."

Without further discussion, she went to the bricked off doorway at the back of the house, raised her wand, and used a Reductor Curse to blast it away. Remus followed her inside.

Her partner (at least for tonight; the Aurors didn't team up on any regular basis) was a young man with a long ponytail. He had already subdued the man who Remus had seen with the cauldron of raw meat, and was trading spells with the other one. Dora didn't pause at the room where the sick man was being held captive, instead storming to the kitchen. Remus had barely had time to register what she was doing when he heard a loud bang, and then the futile cursing of a third man. When he got in, the man had been bound in tight, thin ropes. Dora levitated him and pushed him into the other room, where her partner had the others under similar control.

"That's all of them?" he asked her.

"The one in back got away," she said.

"Who was it?"

Dora bit her lip. "I didn't see him. He was in the damned shadows, and I couldn't see him."

"It was Peter Pettigrew," Remus said.

Dora's partner narrowed his eyes. "And who are you?"

"This is Remus Lupin," Dora said. "He's the one who called us. Remus, this is Dennis Howe."

Howe looked at him distastefully. "I'd heard this Pettigrew nonsense before."

"Watch it," Dora said.

"Did anyone else see it?" Howe asked.

Dora looked like she was about to lose her temper--she was quite keyed up--so Remus touched her shoulder lightly and shook his head. As usual, there was no proof, and Dora would only call attention to herself by picking this fight.

"It was a short, heavyset man," Remus said. "Balding, blue-eyed. One hand appears to have been magically replaced. And he bears a striking resemblance to Peter Pettigrew. Is that a more acceptable report?"

Howe still looked hostile, but stopped arguing.

There was a weak moan, and all three of them turned to the figure on the dirty mattress. The bite on his leg was deep and had torn through some major muscles, but of course that wasn't the real problem.

Dora went to him. "We're going to get you to St. Mungo's," she said. "And they'll get you fixed right up."

"No... cure..." he said.

There was no answer for that, so Dora just gave him a reassuring pat on the shoulder, then Howe Conjured a stretcher and took him away.

Dora balled her hands on her hips. "Sick bastards," she said.

"No arguments here."

"I'm sorry about Howe. He's all right about most things, but at the moment, I could cheerfully wring his stubborn neck. Why can't they believe what's right in front of them?" She took a few deep breaths. "Go home, Remus. Sirius should be able to fix your elbow. I'll come by later. I have to make a damned report. I wish I'd seen him. I should have lied."

"No, you shouldn't have."

She nodded. "I know that. I really do. I'm just... never mind. Go home."

He went.
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Comments
vytresna From: vytresna Date: December 13th, 2004 03:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Aaaand extra emotional baggage for those of us who have read Lines of Descent... works better than invoking Elizabeth directly for those who haven't. I don't know why I didn't think that Snape's motivation was the Prank, but I never guessed who would die in OotP either. This with land mines at least twice a chapter.

Remus reminding himself that no, Dora is not permanently with this Howes person... your method of shipping is the most natural I've seen.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 13th, 2004 09:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, OotP dropped anvils about people every couple of chapters, and there were lots of people. Could have been Arthur or Remus, also. My first guess had been Percy, and although I had put in a tentative guess on Sirius just before the book came out--to which I admit having been rather attached--my reasoning turned out to have nothing whatsoever to do with it (I thought it would have something to do with the fact that the kids used his name in the Great Hall when they were supposed to be calling him Snuffles), so that's the same as not guessing.

I don't know if the Prank is necessarily reason enough for Snape to be a DE, but it certainly seems to make him loathe werewolves, and I'd be Voldemort would be more than happy to let him indulge that sentiment.
antonia_east From: antonia_east Date: December 13th, 2004 08:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Interesting conversation between Remus and Peter ... I liked how Remus equated Peter's actions to how it'd been when they were friends.

I'm worried about Remus's arm - you haven't crippled him have you? It'll be murder when he transforms.

Oh dear, you've got me in Remus protective mode!

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 13th, 2004 09:28 am (UTC) (Link)
They can mend broken bones pretty fast; I wouldn't worry too much. But... ouch. Just, until it heals... ouch.
dipsas From: dipsas Date: December 13th, 2004 08:59 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm guessing Howe's identical with the man Harry sees dictating to his quill just before the hearing?

I was just digesting the last chapter; for the past few installments one has really needed to dwell on a little. Reading them, I've felt like I've been hit in the gut, they're so spot on and seem to grow so naturally out of each other, for instance Peter's taunts about Snape's influence on Remus' resignation from Hogwarts here makes a much greater impact in the light of your earlier references to how much Remus misses Hogwarts. The way you tie those things together is just so impressive.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 13th, 2004 09:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks.

I'm guessing Howe's identical with the man Harry sees dictating to his quill just before the hearing?

I had to either borrow him or the woman with the eyepatch. ;)
mrs_who From: mrs_who Date: December 13th, 2004 10:57 am (UTC) (Link)
There's also Williamson, a scarlet robed auror we see in the MoM with Fudge at the end, Dawlish, and possibly Scrimgeour - who (Tonks told Lupin) was asking funny questions about she and Kingsley.

http://www.hp-lexicon.org/ministry/auror.html
mrs_who From: mrs_who Date: December 13th, 2004 10:59 am (UTC) (Link)
How Rude!! I should add:

Wonderfully exciting chapter, Fern. The Lupin/Pettigrew conversation had just the right cadence. You've absolutely nailed your characters voices!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 13th, 2004 12:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, the only choices on the page I checked when quickly looking for a tossaway character. ;)

Maybe I'll switch it to Scrimgeour later.
sannalim From: sannalim Date: December 13th, 2004 03:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
and possibly Scrimgeour

This particular name makes me think of a corsair sea-rat from the Redwall series rather than a Potterverse Auror.

I recently re-read the opening chapters of Shifts and was struck (again) by the way you describe the interactions among the Marauders when they were adolescents. This chapter calls back to those descriptions wonderfully. I do like an author whose work has a high level of internal consistency :)
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