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Shifts, Chapter 21: Christmas Cheer, part 2 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shifts, Chapter 21: Christmas Cheer, part 2
Glad no one minds the happy interlude. :)

Anyway, I left them all in the middle of shopping in Diagon Alley. Molly noticed Remus and Dora being a bit cozy and, to Remus's slight consternation, told him that she thinks Dora is good for him. Sirius and Harry are happily spending the holidays together, and Remus is standing back to let them have fun together.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




Harry and Sirius had cooked dinner when they got back to Grimmauld Place (quite a good roast of beef), and they all crowded around the table to eat. There was a great deal of jostling of elbows, spilling of drinks, and general mayhem. No one seemed to mind. Afterward, they all went to the front room to sit around the fireplace and talk or play games. The Weasley twins got Sirius into a Transfiguration duel and were giving him more trouble than he seemed to have expected. The rest of the children watched with enthusiasm.

Molly was back in the winged armchair, yarn piled around her again, several pairs of knitting needles clacking at her instruction. Remus sat down across from her. Dora wandered over to the large front window, which was Charmed to show the square outside, though no one ever seemed to pull aside the draperies. She did so now, with a decisive flourish.

"What do you want to look at Grimmauld Place for?" Sirius called, chasing down a shoe which had sprouted legs and started to run under the couch.

"It's cheerful," Dora said. "They've got lights and such. Wreaths. So on." She smiled to herself, looking out at the street outside, then sighed. "I should get home. Get some sleep. Remus, are you coming carolling with us tomorrow?"

"Hmmm?"

"Dad's carolling group. I think the money's going to a soup kitchen this year."

"Oh... I think I'll stay in."

She shrugged. "All right. I think they're mostly paying Dad to stop singing." She raised her voice. "Going home now!"

Sirius kissed her cheek and the girls hugged her. George Weasley dangled some mistletoe over her head, and she rolled her eyes at him. He made it chase her to Remus's chair, at which point she physically batted it away. She kissed his forehead and whispered, "Leave the curtains open." Then she left.

Molly Banished the mistletoe and gave George a nasty look. "Sorry about that," she said.

"It's all right."

"Why not go carolling with Tonks?" Molly raised her eyebrows.

"I'm not much for singing, really. I've gone a few other years with Ted and Andromeda, but it's hardly a tradition." He smiled. "Besides, I'm happy here."

Molly shook her head and didn't say anything else.

Remus got up and wandered over to the window, wondering what on Earth Dora meant everyone to see outside. A few half-hearted lights had been strung on the barren trees, and the shop at the far corner of the square had a very large wreath above the door, but it was hardly a brilliantly festive atmosphere. Still, a gang of neighborhood children was out there, playing some sort of chase game and celebrating being free of school for a few weeks. Remus tapped the glass with his wand, and he heard their laughter coming through. He considered taking the Charm off, but decided not to.

The next day, Christmas Eve, dawned damp and cool, and the fire in front room was again the most attractive spot in the house. Remus used a school quill and a piece of old parchment to sketch a bit, trying to get an image of Harry and Sirius down--he thought Harry might like such a thing, though hopefully he'd be able to get some better materials and re-do it in a more respectable way later. Hermione tried a complex sort of braiding with Ginny's hair. Harry and Ron were secreted up in different rooms, wrapping gifts (Bill had dropped by before Remus got up with a sack full of things that Harry and Sirius had ordered), and the twins were doing some experimental Charms. Molly had gone out earlier to owl gifts to Charlie, Percy, and Fleur (who was spending the holiday with her parents in France), and had brought back a large box of chocolates that everyone was dipping into. Sirius was in the kitchen, making lunch.

It seemed odd to have the curtains open, like there was too much light in the room, but it was nice. The neighborhood children were out again, and attempting to make a snowless snowman out of damp leaves. Occasionally, they would hear them calling to one another, or cursing when their project fell apart.

Molly looked over Remus's shoulder. "That's really quite good," she said, pointing at the sketch.

He shrugged. "I don't know. I'm a bit out of practice."

"Oh, let's see!" Ginny said as Hermione tied off the plait. She peeked at the parchment. "I think it's good," she declared. "Are you going to give it to Harry?"

"I'm going to work on it a bit," Remus said. "Maybe put it on something that's not fraying around the edges. And doesn't have someone's old Charms notes on the back."

Ginny eyed the pile of similar bits of parchment beside Remus's chair, then smiled. "I don't mind Charms notes."

Remus looked down at the sketch he'd done; it was as finished as it was going to get with these particular limitations. He couldn't do much with the details with an old quill. "All right," he said. "Sit still, then. I'll--"

But Ginny was already distracted. "Look at that," she said. "Carollers!"

Remus glanced at the window and smiled. Of course. "Ginny," he said, "go get Sirius."

She looked puzzled, but went. Remus went to the window. There was a group of about twelve carollers in the square, led by a young woman with black pigtails, tied off at the ends with ribbons. She turned in the general direction of Grimmauld Place and winked.

"Is that Tonks?" Molly asked, coming to stand beside him.

"I'm going to kill her," Remus said, smiling.

Dora reached into the crowd and pulled one of the carollers forward.

There was motion at the door, then Sirius said, "Ginny said I should--Oh, carollers. That's..." The sentence broke off and he was across the room in two strides. "Andromeda," he said, grinning. "It's Andromeda!" He tapped the window to increase the Sound Charm just as Andromeda, looking a bit embarrassed to be singled out, started to sing "Sleigh Ride" in her clear soprano voice. Ted was standing beside her jingling a charity donation can in one hand and a set of jingle bells in the other. Remus didn't recognize anyone else in the group; he had a vague notion that they were from Ted's church, but he knew nothing else about them and didn't care. They were set dressing.

Sirius leaned against the glass, his fingers splayed as though he were trying to reach through it. Andromeda became more comfortable with the song and began to play a bit, smiling and miming and waving at passers by. When she finished, the children in the square clapped, and Ted invited them to join in for the next song.

She didn't sing everything as a solo, but Dora kept her at the front of the group, ignoring her puzzled frowns. By the third song, Sirius was singing along with her, and the Weasleys and Hermione joined in by the fourth (the lyrics, more often then not, were mangled on this side of the window). Remus contented himself with listening. It must have gone on for the better part of half an hour. Hermione had some Muggle money, and she scurried out the back way and came around from the far side of the square to drop it in Ted's jar. Dora immediately dragged her into the group for the grand finale ("Joy to the World").

There was a great deal of applause on both sides of the window when they finished, and Sirius sank happily into one of the armchairs. "So that's why she wanted the curtains open. Bless Dora." He leaned his head back and laughed.

Dora came by after dinner that evening, no longer in the pigtails. She hugged Sirius and kissed his cheek. "Happy Christmas, Coz," she said.

Remus took her aside when the initial flood of thank yous had faded. "You know," he said, "it's possibly not the best idea to have Andromeda seen so prominently in the neighborhood. People might guess."

"Not unless Dumbledore tells them." She smiled. "Come on, Remus. No harm could come of it."

"No. No harm."

"So why the warning?"

Remus was sure there was something dangerous about it, but but he couldn't come up with a scenario. "No idea," he finally conceded. "But let me in on it if you're going to do something like that in the future."

"So that you can tell me all of the reasons it's a foolish idea?"

"So that I can make sure everything's in place on this end." He smiled.

She smiled back and hugged him, then they went back to the kitchen and helped everyone clean up so things would be in order for tomorrow's holiday. Remus went to bed still feeling happy and content.

But such things never seemed to last for long, and he supposed he shouldn't have been as unpleasantly surprised as he was when he woke up to the sound of Molly Weasley weeping while her sons cursed their brother's name.
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Comments
leelastarsky From: leelastarsky Date: December 18th, 2004 12:39 am (UTC) (Link)
*kicks Percy*

You know, I've always wondered if the Blacks' extended family would know where the Black house was. (and therefore how to get in) I mean, wouldn't they have visited? Wouldn't Andromeda know where she was?

Great update, as always. :~)
vytresna From: vytresna Date: December 18th, 2004 02:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
According to Fernwithy's doctrine, no, it'd be a huge mental lapse, something like those coincidences keeping Bink from revealing his talent in the Xanth novels - normally, you wouldn't notice, but if there's no alternate explanations it's obviously Fidelius.

According to me before I read Fernwithy, yes, but there's no getting to the actual house. Considering that Kreacher stayed with Narcissa for quite a while and there's no Death Eaters camped out on the street, Fernwithy's explanation makes the most sense.
mylla From: mylla Date: December 18th, 2004 01:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Lovely! For me, you've chosen the perfect time of year to write the Christmas segment of Shifts. :D

Tonks' idea of how Sirius could see his favourite aunt was beautiful. But it occurs to me that the more of these happy moments there are, the harder Sirius is going to fall after it's over. :(
azaelia_culnamo From: azaelia_culnamo Date: December 18th, 2004 05:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow... that is so true. :(
mrs_who From: mrs_who Date: December 18th, 2004 07:34 am (UTC) (Link)
So sweet!!

(notes to earlier commenters)

Fern's described (earlier) how the Fidelius Charm worked when Andromeda tried to remember something (about Grimmauld Place) but it just sort of floated out of her mind. Unless the Secret Keeper tells you, you just can't find the place -- even if you already knew where to look.

And Andromeda isn't Sirius' Aunt -- she's his first cousin.
mylla From: mylla Date: December 18th, 2004 10:13 am (UTC) (Link)
And Andromeda isn't Sirius' Aunt -- she's his first cousin.

*facepalm*

Thank you. I did know that, honest!
sannalim From: sannalim Date: December 18th, 2004 05:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
[lockhart]
Um, I made you an illustration for the previous installment, but your Flist has been so busy that you might have missed it (it was on the skip=90 page just now).
[/lockhart]

The carolling is a really lovely idea/image.

But such things never seemed to last for long, and he supposed he shouldn't have been as unpleasantly surprised as he was when he woke up to the sound of Molly Weasley weeping while her sons cursed their brother's name.
Pow! The bitter-sweetness of this story is like a good bar of dark chocolate... yum.

I've just been reading Alkari's A Most Unusual Student at SQ and found myself noticing crossover of ideas between these two stories (not that that's a bad thing--I rather like it, actually)--stuff like Remus's drawing talent and the extramarital affair of Peter's father. Is this deliberate, or one of those influence-of-fanon things that just kind of happens?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 18th, 2004 05:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
I started reading "Most Unusual..." but stopped when I started writing Remus, to avoid influence. I didn't know that Alkari's Peter's father was unfaithful--neat concurrence. I think her artistic Remus definitely seeped in, but it was so right that I almost forgot where it came from. We talked about it a little at some point; I think there were some others as well. Who knows why? but that artistic streak for Remus just seems to fit.
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