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Shifts, Chapter 21: Christmas Cheer, part 3 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shifts, Chapter 21: Christmas Cheer, part 3
When it takes me more than an hour per hundred pages and I keep checking to see how much longer "x" section is... it's not a good sign. Stephen King has a problem with endings, but that really isn't the problem--exactly--in The Dark Tower. In fact, the actual ending was, to me, very satisfying. It was just the book that preceded it that made me want to roll my eyes and thwap something. It was like coming to a good destination after riding around all afternoon with someone who was totally lost and refused to check a map. Not totally unpleasant (I don't mind being lost for a little while), but frustrating after awhile. The pacing--that bane of writers everywhere--was all off. My favorite character died, but it was so hot on the heels of another emotional event that I didn't even take it in. And then he created what I would consider an uninvolving alternate universe that didn't seem to grow organically out of the primary universe, but was one of those weird things where people who aren't related suddenly are and there's a whole different set-up that doesn't seem to be related to a change in anything in particular... though the ending of the book suggests that the man knows full well how to set up an alternate universe. I also didn't mind his bit of metafiction (though he takes the time to point out that the word annoys him); I thought he treated himself as a character fairly. It was a little weird watching him flog himself for bad writing habits, but what the heck. But it was a little jarring. I don't mind it in theory, but in practice... I think it may have disturbed the suspension of disbelief a bit.

Anyway, book review aside--I just had to--it's time to get back to this particular meandering story, which I took a day off from when I know I shouldn't.

Remus has been having an unusually good string of days leading up to Christmas, and everyone is quite cheerful. Molly has sent off her presents. All is well until Remus wakes up on Christmas morning to hear her crying and the twins cursing.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




Remus pulled on his robes and went down the main staircase, ignoring the packages that had been left outside his door for the time being. Molly was sitting on the bottom riser, weeping over a bulky, partially unwrapped parcel. Fred and George were red-faced to the a point of apoplexy, tripping over one another's curses until they were unintelligible.

Remus touched Fred's shoulder. "What's happened?"

"That..." Fred's jaw worked, trying to find a new vile word. He gave up. "Percy sent his jumper back."

"He didn't even send a note!" Molly wailed.

"Percy's a pile of rat droppings," George said. "Percy's--"

"Stop it!" Molly leaned further into the jumper and rocked back and forth, looking miserable.

The twins were too angry to do much more than sputter. Remus could see George's fingers flexing, as if he wanted to be sinking them into Percy's neck.

Remus sat down beside Molly and spoke to Fred, who was closer, using the firmest tone he could find without expressing anger at them. Their reaction was, after all, justified, if entirely unhelpful. "Why don't the pair of you go see if the others are up yet?" he asked. "And tell them Happy Christmas."

George's jaw clamped tight and Fred started to argue, but Molly nodded and waved them along. It still took a minute before they left, but finally, one or the other of them--Remus couldn't tell from which side it began--surrendered and they stomped up the stairs toward the room Ron and Harry were sharing.

"I'm sorry," Molly said, wiping savagely at her eyes. This was a pointless gesture, as she was wracked with another wave of tears. "I was just so certain... the holiday... Percy..."

Remus put an arm across her shoulders, feeling a bit awkward, but knowing in his bones that she needed it. "It's all right, Molly," he said.

"He hasn't even been to visit Arthur at St. Mungo's or asked how he is."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

She sniffed and wiped her face again. Remus Conjured a handkerchief and gave it to her. She took it with a grateful smile and dabbed at her eyes. "I can't even talk to Arthur about it. It's the first time in our marriage that I haven't been able to talk to him. But Percy... Percy hurt his feelings so. Arthur will forgive him--he's a good man, and he will--but Percy will have to ask for it and I thought he would, I really thought... the holiday... the... accident..." She buried her face in the handkerchief. "I was certain..."

Remus patted her back between her shoulderblades, soothing her as she would have soothed a collicky baby. He wasn't sure what to say to her precisely. He'd known Percy only marginally--Percy had been in his N.E.W.T. level classes, but hadn't been especially passionate about the subject, and the only things Remus remembered for certain were his determination to keep the castle safe, and his devotion to his Muggle-born girlfriend. Both at the very least boded ill for an alliance with Voldemort, so he said, "I think Percy will come around when the Ministry does."

"He should come around for his father, not the bloody Ministry."

"I know. Shh."

"You're a good man, Remus. Don't let anyone tell you that you aren't. I'm sorry I ever--" She looked away, and Remus knew that the sentence was, I'm sorry I ever recoiled in horror when I learned what sort of Creature had been minding my children for a year. This was not something they had talked about and it wasn't something he held against her (at least not on a personal level), and this was the closest she had come to acknowledging it outright. She wiped her face again and sniffed. "I'm sorry," she said. "Going on like this, and on Christmas Day, of all things. I'm spoiling everything."

"It's all right to be upset, Molly."

"It's Christmas."

"Yes," Remus said. He took the handkerchief from her and dabbed the moisture from her face. "And that's why we'll get you cleaned up and have a good day no matter how it started. But we'll do it because you should have a good Christmas, not because you ought to be sorry about 'going on so,' all right?"

She made an odd sound in the back of her throat--choking back more tears--and nodded, taking the handkerchief from him and putting it in the pocket of her dressing gown. "Right, yes. And the children should have a good Christmas."

"And that will make you feel better, too, to see them having a good Christmas."

"It will, yes."

"Then there you have it." He stood and offered her his hand, which she took, and helped her up. "Come on, now. We'll go down to the kitchen and get some breakfast together, and we'll put this away"--he Banished the jumper to a wardrobe in the parlor--"and you'll be all right."

She nodded shakily. "Yes. But... I'll get breakfast. You go open your presents."

"Molly, I really can wait--"

She wagged a finger at him in an unconvincing way. "I insist."

"If it's what you want."

She nodded and made her way down the kitchen stairs. Remus went back to his room, and pulled in the astonishingly large pile of presents from the corridor outside.

One sack held gifts from the Tonks family--Dora was on duty today, and must have left them here on one of her earlier visits. Andromeda and Ted had given him several books; Dora, apparently deciding that he was unlikely to show his gifts around, had given him cufflinks and a tie with the Smeltings crest on them. She'd also given him a keyring with a Never-Lost Charm on it, and the key to her flat was dangling from it, with a note that she'd found it on the floor beside his desk.

Ginny had given him a box of homemade molasses biscuits, and Hermione had Charmed a journal to tell him every day that things were quite good or possibly "getting better." He was rather touched to find that she'd had her dormitory mates, Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil, also leave messages. She must have been sitting there in her dormitory Charming things for hours, and in his mind, he could almost hear Parvati saying, "Oh, who's that for?" and Hermione answering, "Oh, Professor Lupin... I've been writing to him and I thought I'd give him something for Christmas..." It was a bit overbearing in its expressed sentiments--sugary, really--but the sentiment behind it was real enough, and he valued it.

Harry and Sirius had given him art supplies--a wooden box full of charcoal sticks, drawing crayons, sharp-tipped quills and black ink, a bottle of Madam Miranda's Fading and Erasing Potion, and another of her Lumos Libation, which was used to create lighting effects. Remus had never tried it, as it went for four galleons a bottle, but he'd always wanted to. A long, flat package contained a large sketchpad with waterproof covers.

Beneath these things was a large, bulky package that he recognized as soon as he saw it, and smiled. Molly had wrapped the jumper in bright red paper, but it was a sensible, rust-brown color on the inside. It looked warm and comfortable, and he was happy to put it on for the day. It was a bit large, but he knew that Molly would have done that on purpose, and rather than shrinking it to fit him, would declare that he needed to eat more and grow into it.

By the time he went down to breakfast, the family was mostly gathered there. He thanked the various present-givers (asking Hermione to pass thanks along to Parvati and Lavender as well) and tucked in for an excellent meal. Molly seemed to have cheered herself up a bit, and she was certainly enjoying the company of the children. The twins seemed to have reached the conclusion that it was a foolish idea to bring Percy up again, and were instead playing with a new set of unusual Potions ingredients that Ron and Ginny had assembled for them, creating several odd effects over the course of the morning. Hermione watched this with some interest. Harry seemed not to notice it; he was happily buried in the books Remus had brought from Diagon Alley, and every now and then, Remus would see him close his eyes to make a mental note of one thing or another.

"Will they do?" he asked, hunkering down beside him.

Harry smiled. "They're very good," he said.

"Thank you for the art things. Very thoughtful."

"Mostly Sirius's thoughts. I didn't know what you'd like," he said apologetically. "Is that what you like?"

"Yes. It's an old, old hobby."

Harry looked back at the books. "This is wonderful," he said. "I'm not really sure how I'll show them how to do this..." He flipped to a page in the section of the book that dealt with Cursed objects. "At least without actually having something with a Curse on it to--"

He was interrupted by the arrival of Mad-Eye Moody, who was to accompany them all to St. Mungo's today, and the subject of how to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts without the presence of the Dark Arts didn't come up again. Of course, it was one of the great ethical questions, but Remus never did get a chance to discuss it with Harry over that long Christmas holiday. Still, in the moment when Harry had looked up at him and started to speak as freely as he ever had, Remus had understood that the door between them was still open. Just a crack, perhaps even just a small crack. But he knew that if he needed to, he could open it wider, and Harry would take his presence as a matter of course and welcome it, and that was the best present he got that day.

Dung came with a Charmed car to take them all to St. Mungo's after lunch, and they made their way to Arthur's ward reasonably easily. Remus waved to the various Healers he knew. When they arrived at the Llewellyn ward, Remus supposed he shouldn't have been surprised to see that this was also where they'd brought the man with the werewolf bite. He looked considerably better physically than he had in the house in Kent, but he was obviously quite depressed.

"...Why have you had your bandages changed a day early, Arthur?" Molly asked, and her suspicious tone cut into Remus's thoughts. The children were looking at one another in an edgy way, and as Arthur began to explain that he and the apprentice Healer had tried an experimental Muggle treatment, Bill and the twins quickly excused themselves to go to the coffee shop. From the way Harry, Ron, and the girls were shifting back and forth on their feet, Remus guessed they wouldn't be much longer in doing so.

Molly made a kind of harsh snarling sound, and Remus realized that all of the events of the morning were about to come out again, focused this time on Arthur and his fascination with all things Muggle. This time, she didn't look like she wanted comforting. She looked like she simply wanted to let loose, and he understood that Arthur was expecting it and knew how to absorb it after all these years.

He backed away as he saw Harry, Ron and the girls do the same. He started to come around the bed to follow them, but Moody shook his head slightly and Remus nodded. Harry was to be protected by Aurors, not schoolteachers. Remus changed the direction of his movement--hopefully not noticeably--and headed over to the werewolf who was across from Arthur Weasley. The man was looking up in a hopeful way, but still seemed not to quite believe he was having a visitor until Remus pulled up the chair beside him. From the corner of his eye, he saw Mad-Eye slip out a few paces behind the children, and pull an Invisibility Cloak from the pocket of his long coat.

"How are you feeling?" he asked.

"Better," the man said. His eyes traced Remus's face, and finally lit up with recognition. "You were there," he said. "In Kent. You came in."

"Yes." Remus held out his hand and waited for the other man to shake it (which he did with a kind of dazed surprise). "My name is Remus Lupin," he said.

"Edward Holmes."

"I've been lycanthropic since I was six."

Holmes pulled his hand away quickly, his lip curling in horror, then the hand dropped to the blanket and he closed his eyes. "I supposed I'd best get used to people doing that to me, eh?"

Remus bit back the bitterness. Whatever sins this man had committed, the vengeance had already been wreaked upon him. He nodded. "I wish I could tell you something different, but yes."

"Are you the one that fellow was talking about?" He pointed vaguely at Arthur. "He said he knew a werewolf who found it quite easy to live with."

"Er... as far as I know, I'm the only werewolf Arthur knows," he said. "Arthur is a good man; he likes to make people more comfortable. He may have exaggerated somewhat."

"Oh." Holmes sounded deeply disappointed.

"It's not easy," Remus said. "But it's also not impossible. The Wolfsbane Potion helps a great deal with the transformations; you'll want to talk to the Healers about finding someone to brew it for you."

"How will I pay for it? I won't have a job." Holmes sniffed. "I supported that legislation. The Umbridge laws. I talked several people into voting for them. Now I have to live with them. Justice. That's what those fellows in Kent said."

Remus forced himself not to berate the man, who had already been berated. "No matter what you once supported, what was done to you is a crime, and the werewolves who did it are quite properly in Azkaban."

"Right."

"And as to paying for the Wolfsbane Potion, it's part of your health care, and it's taken care of, if you can find it. The problem is the difficulty of brewing it; there aren't many qualified to make it. You may have to come to St. Mungo's every month. I think they have one or two people on staff who've learned it."

"What do you do about it?"

"I'm quite lucky. A friend is a quite a good Potion brewer, and she makes time to help me."

Holmes nodded and leaned back into his pillows. "I don't know anyone in Potions," he said. "Charms, perhaps... Have you ever heard of the Homorphus Charm?" he asked hopefully.

For the first time, Remus felt a wave of genuine sympathy. Holmes was beginning the path that so many werewolves had walked before him. In some ways, Remus was lucky to have bitten as young as he was. It was his parents who had gone through the agony of one shattered hope after another, while he had simply accepted that something about him had become different and it meant that there was a great deal of rushing around after one medicine or another. The hope of a permanent cure had never been there to torture him because he hadn't really understood the sickness until long after all the hopes had been exhausted. "There are some strains of lycanthropy that Homorphus can alter--particularly the Antipodean strain--but it's at the cost of the werewolf's life. The advantage is that you wouldn't die transformed, but no one has lived more than a few days afterward. And to the best of my knowledge, it has no effect whatsoever on the Black Forest strain, which is what most lycanthropes in Britain have..."

Holmes listened with disappointment, but not despair. Remus was careful about that. He would drive himself mad if he chased cures from one end of the world to another (not to mention driving himself into debt), but lycanthropy wasn't a death sentence, at least not until a nearly normal number of years had passed. It would only kill him if he let himself become too weak for the transformation, or if he contracted any sort of wasting disease that was left uncured too close to the full moon. If he stayed reasonably healthy and ate intelligently--and made sure that he didn't try to put off the transformation, so that it wouldn't take him violently--there was no reason for him to die any sooner than he would have otherwise. And, Remus couldn't help suggesting, perhaps he could use the same contacts he'd had before to work on easing the werewolf laws. Holmes laughed bitterly at this--his wife had already left him, and none of his political friends had deigned to visit--so Remus didn't press the issue.

When he looked over, he saw that Molly and Arthur had stopped arguing, and were now holding hands and talking fondly to one another. Molly saw him looking and said, "It's safe."

Remus nodded. "Look, Edward," he said to Holmes, "you know better than most that there are werewolves out there who aren't up to any good. But that's not the way it has to be. The lycanthrope you choose to be is no different from the man you choose to be. Do you understand that?"

"Yes."

"There will be people who... have other ideas. But you remember what they did in Kent. Those people aren't trying to help you."

"Don't I know it. Will you come talk to me again?"

Remus nodded. "I'm not allowed to counsel you--technically, anyway--but if you'll have me to visit as a friend, I'd be happy to come. And I'll come here for the next moon so you'll know someone."

Holmes's eyes filled up with tears, which he blinked rapidly to hide, and he said nothing else.

Remus rejoined Molly and Arthur, and after awhile, the children came back to them.
24 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
siegeofangels From: siegeofangels Date: December 20th, 2004 03:17 am (UTC) (Link)
I love the way Remus manages to comfort Molly without being unbelievably perfect at doing so. And It's the first time in our marriage that I haven't been able to talk to him breaks my heart.

She'd also given him a keyring with a Never-Lost Charm on it, and the key to her flat was dangling from it, on the other hand, makes me do incredibly immature catcalls. Heh-heh.

"I think Percy will come around with the Ministry does." I think there's an extra . . . something there.

And I love the idea of different strains of lycanthropy. It makes sense that it's not all the same.

Don't feel bad about taking a day off. It's still lovely.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 20th, 2004 04:07 am (UTC) (Link)
I think there's an extra . . . something there.

Oops, no. Just a wrong word. A "with" when I meant "when."

Thanks!
azaelia_culnamo From: azaelia_culnamo Date: December 20th, 2004 05:58 am (UTC) (Link)
I like how you write Remus comforting people - he's very Remus-like, gentle and willing to listen more than throw out advice every other minute.

I always felt sorry for Molly... and I feel a great surge of anger towards Percy.
lyras From: lyras Date: December 20th, 2004 06:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Great chapter. I love the "hospital" section in the book, and you've mirrored it nicely in this section. The idea of lycanthropes, like terminally ill people, desperately searching for some kind of cure and having one hope after another dashed is heartbreaking and very realistic.

Oh - I noticed what I think is a typo: "Going on like this, and on Christmas, of all things." - shouldn't that be "on Christmas Day" or "at Christmas"?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 20th, 2004 06:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh - I noticed what I think is a typo: "Going on like this, and on Christmas, of all things." - shouldn't that be "on Christmas Day" or "at Christmas"?

No, not a typo, just a Britpick in one of those things it never occurred to me to wonder about. "On Christmas" is our standard way of saying it.
lyras From: lyras Date: December 20th, 2004 07:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, OK, I wondered if it was simply American English. Probably like we'd say "at New Year" or "on New Year's Day", whereas Americans just seem to refer to "New Year's". Although I've noticed that usage creeping into UK English, as well.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 20th, 2004 07:53 am (UTC) (Link)
I changed it to "on Christmas Day."

I think over that "at Christmas" or "at New Year's" would tend to refer to the season more than the particular day--kind of "at Christmastime" more than on "on Christmas Day."
danel4d From: danel4d Date: December 20th, 2004 08:18 am (UTC) (Link)
A great scenelet... I like the way you sort of let Molly and Arthur's marriage grow in strength using a sort of implication from the source material... sort of. Um, not sure how to describe it.

Do we have molasses in this country? What exactly is it? I think I read somewhere that it was something like treacle, or is it something else entirely? I'm not very good at cooking.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 20th, 2004 08:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Treacle's a kind of molasses, I think, especially dark molasses.
vytresna From: vytresna Date: December 20th, 2004 08:37 am (UTC) (Link)
*wince* Moonflowers being one of those supposed cures, no doubt?
From: isabela113 Date: December 20th, 2004 09:58 am (UTC) (Link)
You've woven together the cannon details really beautifully in this chapter. I love how you connected Percy's sweater to Molly's outburst at the hospital. Also, it felt much more logical for Remus to speak to the other werewolf, having already met him.
thunderemerald From: thunderemerald Date: December 20th, 2004 11:08 am (UTC) (Link)
I shall take this opportunity to say "DUH" and mentally kick myself for not realizing sooner that the Kent werewolf would be the one in St. Mungo's. That said, I love that you did tie it in like that, and I look forward to any future interactions that you might write between them.

Percy's sending the jumper back absolutely broke my heart -- even more so here than in OotP itself, just because of Remus' proximity to Molly's grief. So sad. :(

(And no worries about taking a day off from writing to read -- if there's one thing worth taking a break for, it's inspiration!)
antonia_east From: antonia_east Date: December 20th, 2004 11:14 am (UTC) (Link)
You know, I never twigged that the werewolf in the earlier chapter would be the werewolf at St Mungos! That was really nice, the way you tied it in. The conversation was lovely - with Remus offering to transform at St Mungos even though he hates it. That's wonderful.

The Molly bit was great as well - especially the way her emotions from the morning come back when she sees Arthur. I'd never thought of that but it makes sense.

One of my favourite bits was Remus opening his presents. Although I don't think we'd call them molasses biscuits. Oh and the few lines with Remus and Harry - I thought that was good, in light of what Harry'll need once Sirius goes.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 20th, 2004 11:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. :)

Although I don't think we'd call them molasses biscuits

What would one call these? Or maybe I should cop out and have her give him chocolate. ;)
butterflysteve From: butterflysteve Date: December 20th, 2004 01:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've not seen molasses cookies/biscuits, I work in a shop and I have a friend in a deli. We've both came up with blankness as to what the English version of this would be. I think shortbread would probably be a better choice of biscuit.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 20th, 2004 01:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the thorough checking-out. :) Interesting thing not to have crossed over. They're fairly yummy if made right (and exceedingly disgusting if burned).
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: December 20th, 2004 02:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
I likeed the bit about the bitten man and your explanation for it. Also the background of lycanthropy and the Homorphus Charm.

Britpick: We don't have molasses in this country, certainly not molasses cookies. Is what you mean a sticky black liquid--that's treacle. We sometimes talk about 'molasses sugar' (black sugar), but only as an ingredient.
Gingerbread is a more likely thing for Ginny to have made. Our family used to make treacle gingerbread, which is probably something like what you mean with molasses cookies.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 20th, 2004 03:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, gingerbread! Perfect and Christmasy, and it totally slipped my mind last night. And I like it much better than shortbread.
mrs_who From: mrs_who Date: December 20th, 2004 03:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
This fiction continues to delight me! Just today we were listening to the Eye of the Snake and St. Mungo's chapters and I found myself wondering what Arthur and Molly's first moments *after* the bite were like. You know, that "you may see him now, Mrs. Weasley" moment. Then I turned on the computer and see you've given us a touch of that! You've really captured the way their long time together has given them this kind of synergy whereby they can absorb the more extreme parts of each other's personalities. You have Remus observing them very intuitively, and he's spot on. I've always assumed that he came from a very happy home and his parents gave him the example of a happy marriage. Although he's been away from it for (probably) a long time, it's interesting to see him observing couples on a deeper level.

And, yes, I nearly squealed! on the key-ring mention, too. *blush*

If you need further throw-away food details, you might like this site: http://www.greatbritishkitchen.co.uk/cookbook.htm It's authentic British cooking (not Delia Smith-y) and the recipes are actually very good.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 20th, 2004 03:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm always glad to hear if a couple is coming off even moderately realistically. Single woman from a single-parent household... it's all a foreign language to me, so I'm delighted to hear if I have the accent right. :)
sprite6 From: sprite6 Date: December 20th, 2004 07:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
This was such a good chapter. You did such a nice job of folding canon events into your story. It's very smooth.

A couple of details stood out: Remus's conversation with Harry about the books is simple and low-key and works beautifully. And Remus's insight into why Molly is going to lose her temper with Arthur is wonderful.
sannalim From: sannalim Date: December 21st, 2004 08:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Amazing storytelling, as always.

One little nitpick, though: You have F&G stomping up the stairs to Harry's room, where in canon they apparate in. Did they find Harry & Ron's door locked when they arrived at the top of the stairs?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 21st, 2004 08:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Ummm... yeah, sure. That's what I meant... :p

It is now, anyway. Or maybe they just got fed up and Apparated from halfway up the stairs. It is Fred and George, after all.
mrs_norris_mous From: mrs_norris_mous Date: December 27th, 2004 10:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
"And as to paying for the Wolfsbane Potion, it's part of your health care,"

Just a minor pick, this doesn't flow right. Either the magical world mirrors the muggle one: such that there is a national health service and he wouldn't even worry about paying or there is a completely private system ( I suspect it mirrors the NHS ) and he would either have insurance which would pay or go without ( which makes no sense as the wolfsbane makes werewolfs less harmfull to others as well ).

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