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Shifts, Chapter 21: Christmas Cheer, part 4 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Shifts, Chapter 21: Christmas Cheer, part 4
Okay. Back to work today; definitely can't be staying up 'til all hours. So looking forward to getting the offical release date for HBP... I can then order many copies at the same time, which is a fun and refreshing activity.

It does, however, keep the pressure on me to write this every day before I get obsoleted. I'll beat you to the line, JKR. I will, I will, I will! ;p (Of course, if she announces the release date is in two weeks, I'll have to type my fingers bloody in ten and eleven hour sessions, during which I will be allowed no writer's block.

Anyway, it's still the Christmas holidays, and Remus has gone with the Weasleys, Hermione, Harry, and Mad-Eye to the hospital to visit Arthur. He's talked to the werewolf at St. Mungo's. He doesn't know where the children have been.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

The post-holiday letdown was quick and steep.

It began with the resurfacing of Kreacher, who delighted in glaring at Harry and making people uncomfortable, but Remus knew that wasn't all there was to it. The horrible resumption of the normal pace of life at Grimmauld Place was every day more imminent.

Molly was preparing to go back to the Burrow when Arthur was released, and the moderately happy decorations in the square outside had taken on a disspirited look. No one had objected when Sirius closed the curtains on the world outside with a decisive swish of velvet. The children still seemed glad to be out from under Dolores Umbridge's thumb, but they were already starting to pull out their holiday assignments and talk about classes (and Dumbledore's Army, at least when Molly couldn't hear them). Remus himself was beginning to put together post-holiday lessons, and spent the Saturday after Christmas at Dora's flat, catching up on a pile of first form essays. While he was there, Anna Garvey called and invited them to "a bit of a New Year's Eve gathering" that Tuesday. Remus promised to check with Dora, who was keen to go. Remus had no special interest in the New Year, but the prospect of an evening away from Grimmauld Place held increasing charm for him.

Sirius seemed to feel the oncoming change--or rather the oncoming sameness--more acutely than anyone, and he wasn't making any consistent effort hide this. More and more, he locked himself up in Buckbeak's room, leaving Harry wandering around the house with a dazed and hurt look on his face. Remus tried to open the door between them once or twice, but Harry wasn't interested in that door, only in the one on the third floor, behind which his godfather was tossing dead rats to a hippogriff. He spoke to Remus in a distracted way, only becoming animated when he asked on Sunday if Remus was sure that Sirius was all right.

"I'll check on him," Remus said.

Harry nodded. "Thank you. I could go. I should go."

"No. I don't think Sirius wants you to see him in there. But I'll get him out, by hook or by crook."

Remus didn't bother knocking, or offering any respect to the locked door. He pointed his wand at the knob and said, "Alohomora." The door popped open.

Sirius, sitting crosslegged on the floor with an open bottle of firewhiskey beside him, looked up at him without much interest. "Is something wrong?"

"Get up," Remus said.

"I was just feeding Buckbeak."

Remus took the basket of dead rats away from him and placed it on the ruins of his mother's bed, where Buckbeak had made a rough and reeking nest. The hippogriff ate delicately from the basket without any need of human assistance.

"Buckbeak doesn't need you in here. Harry needs you out there."

Sirius looked at him dully. "You think he needs me like this?"

"So stop doing this. Get out where he can see you and make an effort."

Sirius gave one short, sharp bark of laughter. "Right. I'll take your advice on that."

"What are you talking about?"

"I come up here for a few hours and you lecture me. But you? You're the master of sudden disappearances from Harry's life."

"I'm trying to give the two of you a bit of room."

"I didn't ask you to, and neither did Harry. You're not doing it for us. You're doing it because you're a damned coward and you're afraid that Harry won't like you anymore if he knows who you are."

"Harry knows perfectly well what I am."

"He knows you're a werewolf, and he knows you're a teacher." Sirius thought about it, and grudgingly added. "And he knows you love him. I think he does, anyway. But that's about all."

"And you think he would be somehow better off if he could recite my hobbies and my favorite colors? What else does he need to know?"

Sirius took a deep breath and shrugged, picking up the bottle of firewhiskey. Remus Banished it across the room with enough force to make it shatter against the windowsill. Buckbeack started to sniff at the remains, so Sirius Vanished them with a languid wave of his wand. "You're right," he said. "I shouldn't be drinking."

"And you shouldn't be in here, either. Come on, Sirius. Get up, sober up, clean up. Go downstairs."

Sirius pulled himself to his feet, but didn't swagger at all. He wasn't drunk. Somehow, that was the worst part of it. He brushed past Remus on the way out, and stopped. "I'm sorry," he said. "I shouldn't have said that. About you being a coward. I was angry."

Remus sighed. "Go on. I'll clean up after Buckbeak."

Sirius went out, and half an hour later, he was making a manic effort at rekindling the good cheer, laughing heartily at the twins' jokes and telling Harry wild stories about James's Quidditch exploits. Harry seemed relieved to see him, even if he didn't entirely trust the mood, and he didn't notice Remus watching them from the shadows. Later that night, Dora came over to begin brewing the week's Wolfsbane Potion, signaling the return of the unchanging, unforgiving routine of Remus Lupin's life.

Tuesday, he met her at her flat, where she'd found some sort of Muggle party clothes for both of them (at her beloved Oxfam, he supposed). It wasn't a formal affair by any means, but Anna had described it as "cocktail sort of thing," and that apparently meant that Remus was to wear a suit, and Dora a pretty sort of dress with a metallic sheen to it. It was only held up by one shoulder strap, leaving the other bare. Dora spent a great deal of time before they left trying to make her arm look like it was in a sort of healthy mid-fifties--unwrinkled, but without some of the natural elasticity of her youth. "I never concentrated on my shoulder before," she said, watching the skin grow marginally duller and dryer (to Remus's annoyance, she used his hands as a template). "How do I look? Appropriately old?" She winked.

"You always look like Dora to me," Remus said.

"I always look like which Dora?"

"My Dora."

She grinned. "But they're both your Dora. Do mean Dora Tonks or Dora Lewis?"

Remus shook his head. "Your mask is fine, Dora," he said. "We should go."

The "little get-together" actually seemed to involve most of the Smeltings staff. It was held in a pub not far from Alan and Anna's home, and they hadn't skimped on the hospitality. Remus wondered for the first time what Anna Garvey did for a living, because there was simply no way they could entertain this richly on a teacher's salary.

Not that it was lavish, per se. There was no fountain of sparkling wine or fine crystal--it was all beer and stout and soft drinks (though Regina Smythe set herself up behind the bar and made some sorts of sweet mixed drinks, one of which was a violent blue that Dora simply had to try). There was a game of darts going on all night in one corner, and trays of cheese and grapes on every table. Above the bar, a television was playing some film or other, which a group of Alan's friends (not from Smeltings) was acting out below it. A contraption in the far corner let people choose songs, and a small dance floor had been cleared around it. Dora, whose father was eternally obsessed with the Muggle music of his youth, happily chose four tunes that she knew well.

"Did you want to dance?" Remus asked her as a singer declared manically that he wanted to hold her ha-a-a-a-and.

She shook her head. "Maybe a slow one. I'd fall over my own feet trying to dance to this. Or more likely, yours. If you want to dance, you can dance with anyone you'd like. You have my wifely permission." She smiled broadly.

A few minutes later, Miriam Levinson dragged him out onto the dance floor, since Joe wasn't feeling up to it and she simply loved the Beatles. Remus, who hadn't danced since James and Lily Potter's wedding, felt like a bit of an ass, but ended up spending most of the next two hours on the dance floor with various partners, dancing to Muggle music had never heard before and probably never would again. Close to midnight, someone finally put on a slow song--a breathy-voiced woman singing that if he fell, she would catch him, she'd be waiting, time after time--and Dora slid off her barstool and cut in. "This one's my time," she whispered, slipping her hands onto his shoulders and then locking them behind his neck. "Dad bought me the album."

Remus reached up to his neck and took one of her hands, disengaging it and holding it off to the side, as his mother had taught him when dancing closely with a lady. Gingerly, he put his other hand on the small of Dora's back. In the hand he was holding, he could feel her pulse beating a mad rhythm.

"Dad tried to teach me to waltz once," she said. "It wasn't pretty."

"It's not really a waltz," Remus said. "The count is wrong. I just don't know how else to dance."

Dora smiled nervously, and for awhile, they simply swayed together. Again, Remus was aware of how very warm she seemed. He thought about asking her if it generated heat when she was keeping up a morph, but wasn't entirely sure how that would come out, and so said nothing.

After awhile, she leaned in closer to him, and his bearded chin rested on her bare shoulder. Then, abruptly, the song ended, and they were swept in different directions, much to Remus's relief. That dance had been perfectly appropriate for Dora and Raymond Lewis, he supposed, but his mind had been nowhere near Raymond Lewis's, and as soon as he'd let go of her, all he could think of was that he'd just been holdling little Dora Tonks in a highly inappropriate way. He decided again that he needed to have a talk with her, but when he looked across the room and saw her laughing gaily at some joke Alan had told her, he knew that it would be intolerable to him to see that smile fade bit by bit as he shattered her pretty daydreams by explaining that they simply couldn't be because...


Maybe this business would fade on its own; it always had in the past.

Coward, Sirius's voice sneered in his mind.

Remus shut it out.

At midnight, the various couples, in various states of inebriation, kissed one another. Dora gave Remus another of those oddly lingering kisses on the cheek, and if his own kiss to her forehead perhaps lingered longer than it should have when they said goodbye at her flat later, he blamed it on the waxing moon above and muttered a mortified apology before fleeing into the dark shadows of the early hours of nineteen-ninety-six.

Less than a week later, the full moon rose again.

15 comments or Leave a comment
thunderemerald From: thunderemerald Date: December 20th, 2004 10:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Quick typo-pointer-outer:

"Your mask fine, Dora," he said.

Probably you mean IS fine? Meh, just a small thing.

Anyway, I love this chapter. Unabashedly shippy but with enough UST to cut through a hunk of cheese. Your Remus is just such a wonderful gentleman, and the dancing of all things... let's just say that the dancing reminded me very closely of a recent encounter I had with a Remus of my very own. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 21st, 2004 04:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Probably you mean IS fine? Meh, just a small thing.

Yeah, I caught that on my own first read-through. Nails on a blackboard when everything else is going along reasonably well.

You have your own Remus? I'm so jealous. :)
thunderemerald From: thunderemerald Date: December 21st, 2004 07:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Well... yeah, I sort of have my own Remus. The reluctant-gentleman!Remus to my head-over-heels-in-love!Tonks, if you will. Same age difference and everything, except Tonks has much better hair and my guy isn't a werewolf. ;)

Wow, maybe that's why I like this ship so much. Eek. But don't be jealous -- he's much more trouble than he should be!
mrs_who From: mrs_who Date: December 22nd, 2004 04:58 am (UTC) (Link)
One of the reasons I liked the Lupin character so much is that he reminded me a good deal of my husband's personality. (Even physical description.) I love my husband and I *like* him, but there are downsides to that personality. Lupin is of the type-B variety. Sure he's good at what he LIKES, but he'll never strive very hard to be more or to get ahead. He's not driven in any sense of the word, and has extreme difficulty moving out of his comfort zone. He'll never be *intentionally* cruel, in fact he'd be mortified for someone to think him a cruel person, but his inhibitions and self-centeredness will cause problems. On a good day, his personality is mild-mannered, reserved, and controlled, but as I said, that turns into an inhibited and occasionally self-centered and withdrawn attitude under other circumstances. If he feels safe, he'll let someone drag him out of his comfort zone, if there's a trusting relationship, he'll let someone tease or push him out of that self-centeredness. But the safety and comfort needs to be there first.
All that said, I wouldn't trade it for the explosive! and exciting! Sirius-like (or James-like) personality.
alphabet26 From: alphabet26 Date: December 20th, 2004 11:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh! So right. Everything about this chapter was just perfect.

I liked your Sirius--calling Remus a coward, and then apologizing. I just thought of young Sirius blurting out to Snape about the Willow. He's angry, he's not thinking, he would never never try to hurt Remus...but he does.

"And you think he would be somehow better off if he could recite my hobbies and my favorite colors? What else does he need to know?"

I'm chuckling and sighing because I can understand Remus' point of view there, but also...COME ON! I don't appreciate how deliberately dense Remus is being in his relationships right now (all his relationships).

Loved the party. All of it, just wonderful. I liked the hints you gave us about what song was playing. And your Remus-coming-out-of-denial was just as fun for me as the Yule Brawl of GoF was.

So excited for more!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 21st, 2004 04:27 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. And, yes, Remus is definitely entering Ron-and-Hermione-like levels of relational denseness.
azaelia_culnamo From: azaelia_culnamo Date: December 21st, 2004 04:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Okay... not to agree with Sirius here... but I do.

I think he put it bluntly, but ultimately, he's right: Remus pretty much said goodbye, and then just left Harry. What happened to him trying to help? Why couldn't he have shown up for one task? Wrote one owl? He just left, and that was it. It always bugged me that he did it, even if he is one of my favorite characters.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 21st, 2004 04:27 am (UTC) (Link)
I agree with him, too. My view of Sirius is that he's mostly crazy in OotP, and also very frequently right. Harry takes some blame--he didn't make any effort, either--but Remus is the grown-up, and therefore the one who deserves the more serious headthwap.
jesspallas From: jesspallas Date: December 21st, 2004 04:45 am (UTC) (Link)
I loved that little dance between Remus and Dora. That was so sweet. :)

Oh and you have until Saturday 16th of July to beat JKR. I just saw the release date at Mugglenet. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 21st, 2004 04:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Yay! That's plenty of time. Thanks for the info.
of_polyhymnia From: of_polyhymnia Date: December 21st, 2004 07:12 am (UTC) (Link)
as always, i love it!
just wanted to let you know :)
From: isabela113 Date: December 21st, 2004 10:07 am (UTC) (Link)
In this section, I got a strong sense of Remus' inner struggle between his desires and his sense of propriety, or rightness. It is fascinting and sad, especially because we get to see glimpses of his three primary relationships, one after the other. He feels more parental with Harry than he allows himself to act, he wants to stop having to parent Sirius, and with Dora he doesn't even want to put a name to what he feels. How did his moral sense become so overgrown? Perhaps his lycanthropy has something to do with it. It looks like he'll eventually have to face the gap between what he wants and what he thinks he should have, and I am very much looking forward to it.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 21st, 2004 01:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks--what a thoughtful comment.

he wants to stop having to parent Sirius

It's interesting that you picked that up. I wasn't thinking about it consciously during that scene, but I think it's quite true, and it's probably there subconciously. (Consciously, or almost so, I think he's peeved that Sirius, who has Harry's total devotion, is being an irresponsible child, while Remus is looking after Sirius and Harry doesn't seem to notice that he's even there.)
antonia_east From: antonia_east Date: December 21st, 2004 04:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I loved the party - with the Beatles dancing and everything. It was quite a shippy chapter - I never thought of Remus recognising that Dora likes him that way.

Good Sirius bit as well, you bulk out the book refernces incredibly. I thought Sirius calling Remus a coward was very clever as well.

I've been thinking about the molasses biscuits, by the way. Molasses to me does mean dark treacly stuff, but I don't know if I'd ever really use the word - maybe I'm just a culinary ignoramus!. Anyway, I can't think of a better name.
socaptivated From: socaptivated Date: January 8th, 2008 05:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Again, just like last time I commented... I know this is terribly out of date, but I wanted to thank you for writing this. I LOVE the marauders-era, adult characters, and this story is a breath of fresh air for me (I've almost decided that I like it enough to add it to the canon for my post-epilogue fanverse, but I was going to finish it and ask you if you minded first. XD). I have really enjoyed reading it.

Sirius, sadly, is right. Remus hasn't made an effort - with any of the students, really. He seemed surprised to receive a letter from Ginny, and (seemed to) refuses to correspond with the children unless he's coding one of Sirius' messages to Harry. I agree with one of the earlier commenters - Remus has an almost unhealthily low perception of his self-worth, and it's been very interesting to see him battle with that. I'm terribly afraid that he spent his entire life wondering what everyone else saw in him, and didn't ever truly feel that he was worth the love and friendships that he was given.

And, in the same vein of thought, I want to strangle him for CONTINUING to think of Dora as the little girl he tutored ages ago. But I have decided not to, because I know that he will eventually come around.
15 comments or Leave a comment