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Shifts, Chapter 23: A Trick of the Firelight, pt 1 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shifts, Chapter 23: A Trick of the Firelight, pt 1
Yup, the chapter title's the same as the story written a few months ago, and it will contain the same events, though Shifts has evolved in slightly different ways, so instead of trying to tweak that story, I'm going to re-write it "blind" tomorrow, with the characters as they've developed here. But we're not quite there yet. ;)

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




At first, Remus didn't remember where he was.

He was aware of serious pain in his shoulders and hips, and a bolt of agony in his right elbow, but it took a few minutes to recognize the chains wrapped around him for what they were, or to notice that his forearm (really still more of a forepaw) was twisted brutally against them, trying to pull free. He drew in a hiss of cold breath through the sharp teeth that still filled his mouth, straining against one another as his face shrank around them. An incisor caught on his lip, and he instinctively tried to move his hand to dislodge it, sending another twist of pain through his elbow. When he went to cry out, his lip stretched against the tooth (shrinking now, but not soon enough) and covered his chin with blood.

"Damn," he muttered, his voice still recalling the Wolf's growls.

One of the other Wolves, still more transformed than Remus was and apparently either not using Wolfsbane or using an inferior mix, howled at the smell of it, and he heard chains rattling furiously behind him.

Gradually, he became aware of rapid panting near at hand. He looked up and saw Edward Holmes, bathed in sweat, his hospital-issued robes shredded to nothing against the tightly binding chains. His face was dead white except for a line of blood that was flowing from the corner of his mouth. The chains had cut him deeply enough to draw blood on his thighs and one looked like it was pinching in a particularly uncomfortable place.

Remus felt the Wolf still moving in him, wanting to strike the helpless, chained human prey, smelling his blood, wanting to fill his mouth with it. The Wolfsbane Potion muted it to a point where it was possible to fight even transformed and to shunt aside unceremoniously even the morning after, but the voice was still there.

But the moon was down now, waning once again, taking away the tide of blood and madness. Remus took a deep breath and let the Wolf settle far back, curling into whatever corner of his soul it lived when the moon was small. He looked tentatively at Holmes. "You made it," he said.

Holmes just blinked, still panting.

The door set high in the wall opened, and a female voice called down, "Is everyone back?"

Remus forced his head to turn against the chains, and recognized the shape he saw there. "Yes, Andromeda. We're here."

Andromeda made the stairs reappear and started down.

Holmes whipsawed suddenly against his chains.

"What is it?" Andromeda asked, running over.

Holmes tried to roll away, but the chains pinched him hard. "Robes..." he managed. "I lost my robes."

"Oh." Andromeda pulled out her wand, Conjured a blanket, and let it fall over him. "I'll Vanish the chains now, and then you can wrap up. I'll need to look you over, though." She turned to Remus. "What happened to your arm?"

"Chains."

"Sorry." She Vanished them and moved on to the other three werewolves in the room while Remus got his wand and repaired the damage to his elbow. The robes he was wearing weren't in very good shape, but they at least concealed what it was necessary to conceal.

Andromeda checked the others over and apparently found nothing seriously wrong with them, then came back to Remus and Holmes. "You haven't transformed here for quite a long time," she said.

"He came for me," Holmes muttered.

"Just a casual matter," Remus said. "In compliance with the werewolf laws, I'm not counselling anyone. I may have casually mentioned finding a Wolfsbane brewer, and possibly advised against some fraudulent Charms."

"Yes, I know how compliant you are. You have an owl upstairs."

"At this hour? From whom?"

"I didn't recognize the handwriting." Andromeda glanced at Holmes--who, to Remus's alarm, had not moved to sit up yet--and said, "I need to check Mr. Holmes over more fully. Wait for me upstairs."

Remus left the room. Behind him, he could hear Holmes struggling to keep the blanket over himself, and Andromeda patiently explaining that she was was a Healer, and that she'd been married for twenty-five years. Holmes, who had apparently not spent much of his life in medical care, did not seem impressed with this.

A young apprentice Healer with what appeared to be a permanent sneer on his face handed Remus the clothing he'd brought last week, then irritably said, "And that owl over there is for you. She's been flapping about for twenty minutes."

Remus went behind a screen to pull on his clothes, crooking a finger at the owl to signal it to follow him. It landed on a wooden table, and Remus untied its message absently while he was between robes. It flew off without waiting for payment, so he supposed it was someone's private post owl. He pulled on his robes quickly and picked up the envelope.

He paled as he recognized the contents and the name on the small accompanying note, and rushed out. Andromeda was still downstairs, so he went back to the apprentice. "Tell Healer Tonks that something came up. I'll be back later."

He didn't wait for a response.

Back at Grimmauld Place, he laid the items in the envelope out on the dresser in Buckbeak's room. Sirius picked up the note from Mrs. Pettigrew and read it with an expression of disbelief on his face. He tossed it aside. "Why is she so stupid? Why in bloody hell would I send her these things?"

"She's his mother," Remus said. "And that's not why I showed you this."

"Right. Of course." Sirius picked up the ticket, with its red lightning bolt and dark X. He shrugged. "It means that he knows Harry won't be on the Hogwarts Express."

"Yes, I picked up on that complex code," Remus said. "The question is, why is Peter telling us what he knows?"

Sirius understood immediately, and wrinkled his nose. "Tell me that you're not even bothering to imagine what I know perfectly well you're thinking."

"A man who turned once might turn again."

"You should mention that to Dumbledore. According to Phineas Nigellus, he has a mad scheme to put Harry alone in a room with Snape."

It was Sirius's mode of dismissal, and Remus decided not to take the bait. "Sirius, he sent it to us. He used his mother for it, but he--"

"But nothing!" Sirius went to the door and checked the corridor outside. When he turned, his voice was lower. "Remus, he's been tormenting his mother, collecting up werewolves who are deliberately biting people, and shattering your arm when you didn't decide to join him. Does that sound to you like some scheme to come back? And he knows I'd kill him anyway."

Remus looked at the ticket, the moment of hope that had sprung up when he first saw it dwindling to a disappearing point. "Then why? What's the point of telling us what Voldemort knows about Harry's travel plans?"

Sirius tossed out a few half-hearted notions, and the next day, they discussed it with Dora and Mad-Eye, both of whom found the intelligence baffling. Kingsley, after dinner on Wednesday, declared that it was nothing but a mind game, meant to throw them off by mentioning that Voldemort had gotten hold of a bit of negative information. "So he knows where Potter won't be," he said. "It doesn't suggest that he knows where he will be. And the holiday is almost over. Whatever it is they're planning, they'll have to act on it soon if they mean to act on it at all.

Grudgingly,

...or I could tell you who organized most of the raids against werewolves last time...

Remus decided that someone should ask Snape exactly where Peter stood in the scheme of things.

But Remus was back at Dora's getting the last of his marking done before school started on Monday when Snape came to Grimmauld Place, and did, in fact, propose a plan that involved putting Harry more or less in his total power. According to Arthur Weasley, who was released from St. Mungo's that day, he'd come into the kitchen to find Snape and Sirius at wandpoint with one another, with a terrified Harry standing between them and trying to stop the duel. No one had thought to ask Snape about Peter or the ticket.

"I don't know what they're doing," Dora said at breakfast the next morning. It was her second breakfast; she'd already had her book club meeting with Miriam, Regina, and Anna, and was still dressed as Dora Lewis. She'd apparently decided that it was as good a disguise as any for the trip up to Hogwarts. "They're definitely planning something. Bill's been watching the vaults at Gringott's--the Malfoys, the Macnairs, and so on--and the money's been going out of them so quickly that the goblins are complaining. Last moon, we rounded up four more werewolves, up in Oxfordshire this time. And Kingsley got an owl from Dumbledore this morning. Olympe Maxime said she'd heard rumors of re-establishing the giants in Britain. Some poor Muggle bloke claimed he saw one up in the Highlands."

"That could have been Hagrid," Remus said. "I don't think Muggles really know how large giants are."

Dora thought about it and nodded. "Still, they're obviously doing something, and it's going to have to be today if Harry's their target."

"What else would Voldemort be after?" Sirius asked. "And we know he's tracking Harry's movements because of the ticket."

"It is the most likely."

"Unless his plan involves those lessons with Snape," Sirius hissed.

"I don't think so," Dora said. "He's a hateful man, but I do think he's on our side. He's had enough opportunities not to be."

"And Harry does need to learn Occlumency," Remus added half-heartedly. "And Dumbledore can't very well teach him."

Sirius grumbled about this, but couldn't argue--the need for Harry to learn to protect his mind was growing with every day. Harry was bitter enough about it without having Sirius plant ideas in his head.

"So, we're back to today's little jaunt," Dora said. "Whatever happens, Kingsley told me to stick with Harry. If they try for him, I'm authorized to--"

"Capture, I know," Sirius said.

Dora looked down. "I'm authorized to do a lot more than capture. The Crouch laws are still in effect for Death Eaters. I don't think I could. I mean, not unless there was no other way. I've no interest in--"

The door opened, and Harry and Ron came in. The conversation immediately stopped. Remus noticed the narrow, suspicious look on Harry's face, but there was no way to answer it. Aside from questions of frightening Harry, there was the distinct possibility that Voldemort himself could hear how ill-prepared they were.

Molly created a companionable atmosphere for the children's breakfast (Remus, Sirius, and Dora lingered over their own), and after the meal, there were long rounds of goodbyes. Sirius steered Harry away from the others and gave him some kind of package and a one-armed hug. Remus half-expected him to demand to accompany them, but he didn't.

Remus led the way out of the house, with Dora keeping the rear-guard. He glanced around the square, but nothing seemed out of place, no one seemed to be loitering who didn't belong there. When he turned around, Dora was examining it as well, looking more troubled than she usually did. "Come on," she said. "The quicker we get on the bus, the better."

Remus agreed. He flung out his right arm, and the Knight Bus appeared. The man--barely more than a boy--who greeted them started the welcome speech, but Dora interrupted them, herding the children onto the bus. The man gaped at Harry as he passed. "Ere!" he said, far too loudly. "It's 'Arry--!"

Remus put his hand on his wand, and Dora leaned in. "If you shout his name, I will curse you into oblivion." She pushed Hermione and Ginny on board. The man looked at her stupidly, looked at Remus's wand hand with some alarm, and apparently decided that he would go along with her wishes.

The bus was crowded, and there was no single group of chairs for all of them. Dora sighed and sent Ginny and the twins to a group of chairs at the far end of the bus's first level, apologetically sending Remus along with them. She accompanied Harry, Ron, and Hermione up to the second level.

Ginny winced as she sat down. "Sorry," she said. "I guess you'd rather be sitting with Harry."

It was, of course, true--Remus had barely spoken to Harry at all, and he had hoped they'd be able to talk while they traveled--but that was nothing Ginny needed to apologize for. He smiled and sat down beside her, the twins across from them. "Don't be silly," he said. "We can find plenty to talk about."

Within minutes, the twins were talking about their business. Apparently, Dora had showed them a set of dolls that Remus, Sirius, and Peter had Charmed for her when she was small, and the Charm was--miraculously--still working. They again set about trying to convince Remus to sell them both the controlling spell and one he'd used to turn the key doll into a metamorphmagus (or a rather poor imitation of one, which could produce rough facsimiles of everyone who had been in the house that day when its head was squeezed). He told them that he'd teach them for free, and Fred laughed and told him that was why he was always broke. Remus finally promised to consider the matter, though he had no real intention of going into business with the Weasley twins.

They arrived in Hogsmeade much more quickly than he'd anticipated (Dora, Remus later found out, had flatly bribed the conductor), and the Knight Bus rolled to a stop at the gates of Hogwarts. Remus and Dora helped them with their luggage, ignoring the stares of the other passengers on the bus as they realized that Harry had been with them.

Dora cast an eye around the landscape, obviously troubled by its quietude. "You'll be safe once you're in the grounds," she said. "Have a good term, okay?"

Remus told them all to look after themsleves, and shook everyone's hand. Ginny looked prone to a hug, but he raised an eyebrow at her and she stuck her hand out instead. While Dora was saying goodbye to the others, Remus drew Harry aside. It was the only real chance they would have to talk, and there was no time whatsoever. "And listen..." He lowered his voice. "Harry, I know you don't like Snape"--And there are any number of good reasons not to like him--"but he is a superb Occlumens and we all--Sirius included--want you to learn to protect yourself, so work hard, all right?"

Harry looked up and studied his face for a moment. His eyes--so like Lily's--were hungry, though he didn't seem to have any clear idea what he needed. After awhile, he just said, "Yeah, all right. See you, then."

And then they were gone, headed up the long road to the castle, dragging their luggage behind them.
7 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
sixth_light From: sixth_light Date: December 23rd, 2004 12:55 am (UTC) (Link)
You managed to conjure up a very physical sense of the pain Remus is in at the beginning, as well as the sheer...power that the full moon has over him. Nice chapter. I know I should say more, but I'm just off to bed.

One repeated word - "The chains chains had cut him deeply..."
mrs_who From: mrs_who Date: December 23rd, 2004 06:31 am (UTC) (Link)
First of all - wonderful excerpt. The details at St. Mungos were amazing. You continue to write things we already know with a newness and at a depth which gives new insight.

Interesting how Remus seems to have trouble with physical affection. In Shifts it's been mainly women who required it - Molly, Ginny, even Hermione I believe, and (of course) Tonks. It's interesting how he's been lumping them all together and corrects Ginny's hug (which would have been inappropriate in front of anyone who might be looking) with the same thoughts which think to correct Tonks' "too long" kiss on the cheek. Although, I do sense things changing toward Tonks, they're not changing with anything resembling rapidity!

"Yes, I picked up on that complex code," Remus said. "The question is, why is Peter telling us what he knows?"

LOL - he's more clever than I am! I missed that very obvious message! *blush* Peter continues to creep me out. Fab.

Edward Holmes, bathed in sweat, his hospital-issed robes should be issUed

The chains chains had cut him deeply too many chains

jesspallas From: jesspallas Date: December 23rd, 2004 09:49 am (UTC) (Link)
That description at the beginning really portrays the pain that poor Remus and the other werewolves endure. Peter's motives provide an intriguing mystery...;)

I'm very fond of "A Trick of the Firelight" the oneshot and I look forward to seeing this new evolved version. Just out of curiosity, is this fic also going to include the events of "Nothing Big"? ;)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 23rd, 2004 10:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Just out of curiosity, is this fic also going to include the events of "Nothing Big"?

Quite possibly, though not with the same ultimate upshot (I'm not ending with them engaged). :)
From: isabela113 Date: December 24th, 2004 01:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Seeing Holmes change next to Remus was very interesting. It raised some interesting questions for me about the level of dehumanization that werewolves subject themselves to, and how much of it may actually be necessary to function.

That last little moment with Harry was great as well. Once again, you used the word "hungry" to describe that desire for emotional connection, and it is so apt. The moment is very simple, but the image you present is eloquent.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 24th, 2004 01:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Once again, you used the word "hungry" to describe that desire for emotional connection

Well, I had the book open while I wrote (obviously, for the dialogue), and Rowling takes that moment to actually have Harry mention--without, of course, actually naming feelings--that he's "looking up into Lupin's prematurally lined face." I don't know what it was about that particular line, but it's of a piece with the vast relief Harry feels at seeing Lupin at Privet Drive. She spends a lot of page time establishing Harry's love of Sirius in so many words, but in a few sketched lines, she's able to bring back all the weight of the Harry-Remus relationship in PoA. I wanted to at least try to reflect the way that line felt to me.
lyras From: lyras Date: December 24th, 2004 04:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Lots of build-up here (and in the last interlude); I'm really looking forward to the next few instalments, and not only because of the promised "firelight" scene!

Also, I just wanted to let you know that I reread the Prologue the other day, on SQ, and was amazed at how cheerful the atmosphere is there, compared to the mood of the past few chapters. You've really brought this story a long way.

Thanks for putting so much into this. And Merry Christmas :).
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