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Shifts, Chapter 33: Interlude (6) - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shifts, Chapter 33: Interlude (6)
Meh. A lot of stuff to cover, not much connective tissue to work with. I was going to put in a scene between Dumbledore and the Queen, but I don't really like real person fics, so I opted against it. I'll go back and work into the scene where he's getting the robes ready that he is, in fact, meeting with the Queen in order to start throwing wrenches into the Ministry's Muggle contacts in the government (she's going to go talk to the PM about the situation).

It's the full moon at the beginning of June.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

The rain and clouds hid the moon, and the change came late because of it, ambushing Remus like a thief in an alley, burning through him like a lightning strike. He screamed, and the scream became a howl, and when it was over, the battered Wolf could only crawl to a corner, not entirely able to escape the downpour, and curl up against the pain, licking his paws and haunches in a compulsive and useless way until he finally fell into a troubled sleep.




Peter Pettigrew found himself bundled into a waterproof cloak, despite the fact that he'd assured his mother that he would have no need of it. She fretted at the neck of it, making sure it covered his robes, and muttered that he would catch his death out there in the pouring rain.

"They don't need you anyway," she said. "They've their own business to attend to."

"Unfortunately, it's not their own business I need them attending to. They need to be seen. Fear, Mother. That's why they're out there. I have to take them where people will see them, and remember that Dumbledore would have them loose among their children."

"Of course. Yes." Mother worried at the sleeves of her robe. "That horrible man."

Peter nodded. He was not in any particular mood to abuse Dumbledore, though doing so seemed to calm Mother, and certainly kept her from questioning much. She'd become a good ally--without her help, he never would have thought to look into Muggle florist shops for Wolfsbane, and he certainly couldn't have obtained all the plants he'd given to Edward Holmes through his Knockturn Alley connections. Of course, he'd gotten quite a few more than were needed, that was the art of the thing. Holmes could reach the end every time he turned around. Peter had watched his mother's performance with great admiration on the day Remus had come looking for information--had he thought to push by her, he'd have found Holmes weeping in the conservatory. That had been too close, so Peter had obtained the seedy flat for him.

Why?

He didn't know.

The Dark Lord had decided that Edward Holmes should kill himself, and Peter had been given the task of leading him in that direction. If the point of the exercise had been to make Remus Lupin fall apart, it seemed to have failed spectacularly, as Peter had tried to tell the Dark Lord before the whole exercise began. But of course, no one had listened to him. No one listened to him at all anymore, except for Mother, and he suspected that might be no more than a remnant of the Imperius Curse he'd placed on her for the first two weeks of their reunion.

"Now, Mother," he said, "I'll be back before dawn. You get some sleep. You're looking very tired. And don't go outside. It may take a bit for me to get them going, and I wouldn't want you to get hurt."

Mother nodded. She went obediently to her bedroom, and Peter heard the door click shut.

He transformed into a rat, and went out to the four men gathered in the back garden, looking up at the cloudy sky.

The clouds parted, just for a moment.

"Oh, damn," one of them said, and then the screaming began.




Ted made his way to the Leaky Cauldron after work, his umbrella buffeted by the strong wind and rain. Around him, people dodged quickly through the crowd, pushing for doorways and bus stops and any other sort of shelter they could reach. A taxi splashed a fan of water up from the street, dousing his trousers, just as he reached the unobtrusive door of the pub, and as soon as he got in, he did a quick Drying Charm.

"Dad!"

He looked up. Dora was sitting at a table in the corner, a small, blanket-wrapped bundle beside her. He went to her and sat down. "Is there something you forgot to tell us?"

She smiled. "This is Francis Apcarne," she said, kissing a face that was totally hidden in blankets from Ted's perspective. A tiny pink hand came up and grabbed at her hair, and she tipped the baby up to have a peek at Ted. "Francis, this is my dad. You'll like him. He knows your namesake, too." She winked. "Maddie and Daffy got an invitation something his sister has happening, and Sanjiv came down sick at the last minute, so I get Francis for the night. I asked if it would be all right for me to bring him here, and they said it would be fine." She disentangled the fingers from her hair and kissed them. "I hope you don't mind."

"Not at all. I'm rather fond of babies." Ted tapped his finger in the side of the table. "I don't if your mum's told you yet, but we've been talking about--well, with the curse lifted--perhaps seeing if we could have another child. How would you feel about that?"

"I'm for filling up the whole world with babies," Dora said. "I suppose I'd be more like an aunt at this point than an older sister, though. I'll never really get to be an older sister."

"No, not really. Although your mum was an older sister, and it hasn't made her deliriously happy."

"I somehow doubt that you and Mum would have raised someone like Narcissa."

Ted ordered dinner for both of them, and Dora picked Francis up to feed him a bottle while they waited. He noted the enraptured look on her face, and was forcibly reminded of her own infancy, watching Andi hold her and kiss her and cuddle her. He'd done his own share of all three--he'd fallen violently in love with fatherhood the moment the midwife had put her in his arms, despite the fact that all he'd really felt for the last few months of the pregnancy had been sheer, unadulterated terror--but watching Andi had been a different sort of feeling, not simply warmth and affection, but completeness, like this little picture that he was part of was what he'd waited for all of his life.

"What did you need to talk about?" he asked.

"A girl can't invite her dad to dinner without some great reason for it?"

Ted raised his eyebrows at her, but said nothing.

"Honestly, Dad. Everything's perfectly fine."

"How are things with Remus?"

"Wonderful. We're happy. We never fight. At all. About anything. Is that normal?" she asked, failing miserably at an attempt to sound casual.

"You never fought with him before. Why would you start now?" He reached over and took her hand. "Go on, Dora. Tell me whatever it is that's troubling you."

She bit her lip. "It's just... I really want this, Dad. I want it so much that I'm afraid I'm cocking it up by trying too hard. And..." She sighed. "It doesn't seem real, is all. We never fight. We talk things out if we disagree. It's pleasant. He loves me, and he says it. Not as often as I do, but he does. We go about our business, and then talk to one another about it. And we spend time with... other friends." She shrugged and mouth, Sirius. "Remus has even got past his obsession with my age. Mostly, anyway, and he tries not to let it get in the way of things when it does show up.

"And this bothers you."

"Well... isn't there meant to be a big to-do of some sort with these things? A fight or two? Worries? If we're not dealing with things that we need to deal with, then isn't it going to fall apart? We don't even argue about..." She blushed and lowered her voice. "You know. Being a bit... frustrated."

Ted held up his hand. "I don't need the details. And it sounds like your... frustration... is finding another outlet, making up some doomsday scenario because you're not arguing. Honestly, Dora, you have more sense than this."

She looked surprised, and the bottle she was holding slipped. Francis grabbed at it, and her attention was diverted for a few minutes while she rearranged him. "You don't think I need to worry?"

"I think I should have made you stop reading those rubbish romance novels." Ted shook his head. "Dora, how often do you remember your mum and me fighting?"

She frowned. "Now that you mention it, not often."

"And not for long. There was enough of a mess in the outside world that we didn't want it in the house. And how often do you ever remember Remus getting into rows with his friends?"

"I never saw it. Though I'm told he once punched Sirius in school."

"The point is that neither one of you is given to fits of temper, and you're both peacemakers, and neither one of you grew up with parents who fought a lot. Why on Earth does it surprise you that you're not fighting?"

"You think I'm being a goose?"

"I may start tossing you breadcrumbs. The two of you have quite enough going on with a damned war to fight; of course you're not making up lovers' spats to keep yourselves busy." He smiled and reached across to her. "Dora, are you happy with him?"

"Yes. And I'm comfortable with him when I'm not working myself up like this. And he's comfortable with me. And that doesn't sound very romantic, does it?"

"How does it feel?"

She smiled, cuddling the baby close to herself as she fed him. "Like being home."

"Then stop worrying about what other people say it should be and let it be what you both obviously need it to be. And let go of the bodice-ripper novels."

She grinned. "I don’t think I'm going to be doing that any time soon."

Ted considered this, then said, "I don't want to know."

Dora laughed. "Probably not."




Kit Hamilton had been keeping the bar at The Bombshell for fifteen years, and he'd seen any number of odd things, but the woman on the floor surpassed the oddest of them by quite a lot.

Oh, he'd seen women on the floor here. And men. Toward closing time, the long walk to the toilets seemed a bit too much to handle for some of them; crawling became a perfectly acceptable mode of transportation at that point. Once, he'd seen a woman in a sequined dress and high heels crawl around a chair three times before she lost her orientation entirely and gave up the attempt.

But this woman was sober as a vicar, her face set calmly, her hair tied up in a neat bun. She'd come in, ordered a beer which now sat untouched on the bar, and dropped to her knees on the wooden floor, lowering her head until the wood grain must have taken up the whole world. She looked like a dog sniffing around the base of a fireplug.

"Might I help you find something, Ma'am?" Kit asked.

She held up one hand and shook her head in an irritated way.

"Is it a contact lens? I wear them, and I know they can be a right pain if you've dropped one..."

"No, it's not a..." She curled even further toward the floor, her shoulders hunching in. One long-sleeved arm swept around in a short arc, and she said, "There you are, Narcissa. I see you."

Kit stepped back, putting himself in easy reach of the telephone, and then there was a bright flash of white light.

It faded.

The woman was sitting at the bar, drinking her beer and chatting pleasantly in his general direction. A small handbag dangled from wrist, and she kept toying with its drawstring, but other than that, there was no sign that she'd been...

Kit frowned.

What had she been doing before? Something odd. Something... had she been singing? Or possibly doing some strange dance?

It slipped away from him.

She paid for the beer and wished him a good evening, and he didn't think about her again as the night's regular crowd came in. At around midnight, an American college girl wearing high heels broke off a loud monologue about how at least The Bombshell wasn't a tourist pub and how she knew the real London, unlike her school chums who only saw Buckingham Palace and London Bridge. She fell forward and was caught by a surly dockworker who shoved her upright again, then promptly ignored her. Blinking dizzily, she squinted at the floor. "Hey!" she said. "You've got a hole over here."

Kit came around the bar and looked at the spot where she was pointing. A large chunk had been taken out of the floorboard, as if someone had plied up a giant splinter. The girl's shoe must have caught in it.

Either that, or she'd done it herself , given the spiked heels.

Kit shook his head and tried to think of a way to flatten the floor again.




Andromeda emptied her handbag onto the kitchen table, smiling broadly. "We have her," she said. "It's right there. This is where it spilled, and there's still some in the wood. It doesn't even matter who she used on, or why. It's based in human blood, and meant to do harm. We have her."

Sirius picked up the large splinter of wood. "We have the potion. Can we prove Narcissa was there?"

"I'm going to find that Muggle who tried to stop Joe Levinson from interfering. Narcissa isn't subtle. He'll remember."

"Will they take a Muggle's testimony?"

"With other proof? And I can testify about the curse on Levinson. I wrote in my report that it might have been long-standing."

Sirius thought about telling her that it wouldn't be enough to take down Lucius Malfoy's wife, but he didn't want to spoil her mood. Instead, he called for Kreacher to make them a snack, only to find that the house elf had disappeared again. Grumbling, he got it himself.




Narcissa Malfoy sat calmly on the sofa in her drawing room, sipping a cup of strong tea as Kreacher capered about in a frenzy. Lucius was standing by the window with his arms crossed.

"The blood traitors have found you out," Kreacher said desperately, falling to his knees in front of Narcissa and weeping against her silk dressing gown. "Your unworthy sister has had her nasty hands in old potions, and means to testify!"

"With nothing but the residue of a potion?"

"They say they're finding the Muggle who is having seen you there. Oh, Mistress Narcissa, Kreacher had to tell you this!"

She managed to smile at him. The information the elf had provided had been of some use in the long planning sessions from which she had been excluded (Lucius insisted that she remain a step removed, in case it became necessary for her to deny involvement), although she couldn't see how--until now, he'd only reported on Sirius's domestic arrangements, and the horrid notion that Andromeda's half-blood monster of a child was being violated by a werewolf, and didn't seem to object. But the price of the information appeared to be Kreacher's belief that he could make his presence known in the middle of her drawing room with little or no notice, and that she would treat him as if he were a colleague of some sort. "Hush, Kreacher," she said. "Thank you for telling us. We'll see to it. You should return to your master before he misses you."

"Foolish master does not miss Kreacher. Master thinks Kreacher is hiding again."

"Nevertheless," Lucius said, "you should return. Time is becoming quite short, and we cannot afford suspicion."

Kreacher's ears drooped. "Then I must go? Kreacher wanted only to see..." He looked up to the door and smiled, the sour breath coming from his open mouth making Narcissa feel vaguely nauseated. "Mistress!" he said, and rushed to the drawing room door, where a gaunt figure had appeared in a silhouette against the full moon.

"Bella," Lucius said, "I told you to remain in the cellar."

Bella smiled slowly. Her eyes were distant and unfocused, and she'd taken no interest in her appearance since she'd returned. "I'll go back to the cellar," she said in a sing-song-y voice. "I'll go back and hide as you wish, but first I have a gift for dear little Kreacher."

"A gift for Kreacher!" Kreacher wailed in miserable ecstasy.

Bella pulled out a small black box, and from it, drew a silver knife. "This is a gift from the Dark Lord," she said, "and he alone will tell you when to use it."

Kreacher looked at it, wide-eyed, and said, "Master?" then ran headlong into the wall, thudding his head against it until Narcissa thought she would go quite mad from the noise.

"Not Master," Lucius said. "But I promise you, it will hurt him."

Kreacher smiled even more widely, then kissed the knife and disappeared.

"Can they prove anything with what they have?" Narcissa asked.

"I doubt it," Lucius said. "But I should perhaps find this Muggle."

"It's not necessary," Bellatrix said, her voice high. "Oh, the Dark Lord will take care of you, Narcissa. He'll not allow anything to happen to you."

"Nevertheless..." Lucius began.

"Do you doubt?" Bellatrix asked, raising her wand.

"No. Of course not."

"That's a very good thing, Lucius. The Dark Lord does not tolerate doubt. Not when we are so close."

"Go back to the cellar, Bella."

Bellatrix lowered her wand and headed toward the cellar door. She scampered, not to put too fine a point on it, her hands held in front of her like claws. Narcissa shuddered.

"What are we close to?" she asked.

"Potter, of course. And that, my love, is all you need to know."




The rain died down shortly after one o'clock in the morning, and the moon disappeared beneath the horizon. The Wolf, its fur soaked through, slept miserably on a pile of rotting hay until dawn brought the world back in a brutal wave of pain.
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Comments
From: falco_999 Date: February 6th, 2005 09:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Loved this episode - your Bella utterly terrifies me!

Just thought I'd mention, in case you didn't know, that the Prime Minister has an audience with the Queen every Tuesday evening.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 6th, 2005 10:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
I knew there was a regular audience, but I didn't when (or how frequent) it was. So it really might not be an empty gesture for Dumbledore to reach the Queen. Yay. (What can I say, I love Her Majesty. I desire royalty the way Tolkien desired dragons, which is to say, "Ooo, shiny!" but not really want them in the neighborhood. ;))
jesspallas From: jesspallas Date: February 6th, 2005 10:29 am (UTC) (Link)
The chat between Dora and Ted was lovely. :)

Poor Edward. :(

Though why do get an ominous feeling about the idea of Kreacher having a silver knife in close proximity to Remus?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 6th, 2005 10:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
I hadn't thought of that (not much made of the silver/werewolf connection in canon so far), but thanks for giving me a nasty idea. :evil grin:
jesspallas From: jesspallas Date: February 7th, 2005 01:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh boy.

*bangs head repeatedly on desk*

Must. Learn. To. Keep. Mouth. Shut! ;)

To be honest, I've never made much of the silver-werewolf connection either - I just didn't know if you did!

*runs and cowers* ;)
antonia_east From: antonia_east Date: February 6th, 2005 11:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Your Bella is scary - mad but powerful. And the lovely scene between Dora and Ted -- especially when a baby is present. It's just so 'aw'.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 6th, 2005 10:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was a little concerned that the Ted scene was out of place, so I'm glad it worked. And yes, I had to bring Francis back. He's very cuddly. :)
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: February 6th, 2005 12:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
The rain died down shortly after one o'clock in the morning, and the moon disappeared beneath the horizon. The Wolf, its fur soaked through, slept miserably on a pile of rotting hay until dawn brought the world back in a brutal wave of pain.

Looks bad for Remus. Looks bad for Joe, too.

This paragraph bothered me. The mooon-set sentence seems out of order with the wolf sleeping, unless you stick a had to make "had slept" in there.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 6th, 2005 10:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not especially clear on the schedule of lycanthropy--obviously, the moon can be up for quite awhile before they turn (Remus has to see it after the Shrieking Shack), and it also sounds in casual conversation like the transformation lasts all night, although moonset is generally before dawn. I've sort of been working with the idea that they transform either at first sight of the moon or, if the moon is hidden, rather violently when the body can't put it off any longer, then remain transformed until dawn.
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 7th, 2005 12:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Just emerging from the obscurity of not-understanding-how-LJ-fora-work to see if I can post here or not ...

The lunar cycle is quite simple. The full moon always rises at sunset and sets at sunrise. Then it rises about 50 minutes later each successive day, until the new moon (which, of course, you can't see) always rises at sunrise and sets at sunset. So that is why a werewolf is always a wolf for the whole night - the full moon is up all night.

I think Remus does in fact Transform at the moment of moonrise. It's just coincidence, in PoA, that Remus emerges from the Willow at exactly that moment. On 6 June in the Scottish Highlands, the moon wouldn't rise until about 10pm, which is about the time indicated in JKR's story. And the cloud? Well, there are virtually always clouds in the sky in Britain.

Scarey thought that Pettigrew goaded Holmes into suicide. Two cups of aconite leaves is a sadistic level of cruelty, since it would have taken Holmes a couple of hours to die, and they would have been hours full of respiratory problems and agonising muscle cramps. (The immediate cause of death would have been suffocation.) However, a mere 2-3 leaves would have been enough to kill him - if Holmes thought he needed to eat more than that to die, then Pettigrew must have misled him with a view to causing gratuitous torture. What a nasty twist on Wormtail's character!

Also - monkshood and wolfsbane are not synonyms. (Snape tells Harry that they are, but Snape is wrong - I wonder if we'll hear more about that mistake?) Both are aconites, and both kill people in exactly the same way, so it's fine for Holmes to suicide by eating monkshood, which usually has blue flowers. However, the chemical composition of the two species is quite different; I would guess that monkshood would be quite useless as a treatment for lycanthropy. Wolfsbane, the composition of which is not yet well understood by Muggle chemists, usually has yellow flowers.

Why am I wasting the post being critical about such trivial details? I thought this episode was a great commentary on the Black clan - the evil ones are so chilling and the decent ones are so heartwarming. And Kreacher ... what a wretched little Creature ...
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: February 6th, 2005 01:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Have I mentioned I really like how you're doing the romance? So many fics make it so the characters suddenly forget everything but one another - and so far, you haven't done that, though you *have* shown Remus and Dora love one another a great deal.

About the chapter itself - chilling, and I really don't like Bellatrix.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 6th, 2005 10:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I share Dora's nervousness about whether or not I'm doing it "right," so thank you. I've been especially concerned that somehow it's not "paying off" because once they got through the OMG-will-we-or-won't-we stage, they pretty much just kicked their shoes off and settled in. I couldn't make the two of them do anything dramatic to their relationship.
sreya From: sreya Date: February 6th, 2005 02:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
*squirms* That scene at the Malfoys' is so very twisted, particularly right after the scene with the Tonks. It almost feels like it should be tilted, like those old Batman shows who always filmed the villains' lairs at an angle.

Talk about a group of dysfunctional people! (and, er, Kreacher)

Poor Remus, having a hard transformation after so many good ones. It's like being lulled into a false sense of security and then BAM, all falls apart again. Ouch.
Though I suppose next month will be much, much worse. :~(
castaliae From: castaliae Date: February 6th, 2005 03:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really like these interludes. Its fun to see everything from another side. I especially liked Ted. He's quite a neat character.

One quick grammar thing. This: Maddie and Daffy got an invitation something his sister has happening is missing something, maybe a for.
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 6th, 2005 05:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
I thought Kreacher was constrained against telling any important Order business? He was only supposed to have told Narcissa who Harry was closest to. Although, I suppose what Andromeda does isn't exactly order business...
Hexnut
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 6th, 2005 05:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Exactly--it's not Order business and no one thought to order him not to reveal it.
mrs_who From: mrs_who Date: February 6th, 2005 05:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've been reading but not posting for two weeks. Words really fail me, Fern. (Ahem, won't stop my from trying, tho.) The past few chapters have been brilliant beyond all your previous brilliance. And that's saying something. I began this interlude assuming that, as time is wrapping up, it couldn't be as brilliantly plot-revealing as past interludes and I was WRONG!

Is it possible that we HP fans *really* don't know Ted and Andromeda? Is it possible that we know precious little about Tonks? In the "real" Potterverse, can there really be no little Frances Apcarne? *Sob* You've captured JKR's voice, you've kept her characters IN character, and you've seamlessly blended your OCs with hers in a way I have yet to see matched in any fanfic. (If there are any which come close - someone tell me, I'm going to be starved when Shifts comes to a close!)

Are you so in tune w/the potterverse that these things come intuitively or are you plotting? The weather matches Remus transformation matches the rising danger in the plotline. The contrast between Andromeda's knife-like, single-minded mental acuity and her sister's (Bella's) horrifying insanity is gripping -- riveting. Wow.

You give us Mrs. Pettigrew's blind devotion to her son in the very same moment you give us Pettigrew's cruel betrayal of his former best friends.

This was absolutely marvelous.

I know when Shifts ends you'll be all Remus/Tonksed out, but I'd love to see a couple of "cookies" here and there. It's cruel to show us the ring and not let us see a proposal! You can't show us Tonks and a baby and not give us a little mushy stuff surrounding the expectation/birth of Mira! I feel like a greedy glutton asking for future cookies, but there it is. ;-)
sannalim From: sannalim Date: February 6th, 2005 08:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, so it WAS murder. But poor Peter, he became a Death Eater and still nobody listens to him.
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 7th, 2005 04:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

You did good again

I like the Interludes!
The conversation between Ted and Dora was both touching and funny. If Remus knew Dora's worrying because they almost never argue! LOL, I can imagine his face.

Bellatrix was probably a little touched in the head before Azkaban, but now she's raving mad and completely devoted to Voldemort, adoring him like a God. That's what makes her dangerous and you capture that very well in your story.
I don't like the title of the next chapter at all, I'm a little worried :-(
Minuial
sep12 From: sep12 Date: February 8th, 2005 09:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Bella is scary! She was probably slightly insane before Azkaban, but now is totally unhinged. Wonderful chapter Fern! I will be so sad when this is over and we're so close now. Please tell me you're not going to end it totally where OotP ends. We need an epilogue to tie things up nicely (or not even nicely, just to tie them up)! Great work as always!
trinity_clare From: trinity_clare Date: February 9th, 2005 01:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, yay, I have my baby fix. :-) That was wonderful.

Again with a typo (I'm writing an essay so they're all popping out at me):
"She shrugged and mouth, Sirius." Needs to be "mouthed".
21 comments or Leave a comment