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Shifts, Epilogue: A Series of Places - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shifts, Epilogue: A Series of Places
Well, finishing up. Eeek.

Dialogue at the train station, is, of course, straight from Rowling.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




On Thursday morning, Remus Apparated to a quiet, unpaved road outside the village of Godric's Hollow, a heavy bundle held carefully against his chest.

The air was hot and oppressive, even before noon, the sort of day that seemed to beg for a thunderstorm, but the sky was clear and bright above him, the rich colors and scents of early summer wanton and decadent all around him. He looked up the steep hill before him, to the now-empty hilltop where the Potter home had once stood. Behind him, the village went about its business.

This was the place.

Remus checked carefully--it looked different under clear skies and sunlight--but he was sure of it. This was the place Sirius had stopped when he'd run away, stopped and stood in the rain, looking at the welcoming lights above and wondering if he would be allowed inside. It was the place Remus had seen in the mirror in the Department of Mysteries, the place where a part of Sirius would always remain.

(I always remember the night I ran away... It was cold and raining outside. And it was night. But I was warm when I went in, and it was dry, and all the torches were burning. They all smiled and welcomed me...)

Remus knelt at the roadside and set down the bundle he'd carried, unwrapping it carefully, revealing a stone dog sitting on its haunches, looking up hopefully. It was too small--it came only halfway to Remus's knees--but it was the best he'd been able to do. He and Minerva had found the triangular rock in the Shrieking Shack's garden Monday morning as they left, and he had spent the day in the shattered living room, sketching a pose for the dog that would fit properly into the stone's contours. Over the next few days, he'd done his best to charm the stone to the contours of the drawing. It wasn't a perfect likeness, but it was close enough that when he'd brought it to Ted and Andromeda's this morning, Dora had held and kissed it, and left tears on its limestone ruff.

No one had seemed to know what to do about Sirius. There was no body to bury, no grave to dig, and Remus hoped that setting a marker would help to make it more real, more solid--something he could somehow grasp. He and the Tonks family had remembered him together in a kind of vaguely shaped service, but it still seemed unformed and unfinished, too misty to wrap his mind around.

For most of the week, Remus had found himself unable to return to Grimmauld Place for longer than it took to feed Buckbeak. He'd spent Monday night in Ted and Andromeda's guest room, then taken a seedy room above a rowdy pub in Diagon Alley to sleep in. He hated it, and found himself missing the low-ceilinged basement kitchen, the high windows of the drawing room, the smell of the old wood, even the unpleasant surprises that appeared with such regularity among the Black family's possessions. And yet, when he'd tried to go back, the overwhelming loneliness of being there had driven him out much more effectively than Kreacher's glares or Mrs. Black's angry wailing (now, she seemed to refer to him most frequently as a MURDEROUS THIEF and accuse him of sending Sirius off to die). His life was a disjointed, unconnected series of places--afternoons at the Tonkses' home, nights in his rented room, mornings running errands with no sense of a home to go to when he'd finished.

He'd thought that Dora might argue with him about coming here alone, but she had understood: there was a time before her, and this morning was about honoring that time.

He set the stone dog at the edge of the road, using an expansion charm to drive its feet into the soil. It looked up at the place the house had been.

Remus put a hand on its head. "I'll miss you, Padfoot," he said. "God, how I'll miss you. But it's warm and dry ahead, and the torches are burning. They'll be glad to have you." He took a deep breath. "And don't worry about Harry. I won't let him down again. I'll be there."

He stayed there for a long time, listening to the wind in the trees and wanting to hear voices in it, wishing he knew whether or not he believed there was anyone to hear him speak.

He finally left, not knowing whether or not he'd done this properly, feeling cleansed but strangely empty.

He Apparated to Diagon Alley, outside the twins' shop, which was serving as a temporary, informal headquarters for the Order. There had been no discussion of this; it had just happened. They'd met here on Tuesday night, when Molly had shared the happy news that Ron and Hermione had been allowed to return to Gryffindor Tower and would be quite all right, and had found themselves here again yesterday, discussing the various changes at the Ministry. Remus had been asked to help prepare the basic home defense guides that the Ministry had promised to produce; he'd been shocked until he learned that Kingsley Shacklebolt was heading up the project and had been given considerable leeway.

Today's meeting was at least marginally planned, though it had very little to do with Order business, and nothing whatsoever to do with Voldemort or the Ministry.

Dora was waiting just inside the shop, and she greeted him with a kiss (which got approving catcalls from Fred and George, at the counter). "We're both a bit early," she said. "Did you finish your business this morning?"

He nodded. "I finished."

She squeezed his hand and led him to the stools the twins had set out around a temporarily bare display table. A teapot on the counter sprouted wings and flew over, a flock of cups in its wake. Remus took one and poured himself a cup. By the time it had cooled enough to drink, Molly had arrived, and a few minutes after that, Moody and Arthur came from the Ministry.

Remus stood up and called the meeting, unable to shake a sense that it was the wrong table in the wrong place. "The Hogwarts Express comes back tomorrow," he said. "It's time to talk about Harry."




There was some debate about how precisely to approach the problem--Molly Weasley was in favor of simply taking Harry out of the Dursley household and putting him in some other safe environment, but ultimately, they decided that it wasn't a sure enough bet. The Dursleys would simply need to be made aware of a few salient facts of life.

Arthur Weasley offered to open the conversation, on the basis that he had, in fact, dealt with the Dursleys before without any disguises. They knew him, and he had already advocated for Harry with them. Remus agreed to this grudgingly; he would have liked to be at the front of this particular group, but Arthur was quite right about the dynamics of the situation. Moody insisted on coming along "as a friendly sort of face."

The train was due to arrive shortly after three o'clock, and they arranged to meet at the station at two-thirty. When Remus got there at two-fifteen, he found Dora already waiting. She was dressed casually, and her hair was a cheerful pink. He took her hand and kissed it.

"Do you think the pink is wrong?" she asked. "Not... you know, serious enough? I just thought I could be sure he'd recognize me if I looked like this."

"It's fine," Remus said. "And it will have the added benefit of greatly annoying Petunia Dursley."

"I hadn't thought of that." Dora grinned and slipped into his arms. "I'm not sure I look like good step-parental-figure material."

Remus sighed. "I think Harry and I have quite a long way to go before we reach the 'parental-figure' point."

"You always underestimate yourself, Remus. You should stop doing that."

"Maybe you should, as well. You'll make a fine step-parental-figure." He considered it. "Though I do think it might be a bit too much to throw at him all at once."

"And here I was thinking of having an engagement party right here at the station."

"I am going to tell him though."

"Tell him what?" someone said, and Remus turned to find the Weasley twins, dressed in matching, hideous, irridescent green dragon-skin jackets.

"That the pair of you have apparently been struck blind," Remus said, giving an exaggerated wince.

The twins affected indignation and offense, and Dora temporarily morphed her hair to match the jackets, and by the time they had settled down, Molly, Arthur, and Moody had arrived.

"Arthur and I dropped by Kingsley's cube," Moody said. "He wanted to come, but he's on his way out to Azkaban to have another little chat with Lucius Malfoy. Quite a font of information, that one, though Kingsley says he thinks only one word in ten is true."

Fred checked his watch. "Should we go through the barrier?"

"No," Remus said. "I think we should be right here waiting when the Dursleys come, and they can't get through."

At three o'clock, a harried-looking witch opened the barrier and announced, "The train is coming in. Try to look less conspicuous, will you?"

They reoriented themselves very slightly, so that at least two people in the group seemed to be looking at platform ten, where a Muggle train was coming in. It was from this vantage point that Remus saw Narcissa Malfoy come in alone, her head held high, an expression distaste on her features. Dora glared at her, but did nothing.

Narcissa walked to the barrier without looking at the gathered group, and waited for clearance to go through. It seemed to be taking quite a long time, and after a long enough silence, she looked over her shoulder in Dora's direction, casting her eyes downward so she wouldn't actually have to see. "Do pass on my greetings to my dear sister," she said.

"I think Mum's had quite enough of a greeting from her sisters this year," Dora said. "Though I reckon she still might decide to have a chat with you after all. Of course, if I were you, I wouldn't be looking forward to it."

Narcissa went through without answering this.

The first group of students came through five minutes later, some with their parents, others looking for them on the far side of the barrier. Cho Chang was in this group, accompanied by a girl who was wearing a balaclava, despite the heat. They noticed him and Cho waved vaguely, but the masked girl pushed her along toward a group of adults. Luna Lovegood and her father came out with the next group, chatting happily with one another. She smiled brightly at Remus and Moody (Moody tipped his hat to her), and then was swept away. It took nearly ten minutes for Harry, Ron, and Hermione to come out, Ginny not far behind them. Neville and his grandmother rounded out the last of this group, disappearing quickly. Mrs. Longbottom looked pale and drawn, and was hovering over Neville like a mother bird.

Harry stopped for a moment, his eyes scanning the line of adults with an unreadable expression before following the others over.

Molly ran forward and threw her arms around Ron and Ginny, then embraced Harry, who managed to look both grateful and uncomfortable. Arthur had spotted Hermione's parents and was waving them over. Ron looked disbelievingly at the twins' jackets.

Finally, Molly let go of Harry and turned to Hermione. Harry turned to Remus, looking confused.

"Hello, Harry."

Harry looked at the group again, and his eyes returned to Remus. "Hi," he said. "I didn't expect..." Again, he looked around, again he looked back to Remus. "What are you all doing here?"

Remus smiled. "Well, we thought we might have a little chat with your aunt and uncle before letting them take you home."

Harry paled visibly. "I dunno if that's a good idea."

"Oh, I think it is." The thump of a wooden leg hitting the floor told Remus that Moody had moved closer. "That'll be them, will it, Potter?"

Harry looked past Remus and nodded. Remus looked over his shoulder to see Dudley, Petunia, and Vernon coming toward them, looking quite disturbed. He thought Dudley might have given him a second look, but if so, it hadn't registered any recognition at all.

Arthur finished shaking Hermione's father's hand and turned to Harry, patting his shoulder. "Ah, Harry!" He smiled. "Well, shall we do it, then?"

Moody moved up beside him. "Yeah, I reckon so, Arthur."

Harry again glanced up at Remus, then let himself be moved with the group to meet the Dursleys halfway across the station floor. The Dursleys simply froze where they were. Dudley stood behind his parents, though he was larger than either of them, looking terrified. Remus sighed, wondering if it would ever be possible to get through to him unmasked.

"Good afternoon," Arthur said. "You might remember me, my name's Arthur Weasley. We thought we'd just have a few words with you about Harry."

Moody stepped forward threateningly, lowering the bowler hat he used to conceal his magical eye. "Yeah. About how he's treated when he's at your place."

Vernon--not unexpectedly--drew himself up with great indignation."I am not aware that it is any of your business what goes on in my house--"

"I expect what you're not aware of would fill several books, Dursley," Moody said dismissively.

Dora gathered herself and stepped forward. Remus was amused to note that Petunia Dursley actually closed her eyes rather than address a pink-haired witch. "Anyway," she said, "that's not the point. The point is, if we find out you've been horrible to Harry--"

"--and make no mistake," Remus said in as pleasant a tone as he could muster, "we'll hear about it."

Arthur nodded. "Yes, even if you won't let Harry use the fellytone--"

Hermione winced and corrected him in a whisper loud enough to carry across the Channel.

"Yeah," Moody said, "if we get any hint that Potter's been mistreated in any way, you'll hve us to answer to."

"Are you threatening me, sir?" Vernon roared.

"Yes, I am."

"And do I look like the kind of man who can be intimidated?"

"Well..." Remus knew what Moody meant to do a moment before he did it, and shook his head slightly. Moody either didn't notice or didn't care. He removed the bowler hat and let his magical eye roll extravagantly in its socket. "Yes, I'd have to say you do, Dursley." Harry grinned slightly; Moody turned ot him. "So, Potter, give us a shout if you need us. If we don't hear from you for three days in a row, we'll send someone along." Petunia made a timid, whimpering sound. Moody grasped Harry's shoulder. "Bye, then, Potter." He stepped back.

Harry looked back at Remus again. "Take care, Harry," Remus said. "Keep in touch." A part of him wanted to ruffle Harry's hair, or perhaps hug him, but he wasn't sure yet what Harry needed from him, so he settled for smiling at him. Harry smiled back faintly, and said his goodbyes to Molly (who promised he could come visit soon) and Ron and Hermione. Harry seemed utterly unable to speak. His eyes just traveled over all of them, then he waved slightly and turned, pulling his trunk behind him, leading the Dursleys out of the station.

"He'll be all right," Dora said.

"I think he will."

Hermione came over to them. She took Remus's hand and led him over to her parents. "This is Professor Lupin," she said. "He carried me out and got me safely to Hogwarts." They thanked him. Her father squeezed his hand tightly. Hermione turned back to him. "Don't wait for Harry to say he needs you," she said. "Just... he does. He needs all of us."

"Thank you, Hermione."

She left with her parents.

When he got back to the rest of the group, Moody was saying his own goodbyes and heading out, and Ginny was trying on one of the twins' jackets. Dora hugged the Weasleys (Remus was able to avoid it from everyone but Ginny, who flatly insisted), then left them to organize themselves for the trip home.

They walked out into the warm, sunlit afternoon together and were halfway to Grimmauld Place before either of them realized that they were headed in that direction. Dora slowed and stopped at the gate of the small park where they'd stopped in September.

"Where are we going?" she asked. "My parents'? Diagon Alley?"

Remus leaned against the iron fence that circled the park, and looked up the street toward the shadows of Grimmauld Place. "We could go home," he said.

She looked up at him. "I want to. And I don't want to. It'll seem so empty without him there."

"I know what you mean."

"Where are we going, Remus?"

"I don't know." He cupped her face in his hands and kissed her. "But we'll get there, I promise."

She slipped her arms around him and sighed. "I promise, too."

He held her for a long time, then looked down into the park. A path led down to a pond, where small children were feeding ducks. Squirrels ran up and down the trees, and four teenagers were happily tossing a Frisbee around. Remus took a step back, and took Dora's hand, leading her down into the green and golden sunlight. "There's no hurry," he said. "Let's take the long way home."

THE END
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Comments
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marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: February 22nd, 2005 04:43 am (UTC) (Link)
I was fine until I saw what was in the bundle, and then I wasn't fine anymore.

The ending is perfect, Fern. I'll come back and do edit things tomorrow, but for now I'm just going to go and let it all sink in...

...thank you.
dudley_doright From: dudley_doright Date: February 22nd, 2005 04:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Beautiful. I absolutely loved this moment:

Remus put a hand on its head. "I'll miss you, Padfoot," he said. "God, how I'll miss you. But it's warm and dry ahead, and the torches are burning. They'll be glad to have you." He took a deep breath. "And don't worry about Harry. I won't let him down again. I'll be there."
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 22nd, 2005 08:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I'm so glad that worked. Whenever there's emotional stuff, there's a chance of going over the top... I was concerned!
trinity_clare From: trinity_clare Date: February 22nd, 2005 04:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, that's so cute. I love it. There wasn't much you could do with the beginning, was there? There's so much dialogue in that scene. But the ending was perfect. I love how you take things and make it perfectly normal for them to happen/not happen. Like how some people were worrying about Remus and Dora being engaged because Harry didn't know about it. To which I say: you sillies, there wasn't exactly a good time to tell him.

Sigh. Now I'm going to have to resign myself to the fact that there probably won't be any Remus/Tonks in HBP. Although if you happen to have a large amount of free time on your hands, you could always continue this story in the context of HBP. If.

And yay! It's finished! Now I can go rec it to all my friends who don't liked WIPs.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 22nd, 2005 08:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
There wasn't much you could do with the beginning, was there? There's so much dialogue in that scene.

Yeah... I thought at first of letting Remus's mind wander and just summarizing, but how likely would it be for Remus not to be paying absolute attention to a scene with Harry?!
raistmimi From: raistmimi Date: February 22nd, 2005 05:00 am (UTC) (Link)

This is a great ending!

"Moody turned ot him." Substitute that with the word to. ^_^
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 22nd, 2005 08:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: This is a great ending!

Thanks. Will catch.
shagsthedustmop From: shagsthedustmop Date: February 22nd, 2005 05:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Ooh! It's done! I'm several chapters behind unfortunately but when things calm down I will definitely be spending an evening with this much-enjoyed piece!
trinity_clare From: trinity_clare Date: February 22nd, 2005 05:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Read it again, found a typo:

I expect what you're not aware of whould fill several books, Dursley.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 22nd, 2005 05:55 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. That's what comes of typing out dialogue with one hand while holding the book open with the other. :)
sep12 From: sep12 Date: February 22nd, 2005 05:06 am (UTC) (Link)
OOOH I'm the first comment! YAY ME.

Well, Fern, this is the end (until HBP comes out, then you'll have a follow up, right?) and I have to say I am overwhelmed. You have created such a powerful story within the canon story that already exists, and it is simply amazing. I found you here after reading on SugarQuill. I had to come here you see, after I read the juicy goodness of the first chapter you posted there.

The characters were always in character, the fluff was very rarely fluffy, and you managed to create out of JK's core a lovely version that was entirely your own. Having Sirius back for just a little bit was wonderful. You gave us a realistic version of what his time at Grimmauld Place might have been like while Harry and Co. were away at school, and gave us a glimpse of what we might have enjoyed in HBP if JK didn't have her own agenda going on. ;) The relationship between Remus and Tonks was touching and so very natural and "real-life" like. So many people write Remus/Tonks as the wolf coming out, and Tonks beng irresitably attracted to the wildness, but you have made them the way I see them. Just as people in a relationship who happen to have some extra issues going on.

I thank you for sharing this with us and I will be looking forward to your future work.

Well Done.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 22nd, 2005 08:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad you came over, and that you've liked the story.
sep12 From: sep12 Date: February 22nd, 2005 05:08 am (UTC) (Link)
OK. When I started typing, I was the first. Someone beat me to it. Darn it.
thunderemerald From: thunderemerald Date: February 22nd, 2005 05:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. Just... thank you.
maidenjedi From: maidenjedi Date: February 22nd, 2005 05:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Fern, this has been a wonderful ride. Thank you so much for sharing Shifts with us!
kakegoddess From: kakegoddess Date: February 22nd, 2005 05:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Dangit, you made me cry. Words fail me; it was just beautiful. Thank you for the chance to read it.

I've become spoiled by your daily updates. I'm going to have a hard time finding another high quality fanfic to match this one.

harmonicalesson From: harmonicalesson Date: February 22nd, 2005 05:43 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm sad that this story is over, but this really was a wonderful ending. I've only read one other fic (and that's out of a lot) that can even compare to Shifts. It was just fantastic, from beginning to end. Thank you so very much. :D
kinderjedi From: kinderjedi Date: February 22nd, 2005 05:47 am (UTC) (Link)
*Sigh* How lovely. I'll miss checking for a Shifts update every morning. Of course, I'll just have to re-read it as you update at the SQ. :)

I was all over the place when reading the epilogue- first tears threatened over the marker for Sirius, which was perfect. Then later I found myself laughing out loud at Moody's insistence about going along to meet the Dursleys as a "friendly sort of face."

If I tried to list all my favorite parts I'd be here all night, so I'll just mention this one:

A part of him wanted to ruffle Harry's hair, or perhaps hug him, but he wasn't sure yet what Harry needed from him, so he settled for smiling at him.
I was rooting for the hug, personally, but then I remembered that wouldn't be canon. Maybe JKR will oblige in HBP- Harry needs Remus, and he needs Harry.

Some small things I noticed:
There was no body to bury, no grave to dig,

"Yeah. About how he's treated when he's at your place."

And one timing thing- at the meeting in the twins' shop, Remus says the Hogwarts Express returns the next morning, but then a paragraph or so later you wrote that it was scheduled to arrive at 3 o'clock.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 22nd, 2005 05:51 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, that's an oops! (Caused by much dithering over how to do the chapter.) Good point.
rainingtulips From: rainingtulips Date: February 22nd, 2005 06:50 am (UTC) (Link)
I've been reading Shifts for a while now, but I've never commented. Seeing as this will be my last real chance, I want to tell you how absolutely wonderful this story is. You do an amazing job of depicting the characters in a realistic fashion, and you always leave me wanting more. Thank you.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 22nd, 2005 08:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for commenting!
sixth_light From: sixth_light Date: February 22nd, 2005 06:57 am (UTC) (Link)
*sighs* So it's over. I know all good things have to come to an end, but why did this have to come to an end now?

There are a lot of things I could say about this fic, but they pretty much come down to one thing: this is the only HP WIP I've been following properly for months, and losing that daily peek into Remus and Dora's lives is going to be like losing an old friend. You've made so many things seem like canon even when they're not; if it turns out Remus wasn't teaching at Smeltings, I'm probably going to think JKR got it wrong. The style, the plot, the characterisation...it's all been perfect, and the interactive nature of a story posted on a LJ has made it even more fun. Thank you for a wonderful, wonderful story. And please - keep writing.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 22nd, 2005 08:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
The interaction is definitely what keeps it fun for me as a writer. The comments have been great to get up to every morning.
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