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Shades, Chapter Sixteen: Interlude (4): Fade, pt. 2 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shades, Chapter Sixteen: Interlude (4): Fade, pt. 2
First, an apology--the cliffhanger on the end of the last one came off a bit more cliffie than I should have let it. jesspallas guessed it right off, but thought I wasn't doing something that hopeful... sorry! I really was. It was supposed to be the middle of a scene, but it was going on too long, so I left it there with Remus jumping and it comes off as a huge cliffhanger; in the finished chapter, there won't even be a scene break.

In the forest, Remus was on a hunt when Greyback and a Death Eater came to gather the wolves for an attack on someone. Greyback is unhappy that Remus wasn't there, and kicks in the door of his shed. The Death Eater implies that Remus can't be trusted anyway, and tells the children stories about what life will be like once they're free under Voldemort. He also promises little Evelyn many nice things and tells her she's pretty. Unfortunately for Greyback, Alderman was with the party that killed the forest warden last month and was already questioning when all of this came up, and Alderman has come to the realization that Greyback was probably in the same manic mood when he attacked each of the people there. He doesn't much like it. Finally, the children tell Remus that Greyback hit old Mag, the female werewolf who's sort of their mater familias. Remus uses going to check on her as an excuse to get out of the forest, Apparate to the Shrieking Shack (where he notices Tonks's housekeeping work), and tell Moody to send people out to protect the victim. He Apparates back (into the women's area of the forest) and nearly trips over a figure in dark robes and a Death Eater's mask.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




Remus jumped back and started to scramble onto the bank, reaching for the wand he'd left on the mantel at the Shrieking Shack.

The Death Eater in front of him screamed and splashed backward, pale arms flailing upward, small hands reaching toward the sky.

Very small hands.

Remus grabbed one of them. "Are you all right?"

"Where did you come from? You just popped right up there!" She pulled her hand away and stood up, seeming to rise from the water of the shallow arm of the pond. The too-long robes swirled around her feet, and the mask was tipped to one side. "Remus? Why are you here? You'll be in ever so much trouble if they come back and--"

"Sweet, take that mask off."

She raised her hand to the mask, but instead of taking it off, she straightened it. "No. The man gave it to me. To cover my scars, so people wouldn't call me names."

"There are worse things than scars. That mask is one of them. Take it off."

She pulled it away and looked at him resentfully, her good eye sullen, her scarred and blind eye somehow accusing.

"I'm sorry, Sweet."

"Greyback said he has a mask just like it and it looked right good on me."

Remus sighed and took the mask. The smart thing to do would be to backpedal. Give her back the mask, make a fuss over it, ease back into his role. It certainly wouldn't be outside of Greyback's moral standards to use the pups to spy on him, and he'd certainly get information out of Sweet if he thought she had it. He'd make her life very unpleasant.

He threw the mask out across the pond. It splashed and sank into the deep water.

A cold spring of frustration seeped up inside of him, familiar and wretched. He thought of the carefully cleaned up house in Hogsmeade, and of the shattered door of his shed. Small, simple things.

Unscarred faces.

He sat down heavily on a log. "I'm sorry," he said again. "You... you just startled me. That's all."

"Why do you hate them?"

"Who?"

"Greyback's friends. The man called Greyback stupid and said, 'I'd wager he hates you as much as he hates us, or maybe more.'"

"What did Greyback say to that?"

Sweet shrugged and sat down beside him. "He said he'd thank the fellow to only talk about what he knew about, and he didn't know anything about werewolves. The man laughed and said that Greyback had forgotten everything he knew about humans."

Some absurd and maudlin part of Remus insisted on feeling shame that he was betraying Greyback even as Greyback defended him. He could feel himself turning brick red and hoped Sweet wouldn't notice in the shadows. Greyback had no right to expect loyalty, even if he fully believed it was being given.

Again, his mind returned to the neat, straightened rooms in the Shrieking Shack. Clean windows, made beds, doorways free of cobwebs, floors innocent of their long-standing carpets of dust. A home for a man.

Not for what Greyback had made him.

He slammed his fist into the sharp bark of a nearby tree to push the thought away.

Sweet patted his arm tentatively. "I'm sorry I startled you."

"It's not your fault," Remus said absently.

She nodded uncertainly. "You... er... startled me as well. How did you do that? Just show up from nothing?"

"I Apparated. None too carefully, either."

"What's Apparated?"

"It's magic. One of the few things I can do without my wand." He sighed. "I don't suppose you would be willing to not share that with Greyback? That I can do that, I mean?"

"Sure. It'll be a secret. Is it hard to do? Could I learn?"

"You're not old enough. It takes a lot of practice with magic before you could begin to do it. And a lot of training." He wondered if Sweet would get her Hogwarts letter in two or three years, and what she would do if that happened. Would she even know that the letter addressed to Vivian Waters was for her? How would the other students react, seeing her come in with her poor mangled face and tattered charity clothes? If Greyback allowed her to come at all, of course. He wondered what had happened when Alderman's letter had come. He'd have been in Ginny Weasley's year, getting ready for his O.W.L.s instead of killing forest wardens. Remus thought of him prowling around during that troubled first year, daring the monster to attack him. And Hamilton ought to be starting this year, sitting in Minerva's class, trying to turn matchsticks into needles instead of puzzling his way through a paperback children's book. Had he got a letter?

Remus frowned, thinking of him sitting on the hillside... trying to puzzle out how to read.

He was suddenly quite certain that there was a letter hidden somewhere in the boys' cave, moldering away behind a rock, waiting to be read.

Anger seeped into this bones, and a part of him was suddenly aware of the closeness of the moon. A part of him craved it.

"Remus? What is it?"

He blinked, realizing that he hadn't spoken for quite a long time, and was staring at the ground between his feet. "Sorry."

"You never said why you hate them."

"I never said I did hate them."

"Why did you throw my mask away if you don't hate them?"

"I never said I didn't hate them, either." Remus gave her what smile he could muster. "And I wouldn't tell you if I did. You don't need the trouble you'd get if you were to start questioning Greyback's friends."

Sweet bit her lip. "I'll tell Greyback the mask was loose and it just fell off while I was swimming. Do you hate us?"

"What? What are you talking about?"

"You know--werewolves. Do you hate us?"

"That would be a bit self-defeating."

"He said you were fighting right on the side of people who hate us and want to lock us in cages and make laws saying we can't have jobs and such."

It was difficult to think, somehow. The moon. Too close to the moon. "Last year... I... well, I was fighting at the side of people who gave me a chance. They didn't like the Ministry's rules particularly well. And it was last year."

"Would they give me a chance?"

"I don't know, Sweet. I know they'd want to. I don't know if they'd be able to do it again."

She looked at her hands, and then spoke carefully. "Couldn't... well... couldn't Greyback's friends make them give us a chance?"

Remus tried to think of a way to answer her that wouldn't reveal his side and leave her in conflict with Greyback--some way other than simply lying to her. He couldn't think of one. "If Greyback's friends get what they want," he said, "there won't be anything to have a chance at. Everything that matters will be gone."

"That's not what he said..."

"I know it's not. And for heaven's sake, don't ask Greyback questions about it. Just nod a lot when he talks."

To his surprise, she giggled. "I've got that down quite nicely. I... shh."

Sweet leaned forward, listening, then slipped off the log. "I think that--"

The leaves rustled suddenly and Old Mag appeared. Both of her eyes were blackened and her nose was swollen and skewed. "Evelyn told me you wanted to see me," she said. "And I had a feeling you were here, even though she was going on about how you were just wandering around and looking for me. I've been checking the shore for twenty minutes. I saw something splashing over here. I told you that you mustn't come here. Sweet, you know better. You should have taken him away from here."

"I should have left when I realized where I was," Remus said. "It's not Sweet's fault. We just got talking."

"Talking or not talking, it's no never mind. Sweet, you get back right now." She looked at Remus, her lips pursed, as Sweet scurried off along the pond shore. "You, come with me. I'll lead you right out of here. You've no business around the girls this close to the moon."

"We always meet until nearly sunset!"

"In case you haven't noticed, it is nearly sunset, and you're in our area."

Remus glanced at the sky and was surprised to see the reddish-gold fringe around the clouds. The frustration and resentment disappeared, replaced by disgust with himself. He knew better. And yet somehow, the afternoon had got away from him, and he'd lost track of time before moonrise. "I'm sorry."

"Well, I reckon I'm old enough to be mostly safe for you if we don't move fast enough," Mag muttered, and led him down the path at a very quick pace. "Not that Fenrir has much care what would happen to me, anyway."

She got him to the stream that fed the pond. "Run upstream, as far as you can. That will get you to the gathering place, and maybe you can be quick enough to go back to your place."

"Are there humans..."

"It's the end of October," Mag said curtly. "And it's going to rain tonight. I feel it in my bones. The sane ones are long gone, and the mad ones still outside deserve any nastiness they run into."

"I--"

"They're all gone," Mag said. "And I'm not going to coddle you every time you get paranoid about them. Now, go."

Remus ran up the stream, feeling the moon now, racing against it. It was cloudy, and that would postpone things, but the days were shorter now. He felt a stitch in his side, stabbing at him.

At last, he heard the rush of a the waterfall and burst out into the clearing where Greyback held court when he was present. Three of the men were gathered there, but one look told Remus not to stay. One of them took a threatening step forward.

Remus skirted them widely and ran for his shed. He was barely out of the clearing when he ran full tilt into Alderman, crouched on the ground and gripping his stomach. "Not. Yet," the boy said, flicking his eyes up to the sky and forcing his head back down. "Cave. Lupin, cave."

Remus nodded.

Alderman lurched off through the darkening woods, following the path Remus had been dragged along twice. He doubled over beside a large rock and Remus could feel the moon above and he saw Alderman lace his fingers behind his neck, forcing himself not to look up, crawling on his elbows and knees.

Remus caught up, grabbing Alderman's arm, not allowing his eyes to wander upward for a moment.

Alderman dragged them forward, and soon there was the cave mouth, the boys gathered there, lying low with their faces to the ground. Two of them started to drag a rock across, even before Remus and Alderman got to them, and the two of them leapt inside as it closed off the fading light.

The pack ran together to banks of the underground lake, to the open area where the raging sky could be seen.

And waited.

And changed.
14 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: January 22nd, 2006 07:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Edit things:

The man said called Greyback stupid - obvious

floors innocent of their long-standing carpets of dust. A home for man. - a home for a man?

Talking or not talking, it's no never mind. - the "no never mind" threw me off... you may have meant it or you may be missing punctuation or you may have forgotten to take something out, I'm not sure...

Not-edit thing: I love the detail of Remus feeling irrationally guilty for "betraying" Greyback when he hears that Greyback is defending him. It's such a real, human reaction.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 22nd, 2006 07:30 am (UTC) (Link)
I got the first two. I'm thinking maybe the last is a regionalism that I never thought of as a regionalism. "No never mind" is what I meant to say, but I'm suddenly suspecting it's not a good phrase for the character. It means, "It's nothing to me whether you're talking or not talking."
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: January 22nd, 2006 07:57 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm familiar with it, but generally as "ain't no never mind" (possibly "don't make no never mind"), often followed by "to me." Usually when I'm being deliberately a little overcasual.... not sure how to put it. I thought it was a southernism. *grin*
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 22nd, 2006 10:15 am (UTC) (Link)

No never mind

Neither phrases would work for an English woman I think. It must be very hard, as an American, to write colloquial English, especially with characters who probably have a very regional accent and vocbulary (ie not standard received English) which I would guess applies to Mag. "it's all the same" or "what's the difference?" would work but don't seem to have quite the same meaning.

TDU (I remebered my name this time - hurrah).
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 22nd, 2006 04:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: No never mind

Yeah, Mag is definitely badly educated. "It's all the same" would probably work fine there.

At least I avoided the once-ubiquitous-here, "Same diff."
snorkackcatcher From: snorkackcatcher Date: January 22nd, 2006 11:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Cor, never thought about whether the kids would get Hogwarts letters (if they thought they were still alive?) A nice poignant detail, as is Remus' reaction to Greyback arguing that's he's trustworthy. Good to see some of the difficulties of his spy role.

What was Alderman doing out and about near the shed? Waiting for Remus specifically? Interesting if he was, as was the hostile reaction of the other adults when he turned up.

Couple of things: could Remus have Apparated instead of running at the end there? And "The pack ran together to banks of the underground lake" => the banks?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 22nd, 2006 04:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Cor, never thought about whether the kids would get Hogwarts letters (if they thought they were still alive?)

My guess is that if their names magically appear on a list when they're born, they'd magically disappear when they die (Hamilton's parents were flat-out lying when they said he'd been killed), so the letters would go out, and the owls would probably find them (judging by the way Hagrid was able to stalk Harry with letters addressed to his exact, specific location, there must be some spell that can identify locations). Of course, they can't read, so it's an empty gesture.

Alderman was definitely waiting for Remus. He hasn't had a good month much more than Remus has, actually.

Couple of things: could Remus have Apparated instead of running at the end there?

Yeah, but then there wouldn't be an exciting race against sunset. ;p

Seriously, as they're turning, I'd guess it's pretty hard to Apparate, and for various reasons I want to establish the timing as somewhat difficult.
olympe_maxime From: olympe_maxime Date: January 23rd, 2006 09:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oooooooooh, clue, clue!
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: January 22nd, 2006 01:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Why doesn't Remus just *tell* her she and Greyback are wrong? The one person who shows signs of turning...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 22nd, 2006 04:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
In the first three drafts of this scene (it took forever!), he did. But it just doesn't seem time yet. It's too close to him being completely beaten down.
olympe_maxime From: olympe_maxime Date: January 23rd, 2006 09:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nicely done! I am beginning to like this Mags, and the idea of the Hogwarts letter is truly intriguing. Now I'm fidgety and impatient to see Remus follow up on it.

And I could kiss you for not putting Remus in too much immediate danger with this person in the DE mask. :D
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 24th, 2006 04:02 am (UTC) (Link)
And I could kiss you for not putting Remus in too much immediate danger with this person in the DE mask. :D

Yeah, I'm sorry I worried everyone about him! It was always Sweet. ;)

And I realized I forgot to do something I meant to do in this section, so the interlude may go on for a couple more.
mrs_who From: mrs_who Date: January 27th, 2006 01:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
He wondered if Sweet would get her Hogwarts letter in two or three years, and what she would do if that happened. Would she even know that the letter addressed to Vivian Waters was for her? How would the other students react, seeing her come in with her poor mangled face and tattered charity clothes? If Greyback allowed her to come at all, of course.

Sob! :( I'm not sure if it was intentional, but you captured poignantly the plight of girls trapped in human trafficking. http://www.protest4.com/ Their loss of innocence, hovering on the outskirts of society yet their lives are so far removed from the childhoods of other girls as to be unrecognizable. The parallels were sad and eerie.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 27th, 2006 02:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
It wasn't intentional, but the parallel is there. Greyback certainly thinks of all of the pack as his property, and the females as a very specific kind of property.
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