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Shifts, Chapter Three, Part 1 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shifts, Chapter Three, Part 1
Note to self: Either forget to fill the antidepressant prescription or watch dead depressing movies on Lifetime just because Hayden Christensen has a single line in them. I don't recommend either, but really, if you must, self, only do one or the other. Kthnxbye.

Onward and upward.

Shifts
Table of Contents, and summary so far

We last left Remus in the hall outside his office, where he's found Dudley Dursley trying to pick his lock.




"Is there something I can help you with, Mr. Dursley?" Remus asked, deliberately making his voice as mild as he could. He raised an eyebrow.

Dudley jumped, the wire he was using on the lock skittering across the hall. Remus scooped it up.

"This operation is quite a bit easier with a key," he said, opening the door and gesturing Dudley inside. "I hope you were only looking for school supplies. Otherwise, you may be in for something of a disappointment." Remus sat down behind his desk.

Dudley stood resentfully in the doorway, but made no move to leave.

"Did you perhaps want help with your assignment?" Remus opened his briefcase and took out the files for Dudley's class. "I note that you didn't choose a topic for this week's essay. Did you want a suggestion?"

No answer.

"I'm told that our electronic equipment is somewhat subpar, though I can't vouch for that--"

Dudley's eyes narrowed.

"I know, it's a bit old-fashioned, not to be familiar with these things, but there you have it."

"You people think I'm stupid," Dudley said.

"I beg your pardon?"

"I know it's in here somewhere. Or do you carry it in that ratty briefcase of yours?"

Remus felt suddenly cold. "Mr. Dursley, do you need to see the school nurse?"

"You people think I'm stupid," he said again. "You. Harry. That woman last year. You think I'm stupid. That's a mistake."

"What woman last year?" Remus asked, his weariness disappearing into sudden, almost hyper-alertness. "Who do you mean, Dudley?"

Dudley glared at him, but didn't answer, apparently deciding that Remus was only pretending not to know, for some nefarious reason of his own. "I'm not stupid," he said, and turned to go.

"Mr. Dursley?"

"What?"

"I don't appreciate the attempted pilfering of my office. Detention. Three days, starting Monday."

"I have boxing practice."

"I'll speak with Mr. Baden. I'll see you in class tomorrow, Mr. Dursley."

Dudley frowned impressively. "You think you're so much better than we are, don't you?"

"No."

"Ten of you wouldn't be worth Mr. Levinson."

"Dudley, I don't know what you mean. And I'm not trying to replace Mr. Levinson, except in the most technical sense of filling his professional position."

Dudley just stood there for a moment, blinking. "You don't belong here."

"Dudley--"

"Don't worry. I never say anything."

With that, Dudley left, a queer sort of dignity about him.

You and Harry... and that woman last year...

That Dudley might guess that he himself wasn't what he seemed--and even that he was in some obscure way related to Harry--was disturbing enough in itself, and he would have to consult with Dumbledore about it. But "that woman last year"?

Who on Earth had Dudley spoken to? Molly Weasley had sent an odd letter to the Dursleys last year (according to Ron's account of Harry's account--he had given Remus the relevant information on the the Dursleys' home before they'd gone to rescue Harry--it had caused something of a stir), but surely that wouldn't account for such a level of resentment. Hermione, for reasons not entirely clear to Remus, had never visited. Arabella Figg?

Perhaps. She was a bit dotty, and she'd been there immediately after the Dementor attack--but that had been last month, not last year.

What other witch might he have met? Even little Ginny Weasley hadn't joined her brothers for any of their forays into Surrey.

Remus considered just Apparating to the Leaky Cauldron from here--Dora was on duty and wouldn't be able to drive--and catching a bus to Grimmauld Place. Allan Garvey led some sort of after school program that involved dressing in medieval armor and playing games, so he wasn't going to return to the office suddenly. If Dudley hadn't woken him up so thoroughly, he might have done it. But he was awake now, and a moment's thought convinced him that it would be a bad idea. Too much magic around Smeltings would be noticed, and furthermore, as Dudley had reminded him, people weren't complete fools. If someone took note of the fact that he left a closed office without opening the door, questions would be raised.

So he gathered up his things and walked to the spot in the woods that he'd chosen to Apparate from, and moments later, he was in the quiet corner of the Leaky Cauldron that had been set aside for the purpose. He got a few chilly looks from people who knew who he was--that werewolf who was sacked from Hogwarts, as they whispered before they bothered to see if he was out of earshot--but he ignored them, going out into the street and catching Muggle transportation across town.

When he got to Number Twelve, Sirius was engaged in a battle with his mother in the front hall. It had deteriorated into nothing but mutual name-calling--where it was as likely as not to have started, Remus supposed--but he still had to wait through several volleys before Sirius grabbed the other curtain and helped him shut the old bat up.

"Tell me the truth, Sirius," he said.

"What?"

"Did you actually open those curtains deliberately?"

"Don't you ever just want to have a good old-fashioned row with someone?"

"Not especially."

"Liar."

"You do realize that you're not actually going to change the portrait's mind about anything? It's somewhat frozen in time."

"So was Mum." Sirius shrugged. "It's just too quiet in here all day, after you're off to Smeltings. Dora comes by to set up your Potion, but she can't stay long."

Remus grinned. "You could always talk to Phineas Nigellus. I remember how well you liked sharing a room with him as a child."

"Right." He sniffed dismissively. "Would've been nice if Mum and Dad had got around to having a portrait of Regulus done. There's someone I wouldn't mind a row with. I'd tell him a thing or two, stupid little git, getting himself killed..."

Continuing to mutter about his younger brother, more than ten years in his grave, Sirius wandered off toward the kitchen. Remus followed.

While they were cooking supper, Mundungus Fletcher happened by, and before they'd set it out, Kingsley Shacklebolt had joined them. Delighted, Sirius set out more places, and the four of them spent the meal discussing the situation at the Ministry, the so-far fruitless attempt to flush Voldemort into the open, and the sad lack of Molly Weasley's cooking at unplanned meetings.

Dung wasn't cleared to know about the Smeltings assignment, so Remus wasn't free to talk about it until after the pudding, when Dung ran off, claiming an important business arrangement. As soon as he was gone, Kingsley looked at Remus. "How have things been going?"

"Dudley Dursley suspects I'm a wizard."

Sirius pulled a face. "Dudley Dursley? Harry and the Weasley boys all say he's a dimwit."

"I'm not entirely certain that's true. Not after speaking to him. He's not as bright as Harry--next to Harry, he's a dimwit, and I'm certain it didn't take either of them long to figure that out--but I'm not convinced that he's objectively stupid."

"It's unfortunate," Kingsley said. "There are always Memory Charms, but trying to monitor immediate Muggle relatives is too complex an operation. We'll simply have to trust in Dudley's aversion to discussing it. Which, to be honest, is magically enhanced."

"And the likely disbelief of his friends," Remus said. "But he said something else that concerned me. He said that there was a woman, last year--someone who he grouped with Harry and me."

Kingsley swore under his breath. "I thought the issue of the Dursley boy was just playing it safe."

"I thought we were assuming it would be Peter," Sirius said.

"Well, there's Polyjuice Potion," Kingsley said.

Remus shook his head. "It's possible. But I think we should take into account the possibility--probability--that anything Peter knows is open to anyone in Voldemort's hierarchy. Harry didn't see any women in the graveyard, but we know there were women involved."

"Bellatrix is still in Azkaban," Sirius said. "Where I hope the Dementors are treating her to their very best nightmares twenty-four hours a day."

"She wasn't the only one. We never identified any of the others, but you know as well as I do that there were too many witches mentioned by witnesses to all be accounted for by Bellatrix." Kingsley rubbed the pate of his head and looked at the fire. "And according to Harry's story, Voldemort only mentioned two of his supporters in Azkaban, even though we know of at least fifteen who still appear loyal, ten of them quite vicious. So he wasn't accounting for everyone."

"Do you have anyone in mind?"

"There is, of course, the possibility that he's been recruiting. It couldn't have been someone young enough to be in school, if she was approaching Dudley during the school year, but other than that... I wouldn't limit our search to known associates."

"What about my cousin Narcissa?" Sirius asked. "I can't imagine her letting someone put a great, ugly tattoo on her pretty arm, but her opinions on the matter aren't exactly a well-kept secret."

"It's a thought. But you needn't suspect your family of every evil done in Britain." Kingsley stood up. "Which reminds me--not the evil part, but the family part--Tonks gave me these to give to you. Said you'd enjoy them. I did." He grinned and tossed a heavy paper envelope toward Sirius. It opened on the table, and several glossy photographs tumbled out of it. He waggled his eyebrows at Remus. "I must say, as tired as she was today, I was hoping for a somewhat more interesting story."

"I'm not even going to dignify that, Kingsley."

Kingsley pulled one of the photos from the stack. "I knew Tonks could act when she needed to. Didn't know it was one of your skills." He grinned and flicked the photo over to Remus. It landed on the table, face-up.

It wasn't one of the many posed pictures. It was the one Sirius had snapped of them when she'd woken him up.

Remus just blinked at it, not quite comprehending it. He hadn't looked into a mirror while Dora was standing nearby morphed, and he hadn't realized just how neatly she'd fit herself to him. They looked like...

Like...

He put the picture hurriedly back in the envelope.

He would have to have a long, serious talk with Dora Tonks.

9 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
malabud From: malabud Date: May 29th, 2004 12:15 am (UTC) (Link)
And so the plot thickens! Does this mysterious woman Dudley referred to have anything to do with the previous professor's illness and subsequent retirement? If so, why? I also like how this story neatly fills in canonical gaps without contradicting anything. For instance, the Order must have wanted Voldemort to come to the Department of Mysteries; otherwise a lot of their actions in OotP make no sense whatsoever. Also, Voldemort could not have named or included all his followers in the circle around Harry the night he returned in GoF. First, there's the fact that Order members were outnumbered twenty to one in the first war, according to OotP. Second, ten Death Eaters escaped from Azkaban. Those numbers could not be accounted for by the people in or missing from the circle at the end of GoF. I wait in great anticipation of the continuation of this story.
myf From: myf Date: May 29th, 2004 12:24 am (UTC) (Link)
I feel a tingle of pleasure every time the word 'Shifts' appears in bold on my flist. This fic is coming along so wonderfully, I'm thoroughly enjoying it. And we're being so spoiled by its frequent updates.

Honestly, Fern. Your writing turns me all fangirly. I don't thank you for that! *fangirls helplessly*

Just a note - when Kingsley's discussing who Voldemort has in Azkaban, there's a typo: vicious.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 29th, 2004 12:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Heh. At least I managed not to make them "viscuous."

(Going back to fix.)
(Deleted comment)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 29th, 2004 09:38 am (UTC) (Link)
That's almost at the end of the year. This is still before the big Azkaban breakout.
From: anatomiste Date: May 29th, 2004 07:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Heeee more Shifts! This is so much fun to read.
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 29th, 2004 07:09 am (UTC) (Link)

from Sreya

"Would've been nice if Mum and Dad had got around to having a portrait of Regulus done. There's someone I wouldn't mind a row with. I'd tell him a thing or two, stupid little git, getting himself killed..."

For whatever reason, I found this line heartbreaking. I honestly teared up at it. It really emphasizes just how alone Sirius is, not only in the house all day but in general, with his family gone, and even his memories of his loved ones (and I do think that he loved his brother, annoying as the boy may have been) are tainted by the previous war.

Continuing to love your portrayal of Dudley. I liked Remus's distinction, that while next to Harry he's a dimwit, Dudley isn't objectively stupid. Not sure whether Rowling would agree with him, but it is such a REMUS sort of thing to note.
wm_law2003 From: wm_law2003 Date: May 29th, 2004 07:40 am (UTC) (Link)
Who's the woman? Is it Tonks? But Dudley wasn't there when they picked up Harry... Hmmm...

And what is Remus's problem with the picture? More hmmms
sannalim From: sannalim Date: May 29th, 2004 12:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
"That woman."

Rita Skeeter?
dipsas From: dipsas Date: May 30th, 2004 03:58 am (UTC) (Link)
You're setting the scene for R/T so carefully that it'll be extremely believable when you get there (whether in Shifts or somewhere else). The final Kingsley-exchange establishes that it's an idea that might occur to people about them, even if Kingsley himself is just joking. Also, it was fun... On Dudley, I think you have him just right. Not knowing how to fight his supposed opponents but not willing to give it up all the same. And Big D landing himself in detention is very canonesque too...
9 comments or Leave a comment