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Shifts, Chapter Four: Guardians, part 1 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shifts, Chapter Four: Guardians, part 1
Okay. Here goes. I do need to admit that I've made a big error in canon logic, so there may be some dancing around, but probably not in this chapter.

Table of Contents and Summary so far

At the end of Chapter 3, Remus, after spending all day with Dora and the Garveys, comes home to find an excited Sirius sitting on the stairs with a letter from Harry.




Hedwig leaned over and sniffed Remus again, then looked at him without any interest whatsoever and flew back to Sirius's side. She leaned over the parchment he was reading--probably re-reading--as if trying to puzzle out what Harry had said.

"Well?" Remus asked, tapping himself with his wand to break the various appearance charms he'd used all day. He couldn't feel anything when his hair went from white to speckled brown, but the beard and mustache disappeared with a quite tangible itch. He pulled off his glasses and scratched his chin. "What does he say?"

Sirius straightened up and flapped the parchment importantly. "Dear Snuffles," he read aloud. "Hope you're okay, the first week back here's been terrible. I'm really glad it's the weekend."

"That doesn't sound like Harry. Isn't he usually rather glad to get back to school? What's happening there?"

"Oh, it gets better," Sirius said. "We've got a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Umbridge--"

"Umbridge?" Remus repeated, unable to help interrupting, bile rising up quite unexpectedly after the pleasant day. "Dolores Umbridge?"

"He doesn't say her first name. He says, She's nearly as nice as your mum."

"That about sums it up." Remus pulled off the sport jacket he'd been wearing and pulled a robe out of the wardrobe. "If it's Dolores Umbridge... teaching!"

"Your class, too, mate."

"That bloody... woman... is the reason I couldn't take the position back no matter how desperate Dumbledore was. He asked me. But it turns out this... Umbridge... pushed through a bit of legislation after our misadventure two years ago. I could stand it if she'd just said, 'Remus Lupin isn't responsible enough to teach'--I wouldn't like it much, but I could understand it--but she didn't. She's made it all but impossible for any werewolf to work anywhere in the wizarding world. I couldn't get a job clipping the hedges at Hogwarts." He shook his head, some of the sudden anger dissipating into guilt. "I'm not a very popular member of the pack, as you might have guessed."

"That wasn't your fault."

"I didn't take the Wolfsbane Potion."

"All right, that was your fault." Sirius shrugged. "But even if you'd eaten someone that night--which you didn't--that doesn't mean anything about anyone else."

"That's true enough." Remus pulled on the robe and tossed his glasses into a drawer in the roll-back desk. "Which is why Dolores Umbridge has no business teaching anything, let alone Defense Against the Dark Arts. Her notion of Defense is pushing some paper around at the Ministry."

"Mmmm. Do you want the rest of Harry's letter?"

"Yes. Right."

"She's nearly as nice as your mum," he read again. "I just like that part. Anyway, he goes on. I'm writing because that thing that I wrote to you about last summer happened again last night when I was doing a detention with Umbridge. We're all missing our biggest friend, we hope he'll be back soon. Please write back quickly, Best, Harry."

"Last summer... did he mean the letter about the scar?"

"Yes. It's the only one I got. I was actually surprised he didn't write to you about it. You're the Dark Arts specialist."

"You're his guardian," Remus said quickly, willing himself not to say, So was I--Sirius was Harry's guardian, and it was right and proper that Harry should have written to him. Remus was just a teacher. It was better that Harry had switched his affections so quickly. "So he's saying that it's bothering him again?"

"That would be my take." Sirius grinned. "Did a pretty good job disguising it, didn't he?"

"Excellent. He's a natural." He sat down in the desk chair. "I think we should tell him--well, you should tell him--not to worry so about it. With Voldemort back from the dead, it's going to happen a lot. I don't want Harry to spend the year panicking."

"Good point."

"Is the last bit about Hagrid, do you think?"

"Definitely. But they shouldn't draw attention by asking questions. I haven't heard anything. Have you?"

"Not for weeks."

"I'll check on that while you're howling at the moon tomorrow. It'll give me something to do." He gave Remus a vaguely reproachful look.

"I'm sorry," Remus said. "It is going to take all day to get things ready. We'll figure out how to code a letter back to Harry on Monday. Or we could talk about it at the meeting tonight..."

"Oh," Sirius said, producing another piece of parchment that he'd been sitting on. "Cancelled. None of the Hogwarts staff can make it and no one else has anything to say."

Remus found himself slightly disappointed, but he said nothing. Sirius's contemptuous treatment of the letter was enough to tell him it was a sore spot. "Well, then," he said, "we'll work on a letter to Harry between us on Monday."

"I thought I'd just talk to him in the Gryffindor fire. I did that last year, and--"

"Are you mad? With a Ministry official working there?"

"There's no way to answer this in code, Remus. It won't take long, and I'll make sure he's alone in the room--"

"Sirius, that's an insane idea. I know you're bored, but--Oh, damn. Another owl."

The owl, which had apparently been shoved through the floo network, flew up from the kitchen stairs. It fluttered officiously over to Remus and dropped a piece of parchment on the floor in front of him.

Remus picked it up. It was hastily scrawled with an official Auror's seal. Not Dora's handwriting, but Kingsley's. He opened it.

Remus, it read. Called in for an extra shift, can't very well explain that I have to guard the Department of Mysteries. Tonks already on duty. Molly has done three nights and must sleep. Arthur has a meeting in the morning. Dung claims 'business meeting.' No Hogwarts staff at liberty. Guard needed. Reply immediately.

"I'll go," Sirius offered.

Remus shook his head and didn't bother to answer. "No. My excuse is thin if they catch me, but at least I'm not wanted for anything."

"What excuse could you possibly have?"

"Tomorrow's a full moon. I could say I accidentally came a day early for my 'voluntary' testing and got a bit turned around in the dark. It's no weaker than Molly's, but hard to disprove. They'd know I was up to something, but wouldn't be able to pin anything on me."

"What about Bill Weasley?"

"His shift is tomorrow night."

"Right."

"I'm sorry."

Sirius shook his head and waved a hand listlessly. "I am, too. I just haven't talked to anyone from the Order all weekend. Go on. I'll just play cards with Kreacher. Or have a good row with Mum."

"Or you could just mope in the dark and throw dead rats to Buckbeak."

"That idea has its charms as well." He grinned. "I'm fine. Go ahead. Sit at the Ministry and wait for nothing to happen."

Remus sighed. Ted Tonks was right--Sirius was slipping in a lot of fundamental ways without having a support system around him. He'd never been especially stable, but since he'd moved back into Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, he'd gotten a desperate edge to his mood swings that Remus didn't like at all.

Monday. He'd get Dora and Kingsley over, and Dung. And, if was even remotely possible, Andromeda and Ted.

But the weekend was impossible. He shouldn't have gone to the Garveys, but it was too late to change that now.

"Look, I'm going to have to go now, and I'll have to go straight to the shack in the morning. I'll be back after work on Monday."

"Right."

"Don't do anything mad, all right?"

"Me?"

"No Gryffindor fireplace."

Sirius looked at him blankly, then stood up with some dignity. "I know Dumbledore told you to move in here to look after me--don't bother denying it. But you're not my guardian. Don't forget that." He turned and disappeared up the stairs.

Remus thought he should follow, but in the end, he had to leave.

ETA: Changed chapter title
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Comments
thunderemerald From: thunderemerald Date: June 13th, 2004 11:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Mm. I do love the dynamic you've set up between Remus and Sirius. There are so many slashfics about them nowadays that it's really difficult to find ones that explore their friendship!

Also interesting was your semi-hidden commentary about how Remus seems to feel that Harry has dumped him for Sirius, in a way. I'd never really thought of it like that before.
dipsas From: dipsas Date: June 14th, 2004 02:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Loved this one, too. Saying it is a bit repetitive, but you do write Lupin amazingly well. The way he jumps from feeling slightly hurt that Harry didn't write to him to justifying it with a 'it's really all better this way' seems very much like him, as does the final line "he thought he should follow, but in the end, he had to leave."
However, being picky, I wonder if Kingsley wouldn't be more careful and avoid naming the Order members in his letter, even if he's putting his own Auror seal on it. I felt it stood out a bit placed so close to the quotes from Harry's cautiously worded letter.
Every new chapter of Shifts is a treat...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 14th, 2004 03:51 am (UTC) (Link)
The Kingsley business will be addressed in the next section, promise. :)

Glad you liked.
ajaxbreaker From: ajaxbreaker Date: June 14th, 2004 04:38 am (UTC) (Link)
I've been following this fic faithfully since its beginning, and just thought it was time I let you know how much I really love it. Your Remus is just great, as are your Sirius and Dora. I especially like your depiction of Sirius' downward spiral.
Remus reflecting about how Harry seems closer to Sirius is a particularly poignant moment. It's hard not to sympathise with him, he and Harry were pretty close during the year Remus was teaching at Hogwarts, but Harry hardly thinks of Remus after the latter resigns. I would also feel a bit jealous, if I was in his place.
I've friended you, btw, hope you don't mind. You might know me, I'm Ajax from the Sugar Quill.
From: anatomiste Date: June 14th, 2004 07:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Hedwig leaned over and sniffed Remus again

Just so you know, birds don't really have much sense of smell.

"She's nearly as nice as your mum," he read again. "I just like that part."

Hee!

This is such a cool story.
From: anatomiste Date: June 14th, 2004 07:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Hedwig leaned over and sniffed Remus again

Birds don't have much in the way of a sense of smell, I think.

"She's nearly as nice as your mum," he read again. "I just like that part. Anyway..."

Hee!

This is such fun to read.
From: anatomiste Date: June 14th, 2004 07:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Hedwig leaned over and sniffed Remus again

Birds don't have much in the way of a sense of smell, I think.

"She's nearly as nice as your mum," he read again. "I just like that part. Anyway..."

Hee!

This story is such fun to read.
From: anatomiste Date: June 14th, 2004 07:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Hedwig leaned over and sniffed Remus again

Birds don't have much in the way of a sense of smell, I think.

"She's nearly as nice as your mum," he read again. "I just like that part. Anyway..."

Hee!

This story is such fun to read.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 14th, 2004 02:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
*sigh*

It makes me sad to watch Sirius going down the slippery slope even though (especially because) I *know* that's how it must have been. His manic-depressive behavior was tough to read even the first time through, when I didn't know what the end would be. Through Remus' eyes it's that much more poignant because he can read Sirius so much better than Harry can.

*sigh*

I'm tempted to say 'Bring Dora back in for some comic relief!!' but looking forward to the suckage that this weekend/monday is going to be for Remus, I'm doubting that much relief is possible in the immediate future.

~Canopus
sophonax From: sophonax Date: June 14th, 2004 07:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Kingsley's letter: awesome, another pun on the title!

I really love the way you have Sirius and Remus interacting; I'm not sure how much they got to see each other during the course of GoF, but it's wonderful the way you show them just getting back into an easy, unabashedly emotional relationship after so many years of bitterness, but it's obvious the old closeness was never really gone. Made me even sadder for Peter...he is going to show up in this story, right?

The only thing that struck me as off was this paragraph here:

Sirius was slipping in a lot of fundamental ways without having a support system around him. He'd never been especially stable, but since he'd moved back into Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, he'd gotten a desperate edge to his mood swings that Remus didn't like at all.

It's extremely expository, and pretty obvious to anyone who just reads the story and sees the wonderful way you show Sirius turning over the idea of the Gryffindor fire in his mind...so hopeful, but so scary, because we all know it won't end well. You can probably cut the whole bit with no loss in meaningfulness...it's obvious how concerned Remus is.
mafdet From: mafdet Date: June 14th, 2004 10:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yay for a fic that shows Remus and Sirius as just good friends! It really is getting harder and harder to find these days, especially after PoA. Poor Sirius, he really is slipping, and resentful. And I liked the description of how the facial hair charm itched when it vanished. :)

Being very tired and having had a discussion about the PoA movie earlier, when I first saw your first line "Hedwig leaned over and sniffed Remus again" I read it as "Hermione leaned over and sniffed Remus again..." before I caught myself. Hee.
From: pandora_hyde Date: June 15th, 2004 11:51 am (UTC) (Link)
Fern,

This bit was absolutely brilliant. Your voice was back, the action moved, you left me wanting - yes - more. I've gone and downloaded the previous chapters so I can read slowly and offline - not someting I do for fanfic, so that's saying something.

You worked in the anti-disguising spells quite gracefully, that was a good reminder and I, for one, appreciate it!

Your details are spot on. Naturally people do other things whilst talking, a good author *shows* us those things.

Remus's jealousy (ever so slight) is not something I've considered or read about before -- very clever and entirely possible. Hmmmm.

Sirius' madness. JKR did *not* show it as she should have and good job you're filling in the bits. It occurred to me during my second viewing of PoA the Movie that Azkaban had indeed unhinged canon Sirius, which is the reason Remus lived with him. (And, in fact, the reason Dumbledore sent him straight to Remus after Goblet of Fire.) So there all of you slash shippers! I'm glad you're writing his madness, tho, it does help with the grieving process. *sob*

Remus & Sirius's exchanges in all your chapters have been delightful, but this one is just SO ON - particularly the comments at the end, I can just hear it.

All right, now for the bad news.

Hedwig sniffed... well, I'm just not sure about that either and even if owls *do* sniff, having your reader wondering whether or not they sniff is probably not the best way to begin the chapter. Hedwig hoots dolefully an awful lot, it might be a safe bet there. It'll be a lot less distracting, anyway.

"That bloody... woman... is the reason I couldn't take the position back no matter how desperate Dumbledore was. He asked me. But it turns out this... Umbridge... pushed through a bit of legislation after our misadventure two years ago. I could stand it if she'd just said, 'Remus Lupin isn't responsible enough to teach'--I wouldn't like it much, but I could understand it--but she didn't. She's made it all but impossible for any werewolf to work anywhere in the wizarding world. I couldn't get a job clipping the hedges at Hogwarts." He shook his head, some of the sudden anger dissipating into guilt. "I'm not a very popular member of the pack, as you might have guessed."

Except for the 'bloody', I'm not sure we saw Remus angry there. Granted, he's rather Zen-like ordinarily, still, until you said 'sudden anger' I'm not sure it came across as such. All we need to see is a fist clench or a dark look cross his face - something out of the ordinary. For Sirius to say (in OOtP) "You should hear Remus talk about her..." well, it must be a bit more than 'bloody' and a quick recovery. I want to hear Remus really talk about her, if you know wot I mean.

And while I've got your eye, can you tell me how important it is that your Tonks be Dora. I'll admit that it *is* a distraction to have her as Dora in your fics and Tonks in canon.

Another delightful one, Fern. I do eagerly await the next bit, when your muse strikes. ;)

~Pandora
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 15th, 2004 01:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, she's "Tonks" to everyone but Remus and Sirius. I just noticed that Remus doesn't seem to call her that and thinks it's a bit odd in canon, and if they're of her parents' generation, they're likely to think of her father as Tonks, not her. I note that Dumbledore, the one time he refers to her, does so by her full name. I suspect it would be very difficult for adults who knew her as a child (and probably knew Ted as a child) to call her by her sort of adolescent, Hogwarts-ish name. I'm not sure whether it's a question of treating her as a child (reverting to a childhood name) or treating her as an adult (using a name that's less schoolgirl-ish), but I can't see adults she grew up with calling her "Tonks." I certainly couldn't see her parents, who share the name, doing so.

So basically, it is significant in character terms that Remus doesn't use her "handle," which is so much a part of her particular phase of life and something she shares with at least two other people of his acquaintance, but instead uses a variant of her given name, which is uniquely her own. In a way, it's part of an almost condescending patience he has with her, "Oh, right... Nymphadora Tonks, who prefers to be known by her surname..." (Unspoken, "for some reason, but I'll humor her when I introduce her.") On the other, it implies a more permanent relationship.

It's constantly "Dora" here because we're in Remus's point of view; if we were in Tonks's, she'd probably call herself "Tonks." In the other Dora stories I'm doing, she's just made the switch, so hasn't internalized it yet; by the time I get to "The Gray Eyed Boy," she perpetually thinks of herself as "Tonks." I'm hoping she'll outgrow it.
From: pandora_hyde Date: June 15th, 2004 07:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, she's "Tonks" to everyone but Remus and Sirius. I just noticed that Remus doesn't seem to call her that and thinks it's a bit odd in canon, and if they're of her parents' generation, they're likely to think of her father as Tonks, not her. I note that Dumbledore, the one time he refers to her, does so by her full name. I suspect it would be very difficult for adults who knew her as a child (and probably knew Ted as a child) to call her by her sort of adolescent, Hogwarts-ish name.

Well I just scanned through OOtP and I do believe you're right. The Weasley's call her Tonks but, as you said, they don't appear to know her family and for all I know last names may be de rigueur at the Ministry.

Funnily enough, as I scanned through (it's an adobe acrobat version of the book, which makes word search easy) I noticed how Lupin and Tonks are mentioned together nearly each time either is mentioned. They stand together often, eat breakfast together twice, share burdens such as carrying Harry's trunk and locking the doors,escort the children, etc. There certainly seems to be more than a nod (on JKR's part) at the two of them as somewhat of a pair.

So basically, it is significant in character terms that Remus doesn't use her "handle," which is so much a part of her particular phase of life and something she shares with at least two other people of his acquaintance, but instead uses a variant of her given name, which is uniquely her own. In a way, it's part of an almost condescending patience he has with her, "Oh, right... Nymphadora Tonks, who prefers to be known by her surname..." (Unspoken, "for some reason, but I'll humor her when I introduce her.")

Yes, I caught that right off. I could almost hear the wry smile when he said, "who prefers to be called by her surname only". :)

Your explanation was most satisfactory, I do understand your reasonings and agree that it fits with your storyline. Thank you very much for taking the time to explain it.

by the time I get to "The Gray Eyed Boy," she perpetually thinks of herself as "Tonks."

Oh, the Grey-Eyed Boy? Do tell!!

Kindest Regards,

~Pandora

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 15th, 2004 09:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
I noticed how Lupin and Tonks are mentioned together nearly each time either is mentioned.

So it's objectively true and not just my weird perception. Yeah, I thought I caught that, and at one point, she even has the clueless Harry note it with a casual "Lupin and Tonks accompanied them again" (emphasis mine). Whatever she means by it, it does seem to be deliberate. Their introductions to Harry are parallel scenes as well (he's in the dark, frightened, and suddenly a voice he's never heard before speaks, and then there's magical light), though that might not be deliberate.

"The Gray-Eyed Boy" is about Tonks and Cedric at Hogwarts, flashing back and forth to the Monday after the Triwizard Tournament, when Tonks finds out that he's dead. (She'd been a sixth year Hufflepuff when he entered, and had befriended him.) I've been working on it on and off for awhile--the gist of the story is her deciding to work for the Order.
hydropen From: hydropen Date: July 20th, 2011 11:15 am (UTC) (Link)
I never thought about it but it makes sense that Lupin would become slightly jealous that Harry wants to talk to Sirius more than to him.
I really love how you write their interactions.
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