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Shifts, Chapter 12: Substitutes, Part 3 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Shifts, Chapter 12: Substitutes, Part 3
Totally out-of-character baseball-fangirling out of the way, I'll get back to what I actually sort of know a little bit about. ;p

When we left Remus, he had gotten a bit of a lecture from Joe Levinson about his failure to get involved in the life of Smeltings. This was on the heels of Sirius telling him that he'd been acting like "substitute godfather" to Harry the year of PoA, leaving when the regular guy came back. He's a bit thoughtful about this.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

Before his afternoon classes, Remus walked over to the gymnasium, where the various upcoming athletic events were announced on one of the ubiquitous Smeltings pinboards. Football, next Wednesday. Fencing, Tuesday. Boxing practice and demonstration--that would be Dudley... no, that had been last night, they just hadn't taken it down.

There were major sports and smaller sports and some teams that seemed to play within the school, house to house (the Smeltings Houses were Iron, Copper, Steel, and Bronze), while others were scheduled to compete against other schools. He looked at the schedule uncertainly, not sure if he should just attend home games for several sports, or follow a single sport to all of its games. Hogwarts, really, had only had Quidditch, in terms of athletics.

And he had not, quite honestly, particularly enjoyed Quidditch.

He hadn't hated it, but he'd never understood James's fascination with the game, and as often as not, he would have rather been back in Gryffindor tower than shivering on the edge of the pitch while Peter and Sirius cheered enthusiastically.

A club, perhaps. He thought there was a dramatics club, and of course there was the history club, and Alan's medieval club. It occurred to Remus that those two clubs could potentially work together.

Neither of them is going to get you a whit closer to Dudley Dursley, he reminded himself. Don't forget why you've come here.

Remus consciously shoved the voice away. Keeping focused on Dudley didn't seem to do any particular good, either--Joe was right. None of the boys, including Dudley, would trust him if he seemed likely to bolt.

He hadn't taken on any clubs at Hogwarts, but his door had been open nearly all the time, and Harry had not been the only student to come through it. Ginny Weasley had been a regular visitor most of that spring. When she'd first seen him at Grimmauld Place, she'd nearly leapt down the kitchen stairs to throw her arms around him, then jumped back and clapped her hands while crowing "Professor Lupin!" which had made him madly happy, although he didn't normally allow his students to pummel him with affection (well, except for Dora, and honestly, that had never been a question of "allowing," per se; one might as well speak of "allowing" rain to fall). The Patil girls--whose mother was a distantly amiable acquaintance of long standing--and Lavender Brown had invited themselves to tea several times. Luna Lovegood had come to him with a notion to get a school newspaper started, but it hadn't come to anything. The Weasley twins had somehow intuited that he didn't mind their hijinks, and had mined his office with harmless tricks--quills that turned into squawking birds when he picked them up and so on--and Pansy Parkinson had enjoyed coming in to complain about the state of politics in the wizarding world, and describe what she intended to do when she came into power. It seemed to largely involve the enforcement of a social code that no one other than Pansy actually understood, but Remus was oddly touched by her willingness to include him, even provisionally, in her circle, despite the fact that he had been rejected soundly by both Severus and Draco Malfoy, whose opinions she valued.

It had all happened quite naturally; he'd made no decision to "become more involved" in the life of Hogwarts. The notion of fishing around for activities here seemed profoundly awkward. But the fact was, he had lived at Hogwarts. He was there on Saturdays and in the evenings, to meet his students in the corridors and talk with them in the Great Hall at dinner.

Remus was almost violently homesick.

"Mr. Lewis?"

He turned. Daniel Morse was standing beside him, grinning, wearing all white and carrying a play sword with some sort of ball on the end of it.

"Are you feeling better?"

"Quite a bit, thank you."

Daniel came over and stood beside him, scanning the notices with his lips slightly pursed. "Were you looking for something?" he asked.

"I thought, since I'm here, that I might like to come to some school events," Remus said. "There are certainly a lot of them."

"We all have to play a sport, even if it's just between the Houses. So there are a lot of matches." He looked up with guarded eagerness. "You could come to my fencing match on Tuesday, if you'd like. It's after dinner, at seven o'clock, here. It's just Copper House against Iron House, first level, and I'm not very good, and I suppose no one else really is either, and Mum says it's not much fun to watch people who don't really know what they're doing--she was a fencer at university, you know--but--"

"I'll be there."

Daniel stopped, the increasingly quick flow of words chopped off at mid-sentence. He blinked. "You will?"

"Count on it."

Daniel smiled brightly, as though he had been given a grand gift. Remus made a show of copying down all the information and promising to put it on the wall at home so that he'd be sure nothing got in the way, and he did, in fact, do so. Sirius frowned and asked exactly how much more time he was going to be putting into Smeltings rather than the Order of the Phoenix, but seemed to understand when Remus explained. Dora promptly checked her own schedule and was quite disappointed to find that she was taking a shift at the Department of Mysteries that night and couldn't attend. (At this, Sirius looked at her as though she had fully lost her mind.)

The Iron-Copper fencing match seemed to put a permanent wedge in the office door. Boys in the history club started, first tentatively but with increasing casualness, to tell him when their various events were, and he found himself watching Andrew Metcalf jump hurtles, Paul Freehof perform in a one-man play, Stephen Wells handily win a debate against another school, and Landon Fitz fumble his way through an interhouse football game. Dora delightedly joined him for this last, cheering Landon's team (Iron House) with gusto. Alan Garvey--a Bronze House alumnus who was cheering for the other team--came over after the game and mentioned the difficulty at finding the Lewises' home address to deliver Joe's fruit basket, and Dora promised on the way home that she would figure out something more clever than a Persuasion Charm.

A week later, she announced that she'd given up her Diagon Alley flat, moved her Charmed possessions back to her parents' home, and taken a Muggle flat above a book shop in West Kensington.

"Isn't that a bit extreme?" Remus had asked as Sirius got dinner in the Grimmauld Place kitchen.

"Well, it's not like I was ever home anyway. Between work, the Order, Mum and Dad, and you, I was only there for a few hours a night, and not doing much magic. I may as well sleep and not do magic at a more useful address."

"I'll help you with the cost..."

"I've got it. Granny Tonks left me a bit of Muggle money, and it's gotten a lot of interest. So she's got us covered. You should bring some of your things."


"You know... in case the Garveys or anyone else comes to visit, so that it doesn't look like I live there alone. Some ties, a suit or two, shoes... man things."

"You're going to have visitors?"

"Well, it's just rude to accept all of their invitations and never offer one."

"And you think they'll be checking the wardrobe?" Sirius asked, sitting down. "Nosy friends you're making."

"I'm not bringing my clothes over, Dora. I don't have that many."

"Fine. I'll borrow some of Dad's."

"I think you're over-playing it," Sirius grumbled. "The both of you. You're putting in more time on making up these people who don't exist than you spend here." He looked down at the table. "With the Order."

Dora grinned at him and ruffled his hair. "The Order can help us decorate tomorrow, if it can stand being Disillusioned and on a lead for a bit."

Sirius gave her a sheepish grin.

"I'm not sure that's a marvelous plan..." Remus started, but didn't bother to go further. "We should have talked about this," he said.

"I had to decide quickly. It's not that easy to find a flat, and if I hadn't taken it right then while the Persuasion Charm was working, the landlady would have given it to someone else."

The three of them made the trip to West Kensington the next day--Sirius transformed--and spent several hours creating a stage set real enough that Remus felt vaguely uncomfortable in it. Dora and Sirius spread out the photographs they'd taken in September while he visited the bookshop downstairs and bought several used paperbacks (and a battered hardcover or two) to stock a small set of shelves Dora had. He reluctantly used Dora's money, as his second check had also gone mainly to debts after Gringott's had converted it to wizarding money. Dora's cat--an ancient, graying tabby named Granny--spent the day sniffing suspiciously at the power outlets and giving her disgusted looks until Sirius picked her up and played with her for half an hour (after which she fell asleep contentedly in his lap while Dora and Remus finished hanging draperies in the front room). They got back to Grimmauld Place to find Kingsley Shacklebolt in the kitchen, furious and threatening to sack Dora if she took such a foolish chance with Sirius's security again. ("It's our jobs as well as his freedom if he's caught here, if that makes any difference to you!")

It turned out that someone had reported a sighting of him in the Home Counties--an erroneous one, but still a danger sign, as people were on the lookout--and Kingsley was more or less forced to lock the doors of Number Twelve on him, only grudgingly allowing him to go out to the courtyard garden after a thorough inspection of its concealment Charms. Andromeda Tonks was put under even greater surveillance, in case he tried to contact her, which made any further visits to Joe Levinson impossible. ("On the upside," Dora said, "Aunt Narcissa is finding other places to keep herself amused.")

Remus found himself at Smeltings for longer and longer hours. He took on sponsorship of the history club, and found himself involved in an elaborate examination of a series of disturbing Whitechapel murders in which the boys took an inordinate interest. They arranged a "Ripper dinner," in which they took turns acting out theories of the crimes, the "victims" dressing in frilly women's clothes borrowed from the dramatics club. Dora attended it, and confided on the way home that she was glad for the Statute of Secrecy, as it would entirely spoil their fun to know that the murderer had been a Dark Wizard who was caught and sent to Azkaban. She'd come across the file during her training.

The change wasn't at all gradual--it was as though the boys had been waiting for a sign that they could trust him, and they sought him out fairly eagerly... almost hungrily, he thought. Once his eyes were open, he saw it to be true with several of the teachers, even Alan Garvey, who tended to be short-tempered and impatient with his students. Remus had spent his own boyhood in a boarding school and seen nothing remotely like this level of need among the students, but here at Smeltings, it was a tangible thing, and it was as exhausting as it was exhilarating. The boxers, who had given their trust to Joe Levinson, were still distant and wary, but even after only three weeks, Remus could see a difference in them. There were no more dagger stares, and not as many conversations that stopped as soon as he entered the room. Dudley himself grew more sullen in his inability to tell everyone else just why he was holding back, but even there, Remus would sometimes see a tentative approach. So far, it was always followed by a quick withdrawal and a look of self-disgust, but on the whole, it was encouraging.

The time seemed to flow by in a slipstream, and sometimes Remus found himself forgetting that it was just a temporary assignment, that he wasn't Raymond Lewis, that he couldn't make plans that would materialize in another school year or two.

Whether he was completing his assignment adequately or not, he couldn't say. But he was considerably happier at it.

As October drew to an end, the weather became miserably damp and cold, and on Hallowe'en, a rowing match which he'd promised a third-former he'd attend was cancelled. He found himself with an unexpected free afternoon, and gone back to Grimmauld Place, not sure what else to do with himself.

When he got there, Sirius was sitting on the floor of the parlor, staring up at his battered family tree. A patch of material had been recently soaked, and its edges were smoking. On the floor below it was a shattered bottle of firewhiskey.

Sirius looked up at him accusingly, his eyes unfocused. He reeked of alcohol. "Oh, look," he said, his words slurred. "A stranger in the house."

I feel a bit...: blah blah

12 comments or Leave a comment
castaliae From: castaliae Date: October 20th, 2004 06:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Again you've completely captured boarding school. Often times the teachers who weren't the coaches were the most ardent cheer-ers whether it be at house games or interscholastic competition.

I have to wonder if Remus wouldn't rather stay on at Smeltings than head back into the wizarding world. It would be hard to return after what seems to be such a great experience.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 20th, 2004 09:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm so glad I'm getting boarding school somewhat believable! My experience is limited to Harry Potter, A Separate Peace, and Little Men. (Well, probably a few others, but those are the ones that really pop into my head. Dunno if Lord of the Flies counts.)

I think the thing--possibly the only thing--that would make Remus really pause about this position is that everything about his life is a lie in it. Sooner or later, that stress will have to get to him.
mylla From: mylla Date: October 21st, 2004 08:14 am (UTC) (Link)
I think the thing--possibly the only thing--that would make Remus really pause about this position is that everything about his life is a lie in it. Sooner or later, that stress will have to get to him.

That's why I thought he was holding back from getting fully involved in the school's life in the first place - he knew he wouldn't be able to keep it up permanently, so why get attached?

Of course, it's also true that this is probably the mentality he's always had towards just about everything in his life. I like your explanation for why he never kept in touch with Harry (that Sirius was the Real guardian), which I'd mildly wondered about without coming up with an answer. Within the wizarding world, although he doesn't have to lie about the magic, he still often has to lie about who he is - about his lycanthropy. Even at Hogwarts, where Dumbledore was entirely accepting, there was still concealment from the students and their parents. When in that situation, he must always have the feeling that the lies can't keep up forever, and it will all have to come to an end one day - and so it must really be habit for him to refrain from getting attached to any place or anybody.

In short, I like your characterisation, and the theme of substitutes you're raising in this chapter. :)
siegeofangels From: siegeofangels Date: October 20th, 2004 06:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Excellent. It's quite different stylistically from most of the rest of Shifts, in that it covers a lot of time, but it really works with how Remus is filling his days and entering this whole new life, and before he knows it, it's How It Is, and Sirius is having a meltdown.

And I really love how you've treated Pansy here. Hooray for the not-evil but still ambitious Slytherin. Only: "describe what she intended to when she came into power." Should there be a do in there?

It's really interesting seeing Sirius' year here, given what we all know will happen at the end. It makes it all the more heartbreaking.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 20th, 2004 09:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oops, you're right. Missed a "to" in there.

sixth_light From: sixth_light Date: October 20th, 2004 08:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
FENCING! Woohoo! Daniel Morse, BTW, acts like a fencer. Intelligent and slightly barmy. :P

Nice change of style with the long period of time covered - Shifts doesn't drag, per se, but it sometimes startling to realise that it is still "only" October. I liked the mood of the ending - just settled into a sort of complacent happiness when, bam, we've got Sirius' problems to the fore again. Much like real life, problems show up when you're not expecting them.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 20th, 2004 09:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah... I tend to get caught up in incidents, which by necessity are a finite amount of time, and that gets me stuck in September for several months. ;)

It was definitely time to speed it up, and coincidently, OotP sped up at this particular segment as well.
malabud From: malabud Date: October 20th, 2004 09:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is just lovely. Remus is living a life he is growing to love, but at the possible cost of Sirius's sanity. (Of course, Remus doesn't know that.) Poor Sirius is stuck at home when he desperately needs to be the center of attention. And Dora is slowly working her way fully into Remus's life, until he won't be able to imagine her anywhere else. I fear for the future, however. When Sirius dies (which will inevitably happen, unless you decide to go AU on us), I hope Remus doesn't blame himself. He's the type that would.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 20th, 2004 09:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, to be upfront... definitely not going AU here.

Remus is in a bad position, with a lot of demands on him, and a lot of questions about where his priorities should lie. And, yes, he's the type that's likely to second guess any decision he makes.
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: October 20th, 2004 10:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think you convey that stress -- of conflicting demands, people who need you at work and at home, and feeling guilty about neglecting one or the other, what to do about it -- very well. I've been thinking about how precisely to balance home and lab, lately, so albeit with rather reduced stakes in my case, it echoes.
vytresna From: vytresna Date: October 21st, 2004 04:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
I thought you would end when they've just been warned by Snape and are preparing to go in. Bit later than that, then? Argh.
From: inyron Date: October 21st, 2004 09:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Another great section! The student's reaction to Remus getting involved was so sweet.

And I have a feeling I'm going to love the next part. But that may just be my strange love of asshole!Sirius talking.
12 comments or Leave a comment