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Shifts, Chapter 14: The Evans Temper, Pt. 3 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Shifts, Chapter 14: The Evans Temper, Pt. 3
Evening naps are nice. Though they're going to prevent the fandom post I was going to do about why Umbridge is offensive on an institutional level, as I'm not actually committed to do that. (And it wasn't going very well before I dozed off anyway.)

Will say one non-Shifts thing first. Lord, how I hate the most recent filming of Salem's Lot, with Rob Lowe. It's not the fault of the cast, but the script was so horribly, horribly done... it's not even one of those, "It wouldn't be so bad if it weren't pretending to be related to the book" things. It's just... terrible. That it had the nerve to paste some passages from the book into its narration just ticks me off.

Okay. That's off my chest.

Anyway, Remus et al just found out that Harry and the Weasley twins were kicked off the Gryffindor Quidditch team. They are all quite furious. I just realized that in the boxing match, I called the Headmaster of Smeltings "Smythe," which is a random name of friends of the Garveys who haven't been on stage, not "Blythe," which is the name I was using all along. Please forgive, and allow the poor man to revert to his "birth name."

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

It wasn't easy to sleep that night. Remus's mind kept roaming to Hogwarts, and he came close several times to simply flooing to the Common Room to check on Harry himself. He wasn't, after all, wanted for murder. He was, however, in the headquarters of an illegal organization, and the floos were monitored. He didn't know exactly how the Fidelius Charm would work if Umbridge grabbed hold of his head and was dragged back--there had to be some contingency, but he didn't care to test it and find out what it was.

On Sunday, Phineas Nigellus reported from Dumbledore, informing them that Hagrid had returned ("in somewhat sorry shape," Nigellus had commented), that there was nothing whatsoever that could be done about Harry's broom ("Perhaps the boy can keep his mind on his school work now"), and that no, he--Dumbledore--wasn't able to share the secret of the headquarters' location with Andromeda Tonks at the present time. "He failed to explain himself adequately on that count," Nigellus finished with a rather indignant sniff.

During the afternoon, Dora came over in a temper, waving a letter of resignation that she intended to tender to the Ministry over Umbridge's behavior. Kingsley Shacklebolt, already present to fill them in on a few more details about Hagrid's mission, tossed it into the fire and told her that he'd expect her in the morning. It was not, he reminded her, any time to call attention to them.

Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour joined them for dinner, which turned out to be a pleasant three-hour abuse of the Ministry of Magic and all of its works. By the time they'd put out the pudding (a lovely pastry Fleur had made, and bragged of having taught Molly to make--she seemed pleased to know a recipe that Molly didn't), Emmeline Vance and Hestia Jones had come. Sirius remained in a good mood for nearly an hour after the last guest left.

When Remus arrived at Smeltings on Monday morning to teach his second-form class, he found Blythe waiting in the corridor with a young man Remus didn't know, who was briefly introduced as "Mr. Gorm."

"He'll be taking your second and first form classes this morning," Blythe said. "The Dursleys should be here at any minute, and you did ask to meet with them." He herded Remus down the corridor toward the faux marble staircase. Remus waved distractedly at Daniel Morse, who was poking his head out of the door in a confused way, but that was all he saw of his class that day. "I should warn you," Blythe went on as they hurried down the stairs, "Vernon Dursley is somewhat irate."

"Will Dudley be there?"

"He'll wait outside."

Blythe rushed Remus into the school's lobby, then into the antechamber outside the Headmaster's office. Dudley Dursley was sitting on a wooden bench beside the door, a very thin, pinched-looking woman beside him, patting his shoulders and making an oversweet cooing sound. A huge man with a red face was pacing the narrow room until Blythe and Remus came in, at which point, he stopped and glared at them through beady eyes.

So these were the Dursleys. Remus tried and failed to imagine Harry living in the same house with them.

"Mr. Dursley, good morning," Blythe said. "This is Raymond Lewis, Dudley's history teacher. Mr. Lewis, Vernon Dursley, Dudley's father."

Remus nodded and extended his hand. Vernon Dursley didn't shake it. Remus waited to be presented to Petunia, but wasn't.

Blythe led them into the office, instructing Dudley to remain on the bench.

"Who do you think you are?" Vernon demanded as soon as the door was shut, quite loudly enough to carry through the oak.

"The Headmaster of Smeltings," Blythe said coolly, sitting down behind his desk. Any nervousness Remus had noted in the hall disappeared. "Please sit down."

Vernon didn't seem likely to do it, but Petunia had already taken a seat, and pulled on his hand. He sat heavily, the wooden chair creaking alarmingly under his weight. Warily, Remus took the only remaining visitor's chair, the one that he supposed was usually reserved for the student in question.

"I want my son back on that team," Vernon grumbled. "He's the Junior Heavyweight Inter-school Champion of the Southeast."

"A title which he earned with distinction," Blythe agreed. "But a boxer--even above other athletes--most be able to control his temper, and Dudley simply hasn't. He didn't have a clean record before this, and I'd ask you to look at what he did to Mr. Lewis's face."

Vernon and Petunia both glanced over, eyes flat, hateful, and rather empty.

"What did he do to make Dudley angry?" Vernon asked, turning back to Blythe. "Was Dudley defending himself from some sort of perversion? I hear about that sort of thing all the time, you know."

"Mr. Lewis's conduct is above reproach," Blythe said. "And if that had ever been in any doubt, Smeltings would not, I assure you, protect him. Your son attacked him for no reason whatsoever."

"You're lying," Petunia said, speaking to someone other than Dudley for the first time. Her voice was tremulous, her lips tight. "My Dudders wouldn't do that."

Blythe frowned, and looked like he was ready to produce Dudley's disciplinary file or some other such nonsense, which would only make the Dursleys more defensive. "He believed he was defending Joe Levinson," Remus said quickly.

"Levinson... his old coach?" Vernon asked, furrowing his brow ponderously and looking suspicious.

"Yes. He had a fainting spell while he was attending the match. Dudley apparently thought I was responsible."

Petunia frowned. "Why would he think that?"

"Which brings us to the other issue I want to discuss," Blythe said delicately, looking down at his desk, where he was lining up small brass tacks along the edge of the ink blotter. "Dudley's behavior has been... somewhat abnormal. I think he would benefit from--"

"MY SON IS NOT ABNORMAL!" Vernon interrupted, standing. "My son is... is... is the Junior Heavyweight Inter-school Boxing Champion of the Southeast!" he said again, waving his fist in the air in triumph.

"--from a visit to a counselor," Blythe finished, as though he had never been interrupted at all. He looked like he wanted to recommend that Vernon make such a visit as well, but didn't quite dare.

"MY SON ISN'T MAD!" Vernon pounded his ham-sized fist down on the table. "This school has gone markedly downhill since I attended and--"

Blythe stood up. "Mr. Dursley, perhaps you and I should speak alone for a moment. Mr. Lewis, will you take Mrs. Dursley and Dudley out onto the grounds? It's a lovely morning." He didn't look at Remus as he said this, instead staring Vernon Dursley down. "I will have my secretary get you in a moment."

Remus expected Petunia to object, but she didn't. She looked pale and very drawn.

He took her elbow and led her outside.

"I heard that," Dudley said, standing. "What, does he think my Dad's crackers now? Is that what he's on about?"

"I'm not sure," Remus said. "Let's go outside."

They went out into the cold sunshine--it was pretty, but not pleasant--and sat down on a half-frozen metal bench.

Petunia's mouth curled up bitterly, and for the first time, Remus saw a ghost of Lily in the sallow woman. Lily had not been habitually cynical, but when James had tried to tell her that no one would care if he, as a scion of a pure-blood family, married a Muggle-born girl, she had turned to him with this same odd, cold expression, the corners of her mouth forming the sharp edges of a reaper's scythe. Petunia's face wrinkled naturally along its lines--it was obviously not an unusual expression for her. "So," she said. "Did Dumbledore send you, or are you meddling on your own?"

Remus glanced around quickly, and kept his voice low. "I was sent to look after Dudley."

"He's making Mr. Levinson ill," Dudley said. "He wanted to come here and spy on me, so he made him ill, and he did it again at the match. I saw him."

"I'm not here to spy on you," Remus said. "I'm here to protect you, since the protections on your home don't extend to you here." He looked at Petunia. "I imagine I made several mistakes that Dudley noticed. How did you know?"

"My son isn't mad," Petunia said coldly. "If he believed you made Levinson faint, then he must have had a reason for it. And I know your sort. You think you can just manipulate normal people whenever you please."

Dudley shifted uncomfortably.

"I have nothing to do with Joe's illness. We didn't realize it was a Curse until I got here."

"Of course not."

"I know you've been told about Voldemort's return--"

"Are you one of his? Going after the rest of my family?"

"No. I'm here because we worried that someone might think of you, and think of Dudley as an easy way to--"

"HARRY??" Petunia finished, her eyes flaring open. "Of course. Oh, of course. It's not about looking after Dudley. You're just afraid that he might accidentally lead someone to your precious Harry Potter, aren't you?"

"Well, that's not the sole reason. We want to help."

"Oh, really."

"Of course."

She pressed her tongue up against her teeth, causing her thin lips to push outward, then released it in a pointed, tsk. "Then tell me something, will you?"


"Why weren't you around to keep that old Jew from being cursed?"

"What do you mean?"

"You said it yourself. You didn't even know he'd been cursed. Got that second hand. Because of course, he had nothing to do with my sister's brat. So he didn't warrant your attention at all."

If Petunia hadn't insulted Harry in the course of the sentence, Remus would have agreed with her--it had been a failure of law enforcement that no one had noticed such a powerful curse, and the magical community did tend to be isolated, although it had its reasons. But after all she'd done to Harry--locking him in his room, using him as a household slave for all intents and purposes, hurling things at him, cutting him down verbally--hearing her call him a brat and claim that he was lavished with the very attention she allowed him to starve for made it impossible for him to agree with anything she had to say.

"Someone," he said tightly, "really ought to be looking after Harry at some point."

She gave him an inscrutable look, then looked at Dudley. "Dudders, I want you to tell me, right away, if he does anything he oughtn't. No pig's tails or swollen tongues or waving his wand at you to make you... do things." She shuddered, and Remus wondered if Lily had played a magical prank or two when she wasn't supposed to. "Don't bother with a letter. Call me on the telephone. I might not be able to say what he really did, but I could cause him enough trouble that they'd run a check on his history." She gave Remus that cold, scythe-smile again. "And that wouldn't be good for you, would it?"

Blythe's secretary came out of the school and scurried over to them, rubbing her bare arms against the chill. "You may all come inside now," she said, then ran back in without waiting.

Vernon Dursley was still harumphing in Blythe's office when they got there, but he'd stopped shouting. Blythe informed them heavily that expulsion had been avoided, but yet another note on bullying had been added to Dudley's file. He threatened to report Dudley to law enforcement if he caught him hitting people outside of the boxing ring again.

"Then I'm back on the team?" Dudley asked, incredulous.

"That's up to you," Blythe said. "If you'll see our psychologist--"

"He doesn't need to have his bloody head shrunk," Vernon said.

"--and he approves of it, you may return to the team in one month."

"And if I don't want to go?"

"Then it's permanent."

The three Dursleys conferred about this for some time, and ultimately, Dudley agreed to the terms. Vernon still looked annoyed with it, and Petunia was actively angry. Remus could see it in her eyes--You know the truth, yet you let them label my son mad?

Vernon and Petunia left the grounds, gliding silently away in their anonymous car, toward their anonymous suburban street. Remus stood three steps above Dudley in the front of the school.

Dudley's back was to him. "Don't worry," he said glumly. "I know what lies to tell in counselling."

He walked past Remus and back into the building, his hands in his pockets, his mouth drawn in a deep frown.

He skipped class that afternoon.
12 comments or Leave a comment
the_jackalope From: the_jackalope Date: October 31st, 2004 06:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Excelent as usual Fern. But I think you've neglected to close an italics somewhere. Anyway I love your characterizations, so spot on.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 31st, 2004 07:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Drat, I caught one early and missed the other. Thanks. It's on the tsk-ing.
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 31st, 2004 07:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Minor quibble: The pronouns are a little ambiguous in the last two lines, to the point where I was confused which of Remus and Dud skipped class.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 31st, 2004 08:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, Dudley was the last person referenced in action and Remus is observing his actions, not vice versa. It would be far too soon to use Dudley's name again--since the continuous action is his here, it would come off as repetitive--so I'll have to risk the minor point of confusion. Will it help that the next chapter begins with pointing out that Dudley is contuing to avoid Remus and skives again on Wednesday?
affabletoaster From: affabletoaster Date: October 31st, 2004 10:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Just echoing what she was going to say. Logically, it refers to Dudley, but I had to reread that to make sure. Starting the next chapter like that would help, I'm sure.

It seemed a little rushed to me, too, but otherwise, lovely as usual. :D
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 31st, 2004 11:40 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, I did figure out that it referred to Dudley, it just took more conscious effort than I'd usually expect from your writing. Perhaps it was just that I read it first thing when I woke up this morning and wasn't quite awake yet. I don't have any suggestions for how to make it smoother, as you say repeating the name is awkward in other ways.

Anyway, I've been loving your story and your once-a-night update schedule, which I'll start missing very soon. Funny, very little romance and very little magic, how can it be an HP fanfic, but it is and it works very well. Probably because you've made your characters all so human and distinct that I care a lot what happens to them.

BTW, so as not to be quite so anonymous as I was earlier: when I post on the quill, I go by Hexnut, but I don't have an LJ account.
michelle_ravel From: michelle_ravel Date: October 31st, 2004 11:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Just to offer a differing opinion--I had no trouble at all understanding that it was Dudley who skipped class.
sreya From: sreya Date: October 31st, 2004 10:34 am (UTC) (Link)
You know the truth, yet you let them label my son mad?

That line has just opened up a whole new world of sympathy for Petunia and Dudley. I mean, yes, they're still nasty, but -- really, they're normal people trying to deal with extremely abnormal circumstances. They've gone about it in a very bad way, but then it is scary for them and, well, they just don't have enough imagination to come up with a healthy way to deal with things.

And really, Remus could be better at explaining things, or Dumbledore could have informed Petunia that someone would be protecting her son at Smeltings or... something.

Wow, does this ever fit in with OotP. Miscommunication and bitterness abounds.
From: inyron Date: October 31st, 2004 03:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
You're absolutely spoiling us with these frequent updates. I think I'm dreading the start of nanowrimo. Although I'll probably follow that too; what kind of story are you planning on doing?

Excellent section, as always.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 31st, 2004 03:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's an original story, so I won't be posting it online. (Well, I will, but it's in an oh-so-secret forum where only one other person sees it.)

Glad you're enjoying. I mapped out the entries I'll do in November. It shouldn't be too awfully long between them.
From: inyron Date: October 31st, 2004 07:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah. I knew I didn't remember you pimping any nanowrimo journals ...if that makes any sense :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 31st, 2004 07:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah... it's the money thing. I'd like to end up with something saleable (after a lot of editing), and posting it online is a good way to get it nixed from any possibility of publication with anyone ever.
12 comments or Leave a comment