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Shifts, Chapter 15: "You Are The Murderer!", Pt. 1 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Shifts, Chapter 15: "You Are The Murderer!", Pt. 1
Ack. Didn't do my section of my NaNo novel today and will have to do double on Sunday (won't have time until then). Just couldn't warm up to it, and wanted to do a Shifts post. I really should get Chapters 13 and 14 up in final form, too.

Anyway, thanks to Grace Has Victory at SQ's "All Things British" thread for convincing me not to have our guys playing charades or Pictionary or something here, and reminding me about the murder-mystery party fad of the '90s. I'd forgotten about it entirely.

Anyway, I left Remus transforming, and because nothing much happened in October and November will be about as thin, no "Interlude" section until December's full moon.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

The cloudy night made the transformation come late and violently, throwing him backward off of a hayloft onto the hard floor of the barn. He caught himself on an arm that was half transformed, and dislocated the shoulder, leaving the Wolf lame all night and howling at the absent moon. Somewhere around three in the morning--though he had no concept of such an abstract thing--it began to rain through the open roof.

At dawn, he woke up cold, wet, and in considerable discomfort. The shoulder injury was repaired easily enough with a tap of his wand, but it would remain stiff and sore for days, and he'd been chilled to the bone. There was no particular point to using a Drying Charm on his sodden clothes before he put them back on, either, at least not until he got back to Grimmauld Place. It was still pouring.

By the time he got back to Grimmauld Place, his throat was raw and his ears sore. He slept off the transformation and woke up again with a burning cough. Dora brought him Pepper-Up Potion and informed him that she'd already told Smeltings that they'd have to make do without him on Friday as well.

"Blythe wanted to make sure we were still meeting on Saturday, though," she said. "I think he's looking forward to it."


"Our turn to play hosts?"

"Did I know about this?"

Dora rolled her eyes. "Next time, I'll take your book away before I tell you something. Apparently, your answering me wasn't definitive proof that you heard me. At any rate, I told him we'd have you in working order by then, though I'd recommend at least Conjuring a sniffle or to, him being your boss." She took the goblet she'd used for the Potion. "You should come over very early, so you look settled in. And find out where I keep everything! It will look a bit silly if you don't know where the silverware is."

She left with stern instructions to Sirius to keep up with the Pepper-Up Potion, and went back off to work. Sirius spent the afternoon with him in the kitchen, playing Wizards Wild Card, a game Remus had never cared for as it was impossible to make a logical bet on one's cards when any one of them could be one of the four wild cards in the deck, which might change its numbers or suit at any time. Sirius beat him handily four times, then started dinner.

"Andromeda sent a letter along with Dora," he said. "Just telling me about her work and their cats and such. I don't suppose after the party on Saturday, we could possibly make our way over there...?" He raised his eyebrows questioningly.

Remus fought his way out of the low-grade fever haze. "What?"

"You know. Just sort of take a family walk--you and Dora and your old dog Snuffles, wandering about London..."

"Sirius, you heard what Kingsley said. He'll sack Dora if she plays any more games with your security."

"Won't they all wonder what's happened to your dog?" Sirius asked, his voice completely confident.

Remus pinched the bridge of his nose, stopping a sneeze at least temporarily. "We'll have to think of something to tell them," he said. "But you can't go. It's too risky."

"To have me around while some old Muggle biddies play at being detectives?"

"To take you out of here as Snuffles again. If you're caught, it's not just your skin. It's all of us. We're all guilty of hiding a fugitive."

Sirius refused to talk to him for the rest of the evening, and only passed sharp, harsh words with him on Friday.

"I'd've risked it," Dora said early Saturday morning, bending over her Muggle oven with some trepidation and pulling out some sort of rice-based dish that Remus didn't recognize. "I think this is how it's meant to look," she said. "I followed the recipe in the game kit exactly."

Remus ignored this. "I know you would have risked it," he said. "That's why I didn't ask you. Though we probably should decide what to tell them about Snuffles."

"Oh, Muggles have animal Healers!" Dora said delightedly. "We'll say he's at a..." She ducked for a dictionary on the counter, tapped it with her wand, and read the page it opened to. "A veterinarian," she said, offering Remus the book. "We'll say he got a bit ill, and leave it at that."

The explanation was accepted easily enough, Joe Levinson grunting that "Old fellows like us are prone to it, aren't we?" and Sally Blythe wishing him a speedy recovery. Everyone except for Dora and Remus seemed to have arrived in costume, dressed the way Ted Tonks had dressed back at Hogwarts--wide legged jeans, paisley shirts, in Blythe's case, an absurd looking headbeand. Anna Garvey looked most comfortable, wearing a long, flowered dress and a tissue-paper flower in her hair. Dora ducked into her room and came out in one of her neverending costumes (a short skirt and high white boots), and whispered to Remus--far out earshot from the others--that she'd brought over some of her father's suits for camouflage, and he should transfigure one to look a bit like the costumes on the front of the game kit's box. He looked at it for the first time--"How To Host A Murder: The Tragical Mystery Tour."

She'd left the wardrobe open, and he could see several of Ted's suits hanging there, untouched, stage dressing. Her own clothes were packed into the other half of the wardrobe and into a small cupboard set into the wall. They pushed bureau drawers out. Her nightgown was folded neatly enough on the carelessly made bed, where it sat among more pillows that any person could possibly need at night. She hadn't set out any men's pajamas, and Remus quite sincerely hoped that no one would be so adamant to find clues to the fictional murder that they would take special note of such a thing. He didn't care to have his colleagues' wives speculating on whether or not he slept naked.


He looked up. He still hadn't transfigured one of Ted's suits for himself. Trying not to get an exact duplicate of something on the box, which would be suspicious, he transfigured the shirt and pants into the exact clothing Ted had worn on the day they'd met on the Hogwarts express. All he needed was the three-branched medallion, and he thought he'd noticed Dora wearing that.

He went back out to the gathering, where Dora had passed out little booklets which told each player who he or she was, what he or she was meant to tell, and most important, what he or she was hiding.

Remus opened his own. It announced, under the secrets section, "YOU ARE THE MURDERER!"

He didn't expect to have fun. He felt like a hippogryff's hindquarters playing "Let's pretend" as a game at the age of thirty-eight, he did not find murder amusing, and deliberately spinning lies to cover his entirely fictitious crime was uncomfortably close to the way he lived life every day. But after half an hour, everyone had gotten involved in the stupid business, and he found himself actually enjoying the day. The rice dish was a bit of a failure, but Dora, never stepping out of character, announced that she'd pick up a bit of curry, and dashed out, coming back half an hour later with cartons of spicy food. The scent brought out her old cat, Granny, who was good for fifteen minutes of storytelling. Blythe, who was apparently a cat-lover, insisted on working Granny into the story somehow.

The murder wasn't the only mystery to solve, of course--the game provided for red herrings, and Anna and Alan added another wrinkle by insinuating that their characters, who were virtually strangers in the script, were actually having a secret love affair on the side. This wasn't strictly in line with the rules, but they made it amusing. By the end of the second round, they were all routinely overplaying their roles, dropping their clues, red herrings, and evasions around with gusto, and generally laughing at one another. At some point, two bottles of wine came out, and they intensified the silliness.

Remus still felt foolish when he stopped and thought about what he was doing, but every time he did, one of the others caught him and made him stop thinking. In the kitchen between rounds, Dora confided that she'd figured out he was the murderer--"This is what I do for a living, and it's obvious"--but said she didn't intend to share it until the end of the fourth round. She shook a wooden spoon at him. "But I have my eye on you, mate."

Partway through the third round and the third bottle of wine, Sally Blythe commented on Dora's lovely legs--how did she keep them so nice "at our age"? Remus, who hadn't looked at her legs earlier, realized with some horror that she hadn't morphed them under her short skirt at all. No one made any assumptions of magic, though, and the conversation just drifted into the bawdy realm for much longer than he was comfortable with.

Miriam Levinson beat Dora to the punch on announcing the solution to the mystery, after which Remus was pummeled with marshmellows for the fictional crime. Anna Garvey asked Dora how she was planning to punish her naughty husband. Dora turned bright red, but managed to stammer out, "I have my ways."

They cleaned up together after the Smeltings guests left, and Dora insisted on showing him the television she'd purchased for the flat, though, to her disappointment, none of the programs she enjoyed happened to be on.

He was in no real hurry to leave. Dora's flat was comfortable and the day had been a pleasant one, but he had to get back to Grimmauld Place. Looking after Sirius was his job, and it wasn't one from which he could take a great deal of time off. But he was delighted when Dora elected to come with him.

They took the train across town, coming up two streets away from Grimmauld Place and walking in a fine, mist-like rain. Dora had morphed back into the pink hair and reclaimed her normal clothing, and she looked terribly young as she stuck her tongue out to catch a raindrop on it.

She smiled. "I had fun today," she said.

"I've spent worse days."

"We should have had Snuffles there, though. To hell with my boss. He'd have had fun."

"Yes, he would have."

"I brought him some curry anyway. I left the wine at home."

Remus nodded. "We can't risk it, Dora. They'll send him back to prison if they find him."

"I know." Dora growled in the back of her throat. "What'd he have to go to the platform for?" she asked. "Of course Lucius Malfoy was there. I'll reckon he's the one spreading rumors that he's in Britain. Trying to force him out."

"It's going to force him right out of his mind."

They reached the door of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, and Remus unlocked it to let her in, closing it securely behind them and steering Dora clear of the elephant's foot umbrella stand before she woke Mrs. Black up. They went down to the kitchen. It was empty.

Remus frowned. It was becoming less and less like Sirius to go to bed early, and it was barely dark outside. He went to the parlor--also empty--and looked out onto the back garden, where Sirius sometimes went to drink. Nothing.

Dora rushed in. "He's not in his bedroom."

"Sirius?" Remus called.

No answer.

Not even from the--

Remus gritted his teeth and went down the front stairs. Mrs. Black was awake in her portrait and the curtains were open. He hadn't noticed that. She leaned forward with maddened good cheer. "Back at last!" she bellowed. "Freaks, changelings!"

"Where is Sirius?" Remus asked her.

Her normally mad smile became devious. "Aren't you the one who's meant to know that, creature?"

"He's allowed to take a day off, Auntie," Dora said. "Where is Sirius?"

"I don't know," Mrs. Black said acidly. "He transformed into a"--she wrinkled her nose--"dog, and went right on out. I didn't try to stop him."

"Like he'd have listened to you anyway," Dora muttered.

"How long as he been gone?" Remus asked, not sure how long the portrait's helpful arrogance would last before it started spewing hatred again.

"Oh," Mrs. Black said, "He left right after you did. He's been gone for hours."
19 comments or Leave a comment
leelastarsky From: leelastarsky Date: November 4th, 2004 12:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, I sat reading this with a goofiest smile on my face. Talk about enjoyable! I, too, remember those Muder Mystery games. We played a Star Trek one which was woefully disappointing. But the dressing up part was LOTS of fun!

One mispelling I picked up - marshmellows. Should be marshmallows.
leelastarsky From: leelastarsky Date: November 4th, 2004 12:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Um, speaking of mispellings... that would be MURDER mysteries... Doh!
cheshyre From: cheshyre Date: November 4th, 2004 06:21 am (UTC) (Link)
I remember that Next Gen one. It was abysmal. [Am I allowed to spoil it after a decade-plus?]

Was that the one where the solution was they were all mind-controlled or something, because of course none of the Paramount properties should ever be considered a criminal...
leelastarsky From: leelastarsky Date: November 4th, 2004 04:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yep! That was the one! NO one was the murderer but everyone kinda was. *rolls eyes* Remember the wibble-wobble wibble-wobble? That became our code-cry for all things naff for a long time after that game. :~D
Hubby and I got to be Riker and Troi in the game. *wriggles with delight* It was so cool. And my daughter was something like 10 weeks old so I had these HUGE breastfeeding boobs! Just perfect for showing off cleavage Troi-style! LOL! XD
cheshyre From: cheshyre Date: November 4th, 2004 05:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
How stupid was it to create a murder mystery where nobody and everybody is the murderer? No way to solve it. You'd think that they'd just pick a different crime other than murder that'd actually be reasonable for one of the properties to commit.

I was Guinan. I think I stapled a pillowcase to my mortarboard to make her cap.
atropos87 From: atropos87 Date: November 4th, 2004 05:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Anna Garvey asked Dora how she was planning to punish her naughty husband. Dora turned bright red, but managed to stammer out, "I have my ways."

Bwah! Poor old Tonks. I hven't commented for ages but I just wanted to tell you that I'm still reading avidly and I really love the relationship you're building up between the 2 of them. The gentle move from friends to a deeper kind of comfortable is lovely, and makes me smile because it's just the way Mr A & I got together. I'm also really impressed with your characterisation of Sirius. I think you've captured the impact of his being cooped up in 12 Grimmauld Place wonderfully. Great stuff.

On a really nit-picky point, Tonks would say "cutlery" and not "silverware".

Looking forward to the next installment :)
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: November 4th, 2004 07:21 am (UTC) (Link)
I agree with the 'cutlery' nitpick (?Britpick?). Also, sniffle or to should be two, of course.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 4th, 2004 08:05 am (UTC) (Link)
:headsmack on "two":

Grr, on the silverware. I tried "flatware" last time and it was wrong, so I went to "silverware." Next time, I'm sure I'd have tried "cutlery." You folks and your weird words for stuff! ;)

(Er, then again, I'm the one with three words for the same thing.)
atropos87 From: atropos87 Date: November 4th, 2004 10:09 am (UTC) (Link)
nit-pick, Brit-pick .... I have an unfortunate tendency towards both ;) My inner Hermione can be difficult to keep under control sometimes.
shagsthedustmop From: shagsthedustmop Date: November 4th, 2004 06:10 am (UTC) (Link)
I loved the line about taking his book away before telling him something - so true! If my husband is watching TV or playing video games he doesn't hear a word I say no matter what he says.

Frankly, half the time he *isn't* doing anything I don't think he hears me either.
alphabet26 From: alphabet26 Date: November 4th, 2004 06:29 am (UTC) (Link)
though I'd recommend at least Conjuring a sniffle or to, him being your boss

Sniffle or two, maybe?

Great chapter! I enjoyed seeing Remus just having fun, although I wish Snuffles could have been there, as well.
mrs_who From: mrs_who Date: November 4th, 2004 09:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Delightful, Fern. I admit, I'm really enjoying the comfortable-as-a-couple-ness that's growing between them.

Remus unlocked it to let her in, closing it securely behind them and steering Dora clear of the elephant's foot umbrella stand

Troll's foot, I believe. But I do like Remus beginning to anticipate and be sensitive to Tonks' needs/weaknesses.

vytresna From: vytresna Date: November 4th, 2004 04:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Quite a chapter title, Fern. That and this cliffhanger... it's the old electric gut. Dramatic irony or plot construct, it's something to admire.
sreya From: sreya Date: November 4th, 2004 08:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ooo, Murder Mystery! I arranged one of those for my sixteenth birthday party. We had an absolute blast, though I'd really wanted to create a Star Wars murder mystery and just didn't have the time. 'Sides, then I would have known who the murderer was and that wouldn't be any fun.

I absolutely adore the comfort level growing between Remus and Dora. I want my very own Remus. :~P

Plot wise -- Sirius is in deep trouble. I can't imagine what he's been up to, but it can't be any good.

Poor fellow. :~(
sprite6 From: sprite6 Date: November 12th, 2004 09:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Tonight I finally had the chance to read this. I went through all 15 chapters in the last several hours, and they're just great. The story is so well plotted, and the characters are all really well drawn. I think you've done a really good job with Dudley especially.

The story suits the genficcer in me, while giving a little bit of hope to the RL/NT shipper in me as well. :)
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 18th, 2004 07:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

One more spelling quibble

Just wanted to let you know I found your story a month or so back. I read all the posts here, then got promptly busy with real life and forgot all about it. When you started posting on Sugar Quill, I had the niggling suspicion that I'd read those first few chapters before, and now I know why. I just spent time I really didn't have (I have a 5 page paper due tomorrow that I haven't started) reading through the end of chapter 15, and I must say your characterization and pace of plotting are outstanding.

I have one minor quibble--"hippogryff" should be "hippogriff" according to the HP Lexicon and the books. Thought you'd want to fix that.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 18th, 2004 07:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: One more spelling quibble

Yup, thanks. Don't know why I always want to do that with a "y". Probably have Gryffindor on the brain.
kt_tonguetied From: kt_tonguetied Date: March 9th, 2008 12:17 am (UTC) (Link)
oh noes!! Sirius can't go missing! Excellent addition! I forget to comment I'm so eager to read the next bit!

Though, I think I noticed an error...
...steering Dora clear of the elephant's foot umbrella stand... shouldn't that be the troll's leg?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 9th, 2008 05:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, that got fixed in the final version, over at the Sugar Quill (that's where the cleaned up versions of my long stories live).
19 comments or Leave a comment