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The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Shifts, Chapter 15: "You Are The Murderer!", Pt. 2
I really have to go back, do my little fixes, and get these chapters onto HB. I'm only making more tedious work for myself. (I love writing. I hate coding and presentation stuff.)

Anyway, 1860 more NaNo words, which is short of my goal, but not too bad. One of my characters who was behaving herself far too well finally woke up and kicked me in the shins. Not a bad day's work.

And on with Shifts. Remus and Dora finished a pleasant day playing murder mystery, only to come home and find the convicted murderer under their care missing from Number 12, Grimmauld Place.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

Dora went to Kingsley immediately, barely bothering to get free of the house before Apparating. Remus turned up the collar of his Muggle-style overcoat and pulled on a pair of thin and frayed gloves as he ran to the end of street. There was a rubbish-filled alley before a small store, and he looked into it carefully, wishing he had a Muggle torch, too close to Muggle houses to use a Lumos charm. "Padfoot!" he called. "Padfoot?"

Nothing. Not even a stirring in the rotting leaves and newspapers.

Remus went on, not knowing where he was headed, just following an instinctive path, leaning into the deepening shadows, thinking, If he's all right, I'm going to kill him.

He rounded a corner and saw something in rags covered by the weeks of newspapers. With relief, he pulled them away, and a derelict made a grab for him, saying, "Whatchoo think you're doing? Gettaway! Geroff! 'S mine! My place! Get out!"

"I'm sorry," Remus muttered. "So sorry... "

But the derelict had already forgotten him, and was muttering to himself about the voices from the clouds and rearranging his newspapers.

The misty rain, so cheerful as he and Dora had walked from the train, had become a heavier downpour, soaking through his overcoat and running down his face in cold rivulets. He didn't own an umbrella, as he knew any number of Charms to cover himself, but none of those could be used in a Muggle neighborhood. "Snuffles!" he called, much more loudly than he'd called for Padfoot in the alley. "Snuffles! Here, boy!"

"Did you lose your dog?" a teenage girl with green hair forced into a six inch high fan (which was beginning to flag in the rain) asked him pleasantly.


"What's he look like?"

"Large. Black."

"Oh, 'e was out playing here this afternoon," she said. "Let me scratch his ears." She smiled, and to Remus's astonishment, she appeared to have a rather large piece of jewelry stuck through her tongue. "He's a good fellow. I hope he's all right."

"So do I. Did you see where he ran off to?"

"I reckoned he went home. I never saw him around this place before."

"He was..." Remus shook his head. "He got off of his lead in the park. My wife and I have been frantic."

The girl frowned in concentration, tapping the jewelry on her tongue against her front teeth in an uneven rhythm. "I think he ran off that way," she said, pointing vaguely north. "Stopped to sniff around at the corner."

"Thank you," Remus said. He left the girl sitting on the bench in the rain. She didn't seem in any hurry to get out of it.

The corner went to an east-west running street. To the east, it ended in only a few yards, where more rubbish was piled against a wooden fence, which blocked off the grounds of an abandoned factory. Remus could see three rats in the glow from the street lamp, and was willing to bet there was a rather large nest under the papers.

He could have come down here to look for Peter, he thought. To try to catch him spying. To...

But it didn't feel right. Remus let his eyes linger on the rats, who were behaving in a perfectly rodent-like way. None of them stopped to look at him or took any notice of him at all. Sirius might have looked here, but he wouldn't have stayed long. He thought about calling, "Wormtail," to see if one of them would jump, but it would be a wasted effort.

At any rate, none seemed to have a shiny, silvery paw.

To the west, the street ran toward the rest of the city, into the bright lights and deep crowds.

How was he supposed to find Sirius in that?

There was a pop in the alley, and Dora appeared. She looked around and jumped a bit when she saw him. "This is a safe Appparition spot," she said. "I wasn't expecting anyone to be here."

"It's not that safe," Remus said. "Anyone could see you coming out of a dead alley."

"Well, it wouldn't be safe for you to use every day coming and going, but it's fine for now and then," she said irritably. "At the moment, it's not the Muggles I'm worried about."

"What did Kingsley say?"

"After he finished cursing? He sent out word that he got a tip that Sirius was seen in Birmingham and sent Dung off to go and look like Sirius so that the 'tip' comes from somewhere. And he's pulled off all the Aurors watching Hogsmeade and Mum's house to go find him. He's not happy sending perfectly good Aurors off on a snorkack hunt. D'you reckon Hogsmeade? Going to rescue Harry's broom from Umbridge's office or whatnot? I hope it's just that, anyway."

Remus only heard this with the top of his mind. It would be like Sirius to rush off to Hogsmeade, but it didn't feel right. "Your Mum's," he said. "Sirius asked if we could go there today."

Dora paled. "Is anyone watching from the square?"

Remus checked. The square was empty, and no one was visible in any of the windows. "It's clear."

"Get in here."

Remus followed her into the alley, and they Apparated to Andromeda's back garden. Above them, the house was dark. Nothing stirred.

"Snuffles!" Dora called. "Snuffles!"

"Where are your parents?"

"Taking a much-needed weekend off," Dora said. "A little cabin they go to up in Nottingham. As I'd have told you and Snuffles both if you'd asked me about bringing him over. Lumos!" She illuminated the shadows of the Apparition shed, and they saw no sign of Sirius. He was nowhere in the back garden.

Dora, still angry, stormed into the house. Remus followed her (picking up the odd knick-knack she knocked over) until they came out of the front door, back into the rain, which was falling more heavily than ever. One of the housecats followed them out lazily, and Remus picked it up and put it back inside. The front garden was empty as well.

"Snuffles!" Dora called. She turned to Remus, her face pale and frightened, the anger a thin mask over it. "He's not here."

"He's here," Remus said. "I--"

A car passed by on the road, its headlights sweeping the greenery and turning the rain into streams of silver. At bottom of its arc on the far side of the street, something pale glimmered.

Remus pointed. "There."

They rushed across the street to a clump of bushes, and Padfoot was lying there on the ground, his fur soaked through, staring up at Andromeda's darkened home. From this vantage, he could see every window that looked onto the street, and into the corridors where light would filter if they came in through the back.

He looked dully at Remus and Dora, and laid his chin on his paws.

"We're going home," Remus said, Conjuring a collar and a lead, and to hell with Sirius's pride. "Now."

Sirius didn't protest when Dora put the collar on him, or when Remus hooked the lead through its metal loop, but he didn't budge when they tried to pull him.

"Stop it," Remus said. "Do you have any idea how much trouble you're causing?"

Sirius didn't move.

"Bugger," Dora muttered looking over her shoulder at the Muggle house across from her parents'. She pointed her wand at Sirius. "Canis leviosa."

Padfoot rose from the ground, dripping, and she put her arms around him so that it would look as though she was carrying him--which was a bit ridiculous, given that, as Padfoot, he was nearly as big as she was. But it was only for a few minutes. She took them back across the street and into her parents' house. She didn't pause to let him look around as she floated him out to the Apparition shed.

"Bind us," she said.

Remus raised his wand and said, "Substringo."

Dora checked the binding and Apparated. Remus stayed to make sure nothing was left behind--bound Apparition wasn't the most reliable means of travel, but Dora seemed to have mastered it relatively well--then Apparated after her, back to the rubbish-strewn alley where they'd met earlier. Dora had ended the binding spell, and Sirius was standing glumly at the end of the lead.

"Are you going to walk home?" Remus asked him.

Sirius glared at him through Padfoot's eyes, and led the way out of the alley. He didn't look back.

Dora marched him into the kitchen while Remus fixed the locks on the door and re-covered Mrs. Black, who was screaming at the top of her lungs about the worthless travails of childbearing. Kreacher was underfoot, complaining and wiping up the rain water with a look of resentment in his eyes.

Remus ignored him, and headed down the kitchen stairs.

"Look, Sirius," he said before he reached the bottom. "I know you're bored and lonely, but--"


"--you can't--"


He stopped.

Sirius had transformed, and was sitting on the floor beside the hearth, his knees drawn up to his chest. His eyes were unfocused and hollow, his breathing shallow. Dora was curled into an uncomfortable-looking squat at his side, holding him. He'd grasped her forearm convulsively, but wasn't looking at her. He was shivering uncontrollably.

"Oh my God," Remus whispered. "Sirius."

"He's cold," Dora said. "Come here."

Remus came over hesitantly. Dora beckoned with her finger and pointed at the floor on Sirius's other side.

Carefully, Remus got to his knees, feeling the pain of the stone floor pushing at his kneecaps. Dora looked at him imploringly.

He put his arms around both of them, as far as they would go. It wasn't a natural gesture for him. His lower back protested and his legs screamed against the position. But Sirius grabbed his lower arm, just below the elbow, the same way he was holding Dora's, and his fingers dug in.

Across his head, Dora looked at Remus, her eyes deep and sad. She kissed Sirius's hair and cooed some old song she knew to him. After awhile, he began to weep.

The three of them stayed there for a long time.
7 comments or Leave a comment
maidenjedi From: maidenjedi Date: November 7th, 2004 12:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Fern, this was....just devastating. In a good way. Thank you.
liebchen127 From: liebchen127 Date: November 7th, 2004 12:47 am (UTC) (Link)

Just... WOW!
kikei From: kikei Date: November 7th, 2004 12:56 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh my, oh my...

I love such scenes, the ones where the character's despair speaks for itself. Now I just want to kneel on that floor with all of them and sniffle.

lovely work there.

tea_and_snark From: tea_and_snark Date: November 7th, 2004 09:43 am (UTC) (Link)
This was touching, beautiful; you continually amaze me with your characterizations. The connections of friendship and love you portray between these three is believable and heartbreaking; this is the first fic in which these three characters have been portrayed as very close where I've felt it every step of the way. They have their past and present to hold them together, and you weave both together in a masterful way. I can't wait for more.
leelastarsky From: leelastarsky Date: November 7th, 2004 03:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Poor Sirius! :~(
katchuri From: katchuri Date: November 8th, 2004 06:04 am (UTC) (Link)

Sorry ;-)

I hope you don't think that all I read your work for is to Britpick - it's not, I assure you. But this one stuck out like a sore thumb:
"A little cabin they go to up in Nottingham."

Nottingham's a city. Quite a big city, with a growing reputation for gun crime. It's not an idylic holiday spot by any stretch of the imagination.
Sherwood Forest, nearby but not attached to the city, and the setting for Robin Hood etc, might be a better place for Ted and Andromeda's place. Or you could just say "Nottinghamshire" which would imply the countryside in the area, and not the city.
They wouldn't call it a cabin either - to someone British that would imply that it was made of logs and probably had one room with a dirt floor. It'd be a "holiday cottage", probably in a hamlet or small village.
The bulk of British holiday cottages are in so-called holiday areas though - which Nottinghamshire isn't. Cornwall and Devon and Dorset and all along that Southern coast pointy bit are where most of them are. Or Wales, where the local residents decided to burn a lot of holiday properties in the early eighties as a protest.
The other option is France or Spain, where unconverted property is still ridiculously cheap, is the other place a lot of Brits have holiday cottages. They rent them out at extortionate prices to other families in the summer months when they're not using them.

Loved the segment though. Really powerful.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 8th, 2004 06:10 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Sorry ;-)

Thanks, that would have been a fairly big goof. :)

I was actually thinking about Sherwood forest, but didn't know if there was still a forest there...
7 comments or Leave a comment