A bonus Shifts segment, because I forgot to schedule a scene I had to write. I'm doing so much better keeping my Shifts schedule than my NaNo schedule. I think it's the feedback thing. Oh, well. I have a four day weekend. I'm going to put in a sincere effort.
Anyway, the Weasleys and Sirius had a confab about Harry at Christmas, which has left Sirius in a slightly better mood.
Table of Contents and Summary So Far
Things improved marginally at Grimmauld Place that week, as Sirius began looking forward to seeing Harry. He was determined to get Harry a present that would both be subversive and show him that he (Sirius) was keeping track of what was happening at Hogwarts. "Something for his study group," Sirius said. "Something to help him teach. What do you think would be good, Moony? What would he need? What did you want when you were doing it?" Remus brought him catalogs, and helped him look. There was quite a lot he would have enjoyed having as a teacher, but need was a different matter. Becoming dependent on expensive gadgets for Defense Against the Dark Arts was not, generally speaking, a wise strategy.
Still, it was an enjoyable way to spend time, and it made Sirius happy.
At Smeltings, on the other hand, matters with Dudley Dursley were getting progressively worse.
Dudley didn't come to class on Monday, but turned out to be legitimately ill, according to the school nurse. When he failed to appear in class on Wednesday afternoon (despite being reported in earlier classes), Piers insisted that he had a relapse over lunch. On Thursday, he didn't attend anyone's classes and was unexcused. By the time Dora arrived with his lunchtime Potion on Friday, several of his teachers were discussing going to see him. He told Dora, and she left the basket on his desk, put the thermos in his hand, and left.
He choked down the Potion from the thermos as he crossed the grounds to the student residence and went inside. At Hogwarts, teachers who weren't heads-of-house were flatly forbidden to visit the dormitories unless there were an emergency. At Smeltings, it was very strongly discouraged, but allowed in cases where a need seemed pressing. Remus doubted that anyone who looked at Dudley's history marks over the last three weeks would question that there was a pressing need for him to speak to a teacher.
His dormitory was at the end of the second floor corridor. A message board on the door seemed covered with notes from his friends, giving him various assignments that he'd missed. Remus knocked.
"Who is it?"
"It's Mr. Lewis, Dudley. Open the door."
"Open it yourself."
Remus tried the knob. It wasn't locked, and it opened easily. He remained in the corridor, partly because it would be inappropriate not to, mostly because the smell of the place was overbearing and unpleasant. Dudley was sitting at his desk playing a game on his computer, surrounded by boxes of biscuits, empty bags of salty snacks, and crushed cans. The floor was a clogged sludge of rumpled uniforms and take-out cartons.
"You need to be in class this afternoon," Remus said.
"It wouldn't be a surprise if I told you. And it would be unethical for me to tell you without telling anyone else. But if there were such a quiz, you wouldn't be able to miss it. Your marks thus far don't give you much of a cushion."
Dudley stood and narrowed his eyes. "You're here about... history?"
"I am your history teacher." Remus gestured into the corridor. "Can we talk?"
Dudley just glared at him for a minute, then shrugged and came outside, closing his door behind him. The sour smell followed him out. "There's a common room on every floor," he said. "It's this way." He led the way down the hall, past the staircase, to an open area with several battered tables and sprung armchairs. Remus chose a chipped wooden chair by one of the tables. Dudley leaned on the table and looked out the window.
"You haven't been in my class much for the past two weeks," Remus said. "I've been letting it slide because I know... a bit of why. I can't keep doing so."
"I won't ask you what's happening. It's your business to decide who to tell and when."
Dudley shrugged. "That old fruit they're making me talk to said I couldn't go back to the team. Don't suppose you could do a thing about that, could you?" He raised an eyebrow in a speculative way.
"Even if I could, I wouldn't," Remus said. "I don't pretend to understand psychology in any depth. It's Dr. Holbreck's specialty. Unless it's because of what you believe about the magical world...?"
"I'm not mad enough to tell him that. He thinks I have a problem with my temper."
"Well, you're not helping your case with things like that business with Daniel last week."
"He got cheeky with me."
"Daniel?" Remus shook his head. "Daniel's idea of being cheeky is politely asking if he might pass you on the way to class instead of staying behind you."
"He looked down on me. He thinks he's better than everyone else."
Remus checked the corridor quickly. They were alone. "Like Harry?"
"Like the whole bloody lot of you. Even you." Dudley went back to looking out the window. "You think you don't, but you do. You're doing it now. You should see your own face."
Remus had an absurd urge to apologize for whatever his face was doing, apparently without any knowledge on his part.
Dudley ran his fingers through his brutally short hair, the grease in it making uneven, finger-shaped lines of spikes. He sighed, a strange--frankly, alien--expression of thoughtfulness on his face. "You really didn't curse Levinson, though, did you?"
"I really didn't. I like Joe."
"Wish he'd come back."
"We're trying to find a way to help him."
Dudley shrugged. "For people who can make owls show up two minutes after a thing happens, you're certainly not being very quick about it."
"If you didn't curse him, though..." Dudley frowned ponderously, a thundercloud trying to form behind his brow. "If it wasn't you, then why did he fall down at the match?"
"We think there's a trigger," Remus said carefully. "Something that sets the curse off, makes it worse. It's an unusual sort of thing. We don't really know how it works entirely."
"What's the trigger?"
Remus took a deep breath. "As far as we can tell, Dudley, it's you."
Dudley turned on him, his small eyes narrowed into slits. He stood up straight. "You lie," he said, and stormed back to his room.
Remus waited a long time, then realized that he was going to be late himself if he didn't get to class. He did not, in fact, have a surprise quiz planned, and went on with the planned discussion.
Twenty minutes into class, Dudley arrived, freshly showered and wearing a uniform that was only slightly rumpled. He didn't acknowledge Remus's hello or pay the slightest attention to his friends, but at least he managed to draw out a notebook and begin taking his confused and illegible notes.
It was a start. Perhaps, after the moon, they could talk more seriously.