FernWithy (fernwithy) wrote,

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Shifts, Chapter 17: Interlude (3)

Okay. Back on schedule with Shifts. And definitely doing this one tonight, because I am going to spend the next four days doing NaNo. I'm not going to make 50,000 because I just didn't have enough passion to do this. I think if I do this next year, I'd best get something to be really passionate about, where I like to play pretend as much as I do with HP. But I'll be damned if I don't at least try.

Anyway, it's full moon. Remus is ducking offstage to have a good howl, so other people can get a word in edgewise.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

Early Saturday afternoon, Remus made his way to an abandoned carriage house in the highlands, reinforced its protections and waited for the moon to rise. As always, the wait was both agonizingly long and not nearly long enough to prepare for it.

The change took him.

"Oi, Tonks," Sanjiv McPherson said, tossing Remus's tatty cloak around his own shoulders. "Is there something you're not telling us?"

Tonks Summoned it off of his back and folded it over the back of the wooden chair she'd just lugged up the stairs Muggle-wise. "A friend accidentally left it," she said.

"Is that the same friend whose books are accidentally all over your table?" Daffy Apcarne asked. "The one Sanj and I just dragged a heavy desk up here for... without magic?"

"Let her be," Maddie said from the sofa, wehre she was indulging in what she called her sovereign right as a pregnant lady--the right to sit like a queen with her feet up while everyone else did the hard work. She was grinning wickedly. "I'm sure she just has a very forgetful friend." She drew something out of her pocket. "Of course, he may be having more trouble than usual finding his lost things without his eyeglasses..."

Tonks Summoned the plain glass spectacles and put them on the top shelf of the desk as Daffy finished manhandling it into the corner she'd chosen. "You caught me," she told them dryly. "I'm living in sin with a mad librarian. Sometimes, in a fit of passion, he organizes the icebox."

"Oo," Maddie said. "Could we trade? Daffy never puts things where they belong..."

Daffy flicked water at her from the kitchen sink, where he was washing his hands. She laughed.

Sanjiv was already fiddling with the television. He was Muggle-born and often complained that living in Hogsmeade made it rather difficult to keep up with his favorite programs, but Tonks had noticed two years ago that he refused every opportunity he got to move back even into the "border" areas in the cities. Still, he seemed content to play with the remote gadget, lounging in in an armchair that was far too small for him and changing the channel in an endless and aimless way. "So," he said, "are you going to tell us what you're doing living in the world's most Muggle flat? Or shall we start making up excuses?"

"Oh, make them up, by all means," Tonks said. "Entertain me."

Maddie curled up against Daffy's side as he put his arm around her, and spread her fingers on her belly, rubbing the baby. This seemed to be almost unconscious. Tonks wondered if the baby could feel it. "I think it's your mad librarian," Maddie said. "He's a Muggle and you haven't quite let on that you're not really just a shop clerk."

"Not even close. And there really isn't a mad librarian. That was a joke."

"It's really not fair to hold out on us," Daffy said.

Tonks rolled her eyes and pointed at Maddie's belly. "The pair of you aren't ones to talk about falling out of touch."

Maddie winced. "I'm sorry. I really thought I had told you. I'm surprised your Mum didn't mention it. I saw her at St. Mungo's when I went to pick up a Potion."

"You're my age," Tonks said. "Mum would have blocked it out. I think that deep down, she believes you're just playing house."

"And on the subject of playing house," Sanjiv pressed. "Come on... if there's no mad librarian, whose things are all over?"

"A friend. He gets some work done here in the afternoon because things are a bit noisy at home. That's all." She felt her face getting warm and morphed her skin to keep up with it and hide the blush. Silly thing to blush over, really, as there was nothing happening other than a crazy spill of Remus's Smeltings textbooks and papers. She'd jokingly called it the "creeping Lupinization" of her flat, and he'd abruptly offered to take it all out. Since that was a plainly stupid idea, she decided to make him his own space to put it all so that it wouldn't just be spread around and getting underfoot. Hardly a salacious tale worthy of blushing.

Sanjiv shook his head. "How many times do I have to tell you? You can't have any new friends without getting majority approval from us."

"Well, then it's lucky that he's an old friend." Tonks went to the kitchen. "Would you like something to eat? I could make sandwiches."

"No. Sit down and talk!" Maddie patted the other end of the sofa with her toe.

Daffy nodded. "Honestly, we haven't seen you since the Diggory memorial. Where've you been?"

Tonks leaned over the divider between the kitchen and the front room and looked at them there, lounging comfortably as they had lounged in the Hufflepuff common room for seven years. She knew that she had a duty to tell them about He-Who-Must... Voldemort. She had promised to try to convince anyone she could, and the mention of Cedric Diggory (who they all known during his first two years in Hufflepuff) had given her a good opening to discuss it. And they would believe her.

Again, her eyes were drawn to Maddie's belly, to her thin fingers spread there, caressing the child she was carrying. She looked at Daffy's contented smile as he held her. No. She wouldn't bring death and misery into the middle of that.

They could be in danger, she told herself in Remus's teaching voice.

Then I will protect them, she thought fiercely. It's my job to protect them.

She stood there a moment longer, leaning over the barrier, torn. Then she manufactured a smile and said, "Oh, you know. Work business. Not to mention my mad secret affair. Keeps a girl busy, you know."

They spent the rest of the evening together, laughing, talking about old times, gossiping about mutual school friends. Tonks allowed that she'd seen Bill Weasley lately, and he was dating the French champion from the Triwizard tournament (much rolling of eyes accompanied this). The baby, for whatever mysterious reason, chose to move around a little, and Maddie put Tonks's hand on it. Tonks wasn't sure if she actually felt anything or not, but she imagined that she did. After Maddie let go of her wrist, she drew her hand away a bit, feeling like she was touching some kind of holy relic or whatnot. For half an hour, her eyes just couldn't help returning to the spot she'd touched, as her mind tried to wrap itself around the idea that it was an actual baby there--Maddie's baby, and Daffy's. Maddie, who had sat across from her on the Hogwarts Express first year and said that her name was Dora Madrigan, and that was how Tonks had ended up being Tonks and Maddie had ended up being Maddie and how was it possible that there was a baby? She found herself wondering what it felt like, and if she would be able to morph while pregnant, and dozens of other extremely alien things that made her inexplicably nervous.

The subject of odd stories that might be circulating about Cedric's death never came up. Daffy and Maddie left at ten; Sanjiv stayed an hour longer, entertaining Tonks with tales from Hogsmeade, and drawing a quick portrait of her. She decided to frame it and hang it on the wall, and say it was of Dora Lewis's niece, if anyone asked. He left, and she watched him go, and realized she had spent the evening telling as many lies to her old magical friends as she did to her new Muggle ones.

She sat down at Remus's desk for a long time after they left, then shook off the mood and began to sort his papers into the drawers.

Dudley Dursley sat at his computer, frowning at his English assignment (two days late), switching to his maths assignment (one day late), and even considering going to his history assignment (one week late, and with a warning from The Freak about losing credit altogether if it didn't appear on Monday). In the end, he opted for a game of Solitaire.

As far as we can tell, Dudley, it's you.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

Stupid idea. He wasn't one of them. How could they use him to do one of their stupid spells?

The idea of calling his mother and telling her that Lewis had been talking about magic with him crossed his mind, but he dismissed it. Mum would actually come here, and that was never a good thing. If there was an unwritten rule at Smeltings (which was rare, as the school did love to collect up written ones), it was that any boy whose parents showed up to do his fighting for him was a swot.

More than that, he had a feeling he knew what she'd decide to accuse Lewis of. Which was one thing when it was some other student--like that nancy boy Morse, who was a pouf-in-training if Dudley had ever seen one--but something else entirely when it was supposed to be Dudley he was diddling. And it would definitely get around. During Dudley's third year, a French teacher had been sacked for that, and everyone knew exactly who the student had been, even though it was supposed to be a great secret. Dudley himself had stuck fairy wings on his waistcoat. The student hadn't come back the following September.

So Mum would be kept out of this one.

As far as we can tell, Dudley, it's you.

Lewis had made it sound perfectly reasonable. He'd even managed to make it sound like he didn't want to tell Dudley at all. But it couldn't be true.

It just couldn't.

He hoped.

He supposed he could talk to Lewis about it, find out what he meant, but Lewis was telling so many lies already that Dudley doubted he'd even notice he was doing it again. And besides, they all lied. It was all they ever did.

So he'd have to find another way, just to prove that was one of their lies.

And there was an easy enough experiment.

All he'd have to do was visit Mr. Levinson over the holidays, with no one magical around to work any curses.

He nodded to himself, satisfied. That would prove it wasn't him.

He won his Solitaire game, and went back to his history homework. He'd have it in on Monday. No more excuses for little chats.

"Vernon, is this even?" Petunia asked, draping the garland of tasteful silk holly leaves over the mantlepiece.

He looked up from the table where he was arranging the creche, and sniffed. "Looks fine."

She reached down for the matching silk wreath, which would ring the family portrait for the length of the holiday season. It was still in a closed cardboard carton, dusty from the attic where it spent its summers amidst family memorabilia. She lifted the box top, and jumped when something that seemed to be squirming fell away from it. It took a moment to recognize it.

A moving wizard photograph.

She picked it up with distaste, not knowing why she hadn't simply thrown the thing away when Lily had sent it to her. A scrawny baby with black hair was sucking on his fist. He seemed to notice Petunia--which was absurd; it was a photograph--and grinned around his fingers.

She dropped it into the box.

"What's that?" Vernon asked.

"Nothing. Just a bit of paper that was stuck to the box, I suppose." She took out the wreath. "I got a letter from that Whistler woman."


"Whistler... Wheeler... Weasler... you know, the one who sent that envelope."

"Right, right. The dumpy redheaded one."

"She asked permission for Harry to visit them over the holidays. I told her it was all right, as long as they don't come here." Petunia shuddered. The letter had come by owl, and she'd had to return it the same way, something she hadn't done since Lily had been a schoolgirl. The tone had been quite identifiable: a scold. At the same time the woman was practically demanding that Harry come to her home for the holidays, she was scolding Petunia for being willing to give permission.

She kept Harry all summer, as promised. And the winter holidays were the only time they really got to spend as a family, without the magical world interfering in their lives.

Although now, of course, it might be. If this Lewis character tried anything...

She shook her head. "He'll be going to wherever they live. Some village in the north; I never heard of it. She said we should send any presents there."

"What does she expect us to send?"

Petunia shrugged and hung the wreath on the wall. It wasn't like there was anything Harry needed that they could give him anyway.

"Give them back, Kreacher," Sirius said, cornering the house elf at the door.

Kreacher took the horrible snake candle-holders and held them against his chest. "Kreacher is only trying to help Master," he said. "Master accidentally put Mistress's candlesticks in the rubbish heap."

The next thing of Mistress's I'm going to put on the rubbish heap is you, Sirius thought, but managed not to say. "There was nothing accidental about it," he said. "They're rubbish and that's where they belong."

Kreacher stomped his feet. "They are in Master's family for seven generations! They are a wedding gift!"

"To people whose great-grandchildren are dead."

"Mistress would weep, but that never bothers Master, no. Master does all of this to break his mother's heart again."

"Mistress is dead. All of this is mine to do with as I please."

"If Master ruins everything, then what will Master's children have?"

"Master has no children," Sirius said tightly. "Except for Harry, and he doesn't want this nonsense any more than I do."

"Potter is not family."

"He bloody well is family, and you'd best warm up to that notion."

Kreacher spit on the floor. "Master will let his family's blood die, just to spite his mother."

"If Master thought of it that way, Master might do just that," Sirius muttered. Of course, it wasn't true--someday, his name would be cleared, and maybe then...

But that wasn't for Kreacher's ears. And it certainly wasn't with any thought of dragging some new child up in the traditions of the bloody House of Black. It was dying, and good riddance to it.

"Give them to me," he said again, using a commanding tone this time.

Reluctantly, Kreacher handed the candle-holders to him, and for the third time, Sirius took them to the rubbish heap. Undoubtedly, Kreacher would again correct this mistake, and they would have the whole conversation over again, but for now, it was over. Kreacher shuffled off to his nest, giving Sirius scathing looks over his shoulder as he went.

Sirius extinguished the torches in the kitchen and went upstairs to wait for the end of the night.

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