FernWithy (fernwithy) wrote,
FernWithy
fernwithy

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Shifts, Chapter 19: That Awful Man

You know, chapter names are hard. I'm sitting here not writing the chapter for ages, because I'm trying to think of a name. And the one that I came up with is goofy. Oh, well. Or maybe that's just, um, procrastination. ;)


Table of Contents and Summary So Far




Remus managed to get out of the house before noon on Saturday, but it was a close thing. Sirius had argued rather vociferously that he should be involved in any hunt for Peter, even in preliminary stages like this. Remus had finally had to remind him that Mrs. Pettigrew still believed he had murdered Peter, and his presence would not be an inducement to free conversation. And when that failed to have any effect whatsoever, he was forced to simply put his foot down and say no. Sirius threatened to follow anyway, but by then, Dora had finally arrived, and backed Remus up (much to his relief).

He decided to walk to the Pettigrew home, hoping the cold air would clear his head. It wasn't any great distance, though of course the Muggle residents of Grimmauld Place could have walked for hours without finding it.

In the wake of the Blitz, there had been nearly as much magical as Muggle building, and Peter's neighborhood was one of several tiny "bubble" neighborhoods in the greater London area that had been built around that time. It was protected by many anti-Muggle Charms, but since none were foolproof, it presented a decorous Muggle facade, just in case of unexpected visitors. Remus supposed that such a visitor might find it odd at night, when he discovered that all of the light in the windows came from torches and the carefully constructed streetlamps didn't light up at all, but in the daytime, it was every bit as buttoned-up as Privet Drive.

Peter's house was at the corner of Asphodel Avenue and Flitterbloom Way, with a large willow tree in front. Remus had only visited a few times as a child--Peter hadn't liked people coming to his home--but he remembered it well enough. He'd been surprised. The state of Peter's possessions had led him to expect a more humble abode. It had become clear rather quickly, though, that Peter's mother simply spent her money elsewhere. The Pettigrews weren't rich--at least not in comparison to Sirius or James--but Mrs. Pettigrew insisted on living as though they were, even if it meant skimping a bit on school clothes and supplies.

Remus rang the bell.

A young man wearing a dark robe not unlike a school robe opened it and bowed. "May I help you?" he asked.

Remus smiled. "My name is Remus Lupin. I'm here to see Mrs. Pettigrew," he said.

"I'll see if she can take visitors."

The butler disappeared for a few minutes, leaving Remus standing in the vestibule. This room had changed a great deal since he'd last been in this house. Now, it was lined with pictures of Peter--Peter as a baby, Peter as a small, chubby boy, Peter in his Hogwarts robes. There was a picture there that included Remus and James, but it had been cut in an uneven shape on one side, where Sirius had been. All of the Peter Pettigrews smiled and waved down at Remus.

It was a far cry from his childhood, when his actual presence in the house had been largely ignored, and Mrs. Pettigrew had sighed and asked why he couldn't take care of himself as well as his new friends did.

"Mrs. Pettigrew will see you in the conservatory," the butler said, appearing silently at the door and beckoning. He led Remus through a parlor and a dining room, to a small, sunny room at the back of the house that had been filled with large, leafy plants. On the one windowless wall was a shelf with a small box on it, surrounded by more pictures of Peter and cuttings from the Daily Prophet about his death.

Mrs. Pettigrew sat in a wicker chair at the center of the room, her gray-blonde hair piled up in ringlets on her head, wearing a diaphonous pink robe. Her face, so like Peter's, was actually quite lovely on a woman. She disguised the weak chin by letting ringlets fall around it and cast shadows. "Remus," she said, holding out both hands. "How good of you to visit."

Remus shook one of the profferred hands, then sat down opposite her. "How are you, Mrs. Pettigrew?"

"As well as can be expected for a lonely old woman." She gave a dramatic sigh. "I should be surrounded by grandchildren, Remus. Little ones to listen to stories and give presents to. It's not right for a woman to live beyond her son and have nothing to show for his life."

Well, Remus thought, you should see the 'child' he managed to raise last year. He bit his tongue on it, not especially wanting to be thrown out, although if Peter had been here, Mrs. Pettigrew was a better actress than he gave her credit for. "I'm sorry," he managed to say.

She smiled in a distant way. "I read in the Daily Prophet that you're a--well, that you, er..."

"I am."

"It's horrible the way they treat your sort," she said, her tone suggesting that she didn't care much one way or the other how werewolves were treated. Remus was, nevertheless, grateful--she could as easily as not have simply thrown him out. "You were always the most considerate of Peter's little friends. I suppose the Aurors have been around you since that murdering traitor escaped?"

"I've talked to Aurors," Remus said.

Mrs. Pettigrew sniffed. "They came here quite a lot at first, to warn me that he was free. Then they didn't catch him. Then, if you please, a black fellow came and told me that Black accused Peter of having done that horrible thing. The gall of it! And the gall of even entertaining the notion! He said you'd vouched for it, but I'm sure it must have been a Confundus Charm, or perhaps the full moon made you see things or believe things. That's right, isn't it, Remus? You haven't betrayed Peter?"

"No," Remus said, "I most assuredly have not betrayed Peter."

"I knew you hadn't. I knew Peter wouldn't have chosen all of his friends so badly. Even if you are a... a..."

"Werewolf."

"Yes, that." She sat back in her chair. "The Aurors," she muttered. "They come and insult my son, but they can't seem to bother themselves to actually catch the man who killed him."

Remus struggled not to stand up and yell, not to take the complacent woman in the wicker chair and shake her until she saw sense. "I'm sure they're looking very hard," he said.

"Hmph. I don't trust them any further than I can throw them," she said. "Imagine, suspecting the murder victim of a murder!"

"They need to examine all the possibilities, Mrs. Pettigrew."

Her eyes narrowed. "Do you see that box on the shelf, Remus? That's all that's left of my son. Don't discuss 'possibilities' with me." She tightened her lips, as if preparing to spit. "I won't deal with them anymore. I just won't. That awful man is out there, and I don't believe they'll do a thing about it. Why, I didn't even--" She stopped.

"Didn't what?" Remus prodded.

"Nothing."

"Was there something you didn't tell the Aurors?"

Mrs. Pettigrew looked furtively around the conservatory, then leaned forward in a conspiratorial way. "Black sent me something," she said.

"You didn't tell the Aurors that a wanted fugitive sent you something?"

"They'd just send that black man again, and he'd ask questions about Peter instead of... him. I don't like that man."

Remus frowned. He hadn't realized that any of the Aurors had followed up on the testimony he'd offered, but of course, Kingsley would have. He just wouldn't have found any evidence. Clever Peter. "What did Sirius Black send you?" he asked.

Mrs. Pettigrew looked at him slyly, then pulled a plain envelope out from under her chair. She handed it to Remus. "This," she said. "It came on Halloween."

Remus lifted the flap on the envelope. Inside, there was a brittle lock of hair, forced into an even curl. It was blonde for most of its length, but near one end, it was a medium, mousy brown. "What is it?" he asked.

"There were rumors. About my late husband and his chippie of an assistant. All untrue, of course."

"Of course."

"She disappeared. That's her hair. She used that awful cheap dying Potion, and let the brown show under it as often as not." She reached under her chair again and pulled out something smaller. "This was in the envelope with the hair," she said. "My husband's wedding ring." She handed it to Remus. "I don't know if you remember when Mr. Pettigrew died..."

"Of course I do. Peter was beside himself." Remus examined the ring, a nasty idea forming in his mind. "That was in seventy-eight, wasn't it?"

"Yes. They said it was a Potion-brewing accident. But if it was an accident, then why would someone take his ring? When would someone have done it?" She reached for the ring and took it back, and twisted it convulsively around her little finger. "I think Peter must have defied that man somehow, and it was revenge, killing his father. Was he always vengeful, Remus?"

The simple answer, of course, was yes, but while Remus couldn't antagonize Mrs. Pettigrew, he also found himself incapable of giving her any information that would confirm her view of events. "Why would he take vengeance to your husband's assistant?" he asked. "Peter didn't care for her much, as I recall."

"Who knows why a madman does something?" Mrs. Pettigrew said breezily. "Perhaps he was trying to set Peter up even then."

"And he sent it to you now..."

"Clearly, he thought I would give it to the Aurors and they would start thinking it was Peter." She pursed her mouth, vaguely troubled, and Remus wondered exactly how many lies she was telling herself unconciously to support this... and how many she was telling consciously. She smiled vaguely. "Oh, dear," she said. "I've gone on and I haven't even offered you a bite to eat. Would you like something, dear?"

"Oh, no, really I'm--"

But she had already rung a small silver bell, and a moment later, her butler appeared. "Please bring some fruit salad for Mr. Lupin and myself," she said.

"Right away, Madam," he said.

"He's only a day-hire," she said disdainfully when he left. "But a widow by herself can't afford a house elf to do these sorts of things."

Remus forced a smile. He ate a tasteless fruit salad with her and they shared memories of Peter, Remus just letting his mind adopt the position that they boy they were talking about was long dead and properly mourned. When they finished, he asked if he might take the hair along with him.

"Whatever for?"

"To, er... " Remus thought about it. "To see if I can use it to trace the murderer."

"How?"

By showing it to Dora and Sirius and seeing if they think it says anything about Peter's whereabouts.

"I'm not sure," he said.

"Can you smell it and track him? Is it a... werewolf sort of thing?"

"That would be a useful side effect," Remus said. "Unfortunately, it's not the case. I'll have to use more mundane methods."

She nodded, her eyes wide.

She didn't stand to see Remus out when he left. When he looked over his shoulder, she was staring across the leaves of her plants with a vacant look on her face, twisting her late and less-than-faithful husband's wedding band around one finger after another.
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