FernWithy (fernwithy) wrote,
FernWithy
fernwithy

Shifts, Chapter 24: Escape, pt 1

And the holidays are over--back to life, back to reality, as the old song puts it.

Unfortunately, Remus's reality changed a bit. He's having trouble adjusting.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




Sirius narrowed his eyes and looked across the breakfast table. "All right," he said. "Talk to me."

Remus carefully studied an uninteresting issue of the Daily Prophet. After an hour of shivering in the dark, he'd finally gotten a bit of a handle on the... not-quite-nightmare that he'd had. "About what?"

"About why you came home yesterday looking like you were under the Imperius Curse and jumping around like a house elf trying to get away with something."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

Sirius grinned, and Remus resigned himself to the notion that he wouldn't be able to escape this particular torment. "Did you kiss her?"

Remus dropped the paper. "What?"

"Dora. Did you kiss her?"

"No!"

"Came close, maybe?"

"No. There was nothing like that. Where are you getting this from?"

"You went off to Hogwarts perfectly normal, spent an afternoon with Dora, and came back from it with that guilty, skittish look you always got when you had a mad crush on someone."

"Sirius, I'm an adult, not a spotty teenager prone to crushes."

"Mm-hmmm." Sirius leaned back. "I will have it out of you. You may as well just give in and tell me."

Remus put his coffee down. "All right," he said. "But you'll be disappointed, I'm afraid."

"I somehow doubt it."

"I looked at her and I didn't recognize her. It was a bit disconcerting to not know her."

"And?"

"And..." Remus took a deep breath. He supposed Dora would be over to tease him about it later. Probably better to get the actual story told first. "And I thought she was a beautiful woman and I sketched her before I noticed that she was Dora. That's all." He picked the paper back up and started to read an article about substandard braking Charms on racing brooms.

"You know I don't believe you, right?"

"I told you that you'd be disappointed."

"Don't tell me it's the first time you've noticed that she's beautiful. She's my damned cousin and I've noticed it."

"I suppose I hadn't really thought about whether or not she was beautiful. She's a student."

"Ah. Well, I suppose your contract required you to promise in perpetuity that you would never see a student grow up, no matter how long it's been. When we ritually remove your eyes, do you want me to hang them on the wall beside the elf heads, or just toss them in fire?"

"We're not removing my eyes."

"Are you sure? I'm sure Mum's got a kit for that hidden away in the attic somewhere."

Sirius spent the rest of breakfast in this vein, and Remus finally slipped out early. He should have known better. He could have asked Dora not to mention it, and he could have simply lied to Sirius.

Oh, stop it. It was a drawing and a dream. Let it go.

He got to the office before Alan and sorted out the day's notes. The second and first form papers were ready, but he'd have to work on the fifth form--

He stopped.

He'd had a pen in his hand, and along the edge of Paul Freehof's paper, he'd drawn a woman's profile.

No, not a woman. It was Dora.

He went to the door and closed it, locking it so he could hear any approach by Alan, then quickly pulled his wand from his briefcase, heart pounding. Hoping no one was monitoring him at the moment, he quickly erased the drawing.

"All right," he muttered aloud. "This has gone too damned far." He put the pen in his less intelligent hand and read over the rest of Paul's work, putting the strange business as far out of his head as he could. It was one thing when he dreamed about it; it became something more than an annoyance when it started to interfere with his job.

More than anything else he'd told himself in the dark hour he'd spent awake, this thought brought him back to reality. He switched the pen to his good hand and began to make his notes. When Alan came in, he'd finished the fifth form papers, and was starting the morning's arcane computer rituals.

"After holidays," Alan said, "Blythe will have about a dozen e-mails out, all of them contradicting one another, about how to do things in the new term. He's done it every year since they installed the system. He hasn't quite got the concept of only sending out the last draft. I'd go to the end first and see what the final form is."

Remus nodded as his account opened. There were, indeed, many messages from Blythe, most of their subjects beginning with the word, "CORRECTION." He hit the page down key and the second screen of titles appeared. Most were from Blythe, and he was about ready to page down and see if there were any more on the last page when he noticed, buried among them, a message from "Dudley V. Dursley." It had no subject, and the message was only, "May I come see you in your free hour?" No rude comments, no slurs against magic... just a request. He frowned and typed an affirmative reply. He was getting better at the keyboard, and it only took him three minutes to type two sentences.

"What is it?" Alan asked.

"Dudley Dursley," Remus said. "He wants to meet me."

"Odd. He's certainly sociable lately. He was over at Joe's when it happened."

"What? When what happened?"

"You hadn't heard? I'm sorry, I was sure someone would have told you. Joe had a terrible relapse a little after New Year's. Dursley had come to call, and in the middle of it, they had to call for an ambulance. Miriam is beside herself."

"Which hospital is he in?"

"They let him come home yesterday."

"I should go see him later."

"He'd appreciate it."

"I do wonder what's got into Dursley, though. He just showed up on the doorstep at teatime, which he's never done before. And now he's meeting with you? No offense, Lewis, but last I knew, he loathed you."

"No offense taken," Remus said. "That was the last I knew as well."

He taught his morning classes, talking about the reading he'd asked them to do over the holiday (Daniel, predictably, had read a good deal more, and sidetracked the discussion for ten minutes talking about Galileo Galilei). He found himself watching the clock above the door, something that rarely happened when he was teaching. Finally, first form ended, and he walked quickly back to the office. Dudley, whose class was apparently closer, was already waiting. His straw hat was in his hands and his hair was neatly combed back. He was looking at his fingertips.

Remus opened the door and gestured him inside. "May I close the door?" he asked.

Dudley nodded and took a seat.

"Mr. Garvey told me what happened to Joe."

Dudley nodded again.

"Dudley, why did you go there? I told you--"

"Didn't believe you."

Remus sat down behind his desk and sighed. "I see. I suppose I should have realized that. There... other things."

"Right." Dudley looked out the window. "Why are they doing this? Why do they care about Mr. Levinson? What did they do to me?"

"I don't know. I don't even know who it was."

"Some blonde woman. Older. Pretty. She was really pretty."

"How much older?"

"I don't know. Not young. I thought she was a professional lady. Bit drunk, maybe. She bought me a drink. And she offered to--" He blushed. "You know."

Remus nodded. "And this didn't strike you as odd?"

"After a match?" Dudley shrugged. "There are always women around. Some of the other boys on the team, er... hired a few. I thought about it, but Mr. Levinson had told us not to, so I didn't. And then she was there and... it gets a bit fuzzy after that."

"And the man Joe fought with?"

"I don't know who he was. Little bloke." He finally looked at Remus. "Are you really here to help?"

"I was here to stop something like this from happening. I didn't know that something already had."

"Can you make it... stop?"

"I'll need to find out exactly what happened."

"But I don't remember."

"There are spells that can help you, if you'll let me do them."

"Can they help Mr. Levinson? I didn't mean to make him ill."

"We'll figure something out for Mr. Levinson. I know a woman who helped him a bit before; perhaps she can go back. But until we understand how the Curse is working through you, please don't see him."

"I won't." Dudley looked away again. "Mrs. Levinson knew it was me. Is she one of you?"

"No, not at all. People believe more than they think they do."

Dudley nodded vaguely, then turned around with a deeply suspicious--and hateful--look on his face. "Did they come after me because of Ha-" He fought for Harry's name and failed. "Why can't I talk about him?"

"It's a protective measure. And, yes. That's probably why they came. They took a guess."

"I'm going to pound that little runt into--"

"It's not his fault. He has no idea."

"Right. They'll come again, won't they?"

"I don't know."

"Is there anything I can do if they do? If I see that miserable blonde bitch again, I don't care if she is a woman, I'll--"

"You wouldn't get anywhere near a witch," Remus said. "And I don't advise you to try."

"So there's nothing I can do unless one of you people happens to be around?"

Remus sighed. "I don't know what you can do. I'll look into it. Can you come see me next Monday at this time? I'll tell you anything I find."

Dudley gave him a narrow, suspicious look--pure Petunia--but ultimately agreed. He left the office and was partway down the hall when he heard a familiar voice say, "Wotcher, Dud--"

Dora appeared at the door, rolling her eyes after Dudley. She smiled as she turned to Remus and every moment of his dream came back into his mind. "A great conversationalist, that one," she said, putting a lunch basket down on his desk. "How's the first day back?"

For a horrible moment, Remus was certain that he wasn't going to find his voice, but it came out perfectly well. "Dudley went to visit Joe Levinson."

Dora sat down in the chair Dudley had vacated. "Oh, wonderful."

"You should call Miriam. Hint that your mum could come back again."

"Yes, of course. We'll have to think of a way to get him to St. Mungo's, though." She brightened. "I thought I'd bring us some lunch. Get back into normal habits after that tiff yesterday."

"Thank you," he said. "Really. But I have work." He pointed at the completed essays on his desk. "Fifth form papers. I should finish them before class. I got behind with all that business in Kent, and I really owe them that much."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm sure."

She stood. "Well, bring the basket by later. We can talk then."

"Of course."

"You're not angry with me?"

"Not at all angry. Why would I be angry?"

"I don't know, but you do seem a bit cross."

"It's not at you."

"You're certain?"

"Positive."

She leaned forward over the desk and he realized she meant to kiss him goodbye--as she always did--just a moment before her lips touched the bridge of his nose.

He managed a smile before she disappeared, but didn't speak.

Wonderful, he thought. Just bloody wonderful. Thirty-eight years old, and she tumbles me back to a tongue-tied adolescent. Absurd.

He supposed this nonsense wouldn't last long--it couldn't; it took too much energy, and he was far too old for it--and he could simply keep himself busy until it passed.

Or, as it turned out, Voldemort could keep both of them busy.
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