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Shifts, Chapter 26: Shifting Focus - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Shifts, Chapter 26: Shifting Focus
Someday, I'll figure out why I can only write Shifts late at night. I think all the dream sequences take the place of REM sleep.... ;)

I do believe I left this off after a major sea change in Remus and Dora's relationship...

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

The kiss ended, but Dora remained close in the circle of his arms, standing on her toes and resting her cheek against the side of his neck. He felt her lips press the skin behind his ear, and he shivered.

She leaned back, kissing his cheek as she did so, and he caught her lips again briefly before she pulled away from him. Her hand was back on his face. "Remus, I need you to promise me something. Don't worry... it's nothing... it's not a lifelong committment or anything of the sort, not after one kiss. Or two, or three." She kissed him again. "Or four... five...."

"What is it, Dora?"

"I want you to promise me that when you go home and think about this--and I know you will, and I want you to; I want this, but it's not something I can decide just myself--that no matter what you decide you want, even if you think this isn't a road you want to go down... Promise me that you won't regret kissing me."

"I can promise that without hesitation."

"And I promise, I won't leave you, no matter what."

"I didn't ask for a promise."

"I wanted to give you one."

He held her for a few more minutes, then she drew away once more, came back for another kiss, then pulled away for good. "I'll... I'll see you later," she said.

He nodded, and the door closed between them. For a long time, he stood on his side of it, his hand resting on the wood, then, with effort, he went down the stairs to the street.

The cold rain was tapering off, but it was still enough to cool his mind at least enough to get home without making any wrong turns and converse with Dedalus Diggle and Sirius about something, though he was later at a complete loss to remember the subject of the conversation.

The panic came with the setting sun.

He'd retired to his bedroom after Diggle left, ignoring Sirius's curious looks, and was reading a novel about the original Order of Merlin--an irritating text, really, with badly drawn illustrations that enjoyed literally pointing to mystery clues the author had written in, then jumping up and down on the side of the page if Remus failed to pay attention to them. He realized that he'd read the same page at least six times and was now doing nothing but watch a cartoon image of Niniane twirling beside her cauldron in the least seductive dance in the history of dance.

Out of nowhere, he recalled that Dora had loved stories of Merlin as a child, that he'd once taken her to the crystal cave where Merlin had lived, and that he'd sat up with her, reading stories of this sort while she looked up at him, wide-eyed.

And he'd kissed her.

Thought, which had obligingly left his mind for several hours, returned in a babbling rush: What kind of monster would take advantage of this girl's crush? Was I always such a monster? Is there some part of me that knew, even then, and wished for her? What will Ted and Andromeda think? And the others... what was it Alan had called it? A mid-life crisis? And what of tomorrow? What will I say to her tomorrow? What will the world be with this business of having kissed Dora in it?

The panicked worries clawed over one another. Some, he knew he should be able to dismiss. He had, after all, been well aware of himself when he'd cared for her as a child and he worked with children full time--he knew he had no unnatural attraction to them. But holding the memory of carrying Dora around the Crystal Caves when she'd twisted her ankle at the age of eight and the memory of her soft lips and warm curves of her body held against his both inside of his mind at the same time, wanting to give up neither...

Promise me that you won't regret kissing me.

He had promised. "Without hesitation," he'd said.

He used a mild sleeping draught that night, knowing he would never sleep without it, and dreamed of the small park where they'd stopped after taking the children to King's Cross station this summer, where he'd tossed Dora's hat to Padfoot and joked about her "granny look." They stood together at the gate. Dora wanted to go in. Remus told her that the Order was waiting, that it was foolish to stay out in public, that really, she was far to young to be walking with him, and her parents wouldn't like it at all. Perhaps they could come back when she was older.

When she turned, she'd become Dora Lewis. "Honestly, Remus. It's not going to be summer forever. We can take this way home."

Remus looked into the park, dappled green and gold and bathed in sunlight. A path which had not existed in life ran to a castle which seemed to be Hogwarts from this distance. On the grass, he could see several of his students from both Hogwarts and Smeltings happily playing games. Harry was leading a class on how to identify different types of malignant spirits, and Hermione was standing on a wooden crate raving about house elves. The Weasley family was having a picnic on a blanket spread beneath an oak tree, Mehadi Patil and her twin daughters were braiding flowers into one another's hair, and Minerva McGonagall was watching it all with a fond expression on her face.

Here on the street, it was cloudy and beginning to rain. At the end of the voyage, there was only murky, dismal Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, waiting for him.

Dora took his hands, backing through the gate into the park. He paused and looked over his shoulder. To his surprise, Grimmauld Place was immediately behind him, and the Order of the Phoenix--including James, Lily, Peter, the Prewett brothers, and the Longbottoms--was watching him from the windows with accusing eyes. Ted, Andromeda, and little Dora stood on the street in front of the house. Andromeda was carrying a silver knife, and Ted was comforting the weeping child.

"I'm just going home," he told them.

Out of nowhere, Neville Longbottom ran through the gate beside them, going from the gray and black world of the street to the green world of the park, his robes changing as he crossed over. He turned back with an amused grin on his face. "Honestly, Professor Lupin. It's just a boggart." He raised his wand and cried, "Riddikulus!" The ghosts in the windows and on the street outside did not become amusing, and Remus couldn't laugh at them, but they did fade, one at a time, into nothing. Remus missed them.

"Come on," Dora said beside him, smiling. "We're wasting daylight."

Remus woke up.

He went to Dora's before the sun was completely up, and when she came to the door, she was groggy and half-asleep. Her hair was short again (and pillow-rumpled), and she'd been sleeping in a pair of cut-off trousers and a Weird Sisters T-shirt. "'Lo? Remus?"

He kissed her. "I wanted to say good morning," he said. "I'll come back later."

She smiled and patted his cheek. "You do that."

He did, and continued to do so every day after school, staying for an hour or two, often just talking, as they always had, though it was often done while holding hands or sitting on the sofa with their arms around one another. There was a great deal of laughter in the first few days of this new shift in the shape of their relationship. Not every kiss was a great success--neither had a lot of recent practice in this area--and on at least two occasions, attempted caresses ended up seeming more like tickling. Dora had, apparently, spent the first night up worrying about what on Earth was meant to happen next. "I don't mean... you know what I don't mean. I mean, none of my daydreams included figuring out how to start talking about Smeltings and Dudley Dursley again after kissing you. I've no idea how I'm meant to change the subject! No one ever talks about that."

The subject changes didn't tend to last long at first--they would talk about Joe and Miriam, and how they seemed to be reacting to the memory modification (Miriam seemed to have more trouble with confusion than Joe did, but both were responding decently, and Joe was quite healthy again, and talking about going for a hike), then Remus would find himself wanting to kiss her high cheekbones, or Dora would turn and wrap her arms around him. There were long kisses during those days, and increasingly less tentative caresses, but later, looking back on all of it, what seemed real and solid to Remus was the fact that when she came to visit him for lunch at Smeltings, instead of kissing the bridge of his nose when she left, she gave him a brief, casual kiss on the lips and smiled at him. Everything else might be a dream he was living in, but that minor change, a matter of less than four inches, made it real.

This wasn't something he could have explained, had anyone thought to ask about it.

At home, Sirius was aware that something was going on, but didn't press for a full explanation. This surprised Remus, but he didn't bring the subject up himself--partly because he was afraid of how Sirius would react, but mostly because he couldn't think how to put it into simple, defining words. At one point during the week, when Alan had casually mentioned "Raymond's wife, Dora," to a colleague, Remus had found himself wondering if part of the appeal of marriage was simply that it required no further explanations of itself.

Dora seemed to run into the same wall in discussing it with her parents. Ted knew that something had changed, she said, but he didn't ask and she didn't begin the conversation. ("He always asked before!") Andromeda was deep in whatever pain Bella had caused her, and Dora--by now quite deeply concerned about her--thought that she wasn't noticing much of anything at all. She offered to go back to her parents' home to help, but Ted told her, firmly but gently, that Andromeda needed some space. Remus asked if he knew what Bella had told her. He said that he did, that she'd finally told him, but didn't elaborate. He stopped at the front door of their house and looked over his shoulder at Remus. "I'm her father," he said. "I don't want to talk about this in any great depth. But as your friend... this is a good time for the pair of you, isn't it?"


"Don't waste it. Don't let her waste it. I'll take care of Andi. That's my job."

The next Sunday, a week and a day after their first kiss (Dora had worked Saturday again), she had asked him to dinner at a restaurant in Diagon Alley owned by one of her Hufflepuff housemates--a few years older than she was--named Kumar Dalal.

"It's a real date," she said. "Well, sort of. We'll be there together. In public."

"I don't know. Being seen in public with a beautiful younger woman..."

"And meeting her other friends." She shrugged sheepishly. "They won't be there all night, I promise, but Maddie noticed that I'm apparently floating around and I had to tell them something. They really want to meet you. And probably grill you a bit. Are you good enough for me, and all that."

"No pressure, then."

They met her three closest friends, a married couple named Maddie and David Apcarne (Maddie was hugely pregnant now, counting down in weeks instead of months) and Sanjiv MacPherson, as well as Sanjiv's date-of-the-moment, a lazily pretty girl named Frances Culmer, and once Remus got accustomed to their youth (and they stopped trying not to look at his gray hair), he found that he quite liked them. They did end up spending the entire evening together, sitting in one of Kumar's deep booths, eating curried puffapods and talking. Their Hogwarts life together sounded quite familiar to Remus, and he heard many stories that Dora had somehow forgotten to mention to him over the years. In the interest of fairness, he shared a bit of Marauder history with them. Sanjiv was deeply impressed with the story of how they'd all helped Andromeda escape her family's watchful eyes to get to Hogsmeade and elope with Ted.

After dinner, they sauntered out of the restaurant together, talking about some musical group they all enjoyed (not the Weird Sisters, for once, though Remus was no more familiar with the music), and found a snarl of people outside Flourish and Blotts, their heads buried in newspapers.

"Oh, it's the new Quibbler," Daffy said. "We should check and see if the heliopath army is planning to invade during the birthing party."

"Right," Dora said. "That rag is--" She stopped and grabbed Remus's arm. "I think we'd better get one."

Remus looked up. One of the readers had shaken out the tabloid, and the front page was clearly visible, and dominated by a familiar face, smiling awkwardly at all of them.

In red letters across the page, the headline read:

13 comments or Leave a comment
siegeofangels From: siegeofangels Date: January 5th, 2005 12:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, it's beautiful. I'm glad they get at least a little while for things to be simple and happy.

Thank you for making their relationship move slowly. Probably any other fic would have had them in bed, and it's nice to see a change (and it fits better with the characters).

I love the "I'm just going home," and the boggart.

Sanjiv was deeply impressed with the story of how they'd all helped Andromeda escape her family's watchful eyes to get to Hogsmeade and elope with Ted.

Have you written that story? I'd love to read it.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 5th, 2005 04:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Not yet; it's on my my to-do list. It's the second half of Barefoot in the Moonlight.
azaelia_culnamo From: azaelia_culnamo Date: January 5th, 2005 12:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Cliffhanger if I ever saw one!
liwy From: liwy Date: January 5th, 2005 02:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Exactly how long do you intend this to be? I stopped reading a few chapters back, deciding that I was not following the plot well enough, but I plan to go through the whole thing when you're finished. Do you have any idea when that'll be?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 5th, 2005 04:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm a few days off my calendar--okay, about a week off my schedule--but if I can keep up with this pace, I should finish about a week into February. I haven't figured out how many more chapters--I have it scened out, but not all the scenes are grouped into chapters yet--but I'd estimate about ten more.
mrs_who From: mrs_who Date: January 6th, 2005 02:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Exactly how long do you intend this to be? I stopped reading a few chapters back,

You...you...you what??? You stopped reading? Gasp. I can barely keep myself from stalking Fern's LJ several times a day to see if there's a Shifts update! ;-)
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 5th, 2005 05:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
"At one point during the week, when Alan had casually mentioned "Raymond's wife, Dora," to a colleague, Remus had found himself wondering if part of the appeal of marriage was simply that it required no further explanations of itself."

Fern, I think you're on to something ;)

sannalim From: sannalim Date: January 5th, 2005 05:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Faboo follow-up to that kiss :)

...none of my daydreams included figuring out how to start talking about Smeltings and Dudley Dursley again after kissing you.
Will we see more of Dudley soon? Does he know that Joe is better yet? How will Remus and Dora get Dudley to St Mungos for Andromeda to unravel the part of the curse that is on him?
[/impatient reader]

You'll be done in February? Woo-hoo! I'm excited for the rest of this story.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 5th, 2005 06:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
This particular chapter is going to deal more with Harry and the article and the Order than with Dudley, but yes--Big D will be back. I'll edit in a mention that Dudley has heard of Joe getting a bit better, but the next challenge is getting him cleaned up. There's also the matter of Remus (and probably Dora and possibly Sirius) having a peek into the thoughts that Ted drew out of Joe's head and put into the Pensieve.
sannalim From: sannalim Date: January 6th, 2005 04:32 am (UTC) (Link)
You know, it's a real credit to your writing that I want to see more Dudley in your story ;)
antonia_east From: antonia_east Date: January 5th, 2005 07:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've just realised that whenever I mention Ted and Andromeda (they occur in passing in a story I'm writing) I write them as your Ted and Andromeda. I'd read your sorting fic ages ago, which is where I must have got it from. I just realised when I saw Ted call her Andi. I've done that too, and I think I got it from you. I hope you don't mind!

And oh ... gosh. Remus and Dora like that is wonderful. I'm so happy for them (in an yes, I know they aren;t real, but aw kind of way). I love the rate you're taking this at. It's perfect. But that's going to make the Department of Mysteries scene a bit different, isn't it. Can't wait.
chicleeblair From: chicleeblair Date: January 6th, 2005 12:36 am (UTC) (Link)
What's odd is that I am listening to my OotP book-on-CD and I just finished reading Harry's interview with Rita, so I am just about right where you are in writing this.
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: January 6th, 2005 10:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hi - I'm new to stalking your LJ for updates (and actually I don't read a lot of fanfic at all), but I've always enjoyed your stories at the Quill, and was immediately hooked when I found this one. And so I've spent the past two days just reading and reading and reading, and I wanted to let you know that I think Shifts is fabulous... and now I want more... :)

13 comments or Leave a comment