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Shifts, Chapter 27: Interlude (5), pt. 1 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Shifts, Chapter 27: Interlude (5), pt. 1
Starting later than I meant to, but still earlier than usual. I will stop at 1am, whether I'm done or not, so pre-emptive apologies if I seem to cut off abruptly.

Remus's monthly routine never stops.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

Edward Holmes became frantic ten minutes before moonrise when he realized he was alone in the transformation ward below St. Mungo's, screaming and thrashing against his bindings.

"I won't!" he screamed. "I won't! I won't!"

Mehadi Patil ignored her apprentice's advice and un-Vanished the stairs with five minutes to spare. From across the room, she Bound Holmes more tightly.

He looked at her helplessly. "I won't," he said.

"I'm armed," Mehadi told him. "I'll stay. I can disappear quickly if you make it necessary, but I'll stay if I can."

"I won't," Holmes said again. "Won't, won't..."

But of course, he did.

Tonks was on duty when she got the call to Maddie's birthing party. Every employee of the Ministry of Magic was entitled to time off for one such event each year (excluding the births of one's own children), but her team was scouring Kent after more reports of loose werewolves and Kingsley was less than thrilled with her leave request.

"I let you off after that business with the Muggles. You were on duty that afternoon..."

"I'm sorry, but I promised, and I'm afraid I can't ask Maddie to reschedule!"

He grimaced and made a series of sounds that weren't quite words, then waved his hand in a sharp dismissal. "Fine," he said. "You worked enough double shifts when this escape business came along, I suppose I can give you one full moon off. I thought I could at least count on you not having social engagements on full moons anymore."

Tonks considered reminding him that not all of her friends were werewolves, but decided to hurry to to Daffy and Maddie's home instead. She was the last to arrive, and was immediately swept into the business of taking care of Maddie's needs and keeping poor Daff from going round the bend. Everyone had dressed in the horrid blue and pink robes that Maddie had chosen for the occasion, and they looked like some strange Quidditch team with a name like the Peabody Pastels.

To her surprise, Mum was sitting at Maddie's bedside.

"The latest rage," Daffy's older sister, Isolda, said. "Having a Healer at the birth. It's Muggle-influenced. I suppose it's a good idea."

"Too right, it's a good idea," Daffy said, ducking into the kitchen to get the ice that Tonks and Isolda had been breaking into chips with a modified Reductor Curse. "This hurts her." He ran back.

Isolda rolled her eyes. "This, apparently, is the first time that particular matter has occurred to him."

Tonks smiled and kept chipping ice. In the front room, Sanjiv was working with two other Hufflepuffs, Liz Blandeshin and a girl Tonks thought was Berit Ollivander, who should still be at Hogwarts, if she remembered her right. The three of them were taking away the soiled linens as Daffy changed them, and using Cleaning Charms on them. Every now and then, Mum, Daffy, or Maddie would call for something, and as was the tradition, rather than simply Summoning it, a guest would bring the requested item to the birthing room and kiss Maddie's forehead. Tonks brought her water at one point, and found her bathed in sweat, her hands grasping at the bedclothes, her jaw clamped tightly shut... at least until she let out a great bellow.

"You're getting there, Maddie," Mum said. "I can see the baby's head."

Daffy--a bit terrified--looked, then whooped with joy. "It's a head! It's really a head!"

"Can we get the rest, please?" Maddie barked out between gasps.

Tonks thought about looking, but it seemed an awfully private place to look. Instead, she kissed Maddie's forehead and told her she was doing wonderfully.

She was getting ready to leave when she felt a warm touch on her wrist. Mum was looking up at her with a smile, and Tonks gave her a hug. "You're doing pretty well, too, Healer Tonks."

Mum kissed her cheek, then let her go. It was the most personal contact she'd offered since the night Bellatrix had found her, and Tonks was glad to see it.

She wasn't sure how much longer it was--everyone seemed to be in a bit of a daze--but it seemed to be very soon after Mum saw the baby's head that Daffy ran to the door and said, "It's here! He's here!"

Tonks didn't try to get to the door first, reckoning that if she tripped, it would be better if she didn't get in people's way doing it, but nearly everyone was in in a flash. Daffy was holding up a red, squalling bundle while Mum used her wand to sever a bloody cord.

"Daffy," she said. "Wash your son. I'll help Maddie finish up."

The events became blurry again--there was a great deal more blood involved that Tonks had every imagined--as Daffy performed the father's duty of washing the newborn child and carrying him back to his mother. The group of guests occupied themselves with cleaning the flat and doing freshening Charms on the air while Mum helped Maddie with the after-stages of delivery. When they came back to Maddie's bedside, the baby was in her arms, and she was in Daffy's. She looked exhausted, but radiant, and more changed, somehow, than any of Tonks's more outlandish morphs left her. Her eyes were tracing the baby's small, reddish face.

Daffy beckeoned for everyone to gather around the bed.

"We're calling him Francis David," Maddie said. "We've talked about it. David, of course, for Daffy--"

"But easier for other people to spell, no offense to my mum," Daffy said.

"And Francis for the Fat Friar, because we promised him back when we announced our engagement."

Maddie reached to her bedside table and winced before her hand quite got there. Mum handed her a clean scroll and a quill. Maddie finally looked up from the baby's face long enough to smile at everyone, but immediately looked back at baby Francis. "It's usually rude to ask for gifts," she said, not bothering to check the pamphlet where the ceremony was written. "But we asked all of you here to give gifts to our new child."

"We come and we share," the guests said.

With a bit of difficulty, Maddie passed the baby to Daffy, who stood and brought him to Isolda. The scroll hovered at his shoulder, the quill and ink beside it. Isolda took him, a wondering look on her face.

"My sister, Isolda," Daffy said. "From you, we'd ask that he always knows how to see the plain truth."

"This I give, to the best of my ability," Isolda said. She kissed Francis, then handed him back to Daffy, pulled the scroll from the air, and wrote her promise on it.

Daffy moved on to Sanjiv. "Our friend, from you we'd ask that Francis understand that life is a joyful thing, and laughter is the natural sound of the human voice."

Sanjiv nodded--ironically, for once not laughing--then kissed the baby and signed the scroll.

From Berit, who Maddie mentored through her troubled first year, they asked for dignity and brilliance, and from Liz Blandeshin, an abundance of beauty. Daffy came to Tonks.

She held out her arms, and little Francis fit neatly into the crook of her elbow, his head supported firmly against her upper arm. His skin was warm and his little eyes were tightly shut, but she could see his mouth moving, trying to suck at thin air. "I think he'd like it if we did this quickly," she said.

Daffy smiled. "You brought us together, and you stood with us on the day we married. From you, we ask that you always help Francis know exactly who he is, no matter how things appear."

Tonks kissed the baby's warm forehead, and one flailing arm thumped weakly agaisnt her cheek. On an impulse, she kissed the little fingers, then gave him back to Daffy. "This I give," she said as she signed the scroll.

Mum was tidying up the labor area, and looked surprised when Daffy came to her as well.

Daffy held out the baby.

Mum pursed her lips then, very tentatively, opened her arms. "I don't have anything to give you, do I?" she asked Francis.

"Oh, we're not asking much," Maddie said from bed. "Only that you'll help him learn to help people who need help, and to know that families are more than simply the people you're born with."

Mum was crying when she kissed him and promised.

Kreacher was nowhere to be found. Again.

Sirius shook his head and Vanished the Potion he'd made for the elf's hip; it wouldn't last long enough to wait for him to resurface from the attic or the cellar or the garden shed or wherever else he'd been, and nine times out of ten, he ignored it anyway. Sirius reckoned that making it was enough of discharging of his own responsibilities; he couldn't force the damned creature to drink it.

No one from the Order was here tonight. They had apparently decided he was sane enough to care for himself. Remus, of course, was unavailable (and was refusing to allow Sirius to transform with him), and Dora was on duty. For an hour, he entertained himself talking to Buckbeak, but ask much as he enjoyed the hippogriff's company, it made a poor conversationalist, and by eleven, he was prowling the corridors again. The remaining portraits looked at him with shifty eyes.

After awhile, he made his way to his childhood bedroom, and sat on the bed that Harry had used this summer. He pulled a mirror from his pocket and called, "Harry?"

But the mirror remained stubbornly dark. He supposed Harry had gone to bed and stored his own corresponding mirror in his trunk for the night.

"Ah," Phineas Nigellus said from his portrait. "I see you're wallowing in self-pity again."

"Hello, Grayfur," Sirius said.

"I would prefer 'Greatfather' or 'Great-Great-Grandfather.'"

"No, you wouldn't."

"You are no longer a small child, and such mispronunciations have lost what marginal charm they may have held even for other people."

"If you say so, Grayfur." He looked up. "Did Dumbledore need something? It's obviously a bit of a bad night to catch Moony."

"He merely asks for a report on what the Order has chosen to do. He thought you would be capable of giving such a report."

Sirius shrugged and reported that nothing of any use whatsoever had been found. "On the plus side," he said, "I've discovered some wonderfully effective tidying spells in the attic."

Phineas loked at him shrewdly. "You do realize that that you've no right at all to these maudlin moods of yours. You pout yourself in this position."

"Right. I asked Peter to betray James."

"You've destroyed everything in this house that might have kept you company or taught you anything."

"The ghosts of the Blacks aren't the company I want, and I learned everything I needed to from Mum."

"You've always mistaken Alya for the entire House of Black. You do belong to us, you know."

"I belonged where I chose to belong. That wasn't here."

"You see? It's entirely your choice to feel like this." Phineas nodded, looking pleased with himself for making what he apparently felt was the most salient of points.

Sirius glared at him, and after awhile, he returned to Dumbledore's office.

Okay, yes--second half of the interlude will come tomorrow.
22 comments or Leave a comment
myf From: myf Date: January 11th, 2005 06:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, lovely! The birthing ceremony made me sniffle - it's a beautiful idea.

A bit of an elegant typo here:
You pout yourself in this position.

*rolls eyes* Trust Phineas to speak plainly!
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: January 11th, 2005 06:43 am (UTC) (Link)
It's really a shame to see that one edited out.

More seriously, the birthing ceremony is lovely; the detail of Francis mouthing at the air (and being named for the Friar! *loves*) is wonderful, and the exchange with Andromeda was... so very touching. Healing the Healer, I suspect.

And Phineas is a fascinating character (I think his reaction really was one of the most striking -- even though Harry is imagining much of it, which is in itself a really interesting point and quite possibly constitutes a breakthrough in his perception of Slytherins as individuals....), and I think you have an excellent grasp of him. I like his telling Sirius that Alya is not the whole of the House of Black.
thunderemerald From: thunderemerald Date: January 11th, 2005 06:40 am (UTC) (Link)
>>For an hour, he entertained himself talking to Buckbeak, but ask much as he enjoyed the hippogriff's company...

Small typo. Whatever.

Okay... the birthing ceremony? Definitely one of the most amazing things I've read in fanfic. Or ever. The knees of my pants are now spotted because of the goddam tears that YOU MADE ME CRY. I don't even know why, really. It was juts so, so beautiful.
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 11th, 2005 06:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Yay, another interlude! I do like the regular chapters too, of course. A cousin recently had an unintentional home birthing, with rather fewer helpers -- yours sounds much more civilized although perhaps as chaotic. Phineas is delightfully stiff.
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 11th, 2005 11:28 am (UTC) (Link)


Wonderful installment. The birthing party is original, poignant, warm and fuzzy. And the Sirius scene wonderfully full of OotP irony. The thought of Sirius periodically trying the mirror whose twin was purposely forgotten by Harry is downright painful.

One point, from personal "birthing experience":

His skin was warm and his little eyes were tightly shut

What I saw in the births of my children (have you ever witnessed one?), and was explained to us in our prenatal course, is that for the first hour or two after the birth, the newborn baby is actually very awake and alert. This is apparently due to the adrenalin rush (mainly through the maternal supply) that is an obvious part of the process. After delivery, the mother has a "natural high" for a while, and the baby is likewise awake. Once they were bundled up and calmed down (of course), I had a wonderful hour-long session of just looking into my children's wide-open eyes calmly and quietly.

Again, that's just how it went for us, but I was led to understand that that is the norm for newborn babies.

Can't wait for tomorrow's installment, and the rest of the story!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 11th, 2005 03:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Shloz

The thought of Sirius periodically trying the mirror whose twin was purposely forgotten by Harry is downright painful.

I didn't think about that until I started writing last night, but it would be surprising if he hadn't tried at least once or twice.

Yeah, I remember my mother saying my eyes were open (she wrote a poem about them which suggests the natural high you're talking about), but then I read about babies being born and not opening their eyes, as mrs_who relates below, and that was more recent in my head.
mrs_who From: mrs_who Date: January 11th, 2005 12:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gee, I'm all teary this morning!! *sniff, sniff* The Birthing Party was beautiful, the blue and pink outfits were frightfully reminiscent of a wedding I was in in the mid 80's. LOL. Sigh. Absolutely beautiful and original and very well done. FWIW, none of my babies opened their eyes for a maddeningly long time. ("What color do you think they are?" "I don't know, he won't open them!") But they all got that "rooting reflex" thing right from the start! LOL. And it was always embarrassing (in the days before motherhood) when someone's baby did that. And Dora's kissing the fingertips (Remus-like) was very poignant. And I just called Tonks "Dora" again!

It only now occurred to me in a head-slapping kind of way (like when I realized you got birthing party from Sleeping Beauty) that you might have gotten the idea for Sirius calling Phineas Nigellus "Grayfur" from the Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper? Where the children call their Great-Uncle Merry "Gumerry"? Well, I suppose you might have got that from the Royal Family, too. Don't they all call their grandparents by funny names?

The interaction between Grayfur and Sirius is excellent. He's a terrific device for telling the unpleasant truth to people, isn't he? LOL!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 11th, 2005 12:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I actually haven't read Cooper (I should, though). The "Grayfur" thing sort of came to me out of nowhere during the commute back from work, when I was doing the GP drabbles, Though I recall when the first baby of the next generation in my family was born, we joked that she should call her Great Aunt J____ "Gajit." And since we could never get "Great-Grandmother" straight, we had "Grandma Great," and my cousins used a mispronunciation I don't even understand for their other grandmother (it bore no relation to either the English or the German word). So I guess weird little grandparental titles are normal enough in my family.
siegeofangels From: siegeofangels Date: January 11th, 2005 01:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love seeing the interludes.

there was a great deal more blood involved that Tonks had every imagined


"Only that you'll help him learn to help people who need help, and to know that families are more than simply the people you're born with."

Hold on, I've just . . . got something in my eye. *sniffle*

The bits with Sirius just get more and more ironically-sad the closer we get to the inevitable.
malabud From: malabud Date: January 11th, 2005 05:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
there was a great deal more blood involved that Tonks had every imagined

Every should be ever as well.

Excellent interlude, as always, Fern! I wait with great anticipation for the rest of it tonight.

And poor Sirius. I hope he finds the peace after his death that he so lacked in life. Really, I think it's the waste of such potential that is the saddest thing. Sirius had such promise as a young man, and he could have been and done so much, but events and his own rashness conspired against him.
jesspallas From: jesspallas Date: January 11th, 2005 01:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
The birthing party is such a nice idea. :)

BTW, why is Remus not with Edward? Is it because he is elsewhere like usual (he only said he'd stay for the first change after all) or because he has vanished in a sinister fashion? (perhaps I'm overdramatising...;))
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 11th, 2005 02:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, he's just off elsewhere. I think I'll have Mehadi tell him at some later point that Edward isn't doing too very well. But they weren't together for the February transformation, either (the one I skipped, of course), so Remus probably didn't think that there would be an emergency.
azaelia_culnamo From: azaelia_culnamo Date: January 11th, 2005 01:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Emotionally moving chapter - loved the birth. Dora's so good to her friends - I know people who would probably *not* have taken off work!
trinity_clare From: trinity_clare Date: January 11th, 2005 01:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Beautiful interlude. I think I like these parts the best, sometimes.

Minor comment: It's a bit strange to refer to Andromeda as Mum, since you're not in first person. The first time Dora sees her you could say "her mother" but since you're not directly in Dora's PoV it's a little bit weird. It sounds like everyone should be calling her Mum, and not just Dora, and I didn't think that was what you were looking for.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 11th, 2005 02:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Not really--I'm in close third person, and throughout the story, people have been referring mentally to people as they refer to them. We are Tonks's POV; it's just not first person. She calls Andromeda "Mum" for the same reason Remus calls her "Dora."
trinity_clare From: trinity_clare Date: January 11th, 2005 03:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Okay, that makes more sense. It just seemed to me that in a chapter with shifting PoV, it would be easier to keep names more consistent. It also probably didn't help that I now call Tonks Dora no matter what, so I don't hear the difference when Remus calls her that. :-)
izhilzha From: izhilzha Date: January 11th, 2005 07:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
The birthing party--splendid. It reminded me strongly of the birth of one of my sisters (all 3 of whom were born at home). My father, grandmothers, and younger siblings were there, as well as the midwife and a couple of my mother's close friends. A party...intense, yes, but a party. :)

This bit kinda threw me, though:

"The latest rage," Daffy's older sister, Isolda, said. "Having a Healer at the birth. It's Muggle-influenced. I suppose it's a good idea."

Is the 'latest rage' having a Healer *instead of* a midwife at the birth? Cause I can't imagine that the wizarding world doesn't employ midwives or something similar.
mrs_norris_mous From: mrs_norris_mous Date: January 11th, 2005 11:54 pm (UTC) (Link)

minor picking

"Every employee of the Ministry of Magic was entitled to time off for one such event each year (excluding the births of one's own children)"

This doesn't feel up to your usual standard :).

It would be strange to say you could only go to one.

And also one would hope you wouldn't have more than one occasion of the birth of your own children per year.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 12th, 2005 01:12 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: minor picking

It would be strange to say you could only go to one.

You haven't done much contract negotiation lately, have you? ;) I've been told that I can't sprain my right ankle again for several years if I want medical coverage for it... I don't think they'd balk at saying I could only go to one party of a particular sort per year. In fact, I'd be surprised if my employer, at any rate, would give this as anything other than unspecified personal time, as opposed to a kind of floating holiday as Dora has it.

And also one would hope you wouldn't have more than one occasion of the birth of your own children per year.

Well, technically, you could have one in January and one in December, and Ministry employees would generously be allowed both days off.
mrs_norris_mous From: mrs_norris_mous Date: January 12th, 2005 08:05 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: minor picking

It was more of a Brit pick than anything else, it might be a reflection of the kind of company I choose to work for though.

The goverment may have the kind of attitude you show here.
From: isabela113 Date: January 12th, 2005 05:28 am (UTC) (Link)
I was so pleased to see the birthing ceremony. It was so simple, but so very touching. My best friend is 6 1/2 months pregnant, so I've got babies on the brain, and as I read this I thought how lovely it would be to be able to participate in a positive, helpful way in the birth process-fetch ice, show love. Culturally, we do seem to have turned birth into a calamitous health crisis.
From: inyron Date: January 13th, 2005 07:57 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't comment near enough, and I'm sorry. But I'm enjoying every section of this story, and I think you're doing a wonderful job.

But the mirror remained stubbornly dark.

I think you said, a few posts ago, that Sirius' death didn't really hit you until Phineas's reaction. Well, what really got to me, was the scene when Harry finally (finally finally) brought out the mirror, ans asked for Sirius and it stayed dark, and then I sniffled a lot. Mostly because I was thinking of the times Sirius sat alone in that horrid old house, and tried to communicate with Harry, and failed. So- yeah, thanks for including this scene.
22 comments or Leave a comment