:thwaps self on head:
Oh, well. It's not due until March 31, and Shifts should be long-finished by then, provided I don't stall out, which I'm not planning to do.
Dumbledore was starting to make good on his promise to make Fudge's life difficult, and Dudley was pressuring Remus for a memory spell, because he is not handling the whole magical mystery tour of St. Mungo's very well.
Table of Contents and Summary So Far
Things always seemed to speed up in the spring. One minute, there was cold and dreary February, then it was stormy March, and then it was April, and the neighborhood was coming to life again, the leaves first budding, then opening on the trees, the grass struggling along in the square. Remus often thought that his violent reminders of months passing should make him immune to losing track of time, but he'd never gone a year without being utterly surprised to discover that winter had passed by again and summer was coming. The new moon came in mid-April, two weeks after Dumbledore's abrupt appearance, and Remus stayed up quite late, sitting with Sirius in the back garden and looking at the dark and somehow empty sky.
Every day in which Sirius had devoted himself to the search for Bella, he seemed to have regained more of his old self. He drank less now, and spent less time as Padfoot. Remus was afraid to mention it--he didn't want to jinx it--but there were times now when it was almost like it used to be. Sirius laughed frequently, and made plans for his future nearly as often as he spoke of the past. Remus was even happy to put up with the constant teasing about Dora; it was too purely Sirius-like to make him angry.
The next night, Remus watched the first sliver of the waxing moon appear, and sighed. There was no stopping it, he supposed.
Dumbledore continued his eclectic recruiting, and the Order of the Phoenix grew exponentially, though most of the new members weren't well-known enough to Dumbledore to visit headquarters. One who did was an old friend of Bill Weasley's, a skinny Slytherin named Conrad Peale who seemed to have second hand contacts (younger friends of younger friends) still in the school. He wasn't entirely sure what was happening, but Pansy Parkinson's older brother, Paul, had told him that Pansy was quite distressed by, of all things, an outbreak of fireworks that none of the teachers other than Umbridge seemed willing to control. Molly Weasley blanched at this intelligence, which Remus thought a good indication of exactly how well she knew her sons.
Remus finally also had the opportunity to meet Viktor Krum, who Dumbledore brought to the Leaky Cauldron. Krum was quite worried because he'd stopped receiving letters from Hermione. Remus advanced the opinion that Umbridge's rules wouldn't let Hermione speak freely, which seemed to relieve him somewhat.
Dora reported that more Aurors were simply refusing to cooperate with the Ministry on the search for Dumbledore. They didn't defy their employers, but they did have a habit of becoming peculiarly nearsighted if a large crowd happened to be gathered around a man with a long white beard. No one had reported a sighting of Albus Dumbledore anywhere. It wasn't the entire department--"Leave it to Dawlish and Scrimgeour to be idiots"--but it was becoming increasingly clear that Dumbledore could go nearly anywhere without anyone making an attempt to arrest him.
At Smeltings, sporting events were entering critical stages, and Remus found himself cheering his students on in football and rowing. Daniel Morse comported himself well in fencing, though the sour-looking woman Remus took for his mother buttonholed him after the match to start lecturing him on proper form. He caught, "If you ever intend to go beyond this interhouse business and make the school team, you'll need to..." and then he was swept away by several other students. Daniel came by the next day to thank him for being there, and noted that he was looking ill again.
Dudley continued to be non-responsive, only speaking to Remus every few days to press for a modification of his memory. "Please," he'd said. "Please, Mr. Lewis... or Lupin, that's your name, isn't it? Please."
Mehadi contacted him in a panic, saying that Edward Holmes had disappeared. She'd gone to arrange for the month's Wolfsbane brewing for him and found his home empty and his possessions in boxes. Remus tried what avenues he knew, but found nothing. Nelwyn Pettigrew, who appeared to have had a change of heart about Remus following Harry's interview, turned him away from her house and told him never to come back. "I know what you're doing!" she shrieked. "You're trying to smear my Peter's name! Do you think I hear nothing?" Finally, Remus had backed away from her while she went into hysterics on her front steps.
He didn't hear from Edward, but promised Mehadi that he would come to St. Mungo's again.
A week after the new moon, and a day after another afternoon of pleasant games at Alan's, Dora began the Wolfsbane regimen for him again. They brought Hadria's Hope to Grimmauld Place, and rather than refusing to touch her at all, Remus decided that they could read together in the drawing room with the door open, and Kreacher running in and glaring at them every few minutes. The story had finally reached the marriage to Redwald, and Dora took over reading for the wedding night. When the chapter closed, they were both blushing quite profusely. Kreacher, who had come in at the height of the scene, was muttering under his breath about things that shouldn't be spoken of under the family tree.
Dora fanned herself with the open book. "Dear, dear," she said. "And I made it through without laughing once." Then she laughed.
Remus, keeping the back of the sofa between them, kissed her. "We should decide what to read next. There's only one chapter left."
"Yes, that will be where the author names all the children and tells us that one of them grows up to be Minister of Magic or whatnot."
"I think this predates the Ministry."
"It predates buttons, too."
He kissed her again.
He looked up.
Dumbledore was standing in the doorway of the drawing room, smiling and carrying what looked like a very ornate set of robes. "Miss Tonks, if you would release Mr. Lupin from the charm you're clearly using, I'd like a word with him."
Dora waved her hand flamboyantly and said, "Finite incantatem."
Remus followed Dumbledore to the dining room, where he began to unroll the ornate robes. They were etched with green threads representing hawthorne leaves.
"Remus, I don't care to interfere in your personal life," he said, "but I must ask--if it comes to it, will you be able to send her into danger?"
"I..." Remus was at something of a loss. It was a fair question, but not one that had even occurred to him. "I haven't needed to send anyone into danger so far," he said. "I don't know how I'll do it."
"And Nymphadora in particular?"
Remus considered the question carefully, then shook his head. "Dora's in this," he said. "And she's an Auror. She faces danger a lot more frequently than I do. I suppose I'm used to the idea. I wouldn't want to send her, but I wouldn't hesitate any more than I would with Sirius or Andromeda or Ted. To be fair, I'd hesitate before I sent anyone, though. It seems a wiser policy not to be rash about this sort of thing."
Dumbledore nodded, though Remus wasn't sure if it was an affirmation or simply an acknowledgement. "I believe you," he said.
Remus looked at the robes. "What's the occasion?"
"There are connections between the Muggle and magical worlds that are older and deeper than the communication between our Ministers," he said obscurely. "And the Order of Merlin didn't begin as a prize to be handed out by bureaucrats, nor is it entirely so today." He checked the embroidered threads, then pulled a fresh leaf from the air and affixed it to the shoulder. "That is unfortunately all I'm at liberty to share at the moment."
"I'll let you prepare," Remus said, turning, but he stopped at the door. "Albus... may I ask you something?"
"Of course you may."
"Dudley has asked me to modify his memory. I refused, but he... he's quite persistant, when he chooses to be."
"We took him to St. Mungo's to clear the curse that Narcissa put on him, and he saw a lot of things that disturbed him. Not least of which was Narcissa."
"He's not concentrating, he's not learning, and he has examinations coming up. If he doesn't get himself together, he could do a great deal of damage to his future."
"But it's his mind, he doesn't need to have his memory modified, and he's doing so much better at accepting the world as it is--"
"Is he?" Dumbledore looked at him sharply.
"No, and also yes. He's asking for a spell. That's something, given how frightened he was of Harry's wand this summer."
"But the spell he's asking for is one that will give him relief from this."
Dumbledore sighed. "I don't have an easy answer for you, Remus. Your position has a great deal of merit, morally speaking. But it sounds like Dudley Dursley is in pain. And you know you're letting him suffer when you're capable of helping him."
"By making it all go away. By not making him face it."
Dumbledore sat down and took off his half-moon spectacles, laying them down on his ornate robes and rubbing his eyes wearily. "Remus, you always seem to be stronger than you believe yourself to be. You accept things you think you can't accept, and you survive things you're certain you could never survive."
"Dudley Dursley isn't you." He put his spectacles back on. "Dudley is weaker than he believes himself to be. There are things he isn't prepared to accept, and may never be. Being overpowered, humiliated, and hurt by someone like Narcissa may be more than he can bear to remember."
"It just seems wrong to take away memories when it's not necessary."
"Not everything necessary is so because of a law." He sighed. "There are ways to do Memory Charms that aren't as permanent as those Gilderoy Lockhart employed. Ways that memories can be saved until a person is ready for them to return. I'll look it into it. Talk to me after the full moon."
Dumbledore did not return that night.
By Sunday, the day of the full moon, Edward Holmes was still missing and Mehadi was not the only frantic Healer. Andromeda and Ted had been searching around his property and calling all of his known relatives. His wife--the one who had left him when he'd been bitten--had apparently spat on the ground at Ted's feet and told him that Edward was better off lost.
The transformation ward was empty when Remus got there, and remained empty as Andromeda fastened the chains. An old man drifted in at the last minute, but Edward didn't appear. Andromeda expressed the hope that he'd decided to try the network of safe houses, but Remus's mind, already considerably altered, was entertaining much darker assumptions. Peter's werewolves hadn't been seen last month, but Remus was quite sure there were more of them. If Edward had nothing left to lose, the freedom might have been somewhat appealing. His last thought before the transformation took him was that he hoped Edward's ex-wife was keeping her house fully protected, and wasn't foolish enough to go out into the moonlight.
When he returned to himself in the morning, the mood of the Healers was grave, and after Andromeda released him from the chains, she took him behind a privacy screen and told him that Edward had been found.
While the sky had darkened last night and Remus had grumbled about being chained in St. Mungo's for no good reason, Edward Holmes, alone in a filthy Muggle flat not far from Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, had stopped the moon from rising for good.