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Shifts, Chapter 31: Living Memory, pt. 1 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Shifts, Chapter 31: Living Memory, pt. 1
Okay, back at it. I use yellow crime scene tape in this scene because I figured I'd be lazy and ask for the Britpick instead of trying to figure out what policemen in London would use to mark off a crime scene. If yellow crime scene tape wouldn't normally be used in this situation, please let me know, and I'll wave my wand and Transfigure it into something else. ;)

Oh, Chapter Twelve: Substitutes is up at SQ, minor tweaks. I forgot to mention that I did add a whole paragraph to Sirius's memories of his brother in Chapter Eleven (Quill version). It's actually fun going back this much later and tweaking here and there!

The crime scene in question is from the end of the last chapter, when, after an uneventful transformation of his own, Remus is told that Edward Holmes--who had been missing for a little less than two weeks--was found dead in a Muggle flat not terribly far from Grimmauld Place.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

Investigation into the death of Edward Holmes was perfunctory, and would not have been conducted at all had he died in a magical environment. Remus thought it seemed cold, but he understood it well enough--there was no mystery as to how Holmes had died, and wouldn't have been even to Muggle investigators: he had ingested two teacups full of chopped monkshood, also called wolfsbane. Even a small amount that hadn't gone through the complicated brewing process could kill a werewolf, but that much would have quite easily killed anyone.

But the young Muggle policewoman who had been first on the scene--a neighbor had called after hearing the sounds of violent wretching and convulsions--was new and eager, and found the method of death suspicious. Monkshood was apparently not a common choice of poison, and the flat had been stocked with it in great quantities--there were bouquets of it in the refrigerator, living plants in pots on the windowsill, and dried flakes of it ground into a fine powder in philter jars on the counter. The young policewoman, Xhosa Andrews by name, had been determined to investigate the possibility of murder, and she was persuasive enough that by the time the Department of Muggle-Worthy Excuses was able to have the body turned over to what they claimed was an obscure office of crime investigation, they'd had to give a promise to the entire department that the question of murder would be raised (and if it did turn out to be a murder, Andrews was to be given credit for realizing it).

With ten loose Death Eaters, the minor matter of a werewolf's suicide was of interest to no one at the Ministry, and Dora had encountered no resistance, either for volunteering to follow up on the Muggles' inspection or for bringing Remus along as an "independent expert" after the work day. He was weary, but he'd been with Edward at the start, and it seemed right to be with him at the end.

He followed her under an "x" made from bright yellow tape and entered the room where Edward Holmes had died. There was a strong unpleasant odor, as his body had tried to expel the wolfsbane any way it could, and several pools of dried vomit on the carpet, but no other signs of what had happened here.

Dora stood in the middle of the room, her fists balled on her hips and her lips pursed. "The Muggles found enough wolfsbane here to kill... more or less anyone, if Holmes had a mind to do it."

"Where did he get it? I know of ways, but--"

"We control sales on our side of the barrier, but a Muggle can buy it as decoration in nearly any flower shop." She took a deep breath. "Remus, they'd started cutting him open before we could get him away. They knew exactly how much of it he'd got into his blood. And parts of his lungs and such had already started to change. His heart, too. And his brain."

"That makes sense. That's where the first pains are."

"We had to Obliviate the man who'd been doing the cutting. He had a lot questions." She looked at him steadily, and said, "But I took the file he'd been keeping."

"Did you read it?"

"I tried. I didn't follow most of it. Muggle medicine isn't anything I've studied."

Remus nodded. "Did you see anything? I mean, did they notice anything other than the actual heart...?"

"They were cutting in his brain, and there were a few things. All I remember is 'irregularity in the amygdala.' And I have no idea what that means. I suppose... I just wanted to know if you wanted the folder. To see... I mean, it's awful. It's a horrible thing to do. But maybe they know something from it. About the sickness."

"Of course I want it," Remus said, then felt a rush of pity. "Poor Edward. We're standing here where he died and talking about Muggle science."

"He lobbied for Umbridge's laws," Dora said quietly.

"I know."

Dora began a search of the flat, waving her wand in a complex series of magic detection spells which revealed that Edward had once heated a cup of tea with magic, and once warmed the tatty blanket that was now kicked to the end of his sofa.

Remus did the non-magical part of the search, checking cupboards and crannies. He concluded that Holmes had been living on a dwindling supply of rice and tuna fish.

"Nothing," Dora said. "He just sat down and started swallowing poison. He must have spent a couple of hours chopping it to put it into the teacups." She clenched her jaw and shook her head. "Idiot."

"It happens," Remus said. "More often than I'd like to say."

"I don't care how often it happens. It's still stupid. I know it's bad. I see you every month and you think I don't see things, but I do. And I can imagine. But this?" She pointed around the flat. "This is stupid."

"He had a painful disease that wasn't going to go anywhere--"

"And it wasn't going to kill him, either. There are ways... you handle it... if you just have the people who love you..."



"You're never going to find me like this."

"Well, of course not, I--" She sighed. "I've spent all day reading about lycanthropic suicides. It's almost always just before the full moon, and I know you've said that things feel different then."

"Sirius thinks I'm blaming the moon for feeling things that I'd feel anyway." Remus shrugged. "And it's not really the point. Edward didn't kill himself because of the transformations, even if he thought that's what he was doing. His lost his job, Dora. And his wife left him. And his daughter refused to speak to him. And he'd become something he had always despised. I doubt that the thought of putting up with one night of physical pain every month was really what drove him to this. I don't have any of those problems. And quite honestly, there are some things I'm rather looking forward to."

She smiled. "Yes. Me, too." She looked around. "I don't see anything. I think it's all clear enough. Just unpleasant. And sad."

"And stupid," Remus acknowledged. "Profoundly and deeply stupid."

"Do you want to go home?"

Remus checked his watch. "No. I'd like to go to the library before it closes and learn what I can about whatever is in that folder you brought."

Dora walked him back to the car and pulled the folder from the back seat. Remus scanned it as she drove, transferring the words he was unfamiliar with to a piece of scrap paper. The dictionaries they found gave definitions, but neither of them had enough background to follow the definitions. A librarian referred them to a basic book on the brain. (Remus had prepared an explanation for his question, but the woman hadn't asked for it.) They left together and Dora drove him back to the car park near Grimmauld Place.

"Dora, would you mind if I go on alone?"

"Are you sure?"

He looked at the thin, dark blue book in his hand. "I somehow don't think that the mysteries of the amygdala will be quite as amusing to share as Hadria's misadvenures."

"All right, then." She leaned over and kissed his cheek. "I'll see you tomorrow?"

"Of course. Good night, Dora." He got out of the car and came around to her window to kiss her properly, then watched her drive away before heading home.

When he got back, he found Sirius in a towering fury. The notes he'd been putting together on Bella's possible land ownership and possibilities about her relationship with Voldemort were strewn around the drawing room, and the table had been upended.

"Kreacher?" Remus asked.

Sirius ground his teeth and glared, then went back to his search. "I found some letters she wrote to Mum, back when she was at Hogwarts. They sounded like the right time for when she might have gotten involved. But then Andromeda sent me word about what happened--are you all right?"

"I'm fine. He wasn't an old friend. I'd just met him."

Sirius nodded. "And when I got back, it looked like this and the letters were gone. Kreacher probably took them, but I can't find him and I don't know all of the places he hides things. Yet." He shook his head, then cleared the papers with a flick of his wand. "I'll sort them later. Are you really fine?"

"I'm really fine."

Sirius glanced at the book in his hand. "What's that for?"

"Well, as rare as it is to see me with a book, I thought I'd give it a try. I might like it, after all."

"Yes, it looks fascinating--Your Brain: How You Got It and How It Works."

"Yes, it's a children's book. I'm starting out knowing nothing."

"I spent a detention popping out frog brains once," Sirius offered.

"I'll let you know if I have questions about the brain in lycamphiby."

"Is that a real word?"

"It is now."

"Yes, well, it was long overdue. This problem with frogs turning into wolves once a month--very small wolves of course--is becoming quite serious."

"Only for the other frogs. I'm sure they can run freely with a hippogriff and a kneazle."

"Yes, but they'll need to be careful, or the hippogriff's girlfriend will dock points from the lot of them in the morning."

"Well, the frog-wolf probably should have done it himself..."

Sirius grinned, nearly all of the premature aging dropping away from his face. "I'll find Kreacher," he said. "You read your brain book. Then I'm bringing down a pack of cards, and I'll clean you out of half of this month's pay."

Remus laughed. "You try it."

Sirius went up the stairs toward the attic, calling for Kreacher, and Remus took the book down to the kitchen, sitting with his back to the fire, its comforting dry heat working out the last kinks of last night's transformation. He Summoned a large sheet of parchment from a cupboard and copied out several pictures from the book, then charmed them to show the differences noted on Holmes's autopsy. He wasn't entirely certain what he was looking at, but the functions of the parts of the brain involved seemed to be related to emotions and--


Startled, he jumped as he turned around.

In midst of the flames, looking troubled and anxious, was Harry Potter's head.
14 comments or Leave a comment
jesspallas From: jesspallas Date: January 30th, 2005 09:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Poor Edward. What a mess. :(

The idea of the physical signs of lycanthropy showing up in an autopsy is an interesting (if slightly gruesome!) one. And of all the things I've speculated that Remus might have been looking at when Harry called, I can't say I ever considered an autopsy report and a book about the brain!

Excellant stuff as always. :)
awaywithpixie From: awaywithpixie Date: January 30th, 2005 09:32 am (UTC) (Link)
I *think* it's blue and white chequered with POLICE written every few inches. I'm trying to remember from the last time I saw it on an episode of 'The Bill', but hopefully a native Brit will tell you the good oil.

But another fantastic chapter, with a great ending! Can't wait to see the next scene from Sirius' and Remus' POV.
awaywithpixie From: awaywithpixie Date: January 30th, 2005 09:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Actually, this is what it looks like... http://www.freefoto.com/preview.jsp?id=28-11-2

just discovered a new free photo archive! :)

marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: January 30th, 2005 10:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Yay! More Shifts!! :)
What a great ending - I'm heading off to reread that bit of the book now...

Edit thing:
His lost his job, Dora.
He's, perhaps?
antonia_east From: antonia_east Date: January 30th, 2005 11:04 am (UTC) (Link)
This bit was so good. The switch between the very sad bit in Holmes's flat, the sweet conversation between Dora and Remus and then the ridiculous and funny werefrog/ frog-wolf was very clever. And the ending was tied in nicely, too.
kinderjedi From: kinderjedi Date: January 30th, 2005 11:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Poor Edward. How horrible it must've been for him- becoming one of his worst fears. I particularly liked Remus' reassuring "You're never going to find me like this" while he and Dora are at the flat.

Just a couple of small things I noticed:
Investigation into the death of Edward Holmes was perfunctory, and would not have been conducted at all had he died in a magical environment. Looks like you dropped "the" off the beginning of the sentence.

But the young Muggle policewoman who had been first on the scene--a neighbor had called after hearing the sounds of violent wretching and convulsions--was new and eager, and found the method of death suspicious.

As always, I look forward to reading more!
siegeofangels From: siegeofangels Date: January 30th, 2005 01:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love the Sirius and Remus banter. "Very small wolves."
sreya From: sreya Date: January 30th, 2005 02:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Okay, you've caught me up in a fascination with the brain bit. I think it's particularly interesting that you've got one of the early changes in the brain in an area involved with emotions, though I don't know why that surprises me. You've been linking Remus's emotions and lycanthropy with a pretty heavy hand throughout the story.

I've always wanted to do a cross-reference of werewolf legends in the world. One of my anthropology classes did that with vampires, and it doesn't seem fair I never got to do werewolves. Of course, the hints of the most interesting legends that I tried to follow up on were so obscure I couldn't even find the origins of them. Dang it.
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: January 30th, 2005 02:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Despite the fact that Edward had been on Umbridge's side, you have to feel a bit sorry for him. :(

And poor Dora...
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 30th, 2005 05:43 pm (UTC) (Link)


Wow! That was a brilliant segue into Remus and Sirius' talk with Harry. I have to agree with jesspallas. A book about the brain and an autopsy report were not the first (or the last) things to pop into my mind.

Can't wait for Remus and Sirius' talk between themselves afterwards.

sixth_light From: sixth_light Date: January 30th, 2005 08:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love Sirius' and Remus' utterly random conversation about frog werewolves. It really shows how close they are - it's exactly the sort of thing you do with your best friends, because they are the only ones who will not think you're insane.

I found it interesting how you phrased the conversation about the autopsy - from a modern perspective, it's easy to understand why it's necessary and why it's routine, but the way you put it - talking about "cutting" - made it very easy to understand the wizarding point of view, that it's gruesome and horrible.

Heh. Totally understanding Remus' worry about the librarian wanting to know why he's getting a book out. As a librarian at school, I always used to wonder what people wanted books for and try to work out an explanation.
trinity_clare From: trinity_clare Date: January 30th, 2005 11:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
The Department of Muggle-Worthy Excuses should definitely be canon, if it isn't already.

"Yes, but they'll need to be careful, or the hippogriff's girlfriend will dock points from the lot of them in the morning." That killed me DEAD. <3

And the end? Just cruel.
From: meghling Date: January 31st, 2005 12:09 am (UTC) (Link)
I've been following Shifts for a while now (originally on SugarQuill) and I have to tell you that this was the best part to date. I love the way you write Remus and Sirius - they've always been my favorite characters. You get Remus the werewolf, Remus the teacher, Remus the friend, Sirius the moody, Sirius the comic, Sirius the godfather and you make them very realistic extensions of Rowlings creations. Although I'm yet to be a Remus/Tonks convert, I'm really enjoying this story and looking forward to the next bit.
sep12 From: sep12 Date: February 1st, 2005 04:10 am (UTC) (Link)
YAY an update! Love the banter between Remus and Sirius - frog-wolves (were-frogs?), honestly, how funny is that? I laughed out loud and my husband looked at me like, "WHAT is so funny?" I can't wait for the next update to see what Remus and Sirius have to say about Harry's visit in the fire. I've seen it in several other fics, but I'm interested in your version because you do Remus and Sirius so well. Loved it, as always, and also as always, update soon!
14 comments or Leave a comment