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Shifts, Chapter 1 (1) - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Shifts, Chapter 1 (1)
Moving on from SNL and my misadventures in shopping yesterday... While out eating, I scribbled down more of Shifts.

Finally, I have him at Smeltings.

Table of contents
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Prologue summary: Remus's assignment during Harry's fifth year is to act as a guard on Dudley Dursley at Smeltings, posing as his history teacher. Nymphadora Tonks, posing as his wife (disguised and aged "appropriately") will make regular visits with his Wolfsbane Potion. Sirius is disturbed by the quiet at home, now that everyone except Remus is gone.

Chapter One

During Remus's first year at Hogwarts, Peter Pettigrew had fallen violently in love with pirate stories. He'd read them constantly, exhausting Madam Pince's short supply in the Hogwarts library and begging Muggle-borns to let him borrow Muggle versions (which all seemed to be packed with curses and magic anyway). For his birthday in February, James and Sirius had decided to throw a pirate party in the Gryffindor Common Room, to which everyone was expected to come dressed as a pirate--eye patches, vests, funny hats with skulls and bones on them, and so on. Remus had made his own and Peter's hats out of used parchment, covered with scribbled drafts of Transfiguration essays.

Smeltings reminded Remus obscurely of those costumes. It had all the right elements in all the right places to pass for a real school, but it wasn't fooling anyone under its tacky paper hat.

It wasn't old enough, for one thing. Barely ninety years, most of its bricks still sharp-edged and neat, even on the original building, which was still used for most of the classes. There was an arched bridge across a bubbling creek which Remus supposed was meant to be picturesque, but it was spotlessly clean to the point of sterility, and each stone was artificially even. The cupola on the dining hall was topped in gold leaf, but the ersatz stone of the building below it made Remus certain that if he were to fly up there one night, he'd discover it to be nothing but foil.

Why a family would have come here for three generations was a mystery.

Then again, Peter had kept that parchment hat, pulling it out of his trunk each year and hanging it from the posts of his bed. The night after their final N.E.W.T.s, the boys had passed around a few bottles of firewhiskey, taking turns wearing the hat and sharing increasingly drunken memories until they'd fallen into a chummy sleep on the floor of their dormitory. Remus had awakened groggily in the middle of the night to see Sirius sitting in the window, the hat cocked back on his head, looking out at the foggy, half-moon night. In hindsight, he wondered if Sirius had been melancholy at the thought of leaving the comfortable space of Gryffindor Tower after seven years of making it the first real home he'd ever known, but at the time, he'd just assumed that Sirius was planning some last grand prank, and had left him to it.

The hat, though.

Traditions had to start somewhere.

His own office was in one of the buildings that was new even by Smeltings standards--unapologetically ugly and utilitarian, lit by cold, humming lights, with walls of off-white cinderblock. He arrived on September the second at six-thirty in the morning, though his first class wasn't until eight--second form, Stewarts and so on--but he wanted enough time to become comfortable here, in his new name and his new face.

The changes to the later weren't drastic. He'd finished graying his hair and let it curl a bit (as it was prone to do when he left it alone, anyway), and Charmed his eyes to appear blue. Aside from that, he'd affected a neatly clipped beard and mustache, and acquired a pair of wire-rimmed glasses with plain lenses. (By nature, he had keen eyesight; lycanthropy had only sharpened it to a point of sometimes painful clarity.) The disguise was minimal, but his face was forgettable, so he hoped it would suffice.

He took the humming electric lift up to the third floor, clasping his briefcase tightly enough to turn his knuckles white. He knew better, but couldn't shake the feeling that these Muggle substitutes for magical power were likely to fail at any moment.

The lift let him out at the end of a long cinderblock corridor lined with doors and corkboards. The corkboards were covered with layers of handbills and handwritten notes--union notices, requests for rides, cars for sale, training opportunities. Remus quicily peeled off one the last, which trumpeted its ability to teach "even a caveman" the rudiments of computer use. It was probably as much a fraud as QuickSpell courses, but he would have to look into some sort of training.

His office was at the end of the corridor on the right, and he was surprised to see the light already on. He leaned around the door.

One one side of the office was an empty metal desk, a beaten up chair on some sort of spherical wheels, and a wall full of empty shelves. On the other, the desk was strewn with papers, the shelves piled with books and photographs, and the strange rolling chair occupied by a balding man wearing a threadbare suit, typing furiously away at his computer station.

He squinted at the screen, hit a few more buttons, then threw his hands in the air. "Idiot," he muttered. "Think you can out-think Einstein, do you?" He hit another key and said, "Hmph," then raised his hands aggressively over the keyboard, looking like he was reading for another round.

Remus cleared his throat.

The man started, pushing his chair back into the desk and causing an avalanche of paper, but when he turned, his face was open and pleasant. He extended his hand to Remus eagerly. "Lewis, I take it?" he said. "Good to meet you, really. I'm Allan Garvey. First, second, and third form maths."

Remus shook the outstretched hand, which was unpleasantly sweaty, but too cheerfully offered to rebuff. "Raymond Lewis," he said. "Er, history. All forms."

Garvey shook his head. "Right. Because heaven knows, there's no need to require them to master history." He swept his arm vaguely at the blank side of the office. "It's all yours. I helped Joe Levinson clear his things out last week. He left his notes in the upper right drawer."

"Oh, thank you."

"He said to tell you not to let them bully you. They'll try."

"Sounds like he taught for quite a long time."

Garvey smiled. "Oh, yes. Joe was serving for life. Loved it, that one. Broke his heart to quit, poor bloke. Doctors can't make out just what's wrong." He sighed. "Well, you'll have a time with some of his boys, but he told them not to give the new fellow too much trouble."

"That was kind of him."

"Well, he's a good fellow." Garvey pointed at the shelves. "Feel free to put your things around. I won't insult your grandchildren if you don't insult Jadzia here." He jerked his head at a picture of a young dark-haired woman in tight clothing and waggled his eyebrows. She had scribbled her name on one slim hip, and Remus deduced from this that she was famous.

"No grandchildren to insult," he said. "Just myself. And my wife, of course," he added, kicking himself for nearly forgetting. He would need to get some Muggle photographs of her to put up.

"What's her name?"

"Dora. I expect she'll be in for lunch from time to time."

"Hmmm. My Anna stopped doing that years ago. Better things to do than listen to spoiled teenage boys go by. Say, would you and your Dora like to join us for lunch on Saturday? The faculty wives like to commiserate about their lot in life. I think old Joe and his wife Miriam will be there, if you'd like to talk to him. If he's feeling up to it, of course."

Remus frowned. He hadn't been told why Levinson was leaving school, and had simply assumed it was a retirement. It had been the only open position. "Was he ill for some time?"

"No, quite healthy, really, for a man his age. He'd been coaching the boxing team. They were doing quite well. But he started getting weak suddenly, dropping things. And there's something wrong with his eyes. He just couldn't teach anymore." Garvey shook his head sadly. "It's hardly fair, is it?"

"It's not at all fair."

"Well, at any rate, Harold Baden has taken on the boxers, so you needn't worry about them, except in class. They were devoted to Joe--they may give you a bit of resistance."

"Thank you for the warning."

"So... will you be able to make it on Saturday?"

"I'm sorry. We have... plans with old friends."

"Ah, well. Perhaps new friends next week?"

"I'll ask Dora if she has plans," Remus lied.

"Good show, then." Garvey turned his chair around. "Well, I'd best finish this up before my eight-o-clock, or I'll be thinking about faster-than-light travel instead of first form maths. History students--no offense--shouldn't try to talk about physics."

"You're... talking to someone?"

"Mailing list," Garvey said dismissively. "I love Star Trek as much as any of them, but don't pretend it's possible. One might as well power a starship on magic as antimatter." With an irritated squint, he bent over his electronic missive.

Remus watched him for a moment, trying to understand what he was doing, then settled in at his own desk to read his predecessor's notes.
15 comments or Leave a comment
wm_law2003 From: wm_law2003 Date: May 3rd, 2004 06:50 am (UTC) (Link)
I like it. Heck, I like everything I've seen from you. Will be interesting to see how things develop between the old marrieds :)
leelastarsky From: leelastarsky Date: May 3rd, 2004 07:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I am SO enjoying this! But I always feel like I'm just settling into the story and the post ends. DOH!
More please! :~)
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: May 3rd, 2004 09:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Nice, nice, I like it!

Usual Britpicks: stream, not creek. Also, I've never heard of 'cinderblocks'--breezeblocks? Big concrete things about nine inches by eighteen? Unless Remus' building was built in the 60s or 70s, it wouldn't be concrete on the outside, it would have a brick shell, and the inside walls would be plastered so one wouldn't see the concrete (fee-paying school, remember, it's not the local comp).
Also, classes never start at eight here, it's always nine. Crazy Americans :-P ...I have enough trouble AT nine, let alone an hour earlier!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 3rd, 2004 10:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Unless Remus' building was built in the 60s or 70s, it wouldn't be concrete on the outside,
That's when I was thinking it was built--during the age of godawful ugly architecture. :)

Also, classes never start at eight here, it's always nine.
That settles it, I'm moving overseas. :)

(The library opens at 9, and we always have teachers complaining that they have to wait so long to bring in classes. Why, their lunch is at a quarter to eleven! They'll barely have time to do research after the tour!)
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: May 3rd, 2004 11:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Lunch before eleven? When do schools let out, then?
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: May 3rd, 2004 11:20 am (UTC) (Link)

On the subject of lunch...

British schools have lunch around 1, and a break (not a recess) at 11 or so, when they usually eat a snack (or in Dudders' case, fourteen snacks).Aafternoon classes would begin somewhere in the 1.30-2 o'clock region, and school gets out somewhere between 3 and 4.30, depending on the school, and the age of the pupils (not students, that's at a university).
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 3rd, 2004 01:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: On the subject of lunch...

I never noticed the pupils/students thing in HP... have we actually gone through five books without giving the kids a job title? :p (Come to think of it, I think it might be a "translated" word, as I seem to remember Filch disliking "all students" at some point.)

Anyway, thanks for the timing issue. Everything gets pushed up an hour. Guess you all didn't plan your school year around needing to get home for farm chores while the sun was still up.
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: May 4th, 2004 02:11 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: On the subject of lunch...

We're at a higher latitude. In winter, it's dark by 3 anyway, and in summer it doesn't get dark till 9 or 10. Anyway, what about the work before school? Morning milking? (We're all dairy farmers in this part of the country)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 4th, 2004 08:38 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: On the subject of lunch...

Well, you know--up at five, a couple hours of chores, catch the bus at seven...

This was, of course, obsolete by the time I went to school. But the hours were traditional.
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: May 4th, 2004 08:55 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: On the subject of lunch...

Here, it's more like: up at six, milk, wander in to a nice cup of tea and bacon and eggs at 9, read the Farming Life...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 3rd, 2004 01:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
My high school let out at 2:21.

No, not kidding. 2:21. Staying after school for ninth period activities, a purely optional thing, or detention, would get you out at 3:15. Our day started at 8:19. It was all about the bells and the travel time between them.

The kids here in Boston seem to go earlier and get out earlier; we're usually seeing kids coming in from school in groups by 2:10.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 3rd, 2004 10:54 am (UTC) (Link)
'cinderblocks'--breezeblocks? Big concrete things about nine inches by eighteen?

BTW, totally wouldn't have caught that one!
scionofgrace From: scionofgrace Date: May 3rd, 2004 09:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
"I won't insult your grandchildren if you don't insult Jadzia here."

lol I look forward to more, of course.
atropos87 From: atropos87 Date: May 4th, 2004 05:18 am (UTC) (Link)
*tries to picture Remus coming to terms with Star Trek*

*fails dismally*

Still loving this bunny. I have one other small Britpick re the word 'corkboard'. Sounds a little unusual to me although not obviously US-speak. 'Pinboard' would probably be more normal.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 4th, 2004 08:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, thank you. Unlike cinderblock, which I had no idea would have another name, I had a feeling "corkboard" would be wrong, but I had no idea what a better word would be.
15 comments or Leave a comment