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Shades, Chapter 24: Interlude (6), Sweet Surrender, pt. 4 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Shades, Chapter 24: Interlude (6), Sweet Surrender, pt. 4
Ah, been awhile, hasn't it?

It would have been earlier, but I had a lovely four hour nap when I got home from work. I feel all mellow, which might not be the best frame of mind in which to write this. ;)

Anyway, it's Christmas, and Remus is at the Burrow. Harry has told him about his suspicions re: Malfoy, and Remus has told Harry about Greyback. Meanwhile, Fleur has been jabbing him with dull needles in the form of constant comments about Tonks, and he overhears her telling Bill that she's doing it on purpose becaus she feels that he (Remus) should be made uncomfortable. Chagrined, he stays up and makes her a present (a drawing) and sends it off to what he presumes is London with Errol.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far

The children started to drift down twenty minutes or so after he'd sent Errol away, looking younger than they'd seemed for quite some time, all bundled in new jumpers from Molly (Remus regretted the need to leave his own behind--it was a deep blue, and the pile was thick and warm). Harry kept brushing at his clothes, only hissing "Kreacher" when Remus asked him what on Earth he was doing. Ron clarified that the Black house elf had favored Harry with a package full of maggots.

"How sociable of him," Remus muttered.

"Too bad Hermione's not here," Ginny said, grinning. "I'm sure she'd find some way it was very generous of him, really."

"If she wasn't going on about what a good Quidditch player bloody McLaggen is," Ron grumped.

"Well, he is more consistent than you are..."

"Happy Christmas to you, too."

Ginny laughed and kissed Ron's cheek. "You know you're brilliant. Happy Christmas. Happy Christmas, Harry."

Remus glanced over at Harry again to find him watching Ginny with a perfectly recognizable dazed expression. He half-expected the next thing out of Harry's mouth to begin with, "Did you see the way she did that? Did you..." And then Sirius would make a great show of worshipping the great icon of Evans, and Peter would throw something at him, and...

"Professor Lupin?"

Remus smiled. "Sorry, Harry. Didn't get much sleep last night. Drifting off, I think. And you can call me Remus, you know."

Harry smiled in an uncomfortable way and didn't make an attempt.

They sat comfortably in the living room for two hours, showing one another presents, listening to Christmas carols on the WWN, eating Molly's huge breakfast lazily, counting down until lunch. Remus imagined Dora sitting with her parents in their London home, going through the annual routines he'd shared with them so many times--playing with the cats by tossing them wrapping paper, singing carols (badly), enjoying each other's company. A part of him wanted to go and at least say hello to them, but he suspected he might put something of a damper on their Christmas spirits. A bit after ten, Arthur tapped Remus's shoulder and said, "Come out to the shed. I have something for you."

Remus nodded and followed him into the pleasant, wood-smelling room, his eyes drawn to any number of odd Muggle gadgets on the shelves. On the work table, a pile of fruit and processed Muggle foods looked ready to tip over.

"What's all this?"

"You told Greyback that you were foraging, dind't you?" Arthur asked. "For an excuse to get away?"

"Well, yes..."

"So, you've had a lucky few days. I don't what he'd expect you to carry them in. You could have an old robe if you'd like--claim you took it off of a line." He tossed an oily workrobe over from the bench.

A part of Remus wanted to recoil in horror that Arthur had obvious spent quite a lot of money that the Weasleys didn't really have in order to give him charity food, but at the same time, he was right--four days of foraging without any visible results would certainly be suspicious. "You're better at this than I would have anticipated. Thank you." He grinned at a box of very sweet looking biscuits. "I can think of some chidren who will be glad I was so lucky."

"What are their names?" Arthur asked casually.

"Well, there's Alderman," Remus said. "He's fifteen, and I imagine he'd prefer being called a man, but really... And there's Blondin. Bright boy. Muggle. And Sweet, really. I don't think I'll ever be able to call her Vivian; she's got such a sweet-tooth. I told her real name--she's practically blackmailing since she found out what... what?"

Arthur was laughing. "You need children of your own, Remus."

Irritated, Remus began transferring the food onto the robe, which he laid out beside the pile on the table. "Right," he said. "And if I ever starve again, I can just eat them."

"You won't do any such thing. Do you think I'd have you around my children if I thought you were likely to?"

"You don't understand."

"Of course I understand. You're scared to death. Join the club." Arthur leaned against his tool table, crossing his arms. "I thought I'd starve them. Molly was sure she'd lose her temper and hurt them. Every time I picked Bill up, I thought I was going to drop him. Molly couldn't sleep at all when Charlie had his first headcold. We're all scared. But you're ready. And you're a Gryffindor, for heaven's sake."

"It's not the same."

"Do you really think you're more likely to hurt a child than Harry's uncle is? You only have to worry once a month, and you know when it's going to be."

"As long as I never lose track of time."

Arthur rolled his eyes and helped Remus finish stacking the food onto the robe. They tied the bundle tightly and left it just inside the door. While they'd been outside, the twins and Bill had finally wandered down in their jumpers, and Fleur had settled herself at Bill's side. Remus's first guess was that she had opted not to wear her own jumper, but the more he watched her and noticed the way she was flicking her eyes at everyone else, the more he came to suspect that Molly hadn't made one.

They sat down to lunch close to noon--about the time the last of the breakfast scraps had disappeared--and Remus was pleased that Harry casually sat down beside him without making any fuss at all about it. Molly had put on a lovely new hat an necklace that the twins had given her, and looked quite delighted at it. The twins, for their part, had given with great largesse to everyone, apparently enjoying having the money to do so. "We've got some things for you as well," George told him quietly, sitting down on his other side, "but we don't reckon you'd be able to take a box of jokes back without looking odd, so it will have to wait until later." He grinned. "I've also got a contract for you, about that doll charm--sorry--which, if it sells, ought to get you a good bit."

"It's not necessary," Remus said. "Really. I was glad to teach it to you."

"And we're glad to pay you for your inventions, just like civilized businessmen." The vegetable dishes were coming around, and he turned away from Remus to answer something Molly said, then passed the parsnips on.

Abruptly, Ginny leaned over the table and flicked at something on Harry's shoulder--a maggot, courtesy of Kreacher--causing Harry to turn bright red. Remus grinned into his hand.

"'ow 'orrible," Fleur said.

Ron, looking at her with a kind of glazed expression, said, "Yes, isn't it. Gravy, Fleur?"

Remus saw what was about to happen a moment too late to stop it. Ron's huge hand knocked the gravy boat flying. As he looked down, mortified, Bill waved his wand and caught the gravy in mid-flight, send it safely back into its place before it hit Fleur.

Fleur kissed him, then looked sideways at Remus through slitted eyes. She turned to Ron in a deliberate way and said, "You are as bad as zat Tonks," she said, emphasizing Dora's name. "She is always knocking--"

But apparently, this was too much for Molly, who broke her studious silence on the subject of Dora to say, "I invited dear Tonks to come along today. But she wouldn't come." She turned, her jaw set tightly, and, to Remus's horror, said, "Have you spoken to her lately, Remus?"

"No. I haven't been in contact with anybody very much," he said, feeling like an entire class of fourth-years had been practicing beginning Stunning Spells on him. Once the disorientation passed, the irritation he'd felt in the shed came back. Of all the things for Fleur and Molly to agree on! He frowned. "But Tonks has her own family to go to, hasn't she?"

"Hmmm," Molly sniffed, looking at him crossly. "Maybe. I got the impression she was planning to spend Christmas alone, actually."

Remus looked down, mortified, and began to deliberately eat his turkey though it suddenly seemed to have no flavor. Alone? Why would she...? Where were Ted and Andromeda? Why hadn't he even asked after them? Why had...

"Tonks's Patronus has changed its form," Harry said abruptly, his tone lightly curious as he poured himself another glass of eggnog. "Snape said so anyway. I didn't know that could happen. Why would your Patronus change?"

Remus, grateful for a mouth full of turkey, chewed slowly, trying not to choke on it. It hadn't occurred to him that Harry would know about Dora's Patronus, but of course she'd helped him on the Hogwarts Express, and sent a message up to the school. He would have seen... that. But as he obviously didn't think the question would have any particular meaning to Remus, Remus supposed he hadn't got a very good look at it.

And just why is this a secret to Harry? Voldemort is paying no attention to his mind this year, and couldn't pick up on anything other than what he already knows, even if Harry knew what everyone else knew. Tell him. Why shut him out of your life again?

He swallowed. "Sometimes," he started, "sometimes... a great shock... an emotional upheaval..."

"It looked big, and it had four legs," Harry said, then suddenly blinked in understanding. Or what he seemed to think was understanding, at any rate... the curious, it-can't-be-of-interest-to-you tone didn't leave his voice. "Hey, it couldn't be--?"

But before he could voice his theory (which Remus wouldn't put together for another week), Molly Weasley suddenly stood up and said, "Arthur! Arthur--it's Percy!"

Any chance for a meaningful conversation wtih Harry melted away as Percy Weasley arrived in the company of Rufus Scrimgeour, who very clearly had engineered the visit just to talk to Harry, who went out to walk with him. With Percy remaining inside, the rest of the family was subdued and awkward, and by the time Harry got back, the subject of Nymphadora Tonks and her emotional upheavals was no longer of interest to anyone other than Remus Lupin. The afternoon was starting to darken, and there was no question of putting off his departure. If he waited much longer, Apparition would become chancy--already, he could feel the moon riding above him, ready to reveal itself in its monthly sadistic glee.

He quickly wished everyone a happy Christmas and went outside. Harry followed him, his arms crossed. "You have to leave?" he asked.

Remus pointed at the sky. "I won't be good company in an hour or so."

"Oh, right." He kicked at the snow. "I'm glad you came. Be careful with this Greyback bloke."

Remus smiled at him. "You be careful with this Voldemort bloke, too, won't you?"

"I'll tell him to be gentler next time he tries to kill me."

Remus smiled and shook his head. "We'll talk sometime soon, Harry," he said. "I've missed you."

Harry stuck his hand out and Remus shook it, then stepped beyond the barrier and Apparated back to the snowy forest path that led toward his run-down little home. The sky was shadowy and bruised-looking, and the woods had a strange, twilit silence to them. Remus trudged through the snow, every moment feeling the moon coming closer, meaning to stop at the shed and drop off the fruits of his "foraging," and see if any of the children were there for lessons, then go on to--

He turned around the bend into the clearing and stopped.

Where his shed had stood, there was a pile of kindling and stones. Blondin was crouched over a pile of books, looking furious, and Hamilton was digging through the rubble with one hand and biting the other hard.

Standing in a line in front of the ruin was Fenrir Greyback, glowering, the men of the pack lined up on either side of him. At his feet a bundle of rags was lying in red snow.

A bundle of rags with dirty grayish blonde hair.

Remus dropped his bundle. "Mag!"

Greyback stepped forward, coming between him and the body. The shadow of the moon was in the sky, and he was hunched, his muscles twitching with the oncoming transformation. "So tell, me, teacher," he said. "Learned anything interesting lately?"

He tossed down a piece of slate on which someone had used a rock to laboriously scratch out the words "Vivian Waters."

"I was curious about who they were," he said. "Sweet knows nothing but the name I found for her. I didn't think her name would--"

"And old Mag, running about to that Muggle priest down in the village. Trying to get her out are you?"

"No!" Alderman said, stepping out of line. His face was contorted and he was struggling not to look up at the sky. "No, he--"

"He's right," Remus said, thinking quickly, hoping panic wouldn't send him down the wrong road, the moon already pulling at him, making it hard to think at all. If Greyback suspected anything about Alderman, their chance would disappear. Greyback would send him far, far away. "He's right, Alderman, I'm sorry. I was going to betray the pack. I wanted to send her someplace else. Away from Greyback."

"And Mag and that Muggle were helping you."

"No, no. And Sweet didn't know. It was to be a surprise. I'm sure she wouldn't have let me, and--"

"Yes I would have!"

Remus's stomach twisted as Sweet came lurching out of the woods, clasping her sides and half-bent over with the anticipation of the moon's pain. Her hands were buried under a tattered old shawl.

"Get back with the women!" Alderman growled at her. "It's too close to the moon, Sweet!"

"I would have gone!" she said, stumbling forward toward Greyback. "I'd have gone, I hate you, I hate you!"

Greyback laughed merrily. "Oh, now, you don't mean that, Sweet..."

"Vivian," she spat. "My parents named me Vivian." She breathed harshly through clenched teeth, and the smell of the change was on her, on all of them.

"Get back to the women," Remus said. "For God's sake, Vivian. Get back to the women. Now."

The first ripping pain tore through Remus. One of the other men howled. Sweet screamed and doubled over in the snow.

Greyback bent forward in ecstasy, and when he rose, his teeth had grown. "No," he growled, "she wants to go." He grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and rolled her over in the snow toward Remus. "And I want you to go. I think you should take her with you." He leered over his sharp teeth, licked his lips, and his eyes turned.

"No!" Remus said, understanding Greyback's intention completely as the female smell washed over his mind. "No, that's... I won't..."

"Or she could stay with us," Greyback said, looking at the others.

On the ground, Sweet rolled in the snow, whimpering with pain. Her forearm was twisting and writhing, and as Remus watched, a bloody claw broke through her fingertip.

"Don't do this, Greyback!" he said.

"Who do you think you're playing, Lupin? And who do you think you are? What do you think you are?" He kicked Sweet further toward Remus, and snarled. "Take her or don't take her. But you're not welcome here anymore."

"I'm sorry," Sweet whimpered. "I'm sorry, Remus, I'm sorry, I--" she howled.

His mind muddy red and his muscles turned and clamping, Remus came to the only decision he could. He dropped to his knees beside Sweet and put his arms around her. "Don't look up," he said, and he could hear the animal beginning to growl in his own voice, and God, the smell, the smell...

Greyback laughed and looked up, and Remus saw the shadow over him begin to change.

"Hold on tight," he said, and closed his eyes as Sweet grabbed hold of him with one hand, then prayed to Whatever There Might Be and concentrated as hard as his moon-addled mind would allow. The world wavered, came back, wavered again.

Greyback's shadow grew. The others were changing as well. Remus felt his eyes strain, reaching for the moon. His hands curled into claws, and the burning of fast-growing hair began.

The smell...

He clenched his teeth and forced his eyes downward, forced his mind into submission one more time.

The world wavered, then drew in on itself, into darkness, and Sweet's warm form pulled against him, and then they were falling, hitting the hard wooden floor of the Shrieking Shack's second floor bedroom. Sweet broke away and rolled to the other side of the room, panting and crying. She looked up at the window, and her cry became a howl.

No time to waste.

Remus leapt out the door, slammed it against the jumping of the young wolf, and lurched down the corridor, his eyes closed, struggling to keep a line of thought. The image of returning to the room kept intruding. He got to the office with a crash, pulled open the top drawer of the desk with a hand that was already more of a paw than he wanted to admit, and grasped his wand.

A pain bent him to his knees, and he felt his shoulders pull outward. His mouth was starting to shift.

Down the corridor, the bedroom door rattled as Sweet threw herself against it.

He raised his wand at the door, his muscles shaking with the overwhelming scent in his mind, and he growled, "Impervius!"

The door rattled again, harder than before, and there was a high pitched howl of frustration.

Remus thrust his wand away from himself.

And changed.
48 comments or Leave a comment
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gloryforever From: gloryforever Date: May 28th, 2006 06:32 am (UTC) (Link)
There are too many things I like in this chapter for me to list all of them, but those last moments in Remus's mind before the transformation are brilliantly written. Good job and can't wait to see what you'll do next.

Oh, by the way, there's an a missing in "wasn't" in Ron's line at the top of the page.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 28th, 2006 06:40 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! (Got the "a." Quick typing... it'll kill me yet.)
izhilzha From: izhilzha Date: May 28th, 2006 06:51 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh wow. I had a lot to say as I was reading, all of it good, and then it was all driven out of my head by the horror of the possibilities in that last scene.

Gah. You kill me with this stuff.

It's brilliant.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 28th, 2006 05:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. I was fairly horrified of that last scene, too, which is why it took me so long to write, even though I've known it was coming since I first started planning.
From: octobersnow Date: May 28th, 2006 06:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Yay! Shades! I'm horrid in that I both love and hate the installment method. I like the suspense of having to wait, but I hate having to wait. Superb chapter/section as always.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 28th, 2006 05:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like installments. They're fun. Bless the internet for picking up where erstwhile magazines with serialized novels left off. :)
lacontessamala From: lacontessamala Date: May 28th, 2006 07:42 am (UTC) (Link)
GAAAAAAH. Please, please write the next chapter soon. I'm dying to find out what happens next.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 28th, 2006 05:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Now that I'm past Greyback's nastiest trick on Remus, I think it'll go faster.
hermia7 From: hermia7 Date: May 28th, 2006 08:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh my god. oh my god. Agh!!!! That was amazing, I was SO relaxed, thinking, "ooh, I'm home from a long night out, I'll read Shades and go to sleep," and it was Christmas, fun, yay, AGH! Wow. So tense.


Two little wording things—not nitpicking, but thought you'd want to know. There were two spots of repetition in the dinner scene:
Harry smiled in an uncomfortable way and didn't make an attempt.
...They sat comfortably in the living room for two hours...

Maybe "Harry smiled awkwardly and didn't make an attempt..." or something?

Ron's huge hand knocked the gravy boat flying. As he looked down, mortified....
Remus looked down, mortified, and began to deliberately eat his turkey...

Not so clear on a rewrite here. Maybe for Ron: "As he flushed deeply and fumbled for the dish..." or...I dunno, sorry! It's 4 a.m.!

Anyway, great chapter, I'll have to re-read tomorrow because I read that last half in about 2 minutes.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 28th, 2006 05:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, good catches on those. :eyeroll: That's what I get for writing quickly.

I think it almost helped that I was feeling mellow when I started--I was originally going to have Remus figure out that something was going on with the pack and then rush off, but I kind of like it blindsiding him completely.
snorkackcatcher From: snorkackcatcher Date: May 28th, 2006 10:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Boy, you're not giving the poor sod a break, are you? :)

Interesting that you have Greyback realising that he's been betrayed so soon in the year -- certainly explains his motivation for coming to the school at the end, and gives more punch to Tonks' worries about what Greyback was doing with the Montgomerys when Harry meets her!

A couple of quibbles: I'm not sure the timing works in the last sequence? It seems to take Remus quite a long time to transform, and in PoA it seemed to be rather a quick process (thirty seconds or so, say). And (minor point) "someplace else" sounds US-vernacular, "somewhere else" sounds more likely.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 28th, 2006 05:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'll try and clear up that timing a little. Trying to figure out the timing in PoA has been a real bane of my existence--it's clear that Remus has to see the moon to change, as Harry notes that it's just covered by clouds when he first runs out to the Willow, but if that were the case, wouldn't all werewolves who aren't Greyback more or less just stay inside and pull the shades?--so I came up with a convoluted theory about being able to postpone it, but not prevent it, by not looking up at the moon; he'd have eventually transformed that night, and with more pain, if he hadn't looked up. So here, he's deliberately fighting the instinct to look at the sky, and the transformation--because he's not on Wolfsbane--is trying to force itself through.
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: May 28th, 2006 12:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh my God.

Sweet. Mags.

Barb... do you want to give me a panic attack?!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 28th, 2006 05:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
I honestly didn't know I was going to kill her until a couple of chapters ago!
From: siriuslypotter Date: May 28th, 2006 01:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Are you trying to give me a heart attack! I half want to smack Lupin round the head, and half want to give him a hug. Greyback is so creepy, he makes me shudder.

Overall a chapter well worth the wait, as usual. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 28th, 2006 05:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
He was definitely getting complacent about the pack, but I think Greyback has sufficiently slapped him around the head this time.
buckbeakbabie From: buckbeakbabie Date: May 28th, 2006 01:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow, that was an amazing end to the chapter. I can't wait to see how this affects Tonks' plan...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 28th, 2006 05:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think they're going to have to do some scrambling, all right.
chicleeblair From: chicleeblair Date: May 28th, 2006 01:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

i hate greyback.

Arthur's line about greyback he says
"I don't what" should that be "I don't know what"?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 28th, 2006 05:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Good catch; thanks.

I hate Greyback too, though as a writer, I like him--there's just nothing that's beyond what he'd do in a villainous sense. And he's not half as dumb as Remus has been thinking he is.
willowbough From: willowbough Date: May 28th, 2006 02:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh boy. Merry Christmas, Remus. ::shudders::

Really strong installment, Fern. And it looks like Remus's cover is well and truly blown. Helping the others is going to be so much harder now--and poor Mag, who never intended to leave "the pack" herself. Good job in ratcheting up the tension.

Small glitch: Should there be a few words more in Ginny's comment about Hermione and Kreacher? "She'd find a way of saying" or something like that.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 28th, 2006 05:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Probably a "that" would help.

And yeah... I'm now freed from the canon of having Remus not be discovered or talk to anyone. I mean, of course, Remus has certainly made things more difficult for himself. ;)
kythryne From: kythryne Date: May 28th, 2006 03:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Brilliant! I was so not expecting the twist at the end. And I love your Remus.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 28th, 2006 05:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Remus is wonderful to write. I love the character.
dreamer_marie From: dreamer_marie Date: May 28th, 2006 04:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Lovely chapter. I love the interaction with Harry, and how quickly Remus notices how Harry feels about Ginny...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 28th, 2006 05:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. Harry doesn't think anyone notices, but given the descriptions, I can't see too many people actually missing that little crush.
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: May 28th, 2006 04:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Remus glanced over at Harry again to find him watching Ginny with a perfectly recognizable dazed expression. He half-expected the next thing out of Harry's mouth to begin with, "Did you see the way she did that? Did you..." And then Sirius would make a great show of worshipping the great icon of Evans, and Peter would throw something at him, and...

Brilliant. Utterly brilliant.

The whole chapter was (and I can see why you were slow to write it but you got it totally right) brilliant, but this was the paragraph I cam back to again and again.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 28th, 2006 05:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, thanks... I was worried that was a little over the top. And yes, I was very slow to write this one. I knew it was coming, but I was very nervous about it.
From: oicrylic Date: May 28th, 2006 07:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Keep writing! I'm dying to find out what happens next!
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