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Shifts, Chapter 3: Old Joe, part 4 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Shifts, Chapter 3: Old Joe, part 4
At last peek, Remus and Dora were on their way to the Garveys for lunch. I'd better get them there before they starve.

FYI, I'm going to go through the texts on HB and do this, but I'm changing the spelling of Allan Garvey's first name to the standard "Alan." I just like it better.

Table of contents and summary so far

They turned into the Garveys' drive at one o'clock, and Dora reached under her seat and pulled out a shapeless cloth hat with a plastic flower sewn to the band. "I borrowed it from Arabella Figg," she said, putting it on. "What do you think?"


"I saw it and I thought it perfectly dotty for your tweedy wife on a day out."

"Do you really think I don't know that you just wanted to wear the funny hat?"

She stuck out her tongue at him and reached for the door handle.

"Dora?" Remus said.

She turned. "What?"

"Thank you for doing this. I know I've been a bit difficult, but I do appreciate it. It helps a lot."

"Well, you know it's a trial for me to spend all this time with you," she said lightly, and kissed his cheek.

There was a tap on Remus's window, and he turned to find Alan Garvey leaning over, grinning. "Were the two of you planning to come inside?" he asked. "Or shall I just find a privacy screen for you?"

"May I have a moment to think about that?" Dora asked, then made a lie of it by getting out of the car immediately and throwing her arms around Alan's neck.

After a surprised second, Alan hugged her back, and patted her squarely on the bottom.

Dora jumped back and shook a playful finger at him before before Remus got over the idea of someone doing such a thing. "I'm a married lady," she scolded.

"And I'm a married man," Alan said, "which works out well, as long as we're all here. Raymond, go on in and tell Anna I've run off with your wife." He grabbed Dora around the waist and dipped her in an overdramatic dance move.

Dora slipped on some loose gravel and fell soundly on her backside. Laughing, she dusted it off. "I'll take that as an omen," she said. "No joking about such things." She reached up with both hands, and Remus pulled her to her feet, as he had for countless spills she'd taken since her childhood. Generally in the past, however, she had not kept hold of his hand once she was upright, and this time, she did. To Remus's surprise, he could feel her pulse racing. On the surface, there was no way to tell she was nervous.

He patted her hand, and they followed Alan into the house. A plump, bespectacled woman with a cloud of curly gray-brown hair met them in the entrance hall, her hand outstretched. "Anna Garvey," she said. "You must be Raymond and Dora Lewis. I'm so glad to meet you both."

Dora took a deep breath and let go of Remus's hand, shaking Anna's with enthusiasm. "I'm glad to meet you, too. It's always a bit of an adjustment when there's a new job to take into account--it's kind of you to invite us."

"Nonsense," Anna said hooking her arm through Dora's and leading her into the front room. Remus and Alan followed. "It looks like it will just be the six of us today. The Smythes are visiting their grandchildren in Tipton this weekend."

A woman rose from the sofa near the window and smiled wearily. Her hair was fully white and she was very thin, and she looked like she hadn't been sleeping a great deal. "I'm Miriam Levinson," she said, and pointed at the man beside her. "This is my husband, Joe."

Remus squinted into the sunlight streaming through the window, and got his first look at Joe Levinson. Most of his hair was gone and he was frail with whatever illness was consuming him, but his eyes were alert and friendly and his smile far less weary than his wife's. He held out his hand. "I'm pleased to meet you," he said. "I'd get up, but--"

"You stay down," Miriam scolded. "I'm sorry. Doctor's orders, you know."

"Of course," Remus said. "I've been hearing a lot about you," he said to Joe.

"Really? So... how are my boys?"

Miriam laughed and moved aside, indicating her spot on the love seat. "He's been so anxious to talk to you. I half expected him to go to the school this week just to find out how you were doing."

Remus smiled at her and sat down. "I know how you feel," he told Joe. "It's a wrench, leaving them. You always want to know how they've come out."

"I hope they haven't been giving you trouble."

"Well, they're very loyal to you. I think Dudley Dursley imagines I'm single-handedly keeping you out of the school."

Joe laughed. "Dudley's a character," he said, then sighed. "Unfortunately, he's also a walking example of why they call overindulgence 'spoiling.' He's just starting to come out from under his parents' smothering. The pair of them ought to be caned, I'll tell you."

"I'll do it!" Dora volunteered.

"Oh, you'll fit right in," Miriam said. "And here we thought about holding back on tortures we imagine inflicting on Smeltings parents for fear of frightening the Lewises."

Anna brought out a tray of sandwiches and Joe brought ale and soft drinks, and they sat comfortably in arm chairs, eating lunch and comparing stories of parents they'd had to deal with over the years. Remus didn't need to lie. Even in his spotty teaching career--a bit here and a bit there over the years--he'd fielded more than one unreasonable parent. Agatha Goyle had written him no less than ten times during the course of his year at Hogwarts, complaining that he'd graded Gregory unfairly because of family ties and "unfounded rumors." That Gregory had put no effort into his homework and consistently failed to know the material on tests and quizzes could not, apparently, be the cause of his low marks. He cut only the magically related parts of this, and received sympathetic nods from everyone in the room.

"I've been spending some time with Daniel Morse," Remus said, as Anna brought out dishes of ice cream. "He would have been in your first form class last year?"

Joe nodded. "I remember. Whip-smart, that one. He always had the answer first. I finally had to tell him that other boys needed a turn as well. It's a pity really--I think he'd do well in a class full of students as bright as he is, where occasionally one of them might simply beat him to answer."

"I was thinking about a club..."

Joe frowned skeptically. "I doubt they'd go to a history club."

"Oh, I'd make it sound amusing. Find all the naughtier bits that they leave out of the textbooks..."

Joe laughed. "Well, they'd come to that, but the parents would have your old white head."

"Still, it's a shame that we can't give boys like Daniel a chance to really shine. Boys like Dudley have boxing and other sports."

"I know."

"At the same time, it's good to see Dudley talking in class. That's quite an achievement, as I understand it."

"That got started last year," Joe said. "I don't know what happened to the boy the summer before this, but he came back to school a different boy in a lot of ways. Very determined. I'd never paid him much attention, except when he was bullying the others, but last year he started going out at dawn to run. I'd see him in the gymnasium lifting weights. He must have lost forty pounds of fat in four months, and I don't think that's safe. So I started him boxing. He's a damned fine fighter, and the discipline seemed to help him in his schoolwork. He wanted to impress me, so he learned history. And his friends followed along. It was a beautiful thing. I thought he'd finally grown up."

"Finally, at fourteen?"

"When a fourteen-year-old has habitually had the self-control and discipline of a four-year-old, yes." Joe stirred his ice cream thoughtfully into a milky soup. "It's not easy to like Dudley," he said. "But he accomplished something remarkable for himself last year. I don't want that to be lost."

28 comments or Leave a comment
From: anatomiste Date: June 6th, 2004 10:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is so very sweet. I love the idea of Dudley being something more than a spoiled, stupid bully.

"I saw it and I thought it perfectly dotty for your tweedy wife on a day out."

The use of 'dotty' here strikes me as a bit odd...
atropos87 From: atropos87 Date: June 7th, 2004 01:45 am (UTC) (Link)
'Dotty' would be perfectly British in that context.

I personally loved that exchange at the beginning. You write Remus' understated snark so well, Fern.

One little Brit pick - it would be more normal to say "beer" than "ale", by which we mean what you might refer to as ale. Ale sounds a bit too historical for this context. What gets called "beer" in the US in general we would normally call "lager".
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2004 06:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Good to know, both for the fic and for travel purposes. :) Thanks.
myf From: myf Date: June 6th, 2004 10:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like 'dotty' - I think it works.

I also really liked Remus apologising to Dora for having to do this when it's clear she's having a ball. Poor Remus...
sonetka From: sonetka Date: June 6th, 2004 11:57 pm (UTC) (Link)

More! More!

This is really, really, excellent, Fern - I think it's the best thing of yours that I've read, and that's going some :).

I'll admit to being incredibly curious about what happened to Joe - whatever it is, I hope they find some way to reverse/stop it. And I'm loving Tonks - she can light up any room she's in, hmmm?
mariagoner From: mariagoner Date: June 7th, 2004 12:21 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm a stranger to you, but I'm a great fan of your work. Your writing is just so clean, precise, emotional, but... how do I say this... mannered. I just love so many of your stories, especially when they dwell on the Maurader generation. Would you mind terribly if I take the liberty of friending you? ;)

Unfortunately I can't comment on this story yet, since I haven't read the first parts as of now. But I'll be sure to get back with feedback when I do!

Thanks for your time,
myf From: myf Date: June 7th, 2004 04:53 am (UTC) (Link)
*buts in* Fern, I think you should friend her. I mean, she has a great icon.

What? Isn't that how everyone picks their friends?


(PS. I like the icon)
mariagoner From: mariagoner Date: June 7th, 2004 05:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heee! I need to give Wasted Fairy a nice big smooch the next time I see her, for her mad icon making SKILLZ have benefited me once again.

And what the hell, I'm friending you both. Hope you don't mind internet stalkers! ;)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2004 04:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Maria, I never object to friends. :)
dipsas From: dipsas Date: June 7th, 2004 07:37 am (UTC) (Link)
I absolutely loved '...but his eyes were alert and friendly...' as compared to 'alert and wary' of Lupin in PoA. I think it's a delightful way of inviting us to see the paralells between those two very involved teachers. And I got to laugh a bit at to what extent I seem to have internalised certain passages of PoA...
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: June 7th, 2004 07:55 am (UTC) (Link)

Just why is her pulse racing?

To Remus's surprise, he could feel her pulse racing. On the surface, there was no way to tell she was nervous.


You know, this whole Harry Potter/unreliable narrator thing is really getting to me. Is Remus assuming that it's because of the play-acting? She just got a major come-on from another man! I suspect that readers of the QUIBBLER know there's more to this story!

Will Remus turn up jealous? Will Dora trip again? And what about Naomi ... oops, sorry, flashback to 1970.

Love the story. Interesting how much Dudley changed during the 4th year - are we going to see any changes because of the Dementor attacks this year?
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: June 7th, 2004 10:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmm, I'm not sure even Tonks would fling herself into the arms of a perfect stranger. And I really was shocked when he patted her bottom. Lucky Remus is so contained, or I would expect violence!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2004 11:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, he's not a perfect stranger--she knows him from school and already bullied him into joining them for lunch in Remus's office. But mainly, I think she's a little hyped up for a day of playing let's pretend, and is overshooting a little bit.

As for Remus, I'm not sure it's containment so much as disbelief... someone's touching Dora that way? Dora? No! I must have seen wrong...
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: June 7th, 2004 04:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
How old are Remus and Tonks pretending to be? She's not doing a very good imitation of a middle-aged woman. :-D
I still can't bend my brain round Alan groping his collegue's wife O_O
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2004 04:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
They're being vague about their ages, but they probably look in their 50s or 60s. I'm basically basing her performance on my grandmother (except my grandmother doesn't fall over when she gets dipped by random men), who does a lousy 85-year-old, but actually is 85. :p

This may cause some problems, but given experience with older people, I'd say that Miriam and Anna are likely to just get bawdy with her once they get used to her.
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: June 7th, 2004 05:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Does Remus look that old or is he charming himself? I hope he doesn't look 60 IRL...seeing as Tonks is 23, it's an odd visual.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2004 05:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
He's charming his hair to finish going gray (I started this right after reading a fanfic cliche joke about how Remus always gets grayer, but never goes all the way gray, and it stuck), and is wearing glasses and some gratuitous facial hair.
maidenjedi From: maidenjedi Date: June 7th, 2004 02:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
FYI, the link to the Table of Contents doesn't work. I've tried it on two different computers and keep getting "page cannot be displayed."
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2004 03:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the heads-up. I forgot a word in the URL!
mariagoner From: mariagoner Date: June 7th, 2004 05:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really like this story so far-- watching wizards and witches (especially ones as, ah, "special" as Remus and Tonks :D) integrate into Muggle society is so interesting. I love the fact that you're giving us an inside view into Dudley's life-- I always thought the poor boy was shafted in the canon itself-- especially with all of those tiresome fat comments. He might be a bully-- but I don't think he's a complete brute. Redemption is possible... isn't it?

But the build-up is kind of slow... so the pacing seems a bit off to me. A lot has happened... but also, nothing much seems to have happened. The introduction of a mysterious new woman only Dudley knows about is very interesting... but everything else seems to be moving at a rather glacial pace.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2004 06:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, the pace is pretty much going to continue as is... I'm just getting comfortable in this particular little world. (I'll point out that the same chronological time in OotP took 100 pages in the American edition--I think I'm still under that, at least. :))

As to Dudley, I think JKR has said that we should keep our eyes on him, and I was fascinated by the first chapter. His complete and total freak-out with the Dementors--what was he hearing? Feeling? Even Harry, not the most observant of narrators, notices that it's odd. Dudley's reaction to the Dementors is every bit as bad as Harry's and worse than Ginny's. So I definitely want to look at him. And that change in his physique--that doesn't come without a serious decision. So, what's the deal?
belita013 From: belita013 Date: June 7th, 2004 05:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Just jumping in here to say that I'm really loving this story.
I enjoy the way you write Remus. It just fits what we know of him so well.

: )
From: fleckedwithgrey Date: June 7th, 2004 08:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm really liking shifts, I love the Remus/Tonks interaction and you keep them perfectly in character :). The beginning of this part was really funny, Alan seems like quite a character. I also liked the fact that Remus apologized to Dora for being difficult. One small note, I think you switched Dora Lewis' eye color from a pale blue (from when they decided her "look") to brown in the previous part.

I can't wait for the next update :). Is it alright if I friend you?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 7th, 2004 08:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't object to friends! :)

(Re: Dora's eye color--well, at least with this one, it can change and still be canon! :p)

:Fern busily takes a cue from her clumsy cat and pretends she did this on purpose:
mafdet From: mafdet Date: June 8th, 2004 10:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Love the latest chapter, as usual.

And I agree that the Dursleys should be caned. I recall JKR saying in an interview that Dudley's upbringing was "abusive" because he was so spoilt. Joe is right, it's not for nothing it's called "spoiling." You are doing a good job in this story showing the glimmers of what could have been with Dudley - he's not a complete bad seed. Just like you did a good job in Of A Sort showing us Gilderoy Lockhart as a rather sympathetic little kid.
calico321 From: calico321 Date: June 9th, 2004 11:08 am (UTC) (Link)
I adore your pacing! You have a very rich narrative and I wouldn't want it any faster :)

One thing though, when Levinson says, "I don't know what happened to the boy the summer before this, but he came back to school a different boy in a lot of ways" I assumed that was the attack of the dementors, but that would have only been this past summer. Are you referencing something else?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 9th, 2004 11:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Whatever caused him to decide to lose a lot of weight. My guess would be the ton-tongue toffee incident.
calico321 From: calico321 Date: June 9th, 2004 02:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh yeah! I guess that would have some reprocussions.
28 comments or Leave a comment