The Sugar Quill
Author: FernWithy (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Shifts  Chapter: Chapter Two: Hobbies
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Shifts: Chapter Two

Shifts
Chapter Two: Hobbies
by FernWithy

Remus met his third and fourth form classes on Tuesday morning and his A-level classes on Tuesday afternoon. He was only able to catch sight of Dudley Dursley on the grounds--as with his assignment to look out for Harry at Hogwarts two years ago, becoming close enough to actually protect him wasn't quite as easy as it had looked in theory. Harry, at least, had liked him. Dudley resented him, and wasn't going to suddenly appear for extra lessons.

Remus had gone over Joe Levinson's notes again over lunch, hoping that he'd missed some vital piece of information about how (and why) he'd taken a liking to the boy. Dudley was difficult to like. But Levinson's notes were purely academic. The only thing that stood out was a note saying, "Dursley has determination. Possible good mind, difficult to reach." The word "difficult" had been underlined twice, and circled for good measure.

It wasn't helpful. Everything led back to the same idea--he was going to have to meet Joe Levinson and talk to him, face to face, to find out about Dudley and to learn about whatever illness had forced him to leave his position. The Order meeting wouldn't be until Saturday evening. With some trepidation, he told Alan Garvey that his plans for Saturday's lunch had been cancelled, and belatedly accepted his earlier invitation. It was cutting things close--there were also preparations to make for the full moon on Sunday night--but if he was going to do his job, there were things he'd need to know.

Wednesday was a repetition of the Monday schedule, and after his first form class, he spoke briefly to Metcalf and Southall, who refused to confirm that Piers and Dudley had, in fact, been bullying them.

Remus sighed. "I expected as much," he said. "But try to steer clear of them."

Both boys nodded and left.

Daniel Morse, one of his second formers, came to visit him in his office during his free period, happily showing him a stack of books he'd found on the Renaissance in the Smeltings library.

"I was reading in this one," Daniel said, pulling one of the books out from the bottom, "that if it weren't for the Black Plague, we wouldn't have had the Renaissance."

"How does that work?"

"Well, the book says that a lot of people died in the plague, and that meant there weren't enough craftsmen and workers and such, so they became valuable. And there were guilds and so on, and everyone felt more, you know, important. And that's why all the thinking changed."

"What do you think?"

Daniel blinked and pointed at the page. "It says--"

"Do you agree?"

"Oh. I... well, it's interesting, don't you think?"

"It's intriguing. What would have happened if we'd cured the plague?"

"We might still be in the Dark Ages." Daniel wrinkled his nose. "It's pretty awful, though, isn't it, when you think about it? All those people dying, I mean? Could you imagine telling them, 'Sure, you're dying, but we'll have a really nice time afterward'?"

"Unfortunately, that's been the course a lot of history. A lot of people get hurt, and then a new idea comes along."

"Well, that's a depressing thought," someone said at the door.

Remus looked up. Dora was standing there, transformed into her middle-aged self, carrying a picnic basket. He smiled. "Hello, Dora."

"Hello, darling," she said, and blew him a kiss.

Remus caught it and rolled his eyes at her. "This is one of my pupils," he said. "Dora, this is Daniel Morse; Daniel, my wife Dora Lewis."

Daniel bowed in fine Smeltings tradition. Dora bowed right back, bumping her head against his. They both laughed.

"Don't let him depress you," she said, flinging a hand in Remus's general direction. "Sometimes people just have ideas for the fun of it."

Daniel laughed. "Thank you, Mrs. Lewis." He turned and nodded to Remus. "May I come again, Mr. Lewis? I'll read more."

"Any time the door is open," Remus said.

Daniel grinned in delight, grabbed his prodigious pile of books, and headed out.

"Teacher's pet?" Dora asked, eyes dancing.

"Just a boy who enjoys history."

"I swear, you look younger when you're doing this." She set the basket down on his desk and began to pull out a vast lunch--cold chicken, tuna fish sandwiches, a loaf of bread, milk, and two thermoses. She opened one and sniffed, then wrinkled her nose. "This is yours," she said. "I have minestrone."

Remus took it. The smoke was rising from the surface, although he knew the Potion was only lukewarm. "Cheers," he said, and tilted the thermos back, gulping down the Wolfsbane as quickly as he could.

Dora watched him quizzically, but said nothing about it. The door was open, and there were some comments that wouldn't sound quite right going out into the open air.

"Have some chicken," she said. "It's with orange sauce. Should be sweet."

Remus grabbed for it, glad of anything to get the taste of the Wolfsbane out of his mouth. "Dora, this is delicious!"

She shrugged. "Not me. A bored relative. He's very bored relative."

"I'll be sure to spend some time with him then."

"Good thought."

There was a crash outside, followed by the shush of spilling papers and a bit of low cursing. Remus shook his head. "Do you need help, Alan?"

"No." More cursing. "...clasp on the... briefcase..." He came around the door, his arms laden with loose papers and books. He smiled when he saw Dora. "Ah, the lady of the house!" he said, putting the mess down on his desk, where it blended in with the rest of the chaos. He shook Dora's hand. "My Anna is looking forward to meeting you on Saturday."

Dora raised an eyebrow at Remus.

"Er... I'm sorry. Dear. I forgot to mention. This is Alan Garvey. He's invited us over for lunch on Saturday. I wasn't sure whether or not you had plans--"

"No," she said, giving him a sweet smile. "None at all."

"It's a chance to meet my predecessor."

"It's just a few Smeltings couples," Garvey said. "Sometimes we play cards. And the ladies like to gossip."

"Sounds delightful. Would you like me to bring anything?"

"Oh, just Raymond here. Anna likes to put the rest up herself."

"I'll bring him with a bow on," Dora said.

Garvey puttered around at his desk for a few minutes, found his wallet under the avalanche of papers, and left with a quick "Nice to meet you."

Dora turned around. "Were you planning on telling me before we were expected there?" she asked.

"I was just going to say that my wife was otherwise occupied. I only need to talk to Joe Levinson about Dudley. You won't have much to do."

"There's always gossip," she said, and waggled her eyebrows. "Now, what shall I gossip about?"

Remus's face went hot. "Dora, don't."

"Oh, don't worry. I won't tell them about our steamy private life. Unless they ask."

"Dora..."

She giggled. "Remus, I'm joking. I'd turn eight shades of red trying to imagine it, and that would look a bit suspicious for an old married lady." She quickly checked out the door, cursing herself for being loose-lipped, and came back satisfied. "We should get our stories straight, though," she whispered, leaning over the desk. "I'll be over tonight. I'm sure Sirius will have cooked enough."

Remus nodded.

Dora packed up the scraps of their lunch--he was surprised to see that they'd actually eaten nearly all of it--then kissed the bridge of his nose and ruffled his hair. "I'll come back tomorrow," she said loudly. "It's good to spend lunch together."

She left.

Remus sat at his desk for a long time, not thinking. After awhile, he got up to teach Dudley Dursley's class.


Sirius was in a sullen temper when Remus got back to Number 12, Grimmauld Place. There were cauldrons and pans all over the kitchen, and sauces indifferently wiped from the stone floor. Sirius himself sat in the midst of this mess, staring at the fire, not seeming to be doing anything.

"Are you waiting for a call?"

Sirius didn't look up. "No."

"Dora said you cooked lunch. It was very good. Thank you."

He shrugged. "Well, as Snape never fails to point out, my main position these days is keeping this house. Thought I'd see if I could out-Molly Molly." He jabbed a long finger around the kitchen. "I didn't do very well, as you can see."

Remus took out his wand and started cleaning up the various spills. After a moment, pans and cauldrons began trotting over to the sink around him, and the water began to run.

Once the kitchen was at least relatively clean--it did serve as headquarters after all, and people could appear in it at any time--they sat at the table with bottles of butterbeer, and Remus waited for Sirius to start talking.

For Sirius, it was a fairly long wait. He'd never tolerated silence very well, and it had spun out for nearly three minutes when he slammed down his butterbeer and said, "Bugger."

"Is that your entire comment?"

"Yes. No." He sighed. "I need something to do. Anything."

"I know."

"I could put on an Invisibility Cloak and sit a watch."

"And if they happen to catch you, what story do you intend to tell them?"

"It's not like anyone else is there legally."

Remus didn't answer. Most of the Order guards at the Department of Mysteries could make up some reason for being in the Ministry. Even Molly, though Remus thought her excuse of trying to find Arthur was a bit thin.

"Or," Sirius went on, "I could put on the Cloak and follow Snape to one of their little meetings. I have a life sentence anyway. I could always put an Unforgivable on Lucius Malfoy. Maybe Snape as well--just to preserve his cover, of course."

"Of course."

"I don't suppose Dumbledore would allow it."

"I don't suppose he would."

"I'm going to set Buckbeak on Macnair one of these days. Promised him an impressive snack. I'm trying to decide whether I should feed Peter to him as a human or a rat."

"I think you need new fantasies, Sirius."

"But these keep me amused." He smiled, a ghost of the smile he would give a Hogwarts when one of his master plans seemed to have crossed a line.

Well, most of the time when they crossed the line. Sirius hadn't always been good at spotting just where the line was.

"We could use your mind, Sirius. To think."

"I think all day."

"You brood all day. There's a difference."

"I can't think about matters I'm not really privy to. What brilliant idea do you think I'll have about how to get Voldemort into the Department of Mysteries, if he's not already there?"

"If I knew what kind of idea you'd have, I wouldn't ask you to try and think of one."

Sirius sighed. "All right. Snape's planted the idea that the prophecy has some vital information, but Voldemort hasn't moved yet. He's got to realize that we'll be keeping watch. That Dumbledore wouldn't leave something important unguarded."

This wasn't an entirely shocking analysis of events, but Remus didn't think Sirius was finished. He remained quiet.

"So, if I'm Voldemort and I believe I need information that's at the center of a trap, the last thing I'd do is go myself."

"Only he and Harry can retrieve the prophecy."

"He doesn't know that. We'll see other people long before we see Voldemort. And he won't care at all how many are caught. Is this what you mean by thinking, Remus, because honestly, there's nothing here that hasn't been thought of before."

"It is what I mean."

"Well, it's better than cleaning the kitchen, I suppose."

"It does have that advantage."

The ghost-smile came again. "Do you remember how awful the dormitory always was? How did we live like that?"

"We were boys."

The smile widened. "Do you know what I've been thinking about? Harry was born when James was twenty-one. Seven-year intervals... he's in the same dormitory as we were."

Remus did the arithmetic in his head. Gryffindor students kept the same dormitory for all seven years of their stay, which meant that every seven years, a new group would move into an old dormitory, on a rotating basis. So there would have been two groups in the dormitory after they'd all left school, and then... Harry. He shrugged. "You're right."

"I wonder if they've found all the hiding places yet."

"I get the impression that Harry doesn't spend as much time in his dormitory as we did. The five of them aren't always together. And one of Harry's best friends is a girl, so he does most of his planning in common areas."

"Right... I suppose that would make a difference." He took a swig of his butterbeer. "I do like Hermione, though. What a good girl she is. What do you think? Hermione and Harry?"

Remus shook his head. "They're like brother and sister. And you weren't watching closely this summer."

"So who do you think he fancies? Ginny?"

"Well, I'm quite fond of Ginny, but no. Not yet. And he may be a bit late if he comes around now."

"Well, there's someone."

"Why do you say that?"

"He's fifteen and mainly healthy."

Remus thought about it. "There was a pretty girl on the Ravenclaw Quidditch team that I think he was looking at the year I taught..."

"What on Earth are the two of you talking about?" Dora asked, coming down the stairs.

"Harry's love life," Sirius said cheerfully. "Who do you think he fancies?"

Dora shook her head. "You need a hobby, Sirius."

Remus laughed.

"And you have a hobby. What's your excuse?"

He grinned sheepishly.

"Honestly." She put down her bag--not a briefcase, but an old Hogwarts satchel in which she carried her case files--and sat down on the end of the table cross-legged, one knee pointing toward each of them. "Now, if we can stop gossiping about Harry's love life, Remus and I need to create some gossip about ours."

"What's this about?"

"Dora invited herself to dinner with my colleagues from Smeltings," Remus said.

"I did not. That bald bloke with all the papers invited me. And his wife's anxious to meet me." She put her nose in the air in mock indignation. "Honestly, darling, I think you're ashamed of me. Your dear wife and all. How could you?"

"I'm a terrible husband," Remus said. "I just couldn't stand the thought of you wasting several of your off-duty hours gossiping with women twice your age about stories that aren't even true. It's scandalous what I put you through, really."

Sirius was looking back and forth between them, eyes dancing in a decidedly mischievous way. "So, how long have you been old marrieds?"

"That's part of the story we're trying to decide on," Remus said.

"No. I mean for real."

Dora rolled her eyes. "You know, Sirius, I can get you a good starter set of Chocolate Frog Cards. Dad keeps his in an album. Keeps him quite entertained, trying to get the whole set."

He stuck out his tongue at her.

Remus put his head in his hands, and let the two of them get to the business of making up a life.


Remus wasn't entirely sure how long they talked. It was long past midnight by the time Dora left; he knew that much because it was just before midnight when Dora abruptly ran out into the Muggle neighborhood around Grimmauld Place, and just after midnight when she came back, triumphantly waving a colorful cardboard carton that fit in one small hand. "I knew I'd heard of these!" she said.

"Yes, cardboard cartons are becoming all the rage," Remus said. "I understand you can obtain larger ones, if you know the right people."

She stuck her tongue out and turned the carton around. There was a plastic lens in it. "It's a camera," she said. "We use it once, get the pictures developed in the Muggle way, and Bob's your uncle: our adorable little life together, to put up in your office. I can morph different ages, and we'll Charm you right up to match. Take them in one of the slightly cleaner rooms, I think..."

Ultimately, they'd found seven parts of the house that weren't too obviously strange, and Sirius had taken at least a dozen posed pictures of them at various "ages." Remus was getting tired, and he suspected that Dora was as well--neither of them had gotten any sleep--but Sirius was having too much fun to call it off, and it was largely harmless.

They took a break from posing when Remus's watch told him that it was nearly two o'clock in the morning. Dora went upstairs to the room Hermione and Ginny had shared this summer to change into another costume, and Remus laid his head down on the table (on an open book he was pretending to read) while Sirius impatiently scoured the house for new locations. After awhile, he felt a warm hand on his neck.

"Tired?" Dora asked.

He lifted his head. "Sorry. Drifted off."

"I'm about there myself," she said. "But I'll do an Enervating charm before work. It's too good to see him enjoying himself."

"Yes, I know."

She rested her elbows on his shoulders and leaned over. "What's the book?"

"I have no idea."

She laughed and kissed his temple, stretching her arms toward the table cat-wise and rotating her wrists. She often did this when she'd been morphing a lot, and Remus wondered if it made her joints ache, as his did after--

Click.

They looked up.

Sirius was standing in front of the fireplace, grinning, rolling the film forward with one hand. He held the camera up casually and snapped another picture. "Back to work!" he said, and herded them into another room.

It had to have been another hour before Sirius announced--in a terribly disappointed tone--that he'd reached the end of the film. Dora took the camera and promised to have it developed, and to show the pictures to Sirius. She suggested that she could get him a better camera, and he could take pictures of the Order, or of the house, or of Harry, or of anything he liked, but his earlier sullenness had begun to creep back when she'd mentioned that it was time to go home, and he shrugged off the offer.

In the end, Remus estimated that he got less than three hours of sleep before he had to leave for Smeltings in the morning. He'd set up a safe Apparition point in a wooded grove, but it was nearly a mile from the school, and he had to walk it. He dragged through his morning classes, feeling guilty at being unable to give them his full attention--he tried, but his mind kept drifting--and napped through his free period. He supposed it would be like this on Monday as well, after the moon. Maybe he would try one of Dora's Enervating charms.

She came at his lunch hour, looking nearly as worn out as he was, and gave him his Potion without much banter. "Dropped the photos off," she said. "I ordered them to come quickly so..." She yawned. "So we'd have them. And Sirius can make a little frame for each one out of splinters he pulls off the kitchen table while he's bored. He's getting quite the collection."

The Wolfsbane Potion, which contained a mild Calming Draught at this stage of the dosing, did not help matters. Little Daniel Morse caught him halfway across the grounds, and Remus found himself utterly unable to follow what the child was saying, right up until he said, "Mr. Lewis? Are you all right?"

Remus realized that he was starting to nod off standing up. "I'm sorry, Daniel," he said. "I'm a bit tired."

"You're not sick? Mr. Levinson got sick last year, and it started with him being tired all the time, and--"

"I'm not ill. Just tired." He smiled. "Why don't you come to my office tomorrow during my free period? We can talk about this then."

Daniel nodded. "You're sure you're all right?"

"Yes, quite."

Daniel bit his lip.

"Really, I'm fine. You should go on to your next class."

"All right..." Daniel headed off across the grounds, casting melodramatically worried glances behind him all the way into the main academic building.

All Remus wanted was to get to his office and gather his things to head home, but as he made his way down the path to the administrative building, where his office was located, he passed the gymnasium. Piers Polkiss was sitting on the stairs with several of his friends--not including Dudley--and they glared at him. Remus sighed.

"Big D doesn't trust him," Piers said loudly, either deliberately letting Remus hear him or too dim to realize that sound carried. "Says he's hiding something."

"What?" one of the others asked.

Remus glanced over his shoulder. Piers had his head cocked to one side, trying to look wise and knowing. "I don't rightly know. Big D won't say. But if you ask me, he's got an idea. Dead set on finding something anyway."

Remus moved along before the boys became suspicious. But he wasn't entirely surprised to find Dudley Dursley trying to pick the lock on his office door when he got back.

//
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