|ellid (ellid) wrote in lupin_snape,|
@ 2008-04-22 07:28:00
|Entry tags:||family fest|
Fic post: War Wounds, Part 6
Title: War Wounds, Part 6
Rating: PG-13 for pre-slash and concepts
Summary: two war casualties meet in St. Mungo's. Can they aid each other while the rest of the world goes on its way?
Note: this is DH-compatible. The other parts can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.
I unfortunately must decline your invitation to your parents' Halloween celebration, as I have a previous commitment. Please convey my regrets to your parents.
I hope you are well.
All but the signature is in Remus Lupin's handwriting.
Sorry I missed you last week! I've started working twenty hours a week at the local bookstore. Severus doesn't need as much hands-on care, and you know how much we both like to read. Severus is considering renovating his house to make it more handicapped-friendly, as they say, and since he can't work right now I thought I'd pitch in -
It was good to be working outside the house, even if the bookstore was owned and staffed by what the average Muggle would think of as witches. Remus's request to have the full moon off had been cheerfully accommodated on the grounds that everyone deserved to worship in his or her own way, even though he'd never actually said what he did that night. As long as he dressed mainly in black and didn't cringe too much when the customers said something outrageous, he was more than willing to play responsible adult in between stocking the shelves and working the till.
It meant a steady, if small, paycheque every week to supplement what he made helping Severus, which meant better clothes and the beginnings of a savings account in a Muggle bank. It also meant that he could hold a job in the Muggle world as long as his condition was accommodated.
For the first time since he'd wakened in St. Mungo's, Remus began to feel optimistic about the future. He'd be able to earn an adequate living whether the Umbridge Laws were in place or not, even if he'd never be rich. Better yet, his magic had begun to stabilize at last, even if he'd likely never be as powerful as he was.
Brass in pocket, decent clothes, a place to live, a job - life was rather decent. The only problem was that Severus seemed to be backsliding a bit as the year waned.
Not physically, thank goodness. Between Miss Gideon's sessions at St. Mungo's and Remus' own efforts, he had made good progress since his release. His gait would always be unsteady on stairs and getting in and out of the shower, and his hands shook too much to chop and grind, but he usually didn't need the cane indoors. As long as Remus (or someone else) was available to prepare his ingredients he could still brew, and that meant he could do more than read and reread the same books day after day.
Mentally, though - Remus began to notice it around the time of the autumn equinox. Remus had stayed late at work to work the till whilst his employers "celebrated the turning of the seasons" with a great deal of chanting and singing in the back room. He'd come home after midnight to find Severus still awake, staring into the fire as if trying to interpret the flames. He hadn't spoken as Remus helped him off the sofa and up the stairs, and the next morning he'd barely touched his breakfast.
It got worse as September melted into October and the nights grew long and windy. Severus barely spoke as Remus helped him dress and bathe, and he picked at his food. Mrs. Martingale made worried noises about his weight loss and gave Remus tips for coaxing him to eat. Severus sneered at the clumsy attempts and began cleaning his plate, but the silence continued.
Remus spent more time at work, and with the grief group. Fortunately there was a confidentiality charm on the room so the participants couldn’t share what they heard, and he found that actually talking about Dora, and Teddy, and what he'd learned, helped. His magic was still shaky at times, but he no longer feared splinching himself when he apparated to Scafell Pike for the full moon.
He also decided to challenge Andromeda's custody petition.
Teddy might not be his son by blood, but the idea that he would never see the child again made his heart clench. Dora had loved him, to the point of obsession, and her son deserved better than Andromeda's bitter grief for a childhood. He would deal with the Charlie issue only if the boy took after his biological father more than Dora.
He broached the matter to Severus the night before he was due to write to the solicitor Kingsley had recommended. Severus could bathe himself and had for several months, but he still needed help getting in and out of the tub, and probably would for the foreseeable future.
"So. I'll get a flat as soon as I have Teddy back. I'll need a babysitter, but - "
"Lupin. Don't be ridiculous." There was a flatness in Severus' voice that had not been there for months. "Andromeda will demand a paternity test. You'll fail."
"She has no reason to do so." Remus handed him the soap. "Dora and I were married at the time of Teddy's birth. She doesn't know about Charlie, and neither did Dora."
"The test - "
"Werewolves have mutable blood and genetic material. Or so I'll claim." Why wouldn't Severus look at him? "One would think you'd be pleased that I'm showing some backbone at last. If you don't - "
"It's your concern, not mine," said Severus. He gestured at a pitcher of clean water. Remus carefully levitated it and poured it over Severus' hair to rinse. "I am simply pointing out that Andromeda will fight back, and when she does, the results may not be what you want."
"I know." Remus drew a second pitcher and gestured for Severus to tilt his head back. Most of his hair was coming in white, not gray, and he wondered if Severus would eventually cut it short to avoid looking like he'd dipped the ends in ink. "I have to try, though. Teddy doesn't have anyone else."
There was no answer. Severus finished bathing and let Remus help him out of the tub and into a dressing gown of Turkish toweling. He untangled his hair with a charm, then allowed himself to be helped into his room and prepared for bed.
He did not speak until Remus had arranged him properly, with pillows supporting his shoulders and one under his weakened legs. "Tomorrow is your day off at the bookstore, is it not?"
"Yes. They're 'casting a circle for Samhain.'" Remus smiled gently at the thought. They were so eager, and so naïve, and certainly had no idea that their newest clerk was a werewolf and a wizard. "Did you want to run an errand?"
Severus' eyes seemed to darken for a moment, if that was possible. "I thought we might take a walk in the park."
Was that all? "Of course. There's a lovely one downtown, and - "
"No. The small one near the canal."
Something in his tone sent prickles down Remus' spine. "All right. Let me know when." He rose and doused the lights. "Good night, Severus."
"Good night, Lupin."
It was an unnaturally clear, lovely day for late October as Remus wheeled Severus toward the canal. The park was an easy walk for him but not for Severus, and his charge had asked for the wheelchair for the first time in months. Beyond that he hadn't said a word as they left Spinner's End and made their way toward what must have been a well-equipped play park when it was first built.
Now it was low on the civic priority list to judge by the weeds growing about the jungle gym, the paint flaking off the see-saw. The occasional discarded page of newsprint or crushed juice box added to the air of shabby neglect.
"Scourgify." Severus raised his wand and made a slashing motion across the park. The garbage and weeds disappeared with a brilliant flash, and the original paint colors reappeared, albeit battered.
Remus touched the chain on a swing. It didn't look sturdy enough to support an adult, but with a little work this would be a perfect place to bring Teddy when he was older. "This isn't bad. I wonder why the council let it look like this?"
"Budget cuts. They haven't had tuppence since the factories closed." Severus sheathed his wand and gripped the arms of his wheelchair. Remus automatically moved to steady him as he rose and shuffled toward the swing set. "Of course they don't care about this area. It's full of the unwashed poor. What funds they have are going toward making the business district more 'upscale,' whatever that means."
"It means higher rents and trendy restaurants, I daresay." Dora had loved trendy restaurants. Remus had always felt guilty that they could barely afford chicken vindaloo from the takeaway on the corner, let alone a night on the town. "Little boutiques with hand-dyed scarves and odd jewelry. That sort of thing."
Severus laid a hand on the supporting A of the swing set. "In short, sod the poor."
"So it would seem."
There was a bitterness in the single word that made Remus frown. "Severus?"
"M' parents started ta fight when factory closed 'n Da had ta nip on t'dole." The accent Severus had ruthlessly suppressed as long as Remus had known had surfaced without warning. "Bloody bastards never cared about t'workers, always about their fuckin' profits."
He smacked his hand against the iron pipe. It vibrated with a hollow bong. "Never cared. Only time they did was when she an' her parents lived across t'trees."
"Lily?" It was a shock to hear Severus swear, but even more shocking was the look of utter despair on his lined face. "I know she grew up here - "
Severus shook his head, scowling as if realizing how he'd sounded. His usual neutral accent was back. "This is where I met her. She fell off the swings and floated to the ground. That's how I knew."
"So that's how she knew about the Wizarding World before her Hogwarts letter. You told her." Lily had been nearly as poised as the Black brothers about the Wizarding World, despite her appalling sister and bewildered parents. No wonder she'd been almost blasé about magic.
"Of course I did. She was the only friend I had." Severus coughed a bit too hard. "We were so poor that Mam had to cut down her old clothes for me, even when I was in primary school. Most of what we had went to drink after Da lost his job. I looked a rare sight, I did."
"Lily wouldn't have cared." Remus bowed his head, remembering how Lily had never once expressed fear about his lycanthropy. How many times had she brought him soup and tea after the full moon? And how often had he taken it for granted? "She wasn't like that."
"I know." Severus' voice was thick. "I tried to apologize, you know. After I called her - "
"You don't need to say it."
"She told me I'd gone too far, and we never spoke again." The too-thin face contorted as he fought for control. "She was right. When she died - "
"Severus, I know. I read the papers - "
"It wasn't heroic. It was guilt, Lupin. Guilt." He slumped into a swing. It barely sagged under his weight. "I kept Potter alive for her sake. He's so bloody much like his father, I - "
It was his turn to listen while another mourned. "He looks like James, but he's never been that cruel - yes, cruel." Remus knelt beside the swing and conjured a handkerchief. "Why do you think I never said anything? They needed a scapegoat, you know, and I was afraid of what the wolf would do if they turned on ."
Severus jerked his head up and down. "It was today - tonight, you know. Halloween, 1981."
"I know." Remus had reconciled himself to the day years ago, even though it had cost him his best friends and what little income he had. "I never understood why everyone celebrated. Voldemort was gone, but the cost - James and Lily dead, Harry with Lily's sister - "
"Petunia. She always hated me, and she hated Lily after she found out that she was the only witch in the family."
Remus automatically handed him a pocket handkerchief. Severus accepted it without using it.
"Did she truly never speak to you again? She forgave James so often."
"Never." Severus stared toward a peeling teeter totter. "I tried over and over that summer - sent her cards, begged her mother for help, followed her about - nothing. She wouldn't so much as look me in the eye."
"I'm sorry. I didn't know." The air was cold, with the promise of rain in the next few hours. So much for the bookstore circle's plans for a skyclad ritual in the park. "I mean, I knew she was angry, but cutting you off like that - "
"All she cared about was Potter by then. I suppose it was inevitable." Severus finally dabbed at his eyes. "You shouldn't bring Teddy here. It's a dreadful place to grow up."
Remus blinked at the abrupt change of subject. "What does that have to do with Lily?"
"Nothing. Everything." The handkerchief was wet by now, although Severus had not once sobbed. "If you want him, raise him someplace decent, not a broken down neighborhood where a poor boy will only make a fool of himself before a rich, pretty girl."
"You didn't make a fool of yourself," said Remus. He'd thought he'd apologized for this years ago, but apologies were nothing in the face of such wounds. "Sirius - "
"Did that for me, yes, I know."
"I was going to say that he never quite understood why what he did was wrong." Remus hesitated, then plunged ahead. In for a penny, in for a pound. "You know, he tried to talk Harry into being a junior version of James. He was so dreadfully disappointed when Harry kept saying no."
"Good on him." Severus cast a cleaning charm on the handkerchief, blew his nose, then cast another cleaning charm before pressing the clean white cotton to his eyes. "That doesn't change the fact that this is not a good place to raise a child."
"Maybe, maybe not. My employers aren't the only young people moving in." Remus gestured at a lopsided carousel. "This place could be unrecognizable in a few years."
He cautiously settled into the other swing. It creaked slightly but seemed able to hold his weight. "If you want me to take my son and leave, say so. You're almost well enough to handle the stairs by yourself, which means you won't need an attendant, and it's not as if you're fond of young - "
"Shut it, Lupin." Severus turned to look at him. Remus swallowed at the raw pain in his eyes. "I am attempting to point out the challenges of raising a child in this neighborhood, let alone one that will have to be watched constantly lest he change his appearance in front of Muggles.
"However, if you are determined to do so, you'll need a place to live, and I doubt your salary would cover the cost of rent." His hand shook slightly as he brushed his hair out of his eyes. "You're more than welcome to stay, at least until Teddy is old enough to need his own room."
Remus opened his mouth, then shut it. They could talk about this later, after Remus had contacted a solicitor. "Thank you. Here, you're shivering - let's go home before you catch a chill."
"I'm perfectly fine, Lupin. You fuss too much." Severus made a face as Remus helped him to his feet and back into the wheelchair. He stared at the play park a final time. "I'm not very hungry, so don't bother with lunch. Soup at the most, I think."
"Of course." There was a tin of thick, meaty oxtail soup that would do, especially if Severus agreed to a piece of bread and butter. Mourning did not mean starving one's self, especially so many years later.
Even if Remus didn't feel much like eating himself.