Title: At the Beginning|
Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org / http://www.livejournal.com/users/arachnethe2/
Author's Notes: A sequel to 'And Just Plain Wrong'
by Amanuensis and my story Damage
Summary: It takes time and a lot of strength to heal
Disclaimer: These characters and places belong to JK Rowling. This particular
interpretation of Potterverse belongs to Amanuensis. I am only playing with
them a little.
AT THE BEGINNING
Remus woke up from a dream about chains, a reeking cell and stone altar, opening his eyes to a bedroom bathed in sunlight.
It was already afternoon and the place next to him bore only a warm dent in the mattress.
Neville was probably working in the greenhouse right now.
Remus stood up and carefully straightened his spine with a series of soft pops, noticing that again his transformation had become more difficult; slightly more draining and exhausting than the previous one. It was getting worse year after year, but even this he
learned to face stoically, while his hair turned completely white. Yet beating his head against the wall didn't help any. He knew this from experience
A shower, fresh clothes and a cup of coffee have always been more effective. In that order.
To his surprise Remus found a full fresh brewed pot waiting for him on the kitchen table. He remembered telling Neville not to bother, when he was so terribly busy and Neville
answering with a short nod. Remus should have known this meant 'I heard you' rather than 'I'll do as you say.'
Neville's silent generosity still embarrassed him, and the gratitude he felt every time shamed him. The boy really shouldn't! But try to argue, when you are living at the expense of another person. He might get an odd job now and then and the Wolfsbane was
provided together with the cage by the Ministry, but still it was nothing compared to the luxury Remus was now living in.
He poured himself a cup, sat down with the latest edition of the Daily Prophet and glanced over the headlines.
Fudge's latest speech in front of the Wizengamot. This excuse for an organisation was in permanent chaos since its members threw Dumbledore out last year. Remus smiled bitterly: speeches! That lot was incapable of anything else.
Then there was yet another story about the Survivors of Hogwarts. This article brought the bitter taste of bile to his mouth, which he quickly washed away with coffee.
Since the rescue Minerva had fought hard for the re-opening of the school. ' It is not the first time in its history' she argued, ' that the castle has witnessed innocents suffering
unspeakable things. Yet still the school came alive again and again, because it always stood at the core of British Wizarding society and to destroy this place would mean the real victory for Voldemort and his followers.'
But the ears of the bureaucrats and the parents turned deaf, and it seemed the school would remain closed for another year at least.
And yeah, there has been the current Speculation 101 about the possible fate of the Boy-Who-Lived and his pet Death Eater. By now though, these were only old rehashed reports, each containing no more information than the last. Harry Potter, together with the
'DE Outcast' Snape, had stepped out of the Leaky Cauldron into a rainy muggle street, and no-one had seen them since.
All in all, there was nothing new out there.
Remus sighed and threw the paper back onto the table. He should really tell Neville to cancel the subscription. It was a waste of money, nothing else. He read it himself purely out of habit, while Neville ignored it completely. Actually, since his rescue Neville ignored almost everything which happened outside his house. He left only when he delivered his flowers to the florist in the Diagon Alley, when he visited his parents at St. Mungo, or when he needed to do some urgent household shopping. Since Remus had moved in, however, Neville had dropped even the last activity to spend his time entirely on growing new types of rose.
Neville loved roses. There might be other flowers in his greenhouse as well, but they weren't his greatest passion.
The whole house was filled with their fragrance, and in the evenings when Neville came to the kitchen and Remus served them both dinner, he would listen to Neville talk about the ups and downs of his current project. A special rose, which would possess bright blue blossoms that would tinkle and chime in a light breeze as if blowing over a tiny bell.
Entranced by Neville's words, Remus could sit like this the whole evening. And when he watched the light in the boy's eyes, he felt grateful, that after everything Neville went through there were still roses in the end.
It happened just as Remus was debating with himself whether or not he should make another pot of coffee, and maybe some sandwiches for supper. Neville was always very hungry in the evenings.
He was just turning back to the table to fetch the empty pot, when he the spotted a big white owl, which surely wasn't there the moment before. He thought at first it had apparated right in, it appeared so quickly, then he remembered animals weren't capable of
such things. It had simply flown in, because this was a wizard's house and as such came with a special owl entrance right under the roof.
Shaking himself out of his stupor, Remus sank down into his chair: "Hello Hedwig."
She aproached him casually, as if she had seen him only yesterday, and hooted in satisfaction as he petted clumsily her white feathers with shaking hands. Finally Hedwig had enough. She withdrew rather impatiently, and only then did Remus notice there was a white envelope tied to her leg.
His fingers somehow refused to obey him, and untying the string seemed to take forever. At one point Hedwig almost poked out his eye with her beak, because he pulled so strongly at her leg she feared that he would tear it off. Remus calmed her down with a strip of bacon and a bowl of fresh water, which he placed at the kitchen counter. Then
he returned to the letter.
It wasn't a parchment. It was a common muggle paper envelope. Remus remembered Arthur once showing him something similar at the Ministry. The name on this thing was written in this familiar looking, untidy handwriting: REMUS LUPIN.
Remus tore the envelope apart and pulled out two pieces of thin paper which were covered with odd looking ink from edge to edge.
"Dear Remus," the first line said, and reading it he had to stop immediately, drop the letter back onto the table and take a breath.
Too much at once.
No, he should... yeah! He should really make the coffee first. And then the sandwiches.
He stood up, pulled out the bread and a knife, then he stopped and looked back. The letter was still there, pieces of thin paper attempting to relax back into their creases.
Remus closed his eyes for a moment, then turned and started to prepare the supper.
"Is there anything to eat?" The voice came from behind him.
Remus chuckled. Trust Neville to smell the food even from several miles away.
A hand with dirty fingernails sneaked carefully around Remus' body in an attempt to steal a sandwich from the plate.
Remus slapped it lightly. "Wash you hands first."
The hand withdrew. "But I'm hungry!"
Remus sighed theatrically and turned. A pair of grey eyes looked down at him from under dark brown bangs. Frank's face. Boys taking after their fathers...
Remus felt the pang of pain every time the thought hit him.
Outwardly he smiled and arched his eyebrow in mock seriousness.
Neville tilted his head.
Under the scrutiny of those puppy dog eyes Remus gave up, picked up one sandwich and put it in Neville's mouth.
"Thhangs," Neville muffled gratefully and disappeared into the bathroom.
Remus shook his head. Some things would never change, and thankfully so.
He made some tea for Neville, coffee for himself, and put it all onto the table together with the sandwiches.
Neville emerged from the bathroom and immediately reached for another.
"You got post?"
Remus sat down as well.
Neville dropped the sandwich. "What?"
"If you don't believe me, then Hedwig should be flying around somewhere."
Neville's eyes grew serious. "I believe you. It's just...you say it so matter of fact!"
Somehow Neville's words made him angry. Matter of fact! What did the boy think? That he would jump for joy? Remus would give anything to be able to do exactly that. But this whole thing was damm complicated and more difficult than dealing with lycanthropy.
He picked up the two ridiculous pieces of muggle paper and handed them to Neville. "Read it."
Neville's eyes grew wide. Sometimes his puppy dog stare was really unnerving.
Remus sighed. "Of course, I want to know what it says," he shook his hand with the letter
impatiently, "so would you read it aloud for me? Please?"
Neville pushed the half-eaten sandwich aside and brushed the crumbs off his palms. Then he took the letter between two fingers.
"That's not parchment," he stated, wonder in his voice. "It feels so... so
Remus gave him a tired smile. Yeah it was weird, surreal, hardly to be believed.
"Dear Remus," Neville read.
And then his words started to flow and suddenly it was as if Harry was sitting with them both in this kitchen, telling them stories from a universe far, far away:
...rented a small apartment...
...obtained a driving licence...
...adopted a small kitten. Hedwig is protecting it fiercely and feeding it with mice, which she brings from her night hunts...
...learning 24/7, because from next autumn I will be attending university...
...Severus is going too. He is fascinated by quantum chemistry and the muggle internet, but still can't figure out how to handle a cell phone...
...we are getting along...
...I'm thinking about you. Please write back.
Carefully, Neville put Harry's letter onto the table.
"What is a cell phone?"
Remus stirred like being waked up from a deep trance: "What?"
"A cell phone."
He shook his head: "No idea. Probably something similar to the thing used to enter the Ministry from the street."
"Ah, well they are pretty tricky, that's true." Neville stood up. "I have to go. There
is still some work I have to do in the greenhouse."
"Aren't you hungry?"
"Actually no. Not any more. Will you write to Harry?"
A good question. Remus rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I don't know."
Remus chuckled, knowing that he sounded bitter. "There is nothing to write about."
In silent wonder Neville spread out his arms in a gesture, which encompassed all: the kitchen, the house, them both. As if wanting to say: doesn't *this* count?
Remus knew, where it was heading. And he didn't like it a bit: "Neville don't!"
"Then tell me why?"
"You don't understand!"
Neville tilted his head. "Really?"
He hated him! Now Remus really hated him! This silent posture, those innocent looking eyes! As if Neville hadn't been there, forced to watch what Remus had been capable of
during the full moon!
"I want an answer."
"I said I want an answer."
And then all of a sudden the wave of anger welled up in Remus - hot, red and bitter, like the always present picture of the growing moon, like the cup full of foul-smelling Wolfsbane.
"Shut up!" He yelled, jumped out of his chair, threw the table over and Harry's letter, the
pots and the plate with sandwiches flew to the floor. The sound of falling metal and breaking china echoed loudly through the whole house.
Stunned, both men were staring at the shreds. The plate and the cups once belonged to Neville's grandmother.
"I'm sorry," Remus whispered, wanting to run and hide.
Neville waved his hand: "That's... that's only old garbage." He pulled the table up, swooped down to rescue Harry's letter from the puddle of spilled coffee. He whispered
"Evanesco", and the mess on the floor vanished.
Remus sank back into his chair not knowing what to do or at least what to say. Behind him Neville was rummaging in the kitchen cupboard, but Remus didn't dare to turn and check. Or meet Neville's eyes.
"Here," Neville said after some moments and pushed a warm cup in Remus' hand, "drink
this." The tea smelt of dry fruits and some herbs Remus didn't recognise. They must have come from Neville's greenhouse. He took a sip.
He heard Neville pull the second chair and sit down next to him.
"I'm really sorry," Remus repeated.
"Don't be. I shouldn't have pushed you." A warm hand in the back of Remus' head gently, very gently, forced him to look up.
Neville's eyes were sad and very old. There was no indication in them of the shy timid boy, who an eternity ago was about to face his first Boggart. Today it was as if their roles had been switched, and Remus was the one who needed convincing there was really
nothing to be afraid of.
"Remus," Neville said, "Harry forgave you, remember? It was not your fault."
Remus closed his eyes. "Neville..."
"It was not your fault."
He felt the cup being plucked out of his grip and himself being drawn closer. And then Neville's lips were touching his forehead and his eyelids, then they slid down to his mouth and he opened it and let the tongue in.
Then there was only warmth and comfort in the tight embrace, and Neville's fingers smearing Remus' tears all over his face.
"Write when you are ready," Neville said, when after a while he let go of Remus and stood up.
"I just don't know where to start."
"Then start at the beginning."
"I will try."
"Good. And say hello to Harry from me, would you? And him... him too."
Neville was again working in the greenhouse.
The evening came slowly, with orange sunset and long, dark shadows. Remus lit a candle.
Harry's letter felt oddly fragile in his hands. The pages, once white, bore large brown spots of dried tea and coffee.
He has read it five times now, yet he still couldn't get enough of those lines, even when he had no idea what things like driving licences and the internet were. Perhaps he should ask Harry what these things meant? Yeah, probably he would.
He put the letter down and looked out of the window: there was light coming from the green house - a sign that Neville would be working late into the night. To finally finish his work on Rosa Alice, or just to give Remus some space.
He should start at the beginning, Neville told him. But Remus still didn't know where to find it. All the things which popped up in his head were best left till later.
He wasn't sure if Harry had written to Ron too, because since his rescue he never dared to visit the Burrow and for obvious reasons the Weasleys never issued an invitation. But he had his own sources of information which told him that Ginny disappeared from St Mungo straight after her child's delivery. They found only a piece of parchment on the night table: 'I LOVE YOU ALL, BUT PLEASE DON'T SEARCH FOR ME.' Since then
there has been no trace of her. Molly's hair turned grey overnight and Arthur spends even his weekends working in the Ministry.
Ginny's little daughter has white, blond hair and pale, grey eyes and at Ron's request they named her Hermione.
Nobody dared to determine who the father was, but since Lucius had been killed by Snape and Narcissa died during the rescue attack, it was Draco's fate to bear the punishment for his parents' crimes. In his case the Ministry court decided against the Dementor's Kiss, on the basis that Draco was too young for such an execution. Instead he
was stripped of all his rights, property and magic, and wearing the letters DE on his robes he was forced to live on the streets, relying on the pity of other people. It was as good as a death sentence.
Colin Creevey's little brother committed suicide in the closed psychiatric ward of the hospital. He hung himself by the cord of his dressing gown and was found by a nurse in the morning.
A short time later the Aurors discovered Draco's dead body lying in a dirty corner of Knockturn Alley. The corpse was already a week old, bore deep wounds to the neck and wrists and someone had raped it several times.
No one bothered to search for the murderer.
Remus still remembered what he thought when reading about it in the Daily Prophet: that little piece of shit. He felt not one iota of regret.
Neither did Neville.
He could write about their relationship too, but surely not that they still rarely touch each other outside the bedroom. That Remus never approaches him from behind. That he is
always waiting for Neville to make the first step. That Neville never shows himself naked and their lovemaking is nothing more than teenage fumbling in each others pyjamas with lots of hugs and kisses, for it is all Neville allows, and all Remus is willing to give.
No, this doesn't belong there. That's their business, their privacy, their way of licking their wounds and coping with life .
Because all in all they are getting along, and that is what counts.
Remus pointed with his wand: "Accio parchment."
The quill felt odd in his hand. The last time he held it in his hand was at the Ministry, when he signed his testimony. It took several attempts to write "Dear Harry", until he was satisfied with his handwriting again. Not like his old one, but perhaps it would do.
"Dear Harry...," he started.
Then suddenly the letters blurred in front of his eyes, so that he had to drop the quill and lift his head up.
He was going to cry later, not now.
It was his secret. And no one, not even Neville, was going to know how often Remus was overtaken by this need to crawl somewhere and bite the knuckles of his hand to keep him silent as the pain spills out. It was a sort of offering he has been making to the world, the universe and any possible deity in it. He was crying for Harry and Ron, for Ginny, Colin and Neville, for all these children he once knew and whose ability to cry has been ripped out and destroyed forever. Last of all he did it for the tiny spark of crippled hope in him, that perhaps, one day, he will be able to forgive himself.
And perhaps, some day he will write to Harry about it too.
"Dear Harry... and Severus," he added after a moment of hesitation.
"I never stopped thinking about you, even when I gave up any hope of hearing from either of you again. I know you promised me you would write, Harry, but given the
circumstances I would understand if you had decided otherwise.
Yet today seeing Hedwig sitting on the table in front of me, it took me a few moments to realise that it wasn't a dream.
You asked me how I am.
I'm fine. More than just fine, because things turned out for me better than I ever hoped they would.
When we saw each other that last time in the Leaky Cauldron I was sure that all I ever had walked out into the muggle world and that waiting for any sign from you would be the only thing which would make me continue my existence. Yet later during the evening, on my way home, I accidentally bumped into a young man who was carrying a bunch of roses.
And only my quickly cast spell prevented them from falling straight into a puddle..."