|Everything I Needed To Know About Life
Author: dorian dark PM
...I learned from Rodgers and Hammerstein. Scenes and memories from Remus Lupin's life. His loves, losses...and Sirius in a dress. With dashes of RLSB, RLSS, RLNT from time to time.Rated: Fiction K - English - Romance - Remus L. & Sirius B. - Chapters: 2 - Words: 4,717 - Reviews: 2 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 03-20-09 - Published: 09-11-07 - id: 3779815
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
AN: Ok, so I found an old poster I used to have on my wall with various StarWars quotes on with the heading 'Everything I Needed To Know About Life I Learned From Star Wars', and THEN I found an old Bryn Terfel CD of various show tunes, and I got thinking (as I am wont to do), and then I came up with this: a collection of vaguely chronological scenes and memories from Lupin's life, all inspired by songs from shows by Rodgers and Hammerstein. In this instalment, we explore his childhood a little, up to the time he sets off for Hogwarts. Hope you enjoy! dorian dark xx
Disclaimer: this goes for the rest of the fic: NOT MINE.
Dedication: this fic is for Lady Bracknell, whose stories make me very, very happy. This may not be your cup of tea, ma'am, but I thought a bit of appreciation wouldn't go amiss. dd xx
Everything I Needed To Know About Life (I Learned From Rodgers and Hammerstein)
Whenever I feel afraid
I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune,
So no one will suspect I'm afraid – 'The King and I'
Even before I was bitten, we were never an affluent family. I had only been to the seaside once in the years we might deem my childhood – before Hogwarts, before regeneration.
I remember we drove to Barmouth with the windows rolled down and salty, tangy breezes promising unreachable horizons and utter, unimaginable bliss. I was not disappointed. I have never forgotten the incredible smell of hot sand, the aged smoothness of sun-bleached beach huts, and the glorious sound of my mother's squealing as she ran with me, my little feet slapping wetly in the surf, churning, foamy spray soaking our thighs and bellies. They are the only holiday memories I have, and so I cherish them all the more closely.
Christmas was similarly economical. Mother made crackers from old parcel paper stamped with cut potato shapes, and little snippets of ribbon, and filled them with sugar mice and polished Sickles. I'd never heard of stockings and turkeys and mulled wine – naturally, Sirius and James, incredulous at my general ignorance, took the opportunity to fabricate various 'well-known traditions' which all ordinary families observed at Yuletide. I saw through the 'New Year Llama' straight away, but they nearly had me convinced with the 'Homage to a Fallen Turkey' poem. Anyway, I knew their typical teasing hid a shocked pity for my deprived youth, and I wished I could spend the holidays at home.
Though Christmases at Hogwarts were extra-ordinary, opulent affairs I equate in my mind with extreme gluttony and vicious hangovers, I remember my childhood celebrations equally fondly. My father would save every penny from his measly pay-packet, go without a can of his favourite beer on Saturdays running up to Christmas, sell some of his clothes, or a set of cufflinks for formal dinners he was never invited to, and buy my mother her annual music record.
There was something infinitely comforting about the routine of it all; the three of us would crowd round the fire wearing flimsy paper hats, and quiver with excitement, wondering which record Father had found this time. My mother's eyes would shine with unbridled love as she unwrapped the flat, square parcel, her fingers trembling visibly.
'Oh, John,' she would breathe softly, running a hand over the glossy cover, and hold it up for the whole family to admire. 'Look, Remus, look what your father got for me, aren't I a lucky girly?'
Her smiles, corny though it sounds, were the best present I could ever have received, and even then, when I had quite enough troubles of my own to be getting on with, I realised that the love my parents shared was truly exceptional. They would put the record on, and dance slowly with their arms round each other to the scratchy music. It was like the movies, I thought, and I was entranced, and utterly contented.
Three years after I was bitten, my family was plummeting further into destitution, plagued by stigma and by mounting debts. I was nine, and Mother's face was prematurely lined, and more than once I had heard Father stifle an unwilling sob in the dead of night.
My parents sold the car, and my mother pawned her ancestral pearls, and they sent me to a sanatorium in Sweden for a week one Easter. I hated it. The walls were white, and the smell of death and chloroform lingered everywhere. The nurses were brusque and business-like, and I could not understand a word they said. I wet the bed, and they hit me. Stern Healers poked my thin, pale chest and looked into my eyes, their hot breath repugnant on my cheek. I was subjected to a daily round of hideous potions, injections and tests, and the transformation at the end of the week was just as horrible, just as painful as before.
I returned to England with my little suitcase, looking like a Muggle evacuee, weeping with happiness to see my parents again, not blaming them one iota for having sent me away in the first place.
'Darling!' My mother was thinner, and pale with prolonged worry. Father put a hand gingerly on her shoulder and stroked her comfortingly, then ruffled my hair and said jauntily, 'how's my brave traveller, then?' He was good at putting on a brave face, my father. He rarely let me see how much it hurt him.
We had to walk from the train station to our little terraced house, through potholed, muddy streets, in the English gloom, me holding fast to my mother's gloved hand. The house was darker than I remembered, colder somehow, and there were strange shadows lingering in corners I had never noticed before. Some of the ornaments were gone from the mantelpiece – the little china mice I had played with as a toddler, lining them up in rows and teaching them about 2 + 2, or slotting them into my toy fire engine and rushing off to rescue the porcelain ballerina, who was trapped on top of the coffee table. She was gone too, with her fragile, splayed skirts and elegant white arms.
My mother and father exchanged glances at my silence and apprehension.
'Well, Remus, we'd better celebrate our big boy coming back from his big adventure, hadn't we?' Father said cheerily. Mother smiled tightly, her eyes sparkling with helpless tears.
I nodded mutely. Maybe Father would let me have a little glass of wine, now I'd been away all by myself. Or we could walk to the sweetshop in the village and he'd let me pick a whole Sickle's worth of sweets. But Father was pulling a flat parcel down from the shelf, and handing it to me with a meaningful look, and Mother was smiling happily now through her tears.
I remained silent and turned the parcel over and over, examining the neat Spellotape holding it together, feeling the weight of it in my hands. My father had written to our brave boy, from Mother and Father on one corner of the newspaper wrapping. I bit my lip.
'Is this for me?' I whispered incredulously.
'Well, how many other brave boys are there in this house?' Mother demanded, squatting down beside me and touching my face lightly. 'Go on, Remus, open your present.'
Slowly, I slid my finger under the flap at the end and ripped the Spellotape open. The newspaper unfolded like a parcel of greasy fish and chips, and I could feel my little childish heart thundering uncontrollably.
The record was second-hand, the corners of the cover were soft and worn with age, and the thin spine was faded where it had lain on a shelf in the sun, but it was mine. The Rodgers and Hammerstein Collection, I read slowly, tracing the raised red lettering reverently with a finger. Well-loved classics from all the shows, it said underneath. I looked up at my parents, and saw their proud, bittersweet smiles, and the horror of the sanatorium, and the monthly dread of the moon fell away as I ran to embrace them.
I played that record every chance I got, while helping my mother to iron, while writing earnest little stories on scraps of paper, complete with angular crayoned drawings. Mother would watch me fondly, tongue stuck out as I concentrated, humming subconsciously under my breath. I would sing the lyrics as I ran to town to pick up some fish, or while I sat on the edge of the canal fishing with a piece of string and a rusty hook.
Then Father died. My most abiding memory of that awful time is the overwhelming silence of the house, the vacant, cold expression on Mother's face as she sat motionless in her armchair. I crept about the house, trying to remember Father's face, and the warmth of his laugh, and the rush of excitement as he swung me up above his head and tickled me mercilessly. I wanted to ask Mother – why the Healers hadn't been able to do anything, whether it was naughty that I couldn't cry, what would happen to us now. But the utterly misery of her forlorn figure in that armchair stopped my childish nattering dead. I looked longingly at the record player in the corner, and wondered whether she might like to listen to her happy waltzes for a while. Mother said it would be disrespectful to Father to listen to music.
I knew Mother loved me very much, but Father's death changed everything between us. She became irritable and moody, and she always seemed to be hurrying everywhere, with a cross, sour expression on her once-lovely face. I don't think she ever appreciated how much Father had done – as a Muggle, she wasn't able to manage the household with a little flick of the wrist. She found it hard to talk to wizarding families, who treated her with the subdued respect widows always receive, but who gave her confusion over my lycanthropy and the associated forms and Ministry regulations short shrift.
We subsided into a lonely limbo existence, living as poor Muggles, and coping with my monthly transformations with Muggle remedies and brisk words of comfort. Sometimes I missed Father so much I cried myself to sleep with my knees huddled to my chest to press the pain away. My one record lay on my bedside table, and I would gaze at it with longing each night before I went to sleep, and wish Mother would let me play it, just once, to remind me of Father and of better times.
If I'm honest with myself, I was relieved to receive my letter from Hogwarts. I think Mother was, too. She knew I would be well-cared for there, and felt absolved of her guilt for having neglected me in the months following her husband's death.
My few possessions rattled loudly in my trunk as I trundled behind Mother along the platform, an anxious frown on my young face. I passed gaggles of children in long black robes, and noticed their spanking new scarves and expensive pets. I felt my heart sink. They were obviously Hogwarts students, brazenly showing their wizarding colours among the Muggle accountants in business suits and university students with their huge haversacks and battered guitar cases.
'Now, remember what the Headmaster said,' Mother said, crouching down before me and messing distractedly with my collar. I nodded. Dumbledore had visited our house three weeks before, complete with billowing purple robes and avuncular grin, and explained everything. How we would manage my transformations, how to go shopping for everything on the long list of required materials, book and clothes. He called me 'Mr Lupin' with a kind twinkle in his eyes, and patted me gently on the shoulder as I left.
'I can't come onto the platform with you, Remus, because I'm not a witch, you know that,' Mother continued, still fussing over my appearance, rubbing at a smudge on my cheek. 'So you'll have to be a brave boy and ask one of the other children for help getting your trunk onto the train and sitting where you're supposed to.'
I nodded again. I could feel the familiar sting of tears and the painful pressure in the back of my throat, but refused to let my mother see me cry.
She hugged me briefly, and I felt in her embrace every ounce of love she had felt for me in the months since Father died, and hugged her back with every bit of my eleven year old strength. Her eyes were moist as I drew back.
'I'll write to you every week, darling,' she promised. She hadn't called me 'darling' for months. 'You be a good boy now, and stay out of trouble, won't you?' I nodded again and smiled weakly. 'And remember what the Headmaster said, it's very important that nobody else knows about your illness.'
'Yes, Mother.' I wiped at my nose with my sleeve and she frowned, but refrained from reproaching me. The clock high in the smoke and iron gables of the station was dangerously close to eleven o'clock when she finally decided I looked fit to represent the family, and with a final hug, pushed me towards the barrier.
Lily told me later that she had never been more terrified in her life than the moment she walked through the barrier of platform nine and three quarters. Walking into a brick wall, she said disparagingly. I thought I must be mad, even trying it.
I suppose I was lucky. My mother was stranded in the Muggle world, in her best coat, a red scarf at her throat blazing through the smog of the station, waving a little handkerchief. But I had the assurance of my father's ancestry, and the memory of a blue-eyed old man beaming genially at me over the top of his teacup to sustain me as I strode forward.
I thought of my mother and father dancing, swaying gently in the rosy Christmas light, my mother in her stocking feet and my father with his tie loosened. I thought of the swings in the park and my little, high voice, 'Mother, Mother, look how high I'm flying!' and I thought of the biggest treat of all, fish and chips with Father, sitting on a low brick wall behind the church. We'd name the chips and make up little stories about journeys they were going on, wives and children they'd meet there, exotic rainforests they'd walk through, before sending them on their final train ride down our eager gullets.
I felt the reassuring length of my wand in my back pocket, and thought of the cool bitterness of iced tea in the tiny parched square of grass behind our house, and the trembling of my fingers as I opened the parchment envelope, one eye on the majestic owl perched on the tabletop. The girls and boys on the platform were taller than I, and called to each other raucously, darting confidently towards the compartments, but I remembered the blazing pride on my father's face as he handed me that blessed package and pushed through the crowds, smiling a little through my tears.