Author's Notes: So one time, I had this thought that "If Remus Lupin was doing anything in the 1980's, it was listening to Morrissey and drinking gin." And that just consumed my mind. The result is this crap. Woo! Written for the remusreads challenge number 25: Remus accepts the DADA position.
A/N 2: Look for another remusreads + some crack!fic in the future, maybe.
And Now My Heart Is Full
The first owl arrives shortly after dawn.
He's been up all night, listening to records on his Muggle gramophone, that hideous old thing he inherited from his grandmother (a Muggle) but which he loves because it's something he owns, or can at least claim to own. Over the course of the evening, he has progressed through a bottle of bottom-shelf gin and from the blues to Morrissey, stories of men fortunate enough to be acquainted with Sorrow and Grief and God-Forsaken Humiliation, but with far more money than himself.
He's been sacked again, too many absences to escape notice. He had been working third shift at a grocer's, stocking and sweeping and doing whatever he could do. He had the job for three months, but on this third month, after two days of unexplained absences, he was sacked for a twenty-one year old junkie who probably only wants to work there to huff the cleaning supplies.
It's his fault, and he knows it. He always covers his tracks but this time, the days before the moon were especially harsh and so now he is unemployed, with no prospects and rent coming due in a few days, and he is miserable. Like always.
Remus Lupin has no delusions of grandeur like the ones that pollute the minds of his greater counterparts. He's stopped holding out for employment in his world, and so he inhabits another. He knows that money is money, regardless of the fact that a Muggle pound is less than a Knut and a galleon is a week's pay for a fifteen year old. He doesn't care that the one-room flat he lives in is run-down, with water stains on the ceiling and creaky floorboards, and a nymphomaniac that lives next door who screams louder than a banshee. He doesn't care because he can't afford to care, because caring means that he's thinking about the pitiful condition his life is in and that leaves a sour taste in his mouth.
Also, he doesn't have enough liquor for caring, as it takes quite a lot to erase the feelings of pity and sight of squalor from one's mind and Remus Lupin cannot afford that much alcohol at any given time.
The owl perches on his windowsill, letter in its beak, glaring at him as he taps his foot to the beat of the drummer. He's lucky the drone of the neighbors waking up has drowned out his music, but the owl does not approve of his current state. It bites him as he takes the letter and opens it, a familiar feeling of dread building in his stomach as he recognizes both the handwriting and the wax seal on the back.
When he was ten, he got a letter much like this. He was surprised, since the mediwitches had told him that he was going to live a life…well, much like the life he was living currently. Life on the outskirts of humanity, with no hope of acceptance. But that letter…it had given him a decade of hope.
He reads the words carefully, not sure what to think. The immediate idea that comes to mind is that this is a terrible joke, but he's not sure who would play such a prank on him since all his friends are dead (or very close to it, but Azkaban is death as far as he is concerned). He rereads the salutation again, sure that somehow someone got something mixed up and it's not meant for him.
With a sigh, he places the letter on the sill and turns back to his gin and his music, slipping into a troubled sleep just as the needle reaches the last groove and the player shuts itself off.
There are two owls when he wakes, both of them holding similar letters. He squints into the sunlight – it has to be past noon or maybe even around that –and frowns. He doesn't want to think about whatever prank went on last night, not when his head is throbbing like it is. So he sighs and takes the letters from the owls, opens them to find two identical letters and throws them on the floor before hobbling to the loo and purging himself of last night's folly.
Later that day there are three owls, and three letters. The next day there are four.
Every time he walks through Diagon Alley, he stares at his feet. He's learned to do this because he doesn't like the looks he gets. He is a wreck and he knows it: robes patched and mended in a haphazard fashion based solely on availability of adequate materials; Muggle clothes underneath, shoes and pants and a button-down shirt, all far bigger than they should be; three scar marks across his face, hair too long and poorly cut because he can't afford a barber if he wants to eat to make sure his clothes don't get any bigger. And that doesn't even cover the fact that he's just emerged from Knockturn Alley.
It's seven days after the full moon and he's gone to Knockturn Alley to see a man about a potion, one that he's just read about that's said to calm down the wolf inside him. But the apothecary decided that despite his already dodgy business dealings with Muggles, he can't afford to get involved with a werewolf and so Remus is back where he started.
Suddenly, there's a shoulder in his ribs and he's stumbling. By not paying attention, he's bumped into someone, almost knocking them – her - down without even noticing her. When he does, he sees he's stumbled into a young Auror – no, just an Auror in training - and mumbles a hasty apology, eyes not really meeting hers, just looking at the insignia of the Ministry of Magic on the blue robe, one similar to the robe that he remembers Frank Longbottom showing them one night at the Leaky Cauldron.
The girl nods as he apologizes, then rushes up the stairs to meet with another trainee, another young one because this girl's hair is short and pink and she's carrying posters in her arms. The girls stare at him suspiciously, and over their shoulders he can see a full Auror, a tall black man with a glittering silver earring in dark blue robes, instructing other trainees on where the Wanted posters should go.
He's surprised when he sees Sirius' face screaming from the posters.
Apparently Sirius has escaped from Azkaban. This surprises Remus far more than it should because he's seen this face before, twelve years ago in the Daily Prophet. The girls are still staring; the one with that ugly pink hair has raised an eyebrow, and mumbles something to her colleague, something that sounds like 'drunk'.
He looks away, thinking how young they are but then again, they were so young too.
They needn't worry, he thinks as he walks away. First off, they don't who he is, and besides, Sirius wasn't speaking to him a month before all this happened; there's very little chance he'd speak to him now.
The owls add more to their number every twelve hours, and by the end of the week there are fourteen. The joke isn't funny anymore, and so he burns the letters and shoots sparks at the owls and scrounges under his sink for some sort of liquor. He should be looking for a job, but all of this is too much and he half expects it to be Sirius who's sending him these letters, intent on driving him mad and then…well, he hasn't figured out what exactly Sirius would achieve in driving him mad. But then again, Sirius wasn't the Sirius he thought he was in the end, he thinks as he takes a sip of whiskey that tastes more like piss water, and that's that.
The next day, a tan tabby cat joins the fifteen owls that perch on his sill, watching him as he watches them from the couch and he wonders if maybe this isn't a joke after all.
The next day after that, the owls are gone and the tabby too and there's a knock on the door.
Remus falls off the couch; hitting his knee on the miserable excuse he has for a coffee table on his way to answer it. But the door opens itself and he's left to stare, mouth open, at the sight in front of him.
It's impressive that Dumbledore's dressed like a Muggle, in trousers and a corduroy jacket and green jumper and he's standing at his door for a reason.
"Profes-Headmaster-come in," Remus sputters, reaching for his wand (it's in his back pocket) and waving it horridly across the room, Scourgify-ing the room.
"Thank you," Dumbledore says, sitting on the couch, which Remus had just been sleeping on. Remus rests nervously on the windowsill. He does not own any more chairs.
"I was wondering how many letters it would take."
And he knows that it wasn't a prank. He should have known when he saw the tabby cat.
"It took hundreds, thousands of letters and Hagrid knocking down a door to get Harry Potter to Hogwarts," he says. He closes the door behind him and Remus feels small, like he's ten again and he's been caught playing a prank on someone. He's about to get disciplined, but in the much more subtle adult way.
"I know life hasn't been fair on you, Remus," Dumbledore says, sitting across from him. "I know that you've tried your hardest. You've always tried your hardest."
Remus says nothing, shrugs his shoulder up and looks down. He's embarrassed, but Dumbledore's right. He's always right. He's tried, and it's not his fault.
"My invitation was not a prank, as I'm sure you know by now," Dumbledore says, and Remus nods, ashamed. There is silence.
"I'm sorry, Headmaster," Remus says, feeling he should say something, because after all, his stupidity brought Dumbledore here. He's embarrassed, partly because he treated the matter as a joke and partly because no one, not in years, has seen how he lives and he feels like he's disappointed the one person left who obviously has faith in him.
"I don't blame you, Remus. I know it isn't easy, and one must be careful in this world."
"I just – why? Why me? I haven't taught since – well, it's been about ten years, and I'm a liability and –" He stops, unsure of where to go from here. He's never been offered a job by someone who knows what he is, and so this is unknown territory he's stumbling over.
"We need you," he says. "Our last professor was a failure. You were top of your class in Defense, and you need this as much as we need you. And most importantly, Harry needs you."
Harry. Harry Potter. This reference succeeds where Dumbledore's first doesn't, because now Remus can clearly see the family Potter at Harry's first birthday, the way that Lily's eyes sparkled and how proud James looked and -
Sirius. Betrayal and family and love and emotions which churn in Remus' stomach. How did it come to this? Best friends, once, destroying each other.
There's a moment of tense silence in the room. Before James and Lily died, the Order had been fractured. Order members were suspicious of each other, and Remus received the brunt of the suspicion, because he was a werewolf. He knew this, and he also knew if anyone wouldn't sell out to Voldemort, it would be a werewolf raised among wizards, but old hatred never truly dies.
Remus bites his lip and closes his eyes. Dumbledore knew that he had been loyal to the Order, had not betrayed the Potters. He wonders if Dumbledore thinks he helped Sirius escape. He doesn't want to broach the topic. Dumbledore has said nothing about Sirius, and so Remus decides it's best to play along, to not mention it. He'd rather not think of Sirius since thinking of Sirius reminds him of broken glass from whiskey bottles thrown across rooms and the scar he still has on his back, where a shred of glass from a bottle Sirius threw embedded itself so deep -
"If you come to Hogwarts," Dumbledore says, "If you accept the invitation to teach…I have a feeling your life will change."
"Anything's better than this," Remus says. He's still not sure where all of this fits in, and part of him wonders if Dumbledore even knows.
"Anything but teaching first-years basic Defense Against the Dark Arts spells," Dumbledore says, with a knowing wink. "Of course, there are added incentives to being a professor at Hogwarts."
And so he agrees, not really sure why but thinking of Hogwarts and his happier days, and of housing and food and money, lots of it because Hogwarts pays its teachers well. He thinks about transformations in the Shrieking Shack, and being patched up by Pomfrey whose healing spells are better than his own. He starts to plot out lesson plans, trying to remember the pedagogy he learned years ago, when he was getting certification to become a Muggle teacher. He wonders what exactly he will teach first-years.
He wonders, too, what Harry looks like, if he has loyal friends, if he can tell him he was friends with his parents. He assumes – that is, that it is implied – that he will tell Harry about his parents, that he will say he was a friend of theirs. Of course, Remus just assumes this but he never liked asking questions because that always led to difficulties.
Several days before the full moon, an owl arrives with a potion bottle and a note. The note is from Dumbledore, the bottle is full of the Wolfsbane potion, and Dumbledore jokes that this is the added incentive, courtesy of Severus Snape, Potions Master. He imagines Severus was not pleased, and he can imagine Severus' scowl.
As he takes a drink of the brew – which is terrible, it tastes like the wine Sirius and James made fourth-year and let ferment in James' trunk and it got them all sick when they drank it – he thinks that maybe Dumbledore's right. Maybe this is a new beginning, a new way of life.
If anything, he'll piss off Severus for most of the year, which is as good of a reason as any.