Notes: Told from Remus Lupin's POV
Chapter One: A Most Unusual Will
One day in late November, about a year and a half after the war had ended, I found myself wandering down a narrow alley reading the signs on the worn brick buildings to either side of me. I'd never ventured into this off-shoot of Diagon Alley before, and I wanted to be sure I ended up at the right place. The twisted little lane was full of modest shops and small family businesses, along with the occasional law office. Some of which had apparently been in business since before the Ministry of Magic was founded if the signs on their doors were to be believed.
After walking a third of its length, I stopped and squinted at a small brass plaque that seemed promising. Deciphering the spidery font etched into its smudged and tarnished surface wasn't easy, but it seemed to indicate that I was standing in front of the offices of Stump, Starrett and Skyrm, Warlocks of Law, which meant I'd reached my destination.
The peeling paint on the plain black door came as a bit of a surprise. Based on the very fancy looking letter I'd recently received, I'd expected something a bit grander, and this building with its dull brick facade and sad looking doorway had clearly seen better days. Of course, I'd seen better days myself so I really had no right be critical.
Climbing the worn steps, I entered the building and found myself in a small unadorned office filled with wooden filing cabinets and rather flimsy looking bookcases. Behind a single, unimposing desk sat a sharp eyed clerk who rose to greet me.
"May I help you?" the clerk asked politely, though the look on his face as he took note of my ragged robes and well worn boots made it quite clear that he sincerely doubted he'd receive a positive reply.
The clerk was in for a surprise. Pulling a large piece of cream coloured parchment from my pocket, I smiled my most sincere smile in return. "Yes. I'm here to see Mr Skyrm," I said.
The clerk eyed the parchment with evident recognition and his cool manner thawed a few degrees. "I see. Do you have an appointment Mr...?"
"Lupin," I filled in the obvious blank. "My name is Remus J. Lupin, and as a matter of fact, I do have an appointment. I got this letter from Mr Skyrm informing me that I've received some sort of inheritance and asking me to call here at three o'clock this afternoon to discuss it."
The clerk extended his hand and I gave him the stiff piece of parchment that I'd received just that morning by owl. He checked the letter over quickly, obviously recognizing it. When he looked up, his eyes were more wary but his demeanour became a trifle warmer.
"Mr Skyrm is running a bit behind schedule I'm afraid and is still with a client, but I'm sure he'll be free shortly, Mr Lupin. If you'd be willing to have a seat over there by the window, I'll ring for tea. I'm sure the wait won't be a long one."
"Could I possibly see Mr Stump or Mr Starrett, if Mr Skyrm is occupied?" I asked. Not that I particularly minded waiting, but I was curious about the other names on the plaque. The office didn't look large enough to accommodate very many people.
The clerk shook his head and tightened his lips. "Mr Stump and Mr Starrett are deceased," he replied in a clipped tone. "Mr Skyrm is the sole remaining partner in the firm. I'm afraid you'll have to wait until he's free to conduct your business."
"I see. All right," I agreed amiably. Now that my curiosity was satisfied, I was perfectly willing to wait. I really had nothing else to do, and the thought of a cup of hot tea and maybe a biscuit or two was quite appealing after my long, chilly walk.
With a brisk nod, the clerk returned my letter and ushered me over to a corner of the room filled with chairs covered in a thick dark material that looked like dragon-hide but was probably a cheaper synthetic since it'd cracked along the edges in an unsightly manner. There he left me to choose a seat while a house-elf was summoned and refreshments were ordered.
The service was extremely efficient. I'd done little more than sit down and cross my legs before a house-elf was setting a tray on a nearby table and inquiring whether I wished milk with my tea. It'd been a long time since I was the recipient of such prompt and courteous service, and I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I settled in quite happily with a cup and a couple of chocolate digestives and prepared to pass a contentedly quiet few minutes while awaiting my audience with Mr Skyrm, Warlock of Law.
Receiving a letter promising me an inheritance had been quite a surprise, and I still didn't know what to make of it. I'd never heard of Audra Cordelia Sparling, and I couldn't for the life of me understand why she'd have left any sort of bequest to me. How would she even know I existed?
Yes, I'd fought in the war, and as a participant on the winning side, I'd been honoured along with everyone else with a handshake and my name on a plaque, but I was a minor player, just one of many. I certainly hadn't received either the accolades or the press coverage that others had. The whole idea of this sudden inheritance struck me as exceedingly odd and highly unlikely. The only thing I could think of was that I'd been mistaken for someone else with a similar name, and the truth would come to light quite quickly once I finally spoke to this Mr Skyrm.
After a polite apology, I'd no doubt be sent on my way, none the worse for spending some time relaxing in a warm, comfortable room on a cold afternoon. Though I had to admit, if somehow it didn't turn out to be a mistake and this unknown woman had indeed left me some money, it would be most welcome. Things hadn't really gone all that well for me since the end of the war. I was thrilled to survive, of course, and quite hopeful for a better future with Voldemort and his Death Eaters finally gone, but that hoped for improvement in my circumstances was rather long in coming.
I'd naively thought that once Kingsley Shacklebolt became Minister for Magic, the anti-werewolf employment laws would be repealed quite quickly. Back when he and I were fighting side by side in the Order, he always spoke of the existence of those laws as a travesty. But the push and pull of politics can change perspectives and priorities.
As an Auror, Kingsley was free to say what he thought and to hold his own opinions on many different subjects. Once he became Minister, however, his own personal feelings and desires usually had to take a back seat to those of the people he now represented. And those people, by and large, were still afraid, still angry and more distrustful than ever of anything or anyone that was viewed as being tainted by dark magic, including, unfortunately for me, werewolves.
As I was finishing off a third biscuit and a second cup of tea, the outside door opened and a familiar figure in swirling robes stalked in to stand imperiously in front of the prim little clerk's desk. I hadn't seen very much of Severus Snape since the end of the war, but I knew that fortune had, at long last, come to smile fondly on the man, and the impressive change in his circumstances was favourably reflected in his current appearance. Gone were the lank, greasy locks, the cheap black robes, and the perpetually sullen expression of the past.
Today the man wore expensive, well-tailored robes in a becoming shade of hunter green, edged with black and cream. His shoulder length hair shown with deep blue highlights, and his face, once deeply etched with lines of tension and stress, now wore a more comfortable and self-satisfied expression on its distinctive features. In short, Severus looked terrific, and I found myself smiling in admiration as I ate my biscuit and waited to see what brought such a high ranking member of the Ministry to this out of the way little law office.
To my deep regret, Severus and I didn't move in the same circles anymore, far from it actually. So his presence here at the same time as myself seemed an odd coincidence, and I've always been a trifle wary of odd coincidences. In my experience, true coincidences were fairly rare things.
As I watched Severus interact with the clerk, I decided that there must be some sort of privacy spell over the clerk's domain because although I could see Severus engaging in conversation with the young man at the desk, and could hear the soft murmur of their voices, I couldn't make out any specific words. Considering that my hearing was far keener than that of normal humans, a privacy spell seemed the only explanation for my failure to pick up their conversation from such a short distance away.
I sat up a bit straighter in my chair when Severus presented a parchment that looked identical to the one currently residing in my pocket. Apparently I was right to be suspicious of coincidences. A few more words were exchanged, and then the clerk gestured toward the corner of the room where I sat. Severus glanced in my direction and his eyes narrowed suspiciously when his gaze fell on me. I had to consciously suppress an impulse to straighten my robe and run a hand through my hair. Neither gesture would truly make any difference in my appearance and would only betray my nervousness at seeing Severus again.
With a final nod to the clerk, Severus swept around the desk and crossed the room to come to a stop a couple of feet away from where I sat, smiling up at him.
"What the hell are you doing here, Lupin?" was his cheery greeting.
I suppressed a sigh. Once, I'd dearly hoped that Severus and I could find a way to put the differences of our past behind us and could face the future, if not as friends, then at least as colleagues and comrades who'd fought a war on the same side and lived to tell about it. But time and time again, it seemed that all we ever managed to achieve were minor temporary truces interspersed with periods of hostility and distrust- at least on Severus's part. At this point, I no longer truly expected anything else, though a part of me still longed for more and probably always would.
"It's nice to see you, too, Severus," I replied politely, having decided to ignore his rudeness in hopes of having some sort of civil conversation. "You're looking well. I'm here on business." I held up my parchment. "I received this letter..."
Before I could elaborate further, Severus snatched the parchment from my hand and began to read it. As he read through the letter, his expression changed from one of suspicion to one of puzzlement. Lowering the letter, he looked down at me in surprise and said, "Why would my great aunt Audra leave anything to you?"
Now it was my turn to be surprised. "Audra Cordelia Sparling was your aunt?" That was a twist I certainly never expected. How interesting.
"Great aunt." He corrected pointedly. "She was my grandmother's sister. I haven't seen her since I was a child and only once then."
"So you're here about her will, too. That makes sense if she was a relative," I said.
"Yes, it does, but it still doesn't answer the question of why she'd leave anything to you. Surely you didn't know her?" Suspicion glinted in Severus's eye.
I shook my head. "No, to my knowledge we'd never met."
"Didn't you think it was odd when you received this letter promising you an inheritance? Or are you so hard up that you'd jump at even the faintest possibility of money?" Severus's disdainful gaze raked over my shabby clothes as he tossed the letter back to me. I couldn't blame him. I had no illusions about how I looked.
"Of course I thought it was odd," I agreed. "But just because it didn't make sense to me was no reason not to come and check into it. As you say, I could use the money. Look, it'll probably turn out to be a mistake. Perhaps this Warlock got my name mixed up with someone else's, but if he did, it's no great problem for me. All I'm out is an hour or so of my time, and I've been well compensated for that with some lovely hot tea and a few crisp biscuits."
I held out the plate on which two biscuits remained. "Would you like one? They're quite tasty."
Severus looked down at the biscuit plate dismissively. "No, thank you."
I shrugged and took another myself before replacing the plate on the small table. His loss, they really were very good. "Suit yourself. You might as well have a seat while you're waiting though. The clerk didn't seem to know how long Mr Skyrm would be."
Seating himself on the edge of one of the remaining chairs, Severus redirected his gaze at the door to Mr Skyrm's office. "He'd better not take too long, my time is valuable, and a cup of weak tea and a few biscuits don't come close to adequately compensating me for the waste of it."
Well, that certainly put me in my place, though I didn't bother to argue the point. There was little doubt that a Ministry official's time was more valuable than that of an unemployed werewolf. Instead, I took another bite of my biscuit and washed it down with tea. I figured I might as well get the most from my compensation, however meagre and unworthy it appeared to my companion.
"How are things at the Ministry? I hear you work there now," I said after a pause, hoping to start a conversation.
"Not that it's any of your business, but yes, I now hold a position of some importance at the Ministry." There was a note of smug satisfaction in Severus's tone.
"Congratulations," I said quite sincerely. Although I doubted that he'd believe me if I said so, I was genuinely happy to see him gain some recognition and success. He'd more than earned it.
He cast a glance at me and frowned darkly. "What no comment about how my appointment isn't deserved?"
"Of course not! I'm sure your appointment is very well deserved. Kingsley isn't in the habit of handing out Ministry jobs to those who don't deserve them," I said firmly.
Momentarily mollified, Severus pointedly turned away and went back to staring a hole in Mr Skyrm's office door. I sat back in my chair and munched somewhat disconsolately on my biscuit. At least I could look at him while I waited, even if civil conversation had proved unattainable. Severus always covered himself in prickly armour in my presence and, to my regret, no matter what I said or did; I never seemed able to breach it.
A somewhat tense silence fell over the room; the clerk shuffled his papers and shot covert and somewhat nervous glances our way every few minutes- which Severus returned with glares that would peel paint from the wall. I simply sat back, finished off the last biscuit and tried to be patient. While I waited, I amused myself by trying to predict whether Severus would explode or Skyrm would appear first.
I'd almost decided to place my bet on Severus, who was appearing more and more impatient with every passing moment, when the door to Skyrm's office finally opened. A tall wizard dressed head to toe in black glided out followed by a short, balding, and rather pompous looking fellow whom I assumed, correctly as it turned out, was the Warlock of Law himself.
As the wizard in black headed out of the office, Skyrm headed for us, and we both rose to meet him.
"I'm so sorry to have kept you gentlemen waiting!" he said in a slightly oily voice. "I do try to keep to a tight schedule, but some clients just will not be rushed in the completion of their business. I'm Horace Skyrm." He extended a hand which Severus ignored completely, so I stepped in and grasped it in my own. It was damp.
"Hello, I'm Remus Lupin," I said with a smile as I tried to stop myself from wiping the hand he'd quickly released on the side of my robe
Skyrm nodded briefly in acknowledgement before turning to Severus with a much warmer smile. "Then you must be Mr Snape."
"Yes, I must be," said Severus in a tone filled with annoyance. "I made room in my very busy schedule for this meeting because your letter said it was of the utmost importance that I be here, but I do not appreciate being kept waiting because you cannot run your office efficiently."
I noted a brief flash of anger in Skyrm's dark eyes in response to Severus's admittedly arrogant tone before he suppressed it beneath a look of utmost supplication.
"I really am most dreadfully sorry. I hope that my clerk offered you some refreshment, at least." He glanced down at the tea tray, no doubt noting the empty biscuit plate and single used cup.
Severus brushed past Skyrm and headed for the man's office. "If I'd wanted watery tea and packaged biscuits I would have had them before I came. Can we please just get on with this? I have a meeting that I simply cannot miss in just over an hour's time."
"Uh, of course," stammered Skyrm.
I nodded pleasantly to the man as I passed him, also heading for the inner office. "I thought the tea and biscuits were great. Really hit the spot."
"Ah, good, good," murmured Skyrm as he followed us into his office, pausing only to order his clerk not to allow any interruptions.
Skrym's private office was far more luxuriously appointed than his clerk's. Here everything was dark leather and gleaming wood with wide windows rimmed in deep green velvet. We were quickly ushered into comfortable chairs that faced a large and impressive looking desk that dwarfed Skyrm with its size. Seated behind it, the small man reminded me of Flitwick seated at the staff table in Hogwarts Great Hall, but without the air of goodwill that Filius always exuded.
Once everyone was seated, Skyrm placed before him on the desk two parchment scrolls and a round flat object made of polished black stone.
"I will be as brief as possible," said Skyrm. "My client Audra Cordelia Sparling has left a sizable estate of which you two gentlemen are the primary beneficiaries. There are a couple of small bequests to others but the bulk of the money and property are willed to you jointly with a couple of conditions."
Severus crossed his arms. "Just what are these conditions? And why jointly? Lupin has admitted that he never even knew her. Why would my great aunt leave a legacy to a perfect stranger? The whole thing is ridiculous."
Skrym shrugged. "I don't really know, Mr Snape. There's nothing in the written will that explains why Miss Sparling left anything to Mr Lupin, it merely makes it clear that she did."
As Severus opened his mouth to argue further, Skyrm held up a hand to forestall him.
"However, she left this device with a message specifically for the two of you." Skyrm gestured toward the black disc. "Although I'm well aware of the contents of the will, indeed, I drew the thing up just a week before she died; I haven't listened to the message as only the combined magic of your wands can trigger it. Perhaps she explains what you want to know in that."
Severus frowned at the small black disc, but I shrugged and leaned forward. "Well, there's only one way to find out. Let's listen to it." I drew my wand. "What do we do to make it play?"
"Just touch the disc with your wands. Both wands must touch it at the same time to activate it," said Skyrm.
I stood up and pointed my wand at the disc, then looked at Severus. "Well? Don't you want to know why she left such a surprising will?"
With a brief nod, Severus stood as well. "Yes, we might as well get this over with."
As one we touched our wands to the disc, and then sat back down in our chairs to watch as a brief flash of blue filled the room. Once it faded, a faintly misty looking figure of a woman stood on the surface of the disc staring at us. She stood no more than a foot high, but I immediately had an impression of strength and a presence that seemed to fill the room. Audra Sparling stood ramrod straight, and although she held an ornate cane in one hand she didn't seem to rely on it. Her hair was completely white and pulled back into a bun, her features were knife sharp in a thin face, but the smile she bestowed on us held warmth. I was intrigued, and from the expression on his face, I believe Severus was too.
"I am Audra Cordelia Sparling," said the woman in a pleasant voice that held a faint quaver. "I assume I'm now addressing Severus Snape and Remus Lupin since I've arranged it so that only the magic from your wands could activate this message. If it's being played, then you are the people it's intended for. I'm sure that you're both wondering why I've left my home and fortune to you, but I'm afraid you'll have to wonder for awhile longer. Hopefully why will become clear to you in the months ahead, if not, then it most likely won't matter anyway.
"Severus, although I only had the pleasure of meeting you once, when you were a very small boy, I've managed to keep a discreet eye on you over the years. You worried me greatly for awhile there, but it appears that things have worked out for the best in the end. You seem to be shaking things up at the Ministry these days, and I say, good for you. Merlin knows, it needs shaking up every now and then.
"Remus Lupin, although we've never met, I've kept an eye on you too, over the years. There are things about your life that have puzzled me, choices you've made that seemed out of character for what I thought I knew of you, however, you seem to be a kind and decent man, despite the nasty hand that life has dealt you, and I hope that you and Severus will be willing to work together to fulfil my conditions. I don't think either of you will regret it if you do.
"Anyway, enough chitchat. I never could bear to listen to anyone run on at the mouth for too long, so I'll try to be brief. There are two conditions attached to your inheritance. I know you both probably thought you could just pocket the money, sell the old house and go back to your lives without giving me or mine another thought, but I'm sorry to tell you that it isn't going to work that way. I have my reasons for what I've done, and you're just going to have to accept that if you want the inheritance.
"Condition number one is that you both will have to live in my home together for one year, spending no more than three nights away from the house in a single month. Condition number two is that you must find my treasure and take it to heart. You'll know what I mean when the time comes, I assure you. If you cannot fulfil condition number two in a year's time, you will forfeit the estate completely. Let me be very clear on this point, fail at either of these conditions and neither of you will see so much as a knut from me.
"I feel that I should warn you not to look for any help from Horace here."
Skyrm stirred in his chair but didn't interrupt.
"If you don't succeed in fulfilling my conditions, the entire estate, barring a few minor bequests, will go to him. He's a cousin many times removed on my mother's side of the family. Some would say that he has the greater claim to the estate, as he's a pureblood, while you, Severus, are only a half-blood, and you Mr Lupin, regardless of your blood status, are no relative at all. However, to that I say, piffle! The patriarchal and unbearably snobbish nature of wizarding society never served me well, so I choose to ignore its desires and do as I wish."
The eyes of the small figure seemed to sharpen and she glared at Severus and me as if she could actually see us.
"Do not let me down, gentlemen! I have no desire to see my home in the hands of a Skyrm. Good luck to you both, and remember, you're stronger together than you are apart."
Then with a nod of her head, Audra Sparling faded away.
Skyrm cleared his throat loudly, interrupting the profound silence that filled the room after the recording ended, and drawing our attention back to him. The small man shoved the two scrolls across the desk.
"Gentlemen, I have a copy of Miss Sparling's will for each of you. The house is called Greycliffs, and it sits on several acres of mostly wooded land along the Northumberland coast. A recent picture and explicit apparition directions are appended to the will. You're to take up residence on the first of December, which is the day after tomorrow. Will this be satisfactory?"
"It's fine with me," I said. After all, I really didn't have much to pack, and I certainly wasn't overly attached to the hole in the wall where I was currently living. I leaned forward and collected my copy of the will and turned to see what Severus's reaction would be.
His frown might have indicated the severest of displeasure on anyone else's face, but on Severus it could easily mean nothing more than mildly disgruntled thoughtfulness. It was hard to know, and I certainly wasn't willing to hazard a guess as to what it meant.
He reached forward slowly and plucked his copy of the will from Skyrm's desk. "It's not terribly convenient," he said. "This is an extremely busy week for me. However, I imagine I can arrange to get at least some of my things moved in between meetings. I suppose it really doesn't matter whether I sleep in London or in Northumberland."
Skyrm nodded. "Very well. I'll take all the necessary steps to put the conditions of the will into effect tomorrow. As of the first of the month, you'll take conditional joint ownership of the Sparling property. Miss Sparling has arranged for each of you to receive a small monthly allowance from the estate. Acting as agent for the estate, I'll take care of any household bills during this probationary period and dole out the allowance. We can meet at the house on the morning of the first of December, say at 10:30, and I'll give you your first month's allowances and turn over the keys to the house at that time. Will that be satisfactory?"
I nodded and waited to see if the meeting time would be agreeable to the very busy Severus, but apparently Mr Skyrm had somehow managed to hit on a free moment because he simply nodded as well. "That'll be fine."
Skyrm got to his feet. "Splendid. Do either of you have any other questions?"
When both of us shook our heads, Skyrm turned and headed for his office door. Before I left, while Skyrm was busy fawning over Severus, I picked up the recording disc from the desk and stuck it in my pocket. It hadn't been intended for Skyrm, so I had no qualms about taking it, and I wanted to listen to it again if I had a chance.
The Warlock of Law bowed us out of his office and shut the door behind us. The clerk looked up as we walked past his desk, but made no attempt to address us, and we left the building together.
Once out on the pavement, I smiled at Severus and asked, "Well, what do you think of that?"
He frowned thoughtfully. "I don't know. It's all very strange. Why wouldn't she explain why she left the estate to the two of us, and what the hell could her treasure be? And if we do manage to find it, how are we supposed to 'take it to heart'? Talk about vague expectations. The whole business is absurd!"
"It sounds like a puzzle to me," I said. "I think it might be rather fun."
Severus snorted. "You would! I suppose you don't have anything better to do with your time. I, on the other hand, am much too busy to bother with such drivel, and the thought of sharing a dwelling with you doesn't exactly thrill me. I require my privacy and... Oh, Merlin!" Severus's frown deepened to a scowl. "It won't be just you, will it?"
"What do you mean?" I gazed at Severus in surprise, surely he knew...
"Last I heard you were a married man complete with squalling offspring. I won't just have to put up with you, as if that isn't bad enough. I'll have to put up with your whole annoying family." Something flickered in the depths of his eyes and the sarcastic tone of his voice deepened. "What will your wife say when you tell her that she'll have to be ready to move across the country in two days time?"
"I don't imagine she'd like it very much. Fortunately what she thinks doesn't matter. Dora and I divorced some time ago and she has custody of Teddy, so you'll only have one housemate to deal with... me, and I have no problem packing up and moving at a moment's notice."