Remus Lupin: Choices
Any life is made up of a single moment, the moment in which a man finds out, once and for all, who he is. --- Jorge Luis Borges
Dying rays of the setting sun were stubbornly breaking through the yellowish curtains drawn over the only window in his tiny flat, illuminating the graying walls and creaking floor boards, as well as his figure sitting on a scruffy-looking sofa that took up the majority of the room. His hands clasped together in front of his face, elbows supported on his knees; he glared at the simple roll of parchment sitting innocently on a low table before him.
It was amazing how this little piece of paper had managed to awaken such turmoil of memories and emotions in him. Growing up under less than warm and welcoming circumstances, Remus Lupin had always had a hard time expressing his thoughts and feelings - his calm and collected exterior hid an overly analytical mind, bound with insecurities.
Most of the people who knew his family would say Remus had taken after his mother, not only inheriting her gentle eyes but the endless patience and tolerance she used every day in order to deal with his difficult father, as well as with the veil of prejudice surrounding their home.
John Lupin, on the other hand, was a very proud man, never afraid to say what was on his mind and respected for his slightly intimidating posture. Although aware of the talking of the local gossipers for taking a Muggle for a wife, his tall and serious image prevented anyone from criticizing his choices in front of him. He was a man who never backed down from a challenge and who always had the final word. Everyone knew better than to start an argument with John Lupin.
But John Lupin was also known to act before thinking. There were times when he should have thought whether it was wise to engage in an argument at all.
“You got something against werewolves?”
Remus would still dream of that day sometimes. In his mind’s eye he could recall every devious line of Fenrir Greyback’s face, the way he licked his upper lip obscenely while his eyes traveled towards the little boy whose excitement over being taken out to town was quickly replaced by a feeling of anxious discomfort he couldn’t quite understand or explain.
“I’d keep an extra eye on your boy if I were you, Lupin. Such a pretty boy…”
There were times when the nightmare would take up different features, the scenery would change and instead of a warm summer day there was a night unnaturally brightened by the iridescent light of a full moon. The same boy would be sitting on the lowest step of the porch and a pair of yellow eyes would light up in the nearby bushes, the moonlight reflecting on his bared canines.
These memories were all jumbled together, blurring and intertwining with one another; blending together and painting pictures he wasn’t sure ever happened. They were the first coherent memories of a four-year-old boy, a boy who wasn’t lucky enough to remember something nice like building a birdhouse with his father or a serene walk through the forest with his mother. A boy whose life was marked from the very beginnings of his conscious mind.
His father had been a strict, disciplined man, considered rough and cold by many.
He could still sometimes hear him speaking in his loud, commanding voice, telling him to strengthen up, to take a stand all the while barely even looking at him. As if he was the living result of one bad choice, a mistake he made that stood before him every single day, mocking him until he would finally admit to making it.
He never did.
“You shouldn’t be afraid to stand up for yourself, Remus. No one will dare to mess with you if you know how to stand up to them.”
How Greyback still dared to mess with his father even though he confronted him so determinedly was a mystery that marked the majority of Remus’ childhood. Being a contemplative and sensitive child, he spent most of his time thinking and trying to make up theories and explanations that would help him understand why exactly he had to sleep in the cellar once a month. And why he would wake up aching all over, with his clothes off and all scratched up with no memory of the night whatsoever. It was all so terribly confusing but no one had ever taken time to explain it to him.
With a trace of his tainted innocence he had started to believe that maybe this was all just some silly fairy tale his mother used to read him. That maybe, once he figured that mystery out, he would be released of this strange illness his parents kept insisting he had. As every child is, he was full of dreams. Patiently, he would wait until he got cured and than he could go to all those places he wanted to go, do all the things he wanted to do. As every child does, he wanted to make history, do something memorable, be special.
It was indeed difficult to explain to a four-year-old that he already was special, but not in the way he wanted to be. How to explain that instead of a brave shining knight he had become a monster, the big bad wolf that gets slain by the end of the fairy tale. Maybe that was the reason why no one really talked to him, because, after all of the misfortunes the family had been going through after Remus had been bitten, talking to a confused and frightened little boy was the last thing they could think about by the end of the day.
Maturing faster than other children his age, he soon realized the full meaning of the word ‘werewolf’. He soon realized there was no cure; he soon realized he had to be locked up in the cellar each month so as not to rip to pieces every person crossing his way. He had learned it the hard way, by overhearing his parents talk one night while they thought he was asleep. He had gone numb from shock; he had almost entirely stopped talking for a while. He would stay up all night, staring the traitorous moon down, watching it fade with the sunrise, through tearful eyes wishing for the hideous silver ball never to rise again. With pure childlike naïveté, he almost believed it might come true if he only wished hard enough.
He had started meeting the moonrises awake.
His first conscious transformation was an absolute horror. He had been six years old at the time. Staring at the fragments of an old, full-length mirror he had broken some years ago, he could see the deformation of his body, the horrible, distorted way his limbs started to stick out. And the pain… He didn’t even register his own scream from the pain that had clouded his thoughts. With the last remains of his conscious mind, he had allowed a tear to fall and a question cross his mind.
In all those stories his mother used to read to him, the monster always got vanquished in the end. Somewhere deep down, there was a hopeful side of him that wondered, if he were a very, very good monster, than maybe his story might have an alternate ending. That hope kept him from turning bitter and spiteful. That hope remained glowing somewhere deep inside him even when he grew older, even when all seemed lost and in vain. That little glimmer of childhood innocence Remus still held on to, desperately guarding that last piece of untainted soul that kept him human.
It wasn’t a rarity to hear his parents talking about him while they thought he was asleep. He would be just a wall away, sitting with his knees up to his chest and absorbing every word spoken, hoping someday he might be included in one of the choices constantly made in his name.
Each morning he would look up hopefully at his mother’s tender face, hoping she might bring up a subject they had so vehemently discussed the previous night and ask his opinion on it. Each morning, he would get up early enough to see his father off to work, hoping he might smile at him and ask him if he wanted to come along.
Another wasted dream that never came true.
His father would just pat him on the head as if it were a force of habit and look at him with a peculiar expression in his eyes before walking away. He was, after all, a mistake his pride still had trouble accepting. His mother would kiss him on the cheek distractedly and serve him a little something for breakfast before rushing off to work in the households of neighborhood women, a way for her to help the family’s poor economical situation. And he would be left all alone up until the time he would sit up against that wall again and listen to his parents argue about him once more.
In his loneliness he often wondered about the possibility of his life taking a different turn had some choices been made a bit differently.
Maybe if they hadn’t decided to move away from London when Remus was two.
Maybe if his father had decided not to take him to town that day. Maybe if he had been a bit less proud.
Maybe if he had gone inside the house before the moon had risen instead of asking for a few moments more to play.
The fact remained; he couldn’t change what had already happened. Time and fate had their own choices to make. He could only learn from the mistakes, be brave enough to recognize and accept them. He liked to consider the calm and benign way in which he approached the many misfortunes life had in store for him as his greatest strength, as well as the best way to keep his sanity. His condition had taught him to avoid trouble, to avoid attention, to simply get by one day at a time trying not to disrupt his calm routine of living.
Looking around his shoebox of a home, he had to exhale a bitter laugh. This couldn’t exactly be called a life. It was mere existing.
Come to think of it, Remus never really had as many choices to make. There was one choice, the most important one, the one he had never really been given. The choice of being normal.
He couldn’t help but scowl while thinking of how people often took their normality for granted. They all looked for a way to be seen, noticed, remembered. Remus’ only option was to walk through life with his head low, blend with the crowd, appear as unnoticeable as possible. Be unacknowledged. Unrecognized for what
Glaring at the letter before him, he felt himself being torn. As much as this offered an opportunity for normalcy he had been longing for, the realist in him was trying to keep him from having another illusion broken. Destroyed and shattered like the ornate mirror he accidentally broke when he was four years old.
An old wives tale spoke of a curse, seven years of bad luck for those who break a mirror. His curse had haunted him four times that long and it still wasn’t going anywhere.
The soft rustle of feathers made him look towards the window. The purple shades of twilight outside were rapidly darkening. He witnessed another moonrise, but his eyes on tonight’s Waning Gibbous were not as resentful as they were all those years ago. The tawny owl that had brought him the letter was still there, picking at the feathers underneath her left wing. The letter did state that the owl was to wait for his response.
Slowly, tentatively he took the letter and read it for what seemed to be the fifth time since the owl brought it. His attention was growing weak as he caught himself gazing at yesterday’s copy of the Daily Prophet sitting on the farthest end of the table. The almost deformed face of his friend – the person he used to call his friend – continued to scream into the camera. He had read the front page article so many times since yesterday morning he could practically quote entire paragraphs from it. Even after twelve years it still seemed almost unreal to him that Sirius had indeed committed that horrible crime.
Remus held on to a memory of a self assured boy who was his first Hogwarts acquaintance. The two had soon gotten close since neither of them entirely felt as if they belonged – Sirius to the House of Godric Gryffindor and Remus to the school in general. Thinking of it only triggered more memories from the happiest time of his life, the only happy period of his life. It made him remember James and Peter as well and the incredible feeling of acceptance he had always longed for.
Professor McGonagall had asked him once why he wanted to become only a simple teacher when with his grades and potential he could become much more. Even at the age of fifteen, the ever aware Remus knew that Dumbledore was influential, not almighty, but he didn’t really long for a heroic career as an Auror and making history anymore.
“Hogwarts is the only real home I ever had.”
But the First War came sooner than anyone expected. And his world fell apart with the deaths of James and Lily and Peter, with Sirius’ betrayal. It took him a while to crawl out of the darkness that had fallen upon him at that time.
And then the werewolf registrations began. The Ministry was picking up its shattered pieces and trying to deliver the world from all the evil.
Unfortunately, werewolves fell into that category.
It was no secret he had taken a great effort in trying to pass himself as normal. Being registered prevented him from getting an occupation that could actually pay enough to fulfill all the basic needs for a human being. Than he would have to remind himself he wasn’t a human after all, swallow his pride and accept whatever temporary job he could get, no matter how humiliating it might be.
With a longing look he regarded his well-preserved collection of books and a careworn brown case collecting dust at the bottom shelf. Lifting his wand, he pointed it almost lazily and made the case glide gracefully towards him. His fingers felt the engraved script that read ‘Professor R. J. Lupin’.
He used to be so full of those dreams that don’t really come true as often. But don’t dreams always carry the biggest worth when they grow old and grey with you? However, sometimes, with some adjustments being made, some dreams can be reached, if only for a little while. His hand traveled over the worn leather, his fingers leaving marks on the thin layer of dust. With a wave of his wand, the case was clean again, the title looking a little more respectable than before.
He had made his choice long ago.
He was Remus Lupin, both the man and the werewolf. But he was also Remus Lupin, a son, a friend – or at least he used to be. He was Professor Remus John Lupin, both his suitcase and his diploma said so. He was aware this dream would not, could not last for very long, but he was ready to lift his head and stand up from the crowd he had been hiding in for so long.
Glancing at the tawny owl that was still cleaning its feathers on his windowsill, apparently still waiting for the response on the letter it brought, he smiled lightly and stood up to get a fresh piece of parchment. The quill glided over the cream colored surface forming the letters with the elegance of his school days.
If only for a little while, he dared to reach for that little glimmer of hope again.
A/N – Thanks so much to reallyginny for beta reading this chapter and giving me the encouragement I needed. Much thanks to NevillesSoulmate for the beautiful chapter image. Also, my gratitude goes to everyone at eHPF for making this collaboration so amazing! I am incredibly honored to write alongside such talented authors.