The Sugar Quill
Author: Jess Pallas  Story: For Want Of Silken Thread  Chapter: Father and Son
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3: Father and Son

3: Father and Son

 

Winter Hollow was unchanged. Whatever the alterations wrought by time upon the world without, his family home always looked just as it always had. The familiarity was reassuring.

 

Remus paused a moment as he shook away the squeeze of Apparition, his eyes running over the oh-so-familiar outlines of his family home; the frost touched grass of the meadow, the blank and leafless trees as they sloped away up the mountains that hemmed in this small and hidden valley, the icy, tinkling brook that ran nearby. The cottage itself almost seemed to glow in the morning light, two storeys of stone walls topped off with a thatched roof and book-ended by a pair of stone chimneys. A curl of smoke rose lazily from the right-hand chimney pot.

 

Home. The place he had been born. The place he had grown up.

 

The place he had been bitten.

 

He loved Winter Hollow. He always had. But somehow, today, it seemed tainted by the sour memories that had invaded his dreams courtesy of a Dementor’s chill.

 

Let there be a good reason. Please let him have a good reason for what he did to me.

 

Remus took a deep breath. And then, clenching his jaw, he started forward along the path, gravel crunching beneath his boots for a few steps before he reached the doorstep and the cheery red front door that he had helped his father paint when he was only ten years old…

 

The father he loved. The father who had lied to him.

 

Grimly, Remus reached into his robes, drew out his heavy metal key and inserted it into the lock. With a distinct click, the door opened.

 

He stepped inside and pushed the door closed with a bang.

 

“Who’s there?”

  

The familiar voice echoed from the top of the rickety flight of stairs directly ahead, as Remus heard the uneven stamp of footsteps on the landing floorboards, the click of a cane against wood. And then, at the top of the steps, his father appeared.

 

Reynard Lupin was staring down at Remus with a mixture of relief and concern. His silver hair remained thick in spite of the passing of his seventieth year and his face, though more wrinkled, was still very much like his son’s. One white-knuckled hand was grasping the cane that had helped him to walk for as long as Remus could remember – not that the length of his memory seemed to mean much now.

 

He smiled warmly. “Remus!” he exclaimed. “What a pleasant surprise! What are you doing here?”

 

But Remus did not smile. His heart was pounding, his mind racing, but he managed to maintain his composure. He said nothing. Words would not come.

  

Instead, he stared at his father. His father stared back.

 

Reynard’s expression fell instantly. There was a hint of fear in his eyes.

 

“Son?” he said softly, starting with care down the stairs. “What’s the matter?

 

A terrible chill rose in Remus’ heart. This was his father. His only surviving family. He loved him dearly and believed himself loved in return. And yet his dad had lied to him, kept secrets from him for almost all his life.

 

Confusion, hurt and anger waged war inside his mind as his entire collection of childhood memories came crashing down. Had it all been a lie? He had lost the purity of his school memories to Padfoot’s presence, the knowledge of what he would become a taint on happy times. Now the cherished recollections of his parents had shifted inexorably too. Was every good memory he had in his life destined to be tainted by the discovery of deceit?

  

Anger was winning the battle as the cold grasp of betrayal ran its fingers through Remus’ soul once more; he was too shaken and shocked to deny it. He wanted to know why his life had been ruined before it had really begun, and why his memories were now spoiled. He was owed that much, surely.

 

“What did you do?” he whispered hoarsely.

 

Reynard blinked; his eyes narrowed uncertainly at the intensity of his son’s stare. “Pardon?”

 

What did you do?” Remus repeated the question more sharply. His voice was stronger now, and cold – he had not felt this kind of icy rage since that dreadful night when he had learned the true extent of his loss and of Sirius Black’s treachery. “What part of that night, exactly, didn’t you want me to remember?”

 

His father was staring at him with bewildered confusion. “Remus, what are you talking about?”

 

Remus’ voice was shaking now. “Thirty years ago today,” he barked sharply. “Being bitten. Obliviate. I remember.”

 

Reynard froze, staring at the son he knew so well, drinking in the narrowed eyes, the quiet rage and the icy aura of betrayed disillusionment. All colour drained from his skin.

 

“How?” he whispered.

 

Remus’ fists clenched at his sides. Was that all he cared about? His precious spell being broken? “A Dementor,” he retorted, his voice cutting across the air like a knife. “I got too close and it triggered something. Something that you tried to hide from me.”

 

“Remus.” Reynard had raised one slow hand in front of him as he descended the final step into the hall where his son stood, white-faced and furious. “Remus, I think you need to calm down…”

 

No!” The weight and volume of his tone shocked even him. His father flinched as though slapped by the word. “You lied to me! You erased my memory! How can you possibly expect me to calm down?” His voice dropped to a harsh whisper. “You’re all I’ve got, Dad. And now I don’t even feel like I have you.”

 

Reynard stared at his son, his skin by now an ashen grey. “Come into the living room,” he said softly. “I think we need to talk and I’d rather do it sitting down.”

 

Remus made no argument. He simply swept through the door into the familiar front room. The brightly burning hearth, battered settee and his fathers’ old green chair were all there, all just as they always were. Shelves lined with an assortment of books and ornaments lined the wall opposite the large window and family photographs waved and laughed from the mantelpiece. His mother’s face beamed down at him

 

He could not bear to look at her today. Instead, he sat down on the edge of the settee and waited.

 

Reynard’s progress was more sedate. The older man made his way, limping, across the room, settling himself into his familiar chair beneath the intense and searching gaze of his only son. He said nothing. He was staring blankly into the crackling fireplace, breathing hard as though he’d run a mile. He was almost as pale as his son.

 

And Remus waited. He had demanded this talk – but now he could not find the words. He simply stared, stared at a man he’d thought he’d known better than any other, a man he had loved more than anyone but his much missed late mother and tried to suppress the ice around his heart that whispered he was staring at a stranger. He desperately wanted an excuse, a reason, something that would make everything all right again between them, but he dared not hope for such a miracle. His hopes had been dashed on such matters too many times in the past.

 

Reynard’s eyes had lifted to stare at his son, brimful with a cauldron’s worth of fear, regret and weariness; a lifetime of secret keeping weighed heavy on the mind, it seemed. And he looked old. Even when the last trace of brown had faded from his hair, Rey Lupin had never looked old before the last few years, not until the day his wife had died in a stupid fall from a Parisian hotel window where she had been attending a conference to spread the word about Belby’s finally successful Wolfsbane Potion. On that awful day, as he watched the coffin of the woman who had been his life for forty years vanish beneath the earth forever, he had suddenly appeared his true age. Now, sitting in front of his angry son, he seemed even older.

  

Two sets of eyes met. Both frowned. Neither spoke.

  

It was Reynard who broke the silence.

 

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, his voice breaking slightly. “I never meant you to find out like this.”

 

Remus frowned, irritated by the platitude even if sincerely meant. “Forgive me, but I’m fairly sure you never meant me to find out at all.”

 

Reynard could not hold his gaze against such a fierce stare; his eyes dropped once more. “That’s sort of true,” he admitted softly. “But it was…”

 

“For my own good?” That phrase. He’d been expecting it. It fuelled the icy fire inside his chest.

 

Reynard looked up sharply, his expression one of vague offence. “Necessary,” he finished firmly. “You were too young, Remus. How could you understand…”

 

“I’m older now. Help me understand.”

 

Reynard shook his head abruptly, a hint of anger of his own creeping into his eyes. “That wasn’t what I was going to say either. Do you want to know the truth or would you like to keep interrupting?”

 

“Don’t talk to me as though I’m five years old, Dad!” Remus did not appreciate being reprimanded, snapping almost before he could think better of it.

 

“Then don’t behave like you are!” Reynard retorted instantly, raising his hands sharply to cut off his son’s indignant response. “I know you’re confused and angry and upset. You’ve had a horrendous recollection and it’s shaken you. But please, calm down. Bawling at each other will get us nowhere.” He took a deep breath. “I hope you can appreciate that I’m more than a little shaken myself.” He bit his lip as he fought to calm his rapid breathing. His eyes met his son’s, brimming with a kind of tortured relief. “You’re all I’ve got Remus and I love you very much. I know the full moon isn’t far away - I don’t think either of us is willing or able to make this a shouting match. You wanted to talk. So we talk. What do you want to know?”

 

Fighting the fire inside, Remus forced himself to regain control his anger. He felt suddenly ashamed. Much as he hated to admit it, his dad was right; the memory of the dream - or the dream of the memory perhaps – had left him shivery and uncertain, shaking him from his usual composure and causing him to snap and snipe at his father like an irritable schoolboy. Enough was enough. This was no way to behave. He wanted to talk. Fine. It was time to get to the point.

 

“You cast a Memory Charm on me.” He forced calmness into his voice, but could not keep out the cold. “In St Mungo’s. I was in pain and all you could do was erase my memory.” A pleading note crept into his frosty tone in spite of himself. “What was so important that that you couldn’t even wait until I’d stopped screaming to erase?”

 

Reynard was shaking his head before his son had even finished his sentence. “It wasn’t like that, not at all.” He sighed again. “Remus, how much do you really remember?”

 

“Everything.”

 

“That’s not helpful.” The older man retorted at once. “Your everything may not be the same as mine.”

 

Remus fought to maintain his composure. “I remember what happened. But I don’t remember why.” He paused slightly. “Or for that matter who.”

 

Reynard stared at his hands, his eyes haunted. “Greyback.”

 

“Pardon?”

 

Reynard’s head rose slowly. “Greyback. Fenrir Greyback. That was the werewolf’s name.”

 

Remus blinked. “I think I’ve heard of him”

 

Reynard’s lip twisted. “I’d have been surprised if you hadn’t. As werewolves go, he’s pretty infamous. Do you remember him biting you?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And that he took you?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Each curt, one-word answer seemed to cut at Reynard like a knife. Nevertheless, he ploughed on. “Do you remember him appearing into our house? All the words he said? The confrontation I had with him?”

 

Remus hesitated, wading through a morass of foggy memories and found only a few vague images. Perhaps the wall, the wall he now knew to be his father’s Dementor-damaged Obliviate spell, had been a little sturdier in places than he’d thought.

 

“Sort of,” he admitted. Oddly enough, his father’s familiar practicality was calming him, in spite of the situation; he barely paused a moment before clarifying. “Not really. I can see him standing there shouting at you but I don’t remember what was said. And I think I remember Mum pushing me behind a chair.”

 

His father twisted his lips thoughtfully. “I doubt it would have meant much to you anyway. Fenrir Greyback and I – it’s a complicated business in more ways than one.”

 

He stared absently at the ceiling, fingering his cane. “I got this gammy leg beating him off from you,” he muttered softly. “Damn fine shot with those claws of his. Marked the pair of us didn’t he? Killed us financially too – I had to take a desk job, your mother gave up most of her contracts to look for a cure for you… Oh yes. He got his revenge very nicely in that respect.”

 

He met his son’s eyes once more. Remus was astonished to see a hint of tears. “But he didn’t win, Remus. He thought we’d hate you, you see. He thought he would ruin our family. But we didn’t let it happen; if anything, it made our bonds stronger. We didn’t stop loving each other. That would have been his true revenge.”

 

Remus stared at his father. The anger had drained away, lost behind the flood of poignant memories. Whatever happened, whatever was about to be revealed, his father was right; whatever had occurred that night, it would not change the years that had followed. But still, he needed to understand once and for all. It was the only way that they could both come to terms with the past.

 

“Revenge for what? Dad, please.”

 

Reynard regarded his only child. “Did he say anything to you? Do you remember?”

 

The words of the dream-memory replayed themselves in Remus’ mind. “He called you a coward,” he replied, his voice low. “He said that you owed him for a life and a lifetime.”

 

His father smiled, a humourless smile of bitter regret. “In a way, he’s right. I didn’t start this, Remus. To be honest, neither did he. It was forced onto both of us until it spiralled both our lives out of control. And then he went and dragged you in too. I know I made bad choices, but at the time they seemed the right ones – I had no way to know where it would lead. Even now, I think about it and still it makes no sense.”

 

“Then tell me about it.” Remus sat forward, resting one hand beside his father’s on the arm of the chair. “It might make more sense if you talk it over with me.”

 

“I wouldn’t know where to start.”

 

“The beginning usually works.”

 

Reynard gave another bitter smile, this time tinged with ruefulness. “I’m not sure where that is anymore. My beginning, his beginning; and he had more than one. It’s all confused. And a long story.”

 

Remus managed a smile. “I seem to have time. I certainly haven’t much else to do.”

 

Reynard sighed, reaching over cautiously. When Remus offered no protest, he reached forwards awkwardly and laid one hand over his son’s. “All right – I’ll try. I’ll do my best. But you’ll have to bear with me. As I said – it’s hard to know where to start.”

 

Remus nodded quietly. “Just tell me. Give me a reason to believe that what you did really was… necessary.”

 

Reynard nodded, gently squeezing the hand he held. “It was. Truly. Well. I suppose I’d better begin somewhere…”

//
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