What Deep Wounds Ever Closed Without a Scar?
- Story Summary:
- Remus and Sirius exchange Christmas gifts at Hogwarts and at Grimmauld Place.
- Author's Note:
- For the Shacking Up Secret Santa exchange, for krabapple. Thanks to jazzypom, bloodraven77, seleneheart and gblvr for comments.
And the glow-worm in the grass,
And the meteor on the grave,
And the wisp on the morass;
When the falling stars are shooting,
And the answer'd owls are hooting,
And the silent leaves are still
In the shadow of the hill,
Shall my soul be upon thine,
With a power and with a sign.
"Nothing extravagant," they'd agreed about Christmas gifts. Sirius had very little money, having run away from home earlier in the year, while Remus had never possessed much to begin with. Unfortunately, finding even a small present for Sirius proved more difficult than Remus anticipated. The used bookseller in Hogsmeade had seemed his best option, but the little shop wasn't Flourish & Blotts, after all. Remus had found James an outdated Illustrated History of Quidditch and Peter an old joke spellbook, but he'd been all through the Heroic Beasts, Dark Arts and Exotica collections before he found what he thought would be a worthy gift, half-hidden behind A Midsummer Night's Dream in the Magical Muggle Literature section.
He and Sirius had both remained at Hogwarts over the winter holidays. James, whose family had taken Sirius in, would be spending part of the time visiting Lily. Although Remus had thought of bringing Sirius home with himself, he was afraid that one of them would slip up in front of his parents and reveal that they were more than just friends, which he wasn't ready to tell his parents -- they had never had any sort of conversation about gay people, and although most of the small-mindedness in the wizarding world came from purebloods, Remus knew his Muggle-born relatives might be just as bigoted when it came to that as the magical ones were about lycanthropy. The excuse he gave was the pall he would have cast over his family's festivities, with the full moon falling on the 25th of December.
Getting to stay at school meant that he and Sirius had the dormitory all to themselves...and without exams to worry about, they had time to make plans to celebrate. Sirius got one of the house-elves to hang garlands of winter fruit around their windows, and Remus borrowed James' Invisibility Cloak so that he could sneak down to the kitchen to seek out ginger crackles and almond biscuits -- both Sirius' favorites. They had their celebration on Yule, the shortest day of the year, while the witches and wizards who practiced the old ways gathered by the stone circle to watch the solstice sun sink behind the marker for the turning of the season.
"It's really winter now," noted Sirius gleefully, settled on a cushion in front of the fireplace. With the rest of the students gone, the room felt smaller and cozier, smelling of pine and fir from the decorations; though their tree had already been knocked down once, Peeves had gone off to make trouble elsewhere in the castle, leaving the magically sparkling tinsel that ringed the room intact. Sirius was stabbing at the meatballs on his plate with an enchanted toothpick that kept sauce from dripping onto his clothes, lifting them above his head and turning up his chin to bite them. "Maybe it'll snow for Christmas, and Moony and Padfoot will get to play in it all night. And since there aren't other students, maybe Madam Pomfrey will let you recover up here, and we can sleep all day in front of the fire."
Remus smiled around the forefinger from which he was scraping icing with his teeth. While he was recovering, he craved warmth and quiet, and devoid of students, the common room with its oversized sofas and large fireplace would offer both. Sirius grinned back; he had persuaded that same house-elf to bake a double-chocolate cake for them, and he had been watching Remus swipe at the icing with a keen expression. Now he reached out to snatch Remus' hand, pulling it to his own mouth, licking chocolate off the remaining fingers like an enthusiastic puppy. His expression turned into a leer when he realized that Remus was enjoying the pressure of his lips and tongue.
"Mmm, yes," purred Remus, moving closer. "But you know how sore I always am after the full moon. If you've any sort of idea about getting up to something..."
Another grin crossed Sirius' face as he rubbed his tongue against Remus' fingertips and made him moan. "Sleep, Moony, that's all. What did you think we'd get up to?" Still grinning, he dropped his hand to Remus' groin and squeezed. "Though speaking of getting up..." Pushing his plate out of the way until it scraped on the hard floor, he climbed into Remus' lap, facing him, pressing their lower bodies together. "Are you having a happy Christmas, Moony?"
"You know I am." Remus tilted his face up to be kissed, and Sirius obliged, tasting of their feast. There was a gash on Remus' face, crossing from the corner of his lip down the side of his chin, from several months before, which had still not healed properly in spite of Madam Pomfrey's efforts. She had warned him that it was going to scar, and it still made kissing a little uncomfortable.
As if he knew what Remus was thinking, Sirius drew back and touched the spot thoughtfully, then traced down the line of the mark to Remus' jaw. "That still bothers you, doesn't it," he said, not really a question.
Evading his eyes, Remus watched the lights dancing through the tinsel that draped the doorway leading to the dormitory. They were animated by a spell, and changed color according to the mood of the viewer. Earlier they had reflected all the colors of the spectrum, but now they were blue-indigo-purple, floating more slowly around the arch.
"Listen, Moony...I have something for you." Sitting back and digging into a pocket in his robes, Sirius pulled out a small glass bottle with an ornately faceted stopper. "Happy Christmas," he said gravely.
Cautiously Remus took the bottle, holding it up to the firelight. The glass had been cut into an elaborate geometric pattern, and as it reflected the flames, it created dancing rainbows across the floor and Sirius' face, brighter than the enchanted tinsel. "I thought we said nothing fancy, Padfoot," chided Remus, admiring the intricate patterns.
"Oh, the bottle's just...that's nothing. I swiped it from home a long time ago. My mother never missed it. It's what's inside that's the present." Pulling out his wand, Sirius muttered an unsealing spell and the stopper tipped back. As Remus sniffed the spicy, pungent contents -- it smelled like licorice, and mint, and eucalyptus, and something like pepper -- Sirius continued, "It's not exactly approved. By the Ministry, that is. I got it from Fletcher, that wizard we met in Nocturne Alley who'll sell absinthe to underage wizards. But this is completely safe; I asked Madam Pomfrey, told her I was doing a project for Potions class, and she said it wouldn't do any harm. Not safe to fly a broom after taking it, though." Sirius grinned.
"Wait." Remus was staring uncomfortably. "You got me one of those illegal dream potions? Wasn't that herb from America good enough for you? And it gave me a headache..."
"No, no, no! You've got it all wrong." Sirius looked wounded that Remus would accuse him of such a thing, even though he had brought Remus a mind-altering weed for his last birthday that had to be smoked in an elaborate contraption and had, indeed, given Remus a terrible headache. "This is a healing potion. A powerful one. Lightheadedness is just a side effect. What it's really for is to make scars go away."
Remus felt the corner of his mouth throb again, pulsing with something like shame. "But my scars won't ever go away completely. The ones from the wolf -- they're magical. There's no way to make them disappear. You'll just have to get used to me looking like this." He bit his lip; he had never realized that his scars bothered Sirius so much.
"But that's the beauty of it: they will disappear. Completely. Even if you were to get new ones the next month...they'd disappear too, like, who was that guy in the Greek story -- Prometheus? Where his wounds healed every night so the next morning the eagle could feast upon his liver again..."
Remus' horror must have shown in his face, because Sirius quickly added, "That was a bad example. But you see what I'm saying! They'll go away completely, and there's no limit on how long it will last. The scars won't hurt you anymore, ever again."
"Scars don't hurt." Looking skeptical, Sirius touched the corner of his mouth again, and Remus willed himself not to flinch. "Only when the cuts are still fresh. Sirius, I don't think I can just make them go away; it doesn't work like that. Have you read about what happened to people who've tried 'cures' for lycanthropy, to keep the wolf from getting out? Most of them died horribly. I think I'm not supposed to be able to take the marks away."
"But they do hurt you, Moony. I can see." Sirius dropped his hand from Remus' mouth to his clothing, and beneath, the puckered pale skin of the worst scar on his body -- the ghostly remnant of the teeth that had made him what he was. Although the scar tissue was thick, numbing sensation, Remus always flinched and shivered when anyone made contact, even accidentally. "Won't you at least try it?"
"It's funny that you mentioned Prometheus. I didn't know you'd read those stories -- I grew up hearing that they were Muggle myths." It was a transparent attempt to change the subject, but Remus did not care. Wriggling away from Sirius, he reached between the cushions on the sofa where he had hidden his present until the right moment arrived. "I didn't get you anything quite so exotic as your gift, but I think it's still appropriate." The flat package was wrapped in silver cloth, which fell away as Sirius untied the ribbon holding it in place.
"Byron!" he exclaimed. "He's one of the only Muggle poets I've ever read -- well, allegedly Muggle. You know they say he had contacts with our world." He was grinning widely as he opened the old, stained volume with its worn cover, and Remus smiled too, blushing with pleasure at having guessed well. "Did you ever read 'Manfred'? It's full of incantations. He believed in magic." Sirius looked up from the pages, flushed with excitement. "He would have taken the potion, Moony..."
"Yes, of course he would have. That's why I got you the book. It made me think of you." Remus couldn't help continuing to smile as he reached to take it from Sirius, checking the contents and flipping to one of the pages to read aloud.
Thy Godlike crime was to be kind,
To render with thy precepts less
The sum of human wretchedness
And strengthen Man with his own mind.
"Byron makes you think of me!" Sirius planted an exuberant kiss on Remus' lips, again pressing the scar. "But I'm not kind. You're always telling me I should be nicer to Snivellus. What's that verse from, anyway?"
"You should be nicer to Snape. But you're kind to me." Remus glanced at the bottle, sitting forgotten on the floor in a circle of rainbows reflected from its own stopper. "And the verse is from 'Prometheus' of course. Look here, I even quoted those lines on the frontspiece and signed it so you wouldn't forget who gave this to you."
"There, you see! We both thought of Prometheus." Sirius gave a delighted laugh, taking the book from his hands and closing it. He climbed into Remus' lap again and picked the bottle up as he began to kiss him. "As if I'd ever forget. It's not fair that you should have to suffer, no more than it was fair to him. Take it, Moony, please."
"I can't." It was so difficult to explain to Sirius why the marks were part of himself. It wasn't as if he wanted them -- it wasn't as if he felt he deserved them. "I'm sorry if they bother you. I know what it must be like to look at me."
Sirius broke off kissing his jaw to pull back and stare. "You think this is for me?" he asked, wounded. "I don't care what they look like! I thought they wouldn't hurt you and you wouldn't have to worry about explaining them to nosy Slytherins and...forget it. I'm sorry." Pulling out his wand, Sirius resealed the stopper and let the bottle roll across the floor. He looked terribly unhappy.
"I appreciate the thought. I do. I just don't think I can." It wasn't as if Remus hadn't imagined doing something similar, Polyjuicing all the time to look like someone else or trying to become a Metamorphmagus -- he could make his hair grow back at will after a cut, so he thought he might have some natural ability. He had wondered what his friends would say if he appeared one day looking like someone else -- would they be sorry? Or would they be relieved? It was terrible enough to transform against his will each month. If he tried to make himself change in other ways, Remus wondered whether there would be any of himself left.
Sirius had gone back to kissing his jaw more fervently, rubbing along the still-aching mark. His hands were moving too, pushing Remus' clothing aside, as if Sirius was determined to prove that he wanted to see Remus as he was. "I'm sorry anyway. It was stupid," he muttered. "Just forget about it."
And Sirius made him forget, the way Sirius could make him forget anything -- even things that should have upset him like Sirius taking silly risks with his secret. Playing with fire was what Sirius did best. Remus couldn't imagine what it would take to change him; he rather hoped that he would never find out.
The next morning he found the little bottle halfway under the sofa, not gleaming so brightly in the light of day, and put it away as a souvenir. Years afterward, when two of his friends were dead and he could not bear even to speak Sirius' name, he took it out each Christmas and looked at it -- the healing potion still sealed inside the glass that spun rainbows across the room, brighter than any display of globes and glitter. Looking at the dark liquid imprisoned in the bottle, Remus doubted that there was a potion in the world that could heal his wounds, though Wolfsbane had broken the wolf's power to hurt him.
So we'll go no more a roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.
For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And Love itself have rest.
Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we'll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.
Sirius was singing as he pointed his wand over a silver ribbon, causing it to knot, fray and curl its ends around Harry's colorfully wrapped present -- a deluxe set of Practical Defensive Magic and Its Use Against the Dark Arts, illustrated, with several appendices added since Remus and Sirius had used the old set in the library at Hogwarts to study counter-jinxes. Black family money had paid for the books, but it was Remus who had purchased and arranged for delivery of the set during a trip to Flourish & Blotts, so Sirius had insisted that the gift must be from both of them and signed both their names to the card.
Remus felt a little guilty, in part because he had so few galleons to contribute but mostly because the shopping trip had been no chore. He had been relieved to be sent to Diagon Alley and escape for a few hours from the oppressive house and the exhausting work of the Order of the Phoenix. As happy as he was to be with Sirius, he hated the stuffed elf heads on the wall, he loathed the sight of the Black family tree with the names that had been blasted off, and he particularly despised the portrait of Mrs. Black herself, whose screeching about unnatural wizards always reached a higher pitch whenever Remus Lupin walked by. Spending a few hours shopping had been a welcome diversion, though of course Sirius could have no such reprieve. For as long as he remained a wanted man by the Ministry of Magic, Sirius had no choice but to stay inside his despised family home; he might as well have remained in prison, though now, at least, he had Remus and the others to distract him from unhappy memories.
Yet now that so many people would be spending the holidays at Grimmauld Place, everything had changed. The rooms had been decorated with tinsel and garlands, the icebox was filled with sweets, and a smile played around Sirius' lips as he surveyed his handiwork on the festively wrapped package. Distractedly he asked Remus, "You don't think Practical Magic is too much of a practical present? Like getting clothes, or one of those datebooks that nags at you to remember to do your homework? I don't want to become his boring godfather who gives him useful things and doesn't remember what it's like to be his age..."
"I think it's exactly what Harry wants this year, and he'll be thrilled to have the books," Remus replied. "Which would you have rather had when you were his age, especially if you'd had a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor like Dolores Umbridge: some prank device that you'd forget about a week after the holidays, or this set?"
"You're right." Sirius' smile broadened. "I'm sure Fred and George will provide him with all the pranks he needs, anyway. If I didn't think Molly would hex me, I'd get them a motorbike." Privately Remus doubted that enough of the Black family fortune remained intact for Sirius to be buying motorcycles for the children, but he said nothing, only returned the grin. The moon was waxing in her first quarter, the candles glowed merrily, and Sirius' enthusiasm was infectious; Remus felt happier than he had in as long as he could remember.
"The snow on the carpets downstairs looks wonderful," he said. "It seems so real -- but isn't cold."
With a laugh, Sirius objected, "Well of course not -- it would melt! I thought that after Twelfth Night, we could give it to Buckbeak for a nest."
"Or we could bring some up here, put it in a big pile on the floor and lie in front of the fire..." Smiling, Remus waggled a suggestive eyebrow.
"Not the fire." Blushing, Sirius squirmed and broke eye contact, making Remus belatedly realize that his lover associated the fireplace not only with warmth but with light. Since he had returned from Azkaban, Sirius hated to be undressed where he could be seen; he was embarrassed about his battered body, with all the pockmarks and disfigurements that would never fade. While it would not be true to say that Remus scarcely noticed them, they upset him only as a reminder of the torment Sirius had suffered -- torment that Remus might have spared him, had he believed in him when it mattered most.
Approaching Sirius and putting his arms around him from behind, he said, "All right, then, we can enchant the bedcovers to make a tent and pile the magical snow on the carpet inside," nuzzling his neck. "I imagine that you're going to be very busy on Christmas Day, with all these guests. I thought that perhaps we could have our own, private celebration a bit early..."
"You're in a demanding state a bit early this month, aren't you, Moony?" asked Sirius, though there was amusement in his voice again and a bit of a purr. "Can't wait to open your presents, like one of the children?"
"I can't," Remus agreed, sliding a hand inside Sirius' shirt and stroking over the spot where he knew tattoos marked the skin. "The whole house smells like that enormous Christmas tree Mundungus brought. You know what that smell makes me think about doing, don't you?"
"...and the smell of chocolate, and the smell of wet muddy dog," Sirius laughed. "You're becoming a dirty old man." Pocketing his wand, he turned in Remus' embrace, wrapping his arms around him in return. As they kissed, Sirius' arm came to rest against the pocket of Remus' cardigan, encountering a solid pressure from within. "Did you sneak one of the bottles of chocolate syrup from the kitchen?" he teased.
"Not this time." Detaching himself from Sirius, Remus reached into the pocket and pulled out the little stoppered flagon; he heard Sirius' breath catch as he recognized it, watching the light from the nearest candle break into a thousand rainbows as it passed through the cut glass. "I saved it all these years. Even when I couldn't bear to think about you, I always took it out at Christmas."
"Oh, Moony." Sirius blinked, his emotions very close to the surface, as they had been ever since his return. "I thought I hurt your feelings with that...I'd hoped you'd been rid of it years ago."
"You didn't hurt my feelings. 'Thy Godlike crime was to be kind,' remember?"
"Of course I remember! Your present -- I haven't even wrapped it..."
Stepping away, Sirius waved his wand at a bookshelf and a hidden shelf popped out beneath, displaying a single volume which Sirius brought over to Remus, who had put the little bottle down on a table. "This is a very unoriginal gift," he admitted. "But seeing how nostalgic we've become in our old age, I think you might appreciate it in spite of that."
Remus glanced at the cover: The Complete Poetical Works of George Gordon, Lord Byron.
"It isn't the one you gave me," Sirius told him in a low voice. "I searched high and low for that one -- all of my books were sold or given away after I went to Azkaban. I had the twins visit every bookshop in London looking for a used copy of Byron with those lines from 'Prometheus' quoted on the frontspiece, but it never turned up. But look, this is a newer one, and I wrote something for you here..."
Letting Sirius open the book for him, Remus took a moment to blink his eyes clear and clench and unclench his trembling fists. Glancing down, he read aloud:
Love will find its way
Through paths where wolves would fear to prey;
And if it dares enough, 'twere hard
If Passion met not some reward --
No matter how, or where, or why,
I did not vainly seek, nor sigh.
At that point his voice cracked, and he closed the book with shaking hands.
"From The Giaour," Sirius told him, putting his hands over Remus' on the covers. "A tormented love story about an infidel separated from his beloved, wracked with suffering over his unspeakable past, who refuses to be comforted..."
"I thought the Byronic heroes were exotic aristocrats," said Remus, swallowing and trying to regain control of his unsteady voice. "Worldly, noble by birth...but black sheep. Like you."
"Oh, but they're outsiders, with dark histories -- the wolf among the sheep, not the Gryffindor among the Slytherins. I think the mark of the Byronic hero is how he bears his tortured spirit and the fate he can't escape, without expecting or craving consolation. They're strong, Moony. They refuse to be comforted. They can bear pain over and over without going mad from it." Sirius bowed his head. "That's you, Moony, not me."
"That's not true! You survived twelve years in Azkaban and you didn't go mad. It's just a little longer, you can survive Grimmauld Place..." Aware that he was babbling, and that Sirius was not a child like Harry, Remus stopped, pulled a hand free and picked up the bottle. "Here. You're the one who bears scars you did not earn. You're the one who should use this."
Flushing deeply, Sirius pushed the potion back into Remus' hand. "No," he insisted. "You were right in the first place to refuse, I just didn't understand. You were always worried that someone was going to guess, or someone wasn't going to like you -- you thought you were ugly. You used to defend Snape when I called him an ugly git."
"I thought maybe you thought I was, when you gave this to me," Remus confessed.
"I know, and I'm so sorry. You were never ugly, Moony." Swallowing, Sirius paused, then took a deep breath. "But that's not what I didn't understand. I know that skin doesn't feel much of anything when it scars. But touching them, or looking at them, and remembering where they came from -- I thought that must have been the worst part. I thought you'd want to forget."
Remus was still fighting to master his feelings; Sirius wore his own so much closer to the surface, his eyes as bright with tears as the colorful refraction on the wall. "I couldn't ever forget. No more than the Giaour could."
"I see that now. I can't think about undoing the past -- what if things had happened differently, and you had died, or Harry had? I don't know why, but I think I'm supposed to have these scars. Like Prometheus. You see, I had the right character, after all. It's not the scars, it's what they remind me of; if I made them disappear, they'd just come back some other way. I know you understand, you better than anyone -- better than Byron. When I feel like I'm going to go mad in this house, I imagine the way you must have felt in the Shrieking Shack, and it passes."
Remus did not dare speak; he did not trust his voice. He tilted the bottle and they both watched the candlelight break into new rainbows, standing very close to one another, their hands clasped together on the book. "There's a spell to create this effect, you know," he said at last. "To make the light refract. We could charm the fireplace, and make the magical snow fly around the room, and then we'd hardly be able to see each other -- it would be like being outside in a real snowstorm, only warm, like when we used to run together in the woods during the frost moon."
"We could," agreed Sirius. "And afterwards we could sneak down to the kitchen and steal Molly's chocolate cake...and sleep in front of the fire."
"Let's. Let's celebrate the holiday the way we would have, if."
Remus didn't finish the sentence. Squeezing Sirius' fingers, he took the book from his hand and put it down, along with the bottle. They were both home, and, for the moment, safe, and that was reason enough for rejoicing. The fragments of the past realigned, like the colors bending, breaking and reforming through the glass, or like blank verse resolving into rhyme; the healing would happen slowly, but it had already begun.
Though thy slumber may be deep,
Yet thy spirit shall not sleep;
There are shades which will not vanish,
There are thoughts thou canst not banish;
By a power to thee unknown,
Thou canst never be alone;
Thou art wrapt as with a shroud,
Thou art gather'd in a cloud;
And for ever shalt thou dwell
In the spirit of this spell.