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The Talk (Remus's birthday fic) - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
The Talk (Remus's birthday fic)
[dramatic eyeroll]I lost the lottery! I think it's so unfair that they compare my numbers to other people's! My numbers are, like, a totally valid choice--so what if Simon doesn't like "29"?--and it's so not fair that they're supposed to live up to things that get drawn somewhere else where they don't know how hard I worked to pick those sequences![/dramatic eyeroll]

Well, I guess a couple of years in a row makes a tradition, right? So, a Remus fic in honor of his birthday.




In the Lupin household, there were two Talks.

The first was the Talk shared by every household, Muggle or magical, in the world--the one that inevitably began with something like, "As you grow up, you'll notice certain things..." or "When two adults love each other..." The oldest Lupin child, Mira, had got this particular Talk from Dora at the age of nine, when she'd overheard her parents teasing one another about adding a fourth child to the family, or at least trying very hard to do so. The youngest, Carina, would probably have hers soon. The middle child, Orry, had got it when he'd found a stack of his mother's paperback romances, read them, and asked--at the dinner table, while serving himself potatoes--why everyone in them seemed to comment on where the hero kept his wand when he was visiting the heroine. "Why would they care?" he'd asked, mystified. Ron Weasley, who had been visiting, had turned nearly purple in an attempt not to laugh. Remus had taken Orry for a walk in the highlands the next day. It had been exquisitely uncomfortable, but Remus still preferred it to the other Talk, the one he'd had with Mira before she'd gone off to school, the one he had brought Orry back up into the mountains to have today.

He'd prefer nearly anything to this Talk.

They'd taken narrow, stony path up the mountain, toward a high wooded area where the family occasionally camped. A shallow, quick-running creek ran through it, and Orry was carefully balancing himself on the stepping stones, not looking up as Remus watched him from the other side. He hadn't spoken since Remus had told them they were going to have a long, serious talk about lycanthropy.

He stopped on a stone in the middle, and looked up abruptly, his bright gray eyes (left natural most of the time) frankly curious. "Does it hurt?" he asked.

Remus sat down on a rock, considering the option of lying, then shrugged and said, "Yes. It's very painful."

"Oh." Orry took a deep breath and a giant step the next stone. Remus resisted the urge to Conjure a bridge; all of the children enjoyed crossing the stream this way. When he was safe on the last stone, he stopped and took another deep breath. "Have you tried curing it? I read a book where someone cured it."

"Still fiction, unfortunately," Remus said as Orry took the last step and came up on the bank. "What book was this?"

Orry gave him a sheepish grin as he came over. "It, er... well, wasn't precisely a book. It was a Martin Miggs comic. I was reading it at Dunc Weasley's."

Remus raised his eyebrows. "Did something give you the idea that you're not allowed to read comic books?"

"Well... when I asked for one, you said no."

"That was because I didn't have the gold at that particular moment," Remus said. There was no need for a Talk on that subject--the children were used to gold being short if they were out with just Dad, as Remus could not bring himself to take pin money from Dora. She could pay the major bills and buy the children's school supplies and even most of the food, but he wasn't about to ask if he might have a few galleons to go to the book shop. There were limits; Dora seemed to understand that one, and the children had never had a reason to question it. "You're perfectly welcome to read whatever rubbish appeals to you. God knows I did."

This seemed to please Orry, who turned his hair the improbable orange color that the comics used for Martin Miggs, and made it stand on end. He sat down on the other side of Remus's rock. "In the comic book," he said, "the werewolf had to take some stuff with silver dust in it at the new moon. Martin Miggs ended up having to brew it, because an evil werewolf wanted to spoil it, so there was a whole story about how all the famous wizard potion brewers that the werewolf knew made fake potions, just to confuse the villain, and Martin Miggs's friend--just a little wizard in his first year at Hogwarts--did the magic part of the brewing, since no one was watching." He frowned. "Sometimes the books say that silver is poison, and sometimes they say it's a cure."

"I haven't noticed either effect," Remus said. He leaned forward and looked back across the stream, back toward the path that led down into Hogsmeade and home. "Orry, listen--we've never kept it a secret from you, what I am. But we've never talked about it, either."

"It's all right. I know all about it," Orry said.

"No, you don't. Otherwise, you wouldn't have got in that fight in town yesterday."

"Oh, yes I would have. That boy said you were crazy and you'd kill us all sooner or later! I had to hit him."

"Orry, you didn't just hit him. You broke his nose, and you did enough accidental magic that your mum got an owl from her boss about keeping you under control. You can't just give a stranger a troll's head. There are rules, and when you go to Hogwarts next year, trust me, you'll be very much expected to obey them."

"Well, he was acting like a troll. What did he know?"

"He knew that his grandfather was a werewolf, and killed his grandmother. That's why he's not at all fond of us."

Orry, who had been looking rather pleased with himself, paled. "What? Why would he do that? Were they fighting?"

"No." Remus braced himself. Mira had flatly refused to believe this part, though when he'd talked to her, he hadn't had a handy incident to illustrate it. "You know that Mum and I have told you and your sisters never, ever to follow me out on the full moon."

Orry nodded. "I tried once. Mum planted me in the kitchen and made me wash every single dish. Carina sat there and laughed at me."

"Good," Remus said. "Because there's a reason you've been given the rule."

"But you take Wolfsbane! It makes the house smell bad when Mum's brewing it. It makes you all right."

"It makes me probably all right," Remus corrected. "It makes me possibly all right. But probably and possibly aren't good enough when it comes to the three of you. One slip, one accidental scratch with the teeth..." He took a deep breath. "I'm more myself, but even on Wolfsbane, around humans, I'm not as safe as I'd like to be. That's part of the curse. The human smell can overpower nearly anything."

"But there was an article in Wizard Boy about Wolfsbane. It said that Wolfsbane Potion makes werewolves into just harmless wolves."

"True. But wolves are wild animals. They have the instincts of wild animals, and the same fear and hate toward humans."

"You'd hate us?"

"I'd hate myself if I risked it," Remus said.

"You wouldn't know us?"

"I don't know, Orry. I'm not willing to take the kind of chances it would involve to find out."

"Maybe when I've grown up, I'd be willing to," Orry said. "I could go right in and keep you company, and I'll bet you wouldn't hurt me at all."

"I don't care if you're a hundred years old, Orry. I'll never be willing to let you take that risk."

"That's not fair."

Remus turned to him, slightly irritated. "Orry, this isn't some sort of neat little pet that I don't share fairly with you. This is a deadly curse. It could be transmitted even by an accidental play bite, if I did know you."

"Why would you play at biting me?"

"Because that's the instinct that a wolf has. Even among their own, they nip and chase one another. They carry their young by the scruffs, digging in their teeth."

"Ouch."

"Well, yes, but not entirely the point. Orry, even the more affectionate instincts could get you cursed for the rest of your life."

"All right," Orry said sullenly, then turned to Remus with obstinate hope. "But you work really hard to not be dangerous. It's not fair for that boy to say nasty things about you, even if his grandfather did do something bad."

"That's true. But you need to get used to it. You can't just fly off the handle and get into a fist fight every time someone makes a nasty comment, because that's never going to stop."

"I'll make them stop."

"No, you won't. I don't want you getting into fights about this, Orry."

"But--" Orry sighed, then stood up and went to the edge of the creek. He crossed his arms stubbornly, and let his hair morph back into its natural black (at least Remus thought it was his natural color; he seemed to favor the Black family, and this seemed to be its most common color when he was sleeping or relaxing). He turned back. "But I did it for you."

"I know," Remus said. "And I love you very much for it, even though you really shouldn't have."

"But I had to do something."

"Come here," Remus said. Orry came over, and Remus ruffled his hair and gave him a hug. "Just because your heart's in the right place," he said, "doesn't mean that you should have acted on it."

"It's not fair."

"I know." Remus kissed his forehead. Orry made a great show of wiping the kiss away, but sat back down comfortably in the crook of Remus's open arm. Remus was surprised by wave of love for him so strong that it was nearly violent. "I know it's not fair," he said. "And I wish more than anything that I could sit here and tell you that it would all work out fair in the end, but it's not going to. If you get yourself into every fight that presents itself about this, you'll never do anything else."

"It's only happened once."

"It'll happen more when you go to school, and more than that when you start working. I don't want you to wrap your life around this. If you start giving in and fighting every time, then people will start to needle you deliberately."

"Like when Carina won't leave Mira alone about being too thin?"

"Just like that," Remus said. "Except that Carina gets bored with it sometimes."

Orry sat quietly for a while. "Can't we fix it?" he asked.

"I don't think so." Remus tightened his arm around Orry briefly. "I'm sorry that you're dragged into this. I'm sorry that this makes your life more difficult than it ought to be."

Orry shrugged. "Dad?"

"What?"

"What does it feel like to be a wolf?"

"Er..."

"When I make myself look different, I don't feel any different, but I can't be an animal. So what does it feel like? Not when you're changing, but you know, when you're all hairy and so on..."

Remus shook his head and started answering his son's questions.

The Talk was over.

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23 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: March 11th, 2007 03:44 am (UTC) (Link)
It's not fair.

But it's beautiful, the way you've written it. These talks are excruciating.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 11th, 2007 08:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. It can't be easy for parents to tell their kids some of the less pleasant truths of the world.
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: March 11th, 2007 03:49 am (UTC) (Link)
I really liked this... poor Remus, having to find some way to tactfully explain it to his kids. I'm sure it must be hard for Orry, too, not really understanding that in a wolf state, his dad would kill him. Man.

Very well written indeed. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 11th, 2007 08:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm sure it must be hard for Orry, too
Especially after having gotten into a fight with someone who said exactly the same thing. Life sucks sometimes. I guess not a very "happy" birthday fic.
musamea From: musamea Date: March 11th, 2007 04:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Eeesh. I really feel for Remus here, trying explain the unexplainable. And I love the Lupin-Tonks children you've created; they're utterly believable.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 11th, 2007 08:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. Any time there are recurring OCs, it starts to get dicey, so it's good to hear that people like them!
minoukatze From: minoukatze Date: March 11th, 2007 04:58 am (UTC) (Link)
This is beautiful.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 11th, 2007 08:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks!
alkari From: alkari Date: March 11th, 2007 06:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Wonderful, sad and touching fic - beautifully written, as always.

I can see trouble ahead when the kids come to "do" werewolves in DADA at Hogwarts ... could be some interesting lessons. I can easily imagine a few Hogwarts owls being sent home about Orry and maybe the others getting into fights when they hear their father labelled a 'dark creature" and get exposed to all the prejudice.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 11th, 2007 08:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
I can see trouble ahead when the kids come to "do" werewolves in DADA at Hogwarts

Especially if Snape turns out good, lives, and ends up with the permanent DADA position!
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 11th, 2007 06:47 am (UTC) (Link)
I tried to think of corresponding situations in the Muggle world, and imagined Remus having a moment of jealousy for the kind of drunks who go from totally nice guy to scary violent when under the influence. After all, if he were one of those and the kids broke the rule about coming to see him when he was under the influence, they'd be able to learn better and almost definitely not be killed or cursed for the rest of their lives.

Of course, since alcoholics have a choice about drinking, the analogy wouldn't hold after he'd thought about it for a moment. But, then, he'd envy people who had a choice about their curses (and be angry that they still let it come in and threaten people close to them, but that's another story).

Ellen
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 11th, 2007 08:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I could see Remus being more than a little frustrated with people who curse themselves and put others in danger. But also understanding the concept of being under the curse once it's cast.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 11th, 2007 07:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Hey Fern:

Thanks for the B-day fic. It's like going to a party where the guests get prizes. I love your future for Remus and Tonks. And I enjoy the children you have given them. They are beautiful and individual. Truly living examples of how children can be.

I wondered how you would see this being done. It made me feel even worse for Remus. That he has to expose himself even further to his children... anything to protect them ... but hard to bare. I like how you have Remus contemplate lying to Orry and then determining that honesty as always is best. You make Remus into a wonderful father.

Thanks again for the gift,

Katsulas
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 11th, 2007 08:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I imagine Remus is uncomfortable exposing this to anyone, but they do need to know!

Glad you liked it.
shiiki From: shiiki Date: March 11th, 2007 01:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh wow, that must have been horrid for Remus, to have to explain the details of his lycanthropy to his children ... and he'll have to go through it again with Carina. Though I expect that might be pretty interesting!

You did a wonderful job - Remus is fantastic as a father; you've raised him up just that notch from kindly teacher and mentor! Excellent!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 11th, 2007 08:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think Remus would make a great father. He seems to settle almost into it as a teacher.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 11th, 2007 09:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thanks So Much

For this charming and tear-inducing vignette. Allow me to assure you that I have yet to meet an OC of your invention who wasn't utterly charming and believeable.

As far as trying to find a good Muggle analogy for Remus and his situation, the one that strikes me is someone living with HIV. Especially considering the social stigma.

Also, the whole thing about Remus never accepting pocket money from Dora -- so sad and so true to character. I'm glad they've found a modus vivendi.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 11th, 2007 10:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thanks So Much

The disease model is useful because it compares the illness to something contracted against the will of the sufferer and passed on against his or her will.

It breaks down over the issues of violence and the active threat the cursed person poses. The one thing all werewolves have in common is a life threatening attack from a werewolf. People who contracted HIV through a violent, life threatening attack are, fortunately, an extreme minority. As for a person who contracted HIV through a violent, life threatening attack who then suffered a periodic, overwhelming urge to do the same thing to others, if there are any cases of that on the books, I haven't heard of them.

Sorry, that probably sounds all nitpicky. But there are a lot of things in the wizard world where I can find perfect matches in the Muggle world - excitement over Quidditch, excitement over football, what's the difference? - but, whenever I try to translate Remus' werewolfness into something Mugglish, I have to add "Yes, but this part wouldn't be there."

Actually, what it resembles the most would probably be rabies if it was a disease with intermittant outbreaks rather than one downward spiral and death. Sufferers often started behaving in ways that weren't exactly typical for them as the disease progressed.

Ellen
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 11th, 2007 10:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thanks So Much

I'd tend to think of it most like mental illnes (stigma-wise, combined with bizarre and often uncontrollable behavior, with new pharmacological interventions not effective if you miss doses)... except that mental illness isn't communicable at all. Yeah--no real comparison.
lyras From: lyras Date: March 13th, 2007 06:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Lovely, quiet scene, despite the sadness and serious topic. As always, I like your background details (Orry metamorphosing, if that's the right word, the other boy's grandfather, all the comics and books). And the glimpses into a future life for Remus and Tonks were intriguing and very plausible.
verdenia From: verdenia Date: March 14th, 2007 09:38 am (UTC) (Link)

'the talk'

Beautifully done. Remus does make a great father. Nice work! ;D
cheddartrek From: cheddartrek Date: March 14th, 2007 04:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Brilliant fic as always. I think Orry is probably my favorite of the Lupinlets, and it's always fun to see him interacting with Remus.

Cheers
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 14th, 2007 05:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. Orry's actually my favorite of them, too. :) Carina likes to get more things started and Mira has the whole Daniel thing, while I haven't really got a story, per se, for Orry, but he's actually the one who stays the most dedicated. He meets his wife because they're both working on lycanthropy potions (much to Remus's distress, Orry does, in fact, end up shaping a lot of his life around lycanthropy, though he never catches it).
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