Warning: Hospital stuff, present tense, no actual Severus present
Betas: aunty_marion and islandsmoke, who knows my personal canon better than I do. . . .
Summary: “Life! life! I can’t be dead! I won’t be dead! / Damned if I’ll die for any one!” I said…. (Escape by Robert Graves) R&D backstory: after Remus was found…. (immediately prior to "The Waltz Continues")
Remus remembers the first time the door opened since it slammed shut after him a lifetime ago. He remembers the voices, swallowed by the damp walls. He remembers fear: it is more frightening to not want to die than to be able to welcome it. Someone is retching by the stairs, and it all seems so unfair. He knows he should just surrender, and he hates blindly and wholly that his life has come to this. The last thing he remembers is coming up off his feet and throwing himself with murderous intent towards the voices. His own voice is, of course, silent, but in his head he is screaming.
He wakes in a sea of sensations. He nearly drowns in warmth and light and softness, in the smell of sun-heated air and fresh flowers somewhere. He knows it is a mistake, that this is not meant for him, and it will hurt to lose it all again. He hates knowing that this is not his place; that for him there is no peace.
Rage has become such a familiar and comforting habit to him that he doesn't even notice anymore that it is how he reacts to everything.
The rage fuels the need to escape and hides the secret of where he needs to go, the one tenuous thread of memory that he has hoarded. He is weighted down – there is no strength in his starved body – but there are no chains any more, only wide swathes of bandages that smell of antibiotic potions. He can escape. He cannot believe otherwise.
He rolls himself on his side, pulling one knee up, and debates sitting versus a slow slither to the floor. He is surprised that he still has enough vestigial dignity to make crawling unpalatable, but he can't see. It is not the unrelenting darkness of the cellar he'd been kept in: he can make out patterns of light and darkness enough to guess where a window is and where a door, but he doesn't know how he will walk. Whether he can.
So slither it is. He botches it right from the start. The bed is higher than he'd expected, and he can't balance himself, so he falls. His head smacks into the floor and he hears himself swear: "Fuck."
It is the first word he's spoken since he was hexed, before he was left in the dark. He can hear his own voice, and it sounds even more crap than he currently feels, flat on his back half-under the bed. But he can talk again, and his mouth stretches in an unfamiliar smile. He tries saying his name but it doesn't come out right. All that he can say clearly are the short angry words. That's okay. Those are all he really needs.
Someone, from the darkness that he thinks is a doorway, says, "Oh the poor man," and then there are rubber-sole sounds and the smell of starch; and then he feels soft hands on him.
He wakes up from the stunning hours later. He doesn't remember attacking the healer, but because of it, for the next few weeks, he is kept on potions to keep him calm and stupid. He is stupid, he thinks to himself as he learns ways to dispose of the potions in secret. He didn't have the good sense to die or to give in to the madness, nor even to lose himself in a drugged stupor. He wishes he had that freedom, but he has a goal he is stupidly striving for. He still expects to be extradited to Azkaban any day now; he still doesn't believe in reprieve; he knows he has to escape.
The war ended, he is told. Voldemort was defeated. The UK has a new government, apparently, although no one reads him Wizarding news. The American girl who is teaching him to speak reads him monosyllabic articles from monosyllabic magazines like Look! and Yo! and Spice!, and he sometimes fears that when he does escape he will only be able to talk about anorexic celebrities in an ironed-flat accent.
His plan has evolved from panicked flight to cold-blooded cunning. He tries to think of himself as a fixer-upper; something with potential; he's always been good at D.I.Y. He still can't see, but he gave in and let the doctor arrange lessons for him in using a cane. It was just one more unpleasant truth that he had to confess: but unlike lycanthropy or homosexuality, being blind has social advantages. Most importantly for his purposes, there is the advantage that people think him stupid. He likes that, because every day he feels sharper and the blindness lets him hide his intelligence. He can talk, if not for long periods of time; he can walk six times around the hospital gardens before he feels tired. He is flat-out terrified of anything that suggests confinement, from loo stalls to knee socks, but he doesn't lash out at others now, instead bottling the feelings inside. He can eat regular meals, though he finds everything tasteless and cutlery a challenge. He is almost ready, he tells himself. After the next full moon, he decides.
He is sitting on his bed trying to tell the text from the photographs in Look! (or perhaps Spice!) when there is a knock on the door and a soft greeting. It is the healer with the Jamaican lilt. He likes her well enough, and puts down the magazine.
They go through the pleasantries (he always suspects that she is studying his affect), and then she asks if she may sit down on the bed. He trusts that she won't touch him without saying anything; he says yes.
"We've been talking to your people," she says, and he stiffens. He hasn't stolen a wand or a suitcase or even a bag or box yet, and the moon is in four days; if he believed in God he would rail. Instead he recites the short, violent words in a litany in his head. "You're a very popular man, Mr Lupin, a war hero, it seems." He shakes his head, his throat closing. "There is a law in your country concerning werewolf rehabilitation – there are not centres there like we have here. They have had to find someone willing to oversee your recovery for the required half year."
"And then prison?" he asks, although the words don't work properly the first two times; it is only on his slow third repetition that the healer understands.
"No prison, Mr Lupin, they do not want you in prison. No, no, no," she says, almost like a song, almost like an embrace. "That's what you – no, Mr Lupin, no. You're a free man. You're going home. Certainly no one would pay our fees here only to lock you away – we are quite expensive, you know." He can hear a smile, but not, he thinks, a mocking one. He hasn't thought about hospital fees at all: he'd only considered the recovery centre another kind of prison. "A man you worked with has offered you a room on his farm for the term of your recovery."
"Arthur?" Remus asks, after a moment of thought. His memory is coming back in patches, but he doesn't remember a farm. He is not sure the Burrow qualifies.
"A Mr Snape," she says, and the first thing Remus can think is that it is a trap, or that he has somehow betrayed himself. He'd been so certain that everyone would expect him to run away, that by working his way back to the U.K. he could elude capture, at least until he got to Severus. After that – well, he doesn't really care beyond that. But from beyond the rush of panic in his ears he can hear her still talking, her voice swaying like a cradle. Telling him about the farm, the fresh air, the opportunities for restful strolls in the orchard, the chupacabra (what? he thinks), the Wolfsbane offered free, the spare bedroom which overlooks the woods.
Remus is suddenly overwhelmed with belief, and he feels himself begin to shake.
The zenith of his lifetime of escape is past him; now he feels the inexorable pull upon him as he surrenders his escape. For the first time, he lets himself think that someone might be waiting for him to come home, and it is that that nearly breaks him.