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Rabastan at Spinner's End - rp from the journal of anomalywaiting

Rabastan at Spinner's End - rp from the journal of anomalywaiting

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Spinner's End
Rabastan is not fit to serve the Dark Lord any more.

At least, that’s what he has led them to believe, by remaining stoic, withdrawn in his own mind. He is not like Bellatrix, his mind has not been honed into a weapon that only thirsts for revenge and chips away at the sanity. His mind is not like Rodolphus’, broken but resilient. Already, out of the grasp of the Dementors, his brother is raising his head from the proverbial sand, is finding wonder in the world. He has already made a choice and knows what he will do. Or perhaps this has been the one thought that has sustained him, decisions reached in the years they spent in those cells, alone in their own personal hell. He has forged his feelings for his wife, which Rabastan has always seen as chains as it became more and more obvious that it was not his brother that Bellatrix loved. Rodolphus might not have been the cleverest of them, but he has always known what he has wanted. And Rabastan, well…

His grip has not lessened around the thick green blanket that has kept him warm all these nights, as comforting as the twinge on his forearm - the thought that someone misses him. He has to remind himself that this cannot be a happy thought, and so has locked away such emotions, especially pain, discomfort and unhappiness - anything that would bring the Dementors. Everything that they wanted he has tried to lock away, shoved beneath him as if he is a bridge and the emotions are water. If they touch the arch of his being, he will break. He will suffer. He will feel again. He lets the Dark Lord see this bridge, lets him think that he is a blank slate, that he might as well have had the Dementors kiss him. He wants the Dark Lord to think him worthless. Azkaban has broken men stronger than him, so it wouldn’t be so farfetched to believe that he too was a lost cause. The Dark Lord could not use a broken weapon, a wand snapped in half.

Perhaps for entirely different reasons - Rabastan because he had lost everything that he had fought for to that mad man without gaining anything in return and Rodolphus because his love had become his obsession and his life - both of them had decided enough was enough. There was nothing left of them to sacrifice. Perhaps there had been no belief in the first place, for they drifted without notice from the Dark Lord’s side, from Bellatrix’s notice, into a place between living and prison. Like wraiths, they were allowed to leave the Death Eater circle, though they are still branded. They can build a new life for themselves, but only under the watchful eye of the Dark Lord.

But what life can they build for themselves? Rodolphus, of course, is made up of all extremes. He either loves something or hates something. And there is no one he loves more than Bellatrix. Even his love for his younger brother had been left behind in that cell. It was a strange survival mechanism, that both of them had focused so wholly on one thing in order to push out all the horrible things in their lives - everything in their lives. Rabastan focused on becoming nothing. Rodolphus concentrated on his love for his wife and, on the flipside of that: his hatred. There is no one he loathes more than the Dark Lord. He is no longer stable enough to withstand Bellatrix’s obvious favoritism, and so spends his days at the Malfoy’s estate, avoiding their lord while seeking out his wife.

And Rabastan, well…

He stands outside of the door of Spinner’s End, green blanket tucked under his cloak, though one hand twists it unconsciously. It is terrible to expect fulfilment of a promise that was made so many years ago, when they still did not know the entirety of the war, when Rabastan had been what he was no longer - that idealistic boy who would have been happy with a dog and potting soil. He doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to be that boy again - to understand what happiness is, to be able to understand emotions. And yet… If he could, he was sure he would be feeling hopeful at this moment. He takes a breath, and it fogs out when he breaths it, wondering if it is too late to be calling, both in the time of day and in the length of years. Still, he raises his hand and knocks on the door.
  • Severus

    Severus is older. His forehead is lined, his eye sockets shadowed. There is a permanent and deep crease between his brows and lines stretched frowning from the outside of his nose to the corners of his mouth. His lips are even thinner, even more sternly pinched. Neither is he wearing wizard robes after his flight from the tower.

    Back at Spinner's End, he is 'that Snape boy' and they still look at him with a curled lip, though something in his face keeps them from outright attack. He is hiding, however, and though he had a huge and private bonfire on Guy Fawkes Night, he wears Tobias' old clothes. His father had always been larger than he himself, even at the end, and the blue jeans pleat around his thin hips, bulging above the belt or balloon loose with braces. The plain T-shirts drape and the plaid shirts serve as coats. It is better than the smocks of his childhood. He keeps his hair long as he always has, though it is greying now at the edges and in increasingly numerous single hairs.

    He still has his own clothes. Part of his early redecoration had been much older dark wood furniture, and his suits, shirts and robes hang in an armoire, all identical. He has furnished his old house over the years. If it is his, he has reasoned, he should recreate it to suit himself. There is a potion laboratory, of course. Books line the walls in place of the old peeling floral wallpaper, older than he.

    A breakout at Azkaban. He had received an owl requesting that he not ask, not owl, stay in hiding. Still Damon brings him the papers. Everything is confused and he doesn't know yet what is happening, continues the brief nightly contact with Rabastan. Are you there? I am here. Nothing can take that away from him. Until he knows, he will not risk the torture for disobeying orders. In this wild climate, with the hazard he has become, any hint of defiance might mean death and might mean that his body is used as bargaining leverage with the ministry by someone not yet compromised. He will not risk that until he knows. Then the indelible strand of his promise will draw him.

    Gone is any trace of the open vulnerability of that night when he had forged it. Even then it had been almost impossibly rare. Now it is buried, protected so that none will ever sully it. Ever. But he clings to that promise given and returned, though he owes Rabastan a debt for his freedom and his friend's imprisonment that he will never be able to atone for. Ever. So he has nurtured that promise, and held it, even after he commits another murder, even after he suffers another round of cruciatis and interrogation as their Dark Lord grows more frenetic.

    That promise to Rabastan, that gentle comfort Severus had been offered that night, was the one thing good and true, certain. It was the one thing given in innocence, if that word could have ever been applied to him. It had been given of his own volition, neither requested not demanded. It was no part of the schemes of his Dark Lord or Dumbledore. It still reminded him that he was real, was human. He had said it long ago. Even now this was what he needed to know: that some small deep part of him still had a soul, that some tiny part of him could smile that Rabastan still lived, that he could care for something.

    Severus continues to work on potions, making soap, lotions and perfumes for the muggles that he sells on market days. When they promise love, peace, the healing of minor complaints, and when they work, they become desirable. He takes orders and so keeps in food and general needs. For his true projects and his true life he still has gold, taken from Gringotts in better easier times as a precaution. In his disguise, the house is his and he appears to have few expenses.
    • Re: Severus

      When the soft hesitant knock comes at the door he is making stew. Cooking is akin to preparing potions, and Severus naturally excels. Garlic, turnips and beef are sliced as precisely as asfodel, bubotubers and rat spleen. Rosemary as subtly augments a dish as peppermint tempers a potion.

      There is no one he is expecting tonight. No one ever calls, and there has been no summons through his brand. The little house is thoroughly and completely warded and there has been no alert of danger that would have been tripped by any sudden unannounced visit from aurors or deatheaters. He has no friends. It can only be a wayward muggle. Severus dons his best and most forbidding scowl and opens the door.

      It evaporates at once. The small shred of friendship has been held and guarded, even cherished, so long that it has grown so familiar in his consciousness it has become almost corporeal, a part of him - solace and purpose. Now that wraith stands before him. He is stunned a moment, prepared to believe his will has conjured it at his door.

      The blanket he had woven with magic when he had... Oh Merlin, They had been children. The blanket peeks out from the dark cloak, a green corner still rich grasped in the bony fingers. "Rabastan. Rab." It truly is, he realises. Impossible. Out of the ashes of his life... Rab. His whole body twists in spasm as it physically reacts to his mental and psychic recognition of something good, unexpected and at last. Severus' face breaks open in joy. His eyes run wet. "Rab."

      Startled for once out of his stiff reserve, he opens his arms and embraces the frail ghost, presses his dry cheek to Rabastan's chilled one. "Come in, out of the cold. Can you stay? Have you come to stay? I was just making supper.

      "You've come. You remembered, through everything. Rabastan." His friend is real, a presence he had imagined so long. He looks fearfully over his shoulder though, to ensure he is alone. It could be a trap - something he wanted so much.
      • Rabastan

        Rabastan is not quite sure what he expected to see when he first knocked on the door, without thinking of having called or sending an owl beforehand. Perhaps he should have, it occurs to him now as he stares idly around the Muggle street, interest unable to be captured by one thing now that he is outside. He had gone out and lain in the grass of the Malfoy complex for a day, basking in the sun, the fresh air, the wide expanse that seemed to engulf him and lose him in its infinite space. He probably would have lived out there, under the sky, had Lucius not come out and ushered him back inside. He feels as if he is not grounded anymore, as free to drift as the clouds, his thoughts pierced by the blue or black of the sky, easy disjointed and turned into wisps by the slightest bit of motion. He supposes it is a madness in and of itself, to feel as if his mind is constantly moving forward, making leaps and bounds, but truly remaining stagnant. Is he insane to know that he is disturbed? Does it mean that he is insane if he is aware how truly detached from everything he is? Is it an affliction to know exactly what he lacks but cannot seem to find the basic humanity within himself? He supposes it is there, as solid as the door before him, but he is blocked from it. And he does not have the will or the knowledge to open the door to the hope, the happiness, and even the sadness that is trapped back there. He has not cried for anyone, not even Regulus. He has not smiled since he has gotten out, not even for Rodolphus. Will seeing an old friend, one who has kept him company night after long night across such distances make him happy? Rabastan does not think so, and the lack of emotion is more alarming than the actual emotion itself.

        Fifteen years is a long time, even if they bled together into one large, continuous mass of boredom, screams, and imprisonment of both body and mind. Even though he should not be surprised, he must admit he is, when he sees how the years have affected his friend Severus’ face when he opens the door, after the scowl drops from his face and shock overtakes them. The years have made his friend look fiercer, angrier, have made him seem almost haggard. It is not until he is confronted by the age that is obvious on his friend that he realizes he had been expecting the Severus he knew, young faced and ambitious, but hopeful and eager. The one who had made a promise to him. He wonders for the first time how he looks, how he must appear to this Severus who has been contacting him night after night, who looks nothing like what his memories and hallucinations conjured for him, but underneath it all must still be the Severus he knows. He wonders if it worries his friend, to see his face so devoid of all emotion, yet his hand clutches so tightly to the blanket that he has given him, the one spot of kindness he has had in years. The Dementors would have taken that from him too, if he had not shoved it into the murky depths where all his emotion resides, safe and sleeping, but beyond both his reach and theirs.

        He can smell the meal that Severus is preparing, and he tries to remember if Severus knew how to cook, or if he has just forgotten. He wonders briefly why Severus is hiding amongst Muggles, or if he has always lived here. His memory is foggy at best, and no one has bothered briefing him since they deemed him useless. All he knows is that this is the place that they told him he could find Severus, and that they will not bother him while he stays here. It seems rather small, but from what Rabastan can see, it seems tailored for his friend. There are books, potions ingredients, and elegant furniture. He wonders if there is enough room in this small house for him, but the promise is as tangible to him as the blanket between his fingers. He does not mind if he has to sleep under the stairs or on a couch or even outside. He just wants to know if there is still hope for him. There is the promise, and there is also no one else.
        • Re: Rabastan

          He wants to speak when Severus embraces him, wants to raise up his hands to return the gesture because: isn’t that what someone else would do? But Severus is ushering him, and he doesn’t know what to say. All he knows is that Severus is welcoming him, is not turning his back on the promise, is asking if he has come to stay and does not sound like he opposes this at all. Rabastan wishes he could smile, if only for his friend, to show that he is grateful for his friend’s compassion. For his friendship.

          “I… If it is not too much trouble. I have no where else I would like to be.” Rabastan manages, surprised by how raspy his voice sounds, by how hard it seems to form those words, how foreign his voice is to even his own years. Has he always sounded like this? “I apologize. I did not send word I was to be coming. I did not… I.” He stops, trying to gather his thoughts and words together until they are coherent. “Of course I remembered. Thank you. I can never say how grateful I am for your gift of friendship. I…” He shrugs, helplessly. “I am sorry.” He says, because he has interrupted his supper, for not owling beforehand, or for not being able to articulate even his thoughts, he is not sure.
          • Severus

            At once Severus notices his friend's difficulties. How could it be otherwise for him, so long in Azkaban? He makes a quick resolution.

            It is not that he will look after Rabastan, help him come back to himself, welcome him into the household. There is no need to think of that, it is so certain. His presence, his company, even broken, is a gift, and one Severus does not deserve. He can never repay Rabastan. If he gives him everything he has, kneels and pledges his life and will in service, offering all he can do and all he will be, it will never be enough.

            Severus decides that he will never tell his friend or show him that his hesitations, uncertainty, fears, confusion are all right, for they are not. They are heartbreaking, and Severus wants so much more for him. High expectations show respect, and his respect for Rabastan has never wavered, will never waver. He had been solid and steadfast, insightful in dispensing dismissiveness or kindness, singular in his herbology and will for the life and business he had lost. Severus had admired and valued his quiet friend, and even now that old loyalty and belief demands faith that Rabastan can come back to himself, even if it takes a hundred years.

            Severus decides that he will also never tell his friend or show him that any of these psychic remnants of those long years are negative, a trouble, a problem, anything but natural. He will offer comfort, understanding, solace, strength, the smoothing of the million details that one needs to negotiate to live - whatever Rabastan needs, without censor or frustration. He will find out about his health soon as well, make him potions, and design regimens, not to offer anodyne, but to heal. Oblivious unction, for the mental scarring. Draught of Peace. He has a little of these potions, but Rabastan can help him make more. A daily therapeutic dose of each should help him recover in time. The work will give him confidence and pride as well, almost better tonics than potions. They will work together and his friend can encounter the good things he may have forgotten, has no doubt become afraid to miss - trust, warmth, such simple things as approval and welcome.

            Oh Merlin. Severus swallows again and his head echoes, I'm so sorry, so sorry, so sorry.

            He remembers as well that it was plants that Rabastan had loved, and his dog. Bernard. Severus had been in prison too, had no idea what had happened, had never found Bernard again. Horrified, he had gone to collect him as promised when Rab, Rodolphus and Bella had been arrested, but then he had been taken as well. Long ago, with a smile he had quoted that muggle poem for him. I think I could turn and live with animals... They will grow magical plants. Perhaps they can get a dog, or any animal. Life. It will help Rabastan to care for something, as his friend had once said to Severus. As life had cheered his darkened dungeon, it would cheer Rabastan's darkened soul.
            • Re: Severus

              He answers, working to keep his voice even. He answers not just his friend's words, but the slackness of his limbs, the vacancy and struggle - the lack of focus and decisiveness. "We are not allowed to owl now. You did what was best, what we've... I've been told to do. You are welcome here, as long as you wish, always. I can never say either, what your friendship has meant to me, what it meant every night. I was never... I was never utterly alone, all these years."

              He cannot bear Rabastan's apology, not with what he has suffered, oh, Merlin, for Severus, for Lucius, for everyone who had lived whiled he had... while he had been as dead. His voice is a little shaky, but gentle. There is no anger in this moment, no resentment, nothing but exhaustion, sincerity and care. "I am so sorry. I am so sorry that you were in Azkaban so long while we were free. There is no harm, and you deserve, you shall have, not even forgiveness for every falter and weakness, but help and everything I can do. It could have been me; it should have been me. Whatever I do, whatever I say, nothing will change that you have suffered all that - almost a lifetime - for my sins, and I have not."

              But then the gladness overtakes the serious moment. With a small smile of wonder and reassurance, he touches his palm to his head, as much personal gesture as to reassure himself his friend is solid and real. He tells him more softly and simply, without complication, "Hey, Rab. You're home. Welcome home."
              • Rabastan

                Rabastan cannot help but feel a bit ashamed at the obvious differences between him and Severus. Though they have lived through the same years, and though those years were probably harsh to his friend as they were to him, Severus is still able to maintain some air of dignity, even in this Muggle place in clothes that do not seem to be tailored for him. Though he has aged, he has been well cared for. He can still speak his words not as if they defeat him, but as their master and commander. Rabastan knows that he is probably atrocious to look upon, and if possible, even harder to speak to. Even Narcissa, with all her upbringing and politeness dictated by blood and tradition, avoided conversation with him when she could. Negative emotions like shame are easier to feel, harder to repress, even with the Dementors gone. They coat him like a second skin, though he has tried again and again to scrub them off.

                He is ashamed that he cannot be self-sufficient. His ability to be independent had been one of his innumerable pleasures and sources of pride. But now that is taken away from him, his antique shop no doubt closed or handed over to the highest bidder, all of his possessions ransacked, destroyed, or sold off to Merlin only knew where. His garden was either neglected or destroyed also, and Bernard… Even if Severus had managed to salvage him, he supposed Bernard would not be among the living. There is a sharp pang, another loss that he does not wish to think about, so he does not. He is ashamed that his failings are so easily noted, that his brokenness is one that everyone can see, that he cannot even pretend to hide the emotions that were once so steadily held in his grasp. He has nothing left to be proud of, so there is mostly only shame.

                Guilt, he finds, is there too. He is guilty for putting Severus in such a position without even thinking about what his answer might be, what toil it will be to take care of an invalid. Selfishly, he had thought only of himself. He is guilty, for not being able to conjure up the proper emotions of gratitude and happiness that he should feel that Severus is not pitying him, but instead trying valiantly to speak with him not as if he is a burden, but a gift that has brought a most pleasant surprise.

                His brow furrows slightly at the mention that they are not allowed to owl, not sure if he should be relieved then, that his ill-manners are pardoned or simply curious. “Why not?” He finds himself asking. If he cannot owl, how is he to keep in touch with Rodolphus? Mad as his brother may be, Rabastan still misses him, still cares for him. He wants to know at least that he is still doing as well as he can. He had not thought that he would not have been able to keep in touch… However, he turns to look back at his friend when he tells him he can stay here for as long as he wishes. He knows he should smile, or look pleased, or anything to convey the gratitude he knows he should be feeling, but he nods his head, once twice. It is all he can think to do, really. “I will… try not to be a… burden.” Invalid, torment, constant reminder of things gone wrong in the past, a leech. “Thank you.” He says softly, wishing there was some way he could express what he was supposed to be expressing, to feel what he should be feeling at this moment. He is heartened, however, that Severus can still talk about their friendship positively, that he still looks upon it with fondness. He does not know what he can say to that, what would be appropriate, so he keeps silent.
                • Re: Rabastan

                  He shifts uncomfortably when Severus speaks to him so kindly, so gently, and though he sounds tired, Rabastan is not sure if it is because he is dealing with him or that this encounter has been emotionally draining to him as it should have been to Rabastan himself. If he could be, he would be glad and grateful that Severus is so understanding and so caring, that he is willing to suffer through Rabastan’s presence because of what he preserves as atonement. Rabastan has never found it this way. “I have not suffered for your… sins, but for my own… stupidity. Please. Do not feel as if… you are… obligated. It was not your fault.” It was no one’s fault but his own (or perhaps Bellatrix’s and Rodolphus’) that they were imprisoned. Bellatrix had always spoken for them, whether they had wanted it or not. “But know that I am truly… grateful for hospitality. Everything else… is just…” He shrugged a bit helplessly, not sure how to articulate all that he felt and all that he was sure he was supposed to feel. It was too much of him to ask to stay here. That Severus was not only willing to have him here, but wanted him here and wanted to help him, was more than he felt comfortable with thinking about at this time.

                  His thoughts still when Severus touches his head, however. It is gentle and Rabastan feels all the tension that had been, unbeknownst to him, accumulating beneath his shoulder blades slacken. He knew he would have been smiling if he could. “I’m home.” He said, half question half testing out the words. He decided he rather liked the way they sounded. He met Severus’ gaze and tried to smile, but the gesture was so foreign it no doubt resembled the expression little.
  • Severus

    He is relieved to hear that they had honoured Rabastan with an escort after all, and had not left him to be caught alone, unable to fight without a wand. Immediately he thinks better of Lucius and it occurs to him to send a note of thanks. He is grateful too that none of the others had visited. He wants any darkness in his home to be born by himself, and now Rabastan, and feels a little ill again when he thinks of what Lucius' parlour has become. His friend needs to be taken from that world as far as Severus can bring him.

    The warmth of the kitchen, simple tasks, simple objects, the promise and aroma of food seem to help him. There is hope. The comforting hand on his shoulder when he tells his own story so briefly lets him know that Rabastan is not gone, will recover. He has not been broken. Azkaban has not destroyed him. There are things his friend wants - to owl his brother. He must have wanted to come here to Severus. To want is to hope. But beyond that, both are reaching for humanity. He is, after everything, concerned for others. At the kindness Severus smiles gratitude to him again, almost shy, for though Rabastan needs it so much more than he does, he is grateful for the contact and connection.

    He listens attentively as Rabastan recites his diagnosis. It is probably as accurate as may be, given that he has not received actual medical attention, St. Mungo's being closed to them. He imagines that the Malfoy Mansion has only increased in confusion and difficulty since he last attended there. His ills are those Severus can tend, he hopes.

    "Malnutrition can certainly be remedied, beginning tonight. It will remind me to eat properly as well, to ensure that what we prepare for you will be nutritious." He smiles, including himself, as an equal, not an authority to impose - not a patient and doctor, but friends caring for one another. "As for the other, I am here. I can remember, and as you recover I expect it will come back. It is a very quiet life. If you weep, I am here to offer company and what comfort I can, and you can tell me what you are able. I will listen to everything, help you remember, ask if you remember times we spent, people. We will puzzle out what is missing for you. Rab, there are terrible things, when you realise them unexpectedly. I won't think less of you, if you weep. It is healing. As a frostbitten toe aches when given the warmth it has needed, you will ache as well, coming back to life. Feeling." He is sorry. The things Rabastan will remember are horrifying. He can scarcely believe they happened himself during the day, but at night they loom as monsters. He hates that his friend, innocent again in a way, must learn of himself, must learn of Severus and the darkness of all they have been.
    • Re: Severus

      He looks at his friend frankly. If he expects and hopes that Rabastan will be open with him, will trust him, he must open as well, something he has never done easily.

      "There is no burden. It is more... honestly, I value you. I value your company. I value your friendship, whether you are ill, whether you are well. If I must say it, it is lonely here. If you are regarded as a burden, by others, I am treated as if I were foul and contagious. If they were squeamish before... now I would be deeply suspect, if I were not so useful, if I were not so unquestionably trustworthy. They shy away, almost repelled." He sighs. "I hope you will not hate me. You must understand, it is not that loneliness can be assuaged by mere company, because there are still very few I respect. I value you. You have kept me company, all these years. And though I know loneliness is... nothing, weakness, and I would never say it to anyone else... Your presence will be... a blessing. Not a burden."

      The toast satisfies him. Something deep within him is reassured and reassures itself. He needs to choose life, as well as needing to know Rabastan chooses it. Quietly he says in reply, "Instead of eating death, we will drink of life." There is a small smile at his friend, over the rim of his cup, almost conspiratorial. They will begin.

      When they have finished the tea and vegetables, Severus gathers up the boards and neatly shaves in the cubed turnips, parsnips and potatoes. He adds the beans and garlic. "Would you like to see upstairs, while they cook? We can leave this for a few moments. The house is small, though of course the laboratory is in the cellar." He is apologetic. It nothing compared to Rabastan's home, the mansions or even summerhouses, the apartments, or any place in which any of his old schoolmates had resided.

      He still uses his small child's room upstairs, has kept his parent's room, replacing the furniture, bedding, curtains and burning what he could not use. It looks completely different, but it is still the same room, and it is not his, will never be his. Despite the thick rugs and good dark furniture he has installed, there is still a sense of echoing bare wood and expected punishment for intruding, snooping, sneaking.... He arrests his father's old accusations.

      Now he tells Rabastan, "There is a pantry off the kitchen here. And there are bedrooms upstairs." The corners of his lips rise a fraction as he tells him something he will perhaps be glad of eventually. "There is a garden in back."
      • Rabastan

        There it is again, a smile, touched with shyness, but there anyway. Rabastan is pleased to note that he hasn’t forgotten there are different categories of smiles, though he has to re-catalogue them so he can remember them all. There were those pained smiles, polite smiles, smiles that hid killers, smiles that were barely visible, embarrassed smiles, genuine smiles… He wonders how he will be able to relearn them all, if he has enough time, if he even can. But he will try, because getting Severus to smile might be the most precious, and only, gift that Rabastan can give him. Together they can try to piece together the bond they once shared, lift each other back into humanity and feeling. Perhaps it is not too late for them at all, even if it is too late for others. He does not dwell on their loss yet. He is not ready, so he focuses on peeling potatoes and making sure that his movements, though slow and a bit clumsy, are careful and measured. He has control now. He can do things. Severus will allow him to. The thought is as warm as the kitchen.

        “I do not worry so much about malnutrition, if such… meals as this will be prepared… regularly.” Rabastan says thoughtfully, pausing every once in a while to search for the words. To make sure they sound right. It’s still strange to talk, to know that he will not attract Dementors that way, that when he speaks someone is listening so he must pick his words carefully. He must make sense. The ramblings and silences that he employed in Azkaban are no longer necessary here. They are not appropriate. He is grateful, though, that Severus does not seem daunted by his diagnosis at all, that he still seems to care. He does not look perturbed by any of this, merely concerned. “I am afraid of remembering.” Rabastan states simply, slowly, even though his voice betrays none of the emotion. He knows that this is probably the most accurate emotion for his intense avoidance of trying to think of everything. “There are too many things I would rather forget.” Which is probably cowardly, though at least Severus does not seem to find it detestable that he weeps. Bellatrix had made a point to scoff at such a display. They were 'free and reunited with the Dark Lord again.' She had sworn at him. 'A true warrior would know no tears.' She, certainly, had never cried. “It seems painful. To come back to feeling. It has been awhile.” Rabastan says thoughtfully, though he stores away the metaphor that Severus used. It is comforting. Perhaps he is merely frozen, not staring down at the murky depths of his past that will drown him, and that over time he will begin to wriggle away from numbness.

        He is quiet when Severus assures him that he is not a burden, not quite sure what to do other than continue at his task, sure that his ears are burning. He cannot stand to look at his friend, who shows so much trust to him, who is being so open and so frank about everything, who is accepting of him while expecting so little in return. Rabastan does not know how to address this, kindness still something he must take in small doses or else he is sure he will choke on it, and he is sure he has already been given far, far too much for one night.
        • Re: Rabastan

          “Foul and contagious?” He asks, half confused and half scoffing. Severus is anything but those. Most Purebloods do not look beneath the surface unless it is for scandal, gossip or blackmail. They do not see people; they see breeding tools for the next generation, figurines that must be polished, perfect and poised. They do not weigh people for kindness, for generosity, for mercy. These are fatal flaws that must be stamped out. They only measure people for usefulness, for talent, for prestige. There is no love in their society, merely want.

          “Then they do not know you. And it is their loss,” he says. Often, he recalls, he told his friend not to take what anyone thought of him to heart. That theirs was a world filled of people who acted as judge, jury, and executioner without bothering with any evidence. Theirs was a blind world. “You are more than a tool. You are a friend, and a good one.” It was their loss, indeed, to only weigh Severus on his skills and to discard his ability to trust, to care, to love. He is more human than all of them. “And I could never hate you… There is nothing you can do to break the… faith I have in you. You are a good person. Loneliness is no more a weakness than generosity. It shows… you are human. And you are. Very much so,” he says, hoping Severus will believe him. But there have been as many years as Rabastan has been away that people have been telling him otherwise. Rabastan is not the only broken person in this room.

          He is glad they both do not have to eat death anymore. He is sure both of them have had their fill.

          He watches awkwardly as Severus finishes up with the cooking, taking the time to glance back around his surroundings again. How long has Severus lived here? He wonders if he has purchased this place or if it is somewhere the Dark Lord bid him to go. It seems unfit for his friend, but perhaps he was never one for sprawling estates like the rest of them. It is cosy, Rabastan decides. He likes how lived in it is.

          “Yes. I will come,” he says to Severus’ question, wondering why he seems almost as if the offering is an apology. Compared to his cell, this place is a castle. He is eager to see the rest of his new home. He especially perks up at the mention of a garden, a small flicker of feeling that is so unfamiliar that is it is almost painful. He has fond memories of gardens, and if this place had been a cell, he would have accepted it with a smile if there was a garden. But they could save it for last, he supposes.
          • Severus

            Rabastan watches him, his gestures, his expressions as if looking for cues. He is a poor example of social normalcy, but it is welcome to have a smile appreciated, recieve a response. His own voice had become rusty here with no one present with whom to speak. He would speak to Rabastan, bring him back as he brought back himself, visit things hard to bear. Probably, he would weep as well. After everything, it is Bernard on whom his thought touches. They were not beyond reach, but they would be left for now. Severus because with his last public crime he had become worse than useless as a spy, he had become a liability. Rabastan because he had proved he was also worse than useless. He will trust him. What a thought after all this time! Severus knows that occlumency is for a large part amplification, therefor whatever Rabastan had showed the Dark Lord was present. If he had raved, shown him bottomless vacancy, then he felt randomness, emptiness. But he still lived, not just his body, but his soul. Severus was proud of him.

            The admission of fear stops him cold. His friend knows, even if only beneath his consciousness. He pauses. He comes closer, places his hand on his friend's shoulder this time, carefully, exactly, gently. Say what shall calm us when such guests intrude, like comets on the heavenly solitude... "Rab. I don't want to lie, act as if I were lying, as if I were... innocent. We did terrible things, you and I. When you remember, I will be here. But I was with you then, as well. That is why I hope you do not hate me. It is over, what we have done. But as you remember, we can talk about it, put it into perspective and context. And when you begin to feel - for I can't pretend it won't hurt - at least you won't be alone, and there will be warmth to accompany you. Not cold."

            He looks down. No, that is cowardly. If Rab can come to him in need, he can admit his own to Rab. He looks up again, meets his eyes. "It will comfort me as well, to talk about these things. Rab, I always trusted you most. I've missed that. All these years. The mark, our contact through the mark, let me feel as if I were were not alone, let me imagine I was understood, or maybe... maybe it wasn't imagination but faith. It has been a long time, though. I will help you remember, not just for yourself but so that I can know you again, who you have been... all this time."

            And I will talk to you, apparently, and talk and talk, until you know me, until I dare to know myself. Again there is the slight shyness. Have any of them ever known one another? Has any one of them ever asked? Rab had always been closest to that... wistful hope. "It's hard to look back at any of what has happened, even for me, but we can do that together. If you will."

            "Of course the others are squeamish. They always were, and it has grown since I have been set to spy upon them, even if it is at the Dark Lord's orders. It is the taint of muggles they shy from as if they could contract it. You say they would not even come here. This is my parents' house. I was born here. My father was born here. Everything is different now - it is clean, for one thing." His lip twists. "Come, I will show you upstairs. You can see your room."

            He remembers deliberately, bringing the old Malfoy instruction to the forefront as if he had bookmarked it in a dictionary. A more significant person precedes one up a staircase, you precede him down, regardless of whether he is entering unfamiliar areas. This is in order for you to catch him if he stumbles, from below. Severus shows Rabastan up first. You are important.
            • Re: Severus

              The stairs are narrow; one side is lined with books, the other has a rail. Severus has covered them with a runner, held down with brass tubing. There are only three rooms at the top. He shows his friend his own bedroom first - the one which had always been his. It is small, and again decorated in green and grey. There is a bed with curtains, as they had in Hogwarts, but it is narrow to fit. It is the same dark wood Severus seems to favour, and there is an armoire, a desk and chair and another of the comfortable leather chairs. A full length mirror tilts on its stand in the corner next to a trouser-press. There is also a plain chest of drawers where he keeps muggle clothing - mostly Tobias' but some of his own that he wears when he goes out. There is not much space left on the walls, but what little there is again contains shelves and books, cramped. The lights are the same and again candles stand unlit on the desk and chest. It is warm if close. There is a small window covered with a brocade curtain. He steps toward it and moves the edge to show Rab that a little radio of red and black plastic still hangs behind it, dangling from its strap.

              "Do you remember, I showed it to you that night in my room in the Malfoy's dungeons?"

              He opens the door to show him the washroom. Its fixtures too are old, the water closet includes a tank hung above on the wall and worked with a ring on a chain. The tub is huge and claw-footed. All the fittings are brass and Severus has cleaned them from the corroded texture with greening precipitate that he had tried to ignore in childhood. The mould is gone also and the room is now painted in enamel white. Clean. It is the only room in the house that does not give the impression of dark warmth. There is a mirror on a wooden medicine chest hung above a big pedestal sink. An apothecary's cabinet stands next to it and a towel rack with glass rods stands next to the tub. It is a long narrow room.

              Perhaps, even if it is small, Rab will appreciate the furnishings. They have not been handed down through his family. Still, everything is old and he has spent time... fixing the house. The way it should have been.

              Then he pushes open the door to the last room. There is a linen cupboard beside the door with big drawers and a small closet above. "This will be your room, Rab." He has decorated it as well, not with the idea of anyone living there necessarily, but it had always been a bedroom and somehow he was loathe to change it. It is scrupulously clean and he looks at his friend, hoping he will like it. It is larger than his own, and there is a small bathroom attached. The door opens to his friend's inner sanctum of his new home.
              • Rabastan

                Terrible things. In his heart, Rabastan knows this. Though his nightmares do not stay with him while he is awake (any longer, the Malfoys at least were able to cure that illness), they still haunt him. He can see glimpses of what he has done, the horrible things he has felt, and the emotions he has inspired in others when donning his mask. These are not things he is proud of, though they are things that Bellatrix bragged about constantly, those memories the source of her happiness and the proof of her madness. Rabastan knows why he was put into Azkaban. He just does not remember, at least, not in its entirety. He knows he tortured the Longbottoms. He knows that he has tortured many more before them for which he was never caught. But the actual events only come to him as flashes in nightmares, edging into his consciousness no matter how Rabastan strives to keep them away.

                “We did, I know.” Rabastan says softly in reference to their terrible deeds, and though he feels guilty for it, he finds comfort in Severus’ touch. Why should he be comforted when he was the one who helped do such terrible acts? He knows there was no excuse for them. At least Severus was trying to prove himself and Bellatrix was trying to satisfy her blood lust. But what was Rabastan’s reason? At least if there was one it would make more sense as to why he had done such deeds in the first place.

                “And I cannot hate you, Severus. Why would I? We have both done… deeds that are best forgotten. But at least now we are not so young and foolish…” At least now they knew the extent of their deeds and would hopefully not repeat their mistakes. He pats Severus’ hand, to show that he appreciates the gesture and because he still is wary of smiling. “I thank you, for your understanding. It might be easier… to remember when I… am not alone.”

                This is a strange concept, since he has only been recently reintroduced to humanity. Sometimes he feels as if he is outside of the species, as if there is no way he can relate to these beings. But Severus… Severus will understand, he thinks, or will at least try. And that is enough.

                He watches Severus curiously when he tries to avoid his eyes, wondering just what Severus could be pondering before his friend looks him back in the eye. Ah, vulnerability. Most would see it as a weakness, to admit that they need comfort, that they might struggle and fall sometimes. Rabastan has never understood how their society expected them to be human and not make mistakes - not too need other people as more than assets, titles, or blood. He is touched that Severus has trusted him the most, when he knows his friend is a secretive individual both because he was born that way and because of environmental factors.

                “I am sorry if you have… felt that you were ever alone. I have… thought fondly of you often. I remembered you. Through your gift, and when my… Mark would flare. I hope that I can… be half the comfort to you as… you were to me all these years.”

                He wonders, briefly, if the person he has been or has become will be someone that Severus can still trust. It has been a long time, and they only have memories of a boyhood where they were forced to grow too quickly to bind them. For Rabastan, that is only tatters. Is it enough to keep them together now? He hopes it is.
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