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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At least, that’s what he has led them to believe, by remaining stoic, withdrawn in his own mind.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

                    The question in reply to his remark about the owls worries him. Perhaps Rabastan has not been told what they must do, or perhaps he has been told and does not realise. Oh Merlin. Does Rabastan know he has broken out of prison? Does he know the ministry-loyal dementors will kiss him if he is found? Obliterate him and his soul completely? Oh Merlin, his once-familiar vulnerable soul, shredded almost to obliteration already. Severus will tend it, help it gain substance, even as he could never be sure of restoring his own. "How has Rabastan come here?" Severus wonders. There is a small flash of anger that Lucius had left his friend to travel alone. The man had never valued them enough. But perhaps Severus is being too harsh. There could conceivably have been some reason or danger at the mansion. Doubtless it is watched.

                    "It is not so much that we may not owl at all. I owl for potion supplies even now, but I am in hiding, and you are in hiding. It is too dangerous, we have been told, to speak directly of our whereabouts, or our doings; to mentions names, intentions, locations."

                    I'm home. He tries to speak, Severus realises, attending intently. Rabastan tries to smile, even though his face shows no more than an increased complexity of inertia. Severus smiles for him, which is easy, he is surprised to find. He is for once genuinely glad. It is not condescension or pity, but his own simple pleasure. The touch seemed to connect. Probably small things will come through to him. They can prepare dinner together in the kitchen, with its aura of rustic warmth of welcoming aromas and shared food. These, like touch, will reach more deeply into his friend than the numb and bruised if more concrete senses of words and sight, he is sure.

                    "Let me take your cloak. I've got a cupboard here where you can hang your things when you come in." That is the right tone, he hopes - to make Rabastan's welcome natural and smooth, assumed and fait accompli, as if Severus has somehow hoped for his arrival. In a way he has. He has been lonely, his role as double-agent ensuring he would be anathema to everyone. That small contact before sleep has kept his friend close in his mind, almost real, almost present, almost... almost hoped for.
                    • Re: Severus

                      "Come into the kitchen, if you will." They have had enough of orders and instructions, so Severus is careful to give him choice. There are so many things he must do thoughtfully, carefully, so Rabastan knows he is respected and wanted, and so that he can become used to being free. "You could help me with the vegetables, and we could talk. I'll put on the tea. Would you like something stronger as well?"

                      The room they pass through is cosy if small. The fire casts an orange light over the wooden floor with its requisite rug of green and grey. There are lanterns and candles, though the latter are not lit. These are for the benefit of muggles who would be mystified by light without electricity, or heat without gas. The walls are dark with books. A few shelves are lined with some of Severus' more decorative specimens, albeit those he might explain away. There are two comfortable leather chairs before the fire and a small couch, a desk, and a table by one of the chairs. The furniture is indeed elegant, though it is also both sturdy and old.

                      The kitchen is again lit by the soft lamps, and is dominated by a large coal and wood stove. It supports a cauldron, of course, from which wafts an enticing and rich aroma of beef broth, wine, bay and rosemary. There is a large table, scarred by chopping and stained by potions. It is old - older than the house, much older than Severus. Severus has neat cutting boards set out with various root vegetables, washed and peeled. He has started slicing the parsnips with his old silver dagger. There is a jar of soaked red beans waiting to be added at the proper time. A secondary unmistakable smell of fresh-baked bread greets them, and it is ready too, under a dampened cloth. The bowls, plates and mugs are mismatched pottery and turned hardwood. Severus trades potions for them at the market. Eileen's old cracked charity-bin dishes were too painful to save.

                      He offers Rabastan the wooden board of potatoes along with another knife, honed to shaving sharpness. I trust you. They sit across from one another. He looks into the purple eyes he has imagined all these long years, and the corners of his own crinkle. "Here we are."

                      As he takes up the vegetables, he thinks he could tell people Rabastan is his cousin. On his mother's side, of course. He could say his friend has been ill and is in convalescence, if they ask. He could be a Prince. He is a little shy suggesting this. In the old days he would never have dared, half-blood as he is, even with Rabastan, to propose that he might stoop to pretending to be a relative. He is a little shy in general. Even for him it is strange to think he might have company he has wanted.

                      Considering, he states something else that is important. "If your wand has been broken, we will have to get you a new one."
                      • Rabastan

                        It is dangerous to owl. Rabastan had not thought of this, how turbulent these times are. He does not think of the war, does not like to, so when it’s brought to his attention that it is still ongoing, even after all these years, sometimes he is angry, other times merely despondent. Angry because so many good people (Evan, Regulus…) had died for this stupid war, had died thinking that their sacrifice would mean something, had died for closure and yet the Dark Lord still was not done. He still requires more of them, still plays with their lives as if they are nothing, and while Rabastan does not think much of humanity, even he puts more stock in them then their Lord does, and it angers him. Seeing the Mark on children like Malfoy’s boy… It had angered him beyond all compare. They were children once, they had fought so that their children would not have to, and yet… But then again, life was like a cycle. Birth, growth, death. It was ludicrous to believe that they would have stopped the cycle simply by force of will. Then were their sacrifices in vain?

                        “Is it all right to still owl Rodolphus? If I do not mention anything. I want to make sure he is all right…” He is in the care of the Malfoys, and is with Bellatrix, but at the same time, he is his older brother. Rabastan is used to looking after him, to make sure his head strong impulsiveness does not get him in trouble. Perhaps he should have thought more of his brother than of himself…

                        Still, however, his doubt is edged to the side when Severus smiles at him, and he makes a note of how to do this, how Severus makes his look so natural, how he can convey such sincerity and expression with a simple gesture. They must use the same muscles, and yet somehow when Rabastan does it, it is not a smile. He will have to remember this.

                        “Thank you.” He says again, sure that this is the phrase he will be saying the most in this household. He hands him his cloak, aware of how thin he has gotten, how haggard he must appear. Azkaban not only drains emotions and sanity, but apparently health as well. He used to be so fit that being drained of that is yet another indecency. His old clothes do not fit him anymore, hung off him like a child playing dress up, and though the Malfoys had fed him as best they could, he was still a long way from being anything near what he used to be. He had to wonder though, where Severus would think he would go that would require him to go outside in the first place.

                        He follows Severus obediently, almost amused by his careful words, by how hard he is trying. Rabastan decides he will try as hard as his friend, though he is not sure what he will do. Smile? He will work on that first, he supposes. Even before he had a hard time with that expression, but at least he had been able to make it. Hopefully one day he would be able to repay Severus’ generosity and thoughtfulness with something so simple. He wonders if it will be ample payment. “Tea will be fine.” Rabastan says, looking around the room as they pass curiously. He has never been in here, he realizes, it is not a flaw of his memory. He takes in the furniture, the lived in look it has (not like the plastic flawlessness of the Malfoy manor, this is where people are allowed to live), and resists the urge to look through the books, to settle down and read. He wonders what became of his own collection, and if Severus will allow him to spend time in here. He thinks it will be his favorite room. “You have a beautiful home.” Is all that Rabastan can think to say, and hopes that it conveys the proper amount of respect and awe that it should. Severus has opened this all up to him, when there was nothing more tangible than a promise to bind him.
                        • Re: Rabastan

                          When they get to the kitchen, Rabastan can’t help but feel his mouth water, a natural response to how good it smells in here, to the memories that flood him. In his own kitchen, often he would cook, because it was another step of gardening, to use your produce in your own home. It might have been frowned down upon, but his houseelf had never seemed to find it odd, and Regulus had appreciated it…

                          “I never knew you were such a chef.” Rabastan admits, looking around, eyes resting on everything, the worn furniture, the homemade bread, the odds and ends of dining ware. Definitely lived in, a place that is homey and comfortable and perhaps the best place for him. He is glad to be here, with the best company that there is to offer. He wonders if it is too inappropriate to say such things, and so instead keeps quiet. He starts a bit when Severus gives him potatoes to peel, looking up at him quizzically. Is he sure? But of course the answer is unspoken, but firm, and Rabastan settles down and begins the tedious process of peeling potatoes, slow because his hands are out of practice and he is a bit nervous of doing something terrible to them and upsetting the fragile peace and contentment that are settling in his bones. Already he feels better here, more at home than he had with the Malfoys and their constant parade of breakables, of them snatching things from him just in case he broke them, because they were priceless and worth more than he was now. But perhaps… Rabastan cannot help but wonder if his assets have remained untouched, if there is still money in his vaults. If so, he would gladly give it all to Severus, so that he will at least know there is a weight to his kindness, that Rabastan appreciates it.

                          “It has been a while.” Rabastan agrees, pausing from concentrating on the potatoes to look up at Severus. “How have you been?” It is a given, how Rabastan has been he supposes, and for the time being he does not wish to talk about it, and besides the snippets he has heard of Severus when he was not noticed have been interesting. But he wants to hear it from his friend himself.

                          He pauses at the offering of a wand, and he can feel his hands tighten on the knife. Severus would trust him with a wand? A knife is one thing. A knife can be taken away gently, a knife can be dull. A knife can be carefully controlled. But a wand… “I would not… I do not know if I can be trusted with a wand.” But the sentiment, that Severus would offer…
                          • Severus

                            When Rabastan removes his cloak, Severus sees how thin and insubstantial he has become. Air and exercise, good food, his potions. He will ensure his friend returns to health. It has been a long time since Severus has shown anyone into his home, or into somewhere they have not known. The Malfoys had taught him long ago - a guest precedes one, but if they are entering an unfamiliar place, one goes first to guide them and reassure them there are not unforeseen dangers. Rabastan has not changed in Severus' eyes. Has pain made them equals? No, his friend deserves honour beyond what he had before. It is awkward to speak with his back to him, but perhaps he will appreciate the old courtesy.

                            He says, nonetheless, "Of course you may owl Rodolphus. You must be worried for one another. The others ought to have been aware of the danger, sending you through the country alone. But rather than tell them you are here, tell them something that could happen anywhere. Tell them you how you are, without concrete detail." He feels badly, instructing him, but he has received these instructions himself, and they are preservation for all of them, most important right now. "I have Damon yet, and of course you may use him.

                            "And, Rab, you are welcome here. Home. So, if you thank me, and I say you are welcome, it is not just polite speech: 'Thank you. You're welcome.' It is that you are warmly welcomed as well, and not out of obligation, but of pleasure. You remember, long ago, I promised you could come to me. I didn't make that promise to bind myself in case the day came when I didn't mean it, but for you, so you would never doubt me." His voice is natural and friendly.

                            In the kitchen, he answers Rabastan's compliment. "Cooking is very similar to potions. If I think of every dish as a formula in need of improvement, I find I do quite well." He sees his friend's lack of confidence with the potatoes, the look beginning to question him, and he begins to worry. The knife is sharp, and while he is not afraid for the potatoes nor himself, nor anything in the house, he is afraid for Rabastan suddenly. He sums himself up briefly - his friend's need is greater. How is he? Is he ill? But he answers the question succinctly as they deal with the vegetables. "I taught at Hogwarts, since I came to visit you. The Dark Lord set me as a spy against Dumbledore, and Dumbledore set me as a spy against the Dark Lord. I taught Potions, Defence against the Dark Arts. I was Head of Slytherin. The Dark Lord requested I kill Dumbledore if Draco failed to do it. Dumbledore asked me to kill him, for other reasons, but also to spare Draco. I killed him and the Dark Mark was set above Hogwarts, and now of course I am in hiding. I am all right here. I am all right." His hands shake when they are not busy, and his face is drawn. Despite the stew, he is also too thin, and circles are smudged purple beneath his eyes. He will not say he has been lonely, that his world is almost gone. Compared to what Rabastan has endured, anything he has experienced is as inconsequential as a day a degree or two cooler than the day before.
                            • Re: Severus

                              Now he leans forward and pauses in his own preparations, attentive, sincere, gentle. "We can speak more of all that later - it is a long and complicated story. Right now, I would like to know, if you could tell me: How are you? I am sure the Malfoys cared for your immediate needs, but some things are not easily healed, even physical ills, but especially your mind, and... your soul. I have potions, and we will make more for you, together. Is there anything for which I can prepare?"

                              His eyes sadden and a pang shoots through him at Rabastan's self-doubt at his offer of a wand. Oh, Merlin, what has been done to you? I am so sorry, so sorry, so sorry. I can never repay you for what you have suffered. "I will make you a bargain, Rab. I trust you, with a knife, with a wand, with whatever I have. I trust your judgement, so: When you think you can be trusted with a wand, I will somehow ensure that you recieve one. You are a wizard, Rab. A wizard should have a wand, to do with as you will."

                              Trust, that seems to be what his friend needs most of all. Those dark years, reviled. He cannot even imagine the effect that would have, living with dementors for years. Trust must have gone so long ago, with nothing good to touch him, all faith in himself drawn from him, perhaps beaten out of him. Oh, Rab, I'm so sorry. Somehow he has survived, somehow he has returned. Severus wants to fetch the blanket from the living room, wrap it around him again, promise again, let warmth soak into his bones, his still quiet face.

                              Instead he lifts his tea. "Rab, there is an old Jewish toast. L'Chaim. To Life. We'll say it to one another, if there is something I can ask of you. When we drink, even when we drink tea, we'll promise each other, that we choose life." His cup extends to Rab's hopefully. A small word, a small gesture - maybe it is not too much to ask.
                              • Rabastan

                                Rabastan is glad at least that he can owl Rodolphus, feeling better about his decision to come here. This place is less oppressive than the Malfoys, and he would pick Severus’ abode over that stone palace many times over, but Rodolphus is his one regret. If he could have brought his brother over here, he would have.

                                “Danger?” He repeats, his brow furrowing slightly as he thinks about it. “They sent me as safely as they could without drawing attention. I had an escort until this street.” Something about Muggle places had off put his escort, and Rabastan had not wanted to push it. Besides, he had not wanted to have someone hold his hand all the way down to Severus’ front door. There was something undignified about the whole process, and he was not that far gone that he needed to be treated like an invalid. But perhaps it was rather lax security, but they could have let him travel alone. Rabastan would not have minded. “And I will be discreet.” It was not as if his brother would have the patience to read any long letters. He would just inquire about his health and how Bellatrix was doing and if he was all right. At the first sign of trouble… But he would write him later, after dinner perhaps. It would be rude, to arrive and already seem like he longed for something else.

                                Rabastan has nothing to say to Severus’ speech, both awe inspiring and worrying at the same time. He had never doubted Severus’ words, he was not the type to speak just to hear the sound of his own voice, and yet… “Thank you. I am sorry, that I do not have a better way to express my gratitude.” The gratitude that he should be feeling. “I never doubted… Any time during these past years you could have forgotten, but you didn’t. I… appreciated that small comfort more than words can say.” He rubs his arm thoughtfully, thinking of smiling. Perhaps later, when he is alone and will not feel so foolish.

                                “I am sure you are a fine cook, then, if you compare it to potions.” Rabastan agrees. “You always were the best in that subject.” He is sure that is Severus. Sometimes it is hard to remember, faces having blurred and time having scratched out most of the minute details. He had forgotten things about himself even, that he had loved the feel of an ancient book beneath his hands until he had held one in the Malfoy house and Rodolphus found him standing there, silent tears pouring down his face even though he had not understood why at the time. He had missed things, he realized now. He had missed every little thing. He almost gives Severus the knife back, once he realizes the look on his friend’s face, one of fear and concern, and he wants to apologize again, for being unable to act normally. To not even be trusted with sharp objects! But Severus goes on, and the knife hangs between them unused until, deciding that he looks silly just holding it out to him, he goes back to carefully peeling. He will make sure not to ruin anything, lest this small parcel of trust be ruined too.
                                • Re: Rabastan

                                  He listens silently as Severus tells him of what he has been doing, and it all sounds exhausting. He had not been fully aware that Severus was a double agent, and he eyes his friend curiously. Somehow, it makes sense that his friend, who is so skilled at Occulumency, would play for both sides of a war, favorite among both of them. He does not know if he approves or not, since it sounds as if the whole ordeal pains him, so Rabastan quietly pats his shoulder, if only to show he is here. That he does not expect such horrible deeds from him, and he knows better. No one could go through such things and be all right. He offers, silently, that he will listen to his troubles and help as best as he can, but he is not sure what he can do other than listen and peel potatoes without hurting himself. Severus looks as if life has been just as draining to him as Azkaban has been for him. He wants to ask if people visit him, if there is anyone to care for him, but the house is bare and Severus has not mentioned anyone. He was just as lonely too, it seems. He wishes he had a wand at the moment, to touch the Mark that binds them almost as much as their promise, to for once be the instigator, the comforter. But he has none. So he lets his hand rest comfortingly on his shoulder for a moment before letting it drop away.

                                  “I am…” Rabastan says, not quite sure how to answer the question. “They say I am malnourished. That I dissociate too much. That I have bottled up everything and that I need to let it out so I can deal with it. That I am numb by my own choosing.” He shrugs, a bit helplessly. “And… I have been having trouble remembering things. Little things, big things. Sometimes I confuse people and events. Sometimes I weep though I do not understand why. Everything seems very overwhelming.” He smiles, apologetically. “I am sorry to burden you so with everything. But this is what they say.” He shrugs apologetically. Perhaps he should have said nothing. But there is no shame, no care, no need to hide. Rabastan does not lie when he says he feels numb. It is how he has survived for so long.

                                  Once again, Rabastan was not sure how he could ever manage to return Severus’ kindness, how he would ever be able to articulate how grateful he is, how he will ever be able to repay such trust, such friendship. “You will be the first to know.” Rabastan says, hoping for Severus’ sake that this will be soon. It will be like a sign, something he can do for his friend to show that all of this trust is not misplaced. He will work hard to be a better friend for Severus.

                                  He wonders briefly if the toast was to encourage him to live or tell him that he should never think of the other option, but it is a small favor. One that might mean more to Severus than Rabastan can ever know, so obediently he lifts his mug also, nods his head because he understands. “L’Chaim.” He says, softly, a bit unsure, but hopeful despite it all. The tea tastes wonderful.
  • 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.
                • Re: Rabastan

                  He pauses, a bit surprised at Severus’ frank admission of being a half-blood. It makes sense to Rabastan: how hard his friend worked, how he did not seem to mind the almost servitude under which the Malfoys put him, the way the others recoiled without knowing truly why. A half-blood… He does not know if this should bring more sympathy on Rabastan’s part or more pride, to know that his friend has managed to overcome that barrier, to show that he is worthy. Though, look at where it has gotten Severus now… He decides to remain quiet, following Severus to the staircase, and there is a moment of awkward hesitation when Severus gestures for him to go first. He is used to being led around, to keeping his eyes on the ground, but he does as Severus bids, for this is his friend’s house, or perhaps a show of manners. Rabastan is glad to say that he has forgotten a good deal of these last, most of which had always been worthless to him. He might be the politest prisoner to have escaped, but he still has the mark of Azkaban stamped into him.

                  He is in awe of all the books, and instead of using the rail he finds his fingers hovering over them almost wistfully. As soon as he can, he wants to browse through the library of books that Severus owns, to see if he can still remember the joy of reading. So many of the titles leap out at him, the bindings look like they would feel pleasant against his hands, and perhaps reading will help with his insomnia. Or at least give him something to do.

                  He pauses curiously in the first room that Severus shows him, wondering if it is to be his, though it looks occupied already. It is clean, something Severus seems to take great pride in, decorated in much the same fashion as the rest of the house, and though there is little room it is cozy. He glances down at the radio that Severus points out to him, and though many of his memories have faded, he has held close the one where he and Severus made their promises. Whether it has been protected by magic or merely by his own stubbornness, he does not know.

                  “Yes.” He says, trying to smile again, this time only curving up the corners of his lips the tiniest amount. He does not want to make it seem like a repulsive memory, but at the same time wants to show it the proper respect it deserves. “I remember.”

                  When he is shown the last room, he is surprised to learn that it is his. It is larger than Severus’ room, with its own bathroom, and somehow it makes Rabastan feel as if he is intruding all the more. He would have been just as happy with a small room, with the couch, but to have such a large space to himself…

                  “Are you sure?” He asks, for though the room is just as cozy as the rest of the house, if a bit bare of personal effects, it far too much for him. “I… I would feel as if I have taken too much advantage…” Severus has been far too generous with him, and Rabastan has no way of paying him back for this kindness, ever.
                  • Severus

                    Severus watches his friend closely. Signs and signals will be subtle. Progressions of becoming used to his humanity and more, his wizardhood, will be small at first, easily missed. Communications will be twitches of delicate facial muscles reaching for expression, a word or two, hesitating maybe, a fraction of a thought standing for a complete one. At the same time, his friend has been long alone and Severus' intense observation might make him feel awkward or nervous. There is so much to think of. Severus hopes he will be capable, have the social skills necessary to heal his friend without harming him. He will heal himself at the same time. Knowing he is helping Severus will be good for Rabastan as well, as soon as he can come to recognise it. He needs to know he is capable as well, contributing, valuable, wanted and needed, not imposing, not simply alighting here, haunting his friend as would a wandering ghost.

                    Rabastan responds to his care, returning comfort. Either the intention or instinct for kindness is still within him. Ah no, Rabastan is not lost, and Severus is moved and grateful to the quiet strength he had always held. Help me to be human he remembers himself saying, and his friend still does this for him. He has a friend. After all this time; all these years.

                    He is careful to notice the small things. There is the little hesitation at the foot of the stairs. Does he not think himself worthy of preceding... anyone, so long dragged and steered as others wished? Or... Severus must remember he is malnourished as well and hopes the prospect of steps is not daunting. It is momentary and Severus follows, looking up at him, the wistful fingers brushing his books.

                    This is something that he can give; something that might be healing as well. Rabastan can rediscover himself, his interests, inspirations in books. He can learn to choose again, to select and filter. Ink and paper will not criticise, will not demand, will let him make mistakes as he learns. They contain other words other subjects than the dark prison, fear, and fostered self-hatred which had been imposed on him so long. Severus assumes. He will read books with Rabastan - the ones he chooses Severus will also read - and they can talk about them, work with the magic suggested therein. He will look forward to it. Collaboration. Even in small things, like stew.

                    "Use any of the books just as you wish, whenever you have desire to do so. There is the living room, where it is warm and comfortable, or the kitchen where it is light, or you could take them to the garden, or bring them back to your own room. There are shelves there I can clear for you, so you can have some that interest you nearby."

                    The radio brings a smile, an actual smile, small and unstudied though rusty! In answer Severus smiles back warmly and fully, grateful to fate. Genuine, he knows how valuable it is. It also shows Rabastan remembers some things, that there are memories that can move him even now. "Thank you for that night," He says quietly. Then he includes his friend. "It has kept us."

                    His friend questions him about the room. "Look," he says. "Look." He shows him back to his own small room. He opens the drawers to the desk, with the scrolls in neat rows and colour-coded ribbons, the lower drawer, with pigeonholed potion vials. He unlocks the front one with the really rare and unusual materials as well as handfuls of wizardly gadgets in various stages of being dismantled. Surprisingly there is one of flat drawings on thick paper. The woven cushion with the Slytherin crest fits his back. The looking glass is tilted to his height when he stands before it and the candles are arranged so there are spaces the shape of his writing and his work. He draws back the curtain on his bed to show the little shelf he has built there for his wand.
                    • Re: Severus

                      "This has always been my room. I grew up here - it was almost a refuge. I expecting neither you nor anyone else, yet I have always chosen to live here. Your room was once my parents' room, though I hope that won't worry you. It is not the same furniture. I understand, if it feels too large and open after where you have slept. Perhaps if you draw the curtains on the bed it will feel more contained. But please. It is simple fortune that it is still a bedroom - a spare room for many years now." He makes a small almost-joke. "It is not my room. I should hate to have to move down to the couch. Will you be able to live there - in my parents' old room?"

                      "It is fine," he adds. "Everything is all right, and there is extra bedding. I can lend you a nightshirt and clothing for tomorrow, anything you need.

                      "Hey, Rab." He thinks of something and speaks softly, without pity, without condescension. This is because he knows how it can be. Demons and ghosts, regrets and horror in the night. "If you have nightmares, if you can't sleep, if you are troubled or ill in the night, I will be right here. I have no appointments, except for market days. If you want to talk or read then, if you only want simple company, I will be right here. I have potions and medicines. And we are safe. The house is warded thoroughly."

                      He must not be afraid of offending him, must not shy from embarrassing facts. He does not want his friend to suffer, ever again, though he knows he will. But above all he does not want him to torment himself when Severus is a few feet away and able to ease him. Maybe if he simply says it without inflection, Rabastan will be able to come to him. He knows what it is to wake from nightmares in the dark alone and remember they had once been real, could be real again. "Despair is greatest between two and four in the morning." He looks at his friend, telling him in this fact that he knows by letting a quiet frank look pass between them. You aren't alone now.

                      It means a great deal to him, gives him meaning beyond himself, gives him contact and context. Since he had fled Hogwarts, he has lacked... not vocation, for he still has his potions and his magic... but purpose beyond himself. He too is useless to the Dark Lord; incapable of spying now, though there are still potions to be made. Dumbledore is gone. He cannot teach nor shepherd his young snakes. There is no one left on that side for whom to spy. They all hate him. With Rabastan's arrival, he... can he hope after everything? For purpose, for... redemption, perhaps. He will bring back his friend's soul to him, to health. And in doing so perhaps Rabastan can help him bring back his own. Humanity. They can lead each other to that, away from the possibility of monstrosity. Severus has done terrible things... recently. Rabastan had been taken away. They will help each other now, he knows.

                      It does not even occur to Severus that their old connection will not prove strong enough. He, for once, has faith so strong he does not even think to doubt.

                      The aroma of the good stew rises from below. It is done, he thinks. "Shall we go down to dinner?" Already he pictures himself ladling it into bowls for them, them eating together. How self-concious he already feels, because he is lucky, because he will not eat alone. Communion. It is always a symbol of common trust and goodwill. It is something simple, easy. It will mean a great deal, already means a great deal. A natural ritual. He is lucky. Can it be? For him; even for him, to have a friend?
                      • Rabastan

                        “Thank you.” Rabastan says, a little embarrassed that it was so obvious that he still longed for books, or glad that Severus caught on to such a nuance. Perhaps this was a step in the right direction, one that would be better for him. If Severus could pick up even the tiniest pieces of his humanity, there meant that there was still some left. He felt his spirits lift a fraction, unable to help but glance at Severus, his expression having softened a bit wistfully.

                        “A garden? That would be wonderful…” He wondered if he still had the green thumb or if that too had withered away in prison. But to think! Now he could sit out in the sunshine, in a garden, one that wasn’t manicured and supposed to be untouched and felt so plastic and fake, but a living breathing one. He wondered if he would be allowed to grow things, if he could plant tomatoes and flowers and herbs and tend to them himself. Already he can envision the pristine little rows in which they will line up - the reds and greens and yellows and oranges mingling and flourishing… The thought is enough to make him smile, but he thinks that perhaps he can ask later. Besides, it wouldn’t do to try to start in the dark. He knows that if he were given permission he would be out there all night. Who knows if Severus, though his house is aptly and surprisingly equipped for his friend, is ready for the garden Rabastan would cultivate.

                        “I am grateful, for that night. It is one of my… fondest memories.” Rabastan says. Back then he had said it was nothing, but that was before he understood the true power of a friend, before those long nights he spent alone except for a Mark that burned his forearm, before the nights he spent huddled under a blanket that was the only thing warm about his existence.

                        However, before he can muse on the sentiment, Severus is ushering him into his room, showing him all sorts of treasures, from wizarding gadgets to a looking glass. He can’t help but be amazed by all of his possessions, so long has it been since he could call so many things his own. He marvels that his friend has a treasure trove.

                        “I…I would not dream of moving you from here then. It seems as if this is, perhaps, the better room anyway.” Rabastan comments, because though perhaps Severus’ room is smaller, it is far cozier. He would not have his friend move out of it. He is busy looking at all of the things Severus had been showing him more closely when his friend speaks again, the tone in his voice catching Rabastan’s attention quickly.

                        He tenses slightly at the mention of nightmares, his mind instantly blanking as if to protect himself. He has had so many they seem as if they are never going to leave him. He does not wish to burden Severus with them, considering he does not even wake up screaming anymore so much as just jolting awake. And they do not occur much if he does not sleep, so he does not sleep. If he does, it is in the daytime, when the shadows are shorter and less likely to seep into his mind.

                        “Potions… might be nice. I would not want to trouble you. I just do not sleep. It will be fine. There are so many books to read. I will just keep myself occupied.” Still, he is glad to know the house seems impermeable, though he supposes Severus would need to be guarded thoroughly, being sought for his own crimes. Perhaps this is the safest place either of them could be.

                        He is, however, comforted that Severus is reaching out, not treating him as an invalid but just a person with something that will pass with time and a bit of care. He is willing to be there for him. He seems to know and understand. Rabastan wonders if Severus has been suffering from nightmares too, or what he suffers from. He wants to ask, but perhaps it is too soon. He wants to prolong the warmth of this meeting. He doesn’t want to taint it. It is given he is damaged. He does not want to make his friend appear damaged as well - not when it is so late and it has already been so pleasant. But first thing tomorrow Rabastan will ask, if he does not feel as if he is intruding too much.

                        • Re: Rabastan

                          “Dinner sounds perfect.” Rabastan agrees, his stomach already waking to the mouth watering smell of it, and he can’t help but be a bit eager. It will be nice, to have a sit-down dinner with someone who will actually talk with him and not just whilst looking over his shoulder.
                          • Severus

                            "We will bring your blanket up after dinner. Something of your own will make it seem more like home." There was a small inward smile at that. It was one of the best things he has ever done, beyond any spying, daring, invention, instruction, counselling. He is proud of that one act of pure goodness, and grateful to fate, to his friend, that he has one small thing to shine innocent.

                            "This will only take a moment." Guiding them through the air with his wand, he moves some of the jars on individual shelves together. When there is sufficient space, he fills the empty shelves with the books from Rabastan's room. "There. Now you may choose your own books, and there will be room for them." He had wanted very much to do some small thing to signify to Rabastan that the room is really his, that he could really make choices, was really welcome.

                            Before they go down to begin dinner, he lays out one of his night-shirts on the other bed. Once it would not have fit his friend, but now, with... malnutrition, it will do just fine. That is a euphemism, he expects. He is saddened, but he has a chance to remedy that, and perhaps, with everything, there is only him to help. He cares, and there will not be the hate the St. Mungos healers would have brought to their work, even if Rabastan could have been taken there. There will not be the perfunctoriness and resentment of anyone the Malfoy's could have brought to help, bought and working under threat.

                            What are the long-term effects of chronic privation, he wonders. Will his bones be brittle from lack of calcium and vitamins, will his hands shake from the constant adrenaline of fear, as even Severus' do with his intermittent exposures? How will his digestion have become, his heart? Severus does not grit his teeth together, just presses them together tightly at this last though. He is not a doctor. Though he has worked closely with smaller medical issues, those have largely been first aid, on the rich and well-fed who had believed recklessly and carelessly in invulnerability.

                            As he descends the stairs first, properly for a host, he tries to think of something, some bright memory to talk about over dinner, but perhaps it is only the darkness he has forgotten. Severus is sorry he must bring that back for him, but it is truth and it is important. And the memories still lie within him, and they will haunt him and drive him to madness. He is glad it will be him to help Rabastan, for unlike the others, he can address the horror which would condemn his friend in the others' eyes.

                            The punishments for infractions of attitude have gotten worse of late. Severus does not think it is triumph, but a slowly building of nervous protection of unity, all they have in the face of their deeds. He had envied them their positions of wealth, family and tradition, but perhaps his isolation had kept him in the end. They had fed from one another and now the slightest deviance spurs harsh reaction. He has lived at the school, rather than with the others, as they have bound themselves together ever more tightly with segregating watchfulness. Any not of their circle are now almost animals in the eyes of many.

                            Lucius, with his solid dreams is an exception, wavering as his inheritance is trampled, spoiled and sullied. His dreams had been pure, clean and white, and they are gone, over. He is now beleaguered, attempting to salvage what he may and Draco has a brand on his young arm. Rabastan is better away from them, in this quiet house, away from the daily violence, threats and chaos.

                            • Re: Severus

                              The aroma of the stew and bread is calling them. He clears the table and covers it with a plain white linen cloth. As he sets the table, he shows Rabastan where everything is. "If you are hungry in the night, or at any time, please help yourself. When do you prefer to take meals? I have been eating at eight, twelve and half past four, with a small supper before bed, but that is an artificial schedule and if you have other preferences they would suit as well." He has kept up this schedule and his policy of absolute cleanliness as much to prove to himself that he is not crazy, left alone, as to prove that he is neither Eileen not Tobias, even in this childhood house.

                              The stew is good and rich with meat, root vegetables, garlic and rosemary, and the broth includes wine, to ensure the meat is tender as well as puréed tomato and roast pepper. The bread has a crunchy golden crust and is soft and white within. The butter is fresh. Severus sets some more tea to boil and pours another cup with milk for Rabastan. This will give him calcium and vitamins. "Is there anything else you might like? Pickles? Juice?" He hopes the food is not too rich for his friend, will not make him ill.

                              Severus ladles the stew into the bowls for them and replaces the bread and butter on the table. "Help yourself, just as you wish. And remember, you really must have all you want. We need to fatten you up." It is a gentle little joke of the sort he believes friends would make with one another, and he crinkles his eyes at Rabastan to see if it is all right.

                              When they are sitting across from one another, ready to eat he asks him, "Tell me something you remember - something good. And we can talk from there. They take warmth and happiness first, so I will help you to remember that first, if you have forgotten. Then, maybe good memories will help us to look at the rest together."
                              • Rabastan

                                Rabastan takes care to note everything that Severus shows him, and though the food looks delicious and he knows often he will be up late at night, he also knows he cannot eat without feeling as if he is stealing. Not to mention that it feels strange to eat other than at the set time that he was fed at Azkaban. But he’s not there anymore, so perhaps…

                                “Your schedule is fine. It is very similar to the ones the Malfoys set, so it should not take long to adjust to it,” Rabastan says, appreciating that his friend keeps going through such lengths for him. It seems as if no corner is left unchecked, no stone unturned, and no moment of compassion is spared. Rabastan is a bit uncomfortable at all the attention, but nonetheless, he is glad for it. Severus is a friend, a true friend. In their society, in their day and age, he had never imagined it would be possible, especially after all this time.

                                He is a bit lost when he looks at all the food, all of it smelling heavenly and delicious, and he is not quite sure where to start. The Malfoys had taken on the task of slowly working him up to solid foods again, foods that had actual flavor and substance, but Rabastan still gets overwhelmed at the slightest hints of seasoning and taste. He shakes his head when Severus asks if he needs more, picking up a piece of bread hesitantly. “This seems more than adequate. Thank you.” He says, tearing off a small piece of bread, placing it into his mouth slowly. The taste is almost like an explosion, the softness of it a caress on his tongue. “It’s delicious.”

                                He compliments quietly, because if not he is sure he would have just moaned in pleasure. And apparently that is not polite. “If meals are always to be like this, you might have to roll me everywhere.” Rabastan says, a small light in his eyes when Severus teases him. Perhaps… perhaps this road to humanity will not be so hard, if Severus is to guide him.

                                He pauses when Severus asks him a question about a good memory, his gaze drifting downwards, expression shadowed. Though a happy memory no longer attracts Dementors, there is a conditioned response to shove those memories away as soon as one starts to surface. It is better to live in a quiet numbness than to have happiness ripped from you.

                                “I…” It is the least he can do for Severus, and though it still feels painful, perhaps by his own design, he concentrates. There are small wisps, small whispers, gaps. There is the bridge again, his memories and emotions a murky black lake beneath him, ready to swallow him whole and drown him in darkness. Hesitantly, he brushes it’s depths, calling to mind the smell of dust, the quiet dignity and beauty of relics long since deemed antique, the feeling of utter tranquility.

                                “I remember my shop.” He says simply. “I remember selling something of high value to a collector and feeling proud. I was… glad, I think, to give it a good home. I don’t remember who or what it was. It was… satisfying.”
                                • Severus

                                  Severus notices the hesitancy with which Rabastan approaches his meal and again he wonders about his digestion. It is a hearty stew. Has he been too hasty in assuming his friend can even eat it? Well, they will see. But the bread bring pleasure, it seems. The small concern recedes.

                                  Rabastan adds to his little quip! It must have been appropriate after all. Severus is used to formality, to obsequiousness, to sarcastic sharp-tongued vengeance. There had been the mutual but slightly stiff needling with McGonagal, but even that had resentment behind it, dulled as it was by the years. There had been some close talks with Albus, but the discrepancy of their positions was always clear. There had been the solid almost collaboration with Lucius, but there was the knowledge that it had begun and continued by decree. He was useful, and like Albus, Lucius was not on the same plane as he. Even if there was a sort of custom and mutual respect, Severus was always careful to show the feeling and thought that Lucius expected. They were son and squire of Abraxas, and that would never change. There have been no companions, no friends since those now long-ago days when they had been working and even thriving on promises and just that feeling. Everyone save Lucius was gone. Rabastan had always been closest, and he was returned to him. How could Severus learn - scarcely even relearn - what came so easily, so naturally and thoughtlessly to everyone he saw? His thin lips lift spontaneously at his friend's reply. They will learn together.

                                  "I shall look forward to it!" He says. "But maybe a barrow would be more comfortable, and it will hold your plants as well!"

                                  He remembers Rabastan's shop. His friend had been so proud of the wonderful things he had accumulated, and best of all had been Bernard, always eager to greet him with his black nose to Severus' fingers, coming to him to be fussed over. And Severus always had. Bernard had been joy, innocent and happily, playfully devoted, even in their dark world. Now, he does not want to bring the pain of loss to his friend. Not now when he has just arrived and Severus wants to make him feel welcome, wanted, comfortable. They can broach that later, maybe with a puppy. That may help immeasurably. He returns to the shop, with its rich array of the past which Severus had always envied.

                                  "Do you remember," he asks. "When you used to take me around other shops with you, when you told me about the different pieces. Why they were important, why they were special, what they were worth, but why they were worth more than money? Do you remember when we walked about London and you taught me about antiques? I learned so much from you, not just about antiques, but what it is to live in a world accustomed to antiques, traditions. That things hold traditions. Do you remember telling me about it?"

                                  This is a good memory with which to begin - Rabastan doing something for a younger Severus. It would help him maybe to remember a time when he was giving, and strong, benevolent and... happy. That was something Severus remembered keenly. Rabastan had been happy, alone with his thoughts and his things, his plants - quiet with himself, within himself, when he had been left to be that way. And sometimes Severus had been included in that world, Rabastan's world, as if he were also just quiet, simple, companionable. He remembers and something clenches within him in pain. He has to bring that back, some remnant of it. Somehow. It had been a gift, he realises suddenly. It had been a gift Rabastan had somehow learned to give himself, had learned to give Severus, despite... everything. It was the way he could and should have been, always.

                                  "We were happy then," he says. It is unlikely, he thinks, that his friend will realise, remember, what a strange admission this is for him.
                                  • Re: Severus

                                    He is careful with his manners again, with his guest. He does not put his elbows on the table, leaning a book on the water pitcher while he eats his food without looking. He does not dip his bread in his stew but eats properly with his spoon. The angle is still slightly awkward, with a different grip than is perfectly expected, but he also puts his butter on his plate rather than buttering his bread from the butter bowl. It is good. He has become a good cook, once he had released himself from Eileen's clutches, and once he had ceased to rely on the Malfoy's house-elves. He has no such inheritance of servants himself, but he uses the magic Eileen had been denied.

                                    He pours himself some milk as well, to be encouraging to Rabastan and a good example. Milk is good for him. Afterwards, he will give him small draughts, perhaps. There is so much he needs - Draught of Peace, Oblivious Unction, Memory Potion, a very mild Strengthening solution with calming peppermint, perhaps a mild blood replenishing solution? He looks so pale. No. Not memory potion. Rabastan will remember in his own time. Sudden memory might be too much of a shock. The Draught of Peace can be full strength, he thinks. Perhaps it will let him sleep, not artificially, but maybe it will help to quiet him inside. Oblivious unction - perhaps a small concentrated dose. It will in time work on the scarring left by his thoughts, and enduring mental anguish - whatever had been imposed.

                                    Chocolate. He must get his friend some good chocolate. Madame Pomfrey had always sworn by it.

                                    But he looks across at Rabastan, even as he considers. He is here. He is real, and he is returned. He smiles again. Has he ever smiled so much? Thank Merlin. The thought is almost religious. Thank Merlin, thank Fate, thank causality, thank magic. His fingers find his own left forearm, not to send contact, but just in gratitude that they had kept that, that through everything they had this small thing on which to rely.
                                    • Rabastan

                                      It seems to make Severus happy, the small joke that Rabastan made, and he cannot help but be startled he still remembers humor. Rodolphus always used to tell him that he was too dry witted for his own good, and used to tease him that his form of humor was inflection. He had never been very good at joking, but perhaps if it makes Severus smile, he will learn more. It is the least he can do, and he wants to make his friend happy. It seems as if Severus has been assorely lacking in it as Rabastan has.

                                      He might have laughed at the image of himself in a wheel barrow surrounded by plants while Severus struggles to push him around, but all he can muster is a slight crinkling around his eyes, a shine to them that is just beginning to spark and re-light. It’s been a while, and he can practically feel the changes that come about with relaxing and being in the presence of someone who cares for him - who has enough mind to care.

                                      “I don’t know what will be heavier - me or the plants. Are you sure you can manage?” Rabastan says with teasing concern, though it still might come out a bit monotone. He still has not gotten back into the idea of inflection. Inflection requires a voice, purpose, emotion. Both were dangerous in Azkaban, and wholly unnecessary. When something becomes unneeded and unused, it disappears. Rabastan often feels like a blank slate, something molded out of clay, as if he has been slowly eaten away by stone. But already he is beginning to feel the pangs, and the comforts, of humanity. The comforts will be worth it in the end, won’t they?

                                      He stops when Severus speaks, when he tells him about how they used to walk around other stores and look at the wares. Vaguely, he can perhaps recall these days, more images of random scenes like a disjointed movie that have blurred and faded with age. He just remembers how walking through the shops should have made him feel: reverence and the solemnity and happiness he must have felt at being able to share his knowledge with Severus, who was genuinely interested. The stores and the objects no longer remain with him, but the thought of his friend’s face, the way they had been so content in those days, young and almost untainted…

                                      “A bit, yes.” Rabastan says softly, folding his hands delicately as he glances wistfully to a place that no longer exists. “Not the objects or the stores… But how I… liked to have someone to come with me. Someone who was genuinely interested in learning. Who seemed to find it all as… fascinating as I did. Rodolphus always… he thought it was all boring and Regulus… of course Bernard was never allowed in… So it was… it was very pleasant.”

                                      Severus’s simple statement that they had been happy then strikes a cord within him, and he cannot help but lower his head, not sure what to do with the turmoil it brings up. Yes, he had Bernard, he had friends, he had his garden, they were all together, and now… Now… There is a yawning emptiness, ghosts where his friends should be, silence where there should be laughter, lines on pinched faces where there should be smiles. A prison where homes should be. Happiness. He can feel the weight of it like bread dissolving on his tongue, but before he can swallow it, it disappears. Perhaps he can learn to craft it, to find it again, to share it like loaves. Hopefully, hopefully… He is startled when a drop of water appears on the nice tablecloth before him, and confused, he glances over at his glass. It contains milk, not water so why…

                                      And then he feels the rest of its brethren dribbling down his face, and he wonders if he should be ashamed, but instead he is more startled. Happiness usually doesn’t cause tears. Even he remembers that, but perhaps thinking about it, about how much he had before…

                                      “Yes.” He says quietly, a bit embarrassed to be weeping at such a beautiful dinner, over memories he can barely recall, over a word whose definition is foreign to him. “Perhaps we can be so again.”
                                      • Re: Rabastan

                                        “I apologize, I didn’t mean…” He wipes at his face with the sleeves of his robes, a bit like a child, a bit unsure of what to do. He had never been the type of child to cry at all, so any instinct of what he should do was entirely foreign to him. This was especially true in front of someone he so esteemed, especially when the Malfoys had made it obvious it was a glaring weakness.

                                        “It just seems like a very long journey to get back there.” He says, his throat still constricted, though the words pass through anyway.
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