Written for Elanor Isolda...Happy birthday, my dear.|
(Many thanks to midnitemaraud_r: the best 4:30 a.m. beta in the western hemisphere!)
You Must Remember This
by Beth H
© August 2006
It was one of the conditions of their release from St. Mungo's that twice a day - once in the morning and once in the early evening - whoever could best be spared from ward duties would make a brief home visit to the little cottage at the outskirts of Easton-on-Dale to see how Gilderoy Lockhart and Severus Snape were getting on.
Ordinarily, magical folk who had suffered the kind of memory damage that Lockhart and Snape had suffered would remain in the Janus Thickey Ward for decades, if not for life. However, in the wake of the final battle with 'He Who Could Now Be Named, At Least If It Were For A Jolly Good Reason, But We'd Still Rather Not, If It's All The Same To You, Thanks Awfully,' there were far more curse-and-spell damaged patients than the hospital could handle. With a little judicious use of magic, space could be expanded near indefinitely, but there were only so many Healers to go around. In response, the Ministry of Magic had issued a new set of directives, specifying that any witches or wizards capable of seeing to their own daily needs and having somewhere to live would henceforth be treated on an out-patient basis only.
Lockhart had a place to live.
When The Daily Prophet broke the scandalous story that Gilderoy Lockhart was little more than a fraud, the extravagant lifestyle that the five-time winner of Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile Award had enjoyed for so many years vanished as if by magic. However, not all was lost; there remained a small, tidy, vine-covered cottage which had once belonged to Lockhart's Great-Aunt Winifred (from whom Lockhart had acquired much of his fashion sense), and before she died, she had seen to it - through the auspices of the family solicitors, Grey and Dorian - that the grasping hands of creditors would never be able to take the cottage from her nephew.
Under the new regulations, Lockhart would, of course, have been encouraged to relocate to the cottage (nobody would be so barbaric to suggest that he should serve time in Azkaban for actions he would never remember; they weren't Muggles, after all), but it didn't seem as if he would ever be entirely capable of caring for himself outside the protective walls of St. Mungo's. That he had regained the ability to do joined-up writing was all very well and good, of course, and judging by his perfectly coiffed hair and the way he was able to transform dull and practical hospital gowns into rather flamboyant and attractive robes, it appeared that he had lost none of his expertise in the areas of health and beauty. Still, the fact remained that the governing body of St. Mungo's needed to see a bit more than a pretty face in a long-term care patient before they would agree to a release, no matter how much the Ministry pressed them about reducing their patient list, and thus far, apart from Lockhart's unquestioned ability to make a fine cup of tea, he showed almost no capability in any area unrelated to what he called his 'little forays into glamour."
As for Severus Snape, well...as far as the staff were concerned - particularly the young Trainee Healers whose duties brought them into close physical proximity with the patients on a regular basis - a rather more thorough grounding in basic hygiene charms than Severus Snape appeared to have retained wouldn't have been at all unwelcome. He was, quite frankly, a bit off putting, with his perpetually greasy hair and his yellow teeth and the grubby nightshirt which he never seemed to remove, not even for a simple cleaning charm.
The worst part, from the staff's perspective, was that Snape actually remembered the charms that would clean his teeth and freshen his nightshirt and de-grease his hair. While he had, apparently, only the faintest memory of his past existence - and none whatsoever of the role he had played in the Second Voldemort War - he had been able to demonstrate his familiarity with each of the most common spells and charms used by the average witch and wizard on a daily basis. He just couldn't be arsed to actually make use of any of them most of the time, regardless of how unpleasant his appearance might be, with the notable exception of the week that the new Ministry directives were issued. One or two of the more naive members of the staff expressed the thought that Snape's newfound attention to hygiene and grooming (temporary, though it would prove to be) might signal a desire on his part that he be considered for the release program, but they were swiftly reminded that Snape had no home (Spinner's End having been incinerated in the last days of the war) and no prospect of gainful employment. In short, Snape was likely to remain amongst the very longest of the long-term residents of the Janus Thickey ward.
Althea Braxton was positive she'd been the first to notice when Gilderoy Lockhart and Severus Snape began to...keep company with one another.
She had been working as a volunteer at St. Mungo's for the past eight days, thinking it would look good on her formal application for the Healer's programme. There had been Healers on both sides of Althea's family for generations, and she'd never given a thought to the possibility that she might not be entirely suited to the profession, despite the fact that most of the patients made her nervous and the vast majority of her daytime energies were directed towards making it appear as if she were busy as she searched for out-of-the-way spots in which to read the Muggle romance novels she'd taken a liking to since leaving school.
One afternoon, just past tea time, Althea found what she thought was the perfect reading spot: a little alcove in the dayroom - somewhere neither patients nor staff had any real reason to enter in the afternoon. She cast a low-level Disillusionment Charm on herself (it wasn't likely she'd be reprimanded for taking an unscheduled break, but one never knew), then cautiously entered the room.
At first the room seemed empty, as she had hoped it would be, but then Althea heard, quite clearly, something which sounded almost like whimpering. Holding her wand in her hand, she walked quietly in the direction from which the sound was coming, but it wasn't long until she could see for herself it wasn't whimpering at all. Or rather, it was, but not whimpering of the kind she'd first imagined. No, it was more a panting and thrusting kind of whimpering, and the sound was being made simultaneously by two patients.
Two male patients!
And what they were doing, well, it wasn't at all what Althea's romance novels had led her to believe sex (it must be sex...what else could it be?) was like. Where were the loving looks? The fond embraces? The gentle touches? This was more like watching two Blast-Ended Skrewts mating, back when she was still a student at...
And all of a sudden, there was no mistaking the identities of the two men. How could Althea not have recognized them before?
As quietly as she could, Althea slipped out of the room. She all but flew down the hall to the welcome desk to share the news...only to discover that far from being the first to notice how close Lockhart and Snape had become, she might very well be the last. Even Perseus Priddleton, who'd been a resident of the Janus Thickey ward since 1904 had noticed, and he had a tin bucket permanently stuck on his head.
"Personally, I think they're quite sweet," said Eloise Heckle, who'd been taking a break from sorting the patients' owl post.
"Sweet?" said Althea, eyes widening. "You wouldn't be saying that if you'd seen them doing, well...what they were doing!"
"Oh, you youngsters are such sticks in the mud when it comes to natural expressions of human biology."
"Natural? I saw Professor Snape with his underpants down at his ankles," said Althea. "There was nothing natural about that."
Eloise shook her head. "I'm sure they were barely even aware of what they were doing," she said. "I think you'd best have a nice cup of tea, dear."
"Yes," said Healer Bialystock, leaning on the counter and looking over his glasses at Althea. "And then perhaps you'd like to actually do a bit of work...if it wouldn't interfere with your voyeur-in-training programme, that is."
Althea flushed and started collecting the files she was supposed to have been alphabetizing.
"Yes, sir," she said, nodding.
"Good girl," he said. "And since you seem to have developed quite an interest in Lockhart and Snape's welfare, I'm going to suggest that you be added to the team assigned to ease their transition back to the world."
Althea frowned. "They're being released, Healer Bialystock? But...."
'But what, Braxton?"
"Nothing, only...are they really capable of minding themselves? They don't seem quite...all there, if you know what I mean, sir."
Bialystock sighed. "Under ordinary circumstances, I never would have approved their release. Neither of them even knows what year it is, for God's sake. But times being what they are...."
"You were forced into it, weren't you?" Eloise said with a sniff. "Bleeding Ministry."
"Well, perhaps it won't be so bad," Bialystock said wistfully. "Snape remembers how to cook and Lockhart remembers how to wash up, and they do seem to be getting on reasonably well."
Althea snorted at the euphemism, and even Eloise smiled, just a bit.
"And they'll have you to check up on them, Althea," Bialystock said. "Now won't that be nice?"
Despite her initial trepidation, Althea quickly grew accustomed to her visits to the cottage. In fact, she decided she didn't actually mind being around her two former professors, especially since there hadn't been a repeat of that disturbing scene she'd witnessed in the dayroom.
Her parents hadn't been so complacent about her new assignment.
"We know you're of age, darling," her mother said, "but your father and I can't help but feel those two particular wizards are a bit, well, too dangerous for you to be left alone with them."
"Oh, Mum," Althea said, rolling her eyes. "They're actually quite harmless."
"But all those things the Prophet said about Professor Snape and the Dark Arts...and wasn't there some scandal about Gilderoy Lockhart? Something to do with some young students at Hogwarts and a snake?"
"That was ages ago," Althea said earnestly. "Really, you ought to come along with me one day. They're like children, really. Neither one remembers doing anything bad. Can you imagine the Ministry allowing them to go free if they did?"
"I suppose not," said Mrs Braxton, "but I'll always worry a bit about my baby."
Thinking back to that conversation, Althea smiled to herself, then turned that smile on the two men sitting in front of her.
"So...everything's been all right today, yes?"
"Oh, yes!" said Lockhart, smiling brightly. "Did you know that kittens drink milk?"
Althea nodded. "I did, actually. Have the two of you adopted a kitten?"
"Can you do that? Adopt them, I mean? We haven't...not yet, at least. But there's a lovely black and white kitten who's been coming to the kitchen door, and we've just discovered she likes milk."
"We're calling her Fluffy," Professor Snape said with a smile of his own. "I think I might have once had a pet named Fluffy."
Althea nodded, then slipped the case folder into her bag. "All right, I think we're done for tonight. Now remember, you won't be getting a visit in the morning. You've both been doing so well that Healer Bialystock has decided that one visit a day should be enough. You won't forget about breakfast, will you?"
"No," Professor Snape said earnestly, his long fingers rubbing at the hem of his nightshirt. "Tomorrow is pancakes!"
"I like pancakes!" Lockhart said enthusiastically. "And tonight, Severus is making gammon and pineapple. I like that, too."
Althea smiled as she walked out the front door of the cottage. They really were awfully sweet.
"So," Gilderoy said with a wide smile as soon as the door closed behind Miss Braxton. "When's supper?"
Severus snorted. "Whenever you get off your arse and make something. I like pancakes! Laying it on a bit thick, weren't you?"
"Oh, I don't know about that, Mr 'I have a kitten named Fluffy,'" Gilderoy said. "Wasn't that the name of some three-headed dog that was at Hogwarts the year before I was hired?"
"Remember that, do you?" Severus said, pouring himself a glass of firewhisky from one of the bottles the two men had hidden beneath the settee.
"So it would appear," said Gilderoy, waving his wand and summoning the bottle of Old Ogden's. "Don't tell me you still can't remember back that far."
"Still?" said Severus, raising one eyebrow. "I never forgot any of it in the first place."
Severus curled his lip into an expression of disgust. "Unlike you, I am far too experienced to have allowed myself to be hit by a memory charm."
"You jammy sod! How did you keep anyone from finding out?"
Severus snorted. "I spent years Occluding my thoughts from the Dark Lord...surely you don't think a low-level Ministry healer was going to be much of a challenge."
"Yes, it was, rather," Severus said smugly. "But what about you? You couldn't possibly be an Occlumens."
"Of course not," Gilderoy said, sweeping his long, shining hair back over his shoulders. "I've relied entirely on charm."
"You," Severus said, smirking a bit, "were definitely a Slytherin."
Gilderoy inclined his head and smiled. "Of course."
A silence descended in the lounge, and the two men sipped at their drinks as they watched the oranges and pinks and golds of the setting sun through the front windows.
"So, Sev...I was thinking."
Severus gritted his teeth. "Not only do I have reason to doubt the veracity of that statement, but I am not going to warn you again about calling me Sev."
Gilderoy said nothing, until finally Severus snapped. "Well...what were you thinking?
"The Braxton girl won't be coming by in the morning."
"Well..." Gilderoy said, his normal self-confidence slipping away by the second. "My bed is rather big."
Severus stared, but said nothing as he waited for Gilderoy to continue.
"And...it's rather empty."
"Are you suggesting," Severus said slowly, "that you and I share a bed tonight?"
Gilderoy smoothed his apricot-and-pink robes, then inspected his perfectly-manicured fingernails. "Actually," he said, "I was hoping for more than just tonight."
"You don't have to, you know. We can still...well, I wouldn't be averse to just resuming our previous...arrangement, if you...."
"Or we wouldn't have to do anything of the kind, of course. Only you seemed to enjoy it, as did I, and...."
"I said be quiet," said Severus. "I always thought you ended up with much the better bed."
"Oh, yes," agreed Gilderoy readily. "Quite unfair that you should have an inferior bed upon which to sleep."
Severus nodded. "And the curtains in my room...a bit musty, don't you think?"
"Well then...it's only fair."
Gilderoy smiled and extended his hand. "Come along then, Sev."
"I thought I told you not to call me that," Severus said with scowl. Then he looked at Gilderoy's eager expression and the hand reaching out to touch him, and he shook his head. "Oh, what the hell, Call me what you like. But you're getting up in the morning and making the pancakes."
Comments, critiques, chit chat: beth-h @ mrks.org
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