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A Face of Faith

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Yitgadal v'yitkadash sh'mei raba. . .

 

 

In the months that followed Albus's death and Severus's disappearance, Remus Lupin resumed reciting the prayers of his childhood, even though he hadn't stepped inside a synagogue in years and didn't dare visit one now -- the war was at its height, he doubted whether his enemies respected sanctuaries of any type, and there would have been too many lies to tell once anyone inquired about the scars he bore, the rags he wore, and what he had been doing in the twenty-four years since he became bar mitzvah instead of growing up and settling down with a nice Jewish girl.

 

 

As he reminded himself of his non-options, Remus allowed himself a sardonic smile. Nymphadora Tonks had been a nice enough girl -- Molly Weasley wouldn't have taken to her otherwise -- and he imagined that, this far into his thirties, his mother's ghost would have been beyond caring about the not-Jewish part. But Tonks had not been in love with him, and he had recognized this from the start: over the years, as a teacher and mentor, he had observed too many bright young things in love with love rather than the purported object of their affections, and Tonks had not been an exception. Her infatuation had begun to fade even before the Headmaster's funeral, and Remus had been unsurprised when she blurted out several days later that she hadn't been able to stop thinking about Charlie Weasley.

 

 

All the same -- it still stung, Remus reflected, this losing of things one never even intended or wanted to keep -- never mind the losses that actually mattered. As an experienced double agent, it had taken little effort for him to decipher Albus and Severus's desperate endgame, and he had silently braced himself to play along with their plans and to react to the terrible denouement as though he hadn't dreaded it all along.

 

 

When the time came, however, he found the pain to be as raw and unsettling as it had been for the deaths for which there had been scant warning (his parents, the Potters, Sirius...), and he hadn't had to feign the freshness of his grief, even though its shadow had hovered over every debriefing with Albus and every stolen respite with Severus over the past year. It didn't matter that he'd fully anticipated how tragically things would end. It didn't matter that he'd understood the stakes and recognized the necessity of both men's sacrifices. It didn't help that both men had been aware of his unspoken support, and that they had implicitly returned the trust he maintained in their strategies.

 

 

Ultimately, it was impossible to prepare for these kinds of losses: they simply fucking hurt.

 

Once a great love cut my life in two.

 

The first part goes on twisting

 

at some other place like a snake cut in two.

 

 

Remus sat on a bench in a secluded garden in Edinburgh, a collection of Yehuda Amichai's poems open on his lap. Albus was dead, and Severus was gone, and Remus had taken to reciting Kaddish every day for the both of them, even though this technically went against the rules he had learned as a child. Even if he had wanted to join a congregation, Albus hadn't been his father, and Severus hadn't been his lover -- strictly speaking, it was neither his obligation nor his right to mourn them in this fashion.

 

 

But Remus had long ago learned that, regardless of their authors, laws were not invariably right or kind or even obeyable. Thus, from Judaism, he had long ago determined that he would take what he needed and trust God to be lenient about the rest, and what he needed right now was a routine of words ancient and grand and impersonal enough to absorb the heartache. With the earlier losses, he had found solace in the elegies of Ahnshecht, Treidemar, and other classic lamentations, as well as in the work of venerable Muggle poets such as John Milton and John Donne and Dylan Thomas. However, it was through their mutual love of lyric poetry that Remus and Severus had begun to knot together a fragile connection -- their decades-long recognition of the allusions and cadences in each other's speech and writing finally unfurling into seemingly coincidental encounters in bookshops and discreet, deliberately casual tea-breaks -- moments of grace snatched and shared in-between their assignments and missions, with both of them comprehending a mutual craving for something other than talk:

 

Music I heard with you was more than music...

 

Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels' hierarchies?...

 

You know that I know, my lord, that you know

 

That I draw close to take pleasure in you,

 

And you know that I know that you know who I am;

 

So why do you delay our acknowledging each other?...

 

 

It had not become an affair, but Remus had secretly hoped more might someday come out of it, even though it had never become clear whether Severus could ever truly forgive him for his friendship with Sirius -- or, for that matter, his bond with Potter père and his rapport with Potter fils. And now he never would, because Severus was as good as dead. Even if Severus survived the War itself -- even if it could ever be conclusively proved that Severus had been serving as one of the Order's dirty angels -- there would forever remain people out to avenge Dumbledore, and Voldemort's surviving supporters would be intent on revenge as well. Severus needed to forge a new life for himself -- one as far away from Hogwarts and the burdens of the past as he could devise -- and Remus doubted there would be any factoring-in of a never-quite-friendship in the refashioning.

 

 

Remus planned to move away to America once he was himself free of the Order. He had his own array of enemies to avoid, and having lived through the aftermath of the First Wizarding War, he thought it all too unlikely that the Ministry would consider him any more employable or respectable than they had in the previous thirty-seven years of his life, regardless of however much he might contribute to Harry's success or Voldemort's defeat. He would miss his friends and protégés, but it wasn't as though he'd been able to stay in touch with any of them during his stints as a spy or his less illustrious stretches of unemployability.

 

 

He also hoped that, once he was settled in the States, he would stumble across fewer reminders of Severus, whose absence coloured his every visit to Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Then again, given half an instant, these days almost any book or morsel of food could remind him of Severus, reviving his memories of the nondescript tearooms and well-warded libraries in which they had met.

 

And I'm like someone standing in the Judean desert,

 

looking at a sign:

 

"Sea Level."

 

He cannot see the sea, but he knows.

 

 

For now, on Friday afternoons, when not otherwise incapacitated or on assignment, Remus made a point of bringing home two small pebbles and Transfiguring them into candles, lighting them just before sundown. A stale dinner roll saved from an earlier meal usually sufficed for hamotzi, and a goblet of tap water for the blessing of the wine. Remus didn't actually believe that God acknowledged or answered prayers -- God had been deaf to his mother's many heartfelt petitions, after all, and his mother had committed none of the crimes he had had to perpetrate simply to survive. But his parents had continued to recite their prayers, because their parents had done so, and their parents' parents as well, and in the end, who was Remus Lupin to deny himself the same solace? Over the centuries, other Jews had suffered far worse than even he, and whenever he felt inclined to feel sorry for himself, all it took was remembering the old stories -- those of Rabbi Akiva's flesh combed with iron tines, or of Rabbi Chananya ben Teradyon, bound inside a Torah scroll before being burned by the Romans -- such tales easily withering the grip of self-pity. Remus was indeed grateful to be alive, and he was willing enough to utter the prescribed words of praise.

 

Y'hei sh'lama raba min sh'maya, v'hayim, aleinu v'al kol yisrael, v'imru amein.