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Cheap Philosophy

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When Sirius died just before the summer holiday of Harry Potter's fifth year, he left behind a will, which for all it was the will of a known felon, was legal and binding. It had been drawn up by a Gringott's legal advisor, signed and witnessed by Albus Dumbledore and Bill Weasley, both above reproach, and charmed in such a way that the parchment could, when challenged, defend itself. Sirius had spent a good month on the charms -- what else did he have to do? -- and they stood up in court.

Dumbledore insisted that every member of the Order have a will, and Sirius was no exception. The house was entailed on the male line, but Sirius had arranged a posthumous adoption -- Roman law still ruled parts of the Wizarding World, and there was clear precedent. Harry got Twelve Grimmauld Place, as well as the Black title, the Black fortune, and the Black name. Harry Potter Black, already the possessor of a small fortune from his biological parents, now owned quite a large one inherited from his felonious godfather. The papers called it blood money, but then Sirius hadn't left several vaults' worth of gold to the Daily Prophet, had he?

Despite his behaviour in those last months, the irresponsibility and immaturity, Sirius had been raised in a clan where legal arrangements were important, and family was to be protected. He calmly and without consulting anyone included in the will several robes-and-books scholarships for needy Hogwarts students as well as a Magical Creatures' Endowed Professorship and left Hermione and Ron enough to set themselves up with comfortable livings once they graduated Hogwarts. He gave a considerable amount to Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, as well.

To Remus he left a sum which, when read aloud by the solicitor, struck the normally unflappable Lupin speechless. It wasn't astronomical by any means, but it was far more money than Remus had ever seen in one place in his long and poverty-stricken life.

"It's the high life for you now, mate, isn't it?" Bill asked with a grin, as the bank transfer papers were signed and an account with an obscene number of zeros after the starting balance was opened in the name of Remus Lupin. Remus smiled and made a small noise of agreement and then straightened his collar, which was fraying round the edges.

Severus Snape, of course, was left nothing; he hadn't expected anything and would have been exceedingly surprised if anything -- even a Potions endowment -- had been included. He had half-expected some pittance from Sirius as a joke; Black was just the type to leave him three or four Galleons that would be more trouble than they were worth to collect.

He was glad, in a way, that Lupin had inherited a windfall. Perhaps the man would stop playing the martyr now, at least in part.

Nothing seemed to change that summer, though, even after Harry came back to what was now rightfully his house. The patched white shirts and shabby robes were replaced by new ones, but they were just as plain. The battered suitcase stamped Professor RJ Lupin was repaired and re-embossed, but very little in the way of human comforts was purchased. He still lived at Grimmauld Place, without any indication he would rather have his own flat or even a house somewhere. He rarely even bought books; the house library provided for nearly every need in that respect.

Lupin had lived cheaply for too long, clearly, and it had stunted his tastes, Snape decided.

Three days after Harry arrived at Grimmauld Place for the summer, civil but sullen, Snape was coming down the stairs to the kitchen when he heard voices and paused on the last dim step to listen.

"What're you eating then?" Harry's voice. Still settling, but mostly confined now to a light baritone with only the occasional break.

"I thought you weren't hungry," Lupin, answering amusedly. "Or curious."

Snape could almost hear the sulky teenage shrug. "There's nothing else to do."

"Ron will be back soon. It's only a week, Harry, and the Weasleys deserve a bit of a holiday. It's not Hermione's fault she had to spend the summer in Majorca." A pause. Silence from Harry. Finally, Remus answered. "A cheese sandwich, if you must know."

Snape craned his head around the corner of the stairwell, still shrouded mostly in gloom. Neither of them were facing him; Harry had his arms folded on the table and his chin resting on them, watching Lupin, who was contemplating his sandwich with undisguised glee.

"That's all?" Harry asked.

"That is not all, Harry, that is everything," Lupin corrected.

"What's the difference?"

"All implies there need be more, whereas the perfect cheese sandwich contains solely bread, cheese, and perhaps a bit of butter," Lupin replied, holding up one perfectly-triangular slice.

"It's just a sandwich," Harry sighed.

"Not just a sandwich, a cheese sandwich," Lupin said. He took a bite, smiled blissfully, and set it down while he chewed. After he swallowed, he pointed a finger at Harry. "On fresh rosemary bread. Do you know how long it's been since I could afford to buy fresh bread and real, proper cheese? It's not cheap."

"So what? It's cheese."

"Not to someone who hasn't had it in years," Lupin said, around another mouthful. "This is real, high-quality, brand-name cheese."

"It looks like cheddar to me."

"Yes! It's grand," Lupin took another bite, savoring it, then set the sandwich down. "Do you remember your first sight of Hogwarts every September? How your heart beats just a little bit faster and you can't wait to get up to your dormitory and start unpacking so that you know you've really arrived?"

Severus felt a jolt of recognition. Yes, that was exactly it, Lupin had said it perfectly -- however difficult Hogwarts had been, however difficult Sirius Black and James Potter had made it for him, he could have bypassed the feast each year, as a child, if it meant going home to his dormitory one minute sooner, to make his escape from his parents complete. Clearly Harry did too; he'd lifted his head from his arms.

"How do you know that?" Harry asked suspiciously.

"I was a student too, wasn't I?" Remus said casually, swallowing another bite of sandwich. "That," he added, "Is how I feel -- somewhat magnified, granted -- about this cheese."


"Yes, Harry?"

"Am I allowed to call you a bit mental?"

He saw Lupin smile. "You live on margarine and canned beans for a few years, Harry, and you'll appreciate fresh cheese too."

Snape watched as Harry regarded the sandwich critically, until finally Lupin's smile broadened, and he picked up the half that he hadn't yet started on, offering it to Harry. The boy took it almost shyly and tasted it tentatively, like a food critic.

"It's good cheese," he allowed.

"It is. If I have some time, later this week, I might even cook some fish. Or lamb!" Lupin said, almost conspiratorially. Harry grinned, the first real smile Snape had seen on the boy's face in months.

"You could have anything you wanted, I reckon," Harry said. "Roast duckling or veal or any of it. What's so great about lamb?"

"It's not about the unattainable fantasy," Lupin answered. "It's about the thing you've seen all these years and knew you could have, if you had just a little more time, a little more money, a little more something. It's about taking pleasure in what others take for granted."

"Oh," Harry said. Snape, unwilling to stand and listen to Lupin's painful truths any longer, stepped into the kitchen, gave them a glance of greeting, and went to make himself some tea.


It should have been obvious from the start, who the gifts were from, but perhaps subconsciously they'd all loved the little mystery. It started with a brown parcel on Harry's bed one morning; Snape knew this because he'd breakfasted at Grimmauld Place, and Harry came downstairs carrying it before him as though it might explode -- which was an entirely sensible attitude, in Snape's opinion, though he was loath to say it of Potter.

"What's that then, Harry?" Arthur had asked, and Harry had shrugged. It was stamped with the indelible, unforgeable mark of Quality Quidditch Supplies, and tied with brown twine; Remus flicked out a pocketknife and slit the string for Harry, who pulled the paper back and gasped.

Inside was a small black square, like a picture frame, around a green oval. Folded down on the oval were six hoop-shapes -- Quidditch goals. As Harry watched, they unfolded themselves until a perfect model of a Quidditch pitch stood before them. Miniscule players rose from two covered hatches on either side, one team black, one team white; a small box appeared as well, and when Harry flicked it open with his thumbnail, bead-sized balls were revealed, the tiny Bludgers struggling against their bonds.

Ron, next to Harry, was just as wide-eyed.

"That's a Quidditch Practical," he said. "The Cannons use it for game replays. Look, you can tell it to demonstrate any play you like..." he pointed at a little toggle on one end.

"Who sent it, Harry?" Arthur asked.

"Dunno," Harry replied. "No card."

"Maybe McGonagall," Ron suggested. Harry shrugged, and the discussion continued idly as he and Ron took sides and played against each other, wizards-chess style. Snape, for whom Quidditch was one of the few non-academic things he was truly interested in, tried not to look too fascinated by the toy.

The next gift was delivered to Arthur at his office in the Ministry; like the Quidditch Practical, it was wrapped with an unforgeable seal and delivered by an employee of the company, so that there could be no suspicion of foul play. It turned out to be the newest QuickQuill product for taking dictation, a beautiful grey-goosefeather quill with a silver nib inscribed A.W. and a built-in ink dispenser. It came as a set with a silver Muggle ball-point pen that Arthur took apart and reassembled after dinner that evening, much to Lupin and Harry's amusement, while Snape muttered to himself about idiot fanatics.

Albus Dumbledore found a two-pound box of assorted Muggle sweets delivered to him via the Hogsmeade post office, which also dealt in Muggle post on occasion; he shared the chocolate-covered peanut brittle around after an Order meeting, and even pressed a small sliver of the treat on Severus, who would have admitted, if he ever admitted such things, that it was as tasty as any Wizarding sweet.

Molly found flowers in a lovely vase at breakfast one morning. Kingsley Shacklebolt received a Shearsides wizarding automatic razor, specially calibrated for shaving scalps as well as chins. Tonks, much to her delight and chagrin, got a walking-stick that automatically prevented its user from tripping. Remus found a new rug on his living-room floor one morning, along with a pile of books on Roman art, apparently a passion of his that no-one in the Order had ever known about until then. Bill and the prodigal Percy got winter hats and gloves; the Twins had a case of rare but useful joke-candy ingredients; Ron and Ginny found boxes with new fitted robes, textbooks, and a kitten "For Ginevra" in one of them. Charlie wrote to say someone had delivered him a wicked new broomstick with attachments for some of the tools of the dragon-handling trade, and was dad sure he could afford it?

They were small presents, mostly, but precisely what was required, and so well spaced out that it took almost until the start of school for anyone to realise what was happening. Indeed, no-one did until Severus wandered out of his bedroom in Grimmauld Place one morning and found a box not dissimilar to those left for Ron and Ginny in his living room. It was full of smaller, paper-wrapped objects: the first four proved to be black and green silk shirts, of the sort he admired in shop windows but rarely purchased, while the next two were trousers and waistcoasts to match. There was a large package that turned out to be sleek black teaching robes edged in dark green, and at the bottom was an antique leather case filled with strangely-shaped stoppered jars, some filled with labeled contents, mainly hard-to-find herbs and tinctures.

"You're looking well this morning, Severus," Remus observed, as the Potions Master descended the staircase in one of the new shirts, feeling self-conscious but not particularly concerned -- as they did, after all, fit him perfectly. "Egg and toast?"

"I have cereal, thank you," Severus said brusquely, and Remus shrugged and smiled as he moved out of the way so that oatmeal could be cooked. Severus liked oatmeal. You knew where you stood with a bowlful of oats, unlike the mysterious sausages Remus had taken to eating, or eggs which might carry salmonella or Merlin alone knew what.

"Sleep well?" Remus asked, around his toast.

"You're peculiarly curious this morning," Severus replied, taking down the strawberry jam.

"Just making small talk," Remus answered. Severus turned to look at him and saw an almost triumphant gleam in his eye; he wasn't watching him, Severus realised, but rather the way the green silk cuffs moved around his wrists. That was the approval of an artist for a finished work, a possessive pride that could mean only one thing in that innocent face.

They stared at each other for a while, until the oatmeal overheated and an air bubble burst, whistling shrilly. Severus swiftly spooned it out into a bowl and added jam, moving to the table and flicking his wand so that a glass of milk followed him.

"It was defly done, Lupin," he said, as he sat and rolled up his sleeves -- no reason to dirty the cuffs, even if they were a gift from an enemy.

"What's that, Severus?" Remus asked, carrying his plate to the table. He bit into the eggs blissfully, and Severus knew he'd happened on another long-denied treat. Eggs, fish, cheese; what had the man subsisted on, all those years? Tree bark?

"The gifts," Severus replied, gesturing to the black waistcoat he wore.

"I'm sure I've no idea what you mean."

"The Quidditch Practical, the stick for Tonks, that hateful demon cat you bought for the Weasley girl -- Shacklebolt's Shearsides, Weasley's ball-point pen. The sweets for Dumbledore. All carefully arranged so as not to arouse suspicion. Truly a master stroke," Severus answered.

"Well, one tries in one's way to be subtle," was all Remus answered, sipping lukewarm tea. Severus noticed a strainer-ball on the saucer, filled with loose-leaf, more expensive than tea-bags.

"I did not, however, require a new wardrobe."

"You're wearing it, aren't you?"

"Why should I not? The clothing is serviceable, if rather more showy than I am accustomed to."

Remus smiled at him over the tea. "That's the beauty of it, Severus."

"More cheap philosophy, Lupin?"

"It's the only kind I could afford, until recently," Remus answered equably. "Of course you didn't need new clothes, any more than Arthur Weasley needed a new quill. But it is the little luxuries that brighten a life which, as I'm sure you've noticed, has not been terribly cheerful of late. Molly wasn't pleased to have a new vase and some pretty flowers; she was pleased someone thought long enough to know she likes gladioli. You're quite capable of buying your own clothing, Severus, but isn't it pleasant to know that someone likes the way you look in green silk?"

Snape dropped his spoon in his oatmeal, surprised. Remus scooped some scrambled eggs onto his toast and ate them smugly.

"And of course the pleasure in seeing someone enjoying a gift is gratifying to the giver, especially one who hasn't been able to give much, in the past. Ginny's kitten might have eaten my favourite pair of socks, but it also sleeps next to her on her pillow -- didn't she mention? -- and she hasn't had nightmares in weeks."

"I was unaware she suffered from nightmares."

"I make it my business to be aware," Remus replied. "Call it habit from the days when, if you'll excuse the expression, the wolves were only a step from my door."

"And you have no ulterior motive?"

"What other would I need? I take enough pleasure from seeing Harry and Ron at the Practical that I don't have to have any other reason." Remus finished his meal, and drank the last of his tea. "It's all very well to enjoy a cheese sandwich, Severus, but one must feed the soul as well."

He stood and, to Severus' great shock, winked at him. "Besides, silk does suit you, and it never hurts to feed the eye, too. Do keep the secret, please; Hermione's not back yet and I have a lovely surprise for her. Did you know someone signed her up for a year's membership in the most exclusive privately-run library in Wizarding Britain?"