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Fic: A Cup of Tea (HP/HLotS; Lupin, Pembleton, Bayliss)

Title: A Cup of Tea
Author: victoria p. [victoria @ unfitforsociety.net]
Summary: Remus wakes up and stumbles into a murder investigation.
Rating: PG
Fandoms: Harry Potter/Homicide: Life on the Street
Disclaimer: Remus belongs to Rowling, Frankentim belong to Levinson, Fontana, NBC etc. No copyright infringement is intended.
Archive: Achromatic.
Feedback: Would be awesome
Notes: All liviapenn's fault. Set sometime before Bayliss has his moment of revelation and just after HBP, I guess. Begun in August 2003, if you can believe it.
Word count: 2,566
Date: October 10, 2005

***

A Cup of Tea

The cinderblock walls were painted standard, institutional mustard yellow. A single bulb hung from the ceiling, lighting the scarred table and leaving the corners of the small room in shadow. Remus knew enough about interrogation and law enforcement to know that the mirror was an observation window. They could see him, but he couldn't see them.

There was an empty metal cuff dangling from the edge of the table and he was glad that they hadn't chained him, at least.

He rubbed a hand over his forehead and tried to stay awake, remembering long ago lectures from Moody about suspects who fell asleep invariably being guilty.

He wondered if he actually was a suspect -- they were certainly treating him like one, despite the fact that he hadn't been chained to the table -- and cursed Moody for sending him on this wild goose chase.

The Americans hadn't been involved in the last war with Voldemort, and Remus had no expectation that they'd be involved this time around. He supposed they'd be in it soon enough if the Order couldn't hold off Voldemort and his Death Eaters. Voldemort wasn't the type to be satisfied with ruling England if he won. No, he'd want the world.

Moody and McGonagall wanted to get the Americans on their side before it came to that, so he was here in Baltimore. He'd met with Forsythia Lawrence, head of the American Magical Law Enforcement Agency and an old friend of Dumbledore's, and got her assurance that some American hit wizards would be off to Hogwarts in the morning.

It had been a damn sight more successful than his forays with the werewolves.

Forsythia had let him use her basement last night, as it was the full moon, and one of her neighbors had turned up dead this morning.

He, of course, had stumbled out of the house right into the investigation. They had all been excruciatingly polite. Forsythia had explained that he was her nephew from England, visiting for a few days. The two detectives had nodded and asked if he minded coming down to the station to answer some questions. He, of course, had agreed. It was all terribly civilized -- no handcuffs, no unpleasantness.

"Of course not, Mr. Lupin. We just have some questions for you," the white one -- Detective Bayliss -- had said.

They'd taken his wand ("Occasionally teach music," he'd mumbled, praying to countless deities he'd never believed in that the piano lessons his mother had foisted on him over summers during his childhood and teen years would give him some ability to pass himself off as a musician), his watch (a gift from Sirius that last year, before they knew how short their time together would be), his wallet (full for once, but with American Muggle money he had only the vaguest idea how to use) and the false passport Shacklebolt had gifted him with before he left. ("Americans are a pushy lot," Kingsley had said, "but if you have papers, you'll be all right.") He hoped the passport withstood scrutiny. He hadn't really looked at it closely, beyond noting how grey his hair was in the photograph.

When had he gotten old?

He groaned.

He'd read enough detective stories to know that he was supposed to be contemplating his guilt and working up the appropriate fervor to confess to the crime, but all he was doing was wallowing in self-pity, something at which he was all too skilled. He didn't need any encouragement from Detectives Bayliss and Pembleton to indulge.

After confiscating his belongings, they'd taken his fingerprints, and scraped beneath his fingernails. He hoped he'd cleaned them thoroughly this morning, though it would only be his own blood and skin beneath them if he hadn't, and then left him alone in this ugly little room to contemplate his sins.

All he wanted now was a cup of tea and about eighty hours of sleep in his own very comfortable (if very lonely) bed, with its overabundance of pillows and a great view of the garbage-strewn alley behind the building.

He leaned back in the uncomfortable metal chair and stretched his legs out in front of him. The Wolfsbane potion made being in wolf-form less dangerous, but the change itself was still painful, and while Forsythia tried to help with some healing spells, she wasn't used to dealing with a werewolf. And to be honest, he was never comfortable with strangers directly before or after the full moon.

He took a deep breath and rolled his shoulders. Meditation. He could do that. Clear his mind of all thought and relax. Then maybe he'd figure out a way to get out of this without having to explain anything or resort to Obliviating everyone he came in contact with. Without his wand, he couldn't simply Apparate away, so he was going to have to play this the Muggle way for a while.

He closed his eyes and concentrated on his neck and shoulders, willing them to relax.

He was focused on his knees when the door opened and the two detectives entered.

"Mr. Lupin," Detective Pembleton said, "is there anything we can get you?"

"A cup of tea," he answered, disgusted at how rusty his voice sounded.

"Milk, sugar? Bayliss asked.

"That's fine."

Bayliss left the room and Pembleton sat down across from Remus.

"Remus -- you don't mind if I call you Remus?" Remus shook his head, knowing it didn't matter what he said. "Is this your first time in Baltimore?"

"Yes."

"How do you like Charm City?"

"Charm City?" He couldn't keep the skepticism out of his voice.

Pembleton's lips quirked into a grin. "Our fair city is undergoing a renaissance, Remus. Have you had a chance to see the Inner Harbor, or to wander through Fell's Point?"

"Not yet."

"You've been staying with your -- aunt is it?" Remus nodded. "Aunt over in Canton. What brings you to Baltimore? Other than family business, of course."

Remus realized the time he'd spent on meditation would have been better spent on coming up with a plausible explanation for his visit to Baltimore. He smiled in what he hoped was an appropriately self-deprecating manner.

"Change of scenery from home," he said. "I recently suffered a ... loss," Sirius would have appreciated being used as an excuse to get him out of trouble, "and it seemed wise to get out of the house and away from," Harry's pale, drawn face, reports of death amongst old friends and classmates, having to deal with Fenrir Greyback, with Tonks's feelings, with Molly's interfering concern, "the memories." He looked down at his hands, still stained with ink, and didn't have to fake the pain in his voice.

"My condolences," Pembleton said, voice softening.

Remus gave him a half-hearted half-grin, knowing any sympathy the detective showed was at least ninety percent an act to win him over. "Thanks."

"So." Pembleton leaned back in his chair, tipping it onto two legs, and Remus, forgetting the ink stains on his fingers for a moment, rubbed a hand over his forehead. "How did you know Mr. Williams?"

"Who?"

"Mr. Williams." Pembleton rocked back and forth. "The deceased."

Remus shook his head. "I didn't."

The door opened and Bayliss returned, three paper cups clutched precariously in his hands. Steam rose in curls from one of them, the one he set down in front of Remus.

"We don't have anything but Lipton," Bayliss said apologetically as Remus wrapped his hands around the hot cup and brought it to his lips gratefully.

"It's fine," he said after a long sip, focusing on the black smears his fingers left on the grey paper cup. "I've had worse." He took another sip and closed his eyes. It was cheap tea, badly made, but it was still tea, and Remus had learned long ago to take what he was given and be glad.

"Must be rough," Bayliss said.

He opened his eyes, trying to force himself alert. "Hmm?"

"Your aunt told us about your," Bayliss hesitated for a moment, "condition." Remus blinked, sat up straighter. "I can't imagine it's easy to find parents who'll let you teach their children."

"No, no, it's not," he answered, wondering what on earth Forsythia had said.

"We understand," Pembleton said, still in that gentle voice, warm and rich as dark chocolate, and Remus had to remind himself that bitterness lurked beneath. "Maybe you and Mr. Williams got into an argument. Maybe he called you 'faggot,' or 'cocksucker,' or 'queer.'"

"And you got angry." Bayliss pulled the other chair over and sat down at the end of the table, in between Remus and Pembleton, closer than Remus found comfortable, actually. "Maybe you said some things back."

"It's understandable," Pembleton said, and Remus could feel them lulling him, drawing him in with their sympathetic rhythm. He wondered how long they'd been working together that they were so smooth. "Man can only stand so much. You've recently lost your... lover," the word rolled slowly off his tongue, sounding compassionate and yet mocking at the same time, and Remus shifted uncomfortably, "and now there's this moron up in your face, insulting your... lifestyle choices."

"After all," Bayliss said, "it's not your fault, right? You didn't ask to be gay. You didn't ask to get AIDS. It's all a biological crapshoot, and you're just unlucky."

Aha. "I'm definitely unlucky," he said, trying to break their rhythm, attempting to assimilate the information they'd just given him into a coherent, believable alibi since the truth didn't seem to be working out.

They ignored his interruption. "So this Williams character, he's working your last nerve -- we've got a number of witnesses who'll say he was good at that," Pembleton continued, "and that might be enough to sway a jury in your favor, you know? What do you think, Tim?"

Bayliss cupped his chin with long fingers, tapped his cheek thoughtfully. "A man in your circumstances, yeah, it's possible. He was a homophobe and you couldn't take it anymore, so you shot him."

Pembleton leaned forward, the chair slamming back down onto the floor, making Remus's ears ring. "You were defending yourself against this asshole," he said, banging his hand on the table for emphasis. "Nobody would argue against that."

"Of course, if you confess now, you won't have to take a chance on a jury." Bayliss slid a form in front of him, offered him a ballpoint pen. "We can get the state's attorney in here, fill out all the paperwork, and let the system work for you."

Remus took another long swallow of tea and then a deep breath. He wondered if this was how the Aurors had worked Sirius over, if Sirius's guilt had been so overwhelming he'd have agreed to anything that would have punished him for his mistake.

"Thank you for your concern," he said after the expectant silence had stretched uncomfortably, "but I didn't shoot this Mr. Williams. I never even met him. I was indisposed last night from the long journey from England." What did Muggles call it? "Jet lag, you know. Immediately after dinner I went to bed, and didn't wake until the noise of your police sirens woke me this morning. Forsythia will vouch for that."

Bayliss stood and put a hand on Remus's shoulder. "We know you're lying," he said, his voice gentle, though his grip was not. "We understand. A man in your condition..."

"You know nothing about my condition," Remus snapped before bringing himself under control again. "Perhaps I am lying," he continued in a more pleasant tone, shrugging his free shoulder, "but not about this. I never met Mr. Williams, and I certainly didn't murder him. I've never even touched a gun, let alone fired one."

"We'll see about that," Pembleton said. He seemed to explode from his chair, all coiled up anger and energy, and stalked from the room.

Bayliss followed, tossing an apologetic glance over his shoulder. He was quite attractive, Detective Bayliss was, Remus thought idly. In another place, another time, he would have been interested. Oh, hell, he was interested now, but there were too many complications to even indulge in the fantasy.

The door opened again.

"Here." Bayliss set another steaming cup of tea in front of him. "It could be a while." He looked awkward, uncomfortable, and Remus knew -- he knew -- that Bayliss was feeling it, too, but had no idea what it was or what to do about it. He remembered that feeling all too well, though it had been twenty years at least since he'd first felt it.

He smiled, genuinely this time. "Thank you," he hesitated for a moment, then, "Tim."

Bayliss eyed him like a skittish horse, as if unsure whether to reprimand him or smile in return, and then hurried from the room.

Remus sipped his tea slowly, savoring its warmth and familiarity, and then fell into a light doze, letting himself have the impossible fantasy of Tim Bayliss. He was exhausted and saddened once again by the way his life seemed to offer opportunities for something more and then snatch them away just as he discovered how much he wanted them.

He was startled awake by the door opening a third time. Bayliss stood there, hands in his pockets, sheepish grin on his face.

"You're free to go," he said. "Firearm residue test came back negative and Mrs. Lawrence confirms your story." He placed a paper bag on the table. "I picked up your things. You just have to sign for them." He pushed a different form at Remus, who took it and, after examining the contents of the bag -- wand, wallet, watch and passport, all seemed to be intact -- signed with a flourish, the pen thick and odd between his fingers after so many years of using quills.

"Thank you," he said, rising slowly, his joints aching from hours spent in that uncomfortable metal chair.

Bayliss watched him, eyes both curious and wary. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine," he said. "I'll be fine." It was the truth; he had been fine and he would be again. He always was. "I could use a cup of tea." The words were out before he could stop them, and they hung in the air, the latest in a long line of brilliant mistakes.

Bayliss opened his mouth and closed it again, nodding. "You want the Daily Grind, then, across the street," he said.

Remus nodded in return, forcing himself to smile yet again in the face of rejection. "Thanks."

There was another awkward moment when Bayliss held the door for him and couldn't seem to maneuver out of his way, so they brushed against each other fleetingly, but Remus forced himself to walk out of the squadroom without looking back. On his way out, he spelled away the ink on his face, his fingers; the taint of suspicion would linger, he suspected. It always did.

He was perusing the list of teas offered at the Daily Grind -- and trust the Americans to make things more complicated than they needed to be -- when the door opened with the tinkling of a bell.

"Milk and sugar, right?" Bayliss said softly, and Remus laughed.

"Milk and sugar, yes."

It might be a mistake, Remus thought as they purchased their drinks -- Earl Grey for him and some kind of fancy coffee for Bayliss -- but it was sure to be an interesting one.

end

***

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