When it came down to it, it really was a farce of a baptism. Douglas’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Kirke, were the only ones who were insisting upon it, while Douglas felt the C of E was a load of bunk, and Innogen’s family couldn’t really give a toss, feeling it much safer to dedicate a child to Merlin rather than some nebulous figure one couldn’t even be sure existed. Mr. and Mrs. Kirke, however, were formidable figures and Douglas felt it safest not to get on their bad side.
So two days before Christmas, when baby Andrew was only a few weeks old, a rather unusual group assembled in St. Justin’s Church to celebrate his dedication to a life of Christ (or Merlin, or Reticulans, depending on who was viewing the ceremony).
“I don’t think I was even baptized myself,” Fox Mulder muttered under his breath to Douglas, who had a strong grip on his arm and was bodily hauling him into the church.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said through gritted teeth. “Genny is brilliant at forging papers. The reverend won’t know the difference. Besides,” the two stopped half way up the main center aisle, “if something happens to me or Genny, this is one way that will guarantee that you can take care of Andrew.”
“I can’t even keep a houseplant alive, and you want me to take care of a kid?” Mulder shook his head. “And they said I was the crazy one.”
“Your sanity is still in doubt. However, I trust you more than any sort of child welfare program out there, so call this a precautionary measure. Besides, more likely than not one of Genny’s choices will become guardian before you, so unless they both cark it, I think you’re all right,” Douglas sighed as he opened the front door to the church. A musty smell, that of old people and incense, drifted out at them. Light spilled out onto the front steps, gilding Mulder and Douglas. “Now come on,” Douglas grunted, tightening his grip on Mulder’s arm and propelling him into the church.
Everything Mulder had heard told him that baptisms were traditionally done on Sundays right after the service, but apparently Genny’s choice for Godfather was unavoidably indisposed that day, so could they possibly reschedule it for right after one of the nightly masses? She would appreciate it ever so much. There was no doubt she was a schmoozer, and the new assets that came with being a nursing mother didn’t hurt the cause either. Genny was currently standing at the top of the aisle, giving her parents slightly nervous looks as they chatted with the priest. They had made a good effort though at dressing like…normal people (he couldn’t remember the word the wizards used). It was only when Mrs. Bunting’s fox stole turned its head and winked at him that he gulped.
Part of him was extremely surprised and shocked to learn about the wizarding world, and yet the other part…the other part was more than accepting of it. It felt like a place where he could be comfortable, where people wouldn’t blink when he told them that his sister vanished in a flash of light one dark night. And if wizards and magic existed, why couldn’t other things…
So there he stood with the other three godparents-to-be, a quite obviously witchy woman cooing over baby Andrew (it could have been the wand sticking out of a pocket of her skirt that gave it away), and a pale, tall and skinny young man about Mulder’s age hovering on the other side of her. The young man looked a little on the sickly side, skin stretched just a wee bit too tight over the cheekbones and dark circles adorning the skin under his eyes. His hair was impeccably combed, however. He assumed he was a wizard, being one of Genny’s friends, although he looked as if he belonged better than any of the witches and wizards there in the slightly worn normal suit he was wearing. Better than Mulder’s sweater and trousers, anyway. There was also a bit of an air of sadness about him as well. Mulder wouldn’t have picked up on it except for something he had overheard Genny say to the young man as they hid behind a pillar before the ceremony started.
‘Look, I know things have been impossibly hard for you these past two years, but you’ve got to pull out of it! Contrary to what you believe, there are still people who care about you, that your life isn’t a total barren wasteland and that all you’re good for is to go off and…and die in the woods! I want you to be godfather to Andrew because I trust you, and if something happens to Douglas and I, I want you to be in Andrew’s life. I know he’s not Harry, but you need Andrew just as much as he needs you…’
Mulder couldn’t hear the man’s reply, but whatever it was made Genny walk out from behind the pillar with a large smile on her face, and the young man trailing after her looking quite sheepish. By that time the ceremony was running just slightly late, so they all took their seats under the glare of the reverend’s eyes.
After that everything went fairly fast. The participants spoke their parts when necessary (it really did feel more like a play than any sort of religious ceremony), the parents beamed, and Mrs. Kirke dabbed her eyes every so often with a handkerchief that wasn’t much more than a bundle of lace. Eventually it was all over, and they adjourned to a local restaurant for a post-ceremony dinner, and no student was stupid enough to turn down free food, especially if it wasn’t takeaway curry (the dinner was on the grandparents Kirke). They had hired a private room so the wizards could be as wizard-like as they so chose. Mrs. Bunting’s fox stole got off of her shoulders and started scampering around the room like a puppy, taking special care to rub up against the legs of the other Fox in the room.
Even though it was only the beginning of the appetizer course of the meal, Mulder was already starting to feel a bit claustrophobic in the atmosphere, a little off balance. The women were still lavishing all of their attention on Andrew, and Douglas was rubbing his head while speaking to his father, no doubt trying to explain something the man just wasn’t getting. Mr. Bunting and the other young wizard were talking about magic, some of the Latin-sounding words sailing completely over his head. He decided it was the perfect time to sneak back out to the bar for another pint.
Douglas caught up to him as he was perched on a stool nursing his second pint. “You did good today, mate,” he said, sinking down beside him and signaling for a refill of his own drink.
“I didn’t do much aside from nod and repeat what I was told to,” Mulder sighed into his lager. “And I think I almost dropped Andrew at one point.”
“So did Sylvan. Babies are awfully resilient though, you know. Bounce ‘em and they come back giggling.”
“And you’ve tested this hypothesis out first hand? I’m sure Genny must have appreciated the hell out of that.”
Douglas shrugged. “It’s a metaphor. Us former Literature majors love metaphors.”
“I think I might have minored in English lit my first time ‘round,” Mulder mumbled.
“And now look what’s happened to you. Thinking you can do your doctorate in psychology.” He shook his head with mock-sadness. “How science can fuck with a man’s head.”
“Are you sure you weren’t dipping into the sacramental wine during the baptism?” Mulder said, tugging at Douglas’s pint to get a look at just what was in his glass.
“You’re a regular riot, Fox.” He pulled his drink back towards him and took another draught. “Seriously, are you all right?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. It’s just the time of year that does it sometimes.” At the other end of the bar, a man began to drunkenly sing the second verse to ‘Once in Royal David’s City.’
‘He came down from earth to heaven, through his own redeeming love…’
“The alien baby Jesus came down from Earth?” Douglas snickered.
“Okay, that’s it,” Mulder said, slipping off his stool and dragging Douglas to his feet. “You, get back in there and stay with your family. I’m going outside for a smoke.”
“No buts, otherwise we’re both going to get it from Genny, and as we both well know, that would not be fun.” He gave Douglas a sharp push in the direction of the room. “Go!” With that, Mulder turned himself and walked out the front door.
It was a clear night, with the stars quite visible in the sky. That one that was always burningly bright stood out, and with the air of Christmas all around, it was more than easy to associate it with the tale of the three wise men following the star to the birth of a very special child. “Westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light,” he murmured. Even for someone who was as atheistic as he was, there was something appealing about the old stories, older than even Christianity itself.
Mulder pulled out his smokes. It was a bad habit picked up from his dad, one of the only things he passed on to him. That was the main reason Mulder was spending his holidays in pastoral England rather than back in the states; neither one of his parents could give him the time of day amidst their own activities. Over the past few years, Douglas and Innogen, and now Andrew, had become more family to him than his birth one. Blood ties could go fuck themselves.
As he lit up the front door to the pub swung open, letting out a shaft of light and the young man who was the other godfather. He pulled out a smoke of his own, reached into his other pocket, then drew it out again with a grimace.
“Fuck,” he muttered, and turned to Mulder. “D’you have a light?”
“Yeah, sure.” Mulder tossed his lighter over, and the young wizard quickly lit up, exhaled with a sigh of what could only be relief, and hurled the lighter back. “Cheers, mate.”
“No problem. What’s your name again? I didn’t catch it when Genny introduced us the first time.”
“Remus Lupin. You?” he said, his free hand moving inside his suit coat for warmth.
“Fox Mulder. I think I was so late Douglas didn’t even bother to introduce me to anyone, just hauled me up there and told me to say my part.” He shrugged. “I’m only here because Douglas wants me to be.”
Remus nodded. “Same here. Otherwise I’d be…hell, I don’t know where I’d be, but it wouldn’t be here.”
Mulder shivered. He really should have gotten his coat before he went out for his break. "So how long have you known Genny?" he asked Remus, who looked just as cold as he did.
"Since first year. We were in the same house at school," he replied.
"Houses, yeah, she mentioned those. So you're a, uh..."
Remus smirked, but just a little and not in a snide way. "Yes, I am a wizard. And I'm guessing that you're not."
Mulder shook his head. "Nope. Not a drop of magical blood in me."
"Sometimes it's better that way," Remus sighed. He looked up, his eyes seeming to land on the especially bright star Mulder was himself staring at before, and Mulder could have sworn that he heard a low growl coming from the young man. However, Remus then shook himself, dog-like, and the tension passed. "My mother was a muggle--"
'Muggle, that was the word,' Mulder finally remembered.
"--so I've seen both sides of the world. Both have their benefits and their detractors."
"If I didn't know any better I'd swear you were a muggle," Mulder said. "I couldn't tell the difference if I passed by you on the street."
"Which is a very good thing. Some wizards don't know the different between an overcoat and a bathrobe, so chances are if you see someone in a bathrobe walking down the street at three in the afternoon, they're a wizard. Or an escapee from the local bedlam," Remus shrugged, then glanced over at Mulder. "You know, technically I shouldn't be telling you this. It violates more than one rule of the Statute of Secrecy."
"My godson's a wizard. That's got to count for something," Mulder retorted.
A strange look came over Remus's face. "Or something."
"You okay?" Mulder asked.
"Yes, I'm fine." He took a drag off of his cigarette. "I'm fine."
"So you're studying at Oxford, right?" Remus asked. "I know that's where Douglas went."
"Yeah, Magdalen College. I'm going for my doctorate in psychology. Don't know what I'm going to do with it, but I'll have it at least," Mulder shrugged. His parents were paying for it, so it didn't really bother him. Most likely they were just paying to keep him out of their hair and let them get on with their own separate lives.
"I was thinking of heading up there soon myself. An old professor of mine is working on a research project there and asked if I'd like to help her." Remus looked all too eager about this--the sign of a true scholar.
"It's a good place to study--" Before Mulder could go any further a loud yell from inside got their attention. "That's Genny," he murmured. The two shared a quick look and rushed back into the pub.
Douglas was holding Andrew, who was fussing loudly, about two gasps away from a full blown cry. He stood behind Genny, who was nearly as red in the face as Andrew was. "Mum, I don't really give a toss if you think the good little witches club is making you embarrassed because Douglas and I aren't married! What we do, we do because it's best for the three of us, not because Mrs. Fawcett thinks it's improper!"
"But Innogen, dear," Mrs. Kirke chimed in, "what if you were just to..." If there was one thing the drastically different parents Kirke and Bunting agreed on, it was that Douglas and Genny should have been married before the baby came along, preferably before she started showing. Mulder, Remus, and Sylvan all moved over to the coat rack, sensing that a quick exit was coming.
"Please, not tonight," Genny said with a desperate note in her voice. "It's been a very long day, everyone's exhausted, I need to feed Andrew, and I've got a pounding headache. We'll have this out another time, when everyone's a bit calmer. We'll see you soon." Genny turned to find Remus holding out her cloak; she smiled gratefully and swirled it around her shoulders. As soon as Douglas and Andrew were similarly bundled up, the younger generation made their way out to Douglas's car.
"You drive," Douglas said, tossing the keys to Mulder. "I'm going to sit in the back with Genny and Andrew."
"I, uh, think I'll apparate to your place," Sylvan said, her face turning slightly green at the mere sight of the car.
"Okay, we'll see you there. It should only take us about an hour to get there, so if you wouldn't mind, get the kettle warmed up for some tea?" Genny said as she buckled Andrew into the carseat.
"Of course, love." Sylvan gave Genny a one armed hug, and Genny leaned her head on her shoulder for a brief moment in thanks. "I'll see you at your place."
After that they got on the road as fast as possible. They were currently right outside of London, having gone to Douglas's parents' family chapel for the service, and it would be a good hour until they got back to Oxford. Soon the only two awake were Genny and Mulder. Andrew had finally quieted down after a quick feed, and Douglas was snoozing away next to him. Remus was slumped against the front passenger side window, breathing deeply and evenly.
"I should have known this would happen," Genny muttered right behind Mulder.
"Yeah, and Douglas's parents. They don't like me to begin with, now they want to make me just like them."
"I'm sure they're just acting like they are because they want the best for all of you," Mulder pointed out.
"Most likely, but we're not kids anymore, that's rather obvious." She paused a brief moment, and Mulder imagined she was looking down at Andrew. "What's best for us might not be what they think is best."
"I know the feeling," Mulder agreed. “You mind if I turn on the radio?”
“Go right ahead. Just keep the volume low.”
The music eventually became background noise as Mulder drove along the motorway back to Oxford. The stars gleamed in the sky above, and the sleepy breathing of his passengers accompanied him all the way back to Genny’s flat. They parked on the street.
“Here, Douglas, you take Andrew, and I’ll wake Sleeping Beauty over there up,” Genny said, handing Douglas the carrier. As Mulder evacuated the driver’s seat, she leaned in, her wavy chestnut brown hair brushing against Remus’s shoulder. “Wake up, wolfie!” she hollered, sending Remus jumping about a foot in the air. Being as tall as he was, his head met with the roof of the car with a resounding thud.
“Ow, dammit, Gen! That’s not funny,” he groused.
“Oh, yes it is. We’re at the flat, so haul your arse inside so we can all warm up, okay?” Genny said, backing out of the car. Remus hastily followed, and they all went inside. Sylvan was waiting with a platter full of mugs of steaming tea, with some biscuits on a plate next to them.
“Oh, bless you,” Douglas said, reaching for a biscuit and then taking a long draught of tea.
“Happy to be of service,” Sylvan said. “Just don’t expect me to change Andrew’s nappies.”
“Do not make me regret choosing you as godmother,” Genny called out as she went into her bedroom to put Andrew in his bassinette. A few moments later she returned, leaving the door open so she could hear the slightest noise. She flopped down on the couch next to Douglas, her skirt spreading out around them. Sylvan made herself comfortable on the floor, while Mulder and Remus shared the loveseat.
“I will be the best godmother ever,” Sylvan said. “I’ll spoil him rotten, and then leave him for his parents to deal with.”
Tuning out Sylvan’s proclamations of how good a godmother she’d be Mulder turned and looked at Remus. He was surprised to see him digging his hands into the upholstery, and his face even paler than he’d been naturally. “Are you all right?” he whispered.
“I’ll be okay,” Remus whispered back. “Just…bad memories.” At that moment Genny looked up and caught Remus’s eye. She nodded once, sending a message Mulder couldn’t decipher. The other man could, however, and nodded in reply. He seemed to get a second wind then, and actively joined the conversation, vowing to one-up Sylvan in godparenting just like he’d done in Charms class back when they were in school.
Feeling strangely content with how things were at the moment, Mulder allowed himself to drift off to sleep, crammed into the corner of the couch.