Disclaimer: I'm not muscling in on JK's turf - just gambolling on it, like a spring lamb, having fun working out the literary and psychological puzzles which she is having fun setting us
#15: Lupus est Homo Homini
[In which Snape acquires a dog he isn't at all sure he wants.]
"Lupin" said the professor's voice, flat with hostility, and Lynsey woke from her doze with a start to see a thin, mild, shabby-looking man standing by the hospital bed, gazing down at its occupant with a mixture of anxiety and apprehension.
"Poppy said you were awake. I, uh, came to see how you were."
"And now you have seen."
"I, um, spoke to Harry. He seems to think - "
"Oh, if he even seems to think that's a major advance."
"Ease up, Severus, please. Harry seems willing to believe that you're still on the Order's side, and in fact never left it."
"Bully for him. What do you believe?"
"I - I don't know. I've only heard your version of events at second hand - but Dumbledore always trusted you, and if Harry trusts you too then I guess that's good enough for me."
"Good enough to speak up for me, when they have me in chains in front of the Wizengamot?"
"Well, uh - "
"Oh - of course not. Remus Lupin, the eternal fence-sitter. You'll sit there with that damned little virtuous frown and empathize with me, but you won't do a bloody thing to help me."
"Don't! Do you really think that having a werewolf testify on your behalf would stand you in good stead? And you don't understand - what it was like, being with Sirius and James."
"Harry told me - told me you were still so angry about the way James and - well, the way we all treated you. He said you quoted him that tag about good men who enable evil by doing nothing. But you have to understand, Severus - "
"What do I have to understand - Remus?" He somehow managed to make the first-name familiarity sound like a dire insult.
"Understand that I am not a man" the other said wretchedly, turning his face away. "I'm a wolf, Severus - I'm a wolf where it counts. Padfoot was pack alpha - you've seen him, he was huge in dog form - and you don't challenge the alpha unless you intend to win."
"No, of course not - you run after him like a little puppy dog, to lick his boots and do his dirty-work." The shabby man began to pace up and down at that, twisting his hands together. "When the pack yelps, you yelp too - always ready to chime in with a sneer and an insult, if you weren't with your fists. 'Hark, hark, the dogs do bark - '"
The greying, soft-looking man suddenly rounded on him, leaning so close that the professor pressed himself back against the pillows and Lynsey was surprized to see how scared he looked, under the sullen bravado. "Listen to me, you bloody fool" the man Lupin snarled. "If I had challenged them and won then they would no longer have been able to control me at full moon. You of all people should know what that means, what I am capable of, what I become - if James had not been my superior in the pack, you would have died at my hands. Teeth. Whatever."
"Damn you. You could have tried to explain this, once I knew what you were. That would have been something, at least - but instead you just went along with whatever he did. And it wasn't only a matter of following in Black's wake, was it? When it came to verbal cruelty you were right up there with Potter, at least until they made you prefect. It wasn't coincidence that 'Moony' was the first volunteer to insult me on that damnable map."
He was still flattened back against the bed - unconsciously straining, it looked like, to withdraw himself as far from the other man as he could. Lupin suddenly seemed to realize the effect he was having, and winced as if he'd been slapped. He sat down on the end of the bed, facing slightly away from the professor, with his shoulders hunched and his hands between his knees.
"There's a level of.... When the pack scents blood, you know, there's a - communal frenzy which can seem very - seductive. But I thought that you of all men might understand that, from when you...."
"From when I was a Death Eater" the professor said, so quietly that Lynsey had to strain to hear him - though she was unsure whether she should be listening at all. "Yes. I know how it is when the pack - scents blood. But I realized what they were, what I was, and I turned my back on them."
"But you're - fully human."
The professor - Snape, she thought, Snape; they are all professors - made an irritable little hissing sound through his teeth. "There are plenty who would dispute that."
"Yeah, well - the world is full of arseholes - it doesn't do to pay them too much attention. I always rather admired you, you know," Lupin said, gazing fixedly at his clasped hands. "Whatever they - whatever we did to you, you never let yourself be squashed - you always came back up fighting. Even when we were all so small and new, and James took your wand and made you cry, you still flew at him like a wildcat and bit him."
"I remember. I felt so - stupid. Silly little ugly, stupid brat."
"Oh no - you were terrifyingly impressive. You put the wind up me, at any rate - and don't tell me that that's not hard, because I know it, OK? Though it did seem a bit of an over-reaction."
"Over-reaction? I was terrified! Do you have any idea what my father would have done to me if I'd lost the bloody thing?"
"I'm sorry. It would never have occurred to James that he might get you into trouble at home, let alone - that sort of trouble. His family thought that the sun shone out of his - Sirius might have understood, if he'd ever thought about it, because his family were pretty dreadful you know. But Sirius - he was too much canine and not enough human, even then."
"Surely he wasn't an Animagus already at that age?"
"No, but - to be a proper Animagus, you have to have something of the beast in you by nature, from the outset. Sirius really wanted to be alpha, and he couldn't stand having somebody around whom he couldn't dominate. Especially somebody so, um, little and scrawny. If you had just rolled over and played dead he would have lost interest in tormenting you after a few months, but because you fought him, and with such passion, you intruded into his world-view and became a nail he had to hammer flat. You were a constant challenge to what he saw as his rightful authority, and he had to keep on trying to dominate you, to knock you down and make you stay down, but he never could, except - "
"Except for that day by the lake, yes. That was - bad."
"I know - I'm sorry."
"Sorry! I donít think you have any conception of how bad it was. Panicking like that - being so completely unable to compose myself, in public, with you lot standing around and jeering - that was even worse than being stripped and then she, Lily, I was so desperate I lashed out at her and she wouldn't forgive me. She was the best thing I had, and she never bloody forgave me again. I would have killed myself, that night, if...."
"Why - why didn't you?" Lupin asked hoarsely, wringing his hands.
"Oh, I had my Transfiguration OWL the next day, and I knew I could get an 'Outstanding.' I was damned if I was going to let you lot stop me."
"As I recall, two days later you nailed James with a hex which put him in the hospital wing for a fortnight, and he had to re-sit Charms. I didn't even know you could do that with tonsils."
"We live and learn - or possibly not, in some cases. It was one of my more creative ideas."
"Sirius was always trying to break you - but that was never going to happen."
"No - it was left to - to He Who Must Not Be Named, to do that." Lynsey, watching, saw the set, sick line of his mouth and winced for him, as he was refusing to wince for himself.
"Harry told me - Harry told me you didn't break - he said you didn't betray Dumbledore even though you weren't even sure whether he was still alive to protect."
"If He had known what I was hiding from Him and had pressured me for it specifically, I am very much afraid I would have told Him" the professor said bleakly. "I told Him every other bloody thing, in the end: even though I should have known it wouldn't stop Him - hurting me."
"You must have known, though - you must have known you weren't giving much away. You must have realized that we - well, that we all thought that you'd betrayed us, that we just assumed you'd tell He-Who whatever you knew anyway, so we took precautions to neutralize all the information you carried immediately, as far as possible. He would hardly have let us know that he'd rumbled you as our agent, if he'd thought he could get anything out of you that we wouldn't already suspect he'd got."
"You're right, of course - but I wasn't really thinking straight, by that point, and some of the information - some of the information I gave Him doesn't change. Couldn't be changed. Information about people's strengths and weaknesses, about numbers.... And I believed I was betraying you - even if I wasn't." He turned his face to the wall, refusing to look at Lupin. "How - typical of Him, to force me to shame myself by betraying information He knew was for the most part useless anyway."
"I don't believe anybody with any sense will blame you, especially after we all heard.... I'm sorry. I know you feel that that was shaming. But it just served to demonstrate that few of us could have withstood a fraction of what you went through. Sirius tried to kill you in the end, because he realized he could never break you."
"He dared me, did you know that? He dared me to go down the tunnel after you, and said if I proved myself I could join your bloody little gang."
"Damn - I never knew that."
"Why else would I have trusted him - him, of all people? But dares are sacrosanct - you know that. I never imagined even he would cheat on a dare - that he really hated me that much, to be so - dishonourable, just to get at me."
"Because he couldn't control you - yes. Of course, that wasn't quite the version I gave Harry...."
"Oh, of course not. You would never do anything to take my part: not even simply to be honest about your damned friends for ten whole minutes."
"But Harry was so wretched about the way his dad behaved towards you - I felt I had to soften it a bit for him." As he spoke he gestured widely, hands empty and palms-up - a gesture of sorrow and futility, it seemed to Lynsey, but the professor jerked back as if Lupin's open hand were a snake. Lupin made a wry face. "Relax, Severus - it won't be full moon for a full ten days."
The professor plucked distractedly at the blanket, his hands shaking. "How can I be - relaxed," he said thickly, "around someone who saw me stripped and weeping in front of the whole fucking school?"
Lynsey would have expected the shabby man to flinch at that - it had certainly made her flinch, to her bones - but instead he gave the professor a level, considering look, and the corners of his mouth quirked up slightly. "Well, if it comes to that," he said calmly, "you've seen me butt-naked, covered in hair and drooling."
"Oh! That's right, isn't it? I hadn't thought of it like that." He began to laugh, weakly and rather hysterically. "Oh - oh God - I never thought of it like that!"
"I thought of it like that. Being a wolf is one thing; but the - transitional phase is so embarrassing. I hate being a monster - and I absolutely hate having to be so fucking humble all the time, because - God forbid - if the man should ever feel any pride the wolf would run mad."
"I hated having to be humble in front of - of Him. You have my sympathy - for whatever that may be worth. But I never had yours. Do you know how cold and inappropriate your admiration is? - a wolf, deigning to admire the prey-animal before he fucking tears it. I wasn't some sort of, of symbol for you all to work your varying neuroses out on - I was a child, terrified and miserable, having to waste my childhood on worrying about which of you bloody morons was going to try to knock me off my broom and break my neck next. I went straight from being battered by my father to being battered by you lot. You drove me into Lucius's arms - into his bed, for God's sake - just to get some sort of protection and I still ended up being stripped and humiliated by you as well, so it was all for nothing, and that simpering fool Pettigrew capering about pointing and jeering was just the final bloody touch, wasn't he?"
Lynsey, listening, suspected uneasily that they had both forgotten she was there, or thought she was still asleep. But she didn't want to disrupt the finely-balanced tension between them by rising to go, so she was stuck as a half-willing audience. She was mildly surprized that the professor would discuss his vulnerabilities with someone whom he clearly distrusted - but she supposed there was a difference between revealing a wound in order to elicit sympathy, and doing so as a form of psychological attack. Clearly her professor was taking a malicious pleasure in trying to hurt Lupin a fraction as much as he himself had been hurt - equally clearly, his attempts to manipulate the werewolf's guilty conscience kept side-slipping off at some peculiarly canine tangent. Dogs, in her experience, only felt real guilt towards their masters.
Her professor drew a shaky breath and put his hands over his face, looking as if he was about to claw at his own eyes. "I don't know which was worse: Lucius, or being put on public display in that - condition, but Pettigrew was the final fucking straw." And that didn't sound at all like manipulation, did it? Just raw unhappiness. "Thank God Lily had left by that point, or I really would have killed myself, OWLs or no bloody OWLs. To have her know that I couldn't go near her without - "
Lupin frowned, biting his lip. "Lucius tried it on with me a few times, you know. I was almost tempted to take him up on it - at full moon! But it would have been so hard to explain the body...."
"Pity. But I was - easy meat, wasn't I? Between my father and your bloody lot, you had beaten the knowledge of my own ugliness into me so deeply that I was - open to being manipulated by anyone who pretended to find me attractive, even if they made my skin crawl. I still can hardly bear to look in a mirror. The children laugh at me and call me a vampire because of it - but I can't tolerate the sight of myself."
"That's foolish - at least you know you're never going to look in the mirror and see - something else."
"I wish I could see something else!"
"No. You don't. Trust me." He sighed and rubbed his hands through his greying hair. "Please believe me. I know that I did nothing to help you, and I'm thoroughly ashamed of myself - if that helps at all. But just sometimes I did nothing in ways that amounted to something."
"I never had your reckless courage or your capacity for sheer bloody-minded defiance; but I do dumb insolence really well. And James - James and Sirius, they were so incensed by your refusal to be suppressed that they tried to get me to abuse my powers as a prefect, and take points off you for it - just for wanting a bit of own-back. I told them both that they'd made their bed when they antagonized you, and now they must damned well lie in it." He looked at the professor sideways, rueful and tentatively amused, and was answered by a brief flicker of a smile. "Of course, it was probably because of that that Sirius tried to set me up to kill you - to punish me for refusing to punish you."
"He was a complete and utter shit, in other words - even to his so-called friends."
Lupin shrugged. "He was my alpha - and he made sure that our pack-rule would include complete obedience. And, after all, he knew that I needed it to, to make me safe to have around. His personality - or even his sanity - didn't really come into it. He was my alpha, and he was my pack-mate, and we hunted together."
"And donít I bloody know it."
"I didn't mean you - just - rabbits and things. Sheep, sometimes. In fact, it's a miracle neither of us was shot: we were certainly shot at a few times. In retrospect, it was probably unwise of Dumbledore to leave an inexperienced werewolf to be managed by...."
"A murderous psychotic, a giggling sycophant and a primping poseur with his brains below his belt," Snape suggested helpfully.
"Well - yeah. Basically. Even if he didn't know the others were Animagi, he knew they were, um, differently able in the common-sense department."
"You didn't have to run with them."
"Yes. I did. Once I was a wolf I no longer - had the mental equipment to refuse with, and once I'd run with Sirius in that form a few times I was too much under his authority to disobey him. And not to run, when you can run - it's like - submitting to being blinded and deafened. As an adult I can make myself do that - but as a teenager.... Well, think of what it was like for you, or any other human boy at that age, all that - vast, unfocussed randiness - " He stopped, seeing the professor flinch away as if he'd been struck. "Sorry."
"A sore point - under the circumstances" he said thinly.
"Yes, well - imagine that wild disturbing desire for sex multiplied about seven-fold and then redirect it towards killing sheep, and you'll have some idea.... Dumbledore really shouldn't have left me to be managed by a mob of schoolboys even less mature than I was."
"At least you weren't publicly crucified for your - desire."
"Only because nobody but we five knew about it - and that was largely due to your discretion, which I hardly deserved, and for which I am eternally thankful - even if it was on Dumbledore's orders."
"Dumbledore always did play favourites and treat the whole smug bloody lot of you as if you were made of solid gold. Potter got to be Head Boy as a reward for saving me from you, and Dumbledore saw to it that the years of concentrated cruelty that had brought me to that point were just - swept under the carpet. Along with the two and a half bloody years of further torture which followed it."
"Did he know, though, what James - what we had been doing? You were never a, a sneak, I thought."
"No, of course not - it's Not Done, is it? It was perfectly acceptable for you to torment and humiliate me to the brink of suicide, but if I had told anyone that would have been a crime against schoolboy honour. But if one of my students turns up with unexplained injuries three times in one week I make bloody sure I find out why."
"Not always - you play favourites too, don't you? You were pretty damned unsympathetic to Harry when he turned up late and covered in blood at the start of sixth year."
"And I suppose Potter told you that, did he?"
"Oh no - Harry never sneaks - not even on you. Tonks told me."
"How delightful for both of you. But experience has taught me that unexplained injuries on Potter are invariably the result of his own reckless stupidity, not of - And I was in a vile temper, because he had made me miss the feast when I should have been there to greet my new students."
"Not to mention missing your own dinner, of course."
"Donít joke. You know I seldom eat very much: it just doesn't stay down unless I was ravenous to begin with. Although oddly enough when O'Connor and I were - 'on the run,' so to speak, it was, it should have been, utterly terrifying - and yet I could eat, when there was anything to eat, and in some ways felt less tense than I do facing a class of third years."
"Aaaah! You do understand. I'll see you hunting on four legs yet."
The professor gave him an odd look, uneasily amused, and murmured "Perhaps I should ask Minerva for lessons." Lynsey remembered how he had seemed to her in the caves - a great delicate, spiky, stalking black fox - and wondered if he was serious.
"Hey - it would be neat to have somebody to hunt with! We could go for much bigger prey."
"Good God - what did you have in mind?"
"Well - deer and things, instead of rabbits. You can live for a fortnight on a good-sized deer, if you freeze or salt it!"
"Good grief - is that how you live?"
"I happen to like the taste of venison - and it's not as if anybody is going to bloody well employ me after you went public about my - condition, is it?" he said bitterly.
"I - didn't realize the consequences would be so bad for you. But I would have had to do it anyway, even if I had realized - you'd shown that if you were distracted you could and would forget to take the Wolfsbane, and that you were a danger to the children because of it."
"I don't bear you a grudge for it - for what it's worth, I think you were probably right to do it."
Snape nodded tightly. "Anyway - I fasted for thirty hours in order to appear - normal, at the feast, and then Potter made me miss it. Quite apart from the fact that I can't bear to have him anywhere near me, since he - violated my memory of that awful bloody day."
"He really was very upset with his father and Sirius over that, you know."
"Bloody marvellous." He rubbed fretfully at the bridge of his nose. "He was angry with his godfather before he died, and now I imagine he feels guilty about it - and blames me for being the cause of it! Just as he blames me for provoking Black to fatal recklessness."
"That's just blaming you for what nature did!"
"Quite - and - I know this is going to sound really childish, but he started it. I may not have been exactly ecstatic about it, but I was prepared to at least try to work with the man - but Dumbledore told me to speak with Potter alone about arranging private lessons, and Black wouldn't permit it and instead started suggesting I was going to harm the boy in some way. As if I hadn't just spent years of my life trying to keep the bloody brat out of trouble! We ended up ready to hex each other into oblivion and Potter actually got between us and broke it up - in fact I was quite impressed by him, for once, especially as he was even-handed about it. If I had thought about it in advance I would have expected him simply to take Black's part against me."
"He's a good kid really, and he has some glimmerings of common-sense - more than his father did, if I am honest. Personally I blame Dumbledore for that whole situation."
"Mmm. He knew that Sirius was - frustrated, about having to stay indoors. His pride had taken a terrible beating - not just from the Dementors, but from knowing that the whole world had been willing to think he had betrayed James and murdered those people - and I could bite my own arm off from sorrow and shame, now, that I ever doubted him, but the damage had been done. He felt that all the Order even let him join for was because we wanted to use his house, and he was just a - a sort of inconvenient feature of the property, like dry rot or Kreacher."
"Ssss. Don't mock - I'm serious. Dumbledore arranging for you to meet Harry at Grimmauld Place privately like that, and letting Sirius know the meeting was happening but not what it was about, was really rubbing salt into the wound - saying to him 'We just want the house, not you; and even though it's your house you have no say about what goes on there, and we don't trust you to know.'"
"What else could he have done, though?"
"Oh! He could have had you fetch Harry through to Hogwarts and then speak to him privately there. He could have acted as peacemaker between you and Sirius, or gotten Minerva to. He knew that you're a snide, insinuating git with all the tact of an ice-pick and that Sirius had negative common-sense and could sulk for England, but he just left the pair of you to get on each other's nerves and did nothing about it. Whatever blame is due over your - difficulties working together, the lion's share attaches to Dumbledore."
"I donít imagine that Potter would agree with you."
"Oh, probably not. But he was convinced by what you said about not wanting to kill Dumbledore, nevertheless. Kind-of sulky about it, but convinced."
"Wonderful. And of course, Dumbledore could have found out what was being done to me at school - if he'd cared to! But instead, he favoured the precious Gryffindor Marauders in all things. He even handed you the job he knew I'd spent my life longing for - though he must have known you had divided loyalties regarding Black who, let us not forget, we all, Dumbledore included, believed to be a mass murderer. Yet he still preferred to give the bloody job to you rather than to me."
"Oh please. Do you really think the manipulative old buzzard had my best interests at heart, when he handed me a job which everybody in the whole bloody world except me knew really was cursed? You might have enough of a death-wish to want the job anyway, but I value my own furry hide. He put me in that position precisely so that you could watch me twenty-four-seven."
"He specifically told me not to."
"And that just guaranteed that you would, didn't it?"
"Hah. Possibly. But he could have just bloody asked me to watch you."
"Oh, but that wouldn't be nearly as much fun as playing chess with live pawns, would it? But I didn't have divided loyalties, as it happens."
"You mean you were still Black's bloody dog through and through? Even when you thought he had killed your friends and God-knows how many Muggle bystanders? Even when you thought he was coming to kill Precious Potter - a student, for God's sake, however much one might want to throttle the brat?"
"Oh no - not at all. I was entirely on your - on Dumbledore's side in this."
"Oh come off it Lupin - what kind of fool do you take me for? You knew he was an Animagus, you knew there was an undisclosed passage right into the bloody school, and you kept quiet about it!"
"I wanted to be the first to meet him - on my own."
"In order to help him to escape - I bloody knew it."
"In order to kill him without outside interference. As I would have killed Peter, if Harry hadn't stopped me."
"Good God. Whatever happened to 'He is my alpha and I must obey him'?"
"That became - less imperative, once I had you to brew me the Wolfsbane - and I hadn't run with him for a long time. Anyway, it's always an option, you know, to challenge the alpha - just not necessarily a wise one in my case, but once I had killed him, I would have been free to transfer my full allegiance to Dumbledore."
"Justice and a fair trial, Lupin?"
The shabby man shrugged. "He killed James - at least, I thought he did."
"That's the whole bloody point, isn't it? Honestly, Lupin - " He shook his head, looking terminally exasperated. "Minerva thinks that Potter Senior really did save me because he realized that killing me would have been - heinous: not just because he was afraid he'd be expelled otherwise."
"So far as I know, he did it to save me - because he knew it would destroy me, if I found I had killed while in my were-form. I don't believe he considered you for a moment, except as a nuisance."
"That's honest, at least - and more honourable than just saving his own skin. At least he cared enough to risk his life for a friend, I suppose - even if he cared nothing for anybody else. Sirius cared nothing for anybody."
"He cared for James...."
"He had the hots for James - it's not the same thing. And God knows, for whatever reason, he hated me and you knew it - so what the fuck possessed you to trust me to his tender care when I was knocked unconscious? Potter told me how he manhandled me, and I know I had scrapes and bruising from more than one blow to the head - he could have killed me. Again. He could have left me with fucking brain-damage. It was possibly only because I had the sense to go and see Poppy Pomfrey that I wasn't permanently damaged - I know I was ranting and shaking like a lunatic for hours afterwards. You knew how much he hated me, you knew better than anybody how he had tried to kill me - what were you thinking of, to entrust my care to him? Did you hope he would kill me?"
"I thought - I assumed he would have matured a bit."
"Why? We bloody haven't. He'd just spent twelve years with the Dementors and the best part of a year as a stray dog - what did you imagine that would have done for his sanity? Which you would have needed a microscope to find in the first place, I might add. Did any of you bastards even bother to check my pulse when I was knocked out - or did you just leave it up to fate whether I lived or died?"
"You bloody didn't, did you? I was still just expendable."
"Oh, God, I just - I was panicking. The whole thing - Sirius, Peter, then you, materializing out of thin air like the Demon King in the pantomime - I would say 'You have no idea how sinister you are capable of appearing,' except that I'm quite sure you do it deliberately, for effect. It was all such a shock, and then I realized I was out at full moon, without Wolfsbane...."
"That's another bloody thing. What were you thinking, to risk exposing children to your were-form?"
"When I saw Sirius and the children together on the map I just - ran, as you did."
"I wasn't a danger to them in myself! What would have happened if Sirius had been out to kill Potter, and you had confronted him and won? You would have been the alpha wolf, trapped in a confined space with three children - one of them already injured."
"Well - if it had come to that I hope they would have overcome me - as they did you, I might point out."
"I only had a wand - I didnít have fucking fangs and claws as well. Expelliarmus doesn't work on teeth - in case you didn't know."
"In any case, you could just as well have brought the Wolfsbane with you - if you hadn't been panicking as much as I was."
"No. I couldn't. Bloody brought it to you in an open goblet, didn't I? If I'd run with it it would have been all over the lawn, and I didn't have time to summon a closed bottle and pour the stuff just so I could compensate for your carelessness."
"But what else could I have done, when I saw them being dragged into the tunnel?"
"You could have called me! It would only have taken a few seconds longer, and it would have been far safer."
"You didn't stop to call for backup - so why blame me for doing the same?"
"And whom do you suggest I should have called? You were already away; Hooch spends her evenings propping up a bar in Hogsmeade; Hagrid is too big to fit down the damned tunnel; and here endeth the complete list of members of the Hogwarts Faculty who are young and/or fit enough to sprint across the grounds and tackle a murderer at the end of it. And there was no way I was going to call a Dementor to come with me into the presence of children - even if I could stand to be near the things myself which frankly, I can't. But you, on the other hand, did have a clear option of calling me."
"Good God - did you really think I would allow our - personal differences to stand in the way when there were children's lives at stake?"
"It just - didn't occur to me. I did leave the map, in case you came looking for me: but I never thought of actually asking you for help. There was always - so much bad blood between us, and after that day at the lake you were so angry, so - inventively vindictive. You might have made my tail grow out of my ear, or something."
"You think itís a joke, my retaliation - but I lost the only person I ever really cared about, because of you bloody lot, and the only way I could deal with that loss and that public shame, except by killing myself, was to launch myself at all of you kicking and biting and just run on rage, and never hit the ground; and I still haven't. That - burning rage drove me to the Death Eaters and made me the instrument of violence, and it will eventually consume me from the inside out."
"I am - so sorry. I never meant it to be so bad...."
"What did you think it would do to me? Even when we were colleagues you still - stripped away what was left of my dignity by encouraging Longbottom to make a laughing-stock of me to the whole bloody school."
"It wasn't my doing that you made him so scared of you that you became his Boggart, poor kid."
"You might be surprized at how easy it is to become someone's Boggart - inadvertently - and you could have found some less humiliating way of defusing the bloody thing." He stared angrily at Lupin, who looked honestly confused.
After a moment her professor - Snape, Lynsey thought, Snape - sighed irritably and pushed his long hair back from his face. "Ah, no," he said, "I'm starting to see how this works. I'm sitting - no, lying here talking about dignity to somebody who washes himself with his tongue. You probably don't even understand why that - foul business by the lake was so - "
"No," Lupin agreed gently. "I understand that publicly losing a fight was bad, even against long odds, and I can see why being embarrassed in front of Lily made you lash out at her, I think - "
"Do you? Do you understand how - fucking terrified I was of what my own House would do to me, if I let myself be rescued by a Muggle-born Gryffindor? At least you bloody lot didn't know where I slept."
"Well - perhaps I didn't see, then, but I can certainly see that Lily... that having her dump you because of it was bad, and really that was mostly our fault. And I know intellectually that humans have status-issues about being seen naked - but dignity of that sort really isn't a canine thing, and I could never really feel why simply being stripped would make it so much more - emotionally destructive. Especially since I think most people were more impressed than not."
"God, I wish I was a dog - I wish it didn't still burn me, every day of my bloody life, but it does. And now I can't even hate you for it, because you're not human enough to understand what you did to me."
"No," he said dispassionately, "I'm not. But - I don't know if it helps or not - I don't know if I should say this, since he was my friend and I loved him for good or ill - but, I may not fully understand why displaying a surprizingly good body and a normal male reflex in public should be shaming, but I know that if it was me I would hate to think that I had wasted my life carrying a grudge over a mere - cultural misunderstanding."
"Say that again please - in English."
"James wasn't a dog. Insofar as he was anything other than human he was a stag, and stags are obsessive about dignity. James, at least, must have understood in detail exactly what he was doing to you."
Snape stared at him for a long moment, and then sighed again. "Thank you for that - I think."
"I wish I could...."
"But you cannot. What do you want from me, Lupin?"
"How dare you! How dare you lay that on me?"
"Who else should I ask? I want not to have done what I've done but that's not possible - you of all men know that - and who else can give me absolution from my sins of - both omission and commission against you? Can't we just - start again? For one thing, it would make it so much easier when we have to work together. I mean, assuming you don't get arrested, presumably you'll be the Old Man, now that the old man himself is - unavailable."
"That will fall to Minerva, surely?"
"You're better in combat."
"Don't underestimate her. I've seen her in action."
"Well - possibly. But speaking personally, I'd prefer blood and fire and hunting in the dark to shortbread and tartan knickknacks, and in any case - within the pack, males follow males and females follow females. Two separate hierarchies. I need to be led by a male."
"Good God - are you offering to be my dog?" Lynsey, listening, felt a sudden wild bubble of laughter trying to escape from her chest, and thought Oh, my lad, be careful what you ask for, or you may get it - you wanted his guilt, but dogs only feel guilt towards their master!
"I have to be somebody's dog - I'm not safe, otherwise. And now that Sirius and Dumbledore are both - gone...."
"I refuse point blank to believe that you like me: that would be straining credulity just too far."
"It's not about liking. It's about power, and the hunt. And at least you'd never be dull."
"And you are still making a symbol of me, instead of a man. It doesn't occur to you that I might be ready for a little dullness, after - That I might want to - to retire to the country and keep bees, or some such?"
"Not until the Dark Lord is defeated: you'd never rest. And since we'll presumably be working together, and I'm probably going to be reporting to you as junior spy to senior.... It's going to make both our lives needlessly complicated if you keep snarling at me when you should be debriefing me."
"Oh - very well then" the professor snapped, with an exceedingly poor grace. "I absolve you. I suppose. This is turning out to be a very long day. Whether or not I want a bloody dog - I'll think about it."
"Thank you. It means a lot to me."
"But if you're going to be my dog, then you bloody-well tell me everything that you know - no holding back vital information, the way you did with Dumbledore."
"Of course not - if I'm your dog."
"Do you know what it is you're offering me, you bloody idiot?"
"Oh yes" he said softly, and for an instant Lynsey could have sworn that his eyes flared yellow. "Power. Power over one of your tormentors."
Snape frowned and picked at the blanket again, abstractedly. "When I was - still in favour with - Riddle, He gave me Pettigrew to be my servant - as a reward for bad behaviour. God knows what He thought I'd do to him."
"And what did you do?"
"Amused myself by bullying him back, a bit - but I was very restrained."
"I wouldn't have been. I'd have eaten his heart."
"And you would - trust yourself to me as a master? After all that's been between us?"
"Oh yes. Absolutely. For one thing, I'd far rather have you as an alpha than an enemy - you may be a tactless ill-tempered bastard, but you look after the people in your power much more carefully than Dumbledore ever did. For another, you just promised to set aside your grudge against me - and I know you'll do your best to honour that, even if I did nag you into it. You were always - honourable."
"You could have told me at least some of this at the time, yus kin. If you had told me some of this - any of this - it might have made the whole situation - easier to bear."
"I couldnít have trusted you. I mean, if I had tried to befriend you in any way you might have found out about the others being Animagi, and betrayed us."
"What happened to 'You were always honourable' all of a sudden? I never told your bloody secret. Christ! I let Lily drift away from me because she thought that I was trying to control her, to tell her whom she could or couldn't be friends with, because I gave my word not to tell her that her new friends included a bloody werewolf and a bloody would-be murderer."
"Yes, but - that was because the headmaster told you not to. If you had found out about us, you might have told the headmaster."
"If you had told me yourself - any of it - I would, in fact, have valued your confidence and gone out of my way to keep it."
"Even to Dumbledore?"
"I was his man - not his bloody lapdog."
"Touché, I guess."
"That is - Let us be honest. I would have kept your secret provided I was convinced that what you were doing wasn't a threat to the school or to the other students, which may be moot."
"Oh, you're a fine one to get po-faced about risk to the school - you, who joined the bloody Death Eaters!"
"But they were presented to me as coming to restore order to the wizarding world, not to shatter it. It wasn't until I was already trapped that I learned that they were the quintessence of the very disorder I was fleeing."
"The Knights of bloody Walpurgis? You must have known they were chaos-worshippers."
"They were not using that name, at the time - and after what happened with Black, after seeing a student allowed to - so very nearly - murder a classmate with impunity and finding out that it was I, the victim, who was threatened with expulsion whilst the murderer went unpunished, I could very well believe that it was Dumbledore's party who represented chaos and division."
"Did it matter so much, whether or not Sirius was punished?"
"Why shouldnít he be? I bloody was. I've been punished all my life, often for nothing - but to be punished for having nearly been killed, that was the limit. What was it for - for not having died? I was so bloody petrified - and then I was punished for it!"
"I do know - any made werewolf knows - how terrifying it is to be confronted by the beast. I never, never wanted to be or do to anybody else what Greyback was and did to me."
"Yes, well" Snape muttered, picking abstractedly at the blanket. "Greyback is something of a busted flush at present."
"Oh?" The professor smirked at him rather smugly. "Oh, you - What did you do to him?"
"Spelled all his teeth out - to the roots. They won't regrow."
"Oh! Oh that's - inspired."
"I thought so. And it gave me some satisfaction, after all these years, finally to best the beast. After all these years. If only you - if anybody - had told me that Dumbledore was protecting Black because Black wasÖ ill, it would have made so much difference."
"I really wish I had - established communication between us at the time. But how could I speak to you? I could hardly have done so in their presence - and I wouldn't have dared try to speak with you alone. You were too much of a wolf yourself."
"I was made to be. And there is such a thing as parchment and quill - in case you had forgotten. Merlin's balls, Lupin!" he said, in tones of the profoundest disgust. "I'm the one who's supposed to be so secretive, so antisocial - but I'm starting to think I'm the only one of the whole bloody lot of you who ever voluntarily tells anybody anything."
"I can't sleep, Lynsey. Now that it would be safe to sleep, I can't sleep. Why is that?"
She laid her fingers across his bony wrist. His pulse leapt and fluttered erratically, like a wild bird in a cage, and his skin was still sheet-white under the fading bruises. "Too much adrenalin. You've been living on adrenalin for weeks - "
"For years - for my life" he murmured drowsily.
"But particularly for the last few weeks. It will take weeks more for your metabolism to get over the strain - quite apart from your injuries."
"I don't have weeks. Tomorrow I could be facing Azkaban - "
"If so then I shall come and serenade you through the bars, in the manner of Blondel."
"Huh. It's a charming thought, but I doubt the guards would permit it. And if Minerva convinces the Ministry to believe me, then I have to get back into harness as fast as possible. We're already down one man with Dumbledore gone, and Alastor is frankly more hindrance than help: especially since he seems to have added a drink-problem to his other charms. The Order will need all of the highest-ranking wizards it can get - I can't just say 'Hold the war, please, until I get over a - an upset.'"
"It was one hell of a lot more than that, and you know it."
"I can't afford to let it have been - not now. Not yet."
"You're a tough cookie, you know this? On the outside, anyway."
"You make me sound like a Jaffa Cake."
"Oh, no - an expensive liqueur chocolate, at least. Hard and dark and brittle on the outside, but full of spirit and bite."
"Huh. I am so very tired, Lynsey - too tired even to be sure if that was a compliment or not. Sing to me. If you would."
"It was a compliment. Ish. Maybe slightly barbed - but I don't really do the other sort." She fussed a long strand of black hair off his forehead and, greatly daring, touched his cheek for a moment in sympathetic affection. When he neither recoiled nor bit her, she sat down by the bedside, laid one hand lightly on the great new scar on his forearm, and began to sing; a soft, sad, crooning song that washed across him and carried him with it, until his ragged breathing steadied and settled into the rhythm; although she felt sure that he was still at least a quarter awake. Caught between waking and sleeping herself, riding on the edge of the music, she watched the lines of chronic bitterness and rage gradually smooth away from his white face, and sang on.
"Oh, the heart she gave me
Was not made of stone;
Oh, the heart she gave me
Was not made of stone;
It was sweet and hollow
Like a honeycomb...."
"Lupus est homo homini:" "Man is wolf to man." I wouldn't like to pass judgment on whether Lupin is right in his assessment of Sirius's and James's psychology: he does tend to see everything very much from a canine perspective, just as Snape sees it from a human one. Probably the real truth is somewhere in between.
Some explanation is needed for the dangerously irresponsible way in which Lupin failed to inform anybody about an undisclosed secret route into Hogwarts, and about Sirius being an Animagus, at a time when he believed Sirius to be a mass-murderer out to kill Harry. That he was setting a trap is one possible explanation, especially if one views him (as I tend to do) as a large predator. An alternative and more human explanation could be that he put off doing so because he was suffering from sub-clinical depression, and so found it almost impossible to nerve himself up to do something so difficult and potentially damaging as admitting that he had helped three unregistered Animagi to break the law. Certainly we know Lupin has low self-esteem (because he thinks he isn't good enough for Tonks), and the whole business with Sirius must have been very stressful - so depression is a distinct possibility.
There is a companion-piece to this story, called Yggdrasil, which is Snape musing to himself over the two Shrieking Shack incidents. One of the comments in it is that Lupin is actually Snape's Boggart, but Snape has no intention of telling him so.... And he is actually being quite kind and restrained by not doing so, because Lupin would be mortified.
"The Old Man" is a slang term for a commanding officer.
The person who famously retired to the country to keep bees was of course Sherlock Holmes.
According to legend, when Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned at a secret location his minstrel Blondel travelled across Europe, from fortress to fortress, singing under the castle walls until finally he heard his master's voice join in with him from within the prison.
Music: Sally Free and Easy by Cyril Tawney
This chapter has been slightly altered to bring it in line with the new backstory revealed in Deathly Hallows. Apart from having Snape and Lupin refer to "Dumbledore" rather than "Albus", this means that more emphasis has been placed on how the Shrieking Shack and underpants incidents impacted on Snape's relationship with Lily, and the dating of the Shrieking Shack incident has been moved back to the middle of fifth year, well before the underpants incident.
N.B. Lynsey is partially a self-insert, as she is about 40% based on me: as well as about 20% each on a local Edinburgh singer/songwriter called Lynsey Hutcheson; various other people on the British pagan and/or SF scene; and Lyn Turtle, the forensic psychologist who is the female lead in the first series of the seminal and seminally surreal 1980s British black comedy series A Very Peculiar Practice, and who habitually addresses the male lead, Dr Stephen Daker, as "Doc" (even after they become lovers).
Lynsey is captured on the afternoon of Saturday 27th December 1997. She and Snape finally make it out of the caves in the wee small hours of the 30th - i.e. between Monday night and Tuesday morning, after 2½ days of running battle. They sleep the night of Tuesday 30th out in the woods, and rejoin the Order late on the 31st.
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This story is continued in the sequel Sons of Prophecy. Now read on....
This story is continued in the sequel Sons of Prophecy. Now read on....