Title: Practically Brothers
Chapter Title: The Essential Qualifications
Date: August 1, 2003
Summary: After the happenings in Order of the Phoenix, Lupin talks with Snape, and a tentative friendship begins. Hurt/comfort, but not slash.
Disclaimer: Everything here belongs to J.K. Rowling.
Author's Note: This is the conversation that I want to see, between Lupin and Snape, now that I've read Order of the Phoenix, so yes:
MAJOR ORDER OF THE PHOENIX SPOILERS!
(Is there anyone out there reading Harry Potter fanfic who HASN'T read Order of the Phoenix?)
For those who have asked, no, this is not going to be slash, although I like to think that this will please both audiences - those who like slash, and those who don't.
As I am an American, I'm sure that a native British speaker will notice all kinds of Americanisms in here. Please let me know, and give the proper alternative words, so I can fix. (I'm sure the spelling alone is offensive, only my spell checker doesn't recognize British spelling.)
The Essential Qualifications
Lupin woke with a start. He'd dozed off in the chair in Dumbledore's office. How late was it? He looked at the clock. Late, very late, it'd be dawn in a few hours. This was taking too long.
He stretched, stood up, and looked around the room for the hundredth time, but everything was still. The figures in the portraits were all asleep. Fawke's perch was empty, he was with his master tonight - pity, Lupin would have liked the company.
And then he saw it - the flicker in the center of the room, that must be what had awakened him. A tiny light, blinking, expanding, and then a black figure materialized in the room, doubled over, clutching a rusty old teapot - the Portkey. Lupin jumped forward. Snape's knees were buckling, and Lupin was only just able to catch him in time to keep him from crashing to the floor.
Snape's face was inches from his, it was pale, drawn, lined with dirt. "What are you doing here?" Snape spat. "Where's Dumbledore?" He tried to push Lupin away, but started to fall again. Lupin caught him.
"Dumbledore had to take care of something that came up suddenly. He sent me here to wait for you. He'll get here when he can." Lupin spoke quietly, keeping his voice gentle, as he pulled Snape's arm over his shoulders, and half-carried him toward what appeared to be a blank wall, until a doorway shimmered into existence.
Through it was a small room, just large enough for a cot, a table beyond it, and a stone fireplace where a log burst into flames as they entered. Snape lunged across the room to the table, which held a shallow stone bowl. His hands gripped its sides, then he feverishly put his wand to his temple, drawing out long, silvery strands of memory, and dumping them in the bowl, which began to smoke and boil. Lupin forced himself to stand back, so that he couldn't see, much as he wanted to.
Then Snape's hand fell limply to his side, the wand clattering to the floor, and he began to collapse again, but Lupin caught him, and got him onto the cot, shoulders first, then his legs, and then straightening his robes around him.
"Dumbledore made a potion for you," Lupin said, as he ladled liquid into a mug from a cauldron that hung over the fire. Snape reached out a hand to take the mug, but was shaking too much to hold it, so Lupin supported his shoulders and held the mug to his lips while he swallowed. He could feel the anger in Snape's body. He resents me fiercely, Lupin thought, but he's too weak to fight me. Snape pushed the mug away with his hand, and Lupin laid him back on the cot. Snape's breathing was fast and shallow.
Dumbledore had told him that Snape would be hurt, that he'd been forced to disappoint Voldemort, and that meant torture. What did he do to you? thought Lupin, as he looked at Snape's drawn face, his lank hair plastered against his skull with sweat, looking like an old man, instead of the comparatively young man he was. The Cruciatus Curse, at least, and that would be bad enough.
Snape's breathing began to slow to normal, and he closed his eyes. "You can go now," he said.
"Dumbledore told me to watch over you until he gets back," Lupin said as he put the mug back on the mantle. "There's more potion here, if you need it."
"Always keen to watch me suffer, aren't you," Snape murmured. His breathing was normal now.
"Never, Severus," Lupin said, settling himself down onto the floor by the cot, and leaning against the wall, near Snape's head.
"No, I suppose not," Snape said. "You just turned away in disgust and never said anything."
"Which I truly regret, Severus," Lupin said.
Snape did not answer. He lay still, breathing in and out, slowly and deeply, face tight.
"The floor is cold," he said, "You can wait in the other room."
"The floor is fine, I've been on worse," Lupin said. "Go to sleep."
Snape's mouth twitched. "Not for some time yet."
"I'm sorry. Will more of the potion help?"
"Let me know, then, if there's anything you need," Lupin said. But he won't tell me, he thought, he can't stand me seeing him like this.
He looked at the long form on the cot, robes filthy - were they outdoors when it happened? Snape's face was grimed with dirt. I can do something about that, Lupin thought.
He stood up, and went to the table, where a pitcher of water stood next to the Pensieve, along with a pile of clean cloths. He poured a little water onto one of the cloths, then went back and knelt beside the cot. He gently drew Snape's hair aside, and rubbed the damp cloth along his forehead. Snape's face contorted, and Lupin braced himself for a sharp remark, but nothing came. Lupin worked the cloth from Snape's forehead down to his cheeks, but the lines there did not come off, and a dark red stain appeared on the cloth. Blood?
"Severus, are you wounded?" Lupin asked.
"No, there won't be any wounds." Snape's brow furrowed. "I remember clawing at my face, that's all. There should be nothing else." He raised his hand, fingers extended, and Lupin could see the same dark red under his fingernails. At least he could spare Snape a full body examination, which neither of them would enjoy.
"Hang on." Lupin stood up and brought down a pot from the mantle, and began to rub salve into the scratches on Snape's face.
"A pity Black couldn't see me like this," Snape said, his voice stronger. "How he would have enjoyed it."
Where did that come from?thought Lupin. The potion must be affecting him. "No, he wouldn't, Severus," he said, continuing along Snape's face.
"Oh, yes, he would," Snape said, gesturing weakly with one arm, "I can see his face now, hear his voice . . ." He trailed off. "But he is not here, he is dead." Snape's hand fell back to the cot. "So I have you here, instead, pity dripping from every word that comes out of your mouth." Snape closed his eyes. "Pity is the most I can ever hope for."
Lupin put the top back on the pot, and placed it on the mantle. "I feel more than pity for you, Severus. I am in awe."
"Oh, yes, I am indeed awe-inspiring." Snape pointed at the Pensieve. "Take a look in there, look at me groveling on my belly, screaming, that'll cure you of any awe. Black would have been delighted with it."
"No, Severus, he would not. Any more than I would."
Snape did not answer.
Lupin settled himself back against the wall. "It's that childhood dream, isn't it? You know, 'When they find out, they'll all be sorry.' Well, I've found out, and I am sorry, Severus. We were all wrong. I'm sorry that James and Sirius weren't able to live so that they could tell you so themselves.
"Black made his thoughts very plain."
"Sirius was in Azkaban for twelve years. It affected him deeply, it was not something he was going to shrug off in a year or two. But, given time, I know he would have seen things differently." Lupin's voice trembled, and he closed his eyes for a moment, thinking of Sirius.
Snape was silent.
"And how long have you been imprisoned, Severus, and how many years before you are free?" Lupin wished he hadn't said those words as soon as they were out of his mouth. I'm more tired than I thought.
Snape didn't react, his face stayed blank. Maybe he won't answer. He doesn't have to answer.
And then Snape said, "As many years as it takes. Until He is dead, or I am." Was there satisfaction there, in his voice?
I shouldn't do this, thought Lupin, but he went on anyway, "You hate him, don't you. Does he know?"
Snape nodded, slowly. "Oh yes, he knows I hate him. And he despises me." Snape smiled, it was an ugly smile. "But it doesn't matter to him, as long as he thinks I hate all of you more, and want to use him against you. He understands that, a weakling, clinging to strength. And he understands hatred." He sighed. "So I am his dog, or so he thinks. Often, I am a very stupid dog, and fail to give him vital information, and stupid dogs must be punished."
Lupin stifled the impulse to glance at the Pensieve - oh, what I would give to see what's in there now, to see Voldemort, as you see him. Instead, he looked at Snape's prone form on the cot.
Snape turned his head and looked into his eyes. "And is that pity I see? As I said, pity is the most I can hope for."
"You can hope for far more than that from me, Severus."
"Can I? Are you going to be my friend, Lupin, are we going to 'hang out' as the students say, are we going to meet for tea and discuss the Quiddich matches? Do not pretend you like me, Lupin. I have your respect, I know, which is more than I had before. But you do not like me. None of the team likes me. I can hear the sighs of relief when I decline to stay for meals."
Lupin looked down at his shoes. He's right. We are relieved.
"And I do not blame you," Snape said, "I am a dark wizard, you deal with me because you are forced to, but you are right to want me gone."
"You are not a dark wizard. You have chosen the light, you are fighting the dark."
"You speak of actions and choices. I am speaking of my own nature." Snape closed his eyes. "I am not a good person, Lupin. I wish I were. I would give anything to belong among all you bright, shining people. But I do not."
"You're wrong, Severus -"
"Are you going to tell me I can be anything I wish to be, if I just try hard enough?" Snape's mouth twisted into a sneer. "Don't be stupid."
"Severus - "
"Do you know why so many of us hate the Muggles and the Muggle-born, Lupin?" Snape's sneer turned hard.
Lupin stared, his mouth open. Where did that come from? He's trying to disgust me, to make me leave him, he thought. I won't. And he asked, "Do you? Do you hate them?"
"Yes," Snape said, his voice a soft hiss.
"It's not because of that nonsense about purebloods being superior - oh, I suppose idiots like Malfoy think that, but that's not really what it is." Snape leaned back into the pillow, and looked up at the ceiling. "Our world is changing, Lupin. The wizards may think their world is separate from the Muggle world, but it isn't, not any more, and the Muggle ways are taking over. The Muggles have caught up with us, with their technology; power that has nothing to do with the spirit or strength of will. Everywhere we look, Muggle influence has crept in. Look at you, you're not even wearing proper robes anymore."
Lupin looked down at his trousers. "I'm out on the Muggle streets these days. If I were back at Hogwarts, I'd be in robes."
"I wouldn't know how to walk down a Muggle street and blend in. I don't even recognize so much of the wizard world these days." Snape looked at Lupin. "So you see, it's cowardice and ignorance that's at the heart of the Dark Lord's following. Those of us who cannot adapt, who try to hang onto the old ways."
"You're an intelligent man, Severus, and you are no coward," Lupin said, "You can learn. There are people who can teach you, if you'll let them."
Snape looked away. "This new world is a better one, I know. The half-bloods are stronger - you can tell the purebloods just by looking at us, how ugly we are, too much inbreeding." He gave his ugly smile again. "A better world, yes. But I do not see myself in it."
"What about Hogwarts? You can stay there."
Snape curled his lip. "Oh, yes, Hogwarts. Teaching potions to students who hate me." He said the word 'potions' as if it were something distasteful. "I am at Hogwarts so that the Dark Lord will think I am spying on Dumbledore. Otherwise, it would be me dancing attendance on Him, instead of your old friend Pettigrew."
"It won't be so bad at Hogwarts, when this is all over, and you don't have to play this part anymore - "
"You think this is an act?" Snape paused. "A little, perhaps - I certainly owe poor Longbottom an apology. But this is my own nature, Lupin, you know that."
Time to change the subject, Lupin thought, this is a level of depression and self-loathing that I can't deal with in one night. He took a deep breath, and said, gently, "Don't you have some dream, some hope, that keeps you going, something to look forward to when it's all over?" If we survive, he thought.
The ugly smile flickered on Snape's face. "You want to know what keeps me going?" Uh oh, thought Lupin, bad question.
Snape's eyes were open, and something glinted in their black depths. "When I first realized what He was, and what a hopeless situation I was in, I decided to kill myself." He stretched back into the cot. "There is a mountain, near my home, and I thought I would Apparate into the heart of it - I thought, it would be quick and painless, no one would ever know, and there'd be nothing left for anyone to find.
Snape paused, and for a moment, he seemed almost peaceful. "I was there, I was about go through with it, and then I thought, no, I have things I need to do first. I can keep going, just a little longer. So I went to Dumbledore, to tell him everything, thinking that afterwards, I'd be free, to go through with it. But Dumbledore convinced me to turn informer, and so there was more that I needed to do." He closed his eyes. "There are still times, when I think, I cannot bear this anymore, I will do it, and then I think, no, there are still things that only I can do, and I can keep going, just a little longer."
Lupin stared at him. I can't think of anything to say.
Snape smiled at him, the ugly smile. "Oh, don't worry, Lupin, I couldn't possibly leave now, I want to see how it all turns out."
"When this is over, Severus, you will be free and there will be a place for you."
"Will there?" Snape said, "Don't tell me you'll miss me, Lupin."
"I'll miss the man I'm talking with now." Lupin leaned over the cot, his face only inches away from Snape's. "Who I am 'hanging out' with now, by the way. Shall we discuss the Quiddich matches? I don't have any tea, but I can make some, I could use a cup." He stood up. "Do you want some, or will that interfere with your potion?"
Snape stared at him as if he'd gone mad. Perhaps I have, thought Lupin. "Water would be better, I think," Snape said.
Lupin took a kettle from the mantle and poured water into it from the pitcher on the table. He added tea leaves from another box, then tapped the kettle with his wand until steam came from the spout. He poured a cup of tea, and then a glass of water from the pitcher, and brought both over to the cot. Snape was able to hold the glass himself now, rising up on one elbow on the cot to drink.
Lupin sat by the cot and blew on the tea to cool it. "I haven't actually been paying attention to the Quiddich matches, with everything else going on. But I suspect Quiddich isn't your favorite topic, anyway."
"No, I never cared for it much. And wasn't good at it."
"Me, either. I'd always start daydreaming, and then I'd miss the quaffle, or a bludger would get me. I was a great disappointment to - " He stopped himself.
"Go on and say it," Snape said, coolly, "to Potter."
Lupin looked into his teacup, marshalling his thoughts. "I won't try to tell you that you were wrong about James, I know you never saw the side of him that I knew."
Snape stared at him, and Lupin went on. "James was wrong. I loved him as if he were my own brother, but he was wrong, what he did to you. I knew it, back then, but I couldn't bring myself to stop him, to stop both of them."
Snape was still staring at him. Then he lay back onto the cot, and looked away. "No, Lupin, he was not wrong. He was absolutely right to hate me. I turned to the Dark Lord of my own free will. I was not one of the ones who was coerced or controlled, and James knew it was in me to do so."
"Only for a time. And you were young, weren't you."
A pause. And then Snape said, "I met him when I was still at Hogwarts – in the summer, when I was sixteen. The Dark Lord recruited older students in Slytherin first, and they brought us younger ones to Him."
Lupin sat absolutely still. He could hear his own heart beating over the crackling of the fire in the grate.
"He was the first person I'd ever met," Snape went on, "who ever made me feel as if I were worth while. Who found me pleasing." Snape's eyes closed, and something trembled, for just a moment, across his face.
Then he went still. "That's what he meant, to all of us, the ones who became his true followers. Power was part of it, and he did promise me power, so that no one could ever hurt me again." Snape took a deep breath. "And there were some for whom power was enough."
"Like Lucius," Lupin said.
Snape shook his head. "No. I saw sides of Lucius that you never did. I know about all of them, the broken, miserable children of Slytherin House. I know why they turned to the Dark Lord, whether they knew what he was or not - and most of us did not know at first what he really was. There are some of them who still love him, as much as they are capable of love. He can torture them, revile them, and they'll never turn away from him. And he feels nothing for them but contempt."
"But you did turn away, when you were still young. I know you did, because I know you were sending Dumbledore information while we were still in our teens. I didn't know it was you then, but I do now."
"The Dark Lord's plans sickened me, when I realized what they really were - many of us were sickened by them, but he convinced most that this was their own weakness. But the signs had been there, all along. And there was enough darkness, enough hatred in me, for me to embrace it."
"So you see," Snape said, turning away and facing the wall, "James was right about me. He saw the darkness inside me. Yes, I did long for the light, but he knew it wasn't in me. I am a dark wizard, I am driven by hatred. I have no love in me. I have only purpose. I am every bit the contemptible worm he considered me to be."
"Dumbledore wouldn't have you here, if this were true. And I know you love Dumbledore, so don't tell me you are incapable of love."
"Dumbledore is a saint. If the Dark Lord himself came to him, in repentance, Dumbledore would give him a second chance."
"If the Dark Lord truly repented, Dumbledore would be right to do so."
"You're as bad as he is."
Lupin squatted by the cot so he could see Snape's face. "Dumbledore always says it is our choices that make us what we are. You made a mistake, and I think I, and James, and Sirius, have to bear some of the responsibility for that mistake, because you wanted what we had, and we drove you away. And in the end, you have made the right choice. If James had lived, if he were here today, I know he'd say the same thing. And so would Sirius, if he hadn't been in Azkaban all those years. If they'd each had a chance to grow up, the way you and I have."
"I think Harry speaks for James very well, and you know what Harry thinks of me."
"Harry was furious with Sirius and me about that memory he saw in the Pensieve. He defended you."
"Ah, so he was sorry for me, was he? I don't think he's sorry anymore."
"Harry is fifteen! And you've gone out of your way to make him hate you. Harry isn't his father, Severus. I know he's the image of James, but inside, he's very different, he's more like Lily. Look at his eyes, sometime. I know you avoid his eyes."
"Lily thought I was a worm, too. She just wasn't cruel to worms."
"I don't think she'd agree with you, if she were here, now."
"She is not here now. None of them are here, now."
"Only you and I, Severus. All my old friends are gone." Lupin caught his breath as he said that, and felt a deep pain well inside him, for a moment.
Snape turned onto his shoulder and looked at him. "Life has not been kind to you, either, Lupin. And yet, you have survived, in spirit."
"I've had many good things in my life. Many good people."
"And many not so good. I have been as quick to persecute you as any."
"Because I am a werewolf. I can't blame you. Most werewolves are very bad." Lupin took a deep breath, and then managed a twisted grin. "I actually tried running with a pack once - one of the more decent ones, who don't kill. There's something about running with a pack that calms the madness. We still have to become wolves during the full moon, and we still have to hunt, but we can keep more of our minds, and we can be satisfied with hunting animals, we don't have to kill people. I hoped that I could find a place there." He looked down at the floor, then back up again. "But it didn't work out. The constant battles for dominance - I tried to stay out of them, but you aren't allowed to. And I hate hunting - just the thought of those hunts makes me want to turn vegetarian."
"Sounds like a typical gathering of dark wizards."
Lupin looked at him. "Was that a joke I just heard?"
"Dark wizards don't joke, Lupin, we don't have a sense of humor. We have to make do with sarcasm."
"Sounds like two jokes in a row, to me." Lupin smiled, "We're quite a pair, you know. I make a very bad werewolf, and you make a very bad dark wizard." He leaned up against the cot and looked down at Snape's face. "We lack too many of the essential qualifications, and we are both too soft hearted."
"Soft headed, perhaps, in your case," Snape said, looking back up at him with narrowed eyes.
"So," Lupin stretched back against the wall, "See how much we have in common."
"Practically brothers," Snape said. "You are talking like an idiot."
"I'm tired. I've been up most of the night, waiting for an injured friend to get here."
Snape didn't answer. Lupin tried to look over at his face, but he had turned away. Then Snape said, "I think we should both try to sleep, Remus. I think I can, now."
And they were both silent after that. Lupin listened; Snape's breathing became slower, and softer. Either he's faking it - and if anyone can, he can - or he's really asleep, Lupin thought.
He sat beside the cot, listening to Snape's quiet breathing. Soon, dawn light began to creep across the floor in the next room. It had gone a quarter of the way when there was a quiet rustling, and Dumbledore stepped through the doorway. "How is he?" he asked.
Lupin stretched, and stood up stiffly. "I don't know. If he were a normal person, I'd say he was in a bad way." He looked at Dumbledore. "He is in a bad way, isn't he?"
Dumbledore looked down at Snape's still form on the cot. "I don't know how he has managed to endure, all these years."
"And look what it has done to him. He's done enough, hasn't he? Can't he stop? Go into hiding?"
"No, no hiding, I learned that mistake with Sirius. Besides, he wouldn't allow it. And we do need him, only he can do this. He takes great pride in that, you know."
"He said, all he has is purpose. That's not enough."
Dumbledore smiled sadly. "Perhaps we can help him find more, then. Did you talk at all tonight?"
Lupin nodded. "That's what you wanted, wasn't it, leaving me here, feeding him that potion. Yes, we talked. I have never seen anyone who works so hard at driving people away from him."
"He has been hurt by people, all his life."
"I know that. I've been one of them."
"Remus, I must ask you. Tonight was one thing, but if you continue with him as you did tonight, you must be prepared to stay with him. He has been hurt so much, and he has such a terrible burden to carry."
Lupin took a deep breath. "I will do my best not to hurt him, anymore. And I can handle his snarling, he won't drive me away." Lupin smiled. "We were close tonight. How he'll feel in the morning about it, I can't say. I expect he's not going to be happy, he exposed quite a bit of himself to me. And whether we'll ever talk again the way we did tonight," he shrugged, "unless I'm around him again when he's been tortured and drugged."
Dumbledore nodded, "I am sorry to say, that could very well happen. We'll just have to see." He smiled. "Now, you also need rest. I've reversed the spell on the green disk you brought, it'll take you back home."
"Oh, the Frisbee, thanks." Lupin smiled, and as he turned to leave the room, he said, "Let me know how he is, when he wakes."
Dumbledore nodded. "I will. Now go on, don't worry, I'll stay with him."
It would be full moon tonight, and it was almost sunset. Lupin already felt the sickness on him, as he sat in the kitchen, in Sirius's old house, the cup of tea beside him on the table already gone cold. There was a room upstairs that they'd prepared for him, lined with metal bars, with a door that human fingers could open, but wolf paws could not. He didn't have much time left. Another half hour, he thought, and I'll go up.
The doorbell rang. Out of habit, he winced, but no, Dumbledore removed the old lady's portrait last week, the house was silent. Just the sound of the door opening, and Minerva McGonigall's voice calling out, "Remus, where are you?"
"In the kitchen, Minerva," he called back. He heard her walk down the hall, and then she came through the door into the kitchen, where she dropped a large bag onto the table. She wore Muggle clothes; there was nothing wrong with them, but he could never get used to seeing her in them. Snape was right, he thought, Muggle ways are creeping in everywhere.
"Good," she said, taking off her coat, "I caught you in time. Dumbledore's called an emergency meeting tonight, you'll need to be here."
"Minerva," he said, quietly, "I won't be"
"Yes, you will," she said, reaching into the bag, "Courtesy of Severus," and she handed him a large, sealed jar. "You'll be in wolf form, of course, but you can still listen."
He stared at the jar in his hands, then looked back at her. She nodded, "He told me to tell you he still thinks you're soft-headed. Is there some significance to that?"
He smiled. "Yes, there is. I'll have to thank him." She looked at him, and he grinned, "It's all right, Minerva, it's a joke between us." She still looked doubtful, but turned back to her bag.
Lupin looked again at the jar in his hands. I may be soft-headed, my friend, he thought, but you're more soft-hearted than you know.