Title: Stopping Time – an outtake from The Wounded
Date: February 16, 2004
Disclaimer: Same as the previous chapters - anything you recognize is the property of J.K. Rowling.
Author's Note: This was originally in The Wounded, chapter 4 – my plan was to make people think that Lupin could give Snape one really good day, and so he (and the audience) would think Snape had changed his mind about ending his own life, so maybe I could get some kind of suspense and surprise when, at the end of the chapter, Snape goes ahead with his plans. But beta reader Patti said no one was going to buy that, and it was simply slowing things down, and I realized she was right.
But I still liked the bit (and so did Patti), so I've edited it a bit, and turned it into a separate story.
This takes place at Hogwarts in the summer, while Lupin is still recovering after the Final Battle, but he's much, much better now, which is why he's able to be so active. He's very worried about Severus's mood.
Lunch in the Great Hall was over. Severus began to turn toward the corridor that led back to Lupin's chambers, when Lupin suddenly felt, No, and stopped. "I think I've spent too much time in the room. Let's go outside for a walk, all right?" And before Snape could protest, or break away, Lupin had steered them out the doors and into the courtyard.
Lupin looked up at the sky and smiled. "That feels good. The air never smells the same coming through the enchanted windows, does it." He looked at Snape. "We could walk to Hogsmeade, it's been ages since I've been there." Not since, well, THAT day, when Voldemort had attacked, and he thought, maybe Severus hasn't been back since that day, either.
"Not Hogsmeade," Snape said, "I'm not in the mood for a lot of people, if it's all the same to you. Perhaps we might walk around the lake?"
So they walked across the lawn and through the trees that bordered the lake, and then they strolled along the shore. Lupin tried to spot the giant squid, but it wasn't showing itself today. Nor were the merpeople. Probably just as well, Lupin thought, given Snape's mood.
He looked over at Snape. Still the unreadable face. He's here to indulge me, Lupin thought, he'd be back brooding in his room if he weren't forced to be here with me now.
They came across a big rock that hung out over the water, an old friend Lupin remembered from his school days. He climbed up onto it, and sat down, legs dangling over the edge, above the water. Snape hesitated, then climbed up and sat beside him.
"Did you ever sit here?" Lupin asked, looking down at the water. "Back when you were a boy?"
Snape scowled. "Not very often. You and your friends were always here first, as I recall, and weren't likely to let me share."
Oops, thought Lupin, but he said, lightly, "Well, that was abominably rude of us."
"I always thought so." At least Snape had an expression now, Lupin thought. Even if it was his scowling one. Better than the other, distant one.
Lupin stretched flat out on the rock, looking up at the sky. The sun-baked stone was warm against his back. Snape stayed sitting upright, and looked down at him. Lupin smiled back up, lazily.
Lupin tried to think of something to say, and then heard distant shouting. He sat up and looked in the direction of the noise. There, through a break in the trees, was the Quiddich field, and he could make out tiny figures on broomsticks, darting and weaving around each other like hummingbirds. No mistaking Ron, in the Keeper position, his red hair showed up even from that distance. And was that Harry, roaming in the Seeker position, high above everyone else?
Snape was watching, too. How's he going to react, Lupin thought, seeing Harry? Of course, James had been a Chaser, not a Seeker, but they still look amazingly alike, especially from this distance. But Snape's face did not show its customary distaste when Harry was in sight. Snape seemed merely to be watching, with lazy interest, black eyes following the movements of the players. Of course, some of his own Slytherins were up there, too, so there were friendly faces there for him, as well.
Lupin squinted, trying to see more of the game - he could almost follow the motions of the balls, just from the way the players moved, but not quite.
"Just a minute," he said, and he jumped down from the rock. He looked around the bushes and trees nearby until he spotted a likely branch, broke it off, and stripped the leaves off of it. He walked back to the rock, jumped back up, and proceeded to bend the branch around in a circle, touching his wand to the ends to seal them together. Snape watched him, a mildly questioning look on his face.
"Didn't you ever do this one?" Lupin asked. He held his branch circle in front of him, so that they could see the Quiddich field through it. Then he touched it with his wand, said a few quiet words, and the air in the circle rippled, and suddenly, through the circle, it was as if they were watching the game from the stands.
Snape nodded in appreciation. "No, never knew that one. We usually did far-seeing in pools of water. And Avery had a crystal ball that had decent reception." His face went distant again, when he said Avery's name, but he peered into Lupin's wooden circle, following the players.
Lupin adjusted the view in the circle to follow the quaffle as it passed between players, until it was thrown toward one of the big hoops, only for Ron to dart into its path and knock it away. At first, Lupin would glance at Snape every time Harry came into view, but Snape showed no signs of being upset. Maybe it's because there are Slytherins playing on Harry's team, on both the teams. No house rivalries here, not now. I hope it lasts when term starts again, Lupin thought, as he watched the flying figures whirling around each other.
Ron played joyously, his face one big, delighted grin, eyes laughing. Ron's great gift, having fun, helping others have fun. Not practical jokes, like his older brothers Fred and George, but genuine, good hearted laughter. I wonder if there's a way to make a living at that, Lupin wondered. Even if there weren't, Ron would bring that with him, wherever he went in life.
Harry, though, Lupin thought, looking at him, Harry was different. His face held that look of intense concentration, and his eyes had that spark in them they always had when he was playing - Harry loved playing Quiddich, possibly even more than James had. James had always played more the way Ron did, only wilder. But Harry was fierce now. He'd always thrown himself into the game, but now he seemed obsessed. Trying to avoid your future, are you, Harry, trying to stop time, for just the afternoon, keep things like this forever?
They sat and watched, Lupin making noises or starting forward at the near misses, or marvelous shots, or daring saves. Snape watched quietly beside him, sitting very still. He seems almost happy, Lupin thought. Or at least content.
Eventually, though, the sky began to darken in the east, lights began to appear in the windows of Hogwarts, and the players, after one last score through the hoops, shot out of the Quiddich field like arrows, and raced each other back to the school, their hooting voices echoing out across the grass and over the lake. Lupin sadly put down his wooden hoop. I'm not ready for the day to be over, he thought.
He looked over at Severus, who stretched, and dropped softly off the rock to the ground. "Time to get back," Snape said. Lupin sighed, and dropped down beside him, and followed him back along the shore line towards Hogwarts, which was now a great black silhouette against the deepening sky. For a moment, it looked unbearably oppressive to Lupin, like a prison. I'm not ready to go back inside, he thought. Boyhood rebellion, how many days had there been, when he'd felt exactly that. He found his steps slowing, and several times, Snape stopped and looked back at him sternly until he caught up.
As they entered the courtyard, Lupin halted. "Let's go flying!" he said.
"What?" Snape asked, stopping still.
"You heard me. Let's go flying," Lupin started walking faster across the courtyard.
"Well, for one thing, you don't have a broom."
"We'll get the school practice brooms."
"Locked away, and sealed under wards," Snape said.
"As if those wards would stop you or me," Lupin said, "a former Marauder and an ex-spy."
"It's dinner time," Snape said.
"We'll get something later from the kitchens. Who wants to eat in that stuffy hall tonight, anyway," Lupin said. "Come on, this way," and he grabbed Snape's arm and dragged him around to the student practice field.
The locked door to the broom cupboard took them about ten minutes to break through. The wards were only meant to discourage students, but there were some very clever students at Hogwarts, after all. Snape alternated between glancing up the corridor, as if expecting to get caught, and glaring at Lupin, but Lupin ignored him. And they were rewarded by the sound of a click, and then the door swung open, to reveal the row of brooms standing neatly against the wall.
They inspected the brooms and selected two that seemed the least marred by years of frightened, inexperienced student handling, then quietly closed the door and reset the wards. They stole down the corridor, brooms held beneath their robes until they were safely outside.
Lupin grinned at Snape, who was still glaring. "Don't be silly, Madame Hooch isn't going to yell at us for borrowing brooms. We're teachers. Former teachers anyway. Besides, everyone's going to dinner now, no one will see us."
He threw a leg over his broom, and felt the power in it. "Merlin, it's been years since I've done this," he said. He kicked off, and the ground fell away beneath him. Snape stood down below, watching him. Lupin turned the broom, and circled around Snape. "Come on, then."
Snape still glared, but he mounted his broom, and gracefully rose up until he hovered by Lupin.
"Now what," Snape said, dryly.
Lupin looked over at him, and considered. Then he darted forward, tapped Snape on the arm, said, "You're it!" and took off.
Lupin didn't go too fast - it would be just like Snape to stay put and watch him go. Or to stop once he found he couldn't keep up. Lupin glanced behind him, and managed to dodge just in time to avoid Snape's reaching arm. Lupin sped up. He'd forgotten, Snape may not have been the best at throwing and catching balls, and he'd never played for the Slytherin Quiddich team, but there had been no one faster at straight flying. Not even James could catch him, until James got his Shooting Star. He's probably holding back, trying not to catch me, Lupin thought, with some chagrin. All right then, we'll see what this miserable little broomstick can do.
Lupin leaned close, and willed more speed, turning and curving every so often so he could look back at Snape. But no matter how fast he flew, or how tightly and suddenly he turned, Snape stayed close behind him, all beaky nose and glittering black eyes, black hair and robes streaming behind him, looking like some kind of hell fiend against the now rose-orange sky.
Lupin laughed then, and lost himself in the flying. The air rushed past his face, and his robes whipped against his shins. Now he dived almost straight down, only to pull up just before he hit the ground, now he flew along, his toes just missing the tips of the grass. Now he soared straight up into the red sky, as if to crash into the clouds that glowed gold and red as the sun approached the horizon. He hooted and cried like a boy as he looped and whirled. Snape followed close behind, matching him move for move. The idea of tag was long over, it was just the two of them, in the air, and Snape seemed as lost in it as he was, although he made no sound.
They must have crossed the school grounds a dozen times, diving into the Quiddich field and weaving between the stands, streaming over the lake, dodging a friendly tentacle waved at them by the squid, whirling around the Hogwarts towers and then shooting out across the lawns until they were nearly over the Forbidden Forest. Lupin saw Hagrid, outside his hut, and he waved at him as he zoomed overhead. Hagrid waved back, and Lupin could see him shaking his head in wonder.
Lupin turned the first time they approached the Forbidden Forest, heading back to the opposite ends of the grounds, but the second time, something wild took hold of him, and he kept his broomstick pointed straight over the dark trees. Hah, he thought, we'll be safe, this high up. And then Snape's black form streaked by him to pull in front and force him to turn. He saw Snape's stern glare as he went by him, and he hunched his shoulders and looked sheepish. He's right, what was I thinking, Lupin thought. Remember all the trouble we got into when we did that as boys? I shouldn't go looking for trouble tonight.
But that didn't slow him down for long, and he shot forward, back towards Hogwarts, with Snape close behind. The sun was huge and red now, falling toward the horizon, and the sky opposite was turning a deep blue-black, and little points of stars began to glitter. Lupin slowed, caught by the sight, and Snape pulled up beside him.
The air was cooler, and the wind was blowing, stronger than it had earlier, whipping his robes, even though he was only hovering. He sighed, happily, and turned to look at Snape beside him. Snape's scowl was gone, and, while he wasn't exactly smiling, there was a spark in his black eyes. Lupin turned away, and watched, as the sun disk touched, and then slowly fell below the horizon, which was ablaze with rose and orange, and, far above, deep blue. There was the hushed sound of the air, the wind around them, the sound of his own breathing, the beating of his heart. The air smelled cool, with trees and grass, the lake beyond, and the cooking fires far off in the Hogwarts kitchens.
The sun vanished, and the sky deepened to red, to grey, and finally to deep blue, and the stars brightened against the darkness, and the moon, still gibbous, and as bright as it had been when it was full a few days before, appeared on the opposite horizon. Hogwarts was a great, black form ahead of them, dotted with bright, glowing windows.
Lupin turned back to Snape. "I could chase you now. Or would that bring back unpleasant memories?" I shouldn't have said that, he thought. It probably does - memories of the four of us after him. I never thought of it like that, back then, to us, he was simply wonderful quarry (PREY, his mind said, but he put that thought away), something great fun to chase down. I never thought he might be terrified, to see us all bearing down on him, I thought he enjoyed it. Maybe he did, at first, he certainly seemed to be available for us a lot, and, as smart as he was, he could have avoided us if he'd wanted. It hadn't started out badly, Lupin thought, it had been more like worthy adversaries. When did it go bad? When did it turn from play to persecution?
He looked at Snape, but Snape seemed merely thoughtful. "I think I'm ready to go back," Snape said. "You've got to be hungry by now. And it's turning cold, and you're not wearing a warm enough cloak."
And suddenly, Lupin was starving. "I didn't feel hungry at all until you said that," he said, with some annoyance. "All right, off to the kitchens, then." They flew quietly to the courtyard, and walked inside. Snape nodded toward the corridor leading to the broom cupboard, but Lupin shook his head. "Not tonight. I don't feel like dealing with the wards right now." They pulled the brooms inside their cloaks and headed down the halls, toward the painting with the ticklish pear.
They carried two baskets full of food back to Lupin's rooms. They stacked the stolen brooms against the wall, and laid the baskets down. The room felt warm after the cool air outside, and Lupin opened the window, standing a moment to breathe in the crisp night air.
Then he turned back, and between the two of them, they pulled out a side table, maneuvered the big chairs around it, and covered the table with the spoils from the kitchen. Lupin pulled out two bottles of butterbeer like a magician pulling rabbits from a hat, popped the tops and handed one to Snape, and they both settled back into the chairs and drank. Lupin drained his bottle, he was thirsty as well as hungry after the afternoon's activities, and it looked like Snape wasn't far behind him. Lupin pulled out two more bottles and handed the second one over. Then they started in on the food. Lupin felt ravenous by now, and he had to force himself to slow down, to chew before swallowing, when the werewolf in him wanted to gulp everything down whole.
Even so, he ate quickly, and it was only because of the large quantity of food, and not because of any real self control on his part, that their meal lasted as long as it did, food washed down by copious amounts of butterbeer. Lupin wondered that so many bottles had fit in the basket, and decided it must be self-replenishing, because just when he was certain the basket had to be empty, he'd reach in and feel more bottles there under his fingers.
Eventually, though, even Lupin's abnormally large appetite was satiated. He leaned back in his chair, with the current bottle of butterbeer, and gave a big, lazy, contented smile. Snape had finished earlier, and had been nursing a bottle of his own since then, leaning back in his chair, tired, relaxed, his face showing that look of quiet contentment that was the closest Snape ever showed to being happy. His eyes didn't have their usual cold glitter, but looked almost soft.
"What a grand day," Lupin said. Snape didn't answer, but he never answered statements like that. Lupin looked over at the brooms, by the open window. "You know, we could take the brooms and just sail out the window," he said, "out into the night sky, just fly out there, under the stars."
Snape looked at him.
Lupin sighed. "Only I don't think I can get out of this chair. And I'm so full of food I don't think the broom could carry me." He sighed again. "Some other night, then."
"The students might see us," Snape said, "It wouldn't be a very good example, seeing the teachers sneaking out the window at night."
"It would be a very good example," Lupin said, sleepily. "All students should be trying to sneak out at night. We all certainly did." He looked directly at Snape. "And you were as bad as we were." Snape raised an eyebrow.
"Besides," Lupin said, "we're not teachers anymore. I haven't been for four years. And you're finally free of it. I know that's a relief to you."
Snape looked down.
"You are free," Lupin said again, "of all of it. I've been looking forward to this for years, to see you free. To see you become yourself, as you really are, and not have to play these roles anymore. To have to do, and be, these things you hate." He shook his head. "It must be like coming out of a cage."
"Funny thing," Snape said, still looking down. "They've found animals that have spent all their lives locked in tiny cages, and when the door is opened, the animals are too frightened to leave. They cower in the back."
"But I bet they come out, eventually. And are happier for it," Lupin said.
Snape looked up at him, black eyes not soft anymore, but not cold, either. He lifted his bottle of butterbeer, and said, "To freedom."
Lupin lifted his bottle, and both drank. Lupin drained his bottle, and he let his arm fall down to put the bottle on the floor. My, that's a big pile of bottles, he thought, and suddenly felt unbelievably sleepy. He shook his head, but the dazed feeling didn't go away. "Better stop with the beeterbur," he said. "I mean beerebutt." He blinked. "My lips won't work."
Snape stood up. "It's late, you should be in bed."
"No," Lupin said, "not yet - " But Snape took him by the arm, and pulled him out of the chair, and he gave in.
Lupin tried to think of something to say, but now his mind was foggy. Combination of fresh air, exercise, too much food, and too much butterbeer on a body that wasn't back to full strength yet. Snape guided him back to the bedroom, handed him his nightshirt and got him in the bed and under the covers. Snape extinguished the lights with a soft command, and Lupin heard him leave - a rustle of robes, and then the click of the outer door as it closed.
Maybe we'll go flying again - at night, next time, Lupin thought. He smiled, then fell almost instantly asleep.