Title: The Wounded
Date: September 12, 2003
Rating: PG13 – SUICIDE ATTEMPT, general angst
Summary: Voldemort is dead, it's over. But happy endings don't happen automatically, as Lupin discovers with Snape, and Harry.
Disclaimer: Every character you recognize is the property of J.K. Rowling. I'm just having fun with her world and her wonderful characters.
Acknowledgements: Big Thanks to my friends Patti and Michelle for beta-reading (they've also approved the general plot, too).
Author's Note: This is a sequel to Practically Brothers (which, if you don't want to read it, establishes a friendship between Lupin and Snape, after the events in Book 5). So, yes, there are:
ORDER OF THE PHOENIX SPOILERS
This deals with fairly intense emotional relationships, a suicide attempt, and an odd form of therapy. This has deep friendships, but will not become slash, although I hope this will appeal to everyone, slash and non-slash readers alike.
For a long time, there had been only darkness. And then, suddenly, Lupin was aware. The sound of gently clinking glasses near his head. A soft murmur of voices, distant conversations, too far off to make out. The smells of soap, herbs and clean linen. A bed, I'm in a bed, he thought. That was probably a good sign. Not his own bed, but a familiar bed, nonetheless.
Someone was next to the bed, he could feel the slight disturbances in the air made by their presence. This was the one making the quiet noises of clinking glass, and the soft raps and sliding sounds of bottles being moved around. He could hear the rustle of clothing, the occasional quick breath of someone occupied.
He opened his eyes, and knew where he was. He had memorized that ceiling in childhood days. The hospital wing at Hogwarts. I've been here far too many times in my life, he thought.
He turned his head to see who it was beside the bed. A long, black form. Beak of a nose sticking out of a curtain of black hair. Long, sallow fingers measuring liquid into a glass.
"Severus!" Lupin cried out, rising out of the bed. Or, rather, that was what he intended. What came out of his throat was the barest whisper, and he was only just able to shift his body. He felt agonizing pain down his side.
"Lie still," Snape said. He placed a hand gently on Lupin's shoulder, pressing him back down on the bed, before turning back to his potion mixing.
Lupin was still seeing flashes of light in his eyes, and he panted, out of breath from that tiny amount of movement. "Severus," he said, his voice still faint, "I saw you fall. That day - I thought you were dead."
"I fell," Snape said, still intent on the various bottles in front of him. "Wounded, not dead." He squinted as he measured another liquid out. "In hospital for a week. Now well and able." He held up the potion glass he'd been fussing over, inspected it, and apparently approved. He turned to Lupin. "You were not so lucky. You've been in here a long time."
He slid an arm gently under Lupin's shoulders and raised him up. Lupin winced as pain shot down his side again. "Drink," Snape said, as he held the potion cup to Lupin's mouth. Lupin swallowed. He couldn't taste much of anything, his mouth felt dry and numb. But the liquid felt warm, going down his throat, and the warmth spread inside him, driving away the pain. When he finished, Snape lowered him back to the pillow. Lupin could feel Snape's black eyes on him, studying him.
"How do you feel?" Snape asked.
"Rotten," Lupin said, trying to smile, but his face wasn't working right. "I don't remember getting hit." He thought for a moment. "I do remember, I think I got the one who took you down."
"Lucius," Snape said, "Along with several others. So they tell me. I was out of it by then."
"But you held them off long enough for the rest of us to get there," Lupin said. Cloudy images whirled in his mind from that day. "Harry-"
"Is alive. As are Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger."
Lupin closed his eyes. Emotion welled in him - it wasn't joy, not after what they'd been through. Relief? Partly that. Mostly that, even. Release. It's over. This thing that has dominated our lives for so long, is over.
"I remember," Lupin said, "I saw Voldemort enter Hogsmeade square, going straight for Harry. That's the last thing I remember."
"You were hit by a blast of pure silver," Snape said. "Shacklebolt says all of you were taken aback, when Voldemort appeared, and you let your guard down." He looked at Lupin again, Lupin could feel his eyes. I must be in bad shape, he thought. Silver would do it, for a werewolf. I'm lucky to be alive.
"What happened to Harry?" Lupin asked, "And Voldemort?"
Snape was quiet for a moment. Lupin heard him breath deeply, and shift his weight on the stool by the bed.
"Voldemort," Snape said the name with only the barest hesitation, "went straight for Potter. He aimed a blast of tremendous force at him, a blast that should have killed not only Potter, but Granger and Weasley beside him." He paused again. "It seems Potter stepped forward, to take the blast onto himself, to save his friends' lives by sacrificing his own." Lupin took a quick breath - Harry! he thought.
Snape went on. "No one is quite sure what happened, after that. Everyone agrees, they saw the blast hit Harry, and connect with Harry's wand, but the blast seemed to rebound back on Voldemort. And that it was Voldemort who fell."
Lupin pictured it, in his head. "Lily nearly killed Voldemort, all those years ago, when she sacrificed herself to protect Harry. And we know that Voldemort could not stand to be in Harry's mind, when Harry held thoughts of love."
"So, in the end," Lupin said, "it wasn't that Harry killed Voldemort. It was Voldemort who could not bear to touch the heart of someone making that ultimate sacrifice." But I'll wager you feel just as guilty, Harry, he thought.
"How's Harry doing?" Lupin asked.
He could feel Snape freeze beside him. "I am hardly the person to ask."
"And how are you doing, Severus?" Lupin said.
Snape was quiet for a moment. Then he stood up, with a rustle of robes. "I have things to do," he said, "Go to sleep, Remus." He walked softly away.
Lupin closed his eyes. I suppose, he thought, that Severus did answer my question. He has things to do. That's what's kept him alive, all these years. Lupin took a deep breath, then let it out. The task that has ruled you, Severus, for more than twenty years, for all of your adult life, is finished. You've told me that purpose was all you had. What will you do now, when that purpose is over?
Lupin was dozing, half asleep, half awake, when he heard voices approaching his bed. Talking, barely murmurs, too soft to make out. They stopped by his bed, and one voice spoke, a voice he didn't recognize. "And this is him, then?" Female, the gruffness of age, which, for a witch, could mean anything from sixty, to one hundred and sixty.
"Yes," Snape's voice said, softly. "He's been taking the potion regularly for two years now. He's done very well with it, although it's hard to tell now, he's recovering from a silver blast."
"I see," the strange witch's voice said, closer now, as if from the side of the bed. "Yes, I agree, I'd say he's doing well. I'll be happy to help."
Lupin opened his eyes, to see the stranger beside him. A small, rather dumpy, grey-haired witch, with a face like a wrinkled apple, and intelligent dark eyes. She smiled at him. "I apologize, young man, I didn't mean to wake you."
Lupin smiled and shook his head. "Not at all. Please forgive me if I don't rise." His voice was a little stronger than it had been.
She nodded and smiled back. "My name is Harriet Semper. I was one of Severus's instructors, when he was doing his post school studies in Potions."
Lupin looked over at Snape, but Snape's face had its usual, unreadable expression, black eyes deep and hidden. "I've told Professor Semper about your case," Snape said, "She was interested."
"Yes, indeed," Professor Semper said. "I helped develop the Wolfsbane potion; Severus was one of the few students I had who could master it." She looked down at Lupin. "Severus thought it would be a good idea if you knew someone else who could provide you with the potion, if he were ever unavailable. I told him I'd be quite willing."
Lupin looked over at Snape. Was there something there, in those black eyes? Lupin wasn't sure. But he nodded at Professor Semper and said, "Of course. It's a great obligation for him, I know."
"I've been hoping the Ministry would look into funding a Wolfsbane Potion program, to make it generally available," Professor Semper said, "There are so few who can make it, and so many who could use it. But, so far, the Ministry hasn't been interested," she said sadly.
"We shouldn't tire him," Snape said softly. "I'll come by later, Lupin, when it's time for your afternoon dose." He and Professor Semper walked off. Lupin watched them until they left his still limited range of vision.
He felt odd. Something felt wrong about that. Are you planning on being unavailable, Severus? That shouldn't bother him. If anyone needed to get away from all this for a while, it was Severus. Although I never heard you talk about wanting to go away, before - away from Hogwarts, yes, but not so far away that I wouldn't see you. And why do I have the feeling that you'd rather I hadn't awakened, that I did not know about this arrangement you've made for me, at least, not yet.
Lupin asked Snape later, when Snape came by with his medicine. "So, you'll be leaving us for a while, then?" He said the words casually, as if the answer did not really matter to him. "Will you be teaching Potions, next term?"
"No, I won't be teaching Potions," Snape's attention was on the liquids he was mixing, he was adding a few grains of powder that set the mixture bubbling and changing colors. "Albus has already found a new teacher. Once this term is over, I'll be clearing out of the rooms so she can move in. I don't know who will take over Slytherin House. What's left of it."
Lupin was quiet for a moment. Slytherin House will miss you, Severus, it's too bad you're leaving now. But I know how much you want to leave. You're free from teaching here, you've hated it so much.
"So what are your plans?" Lupin asked. You can do anything you want. But what do you want? He tried to keep Snape from seeing just how closely he was looking at his face.
Snape hesitated, just a fraction too long. "I thought I might travel. Just wander around, stop at any place that interests me." He doesn't sound interested, Lupin thought.
"Then I look forward to receiving colorful postcards from you," Lupin said, stretching back into the pillows."Of course," Snape said, again hesitating just a little too long. We're both lying, Lupin thought. I'll give ten galleons to Delores Umbridge if I ever receive a postcard from you, Severus.
Snape handed the potion to Lupin, who could drink it himself now. He still couldn't taste anything much, but the warmth spread through him, and he felt drowsy. Snape took the glass back from him, and Lupin lay flat in the bed. "Thank you, Severus," he said. He looked straight into Snape's eyes. "I will miss you, when you leave. Don't stay away too long."
Snape looked back at him, something there, in his eyes. He looked as if he were going to say something, but stopped.
Snape got up. "Go to sleep. And get well, Remus. I'm not going anywhere just yet."
Lupin lay awake, for quite a while after Severus left him. You spoke about traveling aimlessly, Severus, but there was still purpose in your eyes. You are going to do something.
This man deceived Voldemort for years. But Voldemort was, ultimately, a fool, who thought he could understand Severus because he could read some of Severus' mind, the emotions that Severus chose to show him. I don't count myself as brilliant, or powerful, Lupin thought, but I know you're hiding something from me, Severus. I don't need to be a soul reader to do it, I just know you.
Or perhaps I'm reading things that aren't there. Maybe he simply wants to get away from everyone. Perhaps we all hold bad memories for him, even me. And he wants to go away, to find some place where no one knows him, or his history.
And a dark, cold voice in his mind said, maybe he wants to get even further away than that.
Lupin woke again, and was aware of smells all around him. The werewolf in him must be active. Poppy had said it would be, now that the silver was finally out of his body; the werewolf healing powers would begin working, even though it would take months for the wounds from silver to heal.
Harry, he could smell Harry. Hermione, too. And Ron. But Harry's smell was strongest. He must have sat here, by the bed, for a long time. Lupin felt a pang. Poor Harry. I wish I'd been awake.
And now, another friendly scent, coming towards him. He looked up, knowing who it was, even before the approaching shape came into focus. Dumbledore, he thought, a smile spreading across his face. Dumbledore pulled the stool over, and sat down, a little more stiffly than Lupin remembered. And his eyes, Lupin thought, how tired they look. And how much older his face looks, he never seemed so old before. Why is it, the battle is over, we've won, and yet no one looks happy?
"I am very glad to see you awake, Remus," Dumbledore said. Even his voice sounds old, Lupin thought. "I have come here before," Dumbledore continued, "but I always seemed to catch you when you were asleep."
"I am sorry to have missed you," Lupin said. And honored he came at all, with everything else he has to deal with. "How goes the Ministry?"
"Oh, a complete disaster, of course," Dumbledore smiled, "As is to be expected, considering it's being torn down and rebuilt. Arthur Weasley has been most helpful. And should wind up with a much higher position after this is all over."
"Will Arthur be the next Minister of Magic?"
"Arthur doesn't want the job," Dumbledore said, "And probably isn't the right man for it. Better he remain a worker behind the scenes, and we find someone who can handle the public for the job of Minister."
"I wish I could be there to help," Lupin said, "Not that I could do much, unless the Ministry has become more open-minded about werewolves."
"Count yourself lucky to be out of it, for now," Dumbledore said. "I have a different job in mind for you."
"I'm not much good for anything, right now," Lupin smiled, ruefully.
"Poppy says you are getting better. She tells me you may be walking in a week or so. And that you are awake more and more, even now."
Dumbledore continued. "In fact, you should soon be well enough to return home to recuperate there, although you'd have to go for regular treatments at St. Mungo's if you do that. You could actually be at St. Mungo's now, only Poppy and Severus have both told me that they will barricade the hospital wing door if anyone tries to move you." Dumbledore smiled.
Lupin smiled back. "I am very fortunate in my friends."
"I'm glad you think so." Dumbledore looked away for a moment. "Severus has become, if not exactly popular with the students, certainly more kindly thought of, now that they know he's treating you. Not to mention his actions that day." He let out a soft sigh. "A pity he will be leaving us, now, when he has his first real chance of being liked." Dumbledore looked at Lupin, something odd in his eyes. Is he worried about Severus, too? Lupin wondered.
"I think this is something he's been planning for a long time," Lupin said, carefully, meeting Dumbledore's eyes. "Once everything was over." And then, a little more lightly, "He never liked teen-agers, even when he was one. He certainly doesn't get on with them now."
"No," Dumbledore said, "He does not. A great pity. And, I fear, a great waste. Of his life, for the past seventeen years." His eyes went far away, for a moment. Then he looked back at Lupin. "And you have been wasted, as well." He straightened up on the stool. "And so, as I said, I have a job for you. I want you to stay here, at Hogwarts, for the summer."
Lupin smiled. "That's hardly an onerous request. Although I take it you will want me to do more than lie around in hospital."
"Poppy expects you to be out of the hospital wing in a few weeks, other than coming back for healing draughts. You won't be completely healed for months, though, so yes, better you stay here for your own sake." Dumbledore looked a little more severe. "There is also the matter of your own safety. There are still Death Eaters who have not been captured. Bellatrix is one of them; we think she's the one who shot you. I do not like the idea of you being alone at home while she is still at large."
Lupin smiled. "You have convinced me. I will stay here, and suffer wonderful meals and a comfortable, luxurious room. Not much of a job, so far," he said, looking at Dumbledore.
Dumbledore nodded. "Harry will also be staying on here, for the summer."
"Ah," said Lupin, nodding.
Dumbledore nodded back. "He doesn't have to return to his Muggle relations anymore. The Weasleys have asked him to stay with them, but I think he needs a little more quiet. He has a great deal to think about."
Dumbledore looked out the window again. "I won't have much time for him, with everything that is going on with the Ministry. Miss Granger will be able to visit him here. Mr. Weasley as well, although I believe he is also spending time with Miss Padma Patil these days." A smile passed between the two of them. "But I think it would be a very good thing for him to have your company as well."
"That's hardly a job," Lupin said, "I would enjoy his company very much. It would be as much a help to me, in my condition."
"Then I'll consider it settled," Dumbledore said, "I'll have the house elves prepare one of the guest rooms for you." He paused.
There's something more, Lupin thought. I know what it is, we've been hinting around it. And he said aloud, "There's also Severus."
Dumbledore nodded. "Yes," he said, his voice suddenly old again.
"He tells me he plans to travel," Lupin said. "I don't believe him."
Dumbledore was quiet. He looked out the window, then down. "When he came to me, twenty years ago, he was nearly the same age Harry is now. I remember, how his face frightened me. To see such horror, and such despair, in a face that young."
"He told me, once," Lupin said, "that he'd intended to kill himself." There, I said it, he thought.
Dumbledore nodded. "I was able to persuade him that he was needed. And he was needed, no question." His face looked old again. "I had hoped that, in time, he might be able to find, if not happiness, at least contentment." He looked at Lupin. "I had real hopes, these past few years, with the friendship that has grown between the two of you."
"So, along with Harry," Dumbledore said, "I hope you may be here for Severus, as well."
"He says he's planning to leave once term is over," Lupin said.
"Perhaps, if he knows you'll be staying for the summer, he'll decide to stay, himself. His replacement won't arrive until the week before classes begin in the fall."
"I'll do my best to convince him to stay," Lupin said. He leaned back in the pillows. "Harry AND Severus." He smiled ruefully. "Bit of a juggling act, there."
"I expect it will be an interesting summer. You will have to tell me what happens."
Lupin grinned wryly. "I'll certainly have to get stronger, fast." He sighed. "I'll do my best, sir. Although I'm not really sure what I'm going to do."
"Just be there. For both of them." Dumbledore stood up. "And get well, Remus. I count that every bit as important."
Lupin watched him as he walked away. Was he moving more slowly? A little more stooped? He carries all our burdens, as well as his own, and we depend on him so much, Lupin thought.
Lupin leaned into his pillow and stared up at the ceiling. Yes, it would be an interesting summer, indeed.