Severus strode down the stairs leading into Knockturn Alley with a spring in his step and a scowl on his face. For most people, those two things would be contradictory but Severus was quite happy with his bad mood. He was nearing a breakthrough in his Veritaserum antidote research, but was hampered by a need for rare and quasi-legal ingredients. Obtaining those items required some subterfuge and necessitated a trip to one of his least favorite places in the wizarding world.
Secure in the anonymity granted by the glamour he'd cast on himself before flooing from Hogwarts, Severus made his way past the rabble loitering in the entrance and into the main alley. Some dirty faced children were chasing each other down the street, and a pair of poor and tired-looking witches chatted with each other while hanging their wash to dry outside their windows. Knockturn Alley was always filled with the dregs of wizarding society. He knew; he'd grown up here.
Severus hated being reminded of his impoverished childhood. He'd spent much of his life trying to claw his way out of poverty. That was half the reason he'd joined the Dark Lord. Voldemort had promised him wealth and power such that he'd never have to grace the likes of Knockturn Alley again. He'd given Severus knowledge, and lots of it, but the power never came. Well, except for the power to murder muggles and mudbloods and those opposed to the Dark Lord's cause. And when Severus fled to Dumbledore after he'd realized just how insane Lord Voldemort actually was, he'd feared he would have to retreat to his parents, hat in hand. But then the Headmaster offered him the Potions post, which thankfully included room and board.
No matter how much Severus despised having to live with over a hundred children, he hated living in squalor more. Whenever he bemoaned having to put up with arrogant little pricks like Potter and dunderheads like Longbottom, he reminded himself that they were the price for his three square meals a day and the pristine comfort of his living quarters. And every time Severus stepped foot in Knockturn Alley, he thanked the Fates for allowing him to escape.
Severus tried to ignore his surroundings as he turned right into a narrow tributary. Here, the lowest of the low congregated to collect scraps from the garbage and to rest in the relative warmth generated by the foul-smelling sewer fumes wafting from between the cobbles below. The unfortunates who called Bullfrog Alley home were often prone to beggary, and Severus steeled his mind and ears against their impassioned but resigned pleas for generosity.
"Look, Mar'in, wot do we have here?" Two of the children he'd seen before had pushed past him into the heart of Bullfrog Alley before stopping in front of a figure that was lying, unmoving, on the ground. "Wolfie's not lookin' too tough now, is 'e?"
Severus had prepared himself to walk past without looking, but curiosity at the mention of a wolf strayed his gaze downward. There lay Remus J. Lupin, former professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts, friend of James Potter (deceased) and Sirius Black (escaped), werewolf. Lupin was curled into a ball, his head resting on a book and his shabby, threadbare coat covering him like a blanket. His eyes were tightly shut as if trying to deliberately ignore the boys taunting him.
Severus stared down at the wizard, taking in his pathetic appearance. The ridiculous mustache the werewolf used to wear was now accompanied by a shaggy beard, the kind that grows untamed by blade or depilatory potion. The cords of his neck jutted out like ropes, betraying a significant amount of weight loss. Lupin was a wreck, lying like a dog in the dirt. Just what he'd always wanted for him.
After memorizing the scene with one last look, Severus continued on his way through Bullfrog Alley, suppressing the urge to whistle in satisfaction.
Severus was late for dinner; he'd lost track of time while catching up on the latest issue of Alchemica Acta. The Great Hall was already filled when he arrived. Albus gazed over to him disapprovingly from where he stood at the podium as Severus took his usual seat at the head table. The Headmaster cleared his throat and called the room to attention.
"Before we enjoy the fine meal that has been prepared for us this evening, I am afraid I have some very sad news to impart to you. I am sorry to say that our beloved former Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Remus John Lupin, was killed this afternoon in Knockturn Alley."
A cacophony of confused, angry, and weeping voices rose in the Great Hall as everyone reacted to the news. Hermione Granger, Hagrid, and Poppy Pomfrey were all openly weeping, while others such as the Weasley twins and a group of angry Hufflepuffs began shouting. The children of his own house mostly sat smirking, though Severus was surprised to see Daphne Greengrass and Tracey Davis share a sad look before pretending, badly, to be as pleased as the rest of their housemates.
Potter stood up from the Gryffindor table. "What happened to him? What was he doing in Knockturn Alley?"
Albus motioned for silence before responding. "The details aren't entirely clear yet, but it appears that Professor Lupin was stabbed. By whom, we do not know."
Noise erupted again at the mention of stabbing. How could a wizard be stabbed? Killed like a common muggle? It was unheard of.
"It is suspected that the Professor was in a weakened state and unable to fight off his attackers either with magic or with physical force. Witches and wizards, when ill or malnourished, often lose their natural ability to resist physical trauma. Regardless of how it happened, it is a terrible tragedy to lose a good man in this way." Albus shook his head sadly, then raised a glass. "I offer a toast, to our friend and teacher, Remus Lupin."
Severus watched unmoving as everyone but the Slytherins stood and raised their glasses. "To Remus Lupin!"
"To Remus Lupin!"
"To Remus Lupin!"
Severus woke with a start to discover he'd kicked all his blankets to the floor and that he was breathing quite heavily indeed. Lupin was… no, it was just a dream. Lupin was fine. Well, as fine as one could be living on the cobblestones of Bullfrog Alley. But he wasn't dead.
Severus headed to the bathroom to pour himself a glass of water. He gulped it all down in one go and then stood staring at his reflection in the mirror. He didn't move until the mirror started speaking to him, something about looking like he'd seen a ghost. Then he turned and walked back to his quarters to get dressed for breakfast.
Mmmm… smells like we're getting bacon this morning, thought Severus as he strode into the Great Hall. He had a weakness for bacon. His enjoyment was interrupted first by an insistent tapping noise and then Albus' voice ringing out in the room.
"I'm sorry to interrupt everyone's breakfast, but I'm afraid I have some terrible news to report."
"You-Know-Who attacked again?" "The third task has been cancelled?" "We've lost another Defense Against the Dark Arts professor?" The hall rang out with numerous theories about the Headmaster's "terrible news".
"Yes, Mr. Finch-Fletchley, in a manner of speaking," replied Albus sadly. All eyes turned to Professor Moody's empty seat. "No, I assure you that Professor Moody was quite well when I saw him in the faculty lavatory ten minutes ago. No, this news involves our previous Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Professor Lupin."
What? Severus felt a disturbing sense of déjà vu.
"I've just received word from the Ministry of Magic that Professor Lupin was found dead this morning near Knockturn Alley."
Severus pinched himself to see if he were awake. Nothing happened.
"The mediwitch who examined his body has determined that he was killed by flesh-eating slugs. Much of the skin on his appendages showed signs of infestation, and several of his organs were eaten away completely," explained the Headmaster.
One of the Hufflepuffs vomited her breakfast. Through the resultant "Ewwws" another child threw up, and then another, until everyone around Severus was spewing a seemingly neverending stream of vomit. Barely able to contain his own nausea, he pushed his chair away from the table…
…and then awakened, thrashing his hands to escape the blankets that were tangled around his neck.
Three more times it happened. Severus sat down for a delicious meal at the Great Hall only to have it interrupted by Albus' tale of Lupin's demise in Knockturn Alley, and then to awake in a state of disarray.
He tried taking meals his meals in his rooms, to avoid being tricked by his own subconscious. But then Albus came to visit his office to tell him the sad news while he graded students' essays.
He began marking papers out of doors, but a petite tawny owl found him to deliver a parchment that began with the words "I regret to inform you…"
After Lupin starved to death for the fourteenth time and Severus developed a resistance to Dreamless Sleep potion, Severus stopped trying to fight the dreams long enough to consider what they were trying to tell him. He'd discovered that any number of dreadful things could kill Lupin as he lived homeless in Knockturn Alley. And it was Severus' fault that he was there in the first place.
If he hadn't "let it slip" that Lupin was a werewolf, he'd still be smiling insipidly over breakfast in the Great Hall. He'd be befriending Gryffindors and annoying Severus merely by his presence. He'd be sleeping in a bed, rather than on hard cobbles and trash. He'd be as healthy and happy as could be, protected from harm by his wizard and werewolf natural resistance.
Severus sighed. He'd thought it was great fun to see Lupin reduced to living in a gutter. He'd thought it was no more than the werewolf deserved for trying to kill him back in school. Living in squalor had seemed a fitting punishment for a man who'd helped a murderous convict escape justice. So why was his subconscious plaguing him with visions of Lupin's death? And why weren't those visions making him happy?
He didn't want to admit it, but he knew in his heart of hearts that Black, not Lupin, was to blame for the 'prank' that nearly got him killed all those years ago. Forcing Lupin to share the blame had given Severus an excuse to hate him for more than just being a werewolf and being friends with Potter and Black. He had hated that Lupin was still loyal to Black after trying to kill him. He'd shown last year in the Shrieking Shack that he was still loyal to the bastard now, insisting that it was Pettigrew, not Black, who'd betrayed the Potters. Maybe he really believed it? He certainly had trouble imagining the werewolf willingly assisting his friends' killer. Or maybe, dare he even think it, the ridiculous story was true?
Whatever the reasons, Severus' subconscious obviously had issues with Lupin's misfortune. The current situation was unacceptable. He sat for hours in his office, nursing a bottle of Ogden's and pondering the situation. He had to solve it, lest he go insane from lack of a good night's sleep. By the time the bottle was empty Severus accepted the unfortunate realization that he would have to make amends. He would have to get Lupin out of the slums. But how?
More importantly, how could he save Lupin without humbling himself in the process? Severus would sooner let himself be driven insane than apologize to the werewolf's face. It would likely be for naught anyways. Severus suspected the foolishly noble Gryffindor would refuse to take any form of charity. So he plotted and planned, taking every free moment between classes to work out the details. He conducted his classes with a minimum of disruption, and cut his nightly rounds short. His laxity in deducting House points led several Hufflepuffs to hypothesize that he either was ill or 'getting shagged.' Severus, of course, then rectified that situation before returning his attention to his plans. Finally, several days and sleepless nights later, he was ready to act.
Remus' face was cold. He groaned as he sat up from his makeshift bed and tried to stretch, grimacing at the pain in his back. He wiped his eyes and made as if to scratch his beard. His hand stilled, and then patted furiously at his chin. His beard was gone.
He scrambled to his feet, letting the coat-cum-blanket fall to the ground. A parchment fell with it. Remus stooped to retrieve it, and startled as the scroll reacted to his touch as if specially charmed for him. The name "Remus J. Lupin" appeared in script, and the paper uncurled docilely for him to read.
"Dear Mr. Lupin,
I have a proposition for you that I believe will be of mutual benefit.
As you are aware, the Wolfsbane potion restricts a werewolf's monthly transformation such that only the body is affected, leaving the mind intact. The potion must be taken in regular, frequent doses in order to be effective. As recent events have shown, this is a risky proposition for all involved. A better solution is needed."
Remus, realizing the letter's source, thought, Recent events, indeed!
"The werewolf population is a natural target for recruitment by the forces of the Dark. The restrictive covenants placed on werewolves by the Ministry would doubtless provide incentive for many werewolves to join his forces. He will promise them freedom in return for their cooperation, with potentially disastrous results for Wizard kind.
Thus, I seek to improve upon the Wolfsbane potion. There are several avenues of research to attempt, which follow a logical sequence."
Research into improving Wolfsbane? How progressive of you, Severus, thought Remus
" 1) A longer-lasting version of the potion that requires fewer and less frequent doses,
2) A potion that prevents the physical as well as mental transformation, and "
Remus sighed. That would be a godsend.
" 3) A potion that isolates the essence of wolf in the drinker and eliminates it completely. "
Impossible. Remus couldn't even allow himself to entertain that possibility. It can't be done.
"As you no doubt imagine, decades or even centuries of dedicated research will likely be necessary to achieve the latter success. However, I believe that the less extreme options may be achievable in a much shorter timeframe, if I as a researcher have continuing access to a werewolf willing to endure the experimentation necessary.
Naturally I would not expect you to acquiesce without remuneration. Should you consent to assisting with this endeavor, I am willing to offer you a salary of 35 galleons per week. This is commensurate with that of a research apprentice."
Remus didn't know if Hogwarts teachers earned much more after a decade of teaching than in their first year, but he knew that 35 galleons per week was a sizeable proportion of his former salary. He continued reading.
"In anticipation of your acceptance, I have enclosed a draft for 100 galleons as an advance on your salary, to be credited against your salary at a rate of 5 galleons per week until repaid. This should be sufficient for you to establish a place of residence more suitable for an employee of mine than the pavement of Knockturn Alley.
Just in the unlikely chance that your Gryffindor pride is tempted to rebuff this offer, think about the potential carnage that will result if the werewolf population joins the Dark Lord. If you refuse, the lives of all that they kill or infect will be on your conscience.
I will await your acceptance along with your new residence information.
PS. Tell no one of this offer. You know the dangers of trusting the wrong person."
Remus sank back down to the ground, still staring at the parchment. What was Severus up to? Albus had always been the leader of the resistance. Why wouldn't he contact Remus instead of Severus? Something just didn't make sense.
No, if Albus had anything to do with this, he not only would have approached him personally but he would have made a more definitive effort to find him an acceptable living situation. Albus wasn't the type to just hand out money; he would use his many contacts to find a safe place for Remus to live. This offer was definitely more Severus' style, complete with thinly veiled insults. He should really tell Severus where he could stuff his offer.
However, the offer made Remus realize that he'd let pride get the better of him, and the time for pride was gone. Pride got him stuck in Bullfrog Alley in the first place. There were any one of a number of people Remus could have gone to for help, but he'd resisted. Those who could have afforded to help him would have done so grudgingly, and those who would have been willing could scarcely afford to support themselves. He didn't want to be a burden to anyone.
Remus reread the offer again. 100 galleons, plus 30 per week, offered in such a way that if he refused to accept it, he would always wonder if he was undermining the resistance efforts. He sighed. Severus really was clever that way.
He stood again, retrieving his coat and putting it on, sliding the parchment with the bank draft in the pocket. He would stop at the post office after Gringotts, and after that, he'd stop at the Leaky Cauldron. He needed a good glass of whiskey, and this was the first time in months that he could afford one.
Authors Notes: This story takes place during the Goblet of Fire, before the second task. Although none of the action is explicitly referred to in canon, it hopefully should not contradict it in any way. I think this piece can stand alone, though I may someday, if sufficiently inspired, use it as the basis from which to start a Snupin 'ship fic.
This is written for McKay's birthday, because she is the one who introduced me to the Snupin 'ship and is, in my humble opinion, one of the best writers in the fandom.