Summary: Severus tilted his head back staring up at the ceiling. "I killed him. Not by my own hand, but by my inaction. I watched him die and did nothing to prevent it." Angsty one-shot. Warning: character death.
Severus quickened his pace, his long, confident strides taking him closer to the Apparation point. He knew that he was always the last to arrive to the Death Eater meetings, as it took him time to leave Hogwarts' wards before he could join the others. The Dark Lord had said nothing about it up to now, but his red eyes would narrow almost imperceptibly each time his gaze rested on the Potions Master.
Severus' spying for the Light was getting more perilous each day. Since the debacle at the Department of Mysteries, Voldemort had become increasingly paranoid. He had killed several of his own followers at the last gathering, blaming them for a botched attempt to free the Death Eater prisoners in Azkaban.
The good thing, depending upon your perspective of course, was that since so many of the Dark Lord's most devoted followers had been imprisoned, Severus was once again considered to be in the inner circle. The Potions Master was privy to valuable information that was helping to save lives, Muggle and Wizard alike.
Severus had been the one to pass the information to the Order that had foiled Voldemort's plans to free his loyal followers in Azkaban. Dumbledore, his mind as agile as ever, had made it appear that the Death Eaters' incompetence had caused their plot to fail.
Severus Apparated to the meeting place, a field somewhere in Scotland he surmised as he scanned the landscape. Even though late-night darkness partially shrouded them, there was enough light to see the dark-cloaked, white-masked figures in a semi-circle with two standing off to the side with their backs to the rest of the group. The Potions Master hurried to join their ranks.
Voldemort stood in front of the gathering, arms raised in welcome. With a wave of his hand a blue magical fire appeared in front of him, illuminating the white masks of the Death Eaters. "First, I'd like to ask everyone to remove their masks. We won't need them tonight and I want you all to be able to clearly see what I have prepared." I put up the shielding wards myself; we won't be interrupted." The dark wizard waited a short while for the group to comply before continuing. "I have called you here for an initiation," drawled Voldemort, his lipless mouth curving at the corners. "I need my faithful to be prepared for anything." Crimson eyes scanned the crowd, stopping to rest on Severus. "Nice of you to join us, Severus," the Dark Lord said, his cat-like eyes narrowing slightly, before he turned his attention back to the group, saying "Step forward, Wormtail."
Wormtail was always easy to spot in a Death Eater gathering. The nervous wizard fidgeted, twitched and squirmed in perpetual motion. At the sound of his name Pettigrew's head snapped up before he slunk forward awkwardly, glancing back at the others in trepidation. "Y-yes, M-my Lord?"
"I owe you a great debt, Wormtail. One I intend to repay today." He beckoned the two Death Eaters from the fringe of the gathering. As the two turned and approached, the others could see that between the two was the unresisting form of a man, a sack over his head. The man was obviously unconscious since his feet had drug along the ground as they had brought him forward, leaving two lines of bruised grass in their wake. They stopped in clear view of the assembly.
"My gift to you, Wormtail," said the dark wizard, grinning wickedly as he pulled off the sack with a flourish.
Wishing he had not removed his mask, Severus fervently hoped that none of those assembled caught the fleeting look of surprise and recognition that flitted across his features. Severus saw, suspended between the two Death Eaters and half-lying on the ground, Remus Lupin. He had thick silver shackles around his neck and wrists, which were connected by chains to a silver ring. The bonds had no other purpose but to torture him, since Voldemort knew that Lupin was a werewolf and knew that it was very painful for a lycanthrope to contact silver. The skin of Lupin's neck and wrists was red and swollen and his head lolled to the front, graying hair partially hiding his lined face.
Severus' heart hammered painfully against his ribs. How could he help? All eyes were focused on the werewolf. Was there a way out of this mess? Severus put his agile mind to the task.
"What do you think of my little gift?" said Voldemort to Wormtail. "After hearing you endlessly complain about your childhood friends, I thought you might like to dispatch of the last one yourself." Voldemort circled Wormtail, smiling at the smaller wizard's discomfiture. The Dark Lord, knowing Wormtail very well, knew that he became sick at the sight of blood and did not participate in most Death Eater activities for this very reason.
Wormtail tittered apprehensively and began to chew on a fingernail. "This gift, Lord it… it is more than I deserve."
"I know," agreed Voldemort. "This gift is a learning experience, Wormtail. It's time that you became one of us in every respect." Voldemort roughly grabbed Lupin's hair and pulled his head back. "The gift I want to give you is the ability to go in for the kill, to take the life of anyone in your way quickly and cleanly." The dark wizard's eyes gleamed as he continued. "I need all of my loyal followers to be able to function in every capacity. I have given you leeway up to this point, Wormtail, but now it is time for you to grow up and join us as a full member. Kill him."
Hoots and calls from the crowd caused Pettigrew to jump. "Haven't I always done as you've asked me, my Lord? I…I cut off my hand for you, Lord!" Wormtail held out his silver hand. "I will always follow you in every way."
"Then do so." Voldemort released Lupin's head, allowing it to loll forward again. Pointing his wand to the lycanthrope the Dark Lord said, "Enervate!"
Severus swallowed thickly as Lupin's head slowly lifted. The lycanthrope's amber eyes locked with the Potions Master's black ones. Thrusting his hand into the pocket of his robes, Severus clutched his wand tightly in anticipation.
Wormtail lifted his wand, his hand trembling, as he began to speak the incantation, "Avad—"
"NO! You fool!" Voldemort cut in, slapping the wand from Pettigrew's shaky fingers. "I want you to kill him, using no magic"
Voldemort gripped Wormtail's robes at the throat, lifting him off the ground several centimeters then dragging him several meters away. "You must understand what this entails!"
Severus and Remus mutely stared at one another while the dark wizard lectured his protégé. Severus carefully schooled his expression. Lupin knows this will end badly, he has to know that, Severus thought. What should I do? If I don't intervene he will most surely die. If I do intervene he will still die, and I along with him. Severus spent no more time debating the issue in his mind. I must do the right thing. I knew that my life was forfeit the day I chose to spy for the Light. I've been living on borrowed time since that day. I must act quickly, while he lectures Pettigrew.
Severus cast a sideways glance toward the Dark Lord and Animagus before meeting Lupin's eyes again. It was then that Lupin shook his head with the tiniest of movement. What? How can this be? thought Severus, certain he had misread the werewolf. Severus' brows furrowed, his eyes not leaving Lupin's. Again, the lycanthrope shook his head sadly and mutely mouthed the word 'no'.
Severus looked around at those assembled. They were more intent on watching Voldemort try to embolden the craven wizard than on what Lupin was doing. Even those holding the lycanthrope were not watching him. The Potions Master then looked into Remus' amber eyes again. Severus could not accept that the werewolf would rather die than have Severus attempt a rescue and time was running out. Severus gripped his wand tightly and slowly withdrew it from his pocket.
Once more Lupin shook his head, this time shouting, "NO!"
All eyes turned to Lupin and Severus jerked the wand down to his side, hiding it in the voluminous folds of his black robes.
Voldemort strode over to the captive, misinterpreting his reason for calling out. "I'm afraid the matter is not open for discussion, werewolf!" Voldemort kicked Lupin in the stomach, causing him to double over in pain. "Get over here now, Wormtail!"
Pettigrew returned to his master's side and held out his silver hand. With his wand Voldemort tapped the false hand and it quickly transfigured into a long silver blade. Wormtail stepped close to Remus but could not meet his eyes. Lupin's former friend held the blade out to Lupin's chest and stood there trembling as if unable to move further.
Lupin's captors held him by the arms and shoulders, preventing him from pulling back. "You worthless coward," snarled Lupin, glaring at Pettigrew with deep disdain. Pettigrew jumped and looked to the side. "Look at me, Peter!" Remus spat. "I want you to watch me die!"
Pettigrew stammered a reply. "I-I th-think you should just….just shut up, Remus!"
"Or what, you'll kill me?" Lupin's lips curled into a sneer.
Voldemort seemed amused by the exchange and said nothing, wordlessly spurring on the Animagus by waving him forward.
Severus clutched his wand tightly, waiting for the best opportunity. His ebony eyes met Lupin's once more as he slowly withdrew the wand from the dark folds of fabric.
Seeing what Severus was about to do, Lupin acted swiftly. With a strangled cry, Remus Lupin arched his body forward and impaled himself on the long blade; his body shuddering as the silver entered his system. Those assembled were shocked into silence as the twitching quickly ceased, the lycanthrope going silent and limp.
Severus froze, his wand out in front of him. This didn't just happen, he thought. This can't have happened. Slowly he lowered his arm, realizing there was no longer anything he could do to help Lupin.
Wormtail was the first one to move, shouting in a panicked voice, "Get him off me! Get him off me!" The men who had been holding Remus pulled him back and Peter stumbled backwards a few steps, then fell to his knees vomiting.
After a few more awkward moments, Voldemort strode forward and crossed his arms over his chest, glaring at the lifeless body now lying on the ground. Turning to Wormtail he sneered, "I don't think that one counts, Wormtail." The Dark Lord transfigured Peter's blade back into a hand, then stepping over Pettigrew's mess he clapped his hands. "So much for the initiation," he smirked, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
Turning, the Dark Lord saw that Severus had his wand out. His snakelike face registered surprise.
In that quick moment Severus thought that his end had come and he found that he did not fear it, but actually felt relieved. He held Voldemort's red gaze defiantly.
Voldemort smirked at the Potions Master. "This is what I like to see," said Voldemort, reaching out to grab Severus' shoulder in a firm grip. "You believe one of us to be in danger from the werewolf and you prepare to defend us. You are truly my most trusted servant." He squeezed Severus' shoulder then walked past the stunned Potions Master, saying, "Severus, since you already have your wand out why don't you cast the Morsmordre. Dismissed!"
Loud cracking sounds were heard, as the Death Eaters Apparated from the site until it was just Severus, Pettigrew and the body of Remus Lupin.
He didn't kill me, thought Severus with a tinge of regret.
Pettigrew wiped his nose on his sleeve, sniffling loudly. He then noticed that Severus was still there, so he made a show of kicking Lupin's body shouting, "Bastard!" before he hastily Apparated.
Severus wasn't sure how long he stood there. What does time matter anyway? We live, we die, end of story. Severus crossed his arms over his chest, frowning at Lupin. It's over for him now. He no longer has to live this insufferable life. Shoulders slumping, Severus found that he felt envy toward Lupin for being able to escape the battles to come, for being able to go on to the eternal rest.
The late summer wind began to pick up, ruffling the lycanthrope's graying hair and Severus could smell rain in the air. He knew he should do what needed to be done so that Lupin could be picked up before the rain set in. Kneeling beside the body, he conjured a waterproof blanket and gently lay it over Lupin. The Potions Master then stared into the lifeless eyes of his former schoolmate, former enemy, and albeit grudgingly, former comrade. Reaching out he closed Remus Lupin's eyes, ignoring the tightness he felt in his chest and lump in his throat. He then covered Remus' face with the blanket.
The sky was now overcast, shrouding the coming daylight in dull shades of gray. Severus cast the Morsmordre in the sky just as the first drops of rain pelted the ground.
"Severus, my boy, I was starting to worry," Albus said cheerfully. He and Minerva were preparing to leave for the early morning weekly Order meeting and were standing in the entryway as the Potions Master entered the castle. "You're soaking wet, Severus," Albus said, chuckling.
Severus glanced down at his soaked robes. I guess it did rain after all. Raising his head he saw the look of concern on Albus' face.
"You should've cast a rain-repelling charm, Severus," Minerva chided as she drew her wand and quickly dried his black robes. Once she finished with his robes she glanced up in preparation for drying his hair and stopped short. The vacant look in his black eyes made her step back and turn toward Albus. She knew Albus was the only person Severus would confide in when things have gone badly at a 'gathering'.
Dumbledore stepped forward, lightly rubbing Minerva's back in comforting circles. "Minerva, You go on ahead to our meeting. Severus and I will be along in a bit." Dumbledore ushered the Head of Gryffindor through the doors and then closed them before turning to Severus.
Albus kept his tone deliberately light. "Shall we go to my office, or do you need to see Madam Pomfrey?"
Severus shook his head and the two made their way silently to the headmaster's office. Albus was becoming more and more concerned with each step. Severus was never a very talkative man but for him to say nothing was highly irregular. He hadn't been this quiet in years.
Albus poured tea from the silver tea service into porcelain cups that were emblazoned with the Hogwarts crest. Severus had still not said a word. They had entered Albus' office and were now seated in matching armchairs angled before the hearth. Albus stirred a generous dose of sugar in his tea and decided to break the ice with something simple. "Did you want sugar in your tea?"
Severus had been staring intently into the flames as if expecting to gain the answers to life's questions in their fiery depths. He heard Albus' question and glanced toward the headmaster. The Potions Master's eyes were drawn to the silver tea service. Shuddering, he looked away. "I don't want anything."
Albus frowned at his old friend. "Severus, you must tell me what has happened. Perhaps I can help—"
"—No one can help, Albus, it's too late." Severus tilted his head back staring up at the ceiling. "I killed him. Not by my own hand, but by my inaction. I watched him die and did nothing to prevent it."
Albus felt his heart begin to race. "Who has died Severus, tell me."
"Remus Lupin," Severus said so softly that Albus had a difficult time hearing it.
Albus dropped his china teacup on the stone floor, the sound of breaking china causing the previous headmasters to startle in their portrait frames. As a house-elf popped in to quickly clear away the mess, Albus' hand shot out. "Leave us, now!" he ordered brusquely. The elf popped out.
Severus could not bear to look at his mentor. He continued to stare at the ceiling, swallowing hard.
Albus stared into the flames. Remus Lupin is dead? Another one of our number, dead? Looking over to Severus he reached out and grabbed his arm, not roughly but firmly. "You must tell me everything and leave nothing out."
While Albus viewed Severus' memories swirling in the Pensieve, the Potions Master resumed staring into the flames of the fireplace. The Pensieve had replaced the silver tea service that had occupied the table beside the two. By having Albus see what he had seen instead of telling him he wouldn't run the risk of misconstruing anything.
Severus was surprised that Lupin's death had had this profound effect on him. He had seen countless people die, some by his own hand, and felt nothing. Why is Lupin's death different? We weren't close. Hell, we weren't even friends. Why does this claw at me?
While waiting for the headmaster to finish watching his memories, the Potions Master realized that he was more frightened than he had ever been. Severus could hear Albus' sharp intake of breath, his sniffles and his muttered exclamations. The Slytherin knew how highly Albus regarded the werewolf and how highly he had regarded Black and James Potter as well. Severus had worked tirelessly to try to gain the same respect and high esteem that Dumbledore gave freely to the others.
There was only one person alive that Severus had ever felt driven to please and that was Albus Dumbledore.
The flames in the hearth began to die down and Severus felt his heart sink lower. What will Albus say? Will he call the Aurors? At least the Dementors have left Azkaban. It shouldn't be nearly so bad now. Severus felt as if the black hole that was his soul was suddenly filled to overflowing with anguish, guilt and regret. Unbeknownst to him, Severus sighed deeply and his shoulders slumped.
Albus shed his tears freely for his fallen friend. He would deeply miss Remus' sunny disposition and caring nature. Lupin's death was abhorrent and senseless. It would be difficult for the Order to go on without him, but go on they would. It's what Remus would've wanted.
Sitting back, Albus cradled his head in his hands. Merlin's beard, how will Harry take the news? The poor child has been through so many deaths already.
Another troubling thought occurred to him. How will the Order react? They trust Severus only on my word as it is. Albus felt nauseous, his head pounding.
Albus was shaken from his morose thoughts when he heard Severus sigh. Pale blue eyes regarded the Potions Master. The child is deeply troubled by this. "Severus, you know that there was nothing that you could've done?"
Severus shrugged his shoulders, his eyes not leaving the hearth.
Leaning forward in his chair, Albus took Severus' icy hands in his. "Remus did the right thing, Severus."
Severus' head snapped up, black eyes blazing. Jerking his hands from the headmaster's he stood, hands fisted in front of him. "The right thing? That bloody fool killed himself!"
"You know he would've died anyway, Severus. He did what he felt he had to do to prevent you from being exposed," Dumbledore said softly.
Severus whirled around, his black robes swirling at his feet. "What the bloody hell do I care if I'm exposed! He should've let me…" he trailed off.
"Let you what, Severus, die a martyr? That would've served no purpose." Albus stood and crossed in front of Severus, standing toe-to-toe with the Slytherin. "There is something that you must understand, child. We all have our roles in this fight. Some of the roles are more crucial than others. You are our best source of information on Death Eater activities that we could possibly have. You and Harry provide us with the only chance that we have of defeating him. All of the rest of us, myself included, are expendable. The cause of the Light is far more important than any one man's death."
Albus reached out and squeezed Severus' shoulder tightly. "I don't blame you for Remus Lupin's death. Look at me, Severus." He waited until the black eyes were locked with his. "You are not to blame for Remus Lupin's death. You did the only thing that you could do."
Albus gave Severus' shoulder one more squeeze before releasing him. "Will you be coming to the Order meeting with me? You can stay here, if you'd rather."
Severus' eyes narrowed slightly. "I'm no coward, Albus."
"I know that, child, I know."
As the pair exited the room Albus stopped for a moment. "Some of the members, they might not understand, Severus, but always know that I do."
A/N: I can't imagine why I wrote a "death" fic! I know I should be working on Secrets and Lies but this fic kept tugging at me until I gave in.
I'm thinking of doing a sequel to this (after the next chapter of Secrets and Lies) where Albus and Severus tell the Order what happened. Thanks for reading and please review!