Chapter 35: Awake
Dizzy and gasping for breath, Nymphadora Tonks fell back into reality…but instead of hitting the soapy floor of her apartment, she made contact with something softer.
A deep male voice groaned beneath her.
Tonks yelped and scrambled off Snape, her cheeks pink with embarrassment.
"Sorry." she muttered, still feeling disoriented from all of the very private information she'd just absorbed. "Merlin, I can't believe we just –"
Tonks stopped mid-sentence when she noticed Snape's numb expression. His eyes were glazed over and almost…sad looking. She'd never seen him that way before.
"Severus?" she asked with genuine worry, gingerly stepping towards him and waving a hand in front of his face. "Are you alright? You look like you've just seen a –"
Tonks was about to say the word "ghost," but she stopped herself. Using that word now - after witnessing those particular memories with him - seemed beyond inappropriate. After all, Snape had just seen a ghost...many, in fact.
Then, as if turning on a switch, Severus Snape snapped back in character.
"And that, Nymphadora," he drawled condescendingly. " is why you must always store memories properly…"
"Oh yes, Snape." Tonks retorted, her heartfelt concern quickly souring. "I'll have to keep that in mind the next time you decide to – quite intelligently - power walk across a slippery floor and fall on your a- "
"Well, maybe you shouldn't have been cleaning the muggle way in the first place!"
"Well, maybe you should stop being such an arrogant little pr –"
Tonks gasped. She and Snape's wands flew out of their hands. She whirled around anxiously, totally unprepared for the sight before her. As it turns out, Snape and Tonks had been too busy arguing to notice the new, very awake addition to the room.
Remus Lupin reached up and caught their wands with one graceful swipe of his hand. His jaw was tense and his body was in a crouched, defensive stance. If he was in pain, his stoic face didn't betray an ounce of it.
He hesitated at the sound of Tonks' worried voice. His wand arm twitched and, for a second, Tonks thought he might lower his arm. Then, as if shaking himself from a dream, Lupin's face hardened again and he steadied his hand stubbornly.
It took Tonks a while to finally realize what he was waiting for.
"Oh right…" she stuttered, still in shock. "My full name is Nymphadora Tonks. I am a member of the Order of the Phoenix and my hair is usually pink."
Lupin didn't move. Clearly, that information wasn't specific enough for him to stand down.
"The first night we met, I got you and Sirius Black drunk on Firewhiskey."
Lupin softened, but only temporarily. He quickly turned to Snape, who (quite predictably) rolled his eyes at Lupin's overly cautious nature.
"Oh please. Are you really -?"
"Just do it, Severus." Tonks snapped impatiently.
"Fine." He sighed. "My name Severus Snape. I made wolfsbane potion for you for an entire year. You're welcome."
Lupin was too relieved about the confirmation of their identities to care about Snape's rude tone. He let out a long, heaving sigh and threw the wands back.
The same instant Remus slackened, Tonks lost control.
After almost a year of emotional restraint, her instincts finally revolted against her logic. Without thinking, Tonks bounded towards Remus with tears in her eyes and wrapped her arms around him. He was real - not a memory or a patronus, but flesh and blood. She could feel Remus' pulse beneath her chest and his uneven breath against her neck. With his past fresh on her mind, Tonks suddenly felt so connected to all versions of him - the gleeful boy, the thoughtful teen, and even the conflicted man. She squeezed him gently and took in his familiar scent with great rasping breaths, not caring that Snape was watching or that she and Remus had fought like cats and dogs the last time they had been together in her London flat. No - the only thing that mattered was that he was finally awake and in her arms.
It took the sound of his stifled groan for Tonks to snap back to reality.
She sprang away from Remus, hastily wiping tears from her swollen cheeks. He was wincing now and clutching his side, finally revealing the pain he'd hidden so well just moments before. He staggered away from the guilty-looking Tonks and grabbed the bedpost for balance.
"W-Where am I?" he rasped out with a dry throat.
"You're in my Hogsmeade apartment." Tonks explained, conjuring a glass of water for him. "You apparated here while you were transforming. What was the last thing you remember?"
He paused. "P-punching Greyback."
Tonks couldn't help herself. A beautifully amused and proud expression invaded her heart-shaped face.
"Oh please." Snape rolled his eyes at the sentimental spectacle. "I'm still here, you know."
Tonks and Remus quickly looked away from one another, their faces flushed.
Lupin cleared his throat. "H-How long have I been out?"
"Well…" Tonks began. "About five days."
"Five days?" Lupin croaked. "B-but I attacked Greyback! Death Eaters might be tracking me as we speak. How could you let me stay here - and so close to the school? I have to talk to Dumbledore right away!"
Remus ignored his painful wounds and impulsively walked toward the door. Snape, however, stepped in front of the exit and crossed his arms.
"Get out of the way, Snape."
"I'm afraid that's impossible." The professor returned cooly.
"What are you talking about? Let me through."
Tonks touched his arm gently, forcing Lupin to look at her again.
"You can't leave, Remus." she said. "Not right now, at least."
"But –" he protested.
"Honestly, Lupin." Snape cut him off. "You broke your cover, abandoned your duties, and compromised the entire Order! You can't just walk out of this apartment!"
"Snape!" Tonks' warned sharply, but he didn't let down.
"There's a protocol, Lupin – you and I both know it." Snape spat out unapologetically. "If a mistake is made like yours, then one has no choice but to disappear and leave the Order to pick up the mess. What did you expect?"
It took a minute for Snape's mixture of logic and insult to sink in to Remus' tired brain. His eyes darkened when the truth hit him.
"I'm under the fidelius charm, aren't I?"
Tonks nodded. "We both are, Remus."
He narrowed his eyes and pointed at Snape. "Then what is he doing here?"
A taunting smile spread across Snape's pale face.
"I'm your secret keeper."
"Y-You? Secret Keeper?"
"What's the matter?" Snape smirked. He stepped forward, clearly baiting his former classmate. "You don't sound very happy, Remus."
"I just don't understand why Dumbledore didn't do it himself!" Lupin countered defensively.
"Well, Dumbledore trusts me. You see, unlike some people I can handle the pressure of an undercover mission. I am an excellent double agent."
"Yes, a little too good of a double agent if you ask me…"
Snape's eyes flashed.
"I don't know what you're implying, Remus, but if you have something to say then I suggest you just come out and say it."
The two men turned toward Tonks – petite and fuming angrily just feet away from their verbal spar.
"Honestly," she hissed with disapproval. "You two are acting like immature school boys!"
Lupin's face softened at her honest reproach, but Snape's remained stony and combative.
Tonks sighed and shook her head. "Remus, there's nothing you can do about all of this now. Dumbledore is fully aware of your condition and everything is fine. You're still weak. Please just calm down, sit, and put something in your stomach."
She flicked her wand and guided a plate of bread through the air to Lupin's night stand. He followed it reluctantly, still casting distasteful, suspicious glances in Snape's direction.
"And you…" Tonks grabbed Snape's arm and dragged him toward the opposite side of the room. "I need to speak with you."
Though agitated, Snape didn't resist.
"How dare you!" she said in a hushed voice once they were out of earshot. "Merlin, Snape! Remus just woke up. Is it really necessary to work him up like that? What the bloody hell has gotten into you?"
"Well, it's true." Snape insisted. "He should be ashamed of himself –"
"Enough of that!" she interrupted sharply. "Neither of us knows the circumstances of Lupin's departure, so stop judging him. Goodness…I've seen you act this way with Sirius before, but he usually deserved it. Honestly, what on earth did Remus Lupin ever do to you?"
Snape opened his mouth, but suddenly faltered. For the first time that night he seemed to be at a loss for words.
"That's what I thought." Tonks said, straightening her robes with authority. "Just say goodnight like a civilized human being and leave. It's late."
"You want me to play nicely to your boyfriend?" Snape sneered.
"He's not my - Just do it, Snape!"
"Fine." He said bitterly. He started to turn way, but paused. "Do you need anything?"
"For tomorrow." He explained. "Any supplies I can bring to you? Medicine? Potion ingredients?"
"Oh." Tonks blinked. She never did understand how Snape managed to transition so quickly from complete prat to gentleman in one breath. "Well, if you can swipe some of Padame Pomphrey's balm for scaring, that might be useful."
He nodded civilly, then turned on his heel and walked toward the bed where Remus was practically inhaling his food.
"What?" Remus challenged, setting down his plate and brushing the crumbs off his lap. "Come to criticize me more, Snape?"
Tonks held her breath and caught Snape's eye. Just walk away, she pleaded silently in her head, hoping that somehow he might hear her and obey.
Then, like some miracle, Snape did walk away. He whipped silently around and walked toward the door with his big, black cloak billowing behind him. Tonks exhaled with relief, but that feeling was sadly short-lived. Just when she thought all was well, Snape froze in his tracks.
His gaze fell on the chipped bowl of Lupin's memories still laying alone and forgotten on the soapy ground. Tonks watched with increasing alarm as Snape's body tensed and his fists clenched at his side.
"I must say, Lupin…" Snape unexpectedly turned around with a twinkle of revenge in his eye. "I expected you of all people to avoid misplaced suspicion in regard to secret keepers."
Remus furrowed his brow. "What are you -?"
"Considering how poorly your so-called friends treated you during that last fideiuls charm…what was it? Fifteen years ago? I assumed you might be more reluctant to throw out accusations."
Remus gaped, totally bewildered. Snape's true meaning didn't sink in until after Lupin followed his line of sight to the ground…to a small, unassuming bowl filled with silvery wisps of memory.
Lupin's breath caught in his chest and he suddenly understood what Snape knew...what he must have seen.
Though outwardly Snape looked just as uncaring and cold as usual, his voice uncharacteristically broke as he delivered his last, wounding jab: "Then again, perhaps Potter was wise to distrust you in the end, Lupin. After all, you were more a favorite of Lily's, weren't you?"
And with that, Snape finally left the room.