In the summer after OotP, Remus is falling apart. Snape notices.
Remus Lupin was becoming deranged. If this was clear to /him/, Severus thought, it must be bloody obvious to the rest of the Order. Still, none of them seemed to be doing anything about it. Every time he visited the Grimmauld Place house in that sweltering, claustrophobic summer after Black's death, it seemed he'd find Lupin skulking about in one dark corner or another, smelling of whiskey and sweat and despair.
In full-moon weeks, this would briefly be his problem -- for as long as it took to say, "Your potion, Lupin," and glare at the man until he drank it. Two minutes, perhaps, after which he could retreat from Lupin's flat eyes and stink of misery. At other times, when he was there only for Order meetings, it was easy enough not to interact with the werewolf at all, which seemed to be what most people did.
Not that he could blame them -- Nymphadora Tonks was the one person who tried, on anything like a regular basis, to get Lupin to take some interest in the proceedings in the house, and Lupin rewarded her for it with little more than half-hearted snarling. Nothing more than a beast after all, Severus thought smugly. Not even -- a beast in this much pain would be put down, would be killed by its keepers so they could stop watching it suffer. Instead, the Order seemed determined to just ignore it and wait for Lupin's problems to resolve themselves. His wolfsbane, Severus realized in the first week of August, as he left the house after delivering it, was the the nearest thing to care that Lupin was getting.
And that was not his problem, he reminded himself. He wasn't Lupin's friend, and if the man's friends couldn't be troubled with him, why should Severus feel any obligation to do more?
August nineteenth was the anniversary of Evan and Charlotte's deaths. Severus believed that he and Moody were the only people who remembered the date, anymore. Moody had scheduled an Order meeting for that evening -- not, Severus suspected, because he actually had any information or strategy, but because he wanted to remind them all of his triumph. The very thought of watching the old bastard swagger and boast about it turned Severus's stomach. He tossed a handful of floo powder in the fireplace.
"Severus. What's troubling you?" Dumbledore's face in the fire looked so calm, so cheerful. No ghosts haunting him today, that was certain.
"I will... not be attending tonight's meeting," Severus said stiffly. "I have nothing to report, and I have -- urgent personal business that I must take care of today."
"And it cannot wait?"
"It must be done today," Severus repeated, carefully controlling his voice.
"I see. In that case, I will make your apologies tonight. Take care of yourself, Severus." Dumbledore fixed him with a look of understanding and sympathy that made him sick. Of course he was sorry now, years too late. Severus growled something noncommittal and turned away from the fire.
The week before, he'd bought a bottle of expensive brandy, the kind that Charlotte used to like, the kind that Narcissa used to buy for her. He'd found a little book of poems, a copy of the one Evan used to carry around like a talisman. He flooed to the little tavern down the road from the cemetery, and made himself walk from there -- two miles, up a winding road, the countryside rich and green under the summer sun, the bugs chorusing.
It was too hot. No sane wizard would be wearing full robes, in black, in this weather. But that gave him something petty to be upset about, a focus for his anger, something to distract him from the tempting picture of himself appearing at the meeting that night and cursing Moody straight into oblivion. He slipped through the wrought-iron gates, his footsteps crunching on gravel.
Their graves were in the back, by the gnarled old yew. The markers were blank; no names, no dates, not even a meaningless platitude to mar the surface of the granite. Probably nobody else remembered they were there.
"Evan Rosier," Severus said hoarsely. "Charlotte Wilkes." He paused. "I miss you. I still turn corners, some days, and expect to find you on the other side of them. I remember your laugh, Evan, and your daring, Charlotte. You were... all the good things." He sat down in the grass. "There's a part of me that's glad you didn't have to see what it's turned into. You wouldn't recognize Tom now. He's mad, and horrible, and... he's dragged so many of us along with him. Bella, Lucius, Rabastan -- sometimes I think they're as dead as you are. Everything we thought was right is gone.
"And I shouldn't still be here. I shouldn't have outlived you like this. You had so much fire, so much life in you. That bastard Moody should be here, in your place. I should be here, in your place." He opened the brandy bottle, poured out a little on the grass and took a swallow. "I couldn't bring you back, you know. I tried. I looked for a way." Another drink for Charlotte, another for him. "But there isn't one, is there? His whole stupid quest, his whole 'flight from death,' it's fucking futile, isn't it?"
More drinks. He opened the book of poems to the beginning, cleared his throat, and began to read, his voice cracking only slightly:
"Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky..."
When it was too dark to see anymore, Severus left the book at one grave, the bottle at the other, and walked away, his steps heavy and slow. He repeated the last few lines he'd read, quietly, as he retraced his steps to the pub:
"And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto Thee..."
At home, he opened a second bottle of brandy, harsh stuff, the punishing kind.
He woke up on the couch the next morning, still clothed, the bottle empty on the table, the whole room thick with the smell of misery and liquor. His head throbbed; when he moved, his stomach churned. He fetched a glass of water and retired to bed for the rest of the day.
September's full moon was the Saturday night after classes began. Severus flooed to Grimmauld Place on Friday night with a small cauldron of wolfsbane potion. The air was starting to turn, and while the house was still stifling, it was no longer so hot as to be unbearable. He found the werewolf in the first-floor sitting room, staring at a half-empty whiskey bottle.
"I've brought your potion, Lupin." No response, just the sour reek of despair and the studied expression of apathy. Severus felt a flare of anger, and realized in surprise that it was not -- primarily -- directed at Lupin. "Drinking too much of that will weaken the effect of this, you know."
"I don't care."
Severus's fist clenched reflexively. It was too familiar. "So you've given up, then," he said nastily. "Decided to just die of a broken heart, and to hell with anyone you attack before then."
Lupin looked up angrily. "I'm not going to --"
"You're lying to yourself. There's not a room in this house that would hold you in wolf form if you wanted to get out. It's your own damn business if you kill yourself, but I can't let you endanger the rest of us."
Lupin started up off the sofa, eyes flashing, then slumped back down. "Not going to kill myself," he muttered.
Severus put the little cauldron down on the table and sat down opposite Lupin. "If you're trying to medicate yourself," he said carefully, "I could brew you something more effective than whiskey."
"Fuck off, Snape," Lupin growled. "You're glad he's dead."
Severus glared. "Yes," he said finally. "I can't say I miss him. But I'm trying to help you."
Lupin poured himself another shot, but left it sitting on the table. "Why?"
"Because somebody has to." Before Lupin could voice the protest in his eyes, Severus continued, "or you'll end up like me."
That stopped the werewolf. Lupin glared at him fuzzily for a full minute. "You care to explain that?" he said at last.
"No." This was a waste of time. What was he doing? He didn't want to be here. "I don't. But it's still true."
"And I should trust you because...?"
"Because the rest of them don't give a damn," Severus snapped, his patience at an end. "Because they're going to ignore you until you go away, or die, and then they'll notice that you smell /worse/, and toss you out with the rest of the garbage."
"You fucking bastard!" Finally, Lupin seemed fully engaged in the conversation. "You arrogant prick! How dare you even suggest -- Albus would -- and Harry -- and --" His eyes were desperate, hunted, pleading.
"They don't, though, do they?" Severus was quiet; Lupin had to shut up to hear him. "He's a charismatic leader, Albus is, but you can't expect comfort from him. Functional is enough. He doesn't care if you're happy." He stopped, unable to contain the bitterness in his tone. He reached for the full shot glass, and tossed back the whiskey.
Lupin met his eyes steadily, reading what lay unsaid between them. "Who was it for you?"
"I said I didn't want to explain. Why must you make this so difficult?"
"Severus," Lupin said through clenched teeth, "humans help each other with grief by sharing their experiences and commiserating. If you want to fucking help, then stop treating me like a goddamn experiment."
Severus closed his eyes. Because I do not hope to turn again... "It is difficult for me to trust you, also." Two blank gravestones, hidden at the back of the cemetery, the black yew brooding over them. "Evan and Charlotte," he whispered.
"Evan and... Rosier and Wilkes?" Lupin asked.
"Yes." Severus glared, daring him to comment. When he didn't, Severus continued, "They were so young. Evan was our age. Charlotte a year younger. She was barely twenty when they were killed."
"I think I remember her." Lupin's voice was surprisingly soft. "A tomboy, wasn't she?"
Severus smiled, though it hurt. "You don't know the half of it. She was a better duelist than any of the boys in our year. She wanted to prove herself so much."
"And you loved her."
He narrowed his eyes. "If I have to answer that, you have to tell me about you and Black."
"Christ, Snape, this isn't a fucking contest." Lupin ran his fingers through his hair, a gesture of exasperation. Severus didn't remember seeing it at all in the last few months. "Fine. Tell me about Wilkes and -- about Charlotte and Evan, and I'll tell you about Sirius."
"They were the only close friends I've ever had. Evan didn't belong with the Death Eaters at all; he should have written poems, or bound books, or something elegant like that. Charlotte... I've never known another woman like her. She was so tough, so proud."
Severus bristled. "Your turn."
"The worst part about losing Sirius," Lupin choked, and paused, "was that I didn't -- that I couldn't -- that we weren't lovers. That I pushed him away." He stared at his hands, twisting and worrying at each other. "After Azkaban... I couldn't. It had turned him into someone I couldn't get close to. And I thought I'd have time to figure it out."
Severus watched him struggle with the memory. "Charlotte kissed me once," he said, and was surprised to hear his voice break. "To prove it didn't frighten her, I suppose. One of the things I will always regret is that we didn't have more than that between us."
Lupin reached out one shaky hand and poured more whiskey into the glass. He held it out to Severus. "I'm sorry," he said quietly, like he meant it.
"Sorry for what?" Severus took the glass, his fingers brushing Lupin's for a brief second.
"Sorry you lost your friends. I... know how awful that is. And sorry you didn't have anyone to go to. I'm finding that's pretty awful, too."
Severus sipped the whiskey, slowly. "Thank you. I am sorry that you... are alone. It is a terrible thing to be." More lines from Evan's book of poems floated to the surface of his mind:
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone
Lupin's studied composure crumbled, falling apart in slow anguished motion, and the tears came. "I'm drunk," he explained through the sobs, like an excuse. "I didn't want you... to see this."
"Somebody has to," Severus said again, setting his glass down. "Enough people have been lost... through lack of care." Lupin's shoulders shook, and he didn't answer. Severus hesitated, then stood and rounded the table to sit down next to him. "There is no shame," he said quietly, "in grieving the fallen."
Lupin turned and threw his arms around Severus, so abruptly that he panicked, at first. The heat of his body was feverishly intense, and he was shaking. Slowly, awkwardly, Severus raised his arms and placed them around Lupin's shoulders. He stroked the man's back gingerly.
"I miss him so much," Lupin mumbled into his shoulder.
"I know," Severus whispered, closing his eyes, seeing his own ghosts. Charlotte at the wedding, laughing, proud of her aggressive masculinity. Evan in the dorms, smiling up at him, blue eyes dancing, over the pile of books and papers between them. He moved slightly, shifting position, and Lupin clung tighter.
"Don't let go," Lupin said frantically. "Don't let go. Nobody touches me anymore."
Severus flinched. If only he'd had someone to say that to. "I won't." He stayed there, quiet, running his fingers through Lupin's greying hair, until the sobs had run their course.
"Severus." Lupin's voice was hoarse. "Stay here tonight. Please. I don't want to spend another night in this house by myself."
"I --" On the edge of saying, /I can't/, Severus paused. "Drink your potion. And no more whiskey. And I'll stay."
A/N: The book that Severus is reading, from which those italicized lines are taken, is T. S. Eliot's /Selected Poems/. The poems quoted are, in order, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," "Ash Wednesday" (twice), and "The Hollow Men."