Title: Let Go
Summary: Lupin can't handle the loss, depression goes a lot deeper than anyone realises.
Warning: Spoilers galore. Character death. Naughty language. I sort of hint at some m/m, but don't worry; nothing actually happens. Also, I've stuck it all in as one chapter, 'cos that's how I like to read them; it makes it easier for me to put up as well.
Archive: I would be honoured.
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters, if I did, Sirius would still be alive. Song belongs to New Found Glory, though I can't remember what the Hell it's called.
Rant: God DAMN JKR that stupid woman. Okay, she evoked a reaction, which is exactly what she was trying to do; so maybe killing the best character in the series wasn't a totally retarded move. But Sirius is - was - a hero! Couldn't he have died a hero's death? Jumping between Harry and Voldemort or something?
Of my hand.
Time to go?
I'm not ready to
Turn my back on you now.
I'm not gonna let you down.'
New Found Glory
"Come on, you can do better than that!"
The words echoed around Remus' head. Over and over he saw the exact moment Sirius died. At that instant, a rather substantial part of Remus died too. All sound had become muted, his vision had blurred, his mouth had gone dry and his mind seemed to have gone completely blank.
Speaking on automatic, he'd told Harry that Sirius was dead. He'd felt him die. And yet, even as he was trying to convince Harry that the man was gone forever, he couldn't quite believe it.
He wouldn't believe it.
Dumbledore had accompanied the kids back to school, and somehow Remus had found his way back to 12 Grimmauld Place. With a blank face he had stumbled and limped past Molly and Severus, both of whom wanted to know what had happened. But he couldn't even open his mouth. He heard Molly cry out, asking if her children were okay, then if Harry was all right. He felt a small pang of guilt at not telling her they were all fine, he didn't want her to worry, but he couldn't talk right now, he just had to get upstairs. He was saved from guilt by the arrival of Mad-Eye and Kingsley, who explained everything. By the time they'd finished, Remus had stepped into Sirius' room, he could hear Molly crying. He shut the door behind him, and everything was silent. Sirius' silencing charm on the room was still working.
The whole room smelled of Sirius. All his stuff was still there. It seemed an odd thought, but for some reason, Remus had been expecting all of Sirius' clothes and books and junk to be gone. It took a while to get control of his legs, but eventually he had staggered over to Sirius' bed and collapsed on it.
There the scent of his best friend surrounded him and threw him into the reality that he was never going to see, speak to, hug or joke with Sirius Black ever again. He lifted his face from the pillows briefly and cried out as loud as he could manage. The pressure behind his eyes became painful and huge tears rolled down his face. Remus had never cried like this ever before. He was absolutely hysterical; anyone who knew him would have been terrified to behold such a sight. He wasn't so much sobbing, as repeatedly screaming, tears refused to show any sign that they might be coming to an end, his face was screwed up in an emotional pain the likes of which he'd never felt, and without realising it, one of his legs was jerking spasmodically.
With every breath, he was inhaling raw air saturated with memories. His lungs ached with the weight of it. His head pounded from the continuous sobbing, and his cries had been getting slowly quieter as weariness took him over. Six and a half hours after Remus had stepped into the room, he fell into a deep painless sleep, void of dreams, emotions and dead friends.
Nobody woke him, for one thing, they were all very busy, the ministry had finally come to their senses and were asking rather sheepishly what had been going on for the past year. For another thing, they all knew Lupin would need time to come to terms with the tragedy, for him to deal with it in his own way.
None of them would have believed that he wouldn't be able to deal with it.
When Remus awoke, nearly twenty-four hours later, he felt the brief, fleeting hope that it had all been a dream. But brief and fleeting were all it was. In a matter of seconds he could think clearly. Waking in Sirius' bed confirmed it. He was alone. Remus rolled off the bed, tried to stand, and fell to his knees. Alone. The word seemed to be everywhere, as if several people were hidden around the room, whispering it in an attempt to drive him to insanity - an attempt that was veering toward success.
All alone, he crawled on all fours to the small en-suite bathroom.
All alone, he hauled himself up at the sink.
All alone, he stared at his reflection.
Then he retched, over and over until he was bringing up nothing more than bile and blood.
Five hours later someone knocked on the door. Remus was lying curled up on the floor, staring at a half-eaten plate of chips that had been pushed under the bed and left there.
Sirius left those there, Remus thought, probably thought he could clean it up when he got back from the Ministry. He struggled to swallow the lump that was creeping up his throat.
Whoever was at the door knocked again.
"Remus, dear," Molly's voice called from behind the door, "are you awake?"
But the voice was coming from another dimension. Remus' stomach gave a horrible twist as he realised Sirius' spell had worn off. Soon this room wouldn't smell of him anymore and Remus would have nothing to remember him by.
The door slowly creaked open, and Mrs Weasley had a clear view of him.
"Oh you poor dear." She said, hurrying over to where he lay, and kneeling down to try to comfort him. "Were you injured?" She asked, then, unsure of whether to take his silence as an affirmative or negative, she tried to hoist him up into a sitting position. Remus let his head flop limply onto her shoulder. Remembering how Remus had comforted her after the incident with the Bogart, she felt she owed him some comfort in return. They sat like that for a while, but eventually Molly let him go, lying him back down on the floor.
"Would you like me to bring up some nice hot soup for you, Remus?" She asked, her concern touched on Remus' mind slightly, and he turned his head to face her.
"Chips." He said, his voice came out rough and scratchily.
"Chips?" Molly asked, concern deepening.
"Chips under his bed." A husky whisper. "He didn't finish them, he'll never finish them."
"Oh." Less concern, more alarm.
Mrs Weasley hadn't noticed she was backing away, until she found herself in the hallway, at which point, she turned and bolted down the stairs, desperate to find someone who could help.
Remus rolled back onto his side and continued staring at the remains of Sirius Black's last meal.
It was about an hour later when there was another knock at the door. This time Remus heard it. But it didn't matter, he was on his own, now and forever, no matter how many people came in the room, he would be alone.
This time, when the door opened, Dumbledore stepped into the room.
"Remus." He said gently.
Remus didn't move.
"Remus, sit up, please."
Again Remus continued to lay still. There was nothing anyone could do to him now; even as the Headmaster touched his hand, there was still a million miles between them.
"Are you hungry?"
"Yes, Molly's told me about the chips." The old man was starting to get the idea of the situation. "Wouldn't you rather have some soup?"
"Sirius..." Remus' lip began to quiver, and soon he was crying again.
Dumbledore turned and called someone in. Molly and Snape stepped in.
"Molly, would you be a dear and make up some chicken soup, bring up some chocolate as well, we all know what a sweet tooth Remus has." Molly left, she seemed happy to leave this room that felt like death. "Severus, we are going to need a strong anti-depressant potion."
"Strong." Snape repeated. "How strong?"
"Well, we certainly don't want him delirious, but it will take a lot of Estle tree sap to bring him out of this, and please hurry, he will continue to get worse until you have made the potion."
Snape gave a short nod, then turned and left. It wouldn't be the first time he'd stayed up all night brewing a potion for Lupin.
Dumbledore looked back at the shaking body in his arms, it was really no more than an empty shell, all he could do was hope that Remus was still in there somewhere.
Unfortunately, business called Dumbledore away before the food was ready, and Molly found herself staying at the house slightly longer than she'd intended, to feed Remus. She felt embarrassed for the poor man; there was no dignity in being fed like a baby. She'd managed to sit him upright, and, with one hand holding the back of his head, she was spoon-feeding him, talking encouragingly. With a great sadness, she realised the last time she'd done this was when Ginny was a baby.
"A few more mouthfuls, come on, that's a good boy..."
Then she heard a familiar 'crack'.
"What are you up to mum?" Asked Fred.
"You were supposed to be home twenty minutes ago, we want our..." George trailed off, staring shocked at the scene. "What's going on?"
"Please go home boys." Mrs Weasley said, in as steady a voice as she could muster.
"What's wrong with-"
"Go home." She repeated, a little more sternly.
The twins obviously got the idea, both disapparated at the same time, both wearing the same worried expression.
Molly continued feeding her charge,
"I'll tell them not to say anything, they'll understand." She said in a voice that she knew was patronising, but she couldn't help it, "They told me before, they think you were th-the best Defence Against the D-dark Arts t-teacher they've ever h-h-had..." she turned away. She wasn't entirely sure if Remus had any idea what was going on, but she didn't want him to see her cry. After a moment she wiped at her eyes with a tissue, then fed Remus the last of the soup. "Now, could you just eat a little bit of this for me..." she broke off a couple of squares of chocolate and put them in his mouth. His jaw worked mechanically, and Molly decided she'd done all she could. It took surprisingly little effort to lift Remus and lie him down on the bed, he was alarmingly light. His eyes closed as soon as he was lying down.
The next morning Mrs Weasley was unable to get to the house and so Dumbledore requested that Snape stay there for the day. Severus couldn't help but turn his nose up slightly at the thought of cooking for and feeding Remus whilst trying to brew this potion, all at the same time as he was trying to spy on Voldemort and teach at Hogwarts. Dumbledore must have thought he had a time-turner or something.
Walking into that room was like falling into an open grave. Remus was asleep on the bed wearing the same clothes he'd put on two days ago. Snape could see why he didn't take them off though - he was wearing clothes that Black had passed down to him, the jumper was too long and the jeans covered in cigarette-burns. He wondered, with slight disgust, if Lupin was wearing Black's old underpants.
No light came in from behind the thick curtains, and there was a rather pungent smell of vomit coming from the en-suite. Remus didn't smell too great either, but Severus decided it was well beyond the call of duty to bath him.
The potion was supposed to be ready by this afternoon anyway, so Lupin could bath himself once he was sane again.
Snape had declined to go into work that day, and the Death-Eaters were all in Azkaban so he didn't really feel like facing the Dark Lord when he was so likely to be in such a shitty mood. The anti-depressant potion simply needed to mature for a few more hours, so there was little he could do to that (maybe add some sugar, everyone knows what a sweet tooth Lupin has), leaving the rest of the morning to watch over the last of his childhood enemies.
In truth, Lupin was never that bad, it had always been Potter and Black that made his life a living hell, and that fat little boy, Pettigrew, who had always cheered them on, Remus had just sat there and done nothing about it. Looking back, Snape didn't know what to feel about James and Sirius dying, it had never felt as good as when he'd wished them dead back at Hogwarts. He felt guilty that he'd never caught Pettigrew as the spy, but he wasn't entirely surprised, he'd never been quite the same as the others.
If Severus had ever had to choose one of the Marauders to be stuck in a room with, it would have been Lupin. Unless he'd been stuck in a room with one of them and several torture implements, in which case it would have been Potter.
Remus was shifting on the bed.
"Do you want to eat?" Severus asked sharply, not moving any closer to the curled up form. For a moment he didn't think he was going to get a reply, he thought maybe Remus was just stirring in his sleep, but eventually he heard a hoarse little voice,
"No." it said, he didn't sound anything like Remus Lupin, and Severus found he was stepping toward the bed against his own judgement, just to see if it really was the man it was supposed to be. "No thank you." Remus croaked again.
"My, you have got yourself into a state, haven't you?" He felt a great deal of guilt, gloating over Lupin's loss, but some sick part of him still wanted revenge for all those years ago, yes, just a few tears, then they'd be even. "Maybe someone should have told you we were fighting a war, then maybe you'd have been prepared for someone as careless as Black to have gotten himself killed."
There was silence, Severus was slightly disappointed that his effort had had no effect, but when he looked, he could see Remus was crying. Silent tear-drops rolled down his cheeks, and a great sadness had turned his eyes a strange grey-gold colour. Suddenly Severus was deeply ashamed at what he'd done. He sat on the bed, and gingerly patted Remus' back twice.
"I'm sorry," He muttered, "I shouldn't have said that."
Remus curled up into an even tighter ball. Snape found his hand inexplicably drawn back to his back, this time he stroked a calming, rhythmic pattern, and found himself almost hypnotised by his own movements. It was strangely comfortable. By adjusting himself slightly on the bed, Severus discovered he could prop himself up against the headboard, with Remus lying to one side, and keep up the calming process. He was careful not to allow himself to fall asleep though, the last thing he needed was for someone to come in and find him sleeping with Lupin.
Remus kept his eyes open, he could feel himself being comforted; there had been no one there to comfort him when James died, when Peter 'died', or when Sirius was locked away. But somehow he hadn't felt as alone as he did right now. He seemed to think he knew who it was that was sitting with him. But that was impossible, he only knew Sirius, and now Sirius was gone. Still, human contact was human contact; he was lucky he got any at all, considering what he was. Suddenly he was hungry. He wondered how he could get this idea across to whoever it was who was looking after him.
He moved his head a little to get his attention, then tried to think of what he'd like to eat; all he could think of was chips.
"Chips." He muttered.
Snape, who had heard Molly's account of what happened earlier yesterday, realised almost straight away that Remus didn't actually want chips, but that his mind was rather jumbled up at the moment, and he probably wanted food.
"What would you like?" He asked, shocked by how compassionate he sounded, even to himself, "Soup again?"
Remus was silent; he seemed even to have momentarily forgotten the meaning of a shake or nod of the head.
"I'll take that as a no, porridge then?"
Snape got up to leave, thinking that was the best he was likely to get right now, and was surprised to hear Remus' voice add,
"With lots of syrup."
By the time they'd finished this late breakfast, the potion was ready. Severus was slightly nervous about giving Lupin the potion without first consulting Dumbledore, it was the strongest anti-depressant he'd ever brewed, and coming from someone bullied as much as Snape, that was saying something. He was certain it wasn't strong enough to kill him, but adding lycanthropy to the equation meant they might see some side effects. Snape wanted Dumbledore there to shoulder the blame in case anything were to go wrong. Against his better judgement, Severus decanted some of the purple liquid into a tankard and took it upstairs.
"Drink this." He said simply, holding out the potion for Remus to take.
Remus didn't look as thought he were capable of taking it, his arms rested heavily on his stomach. Snape had propped him up with pillows, so he was almost sitting upright, but it wouldn't be particularly safe to pour the potion down his throat in this position.
With a sigh, Severus placed the tankard on the bedside table and climbed onto the bed. He sat himself behind Remus, and let him rest his head against his shoulder. It would have looked, to anyone entering the room at that point, as if Severus was cradling Lupin, tipping small mouthfuls of the potion into Remus' gormlessly gaping mouth.
"You have to drink it all." He was saying, though whether Remus was listening or not, he didn't know. "You have to drink all of this, then there are two more doses, you must drink one each night for the next two nights..."
"Mmm." Remus murmured.
Looking at the young man's handsome features, Snape found himself wondering how it could have hurt this much to see a friend die. It wasn't true that Severus had had no friends, he had befriended a select few in Hogwarts, all of whom were now dead, it hadn't affected him this much. What he didn't understand, was that those people he had called 'friends' had in fact been no such thing, Snape had been smart enough to make out the condescending remarks they'd thrown at him, he hadn't forgotten they way they'd beat him up to make themselves feel bigger, but he had continually deluded himself that this was how it was supposed to be. One by one they'd been killed by Aurors or the angry Dark Lord himself, and Severus couldn't have cared less.
He'd never enjoyed true friendship, nor suffered its aftermath.
Whereas Remus had been part of the most exclusive group in the history of Hogwarts. That group had met each other on the Hogwarts train, and instantly formed the tightest clique. They spent most every Christmas and summer holiday together, if one was caught up to no good and put in detention, then invariably the others would find some way of getting in trouble so that their pal wouldn't suffer alone.
They'd even managed to find a way to be together whilst Remus was in wolf-form. The four of them were the definition of inseparable.
Snape had been curious about their reactions to Potter's death, he hadn't seen them for a while at that point, he'd heard from Hagrid that Sirius had been beside himself with grief. But he'd probably consoled himself briefly with the fact that his other two friends were alive, before discovering Pettigrew's treachery, attacking him, and getting his arse hauled off to Azkaban. Remus couldn't have had it easy, losing all three friends within a space of two days, especially considering that the Potters' had deemed Pettigrew a more reliable secret-keeper than him. He'd dealt with being alone, being the last Marauder, for fourteen years. Severus couldn't begin to imagine what it would be like to get one of those friends back for nearly two whole years before losing them for good. Maybe this insanity was justified.
In which case, was it really fair on Lupin to hand him a potion and cure it?
Perhaps he needed to feel this loss.
Whatever, it was too late now.
Tension in the body faded away and Remus limply flopped back against Snape's chest. Staring into space, Severus absentmindedly stroked Lupin's hair; it was just as soft as it had always looked. All the jealousy Severus had ever felt towards him grew fainter; as the smartest of the Marauders, Remus was the only one Snape would ever have traded places with. Maybe they could be friends. After all this time it didn't seem like a particularly convincing idea, but they definitely both needed someone.
But looking at Lupin's tired face, lined around the eyes, and his hair that was now quite possibly more silver than gold, he realised it was too late.
They'd never be 'friends'; Severus simply could not allow himself to believe two people who had been rivals for so long could ever truly be friends.
He shifted sideways and let Remus lie down on the bed. When he woke up, the worst of the depression should have lifted, but Severus reminded himself not to let Remus forget to take the rest of the potion. There is always a danger stopping any type of medication half way through the course.
He cast one last glance back at Lupin, who was wheezing slightly in his sleep, and thanked whatever deity it was looking over himself that he had never forged such a strong bond with anyone to warrant such a dramatic grieving process.
When Molly arrived at seven o'clock that evening - the fourth evening since the tragedy - she was pleasantly surprised to see Remus sitting upright, calmly reading that day's issue of the Daily Prophet.
"Good evening, Molly." He said, placing the newspaper to one side. He still looked tired, but then he'd always looked tired, something about being a werewolf.
"Good evening, Remus!" She said excitedly, "How are you feeling?"
"Better." He replied, "A little embarrassed about the whole situation to be honest." He lowered his eyes, looking rather ashamed.
"Oh you have nothing to be embarrassed about!" Molly sat on the bed next to him, and responded to his sceptical glance with a hug. "You suffered a great loss, it's only normal that you should be upset about it." She favoured him with a slightly worried smile, "You should hear what Harry did..."
"Harry, how is he?" Remus asked, he'd completely forgotten about the boy, who was probably feeling really guilty about Sirius' death, "What did he do?"
Molly looked around as if she was about to indulge Remus in top-secret information.
"Well, according to Phineas, he completely trashed Dumbledore's office." She whispered.
Remus grinned. That was exactly what James would have done.
"I should probably talk to him." He said. Suddenly he wasn't alone, he'd had a miniature James at Hogwarts all along. Someone who knew how much pain he was in.
"Oh yes, you must." Molly said, "Tomorrow you must go with Moody, Tonks and Arthur to meet him at Kings Cross."
"Oh." Remus said, rather startled that they expected him to be up and out of bed so soon. He wasn't sure himself if he could handle seeing people yet. "Do you think I'll manage it?" he asked.
"Of course. The potion that Severus made for you has already made you ten times better, if you remember to take tomorrow's dose, you should be fine."
Remus turned his head and stared at the empty tankard by his bed.
There were two more doses downstairs, one for tomorrow afternoon and one for the afternoon after that. When they were all gone, he'd be cured.
Somehow that wasn't much of a comfort.
"Molly, I..." Remus grabbed her hand, "I just wanted to say thanks."
That evening the Order held a meeting, from which Remus chose to abstain. However, once it had been established that there was no new information, the group decided to dissolve the meeting and spend the evening drinking and playing cards. Dumbledore himself invited Remus along to join them, and the werewolf agreed. As soon as he entered the drawing-room, he was greeted with numerous queries about his mental state, most cleverly disguised as; 'How are you holding up' (Tonks), 'We're all very sorry' (Arthur), and the more brazen; 'Just don't go killing yourself now' (Mad-Eye). Remus smiled politely,
"I'm feeling much better, thanks." He replied a little guiltily, as if he shouldn't be feeling better yet. He looked around the table, taking in the faces.
Snape sat at the end of the table, shuffling two decks of cards together, he was the only one not smiling. Next to him sat Kingsley, Tonks, Mad-Eye and - surprisingly - McGonagall, with a cane propped up against her chair. On the other side were Dumbledore, Molly and Arthur, there was also an empty chair where Remus assumed he should be sitting.
Remus sat down and gratefully accepted Tonks' offer of a drink, though when she dumped the bottle of fire-whiskey down in front of him he was a little taken aback.
"You look like you need it." She explained.
The first few rounds of Black Jack were uneventful, Dumbledore and Mad-Eye were winning alternate hands, until Severus pointed out Moody's eye, and Tonks poked it out and put it in a small lead lined box.
Once he'd loosened up, Remus found himself laughing along with the others in their playful accusations that Dumbledore was cheating. He noticed out of the corner of his eye, that Severus was still stony-faced, and so threw him a questioning look. Snape leaned across the table whilst everyone else was engaged in trying to work out how it was that Dumbledore kept winning,
"I think you should slow down." He said, quietly.
"Slow what down?" But it came out slurred and Remus instantly understood, "Oh."
Remus dealt the next hand, he collected all the cards up then went to take his wand from his pocket to zap-shuffle them.
"Where's my wand?" he asked, confused. Everyone turned and looked at Dumbledore, who removed the wand from the inside of his own robes. There was a moment of awkward silence before Dumbledore explained.
"You were in a terrible state, I was worried you might hurt yourself."
"Deliberately?" Remus asked, curious, he wanted to know who here believed he would have hurt himself.
"Or by accident." Dumbledore replied, he passed the wand across the table and smiled as Remus took it from him. After a quick look at it though, he decided to shuffle the muggle way; one of the many tricks Sirius had taught him, it felt good to put a dead man's knowledge to use. Without any more fuss, he dealt the hand, and everyone groaned as they saw their cards. Remus noticed he had the queen of hearts; she looked up at him alluringly and tossed her blonde hair over her shoulder. Remus smiled. His next card was the jack of spades. Only it wasn't.
It was Sirius.
He looked up, wearing a mischievous half-smile, and winked.
Remus cried out in shock.
"That bad a hand, Rem?" Tonks asked, grinning. Remus nodded, he didn't want them thinking he'd gone mad, it was probably only a hallucination... And sure enough, when he next looked down at the jack, it was wearing a stern face, and barely glanced back up at Remus. He looked at the bottle of fire-whiskey and decided, seeing as how he'd drunk half of it already, that he'd leave the rest for another night.
They finished up at around two in the morning, everyone but Dumbledore feeling glad they hadn't played for real galleons. As they stood, Remus noticed a small movement out of the corner of his eye.
Not another hallucination he thought, but it wasn't, they had all noticed Kreacher enter the room.
Remus was frozen to the spot, he faintly heard Dumbledore ask what the house-elf was there for, considering he no longer had a master living there.
"Kreacher has come for his pictures." It proclaimed, merrily, "The pictures of his mistress."
Before anyone could stop him, Remus had pulled out his wand and yelled a curse at the elf.
"You treacherous, murdering, BASTARD!" He screamed, willing all his hatred into the small piece of wood he held before him.
Kreacher dropped dead then and there.
"Think you're gonna get your head on that wall?" Remus cried, lifting his foot above the dead elf's head, "Well, you're wrong." He stamped on the small skull, smashing it on impact, sending blood and brains squelching all over the carpet.
No one stepped forward to stop him, so Remus continued to smash the body into the carpet. Eventually he backed away until his back hit the wall, and he stood there observing what he had just done. If he had known how Dumbledore had been standing up for the elf in front of Harry just a couple of days ago, he probably would have tried to squash the old man as well.
Surprisingly, it was Snape who stepped forward and put a hand on Remus' shoulder.
"I think maybe you should go to bed now." He said, in as gentle a voice as he had ever used, he didn't want to risk getting anyone else hurt, and he could tell that right now Lupin was a man on the edge; the alcohol obviously hadn't mixed very well with the potion. "I'll walk you up there, and I'll come wake you up when it's time for your medication." It wasn't gentle after all - it was just patronising. Severus must have been getting such a kick out of humiliating him in front of what remained of the people who knew him. Remus looked up, fully aware of all the eyes on him, they were staring at him as if staring at a stranger. However, he was too tired and more than a little shocked at what he'd just done, to argue, so he let Snape help him up the stairs.
Once in the room, Remus did something else very strange that he would have liked to have accredited to the potion; he hugged Severus. More than that, he draped his arms around the man and hung there. Severus, of course, had no idea what he was supposed to do. Cautiously, he wrapped his own arms around Lupin's shoulders. He instantly decided he didn't like the feeling, Remus was too thin, so he used the position to lift Remus up and lie him on the bed. Remus didn't seem too keen on the idea of letting go though.
"Please stay." He whimpered, "Please don't leave me on my own."
"I have to go downstairs and tidy up your mess." Severus stated, matter-of-factly. But Remus still wasn't letting go. "I think I'll take this back as well." He plucked the wand from Lupin's tight grip, and tucked it away under his robes. He sighed, looking at Remus' big golden eyes, he couldn't help but feel a bit bad. "Don't worry about it. The elf was a traitor, the Ministry would have wanted him put down anyway." He got up and left Remus on the bed. "I'll see you in the afternoon to make sure you remember your potion." Then he left the room, closing the door behind him.
Remus probably would have fallen straight asleep, he was definitely tired enough. But as he settled down, he heard a short laugh. His eyes flew open and his heart almost stopped. Even in the wizarding world where people apparated and disapparated all over the place, it was scary as hell when you thought you were alone and it turns out you're not.
"Bloody hell, how long have I been gone?" Sirius said, "Were you really hugging Snape?"
Even in the wizarding world, where pictures talk to you, and ghosts hang around old buildings, hearing the voice of a dead friend was scary as hell.
His simple reaction was to pull the covers up over his head, he hid there in Sirius' bed for about ten minutes before gathering the courage to poke his head out and look around the room.
Standing about a foot away from the bed, was Sirius. Alive and well.
Fighting the urge to get back under the blanket, Remus forced himself to speak.
"What are you doing here?" He asked. It seemed a stupid question, but what else was he going to ask? How are you? Dead?
"The question is, what are you doing here?" Sirius asked. Remus frowned, confused. "Moony, you're in my bed." Sirius grinned.
"You're dead." Remus stated. "This isn't real."
"Ah, I can explain all that." Sirius said, looking a little guilty. "It was a trick."
Sirius pushed Remus back down on the bed, and then sat next to him, he smiled at the surprise in his friend's eyes when they touched. It was clear that Remus still didn't believe he was real; he'd expected Sirius' hand to go straight through his body.
"I'm real." He said, with a huge sigh, he started his story. "All along I'd planned to get hit, that's why I was deliberately riling up my dear cousin. But I was careful to make sure I had a shielding charm up. When she got me, I hid behind the arch. Thanks to you - I heard you talking to Harry, thanks - everyone assumed I was dead, rather than trying to find out-"
"Why?!" Remus cried, he didn't feel very well at this moment, he thought he might be sick.
"Yeah, I was just about to tell you, so quit with the interruptions, okay?"
Remus nodded mutely.
"Where was I? Oh yeah. I figured you guys could win the battle without me. But the important thing, is that the bad guys think I'm dead too."
Pieces of the puzzle were fitting together, Remus had an idea where this was going, but he still couldn't quite handle that Sirius had come back so easily.
"Now, when they least expect it, I'll come at them and win the entire fucking war for the good guys!" Sirius finished triumphantly.
"Why did you let me think you were dead for so long?" Remus asked quietly, he'd decided that if Sirius had a convincing argument for letting him suffer so much, then he was real.
"Well, I suspect Voldemort probably has more spies than we know about. I needed you all to act really upset, as you would if I'd really died." The bigheadedness was there, the complete lack of respect for anyone else's feelings was there, the utter stupidity of the plan had Sirius' trademark all over it.
"You dick." Remus said, a small smile starting to form on his dry lips. "I nearly went mad."
"Nearly?" Sirius queried, "I'd say you totally flipped without me here, I mean, for shit's sake Moony, when I was waiting to talk to you, you were getting all friendly with Snape."
"That's not the worst of it."
"You're telling me you did something worse than hugging Snivellus in my bed?"
"I killed Kreacher." Remus couldn't quite make eye-contact with Sirius at that point, he was too ashamed.
"Good!" Sirius cried, "Couldn't stand that little bastard. Did he get his head nailed to that wall?"
"No, it was a bit squished."
There was silence for a while, some part of Remus' mind still couldn't comprehend his friend's return from the dead.
"So..." He started, not quite sure what they should talk about. "Have you been to Harry or Dumbledore yet?"
"No." Sirius replied instantly. "I need them to act morose. If Harry suddenly gets all happy, Voldemort's gonna feel it, I think if Harry knows I'm alive, he'll know."
It made sense.
"But then why did you come to me?"
"'Cos you're the last of my best friends. I couldn't let you suffer any more."
"Yeah, well I was getting better actually. Despite what you think you know, I reckon I could have gone on living just fine without you."
"Yeah, of course you could, Moony." He said patronisingly.
"I was being treated by your friend Snape, he's been making an anti-depressant potion for me-"
"Doing what?" Sirius asked, alarmed,
"Just something to help me 'get over my loss', I've only got to take it for a couple more days." Remus laughed inwardly, he wouldn't be needing that anymore, would he?
"You'll have to tip it down the sink." Sirius said. His face had taken on a strange expression.
"Why? I could just tell him I feel better..." But even as he was explaining, he saw Sirius' point. How could he have gone from hysterical to fine with just one dose?
"He can't see you happy, he's too clever," Sirius looked disgusted with himself for admitting it, "he'll work out that I'm alive. But you can't take that potion if you aren't depressed. Just tip it down the sink."
Sirius turned his head towards the door.
"Shit," he said, "someone's coming."
Without a word of good-bye, Sirius jumped off the bed, and climbed out of the window.
Remus was still staring at the open window when there was a knock at the door. He didn't need to hide his smile, because he wasn't smiling. There was something strange about the whole encounter.
When Severus let himself in, Remus' face was completely blank, his eyes looked glossy.
"Whom were you talking to?" Severus asked, scanning the room.
"What?" Remus asked, his voice sounded strange, "I was sleeping 'til you woke me up, I must have been muttering in my sleep." Then he offered a smile that could only have been described as scary.
Snape took a few seconds to try and read the expression hidden under that freakish smile.
"This room is starting to smell," He said, crossing the room, "it's not very cold at the moment, I'm just going to open the window, maybe I won't feel so sick when I come to remind you about your medication if this room doesn't stink so much." He'd said it before he'd thought. Remus probably liked the smell, it was Sirius. His aftershave, his deodorant, his sweat. Without looking at the werewolf, Severus opened the window; it was a bit stiff, and required a good shove to get open, almost as if it hadn't been opened in years.
He turned back and looked at Remus who was still staring into space. It was probably a side-effect of the potion; he'd be fine in a few days. Severus knew that so long as Remus continued taking the potion for the whole course, all the side effects would eventually clear up.
He was glad to leave the room, the blank look in the man's eyes was rather disconcerting.
The next morning, Remus was woken early by a flying alarm clock that fluttered through the open door, planted itself next to his ear, and screeched at him.
Remus sat up straight, with a scream.
He picked up the small red clock and turned it over in his hands. Just as he'd expected, three words were engraved on the underside; 'Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes'. He looked towards the door and saw Fred and George trying to see his reaction. When they realised he'd noticed them, they invited themselves in.
"What do you think of our newest invention?" Fred asked.
"We're calling them 'alarming alarms', cool name, huh?" George informed him.
"Only seven sickles, but I guess we could sell one to you for six, seeing as how you're a friend and everything." Fred offered.
"Oh, uh, what's the time?" He asked, he'd just noticed that for all the good the clock did waking him up, it didn't actually tell the time, the hands on the clock's face spun round continually.
"Eight o'clock." George said. "Yeah, the little buggers get rather worked up, and then they don't tell you what the time is."
"You coming with us to meet Harry and Ron at Kings Cross?" Fred asked. It was at this point that Remus realised he was sitting in bed there talking to two former students, whilst wearing only an old pair of boxers.
"Uhm, yeah, but I'm gonna want to get dressed first." He said, looking firstly at the boys, then towards the door.
"Oh, okay." They said, simultaneously then, as they were halfway out of the door, George turned around, "You look a lot better." He said. Then the door closed behind them, and Remus thought about what Sirius had said. He shouldn't look happy.
It was going to be hard work looking miserable, when he knew Sirius was alive and well
It turned out not to be very difficult. He kept going through stages of blanking out, he'd be staring into space and he could vaguely hear people asking if he was alright, and then he'd hear someone else telling them that he was fine, just still in shock.
Too right he was in shock, Sirius was alive!
They were meeting Harry at the station at five, which meant he was due to take his next dose of the potion beforehand.
At two Severus tapped him on the shoulder, snapping him out of another staring-fit.
"It's time." He said, rather menacingly, Remus remembered that he wasn't going to take this dose, so he had to get rid of Snape whilst he was 'drinking' it.
Turned out not to be a problem, it seemed that Severus trusted him to drink it all up like a good boy. As Remus was pouring it away, he wondered why it was so important he didn't take the potion. Sure, he wasn't depressed any more, but would it really have been a big deal if he kept taking it just for a couple more days? He felt so ungrateful throwing it away when Snape had obviously gone to some effort to make it for him.
Well, it was done now, there was nothing he could do about it. Maybe if he was still feeling strange tomorrow, he'd take tomorrow's dose whether Sirius like the idea or not.
Suddenly he wanted to see Sirius again, he had a nasty churning feeling in his stomach that it might all have been a dream last night. He hung around, feeling slightly light-headed for a couple of hours before going with the others to the station.
Seeing Harry was a great relief. The boy looked nearly as bad as Remus felt. Somehow, all the things he'd been planning to say vanished from his mind. He let Moody do most of the talking and only put his own words forward in a quiet voice. He was pleased when the boy's awful family looked horrified by them, if only they knew he was a werewolf on top of being a wizard. As Mad-Eye wound up the big fat one, Remus was sorely tempted to tell the damn muggles that any mistreatment of Harry would result in their son being mysteriously torn to shreds one full-moon. But even in Remus' head, it didn't sound like something he'd say, and there was a big difference between the taunting and threatening for Harry's sake, and trying to scare the shite out of the bastards just to make him feel better.
When Harry left, Remus had a sickening feeling that he wasn't going to see James' son again, but he didn't know why.
There were no more meetings scheduled for a few days, so Remus was alone in the house that evening. He sat in Sirius' room waiting for a visit, he was sitting there for a few hours before he realised he had to do something or he'd go mad.
He'd cleaned up the bathroom earlier that day, so it was in a good enough condition to have a shower in. He'd managed a quick wash the previous morning, but he still didn't feel clean. Shucking off his robes, he climbed into the small cubicle and let the water run over his body.
It was strange, he could see the water, and on some level he was able to feel it, but for the most part it the drops seemed to be hitting the air around him or going straight through him. Somehow he thought he'd get out of the shower and find his skin bone-dry. Trying to brush off the odd sensation, he set about washing himself. After a while, the soap-suds started to get through to him, they stung his eyes and it was a nice feeling. Without thinking, he kept increasing the temperature of the water, appreciating the way it burnt him, grateful for pain. Suddenly he realised why Dumbledore and Snape had wanted to keep his wand away from him; he could only imagine how good it would feel to cut the skin that he was burning right now. Strangely, he didn't seem to be able to track down where these weird urges were coming from. It couldn't be the depression, he wasn't depressed. It was probably a post-traumatic-stress thing, or it could even be relief. One thing he did know was that he wouldn't be feeling this way if Sirius would just hurry his damn arse up getting here. As if on cue, a voice called out of the steam.
"Bloody hell!" Sirius cried, "Hot enough in there for you, Moony?"
Remus pulled the shower curtain around him,
"Shit!" he said, "Pass me a towel. You don't just walk in on a guy while he's naked!"
Sirius held out a towel, he was grinning.
"What, like I've never seen you naked?" He asked with raised eyebrows.
Remus groaned, somehow he knew that was coming.
Back at Hogwarts the Marauders had had a game; it was a lot like truth or dare, except it was more like 'dare or dare'. The first dare would always be to put some horrible jinx on Snape, the previous 'contestant' got to choose the jinx and the forfeit. Sirius had won the last round, and he'd told Remus to do a stupidity curse. Unfortunately, Remus didn't think that that was fair, he knew how much Snape prided himself in his extensive knowledge, and with a curse like this, there was always a chance that the victim would never get their brain back. So Sirius made the forfeit; all of Remus' clothes were hidden in the astronomy tower, he had to run through the school in the nude, to retrieve them. He'd done it and luckily the only people who saw were his fellow Marauders and a couple of amused portraits.
"Well, I didn't know it was you, did I?" Remus said, feigning grumpiness. To be honest, he was almost euphoric about seeing his friend again. "Anyway, couldn't you have waited in the bedroom?" He tied the towel around his waist and stepped onto the cold floor.
"Oh, well I guess..." Sirius replied, he had a strange expression on his face; almost a mirror of the expression Remus was wearing. "To be honest, I thought you'd be pleased to see me even if I walked in while you were shagging someone."
"Well, yeah, I'm happy to see you." Remus said, opening the bathroom door and letting the steam follow him into the bedroom. "I was starting to wonder if maybe you were a figment of my imagination."
Sirius laughed. Something about the laugh didn't sound right, but Remus ignored it.
"So..." It was hard to think of a topic of conversation, they were standing in Sirius' bedroom, where Remus now lived, Remus wearing just the towel around his waist, and Sirius acting as if everything were normal.
"Oh, I didn't take the potion today." Remus said.
"Good." Sirius replied, sitting himself down on the bed. He didn't look very comfortable.
"But I think I should probably take tomorrow's dose, you see, I'm feeling really weird at the moment-"
"Don't!" Sirius cried. "You can't take it. Don't you understand?" Remus shook his head, Sirius rolled his eyes. "That stuff is bad for your brain, just keep getting rid of it."
The argument didn't seem to make much sense, but Remus decided he would keep tipping the potion down the sink for as long as Sirius told him to, somehow he knew that there was more at stake here than he could possibly comprehend.
They chatted for a few hours, mostly about the old days, and the pranks they used to play.
Remus didn't even notice he was getting tired, and he only realised he'd fallen asleep when he woke up the next morning. Sirius was gone by that time, and Remus felt empty.
Yet again he was the only one in the house and the idea of being alone all day made his stomach clench. In an odd sort of daze, he went downstairs to make breakfast. He was thinking 'toast', but having got the bread out, he realised he didn't have his wand and had no idea how to operate the muggle-toaster.
He sat down and looked at the contraption, it seemed that the bread went in the slot at the top, but having put it in there and waiting several minutes, nothing was happening.
He was losing track of days now, it could have been anywhere between a week and a month since Sirius died for all he knew. Strangely, the person he longed to see was Snape. The kind motives hidden behind a cold delivery were endearing - or maybe Remus was just going mad.
But when green flames leapt from the fireplace, it was Dumbledore, not Snape, who appeared in the kitchen.
The old man was instantly troubled by the way Lupin's head seemed to loll on his shoulders, the vacant stare in his dull eyes and the odd way his mouth was curled up into a sort of smile, breath wheezing audibly between his cracked lips. Still, the man was entitled to his wand, and that was why Albus had dropped by.
"Remus?" He asked quietly, hoping not for a verbal response, but a flash of intelligence in those once golden eyes. But his eyes were yellowish and showed no sign that he was recovering. "Remus, I brought your wand back."
Remus shook his head, humanity seemed to slowly seep back into his expression, he looked up at Dumbledore with golden eyes restored.
"Oh, thanks, I need that." Then he turned back to the toaster, "This stupid thing isn't working." He took the bread out and zapped it with his wand, not only toasting it, but buttering it and smothering it with jam at the same time. It was the best toast he'd ever tasted.
There was silence for a minute or two, before Snape stepped out of the fireplace.
"Ah, Severus," Dumbledore said, "I was just returning Remus' wand."
Snape looked at his patient, then back at the Headmaster.
"Do you really think that is a good idea?" He said, clear enough for Remus to hear, "He hasn't completed his course yet, would you like to see a repeat of the other night? What if Molly or I are the next to irritate him?"
It was a bad sign that Remus didn't even try to defend himself, he simply sat there munching on his toast, staring into space.
As if to demonstrate his point, Severus walked up to Remus and waved a hand in front of his face. It took Remus a couple of seconds to register the movement, then his head snapped up and his eyes visibly changed from dull to bright.
"Severus!" He cried, smiling, "When did you get here?"
"Long before you noticed," Snape muttered, "but I'm here to let you know about your medication. You only have one more dose, take it at two. Within twenty four hours you should feel much better."
"Can I ask a question?" Lupin looked a lot better now, but there was still something wrong with his voice, something strange about his expression and something erroneous about his eyes.
"Proceed." Severus was interested to see if his question was an intelligent one, the curiosity showed in his voice and Dumbledore looked up to see what sort of game was going on.
"What if someone were to take this potion when they aren't depressed, would something bad happen to them?"
Snape could see the odd expression on his face twisting, changing, but it was unreadable.
"If you like the taste I could always make up a drink of the same flavour, the active ingredient in the potion is flavourless." Nope, not an intelligent question.
"Well, er, thank you, but I just want to know what would happen if someone were taking the active ingredient." He really looked desperate to know.
"Well," Snape was confused now, it was a very uncomfortable feeling, would Lupin be considering using it as a weapon? "It would simply make the drinker a little light-headed." Suddenly the reason dawned on him. "If you're feeling better don't worry, you have to keep taking it. Stopping halfway through the course is the most dangerous thing you can do." He'd looked up the side-effects the previous night, they included growing horns, hallucinating and even reverting to a childlike state, these were all things that could happen if Lupin didn't continue to take the potion. He'd definitely taken it the first time, Severus had seen him raise the goblet to his mouth the second day, and today he would stand by and make sure it was taken. Then the responsibility was gone. This thought stuck in his head; he didn't want the responsibility gone, he was enjoying looking after Lupin. Maybe he didn't have to go back to hating the last Marauder after this. They'd have to discuss it when Lupin was completely healed.
"Okay, I was just wondering. I am feeling a lot better, thanks." This was a new idea, what if Sirius had been wrong? He never had been very good at potions. He'd have to ask him. "Excuse me, I just need to go upstairs." He got up and immediately noticed how weak his legs felt. Part of him wanted to stay in this kitchen with Severus where it was safe and definite.
"I also must be on my way." Dumbledore wheezed in his increasingly weak 'old man's' voice. He left through the fireplace with no further words of goodbye.
"Well, if you take the potion now, then I can leave." Snape said in a very flat tone, he didn't really want to leave, but when the potion was gone he would no longer have an excuse to be here.
"I just have to go upstairs and, er, get something." Remus looked quite unhappy by this time, as if he were being dragged away by his own legs. Once in his room, he slammed the door shut and leant heavily against it.
Sirius was sitting on the bed.
"What's wrong, Moony?" He asked, his face was stern, it didn't show a sign of concern.
"I-I just asked Severus what would happen if someone took the potion when they aren't depressed-" He felt nervous, somehow guilty.
"What!" Sirius screeched, "He's going to work out the whole plan now! He'll tell Voldemort!"
"He said nothing would happen, Sirius!" Remus cried, "He said it might make me light-headed."
Sirius had got up now, he was walking towards Remus with an angry expression on his face, he stopped less than a foot away from him.
"So you didn't trust me?" He asked quietly, looking hurt, then his voice raised, "Do you want me to be dead?" He shouted, his face twisting into an ugly imitation of the real Sirius Black.
"No! I mean, yes I trust you!" Remus had fallen to his knees, cowering at the door, "And I don't want you to be dead." He added in a whisper.
"If you take that potion now, that's it, I'm not coming back again." Sirius spat maliciously, "I'll find myself a happy life somewhere where there's no Voldemort, no ministry wanting my head on a stick, and no pathetic old school friends who don't trust me. And to you and everyone else, I will be dead."
By this point Remus was in tears, there had never been an instance before where Remus had cried and Sirius hadn't comforted him, but now Sirius stood over him, looking down, scowling. He looked up suddenly as Remus heard footsteps. He gave Remus one last glare, then disapparated. Remus crawled away from the door just in time for it to swing open.
When Severus saw Lupin lying on the floor crying again, his heart jolted. Against his normal principles, he knelt down and put his arms around the shaking body.
"It's not much longer now." He said, trying to force a soothing tone into his voice, "This time tomorrow you'll be feeling much better." At this, Remus began crying even harder. He sat up and hugged Snape around the chest, burying his teary face in the other man's shoulder, trying to calm himself down and suppress the sobs that were making him shake so much. The way he'd seen Sirius just now scared him, but he loved Sirius like a brother and didn't want him to leave.
But he also felt really bad about not taking the potion.
Right now he was sitting between Severus' legs, face pressed into his robes just appreciating the way Severus stroked his hair and rubbed his back. He had to strain his ears to catch the words Snape was whispering though. "I'm going to be here for you, you're not alone."
"Thank you." Remus whimpered. "Thank you for trying to help." Why had he never seen this side of Severus while they were at school? Was it because they'd been at each other's throats the whole time? Because they competed? He never would have guessed that under all the sarcasm and anger there was this sensitive man. Soothing words made his eyelids heavy, soon he forgot about Sirius' transformation and fell asleep in Severus' arms.
Snape was feeling pretty tired himself, Lupin's deep breathing was just as relaxing as any words. Slowly he lay down, still clutching Remus tight against his chest, and within seconds he too had fallen asleep.
It was nearly four when Remus woke up, he didn't remember the last time he'd felt this comfortable, and on the floor no less! As cold as he looked, Snape's body was warm and his arms were strong and protective. Remus closed his eyes and snuggled closer, trying to sleep again, but a cold draught suddenly chilled him. Looking up, he saw Sirius.
"Very cosy." He said, his voice flat and his eyes hard. "Get up."
Remus closed his eyes and willed Sirius away, he was so warm and comfortable, why did he have to get up?
"You have to get rid of the potion now, when your boyfriend wakes up you can tell him you drank it already." The deep voice sounded like the voice of doom, it was how Remus always though Voldemort would sound. "Now." The spite in it cut at Remus' heart, part of him hoped Severus would wake up and make Sirius go away, but somehow he knew that couldn't happen. Gently, Remus pushed Snape's arms of him, and slowly got to his feet. In a daze he staggered downstairs and into the kitchen. He picked up the goblet and considered drinking it, but before he could get it to his lips, some unknown force took a hold of his hand and poured the whole thing down the sink. He wanted to cry again, he sat at the table and put his head in his hands.
"Good, I'll be seeing you tomorrow." Then Sirius was gone again.
The floorboards creaked as Snape came downstairs.
"Oh good, you remembered to take it." He said, seeing the empty goblet on the draining-board. There was a moment of awkward silence, then the front door opened.
"Good afternoon!" Mrs Weasley chirped, "How are you feeling, Remus dear?" Her smile was infectious, and Remus couldn't help smiling back.
"I'm fine, thank you." He said.
Snape, of course, was immune, he simply got up and started making tea, to be honest he'd hoped he could spend the rest of the afternoon talking to Remus about what had happened earlier. Holding Remus in his arms had stirred feelings he hadn't felt for a long time, and it scared him.
"Oh, thank you, dear," Molly said, seeing Severus making drinks, "white with two sugars, please."
"Yeah, I'll have white with, uhm, four." Remus looked a little embarrassed, he waited for the lecture about how bad that was for him, but it didn't come.
Severus was glad he was facing away, as a small smile had planted itself on his face; suddenly he was finding Remus' sugar addiction cute.
Soon the door opened again, this time Kingsley and Tonks came in, neither ordered tea, so Severus quickly sat down to avoid losing his seat next to Remus. Remus looked up to catch Snape's eye, he smiled a grateful smile, and if it wasn't just Severus' imagination, he fluttered his eyelashes as well.
"...Ministry's in chaos, Fudge is this close to getting kicked out on his backside!" Tonks was saying excitedly, "Exactly what he deserves I reckon, he shoulda believed Harry."
"There is even talk going around that they believe Harry's story about Sirius." Kingsley added in a more sombre tone, careful not to look at Remus, "He may receive a full pardon."
"Yeah, bit late for that, I think." Tonks snorted.
"It's never too late to clear a man's name." Snape said, without thinking.
Naturally, everyone was surprised to hear him being civil about Black. Whilst Remus had been unconscious, Snape had barely quit going on about how stupid it was for Black to have left the house at all.
"He's right," Remus said, "I want the world to know that Sirius Black was innocent." His voice was so similar to the way he'd spoken before the death, that most of them were fooled, Severus instantly noticed the small difference though; he spoke louder to suggest confidence and there was a slight huskiness to it as well, as though he smoked.
Snape was curious to know if the potion had worked, he knew it could be a couple of hours before it completed the effect, and Remus did look a lot better, but there was still something strange about his posture, his voice, his eyes, he just didn't look right.
The others seemed convinced and were all congratulating him on his recovery, although Remus himself did look as though he wasn't sure he was better.
The afternoon became evening and Molly cooked a roast, the group enlarged as Arthur and Mad-Eye turned up. As soon as dinner was finished, Molly made up a huge chocolate cake, dripping with hot fudge sauce and served with ice-cream. Remus could feel his mouth water, when was the last time he'd eaten something like that? He couldn't even remember.
Fred and George appeared just in time to secure their own slices and join in with the conversation, which was at this point, on how to repel a sixty-foot marshmallow man ala Ghostbusters II.
"Well you've got two choices really," Mad-Eye explained, "You could use a dissolving spell or a burning spell, of course the burning spell is generally preferred because of the smell."
"Do marshmallows dissolve?" Fred asked, incredulously.
"I dunno, but I'd rather burn it anyway, I love toasted marshmallow!" Tonks replied
"In which case wouldn't it be better to use a shrinking spell, then toast it?" Lupin asked, "I mean, even I wouldn't be able to eat a sixty-foot marshmallow."
"And has the Dark Lord given us any indication that he plans to attack us with oversized confectionary? Snape asked a little tiredly.
No one answered.
"Anyway, just so you know; evil-marshmallows dissolve in raven blood, but I would suggest you shrink the creature first or you'll find yourself using a lot of blood and that stuff is expensive." As dumb as he knew the conversation was, Snape had to show off. "I trust you wouldn't actually think of eating it."
Fred and George wore identical expressions of disbelief; they'd flunked out of school, yet they were still being lectured by their least favourite teacher.
Only Remus noticed the slight tone of humour in Snape's voice. He smiled.
"And what, might I ask, would happen if one were to eat an 'evil-marshmallow'?" He asked, his smile became a cheeky grin.
"I believe one's insides would swell and explode, why? Planning to try it?"
To everyone else it seemed as though the two old rivals were back at winding each other up, in reality though they were just playing with each other. It was fun.
The cake was good, the company was even better. Severus had never really joined in with any of the inane conversations before, he'd thought them childish and pathetic, but to join in and see Lupin's face light up when he laughed, he realised he'd missed out on a lot.
Still, when the fire-whiskey came out again, he politely declined and would have suggested Remus did the same, but Remus himself had already told Tonks to 'keep that shit away from him'.
No one bothered to explain to the twins what had happened last time.
"So, how are the 'alarming alarms' selling?" Remus asked, he felt as though he were simply acting the part of him in some twisted movie, as though at any point he could walk off stage and be whoever he really was.
"Not bad actually." Fred said, wolfing more cake into his mouth then quickly washing it down with fire-whiskey before his mum noticed.
"We've given a couple away as free gifts," George said, relishing the worried expression on Mrs Weasley's face, "We sent one to Harry's god awful uncle!"
"Yeah, our covering letter said it came free with his insurance policy!"
Both boys cracked up laughing.
"You'd better not have gotten poor Harry into any trouble." Molly warned.
Remus could barely hear this conversation, he suddenly felt very uncomfortable. It felt like Sirius was upstairs.
Severus saw a masked fear behind Lupin's eyes, suddenly he realised what the change in his personality was; he was being himself, but he seemed to have taken on some of Black's character. The combination had made his whole self rather precarious, like an elastic band pulled tight, ready to snap.
"So, can we join the Order now?"
"Yeah, we've left school..."
"Oh, come on Molly, they could irritate you-know-who to death."
"Arthur! I expect you to support me on this!"
Remus discretely pulled his wand out of his pocket, part of him wanted to do something wrong. He didn't seem have control of his body anymore; it was the way he felt earlier, when he poured the last potion down the sink.
Come upstairs, a voice said in his head, making Remus' eyes stretch wide, come now or you might hurt someone.
Around him the banter continued, no one had noticed how Remus' eyes had glazed over and his lips curled into a sadistic smirk. He knew he couldn't go upstairs, he was scared of Sirius, he was scared of his best friend.
"You'd have to pass the initiation first." Mad-Eye was saying menacingly.
"Is it anything to do with fire-whiskey? 'Cause I think I've had enough for tonight." Fred did actually look pretty ill, but Remus didn't see, he saw seven dark figures sitting around the table. Seven targets.
When he stood up his chair fell backwards with a crash, he raised his wand and, without aiming or even thinking, fired a curse.
Severus had jumped out of his seat as soon as he saw Remus stand up, he regretted it instantly. The curse went straight through the place where Severus had been sitting, and hit George, who'd just got up for some reason or another, in the back of the shoulder.
Remus turned and opened his mouth to curse again, but this time Snape was able to knock him over, he couldn't get the wand out of his hand though. Remus lay on the floor, his eyes were black and he was snarling like an animal. Snape pinned his wrists down and waited for Mad-Eye to prise the wand from his hand.
"Oh my baby!" Molly was crying, George most definitely wasn't dead but he was in a lot of pain, Fred wasn't much help, the shock had prompted him to throw up all over the table, Tonks was trying to clean him up while Arthur gaped wordlessly. Kingsley was trying to contact Dumbledore - without success.
The black in Lupin's eyes faded and he started convulsing,
"I thought he was supposed to be cured?" Mad-Eye muttered, attempting to tilt Remus' head so that he didn't choke.
Snape didn't reply, either something had been wrong with the potion - the potion he had made - or Remus hadn't been taking it. Snape had never brewed a dud potion in his life, but if he had this time then this was all his fault.
"Get out of the way." He snarled, he pointed his wand at Lupin and said loudly, "Be still!"
Remus' convulsions ceased instantly, and his wand fell from one suddenly lifeless hand.
Without another word, Snape carried his patient upstairs. The whole situation was starting to make him feel a bit sick, he almost wanted to cry - something he hadn't done in a long time. As he lay Lupin down on the bed he tried to work out what had happened.
"Remus?" Severus asked quietly, his tenderness no longer shocked him, he was getting used to being sensitive. "Wake up." He gently patted Lupin's shoulder with one hand, and stroked his hair with the other.
"Mrm." Remus murmured, for a moment he looked utterly peaceful, his dark lips curled a tiny bit in a contented smile, and he snuggled against Severus' shoulder. Then he opened his eyes and it all came back; what he'd done. Sirius' voice was in his head, telling him what he'd done.
Snape saw the change from warmly comfortable to distressed clearly, he was quick to try to set him at ease again.
"It's okay, calm down." He wished he could take the pain Lupin was feeling, the sight of this grown man crying was hurting him on the inside, making his heart feel tight. "It's going to be alright, George is going to be fine."
This didn't help. Remus sort of gagged and then sobbed louder, his face was screwed into a mask of pain, he had lost the capacity for rational thought and his brain felt like it was going to explode. He was shaking so much that Severus thought he was having another fit; it was clear now what had happened, but Lupin managed to choke it out anyway.
"I didn't take the potion." He said, wincing as if expecting to be hit, to be told how stupid he was. "I took the first one, but not the other two."
"Please, please stop crying." Severus couldn't believe how close he was to crying himself. He hugged Remus tightly, subconsciously expecting him to regain more sanity the tighter he was hugged.
"He told me not to take it!" Remus cried out, "He said he would go away if I took the last dose, and then he'd really be dead!"
Pieces slid into place in Snape's mind. Someone told him not to take it? Three guesses who.
"Severus." The instantly recognisable wheezy, old man's voice spoke softly yet felt sandpaper to Snape's ears. "Come with me."
He sat back and looked at Lupin.
"Please don't go." He whimpered, but for some reason Severus felt he had to speak with the headmaster, he had to find out if there was another way to cure his patient. He got off the bed and backed towards the door, not breaking eye contact.
"I'll be back soon."
The instant the door was closed Sirius appeared. He looked the way he had in his wanted posters; menacing and dishevelled.
"Why aren't you happy?" He demanded, "Why didn't you come upstairs when I told you to?"
Remus cowered in the bed, wincing when he saw Sirius move towards him.
"No!" Remus looked up, that hadn't been him.
Across the room stood another Sirius.
"Why are you remembering me like this?" This Sirius had those mischievous eyes but a soft expression, he looked more like the real Sirius. "There is no 'real' me." Sirius said, reading Remus' mind. "I'm dead, Moony."
The other Sirius - the 'evil' one - seemed to have diminished a little as Remus concentrated on the new one. "Tell me." He said, but it wasn't as demanding a tone as Sirius had used the day before.
"I don't know." Remus whispered, he was really confused now.
"I think I do. You were confusing me with someone else you knew who died. You tried to make a memory of me, but because you're a little screwed up right now it got confused." Sirius put on an apologetic face and added quietly, "I know you want me to come back, but I can't, I'm only now for a short time 'cause we're worried about you." He stared for a moment, then added, "'Cause I'm dead. We're all dead, Rem; Me, James, Lily, the real Peter the way he was at Hogwarts, officially he might be alive now, but his soul is with us."
It all made so much sense.
"What do I do now?" Remus asked, his voice sounded exactly the way it did all those years ago when they were children and Remus had been selected to carry out the next part of one of their fiendish schemes. What do I do now? Pour it in his pumpkin juice. What do I do now? Climb in through the window and steal the essay answers. What do I do now? Sign here. What do I do now? Throw it through the hoop. What do I do now?
"I can't tell you this time, but I think you know."
Downstairs the commotion had died down. Dumbledore had been filled in on the whole situation, he seemed to have come to a decision about what they were to do about it as well.
"Poor Remus suffered an incredible emotional trauma, we did all we could to attempt to ease his way through this time. But it seems we have failed. Severus?" He turned and sat down.
Snape stood up, his expression was unreadable - as usual - but there was a slight pinkish hue about his eyes, if one didn't know what a cold-hearted, emotionless bastard Snape was, they might have thought he'd been crying.
"The potion I made should have worked. However, after the first dose the patient will occasionally experience some side effects. Lupin experienced hallucinations; he believes Sirius Black has been visiting him. Lupin is a reasonable person, he would normally question the integrity of such visions, but in this case I believe he was so desperate for it to be real, he made this vision tell him not to take anymore of the potion; thus leaving him in a hallucinatory state. Were this the only side-effect he may have been able to get by. But the hallucination had no new material to be backed up by, so his mind latched onto any other memories, less happy ones. Also having created this link, he was allowing another voice into his psyche, resulting in a sort of split personality. He will not be able to control this second voice, he will probably develop several more voices all taking over his mind and body at random intervals." Struggling to keep his voice steady, Severus coughed, and then continued. "There is no way of reversing this, he is going to need round the clock medical treatment to keep these episodes as painless as possible. Dumbledore has consented for Lupin to be removed from the Order and placed under permanent mental care at St Mungo's." Dumbledore nodded in that irritatingly serene way that gave the impression he was very sorry but, hey, these things happen. "I'm going to speak with him now."
The people at the table were in shock, Arthur mumbled quietly that someone would have to speak to the children about this; they'd all grown rather attached to their ex-teacher, and he was the last of Harry's father's school-friends. Molly cried quietly into a handkerchief while George comforted her, one of his arms strapped to his chest so that he couldn't move the damaged shoulder. Tonks looked as though she really wanted to cry, but couldn't quite get the tears out, she leant sideways against Kingsley's side and let him wrap an arm around her.
Severus left the room and slammed the door shut behind him. He could feel his lower lip quivering already, but he knew he couldn't break here; anyone could come out and see him. He quickly ascended the stairs, tears already tickling the corners of his eyes. He discovered the bathroom next to the room where Remus was, then slumped back against the closed door and let himself go.
He remembered perfectly the last time he'd cried; he was in his sixth year at Hogwarts, he'd just been told that his mother was dead, and James Potter had tripped him up as he was running to his dormitory. After that he promised himself he'd never cry again.
And here he was; breaking that promise.
He allowed himself exactly five minutes then crossed towards the sink. After splashing his face with cold water shaking his head for a while he felt a bit better. He left the bathroom and walked into the next bedroom, stopping in his tracks when he saw what was happening.
When Sirius' ghost or memory or whatever that thing was, finished talking, Remus climbed out of bed, he knew what he had to do, it had been staring him in the face all along. Snape had taken his wand again, but that didn't matter, now he knew where Sirius had kept an old spare. The voices in his head where asking him what he was doing, the one that pretended to be Sirius tried to take control of his body again, but Remus fought it. He emptied the top drawer of Sirius' cupboard, then removed the false base and retrieved the spare wand. When he turned around he saw the hallucination again.
"What are you doing?" It asked, angry and terrifying.
"I think that's obvious."
Faintly he could see the real ghost, smiling a sad smile, one ghostly tear trickling down his cheek.
"No! You can't!" The fake shrieked.
This was when Severus opened the door, he saw Remus standing there, holding the wand to his chest, talking to a blank space. In the opposite corner however, he did see the faded ghost of Sirius Black.
"This is the way it has to be." Remus said, "I'm sorry." He swallowed hard, staring at Severus for a moment, then closing his eyes he took a deep breath and spoke two words, quiet and clear; "Avadi kadavri*."
Snape imagined he might have leapt forward and tried to stop him, but in reality he couldn't even move. He stood in the doorway as, in slow motion, a wave of bright light erupted from the end of the wand in Lupin's hand. It seemed to be that intense for a long minute although the whole thing was over in a split second. The light left no shadows, it burnt through the pale ghost in the corner, and somehow made the walls, floor and ceiling of the room vanish. For that long moment it was only Remus and Severus, alone in an empty world of light where everything was innocent and alive, for that moment there was no pain in the world, no suffering, no death only a pleasant warmth. Lupin's eyes shone gold the way he was always meant to look, the way he would have looked had life not been so unreasonably cruel to him. Then his whole face was vibrant and beautiful, life gushed from every pore, and Snape could have almost cried at the sheer beauty of the end of this man's life. Slowly the light left, dissipating into the air, he could almost taste it as he breathed, feel it brushing his skin. Lupin's eyes closed and he slumped to the floor. Severus could feel this sad life leaving him and an emptiness take its place, at that point the residual effect of the spell hit him and knocked him out.
Five days later Severus was lying in his bed at Hogwarts trying desperately to sleep. He'd recovered quickly but felt as though he'd been stained; whenever he closed his eyes to sleep he saw that vision of Lupin, so stunning and yet so tragic. Sometimes when it was dark and he'd given up on sleep he thought he could hear the sound of children's laughter, and in that place between waking and sleep he saw the Marauders as children. Once he clearly saw the face of his long-time enemy, grudge dropped in death, smiling at him. In a voice so faint that it could even have been his imagination he thought he heard Black thanking him.
Thank you for helping him, the face turned away, then back again, it's not your fault, you know.
It was hard not to smile.
If death was this beautiful he had nothing to fear.
If death was this beautiful then how amazing is life?
*I figured most of the spells etc. were in Latin, so I changed the word endings to make them refer to first person.
I hope that wasn't too depressing, I have difficulty writing anything where no one dies. I hope my last line inspires some warmth and isn't just too corny.
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