Title: Sinner’s End
Word Count: 3,468
Warnings: Some creepy het sex. Some bad language, nothing you haven’t heard before.
Summery: An exercise in futility.
Notes: Written for The Master and the Wolf Snape/Lupin Fuh-Q Fest. Response to the 6th wave challenge #18: "Back in Lupin's and Snape's school days, Lupin visits Spinner's End and meets Eileen and Tobias.” Thank you to my lovely, patient tolerant flatmate Ingrid for the (constant) use of her computer, and to Sharon for last-minute emergency beta’ing. Hooray for inconvenient three-week bouts of bronchitis.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and its associated characters are the legal and moral property of J. K. Rowling and her publishers.
9: When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.
10: There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.
11: Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
Deuteronomy 18:9-11 (King James Version)
The street was dismal, long and paved with cracked and potholed bitumen and stretches of cobblestones. Rundown factories on one side, rundown rows of terrace houses on the other, rendered by the overcast sky into the very picture of gloom. Spinner’s End, Sinner’s End, dead-eyed children in worn clothes too small or too large, dead-eyed adults standing in small, hushed groups and trading little bags of white powder for rolls of paper money.
Remus Lupin burrowed his hands in his pockets and hunched down into his coat. With his tired face and tired clothing he blended in wonderfully with the natives, to the point that one of them had sung out, “just moved in, then?” as he’d walked past. Crackling under his fingers was a piece of paper with a hand-drawn map and an address.
Spinner’s End. How depressing could you get?
It explained so much, really.
Remus counted the numbers on the houses. The whole place smelt vaguely of boiled cabbage and cloth left on damp ground to rot. There were a few shabby cars here and there, with cracked windscreens and missing hubcaps, none that looked new, none that looked cared for. He paused beside one of these to rearrange his scarf. He hoped that it wouldn’t rain. It was cold enough as it was.
He started, and looked up to see a girl, sixteen or seventeen, much his own age. Despite the chill in the air she was dressed in clothing that would see her run out of any respectable Wizard town, skimpy little t-shirt, skimpy little shorts. Her toes were blue in her plastic sandals. The ends of her scraggly hair looked chewed. He gaped at her for a second, and then fumbled in his pocket for his bit of paper. “I’m looking for this address,” he said, showing it to her.
The girl seemed amused. “After the old father, are you?”
She pointed down the rows of houses. “Keep going,” she said. “Past those houses there and a couple of warehouses after that. Watch out for the chain link fence. The dogs in there are nasty. Don’t try to pat them.”
“I’ll remember,” he said.
“And watch out for father Snape, too.”
“You…you know the family?”
She snickered. “Everybody knows that family,” she said. She squinted at him. “You’re pretty cute. Even if you are kind of scrawny.” He blinked. “Tell you what: if they let you live, come and see me,” and before he could reply, she walked off.
“Thank you,” he called after her, but she didn’t hear, or else she ignored him.
He moved on. He passed a group of men, reeking of sweet tobacco smoke. “Hey boy, you wanna party?” yelled one of them, and Remus made the mistake of glancing up. The man’s pupils were the size of pinpricks and he leered at Remus, grabbing his crotch. Remus looked down and sped up. He heard the scuff of footsteps behind him.
Chain link fence. A huge dog, part Rottweiler, part German Shepard and all menace, threw itself against the wire. There was a stream of obscenity from the man following him. Remus stopped and stared hard at the snarling dog, straight in the eye. The dog took a step back as he took a step forward so that his entire body was pressed up against the fence. Then he growled. The dog yelped, turned tail and ran. Remus didn’t move. He waited.
“Fuckin’ freak.” The footsteps scurried off. He permitted himself the luxury of a small smile. He walked.
Just a terrace house on the end of a row of terrace houses, run down, decrepit. There was a sad attempt at a garden out front, just weeds really, a Muggle wouldn’t have given them a thought, but Remus was a good student and he recognised some of those plants and they weren’t, in any sense of the word, decorative, but depending on your purpose they could be very, very useful. Suddenly he felt inexplicably nervous.
He gritted his teeth. He’d come this far. Stupid to turn back now. He forced himself to walk to the front door, one leaden foot in front of the other. He stood on the doorstep, hand raised like an idiot.
What if Snape didn’t want to see him? What if Snape told him to piss off? What if Snape slammed the door in his face and threatened to call the police?
All of those things were possible. Likely, even.
Remus sighed. He drew his fist back to knock and the door opened without it ever making contact with the faded paint. He gaped stupidly.
The woman was pale, and her face was lined and sullen. Her thinning hair was scraped back into a bun, and her gaze was unfocused, like she’d been drinking, and she smelt like it, too.
“Yes?” she slurred.
She had a magnificent black eye. It was so swollen she could barely open her eyelid.
“Yes?” she repeated, swaying just a little.
“Ah…I’m very sorry,” he said, “I hope I’m not disturbing you…”
There was a movement in the room behind her. A scruffy-looking little girl in oversized trousers peered at him with bright black eyes and scuttled off. He cleared his throat.
“My name’s Remus Lupin,” he said, “I was wondering if Severus is in? I’m a friend. From school,” he added hastily.
The woman blinked her single good eye at him, and looked over her shoulder at the ancient clock on the wall. “I suppose,” she said, “that you’d better come in.” She stepped aside and he nervously walked in. He made a motion to take his boots off, and she told him not to worry about it.
Inside the house was just as gloomy and vaguely grubby as the outside. The carpet was worn through in several places, and the walls looked dirty. They stepped into a dusty lounge room lined with bookshelves packed with leather-bound volumes.
“I suppose you’ll want tea, then.”
“No, no, I’m fine. Thank you.”
She stood there and looked at him, swaying a little. She looked terribly ill. If Remus had felt awkward before it was nothing to what he felt now. He searched frantically for something to say.
“Um…if you don’t mind me asking…what happened to your eye?”
Suddenly her face sharpened, and Remus suddenly wished that he hadn’t spoken.
“I tripped,” she said, with precise enunciation, “and fell.”
“I…I’m sorry to hear that.”
There was a long silence. She stared at him, weaving from side-to-side.
“Mam!” Snape’s voice. “Mam, what are you doing out of bed?”
Mrs Snape turned to look at her son. She made a vague gesture at Remus. “Friend of yours,” she said coldly, and suddenly Remus wondered if she were really as ill as she looked.
Snape glowered at him. His jumper was old and stretched, and it was full of holes. His jeans weren’t much better. “Oh,” he said flatly. “Yes. A friend.”
“Whatever he is, make sure he’s gone by the time your father gets home.” She turned to go, and then stopped. “Pleased to make your acquaintance,” she said at Remus, sounding anything but, and left.
“Goodbye, uh, Mrs…” he trailed off. Snape was looking at him like he’d just crawled out of the sewer dripping unspeakable slime.
“What the fuck,” said the other boy, smiling weirdly, “are you doing here?”
“I came to apologise.” Snape’s smile broadened. “For. You know. What happened. With Sirius.” Remus’ felt a shiver run up his spine as he realised that Snape was smiling in fury, not in friendliness. He turned away, stared desperately at the books on the shelves. “I know I tried to apologise before. I thought you might listen to me if we were away from Hogwarts.” He peered at the gold-embossed spine of one leather-bound volume. “Away from James and Sirius. Sweet Merlin on a broomstick!”
Remus pointed a trembling finger at the book. “That…that’s banned, that is! It’s illegal! You can to Azkaban just for reading it, let alone owning it!”
A long-suffering sigh. “I think it would be a good idea if we continued this conversation elsewhere, don’t you think?”
Remus wrapped his arms around himself, lips moving as he read title after title. “God,” he said. “There’s just so many. So much black magic…” he looked at Snape, who looked back, bemused. “You do know this isn’t right, don’t you?”
“It isn’t?” A pause. “Interesting that you think you can lecture me on what’s right and wrong. Let’s go.” Remus followed Snape back to the front door, watching as he pulled on boots and a patched and faded jacket. He took a set of keys off a row of little hooks and led the way out of the house, locking the door behind them. They walked in silence for a bit, Remus searching desperately for things to say.
“You look different in trousers,” he said finally, just as Snape turned around.
“I can’t see you, but I know you’re there,” he said.
“Shut up, Lupin.”
The little girl Remus had seen earlier in Snape’s house peered out from behind a rosebush.
“Wotcha doing?” she said.
“None of your business,” snapped Snape. “Go home.”
The little girl shuffled her feet. “Don’t want too,” she said.
“How about I give you some chocolate?” suggested Remus brightly. He pulled out a (slightly melted) bar from his pocket. She brightened briefly before Snape slapped it out of his hand.
“No!” he hissed furiously. “Don’t you dare take anything from him! What did I tell you about taking things from strangers?” He advanced on the little girl.
“But he’s not a stranger. You know him!” she protested as he grabbed her arm.
“Yeah, and I wish I didn’t! Go home!” he shook her. She stomped on his foot and pulled free.
“I hate you!” she said, before running off.
“I hate you too!” yelled Snape after her. He whipped around. “What the hell did you think you were doing?”
“Being nice! For the love of…what, did you think I was going to hurt her? Why do you have to be so…so…paranoid!”
“I have plenty of reasons to be paranoid around you, Lupin.”
Remus opened his mouth to protest, and then shut it again. There wasn’t much he could say in reply to that. “I wasn’t going to hurt her,” he said sullenly. “I’m not like that. I didn’t know that she even existed.” Snape started walking again. Remus scurried after him. “She’s pretty.”
Snape made a rude snorting sound. “Someone in our family had to be.”
“What happened to your mother?”
“She walked into a door. Hit her head pretty badly.”
“Really? She told me that she tripped and fell.” Silence. “Where are we going?”
“Some place I know. Out of curiosity…”
“How did you know where I lived?”
Remus glanced sidelong at him. “I asked Professor Dumbledore,” he said. “I told him I wanted to see you and he gave me your address.”
“Are you serious?”
“I’ve a note for you, too.” He handed it over.
There was a moment of silence as Snape read what was on the bit of paper, and then he began to laugh. He doubled over, wheezing. “Have you read this?” he sniggered. “What a load of…that manipulative old bastard.”
“I don’t make a habit of reading over people’s mail, Severus.”
“Don’t call me ‘Severus’, Lupin. He wants…” Snape smirked and shook his head. “He wants us to ‘make up our differences and be friends’. How…touching. How…trite. Blackmail is blackmail, no matter what he wants me to think.”
“Blackmail! Snape, how is this blackmail?”
“Don’t be stupid. Do you know what would happen to me if Malfoy realises that I’m half-Muggle?”
“I wouldn’t tell anyone!”
“Of course not, Lupin. Of course not. We’re here.”
‘Here’ was a boarded up arcade. Snape tugged on a sheet of buckled and flaking plywood. It swung up and he ducked underneath it.
“Are you coming or what?”
Inside the building was a mess of broken glass, used condoms, lolly wrappers and old syringes. Remus stepped gingerly, looking around him with distaste.
“This is a…”
Snape led the way through the decrepit building. In the corner of one fetid room, what Remus thought to be a pile of old rags stirred and coughed. Finally, Snape came to a door, swollen on its hinges, that he yanked on until it opened enough for him to slip through. Remus hesitated only slightly before following. Outside. A dilapidated canal with a trickle of foul-smelling, greenish water running through it. A dead rat lay half-in, half out of the liquid as a crow pecked at the corpse. It looked up at the sight of the two boys, croaked at them and flapped arthritically off. Snape walked onto a rusted metal platform. He pulled a packet of cigarettes from his pocket, stuck one in his mouth and lit it.
“Do you mind?” snapped Remus as a cloud of stale smoke floated into his face. Evidently Snape misunderstood him.
“Get your own, Lupin.”
“I don’t want one. The smoke is getting in my eyes.”
“I don’t care,” replied Snape, malice glinting in his soulless black eyes.
“Do you always have to be such a bastard?” Snape grinned. “When did you break your tooth?”
“None of your bloody business.”
“I’m not sure what stinks more, your smoke or that putrid rat.”
Remus groaned and sat down. “Why are we here, Severus?”
“Well that,” said Snape, “is a deep and profound question. If you want to start looking for answers, I’d suggest you start first with the three main religious texts: the Bible, the Koran-”
“I meant, why are we here, in this shithole!”
“Maybe I want to kill you and bury you alongside Ratty here,” he gestured at the rat corpse.
“Oh, for the love of…why is every conversation with you a battle?”
Snape regarded him calmly. “I could, you know,” he said. “You’re all alone, without your little friends to save you. No one around here will care if you scream.”
Remus groaned. “Snape, spare me.”
“What, don’t think that I could do it?”
“Let’s think about this logically, shall we,” said Remus in the world-weary tones of a reluctant pedant, “you could do something but you won’t because there are a lot of people who know that I’m here with you, right now, not the least being Albus Dumbledore himself. You are an idiot, but you are not stupid.”
The other boy tilted his head to the side. “Good point,” he conceded, tapping the ash from his cigarette before putting it back between his lips.
“And what are we doing here?”
Snape was silent for a while before he said, “I want to ask you question. I thought I might get a decent answer out of you if no one else was around.”
“Then spit it out!”
“All right Lupin. Here goes: are you queer?”
Remus gaped stupidly.
“You know, a faggot! Genderbender! Arse bandit!” Snape grinned sadistically. “C’mon, you can tell me!”
“You…you…” Remus’ mouth worked, but nothing sensible came out. “What…”
“Weeeeeell,” drawled Snape, “it’s just the way you trail after those little friends of yours, such a tight-knit little group. You’d do anything for them, right? They treat you like crap, use you, and you still follow them around like someone desperate for a shag. You have to be a faggot, surely.” He finished his cigarette and flicked the butt away. He took another one from the packet and lit it.
“My god,” muttered Remus at last, “you are a complete and utter bastard. I never realised what a first-class bastard you are.” He buried his face in his hands.
“So are you?”
“Fuck you, Snape.”
“It’s a simple question.”
Remus looked up. “Are you?”
“Me?” Snape seemed amused. “No.”
“The way you go sniffing around after Malfoy and Rosier. The way you always hang around them. The way you follow us about.”
“Lupin, Lupin,” he shook his head. “Knowledge is power. Power can make one’s progress through life so much…easier.” Snape sighed. He sent the remains of his cigarette after its predecessor, and began to idly thumb his lighter, watching the sparks fly with an expression that seemed almost sad. “Haven’t you ever heard of the golden rule? Whoever has the gold makes the rules. That would be Lucius,” he added helpfully.
“You know you bring it all on yourself,” said Remus, standing up and wrapping his coat tighter around himself. “All that sneaking around you do. You’re so greasy it’s a wonder you don’t drip.”
“Better greasy, better dripping,” said Snape quietly, “than a sad faggot sucking Dumbledore’s mildewed old cock.”
Remus gaped at him. “I can’t believe you just said that,” he said miserably. “Professor Dumbledore has done so much for me. So much and he didn’t have to. That’s such a terrible thing to say.” Snape shrugged. “I…I don’t want to talk to you anymore. All I wanted to do was apologise. Tell you that it wasn’t my idea. It’s a horrible thing to say…”
“Faggot,” replied Snape.
“Greasy piece of worthless shit.”
Remus hunched down further into his coat. He turned and walked back through the old building, through the rubbish and used condoms and used needles and used humans, Snape just behind him. Neither spoke. They scrambled their way through the plywood sheets and back onto the street, Remus going first and promptly colliding with a tall man. He looked up and opened his mouth to apologise, and then shut it again when he saw the man’s face.
“That’ll be the father, then,” said Snape in resigned tones.
Undoubtedly Snape’s father by the features, the expression, the hooked nose, the tilt of the mouth. Undoubtedly a Father, complete with black cassock and white dog collar. He sneered down at the two boys, arms folded against his chest.
“Eileen said I might find you here,” he said. “You and your little…friend.” He smiled. It was an unpleasant sight. Father Snape was not an attractive man and he had very bad teeth besides. “From your heathen little school, I’d imagine. What does Deuteronomy 18:10 have to say on that subject?”
“’There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch,’” said Snape quietly.
“What is your name, boy?”
“Remus Lupin, sir,” said Remus. For some reason he couldn’t name, Father Snape was scaring the wits out of him.
“I think it’s time you went home, Remus Lupin.”
He didn’t bother to say goodbye. He stuck his hands in his pockets and walked away, fast. He heard a sound like someone yelping, and a thump like something heavy falling against the plywood fence. He kept walking. He didn’t look back.
Past the house where Snape lived, past the black-eyed little girl who sat and watched him and didn’t reply when he said hello, past the drug dealers who eyed him as though wondering what he tasted like. He came to the chain link fence where the mongrel dog whined and cowered and licked the fingers that he offered it. The scraggly-haired girl found him there, her bare skin mottled blue with cold.
She said, “Find the place, then?”
He said, “Yeah.”
She said, “Those Snapes are real pieces of work, aren’t they? Especially the Father.”
He said, “Yeah.”
She said, “want a blowjob?” and laughed when he spluttered. She led him, with his knees shaking and hands trembling, down an alley just as dismal and depressing as the rest of Spinner’s End, and behind a boarded-up factory she pushed him against a wall. She unzipped his fly and went to her knees but no matter how much she sucked and licked he couldn’t get it up for her. She swore at him and slapped him, and things could have become very bad if they hadn’t been interrupted by a fat woman in a cheap, shabby dress, who grabbed the girl by her arm and shook her.
“Why are you doing this? Why do you keep doing this? Why? Is it because of your uncle? Please tell me why!”
Remus set his clothing to rights and slunk away as the girl began to scream obscenities. He slipped out of the alley-way and walked quickly until he left Spinner’s End, left the area with its dead-eyed people and wrecked cars and abandoned factories behind. He hunched down into his coat while his cheeks burned and he shivered. He thought of the girl, and what she had wanted him to do, and he supposed that he really was a faggot after all.