Title: Once More With Feeling.
Author: Lutra
Pairing: Snupin!
Warnings: Torture and character death - no smut, though.
Feedback: Not required but always nice. skree@optusnet.com.au

Summary: Challenge no 48: for the fifth wave of Master and The Wolf.
Remus and Severus are soul mates, but both of them died before they realised it. Will they get the chance to be together in the afterlife?
(Plus my own personal challenges not to mention the 'Shrieking Shack incident', Sirius Black, or to use the word 'git'.)

A/N: many thanks to Joules for the beta and the coding solutions, and Rakina for the HP check.

Disclaimer: Not mine, alas, and I'm certainly not gaining financially. All hail their rightful owner, JKR.

Once More With Feeling

      Snape prostrated himself before his master, forehead pressed to the ancient and exquisitely expensive carpet gracing the anonymous room in the anonymous hideaway.
      "Why, Severus?"
      "It was an accident, my Lord, I... slipped." He surprised himself with an inane giggle but hastily choked back the unseemly sound, wondering distantly if perhaps he wasn't quite sane anymore.
      "An accident?" Voldemort's hiss dropped an octave, never a good sign: Snape braced himself. "Castlehorn kept the creature alive for days but five minutes in your - supposedly - more capable hands and it's dead. Explain."
      "I ... "
      "Look at me!"
      Snape dragged his gaze away from the decorative threads of the carpet and up to meet Voldemort's red eyes. As expected the tendrils of the Dark Lord's legilimency forced their way into his mind, rummaging through the memories the potions master had left lying about, a careful distraction from the closed areas. Snape's sanity may have been in question but he still had enough presence of mind to maintain his shields.
      Voldemort had found the relevant memories; no doubt he was drawing his own conclusions based on what Snape allowed him to see...
      "Revenge?" the Dark Lord hissed malevolently. "You considered your petty revenge more important than my wishes?"
      "I... "
      Once again Snape tried to speak but his attempt was cut short by Voldemort's not unexpected use of an Unforgivable.

      Alone now in the room Snape gingerly, painfully rolled himself over onto his back, away from the puddles of vomit and piss. He rested, breathing through his mouth as he willed himself to recover. Gods above he hated the Cruciatus.
      The irony of it - he mused, distracting himself from the burning ache - was that the werewolf's death had been an accident, of a sort. Given the state Lupin had been in, and no hope of freeing him, a quick death would've been a kindness. No matter his personal feelings, no matter his reputation within the Order, he hadn't taken any pleasure in his former colleague's pain. As it was his hand had slipped, the magically sharpened silver stiletto had slid deeper than anticipated and the werewolf had died. It was as simple as that. He forced himself to his feet and scowled at his filthy robes. He would regain his normally orderly appearance then see if there was anything to be done to redeem himself in the Dark Lord's eyes.

      Life was... difficult. The werewolf hadn't been so important that his accidental death wasn't eventually excused but being once more in the Dark Lord's favour didn't alleviate Snape's sense of dread. Something was definitely wrong. There were times when an inexplicable despair gripped him so firmly he felt he was drowning. At other times it felt as if his spirit was being pulled and stretched until it was just the merest thread connecting him to his body. Stress and anxiety left him short of breath and unable to sleep; the lack of rest perpetuated the cycle. He'd played on his irritability in the past but now he knew he was irrational and his much vaunted control was tenuous. He was losing his mind and the harder he tried to hold on to sanity the more slippery it became. Quicksilver thoughts skittering away in globules as he scrabbled about trying to keep it all together.
      Snape couldn't fathom how or why but somehow it was that damn werewolf's fault. Had Lupin cursed him before he died? Unlikely. Lupin wasn't, hadn't been, so powerful he could perform wandless magic, even if he had been able to speak coherently there at the end. Something else, something else...?
      Snape's preoccupation fed on itself, drawing him down in to ever decreasing circles. He was mortified to realise he'd been muttering aloud, the evidence of his encroaching insanity plain for all to see. The sly smirks of his 'comrades' were infuriating and the desire to lash out, to hex them all to oblivion for no other reason than that they lived became harder to resist. He tried to tighten the threads of his control, fought tooth and nail to halt the disintegration of his mind... but it was a losing battle and he was so very tired. It was almost a relief when the Order stormed the Dark Lord's stronghold and Potter confronted him, dispatching him not with a curse but with Godric Gryffindor's sword, no less. Snape glanced down at the length of shining metal protruding from his chest, then up and into the eyes of the Boy Who Lived. He'd expected to see triumph, satisfaction at the defeat of an enemy, not this - compassion. His lopsided smile transmuted into a scowl and he tried to tell the Potter brat his pity was unwanted, but the words wouldn't form and then he slid into darkness.

      It was a while before he understood what it was he was looking at. In front of him the green field flowed in a gentle slope down to the shores of a sun-splashed lake. In the distance there were hills, rising in peaceful green folds from the plain. He glanced up, recognising the forms of oak leaves. He was sitting beneath an oak tree - an old and venerable one judging by the spread of its branches - leaning back against the trunk, his legs stretched out in front of him. Odd...
      "I suppose I should thank you for putting me out of my misery."
      Snape started; he'd thought himself alone. He turned his head and there beside him, close but not touching, was the werewolf. He took in the long legs, the surprisingly attractive feet, the quiescent cock lying against a thigh.
      "Lupin, why are you naked?"
      His companion lifted an eyebrow.
      "I died naked."
      Snape pondered this with a frown. Ah yes, they were dead...
      "Does this mean you're destined to wander the afterlife like that?" he sniffed. "At least the weather's fine, I suppose."
      Lupin grinned.
      "Severus, you made a joke." Then still smiling he shook his head. "No, I don't have to, I was just trying to make a point."
      Snape blinked and Lupin was clad in familiar shabby brown robes. He wondered briefly why he thought that was a shame then forced his eyes away from his companion and back to the nauseatingly bucolic landscape.
      "Where are we?"
      The werewolf shrugged his shoulders.
      "The Elysian Fields? The Summer Lands?"
      Snape's lip curled.
      Lupin made a show of looking around before his gaze came to rest squarely on the potion master's face.
      "I don't see any angels." The silence stretched between them but Lupin didn't look away. "Why did you kill me, Severus?"
      "I thought that would have been obvious," Snape was haughty, "You were going to die anyway..."
      "No. There was more to it than that." Lupin asserted with quiet confidence. "I was looking into your eyes; you wanted me dead." He waited for a response and chuckled when none was forthcoming. "Interesting thing about this place, Severus, there's plenty of time to think." He stood up, inclined his head to the bemused man then sauntered away.

      Snape scowled after him - until he realised Lupin was no longer in sight. One moment the scruffy figure was there ambling away down the hill; the next he'd vanished, leaving Severus alone with his thoughts.
      Wanted him dead? That was absurd. It had been an accident.
      The memories seemed distant but Snape resolutely pulled them forwards, determined to prove to himself the truth of the matter, and prove the werewolf wrong.
      He'd known Lupin was in the hands of the Death Eaters almost as soon as it happened. He was under no obligation to mount a rescue and frankly, despite any lingering loyalties he may have felt towards an ex-associate, looking to his own precarious safety was more important.
      He'd never liked the werewolf but Snape had to admit to a certain amount of respect when, after three days as a guest of the Dark Lord, Lupin apparently still refused to speak. Voldemort had handed the task of breaking the captive to Severus, who'd accepted with an appropriate show of gratitude. At heart though Snape looked down on physical torture as crude and inefficient. So much more could be achieved with the proper application of potions and poisons but this was a subtlety the Dark Lord seemed unable to grasp.

      He'd swept into the basement room given over to 'interrogations' only to falter and stare, appalled, at what was waiting for him. Thankfully his Death Eater mask hid the moment of unforgivable weakness from his compatriot. Snape clawed back his composure and nodded curtly to Castlehorn.
      "You may leave."
      The hooded man's pale eyes glittered from behind his own mask.
      "Our Lord has instructed me to remain."
      Snape's eyes narrowed in eloquent displeasure before he snapped around, seeming to dismiss the man out of hand. He could have done without this complication: as well as being an odious individual Castlehorn's presence would severely limit his options. He turned his attention to the gaunt and bloody figure dangling by its wrists from the ceiling.
      "Filthy monster," he spat.
      Snape was hooded and masked but there was little doubt the captive recognised his voice. The werewolf raised tired eyes and the corners of his mouth twitched. For one horrible moment Snape thought he was going to greet him but Lupin merely dropped his gaze again, obviously too exhausted to do much else.
      Snape raked his gaze over the limp and naked form, taking in the half-healed slashes, absently noting the wetly grey edges that indicated use of a silver blade. They weren't fatal wounds but they'd never heal without treatment; neither would the suppurating sores forming around the silver needles threaded randomly through Lupin's skin. Snape's jaw clenched: that must be excruciating.
      There was a bench nearby holding an array of wicked looking implements, many already streaked and tacky with dried blood. He selected a silver stiletto, clean and shining, unused as yet. A faint tingle of magic met his touch; the blade had been charmed, but to do what? Snape gently touched the tip of the weapon to a clear patch on Lupin's chest, nodding in satisfaction as the skin split neatly and curled back from the point. A flaying charm, as he'd suspected. Castlehorn was a brute but he was inventive.
      Lupin shuddered violently but made no sound.
      "You didn't accidentally perform a Silencio, did you?" Snape directed the contemptuous inquiry over his shoulder.
      "No." Castlehorn sounded offended.
      "Perhaps you're simply incompetent." Snape muttered, just loud enough to be heard. He smiled coldly behind his mask at Castlehorn's bitten off retort. But enough of baiting the minions...
      He pressed the stiletto into the wound, watching with clinical fascination as muscle split and pulled aside. It was an effective tool, certainly, sliding easily into the victim's flesh. He had to be careful though, he'd exposed the bone of a rib before he'd realised what had happened. Lupin had frozen in place, was hardly breathing, his face grey and sweating.
      "You know how to make the pain stop... " Snape began but stumbled to a halt when the werewolf locked eyes with him.
      "No..." he remembered whispering, then Lupin was gurgling and twitching as the knife slid into his heart...

      Snape blinked back to his current reality; disturbed, though he was loathe to admit it to himself. Not quite an accident then. He wiped his hand over his mouth and swallowed: what he'd really like right now was a cup of tea...
      He was cynically unsurprised to see the werewolf returning carrying a tray loaded with cups and a teapot. Was it Lupin's fate to cater to his whims for all eternity? The thought wasn't... disagreeable.
      "Have you worked it out yet, Severus?" Lupin said conversationally as he set the tray down and picked up the teapot.
      "I'm not in the mood for puzzles." Snape growled.
      The brown-haired man's smile was placid.
      "Tea?" he held out a cup of steaming liquid.
      Snape cursed his hesitation - what was the werewolf going to do? Poison him? - and accepted the cup with a curt twitch of his mouth.
      "You're welcome." Lupin was grinning now, obviously mocking him. He focused on his cup, deliberately ignoring the open good-humour on the werewolf's face. Snape sniffed appreciatively at the fragrant brew and almost forgot himself enough to sigh happily. An Englishman's heaven had to be a perfect cup of tea. Unfortunately he wasn't allowed to savour the drink in peace.
      "Well?" Lupin demanded mildly. "Why did you kill me? And don't give me any of that rot about a 'mercy killing'."
      "I don't know." Snape ground out from between clenched teeth.
      "Yes, you do," Lupin shot back immediately. "And it scares you to death."
      The potion master's mouth worked but he couldn't bring himself to speak.
      "No?" Lupin raised an eyebrow. "Let me help clarify." He set his cup down on the tray and turned to face the wary man. "You realised I was Important. To you." Snape shook his head but Lupin pressed on. "Important in such a fundamental way that it threatened everything you believed about yourself. You've always believed yourself to be a loner, haven't you, Severus? You'd convinced yourself that you didn't - would never - need anyone to make you complete, then suddenly you find that that's not so. Your illusion of splendid isolation was shattered." he sighed then, regret evident in his eyes. "Your reaction was instinctive - to disable, to destroy the threat."
      Snape's fingers tightened around his cup.
      "You always were known for your imagination - "
      "Oh stop it, stop pretending!" Lupin snapped, to Snape's startlement. "Put that cup down!"
      "Because I'm going to kiss you."
      "You would not dare... " his indignant denial broke off into an undignified splutter as Lupin materialised practically in his lap. The cup was taken out of his hand and set aside then:
      "Deny this, you miserable bastard."
      If Snape had had more of a lyrical bent he might have been persuaded to liken the bright warmth unfolding in his chest to that of a flower blossoming through snow. As it was he'd always scoffed at such improbable fancies but he couldn't deny that something beyond the obvious was happening as Lupin kissed him. Though this wasn't so much a kiss as an onslaught, Snape thought, as his mouth opened to the werewolf's insistent tongue. He was sorely affronted at this assault on his dignity - if he hadn't already killed Lupin he'd be tempted to do so right now - yet not once did it occur to him to try and fight free.
      "So?" the aggravation in his lap murmured against his lips.
      "Don't be obtuse."
      Snape smirked at his companion's growl: so much for Lupin's famously mild manner. He lifted his chin, all prepared to fling a scathing comment - then faltered. Lupin's eyes revealed his vulnerability and a heart-catching hope, and Snape couldn't look away. Worse than that, he feared Lupin was reading much the same in his eyes. He held his breath; if Lupin laughed...
      They stared at each other for a timeless moment, then the werewolf's expression softened. He smoothed his thumb over Snape's cheek, that action somehow more intimate than the kiss. The potions master's breath hitched; he couldn't escape the feeling they were on the edge of something profound. It was... it was exhilarating.
      "So," Lupin smiled. "We meet at last."
      It should have been a ridiculous statement - they'd been acquainted for years, after all - but Snape understood precisely what he meant. He'd finally recognised Lupin for what - who - he was. Closer than friends, closer than family; the long-missing other half of his soul.
      A soul that was singing because Lupin had recognised him in return.
      "We do indeed," he ventured a wry smile, "We do indeed..."

© Lutra - December 2005