The Good Wolf by Eppie Black
Betaed by DogBrain
Disclaimer – I am not making any money off this. Everything belonging to the Harry Potter Universe is owned by J. K. Rowling.
Response to Challenge #54: Soon after OotP, Lupin is pregnant. Though he wants nothing more than to keep his child, he is forced to conclude that the best thing he can do is have an abortion. He goes to Snape, but Snape is disgusted by the very idea. Does Snape have an alternate solution to Lupin's problem?
Severus Snape measures the wolfsbane out with extreme care. He is fully aware of how important its preparation is to the Order. Now that they’ve lost one operative they can hardly afford to lose another. It’s important too to his reputation both scientific and humanitarian – oh not under his own name of course, he’d die if anyone knew but Dr. Villius foremost expert on the treatment of lycanthropy, inventor of the wolfsbane potion, has a reputation to uphold.
The potion simmers to completion and he meditates on the irony of the fact that his work with the wolfsbane potion compels him to see Remus Lupin every right before the full moon every month. And to remember the last time they were on good terms.
Severus Snape was happy to see Remus Lupin turn down the corridor, as he was about to enter the library. So, he waited by the door until the shy Gryffendor passed closer.
“Lupin.” He called, “do you want to work on our Herbology project? Sprout’s written me a pass to the restricted section. We could find that book on mangle-wurzles…”
“No Severus, not tonight. I’m sorry. I’m busy.” Lupin interrupted and walked on past the library.
Snape’s Slytherin blood had just started to boil – angry at the Gryffendor for just blowing him off like that. Then he realized that Lupin hadn’t sounded bored, but tired and looked pale, even more pale than usual and was now moving slowly, awkwardly even in the direction of the infirmary. Severus Snape started down the hall quickly catching up with his lab partner.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
“I’ll be fine.” Lupin said and managed a wan smile.
“You are going to the infirmary aren’t you?”
Remus stopped then and their eyes met. Severus once again found himself enchanted by the gold flecks in Remus’s hazel eyes. Remus stared at Severus appraisingly, cocking his head to one side and gnawing thoughtfully on his bottom lip.
“Yes.” The Gryffendor said hesitatingly, finally. “I have to see the nurse…periodically to …control a medical condition.”
“Oh.” Said Snape, somewhat embarrassed and not knowing what to say. Then he noticed the too fragile look of the other boy, the pale, pale skin that seemed stretched too far over the fine delicate features, in an entirely new light. Remus was ill, perhaps very ill. “Is it serious?”
“Yes, yes it is.” Remus said very quietly
“Um..Might I…do you want somebody to walk you to the infirmary?…Me, I mean?”
“You may walk with me to the door of the infirmary if you wish.” Lupin said and flashed the wan little smile again.
As they walked, Severus tried to categorize in his mind any symptoms he had seen Lupin exhibit, to perhaps figure out what was wrong with him, but he was overwhelmed by other feelings. Where were those friends of Lupin’s, the idiot Marauders? Couldn’t they spare one moment wasted on quiditch, pranks and girls to walk a sick friend to the infirmary? Did they even realize that Lupin was ill?
They walked in silence to the door of the infirmary. As Lupin opened the door, Severus bravely touched his shoulder.
“Thank you Severus, for walking with me. Perhaps tomorrow evening I’ll be up for taking on that book you found.” Lupin said before slipping inside the door. His tone of voice, that familiar, polite voice seemed to say. “You are a valued colleague and maybe more.” Just as it always did, except for during the most violent of inter-house rows.
Snape stood for a few minutes outside the infirmary door and thought about Lupin. Lupin, who along with him, had been deemed the least likely to kill a lab partner when uneven numbers of Gryffendors and Slytherins demanded inter-house pairings. Lupin who seemed so lonely, even when surrounded by his friends, just as Snape himself felt lonely even when Lucius and his muscle-bound bookends allowed him in on their schemes. Like Snape, Lupin didn’t get the best grades, that was the province of the likes of Lucius Malfoy and James Potter who could confine their little minds to the information presented in their textbooks and spit it back out with aristocratic certitude. Like Snape, Lupin thought ahead of and beyond the textbooks. His quick mind a perfect match for Snape’s in the lab or on the dueling court.
As young Snape walked away from the infirmary the idea of Hogwarts without Lupin struck him forcefully: It was too awful to contemplate. He wanted more information. Now. So not two hours from the full moon’s rise he stalked down the corridor to Gryffendor tower fully intending to extract information from the first Marauder he came across.
Severus Snape corks the vial of Wolfsbane potion and lays it in its well-padded case as he remembers his younger self. Don’t forget, he says to himself; never forget what you did afterward. What Sirius told you. What you saw in that tunnel. There’s a ravening deceitful beast behind those golden eyes. Don’t forget. Not tonight, not ever.
But Snape, really, hasn’t your Wolfsbane potion proved that lycanthropy is indeed merely a medical condition? That it can be controlled? Still Severus Snape must be sure to revile Remus Lupin. So he must remind himself of the beast. Hate it. Fear it. He can’t allow himself to get too close. After all, it is the first full moon since Sirius Black’s death.
A dusting of floo powder and a soft “bamf!” later finds Severus Snape in the kitchen of the Order’s Grimmauld Place headquarters where most of the remaining members of the Order are arrayed around the kitchen table. Dumbledore greets him solemnly.
“We are well aware that our Order could lose another member. We are planning on sitting vigil here tonight.”
Snape snorted, “Lupin is a lot stronger than he appears and he’s already survived the destruction of his ‘pack’ once.”
“The destruction of his pack, yes, but not the death of his mate. Do you think the wolfsbane potion will alleviate the trauma of this first transformation?”
“Yes, of course.” Snape said dismissively, “Where is Lupin?” I’d like to get this over with quickly. I have other work to do.”
“He’s in his room.” Offered Kingsley “He isn’t much for company right now, so you ought to be polite.”
“He’ll open the door and take his medicine like a good wolf or he’ll spend the night in silver manacles.” Growled Snape as he swept past the members of the Order and out the room.
He knocks hard on the door and waits. Then he knocks again, louder this time. “Lupin.” He says.
The bolt of an interior lock clacks and the door opens. With the room’s necessary sound proofing breached by the open door Snape can hear the gentle swish of a turntable, the old muggle sound device playing at an almost subliminal level. Electric guitars and drums play a slow waltz; the singer’s voice is high and mournful.
The room beyond him lit dimly by a bankers lamp on his worktable, Lupin is illuminated by the hall light, “Come in, Severus,” he says, the sad gentle quiet always lurking in his pre- full moon voice made even more obvious by grief.
Severus Snape knew this would be difficult. He tries to conjure up in his mind the image of the wolf. He tries to remember every time Lupin looked away stoically as the other Marauders hounded him, first to protect Lupin’s secret, later, once he knew, to keep him quiet and finally out of boredom, habit and mere adolescent ego. But these images won’t come.
Time and adversity haven’t dimmed Remus Lupin’s beauty, only rendered it more sublime. O Orpheus, O Keats, O Ophelia who was only just drowned. Intense life in aesthetic death. It matches all Snape’s sensibilities, the sight of Lupin standing in the doorway. He is dressed in black, worn muggle clothing a sweater and jeans. His long graying hair is pulled back loosely. His eyes, though rimmed with red, still glow softly with their golden highlights – just barely to the comfortable side of human. Like the way his exquisitely shaped ears almost come to points – but don’t quite.
They sit down at the worktable and Snape removes the padded case from one of the hidden pockets of his robe, unsnaps it and hands the vial to Lupin. Lupin uncorks the vial and stares at the thick green liquid as it, now exposed to the air begins to emit a misty green vapor. Snape let’s his focus drift to the surface of the table only to find his eyes resting on an Order of Merlin Medal, third class, posthumous and a full pardon signed by the Minister of Magic, also, it is probably unnecessary to say, posthumous and in the name of Sirius Black. He looks up from this unpleasant sight just in time to see Lupin, who is still staring at the potion, shudder, clap one hand to his mouth and swallow hard. The moment that follows seems to be stuck in time. Lupin composes himself.
“Nauseous?” Snape asks.
Too much concern, Snape realizes at once and wishes he could take it back. Lupin notices it too: He raises his eyebrows and looks to Snape as if thinking, “You care?”
“ Dr. Villius wants reports made on changes in symptoms and side affect in all werewolves receiving the wolfsbane potion.” Snape explains coldly.
Lupin nods and gnaws on his lower lip while he is thinking, just like he used to as a boy. “I’m nauseous.” He says finally, “I can’t eat I can’t sleep. I hurt all over. I’m so tired I can hardly move.”
Snape feels a stab of shame for finding Lupin’s pain beautiful, even though he still does.
Lupin then finishes the potion with one more gulp. “Are you going to be able to keep that down for at least fifteen minutes?” Snape snaps involuntarily, hating to think of such a complex potion being wasted.
“Yes.” Replies Remus Lupin.
“I’ll be going then.” The potions master stands up and turns to make his typical exit, but then Lupin speaks again.
“Severus, I have a favor to ask of you.” Who could resist such a voice? Snape turns back to see Lupin’s eyes brimming with tears.
“Lupin?” He says, partly for forms sake to always return the formal name for the informal, as if to always remind Lupin of the proper way to address him.
“I’m pregnant.” Lupin says almost choking on the words. “I…love…I want…It’s impossible, don’t you see? I would be utterly selfish to…keep it. The Order. The war…Harry. That all comes first, doesn’t it? I need a potion to…end it. You see?
“Yes. I understand.” Says Snape, stunned.
"Thank you, thank you, Severus. I knew you would understand. You understand sacrifice, don’t you? And discretion. “
“Yes. I’ll bring a suitable potion with me tomorrow.” Says Snape. Then, leaving the room with the usual flapping of his black cloak he tries to push from his mind an image of Lupin weeping and hugging himself in that darkened room. Snape considers telling Dumbledore about this conversation, but he decides quickly against it. He does understand the value of discretion.
In her dreams the wolf ran through the forest of her youth. Ahead of her raced the fawn. She had to try hard to keep him in her sight but he was very fast and kept darting between the trees. He was not a fawn now, not really, more like a young buck with his short sharp first years growth of antlers. The young buck was not her prey, but her pack mate. The son of her pack mate Prongs. The pack was gone now, she remembered. Pack gone. Mate gone. Only she was left to run through the forest, to keep watch over the fawn, to stay between the fawn and the hunters. She could hear the hunters coming up behind her now. Their horns blowing. Their horses galloping. Run child, run, she called to the fawn. They had to stay far ahead, get as far ahead as they could so they could find a safe place to make a stand. She would turn her sharp teeth on the hunters then and the young buck his fine new antlers, if they could only find the right place and time. Suddenly pain ripped through her body, The sharp arrows of the hunter? No, she realized, her own body betraying her. Her body was rejecting the consequences of her and her mate’s final meeting beneath the full moon. With the next pain her legs became useless beneath her and she tumbled along a slope in the forest floor, still hearing the sounds of the hunters coming up behind her…
Severus Snape hopes that somehow he will be the first to tend to Remus Lupin after his transformation back into his human form, so with that in mind he leaves his dungeon lair just at the first hint of sunrise. Once again he finds himself in the Grimmauld Place kitchen. MadEye Moody is asleep at the table, his head resting on his folded arms. He finds Kingsley asleep and snoring on the couch in the parlor. No sign of Dumbledore, the shape-shifter - Tonks or any of the Weasleys. He listens to the sounds of the house for signs that someone is up and about and only climbs the stairs once he believes himself to be alone.
The door to Lupin’s room is unlocked and Snape wonders if Lupin left it that way purposefully or if someone has tricked the lock. On opening the door Snape finds, as he might have expected, Lupin sprawled unconscious and naked on the bed, his long hair free and tangled. Unexpectedly though, Lupin’s pale form is partially covered with a blanket and a small thin human figure, with his back to Snape, crouches at the bedside dressing the self-inflicted bite marks on Lupin’s forearms. This person is wearing torn blue jeans, wretched sneakers and a grubby once white dress shirt which has either been dyed a hideous shade of gray or else has been dragged over pavement and gravel – quite possibly both. This person also has annoyingly messy black hair. Snape’s temper begins to boil.
“Mr. Potter.” He growls at the level of a stage whisper.
The boy stands up and turns around. “Professor Snape.” He murmurs, while staring at nothing but his sneakers. The tone of his voice is that subtle adolescent blend of contriteness and defiance. Snape’s temper is now not merely boiling. It is boiling over. He sets down his potions bag and crosses the room in a minimum number of strides. He touches the young man’s chin and tilts it up to face him. Even in the dim rosy light of dawn filtering through the slats in blinds on Lupin’s window he can see that young Potter has been hit upside the head at least twice recently. His glasses are clumsily mended with spello tape and the area around his eye on the same side is bruised and swollen.
“I can see, Potter,” Snape fumes. “That there is no need for me to inform you of how dangerous Lupin can still be during the end stage of his transformation. However, you might find it useful for future reference that had he used his teeth, there would be a slight chance, even at this stage, that you might be infected. Now, I suggest that you go downstairs and think about how Lupin will feel when he is back in his right mind and he sees what he has done to you.”
The boy does not move, instead he stays planted to the spot, chin tilted upward so that he is as close to face to face with the professor as he can possibly be given the still substantial difference in height. He holds eye contact and answers Snape with quiet ferocity.
“My cousin, Dudley and his friends decided to play yet another round of Stick Harry in the Dustbin last evening. I showed them that even without my wand, that isn’t such an easy proposition anymore. Dudley gave me these nasty bruises but I grabbed him by what he keeps in his underpants, yanked and scarpered like bloody hell when he let go of me. Somehow I got my wand and invisibility cloak out of my Aunt and Uncle’s house and was able to catch the Knightbus to Diagon Alley. I walked all the way from there, underneath the invisibility cloak, so that no one could trace me. And I’m glad I did because otherwise I wouldn’t have realized that this was Lupin’s first full moon night…alone. But I would never, never put myself in danger from Remus because I DO KNOW how that would make him feel.”
“Oh,” said Snape, not insignificantly. Then Snape breathed out a long breath and let go of some of the tension between them. “In that case you should go downstairs and put an icepack on that eye.”
“Not until you let me see that shiner, Harry.” Said Lupin groggily from the bed.
So both men turned back to their original focus. Harry resumed his place near the head of the bed and gently takes one of Lupin’s hands.
“Our poor Harry.” Murmured Lupin, “I guess the little talk with the Dursleys didn’t do much good.”
The teenager shrugged. “Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon were okay, but Dudley doesn’t give a shit. When his friends ’ve got his back he’s not afraid of anything, Still, like I was telling Sn..Professor Snape, I’m glad I ended up being here this morning. I want to be here for you. You must be missing him awfully..much.”
Lupin almost chokes with this oblique mention of Sirius. His eyes are brimming with tears. Snape turns away embarrassed and overwhelmed to be witnessing this scene. Lupin’s obvious care for the Potter boy doesn’t make him feel any better about the vial of poison he has brought with him this morning. Lupin explains to Harry that Snape is there to talk to him about his symptoms for Dr. Villius’s Wolfsbane Project and that he’ll need a lot of rest today. Then he suggests the boy take Snape’s advice and put something cold on that eye.
Then, with a last affectionate touch to Remus’s hand and a curt, but almost polite, nod to Snape Potter leaves the room. Lupin seems to sink deeper into bed somehow, even more exhausted than before the boy left.
“He’s not James, Severus. He’s not James. I told that to Sirius again and again. In his likes and dislikes, his strengths and weakness he’s only himself; a boy whose had to deal with too much too soon.”
“That could be part of the problem.” Snape said.
Lupin cocks one eyebrow, “Like the Marauders were made to deal with my secrets, you mean?”
“He’s not like that. He’s come up hard. Real hard. He’s like us that way.”
Their eyes meet then and for a long moment they look at each other.
Snape is the first to break eye contact. He nod and says, in a professional tone, gesturing to the bandages on Lupin’s arm, “ It looks like you had a difficult night last night. I’ve never known you to self-mutilate while on the wolfsbane potion before.”
“It was pretty bad. The wolf was lonely and nervous. I couldn’t keep her under control.”
Lupin closes his eyes then for longer than a blink while Snape studies the beautiful ridges and hollows of the other man’s collarbone, then the effect of the tangled hair haloed against the darker fabric of the bedclothes.
Just as Snape is realizing that Lupin may have indeed dozed off Lupin says, without opening his eyes, “Severus, did you bring the potion I asked you about?”
“Yes, Lupin.” He says, finding that the words will hardly come out of his mouth. The potion, a fiery garnet red liquid, is not in his bag across the room, but in his pocket in the little padded case. It feels heavy there and he finds that the idea of that particular potion crossing the threshold of Lupin’s perfect pale pink lips horrifically repugnant.
Lupin begins to make motions to rise to a sitting position. He asks Snape to hand him the dressing gown from the bedpost.
As Lupin exchanges the blanket for the dressing gown Snape realizes that he is getting his first real glimpse of Lupin’s naked body. He averts his eyes to avoid staring, but he can’t help but take an oblique look to see the lovely curve of a shoulder, the poignant scars of the wolf’s self-mutilation and, especially the brief glimpse of a breast – the tissues surrounding the nipple androgynously puffy, the aureole dark, the nipple erect. At least he now knows that the pregnancy is more than a figment of the werewolf’s grief stricken imagination.
When Lupin is settled he coughs politely to get Snape’s attention. Snape’s hands feel heavy almost numb as he reaches into his pocket for the potion. It has been a long time since he dealt in death. Once he has it in his hand he is loathe to hand it over and time seems to slow down. “Lupin, I must caution you to think carefully before you use this potion.” He says as he hands it over. He tries to keep to his most professional tone, but it is no use. “Maybe you should talk to someone about this, perhaps Dumbledore.”
Lupin shakes his head as he grasps the vial of red liquid in his hand. “Thank you, Severus.” He says sadly.
Snape stands there hesitating, unsure what to do. To his own horror he very nearly reaches out to touch Lupin’s disheveled hair. Something about Lupin seems so…broken and a part of Snape longs to make things better. They stare at each other, both on the edge of tears. Finally though, Snape turns and leaves without another word.
During the next month Snape often finds himself thinking of Remus Lupin, wondering if he had used the potion yet. The image of Lupin grieving often comes unbidden to Snape’s mind. He tries to push it away with all the worst memories of the Marauders. Then that failing, he makes what he believes to be the most sensible decision on the issue and tries to use it as a mantra: If Lupin used that potion it was because of his nature as a killer. A lone wolf has to do whatever he can to survive. Unfortunately for Snape there was a competing mantra tickling the back of his mind: “You should have said more.” Snape became confused as to why he even cared.
Once while meeting with Alistar Moody to exchange some documents, he asks how Lupin is doing. The aging ex-auror eyes him suspiciously.
“I thought you and wolf-boy hated each other.” Says Moody.
Snape shrugs and replies, “There’s not many of us left from those days.”
“Too true,” says Moody shaking his head sadly, “and poor Lupin, he’s been as sick as a dog since we lost Black. No pun intended.”
“It’s a shame.” Says Snape and he finds that he can’t help but mean it.
“You know.” Says Moody, that penetrating magic eye of his rolling around eerily in his head “You boys aren’t even that old. Not by anybody’s standards.”
Snape goes away from that meeting having learned nothing and feeling more confused than ever.
Finally the day of the full moon arrives again and Snape prepares the Wolfsbane potion with his usual care. Then it is through the floo network and he stands in the Grimmauld place kitchen. Molly Weasley is preparing dinner at the stove.
She starts in surprise and then relaxes once she realizes his identity. “Severus, you’re earlier than we expected. Would you like to stay to dinner?” she says with her nearly universal cheerful politeness.
“ I doubt it Molly.: he says grimly as he glances up at the clock and realizes that he must have begun the preparation of the Wolfsbane potion much earlier than usual. Still, he notes, he is well within range of its optimal effectiveness.
“Well, we have plenty for everybody.” She says to him as he brushes past her and heads up the back stairs to Lupin’s room.
The door is ajar this time and Snape can already hear the distinctive murmur of Lupin’s record player playing softly. He knocks and calls, “Lupin?”
“Come in Severus.” Lupin says from inside the room. The chamber is fully lit this time and Snape is annoyed to see young Potter sitting at the worktable across from Lupin.
“Hello, Sir.” The boy says uncomfortably.
“Mr. Potter.” Snape replies for forms sake.
The boy turns to Lupin questioningly. “I should leave, shouldn’t I?”
“I would like to speak with Severus privately, Harry,” says Lupin gently, “Why don’t you take the book you were reading and finish it in your room?”
“If anything important comes up, you’ll tell me about it?” Potter asks awkwardly, as if he speaking in a language that he has only begun to learn. Snape watches this odd exchange, fascinated and a little sad.
“Yes, I promise.” Lupin answered the boy.
Lupin’s gentle patience with Harry and the condition of the worktable, cluttered with cheerful working piles of books and papers reminds Snape painfully of what a good teacher Lupin had been. And also what a good parent he might yet make.
With a nod of acquiescence, Harry leaves the room and shuts the door softly behind him.
Once the boy is gone Snape suddenly feels his own nervousness acutely. He looks at Lupin, pale, fragile, lovely, pre-full-moon Lupin and he can’t help staring at the werewolf’s midsection, wondering. Still he manages to unpack the Wolfsbane potion and hand it over. Lupin downs it and shudders again at the taste. Snape stares on watching for the signs of acute nausea that he saw the pregnant werewolf exhibit the month before. It seems likely to stay down.
“Alright then.” Says Snape and he turns to leave.
“Stay awhile, please.” Asks..pleads, Lupin “I’m glad you’ve come early tonight. I’ve been trying to contact you the last couple of weeks but…”
“Dumbledore keeps me busy and I don’t keep a way for anyone to leave messages for me.” Snape interrupted bruskly.
“Yes, well,” said Lupin sounding a little sadder. For my snappishness? Snape wonders.
Lupin turns back to the worktable and fiddles briefly with a drawer hidden beneath it. When his hand re-emerged, he places a potions vial on the table. It is still filled with its violent red liquid. Then Lupin settles back into his chair and places his hand protectively over his abdomen where the pale skin contrasts with the black material of his clothing in a wonderfully aesthetic manner.
Snape is so relieved that he actually smiles. Lupin smiles back and says, “Please Severus, come here and sit down. I want to talk to you.”
Snape nods and takes the other chair, even moving it closer.
“I took your advice.” Lupin says seriously “and the more I thought about it, the more I just couldn’t..couldn’t possibly take that potion.” Then Remus Lupin is choking up and Snape can’t help but reach over and touch the emotional lycanthrope, tucking a loose gray curl back behind Remus Lupin’s ear.
“You’re not a killer.” Snape said.
Lupin shook his head and said, “Never. In thirty years as a werewolf, in twenty years of war. Never. Never. And how could I start now. An innocent? My own innocent child even? I thought I wanted to become Harry’s protector but…I couldn’t start that way.
“It looks like you’re still trying to do your best by Potter, in your own way,” Snape said.
“Thank you Severus, thank you so much.”
“For everything you’ve ever done for me. For making the Wolfsbane potion for me, for making that –other- potion for me, just because I asked and then for telling me to think hard before using it. For being a responsible and ethical potions brewer, thereby saving my life and my sanity more times than I could count. For listening to my hormonal rants just because I’ve been too scared to tell anyone else that Sirius left me up the duff. All that despite the fact that my best friends and my –SPOUSE- made your life a living hell for years. I’m so sorry Severus. I’m so sorry.”
And somehow Snape finds himself holding Remus Lupin in his arms, wrapping his black cloak around both of them in the process. He coaxes Lupin into calming down, reminding him that such an outburst can’t be good for the baby and about the Marauders he says, “It was all a very long time ago.” And he means it, because for the first time in nearly forever, he feels the past sliding into the past and the future opening up into something new.