Title: Wolf Cries
Warnings: Angst, Pre-slash
Beta: Vaughn, who very kindly volunteered, thank you! Anything else is my fault and likely due to my stubborn refusal to change ^_^
Challenge: "192) SS/RL is broken down, SS/RL has to/wants to teach him that his body can also bring pleasure."
Notes: This fic shanghaied my original plan, oh well ^_^
Of all the greetings Severus had expected, “Fuck off,” and a slamming door really hadn’t been one of them. Granted, he was here because Lupin’s behaviour had become a cause for concern, but this was slightly more extreme than he’d imagined. It was also damn annoying.
“Lupin, open this door,” he demanded, pounding on the offending surface.
“Precisely what part of ‘fuck off’ was unclear to you?” Despite the words, Lupin’s tone was neither angry, nor annoyed. If anything, it was tired.
“The part where you suddenly became an insufferable bastard.”
“What, you don’t like the infringement upon your territory?”
“Lupin, either open up or I will find another means of entrance. One that will no doubt eliminate the existence of your door.”
“Fine,” Lupin snapped, and Severus could hear him muttering insults as he crossed the room and opened the door. “What do you want?”
“What do you think?” Severus snapped back, as they glared at each other from opposite sides of the doorframe. After a moment, Lupin’s shoulders slumped as he sighed and stepped out of the way.
“Can’t he just leave well enough alone?”
“You know he can’t,” Severus answered as he entered the small cottage Lupin was now living in. He hadn’t been there before, and wouldn’t be there now if Albus hadn’t forced him to pay the werewolf a visit. “So let’s get this over with. What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Nothing,” Remus answered as he sank into a chair, and Severus rolled his eyes.
“If you wanted me to believe that, you probably shouldn’t have slammed the door in my face.”
“I’m just having a bad day.”
“Or kicked Molly out during her last visit.”
“A bad week.”
“Or told Potter you couldn’t meet him for tea anymore.”
“A bad month.”
Severus just snorted, and stood, watching, waiting, until the other man caved in, almost literally. Lupin tucked his legs under the chair as his shoulders scrunched inwards and his head ducked toward his chest.
“Please, Severus, don’t.” He sounded, looked, small.
“He won’t accept it if I tell him there’s nothing wrong, and we both know it. All that will buy you is a few days before he’s here in person and you have to try to lie to his face.”
“It’s not anything that can be helped.”
Severus waited, again, and Remus eventually gave in, again.
“The change has gotten worse.”
Severus frowned, “In what way? Has the potion stopped working?”
“No,” Remus looked up briefly. “The potion is still the only thing that makes this bearable. I’m still grateful to you for making it.”
Severus waved him on, and Remus’ gaze dropped again.
“It’s,” he sighed, “it’s no longer a case of being exhausted around the full moon anymore. It’s all the time, and,” he paused, and then shook his head, “and the pain doesn’t stop anymore. It’s there all the time, all month, pulling under my skin the way it does when the change starts.”
“Constant pain?” Severus’ frown deepened.
“Yes, I am in constant pain, and I’m constantly exhausted.” Remus looked up again, shifting out of the defeated slouch. “Which I’m sure pleases you to no end. So while you gloat over my suffering and my friends worry, I just don’t care. I don’t have the strength for it anymore, and I don’t have the strength to pretend that it’s all okay, and I’m fine except for the fact that I’m a hairy beast one night every month.” He stood and walked over to the door, opening it. “So there’s your report, go and give it, and just,” he shook his head again, “just leave me alone.”
Severus watched him for a moment, and then left the cottage as Remus had asked. The werewolf was right, he had a report to give, and then he had some research to do. Because the pain wasn’t right.
* * * * *
He was sitting in his desk a few days later when Dumbledore finally came to find him. After returning from the werewolf’s cottage, Severus had dutifully gone to the office and reported Remus’ condition immediately. Dumbledore had, understandably, taken the news hard. The old wizard had thanked Severus for finding out, and had bid him good night. Severus had left, knowing that wasn’t the end of it. And of course it wasn’t, because now Dumbledore had arrived for more information, at the worst moment possible.
“Severus, there you are. I was hoping we might have a word about Remus. His condition--”
“It's my fault,” Severus interrupted, glaring down at the book in front of him and the notes he’d made on the parchment beside it.
“Severus,” Dumbledore chided. “The Wolfsbane potion was never meant to cure or even halt his condition. You can’t blame yourself for the natural progression of the symptoms.”
“The cause of the exhaustion is the lycanthropy,” Severus told him, “but the cause of the pain is the potion.” He picked up the parchment and crumpled it, crushing his fist around the paper. “A reaction to the long-term exposure to Wolfsbane.”
“You can’t blame yourself, Severus,” Dumbledore said. “Remus won’t.”
“I don’t give a damn what the werewolf does.” Severus moved his glare from the books to Dumbledore. “There is no point in treating someone with a potion that only compounds the problem.”
“Remus has always appreciated the control the potion gives him.”
Severus sneered. “You didn’t see him. The last thing he’d be expressing right now would be his appreciation.”
“It’s a failure, Albus.” He shook his head. “All this time, brewing a potion to make lycanthropy ‘bearable’ and it’s a failure.”
“Then you have to accept that, and move on from there,” Dumbledore scolded. “Nothing can be changed by sitting here scowling at your texts.”
Severus merely continued to scowl at him, and Dumbledore shook his head.
“I’ll come back later.” He left, and when the door shut behind him, Severus turned back to the books on his desk. After a moment, he growled and lashed out, knocking them to the floor.
* * * * *
“Severus?” Remus frowned. “What are you doing here?”
“It’s the full moon, Lupin, what do you think I’m doing here?” Severus snapped.
“You haven’t delivered the potion yourself in ages. Why are you bringing it tonight?”
“Are you going to let me in, or are we going to continue to hold this conversation on your doorstep?”
Remus watched him, actually thinking it over, and then sighed before moving out of the way. It had only been a few weeks since he had last seen the cottage, but the condition of the inside had deteriorated dramatically. There were dishes stacked in the sink, and by the number Severus could tell Remus had either stopped washing them a week ago or he wasn’t eating enough. Given the weight the werewolf had lost, Severus assumed the latter. There were circles under Remus’ eyes, so he probably wasn’t sleeping either. However he was choosing to spend his time, it wasn’t on housekeeping. In addition to the dishes in the sink, the cottage was dusty, and the air was smoky and stale.
Severus handed Remus the Wolfsbane potion without a word, watching as he drank it, handed the glass back, and then curled up at the end of the sofa under a ratty afghan.
“Aren’t you going to tell me to leave?” Severus asked.
“You wouldn’t listen if you’re not prepared to go already, and I really don’t have the energy to care.” Remus didn’t open his eyes as he answered.
Severus looked around the unkept cottage with a scowl. “Are you planning to just sit there until you die?”
“That is the current plan, yes.”
“Damn it, Lupin,” Severus snarled, stalking across the room before grabbing Remus by the shoulders and shaking him. He let go and stepped back when Remus immediately cried out in pain.
“What do you care?” Remus glared at him, equal parts hurt and hatred in his eyes.
“Give me a chance to fix this,” Severus answered.
“Why?” The question was blunt and honest, and Severus didn’t have an answer for him.
“Lupin, you owe it to your--”
“I owe it? I don’t owe anyone anything anymore,” Lupin practically growled at him. “I have given up or lost everything in my life for others. Whatever I’ve owed, I’ve already paid a hundredfold. The only one I owe now is myself.”
“And this,” Severus gestured at the cottage and then back at Remus, “is what you’ve chosen to pay yourself with? You’re pathetic, Lupin.”
“I am well aware of your opinion of me, Severus.” Remus settled back into the corner of the couch again and closed his eyes. “Now, if you don’t mind, tonight is going to be difficult enough for me as it is. I’d like you to leave.” Severus stood there, watching the crumpled figure on the couch, but there was nothing more to be said by either of them. Finally, he turned, walked out of the cottage, slamming the door behind him.
* * * * *
Lupin owed him nothing, and Severus owed the werewolf even less. No matter how many times he told himself that, he still found himself rubbing his eyes as he set aside yet another useless text. There was simply nowhere to look for help. The long term effects of the Wolfsbane potion were unknown, because there were too few werewolves who had taken it for an extended time. If it were easier to brew, he might have been able to find something.
He scoffed at himself. If it had been easy to brew, he wouldn’t have taken such pride in being able to do so. In fact, if it had been easier, he would have fobbed the duty off on someone else long ago, and wouldn’t be responsible for the werewolf’s current condition. Then he wouldn’t be sitting here, growing frustrated over not being able to help someone who didn’t even want his help in the first place.
Because his hand in this was the only reason he could possibly have to be helping. That or he was simply losing his mind, an option he wasn’t quite willing to dismiss at this point.
He was willing to dismiss the useless lycanthropy texts, however. If there was any way to counter the effects of the Wolfsbane, he would have to find it himself. He was actually looking forward to the challenge of doing so. He just hoped he had enough time to find the answer. If Lupin managed to do something even more idiotic before he was successful, it would all be for naught. One way or another, he had to convince Remus to start trying again. He had been doing this for too long to just accept the failure now.
* * * * *
Remus didn’t answer the door, and the niggling worry that had brought Severus back to the cottage transformed into outright fear. He tried the door, found it unlocked, and fought against a rising sense of panic.
“Lupin?” There was no answer, and the cottage was in an even worse state now than it had been on his last visit. Cobwebs had joined the dust, and the dust was now thick enough that it chocked him. The shutters were closed, but even in the dim light, he could make out the still figure curled up at the end of the couch.
Severus approached hesitantly, with slow steps so he wouldn’t kick up more dust, or so he told himself. When he reached Remus, he touched the other man’s shoulder and almost gasped in relief when he received a whimper in response. It wasn’t much, but it was something. Resolved, he bent down and lifted Remus from the couch, earning more whimpers. The afghan slipped down Remus’ shoulder when he was moved, exposing pale, bare, skin, stretched too taunt over the bone. Severus tried to pay it no mind, and instead hurried them both back to Hogwarts.
There was very little he could do after returning, not when Poppy took over, and not when he knew Remus was better off in her care. Still, he wished he could be occupied with something, anything, rather than standing in the hallway meeting Dumbledore’s pain-filled gaze.
“I had no idea.”
”He refused your help, Albus.”
“I know, but I should have done... something. He shouldn’t have been alone.”
“It’s not too late, Albus, and he’s not alone now,” Severus responded, the words of hope sounding awkward and inadequate. He hadn’t had much practice in offering them.
“Thanks to you, Severus.” Albus looked at him warmly. “Remus is fortunate you care enough to look in on him.”
“It wasn’t-- I don’t--” Severus gave up answering and just scowled instead. In truth, he didn’t know why he had gone to the cottage, only that he was very glad he had.
* * * * *
Remus didn’t look at him when he sat in the chair beside the hospital bed, but Severus didn’t mind. It gave him a chance to assess the other man’s condition. Remus had only awoke a few days ago, and Severus believed the last month had marked one of the first times a werewolf had ever remained unconscious during the full moon. They had been afraid that Remus wouldn’t be strong enough, that the change would tear his weakened body apart, but Poppy had nursed him well and he continued to improve. Unfortunately, it was improvement without any effort or desire on his part.
“You’re looking well,” Severus said, but Remus’ gaze remained fixed on the window. “And you don’t care, do you?”
Remus closed his eyes. “Why should I care, Severus? I have nothing to look forward to but pain. That isn’t going to change.”
“It could,” Severus told him, hating that he was once more forced to be the optimist. “You just need to give me time.”
“Time to what?”
“To find a treatment, something. Time to fix this. I can find it, I am certain of it.”
“And you’re looking for it?”
For the first time since Severus entered the room, Remus looked at him, eyes serious, but flat. “Why?”
“Because,” he looked away, down to where Remus’ hand lay limp on the blanket. “Because I owe you.” Without thinking, he reached out and took Remus’ hand, wincing when he felt the other man flinch. “Because I-- I don’t know,” he admitted, looking back up at Remus again. “But let me try. Please.”
The serious look eased, some amusement breaking through the dull gaze. “Severus Snape saying please, and to me of all people.” He looked down at the blankets, and then placed his other hand on top of Severus’. “I suppose I could try as well. For a while.”
Severus sighed, relief loosening the tension he had carried since walking into that dusty cottage. “Thank you.”
Remus laughed softly. “Please and thank you in one day. If you’re not careful, Severus, I may start to believe you have manners after all.”
“They won’t last,” Severus replied dryly, but his hand was still holding tight, surrounded by Remus’ fingers. He had no intention of letting go.