Saving the World
- Story Summary:
- Before the world ends, Snape has one more thing to prove to himself and Lupin.
One would have thought the Muggles should have known of it first, with their oversized, overcompensating telescopes and those flying machines they use to spy on one another. Yet it was Sibyl Trelawney who shattered a teacup and uttered the prophecy in the Great Hall in the middle of dinner, so that every Hogwarts student, their parents and associates knew within a matter of hours. Some did not believe -- Trelawney's reputation was not what I would call well-respected -- but those with contacts in the Muggle world used their telephones and computers, and soon we had confirmation from physicists and astrologers alike. The Mudbloods couldn't be bothered to be afraid, explaining that their governments had resources for dealing with such a crisis, which they had learned from their motion pictures. As usual, they were wrong; a space shuttle blew up on a launch pad, killing forty-three, and an underground facility believed to contain dozens of deadly explosives was found to be empty.
It was said at first that Voldemort was furious, suspecting a trick. Naturally he blamed the Muggles and those of weak blood, killing at random anyone he deemed responsible. But you won't read that part in the glorious history of how the Earth was saved by Tom Riddle. I've rarely bothered to mention that Lucius Malfoy came to me to beg for my help; it seemed his Lord had been blowing up his friends one by one, and he hoped I might have a potion that could focus Voldemort's rage on more productive pursuits. What a coward Malfoy was without his leader to hide behind! I don't think he understood that Voldemort was a coward too -- the greatest one of all. He was so terrified of dying that he devoted his life to finding a way to live forever. Cleansing the impure and controlling the weak were only means to an end for him, not the goal. Once he understood that the entire world was about to blow up in a cloud of dust, his path became clear.
But of course Remus Lupin had no way of knowing any of this at the time. The last night of the world was calculated to be mid-month, the date of the full moon, and I suppose Lupin expected to come to himself in the morning, weak and in pain as usual, for just long enough to witness the end. Most of the other members of the Order were attempting to do something, rather than just sitting around waiting for it -- those who worked at the Ministry of Magic were all involved in a project to try to force the rock to shatter, while Dumbledore, who had some mad notion that the comet was a test for us, went out trying to unite the wizarding world in an effort to draw our wills together to force it from its path. I was, in principle, a part of that group, but levitation spells have never been my greatest strength and even if they had been, the idea of several thousand wands pointed at a giant rock in space seemed laughable to me. At some point I excused myself and returned to my own project.
I had been attempting to produce a cure for lycanthropy for many years, and although I had never discussed the potion with anyone, I felt that I was quite close to getting it right. Yet I had had no way to test it without potential dangers to the first subject. I had thought about putting in a request at the Ministry to be permitted to seek a volunteer among those werewolves incarcerated for having put human lives at risk, but I didn't want to answer any nosy questions about why I was researching the condition. With the world coming to an end, however, I saw no reason not to approach the person who had inspired my work to begin with, all those years ago when he put my own life in danger.
I had expected to find Lupin alone in his room at Grimmauld Place, eating chocolate and resting before his transformation, but when I sought him there I learned that he was missing. This was a cause of some concern to the colleagues who knew about it, but most of them were quite busy with their comet-moving efforts and could spare little energy to worry about whether a werewolf might kill a few humans who were fated to die the next morning anyway.
How ironic that I should have been the one to seek him, in the very place where he had nearly killed me as a child. The others were too preoccupied to guess, but I knew that he would have gone to a place he associated with Sirius Black, where he could be alone with his memories of that arrogant fool. Lupin had spent much of the previous year pining away, as if he believed the fable that wolves mated for life -- they do not, and werewolves are particularly apt to follow any call from their own kind. I had on occasion attempted to initiate conversation with him, but he seemed determined to punish me for having protected the children at Hogwarts from a professor who could not be trusted to take his Wolfsbane, and barely spoke to me.
On this night, he had not taken the Wolfsbane once again, so he was quite alarmed to see me when I stepped from the tunnel into the Shrieking Shack. "Get out of here, Severus," he snapped. "Don't you know that the moon will rise in less than an hour?" From my pocket I pulled a bottle of potion, but he shook his head. "No. It makes me sleep for too long. I'd rather be in pain tonight and aware, in the morning, when it happens. Thank you, but please go away."
"This isn't what you think it is, Lupin," I sneered. "I have better things to do than to fret about your comfort." This was not entirely true; with the world coming to an end, I had nothing pressing that had to be done, no relatives whom I was frantic to see one more time, no last flings I wished to indulge. I really had no place I would rather have spent my time than testing out my final potion on Lupin. To my disgust I noticed that he had brought photographs with him, and there was one of Black on top, wearing that revoltingly haughty grin. "And you? Spending time with your friends?" I inquired.
"I couldn't think of anyone I'd be happier seeing tonight," he retorted. "Now -- if you have better things to do this evening -- why are you here?"
Uncapping the bottle, I strode triumphantly over to where he sat on the filthy bed. "For more years than I can count, I have worked on this potion. Tonight is my last chance to test it. I know how quickly you and your friends have always dismissed my competence, but I believe that I have found a way to cure your condition." While he blinked up at me stupidly, I shoved the bottle into his hand. His fingers pressed between mine, warm despite the chill in the room. "Drink up, Lupin, and spend your last night on Earth as a man."
Something more than astonishment was in his stare; I might even call it mistrust. He sat holding the bottle for so long that I grew irritated. "You can't believe that I would waste my time trying to poison you tonight of all nights," I insisted.
"In point of fact, that seems more likely than what you've just told me. Severus, you've been trying to cure lycanthropy? Why didn't you tell me before?" I did not see the need to dignify such a query with a response. "And now you're telling me that, on the last night of the world, the thing you want most is to see if you got it right? Surely there must be somewhere you'd rather be."
"No," I replied shortly. "Since it seems that neither of us will have the opportunity to complete his life's work in stopping the Dark Lord, it would give me satisfaction enough to know that I have succeeded where others have failed for thousands of years in attempts to cure those like you. Even if the potion does not work, I believe I can promise that it will not harm you. And you've already said you have no intention of taking Wolfsbane tonight."
Curiously Lupin lifted the bottle to his nose and sniffed, putting on the same face he always displayed when I gave him the Wolfsbane each month. You would think he might have tried to show a little more gratitude rather than complaining about the taste, but he never did. "What's in this? What makes you think that you've got it right when so many others have failed?"
"The exact recipe required extremely delicate work." I grew even more irritated that he did not trust my competence. "Some of the ingredients are the same as in Wolfsbane, including aconite and bezoar, but the combinations intended to cause somnolence have been omitted. I've come to understand that attempts to sedate the wolf will never succeed at banishing it. Over time the creature within requires greater and greater doses of the potion to remain subdued. What is necessary is to find a way to allow the wolf to unleash its energy without the violence of the transformation itself."
Lupin looked at me quite skeptically. "You're saying that what's in this bottle will prevent me from turning into a wolf, but I'll become just as violent as if I had?"
"No, you fool. I'm telling you that because you will be spared the pain and brutality of being transfigured, you will keep your mind."
With a quick movement of his free hand, Lupin pushed his photographs beneath a fold in the tattered blanket on the bed. His fingers were long and unblemished, in contrast to the backs of his hands and wrists. It was difficult to picture them as wolf paws, and unexpectedly I found myself imagining them touching me, just as Lupin looked up to see me watching. A faint frown puckered his brows but I knew that he was no Legilimens; that absurd thought would not have reached him. Still, there was suspicion in his gaze as he repeated, "But you said that it would not subdue the wolf -- it would unleash its energy."
"It will, and I imagine you will feel compelled to exhaust yourself, perhaps to do all those things you once did as a wolf...running through the woods howling at the moon, was it? It will certainly make you prone to aggression, but unless I have seriously miscalculated, you will not be inclined to bite anyone. You will be unable to pass on your condition. If you are overwhelmed by the desire to kill, an ordinary human will be able to restrain you, but I don't think it will come to that. I believe you will find yourself animated, perhaps even pleasantly so. You will greet the last morning of the world with a languid fatigue."
"How very decadent that sounds. Perhaps I'll lie on silk sheets, drinking mead and feeding myself grapes." Unwillingly my mind conjured precisely that image -- Lupin stretched out upon flame-red fabric, holding a cluster of grapes above his mouth with one hand and trailing his long fingers over bared skin with the other. Quickly I looked elsewhere, but he was still studying the contents of the bottle, tilting it to catch the flames from the low fire in the old grate. "Were you planning to stay with me, to study the effects?" he asked. "What will happen if you're wrong, Severus?"
"Then I imagine I'll miss the fireworks tomorrow. What a shame that would be, not to die in a fiery explosion or choking on dust." With some satisfaction I noted my utter calm at these words. I had long assumed that I would die at the hands of the Death-Eaters, perhaps protecting the insufferable Harry Potter; whether I lost my life in a cataclysm or was devoured by a werewolf at this point made little difference. I suppose the mixture of calea and valerian I had consumed earlier might have influenced me somewhat. "I am not afraid, Lupin, as you can see, because the potion will not fail. I am more than willing to take the risk."
Rising, Lupin paced around the room. The wooden walls were marked by scratches from years before, and the furniture looked as if it had been repaired numerous times by spells insufficient to the level of damage. "All right," he said finally, turning to look at me. "But there's one thing I want you to explain to me first. Why did you never tell me that you were working on this potion? There's so much I could have told you -- it was always easier for the wolf, for instance, in the presence of animagi or other sentient animals. We don't attack unicorns, even though their blood has healing powers. The scent of another werewolf will distract us even from the blood of a human..."
"These things are all in books, Lupin," I snapped impatiently. "Now, every minute that passes brings us closer to moonrise, so if you don't mind...?" I gestured at the bottle in his hand. Slowly Lupin raised it to his mouth and drained the contents, making faint gagging noises after each swallow. I was certain he was exaggerating the repulsiveness of the taste just to irk me.
When he had finished the potion, Lupin walked over to hand me the bottle and stood there turning faintly pink. At first I thought that it might be an effect of the potion, then he rubbed his face and cleared his throat with an embarrassed shrug. "Do you think...might it be best if you restrained me, at least until after the moon rises, in case I do become a threat to you?"
If Lupin did turn into a wolf, tying his wrists and ankles together would have made no difference, for he would have broken free during the transformation. But despite my annoyance that he lacked confidence in my potion, I had to admit that it might be wise to restrain the man until I could see whether this particular subject had the will to keep his aggressive impulses under control. "Very well, Lupin," I agreed. "Sit on the bed." I used a spell I had placed on him once before in this very room, though this time I prevented the snakelike cords from twisting around his mouth.
He sat very still, looking up at me humbly, and I suppose that I could not help but enjoy having him so obedient. In fact, his willingness to test my potion with so little protest had left me feeling somewhat elated. Absurd fancies concerning Lupin's hands and legs and mouth continued to plague me. I put it down to my own pleasantly altered state of mind and the desire to seek any distraction from what would happen in the morning.
I could see it in his eyes the moment the moon rose, even before he tensed all over, straining against the bonds that held his arms and legs together. The blood shot across the whites, leaving his pupils gleaming green-gold and dangerous, with an odd, toothy smile twisting his lips. A growl emerged from his throat, though it was a pale echo of the threatening animal snarls I had heard from him in the past. I said nothing while he sat quite still, surging occasionally up to test my knots, which held him fast.
Finally he spoke. "Severus." His voice was altered -- thick and gruff.
"Is it still you, Lupin?" I'm afraid that I could not keep gloating from my own voice, but he appeared untroubled, giving me another wide grin. "How are you feeling? Are you in any pain?"
"Not pain, but this is rather uncomfortable," he replied in that same strange voice, raising his wrists together to indicate their bound state. "Would you untie me? I promise I won't attack you."
"In a moment." Though I was already convinced that the potion had worked perfectly, I rather enjoyed having the wolf in my thrall. "Are you certain that you could control your temper even if I angered you? What if I were weak and bleeding, or if I reminded you of our unfortunate history? How much can you feel the wolf?"
"I am the wolf, Severus," said Lupin. His wild, unfamiliar smile and the mood it suggested must have been infectious somehow, for these words sounded less like a threat than a flirtation. "I remember how you smell when you're eager, and when you're terrified. I can smell how your blood almost-tastes. Right now I can smell things I doubt you know you're feeling."
"Untie me," he said again. So unlike the familiar, meek Remus Lupin, who never even found the courage to stand up to his friends when they were torturing other boys their age. It was not the best night for such an experiment, perhaps, because the knowledge that we would all be dead soon had made both of us reckless, yet I was fairly certain that I was seeing the potion at work rather than Lupin's private feelings. After a moment I raised my wand and made the bindings fall away.
"Thank you." Lupin smiled as he rose, rubbing his wrists, and for perhaps the first time I watched him draw himself up to his full height and throw his shoulders back; I had grown so accustomed to his deferential slouch that I'd forgotten how tall he was. He took a deep breath -- sniffing -- and let it out in a soft growl that unexpectedly made my flesh crawl. I did not think I gave any outward sign of this reaction, yet he flashed his teeth and pounced to my side in a single long stride. "This is quite extraordinary. I'm more grateful than you can know. If only there was some way to convey the feeling..."
Without any warning, he grasped my shoulders in his hands, pulled me against him, and -- this is difficult to admit -- he kissed me. My reaction, of course, was revulsion, and I opened my mouth to protest, but the creature took advantage and pressed his tongue inside. I don't think I'd realized how strong he was; I had assumed that he was growing as weak internally as his outward appearance suggested, with its slow decline from month to month. Trying to push at his tongue with my own only encouraged him, and he wrapped his arms around me, giving me no avenue for escape. By the time he allowed me to break away for air, I was very nearly dizzy, clutching the back of his cardigan in my hands just to remain upright.
Lupin seemed scarcely affected at all, though his smile grew even more predatory. "Thank you," he rumbled. "I really can't tell you how much I appreciate what you've done, Severus."
"You might start by releasing me!" Abruptly I realized that my hands were still clenched around his back, which might have been relaying an entirely unintended message. Letting go of him, I stepped back and attempted to straighten my robes. "Really, Lupin, you assured me that you could control yourself!"
"I did no such thing. I did promise not to attack you, but when someone responds to a kiss by putting his arms around me and offering me his tongue, I tend to assume the advance is not entirely unwelcome." My splutter of outrage only appeared to amuse him. "Your potion is working flawlessly, Severus. Here I am -- a tame wolf who is entirely in your debt." Lupin dropped to his knees, making me foolishly believe that he wished to express his admiration in a traditional, deferential manner, until he reached around my thighs and tugged me closer, sniffing shamelessly at me. "Please, let me thank you properly."
"Stop this at once!" I insisted. Unhappily, my uneasiness at his behavior had made my heart beat faster, and I was perspiring, which I was certain he could smell. "You should be able to control the wolf's impulses with a little effort."
"What makes you think these impulses are the wolf's?" The unnerving amber eyes rose to meet mine, and I saw that although he was smiling, there was earnest ferocity on Lupin's face. "You did this extraordinary thing for me. Don't argue -- you had no reason to fear the wolf under the influence of Wolfsbane. You've set me free on the night when it matters most." His fingers shifted off my thighs and sought mine, squeezing them. "Why did you do it, otherwise? Why create the potion?"
"Is it not perfectly obvious, Lupin, that not everything is about you?" I snarled at him. "This potion would have made me renowned all over the world. Centuries from now, students at Hogwarts would have been reading about me. If I had finished it soon enough, Black and Malfoy and everyone who has ever doubted me would have -- " I was on the verge of confessing too much, and I stopped myself, saying instead, "They would have understood that my skills and hard work were more formidable than they knew." Nodding, Lupin shifted on his knees, but he would not let me pull my fingers back. "And now I've proven that it works. You know that it works."
"And that's enough for you: that I know?"
"Given the state of things, it will have to be. There will not be another full moon for us."
"No, there won't. So please let's rejoice in this night while we can." Tugging on my hand, Lupin stumbled to his feet, leading me to believe that he would be reasonable, but instead he pulled me toward the bed quite forcefully. "I see that I'm going about this all wrong. You don't want groveling. You liked it better when I did this." A moment later his lips were pressing mine again.
As proud as I was of my potion -- I had thought of naming it after myself, as was my right -- it was clear that I had badly miscalculated the effects of the wolf's aggression on the human sexual impulse. "Stop it," I managed to choke out when finally Lupin moved his mouth to suck on my throat. "You're a werewolf, Lupin, not a vampire! You have no need of this."
"Oh, but you're wrong," he said against my skin. His tongue had slid beneath my ear and was licking at my earlobe in a manner that made it very difficult to speak without shivering. "And what's more important: I want this. Me, Severus, not the wolf. I want to spend the last night of the world with someone who cared enough to come to me, the last night of the world, and give me this."
"That isn't..." But he kissed me once more, sitting and rocking back on the bed with his arms around me so that I fell over him, until, much as it pains me to confess, I could not longer hide my entirely involuntary physical reaction to our continued proximity. Before I could explain that it was merely the result of unexpected contact and the potion I had taken earlier as a palliative against the unpleasant knowledge of what was to come in the morning, he hummed appreciatively and shifted his thigh against me in an unambiguous manner. I could hardly express outrage then, when my own shameful condition was putting ideas in his head, so I attempted to reason with him. "Lupin. You don't want me; you loathe me. This is merely a combination of the wolf's brazenness and your wish not to dwell on regrets."
"And even if I did loathe you, those would be sufficient reasons for putting it aside tonight, to allow us both to enjoy what very little time we have left," Lupin replied calmly, still wriggling beneath me in an impudent way. "But I have never loathed you. You have always intrigued me -- even when I was too much of a coward to approach you, because I was afraid of driving away the only people who had ever become my friends despite what I was. I've always been sorry for that. But they're gone now and here we are...and you've done something for me far beyond anything they ever dreamed of doing. How could you think I loathe you?"
"Very well, then, perhaps I loathe you." I struggled to rise, but Lupin only tightened his arms around me and began to slide his thigh rhythmically between mine. The friction was unbearable, and as I groaned and twisted against him, he took advantage of my distraction to fling me onto my back and settle over me.
"You didn't come here tonight because you hate me," he whispered in my ear, which he began to lave and suck as he spoke. "You didn't even come to gloat about your potion, though I'm the only one capable of appreciating it. I watched you watching me before -- I'm not so weak a Legilimens as you believe. You wanted me to touch you. You can lie to me all you wish, but do you really want to spend your last night alive lying to yourself?"
Whatever retort I was trying to formulate was lost as those long fingers slid across my hip and wrenched all sense from my mind. Reluctantly I was forced to the conclusion that this was my own fault: I had not expected the yohimbe and maca root in Lupin's potion to manifest their properties so explicitly, causing this uncontrolled priapism. On a different night I might simply have restrained him and forced him to endure it until his control returned with the sunrise, but this was to be his last night, and I had assured him that the potion would not make him suffer.
Moreover, his wanton touch was arousing a state in myself that grew increasingly uncomfortable. The momentary relief when he loosened my robes was lost as he slipped his hands inside. "I'm yours now, Severus," he whispered as I groaned again. "You aren't fighting me, so stop fighting yourself. Take what you want from me."
Remus Lupin would never have begged so shamelessly had he not been truly desperate, and no matter what he and his friends might have deserved, I did not wish to spend my last hours engaged in an act of cruelty. "Very well," I agreed bitterly -- or perhaps I merely gasped when he began to slide my clothing away. No matter the temptation to resist, I forced myself to acquiesce.
Though the wolf might have been trapped in human form, its traits were evident in Lupin's behavior. He insisted upon dominating me. First he marked most of my body with his saliva -- I don't think there was a bit of flesh upon which he did not put his tongue. The mild potion I had given myself earlier must have had an aphrodisiac effect, because instead of being revolted, I was stimulated by this to the point of coming undone beneath his relentless mouth. He ignored my pleas, using the alpha wolf's strength and wiliness to convince me to submit until I lost all restraint and polluted him with my lust. I believe I may have screamed, but it was not the first time I had had to raise my voice that evening.
The potion I had swallowed seemed to aid my recuperative powers as well, for I found myself responding again when he uttered a spell against pain and touched me in a place I had never allowed another to seek. The sensations were quite startling. I hardly think that I can be blamed if I imitated his animalistic behavior and clawed at the blanket. Nor was it my fault for tearing a hole in that miserable old pillow with my teeth when Lupin -- growling and grunting like the beast inside him -- stretched over me and began to rut.
I suppose that my failure to maintain my dignity must sound shameful, but I was determined to make his experience of the potion tolerable. I let him have his way with me twice, which would have been a truly unpleasant experience had it not been for his knowledge of alleviation charms and his unexpected enthusiasm for kissing away any discomfort I might have felt. Werewolves being narcissistic creatures, perhaps I should have guessed that he would be proud of any pleasure he brought me, but pondering the erotic indulgences of dark creatures is an activity that I have tried for many years to avoid.
When at last we were both utterly exhausted, I lay close to the heat of his body and wondered whether I should have brought a Sleeping Draught after all. I could think of no reason to return to Hogwarts, which was deserted, nor to Grimmauld Place, where those deluded fools were undoubtedly aiming their wands at the sky and wasting their last energy fighting what was inevitable. Lupin had rolled to put his arms around me and I could think of no reason to push him aside, either; the whimsical thought came that with the proper potion, we might have slipped into oblivion together, asleep at dawn when the last star fell.
"Thank you," he murmured.
"You have no need to thank me. I appreciate your participation on such brief notice." At some point during our activities, Lupin's photographs had fallen to the floor; now it occurred to me that he might go to his death without ever again looking at Sirius Black. In fact, mine might be the last face he ever saw. Fatigue and regret are the only excuses I can offer for what I said next: "You were correct that I do not loathe you."
He leaned back far enough to gaze into my eyes, and despite his notorious weakness as a Legilimens, I found myself uneasy when he smiled. "Severus. It's the last night either of us will be alive -- the last night of the world. Would it hurt you so very much to admit that you like me?"
It was a great deal to demand, but, as he had said, we both presumed that we would be dead shortly, and I could see that he was greatly weakened by the presence of the wolf inside him. "Very well," I scowled at him, reminding myself that I had committed to meeting his needs in recompense for his assistance. "If you insist. I like you. Though why I should be so generous, I really cannot say..."
Lupin nodded, though the corners of his mouth had turned down and I feared for a moment that he would begin to snivel like a homesick student. "I like you too," he said, touching my face. "And I'm more grateful for what you've done for me than I can say. If we had more time, I could..."
But before he could finish the sentence, Lupin stiffened. A shiver passed through him and his breath came out in a long sigh. The wolf had gone, which meant that the moon had set, which meant that we did not have long until the end. I did not wish to speak, to risk a quarrel or any unpleasant memories intruding upon our last minutes. When Lupin shivered again and tightened his arms around me, I allowed him that comfort.
Despite the lack of a Sleeping Draught and the extraordinary strain of knowing what was to come, we must somehow have dozed off, because when I next opened my eyes, sunlight was streaming into the Shrieking Shack through cracks in the rotting wood, and sounds of celebration could be heard in the distance. They seemed to be coming all the way from the center of Hogsmeade. Lupin raised his head when I did, listening; then he grinned broadly, kissed me, and leapt out of bed to fling open a window.
You've certainly heard the rest: how Pettigrew flew Voldemort past the point where any wizard had flown and survived, how the Dark Lord was seen by thousands of Muggles as his wand shot bolts of power at the comet, how the green light twisted back upon them and turned them into pure energy that shot through the sky, how the comet shattered and rained millions of shards down upon the Earth. None of our wands have worked since, our broomsticks won't lift off, and the magical creatures have retreated one by one into the wild where not even wizards can find them.
But potions are potions, and mine still worked. So now you know why werewolves no longer roam the forests. Lupin, of course, remained with me out of gratitude, helping me with my work, allowing me to refine the brew by using him to test it. In time he grew so attached to me that I could not consider failing to keep him close, even after Lupinuseveruserum had been perfected. Living apart from him would have been too cruel, and no matter what anyone may say about me, I am not like Black. Sometimes I even make myself utter expressions of affection to Lupin. After all my work curing his condition, it would not do to let him sink into despair over me.
Now that Defense Against the Dark Arts has become an occult specialty, Lupin has taken to studying astronomy, and seems content to remain at my side reading about meteor rocks while I grind them into a powder for use in potions that may one day make a man faster than a speeding bullet. I never do get the credit I deserve.
Regrettably, Harry Potter seems just as content to be famous no longer. I hear that he ekes out a living writing fantasy tales for a Muggle publisher. It seems a frivolous sort of career, but not everyone can be the man who saved the world from the menace of werewolves.