- Story Summary:
- Snape arrived unannounced -- much as Sirius had, months before -- with nothing but the clothes on his back.
Snape arrived unannounced -- much as Sirius had, all those months before -- with nothing but the tattered robes on his back. He straightened defiantly, as though he expected to be dismissed or cursed on sight.
"You look terrible, Severus," said Remus, who was in the garden attempting to harvest the herbs necessary for Wolfsbane. Then he added, with an equally pleasant inflection, "Is there some reason why I should not kill you where you stand?"
"I have a message for the Order...," Snape began haughtily, but Remus waved him silent, gesturing for him to step inside.
"Come and have something to eat. You look as though you haven't had proper food in weeks. Doesn't Voldemort feed his Death Eaters anything besides death?"
"Of course not," replied Snape in a disgusted tone, and proceeded to devour everything Remus put on the table...bread, cheese, hazelnuts, apples, tea, even though the fruit was days past its prime and the tea leaves were reused, Remus having been unable to afford to replace them. "This is terrible," Snape told him with his mouth full and something like a smile on his face. "Though if you wished to poison me, that aconite you've been gathering would be more effective."
"Tonks is trying to help me brew Wolfsbane," explained Remus with a small smile. "She may also be trying to poison me; I'm not certain."
"She's a Black," Snape said as if that explained everything. Then, "Her aunt has had an unnatural influence over her since the fight at the Ministry two summers ago. I fail to see how you can share a bed with her and not discover..."
"Sharing a bed often means less than nothing, Severus." Remus caught and held his gaze, wondering whether Snape would ever forgive him for having been with Sirius. "And I found out about Bellatrix months ago, but Minerva thought it would be best if I tried to..."
"How is the Headmistress?" interrupted Snape, hiding his expression behind his teacup.
"Holding up as well as one might imagine. She has aged a great deal in the past year."
A flicker of obvious pain crossed Severus' face. He had always been so easy to read, even his students could do it...
What was he doing here?
"I expect it's true -- as people are whispering -- that Greyback is dead, or you wouldn't be visiting me," Remus continued in the same chatty tone he had been using since Snape had arrived.
"Greyback and the werewolves were only useful to the Dark Lord so long as they were obedient, and Fenrir has never followed anyone but himself." Snape looked him over appraisingly. "It's been said that you disrupted the pack. Provided Wolfsbane for the younger werewolves, convinced them not to do Greyback's bidding."
"Is that why you're here, then? Or did you need me to explain to the Order what Dumbledore asked you to do?" Again Snape's expression was transparent to Remus, though he sensed the hood of Occlumency descending behind the dark eyes. "I figured it out months ago, from talking to Harry about that night. Dumbledore had several qualities I find less than admirable, but he was not a fool. It is simply not possible that you betrayed him. Which means I know who has been sending us all those little hints..."
"Be quiet, Lupin." Snape dismissed him casually, with the same acid in his tone that Remus remembered from incidents when Severus had hinted to others that they had a werewolf in their midst. "I have very little time." Rising, he took the aconite and wormwood from where Remus had set it down and stepped over to the cauldron suspended above the fire. "In four days it will be Midsummer. You're aware of the Dark Lord's penchant for ancient symbolism -- he killed the Potters on Halloween. Tell Potter that the final Horcrux must be destroyed by the summer solstice."
"A Horcrux! What..."
"Silence!" Snape spoke as though Remus were one of his students. "You do not need to understand the message. Potter will know. Don't fill his head with your silly notions about my reasons for my actions at Hogwarts. It matters only that he receives this information."
"If I don't try to explain, what makes you think Harry will believe anything that comes from you?"
"He will assume it is a trap, of course, and he will take the proper precautions," Snape retorted irritably. "One other thing. As I am certain you are aware, the moon will be full on the twentieth night of this month. The solstice will occur at two in the morning on the twenty-first." He tore off several of the bell-shaped flowers from the aconite. "If you can, keep the other werewolves hidden through the full moon and Midsummer Night while you are recovering. Sedated, if possible." Leaning over the cauldron, he sniffed the brew. "And keep Tonks away from you. Surely you can manage without -- consolation -- for four days."
"When the war is over, I'll expect you to make it up to me." Remus kept his tone light, but he could see the hint of a blush that crept up Severus' features, which Severus would no doubt have attributed to the heat from the fire. His fingers brushed over the bony shoulder, feeling the muscles moving as the stooped man stirred the contents of the cauldron.
"When the war is over, one or both of us may be dead."
"I never imagined that I'd live as long as I have, but here we are. I have great faith in your ability to survive." Remus squeezed the shoulder once before letting go. "I understand that you will be a condemned man by both sides. I want you to know that you can come here. Hiding criminals isn't new to me."
"You are still just as pathetically naïve as Black was untrustworthy..." Snape began, straightening, but Remus did not allow him to finish the sentence. He placed a finger over Snape's lips.
"After. The moon will be waning then, and the world will be free."
"You will do as I have instructed?" asked Snape. As he spoke, his lips moved against Remus' finger, making Remus shiver while he nodded. "Very well. If you follow my directions precisely, and everything goes as planned, and Potter accomplishes what the Headmaster arranged for all of us, then I will see you on the other side."
It was a curious statement -- it might have meant after the battle, or among the opposing combatants, or even on the far side of the Veil -- but then, Remus could hardly have hoped for a straightforward answer from Severus Snape. So he nodded again, smiling, letting his hand fall to his side and watching as Snape swept out his door.
It was possible this had all been a ruse -- that the information was indeed a trap or that Severus had poisoned the Wolfsbane brewing in the cauldron. If it was so, thought Remus, at least he would not live to see proof that Snape was a traitor.
Remus had less need of food than of hope, and had been more than happy to make an exchange.