- Story Summary:
- The house is old, the garden's a jungle, and Lupin isn't sure what can be salvaged. Sequel to "Escapism."
- Author's Note:
- Sequel to
The plants in Snape's parents' yard have grown wildly dense and unkempt, like a Muggle fantasy of a witch's garden. Despite being neglected, the herbs have thrived, producing lush bright blooms even as their roots became long and tangled, so that Lupin cannot always tell where crowfoot ends and celandine begins.
It is summer, the worst time of year to attempt to reclaim a garden. Lupin knows that he should have waited to clear it in late autumn and started fresh plantings in the spring. But Snape has given him the use of the house and he is determined to put it in order as quickly as possible, without the assistance of elves or sympathetic volunteers.
"I could help you with that," Harry had blurted out the first time he visited, not realizing that the words would make Lupin feel ashamed. He knows that Harry fears he might run off again, and probably considers Lupin's staying at Snape's house a form of self-punishment. There has been no occasion for Harry to notice that things have changed between his former professors, old adversaries still trying to work out why they hurt one another for as long as they did. No matter how fast Harry's generation had to grow up, in some ways they still seem quite young, presuming that the uncomfortable silences between the older men must spring from dislike.
Since the night in Vauxhall when he first invited Lupin home, Snape has been cautious, almost embarrassed in his presence. He stays out of Lupin's way as if he had ceded all rights to the house when he suggested that Lupin live there. He visits on the weekends only after being asked if he will come. So far as Lupin can tell, Snape has altered very little in the house since inheriting the property; he treats it more like a shrine to the dead than a cherished childhood home. Lupin had felt that it would be an intrusion to sleep in the late parents' immaculate bedchamber and had instead taken up residence in the room that obviously belonged to Severus, with school essays and rolled Quidditch posters still in the desk.
There was some awkwardness the first time Snape went to set his things down in the room where he expected to retire for the night, only to realize that the wolf had been sleeping in his bed. Neither of them spoke about it, and since then Lupin has slept in the master bedroom whenever Snape has been in the house. But while Snape is at Hogwarts, he stays in the smaller room. He suspects that Snape must know this, and wonders whether Snape feels the same illicit pleasure when he stretches out on the bed that Lupin does from conjuring Snape in that place.
Certain areas of the house, like the dining room and cellar, appear just as pristine in disuse as Snape's parents' room. Yet others, including the library and kitchen, have acquired the look of rooms that get used more often than they get cleaned. Lupin spends an entire morning sorting the jars on the spice rack, discarding and replacing stale contents. It takes two days to reorganize books from the shelves and tables where they have been left in piles. One corner of the garden appears to have been weeded and fertilized while the rest has been allowed to grow out, and when Lupin examines the plants there, he realizes that they are all medicinal: herbs to alleviate pain, seeds with invigorating properties...most of the ingredients of Wolfsbane.
These herbs were not planted recently, for their roots have grown deep. They must have come up each spring for several years. It had not occurred to Lupin that Snape might grow his own ingredients for his potions -- at least the ones he wanted to be certain were of proper strength. It is admirable, thinks Lupin, and sad at the same time that Snape trusts others so little and has had so few hobbies outside of his work.
Other than the conversation at the pub when Snape asked Lupin to stay, nothing has passed between them that could be construed as intimate. Lupin wonders sometimes whether Snape reached out to him only to bring him back into the wizarding world, where the threat a werewolf represents can be contained and where Snape has found ways to make him useful helping with difficult potions and occasionally difficult students. But each time Lupin has begun to resent this and tried to speak to Snape about it, he has seen something in the dark eyes akin to fear. It is not the straightforward dread of a werewolf unleashed upon the Muggle world, but the sorrow of personal loss...the same loneliness that had driven Lupin to London. He knows that Snape did not invite him to live here only to control a onetime adversary, and the resentment fades.
They share the house companionably, taking meals together, working side by side on repairs, sitting in the library to read in the evenings. But there have been no discussions of the past or future. Owls arrive during the week, sometimes purposefully -- carrying seeds, or a list of ingredients to rid the house of termites -- but sometimes at random, with tea and desserts from Hogsmeade that Snape's notes claim he thought might have been lacking in the pantry. The notes have grown longer too, though they could easily communicate via wand or floo if they wished to speak face to face.
Lupin has found himself laughing out loud reading descriptions of calamities in the potions classroom, and he has taken to writing to Snape in the evenings in far more detail than is necessary about his failures at pest control, for he has been adopted by the rats that live in the cellar as well as two cats who cannot be bothered to chase the rodents but are happy to share Lupin's food. He writes about Harry's visits, too, though he knows that Snape will never forgive James Potter's son for looking so much like his father. Hermione Granger is teaching arithmancy at Hogwarts and Snape surprised Lupin once by bringing her to the house for dinner; when her Gryffindor friends are not with her, Snape finds her intelligence quite refreshing.
Bending, Lupin tugs at the roots of a particularly pernicious weed. There are spells, of course, that would make it easier to prune the garden, but he prefers to do this by hand: there is no hurry, and his herbology professors always insisted that plants responded best to individual attention. The process may be slow but he can sense the results, for the sweet smells of mint and sage have already permeated the kitchen and are slowly moving through the rest of the house, displacing the odor of mothballs and dust. Some days it is difficult for Lupin to see any progress, but when Snape arrives he always notices the changes in his absence and he always expresses appreciation for the improvements if not the effort involved.
That, Lupin thinks, is its own reward; to make Severus smile, however fleetingly, is something few people can do. He would try more often but he is afraid of upsetting the balance. They have only just learned to give one another space, thoughts, quiet; it is too soon to offer laughter, secrets, touch. Still, he thinks about it, and he guesses that Snape thinks about it too, in the bed they share but never at the same time.
In the late afternoon Snape arrives to bring aconite back to Hogwarts from the garden. Lupin spells the kettle to heat and they sit together with their tea on the bench in the yard, looking at sheep on a distant hill.
"I had wondered whether you could teach me to make Wolfsbane," Lupin ventures, shifting on the hard wood of the seat. "I wasn't a bad potions student, you know. You would gain back the time you spent teaching me by not having to make it every month."
"Wolfsbane is a very complicated potion. It would be foolish to take unnecessary risks," replies Snape. Laughing softly at the familiar condescension in the tone, Lupin shrugs acquiescence, causing Snape to glance at him with an alarmed expression, as if it has only just occurred to him that his words may have sounded like an insult. "I do not resent the time it takes to brew. A lack of precision will render the potion ineffective or lethal."
"Then wouldn't it be wise to be certain that someone other than yourself is up to the task, in case you are ever unavailable?" Narrowed eyes are now assessing him, and Lupin wonders whether Snape had taken his request to be a bid for independence from needing the potions master's skills. "I wouldn't presume to interfere; I know that you've made improvements in the formula over the years. Perhaps I could help prepare the ingredients in advance."
Slowly Snape nods. "I suppose it would be wise to let you observe, should a time come when I require your assistance."
"Thank you, Severus. I would like to assist you." Another sharp glance follows as Snape searches his face for mockery; then he relaxes slightly and drinks his tea. "I'm sure there are other potions I could brew for you while you're teaching. If you'd like help with any..."
"I have been considering whether to resign my post at Hogwarts." The announcement is so unexpected that Lupin does not respond, waiting for some explanation, but there is only silence for several minutes. "You do not approve?"
"I'm just surprised. I thought you enjoyed the work." But Lupin has never really thought about whether Snape is happy teaching. He knows that Snape likes the prestige of his position as Head of Slytherin House and takes pride in the potions themselves; he thinks that when Snape concentrates on a particularly difficult concoction, it occupies so much of his mind that he forgets the past and future, focused on the satisfaction of a successful task. With Voldemort gone, Lupin had thought that perhaps Dumbledore would let Snape teach Defense Against the Dark Arts -- something he has wanted for many years.
And Lupin has wondered whether Snape takes any real pleasure in interacting with students, which had been his own best-loved aspect of teaching. Perhaps it is not lessons but living at Hogwarts of which Snape has grown weary.
"What will you do?"
"I would prefer to spend more time in research. There is always work available for skilled potions masters in specialty brews and private stores. And I have thought that I might like to go abroad."
A flutter of disappointment tightens Lupin's belly. For a moment he had entertained the thought that Snape might share the house with him, perhaps even share his work. With the struggle behind them, he guesses that Snape is as uncertain about the future as himself. "You want to go away? For how long?"
"Perhaps the summer holidays, to start," Snape tells him. Then, almost as an afterthought: "You could come with me."
"I have very little money."
"I will of course compensate you for the work you have done here. And I would prefer not to travel unaccompanied."
This is as transparent a declaration of Snape's wishes as Lupin could dare to demand, and yet he wants more -- he wants Snape to say that he wants his company, to express the desire to see more of the world with him. Briefly he wonders whether there is any place they can go where the past will not travel with them, an intruder in every room. He takes a sip of his tea and considers that at least, outside of London and Hogsmeade, it might be easier to forget.
But Lupin has never taken a long trip for reasons Snape should be able to guess: the risk of discovery at the full moon by an elf or a housekeeper or some other unexpected visitor is too great. Under the influence of Wolfsbane, Lupin is not even able to defend himself.
"Do you really think it wise to travel with a werewolf, Severus?"
"Surely it would be safer to bring you along than to leave you to your own devices." The voice is harsh and contemptuous, yet Lupin feels himself beginning to smile at Snape's refusal to be deterred. "I will be certain that you are safe."
"Safe for other humans, or safe from them?"
"You are safest from them when they have no reason to perceive you as a threat," Snape insists crossly, tugging at the sleeve over the now-faded Dark Mark on his arm. "And if you went abroad, no one would need to know. But I understand that you may not wish to travel..."
"I do want to go with you, Severus. I just wanted to be certain that you wanted to go with me."
The look that Snape gives him suggests that Lupin may be too foolish to make an appropriate companion, though it is followed by a small, embarrassed nod. They are both quiet after the interruption while Snape finishes his tea and Lupin studies his own handiwork among the dense plants. The hardiest herbs are all useful to a werewolf -- to bring on sleep, to soothe strained muscles -- the aconite Snape has arrived to collect might very well be for the Wolfsbane potion. Severus has been quietly offering him such gifts, with Lupin's own contentment his only recompense.
"The garden will become a tangle again if we leave for the rest of the summer," he observes, linking his fingers through Snape's as if to demonstrate. "Next season we may have to start over."
"Perhaps that would be best," agrees Snape, glancing down at their hands.
Then, Lupin understands, this will no longer be Snape's parents' garden, but their own. And if they return here together from elsewhere, no matter how much work remains to be done, it will be a homecoming for them both.