Disclaimer: The inhabitants of Hogwarts are the property of JK Rowling.
Games of Skill and Chance
Part 8 - What’s the time Mr Wolf?
It was only late afternoon, but already the sky showed black in the few patches where it was not softened by grey cloud, from which fell a listless drizzle of rain. Apparently Lupin had chosen to live in the darkest, dingiest street in Derbyshire -- the terrace of damp houses were barely illuminated by a distant sickly streetlight.
Snape had apparated into the street a few moments earlier and was limping caneless along the row of houses, peering at the numbers on the doors while the thin rain seeped into his robes. Drat the wolf for not being on the floo network, drat him for not replying to letters, drat him for his stupid disappearing act.
Still, thought Snape, on the bright side it’s the first time I’ve been outdoors without the stupid stick since the battle. He stopped dead in the middle of the pavement, frowning and shaking his head in bewilderment.
Since when did you start looking on the blasted ‘bright side’? he muttered to himself. At the same moment he spotted the number 15 painted on a door at the top of a short flight of steps. A few seconds later he rapped firmly on the peeling blue paintwork.
There was a long pause before a light came on in the hallway behind the door and Snape heard the rattle of a chain being fixed before the door opened a crack and a pale face peered out. The face looked a little worn, the grey-flecked hair was unkempt, but otherwise, Snape noted, on first observation there didn’t seem to be much visibly wrong with Remus Lupin.
"The Wolfsbane potion," said Snape, holding out a vial of thick, gloopy liquid. Lupin’s hand reached through the door and his fingers closed around the potion. Clutching the vial, the hand rapidly retreated inside, the movement seeming jerky and unnatural. So, there was something wrong then.
Lupin made to shut the door in his face and Snape jammed his foot into the small gap, intending to continue to force the door until he had a satisfactory answer, although what the question was he was not entirely certain.
"That’s not all, Lupin," he snarled, feeling the comfortable familiarity of an old animosity awaken in his chest. "I want to be sure you’re taking it properly. I’d hate to feel responsible if there’s suddenly a rash of news stories about the Beast of Bakewell, tearing muggles to pieces on the full moon…"
"Sod off, Snape!" growled Lupin, throwing his weight against the door. Instinctively Snape tried to hold the door open with his hip and immediately regretted it. Bright pain exploded behind his eyes.
When the green sparkles faded and he could finally see and think clearly again, he found he was lying on his back on the gravel path at the bottom of the short flight of stone steps. The sharp agony in his hip was gradually fading to an excruciating ache. A shabby shadow was bending over him, fussing frantically.
"Severus, can you hear me? Merlin, I’m so sorry Severus. I forgot about your leg. I didn’t mean to hurt you, it was just such a shock seeing you there…"
Eventually, and with a lot of what Snape considered unnecessary worrying, Lupin propped him into a sitting position, then proposed levitating him inside.
"I rather think not," he snarled. The last time he had been levitated anywhere by Lupin he had been unconscious, but the bumps to his head and bruises on his feet had made him distrustful of the werewolf’s co-ordination. Unless the bastard had been bumping him into things on purpose, which -- given how things had gone that night -- wasn’t entirely unlikely. Or had the bumps and bruises been Black’s fault…? Yes, probably.
Of course, a lot of water had passed under the bridge since then and they had formed an uneasy truce while they fought side by side. However, whatever the truth of the matter, he was still reluctant to be levitated, so with a burst of effort he attempted to stand.
The jabbing, searing pain that resulted was the last thing he knew until his eyes fluttered open inside a warm bright room. He was lying on a tattered but very comfortable soda and had been covered with a soft yellow blanket of fleece. His shoes had been removed.
Lupin was sitting a few feet away on a wooden dining chair, observing him, his head cocked to one side like a watchful animal. "Ah," said Lupin. "You’re back with us. I’m afraid I had to levitate you in the end, you were getting rather wet out there."
From the audible clatter of rain against the window pane it was clear to Snape that the drizzle had stepped up a gear while he was out cold. His robes were dry however, so he assumed Lupin had used a drying charm on him.
"Now, are you going to explain why you’re really making personal deliveries of potions? Something wrong with the school owls, maybe?" The question was asked lightly, the interrogator looking curious now, rather than angry at the visit.
"It’s gone kind of quiet in the espionage business," said Snape, a hint of sarcasm colouring his words. "I’m afraid I’m reduced to spying for Pomfrey on patients who don’t keep in touch."
Lupin’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. Snape dropped the sarcastic tone. "Honestly Lupin, she was worried. She said no one in the Order had heard from you."
"I’ve been busy," said Lupin. "And most of the people I’d have stayed in touch with are dead."
The statement sounded matter-of-fact rather than maudlin, but Snape was well aware that it didn’t stand up to examination. "McGonagall’s not dead, Pomfrey’s not dead," he pointed out. "Potter’s in America -- and while I can see where you’d make the mistake, it’s not actually the same as being dead. None of them have heard from you."
Lupin harumphed. The sound contained just the barest suggestion of amusement.
"Well, I’ve checked up on you and I can tell Pomfrey you’re certainly still alive," said Snape, "So I’ll just be apparating back to Hogwarts then."
"You’ll do nothing of the sort!" snapped Lupin. "No one who’s just fainted twice from pain should be apparating anywhere."
"It wouldn’t be the first time," murmured Snape, although he had to admit the sofa was very comfortable and he was loathe to move for a while.
Lupin’s eyes softened. Was that pity there? Oh bloody marvellous. "I know," said the grey-haired man. "You did a lot of dangerous things when you had to. But there’s really no need right now and I’d rather you didn’t splinch yourself six ways to Sunday just to avoid my company. I can go and work at the kitchen table."
"Work?" asked Snape, deciding the sofa really was too good to give up and thus changing the subject to avoid the appearance of having capitulated.
"I’m writing a piece for the International Journal of Dark Creature Studies. It’s the first time they’ve ever actually agreed to accept something from a living breathing dark creature. Who knows, maybe it marks a change in attitude…"
An awkward silence pervaded the room, the almost jokey atmosphere dissipating instantly at the mention of attitudes to lycanthropy. Snape felt his jaw clench. There was no way he would ever apologise for believing a werewolf could be a danger to the school. He was right about that and he knew it.
"Right then," said Lupin, breaking the silence at last, his voice a level, dead calm. "I’ll go and get on with it."
To be continued.
Return to Archive | next | previous