Fic: Never Friends

Saturday, January 8th, 2011 07:05 pm
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[personal profile] bearshorty
Title: Never Friends
Author: bearshorty
Fandom: Harry Potter
Summary: When Remus is injured, it is up to Snape to help whether he wants to or not. In the process, they talk of the past, air grievances and perhaps offer each other a tiny bit of friendship. Written for Snape’s birthday. Mention of R/S, R/T, Severus/Lily, James/Lily.
Word Count: 5068
Warning: Tiny mention of slash. Don’t read if it is not your thing.
Disclaimer: I don’t own the characters and I’m not making a profit.


The door squeaked as it opened. Remus could barely move his head, not to say anything about his arms, but he tried to turn towards the door and raise his wand anyway. As much as he could while lying on a small, ratty and smelly bed in the shabby room of “The Hog’s Head.” At least his right arm could still move a little. While he was reasonably safe here and he was pretty sure that Aberforth would not let anyone come upstairs who didn’t belong there, one could never be too careful. Not that he could defend himself right now. He was lucky he even managed to Apparate to any friendly territory at all.

“Oh, put it away. If I wanted you dead, you’d be dead. And it would make my night so much easier. Unfortunately, that is not to be.”

Remus dropped his arm back down as he heard a distinctive sneering baritone drawl out the words and the door closed.

“Severus. I wasn’t expecting you. I thought Madam Pomfrey…” Remus started coughing. His chest hurt. He didn’t mind since it distracted him from the pain rolling in from other areas of his body. Well, it is not that much worse than after a transformation, he thought. His last transformation was right around Christmas. He had an early dinner with the Weasleys and Harry, said goodbye and then went home to endure the agony. That was worse, it had to be. He was sure. Finally he stopped coughing and then he saw the scowl on Severus’s face. “I do appreciate you coming round.”

“Yes, let’s have tea and biscuits.” Snape rolled his eyes and came closer to the bed. He saw a small low table against a wall, moved it closer and started to take out vials from his coat pockets. There were a lot of vials. Then when the table, which was a bit shaky, Remus noticed, was almost too full, Snape took off his large traveling cloak and put it over the one armchair on the other side of the small room.

“How are you, Severus?” Remus felt it was polite to ask. He coughed again.

“Do keep quiet, Lupin, will you? I need the silence.”

Remus did not need to be told twice. His lungs did not object either. Severus came closer again, pulled up a stool, sat down and took out his wand. He started murmuring and trailing his wand from the top of Remus’ head down to his feet and back up again. Remus recognized some of the diagnostic spells. Not all though. He saw Severus frown when the wand reached his chest, which was probably not a good sign. Then Severus started murmuring something else. Suddenly, the pain in his chest lessened. The rest of the body still hurt.

Severus put the wand back in his clothing, took one of the vials and briskly held it up to Remus’ mouth while lifting his head just a little with the other hand.

“Drink.”

Remus opened his mouth and drank. It tasted disgusting. Well, that he was used to. Wolfsbane Potion tasted worse. He thought it did; it had been a few years. The pain in his chest disappeared. He took a deep breath. His lungs were working again. Severus put the empty vial on the table and started organizing all the vials and bottles. Remus took another deep breath.

“Thanks. That feels better.”

“Wonderful,” Severus responded in a dry tone. “Now that you are not in immediate danger of death, I just have to fix your broken left arm, kidneys, your liver, cuts on your legs, broken toes and other things that are wrong with you. Just as I imagined my evening, to spend it in your company tending to whatever you managed to bring on yourself. And no, that was not a request for information.”

“You don’t have to stay, really. I know you must have things to do. Just leave me some potions. I’ll be fine. I feel much better already,” Remus said. He made the mistake of provoking Greyback and he really did not want to saddle other people with the consequences. And he was feeling better. At least he could breathe much better. He added, “Maybe Madam Pomfrey can look in tomorrow or something.”

“Lupin, save the martyr act,” Severus replied while picking up two potions, measuring something and mixing them together in a glass. “I can’t go anywhere until you are reasonably healthy. Dumbledore doesn’t want anyone else here with you. If Greyback, or anyone serving the Dark Lord, discovers me healing you that won’t pose a significant problem. Discovering you running to Dumbledore for help would, however, damage your cover. So you are stuck with me and my healing skills. Lucky for you they are more than competent.”

Severus picked up another potion and added to the mixture. He held it out to Remus. “Drink.”

This mixture tasted a little better and his body felt more numb. A pain potion, most likely.

“Well, thank you for doing this, then.”

“I’m not doing it for you.” Severus took his wand back out and began to work on Remus’ left arm.

“I appreciate it anyway. I know we are not friends, Severus, but I am grateful for your care.” Remus closed his eyes and breathed through some pain as the bones in his left arm began knitting together. Really, with the pain reliever potion or whatever that was, the pain was not that bad. Certainly he was used to more every month.

For the next half an hour the only sounds in the room were Remus’ careful breathing, Severus occasionally reciting spells and the clinking of potion glasses. Slowly but surely Remus felt he was mending. He thought of all the times he spent in the Hogwarts infirmary when he was a boy. The sounds and the smells of the potions reminded him of that time. He remembered James and Sirius and Peter sneaking him candy and later firewhisky. Well, the last was Sirius’ idea and he was generally right. Remus opened his eyes. He had to stop his thoughts heading in that direction. He didn’t want to start remembering Sirius right now. It had only been a little over six months since Sirius died and if he started thinking he would end up crying again and he didn’t want to do that when other people were around. He needed a distraction. Knowing that he might just piss Severus off with questions he asked one anyway. Anything to distract him.

“How is the Defense Against the Dark Arts going? I hear you’ve been progressing with the non-verbal spells for the sixth years?”

Severus looked at him incredulously. He didn’t answer for a few moments; instead he studied Remus’ face like an irritating puzzle he couldn’t solve.

“You are engaging me in small talk? Really? Because you care so much about your former position,” Severus finally answered. He gave Remus another potion to drink, this one tasting like mint.

“Humor me. Please.” Remus put forward his most honest voice. It wouldn’t make things worse. “The silence is too much. You can always tell me about the latest book you read.”

Severus sighed.

“Please,” Remus asked again. His back was hurting less now.

Severus still did not answer but started moving the wand in a complicated pattern over his right side of the torso. After a few minutes without any response, Remus was about to give up on it and decided to start thinking about what he can do to get back in Greyback’s good graces.

“The students are idiots.” Severus did not stop the movement of his wand and it took Remus a few seconds to realize that Severus said something.

“What?”

“In Defense as in Potions the students are idiots. But at least they are less likely to blow themselves up.”

Remus smiled. “Some do pick up the basics fairly quickly. I liked teaching the fourth years – not stressed over O.W.L.s or N.E.W.T.s, yet far enough advanced for more complex spells.”

“If they do pick up anything at all. Even after repeating the information five times many still ask the stupidest questions.”

“That happens. Certainly. I remember one Gryffindor in then fifth year asking me a question about a Nundu that I literally just explained. I don’t think she got it even after a second explanation. But many do want to learn.” Remus felt like a teacher again complaining and talking about students in the Staff room. “I do miss teaching sometimes.”

He spoke without thinking and closed his eyes when Severus briefly paused. He really didn’t mean to cause any confrontation here or allude to the part Severus played in his exit from teaching.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring that up. I don’t hold any grudges over that.”

“That is great to know. I was so worried,” Snape sneered and concentrated back on his work.

“Severus, you did cause me to be fired even if it was necessary. I just regret that some students and parents think ill of me because of who I am. You could have had me fired another way, that’s all.”

“What other way was there? Dumbledore was always clear with you that you could have the position for only a year. Not to mention, you served your purpose of fishing out Black. Letting everyone know that you are a werewolf was … efficient.”

“Efficient. Right.” Remus did not want this conversation, if one could call it that, to escalate into an argument. He forced himself not to rise to the bait. As much as he trusted Dumbledore it still hurt to know why he was hired in the first place. Not that he had any illusions about this at the time.

Severus finished with whatever spell he was performing and prepared another vial. After Remus drank it (it tasted like cinnamon this time), Severus took out his pocket watch.

“We have to wait an hour now for this potion to work and heal your liver. Then we can move on to the next problem. Try not to move too much.” Severus put the watch back in his pocket and moved towards his cloak. Remus began to think that perhaps Severus would now leave for an hour, maybe go downstairs to the pub, but he merely searched thought the cloak and pulled out a book. Then he sat down in the armchair, opened the book at the beginning and started reading.

Remus strained to see the title and the author. “Thomas Hardy?” He asked, surprised.

Snape looked up warily. “What about it?”

“Nothing. I was just not expecting you to read Muggle classics. I read him a long time ago. My mother insisted when I came home for the summer holidays that I needed a proper Muggle literature education as well.”

“Fascinating.” Severus went back to his book.

Remus stared at the ceiling. The pain was definitely manageable now especially as the pain potion still seemed to hold. He just could not stand the idea of simply lying here for an hour with only his thoughts.

“I remember in school you were always reading something. I often wished to ask you about the books. I didn’t know too many people who also liked to read for fun.”

“You mean when you and your bestest friends were not busy tormenting me and making my life hell every day?” Severus’ voice was bitter. Remus flinched.

Remus took a deep breath. Maybe it was time to air this out. Surely they could discuss this like adults.

“Look, I know you hated James and Sirius. Hate them still. Will always hate them. No matter who they became after school and not even considering that you gave as good as you got. “ He paused and spoke again carefully, “But I never...never... picked on you. The only time you and I fought was when it was a group of your Slytherins against us or when I was defending myself. I stayed out of it.”

“Nice selective memory you got there.” Snape did not really move but his voice rose, his book was on his lap, and his arms now clutched the armchair. “You mean to say that you were never the lookout that allowed them to ambush me nor did you ever lie for them to get them out of trouble. Yes, the two of them were the main bullies but you and the rat were not just observers there. Can you deny that?”

Remus swallowed. “No.” His words just tumbled out because the picture that Severus painted of him was worse than if had initiated the pranks. “I’m not proud of that. But they were the only friends I had! They accepted me and knew me and yes, I did lie for them sometimes and help them but not once did I suggest anything or start anything or raised my wand against you or humiliated you.”

“You almost killed me.” Severus’ voice had gone soft and quiet again which to Remus seemed always more menacing than the raised tone.

“That was not my fault! Sirius was an idiot and he did not think things through. I’m grateful every day that James got there in time! Every day! You think that it didn’t affect me too? I had nightmares for weeks! I didn’t speak to Sirius for a fortnight, at least. You can’t…” Remus closed his eyes. Maybe silence and ghosts would be better. Talking raised ghosts anyway.

“Oh, yes. You gave Black the silent treatment for a few weeks and that was punishment enough for attempted murder. How horrible.” Severus looked at Remus and his eyes narrowed. He added in a smooth cool voice, “Did he shag you as an apology, then; was that the condition of your forgiveness?”

Remus froze. He was aware that Severus always knew what to say to hurt the most; he knew how good Severus was with verbal battles. Why was he surprised that Severus would retaliate on such a personal level. “How dare you! Leave it alone, Snape!” Now he was raising his voice.

“Hurt your feelings, have I? Poor Lupin, pining away for Black, thinking no one knew. You know you were always more obvious than you thought. Like he gave a shit. He used you when it suited him, when it was convenient, like last year. You think he was shagging you for love? Maybe you should actually tell Nymphadora why you keep rejecting her advances. She seems to be fixated on your brief time together last summer when you used her just like Black used you.” Snape smiled a very unpleasant smile. He seemed determined to hurt Remus in as many ways as he could. And he was succeeding.

The anger and hurt and ghosts and memories were all rising inside. Suddenly Remus wanted to hurt Severus just as much and he spoke without thinking it through.

“Like you should talk. I know where Lily was on her hen night two days before she married James. She told me all about it.”

Severus paled.

A long silence fell on the room. Remus squeezed his eyes shut. Remus didn’t want to look at Severus. He couldn’t believe that he betrayed Lily after so many years; she confided in him and he promised never to tell anyone as long as he lived. It didn’t matter how much Severus was provoking him. He should have kept his mouth shut. It was too late now. And he was sure that Severus would not let this go.

He could hear Severus’ breathing; it was too fast.

“She ...told you? When? What did she…” Severus trailed off. He sounded strange like he was trying really hard to hold it together. Remus could not remember the last time Severus was at a loss of words.

There was no point in pretending that he did not know or couldn’t remember the details. Remus took a deep breath, opened his eyes and looked directly at Severus. He spoke quietly and carefully.

“We were out on a mission in February the year Harry was born. She was already pregnant with him but she refused to stay home. ‘I’m pregnant, not an invalid,’ she would say. You know how stubborn she was.” Remus smiled briefly a wistful smile. “So I came along to make sure she’d be ok and we had to wait at the back of this shop for a while for our contact. And we talked. And she just told me after making me promise that it would be just between the two of us. Well, first I confided to her about Sirius. She was the first person I ever told. I wasn’t sure what was going on with us, Sirius and me, I mean and I needed to talk to someone.”

Remus paused. He really did not want to share any details of his personal life with Severus, especially not about Sirius, but he needed to make sure that Snape understood that conversation with Lily was not just because Lily randomly talked.

“So I told her my problems and asked for her advice. And then …then, I think she wanted to reassure me that life was never simple and that all of us have our secrets and it was ok. So she brought up her hen night which happened what, a year and a half earlier. She mentioned meeting you in that pub near her childhood home. She said that she saw you when she was with her friends and sister and Mum and that she had something to drink and that you looked sad. And then she found out that your Mum just died. She told me that, when she went to talk to you, you were not in the best mood and told her off. That you were pissed that she would not speak to you for two years and you didn’t need her sympathy now or something. She said that she couldn’t get that conversation and how sad you looked out of her head for the rest of the night and after the hen night was over, she snuck out of her Mum’s house and went to see you.”

Remus was not sure how to phrase the next part or even if he wanted to say it. But he started this. He tried to keep any fluctuations out of his voice, like he was just giving a book summary. It is not like Severus did not know what happened, he was there. Severus just wanted to know just how much Lily told someone else about a very private moment.

“She told me that you two had a fight with lots of yelling and that afterwards you slept together. And she left early and she made it very clear that it was one off and that you would not go back to being friends. And two days later she married James and she never regretted that decision. She said that you both used each other because you both needed to and that happens sometimes. You were sad about your Mum and you knew that she was nervous about getting married at eighteen. And you probably wanted to hurt James too,” Remus paused and remembered their earlier discussion. “So don’t tell me you never use people.”

Severus closed his eyes but he did not say anything. In fact, he was remarkably quiet.

Remus continued anyway, “She said you were already a Death Eater then, three months out of school. And that you probably hated her after that for who she was and what she said to you then. She loved James. She always loved him. But she never told anyone about that night, until me, and I don’t think she told anyone else.”

Severus was still quiet. He got up, walked to a muddy little window and stood with his back to Remus staring into the snow outside. His back was rigid. Remus stopped talking. He really regretted bringing this up and Severus would probably retaliate at any minute. No matter how much Severus might hate Lily now, Remus was still privy to something personal and he never liked it when others meddled in his personal life. Moments passed.

Remus decided to change the subject or at least go back to an earlier topic. Maybe Severus would also pretend that the last ten minutes never happened.

“Look, I’m sorry for anything I did to you in school. I don’t hold the grudge about anything you did, either. But I will not apologize for being friends with them; they were my family. Well, I am sorry I was friends with Peter, although I always thought he was a good friend at the time.” Remus swallowed his anger that rose every time he thought of Peter now. All those years he hated Sirius and hated himself for still loving him despite his betrayal. And there wasn’t a betrayal on Sirius’ part.

“If I could kill that bloody traitor I would in a heartbeat,” Severus was still facing the window and his voice was full of malice.

Remus seized on the mutual enmity.

“I know what you mean.”

“I was stuck in the house with him all of the past summer. He was in my bloody things, walking around my house. I entertained myself by thinking of how I could torture him in his rat form if only I had the leeway.”

Remus could not even imagine living with Peter now that he knew that this was a man responsible for killing all his friends and ruining Sirius’ life. It would be even worse for him than for Severus. Still, he could relate on this subject.

“I hear you.” He knew that he could not ask what Dumbledore was planning on that score but he hoped that he could run into Peter again someday to bring him to some sort of justice. He would not kill him, Harry was right those years ago. But he couldn’t bear the thought of Peter being free.

Silence fell on the room again but no tension remained. Remus was grateful.

“Well, we are not the people we were twenty years ago,” he said after a little while. “Do you remember what you were planning your life to be twenty years ago? I bet you didn’t think we would end up here.”

“What with you in this hovel sharing a pleasant evening?” Severus turned and went back to sit in the armchair. He took out his pocket watch again, checked it and put it back. “Hm, twenty years ago I just became a legal adult and I was thrilled I could do magic anytime I wanted. Avery and Mulciber threw me a little party in Slytherin common room and I got drunk on firewhisky. I couldn’t wait for school to be over. I couldn’t wait to get power. No, I did not think we would end up here. But nothing ever works out like we want, does it?”

“No, I suppose not,” Remus sighed. A thought occurred to him. “Wait, you turned seventeen twenty years ago? Do you mean twenty years ago today? Is it your birthday?”

“It is January 9th last time I checked and I was born on this day so yes, it is the joyous day of my arrival into the world. And I get to spend it not alone in my rooms like I planned with alcohol and a good book but with you, healing all your extensive injuries.”

“I didn’t realize. I’m sorry. Well, Happy Birthday, Severus. Really. I hope you will have many more and that you will get to spend them in any way you wish. Let me buy you a drink or something once you finished healing me.”

Severus grunted but did not answer. He checked his watch one more time, snapped it closed and then moved back to the stool by the bed. He took out his wand and started doing diagnostic tests again.

He nodded as he moved the wand back and forth and Remus took it as a good sign. Severus gave him something else to drink and then began to do spells over his feet. The last remaining pain was going away. His body still ached but it was feeling more normal.

“I like his prose.”

Remus was startled out of his thoughts. “What?”

“Thomas Hardy. I like his writing style. He is one of my favorite authors ever since I read “Jude the Obscure” when I was twelve.” Severus was not looking at him. He was concentrating on his wand. Remus smiled.

“Did you read ‘Mayor of Casterbridge’ before? That is the book you are reading, right?”

“Yes. A long time ago. I remember it very vaguely.” Severus voice was not sarcastic, it was not mocking. Severus was really discussing a book with him! This was unexpected. Maybe they needed to clear the air between them a long time ago.

“I read it again a few years ago; it really is different reading it as an adult. I kept thinking about all the mistakes I made, after reading the story. At least I never sold my wife and daughter in a drunken stupor! It is an excellent character study. You want to like him but he is not the best person sometimes. Yet he feels like such a real person. And then Hardy is good at showing consequences.” It was a long time since Remus talked to anyone about books. “What made you pick it up again?”

“It is a birthday present from my father. It arrived this morning.” Severus had finished the spell and began mixing another potion. It looked complicated.

“Your father?” Remus realized that he knew nothing about Severus and his life other than that his Mum died when he was eighteen.

“Yes,” Severus paused for a bit and then seemingly came to a decision. He was still concentrating on the potion. “My father loves books. He never finished school; he was always too impatient. But he loves to read. When I was a boy, every Sunday he would take me to a bookstore and we would browse and sometimes buy something. And we would talk about books all afternoon. He taught me to read too. He was not always the best father and he was a shitty husband but every Sunday was our day. Like your mother, he was adamant that I was well acquainted with Muggle classics.” Severus was concentrating on mixing but his face was relaxed. Remus was very surprised that Severus was sharing the details of his early life at all. He decided not to question it too much and instead to offer something of his own favorite childhood memories.

“Yes, my Mum also used to take me to see films in the summer. I’m glad she did so. I used to like westerns and comedies.” Remus had really fond memories of those days. He suddenly wished he could see his mother again. It has been five years since she died and he still missed her. “Do you see your father often?”

“No, not really. I send him books on his birthday and I visit a few times in the summer. We write sometimes. He moved to York when Mother died. There wasn’t work and he wanted a new start and I was eighteen. So he left me the house and just moved for a new job. He remarried. To a widow with two children, muggles like him. He just wanted a normal life with no magic. Here, drink this.” There was a lot of potion to drink. For some reason it tasted like hazelnuts.

“Thanks.”

“I mended all your broken bones. This potion should heal the rest of your internal injuries. You need to stay in bed and do not move for at least six hours. And you need to sleep.” Severus went to the armchair and brought back his traveling cloak. He started packing away all the vials.

Remus was no longer in pain and his head was much clearer. He didn’t try to sit up since he did not want to prolong his stay here.

“Great. Now I need to think up something to get back into Greyback’s good graces.”

“I’m sure you’ll think of something non-tragic. I would prefer it if I did not have to do this again. I have classes to teach and many other things to worry about.”

“I’ll try not to get beaten up by a crazed werewolf again.”

“See to it.” Severus pushed the low table back and moved the stool. He put his traveling cloak back on. “I’ll tell Aberforth to check in on you in a few hours. If you need a chamber pot, let him play nurse. Do not, I repeat, do not try to get up.”

“Right. Got it.”

“I’ll come back tomorrow early before my first class to make sure the potion worked. And you will have to come back here next Friday. I do not care what Greyback has you doing. Eight o’clock.”

Remus nodded, “I won’t forget. Thank you again, Severus. And happy birthday. I’ll buy you that drink next Friday then.”

Severus did not reply but moved towards the door, his cloak billowing behind him when he turned. He did pause at the door. “Good night, Lupin.” And then he left, closing the door firmly shut behind him.

Remus felt tired. It was probably the last potion, whatever it was. Tomorrow will be a long and complicated day but he would figure it out when it came. He no longer felt like he was run over by the Hogwarts Express.

As he was drifting off to sleep, Remus remembered a conversation with Harry this past Christmas just two weeks ago when he was defending Severus to Harry and spoke of trust. He mentioned that he and Severus would never be bosom friends or friends of any kind really, but that he would always be grateful for the potion Severus provided him three years before. But after tonight, a tiny little hope rose in Remus that maybe he and Severus can build some kind of friendship with time. Maybe he would buy Severus a drink and they could talk about books and not dwell on the past as much.

Sirius would have hated this development. Remus smiled as he fell asleep just picturing Sirius ranting.

THE END.

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