Title: A Man Named Snape
Author: SassyInkPen (June 2004)
Fandom: Harry Potter
Rating: Mature - 13
Summary: When things get too tough, Severus makes a hard decision.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to JK Rowling, no money is made off this.
Written for the Sleeping Refuge random quote challenge.
Assigned Quote: "Sometimes I remember the darkness of my past. Bringing back these memories I wish I didn't have. Wounds so deep they never show, they never go away. Like moving pictures in my head for years and years they've played."
A Man Named Snape
With a final scrawl of his quill, Severus finished the note he was writing and jammed the pen back into his serviceable inkwell. He rolled up the parchment and sealed it, setting it atop a small pile of similar scrolls. Although his hands shook with the enormity of what he was doing...his mind was firm and his resolve never wavered.
He pushed his chair back and stood, crossing over to the small cauldron cooling on the worktable. As he stirred its contents, he wondered idly if he would ever do a task like this again, the simple work of the art. It seemed likely...but never with the same relish. His love for potion making was, perhaps, the only thing he regretted giving up. But, there was no question in his mind that it was well worth it.
He took up a tiny dish of crushed Black Seed and tipped it against the lip of the cauldron. Just a bit...enough to do the job, but not so much that he'd end up a blathering idiot like Lockheart. His lip curled in disgust as he thought of the man, and he stopped short of adding just a pinch more. Perhaps he could maintain some of his sense of propriety.
It was a tricky thing, brewing a potion to erase one's own memory. If you weren't careful you could lose your ability to function. If you lost it entirely...the result was fatal. Somewhere short of that, you became someone else's problem. Severus shuddered at the thought of spending the rest of his days wandering the halls of St. Mungo's. Perhaps that was why he remained at the castle for this. If things went wrong, he knew Albus would care for him. He paused for a moment, trying to assess if this idea was cowardice or practicality, but left the question unanswered. If he dawdled too long, he was liable to be found out. That was supposed to happen after...not before.
Giving himself a solid shake, he set back about his task, mixing the ingredients carefully and re-checking his notes every so often even though he had them memorized. He ground some clover and added it to the mixture as well, for success...and a vague hope that it's properties of fidelity might help him stay true to himself even if his memories were gone. Not that he had any desire to remain Severus Snape, but he wouldn't mind coming out of this with a certain hold on his intellectual capability.
The potion had to settle and steep a little longer, and Severus used the opportunity to move quietly around his workroom, touching jars and stroking glass vials with one long finger. These were his only friends...all he had left. Well, all except the damn memories that continued to haunt him day and night. And it seemed the longer he lived, the more of them he had...nothing ever seemed to change for the better. He couldn't stand to live with them any more...couldn't sleep, barely ate. There was never any peace. Always thoughts of death and betrayal and hatred running though his mind and clouding his view. There was no one he could look at any longer whom he hadn't hurt, or who hadn't hurt him. Better to be rid of it all then to continue this way. The war was over, after all, and they didn't really need him to clean up the aftermath. He'd done his job, and done it in grisly fashion...now he was no longer needed. He was the aftermath.
The reflection of his own face in the side of a flat bottle caught his eye and he leaned close to peer at it. Looking into his own eyes, all he could see were the countless horrors he'd suffered...or inflicted. Finally, he pulled away, returning to the cauldron to check on his potion. It appeared to be ready and he stared into its depths with grim determination.
He cleaned off the table with practiced efficiency, leaving only the cauldron. With it he put a small silver chalice, ladle and a yellow candle dipped in black. Then he took the stack of scrolls from his desk and set them on the table as well, arranging them carefully so as not to be missed. He paused for a moment, going over in his mind each step of his finely crafted plans.
The school term had ended the day before and most of the students were already on the train home. What few there were. The war had taken its toll both in numbers and in spirit, but Albus felt sure that as life returned to normal, more and more families would send their children out again.
Severus was certain that he'd tied up as many loose ends as he could...or cared to, and after going over his notes one final time, he knew that there was nothing left to do. With trembling fingers, he undid the hasp of his robes, and worked loose the many buttons of his coat. Stripping down to his trousers, he tossed the entire wad of stiff black and white clothing onto the fire. It smoked thickly and then burst into flame, giving off a stench of wool and dust. On the sideboard, there was a plain parcel tied with string, and this was where he turned his attention next, tugging it open nervously. From within the crinkled brown paper he removed a shirt. A gleaming, new, silk shirt. Forest green, dark - but unmistakably green. It was unlike anything he would ever think to wear, and he ran it through his fingers thoughtfully. He had intended to get red...but couldn't bring himself to do it. This would have to suffice.
The shirt felt light and airy when he slipped it on, cool against his skin. He let his eyes drift shut and stood there for several long moments. This was what he was sure taking the potion would feel like...cool and smooth and new. Light. Free. He wouldn't know it, of course...but neither would he know the weight of a lifetime that nearly crushed him now. Spurred on by that thought, he buttoned up the shirt hastily, tucking it in and fixing the cuffs. He looked down at his own silk-clad chest with a vague sense of wonder.
Severus approached the table and stood, palms pressed into the rough wood, surveying his little tableau. He took his wand and lit the candle, thinking of long nights of peaceful sleep and days of pleasant activity. Then he picked up the ladle and dipped it in the cauldron, holding it up to watch the dark amber liquid trickle back into its pot. It was almost the color of coffee, but with an unfathomable depth to it. He filled the chalice. Setting it in front of himself, he stared into the candle flame and let his mind wander, sifting through all the old memories, the regrets and the longings, even the more recent events heaped on top of so much other misery, mulling them over one last time before choosing oblivion. It was more than enough.
In one swift motion he snatched up the chalice and placed it to his lips, tipping it back and swallowing the contents in three long gulps. It was thin and oily, but it went down heavy and tasted bitter. The Lindel root, he thought absently. He could feel it sitting in the pit of his stomach, sending little tremors through his system, making him feel anxious and impatient. A trickle of cold sweat ran down his neck. Then the pain slammed into him like a bludger and he staggered backward a few feet, arms drawn reflexively up against his chest, before everything went black and he felt himself falling. He was unconscious before he hit the floor.
"Congratulations, Harry," said Remus, cracking open a bottle of butterbeer and setting it on the table in front of the boy. "You've officially survived your first year of teaching."
"Piece of cake," grinned Harry, taking a slug from the bottle. Remus sat down next to him with a butterbeer for himself and stretched his legs out under the table.
Professor Trelawney leaned across the table, peering at him through her thick, clouded spectacles, pointing a bony finger at him. "Next year will not be so easy for you...mark my words, the signs are all there for those who to choose to see..."
Both men rolled their eyes and Remus stood up saying, "Get you a of cup tea, Sibyll?"
"That would be lovely," she said with a faint grin. She sat back, but continued to eye Harry with trepidation.
The late afternoon sun was streaming through the windows of the professor's lounge. The majority of the staff had already arrived and was gathered in groups, chatting about the past year, the coming summer and the world at large. The house elves had set out trays of snacks and sweets and the general mood was merry and pleasant. Dumbledore entered the room with Professor Flitwick, both deep in conversation. When he looked up, he seemed almost startled to find the room full of people, even though it was he who called the meeting.
Realization dawned and his eyes lit up, "Ah yes...is everyone here then?"
Everyone automatically started to glance around, and after he scanned the room, Remus said, "It seems we're just waiting on Severus."
Dumbledore nodded, "Excellent then. We're almost ready, so I'll just get my tea and we can get started as soon as he arrives."
The group returned to chatting and laughing amongst themselves, and continued that way until gradually the room quieted as, one by one, they began to realize that Snape was still absent. Harry went to get another butterbeer, and Professor Trelawney reached for a pumpkin tart. Dumbledore sat at the head of the table, steepling his fingers, and finally said, "Well...I'd best see what's keeping him then."
He stood up and went to the fireplace, taking a handful of powder from the urn on the wall. Green flames flared up when he tossed it on the fire, and he stuck his head through, saying, "Really, Severus, term is over and we're all waiting...."
Remus leaned back in his chair, amused by the paternal tone of the old man and the mental image he had of Snape bent over some brew, completely unaware of the time. He was startled from his thoughts and the grin vanished from his face when he heard Dumbledore's faint, "Oh dear...." before the man disappeared through the fire entirely. Concerned, he jumped up and followed before the portal could close, followed sharply by Harry, Madam Hootch and one or two others.
Everyone piled up behind Dumbledore who stood towering over the prone figure of Snape, sprawled on the floor. There was a collective gasp and they all started talking at once.
"Is he dead?"
"Is he hurt?"
"What the hell is he wearing?" This last was from Harry as he wedged his way to the front.
Remus knelt on the ground, fingers at Severus' throat and chest, trying to determine the extent of the crisis. "Well, he's alive at any rate," he said breathlessly, relieved. There was a small pool of blood on the floor, trickling out from beneath Severus' head. As Dumbledore stood over them casting various examination and illuminating spells, Remus pulled a handkerchief from his pocket.
A soft moan escaped Severus' lips and Harry, who was hanging over Remus' shoulder said, "I think he's coming around."
"Well step back then," said Remus, "Give him some room."
Slight twitches and muscle movements in the man's limbs and face were the next signs of life and soon he was reaching blindly with one hand, in the classic way that the recovering try to brush away the darkness covering them. Remus noticed the hem of Dumbledore's robes turn and swish out of his peripheral vision, but his attention was focused on Severus.
"That's it, easy now," he said soothingly as Severus blinked his eyes slowly a few times before managing to keep them open. "Can you tell us what happened? Are you badly hurt?"
Severus jerked with a start and tried to sit up, eyes wide and casting about the room. Remus thought he looked like a frightened child. Putting his hand under the potion master's shoulders, he helped him to sit up, then pressed the handkerchief to a glistening sticky patch on the back of Severus' head. It was surprising to him that Severus was so quiet in the face of a crowd of onlookers, and he assumed the man must still be rather stunned. The way Snape was dressed, however, was a bit of a puzzle.
The air was filled with comments from the others, theories of what must have happened and questions for Snape. None of which he answered. The clearing of Dumbledore's throat brought the room to an uneasy silence and all eyes turned to him.
"It would appear," he said gravely, consulting the scroll of parchment he now held in his hands, "That Professor Snape has been the victim of a permanent memory erasing potion of his own invention...and taken by his own hand..."
Remus was quite certain he heard a tremor in the old man's voice and he knew this was serious indeed. Over Dumbledore's shoulder, on the table, he could see more scrolls and a candle that had burned down to its holder. As he watched, the flame guttered and went out in a trail of smoke. He looked down at the dark haired man and murmured, "Oh, Severus what have you done...?" He didn't bother to ask why. There were more than enough reasons that sprang to mind.
The little crowd erupted into a flurry of gasps and exclamations. Theories were tossed about and views were exchanged, along with a few less than pleasant remarks which made Remus scowl. Again, the clearing of Dumbledore's throat silenced all of it, and he said, "I would like some time alone with Severus. Please excuse us. I will give you all news when I have it."
They all filed out the door, still talking and chattering amongst themselves, except for Remus, who stayed behind to help. A healing spell for Severus' head wound, and a trio of transfigured armchairs later, and they sat before a flickering fire. Severus was still quite dazed, looking as lost and uncertain as Remus expected he ought to. What concerned him most was that Severus had yet to speak, and he hoped feverishly that the potion hadn't been so strong he'd forgotten how.
Remus went to get him a glass of water, which he took and sipped for a moment, then finally said, "Can you...Can you tell me where I am please?"
"You really don't remember then," said Remus in a gush of breath he hadn't been aware he was holding. He sat down on the edge of his seat, leaning toward Severus, arms resting on his thighs. It was just so difficult to fathom Severus doing a thing like this. He put forth such a harsh and unbreakable front. Remus tried to imagine what it was that finally drove Severus to this, ran the past several weeks through his head trying to find a clue, an event...something that would explain this.
"I don't seem to be able to remember anything..." said Severus quietly. His voice was distant sounding, airy, as if he didn't really quite grasp the situation yet.
Dumbledore had been watching intently, and now said, "You are at Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I am Albus, and that," he pointed, "is Remus. We are your friends."
"At school..." Severus repeated, turning obediently to look where Dumbledore indicated.
Remus gasped when their eyes met. They were still the glittering black eyes that had always been there, but they were completely devoid of anything resembling Severus Snape. Where Snape's eyes had been hard and haunted, these eyes were clear. Granted, at the moment they held confusion and the signs of impending panic, but there was such a striking difference that it left Remus breathless. He had to stop himself from reaching out and touching Severus' face.
"And I am...?" the man asked, leaning closer.
"You're Severus...Severus Snape," Remus supplied, but there was not even so much as a flicker in those dark eyes. He truly did not remember.
Severus sat back in his chair, huffing slightly, hands working nervously as if he didn't know what to do with them. He looked back to Dumbledore, "Are you telling me I did this to myself?"
"But...why? Why would I do that?" he asked earnestly.
"Perhaps this will explain," said Albus, taking one of the scrolls from the pile in his lap and handing it to Severus. It was written in Snape's own hand and addressed to "Severus Snape".
Severus took the scroll and held it gingerly, staring at it a long time. Remus could see it shaking slightly in his hand. Severus shook his head slowly and said, "I don't even know this name...."
"Go ahead and read it," encouraged Remus, "I'm sure it will explain a great deal."
With a dubious glance, Severus pulled the seal off it and stretched out the parchment, scanning it briefly and then started to read out loud, "If you're reading this, it means that my plan was successful and my calculations were thorough enough to leave you with sufficient faculties to get by in life. If someone else had to read it to you, then I am deeply sorry and can only hope that was the worst of it."
Severus glanced up and looked between them quizzically. "This sounds like some kind of joke..."
Albus smiled sympathetically and said, "Keep reading, I'm sure it must explain more about your situation."
Arching an eyebrow, Severus continued, "I am truly sorry it had to come to this. I spent many long nights trying to imagine how this would feel for you. I even went to the trouble of conducting experiments with temporary potions so that I could understand your fears and address them more accurately. Those experiments only served to prove to me that this is indeed the best course of action.
Make no mistake. The potion that robbed you of your memory is quite permanent. There is no cure and no antidote. Do NOT go looking for one.
If I can give you any shred of advice from your former self it is leave your past alone ~~ there is nothing you will find that will not bring you misery and loathing. You were a -"
At this point, Severus stopped and stared helplessly over the top of the page into the flames of the fire, despair written clearly across his features. This time, Remus did not hold back, but moved closer and put a hand on Severus' shoulder. Severus turned to look at him, and the expression he wore sent chills down Remus' spine. "You know me?" he asked, "Knew me before, I mean?"
Remus nodded, somewhat confused.
By way of explanation, Severus continued reading, "You were a vile human being who was raised by vile people. You suffered pain and humiliation, and you flung it back onto whomever you could. You were a party to countless atrocities. Trust me when I tell you that whatever you are feeling now, it cannot remotely compare to what I feel as I write this...what I feel every damn moment."
Remus' heart ached, both from the tremble in the man's voice as he read, and from the words of the one now gone. He'd grown to consider himself Severus' friend and was ashamed that he had not been aware of the pain he'd been in.
After another long pause, Severus finished the letter, voice flat and deflated, "Rest assured that you will not want for anything, you have enough gold in Gringotts to provide you with a comfortable living for a great long while. You will find the details of this account in your rooms along with other necessary papers and instructions. I have little doubt that Albus will be there to assist you.
There is nothing left to say, except to warn you again...leave your past alone and make a new life for yourself."
Severus looked up and turned to Dumbledore, lost and bewildered. "It would seem my future is in your hands..."
"I will indeed be here to assist you, of course," said Dumbledore, giving him a faint smile.
Remus was beside himself, "Isn't there anything we can do?"
"It seems perfectly clear," said Dumbledore, "that we should not attempt to do so. In my note as well, Severus stressed to me his desire that we do not make any attempts to reverse the spell."
"But you heard what he wrote, he wasn't thinking, Albus. He was clearly distressed...." Remus ran a hand through his hair. "It's as if he committed suicide..."
"Was I really as bad as this says?" came the voice from the other chair. Severus was holding up the parchment, looking bewildered.
A stab of guilt hit Remus in the chest. He'd been talking about Severus as if he was gone, when he was really right there next to him. But...it wasn't Severus anymore. It surprised him, how disturbing this was, how Severus could have been so miserable right under everyone's nose and they didn't realize. Remus felt that he, of all people, should have been able to recognize it. He knew what it was like to be ostracized and shunned, to feel that sense of loathing. But he'd always had friends around to help keep him sane, to take care of him when he needed it, to reassure him. Now he'd had a chance to repay some of that, and he'd failed. He was jolted from his thoughts as Dumbledore rose and sifted through the remaining scrolls.
"I need to be getting back to notify the others," explained Albus. "I'd like to quell any unfounded rumors before they take root too deeply. This will be hard enough for Severus as it is." He nodded at Severus and added, "Rest assured you will have a home here for as long as you need it."
Then he turned to Remus, "I think it best that someone stay with him for the time being, until he gets his bearings and settles in a bit. Would you be so kind as to show him to his rooms? Perhaps the two of you can start to sort out whatever he left there."
A knot formed in the pit of Remus' stomach, but he nodded all the same, resolving not to fail Severus this time.
"Oh," added Dumbledore, apparently remembering something, "This is for you." He pulled one of the scrolls from the little collection and handed it over. Remus stared at it for a moment and then took it somewhat reluctantly. He could just imagine what Severus' parting thoughts to him might have been, and he became acutely aware of the man standing behind him, making his cheeks flush. Albus was gone in a flash and they were left alone together.
Remus folded the scroll in half, squashing it flat so that he could stuff it in his pocket. When he turned, he found Severus with his arms folded and looking at him in such a way that he half expected the man to pull a sneer and tell him it was all a joke. Instead, he asked, "Aren't you going to read that?"
"Ah, well I..." stammered Remus. He didn't think it likely that the contents were really something that should be shared with Severus in his current state, but didn't like to say so. "Perhaps in a little while," he said with an offhand wave.
Putting a hand on Severus' elbow and nodding toward the door, he said, "Let's go and see about your rooms, shall we?"
When they stepped into the hallway, Remus intentionally hung back a little to see if Severus would turn the right way. A little part of him still couldn't quite believe the man would have done something so drastic, and he was almost hoping Severus would give himself away. When he thought of what that would mean for Severus, however, he felt guilty. Perhaps it was a mercy that Severus no longer had some of the memories Remus knew of. At any rate, the man in front of him gave no indication of knowing where to go, so Remus took the lead.
Several corridors and set of little stone steps later, Remus was pushing open the door to Severus' rooms. The man behind him sounded a little put out, "I live in the dungeons?"
Remus couldn't help but grin, "Well, it's close to your classroom. And you always preferred your privacy..."
"My classroom?" Severus narrowed his eyes and gave every appearance of trying very hard to dredge up any shred of memory. Finally, he abandoned the attempt and stared at Remus blankly.
"Oh. Yes...you're a, or rather you were the potions master here," Remus started. But then he paused, "Are you certain you want me answering all of your questions? I mean..."
"I fail to see what's so vile about being a teacher," groused Severus.
It seemed best to let that slide without comment, so Remus continued on into the sitting room...and stopped up short, Severus bumping into him from behind. "What's the matter?" the man asked.
"Well, nothing really," explained Remus, a bit stunned. "It's just...you rearranged all your furniture." The room looked entirely different from the last time he'd been there. Granted, that was months ago. Gone were the severe straight-backed armchairs and the heavy tapestries. In their place were some light, if rather bland, paintings of landscapes. There was a new rug by the fire, too, and a sofa and chairs arranged genially around it. To one side was Snape's small desk, painfully neat and containing a slim portfolio which Remus assumed must hold the bank documents and other information.
Severus shrugged and wandered around the room touching things. What little there was left to touch. Most of the smaller, more personal items were gone as well, leaving only utilitarian things like glasses and candle holders. He stopped in front of the bookshelf, trailing fingertips along the spines of the books there. Remus came to stand next to him, reading the titles. All very common ones now. He pointed to the lower shelves which were empty, "This bookcase used to be stuffed full, with piles on the floor around it..."
"You miss him," said Severus quietly. The statement rattled Remus slightly and he glanced sidelong at him so that Severus added, "The man I used to be, I mean."
Remus pondered that for a moment. Certainly, it was true on the face of it, some sense of loss at any rate. For all his faults and thistles, Severus Snape was truly a unique wizard, not to mention an accomplished one. But there seemed to be some deeper loss as well. "Yes, I suppose I do."
Severus wandered off, and Remus let him go, still absorbed in his own thoughts. He could scarcely imagine what it must be like, to not remember anything. To know that you lived here and belonged here and have not one memory to show for it. Have no knowledge of it at all...
He finally went looking for Severus and found him in the bedroom, examining the canopy drapes and peering into the little bathroom. "And this?" Severus asked, spreading both hands wide, indicating the room around them, "Has this all changed as well?"
"Ah. Well, I don't really know about this one. I've never been in here before."
Severus gave him an enigmatic look and went to pull open the wardrobe, saying, "I wasn't entirely sure..."
Remus blinked stupidly. The reference was hardly mistakable and it made him start to view his own reactions in a new light. "I-I assume this room has been cleaned out as well." He jammed his hands into his pockets and went over to peer into the wardrobe with Severus. It was filled with darkly colored shirts similar to the one Severus was wearing. Not one black one, and only a single white one hung up with the sharp, black dress robes at the back. "These aren't your clothes either," he said. He reached up and tugged the sleeve of the one Severus had on, "Not even this one."
"I suppose they're meant to be mine now," said Severus. "I appear to have thought of everything."
Remus stared at them a long time, images of Snape running through his mind. He could picture the potions master going through all the motions, all the preparations, cleaning out his quarters and making arrangements for his future self knowing he would be oblivious to the results. How could this all have gone unnoticed? In practical terms he knew how, of course, but how was it that he could have eaten breakfast with Severus just a day ago and not seen some clue of what he was planning. A feeling of utter loneliness crept over him as he thought of what Severus must have gone through. "I...am...so sorry..." he murmured at last.
He turned to look at Severus and was met with a quizzical gaze. Severus furrowed his brow, "For what?"
"For failing you as a friend, Severus," he said, stepping closer and looking deep into those black eyes as if he could find the man Snape once was. "I know it's worthless now, it can hardly mean anything to you, but...for what it's worth, I am so very sorry I didn't realize what was happening, that I didn't see." He placed a hand on Severus' chest. "And I'm sorry for everything I did that helped drive you to this..."
They stood silently for a long while, each wrapped up in their own thoughts. Or perhaps the same thought. Finally, it was Severus who broke the silence. "You never answered my question."
"Hmm?" said Remus, giving himself a little shake, "What question? I must not have heard you."
"You looked like you heard me," said Severus, voice taking on slight distant tone. "When we were talking with that old man...Albus. You got a pained look when I asked it, and let him change the subject."
Remus sighed and thought back. There was so much going on, so many questions being asked. "Please forgive me, there was a great deal happening. I didn't mean to ignore it. Ask me again...I promise I'll give you an honest answer."
Soft black eyes bore into him, pleading and uncertain. "Was I really that bad? Was I such a vile being that obliteration was my only choice?"
Remus was already shaking his head. "No. No. Definitely not." He could see that Severus doubted him and he sighed sympathetically. "I won't lie to you. You had a rather less than warm personality. You fought a war...you did some terrible things. But you suffered a great deal too. I've known you since we were children and you have always been a target of others. When you grow up that way...well, it stands to reason that you learn to do what you can to avoid that."
He stopped and raked a hand through his hair, "Look, Severus, I...I don't want to say too much. I wasn't smart enough to say these things to you before, I don't want to ruin your chances at a new life by saying them now."
Severus turned away and started pacing the floor. His arms were folded across his chest and his head bowed. Remus could only wait and watch helplessly. It seemed to him that Severus was shivering, and although he realized it was unlikely to be a draft, he pulled out his wand and lit a fire in the grate anyway. At least it gave a little light and cheer to the room.
Leaning against the bedpost and crossing one leg over the other, Severus stared into the flames, looking weary and worn. "How am I supposed to go out into the world and make a new life if everyone else knows what kind of a monster I am, and I remain clueless? If I was so terrible, than surely I must have enemies...I won't even be able to recognize them."
"I don't know for sure, Severus," said Remus weakly. Such concerns had been crossing his own mind as well, but he had no answers yet. "We'll figure it all out eventually. But you have friends here, we'll all help you, I can promise you that." It seemed a rather hollow promise after what had happened, but he knew that he, for one, would be keeping it.
Severus nodded slowly and gave him a small, grateful smile. He stood silent for a time, deep in thought. Then he reached up to rub the back of his head and glanced over his shoulder at the bed. "I'm feeling rather tired after all this. Would you mind if I rested for a while?"
"Oh. No, of course not," said Remus, feeling oddly disappointed and a little uneasy. "You've been through a great deal, I imagine it's rather taxing."
There was an awkward silence and then Severus looked from Remus to the door and back again. When Remus got the message, he grew quite uncomfortable, concerned with the man's state of mind and reluctant to make such a mistake again. "I don't...Well, I don't really think you should be left alone right now..."
"I am a grown man, I believe..."
Remus pursed his lips and then said helplessly, "The last time we left you alone, you erased your own memory."
Severus raised his eyebrows and a rueful grin flitted across his face. "Point taken."
Remus shrugged, but felt deeply relieved and sat down in an armchair by the hearth, watching Severus settle in and then turning to face the flames. His mind was racing with questions and concerns, and he was grateful that Severus had let him stay. He knew he didn't want to be anywhere else at the moment.
Soon he heard Severus' deep breathing and glanced over his shoulder to see the steady rise and fall of his chest. When he turned back, the crinkle of parchment caught his ear, and his heart skipped a beat. Snape's letter. He'd forgotten all about it. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled it out and opened it gingerly, trying to avoid any noise that would awaken Severus.
His breath caught in his throat as he scanned it impatiently. "My god..." he murmured. Swallowing hard, he read it again more carefully.
This is, perhaps, the hardest of all to write. I have put it off until last, although I am unsure if that is because I simply do not know what to say, or if it is truly the most difficult to face.
You have been a force in my life for so long, and I know that you tried to protect me or even befriend me from time to time over the years. I regret, now, that I never allowed it.
It would perhaps have been more difficult to have you as friend than as an adversary, however... because for me it would have only been a pale imitation.
You see...for quite some time I have-
There was a smudge and a blot of ink. The kind one gets when the quill is held over the paper too long and starts to drip. Then the handwriting became more of a scrawl.
There you have it...if I can't even write the words than what good am I?
And that was all that was written. Remus stared at it for a long time trying to absorb the confession and struggling with the pain it brought him, then he crumpled it up and threw it into the fire. Severus may not have been able to write the words, but there was little doubt as to his meaning. The revelation was like a weight on Remus' chest, crushing him into the chair. If only he'd known...
"What did it say?" came a quiet voice from behind him.
Remus twisted around and found Severus sitting at the edge of the bed, gazing at him in the most searching manner. He met the dark eyes and held them for a long while, resolving not to let Severus down this time. He thought about the letter and the things Severus had tried to say. The man before him knew nothing about that, of course, but there was a certain quality about him that suggested that the seeds of it may still be buried somewhere deep inside. Remus could do nothing to change the past, but he could keep his promise to Severus now...to help him start new. To have a better life than he'd had before. If nothing else, the events had served to bring his own feelings to light. Part of him wished fervently that he could go back and do things over, but another part of him looked at the man before him and determined not to let Severus' sacrifice be in vain.
He stood up and crossed to where Severus sat watching him, and he knew he was on the right track when the man rose to meet him. Reaching out, Remus touched the ends of Severus' dark hair with his fingertips and told him, "It said you wished we had been better friends than we were..."
He leaned close, looking into Severus' eyes, so soft and black. When Severus did not move away, Remus took a deep breath and kissed him, long and slow, making sure it was a kiss that Severus would not forget.