compliments, rotten tomatoes... back
You were a Death Eater, and now you are not.
You are a member of the Order of the Phoenix (that is, Dumbledore’s secret society with its beautifully lyrical name; you have wondered, sometimes, if Dumbledore may be just as fond of melodramatic secrecy as Voldemort) and you wish you were not.
The war is nearly over; you can feel it in your bones. Something must happen soon – something that will halt this endless cycle of attack and counter-attack. You are tired of being a spy.
You have grown up. Three years since Hogwarts: only three years since the day supposed to be the greatest in a young wizard’s life, the day where he steps forth from school and out into the real world, but for you it was a rushed, hurried affair, without ceremony and conducted in secret. Everyone was afraid but you – you already knew what the Dark Lord was capable of, because you bore his mark. Directly after you left, you went to Aldermaston in Berkshire, because that was where Voldemort had his headquarters, and you presented yourself before him. You thought you knew your destiny.
Not so the Gryffindors, with their starry-eyed, monochrome ideas of what life in the outside world was like. They had such high aspirations – Aurors, Quidditch stars, dragon-slayers – and Dumbledore took them into his Order like lost strays, but only you saw it like that.
Only you and Remus Lupin. The boy whom you had liked, grudgingly, because idiot Gryffindor he may be, but he had a certain something: a quiet intellect, a cynical sense of humour, an almost Slytherin eye for the ludicrous, and he made you laugh, sometimes. He was different from Potter and Black.
When you discovered what he was, you hated him. He almost killed you; but you hated him more afterwards, when you couldn’t look into those bright eyes again without seeing the snarling visage of the wolf.
Dumbledore took in Lupin when he was eleven, and he did it again when the child had become a slight, self-effacing twenty-one-year-old wizard, and you emphasise wizard, because he was one of the first of his kind to hold the qualifications and the wand. You watched as Lupin became a member of the Order of the Phoenix, mere months after you joined the Death Eaters, and you expected never to see him again, except possibly as a mere spectre beneath a colleague’s wand, screaming at Cruciatus and dead under silver.
You turned. You fled Voldemort’s wrath and turned up at Hogwarts like a baby on the doorstep, breathless and ragged and deathly afraid, and Dumbledore took you in like he had taken so many others. You were initiated; you learnt the secrets of the Order, while you hid from he whose service you had left forever. Not just the grave secrets – the headquarters, the plans of attack, the mysterious alliances – but the little things: Moody’s exploding dustbins, Dumbledore’s sweet-themed sequence of passwords, the burning habits of Fawkes. Little things.
And something that was little to everyone else but huge, momentous and horrible to you. Black (whom you had always hated – he thought your life acceptable fodder for one of his vile practical jokes, and you saw no reason to ever forgive) and Lupin.
A fine pair, said Potter, and you found yourself agreeing – and oh, how you hated it. Hated how it affected you. You shouldn’t have cared. Let them do what they wanted – they deserved each other.
But you couldn’t help but think of it, torture yourself with it – Lupin and Black, writhing in their animal lust – thoughts of them lying in filth and debauchery keeping you awake at night. And you were careful, so careful, never to examine your disgust too closely, for fear of uncovering underlying reasons like exposed nerves.
And then you saw them one night, after the full moon, leaning on each other, Black taking care of Lupin as only he knew how, touching him because he had the right. And you wanted for no reason at all to be part of the moment. You wanted to brush Lupin’s hair out of his eyes and just once, make it all the way it was before, when you were still children at school and Remus had sat with you in the library and laughed at the way you insisted on swapping Madam Pince’s quills for the sugar variety.
And you slunk in the shadows like the Death Eater you were and watched them move away without even noticing you.
After that it seemed prudent just to ignore them both. And Lupin was still a werewolf, a monster, and you didn’t need to associate with his like.
You got on with life in wartime, and now you know that the end of it is nigh.
In the darkness and the silence, you have had enough.
And he is here.
He looks even worse than usual. His hair is utterly revolting – thick with mud and rotting leaves – and there are streaks of mud and blood across his face, stark against the dead white of his skin. He has clearly been travelling since early morning, the moment the moon disappeared below the horizon, and without magic enough to Apparate, he has arrived at Hogwarts.
Dumbledore has already gone. You wonder why he is here. Eventually, you are driven to ask him.
He stares at you as if he has never set eyes on you before. “Lily and James are dead,” he says, and you wonder if he has finally taken leave of his senses; such a thing could never happen to them, the Potters, the blessed family for whom life is charmed even in wartime.
You remember a snippet overheard months ago. You were the spy who came to Dumbledore with the news – they must go into hiding. And you know they did, for you never saw them after that. Sirius Black was their secret-keeper.
And suddenly you realise why Lupin looks so utterly shell-shocked.
“The baby?” you snap, and find yourself genuinely sorry when he flinches.
“Harry is still alive,” he says slowly, as if he cannot believe it. “Voldemort... he
tried to kill him, but... it didn’t work. The curse rebounded.”
You don’t doubt him. “How do you know?”
“Dumbledore.” He smiles sadly. “He told me. He’s gone to take Harry to his relatives. The Ministry are searching for... for Sirius.”
And you want to make things better. He is a werewolf and a fool, to let himself become the plaything of a murderer, but he cannot help what he is, and you have killed, too...
You touch him. A hand on his shoulder is all; maybe more someday but not today. You wonder if he will collapse, break down, cling to you, but foolish Gryffindor as he is, he holds you off. “Thank you, Severus.”
Calm, polite, reasonable – and he calls you by your first name. It strikes you that no-one save Dumbledore does that any more.
He smiles at you. And you want him still.
He turns and leaves then, trailing dejectedly out of the room, and you look out through the window over the Hogwarts grounds and watch him go. He walks slowly, staring at the ground, and you keep looking until he is quite out of sight.
That evening, you are making a cup of coffee and stirring in the milk when it dawns on you, suddenly, that Voldemort is gone. You can live in safety wherever you choose; no Death Eaters will come to hunt down their traitor.
Nevertheless, you stay at Hogwarts. Dumbledore refuses to let you teach Defence, but you can teach Potions instead, stopper death for crowds of moronic first-years, and a year after that, when old Professor Nautilus dies, you become Head of Slytherin House.
You are not happy. Happy is something from long ago – maybe from before the choices you had to make, your constant love/hate affair with the dark and the light – but you are satisfied, and sometimes even content, and that’s something.
In your spare time, you conduct the research you had no time for during the war. Newt Scamander and the relevant Ministry departments enlist your help with their latest project, an attempt to make an effective, non-toxic aqueous aconite solution. It is difficult, but you persevere, sometimes putting an hour aside for the work in the evening during term-time, sometimes putting an afternoon aside for it during holiday time. You make the occasional breakthrough. You waste no time on needless emotion, making sure your results can be repeated, then owling the Ministry.
Sometimes, you look out the window across the Hogwarts grounds, and wonder where Lupin is.
You know he will never come back.
But you keep working on the Wolfsbane.
Just in case.
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