Snape hoped that would be the last he would see of Lupin for awhile, but apparently he and the werewolf had extremely diverse criteria for a proper reason to make a visit. Snape believed that only school business and the Wolfsbane Potion were sufficient. Lupin, however, dropped by the next week to wordlessly leave several odd Muggle novels written entirely in German. Snape read German, of course, but that was not the point. He was about to cast Incendio on the entire pile, but he was not the type to burn books, even Muggle ones, without at least a cursory examination. And the novels had actually turned out to be rather interesting. Dour, but interesting. He read them all, then left them in a stack the week after by Lupin’s faculty mailbox.
After this Lupin began once again pressing his company upon him for tea, but there were no more invitations. He simply showed up the next Friday, kettle in hand. The first time, Snape ordered him out, adding an enthusiastic shove in the process. The second time, however, Lupin brought a very rare white Darjeeling, and taking Snape’s longing silence as a sign of assent, Lupin immediately pushed past him and began setting up the pot and cups. Snape made discouraging noises about privacy and bloody damned intrusions but quieted when he caught a whiff of the steaming tea.
“Silver Needle White…” Lupin murmured, setting down a cup where Snape had been grading, “from the Fujian Province. They pluck the blossoms just before they open…”
Well at least Snape knew now where Lupin was spending his meager galleons, because the tea was not cheap.
"What on earth do I have to say to offend you, you great pouf?” Snape asked angrily, literally plopping in his chair as Lupin set the tea down before him.
To this Lupin only offered a wan smile. “Nothing more than what you’ve said already, Severus,” he said softly, “you’d just have to mean it.”
Snape folded his arms across his chest. “Oh for the love of…”
“Drink!” ordered Lupin, banging the desk, with more than a hint of ire.
And because he could not seem to help himself, Snape did.
For the next couple of weeks Lupin showed up in the early evening on Friday, with tea and a few half-decent shortbreads as well. At first, Snape would not entertain conversation, and would say nothing even when directly addressed. He merely sat at his desk, working, while Lupin poured the tea and served it, and talked seemingly to himself about this student or that student, or what Trelawney had done that he had found particularly amusing.
But then by the end of the second week, Snape found himself beginning to occasionally grunt replies. Snape actually had to stifle a laugh when Lupin made mention that of late Trelawney’s hair was “obviously threatening to take over her entire head—not that this would be a bad thing, necessarily.”
By the third straight week of suffering Lupin’s attentions, it occurred to Snape that he wasn’t suffering at all, that he had come to expect and had even grown almost comfortable in the werewolf’s company. Snape consoled himself in that Lupin had been the least objectionable member of Potter’s crew, probably because he had the biggest cross to bear. And now that the rest were either freshly or long dead, nursing a grudge against him did not seem like much of a challenge anymore. Black had been surly, smug, and satisfyingly easy to rile. It wasn’t nearly as fun to abuse Lupin. He simply took it far too well.
But then, something curious happened. Or rather, did not happen. One Friday in mid-October, Lupin did not appear at all, and that evening he looked rather drawn during dinner in the Great Hall. As it was a week from the full moon, Snape suspected it was Lupin’s other affliction that was the problem. Snape had been teaching for the better part of twenty years, and if there was one illness he could diagnose on sight, it was the desperate pall of the lovelorn. Lupin had mentioned Rosmerta’s taciturn new bartender, Winslow Oxbox, a number of times, and Snape needed none of his skills as a Legilimens to know that the two of them were involved. It was his skills as a Legilimens, however, that told him Remus Lupin was not merely keeping pleasant company with the man. No. Remus Lupin was in love, violently in love in fact, and apparently it was not going well.
When Lupin’s countenance did not improve, and he didn’t show up for the second Friday in a row (with the full moon a mere four days away), Snape steeled himself and knocked on his door. Then, banged on it.
Lupin appeared, looking pallid, and horror of horrors, it seemed to Snape that he had been drinking. Heavily.
“Are you unwell?” Snape asked stiffly.
“You might say that,” Lupin said, looking away.
“Perhaps Pomfrey should see you…”
At this he looked up, and gave a staccato laugh. “She can’t help. No one can.”
“Ah,” Snape said, putting a long finger to his lips. “Wallowing, are we?”
Lupin grunted. “Shove off, Severus. Nothing to see here.” And with that he tried to close the door.
But Snape swept past him, and with a flourish he sat on Lupin’s slightly bedraggled yet comfortable couch. “You have seen fit often enough to press your company upon me,” he said airily.
Lupin looked at him, at first a bit in shock. Then his eyes narrowed just slightly. “The matter is deeply personal and as such I’m sure of no concern to you.”
Snape crossed his legs carefully and raised one eyebrow. “If you drive off the only bartender within a ten-league radius that knows how to pull a mug of stout, that is of great concern to me.”
Remus Lupin’s mouth dropped open, and Severus Snape rolled his eyes.
“I am a Legilimens, you idiot. And you prattle about him about him often enough for Neville Longbottom to figure it out.”
Lupin’s lips pressed into a thin line. “I suppose you think it’s amusing,” he said at last, “me getting quite nicely buggered on a regular basis. Satisfying my ‘unnatural affections’.”
Snape chuckled dismissively, then waved his hand in the air. “‘Unnatural affections’? Don’t be ridiculous.”
This caught Lupin off guard. Obviously he had expected to be mocked, and sneered at.
“Been defecating on any house-elves lately?” Snape asked wryly, and was rewarded with open-mouthed silence. “Or perhaps you feel the need to rub your private parts with the menstrual blood of a virgin…”
Instead of silence, this time Lupin made a sputtering sound.
“I was a Death Eater, Lupin,” Snape continued, “and I can assure you that you and Oxbox cannot even imagine the truly unnatural, let alone accomplish it. For god’s sake you are in love with him. How much more normal can you get?”
Then Lupin finally found his tongue. “The thought of men fucking each other doesn’t bother you then, eh?”
The werewolf was not normally given to sarcasm, but Snape said nothing, only gave him a wisp of a superior smile.
Lupin smiled then as well, but it was a smile that was near malicious, and malice was something Snape had never seen in Lupin’s face before. “Too bad you don’t fancy men, Severus," he said softly. "Might’ve even tried to have a go at you myself.”
Snape, however, kept his face a blank, at least for a moment. But then his superior smile shaded into a malice that matched Lupin’s. “Were I so inclined, Lupin, you would have found yourself bent over my desk a long time ago.”
Lupin flushed then, embarrassed, and looked away, and a long, uncomfortable silence descended.
“You cannot get the better of me Lupin,” Snape said at last, “so why try?”
“What I’ve been trying to do is to get you to leave,” Lupin said, pointing at the door.
“I think not,” answered Snape, “as you obviously are in need of a voice of reason.”
Then, to his great discomfort, Lupin sat down right next to him, and stared right into his eyes. His voice was remarkably steady, considering. “You are in no position to offer advice.”
Snape folded his arms slowly in front of his chest. “I beg to differ. I am in a position to offer advice because I know you, and I already know exactly what you have done. You have told Oxbox you cannot see him anymore, correct? And as you have proven that you are not the type of person to divest yourself of the company of a person through any fault of theirs, I assume that it is because you are a werewolf.”
Lupin closed his eyes, pursing his lips for a moment. “I must remind myself to never again befriend a Legilimens…” he muttered under his breath.
“This has nothing to do with Legilimency, Lupin,” Snape said. “I know your history. I know your behavior. I know you. If this man Oxbox had rid himself of you, you would have faced it with the same maddeningly stoic resignation with which you face your lycanthropy. And because you believe yourself inherently unworthy, you would even think the abandonment just. Instead, however, you are most obviously beside yourself. The only conclusion is that you have abandoned him. No doubt because you feel it would be ‘unfair’ to further burden him with your…company.”
“Well it isn’t fair to him!”
Snape’s voice was low and vaguely accusatory. “Is that what you told Nymphadora? I notice I don’t see her around much anymore.”
Lupin’s eyes widened at Tonks’ name, and he shook his head angrily, more in an effort to clear away a memory, it seemed, then to refute what Snape was saying.
Snape rolled his eyes. “Yes, a Gryffindor is always concerned about what’s fair,” he continued. “Bugger expedience. Bugger logic. We have to be fair.”
If the mention of Tonks angered him, at the slur on Gryffindor Lupin became enraged. “Fair? Fair? You don’t know bollocks about being fair, Severus, so perhaps you should stop talking about it!”
But Snape only became even more calm. “Apparently I have touched a nerve.”
“You bloody well have. You don’t have a right to bring up Tonks, and this has nothing to do with Gryffindor.”
Snape steepled his index fingers and tapped them together. “And now you are demonstrating the Gryffindor predilection for babbling about ‘rights’.”
Lupin was furious now. “And you know nothing about either ‘fairness’ or ‘rights,’ so you are the one who can shut it, Snape. What on earth do you know about having to hurt someone when it’s the last thing in the world you want to do?”
Snape saw the werewolf’s desire to call back the words even before they had finished echoing off the walls, and in that moment he realized once again how very much he preferred anger to pity. In that moment he also realized that he would rather eat shards of glass than hear Lupin’s intoxicated, guilty apology, which was right at that second about to spill forth.
“I notice you weren’t averse to keeping company with Black, were you? You didn’t shove him off because of your perceived infirmity.” Snape said this quietly, but with a hint of disgust, and watched the apology die on Lupin’s lips.
“Sirius Black, the wrongly accused,” he continued. “Sirius Black the hero. Sirius Black, the coward who could not bear the thought of everyone thinking he was a great sobbing pouf. You gave him a great deal of slack, did you not?”
“Don’t you mention his name, Snape,” Lupin hissed. “Don’t you dare ever mention his name.”
“You even let yourself be shoved into the closet with him. Yes, he endured being struck off his family tree with all the insufferably bitter grandiosity he could muster…but he refused to tell anyone that mattered that he loved you, perhaps even you yourself. And you couldn’t tell anyone that mattered that you loved him.”
Lupin’s hands were clenched. “Shut up, you bastard. Shut up.”
But Snape would do nothing of the sort. “Sirius Black was an irresponsible hothead. Charismatic in his own incorrigible way, but unworthy of such devotion, which you would be able to discern if you had your wits about you. Not that you ever have your wits about you, I must say.”
Lupin was shouting now. “Sirius was right about you, and I'm sorry now that James stopped you! It did serve you right.”
But Snape’s eyes were inscrutable, his voice menacingly low. “And did it serve you right?”
“SHUT UP!” Lupin screamed. He was now looking at Snape with pure hate. “I offer you friendship, of which you are in pathetically desperate need, and in return I receive abuse! But that's just like you, isn't it?”
At this Snape became angry himself. “Lupin, you did not offer friendship, you pressed it upon me against my will. You are the one who is in desperate need of a friend, as all of yours seem to have gotten themselves killed.
“Tell me, do you like being miserable? You certainly seem to, wallowing about in all this flowery anguish. Well, let me be the first to inform you that your self-pitying hysteria is not only unattractive but also completely unnecessary. No one cares about your utterly uninteresting sex life. And these days it’s obvious even fewer care about your other ‘curse’, so long as I continue to provide you with Wolfsbane.”
Snape was positively shaking with rage, now. “Do you know what I think? I think if you can find some other sod to stomach you, you would be an utter fool to shove them off, whether that sod is a man, a woman, or a bloody orangutan. Move in with Oxbox. Get buggered nightly and twice on Sundays. No one cares! I will tell you this now. If that overdeveloped bartender of yours cannot take it, he will leave soon enough. But I would guess he damn well can, because if your pathetic, mewling personality has not driven him off by now, you turning into a werewolf once a month won’t do it. Might even be a bloody tonic for him.”
Snape was breathing heavily, his face a mask of fury. Then there was a long, tortured pause, as he gathered himself to stalk dramatically from the room. But curiously enough, Lupin didn’t seem angry anymore. He cocked his head, blinking, looking at Snape with a mixture of curiosity and wonder.
Then, as Snape turned and swept towards the door, Remus John Lupin suddenly did the oddest thing imaginable, at least to Severus Snape.
He broke into uproarious, gasping laughter. He laughed and laughed and laughed, until he was bent over with it.
Snape turned around, both horrified and completely flummoxed. “Stop laughing you idiot! I’ve just insulted you!”
But apparently, Lupin did not seem to think so. “Oh, Severus…you’re…you’re brilliant,” he said, catching his breath, “’Bloody tonic’ indeed…oh Severus…”
Snape left him there, red in the face and nearly choking with mirth, and as he stalked back to his rooms, he wondered what on god’s green earth he had ever done to merit such galling frustration.
To his credit, it did not take him long to remember.