Ripples in the Pond
The cell door creaked open and a harsh voice rasped, “You’ve got ten minutes, no longer.”
Lupin turned away from the small barred window in time to hear a low voice answer coldly in return. “I understand.”
Then Severus Snape swept into the small cold cell in a flourish of black robes. The two men simply stared at each other across the few feet of free space as the door closed behind Snape and the footsteps of the guard receded.
Finally Lupin broke the silence with a sigh. “Since you’re here instead of Harry or Minerva, am I to assume that the news you bring isn’t good?”
Snape’s eyes shifted briefly away, glancing around the barren cell before returning to the man in rags standing quietly before him. “Potter is fighting on irrationally. It’s what he does when he cannot accept defeat, I suppose. Minerva was…overwrought. So when the final decree came down, I told her that I would come in her place.”
Lupin smiled. “Thank you, Severus. You’re right, Minerva’s done enough. She didn’t need to be the one to deliver such news.”
Silence stretched between them again, growing awkward before Snape broke it once more. “I see you ended up with one of the northern cells. Not the best accommodations.”
Lupin snorted and shook his head. “So I understand, though I find it hard to believe that one cell is that much better than another here. What side were you on?”
“The south side. It tends to be warmer.”
Lupin nodded. “Ah…well, that makes sense. There’s a very persistent, icy wind on this side of the prison. The difference between being simply cold and positively frigid, I suppose. You were lucky to get out of here when you did. I’m glad that Scrimgeour was willing to listen to reason on that point at least.”
Snape’s voice took on a tone of disgust. “He had no choice. I’d have been executed with the rest of those marked by the Dark Lord if Minerva hadn’t made all of Dumbledore’s documents and his pensieve memories public. Once people could see and hear exactly what happened, it made it much harder to simply lump me in with the rest of those accused of being Death Eaters.” Snape hesitated before adding, “She did her best for you, too, you know.”
“Oh, I know. This was an entirely different situation. With Albus’s evidence there for everyone to see and hear, Scrimgeour could make an exception for you and have the people actually support him. That simply wasn’t possible in my case.” He turned and looked Snape in the eye. “What about Bill Weasley? Has he been spared at least?”
“They were still deliberating that question the last I knew…but it’s a moot point. Once all werewolves were condemned with no exceptions, the Weasleys didn’t waste any time. Bill was shipped overseas. He and his wife have disappeared somewhere in France, I believe.”
“Probably wise on his part,” said Lupin. “Even though technically he isn’t a werewolf and won’t become one, his scars would be a reminder that the curse wasn’t completely wiped out. Sooner or later someone would attack him or accuse him of something out of fear. He’ll be better off in France. He can have a life there.”
Remus hesitated before asking quietly, “Do you know when…”
“The executions have already begun, I believe. Once the verdict came down, Scrimgeour stated publicly that by morning there won’t be a werewolf alive in Britain.”
Lupin turned away and looked out the window at the fading light on the endless waves. “Of course, the whole thing is nonsense anyway. These executions are purely for show…to ease the fears of a populace that’s still scared witless even after Voldemort’s destruction. No matter what they tell people, they haven’t captured every werewolf out there, not by a long shot, and all it will take is one for it to start all over again.”
“Hence the Ministry’s refusal to grant a single reprieve,” murmured Snape.
Silence filled the cell once more. This time it was Lupin who broke it.
“Thank you for bringing me the news, Severus. Please tell Minerva and Harry and everyone else who fought so hard to stop this from happening that I appreciate their efforts. I know they did their best, and they shouldn’t feel badly about failing. Truthfully, I doubt there was ever any real chance that they’d succeed. I don’t want them to end up feeling guilty because they couldn’t persuade Scrimgeour to change his mind. Rational persuasion just doesn’t work when faced with so much unreasoning fear and hatred. It’s like trying to light a candle in a stiff wind. And the people are still very much afraid.”
Snape nodded. “I’ll tell them.”
“Thank you.” He turned back and smiled faintly at Snape. “Frankly, I’m tired. I’m ready for a rest.”
Suddenly footsteps echoed in the corridor again and Snape stepped closer and stuck out his hand. “Good bye, Remus. Believe it or not…I wish things had gone differently.”
Surprised, Lupin took Snape’s hand and shook it solemnly. “Thank you, Severus. I’m glad to know that in the end there were no more ill feelings between us.”
Before Snape could respond the guard opened the door and, with a few brisk words, ushered Snape out, closing it firmly behind him.
Once their footsteps had faded away, Lupin opened his hand and looked down at the small capsule that Snape had passed to him. He recognized it. They’d all had them in the war. Swallow it and death would be instantaneous as well as painless, unlike the death now waiting for him outside his cell.
A fond smile crossed his thin face as he dropped the capsule to the floor, grinding it to powder under his heel. His friends meant well, but he wasn’t going to take the easy way out. Not this time. The Ministry had decided to calm the fears of a war weary public by killing hundreds of innocent people. If he was to be one of them, then they were going to have to look him in the eye when they killed him and know it for the act of murder that it was.
Suddenly, slow footsteps approached his door once more and, raising his head high, he waited.