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A More Merciful Man by Berkana [Reviews - 3]

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By Christmas Eve, Snape had been assiduously avoiding Lupin’s attempts at contact for four whole days. Snape already knew from the werewolf’s eyes what he planned to say (variations on I’m sorry for intruding on your personal life but you should not have been spying, should you?), but he was damned if he was going to let him say it. At least not until Snape was done fuming.

Finally Lupin owled him with a terse missive.

Christmas morning, wherever you are, I will find you.

Snape had grunted in disgust, and tossed the balled-up owl in a corner. But after perusing the many alternatives of where-should-one-hide-from-a-bothersome-werewolf, he finally decided not to hide at all. It would give Lupin far too much satisfaction.

Thus, as Snape slid into his narrow bed Christmas Eve, there were no visions of sugarplums dancing through his head, just terrible apprehension at the gauntlet of uncomfortable social situations with which he was now faced.

Early that Christmas morning, after a thankfully dreamless sleep, Snape sensed a presence in the room. Not Lupin. He would never dare. Someone else. Bolting completely awake, Snape swept his wand from the bedside table and brandished it with amazing speed, his black eyes surveying the half-darkened room.

“Nothing,” he murmured, lowering his wand arm.

It was then that the abashed face of Knortle rose up slowly from beside the bed, where the house-elf had been cowering.

Snape growled at him, whereupon Knortle flinched visibly as if he expected Snape to immediately throw a cauldron at his head. And as Snape had done just that in the past, he could not blame him.

“Knortle,” Snape said with considerable disgust, “unless you are bearing a cigarette and some very strong tea, get out.”

The house-elf suddenly looked even more distressed. “Severus Snape knows that smoking is not being allowed in the castle.”

“Then, get out, before I hurl an Unforgivable at you.”

“That is also not allowed in the castle, so Knortle must assume that you are… (And at this the house-elf’s face twisted in concentration.)

“Indulging in hyperbole!” Knortle said at last, triumphantly.

One corner of Snape’s mouth twitched upward. “Ah, a phrase you have doubtless borrowed from our dear headmaster.”

At this Knortle stood up straight. “The ghost of Albus Dumbledore says Knortle must get Christmas breakfast for you in your rooms. It is his present to you,” he said importantly.

Snape frowned. Dumbledore had obviously rightly guessed that he would not make an appearance in the Great Hall this Christmas morning, and had planned accordingly.

“Well, get about it then,” Snape said at last to Knortle. It was obvious the entire population of Hogwarts was conspiring to annoy him.

“The ghost of Albus Dumbledore insists that Knortle do something first,” the house-elf said.

“What?” asked Snape warily. “Get it over with, you insufferable nitwit. My tolerance for idiotic house-elves is at an all-time low.”

At this Knortle produced a box of Christmas crackers, which he laid carefully at the end of Snape’s bed, and then he was suddenly unrolling a small scroll while nervously clearing his throat.

“Ah-hem…first I must sing the song that the ghost of Albus Dumbledore has written especially for Severus Snape.”

“God almighty…” Snape muttered, putting a hand to his temple.

Then, atonally and with no sense of key or pitch whatsoever, Knortle began to sing, annoyingly merrily in addition to everything else.

Happy Christmas Severus Snape may you know joy this year!
Happy Christmas Severus Snape your potions have no peer!
You often look glum and knackered please accept this box of craaaaackers!
Pull one open have a prize be full of Christmas cheer!

With a pop Knortle disappeared, just as one of Severus Snape’s grey slippers went sailing through the air where his head had been. Snape kicked the box of crackers to the floor, and not thirty seconds later Knortle reappeared, bearing a large tray, which he set on the bed over Snape’s outstretched legs.

“The ghost of Albus Dumbledore tells Knortle you will forgive him for not indulging you in your usual plain burnt toast, but you will like this even better.” Then with a crack Knortle disappeared again.

With a sigh, Snape leaned forward and regarded his breakfast. On the tray was a plate of toast points, very brown, and another plate fanned with paper-thin slices of smoked salmon as well as cucumber. There was also an assortment of bowls; in one was dilled cream, in another capers, and in the smallest, a tiny bowl of caviar, resting in a larger bowl filled with shaved ice. To drink, there was a carafe of fresh-squeezed orange juice and a bottle of champagne, upon which had obviously been lain some sort of chilling spell. Snape would not have been able to identify any of the food (save for the toast and the juice and the cucumber), but Dumbledore’s scrawl adorned a large-ish card, a card that named and described what he was supposed to eat, and even how he was supposed to eat it. Otherwise Snape wouldn’t have had a clue, especially about the caviar, at which he poked curiously with the tip of a long finger.

Snape had, over the years, become quite appreciative of Scotch, and various beers and even wines, but most of the time food was not of much interest to him. He did not know that the caviar was the best that could be procured—Beluga—and likewise the salmon, which was a wild Scottish salmon. This information of course Dumbledore left off the card. But when Snape saw that champagne was a Krug, he muttered “Daft old coot…really…” Rolling his eyes, he set to organizing the cream, cucumber, fish, capers, and toast points into edible stacks. It was rather satisfying, putting together one’s breakfast in such a manner. He had methodically compiled five neat, precise stacks and was about to taste the first one when there was a tentative knock at his door.

“Enter,” he said wearily, knowing full well who would be on the other side.

Lupin’s holiday grin made Snape immediately regret that he hadn’t warded his door. Or charmed it to emit a Jelly-legs Jinx on any and all werewolves.

“All forgiven then?” Lupin asked brightly. “I didn’t dare to hope. Well actually, I did, because in the end I’m quite as stubborn as you, you know.”

Lupin then pulled over the one comfortable chair in the room and plopped himself in it. “Happy Christmas, Severus!”

Snape positively glowered at him. “It will be happier after I have drunk some of this champagne,” he said, pouring. He sipped, staring for a moment at Lupin, who was looking at him expectantly.

"Oh, all right…” Snape grumbled, Accioing a clean flute to match his own. Lupin poured, and they sat in silence for awhile, sipping champagne, and, after a conciliatory wave from Snape, sharing the breakfast Dumbledore had provided as well.

“I see werewolves like fish as well as meat,” Snape said, as Lupin devoured his third stack. Lupin’s were sloppier, but made more abundant use of the salmon.

“Was there chocolate?” Lupin asked, mid-swallow.

“For breakfast?”

“Why not?” Lupin began poking about the overlarge tray, and sure enough, retrieved a small thinnish packet, in which were encased two dark chocolate mints.

Lupin brought the packet to his nose. “Filled with blood orange cream…” he murmured longingly.

“Go on…” Snape said, “but eat them both at your peril…”

After he had savored the chocolate, Lupin sighed happily. “That breakfast was divine, Severus. I thank you for sharing.”

“No desire to brave the Great Hall this Christmas morning?” Snape asked.

Lupin blinked at him. “Oh, I’ve been there already. Had a large serving of sausages and a pile of scrambled eggs.”

Remus Lupin smiled happily then, as Snape stared at the vestiges of his breakfast, at least half of which the werewolf had also eaten.

“Your appetite never ceases to amaze me.”

“I’m an utter libertine when it comes to sausages,” said Lupin. “And caviar. And chocolate. And…”

“Shut up, Lupin.”

Lupin’s eyebrows moved up his forehead just a bit, but he suddenly fished in his robes and dropped a small parcel on the bed, a silver box with green ribbon.

Snape rolled his eyes, clearly uncomfortable. “Really, Lupin, a ragged individual such as yourself has no business indulging in such frivolities.”

“Well, then, you’ll be happy to know I didn’t purchase it,” Remus Lupin said smugly. “I inherited it. From my great aunt Adele.”

Snape eyed the box suspiciously, and then, lacking an alternative, opened it. Inside it was a quill, a beautiful green and silver quill.

“It’s a Quincy’s…” Lupin said, “with an extra enchantment put on by Horatio Quincy himself. You simply write with it as you would with a real quill for a page or so, and then it will actually imitate your own handwriting.”

Snape’s eyes narrowed as he examined it.

“It’s not worth much I’m sure,” Lupin continued. “My Aunt Adele was something of an oddball. It might not even work very well.”

But the quill was perfect. Pristine, yet with a fine patina. Worth quite a bit, Snape guessed.

“Why are you giving this to me?” Snape asked doubtfully, after he had replaced the quill carefully in its box. “You could use it yourself.”

“Well, this is a special quill,” Lupin explained, “and I couldn’t use it if I tried. It’s been enchanted so that only wizards and witches in the original owner’s house can make it work.”

At this Lupin took up the quill, and held it in his writing hand. The quill seemed to buzz slightly for a second, and then flew away from his hand and back into the box, as if pulled by an invisible string.

“I’d heard of these…” Snape’s curiosity was overwhelming him now as he took the quill again. “They’re extremely rare…”

“And attempting any sort of countercharm renders them completely useless,” Lupin said.

But, after admiring the quill for a good long while, and with some effort, Snape returned it to its box.

“I cannot accept it,” he said flatly.

“Why ever not?”

“I have no desire to be in your debt. Scotch and tea and chocolate are one thing, but…”

Lupin seemed to have prepared himself for this. “Well, that’s fine, Severus, but you should know that if you don’t accept it, I will give it to Dolores Umbridge.”

Snape’s mouth fell open as Lupin stared at him implacably. Snape searched his eyes, and then his own widened in shock. Lupin was not joking.

“Why on earth would you…how could you even think of…she’s the very last person you should…”

“So that you would accept it,” Lupin said. “If you do not, it goes to Umbridge. It’s that simple.”

Snape merely goggled. The thought of such a beautiful object in her permanent possession was galling.

“Anyway there are no Slytherin in my father’s family anymore, at least none alive,” Remus was saying, “and if you don’t want it it just might do me some good to bribe Umbridge, don’t you think? She’s got a fondness for strangely charmed quills, from what I hear.”

Indeed, Snape had no doubt that Umbridge would doubtless find a way to put it to ugly use. At last, and with great reluctance, he took the quill.

“Thank you,” Snape grumbled, feeling somehow that Lupin had tricked him despite the excellence of the present (because, of course, he had).

Then Snape all of a sudden Accioed a box from on top of his old battered armoire. Lupin turned toward the flying parcel expectantly, whereupon it hit him squarely in the face.

“Ouch!” Lupin said, putting a hand to his bruised nose, as the box fell to the floor.

As for Snape, he smiled rather evilly. “Happy Christmas,” he said.

The box had overturned, and Lupin cried out, “Oh, my!” as he watched its contents tumble out onto the floor.

“If I have to look at that tatty set one more day, I will not be responsible for my actions,” Snape stated.

Remus Lupin gathered the black fabric up in his hands. “Robes! Severus! Thank you! It’s a wonderful Christmas gift.”

“Shut up,” Snape said again. “And don’t tell anyone where they came from. I do not want to get the reputation for being generous.”

“Oh, you’re in no danger of that, I’m sure…”

Lupin set himself to admiring the robes, making annoying little oohs and aahs, and as Snape had very little patience for gratitude, he cleared his throat, and changed the subject.

“Flintrammel’s mother, Lupin…” Snape began quietly. “Who is she?”

Lupin’s attention was immediately diverted from the robes. “You mean you don’t know?”

It always annoyed Snape when someone else knew something he wanted to know, but didn’t. “Well I would not be asking you if I did, would I?” he frowned.

“Don’t you just love a mystery?” Lupin teased, folding the robes and placing them back in their box.

“No,” Snape said, definitively, “I most certainly do not.”

“Oh, you liar!”

“The name, Lupin.” Snape insisted.

Lupin raised an eyebrow. “Well who do you think she is? I told you she’s a very famous Arithmancer. And you must have picked up as well that her first name is Eva.”

“That cannot possibly be true.”

“Whether you think it true or not, it is. Jane’s mother is in fact Eva Pellarin.”

Snape suddenly sat up completely straight. Eva Pellarin? Eva Pellarin was the only wizard or witch of entirely Muggle origin ever to be sorted into Slytherin. This in and of itself would have garnered her a certain fame. But she was, indeed, also a famous Arithmancer. In the early 1980s she had completely revised the old Numerology and Grammatica, which was a standard text at Hogwarts. Then she wrote Sacred Numbers, a far more demanding text, which became required reading for all curse-breakers. Her popular fame, however, rested in her erstwhile weekly column at the Prophet, “Cardinal Sins,” a combination numerology and sex advice column. For ten years, Eva Pellarin’s face had stared out implacably from the photo next to the byline. Dark. Beautiful. Intelligent. And more than just a little bored.

Snape shook his head to clear it of the implied connection between Jane and Pellarin. “You’re joking…” he said slowly.

Lupin made a dismissive noise. “Yank a strand of Jane’s hair and do a Genesis spell, if you don’t believe me. Or you might just ask her who her mother is.”

“Eva Pellarin never had children,” Snape said matter-of-factly.

“One child. Jane.”

“I’ve never heard talk of any child. And I’m sure I would have heard, as the child would have been a matter of great speculation. ”

“Which is part of the reason why she chose to keep the child a secret. She was young when she had Jane. It was before her great fame, when she was merely an oddity. And she was unmarried. Considering the general value system of Slytherin at the time, can you blame her?”

Snape thought for a second. “Who is the father?”

Lupin gave Snape an appraising look, obviously considering whether or not he wished to reveal the information.

“She hoped that the father would turn out to be a wizard she was keeping company with while she was in school here,” he began.


“It was before your time, Severus…”


“Alphard Black, to be precise,” Lupin said archly.

Snape’s mouth dropped open again. “But must have been too old for her…”

“They were five years apart. He took a shine to her, despite that. Kept in touch with her even after he left school. When she was fifteen they began sleeping together. When she was seventeen she turned up pregnant. Their affair was all hush-hush of course, considering his family, and her age.”

“So Jane is…is…a Black?” Snape said this with some horror in his voice. “Related to…to…” Snape could not continue. The panorama of unfortunate relatives was almost too much to contemplate.

“No, no. Eva hoped it would be Alphard’s. But she was…ah…a popular girl. Flirtatious. And very, very beautiful. Still is. Their liaisons during her last year here were of course sporadic, as he was no longer a student. And when Eva did the math, she realized it could not have been his child.”

Snape shook his head. “So who is Jane’s…”

“A Muggle boy…an American, actually. Taking a vacation in Merry Olde England while on leave from a far more dangerous tour of Southeast Asia. He met Jane’s mother, impregnated her, wrote her twice, then had the gall to die over there. He never even saw Jane. She hid the pregnancy, of course, and after the birth she placed Jane with the two women who had raised Eva herself, her aunts on her father’s side, in Cornwall. They died a couple of years ago, but they doted on Jane.”

Snape gave a snort of disgust. “How touching. But it would have been more efficacious if her mother had just kept her bloody legs closed.”

Lupin smiled at him knowingly. “Perhaps. But you haven’t met her, Severus. It is not something she would have considered. And besides, if she had, you would not have the pleasure of sleeping with her daughter, would you?”

Snape pursed his lips and grunted dismissively, though of course it was perfectly true.

“Eva might have come around, been a proper mother,” Lupin continued, “but when Jane was a small child, Tom Riddle returned from his travels, calling himself Voldemort and making the most absurd pronouncements about Wizarding blood. Jane saw fit to make herself scarce. She didn’t come back until Voldemort was thought vanquished at Godric’s Hollow.”

Snape glared at him. “And Jane? What of her? Why did her mother not attempt to protect her?”

Snape’s voice had risen a notch. He was on the verge of shouting.

“She did, Severus,” Lupin said. “From the very beginning. When Voldemort returned, well Jane was safe with her aunts of course. There is a certain amount of blood protection that exists even if the mother has not offered herself in sacrifice. Even if the mother…”

“Didn’t want the child at all…” Snape finished for him, still finding himself incredulous at Eva Pellarin’s lack of maternal instinct.

“She was very young when she had Jane, Severus,” Lupin explained, “younger than you were when you...” (and at this Lupin paused significantly) “And she had certain ambitions at that point. She saw to it her baby would be raised by women she trusted, who had in fact raised her as well, women that would let her see her Jane and develop a relationship with her, even if Eva could not play the devoted mum.”

“Very motherly of her,” Snape intoned.

“And besides,” Lupin said, “one could do far worse for parents than two kind and practical maiden aunts. I have no doubt the world would be a better place if we all grew up in similar circumstances.”

Snape grunted dismissively yet again, but he could not help thinking of his own parents (neither of whom could be described as practical or kind).

“After Godric’s Hollow, Eva returned from her travels and resumed her life. By that time Jane was fully sixteen, so obviously they couldn’t really start from scratch. Still, they seem to have worked things out, even better than some mothers and daughters without such a fragmented history. It all went quite well until Eva heard about the terrible fight at the Ministry, when Harry and all of us…when Sirius…” Lupin trailed off then for a moment. “She, like most everyone else, had managed to convince herself that Voldemort had not returned. When it became obvious that he had, she disappeared, and again quite wisely, until he was gone for good.”

Indeed Eva’s disappearance had been quite wise on her part. During his last year, Voldemort had spoken occasionally of “making an example of her”. This never went beyond the idle planning stages, however, in part because Eva seemed nowhere to be found. Voldemort had other things on his mind, and seemingly more accessible (and more threatening) targets. But if Voldemort had known of the existence of a Squib daughter…

Snape thought again of Voldemort’s reaction had he known Eva Pellarin had a daughter, a daughter just under the formidable nose of his most “devoted” servant.

“What about last year?” Snape demanded. “What of Jane then? She could have been…no doubt the Dark Lord…she could have been…”

Lupin looked at him with amusement. “How gratifying to know that you actually care whether she lives or dies,” he said.

Snape narrowed his eyes. “I don’t care…I mean, of course on a purely abstract level anyone’s death is a…I mean no doubt I would have been put in the position of…”

As Snape babbled incoherently, Lupin merely stared at him, one eyebrow raised, until Snape looked at him, and, unable to bear the supercilious gloating, closed his mouth at last.

“You needn’t convict Eva of all that, Severus. Whatever you think, she does love Jane. Before she went into hiding, she went to Dumbledore, and told him everything. Why do you think he brought Jane to Hogwarts, Severus? She’s a gifted Runes professor but Penfolds wasn’t quite ready to retire, you know. He’d only been here three years. He was pressured to take that job at the Ministry to make room for Jane, so that Albus could keep an eye on her. So that she could be kept completely safe. Besides, Voldemort didn’t know about her. If he had, don’t you think you of all people would have known?”

Again Snape imagined just the kind of fate Voldemort might have planned for Jane had he known, a fate Snape no doubt would have been required to engineer, or at least to witness. He felt sick.

“Of course the old man didn’t see fit to tell me…” Snape said resentfully.

“He didn’t even tell Jane, Severus. She had no idea of the peril she was in. Still doesn't. Eva didn’t want her to know, and I’d trust you not to tell her because it would only hurt her feelings at this point. She’s made herself a place here.

"And as for you…you had enough on your mind worrying about Albus, did you not? Not to mention Potter. Plus, it just would have been more fodder for your disapproval of her. How was Albus to know you were going to end up having an affair with the woman you originally thought didn’t belong here at all?”

“And she doesn’t belong here,” Snape said in a low voice.

“How convenient for your sex life that no one else shares that opinion.”

Snape was suddenly even angrier. “And anyway how do you know all this, Lupin? Quite the font of information, aren’t you?” Snape heard a bitterness in his tone that surprised him.

“I’m only speculating on Albus’ motives for keeping you in the dark, but as for Jane and her mother, I’m friends with both of them.”

“Yes, I’ve noticed. The two of you are already entirely too chummy for my liking.”

Lupin raised an eyebrow. “Jealous?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. How could you possibly be a threat to my sex life?”

“Just about sex, then, is it?”

“You know perfectly well that it’s just about sex,” Snape said emphatically. “For whatever reasons, she wants me. And as for myself, I am disinclined to reject her at the present time.”

“I see,” Lupin said with mock-seriousness. “And what about Princilla? Are you ‘disinclined to reject her at the present time’ as well?”

“Don’t be disgusting. I am not going to sleep with a student.”

“She’s quite fetching.”

“She is also still my student.”

“And clever, too.”


“Snappy dresser…”

I do not fuck students!”

“At least while you have other options, anyway,” Lupin said quietly.

There was a long silence then. “Do you think as little of me as that?” Snape asked at last.

“What I think, Severus, is that you are bound and determined to make yourself miserable.”

“What I am bound and determined to do is to weigh my options. Currently I am…involved with Jane physically,” (and at this Lupin snorted, which Snape ignored), “but I am not beyond considering Princilla as my future wife, after she graduates. I am considering all my options. And you can wipe that disapproving look off your face, Lupin. For your information this is the first time that I’ve even had any options where women are concerned! Would you begrudge me?”

Remus John Lupin shook his head slowly. He thought for a moment, and when he spoke again his voice was low. “You know, I understand that Princilla has slept with half the boys in her year. And some of the girls as well.”

At this Snape’s eyebrows suddenly rose quite high on his forehead, and he crossed his arms in front of his chest. “I thought you considered a woman’s sexual experience irrelevant in terms of judging her character,” he said. “At least that was the case when we were considering the perpetually spread-eagled Miss Weasley.”

“There’s a difference!”

“Only in terms of house, I see. When a Gryffindor decides to bend over for every stray tom she’s ‘a free spirit’. When a Slytherin girl does it she’s a tramp. Is that how it is?”

Lupin shook his head again. “No, Severus. Ginny has sex for the right reasons. She does it because she likes boys, and she likes sex.”

“Then I hope she has a liking for venereal diseases as well,” Snape retorted.

But Lupin ignored this. “Severus, I pay far more attention to the students’ personal lives than you do. And believe me when I tell you that Princilla has sex to get people to do what she wants.”

The two men stared at each other, at an impasse. “Then I assume she’s rather good at it,” Snape said airily.

Lupin did laugh at that. “Probably. Practice does make perfect. I’d not be the one to judge. But I assume Jane is not lacking in that regard, either, or else you’d find it easier keeping away from her.”

Snape looked away, his color rising. Jane, if possible, had almost too much ability “in that regard.” Or at least she did with him.

“And Princilla might be good at sex,” Lupin was saying, “but no doubt she will use it to manipulate you.”

Jane uses sex to manipulate me!” Snape hissed under his breath.

Lupin smiled. “Perhaps, but if I guess correctly she uses sex to manipulate you into having more sex.”

“I don’t see any difference!” Snape insisted.

But Lupin was chuckling now, ruefully. Finally, he stood, and brushing the crumbs from his robes and taking up his Christmas present, he made to leave.

“You poor bastard, Severus,” he said, shaking his head. “There’s all the difference in the world.”

Snape sat there for a couple of minutes in his bed after Lupin left, his arms still crossed over his chest, his face set in a scowl, with his near empty breakfast tray still balanced on his legs.

Finally, wordlessly, he swept the tray onto the floor, where it clattered violently against the stone. Glass shattered. What was left of the orange juice and the dilled cream spattered everywhere.

“Knortle!” Snape shouted angrily, at last. “Clean up this bloody mess!”

Then he pulled back the covers and got out of bed at last.

A More Merciful Man by Berkana [Reviews - 3]

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