And, indeed the world did spin on. Severus Snape was very good at pressing on through stress and tragedy. He had been doing it for so long that it seemed like his natural state of being. He collected his things, made sure the doors at Jane’s cottage were locked and all the electric lights turned off, and then he Apparated to Hogsmeade.
He told himself, as he walked across the Hogwarts grounds on that Easter afternoon, that he was fine. That he felt nothing at all now, because what was the point? Life would go on, because it always had in the past, despite the dangerous things he did. Why should things be any different now?
He settled himself in his office, his face expressionless, and set out to grade the tests he had abandoned when Lucius Malfoy made his appearance. And he finished them. One A (Granger, the swot), two Bs, ten Cs, six Ds and two Fs later, there was a knock at his door.
Remus Lupin didn’t even wait for a response before he poked his head in.
“You’re back!” he said, happily.
Snape said nothing, and barely glanced at the werewolf. He began entering the grades in his grade book.
Lupin settled himself on a chair, and placed his feet on Snape’s desk. “You and Jane. Did you have a good time?”
Not taking his eyes from his quizzes and his book, Snape nodded, because indeed he had. The best time of his whole life, until everything fell completely apart, that is.
Snape could feel Lupin’s unease from across the desk. The feet were removed. “What’s the matter, then? You look positively constipated. Not the expression I expected to see on your face after a week of sea and sun and nonstop Jane.”
Snape still did not look up. “There will be no more sea and sun and nonstop Jane,” he intoned.
“We have severed our relationship.”
At this, Lupin only sputtered.
Snape still did not look up. “The inevitable, Lupin.”
There was a long silence. Then, “She found out about the contract, didn’t she…” Lupin whispered.
Snape nodded slowly, his eyes still on his grade book. “At least I’m free to sign it now…”
But this seemed to upset Lupin even more. He leaned forward, placing his palms upon Snape’s desk, his face filled with apprehension. “No, Severus. Don’t! You don’t have to…”
“I’m going to sign it, Lupin,” Snape answered, resolutely. “I might as well salvage something out of this bloody mess.”
“Good Christ, Severus! You’ll make things worse!”
Snape only glared. “Thank you for your input. Now please leave!”
Lupin put his palms up now, as if to plead. “Severus…Severus…you must know how she feels about you! She…she…” Remus Lupin’s voice was imploring, now.
But Snape cut him off. “She feels lust for me. And that was wonderful. That was enough. And now it’s over. And there’s the door, Lupin. Put your body through it or I’ll do it for you.”
Remus Lupin stood now, and ran his fingers anxiously through his hair. “Severus! Are you blind? The woman doesn’t just feel lust for you! She…she…”
Snape pounded the desk, then, furious. “Don't say the word!” he shouted. “Even if I did believe it, which I don’t, what difference does it make?”
Lupin merely shook his head in disbelief. “It makes all the difference in the world! If you sign that contract, you would keep four people from those they truly care about…including you!”
But at this whatever reserve Snape possessed seemed to break. He stood, furious, his face flaring red, and proceeded to launch into a tirade. Against Lupin. Against Jane. And against himself, if the truth be known.
“Oh, again with your Gryffindor twaddle!” he roared. “How many relationships last, really? Relationships that are based on something as ephemeral as what people think they feel, or what people feel now, perhaps tomorrow, but somehow not the day after that? People cycle through partner after partner, then when they do marry most of those end as well. They go on to more partners, more marriages. More feelings that they think are true, but then those feelings curdle, or they find they’re so true after all.”
Snape was pacing back and forth, now, shouting.
“And of the marriages that do last, how many are truly happy? How many hobble along, crippled by cruelty and spite? A hundred enraptured couples might pass you on a sunny day, sitting in the park. How many of them will remain happy together into old age? One? Two? No one relationship has much of a chance, does it?
“Who remains happy, Lupin? Who captures that little bird and keeps it forever? No. To trust in emotion is to trust in a Chimera. I would give up everything I am, everything I could have, to chase a fruitless dream!”
He turned to Lupin then, his face a mask of red fury.
“Talk to me about Levitation Charms! Talk to me about Aristotle or Kepler or the sex life of the last king of Spain! But do not talk to me about love!”
And at this, Snape seated himself again in his chair, breathing heavily. And Lupin remained, merely staring at him in shock after this spectacle.
“I cannot discuss this with you any further,” Snape told him, his voice a tight whisper. “And if you wish to remain in my company for any time whatsoever you will not bring up the contract, or question me about my relationship with Professor Flintrammel, ever again.”
And then, Severus Snape resumed entering his grades. But his hands betrayed him. They shook. His hands never shook. But they shook. And the ink smeared.
“DAMN!” he shouted, this time to no one in particular. Again, “DAMN!” With the second curse he swept the grade book, the papers, everything off his desk and onto the floor. Then Snape lowered his head into his hands, which were still trembling.
As for Remus Lupin, his face was filled with terrible pity. For a moment, his right hand reached out, almost to touch the Potions professor’s. He wanted to take it in his own, to tell the man everything would be fine, though Lupin believed none of it. He was not sure things would ever be fine for Severus Snape. He had never seen a man so determined to make himself miserable in all his born days.
Finally, Lupin’s hand dropped to his side.
“Oh, Severus…” he said softly, at last. “What your life has done to you…”
Snape did not answer this. Instead, “I need a drink,” he said, his voice thick. “And I’d be grateful if you brought me one.”
Lupin Flooed back almost immediately with a fresh bottle of the Macallan, and found Snape seated in his rooms, staring into the fireplace. Quietly, he set the bottle down beside him and poured him half a glass. Snape did not speak, or look at him, but took the glass and downed it in two swallows. Lupin poured a quarter of a glass for him then, and Snape began to nurse that a bit more slowly.
When still Snape did not order him to leave, Lupin made a fire, then tentatively sat himself down by it, turning the logs gently with a poker. Two minutes stretched into five, and then ten. And Severus Snape still stared. Finally Remus Lupin actually lay himself down in front of the fire itself, and closed his eyes. He had never seen Snape like this, and he could not bring himself to leave him unless privacy was demanded. And Snape did not demand privacy. He just sat and drank quietly, lost in his own thoughts, looking at the fire, with the werewolf curled up in front of it, a werewolf who now began dozing lightly.
Lupin would have known this mood, had he been at Spinner’s End with Snape during those dark days after the murder of Dumbledore. Snape was now, as he had been then, the very picture of a man in mourning, withdrawn into himself, and utterly disconsolate.
Only one thing was different this time.
This time he was not alone.