The Sugar Quill
Author: Madaline Fabray  Story: Imprisoned  Chapter: 3. Culpa rubet vultus meus
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Part III: Culpa rubet vultus meus

Part III: Culpa rubet vultus meus

 

Pain. Agonizing pain.

 

That was the first thing Remus was aware of as he slowly regained consciousness. The second thing was a voice.

 

“Wake up! Ennervate. Wake up!”

 

A warm stream of magic coursed through his veins. Grace? What was going on?

 

Remus felt a bony hand on his shoulder, which shook him roughly.

 

“Shit…wake up, Lupin! Damn you, wake up!”

 

What was the matter with Grace? Remus thought peevishly. He didn’t want to wake up. He wanted his pain medication and he wanted to sleep.

 

“Wake up! Bloody hell…come on, wake up! Ennervate!”

 

Another steam of warm, energizing magic, and another rough shake. Remus winced. It didn’t sound like Grace. It was a man’s voice. Gideon?

 

“Go away, Gideon,” he rasped out, barely recognizing the sound of his own voice. “Get Grace. I hurt, badly. Besides, she’s a damn sight easier on the eyes when a body is waking up.”

 

“Lupin!”

 

Remus first opened one eye, then the other. He groaned as his vision cleared and he looked at his tormentor. It wasn’t Gideon. It certainly wasn’t Grace. He started to remember what happened, and where he was.

 

“You.” Remus started to turn away and close his eyes, but Snape shook him all the harder.

 

“Stay awake, you weak fool!” Snape hissed. He held up a narrow crystal glass and pressed it to Remus’ lips. “Drink it.”

 

Remus started to protest, but the amber-colored liquid, minty and cool, was poured down his throat. He gagged a bit in surprise, but found this potion surprisingly pleasant. Gradually, the pain in his head, leg and back faded. He looked down and noticed he was wrapped snuggly – more like cocooned – in the white sheet that had formerly draped the sofa, which sported several gaping, jagged holes. The rodent residents of his decrepit surroundings were probably responsible for the torn, shredded state of the dingy green sofa.

 

While the sheet wasn’t uncomfortable, he found it difficult to move his arms or one good leg. “Afraid I will escape?” Remus asked, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

 

Snape walked over to the couch and sat on the edge of the armrest. He stared at Remus with a mixture of relief and anger. The dead, insane look was gone for now. He almost looked normal.

 

“You fool,” he muttered. “What did you think you were doing?”

 

“Trying to kill you. What did you think?”

 

“Surely you did not think you would succeed, Lupin. A sickly invalid like you?”

 

“Don’t mock me. How else did you think I would react to the knowledge that you knew Sirius, one of my dearest friends, was innocent? That if you would have spoken up about what you knew, he might still be alive today? Even an old werewolf with a bum leg can be dangerous when provoked.”

 

Snape sniffed derisively. “A danger to yourself, perhaps.”

 

Remus closed his eyes in frustration. “Why are you putting me through this? What do you want? Why did you bring me here?” He opened his eyes and glared at Snape. “Where is ‘here,’ for that matter? Where are we?”

 

“Ah,” Snape said, and he held out both of his scarecrow arms mockingly as he gestured around the room. “Welcome to the honorable Prince estate. The ancestral home of many a Prince, dating back to before Queen Elizabeth’s I time. My great-uncle was the last person to own it. My mother and I lived here after my father died. My great-uncle, he gave me my foundation in the Dark Arts. He was an excellent teacher on how to inflict pain, show scorn for others and how to drive out things like love and kindness from one’s heart.” Snape suddenly looked tired and bitter.

 

“Do you think you were the only one who had a rough start? Do you think you, alone, had problems?” Remus found himself saying this with a curious detachment. He could not muster his earlier anger, or even annoyance. He suspected it had to do with the potion Snape had given him. He wasn’t about to ask for the recipe. He probably did not want to know.

 

Snape gave a loud “hrmph.” “Yes, but you had something I never did. A supportive family who loved you. And friends whom you could rely on.”

 

“You could have had friends, if you hadn’t been such a nasty git.”

 

“How? When I was taught by my dear old uncle that friendships were for convenience, nothing more?”

 

“Did you learn nothing from school, then? From your fellow students? Your professors? You are a sad case, Snape. I don’t think you realize how sad a case you are.”

 

Remus fully expected this to set Snape off on another rampage, but Snape only fixed him with a long, calculating stare.

 

“What?” Remus asked, irritated, after several moments of silence.

 

Snape didn’t immediately respond. Instead, he stood and walked over to the unlit fireplace. He pointed his wand at the grate and a flow of yellow-orange light poured from the wand’s tip.

 

“That was one of the hardest things about Azkaban,” Snape said as a small fire flickered in the hearth. “No magic. No wand. It was as if a limb had been amputated. Even after I had been released, it was several hours before I was able to use magic again.”

 

“How did you get the wand?” Remus asked with mild curiosity. “Don’t they usually snap wands in the case of long-term inmates?”

 

 “It belongs to that nurse who was with you.”

 

Remus’ mouth became a thin line as he glared at Snape. Snape returned the glare with a cool look of his own.

 

“I told you I didn’t harm her,” Snape said, his tone flat. “I merely used a simple sleeping powder.” He suddenly leered as he gave Remus a sideways look. “You are fond of the girl, aren’t you?”

 

“What do you care? Fondness means nothing but weakness to you.” Remus muttered.

 

“She is very pretty,” Snape said. “And I know you did have a fondness once, for a certain much-younger woman, just like her.”

 

That was hitting below the belt. “Shut up, Snape. That was long ago, and I am past any relationships now.”

 

“But you still think of her?” Snape’s tone was calculating.

 

Remus flushed. “Of course I do. She died…at the hands of your allies.” A terrible thought occurred to him. “We never did find out who killed her.” A  potent anger started building within him. “Did you…? If I find out that you had something to do with Tonks’ death, if you were involved, there’s no restraint strong enough…”

 

“Lupin, your threats are empty,” Snape said flatly. His face was devoid of emotion as he turned his head and stared at his family crest. “You can do nothing to me. But no, I had nothing to do with her death. I have no idea who killed her. I was preoccupied elsewhere that day.”

 

Remus relaxed, but only slightly. “Killing someone else, then?”

 

“Yes. Fenrir Greyback.”

 

“Greyback?” This revelation floored Remus.

 

“Yes. You didn’t know I killed your tormentor, did you?” Snape turned and gave Remus a mirthless smile.

 

“No,” Remus said. “All I know is that one day, he simply disappeared. But I’m sure it wasn’t from some altruistic impulse. He came after you, and you were saving your own skin, I bet. What possessed him to attack you? He get tired of putting up with your acid tongue? And how did Voldemort react to you snuffing his favorite pet?”

 

“He didn’t attack me!” Snape snapped. “He…” and suddenly, Snape’s eyes were filled with pain and regret. “He attacked Draco.”

 

“Draco Malfoy? But I thought Voldemort killed him!”

 

Snape didn’t even object to Remus’ use of the name, he was so caught up in his memories. “Oh, that is true as far as it goes.” He laughed bitterly. “But Draco was as good as dead long before the Dark Lord arrived. We were in our own hideout in Canterbury. I don’t know precisely what happened, but I suspect that Draco, in his infinite arrogance and the stupidity of brash youth, pushed Greyback too far. All I know is that I heard him scream in terror. I had run towards the sound, but it was already too late. Greyback had already torn open half the boy’s neck and was tearing at his chest like the savage animal he was. I could not remember the last time I was that angry, seeing that monster with the poor boy in his clutches. I don’t even remember what I cast, only that my next coherent memory was of the Dark Lord restraining my wand hand. I looked down, and Greyback was barely recognizable. Little more than a man-shaped pile of ash.”

 

Snape drew a shaky breath and closed his eyes. He turned back to the fireplace before continuing.

 

“One of the dementor’s favorite nightmares they liked to dredge up was of me holding Draco as he was dying. There was nothing anyone could do. The Dark Lord killed him quickly, in one of his only acts of true compassion. Then he turned and left, with instructions on disposing of the bodies. He never said anything to me about killing Greyback. I suspect it was because Greyback had grown more violent, more uncontrollable in the months before I killed him. The Dark Lord eventually would have had to take care of Greyback, if I hadn’t done it.”

 

Remus shuddered. He remembered Draco Malfoy as a student, and never cared for his snide remarks or aristocratic airs. But he would have never wished such a fate on anyone. Remus knew all to well what it was like to face an insane Fenrir Greyback. He considered himself lucky to have survived the experience.

 

Snape, meanwhile, continued to stare at the sooty stones of the mantle, his expression haunted by the hundreds of the ghosts in his past.

 

Remus observed him for a moment. “You cared about the boy. I thought you had decided that caring was a sign of weakness.”

 

“Yes, I was weak. Does this surprise you?” The former Potions master’s lip pulled back into a sneer. His eyes, filled with unfathomable sorrow, belied his mocking expression.

 

“Yes, it does. I didn’t think you capable, especially with what you said earlier.”

 

“I think I had a heart, once.” Snape rubbed his left forearm. “Or at least a part of one. I can never be certain. I barely know what it feels like, especially after so many years in Azkaban.”

 

Remus shook his head. “Why did you do this? Kidnap me? You could have turned your life around, made a fresh start. You’ve destroyed that chance.”

 

“No, that is where you are wrong,” Snape said. He balled his left hand into a fist and thumped it against the stone. “You are, even after all these years, hopelessly optimistic and naïve. No one would have given me another chance, not after what I have done. They would have only seen Severus Snape, Death Eater, the murderer of Dumbledore and countless others. Another chance? I think not. My chances and my future are non-existent. I only wanted…” and here Snape trailed off into exasperating silence.

 

“What?” Remus asked, his patience growing thin. “What is it you wanted? I’ve asked you many times now, but you won’t tell me.”

 

Snape sprang from the fireplace and walked in agitated circles around the couch.

 

Remus sighed in exasperation. “Will you stop that bloody pacing and answer me?” The euphoric effect of the drug was wearing off and once again, he found himself getting irritated at Snape’s behavior. His head hurt where it had hit the back of the futon and his bad leg started to throb again.

 

Snape, to Remus’ surprise, halted in mid-stride. He stood still, an ebony and marble statue, for several seconds, his expression filled with indecision. Then just as suddenly, he strode over to the piano again and started plunking a series of harsh, loud chords. “Dies Irae.” This time, there was no mistaking the monadic tune, but it was jarring, discordant.

 

“Stop it, Snape!” Remus said with as much force as his aching head would allow. “That bloody piano is so out of tune that you couldn’t recognize ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.’ Besides, you can’t play, either. You could wake the dead with that cacophony.”

 

Snape played two more noisy chords, then stopped. He gave a strange titter. “Don’t want that, waking the dead. They have too many reasons to hate me. And this place is already haunted by too many specters.” He laughed softly, but his expression was sad. “I never learned to play well. It was considered too Mugglish an art for a true wizard, even a half-breed like me. When my uncle wanted music, he commanded one of the house-elves to play or enchanted the instrument himself. It was easier, I suppose, than making the effort himself to play.”

 

A small moan escaped Remus. He closed his eyes against the pain that was growing in his skull, back, leg and chest. He heard the piano stool shift across the floor, then heavy footsteps leave the room. They soon returned, and Remus sensed Snape’s presence next to him.

 

“Here,” Snape said gruffly.

 

Remus slowly opened his eyes and saw another thin glass placed near his lips, full of a thick, amber-colored liquid. He only hesitated a moment, then he nodded. Snape helped him sit up and Remus drank the concoction. The minty potion slid down his throat with ease, and soon the pain started to dissipate again.

 

“What time is it?” Remus asked after he finished.

 

“Time grows short,” Snape said as he took the glass. He walked over to the piano and placed the glass on top of it. “It’s mid-afternoon, I suppose. Soon, the sun will start its descent across the sky. I imagine you will be found before then.” He looked around at the scene of his bitter childhood memories. “There are Unplottable charms in place here, but they are weak from disuse and lack of upkeep. I do not have the magic at my command to enforce them. All I can manage, even now, are the rudimentary skills and potions we could do as first-years. Or, should have been able to do, if we were drilled properly.”

 

“Some things never change,” Remus said with a small smile. “You were always griping about the curriculum.”

 

“Was I incorrect, though?” Snape leveled a piercing look in Remus’ direction.

 

“One should always encourage the best out of the students and others,” Remus said softly. “You never know what they can accomplish if you don’t push them beyond their comfort zone. But if you push them too hard, and destroy their confidence, that is counterproductive, Snape. You never learned that last lesson.”

 

Snape laughed bitterly. “Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus, cum vix justus sit securus?”

 

“Not this again,” Remus said. “If time is growing so short, than why are you wasting it on such ridiculous riddles?”

 

“Ingemisco, tamquam reus: culpa rubet vultus meus: supplicanti parce, Deus.”

 

Remus was about to say something scathing, but Snape fell silent. His eyes were dead, haunted.

 

“What does that mean, anyway?” Remus asked, curiosity overruling his resentment.

 

Snape walked away from the futon and back over to the fireplace. His back was to Remus, his arms folded over his chest as he stared out the window. The former Potions master’s shoulders seemed to sag in defeat.

 

“Dies Irae. I groan, as guilty. My face is red with guilt. I do not deny that, Remus. At best, I can be said to be a disciple of Dismas.”

 

Remus blinked in surprise. This was the most contrite he had ever heard Snape.

 

“We are both dying men, Remus.” Snape sighed and half turned back to his captive. “What waits for us on the other side of the veil? This is my one chance, right here. If I had chosen to walk the streets, I would have met with condemnation everywhere. Never would I be able to live. A ceaseless stream of scorn and hatred awaits me out there. No, I have no future. My only hope lies in this room. With you. With what you know, with what you can say. You are the only one who truly remembers me now. You were correct earlier when you said this was a trial, but you had everything reversed. It is you, not I, who must give the final verdict.”

 

It suddenly hit Remus, like a bolt of lightening, what Snape was asking him to do. Why he was kidnapped and brought here. His eyes widened in shock. He tried opening his mouth to speak, but his jaw worked soundlessly.

 

Snape turned around and looked at Remus, his face expressionless, but his eyes filled with despair.

 

“You know, don’t you?” he said softly. “You know what I am asking. You understand. Finally, you understand.”

 

It was as if someone had cast a Silencing charm on Remus. He tried to speak, to say something, but an invisible hand had closed over his throat, and he knew what that hand was. Indecision. Anger. Hatred. Could he really do what Snape had asked? There was so much he had done, so much blood.

 

“Why me, and why now?” Remus croaked.

 

Snape looked down and sighed. “You know the answer to that. You are the only member of Dumbledore’s Order who isn’t six feet under and who’s brains weren’t turned to worthless gray mush. My life is over. I will not live to see another sunrise. I knew my time would be brief. I never had enough time.”

 

“Forgiveness is a two-way street, Snape. Are you truly sorry for what you have done? I’m not convinced yet. And how do you know how brief your time is? Something might be arranged. They will listen to me…”

 

Anything else Remus was about to say froze in his throat as Snape looked up at him with a defeated, resigned look.

 

“It’s too late,” he whispered hoarsely.

 

Crash! What remained of the old wooden doors was vaporized in a blaze of white light and a cloud of smoke. Dark silhouettes of wizards in Auror’s robes poured into the room, shouting.

 

No! Remus tried to shout, and he couldn’t tell if he had vocalized his frantic thought. He saw Snape topple over in a sea of swirling robes and smoke. A stray Stunning spell hit Remus on the shoulder, and the room started to spin wildly before going dark.

 

****

 

A spell, then a voice.

 

“Remus. Remus, wake up now.”

 

A man’s voice, warm and gentle. A light hand tapped Remus on the cheek, then touched his shoulder. Remus, without opening his eyes, let out an involuntary hiss of pain.

 

“He’s coming around.” Relief filled the voice. “Help me check his shoulder.”

 

Remus slowly opened his eyes and saw an older wizard kneeling next to him, a younger apprentice hovering nearby.

 

“Dr. Rittman,” Remus whispered. His throat was dry and felt clogged with dust.

 

Dr. Rittman looked up from where he was carefully pulling the fabric of Remus’ shirt away from his shoulder and smiled in relief.

 

“Remus, welcome back, young man. How do you feel?”

 

“Like death warmed over.”

 

“I’m not surprised.” Dr. Rittman finished loosening Remus’ shirt and looked at his shoulder. The doctor sucked in his breath sharply. “The bastard was rather rough, I see.” The usually gentle, dark eyes flashed angrily. “That’s a nasty bruise. We’ll get some ointment on it as soon as we can get you to the lorrytruck. Plumpton,” and the doctor turned to his apprentice. “Go see if the medical truck has arrived yet. I think we can move him now, and I want to get Remus back to the medical center as quickly as possible.”

 

“Yes, Dr. Rittman.” The apprentice jogged across the vast room. It was only then that Remus became aware of a petite woman, screaming furiously at three much larger Aurors.

 

“You idiots! Have you no more sense than a pack of bloody trolls? Imbeciles!”

 

“Grace?” Remus whispered.

 

“Yes, she insisted on coming along,” Dr. Rittman replied. “She feels horrible for what happened. She blames herself, despite everything I’ve tried to tell her.”

 

“It’s not her fault,” Remus said. “No one dreamed he would go there.”

 

Meanwhile, Grace continued upbraiding the Aurors, who looked thouroughly cowed.

 

“What did you were you thinking, storming in here like that, with a sick, fragile man in here? You could have killed him!”

 

Despite his pain and exhaustion, Remus couldn’t help a small smile.

 

“I think she’s a bit pissed off,” Remus observed dryly as Dr. Rittman took his pulse.

 

 

“Furious,” Dr. Rittman said. “So was I, but my job is here, with you. I think she’s handling the Aurors quite well herself. I don’t think they will soon forget my Gracie’s sharp tongue. No one ever does.”

 

Remus chuckled, but the sound turned into a harsh cough and he grimaced in pain.

 

Plumpton ran back in. “The truck is here, Dr. Rittman.”

 

“Good,” the doctor said with a nod. “Let’s go, then. I think this whole escapade has taken ten years off my life.”

 

“Is he awake?” Grace turned from the Aurors and looked over at the doctor and Remus. The Aurors took advantage of the opportunity to scurry away. She ran over and looked with relief at Remus. Her eyes were red-rimmed and puffy. “I’m so sorry, Remus, I never thought…this is all my…”

 

“Grace,” Dr. Rittman said. He stood up and put a restraining hand on her shoulder. “We need to get him out of here. You can talk later.”

 

Grace flushed and nodded, and her demeanor became brisk and businesslike as she, Plumpton and another medical apprentice guided a floating, cushioned platform next to Remus. Remus felt his body tense as he was slowly levitated to the floating board. He detested the feeling of being completely suspended. He clenched his jaw as he was gently lowed on to the board. His head rested on a small pillow, and his bad leg was elevated by a roll of towels. The three Healers fastened two restraining straps, one across his shoulders and one at his hips.

 

“Snape!” he suddenly remembered as the Healers adjusted the straps. “What happened to him? Where is he?”

 

“Don’t worry,” Dr. Rittman said, again the angry flash in his eyes. “He’s been taken care of. You don’t need to worry about him again.”

 

“No one will,” Grace said grimly as the medical staff made their way to the doorway with their patient. “If you ask me, this should have been done years ago, if half of what I heard was true.”

 

Dead, Remus realized. He was surprised how saddened he was by this news.

 

“Remus,” Dr. Rittman asked as they moved down the corridor which led to the main entrance. “Do you have any idea why he did this? Any idea at all?”

 

“Does it matter, Dad?” Grace said with some heat. “The man was psychotic and a criminal! Psychosis needs no reason…”

 

“I think…” Remus interrupted. “I know the reason. He didn’t want to harm or kill me.”

 

Dr. Rittman looked dissapprovingly at the hand-shaped bruise on Remus' shoulder, but gave his daughter a silencing look and waited for Remus to continue. Up ahead, someone swore loudly as a picture fell off the wall with a loud crash further down.

 

“Place is falling apart,” someone muttered.

 

“I think…” an unexpected lump formed in Remus’ throat. “I think he wanted someone to forgive him.”

 

“What?” both Dr. Rittman and Grace said together, stunned.

 

“Is that what he told you?” Grace said, her eyes wide.

 

“Not in so many words,” Remus said sourly. “But he tried giving me hints.”

 

“What did you say?” Dr. Rittman questioned softly. “Did you forgive him?”

 

“I don’t think I could have,” Grace said with a shudder.

 

“I…I didn’t answer.” Remus closed his eyes, exhausted, as they stepped outside. Remus could feel the late afternoon sun on his face. He opened his eyes again partway, and saw the bright blue sky, which was turning a soft rose color on the edges of the horizon. “I didn’t know what to say…and then it was too late.”

 

“Remus, you must not feel guilty,” Dr. Rittman chided gently. “Severus Snape committed many heinous crimes.”

 

“I think he was asking for far too much,” Grace said vehmently. “The monster.”

 

“Yes,” Remus mused. He closed his eyes again. “He was a monster. But he was molded by the forces that insisted on shaping him that way. Was enough ever done to try to shape him into a man?”

 

Grace squeezed his hand and brushed a few stray wisps of hair from his forehead. “It doesn’t matter anymore. It’s all over. Try to rest now. We’ll have you back to the center in no time.”

 

Remus managed a small, forced smile, but in his mind, he still saw the haunted face of Snape, still heard his final, unanswered pleas. The thing that really bothered him was that, if he were given a second chance with Snape, what would he say?

 

Remus felt the board under him lift higher off the ground, then float forward. A shadow covered him, and Remus knew he was in the lorry. A soft click of the latch on the back of the lorry being fastened was the last sound Remus heard before he began to drift off.

 

Could he forgive Snape? Remus thought as sleep started to weigh his mind.

 

He still didn’t know.

 

-Finis-

 

 

A/N – Translation for the Latin:

 

The Latin comes from parts of Requiem, a Latin Mass, and Dies Irae (source: wikipedia.com).

 

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine; In memoria æterna erit iustus ab auditione mala non timebit.

("Grant them eternal rest, O Lord. He shall be justified in everlasting memory, and shall not fear evil reports.")

 

Absolve Domine animas omnium fidelium defunctorum ab omno vinculo delictorum et gratia tua illis succurente mereantur evadere iudicium ultionis, et lucis æterne beatitudine perfrui.

("Forgive, O Lord, the souls of all the faithful departed from all the chains of their sins and may they deserve to avoid the judgment of revenge by your fostering grace, and enjoy the everlasting blessedness of light.")

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine; In memoria æterna erit iustus ab auditione mala non timebit.

 

 

·("Grant them eternal rest, O Lord. He shall be justified in everlasting memory, and shall not fear evil reports.")

Absolve Domine animas omnium fidelium defunctorum ab omno vinculo delictorum et gratia tua illis succurente mereantur evadere iudicium ultionis, et lucis æterne beatitudine perfrui.

("Forgive, O Lord, the souls of all the faithful departed from all the chains of their sins and may they deserve to avoid the judgment of revenge by your fostering grace, and enjoy the everlasting blessedness of light.")

 

Dies iræ! dies illa

Solvet sæclum in favilla

Teste David cum Sibylla!

Day of wrath and terror looming!

Heaven and earth to ash consuming,

David's word and Sibyl's truth foredooming!

 

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?

Quem patronum rogaturus,

cum vix justus sit securus?

What am I, wretched one, to say,

What protector implore,

when (even) a just person will scarcely be confident?

 

 

 

//
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