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trust

Page history last edited by McKay 14 years, 2 months ago

Title: A Matter of Trust: Snape/Lupin post-HBP

Word count: 2659

Notes: Written for the Trust Challenge on . Contains SPOILERS.

 

Trust -- it's a difficult matter for a lot of people, and when it comes to shipping Snape/Lupin, it's one of the biggest obstacles a writer has to overcome. Due to their tangled history, the trust issues between Snape and Lupin were great enough as it was, and new canon in HBP has simultaneously given us more fodder for our ship while also making it more difficult for us to bring them together.

 

When I wrote a Snape/Lupin ship essay for nearly a year ago, I touched on the aspects of their respective natures that makes it difficult for them to trust anyone, least of all each other, easily:

 

They're both too accustomed to hiding their respective secrets to trust anyone easily, especially considering they know the potential consequences of telling the truth about themselves. The only real difference is how their masks manifest: Snape's is made of bitterness and anger, while Lupin's is created out of calm politeness. But they stem from the same source: fear of rejection. Both masks are firmly in place, and both serve to keep the wearer safe and to keep others at arm's length.

 

Both of them also use words as weapons and as shields; Snape uses insults and vitriol, while Lupin uses courtesy to keep people at a safe distance. Lupin is, in fact, one of the (very) few characters who can interact with Snape without losing his temper or getting ruffled, which annoys Snape to no end, considering he counts on being able to rile people and make them lose control -- and control is a very big issue for both men. Lupin exerts control over himself, because of his inner beast and the fear it can create in others, but Snape seeks to exert control over others rather than himself -- one reason why he's considered to be a tyrant in the classroom -- which frequently results in people around him getting flustered or irate, or in Snape's behavior devolving into a snarling, spitting rage when he finds he isn't in control of a given situation.

 

This time, I want to tackle the outside factors that affect their ability to trust each other specifically with some thoughts about how the obstacles might be overcome.

 

THE PAST:

The seeds of distrust were sown some twenty years in the past. We don't know what their interaction was like prior to the Shrieking Shack incident, although we can infer from Snape's worst memory that while Lupin didn't actively participate in bullying Snape, he didn't try to stop it either, even though he had the authority to do so. He placed friendship over duty, and given what we know of Snape, it's likely such passivity didn't endear Lupin to him. I think it's a safe bet to assume that Lupin didn't hate Snape the way James and Sirius did, but didn't care enough to put his friendships at risk to help Snape either, perhaps because of James and Sirius' intense loathing of Snape. I think it's also safe to assume that Snape probably didn't distinguish between the Marauders, assuming they were all out to get him, and while he probably hated James and Sirius the most, he probably hated Lupin for his tacit complicity in their behavior. Snape strikes me as the type to be contemptuous of anyone who displays weakness (such as Neville), and Lupin's behavior can be interpreted as spinelessness in the face of his friends' influence, especially by someone looking to find fault, as Snape likely would be.

 

In his youth, Snape seems prejudiced. He calls Lily a "Mudblood", and on the surface, it could be a sign of his own prejudices, although given that we now know he's a half-blood himself, it's ironic and somewhat hypocritical for him to sneer at anyone else's bloodlines. My theory is that he uses slurs as weapons to hurt and to keep people at a distance. In the worst memory scene, he's furious and humiliated, so he lashes out. Over a decade later, he refers to Lupin as "the werewolf" in an attempt to dehumanize Lupin, thus making him an easier target for Snape's wrath.

 

Of course, now that we know the Defense position is cursed, that puts a rather interesting spin on the Shrieking Shack incident of 1994. We see Snape lose it spectacularly; he's irrational and seems on the verge of madness, losing control to an extent we haven't seen before or since, not even in the aftermath of killing Dumbledore. It could very well be that the curse was working on him, exacerbating his feelings and reactions in order to goad him into hurting Lupin physically, and when that fails, he still manages to force Lupin to resign -- and thus fulfills the curse.

 

At any rate, it's inconclusive (at least to me) whether Snape truly harbors prejudice against werewolves or not. I'm inclined to think that his insults are meant to push buttons in order to keep people away from him, and thus aren't necessarily an accurate reflection of his beliefs. In the world of fanfiction, it could go either way, although it's admittedly easier if he isn't inclined to hate werewolves but is instead using words as a shield to protect himself in any way possible, including through the use of derogatory slurs. Having him overcome his prejudices does put an interesting twist on their relationship, but God knows they have enough obstacles to overcome as it is!

 

Fast-forwarding a decade or so, their interaction in PoA seems to indicate one-sided antagonism. Harry notices Snape staring at Lupin in a way described as being "beyond anger; it was loathing" (PoA, pg 93), although Lupin is unfailingly polite, which is perhaps his own form of button-pushing, since he has to know it annoys Snape to be unable to ruffle his feathers. There's no question that Snape's hatred is real; he doesn't believe that Lupin wasn't part of the plan to send him to the Shrieking Shack, which casts Lupin in the role of accessory to murder, and there is also the lingering resentment for Lupin's lack of action against his friends from their school days. Snape has plenty of reasons to dislike Lupin, but at this point, I have to wonder if the curse was amplifying those feelings all year to build toward Snape's loss of control.

 

Even if the curse isn't affecting his feelings for Lupin, Snape's dislike is clear and palpable, although he does make the Wolfsbane potion for Lupin, whether to protect the denizens of Hogwarts, or because Dumbledore twisted his arm, or a bit of both. No matter what his motivation, it provides a means of private interaction between them once a month, and when Harry witnesses one such exchange, Snape doesn't behave in an outwardly antagonistic manner towards Lupin. Instead, his only dialogue is almost solicitous: "You should drink that directly, Lupin... I made an entire cauldronful... if you need more" (pg. 156). Whether his concern is for the safety of the students or for Lupin himself is a subject ripe for speculation in fanfiction.

 

There is no interaction between them in GoF and very little on-camera in OotP, although book 5 does yield a fascinating off-screen possibility during this exchange after Harry tells Sirius and Lupin that Snape has stopped giving him Occlumency lessons:

 

"I'm coming up there to have a word with Snape!" said Sirius forcefully and he actually made to stand up, but Lupin wrenched him back down again.

 

"If anyone's going to tell Snape it will be me!" he said firmly. (pg. 672)

 

It seems to me that Lupin underwent a change between the end of PoA and when we see him again in OotP. He's less hesitant about touching people, for one thing. In PoA, we see him reach out to Harry but stop just short of touching him, but in OotP, he initiates hand-shakes and other forms of casual touch, such as comforting Molly. He's still quiet, but he's more forceful and outspoken, as in the above scene and earlier, when he ends Sirius and Molly's squabbling. It seems as if the events of PoA were something of a wake-up call for him; perhaps he feels he has precious little to lose considering how close to rock bottom he is, thus there's no need for him to hold back, or perhaps he's realized he can't afford to sit back and be passive any longer, considering what it cost him and his kind since the events at Hogwarts were likely what spurred Umbridge to force the anti-werewolf employment legislation through. The ripples were wide indeed, and his assertiveness could be the result of feeling responsible for screwing things up for all British werewolves.

 

Given this shift in behavior, I think it's likely that Lupin did speak to Snape and got nowhere, which is why Harry never heard anything more about it. Given how alarmed Lupin was, I doubt this is something he would neglect to follow up on, especially since he's already learned a lesson the hard way about concealing information and not following through on important things, and I believe the proof that he did is in Dumbledore and Harry's conversation in chapter 37:

 

"Snape stopped giving me Occlumency lessons!" Harry snarled. "He threw me out of his office!"

 

"I am aware of it," said Dumbledore heavily. (pg 833).

 

My guess is that Lupin did try to talk to Snape -- which is a scene ripe for exploration in fanfiction -- but got nowhere, and so he reported what he'd learnt to Dumbledore, perhaps in hopes that Dumbledore could convince Snape when no one else could. Now the question is, did that conversation entail shouting and things being thrown with Snape's towering rage at having his most humiliating moment being dredged up being channeled into a passion of a different kind? Did Lupin apologize for not acting responsibly? Did they reach a truce, or did the confrontation culminate in anger!sex? The field is wide open.

 

Which brings us to HBP. Again, there's no on-camera interaction, but we learn that Lupin is a spy among the werewolves, and he's now in a position to understand Snape's dangerous position as a double agent better than anyone else in the Order. As with OotP, they likely saw each other at meetings of the Order, thus it's plausible to say they did see each other on occasion.

 

Now we move into the realm of subtext. I'm sure I'm not the only Snape/Lupin shipper who snickered while reading chapter 16:

 

Meanwhile, Remus Lupin, who was thinner and more ragged-looking than ever, was sitting by the fire, staring into its depths as though he could not hear Celestina's voice

 

Oh, come and stir my cauldron,

And if you do it right,

I'll boil you up some hot, strong love

To keep you warm tonight. (pg 330)

 

Later in that same scene, he tells Harry that he neither likes nor dislikes Snape, which is an interesting way to put it considering their tumultuous personal history; I find it difficult to believe that after everything that's happened, Lupin is totally neutral about Snape; I think he's not telling the entire truth, perhaps for Harry's sake. Canonically speaking, it could imply that Lupin doesn't care enough about Snape to feel one way or another about him, or that he's lying to keep from adding fuel to the fire of Harry's dislike. In fanfiction, however, that can easily be transformed into a careful hedge designed to cover his real feelings of attraction (or more).

 

There's also the matter of Remus' continued rebuff of Tonks' affections. I like Tonks, although I admit that her emotional outburst (which occurred at a very inappropriate time) and her pushing Remus in public caused my respect for her to dip. As private a person as Remus is, I can't imagine that he was happy about her bringing up such a highly personal subject in public, especially since it caused other people to start pushing him toward her as well. Which brings us to...

 

THE PRESENT:

Disclaimer: I don't hate the Remus/Tonks ship, and I don't hate Tonks. I'm not disgruntled because Remus/Tonks blew so many of my ships out of the water, because fandom is a playground wherein I can still ship Remus with anyone I want. I'm not saying JKR was "wrong" to put them together, but I do have my suspicions that she did it in reaction to fandom. Anyway...

 

My biggest issue with how Remus/Tonks was played out was that it contradicted pretty much everything we've learned about Remus. Namely, since when has he ever played the martyr like that before? He ran wild in wolf form with James, Sirius and Peter during his school years in spite of the danger he posed, he kept his mouth shut about Sirius being an Animagus to protect his job -- the man is a habitual rule-breaker, and he's been starved for affection and friendship his entire life, making choices in order to keep people close even when he knows it's the wrong choice. Even if the events of PoA did give him a much needed wake-up call, I can't see him holding out against Tonks' repeated attempts at coaxing him into a relationship if he was really interested in having one with her.

 

And this leaves the door open for fanfiction. At the end of HBP, we have a Lupin who loses control in front of other people for the first time that Harry has ever witnessed; he didn't even lose it like that after witnessing Sirius' death, but hearing that Dumbledore is dead wrecks him. We don't get a reaction shot to the news that Snape is responsible, but Lupin's voice is described as "uncharacteristically harsh" (pg. 615) when he speaks of Snape being a "highly accomplished Occlumens".

 

So he's in shock, and he seems to accept that Snape turned on Dumbledore -- that Snape was capable of turning on Dumbledore -- which leads us back to the issue of trust.

 

THE FUTURE:

Assuming that a writer doesn't have them patch things up at some point between books 3 and 5, Snape and Lupin have a lot of work to do post-HBP. The list of possible obstacles include

~ Snape's possible prejudice against werewolves

~ Lupin's feelings about Snape outing him (although HBP deals with this to an extent)

~ Snape's residual distrust left over from their school days

~ Snape's disdain of Lupin's perceived cowardice/spinelessness

~ Lupin's distrust of Snape after Dumbledore's death

 

The boys have a lot of work to do, and it all comes back to trust. They have to be willing to listen, they have to be willing to bend, they have to be willing to trust, and for two souls as deeply wounded as these are, that's a long, hard road. Trust is not going to be built easily between two men who are experts in keeping people at an emotional distance. Someone is going to have to let his guard down first, which is a hurdle in and of itself to overcome for any writer who tackles the pairing. Who is it, why, and how?

 

But the two of them have the potential to understand each other even more now than they did before. They're both spies, they both understand being cast out, they both understand feeling isolated and alone and friendless. Understanding of mutual pain is one possible bridge between them and a means of building trust through that understanding. It's the key to bringing down the walls they've both built: learning that they aren't alone and that there's someone who does understand how badly they hurt.

 

Snape and Lupin are bound together by their shared history, by their shared roles, by their shared status, by their shared pain. With all of that between them, it seemed natural, almost inevitable, that in the world of fandom, they should find the trust and solace they need in each other.

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