Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall
by Syal

Molly Weasley is at the head of the table with a glass of something alcoholic in her right hand and a napkin in her left. She keeps trying to make a speech but every time she opens her mouth a series of choked sobs is the only sound that comes out. Fred and George look up expectantly with every deep breath she takes and try to smile not-nervously at each other when nothing happens. Ron and Ginny just stare at their plates and pretend to think about filet mignon.

"Sirius was..." Molly begins again and then clunks her glass down on the table and starts to cry.

"It's ok, Molly. It's ok, " Arthur says softly, guiding her back into her seat with his hand on her back. "You don't have to... It's ok," he adds again when she tries to stand back up.

"I...I do," her voice cracks as she dabs at her eyes with her napkin. "Toast. I'm making a toast."

Arthur brings his hands down to his lap and lets his wife do what she wants. His eyes are bloodshot and when Fred and George look at him neither of them smile at all.

You don't know at what point you stopped listening but suddenly people around you are clapping and some of the women are blowing their noses into lacy, white handkerchiefs. It occurs to you that you should also clap, so you do, and when you raise your eyes from your lap, Snape is watching you from across the table. You watch him back. Watch him lift his glass in a toast with everyone else in the room, watch him avert his eyes when your glassy stare has been there too long.

"Cheers," you mumble mechanically, throwing back a shot of something clear and strong and unpleasant.


There's an empty sofa against the wall, next to a wooden antique coffee table with hand-carved legs. You drift through the crowd with a glass of something someone poured for you in your hand, eyes straight ahead at the freshly vacuum-charmed velvet upholstery. On your way you pass Hermione, her hair pulled back and pinned down into a bun. She says something to you that you can't hear, so you just nod and add "yes" as an afterthought even though she is already three feet behind you. You're admiring Mrs. Black's taste in furniture when you feel the weight of someone sitting down next to you.



"How are you doing?" She's perched on the edge of the sofa, ankles crossed and body angled towards you.

"Good," you answer in an off-hand voice, letting your gaze drift throughout the room. Hagrid is over by the buffet-turned-minibar, drinking himself unconscious while Hermione cringes as if she expects him to pass out at any moment. By the far wall, Dumbledore is holding court with Kingsley and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. He's already tried sitting next to you on the couch, attempting to get an accurate reading on your well being.

Right now all you want to do is go outside on the front porch and smoke an entire pack of cigarettes. Cancer be damned, let it take you. But you can't go outside because of the wards and besides, you don't smoke.

There's a movement next to you and you realize that Minerva has been talking to you for you're not sure how long. Her eyes are red and puffy behind her square glasses and a tuft of gray hair has fallen ungracefully in front of one ear.

On the other side of the room, Snape is in the corner, nursing the same glass of 1989 Chateau d'Orschwihr that he was drinking at dinner. You catch his eye, raise your glass at him and wink, just to show him that you know he's watching you.

"Did you know that the average Muggle loses two ballpoint pens a week?" you ask Minerva distantly as Snape's eyes narrow and glitter from across the room.

Minerva opens her mouth to speak but you push yourself off the sofa and nod goodbye. "Interesting things, pens."


The guests begin to leave at around 11:30 and by midnight only the Weasleys (plus Harry) and Snape are left. Molly starts casting cleaning spells on the carpet and pick-up spells on all the clear, plastic cups scattered across the house, but you smile wearily and insist that don't worry, I'll clean up in the morning.

At first she looks like she's about to protest, but then Arthur's hand is on her shoulder and she nods slowly and goes to gather her children. Snape is sitting in an armchair either lacing up his boots or pretending to, you're not exactly sure which.

"You," you mumble, poking him in the arm with your wand. "You stay put."

He glances at you out of the corner of his eye but doesn't say anything, only goes back to fiddling with his shoes.

"Well then, Remus dear..." Molly motions for her husband to start undoing the wards for the children. "Arthur and I will come back tomorrow morning and help you clean. If that's ok, of course," she adds kindly.

You nod.

There's an awkward pause and Molly steps closer and puts her arms around your neck. "If you need anything just call... If you want anyone to stay with you..." Her voice is shaky and you think she might begin to cry again so you make yourself put your arms around her waist and hug back.

"Thank you, Molly. I'll be fine." Her hair is a tangled, scratchy mess pooled in the crook of your neck, but when you look closely she still has fewer gray hairs than you. "I think I'll have Snape prepare something to help me sleep," you add to comfort her.

"Ok..." She disentangles herself from your arms and takes a deep, quivering breath. You think you see a tear flash in the corner of her eye but she turns away from you before you're sure. "All right... Yes." A weary smile. "Sleep well, Remus."

You nod once more as Molly walks out the front door and Apparates back to the Burrow and her husband, her children and Harry.

You shut the door and put the wards back up, wondering where Snape has gotten to. His cloak is flung across the armchair he was sitting in and you finally locate him in the kitchen, pouring his drink down the drain.

"That's expensive wine you're wasting," you inform him, leaning in the doorway.

"I suppose you wanted to finish it off." Snape clinks his empty glass down on the counter and looks you over with a smirk. "What's a memorial service without a few drunks?"

"I'm not drunk," you tell him, taking his glass and putting it in the sink. "Hate wine. Tastes like oil." You give Snape a crooked grin and lean back with your elbows on top of the counter. "And anyway, you should know I'm not drunk. Been watching me the whole fucking night."

There's a twitch of something like amusement or guilt in the corner of Snape's mouth but he tuts at you anyway. "Have I now. I thought it was the wolf that stalks its prey, not the other way around."

The stale joke amuses you for some reason and you laugh, dry and uneven in the back of you throat, glancing lazily out into the hall before turning back to him.

"Where are we taking this?" you ask.

Snape glares at you and either is or pretends to look confused. "What are you on about, Lupin?"

"You know," you say, and step close so that you can kiss him, hard, on the side of the mouth.

He tenses but pushes you away almost gently, like you actually are drunk. "What are you doing?" he not-quite-demands, the twitch in his brow betraying him.

You breathe and decide, "Shut up," and this time kiss him on the lips.


It's cold and drafty in the stairwell so you lead each other into the first guest room you come across, three doors down from your own.

Snape begins to undo his robe but you swat his hand away, lips smiling and eyes creased. "Uh uh," you bite, catching the flesh of his jaw between your teeth. Whispered Latin against his neck, the flick of your wrist, and now there's only a pool of black at your feet.

Snape gasps when you push your hips forward and peers down at you through cloudy, dilated pupils. You can feel him starting to edge you backwards toward the bed. Five blind steps and the backs of your knees hit the mattress. Lacing your arms around his neck, you pull Snape down with you, tangling your fingers in inky strands of hair that you thought would be softer than they are.

You think he might open his mouth to say something so you kiss him, and you don't stop until you're both breathless and writhing and thoroughly tangled in the covers.

The night dissolves into a blur of tongues and teeth and nails, silence and stares and Remus and hazily being aware of the fact that Snape almost never calls you by your first name. By the time you've maneuvered him where you want you realize that the tube is in your bedroom and you can't think clearly enough to use magic, so you spit into your palm and have to wait for Snape's pained gasps to subside before you go further.

Your mind goes numb, black, empty, and when you finally shudder and collapse against Snape's back you can't separate the rise and fall of his chest from yours. Slowly, when your breath stops coming in gasps, you roll off and let him turn on his side to lean against you.

There's a lock of hair plastered to Snape's forehead in a very odd way. You think to brush is off but then he's looking at you like he has been all night, but maybe a little more something you can't quite pinpoint. His eyes close and when he opens them again he says, "I'm not him."

Something inside you flares and you prop yourself up on one elbow to stare angrily down at him. "I bloody fucking well know that!"

Snape doesn't say anything but when you inch back down to the pillow you think you feel him nod against your shoulder. It's still drafty, which you conclude just must be how this house is, so you pull the blanket up to your chin and fall asleep, ghosts of Snape's fingers reaching up to twine loosely in your hair.


When you come downstairs the next morning wearing boxer shorts and a thin white T-shirt, Snape is already at the stove with a frying pan and a carton of eggs.

"Scrambled ok?" he asks you, and you laugh because you never thought of Snape as the kind of person who would wear terrycloth but there it is.

"Just dandy," you tell him, picking up this morning's issue of the Daily Prophet and sitting down at the kitchen table.

There's a thin crack of eggshell against metal and a steady sizzle as a stream of yellow hits the pan. Fudge is smiling thinly up at you from the paper, but you've read the opening sentence five times already and you still don't know what the article is about. You put your head down on the table and watch Snape watch the eggs.

"We're here! Remus?" Molly Weasley's voice rings out from the front room. "I've already gotten Arthur started on the dining room and..." When you lift your head she's frozen in the doorway, her watery eyes darting between the two of you. They pass over you in your underwear and Snape in his bathrobe, and you feel like the world is going to end when she puts her face in her hands and begins to cry.

You watch her sink down onto the floor and suddenly there's a dull ache stemming from somewhere deep inside your chest. Turning in your chair, you look back at Snape in the few seconds before your world becomes a blur. You think his shoulders might be shaking, but you're not positive. He's still facing the stove, spatula at his side, and the smell of burnt eggs is beginning to pervade the house.


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