Title: A Pretty Poison
Author: Allie (email@example.com)
Disclaimer: Last I knew, these guys were still under the ownership of J.K. If anyone hears that they're up for grabs... tell me!
Summary: A response to challenge numero 68... Remus catches Severus attempting suicide. How will he convince him to live again? It sort of follows a couple of PWPs I wrote and then... lost when my computer decided to crash. Basic summary of them: The boys met, fucked, and ended up spending the night together.
Notes: Many thank yous and hugs to my loverly betas, Jason the Authenticity Pirate and Rachel the Grammar Queen. You guys are the best! *worships them*
Sunlight through the easterly facing window of an ill-chosen room was an effective alarm clock. The rays caught dust motes in the air, turning them into a myriad of miniature Snitches, before creeping into the eyes of one Remus John Lupin. He winced, made an effort to turn his back to the irritant, and froze.
Yes, sunlight was a good alarm clock, but the best way to wake up fully was to realize that someone's head was resting on your chest... and you had no idea how it had gotten there.
It took a moment for memory to return. Remus couldn't decide if he was relieved, or even more nervous than before. The only other time he'd spent the night in bed with Severus, the next morning wasn't pleasant by any stretch of the imagination. Remus was an optimist by nature, but he didn't hold much hope of the second time being any better.
Remus took the opportunity to stare like a lovesick fool at the sleeping man. He'd heard that people looked younger, more innocent, while at rest. Severus seemed to be the exception, still as greasy and unpleasant as he had always been. His forehead was wrinkled in either pain or unpleasant dreams. His thin lips were set into a frown. Still, the sight sparked a strange feeling in Remus, describable only as "warm and fuzzy."
Their relationship might be sick and twisted. Merlin, it was probably the strangest thing in Remus's life! However... he couldn't bring himself to care. It was real, the only real thing he had left since Sirius's death. He was going to hold on to it, with both hands if need be. Things were going to change, he decided, whether Severus liked it or not.
And think of the devil... Severus stirred, beginning to awaken. It seemed it was time for Remus to put his decision to the test.
The first thing Severus's brain registered upon his waking was a musky, sweaty smell. Next, it noted that his "pillow" wasn't very soft, and felt suspiciously like skin. The third thing it did was recall that Severus had never left the bed he'd shared with Lupin the night before. The conclusion it drew? Maybe if I pretend to be asleep long enough, he'll go away and we can pretend this never happened.
In the meantime, Severus's damned body had acted on its own. It drew itself closer to Lupin's warmth, without even having the decency to consult him first. He'd thought the days of mindless action had passed with adolescence. Obviously, he'd been wrong. He would have to make sure that didn't happen again.
"Good morning." Lupin's voice was husky upon waking. Severus remained silent. He didn't know what one said in situations like this. "Good morning" seemed as good as any other option, but "good" wasn't typically in Severus's vocabulary. He kept his eyes closed, pretending to have drifted off to sleep once more.
Lupin's chest shook with laughter. "Rise and shine, Severus. I still need to mend your robe, and I can't move until you do."
Severus sighed and surrendered to the inevitable. "How can you be so bloody cheerful this early in the morning?"
Snickering, Lupin pushed at his shoulders. "I got laid last night. Of course I'm in a good mood."
"How juvenile of you." Severus knew he should move. He should end this encounter with his customary scorn. He would... later. He was tired, and couldn't quite bring himself to pull away from the warm body beside him quite yet.
A callused hand stroked through his hair, massaging his scalp. "Wake up..."
Severus growled. "How do you know I won't just hex you as soon as I muster enough energy to go find my wand?"
Lupin's firm thigh rubbed against Severus's groin. Severus bit back a curse as his cock stirred. He wasn't looking, but he could clearly picture the smile on Lupin's face. "You won't hex me because you'd rather let me suck you off."
Severus finally opened his eyes. "If you're volunteering for that duty..." That was new. Never before had Lupin offered sexual favors. They had always simply fucked, then separated. The prospect of something more fluttered painfully inside Severus's chest.
Shoulders moving in a shrug, Lupin tangled his fingers more deeply in Severus's hair. "Why don't we give it a try? It can't be that difficult."
"Are you telling me you want to experiment on me?" The concept didn't really bother Severus. He'd never admit it, but he liked the thought that Lupin hadn't had experience with others. Theirs might be a dysfunctional relationship, but at least it was exclusive.
Voice low and persuasive, Lupin said, "I don't think I can mess this up, Severus. Come, let me try."
Severus sighed. "Perhaps later, Lupin." His eyes drifted closed once more. "Not now."
"Then let me get up and fix your robe." Lupin returned to pushing at his shoulders. "We both have a lot to do today."
Pain lanced through Severus's chest, slaughtering the flutter that had come with Lupin's earlier suggestion. For one moment, he believed he was having a heart attack. Then, he recalled the feeling: rejection. It had been so long since he'd felt it, so long since he'd cared enough to feel it, that he had forgotten its sting.
He rose, then gathered up his possessions. A quick spell, and he donned the clothing. "Gods forbid we ever spend time together without sex or business. I'll see you some other time, Lupin. How unfortunate..."
Severus walked out the door, slamming it behind him. He didn't look back.
Completely dumbfounded, Remus stared at the still-vibrating door. If he didn't know better, he would have thought Severus was hurt. Hell, he did know better and he still thought Severus was hurt.
He sat up and swung his legs out of bed, wincing at the twinge of pain that served as a reminder of the night before. It had been wonderful, and certainly meant something to Remus... but had it been more for Severus, as well? Who could fathom the inner workings of the mind of Severus Snape? Maybe an apology was in order.
Of course, Remus didn't know exactly what he needed to apologize for. If it were anyone but Severus, he would buy flowers or some other little gift. Severus wouldn't appreciate something so meaningless, though.
Remus pulled on his clothes, still searching for a good idea.
The last students of the day bolted out of the Potions classroom. Harry Potter, Golden Boy of the wizarding world and bane of a certain professor's existence, stopped to glare before making his escape. Severus considered holding the boy after class, but discarded the thought. He had more important things to do.
He rubbed at a sore spot on his shoulder. The neat little double crescent of scabs he'd found there at lunch break (undoubtedly a souvenir of his little tryst with Lupin) hadn't put him in any better mood, especially not four days from the full moon. The afternoon classes had gone through Hell and back. If Severus couldn't take his nervousness out on his students, what were they good for?
Trying to put the bite out of his mind, Severus turned to his desk. He had papers to mark. Perhaps, just perhaps, a Slytherin had turned something in that would improve his mood. If he avoided that Granger chit's work for the night, a single good paper from one of his Slytherins would help immensely.
By the time he had finished with the first essay, he'd made a depressing number of red scratches. He wasn't in the mood to mollycoddle the incompetent with passing grades, nor did he want to listen to another of Albus's lectures about going easy on the little termites. He pushed the stack away and pulled open a small drawer. Within was only one object, a vial of dark purplish-red poison.
Severus reached for the potion with trembling fingers. He closed his hand around the vial, rolling it in his palm. He had brewed the poison--one he'd created himself--seventeen years before. The Dark Lord's specifications had been a very long shelf life and a very painful death. The effect, based on the combined ingredients and the reactions of those who had been his test subjects, was of being burned from within, ending in what would be best described as combustion. Severus had named it Diabolus Lacrima. Lucius Malfoy, with his typical disregard for the beauty of a well-spoken Latin phrase, had translated it to Devil's Tears. The second name stuck.
The sample he was holding came from the first batch. It hadn't lost any of its potency. When asked for a long shelf life, Severus aimed for overkill.
He pulled the cork from the bottle. The potion's scent was deceptively pleasant. No one had lived long enough to confirm whether or not its taste was similar. He suspected it was. Devil's Tears... the pretty poison.
For years, Severus had kept both his vial of Devil's Tears and one of a more gentle poison in his desk. With Voldemort's return, he'd started carrying the gentle poison with him, a way out if he ever fell under suspicion. Diabolus Lacrima stayed in his drawer, a testimony to his skill. He'd wondered if it was a bit deranged to keep a deadly poison within easy reach. If so, it was even worse to admire it regularly. Severus assured himself that he was simply appreciating the quality of his work. It wasn't as if Devil's Tears was anyone's preferred method of suicide.
Yet... it would be a fitting end. The creator would be destroyed by his masterpiece. All in all, wasn't this what he deserved?
Severus raised the vial to his nose, enjoying the smell. It was mellow, at first impression. Only with a longer sniff did one catch the hint of spice. Not at all unpleasant. He wondered if it tasted as good as it smelled, as he had wondered several times before. Curiosity was Severus's greatest weakness.
The vial was at his lips when he became aware of the presence of another. He glanced up, meeting a pair of frosty, golden eyes.
Lupin cleared his throat. "What do you think you are doing?"
Remus's heart pounded in his throat. He wanted to knock the poison out of Severus's hand. He wanted to wrap his arms around Severus's waist, to hide his face against Severus's shoulder. He restrained himself.
Severus slowly lowered the vial. "Lupin. What are you doing here?"
"Saving your life, obviously." As casually as he could, Remus walked to Severus's desk. "It isn't every day you see your lover preparing to deal himself a violent death."
Placing a stopper in the vial, Severus laughed. At least, Remus assumed it was meant as a laugh. In reality, it was a broken, defeated sound that threatened to crack Remus's heart in two. "I'm your lover, then? I suppose that's more proof that you never cease to learn new things."
Remus grabbed his wrist. "Stop." He forced Severus's hand open and kissed his palm. "You're my lover. I know you don't like to hear this, but I do care about you. I want to keep you alive for a long time."
"Really, Lupin, I wasn't going to drink it." Severus placed the poison in a drawer, which he then shut. He didn't pull his hand away. "Besides... it's the only cure for the bloody curse."
The words made no sense to Remus. At first, he could only think to say, "Death is never a cure, Severus. It's just a coward's way of avoiding the problem." Then, as an afterthought, "And you're not cursed."
"Of course I'm not." Severus's tone was cutting. Remus wasn't sure if it was sarcasm or not. Before he could ask Severus to elaborate, the man had continued. "As I said, I wasn't going to drink it. There are easier ways to go than this. What kind of idiot do you think I am?"
Fiercely possessive, Remus moved to the other side of the desk and sat himself down on Severus's lap. "I think you're my idiot. If you ever scare me like that again, I'll feed poison to you myself." He kissed Severus's palm once more, then released him. "Do you understand?"
Severus sat as if frozen for a moment, then pulled Remus even more tightly against him. "You really do care." There was something new in his voice, a vulnerability Remus had never thought he would hear.
He responded by leaning his head on his lover's shoulder. "Of course."
Clearing his throat, Severus said a few words that stunned Remus yet again. "I suppose you want to talk."
Lupin was still sitting on his lap, turned at an unnatural angle to gape at him. "Wh-what? Talk? Oh, yes, of course."
Really, Severus hadn't thought the prospect would be that frightening to Lupin. He was a perfect example of the "sensitive gay bloke" stereotype. He should jump at the prospect of a long, intense talk about their "feelings."
Severus, on the other hand, couldn't have been farther from that stereotype. He might have brought up the topic, but was clueless when it came to actually initiating the conversation. Any eloquence that might have helped him through this situation seemed to have deserted him. He sighed. "What do people usually talk about before heading into an affair of this sort?"
"I've no clue." Lupin wiped the blank look from his face, replacing it with something a bit more dignified. "I can honestly say that I've never been in an affair of this sort before."
That did bring up another topic Severus had wished to address. "When you say that... do you mean you've never been in an affair of this sort, or that you've never been in an affair of this sort?"
Lupin blushed... prettily, Severus had to admit. "The second, I'm afraid. I thought I'd made it quite clear that you were the only one I'd..."
"Yes, yes." Severus cut him off before he ended up embarrassed, as well. "Why me, then?"
Glancing away, Lupin shrugged. "I'm not entirely certain." He bit his lip. Severus had a strange, lingering suspicion that he'd been lied to.
He didn't take to that feeling kindly. "I won't be your last resort, Lupin." He stiffened his shoulders, regaining the composure he'd lost long before. "I'm well aware that I'm no prize, but I refuse to accept affection simply because you've no one else to give it to."
"No!" Lupin grabbed hold of Severus's hand, squeezing it tightly. "Please believe me, Severus, I wouldn't do that. I'll admit, there have been times when I've hated you, but I'm willing to forgive and move on."
That was exactly the type of altruistic Gryffindorism Severus had expected. "Regardless of what you might think you've seen, I'm not "on the edge." I don't need you." Liar! He did need Lupin, and rather badly, at that. "I don't need your sympathy, and I certainly don't need your pity."
Lupin shook his head enthusiastically, skull cracking against Severus's nose. The werewolf stopped, wincing. "Er. Sorry about that."
Though his eyes watered, Severus waved Lupin's concern away. "Go on with what you were saying." Gingerly, he pushed the other man off his lap. He preferred to keep his nose unbroken. It was ugly enough as it was.
"Right." Lupin took a deep breath. "I don't pity you, Severus. You don't leave any room for pity... you fill it up with all sorts of nastiness."
Well, the man seemed to know Severus quite well. He nodded, conceding the point.
Lupin continued. "You don't invite sympathy, either. If you want the truth... I don't even really like you."
The words were painfully honest, but at least they weren't lies. Severus nodded once more. It seemed to be the only action he was capable of.
"I might not like you, but I must admit that there's something between us." Lupin turned his face away from Severus, finding something extremely interesting on the floor. "I don't know what it is, exactly... but I do know that figuring it out will prove to be interesting."
Severus would have smiled, had he been given to that kind of display. As it was, he had the strange sensation of a lighter heart. Silly, he knew, since neither the mass nor the density of that organ was likely to have changed within the last few seconds. It was a foolish fancy, but he rather thought of it as "thawing." Whatever he termed it, however, Lupin had found exactly the right words to put him at ease.
His damnable curiosity would have something else to occupy its time with. Something better, perhaps. While he wasn't ready to pour the Devil's Tears down the drain quite yet, he thought he might be a good step closer to the day when he would. After all, he had something more interesting to discover now.
"Why are you here, really? I know you weren't just out for a stroll and happened to stop by."
Remus bit back a sigh. It seemed their serious conversation was over just as quickly as it had begun. There was no point in pressuring Severus now, though. He chose to answer the question. "Actually... I came to ask if you wanted to go out somewhere for dinner. Your choice. I'm paying."
Severus sighed. "While I appreciate the gesture, I know you don't have much in the way of funds. I'm not going to waste what you do have."
"I have enough to take you out to dinner. You're insulting me by implying otherwise." He moved behind Severus and changed his tone to a wheedling whine. "Please, Severus? It will make me happy if you let me do this for you... happy enough to deliver on that blowjob I mentioned this morning." To sweeten the offer, he started rubbing at the tense muscles of Severus's shoulders.
"You play dirty, Lupin." Severus relaxed for a moment, then suddenly tensed as if hit by a sharp pain.
Remus vaguely recalled biting down on that specific area the evening prior. He hadn't thought he'd left a mark. It seemed he had, though. He cleared his throat. "Is that where I..."
"Yes." A curt, one-word answer seemed to be the only response Severus thought he deserved. Really, it was only a little nip. Nearly two weeks away from the full moon, there wasn't anything to worry about. Unless...
Rubbing around the spot, Remus looked for a calendar. "How is it?" Ah, there it was.
Severus shrugged his hands off. "As well as can be expected, given the circumstances."
As Remus had suspected, the calendar had gotten off track. That was what Severus got for trusting magical planners. "Oh, Severus... I know that a week is rather short notice, but... could you possibly improve the flavor of the Wolfsbane potion? I know it's effective, but its taste isn't exactly the most pleasant."
"A week?" Severus looked at the calendar. "Oh, don't tell me the bloody thing has messed up again." He gave it a glare that, by all rights, should have had it shriveling up at the corners.
Remus nodded. "I'm afraid so. Maybe you need a new one?"
"I've needed a new one for years, Lupin. Dumbledore hasn't loosened his fist from the money yet." Severus might not have looked very relieved, but Remus had been around him long enough to know the signs. In Severus-terms, this was ecstasy. "Really, though, you want to be seen in public with me?"
Looking into Severus's eyes would mean getting in his face, so Remus did his best to convey honesty with his tone. "More than I want anything else."
Severus shook with what might have been laughter. "Careful, Lupin. You're turning into a romantic. We can't have that."
"Why not?" Remus nuzzled the back of his neck. "I want to be a romantic. I like the little things... flowers on anniversaries, going out as a couple, saying 'I love you.'"
"No." Severus withdrew, though he didn't move a centimeter. "I never want to hear those words. I refuse to go out for long walks together, hold hands in public. I don't want to be Severus-and-Remus... or Remus-and-Severus, whichever the case may be. I'm not a lovable man. If that's what you want, you're more than welcome to leave."
Remus took a deep breath. He should have known better than to say that. He did have a tendency to open his mouth a little wider than he should. "Okay. No romance." Yet. Wizards lived for a very long time, and Severus would get used to the idea eventually.
Without a warning, Remus had to scramble away to avoid being hit as Severus stood. "Let's go. I'm a bit peckish."
Remus hid his smile as they walked out the door, close enough that their shoulders touched. For a conversation with Severus, that had been positively sappy. He loved it.
Severus glanced down at him. "What are you looking so vapid about, Lupin?"
"Nothing." Remus shrugged. "I'm just thinking about the future."
"It won't be easy." Severus lifted an eyebrow.
Remus sighed happily. "Oh, but it will be fun."
He might have imagined the smile gracing Severus's lips for a brief second... but he didn't think so. "That it will be..."
The end... or the beginning. Take your pick.