title: If Truth be Told
challenge: 199) SEQUEL to Challenge # 50: Lupin and Snape have reluctantly bonded for life. They experience the ups and downs of adjusting to this new situation and it's effects on their lives in Hogwarts. But one or more meddlesome friends of Lupin's (The trio? Black? Dumbledore?) decides to 'fix' the situation. They research and cast a spell to break the mating bond, freeing nice, loveable Lupin from nasty, awful Snape. But no-one asked them if they wanted that. What do they do now? How does it affect them? Will they choose to renew the mating bond, with both it's rewards and drawbacks? Or will they even notice it's gone?
note: Not my characters, owned by JKRowling. Thank you to Halxyone and illeai for support. The story, the place errors, the grammatical errors, and the circumstantial errors are mine.
If Truth be Told
Part 1. Waking and Discovering
When he awoke, he somehow knew that he was already in the hospital because of the smells that permeated his sense quicker than any other; Remus Lupin, as a Werewolf, was subject to some extraordinary skills that some humans may be missing but at that moment, he wished—not for the first time—that he was like any other human with any other abilities as the pungent odour of cleanliness stained his nose. He was used to hospitals, and he knew them almost as much as he knew the smell of his own home.
This thought brought forth the knowledge that he was gaining consciousness quickly, and with it were many other pains on different parts of his body. Involuntarily, his hand rested over his chest as something unfamiliar lurched from his midsection: he could not decide if it was from his stomach or from his chest. Everything came back so quickly that he lurched forward to sit up, not even bothering to recognize the protest his body gave.
"Severus!" he said loudly. "Where is Severus?" He looked around frantically, could see that he could be found in room that contained two sturdy beds, one of which was his, and separated by a table topped with different potions and materials, including the wand he thought he had lost in the previous event; it was tucked snugly on the standard-issue container that were traditionally kept next to the bed. There was a window at his side of the bed, along with what seemed to be a closet. Yet despite the murmur of people talking outside, no-one was in the room.
There was that thrumming thing in his chest and he clutched it tighter, vaguely noting that his torn shirt had been discarded somewhere—not that he thought it could be salvaged—yet he was still wearing his trousers caked with dry mud. He thought, quite logically, if he found his shoes on the floor he would be a step closer into finding Severus, although the need to find the man exactly was something Remus would rather not think about for the time being.
Unfortunately, his search for his shoes was thwarted by the door slamming open; a figure of a plump but stern-looking witch glared at him. "Where are you going?!" she screeched, hurling herself towards him.
Because Remus was a calm and rational person who had once been a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor from Hogwarts, he quickly snatched his wand and pointed it at her. "Who are you?!" he demanded, ignoring how his muscles screamed obscenities at his brain. "What have you—"
"Do not make it any worse, Mr Lupin." Without flinching, the woman immediately snatched his wand from the hilt right from his hand and replaced it on its container next to the bed while her other palm lay flat against his chest to push him back on the bed. "I am your healer, Willerby, you may call me Dame Willerby if you're to call me anything at all—"
"Where is Severus?" Remus was persistent even as he was all but shoved back on the lumpy mattress. "Is he—is he alright?" At the back of his mind, he thought it was amusing that the glare the woman gave him was not nearly half as potent as Severus Snape's scowl.
Dame Willerby snorted as she took a bottle from the supplies on the table. "Mr Snape has insisted that he meet with the Headmaster of his employment."
"Then Dumbledore is here!" Remus sat back up, only to be pushed back with an "oof!" and a wince. "What are you—"
"Mister Lupin, I am quite authorized to bind you to the bed if you persist with such foolishness—"
"—letting Severus go? Is he safe? What happened?" A sharp pressure knocked into Remus's head and he fell again into the mattress, back immediately contouring with the pillows.
Dame Willerby smiled and pocketed her wand in her apron. "There, that's better. I am quite determined to make one of you stay here and be administered, and since Professor Snape has insisted that he be permitted to join the Headmaster at the hallway instead of staying on his bed as he has been advised to, it has been decided you shall be taken care of. Now, shut your mouth."
There was a few moments of silence as Dame Willerby handed him a glass. "Drink this, it'll help your muscles relax."
The man accepted but hesitated. He had not seen anyone, nor heard from anyone, and Dame Willerby could—well—be anyone, including a Death Eater whom he and Severus had just recently escaped from. There was no sense in drinking this without making sure.
"Quickly now," she snapped, looking sour.
Just then, the door opened and a head poked in. It was Kingsley Shacklebolt, a new member of the Order of the Phoenix as Remus recalled. "Hello, Lupin!" he said cheerfully, raising a hand as a wave. "You're safe now, you'd best drink that or else Dame Willerby'll raise hell. You've a visitor."
"Severus?" he asked hopefully, unconsciously clutching his chest to listen for that telltale thrumming.
"He'll have no visitors until I say so!" Dame Willerby screeched, obviously affronted that her authority was being undermined.
Kingsley ignored her. "No, it's Professor Dumbledore." And before Remus could say anything, the man had disappeared to let another one in. Headmaster of Hogwarts Albus Dumbledore entered the room, his normally smiling face now contoured into a frown that eased somewhat upon seeing the Werewolf. "Ah, you are awake," the man said, briskly striding towards his side. "Good, I talked to this fine healer Dame Willerby and have been assured of your good health." Dumbledore smiled at the said healer.
Dame Willerby sniffed but said in a voice less upset, "Mr Lupin and Professor Snape are now under my care, and they must stay here overnight or further observations on the curses that they have suffered. You are assumed to be the person-of-contact, then?"
"Yes, I am," was Dumbledore's swift reply. "I would like a moment with Mr Lupin though, if you would be so kind? I believe I heard Mr Snape complaining of dizziness whilst we spoke."
The woman glared at Dumbledore for a long time as if to decide whether she should inform him that the reason why Mr Snape insisted to remove himself from her care was due to the Headmaster, but she finally snapped her apron back, grabbed her basket of potions, and left the room, stating, "I'll be back for Mr Lupin's treatments," before closing the door behind her.
"A fine Healer, Dame Willerby is," Dumbledore beamed before turning to Remus, who had wisely kept quiet during the ordeal. "I trust you are well enough, then, Remus?"
"Yes, thank you," Remus said, a bit fumblingly. He did not know how to treat the Headmaster now that they were no longer colleagues in school yet they continued to work in the same organisation for a possible war, and with Remus agreeing to take orders from the man. "How long was I gone?"
"Three days, and you were unconscious for another day. Today is Thursday."
"I see." It wasn't so bad then, being as he had only lost four days. And Severus had…He could not resist finally blurting out, "Severus is…?"
"He is alive, Remus, and well. You both escaped with only some minor injuries, some of which have already been treated upon your arrival here in St Mungo's; needless to say you are now far from dying from your own wounds."
"But the implications, Albus?" Remus asked quietly. "Do you know what happened?"
Dumbledore merely raised an eyebrow. "I have had Severus's account. I wish to gain yours."
Remus took a moment to assemble his thoughts before beginning, "I was on my way back to London, from my flat to bring some of my belongings to…to my current residence." Remus remembered that Grimmauld Place, the house that Sirius Black had offered for the use of the Order of the Phoenix earlier that summer, was not to be spoken out loud, especially in public places. "I stopped by a town in Winchester when I was accosted by masked people. They made it clear that their purpose was to gather followers for…for their cause." They were Death Eaters, but clearly new to the organization and fanatical; they most likely did not know of Pe—Wormtail's association with Remus, nor of Remus's association to Hogwarts and therefore Dumbledore. They were more concerned over the fact that Remus was a Werewolf and therefore could be part of their cause.
"A headgear was put over my head to blindfold me and mask any scent and sounds I may pick up, then we Apparated around seven times, presumably to different locations, before we ended up in a large room, probably within a castle or manor. They spoke of their cause there, tried to talk me into joining their side. They mentioned of Werewolves joining…well, being promised of better treatment in the future. When I refused, they took my wand and locked me up in hopes that I would change my mind." They had beaten him, although it was half-hearted as if they already knew he would refuse and wished to get on with it, then placed Remus in a small room which had one barred window, had walls made up of cold stones, and a cell door that was made of both iron and bricks.
"I do not know how many hours I was in the cell; I fell asleep and only woke when they put in Severus with me." Remus heaved a breath because it was becoming more difficult to breathe. Speaking of Severus made him think more about the man. Was he feeling the same connection in his chest? Was he being accosted by Dame Willerby while Dumbledore and Remus spoke? How was the injury of his leg? Will there be new scars? What had Remus done to him? "Severus—Severus also suffered some damages." His leg was bleeding, all exposed skin had some form of bruises, and Remus could distinctly remember cuts and bumps over skin where his fingers ran over—he furrowed his brow and concentrated on his story. "The full moon was that night and Severus revealed that it was the plan to make them join their…their cause. I would either be so remorseful that they would do what they wish, or I would discover that killing is better."
"That was the night of the full moon," Dumbledore said softly, "but you managed to escape."
"Yes." Remus took another deep breath and met the eyes of the man he always respected. "Albus…I have claimed Severus as my mate."
The idea did not seem to surprise Dumbledore, rather he only nodded as if this confirmed his suspicions. "I see. And Severus acquiesced, of course." He seemed to musing out loud; Werewolves could only claim a mate if the other party was willing, even if it was only heartfelt. "This will bring several changes to our plans, I believe."
Remus tried not to feel ashamed of the statement but he could not help it. He owed Dumbledore so much but this was another problem that the Headmaster would have to consider in every arrangement of plans; the Order of the Phoenix, a secret organisation that was focused on trying to find information and fighter willing to go against the uprising of Voldemort, was still in its beginning stages. The previous school year had been trying, even for Dumbledore, especially with the Triwizarding Tournament and the death of a student, and he did not wish to add more difficulties to the procedures. "It is the first few months that will be troublesome, from what I know."
"Tell me, are you feeling the connection?"
Instinctively, Remus's hand clutched his shirt at the lower chest. "Yes, it's been there since I awoke."
"Interesting." And Dumbledore did appear interested. "Is it stronger now?'
Remus concentrated for a while before admitting, "Yes. It…it is. Getting stronger."
"I see." Thoughtfully, the old man tugged as his snowy white beard before stating, "It is already nearing sundown. From what I remember, the Werewolf and his mate shall be compelled to be together from the first appearance of the moon and well into sunrise, is that correct?"
"Yes, I've read that, but," Remus hastily added, "there have been no studies about—well, male Werewolves mating with other males."
"No documented study," Dumbledore agreed. The twinkle was back in his eye. "Well, I suppose that it is good that Severus is interested in the welfare of Werewolves, then. This shall be a good opportunity for the both of you to collaborate on such a research."
The Headmaster held up a hand. "I do not deny that things shall be difficult hereon, my boy," acknowledged Dumbledore, "but we certainly hope to find some way around this affair. We, of course, must hope that the results will be fruitful. Dame Willerby shall not know that you two were together during the full moon. As far as the story goes, you and Severus were attacked a day before—right after the full moon and therefore you were at a disadvantage in defending both yourself and him—and the wounds you both acquired are not from the same source. No questions shall be asked." When Remus did not reply, he went on, "You are well enough then? Shall I rescue Severus from Dame Willerby's administrations?"
And without waiting for Remus's assent, Dumbledore strode towards the door and opened it.
It seemed that Remus's heart lurched upon seeing Severus Snape, but his logical mind told him that it must be due to the connection. The tall man, now clad in a hospital gown but topped with his black cloak (most probably due to his insistence) marched behind Dame Willerby, grimacing at every step as he limped as gracefully as he could to his own bed.
"Severus," Remus croaked in acknowledgement, if only to have something to say.
Severus glanced at him slowly. "Remus," he replied softly, most likely because his throat was still sore from the screaming.
"It is only for one night, Severus," Dumbledore was attempting to soothe his colleague as Dame Willerby busied herself with fixing Remus's pillow. "You must listen to the instructions of—"
"I know what she said," Severus hissed. "It does not matter—"
"Of course it matters," Dumbledore replied easily although there was a hint of steel in his voice. "You must ensure that you will make a full recovery, then we shall speak of how this will affect you further research and position in the future. For now, the sun is going down and you must rest."
"Drink this," Dame Willerby interrupted, pushing a glass of potion into Remus's hands, hesitated, then gave another to Severus.
The Potions Master sneered into the glass. "Really, I expected more from a hospital such as this. A muscle relaxant mixed with this sedative will only put the patient to sleep for a few hours."
"I only need a few hours worth of silence from you," the Healer snapped back. "It is a prescribed medicine, now drink it." Her voice seemed to quiver as she said it, and Remus thought it was a bit amusing to realise that even an older and bigger woman appeared to be intimidated by Severus's dark look, no matter how sick he appeared to be.
"Severus," Dumbledore warned.
Severus glared at him, then Dame Willerby, and finally gave Remus a glower that the Werewolf only shrugged at before he downed the formula in one gulp. Then, he slammed the glass on the desk and made his way to the other bed in the room, which was separated from Remus's with a desk. "If you do not mind, then, I would like to resume my sleep."
The Healer sniffed again and piled the used glasses and potion medication on a tray before turning on her heels and leaving without another word. Remus settled back on his bed and watched as Dumbledore strode towards Severus's side, where they spoke in low tones, ending with Severus shaking his head and finally looking away while Dumbledore looked grim. Finally, the old wizard turned to Remus once more, face cleared off all troubled lines.
"It is nearing night time, and I have places to be," he announced, twinkle in his eyes returning as beamed at the two.
"There are still some plans to be discussed, Headmaster," Severus said in a clipped, almost desperate tone.
"Nonsense," Dumbledore quickly interjected as if the Potions Master had just suggested he would be taking off for a vacation somewhere in the Pacific isles, "there's no reason for you not to rest, you've had quite an adventure. And the rest may be discussed in the morning." He made a move to stride out.
Severus made a small move that would not have been noticeable if Remus's eyes weren't trained at the tall figure. With a final bid of farewell, the Headmaster of Hogwarts disappeared into the hallway and closed the door behind him. Severus immediately turned down his blankets and slid as gracefully as he could into the sheets in an effort to reduce his pain.
"It could have been worse," Remus told him quietly.
"For now, I fail to revel in such kind words," Severus sneered through gritted teeth, turning his back against Remus. "I would rather go to sleep right now, if you do not mind."
"Of course not," Remus replied, then swallowed hard. Severus was lying just across him, most probably glaring out the window towards the setting sun, and the only part of him that the Werewolf could see was his dirty, greasy hair spread over the pillow and immediately followed by the thick blankets over the body—yet he could not help— "Er."
"What is it?" Severus snapped a little too quickly.
"Nothing." The urge to get up and go to the other man was rapidly becoming a need; Remus tore his eyes away from Severus. "I was thinking—"
"That's hardly comforting. The last time you deigned to think, we ended up—" Severus stopped and shifted under the blankets.
Remus was stung. "It saved you, in case that fact evaded you."
"I believe that does not negate that possibility that both of us were temporarily insane."
"You bastard!" Remus said as loud as he could in a hospital. "You had me believe we had reached some sort of understanding! And you consented! You did!" That sort of wild accusation slipped out along in his effort to quell the urge to run to the other man.
Severus sat up as quickly as his body could permit it and turned to him with a great scowl. "And I did. That does not mean I will not hold any grudge."
"But we're mated!" And suddenly, the urge to touch Severus was overwhelmed by the thought. "We're mated," he repeated, a bit dizzy at the prospect, "and I wasn't thinking—oh hell, I never thought I'd be—"
"Be what?!" Severus interrupted. "That you would be mated to Snivellus?! That you would be bonded with someone whom you've tortured since boyhood?"
"That I would be mated at all," Remus almost growled, the surprise draining at the defensive glare Severus sent him.
Their eyes met and Remus again felt that strange tug on his skin as if pushing him forward, and the foreign thrumming in his chest was spreading all over his body. He gritted his teeth and tried to fight it as much as he could. Looking away, he went on calmly, "Has Albus mentioned whom this should be mentioned to?"
"I have asked and he replied not to speak of it to…to Potter." Even the pause did nothing to remove the disdain from Severus's voice at the mention of Harry. "Although we may speak of it to whomever we wish, we must also practice digression and choose."
Thinking aloud, Remus said, "We'll have to tell Sirius—"
"I had thought you'd mention that," Severus interrupted scathingly, then, "No."
"He should be told!" Remus insisted.
"I do not trust Black!"
"He's not with Voldemort, Severus—" And in his mind, he could not help thinking, Unlike you. "—and who would he tell?"
"Black has an exceptionally unflappable mouth. Those he speaks to will likely also speak to other people."
Remus thought about his friend Sirius Black who had just returned from roaming the tropical isles for a year, eager to be of service for the Order, eager to be with Harry, and now sullenly confined to his old home to mope. He was likely getting worried with his friend stuck in St Mungo (And he doesn't know about this situation, Remus despaired) instead of being with him, helping him move his things into the house as promised. Remus rather thought it was unfair for Severus to think that. "No, he wouldn't," he replied, setting his resolve and trying to ignore how the sun was nearly disappearing. "And I shall tell him, whatever you say."
There was another pause and Remus could see Severus clearly struggling with himself before snapping, "Do whatever you wish."
Silence again. Remus squeezed his eyes shut and refused to move; he felt like he was being pulled by undercurrents, it was almost instinctive for him to reach over and touch—
"What is happening?" Remus's eyes flew open and he turned to the speaker. Shrouded by the growing darkness and lit only by the fading sun from the window, Severus's voice sounded strangely fragile. "When you said we are mated…that I am your mate, what does…"
Remus released a shuddering breath, one he did not know he was holding. "It's the bond," he explained. The light was disappearing fast across the horizon and he could feel his body shaking. Withdrawal, he realised suddenly, trying not to laugh hysterically and lunge towards Severus. It would not do to remind him frighten him…more. "It's part of the changes that's occurring. It won't be long…Severus. May I touch you?"
"We are discussing the mating ritual, Lupin—!"
"It is part of that," Remus snarled, calmed, then resumed shakily, "Severus, the bond states that Werewolves must be with their mates for a month or so from sunset until sundown."
The silence that overcame the room was palpable; the sun disappeared and the sky was tinged with hints of dark blue and grey against black. Remus was about to damn Severus and his indecisions, he needed to be near him now, when there came a harsh: "You may."
Remus almost stumbled when he quickly jumped down from his bed and clambered over to Severus side, throwing his arms around him so quickly that he succeeded into collapsing over the man. "Sorry," he gasped, then spat out the greasy hair that had gotten to his mouth in his haste. "Sorry—I was—"
"Get off me!" Severus hissed, pushing him away quickly so that Remus stumbled to one side of the bed.
It was a tight fit when the bed made only for one was now holding two people trying not to cause more injuries to each other. Remus kept his one arm around Severus as he shifted, and was surprised when the other man helped by straightening some sheets and moving to one side. Without thinking he in turn arranged the pillows and was struck by the deceptive domesticity of the scene that he could not help but smile. Then, when Severus moved to arrange the blanket again, he realised that it was only to avoid having to sleep with him; if anything, this amused him and he touched Severus's hand. "Severus."
The hand was shaking slightly and Severus would not look at him. "You must tell me the rest of the information," he said quietly, "in the morning."
"How do we know when the bond has faded somewhat?"
Remus furrowed his brow to remember the texts. "I…believe it is when we are able to be apart for some time together, not for more than a month at least. Most likely until my next—er, the transformation."
"Alright." But even in the darkness, Remus could discern Severus's hand absently falling over his left arm, near the wrist. He had to forcefully swallow the bile that rose in his throat.
Mated. Voldemort was back, a Hogwarts student was dead, Harry was not to be contacted, and Severus was expected to return to the Death Eaters—and together, they were life-bonded mates. Gods, what had they done? There was probably going to be a bloody war with at least one of them playing a key part in it—Remus knew Severus was walking a thin line of that already—and they had added to more complications with mating. Breathing hitched, Remus bit his lip and thought fiercely that at least he wasn't clamouring to identify that strange feeling that called to him anymore. Instead, he moved his hand slowly over Severus's back, who continued to sit hunched before him.
"Wished you killed me now?" came the Potion Master's soft voice.
Remus hated him then because it was almost a bit true. "I was thinking about what we should do," he retorted, then realised that Severus was stiffening again. He softened his voice, "Now is hardly the time, however." Then, gentler, he went on, "I'm beginning to think Dame Willerby's suggestion to rest has a certain appeal to it. We are still injured."
"I—" Severus stopped as Remus tugged him gently to rest against his arms and into the pillows. He did not speak as Remus smoothed his hands top feel the face of his mate—mate!—against his fingertips. And he did not speak when Remus pulled him closer, murmured a silent "good-night", and fell asleep with his face buried in the crook of Severus's neck.
Part 2. Previously
It started with this:
A clear day during the final week of June brought Sirius Black to Remus Lupin's home; he had just gone from Albus Dumbledore with news from Hogwarts: Harry had encountered Voldemort during the Triwizard Tournament and had dragged back one dead student—Remus started breathing again when Sirius hurriedly assured him he was alright. They had lived in the cramped space of Remus's flat in St Ives for a week before Sirius remembered his old home and discreetly went to London. A few days later and Dumbledore had sent an Owl for Remus, suggesting that he move to Sirius's house. Remus looked around his small space and immediately agreed.
He would have waited another week or even just a few more days mostly because the moon would reach its full state in just two days but he could sense the urgency in the note; without further ado, he had immediately packed his things. It was easy because there were very few items to pack, all of which he managed to shrink and place in his pocket. He read and memorized the map again: 12, Grimmauld Place, the home of one of the oldest Pureblood family located in the middle of rundown London.
He thought of Apparating to a nearby port and quickly dismissed it; he would likely splinch himself as he was already feeling off-colour due to the nearness of the moon and did not have the advantage of Wolfsbane. There would be a Floo Network nearby, of course, but the urgency in the note also induced caution, and Floo travelling may be riddled with security. Anyway, the moon would only be full in two days and if he left via Muggle transportation that evening he would be in London at noon. By the time the sun set he would be safe somewhere in the room of Sirius's house, if not a little beastly.
And with this thought, he burned the instructions on a lamp—his flat had no fireplace—and went to the station to purchase a ticket.
He was cautious during his trip towards Southampton, but after an hour or so into the trip he thought he might be turning into Mad-Eyed Moody and chuckled, before quickly sobering as he remembered Sirius's news about Moody actually not being Mad-Eyed Moody for a year in Hogwarts. Despite this thought, he felt himself relax with every kilometre. When he stopped to change buses, he was more concerned with food than with the possible problems of Voldemort, Dark Lords, evil wizards, and certainly not Death Eaters.
He was captured in Winchester.
They caught him on the way to the bus terminal in an empty alleyway. He saw five of them, two grabbing his arms as another snatched his wand from his pocket; the other two kept watch. After the initial alarm faded, he realised he found them pathetic with their desperation showing in the awkward way they gripped his arms. It was with a simple "Accio wand!" that his hand enclosed around the wood once more.
He managed to bring down two of them at the same time before someone—probably a sixth person—pulled a small coverlet over is head and he, in that split second of distraction, had a very hard knuckle connect to his jaw. Things went downhill from there as he discovered that the coverlet was enchanted not only to prevent sight but also smell and sound. Moreover, the adrenaline was beginning to surge out of him and he could again feel the painful reminder of the nearing full moon. With this, someone Petrified him and grasped him on the wrists as they Apparated seven times. At the end, the Death Eaters paused as they removed the hex before they forced and bound him to a chair, then removed the sound enchantment from the coverlet.
"We know about you, Mr Lupin," one announced; Remus could hear them pacing against stone floors. "We know about your unfortunate…predicament. And we know how the Wizarding World has turned its back against your kind. This is your chance to show them your strength, your abilities! The Dark Lord has always shown interest in your cause. We, the Death Eaters—"
Ah. So that was why he was taken. Remus rather thought it might be the reason. He listened carefully, but only to note what could be reported; they rambled more about the glory of the new world and how Lord Voldemort has returned—(Friends of the loyal Death Eaters, then, Remus decided, for news from Sirius indicated that Voldemort had returned only a few weeks before with Harry's unfortunate crisis during the last task during the Triwizard Tournament.)—and will restore order for the Wizards. Their ramblings indicated that they clearly believed this, and were also fanatical as they inserted "glorious reign" and "co-operation between all wizards and witches."
"The Death Eaters will welcome the Werewolves," one interjected eagerly. "It will be a celebrated union!"
"No, thank you," Remus replied flatly. "Frankly, you don't paint a wonderful picture of this glorious new world and I think I'm doing very well without your help."
More arguments, more talking, and it was almost a relief when one of them became frustrated and began to beat him. It wasn't really heartfelt, confirmed when one of them, one with a dark drawl, said, "We did not expect you to take our offer immediately, Mr Lupin. Of course, we will do to persuade you. The Dark Lord believes that the Werewolves will be helpful to our cause. Choose wisely, and you shall be rewarded."
Remus was too busy thinking about his bruised ribs that he did not answer; it did not matter, he was hauled from the floor where he lay and shoved into a cell. The ropes of his arms fell away and he pulled off the coverlet, gasping for air. Having no sense of smell, especially with his heightened lupine senses, was very disconcerting.
He prowled the room intently, thinking about Sirius waiting for him in Grimmauld Place or of Albus Dumbledore who was probably holding a meeting again and wondering of his whereabouts. He had to grudgingly admit that despite the obvious lack of planning in the part of these Death Eaters, they had chosen a cell that had no escape route except the barred window high on one corner of the room and an iron door. He deduced the possible reasons they may have done it, the implications of this attack, and the possible outcomes until he fell asleep.
He woke when there was loud sounds outside, muffled of course, but enough to send his senses spiralling in hopes of escape. He quickly crouched to the wall next to the doorframe, waiting for his opportunity…
Most probably the Death Eaters knew this for they threw the second person into his direction, making Remus catch the other person and having to break his fall with his elbows. The door clanged shut behind them.
"What—are you alright?!" Remus gasped out, grasping the other person rather warily in case of injuries.
"Do not—hands off, Lupin!" There was scrambling as the other person rolled away from him.
That snarl! Remus blinked at the man, registering the face and not actually believing but it is. "Severus?" he asked.
Severus Snape sneered. "Those incompetent fools. I had thought they would take someone from Greyback's pack. I apparently overestimated if they got you instead."
"What are you talking about?" Remus ignored the name; it was an ugly name, one that was whispered in either utter disgust or reverence among his fellow Werewolves. "How come you're here? Has—" And a thought occurred to him accompanied with a sinking feeling. "—Is Harry alright? Sirius—"
"I suggest you shut up for a moment," Severus interrupted crossly as he pulled himself to the corner of the cell, "and let me think."
"Lupin. Shut it."
Irritated, Remus did as was asked as the other man closed his eyes, apparently to think. Remus wanted to think of the possible implication of this situation but all he could think about was Harry and Sirius and the Order—oh, this was much serious than he had previously thought! He should try to get a wand and warn his friends, especially Harry and Sirius, those two were all the persons left in the world for him now—
"Will you cease that fidgeting?" Severus's eyes were now open; Remus could see them reflecting on the small stream of light coming from the window. It was already afternoon, he thought. "What did they want from you?"
"Recruitment," Remus replied obediently. If Snape was here, it would mean that Severus Snape himself was most probably either a member of the Order of the Phoenix or merely a civilian…most probably the previous. So he had to ask: "What about you?"
"This is not a tea party," Severus growled. He was now on his hands and knees, prying at every crack and corner of the cell. "I need to know those information. This isn't a part of—the Dark Lord will be displeased."
Remus kept quiet at the obvious monologue, partly because of Severus's intent to monologue his way out and partly because he was not sure what to respond. He knew Severus was a spy for the Order of the Phoenix during the Voldemort War; now that the Dark Lord was back, he most likely was a spy once more, though Remus knew very little of that. He let Severus discover that the cell was quite small and dreary, although it was thankfully dry; however, he noticed something that he had not previously seen before. "Severus…you're limping!"
The sour man paused with his mutterings to turn to him before snorting, "Yes, and you'll now have to bring me to St Mungo."
Remus would have retaliated to sarcasm but he kept silent again. Finally, Severus threw himself at the other corner, away from Remus. "It's secure," the Werewolf told him.
"I know, you imbecile. Shut up." Severus leaned his head against the wall once more and closed his eyes.
Remus fidgeted for a moment, hoping that Severus would not notice; he didn't. He spoke again, "How did you get in here?"
"Captured by those useless idiots. Their stupidity might be amusing if this wasn't the result. As it is, the Dark Lord—not to mention the Headmaster—will be displeased."
Remus was alarmed at the number of words that Severus had uttered. "Is it really that bad?" he mentioned. It must be, if the surly Potions Master was actually talking to him in that manner, as if he wasn't expecting to be let out alive.
Severus cracked open and eye but managed to still glare at Remus as if he was a fool. "Yes. It is. Lupin, what did they want from you specifically?"
"They wanted to recruit me for their cause," Remus replied, then thoughtfully, he added, "They said that Voldemort will help Werewolves in their cause to be accepted into the Wizarding World and how they will be given the chance to prove their self-worth, et cetera."
"I deduced as much." Severus closed his eyes again. "They must have known about how you were revealed—well." And it was good he stopped because Remus was then seriously considering that it was all Severus's fault after all, and it had begun since that time he told everyone at breakfast in Hogwarts that he was a Werewolf. "No doubt they thought it would enrage you."
"I am not angry—"
"Shut up, Lupin. I do not need explanations and I am not apologising."
Remus let it pass, thought about the previous conversation with the Death Eaters, and found that it was hard because of a steadily forming headache as well as the familiar tug of skin rearranging. He sighed irritably. "They said they knew they wouldn't manage to convince me so I suppose they'll have another go after I change—" He paused, then with horror stammered, "That is—the change is—"
"I believe it is their master plan," Severus said quietly without opening his eyes. "That you should eat me, feel remorse, become mad, or even find that you enjoy it, and finally join them."
"Why you?" Remus asked desperately. "Do they know…about your…"
"No." Here, Severus opened his eyes and met his gaze directly. "They do not know we worked together or they have not made a connection; that you are a Werewolf most probably has spread already without regards of where it came from. And I have never told anyone that I encountered a Werewolf during my sixth year."
"I see." This piece of information did nothing to comfort Remus, especially now that his acute eyesight was showing him that Severus was actually trembling slightly. He could feel the pull of the moon in his blood and he stood to pace, ignoring the screams of his muscles. "Are they…displeased with you?"
"Yes." Severus grimaced slightly and shifted.
"That is for me to know." He paused, as if deciding, then continued, grudgingly, "I did not answer the Summon immediately."
"What?" Remus stopped pacing and turned to him in confusion.
"The Dark Lord's Summon," Severus clarified. "During the last task of the Triwizard Tournament, he Summoned all his loyal disciples and…I did not leave the Headmaster immediately." His scowl deepened, but Remus saw that he seemed to be struggling with himself before saying quietly, "Lupin. There are some things I must—"
"Oh no!" Remus backed away, suddenly feeling his heart pounding quickly. He glanced up at the cell window; it was already nearing dark. "You're not to speak as if you're dying—"
"What do you suppose we do, play chess?" was the wry retort.
"I know you Severus," Remus replied, resuming his pacing and thinking quickly. He was supposed to know all about escapes, dammit! Loss of wand did not necessarily mean loss of magic, only loss of control! "Suppose—if one of us climbs to the window cell—"
"It's shut tight with hexes triggered by counter-hexes."
"How do you know?"
"I have been here before," was the simple reply.
Remus's distress heightened. "All right, so we've no wands, we're trapped, and the only things we have are our own clothes—"
"I must tell you the things the Headmaster—"
"—and nothing else except stone. And we're somewhere below the house or old manor, aren't we?" Remus continued loudly, ignoring his companion. "We have half an hour to find a way—"
"—out through wandless magic, do you know any? I've never done it, not for a long time, but we can always call for help and if one of those Death Eaters arrive we can attack—"
"no-one is coming!"
"Or a rescue team," Remus put in desperately, still not meeting Severus's eyes. "Have you told anyone where you were going? Or where you might be found? Have you anything that may be traced—"
"Lupin." Severus's sharp voice pierced through his ramblings. "I have told no-one, and unless you have also managed to tell someone as well, there shall be no rescue attempts."
"You will be spared," the other man interrupted, refusing to be deterred now that Remus had shut his mouth. "Come morning, you'll have some of your strength back. At least two will come to check, although with their pathetic attempts I would say there will be only one. You shall manage to get at least one wand and thus be able to stop the others. Their other mates are most probably—"
"Mate!" Remus stared at Severus.
Severus seemed irritated at the interruption. "Yes, his companions shall—"
"No, I mean…Severus. Mating."
At this, Severus scowled up at him, his fingers visibly clenching at his side. "Are you fancying a shag right before the full moon, Lupin?" he bit out harshly.
"Not really—well, it could help." Remus stared at him intently until Severus seemed to look uncomfortable. A wild, desperate hope was welling in Remus's brain and he struggled to remember. He resumed pacing. "If we mate—"
"No not that 'mate'."
"You mean their companions?"
"I mean we must have sex, Severus."
Severus stared at him as if he'd gone mad. "You were serious about having a shag before the full moon?" he asked incredulously.
Remus nodded, then forced himself to pause when he saw Severus slowly back into the wall cautiously. "The hours before the full moon heighten the desire of the Werewolf to copulate. Have you read about the mating rituals of Werwolves, Severus?"
"I do not bother with such trivialities since I was always busy trying to study how to procure the exact method of Wolfsbane, not to mention learn how it's best to avoid Werewolves who were currently teaching in Hogwarts, what the hell are you driving at?!"
Remus took a deep breath, carefully tried to make his voice neutral and took the plunge, "We can both get out of this alive if I make you my mate."
Severus began to chew his lower lip thoughtfully. "What makes you think," he said slowly, "that I would allow myself to bond with you?"
"Well, you'd rather not die," Remus pointed out. Slytherins look after their own necks, he thought and for once did not feel guilty over the stereotype.
"True," Severus admitted. "I do not wish to die, but…" His eyes flickered to his left arm so fast that Remus would not have detected if his sharp eyesight had not caught the movement despite the growing darkness.
"We do not have time," the Werewolf tried to reason urgently. He could feel the change almost upon him. "There is a ritual involved…"
"Convince me," Severus replied hoarsely.
At least he had his attention. Remus tried to remember all the texts he'd read; they had seemed interesting once but years without a successful relationship had made it all seem worthless that he had forgotten. He began to pace once more, trying to clear his mind from the tugging of the rising moon. "Since I am the only Werewolf in this union," he began, "I must be the dominant. You must submit yourself to me—"
"And what else is new?" Severus muttered.
Remus ignored this. "—when we…er…copulate." In his lecture mode, he could not mention the crude word of 'sex'. "I must bite your neck—or was that shoulder? Yes, Vampires to necks, Werewolves to collarbone—and suck at the exact time—"
"That will be contamination!" The horror in Severus's voice was clear.
"That is why precise timing is needed," Remus said solemnly. Again, his eyes were drawn to the window where the sky was getting ready to fade. "We have no time, Severus. I need your consent. Will you allow me?"
"I have not yet decided!"
"You must!" Remus glanced outside, then neared Severus so that he could kneel before him. His muscles twitched in both pain from the beatings and from the onslaught of the setting sun. "I'll guide you all the way." He stared at the other man's eyes which looked back at him blankly. He tried one last time: "Please don't make me into a murderer!"
"If it doesn't work," Severus said in a whisper, "what'll happen?"
Remus took a deep breath. "You'll have some qualities of a Werewolf that will affect both your physical and mental state."
"Is there a possibility of success?"
For a second, Remus was tempted to speak the truth and say that he had never seen a document of his knowledge that focused on the mating of two men of one Werewolf and the other a Wizard, but one last glance at the changing colours of the sky decided for him. "Yes, there is."
Another heartbeat and a pause, then finally Severus said huskily, "Then you may."
Without waiting, Remus pressed himself forward and met Severus's lips. It was dry and a bit salty as if full of dirt. The mating ritual did not rely on kisses, but Remus liked kissing his lovers; even the urgency of the situation did nothing to deter that. If nothing, it eased the intention somewhat. He tried not to think of the future, where there would be much explanations and sortings, what mattered were "now" and "here", and Severus was pushing him slightly off him to remove his robes while Remus's hands quickly fell over the thousand buttons of Severus's clothes. The trembling of their hands did nothing to hasten the procedure and in desperation they simultaneously agreed to tear them off.
Remus ran a hand over the skin under his touch; he could not see all but he knew it was pale even in the dim light and it was marked by thousands of scars that met his palms. He pushed Severus on the ground, breathing the scent of dirt and arousal, feeling his cock harden. "Have you done this before?" he murmured.
"It doesn't matter," Severus bit out, not looking at him. "Just tell me what to do."
"Wait…" Remus pulled back to unzip his trousers; his eyes roved over Severus, lying on the stone ground with his robes open and his torso gleaming. Dirt and desperation did nothing to his libido, just the thought that here was Severus Snape submitting to him, Remus Lupin, was enough to make him giddy. The wolf inside him seemed to be howling. "Wait."
He reached out and pulled down Severus's trousers and underpants in one swift tug before quickly covering the cock that sprang to life with his touch. Severus choked slightly and panted, "Is this part of—"
Words were failing Remus so he shook his head instead. The Potions Master gave a growl, "Do only what is necessary!"
He should, Remus knew, but old habits die hard and he had always taken care of his lovers' needs. To compromise, he shifted closer and licked his other hand before grasping his cock and pumping. Severus watched him with half-lidded eyes before he too reached out and grasped Remus's cock with both hands, covering Remus's. "What's next?" he kept murmuring. "What's next?"
Remus stifled a cry as the other man's hands ran expertly over his cock and fondled his balls. "Stop," he choked out because it was going too fast and if he didn't stop now, he would explode and it would be all over. Immediately, Severus snatched back his hand; Remus almost howled at the loss, took a deep breath, and finally managed, "Alright. I'm slipping a hand under you to get you ready."
"A hand, what the—oh!" With a moan, Severus tipped back his head against the stone wall while simultaneously raising his hips slightly as Remus plunged in one finger. There was no time to ease it in and wait before another finger joined. Severus gritted his teeth to prevent further release of sound and looked up as the Werewolf hovered over his form. "Then…"
"Put your legs over my shoulders," Remus instructed, moving his fingers inside Severus while the other left his partner's cock to flatten against the floor for better leverage.
There was a pause while they tried to rearrange themselves to the instructions before Severus gave a faint, "I cannot."
"What do you mean?!" Remus asked a little shrilly.
"I mean I cannot move my leg over your shoulders, Lupin, one of them seems to be sprained or broken or hurts like fucking hell!"
Remus squinted down at Severus, who was pale and grimacing, before nodding. "The limp. Fine. Alright, fine. Right or left?"
Remus slipped out his hand from the crack of Severus's arse and positioned them under his partner's thighs. He shifted closer still and lifted them to push his thighs to cushion Severus's lower body part. Caught unaware, Severus let out a scream of pain. "Goddamn you, that hurts!" His right leg was bent in an awkward way.
"Yes, I know," Remus panted as he shifted closer. Severus was angled uncomfortably and he was obviously trying not to make another sound. "Listen, I'm going in now, and then I'll have to bite you."
Severus gave him glare that lasted only moments. Remus leaned forward. "Take a deep breath, Severus."
Doing as he was told, Severus looked him into the eye and sneered, "You will do this correctly and you shall not bollocks it up—"
"I shan't!" Remus replied through gritted teeth. Already he could feel the moon rising into the sky; he did not have to look to see that the last rays of the sun were fading. He held Severus's leg into position and let the other hand brace them on the floor again.
Severus's face was pale and he clutched at Remus's forearms wildly. "Lupin…" he choked out, then softly, "I don't think…it's not…"
Without another word, Remus pushed his cock into the crack of Severus's arse. The other man gripped his arm tighter, releasing a gasp that sounded like a sob. It was a sound that Remus had never heard before, but he heeded it and looked down to see Severus writhing beneath him.
"Remus!" The name was groaned and repeated as the Werewolf drew back and plunged again. "Remus—stop, wait—it's not—wait—"
"Can't," Remus grunted, heady with the scent of dirt, sweat and sex that rose from both their bodies, mad with the insistent tug of the moon, wild with the sensation of Severus's tight hole enclosed around his cock. The more Severus struggled, the more Remus wanted to plunge deeper into him, and there was that thought in his mind gleefully whispering, Make him scream, louder, harder…
Then Severus was moaning, screaming curses and pleas and his name in one breath. Remus thrust deeper, each force releasing the growl that rumbled from his throat. The hand that braced them on the floor grasped Severus's cock and brutally tugged until Severus thrashed wildly, trying to find a sense of rhythm and finding none. Remus watched with some sense of detachment as Severus's fingers released him and scraped on the ground for something else to hold on to. He thought that it was funny how others described sex like blacking out and simply being, when all he could see was Severus and the feel of every vein of the man's cock pulsing under his fingers.
"You consent, right?" he snarled over the roaring in his head. "Tell me!"
"Yes," Severus choked, then screamed it with another thrust, "Yes, damn you!"
I did that, Remus thought to himself with some sense of satisfaction, followed by, Mine! Mine and mine and mind and mine and mine—
With a most astonishing precision, his body shoved forward, violently pushing his cock deeper into Severus's body while his teeth caught at the skin delicate skin right above the collarbone, hard enough to draw blood that smeared against his lips and tongue. He kept sucking as he poured himself into Severus, cock jerking as he came and came, until he was sure Severus's arse was leaking and dripping unto the floor. He wanted this man to overflow for him and only him, it did not matter if his body was currently broken and unclean as long as the only one who would ever fill him was Remus.
Then, Severus gave his own few harsh thrusts into Remus's palm and came moments later, head turned to one side with his eyes squeezed shut.
There was darkness in the room.
Immediately, Remus jerked his now limp cock from the nestled warmth and pulled back.
Severus barely winced as he lay on the ground, panting heavily. "Did it work?" he whispered.
His skin itched all over. Remus turned to the window and saw the moon peaking from the last orange light. "We'll soon find out," he heaved, then said, "Severus, you must—"
—turn your back, was what he wanted to say but wasn't able to finish because the moon cut him off and made him scream instead. He thought he had no more voice to shout but he did and he went on yelling and clawing as his insides rearranged painfully, his hair lengthened almost undecided, and his eyes turned greyish and into tiny slits. He backed off from Severus as far as he could, and it was with some mourning that he saw Severus recoil as well, trying to drown himself in the shadows.
I will not hurt you, he wanted to say. Will not let myself. Won't turn into a murderer. Don't want to. Can't make me. Will not let you die. Gods almighty above how it hurts! But I shall not hurt you!
There was something in him that continued to acknowledge these thoughts as he felt his tail bone lengthened. He wanted to wag it. Of course I shan't hurt him, was the amused thought. Of course not.
Part 3. More and More
Remus woke with a start when his pillow shifted, and he blearily thought that he should be throwing out these warty stuff before the cushions developed life, until there was another subtle shift. He drew back slightly and squinted at the thing—apparently a person—in his arms. "Oh, it's you," he sighed, the memories of the past few days trickling back into his mind. After a moment's glance at the window where the sun was steadily climbing the sky, he again burrowed into the blanket. "Go back to sleep."
"Lupin," Severus hissed, "unhand me."
"Don't want to."
Severus was silent for a moment as if he had not seriously considered the refusal. Then, with a sigh of his own, he apparently stopped struggling and lay back again on the bed.
Remus took this opportunity to put his arms around the other man's torso. Severus stiffened. "Relax. You're still hurt."
"The idiot Healer will arrive soon…"
"Let her see." Keeping his eyes closed, Remus leaned forward until his chin rested against Severus's neck. He could feel rough patches of unshaved beard graze his lips and thought it might be nice to keep talking for a while. "Anyway, we're bonded."
"She doesn't know that."
"She'll think we're lovers anyway." Blast it, now Remus couldn't sleep. He sighed again, now more contentedly as he discovered how nice it was to wake up to this man, his mate. Without helping, the hand he had thrown around Severus now crept under the thick blanket and over his chest and on to the stomach.
"What are you doing?" Severus's voice was alarmed and he frantically grabbed Remus's wrist.
Remus cracked open an eye, smiling at the way the Potions Master's eyes darted to the door and back to their blanket that covered their bodies. With sleep slowly draining away, he could sense how his legs were tangled with Severus's and how the other man's left side was pressed tightly against Remus's chest to accommodate them both on the same bed. It was deliciously intimate and he could not remember the last time he had ever done this before. "Doing my duties, of course," he murmured, smile widening when his breath caused Severus a miniscule shudder.
"Is this the effect of the bond, then?" Severus growled.
Remus paused; he could not help referring to the numerous texts again to think of an answer until Severus made a move to leave and he decided it didn't matter. "Don't really know; we can research it later." He was hardening with all the banter and his hand had already unbuttoning Severus's trousers and slipping inside. "What do you think?"
Severus lifted his hips slightly as Remus's fingers skimmed his cock. "Perhaps," he strained.
"Hmm…" Languidly, Remus pressed his erection against Severus's hip, amused when the other man responded with a sharp release of breath. Speaking was temporarily abandoned as his hand slowly skimmed over his partner's erection, and the only sound in room was the heavy breathing and the silent creak of beds as Remus thrust against Severus's hip in time with his hand.
And then the door flew open.
"Fuck!" Startled, Remus immediately jerked back just as Severus pushed him away, and then the Werewolf was on the floor, part of the blanket tangled over his leg as he stared at the door where Dame Willerby graced them with a haughty glare. "Er," Remus stammered, feeling his face turn red, "we were—"
"You do remember," began Dame Willerby sternly, "that you two just survived a beating that left bruises? Yes?"
Remus nodded and peeked up the bed to discover that Severus had placidly replaced what was left on the blanket over his legs to presumably hide his erection and was now gazing out the window, blatantly ignoring them. The Werewolf wanted to throttle him. "Yes, of course, right," he stuttered, pulling himself up from the floor. His erection was gone, fled at the sight of the formidable Healer. "Um."
"Please refrain from doing strenuous activities, both of you," was the reply before two bottles were plunked on the table between the two patients. Remus collapsed again on his bed. "That means no arguments, no physical aggressions, and certainly no sexual activities please."
Remus wished he would die and blurted out, "I will if Severus does."
Severus turned to him so quickly that his neck snapped. "What—you were the one—" he sputtered in outrage.
"I do not wish to hear it!" Dame Willerby snapped although she was glaring at Remus. Most probably because she could not match Severus's glare. "Please drink your potions—the green one is for Mr Lupin…alright…" The clipboard that was hovering behind her recorded their names and their medicines. "Mr Lupin, you shall be released this morning and Mr Snape, you shall stay for examination of your leg."
"But you have fixed it," Severus thundered, looking murderous.
"But I can't leave without him," Remus protested without thinking, then was met with two icy glares. He swallowed. "I could try, though," he offered.
"See that you do, we do not coddle those who are already cured," the Healer told him before turning her attention to Severus. "Please move your right leg here please…right." Under her breath, she kept muttering, "Break not on tendon—have to use something else—not Skelle—"
"Not on the tendon, Severus?" Remus asked, bypassing the form of Dame Willerby. "What hit you?"
Severus glared at him. "I don't have to tell you—it was a club with nails."
There was stunned silence between the two men but Dame Willerby was oblivious to it as she muttered, "No wonder it's infected, but that potion will fix it right up…alright, ready for the spell, Mr Snape?"
Severus snapped out of his thoughts and turned to the Healer with a dazed expression. "Go on," he snapped, but he seemed to have trouble breathing.
"Alright, hold on to something…of course, if you insist only with the blanket…" Dame Willerby pushed back her sleeves and bent over the ugly purple and red gashes on Severu's right leg. "Here we go." She murmured spell after spell, presumably to inspect, assess, and take the correct course of action.
Severus avoided R emus's eyes but for once the Werewolf did not mind. His own mind was whirling. Did Severus just reveal something to him against his will? Did he mean it? Was it the bond? Involuntarily, his hand felt his chest again and he concentrated. No body changes, but there it was, the thrumming sound centred at his chest. It was easier to bear now and also easier to ignore, but still there. Was compelled truth-telling part of the bond then? He had never read that, or perhaps he had but had forgotten…had he?
An hour of intense concentration, Dame Willerby backed away from Severus's form, her own face pale and sweaty. The hovering clipboard took more notes. After leaning on Remus's bed for a tad and taking sips of water from the pitcher on the table which Remus offered to her, she pronounced that Mr Snape will be able to leave that afternoon after resting. Remus was so grateful to her that he did not try to ask anymore annoying questions and allowed himself to be scanned for any other medical problems.
Finally, the Healer left and Remus stood next to Severus's bed. "Are you alright?"
"Not really…will you stop asking questions?!" Severus snapped. He was clearly alarmed and upset. "Is this…is this some sort of compelling spell? Is the bond—"
"I have no idea," Remus replied truthfully. He really should research it, but it felt like the walls were collapsing on top of him and he wished he had never left his flat in St Ives, wished he had never taken the bus, wished he could just wake up and find this all a bad dream. And yet he also wished he could touch Severus's sallow cheek and tell him they would go through with this. Can hormones actually control affection? he wondered, clenching his fists at his side and refusing to let them budge. "All I remember is that it means one can detect the other, and that other Werewolves will immediately know that the mate is already…already with someone else." He almost said 'owned' but he knew Severus would not appreciate it.
Severus indeed looked like he was struggling with something. "This is…wonderful, Lupin!" he burst out, eyes suddenly blazing. "You have just ruined everything I've—"
"I did not ask to be caught!" Remus defended.
"You were practically begging! Are you not a Wizard? Could you not use the Knight Bus? Apparate?! Floo?!"
"I had very practical reasons why I did not take those methods, and you know them well, Severus." Although for the life of Remus he could not remember those reasons now but he knew they existed at the back of his mind.
"Still, this is—" But Severus did not finish as his right hand drew to the Dark Mark, his face contorting slightly.
Remus was immediately at his side. "Are you alright?" he breathed.
"Fine," Severus replied curtly, his eyes still at the dark tattoo on his arm. When he realised Remus was gazing at the same direction, he pulled down the sleeves of the gown. "There is no Summons."
"Gods." Remus almost sagged against him. "We're alive, Severus, and we have to move forward from this problem." He cleared his throat, and said quietly, "Let's call a truce. For now."
Severus glared at him for a while, then muttered, "Either way, it seems I'm now your mate."
"You are my mate, Severus—" It still felt thick in his tongue to say it, but it also sent a jolt of recognition against his spine. Remus sat up straighter. "—but a truce means we have to work together to find a way to move through it." He paused. "Are you willing?"
Again, Severus seemed to be struggling with himself before he replied with a resigned, "Yes."
"Right." Remus ran a hand through his hair. "Did you feel compelled to answer my questions?"
Another pause, then Severus replied, "Yes, I was. And I just tried to lie to you," he added as a wry afterthought. He did not seem pleased.
"Ask me a question, then," Remus said.
For a moment, the other man seemed at a loss before his eyes flashed in wicked determination. Yet after a long moment, he finally asked, "Are you gay?"
"I don't know," Remus replied quickly. Annoyed, he added, "Can't you ask something that does not require internal searching?"
"Fine." Severus thought for a moment before asking, "Did you take part in Black's escape last year?"
"No," was the reply, then more vehemently, "Good lord, Severus, if it's about that again, then—"
"You wished me to ask a question and I asked it. Now here's another: was it you and your friends who played that prank on the visiting student from Durmstrang during our year?" The Potions Master's eyes glittered.
Even though it happened years before, Remus shamefully tried to deny it because it had involved peeking into Severus's extensive notes on sticking material and explosions and had resulted to the pale Slythering being severely punished by Professor McGonagall with one week's detention. Clenching his fists, he realised he could not help his mouth blurting out, "Yes, it was."
Severus seemed a bit satisfied. "Did you try to deny it?"
"Yes, I did." For a moment, he thought Severus would ask yet another question about the Shrieking Shack. It, however, did not come so he went on, "This means that the bond is working on both of us; when someone asks a question, the other person is compelled to answer the truth." He paused, considered the implications, then went on, "But I believe the other person can easily sidestep the question."
"And you remember this now?"
Remus gave Severus an irritated look. "While I read a lot, it does not mean I always remember them."
"Then what is the use of reading?" Severus asked in obvious frustration.
"It helps pass the time."
"That was a rhetoric question, Lupin."
"Yes, but you did ask it." Remus felt terrible.
When Albus Dumbledore arrived later that day to accompany Remus to 12 Grimmauld Place, he took them aside and asked them of their new arrangements. Remus felt more than guilty that they had not progressed beyond sleeping quarters, especially considering the apparent clause in their bond that they should be together during the first month or so. Until the next transformation anyway, Remus mused. Other than that, they had discussed nothing else and he said this to Dumbledore a bit sheepishly.
The Headmaster, however, appeared to understand. "You'll have time to work things out," he assured them, then turned to Severus. "You will live in London until you are both able to withdraw from each other?"
"Yes," Severus replied sourly and would not say any more.
Remus explained, "He would rather I stay in the dungeons but I refused because there'd be children."
"Are you both sure that is wise?" Dumbledore asked, looking at Remus. "After all, Sirius Black will be there with you. It can cause complications."
"I have thought that," Severus volunteered.
Remus glared at him. "I will handle Sirius. Just make sure you're in the house before sundown." He quickly explained the matter of the bonding to Dumbledore.
"Grimmauld will be easily acceptable, Severus," Dumbledore put in thoughtfully. "If you are Summoned during the night, at least they will be unable to track you."
"That is the danger," the Potions Master replied angrily. "If they cannot track me and they know I am not in the school, then…" He paused but did not continue.
Dumbledore did. "I have given out false reports that you have been called away due to problems on your malfunctioning leg." Again, that strange twinkle, and Remus realised that the Death Eaters who had caught them may now be realizing the problem with erring Lord Voldemort. "I do not deny that it will be inconvenient not having reports—" Remus saw Severus wince slightly. "—yet it cannot be helped; besides, not all Summons are limited to night visits. Although they hide, they do not necessarily conceal themselves with merely the darkness of night. Do not trouble yourself, Severus. We shall discuss this later."
They left Severus muttering to himself and Remus could not help but feel a bit thankful that he would finally see Sirius again and leave Severus for a while. The man was not an easy person to talk to.
Yet as soon as he stepped out of the hospital and into the buzzing streets of London, Remus felt the buzzing in his ears grow louder. He shook his head to clear it, but realised it was not going away soon. It was that sense of the mate, and Remus was making use of it now. Carefully, he managed to ignore it until he and Dumbledore had Apparated to a nondescript room with furniture mostly covered by dusty blankets. "Severus—"
"Is safe," the Headmaster quickly assured him. Remus faintly realised that Dumbledore had firmly steered him through the furniture towards a couch. The two sneezed twice before the older man placed a charm over themselves, effectively settling the dust the stopping their noses from running. It did not, Remus noted faintly, lessen the thrumming in his chest.
"Albus," he said faintly, "Severus will be released this afternoon, yes?"
"I am sure."
"Albus," Remus said chokingly, "I should have told you—"
"It's all right, my boy," said the Headmaster, who was already turning away from him.
And somewhere in the haze of Remus's mind, he heard a confused motion: "Tell him what?"
Closing his eyes and fighting the desire to groan, Remus let his body collapse into the great sofa as he strove to ignore Sirius Black.
Ten minutes and one less Hogwarts Headmaster later, Sirius Black repeated blankly: "You—what?"
"Mated, Sirius," Remus repeated tiredly.
There was a pause. "You. What?" Gone was the confusion and now all that was left was the disbelief and simmering rage.
"It's not the bloody end of the world!" Remus shouted, weary with all the fuss accompanied by the continued disturbance somewhere within his chest and stomach. He was tired, irritated, and he felt hungry except he somehow knew it was his emotions telling him he missed Severus so. It was thought of with a pang. "We'll have to find some way around this but I'll be damned if I let it ruin our lives! We had no choice!" When his friend did not reply, Remus went on, "I suppose we'll be able to make the most out of it. I've never had a family—"
"Listen to yourself!" Sirius finally burst in, arms gesturing furiously. "You're actually considering being with that slimy git! It's as if you actually want to be with him—"
"Well, there's really nothing else to figure out—"
"That bond—" Both grimaced at the term. "—has managed to change your whole perspective, and you're obviously not thinking rationally!"
"Being with Severus is obviously hard—"
"—not to mention our relationship may endanger each other in this ongoing war—"
"Not if you kill each other first!"
"But it's managed to put us out of a tight fix and we'll learn to live with it—"
"He's a fucking manipulator, Remus!"
With a snarl, Remus suddenly launched into Sirius and grabbed the collar of his robes; sudden strength made him lift the other slightly from the ground, fingers clenched around the cloth and threateningly close to his throat. "You," he said through gritted teeth, "will not further insult my mate!"
"Is it you speaking, Remus?" Sirius breathed angrily. "Or is it the wolf?"
For a second, Remus considered throwing him on the floor and punching him; then, the horrifying moment was gone and his strength was drained from him completely. He released his hold from Sirius's lapel and drew back, shaking slightly. "Oh, Merlin," he gasped softly, eyes wide, taking another step back. "Oh, gods, Sirius—"
"Remus," Sirius said warily, still watching him cautiously.
Remus wanted to rip his eyes out; he wanted to scream, "I'm not a monster!" But this was Sirius, he thought to himself hysterically. Sirius would never judge him, and thought him powerful as a human even without the wolf. Sirius would understand human sensitivity—but the question he threw was indeed valid. Had Remus developed the need to protect Severus simply because he was his mate? Will his whole personality now revolve around this event? A long time ago, he had tried denying his lycanthropy, had tried to think that he was still human, and that being a werewolf was merely an atrocity that happened once a month, yet in the end he had embraced that identity with the help of his other three friends. Would he embrace this as well? And if he did, what then?
Sirius was still watching him, but he was now straightening his robes and his stance was beginning to relax. "What you need," he said finally, "is someone who'll let you wisely judge other options."
"What other options?" Remus asked, trying not to put a shrill into his voice.
His friend held out his arms and gripped his shoulders, pushing him slightly in order to let their eyes meet. "I'm saying," Sirius told him quietly, "that you don't have to confine yourself to this situation. You haven't—fuck it, Moony, can you honestly say that you've considered Snape as a likely mate even before what happened?"
"No, of course not!" The admission slipped out of Remus' mouth as a horrified statement. "But," he was quick to add, "I've never even thought about mating with anyone!"
"Especially Snape," Sirius was quick to put in.
After a tense silence between them, Remus turned away quickly. "We'll work around this."
Sirius gave a start. "Are you—"
"There is no way to refuse a bond, Sirius!" Remus shouted, refusing to listen to his friend. He could not bear to think about breaking a promise, not even to Severus whom he had watched from childhood to adulthood, who seemed to revile him yet responded eagerly to his touches. Anger and revulsion at himself grew when he realised he was even considering the possibility of removing the bond, then felt more miserable at the consideration that he had put Severus in the awful position without a choice.
And there's a war, he reminded himself bleakly. There were, of course, ways that it may be avoided but the future was becoming darker at every turn; the Order of the Phoenix was regrouping and Severus—
A sudden realisation hit Remus and he had to steady himself against the window frame. "Oh, Merlin," he breathed to himself. "How could I—"
"Remus?" Sirius worriedly piped up from behind.
"I've put Severus in a very difficult position." Turning to his friend, Remus forced himself to calm down and think thoroughly about the situation. Upon meeting Sirius' eyes, he explained, "It's highly likely that he is a spy—"
"Good god, you're thinking about that?!"
"I don't care!" Sirius yelled, throwing up his hands. "I care about you, and I don't think that you're considering other important things that may be affecting you. How much do you exactly know about the bond formation? You're the werewolf here, Moony, and if there's anyone in danger here, it's you!" Placing his hands on Remus' shoulders, Sirius slightly shook him and shouted, "And if he does spy for the Order, then you're also going to have to rethink your position because there's no way Severus cannot be deep, and one way or another this is going to affect you!"
It was disturbing for Remus to realise that he had not considered it; until his friend pointed it out, all he had been concerned for was Severus and the precarious position he would be subjected to. "Do you suppose," he began, "that this reaction is because of the bond?"
"I don't know what to think anymore," Sirius replied in frustration, then continued in a more quiet voice, "But it would be safer to assume. I…I don't want you not to look out for yourself, Moony. You care for people a lot even if you don't personally know them, and I'm proud of you because of that. Even if you're looking out for Snape, which is…like you. But. It's not like you to completely forget about yourself."
There was a pause as Sirius fidgeted and Remus stared at him. "Severus is—"
"Look," Sirius interrupted, "we'll get by. For now, you can concentrate on fixing this one day at a time." He peered at Remus' face and nodded. "And to follow the terms of the bond for now. We'll look for ways to go around it."
"Thank you," Remus told his friend gratefully, touching his arm. "It's not your problem, but I'm glad you're helping me. I…" He hesitated, then went on, "…I appreciate it."
"Don't worry." Sirius gave him a crooked smile and looked away. "You've always done the same for me."
When the faint queasy sensation lessened and finally disappeared, Remus knew that Severus was somewhere in the near vicinity. He arranged his robes on the closet where he was unpacking, counted to twenty and finally braved the hallway outside his bedroom to go to the foyer downstairs. Loud voices were coming from the kitchen and it took only a few exchanges to learn that they were Sirius and Severus. Heart sinking, he made his way to the room quickly, making sure that his arrival would be heard.
As he had thought, the fighting was reduced to hushed accusations that finally vanished when he made it to the door, yet he could practically see the fury radiating from both men. "When did you arrive?" he asked cautiously to Severus.
"Just a few minutes ago," Severus replied stiffly, eyes still trained on Sirius.
"I was just going to get you, Remus," Sirius added, likewise keeping his eyes on Severus.
Remus laid a hand on Sirius' arm. "Sirius, let me talk to Severus," he said softly.
Tension visibly tightened Sirius' muscles but he immediately recovered and nodded. Nevertheless, Remus could see that he never took his glare away from Severus. "Yes, of course. There's tea in the cupboard and the pans are below the sink. Feel free to use them. Call me if—" He hesitated and let his scowl grow. "—there's any sign of trouble."
"There won't be," Remus said firmly and he gave his own warning glance at Severus before gently steering Sirius out of the kitchen. Finally, he turned to the other man in the room, who was now standing defensively with his arms crossed over his chest. Remus sighed, knowing it would be futile to speak of a truce between the two. "How are you?"
"Better," Severus replied grudgingly, then more irritably he accused, "You did that on purpose!"
Again, Remus had to sigh. "No, I did not. Will you stop being paranoid? I was concerned, I still am. You still haven't returned to normal—"
"Pale, ugly, touched with the beaky nose and topped by greasy hair self?"
"You sound snarky enough," Remus snapped back. He was greatly tired; he had spent the better part of the afternoon helping out with the various tasks that needed to be done around the house before finally retreating to his bedroom where he had unpacked. Severus' petty concerns were currently the least of his problem. "Is it so hard for you to believe that someone actually cares?"
"It is more surprising," Severus spat out, "that it is you who actually believe you care."
"But I do," Remus replied, surprising Severus and even himself because there had been no question for him to answer truthfully. "I'm sure you need bed rest or even some kind of potion—"
"I am not a charity case, Lupin. You need not concern yourself with me."
"I'm your mate," Remus started only to have Severus shout, "I do not want to get used to that excuse! If you want to be considered even remotely as a human and a wizard, then your decisions must be taken from your own mind!"
Stung, Remus' voice dropped a notch. "That's unfair, Severus. It's hard to think about doing things without the wolf's point of view, seeing as I am a werewolf. And you know that ignoring the effects of this mating bond will do no good. We're stuck with it, and we have to find ways that we'll adapt to it."
"As well we should," Severus replied tersely, but it was also with a sense of defeat. When Remus realised that the man was not going to sit without an invitation, he himself sank down into one of the chairs. Severus hesitated before following suit; it seemed he was preparing himself for a long discussion. "I cannot lie to you, Lupin, and I will not even if I could. This is…events have been escalating quickly over the years and, indeed, over the past few days. I cannot…" He paused, then continued thickly, "I cannot reveal to you some of the circumstances, mostly because of the situation that will affect the rest of the community. And I…I would not wish to put you…in anymore danger that you've already faced."
The declaration had faded to a rough mutter but Remus heard every word. He felt his chest tighten; he did not love this man, of that he was sure, but he was touched that at least Severus seemed to be trying. He resisted reaching out to hold Severus' hand; somehow, he knew that the other man would think Remus was trying to cheapen his offer. Instead, he chose his words carefully and replied, "There is going to be a war and we both know we've been through a lot over the past few years, even the last few days. I appreciate that you would rather you do not put me in danger, but I would also rather that you not put yourself into unnecessary danger. I'm not telling you out of some sense of the bond, or even because I know that I would die without you—" That bit slipped out without thinking and he saw how Severus' eyes widened, but he plunged on: "—but because I think it would be a waste. Wherever this bond will lead us, I'm sure we'll be able to find other ways around it."
"So you believe that this bond will not dictate our waking moments?" Severus asked dryly.
"I believe," Remus responded steadily, "that while it will, we'll be able to handle the repercussions."
There was a bit of silence before Severus nodded and turned away. "Thank you," he said softly, "for clearing that matter."
When there was another silence, Remus felt comfortable enough to take Severus' hand. It was still an awkward gesture and he could feel Severus tensing again, but he forced himself to realise that this was going to be one of the parts that they would have to overcome. Slowly. He refused to let go. "Sirius has allowed a bedroom upstairs for us. It's a guestroom so it can let us share the space without being cramped. I've already unpacked."
"I suppose I should not ask about the size of the bed?" Severus inquired with a raised eyebrow.
The mention of the 'bed' had Remus' cock stirring in awareness. His fingers caressing Severus' wrist felt like it burned, yet he continued to hold it. "For an intelligent man," he replied in amusement, "you certainly ask some mundane questions." He leaned forward and let his nose touch Severus'. "I trust you know the answer to that?"
"Do you only want my body, Lupin?" Severus asked stiffly but his cheeks were stained with tinges of red.
Remus blew a breath, fighting the urge to kiss his mate. "It's one of the things I want, Severus." Pulling back, he went on, "And another is that you would call me 'Remus'."
For a moment, Severus looked as if he would argue once more, but he clamped his mouth shut and gave a terse nod. Satisfied that they had managed to talk about some important things, Remus finally stood, tugging Severus' hand. "Where are your things? I'll show you the bedroom."
"No ulterior motive?" Severus drawled.
"No," Remus replied blandly, then teased, "Would you want there to be?"
"No," Severus retorted, much too quickly.
Remus flashed him a leer. "I was simply going to let you decide which side of the bed you sleep on, but then I suppose that it wouldn't be too much trouble—"
He had to turn away and hide his grin when the pinkish tinge on Severus' scowling face threatened to redden.
The thin line that his mouth formed upon seeing them was evidence enough of Sirius' idea of the whole affair, especially the way his eyes narrowed upon seeing Remus' fingers enclosed around Severus'. For a brief moment Remus thought about letting go but when his mate's fingers tightened around his own hand, he realised that this was a better start than any.
"We're taking Severus' things to our room," he said carefully. "Is dinner to be held here?"
"Molly and Arthur will be along later with some food," Sirius said after a long pause. "Moody might be along to tell us about some people who may be trusted in the Ministry."
"We'll be down for dinner, then." Remus tugged Severus' hand slowly but Sirius spoke again.
"Don't you have other plans, Snape?"
Severus whirled around and glared at him. "What about you, Black, don't you have somewhere else to go? Oh, forgive me, you've been forbidden by the Headmaster to stay here."
Sirius looked murderous. "I'm not allowing this bloody bastard here, especially for dinner! He might poison—"
"The sun will be setting by then," Remus replied wearily, shooting warning glances at Severus. "We have to be together. If you're throwing Severus out, I have to leave, too."
Sirius obviously had no protests against that, but he continued to throw baleful glares at the amused Potions Master. "There must be another choice in the matter!"
"Actually, Black, there is not," Severus interrupted in cruel glee. "See you later for dinner then." And he pulled Remus out of the room. The werewolf barely figured the ferocious expression on his friend's face.
"You'd better behave yourself, Snape," Sirius called after them. "This is my house after all."
Severus snorted as he paused to pick up a small travelling luggage. "Is that the best comeback you can give?" he called back.
"Shush," Remus admonished, scowling. "You two are acting like children and it certainly won't alleviate the problem if you continue to bicker." Severus was clearly enjoying his little victory against his and Sirius' exchange. "Severus, you're clearly goading him."
"He's falling for it though," Severus pointed out. He wasn't snarling, however, which meant he was still in a better mood; Remus found himself too imbued in his mate's feeling that he immediately dismissed the matter.
The small luggage that contained some of Severus' more private things was unpacked once they entered. It was obvious that the Potions professor was loathed to let him go through his things but Remus pointed out that as they would be overstepping both their boundaries over the next few years then they had better start being comfortable with each other. Severus' black robes were placed carefully in the wardrobe next to the werewolf's worn-out robes of coloured varieties. Toiletries were placed on their rightful places; Remus quite smartly averted his eyes and kept quiet despite catching the label on Severus' shampoo ("Splendid Smear Shampoo!") although they got into an almost dangerous exchange when Severus had the gall to mock the quality of his healing potion. Much later when Remus eagerly dug his hands into his mate's luggage, Severus forcefully pushed him away, berating him loudly about fragile items and delicate potion ingredients until, quite rightly, Remus thought that the most probable way for his mate to shut up was to kiss him. And so he did.
That was how Molly Weasley saw them later: Severus pressed on the wall with Remus' teeth worrying a small bruise on his neck. To her credit, she shut the door quickly before she started shrieking.
Part 4. Adjustments Made
Dinner went quite well the first night despite more bickering between Sirius and Severus; with Molly, Arthur and Kingsley present, more people knew when to rightly intervene when the conversation turned heated, and conversation mostly revolved around news on recruitment and activities. no-one tried to pry anymore information from Snape as they knew the spy would report to Dumbledore alone. Moreover, it was the first time they had Severus over for dinner and Molly Weasley was so thrilled, she kept trying to offer him thirds and fourths. Severus, through gritted teeth and obviously trying not to offend her, kept refusing. Remus kept one hand over his mate's knee and smothered his laughter.
When supper was finished, Sirius bolted away from the room so fast, and Severus looked like he wanted to do the same but Remus lingered for more discussions. As per the bond, Severus was forced to sit through the entire exchange, picking on some uneaten potatoes, obviously trying not to snarl whenever Molly urged him to finish his food.
Tempted as he was to play it out longer, though, Remus finally relented and offered to help wash the dishes, but was good-naturedly waved away by Kingsley Shacklebolt. "I have some spare time with me," the man said cheerfully, "and I'm not looking forward to going back to my lonely flat. Here, I'll help you with that, Arthur." And with a wave of his wand, the Auror managed to take half of the load away from the stack Arthur was letting float to the direction of the kitchen.
"And with that taken care of," Severus growled, "perhaps it would be wise for us to take leave?"
"We'll take care of everything here, dears," Molly Weasley said kindly, bustling herself with preservation spells for the leftovers and pointedly not looking at them. "Tomorrow, the Headmaster will be here and Kingsley has said that he might bring someone with him."
"Can that person be trusted?" Severus asked sharply, glancing at the door leading to the kitchen.
"Kingsley is hardly one who trust someone without reason," Remus reminded him, then felt a small contraction in his chest. So is Severus Snape, and still he trusted me with this. He took Severus' hand again and squeezed it. This time, Severus did not try to pull back.
They bid their good-nights and made their way back to their room, but they stopped at the hallway stairs when there was a hiss: "Psst…Remus!"
Severus paused at the landing while Remus turned to one of the doors. "Sirius?" he cautiously called out.
A sudden shrieking sound filled the hallway: "VILE PEOPLE IN MY HOUSE, YOU SHALL REGRET IT!"
"What the—!" Severus and Remus quickly drew their wands just as Sirius Black dove away from the door and pulled Remus away from the stairwell and into the room; Remus managed to grab Severus as well and drag him with them. They entered the library just as shuffling noises came from the direction of the kitchen, shouting, "Shut up! Shut up, for fuck's sake!" It was Kingsley Shacklebolt and Arthut Weasley.
"What the hell was that, Black?!" Severus shouted, pushing himself away from Remus' grasp, only to quickly gasp and stand nearer him once more. The sun had already set.
Sirius looked grim. "That," he announced, "is my mother. Well. Was my mother." Remus gave him a blank look; he knew Mrs Black was dead. "It's a portrait of her, the one on the landing? Behind the large drapes? Apparently, she's had it placed there so she can scream at whomever she wishes. Bitch."
"Actually quite predictable, come to think about it," Severus replied, "given that you Blacks usually have great regard for your own voices."
"As do you, Severus," Remus interrupted wearily. He was tired and he wanted to sleep, and Mrs Black was still screaming outside. DEMONS IN MY OWN HOME, I'D SOONER BURN THIS HOUSE—"What did you want, Sirius?"
Sirius looked uncomfortable. "Well," he started, casting hateful glances at Severus, "I was thinking about that bond—"
Remus' headache worsened. "Sirius, we've talked about this—"
"I just want to say that it might be some form of Dark Magic, Remus," Sirius said, still glaring at Severus, who was scowling back. "I've been reading up while you were upstairs and apparently the mating bond between werewolves and wizards or witches has different effects to their recipients. It tries to prey the weakness between the two couples and weaves around it."
"Interesting." Surprisingly, it was Severus who spoke, the flicker of interest in his eyes belying his bored voice. "Are you saying it's a type of parasite?"
"Maybe," Sirius agreed grudgingly, still glaring at his enemy. "Apparently, the…er, sex—" He seemed about to vomit at the word. Even Severus looked slightly sick. "—is a ritual that helps the magic find the weak points of your relationship and uses that as a means for forming the bond itself. That's why it's so difficult to study, because not all couples are affected similarly."
"That's interesting," Remus said thoughtfully, wishing he could still think clearly without the throbbing in his head. With some detachment, he could feel his fingers tracing patterns over his mate's palm; he hoped Sirius didn't notice. "And it certainly constitutes being Dark Magic, but then Werewolves are considered Dark Creatures so it can also follow—"
"A bond," Sirius put in, "means that it might try to conflict with other Dark bonds as well."
In that instant, Remus and Sirius locked eyes before they both turned to stare at Severus' left arm hidden in the folds of his black robes. Severus seethed, as if debating whether he should place his arm behind him. "If the Mating Bond is indeed parasitic and preys singularly on a weakness, and if it does not necessarily have anything to do with the main scheme of the Dark Mark, then there is no problem, is there?"
"What is your weakness?" Sirius asked Remus.
"None of your business," Severus quickly put in just as Remus said, "Trust."
Seething, Severus absolutely refused to look at Remus and surreptitiously removed his hand from Remus' grasp, even while he continued to let their arms brush. Remus did not try to hold his hand again and kept his gaze on Sirius. Sirius, in his part, stared first at Remus, to Severus, and again to Remus before giving a small grin. "I see," he almost sang.
"Shut up, Black," Severus snapped.
"Quit it, Sirius," Remus said, his headache returning in full-force. "I'm thankful you've actually spent some time in the library for this—" Severus smirked and Sirius glowered at him, "—but, like I said, we'll work around it. I think it's time to sleep, though. I'm tired, and this morning Severus and I woke up in the hospital. Good-night."
Just as they were leaving, Sirius clapped a hand on Remus' shoulders. "I don't know how much this is affecting you," he said in a low voice, "but I have some idea. Take care of yourself."
Remus smiled. "I will. Thank you"
"If you're quite finished with that touching display," Severus sneered, pointedly glaring at the door.
Getting ready for bed was awkward. It was a pity, Remus thought to himself with a sigh, that they seemed to be adept at handling everything else outside the bedroom. "Have you decided which part of the bed you'll sleep?" Remus asked politely.
"Oh for—" Severus rolled his eyes and sat down at the edge of the bed. "I'm used to sleeping at all kinds of places, so I don't mind."
"Good. I'll take the right side, it's closest to the window." Sitting next to Severus, he finally sighed and went on, "I'm sorry I told Sirius what was wrong, but he's bound to know somehow."
"I don't care what you did," Severus replied stiffly.
"Severus." Reaching out to touch his mate's shoulders, Remus forced their eyes to meet. Severus seemed annoyed but did not struggle. "We have to get used to arguing about things and setting it right; it would be unbearable if we kept on arguing. I don't want to keep fighting you when I don't know what I'm fighting against, and I certainly want to do it for the rest of my life."
"Let go of me, Lupin," the Potions Master said stiffly.
"Are you angry with me for telling Sirius?" Remus asked cautiously.
Again, there was the contortion on Severus' face that indicated he was trying to force himself to lie, but in the end he said hoarsely, "Yes. I am."
"Why are you angry?" Remus persisted.
"It was none of his concern," Severus burst out, immediately standing and stepping away from his mate. "You share everything with him and you know—" He paused, as if to keep himself in check, and went on tersely, "You know he and I have some animosities between us. I may be civil to you now and then but there is no love lost between us. You two, however, are friends, and every little thing you tell him, he can use against me."
The words, although clipped, tore at Remus' heart but it also made him angry. "Now listen here, Sirius Black is one of my oldest friends and I know he'll never intentionally do something to hurt you."
"Like when we were children?" Severus countered. "Those little pranks he's done? With I as the victim? Forgive me if I don't believe you."
"He did do dreadful things but Severus, that was a long time ago—"
"And it only seemed like yesterday to him. He's been in Azkaban for twelve years, Remus! Do you believe he's had time to mature?"
"Yet you're playing his game with him. What does it say that you're condoning his immaturity by being immature yourself?"
"Then maybe you should teach him not to be," Severus flung out. "I suppose you'd rather be mated with him then?"
And in that sudden moment of clarity, Remus blinked at him, slowly standing as Severus stood frozen before him. "Is that it? Are you jealous?"
"N—yes! Dammit, Lupin, and stay away from me!"
Remus stopped progressing forward, now that Severus had his back to the drawers and was looking murderous enough to hex him. "I've never wanted Sirius as a lover," he told Severus. "I've told you I don't know if I'm gay, and while I may have had my share of male lovers, I've never looked at Sirius like that before."
"You've never looked at me that way," Severus muttered, arms crossed over his chest, "but here we are."
Remus swallowed hard. "Yes, here we are," he echoed wearily, finally feeling safe enough to step forward. He was relieved that Severus did not try to escape again. "Please, let's go to bed."
After a moment's hesitation, Severus wordlessly walked past him and rearranged the cushions. Remus followed suit and they both sank cautiously into under the blankets, one of them whispering, "Nox," so the candlelight immediately snuffed. As soon as there was silence, Remus was again aware of the slight itching in his skin and he squirmed. "Um, do you mind—"
"Have we a choice?"
"No." Scooting closer and feeling Severus do the same, Remus put his arms around his mate, suddenly aware of the lovely scent coming from Severus. He buried his face at the other man's neck, ignoring the tenseness that overcame his mate's muscles. He wanted to ask if Severus had bathed while they were separated, but it seemed an impertinent question, so he finally mumbled, "Are you still angry with me?"
"What a ridiculous question." In the darkness, Severus' voice was strangely hushed, his breath tickling Remus' hair. "No. I am not."
Morning brought less coherence, a hard-on, and Severus' lanky body snugly fitted against Remus' more sturdy frame. Not helping himself, he placed a sleepy kiss on Severus' nose which promptly resulted to the Potions Master's eyes to open. It amused Remus to notice that his lover's eyelids did not flutter open. "Go back to sleep," he mumbled.
"Are you always not the morning person, Lupin?"
"It's 'Remus', and I will be a morning person if you come back here." Remus snaked his arms around Severus' belly, noticing for the first time how thin his mate was. I'll feed him more, he decided sleepily. I'll get a nice job and buy exotic food. It's the only way to his heart. "We never had the chance to finish what we started back in St Mungo."
With a sigh, Severus laid back on the cushions, allowing Remus to burrow closer to his side. "Not that it's anything—what are you—it's broad daylight!"
"Contrary to popular notions," Remus mumbled, cracking one eye open to grin at Severus' scandalized expression, "sex can be performed in the daylight."
"It's abominable—OH, yes…" Severus braced himself on the wall behind him as Remus' fingers slowly massaged his balls. "Merlin, you've—ah—" He bit his lip as if to keep himself from speaking anymore, and Remus found he enjoyed watching Severus' face in the throes of arousal. "Where did…you learn this?"
Remus stopped moving his hand to think, causing his mate to growl. "I've had several male lovers," he finally said even while knowing that the past had no place in that private moment with Severus.
He was immensely grateful when Severus interrupted, "I see," and arched at his touches once more. When he came, a strangled moan emitted from his throat and Remus never once thought to remove his gaze from his lover's face. In the weak morning light that managed their way in through the ill-placed windows of Grimmauld Place, Remus thought his lover the most beautiful person in the world.
They entered the kitchen an hour later—together—to find Sirius sitting at the table and reading The Daily Prophet.
"Where did you get that newspaper?" Remus asked, quite alarmed.
Sirius merely rattled the newspaper and continued reading with interest. "Oh, I made Kreacher get it. Kreacher! Make breakfast!"
An ugly and greatly disfigured House Elf suddenly popped next to Severus. He sneered at Sirius Black even as he bowed; Remus thought it was quite hideous. "Does the master require something more specific?" he inquired nastily.
Sirius shrugged at Remus. "He comes with the house. So, Moony, what do you want?"
"Oh. Just…sausages, if there's some. Severus?"
Severus merely sniffed. "I have no desire to eat anything that is cooked by that creature."
"Are you sure, Snapey?" Sirius asked, not bothering to look up. "Kreacher here knows how to shape sausages like your large nose, sure you'll appreciate it."
He had not even finished speaking when Severus moved to whip out his wand; Remus stepped in between them. "Must I always intervene between you?"
"Let the mutt defend himself, Remus," Severus snarled.
There was a loud crackling sound as Sirius violently slammed the newspaper on the table. "You're calling him 'Remus'?"
"It is my name," Remus defended.
"Will the masters decide breakfast or should Kreacher return when they finish snarking at each other?" the House Elf interrupted spitefully.
Sirius pointed a finger at him. "Don't be rude to the guest, Kreacher." He gave a spare glance at Snape and added, "But you may be rude at Severus Snape all you want. Now, those sausages."
"Right away, Master," Kreacher the House Elf sneered and set to work. Sirius merely harrumphed and returned to his reading.
Severus turned to Remus. "I find the new company too distasteful for breakfast," the Potions Master said loudly, "and the House Elf is also quite horrible. I must leave."
"You'll be back later?" Remus asked.
Severus rolled his eyes. "You know the answer to that, of course." When he left (but not without another sharp exchange with Sirius) Remus felt the odd buzzing sense at the pit of his stomach again then transfer to his chest, making it certain that Severus was already gone. The humming was less disturbing now and was readily tucked at the back of his mind, but still he couldn't help feeling a gnawing emptiness. He wondered if Severus felt that strange hollow feeling as well, or if he—not being a Werewolf—was freer in his movements and emotions. It would be quite unfair if Remus was the only one who was experiencing unease in their bond, but it may also be due to Severus' ability to hide his feelings. But wasn't Severus also a passionate man when someone knew how to look? Not that Remus had been looking at Severus for a long time, but there had to be some sign that Severus was also experiencing the same discomfort.
"Earth to Remus," Sirius' voice interrupted his thoughts. "Are you still in here?"
Suddenly, Remus realised that he had his head on the kitchen table and was listlessly staring at nothing. "Oh, sorry. I was just thinking."
"Y-eah, and for once I don't want to know what you're thinking."
Straightening in his seat, Remus rolled his eyes. "You're being pessimistic about this entire affair, Sirius."
"Why not?" his friend defended. "You just bonded with Snape! And don't tell me you're thinking about him again! He just left!" At Remus' tell-tale flush, Sirius looked disgusted. "I don't want to imagine it, Moony. Eww." He folded the paper into messy rectangles and placed it next to his coffee.
"If you must know," Remus said with a sigh, "I've been thinking about what you said."
"The parasitic magic?"
"Yes. I've been thinking of ways that it can somehow affect the Dark Mark. What do we know about the Dark Mark anyway?"
Sirius hummed as he stroked the stubble on his chin. "It's a symbol mostly attuned for communication and for transportation, and that it's attuned to the singular magic of those with similar Marks or with the wearer. I seem to recall hearing that to refuse its call has adverse effects on the Death Eater."
Remus frowned. "I've never heard of that. Go on."
But before Sirius could continue, a pan of burnt sausages was dumped in the middle of the table. "Here'll be your sausages, masters," the forgotten House Elf announced.
Sirius almost knocked his chair back in his haste to stand. "You should be more respectful!" he roared. "I should box your ears for it! Or boil you in a cauldron!"
"Ohh, the great Mistress Black would be distressed at the harshness of Master Sirius-the-Blood-Traitor's words! She would weep for your stupidity! I pity the great Mistress Black."
"Yeah, pity that late Mistress Black of yours, wanker." Sirius lunged at Kreacher, who easily sidestepped him, sobbing crocodile tears all the while. "And clean the attic!" he added in a shout just as Kreacher disappeared with a pop! "Don't mind him, Remus. Kreacher's just being silly. I wish I can throw him out of the house but sometimes I just hear my voice and…" Letting the statement trail off, Sirius shrugged.
Remus felt a different twist in his stomach. "Oh, Sirius, you know how much we would love to have your help, but right now things are still dangerous. You're still a wanted man."
"I know," Sirius said in annoyance, waving his hand. "But if only Dumbledore…and it doesn't help that Snape's here too."
"I'm sorry. I know it's hard for you. Severus and I can look for another—"
"No," Sirius interrupted fiercely. "I know that you come with Snape now, and I would face Snape every second of the day if it means you can stay here."
Touched, Remus reached out and gave his friend's hand a squeeze. "What say you we share these burnt sausages?" he offered.
"I just hope they're not poisoned," Sirius grumbled under his breath as he reached for his fork.
After doing some errands and delivering some messages, Remus found himself in front of a small bookshop in Diagon Alley. Walking past it a few times, he realised that the building appeared small from the outside but was actually largely spaced inside. Shelves filled with books reached to the ceiling, and witches and wizards alike were flipping through books while some of them were surreptitiously talking to some. Past the section on Famous Brews and Potions (Oh, Severus, he thought, unbidden.), through the opposite shelves of Witches as Women Theories and Wizards as Men Theories, and farther into the corners of the store he found the section he was looking for: Dark Arts and Dark Creatures.
Trying to remember the titles he had read extensively as a teenager, he thumbed through some books before settling for one and, after reading a promising chapter title, flipped to the appropriate page.There have been very little scientific documents on Werewolf bonding, but it has been determined by this author that Werewolves will consume their mates
He pulled another book.Rape is the only way a Werewolf will bond with a human… ("Horrible information," Remus murmured.)
…the mate should take care that they will satisfy the Werewolf's sexual cravings for over a month. They are not allowed to leave each others' side after… Witches who are mated with male werewolves must…
…while wizards who are mated with female werewolves…
…To conclude this
And another. And another. Finally, in disgust he returned the accumulated stack back to the shelf and sighed. As usual, most writers thought the Werewolf a beast and therefore could only be explained in that particular light, mostly filled with disgust and clinical observation. One of the most helpful texts he'd encountered had also rightly explained the mating bond in an almost detached manner. The only fault Remus found in that was that it only explained male Werewolves bonding with witches or female Muggles, and also that it mildly disturbed him to remember the white-hot process of mating, the feel of Severus' arse clenching around his cock, and even just this morning when they had spent an entire hour discovering each others' sensitive zones for the first time.
Maybe Sirius had some cause for concern, Remus thought, forcing himself to quell his arousal and snatching another book from the shelf. I'm thinking about Snape more than I usually do. But was the bond to blame, forcing Remus to become hyper sensitive when it comes to Severus?
Casually browsing through another random encyclopaedic text about Dark Beasts, he found a useful line: The resulting union is most powerful and compelling, especially when it focuses on fixing the problems between the newly-bonded couple. Other spells may have to rework their way around it although there have been useful spells that were said to severe the bond entirely. This, however has also proven risky and most subject Werewolves and their mates who found themselves estranged choose to either renew the bond or, when circumstances prove to be problematic in the renewal, languish.
Well, that was certainly helpful. Languish? Very little chance of that, seeing as he wasn't seeking to remove the bond with Severus in the first place.
The buzz in his chest was growing stronger and a peek outside the window told him the sun was nearly setting. Returning the books to their rightful places, he hurried out the shop and left Diagon Alley to the direction of Grimmauld Place.
The magic shifted around him as soon as he entered the field, and he was surprised that in entering the hallway he saw Sirius carrying a large cauldron. "Last of the bunch, is it, Snape?" he was shouting.
Remus immediately went to help him, which was gratefully accepted. "What's going on?"
"Snape thought he should move his potions set in the cellar. He's been at it the whole afternoon."
"And you've been helping him?"
Sirius grimaced. "More like he coerced me. I don't mind, since directly up there is the kitchen pantry, where the foul Kreacher bawls his eyes out. Anyway, I've managed to move some of the things but he fucking disappeared on me when it came to transferring this cauldron."
Remus gave him a grateful grin. "Thank you," he said quietly. "I know this is hard for you—"
"Don't be thankful yet," Sirius interrupted, staggering as they reached the top of the steps. "Snivellus has also managed to rope in Kingsley and my dear cousin."
Blinking, Remus almost dropped the cauldron. "What cousin?"
"Andromeda, you remember her? I introduced you before? Turns out her daughter Nymphadora is an Auror, and the one Kingsley was talking about. She arrived earlier with Kingsley."
From downstairs, Kingsley thumped up the steps and boomed, "You two, you can use a wand instead of slaving away there."
Sirius gave the man a bland look. "I haven't a wand," he replied.
"Ooh, sorry, mate. Here, I have it." With a few unspoken spells, the Auror was levitating the cauldron down the steps where Snape's voice could be heard: "No, you idiot child, in there."
"Well you should have said so in the first place," came a female voice, followed by a crash. "Oops. Sorry about that, Professor. I mean Severus. I mean—what should I call you again?"
"You will call me Snape and I shall call you 'Dimwit'. No, no, leave those there. Reparo. Get away from my workplace! Out! Kingsley! I'll take the cauldron from here."
"Finally," Kingsley muttered, hurrying up the steps with Remus and Sirius in an effort to clear some space in the steps. "He was getting on my nerves. Oh, Remus Lupin, meet Nyphadora Tonks." He indicated the pink-haired female who ducked out of the basement door and grinned at Remus. She had a smudge of green dust on her nose.
"Wotcher," she said, before turning an eye at Sirius Black apprehensively. "Er. Maybe we should talk somewhere else?"
"This used to be your mother's house too," Sirius reminded her coolly.
"Well, sorry, I don't know if I should trust you enough with information. Even if Kingsley said you're to be trusted. Besides, you broke Mum's heart when she heard you killed those people."
Remus shook the girl's hand and said cautiously, "I'll pop by Severus' workplace and see if I can help out a bit. Excuse me."
"Nice meeting you," Nymphadora Tonks replied distractedly, still glaring at Sirius Black.
The steps creaked and tapped as he made his way down the basement, and he found Severus glaring at him. "Oh, it's you. At least it's not that insufferable girl again. Or that mutt."
"You've been moving some things in?"
Severus busied himself with rearranging some beakers. "I was meaning to, anyway. The Headmaster suggested it earlier on. It has nothing to do with you."
It should have dampened Remus' spirits but the small space now filled with the glow of lamps, playfully casting light and shadows over the walls and the sight of Severus' things on the scattered chairs were making him giddy. He crossed the room and sat on the large table without waiting for his mate's approval. "I was looking at some texts at the bookshop today. Nothing much about the bond, only that with its severing the couple usually dies."
Severus sneered. "True love, the stuff of legends."
"Certainly not love," Remus agreed, reaching out and grasping Severus' wrist, pulling his mate nearer to him. "But there's something. Come, we have a few moments alone and they're all upstairs arguing."
"We're arguing down here," Severus replied with a raised brow.
"I can suggest a couple things to do to otherwise occupy our time." Making out in the cellar was hardly a comfort, Remus rationally thought, but there was a certain allure in sitting on the wooden table and having Severus in his arms, trapped between his legs. The Potion Master gave very little resistance, and his lips were hard but coaxing on Remus'. Threading his fingers through black hair, he dimly felt Severus' hands being placed on his waist, shifting their bodies closer. He could feel his fingers curling tighter at Severus' hair, mouths opening to find tongues. Severus kissed hesitatingly, as if he was still getting used to it, perhaps he'd never had the opportunity to kiss other people before.
In the safe and dark haven of the cellar, it felt more different, less blazing and more slow-burning, very unlike the time they first had sex. Yet Remus knew there was passion brimming underneath their actions, he could feel it in the arousal Severus was meeting with his own and with the tightening grip of the other man's hands over Remus' hips. Remus answered it with each touch of their tongue, memorizing each ridge and cavern. Kissing Severus, he decided languidly, was one of the most relaxing things in the world.
Loud clomping sounds broke them apart and Severus leaned back slightly to allow Remus to turn.
"Remus," came Sirius voice from the top steps, "can you come up here for a second? I need to talk to you."
"Ignore him," Severus murmured against his jaw before capturing his lips again.
A few seconds later, Sirius again called, "RE-mus, I need to talk to you."
"He'll go away in a few seconds," Remus muttered even with the repeated, "Remus, Remus, Remus, Remus." Finally, he broke off the kiss and shouted, "I'm coming!" He sighed, running his knuckles through Severus' neck. "I'll be back soon." He pulled away from Severus grasps, reluctantly climbing the steps where he saw Sirius' outline waiting for him.
"What is it?" he asked grumpily.
Sirius grabbed his arm and pulled him to the library where fat books were distributed on the large table. "You know I've been researching about your bond with Snape, right?"
Remus frowned. "You pulled me away from the basement because of this?"
"It's not like you were doing anything productive with him, Moony," Sirius replied distractedly as he flicked through the brittle pages of a yellowing book.
Remus would have countered that memorizing his mate's taste was actually productive, but before he could say anything, Sirius tapped the book, releasing a load of dust into the air. "There," he said triumphantly.
"What?" Remus asked, nearing the page and scanning the words.Ritual bondings requiring the exchange of blood are mostly dangerous for the recipient and may cloud their judgment, changing their personalities and behaviours. The severing of such bond may be helpful for the recipients, to ensure the return of their previous personalities and to restore their individuality. At the same time, these ritualistic bonds, coupled with other bonds, may also be dangerous due to the overlapping requirements that each may have. Many—
"Sirius," Remus said slowly, "are you trying to tell me to break it off with Severus?"
"It can help, Moony, don't you see? Your personality's being warped! You practically breathe Severus, and you're miserable when you're not around him."
"We haven't even been together for a long time yet," Remus replied quietly. "There are still no dangers so far."
"Are you waiting for a physical effect?" his friend demanded. "Don't you see that the mating bond will require you to focus only on Severus—"
"It's not like that and you know it. Severus and I have only been together for less than a week and we still don't know—"
"There's a war, Remus, and Snape is a spy. What kinds of implicated dangers do you still want? If it's not going to hurt you, it's also going to hurt Snape, and you know I don't care about him but if it's going to be bad for you then I might as well give a damn!"
"There are other texts," Remus replied in a carefully controlled voice. "You can't base all your knowledge from one page of an old textbook."
"And you're being subjective," Sirius retorted. "Your whole personality's revolving around Severus now. You might have no identity of your own."
"This text views Werewolves as Dark Creatures. You can't expect it to be accurate." Remus held up a hand as Sirius moved to protest again. "I know there's a war. We've talked about this. I know how to handle it. Severus and I are level-headed people. We might not have gotten off at the best start but I'll be damned if I'm going to let go of something this good. Severus can be a good person, Sirius. Believe it or not…he makes me happy."
Remus had to swallow hard at what he said, realizing it was the truth. Even with just two days by Severus' side, he was happier than he ever had been before. It felt like finally finding home. He truly couldn't say if he would still feel this way tomorrow, or next week, or the rest of their lives, but for now he wanted to live one day at a time, and be with Severus during the process.
The clouds in Sirius' eyes, however, did not abate but he finally nodded. "All right," he said quietly. "I still don't like it."
"You said that already."
"And I'll keep looking for ways. I'm still worried about you, Moony. Snape can hurt you and can hurt the Order. I won't ever let him."
Struggling not to point out that Sirius had just insulted his mate, Remus gave his friend a smile. "I won't let him hurt me either."
Part 5. Estrangement
Of course it was a futile vow, Remus reflected a week later.
Headmaster Dumbledore pulled him aside earlier the day to talk to him privately, and without Severus. "In these dark times," he told Remus, "I cannot try to go against small chances for happiness, yet I have to tell you that it may become more dangerous for you and Severus. Either separately or together."
"I am prepared to handle it," Remus replied firmly. "Severus and I are responsible adults and we'll take care of the consequences once they come."
At this, the Headmaster nodded. "I believe you will, and I have complete trust in you both." He looked away. "Some of the Weasley children and Miss Granger may arrive within the next few weeks, so it might be best to prepare. If it is your wish to be discrete about your partnership with Severus, it may also be wise to inform those who already know."
"So far there's only Sirius. Everyone else only thinks were sleeping together." Talking about his sex life was terribly embarrassing, especially to an old professor, but Dumbledore had the grace to keep the twinkle in his eye in check.
"Take care of yourself, then, my boy." With a pat on the shoulder, Dumbledore left to speak with Sturgis Podmore.
The next day in the afternoon, Remus found himself awoken from reading by a strange and uncomfortable feeling that did not abate throughout the hours. When the sun set and Severus was not back, he found himself in the hallway of Grimmald Place, staring at the front door as if sheer will alone would open it. The itching in his skin was making him restless and he paced constantly, snarling at Sirius and even the rest of the present Order members.
"What's his problem?" His acute hearing knew it was Nymphadora Tonks, arrived just a little after six, whispering behind the door as she peeked through.
"Remus is a bit compulsive," came Sirius Black's voice. "Comes from being a Werewolf, you know. He likes being on schedule."
"What's out of schedule?"
"Deliveries," Sirius replied cryptically.
"I thought," Remus called out in irritation, "the two of you didn't trust each other?"
"I still don't trust him," Nymphadora said as she stepped out of their hiding place, "but you should hear his raving drunk stories."
"I should know." Remus cracked a weary smile. "I was the one who carried him home those times." His eyes never left the front door.
"Nymphadora, why don't you help Molly with the dishes?" Sirius said instead, coming out after her.
The Auror sniffed. "I told you to call me 'Tonks'."
"You'll always be 'Nymphadora' to me. Tonks is your Dad." Sirius shrugged and his niece made a face before waving at them both, following as she was told.
"He's still not back," Remus said worriedly, rubbing his arms. "He left early. What would have happened? Why isn't there any indication on where he is? Do you know any way that we can track him through our bond?"
"Relax, Moony. I'm sure he'll be here in no time," Sirius said.
True enough, the door opened at that precise moment and in staggered a filthy Severus Snape, being held up only by the silver knocker, dust rising from his clothes. Remus rushed forward and caught him before he hit the ground, and it was with relief that as soon as their skins touched the buzzing sense immediately faded and disappeared. "Severus," he said urgently, "are you all right?"
Severus' skin was pale and clammy, yet he refused to look at Remus and Sirius' faces. "I need…some privacy. In our room, Remus. If you could…unhand me."
"Like hell I will." Remus looked up at Sirius. "Can you tell Molly we'll not be present for supper? I'll fetch some food later."
"Do you…need help?" Sirius asked, eyes still on the dark form in Remus' arms.
Remus gritted his teeth, forcing himself to calm down. "No, no. Just…just tell her. I'll handle Severus." Hefting his mate in his arms, he half-dragged, half-carried Severus through the stairs as Sirius rushed to the kitchen.
"N-next time," Severus slurred, "we'll get a flat. With no stairs. We'll never fight gravity that way."
"Right," Remus grunted, fighting the urge to laugh hysterically. "Come on, then, one more step…"
In their room, he let Severus collapse on a chair and he went to fetch some rags, a pitcher of water, and bowl. For a few minutes, he worked in silence as he removed dust, grime and sweat from his lover's body, patiently unbuttoning each clothing and finally removing the black robes. "Were you ambushed?" he asked quietly.
Severus winced. "I was Summoned."
Remus' hand on his neck stilled. "Are you…"
"There was no time to tell anyone. The Headmaster is on his way here. We'll have to talk."
"I'll stay with you."
"This not for your ears."
"I'm your mate!"
Severus' eyes opened and met his. "And this is a war, Lupin."
A cold feeling swept over Remus. "Of course." It hurt, but Severus was right. He could stand to be away from Severus for a few minutes. The itching could be withstood. And there was a world out there, outside the haven Remus had foolishly thought was safe. A war was starting and Severus was in the middle of it. So was Remus. "Do you want to lie down?"
"I want you to Floo the Headmaster and tell him to bring the Pensieve. There is much to recall and to study." Severus looked away. "But your attention is not greatly unwelcome."
In the wee of the night, after Severus and Dumbledore's private session and while the Potions Master was crawling in exhaustion to the Werewolf's arms under the covers, Remus realised it was Severus' way of telling him that his touch could soothe his fears.
The next day, Severus left during the day and was again Summoned but he returned before sundown and without any signs of being put under torture. Remus held him, nevertheless, and they made frantic love on their bed, the setting sun casting orange and red rays through the window. At dinner, Molly Weasley informed them that George and Fred Weasley would be arriving in a few days, followed by Ronald and Ginevra. Severus did not take too kindly at the news.
"Perhaps we should move to my quarters in Hogwarts," he suggested. "It will be safer."
"I know for a fact you don't stay in Hogwarts during vacation, Severus," Remus replied, propping his head on his arm. "Besides, it'll be easier to go to Order meetings while we're here, wouldn't it?"
"True," Severus replied vaguely but his eyes were far away. Remus remedied that by kissing him again.
He contemplated on telling the others about the mating bond, at least to Kingsley, Molly, and Arthur, or even Nymphadora (who finally burst out to call her 'Tonks') but Severus disapproved and, surprisingly, Sirius agreed.
"Give it a few more days," his friend urged him. "See if your mind will change."
"How can I change my mind," Remus asked him, amused, "when I've already made my choice?"
"You never know." Sirius shrugged.
"I've also been thinking," Remus went on, "that maybe Severus and I should start looking for our own place."
Frowning, Sirius closed the book he was reading. "Is there something wrong with this place?"
"Besides the screaming portrait and cursed furniture?" They grinned at each other before Remus hesitantly continued, "Severus has…been keeping our bond from Voldemort."
"He'd better," Sirius said quickly.
Remus shook his head. "You did say that two compelling bonds may have some effects. I'm…concerned that this may affect Severus negatively." At Sirius' blank look he rushed on: "Dealing with Voldemort at a constant basis is trying for him, so I was thinking that he'd best tell him about it."
"What are you saying, Moony?!" Sirius asked shrilly.
"I think," Remus replied carefully, "that it might be advantageous for the Order to have two spies instead of one."
There was a thick silence in the room, before Sirius leaned back on his chair, expression growing hard. "No."
"I can do this—"
"I won't lose you, too!" Sirius roared. "Not like I've lost James and Lily and Pet—" He stopped, face growing red at the mention of the traitor's name. Remus felt a queer sadness and anger at the mention of their old friend. "If you spy, then I spy."
"You can't," Remus said sadly because it was true. With Peter, there would be no chance of letting Sirius join the ranks, but Pettigrew always had a soft spot for Remus. This could be either advantageous or disastrous. And Remus was a Werewolf; he knew other Dark Creatures were being wooed into the Dark Lord's scheme with his promise of freedom. It would be a chance to infiltrate their ranks. "I told you we'll work around the bond, and this may be helpful for the Order."
"Fuck it," Sirius muttered hoarsely, turning away as if looking at Remus hurt. Remus' heart twisted further. "Get it inside your head that whatever Snape does should not affect you in any way!"
"But it does, Sirius! The bond—"
"Then find another away around it! There are several choices that we can have—"
"But this is undoubtedly the best chance." Taking a deep breath, Remus reached out and took his friend's hand. "Nothing's final and I still have to talk to both Severus and Dumbledore, but I've made up my mind."
"I'm surprised that you haven't told that greasy git yet," Sirius muttered, eyes still downcast. "You two are usually joined at the hip now."
"Sirius Black, that's not true! You know the bond's requirement!"
His friend held up his hands. "I know, I'm sorry. That was uncalled for. It's just…" He sighed. "I don't like being here. This house has too many memories. Sometimes, seeing you two hurt."
Then you shouldn't have returned, Remus wanted to shout at him. You should have stayed away! This isn't just your war, others would have fought for you, I would have fought for you. The first war and Azkaban fucked you up, you didn't have to look for it again. You didn't have to.
But he swallowed his words and gripped his friend's hand tighter. There was no use recounting the past.
The next person he told was Albus Dumbledore. The Hogwarts Headmaster raised his eyebrow when Remus suggested that he might be useful in the field, helping with spying, and to aid Severus.
"I really can't tell you what you must or must not do when it comes to being with Severus," Dumbledore said thoughtfully. "But first and foremost, I would like to know Severus' thoughts about this."
"I was thinking that, perhaps, you might want to tell him about it?" Remus asked in a mumble.
The Headmaster peered at him over his glasses. "It is your suggestion, is it not? Perhaps it might be better explained if it were you who would word it."
"Well, yes, but…" Remus sighed, feeling slightly abashed. "I know he might make a big deal about it."
"And isn't your life a big deal? I daresay Severus thinks that your life isn't worth being thrown away so easily."
"I don't think…" And for the first time since the entire affair had happened, Remus realised he'd never clearly asked Severus' feelings for him. And, he added with a pang, I haven't clarified my own feelings as well. "I don't want him to get hurt," he finally blurted out. "But I also want to help. I'm not just doing this because of Severus, but I want to help in every way I can."
"I know all these, my boy," said the Headmaster kindly, "but have you clarified that with the others?"
And therein, Remus thought, laid the problem.
The night while on the bed, Remus asked, "Do you like me?"
In the darkness he could feel Severus freeze. "It will depend on how you specify the idea of 'like', as in do I 'tolerate' you—"
"Do you like me in general?"
There was a pause before there was a soft but cautious, "Yes. I do."
Remus shifted closer to his lover. The half-moon outside provided very weak light, but with it he could see Severus' eyes, staring at him with some suspicion. "I like you too."
"Good. Now that we have that clarified—"
"Sirius and I have been talking more about this mating bond, and I've been reading up on some of the texts I remembered reading before. You know that two bonds are restrictive especially to you."
"I don't want you to die," Remus whispered quietly. "I don't know if I love you, but I do certainly like you. When you come from a Summon—"
Severus breathed, "Remus."
"I don't want anything or anyone to hurt you. The bond has had us knowing telling each other the truth, you don't even have to use Occlumency to read me anymore." Severus did not answer. "But I'm worried...about you. And how this bond will affect you."
"Have you very little faith in me, Remus?" But there was uncharacteristic fondness in his mate's voice.
Spurred on, Remus let their foreheads touch, staring at Severus' eyes. For the first time, he saw how soft light could somehow soften the darkness in Severus' expression. "I think…" He swallowed. "I think I want to be with you no matter what."
When Severus kissed him, Remus had to remember to breathe. He knew he had more words to say, but all he could think of right now was how Severus seemed so soft and willing under his touches, and how vulnerable and new everything felt. His fingers lightly skimmed over Severus' neck, trailing over his nightdress and removing it with slow, languid actions, pushing it off to the floor; a few touches later, Remus was similarly undressed, back to kiss Severus again and again. For the first time, he understood what it meant to say 'drunk with kisses', yet only this time he was drowning with Severus, memorizing his taste and contours while using both hands and lips.
He arched and cried out when Severus lapped at his stomach, pausing at his cock before taking the pulsing member into his mouth. Every movement was slow, almost dreamy, and all the sounds Remus could make were small sighs. Yet he almost cried out when Severus sat up, silently staring down at him, letting their eyes meet and hold for a long time.
When they kissed, it was longer and less hurried. Wondering. When Severus entered Remus, he arched again and indeed emitted a cry.
Oh, he knew then—exactly then—that Severus wasn't taking anything from him. Despite that, Remus knew he was quite ready to give everything he had away.
The next morning, Remus awoke to find himself with his arms still around Severus Snape with almost all the pillows strewn around in different directions. If it wasn't too early in the morning, he would have smiled, but instead he buried his face at the crook of Severus' neck; he was rewarded when Severus' arm around him unconsciously pulled him closer.
Silence did not last for long; in mere minutes, there was loud knocking on the door.
"Remus?" It was Sirius. "Are you awake?"
Remus raised his torso, calling back, "Yes," just as Severus rolled over and groaned.
"Order meeting right now, emergency. You have to come down." There was a pause before Sirius went on, "You too, Snape."
"Right," Severus rumbled, instantly awake. The tapping sounds indicated that Sirius left.
They dressed swiftly and silently, tucking both their wands at holsters in their sleeves. Before they exited, Remus grabbed Severus' hand. "I have some things to tell you."
"Is it important?"
"It can wait," the Werewolf assured.
Severus nodded, already distracted. "All right. Later."
Suddenly, not helping it, Remus placed a kiss on his lips. "Good morning kiss," he said impishly, then more soberly, "and for good luck."
"Whatever for?" Severus asked dryly, but there was a small smile playing on his lips.
Remus stayed behind due to his desperate need to use the toilet, and he sent Severus ahead. However, when he arrived at the dining hall, he found Dumbledore, Kingsley, Tonks, Sirius, Molly, and some other witches and wizards soberly seated around the table. He looked around, then was instantly alarmed. Severus was not there.
"Where's Severus?" he asked loudly.
"He left, Remus," Sirius replied flatly.
He immediately searched the buzzing sound that had since faded naturally into the background; over the near-month they've been together it had almost faded, but he had been so used to the sudden indication of Severus that he had not noticed…the buzz was still there, but faint. Severus was already some distance from Grimmauld Place. Forcing himself not to panic, he turned to Dumbledore. "What's the problem?" he asked, sitting next to Sirius.
"As was being discussed earlier, it appears that there have been some stray magic that Sturgis Podmore has managed to detect in the Department of Mysteries," Dumbledore announced. "However, in his attempt to trace it, the magic back-lashed and put some injury to his arm, thankfully not his wand-arm."
"Will he be all right?" Tonks (who had long ago ceased to be 'Nymphadora') asked anxiously.
"Yes, Elphias is on guard duty on him now." Frowning, Dumbledore turned to every one of them. "William Weasley has consented to see if there are curses that the magic has applied to him; as you know, he is back from Egypt and is currently working in the local Gringotts branch." There was a pause as the Headmaster arranged his glasses. "And I have assigned Mundungus Fletcher to guard duty in Privet Drive."
"That's insane!" Sirius shouted, followed by a meek: "Sir. I mean, Mundungus is a sneak. He's not even really a part of the Order yet."
"I have spoken with him, Sirius, and I believe that he might be useful," Dumbledore replied with a smile. "And Ms Arabella Figg is also there. Undoubtedly, they might keep each other company."
"Figgy? Speak with Dung?" Sirius exclaimed. "Sir?"
"Yes. Now, hopefully, Sturgis will be out of St Mungo tomorrow morning, but in the meantime, I am hoping that more guards will be placed on the Department of Mysteries." Looking them at the eye, Dumbledore continued, "You all know what is kept in there."
Everyone did, and the tension in the atmosphere thickened. Prophecies. Harry Potter's prophecy.
When the meeting was adjourned, Dumbledore beckoned Remus, who immediately went to his side. "Severus left quickly," the Headmaster said quietly, "as with Sturgis' injury there might be a Summoning."
The lump in Remus' throat grew. "I see. He…he cannot stay here when he is Summoned?"
"No," the Headmaster replied gently, touching his shoulder. "I am sorry to say that if he is Summoned while he is in this place, it will risk the Fidelius Charm. The Dark Mark is a summoning symbol, a way of communication."
"And it can be traced." Nodding, Remus turned away. "I. Thank you for your concern, Headmaster. We have been thinking of moving away. This will…strengthen the idea."
"That is why Severus previously only came here after Summons," agreed Dumbledore. "Do not worry, Remus. I'm sure Severus has several tricks up his sleeves. He is a cunning man, your mate." With a pat on the shoulders, the Headmaster left.
Almost immediately, Sirius was beside Remus. "Okay there, Moony?"
"Yeah." Remus sighed. "Well. I have to talk to Hestia, then run some errands."
"Wish I could go with you but I have too many things to do," Sirius joked, to which Remus cracked a smile.
Remus forced himself to circle Diagon Alley the entire day, getting some of the materials Molly Weasley handed to him in her zeal to clean the entire Black House off their curses and beasts. He tried not to think of Severus but he could not help wondering if Severus was waiting alone for the Summons, or if it would arrive at night as Death Eaters were wont to do, and would Remus be with him? He had to tell him the plan tonight; if Severus could say he and Remus were now bonded to the Death Eaters, then Remus would either be taken into their wing or be killed.
Late afternoon, he finally trudged back to the now all-too familiar streets that led to Grimmauld Place, wondering if Severus would be back. He tried to different ways to start the conversation, mostly practicing his soothing voice.
And then, something stopped.
It was a slow, stop, almost unnoticeable like a beating heart slowly fading, but Remus realised it immediately.
And from somewhere inside him, there was a loud POP!
He was almost thrown backwards by the suddenness. A couple across the street watched him with interest, but he managed to stagger to an alleyway, eyes wide.
"No," he murmured, then louder: "no, no, no!" he took off running through the streets, dodging people and automobiles, feeling dizziness overwhelm him. It seemed a long time before he finally found himself in Grimmauld Place where he slammed the knocker only once before he was allowed to enter, wildly looking around before rushing to the kitchen, down the basement, and into Severus' workshop where he found—
"What—" he started.
From the large cauldron, Sirius Black raised his head, unkempt hair wildly splayed on his head and tumbling over his shoulders. In the glow of the potion in the cauldron and with the tempered light from the fireplace, his friend almost seemed malicious, but when Remus looked again, he saw only weariness.
"It's done," Sirius said simply.
"WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO?! ANSWER ME!"
It took some moments for Remus to realise that he had Sirius by the collar and had slammed him to the wall. The other man merely shook his head and stared down at him.
"You'll forgive me, Remus, just—"
"WHAT?!" Remus screamed, already feeling a sense of loss. "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!"
"I've freed you," Sirius said quietly. Utterly without remorse. "I couldn't let you continue being a slave to Snape AH!" He grunted when Remus smashed him against the wall once more.
"I was never a slave! What made you think—" And then the loss was completely overwhelming that he jumped back. He couldn't touch Sirius now. "You have it restore it!" He backed away, acutely aware that he was crashing into some of Severus' things yet he couldn't care less. He couldn't touch Sirius, and the loss of that familiar buzzing sound was too intense. "MAKE IT COME BACK!"
"I can't!" His friend—his friend!—shouted back. "It's over. It can't be done. It can't be replicated." Sirius arranged his robes, staring at him cautiously. "You'll thank me, Remus, I'm sure, Remus?"
Shuddering, Remus huddled at a corner, far away from Sirius, away from the table where he and Severus had kissed, away from the ingredients set where Severus sat and pointed every item that would help make Wolfsbane. "Don't step closer." His voice had turned unnaturally cold. "Just…stay there. And explain to me. Tell me everything. You bastard. You fucking bastard."
Holding up his hands, Sirius coaxed, "All right, I'll stay here. Just listen to me." He was trying to soothe Remus, but there was no comfort to this catastrophe. And with a deep breath, Sirius began. "You haven't noticed, but the repercussions of the mating bond are becoming known and threatening the entire Order. Don't you see? You have to be together, but if you're here right after sundown and well into sunrise then Severus may give away the location of Grimmauld Place. Weren't you listening to Dumbledore? The Fidelius Charm is being threatened by the Dark Mark."
"We were going to move away—"
"Where?" Sirius gave a sharp bark. "Are you going to depend on Snape forever? You have more pride than that, Moony!"
"I would have become a spy—"
"You're willing to risk yourself just to keep Snape safe!"
"I'm willing to risk myself to end this war!" Remus clenched his fists, trying hard not to pick a random object and hurl it to Sirius. "And even if I would protect him, I believe he's worth it!"
"You don't know that," Sirius whispered. "You don't know if he's selling secrets."
"I trusted him." Then, to his horror, Remus felt himself choking, his visions blurring. "Just as I trusted you. Oh, Merlin, Sirius, why did I trust you?"
There was silence as Remus struggled to choke back his sobs. Finally, Sirius spoke coldly: "You said you'd protect Snape, but I don't give a damn about him. But I care about you. I care about Harry, and I care about the Order. I did it to protect you. You won't forgive me now, but you will. There's a war, Remus. We're here to give Harry a chance against Voldemort. We have to make sacrifices."
When Remus didn't answer, Sirius Black walked up the stairs, heels making quiet tapping on the wooden boards before his figure disappeared through the rectangular light towards the kitchen. For a long time, Remus tried to keep his breathing under control, trying but failing to find the that sense of connection. Anything.
But it was gone…completely gone. Where there was the familiar buzzing sound, or even that small ache, or even the uncomfortable itching, nothing remained. From the small slit of window near the ceiling that showed the dregs of London street, the sun had already set.
So frantically, Remus tried to recall Severus' taste, Severus' smell, the way Severus touched him when they made love, only last night. It seemed like a dream. Every inch of his lover's skin was still vivid. Oh, god, it still felt like a dream.
So it's not true Werewolves die due to the pain of separation, he thought blankly. They die from this incredible emptiness.
Severus did not return that night, nor the next, or the next after that. During the second day, Remus—struck by the possibility that he might be at Hogwarts—left through Floo but did not find his lover there. He walked to Hogsmeade, visited the usual apothecaries, then decided there was also a chance that Severus was in Diagon Alley. He spent hours roaming the streets, even ducking to the less respectable Knockturn Alley and finding various drunk wizards and witches lying on the ground, exhausted. None of them was Severus.
Every night he locked himself in the room, staring out the window and looking down the street in hopes of sighting the familiar figure. Teenagers with their racket, stereos blaring from next door, but there was no Severus. And he caught himself trying to claw his arms as he would have done during wolf form. It was a very faint comfort; nevertheless, it helped.
But the fourth sunset finally brought the Potions Master knocking on the door just before an Order meeting. It was, however, Fred Weasley who opened it, having arrived earlier with their other siblings sans Charlie. The boy let out a small: "Meep!" and quickly stepped away.
"I trust the Headmaster has arrived," Severus sneered.
"No," Fred replied bluntly, quickly adding, "sir."
"Fine. I will be in the cellar." Severus immediately side-stepped him, but stopped when he caught sigh of Remus at the hallway, staring at him wide-eyed.
"Severus," he uttered.
But Severus averted his eyes. "We have important business for now. We'll talk later."
"We have to. Talk." It was a wonder his voice still came out strong and so limited. There were a hundred questions he wanted to ask: Where were you? How do you feel? What happened? It wasn't my fault, you know that?
There was silence as they stared at each other and Fred's eyes swung to Remus, to Severus, then back to Remus. "Er," he said.
"Very well," Severus finally acquiesced, gesturing to the kitchen and to the cellar door and for Remus to follow. "But we must be quick."
As soon as Remus closed the door behind him, he blurted out: "How are you?"
"I am alive." Still, Severus kept his tone in check, so cold that Remus thought it might have been winter in the basement. "I was…indisposed."
Remus immediately stepped forward. "Are you—"
"Do not touch me," Severus snarled. "You are no longer entitled!"
Every concerned words Remus was going to say immediately disappeared, replaced by fury. "What...'entitled'? I'm your mate!"
"No longer," was the swift retort. "I felt what happened. So, how did you do it? Found a counter-curse? Or a protective charm?" He sniffed at the air where no-one had been in during the past three days since Sirius performed the ritual. "No," he said, and his voice was dangerously soft. "A potion. Ingenious, Lupin. It's clear I underestimated—"
"You insensitive prick," Remus shouted. "Don't you think this might have adverse effect on me as well?"
"Well, obviously you've weighed the advantages versus the disadvantages and found one of them seriously wanting."
"And you clearly don't care—"
"I don't care to have my emotions played with, Remus!" Jars and beakers were swept from the table and crashed on the ground and chairs, immediately shutting Remus up. "And I don't care for games you and your friend Black are obviously playing. It's always the same trick, isn't it? Befriend the greasy Snivellus, fuck the greasy Snivellus, then fucking mess with his greasy mind!"
"You're always jumping to conclusions, ready to believe the worst of it. If you'd listen then—"
"Then explain to me, Remus, exactly how you would say it."
Only when Remus opened his mouth to let the words tumble out, there was pounding on the cellar door and Emmaline's voice cheerfully called out. "Anyone in there? The Headmaster and Moody've arrived, the meeting's starting."
Severus swept past him. Not another word was exchanged.
The meeting was about Hermione Granger the chosen volunteers who would accompany her and her family on their journey to at least King's Cross. Throughout the discussion, Remus kept his eyes trained on Severus Snape who, in turn, never turned his way. Sirius, too, kept glancing at them both but Remus never spared him a glance.
Finally, an advanced unit was assigned and the discussion was finished. When Dumbledore called, "Any other concerns?"
"I do," Severus said from the back.
Everyone turned to him expectantly. Sirius shifted on his chair.
"I was Summoned three days ago and only returned earlier." Severus refused to meet their eyes and only kept his gaze on the Headmaster. "There have been very little movement so far, but now there's been confirmation that what they are searching for is indeed in the Department of Mysteries. And that they're looking for back-doors."
Murmurs of excitement and dismay immediately rose before Dumbledore held up his hands. "You are certain, Severus?"
"Do you not trust me?"
"I do." Dumbledore looked around. "We all know what is there and what needs to be protected. Kingsley, I'll expect you to speak with Sturgis and Elphias on the matter and to draw the floor-plans and routes. And everyone to practice their concealment charms By tomorrow, we'll have to place regular guards of our own . In the meantime, I want another set of guards on Harry Potter."
"I'll—" Sirius started to say but Dumbledore interrupted sharply, "No. You are still too well-sighted."
"He's my godson," Sirius protested.
"And you will protect him better here."
"With nothing to do," Sirius muttered, slouching in his seat, but Remus heard him anyway.
For once, Severus did not try to bait him; instead, he still stared at the Headmaster, eyes cool. "Training of new recruits is also beginning. I have tried to gather information on who these may be, but the most that they revealed was that more Dark Creatures will be sought." He grimaced a bit at the mention of Dark Creatures but otherwise his entire stance continued to be rigid. "The names of sons and daughters, however, are greatly guarded and so it will be best to have some security measures in the school as well."
"Four days with your Death Eater friends and that's all you get?" Moody growled.
Severus' eyes flashed at him. "Four days with them gave you more information you would not have gotten if I was otherwise ill-disposed!"
"Alastor, Severus, please," Dumbledore intervened. "Every information we get counts." He nodded at the direction of the Potions Master. "Thank you, Severus."
When Remus turned, he found Sirius watching him, his brows drawn together, his lips pursed and accusing. And indeed, Remus understood.
Once adjourned, he first went to speak with Albus Dumbledore in a room that once probably was a study. "I want to recruit Werewolves," he told the Headmaster.
"You have discussed this with Severus then?"
"There's no need." Taking a deep breath, he plunged on, "This decision is mine and mine alone. Severus and I are no longer mates. I'm doing this to help our cause."
The Headmaster's snowy eyebrows shot to his head but he did not question. Instead, he said, "I am glad that you are volunteering. I was thinking of assigning you earlier on, but with Severus…"
"There's no more need," Remus assured firmly, although something in his heart continued to break. "The…the information Severus brought could not have been taken without his four-day absence. It was the right thing to do."
"Not all the right things make everyone happy," Albus said kindly as if he understood.
"No, they don't." Remus turned away. Outside, the darkness of the streets showed only silhouettes of buildings, overshadowing the sky and the moon. It had been three weeks since he and Severus had awoken in St Mungo, recuperating from their injuries of being caught. It still seemed like a dream. "I've lived nearly all my life as a werewolf and without this bond. I will survive worse."
"Remus, my boy," said the Headmaster thoughtfully, "time is always of the essence, but it will not always do if you plunge ahead. You've always known how to take your own pace and at your own satisfaction, and your relationship with Severus need not be an inconvenience."
"It doesn't have to be," Remus agreed wearily, "but there may be time enough after everything. After all, anger and hate isn't anything new, especially during wartime."
"It is forgiveness that ends everything," said Dumbledore quietly.
Remus did not reply.
"Took you long enough," Severus muttered within the darkness of the cellar.
"Lumos," Remus said, because he wanted to say something before unthinkingly speaking other words.
With the glow on the lamps, he found that the basement had become vastly changed. Gone were Severus' beakers and ingredients, the ladles and knives that were hanging comfortably on the wall. The fireplace was dark and no small cauldron hung on the mantle, waiting to be used. On the large table was the large cauldron Sirius and Remus had helped move in. Next to a chair stood Severus Snape, arms on his sides and, finally, staring at Remus' eyes.
Remus stepped forward. "How are you?"
"How did you do it?" Severus asked harshly.
Remus debated on saying it was Sirius, but in the end, he merely shook his head. For the greater good, he reminded himself. If Severus knew it was Sirius, the animosity between them would heighten, affecting their work, and really would it still repair their relationship? In the now dank and dark cellar, Remus had no hope. "It was a ritualistic spell combining some Floo powder dust and some stray objects used by the bonded couple. It wasn't easy."
"I should have known."
"It's not important." When he took another step forward, Remus was relieved that Severus did not back away. He took another step, and another until he was standing before Severus. "All those times we were together, we never lied to each other."
"But it was easy to side-step questions unless they're not direct," Severus shot back. "And I never asked you if you were content."
"I was, believe me, Severus." Remus touched his lover's face. "I was happy and content. I would have run away with you. Away from this war, away from everything."
Severus' face remained cold under his touch.
Remus continued, "But don't you see? We both have responsibilities. The bond would have compelled you to return to me every sunset, but the information you managed to get during those four days are critical to our cause. And I—"
"You?" Severus' voice was harsh and soft at the same time.
"I have asked for a specific assignment." Remus leaned into his lover and it seemed their bodies still remembered every angle and position as Severus' arms automatically steadied him from behind. "It's dangerous, almost as dangerous as yours." As he expected, Severus did not protest but his eyes hardened. "I chose it, though, and that's what's important. For the cause I believe in, that we both believe in."
With a shudder, Severus closed his eyes. "One day I will hate you for it."
"We'll have time enough for everything," Remus whispered, repeating his words to Dumbledore. "One day, after this war, we'll have enough time to hate, to love. And we'll have enough selfishness to last us another hundred years. Or more."
Their kiss was sad and their embrace sadder, Remus thought later. What made it worse was that, he knew, neither really believed they would survive the war.
And later, much later—after Severus had reluctantly shrunk his things and placed them in his pockets before leaving for his own private place where Remus did not know—there was Sirius who followed him in the cellar cautiously.
"You all right?" he asked.
Remus gave him a rueful smile. "I'm still angry at you," he told his friend, who cringed. "But I forgive you."
Sirius, thankfully, did not go into a series of "I told you so" or "At last you have your head back on", but he said, "I would be jealous of you, I think, if I didn't know you're hurting. I think I'm actually sorry."
"No you're not." Remus stepped closer and gave his friend a hug. "But right now it's all right."
"When this war ends," Sirius said quietly, "when Harry is safe and I'm free, I'll let you go willingly, my friend."
"We'll have all the time in the world," Remus whispered back, and tried his hardest to smile.
- end -