Title: The Force of the Blow
Genre: Romance/drama/humor/hurt-comfort… did I miss anything?
Summary: Challenge #38) Remus didn't realise that he was in love with Snape. Until he instinctively took the hit that was meant for the snarky Potions Master.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement is intended. For non-profit publication only.
NB: Translations at the end.
Beta: The pernickety No One Noteworthy, with many scented backrubs of thanks.
Word count: 7,040
The Force of the Blow
‘Whit’s Fur Ye’ll No’ Go By Ye’
Why the devil had the fool done it? There was no easy answer; one second he’d been surrounded, facing down the largest and meanest Auror he’d seen these twenty years, and then the silly bastard of a werewolf had thrown his body into the path of the needle darts snipping through the air behind him – apparently destined for his own scrawny arse, and apparently originating from a very disaffected member of Magical Law Enforcement.
He could hardly complain about the attempt to shoot him. Not really. Not when he had double-crossed and then feigned another double-cross so very well. So well that everyone in the Order and out of it had forsaken him – declared him an enemy of the same ranking as the Dark Lord himself. He really must stop calling him that.
For him, the injected poison from the darts would have paralysed him for a goodly length of time and he would most certainly have been quite ill afterwards, but that was no reason for Lupin to behave like a bloody martyr! For the werewolf, the poison was hardly a problem – he would likely have metabolised it within five minutes or so. The darts, however – they were a pretty problem indeed. Formed from a silver alloy, they had poisoned the werewolf in a far more effective fashion than the compound they’d been designed to deliver. Lupin’s survival was not seen as a likely outcome of events.
Now, no doubt, that disaffected member of MLE was feeling quite the grudge against one Severus Snape, Former Deatheater and Former Professor of Hogwarts School. Since they’d inadvertently caused the expected-any-minute demise of a well-liked and integral player in the Dark Lord’s defeat (he paused to administer himself a mental slap; it was Tom Riddle – plain old Tom. Ex-Tom actually) and no doubt that particular individual was plotting an untimely demise for the aforementioned Severus Snape. However, all those thoughts were lagging fairly far behind at this moment as he sat unmoving beside Lupin’s bed, with the curtains drawn and St. Mungo’s staff of specialists creeping silently past like graveyard ghosts. He still marvelled at his own freedom of movement; more than that, he was granted privileged access to departments and personnel. It was a novel experience. He’d had been exonerated, by Mad Eye Moody of all people. It seemed that Dumbledore had taken him into his confidence before the end (his heart squeezed tight on the memory of his last sight of Dumbledore – glowing emerald green in the clutch of his killing curse), and it made a perverse sense to have trusted the man. His ruthless impersonation by Barty Crouch Jr. and his ordeal as the man’s prisoner made him a very bad risk for anyone trying to infiltrate and spy on the Order’s activities.
His thoughts chased around in a weary circle while he tried to fathom Lupin’s act of sacrifice. The man himself lay propped on two pillows, face waxen and empty as any well-kissed Azkaban inmate. The bedsheet had been pulled taut across his chest and Severus moved to tweak it looser, feeling that if he had been lying on a bed unable to move he would like it even less if he was constantly reminded of the fact by a regimentally straight bedsheet. He huffed in frustration as he leant back in his chair once more. He looked up at the clock above Lupin’s bed. Three hours now. What was he doing here?
This simply wasn’t good enough.
--- --- ---
Argus Filch gave a snorting cough as he woke suddenly. He peered through the blackness of his bedchamber, confused as to why he was suddenly very awake. The castle was quite empty, the dungeons doubly so. Even if intruders had managed to make their way through the main doors, getting past the dungeon defences was a virtual impossibility for anyone short of an Auror. The only visitor to Hogwarts these days was Minerva McGonagall. She came to work in the Boss’ office, answering the post – administering stuff, he supposed, since he still got paid. He’d come across her unawares sometimes, standing in the Great Hall or looking out at the landscape from the front entrance.
The house elves remained of course, for where would they go? They cared for the castle and gardens; the many rooms were kept immaculate, overdue mending was undertaken and the portraits taken down, squawking and protesting, and carted off for restoration and repair. Argus tolerated the diminutive workaholics; they may not be human, but they did clean the castle with fanatical thoroughness, and he had no complaint with that.
A loud crack went off next to his ear and he nearly lost control of his bladder at the eerie sight of a glowing green elf standing next to his bed. He decided that he might indeed have a complaint to make about the house elves after all.
“What the sodding hell are yer doing, yer maniac?” he roared. He lurched up from his bed, making an uncoordinated swipe at the little rascal, who seemed to dance out of his reach with ridiculous ease.
“Hanny is very sorry, sir!” it whimpered irritatingly, “But Mister Filch should know that somebody is in the Castle,” it finished in a near-screech.
“What the h … Who? Who’s in the castle?” he spat in rage, “I’ll have ‘em, I’ll bloody have ‘em!”
“Hanny doesn’t know sir! Sorry sir, but I is coming straight to you after I is asking Beeny to watch and follow the nasty fellow. I is asking Beeny to be very quiet, Mister Filch, so that we can catch him, sir!”
Argus took back his uncharitable thoughts on house elves; he was impressed. He snatched up his dressing gown and lit a lantern.
“Lead the way, Hairy,” he said, opening his door.
“Hanny, sir,” his short guide corrected, stepping through the doorway, “This way, sir,” a long fingered hand pointed, “He is in the dungeons.”
--- --- ---
‘It’s a Sair Fecht’
What in the hell… That fool’s going to shoot him in the back! Severus!
Remus struggled up from the very depths of sleep, the process of awakening taking approximately one hundred times longer than it usually took, giving him a clue that his current condition may not be optimal. There were many other clues; a head that hurt enough to bring tears to his eyes; a feeling not unlike being hit by a bus (he may not have actually been hit by one himself but he felt sure it would have to feel something like this) and the fact that he was obviously in bed but not his bed. He was no stranger to waking up in strange beds these past few years, but not single, clinically white beds attended by brisk, but quiet, medically inclined people. One was waving a wand over his heart right at this moment and he studied the man through the narrowest of eyelids.
“Wa’s wrong wi’ me?” he managed to croak through a dry and scaly throat.
“Hello, Mister Lupin. Um, I’m afraid you were a victim of friendly fire,” the man supplied. It made no sense to Remus; what the hell was Friendly Fire? He’d never heard of that particular curse, and if he had he would have thought it a useful spell for camping trips.
“Wah?” he queried with another painful croak.
“Incapacitator Darts. Nasty at the best of times. This was not the best of times,” the man elucidated in a no-nonsense voice. Further obscurity for Remus – it just prompted another question.
“Why?” he made the croak into a recognisable word quite easily this time, but he was getting a little peeved with the necessity of doing so. Couldn’t the daft bugger just give him the whole story in one hit?
“Right. No sense beating about the whomping willow; you have neatly purged the poison contained in the darts, so no problem there. However, being a werewolf is proving to be something of a problem for you now as the darts were tipped with an alloy with a high silver content. You are suffering severe silver poisoning.”
Be careful what you wish for, was his immediate thought. Now that he knew the problem, well… he wished he didn’t.
“Shi… ” he said on a breath of air, one that hurt even as it cycled through his wet lungs which were doing their level best to keep him breathing. It wasn’t good enough. Shit!
There was no treatment for werewolf silver poisoning, of course; why would anyone save a werewolf for Merlin’s sake? They were despicable, dangerous creatures. That he happened to be one, and at times considered to be a useful member of Wizarding Society did not appear to have changed anyone’s opinion of werewolves in general, just one in particular – and obviously that wasn’t enough to prompt any research in the field of werewolf biology.
He was bloody done for.
It just left one nagging question: why the hell had he jumped forward to block those darts? He knew that if he could answer that question then he might just be able to face his death with some kind of calm. At least with the help of a very strong dose of Draught of Living Death.
--- --- ---
Someone had rearranged the potions supply room in his absence. Probably that great ball of lard, Slugswort, or whatever his name was. Under any other circumstances he would be livid. At the moment, however, he was far too frustrated to fume. His pace was frenetic as he rifled through the shelves looking for ingredients, quite sure that if could spare the time he would be able to decipher the peculiar logic of the new arrangement and thereby know exactly where to find what he was looking for.
If he could spare the time…
He worked with unwise haste, crushing and slicing with furious speed, but once the cauldron had been set to simmer there was nothing he could do but wait.
He’d gathered the utensils at the sink, preparing to clean up as any good practitioner of the art should, when he heard a noise that did not emanate from the cauldron over the flame. It was dim away from the work bench – he hadn’t bothered to light the rest of the large room – and as he took a step to investigate, he found himself flung to the floor by a dark, heavy shadow.
--- --- ---
“I got you now, you great thievin’ arse!” Argus hissed in triumph as he heaved the trespasser on to his back, the better to see his face. The face he looked down on was somewhat worse for wear, having hit the flagstones with some force, borne down by his own weight – he may not look much but he was solid enough – and the result was a bloodstained mess. Argus struggled to drag the insensible man closer to the lit worktable for identification. He had an awful feeling he knew who it was. Who else would sneak into Hogwarts in the middle of the night to brew a potion? And who else could slip past the dungeon defences undetected but for a chance sighting by house elves?
Even after guessing it, it was still a shock and his knees fair trembled with thoughts of the possible consequences of knocking out a Dark Wizard. What to do? He swung about looking for, and finding, the two intrepid house elves that had led him to this point.
“Get the Headmistress! Get her now I tell yer!” he yelled with equal parts fear and anger.
--- --- ---
Confused at suddenly being awake – it meant that he must have fallen asleep, and he had no memory of that – he turned, as much as he could manage, to survey his surroundings. His heart was still thudding with panic. He was dying and didn’t want to spend any of his remaining hours asleep, damn it!
His eyes came to rest on a dark thatch of hair that covered a head bent awkwardly low over a slouched body.
“Har…” he attempted, forgetting the state of his throat and coughing prodigiously – not that it helped.
“Remus!” the boy exclaimed. Not a boy anymore he amended, while tears streamed and he continued to cough and struggle for breath.
“Bloody hell! I’ll get the meddies, hang on!” Harry said, rushing out of the door on the last word.
He continued his fight for breath, knowing with sudden clarity that he would not surrender and accept his fate. Now he knew that he was going to fight to live no matter how futile it proved to be. He also knew that somehow he had to see Severus Snape before his condition worsened. He had to find out what had prompted his own idiotic urge to protect the traitor.
--- --- ---
‘Tell the Truth an’ Shame the Deil’
He groaned at his return to consciousness, convinced that he must have been hit by a bludger. Something wasn’t right about that though – he hadn’t played quidditch for well over twenty years. He managed to twitch his eyelids open and was startled by the feline face staring so closely at him. He sucked in a breath and tried edging away, but, as he watched, the cat morphed into the familiar form of Minerva McGonagall.
“Well, well. Look what the cat dragged in,” she intoned as she walked around his supine form, careful to stay out of his reach. Had no one thought to mention to her that he was now a hero? He supposed that it had only been a matter of hours since the Dark Lord’s defeat after all (and he was going to stop calling him that right now) and little details such as that were bound to be overlooked.
The potion! He had to tend to the potion!
He struggled up on his elbows, finding the Headmistress’ wand aimed steadily at the centre of his chest. Ropes shot out of nowhere and wrapped him up tight in the space of a heartbeat.
“No! Minerva, I’m not a traitor! What happened to Albus happened because he wanted it to.”
He had to convince her; he had no idea how long he’d been out cold and if he waited too long the potion would be useless. She studied him sceptically, raising an eyebrow in an oddly familiar way.
“Look in the cauldron, Minerva – it’s a potion. Lupin is in St. Mungo’s dying at this very moment. The fools have no intention of trying to cure him – after all, he’s just a werewolf!” he exclaimed with some venom. Now where had that come from? He is just a werewolf… Perhaps he was something more than just that. Perhaps he was somehow… Enough. He would have to ponder that when he had time later.
It all came back to time, didn’t it?
Uncertainty flitted across Minerva’s face. He could tell she was considering his words, and he cursed silently at the seconds he was losing to her deliberations. He had no time to prove any of what he said. He had to make her trust him.
“Let me loose. Please. Keep your wand on me if you wish. If nothing else I do warrant your mistrust after what I had to do. I loved Albus – you know that – but what he asked me to do…” he broke off, throat suddenly closed tight. But he didn’t need to finish; the ropes dropped away and he clambered to his feet, so light-headed with relief that the room seemed to spin. The fact that he hadn’t eaten since breakfast the day before the day before might also have some bearing on his balance.
“What happened to Remus?” she asked, stepping closer to the cauldron.
“He has silver poisoning. The fool took Incapacitator Darts meant for me,” he explained as he hurried over to the worktable. He noticed for the first time that Filch was still in the room, standing silent sentinel over the proceedings. He would be having words with him later. No matter that the man was a squib, there had to be better way to apprehend trespassers than crash-tackling them in the dark.
He peered through the haze over the cauldron, checking the colour of the potion. He was vastly relieved to find that it hadn’t spoiled. In fact – he sniffed it carefully – it appeared to be finished. But would it work? There was only one way to find out.
He turned to Minerva. “I have to take this to St. Mungo’s – there’s no time to spare.”
“Go,” she said firmly. “When you have finished what you have to do, come back and tell me, tell me everything, Severus.”
He nodded, and grabbed the handle of the cauldron – he wasn’t stopping to bottle the stuff – lifting it off the flame and preparing to walk to the gate to Apparate.
“No,” Minerva called after him and gestured to the large fireplace. “I will open the floo for you temporarily. Go straight to Remus,” she said, and proceeded to move her wand in a complicated pattern over the hearth.
He goggled for a second, not used to her use of the Castle magics, then looked for floo powder. Minerva was ahead of him; walking to the sink she cupped a handful of water and, waving her wand once more, transfigured it into floo powder. She turned back to him, eyes wide and urgent.
“Go now, Severus!”
She threw the powder into the fire and stepping into the green flames he called out, “St. Mungo’s Hospital!”
--- --- ---
He cracked his eyes open. The coughing fit had finally eased once a mediwitch had poured a potion down his throat – quite a feat, and not very pleasant – and he was manfully resisting the urge to pass out.
His shifted his gaze from Harry’s worried face to see Tonks edging around the door. He was ashamed to realise that he hadn’t once thought of her since he’d woken up in hospital. But since he was dying he decided not to let it bother him.
“Tonks,” he greeted her with a croak. He managed to get an arm out from under the bed sheet – unfortunately, it then dangled rather lifelessly over the side of the bed; he couldn’t lift it. Tonks gave a tiny sob and grasped his hand, lifting it to her cheek. He could feel the warm splash of tears on his knuckles.
“Um, I’ll give you both some privacy,” Harry mumbled with a small, humourless smile. Remus watched his back as he walked out of the room and wished that he’d stayed – he didn’t really know what to do. What should one say to one’s never-really-worked-that-well-as-a-girlfriend? He loved her, he really did, but he could never see himself settling down with her. Well, he gave a mental shrug at the thought; looked like he never would, so what’s the harm in pretending now?
“Sorry, Tonks,” he said, watching the tears track down her face with real regret. He’d never wanted to cause her pain, which was probably what’d led him to become involved with her. He was always trying to please other people – it was the story of his life, emphasis on the past tense. His eyes lost focus and Tonks became a distressed blur as he pondered how he could have lived his life differently. What would he have changed?
Well, for a start I would have said something to James and Sirius when they laid into Snape, he thought morosely. Look where that had led! A thoroughly bullied and taunted teenaged wizard gets himself a Dark Mark as an end-of-school treat, thus enslaving himself to an insane meglomaniac for the next few years. And after that? A career teaching children rudimentary skills in the subject of which he is a Master, whilst being simultaneously reviled, ridiculed and feared, his only close friend the Aryan poster boy for bigoted wizarding Britain. He knew he wasn’t responsible for Snape’s mistakes, but he was responsible for his own. His initial error was in turning a blind eye, something that he just kept doing… and was probably doing right now. He sighed mentally; he really shouldn’t be dwelling on all these negatives – not now, for the love of Merlin!
He focussed his gaze on Tonks’ tear-stained face. He gathered his strength for a small smile.
“Shafted some Death Eaters out there, didn’t we?” he croaked.
Her smile was a watery, trembling thing – but it was there.
“We did at that, Remus. You were bloody magnificent, mate.”
“Really not that good compared to you, hotshot,” he responded with a rasp. “Listen, I need to see Severus Snape. Do you know where they’re holding him?”
“Snape? Isn’t he still around the place?” she asked in some confusion.
“No. Surely he’s been detained?”
“Oh, no! You haven’t heard – he’s been cleared of all criminal charges,” she told him with a smile, “They told me he’d come to sit with you after his release. He must have left before you woke up.”
He didn’t really know what to make of that.
--- --- ---
‘Haud Yer Wheesht!’
Severus stumbled slightly as he was expelled onto the hearth of one of the large floo-places in the foyer of St. Mungo’s. He frowned ferociously at the guard who’d rushed forward to help him with hands outstretched.
“I don’t believe I requested any assistance,” he announced coldly.
“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.” The man hesitated, then asked, “Are you quite alright, sir?”
“What the devil is wrong with you? Do I look like I’m ailing? Feeble? Doddering?”
The guard shrugged and nodded apologetically.
“Oh for pity’s sake! Leave me be!” he hissed and then stalked towards the lifts with the precious burden held carefully in front of him.
His progress was unimpeded by the usual crush of bodies, the odiferous cauldron he held acting as a very effective warding spell. He sped down to Lupin’s level in splendid isolation; whenever the doors opened to admit passengers, one look at the occupant and one waft of air from his potion was enough to guarantee his solitude.
With easy admittance to Lupin’s room fully assumed then, it was with unexpected, and unwelcomed, surprise that he found his way barred by the still boyish Boy Who Lived.
“Out of my way, Potter!” he ordered, attempting to step around the nuisance. The Nuisance stepped with him.
“What the hell happened to you?” the Nuisance blurted uncouthly.
“None of your damned business! Now let me in if you want your precious werewolf to risk survival,” he responded reasonably. Again he stepped to walk around Potter, and again he found his movement mirrored like an irritating reflection. Midget reflection.
“You stink, Snape. What’s in the caldron and who beat you up? Not that I’m complaining mind,” Potter commented with all the disrespect expected of him.
Snape blinked slowly, counted to ten. He inhaled a deep breath, held it – though the fumes from the cauldron meant that he burnt his mucus membranes doing so – and waited for the calm to arrive. It didn’t.
“I was not beaten up. I… fell. And the cauldron contains a, until now, theoretical formula for treatment of wolfsbane potion overdose,” he explained.
“Just how is an antidote to wolfsbane overdose supposed to help Remus now? He has silver poisoning, Snape!”
Potter’s cheeks flushed an ugly red and his hair appeared to have a life of its own, lifting in a dusty, tangled cloud around his head like some dark angel’s halo. Severus decided not to remonstrate the boy today; after all he had defeated Tom Riddle (now Ex-Tom) and was perhaps up past his bed time.
“You really shouldn’t have to ask me that question, but as you lacked my teaching in potions when that idiot Slugsgirth took over I will explain. Please pay attention. The main active ingredient in the wolfsbane potion is aconite, common name silver.”
He paused while Potter huffed in impatient breath, then continued, “The theoretical antidote that I had outlined a few years ago was to work on neutralising the active ingredients of the wolfsbane potion – ergo, rendering what aconite was existent in the blood stream neutral.”
He stared at the boy, raising an eyebrow as he waited for the lights to come on in Potter’s dull gaze.
He straightened, hefting the cauldron carefully.
“Wait here,” the Nuisance ordered, and then turned to disappear through Lupin’s door.
“What the f—” He just barely controlled his tongue as a youthful nursing witch walked past him. He couldn’t bring himself to curse in front of children barely out of school – the habits of his profession were too deeply ingrained; no matter how black the public’s opinion of him might be, he had his standards.
Potter returned with surprising speed, a red-eyed Nymphadora Tonks at his side.
“Is that a cure, Professor?” she asked breathlessly, hopefully.
Severus’ heart sank.
“No.” he replied. It was best to nip unreasonable expectations in the bud. “This may be a cure for Wolfsbane potion overdose. There is no cure for silver poisoning, as you have no doubt been told by the staff here,” he finished ruthlessly.
“That’s right,” she whispered, then her eyes fastened on his face. “But you haven’t gone to all this trouble for no reason, have you? Do you think it could help him?”
“Well, standing here discussing the possibility certainly isn’t!” he snapped, impatient and tired of holding a cauldronful of potion until his arm was ready to part company with his shoulder. “The man has nothing to lose at this stage, has he?”
He was peripherally aware that they had an audience gathering by the time he stepped into Lupin’s room. Made up in equal parts of St. Mungo’s staff and Lupin’s hangers-on, they clustered in the corridor outside his room, though none seemed to want to approach the door and look inside.
Severus wasn’t prepared for Lupin’s glassy, but very conscious, gaze. He wasn’t supposed to be awake, damn it!
--- --- ---
‘Lat his ain wand ding him.’
“Severus,” he rasped out with an effort. Talking was beginning to cost him his breath.
Severus was here. Against all expectation he’d come back without being asked. The joy Remus felt was giddy and completely illogical; it didn’t change anything – he was still going to die, but for some reason having Severus at his bedside gave him comfort and calmed his riotous feelings.
“Lupin,” the man acknowledged with a small nod.
He looked terrible, Remus thought with a frown. His nose was purple and he had dried blood smeared over his face and shirt collar. It was a wonder that the staff hadn’t grabbed him and admitted him for treatment.
“Get in a fight?” he queried, then stifled a cough; if he started he might not stop.
Severus sniffed huffily and placed a reeking cauldron on the table beside him. He watched with mild curiousity as the man nabbed a goblet and waved his wand over it in a cleaning charm. Dark eyes inspected the cleaned cup critically before measuring out some of the foul glop from the cauldron.
He blinked in surprise.
“Severus, you haven’t gone and made a cure, have you?” Hope fluttered painfully under his rib cage and he fought down a desperate urge to cough.
“I doubt it, Lupin. But just to be sure, drink up, there’s a good werewolf,” came the droll reply.
If he hadn’t been breaking into a cold sweat from the dreadful urge to cough up his lungs he might have hit the beautiful bastard. Severus’ steady hand held the goblet in front of his face, where it stank like a condensed cesspool. He looked past the man’s shoulder to see white-robed wizards lining up against the wall, clipboards at the ready. Great, come to see the freak show.
“Bastards,” he muttered and lowered his mouth to drink. Just before he swallowed he looked into Severus’ eyes and held them for moment, wondering at their intensity. Then the rancid brew slid down his throat unleashing his lung-destroying cough.
For the longest time he hacked, spat and dribbled. At some point he knew he’d pissed in the bed, and peered blearily around the room to see how many had witnessed his humiliation. Spotting Tonks hesitating at the doorway he spluttered, “No. Please!” and went limp with relief when she turned to leave, shutting the door as she left.
Then the true horror began.
--- --- ---
He was so tired. He waited for the kettle to boil, his meagre weight propped against the kitchen drawers, shoulders slumped and aching with fatigue. All he’d done was take a shower! It had been his first unassisted wash – he really shouldn’t expect too much this soon after coming home, but he was edgy with impatience. Couldn’t wait to tell them all to go home. Couldn’t wait to wrest control of his life back into his own hands. Part of him felt guilty, as if he was being ungrateful for all the help he’d received, but he was tired in more than just body; he was tired of them. Tired of always being amenable, agreeable… malleable. The only person he never begrudged being agreeable with was Severus.
Thereby hung a tale.
Severus had told him afterwards, with imperfectly hidden glee, how he’d oozed rankly from every pore, emptied his bowels, and for an encore vomited everything bar his stomach lining. All this he’d done without conscious involvement, having no memory of those hours, just a mish mash of terrible dream sensations that sometimes haunted his sleep with their impressions of agony and helplessness. He shuddered now as he picked out a lonely tea bag from the box on the counter.
After the dizzying, disgusting business of the Silver Cure, as it was now known, he’d barely glimpsed the man. Up until now he’d been too poorly to do anything about it. With the house to himself he’d have time to think about what to do.
He eyed his used mug critically, then decided it was a bit too manky even for him. He rinsed it out with some of the water just boiled and wiped it with the tea towel. He smiled at the kitsch design on the thing; Tonks had bought it for him after catching him wiping cutlery on an old t-shirt.
He’d had to tell Tonks it was over. She wasn’t stupid, bless her; she knew something had changed these last few days – had left without complaint, raising not a few eyebrows in the process, from those who had expected her to stay and nurse her man back to health. Remorse came chasing on the heels of that thought. If only he had kept the relationship casual. If only he had made it plainer at the outset that he didn’t want to get involved. If only… Bollocks! She was survivor, damn it! And unlike him she was yet young, could chalk it up to experience and move on. Find another bloke, though he felt jealousy flare at the mere idea, someone who would treat her right – settle down and raise bairns.
Bairns? He was starting to sound like his souvenir tea towel. He sighed and poured water over the tea bag in his chipped, but clean, mug. He picked up his tea, blowing over it before taking the tiniest of sips. He usually drank it with milk, but there was none left in the house and he wasn’t about to invite anybody back to fetch him some. Black it is.
Like Severus’ eyes, actually. Though if you looked closely, there was a slightly lighter shade in his irises. Charcoal eyes. Desire went off like land mine in his stomach, his chest, his groin; his prick rising like a ragged flag on hard-won hill.
What the hell was he thinking? His heart thudded and hammered and he placed his cup on the kitchen counter before he lost his grip completely. How could he possibly fancy a shag with Severus? The greasy git. He smelled, he was ugly, he was rude and nasty – he was nothing like him!
His erection demanded attention, but how could he do this while thinking of Severus? He huffed in exasperation as he slipped a hand into his pants. He’d lost so much weight that he could push his trousers down without undoing them now. His penis was a reassuring, warm shape in his hand and he stroked it slowly, letting his eyes slip shut and his head tip back. Some things never changed; no matter how crazy everything else got he could still wank.
Someone was knocking on the door.
--- --- ---
‘Skinny Malinky Lang Legs.’
The door opened a few inches and stopped, Lupin’s wide-eyed face showing in the gap.
“The very same,” he responded, raising an eyebrow at the man’s odd behaviour. Whatever was the matter with him now? “Have I come at a bad time?”
“No! Well, yes, but… haha! No, no you haven’t.”
The door opened wide enough to admit him and he entered, raising both eyebrows as Lupin let go of the door to snatch at his falling trousers.
“You need a belt, Lupin,” he observed.
The man was blushing. Blushing! What had he interrupted?
“Is the lovely Miss Tonks about?” he asked in sudden suspicion. Had he walked into the middle of an intimate encounter? That knife-like pain in his stomach shot through him again – it had been a frequent occurrence since the brewing of the Silver Cure. He hadn’t managed to isolate the ingredient that had caused his problem – it was proving to be quite elusive.
“No, no. I’m quite alone today. At last. Um, would you care for some tea? Only I don’t have any milk – but you take it black, don’t you, so that’s alright then. Isn’t it?” the man fussed, reminding Severus of any number of irritating maiden aunts.
“Do shut up.”
“Right. This way.”
He followed the man to the kitchen, taking a seat at the table while Lupin banged away with cups and saucers and a tea pot. Once the kettle was set to boil, Lupin turned to face him.
“To what do I owe the pleasure of your company today, Severus?”
He snorted softly at the question.
“I do apologise. I didn’t realise that I would need to provide a reason for my visit,” he answered. “Perhaps I should go?”
“No!” Lupin protested, taking a step towards his chair and holding out his hand.
He was about to rebuke Lupin for his dramatic overplay when he noticed the man’s unhealthy pallor move sharply into deathly grey. He shoved out of his chair to intercept Lupin a bare second before his eyes rolled up and his knees buckled. He gathered the man in his arms and walked through to the parlour. Seeing the sofa near the fireplace, he moved to lower Lupin’s limp form onto it. The man was already starting to regain his senses, such as they were. He knelt on the floor by his side and pushed the untidy fringe of hair out of his face. The man desperately needed a haircut.
“Lupin?” he called softly. “Are you alright?”
“I do believe you fainted, you silly creature. Why has everyone left? Is there no one to help you until you have recovered?” he enquired, unable to keep the anger out of his voice entirely. After all the fellow had been through he had the right to expect a little assistance from his friends. Of which he had many. And it wasn’t like they were off fighting Death Eaters these days!
“No, don’t be angry,” Lupin protested weakly.
He wasn’t angry, damn it!
“I sent them away,” the man explained.
“Why?” he asked, perhaps too forcefully. Lupin flinched before replying.
“I needed to be alone. I was confused.”
“Confused about what?” Severus asked, keeping his tone calm this time. He laid a hand on Lupin’s forehead – he still looked unwell and was clammy to touch.
Severus huffed in irritation. He’d been there when the man had shat himself in the hospital bed! What was that if not personal?
“I see. You feel the need to keep secrets from me, do you?” he said peevishly. Bugger him! Not that he gave a rat’s arse one way or the other. And it wasn’t as if Lupin would be hiding anything even remotely interesting.
“Now don’t be like that, Severus. I’m just having some relationship issues, that’s all,” Lupin protested.
He thought for a moment, then asked diplomatically, “Have you been dumped, Lupin?”
The poor sod. What dismal timing! And no wonder no one was around to lend a hand; his so-called friends probably didn’t know what to say and were trying to avoid him. Perhaps he ought to offer to stay over for a few days, just until the man could manage by himself.
“Ah, no. Actually, I did the dumping,” Lupin replied.
For clarity’s sake, Severus said, “You dumped Nymphadora Tonks.”
“That’s right,” Lupin confirmed calmly.
“Was she cheating on you? Were you cuckolded?” he enquired tactfully. There had to be a reason. Lupin didn’t do anything capriciously.
“Goodness no! I don’t think so… no, I’m sure she didn’t!” Lupin answered, looking thoughtful.
He interrupted the man’s reverie.
“Then why in Hades have you broken up with her?”
“Well… if you must know…”
Honestly, if the bloody fool didn’t look like a puff of wind would be the end of him, he’d be shaking him by the scruff until his teeth fell out!
“Yesss,” he hissed “I must know!”
“I discovered I hadfeelingsforyou.”
Severus played the words back to himself, slowing them down for coherency.
“And?” he prompted.
“Lupin, we all have feelings for people that we know. Right now, for instance, mine would best be described as fucking frustrated!”
“Oh. Well, by feelings I mean… er, well, you know; feeling feelings.”
Just to be sure that he was hearing right; “Feeling feelings.”
“Yes,” Lupin confirmed.
“I need some tea,” he announced. “Will you be right for a moment?”
Lupin gave him a small smile and nod. He rushed back down to the kitchen and looked for a tray to carry their cups. That done he poured water into the teapot and placed that on the tray as well. As an afterthought he snatched up the gaudy tea towel and ran it under the tap thinking to mop Lupin’s clammy face with it. He paused to read the tacky thing.
Some hae meat and cannot eat.
Some cannot eat that want it:
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
If one looked past its lamentable muggle religious sentiment, was that a message for seizing opportunity?
Lupin wanted him. He felt that way about him. He looked at the tea towel again, trying to find some guidance; what should he do now? How did he feel about Lupin? Well, apart from the fucking frustrated bit…
He’d been unsettled when he’d seen him slowly dying at St. Mungo’s. He’d felt fucking frustrated then! He’d been angry and annoyed at the way nobody had tried to help him; no one seemed to think he’d merited some effort to find a cure.
No one but him.
He remembered Lupin’s eyes meeting his as he swallowed the potion; the pain, the fear. The trust. He remembered using cleansing spells as Lupin fouled himself; the smell horrid, but he wouldn’t allow anyone else to do it. Somehow he’d taken responsibility for Lupin’s welfare, protecting his life and, perhaps more importantly for Lupin, his dignity.
His mind was suddenly made up.
Halfway up the hallway he nearly dropped the tray and sprinted for the front door when he realised what he was doing. He did administer a mental slap and give himself a good talking to. He’d faced down any number of scary bastards – he could handle a werewolf with a crush!
Handling the werewolf didn’t sound as horrifying as it should. Nowhere near horrifying, actually. The tray shook slightly in his hand and he gripped it tighter as he re-entered the parlour.
“You’re back,” Lupin greeted him.
“Still master of the bleeding obvious I see,” he shot back without rancour.
“I expected you to bolt.”
He hid his face while he fiddled about pouring tea into the cups. How close he’d come to doing just that!
“Do you need some help to sit up?” he asked.
Lupin regarded him for a long moment.
The clatter as he put down the tea cup was loud in the sudden silence following Lupin’s answer. He moved to put an arm around the man’s shoulder…
Lupin’s mouth was warm and moist and all things that a good, kissing mouth should be; flavoursome, flexible and subtle. His moustache tickled and incited riot. He had a sudden, sharp vision of his cock surrounded by Lupin’s lips and groaned deeply at the thought, his hips thrusting against nothing in sympathy with the thought.
They came up for air briefly.
“Lay down with me.”
“You aren’t well.”
“Alright, don’t push!”
Lupin’s trousers were disgracefully easy to remove. He was either going to have to eat pudding three times a day or get some new ones. He licked the man’s lovely, long erection, which smelt in equal parts of musk and soap; scents which by all rights should clash horribly, but which at this moment caused his skin to fizzle with excitement.
Lupin twitched and all but jumped when he took him into his mouth. He held him down securely, and pulled up to say, “You aren’t required to do anything, Lupin. Just take it.”
Not waiting for a response, he dove down to work a different kind of magic.
Afterwards, when, after slipping bonelessly off the edge of the sofa, Lupin lay beside him on the rug snoring, he noted with surprise that the mysterious pain in his stomach had been absent for several hours.
It must have been a temporary side-effect of working with the cure.
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1.‘Whit’s Fur Ye’ll No’ Go By Ye’
2. ‘It’s a Sair Fecht’
3. ‘Tell the Truth an’ Shame the Deil’
4. ‘Haud Yer Wheesht!’
5. ‘Lat his ain wand ding him.’
6. ‘Skinny Malinky Lang Legs.’
1. You’ll get what you deserve from life
2. It’s a hard life
3. Always tell the truth
4. Be Quiet!
5. Let him stew in his own juice
6. Very tall and slender