Title: Courage to Change.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters and concepts are copyrighted by JKR and Warner Bros; this is for non-profit, entertainment purposes only.
Summary: In response to Challenge 20) One of the pairing is sick and tired of the way others perceive him and decides to change that. A bit of self pity, mostly fluff.
Beta: Many thanks to firstname.lastname@example.org for all his help and advice.
Feedback: is welcome. Send to email@example.com if so inclined.
Staring into his drink, Snape wondered why he’d agreed to come to The Three Broomsticks. From the glances the others had exchanged when Dumbledore mentioned it, it was obvious that no one actually wanted him to come along. Not that he thought this was necessarily a bad thing. The idea of listening to Hagrid rhapsodising about his latest creature was enough to make him faintly nauseous. So why then, had he actually said he would consider it? And why was he here? He had more important things to be doing, like preparing for the school year which would be starting shortly, or reading the latest potions journals. Instead here he was, being ignored by his work colleagues as they caught up with what people had being doing since the war ended or some such nonsense. It had been the same during the war, his presence had been tolerated while he was making his reports on the Dark Lord’s activities but staying for tea was completely out of the question.
Several drinks later, Snape was wondering where exactly his life was going? He was stuck teaching at Hogwarts, something he detested especially since he was constantly being denied the Dark Arts. That position had once more gone to Lupin, who was another reminder that some had judged him and found him unworthy in the past. Still, it wasn’t as though he had many other options. Albus Dumbledore was one of the few people who had been willing to employ him when the first war ended. Something that still held true now. He may be a talented potions maker, credited with many breakthroughs in his field. In fact, his recent publications in some of the most respected potions journals had gained him many accolades and his work was frequently quoted but there was still the fact that he had been a death eater, a fact that made many employers hesitant about employing him. It was also another thing his Order of Merlin had not changed. As far as people were concerned, once a death eater always a death eater, something both Black and Moody had frequently thrown into his face. Feeling a sudden surge of anger that, after all he had done during the war, risking his life, bringing back valuable information that had saved lives and he still wasn’t good enough for these people. Well then, that was perfectly fine by him, it wasn’t as though he needed them. Knocking back his drink, he proceeded to head back to Hogwarts.
Most of a bottle of brandy later, the anger had dissipated into pity, why exactly was he alone? Why did no one invite him for tea? Ask after him? He had no friends left. There were either dead or imprisoned in Azkaban. Though they too had never liked him much, just tolerated him for what he could do for them. Before passing out, Snape had the thought that perhaps it was time to make some changes in his life.
It started with little things. Acknowledging his colleagues in the morning, asking after family members or how their latest projects were progressing. He was even civil to Remus Lupin, when he brought him his wolfsbane. When the school year began, the change was even more noticeable. The whole atmosphere in his classes was different; the number of cauldrons Longbottom melted had decreased as had the numbers of explosions in general. The average mark for the class had increased. In fact, the first time Harry received a pass, he almost queried it. He no longer deducted points from Granger for attempting to answer a question. The number of detentions he assigned had also decreased (something Filch lamented to no end). It was his latest action though, that had the whole school talking and his work colleagues gathered in the staff room.
There were certain accepted truths, Severus Snape was a greasy git (though the git part had been challenged in the past few months) who despised all things Gryffindor. By the time Remus Lupin reached the staff room, he had overheard several different accounts of what had happened and why. The students he encountered on his journey suggested he was cursed, under imperio, possessed or he had simply, as he heard Hagrid declare when he opened the staff room door, “cracked.”
Several teachers agreed, with Flitwick venturing, “Well, you have to admit he was under tremendous stress during his days as a spy. It’s bound to have had an effect on him. Maybe, it’s finally starting to catch up on him”.
Hooch suggested that perhaps he should be given leave to go on a sabbatical.
Lupin couldn’t believe how everyone was reacting, except for Dumbledore, who merely sat in his seat, eyes twinkling and Minerva. Ok, so Severus had done something unexpected, no, unbelievable. I mean who really would have believed that he would actually award points to Gryffindor, but did that really warrant committal in St. Mungo’s? Remus decided to leave his colleagues to their hysterics and go to see the man in question.
“Something you want, Lupin? Or perhaps you’ve been delegated to see how sane I am? Talk me down, perhaps?”
“No, I thought I’d spare you having to face everyone by collecting my wolfsbane.”
“Ah, how kind of you, it’s just about done. Would you like some tea?”
Remus started at this extension of courtesy from someone, who for many years, had despised him.
“Yes, thank you.”
Sipping his tea, Remus pondered the man in front of him. Who proceeded to interrupt his thoughts by saying “You might as well tell me what they are saying. No doubt it’s something along the lines of “Oh look, the greasy git has finally gone over the edge!” I’m so glad I could provide them all with entertainment.”
“Depends on who you listen to, some think that you’ve cracked and a break in St. Mungo’s would do you good. Some of the teachers also think you need a break to recover from the war. Other possibilities being put forward by the students include, you have only so long to live due to some curse cast by Voldemort or you’re under imperio.. I heard one student suggest you lost a bet. Of course, possession is also high up there on the list of possibilities.”
“Me? I must admit I’m puzzled.”
“Well, we’ve become accustomed to you behaving a certain way and then you change the rules on us. Surely you can see how it would unnerve some of us, which is why it has caused such a reaction. I mean, imagine if Albus stopped offering lemon sherberts.”
“Indeed. I hadn’t thought of it like that. I just thought that, well, the war has ended and it feels as though people are moving on yet here I am…….No, basically I wanted to be accepted, to make everyone like me.” This last was said into his hands and Remus was not sure he had heard correctly.
“Yes, is that so hard to believe? I’m tired of being alone, tired of being excluded. I see how everyone looks at me. You plan nights out and where am I? Here most likely. I’m not wanted.”
All of a sudden, Remus had an image of Severus as he was as teenager and blurted out,
“Oh Severus, I’m so sorry. I can’t speak for everyone but I just thought you wouldn’t be interested. You never acted as though you enjoyed our, my company, that is. You should have asked.”
“A Slytherin is not supposed to show weakness. Asking, begging to be included could definitely be taken as that.”
“Yes, well, I don’t think they’re supposed to give points to idiotic Gryffindors either.”
“True, I guess I’ve nothing left to lose then”
“Well, you could always join me in Hogsmeade next weekend? I have some shopping to do and perhaps we could have lunch?”
“I don’t want pity, Lupin.”
“Not pity, you’ve always been an interesting conversationalist when you decide to notice the rest of us.”
“Thank you, I think. Very well. What time were you thinking of going?”
“How would suit you?”
“Given I have no other plans, it suits me fine. I’ll just check how the wolfsbane is doing.”
Severus returned with a goblet of the potion. While Remus was eternally grateful that Severus could and would make it for him, the taste was distinctly unpalatable. He had to admit that this month; the flavour did not immediately make him want to gag.
“Have you made some changes to it?”
“A small few adjustments, I’d appreciate you informing me if it has any ill effects.”
“Of course and thank you again. See you tomorrow at breakfast.”
“If I can face it.”
“You know you’ll fuel more rumours if you don’t turn up!”
“Remus, if we’re going to spend more time together I think you should call me by my first name.”
“Very well, Goodnight Remus.”
The trip to Hogsmeade had gone surprisingly well, once Severus had got over his initial nervousness. Conversation had been interesting and Remus had to admit that the civility extended to him was a surprise, as was the fact that he was sorry when the day ended.
Over the next few months, they began meeting for chess games, to discuss the latest treatise on Defence against the Dark Arts and simply just to talk. Severus was stimulating company. He also began joining staff outings, meals in Hogsmeade, drinks in the Three Broomsticks and further afield. Hagrid and others became accustomed to his presence and while no one would say he was their favourite person, he was missed when he was unable to attend an activity due to a detention or simply being the staff member left in charge.
The hair was still greasy; something Severus had admitted to Remus was as much due to his work as natural greasiness. His features were also the same and yet…. It was nearly the end of the school year when Remus realised that his feelings for the potions professor had, somehow, over the year slipped from that of an acquaintance to friend to desiring something more. No doubt if he was to mention this to the person concerned, he would end up being hexed into next week if not next year.
For the first anniversary of the end of the war, the staff members as well as order members had decided to make a night of it. This is how they all found themselves in varying stages of intoxication in The Pheasant and The Firkin. Remus thought Severus had never looked so delectable. Over the year, he had relaxed somewhat, lines were no longer so prominent and people felt more able to approach him.
Fighting an impulse to grab the man and kiss him senseless, he instead announced it was his round and went to get the drinks. While waiting for the drinks, he felt someone at his shoulder then a voice in his ear. “I thought I’d give you a hand.”
That voice. Looking around, he saw Severus standing so very close to him. He managed to reply “thank you” before turning back to the bar. Just the voice caused an uncomfortable physical reaction.
Once the drinks were served, they went back to their table, where Remus fought not to gaze like a love sick puppy at the potions master. Instead, he concentrated on getting drunk. By the end of the night, Remus had reached the point where it was difficult to stand but on the other hand, he hadn’t thrown himself at the potions master or waxed lyrically about his voice or any other attributes. It took three attempts to get upright, though he wasn’t sure about reaching the door, never mind Hogwarts when he felt arms support him. Arms that belonged to the Potions master, who smelled so very delicious. Fighting the impulse to snuggle into those arms, Remus instead made a more determined effort to remain upright.
“Come on, its time to head home. I think the only place you’re fit for is bed.” Said Snape. The images those words conjured was nearly enough for Remus to throw all his reservations away and declare everything. Before he could open his mouth though, Hagrid arrived to check how they were doing.
Severus reassured him that yes, they were ok and they’d see them back at Hogwarts. All too soon they were back in Hogwarts and his chambers, which meant that he wouldn’t have Severus’s arms around him for much longer. When Severus deposited him onto the bed, Remus almost whimpered at the loss of contact. Severus pulled off Remus boots before making to leave.
“Please, don’t go,” Said Remus, grabbing Severus’s arm, an action that caused him to look delightfully off balance. Since it was obvious that Remus was not going to release his gripped, he shrugged and sat down on the side of the bed.
“Do you want me to get you something?”
“No, I don’t want anything, just you, here with me.” Mumbled Remus as he managed to sit up.
There was not the immediate hexing Remus had been expecting but then he hadn’t kissed him. Instead, Severus face had this vulnerable wariness on it that just made Remus want to wrap his arms around him and chase the world away. Eventually, Severus spoke “I thought, you’ve been so distant, I thought, maybe I’d over stepped some mark or you knew and were trying to figure out how to let me down gently.”
“No, nothing like that, I was afraid you’d hex me into next year if I did anything.”
“I can assure there would be no hexing.” Replied Severus, a hint of a smile in his voice.
“Stay here tonight, please?”
In answer, he heard shuffling before feeling the bed dip as Severus lay down next to him, not quite touching him but there. In response, Remus wrapped his arms around him before kissing him chastely goodnight.