AUTHOR: The Treacle Tart
DISCLAIMER: All Harry Potter related characters and themes belong to JK Rowling, her publishers, and some lawyers.
NOTES: Challenge #165 It doesn't take a genius to know that Remus/Snape is in love with the other one. Does it?
Special thanks to abagail89 and leftsockarchive for their wonderful help and invaluable insight. Any mistakes you find belong to me.
SUMMARY: Evolution (noun)—A gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form.
Part One - Foundation
He walked down the deserted street, dry leaves swirling in small circles in the autumn breeze about him. The crisp air bit his skin and stung his dry eyes. Winter was looming; the scent of imminent snowfall heavy in the air. He barely felt the cold.
In an attempt to distract himself, he concentrated on the sound of his boots clicking on the pavement and his own steady breaths, the only sounds on an eerily still night. By the time Remus Lupin reached number 12, Grimmauld Place, he was half frozen. He reached for the latch, his fingers slowly wrapping around the handle. The cold metal burned and stung, but he would not turn it, choosing instead to remain motionless, trying in vain to hear the voices inside. With a sigh, his hand released the door handle, and without a word he turned and walked away. He couldn’t face them tonight. His pace quickened as he headed for the last place in the world he wanted to go, but the one place in the world he needed to be.
The look on the Potions master’s face was priceless: a mixture of utter confusion, acute annoyance, mild shock, and just plain rage. “Are you lost?” he asked when he finally found his tongue. “I always thought your kind had a sharp sense of direction. Couldn’t you sniff your way home?”
“I was just in the neighborhood and thought I’d drop in,” Remus remarked sincerely.
The seconds stretched into minutes as each waited for the other’s response. Snape’s annoyance grew as his shock waned. “You might have vast quantities of leisure time on your hands, Lupin, but some of us have real work to do. So if you actually have a purpose, kindly state it, and get out. Or just get out. I’m not finicky.”
Remus smiled. He knew he could count on Snape and his complete lack of compassion. “You mentioned at the last Order meeting that you would be indisposed for a few weeks as you were replenishing Madame Pomfrey’s elixirs and supplies for the year. I thought I could help.”
Snape snorted. “Your aptitude at brewing potions rivals Longbottom’s, with the added bonus that you can’t handle half the instruments as they are made of pure silver. How exactly could you help me?”
“I can prepare most of the ingredients, Severus. Shredding the shrivelfigs alone will take days for the amount of elixir you need to prepare. Chopping the toothwort roots, simmering the balsam resin, mincing the lobelia—shall I continue?” There was something truly magical about being able to stun Snape into silence, because the man seemed to be truly shocked by so little. But mostly it was just wonderful to stupefy the snark right out of him. “I have my uses, Severus,” he added, the slightest of smirks on his lips.
With a sigh of surrender, Snape answered, “I suppose you could be useful for the more mindless work, but this is my office, Lupin, and you will follow my orders implicitly. I have neither the time nor the desire to educate you on basic techniques. You will only remain for the length of time I deem you necessary and leave when I command. Is that understood?”
“Of course…Professor. I would expect nothing less.”
The routine was quickly established. Remus would arrive early, before Snape left to teach class, and would wait patiently at the laboratory door until Snape sanctioned admittance. A simple work station was set up across from Snape’s more elaborate and complicated one. Sitting neatly on the desk was a list of the day’s tasks, etched in Snape’s own scratching scrawl.
Shredding the shrivelfigs did indeed take days, but Remus didn’t mind. He relished the quiet of the small room, the grey walls completely free of any decoration, and the bitter smell of potions and other concoctions. The austerity of the work area calmed him. The hours of solitary work comforted him.
In the evening, Snape would return and scrutinize Remus’s progress, and seemed almost surprised that he could find no fault. A quick nod signified his approval. Sometimes Remus remained to aid Snape in some delicate preparations; more often, he was dismissed. Eventually, Snape changed the wards and gave Lupin the password to his chambers so that he could enter more freely.
Lupin happily continued his work. He often wondered how Snape managed to do this all on his own, year after year. The amount of groundwork necessary to make these elixirs was staggering and Snape still had to teach a full day of classes, not to mention O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. preparations, Head-of House duties, and the monitoring of the multitude of detentions he insisted on issuing. Snape’s days were mapped out to the minute, including breaks for meals and a full four hours for sleep. It was no wonder that he expected so much from his students.
After three and a half weeks most of the potions ingredients were prepared, and Remus Lupin found himself with less and less to do. He was even less willing than ever to return to the confining walls of the ancient house of Black. As his list of tasks grew shorter and shorter, Remus found other duties to fill up time. He cleaned Snape’s office, filed all the loose books lying in piles on the floor, and took inventory of the ingredients stock – anything that might be useful, anything that might give him a reason to remain in the dungeons.
Remus found himself watching Snape work, mesmerized by Snape’s graceful hands, gliding over a simmering cauldron, and long fingers, extended in midair, cutting the wafting smoke. Snape’s eyes never looked at his current task, but ahead at the next step, while he spoke of the step after that. It was the way he did everything: hand in the present, eye on the future, mind beyond both. It was amazing to watch his concentration and his ability to be completely focused on several duties at the same time. The pace was exhausting to watch and nearly impossible to match.
He began to remain longer after Snape returned, inquiring after the students or one of Snape’s projects, asking about a text he‘d stumbled across, or discussing a new development in the war. The conversations began with tea and often progressed to merlot or port, and once, brandy. It became comfortable.
Another month passed before Snape finally commented, “Well Lupin, I doubt in the entire history of Hogwarts that a Gryffindor has ever been so industrious. The potions for Madame Pomfrey are ready, my offices have never been cleaner, my books are organized, catalogued and cross referenced, and my potions supplies are alphabetized and newly labeled. You even managed to polish all the cauldrons, walls, and desks of my classrooms, ruining my detentions for the next several weeks. I cannot fathom why on earth you have decided to make yourself my personal valet. However, I must inform you that your usefulness has worn itself out. “
Remus jumped up, blocking Snape's exit. “Surely there must be some other things you need done. I could go the Forbidden Forest and gather some of the materials you are running out of, I could help you grade papers, I could – “
“What is going on Lupin?” Snape asked, the modicum of patience he possessed seeming to have finally run out.
“What do you mean?”
“Is it my sparkling wit or devilish good looks that keep you coming back? Or perhaps my endless supply of wine?” Snape drawled. “Are you so hard pressed for something to do that you would imprison yourself here, practically begging me to give you work?”
“I thought you could use the help,” he answered frankly.
“I don’t need anything from you. Have you no other colleagues who would actually enjoy your presence? Why inflict it on me?”
Honesty was the only way to handle Severus Snape, which Remus found ironic since the man didn’t believe anything you told him anyway. “Everyone is afraid to ask me to do anything, Severus,” he began. “No one wants to bother me. They all want to give me time. Giving me time, however, doesn’t seem to entail leaving me alone.”
“You want to be left alone?” Snape asked with a snort. “I would think a few decades of minimal contact with the rest of the world would leave you panting for the company.”
“And you are such an expert on me?”
“Enlighten me,” Snape said with a curt bow of his head.
“Do you know what it’s like at Grimmauld Place, Severus?,” Remus said, his voice low and rasped, full of pain. “Sirius left everything to Harry. Harry, in turn, begged me to live there, to look after the place for him because he wasn’t ready to himself. I made a promise to a boy who has nothing that I would maintain the one link he has to anything that resembled a true family, a history. I wanted to help him, it… seemed only right.” Remus stopped to sit down, leaning back in the worn fireside chair, running his knuckles along the armrest.
“Sirius is alive in every corner of that house,” he continued, “in every speck of dust that floats through the air. Every dark corner is a reminder of a conversation. Every crack in the plaster, a souvenir.” He looked at Severus with half-lidded eyes, his head tilted to the side as if it were too much of a burden to hold up.
“That I can deal with, Severus. I’m actually pretty adept at handling misery. I want to be angry and sulk and brood and languish. I want to dwell in the wretchedness that is that place and remember all I can because my memories are all I have left. What I can’t deal with is the bevy of well-wishers that come with the house. Someone is always trying to console me …talk to me... give me some ridiculous book on grieving as if I need a text to tell me how, as if I haven’t spent a lifetime grieving for one loss or another.
“I just want to sit and be miserable, but I can’t because my misery only serves to remind others of their misery, and since they can’t deal with that, they make it their mission to comfort me. So I walk around with this absurd expression of calm composure on my face when all the while I’m dying inside because I can’t let them see that I’m dying. They are not ready to deal with their own grief so they see to mine. You would think they would have read the damn books they gave me.” He laughed mirthlessly, ruffling his hair with a shaking hand.
“No, Severus,” he continued, “I need to be someplace where no one is concerned that I am miserable. Where no one will try to help me. Where no one cares about me at all, where I can be left alone to wallow and flounder in misery and bitterness and resentment. So I come here and I visit you because you are, if nothing else, consistent. I need not worry about being pitied or looked after or cared about. I know you will use me for whatever trivial task you need and leave me to my thoughts.”
“Surely you could tell them to leave you be,” Snape interrupted. “Have you lost all ability to speak your mind? You seem to have no problem telling me.”
“You‘ve missed the point, Severus. I don’t want to speak my mind. I don’t want to talk about it at all. They start talking about Sirius, and about…that day, and I go cold. The room starts to spin. I hear my blood rushing through my ears and the pounding of my heart. I see pictures of things that will never happen and images I’m not ready to face. It’s all I can do to keep from covering my ears and screaming.” He paused to let out a breath. “I want it to stop.”
Severus looked at him thoughtfully. “What do you want to stop, Lupin?” he asked.
“All of it. None of it. I haven’t the foggiest,” he replied softly. “I just know that it’s killing me.”
Fatigue and anxiety washed over him as Snape looked on in silence. Remus felt as though he had spent the night battling the full moon.
“There is a meeting of the Order this evening that we both need to prepare for. I suggest that you do so,” Snape said, suddenly.
Remus let out the breath he had been holding. “I suppose it is too much to expect any sort of sympathy from you, eh, Severus?”
“You said you came here because I wouldn’t care how you felt.” He paused, his eyes burrowing into Lupin’s. “You were right.”
A look of defeat entered Remus’s solemn eyes and he left the room without another word. He stopped in the hall, slamming the door shut behind him.
He was cold again.
Remus hoped to find a quiet corner to sit in, but as soon as he opened the door he was assaulted by the kind and the thoughtful.
“How are you feeling? You look….”
“…working too hard. Need some time…”
“Where have you been? We haven’t…”
“…wonderful, soothing tea…”
Hands and faces, words and thoughts, considerations and sympathy wrapped around him like a cocoon and quickly tightened – like a noose. He was suddenly very dizzy.
“I’m fine…I’ve been working on some things…feeling fine…tea would be lovely…something to eat, perhaps….” His response to any and all of them stumbled out of his mouth, and he was relieved to find he was in a chair and alone as there was a mad scramble to get him tea and something to eat. He remained in that chair for two hours, listening to advice from everyone who was suddenly an expert on Remus Lupin. Mercifully, the room started to fill with the active members of the Order of the Phoenix. With the meeting underway, he could quietly sit and lose himself in the large crowd.
He could not focus on anything being said until he heard his name mentioned.
“I’m sure Lupin would be more than able to complete such a trivial task,” Snape drawled.
Molly Weasley looked incensed. “Remus has gone through quite a bite lately, Severus. Even you can see he needs some time to mourn-“
“We are not asking him to personally hunt and eradicate Voldemort. This is a short trip to Beaubaxtons to make some inquiries. It’s about time he did something of value to the cause. Most of us are working on other assignments while he loiters here sulking and -”
“I would hardly say he loiters-“
“I would hardly say any able-bodied person could be spared. This is a simple assignment, and he has nothing better to do. Or perhaps he is simply unable to perform a menial task.”
“I am more than up to the task, Severus,” he answered the challenge directly. “You need not worry about my abilities. I will leave as soon as all the preparations are set.” He had no idea to what he was agreeing, but he was being given an excuse to leave the house, and he was not about to waste it.
“I see no problem then,” Snape remarked. “Headmaster?”
Dumbledore remained strangely quiet as he watched the exchange and paused for a moment to look pointedly at Remus and back at Snape. “I think Remus is the perfect candidate for the assignment. Now, on to other business…”
And in perfect Dumbledore fashion the decision was made without a fuss. Remus found himself looking at Snape and wondering what had just happened. If he didn’t know better, he would have thought that Snape just helped him. That he actually did something nice. He stared at the Potions master’s sharp face for the remainder of the meeting, studying the sallow skin and lank hair, the cold eyes and the patented sneer. What was different?
The meeting ended, and the crowd dispersed. Remus was the first out the door. He waited by the staircase for who he was sure was to be the second person to leave. Severus Snape closed the door and walked passed Lupin, pausing only when the werewolf stepped in front of him. “Severus, I just wanted to thank you.”
Snape looked thoroughly confused. “For what?”
He smiled. “For not caring.”
Part Two - Progression
There’s a spot on the far side of the lake that no one ever visits, a small patch of land hidden beneath a circle of tall pine trees. In the center of this patch with trees so high that sunlight never reaches the floor, blooms one red flower -- crimson petals with white spots along its ruffled rim. On days when he can’t bear to deal with the rest of the world, he walks around the lake to the other side, to the spot that no one else knows about, to watch his red flower bloom in the middle of darkness, flourish where it has no business flourishing.
He knows that this flower must possess special properties, magical even, to grow in a spot that is rarely visited by the sun, in the dead of winter or the heat of summer. The inquisitive part of him longs to pick the blossom to study it, to find its secrets, its hidden magic. He often leans over it and studies its bright leaves, passing a gentle fingertip along the petal’s speckled curved edge, velvety and soft as down. He dreams of unlocking its secrets, of harnessing its essence. But he always leaves it just as he found it, blooming scarlet and bright in the midst of shadows. For Severus Snape it is a simple matter of respect owed to a survivor, and to remove it would be sacrilege. Blasphemy.
One bright, spring day he found himself sitting in shadows, staring at the blossom that practically glowed against the brown earth, thinking of Remus Lupin. In the six months since the werewolf had left on his assignment, Snape found himself on the other side of the lake more and more. The return to his former life, to the privacy of his quarters, didn’t contain half the joy he assumed it would. Some part of him missed Lupin waiting there. He never shared his work with anyone, choosing rather to save himself the trouble of fixing someone else’s errors, but Lupin was surprisingly competent, unobtrusive and almost not entirely horrid to have around.
After those few short weeks of collaboration, Snape found himself missing the company Lupin provided. He spent most of his life alone, so this recent change in disposition irked him. Why should it bother me now, he thought crossly. In his need to rid himself of these feelings, he assigned a record number of detentions and even volunteered to monitor those of other teachers. Nothing seemed to help. Eventually, he had to return to his rooms…his empty rooms.
He started to hate his chambers. He found himself voluntarily visiting Dumbledore for afternoon tea, making medicinal potions in the infirmary rather than his personal workroom, and sitting on the far side of the lake, in the shadows on a spring afternoon, wondering what the werewolf was up to.
It was mortifying.
With a sigh of concession to the god that seemed to enjoy torturing him habitually, he bid his flower farewell, and began the long journey to his dungeon…home. As the vast majority of students were home for the Easter break, the corridors of Hogwarts were particularly deserted. What was the use of being able to glide soundlessly through the hallways if there was no one to sneak up on and terrify? he thought almost wistfully.
He was trying to determine if he would rather not just die quickly in some horrific death—just to vary his routine—when he came upon the quiet form of someone leaning against the door to his rooms. Remus Lupin looked up in greeting and gave Severus a warm smile.
“There you are. I’ve been waiting nearly an hour.”
“You’re back,” Snape said, surprised.
“Very observant of you ,” he teased. “I got back just a bit ago. I promise not to take up too much of your time, I just wanted to give you something.”
“Fine, fine. Come in.”
Remus was visibly surprised at the invitation, almost as much as Snape was hearing himself issue it. “Are you sure? I don’t want to intrude.”
“It wouldn’t be an intrusion,” Snape answered quickly. “I was simply going to request that the house elves bring up some food as I will be working in my quarters this evening. They are incapable of preparing less than a full banquet and I would rather not have it all go to waste. You are merely convenient.”
Remus gave a small smile. “Far be it from me to refuse hospitality given so amiably, Severus. I would love a spot of dinner.”
Severus nodded and muttered the password to his rooms.
“You still haven’t changed your password,” Lupin remarked. “It’s been months.
Snape floundered a bit at the doorway. “Frankly, Lupin, constantly changing the wards got to be tedious. No one has the courage to try to enter uninvited, so I no longer bother.”
“Sounds like you are asking for a trespasser.”
“Don’t be preposterous. I simply don’t have the time. How was your trip to Beaubaxtons?” he quickly said, changing the topic. “Was it successful?”
“Quite," Lupin remarked happily, placing his satchel on the floor by the armchair. “They were more than happy to allow us entry into their archives. They have some amazing texts, Severus. You would have loved it.”
The next few hours were spent eating the feast prepared by the house elves and discussing Lupin’s discoveries in the Beaubaxtons archives. Snape hardly realized how late it was until Lupin yawned.
“Is my company that exhilarating, Lupin?”
“Don’t be silly, Severus. I’m actually having a rather pleasant time. I am, however, quite exhausted from the trip. I could sleep for days,” he said with a stretch. “I reckon I should return to Grimmauld Place.” His tone implied this was not his first choice.
“You may remain here for the night. I have an extra bedroom,” Snape said before he realized what he actually offered. “It is rather late and I would rather not have Mother Weasley reprimanding me for sending you home half asleep.” He could hardly look Lupin in the eyes.
“That…that would actually be wonderful. Thank you, Severus,” he said, softly.
Snape led Lupin down a dark corridor to the spare bedroom, a simple room of greens and blues with weathered, but elegant furnishings.
“If you need anything Erasmus is the house elf that services the dungeon. He is rather diligent and will get you anything you require.”
“Erasmus? That’s a rather odd name for a house elf, isn’t it?”
“It’s really something like Zippy. But I refuse to request anything from a creature named Zippy, so I renamed him. He seems to have taken to it well.”
Lupin let out a barking laugh. “You are something else, you know that, Severus?”
Severus wanted to smile but found those muscles in his face unwilling to move in the proper formation, so he settled for a nod.
“Goodnight, then.” Lupin turned to enter the room but stopped abruptly. “ Oh, before you turn in, I almost forgot. I have something for you. I happened upon Ancient Infusions and Remedies of the Far East in the Beaubaxtons library and they said I could have it as no one has ever opened it in the whole time they’ve owned it. You had just about every other region of the world covered, and I thought you’d like to have a complete collection.” He handed the dusty volume to Severus.
“That…that’s hasn’t been printed in over a century. It’s one of the rarest potions texts in existence,” said Severus, who looked at it with his mouth agape and his eyes wide.
“You’re welcome,” Lupin said with a smile. “I’m glad it’s in your hands. Seems a shame for it to be sitting in Beaubaxtons where no one appreciates its value. Shows you how lacking their Potions syllabus is, doesn’t it? They didn’t even realize what they had.” He gave Snape one last wistful look and said, “Good night, Severus.” Then, he closed the door behind him in a soft click.
Severus remained in the hallway staring at the book, wondering what shocked him more: the fact that he was holding one of the most rare and priceless books in all of potions making, that Lupin would recognize it as something that Snape would truly want, or the fact that it was a gift given freely from…a friend.
Snape couldn’t sleep that night and instead chose to stare at his new book. He tested it for curses, jinxes and hexes and found nothing. It didn’t burst into flames, the letters didn’t rearrange themselves when he tried to read them, and it wasn’t a portkey to some remote island.
He had no idea what to make of it.
The concept of friendship was a foreign one to the Potions master. Members of the House of Slytherin had minions, social connections, and strategic partners, but no one who could really be called a friend. One made allegiances and associations to garner favor, gain status, or secure protection. One did not simply do something for someone else because it was…nice. It was unheard of.
It was easier to think Lupin had ulterior motives, that he wanted something from Snape and was using this gift to lower his defenses before zeroing in for the kill. Snape would be damned if he was going to be indebted to the werewolf for anything. He needed to return the favor and to level the playing field once again. He would have to play nice.
To feel as if he owed Lupin something would never do. He needed to get a gift for the werewolf. Something just as special, just as significant, but he didn’t want it to look like he went to any trouble. He didn’t want it to look like he cared. He had, after all, his reputation to consider.
Severus Snape sat at his table, trying to look engrossed in the text before him. In truth he found himself nervous, unable to sleep, obsessed with the idea of finding a gift that wasn’t a gift. Figuring out what to give was only half as irritating as trying to figure out how to give it. He didn’t want to appear eager or excited. He didn’t want to appear as if he was looking for gratitude or approval. In fact, he didn’t want it to look like he gave it any thought, so consequently, he thought of nothing else.
Remus Lupin entered looked refreshed and invigorated. “Good morning, Severus.”
“You seem disgustingly chipper.”
“Sorry for the onslaught of joy so early in the morning, Severus. I just had the best night’s sleep I’ve had in months. That’s a right comfortable bed.”
“It serves a purpose.”
“Eating in your rooms again?”
“I often do on Saturday mornings. I consider it a reward for not incinerating a student during the previous week.
Remus smiled and sat at what appeared to be an extravagant breakfast. “The house elves do like to cook, don’t they?”
“They have no concept of a light meal, so we end up with enough food to feed a small nation.”
“Works for me. I’m famished.”
Severus sat quietly, occasionally turning pages in the text he wasn’t reading, while stealing glimpses at Lupin. The amount of food he was ingesting was indecent, his manner of eating, bordered on disgusting. And he was so bloody cheerful -- it was far too early for this. He looked better than Severus remembered, better than he ever had. The trip did him good, and Severus was annoyed to find himself pleased.
“What are your plans for the day, Severus?,” Remus asked.
He blinked. “Plans?”
“It is Saturday. Even you have a day off once in a while, don’t you?”
“A day off?”
“A. Day. Off. That’s when you don’t work and enjoy yourself.” Lupin paused. “You can enjoy yourself, can’t you? Outside of chopping roots and animal parts….and terrifying small children, of course.”
“Are you mocking me, wolf?”
“Teasing.” Lupin gave him a good-natured smile. “And lighten up.”
“You are disgustingly chirpy. I’m afraid to ask why.”
“Not used to seeing someone in good spirits, eh, Severus.”
“Six months ago you wanted nothing more than to live in abject misery, to dwell in your grief. It seems to me that you’ve recovered quite thoroughly.”
Remus shrugged. “I needed time, Severus. Time to accept things and look toward the future. There is a lot at stake currently and self pity leads nowhere. And in that time I’ve gathered myself together; I’ve had a chance to be useful. I’m a bit more prepared to face the world, I think.”
“Then I suggest you go face it. I have work to do.”
“Do you need help?”
Snape was prepared to tell the werewolf to go and bury bones or whatever one of his ilk did to amuse themselves, but he realized he had just been given the opening he was looking for. “As a matter of fact I do. I need to go into the Forbidden Forest to gather some materials. I would rather not waste an entire day doing so. “
“I’ll be glad to help,” Remus said. He wiped his chin and sat up. “I just need to report to Albus and send an owl off to Molly. I’ll meet you at Hagrid’s hut in about an hour.”
“You have forty-five minutes.”
They entered the forest with Snape reprimanding Lupin for making him wait three minutes past their appointed time.
The sun was bright that morning as they wandered through the forest for nearly two hours gathering wild plants, insects, and what Lupin was horrified to discover to be animal droppings.
“You really use these in your potions?” he asked, grimacing, as he sealed the jar lid on their latest find.
Snape gave a twisted smile. “What do you think gives the wolfsbane potion its distinctive flavor?”
Lupin stopped dead in his tracks, his mouth gaping wide. “Please tell me you’re joking.”
“Teasing,” he said plainly. “And lighten up,” he added before turning away.
“Wow, a sense of humor. Who would have thought?” Lupin called out.
The noon sun was shining brightly overhead when Snape suggested stopping for lunch.
“This way,” he said, leading Lupin to a clearing by the lake.
While setting out the small lunch he had the house elves pack – emphasizing that were it not small they would find themselves pickled in a jar on his shelf – he watched Lupin look out onto the lake with a bit of awe in his eyes.
“You know, Snape, I’ve seen a lot of this school and quite a bit of this forest, and I don’t think I’ve ever come across this spot.
“No one has,” he said.
“How did you find it?” Lupin asked as he sat down next to Snape and grabbed a sandwich.
“I stumbled upon it a long time ago,” he replied. “I find it a good place to go when one needs some time alone. When one wants some privacy.”
Lupin stared at him, his brow creased. “So it’s a good place to go when one wants to…get away from it all.”
“Yes…I suppose it is.”
Lupin kept his eyes on Snape and a small smile found his lips. “I’ll have to remember that.”
They sat in the circle of trees, watching the sunlight shine in the ripples of the lake waters, and neither spoke for the rest of the afternoon.
Part three - Deviations
Remus Lupin took it upon himself to visit Snape, and much as the Potions master hated to admit it, it proved to be almost pleasant.
Snape had had associations during his schooling, but those led to the dark years, so he didn’t dwell on them. He had acquaintances among the staff and fellow Order members, but that came out of mutual respect and need rather than any real camaraderie. He had an odd sort of relationship with Madam Pomfrey that could be called amicable; she seemed to like Snape for some reason. Hagrid, as well. But Snape thought that had more to do with the fact that Hagrid seemed to get very attached to prickly creatures, the type others avoided as much as possible. And there was Filch, but that was just good for a few drinks, a quick exchange of torture techniques, and conversations about flailing students -- entertaining to be sure, but hardly a friendship.
This thing– whatever it was – with Lupin was easy. Conversations flowed naturally, and at times, were even interesting. Lupin wasn’t completely useless at chess, so matches lasted for a long while before Snape trounced him. He even showed an interest in learning to make his own wolfsbane potion, and surprisingly enough, showed a bit of aptitude.
The biggest surprise, however, was that spending time with the werewolf was relatively painless and - though he would never admit it - enjoyable. He might even say he looked forward to it – well, maybe not aloud – but what he was feeling could be called anticipation, if one looked really hard.
The lack of tension between them didn’t go unnoticed, and earned him a smile and a slap on the back from Hagrid, a suspicious stare from Minerva McGonagall, and a twinkle from Dumbledore. It was nearly enough for him to hex Lupin in their presence to get things back to normal. Snape was rather disturbed that is was just nearly enough, but not quite.
Lupin had not come to visit for a few days. When he finally returned, he seemed distracted. He was quiet for most of the visit and stared absentmindedly as he swirled the glass of port in his hands, coating the sides with thick liquid. “I envy you,” he said, suddenly.
Snape, who had been watching him closely from behind his own empty glass, blinked. “What?”
Lupin didn’t look up. “You have this sense of what is right and just and you follow that despite what others might think, despite what others might feel…despite others. You stick to your convictions and your own sense of justice, no matter how warped it may seem to the rest of the world.”
Snape snorted. “Is that supposed to be a compliment?”
“I’ve always been concerned about what others think. I’ve always been concerned about what others feel. My convictions have been set aside—more that once—for the sake of the general consensus… for peace…or what I liked to convince myself was the greater good. I’m not a bad man, Severus. But I’m not sure I’m a good one.”
“And I am?”
“In your own way. You do what must be done; you just choose your own terms.”
“What brought this on?” he found himself asking despite himself. Lupin had been in good spirits since his return from France. It was odd that he suddenly slipped back to the man he was before he left, the one that was nearly broken.
“I’ve always thought this, Severus, at least since we were in school together. I think it’s why Sirius hated you so passionately. You didn’t care. You truly didn’t care what others thought of you. No matter what he said to you, you just returned the slur; no matter what he did, you replied in kind but you never apologized for anything or even showed the slightest hint of remorse.”
“If that is another compliment, might I say that your skills are quite lacking.”
“I don’t mean to offend.”
“Really? Let’s review, shall we? You start off by saying my convictions are warped. You continue to say that I have no capacity for emotion-“
“I didn’t… Severus, I’m trying to tell you I admire you. I admire how strongly you feel about things and that you don’t let others influence what you feel is right. I am well aware that your control over your emotions has helped you survive all these years just as I am aware that your convictions have helped others survive. I am not condemning you…I wish I was more like you.“
There was sincerity in Lupin’s voice; Snape didn’t know how to respond. He had never heard such words spoken aloud. Interestingly enough, it made him uncomfortable and—something else. Lupin shouldn’t want to be like him. Lupin was fine…
“The world can hardly handle one of me,” he said, stopping any thoughts that might try to find their way into his mind. “Two would surely bring on the next Ice Age.”
Lupin smiled. “Yes, I suppose it would be unfair to unleash two of you on the world.”
It was a trying day during a trying week. Hell, the whole year was almost a wash as far as he was concerned. That familiar feeling of suffocation surrounded him. It was time to get out of his dungeon before he did something rash, like look for conversation in the staff room. He thought longingly of his spot, the one he gave to Lupin. Well, he didn’t really give it to Lupin. He just informed Lupin of its existence. He never renounced his claim to the spot.
With the full knowledge that he was Severus Snape, and as such could go where ever he damn well pleased, he headed to the clearing by the lake. It was with great displeasure that he realized someone was already there. It was with even greater displeasure that said someone was the werewolf. Snape wanted to turn back down the path and head home to sulk, and whine, and possibly…probably drink inordinate amounts of brandy, but he found himself rooted to the spot. He found himself staring at Remus Lupin.
As much as the word is bandied about, it isn’t often one comes across something that is truly beautiful. It isn’t often that one comes upon something so lovely that mere words cannot adequately describe its true splendor. That’s what Severus Snape thought as he came upon the scene: Remus Lupin sitting on the shore, his arms wrapped around his knees, his bare feet dipping in the cool waters of the lake, the wind whipping his hair, slightly obscuring his face. Tawny eyes and pink lips stood vivid in the sunlight.
It looked to him like a painting - a perfect moment captured in sharp lines and vivid colors. An idealized version of a scene, as nothing in real life could really be that lovely.
And like a piece of art, it was meant to be admired from a distance, undisturbed by those who have no place in its world. Severus Snape took one last look before turning away and walking back down the path to his home…and his solitude.
From that day forward Severus Snape avidly avoided Remus Lupin. The last image of the werewolf was burned in his mind and refused to leave him in peace. What was worse were the feelings that image invoked in him, emotions he hadn’t allowed himself to feel since he was too young to know better.
The world was in a precarious place at the moment and the last thing he needed was a distraction, which was the only way he could really characterize Lupin. It was fine when he was just a diversion. Diversions are easy to deal with as they are temporary annoyances. Distractions, however, make you burn cauldrons and forget to sneer at the Gryffindor table all during breakfast.
Snape started feeing nostalgic for the good old days when there was a clear line between hate and …less hate.
Despite his best efforts however, the werewolf was not taking a hint.
“You’re avoiding me.”
“Don’t be ludicrous”
“I know when I’m being ignored, Severus.”
“You’re being evasive.”
“No, I’m being diligent. Small matter of a war, you know. Eminent danger. Sadistic men who consider masks casual wear. Brainless children to educate and protect.”
“Has something happened?”
“Other than the usual bedlam?”
“You know what I’m asking. Have there been any new communications…reports?”
“Nothing…nothing new since the last meeting.”
“Fine then. You are just being your usual enigmatic self. As you have nothing pressing, I will be by this evening.”
“I have other plans.”
“No, you don’t.”
“How do you know?”
“You would have said so right away. You’ve already talked for too long. Were you really pressed for time I would have gotten a snarl and possibly a bark.”
“I do not bark.”
“Yes, you do.”
“I must away, Severus. Things to do, you know. See you this evening.”
All through his life Severus Snape thought some god was using him as a Bludger; now, he was sure of it.
Part Four - Modifications
For reasons he had yet to understand, Severus Snape had let Remus Lupin back in to his life after an all-too brief hiatus. Soon enough the pattern returned, but the usual evenings of chess and conversation expanded to include outings, meals -- and Merlin -- a concert.
They were seeing each other almost nightly, and Snape prayed daily for some natural disaster – an earthquake, a hurricane, perhaps a tsunami – something that would deter the werewolf, as Snape himself seemed to have lost the ability to turn him away.
People were beginning to take notice that the two were regularly seen in public together. This led to more slaps on the back from Hagrid, more suspicious stares from Minerva McGonagall, and more damn twinkles from Dumbledore. To make matter worse, the students were noticing.
Snape decided the only way to be Lupin-free for a night would be to indulge in his favorite pastime – entrapment. He looked forward to an evening of prowling the halls in search of curfew breakers and miscreants. Nothing made him happier than ruining a lovers’ rendezvous or catching some student leaving a dorm that wasn’t his. Seeing the sweet afterglow of romance melt off their faces at the sight of the Potions master was what real magic was all about.
He stood guard at his favorite spot, the high bushes behind the Astronomy Tower, and waited. Then, as if it was Christmas morning and he had been good all year, the dulcet tones of Harry Potter wafted through the air. Snape felt all warm and tingly. Next came the deeper voice of his shadow, Ron Weasley. Two of the most annoying Gryffindors -- there is a Father Christmas. He prepared to glide soundlessly out of the shrubbery and pounce when he froze at the sound of his own name.
“Snape’s been in a good mood lately.”
“Tell me about it, I haven’t had a detention in weeks.”
“You think it’s because of Lupin?”
“ ‘Course it is. Snape’s lucky to be going out with him. Probably the best thing that ever happened to him.”
Snape felt ill.
“Still can’t believe they’re together. “
“You should get over it. It’s been months.”
They continued on, but Snape had lost all feeling in his legs. They thought Lupin and he were dating. Then, it hit him. The slaps, the stares, the blasted twinkles. The whole school thought they were going out.
Oh, someone was going to pay.
It was a small blessing that the next day was Saturday. Snape didn’t think he could face the world just yet. This reminded Snape why he avoided interpersonal relationships in the first place: they all ended badly. He paced his room like a caged tiger ready to attack at any moment. He needed a target—a victim on which he could expend some of his indignation. The second small blessing of the day occurred when Remus Lupin knocked on his door.
Without a word, Snape opened the door, grabbed Lupin by the sleeve and yanked him inside.
“Don’t speak,” he growled. “Don’t say a bloody word. Do you have any idea what is going on at this school? Do you realize the entire population of this hell hole I have the unfortunate distinction to call home thinks that you are my….that we are….that you and I are…dating?”
Lupin sighed and dropped his shoulders. “You had to expect it was going to get out.”
Snape’s well-prepared tirade was lost. In its place was a less than dignified, “Wha…wha…what?!?”
“I know it really isn’t official as we have yet to do anything other than hold hands, but people were bound to notice.”
Somewhere in the back of Snape’s mind a voice was speaking of the dangers of inhaling too many potions ingredients. Professor Kirsch’s clipped tones warned, “Severus, those toxins with which you surround yourself will poison you if you don’t get out more.” Well, Severus decided, the old battleaxe was right. It had happened. A life spent in a dungeon lined with jars full of bits and pieces of dead things had finally succeeded in sucking him into some sort of bizarre alternate reality. In this world, Remus Lupin had lost his mind.
“Severus,” called a voice, and it took Snape several minutes before he realized it was not just in his head.
“Lupin…,” he began but stopped soon after when he realized he had no idea what to say. He was attracted to the man before him, and oddly enough, it seemed to be mutual. The entire populace of the school already thought it so; no worry of reaction or retaliation. So what was the problem, really? The problem, Snape realized, was that there was a war going on and several over-ambitious, not to mention murderous, psychopaths were on the loose. The problem was that a lifetime of isolation made the thought of any sort of intimacy terrifying. The problem was that he was supposed to hate the damn beast. The problem was that he was Severus Snape, and nothing—nothing—came easily. “Lupin,” he began again, “this isn’t going to work.”
“Whatever you think is going on between us.”
Lupin smiled and shook his head. “I was waiting for this.”
“For the ‘nothing can come of this’ speech.” Snape made to interrupt, but the werewolf had other ideas and stopped him with a wave of his hand and a sigh. “We never seem to be on the same page, Severus. Someone or something always seems to come between us with the gentle fervor of an edgy firing squad. There will always be something out there, Severus: a well meaning but imprudent friend, a war, and more often than not, our own stupidity. The truth of the matter is that life is short and time too fleeting to pretend that we can try this again some other time. If we don’t act on this now we probably won’t have the time later. You know this as well as I do. Sometimes there isn’t another place or another time.”
“You’ve put some thought into this?” Snape remarked, somewhat surprised at the eloquence of the short speech.
“I’ve known you for decades, Severus. Do you really think anyone in the world knows you better?”
Snape ventured to guess that statement was true. “When exactly did we actually start dating?”
“Just after you showed me the clearing.”
“Ah,” he replied, which seemed appropriate. “We have been taking it slow, haven’t we?”
“Why wasn’t I aware?”
“Denial most likely.”
“Ah,” he repeated. “What made everyone else so sure?”
“My continued existence was probably the biggest sign. Lack of any visible scarring. The serious decline in detentions. The students aren’t crying after your classes, and the house-elves aren’t drawing straws to see who had to venture into the dungeons.”
“I have been lackadaisical, haven’t I?” He stared at Lupin, standing before him making jokes so confidently, so certain about everything. “What make you so sure?”
Lupin gave a bemused smile before looking down at his own hand. “I suppose it started when you first let me in. When you were the only one who truly seemed to understand what I needed. Then I went away, and I found myself thinking of you…missing you.” He looked up. “When I came back I expected things to be as they always were between us, but you let me in again. Then you gave me a precious gift. You gave me a piece of your privacy—the one thing you treasure more than anything else—and I thought it the most generous thing anyone had ever done for me. I suppose the rest evolved from there. Friendship was hardest, the rest…natural.”
“Ah,” he said for a third time. It became obvious that he wasn’t going to win this battle…or maybe he was depending on how he was planning on justifying this to himself in the morning. “If,” he began, but paused to give himself one last chance to run away screaming into the night. “If we were to continue this…relationship, what would be the next step?”
“Technically, we should kiss.”
“Well, yes, if you want to be methodical about the whole thing. The kiss is often used as the true gauge on the feasibility of the relationship. If we kiss, and it falls flat, it would mean that we were meant to be friends—a miracle in and of itself, really, not something that should be scoffed at.”
“And if it doesn’t fall flat?”
Lupin merely smiled. “If it doesn’t, I may have a difficult time letting you go.”
“Care to try?”
“Not really, but as I doubt you will leave me alone until I do, I see no other course of action—other than an unforgiveable, and really, who has the energy.”
“Such a romantic, Severus,” he said, walking slowly towards the Potions master.
“If you were looking for romance you came to the wrong place.”
“I never expected hearts and flowers from you , Severus. On the contrary, the sight alone might kill me.”
Lupin was exceedingly close as he said those words. Snape was aware of the werewolf’s slightly accelerated breathing, the gentle rise and fall of his chest, and an almost imperceptible tremor in his hands. “What are you expecting?” he asked.
Lupin didn’t answer. He merely lifted the side of his mouth in a lopsided grin and leaned in slowly. Severus watched the pink lips gradually descend, noting they were slightly dry and chapped, and he noiselessly licked his own in anticipation.
They were soft, he discerned, and warm... and didn’t remain dry for long. Lupin tasted of mint tea and sage, a combination Snape thought he might never tire of. And there was the gentle friction of a stubbled cheek against his own—Lupin would have to shave if this was to become a common occurrence; it just wouldn’t do to have his own cheek rubbed raw.
It was a long, leisurely kiss. Relaxed and soft. All in all, it was a satisfactory experiment for the Potions master, but he didn’t think pulling away would be prudent just yet. One must be thorough about these things. He wrapped his arms around the small of Lupin’s back, pulling him closer. He rather liked the way the werewolf’s back curved and the way their bodies seemed to mold to one another’s quite naturally. At that point a hand began to caress his chin and venture, quite bravely, into the back of his neck. Soon fingers intertwined with his hair, and a determined grasp pushed his lips harder on to the werewolf’s.
At some point they moved. They must have, as Snape found his back pushed up against the wall of his chambers and Lupin’s hands growing more aggressive. The gentle stroking of his chin was now replaced by a more urgent tugging on his robes. Soon he found his collar exposed and a pair of incisors pressing in the soft flesh at the joint of his neck and shoulder. The bite was soothed by a slow languid sweep of a warm tongue and the ghost of a kiss.
Lupin paused and looked into Snape’s eyes. “So what do you think?”
“Lupin, I think your powers of persuasion are highly underrated.”
He laughed. “Do you think I can persuade you to use my first name?”
It was weeks later that Severus found himself in the clearing, his fingertips stroking the petals of the red flower that bloomed where it had no business blooming. It seemed to him impossible for a thing of beauty to grow in such a place and such a time, but despite his concerns it flourished still and seemed to grow brighter with each passing day.
“What are you thinking of?” asked a soft voice over his shoulder.
“Nothing in particular.” Which meant everything in the world.
They walked back to the quarters that they had come to think of as theirs, their hands, firmly at their sides, occasionally brushing. The public display was as close to a declaration of love as Snape ever attempted, and it was enough for Remus, who understood the sentiment in the gesture.
Outside these doors a war was being waged. Outside their chamber, murderous madmen ran loose. Outside was everyone else. But inside these walls….
Remus waved his wand, casting a sepia glow over the room. He turned to Severus who sat in a nearby chair, his fingernail slowly running across his chin as he regarded the werewolf. It was the same look of apprehension he always assumed just before they made love, like he was wondering when it was all going to go wrong.
It was his custom to soothe his anxious lover, so Remus began to undress, slowly unbuttoning his shirt. Severus’s eyes followed the trail left by Remus’s fingers, stripping away the layers between them and exposing his pale, bare skin. Soon Remus wore nothing but his trousers, which he unclasped with a snap of his fingers. They slid a bit low on his hips as he walked over to the Potions master.
Remus kneeled in front of Severus, whose eyes now sparkled even in the dim lighting. He brought his fingers to the high collar his lover insisted on wearing, and began to undress him. Severus sat back, his eyes now honed in on Remus’s faint smile. Soon he found his robes cautiously sliding off his shoulders, and the cool air of the bedchamber tickling the warm skin of his chest. Remus leaned forward and placed his lips on the newly exposed collar, placing soft kisses along the clavicle. He nuzzled Severus’s neck and shoulders with gentle bites as his hands traveled up and down his lover’s torso. His fingers brushed the bared nipples, and Severus let out a soft moan.
They always made love slowly. Remus said he wanted to savor the moment, that he wasn’t interested in frantic and frenzied paces. He wouldn’t rush what was so long in the making. For his part, Severus wanted the moment to last forever, fearing it would be his last. He wasn’t used to joy.
Remus reached his hand down, opening Severus’s trousers and releasing the straining erection. He lowered his head and lapped at the dripping tip of the hard length he was gently stroking, casually running his tongue along the underside and around the top. Severus tried to focus, fighting the urge to throw his head back and fall into oblivion but he didn’t want to turn his eyes away from such a glorious sight. He loved to watch Remus wrap his lips around his shaft and run his mouth up and down, leaving a glistening trail in his wake.
He felt the pressure starting to build and knew he wouldn’t last much longer. He gently pulled Remus up and buried his fingers in his short brown hair as he pulled the werewolf into a searing kiss. Lupin’s tongue slid fluidly in Severus’s waiting mouth and his arms wrapped possessively around Severus’s slender waist. They made it to the bed without breaking the kiss.
Remus’s lips began to travel down Severus’s neck and chest. As a mouth latched onto his hardened nipples, Severus found a slicked finger sliding inside him. A moan indicated he was ready for more. He liked taking things slowly but sometimes the werewolf was a bit too leisurely. Remus let out a chuckle at his lover’s impatience and quickly added a second finger. By the time a third was added Snape was nearly incoherent.
Remus kneeled between Severus’s spread thighs. ”Are you ready, love?” he would always ask, to which Snape would close his eyes and nod. Severus was surprised to find no scathing remark on his lips. It was a sign to him about the depth of his feelings for Remus and he was fairly certain Remus understood the importance of it, because he always stopped to cup Severus’s face before he entered him.
Soon Severus felt Remus breach his opening, and a long, thick shaft slowly fill him. When he was in as far as he could go they both stopped, both needing a moment to adjust to the feeling of being so perfectly connected.
Remus began to thrust, altering his angle slightly until he found the spot that made Severus cry out. His eyes would light up at the sound of Severus’s moans, and he pushed harder and deeper. As his breathing started to grow shallower, the thrusts got faster. His climax building, Remus began to stroke the beautiful erection rubbing against his abdomen. It was when Severus turned his head and bit his lip to stifle his own shouts, when he felt the warm trickle of Severus climax drip down his fingers that he succumbed and came with his lover’s name dancing on his lips.
Severus laid back, his black hair fanning out over the pillow. Remus’s shorter, thicker body was stretched out over him. Remus leaned on his elbow, his eyes looking almost pleadingly into Snape’s. It was a look Snape had seen a few times in the amber eyes. “Severus,” he began, “I...I—”
Severus silenced him with another kiss. He wasn’t ready to hear it yet, to hear the words Remus had been trying to say for some time. Whatever he felt for the werewolf, whatever they felt for each other, it wasn’t time for proclamations just yet, but a part of him hoped that it wouldn’t be too much longer.