Author: Bell Witch
Characters: Remus Lupin/Severus Snape (big shocker, those two, considering what site this was written for), Harry, Ron, Hermione, OCs
Warnings: Language, adult themes (child molestation), boinking, soap-fu. My first actual sex scene...
Disclaimer: Oh, let's see. None of the characters from the HP universe are mine-the bloody brilliant JK Rowling created those and WB owns the movie images. This is for entertainment purposes only (yours, mine, theirs?) and I've got nothing to sue for. Besides which, Ms. Rowling approves of fanfiction and is flattered by the concept that others wish to play in her world.
Summary: Snape accidentally finds out about a side effect of the Wolfsbane potion.
Notes: For the third wave of Master and the Wolf challenges. This is a combination of scenarios 191 and 195 (191: Virgin!Severus and 195: Alpha!Remus marks Severus as his). Thanks to Tarallynne Moon for her beta work, and to TPauSilver for her continuity beta. They both caught mistakes. The ones they didn't catch are my fault.
Archive: When finished, it will be at the Master and the Wolf archive [http://chance.slashcity.net/masterandthewolf/] until Third Wave rules allow it to be anywhere else. There will be a link from my LiveJournal [www.livejournal.com/users/bell_witch/] If you'd like it on your site, please ask first
Feedback: Sure. I'm new at writing for this fandom, slash, and posting to the web in general.
It was after midnight and Hogwarts was silent as Professor Snape patrolled the stone corridors. He did more than his fair share of rounds, not from any particular sense of duty but simply because he couldn't sleep. Lord Voldemort's disastrous raid on the Ministry of Magic at the end of last term had cost him a number of his Death Eaters, but not all. They had to remain vigilant in case he tried to do something at the school.
Vigilant, I sound like that mad bastard Moody. It was highly unlikely that Lord Voldemort would be able to penetrate the grounds of Hogwarts, but he of all people knew how the Dark Lord operated. The children were loud and irritating, but he was responsible for protecting them: protect them he would, the ungrateful fools.
Snape was in a fouler mood than usual. For no readily discernable reason, he'd been unable to sleep for nearly two days. On top of that, the double potions class of first-year Gryffindors and Slytherins had not one, but two students so inept that they nearly rivalled Longbottom for sheer uselessness. Longbottom himself no longer took potions classes, as his OWL scores were not high enough. He'd got rid of one walking disaster only to have a pair take his place. It was enough to drive him mad. For every student that actually cared about learning, there were a score wasting his time.
Not even the ghosts are about tonight. Last hallway, and then perhaps I might be able to get some sleep.
Several members of staff had their rooms on this second-floor hallway. Madam Pince and Professor Binns at one end, although why a ghost needed apartments was beyond imagining; Marchbanks in the middle; and Remus Lupin at the far end. With the Ministry of Magic having actually admitted that Lord Voldemort had indeed returned, they were climbing over themselves in an effort to ingratiate themselves to Dumbledore. One result of this was Lupin's return to his position as Defence Against the Dark Arts professor: Dumbledore insisted that the werewolf was safe, and the Ministry allowed him back at Hogwarts. At this point in time, parents were unlikely to disagree with the headmaster's opinions, especially since the Ministry was finally backing him up.
Snape hated to admit it even to himself: Lupin was actually competent in his post.
Still, his rooms were set on the very end of a corridor where, even without soundproofing spells, no one would overhear him during the full moon. This made Snape feel somewhat vindicated. It wasn't much, but life was currently so dreary that he took what little comfort he could where he found it. Things like sentencing Gryffindors to detention at the slightest provocation-it was the highlight of many a day.
Something wasn't right with the magic here. What was wrong with the wards? His wand indicated it was Lupin's rooms. The wards were set not from within, but to keep anyone from getting out, and Lupin hadn't set them himself. It might be early in the term, but enough time had passed to establish a routine. This didn't fit.
There was no full moon tonight, it was tomorrow. Besides, Lupin couldn't work the doors as a werewolf even if he was taking the wolfsbane potion that Severus went to so much trouble to make. He was taking the potion, because Severus had watched him drink it earlier this very evening.
Had the Death Eaters come for the werewolf without his knowledge? Lord Voldemort surely would have informed him if they were making an attempt at capture. But Lupin was locked in, so they hadn't taken him anywhere, unless that's what they wanted him to think.
If Voldemort had a captive werewolf he would use it and Lupin would kill simply because he couldn't help himself. He had to see what was going on in there.
The warding was very strong, but Snape was good at breaking through sealing spells. He might have had a time to get out, but breaking in wasn't nearly so difficult.
"Alohomora!" He cleared the last obstacle and entered. "Colloportus!" If someone was monitoring the door, it was best to keep it sealed.
Lupin's sitting room was similar in size to Snape's own and was sparsely appointed with furniture obviously supplied by Hogwarts. It may as well have been in the dungeons as it had no windows and was quite dim. A reddish flame in a globe emitted feeble light, enough to tell that there was no one here.
What if Lupin had been taken? That would be terrible, not that he cared much for Lupin personally, he assured himself. He didn't. But to be in the hands of Lord Voldemort was a fate deserved by few. If he were used to kill randomly it would destroy the normally gentle man.
Gentle! He nearly killed you. The werewolf had nearly killed him, not Lupin. Lupin is the werewolf, you idiot.
Arguing with himself was a waste of time. In the years since the incident at the Shrieking Shack, Severus' life had been in jeopardy more than he cared to think about. That had been the first time, though, and he'd never forget it, nor could he forgive. Sirius Black was dead, so was James Potter. Had James known what Sirius planned and saving Severus' life was a set-up, or was the rescue genuine? And what about Lupin?
He tried to think back objectively. Lupin had tried to apologise, to tell him how sorry he was that Sirius sent him on the path beneath the whomping willow, but Severus refused to listen. True, the Marauders were never as close after that incident as they had been before. Lupin and Black especially, but even Potter and Black no longer spent so much time together. Of course, Potter was spending more and more hours with Lily Evans, especially seventh year when they were Head Boy and Girl. Severus recalled that Lupin spent much of his seventh year alone, studying.
Perhaps it was true, that Lupin (and Potter, damn him) hadn't been in on it. Did Lupin genuinely regret that he'd nearly killed Severus, or was it simply that he'd almost killed anyone. Now he knew Lupin a bit more from working with him in the Order: werewolf yes, but murderer no.
Now, the man was almost unfailingly polite to him, even when Severus was beyond rude in return. All this, after Severus had let the public know his secret and caused his resignation from Hogwarts three years prior. Severus actually felt a twinge of guilt.
He walked silently toward the bedroom and carefully opened the door. Another light-filled globe stood on a low bookshelf bathing the room with the same eerie glow and causing the furniture to throw deep shadows onto the walls. Sharp eyes used to gloom scanned the room. There was someone on the bed.
It was Lupin, lying there with his eyes open, unmoving. Severus drew his wand.
"Denudo Incantatem!" No, there were no binding spells cast on him.
"Lupin?" He stepped forward into the room. Not liking an open space at his back, he closed the door behind him. Cautiously, he made his way over to the four-poster, eyes locked on the supine figure. In the fraction of a second when he passed the corner post and his line of vision was obscured by the hangings, the werewolf came to life, launching out from the enclosed space of the bed at Severus. Snape had enough time to make a partial turn before he was knocked to the floor. He kept a death grip on his wand, and managed to keep hold of it as he fell. He broke his fall, taking the bulk of his weight on his forearms.
Lupin landed with his hands on Severus' scapulae, which wrenched his shoulders painfully. Loud, growling noises sounded in Severus' ears, and he also heard loud sniffing. But Lupin was in human form, so what the hell was going on?
"Get off of my back."
At the sound of his voice, Lupin made a curious snuffle and a pawing gesture that pulled Severus' robes uncomfortably tight around his neck. He twisted his arm around his body with difficulty, pointing his wand at Lupin's torso.
Lupin flew across the room, twisting in midair. He landed on all fours and whirled about immediately to face the dark-clad wizard who rose gracefully to his feet. Wand extended, Severus narrowed his eyes to obsidian slits.
"I don't know what you think you're doing, Lupin. Explain yourself."
Thigh muscles bunched and twitched beneath rough brown trousers. The usually placid professor was now anything but. He coiled and sprang.
"Petri..." was as much as Severus was able to get out before Lupin had bounded over and smacked his wand from his hand. It rolled underneath the bed, unreachable. With an animal snarl, Lupin was on him, knocking him once again to the floor. He hit bum first. It hurt his tailbone like hell, but made the landing with Lupin's hands on his shoulders-from the front this time-slightly more bearable. As it was, he could feel the left shoulder shift from its socket. It began to throb dully. His head swam and he fought for consciousness.
A cold nose nuzzling at his neck brought him to himself. His left arm was almost useless, but he brought up his right as far as he could, smacking at Lupin to get his attention.
"Lupin, you are a werewolf, not a vampire." Snape was amazed that his iron control held and his voice didn't quaver. "Stop that at once."
Lupin raised his head. Severus could see the man's nostrils flaring as he sniffed at his prey. Then their eyes met and Severus could not suppress the hiss of surprise. Lupin's eyes were usually blue: now they were rich amber that seemed to be able to see inside his skin. He searched his memory while Lupin continued his thorough scent exploration, but was unable to come up with any hexes that could be causing this. Besides, he'd used a detection spell and Lupin wasn't under any magical influence.
It was unnerving having Lupin's face that close to his own, but it was worse when he turned his head to the side. At that point, the curious, cold nose had poked into his ear causing an undignified yelp to escape his lips. That emission had elicited a series of answering yips. Snape shut up. Lupin was studying him, obviously. He'd let him up when he finished, so he need only wait.
After an interminable time in which he had to endure Lupin sniffing up his nostrils (ugh!), the werewolf in human form sat back on his haunches eyeing him curiously. The head tilted to one side in a gesture that would have been comical were it not for the situation. It appeared the examination was about over, a fact that made Snape profoundly grateful. Animals sniffing about one's person was one thing-disgusting, but that's how animals behaved-but having what looked like human being do it was truly unsettling.
Lupin leaned forward. Perhaps not quite finished. His left hand settled uncomfortably on Snape's sternum and the point of contact flared into crushing pain as more weight rested on it. While Snape tried to draw air into his lungs, Lupin's right hand pawed and tore at the neck and shoulder of Snape's robes. It was the left, most likely dislocated one, and a particularly powerful swipe caused Snape to bellow in pain. Another swipe had Snape's head filling with grey fog, and he heard his robes tear. Lupin hooked his claw-like fingers into the rent fabric and pulled the seam farther open. He stuck his face into the hole and sniffed before returning to paw at the shirt underneath. The tightly closed neck tightened over Snape's windpipe before the button popped and he could breathe again. Two more buttons pulled out before Lupin had pulled the shirt adequately open. He sniffed at the exposed flesh a moment before opening his mouth wide and sinking his teeth into the muscle and tendon of Snape's shoulder.
"Lupin!" Snape roared and swore while the werewolf worried at the wound, gnawing until he broke skin.
Apparently that was what he'd been after, because once blood started to flow, he sniffed again, licked the trickle of red clean, and rolled off Snape, ignoring him completely.
The glare capable of reducing students to tears was ineffectual on the back of a self-satisfied werewolf, so Snape turned awkwardly to his right side and pushed himself upright. It wasn't safe now to search for his wand-Lupin's attention might be elsewhere for the moment, but who knew when it would turn back to him? Snape backed toward the bedroom door. Lupin turned once to watch, and Snape froze until the amber eyes had turned away again.
On the other side of the door, Snape finally took a look at the bite mark on his shoulder. It was a mass of teeth marks with a few punctures that had already stopped bleeding. There would be a prize of a bruise there tomorrow, but it wasn't life threatening by any means. The full moon was only one day off. There had never been a case of lycanthropy spread not on a night of a full moon, but Lupin's behaviour had been so very wolfish that Severus wasn't completely certain he was safe. He had to clean it out, quickly. There would also be the problem of popping his shoulder back into place. He had no intention of going to Madam Pomfrey and being humiliated; he would do it himself. It would hurt worse, but it was possible to do. He wasn't sure if he could take a pain potion, as it might react with the salve he planned on using to clean the werewolf bite.
There would be no sleeping tonight, but at least he would know the why of it.
Damn! He needed his wand to break the spell on the door. The hell if he was going back in that room where the crazed man-wolf could maul him again. If he didn't need to clean that bite so badly he would have resigned himself to stay, but he did, so...he looked about the room.
What was that, there on the table? If that was what he thought it was, yes! Lupin's wand. He grabbed it, broke the spell on the door and went out, tossing the wand on the floor behind him as he left. Let the door stay unlocked-he just didn't care. He would return for his own wand in the morning.
Who in the name of Salazar Slytherin was knocking on his door this early? It was loud enough that he could hear it from his bedroom. It echoed through his tired head. To his amazement, Severus had managed two hours of sleep, but it wasn't enough. He had taken a look at his robes when he'd risen (ripped along the shoulder seam, but possibly reparable) and kept the shirt from his regular laundry so the house elves would know to sew on new buttons. The wolf bite was an inverted poppy, with the red centre surrounded by black bruising and his shoulder ached a little. Whoever was at his door would feel the weight of his temper.
"What are you doing here?"
"Good morning, Severus. Might I come in?" He pulled Snape's long, black wand from the pocket of his robes and held it out. Snape grabbed it.
"I see no reason for further discussion. You found my wand. You gave it back. Now leave me alone." He began to close the door.
"Wait, please. I found your wand, yes-in my quarters, and underneath my bed, at that."
"Let me come in, just for a moment. Please."
Snape rolled his eyes and sighed in annoyance. He stepped back and waved the salt-and-sandy-haired man inside. He closed the door.
"One moment only."
"I noticed my wand in the centre of the floor when I left my bedroom, so I looked round to see if anything else had been moved. My door was unlocked and my wards were down, so I thought perhaps Peeves had come in and thrown things about, although nothing else looked out of place. Back in my bedroom I smelled something. Tonight is the full moon, as you well know, and my senses...Anyway, it was familiar enough to get me looking some more and I found your wand under my bed. What happened, Severus?"
Remus' eyes, back to their usual blue, held apprehension to the point of near panic. Was he afraid he'd bedded the indomitable potions master and somehow didn't remember? It was almost amusing, although Severus moved quickly to disallow this notion.
"Nothing happened, Lupin. As you say, your senses are heightened at this time, so you know I'm speaking the truth--you'd smell it on me if I wasn't."
"I know that. What were you doing in my rooms, Severus, and why did you come in the first place?"
"I was doing nothing, and my reason for being there will no doubt be a source of entertainment for you. I was doing my rounds and noticed that your rooms were sealed from the outside and decided to check on the why of it. The Dark Lord would be most interested in having a werewolf as a pet."
"Thank you, Severus, for being concerned about me."
"Don't be preposterous. I was not concerned for your welfare specifically."
Remus' smile faltered. Of course Snape wouldn't care what happened to him, it had been an absurd notion and Remus wasn't quite sure why it mattered so much. That distracting smell was back, the same one from his bedroom. It wasn't Snape himself, but something about Snape that was making his mind reel. Something different.
"Then why did you bother if you weren't worried?"
"It had nothing to do with you. I simply would not like to see the other side able to make their own pack of werewolves."
"Yes, of course. I understand that, and thank you again for looking in. I don't remember a thing, Severus. How did your wand get under my bed? I think I might know a little bit about what happened, if you would care to listen."
"I would not. My wand was where it was because I dropped it. You've done your good deed in returning it, so do me the courtesy of going away." He opened the door in a pointed gesture.
"Of course. I am sorry for bothering you."
"Don't do it again." He closed the door in Lupin's face.
"Well, a good morning to you, too, Professor Snape," Remus said, turning away and climbing the stair leading up from the dungeons.
Of course nothing had happened, he'd have known immediately from the smell if he and Snape had...He shook his head at the thought. The prickly Potions Master would not be his first choice for a lover, but Remus was surprised that thinking of Snape in such terms didn't cause the revulsion he would have imagined. One had to admit he was an interesting man. Interesting, but aggravating. Heaven forbid Lupin should think that Snape had real concern for him or anyone else.
Lord Voldemort definitely would be interested in having werewolves under his control. With Lupin to make them and Snape to brew Wolfsbane to keep their minds intact, he'd have a terrifying fighting force. Of course, Snape would figure out a way not to deliver the potion: he'd try, anyway.
Who in their right mind would allow a werewolf to bite them? Death Eaters weren't necessarily in their right minds, he supposed. An Imperius Curse might be enough to convince people to 'volunteer' to be bitten. Remus knew he'd rather die than help Voldemort create his own wolf pack. It might yet come to that, and he quelled the thought.
There was something Snape wasn't saying. He could smell the omission in the slight hint of sweat and hear the blood moving just a bit faster in his veins.
It must have happened again, and Snape had seen and not understood. How could he? Lupin had never said anything, knowing that Snape would take it as a criticism of his brewing skills.
It didn't even happen every month, only about half the time. The night before the full moon he would retain his human shape, but behave in a wolfish manner. This had never happened before he had begun taking the Wolfsbane potion, so he knew the cause if not the reason behind it. He could stop taking the potion, but that wasn't even really an option. It was better to keep his mind during the nights of the full moon and chance losing it the night before than to be a complete monster.
Now that he was at Hogwarts again, he couldn't risk anyone-Harry!-coming to see him the night before the full moon, so he had Dumbledore lock him in his own rooms. He wasn't sure he was safe to go out anyway, and it made him feel better. Now that everyone knew of his condition, they avoided him during the full moons. What was one extra night a month stuck in his room for a little peace of mind? Nothing!
With his typical closed-mouthed ways, Snape had refused to allow him to explain his theories. Now he would never know what exactly went on, as the stubborn fool Snape would take it to his grave. Well, it couldn't have been that bad, since he didn't detect any injuries. The only thing he'd smelled was...not sex, of course, but...whatever it was. Maybe he would figure it out if he smelled it again. Snape would not allow this, certainly, and would be wary of him. He didn't even have the minute or so while taking the potion to explore the scent, as it wasn't needed tonight. Perhaps it was not that important.
Unfortunately, his curious Gryffindor nature kept him wondering about it all day. He arrived at only one conclusion-Severus Snape didn't smell all that bad.
That night, while again locked in his bedroom, he sniffed endlessly and unknowingly at the place on the rug where Severus had fallen. It smelled wonderful, like a mate. He stored the information in his wolf memory and, in the morning, he remembered nothing.
It wasn't possible while the moon was full, but when he again had his evenings free Remus made a concerted effort to see Snape. It wasn't easy, if there weren't detentions to supervise, Severus was busy as head of house or making potions for use in the infirmary. Lupin wondered when the Potions Master had time to sleep, or if he ever did. Sleep deprivation would explain a lot of Snape's personality.
It took a week before Remus found Severus alone, working late in his classroom. Several cauldrons were on at once, and they didn't contain the same potion, either. How could Snape do all of these things at the same time? There were even papers on the desk in the front of the room that Snape was marking in the moments he could leave the cauldrons unattended.
Remus watched as Snape glanced at a timer and got up. He turned it, walked to one cauldron and added something as he stirred. He did the same thing to the one next to it, looked in on the other two but left them alone. He returned to his desk.
"I'm busy," he said, not looking up, but taking his quill and returning to the students' essays.
"I can see that." Remus approached Snape's desk. While his attention appeared focused on the parchment in front of him, Remus was sure that Snape knew exactly how close to the big desk he was. He slowed as he approached, speaking again. "I wanted to try and explain what I think happened the other night. It's happened before, not that I'm saying anything bad about the Wolfsbane potion, because you know how I appreciate the trouble you go to every month..."
"Say what you have to say and leave, Lupin. Is there a problem with the potion?"
Remus had known Snape would see it that way-a criticism of his brewing skills.
"It isn't an actual problem, more like a side effect." He meant to continue, but the gentle touch on Snape's shoulder-a reassurance that the Potions Master was, indeed, a master of his art-caused a hiss. Well, the man didn't like to be touched, but that sounded like pain.
"Are you injured, Severus?"
"It's nothing." Snape pulled back. "Get away from me."
"You're lying, there is something wrong with your shoulder. Have you gone to see Poppy?"
"I don't need to go to the infirmary. I had a dislocated shoulder which I was able to put back myself."
"I did it, didn't I? In my quarters, before the full moon."
"Yes. It is fine."
"No it isn't. It has been a week. A dislocation shouldn't hurt after that much time-don't you think that's something I'd know? Let me check to see if you've got it back right."
Snape allowed it, but with an acidic comment. "Yes, I'd imagine you've had a few dislocations to deal with yourself."
"Yes." Lupin didn't take the bait. "Well, the joint is as it should be, so I couldn't say why it still hurts." Another pat on the muscle drew another hiss. "What else did I do? That's too high for it to be related to the dislocation."
"It is not important. I've taken care of it."
"What is it?" Snape rose, a towering figure in midnight robes was now looking down upon Lupin's face. He scowled, sneering down his nose.
"You bit me."
Remus' jaw dropped. He couldn't have heard correctly.
"I cleaned it, both physically and magically. It isn't infected. I am fine, so you need not worry on my account."
"Let me see it."
"I told you I have not been infected."
"Please, I need to see for myself. I've never made another werewolf, I need to be sure."
"If I show you, then you will leave me alone?"
Snape rolled his eyes and sat down in his chair again. At least he wasn't wearing his jacket under his robes since he was busy in his workroom. He left the robes on, merely unbuttoned the front and his shirt halfway down. The bruising had faded to yellowish-green, but the bite itself looked fresh. The red punctures contrasted heavily with pasty skin.
"It doesn't look infected, but it isn't healing right, either."
Snape buttoned his shirt and glanced at the timer on his desk. There was still sand left-about two minutes' worth. Lupin knew his time was up.
"I'm sorry for that. Let me take you to dinner so I can make it up."
"Don't be absurd. The food here is adequate and I certainly do not wish for your company. If you feel a need to make anything up, then leave me be. You have seen it, now go away. I have work to do."
Snape was busy, so perhaps it was best if Remus left him alone. At least he'd made the offer.
It was Saturday, and Lupin was on his way to The Three Broomsticks for lunch. He could eat at Hogwarts, but an afternoon away from the school seemed like a good idea. He was restless, thinking about that bite on Severus' shoulder. He had found a book on werewolves that didn't seem too inaccurate, and wanted to see what it said about bites from non-transformed Lycanthropes. It was best to read such things away from sight-if Harry or his friends, especially Hermione, saw him, they'd ask questions. Besides, he liked Rosmerta, and the atmosphere at 'The Broom' was much more comfortable when it wasn't filled with students.
He was at the door when he saw a familiar dark figure emerge from the apothecary. He waited a moment for Snape to look up, smiling inwardly at the glower that crossed Snape's face when he noticed Lupin. He waited for his prickly colleague to decide if he was going to continue as planned, or turn round in order to avoid talking to Lupin. Snape walked slowly toward the pub.
"I see my presence was not enough to deter you."
"Why should I allow you to disturb my lunch?"
"I was just about to eat as well. Let me buy you lunch, by way of apology for... I insist."
"Do you also insist upon sitting with me while I eat it?"
Remus laughed out loud. Severus was rude to the point of sarcastic humour, if one chose to look at it that way. "I'm afraid I do."
If he allowed Lupin this one concession, perhaps the irritating man would leave him alone. "Fine."
"So what are you doing in Hogsmeade today?" Remus asked while they found a table in the corner. Snape sat with his back conspicuously to the wall.
"I required supplies for the medical potions that the NEWT classes are learning to prepare. Healing draughts are complex, but as they are useful items, the students seem to be working rather diligently to get them right."
"They are the top students in potions, after all," Remus said. The brews were complicated, but he knew exactly why Snape was teaching them at this time, even if most of the class didn't. Some of them also took a long time to prepare, so this was a good, subtle way to have a supply to hand. Inconspicuous behaviour was Snape's forte.
They ordered and sat in silence. Obviously Snape had no desire to ask why Lupin had come to Hogsmeade, and it didn't look like he was in any hurry to make conversation. Remus wondered why he had bothered. They were two completely different people who had just happened to have gone to school together. It didn't mean they had anything else in common, or that they had anything to talk about.
There was always the issue with the Wolfsbane, but he had tried to bring it up before and Snape had sounded offended. If he mentioned it now, there'd be a good chance that lunch would be accompanied with an argument and followed by indigestion. Maybe they could just talk about Wolfsbane in general. All Remus knew was that the potion was a new invention, within the last ten years, and that Severus modified it a bit when he prepared it for Lupin. It was an opening, and better than stony silence while they waited for their food to arrive.
"I really appreciate the trouble you take to brew the potion for me every month."
"So you have said."
"I've seen your notes-it's really very complicated." Snape remained quiet. Well, there hadn't been a question to answer. "In school, we learned the theories behind spells before learning how to cast them. I know I don't need to understand the potion for it to work, but I am curious about it. Perhaps you could explain it to me, since you're one of the very few people capable of understanding it as well as brewing it. You even changed the formula a little so it works better."
"Every person is different. The modifications in the potion I make every month are specific to you."
"Really?" Remus hadn't known that. Severus nodded almost imperceptibly. "Why is it different?"
"Weight, age, age when bitten, and gender are some of the things that affect how the potion works. Besides not being particularly stable, it is the main reason the potion isn't available commercially. That and general lack of interest."
"The Ministry doesn't care enough about the werewolf population to research methods of stabilizing it, you mean."
Snape gave Remus a noncommittal look: they both knew the Ministry had its own agenda and the welfare of the wizarding world in general was not its main concern.
Their food arrived, finally. Severus was relieved, perhaps now Lupin would be too busy to talk. At least wolfsbane was a safe topic. He didn't want to get started on the Ministry of Magic, who were a lot of petty bureaucrats, some of whom near as power-hungry as Lord Voldemort himself. After dealing with Umbridge last year, he'd be hard-pressed to keep his temper in a conversation about the ministry. Bloody waste of time-the students had learned nothing in Defence Against the Dark Arts class. It was still a mystery how some of them had managed to advance in that area regardless. Longbottom's OWL scores alone were enough to raise eyebrows.
Remus thanked Rosmerta and took a bite. He looked thoughtful for a moment. Severus knew the silence was too good to last.
"I always thought Wolfsbane was a plant. I remember we studied it in Herbology."
"It is. It goes by the names monkshood or Friar's cap and aconite as well. It is also the main ingredient in the Wolfsbane potion and why it works."
"Wasn't that plant poisonous?"
"Very. The invention of the Wolfsbane potion itself was an accident. A farmer kept losing stock to werewolves, or at least one werewolf. He wanted a way to kill the wolf or wolves without being in danger himself, so he tried poison."
"Yes. It's very old, having been used for several thousand years. Of course, while not native to the British Isles, it is rather common and grows wild in many places of higher altitude on the continent. It is one of the strongest plant poisons known."
"Then how can I take some of it in the potion every month and not die?"
"It depends on when the roots were harvested. The roots of the aconite plant contain alkaloids, varying from point two to three percent."
"That's a rather large range, isn't it?"
"Indeed. Small children can poison themselves just by holding these roots for a long time."
"And the amount of alkaloid, or poison, or whatever you want to call it, depends on when you pick the roots?"
"I am surprised that you're actually listening to me."
"I asked about wolfsbane, and I really want to know. So please, go on. You've been feeding me poison every time you give me this stuff, then, and yet I haven't died."
"If I wanted you dead, Lupin..." There really was no need to continue with that thought. "The tubers contain a lower concentration of poison in the autumn, when the plant is in bloom. The man who tried to poison the werewolf must have bought the roots from an apothecary who gave him the medicinal version rather than the poisonous one. A responsible shop owner would ask what the buyer was using such a product for: small doses of aconitine are used as a cardiac and respiratory sedative. Perhaps it was that this farmer was high-strung, and so the apothecary thought he needed it for himself. The concentration was not enough to cause death, and when the werewolf transformed back in the morning, he was merely ill. As it happens, he was the apothecary's apprentice. He realized that he'd been dosed, but not poisoned.
"After the full moon, the farmer came back to complain that the wolf hadn't died and the young man was surprised to recognise him-not from his business in the shop, but from seeing him at the man's own farm while transformed. The apprentice was not entirely stupid-he knew not only how lucky he'd been but also that something had happened because of the low dose of poison that made him remember the farmer."
"I think I see where this is going." Severus looked at Remus in an unsurprised manner, as though his figuring it out meant that Remus himself was not entirely stupid either.
"You might. The apothecary's apprentice talked to the local brewer. She knew more about the interactions of ingredients, while the young man merely knew what some of them were sold for. She experimented, very cautiously, with the assistance of the young werewolf. It was a delicate situation-she could have informed the village that there was a werewolf in their midst, and he would have been killed. If she had accidentally killed him with her early attempts at a cure, she would have been imprisoned for murder. They both thought they might have the start of a cure for Lycanthropy, but it was nothing so earth shattering.
"Still, it was better than nothing. The young man found that he could remember occurrences from his changes and even control his behaviour when transformed. The old potions brewer was disappointed, though the werewolf assured her that she had greatly improved his life. If that was true, then she wanted to let the world know, though she was worried that it would expose the man as a werewolf."
"That was considerate of her."
"Not terribly. It's not as though a potion for the sanity of werewolves was high on the priority list of the Ministry, nor would such a discovery provide great wealth. It might have been just as dangerous for the brewer once the village found out she had been harbouring the identity of a werewolf for well over a year. It cost both of them their positions, once they came forward. The apprentice was sacked and the brewer was run out of town. Perhaps if she were more skilled than a common brewer they would not have been so quick to dismiss her. She found a place in another village with the small amount provided by a potions journal for the rights to her research. She took an apprentice, even if her position did not exactly require one."
"The apothecary's boy."
"The discovery was partially his. I suppose some part of the woman felt responsible, or else it was some belated maternal instinct. Regardless, he has become quite competent, although the rank of Master is not in his foreseeable future."
"You know him?"
"Those involved in certain aspects of magic do tend to get to know each other. Before I made the Wolfsbane potion for the first time, at Professor Dumbledore's request, naturally, I owled the brewer extensively. Her assistant, no longer an apprentice, never attended Hogwarts and had no idea of my reputation. He therefore had the audacity to include a note with one of her owls-he wanted to know my reasons for making the potion, whether it was scholarly interest or something else. The cheek!"
"I can imagine your reply."
"It was not as bad as you think, Lupin. I did not curse him out of existence as my first instincts bade me. I simply responded that I was preparing it for a werewolf at my employer's bidding."
"Ever the diplomat, aren't you, Severus?" Snape huffed, but his next comment stunned Remus silent.
"That assistant brewer sent me a howler." Remus stared. The man really didn't know Snape's reputation if he'd really responded in such a manner.
"It was still summer, and so very few people were in the Great Hall to witness this occurrence. I can remember that Minerva McGonagall very nearly smiled. It was humiliating. My next owl to Mr. Tylor was appropriately scathing and I imagined that I had reached the end of my communications with both brewer and assistant. That...woman, who knew who I was, dared to respond with a howler of her own. I have never seen such audacity!"
Remus knew better than to laugh. He wasn't sure if it was the image of Snape receiving the angry letters or the fact that he sensed somehow that the Potions Master was not quite so upset about it as he appeared to be. Indeed, the man sounded almost impressed that anyone would risk contradicting him, even from a distance. He'd give a Galleon to know what that letter had said. Perhaps he could ask Dumbledore. He nearly burst out laughing at the thought.
"You would find that humorous. The wording was subtle, since the woman did not wish to expose whomever it was that I was making the potion for. She could not have known that you were not yet at Hogwarts. Most of her tirade consisted of variants on how could I speak to the boy she considered a son in such a fashion. Minerva did smile." Snape grimaced at the memory. "Dumbledore offered to aid me in writing my reply. I declined, assuring him that I would be civil and I worded my owl carefully. It was the epitome of tact, and seemed to appease the pair. Mr. Tylor was very happy to discuss the preparation of the potion after that. He is, I believe, the only werewolf alive who is capable of brewing Wolfsbane." He noticed the glitter in Lupin's eyes. "You will not discuss this instance of my tolerant behaviour with anyone."
Remus nodded. For Snape, that had been more than tolerant, it was plain charitable. He wondered that the enigmatic Slytherin would be so forgiving to a known werewolf.
"That's quite a story. Your changes in the contents then are based on what, then?"
"You are bigger than Tylor is, for one. Also, he was not afflicted until his mid-teens and requires less actual aconite to sedate the werewolf in him. Your potion has a much greater quantity and I need to be very careful so as not to give you an overdose. I buy the tubers from a dealer known for consistency and quality. Still, I test each one to determine the concentration of alkaloids and grind them myself."
"I knew you went to a lot of trouble, but I had no idea...you can't just buy the powder?"
"It is available, but one never knows if the roots were gathered at the correct time, or if someone cut a higher-dose root in with lower ones. Overall, the amount of aconitine would be the same, but one tiny miscalculation would either render the potion useless or kill you. I have never been a trusting individual, Lupin. No matter how tedious, I deal with the roots myself."
"Thank you for going through all that effort."
"I don't do it on your behalf, although killing you now would be rather inconvenient. There is a war on, and causing the death of anyone capable of fighting would be gross incompetence, as well as reflecting badly on my talent as Potions Master."
Remus thought that the reply sounded too pat, and was delivered a little too quickly to be the entire truth. Severus must consider it some form of atonement for forcing Lupin to resign three years ago.
"I appreciate it anyway. If you ever need me to help..."
"That is not necessary. While I recall that your work in Potions class was not terrible, this particular brewing is painfully specific and any mishap could lead to your death. I believe that I am far more competent to make this than you are."
"That doesn't even sound like typical Slytherin arrogance. I believe you."
"With atypical Gryffindor intelligence." Severus rose. "I must return to Hogwarts now. I am forced to admit, reluctantly, that this has not been an entirely unpleasant experience."
Remus beamed. "Thank you, again. You seem to be full of compliments today-first, I'm not too stupid and now I'm not too boring. Be careful, Severus, or I'll believe you are getting sentimental in your old age."
"I'll leave you with that pathetic attempt at humour. Good day."
Remus smiled, and ordered another butterbeer. He still wanted to look through that book, but a ghost of an idea was forming. What Severus had said about the nature of Wolfsbane and how it needed to be different for each person infected with Lycanthropy...something in that might be causing that side effect on nights before the full moon. He needed more of a theory before bringing it up with Severus.
Remus didn't question why: somehow he was sure that if he could phrase it so that it didn't sound like a criticism, Severus would definitely want to know this was happening. He was also fairly sure that Severus would want to fix it. With it being such a close thing already, he didn't know if reworking the potion was possible. Still, it was worth checking into.
"Good afternoon, Professor Lupin."
"Hello Hermione, Harry, Ron."
"We missed you at lunch, professor."
"I ate in Hogsmeade today. Was there a specific problem with your homework?"
"No, sir, we just noticed you weren't there."
"I've missed meals before."
Ron gave a half-frown. "It's just that, we thought there might be business for the Order." His eyes darted about suspiciously, as if suddenly someone would appear to question what 'The Order' was.
"No, you don't have to worry. Your parents are fine, things are quiet right now. Why would you think something was happening?"
"Because..." Ron began slowly, but Harry cut in.
"Because Professor Snape wasn't at lunch, either."
"Of course he wasn't. He was in Hogsmeade as well, getting supplies for your NEWT potions."
"So you saw him, then?"
"I did. We had lunch at The Three Broomsticks."
"Not...not together?" Harry asked, wrinkling up his nose. Hermione slapped his arm sharply.
"Well, actually, yes."
"Not really?" Ron stepped away so that Hermione couldn't slap him as well.
"We happened to be eating at the same time and had lunch together, that's not so awful."
"But, Professor Snape!"
"He's on our side, Harry. What he's doing for the Order is very dangerous, don't forget that."
"But you hate each other."
"I don't think we do, really. Working together as we all have been makes our old grudges seem much smaller, or perhaps we've simply grown up."
"Or Snape's willing to talk to you now Sirius is dead." The words slipped out before Ron knew he'd spoken them. "Sorry."
"You call him 'Professor', and I think that might have something to do with it as well. Sirius is gone, and so is James, so now maybe all the old hatred can be allowed to die as well. If Severus is more willing to work with me now, then that's for the better. We must get along enough to function as a unit if we're ever to defeat Voldemort."
"That's right," Hermione said smugly. She didn't exactly like her Potions professor, but Dumbledore trusted him and he had saved all their lives last year. All Snape had to do was keep quiet, and she and her friends would have been killed at the Ministry of Magic. They hadn't been, thanks to Professor Snape, and she wouldn't forget it. Harry was just blinded by the pain of losing his godfather. Hermione was very glad to have both of her parents alive, and for once entirely content that they were muggles and knew almost nothing about any of encounters with the Dark Lord. They'd pull her out of Hogwarts so fast, she might not even have time to collect her books.
"You don't have to eat with him."
"He's not that bad, Harry. I mean that."
"He hates me just because he hated my father!"
Remus nodded. "I know. It's not right, but look at it like this-that bit of irrational behaviour just proves that Professor Snape is human."
"I'm not sure about that. Ow!" Hermione had snuck up on Ron.
"He is. Try to look at it objectively. Now, if the three of you will excuse me, I need to be going. That is, unless you did have some question about the essays I assigned."
"See you later, Professor Lupin."
Sunday afternoon found Remus back in the Potions classroom watching the master at work. He waited at the door until Snape indicated that he'd been noticed.
"What did you need, Lupin?"
"I didn't need anything. I have been thinking about our conversation yesterday. It made a few things a little clearer to me, or at least gave me a place to start."
"Come to the point."
"It has to do with the incident in my rooms the night before the full moon. Hear me out, please. I'm not saying anything against your brewing skills, especially now that I have a better idea of just what you have to do every month to make the Wolfsbane for me. I have noticed a side effect. This doesn't happen every month, but about half the time. When I first began to take the potion three years ago, it happened once all year. I didn't understand at first, but I think I know what's happening."
Snape did not look up from his stirring. "Please enlighten me."
"I keep my human mind when I transform. You know that. But sometimes, the night before the full moon, I don't turn into a wolf, but I act like one. At first, I just didn't remember those nights, but once when I was staying at Grimmauld Place, I frightened Kreacher by nearly attacking him. It takes a lot to disturb that elf. He told the portrait of Mrs. Black and she yelled her head off at me for an hour. But it helped me figure out that I become, basically, a wolf's mind in my human body for that time, instead of having my human mind in the wolf body on full moon nights."
Snape actually looked up from his cauldron. "Have you had the potion prepared by anyone other than myself?"
"Erm, actually, yes. But to the specifications you provided."
"And have you had this happen then, as well?"
Remus was surprised to find Snape looking thoughtful instead of annoyed, so he pressed on.
"After you told me how the potion was developed, and that it needs to be a little different for each werewolf, I thought that I might ask others like myself if they've been having this happen. I can't believe this is specific to me."
"It is the amount of aconite that varies the most."
Remus finished the thought. "My potion takes an unusually high amount. Maybe that has something to do with it."
"That theory is not entirely without basis. What did you have in mind?"
"I wonder if you could help me owl the creator of the potion, or the werewolf Mr. Tylor. I got the feeling that you keep in contact with them."
"I want to ask them if they know other werewolves, or brewers who know them-I'm sure they do-and we can check to see if this is a common side effect of taking the potion. Don't get me wrong, I'd much rather take the potion and have this happen every month than not."
It was obvious that the idea was intriguing; the customary glower on Snape's face seemed a bit less intense than usual.
"I will send them an owl this evening. If they wish to contact you, they will."
"I would like it if you would let me know of your findings." Casually spoken, but nearly unbelievable-had Snape just willingly agreed and even invited Remus to speak to him again? He had no idea why that prospect was so appealing. Lupin put it down to his being so painfully lonely these past months without Sirius to talk to. Dumbledore was available company, but he was so old. Tonks was fun, but she was very busy and too young, as were the Weasley twins. Snape was his own age, and it felt good to have someone from his own generation to speak with again, even if it was just about his illness.
Remus left supper early Tuesday evening. He hadn't meant to, but he needed a word with Snape, and the man was almost always the first one up from the staff table. Hermione, and by association Harry and Ron, had noticed his exit. She was the smartest witch of her age he'd ever met, and that was more dangerous at sixteen than it had been at fourteen. Why he would think of her figuring out that he was willingly speaking to Professor Snape as 'dangerous', he just wasn't sure. Hermione was not quite so closed-minded about her Potions professor as Harry and Ron.
Half trotting, Remus managed to catch up to Snape before he descended to the dungeons.
"Severus, could you please wait a moment?"
Like an ebony ship with black sails, Snape turned sharply.
"Don't tell me," Remus gasped out, "that you didn't hear me running through the hall after you."
"I heard you. What do you want?"
Well, naturally he'd heard. The dramatic movements must be instinctual by this point. Remus shook his head quickly-the thought of being fascinated by Snape's bearing wasn't something he was prepared to deal with right now.
"Mr. Tylor owled me yesterday evening. Whatever it was that you wrote, thank you."
Snape was silent. Remus didn't know if the man was pleased or not, annoyed or not. He hadn't really expected a 'you're welcome.'
"I see. Was there anything else?"
"No, not really. I'll keep you informed of anything we discuss dealing with the Wolfsbane."
"Thank you. Now, if you don't mind, I am very busy." Snape turned and continued towards the stairs.
"Good evening, then," Remus called to the retreating back. So the promise of shared research was enough to rate a thank you. One thing you could say about Severus Snape, the man was never boring. Perhaps the unrelieved black clothing was a bit dull, but it suited Snape. Tall and thin as he was, he looked like a great black horse going through his paces, with a mane and robes for a tail included.
The memory of a muggle story "The Black Stallion" came to mind and Remus couldn't stop the chuckle. Good thing Snape hadn't heard that, or he'd think Remus was making fun. Unfortunately, his three favourite students had. Harry stepped forward, Ron stayed where he was, and Hermione half turned away, as though she didn't agree with what the boys were doing. This could be unpleasant.
"Good evening, Harry, Ron, Hermione. I get the feeling that this is not related to homework."
"Did you really need to talk to Snape?"
"There was something I wanted to discuss with Professor Snape, yes. It had to deal with the Wolfsbane potion, since I know you're all curious."
"Oh." Harry looked relieved. Lupin found it amazing how like James Harry really was. He'd probably had a dozen questions for Lupin when he set out to confront him, and had asked one. Remus answered it, and gave a little bit more information than he needed to, and that was enough. The same tactic had worked with James and Sirius back in school. Gods, he missed them.
"You know, Harry, I am pleased that you are concerned about my welfare, but Professor Snape and I are capable of having words without killing each other. Proof being, we're both still alive after all these years."
"You hate each other!"
Remus sighed. "I don't like to say this, but I think there may be some truth in what Professor Snape says, that you really don't listen. I told you on Sunday-I'm not sure that we still hate each other. That sort of thing has faded for a number of reasons. I think that Severus and I can work together, amicably even, once the old habits are broken as well as the old enmity. I'd like a little peace in my life, and hate for hate's sake is a waste of time and energy. Don't hate blindly, Harry. That's what Voldemort does."
That drew any sharp answer up short. Harry bit his lower lip.
"I don't want to be like him, like Voldemort at all. I just wish that Professor Snape wouldn't treat me the way he does."
"Yeah, he treats everybody bad, except maybe Malfoy, but he treats Harry even worse."
"I know that, and I know why. I'm sure you get tired of hearing it, but you are just like your father. The older you get, the more I see James in you. James and Severus...they fell in hate at first sight. I don't know why, but it escalated over the years. It wasn't fair, the Marauders picking on him like we did. Oh, I know I did the least of it, but I didn't stop the others anywhere near as often as I should have. Thinking back...I'm not proud of myself for allowing certain things to happen." Remus stopped. He didn't feel a need to elaborate, since the trio knew how vicious school rivalries could be. Also, there were events that he knew Severus wouldn't want known and in which his own part was less than valiant. They knew about the Shrieking Shack, and that was enough.
"I suppose." Harry bit his lip again, thinking of the things he'd seen last year in Snape's pensieve. He'd mentioned them to Sirius, but he supposed Sirius hadn't told Lupin about it: Harry definitely hadn't mentioned it to anyone else-Snape would kill him.
"You don't have to like the man." Ron snorted and Hermione scowled in a remarkably Snape-like fashion at the back of the red head. "If you could at least respect what he's doing for the Order and try not to get in his way too badly, I think that would be enough."
"I'll try." "Yes, Professor Lupin." "Okay."
Remus rolled his inner eyes. Where was the world at when he was coming to the aid of Severus Snape?
"I think that's a very bad idea, Severus," Remus said, not for the first time.
"I still think it's important that I see what happens."
"It doesn't even happen every month."
"Then there is even less cause for you to worry if I stay."
"What if I attack you again?"
"There is less of a chance of that happening if I'm already in the room. Your knowledge of lupine behaviour suggests that it was my sudden appearance that most likely caused the problem last time."
"That's not really an answer," Remus had turned in his chair and looked up at the Potions Master. The stubborn Potions Master.
"It's not really a concern, either."
"It is to me."
In the end, Remus had given in. Let Severus stay tonight to watch; perhaps Remus would keep his human mind and it would be a waste of time, perhaps not. If Snape wanted to spend the evening in Remus' rooms, then let him. The most worrisome thing was whether or not any spells would work on Lupin in his partially changed condition. Many were ineffective on transformed werewolves, but the body was still human. It was very unlikely that Remus would actually attack Severus, since he hadn't-not really-last month. Severus allowed a second look at the nearly healed bite marks and Remus finally said he'd allow the observation. If he ended up dislocating Snape's shoulder again, it was the man's own fault.
They ate supper together, Severus walking about and sitting in several locations in Remus' bedroom to get his scent down. Afterwards, with the dishes removed, Snape sat at the desk making notes while Remus paced and waited for moonrise.
"Settle down, Lupin. Your pacing is making it difficult for me to concentrate."
"What do you need to concentrate on? Nothing's happened yet."
"I'm just checking these letters over again. You should be somewhat relieved to know that this isn't just limited to you."
"I'm thankful as can be that others like me have to go through this. You have to know those letters by heart now."
"Sarcasm doesn't suit you."
"Fits you like a glove."
"Lord, you're so smug, sitting there! You have an answer for everything, don't you?"
"May I remind you that you did agree to this experiment."
"You wouldn't leave me alone until I did!"
"Much like you would not leave me alone until I accepted your invitation to lunch."
"All right, you win. I'm not used to anyone watching me transform, and I've never had anyone see me change on nights before the full moon. Only you and Kreacher have seen me while changed."
"All the more reason to know what happens. We need to know how similar it is to the actual transformation, and the more information we have, the more accurate any conclusions will be."
"There are only three of us."
"Which would be two if you had not allowed me to be here tonight. I believe that more werewolves will be willing to participate in this experiment once we have some proof that you can be safely observed during this time. It is your theory, Lupin. Would it not look odd if you were to request such information from others and not provide any of your own?"
"But we don't know it's safe for you to be here."
"That is what we need to know. And I am willing to take that risk."
"Why? I did give you a rather nasty bite last month, and a dislocated shoulder."
"Thank you for reminding me. I had forgotten."
"You are a total git, you know that? Why risk another bite?"
Snape looked blankly at Lupin. "Knowledge, to improve the potion."
"Is that your only reason, to make the potion better?"
Snape noticed Lupin's eyes-still blue-glittering strangely. What else was he supposed to say? There were no other reasons except to improve this potion, a potion that would not provide him with anything significant should it be improved. No fame, nor money, no acclaim even in his field, really. Perhaps a few grateful werewolves. Why was he doing this? Knowledge and personal satisfaction. What else was there?
Remus checked his clock again-the moon was rising. "It's time."
Remus sat in the centre of the room on the carpet as they had decided. It was easier to observe him there than in the gloomy confines of his curtained four-poster. All candles had been extinguished and the only light was safely within the globe. It was enough to make notes by, if Snape needed to write any. Remus looked up. Backlit, Snape was a silhouette of black against red looking down at him.
"I feel silly, with you staring at me like that."
"I am not staring, merely watching."
"Well, watch from somewhere else. I might as well be a bug on the carpet with you above me like you are."
"I refuse to sit on the floor."
"Then sit on the bed, or stand over there. You're looming where you are." The last word came out it a squeak. Remus held his stomach. The strain finally got to him, he supposed, and now he was going to be sick on his carpet with Snape watching. How embarrassing was that?
"Lupin?" That catch in the rich baritone had to be curiosity, not concern: unless, of course, Snape was also concerned about Remus throwing up on the floor. Not likely. The stench and nature of certain potion ingredients made students vomit in Snape's class all the time. By third year, that generally stopped, but new groups of first and second years, as well as the occasional weak stomach assured that Snape knew all sorts of cleaning spells. Maybe the stink of his classroom is what kept Snape from eating: it would never do for the grim professor to be seen being ill. He'd suffer the Cruciatus for an hour before he'd let a student see him at a moment of weakness.
"Back off, Severus, I'm just going to lose my supper."
"Is this normal?"
Ever the scientist, but Remus had to laugh anyway. "No."
"It is small wonder that I never understood your sense of humour back in school, if you find it amusing when your meals come back up again."
"What's funny is you. I'm sure it wouldn't matter if I were to puke blood on a regular basis, but now that you're studying this whole thing, it's suddenly important."
"I need to know if this is the way it works." The tone was less irritated than Remus expected it to be, or maybe he just didn't care how annoyed Snape was right now.
"No. This is unusual. I think I'm just nervous." A sound like quiet laughter reached Remus' ears.
"We have seen each other at lower points than this, Lupin, or near enough. I'm only watching to learn how to make your potion better, not to use anything I see against you."
Those were comforting words; at least Remus took them as such. They didn't have the usual bite. The way he felt right now, Remus would take all the help he could get. His head hurt badly, like it was going to crack open.
"My head aches," was all he said. Lean black legs knelt beside him, and a distant voice called his name. Rich onyx eyes peered through a blue-black veil: they looked worried. He wanted to assure that he was all right, there was no cause for alarm, but fog overcame his brain.
The eyes were gone. He missed those eyes, and wanted them to come back. His world was full of sound and scent. He was warm and safe, although someone was here. That other was not a danger. He sniffed. No danger at all-a familiar smell. It was all over his den, the scent of this intruder. Not intruder, visitor. Not so much as Remus himself, but belonging here. He turned and saw the other. That's where the eyes were!
No reason to back away, you are not in danger. I want to see you, smell you. You belong here and will not be harmed. Why do I smell fear from you? I will back away; let you know you are safe with me. Safe. He curled up on the soft bed to rest and wait.
The black one was less afraid now. The blood was still pumping too quickly and the breath too fast, but not so much as before. It sat on the wooden chair, one eye on a parchment on the desk and one on Remus, who approached slowly. He did not mean to startle. Blood faster, so Remus backed away again. He whinged. He waited. Curious, the fear was mixed with other things: interest, some intellectual concept that was impossible to wrap his wolf mind around, and something else. A fascination, an attraction, minute but present. Interest and interest. Ah. He had to get closer, he had to know if he was correct.
He advanced, a rich growl greeted him. It sounded like something that he should know, but it was unimportant in the face of his need. The smell was magnificent, even tinged as it was with fear. Without the fear, it would be breathtaking. Yes, take breath. Inhale. Close eyes and learn the scent. Fear lessens, scent even better. Closer.
Not the dark stick, please. Back away slightly. He stared into the eyes of He-of-the-Scent. I do not like that thing. I will not hurt you. Please do not hurt me. I am curious. I need to know you-let me. Remus backed away and the other followed him into the centre of the den. Less fear, now, not backed into a corner. Will you let me know you now?
He sniffed, studied, and learned. The aroma of himself mixed with the man's own musky perfume. He had marked this being. Where? He searched for the indicator that this creature was what he thought he was. Yes. There, under all the coverings. Smell it. Not strong, but there. I need to make it stronger, so I will know him when I'm not the dominant one. Now, I am the dominant one. As I should be.
Frustrated, by the time all the coverings are gone. They are strong things, and take much effort to push away. Obstructions annoy so greatly that the claiming bite is stronger than it needs to be. The black one falls, but I hold on. He is mine, mine. The fear is back, but it's not strong enough to deter me. The fear is not all directed at me. The fear is mixed with want, and want causes more fear. That is not as it should be. Desire is not cause to worry, not when it is for the correct mate.
I am finished; the wound is clean of blood. I will remember this time, somehow I will remember.
Remus sat up on his bed. He must have changed, because he didn't recall Severus leaving. Or he didn't remember it because Severus hadn't left.
"Good morning, I think. Have you been here all night?"
"Yes. How are you feeling?" The polite question took Remus aback until he realised that it was a scientific inquiry and not an actual interest.
"Be more specific."
"Well, I'm not terribly tired, I don't hurt anywhere. I feel fine."
"No headache? Not sick to your stomach?"
"No. Wait," he thought a moment. "I was a bit sick last night, wasn't I? That's the last thing I remember."
"You were not actually ill, but nearly so. Then you mentioned a headache. Do you remember that?"
"No. If I had one, it's gone now. I changed, obviously. What did I do?"
"Now you can be more specific." Snape gave a sigh.
"You searched your room first. You rested on your bed much of the time. You spent more time than was necessary sniffing about my person. If you could tell me why, I think I deserve an answer."
Remus shook his head in confusion. There was a weird smell-not bad, but strange. Actually, it smelled very good. He noticed the torn robes.
"Did I dislocate your arm again?"
"No. With a brief exception," Snape grimaced but didn't elaborate, "you conducted your study while we were both on our two feet this time."
"I bit you again. I'm sorry."
"I have cleaned it, just as I did last month. Really, Lupin, had I known you were going to do that again I would not have worn my robes, nor worn a shirt. This is the second time you've ripped out my buttons and seams. They can be fixed, but the house elves who do my laundry might start to snicker."
"I'm terribly sorry." Remus ignored that last comment. He'd think about it later, when a blush wouldn't cause any embarrassing questions. "It looks as though I bit you in the same spot."
"You did, and seemed very insistent about it. Would you care to enlighten me as to your reasons?"
"I'm sure I don't know. I don't remember anything right now. Then again, I didn't remember being ill until you mentioned it, so it might come back to me. I'll think on it."
"Let me know if you do recall anything further. I will write this up so that you may share it with your werewolf correspondents, if you like."
"Thank you, I'll do that. But I won't write until after the full moon, so there's no rush."
Snape didn't comment as he put his quill and ink into a small black bag and tucked it into a pocket. The notebook disappeared as well. After a moment of uneasiness, Snape spoke.
"Thank you for allowing me to observe you. I remind you that I will not share anything I discover with anyone."
"I know you won't, and I know you're trying to help me. Even if it is just for the sake of your professional pride, I appreciate it. The others do, too."
"I will deliver the notes the night after the full moon."
"Thank you. I'll see you at breakfast, Severus."
Severus banked the fire in his bedroom before turning in for the night. He thought briefly of Remus Lupin, now a full-fledged werewolf, locked in his rooms upstairs. A strange man, Lupin. So afraid of harming unknowingly, but very capable of attacking and even killing in battle when in full possession of his faculties.
Let the wolf sleep. Let me sleep. I am not so young that forty consecutive hours of wakefulness will not take its toll.
Exhausted, sleep came quickly. Dreams followed: bad dreams, but not quite nightmares. When he awoke in the night, Severus was left with a vague feeling of uneasiness but no memory of what the dreams were about. The nature of his life and past made nightmares inevitable. He got up, washed his face of its sweaty sheen, and lay down again.
Strange lights, a sharp noise repeating, and coloured silk tied in a bow on his leg-the fragments of more nightmares that Severus shoved to the back of his mind as he rose and went about another day. He needed more sleep. The detentions this evening would be short and painful so as to give the opportunity to go to bed by eleven.
"What is the problem with the Wolfsbane potion, Professor Lupin?" Hermione asked: she had stayed after the day's Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson, burning with curiosity.
"What makes you believe there is a problem with the potion?"
"If there wasn't some sort of difficulty, then you wouldn't be talking to Professor Snape about it. I don't think it's that you want to learn to brew it yourself, because I read the notes on it in a potions journal in the library, and it is terribly complex."
"I would like to be able to do it myself, but I don't think that would ever be possible. I am very lucky to have an actual potions master here to prepare it for me."
"I know. I also know that you and Professor Snape have been getting along better than you did three years ago, but, well, like Ron and Harry say, you aren't exactly friends. If you're working together on the potion, that's a good sign. I just think it would have to be something fairly important to convince him to talk with you." Hermione's face was very red.
Ron and Harry were both being so thick about all of this; she had taken it upon herself to talk to Professor Lupin on her own. If the two professors could learn to work together then it showed how stupid it was to remain entirely with the members of one's own house. Hadn't their experience in Dumbledore's Army proven how well they could all work together? There might even be some Slytherins out there who had contributions to make. If the houses could just get past their petty differences, then they'd all be able to learn better. It wasn't at all personal between Professors Lupin and Snape-they could forget all of that to cooperate on research. Very likely it was important research, and Hermione wanted to know what it was about.
The only things she could find in reference to a Wolfsbane potion were in the few recent journals the library had on potions. No text was new enough to contain its background or even its existence. She wanted to know what the project was, maybe even to help with it.
"I don't know how important it is, but since your Gryffindor nature has brought you to ask me I'll let you know. You are certainly able to keep this secret."
"Oh, yes, Professor. I won't tell anyone."
"I'm not saying that it's important or dangerous, but the public really has no love for werewolves: that's my reason for not talking about it."
"I understand." If he didn't tell her soon, she was going to burst.
"We are doing some preliminary research on a side effect of the potion. I am not going to go into that now, because we have only just started. It involves others infected with Lycanthropy, many of whom I am sure will not want their identities known. Right now that's all I can tell you, simply because there isn't much more to say." Remus looked up, thankful to see Ron Weasley at the door of his classroom.
"Hey, Hermione, come on. Why didn't you say you were going to be hanging back? Harry and I spent five minutes talking, assuming you were right behind us."
"Sorry, Ron." She tossed her hair over her shoulder as she turned back to the smiling professor. He glanced quickly from Ron to Hermione, which made her blush. Well, of course Professor Lupin had to know about Ron's crush-everyone knew.
"Thank you, Professor Lupin. You know, if there's anything I can do to help..."
"I know who to ask. Go on, before Mr. Weasley drags you out of here."
Ron had only come halfway back through the classroom, so the dragging comment was premature. Still, Harry hadn't come back to see what Hermione was up to, just Ron.
"Honestly, I was only talking to the professor for a moment."
"Pretty soon, you'll be talking to Professor Snape after Potions class. I won't come back down to get you then."
"You didn't have to come back now. And you can quit going on about Professor Snape-he's a human being, and a teacher. He can't actually hurt you."
"Don't say that, 'cause then I'll imagine him doing regular stuff, like going to the shops or getting married. Gawd."
Remus heard the exasperated huff from Hermione as they walked out the door. If it came to it, and Hermione did end up helping with this project-and who knew?-then she probably would end up working with Professor Snape as well. Poor Ron. Now he'd have to live with a vision of Severus with a market basket on his arm. No, Remus really couldn't ever see that happening. As to getting married...that was about as likely as Remus finding a wife.
He wouldn't be adverse to a relationship, maybe even a serious one, but the lack of eligible candidates at Hogwarts made this extremely elusive. No wonder Severus was still single-he'd been teaching here since he was in his early twenties. He was going to kill Ron, because now he was trying to play matchmaker, at least in his mind, for Severus Snape.
He had no idea what kind of woman Snape would be interested in. Did Severus see anyone back at school? Not that Remus remembered, because the Marauders made enough jokes at his expense about it. James had Lily and Sirius had anyone he wanted; Peter had that mousy-but-sweet Hufflepuff; while Remus had a couple of girlfriends (none serious); so Severus' lack of social life was another thing they could hold over the boy. James and Sirius often laughed that no one would go out with the greasy git: Remus was inclined to believe that Severus was too busy with his schoolwork to care, although he never mentioned this.
Merlin only knew what sort of person Snape would go out with, then or now. Definitely someone intelligent, with the ability to keep a secret, thick skin, and an appreciation for a warped sense of humour. That was just for starters. Not a woman on the face of the planet would meet the criteria enough for Remus to make such a suggestion. The hell with Snape, Remus really needed to get out more. Not that there were any available women here at Hogwarts for him to see, any more than there were for Snape.
He ran as fast as he could, rounding the corner into the alleyway near his school. His books were still there, lying on the ground where he'd dropped them when the werewolf had leaped out at him. He'd run and run, the wolf right on his heels, until he couldn't run any more. The landscape wasn't right-this was supposed to be by his school, so where had all the trees come from? Up ahead was a cottage. If he could make it there, he could go in and the wolf wouldn't be able to reach him.
Was there time? There had to be! His lungs felt like they would burst, but he reached the door and pulled it open. Somehow he had known it wouldn't be locked. Slamming it behind him, he collapsed to the floor in a pile. For a minute, he lay there trying to calm his breathing, the panting wheezes the only sound he could hear. As they quieted, he noticed something else. Click. And why was there so much light? Someone must live here!
It had looked abandoned, but it couldn't be. He felt a presence in front of him and looked up. A man he didn't know, a man with blue eyes, looked down at him, smiling.
"Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you." The smile widened impossibly and the eyes turned yellow. Another werewolf, and it was right on top of him, sniffing and pawing at his clothes. He passed out.
He awoke outside, with no trace of the wolves about. He was fine, although there was a piece of red fabric tied around his upper arm. He'd seen something like it before, only black, at his grandmother's funeral. Why was it red and where had it come from? He tried to pull it off, but it was tightly knotted. He left it alone and walked back toward the buildings of the town. He passed the school, went down the stairs, and into the alley to retrieve his books.
As he reached down to pick them up, the red material fell away from his sleeve of its own accord and fluttered away in the breeze. It blew out of sight, and he felt a terrible sense that he'd lost something and couldn't get it back.
Severus awoke, bleary-eyed and irritable-what else was new? He'd been dreaming again, the same nightmares he'd been having every night since the night before the full moon. Sometimes there were wolves in the dreams, sometimes a man. Well, he should have known that seeing Lupin in even a partial transformation would have some negative affect on his psyche.
And he was seeing the man again, this evening. They were having supper together-at Hogwarts, but in Lupin's rooms-so they could discuss the letters sent by the other two werewolves who had agreed to be observed the night before the full moon. One of them had changed and one had not, but they both had ideas and information, and they knew of some others who might be willing to participate in the experiment.
He'd feel better after the nightmare faded. It always did, until the next night. There would be no werewolf tonight, only another teacher and colleague, whom he had known since he was eleven years old. That boy wasn't harmful, nor the man he'd turned into. Only the werewolf was dangerous. If this all worked out, he would be even less dangerous. He needed to gain the knowledge in order to lessen the threat and reduce his own fear. One dinner was not too much to sit through for the information he needed, and Lupin wasn't even that horrible to be around when they had something specific to discuss.
So help him, he was almost looking forward to this. His life was pathetic.
"I think you ate more for supper tonight than I've seen you eat the past two days."
"I find food more palatable when not eaten with an audience of hundred of squealing students."
"That almost sounded like a compliment."
"It wasn't. Merely a fact that one man cannot possibly cause as much noise as an entire hall-full. You have the good sense to remain silent while eating, and not shout across the table with a mouthful of food."
Remus chuckled lightly.
"And here I was going to suggest that we might talk for a little while."
"I was under the impression that we have already discussed the current information on the side effect of the Wolfsbane potion."
"I did, I just thought we might have some other sort of conversation."
"You never were one for any sort of small talk, Severus. As for actual topics to discuss...the 'usuals' of weather and so forth are right out."
Severus scowled deeply as though insulted that the werewolf would even consider that possibility.
"We have not talked to each other unless about a specific topic since we were in school, and, as you pointed out, I do not make small talk. So what sort of dialogue did you have in mind?"
"We did talk in school, occasionally. Mostly the first few years before the Marauders...before the Marauders. I think things would have been better on you if you'd had a group of friends of your own, but you never seemed at all close to anyone."
"I wasn't. It might be considered a Slytherin characteristic to be suspicious of others, but that was not the case with me. My own lack of trust kept me solitary, and I preferred it that way. My studies were paramount, not companions or quidditch or other schoolboy rot."
"I suppose it was. Your marks were the highest in our class. Easily. I don't think I ever saw you walking with a girl in Hogsmeade. Even I went out upon occasion."
"I never did. When I went into Hogsmeade, there were things I needed. I didn't have time for much else."
"You did attend the Yule Ball that one year. I remember, because James and Sirius couldn't believe it."
"I didn't stay long."
"Was there anyone special?"
"Really, Lupin, you are worse than an old woman. No. Of course there wasn't."
"I never saw you dance."
"Do you think I would have allowed any of you Gryffindors to watch me do anything like dancing?
"No, I don't suppose you would."
"I did dance, you just didn't see it."
Remus broke into a delighted grin. "You could try the patience of the devil himself, you know that?"
Remus could have sworn there was a glint in the dark man's eye. He couldn't consider it a twinkle such as those favoured by Dumbledore, but there was a hint of humour: barely visible, but there.
"You know, I don't recall you seeing anyone at all while at school, and you know it would have got about."
"Indeed. I have never truly understood the lack of ability most people have to keep secrets. Students, it seems, chatter constantly about things which are none of their business."
"Namely the social lives of other students."
"Or the lack thereof."
"What about after you left Hogwarts? Did you see anyone then?"
"I saw plenty of people, only they were all Death Eaters. Not a great amount of female Death Eaters."
"I suppose the women married and stayed at home, more like their Muggle counterparts used to."
"With the exception of Bellatrix Lestrange. The woman was demented, even then. Azkaban could only have improved her personality. And her sister, Narcissa, but she preferred to stay at home as the lady of Malfoy Manor."
"With women like that to choose from, it's no wonder you chose to remain unmarried."
"Now that I know you approve, Lupin, it makes my whole life worthwhile."
"Really, Severus, you should try and not take everything I say as a personal attack. I'm simply trying to find a topic of conversation."
"Try a different one."
"You aren't helping," Remus complained. He thought for a few moments.
"What? It's apparent that you have a question. Or would it be best if I took my leave?"
"You may certainly leave if you like, but there is something I would like to know. I understand, or think I do, why you joined Lord Voldemort in the first place."
"It's not like you had that many choices. I don't mean that your marks weren't good, because they were excellent. You were already a more competent potions maker than many professionals and well on your way to becoming a master. It was your background that turned you in that direction."
"I was only doing what everyone already thought I'd done. You and your friends included."
"You have no idea how sorry I am, Severus. I can never go back, but if I could, I promise you I'd have spoken up on your behalf with the others. We were awful, I didn't know how bad then, but I know now. I certainly knew enough that I should have done something. If I had said stop just once, then maybe things would have been different. I'll regret that for the rest of my life."
"Quit grovelling, Lupin, I believe you."
"You don't have it in you, Lupin. You are not a man of malicious nature, and when you are of malicious nature you are not a man."
"Thank you, I think."
"You had to be careful, I'm sure, and not alienate those friends you did have. Let them have their fun at my expense, or else you might have ended up as alone as I have always been."
He bristled. "It has not escaped my notice that you did not, in fact, ask me whatever it was that was so important to you. Well?"
"Why did you leave Voldemort?"
"What?" Severus was confused. People didn't care when he'd joined the Dark Lord, and Death Eaters didn't ask for reasons. Why would Lupin want to know his motivation for leaving? It should be enough that he was no longer loyal to Voldemort.
"You could have had everything then, nobody expected Voldemort to fall when he did. So why did you leave?"
"I really do want to know." Remus hoped that his sincerity would ring through. Apparently, it had, because Severus seemed to be gathering his thoughts together in some sort of order.
"It was ignorance that brought me to Lord Voldemort's side, ignorance of the muggle world and the current state of the wizarding world. Knowledge is what made me leave it again, because staying was impossible." He swallowed harshly. Remus noticed, and offered a cup of tea, which was, astonishingly enough, accepted. He poured a cup for himself as well.
"I did not know anything, really, about muggles before I joined Lord Voldemort. My family is pure blood and has shunned contact with all but the most necessary aspects of their history and lifestyle for generations. Riddle despised his muggle heritage. He told us about how they thought and acted in an attempt to show how pathetic and useless they were. The more he said, the more questions I had. Of course, he believed my interest lay in destroying them, and I suppose it did at first. He encouraged me to learn, to read about them and the things they had done, the destruction they had caused.
"Do you have any idea how many Muggles there are, Lupin? They outnumber us by a ratio of a thousand-to-one, easily. It's simple to say that because they have no magic they are weak, but gods, there are so many of them! Voldemort sent us on raids, senseless missions, to attack and kill muggles. What was he thinking it would accomplish? All he would do is alert them to our presence here and then what...we would fight them? Lord Voldemort himself couldn't do battle with one thousand enemies at once and win, how could the rest of us face those odds? Even the most potent poisons I could make wouldn't take care of enough to make a difference.
"Wand magic? How can that go up against some of the things they had to fight with. Have you heard of the atomic bomb? I read about it and I didn't think it was real at first. How could anything cause so much destruction? It is real, and they have hundreds, thousands, of these available to them in different nations all over the world. They don't even have to see the targets, they can just send them wherever they want."
Severus paused to take a drink. Remus thought he'd never seen the man look so afraid. He didn't know many details, but yes, he had heard of the atomic bomb in his Muggle Studies classes.
"Do you think there are any wards strong enough to save us if the muggles used their bombs? Not on us, but on each other? Many wizard homes are mixed among those of muggles. Hogwarts itself might be safe, but much of the forbidden forest would be lost and then what? The grounds have space to grow food, but nuclear winter would last a hundred years or more. And if they knew about us and actually aimed to destroy our homes-there wouldn't be any way to stop them. Not just those bombs, but new weapons-toxins and viruses that can spread and kill millions.
"I thought, I thought that we should leave the muggles alone, before they found out we were here and then we might stand a chance. We could create a strong wizarding world from the blood of old families. The muggle-borns and mudbloods could be pushed out somehow, and then we'd have power in the hands of those who should have it. That's what I thought."
Snape looked at the table.
"I don't want to interrupt, because it's obvious you have more to say. Would you like to move from the table and sit on the couch? It would be a sight more comfortable."
"Yes, that would be fine." He finished his tea then stood and followed Lupin over to the somewhat worn brocade sofa. Lupin went and filled his cup before taking his seat.
"I'm sorry. Please continue." He hoped he hadn't completely disrupted Snape's train of thought. It was horrible and fascinating at the same time.
"A pure-blooded wizarding world, and I thought we could really do it. I was so young, so foolish. Have you ever stopped to think about it, Lupin? About how few pure blood wizards there are?"
"No, I admit I haven't."
"Every wizard who marries a muggle takes us farther away from what we were. The remaining pure blooded families left had fewer choices of mates, so they had been intermarrying and cannibalising themselves for generations.
"So many of us have no preference in our mates, a good quarter of the wizarding world, with perhaps ten percent specifically favouring their own gender. Of pure wizard families, that indifferent quarter goes up to a half and homosexuality to twenty per cent. Those numbers are too high to not notice, to not be dangerous to Voldemort's plan. Of course, he made those who would rather not marry do so. Lucius Malfoy was paired with Narcissa against his wishes, but what could he do?
"He wed and bred with the frigid bitch, at last producing an heir. Her sister never managed to get pregnant no matter how hard she tried to please Voldemort and after Azkaban it is impossible for Bellatrix Lestrange to conceive. The 'Most Noble and Ancient family of Black' is gone now. Sirius had no brothers or sisters as you well know. Bellatrix was insane all her life. Don't you see, the pure families are dying out because they can't have children. Malfoy managed to have Draco, but he was a sickly baby and barely survived. There's small chance that he'll be able to father children of his own and with a pure wizard girl, almost none at all. They're becoming mad and sterile, all of the old families, mine too! I have no siblings. Most of the Death Eaters have no siblings. There are more muggle-born children coming into the wizarding world now, and the half-bloods produce more children as well."
"What about the Weasley family? They are of pure blood."
"The Weasleys! Who knows how they manage it. How do the impoverished manage to have seven healthy children, and the affluent, none?"
Remus' expression hardened.
"The Weasleys are good people, despite their lack of wealth and social standing. You would do well to remember that, even if you don't care for them personally."
"My opinion of them is of little moment. How likely are any of them to marry into other pure wizard families, now that most are on the side of Voldemort?"
"Almost none. At least I know that both Ron and Ginny prefer the opposing gender and the twins like girls. Perhaps they like other boys as well, but they do like girls. Ginny Weasley has been seeing Dean Thomas-I know he's half-blood-and Ron is obviously attracted to Hermione."
"Who is muggle born." Severus made a face. "I cannot even imagine the thought of having to deal with a half-dozen or so Granger-Weasley brats in another twenty years. It would be enough to make me retire. My stomach churns: a herd of frizzy redheads who are as trouble-prone as Potter's friend Ron as well as being insufferable know-it-alls like Granger."
Remus burst out into laughter: the black brow Severus quirked at him made him laugh harder until he gasped for breath. He managed to calm himself after a minute.
"It's funny that Hermione's intellect annoys you. I remember another teenager who read constantly and often interrupted or corrected his teachers. Or is it that similarity that so bothers you?"
"Your comparing me even remotely with Miss Granger is...insulting."
"Why? It's true. She's as intelligent and inquisitive as you ever were."
"Yet fails to abide by the rules like a typical Gryffindor. The foolish girl should know better than to blatantly disregard the rules as she has done throughout her entire career at Hogwarts."
"You didn't follow the rules either, Severus."
Snape looked down his nose disparagingly.
"I did not parade through the hallways openly disobeying staff."
"No, you would sneak around or bend the rules as you saw fit. I suppose that's the Slytherin equivalent, isn't it?"
"I used my time breaking curfew to study, and not to play pranks like others."
"So it is well and good to break rules if it's for a good reason?"
"At least I had one."
"I thought we were talking about Hermione Granger and her friends, not the Marauders."
"We still are."
"I'm not so sure about that, but it doesn't matter. Hermione, and Harry for that matter, have perfectly valid reasons for doing the things they've done, all the way back to keeping Professor Quirrel from finding the Philosopher's Stone."
"What a rather undignified noise that was, a bit like a horse. Of course, with that nose..."
"If I did not know better, I would say that you are making fun of me."
"I'm not making fun, Severus. I'm joking with you."
"Is that what you're doing?"
"Yes. Don't look so indignant, we've actually been getting along like normal people for some time now, or hadn't you noticed."
"We have been able to discus several topics of mutual interest like rational adults, if that is what you mean."
"It is." Lupin set his teacup on the table next to the sofa before continuing. "Two months ago I wouldn't have thought we would be sitting here together having any sort of civil conversation. I have come to enjoy your company, Severus. There you go again, with that look. What is the matter with having a decent conversation and sharing your opinions with, well, not exactly an old friend, but an old schoolmate?"
"Sharing my opinions with anyone can only lead to disaster. It is possible that some of the other Death Eaters have noticed the flaws in Lord Voldemort's logic, but not likely. They are too blinded by the promises of power and their own inborn prejudice to see how stupid it is to believe in a world of pure-blooded wizards."
"I won't spill your secrets, if that's what you're worried about. We're on the same side in this war."
They sat in silence for a few minutes, each man lost in his own thoughts. Remus chuckled.
"Was there something?"
"No, not really. It's just...you've hidden yourself so well and so long that I never imagined you'd express your ideas about life so passionately."
"Did you think I had betrayed Voldemort on a whim?" Snape's lip curled. Remus thought he almost looked amused. "I do believe that is the first time anyone has ever used the term 'passionate' with regard to myself."
"It's true, and you know I mean 'passionate' as in having strong convictions. It also means quick-tempered, which is certainly true enough."
"I see you have come back round to joking with me."
"Oh, lighten up, Severus," Remus said with a soft smile, reaching out to put a supportive hand on Snape's arm. Instinctively, he pulled away and the hand landed instead just above his knee. Severus inhaled sharply, turning startled eyes on Lupin's face.
Remus' mouth was slightly open and he blinked rapidly. The fringe of golden eyelashes was untouched by grey, unlike the hair on his head. The last time Severus had looked so closely in these eyes they had been amber and wolf-like instead of blue. Now, the pupils were so dilated that the iris was obscured and their colour was nearly as black as Severus' own.
Remus leaned in gently, not wanting to startle, and silenced the question with a gentle brushing of lips. A second, slightly deeper kiss followed, and Remus' tongue moved forward to request entry. Severus opened slightly before he registered what was happening. He pulled back abruptly, clenching his teeth and clamping his lips tightly shut.
"I...I'm sorry, it was just that I thought you might not mind. I don't know why, I shouldn't have presumed."
"Be quiet, Lupin."
Remus half expected to be facing Severus' wand, or at least to see some form of anger on the man's face. Instead, midnight eyes filled with apprehension stared back at him. It gave Snape the appearance of a much younger man. His lips trembled until he compressed them tightly together.
"Severus? You're not mad?" Snape stared at him blankly.
"That I kissed you. Are you angry?"
"I don't think so. I don't know what to think."
"I'm not that sure either. I didn't exactly plan on that happening, but it did. I'm sorry if I startled you, but I don't think I'm sorry I kissed you. Maybe, yes, I think this has been coming on for some time now, I just didn't notice until tonight."
"Didn't notice what?" Severus was astonished at his loss of words. He had never been this tongue-tied in his life and it was embarrassing. Embarrassing? Severus Snape didn't feel embarrassed. He could feel anger, distain, and hate just fine: embarrassment was an emotion for ineffectual people with no pride. His pride was failing at the memory of firm lips covering his own.
"As I mentioned earlier, about how we've actually been getting along, talking to each other. I do enjoy your company and I believe you enjoy mine, as loath as you'd be to admit it. We're acting almost like friends. Perhaps we are friends, can be friends, or perhaps we could be something more."
"I don't have relationships, if that's what you mean."
"I do. And I haven't been with anyone in a long time either. I last went out with a woman five years ago. We dated for two months until she broke it off. She thought that my absences meant that I was seeing another woman and I couldn't tell her otherwise. She was a Muggle. It's been even longer since I've been with a man."
"Not 'in a long time'."
"What do you mean? You haven't dated any men in a long time, or dated anyone in a long time?"
"You misunderstand. It's not that I haven't been out with anyone recently, I haven't been out with anyone."
"Well, Severus, I don't know what to say. What about the girls you danced with back in school?"
"I danced one or two times. We didn't go out anywhere or...do anything." Severus flushed, disgusted at himself for admitting such a thing. He clenched his hands into fists, mortified.
Remus reached out and took one of the elegant hands in his own, straightening the long fingers.
"There's nothing to be ashamed of in that. Your life has been far from ordinary, and you haven't had time for personal relationships. We don't have to move quickly, if you don't want."
"We will not be doing anything at all."
Remus looked crestfallen. "Oh. You're not interested, then."
"I didn't say that."
"Well, you're not interested in me."
"I did not say that, either."
Remus tilted his head in annoyance. "So what are you saying, because I don't understand."
"I am telling you that I have never gone out with anyone and I am too old to begin with such foolishness now."
"That's it? You don't want to have a relationship because you think you're beyond needing anyone's company? It's not something one outgrows, Severus, people need human contact. There's nothing wrong with starting to see someone new when you're thirty-eight."
"Dammit, you know what I mean."
"I do. And now I suppose I should be going. Our polite conversation appears to be at an end." He rose, pulling his robes closed in front as if they were made of armour. Remus stood as well, exasperated.
"That is the worst excuse I've ever heard, not wanting to date because you think you're too old. It's just ridiculous."
Snape raised an eyebrow. "Riddikulus, you say?"
Remus lunged forward, splaying his fingers over Severus' face and pulling him down for another kiss. The taller man tried to pull back, but one hand slid around behind his neck and held his head in place, the thumb twirling distracting circles on his jaw line. The tongue was back, demanding when it had been asking before. He opened to it, lost in the haze of new sensations.
It went on and on, deepening then gentling again when Remus pulled away to inhale quickly, before returning to the kiss. Severus was finding it hard to breathe for a number of reasons, but everything felt so wonderful that he didn't want to end it. The next time Remus pulled away for air, he drew breath as well, and then pushed his tongue forward into the other man's mouth. This earned a throaty chuckle as Remus accepted it, sucking lightly.
It was nearly his undoing. Each new experience was stronger than the last. If things got much better, Severus would be so light-headed he'd fall over.
The wonderful tongue battle continued. When he retreated, Remus advanced and Severus was able to try that little sucking trick himself. Very interesting. Finally, it ended and the two men stood staring at each other and panting heavily.
"I think we should sit down before doing that again, Lupin."
"Call me Remus," he said automatically. Double-take. "You'd like to do that again?"
"Then, by all means, let's sit." They did, with Remus bending a leg slightly to better face the man he was becoming more fascinated with by the minute. "That was quite a kiss."
"With the exception of a few minutes ago, that was my first."
"The girls in school you danced with, you didn't even kiss them?"
"I'm...honoured then, to have been your first kiss." His mouth turned up in a slight smile. "And I'm glad that you enjoyed it."
"I did. I have apparently taken complete leave of my senses. Did you by any chance put something into the food?"
Remus shook his head. "I think you are simply in need of some human contact.
"Perhaps." A pale hand reached out, hesitant, to cup Remus' tan chin. A dark head approached a lighter one. "Might I?"
A second kiss, similar to the first, only this time Severus allowed his arms to slowly snake around Remus and the two men held each other as their mouths connected. Remus slid a hand up and down the black back, a gesture of reassurance.
More kisses, wild and gentle, and more touching. Severus moved a tentative hand and threaded his fingers through the strands of Remus' hair, enjoying the feel of it. Remus let his hands stroke gently along back and shoulders, around the waist, and up to Severus' chest, causing a sharp inhalation.
Remus had brushed his palm over a nipple, which felt a bit like static electric shock, only so, so much better, even through thick winter robes, coat, and shirt. He did it again. Severus had never heard himself make such a sound, somewhere between gasp and groan. Groans of pain were familiar enough, but this was the antithesis of pain. He gasped again. It was very exciting. Could he get Lupin...Remus to do that? His hand slid around and up, petting through the soft, thick sweater.
It was even better when Remus did it, so Severus continued. The added element of sound to already reeling senses, and Severus found himself warming: a slow heat that burned pleasantly down to his groin and caused him to harden. His trousers began to feel uncomfortable and he worried that it might get noticed. With difficulty, he pushed away from Remus, who made a needy moan at the loss of contact. Sapphire met onyx.
"I find myself in an unaccustomed predicament."
"It's really funny how you can sit there, with your face flushed and hair mussed up from snogging and still sound as though you were in a classroom. What is the problem?"
"I am, that is to say, I..." Severus broke off, blushing.
"If you can't talk about it, then perhaps I should stop kissing you now. I don't want to, of course. You're rather good at it."
"Yes. If you hadn't mentioned that you'd never done this before I would not have known. You're a quick study."
"If you say so. It isn't the kissing."
"Then what is it? I've never seen you blush before. I wouldn't expect it of you, but it's really quite attractive."
"Don't make fun of me, please." Black, discomfited eyes darted around the room.
"I'm not making fun of you. I'm trying to find out what's wrong. Is it..." realisation dawned. "Are you uncomfortable because you have an erection? Is that the problem?"
"Yes." It was almost a relief to admit it.
Remus laughed, placing hands on dark shoulders to prevent Severus' rising.
"I'm not laughing at you. It's a perfectly normal response to what we're doing. I have one as well and I don't have a problem with that."
"Is it normal? I haven't had a...reaction like this for a very long time-six months or more."
"That's very unusual, Severus, but it does make sense."
"I have always assumed that the fumes from all of my potions caused my impotence. Or my family line did it same as the likely sterility. I wasn't very interested even as a young man. It isn't important."
"It is important. It's normal for men of any age, it's healthy, and it feels good. It might be the potions, as you say, but I think it's more likely depression."
"Do you think so? I didn't realise it mattered."
"Of course it does. Depression causes a lot of problems, including loss of libido. You certainly have plenty on your mind, things that would depress anyone; you have all your life. Besides, your theory about pure-blood wizard families having a higher instance of mental illness could affect it as well. Your reaction now is because you have a reason for it."
"That is true enough. It's something to think about."
"All right, then. I'm amazed that you can be so forthcoming on topics of such a personal nature."
"This is not personal, it's physiological theory."
"If you say so. Will you be leaving now? I'd like you to stay."
"I would like to stay. Might we return to what we were doing?"
Remus laughed at the formal words, which belied the hopeful glint that Severus didn't try to conceal. Well, when a Slytherin found something he wanted, he went after it by any means necessary: this time, Remus didn't mind a bit.
"I'd love to."
"This has been a most unusual evening."
"I'd have to agree. Pleasantly surprising, though."
After a while, Severus lost count of how many times he had now been kissed. It wasn't important in the face of his new knowledge-that caressing Remus under the sweater had more interesting results than over it. It made the nipples hard and Remus would produce throaty growls that reminded one of his wolf nature, only causing arousal instead of fear. He found out how sensitive ears could be. He learned that it felt better than good to have his throat nuzzled and his collarbones nipped at. How had his shirt come open, anyway? The nibbles were nothing like the gnawing bites Lupin had placed on the nights before the full moon, being almost ticklish.
"I am not ticklish!"
"Yes, you are, let me prove it."
"Remus. Call me Remus."
"Remus. I am not ticklish. Would you stop...oh!"
"Told you so."
For the first time he could remember, Severus didn't mind being proven wrong about something. He tried to revenge himself, but apparently werewolves were immune to tickling. At least this one was.
His education broadened further when the mouth had moved from collarbone downward. The first flick of tongue across his own nipples made him cry out softly and Remus had stopped, concerned that he'd done something wrong.
"It feels good," he had almost sobbed. Where were these noises coming from? Gasps, choked sobs of pleasure, the near giggle that would have been humiliating; these were not sounds made by Severus Snape. But none of these things had ever happened to him before, either, so he allowed himself the liberty.
The tongue moved from left to right and back again until Severus' head was tilted back and tossing from side to side from the sensation. Then he felt a hand on his thigh, fingers trailing until...
A hand was on him, petting him where nobody was supposed to touch. The thumb brushed across the head of his penis and he gasped because it felt incredible.
"Stop it, stop it!" he shouted until he had no breath left and struggled until his ankles were sore from pulling against the silk scarves, but the stroking continued.
"Stop it!" Severus pushed hard enough that Remus overbalanced and landed with a thump on the floor. He pushed strands of greying brown hair out of his eyes and looked up to see a black figure looming over him, hands working frantically to fasten the buttons he'd undone earlier. Several were left open when thick robes, which flared out as Severus headed swiftly towards the door, covered them. The dark head whipped around once, looking behind as though to be sure he was not being followed.
"Severus, wait! What happened?" But Remus was left alone. He staggered to his feet, uncertain.
He must have moved too quickly, that had to be it. Yes, he had misjudged Severus' enjoyment and should not have let his desires push the man into things he was not ready for. It would not be all that unusual to progress from first kiss to heavy petting in one evening, except for the fact that it had been Snape's first kiss ever. Remus would not have gone so far if he'd been a teenager again with an inexperienced partner.
Remember to think with your brain next time, Remus old boy.
He would apologise first chance he got. Now he supposed he should take a bath and go to bed. Realistically, release some sexual tension in a bath before going to bed. Lord, that man had learned to be a good kisser in no time at all.
Three days went by. Three days in which Remus saw very little of Professor Snape except at mealtimes, and not even then some days. Remus tried to catch the elusive Potions Master's eye, but he seemed to stare at his plate and only spoke when spoken to. That was in character, but lately Lupin had seen a change. Snape spoke more often, at least to him, until three days ago. They had the Wolfsbane potion to discuss before, and now they'd actually proved that the two could have a more than civil evening together.
Maybe that was the problem. Severus had never even kissed before. His age made things even more awkward, since one expected to find inexperienced partners at seventeen and not a blushing virgin of thirty-seven. He must have pushed too fast, causing Snape to leave in a fit of panic. With more time to think it over, he may have decided that a personal relationship was more than he could handle. If that was it, then Remus could deal with the fear. Since when did Severus Snape run from anything or anyone? Since three nights ago, but never mind that.
Then again, maybe it is me. A few weeks of tenuous companionship after years of hostility is a lot to overcome. A few kisses can overwhelm anyone for one night: Remus himself hadn't been thinking entirely clearly-the very scent of the man had nearly driven him mad. Or had he been thinking right for the first time in ages? If he didn't know, then Snape certainly didn't know. Perhaps Snape would rather have the company of a woman, that he was one of the fifty per cent of pure-blooded wizards that stuck with the opposite gender. That hadn't seemed to matter when they kissed, but again, he may have just been swept away by things.
Was it really such a high percentage of magical people that were homosexual or just didn't care? That was significantly different from the muggle population, and a genuine cause for concern for the old families.
Remus had never worried himself over his interest in both women and men. Of course, nobody ever told him it was wrong to fancy both, and he had other, more important things to worry about than what gender he slept with. He never had favoured one over the other. He smiled inwardly. He didn't favour men even now; just one man caught his interest. Severus Snape.
Is it worth pursuing? Remus considered his options as he walked to the Great Hall for supper. He felt that the answer was yes. Definitely yes, it was something he wanted to explore. It didn't look like the object of his interest felt the same. He wondered if Severus might be willing to talk to him again if Remus said he'd be content to be just friendly again and act like nothing else had happened.
Dammit, he didn't want to act like nothing else had happened!
Snape, curse him, wasn't in his place at the staff table and Remus was late. He was missing another meal, unless the house elves brought it to him. If nothing else, he could rail at Snape about that-he was too thin to not eat. Lupin seethed all the way through his meal and gave curt answers to anything Professor Sprout asked him. She'd put it down to the full moon last week and forgive him with no second thoughts. She was a good woman as well as a good teacher. Remus managed a smile for her when he left.
The smile faded to an unaccustomed setting of jaw as Lupin left the Great Hall. He decided to go see Snape because the hell if he was going to spend another night wondering when he could do something about the situation. He'd rather go back to the way things were even before he and Snape had started to get along than face this uncertainty.
Snape wasn't in his office. Wonder of wonders, the man hadn't assigned any detentions for tonight. He wasn't in his classroom across the hall either. He must be in his quarters. Well, he could chase the serpent into his hole, had done it once already. Snape might recoil and hiss a while, but eventually he'd emerge if poked hard enough.
Remus was annoyed enough that he was looking forward to a bit of poking. He walked down the corridor and again took the stairs that led even deeper into the dungeons. One more floor down really made little difference-underground was underground. A portrait of a Japanese woman in a garden hung next to the barely-visible door. There were no magical torches in this hall save for at the staircases at either end-the one up that Remus had just taken and one down, a flickering pinpoint some metres away. Severus would choose to make his home in a private part of the castle. Who came down to this storage hallway? Nobody except Snape.
"I would not recommend to see the Professor tonight, sir," the portrait said in a pretty, polite voice. She picked a chord on her samisen and paused for effect.
"Is there some reason I shouldn't knock tonight, as compared to any other night?"
"Professor Snape is not happy tonight. Please come back another day."
"Did he tell you to say that? He's not a happy man, as I'm sure you must know if you've been here for any length of time."
"He did not tell me to say anything, sir. Excuse me. I have been here since before Professor Snape chose to make his rooms in this hallway. Before, I was most always alone, now I have someone to talk to sometimes. No, he is not happy, but tonight he is less so. Please, I ask that you not disturb his solitude."
"I'm sorry, but I really do need to speak to him." He knocked and the woman strummed her samisen with a calm, offhand air. There was no answer, so he knocked again, louder.
"Severus, it's Remus...Lupin. Please, I just want to talk to you." He listened intently, but it was too far past the moon to hear if anyone was coming to the door. The portrait stopped her playing when she heard his name.
"Please excuse me, Professor Lupin. I did not know who you were. I think he might wish to see you."
The words were barely spoken before the wards on the door came down and the knob turned. A dark head appeared. Snape looked terrible, and was that liquor on his breath?
"Ah, Professor Lupin. I had rather thought you might come here some time soon. I suppose you should come in." He stepped back and opened the door barely enough for the slim brunette to slip inside.
"Please do not hurt him," the portrait implored.
"I won't," Snape answered. He closed and re-warded the door. The portrait smiled sadly-she had been talking to the werewolf.
Inside, Remus walked around and took in the décor while he gathered his thoughts. That the room was completely surrounded by bookshelves was not surprising. It looked like an annex to the library. What was unexpected was how warm it was and how comfortable it seemed. The fire was lit, and he could see a glow through the door to what had to be the bedroom that meant a fire burned there as well. It was November, after all, and Remus doubted that it ever got very warm this far below ground level. The only parts of the floor not covered with rugs were in front of bookcases, and the gaps showed a few centimetres of stone at most. There was a large wardrobe, exactly like the one in his own rooms, and a desk and chair as well. The rest of the furniture was much finer than the sturdy, functional pieces provided by Hogwarts. A small table held a chess set, blocky green and white stone set with gold. Two obviously well-made chairs were set on opposing sides of the board. These were of rich, dark wood and backed in heavy green brocaded silk. Another table, larger, sat next to the leather reading chair. A lamp stood unlit upon it, and a book. There was a bottle and a glass there as well-the glass had been used and the bottle barely held any liquid.
It wasn't the opening he'd planned, but it seemed like a way to start. "Why have you been drinking, Severus? It isn't like you."
"How do you know, and what business is it of yours, anyway?" Snape's normally sarcastic remarks were made even more cutting by the slightly sibilant nature of drunken speech. It was a bit like being knifed in the ears.
"I know you've been drinking because of the bottle, and that you don't usually because I'd smell it on you if you'd been drinking any time near a full moon. Unless you are trying to hide it from me specifically, and thus avoid indulging at those times, you don't drink. And I suppose it isn't my business, except that I'd like it to be."
"What kind of logic is that?"
"The kind that says I'm worried about you. We had been getting along and then, the other night...I must have pushed you too far too fast, and I apologise. I couldn't do it before because I haven't seen you for three days and I know it's because you're avoiding me. I won't do that again, won't force you into things you're not ready for. It's not what I'd prefer, but we can try and go back to just acting civil if you wish it."
Severus stared, glassy-eyed, as if he hadn't heard a word.
No movement except to blink.
"Lord, you can't be that drunk, can you? What's wrong, what did you do?" A sudden, horrible thought occurred to Remus. He went to the bottle and sniffed, then the glass. No, if it was poisoned he couldn't smell it. "Severus, you didn't do anything, did you?" It wasn't a completely ridiculous question, so when Snape began to laugh Remus didn't know what to think.
Snape must have laughed before, although Remus couldn't remember having heard him do it. Remus himself was prone to laughter, but this sound held no joy. It was dark and cold and he didn't like it at all.
"No, Rrremuss," Severus rolled the name carefully over his tongue as he spoke. "I didn't do anything to cause myself harm. I'm not dying, at least no more than any of us are not dying, as we begin to die the moment we're born."
"Are you that terribly drunk? This isn't my fault, because of what I did when we had supper together, is it?"
"I am not so terribly drunk as I'd like to be. I'd like to forget...everything. It is your fault, but not for what you think. Not for three days ago. For last week."
"Last week? I did do something then, when you watched to see if I'd lose my human self the night before the full moon. Was it the bite again? Oh my god, you're not...affected, are you?" It shouldn't be possible. Severus didn't think it was, he'd said so. He cleaned the bite mark as he'd cleaned the one the previous month. It would leave a scar, to be sure, but it hadn't passed on the Lycanthropy, or had it?
"No. I'm not a werewolf. It wasn't that...it was something else, an accident, not my fault, not your fault, just...something that shouldn't have happened."
"Is it my fault or isn't it, Severus, look at me!" Remus pulled the taller man and held his arms at the elbows. Snape's eyes looked like volcanic glass, all shiny black, splintered, and sharp. He stared deeply down at Lupin, who thought the man must be trying to enter his brain through his eyeballs. He teared up from the intense scrutiny, blinked, and then Severus started to laugh again. The ripples of sound shook both men's bodies until Severus dropped to his knees, a shaking black pile of fabric and hair. Remus watched, spellbound by the awful sight of Severus Snape in near hysterical laughter.
"Is there anything I can do?"
"There's nothing you can do, there's nothing I can do. It's all been done, nearly thirty years ago. I only just remembered, only just over this past week. It was you, your hand. You touched me-you didn't mean to, and you didn't know what you were doing. You sniffed at me again, like you did the first time; acting like an animal in a man's body. I'm sure you were just checking to see if I was a threat. That's very funny, Lupin, the idea that I would be a threat to you. You nearly killed me once, even if you didn't mean to. I'm babbling, aren't I?"
"A little bit. You certainly aren't acting like the Severus Snape I know."
"What do you know? What do you really know about me, my life, my past? I didn't even know some of it until just a few days ago. Come on, Lupin. Tell me something personal about myself that you know. When's my birthday?"
"I don't know. I suppose it's some time over the summer holiday, since Professor Dumbledore always announces staff birthdays and I never heard him mention yours when I was here three years ago."
"What's my middle name, then?"
"I don't know, Severus. Does it really matter?"
"You don't care, I knew it." Snape spat bitterly. No, of course it didn't matter if Lupin or anyone else knew about his birthday or his favourite colour or his middle name or anything like that. Right now, though, he wanted there to be someone who knew him, knew about the foolish little things that were unimportant so that perhaps he might be able to tell about those things that no one knew and did matter.
Lupin had never seen an out-of-control Snape. This wasn't due to being drunk, because for all the slurring speech he seemed very lucid. Touched Snape? Of course he'd touched him that night before the full moon. He bit him once, and did it again a month later-hard enough to break skin both times. There was something about that which plagued Remus, but that wasn't what Snape was talking about.
Snape had turned away and was resting his head on the seat of one of the chairs by the chess table. He began to shake violently. For a moment, Remus thought he'd started that fearful laughter again, but this was different. There was no sound. The shaking turned to rocking, and Severus gripped his bent legs lightly to his chest, resting his forehead on his knees.
The position was that of a child, Lupin observed. Like a child in pain.
"Severus. Severus, can you look at me?" He asked very softly. The head uncurled. There were no tears any more than there was sound, but Remus knew that Snape was crying. His body gave the correct symptoms instinctively, though the owner had lost his ability to grieve consciously years ago.
"I remember now, Remus," Snape said hoarsely. His use of Remus' given name was a sign of something, but like the bite mark, Lupin didn't know what it was yet. "I remember everything: everything I ever read or learned, and I remember it. They call it eidetic memory. Until last week, though, I had forgotten something. How could I do that, Remus? How could I forget something that big when I remember everything else? And why couldn't it have stayed away forever?"
"What is it that you remember?"
"It happened a long time ago, when I was nine years old. It was a day, just like so many others. I was in school-it was autumn, but still warm outside. We were studying grammar that afternoon. I liked grammar and spelling, I think it was the rules that made it all fit together that made me like it so, just as with mathematics. No one else could remember things as easily as I could. I have a very good memory, Lupin."
At least Snape was sounding more like himself, even if the way he looked up into Remus' face was eerie. Lupin sat cross-legged on the carpet and looked Snape in the eye.
"I know you do. What happened that day in school?"
"It wasn't in school, but after."
"Okay, they're finally coming."
"It's about time." The man looked at his watch. "What damn school lets out at four?"
"You're a real comedian, Donaldson. You know that?"
"No names! And shut the hell up." Murmuring. "What was that again?"
"Nothin' man." Silence.
"Shit! They're all in groups."
"Children are social creatures. Don't worry, there's always at least one that isn't."
Laughing, chattering children walked by in groups of threes and fours; occasional pairs of siblings; but no singles. Until...
"There's one by himself. Herself?"
"It's a boy. He just has long hair. He's wearing trousers."
"Oh. It's hard to see through your head."
Donaldson bit back his reply. His partner might be an idiot, but he was an unscrupulous idiot who was an absolute artist with a camera. He watched closely as the little boy in question slowly climbed down the stairs from the schoolyard, followed the street for a little bit, then turned off the main road for a quiet alleyway.
"There's nothing down there, just the couple of benches and some rubbish bins."
"I know. I'm sure he knows. The kid's a loner," Donaldson grinned evilly. "They never learn. Although, after today, this one'll probably know better. Come on, there's no one else about. Pull the car round so we can get out of here as soon as I get back."
Donaldson slid from the driver's seat of the plain, dark vehicle. It was an ordinary car, not too new nor too old nor too expensive: the kind that nobody looked twice at. His partner, Jeff, slid into place and turned over the engine while he grabbed a grey woollen blanket from the boot, then disappeared into the alley.
Less than two minutes elapsed before he returned, a wriggling pile of blanket slung over his shoulder. He dumped it in the backseat and sat down next to it. The car pulled away before he'd even slammed the door.
"Shut the hell up, kid," Donaldson ordered before slapping the bundle somewhere in the middle. The muffled snorting ceased. "Good boy."
They drove perhaps half an hour before they reached their destination-an ordinary-looking cottage surrounded by tall trees. The two men exited the vehicle, and Donaldson again hoisted the child contained in the blanket over his shoulder.
"Don't worry. Once we get inside you can yell your head off if you want." The light, conversational tone seemed incongruous with the words. The boy didn't move: Donaldson figured he was biding his time. That's what most of them did, once they were caught. They would play possum until released from the blanket and then try and run for it. Not one ever made it, so their trying didn't bother him at all.
Inside, the cottage was nearly bare. The kitchen had an old stove. To the left was a tiny bathroom and a bit of hallway leading to a bedroom. Ahead to the right was the main room. Directly ahead was another door and a dark stair leading down to another door. Unlike the house above, the cellar was full of furniture and equipment. Donaldson carried the boy to a full-sized brass bed while Jeff took care of shutting and locking the doors.
"Here you go! Make yourself at home."
Large, black eyes blinked up at Donaldson as he freed the little boy from his blanket prison. They narrowed quickly, taking in the scene around. It looked like a well-appointed bedroom on this half of the room. The brass on the bed was polished and shiny and there were odd-looking chairs and a little table on one side and a matching dresser on the other. It was obviously made for an adult, but it only extended into half the space of the room. The other half had no rug, just bare boards. There were dark shapes around the edges that looked like sinks but not all of them had taps for water. A forest of strange metal poles surrounded a second, smaller man.
"Who are you? What is this place?" He got no answer. "You're...nobody I know." He'd been about to say 'muggles'. That would never do. Everything here was so foreign that it had to be muggles, but what was it for?
"I asked you who you were," the tone was imperious and seemed to demand an answer. Donaldson was amused.
"Aren't you a curious little fellow." It was a statement, not a question, and the boy appeared to understand that.
"Don't patronise me."
The oddly mature words caused Jeff to look up from his preparations. Weird little kid wasn't trying to get away and didn't even seem scared. He let Donaldson handle it.
"How the hell old are you, kid? Six or seven?"
"Nine? Shit, no way."
"Doesn't matter," the other man called from the far corner of the room. "He looks younger, and that's all we need."
"He does at that. And look at these clothes! Do you always dress like this, boy?"
"My name isn't 'boy', it's Sev..." He glared at Donaldson.
"Seth?" Another glare. "Seth it is. So, Seth, is this what you wear to school every day? Kind of old-fashioned, but I like it."
Deep black trousers and shiny black shoes, with a clean, white shirt, black-and-grey tie, and a strangely flowing black vest or coat in a style Donaldson had never seen.
"Looks like somebody died," Jeff interjected.
"What do you care?" Okay, maybe someone did die. It didn't matter one way or the other, just as the clothes didn't matter. "What are you doing? Let go of me!"
Donaldson had taken the coat/vest off and was reaching for the tie when the kid exploded.
"Ouch, goddammit. Dude! I could use some help over here."
"In a second."
Jeff set down his camera and trotted over. Donaldson had the kid by the middle but he couldn't seem to capture any of the flailing limbs.
"He's crazy! Just...grab his arms, will ya?"
"Yes, sir," Jeff responded sarcastically. He wasn't the brains of the operation, but in the studio he was master of his domain.
It took a few tries, but he managed to clasp and hold the wiry wrists while Donaldson wrapped one of his legs around both of the kid's. He'd have fallen over but for the prop of the high mattress. One arm around the kid's waist, he clamped his other hand over the boy's mouth and pinched his nose shut with his fingers. After a few seconds' frantic movement, the kid stilled immediately.
"I know you're awake, Seth," Donaldson said as he slowly removed his hand. "You can't get away, so you had better let me take your clothes off or I'll just put my hand back until you pass out. Your choice. Are you going to keep still?"
"Good. Stay here for a second while I unbutton the shirt in case he gets any ideas."
"Sure thing." Jeff looked closely at their captive while Donaldson removed the clothing. "Damn, this one's going to look great in black-and-white."
"This one is black-and-white."
"True enough. He'll look stunning on film."
"Even with that nose?"
"What's wrong with my nose, you bastard?" And why did everyone have to make fun of it? He had to take it from the kids at school, but no mere muggle was going to mock him about it.
"Whoa, kid, I'll wash your mouth out with soap if you're not careful."
"The nose isn't a problem. You won't even notice at the right angle. Move your arm a bit and I can get the trousers. Don't kick me, Seth."
How stupid muggles are, thinking his name was Seth. Let them think it-they'd probably just laugh if he told them it was really Severus. Father is right, we are better than they are: they don't know anything.
He bit his lip, giving them another glare. It didn't do any good, but it made him feel better. What was wrong with his pants? They were the same as his father's, only smaller. What stupid kind of underwear did muggle boys wear, then?
"Damn, he's perfect. You'd never get a real six-year-old that didn't have at least one skinned knee. Not a mark on him."
Severus didn't like how the shorter man was looking at him. No one had ever called him perfect, and the eyes roaming up and down his now-nude body made him uncomfortable in a way he'd never before experienced.
"Skinny as a whippet, though. You want to get the scarves, since you've got free hands?"
"No problem. Don't let go."
"Sure as hell won't."
Jeff went to the dresser and pulled out a number of long scarves in blue, red, and green.
"Don't even think about it, kid!"
So Severus sat there on the big man's lap while the smaller one tied his hands together with a red silk scarf. It felt very soft as the man wrapped it around and made a secure knot at the back of his wrists. His arms turned out awkwardly as the man pulled them above his head and secured the end of the scarf to the brass bedstead. The silk was too strong to break and the knots much too tight to undo with his teeth even if he could reach them. He was trapped until they chose to release him.
He should have fought harder, but even if he'd broken away from the men, how would he get out of here and where would he go if he did? He had no idea where they'd taken him, but it was obviously far from home. He watched the smaller man go back to whatever he'd been doing, tinkering with odd muggle instruments. The man looked up.
"Grab one of the cylinder pillows and put it behind his back. It'll give him a good arch and with his head tipped back a little the nose will look right."
"Red one, I guess. Doesn't matter to start with, though. I won't use the colour film straight away."
The man might have called the thing a pillow, but it wasn't soft at all. It was a long, slightly malleable roll about a metre long and covered in plush material. The covers on the bed were pulled away and with his arms secured to the bedstead and the pillow under his shoulders, he was forced to arch his back uncomfortably. His feet scrabbled on the sheets, but they were slippery satin and he found no purchase.
"It hurts." He tried complaining, although he didn't figure it would do much good. He was right: they ignored him.
"I have to go to the bathroom."
"The hell you do," Donaldson retorted. He dropped tiredly onto a battered couch just off the carpeting. It was Jeff's show now the kid was prepared, so he pulled out a joint and lit up.
"Don't get too wasted. I'm almost ready, then I'll be an hour-and-a-half or so. I will need your help, though."
"I'll be fine."
Severus looked at the man now sitting and smoking, but holding his head up pulled on his arms, so he lay back after a few moments. What was going to happen to him?
After the panic of having his clothing removed, he feared that the men would do whatever mysterious things adults got up to with him. He knew a few basics about sex, but that was men and women and not much beyond that: it was something one did to have children. He suspected it was for more than just having children, but adults wanted to keep this quiet for some reason. He'd touched himself, of course, and it felt good, but he couldn't imagine touching anyone else like that. Was that what they were going to do with him? He seriously hoped not, and planned to kick the men in the groin if they tried.
A bright light came on, blinding him, and then another. A third light, blue-toned, joined the others.
"Okay, Seth. I'm ready to start now."
His head jerked up. "Don't touch me!"
Jeff smiled. "Just lie back and relax." Click. Click. Shuffle, click.
The strange box the man held to his eye was making the clicking noises. There was something glass inside it, because he could see a glint of light reflected there. After a short while, the man removed the box from his eye and turned a little lever around before he set it down and picked up a similar box with a large, black tube on. He looked into this other box and turned the tube a bit before making another click. He frowned, turned the tube some more. Click.
He approached the foot of the bed, clicking some more. He came round the side. Severus turned his head to the left, following the man with his eyes. He noticed his own reflection in the glass centre of the black tube.
"Smile at me, sweetheart." Click.
"What are you doing? What is that thing?"
"This? This is a camera, and a rather expensive one. Haven't you had your picture taken before?"
"No. Not with a c...camera."
"Not with a camera? What else is there?"
"I had a portrait done. Mum had it painted for my grandparents."
"That's sweet. Isn't that sweet?" He seemed to be talking to the other man, so Severus didn't answer. The man was making fun of him, anyway.
It didn't hurt, this having his picture taken. Lying with the hard cylinder behind his back is what hurt. It made him have to tilt his head backwards and he couldn't see what the man with the camera was doing now that he had moved down by his feet again. He must still be taking the picture, because he could hear the clicks. How long did it take? The man said an hour-and-a-half. If he had to lie here like this for that long his arms would fall off. Already they felt numb.
"Hey, man, it's time for you to give me a hand now."
"Sure thing. I'm good."
"I'm reloading this one with some more b/w. I want to get a roll of this while he's up before I switch to the colour film. Get him ready."
"Yeah, I'll give him a hand. I hate this part."
"It's a job, you don't have to like it."
Donaldson rose and made his way to the bed. He wasn't very stoned at all, just feeling a nice buzz. Smoking a bit of grass made this part easier. He didn't like jacking the kids, but the perverts liked the photos of boys with erections so he did it. That was another thing about working with Jeff. Besides being a bang-up photographer, the man kept it professional. He grabbed the kids, Jeff took the pictures, and they let the kid go with a warning not to tell. They hadn't been seriously hurt, so there wasn't a lot to go on if the kid did spill the beans. It was a good system and kept him in sufficient funds that he didn't have to do any real work.
"What are you doing? Stop that!" The boy lashed out, kicking Donaldson hard in the stomach before he'd even laid his hand on the kid's prick. Smart kid. He retreated, and grabbed one of the other silk scarves, tying a loop on one end. His marijuana-slowed reflexes made him miss on his first and second tries, but his third try had him grasping the kid's left ankle, which he secured to the corner post at the foot of the bed. The right leg was easier because the kid could only lash out sideways, and he got that one first try.
"I told you before not to fight, Seth. See what you've made me do?"
"Don't touch me," Severus said, knowing it was useless. He sniffed and blinked back tears. He wasn't going to cry in front of these disgusting muggles. Damn them to hell.
The big man's fingers were surprisingly gentle as they touched and stroked him. It felt good, better than his own hand. The thought sickened him.
"There, that feels fine. I'm not hurting you; I don't want to hurt you. That's not what this is about. He's ready."
"Good. So am I. You can get out of the shot now." Donaldson withdrew to his couch, ready to provide more stimulation as needed.
Many rolls of film later, it was finished. Donaldson's high had faded and he undid the leg bindings as Jeff put his equipment away.
"Got some really good stuff. I can hardly wait to develop these."
"Tomorrow. We've got to get Seth here home to mummy and daddy. Fucking knots."
Finally, Severus' arms were untied. He couldn't draw them around himself because they didn't feel like they belonged to him. They'd tingle and hurt soon enough. He curled in on himself, waiting.
"I'll help you get dressed, then we can get out of here. We're going to take you back to where we found you and you can get your books. See? That wasn't so bad. We only had to hurt you when you fought us, so any pain is your own fault. Nothing permanent, but that won't be true if you ever tell anyone what happened. No one will believe you if you do say anything, so you might as well keep quiet and save yourself the trouble."
Severus looked poison at the big man helping with his buttons. It was true that no one would believe him; he hadn't been bruised or beaten so he could prove nothing. He had no idea where they had taken him nor had he ever seen these men before and felt certain he wouldn't see them again. No, he wouldn't tell anyone, ever. None of this made sense and he planned on forgetting it as soon as he was home.
"Right after I was punished for arriving home so late in the evening."
Remus had listened, horrified, for the past twenty minutes. By Merlin, no wonder he'd run away when Remus had started to stroke him between the legs. He was lucky Snape hadn't killed him.
He tried to speak, but what could he say? Things like this happened, but not to anyone he knew personally: they did happen to people he knew, it was just that no one had told him before. Remus sat with his mouth open and his eyes staring, unable to come up with any words that didn't sound trite. As many people as had tried to console him after Sirius had fallen through the veil, Remus knew how irritating it could be to say the wrong thing. He was a patient man: Snape was not, and banal phrases of appeasement would get him nowhere except perhaps cursed with an Unforgivable if Severus completely lost control.
He sat, mind racing desperately, until Severus finally looked up. For most of his revelation, he had looked blankly at one of the brocade chairs by the chess table. Near the end, his head dropped so that he stared at the floor.
There were no tear streaks, nor any quivering of lip on the stony countenance. In fact, there were no outward signs of distress at all. The face was a blank, but for the eyes. They sought Lupin's and saw the horror and disgust there. When he noticed Remus returning his gaze, Severus dropped his eyes again.
"I'm sorry. I must sicken you now. I swear I didn't know. I wouldn't have started anything the other night, allowed anything to start if I'd known that I was dirty."
"Dirty? There's nothing wrong with you! Those men were the sick ones."
"I am. It felt good. Not the pictures, which I understand the purpose of now; they didn't feel like anything, although the thought of them being out there somewhere makes my skin crawl."
"It would mine, too."
"It felt good when that man touched me. He knew how to get what he wanted. How could he know? And what was wrong with me that I was able to respond, even a little? I didn't even understand."
"Men and boys are made to respond to physical things, you couldn't help it. The man was a child pornographer and he'd obviously been doing it for a long time. He knew where to find his targets and how to manipulate them. You did the best you could and survived it."
"By forgetting. Everything else that's happened, all the bad things, I remember so many other bad things; things I've done as a Death Eater, my mother dying. What made me forget this one?"
"I don't know. Maybe you forgot because you didn't understand-you couldn't make sense of it, and so your mind put it somewhere so that you didn't have to deal with it."
"Until last week." Severus thought a moment. "That makes a certain amount of sense, although I do think I've had glimpses of it before."
The Potions Master rose from the floor gracefully, as though he hadn't just been sitting in a very uncomfortable position for a long time. He settled in a brocade chair and Remus took the other, in somewhat less style.
"I have had glimpses, I believe, when I have made attempts to have...physical relationships. Yes, Lupin, I've tried. It was years ago, my first try, after Hogwarts but before I became a Death Eater. There wasn't much of a gap. I hired a prostitute in Knockturn Alley. They don't kiss, did you know that? I wasn't interested in that anyway, I simply wanted to get rid of my virginity and it seemed the least complicated method. No...emotional entanglements. I paid her, and the woman put her hand on me. She expected me to be hard, I suppose, and made a comment when I wasn't. She tried her best, but I never responded. I was red-faced, I'm sure, and she grew angry after a while. As young as I was, it should have been an easy fifteen-minute job for her. She tried for I don't know how long before she called me a queer and left. I was so humiliated that I forgot about the money-I'd paid her for nothing."
"There's not much I can say to that." Snape made a twisted sneer, but it was directed at himself.
"I tried again with a girl at a club. I told you that I danced...so I went to a place that I'd heard one of the Death Eaters talk about, a wizard's bar in Soho. I had never been to such a place before and thought it was awful. Lestrange made it sound like an exhilarating time, but, well, I didn't know the man then. It was crowded and stank like smoke and filth. I stayed for a few minutes and knew it had been a mistake. I met a girl just outside-she followed me out. She was wearing a mint-green dress that was...you know how the styles were back then."
"Very short, I'd imagine."
"Indecent, nearly. I thought she was another prostitute and ignored her. She said that she'd seen me inside but I left so quickly that she hadn't had time to ask me to dance. When I said that I didn't like the atmosphere in the bar, she laughed and said she didn't either. We didn't have to dance in there, and did I take her meaning? It was what I'd been looking for, and easier than I ever imagined. We walked a bit, to near where the Chinese gate is, and the street was empty. She pulled off her knickers right there, and told me to do it. It was worse than the prostitute, because now I could tell that the girl was out of her mind from potions or drugs or spells. I backed off and she made a grab, ripping my coat. She called me a queer, too, and started to yell it over and over as she ran down the street.
"I though maybe she was right and I was queer. I knew Lucius Malfoy was, despite his political marriage. Lord Voldemort didn't care, as long as the man was able to produce more little Death Eaters. If the Dark Lord didn't mind it, then I didn't either. I approached Malfoy-don't look at me like that."
"I'm sorry, Severus, but the very idea of having sex with Lucius turns my stomach. I suppose he was somewhat of a legend in his own right while at Hogwarts."
"And we were in second year while he was in his seventh. I looked up to him then, and seeing him after all those years made him look even more spectacular to me. He was at Voldemort's right hand, and everything I wanted to be."
"You have nothing to admire in that man."
"I know that now. He's an overconfident bully, like his master, and a coward as well. Draco is the same-he'll be a disappointing Death Eater in time of war. I suppose if things don't escalate quickly he'll make a perfect little sadist when it comes to torture. In battle, he'll never last. I hope it doesn't come to that. I am not entirely certain that Draco wants to be a Death Eater for himself: he'll do anything to placate his father."
"Perhaps you can turn him away from that path."
"Perhaps, but very, very carefully."
"I have confidence in your abilities. Besides, Draco admires you as well."
"He might not if he knew my true allegiance. Regardless, Lucius turned me down flat. He did it with style, but said he was involved with someone already. Someone besides Narcissa, of course. He was interested, but this lover was the jealous type, and I knew how it was. I didn't know how it was, even if he assumed I did. I'm sure I said something idiotic like certainly I did and left, thinking no more about it.
"After a meeting at his house some time later, though, Lucius asked me to stay behind. It occurred to me that he had changed his mind. We went upstairs, but not to his room. It was a guest room, and Macnair was already there. Malfoy couldn't be unfaithful to his lover, but Macnair was interested. Now that he knew where my proclivities lay...he would be happy to give me what I wanted. I said no, and opened the door to leave. Macnair grabbed my hair and pulled me back. It didn't matter if I was willing, because he liked it the hard way, too, and Lucius enjoyed watching, especially when it was rape. I was so angry it took a moment to figure out what was going on, and the bastard had me against the wall before I got my wand out of my sleeve. I gave him the Cruciatus curse and was prepared to curse Malfoy too. He begged me not to, and swore to leave me alone. I let Macnair get up. He was livid, labelling me a cock-tease and swearing to tell Lord Voldemort how I'd cursed him. I didn't care.
"Macnair's blabbing backfired, the Dark Lord called me to him, was now personally protecting me and offered to put the Cruciatus on for a bit himself, if that's what I wanted. He asked me what I wanted! Whatever pleased him, that was my answer. He did curse Macnair, but not for very long. He also warned Lucius not to try to get any revenge on me: he was most displeased that Malfoy hadn't let on what a promising Death Eater was in his midst. I'd nearly forgotten about all of that, until the memories started to come back. I've had nightmares, but it was Macnair touching me, sometimes with Lucius watching. Or Voldemort looking on and telling me that if there was pain it was because I forced it, and people laughing at me because I had an erection even as I shouted for him to stop it. Gods, Lupin, how could you want to be with me now that you know all of this?"
"You're the same person that you were a few days ago. These things happened to you, but they weren't your fault and they certainly don't make you tainted, as you seem to think. I'm still interested in talking with you, if you want; or trying to be friends, if you want. Any more, that sort of thing can wait, if it happens at all. I'm a very patient person, Severus, and I know all about rejection. Nobody wants a werewolf in their lives. If you can deal with me, then I'll be here for you when you're ready."
"I find that thought strangely comforting. I'm sure I don't know why."
"I don't know either, but it's true. Will you be all right now?"
"Yes. I'm much calmer now that it's all been said. I imagined you'd laugh at me when I told you, or that at least you'd think I deserved it. It didn't matter: I needed to get it out anyway."
"I never, ever disliked you enough to believe that you deserved any of that."
"You would take that position, I should have known."
"You know now. Can I help you to bed? You look exhausted."
"Your teeth first, Severus. You've been drinking, and if you don't brush them you'll wake up wondering what crawled in your mouth and died."
Snape stood tiredly. "What an absolutely wonderful mental image that makes."
"Yes, well, one does one's best." He waited until Severus came out of the bathroom before rising. He was about to make his exit when he noticed the strange, lost look he was being given.
"You need to sleep."
"I know. Don't leave."
Remus gave in. "All right. I'll stay until you're asleep, how about that?"
Severus nodded, and made his way to the bedroom, lying down fully dressed atop the covers.
"At least take your boots off. Oh, I'll do it." By the time Remus had taken off the boots and put them on the floor, Severus was fast asleep. Lupin sighed deeply. It had been hard to hear; he couldn't imagine how difficult it was to tell. At least the fire was high, so Severus wouldn't be cold when he woke. Yes, it was pleasantly warm. He leaned over to rest for a moment before going to his rooms. Warm and comfortable, Remus fell asleep propped against a sturdy figure in black.
"I'm a little surprised you still want to see me this evening, since it's so late."
"I had detention to supervise."
"If you stopped giving them detentions, then you wouldn't be quite as busy during the evenings."
"It was not the beloved Mr. Potter in detention, nor any of his friends. It was a third-year Ravenclaw who possibly managed to get into that house by mistake. The young lady in question melted a cauldron in class and I generously gave her the opportunity to repeat the assignment in detention every night for a week. She was successful in completing it the first night, and has been each of the three nights following. I have little doubt that it will again be adequately done tomorrow evening."
"So you've actually taught her something."
"If she had been paying attention in class instead of chattering with her friends she would have learned it the first time."
"They're children, Severus, or teenagers. It's their nature to want to be social, even when they shouldn't be. They'll grow out of it."
"If they live through it."
"It can't have been that bad. Or are you referring to Lord Voldemort?"
Severus grimaced at the name. Dumbledore insisted on saying it at nearly every meeting of the Order of the Phoenix. It was gradually losing its effectiveness to hear it so often aloud, but was disturbing just the same. Few people would utter it, and even The Daily Prophet used the somewhat ridiculous term "You-Know-Who". Everyone knew who, so could they just say it or not without resorting to childish euphemisms?
"I have had no further summons from the Dark Lord, but yes, that was my meaning. I do not know his mind. He knows I am busy here during term and I have learned virtually nothing of use since September. At least in summer I was able to be of some help."
"You still do help. You go to those gatherings of Death Eaters when he summons you and I know you have false information provided by Dumbledore to keep him from getting suspicious."
"The Dark Lord is always suspicious, merely less so because of the crumbs I am able to toss him. It will not be enough: eventually he will ask me for some bit of knowledge which only I could provide and I will either have to give it or be found out."
"What will you do?" Remus put his arms around Severus in a show of support. For his part, Severus allowed it, and rested his cheek against the side of Remus' head.
"I don't know. That will depend on the nature of the demand. There are things that I can not reveal, and if he asks for one of them, then I am lost."
"Like a way to get to Harry."
"No, I could not give him access to Mr. Potter. The prophecy was not totally specific, just that one must kill the other. It didn't mean that only Harry could destroy Voldemort, as I believe he believes. He is so intent upon young Potter that I think he is blind to other possibilities. That might undo him in the end."
"We can hope. Sometimes that's all we can do."
They stood for a while, holding each other and saying nothing. After Severus' recent revelations, it was enough for now, and comfortable for both of them. Eventually, Remus sighed.
"This is all very well, but it is certainly ten o'clock by now and I know you rise very early. My first class isn't until ten in the morning."
"Mine is at 8:30, but I prepared my lessons during the detention and I'm not tired at all."
"Nor am I, really. What did you have in mind? A game of chess?"
Severus walked to one of his brocade-backed chairs and sat down sharply. Remus followed, sitting across the small table with the chess set on it.
"Black or white? Well, I suppose I should say green or white?"
"I didn't want to play chess, Lupin. Remus. I wanted us to be together. Physically."
"Tonight? Are you sure you're ready for that? I think you look tense."
"Of course I look tense. I am always tense."
"You look more so than usual, then."
"You don't want to."
"I do want to, I want to have sex with you very much."
"Then what's the problem?"
Remus blinked rapidly, not certain he was hearing correctly.
"I think," he began slowly, "that the problem is obvious. It is to me. It's been less than a week since you told me about a very traumatic childhood experience, one that you had repressed for years. Regardless of the fact that you weren't actually raped, you were molested, and that's not something you get over right away."
"It happened almost thirty years ago."
"But it's fresh in your mind because you've only just recovered the memory. Having sex now might make things worse."
"No! I am ready now. I need to put it behind me." Severus rose and began to pace. "I want to do this tonight, to make a good memory to replace the damaging one. It hurts still-I have had nightmares ever since it started to come back to me."
"I'm not surprised."
"So help me make it better! It feels so dirty, now I know what happened."
"You did nothing wrong. And I'm worried that this is too fast for you."
"It isn't. Why don't you let me decide what I want, and you can choose what you want-if it's the same thing, then why wait?" The smaller man felt himself pulled to his feet and held close. He was then kissed within an inch of his life.
"I think," Severus began, flicking his tongue into a tan ear, "that we should" he laved at Remus' throat above its covering sweater "move this" teeth nipped at a lightly furred jaw "into my bedroom." He reclaimed the lips below his before they could protest.
"All right, all right, you have convinced me. Please let me go before I melt right here."
Severus released his prisoner, the corner of his mouth turning up as if to say, "I knew I was right."
Remus held back when Severus began moving towards his bedroom door. The tall frame in black was a little less stiff from blowing Lupin's mind with those kisses of his, although he likely wasn't calm enough to handle being naked in bed with another man.
Remus suggested a joint bath.
"I assume your bathtub is similar to mine and there will be plenty of room for the both of us."
"I can think of several reasons. Because it will be relaxing, because I'm a bit chilled. A bath can be a very sensual experience and will likely make us both feel less self conscious."
"You do not seem to be nervous at all."
"Well, it might not show, but I am nervous and excited, both. But you need to calm down a little. Why don't we take the bath first and see where it leads, hm?"
"You can go draw the water and get in. I'll wait out here until you call me."
I can't believe I'm going to be getting naked with Severus Snape. It was a terrifying thought, and stimulating as well. He had to calm down.
Remus paced for a few minutes before he realised what he was doing. Severus' case of nerves was rubbing off. He laughed at his own apprehension: it had been a very long time since he'd gone to bed with anyone. Remus felt fairly certain that Severus at least thought he was ready to take this step. He wanted to do the right thing-if a good memory would replace the bad one, then who was Remus to say 'no'? Still, there was a certain responsibility that, since he would be taking someone's virginity, he should make it as positive an experience as he could. He hadn't been anyone's first before. His own first time ever was with a woman-not great, but not bad. He'd been nineteen for that: twenty-two when he was first with a man. It hurt, he recalled, although he didn't remember much else.
Perhaps he could persuade Severus that it might be best that Remus be penetrated the first time.
"You may come in now."
Remus whirled. Severus was at the bathroom door covered in a rich, green robe. His hair was limp from steam. He was fidgeting slightly, which melted Remus' heart into a little puddle.
"I'll be right there." He planted a quick kiss on Severus' nose, which wrinkled in annoyance.
"Please don't say you will soon be calling me by some ludicrous pet name as well as kissing places other than my mouth."
"If you don't want me to, then no, I won't. But as to kissing places other than your lips..." He looked at the pale 'V' of skin revealed by the neck of the robe and grinned toothily as Severus flushed. He retreated back into the bathroom, with Remus trailing after.
"Where would you like me to put my things?" Severus indicated hooks that now held towels. "Is everything you own black or green?"
"Mostly. People seem to expect it, not that I care. It simplifies things as well. I wear white shirts."
"It's elegant, if nothing else." He averted his eyes conspicuously so Severus could enter the bath. His blue sweater and grey trousers looked very out of place next to the nearly emerald colour of the towels. At least his robes were black.
"This feels truly wonderful," he groaned, sliding into the steaming water.
Bathrooms of staff were not as complex in appointment as the prefects', but were pleasantly large and heated, almost like a Japanese bath. A long soak on a winter's evening was a pleasure enjoyed by many.
"I don't have any of those silly taps with bubbles, if that's what you're looking for."
"Just a flannel, if you have one somewhere. Thank you."
Severus sat rigidly while Remus had a pleasant wash.
"The point of this was to relax, you know. You're as straight as a broomstick."
"I don't believe this is working. I feel rather on edge."
"You don't say. Would you like me to wash your hair or something?"
"I can wash my own hair."
"Of course you can, but you need to let go."
"Yes, you can. That first night when we kissed you did. And when you told me about what happened when you were a boy. It was difficult at first, but you needed to get it out, just like you need to let yourself calm down now. Please, let me wash your hair."
Severus muttered words that Remus could barely make out, something like "Making sure the greasy git gets it clean for once," as he turned and bent his head to give the smaller man access.
It felt nice, really, having someone else's fingers running through his hair. How stupid, of course it did-he had enjoyed playing with Remus' dusty waves, darker now and longer wet. The curls made it seem much shorter. It was easier now to think of him as 'Remus' even if he still mostly called him Lupin when speaking. The hands moved to massage his shoulders and, after a moment's panic, tension fled.
Severus didn't know how long it had been-a few minutes or an hour-when Remus spoke softly.
"There. That's so much better. We don't need to do anything else if you don't want to."
"I do." Severus pulled away and turned with a splash. He caught Remus eyes and hands. "I do want to. I want to be with you properly, tonight."
"Are you truly certain? We can wait, I can wait..."
"I am sure. Please?"
It was the 'please' that did it. Severus Snape was not a man used to asking politely for anything, so when he did, it was significant. Remus moved forward in the water for a kiss, on the lips this time. He was hard almost immediately, and panting by the time they pulled apart. Both men were glassy-eyed with want. Remus came back to earth with difficulty.
"I thought that for the first time, you might like me to take you."
"I mean, take you inside of me. Would that be all right?"
"I don't know. You'd have to show me what to do. Shouldn't we get out of the bath first?"
"We can, but we don't have to. It might even be easier to do this here. Let me show you. All you have to do is sit on the ledge, just pull your hips forward a bit." Face to face, with Remus straddling Severus under the water, he was able to look down on the taller man. "This way there isn't so much of my weight on your legs, and it's a bit less tiring for me, too, although my thighs have plenty of muscles that I use as a wolf."
"So the transformation can be useful in some small way?"
"Severus, you just made a joke. It was at my expense, but it put a cap on my day."
"Not yet." Dark eyes blinked slowly, suggestively.
"No, not yet. All right, I'll need to prepare myself. Where did you put that soap?"
"Right here. What are you doing?"
"Well, Severus, you are a rather tall man and your sexual organs are in proportion. I need some lubrication and stretching before this," he ran his hand gently up and down Severus' erection, "is going to fit in here." He guided a pale hand around his backside and stroked both sets of fingers along the cleft of his buttocks. "It's been a long time since I was with a man."
"I'm sorry about Black."
"I'm sorry about Black. You and he were..."
Remus pushed away. "Not lovers. Ever. That was a rumour started by, well, we thought you started it in an attempt to embarrass us."
"It wasn't me. I don't know who it was." Severus looked away, miserable. What an idiotic time to bring up Sirius Black. "I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have said anything and now I've ruined everything."
"You didn't ruin everything, you startled me. I suppose if we're going to be physically involved you do have a right to know. Sirius and I were never together like this and I don't really want to be thinking about one of my friends-friends only-during an intimate moment. Sirius was never attracted to men, even if some were interested in him. He lost his virginity at the age of fifteen, at least that's what he told James. I believed it, then and I am sure it was true. Gods, he was with so many girls until Azkaban that I can't believe there aren't any little Blacks running around out there. Your theory about wizard infertility may have saved some little witch a great deal of trouble."
"I didn't know. I knew about some of the girls, everyone at Hogwarts knew his reputation, I just thought he and you were together as well."
"Not ever. Nor Sirius and James either. James was true to Lily all through school and after, of course, when they married. As Head Girl, Lily wanted to set a good example, and so they waited until after school to actually do more than a bit of snogging. James complained, but I think he respected her choices and reasoning. I don't think Lily's sister even attended the wedding. Peter had his Hufflepuff girl, back in school. With the way things turned out, I'll never know how he was sorted into Gryffindor."
"He was your friend, then."
"Then. Not now. Was it by any chance jealousy that made you assume I was with Sirius? Thinking back, some things almost look that way."
"Perhaps I was, a little bit." Be honest with yourself-you were jealous.
"Time lost, I guess." Remus returned to his position atop Severus' legs. "But we are here now."
"And you can help me get ready." Remus soaped his hands, pulled one of Severus' above the water, massaging the slippery suds into it. He slicked Severus' index finger in an action mimicking the earlier, more intimate, caress.
"That one first, slowly. Not all at once, just a bit at a time. Yes! Like that. Pull out a little, then in again. That's perfect."
"Does that feel good? You seem so tight. Won't it hurt you when I put my...myself inside you?"
"Yes, it feels good, and yes, I'm tight. That's what the preparation is for, so it won't hurt. It might be a bit uncomfortable at first, but that fades. The sensation is so incredible that a little discomfort is worth it."
"I am glad you know what you're doing."
"I'm not doing anything right now, you're doing...so good. I'm ready for a second finger. If you bring your hand up again, I'll soap it." As Remus lathered the hand again, he pulled two fingers together. "First these two, then I'll soap you one last time and," he pulled in the ring finger, "these three. Then you."
"Oh." Severus closed his eyes and moaned with the thought. It was actually quite easy to slide in the two fingers, slippery as they were. The first had been more difficult, but Remus was quite relaxed now. If he'd thought it erotic when the man had his nipples rubbed... He wanted to play with them now, but his hands were busy; the one that wasn't slipping in and out of Lupin was bracing his own body so he didn't slide under the water. Well, perhaps he didn't need hands.
Remus was arched backwards, pushing down on the fingers as they pushed in. His eyes were closed and his head thrown back, so he didn't notice when Severus leaned forward and flicked his tongue out at the dark aureole of his left nipple.
"Holy..." his eyes flew open and he saw jet eyes looking up at him. "Please do that again."
"Ooh, yes, that." Remus wriggled on the fingers inside him and moaned in ecstasy. He was going to die, going to come before Severus even put his cock inside him. "Third finger. Can you...get it ready yourself?"
Severus did, adeptly handling the soap in the one hand so his mouth didn't have to take leave of its blissful endeavour. Three digits replaced two. Remus arched back further, and nearly howled as the angle caused the fingers to brush against the little bump of his prostate gland.
Severus stopped licking and stilled. "Did I hurt you?"
"Does it look like I'm in pain?"
Well, he'd seen plenty of people suffering from different forms of agony, and this didn't look like any of them. If it felt as good as it seemed to from Remus' expression-he was desperately trying to get Severus to move his fingers again-then it was something he definitely wanted to feel for himself. Carefully, he resumed the stroking. He kept his keen eyes on Lupin's face to gauge reactions. He hit the spot again, he felt something with his finger and saw the blissful reaction. That was it, Severus smirked evilly. He continued to caress the spot, watching and listening as Remus cries became louder and wilder.
Severus was disappointed. He was enjoying the power of his new knowledge.
"I'm ready now. If you do that much longer, well, I wouldn't be of much use to you at all."
The self-satisfied smirk waned slightly. "Then what is next?"
"What happens next is I take this very long, very hard piece of your anatomy inside of me. You'll need to lean back a bit more until I've got you." Remus raised up slightly in Severus' lap and reached around to put the head at the correct angle for entry. "Let me push down slowly."
"But you're still so tight around me, isn't this going to cause pain?"
Remus chuckled thickly. "No, I'm barely feeling any discomfort. I am so ready. I know it's still tight; your cock is bigger than your fingers. It feels good, so good, and I'm almost...there!" He had settled, impaled as deeply as he could manage. Remus grinned widely when he felt Severus' hips bumping his posterior, trying to push farther in. "One moment and then you can move. Try and go slowly at first, if you can."
"I can, I'll try." Years of self-discipline would keep him in check, barely. How could anything feel so wonderful? He was surrounded by warmth, not just in the bath. He was encased in it, sheathed in it. He swore he could feel the thrum of blood pumping through Remus' veins. Strong hands gripped his shoulders.
"Take me now, Severus. You know what to do." Remus was used to following his instincts, and mating was the most ingrained knowledge of all. It began slowly, more tender than he would have imagined Severus Snape ever being. He enjoyed the gentle pace for a while, before urging on to faster, more powerful thrusts.
"You won't break me. Harder!"
"It feels so good. I am not going to last, I'm so sorry."
Remus didn't care, and only had a brief flash of astonishment that Severus even knew how to apologise. "Don't worry. Just let me know when you're almost there."
"I'm almost there," Severus replied immediately. Remus laughed throatily and leaned back again. At this angle, every stroke brushed against his prostate, in and out.
"So am I."
Severus came first: the spasms pushed Remus over the edge.
They held each other close in the warm water. Remus slid carefully off of the softening organ and moved to sit on the ledge next to Severus. He leaned back and lolled his head to the right, brown hair brushed black.
"And no having to wash up after. Are you all right, Severus?"
"Yes. I do not have the words right now. I am tired."
"I could sleep here."
"That would not be a good idea. You might drown, and how would I explain that?" Remus burst out laughing.
"That would make things awkward for you, wouldn't it, having to explain the naked, very satisfied professor who also happens to be a werewolf drowned in your bath?"
"It would make my life quite difficult."
"Any more so than having to deal with the very much alive said professor tomorrow morning at breakfast?"
"I am fully prepared to deal with that. Or you could sleep in my bed with me. You have already done so, once."
"You're asking me to stay?"
"You don't have to," Severus said quickly, rising from the bath. He handed Remus a towel.
"I didn't need to, but yes, I'd love to stay. Thank you." They dried themselves.
"Will you require anything to sleep in? My nightclothes will be too big for you, but..."
"I'll be fine as I am, if it doesn't bother you. If I'd known, I'd have brought some pyjamas."
"And I always thought you curled up in front of the fire."
Remus snorted back a chuckle. "I assumed you just hung upside-down in your cave."
Severus let that pass. He put on an old-fashioned nightshirt made of black silk.
"I am tired."
"You must be, to let that slide. Your nightwear is decadent, I must say. And I do believe the appropriate term is 'knackered'."
Severus raised an eyebrow. The familiar gesture, usually snide and sarcastic, struck Remus as hilarious at that moment. He was still laughing slightly when they lay down next to each other.
"I wanted to thank you for tonight. It meant a great deal to me."
"You're welcome, and I know it must have, for you to say thank you. It was my pleasure to be your first. If you had half the time I did, then I'd say it went well."
"I believe it went well. Good night, Remus."
"Good night, Severus."
Snape slept dreamlessly until morning.
When he awoke, Severus wasn't sure which was the bigger surprise, that Remus was sleeping in his bed, or that the idea pleased him.
How had they gone so far so fast? In six weeks' time, Remus Lupin had gone from mere colleague and one-time enemy through levels of companionship into something more. How would one define the relationship now?
Perhaps it just seemed to go quickly in his own mind-he and Lupin met when they were eleven years old, so it's not as though they didn't know anything about each other. Not much of a personal nature, but how much of that was he prepared to reveal? Then again, they knew each others' darkest secrets already, so what did it matter if he told his favourite book or even that the position of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher wasn't terribly high on his list of priorities? And if it had been only eight or nine days from first kiss to actual intercourse...there were couples who met and had sex the same night.
He had always been decisive, so there really wasn't any need for fluttering embarrassment before they chose to do this. Severus wasn't sorry: things had gone better than he ever imagined they would. If only Remus also had no regrets...
Feeling pensive are we? He went about his morning activities, allowing Remus to sleep for now. As usual, he'd woken before the alarm and there was no need to wake the werewolf until the set time.
You've taken a werewolf to your bed-one who tried to kill you. You hated him.
No, if he was to be honest with himself, he hadn't hated Remus. He was terrified out of his mind of the wolf-it was his own fear that he hated. And James Potter and Sirius Black. How galling was it to owe your life to your worst enemy?
Stop thinking about that, or you'll give yourself an ulcerated stomach. It's a wonder you haven't got one already.
He moved his mind to less disagreeable topics. Last night in the bath and how good it had been. He didn't know if Lupin...Remus...was a skilful lover or not, but the sensations had been far beyond his scope of experiences. He saw himself grimace in the mirror; it's not as though he'd had had many pleasant events to compare it with. Sexually, his history was dismal.
We have the opportunity to correct that. We, Remus and I. They weren't all that bad together once he got to thinking about it. They were of an age, and both old before their time. Their lives had been difficult. Lupin was well informed about a number of topics, which made him worth talking to, and intelligent enough to debate with. Lupin also had the patience to deal with Severus' temper without that irritating indulgent mien he got from Dumbledore.
So Remus didn't have the golden beauty he'd had as a young man-what did that matter? Grey hair and lines on his face did not disguise the handsome features, but gave him character. It had been so long since his own harsh features had bothered him that appearances mattered very little. In his eyes, Remus was still a fine figure of a man. He was fit, if not sculpted. Lupin was a scholar, so who could expect chiselled muscles? Running around as a wolf three nights a month had him fit enough for Severus' taste. His own body could best be described as stringy, so who was he to complain? Remus hadn't.
Gods, Remus had said that he was generously endowed! Whether or not this was true, he wasn't certain. Did one really want someone with a large penis when said organ was to be placed inside the body somewhere it was not actually designed to fit? If there had been pain, it was minimal. What had it been like for Remus? He had been supremely arousing with the way he looked and the sounds he made. The thought was enough to make him begin to harden. Not good, with a class in an hour. His final thoughts on the subject that morning were that, next time, he would learn all about what Remus had found so wonderful. He wanted to know.
He filed that away and went to wake Remus.
"Why did you let me sleep so long? You should have woken me."
"To what purpose? Your first class this morning is not until ten, you do not need to bathe, nor is there any fuss about what clothes to wear, since you have to wear what you wore yesterday until you go change."
"And here I was thinking you just wanted to be nice."
"That is not a word I have ever heard used in conjunction with myself."
"All right, considerate, then."
"I was being considerate, for the reasons given."
"I see that pillow talk with you will be an entirely new realm."
"Ah, yes. Pillow talk is the name for conversations held after sex. Since that's usually done in a bed..."
"I see. We have not just had sex."
"I think the next morning counts, too."
"If you say so." Severus was silent as Remus pulled on his clothes. The open face clouded as Lupin realised what he'd just said.
"I am sorry, Severus. I didn't mean to insinuate...to assume that there would be more instances in which we would..."
"I would not be averse to future instances, Remus."
The beaming smile allayed the scant fear that Lupin himself hoped this would not happen again.
"Tonight, perhaps, after detention?"
"Tonight isn't possible, Severus," Lupin said. Severus' hopes fell-perhaps Remus wasn't so interested as he let on. "Tomorrow is a Hogsmeade weekend, and I'm helping with that. I don't want to have to rush things."
"I understand. I had forgotten that." Well, if Lupin didn't want him, then he wouldn't press it. And, damn it all, he had planned on going to Hogsmeade himself on Saturday. There were things he needed to buy. The students didn't spend their time at the apothecary, true, but everything else was busy and he was not about to spend time looking in the bookstore or having a drink with crowds of students everywhere. The thought made his mood darken further.
"I need to leave now."
"I'm ready." Severus wondered if that smile looked a bit forced or if it was his imagination. "And, Severus, I was wondering..."
"When is your birthday and what's your middle name?" Severus blinked, startled.
"August seventeenth. Septimius."
Remus' smile this time was definitely not forced. It might not be such an awful day after all.
Severus took a table near the corner. The Three Broomsticks was not crowded yet, since it was barely eleven. He wanted to have a quick lunch and get out of here before things became too noisy. If he wasn't so hungry he wouldn't be doing this, but he'd left Hogwarts before breakfast. He had wanted to finish his shopping before the students had time to overrun the town, and he had, with moderate success. A potions journal would occupy the time until his food arrived. He never read for pleasure in public, as it seemed to encourage people to talk to him about whatever book he was reading.
By the time his lunch was served twenty minutes later, almost every table was occupied. Apparently having a meal in peace was too much to ask. He averted his eyes as the three most irritating Gryffindors currently attending Hogwarts took the last open table. As he ate, he glanced occasionally towards the trio. They had every right to be here in Hogsmeade, but watching those troublemakers was second nature by now.
When Potter waved someone over, he didn't think about it until he noticed it was Remus Lupin standing over the table. There was an unusual flutter of excitement upon seeing him, followed by a more familiar flash of disappointment. Last time he'd eaten here, it was with Lupin. He was used to being alone, eating on his own, doing everything by himself; so why did it seem so lonely now being the only person here without at least one companion to share the time with? He read his journal while he ate, starting when he heard Remus say hello.
"May I share your table, Severus?"
"Would you not rather sit with Mr. Potter and his friends?"
"I could, I suppose, but I saw you here and decided to come over. I didn't realise you were busy, though."
"It is nothing that cannot wait."
"So it's all right if I sit here?" Still a little surprised, Severus nodded.
Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Potter, Weasley, and Granger staring at him. He met their gazes. Weasley cracked first, and Granger turned to speak with him. Potter held on longer, only breaking eye contact when his friends yelled to get his attention. He couldn't hear them speaking, but they were talking about him, he knew it.
"Don't mind those three, Severus," Remus said, waving first at the students and then at Rosmerta to come get his order. "You certainly don't have to wait for me if you want to leave as soon as you're finished eating."
"It would only be polite, since I allowed you to share my table. Although being seen with me in public will sully your reputation, Lupin."
"I doubt that. Besides, I have some news. I've been getting letters from all over Britain dealing with the side effect of the potion. If I'd known you would be here, I would have brought them."
"I was hoping to be away before the full invasion."
Remus winced. "Sorry you didn't make it." Severus gave an uncharacteristic shrug, implying that he hadn't expected things to go his way.
"The letters are beginning to show an interesting trend. The writers are reaching out to others with the disease and letting them know what we're doing."
"We are not doing anything."
"Not yet. Well, we are gathering information, and a trend is starting to show. Your idea that the amount of aconite in the potion has something to do with all of this is becoming more valid. At least, those of us who have been werewolves for longer periods of time before the invention of the potion are more likely to have the reaction. It could be because we need that higher dose. So far, the children I've heard of don't have this experience at all. There are only two, so that's not much to go on, but it makes sense. They're smaller and don't need so much aconite, as well as not having had the disease as long. If they've taken Wolfsbane the entire time since they were infected, perhaps the side effect won't happen at all."
"That is possible."
"That would be something. One man-he's older than I am, but hasn't been a lycanthrope for quite as long-put it a very interesting way. He considers it a dilution process. If one can keep the human mind in wolf form, then the wolf mind has to assert itself somehow. It's like making the whole transformation process take a bit longer but hurt a little less overall. It's a trade-off, but he thinks it's worth it even if the side effect can't be fixed. I agree."
"A slow ache instead of quick, violent pain?"
"So to speak, yes." Remus sipped his butterbeer. "It's something. A number of the people I'm writing to have already agreed to let someone observe them the night before the next full moon. You were right-since I allowed it and there weren't really any problems, others are more willing to take the same risk. Something else..." Remus' smile was different somehow from his normal good-natured one. "I have an idea about what the bites mean."
"You do? This has happened to others, then?"
"It has." That grin was almost unnerving.
"Well? Enlighten me."
"What is wrong with telling me here?"
"Nothing is wrong with it, but go with me on this, because I don't think you will want to hear it in the middle of a pub. Why don't I come see you this evening? Unless you'd rather do this in my rooms, of course."
This was sounding less and less like a meeting to discuss a research project and more like a tryst. Severus had enough experience with devious people to know that the open expression Remus wore was genuine. He was being given a choice-they could spend the evening in scholarly pursuits or doing something else. Severus intended it to be something else, excepting the reason behind the bites. Still, he need not let Remus off easy-let him wonder about it the same as Severus had been.
"You may be at my quarters at eight tonight. I expect you to provide the promised information at that meeting."
"I most certainly will."
The rest of lunch was spent discussing an article from the potions journal.
"Good evening, Severus."
"Lupin." He saw no reason to delay things. "What was your theory regarding the bites?"
Remus chuckled. "You don't waste any time, do you?"
"It was the reason behind the invitation to my quarters."
"The reason behind, but not the sole purpose of the meeting?"
"You're stalling." Severus was giving no quarter.
"I suppose. It occurred to me because of a comment in one of the letters. I thought about the bites I gave you, and, well, it made sense in light of recent developments."
Severus ground his teeth together. Lupin was doing this deliberately to provoke him, but it wouldn't work. He was a master of verbal evasion himself. Lupin would tell, he just wanted to annoy his audience before he did.
Annoy, or is he teasing? There is a difference, you know.
"It would be an interesting side to this study."
"I am more aware than ever of why I conduct my experiments alone. It seems that joint research has irritating drawbacks."
"And you're not at all difficult to work with, are you?" Remus smiled. There was only so much teasing Severus would take, so he pressed on. "The bite is, I think, a claiming device. The woman who mentioned doing the same thing on nights before the full moon makes her mark regularly on her husband, in the exact same spot where I bit you."
"That is ridiculous. We were hardly on civil terms that first night when you bit me."
"Not outwardly, but my anger at you for making me resign three years ago had faded. Also, learning of your work for the Order impressed me a great deal. I've been attracted to you, intellectually, if not physically, for quite a while now. The subconscious wolf may have recognised the potential for a closer relationship." Oh, the look on Snape's face was priceless. "It's not so shocking, when you consider all that's happened between us. I'm inclined to agree with the wolf's opinion at this point."
"It's something to explore. If there is a way you could phrase a question to the other werewolves..."
"Is it just the research that you wanted to delve into, or was there something else?"
There was no mistaking the invitation in that statement. The lascivious tone turned the double entendre to a very singular direction.
"There are any number of things that I believe bear delving into, Remus. One thing, in particular, catches my immediate interest."
"And that is?"
Severus moved sinuously towards the bedroom door.
"Research should be conducted in the proper place. Would you care to follow me?"
Entering the bedroom, Remus smiled at the comfortable warmth. A high fire burned, and there was a pot of something on the small table by the head of the bed. That table had held only a candlestick the morning before. Severus placed his wand on it before going to bed. Picking up the porcelain container, he turned.
"I should have known that you would be prepared for your...project. Exactly what sort of information were you hoping to discover?" The rich voice that answered warmed Remus down to his toenails.
"Personal, intimate knowledge, Professor Lupin. You are aware of my desire to learn." As he spoke, Severus removed his robes and began to unbutton his jacket.
"It has always been a strong desire of yours. I would be very happy to assist in this new sort of education." This statement was accompanied by a gesture that asked if Remus might be allowed to work on the long row of buttons.
"Your aid would be most appreciated. I might reciprocate if..."
"Not just yet. Wait."
Severus found it rather enjoyable to stand there and be attended to. He would have perhaps taken more care with his coat when setting it down, but at least Lupin hadn't thrown it on the floor. A warm finger occasionally brushed his skin as shirt buttons were undone. Heated fingers causing chills, warming up as his clothing was removed, Severus was intrigued by these unaccustomed sensations. Soon, he stood bare with Remus fully dressed in front of him. How had that happened so quickly? He flushed, embarrassed to be exposed when Remus wasn't.
Discomfiture must have showed, because Remus rapidly kicked off his shoes and removed his sweater. Severus closed the small gap between them and worked the shirt buttons. Remus' clothes were more casual than his own, and had fewer closures to deal with. The removal of shirt and trousers revealed a large number of scars that Severus hadn't really noticed when they were in the bath together.
The look, far from causing Remus embarrassment, made him smile and lick his lips before he pulled back the thick coverings on the bed and sat down.
"I seem to have developed a keen interest in doing some in-depth research myself."
"Indeed." Severus wasn't sure if the warmth on his face was a blush or simply desire and he didn't care. He was where he wanted to be, in bed with Remus, kissing and touching him. Amazingly, Remus seemed to want to be there as much as he did.
The exploration of each other's bodies was slow due to Severus' inexperience and Remus' concern about hurting his partner, but neither man minded. When Remus finally asked if Severus was ready to prepare him, he was astonished at the firm 'no' he received in response.
"I want you to prepare me."
"Are you certain? I don't want to cause any harm."
"You incurred no damage from two nights ago. How you looked, sounded, was incredible. I want to feel what you felt, to know what it was like."
"We can't do everything at once."
"Learning takes time. Show me. Teach me."
Remus did. During the course of the night, Severus learned a number of interesting things.