Title: Learning to Read the Signs
Author: Sorceress (sorceress@aol.com)
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Not mine. Wish they were.
Pairing: SS/RL
Warnings: Pre-Slash. M/M UST. Don't like, don't read, don't flame.
Summary: After Sirius' death, Remus goes missing, and Severus goes looking for him... only to find a lot more than he bargained for.
Notes: A slightly Dark!Remus in this one, but given the circumstances, I think he deserves to be. Takes place during the summer after OotP, when Remus finally has time to think about what he has lost.
For QueenC: Severus and Remus... Hated, Waited, Fated, Mated.

Master and the Wolf Fuh-Q-Fest Challenge #16: Snape goes into a bar. Lupin is there. After making a disparaging comment about werewolves, Snape discovers that the clientele of "Raging Moon" is pretty much entirely lycanthropes. Can he convince Lupin to save his butt?


The torrential downpour struck suddenly, water pouring down in sheets that soaked skin and obscured vision with equal intensity. Given the lateness of the hour and the lack of light from the closed shops, almost the entirety of this rather seedy section of London was plunged into inky darkness. Only occasional flashes of lightning provided intermittent, harsh illumination for those unfortunately souls caught out-of-doors.

Not that there were many, to be sure, and most of those fled into the nearest shelter as quickly as possible, laughing or grumbling in dismay according to their nature or the course of their interrupted business. Within moments of the first drops the street was as silent as a tomb, the only sound being the rumble of thunder, the only movement that of shadows in the startling, blue-white flashes.

All except for one. A tall, thin spectre in black, who moved swiftly yet silently through the cascading water, hood pulled up over his head to ward off the sluicing wetness. A hood which hid the pale, sharp featured, scowling face, masking the expression of intense irritation which creased the skin between fathomless black eyes... although if that irritation were with the weather or his mission it was impossible to tell.

A half-circle of light, reflected blurrily in the wet pavement, suddenly came into his down-cast vision, and he raised his head enough to look at the sign above the door. The Raging Moon it proclaimed in worn letters, with a picture of a mug outlined against a silver circle. The sign also contained a very faint symbol at the bottom, one that was only noticable to those who knew to look for it - a small line, slightly thicker on one end, representing a wand and indicating that the establishment took the coinage of the Wizarding world as well as Muggle money. This, then, was where he had been told to look, and he raised a slender, fine-boned hand to wipe errant droplets of water from his face before reaching out to open the door.

The sursurrus of the rain was replaced with the softer, yet oddly similar murmur of voices as he stepped inside, pushing back his hood and quickly scanning the dim room with an undeniable force of habit. No one looked up, however, too engrossed in conversation or alcohol to care that someone new had entered into their midst. This suited Severus perfectly, however, and he pushed damp tendrils of black hair back from his face before stepping up to the bar and raising a brow at the man behind it.

The rather unkempt barkeep ignored him, and the line of irritation between Severus' eyes grew deeper, as the onyx orbs themselves flashed briefly. He was not used to being ignored so pointedly, but he resisted the impulse to speak sharply as he would to one of his students, instead contenting himself with a silkily cleared throat.

Finally the grizzled older man in the stained apron approached, a bored expression on his face. "'do ya fer?" he asked.

Keeping a sneer off of his face with a deliberate effort, Severus spoke in a low voice. "I am looking for Remus Lupin."

Watery blue eyes narrowed. "Dunno no Lupin."

"Slender, approximately so tall," Severus said, holding one hand at approximately the level of his nose. "Light brown hair flecked with silver. Amber eyes. Patched robes." He had placed his other hand on the bar as he spoke, leaning slightly towards the barman. As he concluded the description he straightened, pulling his hand away and uncovering a small stack of five Galleons.

The barman's hand covered the coins, as he leaned towards Severus, eyes glinting. "Sure, wizard," he said, with a smile that caused Severus' eyes to narrow. The gray head jerked towards the other end of the bar, where several booths were hidden in shadow. "Bloke wat yer wan' s'inna back," he said, moving his hand back towards him. The Galleons disappeared with the same silence with which they had appeared.

Giving no acknowledgment, Severus spun on his heel, damp robes flaring behind him. He moved deeper into the shadowed pub, using only his peripheral vision to scan the booths to either side. Finally, all the way in the back, he caught a flash of silver-laced sandy hair, and moved purposefully in that direction.

He didn't announce his presence, merely sliding gracefully into the booth opposite the werewolf, who didn't look up or acknowledge him in any way. A trifle annoyed that Remus wouldn't even look at him, Severus spoke rather more harshly than he had intended, especially given what he had come here to do. "Lupin, if you are quite finished with this detestable moping, you have urgent responsibilities awaiting you."

A long moment of silence, and then Remus spoke in a low voice, not even looking up from the mug between his hands. "Hullo, Severus. Come all this way in the rain to gloat? Weren't there any targets closer to hand?"

"Hardly, Lupin," came the sharp rejoinder, and Severus scowled, certain that Lupin was drunk. Keeping his voice even, he raised a brow. "I have far better things to do than to hunt you down for the purpose of crowing over Black's death, and there are, as you say, plenty of closer targets if I wished to indulge in such a pointless past-time. I am here," he continued, emphasizing the the word with a curl to his lip, indicating his distaste for his current surroundings, "to remind you that we are still fighting a war, and your assistance is required."

A derisive snort of laughter greeted his comment, and then amber eyes - sharp, hard eyes which held none of the gentle good humor which they always had - fixed him with an intense stare. "Me? That's a good one, Severus. I never suspected you had such a wicked sense of humor." The full lips of the other man twisted with a bitterness that was startling to see on a face so accustomed to mildness. "Please do not insult my intelligence, although I know your opinion of it is low enough to begin with. I'm not needed. Hell, Sirius wasn't needed, which is why he was left to fester in that hellhole of a house until he went mad. Needed for what? I'm sent off on make-work missions which aren't going to change a thing, just to give me something to do, to make me feel useful when we all know it's nothing but a sham. The Order has Dumbledore, Harry, and you... I am superfluous. No one needs me."

I need you.

The thought came to the Potions Master's mind unbidden, but it was far from the first time the same one had taken up residence there. The scowl on his face only deepened, however, as Severus pushed the unwanted feeling away with the ease of long practice. True, Albus hadn't ordered him to find Remus. In fact, the Headmaster had looked at him very seriously when Severus had gone to him finally, after Remus had been missing for ten days with no word to anyone that Severus could determine. The Potions Master refused to acknowledge even to himself that he was worried, but he had asked the older wizard point blank if he knew where the werewolf had gone, offering no explanation for his unusual curiosity. Albus, however, had denied knowing, and had said that Remus needed to find something before returning... but what the particular something for which Lupin was searching was he had pointedly refused to tell Severus, much to the Slytherin's annoyance.

Focusing sharply on the mission at hand, Severus' brows drew down as he frowned in irritation. "I assure you, Lupin, each and every one of us is needed at this point. There are far too few experienced wizards and far too much work. And I believe, the last time I checked, Albus was not in the habit of sending people on pointless missions," he said.

His lip drew back in a sneer, and his eyes hardened. "Even Black was needed - he just did not care for the fact that he was required in a support role for the boy, rather than being allowed to rush off according to his whim and do whatever it was that he wished. No doubt what he wanted to do was to play at some insanely stupid and unnecessary attempt at heroism, which is precisely sort of self-absorbed, glory-seeking stupidity that ended up getting him killed..."

Severus closed his mouth with a snap, realizing at once that he had allowed his personal feelings to get the better of him. He had been concentrating so hard on not letting Remus begin to suspect that he was concerned for him, that he had allowed, instead, his hatred of Black to come through. And he knew from the icy expression in the amber eyes that it was a grave error.

"Go away, Severus," Remus said harshly, hands clenching on his mug. "Go away and forget you ever saw me, before I do something that really will cost the Order someone they can't spare. I am not going back."

Anger at himself - at the fact the fact that he had blown this opportunity - and anger at Remus for refusing to see the things that Severus couldn't say, combined to make the Potions Master's voice cut like cold steel. The words that came to his lips weren't thought out, they were pure venom unleashed by his frustration at having erred and his ingrained habit of lashing out when he felt vulnerable. "Oh, yes, the threat of violence, I should have seen it coming," he said bitterly, voice unconsciously rising. "You always play at being so mild on the outside, Lupin, but inside you are still a raging monster, aren't you? It is so easy to threaten to give in to your Darkness, use it as a way to make people quake in fear and submit to what you want them to do, while you merely up and run away when things do not go your way! You are acting like a coward, Lupin, just like the rest of your friends, taking the easy way out rather than facing up to what is happening like a man! But then, what can be expected from someone who really is not a man at all, nor even human!"

A low, vocal rumble impinged on his consciousness then, and with surprise Severus glanced up to see several pairs of eyes regarding him from the nearby booths. It was a growl made up of many voices, low, feral, and utterly animal, causing the hairs on the back of his neck to stand up in something that he refused to acknowledge was fear. A cold wash of dread replaced the heat of his anger, as dawning realization washed over him far too late. Raging Moon, he thought distantly, as his eyes travelled from table to table, where gazes of icy blue and glinting gold flashed back at him in the dimness. Sweet Merlin, this is a bloody lycanthrope bar. A *werewolf* bar.

He swallowed, suddenly feeling as though he were fifteen again and staring death in its cold, unforgiving face... only this time it was multiplied by a factor of twenty. Severus fought down the recollection, sternly reminding himself that not only had he been a Death Eater, he was a spy, a member of the Order of the Phoenix, and a powerful wizard. He had nothing to fear. Nothing at all.

The dark-haired wizard brought his eyes back to Remus, who was regarding him with an unreadable expression in his amber eyes. However, no growl issued from his throat, a fact for which Severus found himself feeling both surprised and grateful. But the words he knew he needed to speak in order to diffuse the situation were difficult... words of apology which had never come easy to him in his life, even when he was in the wrong - and this was no exception.

"I... I regret my choice of words," he said briefly, refusing to let his eyes leave the ones of the man before him, although his skin was almost crawling from the heavy weight of the gazes directed his way, and the almost subsonic growl of leashed anger that echoed around him. "I did not mean to imply that werewolves were cowards, of course... rather, I was referring, as you know, to your human cohorts." And that sounds only a very little better, he thought, stomach sinking slightly.

"Of course that makes it so much better, Severus," Remus replied sardonically, lips twisting in a parody of a smile. He stared hard at Severus, seeming to almost look straight through him, and it seemed to double the weight of the gazes Severus still felt on him. But the gaze of Remus Lupin stabbed at him in a way that none of the others did or ever could. It sent a shiver down his spine and caused his heart to quicken with something that was decidedly not fear.

The tension in the air was thick, and the Potions Master had to suppress the subconscious urge to breath faster in response to his accelerating heartrate. I am trained to deal with this... Clearing his throat, he raised a brow. "Touche, Lupin. I apologize for my anger," he said then, somewhat harshly, the words having to be forced past the lump of pride that seemed to block his vocal cords. But there was a great deal at stake, he reminded himself. Lupin was needed, and certainly Severus getting himself ripped to shreds by vindictive lycanthropes wasn't going to help either. Therefore, for the moment, pride would just have to be overlooked; although, no doubt, he would rage at himself about it later and take it out on the first convenient target. "It is the product of frustration with the current situation, combined with the less than forthcoming fashion you greeted my request for your return."

The rumbled died away, as Severus noticed Remus make a small gesture with his hand, a signal of some sort that he did not understand and could not recall ever seeing before. Then again, he had never been in the company of more than one lycanthrope at a time before, either. He could still feel those eyes, however, boring into his back, as though that were also some complex social dynamic. Interesting, it seemed they had a whole culture, perhaps, of which no one was aware...

His distracted intellectual ramblings - which he refused to acknowledge were partially due to relief at the slight lessening of the dangerous atmosphere around them - were suddenly interrupted, as Remus abruptly leaned closer to him, invading Severus' personal space as much as could be done with a table between them. Severus could feel the heat radiating from the other man's body, could feel the slight brush of whiskey tinged breath on his lips as the werewolf spoke. "Why are you here, Severus?" Remus asked softly, his tone belied by the gem-hard glittering of his eyes.

It took a supreme force of will to not retreat as the sandy-haired wizard moved closer, or to do something even more rash and lean forward to press his lips against the surprisingly soft looking ones of the man before him. Black eyes rounded at the mental image, and he had to fight the urge to bite out yet another scathing response in reaction to his flash of weakness. But fortunately, Severus Snape had nothing if not a formidable amount of will. "I believe I have already stated my reasons," he said, biting down the impatience that wanted to take over his tone. "I am here to remind you that your assistance is needed -"

"And I already explained that it was not, an argument which you really have not been able to counter, Severus," the werewolf cut in. The sandy-haired wizard inclined his head then, raising a brow. "You're an Occlumens," he continued, voice very, very low, the last word little more than silently mouthed. "I can't read through that, as you well know... but you're hiding something. Or, at least, not telling the whole truth."

Black eyes narrowed in annoyance. "Are you calling me a liar, Lupin?" he asked coldly, covering a sharp stab of alarm that the other man apparently could read something from him despite his abilities and training in covering up his thoughts and emotions. I cannot chance him sensing too much, he thought suddenly, feeling an unusual stab of uncertainty. It was an feeling that hardly ever assailed him, even when he had to stand before the Dark Lord and tell lies while his very life was at stake. Nor was he at all pleased that Remus Lupin, in a very fundamental way, frightened him more than Voldemort ever could. Perhaps I should concede this round, and find him again in a few days... or send Albus. But Severus was not used to defeat, and not at all accustomed to surrender - and so he remained.

Remus shrugged. "Lying... obscuring the truth... perhaps merely avoiding it... I can smell it on you, you know. But you have no reason to want me to come back, do you, Severus?" he asked, voice very low, but his eyes were intense. "Sirius is gone, and with me gone, certainly this is your chance to be the hero you've always longed to be? Why seek me out when you have everything you've ever wanted? The Marauders are defeated, gone, and you get to shine where we failed. You get to carry the day, win the battle, and do it all on your own." He quirked a brow in imitation of the Potions Master's signature look. "Why would you possibly want me to come back, Severus? Did Dumbledore send you out to lure me? Did Harry ask you to plead for my return?"

"Albus..." he began, to be cut off abruptly by a smirk from the werewolf. He knows Albus did not send me... somehow he knows... Scowling fiercely, Severus swept to his feet, damp black robes flowing behind him. "Perhaps it is merely because gloating over my so-called victory and playing the hero, as you call it, means nothing if you are not there to witness it!" he hissed sharply. Almost drowning in the amber eyes of the other man, attempting to keep himself from revealing too much, his voice again was an angry hiss. "But do not let that trouble you. Drink your cares under the table and run away from your responsibilities to Potter and to Albus! Think of no one but yourself... Black did it, too, the miserable cur, and why should you be any different from your the rest of your pack?" The last word was spat with utter loathing, an indication of the hatred Severus still held for the Marauders. Or for all of them save one.

There was nothing soft about the growl rising up around him this time, and Severus was abruptly reminded that he was still a minority of one in the bar. In fact, several of the patrons had half risen from their seats, shoulders hunched. Werewolves were powerful, strong, deadly... and as powerful a wizard as he was, the Potions Master knew that there was no way he could take all of them if they decided to attack.

Bloody hell! Damned lycanthrope hearing! he thought, mouth suddenly dry, his hand instinctively seeking out the wand hidden in the sleeve of his robes. His eyes moved to back Remus, to find the other wizard lounging back in his seat, looking almost relaxed. How can he possibly be so casual when violence is on the verge of breaking out around him?

"But I am different from James, or Peter, or even Sirius," Remus said quietly. "Aren't I, Severus? Certainly you wouldn't have sought them out, would you, to bring them back to the fold. Or not without being given very explicit orders, and then only grudgingly. But what I can't figure out is why... do you just want to keep me in your sight so that I can't sneak up behind you, to stab you in the back like the monster you claim that I am?"

Severus heard a few chairs scrape back, and he didn't have to look behind him to know that several of the lycanthropes had stood up; he even heard more than one soft, menacing step taken in his direction. This does not bode well. Surely he would not let them hurt me... or risk me hurting several of them in the process. Would he? Looking into the amber eyes of his one-time colleague, fellow fighter on the side of light, and the source of his secret obsession for over twenty years, Severus suddenly, for the first time, felt quite uncertain. And it was less because Remus Lupin was technically a Dark Creature, than because he, Severus Snape, had done very little to inspire anything in the man that might cause him to want to save him.

Gazing at Remus, every slight he had ever given the man, every hurtful thing he had ever said or done in his desperate attempt to cover up his true feelings for him came rushing back to mock him. It had been easier to let his pride control his actions than to admit his attraction, and to risk the rejection he knew, absolutely knew, would meet that confession.

"Tell me I'm different, Severus," Remus repeated softly.

Behind him, Severus heard more footsteps, advancing slowly. Remembering the hand gesture, knowing that Remus could somehow end this with no one being harmed, the dark-haired wizard struggled against his pride, fought against that part of him that did not want to hear mocking, derisive laughter coming from the werewolf's lips. He did not fear violence as such, but if this escalated into a full scale brawl, he would lose any chance of bringing Remus back to the Order, and lose even the faint, never acknowledged wish of having him someday in his life.

"You are different."

Soft words, barely whispered, but enough for werewolf hearing. Severus watched as Remus' looked past him at the advancing lycanthropes, giving the men a brief shake of the head. Footsteps paused, but did not retreat, and the Potions Master wondered if there was truly some unspoken brotherhood among the werewolves... or if, perhaps, Remus held some status among them that Severus couldn't fathom.

Remus leaned forward slightly, looking once again at him. "You know, Severus, they will happily kill you. Werewolves have no love of most wizards. We have been hated, hunted, reviled... kept from getting jobs, chased from our homes, been beaten, tortured, and killed. Told we were nothing, that we had no rights, that we were less than human. That is a powerful thing, you know. To bear the hatred of the world. We stick together, even if we aren't a formal pack, because we must. We offer up our lives for one another. To injure one is to injure all... and I'm afraid we all feel rather strongly about that."

He paused, eyes sliding closed. "You have crossed a line you couldn't see, one you didn't know existed. And now, to keep them from you, I would have to place you under my protection. I would have to declare you part of my pack. You would have to acknowledge me as your Alpha, submissive to my will." Amber eyes opened once again, meeting the incredulous black gaze. "Somehow, I doubt you would be willing to do that. I'm sorry, Severus... but you never should have come to find me."

"What must I do?" Severus asked, the words surprising him, spilling from his lips before he could stop them. Hidden in the sleeves of his robe, his hands trembled slightly. He was not afraid of the werewolves around him nearly as much as he was afraid now of his feelings for one werewolf in particular. But something primitive in him had responded to Remus' words, to the thought of being claimed by Remus, of having to acknowledge the other wizard as dominant. And, to his shock, the response surging within him was a wholly unexpected desire to submit.

Something flashed in Remus' eyes, and an expression crossed his face that the dark-haired wizard could not read. Victory? Possessiveness? Satisfaction? Severus blinked in confusion, wondering if he dared to believe that Remus could actually be pleased by this turn of events. Then suddenly Remus was standing beside him, having moved so quickly that Severus' eyes did not even register it.

They were of much the same height, and Severus had to keep from stepping back instinctively as Remus moved closer. The werewolf's gaze was molten gold, and Severus couldn't look away.

"Submit, Severus," the sandy-haired wizard said, the look on his face quite unlike the mild man that he had known for years. There was something dominating in it, something much harder and surer, as though the skin the other man wore were sloughing away to reveal his hidden nature... and for the first time Severus was quite aware that beneath it all, Remus Lupin was, indeed, a Dark creature. "Submit to me."

What in Merlin's name does he expect me to do? the Potions Master wondered, controlling the urge to shiver. Bow down? Prostrate himself on the ground? Kneel? All of those showed submission, and Severus, as a former Death Eater, had performed all of them at one time or other before the Dark Lord. But they were human gestures, and somehow seemed totally out of place, subtly wrong and meaningless. They didn't convey the level that he was certain was required here, and he had no idea how badly a misstep at this point might cost him... or what violence it might be met with. He was beginning to appreciate the depth of the nonverbal cues among the werewolves, and he wished he knew more about lycanthropes - or at least enough to get him out of this predicament. Whatever he did, he was certain that it had to mean something other than merely humbly bowing to Remus' will.

Pack... We offer up our lives for one another.

The words Remus had spoken only a few brief minutes - and a lifetime - ago came back to him, and the black eyes widened. But he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what he must do... and was amazed that the thought didn't anger him, and that his pride stayed dormant. In fact, he thought in amazement, it seems right somehow, natural as breathing...

And with that thought, Severus stepped forward, his eyes sliding closed as he tilted his head back and exposed the pale skin of his throat in a gesture of vulnerability.

The growling that had still been present, low and harsh, ceased completely as Severus watched Remus' reaction. He wondered briefly if he had done something wrong, when surprise flared in the other man's eyes. But that emotion was quickly replaced by something darker, something that looked nearly feral in the amber gaze. Something that caused Severus to feel suddenly weak in the knees, leaving him almost unable to draw breath.


Remus reached out a hand, tangling it in Severus' hair... but gently, not cruelly. A slight tug, and Potions Master felt Remus' other hand grasp the front of his robes, as the werewolf tipped Severus' head back even further. He fought against the hiss that wanted to escape his lips, fought against the totally human instinct to flail out, to pull away as though he were prey fighting the killing blow of a predator. Then he didn't want to struggle, as Remus suddenly moved his own head forward, and Severus felt warm lips and sharp teeth pressed into the skin of his throat.

Sweet Merlin, Severus thought, involuntarily gasping out loud. As the werewolf's sharp incisors pierced his skin he was shocked to feel it not as pain, but as a flare of intense pleasure, traveling down his spine and surging back upwards again in a burst that caused his body to tighten with primitive lust. He didn't even realize that his own hands had flown upwards, burying themselves in the werewolf's sandy hair, until he felt soft strands between his fingers. Even more surprising, however, was the fact that his hands weren't attempting to push Remus away... instead they were holding his head in place almost as though he were desperate to prolong the feeling.

His breathing became shallow and rapid, and Severus couldn't have said if it lasted a second or an hour - all he knew was that he didn't want it to end. This was more than attraction, this... he wasn't certain what it was, it was so far beyond his experience that his clouded mind couldn't begin to develop the language to describe it, were he even coherent enough to even try. It was merely... perfect. One of those perfect, incomprehensible moments that defied description but changed one's soul forever.

Then it was over, and the Potions Master opened his eyes, realizing only then that they had fallen closed. He groaned at the loss of the closeness of the werewolf's body, of the mouth on his skin, before abruptly coming to himself and straightening upright. He steeled himself, dark eyes flashing as he glanced around.

Remus stood several feet away, body loose and relaxed, his face impassive - but the amber eyes were dark and intense as they watched him. The expression in them caused a faint shiver to run down his spine, but he didn't want to analyze why - nor why the faint redness at the werewolf's mouth made his heartrate accelerate. Severus was definitely feeling out of his depth, and it was not a feeling he cared for in the least.

Tearing his eyes away from that burning glance, Severus quickly sought anything to occupy his gaze except the place that he wanted most to look. Fortunately, it seemed that all of the other werewolves had returned to their previous seats, now paying absolutely no attention to either of them. Apparently the matter was closed, and Severus, senses strangely alert, saw no interest on any faces, not even a stare of derision or curiosity. That, however, didn't prevent the flush of embarrassed confusion which he could feel on his face, and he straightened his spine into rigidity, doing his best to arrange his features into their normal harsh scowl before his eyes once against went to the sandy-haired wizard.

Silently the two men regarded each other for several moments. The Potions Master wasn't certain what to say after what had occurred. Certainly another scathing comment would suit his inner turmoil, and it was indeed tempting to lash out in anger in order to regain his equilibrium. However his tongue had gotten him into far too much trouble already... and he felt himself flushing again, as the tingle on his skin reminded him achingly of the feel of Remus' tongue there, as it had soothed the bite mark before the werewolf had released him. It was an act of pure will to keep from raising his hand to the spot, to run his fingers over the area as though to trap the feel of teeth and tongue and lips against his skin.

Oh Merlin... I must leave here. At once, he thought, clenching his hands and his jaw. He turned on his heel and took a single step away, before one softly spoken word halted him in his tracks.


The rich baritone seemed to travel down his spine like a warm river of molten honey, and he turned back, raising a brow in surprise. Remus had not changed position, and he still had the same dark intensity in his golden gaze. Severus didn't even want to try to speak, afraid that his voice would come out husky rather than sharp, afraid that it would betray even more to the lycanthrope's hearing than he had already revealed. So he merely inclined his head in inquiry, not stopping to analyze why he even was waiting to hear what the werewolf had to say, when apparently no one was now going to stop his departure.

"Do you still want me to return?" Remus asked. His voice was completely neutral, his face still passive, revealing nothing of his feelings, of what he expected - or wanted - to hear.

Still, the question surprised Severus. He had nearly forgotten his purpose in coming here in the first place, so caught up in everything else that had happened in the last several minutes. Thus, completely disarmed, he responded honestly before having a chance to consider his words.


The word seemed to hang in the air as the two wizards regarded one another. Severus tried to tell himself that whatever the werewolf decided didn't matter, that what had just passed between them - whatever it had been - had effectively ruined everything, insuring that Remus Lupin would never come back to the Order, and would certainly never again be associated in any way with Severus Snape. But even as he fixed the thought of not caring in his mind, trying to draw the familiar feeling of hate to him, the black-haired wizard finally admitted that he was merely lying to himself.

Time stretched out, taut as a drawn bowstring, filled with nearly unbearable tension and unknown potential... and then Severus felt his breath catch as the other man gave a slight, almost imperceptible nod.

"I'll see you tomorrow, then," Remus said unexpectedly. "Good night, Severus." Still the baritone voice gave nothing away, and the Potions Master watched as the werewolf returned to his table, sitting down and once again dropping his eyes to stare into the glass before him.

It was tempting to go over to him and demand an explanation, to draw out a conversation about what had happened, to stay in Remus' presence for a bit longer. But that thought was enough to fix the scowl back on the dark-haired wizard's face, giving him the resolution he needed to turn once again and walk away, leaving the bar and its Dark clientele behind him. He needed to return to his quarters, and to get himself firmly in control once again. To find the balance he had quite definitely lost that night, before dealing with the repercussions that seemed certain to follow.

For if Lupin were indeed returning, Severus needed to make sure that he had himself firmly in hand, lest he do something even more foolish than insulting a werewolf in a bar full of lycanthropes. He also made a firm resolve to pay more attention to reading signs - for next time, there might be no saving him from the consequences of his own actions.