Title: Male Bonding
Author: MusIgneus
Email: musigneus@hushmail.com
LiveJournal: http://www.livejournal.com/users/musigneus/
Rating: NC-17
Warning: dubious/forced consent
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and related characters and concepts are the creations of J. K. Rowling. The following story is for nonprofit, entertainment purposes only.
Notes: A response to challenge 50: Lupin and Snape are captured, and it's just prior to the full moon. Instead of simply killing them, Voldemort has them locked up together, knowing that when Lupin transforms he will tear Snape to shreds, and then probably go mad from guilt. Rescue seems unlikely, but Lupin knows there is one thing that could save Snape: a werewolf would never harm its mate. The trouble is, not only must they have sex, but becoming a werewolf's mate means you must stay with them for life. Will Snape think death is a better option?
Many thanks to tarnationawaits for beta reading. Feedback is appreciated.

Male Bonding

Severus came to consciousness gradually, aware first of pain. He held himself still, taking stock of his situation. He appeared to be kneeling on something cold and gritty, with his head slumped forward and his arms stretched up and back, secured by something that was preventing him from pitching forward onto his face. Ah. That explained the pain in his arms and shoulders, and in the overstretched muscles at the back of his neck. The blinding headache, though - that was another matter.

His mind cleared a bit more, and he remembered answering the Dark Lord's summons. Kneeling at his feet. Then a burst of pain as something struck his head - oh. That explained the headache - someone had hit him, and had, it felt like, given him a concussion.

A faint sense of alarm finally penetrated his hazy thoughts. Where was he? Grateful for the instinctive caution that had kept him motionless so far, he slitted his eyes open, and saw that he was naked and kneeling on a dirty stone floor. He also saw a fall of heavy black silk, very close to his head.

He heard a hissing laugh, and a wand suddenly insinuated itself under his chin, forcing his head up until he looked into a pair of glowing red eyes. A rush of fear washed away the last of his confusion - he was naked and kneeling at the Dark Lord's feet, and whatever was happening, it was no ordinary punishment.

"Have you no proper greeting for your master, Severus?" Voldemort said softly. A cruel smile twisted his thin, lipless mouth as he lengthened the chains holding Severus's hands above his head.

Clinging to the hope that this was not the prelude to torture and execution it appeared to be, Severus forced himself down to make the expected obeisance. By wrenching his arms painfully against the pull of the chains, he could just lean forward far enough to touch his face to the hem of Voldemort's robes. The fabric was chill and slick under his lips.

"My Lord..." Severus froze as the tip of Voldemort's wand settled lightly on the back of his neck, just at the base of his skull.

"Crucio."

Pain exploded along Severus's spine, burning through every nerve in his body. He writhed and twisted and screamed until the curse suddenly ended, leaving him hanging, gasping and tangled in the chains. Before he could orient himself, the sole of Voldemort's boot caught the middle of his chest in a vicious kick that threw him back against the wall, driving the air from his lungs and slamming his head against the stones. The blow sent pain stabbing through his skull and made his vision blur.

"My Lord..." Severus blinked, trying to resolve the menacing shape looming over him into recognizable features so he could judge how Voldemort was receiving his words. "My Lord, if you will but tell me how I have displeased you, I-"

"I did not give you leave to speak," Voldemort said dangerously.

Severus stiffened, watching the Dark Lord's mouth curve into a smile once more as he lifted his wand. "Crucio!"

When Voldemort finally ended the curse this time, Severus was huddled against the wall, too breathless from screaming to speak.

"How have you displeased me, Severus?" Voldemort asked. "Terribly. You have not accomplished even one of the things I have asked of you since your...return...to my side."

Severus gasped for air against the pain still coursing through his body, trying to organize a defense.

"For instance. You have said that you have not been able to win even the smallest measure of Harry Potter's trust. Despite your proximity to him," Voldemort said meditatively.

It was not a question, but Severus answered anyway. "No, Master, but-"

"But. Yes, there is always a but where you are concerned, is there not, Severus?"

Voldemort's cold voice sounded almost amused, and Severus knew, with sinking certainty, that he was a dead man. What he didn't know was why - what error had tipped the balance of the Dark Lord's doubt to conviction? At Voldemort's next words, he knew.

"'He's got Padfoot at the place where it's hidden,'" Voldemort mimicked. "Our dear Harry clearly trusted you enough to think you would understand that, Severus."

So that was it. Severus felt a futile surge of anger at the brat whose half-trust had condemned him. If only Potter had had the sense to come to Severus first, or to let him take care of the situation after he had passed on his clumsy warning...or else had not trusted him at all. Distantly, he wondered which of his Slytherins had carried the tale that had betrayed him, and if the act had been malicious or unwitting. Not that it would matter in the end.

Voldemort's eyes were blazing. "I had wondered how Dumbledore and his pawns happened to arrive at the Ministry at such an inopportune moment!"

Severus mustered an expression of surprised disbelief. "Potter, trust me, my Lord?" He imbued his voice with all the earnest urgency of which he was capable. "I had no idea what Potter was babbling about, and as for Dumb-"

"Silencio!" Voldemort's hiss trapped the useless lie in Severus's throat. "Unfortunately for you, Severus, I am not interested in your excuses..."

Voldemort turned away, and, free from the mesmerizing glare of his red eyes, Severus realized for the first time that they were not alone in the small stone building. A naked man lay on the floor against the far wall, but Severus had no attention to spare for whoever it was as he forced himself to his feet. His head spun, and he leaned heavily against the wall, clinging to the chains to keep himself upright.

Voldemort looked back in his direction with a cruel smile. "Don't you recognize the mongrel, Severus? Another of Dumbledore's pawns... He put on quite a show at the Ministry."

For one wild instant, Severus thought that the Dark Lord had somehow managed to bring Sirius Black back through the veil. Then he took a closer look at the body on the floor and recognized the sprawled form as that of Remus Lupin. Ah, yes. The only member of the Order who hadn't been injured in the Department of Mysteries, and the one who had kept Potter from plunging through the veil after Black and neatly removing himself from the Dark Lord's path... Yes, that would have been enough to rouse Voldemort's ire against Lupin.

Voldemort was now standing next to the door, a dark shadow against the evening sunlight blazing on neatly trimmed grass. "I think you have betrayed me, Severus. But if you are still loyal, and merely incompetent, you may take comfort in the knowledge that you will be performing one last little service for me."

Severus's blood ran cold as he wondered what the Dark Lord intended to force him to do - and if he would be able to resist - but he held his head up defiantly as Voldemort lifted his wand once more.

"Ennervate."

Lupin's body twitched and he groaned, but Severus wasn't certain if he were conscious enough to understand Voldemort's parting words.

"Dumbledore's tame werewolf... His trial should prove...distracting...for Dumbledore. And so...upsetting for Harry as well, shouldn't it, Severus?"

Severus glanced at Lupin, hoping desperately that the werewolf would recover quickly enough to try a rush at the door - the werewolf. The werewolf for whom he had been preparing Wolfsbane this past week, because the full moon would be tonight. His breath caught in horror as he suddenly understood the Dark Lord's plan.

Severus could hear Voldemort's smile in his voice. "Yes, you understand now... Tell Mr. Lupin not to be concerned; I'll send Macnair by in the morning to...retrieve him." Voldemort turned and stepped through the doorway, then looked back at Severus. "Oh, and Severus? I wouldn't want to deprive Mr. Lupin of the pleasure of your conversation until moonrise. Or your screams... Finite incantatem."

The door shut firmly, and the sound of a bar dropping into place was loud in the silence.

Severus looked around frantically. One door, just locked - and he didn't imagine the Dark Lord had trusted in that purely physical barrier to hold them. Two barred windows, letting in the last slanted rays of sunlight. One naked werewolf.

Damn.

He slid down the wall and rested his head on his knees.

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Remus was having a terrible dream. His head hurt, and a hissing voice was talking about Macnair in a subtly menacing way that made Remus shudder. His groggy brain registered that he was cold. And naked.

His eyes snapped open as he suddenly remembered the attack in the alley, but he managed to keep himself still otherwise. All he could see was a stone wall and a bit of dirty stone floor. He strained his senses, trying to determine whether he was alone before he moved, but he couldn't hear anything except the distant low of a cow, and all he could smell was dust, and a fainter scent of freshly cut grass. He shifted his head, cautiously, to bring more of his surroundings into view.

Bare walls, bare floor, a door, and a naked man - Severus Snape? What was Severus doing chained to the wall of - wherever this was?

He tested his voice. "How surprising. I'd usually expect that when I'm ambushed by Death Eaters, I would be the one chained to the wall when I woke up."

Severus raised his head; he had bruises darkening on his face and chest, but he graced Remus with a familiar sneer. "Yes, well, life is full of surprises, Lupin."

Remus sat up carefully. "I thought I heard...someone."

Severus's expression was shuttered. "The Dark Lord was here," he said shortly.

Remus closed his eyes briefly, swallowing hard against the nausea moving had induced. And, if he were honest, against a burst of pure, paralyzing terror. When he looked up again, he found Severus watching him.

"Lupin - I don't suppose anyone...useful knows where you are? Or is likely to notice that you are missing - soon?" Severus asked.

Remus said grimly, "Not likely." He put a hand on the window ledge to help pull himself upright, then jerked back as the significance of the fading light registered at last. His face drained of color. "Severus..." he choked.

"I know." Severus put his head back down on his knees, but sat up again to stare at the other man's uncharacteristic panic.

Remus bolted for the door, throwing his weight against it over and over.

Severus watched in bemusement. "Lupin, it's barred on the outside. I don't think-"

"Severus, we have to get you out of here!" Remus's eyes were wild. He scrabbled at the door, then prowled the building, checking the barred windows and testing the floor for loose flagstones.

Somehow, the sight of Lupin stripped of that damnable calm unflappability he had acquired as an adult was oddly reassuring to Severus. At least he was about to be killed by someone who would regret it - would regret killing, anyway; he didn't delude himself into thinking Lupin would regret it because of the identity of his victim.

For a second, he was strangely tempted to reassure Lupin - he had known all along that he would be eliminated the instant the Dark Lord was certain his loyalties were elsewhere, and at least the werewolf would be quick about it. And there was an odd inevitability about it; saved from the werewolf by one Potter, and thrown back to it by another...

He shuddered, thinking of tearing snarls and long, gleaming teeth. No, why should he console his own soon-to-be killer?

Remus came to a stop near Severus, eyeing the ceiling. "If we could get you to one of those beams..." he muttered.

Severus snorted. "There's not that much slack in the chains, Lupin. And I suspect you could jump that high for your snack anyway."

Remus turned on him, furious. "Don't waste time needling me now, Severus! Help me think of a way out of this!"

"I don't think there is a way. Just...be ready to make a break for the door when Macnair arrives in the morning," Severus said wearily.

Remus was shaking his head, looking ill.

Severus leaned back against the wall, projecting an ease he didn't feel for the sake of his pride. His gut clenched, and he wanted to scream. His own personal nightmare... Damn Voldemort.

Remus looked at Severus closely - he looked exhausted, and resigned. He couldn't control the slight widening of his eyes when he glanced out the darkening window and saw how close to nightfall it was, though, and Remus saw the disguised fear in his face.

Remus shivered and dropped to his knees. "Severus. Please kill me."

Severus recoiled. "What?" he exclaimed. His voice regained its usual smooth tones as he continued, "In case it has escaped your notice, Lupin, I seem to have misplaced both my wand and my collection of esoteric and excruciatingly painful poisons, so I'm afraid I'll have to decline."

Remus managed a half smile. "I'm serious, Severus. Strangle me. Now. It's not like I'm going to resist."

When Severus only stared at him, Remus reached out and gripped his hands, pulling them toward his own neck. After a moment of stunned immobility, Severus began struggling to free his hands from Remus's grasp.

"Don't be a melodramatic idiot, Lupin. I'm not going to kill you. Let go!"

"You have to!" Remus said forcefully. "You know what I'll do to you otherwise."

Severus flinched.

"I couldn't live with that, Severus," Remus pleaded.

Severus flinched again. "Whereas you think that I could live quite comfortably after killing you in cold blood, Lupin? What a...flatteringly sincere opinion of my character." He stood, jerking his hands free of Remus's. "I'm not going to throttle you. And even if I did, it would be pointless - I'd still be chained to this damned wall, waiting for Macnair. At best I'd be tried for your murder instead, and it's far more likely that Macnair would simply kill me immediately and blame you anyway. You, on the other hand, stand some chance of escaping." He didn't bother suggesting Lupin might be acquitted if he were tried - the lie would be too obvious.

Remus stared at him. "How can you...consider it so coldly?"

"What? You'd rather I were screaming in panic?" Snape sighed, letting his head fall back against the wall and his eyes drop closed. "Perhaps I'll try that in a bit."

There was a stricken silence.

Once again Severus suppressed the ridiculous urge to say something comforting to Lupin. This would be easier if he could manage the appropriate rage against Lupin, but he couldn't quite manage it - the werewolf was so clearly desperate to not kill him.

A pull on his arms and a scraping sound by his head made Severus open his eyes. He watched Remus tugging with grim - and useless - determination on the chains where they were attached to the wall.

It was getting dark very quickly.

Severus sighed. "Lupin. Give over. It's-" He couldn't bring himself to say something so foolish as It's all right, because it was not. He settled on, "... instinctive. You won't be able to help it."

Remus drove his fist against the wall with a shriek of rage such as Severus had never imagined could come from the quiet, self-effacing man.

Severus fell back a step, startled.

Remus slumped against the wall, head down, hands fisted against the rough stone. "No," he said, his voice muffled. "I won't be able to help it."

The scrap of purpling sky visible through the trees drew Severus's eyes irresistibly toward the far window again. Moonrise was after sunset, these days, but by how much? How much longer before Lupin turned into the ravening monster he'd seen under the Whomping Willow? It was suddenly difficult to breathe. He looked at Lupin, wondering if the change would begin before the moon came into view.

Remus was still and tense, staring blankly at nothing - until suddenly he murmured "Instinctive..." His eyes snapped to Severus, his gaze speculative. "I wonder..."

"What, Lupin?" Severus said sharply, feeling a painful stab of hope.

Remus straightened, calculation replacing the pained frustration in his face. "I have an idea. Only you'll probably say you'd rather die," he said with a humorless smile.

Severus's eyes narrowed. "Spit it out, Lupin."

"I have had Wolfsbane for the past six days..." Remus said slowly.

The death of the tiny hope Lupin had raised was agonizing. "I know that. You may recall that I brewed it," Severus said harshly. "But I also know that since you didn't drink it today, you'll be just as viciously bloodthirsty as if you hadn't had it at all."

"I don't think so, Severus," Remus said.

"Believe what you like," Severus said angrily, "but when the potion was tested, it was only effective when taken for the entire week before the full moon."

"Yes, but that was when the potion was first developed; the dosing schedule has never been tested on anyone who had already been taking it on a regular basis, only on werewolves who were taking it for the first time ever." Remus smiled grimly at Severus's look of surprise. "I may not be skilled enough to make Wolfsbane for myself, Severus, but I assure you that I have read everything anyone has written about it."

"Fine, Lupin, but that doesn't-"

"Hear me out, please," Remus said firmly. "That night, at the Shack, when Sirius came back - I transformed after not having the potion then, too.

Severus waited, lips compressed into a bloodless line.

"It was easy for Sirius to drive me away from all of you, and I didn't return to attack even when you were all helpless. And I didn't...maul myself, like I used to. Before the potion," Remus said. "I was...more like a normal wolf."

"You forget, Lupin - I saw Black after you'd been at him. You savaged him," Severus said coldly.

"He attacked me first!" Remus protested. "Not that I blame him, since he was protecting Harry from-" He broke off. "Anyway, I didn't savage him. I could have, but I didn't. And I've been taking the potion every month for two more years since then. No werewolf has ever been able to take it regularly for so long."

"Congratulations," Severus sneered. "So, I don't turn into a dog and bite you, and I'll be perfectly safe - this is your brilliant idea?"

"No, Severus," Remus said. "My idea is to make you more acceptable to the wolf. Only, it will take something fairly...elemental to make it recognize you."

"Elemental," Severus said flatly.

"Er, yes," Remus replied, shifting uneasily. "Like, er, ma-"

"Lupin, I don't know what ridiculous notion-"

"Be quiet, Severus," Remus snapped, losing patience at last. "You're wasting time. I'll make it simple: either you kill me, or I fuck you."

"What?" Severus exclaimed.

"Mating is about as elemental as it gets," Remus said, extending his hand tentatively in Severus's direction. "With my scent all over you, if you behave properly, I hope..."

Severus's expression hardened. "Stay back. You're not going to touch me, Lupin. You've had your joke now, although I would have thought it was too tasteless even for you," he spat.

"I'm not joking, Severus," Remus said, but Severus was too angry to hear the warning in his voice. "Choose one or the other."

"Go to hell!"

"Severus. I'm absolutely serious. Mating is... I think it could work. I don't want to force you, but I will if I have to. Or you can kill me," Remus said firmly.

Severus glared at him, fists clenched. "I already said no, Lupin," he snapped. "But it should be balm enough for your conscience tomorrow that you proposed this plan and I rejected it. When you come to yourself in the morning with my blood in your mouth," he ignored Remus's wince, "you can tell yourself it wasn't your fault."

"Yes, I suppose I can," Remus said quietly. He stood near the wall, head down, shoulders bowed.

Severus watched him carefully for several minutes. Some of the tension eased out of his rigid body when he realized Lupin had apparently come to his senses. Before he lost them again...

Severus glanced apprehensively at the window. The sky was almost completely dark, and the shadows inside the little stone building were deep. Moonrise couldn't be that far off.

He shouldn't have taken his eyes off Lupin, even so briefly, but he had never really believed the quiet man would follow through on his threat. He realized he had grievously underestimated the degree of Lupin's desperation when a sharp kick behind his knees sent him crashing to the floor.

Severus flung out his hands to keep his face from smashing into the flagstones. "Lupin!" he snapped, but even as he tried to shove himself back up, Remus wrapped one hand around the chains manacling his arms to the wall and jerked, pulling Severus's hands out from under him so that his elbows impacted painfully on the stone, kicking his knees apart and settling between them at the same time.

"Get off me, damn you!" Severus shouted as he thrashed ineffectually under Lupin's weight. He twisted and bucked, but Lupin jerked on the chains once more, hauling Severus's elbows off the floor and forcing his arms painfully far behind and over his head. Severus tried to snap his head back into Lupin's face, but he couldn't get it past his own bound arms.

Severus's cheek and shoulder were pressed uncomfortably against the floor by his own weight, even before Remus leaned heavily on his back with the arm holding the chains.

"Calm down, Severus, I don't want-" Remus said urgently near his ear, but Severus only cursed and kept thrashing, furious at being handled so easily. At being handled at all.

Severus felt Lupin's weight shift slightly over him, then he uttered a short sharp cry as something far too large suddenly forced its way into his anus. The scraping, burning pain shocked him into stillness for a second before he began struggling again in earnest.

"Stop it!" Remus said forcefully. "Calm down, Severus. I'm afraid this will all be for nothing if we make you bleed." He leaned even harder on the elbow he had planted in the middle of Severus's back, crushing the air from his lungs.

Severus subsided, breathless and panting, cheek scraping against the gritty floor. He realized belatedly that the pain in his arse was caused by Lupin's fingers. He also realized there was no way he could force Lupin to release him - no physical way, at least.

When he had regained enough breath to speak again, he said, "So, Lupin, you aspire to be a rapist as well as a murderer?"

The fingers suddenly stabbed into his body with enough force to make Severus grunt, but Remus's voice was even when he replied. "No. I don't want to be either one. But I am willing to be a rapist to have a chance at not being a murderer. Your murderer. And if you recall, Severus, I begged you to kill me instead of making me do this."

Severus hissed with discomfort as Lupin's fingers twisted, stretching him with far more thoroughness than gentleness. "I assure you, I've reconsidered!" he grated. "I'll wring your fucking neck if-"

He inhaled sharply as Lupin removed his fingers - it felt as if part of his intestines were being pulled out at the same time - but then he was suddenly released. He scrambled to his feet, poised to attack, and barely kept himself from striking Lupin when he saw the werewolf kneeling within easy reach, head down, a dark shape in the dimness.

Through clenched teeth, Severus ordered, "Turn around."

Remus turned obediently, shuffling on his knees, presenting his unprotected back.

Severus reached over Lupin's shoulder and cupped his chin in one hand - he could feel Lupin's pulse fluttering wildly against his fingers. He positioned his other arm behind Lupin's head, and felt him tense. Severus hesitated, his fury draining away and leaving him oddly empty.

Remus spoke, very quietly. "It's...it's all right, Severus. Do it." His voice was resigned and not quite steady. "No one will blame you."

Wasn't this what he had wanted once? Hadn't he wanted to destroy Lupin, along with his arrogant, idiotic friends? Here was his chance...and as Lupin said, no one would blame him.

Severus looked down, past his own hands. Lupin's chest moved with quick, shallow breaths. As he watched, Lupin's hands, resting on his knees, curled into fists.

Severus tightened his grip on Lupin's chin, and watched as Lupin's clenched hands twitched, once, in reaction.

Severus could feel Lupin trembling very slightly.

Fuck.

He shoved Lupin, hard, sending him sprawling gracelessly on the floor, and sagged backward against the wall. "Damn it, Lupin..."

Remus lay on the floor, eyes shut, panting for a moment before he pushed himself up. "Severus..." His voice was shaky. "You have to kill me. Or let me..."

"I'm not going to kill you, Lupin," Severus said wearily. "Do whatever the hell you want." What did it matter? He would be dead by morning anyway, no matter what he or Lupin did now. At least this way, he wouldn't be a murderer. Again.

Severus ignored Lupin's advance - he fully expected the desperate werewolf to shove him down on the floor and resume where he had left off, but he was too numb to care. As a result, he was so startled when Lupin dropped to his knees and wrapped one hand around his cock that he jerked backward and knocked his own head against the wall. While he was still blinking the resulting spots from his vision, Lupin shifted his hand to cup Severus's balls and licked firmly down the length of his shaft before drawing it gently into his mouth.

Severus sucked in a deep, ragged breath, and Lupin's other hand came up to stroke soothingly over his left hipbone while his tongue traced the underside of Severus's cock. Had Lupin asked, Severus would have said it would be impossible for him to respond, under the circumstances, but his body clearly thought otherwise. He could feel his cock hardening unbelievably rapidly in response to Lupin's stroking tongue.

He resolutely closed his mind to all thought of what would happen at moonrise and let himself drown in the glorious sensation of Lupin's warm wet mouth surrounding his cock, Lupin's gentle hand stroking his hip, Lupin's fingers slipping into his body - and in an embarrassingly short time he was climaxing into Lupin's mouth.

He slumped against the wall, blank and spent.

Severus heard a fleshy wet sound and opened his eyes, just now realizing he had closed them sometime in the last few minutes. It made no difference; the darkness was now so complete that he couldn't even see Lupin directly in front of him. A slight disturbance in the air, however, told him the other man was rising to his feet, and then the warm hand fell on his hip again.

"Turn around, Severus," Remus urged, and Severus complied, too dazed from his unexpected orgasm and the enclosing darkness to resist.

He shivered as Lupin's hand traveled up his back, pushing gently until Severus was leaning forward into the wall. He felt air stir behind him and the warmth of Lupin's legs brushing against his, then Lupin said, "You're too tall for this to be comfortable. It will be easier if you get down..."

Severus was on his hands and knees with Lupin behind him before he remembered that he hadn't actually wanted this, and by then, something firm and slick was already pressing against his entrance.

"Lupin-"

Severus tried to rear up, but Lupin's hands, unexpectedly strong, held him firmly at hip and shoulder as Lupin pushed slowly but relentlessly into his body. Severus tossed his head back, suddenly aware of his own harsh, shallow breaths in the silence. Lupin's cock didn't hurt like his fingers had earlier, but it wasn't precisely comfortable either, and Lupin just kept pushing further in, not giving Severus a chance to adjust.

"Fuck! Lupin, wait-"

"I'm sorry, Severus," Remus said, his voice hoarse and deep in Severus's ear. "I can't."

Severus gasped as Lupin pulled out and thrust back in strongly, once, then again, and again. He let his head fall back down, hissing through his clenched teeth as Lupin set up a steady, pounding rhythm. His hands scraped against the rough floor, seeking purchase against the determined thrusts rocking his body.

He had, once or twice, let himself wonder what sex with Lupin would be like, in the same idle way he had considered what it might be like to fuck Kingsley Shacklebolt or Bill Weasley. Or even Nymphadora Tonks.

He had imagined Lupin would be gentle, even a little uncertain, and would require dinner and conversation first. He had also, he remembered, imagined that he would be on top.

His vague, tentative fantasy had definitely not included being on his hands and knees on a dirty stone floor while Lupin held him down and fucked him roughly with only his own ejaculate for lubricant.

Each thrust had just barely begun to spark pleasure within the burning, stretching discomfort it caused Severus when Remus suddenly groaned. "No, no, not yet!"

Severus grimaced. His retort, "Don't draw it out on my account, Lupin. The sooner you're finished, the-" withered in his throat as he lifted his head and saw the window, a lighter shape in the dark blankness of the wall. He bit back a moan, muscles trembling as Lupin drove into him even harder with deep, frantic strokes. He felt Lupin's cock twitch inside him, then warmth sprayed across his back as Lupin suddenly withdrew.

Severus's grunted "What-" turned into an exclamation of disgust when Lupin slapped a handful of something warm and revoltingly sticky across his throat. "Ugh! Lupin, what the-"

"Rub it - neck, everywhere you can," Remus said in a strained voice, leaving a sticky trail of come along Severus's chest when he withdrew his hand.

Severus turned and looked up, and realized to his horror that he could see Lupin clearly as he staggered back across the building, gasping instructions.

"Stay down - don't loom over me. Don't look me in the eye." Remus's face twisted, but he forced out a few more words. "Give me your throat if I want it-"

Severus found himself on his feet. "Lupin-" He watched, transfixed, as Lupin's body went rigid, then began to shake and deform into the monster that had haunted Severus's nightmares for twenty years.

The werewolf was just as huge as he remembered.

It threw back its head and howled, and Severus would have clapped his hands over his ears like a child to block out the chilling sound had he not been too terrified to move. As it was, he simply stood motionless, pressing hard against the wall at his back, eyes wide, curled fingers digging into the mortar, until it turned and looked at him. Only the realization that the beast was not snarling and slavering and leaping at him like it had that night under the Shrieking Shack let him follow Lupin's advice - he forced himself to slide down the wall, very slowly so as not to startle the wolf. Deliberately putting his throat within even easier reach of those teeth was very nearly the hardest thing he had ever made himself do.

He stopped abruptly halfway down at a low rumbling growl. The beast was slinking forward, hackles raised, and Severus held himself absolutely motionless as it came close enough to touch. The wolf also paused for a second, sniffing and still growling quietly, before it shoved its nose straight into Severus's crotch. He yelped and clutched the wall behind him even harder, muttering, "Lupin, if we get out of this, I will fucking kill you..."

A wet nose brushed his testicles, and the growl change to an oddly questioning sound. Severus wondered hysterically if the beast was more confused because he smelled human, or male. A soundless huff of manic laughter choked in his throat when the wolf looked up - Severus froze, staring directly down into its eyes.

With a tearing snarl, it lunged for his throat. Severus hadn't time enough to even try to raise an arm to protect himself before its teeth closed on his neck. He felt its long canines pressing into his throat, and his breath stuttered to a stop. He waited endlessly for the jaws to close, crushing his windpipe or tearing out his throat.

The wolf's breath was hot on his face, and he felt the vibration of its growl through his body. His thighs began to shake with the effort of holding himself crouched and motionless, and he felt increasingly lightheaded from not breathing. Or from sheer terror - it didn't matter, because his knees buckled suddenly and he collapsed the rest of the way to the floor. The last of his breath went out in a tiny whine as he landed awkwardly, splayed prone and defenseless with the wolf's teeth still locked around his throat. He stared at the hairy paw next to his face; the claws were long and sharp, and Severus thought of the gashes he had seen on Sirius Black two years ago.

With a last, warning rumble, the wolf released him and turned away. Severus sobbed in a deep heaving breath and stared in disbelief while it paced the length of the building, scrabbling at the door and trying to push its massive head through the barred window. It hadn't killed him.

A new fear struck Severus - had it bitten him hard enough to break the skin? That would be worse than dying...

He raised a shaking hand to his damp throat. When he looked at his fingers, they glistened wet in the moonlight, but not dark.

Severus curled into a ball on the floor, making himself as inconspicuous and unthreatening as possible while the wolf strained at the window and howled at the unreachable moon. It would be a very long night.

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Severus was cold, and stiff, and in desperate need of a toilet by the time he heard a bird twittering nearby and saw a subtle lightening of the sky. He ached in every limb, and he was exhausted from the sleepless night spent tensely watching for some sign the wolf was about to turn on him.

It had largely ignored him, but it was becoming increasingly agitated with the approach of dawn. Severus snorted silently, thinking it would be incredibly ironic to have survived the night only to be killed moments before sunrise.

He twitched in surprise as the chains holding his arms suddenly melted away, and he heard the soft thunk of the bar moving outside the door. He longed to race for the exit, but he didn't dare move - the wolf lunged at the door, snarling viciously, and he didn't care to draw its attention. Clearly the bar hadn't been the only thing holding the door closed, though, because it failed to budge when the wolf rammed into it.

The inside of the building brightened perceptibly - at last! - and Severus held his breath as the wolf gave voice to a last, anguished howl and thrashed, snapping at the air, before twisting and transforming. Lupin slumped to the floor with a strangled moan of pain. Severus had never been so pleased to see him.

Remus pushed himself up on one shaky arm, looking around frantically until he caught sight of Severus attempting to ease his cramped muscles enough to stand. "Severus! Thank God..." he breathed.

Severus ignored Lupin's look of relief and hobbled to the door, ascertaining that it would indeed not open before he positioned himself to the side, poised to strike at whomever entered. If he could get his hands on a wand, they might have a chance...

"Get moving, Lupin," he snapped. "Macnair may be here any minute."

"Right," Remus said, and began crawling determinedly toward the door.

Severus considered his progress appraisingly. Clearly, he had underestimated how draining the transformation would be. Lupin couldn't even stand, and was in no shape to fight. But maybe if-

Raised voices sounded from outside, muffled by the thick door. Severus tensed, and traded glances with Lupin. The werewolf had positioned himself on the other side of the door, but out in the open so that whoever opened the door should see him first and would hopefully be distracted enough for Severus to-

The end, when it came, was anticlimactic. The door swung slowly open, and a familiar rough voice commanded, "There he is! Get him."

Severus saw Lupin's eyes widen, and he tried to push himself to his feet, but then a look of relief crossed his face and he slumped back onto the floor.

Kingsley Shacklebolt's deep, slow voice rolled through the open doorway. "Just a minute, Macnair. I know this man, and I don't see any sign that he's been endangering anyone."

Severus still couldn't see either Macnair or Shacklebolt, so he eyed Lupin - from the way he had relaxed, Shacklebolt clearly was not alone and outnumbered.

Macnair's voice was sullen. "The report said there was howling and screams, screams like someone was being murdered. So we are a-"

"Screams?" Severus said smoothly, stepping into view and assessing the opposition. Macnair and two members of the Werewolf Capture Unit - with Shacklebolt, Tonks, and three other Aurors Severus recognized only by sight behind them. "How odd. I was in the vicinity all night, and I didn't hear any screams. Perhaps your report was a...malicious fabrication."

Macnair's mouth dropped open. Severus had never understood how the stupid, brutish thug had had enough cunning to escape arrest at the Department of Mysteries, but he did know what frightened the lout. And how to use it.

He smiled thinly. "Yes, Macnair," he said silkily. "His plan failed. And you will have to be the one to tell him."

The executioner's ruddy face turned pasty. He cast a panicked glance over his shoulder, and then he Disapparated without another word.

The pair of scrawny young wizards from the Werewolf Capture Unit looked at each other uncertainly, clearly confused by Macnair's sudden departure. Stepping into the building, Kingsley Shacklebolt took charge smoothly. "Well, there doesn't seem to be any problem here after all, but of course you'll want to have a look around and ask a few questions before you head back to the Ministry..."

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Severus strode through his workroom. Ignoring the scattered ingredients for the half-finished Wolfsbane he had been brewing when the Dark Lord's summons interrupted him, he stepped into the welcome quiet of his office. The "few questions" Shacklebolt had mentioned and the subsequent discussion with Albus had occupied most of the morning, and he was exhausted. But at least Shacklebolt had arranged for him to get a new wand before he returned to Hogwarts - he had felt uncomfortably naked without one.

He settled into his chair with a sigh of relief. He reached for the tea things, but his preparations were immediately interrupted by the sound of someone entering his workroom. He stood to see what Albus wanted and was surprised to see not the headmaster, but Remus Lupin approaching his office. Severus's eyes narrowed. Albus must have given him the password, assuming - correctly, of course - that Severus would not have admitted him otherwise.

He examined the werewolf critically. Lupin had looked bad ever since Black's death a few weeks ago, but now he looked terrible. His eyes were burned hollows in his pale face, and his hands were shaking ever so slightly.

Severus let him into the office, knowing that Albus would make him talk to Lupin eventually and wanting to get it over with. He saw no reason to make it easy for Lupin, though - the sooner he got rid of him, the better.

"What do you want?" He didn't ask Lupin to sit, or offer him tea.

"I wanted to apologize, Severus, and to...thank you for this morning."

Severus frowned, then realized what Lupin was referring to. He had seen Lupin go very still when one of the Capture Unit goons had asked Severus if he was certain the werewolf had not endangered anyone at all the entire night. Severus had hesitated, almost imperceptibly, recognizing his last chance to lay charges that could decimate Lupin. In the end, he had replied quite truthfully that Lupin had been securely confined and had been no threat whatsoever to anyone outside the building.

"There's no reason to thank me, Lupin," he said bitterly. "Attempting to clear you of any charges I laid would only have distracted Albus from what he needs to be doing."

Remus winced. "He- I didn't expect- Never mind. Thank you anyway."

Severus looked at Lupin's mouth, his memory of the intense pleasure of its sucking heat so intense that he almost couldn't remember that he hated the man.

Remus shifted uncomfortably, then said, "I...apologize for what happened last night, Severus. I never wanted to.."

Furious resentment burned away the memory of Lupin's mouth. Yes, I remember very well that you'd rather die than fuck me, Lupin.

"I mean, the way it happened, it wasn't-"

Severus cut him off. "Fine. I heard your apology. Now get out."

"But, Severus, I wanted-"

Severusís brittle control snapped. "Wanted what, Lupin? My forgiveness for almost killing me - again? Or my forgiveness for forcing me?" He laughed, a harsh brittle sound entirely without humor. "You don't have to worry - I accept that you chose the most expedient method of ensuring our survival. Now go."

Remus shook his head. "No, Severus, I-"

"You what? You thought just because we fucked and spent a miserable night locked up together that we bonded? We are not friends, Lupin. We will never be friends. You are a menace, and maybe now Albus will listen when I say you're a danger to everyone around you, now that you've almost killed me three times. Although probably not; no one paid any attention even when you almost killed Potter, for all that you pretend to be fond of him. You are dangerous, and useless - you weren't even able to keep that cur Black in line!"

Remus swayed and looked at him with blank eyes.

Severus realized he had been shouting, and he clenched his hands tightly to conceal how much they were shaking. Voice low and venomous, he hissed, "Get out. And stay away from me."

Remus turned and left without a word, shoulders hunched.

Severus stood behind his desk for what seemed a long time before he heard the workroom door close behind Lupin. He should have felt victorious at Lupin's retreat, but instead he felt hollow and achingly alone. Why? Why should he feel the least bit of sympathy for Lupin? His hand rose involuntarily to his throat - Lupin had almost killed him, and could have infected him...

Severus stiffened. Infected... He had, of course, checked his neck carefully at the first opportunity, and he was certain Lupin's teeth hadn't broken the skin. But he had bled, when Lupin took him - was the curse truly transmitted only by a werewolf's bite, or could it be passed merely by saliva, or semen, in an open wound? The mating habits of werewolves were not a subject to which he had previously paid any attention... He began pulling books off the shelves.

A few minutes later, the flames in his fireplace flared green, distracting him.

"Severus?"

Severus looked up from the volume he was holding, but said only, "Headmaster." He hadn't forgiven Albus for setting Lupin on him, here, in his own quarters.

"Have you seen Remus?"

Severus's eyebrow rose, along with his temper. "Yes," he said, settling back in his chair.

"Fence with me some other time, Severus," Albus said warningly. "I'm already late for the Wizengamot, and you know why I need to be there."

Severus sighed. "Yes, Headmaster. Lupin came to see me less than half an hour ago. Someone," he stressed delicately, "had given him my password."

Albus didn't even have the grace to look repentant. "And did you speak with him?"

"I heard his apology, yes." Surely Lupin hadn't complained to Albus that Severus had not accepted his completely inadequate apology gracefully enough...

"I just received an owl from Remus, telling me he will be unavailable and asking me to reassign his duties to someone else in the Order. Even corresponding with Harry." Albus looked over his glasses out of the flames. "It is most unlike him, Severus. I fear he is still...unsettled by the events of last night."

And I am not? "I fail to see how that is any concern of mine," Severus said coldly, "unless you are requesting that I assume his duties?"

"Contacting Harry?" Albus asked with a slight smile. At Severus's look of disgust, he said, "I thought not."

"So I ask you, Headmaster, what concern is it of mine?"

Albus's smile fell away. "None, of course, Severus," he said tiredly, vanishing from the flames.

Damned old man, always thinking about his precious Gryffindors. He'd be better off thinking about what he was going to say to the Wizengamot. Or getting some rest - he couldn't keep on at this pace forever...

With a snarl, Severus banished Albus from his mind and opened the translation of Philippe Gaston's treatise on Dark creatures. He had never read it - a special order from Flourish and Blotts, it hadn't arrived until after Lupin had left Hogwarts and Severus hadn't needed it anymore.

He flipped pages, searching for the chapter on werewolves, pleased to discover an entire section on mating habits.

His fingers tightened on the edges of the book as words burned themselves across his brain.

A werewolf mates for life...

... appears to have an exceptionally strong bond with its mate...

... expedient for the wizard faced with exterminating the werewolf to kill the mate, if possible. In many instances, this tactic has led to the beast seeking its own end...

"Damn you, Lupin!" Severus shouted at his empty rooms. Bloody hell. No wonder Lupin had thought Severus would rather die. No wonder Lupin had preferred to die.

Mate for life?

Severus shoved his chair back and surged to his feet, too full of furious and conflicting emotions to sit any longer.

"He will be unavailable... most unlike him... seeking its own end..."

Preposterous. Although Lupin had seemed unusually...fragile, ever since Black's death. But even if they were...mated, Severus was not dead, he had just - rejected Lupin. Violently.

His glance crossed the door to his workroom, where the end of his worktable was just visible, and he remembered the long silence between Lupin leaving his office and the door to the corridor closing.

He walked straight to the table, already suspecting what he would see. The pile of diced Aconitum napellus and Aconitum lycoctonum was no longer neatly mounded, as he had left it. Now it was oddly flattened, with three shallow furrows through it. A few bits had spilled over the edges of the cutting board and were scattered across the table. He estimated the quantity missing with a practiced eye - more than enough to kill three healthy men, let alone one exhausted werewolf.

He threw a handful of floo powder in his grate, shouting "Albus!"

Not waiting for a response - the Headmaster had almost certainly left a quarter of an hour ago - he began snatching supplies from his shelves. He'd need a purgative - no, a vomiting hex should work just as well.

Distilled alcohol.

Deadly nightshade.

Common foxglove.

He cursed Pomfrey for her absence as he worked. Not that she would have known any better than he how to treat aconite poisoning, but at least she could have killed Lupin with the "treatment" instead of leaving that to him...

Strychnine - he didn't keep any, not with the students around. It was far too toxic, even in- Nux vomica seeds. Yes, those would do - he'd just have to grind them and shove them down Lupin's throat, and hope he survived long enough to get to St. Mungo's. Goddamn stupid werewolf.

He questioned the portraits as he raced through the corridors, and learned that Lupin had indeed already left the castle. Severus wasn't surprised; Lupin was far too softhearted and considerate to kill himself in the school, where some unwitting student might stumble over his body if it weren't found before the next term.

Severus paused just outside the front doors to catch his breath, searching the grounds for a glimpse of Lupin and trying to think of any tracking charm that didn't require either Lupin's blood or one of his personal effects. Nothing came to mind. He'd just have to hope Lupin had taken the main path, and that he was tired enough Severus could catch up to him before he reached the Apparition point.

He took two hasty steps forward, then stopped, a triumphant smile stretching his lips. The Weasley twins and Potter weren't the only ones who could perform Summoning Charms - "Accio broom!". He'd just have to repair the shed before Hooch returned.

The broom he used when forced to referee Quidditch matches smacked into his hand, and he kicked off. He'd check Grimmauld Place first, if he failed to catch Lupin before he Disapparated. Lupin wasn't likely to have chosen it - it would be too crowded, with too much risk of Lupin being discovered before the end, but he didn't know where else to look...

Movement caught his eye, and suddenly, he was certain where Lupin had gone. Inevitable, and oddly fitting. He shot across the grounds and threw himself off the broom by the Whomping Willow.

Shrugging off the disquieting sense that nothing good had come of the previous two times he'd done this, he stabbed the knot in the huge tree's trunk with the broom handle and plunged into the cramped tunnel. It was far too low for a man of his height to be comfortable, but he hurried as much as he could, bursting into the desolate, deserted room at its end. A quick glance showed the dust had been recently disturbed, in a faint trail leading toward the stairs.

Severus moved as quickly and as quietly as he could up the crumbling staircase and across the landing to the only open door. That room again...

A cautious peek around the door frame revealed Lupin sitting in a dilapidated chair by a small fire, lifting a battered metal mug to lips.

"Accio cup!" Severus shouted.

Remus let out a startled cry as dark hot liquid sloshed over his fingers into his lap. He jumped to his feet, facing the door and reaching for his wand.

Severus snatched the mug out of the air and crossed the room in three hasty strides. "How much did you take and how long ago?" he demanded.

Remus blinked. "What? Severus, what-"

Snarling in frustration, Severus snapped, "Lumos!"

"Ow! Severus-" Remus protested, flinging up a hand to shield his eyes from the glowing wand in his face.

Severus had seen Lupin's pupils react before he covered his eyes, and that was all he needed to know. "Nox." Raising the cup, he sniffed it suspiciously, then, very cautiously, tasted. Tea. Bergamot. No trace of bitterness, and no tingling sensation in his mouth, when he held a careful sip on his tongue.

Remus waited warily, hand still hesitating near his wand.

Severus set the cup down. "You didn't take it yet," he said flatly.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Remus replied, but he didn't meet Severus's eyes.

"Don't you?" Severus sneered. "Aconite, Lupin. You picked it up when you left my office, and since you've apparently decided to put a period to your miserable existence, I want to know why."

Now Remus looked directly at him, face hard. "I fail to see how anything I do - or don't do - is any concern of yours," he said coolly, "as long as it does not affect the Order."

Severus's eyes narrowed. "You made it my concern, Lupin, or have you conveniently forgotten already?" At Remus's questioning frown, Severus hissed, "Why the fuck didn't you tell me we'd be mated for life? Or were you plotting this stupidity even then?"

Remus's eyes widened, and then he laughed, a harsh sound unlike his usual warm chuckle. "Mated for life? You've been reading Gaston's book on Dark creatures, haven't you."

"Yes..." Severus replied warily.

"Almost everything he had to say about werewolves is rubbish." Remus smiled thinly. "Werewolves don't mate for life any more than...ordinary humans do."

"No?" Severus said skeptically. "But his evidence for the existence of a bond between a werewolf and its mate-"

"Rubbish," Remus insisted. "Perhaps he made some relevant observations, but his conclusions were completely erroneous." Severus lifted a questioning brow, and Remus continued. "For someone to stay with a partner who is bitten, despite the transformations - or to initiate a relationship with someone who is already a werewolf - is...not very common. They have to have exceptionally strong feelings for each other. And that would have been especially true in Gaston's time; there was no Wolfsbane then, as you know."

Remus's mouth twisted into something that was not quite a smile. "So in that sense, I suppose a werewolf and his mate do share a strong bond, but it is no different than that of any other two people who love each other deeply. And as for Gaston's evidence - I suspect most people would be...depressed, and even suicidal, if someone they cared for that strongly were murdered just to get to them."

That made a disturbing amount of sense, which meant Severus was here on a fool's errand - no, there was still the aconite Lupin had stolen.

He pressed the attack before Lupin could show him up. "Fine," he snapped. "But you still haven't explained what you are planning to do with the aconite you took from my workroom."

"And you still haven't explained why that's any concern of yours," Remus said.

"It's obviously my concern if you poison yourself with herbs stolen from my stores, Lupin," Severus retorted.

Remus's chin came up. "I should think you'd be pleased to have me gone, Severus. I'm a danger to everyone in the Order, and useless besides. Remember?"

"Don't be any more of an idiot than you can help, Lupin! And don't flatter yourself. You were nothing more than a convenient tool for the Dark Lord's use last night. Had you not been at hand, he would simply have found some other means to dispose of me." He added, grudgingly, "And you did, after all, manage to not kill me."

Remus swallowed, and his eyes dropped away from Severus's face. "Yes, but what I did to you to avoid it..."

Severus went rigid. He spat, "So that's it - guilt? You hypocritical Gryffindor! So brave, in the fight against evil - but you've gotten your hands dirty for the first time and now you want to quit? You fool - you're a competent wizard, and you did save Potter's life when you kept him from throwing himself through the veil after Black - which are, by the way, the reasons the Dark Lord chose you to use last night. He wanted you imprisoned, or mad, Lupin - to distract Albus. Potter. The rest of the Order. Some of them are fond of you-" He made it an accusation. "Some of the children respect you, God help them - did you think what your suicide would do to them?"

He snorted in disgust. "Of course, you must have - you were just planning to disappear instead, as though that would be easier. I knew you were selfish and weak, Lupin, but I'd never before taken you for a complete coward!"

Remus was pale and his hand was clenched around his wand, but he forced lightness into his voice. "Why, Severus. I didn't know you cared."

Severus's face darkened. "I don't, Lupin! You-"

Remus advanced a step. "You're a fraud, Severus. For years you've acted as if you hated me, despised me, so much so that you wouldn't...wouldn't cross the lane to piss on me if I were on fire."

Severus scowled. "Don't be crass, Lupin. And I do despise-"

"So you've always said," Remus interrupted. "And yet, when you had the chance to be rid of me, you came rushing to my rescue. Even though it should have been more convenient for you to have me dead since you thought you were bound to me for life."

Severus flinched.

Remus's lips tilted, and he took another step toward Severus. "Or do I have it wrong? Is that why? I know I enjoyed it far more than I should have - having you writhing around my cock, breathless under me, you sharp-tongued, sarcastic bastard. And if you ever let me do it again, it could be even better, because we chose to do it."

He stalked forward, and Severus, speechless with rage, retreated.

"Was that it, Severus? Did you want to do it again? Were you hoping we were bonded, so there wouldn't be a question - you wouldn't have to let me, or ask me? You wouldn't have to admit there is anything tolerable about me, that your enmity all these years has been pointless - it wouldn't be your responsibility, because we were bonded?"

Severus stared at him, then whirled and walked out, slamming the door hard enough that dust and bits of plaster sifted down all over the room.

Remus slumped into the decrepit chair by the dying fire, listening to Severus's boot heels ring on the boards as he took the stairs too quickly. That had not been kind, but it was, he reflected, the first time he had ever successfully diverted Severus from pursuing a promising line of inquiry. He knew, to his cost, that the Slytherin was relentless in pursuit of evidence for a theory.

It would be interesting, at any rate, to see what he and Severus had to say to each other at the next Order meeting...

Remus smiled wryly, catching his own thought. Apparently he had already made his decision.

He pulled a small parchment packet from his robes. He tossed it meditatively in his hand a moment, then pitched it into the flames.

The acrid smell of burning herbs filled the room, but he ignored it. He had letters to write - to Albus, who undoubtedly had tasks to be done, and to Harry, who had almost certainly been left alone too long, just as he had.

And he would see what Severus had to say, when next they met.

Remus bent to his writing with a small smile on his lips.

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Note:
I believe it should go without saying that the above "cure" for aconite poisoning, while historic, is not recommended as a do-it-yourself proposition, considering that most of the components of the cure are highly poisonous in their own right.