Title: Power of Suggestion
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 29: Snape was given to Remus as a gift by the new Dark Lord, Harry Potter. (Although, as usual, I have interpreted the challenge a bit loosely.) Many thanks to tarnationawaits for beta reading. Feedback is appreciated.
Dedication: Written for karasu_hime.
Power of Suggestion
Hot. Severus was too hot, and the pillow under his cheek was damp with sweat. Worse, it was damp and scratchy, and the covers were so heavy he couldn't move. To add to his discomfort, there was an annoying droning sound in his ears.
He was startled when it suddenly resolved into voices.
"How is he?"
Were the voices talking about him? They seemed familiar...
He had just identified the higher pitched one as Potter's when it spoke again. "Doesn't matter. He's far more attractive like this, anyway, all flushed and sweaty and spread out in bed. I still say I want to see you fuck him."
What? How dare Potter! But Severus's fury was tempered with a trace of fear, as he realized he was far too weak to prevent Potter - or anyone else, for that matter - from doing whatever they wanted with him. His wand - where was his wand? He couldn't remember.
"That wouldn't be appropriate, Harry," the deeper voice replied, and Severus recognized Lupin's mild, reasonable tones with something approaching relief. No, no, it wouldn't be appropriate - and he could hardly believe Potter, of all people, would have even suggested it. Lupin would set him straight...
But Severus's budding feeling of relief was overwhelmed by a terrible sense of wrongness as Lupin continued speaking. "He's still much too sick for that, and his hip hasn't healed yet."
Severus tried to turn his head and open his eyes, so he could see if the voices truly did belong to Potter and Lupin and if they really were discussing him, incredible as that seemed, but the effort was too great and he lost his tenuous hold on consciousness.
Some indeterminable amount of time later, Severus woke again, and this time he managed to open his eyes. Dusty curtains, peeling paint... He recognized one of the decaying guest rooms at Grimmauld Place, and relaxed slightly.
He felt weak and strangely disconnected from his body; clearly, he had been, and still was, ill. And injured.
He heard Potter's voice in the corridor, and he remembered the conversation he'd overheard the boy having with Lupin. Or not - it must have been a dream, caused by his fever. Hadn't he had a fever? He couldn't quite remember how he'd ended up here, but he must have been unconscious or he would have insisted on being taken almost anywhere else.
He heard footsteps approaching, and then Hermione Granger's grating voice drifted through his open doorway.
"Wouldn't Professor Snape be better off at St. Mungo's?"
For once, Severus agreed with the officious little busybody.
Potter, surprisingly, didn't. "Now, Hermione, you know he's much too weak to be moved. The Healers have been looking in on him here. He's fine."
Severus didn't feel fine.
"But, Harry, surely-"
"No. Admit he is better off here," Potter said firmly.
In an oddly hollow voice, Granger replied, "Of course, Harry. He's better off here."
Potter glanced into the room, and he smiled, a thin, one-sided curl of his lips, when he saw Severus watching him.
Severus wanted to demand, "What am I doing here?", but only a hoarse croak emerged when he opened his mouth.
Potter turned away. "Come along, Hermione. It's time for you to go home."
Severus tried to shout, "Potter! Granger - get back here and tell me what's going on," but his weakly whispered "Potter!" brought no one and made his throat tickle intolerably. He coughed until he fell asleep - or unconscious - again a few minutes later.
The third time Severus woke, Lupin was placing a tray on a little table next to the bed, and Severus suffered the indignity of being spoon-fed broth while Lupin placidly related how, after Severus had been incapacitated, Potter had killed Voldemort.
Dead. The Dark Lord was dead at last. Severus could hardly believe it was true. It didn't feel as if it could be.
"Why am I here?" Severus asked Lupin, when he finally stopped shoving the blasted spoon in his mouth every time he opened it.
"Because you were injured, Severus," Lupin said soothingly.
Severus's teeth grated together. "Here, Lupin. Why am I here, in this mausoleum, instead of at St. Mungo's? Or in the hospital wing at Hogwarts?" he demanded. "Of course I can tell I was injured!"
A slight crease appeared in Lupin's brow. "St. Mungo's was full, Severus. The Healers were overextended; so was Poppy. Most of the wounded from the Order were brought here. And after - well, you were feverish, and Harry said you should stay here."
Severus scowled. "Since when does Potter know anything about medicine? I want to see a Healer! And I think my hip is broken; tell them to bring some Skele-Gro."
The frown line in Lupin's forehead deepened. "I'm sure the Healers will be back to check you over again soon. And they were out of Skele-Gro; they used a bone-setting charm. It takes longer, of course, so you'll have to be patient."
"Patient? Out of Skele-Gro? Severus spluttered. "That's ridiculous, Lupin! I could brew some in a quarter of an hour! There's no-"
"You're not to brew anything," Lupin said firmly. "Harry said so."
Severus prepared to let Lupin know in no uncertain terms what he thought of that, but Lupin poured tea into his mouth when he opened it to speak, so he swallowed rather than choke. An odd aftertaste lingered on his tongue.
"That's right, Remus," a voice came from the doorway. "He's not to brew anything."
Severus turned his head and saw Potter leaning against the doorjamb, his eyes fixed on Severus's face.
"Potter! I demand to go to St. Mungo's. Lupin, get a Healer here! And give me my wand!"
"The Healer came last night, Snape. While you were sleeping. He said youre doing fine," Potter said, watching Severus too closely.
Lupin smiled reassuringly. "There. You see, Severus? We're taking good care of you."
Severus would have protested, but he recognized the strange taste in the tea as a sleeping draught at about the same moment his eyelids began closing of their own accord.
"No," he murmured. I don't want...
Over the next week, Severus struggled to spend more and more of each day awake. Lupin stopped feeding him once he could hold a spoon, and one morning he even managed to force himself out of bed and stagger a few steps along the corridor before he had to stop. The floor swam sickeningly before his eyes, and he leaned against the wall, breathing slowly and steadily against the dizziness.
Potter's voice drifted faintly to his ears, and he sidled a few, careful steps down the corridor, clinging to the wall, until he could make out words.
He recognized Granger's voice, uncharacteristically hesitant in reply. "I don't know, Harry. Those things are awfully dark, and some of them are even illegal. I'm not sure..."
"You must! Potter said forcefully.
"No, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you, Hermione. Here, have your tea."
There was a quiet clinking sound.
"It's only that we have to make certain he can't ever come back this time. You do understand how important that is, don't you, Hermione? Potter coaxed.
"Of course I do! But-"
"You will bring me the things on this list. As soon as you can, and no later than Friday."
"Yes, Harry," Granger said slowly.
"Good girl. Go on - you should get started finding them now."
Severus thought he should move before Granger saw him, but it was impossibly far to his room; he hadn't managed even a step before she was in the corridor with him. But it didn't matter - she barely even glanced in his direction as she hurried past.
Potter was clearly up to something - as usual - and he was browbeating Granger into helping him with it. Also as usual.
Curiosity impelled Severus a few more steps forward, against the dizziness and the growing ache in his hip. He looked cautiously around the doorframe and saw Potter, his back to the door, shaking his head.
"No, I don't think so," Potter said suddenly, cruel amusement in his tone.
Severus froze, certain Potter had noticed his presence.
"She will get them, and there's nothing you can do about it. Nothing at all. You might as well give up now; Im not going to give you a chance to take control again."
Evidently Potter hadn't seen him after all and was merely talking to himself. In a very disquieting way... He appeared to still be obsessed with the Dark Lord; perhaps he had suffered some sort of mental damage during that last confrontation, leading to paranoid delusions? Severus snorted silently. It was more likely that Potter simply couldn't handle the realization that he was unimportant now that he had fulfilled his purpose and the Dark Lord was gone.
Had Lupin noticed? It would be just like him to overlook Potter's behavior, and of course he would be reluctant to put a stop to whatever ridiculous scheme Potter had concocted to inflate his sagging ego, even if he were aware of it.
Severus thought better of his plan to storm in and demand that Potter give him his wand, call a Healer, do something to get him out of this house. He would wait, and watch, until he understood what was going on. He tried to back quietly away from the door, but pain shot along his injured leg and he stumbled, smacking awkwardly into the wall.
Potter whirled. "Se - Snape. Up and about, are you?"
Severus straightened as best he could, bracing himself against the wall. "Yes, no thanks to whatever excuse for a Healer you claim has been visiting," he sneered.
Footsteps sounded on the stairs, and Potter's eyes flicked past Severus as Lupin's reproachful voice said, "Severus! What are you doing out of bed?"
"I-" Severus began, but Potter interrupted him.
"Professor Snape was feeling adventurous, but he appears to have...overexerted himself. Take him back to his room, Remus."
"Look here, Potter, you have no-"
"Come along, Severus," Lupin said, his hand closing firmly around Severus's arm. He began pulling Severus inexorably along the corridor.
"Let go of me, Lupin! Damn it, I-"
Severus half turned, and saw Potter watching them. The boy had always been maddening, but he had never displayed the sort of infuriating, smug superiority that Severus saw now in his smile. This whole situation was intolerable; forget watching - he wanted to go home.
"You should rest," Lupin said.
"I've rested enough! I'm ready to go back to Hogwarts, Lupin - give me my wand!"
"We'll discuss it later," Lupin said, as he always did, but this time Severus was standing - mostly - and he wasn't about to accept the same infuriating reply.
"We won't! Give me my wand, Lupin, before I-"
"It's broken," Potter interrupted calmly.
"Harry!" Lupin chided, tightening his hold on Severus's arm as he swayed slightly. "He's still ill; surely you could show a little consideration..."
"He had to know some time, Remus. Amusement sparked in Potter's eyes as Severus glared at him. "You have always preferred to know how matters stand, haven't you, Snape? Potter's voice dropped to a sibilant whisper. "So you may as well know that you are helpless and dependent on our goodwill. Do try to act appropriately."
Severus was shaking with fury, and Lupin said, "Harry! I know you and Severus haven't always gotten along, but he's our guest! You should-"
"Of course," Potter said smoothly. Insincerely. "I apologize if I seemed...discourteous, Remus. I only thought Professor Snape might rest more comfortably if he realized he couldn't do anything else. Potter looked contrite, but that smug smile still lingered at the corner of his lips.
"You look very tired, Snape," the boy said solicitously. "Don't argue anymore; just help him back to his room, Remus."
"Of course, Harry," Lupin said, and promptly resumed tugging Severus down the corridor.
Severus, too exhausted and unsettled to resist any longer, went, and was disgusted to find that he needed the support of Lupin's arm to make it all the way back to his room. He snarled in frustration as Lupin tucked him into bed.
"Don't fret, Severus," Lupin said in what was probably meant to be a soothing voice. "We'll get you a replacement at Ollivanders as soon as you're strong enough to make the trip to Diagon Alley."
Severus turned his face away from Lupin, remaining pointedly silent, and Lupin took the hint and left him alone to reflect on the difficulties of making his way back to Hogwarts from the middle of Muggle London, wandless, with no money, and wearing only a nightshirt, until he fell into a restless sleep.
Severus's demands for Lupin to produce his clothes were not met the next day or the next, but he forced himself on longer and longer walks in the corridor regardless, and he stayed near Potter as much and as unobtrusively as possible. He heard Potter mumble to himself several times, but never again so loudly that Severus could make out the words.
What he did hear, the afternoon of that second day, was an oddly shortened conversation between Potter and his shadow Ron Weasley.
Weasley came tumbling out of the Floo, talking before he'd even stopped coughing. "Harry! I don't know what you think you're doing, sending Hermione there, mate. You've got-"
"Ron. Calm down."
"No! Do you realize what almost happened to her? I can't believe you would've-"
"You look hot, Ron. Have a butterbeer."
"A butterbeer? I'm trying to-"
There was a brief pause before Weasley spoke again.
"Listen, Harry. You can't just-"
"Ron. It's time for you to go home now. I know what I'm doing, and you will not interfere with anything I ask the girl to do. Understand?"
A soft pop indicated Weasley had Apparated away, dashing Severus's hopes of discovering where Potter had hidden the Floo powder. Frowning, he hobbled quietly away before Potter could discover him eavesdropping.
It wasn't until that evening, when Lupin came up from supper with Potter and Severus smelled Ashwinder venom on his breath, that he put the pieces together.
Lupin's strangely familiar pliability. Granger's. Weasley's.
Potter had dosed them all with suggestibility potion. He must have, it was the only explanation that made sense. But where had Potter gotten the potion? He must have had someone else brew it - he could not possibly have been hiding that level of competence in class for seven years. And it must have been prepared specifically for him; the potion was only effective when the drinker's own blood had been included during the brewing.
But by whom? Severus ran over names in his mind; very few people were capable of making something so complex, and even fewer would have known it existed, let alone had access to all the ingredients. It had taken Severus almost four months to acquire everything he needed, when he brewed it for the Dark Lord years ago. Surely no one without the connections he had been willing to exploit in those days could have managed in less time, which would imply Potter had been in contact with the brewer before the Dark Lords defeat. As closely watched as the boy had been this last year, how could he possibly have contacted anyone as...questionable as the brewer must be without anyone in the Order noticing?
Lupin set the tray on which he had delivered Severus's supper outside his door and returned to help him to bed. Distracted by his unwanted presence, Severus snapped, "Don't fuss over me, Lupin! I'm perfectly capable of getting into bed by myself."
"Of course you are, Severus," Lupin said with his usual damnable smile, but he still hovered at Severus's elbow until he was sitting on the bed, and he didn't leave the room until Severus laid down and closed his eyes.
Severus couldn't guess who had brewed the potion for Potter, but that didn't matter, for the moment. The crucial question was what he should do now.
He immediately discarded the idea of confronting Potter. Whatever the idiot was plotting, he certainly wouldn't give it up just because Severus knew about the potion. Potter's transgressions had always been tolerated or ignored in the past, but he must know he'd crossed the line this time - and he had a wand, and Severus didn't.
Approaching Lupin would be equally useless and almost as dangerous; as long as he was under the potion's influence, he was Potter's. The same for Weasley and Granger, clearly, and no one else had come to the house. He needed a wand, or a way to communicate with someone who hadn't been affected by the potion...
Severus smiled grimly into the darkness. That was it. The counteragent was as simple as the potion itself was complex. An undisturbed hour in the tiny workroom Albus had let him equip in case of emergency would suffice for him to prepare the antidote. Then he would dose Lupin and Granger and Weasley, and see what came of Potter's attempts to manipulate his so-called friends then...
He ignored the wave of loss any thought of Albus produced and began to consider when he might be most likely to escape Lupin's watchful care and slip downstairs undetected.
After careful consideration, Severus had decided that a few hours before dawn would be best. The house had been silent around him as he crept slowly and cautiously down the stairs, and it had remained silent while he worked. He didn't think Potter or Lupin had ever even noticed the tiny workroom tucked away in the cellar; he should be safe enough as long as he finished and made his way back upstairs before they woke.
He permitted himself a small smile of satisfaction as he decanted the completed antidote into a small, heavy bottle. Now he had only to create an opportunity to administer it to Lupin, and-
Severus's hands jerked, and he spilled the last few droplets of the potion down the side of the bottle and onto the table.
"Harry said you were not to brew anything," Lupin said angrily, striding across the room to confront Severus.
"That's ridiculous, Lupin! And besides, it is merely a simple healing tonic, which I have been forced to prepare for myself since whatever Healer has supposedly been overseeing my care has apparently been unable to provide one," Severus said smoothly, setting the cauldron down. He was about to volunteer to sample the potion to demonstrate its harmlessness when Lupin reached for it.
"I'm taking it to Harry," Lupin said.
It was possible that Potter wouldn't recognize the counteragent when he saw it, but Severus didn't care to take that chance. Before Lupin's hand closed around the bottle, Severus struck, hoping to incapacitate him long enough to force a few drops of the antidote into his mouth. Unfortunately, Lupin reacted much more quickly than Severus had expected; he sidestepped the blow and hit Severus accurately in the solar plexus. Severus folded over, gasping, and Lupin snapped a kick into his injured hip. Severus crumpled to the floor with a breathless cry of pain.
"Are you going to try that again, Severus? Lupin asked in a dangerously even voice.
Severus ignored him, pressing his forehead to the chilly flagstones and trying to regain control of his breathing, until the pressure of Lupin's foot against his hip sent fresh waves of pain lancing down his leg. Clenching his teeth, he shook his head, a minuscule, grudging movement.
"No," he whispered, and the weight on his hip vanished as Lupin stepped back.
Severus closed his eyes. He would think of some way to convince Lupin in a moment, when the pain receded enough for him to think...
A sickening smash of glass brought his head up. A pool of green liquid was spreading from the bottle, cracked on the stones a couple of feet from his head, and Potter was standing beside it. His back was to Lupin as he smiled down at Severus.
"You see, Remus? I told you he'd try to poison us if we let him brew anything."
A negligent flick of Potter's wand produced ropes that jerked Severus's arms above his head and bound them to a leg of the heavy work table.
"That's ludicrous, Potter! Severus said angrily. "That was a simple healing draught you just ruined! If I wanted to poison you, I'd have had plenty of chances-"
His words cut off in a hiss of pain as Potter slid a foot under his injured hip - surely Lupin had just re-broken it - and pushed him over onto his back.
He barely heard Potter's next words through the blinding agony coursing through his leg, and he didn't understand what was happening until Lupin had already opened his trousers and knelt, forcing Severus's legs up against his chest.
"No! Severus shouted, straining against Lupin's hold. The struggle exhausted his already weakened body rapidly, and he tasted humiliating despair as Lupin shoved his nightshirt out of the way and ripped his underpants off, jostling his leg painfully.
"Fight it, Lupin! You don't want to do this," he said desperately, knowing it was useless. "You're under the influence of-"
Potter spoke a few, harsh words, and Severus's sentence ended in a garbled, wordless wail.
He lay panting, knowing better than to try to speak again, wondering where Potter had learned that particular curse. Severus had never heard anyone other than the Dark Lord use it - he had certainly never experienced it. It was like swallowing a handful of razors, or broken glass, slicing into his throat and rendering speech impossible. He soon discovered the pain was infinitely worse whenever he made the tiniest sound.
He felt Lupin's hand, slick with something, on him for a second before Potter said, "No, don't prepare him. Just take him - he's ready."
Severus shook his head frantically, but Lupin didn't notice. As Severus watched helplessly, Lupin stroked himself to full hardness with one hand, keeping Severus pinned with the other, then lined himself up carefully with Severus's unprepared opening.
Severus jerked at the ropes holding his hands, trying to twist away, and Lupin frowned.
"This...this isn't right, Harry."
Severus went limp with relief, then almost moaned at Lupin's next words.
"You shouldn't be watching."
"It's all right, Remus. Just forget I'm here," Potter said soothingly. Lupin didn't appear to notice his triumphant smirk.
Severus swore to himself that he would see Potter in Azkaban for this. He glared, trying to convey with his eyes all the hatred for Potter he couldn't speak, and if anything, Potter's smile grew more smug.
Severus couldn't quite suppress a cry of pain as Lupin pushed into him, and the curse ripped into his throat, making him scream and scream until he forced himself to stop, gasping silently with the effort of not making another sound as Lupin thrust further and further in, agonizingly slowly. To his horror, he felt dampness at the corners of his eyes.
Lupin was frowning again.
He reached a hand, tentatively, toward Severus's cheek.
Severus knew his eyes, looking into Lupin's, were desperate.
"He's fine, Remus," Potter broke in. "Shut your eyes."
Lupin's eyes obediently closed, although a tiny frown line remained between them. It smoothed as Potter continued speaking.
"He's enjoying it, Remus. This is Snape - you can't expect him to say he likes it. But you know he'd tell you if he didn't - and he's not telling you to stop, so he must be enjoying it."
Lupin began thrusting in a steady rhythm, a tiny smile playing at the corners of his mouth, and Severus's head fell back to the floor in defeat.
Other than the flares of pain from his hip when Lupin jarred it occasionally, it didn't hurt as much as Severus had expected. As long as he was silent and the curse wasn't tearing his throat apart, it was far less painful than the Cruciatus. He had survived that more times than he cared to remember; he could survive this too, although he desperately wanted it to be over.
The Dark Lord had "reprimanded" him often, certainly, but he had always used magic. He had never touched Severus. But this - the sheer physicality of being trapped under Lupin made it worse, in some ways, even than the Dark Lord's punishments. He couldn't ignore the little grunts Lupin was making or the way his chest was damp with sweat and sliding against Severus's legs, and when he opened his eyes he saw Lupin's cock sliding in and out of his cringing body.
At least he had the trick of breathing, now; short, shallow pants, so there was never enough air in his lungs for Lupin's thrusts to force a sound from him.
He noticed the frown was beginning to reappear on Lupin's face.
"You're so quiet, Severus," Lupin murmured. "I would've thought you'd be more vocal..."
Potter leaned close and spoke very quietly in Severus's ear. "Yes, Severus; you're looking almost comfortable. And we can't have that. More loudly, he said, "Have you forgotten, Remus? He hates you."
A particularly hard thrust made Severus wince.
Potter smirked, and spoke to Lupin again. "He's quiet because he wants to forget. He wants to forget it's you fucking him. His voice dropped back to a purring whisper. "Don't let him forget. Make him remember who you are. Fuck him hard."
Forget Azkaban. He'd kill Potter.
Lupin pulled Severus's legs to a different angle and picked up the pace. It was harder for Severus to remain silent - Lupin's cock stabbed painfully into him in this new position, and every snap of Lupin's hips made his balls smack disturbingly against Severus's arse. Still, he managed to keep breathing soundlessly until Potter kicked him, hard, in the side.
When Severus only whimpered at that, Potter kicked him again, not hard but very precisely on his broken hip. Severus couldn't help it; he screamed. Potter's curse stripped the words from the sound, but Lupin faltered anyway.
"He's fine, Remus," Potter replied. "You're doing well. He's enjoying what you're doing." With a sly smile at Severus, he added, "The more noise he makes, the more he's enjoying it. Carry on."
And Lupin did.
Now it hurt; each powerful thrust that rocked Severus's body made it harder to keep sound trapped in his throat, and every noise that escaped despite his efforts made the pain increase in an endless loop, even before Potter kicked him again, wrenching another harsh scream from him. After that cry, Severus couldn't choke his voice off, and the pain built and built until he was thrashing helplessly under Lupin, making wordless animal sounds of pure hurt.
In brief glimpses as he tossed his head, he saw that Lupin was smiling contentedly, and that Potter's trousers were open, his hand a blur on his cock as he watched. The boy's eyes flashed red when they met Severus's.
Severus turned his head away, almost glad the curse twisted his involuntary, betraying cry of denial into a wordless moan of pain as the last piece clicked into place. His mind raced even as his body writhed and whimpered - no one had made the suggestibility potion for Potter. He had made it. For the Dark Lord. Albus had been dead, he had been unconscious, there hadn't been anyone to see what was happening to Potter-
He screamed again as Lupin slammed into his body one last time, then shuddered and slumped over him. Without the constant stimulus, Severus finally managed to gasp himself to silence, shaking with the effort of breathing shallowly, soundlessly.
He turned his head. Through the sweat-soaked strands of hair stuck to his face, he saw that Potter was gone, with only a long, sticky smear on the floor to mark where he had been watching.
Lupin pulled free. Standing, he straightened his clothes and released Severus's hands, then said, in a frighteningly normal voice, "You look tired, Severus. We should get you back to bed. I made more broth last night; would you like some for breakfast, or would you rather have tea and toast again?"
Severus rolled awkwardly onto his uninjured side, and realized the smashed bottle was within reach. A little liquid remained in the largest fragment.
As Lupin bent to help him up, Severus grabbed the shard and flung the remains of the potion in Lupin's face, desperately hoping it would be absorbed through the mucous membranes in Lupin's eyes, and quickly, before Lupin hurt him too badly.
Lupin's wand came up and Severus tried to curl in on himself to protect his head, but the wand wavered as confusion replaced the anger on Lupin's face. Horror soon followed, and Lupin stumbled back.
"Severus! Oh, god, I- you- I don't know what... Finite incantatem! Finite incantatem!"
Severus tried to speak, coughed, tried again. This time he managed a moan.
Lupin dropped to his knees next him, muttering a pain-blocking spell. Severus sighed with relief. Lupin followed up with a rudimentary bone-setting charm, which Severus suspected was all the attention has hip had ever received in the first place.
"I'm so sorry, Severus! Lupin said urgently. His face was pale and his hands trembled as he helped Severus sit up. "I don't know what I was thinking. Are you all right? Of course not; come, we'll get a Healer-"
"Shut up and listen, Lupin," Severus managed to whisper.
Oddly, Lupin looked relieved, and he almost smiled as he sat back on his heels.
"Potter - possessed by the Dark Lord," Severus gasped hoarsely. "Dosed you all with suggestibility potion. Potter too, I think...easier to control. Not even the Dark Lord could control an unwilling subject for so long without help."
"But he- Harry killed him!"
"Apparently not thoroughly enough," Severus said dryly.
Lupin stared blankly at him. "Voldemort, all this time... It doesn't seem possible, but it makes sense; Harry would never-"
He winced, gesturing vaguely at Severus's body.
Lupin rolled up his sleeves, a familiar look of determination settling over his stricken expression. "What do you think we should do? Will that stuff you made work on Harry?"
After their hasty, frantic planning, the end was anticlimactic. Lupin summoned enough of the antidote from the puddle on the floor to spell into Potter's breakfast, and they were both ready the instant it took effect and Potter surged back to consciousness and momentary control, shrieking, "Remus! Voldemort, here, stop him! Kill me, anything - Remus, please!"
Severus began the Killing Curse - a shame the Dark Lord would never know he'd been defeated, in part, by a hastily transfigured wooden spoon, since Severus still had no functional wand - and the Dark Lord, panicked by Potter's willingness to consign them both to death, loosened his hold enough for Lupin's incantation to force him out into nothingness. Hopefully, this time, for good.
Potter collapsed, and Lupin rushed to his side.
Severus slipped out of the kitchen and began making his painful, determined way toward the entrance hall. He didn't care that he didn't have his clothes, a wand, or a single sickle - he was getting out. Now, while Lupin was preoccupied with Potter.
He was only a few steps from the front door when Lupin, with a pop of displaced air, appeared between him and freedom.
"Leaving, Severus? Lupin asked mildly, but his wand was ready in his hand.
Severus glanced around desperately, but there was nothing remotely useful in the hall other than that damned umbrella stand, and it was too big to use as a weapon and too small to hide behind. He drew himself up, facing Lupin.
"Yes," he said flatly. "Stand aside."
Lupin didn't move. "I think we should...talk, before you leave."
Watching Lupin's wand, Severus set his teeth and waited.
"Everyone thinks Harry killed Voldemort weeks ago, Severus, and I think it would be...better for Harry if they continued to think so. Lupin paused, then said, "He doesn't remember much of what happened while he was possessed. You and I are the only ones who know everything that occurred."
Two people can keep a secret, if one of them is dead.
Severus tasted bile. How ironic - he had survived the Dark Lord only to be killed by Lupin, to protect himself and James Potter's irritating brat. "What about Granger and Weasley? he said bitterly. "Or do you think no one will notice if you kill them as well?"
Lupin blinked. "I don't think that will be necessary. I'm sure I can come up with a plausible explanation for Harry's behavior to give them, or anyone else who needs it," he said calmly. "And I wasn't planning to kill you either, Severus. I only mean to Obliviate you."
Severus's hands clenched. That was almost as bad; he had always hated the idea of having a memory spell rip away a piece of his mind, stealing a bit of his identity and killing some tiny essential part of him in the process.
Lupin's wand rose.
Severus tested his balance, judging the distance to Lupin and the door. It was too far, he'd never make it before Lupin got the spell off-
He tried anyway. He launched himself at Lupin, but his leg collapsed under his weight and he crashed to the floor far short of his target. For an endless moment he was aware of nothing but the pain coursing through his body.
"Severus! Are you all right?"
He looked up into Lupin's concerned face and was surprised to find that he still remembered why he was lying on the floor of Black's house. He made a shaky grab for Lupin's wand, and Lupin backed away, frowning.
"Easy, Severus, you're going to hurt yourself! What did you think you were doing, throwing yourself at me like that? Your hip is broken!"
Severus's lips pulled back from his teeth. "What, Lupin, is my reluctance to let you rape my mind - too - inconvenient for you?"
Lupin blanched. "I didn't-"
Severus struggled to sit up.
"I can't believe you'd really prefer to remember being...that I...what I did to you," Lupin said lowly.
"You don't have the right to decide what I want or don't want to remember, Lupin! Severus snarled. "And don't pretend it's for my benefit - you're thinking of yourself! You're a coward, as much of a coward as you always were. What happens to anyone else doesn't matter, as long as you're safe, and you're taking the easy way to protect yourself. Again!"
"I won't deny that I'd prefer you forget what happened, Severus, but I'm trying to protect Harry, not myself," Lupin insisted. "None of this was his fault, he doesn't deserve..." He shook his head. "It doesn't matter. I'm sorry, but I can't let you use this to hurt him, Severus."
"I do know it wasn't Potter, Lupin - it was the Dark Lord, manipulating us all," Severus said urgently as Lupin's wand rose once more. "I don't blame Potter for anything other than being a complete failure at Occlumency!"
Lupin looked down at him, pressed against the wall, waiting apprehensively for the spell, and hesitated. With a frustrated sigh, he said, "Damn it! Severus - will you give me your word that you won't use anything that happened here against Harry, in any way, directly or indirectly?"
Severus kept his face still. Against Potter? What a ridiculous omission.
He repeated Lupin's words, careful to not lay even the slightest stress on Potter's name. "Yes. I give you my word that I will not use anything that happened here against Potter, in any way, directly or indirectly."
Lupin leaned over and pulled him to his feet. His hand was warm on Severus's wrist, and Severus forced aside a visceral memory of those same warm, slightly rough fingers gently brushing a tear from his cheek.
He yanked his arm out of Lupin's grasp and limped to the door, an uncomfortable feeling between his shoulder blades despite Lupin's implicit promise to not Obliviate him.
"Severus," Lupin said quietly.
"I don't think you want to go out dressed like that. Here."
He turned to see Lupin slipping off his robe, and although he normally would have scorned to wear anything so threadbare and patched, he pulled it on over his nightshirt gratefully. With a curt nod of acknowledgment, he reached for the first of the locks.
"Severus," Lupin said again.
"Lupin, I don't care to-"
His voice died in his throat when he saw the polished length of wood lying across Lupin's outstretched palm.
"It wasn't broken. He had it," Lupin said.
Severus's breath hissed in between his teeth as he snatched his wand out of Lupin's hand. He ran his fingers along the familiar grip, then smiled thinly as Lupin stepped back.
"What, Lupin - nervous now that I'm armed?"
"No," Lupin said wearily. "I'm willing to accept any revenge to which you think you are entitled, Severus."
"Are you? Severus said darkly.
Any revenge? So it hadn't been an accidental omission after all. Idiot Gryffindor - he should have let Potter suffer the consequences of his own laziness and failure to defend himself adequately, instead of offering himself as a sacrifice to Severus's wrath.
What did he want from Lupin?
For a molten instant, Severus considered forcing Lupin down to his knees, tangling his fingers in that graying hair and thrusting into his convulsing throat. Let Lupin see how it felt to have someone use him...
Faintly revolted, he pushed the image away. That wasn't the kind of retribution he desired. Besides, he didn't need to do anything at all to even the score; Lupin's conscience would punish him far more thoroughly than anything Severus could do to him.
He didn't bother stepping outside the house before he Disapparated, leaving Lupin standing alone, shoulders slumped, in the dark hall.