By: The Magus
AN: I own Severus and Remus and I make a million dollars a story! *Wakes up* Well, perhaps only in my dreams, then. All rights to the mighty JK. Thanks to my Beta Snuffles for the help—all other mistakes are all mine.
Challenge: 14) Several years after the war, Snape's body has never been found. Then one day, while making his daily prayer/vigil at the Abbey of St. Albus, Remus Lupin spies a familiar form in a corner of the small church, engaged in what is either the most fervent repentance or the most heinous blasphemy the Wizarding World has ever known. Remus investigates. Wizard religion can be organised however the author wishes, with any or no relation to Christianity, though a long ago split sect might be fun.
Remus Lupin huddled himself against the cold in his thick wool robes and stepped down the steps of his small house, walking along the road. The war had been over five years ago, and he had managed to pull himself out alive, getting a decent job as a grade school teacher for young children in a small Muggle village near Oxfordshire until he was allowed to by the ministry to claim the money that Harry Potter had left to him, and reform what had been left of his shattered life into a comfortable existence.
It had been exactly a week, he remembered, when he awoke in a St. Mungo’s hospital bed after the wild and chaotic final battle in Godric’s Hollow. Another week before he was coherent and strong enough to even sit up and feed himself, the entire time asking the nurse for news of the others: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Minerva, Alastor, Nymphadora, Kingsley…. He had been given his answers another three days later; the number of people dead were so high and painfully close that lest he go insane from grief and shock, he had turned them into just that: numbers.
He sighed, turning up the little path and beginning to climb the hill ahead of him. It still shocked him (and the wizarding world as well, no doubt) that The Boy Who Lived was now The Boy Who Stopped Living, kicking the bucket only a few short hours after the final battle. But what had most surprised him when he walked out of the hospital was not his Order of Merlin, first class, nor Harry’s Funeral, nor the lifting of the bans on werewolves. It had not been that thanks to Dumbledore once again, Severus Snape was pardoned from all charges and in fact given his own official apology and Order of Merlin. What had put Remus Lupin into a drunk stupor for three days straight was the fact that Severus Snape was in fact nowhere to be found. People had speculated that the Dark Lord had something to do with it—perhaps he had not been such a great legillimens after all—and left it at that. They had held a half-hearted search, and after a few months, pronounced the man officially dead, placing a small headstone in an unused plot of land in the War Heroes’ cemetery and called it a day.
The thing that had most shocked Remus, however, was that Severus Snape was one of the biggest war heroes the Wizarding world had ever had, and no one had even cared enough to search for the man, let alone come to his funeral. He shuddered at this last thought. I hope I’ll have someone to go to my funeral, he thought as he made his way to the top of the hill. There, standing before him was a structure that seemed to both time and gravity in a way that rivaled the Burrow: the Abbey of St. Albus. It had surprised Remus when he had first arrived to find a magic-tolerant church in such a clearly muggle area, and moreso when he had discovered its name. Who knew that Dumbledore had been named after a saint? It was here where Remus had sought sanctuary after the war, finding out about it one early morning on his way back from the neighbouring town. Going in purely to sate his curiosity (he had gone to Catholic services before, but were wizard churches different to their muggle counterparts?), he had found it a place of reflection, and had soon returned on a daily basis, making it a habit of two years strong after he had quit his teaching.
Walking in through the double doors and into the slightly warmer interior of the tiny little church, Remus made his way over to his favorite pew near the stained glass window of the Ascension of Jesus in the third row from the front. The church, he had discovered, was usually empty; during the second muggle World War, most of the wizards had fled the tiny town in fear of their own prosecution, leaving the church—and the town next to it—to the muggles. Yet even still, the non-wizarding community shied away from the tiny little abbey, sensing that something was not quite right within its walls. Sitting down, he pulled his rosary out of his jacket pocket and began to pray, letting himself fall into the meditative pattern of the Hail Mary. He was on the third mystery when he felt that he was not alone in the church. Lifting his head up from his mumbled prayers, he gave a slow sweep of the pews around him, which were all empty. Perhaps a ghost, he mused, turning back to his beads; in past visits everything from the priest’s late sister to a vampire couple had come seeking penance. He was about to begin again when something moved in his peripheral vision. Turning slowly, he looked over to the back left corner of the chapel, a small alcove where the statue of the patron saint (a young blond man in dusty blue robes) stood among a small mountain of used prayer candles. There, kneeling on the bench, was the lone figure of a man, head bowed in the deepest reverence and prayer.
Strange, I’ve never seen him before, he thought to himself, stealing another glance at the shadow in the corner. Wonder if he’s from around here. But what unsettled him was not the fact that there was a stranger praying with him; he had always liked the silent companionship of his fellow sinners. Rather, it was that he had not heard the other man enter; had not even noticed him at all until he had shifted. With a sigh, he continued with his own silent recitation, ignoring that what little he could see of the other in the shadowed light looked vaguely familiar.
“Remus! It’s good to see you again!” Father Michael, one of three other wizards within a fifty-mile radius, welcomed him with a pat on the back, steering him gently into the church. It had been almost three weeks since he had first seen the mysterious stranger half-hidden in the shadows of the alcove praying, and Remus had finally understood why he had never heard the other entering: every single morning when Remus arrived (as close to seven in the morning as he could), he would already be there, and no matter how long Remus stayed, the stranger always remained after his departure. He was there now as the other two men walked into the room, and as usual, remained as still as the statue he was prostrated under. “Good morning to you as well, Father,” answered Remus, still looking at the shadowed figure.
“So what can I help you with today, my son?” he asked, giving a smile. Father Michael was a short, pudgy wizard with brown hair and a way of making people confess their every sin, something that Remus had a habit of doing every month right after his transformation.
“I think it is time for another confession, Father,” he smiled, opening the door to the priest. They took a moment to get settled before the Father warded the little cubicles, sliding the barrier aside.
“Tell me all that you want His forgiveness in, my son,” he murmured. And so it began.
After about five minutes, the topic of sins completely being depleted (after all, Remus had taken special care to avoid anything even slightly sinful after what he had done and endured in the war), the conversation turned invariably to the stranger. “Who is he?” asked Remus to the little mesh square. “I mean, I’ve seen him before, he’s been here every day since the end of October, but where did he come from?”
“No idea,” answered back the square with father Michael’s voice. “He came to me one afternoon and asked if he would know of a place near the church that would be willing to rent him one room, and then told me that he wanted penance for his sins.”
“Is a he a wizard?”
“He seems to be a wizard, although I have yet to see him use magic. Perhaps a squib?”
“Strange,” murmured Remus. “What’s his name?”
“Mr. Prince. He comes every morning at five and doesn’t leave until two in the afternoon, when he helps me with the needy in the town until the late evening, the poor soul.”
“He must have been a great sinner indeed to have such a strict penance imposed,” mused Remus. Not even he had gotten such a task when he had first come to confessions (Father Michael was known for his light sentences when the confessors showed real regret).
“Oh, no—I only gave him a vigil every morning for a month and Social Works for a week,” came the laughed reply. “No, Mr. Prince is doing it all of his own volition—a ‘small compensation for a lifetime of sins’, I think he put it. I even moved him into the back room of the abbey when he showed signs of wanting to stay. Speaking of which, have you noticed that the Malarkey’s cousin is over from London? Perhaps you should go and talk to her—she seems like a nice enough girl.” Another one of the priest’s habits, sighed Remus to himself: playing the village matchmaker.
Remus, upon first arriving, had been explained to by the priest the differences in the two branches of the religion. Yet even though the wizard church, unlike its muggle counterpart, allowed homosexuality and even female priests, Remus had never mustered up the heart to tell the old man that he just never fancied women.
Perhaps it was time to introduce himself to the mysterious Mr. Prince.
Remus went to the second and final mass of the day that Sunday as usual, greeting his friends from the village, but instead of heading home immediately afterwards, he instead made his way to the back of the church, where he had seen the mysterious stranger lurking in the shadows. To his surprise, he found the little alcove deserted; in past days after mass, the man would take his place once again among the shadowed candles and kneel until long after all the other people were gone. He was about to turn away himself when he noticed a small wooden door hidden among the contours of the wall. Curious, knocked gently, surprised at the deep voice calling, “come in.”
That voice, it sounds so familiar, like…abruptly Remus stopped himself from going down that path. This was no time for reminiscing about the dead and what could have been. Opening the door cautiously, Remus stepped into a tiny room with no windows, lit only by the torches on the walls and a small gas lamp. Against the far wall stood a tall figure, only the outline visible of the lean visage in the dim light. His back was turned towards the bookcase in front of him, and he seemed intent on something he was holding in his hands.
“Father, I thank you for your concern, but I must insist on keeping my fast until the end of this evening,” he murmured. So it was not him, then: the voice that Remus remembered was filled with hatred, and would have never uttered anything even close to a thank-you.
“I’m sorry,” he began. “I didn’t mean to intrude…” he trailed off as the other man whirled around with an unnerving speed and pressed himself into the bookcase behind him, covering himself even more with shadow. There was a palpable silence. And then:
“Lupin?” slowly the other man stepped forward and into the light, revealing the shocked face of Severus Snape. There was a moment of disbelief at seeing the other person alive and in front of him before Remus fell to the floor in a dead faint.
“Are you alright my dear boy?” Remus awoke to find himself on a small couch, looking into the face of the pudgy little priest. “You took quite the fall there—lucky really that Mr. Prince was there to catch you.”
“Severus?” he asked immediately, sitting up and looking around. Perhaps he had been dreaming: the other man was nowhere to be found.
“Severus?” repeated the Father blankly. After a moment, he smiled. “You mean Samuel. You must have hit your head after all.” With a small sigh, he pushed Remus back into the couch. “No, Samuel Prince has gone to town to run a few errands for me. He seemed almost as shocked as you and I felt he needed a little time alone, poor fellow.” Pulling out his wand from the inside of his priest’s robes, he summoned a glass of water, handing it over to Remus. “Drink, you look like you need it.”
“Will he be back?” asked Remus in between gulps. Knowing Severus, it was most likely that he would run from any contact with his past life; Lord knew that was what Remus had done in the first place.
“Of course he will be back,” laughed the other man, tousling Remus’ hair like a little boy’s. “In fact, he should be breaking his fast this evening—and for all his aversion to food, he is an excellent cook. Come down tonight to the rooms and we’ll have a place for you at the table.”
“Thank you, Father,” murmured Remus, getting up slowly. It was bound to be an interesting dinner.
And indeed it was. The moment Remus stepped into the tiny little dining room, there was loud clattering sound and Severus, who had been sitting at the table, flew out of his chair and into the adjoining room with such speed that Remus barely saw more than a blur. “Father! What the deuce is he doing here!” he yelled through the door, all his normal calm dissipated like fog on a sunny day.
“Samuel, calm down,” called the priest gently, tugging at the door handle.
“I am allowed to have guests in my own living quarters, you know. Now come out of there and be civilized before I drag you out here myself.”
“Yes, Father.” To his surprise, the door clicked, and Severus stepped out into the room once more, head bowed down. “Forgive me for my rudeness.”
“Not at all, dear child—sit down.” Righting the chair, the small man ushered Severus to sit down again, turning next to Remus and pushing him into his own seat. “Now that we’re all settled down, I will go and get the food from the kitchen—since you both have met before, I believe you will be fine if I left you for a moment.” And with that, he walked out and into the kitchen, leaving Remus to stare at anything besides the person in front of him. Remus didn’t know whether to laugh or cry in relief. Here before him was a man he had taken for dead: the last of his classmates from his years at Hogwarts, spy for the Order and martyr for the cause, but most importantly, the one person he had never had the chance to make amends with and the one person who needed it the most. So, instead of jumping hysterically over the potions master and enveloping in a hug or bawling at his feet, he settled for, “I’m glad to see that you are still alive, Severus.”
There was a pause, in which Remus was sure to hear the usual sarcasm: “Thank once again for noting the obvious, werewolf,” or “I realize that I am not professor Binns, Lupin.” He was not expecting the response that actually came, however, which was a quiet, “Thank You. I am also glad to see that you are well.” At that, Remus looked up from the tablecloth he had been previously addressing, truly seeing Severus for the first time.
He was still the same pale, sickly color—if anything, he looked thinner than before. He wore the same things as he usually did, excepting the voluminous robe, which was propped against his chair instead of across his shoulders. But what surprised Remus was the other man’s face: instead of the usual sneer, his face was completely neutral, almost…fearful, as if to say, don’t ruin what I’ve managed to scrape for myself, please…. Remus was about to answer something in comfort when Father Michael returned, hovering in front of him a set of plain china dishes that emanated the richest scents Remus had ever inhaled.
“If you would say grace,” asked the priest, laying the small feast down on the table and bowing his head. Remus was about to begin when Severus started to speak.
“Lord Father, thank you for these gifts of food and drink that you bring to our table, as well as those of kindness, forgiving, and friendship. May we live to love and to serve in your name. Amen.” And with that, they began serving themselves, Remus stunned into temporary silence.
“So, how have you met each other before?” asked Father Michael after a while.
“We were old school mates,” replied Severus quickly, looking away from Remus.
“I didn’t quite recognize Samuel until this morning,” continued Remus, feeling strange using a different name for Severus. “I never realized that he was so religious.”
“I wasn’t,” he answered. “Not until I met Father.” He gave Father Michael a smile—A smile, Remus thought, when have I ever seen one of those on his face?—before turning back to his meal.
“Remus only came here a few years ago himself,” chatted the priest gaily. “I remember when he first arrived…”
Dinner was over far too soon, and Remus had gained no information out of Severus. However, after bidding them goodnight (and getting a promise that the other man would not steal away into the night without talking to him first), Remus made it back home, hoping to put the following day to good use.
The next morning he returned for his morning prayer and found to his surprise and relief Severus kneeling in the corner. He had truly thought the other man would have left, the unease rolling off him from the night before any sign. Deciding that he needed a change, Remus walked over to the little alcove and kneeled himself besides the other man, trying not to disturb him while being extremely aware of his prescence. He had been there for about a minute, however, when Severus rose up, walking over to the back of the church, and kneeling in the furthest pew before continuing with his prayers. That afternoon Remus returned, looking for the other man. “He’s down in town at the shelter, helping the poor,” informed the Father. “If you hurry, you can catch him before he leaves on his rounds.” Thanking him, Remus apparated to an alleyway in the town made specifically for that purpose. Stepping out into the main street, he walked down to the small building that took care of the few poor people in the little town. Walking in through the door, he found Severus behind a food counter, his sleeves rolled up to his elbows as he washed a giant pot in the sink.
“If you come to insult or accuse me, Lupin, now is not the time nor the place.” This was more of the Severus he knew. Smiling, Remus stepped forward.
“I just want to talk.” He rolled up his own sleeves and, picking up a sponge from the other half of the sink, began to scrub at the counter. “How are you, Severus?” he began amiably. After all, it would not do to begin with such overwhelming questions right away.
“Alive.” There was a pause, and he continued to wash the pot. “Well enough, I suppose.”
“We all thought you had died, you know.” He couldn’t bring himself to look at the other.
“The ministry would be disappointed to believe otherwise, I’ll wager,” he answered coldly. “Most likely thought good riddance.”
“Actually…” Remus paused. Just how much did Severus know? “You were awarded an Order of Merlin and full pardon.” Judging from the sound of a dropped pot, Remus realized he must not have heard as much.
“Lupin…” the anger in Severus’ voice was almost palpable. “Have you not had enough fun tormenting me in the past that you have to add—”
“It’s true,” interrupted Remus. “It was in the Daily Prophet and everything—but when no one could find you, they assumed that you had—well, died.” There was a moment of silence that seemed to stretch out forever before Severus pulled his hands out of the water and leaned his head against the wall. Finally:
“Granger and Weasley?”
“The only two left of their house.”
“Shacklebolt? Tonks? Moody?”
“Dead, all of them.”
“Dumbledore’s portrait—it knew where he had hidden the pensieve that had the memories that would help your case, as well as other supporting evidence. Minerva and I took it to the wizengamot, and they found enough to prove you innocent of all charges.” There was a sharp gasp from Severus, and it took him a moment to realize that the other man was crying. “Severus?” called Remus quietly; never in his thirty years of knowing the man had he ever seen him break down like this.
“Leave me, Lupin,” he whispered, his voice quavering.
“Leave me.” Remus paused only a moment before apparating himself away, his mind still reeling.
The next day, Remus walked into the little church and kneeled next to Severus in front of the small statue, pulling out his rosary and praying quietly while letting the other man his privacy. He was quite surprised, therefore, when after fifteen minutes of silence, a soft voice beside him asked, “Do you hate me, Lupin?”
“No,” he answered immediately.
“Why did you tell me what you did yesterday?” continued Severus, not looking up from his hands.
Remus thought a little bit before answering this one. “Because I care,” he said finally.
“Care?” the word was bitter, almost spat out like a cruel joke.
“I care that you know that you were forgiven, that no one blames you for what you did—acknowledges your sacrifices.” He received a derisive snort for that final statement.
“Even if the Ministry were to kiss my feet and call me saviour, people would still hate me; no one could ever forgive me of what I have done, and no penance can ever relieve me of my sins.” He closed his eyes briefly, and finally Remus understood.
“Is that why you’re here, Severus?” he asked. “To seek forgiveness? God forgave you the moment you walked into this church. Dumbledore forgave you even before the second war started. The ministry forgave you—albeit grudgingly—for all your past transgressions as a Death Eater. Even Harry—” he paused, trying not to choke up at the mention of James’ son—“Harry forgave you against your necessary evils when he realized that it was for the greater good. The only person left, Severus, is yourself.” There was a long silence.
“I am serving my penance,” answered Severus finally, “and when I am finished, I shall, perhaps, feel slightly more enlightened of my past transgressions than before. However, you are incorrect in the remark that I have been forgiven by everyone who I have wronged: there is one person I feel would never give me that what I have longed to receive for the better part of my life.”
“I’m afraid I don’t know who you’re talking about, Severus,” mused Remus, running the list of people they had known over the years.
“Perhaps you never will, Remus,” he answered, standing up and walking out the door.
It Remus a full three minutes to realize that he had just used his given name.
Three days later, Remus found Severus once again at the muggle shelter, cleaning the kitchen after everyone else had gone home for the day. “You know, you could just use magic to clean this all up,” he smiled as he walked through the door. “No one’s around, and it would take a lot less time.”
“I cannot,” replied Severus, picking up the empty serving dishes and piling them into the sink.
“To hell with rules,” countered Remus. “You could cut your time from two hours to two minutes—no one will know if you used elbow grease or a cleaning charm, and you’ll be able to get into bed earlier.”
“I cannot,” repeated Severus, looking away. There was a pause before he continued, “I have relinquished my use of all magic until after the New Year.”
“Oh.” Remus put his own wand away, and after a moment, he rolled up his sleeves and began to fill the sink with water.
“I need neither your help nor your pity, Lupin,” sniped Severus as he began to wipe down the grimy countertop, sounding almost as if he really didn’t mean it.
“I am giving you neither, Severus,” he answered, refusing to move even with that deathly glare behind him. “I am doing this for myself and for your company, nothing more.”
“Yes, your company. Is it a crime to want to talk with an old acquaintance every once in a while?” And truly, he did find Severus’ company rather entertaining: he would look forward to the quiet prayer sessions and the little bits of conversations. In fact, he could almost say that he was beginning to like the man.
“You…you want to converse to me?” Severus had stopped wiping at the counter and was looking at Remus suspiciously.
“Interestingly enough, I do,” Remus found himself answering. Ah, well, in for a penny, in for a pound. “I never hated you—not before, not now—and personally, I find that we might have been friends, in better times.” He stopped scrubbing the pan in front of him and looked Severus directly in the eyes. “I thought perhaps now is a better time, where we could maybe put aside our pasts and be friends.”
There was a long silence from Severus. “You understand that in trying befriend me, you are associating with one of the most infamous and hated Death Eaters?” he asked finally.
“I know that that is not what you really are, who you really are,” countered Remus. “I know you better than most people, and I feel that even after all these years I’ve known you, I don’t know you quite well enough.” Severus bowed his head and began scrubbing at the countertop once more, and for a moment, Remus thought that he wouldn’t say anything at all. “Because of the church, I cannot lie to you, Lupin, but I will at least give you my word that I will try to the best of my abilities to amiable.”
For Remus, that was as good as a one-way ticket to Severus’ friendship, and he grinned broadly at the idea. “Thank you, Severus,” he smiled. “That’s all I need from you.”
They spent the next fifteen minutes cleaning in a not-so-tense silence before Severus spoke again. “How do you suppose we go about it, then?” he asked almost to himself as he put the dried pans away.
“You can start by calling me Remus,” smiled the other. Oh, it was going to be a long, long road ahead of them.
“Severus, qiviut is not a word!” Two days had passed since the beginning of their agreement, and Remus had invited Severus over to his house for an afternoon of tea and scrabble. After explaining how the game worked (and convincing Severus that he would enjoy it), Remus had received a sound thrashing from Severus’ higher knowledge of words.
“Of course it is,” he countered with a smirk. “It’s a very useful potion ingredient—one of the ones used in Wolfsbane, in fact—and it also makes excellent sweaters.”
“I’ve given you both xanthone and wabbit, but surely you can’t expect me to give you a triple word score and the fifty of using all your letters for something that clearly is an obscure and most likely imaginary word born out of the dark recesses of your imagination,” sighed Remus.
“If you like, you can look it up in the dictionary—”
“I’ve had quite enough of that thrice-damned book, thank you very much,” he sniped. “What you’d do anyway, memorize the entire bloody Webster’s unabridged?” he tallied the new points, almost weeping when the score came to 618 to his 125.
The month passed quickly, as did the next, and all too soon, Christmas was upon them. Remus had never enjoyed himself so much since the war, and when the week before the nativity arrived, he found himself inviting both Father Michael and Severus over for the evening. Although the priest had politely declined his offer (something about having to do the midnight mass as well as the one the following morning), Severus had accepted, leaving him to nervously prepare for the twenty-fourth.
Remus had spent the entire morning decorating his little house to make it slightly more welcoming, hanging garlands from the stair rail and around every door and window, even going so far as to buy a small tinsel-laden tree and hanging sprigs of mistletoe on every doorframe. He had just finished cooking and had finally gotten the goose into the oven when the old-fashioned doorbell rang, chiming throughout the little house. Opening the door, he found Severus standing on the doorstep dressed in the most magnificent robes of forest green embroidered in silver, his hair tied back in a silver clip. “Welcome, welcome,” he breathed, moving aside and watching as the other man glided in like an ethereal being.
“I brought wine and dessert,” offered Severus, holding up a small basket and offering it to Remus.
“How kind of you, Severus, thank you,” murmured Remus, walking into the kitchen. “Please, make yourself at home—if there’s anything I can get you: eggnog, brandy, tea—”
“Brandy would be fine, thank you,” answered Severus. Getting two snifters and the bottle from the cupboard, Remus walked back into his tiny parlour to find his guest reclining on the couch. “A nice home you have here, Remus,” he commented as the werewolf poured out drinks. “A bit small, yet inviting all the same.”
“I try my best to make it feel welcome,” smiled Remus, starting the fire with a wave of his wand and sitting back in an armchair across from him.
They talked of many things, from the new Ministry of Magic to the difficulties of living in a muggle town, before the goose was finally ready. Making their way over to the kitchen, they managed to set the table and bring the food out with quick efficiency, working in an amicable silence. Finally, after praying over the food, they sat down to eat.
“What are your plans for the New Year, Severus?” asked Remus after a little while. There was a short pause while Severus began to dissect his slice of fowl before he answered.
“I—I don’t know. My original plans were to move to another town, and continue as I have been…but perhaps I should stay for a little while longer here—Father seems to need my help here….”
“I would like it if you stayed, Severus,” said Remus quietly. “I—I like the company. If you like, I can help you find a job and a home here—it really is a quiet little town, and the muggles aren’t really that hard to be around.” “I will consider it.”
Dinner continued in a mix of agreeable silence and light talk, and before they realized it, they had finished. “Shall we move to the sitting room?” asked Remus as he picked up their plates and placed them in the sink. Severus merely nodded, taking their glasses and refilling them with the excellent French wine he had brought before stepping through the doorway and into the parlour.
“I’ve meant to say this before, but you’ve changed, Severus,” smiled Remus as he sat down in his armchair.
“Oh? How so?” he paused with his wine to his lips, an eyebrow raised eloquently to emphasise his surprise.
“You seem…” what? Less prickly? Approachable? Nice? “Enlightened,” he settled for.
“Really?” he gave a tight-lipped smile over the rim of his glass.
Remus nodded. “You haven’t insulted me once since we met, and you help people without complaining, and…something in you is different.”
“If you would like me to resume in the ever-amusing pastime of insulting you, feel free to let me know,” he answered back. Lord, and now joking too! Thought Remus. There really is an apocalypse coming. “No, no, I rather like being almost eye-level with you for once,” laughed Remus. “I just want to know what brought about the change.”
There was a long silence, and for a moment, Remus thought he had crossed the line, before Severus spoke again. “I…Father Michael has a way with words that even I could not resist,” he murmured, looking away. After a moment, he put down his nearly empty glass, and rising, said, “Perhaps a bit of pudding is in order,” before fleeing the room. Remus waited a full minute before pushing himself out of his own sinfully comfortable seat and walking over to the doorway, watching as Severus pulled out a covered tin from the bag he had brought with him. Rummaging around the top drawer, he found a long knife, and laying it out on the counter, pulled out two small plates before unwrapping what was soon revealed to be a tall, thick Chocolate cake.
With sure hands, he sliced the decadent pastry, placing an almost grotesquely large slice on one before cutting another, seemingly paper-thin slice on the other before pulling out two small forks from the cabinet. This done, he rummaged around once again in his bag, pulling out a small bottle of port and two small glasses. Balancing this in one hand and the cake plates in the other, he turned around, nearly dropping everything as he saw Remus. After only a moment’s hesitation, he walked over to the other man, offering him the fatter piece. “I thought you would enjoy this,” he muttered, making to go past him. With a quick movement, Remus blocked him, using his whole body to bar the way. After a pause, Severus turned around and set both the liquor and the cake down on the counter, using the corkscrew from his bag to uncork the bottle and pour himself a glass.
Inhaling the rich scent of dark chocolate, Remus took a bite and nearly fell to the floor in sheer bliss. “Severus, this is the most amazing thing I have ever had,” he managed, barely restraining himself from swallowing down the entire piece in one go. “Where did you get it?”
“I will take it from your reaction that my baking skills are adequate, then?” he smiled over his glass, walking back over to the other man.
“You…you made this?” Remus looked at his plate and then at the other man incredulously. “For me?” Severus was standing right in front of him now, only a few scant inches separating the two.
“You could call it a form of Christmas present,” he answered, looking down and flushing slightly.
Remus took another bite and nearly moaned out loud. “Severus…this is so good, I could kiss you,” he murmured, closing his eyes at the onslaught of creamy dark chocolate.
“I could do the same,” came the smoky voice in front of him. And before Remus knew what was happening, Severus had closed the distance between them, pressing their lips together into a soft, rich kiss.
It was like nothing he had ever experienced before. The rich flavours of chocolate and port swirled together in his mouth, along with a darker, smoky aroma that drugged his senses and aroused him like a lust potion. Wanting more, he pressed the tip of his tongue to the thin lips, gasping as he was met with Severus’ velvety softness entwining around his. After a moment, one long-fingered hand snaked around his waist, while the other began to card through his hair, relaxing him so much that the plate in his hand slipped between his fingers and came clattering to the floor.
At the sharp sound, Severus jumped back as if electrocuted, his expression changing from fear to relief to mortification and shame faster than a muggle stoplight. “I—I—” he stuttered, looking at everything except the man in the doorway as he flushed. Without a second thought, Remus pulled out his wand and cleared away the mess, and placing Severus’ glass out of harm’s way, pulled him under the doorframe. “Remus, please let me go,” he managed, trying to tug free of Remus’ grasp.
“Severus, look at me.” After a moment, he reluctantly turned his face and looked into the amber eyes of his captor. “Why do you keep running away?” he asked gently. “I want this—I’m sure you do—why then, do you not want to continue?”
“I am afraid, Remus,” he muttered after a moment, looking away.
“Then let me help you,” sighed Remus. “Tell me what you want, Severus.” His answer was so soft that it was almost a thought, yet Remus still caught it: “Forgiveness.”
“I do,” answered Remus. “For everything that you have done, all the things you have said and have been ordered to do, I forgive you, Severus, and I trust you with my life.”
Remus held Severus tight in his arms as the other man began to cry into his chest.
“Happy Christmas, Severus,” he murmured, stroking the inky black silk that was his hair. “You’ve come home.”