TITLE: The Expanding Man

AUTHOR: undun

PAIRING: SS/RL

RATING: NC-17

EMAIL: undunoops@yahoo.com

CATEGORY: Romance, angst

DISCLAIMER: Characters belong to JK Rowling. No copyright infringement is intended, no profit is being made by this fiction.

SUMMARY: Sirius Black is dead but he is still ruining Severus' life, and Remus is in it up to his neck.

CHALLENGE: Combination of 33 and 51. Challenge details at the end of the story.

ARCHIVING: Anywhere at all once the fest is finished, just let me know.

 

I. DUNGEON MASTER

Severus stared at the small glass test tube. It was red.

It’s bloody red!

He shook the tube frantically, thumb pressed over the cork lid. Must be a mistake, has to be a mistake. He peered closely at the tube once more, hoping for a change in colour. It was… still red. Severus could feel the world tilt slightly off axis.

"That fucking bastard," he whispered, "what has he done?"

He turned towards the fat candle on his desk, holding the glass tube close to the flame, ready to deny the result. Unfortunately denial was impossible.

A rapid tapping came from his office door. Severus whirled and placed the test tube on a rack behind his desk. "Come," he ordered.

The door swung inward to admit Draco Malfoy. "Sorry to bother you, sir. Professor Umbridge sent me to fetch you. She’s in her office waiting."

Malfoy managed to sound insolent and respectful at the same time — his unique gift.

"Inform the Professor that I will attend her shortly," Severus said over a small sigh. Playing games with the Ministry’s hatchet-witch held no appeal whatsoever after the revelations in the test tube. He needed time to regain his equilibrium. He looked at the pile of essays on his desk. Perhaps a reviving session of ripping the Gryffindors’ efforts to shreds would help.

"I do apologise, sir…"

Malfoy paused until Severus looked up at him in mild surprise. Draco had never questioned an instruction from his head of house. "What?"

"She’s caught Potter in her office, sir," the young man stated with relish, "he was using her fireplace to talk to someone." This time there was no mistaking the smirk on his face.

Damnable idiot! A waste of potential if ever there was. Although it was a toss up as to which he was angrier with as he swept out of his office. He took the stairs two at a time, his rage propelling him at a great rate. Was it to be Draco for being so blindly committed to his father, or Potter for being a feckless prat yet again. Why now, Potter? The little imbecile always did have the worst timing.

As he neared Umbridge’s office he slowed both his steps and his breathing. Draco darted past him to open the door. He caught sight of the name plaque and snorted derisively. Jumped up little toad. Schooling his expression he followed Draco into the room.

*~*~*

"He’s got Padfoot!" the boy screamed at his departing back. Oh, what now? Severus stopped, uncertain whether the twit was trying to communicate something of value. Not that he cared in any real way what happened to the misbegotten mongrel. Still… He started to turn back.

"He’s got Padfoot in the place where it’s hidden!"

Potter’s eyes glowed with intensity. Severus need hardly to cast a Legilimens to read his uppermost thoughts; he was scared witless — or he would be if he’d had any wits to begin with. Severus’ stomach gave a queasy roll. What had the mangy cur done? Had he left the house? Outwardly he felt his usual sneer slide into place, did he really give a damn?

He was only half listening to Umbridge’s frantic questions. The woman gave bureaucracy a bad name, which was quite an achievement.

"I have no idea," he replied smoothly, then regarded the boy in front of him. "Potter, when I want nonsense shouted at me I shall give you a Babbling Beverage. And Crabbe, loosen your hold a little. If Longbottom suffocates it will mean a lot of tedious paperwork and I am afraid I shall have to mention it on your reference if you ever apply for a job."

Offhand Severus could think of no profession for which Crabbe would be suitable that would dream of asking for a reference. Longbottom’s unhealthy purple hue was easing to livid pink. Time to leave them to their little drama.

He closed his eyes briefly after he had shut the door, then began the descent back to his chambers. What did he care if the great oaf had stumbled into the Dark Lord’s hands? Bloody idiot. And that test tube had better be bloody blue when he got back to his office or he would have Black’s bloody head on a pike.

Halfway down to the dungeons he reconsidered and went to investigate Black’s whereabouts. After all he wanted to kill the bastard himself, didn’t he? He would not allow the Dark Lord to deprive him of that particular pleasure.

*~*~*

 

II. SHADOWS

It had all gone spectacularly pear-shaped. Albus could stay and get Fudge to commit to some useful action, including having all charges against him dropped, but Remus had to leave. He couldn’t stay amongst people anymore. After Harry had been sent to the safety of Hogwarts, Remus apparated to Grimmauld Place, the echo of Bellatrix LeStrange’s laughter ringing in his ears.

Sirius was gone, as suddenly as he had disappeared fourteen years ago, but permanently this time. He would not be coming back.

Remus walked slowly down the hallway. He went into the parlour — they had made love on the hearthrug, right there. He turned away and climbed the stairs to the landing. He walked through to the bedroom — they had shared the large old bed, giving and taking comfort and pleasure. His ragged pyjama pants were still on the floor where he had thrown them the previous morning. Remus approached them as he would a dangerous animal. He stooped to pick them up with his cold fingers, brought them to his face, inhaled the scent lingering in the worn cotton. He staggered back against the wall and then slid slowly down to the floor.

He was gone.

*~*~*

So. He’s finally done himself in. Stupid prick!

Severus strode quickly back towards the dungeons after his journey down Dumbledore’s spiral staircase. The news of the recapture of Azkaban’s fugitives should have cheered him, but instead he was dwelling on the fact that Sirius Black had seen fit to die in vain glory during the skirmish.

Bloody typical. Ha! It’s vintage Blackism: get the first shot in then disappear before there can be an accounting. Irresponsible twat. Irresponsible dead twat.

Severus growled loud enough to send an approaching Ravenclaw First Year skittering over to the other side of the corridor. It reminded him of the day ahead and the duties therein. Annoyed, he made an effort to bring his attention to the first lesson of the day — to leave off gnawing at his grievances, a singularly pointless pastime now that the perpetrator was beyond retribution’s reach.

Bastard.

He sighed mightily and entered the potions classroom. His stomach gave a uneasy gurgle and he headed straight to the store cupboard to fetch ingredients for a potion to ease his pain.

*~*~*

 

III. TESTAMENT

‘Dear Harry,

You will most likely never read this (well I certainly hope that you don’t!), but I can’t seem to rest until I write this down. I suppose it’s one of those In-The-Event-Of-My-Death things? Merlin, I don’t bloody know what it is really. But here it is anyway.

I love Remus. Yeah, I know that you know that, but I mean really, really love him. Do you understand? I hope you do. Kind of like, as in, well like a wife, or a husband — someone I’m committed to for life.

So, your godfather’s a poof. I never thought of myself as gay, but I’ve never considered life without Remus either. I guess I’m not the introspective type. Not usually anyway. At the moment I’m going half mad because there isn’t much else to do around here but dwell on things, and things have gotten complicated.

See, now there’s Snape. Yes, I am as surprised as you about that. I’m confused, really confused, and though it may disgust you, and I risk losing any respect you may have for me — well, I slept with him. It was right here, at home where I have been going crazy with isolation. Remus was away with Dumbledore for weeks at a time and Snape was reporting in here regularly for updates. So, there was the firewhisky, and there was Snape. In case you’re wondering, yes, he wanted it too. I suppose he was just as wound up as I was, just as isolated in his own way, and I think just as needy for contact — though you’ll never get him to admit to it. An island, that’s what he thinks he is. Absolute bollocks! My language is getting awful — I’m drinking firewhisky as I write, it gives me courage. I’m not planning to get drunk, but then I didn’t plan any of this so who knows?

I’m rambling a bit, I have to finish this. Let me just say that I love you very much. You’ve been salvation to me, Harry. You’ve given me a reason to try and redeem myself — to survive, to allow myself to imagine a life where I grow old happily living with Remus. I imagine watching your children grow up, Harry… I imagine looking your Mum and Dad in the eye in the next life and feeling no shame.

Okay, so beyond getting my dirty secret off my chest, this letter was to let you know — in case there really is an In-The-Event-Off-My-Death event, that Snape, strange as it may seem, may need someone to talk to. Someone who might understand if he finds himself confused because he actually cares that I have croaked. He’ll be mortified! I don’t fool myself that there is any real affection there, but we’ve had human contact, and I know that he needs it now.

I can’t even think about Remus. I can’t bear to think that I might, yet again, leave him alone. I can’t bring myself to tell him about Snape either. I know that he will accept and forgive me for it — he always does, but I feel so guilty, so very bad — it’s eating me up. He deserves better from me, you both do. But, in the end, I am just Sirius Black. I come from a family of evil bastards.

But I do love the right people.

All my love to you, Harry,

Sirius’

 

Remus crumpled the parchment in his hands. He found his wand was out and setting fire to the letter before he’d even blinked. It turned to ash on the floor. He still hadn’t blinked.

Harry would never miss it.

*~*~*

 

IV. IN THE KITCHEN

Remus drew his gaze away from the kitchen fireplace the better to listen as the front door crashed open. Had to be Severus Snape. Nobody else, apart from Voldemort himself, would dare…

"Lupin! Where the devil are you? Dumbledore has called you four times on the floo!"

He heard Sirius’ mother begin another one of her torrid rants, "MUDBLOODS, TRAITORS, STINKING ANIMALS! THANK CIRCE MY OWN BLOOD IS DEAD, DEAD AT LAST!"

There was an abrupt silence, then Remus could make out a soft muttering from the Potions master in the hallway. My God, he’s hexed the portrait. After all this time, why now? It’s not as if it matters anymore.

Remus suddenly felt a rage such as he had never felt ahead of a full moon. He hadn’t felt like this even when he’d thought Sirius responsible for the deaths of their friends. That had only left a twelve-year-long deep, aching sorrow and bewilderment. He sat at the kitchen table listening for Snape’s footfalls — each step bringing him further into the house and closer to Remus who stayed quite still. He imagined himself as a spider watching a foolhardy fly tripping towards the centre of his web.

Snape’s boot heels stopped at the top of the short flight of stairs leading into the kitchen.

"Welcome to my parlour," Remus whispered. He swallowed a mouthful of the firewhisky he’d been nursing in his hands.

"There you are, skulking in the dark. Some things never change I suppose." Snape’s heels clicked on the steps as he descended.

Oh, don’t start Severus. Don’t even think about starting. "Good evening, Severus. What brings you to my humble abode?"

"Yours now, is it?" Snape sniffed disdainfully, casting a jaundiced eye at their surroundings. "Well, I wish you joy of it. Beggars can’t be choosers, can they?"

Remus’ fury threatened to leap out of his tight control. He raised his glass, it clacked against his teeth as he downed the firewhisky in rapid gulps.

"Drowning your sorrows? Oh, this is amusing," Severus drawled, drawing closer to the table. "He’s hardly worth your grief you know, not that I’m assuming you have enough sense to realise it."

Remus gave a choked-sounding laugh. "And just what would you know about it?" Surely he wasn’t going to tell him now? Two weeks after Sirius’ death… not even Snape would be that cruel.

"We fucked. That’s how I know."

Well, seems I was wrong. Remus tried to untangle the tone he’d heard in Snape’s voice, but the sound of his rushing pulse made it hard to think. Was it simple sarcasm, or something darker? Did he really care? He shivered with the effort of not leaping up and knocking the man flat. It was good to feel something other than hopelessness and despair. It made him feel alive again.

"You…" But there was nothing to say. Remus slugged back the rest of his drink, his anger draining out of him like water down the drain. Overwhelming apathy took hold once more and he wondered if it was worth taking the next breath.

"Oh, stop being so damn maudlin! It was just sex. He needed it and I just happened to be there. Fool never did have any self-control."

Remus spat out another laugh, hardly knowing where the energy came from. "And you do?"

"Ah, but I wasn’t happily ensconced in domestic bliss with the love of my life at the time, was I?"

Remus stared as Snape leant a bony hip against the table.

"If it makes you feel any better, the bastard’s given me a disease of some kind."

"What?"

"A dis-ease," Snape enunciated slowly, "Two syllables. You can manage if you try. You’ve probably been immune to the parasite due to your… special condition," he finished in tones of deep disgust.

Curious, in spite of himself, Remus asked, "When did this happen, anyway?" It might be enlightening to hear the other side to the story.

"It was nearly five weeks ago. The first time I admit I wasn’t in a frame of mind where I would refuse the distraction. I got here just after seeing Malfoy at a meeting. It wasn’t pretty."

"So it was a kindness," Remus murmured. That certainly seemed to tally with Sirius’ letter.

"He fucked me in a weak moment!" Severus snarled.

"And the next time?" Remus’ mouth quirked involuntarily; Severus did so like to rewrite history.

"Well," Snape muttered, studying his fingernails, "I had no further to fall, did I?"

And he calls Sirius a bastard! "You’re an opportunist," Remus said.

"Quite." Snape agreed.

Remus continued, "You always have been so I don’t know why that should surprise me." He suddenly felt like sleeping. He was very, very tired; but– "What are your symptoms?"

Snape shrugged slightly and drew in a deep breath. "Nausea, some vomiting, dizziness, disturbed sleep. I would see Pomfrey if I didn’t have to tell her where I picked it up."

"Nausea," Remus whispered to himself. It all sounded like–

Oh, no!

*~*~*

 

Lupin rose suddenly from his hunched position at the table, his chair flying backwards so fast that Severus winced when it hit the flagstones with a splintering crash. Another Black family heirloom disintegrated. Who gives a damn, he thought peevishly as he squinted at Lupin’s progress across the room.

"Did you drink something from the cabinet that night?"

"What?" He was going to accuse him of being drunk and disorderly. What a twit.

"Did you drink anything?"

Something about his tightly controlled tone caught Severus’ attention. He fancied an undercurrent of anxiety could be detected. Lupin wrenched open the liquor cupboard and rummaged.

"I was looking for a stiff sherry," he replied. His frown deepened as Lupin paused and shot back over his shoulder–

"There’s no sherry."

"Well, I know that now, you idiotic creature."

Ignoring his insult, Lupin persisted. "So what did you drink?"

A trickle of unease insinuated itself somewhere between Severus’ shoulder blades. "Look, where exactly is all this going?"

"Just answer the bloody question!"

Severus huffed in surprise. The werewolf never lost control in human form. He had assumed it was his way of compensating for such a disastrous lack of it at each full moon.

"I wouldn’t call it merlot, but it was in a merlot bottle. Quite awful, it must have turned — or that sad excuse for a house elf might have pissed in it I suppose. I’d drunk the stuff before it really registered." His unease was making him verbose. He bit the edge of his tongue to stop the babble.

"Merlot. Right, which one?" Lupin arranged the dusty looking bottles he had pulled down from the liquor cabinet. Severus could see the hand nearest him shake, just enough to make the bottles clatter slightly on the bench.

He’d better humour him. "Actually, it wasn’t in the cabinet with the others. I’ve never noticed that before today. It was–"

"In the pantry cupboard," Lupin finished for him.

"How did…" Unease be damned; now he was starting to sweat.

"You drank a conception potion, Severus."

He said it lightly, as someone who might have commented on a spot of bad weather.

"What?"

"A potion." Lupin turned slowly to face him, his expression still except for his eyes which reflected the flames dancing in the fireplace. "I’m amazed you didn’t recognise it. But then it was diluted with the merlot, and that night you were in no fit state to analyse anything were you?"

"A conception potion," Severus whispered.

"Yes."

"In a merlot bottle."

"Yes." Lupin repeated, then, "Sorry."

"In an unlabelled merlot bottle."

"Yes. We had planned to use it when the time was right. We thought, that is… Sirius thought, that the merlot would extend the life of the potion."

Severus found himself making a strange choking noise. It was his own bitter laugh, creaky from long disuse. Lupin must be thinking he was having a fit. The werewolf lost his careful expression and frowned as he took a step forward in concern. Fine time to be concerned!

"You screaming idiot. I can’t believe… you fffu… You don’t store a fucking potion in a fucking merlot bottle!"

The fact that Severus was not deliberately impregnated, and instead having it be due to the incredibly shoddy work practices of the late Sirius Black and his werewolf paramour, did nothing to diminish his rage. In fact, it rather increased it.

"Well we didn’t want it to be obvious. People were tramping through at all hours!"

There was a pause, heavy with potential. Finally Lupin added, "It was private."

*~*~*

 

It was like lighting a skyrocket. Remus edged back towards the bench at the look in Severus’ eyes.

"Oh that’s perfectly all-bloody-right, isn’t it? You two fucking lovebirds want to reproduce — and Merlin knows why we should be cursed with more of you — and because of your inevitable bungling Black gets himself killed and I end up carrying the mongrel’s child!"

Severus had stepped closer, was now breathing heavily in Remus’ face. Rather unexpectedly Remus felt his groin tighten in response. Oh, God — he just had time to think and then Severus’ fingers were around his neck.

"I can’t kill Black, but I should kill you in recompense for this," he spat. "You are an exquisitely imbecilic creature, and Black was even worse." So saying, he let go of Remus and, whirling, stamped towards the fireplace.

Remus took a deep breath which dispelled the white dots at the edge of his vision. He fingered his shirt collar, staring at Severus’ back with a feeling something like horror twisting in his stomach.

Severus snatched up a handful of floo powder. "Come back and see Albus. For some reason he’s been worried about you," he hissed over his shoulder before flinging the powder into the flames. "Hogsmeade!" he snarled at the green flames, disappearing as he stepped into the fire.

Remus drew in another shuddering breath. The feeling of horror was slowly receding and he slumped bonelessly into the nearest chair.

"Good Lord," he muttered, "he’s having Padfoot’s baby."

Somewhere, he was sure, Sirius Black was convulsing with laughter. He did so like a good practical joke. Remus stumbled upright and straightened his clothes. He looked around for his robes — he couldn’t remember the last time he had bothered to wear them. Perhaps it had been when he’d seen Harry off to the Dursley’s? He strode out of the kitchen and up the stairs, his robes were no doubt in the bedroom he had occasionally made use of during the past fortnight. He rounded the doorframe and snatched up the drab, patched thing from the unmade bed.

No time to waste — he had to get to Hogwarts.

*~*~*

 

V. FUTURE IMPERFECT

"Remus, dear boy! How good it is to see you."

Dear Merlin -- he looks so much older, and it’s only been two weeks since… "Albus, I was hoping you would allow me to come and stay," Remus began.

"Nothing would please me more. I fear we have lost yet another Defence Against the Dark Arts instructor. Perhaps you would consider taking up the position once more?" the Headmaster queried.

"You know that I can’t, Albus. The law pertaining to werewolves is quite specific — "

"And, I think you’ll find, has in fact been rescinded these past two days," interjected the Headmaster, "You’ve been somewhat out of touch," he ended on a gentle rebuke.

"I’m sorry," Remus responded, not knowing what else he could say. His throat felt tight and his grief over Sirius’ death rose afresh — a tidal wave that threatened to wash him away again.

"There is no need… no need to apologise." The elderly wizard’s tone was husky through the crackle of the fire. "Come to the castle and we can discuss the position. I’ll have a room made ready for your arrival."

With an effort, Remus refocussed. "Can you spare a room in the dungeons?"

Albus’ eyes seemed to glitter over the green flames, but he simply replied, "Yes. Yes, I believe so."

*~*~*

 

VI. HOMO ERECTUS

Severus knew at once that the wards on his chambers had been disarmed. He ran through a mental checklist of the individuals who might be capable of accomplishing the deed. Dumbledore, of course — yet he would not do so unless he saw Severus’ blood oozing out from under the door.

Lupin. Obviously.

Surprised it took you this long, my dear werewolf. What has it been, a month?

He opened the door hastily, ready to abuse the intruder — verbally or otherwise if need be. He pulled up short at the sight that greeted him: Sirius Black… sitting in his desk chair.

"B-bl…" Reason reasserted itself. "Bloody Hell, Lupin!" He hoped he had covered his initial blunder. "What fresh torture have you arranged for me now?"

"I thought you might like this," responded Remus, gesturing along his lengthened body, "after all, you did some months ago."

Black’s eyes stared back at Severus — he thought he might wring the damn fool’s neck properly this time. As angry as he was he couldn’t help but notice the very un-Black-like intensity of the gaze focussed on him. It wasn’t right.

"Why would you do this to yourself?" For the life of him, he couldn’t understand the man. Surely this must be more painful for Lupin than it was for him?

I’ve been trying to get closer to you for weeks on end, Severus. You don’t make it easy."

Understanding dawned. "You want the baby," he stated bluntly. Never let it be said that Severus Snape wasted even a moment on tact. The body Lupin was wearing rose gracefully (and Black was never that graceful. Gorgeous, even athletic, but too impetuous for real grace), and approached him.

"I think… I don’t know," Lupin’s stumbling sentence sounded odd coming from a form Severus had always known to be utterly, arrogantly confident. "I think we could be good for each other," Lupin stated slowly, and as Severus’ eyebrows rose in scepticism, "and believe me, it’s a disturbing revelation to me as well." He ran his index finger down the centre of Severus’ torso, slowing at the slight bulge of his stomach pressed against his black robe.

Severus forced down the shiver that threatened to escape his control at the gentle tracing of Lupin’s finger. God, he was starved for even the slightest contact! It must be the foetus. "How long?" he croaked out. Lupin frowned slightly at him in puzzlement.

"How long until you…" He waved his hand to encompass Lupin’s body.

"Oh." Lupin glanced down at his feet — his larger-than-usual feet. "Not long — maybe ten minutes — but don’t worry, I have some more Polyjuice with me."

"No!" Severus reached out instinctively when Lupin moved as if to fetch the potion. "I mean to say, well… I don’t believe that I would be at all willing to bed ‘Black’ again. He did leave me up the duff after all," Severus said, then paused until Lupin looked up from Severus’ hand on his arm. "And besides," he began, drawing his hand away from the werewolf’s heat — it radiated right through the sleeve of his shirt. "What would Black say to you besmirching his reputation as the hottest ever Gryffindor lover?"

Lupin laughed uncertainly in response. "Are you supposing that I would disappoint you?"

"We shall never know," Severus snarled. He turned towards the door, intending to fling it open and eject his unwelcome guest. That heat had almost been his undoing, it had been an act of determination to pull his hand away. He stopped halfway. Another night alone with himself and his mute passenger. Another night of soul-searching, wondering if he had made the right choice in letting the damned thing live. Yet another night without someone else’s touch, someone else’s warmth, someone else to hold — if only for a few hours. Perhaps some distraction might help? Knowing that it was probably a bad idea he turned back to face Lupin in his altered form — again registering an involuntary shiver at the sight. "Would you like a drink?"

Lupin sighed. "Do you have brandy?"

"Indeed I do." Severus gestured to an armchair near the fireplace. "Sit."

Lupin moved to seat himself close to the fire, although why he should feel the need to further increase his body temperature Severus could not imagine. He took two brandy snifters down from the shelf above the assorted liqueurs and brought them to the hearth table along with a bottle of fine old brandy. He felt a momentary pang as he opened the fifty-year-old bottle. It had been an impulse to choose that particular bottle from amongst the selection he had, a choice that was unfathomable to him. He had never suspected he’d be sharing it with Lupin — he’d always planned to save it for a special occasion. Harry Potter leaving Hogwarts, or even the defeat of the Dark Lord.

Once Lupin was Lupin again, Severus’ tension eased and they spent an amicable two hours complaining about Albus, the students, the house elves and the pay (although Severus thought that might have been just him, Lupin being inclined to be pathetically grateful whatever wage he was given). At midnight Severus noted Lupin yawning and stood to bid him goodnight as he opened the door. Remus paused at the threshold to gaze at him.

"What?"

"Come on, Severus. It’s just sex. You need it and I just happen to be here."

Severus hurrumped in reluctant amusement. I must not drink brandy when I’m randy! He chanted silently and turned and headed for the bedroom. He heard a gusty breath from Lupin, the thud of the door being closed again, and then soft footsteps behind him.

"Don’t go thinking that this is the start of a beautiful friendship, Lupin." Severus sneered back at him. He thought he saw Lupin smiling before his silver flecked head ducked low, leaving his expression hidden while he removed his scuffed boots.

"Oh, of course not! Why ever would I think that?"

*~*~*

 

VII. THE RAMIFICATIONS OF SEX

Remus stroked his fingers slowly across Snape’s pale chest. "That wasn’t so bad."

Snape’s response was somewhere between a grunt and a snort. Well, at least he hasn’t hexed me yet. "Come on, admit it, you stubborn bastard. You needed this — you need someone."

"Nonsense."

"You do, and Sirius knew it." As he said it he knew it was a mistake and would have bitten his tongue in half to take it back. He was the only one who knew about the existence of the letter, and he wanted to keep it that way. The phrase ‘obliviate’ hovered at the edge of his mind.

"What the hell would you know about that?" Snape lurched upwards and off the bed with enough speed to make Remus’ head spin. Apparently it had the same effect on Snape because he fell to the floor in a crumpled heap a second later.

"Severus!" Remus jumped from the bed and landed on his knees beside the fallen wizard. "What’s wrong?"

There was no answer. Snape’s face was slack and curiously peaceful. He was out cold.

"Damn it, Severus," he muttered anxiously, stroking the black hair away from Snape’s face. He lifted the unconscious man’s head from the floor to place it carefully on his thigh. What the hell should he do? Call Poppy? It was hardly a time to quibble over the fact that they were in a state of undress, yet he doubted Severus would be quite so reasonable when he awoke.

Was that a twitch? Remus held his breath. There it was again, and a groan — sounding high and weak. Remus let out a gust of breath.

"Severus?" He watched the flicker of movement under Snape’s eyelids. Oh, thank God!

The relief sent a flood of heat through his chilled body and he broke into a sweat. Severus opened his eyes and stared blankly up at him. His habitual veneer of disdain and arrogance was missing. He looked completely unlike himself, too vulnerable, too human.

"You bloody scared me," Remus murmured down at him. His fingers went to the black hair once more, running through it obsessively, like a string of rosary beads in the hands of the devout.

It disturbed him that he could care so much so soon. It wasn’t normal. It was supposed to be convenience, just a warm body — an incubator for his child. It was his child, not Severus’ — he hadn’t loved Sirius after all. The thoughts chased each other around his mind, snapping and snarling at each other.

"Did you hex me?"

Remus gave a guilty start. "What? No!" He sighed in exasperation, "Of course I didn’t, you paranoid git — I’ve only just made love with you." He might harbour uncharitable thoughts, but the idea of intentionally harming Severus made him physically sick. "It would take me a few more hours to work up enough energy to attack you the moment your back is turned," he added. He shifted to help as Snape struggled to sit up. "How are you feeling?"

"I don’t know. Did I… faint?" He said the word as if ashamed.

"I’m afraid you did," Remus replied gently, aware of the man’s prickly pride. "Perhaps it’s the hormones," he suggested.

"Blood pressure," Snape supplied shortly. He stood gingerly, rubbing the back of his head.

"Oh, right. Did you hurt anything?" Remus ran a careful eye over Severus’ form, noting a thick stripe of red on his left knee.

"Er — " Snape drew his hand from the back of his head and checked his fingertips. "No blood. My skull is intact."

Wordlessly, Remus gestured down at his knee. Snape bent to see blood oozing slowly down his shin.

"Ah. I have a salve in the bathroom." Snape made a move towards the door but Remus put a hand on his shoulder.

"You lie down and I’ll get the salve." He steered Severus firmly towards the rumpled bed, not relinquishing his hold until the taller man lay down upon it.

"Really, Lupin," he sneered, but it was a token gesture — his eyelids fluttered shut a second later.

Remus hurried to the bathroom and stared at the bottles and jars around the sink. He was alarmed to see six bottles of Pepper Up potion — two of them empty — standing alongside Draught of Living Death. It appeared Severus had been making regular use of both.

After locating the small jar of healing salve, Remus returned to the bedroom, eager to go back to bed now that his feet were aching from the chill of the stone floor. He gave no thought to returning to his own chambers, knowing he would not rest easy after witnessing Severus’ collapse. He tugged the blanket away from Snape’s injury and applied a generous coating of the salve. He stood and watched as it shrank and disappeared. His feelings screaming to be acknowledged, he climbed into the bed, rubbing his feet against his own shins to try and warm them.

He resented the fact that Severus was bearing his lover’s child — it should have been him. He resented the fact that said lover had slept with Severus and allowed this to happen. He resented the fact that the previous facts had not prevented him from forming an attachment to Severus. He tried to tell himself that he didn’t want this, hadn’t wanted to feel like this again — it was too painful, too risky.

Besides, he’s a bastard.

And the bastard needed him.

*~*~*

 

VIII. PANIC ATTACK

"Harry!" Remus greeted the young wizard as he stepped out of his chambers. Harry had just appeared at the end of the corridor and looked up with a grin. "You’re back at school early," Remus continued. He frowned suddenly in suspicion. "Harry, is everything all right?" Surely the Headmaster would have told him of any crisis? He’d been so preoccupied lately that he hadn’t been keeping in touch with the other Order members. Quite apart from the business of dealing with Severus, he’d had a curriculum to write for the coming school year.

"Everything’s fine Professor," Harry assured him quickly. "Tonks took pity on me and begged the Headmaster to break me out of the Dursley’s prison," he explained.

Remus was aghast. "They didn’t lock you–"

"No, no! Nothing that bad. Really. It’s just, now that Sirius is gone, I - I couldn’t bear it… the way they treat me, the way they look at me." Harry looked at the floor. "They knew he’d been killed. It made them happy." Harry’s breath gusted out on a sigh. "Honestly, if I had stayed… I would have used magic, either on them or myself," he confessed quietly.

"Harry," Remus began, not knowing what to say. The young man had just admitted to violent thoughts — thoughts of self-harm. "I’m sorry I haven’t been able to do more for you," he finished in regret. How could he have neglected to consider Harry’s state of mind? It was a responsibility he knew Sirius would have trusted him to assume without question.

"It’s all right now, all over for another year," Harry stated briskly. "And anyway, you’ve had your own things to deal with. How are you these days, Professor?"

"Harry, please, term hasn’t started — call me Remus," he protested, then gestured down the corridor. "Was it me you were coming to see, or did you want Severus?"

"Want Snape? Bloody Hell! Who would want him?" Harry’s tone was scathing. "Of course it was you I was looking for. Why did they put you all the way down here, anyway? Actually I had something to show you." Harry rummaged in his jeans pocket and finally pulled out a folded piece of parchment. "Here it is!" He held it out to Remus.

Remus’ spine had gone icy at Harry’s expressed disgust for the Potions master. He’s only sixteen, of course he hates Snape — dreaded greasy git of Hogwarts. He took the proffered parchment. "What’s this, Harry?" Remus unfolded the paper.

"It’s something I was working on at the Dursley’s. What do you think? Oh, wait!" Harry snatched the parchment back and pulling his wand out of his pocket, pronounced an Animato spell. "Here." He placed the parchment in Remus’ hand.

Remus looked down at the image it held. A charcoal Sirius gazed back at him, smiling slowly. It was his private smile, the one Remus was used to seeing just before they would snog each other until it hurt. "God, Harry…" How could you?

"Do you like it?" Harry asked, all eager teenager suddenly. The weight of his experiences temporarily lifted and there was not the slightest possibility that Remus could be angry with him.

"It’s perfect, Harry," he assured him. Remus blinked hard. "Bloody perfect."

The young wizard shuffled in embarrassment. "It’s not that good. Just a scribble."

Remus felt that he could possibly weep for a week. Harry’s relatives had so starved the boy of praise and approval — he craved it, but didn’t know what to do with it when it was freely given. "Harry," he began, then swallowed, "it’s him, Harry."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah." Remus met Harry’s gaze. He’d grown again, they were of a height now. He folded the parchment and held it out.

"Do you… want to keep it?"

"No. No I can’t. I…" What could he say? He hadn’t been able to cope with the choking flood of grief and guilt whenever he thought of him — and so he hadn’t thought of him.

"It’s all right, Remus," Harry said softly, "I think I understand now." He took the parchment from Remus’ trembling hand. "I’m sorry."

With those simple words Remus came undone. He fell back against the wall, smashing his head against the stone and never feeling the impact. His wail echoed down the hallway. He tore at his hair, his clothes, the wall around him. He was dimly aware of Harry backing away in alarm, but the reason escaped him. Another howl exploded from his chest, and he turned and smacked his head against the wall — once, twice… Hands pulled at his shoulders, spun him away from the wall. He’d have to rip their throat out.

"Lupin!" the voice bellowed. Deep, commanding — an Alpha if ever there was. The urge to rend flesh receded leaving Remus covered in painful goosebumps. He shuddered uncontrollably, leaning into the black clad arms. He closed his eyes, breathing in Snape’s strong scent, then burying his face in his robes.

"What the hell just happened, Potter?"

"I — I don’t know, Professor." Harry’s voice sounded faint. "I think when I showed him this drawing it brought back memories." Remus heard the sound of the parchment being unfolded and fought the urge to giggle. It’s shock. Must be shock. Harry must think I’m a nutter. Hell, I think I’m a nutter!

"Shite."

Oh, Severus, you swore in front of a student!

"Well, be off with you now, Potter."

"Sir, will he be all right?"

"How should I… He’ll be fine, Potter." Snape turned Remus back towards his chambers. "I’ll take care of it. Can I count on your discretion?"

"Of course you can!" Harry sounded stung as they moved away from him down the corridor.

*~*~*

 

IX. LOOK, LISTEN AND LEARN

Severus licked a trail along Lupin’s neck savouring the tang of salt. When he reached his earlobe, Severus pulled it into his mouth, sucking and biting gently.

"Don’t," Lupin whispered in protest.

"Yes."

"No." Lupin gave him a half-hearted shove which Severus chose to ignore as he began the task of unbuttoning the man’s shirt.

"Severus," Lupin began, then gasped as Severus’ mouth closed around his nipple. "Please, don’t!"

"Why not?" Severus blew against Lupin’s wet nipple, delighted to see him shiver in reaction. He turned his attention to the other nipple.

"It’s what he did," came Lupin’s broken reply.

Severus glanced up from his work. "Black topped you?"

"Yes."

"Submissive little werewolf, aren’t you?" Severus chided. He turned back to Lupin’s neglected nipple.

"When the right fellow comes along, yes," Lupin admitted in a ragged rasp. His hips lifted sharply. "Oh, Merlin!"

Severus pressed his hand none too gently against Lupin’s bulging crotch. He was rewarded with a strained wheeze from the man sprawled underneath him on the couch. The fight seemed to have left him and, apart from the rigid flesh under his hand, the man was limp. A veritable overcooked noodle.

He eyed Lupin’s flushed face and drew his fingers firmly over the shape of Lupin’s erection through his trousers. The werewolf whimpered disgracefully. "You were supposed to carry the baby then," Severus stated.

"Ye-yes," Lupin hissed. His eyes were barely visible beneath his slitted lids, but Severus was quite sure he was being observed closely. He moved both hands to Lupin’s trouser buttons, undoing them quickly and dragging them, along with his threadbare underwear, over the man’s hips.

"And the Change, when it came?" Severus continued questioning while he surveyed Lupin’s half-stripped form. Lupin, who, though pleasing enough fully stripped, was nevertheless terribly appealing half-stripped.

"It — it was — ah!" Lupin lurched, almost falling from the couch when Severus bent to suck on his ball sac. "Severus, dear God!" He moved an urgent hand to grip his erection, which Severus grabbed and held down at his side. He glared briefly at Lupin — he wasn’t finished yet.

"Go on," he prompted.

Lupin swallowed noisily. "Yes. Ah, it was supposed to retard the metamorphic process," Lupin explained breathlessly. "A Half-change, if you will. Just the extremeties."

Severus licked his way up the underside of Lupin’s cock before he acknowledged the words. "I see. And what do you suppose the Wolfsbane Potion would have done to the developing foetus?"

Lupin’s hips lifted, blindly seeking Severus’ mouth. "I don’t know," he gasped.

"You don’t know," Severus repeated, his voice flat with disbelief. "When were you proposing to find out?" He bent once more to the task at hand, sliding his lips in a firm pucker around the head of Lupin’s cock.

"Oh, oh," Lupin breathed. Severus could see it was a definite struggle for him to articulate his replies. He continued to torture the werewolf with his tongue, waiting to see which would come first — Lupin, or Lupin’s answer. Finally the man rasped out–

"The research… was scanty. Ah! Oh, yes, just like that!" Lupin’s hips thrust rhythmically, as far as Severus’ hands allowed. "I had to… to talk to you… before, before… Ah!"

Severus pulled away to look down at him in astonishment. "You were planning on telling me about it before he impregnated you?" Lupin, his forehead pebbled with sweat, nodded speechlessly.

You trusted me? Severus wondered in confusion. But I betrayed you — I had you resign from your teaching position three years ago! Severus hated it when people weren’t predictable. He was further bewildered by that part of his mind that was busy tallying up the conflicting ingredients of the Conceptus Potion and the Wolfsbane, postulating the contra-indications that might result. A low growl brought his attention back to the man on his couch. Lupin looked delectable, and Severus was suddenly impatient for his own gratification. He finished removing Lupin’s trousers and shoes, then he set about freeing his own needy erection. He heaved Lupin’s legs up and, with a mouthful of saliva his only aid, he penetrated him forcefully. The werewolf howled.

*~*~*

 

X. DIRTY DEALS

Remus opened his door. Snape breezed past him in a swirl of black robes. He stopped at Remus’ desk and threw a parchment scroll upon it.

"Here, sign this then we’ll be done."

"Sign what?" The Potion master’s dramatics usually amused him, but this had a whiff of anger and anxiety to it.

"Adoption papers," came Snape’s curt reply. He stiffened and glared at Remus. "It’s what you want, isn’t it?"

"Yes, but—" I want you too!

"Then sign it!" Severus conjured a quill and held it out.

Remus could think of no argument why he shouldn’t do so. The baby would be his! If Severus truly had no interest in being a father…

"What about you?" he asked as he took the proffered quill.

"I waive all formal parental rights and grant them in your favour. However, during the full moon I expect you to leave the child with me."

Well, that’s something. If the man had decided that he did not need Remus after the birth, then so be it. What was there to do except take the best deal offered? "All right," he murmured, and bent to scrawl his signature at the end of the scroll.

*~*~*

 

Remus opened his door. "Severus!" He moved aside as the Potions master stooped and walked over the threshold. The small cottage was ancient, and tall Slytherins were obviously not foremost on the builder’s mind when the house was constructed. Remus hoped Ali would not attain his full height before Remus found a larger house.

"You’re late, Lupin." The baby’s crying threatened to drown out even Snape’s penetrating voice.

"I know. I’m sorry. He seems to have a touch of colic and I was trying to get him settled before I brought him to you," Remus explained. Snape waved a hand at him dismissively and strode over to the cradle set beside the large, worn armchair. Remus watched in exhausted amusement as he leant down and frowned at the squalling infant. It was no surprise to Remus that the wailing abruptly petered out to a pathetic whimper.

"Yes, I know you’re in pain, but what the devil do you mean by making all this noise, eh?"

Snape reached into the cradle and carefully picked up the baby, placing it against his shoulder and rubbing its back. A short, wet sob, then a colossal burp, erupted from the bundle. Remus blinked slowly, keeping his face studiously blank. He felt this way every time he saw Snape hold Aloisus — no change there, and he assumed there never would be.

"You look tired, Lupin," Snape remarked. The wizard glanced at the surrounding room. "And this place is disgraceful! I ought to report you as an unfit parent," he muttered.

Snape bent and retrieved a small rug and a cushion from the floor, arranging them one-handed on the small settee while still managing to keep the baby balanced on his shoulder. Remus watched in bemusement, unable to react to any great degree to the criticism. Snape was a good parent. Who would have thought?

"Sit down, Lupin, before you fall down. When was the last time you ate?" Snape pointed to the armchair, waiting impatiently for Remus to sit on it.

"Er," Remus began, then stopped and frowned. "What did you ask me?"

With a long-suffering sigh, worthy of the very best matyred saint, Snape crossed into the kitchen and began clattering about with plates and kettles. Not a sound was heard from the baby, still perched on Snape’s shoulder. And what a bony place to fall asleep. Speaking of sleep…

Remus felt his head hit the back of the armchair, but nothing more.

*~*~*

 

Severus opened his door. "Great Merlin’s balls, you’re early!"

"Yes, nothing went wrong at the last minute. I’m still waiting for the usual disaster. There’s been no reflux on the blanket, or runny crap leaking out onto his clothes, or piss between my eyes." Lupin groaned as he bent to lower the bassinette to the floor. "I’m getting too old for this." He unwrapped the wriggling boy and held him up for Severus. "He’s excited."

"Well, my good man," Severus addressed the infant, "Let’s get rid of your father and get to work then, shall we?" An ear-splitting squeal greeted his suggestion and Severus winced. "I’ll take that as your acquiescence."

Lupin chuckled and leant over to kiss the boy on the forehead. "Goodbye, Ali. Be good." His face only inches from Severus’, Lupin straightened and stared for a moment, first at Severus, then at the baby. "Right, I’m off home."

"Goodbye." Severus studied him, puzzled as to the meaning of that long stare. As usual these days, Lupin gave away nothing. He looked down to cover his confusion, and bent to get the blanket from the bassinette.

"What’s this, Lupin?" Severus called after the departing werewolf. He hitched the baby up on his shoulder and flapped a pale blue card with offensively overdone calligraphy. "And why was it tucked in Aloisus’ bassinette?"

"Oh! Yes, that’s an invitation." Remus explained, halting at the doorway.

"An invitation to what, precisely?" Severus frowned as he tried to decipher the script. "Did you write this?"

"To Ali’s sixth month birthday party. And no, Hermione Granger did the lovely lettering for me."

"I’ve never heard of a sixth month party before in my life!" Severus exclaimed.

"Yes, great idea, isn’t it?" Lupin grinned back at Severus, seemingly undaunted by his expression of sour disgust. He left Severus staring at the door while the small boy grappled with the lank, intriguingly greasy hair that covered the shoulder in front of him.

*~*~*

 

Remus opened his door. "You came!" He moved to admit Snape who entered with his usual stoop to get through the doorway with head intact.

"It would seem so, yes." came his dry response.

Remus was at a loss for words. Happily, it wasn’t noticed above the happy hubbub of the room. Guests were calling out a welcome to Snape as he picked his way across the room to Dumbledore who had the small boy balanced on his knee, a gnarled hand wrapped securely around his middle. Aloisus had a jaunty party hat sliding off his head. He caught sight of Snape and let loose an ecstatic shriek. The whole room groaned in response.

"Ah, Severus! Do take the boy, before he launches another auditory attack," Dumbledore said in a tone of mock agony.

Severus held his hands out to the baby. "Hello, my dear man — wreaking havoc amongst the Gryffindors I see? Well done!" The baby was moved to his accustomed position atop Snape’s shoulder.

Remus stayed just inside the closed front door observing the Potions master and his son. He drank deeply of his ale. I’ll never be over it. But I am happy. I have Padfoot’s baby, so I’m happy. I am.

*~*~*

 

XI. AFTER THE BALL

"He isn’t fit to take care of Aloisus. I’ll take him back with me to Hogwarts tonight." Severus struggled to rise from his chair while trying not to disturb the sleeping infant in his arms.

"Nonsense, Severus. You’re just as much in need of rest as poor Remus here. Poppy and myself can manage to take care of one small boy for twenty-four hours." Dumbledore gathered the baby from Severus’ lap. "Stay here and sleep off the wine. And I do not expect to see you before Sunday dinner."

It was close enough to an order to keep Severus from protesting. He glanced at Poppy Pomfrey and received a confident smile in response.

"Nothing whatever to worry about, Severus. We know where to find you if we need you."

"Goodnight, Professor," Granger said, dragging a bewildered-looking Weasley boy towards the door, his siblings having already left with Potter a half hour earlier.

Severus wrestled with the notion that it might not be a conspiracy. Through it all, Lupin slumbered on, propped against the wall between two chairs where he had nodded off while watching his baby perform rolling tricks for his adoring audience. Severus huffed in annoyance when he realised that he had a fatuous smile affixed to his face. Must be the cheap wine.

He looked around carefully to see if there was anyone left to notice his lapse — but the place was empty apart from himself and the snoring werewolf. It felt wrong to have Lupin in the same room and yet have no baby with them. It was the first time in precisely six months. Six months! They had managed to jointly care for the boy for six months. He wouldn’t have thought it possible. Perhaps… Perhaps they could have stayed together?

*~*~*

 

Remus woke up with the stiffest neck in the world. He held back a groan, not wanting to disturb the baby since he was mercifully silent at the moment. He glanced around, looking for Ali. The place was deserted, and strangely tidy for a house that had just hosted a party that day. He staggered upright and made haste to the bathroom to relieve himself. Too much ale! After flushing the loo he made his way quietly back to the lounge room and looked in the cradle. No baby. Don’t panic! They may have moved him to the bedroom while you were napping.

He approached the bedroom door and turned the handle slowly — it had a dreadful squeak. It was dark inside and he gingerly made his way to the bed, expecting to find the baby on the bed nestled between two pillows. There was a lump under the bedclothes. He patted it softly in relief, and dropping his trousers, joined it under the covers.

"Lupin?"

Remus squawked and fell out of the bed.

"Lumos," Snape intoned, holding his lit wand to peer down at the floor. "What the hell are you doing?"

"What the hell are you doing? And where is Ali?" Remus shot back.

Snape gave an annoyed sigh. "Aloisus is at Hogwarts under the care of Poppy and Albus. I was told to ‘sleep it off’, and no one was inclined not to let sleeping werewolves lie."

Remus stared, dumbfounded. "You mean… we’re… alone?"

"So it would seem."

"But, you’re in my bed!"

"Again, so it would seem."

"Ah," what now? Quick, think of SOMETHING before he leaves! "I can sleep out on the settee," Remus suggested, then became totally distracted by the fact that Snape’s clothes were hung on the bedpost at the foot of the bed. All of Snape’s clothes, even his funny turn-of-the-century style boxers.

"Don’t be an idiot, Lupin. There’s room for you in here."

So saying Snape rolled over and closed his eyes with every appearance of going straight back to sleep. Remus swallowed. I may never get a clearer invitation than that.

*~*~*

 

XII. THE END

"Oh, fuck! Yes!" Remus’ eyes rolled up and all he could see was a haze of red as he came, jerking and pulsing with an intensity that only six months of celibacy can foster. He came some more. And a little bit more. One more twitch, and that seemed to touch off Severus’ orgasm. The Potions master gave a short yell and went rigid over Remus. He twitched and jerked, blasted out a gasp in Remus’ ear which was criminally erotic, then sighed a deeply sated sigh — again, far too erotic to be fully legal. At least for the under-forties.

"I think I’m going to fall asleep." he commented in a disconnected voice. Oh, I’m way too relaxed.

"Hmmm," Snape replied.

"You won’t be offended?" Remus asked, not that he could bring himself to care right now.

The only answer forthcoming was a snore.

*~*~*

 

 

Authors Notes:

Challenges as follows --

33) Severus was devastated after Sirius' death. Why? How could Remus help?

51) Lupin finds out that in a moment of madness brought on by having been cooped up in the house for so long, Sirius had sex with Snape. Now Snape is having the baby that should rightfully have been Lupin and Sirius'.

Many thanks to Towers Innocently for last minute beta, and to Fluffy Rob for early helpful comments.

*~*~*