Title: A Cure for Dreams
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: Response to challenge #116: After an unplanned/unexpected night of intimacy, Snape acts more coldly than ever toward Lupin, apparently regretting opening up to anyone. Follows A Short Measure and Nightmare (although you do not need to have read these first). Thanks to N.A. for beta reading and comments. Feedback is appreciated.
A Cure for Dreams
Remus sat in an old armchair, staring sightlessly at the book on his lap. The chair's upholstery was worn but still serviceable, like almost everything in the little cottage. Shabby but serviceable. Like me. Bits and pieces, undoubtedly left behind by former residents, were supplemented by the occasional item whose shining newness indicated that someone had prepared the cottage with an eye toward Remus's comfort. The gleaming new teapot and matching cups were a kindness, just like the fully stocked larder and the robes in the bedroom that Albus had said had been left by some former tenant but that just happened to be Remus's size and that smelled quite new. Well meant but grating kindness. Kindness that was too close to charity for his peace of mind - not that he could afford to turn it down, not with Umbridge's anti-werewolf legislation preventing him from finding steady work.
Remus sighed. He was, after all, here at Albus's request; perhaps he should just consider this an informal sort of payment for his services. Room and board, in exchange for being quiet and gentle, a concerned ear for Harry to confide in, a sensible adult. A sensible adult, not a teacher, living close enough to Hogwarts to be accessible to Harry, but not so close as to be stiflingly intrusive. Close to Hogwarts. Hogwarts, where Severus was... The thought of Severus caused the knot of rage, confusion, and frustrated desire weighting Remus's chest to flair and twist with an almost physical pain.
"This is ridiculous," he muttered angrily. I will not think about Severus. I will be content. After all, I am alive, when three days ago I expected to be dead by now, or worse than dead. I have a comfortable place to live, and Harry needs me.
Determinedly pushing all thoughts of Severus from his mind, Remus opened the book. He had chosen it from the odd jumble of volumes - Muggle and magical, fact and fiction - that had been jammed in no particular order in the cottage's single bookshelf, simply because it was the first book he'd seen that he had never read. He concentrated stubbornly for several minutes, his tea cooling unnoticed at his elbow, but when he finally realized he had re-read the same page at least four times but still couldn't remember a word of it, he let the book fall back onto his lap. Closing his eyes, he gave up the struggle and thought about Severus. Remembered the way Severus's body had felt, pressed against his...
Severus's body had been warm against his side as Severus's hands stroked the tension from his back. Remus's body was comfortable in Severus's bed, but mentally he felt drained and off-balance from the last two days: captured by Death Eaters, threatened by Voldemort, forced by Severus and Lucius Malfoy before Severus could help him escape. Then there had been the awkward conversation with Dumbledore, with Remus skirting the issue of exactly what had happened to him at the Death Eaters' hands. Severus's hands. That had all been enough to leave Remus exhausted, even before he confronted Severus and forced his assistance on him, somehow in the process managing to get through the other man's formidable reserve and wind up here in his bed. Spectacular sex had unfortunately been followed by a nightmare, a nightmare which had prompted Severus to offer him a Dreamless Sleep potion. Thoughts of avoiding another unpleasant dream had been tempting, but Remus knew there were other, more enjoyable ways of assuring a peaceful night's sleep - so why waste the opportunity?
Reaching for Severus's hand, Remus had replied, "No, thank you, Severus. I can think of a much better way to cure bad dreams." He slid their joined hands down his bare chest to circle his cock suggestively.
"I think that can be arranged, Lupin. Purely for the sake of my night's sleep, of course," Severus had replied, smiling slightly as he bent to catch Remus's mouth in a gentle kiss.
They had kissed slowly, unhurriedly exploring each other's mouth, letting their hands roam. Remus learned that sucking Severus's lower lip into his mouth and tracing it with his tongue or grazing it gently with his teeth made Severus shiver and breathe a bit faster. Severus apparently learned that combing his fingers through Remus's hair while they kissed made Remus moan and press against him.
Remus wanted to know if Severus's neck was sensitive and if he enjoyed having his nipples teased, but when he broke the kiss and leaned toward Severus's chest, the hand in his hair tightened and pulled his head back up.
"No...the salve," Severus murmured, recapturing Remus's mouth. Remus contented himself with catching a nipple in his fingers, enjoying the way Severus's breath faltered when he rubbed and twisted it gently. Yes, definitely sensitive, he decided as Severus's hips jerked toward him. Ohh...
While they kissed, they had shifted until they were lying on their sides facing each other, so the movement of Severus's hips stroked their cocks past each other. Remus groaned at the contact and pushed toward Severus, hoping to feel it again. Severus said something indistinct against his mouth, then caught Remus's hand in his and tugged it down between their bodies to wrap around both hard shafts. The bit of oil left on Remus's cock from earlier let them slide smoothly past each other in their tightly joined hands. The self-conscious amusement Remus felt at indulging in a mutual wank like a pair of virgin schoolboys evaporated in the overwhelming pleasure of Severus's body pressed against his, Severus's tongue stroking the roof of his mouth, Severus's hard shaft rubbing sensuously past his. Soon there was nothing in the world but Severus's mouth and the tightly coiled pleasure in his belly that demanded release. Severus must have felt the same, because his hand tightened and he matched Remus, moving faster and faster until first Severus, then Remus, came with a gasp that was muffled in the other's mouth.
Severus stroked Remus's hair as they lay panting. "Was that what you had in mind, Lupin?" he asked.
"Approximately, yes," Remus replied with a sleepy smile as he drifted in a comfortable haze. He thought he heard Severus whisper, "Pleasant dreams, then," but that didn't seem likely.
Remus slept well after that, but woke up alone. He first thought Severus had gone to the loo, but his quick check of the chambers proved he was alone. The feeling of warm contentment that had enfolded him when he awoke in Snape's bed receded a bit, but he assumed Severus would return shortly. Even after he made use of the bathtub, applied a quick cleaning charm to his robes, and dressed, however, there was still no sign of the other man. Remus frowned. Severus was admittedly a bit short on the social graces, but to leave without a word or a note, after what they had done last night...
He heard a noise from the sitting room, but it was only Albus's head in the fireplace, inquiring whether now would be a convenient time for Remus to return to his office. Casting a last puzzled glance at Severus's rooms, Remus stepped through the Floo to the headmaster's office.
"Good morning, Remus," Dumbledore said. "Did you get everything resolved with Severus last night?"
Remus fought a blush. After all, the headmaster didn't know everything that happened at Hogwarts. "He let me help heal him, yes. And we...reached a certain understanding," he said truthfully.
Dumbledore smiled. "Excellent. Thank you for helping him, Remus." He pushed a cup of tea and a plate of pastries across his desk in Remus's direction. "I apologize for leaving you stranded in his chambers all night, but I hope we've found a more comfortable place for you to spend tonight than Severus's sofa."
Remus managed not to choke on his tea. No, Albus definitely did not know everything that went on at Hogwarts. An inquiring "Oh?" was all he could manage. Fortunately, that appeared to be all the response Albus required.
"Yes. You know that I have been concerned about Harry..."
Remus listened as Dumbledore explained his worries about how Harry was handling - or not handling - Sirius's death, Voldemort's malice, and the expectations heaped on his shoulders as the Boy Who Lived, all things Remus had also worried about. Dumbledore's proposed solution, however, surprised him.
"... so you see why I think it would be a fine idea for Harry to have an adult he can trust living nearby. Someone sensible and reliable, who isn't a teacher, in whom Harry can confide. Someone whom he will perhaps ask for advice before he rushes headlong into danger," Dumbledore was saying when Remus suddenly realized what all this had to do with him.
"Albus, do you mean-" he began, then hesitated, wondering if he were mistaken, and wondering if he liked the idea if he weren't.
"I mean that I would like for you to live in Hogsmeade for a time, Remus. Several months, at least. You might even be able to give Harry some help with the Defense Association, assuming the students decide to continue with it..."
So it was that Remus had found himself standing in the middle of a small cottage on the outskirts of Hogsmeade, admiring a new teapot. It didn't take him long to unpack and arrange his few belongings. It took him longer to decide whether he was pleased with the arrangement - close to Severus! part of his mind exulted. Of course he was fond of Harry, and not just because he was James's son. He had enjoyed teaching the boy. It was just that being asked to be "the adult there for Harry" seemed too...manipulative. And, to be honest, he resented being asked to, in some sense, replace Sirius. Not that anyone had ever accused Sirius of being a sensible, reliable adult, he admitted to himself with a rueful smile.
Remus walked back to Hogwarts in time to meet Harry. Dumbledore had said sadly that Harry would be accompanied to school by several Aurors instead of being permitted to ride the Hogwarts Express, due to concerns about the other students' safety. No one wanted Voldemort to attack the train in an attempt to kill Harry. Harry wouldn't be the only student not arriving on the train, either; Albus had said several parents had chosen to escort their children to school this term. Remus couldn't really blame them. Everyone was frightened now that the Ministry had admitted Voldemort had returned. Remus snorted. In his opinion, sensible people had been frightened before that.
Remus turned into a corridor leading toward the headmaster's office and stopped abruptly when he almost ran into Severus.
"Watch where you're going, Lupin," Snape snarled as he stepped aside.
"Excuse me?" Remus said, startled. That wasn't exactly the reception he'd been expecting after last night.
"Gladly," Severus snapped as he stalked past Remus.
"Severus - a moment, please," Remus said. He was beginning to feel a bit angry, but he tried to rein it in. After all, Severus had suggested Remus respond negatively to him in public. Perhaps he considered this public.
"Yes?" Severus replied, looking bored.
Remus frowned. "About what happened..."
"Are you certain this is a conversation you wish to have in the corridor, Lupin?" Severus interrupted.
"No. I think not," Remus replied, eyes narrowing. He gestured to an empty classroom. "Perhaps in here?"
They stepped in, and Remus put up the strongest silencing and privacy charms he knew. Severus, however, did not relax.
"What do you want, Lupin?" he asked. "I have a great deal yet to do before the students arrive."
"What do I want?" I wouldn't have minded a kiss, but right now I want to know what is wrong with you. "A civil greeting might be a place to start, Severus."
"Good afternoon, Lupin. And what brings you to Hogwarts?" Severus responded in a tone that belied the courtesy of the words.
Fuck this. Remus decided to just ask what he wanted to know. "Did something happen this morning, Severus? Because as I recall we were on fairly intimate terms last night, and now you're acting like..." a sneering bastard again "... like nothing happened."
"As far as I'm concerned, Lupin, nothing of moment did happen last night."
Remus's surprise must have shown on his face, because Severus smirked and spoke in a level, cutting voice. "I see. Did you think it meant something, Lupin? It was nothing but sex. I certainly had - and still have - no intention of entering a relationship with a half-blood subhuman."
Remus couldn't have felt more shocked if Snape had stabbed him in the gut. "A half-blood subhuman?" His voice sounded odd to his own ears. "If that's how you think of me, Severus -" He took a deep breath, trying to control his mounting rage. "If that's what you think of me, why did you let me in your bed last night?"
"Really, Lupin. I, at least, am only human. You offered, and I accepted. After all, I already knew you were a fabulous lay," Snape sneered.
Remus recoiled. Snape continued speaking - something about the Marauders, and revenge - but Remus couldn't hear it over the snarling in his head. Rend - tear - hurt! Face set, Remus took down the wards with a gesture and slammed out the door before he lost control of himself and tried to hurt Severus. Hit him, shout at him, hex him - anything to hurt him as much as Remus was hurting.
Somehow, he managed to meet Harry and even appear pleased to see him. Even through his rage and pain, he realized Dumbledore was right to be concerned; the boy was pale and drawn, and much too quiet. His genuine happiness at hearing that Remus would be living in Hogsmeade for a time both pleased Remus and made him feel, obscurely, even more guilty for having agreed to Dumbledore's suggestion.
After planning to meet Harry at Hagrid's hut in a few days, Remus had been able to leave the headmaster's office at last. He had escaped from Harry without letting his pleasant fašade falter, but inside he was still seething. He had offered, and Snape had accepted. He remembered that part, but somehow it had seemed different at the time. Hadn't Snape said... No, actually, Snape hadn't said much. Clearly, Remus had just heard what he wanted to hear, and read things into Snape's silences that hadn't been there. He was too angry to remember, any longer, how Severus had looked at him. All he could remember was the sneer and the cutting words. Subhuman... A fabulous lay... And I thought he hadn't enjoyed forcing me!
Remus was close to the Great Hall and intent on making his escape into the inviting darkness outside when a drawling voice brought him up short.
"Remus Lupin. What an unexpected pleasure to see you again."
Remus's wand was out and pointed at Lucius Malfoy's head before his mind could catch up. Lucius raised an eyebrow and tilted his head to one side, but prudently kept his hands motionless on the head of his cane.
Remus jumped when a mocking voice spoke from the corridor behind him. "Do go ahead, Lupin. I don't believe even Dumbledore could justify letting a werewolf roam the school after he attacked the parent of one of the students."
Remus's fingers tightened on his wand. Fuck. Lucius in front of me, Snape behind me... Anger battled with a fear he would have preferred not to feel as he edged backward until his shoulders brushed the wall. He still couldn't see Snape without taking his eyes off Lucius, so he chose to keep his eyes and wand on the unambiguous enemy. Lucius.
"Actually, Severus," he said in the closest imitation of his usual calm tone that he could manage, "I would have expected you to help. Given your particular interest in apprehending escapees from Azkaban."
"You are suffering from a misapprehension, Remus," Lucius said smoothly. "My little...contretemps with the Aurors has been resolved. I have been acquitted of any wrongdoing by the Minister himself."
"What?" Remus said in disbelief.
"Come, come. Surely you, of all people, realize how easy it is for an innocent man to end up in Azkaban, simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time," Lucius said with a smile.
Remus's hand shook on his wand as he fought down a surge of killing rage. Give me a reason - was this how Snape felt when he saw Sirius? He was almost relieved when Snape's hissed "Expelliarmus" ripped his wand from his grip and removed the temptation to kill Malfoy where he stood.
Severus walked past as if Remus were no longer there. "Did you come to see Draco settled in?"
"Yes. I wished to make certain he arrived safely - you can't be too careful these days, you know," Lucius replied, with a sidelong glance at Remus. "And not everyone was aware of my...good news yet. I didn't want it to raise any difficulties for him."
There was a brief silence. Severus, face expressionless, watched Remus. Remus calculated the distance to his fallen wand.
Lucius broke the silence first. "Might I have a word with you in your chambers, Severus?" he asked.
Lucius let his eyes drift over Remus - from his face, down his body, and slowly back up again. He smiled, the cold hard smile that Remus remembered too well from Snape's bedroom. "Won't you join us, Remus? I am certain we could have another enjoyable... discussion. Between the three of us."
Remus noted absently that he was breathing too fast. He stared at the two Slytherins, standing shoulder to shoulder now and wearing almost identical predatory smiles, and grated, "No." Without taking his eyes off them, he took a few steps and bent to pick up his wand. His hand was shaking.
"Perhaps some other time, then," Lucius shrugged, as Snape eyed Remus with a faint smirk and an amused lift to his brow.
Lucius linked his arm through Severus's. Turning their backs on Remus, the two men strolled away, but their mocking laughter drifted back to him.
Laughter, and Snape's words "... cruelty to animals, Lucius?"
Fortunately, Remus remembered the layout of the castle well: he reached the nearest lav in time to vomit in the basin instead of the corridor. He bent, retching, until the burn of acidic bile finally replaced the remembered taste of Lucius's cock in his mouth.
Suddenly realizing that he was crushing the book in his fist, Remus smoothed the crumpled pages as best he could. So. He had offered, and Snape had accepted. After the first incident in the shack, all those years ago, Snape had never made any secret of the fact that he despised Remus - why had he imagined that Snape's feelings had changed now? How could he have believed - just because Snape had been almost civil to him, this last year, just because Snape had saved him from Lucius and Voldemort - how could he have believed that meant Snape liked him? He had been a fool. So, he been foolish before. He would be again. There was no point in dwelling on what he wished had happened. Sensible adults didn't waste time thinking about men who only wanted to fuck them for the sake of revenge.
Remus shuddered. Cruelty to animals...
Yes, Severus had supplied a cure for dreams, indeed.
His tea was cold.
Remus snapped the book shut, and got up to find something else to read.