Title: The Importance of Being Moony
Rating: R (at most)
Beta: Grateful thanks to Gwen and Sarah S. for betaing.
Challenge: 107) Contrary to all the fics featuring "Snape Manor," Snape actually does not have a home. Which is why he is forced to move into Remus' one-bedroom cottage when Hogwarts is closed down for repairs.
- - - - -
"…And this is the bedroom.” Remus Lupin stood back and tried to usher the tall dark figure into the pokey little room. Professor Severus Snape wasn’t in the habit of being ushered, and swiftly snatched his hand away as his host attempted to take his bag.
“The bedroom?” Snape looked at the rather saggy double bed that took up most of the small room.
“It’s only a one bedroom cottage, yes. As a guest, of course you will take the bedroom.” Lupin tried again to retrieve Snape’s bag from the fingers curled tightly around the worn handle.
“Keep your assumptions to yourself, Lupin, I will be fine on the…” He cast his eyes around the slightly crowded living room. “…sofa.” he snapped. Thankfully his self-control was such that his wince wasn’t visible.
Lupin’s furniture was pitiful and ancient, the excuse for a sofa more so than most. He knew the man had trouble finding employment – and rightfully so as far as teaching was concerned - but he had held down a job for a year which wasn’t too badly paid, so surely he could have afforded something a little more comfortable? He snorted. The man took the notion of martyrdom to a whole new bloody level.
Lupin looked doubtful. “You’re taller than me, Severus; it will be awfully cramped on there for you. I’ve not slept on there myself but I’m sure even I would find it awkward.”
“I’ve no need for luxury.” Snape took a perverse pleasure in denying any further hospitality; anything to stop him feeling beholden to the werewolf. Take the bed indeed. It was charity enough just staying here while Hogwarts was closed for repairs for the last few weeks of summer. Thankfully it was a rare occurrence, but since his cover had been blown with Voldemort there were not many places he could hide outside of Hogwarts that were safe. A cottage that had enough wards to keep out unwary muggles and others that might stray into the path of a werewolf was ideal – in some previously unheard of sense of the word, it seemed.
Snape perched awkwardly on the edge of the wood-framed seat and tried to imagine staying here for the next few weeks. He caught a whiff of spicy mould from the direction of the pans piled up in the kitchen sink and tried not to breathe in. He hoped this wasn’t the normal state of affairs around the cottage.
“Ugh.” Lupin prodded the collection of scummy dishes and pans, emptying the greasy cold water into the sink. “Sorry about the mess.” He turned as he held his fingers under the tap, waiting for hot water. “I’ve not been here for a while myself.” He turned his face away. “Not since Sirius was on the run, before we opened up the old house.”
Snape grimaced, imagining the undoubtedly nauseating display of emotion for the dead mongrel on Lupin’s face. With difficulty he restrained himself from mentioning dog kennels.
“I’m sure a wooden sofa was a great improvement on Azkaban.” There, that was as close to comfort as he was prepared to go, Lupin would just have to make do.
“Oh he didn’t sleep on there. It would have been difficult anyway; he was in quite a bad way when he arrived.” He could see Lupin’s shoulders tense at the memory. “Frozen solid, soaking wet, covered in injuries and half-starved. It was terrible, and I’d thought it was bad enough when we saw him at Hogwarts that night. It took him two months almost to make it here safely and without magic… I don’t think he would have lasted much longer.”
“Hmm.” Yes, just what he needed, more sad, sad tales of Sirius Black and his endless bloody suffering.
A low buzzing sound invaded the silence that followed. As Snape peered around he pulled out his Daily Prophet, rolling it up as he squinted around the sunny room for the bluebottle. That was odd, nothing in sight. He stood, following the sound carefully, until he bent to examine a white box jammed under a rickety surface in the kitchen.
“Hungry, Severus? I don’t think there will be anything edible left in there, but I picked a few things up.” Lupin screwed up his face in concentration as he scrubbed energetically at a large cooking pot. “I think I emptied all the perishables though, so it shouldn’t be too bad in there.” He smiled apologetically, the customary hint of worry still lingering around his forehead.
Snape had his doubts on that score; his nostrils had already flared as he bent towards the object, and he hastily removed himself from its noisy presence. “No doubt. It sounds as if there are flies in there.”
Lupin looked slightly alarmed, then relaxed. “That’s just the fridge working, they make that noise. It’s rather an old one I’m afraid, it’s getting a bit cranky.”
“Your fondness for muggle items almost equals that of Weasley, it seems.” Snape sneered.
Lupin didn’t seem to mind. “Well we were advised to keep the magic use down around here to avoid bringing it to the attention of either the Ministry or Voldemort, so we'll need it. Besides, it comes in handy for some things.” He grinned suddenly, and opened the fridge door. It rattled on its hinges as it opened reluctantly.
“Beer?” Lupin pulled his can open and left the door open for Snape to take a beer from the row haphazardly scattered on the top shelf. “I think Sirius was incapable of living in a house without beer and a fridge. We took most of it to London with us, but he insisted on leaving an emergency stash here.” Lupin sighed.
Snape was about to snap that he had heard quite enough about Black for one day when something clicked into place.
Lupin had never slept on the sofa. Black had never slept on the sofa.
Black had stayed here for some considerable time while on the run.
So, the rumours were true; the mongrel and the mangy wolf had been lovers. And to think Lupin had offered him the very bed where they...Snape didn’t want to picture that, and was profoundly grateful he had insisted on making the sofa his bed. It was bad enough he had to spend the next few weeks in their cosy little love nest, with Lupin probably bursting into tears for his lost love at every minute. Dear god, let Lupin not have offered his hospitality in order to have a shoulder to cry on.
Snape shuddered and looked forward to three weeks of sheer hell.
- - - - -
Of course he was first of all going to have to survive a single night on Lupin's pitiful sofa. An indeterminable number of hours after he had again refused to take the bed, and declined with less than perfect grace to take another pillow, Snape was staring into the darkness and wishing he had a little more padding around his bony ribs.
He shifted a little. Oh good. Now he had three wooden slats as hard as iron beams jabbing into his ribs and hipbone. The cushion under his head gave way a second later, yet another of the all too scarce springs boinging its last gasp, and his head dipped alarmingly towards the floor. He brought his head up sharply in surprise and only managed to bang it on the wooden arm of the sofa.
"Damnit!" He lowered his head again gingerly, stuffing the pillow underneath, doubled over to prop him up. He managed to manoeuvre it so it wedged him against the back of the sofa and away from the dip. His body twisted, desperately trying to find a comfortable position.
Another hour later he decided there wasn't one. Decision made, he gave up staring at imaginary shadows in the unfamiliar room and determined to go to sleep. Willpower was all it took, now he was accustomed to the discomfort.
And if there was one thing he prided himself on it was his willpower.
- - - - -
"I thought I heard you out here." Lupin stretched and yawned in the doorway of the cramped kitchen.
"And you thought you'd come out for a cosy chat? Pity I'm all out of small talk."
Lupin's eyebrow rose slightly. "I didn't know you ever had any. I thought I'd see if there was any tea actually."
Snape indicated the teapot grudgingly as he sipped from an oversized chipped mug.
"I'm sorry there isn't any milk." Lupin poured carefully in the poor light, inky tea splashing against the walls of the mug, brown as the stained cracks in the off-white glaze.
"I prefer it black."
Lupin smiled faintly, but didn't speak, cradling the mug in his hands as he relaxed into the kitchen chair.
"I did warn you the sofa wouldn't be comfortable."
"I was perfectly comfortable." Snape said stiffly, fighting the urge to ease the pain in his neck with a good rub. "I was just…thirsty. And I've always been an early riser."
He glared at Lupin, and hoped that if he wondered how it was possible to feel thirsty while getting a good night's sleep he would at least refrain from commenting.
"Early mornings are quite pleasant here." Lupin gazed out of the window at the lightening sky. "As soon as it's light I will start work on the shed I think. If you get bored you are welcome to come and help."
"I'm sure making your potion will keep me busy enough." Snape looked critically around the kitchen, which had been much improved with a thorough scrubbing. "I will need to use the kitchen unless you have an alternative I haven't seen yet."
"Yes, of course, that's fine. That's why I need to clear the shed out too. It will need work to make it fit for me to sleep in on Thursday night." Lupin was unnaturally calm, as usual, sipping the steaming tea carefully with a thoughtful look in his eyes.
"You want to sleep in the shed?" Snape had the wild thought that it wasn't Black who had the kennel after all.
Lupin just smiled that annoying half-smile of his; the 'I know better than you' look Snape had hated for almost as long as he had known it. Ever since he had discovered the hard way that it didn't imply acting on the knowledge.
"Can you honestly tell me it wouldn't bother you if I stayed in the house with you after I changed?" Oh, and that direct look was annoying too. Snape wondered again why he'd agreed to submit to this ludicrous arrangement.
A room at the Leaky Cauldron, however unsafe and expensive, was starting to seem a much better idea. He was even wishing he'd opted to be squeezed into Grimmauld Place with the rest of the refugees. Admittedly the first would probably get him killed within a day or two, and the second put him under the care of Molly Weasley…but both would be blissfully werewolf-free.
Unlike here. Snape forced a sneer despite the panic that squeezed in his chest.
"I've seen things that would make the most bloodthirsty werewolf cringe, Lupin. A tame, domesticated wolf holds no fear for me." It would be true if he said it. It would be true if Lupin believed it.
Lupin's eyes bored into him as he frowned thoughtfully. "I don't know…" He hesitated. "Perhaps I will clear it out in case you change your mind."
Oh hell. Snape wasn't sure if it was better or worse that Lupin was uncertain. Well, in for a sickle…
"I'm sure there are plenty of other things you could waste your time on. The house is hardly in pristine condition. I will be fine."
Lupin didn't seem offended by the insult to his home. "I would like to start on the garden, really. And I was going to build a new shower." He looked apologetically at Snape. The cottage is rather old, and not fully modernised yet, as you can see. The options for more than a quick wash are the tin bath in here, or the shower rigged up in the garden."
Marvellous. Live with an animal, live like an animal. He tried again to put the wolf out of his mind.
"I'd recommend the bath though – it's a bit of a pain to fill but at least I can leave the room and you can get a bit of privacy. The shower I mostly use if I get filthy outside or I'm too exhausted to fill the bath." Lupin shrugged.
Too exhausted. From the transformations or from working in the garden, Snape wondered. He'd seen Lupin a day or so either side of his change but never immediately before or after – well, not under normal circumstances. He tried hard not to think of that night with Black and Lupin, making fools of him as usual.
As for during…he swallowed hard, the flash of dripping muzzle and the echo of a piercing howl in his head making him wonder just what he'd let himself in for.
- - - - -
However inadequate the facilities, starting on the potion-making filled him with the same calm as always. The preparation was almost the most fulfilling part, and this time he had the immense satisfaction of correcting and commenting acidly on Lupin's woefully inadequate cleaning skills. All things considered, Snape was practically humming with contentment by the time he was ready to begin.
Through the kitchen window he could see Lupin hard at work weeding the jungle he called a garden. Snape had to admit he could see little worth persevering with. Even weeded it would be little more than a waste ground from the look of it. All the same, Lupin was working his way along the garden methodically, kneeling on a gardening mat and equipped with thick gloves to protect his hands from the thistles and nettles lurking among the prettier harmless weeds.
Satisfied that Lupin would be occupied productively for some time and that he would have a few uninterrupted hours, Snape scrutinized the utensils he had put to one side and settled down to preparing the ingredients for the Wolfsbane potion. He squinted out of the window occasionally to make sure Lupin wasn't spying on him; he had no intention of the man finding out the particular joy he took in making this potion. Every time it was a challenge; every time it took concentration and care to get it right, though it was hard to say whether it was the blend of rare ingredients or the complex timing that gave him more pleasure.
To his credit, when Lupin finally did straighten up from his handiwork in the late afternoon and head back to the cottage, he did peer in at the window to see if it was safe to enter. Snape nodded tersely, one eye on the timer, and opened the door after only a couple of abortive tries by Lupin to do so.
"You locked me out!" Lupin seemed more amused than anything by the idea.
"If you want to risk the potion being ruined or at least rendered ineffective, by all means traipse in and out as you please all day long."
The smile disappeared quickly. "Of course. I'm very grateful you take such care with it, believe me." Lupin took a beer from the fridge and washed down a quick snack with a long drink before shutting the door carefully behind him and returning to the garden.
Snape watched the lean figure as he reached up and pulled a pipe contraption from the roof of the outhouse, lodging it in a frame he hadn't previously noticed on the wall. When he saw Lupin begin to unbutton his grimy shirt and reach for a circular tap, he froze for a moment, realising he was about to shower in front of him.
He only looked up once, just to check for certain if Lupin really had the effrontery to shower naked in full view of the kitchen window.
Apparently he did.
- - - - -
Lupin seemed surprised when Snape began to set up the potions apparatus again the following day.
"I thought you would make it all at once," he confessed, drying the lunch plates and storing them in the cupboard as Snape balanced the cauldron on the stove and examined the chopping board minutely for illicit traces of garlic.
"Wolfsbane doesn't keep well without magical storage." Snape chopped deftly, his fingers a blur. As he turned to reach for the next ingredients, Lupin was watching him, seeming oddly fascinated by the rapid motions of his hands. He scowled.
"I'm sorry you have to go to so much trouble."
There was that sincerity again.
"Are you?" It wasn't really a question.
Lupin sighed. "You know I am, Severus." His voice was weary.
Of course, it was approaching the full moon. Only one more day and then…Snape squeezed his eyes shut for a moment and concentrated on keeping his hands steady. He stayed silent, lips pressed tightly together.
"No, of course you don't."
"What?" Snape couldn't help the snapped query. Lupin sounded tired…disappointed?
"You don't know that I'm sorry. And why would you? It's not as if any of us ever did anything to earn your trust."
Oh for all the…
"Self-pity is spectacularly unattractive in a grown man, Lupin."
"I wouldn't take it if I didn't really need it."
Snape wasn't sure if he was talking about the potion – he was well aware of the purported taste – or his charity.
"I'm sure the thought of it being me that is obliged to spend hours brewing it each month makes it more palatable." He bit his lip at the bitterness that slipped into his voice. "Black certainly seemed to enjoy pointing it out at any opportunity."
Lupin was silent for a long moment.
"Sirius was…wrong. About many things." The low voice was steady, to his surprise. "If he taunted you over that, I can only apologise. It was with no knowledge or wish of mine. I owe you too much gratitude to ever think such a thing."
Snape was too surprised to answer, and just gripped the worktop tightly, eyes fixed unseeing on the garden until Lupin was outside kneeling on his little mat again and pulling on the stiff leather gloves. He locked the kitchen door once more and concentrated on getting the potion underway. It was a relief to be left alone with it.
A complex and beautiful potion may not be everyone's idea of company, but at least it wasn't going to start an awkward conversation or have a nervous breakdown on him.
- - - - -
Whether it was the approaching full moon or stiff muscles from the exertions of the day before, Snape wasn't sure, but Lupin seemed slower and less efficient in his gardening than yesterday. He was sure he saw Lupin wince too, when he knelt down to bend once more to weeding the last overgrown patch in front of the ramshackle shed.
Not that he was watching. His concentration was impeccable; this might be for a man who hated him…or to be fair was at least no friend, but professional pride could not be ignored. While the timer ticked away, in between longing for his own hourglasses and workroom, he mentally sorted through the available ingredients and concocted a salve to help with muscle pain.
Lupin was apparently too tired to notice the second small cauldron bubbling away when he knocked at the back door for entrance and was allowed to step into the kitchen in his dusty boots.
"I'll leave the door unlocked, as I am going to read for a while." Snape handed Lupin the steaming glass and waited for him to down it.
"Thank you, Severus." Lupin drained the Wolfsbane potion with a grimace and sat stiffly on the kitchen chair to remove his boots. Setting them on the back doorstep he headed once more for the rickety shower arrangement and began to undress without a trace of self-consciousness.
Snape was caught between leaving the cauldron unattended while Lupin showered and finishing the salve first.
He was still undecided whether he could bring himself to remain in the kitchen when Lupin's faded jeans were tossed aside and the lean, lightly-muscled body stepped under the uneven stream of water.
He made it as far as the door to the living room before his steps faltered and he turned back for one last look. At the cauldron, of course. The background view was incidental and of no interest whatsoever.
Lupin's hair was dark with the streaming water that merged with it, plastered to his spine in shining streaks. Thin hands ran fingers covered in soap up and down lightly browned arms, and – dear god – legs too as Lupin bent awkwardly to wash them. Clearly he had no idea Snape was still in the kitchen, or surely even he would have taken care not to reveal quite so much intimate flesh as was currently on view.
Snape pressed forward against the kitchen worktop, all too aware of the effect the view was having on him as he felt it dig into the hardness trapped inside his trousers. He pulled away, intent on punishing himself with the dullest book he had brought – it was only a shame he hadn't thought to bring some marking to do right now – when the wet figure in the garden turned slightly. Even in the fading light the view was just clear enough for him to see that he was not the only one with that particular problem.
Except it didn't seem to be presenting too much of a problem for Lupin. Surely the brushes of his soapy hand as he continued to enjoy his shower were going to do nothing to reduce the... too late he realised that reduction was not the intention as Lupin grasped the half-erect flesh in one hand and leaned back, water streaming into his face as he stroked and pulled, abandoning himself to the flow. He turned slowly from side to side under the water as he stroked, bliss on his face and wet skin glinting in the last of the sun, until he collapsed against the whitewashed wall, panting as he held sticky hands out to rinse them under the shower.
Snape leaned heavily against the worktop, pulling his hand out of his trousers guiltily. He almost forgot himself long enough to perform a quick cleaning spell before he remembered he was only to use magic in an emergency. While he could quite easily justify this as an emergency to himself, he wasn't too keen on trying to explain it to anyone else. He punished himself with a good wash in a bowlful of the coldest water he could manage in the poky bathroom instead. Leaning his head forward against the mirror, he wondered just when he became so desperate as to ogle the dead mutt's lover for a cheap thrill.
- - - - -
When Snape returned to the living room Lupin was already in his armchair. Damp hair was still clinging to his face and neck and he had barely bothered to dress again. His shirt was open and if he wasn't mistaken his jeans were merely pulled on and not fastened up fully. Snape felt rather overdressed even having removed the robes he wore for potion making. His shirt seemed starched and unyielding compared to the soft folds that sat comfortably on Lupin's slumped frame.
"Ow. Remind me why I decided to do the garden?" Lupin's head rested against the side of the chair, face contorting in discomfort as he stretched out his legs.
"Lack of common sense. Ridiculous lower class ideas of the benefits of hard work. Standard avoidance tactics. Take your pick Lupin, or I can come up with a few more." Snape couldn't quite reach the normal level of unpleasantness and venom, he found to his surprise. Amazing what a good wank could do for your temper on occasion. He lowered himself carefully onto the unreliable sofa and relaxed slowly, reaching for his book.
Snape looked over sharply, but Lupin's eyes were closed.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Call me Remus. That's my name. I call you Severus, after all."
"Yes, you do." Snape paused. "I'm…not so casual with names."
"It's bad enough that there is no-one left alive that calls me Moony any more. I had just got used to it again too."
Snape almost snorted at the reappearance of the famous self-pity.
"I'm sure Pettigrew would be most willing to oblige."
"If he ever tries that, nothing and no-one will stop me from killing him." Lupin's voice was even, and the truth of the statement evident in the cold smile that twisted his lips. A moment later it was gone.
"But it's true. With Sirius gone…do you realise you are the only contemporary of mine I still see?" He looked at if the thought had only just occurred to him.
Self-pity and insensitivity in one sentence. Lupin had evidently spent far too much time with Black.
"I, on the other hand, see far more of some of them than I would ever wish to."
Lupin looked up sharply; Snape could tell when the meaning became clear to him.
"I'm sorry. I didn't think of that. It must be difficult."
There didn't seem much point in answering such an obvious statement. Lupin fidgeted a little in his chair; he evidently still had something on what passed for his mind.
"I just hate being called 'Lupin'. I don't feel like a person, just a…I don't know, a name on a list or something." He paused. "Not as much as Sirius hated being called Black though." There was a faint reproach in the voice, unless he was imagining it.
Snape couldn't repress a faint smirk. "I know."
Lupin's eyes opened wide and he lifted his head to face Snape. He laughed, a short single bark that unfortunately brought the mutt in question to mind.
"You bastard." There was no rancour in his tone; in fact if anything there was a grudging respect, unless Snape was very much mistaken.
"Am I indeed. In that case you won't be surprised at all if I bottle up that muscle salve in the kitchen without offering you any."
Lupin's eyes opened even wider.
"Severus, if you withhold something like that I will…" He paused, wincing as he settled himself in a more upright position in the chair. "…spread a rumour that you brought with you a large teddy bear." At Snape's look of sudden – and perfectly genuine - horror he added. "With a bow." When there was no further response he summoned up his last reserves and tried once more. "A pink bow?"
Oh. He was teasing him then? And…no, not unpleasantly.
Snape considered for a moment. "There is only so much damage one reputation can take. The salve is yours."
As he made his way into the kitchen to bottle the salve Snape wondered where the faint warmth he felt had come from. Finally he realised he had been enjoying himself with Lupin. Perhaps it wasn't completely impossible that he could learn to call him by his first name after all.
"Where do you want me?"
Snape froze at the words, far too many unlikely answers coming to mind that would certainly spoil the friendly mood.
"What do you mean?" He re-entered the living room to see Lupin once more stripping off his shirt. A frown creased his forehead. What was wrong with the man that he had to keep removing his damned clothes?
"I can't very well rub that into my own shoulders. Or my back. I'm going to need a bit of help." Lupin seemed surprised the idea hadn't occurred to him.
"Right." Snape's eyes darted uncomfortably around the room as if looking for an escape. There didn't seem to be one. He wished he'd left his robes on now – just in case.
"I could sit in front of you on the sofa, I suppose." Lupin eyed the sofa warily before getting up and walking over stiffly. He sat sideways, naked back and shoulders presented to Snape, waiting patiently.
Snape stared, fingers paralysed on the lid of the jar as the clean damp smell of the man at close quarters overwhelmed him. He summoned up the picture of those slavering jaws, the creature with the too bright eyes that watched him in his dreams waiting for a moment of weakness to pounce on him, and finally his hands began to work again.
He unscrewed the lid and dipped two fingers into the salve. He rubbed some on his palm and smoothed it into the skin with one fingertip. Good texture and he could already feel the heat starting to work. It would do. He loaded up his fingers and coated his hands in the waxy gloop. It was still a little warm from the cauldron, slippery and sensual on his hands.
Lupin gasped faintly as his hands touched the bare shoulders. Smoothing his hands along the ridges, mirroring each other, he wiped his hands down over the shoulder blades, allowing the salve to cover the skin and begin working. For full effectiveness however, a little more was needed – if he could do it.
Snape edged back a little, trying to ensure a decent gap between his body and Lupin's. It wouldn't do if he overreacted. Again. Then with a deep breath he placed his hands carefully on the shoulders in front of him and flexed his fingers experimentally. Lupin moaned quietly, taken by surprise, and relaxed into the touch. In minutes he was beyond coherence, body rocking helplessly with each vigorous rub and stroke, groaning appreciatively as Snape concentrated on his knotty muscles and aching back.
"God that's good." Lupin leaned forward to allow Snape access to his lower back. Snape swallowed heavily as the back of the unfastened jeans gaped open, revealing just a brief glimpse of the view he remembered clearly from earlier. But the long back stretched out in front of him, just waiting for his hands to massage the aches and pains away. It was glistening with a smooth coating of the salve now, and he wanted nothing more than to dip his fingers down into that tempting gap and massage the firm buttocks until they shone to match it, maybe even--
He dragged his mind back to the task at hand, uncomfortably aware of his returning arousal. Smooth strokes up and down the bumpy back, the skin uneven in places with old scars but somehow no less appealing for it, and Lupin was breathing heavily with each pass of his fingers. With his hands running all over the man it was hard to keep his mind off the sight of him in the shower, and he let himself drift into the massage, his hands working as they pleased. He was surprised when Lupin gasped loudly and he found his hands had worked their way around to his chest and were busy working their way down to Lupin's ribs of their own accord.
He snatched his hands away quickly, embarrassed at letting himself go so badly. He could feel a tremor starting and looked for somewhere to put his hands, but they were covered in slippery salve and—
Lupin shuffled backwards on the sofa and Snape pulled back as far as he could, the arm digging painfully into his back, his hands still uncertainly held in the air away from his clothing and the half-naked man he didn't dare touch again. Gently reaching back, Lupin's hands brushed his thigh and – god no higher please – eventually located his hands, pulling them back round to rest on his chest as he found little real resistance.
Hands covering Snape's greasy fingers, Lupin began to move, gently nudging and persuading Snape's hands to go with them. Snape held his breath as Lupin unmistakeably pressed back against him, far enough to undoubtedly discover his state of arousal.
Lupin squirmed a little and pressed closer, and Snape wondered why until Lupin urged his hands down past the too-thin ribs and into the hollows emerging from his jeans. He spread his fingers wider as Lupin's still-damp head leaned back to rest on his shoulder, the scent of cheap soap hanging faintly around his hair. Another wriggle and Snape felt his fingers bump warm flesh; hard and eager as any young thing he had known in his youth.
He gave up thinking and let his hands do as they pleased, pulling Lupin more tightly against him as he let his fingers explore the jutting erection that poked out of the open jeans. He watched his hand slide over it slowly, coating every inch in glistening traces of the salve left on his hand. The position was almost as comfortable and easy as working his own cock even with Lupin's bony shoulders digging into his neck. The swollen flesh gleamed under his hand and he was grateful it was impossible for him to lean over and take it in his mouth, or he was sure he would have been unable to resist doing so. Instead he pressed hard against the rocking hips as he moved his hand faster over Lupin's needy cock, groaning as he felt the warm release over his hand seconds before he succumbed to his own.
"Bed?" Lupin's mouth was close to his ear, seeking out Snape's earlobe for a quick nibble as a hand came up to catch hold of his head. Snape stiffened and pulled away after the brief touch; disappointment was clear in Lupin's eyes for a second before his usual calmness returned.
"I'll take that as a 'no' then."
When there was no response, Lupin sighed and pulled himself to his feet. He hitched his open jeans up a little around his narrow hips and padded out of the room loosely, the door swinging shut behind him.
- - - - -
Snape expected things to be awkward the next morning, but if he felt them to be so then Lupin was a better actor than he had imagined. Apparently he had been up early for a trip to the village – very early as it was a long walk – and breakfast was accompanied by fresh eggs and a selection of muggle newspapers.
The last day of their little ritual for now; Lupin had clearly only today left to work on the garden and the Wolfsbane wouldn't be needed again until next month after tonight.
He wasn't going to think about that now. Instead Snape found himself wondering what other potions would be useful to brew while he was here. God forbid he should end up offering to help clean or paint or something equally hideous and uncomfortable to keep busy.
Of course, he had to get through tonight first.
As the day wore on he could feel his nerves overtaking him. His hands shook as he stirred the potion for the last time and watched Lupin dust his gloves off and prepare to shower. There was no show tonight; or at least not from the all too frequent glances out of the window Snape was unable to resist taking from time to time. Lupin seemed wearier than he had seen him since he arrived, listlessly allowing the water to cover him without pleasure or any great effort to wash himself.
The potion was ready for him when he entered the kitchen, wet hair in rat's tails again and still dripping onto the kitchen floor, but clothing fastened this time at least. Snape could tell the mood had changed; a tremor of fear shot through him as he realised it would be dark soon.
Dark, on a full moon. And he would be trapped here with a werewolf who had almost killed him once before and was almost certainly now pissed off with him to some extent. What on earth had he been thinking?
"Are you going to tell me why?" Lupin's voice was croaky, whether from the impending change or the unpleasant potion it was hard to tell.
Snape hardly needed to ask what he was referring to. However, that didn't mean he was ready to share his thoughts. He leaned heavily on the cleared worktop, the first traces of a reflection visible in the window as the sky began to darken.
"I watched you, you know. Last night." Snape's voice was flat, and he was almost shocked when he realised he had spoken out loud. The answer surprised him even more.
He could hear Lupin move restlessly in the chair behind him, but still jumped when he saw the first hint of his reflection behind him.
Lupin laughed, and not pleasantly. "You're so jumpy. You're still afraid of me."
Snape wondered if he was, really.
"No." He paused. "I am afraid of being afraid of you." He was losing his mind apparently, if only for the embarrassing level of honesty he seemed to be descending to.
"There's more to it than that."
Of course there was. The years, the history, not to mention the way he ignored and excused what those friends of his did. Not so important now, if he was honest, and he was being inexcusably honest it seemed. Perhaps there was nothing like being about to face your greatest fear to induce a ridiculous level of self-examination.
And whose fault was it all?
"Black." The name left his mouth before he could prevent it, filled with even greater loathing than normal.
"Sirius?" Lupin seemed genuinely puzzled.
"I can't—" Snape swallowed heavily. "I couldn't sleep where…you and he—"
There was silence for a moment, interrupted only by the sound of his heart pounding as he waited for Lupin's reaction. Obviously his timing was just perfect – what a marvellous idea it was to piss a werewolf off even more just before he has the ability to rip your throat out.
"Severus, Sirius and I never did anything but sleep in that bed, if that's what you mean." Lupin's voice was gentle now, even though it was still hoarser than normal.
"But you were—"
"A long time ago." Lupin's voice was a little wistful. "And still I believed he was capable of…surely that shows you more than anything I could explain about the relationship."
Snape tensed as he felt Lupin move closer to him, tentatively placing a hand on his arm.
"Even if we had wanted to resume something…well you saw him. Sirius wasn't capable of a real relationship after all those years in that place." Bitterness tinged the tired voice for a moment. "And he certainly wasn't capable of a physical relationship."
Snape was shocked. "He wasn't?"
"No." Lupin's voice was firm and sincere, impossible to disbelieve. His hand squeezed Snape's tensed arm and his tone lightened a little. "However, he was my friend, and I loved him dearly, so if you tell anyone about that last part I may have to resort to the teddy bear story after all."
A heavy weight seemed to have lifted from Snape's shoulders as Lupin's chin rested briefly against him, the warm body pressed close to his back for a moment.
"And for god's sake take the bed tonight no matter what. I've had enough of you pretending that sofa is even remotely comfortable." Lupin's voice tailed off as the glow of the sun setting began to fade away.
"Remus." The name sounded odd on his tongue, but no other words seemed to be coming out.
"Not for much longer." Remus panted heavily and his reflection dropped out of view in the window as he fell to the floor.
Snape fought the urge to turn around. He wanted to help – not that there was much he could do - but he was frozen in place, for how long he couldn't tell. As the sun slowly went down, Lupin's pants grew more laboured and a scrabbling of claws joined the heavy breathing. He clung to the kitchen counter as if it was his only means of support, legs growing weaker as the struggle behind him drew to a snarling close. He wouldn't run. He wouldn't.
He could feel it when it happened. Suddenly the presence behind him – down there somewhere – held menace, and he swallowed as he thought of facing it with no trace of Remus' careful veneer over the wolf inside; just pure animal. Animal, he repeated to himself. Animal, not monster. Not any more, thanks to him.
That was enough to make him look down. The wolf grinned at him as he met its eyes; there was no other word for it. He almost laughed at himself. The jaws dripping blood and the wild haunted eyes that tormented his nights periodically bore little or no resemblance to the overlarge canine that was panting against his leg, intelligent brown eyes meeting his.
He tried a faint smile back as it nudged his leg, clearly urging him to the bedroom.
"Yes, I know."
The wolf trotted ahead, turning at the doorway as if to ask a silent question. Snape settled himself on one side of the bed – it was even worse than it looked, he would see about ordering a new one if he was going to be sleeping in it for the next few weeks – and looked towards the door.
With a long-suffering sigh he looked at the hopefully swaying tail and the eyes that were unmistakeably still Remus.
"Oh for god's sake, it's your bed."
When the wolf showed no sign of moving he gave in and patted the mattress beside him. The wolf was bounding up onto the bed in a second, nuzzling and poking its cold nose into his neck.
"Enough, enough." He had to draw the line somewhere.
The wolf reluctantly settled down, the heavy head resting on Snape's leg. It was not too unpleasant, if he was completely truthful. He allowed his fingers to tangle gently in the long fur on the beast's neck, wondering at the tiny noises of pleasure and the thump of the tail as he did so.
He leaned back into the pillows and the scent of Remus, closing his eyes.
"Good night, Remus." He paused as the wolf moved its head restlessly on his leg at that. No, that wasn't quite right.
"Good night, Moony."