Disclaimer: My first Severus/Remus. Firstly, I would like to thank Wren for being my
muse, Reive for putting Severus inside my head and refusing to make him leave, and PW
for writing such damn good Severus/Remus, to which I have aspired. So, read and
review, and stuff, because, uh, I said so.

A Match With the Moon

It was 3:45 in the PM and Severus Snape's tea had been delivered promptly, as usual, by a house elf. The teapot was the same teapot; its obnoxious floral pattern matched the one that bordered the teacup itself. There was a folded napkin upon which was placed the familiar, small, and equally floral plate; upon this plate was the usual collection of teacakes, which Severus tended to leave untouched, unless he had foregone lunch. The only oddity about the tea, indeed, was that it had been delivered with a letter.

For a while Severus stared at the letter like a contaminated thing, as if his tea had been delivered with a dead rat tucked in between the tea cup and the cream, and then he drank two cups of tea, all the while surveying it.

After his tea, Severus took the letter off the tray, setting it on his desk, so that when the house elf came to recover said tray it would not also take the letter away. Then, Severus began to grade his first year's papers.

At 4:06, completely disgusted with the illiteracy displayed in his first year's papers, Severus threw down his quill, and picked up his unexpected and admittedly confusing letter.

The letter read:

Tomorrow, when I am drunk on sunlight,
I will still feel the furtive glances,
the unchaste kisses and the wet skin
imprinting me until I am born again.

-Henri Cole

Severus Snape stared at the letter for a few minutes after he had read it, not reading it, and then crumpled it up, tossing it into the trash.

The next day, with the arrival of Severus Snape's tea at 3:45 in the PM, there was the teacup and the cream and the teapot and the napkin and the plate with the teacakes. And there was also another letter. The handwriting was the same, though still unfamiliar.

This time, Severus read the note first.

...the love which us doth bind,
But fate so enviously debars,
Is the conjunction of the mind,
And opposition of the stars.

-Andrew Marvell

For the second time, Severus Snape gave the letter a curdling look - a practical joke one of his oh-so-very-funny students was no doubt attempting to play - and crumpled it up, throwing it away. Refusing to give the note another thought, he drank his tea, and actually managed to get through those first year papers to grade them. (Every single one of his first year Potions students was assigned a re-write.)

The next day, Severus was in a foul mood at tea-time. 3:45 came; the house elf arrived, bearing his tea; the house elf left, bearing the brunt of Severus's annoyance; and there was a note again, tucked into that now familiar place upon the tray. Pouncing on it and grabbing it up as if it were a criminal, he opened it without a moment's pause, and read.

It lies not in our power to love or hate,
For will in us is overruled by fate.
When two are stripped, long ere the course begin,
We wish that one should lose, the other win;
And one especially do we affect
Of two gold ingots, like in each respect:
The reason no man knows; let it suffice
What we behold is censured by our eyes.
Where both deliberate, the love is slight:
Who ever loved, that loved not at first sight?

-Christopher Marlowe

This was a more intelligent poem. It was time, Severus decided at that, time to start considering the poetry, and somewhere in the unacknowledged recesses of his brain he kicked himself for having thrown out the previous two poems. Those had, indeed, seemed more juvenile, simple and mundane prattling on paper about love. (That Severus was not a fan of Marvell's work did not help such a conclusion.)

And so Severus considered this poem. It was rather easy to comprehend, at that, the last line a simple closing statement, but it was well done, tying into cohesiveness the entire statement of the poem. If he was to start thinking of these letters as being sent in earnest - and that was if, of course, if and only if - then he would need to start considering that line, which had been written in bolder script, for emphasis. This was a clue, he decided firmly, though what the clue was, he had yet to see.

The next day at 3:35 Severus Snape was watching the clock. He was watching the clock in an accusatory way, one that pinned the poor thing to the wall like a butterfly on a specimen tray for not yet showing him the desired time.

At 3:45 in the PM, the house elf shuffled in, and Severus took that moment to draw himself up to his full height before the creature, and then, to accost it.

"Tell me, then," Severus demanded, in his most intimidating of voices, "where are these bloody letters," and here he plucked the folded parchment off the tray, brandishing it like a weapon, "coming from?" The house elf, short to begin with, seemed to shrink at least three good inches, threatening to disappear entirely. (No doubt it would have, had
Severus not been so very menacing.)

"Naddy doesn't know where the letters are coming from, sir!" the house elf squeaked in desperation. "If Naddy knew he would tell you, right away, sir! Naddy didn't even see any letters, when he was bringing up the tea!"

"That is all," Severus said, clipped, and waved the small creature away.

At least he had learned something of vague helpfulness: the letters had to have been arriving on his tray by some sort of charm or another. How clever.

He forced himself, this time, to drink his tea and eat a teacake before he opened up the note, but he did all this while engaged in a staring contest with his own, written name, which was gazing up at him from that pleasant yellow square of parchment. If looks could kill, the letter would have burst into flames right then and there, terrified into fiery death by the look in Severus's obsidian eyes.

When at last Severus unfolded the slip of paper he found that the handwriting had become uncomfortably familiar.

But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.

-William Shakespeare

It did help that Severus liked Shakespeare.

However, Shakespeare was a rather easy choice as poets went; he could even name the sonnet to which the four lines belonged. From Fairest Creatures. As the other excerpts had been from lesser-known poets, he wondered what in the blazes the anonymous sender was driving at.

Or perhaps Severus wasn't even intended to know that much about his or her (or even its, if 'it' was perhaps that repulsive Weasley boy, or something equally revolting) motives, yet.

At 3:43 in the PM of the next day Severus was tapping the arm of his chair impatiently and staring rather more benignly at his clock. After all, receiving these poetry posts were at least sent with some meager modicum of intelligence behind their selection, and reading them was certainly a better past time than correcting his first year essay re-writes. At 3:44 in the PM Severus wondered if perhaps Granger was sending the letters, but brushed that thought off as ludicrous and almost laughable. One, having Granger send him these letters in seriousness was almost as repugnant an idea as was the thought of the Weasley boy sending him poetry as some pathetic form of prank mail. Two, Granger was far too busy getting everything right to bother with poetry.

At 3:45 in the PM the house elf - Naddy, as house elf names tended to be both juvenile and cruelly humorous - brought in the tea, and Severus savored it this time, teacup in one hand, letter in the other.

After his third cup of tea and his second teacake (they were rather nice, he had to admit, especially the lemon-flavored ones), Severus unfolded the note, smoothed it out with nimble fingers, and read.

What is your substance, whereof are you made,
That millions of strange shadows on you tend?
Since every one hath, every one, one shade,
And you, but one, can every shadow lend.

-William Shakespeare

Severus liked the way the S was written at the beginning of Shakespeare; with a slight loop at the top, a thin letter, obviously written by a precise hand. Taking out the note received the day before he compared the two, and found, to some strange satisfaction, that the S's in the beginning of Shakespeare were exactly the same in both.

The next day was a week before the full moon and Severus had to miss his tea to bring Remus Lupin the Wolfsbane Potion. Normally, Severus did not deliver this potion in the best of moods. Missing the precision of his afternoon tea ritual, the comfort of that routine (at first infiltrated, and now enhanced, by the wily poetry), Severus moved through the halls like a gathering stormcloud, and finally burst into a glower of dark gray gloom at Remus's door.

"Lupin. Here," Severus said, shoving the potion out at Remus, through the opened door, and letting it go quite unceremoniously in the smaller man's hands.

"Why, thank you, Severus," Remus replied, cheerful as ever, despite the glare he was receiving, despite the stench of the potion he now held.

"Hn," Severus muttered and, turning on his heel, left immediately.

Remus watched him storm down the halls, a great black inkblot from behind, and sighed a little, the wrinkles at the corners of his own eyes becoming apparent. With a click of the lock, the man disappeared into the comfortably private embrace of his room, wishing sincerely that potions could be made to taste and preferably smell, too, like chocolate.

When Severus returned to his own chambers, his tea was sitting on his coffee table, getting cold, whilst the teacakes themselves were getting far too hard for casual snacking. It was 4:13. It was all right, though, that the teacakes were no longer fresh and that the tea water was tepid, as it had not, exactly, been the tea Severus was looking forward to.

Feeling like one of his foolish little first years, Severus went immediately to the note.

Drink to me only with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup
And I'll not look for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove's nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.

-Ben Johnson

After reading, Severus glanced from the letter clasped in his hands to the tea, set out, undisturbed, on the tray. He set the letter down with the others - it seemed he was forming a veritable collection, something that was intensely stupid of him - then warmed the water in the teapot once more, and settled down to drink.

At supper that evening Severus got the distinct impression he was being watched but, try though he might to search out the eyes he felt on him, he had no success. Thus it was that, when Remus Lupin approached him in the halls, when he was returning to his rooms, Severus was in yet another foul mood; this one, perhaps, even fouler than the last. Remus Lupin truly had uncanny luck.

"I was wondering, Severus," Remus asked, startling Severus out of his murky thoughts, "if you might like to have tea with me, tomorrow."

"No," Severus replied and, putting on a little burst of dramatic speed, was off in a billowing of robes down the hall.

"Ah well," Remus Lupin said, and smiled, secretively, to himself.

At 3:45 in the PM of the next day Severus had been trying for an hour to convince himself about how little he cared that it was only an hour, only forty five minutes, only half an hour, only fifteen minutes, until 3:45 in the PM, better known around Hogwarts as tea time. At 3:45 in the PM it was a good thing the house elf's arrival was very very prompt, as Severus had indeed failed to convince himself of anything at all.

He fixed the house elf with a searing look.

"Are you sure you have absolutely no idea where these bloody letters are coming from, you miserable creature?" The house elf shrank back, wringing its hands, looking very miserable indeed.

"Naddy is quite sure, he is," the house elf squeaked, "no idea where, oh no, no idea where from." Severus rolled his eyes and shooed the creature away, preferring to be alone in taking his tea. After all, it was either be pestered by the infernal house elf or be pestered by the infernal Remus J. Lupin and neither of those options were preferable to sipping his tea and searching out the lemon cakes and reading his daily note, quite thankfully alone.

I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did till we loved? were we not weaned till then,
But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in Seven Sleepers' den?
'Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be.
If ever any beauty I did see
Which I desired, and go, 'twas but a dream of thee.

-John Dunne

"The Good Morrow," Severus said, speaking to himself or, rather, thinking aloud.

That night, after supper - all throughout which Severus again got the feeling as if he were being subtly watched, by eyes that weren't quite looking at him but were perhaps imagining doing so - Severus heard footsteps coming up behind him.

"Heavens, Lupin," Severus said, the scowl in his voice so that he did not need even to be bothered with turning around, "what is it you want now?"

"Perhaps, tea tomorrow?" Remus asked, his voice light like the wings of an owl, and sweet, like early morning cocoa.

Severus disliked early morning cocoa, and what had the Owl Post ever brought for him?

"Busy," Severus replied, and Remus did not press the matter, watching him almost-flee once more down the long, winding hall.

"Well," Remus told himself, smiling sadly, "that was better than a 'no,' now wasn't it?"

The house elf was beginning to catch on. When 3:40 in the PM rolled around
Naddy had brought up a nice tray of tea with only the lemon cakes on the cheerful plate and Severus stared in a strange, dismal sort of disappointment when he realized - at 3:40 and thirty three seconds - that, because of the time, there was no letter tucked in neatly between tea cup and miniature pitcher of cream.

"Well then?" Severus bellowed to the terrified house elf. "Why in Merlin's name are you standing around? Get out!" Without a word of protest - only an undignified cry of despair - Naddy turned tail and ran. Severus sank down into the chair, hands folded beneath his chin, to wait, and watch.




"Oh, for gods' sakes," Severus muttered to himself, and he began to pour his tea.

At 3:45 in the PM, while Severus was drinking his tea and valiantly attempting to focus his mind on other things - bloody Potter child, bloody dunderheaded Potter child - he missed the apparation of the note, right next to the cream, and when he went to pour himself another cup of tea he found himself quite pleasantly surprised. With precise movements he set his cup of tea down and picked up the folded piece of paper, enjoying how his name looked on the front of it.

Settling back into his chair, Severus unfolded the letter, and read.

Inclose me still for fear I start;
Be to me rather sharp and tart,
Than let me want thy hand and art.

Such sharpness shows the sweetest friend,
Such cuttings rather heal than rend,
And such beginnings touch their end.

-George Herbert

Severus read that one twice.

After dinner that night Severus paused, once right outside the Great Hall, and listened for the footsteps that, to his own smug satisfaction, came presently.

"Severus?" Remus Lupin's voice asked unassumingly, all the while assuming far too much, from behind him.

"What, Lupin?" Severus hoped his tone was discouraging enough to keep the silly, hopeless man from even asking that silly, hopeless question. For a moment, the question did not come, and there was only silence, Severus poised there, just before movement, with Remus frozen behind him.

"I was wondering if, perhaps, you would not be so busy as to have tea with me, today," Remus asked finally, and the tension in the air was dropped.

"Busy again," Severus replied easily.

"It's a pity," Remus remarked, before Severus had a chance to hurry away.

"I think not." Severus's words could have cut dragon hide.

The next day, at 3:45 in the PM, the letter read:

It may be strange-yet who would change
Time's course to slower speeding,
When one by one our friends have gone
And left our bosoms bleeding?

Heaven gives our years of fading strength
Indemnifying fleetness;
And those of youth, a seeming length,
Proportion'd to their sweetness.

-Thomas Campbell

The poem was such a shock to Severus's system that he could not identify at first why it was he was so stunned, or how it was it differed from the others so very drastically. It was personal, terribly personal in a way love poetry hardly ever was - for love was such a vast concept and poems about it could relate to most anyone, under the proper circumstances. This was terribly, terribly different and the idea that it was, indeed, a prank crept back into his mind in full force, though he wondered who of his damnable students would be wise enough, sage enough, to think of this as their tour de force.

With darkness shading his face and filling his eyes black upon bruised and deadly black Severus began to correct his seventh years' tests with a vengeance, crossing things out right and left with a fearsome quill.

That night Severus did not go to dinner. Certainly, he was not trying to escape Remus Lupin or that unending, unnerving question; rather, it was best for both of them for Severus not to turn and bite his colleague's silly little head off.

At 8:23, after the clouds had pulled up over the near full moon, Severus found that someone was knocking at his door.

"Don't come in," he snapped impatiently at it, and waited. Apparently, though, Remus Lupin was fool enough to take that for an invitation, and the door slipped open far enough for the small man to poke his russet-colored head in.

"Are you all right, Severus? You were missed at supper today." The most trying thing to Severus's patience was that the bloody man sounded genuinely concerned.

"Yes, yes, I'm quite all right, but no, I will not have tea with you, tomorrow," Severus returned irritably, scowling in Remus's general direction.

"I wasn't going to ask," Remus said simply, with a slight, bittersweet smile. He closed the door courteously behind him after he left.

Tea time came the next day, prompt as ever - but none too early, as Naddy had learned his lesson easily enough; that being, never try to help Professor Snape - and Severus opened up the letter that arrived upon his tray with a dread nervousness that he intensely disliked. Whoever was writing these letters knew him far too well for his state of possessing absolutely no reciprocal knowledge. Luckily, though, it seemed the poetry had been turned back towards the topic of love.

I can give not what men call love:
But wilt thou accept not
The worship the heart lifts above
And the heavens reject not,
The desire of the moth for the star,
Of the night for the morrow,
The devotion to something afar
From the sphere of our sorrow?

-Percy Bysshe Shelley

That night was the night of the full moon and there was no Remus Lupin at supper. Severus breathed either a sigh of relief or a slight groan of disappointment, but it was hard for anyone to tell which it was.

When 3:55 in the PM came around the next day and still no letter had appeared Severus rang for Naddy.

"There is no letter to be had for you today, sir!" the house elf exclaimed in a strange, simple flurry of relief. "Naddy is glad that it is no longer to be bothering you, sir."

"You pathetic idiot," Severus snarled, "get out."

When 3:45 approached the next day Severus found there was only a sick sort of anticipation - hunger, he told himself, bloody hunger, and absolutely nothing more - in the very pit of his stomach, one that both disturbed him and annoyed him simultaneously. The house elf brought his tea with appropriate bowing and scraping, but another hopeful smile upon its wide and useless lips.

"Naddy is bringing you a letter today, sir," the house elf was practically beaming, "and Naddy is still not knowing how he is bringing it, sir, or where it is coming from!"

"Excellent," Severus returned dryly. "Now do get out."

"Sir is not yelling at Naddy!" the house elf stated with barely repressed glee, and Severus swore that if it clacked its heels together as it left, he might have to kill it, and that would have made an awful mess. Luckily for the other house elves - who would have done all the cleaning, after all - Naddy did not, indeed, do a little house elf dance. And frankly, Severus's life was too surreal, as of late, for him to be able to handle it.

Refusing to admit that he was relieved, Severus unfolded the rectangle of parchment and drank in the sight of the familiar handwriting, before he even began to savor the words.

Oh lift me from the grass!
I die! I faint! I fail!
Let thy love in kisses rain
On my lips and eyelids pale.
My cheek is cold and white, alas!
My hear beats loud and fast;--
Oh! press it to thine own again,
Where it will break at last.

-Percy Bysshe Shelley

That night Remus Lupin had returned to the professor's table at supper, but, Severus noticed, he was barely even touching his food. His face was drawn, pale; it was obvious, suddenly, that his gold-brown hair was threaded with silver, and his whiskey-brown eyes were filled with ghostly shadow.

Heavens help us, Severus thought to himself, and proceeded to scowl like a ten year old down into his plate.

"I was wondering, Severus," Remus said, right on schedule, approaching the man after the meal was over, outside in the hall, "if you might like to have tea with me, tomorrow?"

"Why do you persist in asking, you stubborn creature?" Severus demanded, fixing Remus with a curdling look.

"I believe you may have discovered the answer already: because I am quite a stubborn creature. And I take it that is a no?"

"Precisely," Severus nearly hissed, before storming off.

When he returned the next day from teaching a class of particularly unresponsive Ravenclaws and impossibly idiotic Hufflepuffs, it was 3:47 in the PM - he had needed some extra time to recuperate, not to mention clean the poor classroom from three unforeseen and utter disasters. Severus was quite looking forward to the idea of tea, though the letter, this go around, was unusually short.

However, it did not disappoint.

Sipping lightly at his cooling tea, Severus read.

...of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: "It might have been!"

-John Greenleaf Whittier

With a snort, Severus tossed the letter down onto the tabletop, and fixed it with a questioning glare.

"Truth," he muttered irritably, "is not, despite what some people may think, poetry." But poetry is truth, a nagging voice in the back of his head said, or, at least, good poetry is. Utterly disgusted with himself, Severus went on to do his work, but after a while tucked that last note into a hidden pocket in his robes, keeping it close.

That night after supper Remus did not ask Severus to tea. Severus could not determine whether he was relieved or disappointed but, upon further consideration, decided it could not possibly be the latter, and went through the rest of his evening trying almost successfully not even to think on it.

Before tea the next day Severus watched with shriveling consideration the possible letter culprits, if culprits there were.

There was, first of all, Weasley, who stared up at Severus when he realized he was being watched with an almost bovine horror. No, no; certainly not intelligent enough, which was fortunate, because that theory was becoming more and more horrifying to Severus as time passed. So, it was not a Weasley prank, fortunately.

Then, there was Granger, who had not enough passion in her to so much as read poetry, much less select it with the careful eye and attention to emotional detail as his letters had revealed.

And Potter? Well, yes, what about Potter. Severus's eyes narrowed, watching the boy with a hate that bordered on simply being put out of joint, a hate that had been refined to a most terrifying art. No, Severus decided at last, it was not Potter playing a prank either, because the boy was simply not original enough, not to mention the fact that he was constantly treading on bloody eggshells when it came to such things. Blatant disregard for the rules was one thing; actually thinking up such revenge was something that the boy was entirely not resourceful enough to even attempt.

So that was really it, then. Feeling oddly relieved without being quite able to put a finger on exactly why, Severus gave the three veritable banes of his existence foreboding looks despite their obvious innocence, just for good measure.

At 3:45 in the PM, the house elf scurried in with the tea tray, and set it down before Severus before scurrying out.

Severus went immediately for the letter, having dropped all pretenses. Really, he had no one to pretend he was quite uncaring about this all to.

Ask me no more: the moon may draw the sea;
The cloud may stoop from heaven and take shape,
With fold to fold, of mountain or of cape;
But O too fond, when I have answer'd thee?
Ask me no more.

Ask me no more: thy fate and mine are seal'd:
I strove against the stream and all in vain:
Let the great river take me to the main:
No more, dear love, for at a touch I yield;
Ask me no more.

-Alfred, Lord Tennyson

"I honestly don't know what I've done to deserve this," Severus muttered, as if the letter could somehow hear him, could somehow likewise respond. He waited for a foolish moment before he realized that it couldn't, and likewise couldn't, and so he tucked this letter too into the folds of his robes, and decided to get some work done before supper.

That night at supper, sitting in his familiar place at the long table in the Great Hall, Severus found he rather missed the feeling of eyes on him. After he left, he lingered by the door, no doubt completely taken over by some unfortunate case of madness, but
Remus had stayed on to speak with Albus, and so Severus stormed back to his rooms to wait for 3:45 in the PM of the morrow, when Naddy would most assuredly bring his tea, and his letter.

At 3:45 in the PM of the next day, Severus's letter was there and his tea was forgotten, now the entirely unnecessary part of tea-time, in general. In fact, the tea had become merely the excuse for the more important ritual that came along with it.

He opened the letter quickly - he would pause later to admire the precision with which the S was written at the beginning of his name on the front, the same every other S before it, later.

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

-Alfred, Lord Tennyson

It was then that Severus had a brilliant idea. Perhaps, mired in the poetry, he had simply not thought to think of this before; but really, it was so simple, only requiring an active role, on his part, something far less passive than sitting away in his room, having his tea at 3:45, reading the poems with his tea, and moving on just like a mere cog in the mechanisms of his own routine. With a little sound of chastisement, Severus scrabbled about for a bit of parchment and his own quill, and began to write.

Who in Merlin's name are you?

That being the product, Severus felt vaguely sheepish it had taken him nearly fifteen minutes to write. Folding the paper in two and settling it down again between the cream and the teacup, he watched, breath bated, to see if anything would happen.




"Oh, for gods' sakes," Severus muttered to himself, and at that moment, the letter disappeared. Trying not to look smug, Severus nodded, and prepared himself for a long near-twenty-four hours in wait for the coming tea-time.

After supper that night Severus heard footsteps in the hall, following him; he straightened his back, and looked over his shoulder.

"Yes?" he said to Remus Lupin, who was making his shabbily dressed way after Severus, an absent smile turning his face into something admittedly very pleasing to look at. There were lines, yes, in the corners of his eyes, but the smile that danced in them made him look younger rather than older. In the candlelight of the hall the silver mingled with gold of the slight man's hair seemed to be royal rather than aging; and there was grace in his movements, in his hands, in his lithe, almost unselfconscious body. Severus found that, lacking any response from the other, he had to force himself to look away. It was then that Remus, infuriating as always, chose to speak.

"I was wondering, Severus, if you might like to have tea with me tomorrow?" The question was, as always, temptation.

"We'll see," Severus replied, before he stalked off.

"Progress," Remus nearly hummed to himself, "progress."

The next day 3:45 in the PM could not come fast enough for Severus Snape, who had snapped at nearly double the usual amount of hapless fools who crossed his path on this, the most unfortunate of days to do so. Severus was nearly livid by the time the house elf brought his tea, for how dare anyone upset his routine this way, tilting the balance of the scales, making things uneven, and uncertain, at that!

Severus snatched up the note hastily, as soon as the house elf had gone, and read.

Soothe! Soothe! Soothe!
Close on the wave soothes the wave behind,
And again another behind embracing and lapping, every one close,
But my love soothes not me, not me.

Low hangs the moon, it rose late,
It is lagging-O I think it is heavy with love, with love.

O madly the sea pushes upon the land,
With love, with love.

-Walt Witman

Do please try to follow the form, Severus.

Severus was not expecting the intimacy of finding his name on the inside, the suddenness of seeing something so out of the ordinary; a personalized message, beneath the poem. He swallowed, and tried to frown but failed, and, having his quill and another sheet of parchment ready, he began to write.

But yet in vain thou hast my ruin sought,
In vain thou mad'st me to vain things aspire,
In vain thou kindlest all thy smoky fire.
For virtue hath this better lesson taught,
Within myself to seek my only hire,
Desiring nought but how to kill desire.

-Sir Philip Sidney

Having written, Severus set down his quill, heart in his chest set to a fractionally faster pace, and folded up the reply. He tucked it neatly, very precisely, in its spot between the teacup and the cream, and waited.

Only when it had disappeared did he mutter to himself, "Writing poetry like a schoolboy! What in blazes comes next?"

After supper that night he ignored Remus most pointedly, so that when the man came up behind him, he continued walking. Remus followed.

"Tea tomorrow, then, Severus?" Remus asked, feet clapping the floor beneath him in a steady, rhythmic pace.

"Perhaps," Severus bit out, and regretted giving in immediately. If Remus Lupin was a fool - and he most assuredly was - then Severus Snape was hardly any better. It drove him absolutely mad.

"Perhaps," Remus said to himself, turning the word over and over again in his mouth, and deciding he truly liked it.

The next day, at 3:45 in the PM, there were no pretenses whatsoever and Severus opened the letter with the unrestrained hunger of a feral beast, too long trapped within a cage of his own making.

It read:

All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might'st seek it in My arms.
All which thy child's mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home
Rise, clasp My hand, and come!

-Francis Thompson

Holding his quill like any other man might hold a sword, Severus thought for a good half hour, and then made his reply.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die,
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.

-Alexander Pope

Severus folded it, once the ink had dried, so that it had crisp, perfectly symmetrical edges, and then he set it in its place and watched the space where it had been, after it disappeared, for a long while.

"What am I doing, do I think?" he asked at last.

But there was no reply.

"Don't ask it," Severus told Remus that night, after supper, before he had even approached, "as I am waiting for something that will arrive, at tea-time, tomorrow. Perhaps, another time."

"Perhaps," Remus told him, with a shrug, and a sparkle in his eye.

Severus gave him a scouring look, nodded once, and hurried off.

It was 3:45 in the PM.

It was a Tuesday.

The house elf named Naddy scuttled in, and set down the tray with it's simple tea and its often abandoned lemon cakes and its plain white napkin and matching floral tea-for-one in front of Severus Snape, on his writing desk. Severus Snape did not say thank you but, in his distraction, he almost did.

Severus Snape poured himself a full cup of tea.

Then, he drank his full cup of tea.

Then, he poured himself another and, while stirring in the sugar and the cream, opened his letter, and read.

Drug nor isolation will cure this cancer:
It is now or never, the hour of the knife,
The break with the past, the major operation.

-C. Day Lewis

Have tea with me.

In the silence that followed his reading of the letter Severus found that silence was absolute, lacking the sound even of breaths being drawn to one's lips, of rhythms beaten out by the palpitations of one's own heart. It was 3:49 and forty-seven seconds, too late for one to join Remus Lupin for a punctual tea. Somehow, though, Severus got the distinct impression that Remus Lupin would not mind even if he were hours late and, with that in mind, he gathered himself up, tucking the bit of folded paper into that same pocket of his robes, and made his way through the silent halls. Everyone, it seemed, was savoring their afternoon ritual; stirring in too much sugar, no doubt, or too much cream, stuffing their face with the sweet cakes, probably the cinnamon ones, because the lemons would be far too advanced for their greedy palates. Well, everyone, except Remus Lupin, who would be sitting there, teacup in hand, staring off into some Other Space, distracted from this world, distracted, certainly, from eating.

For a man who had never had tea with Remus Lupin before, Severus had a very, very good idea for what having tea with Remus Lupin would be like.

Severus rapped the knuckle of his forefinger twice upon the door to Remus
Lupin's quarters, and waited a quarter or so of a minute (not that he was truly counting) for the door to be opened. Remus stood there, graceful, delicate hand on the doorknob, lips quirked up into a half smile.

"Hullo," Remus Lupin said.

"Yes," Severus replied.

"Would you like to come in?"

"I think so, yes," Severus managed.

"Then by all means, do," Remus said, stepping back, and holding the door open wider, to let Severus in.

"Yes," Severus said, looking about the room for a mere handful of seconds, while Remus closed the door behind him.

"Did what you were expecting arrive?" Remus asked, sudden and soft.

"It bloody well did," Severus replied, turning around to fix Remus with a look that wondered why, exactly, the man was attempting to play games with him now.

"Well," Remus said, and here, he couldn't help but smile, "good." They stood at angles to each other for a minute or two after that, watching, gauging, waiting, gauging, and then Remus took a step forward, quite proud to see that Severus could hold his ground.

It was 4:01 in the PM and as Remus reached up, cupping Severus's face in his hands, Severus thought that it was a very nice time indeed to put his arms around Remus's waist. Pulling the smaller form up close against his own, Severus could feel the vertebrae in Remus's lower back. And then Remus Lupin leaned up, closing the time, the distance, bridging the barrier of words, standing between them, and kissed Severus on the lips. Hard.

It was 6:53 in the PM, and it was still a Tuesday. Nestled in the curve of
Severus's arms, Remus seemed to be sleeping, a peaceful, rhythmic sort of sleep that was intensely pleasant to listen to. It was private, the embrace, private and very calming, skin against skin, Severus's lips pressed into Remus's hair.

He had been stroking the line of Remus's shoulder, pale, smooth skin not for a moment becoming less fascinating to Severus's fingertips, for ten and a half minutes.

"Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves," Severus whispered, unheard against the top of Remus's ear, warm, lost words, warm, necessary words,
"A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me.

"Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
"And slips into the bosom of the lake:
"So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
"Into my bosom, and be lost in me."