Author: Marianne C. Malfoy
Rating: High PG-13
Disclaimer: All characters (apart from Prof Dolohov) etc. belong to J.K.Rowling, Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books et al. I make no financial gain from writing this story, so don't bother suing me as all there is in my Gringotts vault is one small cucumber which I plan to use for bartering purposes when society as we know it is falling apart due to nuclear armageddon. And £8.50 to pay for book no.5 – take it and die. A horrible, painful, warty death.
Author's Note: This fic was inspired by the REM song of the same name. It is dedicated to my wonderful muse, who has been pestering me to finish this fic for a number of days.
"No, you have to put the bezoar in next." The dark-haired boy said quietly.
His brown-haired friend looked relieved, "Thanks. And after that it's the boomslang?"
"That's right." Severus looked at Remus, "You're doing well." He smiled shyly at the other boy and went back to stirring the potion.
"I don't think Sirius is, though." Remus said, nodding his head to where his two other friends were frantically trying to get rid of the black smoke that was beginning to pour from their cauldron.
Severus fought the urge to smirk, but felt a small sense of satisfaction that his tormentors were coming unstuck, as they usually did in Potions lessons.
"I'd better go and help." Remus said, glancing at Professor Dolohov's turned back before walking furtively over to his friends' cauldron. Severus scowled after him. Whenever he and Remus were together the other two managed to get him away somehow. He was always second best to Remus' other friends.
"Lupin! What do you think you're doing? I specifically said there was to be no helping the other students!" Professor Dolohov's voice cut sharply across the room to where Remus was standing next to Sirius and James' cauldron holding a few strips of boomslang skin.
For a few moments there was silence and a few Slytherins began to snigger in expectation of points being lost by the Gryffindors.
Professor Dolohov's eyes narrowed, "That's a detention and 10 -"
"It was my fault, Professor!" Severus said, quickly. "I ran out of boomslang and asked Lupin to borrow some off Black and Potter."
There was a pause when Remus looked, shocked, at Severus, then pulled himself together and nodded, clutching the strands of skin as evidence.
Professor Dolohov looked unconvinced and disapproving, "You know very well that borrowing ingredients is not permitted. If you have run out of an ingredient, use your Hogsmeade weekend to purchase new supplies. But, as we are near the end of the lesson you may borrow the boomslang from Black. Five points from Slytherin for being unprepared for a lesson."
The Slytherins grumbled and glared at Severus as Remus hurried back over to him and sat down. Sacrificing points for a Gryffindor – he wouldn't be popular in the Slytherin Common Room tonight. Not that he was anyway, and he didn't care what the others thought of him. He'd spent six years trying to please his housemates and it had got him nowhere and left him hating them even more.
"Why did you do that?" Remus asked.
Severus shrugged, "There's no point in you getting a detention for something like that. Potter and Black would only blame me, anyway."
Remus frowned at him slightly, "Well, thank you, anyway. Now stop being nice to me. Your house are getting restless."
Severus flashed him a shy, wolfish grin, "It was worth it."
He turned back to the cauldron and Remus watched him for a moment, as he tucked a strand of black hair behind his ear, his eyes focused intently on the potion they were brewing. This Severus was rare, only appearing when he was, it seemed, relaxed or with Remus. The rest of the time, a scowl came down like a dark cloud over his features and he became abrupt, abrasive and unfriendly. Remus felt pleased and proud that he had his own part of Severus which no one else ever saw, and felt a strangely possessive desire to keep that Severus secret, his own and nobody else's.
The end of the lesson soon
came and they began to pack away their things. Remus and Severus cleared up in
amiable silence and soon they were the only ones left in the room.
"Are you going to risk the Common Room?" Remus asked as they picked up their bags and walked through the door.
Severus shook his head, "I might stay in the library for a bit and let them get bored of wanting to hex me. I have some work to do, anyway."
"I might join you. It's fine working in the Gryffindor Tower if by work you mean chess or exploding snap, but with Sirius, James and Peter around I'm never going to get my Charms homework done."
"Too right," said a loud voice behind him as Sirius bounded up and threw an arm round Remus' shoulders. "Don't tell me you're turning traitor on us and working." He said the word with pronounced dislike, as though the very thought disgusted him. He turned his disdainful gaze on Severus. "Any reason you're still here, Snape?"
Remus watched the shutters fall closed across Severus' face as he glared at the other black haired boy. Without a word, he turned and walked off in the direction of the library. Watching Severus turn the corner, Remus turned on Sirius.
"Why do you always have to be such a bastard to him? He got me out of trouble and saved us ten points, and all you can do is be spiteful. You could at least show a bit of gratitude. You're really childish sometimes, you know that?" Remus said angrily, glaring at his friend.
Sirius grinned, slinging his arm around Remus' shoulder again, "Oh, shut up. He's a greasy git and he deserves it. I don't know why you're bothered; anyone would think you like him."
Remus shook Sirius' arm off angrily, "Maybe I do. He's a nice guy if you talk to him, but you never give him a chance!"
Sirius and James laughed, "Yeah, right."
Remus sighed and glared at the two of them, marching off down the corridor to the Gryffindor Tower with the others following behind him sniggering.
That evening, as he sat in the great hall picking at his dinner and deciding he really didn't want to eat anything, Severus was surprised when a small tawny owl landed on the table in front of him, holding out her leg, on which there was a small note.
Severus recognised the owl as Remus' and glanced over at him at the Gryffindor table. The other boy smiled and turned back to his conversation with James. Stroking the owl gently, he unfolded the note and the bird flew away.
Sorry about Sirius and James, they're complete gits sometimes. Meet me by the lake at midnight. Bring an extra cloak.
P.S. Eat something. You're getting thin.
Surprised and secretly pleased that Remus was interested enough to notice that he hardly ate at mealtimes, and absent-mindedly spearing a small potato with his fork in the interest of looking as if he was at least half-heartedly following Remus' instructions, Severus wondered why on earth Remus wanted to meet him at the lake. Not that he minded at all. He was nervous with expectation already.
Midnight crept round and Severus walked out of the Slytherin Common Room, not particularly bothered whether anyone saw him, and secure in the knowledge that they wouldn't as they were all in their dormitories. He walked silently through the corridors, careful to listen for any sound which would alert him to the approach of a teacher or Filch. Avoiding the Grey Lady and Nearly Headless Nick, who were gliding softly down the main corridor, he hurried across the entrance hall, the extra cloak tucked under his own.
Slipping out of the main doors (which, he mused to himself, were so pathetically easy to get out and in through that they really should start thinking about some sort of wards or hexes to prevent unsavoury characters getting in and murdering the poor helpless first years in their beds. He grinned inwardly.) he walked down the grounds towards the lake, careful to stick to the shadows of the trees and bushes where it was possible. Standing beside a large weeping willow, he looked round, but saw no sign of Remus. He felt a sinking feeling in his heart and just knew that it was all a joke and he'd been, as it were, stood up.
"Did you bring the extra cloak?" said a voice by his ear and he jumped and span round.
"Bastard!" He gasped at Remus, thoroughly ashamed of himself for jumping so spectacularly.
Remus grinned, "So, did you?"
Severus nodded and pulled it out from under his cloak, "Yes, but why-"
"Wait and see." Remus said. "Did you have trouble getting out from the dungeons?"
"No, they were all asleep."
"What did you think they'd all be doing? We may be Slytherins, but we do need sleep, and only rarely sacrifice small children to the Dark Arts at midnight." He rolled his eyes, "Honestly."
Remus grinned, "Sorry."
Severus looked suspiciously at the brown-haired boy, "What are we doing here, anyway?"
"I wanted to make up for Sirius and James being so horrible to you."
Severus frowned, "I'm used to it, don't worry."
"Well, you shouldn't have to be used to it." Remus said, smiling sadly. "So I'm going to tell them tomorrow that you're my friend, just like they are, and I'm not going to put up with it anymore."
"Thank you." Severus said. "And how do you plan to make it up to me?"
"That's my cunning plan." Remus ran down towards the water's edge, "Come on!"
Severus followed and squeaked in surprise as Remus began to unbutton his robe. "Remus? What are you doing?"
"Well, you can't go swimming with clothes on, can you?" Remus said, grinning.
"Swimming. In the lake. Remus, there's a giant squid, a tribe of Merpeople, Grindylows… Even the frogs are homicidal."
"Don't be pathetic. Haven't you always wanted to do this?"
"No. Skinnydipping in the lake?! For Merlin's sake, Remus."
Remus grinned and sidled forward, "It's not skinnydipping. It's nightswimming."
"And you're insane."
"But you love me anyway." Remus said, laughing.
For a second, Severus' breath caught in his throat. Love? He laughed uncertainly and watched Remus turn and pull off his robe. Underneath he wore a loose blue shirt and tight pale jeans. Severus hopped from foot to foot nervously. The shirt was peeled loosely away and dropped on the floor and Severus gasped as the moonlight that filtered through the clouds fell on Remus' ivory skin. Next went the jeans and Severus was on the verge of telling Remus to put his clothes back on and get his arse up to the castle… but thoughts about Remus' arse weren't going to help him think any clearer.
Remus looked over his shoulder, "Are you going to join me, or just stand there perving all night?"
Severus thought perving was an extremely good idea, but said nothing and watched Remus strip off his boxers and walk down to the water. He waded in until he was standing in water that was just higher than his waist. He shivered.
"It's cold! But it's brilliant!" He called as softly as he could, careful not to make too much noise. Severus looked sceptical, but admitted to himself that being in the water with Remus did look wonderful. "Are you coming in?" Severus hesitated for a moment. "I promise I won't look!"
Rolling his eyes, Severus began to unbutton his robe, cursing himself under his breath for having so little willpower. Remus had turned so that his back was to the shore, but he half-turned, so that, out of the corner of his eye, he had a perfectly good view. He had, after all, performed his own little version of a strip tease for Severus. It was only fair that the favour was returned.
As Severus' clothes were shed (all of them, predictably, black) Remus felt his breath quicken slightly. Pale, translucent skin shone in the cloud-covered moonlight and the lean, wiry frame of the black-haired boy's body rippled in the darkness. He dropped his last piece of clothing on the grass and walked self-consciously towards Remus and into the water.
He gasped, "It's cold!"
"You get used to it." Remus said. He sank up to his neck and grinned at Severus. "You've got to go right under, though."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "I will if you will."
Remus nodded. "One… two… three."
They both ducked under the water, opening their eyes to look at each other, before breaking the surface once more, gasping.
Remus brushed the hair out of his eyes. He gave a small cry of delight, "It's wonderful!"
Severus had to agree that it was rather wonderful to be naked, in the cold water, at midnight, with the added danger that they might be discovered at any moment. He caught Remus watching him and felt his heart lift with the knowledge that they were alone, that Remus had asked him, and not Black or Potter. He felt special, for the first time in… well, a very long time.
Suddenly, Remus pointed up at the castle, "Look!"
Severus spun round and looked in the direction of Remus' gaze. He saw nothing, and was about to turn round and tell him not to be so stupid, when his head was pushed under the water. Remus was almost sitting on him, keeping him under the water, and laughing hysterically. Spinning round and gasping, Severus grabbed the other boy and pulled him under the water, holding him down under the surface until Remus' slim fingers found his sides and began to tickle him. Falling sideways, Severus laughed.
"Stop it, stop it!"
"Do you beg for mercy?" Remus demanded, tickling him.
"Oh. That's boring." Remus stuck his tongue out and stopped the tickling. Severus was almost sorry.
They sat and looked at each other.
"I wish it could always be like this." Remus said, sadly.
"What?" Severus almost leapt onto the end of Remus' sentence.
"I mean you and me being friends. It can't be like this in school."
"I've told you, I'm used to it."
"And I've told you, you shouldn't have to be." Remus said, splashing water at him.
Severus blinked and splashed water back. "Git."
Severus peered through the darkness at Remus. "Your skin…"
Remus looked uncomfortable, "What about it?"
"You've got… scars…" Severus said, his voice hushed. "What happened?"
"It's a long story." Remus said. Severus opened his mouth to ask. "A very long story."
They sank into silence for a moment before Severus spoke quietly, "How does it feel?"
"Well, they were pretty bloody painful when I got them." Remus said with an ironic smile.
"No, I mean… Can I touch them?"
Remus looked vaguely surprised. He nodded.
Severus reach out a hand and, moving slightly closer, traced a faint white line up Remus' arm. "Does it hurt?" He asked.
"No, it's just … sensitive."
Severus' cold fingertips travelled over scars up and down Remus' arms. He drifted gently behind the brown-haired boy and the fingers ghosted down lines that mapped a lifetime over Remus' young skin. Up and round his shoulders, and down onto his chest. Severus realised he was holding his breath, and so, it seemed, was Remus. They were facing each other again and Severus lifted his hands from the other boy's skin.
"Oh." He said, quietly.
"Yeah…" Remus breathed. "We don't have long till we have to go back. Severus, if I ask you something, do you promise not to laugh?"
"Yes." Severus was hoping, hoping…
"Are you ever scared?"
"You know, of everything, of life."
Severus nodded, "Yes."
"How do you deal with it?"
Severus looked at him, "You never let it show."
"Never?" Remus asked, so close to Severus now.
Severus shook his head, "Never."
Remus smiled sadly, "That's what I thought."
He paused for a second, then moved forward and hesitantly rested his head on Severus' shoulder, his arms snaking around the other boy's waist. For a second, Severus froze. This was, somehow, all he'd wanted and he was unsure how to react. Gently, he stroked Remus' hair, his arms round the shaking boy's shoulders.
Warm soft lips pressed a kiss to Severus' neck and his eyes fluttered closed for a second. Those lips moved again on his collar bone and he regained his senses, pushing Remus away gently.
"What are you doing?"
"I don't know." Remus replied, honestly. "I suppose I was kissing you."
"Because I want to."
Severus was about to point out the weaknesses in Remus' reasoning, but he slid lower and when a warm tongue flicked along his shoulder and the sensitive skin on his throat, he forgot how to talk and settled for moaning in what sounded to him (in whichever part of his brain was still functioning) to be a decidedly whorish manner. When did Severus Snape become a slut?
Remus' mouth slid over his and Severus found he could, and wanted to do little else but respond. It was fumbling, feverish, and soft. They clung to each other and Severus pulled Remus closer, deeper. Remus wrapped one leg round Severus' and pulled them down so that they lay in the shallow water, lips tumbling together, legs entwined.
They moved together, as one creature, being, which writhed and moaned. As one they came, their lips sealed together to swallow the cries of one and the sobs of the other.
Severus moved back slightly and raised a trembling hand to Remus' flushed face, "You're crying. I'm sorry, we should never have-"
"No." Remus said, "It was… thank you."
Severus took Remus' hand and pulled him up from the water. They stood on the bank and dried themselves, dressing in silence. Wrapped in the spare cloaks they had brought, they hurried back up to the castle, to the main doors, and into the entrance hall. Remus pulled Severus into a smaller side-corridor and kissed him softly.
"Things can't change between us in school." He said.
"Severus nodded, "I know." He pressed a kiss to Remus' cheek.
Remus rested his cheek against Severus' so that his lips brushed the other boy's ear. "Remember nightswimming." He murmured.
Severus drew away, into the darkness of the dungeons, and Remus walked alone to the Gryffindor Tower.
It was while walking to Potions the next day that Remus realised he would have to be with Severus and pretend nothing had happened.
He had slept through breakfast and they hadn't had any lessons with the Slytherins that morning. He had missed lunch helping Hagrid put down the slug-repellent in the cabbage patches and now, as he hurried along the corridor, following Sirius, James and Peter, he was already trembling slightly at the prospect of two hours in close proximity to Severus during which physical contact would be inadvisable. Not because anyone might see, but because Remus didn't think he had enough self control to stop himself from doing something mortifying, like sprawling across the desks crying "Take me, I'm yours!"
They rounded the corner and entered the potions lab, and he told himself firmly to pull himself together.
Severus was already in his seat, and Remus smiled at him as he sat down next to him. The other boy smiled swiftly to acknowledge their shared secret which, to be honest, he found quite exciting, sharing something so intimate and private with Remus. The lesson began and they started to prepare their ingredients for the complex Alacritas potion they would be brewing.
Anyone else who had been watching the pair would see nothing other than two friends working together in a perfectly normal manner. Sirius, however, was watching them with narrowed eyes.
"They're getting too friendly." He said.
James looked round at him, frowning. "What are you talking about?"
Sirius nodded at the two in front of them, "Remus and Snape. I said they're getting too friendly."
"They have to work together almost every day. Unlike you, Remus isn't so pigheaded as to ignore him all the time. Or insult him. Or pick fights with him at every opportunity." James said, with his usual calm, sighing inwardly at Sirius' deep-seated hatred of everything Slytherin.
Sirius glared at him, "Don't get all holier-than-thou with me." He said. "You hate him just as much as I do."
"Yes, I do, and I don't like him being friends with Remus any more than you do. But if Remus thinks he's doing the right thing, then let him be. You'll only make him hate you if you interfere."
"Oh, stop being so bloody sensible!" Sirius snapped. "Look at them! It's… it's… foul! He's a Slytherin. Slytherins are the enemy. Bad. Nasty. Evil."
In front of them, Severus poked Remus forcefully with his elbow and the brown-haired boy sniggered at something Severus had said, dropping far too much myrtle into the cauldron.
"Stop being so melodramatic." James said. "Okay, Snape's a bastard, and nothing would please me more than to see him beaten to a bloody pulp by the Whomping Willow, but Remus has his own life, Sirius. You don't control who he's friends with. Now leave them alone, stop gawping, and help me with this, it keeps turning vomit-colour."
Sirius grudgingly turned and looked into the cauldron, "What colour is it meant to be?"
A few feet away, Remus swayed a little. The heat rising from the potions was making him dizzy. The moon was waxing and he realised that in three days time his confinement would begin. He was already becoming ill.
"Are you alright?" Severus asked, sharply. "You look pale."
Remus shook his head, "I'm fine. It's just hot in here, that's all."
"Hmm." Severus looked unconvinced, but said nothing more.
The rest of the lesson passed without incident, and even James and Sirius managed to bring their cauldron under control. They packed up and walked out of the classroom, aware that they were being watched suspiciously by Sirius, who was being pulled away by the sleeves by James and Peter.
"I'll see you tonight?" Remus asked quietly.
Severus shook his head. "I can't. I'm tutoring fifth years as a favour for Dolohov."
Remus grinned, "Going for full marks in the NEWTs, then?"
Severus gave him a withering look. "I'm not free on Wednesday, either. Dumbledore's planning a lecture to all the Slytherin prefects. Apparently he's just realised that we Slytherins are evil and manipulative and need to be kept under careful supervision lest we burn down the school and turn you all into our helpless minions. If you're so desperate for my company, what about Thursday?"
Remus felt his heart sink, "I'm sorry, I can't."
"Any reason why?" Severus asked, amiably enough.
"I…" Remus tried to think up an excuse, and knew that he couldn't tell Severus the truth. Not yet, not until he was sure. "I promised Sirius and the others that I'd go out with them."
"Well, you know, in the grounds. Maybe the forest." He wasn't lying, he was just twisting the truth. "I'm sorry."
Severus nodded. "No, it's alright, I understand." He looked at Remus with disappointed eyes and the werewolf felt like a complete bastard. "I have to get back to the Common Room. I'll see you on Friday."
Remus nodded, and realised it would be hell to wait until that next Potions lesson, and that he might not even make it there. If Madame Pomfrey made a fuss and kept him in the hospital wing, he'd miss all of Friday and most of the weekend. "Bye." He said, watching Severus retreat down the corridor. God, he hated being himself sometimes.
"Come on, Moony!" James called down the corridor.
He nodded and followed his friends down the corridor to the Tower.
Severus was sitting in the library, reading a book entitled 'Dangerous and Inadvisable Potions for the Exceptionally Gifted and the Extremely Foolhardy'. He looked up and glared as Sirius repeatedly kicked the table at which he sat, opposite Severus.
"Do you have to, Black?"
Sirius smiled sweetly at him, "Why, is it bothering you?"
Severus said nothing and returned to his book. Sirius resumed his kicking.
"Black! Haven't you got anything better to do with your time?" Severus snapped.
Sirius looked thoughtful for a second, then grinned. "Nope."
Severus rolled his eyes, "What do you want, Black? Because I'm busy and I'd appreciate your absence."
Sirius stood up and walked over, sitting down next to Severus. "Fair enough, I'll get to the point."
"Oh, please do." Severus sneered.
"I don't like you, Snape, that's no secret. None of us do."
"The feeling is entirely mutual."
"Shut up and let me talk. We don't like you, and we don't like Remus being friends with you."
Severus raised an eyebrow, "By 'we' I presume you mean your little harem."
"Don't pretend you don't know that Potter and Pettigrew would kill to shag you senseless. But I digress. Do carry on."
Sirius sat and mouthed wordlessly for a few seconds, "You utter git. What are you on about?"
Severus waved a hand lazily, "It really doesn't matter."
Sirius was silent for a moment then began speaking again, making it perfectly obvious that he wouldn't tolerate much else from Severus. "All I'm saying, is stay away from Remus. He likes you, and he thinks that you're his friend, and I for one am not going to let you play your twisted little games with him. He doesn't deserve to get hurt, and that's all your going to do to him."
Severus' eyes narrowed, "If you were a little more of the friend to him that you claim to be, you might let him have his own life. Where the hell do you get off, Black? You don't own him!"
"Well, just back off, Snape." Sirius growled. "You know nothing about him, he doesn't need you."
"I know that he chooses to spend time with me over you." Severus snarled.
Sirius looked scornful, "Stop deluding yourself, Snape. To say you're such a good friend to him, he doesn't trust you enough to tell you the most important things about himself. He knows what you're like. He doesn't trust you as far as he could throw you."
Against his better judgement, but with a terrible curiosity, Severus demanded angrily, "What are you talking about, Black?"
Sirius was too angry now to control himself, "Haven't you ever wondered where he goes every month? Haven't you wondered why he makes up excuses all the time about where he's going and what he's doing? He'll miss three days of school on Thursday, ever asked him why?" Sirius was spitting the angry words across the table at Severus, his eyes blazing, "For fuck's sake, Snape, take a look at someone other than yourself for a change!"
Taking care to be as quiet as possible, keeping his voice to a low hiss, Severus moved quickly and slammed Sirius against a bookshelf. "Tell me what you're talking about." Sirius' eyes gleamed with the knowledge that he held something over Severus. "Tell me, or I swear -"
His lips twisted into a sneer, Sirius hissed quietly and maliciously, "On Thursday night, go down to the Whomping Willow and press the knot in the roots. Go down the tunnel and you'll find Remus. I'm sure he'll tell you everything you want to know."
"Remus is going to be with you on Thursday night." Severus said, his grip on Sirius loosening slightly.
Sirius shook himself free. "Poor, gullible Snape. I'd have thought with all the practice you've had, lying would have been easy to detect. You're obviously not as clever as I gave you credit for." With that parting shot, and a last scornful glance, Sirius walked away.
Severus watched him walk through the heavy wooden doors and out into the corridor. He felt his heart sink, and a terrible anger begin to rise in its place. Remus had lied to him.
Sirius stepped through the portrait hole and entered the Common Room. James and Peter were standing waiting for him. James took his arm and pulled him to one side, into a corner.
"What did you do?" He hissed.
"Nothing. I just told Snape selected bits of the truth. Which, it seems, is more than Remus has been doing."
"You've told him?" Peter said, disbelievingly.
James shook his head, "Of all the stupid stunts you've pulled…"
"I haven't told him!" Sirius said smugly, "Not just like that. I've arranged something far better."
"What have you done?" James asked warily.
Sirius told him what had been said in the library.
"I can't believe you!" James hissed, "Have you any idea what it'll do to Remus? Snape'll tell everyone!"
Sirius shook his head, "He has to face the Whomping Willow and Moony. You really think he'll be in any state to tell people after that?"
James regarded Sirius with something akin to disgust. "That's just… low. It's wrong. I know you hate him, we hate him too, but that's going too far."
Sirius turned on James angrily, "How is it going too far? He's gone out of his way to make our lives hell for the past seven years! And now he's got his claws into Remus! You might just want to sit back and watch him take Remus away from us, but I'm not going to! He deserves everything he gets!"
"Are you really that blind?" James asked, "It isn't just him, it's all of the Slytherins. We're just as bad! You can't blame him for a thousand years of inter-house hate!"
Sirius shook his head disgustedly, "If you're not going to back me up on this one, you can go fuck yourselves. If Remus means more to me than he does to you, I'll do this on my own." He turned and stormed out of the room, the way he'd just come.
Peter turned to James, frowning worriedly, "What are we going to do?"
"I don't know. Whatever you do, don't tell Remus. He doesn't need all this to deal with as well as the transformation." James frowned, "We'll just have to think of something."
Thursday crawled round and Remus wondered how it was possible not to see Severus at all in the course of two days. The thought had crossed his mind that the other boy was avoiding him, but he told himself not to be stupid. Severus had explained why it would be difficult to see him, and Remus believed him.
He found Madame Pomfrey waiting for him in the hospital wing, and the two of them set off across the grounds towards the willow.
James and Peter, meanwhile, were huddled in one corner of the Library. Between them lay the Marauder's Map.
"We'll just have to watch the Map." James said, quietly, "When we see Snape leaving, we follow him and persuade him not to."
"Persuade him?" Peter said nervously.
James grinned slightly at his friend, "Don't worry. I'll try to make it as non-violent as I can. Now, what time does it get dark?"
"It's February, so quite early." Peter said. "Six-thirty, seven?"
James nodded. "Right. We'll do our homework while we're watching. Come on, we've got that Charms stuff to do."
Three hours later, James jolted awake. Looking around, he realised he had fallen asleep on his Transfiguration homework, and that Peter was nowhere to be seen. He'd probably gotten cold and gone back to the dormitory, James thought, rolling his eyes. His gaze landed on the Map. Scanning it, he saw a small dot labelled 'Severus Snape' moving quickly down the main corridor towards the doors.
Jumping to his feet, James picked up his invisibility cloak and the Map and ran out of the Library, ignoring the disapproving glare of Madame Pince. Sprinting down the corridors, he slipped out of the main doors and threw on the cloak. Racing down the lawns, he saw in the distance, a small dark figure brandishing a stick and approaching the willow.
He was just a few metres away when the flailing branches stopped moving and froze, still against the skyline like some grotesque statue. Throwing off the cloak, James ducked under the branches and slipped down the hole into the tunnel. By the light of Severus' wand he saw the other boy standing a little way down the tunnel, frozen, his gaze fixed on something at the other end. A snarl rumbled along the tunnel and James snapped into action, leaping forwards and grabbing Severus he pulled him backwards along the tunnel.
"Come on!" He yelled at the other boy, "Run!"
Severus seemed to snap out of his trance like state and turned, running behind James up to the entrance. They fell out, tumbling onto the grass beneath the branches, and heard an enraged growl as the wolf lost sight of its prey.
Running towards them were Professors Dumbledore, McGonagall and Dolohov, and Madame Pomfrey. Severus felt his legs give way and dropped to his knees on the ground. He felt tears begin to run down his face and, as they dripped onto the grass before him, he realised something fragile inside himself was breaking.
A knock came at the door of the cottage, and Remus Lupin, now 35 years old, and with grey threading through his light brown hair, sighed and put his book down on the table.
Why was the world so determined that he wouldn't get any further than chapter 15? He'd been on the same page for days, what with Sirius turned up and bounding round the house like he owned it, disturbing him every time he got a chance to read. Now that Sirius had gone out, he was able to read in peace. He knew he should really have accompanied Sirius to the meeting of the Order, but he had given his tiredness after the last transformation as an excuse for his absence, and was determined not to allow his conscience to make him feel like a complete bastard.
The knock came again.
"Alright, I'm coming!" He called. No doubt it would be Sirius again, having forgotten his key. That was the wonderful thing about living on deserted moorland – he rarely had any visitors, and Sirius could go about in his human form without having to worry about being seen.
"I know you can't bare to be parted from me for too long, Padfoot, but this is getting ridiculous." He opened the door. "Oh!"
Standing on the doorstep, his black hair swept back off his face by the wind, and his cloak billowing behind him, was Severus Snape.
He nodded, "Lupin."
"What are you – I mean, why are you here?" Remus asked. He hadn't seen this man in two years.
"I've got a mission from Albus. I'm just… clearing the air before I leave." He looked as though he would give anything not to have to be there.
"Oh. Come in." Remus said, stepping aside. Severus swept in and he shut the door behind them. "Come through," He said, walking into the kitchen. "Would you like a cup of tea?"
Severus looked surprised by the question and shook his head, "No, thank you."
"Sit down." Remus said, indicating a chair at the kitchen table. Severus sat down as did he. "It's been a while." He said, lightly. Severus made no movement to show he'd heard, so Remus tried again, "What are you doing here, Severus?"
He cleared his throat, "Albus has, as Black probably told you, asked me to undertake a mission, in the interests of helping the Order. I'm just about to leave."
"Yes, but why have you come here?"
Severus looked down for a moment before looking up at him, his eyes dancing with anger, anger that was direct inwards, "I don't know. Do you think I wanted to? I've spent fifteen years of my life without you, so don't think I wanted to see you again now."
Remus was momentarily taken aback by the vehemence of Severus' words. "Don't get angry with me, I didn't ask you to arrive on my doorstep."
"I'm not angry with you!" Severus snapped, "I'm angry with myself. In fact, I've never loathed myself more. I spent half of my life forgetting you and now, just before I'm about to die, I find myself back here. What a sense of humour fate must have."
Remus' expression softened slightly, "It's dangerous then?"
Severus nodded, "Practically suicide. But I knew that when I accepted, so it's nothing more than I'm prepared for."
Remus shook his head, "I'll never understand you. How can you be calm? You're about to do something which will probably get you killed and you're prepared?"
"I owe my life to Albus. This is the least I can do to repay him."
"So you're doing it out of some twisted sense of duty?" Remus sighed and ran a hand through his hair, "Honestly, Severus, don't you value your life a little more highly than that?"
"Why is my life worth any more than the lives which my actions could save? I have nothing to live for, I am eminently suitable."
"Please, don't be so clinical about things." Remus said, his face showing the dislike he had for the way in which Severus spoke. "You can't throw away your life because you think you owe -"
"What would you know about it, Lupin?" Severus snapped, "I didn't come here to justify myself to you!"
"Then what did you come here for?" Remus asked, exasperated.
"Forget it." Severus said, "It doesn't matter. I'm going, I am already late." He stood abruptly and made to walk out. Remus stood up quickly and walked to the front door, standing in Severus' way. "Get out of the way."
"Oh, no." Remus said, shaking his head, anger in his voice, "How dare you turn up here after a year, and fourteen years before that, of silence and tell me you're going off to kill yourself then just walk out without giving me an explanation! You arrogant shit, do you really think I'm going to let you do it?"
"Why shouldn't you? You hate me, as you have since we were 18. I don't know why I came here -"
"Then why the hell did you?" Remus yelled. "You can't just saunter back into my life when you feel like it and drop a bombshell like that! It was you who cut me off when we were at school, remember? If you'd have given me a chance to explain -"
"Explain?" Severus exploded, "Explain? It was perfectly bloody clear! You were – are – a werewolf and you lied to me! What was it, was it that you couldn't trust me because I was a Slytherin? Or just that you thought I'd betray you?"
"You did fucking betray me! You told the entire school last year!"
"That's different and you know it!" Severus screamed at him. They both paused for a second.
"See," Remus said sadly, "We can't even have a conversation without it turning into an argument. You shouldn't have come."
"Damn right I shouldn't." He pushed Remus aside and opened the door. Remus watched him storm down the path.
"Severus, wait!" He called. Severus stopped, but didn't turn round. "Please, come back inside. We have to talk about this."
Severus turned, "Why do we have to talk about it? It was years ago. Why are you so intent on dragging it all up again?"
"I'm not the one who started this." Remus reminded him.
"Fine." Severus said, and stalked back towards the house. He walked in and Remus shut the door once more.
"Look, I'm sorry that I lied to you. But I just had to be sure, before I told you. You wouldn't understand, but I couldn't just come out with it. I had to know I could trust you." Remus said, quietly.
"But why did you think you couldn't?"
"You were a Slytherin, I'd hated you for five years. I couldn't just change that."
"You sound more and more like Black." Severus sneered. "Because I was a Slytherin. Is that the best you can do?"
"Yes, actually, it is. As far as we were concerned, all Slytherins were evil, manipulative bastards. Maybe we were right."
"How dare you! You are the one who's a werewolf! Did it ever cross your mind that I wasn't ignoring you because you'd lied to me, I was ignoring you because I couldn't bear to look at you. You were a monster, and you disgusted me. The thought that I'd fallen in love with a werewolf horrified me. I couldn't bear to look at you, let alone speak to you!"
Remus felt as though someone had punched him in the stomach, "You bastard…" He gasped. To his horror, he felt tears gathering at in his eyes. Severus was silent, but had the decency to look slightly guilty. "Do you really mean that?"
Severus nodded, "I reacted rather badly." He admitted.
"Then why didn't you talk to me?" Remus asked.
Severus shook his head, "I… couldn't."
Remus turned away and rested his head against the wall. "You arrogant bastard. You arrogant, manipulative, cowardly bastard. I loved you."
"And you think I didn't? I had to sit through every lesson and every meal trying not to look at you! Do you think I enjoyed that?"
"I don't know!" Remus exclaimed.
"Of course I didn't enjoy it. It was agony."
Morning came slowly to the Yorkshire moors, the sunlight spilling lightly over the heath and creeping into the windows of the cottage.
Severus sat up slowly and opened his eyes. He was lying on Remus Lupin's couch covered by a mangy blanket, and with a hangover to floor an elephant.
"Coffee?" Came a call from the kitchen.
"Yes. Thank you." He croaked, then cleared his throat.
Remus appeared and held out a steaming mug. "Here." He said, somewhat coldly.
Taking the mug gratefully, he took a sip, before spluttering. "What have you put in this?"
"Pepper-Up Potion. It's your own fault you got so wasted."
"Who shot your dog?" Severus asked tetchily. "Come to think of it, where is Black?"
Remus glared, "You know perfectly well he's at an Order meeting."
Severus put the mug down on the coffee table, "Don't worry, I won't take advantage of your hospitality for much longer."
"Good." Remus said, "Be gone in half an hour." He walked out, closing the door behind him.
Severus sighed and let his head fall into his hands. So much for the joyous re-union. If he could only bring himself to hate the werewolf, but instead he found, to his horror, that he was still attracted to him. Every time Remus was around him, he couldn't help but imagine all of the things he'd like to do to him, given half a chance and a night like that one 15 years ago.
But there was no point in dwelling on the past. That time had passed and there was no way, after all the things they had both said in the midst of drunken rages last night, that there could ever be any kind of reconciliation. The feelings still burned inside him, as they always had, but too much had happened, and too much had been said.
He heard the door slam as Remus left the house.
Standing swiftly, and regretting it, Severus looked reached into his robe, which was spread over the back of the couch, and produced a quill. He transfigured the mug of coffee into a primitive, and rather oddly stained, piece of paper (his transfiguration skills, it seemed, were restricted by alcohol consumption), and scrawled a quick note. Leaving it lying on the table, he picked up his cloak. Taking a last look round the room he smiled wryly to himself as he spotted various pictures of Remus, James, Lily and Sirius, and little knick-knacks collected on Remus' travels dotted about. He walked out of the room and, closing the door softly behind him, let himself out of the house.
Remus came in through the back door almost simultaneously, having emptied his own coffee mug in the garden (the gnomes hated coffee and it was a quick and easy way to get rid of them.)
"Look, about last night -" He began, opening the sitting room door. Severus had gone. Picking up the note that lay on the table, Remus read it quickly.
The note crumpled in his hand and he ran out of the room to the front door. Opening it, he stepped outside.
"Severus!" He called. Looking round, he spotted the dark figure sitting hunched on the garden wall. "What are you doing?"
"Trying to make myself leave."
Remus walked down the path towards him, "You stupid git, did you think I'd let you go without saying goodbye?"
Severus nodded, "Yes."
Remus hesitated for a moment, before wrapping his arms round Severus and pulling him into a hug. He felt the other man stiffen for a moment, before his arms were around Remus, too. They both knew what they needed to say, though neither of them was going to voice it.
"I'll miss you, you bastard." Remus said softly.
"I got used to missing you." Severus replied.
Remus tightened his grip round Severus' shoulders, "Try and come back in one piece," he said, "and preferably the one you're in now. I like it."
They were silent for a moment, clinging to each other, then Severus murmured a few words quietly, his lips moving against Remus' ear, "I still remember nightswimming."
Stepping away, he drew his wand. His eyes were locked with Remus' as he muttered a spell. With a faint 'pop', he was gone.
Smiling sadly, Remus walked back to his cottage.
"I'll miss you, you bastard." He repeated, and gasped as tears came rushing to his eyes. Hand to his mouth, he slid down the wall and sat on the doorstep, looking out over the moor, shoulders shaking, and he realised that the sobbing he could hear was his own.