Homo homini lupus

Author name: ferox
Author email: ferox@contortus.net
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: CoS, PoA, OoTP
Summary: The war is over--what are the men of war to do? Instincts that kept them alive through Voldemort's second reign leave them undesirable in society after his defeat. In disenfranchisement, bitterness, and loss, there is shared ground, and in accepting that common space, Remus and Severus find that they are not, perhaps, so different after all and that right and wrong are more difficult to separate in times of peace.
DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. This is slash--does it even need a warning at this point?
Author notes: This story happens at the same time as Necromance following Acta est fabula. All take place in 1997-98. I'm a canon-whore and unapologetic slasher. I try to keep them In Character as I perceive them. And many thanks to the wonderful kagyakusha for betaing and aleph for britpicking.

***

He should have known when the same Christmas Eve that brought Harry his Firebolt saw a new set of warm robes waiting for him before his own fire, tied with a black and red bow.

Black and red.

Just his size. 

But he'd been in denial then.  Perhaps he'd even allowed Severus to make him paranoid with his talk to the Headmaster of Remus's loyalty.  And in proving his loyalty, he'd ignored the evidence, and never mentioned why he came to breakfast the next morning wrapped in thick new winter robes of heavy wool that still smelled faintly of dog.

Only to a keen sense of smell. 

Once he'd noticed it, he performed a hasty cleaning charm, but even still, Severus watched him narrowly.  He wouldn't have put it past a nose that size to pick up the faint scent of dog, not wolf, on Remus's new clothing.

The watching had come to a head by Spring.  Remus still wondered if it was his presence that left Severus paranoid enough to enter the Shrieking Shack, if, perhaps, somehow remaining aloof would have spared Sirius the presence of his old rival, and the disaster of his own transformation that allowed Wormtail to escape.

Remus Lupin had had over three years to think.  And only one element of his theories remained constant--Severus watched him closely the full year he'd taught Defence Against the Dark Arts.  He didn't think it was entirely because Remus was a werewolf, and he strongly suspected that Severus was too intelligent to blame Remus alone for the prank Sirius once pulled.

His second conclusion had been somewhat more personal in nature--teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts was the best job he'd had since leaving Hogwarts.  And try as he might, he couldn't turn Albus down this time either.  With Voldemort's death, Kingsley Shacklebolt was needed as an Auror more than as a professor.  The unspoken flip side of this consensus was that without a war and a dark lord to fight, Remus was no longer fit for anything but teaching.  He suspected that Severus had been relegated to a similar status--he hadn't seen the potions master in 12 Grimmauld place in well over a month.  He wondered how Snape was taking the change from spy to just another man, and whether that wished for change was proving more blessing or burden.  Remus held no illusions that the instincts of war could be turned off so easily in times of peace.

There had been concessions, of course, involved in his agreement.  This year would be different than Harry's third.  There would be no hiding Remus's nature from the students.  A learning experience, the headmaster had suggested, for everyone now that the Wolfsbane potion was officially recognized for its effectiveness.  There would likewise be no hiding his relationship to Harry.  The headmaster had hinted, rather strongly, that he felt Harry needed a stable influence of someone he could trust.  An adult he could trust.  Remus wondered, sometimes, if that was possible.

One more change had not been discussed, but with every day alone in 12 Grimmauld place, it became more prominent in Remus's mind.

There would be no red and black tied package for him on Christmas morning.  The ache thrummed through Remus's chest as he turned the thought over once again, tentatively examining it, and trying it on for size--it never felt as if it quite fit.  For thirteen years, Sirius had been as good as dead.  For two years, he'd been very much alive.  Remus was finding it increasingly difficult to go back to allowing Sirius to be dead.

He pressed a hand against his chest, leaning over his suitcase, only slightly worn--this one had been Sirius's.  He'd insisted Remus take it before-- Remus closed his eyes.  It wouldn't help his packing to allow himself to dwell.  He had lessons to prepare, and a classroom to supply in all too brief a time. 

A larger portion of Remus's brain knew that the Headmaster had made his request out of more than a belief in Remus's skill and Harry's need for a familiar adult.  He hadn't missed the sidelong glances from the old man either, and he supposed that Albus did have a point in that the distraction might be welcome, not, perhaps as welcome or effective as the headmaster likely hoped, but good for him nonetheless.  One month alone in Sirius's home was already beginning to encroach on the edges of sanity that life as a werewolf had left untouched.  The bitter voice in the back of Remus's mind wondered just how the Order had expected Sirius to remain there without losing still more of his precarious grip on sanity, whether they'd truly thought that a man like Sirius Black could exist trapped in the grim halls of a house he loathed--alone.

The bleakness he hadn't allowed for himself crept from the corners of his mind as he saw Sirius again, watched the hard-won spirit crushed under the gloom of home and ancestry.  He'd seen Sirius truly happy once, and once only--when he'd had Harry there for Christmas.  Acid coiled through Remus's belly, and his fingers tightened on the edge of the suitcase.  Even then, he'd known how little Sirius Black mattered to the Order, and he'd remained quiet, done what he could out of respect for the greater cause, and tried to reassure Sirius at night that it was right to hide--needed that he go against every instinct to protect Harry and to kill Wormtail. 

Sometimes, Remus regretted that capitulation.  Bitterly.

And he knew that Sirius would lose an essential part of that which made him Sirius if he stayed safely hidden and away when Harry's life was in danger.   Remus's throat closed, thinking again of the look in Sirius's eyes he'd seen that day--wild, furious, and more alive than he'd been in 14 years. 

He still felt alive.  And a part of Remus hated himself for joining with the others to convince Harry that he was dead.  Harry deserved his own hope, however futile. 

On dark lonely nights, Remus rather thought he did too.  But Remus Lupin had given up years before on any expectations of life being fair.  However romantic life may be when viewed from its early stages, he'd learned that life simply was.  That didn't prevent him from the occasional wishing, however. 

Or the vague feeling of sadness he couldn't quite shake now in Dumbledore's presence.  It was a sadness of betrayal.  He understood the headmaster's reasons.  And he believed, even now, that Albus thought he had done everything he'd done for the best.  But he still felt regret that being in Albus's presence would never again fill him with the feeling of safety and trust that it once had. 

Remus shook his head, closing and latching the suitcase.  Thirty eight years old.  He hadn't thought that at almost forty he'd have any innocence left to lose. 

Picking up his suitcase, and looking once more around the room he'd shared all too briefly with Sirius, Remus decided that it was a funny old life that way.  But he didn't feel like laughing.

He opened the box of floo powder, taking a silvery pinch between thumb and forefinger, and stepping, with it, into the flames.  "Hogwarts School." 

***

If the door to the headmaster's office had been closed, it would have slammed open hard enough to shake portraits from the walls.  As it was, the former headmasters and headmistresses of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry regarded the Potions Master with everything from baleful glares to bemused amusement.

"Hard day, Severus?" 

"Belt up, Black."  Severus's snarl was instinctive at the sound of the hated voice, and he cringed inwardly.  Merlin, why did all the men of the Black family sound so alike? 

"Hardly a way to address a former headmaster, Severus," Albus chided mildly from behind his desk, and only watched. 

Still cursing within at wartime instincts that still refused to return to their safely compartmentalized resting places, Severus forced his hands steady, laid them on Dumbledore's desk and leaned forward.  Taking deep breaths to fortify himself, his voice emerged cold and ground through clenched teeth.  "What, Albus, is the meaning of bringing a known werewolf back to Hogwarts?"

"He is also a known professor, Severus, and excellent at what he does."  Albus's voice was kind--too kind--the understanding sort of grandfatherly voice that made Severus's heart pound with the knowledge that he was, or was soon to be, utterly helpless before the headmaster's next request.  "And while I have a second Defence Against the Dark Arts master on my staff, one who is also due to receive Order of Merlin, First Class, I am reluctant to lose the best Potions Master Hogwarts has seen in centuries."  

Severus felt his heart drop into his abdominal cavity, and the hairs crawl across his skin.  Flattery.  Meant.  Big concession.  "Why did you call for me, headmaster?"

"It has come to my attention, Severus, that the benefits of your counselling session appear to have been," the headmaster paused, and Severus had no illusions that the man was searching for a word--he was watching the potions master too closely, "short lived."

"I assure you, Albus, I have no further desires to do any more to Potter than administer his potions NEWT and send him off gladly to the rest of his life whatever that may be."  Severus drew himself to his full height, arms folding defensively within the sleeves of his robe. 

"Your temper," Albus began.

"I am a temperamental man," Snape withheld with considerable effort the desire to snap, pleased to hear his voice emerge level and cold.  "I have been told that this is not unexpected in a former spy and soldier once a war has ended."  The cold oozed a bitter irony.  Flitwick had made that observation, and it felt obscenely good to fling it back at the headmaster.

"Your temper," Albus continued, "must not be allowed to influence the continuation of this school year.  I expect you to treat Professor Lupin with the respect due any colleague." 

"And he?"

"Will be expected to do the same."

"Of course."  Severus found his voice had slid somehow from icy scorn to petulance, and ground his teeth at the knowledge.  "And?"  There was always an and.  Always more.  That couldn't be enough for the favour Albus had set him up on. 

"And I've arranged for the two of you to take tea together and discuss your past differences.  The war, Severus, is over, as are your school years.  Soon, Harry will be out of Hogwarts and no longer your responsibility.  I believe that it is time for you and Remus to set aside your personal history and continue together in the manner more befitting of colleagues and fellow professors." 

There it was.

If anything, Severus drew himself up more fully, wound himself more completely into the blackness of his robes, and replied.  "Of course, Headmaster.  Whatever you wish."

"I think, dear boy, you'll find it for the best for both of you."

Knees like water, head like an overfilled balloon, Severus doubted this very much.  "And where will we be taking this  congenial tea?"

"I thought that Madame Puddifoot's in Hogsmeade would be the ideal setting.  Have you tried her jam tart?"

Severus, indeed, had not, and wished, for that moment, heartily that he could tell Albus what he would like to do with Madame's jam tart, but instead, he inclined his head with all the dignity years of war and teaching had left to him, and said "Yes, Headmaster.  Am I excused?"

"Of course, of course, my dear boy.  Do give Professor Lupin my regrets that I did not greet him personally upon arrival." 

Snape's smile thinned.  Charming, he thought.  It seems Lupin did not have to endure the same speech.  The prospect of jam tarts slid further down Severus's mental list of priorities, beneath reaching-an-accommodation-with-Lupin and replenishing-and-draining-his-personal-store-of-firewhiskey. 

"Thank you, headmaster."

Upon arriving at Madame Puddifoot's, Severus decided, rather quickly, that jam tarts were indeed the least of his present worries, greatly surpassed by an entirely private booth and a werewolf who seemed determined to insist, quite unsolicited, that Severus was a good man, and that, on this, they should base their working relationship.

"Don't make me out more honourable than I am, Lupin." 

"Remus."

"Lupin," Snape insisted in a voice that permitted no arguments, feeling less than charitably inclined towards any hands extended in friendship than towards brutal honesty, damn him or no.  "I chose the side most likely to provide me with a better life."

"How Slytherin of you.  You grew out of the death and destruction phase then?"

Snape cast him a withering glance.  "Hardly.  A century of teaching hell is preferable to five years of glorious pure-blooded rule and a wizard's lifetime in Azkaban."   He raised one slender hand and let his wrist bend, sharply pointing an extended finger at himself, enunciating slowly and crisply. "Slytherin. Coward."

"I don't think you're a coward, Severus,"  Lupin replied, unmoved by the sharp words surely designed to cut.  He ignored the potions master's dismissive snort, and continued.  "I think you saw the right side and joined it."

"Do you, Lupin?"  Snape steepled his fingers together then, resting his chin on the sharp tips, and narrowing his eyes.  "Would that right side be the side that respected my intelligence, my talent, and feared my power?  Or the side that mercilessly taunted me and refused me asylum from my tormentors?  I think you'll find that right treatment depends a great deal on the colours you wear."

"Does Albus know you feel this way?"  Remus sounded only curious. 

Snape's lips curved in a thin smile.  "Indeed, Lupin, even he cannot be so deaf as to have misinterpreted my feelings on the matter. I've ceased indulging in the need to conceal my nature and emotions. I believe I have earned some right to a measure of personal honesty."

Lupin leaned forward then, a spark of interest creeping over the studied patience of his expression.  "Would you say then, Severus, that this is something we've all earned, those of us in the Order?"

"I was under the impression that Gryffindors made entire careers out of their personal honesty."  His eyes flicked downwards, taking in the scars that barely revealed themselves beyond Lupin's shirt cuffs.  "Unless they have some dark secret that would otherwise interrupt their plans, of course."

"Are we so different then from Slytherins?"  Lupin challenged, quietly, and did not remove his wrists from Snape's view.  Damnably calm, Severus remembered--it was a miracle Lupin had sorted outside of Ravenclaw.  "Or is it true that Slytherins conceal the truth as an art form simply because they can?"

"That is, partially, the truth," Snape conceded, feeling mildly warmed at the werewolf's look of surprise.  "Stop staring, Lupin.  It's the most poorly kept secret in the history of Hogwarts.  Practically a house sport."

"Why?"

"Why do Gryffindors take foolish risks?" Snape asked.  "Can you deny that our hobbies have proved less useful to the Order than Gryffindor bravery? 

At this, Lupin's expression grew more shuttered, and he withdrew his hands, sliding them onto his lap beneath the table.  "No, Severus.  In fact, I've found Gryffindor bravery, on occasion, causes more grief than gratification," he said sadly. 

Speaking as if it cost him something to do so, and reflecting, that perhaps it did, Snape replied.  "Gryffindor bravery brought down Voldemort."  His speeches to the contrary, Severus doubted very strongly that any who had seen Potter duel Voldemort that final fatal time would forget soon what Gryffindor courage withstood that day. 

"Slytherin cunning got him there," Lupin answered, and Severus returned his gaze to eyes the colour of aged whisky. 

Severus inclined his head, accepting both complement and due.  His eyes, unfortunately, seemed more inclined to drift to where Lupin's hands had lain, fixing only somewhat sourly on the plate of jam tarts that lay between them. 

"I'd give my last knut for a mead and decent food," Lupin muttered, and when Severus looked up in shock, it was to discover that the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor was eyeing the tarts with displeasure enough to rival his own.  Lupin glanced at him with embarrassment that melted slowly to amusement and spread his hands on the table.  "Buy you a drink at the Hog's Head Severus?"   A smile growing over his face at Snape's stunned expression, Lupin stood and laid a sickle on the table.  "There are men who are not meant to share jam tarts in a cosy boudoir.  I suspect that we are two of them." 

"Isn't the Hog's Head a bit beyond your means, Lupin?"  Snape's voice, he was pleased to note, still cut smoothly, though he was mildly disappointed in Lupin's lack of reaction to the jibe. 

The werewolf lifted a shoulder, let it fall in a graceless shrug and stood, neatly replacing his chair at the table.  "I've come into a small sum," he said evasively.  "We could even go to the Three Broomsticks if you prefer.  I thought you might prefer not to be seen in the presence of a werewolf."

"What makes you think I'd like to be seen in the presence of the rest of the Hog's Head's clientele?"

The bloody werewolf was definitely smiling at him.  Uncomfortably, Severus wished he would stop.  "I thought the entire point of the Hog's Head was not being seen."

The front door of the shop let out a particularly musical jingle, admitting a cool autumn breeze and a pair of Hufflepuff seventh years who seemed disinclined to notice anything beyond each other.  For the moment. 

Deciding not to give them the chance, Severus stood, sweeping his robes around him and stalking towards the door.  There were most definitely worse places to be seen with a werewolf than the Hog's Head.

***

Feedback is always welcome at ferox@contortus.net or cave_canem on lj.