TITLE: Research and Development Part X: Second Opinion
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DISCLAIMER: Belongs to JKR. No profit. No infringement etc.
SUMMARY: Harry wants Remus. Remus wants Harry. It should be simple, right? The secret is spilled, the mystery Death Eater attacks, and Snape delivers a bombshell.
CATEGORY: (Drama / Humor / Hurt-Comfort / Romance)
BETAS: The Singular ShadowPhoenix
NOTES: This is it, my friends, my darlings—the last chapter. It's been a great ride, and I enjoyed taking you all with me. As always, I hope you continue to follow my writing and stay in touch! Now, I hope all is clear, resolved, and satisfying for you, but please let me know any concrit you may have.
Part X: Second Opinion
Being Madam Pomfrey's assistant gave Harry the opportunity to learn a lot about healing, as well as do a lot of deep introspection. Since she couldn't be with her patient all the time, she often left Harry to keep an eye on Remus when she needed to do errands, and because the man did not stir, Harry had a lot of quiet time on his hands. Harry, who'd been thinking a career in healing might be good—since that way he could patch Remus up after his transformations—soon found himself rather bored. After the initial blood and adrenaline, healing was mostly watching and waiting, and cleaning out nasty cuts. Ron visited occasionally, trying to be understanding, since he was under the assumption that Harry's attachment to Remus probably correlated to his loss of Sirius.
After they had been back at Hogwarts for nearly two weeks, Harry and Ron played a quiet game of Wizard's Chess as they awaited Madam Pomfrey's return from Hogsmead. As Harry glumly moved the pieces across the board, a moan from the other room caused his head to swing round. "Remus?" he queried tremulously, and dashed into the man's room when he heard his name called in response.
His feet skidded on the smooth tiled floor, and he came to a stop at the man's bedside, throwing his arms around him. Remus smiled exhaustedly up at him, his very aura exuding love and warmth and comfort, and Harry's heart fluttered madly. He pressed a fervent kiss to the man's lips, and suddenly Harry heard a gasp behind him. Harry froze, and felt Remus do the same. Ron.
Harry jerked away, whirling to face his friend. "Ron…" he said hesitantly, unsure of how to handle the situation. Should he be blunt? Should he make excuses? How bad had it looked? Would his best friend turn his back on him? "I…" he continued weakly, and began chewing his lower lip.
Ron's voice was low. "You were kissing him, Harry! What the hell? Do you—are you…? That's…" He trailed off, his Adam's apple bobbing.
"Yeah, I did. I kissed him, that's true." Harry took a couple of deep breaths and nervously adjusted his glasses. Remus cleared his throat behind Harry.
"Ron, I'm sure emotions were simply running high," the man began to explain, but Harry cut him off.
"Don't, Remus. Don't bother with that. Ron isn't stupid. And—I don't want to lie to him, okay? It's different with him. Ron, I—" Harry tried, but Ron wasn't listening.
"Harry! He's a bloke! And he's—he's…old! Since when do you kiss blokes? What happened to Cho? And what's wrong with you?" Ron was ranting by this point, throwing his arms about, his face all red and tense.
"I…I liked Cho, I really did. She liked a dead guy a little more than she liked me, though. And…I've always kind of…you know. Anyway, it's not like I jump all over every male I come across, and I never will either; it's only Remus. I can promise you that, Ron; I'll never make a pass at you or anything—it's just Remus."
Ron's face drew compact in anger. "Just Remus? Just Remus? Just a former teacher who's twice your age and male besides, not to mention a werewolf and not too well off because he's a werewolf? Is that what you're saying? Merlin, Harry! Tell me that's not what you're saying. This is…this is bad, mate. Do you have any idea what people like Rita Skeeter would do to you if they found out?"
"Ron…I can't help it. Do you understand? It can't be helped. I need him. I—"
"You need him? He's supposed to be like a father to you, not—not—whatever you two have been doing! You didn't do that, did you? Oh God, Harry! He's supposed to be, like, taking care of you! Did he make you do stuff? I swear, Harry, if he forced you to do anything—" Ron grabbed Harry by the shoulders, shaking him a little.
"No, Ron, no! It isn't like that at all! You've got hold of the wrong end of the stick, really. I wanted him. Ron, I wanted him. Be angry with me if you're going to be angry with anyone. I'm the one that started this. I want him! I want to be with him! Can't you accept that?" Harry's voice had taken on a pleading, desperate edge.
Ron ran a hand through his hair a couple of times, making it almost as wild as his eyes. His mouth opened and shut, but for a long time, nothing came out. "Harry…nobody is going to accept this." He backed away towards the door. "You have no idea how much trouble this is going to cause. No idea." Then he turned and stumbled out of the hospital wing, leaving a distressed Harry and remorseful Remus behind.
Ron managed to successfully avoid Harry until school started again, despite Harry's best effort to speak with him. After about his fifteenth time through the castle, looking for Ron, Harry gave a disheartened sigh and went to visit Lupin. Despite his werewolf strength, Lupin was still in pretty poor shape, and couldn't even get out of bed yet.
Trudging into the hospital wing once more, Harry was lost in his troubled thoughts, and didn't even notice there was someone already visiting Remus until he was almost at the door. Harry stopped, wondering if he'd be interrupting, but then he realized it was Dumbledore's voice he was hearing. Feeling only a little guilt, as the Order frequently left him out of things that Harry felt he'd be better off knowing, he flattened himself against the wall, his head cocked as he listened in.
"…and I assure you that I must," Dumbledore was saying in a patient voice. "Fudge still feels he would do better with more control of the school, and Educational Decree Twenty Two is thus still in effect."
"It doesn't make a difference, Albus," Remus promptly replied. "You can't take me on again; you'd be deluged with Howlers and meetings with parents who do not want their children exposed to a werewolf. I'm dangerous. I shouldn't be here, however much I think of Hogwarts as my home. I'm sure the Ministry can scratch up someone suitable for the Defense position."
Harry felt his heart pounding. Dumbledore was offering Remus his job back? But that was wonderful! That was fantastic. It would take care of all Harry's worries about how far the bond could be stretched, and allow Remus to make some money at the same time. He was frustrated with Remus for arguing, but knew why the werewolf was doing so. For one thing, the man felt responsible for Harry's current difficulties with Ron. Moreover, the confrontation with Ron had dragged all sorts of fears and insecurities back to the forefront of Remus's mind; he was tormented by guilt for taking advantage of a child, he felt as though he'd stolen Harry's future away, and he was certain that Ron was going to tell the Order he was carrying on a relationship with Harry, and soon there would be consequences to pay.
It looked as though Ron had kept the situation to himself, though, if the Headmaster was offering Remus a position at the school again. Harry found the thought comforting.
"Do we really want to take the chance that the Ministry will come up with someone halfway competent? We are reaching a critical point, Remus. Harry has only two years left at this school, and before he leaves I should like to think we had prepared him as best we could. And there is another thing to consider; Harry has only two years left before he might be considered to have reached his full majority. Tom will not want to wait until Harry is a fully trained Wizard. He will kill Harry before he graduates, if at all possible. I need someone to stay close to Harry. Harry needs someone to teach him. You are the only one."
Harry strained for a moment, before Lupin gave a great sigh, and Harry knew the man had already given in, although he wouldn't admit it right away. Harry bit his lip, smiling at the idea of having his mate nearby all the rest of the year.
"…Severus Snape is just as capable," Lupin was saying doubtfully when Harry tuned back in.
"Severus is better off where he is just now," Albus responded. "And Harry doesn't trust the man, although I hope he shall come to do so. He trusts you, Remus."
"But…what about all the parents, and the people that—"
"I will ignore them pro tem, as I did Hagrid's detractors, until they have had a chance to calm down and evaluate your teaching skills more rationally. I will assure them that we will take extra precautions, and those precautions will be duly taken. Remus, I need you to trust me."
Another heavy sigh. Then, "…I do, Albus," rang out in a hollow voice.
Harry slipped away before they could discover him.
The moment Harry got away, he scrawled a quick note to Hermione and went down to the owlry to send it. He had to be careful of the words, but he knew he'd feel better if he got a chance to tell her before Ron put his spin on the situation, so Harry did his best. He couldn't come right out and say he was gay, could he? That wasn't the sort of thing you told someone by mail. And he couldn't mention Remus by name, in case it got intercepted. Finally, with an uneasy shrug, he decided to keep it simple.
Hope you're doing okay. Everything is all right here. Have you talked with Ron lately? I can't get him to talk to me…I have something kind of important I want to tell you in person. I need to talk to you as soon as possible.
It was short, and it wasn't terribly friendly, but at least it got his point across. He gave a dispirited half shrug, and attached his message to one of the school's owls.
A day later, Harry got a response from Hermione saying that she wouldn't be arriving until the first day of term, and was he all right, since she hadn't seen him since the bus ride after the attack? It went on to note that Ron had also asked to speak with her, and they weren't fighting again, were they? Harry really didn't know how to respond to that.
At least Ron still hadn't told anyone about Remus and him, however much he might disapprove of them. Harry hoped that he could eventually win Ron over, and that his friend would be able to see how much this meant to him, and someday forgive them both. It was rather lonely in the castle without any of the students around, Remus too weak to leave the hospital wing, and Ron avoiding him. Harry was beginning to get depressed: he stopped going to dinner in the Great Hall, and snapped at Snape when the man brushed past him in the corridor. That had earned him afternoons in detention of sorts, copying an entire book of defensive potions, and made Harry seethe at the unfairness of it.
Finally, Remus was allowed to move to his own quarters, and Harry wanted to sing in rejoice. He soon began sneaking into Remus's rooms in the middle of the night, his movements difficult to conceal, now that he'd lost his father's precious invisibility cloak in the attack on Grimmauld Place. He was sure Remus would try to send him away, but the man was far too tired to argue, and capitulated without a fight.
Harry was glad of this on many levels, not the least of which was that his presence seemed to soothe the werewolf, and he often lay awake for most of the night, stroking Remus's hair as his head rested against Harry's chest. This was going to be made much more difficult in a few days, when term started, but Harry cherished what time he had. Sex had become practically a non-issue, since Remus had no energy and Harry was under so much pressure because of the whole Ron fiasco that he wasn't certain he could perform in any case. All he could think about was losing Remus, and what his life would be like without the man.
In fact, the bed Harry shared with Remus was practically the only place he could go just to unwind. During the day, between pseudo detentions with Snape, assisting Madam Pomfrey, and doing his best to track Ron down, Professor McGonagall was also adding to his burden. She'd called him into her office one day to discuss his OWLs and future, and had been hounding him ever since. Like Hermione, she seemed convinced that the world would hold no terrors for him, so long as he studied hard and knew what he was aiming for. He'd reiterated his goal to be an Auror, and she'd given him some extra books and advised him to bring up his Potions grade. After his third meeting with her, Harry was ready to burst. He would have dearly liked to tell her, 'Well, after I off the Dark Lord, I'm planning on selling my name to the Weasley twins for marketing, marrying Remus Lupin, and spending the rest of my life as a werewolf's househusband.' He felt, however, that this would not result in a decrease of his many problems, and kept his mouth shut.
Finally, finally term started up again, and Hermione arrived in a flurry of hugs and concern. The problem was that everyone else showed up as well, and they were finding a deucedly difficult time finding a place to be alone. Harry thought that after the great feast, where he flanked one side of the girl, and Ron the other, he and Hermione might have a chance to duck out, but Professor McGonagall cornered the girl, needing to see her about something.
After waiting up in the common room until almost midnight, Harry gave up and went reluctantly to bed. Ron was either asleep or pretending to be, so Harry flopped down on his own now unfamiliar mattress, and pulled the curtains around him. As much as he knew he should get to sleep as quickly as possible in order to be refreshed for the first day of school, he had difficulty finding slumber. Only after giving up on Snape's Occlumency advice and remembering Remus's technique, and calmly practicing it for more than an hour was Harry finally able to drift off.
He woke late the next day and had to rush to get to Transfigurations. When he reached McGonagall's room everyone else was present, and class was ready to begin. He'd missed yet another opportunity to speak with Hermione alone. Sliding into his seat, Harry cursed Ron under his breath for letting him oversleep. Was he ever going to see that Harry had everything under control?
As class ended, McGonagall called Harry to her desk, and he lifted his books and went, gritting his teeth. "Mister Potter, if you are going to be so lax as to show up for the very first day of your sixth year classes late, then there will be no hope for you as an Auror! You do take my meaning, don't you?"
And she went on and on, as Harry nodded and mumbled, "Yes, Professor," and "No, Professor," as expected, all while trying to hold back an impending explosion. Finally he was free to go, and ran to catch up with Hermione, who was well on her way to the dungeons.
Unfortunately, Ron had gotten to her first, and it was obvious that he was using the opportunity to tell her everything. His head was ducked down, whispering in her ear, and Hermione's face was blank with shock. "Wait!" Harry called, hurrying to join them and explain. "Please, wait!"
Hermione looked up at him, her face stern. "Harry," she said in a scandalized voice. "What were you thinking? Don't you know that this is the sort of thing that could ruin your academic career? Not to mention what could happen to him! You have to stop, Harry!" She gave him a worried look, rushing towards Potions, still averse to being tardy.
He gave Ron a filthy look over the top of her head, and was somehow pleased when Ron flushed and looked away. "Hermione, you don't understand," he began desperately, sickened at the thought of losing his only possible ally. She had to see the sense in this, she just had to! "I can't help it! I'm in love with him, Hermione. Did you hear me? I love him!" He tried to catch at her sleeve as they turned the corner, and they suddenly came face to face with Draco Malfoy, Lavender Brown, and most of the sixth year Gryffindor and Slytherin classes.
Harry stopped short. He could feel the red creeping up his neck and into his cheeks. Most of the students were staring at him, and some had already started to murmur to one another behind their hands. Draco Malfoy's face slowly lit with an unpleasant smile. "Oh, you 'love him,' Potter? And just who is it you're pining away for? It isn't me, is it? I know I'm irresistible, but I'm afraid we don't breed any sodomites in the Malfoy family." He smirked nastily, and a few snickers around them made Harry wince.
Hermione spoke up instantly. "No, you just produce murderers and cowards, don't you Malfoy? Come on, Harry," she said, grabbing his arm and tugging him into Snape's classroom. "Just ignore the pathetic little git."
"You're the perfect little trio, aren't you?" Malfoy's taunting voice followed. "The Mudblood, the vagabond, and the shirt lifter. It's too priceless!" he laughed.
"Shove it, Malfoy," Ron growled at him. Harry wasn't all that encouraged by this—he was pretty sure Ron was taking offense on his own behalf, and Hermione's. Malfoy merely sniffed, his eyes laughing.
The entire Potions class was spent with Draco giving Harry amused looks and passing notes around. Harry's heart sank when he noticed Pansy Parkinson pass a note onto Parvati, and witnessed Parvati giggle and pass it on. It looked as though the Slytherins weren't going to be the only ones that had a problem with Harry, this time.
When the day was finally over and Harry stumbled into the boys' dormitory, he got a nasty surprise. All of his belongings were packed and sitting at the end of his bed, Hedwig's cage perched atop his trunk.
"What's this?" he asked loudly, glaring round the room.
Ron pretended to be deeply interested in his Quidditch magazine, and didn't say anything, but Seamus exchanged a look with Dean and Neville.
"Well, Harry," Neville said timidly, "it's not that we have a problem with you being queer, and all—"
"Right," Seamus jumped in. "We don't object to you being gay in general, we just don't want you being gay around us. Er."
"Look…we just aren't…you know, comfortable with this whole thing," Neville explained. "So maybe you could sleep somewhere else?" He looked embarrassed, and slightly ashamed of himself. Dean didn't look particularly enthusiastic about the idea of Harry leaving, and neither did Ron, but they didn't stand up for him, either.
After a long moment, Harry stomped into the room and grabbed his things. "Fine," he told them in a cold voice. "If you all want to behave like a bunch of stupid bigots, that's just fine. Just for your future reference, you're all a bunch of hideous, underdeveloped runts that I would not touch with a ten-foot broomstick. I happen to enjoy the company of older men, and frankly I don't think any of you would be sufficient for my sexual needs. Just so you know," he repeated, and left the room in a huff.
Remus was sympathetic, but worried a lot about the situation. "You oughtn't stay here, Harry," he told the boy more than once. "It's not going to be long at all before the students put two and two together, and then we'll both be in a boatload of trouble."
Harry didn't care. His adoring public had turned on him more than once, and he was sick of living his life to their expectations. He was actually a little surprised when he realized that it was true, and not just something he kept telling himself to make himself feel better. Hermione was still his friend, albeit a rather nagging one at the moment, and Ron didn't completely ignore him all the time, so maybe there was hope for him, as well. Everyone else could go bugger themselves.
That didn't stop people from giving him a hard time, though. He found a portable swamp in his Quidditch locker, someone put Epoxy Potion on his chair before Charms, and there were a lot more stares, whispers, and jokes than normal. Draco Malfoy kept trying to convince the teachers that Harry had sexually harassed him, and he was called in to more lectures than he knew what to do about. Professor McGonagall told him that being gay would almost certainly make getting a career as an Auror more difficult. Professor Snape insulted him—even more viciously than usual—at every turn. Even Hagrid sat him down and, after a horribly awkward fifteen minutes discussing bandyramps, asked if it was true, and was Harry sure? Really sure? It couldn't just be hormones, could it?
Near the end of one Defense Against the Dark Arts class, Ernie Macmillan told Susan Bones, in a rather loud voice, that he'd almost rather deal with You-Know-Who than Harry Potter. "After all," he pointed out, "there aren't any reports of You-Know-Who shagging anyone he attacks."
Remus looked positively murderous at this, and only Harry's pleading eyes and desperately shaking head convinced the man not to pick Macmillan up and shake him until his teeth rattled. "Twenty points from Hufflepuff," the professor said brusquely, eyes glittering in a way that no one dared argue with him. "That obscenely foolish comparison is an unfortunate illustration of how little you understand this class. I'll expect you to think before you speak in the future, and not trivialize the threat of Voldemort by bringing one boy's sexual preference into it, Mister Macmillan."
Harry stayed after class, and turned to his teacher with a large sigh as soon as the last student left and the door closed. "Do we have time for a talk, or do you have another class soon?" he asked.
"It's lunch," Remus said curtly. "You know that as well as I do."
Harry hid a smile, knowing that Remus was only frazzled because he worried about Harry. "You don't have to be upset, you know," he told the man. "It's not as though I give a damn what Ernie Macmillan thinks, of all people. I mean, first he assumes I'm the heir of Slytherin, and now this. Not exactly a clear thinker."
"No," Remus agreed, putting the class assignments into his briefcase. He paused and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I don't like them treating you this way," he admitted after a long silence. "They don't even know about us. All they know is that you prefer men. And that's enough to turn them into beasts. The things they've been saying," he growled helplessly. "They wouldn't dare if they knew. The little wretches wouldn't dare. Really, Harry. I'm not going to be able to stand much more of this."
Harry perched on the edge of the man's desk, smiling wryly. "What are you going to do about it? Huff and puff and blow Hufflepuff House in?" Remus managed a small smile, and slumped back in his seat. "Easy on, Superwolf," Harry advised him. "You're too tense these days. Aren't you supposed to be recuperating? You don't have your full strength back, do you?" he added wistfully, for his mate's gruff voice and protective demeanor had brought his libido up to speed with shocking abruptness.
Remus didn't notice the tent in Harry's robes, because his head was thrown back, his eyes closed. "No, not yet," he said. "I can do classes without much difficulty, and I'm certainly a great deal better, but I'm not exactly ready for calisthenics," he mused.
Harry glanced from his professor to the closed classroom door. Someone could walk in anytime. That only made it more exciting. He scooted closer, a smile blossoming on his lips. He shouldn't wear the poor man out, though. He should make sure he did all the work himself. Sliding along the desk until he was opposite the man, he dropped lightly to his feet between Remus's open knees.
Lupin's eyes popped open, and he looked at Harry questioningly. In answer, Harry gave him a cherubic smile and dropped gracefully to his knees. "Harry? What are you…?" Remus gasped when Harry ran an eager hand up his thigh, not even pausing when he reached the man's crotch, but stroking that heated place with ardent bearing.
Harry bit his lip seductively, rubbing his cheek against that hard thigh. "Professor? I'd really like an advanced lesson…" With a long, smoldering glance, Harry turned his head and nipped at the fabric on the inside of Remus's knee.
"Harry…stop that," Remus ordered weakly, shuddering when the boy's hand firmly grasped his growing erection through his robes. The youth ignored him, looking somehow more studious than he usually did in class as he worked at the fastenings of the werewolf's outfit. "This is a bad idea," the man lamented.
"Shut up, Remus," Harry replied forcefully, and Remus was so stunned by his mate's sudden aggressive streak that he found he couldn't reply, even though he desperately wanted to object. Well. Not as desperately as he wanted Harry to keep rubbing his face in that spot, but pretty desperately.
After gulping a couple of deep breaths, Remus grabbed Harry's wrists and forcefully pushed him away. Unfortunately, since Harry had been squatting in front of him with precarious balance, this served to knock Harry onto his butt. The student was almost entirely under the desk, and glared at the professor with irritation, pushing his wayward glasses back up his nose. Remus frowned and began refastening the clasps on his robe. He started to rebuke the boy again, but suddenly the classroom door swung open.
Lupin, still partly exposed, shoved Harry further under the desk with his foot, rolling the chair forward as Professor McGonagall entered. "Professor Lupin," the woman was saying, "I think we need to discuss Mister Potter."
Harry's interest perked when he heard his name, but not half as much as part of his body did when Remus had scooted the chair forward, virtually shoving himself in Harry's face. "…Er, yes, Professor McGonagall?" he distantly heard Remus say dutifully, even as the man squirmed uncomfortably in his chair. Harry grinned in the darkness under the desk. Here was the perfect opportunity to get Remus back for shoving him away like that!
Harry snaked a hand up the man's leg towards his eventual goal, but suddenly a large hand that obviously belonged to someone else smacked down on his wrist, pinning it there. It made a bit of a sound, and from outside his lair Harry heard McGonagall say something like, "…so I think we ought—goodness, Remus. What was that?" Harry shook with suppressed laughter. Poor Remus—this hot and bothered and having to hide it.
"…'s nothing, nothing at all," Remus replied, his voice noticeably scratchy. Harry began twisting and pushing, trying to jam his way between the man's legs. "Ah…just…after the attack, I get the occasional twitch, is all." Twitch, eh? Harry leaned forward and blew a bit of warm air against the man, who did indeed twitch in response. He heard Remus give a cough, and then swallow loudly a couple of times.
Minerva was speaking again, but for the life of him Remus couldn't focus on what she was saying. He felt Harry's left hand in his lap, and quickly caught it as he had the other. The boy was wriggling like a fish between his legs, and damn it if that wasn't getting him more aroused. "…and look what I found left in my classroom after fourth period," McGonagall said, holding out a sheet of paper. Shit. In order to take the proffered scrap, he'd have to free one hand. And lean over a bit. Gritting his teeth, Remus pressed roughly down on the boy's wrist, an unspoken order not to move it. Slowly taking his hand away to reach out, Remus relaxed as he realized the youth's hand wasn't going anywhere. Harry must be realizing just how serious this was.
That's when he felt the slick heat of the boy's tongue licking him. Remus froze, his eyes wide. "Ngh," he managed, picturing that tongue and what it was doing. He snatched the paper out of the woman's hand and glanced at it, the image completely failing to overcome the one that had already taken root in his mind. He felt Harry's lips, and the hot mouth slid down, sucking gently all the while. He'd meant to drop the paper and quickly reach down to shove the boy's head away, but found he was shaking too badly with…well, with excitement. Steadying his hand on the desk so the other professor wouldn't see, Remus felt his mind trying to go off in a dozen different directions. McGonagall was staring at him, one eyebrow raised expectantly, and Remus reverted to giving a generalized response regarding the paper. "Er. Surely you aren't surprised to see something like this?" he hazarded. He figured he was fairly safe in saying it, since Hogwarts was full of crazy things, and crazy things happened all the time, and most of the students, when it came down to it, were crazy with things like hormones, so you saw just about everything once.
Except, possibly, the most famous of all the school's students, down on his knees under the DADA desk, doing that. Remus certainly hoped that didn't get seen, at any rate. "Well, no. I'm not surprised," McGonagall was blathering on, "but I think we ought to be keeping an eye on…" Harry was experimenting a bit now. It was a bit messy, it was definitely inexperienced, and it was absolutely wonderful. After all, it hardly mattered that Harry had never done this before; it was quite difficult to do that sort of thing badly.
"Oh God," Remus muttered, and Minerva gave him an odd look. Harry was really getting the hang of it now. Remus felt his hips beginning to twitch forwards, an inexorable need to thrust grating its way from the base of his spine to the primitive part of his brain. He felt his fingers curl into claws on the desk, and looked down to see he was gouging chips of wood from its surface. He stopped immediately. Damn werewolf strength, anyway.
He looked up into Minerva's surprised face. "Well," she said finally. "I'm glad you understand the seriousness, then. It's likely an empty threat, but one can never be too sure—especially with adolescents. I hardly need tell you not to take matters into your own hands, though." Remus looked down, abashed, struggling not to think about how his own left hand had let go of Harry's wrist to tangle in his hair, pushing the boy's head a bit, encouraging him.
"Mm-hmm," he responded absent-mindedly. Blasted boy, being so very enthusiastic about all of this! How was Remus supposed to behave? Fingers tightening in the youth's hair, Remus was more attuned to whether or not he seemed to be gagging Harry than he was to whatever Minerva was saying. He sincerely hoped he wouldn't be called on to recount any part of this conversation later.
"Well, then. I'll leave you to get on with things. Are you coming to lunch?" McGonagall was cocking an eyebrow at him, and by dint of much effort, Remus worked out what had been said. He couldn't respond coherently at this point, so he shook his head and gestured to the scrolls still left on his desk. "Ever the diligent worker," the woman noted. She made her way to the door, and paused a moment. "You know, it really is good to have you back."
Remus smiled painfully, and fumbled for his wand the moment the door had completely shut. He quickly cast a spell to lock the door, then put up a Silencing Charm, and finally pushed himself back from the desk just far enough to see the efforts of the audacious brat beneath. "You—" he began, and had to stop, as his breath was quite cleanly gone. Harry's face was flushed with excitement, his eyes narrowed like a cat with cream. Remus certainly hadn't expected the youth to be enjoying it although, come to think of it, why he'd refuse to stop if he wasn't would be something of a mystery. The boy's glasses were crooked on his face, but Remus felt it made him seem even more wanton and sensual… And as for sensual…there were absolutely no words Remus could put together to describe the exquisiteness of those swollen, rosy lips and what they were doing. And Remus Lupin was a man of many words.
Harry looked up at him finally, and those clear eyes were round with ingenuousness, sparkling with playfulness, and dark with want. Remus felt the youth's body shuffle round, until Harry's legs entwined the lower part of one of his own. The boy moaned at length, and began rubbing himself unreservedly against Remus's leg. Harry's hardness, pressed firmly to Remus's shin, left no doubt that Harry was indeed enjoying himself. The werewolf thought it would be the end for him, and he knew he couldn't possibly last much longer.
Remus was losing what little control he had left. "God, Harry," he groaned, his hips lifting of their own accord. "Unbelievable… Can't tell if you're—an angel—or a devil—tempting and offering…salvation…dear Merlin. At the same time. Please, Harry." Harry's head was moving much more slowly now, as Remus jerked his hips up and let them fall again repeatedly. The youth was moaning almost continuously, and grinding his own hips with abandon.
Harry gave a cry from deep in his chest, which sent vibrations straight into Remus's groin. The man could fell Harry spend himself, warm wetness spreading across his shin. "Stop. Harry," he grunted, pulling the boy's head away by his thick, soft hair. "I'm going. I'm mmmh. Going to," he gasped out, and Harry's tongue flicked out one last time.
"Good," the youth responded, still trying to attach himself to Remus again, his mouth open, his eyes lidded. Remus cringed inwardly, thinking Harry would surely find it disgusting, but the man could no longer hold back. With a gasp, his entire body became merely an insignificant background to his length, which erupted in orgasm.
"God, I'm sorry, Harry," the werewolf rasped, pushing the chair further away from the boy.
Harry seemed surprised by this, and cocked his head to the side. "Why?" He ran his tongue over his upper lip, cleaning off at least some of Remus's mess. "It was fun." He wiped his face with his hand, and licked at his fingers seductively, giving Remus one of those all-too-entirely-ready-to-do-this-again looks. "And so what if it's messy? We've go magic to clean ourselves off." As if to demonstrate, Harry produced his wand and cast a cleaning spell on the man's leg, which instantly felt less disgustingly drippy and sticky.
Remus smiled, glad that it hadn't overwhelmed Harry. He just kept underestimating the boy, no matter how often he tried to think of him as the adventurous sort of soul he really was. The werewolf sighed deeply, leaning his head back against his chair. He was completely exhausted; his entire body felt as though it had been subjected to some strange and foreign ritual. Well, he supposed it rather had. It had been a long time since anyone had offered to do that; everyone thought they could come down with lycanthropy from it or something. Looking down at the student in front of him, who was still engaged in tidying up, Remus blinked blearily. "Why," he finally asked, "Did you do that?"
Harry grinned up at him. "Got you back for knocking me on the floor, didn't it? Plus, we both got off—which I for one needed—and you didn't even have to get out of your chair. And hopefully it worked off some of that frustration we've been feeling towards the world, too. Didn't it?"
Remus gave a great yawn. "Yes. On the other hand, it was sickeningly irresponsible, and could have led to your expulsion—not to mention my death, Harry." He wanted the boy to take this more seriously, but felt inexplicably sorry when that mischievous face fell, morphing into a picture of sorrow and guilt. "It was quite stupid," he added in a lighter voice. "Definitely something Sirius would have done."
As Remus expected, Harry brightened up at this, and gave him another tentative smile. The werewolf reached out to press his palm to the youth's face. "Go find something to eat, you young degenerate. I won't have you thinking I'm going to be your daily meal substitute."
Harry looked taken aback for a moment before laughing. Remus didn't generally make sexual jokes—it was almost as though he found them crude or something. How great to see him lightening up this way. "I don't know," the student replied with an unpracticed leer. "You're very good at filling me up."
Remus chuckled weakly, shaking his head. "Ugh. You've worn me out. Another round of that, and I'll be ready for the old werewolves home. Go get lunch. And bring me something—there's no way my legs are going to support me long enough to get all the way down to the Hall, and back in time for my next class."
Harry gave him a brief kiss. "Be back in a few. I can eat with you—nobody wants me around down there, anyhow."
Remus nodded sadly, watching the boy take down the spells on the door, giving him a short wave goodbye. With yet another tired sigh, Remus let his head plunk down on his desk. No two ways about it—that boy was going to be the death of him.
Harry meandered down the corridor, humming softly to himself. He was a bit tired, and absolutely ravenous, but much happier than he'd been just a half hour ago. Merlin, but it was wonderful to have Remus in his life. It was wonderful that Remus was teaching again. It was beyond wonderful that the man let him do whatever he wanted sexually, never judging or telling Harry he was deviant. And it was thrilling to have gotten off on Remus's leg, even if it was rather weird.
Grinning, he resisted the urge to skip or jump or dance or something, just a little bit, as he made his way down the hall. That would have been silly. Even if no one could see him. Well, he couldn't help it. He was in love. Love was supposed to make you act silly—that almost seemed to be the whole point. He wondered if he should mention the way he felt to his werewolf. He wondered if Remus felt the same way about him. Maybe. He'd seemed to like it, after all, when Harry had basically sucked him off. Of course, that didn't necessarily mean anything; that was sex. All blokes liked sex. Still, Remus tended to look at him in such a way that—
"Having a good day, Potter?" Harry froze at the malevolent drawl dripping down his spine. "Well," the voice laughed, "That's about to change. Petrificus Totalus!"
Harry fell forward, thanking the fates that one arm happened to be up in front of him, so that he wouldn't land nose-first on the hard floor. It killed his wrist to land on it like that, though. Footsteps drew near, clicking clinically on the stones.
"Do you have any idea how funny this is, Potter? The rest of them never even came close. All these years he chased after you, and all he had to do was ask me. Someone that actually knows you. I knew that those despicable Weasleys were your friends; I knew you'd take something given from them, even if you'd never accept it from anyone else. I thought of that. Me. The others have been talking like this was some sort of punishment, the Dark Lord's way of penalizing me for having the effrontery to go after you on my own. I'm the only one that knows the truth. I am being rewarded for my initiative! I have been given the opportunity to deliver you to him—or your body, at the very least!"
Remus lifted his head from the desk, frowning when the paper McGonagall had left behind came up as well, stuck to his forehead. With a rueful half smile, he peeled it off. He understood that the woman was concerned about Harry, but really—it was just a harmless doodle. He'd seen worse—hell, he'd done worse—back when he and James and Sirius were back at school.
He smoothed it out before him, taking the time to look it over. There was a little tombstone in one corner, with the words, RIP HARRY POTTER on it—how terribly inspired. There was what appeared to be a body in the middle of the page. It didn't look awfully like Harry—but then it didn't look much like anyone. It was just a crude body, with cuts and curse-marks all over it. Next to it was a masked Death Eater, hexes shooting out of its wand, laughing. And nearby…nearby was an upended car.
Remus felt time stand still. It was a car. It was clearly a car. And for all its sketchiness, it looked remarkably like the mini. None of the students should have known anything about that. Unless Lucius Malfoy told his son…unless Lucius Malfoy son unless Malfoy unless… "Oh God," Remus breathed. Could it possibly have been that simple all along? It could explain everything. So alike…but just different enough…he thought. Slowly, Remus brought the scrap of paper to his nose.
A hand roughly rolled Harry onto his back, and he found himself staring into Draco Malfoy's flat eyes, eyes devoid of humanity. With a callous hand, Draco flipped a lock of hair from Harry's forehead, smiling bitterly down at the famous scar. Harry's innards seemed to cringe at this, but the rest of his body could do nothing. Move, Harry, move, Potter, you can do it; you beat the Imperius Curse, you know you can do this if you just try hard enough to MOVE MOVE MOVEGODPLEASEMOVE! Inside, Harry was screaming, writhing, and he wondered what was wrong with him, until he realized that Malfoy had cast Crucio on him. Malfoy had cast Crucio.
"I'll bet you didn't even know I was a Death Eater, did you Potter?" Draco asked conversationally, just as though he hadn't just been torturing Harry less than a minute ago. He rolled up his sleeve, looking proud of the disfiguration. "Took it this summer—Father was so pleased. No one's ever qualified this young before. But of course, I'm a Malfoy. We kept it hush-hush, though. Our Lord's secret weapon. The one that can truly defeat Harry Potter."
Suddenly Malfoy stood, and gave Harry a vicious kick in the ribs. "I am going to kill you, you know—don't fret about that. But I'll have my revenge, first. You made father look a fool, escaping him like that. I thought I'd have my revenge at the Black place—really, only you would have been thick enough to take that candy—but those damn rustics—those Weasleys—got in the way. And ripped my cloak—although when my Lord discovered my failure, I realized that was the least of my problems. No matter, now. Now I have you. I knew I would eventually. Who else would have known to wait near the Burrow, wait and watch for you to come calling on your little friend? Who else would have been clever enough to expose Snape as a traitor? I saw him Apparate with your werewolf."
Harry's jaw ached, straining to open and speak, to tell Malfoy just what a sick beast he was. He longed to curl his hands into claws and gouge the humorless gray orbs out. He yearned to break that thin, pale little nose.
Draco seemed to realize this, because he snickered. "Oh, this is so sweet. All that chasing round after you all summer, and all I had to do was sit and wait. First at the Weasleys, and then in an empty hall. A good hunter knows how to wait, you know." There was a small sound from somewhere, and Draco's head jerked up. They were right near the top of the stairs, and Draco glanced over the banister, making certain they were still alone. After a moment's unease, he smiled. "A hunter also knows when to stop playing with his prey," he said thoughtfully. "Better to have you dead and gone—and quickly—and for certain—than to be caught at this." He stood over Harry, pointing his wand at the other student's chest. "So, Potter. Any last words?" He pretended to listen, cocking his head to the side. "No? What a pity. How's this; I'll make some up for you. You'll have begged a lot, and cried, and wet your pants. Of course you did. Now, would you like to see my mastery of the same Unforgivable that took care of your parents?"
He raised his wand, grinning, and the words formed on his lips. "Avada—"
"Expelliarmus!" a voice shouted, and a bolt of magic shot past them, missing Draco. The Slytherin looked up, snarling and distracted. Harry felt a familiar sensation, and realized the voice had next cast Finite Incantatum. With a deep exhalation of relief, Harry scrambled to sit up, only to find himself staring at the tip of Draco's wand again. Harry opened and shut his mouth, his entire world reduced to the little glow at the tip of Malfoy's wand. He had seen death before. It had come to collect him before. He'd always known, deep down, that sooner or later it was bound to catch up to him. The voice cried "Expelliarmus," again, and the spell hit Draco in the shoulder, knocking his whole body backwards.
Malfoy stumbled, right at the edge of the steps, staggering back one more foot…one more…teetering…
The staircase shifted.
Harry looked on in horror as Malfoy grasped at the railing that was no longer there. Lunging, Harry threw himself at the other student, hand desperately outstretched. Before he could get anywhere near the Death Eater, there was a sickening feeling of vertigo as Malfoy's inertia carried him over the edge, plunging, his robes twisted around him. A scream, high and rent from an unpracticed throat, and Harry wasn't sure which one of them it came from, and wasn't certain that it even mattered. His hands closed over nothing.
"Harry! Get back! Get away from the edge!"
Harry looked up, uncomprehending, as Lupin rushed to his side, jerking him away from the stairway that was now a sudden drop. Harry knew, without looking, that not one single staircase would have broken the fall, and that Draco's body will have fallen to the very ground floor, and likely would have fallen forever, if only the castle could have moved every one of its stones from his path. He shuddered, and leaned forward, arms clutching childishly at Remus.
Remus stroked his head, panting hard. He must have run all the way, even though he was so tired. He ran all the way. He was muttering soothing things into Harry's hair, maneuvering him deftly away from the precipice, telling him everything will be all right, even though neither one of them believed it.
Harry thought carefully. He could remember Malfoy back in first year, offering his hand. But he could also remember Malfoy's wand, an inch from his face. He remembered screaming, and Malfoy telling him he was a Death Eater. Malfoy would have killed him. He knew that. He had to hold on to that. Malfoy would have killed him. Swallowing was difficult. He had to do it several times before he could look up at Remus. "Superwolf," he murmured sadly, but gratefully all the same. "You saved me again."
Remus paused, then went back to smoothing Harry's wild locks down. "Of course I did," he agreed gently. "You are my mate, and I love you. I will always come when you need me, Harry. Always."
Harry swallowed again around the painful lump in his throat, and buried his head in the man's chest. Remus wasn't going to talk about it, but Harry knew what had just happened. Remus killed Malfoy so that Harry didn't have to. He wasn't aware of saying it out loud, but he must have done, because Remus gripped his chin and pulled it up, looking down at him with stricken eyes.
"No, Harry. I killed him because he was going to kill you. You would not have had a chance to go for your wand. I killed him because I had to. There was no time to consider anything else, Harry."
Harry smiled up at him, but he still became aware of hot tears splashing down his cheeks, and felt vaguely embarrassed. He didn't know what to say now. "I love you, too," he whispered hoarsely.
Remus kissed him softly, and pushed him back against the wall. "Sit. Rest. I have to get Dumbledore. I'll be right back, I promise." He walked over to the stairwell, and panic rose in Harry's chest like a bird in flight, but the staircase smoothly slid over to accommodate the man's feet. Still feeling nervous and confused, Harry waited until Remus was gone before being copiously ill.
Harry woke up in the hospital wing, and found that Remus was sitting next to him, dozing in a chair. He hadn't been hurt terribly in the confrontation with Draco, he was just…in shock. He prodded the man carefully, and there was a quiet grunt and fluttering of eyes. "Oh…Harry. You're awake. How are you feeling?" The man looked down at him with concern.
Harry considered this. "Guilty. Angry. Confused." He shrugged.
"Er. I meant; how do you feel physically?" Remus rubbed his shoulder comfortingly.
"Oh," Harry responded. "Then nauseous, mostly." Remus nodded at this, and soon Madam Pomfrey bustled over, offering a potion to restore the youth's equilibrium. Harry sipped it and let his head fall back on the pillow. After they'd sat in silence for a while, Harry cleared his throat. "Remus?"
"…I don't think I want to be an Auror after all." Harry looked away. Remus leaned forward and took Harry's hand, squeezing it gently.
"…I don't…think I want to do that…see that…everyday. I don't want to kill people. Well, Voldemort. Bellatrix. I might…I could do that. But I don't want to keep on doing it. If I—you know. If I do. Win. I don't want to do it for a living."
It was only one word, but Harry thought Remus sounded like he understood. There was a silence, but it was devoid of the tension that had been there just a moment before. Harry felt the man's palm against his own.
"So…what do you think you want to do?" Remus eventually asked. "Are you thinking of becoming a healer?"
Harry considered this. "Yes. No. I don't know. Maybe. I…thought about it. I kind of wanted to, for a while. It's just…kind of bloody, you know?"
Remus nodded. "Yes, I suppose that's true." He stroked the back of Harry's hand as the youth began to doze off again. "You have time, Green Eyes," he whispered softly. "Plenty of time. I'll be there to help you all the way." He kissed Harry's forehead, watching the youth's eyelashes flutter, and those perfect lips curl upward slightly. "Love you," he added.
"Love you," Harry whispered in return, feeling that secret thrill inside again. Remus loved him. He almost couldn't believe it. It was too good to be true. Better than Quidditch, better than magic, better than sex. Remus loved him. Something nagged at the back of his mind as he drowsed. Remus said he loved him. But did Remus really love him? Did Remus have to love him? They were bonded. Would Remus have ever been able to love Harry, if not for the bond?
Turning on his side, away from the werewolf, Harry hid the sudden tear that leaked out. No. I forced him. I forced him to love me—because I forced him to bond with me. He never would have done it. Never would have said it, if not for the bond. Feeling sad and confused once again, Harry drifted off to sleep.
Harry walked beside Ron and Hermione down to Potions. It was weird to pretend that everything was normal, but Harry just didn't have the energy to face the truth head on. At least Ron was his friend again. Good old dependable Ron. After discovering that it was his house that had been watched, his brothers that were tricked into giving Harry the candy, his friendship that had nearly gotten Harry killed, he seemed to become a lot less distant. They played chess again, and stuck up for one another, and acted like friends. And they did not, under any circumstances, discuss Harry's relationship with Remus Lupin. There were just some points Ron wasn't ready to concede.
As they took their seats, Harry glanced up at the blackboard and felt a shock go through him. Ingredients for the Wolfsbane Potion, it clearly read. Feeling strangely exposed, he glanced around the classroom. A few of the Slytherins shot nasty glares at him, and one or two people muttered things behind their hands, but most everyone seemed to ignore him.
He took out a piece of parchment and began to write. They were learning to make the Wolfsbane Potion? Why? So Snape didn't have to do it himself all the time? Wasn't Remus going to be fired for killing Draco anyway? Harry scribbled the instructions down, and realized he was feeling excited. He liked this. He would be able to help Remus, without even becoming an Animagus. He liked this.
Snape strode up to the podium in a whirl of black robes, and Harry hid a grin. "The Wolfsbane Potion is one of the most difficult mixtures to brew," he began without preamble. "It is hardly dangerous, in and of itself, which is why you are being allowed to learn it. However, it is also very new, and highly experimental, so a new variation may be achieved before you have even graduated. Still, being sixth years, you ought to be capable of learning the potion, and then modifying that knowledge in the future." His sour look suggested he thought they were anything but capable, but maybe that was just irritation at being locked in Hogwarts for a solid week, unable to leave in case the Dark Lord decided to punish him.
Harry began scrawling theory and doses down, listening to Snape talk about what ingredients might be substituted for one another, and what each one did. Then he mentioned that, with a very little adjusting, they might one day be able to use it as a 'cure' for lycanthropy. Harry's head jerked up, and he stared at the man.
Hermione raised her hand, and Snape's weary voice invited her to ask her witless question. "Is a cure being attempted now?"
Snape actually seemed to have difficulty deciding whether to answer yes or no. At last he shook his greasy head. "Not…as such. Obtaining test subjects is extremely difficult. There are, however, recent advancements in the potion, in the form of its anesthetic qualities, as well as inhibiting some of the less pleasant…side effects of the transformation."
Hermione's hand waved in the air again, and the Potions Master's teeth began to grind audibly as he waved her to go ahead. "Is this recent research? Who is heading it? How is it being funded? What—?"
"That's enough, Granger," the man snapped. "It is very recent research, and I am heading it, and it isn't being funded—not well, at any rate. Since your dear Professor Lupin has been recalled to duty, despite his lycanthrope status, I am testing it on him. When he lets me," he added in a disgruntled mutter.
Harry's hand shot up.
"What is it, Potter?" Snape gave him a glare, but Harry just squared his shoulders.
"Is it hurting him? Is that why he doesn't like the testing?"
"Don't be obtuse, you little cretin. Until recently, he didn't like to experiment because he never knew where he was going to be, when he transformed. He worried the potion wouldn't work. Now, he worries about eating one of you in your beds, I don't doubt. We need a controlled environment for his transformations." Snape took a series of breaths, and Harry wondered why he sounded so mad. "As we have none, we just make do with what we have. Now, the properties of the base oil, as you are aware…"
Harry stared at his notes, fascinated. This was interesting. This was really interesting. Smiling broadly, he met Snape's eyes as the man detailed possible future alterations. That cool, smooth voice did not falter, but an eyebrow rose on the man's impassive face. To Harry, he seemed just the slightest bit amused.
Harry was there that night when Snape brought the Wolfsbane to Lupin. "Is that one of ours?" he asked, nodding to the goblet.
Snape's lip curled in disgust. "As entertained as I would surely be to see Lupin inflicted with whatever concoction you little morons dreamt up, I am nearly certain the Headmaster would wish to call me in and ramble and twinkle at me, should I actually administer it to him. No, Potter. I have some amount of pride, and would not stoop to such a thing." He handed Lupin the container with a scowl.
"Oh," Harry replied, looking disappointed.
Remus took a gulp of the stuff, wrinkling his nose. "You have them doing Wolfsbane? Isn't that a bit complicated?" he sounded interested, and gestured to an empty chair.
Severus eyed the thing dubiously, as though it might attack his rear, before cautiously consenting to take a seat, surprising even himself. Harry and Remus exchanged a quick look, but as they were now quite good at that, Snape didn't even notice.
"They can benefit from the theory, if nothing else," he explained, waving a hand. "Besides, it really is an up and coming development, and sometimes that captures a student's interest when making ancient recipes by rote rather bores them." Both Remus and Harry stared at this, and Snape shifted uncomfortably.
"What?" Remus asked, unable to hide his consternation. Severus had never cared about whether or not his students were interested in something. Severus cared about whether or not his students were terrorized by something.
Harry, glancing at Snape's slightly reddened face, decided to have pity on the man. "No; he's right," he confided in Remus, and now he was the one getting befuddled looks from his companions. "The theory—and the idea that new things are being done—really pulls you in," he explained. "Makes you feel like you're right there on the verge of discovering something. It's really great."
Snape eyed him, nonplussed. "Don't tell me the Boy Who Despised Potions would have been churning out miracle draughts for all these years, had only someone offered him the chance at research?"
Harry flushed and looked away. "I didn't realize there were still things happening in the field," he said defensively. "You only tell us about stuff that's been around for thousands of years."
"Untrue," Snape calmly contradicted. "You simply never listen to a word I say, which is why you never hear it when I talk about anything recent."
"Oh?" Harry challenged. "And you do, do you? Always going on about the stuff that's cutting edge?"
Snape shifted. "Well. Perhaps not exactly cutting edge. You have to realize, Potter, that there are a limited number of true Potions Masters working in the field. And unless they are very rich, they cannot live on research alone. We do what we can," he added, sounding peeved.
Remus cleared his throat. "So. Is this recent research on the Wolfsbane Potion?"
"Mine is," Severus retorted. "As you well know."
"What have you changed?" Harry asked eagerly.
Severus looked at him dourly. "Very little. Unless Mr. Lupin can be afforded a silver-lined cage, he categorically refuses to allow me to try any of the more drastic experiments."
"I don't want anyone hurt," Remus protested. "That last batch made me irritable. It could have been worse, if you'd added more sulfuric acid. Instead of irritable, I could have become downright murderous. I just want precautions taken, that's all."
"Well, I'm sorry I cannot scrape enough together to buy you a glorified kennel," Snape growled, arms crossed angrily over his chest.
Remus merely closed his eyes a moment. "I apologize," he said to the Potions Master, causing the man to hunch huffily in his seat. "You're only trying to help. It's not your fault we haven't the equipment, and it isn't your fault that you haven't the luxury of time, either. Some things just aren't meant to be. Perhaps someday. When everything is over, and things have settled down. For now, I'm grateful you've done this much."
Snape gave him a dirty look. "It isn't for your sake!" he exclaimed. "This is my chance! Those damn Death Eaters have taken everything else from me. I made brilliant potions for him, and look what he did with them! Just once, before I die, I will have achieved something, you imbecile. There will be a cure for lycanthropy, right down in black and white, and my name on it. And then I'll have bested him," he hissed, so quietly even Remus hardly heard it.
"That's…good," he finally said lamely. "You've got ambition, and a willing guinea pig, if nothing else. Or guinea wolf, as the case may be." A silence descended on the room. "Erm. So. What are your sources for the modifications to the Wolfsbane Potion?"
Snape leaned back in his chair. "I got papers on the original potion from Malarkey," he said. "He made the stuff, so he knows more about it than anyone. There are other texts I'm working from—several from right here in the library, in fact."
"That's good," Remus replied with feigned nonchalance. "Anything by Ignobal?"
Snape snorted. "That crackpot? The only reason any of his blatherings were worth anything was simply due to the sheer volume of them. No man could write that much and be wrong about all of it."
Remus looked suddenly uncomfortable. "Well. There were some things he did know, and other things that may or may not be useful in the future. After all, the werewolf mating, the bond that develops, is—"
"—A complete load of bollocks," Snape finished for him.
Remus looked shocked. "That hasn't—that hasn't been proven."
Snape twisted round to give the man a condescending grimace. "Of course it has. Where have you been? They did up that study five years ago on the probability of a werewolf mating bond. But I forgot; you probably couldn't have afforded Potions Digest back then. One would have thought you'd find a way to follow up on that sort of thing. It was a very thorough study—the whole European Wizarding Institute was—"
"And what did they find?" Remus asked in a frighteningly flat voice.
"Lupin. What part of 'complete load of bollocks' don't you understand?"
There was a long, tense silence.
Severus twisted a sort of smile at him. "I must return to my papers," he said, gliding to the door. Pausing there for a long moment, the man added, "Goodnight to both of you," in a slightly reluctant voice.
Remus was still frozen in his chair. Harry stared at him, not quite being able to process the information. Suddenly he felt the urge to giggle. They weren't bonded. They weren't bonded. It had all been in their heads. The desperate desire for one another, the pain from being parted, the strange feeling that they could tell where the other was at any given time—it was all in their heads. Harry knew this should bother him, but a fragment of thought kept ricocheting around his head, keeping him from concentrating on any of that.
He said he loved me. He said he loved me. He said. He said. Love. Me. Love me. Remus. Never forced. Wanted to. Wantedto. Meant it. Really, honestly meant it. Remus…loves…me… Harry wasn't sure if he was going to laugh or cry. He clasped his hand over his mouth, but he felt the hysterical laughter bubble up all the same, shaking him like a leaf. After a few moments, he looked up at Remus, who was standing in place, swaying slightly, and the look of dawning horror on the man's face sobered him up immediately. Harry felt as almost as though he'd been slapped.
"R—Remus…?" Lowering his hand from covering his mouth, Harry reached out towards the man.
Remus simply gazed at him without a hint of comprehension in his eyes. He looked like he might be ill. Abruptly, the man bolted from the room.
Harry leapt to follow, but tripped over the table, and by the time he managed to get to his feet again and stumble to the door, the hallway was clear.
The first person Harry approached was the headmaster, who had indeed heard from Remus. Unfortunately, all Dumbledore could tell him was that Professor Lupin had rather unexpectedly tendered his resignation. After a bit of careful questioning, Harry was left with the impression that Remus had seemed distraught—over the death of Malfoy, in Dumbledore's eyes.
Harry walked away from the man's chambers on leaden feet, sucking on a flavorless candy with lips that were completely numb. Would they ever feel again, without Lupin there to kiss them alive? Harry headed to McGonagall's rooms next, knowing all the while that it wouldn't matter. The man hadn't even packed his things. He'd just—just run away.
On some level, Harry understood why the man was so upset. He'd buggered his best friend's son, a minor, a student. Harry figured guilt didn't get much worse than that, even if it hadn't really been anyone's fault.
McGonagall didn't have any clue to where Remus might have gone, so Harry found himself pacing the castle in the middle of the night again, not caring if he ran into Filch, or Peeves, or anyone. Perhaps, though, he did want to run into someone. Deep in his musings, an irate voice interrupted him, belittling and challenging and taking away points, and Harry looked up to see he'd wandered into the dungeons.
Staring at Snape's marble face, Harry's eyes narrowed. "Why did you tell him that?"
The man blinked, raised his brows. "I thought he wanted to know. He seemed to be fishing for information. I gave it to him. What would you have had me do?" The words were cool and crisp, but the Potions Master's dark eyes glanced about the corridor, making certain they were alone. "Here, Potter," he said, stepping away, and Harry following him into his office.
"You knew," Harry whispered to the floor, as the man seated himself and gestured for Harry to do the same. "How could you do something like that? You just…just ripped everything to shreds, in the blink of an eye. For what? For what, Snape? For WHAT?" Harry was almost screaming with hysteria, but the man seemed as composed as ever, giving him a faint sneer.
After waiting for Harry to pull himself together, the Potions Master rubbed the bridge of his nose. "To make him pliable," he finally clarified. Harry's mouth fell open. "Really, Potter, he's a terrible test-subject, and he'd told me he wouldn't stay on after this semester. Not for anything. That stupid werewolf and his—his morals. He simply couldn't abide buggering a student. Now, I'll grant you; that was hardly my concern, and I'd ordinarily be delighted to be spared the 'pleasure' of his company, but I can hardly make progress on the potion without someone to test it on."
Harry took a couple of shaky breaths, feeling angry tears well up. "That's why you did it? That's why you ruined everything? Just so you could have your precious potion, your stupid name on it? My God, you are just…pathetic. Vile. Indefensible."
"And…Slytherin," the man added, nodding slightly. "And don't get up on your high horse just yet, Potter. It benefited you as much as it did me. And him, as well, although he's too bloody self-righteous to see it."
Harry jumped to his feet, his jaw clenched. He stared at Snape for a long time, but couldn't think of anything to say. Finally he left the room. Maybe tomorrow he'd talk with Hermione and Ron. If nothing else, they knew the truth. And could offer friendship and honesty, at least.
"If you love him, Harry, you'll just have to prove it," Hermione said matter of factually as she spread jam across her toast. "Give him some space, and let him know that you're still interested. But show him you're mature enough to handle a real relationship."
Harry winced—it really did sting, hearing that. Like they'd just been playing about or something. "Yeah," he told her dismally. "And just how do I go about doing that?"
Hermione gave a slight shrug. "Do all the things adults do when they're planning on entering a real relationship with another adult. Think about what you want to do with your life. Make plans. Consider your options and interests—and how well those coincide with his. Sort out what you need. Make lists."
"Hermione," Ron interjected suddenly, "I don't think adults make lists when they go to ask someone out on a date or something. They just do it. It's kind of a spontaneous thing."
Hermione seemed to consider this, and although she couldn't really argue the point, she did flop her hair and say, "Well, perhaps they should, then," darkly in response.
Harry groaned. What was he going to do with his life? Get it taken away by Voldemort, most likely. All right, he told himself. And if that doesn'thappen? Harry squirmed in his seat. What did he want to do? Help people. How? Help Remus. How? Fix Remus. Cure Remus. Harry found that he was staring at Hermione, and Hermione was looking back, her eyebrows raised. He got to his feet and took one last bite of bacon before heading for the door.
"Harry?" he heard Hermione call. "What are you going to do?"
"I'm not sure," he confessed over his shoulder. "Talk to Professor Snape, for starters. After that, I don't know. But I'm not giving up." He ran smack into the Potions Master as soon as he left the Great Hall. "Oh, good. I was about to come looking for you." The expression on the man's face told Harry how unlikely the Potions Master thought that was. No matter. "I need your help with something…"
With the help of Mundungus Fletcher, Harry finally cornered Remus in Flourish and Blotts during the Christmas holiday. The man's head was bent over a book, his graying hair soft in the store's light, the lines in his face deeper than ever. To Harry, he had never seemed so comely. Of course, he hadn't seen the man in months. He'd missed him so very much that it was hard not to go right over and throw himself down on his knees, and beg to be taken back.
Instead, he walked casually over and leaned on a bookcase. "Good read?" he asked.
Remus started. He paled and looked away. "Harry. I—Harry…"
Harry cleared his throat. "I'm impressed. You've managed not to forget my name." The man flinched at that, staring at his knees. Harry sat down across from him. For a long time, neither one spoke. "Why did you go?" Harry finally asked, his voice full of sadness.
Remus finally looked him in the eye, his face worn and heartbroken. "I'm sorry. I never. I'm sorry." He looked down again. "You shouldn't be here. You could get into trouble, and I—"
"I love you."
Remus fell silent. "…You don't know what you're saying," he mumbled.
Harry shrugged. "I know less than some people, and more than others. Someday I'll probably know more than I do now. But I'll still love you. I just wanted you to know that. I can't make you come back, and I'm not going to apologize for something I couldn't control, and wouldn't take back in any case. I can't smooth over the guilt you're feeling, and it saddens me terribly. I don't know what to do, Remus. I just…I miss you. I want you to be a part of my life—even if you refuse to be that part. I'd like you as a friend, as a teacher, as…as an acquaintance, even."
Remus rubbed his eyes. "But failed you at every turn. I molested you, and I didn't figure out why Malfoy smelled so familiar until he'd almost killed you, and I—I ran away, because I knew I couldn't control myself. I took advantage of you, and I'd continue to do so. Well, I couldn't promise I wouldn't, at any rate. I'm depraved." He looked up at Harry with anguished champagne eyes.
"Stop that. Am I depraved? Am I? Because I liked it too, you know. I was the one that talked you into it. I—I seduced you. I wanted you more than I'd ever wanted anything, and went after you with everything I had. And I'm still not sorry for it, though I'm sorry what it's done to you."
Remus shook his head angrily. "You didn't seduce me! You were a child! Are a child. You didn't seduce me at all—I knew perfectly well what I was getting into—all those dreams about you, all the fantasies, and oh, yes, I wanted you well before anything actually happened!"
Remus sounded angry, but Harry couldn't help but be flattered. "You…you did? You really wanted me? Because I…God, Remus…I had fantasies too, you know." Abruptly Harry blinked, trying to clear his head. "All right, anyways. That's all in the past. That's not why we're here now."
"No. It's time to think about the future, Remus. And I can do that, because you gave that to me. You gave me a future, and an ability to believe I'd be a part of it. And I want you to be a part of mine. I love you. I want you. I can't promise everything will work out—but I can promise that I'll try. I want to build a future with you, Remus."
Slowly, Remus looked at the boy. Where did this self-possession come from? Where did that awkward, in-between child go? "Harry…" But those eyes were looking at him with something totally different than lust. They were calculating and determined, and…loving? Worshipping? Adoring? God. Remus had seen that look before. Not in those eyes, but on that face. Remus had seen that resolve—when James had looked at Lily. James had never given up. Not until he got his girl. Shaking, Remus felt a wild desire to laugh. He was already conquered, wasn't he? He had been the first time those eyes had set their sights on him… Weakly, he made one last attempt. "Harry…you're just a child. You don't even know what you want to do with the rest of your life, let alone who you'll share it with."
"Oh yes, I do," Harry replied with confidence. He pulled out a scroll, and began smoothing it on the table between them. "I want to build something. I want to make something. Something that will help people and continue to help people, even after I'm gone. That way, even if Voldemort wins, I still did something with my life. I've already got things started; see, I can make good money on interviews, but I can also let a ghost writer do an autobiography type of thing…the money will go directly into the project, although I'll spend time doing fundraisers and stuff like that as well, once it's safe. Hermione's on board; I told her we'd need to work on finding representation for magical creatures' rights and make changes in the Ministry…"
Remus gaped, shaking his head. "Harry…this is…you planned all this?"
Harry looked down modestly. "Well, I had help. Ron and Hermione and Snape and even Dumbledore all helped a lot. And all the Weasleys, and…not just me, anyway." He looked up slowly. "I love you. I'm willing to wait if I have to. I want you to come back to teach. Dumbledore has been substituting, and it's running him into the ground." He waved a hand at the blueprints, crisp and detailed, with trees blowing in the foreground. "I'm going to do this no matter what you say. I want you to know that. It's coming from inside of me, even though you inspired it." Remus nodded, and Harry looked relieved. "You told me you'd always be there for me," he whispered, sounding suddenly unsure, and Remus smiled, relieved to find he hadn't totally left that all behind.
"Yes. I'm sorry. I thought you'd hate me. When all was said and done, I mean. Oh, Harry. Can you ever forgive me?" He looked at his hands, frowning.
Harry watched closely, knowing that Remus didn't mean forgive him just for leaving, and knowing also that 'when all was said and done' really meant that Remus thought it wasn't. But that was all right. So long as he had time to prove otherwise. "You're forgiven," Harry replied. "I'm not giving up. Not ever. You know that, don't you?"
Remus gave him a crooked smile. "Oh, I'm counting on it. Because for the next two years, I'm not going to lay a finger on you. If you're still in love with me after that, you'll be a saint as well as a hero."
Harry smiled and crossed his ankles. "You won't…you won't hug me or anything?" he asked plaintively.
Remus laughed. "Oh dear. Yes, I'll hug you. Of course I'll hug you. I meant we will no longer be having sexual relations," he elucidated, and grinned when Harry blushed a little, ducking his head.
The boy reached out and took his hand. "That's all right. I think…I think love is better than sex, anyway. If you gave me a choice of having one or the other from you, I'd choose love every time." He looked up uncertainly.
Remus cupped his chin. "I will always love you, Green Eyes. That's a promise I wouldn't be able to break, even if I tried. I'm sorry I couldn't face you…couldn't face myself. It didn't mean that I stopped loving you, even for a moment."
Harry looked away, trying to hide the melting he seemed to be doing, as it was welling up in his eyes. After a few moments, he recovered enough to ask, "Will you come back with me?" Remus nodded again, and Harry grinned shyly. He gestured to the scroll in front of them. "You aren't…you aren't mad about this, are you? Your name and all? I worried maybe you wouldn't want it plastered all over the place, but if it weren't for you…"
Remus shook his head, grabbing the youth's hand and giving it a squeeze. Harry leaned over and rested his head against the man's shoulder. "Can I keep this?" Remus asked, picking up the paper. Harry grinned and nodded, and Remus held it up in the light. The building was spacious and dignified and lovingly crafted, and the grounds in the design were everything they should be. He stared at the words on the side of the structure again, putting an arm around Harry's shoulders. "The Remus J. Lupin Institute for Research and Development," he read aloud. They made their way to the door, headed for Hogwarts and home. "Really, Harry. All Lily ever got was flowers."
The youth laughed, and Remus kissed him lightly on the nose. He'd have to watch that, in the future. But that was all right, because there would be another future along in a minute. His future. Their future. He was finally looking forward to having one.
Now, just because this particular fic is finished does not mean you have seen the last of me! I have several projects in the works at the moment, including an original slash novel, a Ginny/Draco for my friend Nari, and the sequel to The Master Plan, so do stay tuned for further developments!
Thanks to: Doughgurl2008, naa, Dracula555, Read300300, Hecate deMort
Poicale: Yes, I'm afraid it really, most sincerely is the end. But not of the world, I assure you.
Silver-sunn101: The implication was that at first there was only one Death Eater—Draco, and that when the others began to show up Snape Apparated, so that they only got a glimpse of him from a distance. But Draco recognized him anyway, and let the cat out of the bag. I wouldn't mind if Harry had issues walking, but the plot is important. Now if only AFF wouldn't be down all the time, as well as me having problems with my lj and homepage…gah. How irritating!
Silver Phire: I think I am a Snarry shipper at heart, so my subconscious desires tend to slip through a bit. I tried to make Snape a little more eeevil in this fic, and therefore less attractive.
Immortal Memories: I haven't read much in the way of Snupin, but it's plausible and can be kind of cute. A Harry sandwich would be cute, too, though.
Katte: Yeah, Snape is kind of the catalyst for a lot of things. He enjoys Harry and Remus fighting, and I'm still not sure that he didn't have designs on Harry. He certainly liked the idea of being able to blackmail Lupin, but until Lupin had something he wanted, he kept his mouth shut. A true Slytherin till the end. I tried to make Harry less static than in most fics—I hope that came through!
Adele Sparks: Well, there was only one really smutty moment, but I tried for the whole sly twist thing. And a bit of comedy. But with great suspense, and less confusion than the TMP action sequence. I'm trying to learn how to write action, damn it! It's difficult. Hope you enjoyed it, and thanks for all your marvelous help with this one!
Juxtaposed: Snape is actually my favorite character, so I tend to hoard the best lines for him. Sometimes I forgot that he wasn't the main character in this one! I'm glad you liked my Remarry—I like the idea of it, but I don't often find it written well. It's definitely a challenging pairing. That's probably why I like it! But of course, I still like Snape better, which is probably why I have something like two Snarries to every Remarry. Boy, does that sentence look weird.
Sunnysparkles: I promise I'll get going on something new and fabulous soon. I'm so glad to hear that it's been your favorite; that really makes my day! Thanks! : )
Goody2sho: Squeal away, my dear. Anyway, if you can't annoy your friends, who can you annoy? I'm happy to know you've enjoyed it!
SweetMercy: Yup, sorry but it really was the end. I really wanted to work Alex into the Death Eater plot somehow, but couldn't find an elegant way of doing it while knowing that Draco was behind 99 of it. Sigh. I didn't want this to stop, either at times. It was a good experience and a lot of fun!
HellPhoenixSirius: Me, too. Slytherin all the way! I mean; Snape and Lucius are just delicious. And the guys they cast as Lupin and Sirius really disappointed me. Ick. Count me a snake, baby. Thanks for your wonderful support, my faithful reader!
Somnia Lustre: I was determined not to go over ten chapters in this one. In TMP, I let myself go on and on until it was really unwieldy. In this one, I was determined to give it a short and punchy climax, without several chapters of backstory/smut/pointless prose, even though I really wanted to. Anyway, I hope it was still a good ending, for all that had to be wrapped up in it!