Severus didn't emerge from his bedchamber until early evening. The sickness had returned shortly after midday and he had been unable to keep down another dose of potion. When the retching finally subsided, he had collapsed on his bed and fallen into a fitful sleep. He woke drenched in a cold sweat, the terror of a dream he could not quite remember still caught up inside him. He nearly threw up over the side of his bed.
He still felt the chill now; such dreams had an unnerving tendency to cling to him for hours after. Flinging a blanket around his shoulders, he took a few deep, composing breaths before stepping out into the living room. Lupin was still seated on the sofa, curled up in one corner with a book balanced on its arm. He didn't look up as Severus moved to the sideboard, his mind set upon brewing a refreshing mug of peppermint tea.
Drawing his wand from his sleeve, Severus flicked it in the general direction of the kettle, which steamed noisily as he fished around in the drawers for a teabag and took a mug from the rack on the wall. Once the infusion was ready, Severus drew the mug to him, warming his fingers on the thick china. It wasn't until he had settled himself in his chair by the fireplace that he felt the acute discomfort of Lupin's eyes upon him.
"What do you want, Lupin?" he snapped. "If you wish to talk, please have the courtesy to let me finish my tea first."
"As you wish," Lupin said, turning back to his reading. Severus raised his mug to his lips, pushing away any pondering on the irritating weariness Lupin's voice held as he inhaled the brisk aroma of his drink.
Taking slow, steady sips, his mind began to drift. He was conscious that Lupin's gaze had returned to him, but didn't have it in him to care. Let the werewolf stare if he wants, Severus thought. Damned if he was to be intimidated by the man in his own home.
Finally, draining the last of the tea and setting the mug on the coffee table, he looked up. He meet Lupin's gaze with a brittle confidence, and his tone was cold as he spoke. "So... I understand there are things you wish to discuss."
"Much," Lupin said. He licked his finger and turned a page of the heavy tome he was hunched over, but did not break eye contact.
"What are you reading?"
Lupin held up the book for Severus to examine: Wizarding Society in Tudor England. Severus snorted, disdainfully. "I'll thank you not to raid my bookshelves without asking."
"I have read the material I brought with me. You have quite a library, but if I have offended you..."
Severus waved a hand dismissively. "Mind you do not damage it. And don't touch any of my Potions books, or anything from over there." He nodded towards the piles of books against the far wall of the room. The very look of them was menacing, leather and parchment seething with something deeply unhallowed. He fancied he saw Lupin shudder.
"Yes, I noticed your collection was also quite... diverse."
"Were you expecting something to the contrary?"
Lupin did not reply. Looking away, he turned his gaze wide; Severus watched it tumble critically over the room. "Don't the house-elves—"
"The house-elves clean only if I ask them to," Severus interrupted. "Do not expect me to apologise for my disorganisation. Frankly, I feel it is rather rude of you to—"
"Forgive me, Severus. I did not mean to speak out of turn. As your guest, it was not my place to judge."
"No, it was not," Severus scowled. "I take it that you do not intend for us to discuss household management."
Lupin closed his book and shook his head. The trepidation was plain in his voice. "How long do you intend on staying angry with me, Severus? I am – I'm finding this rather difficult, at the moment. I'm not sure I have yet recovered from the shock."
"Lupin, if you expect me to offer my sympathy..."
"No, Severus." Lupin uncurled himself from his reading position and sat up. "I only wish for you cooperation. I know you are suffering terribly, but surely you can see hostility is not going to help matters... May I join you?" He gestured at the chair across from Severus.
"If you must."
"Thank you." Lupin rose and moved to settle himself into his new seat, somewhat tentatively. He continued, "I believe I told you yesterday that I had been doing some thinking. Rather an understatement, in retrospect: I have been unable to keep my mind on anything other than this... situation since I was informed of its existence." He looked up and met Severus with a purposeful stare. "It's been eating me alive, Severus. I don't think I can convey to you how terrible I feel – how sorry - for reasons much greater than you disinclination to allow me to do so. I'm not sure there would even be a place for me to start."
He paused momentarily, shaking his head. The words hung in a heavy tangle between them. For some reason he had no desire to analyse, Severus had no mind to disturb Lupin's little speech just yet.
"Every road of thought has left me more and more confused. There are only two things that I know for certain: I am no happier with this situation than you are, and something has to be done to ease both our suffering. I was wondering if perhaps a truce—"
"A truce?" Severus blinked.
"We are both grown adults, Severus. Friendship may be beyond us, but I have always been optimistic that civility is not."
Severus arched an eyebrow and regarded Lupin sceptically. He could almost taste the retorts gathering on his tongue, and cursed himself for not having the energy to utter them. Another sudden chill running over him, he drew his blanket tighter around his shoulders before saying, finally and disdainfully, "How exactly do you propose such a truce would work, Lupin? Have you been colluding with the headmaster?"
"No," Lupin replied plainly. "Believe it or not, I don't actually agree with what he has ordered us to do. There is simply nothing I can do about it." He started pointedly at Severus' blanket, then to Severus' hands wrapped firmly around each other against his chest. "Are you cold?"
Before Severus make a denial, Lupin brandished his wand and pointed it at the fireplace. "Incendio!"
"Lupin!" Severus implored as the fire sprang up. He tried to ignore the pleasant lick of the sudden warmth across his skin. "What do you think you are doing? Annoying me is not a good start to a 'civility.'"
"You look almost fevered, Severus."
"I'm fine." Severus countered Lupin's worrying with a deep scowl and spoke through gritted teeth. "Perfectly fine. Answer my question about your 'truce'."
Leaning back into his chair, Lupin obliged. "I was thinking-- It would be for the sake for comfort and sanity, Severus. I don't expect this to be pleasant, just workable. I think we both know that Albus is being a little... optimistic, shall we say, but I see no reason for our co-habitation to be a compete misery." He had a soft, sickening little tone to his voice that made his words sound unquestionably rational, despite Severus' best efforts to raise thoughts to the contrary. "It makes sense. After all, even without all that has happened now, we are fighting a war together..."
Severus stiffened. "I know that, Lupin," he said quickly, before the words had chance to catch in his throat. "You certainly do not have to remind me."
"No, of course not. I only meant that we already have some form of association requiring amenity, and I'd much rather it wasn't strained."
"Lupin, might I remind you why you and I have never—"
"Don't!" Lupin interrupted, tensing. "Don't drag up the past – please."
"You did not even know what I was going to say..." Severus said with deceptive smoothness. He managed a weak smirk.
"I did," Lupin asserted. His eyes meet Severus' own, something akin to a challenge flashing in them briefly. "Let it go, Severus. You gave as good as you got, and we have been more than even for two years now."
Ah, Severus thought. Touché. Perhaps the werewolf had more iron in his backbone than he had previously believed. He watched as Lupin lowered his gaze, his manor returning the one Severus was accustomed to. An air of solemn contemplation hung around him.
"Am I asking the impossible?"
Through the sheer weariness that enveloped him, Severus felt himself stray uncomfortably close to acquiescing. His drained mind offered little against the temptation of giving up without a fight – anything for some peace. "No," he muttered though gritted teeth. "Not impossible. Just against the conventions I have grown accustomed to."
He let that thought dangle. It was as close as a verbal agreement as he was likely to give. His wretched state allowed him some scraps of dignity, at least. A nervous trace of a smile quirked across Lupin's lips for moment, as though he too knew he been given as much as he could expect.
"I know, Severus," he said, softly. "I know."
It was a damnable thing, Severus thought to himself later, over another mug of peppermint tea, that Lupin was so infuriatingly agreeable. As much as he loathed to admit it, Lupin was nothing like Black; he an entirely different thorn in Severus' side. He was quieter and harder to goad, not volatile like his dead friend. He was so disgustingly nice, yet intense and poignant all at the same time. Never mind that he was a monster – that was irrelevant beside his everyday demeanour, and much less of an irritant.
The evening passed in silence, only broken by the soft shuffle of turning pages after Lupin returned to his book and Severus had taken up his own. Absorbed in his reading, Severus curled into his chair and blanket, the fire easing the last of his chills. He ignored the occasional glance he felt fall upon him from Lupin's direction, scowling to his page until each on passed. He could not tell what he sensed from Lupin: it was a curious mixture of fear and intrigue, solemnly woven together with an array of other emotions he didn't wish to consider.
The clock on the mantelpiece stuck eleven, and then twelve, before either man moved. Lupin was the first to retire, gathering his book to him as he stood and arched out his spine. In the darkening glow of the firelight, his eyes sank mournfully into shadows on his face. Looking up, Severus winced in distaste.
"Goodnight then, Severus. I shall see you in the morning."
Lupin drew away and headed for his rooms without waiting for a response. Staring into the fire, Severus watched him move absently though the corner of his eye. Despite the late hour, and despite the infirmity that still rested heavily on his bones, he could not find the desire to take himself to bed just yet. His mind was too thick with thoughts. His attention, no longer held by his book, drifted and wavered until he fell into a light trance.
He sat motionless for the longest of time, watching the embers fade and die.
The next few days past by in an increasingly predictable fashion, their pattern as reliable and regular as clockwork. The mornings dragged and melted into afternoons, and found Severus hanging over the toilet bowl, sick and dizzy. When he had no energy and stomach contents left, he'd curl up on the bathroom floor, cold tiles pressed against his cheek. He only picked himself up again out of necessity, washing and dressing as the evenings brought with them the need to work.
The locked drawer at the side of his bed was stuffed with reports and letters. Dire things that demanded his attention without undue delay – things that held no regard for the inconveniences of pregnancy. Rubbing his temple, Severus poured over each of them, a glass of water within easy reach and his bedroom door securely locked.
"...Disappointed that we did not get to see you this weekend... I understand you dilemma, but you must give mind to ours... ranks a little depleted..."
"...No news from Azkaban, but we are hopeful ...expect to be hearing from us..."
"... Worried for mother...wondering if perhaps you could speak on my behalf...you know I am impatient to show my support for..."
Severus lent up against the side of his bed, and let his head fall on to the mattress with a despondent sigh. He stared up at the enchanted mirror that hung above the chest-of-drawers – a hideous Snape family heirloom that no one else seemed to want - its concave glass giving a distorted reproduction of the view from the north-tower. Rain lashed across image, as a quick summer shower seized the castle grounds. Severus watched it, blearily, as he tried to find the will to deal with the correspondence gathered in his lap. It eluded him for several dragging moments.
There wasn't really much to do. Read – respond – report to Dumbledore... it struck Severus as rather menial when he actually gave it some thought. And while the letters had been coming more frequent of late, they held nothing of any great value.
"I know you are frustrated. I understand, Severus," the headmaster had said, as Severus glared despairingly at him, brandishing the latest notes from Avery and Nott. "Calm down. It cannot be good for you, this stress. Have some tea."
Severus' lip curled, wanting to shove the sugar tongs down Dumbledore's throat.
"You're loosing a weapon, Albus," he replied. "Do not tell me to be calm."
The look on the old wizard's face became unreadable. He lowered his teacup and his gaze. "You have never been a weapon. You have your uses, Severus – but no matter what I ask you to do, never forget this: your value stretches beyond your task."
Severus snorted, recalling the conversation with liberal measure of acrimony. He scrunched the piece of parchment closest to him up in his shacking fist – it was Draco Malfoy's letter. The boy was going to be just like his father; Severus had seen it in him from the moment he first stepped into Hogwarts. He was confident and proud, and held firm to everyone to every thread of his pure-blood upbringing – damned since birth, it seemed.
Severus wondered how many Aurors it would take to bring him down, and how many would perish at his wand before then.
Carefully uncrumpling the letter, Severus smoothed it out on his knee and rummaged around in his draw for a quill and some ink to form his replies.
Mr Malfoy, he wrote, scratching the words across a piece of Slytherin headed notepaper. Cold dread rose up in him – like he was signing his name to a death sentence.
I regret I am not in a position to assist you in this matter. My association with you your father does not reflect the communication I have with our master. Your inquiry would be better served if addressed to those with greater sway in our ranks. If you wish to discuss this matter in September, I urge discretion. There are limits to how far I can protect you.
As for your concern regarding you mother—
Severus broke off and took a sip of his water before continuing. He wrote each of his replies in quick succession, his mind so detached the casual observe might imagine he was marking second-year Potions essays. Only the slight knitting of his brows betrayed him, tensing against the arch in his head: only the dark set of his face as he trailed liberal truth and downright lies across the parchment.
When he laid down his quill for a final time, he glared up at his mirror once more. Its image shifted to show the entirety of his living room, curled at the edges. He could see Lupin hunched over a book, the curved glass accentuating the angles of his body and face, making him look gaunt. Severus' frown deepened, and he stored his papers back in the drawer, slamming it shut with a snort. His first impulse was to pour himself a stiff drink, and maybe smoke some cigarettes and just be still until everything felt not quite so damn sordid.
But Pomfrey had already given him that particular lecture. She had always looked disdainfully upon his lifestyle, and now had "for the good of your child" added to her arsenal. By the time his appointment with the woman had finished the day previous, Severus felt so terribly cantankerous, he was more than tempted to snatch up his Silk Cut and pour himself a neat gin out of pure, unbridled spite.
Harassed and at a loose end, he now pulled himself up from the floor and slumped onto his bed. The pillows were invitingly soft, so much so he could feel the teasing allure of sleep tugging at his eyelids. It took considerable effort to heave himself up again, and straighten the duvet and pull a jumper on over his crumpled shirt. His work was far from done; he had potions that required brewing and a syllabus to plan and—
Oh God: he still needed to apply for the Defence job.
It was tradition, after all.
Remus slowly grew accustomed to his new dwellings, if not his situation. At first he would wake up in the middle of the night, stricken with the panic of not remembering where he was. His bedchamber was densely black, lacking the comforting glow of streetlamps streaming though curtains. He hated the dark – it reminded him of cellars and cells and all manner of hostile places that had plagued his childhood on a monthly basis. He had quickly taken to spelling a candle to burn the night, chasing away the terror with its gentle iridescence.
He had tried to make his rooms his own, too. The house-elves had been most helpful, assisting him in retrieving some of his belongings from storage. His bookshelves were now neatly laden with books and journals, his bed covered with a deep-blue velvet bedspread that had seen better days. A battered copy of Hairy Snout, Human Heart rested on his nightstand, as always. Slowly, his little corner of the dungeons didn't feel quite so smothering.
Yet he could not shut himself up in there all day, nor did he wish to. He was too sociable in nature, and had grown too accustomed to living with company again. It was that disposition inside him that compelled him to pass his evenings in Severus' monstrosity of a living room, much to the Potions master's distaste. Words passed between them sparingly – whenever Severus spoke it seemed to Remus as if he were speaking to himself far more than acknowledging Remus' presence. It wasn't hostile; it could even be called amiable, after a fashion, though Remus could tell Severus was itching to release his contempt. Only time would tell what kind of a dynamic their co-habitation would fall into.
Towards one end of the living room stood a dark wooden table Remus imagined was once intended for dining, though when it had been last used so was impossible to determine. Clearing a space amongst the gathered books and parchment of an evening, he would set down diary and ink and pull up a chair. A shaded oil-lamp stood in the middle of the table, and cast a warm glow over the pages, light catching on the wet ink as Remus began wrote, his quill scratching with every stroke.
This writing had become his therapy, his blessed release from the trials of the day. He let his quill follow his thoughts, pursuing an openness he would not permit himself anywhere other than upon these private pages. His entries had turned contemplative of late, no longer filled with the activities of the day but with some attempt at unravelling his tangled understanding of the situation he found himself in.
Tonight was no exception. Looking up, he stroked the tip of his quill against his chin as he searched for the words to capture his thoughts. For a moment, his gaze strayed to the fireplace, to where Severus sat in his usual chair, fingers resting gently on the pages of a book in his lap. Remus nearly jumped when their eyes snagged – he hadn't been aware he was being watched.
"What are you doing, Lupin?"
"Writing," Remus replied simply.
"I can see that. Writing what, exactly?"
Remus pulled the battered book towards his chest protectively, suddenly feeling like a twelve-year-old schoolgirl. "My diary."
"A diary?" Severus traced a long, slender finger across his lips, arching an eyebrow in a show of bemused interest. "Stowing away all your little secrets, Lupin?"
Remus shrugged. "It helps me think."
"I see." Severus snorted and looked down, flicked over a page of his book. His fingers drummed irritably against the parchment.
"What have you been writing about me?"
"It's a private diary." Remus blinked. He looked anxiously over to where Severus sat, almost completely withdrawn into the shadows. "Do you truly wish to know?" he asked, softly – sceptically.
"Yes – yes I want to know. What have you been writing, Lupin?"
Severus tone was incredulous; he sounded almost scandalised. Remus hesitated, his good-judgement eluding him right when should be guarding it most. He frowned, flicking his diary open once and smoothing down the pages, running a hand over them almost tenderly. The entry he had just written rested beneath his fingertips.
Severus peered out of the gloom by the fireplace, his eyes narrowed and now lifted to fix upon Remus. Remus could hear his breathing – heavy, steady and deliberate, with his impatience peeking out from beneath it. Scanning the word before him, Remus gathered himself, trying to shake off the distinct feeling he was being decidedly foolish.
"Very well," he said. Clearing his throat softly, he read, "Tonight will mark my tenth in the castle, and by the end of the week Severus will be one month along. I am slowly adjusting to the idea of fatherhood, though I dare not dwell too heavily on it for fear that everything will slip back into complete confusion. I am no closer to knowing what my feelings on the matter are – everything seems to be suspended between reluctant acceptance and rejection. I cannot even begin to imagine how much more acutely Severus feels this.
"Severus is still very ill. I have spent a lot of time with my ears and eyes averted, so as not to hear him retching, or see him wandering about in his nightshirt. Part of me wishes to spare him embarrassment; another suspects he is being deliberately brazen – trying to provoke my own--"
Severus shifted irritably in his chair and glared. "I get the picture."
A weary sigh passing his lips, Remus shut the diary for a final time. "You wished to know," he said, weakly.
"And you chose to oblige."
A familiar, thick silence fell. Remus rubbed absently at his wrist, stiff from writing and cramped by the pull of the moon, and searched for something appropriate to say. Severus' cold gaze did not leave him. It was impossible to know with any accuracy, what workings hide behind those dark eyes; Remus didn't think it wise to even hazard a guess. But elusive as it was, he could tell it was something worth regarding with cautious respect.
The tempers of Severus Snape were to be handled with care at all times. Remus wondered if he hadn't just done an appalling job of that.
Finding his tongue finally, he said, "I apologies if that sounded brutal, Severus."
"No need, Lupin. On the contrary – it was very informative." Severus sneered, his face falling into something much more readable, even though the shadows.
"Ah, hush... Like you said: I did ask. I can't help but wonder what other little gems you have hidden away in there."
"The entries are mostly speculation – just me trying to sort things out in my head. You shouldn't pay them any mind."
"Don't fret, Lupin. I had no intention of doing so. Insightful though you writing was—" Severus curled each word around his tongue, letting them fall deliberately from his lips, "— I can think of far better ways to spend my time that dwelling on them too deeply. I shall leave you to... 'sort things out' in peace."
He rose, tucking his book under his arm as he turned away. Remus pushed back his chair and stood abruptly, too.
"Please don't leave on my account."
"I am tired. Don't flatter yourself by thinking I am doing anything on your account." Severus paused before his bedchamber door and looked over his shoulder. "You are fortunate to be able try and sort things out in your head," he said, fixing Remus with cryptic glare.
"What do you mean?"
"Only that some of us do not have time for such a luxury." Severus sighed, deeply, hesitantly turning back to the living room. "Lupin, you think too much. It is a wonder you haven't driven yourself insane."
Remus' eyes widened with startled intrigue, his mouth falling open though no words came. He leant against the side of the sturdy dining chair and returned Severus' gaze, concernedly.
"I envy you," Severus continued, his voice low and fatigued. "I envy you for having your discomfort in your mind rather than your body. The answer to your struggle is so simple; I think you must be a moron to have missed it. You truly are too easily worked up, Lupin. But I'm not even trying." His eyes narrowed weakly and set his face into a mask of depleted irritation. "You're a fool of a werewolf: if your maudlin analysis is getting you down, perhaps it is time you gave it up."
Remus jaw hung. He had to take several moments to find his tongue. "Severus, I didn't mean..." he started, but the words of the counter failed him. He simply shook his head and turned away. He heard Severus' bedchamber door click shut a moment later. Collapsing back into his chair, he stared blankly out into middle distance, the soft flicker of the firelight tugging at the fringe of his vision. His whole body tensed, stiffening against the onslaught of a guilt he had been entirely unprepared for.
Damn it. Damn it all.
Oh, Severus, he thought. I am a fool, in so many more ways than I'd dare count. You've never shied away from pointing this out. I never meant to hurt you. I only meant...
Certain truisms spun in Remus' head, about good intentions and paths to hell. And wasn't that just the story of his life? He thought. He sighed, breath catching in the knot of muscles in his chest and stomach as he released it, silently berating himself for getting tangled up in his thoughts and misery once again. Beneath his fingers, the worn leather covering his diary suddenly felt as cold as the terrible dungeon walls. Suddenly, he pushed it away as if in disgust, and got up from the table so sharply his bashed a knee beneath its top.
"You idiot – you idiot, Remus John Lupin. Pull yourself together!" he said out loud, his voice cutting though the empty room with only the crackle of burning logs for company. "Pull yourself together, for God's sake."
Looking about him, his eyes roaming over the nearest stacks of books and squinting to read the titles peeling from their spines. There would be something here that would suit his needs; he knew Severus was well versed in healing as well as potions, though his bedside manner was somewhat lacking. The two disciplines overlapped too much for him not to be.
Finally sighting something that looked promising, Remus dropped to his knees and snatched the book to him. He thumbed promptly to the index and scanned the columns until he found what he was looking for:
Pregnancy, assisting your wife in.
Well, he thought ironically. It was better than nothing.
A/N: I'll freely admit that this chapter was a nightmare to write. It is rather slow-going but (I feel) essential, and I had to work hard to get it to the point where I was happy with it. This combined with a heavy workload at university means I must offer you my apologies for not updating sooner!
However, I'd like to take this opportunity to say that I am totally committed to this story and am having so much fun writing it. Your feedback makes this process more enjoyable still, as it is wonderful to know that what I am writing is being read (and enjoyed, I hope). As I have said before, reviews can let me know what I am getting right, and what I am getting wrong, and allow me to repeat and alter were necessary as I continue writing. So, THANK YOU for leaving feedback :)
(I have added a link to a webpage in my profile that gives notes on this and other chapters, some of which address questions raised in feedback. Not sure why I made this, but I suspect it had a lot to do with a slow afternoon...)
As ever, thanks and love to Sparkler.