Lupin's jaw ached unbearably after ten minutes. But he refused to stop and didn't dare leave Severus. The stitching of the man's shirt was stretched, after several steps he could hear strands snap one by one. At some point very soon the fabric would tear completely away and he would be left trying to figure out how to drag the man without touching him with his teeth.
A dull, crippling ache filled his spine. Lupin stopped abruptly and dropped so his side. In a matter of moments he was gasping, staring down at his hands. He didn't bother to think about what had happened, instead he threw himself on Snape and clenched his eyes shut as he apparated them both to where he knew they would be safe.
The sickening spin was made worse from the after-effects of his change. He swallowed hard, choking on bile, refusing to vomit. It would be a very bad time to find out if Wolfsbane could be purged and rendered moot that easily. It was a safe bet Severus would hardly be overjoyed either.
They landed rather roughly to the ground, poor Snape caught beneath his weight didn't even stir when he fell onto his chest. Lupin took a moment to shake himself and roll away. He lay on his back panting when he realized what had happened. The moon had gone under.
A thick cloud as black as pitch rolled past far too quickly for his taste and he could do nothing but stare in horror as the moon slowly reappeared in glowing crescents. He could feel his bones grinding together, waiting to spring and stretch.
With a last ditch effort to give Severus some space, he crawled—half crippled—away only two feet before the moonbeams struck his back. A second transformation should have been easier, but it wasn't.
God, it was like rusted hooks gouging at his flesh. For a panicked moment he watched as his flesh split on his forearm all the way to his elbow. It did not bleed but he could see to the bone, like his flesh was curling away. It sprouted beautifully with fur a second later and he watched in sick fascination as the tissue sent tendrils of skin stretching and curling about and bound itself back together with fleshy threads.
It took longer the second time. Much longer. For a horrifying four minutes and twenty-seven seconds Remus thought he would be stuck at the 'between' stage; forever with a grotesque jaw, hooked fingers and half-sprouted tale. And it hurt! At this very moment, he almost wished Severus had never come and he had eaten that boy. Then the aurors could have killed him and put him out of this misery.
He had never found such blissful release and comfort in his wolf skin until four minutes and twenty-eight seconds when whatever barrier had been breached and he was able to stand on four padded feet.
Snape groaned pitifully on the damp earth and Remus collapsed gratefully next to the man, offering body heat and hoping to sleep as deep and depthless as possible. They were safe here, of that was absolutely certain.
He and Sirius had spent time here after the animagus broke free and Snape's 'outing' of him was finished. It took almost two full months of covert and secretive securing of documents before Albus managed to get a hold of Grimmauld's deed and they were in desperate need of security.
Ironic as it seemed, only where death lay was safe enough to house their lives.
Moony picked up his large head and gazed about them, testing the air just in case. Moss covered tombstones stretched away and faded into the dark. Most of them had been damaged in one form or another, cracked, faded and leaning precariously toward horizontal. He had never discovered what cemetery it was, but he did remember reading about similar ones with the charms and wards to keep away harm.
The warding and 'white magic' spells kept the ground from magical decay and the reanimation of skeletons that turned into goblins and other nasties like zombies. Clever really when he thought about it.
Gods he was tired. Maybe he could sleep, just like Severus…
He nosed next to the warm figure of the potions master prone on the ground. Careful not to aggravate his wounds or disturb Severus, Lupin whined pitifully and drove his nose into the dead earth. It smelled better than the blood and sickness that rolled off of Snape in droves.
The treacherous moon did not set until nearly dawn. The sky was a shade of dull grey, the sun slowly clutching toward the horizon, just before its pink fingers flexed out into the skyline. Remus hadn't seen of course, he had been asleep at the time, but the crippling pain of reversion was bound to wake up the most steadfast of men.
It was with agonizing slowness that he became man again. He even lay on the earth naked and gasping for air a full minute before his final rib snapped into place with a heartfelt crack. It was cold in the dew of the cemetery dirt. Remus rolled toward Severus unconsciously seeking heat and collided with Snape, as well as managing to grind his abused ribs into the gravel.
"Severus," he grated through his teeth. He tried to sit up twice before he succeeded, feeling his wounds pull open and sticky warmth trail down his side. "Get up," he croaked, nudging Severus harder than he intended.
The potions master didn't stir, only rocked rather violently like a disjointed doll and nearly rolled onto his face in the dirt.
Remus' heart seized for a lurching moment and he pressed a shaky hand to the man's throat. A heartbeat pulsed sluggishly beneath his fingers, the skin cool and clammy. "Time to go," Remus groaned, dragging the man's limp body toward him.
He wrapped his arms tightly—or at least as tightly as he could manage—about Snape's chest and closed his eyes to the pull of apparation.
They landed roughly, too roughly, on the jagged gravel outside of Hogwarts' gates. The potions master didn't seem to notice. Remus gasped in pain, tapping Snape's face with the flat of his hand repeatedly. "Come on, Severus, I can't carry you…"
The man didn't stir. Remus nearly wept in frustration.
Not only was he too exhausted to lift himself up, but it would appear he would need to carry Severus to the infirmary. While naked. Through a school of students. If there was a God, would He please let the students still be in bed asleep; it was still early after all.
"Come," he muttered to Severus. He rolled to his knees and sat on his haunches to gather his strength. Severus, for all of his height and lankiness, weighed less than he thought. It made his job easier if nothing else.
The potions master rested snuggly against his chest and Remus held him by clamping the man down with his cramping arms. He took several shaky steps onto the lush property and nearly fell to his ass when he looked up to see the great castle was an eternity away. He decided, instead, to stare down at Snape's grey-tinged face for the trek.
His muscles quaked with effort by the time his toes met the steps that led to the Great Hall. Spots danced across his vision and Remus bit his lower lip until he tasted blood to tamp down on the intense jar of his screaming muscles as he climbed the few meager steps to the atrium.
There, he stopped as his eyes fell on a familiar form and he let out a pain-filled sob and collapsed to his knees, curling himself protectively around Snape and wept brokenly into the potions master's hair.
"Merciful Merlin," Filch choked, nearly falling over himself at the spectacle before him. The keeper of the castle ran to the nearest floo and screamed across the crackling flames for Albus.
Remus didn't hear much after seeing Filch's not-so-pleasant face. He ran his fingers over Snape's face, the sallow skin and perpetual grimace that never quite left it. "Just don't die," he whispered. "Don't die."
It was then that a shadow fell across him and Remus had the time to glance up to see Albus Dumbledore's astonished face before he promptly fell unconscious.
Severus woke feeling disjointed and aching. Madame Pomfrey was hovering over his bed with a severe scowl that enhanced the frown lines about her eyes and mouth.
"There you are. Coming around are we?" She sniffed delicately and turned away a moment before holding a cup to his lips.
He drank obediently and curled his nose as the taste was vaguely familiar. All at once a piercing pain at his heart and Dark Mark made him remember. He arched off of the bed, clawing at his chest and finally fell back to the mattress in gasps. Lupin's concoction.
Severus jerked upright, gripping his spinning head and nearly came up off of the bed. Poppy held him down and barked at him. "It's alright, he's over there, and he'll be fine!"
"There...? Fine...?" Severus shook his head, trying to clear it and finally looked around himself. Lupin was laying two beds away, bound tightly in linen strips and looking pale as ever. "What's wrong with him?"
"He had a minor allergic reaction to his Wolfsbane, not to mention a rather nasty set of cuts on one side." Poppy clucked her tongue and waved her wand to poke at the runes over his bed.
It took several minutes for the words to seep past the fog of his mind. "Allergic reaction?" Severus demanded.
"After consulting Albus, it appears that Potions Master Bowman accidentally strained a portion of Remus' potion through a silver screen."
"That incompetent, brainless... I'll have his license! Does he have any idea what he could have done?!?" Severus nearly came up off of the bed again, yelling and furious. He would disembowel the man with his bare hands!
"Calm down," Poppy demanded. "Albus has already spoken strictly to him."
Severus snorted, Albus and strict didn't go together with the same vehemence as it normally would with any other person. He'd just have to make a note to visit 'Master' Bowmen once he was released from Poppy's clutches.
"How long have we been here?" He asked suddenly, noticing that it was dusk.
"Two days," Madame Pomfrey said matter-of-factly. "Remus wasn't able to apparate you both safely until the moon set. You arrived with him at precisely 4:28 A.M. He passed out quite promptly once we took you from him."
"I beg your pardon?"
"He carried you to the castle," Poppy explained, giving him a queer look. "What do you think I meant?"
Severus scowled and waved the woman off.
After a couple of minutes more of the medi-witch's prodding, she returned to her work. Snape scowled at her, but it was apparent that she didn't care.
Remus let out a whimper and Severus turned his head in time to see the man kick in his sleep.
"Has he been awake yet?" He called toward Poppy. The woman cast him a scathing look and shushed him before shaking her head no.
Severus waited until she returned to her scratching before getting out of bed. There was a terrible moment of vertigo where he was sure he would collapse quite spectacularly on his face. It passed and left a dizzy swirl behind, but that he could manage. Severus padded silently toward Remus' bed and perched rather uncomfortably in the chair adjacent to it.
The wolf was drawn and pale, face pinched slightly in pain. Severus frowned at the blood stained bandages on Lupin's side, vaguely remembering the hex that had hit Remus broadside and left the wolf limping and bleeding. And the man had carried him…
"Lupin," he said sternly. The wolf twitched, still sleeping. Severus peered over toward Poppy, but the woman hadn't noticed. He bent forward, mouth inches from Remus' ear and snapped at him in a husky whisper. "Lupin!"
The wolf kicked, groaned and rolled onto his side. Severus sat upright again, schooling himself so that he looked as though he were waiting patiently.
Remus whined pitifully, sounding for all the world like the wounded animal that he was. Lupin's eyes were fogged and gummy when he opened them. A slow, sideways smile wormed onto the man's face. "'Ev'rus," he croaked, wincing and letting out a hiss of air.
"You have a sizable set of gashes down your side," Snape told him. The wolf rolled onto his back, letting free short, pained noises as he did.
"What day is it?" Lupin mumbled, looking for all the world as though he needed another few days sleep.
"Sunday," Severus smirked.
Remus let air out through his teeth. "What's wrong with me? I should be healed by now."
At that Severus growled low and frowned deeply. "You've had an allergic reaction to your Wolfsbane."
"I knew something wasn't right," Remus grumbled.
Severus opened his mouth to respond—an angry sneer on his lips—but he was cut short by Poppy's shriek.
"Severus Snape!" Madame Pomfrey's shrill voice cut through their stunted conversation. Snape rolled his eyes as the woman marched over. "Get back to your own bed this instant! How dare you wake up Professor Lupin?!?"
"There are many things that I dare do that would make you faint," Severus hissed, angry at being interrupted. It was one of his pet peeves… on of very many, actually.
"Severus," Remus admonished, turning his head away as though he were exhausted, but only doing so to hide his grin.
Poppy scowled between the both of them and pushed Snape's chair aside so that she could sidle up to the bed. She began checking Lupin's runes and carefully tugged his bandages free.
Severus cocked an eyebrow when the lacerations were uncovered. They were deep and raw, half-oozing and nearly infected.
"Why haven't you treated him?" Severus demanded.
Poppy sniffed and began to rebind the wounds after a chaste cleansing charm. "I was loathe to give him any medication that might aggravate his allergy, especially since I do not know what is and is not screened through silver."
Severus scowled lightly, but knew she had done what was best in the emergency. He wouldn't have been awake and alert enough to give her a proper, coherent answer before. "Ironic as it seems, a diluted dose of Dogwood and rose-hips will help purge the toxins and replenish lacking vitamins."
"Very well," Poppy sniffed and turned on her heel to fetch a suitable potion.
"Do you think she's upset with us for telling her how to do her job?" Remus laughed.
"Someone ought to," Snape grumped.
They sat in comfortable silence while Poppy rummaged through her medicine closet. Severus eyed Remus carefully with a guarded gaze. The wolf was too tired to care. "Thank you," Snape muttered.
"Whatever for?" Remus frowned in confusion.
"Hnn," The potions master turned his gaze away, not used to giving others appreciation and unable to articulate beyond his uncharacteristic show of gratitude.
"Severus," Remus gaped, "There is no need. If you hadn't shown up last night– "
"Three nights ago." Severus interrupted.
"Three nights ago then," Remus rolled his eyes, "I don't know what would have become of me," he finished in a whisper. "I've spent my life fighting to prevent what Malfoy forced me to do."
The wolf's eyes widened suddenly and he sat upright, crying out in pain and holding his side as he attempted to get off of his bed.
"What are you doing you idiot?!?" Severus stood, holding tightly to the chair when his head spun.
"Malfoy! He has the antidote! He said he would bring it!"
"Antidote?" Severus shook his head. Remus had managed to stand and was starting to make a hasty way toward the door. Severus caught up to him and gripped him tightly at the elbow. "Where do you think you're going?"
"Didn't you hear me? Malfoy has your antidote, Gods Severus, I've killed you, just let me fix it before it's too late!" Remus was panicking, eyes dilated and limbs shaking.
Severus snorted and tugged him back to his bed. He forcefully sat the wolf down, made much easier since the man was ill. "Forget Malfoy," Severus sighed heavily. Remus opened his mouth to start blathering again but Snape held up a hand to stop him. "There is no antidote. Guaranteed I will die eventually, it will not be by your inept potions skills."
"It is his way," Severus smirked. "He is a master manipulator. There was a reason I told you not to trust him. Did he let you see him take it? Or did he tell you about it?"
Lupin puzzled it over, slow going with his exhausted mind. Eventually he nodded and choked on his relief. "Both," he muttered. Remus let out a deep sigh of relief and sagged backward onto his bed. "Thank God."
Severus clapped slowly, drawing Lupin's attention. "Bravo, Lupin. I'm not sure how, but you are one of few who has unsettled Lucius enough to use his coercion tactics. You must have given him good reason to doubt you would do it."
Madame Pomfrey interrupted them then, leveling out Remus' treatment and waiting for him to swallow every drop before tucking him back into his sheets.
"Come along, Severus, you need rest as well."
Growling, Snape stood with a jerk and stalked back to his own bed, laying down and snugging his own blankets.
The medi-witch smiled and drew the partitions so that the two would not have reason to be distracted from their rest. She dimmed the lights and left them alone.
Remus healed quickly after Severus' treatment. Poppy grudgingly allowed him back to his rooms Monday morning. Severus was still asleep, and obviously still in need of Poppy's care. Since the potions master disappeared and over exerted himself, he had set back his health for another day. It was a very short time after he woke and spoke with Lupin that he fell unconscious with a high fever that would not abate.
Lupin returned to sit next to Snape's bed that afternoon during lunch. He ate his meal with vigor–starving as usual after a full-moon, not to mention his illness–much to Poppy's immense pleasure. She liked nothing better than to stuff food into her ill charge's mouths.
Remus had spent his free time in the chair, making idle conversation with Severus when he was lucid enough awake. He was secretly panicking that his time with the potions master was growing thin, and he didn't mean that the dark wizard was going to die. In fact, he had a more painful separation with the potions master if Severus survived and lived through it all intact. No doubt his usefulness to the potions master was gone.
Severus sighed in his sleep, turning away from Lupin onto his side. Remus smiled a bit and returned to his book, levering a chip to his mouth.
"Ungh," Snape grunted, shifting further and clutched at his blankets.
Remus looked up from his thriller novel and frowned. He marked his spot and stood. "Severus?"
The potions master rolled painfully over, not entirely awake but stirring. Sweat streaked his cheeks and beaded along his forehead. Remus dropped his things into the chair and ran toward Poppy's office.
The medi-witch nearly lept from her chair. She pressed a hand to her chest and gasped, "Sweet Merlin, Remus, you've given me a start!"
"Come quickly, something is wrong with Severus!"
They tumbled through the entry as one in time to see Snape arch off of the bed with enough height that his shoulders came completely off of the bed, supporting his weight by his head and heels.
Remus tripped over a wastebasket and two chairs on his way back to the bed. He stumbled to a stop and gaped.
"What and the Lord?" Poppy muttered, flicking her wand rapidly.
Remus couldn't help himself, he reached out and touched Severus' face. The man's skin was smooth, free of the deep lines of age that affected him for weeks after his encounter with Osiris. His fingers trailed toward Snape's hair; straight, greasy and ebony as it had ever been.
"My God," Remus muttered in awe.
While Lupin was leaning across him, Severus came around, fever broken. He glowered up at Remus when he recognized the man above him. "Get out of my personal space, Lupin."
The wolf laughed, cupping his face and ignoring the scathing glare Snape sent him. "Severus! You look! ... Well, like you!"
"Lupin, if you don't remove yourself from my presence, I will break your wrists." Severus growled.
Remus released him, backing up and smiling.
"Here you are Severus," Poppy conjured a mirror and held it out for him.
Snape snarled and took it, glancing grudgingly into it, then did a double take and looked again. He touched his face and his hair, uncomprehending.
"I don't know," Madame Pomfrey shrugged before he could bother to ask. "Just count it a blessing, or a bonus of Remus' potion." She waved her wand and the runes disappeared. "I can't find a thing wrong with you. You are free to return to your dungeons, Professor. But I would like to see you here for a check up in a week, and any time prior if you feel unwell."
"Come on, Severus," Remus held an arm out to him, helping the man to his feet. "I have enough time to help you to your rooms before my classes start."
Snape sent him a glare and started to say something stinging, but the hopeful look on Lupin's face quelled him. Instead, he got his robes and few items together, shoved them into Lupin's hands and stalked out before Poppy could change her mind.
Severus' mind was in a bit of a blur. He had been in a fevered stupor for the better part of four hours, only to wake with his normal face and be booted from the infirmary. Lupin walked patiently beside him, carrying his load with ease and no complaining.
The Slytherins were smirking and nodding, looking genuinely pleased that their head of house was back among them. It wasn't quite the same with the other houses, but Severus wouldn't have it any other way.
Manannan Mac Lir smiled wide and bowed when he stopped before his rooms. "I see ye have come through unscathed Master Snape." The painted wizard winked.
Severus paused, giving him an annoyed and considering look. "You have much to explain when I feel up to your riddles," Snape grumbled. The portrait laughed deeply and nodded. Severus grunted and passed him by, a feeling of home washing over him.
Remus deposited Snape's things on his desk, standing by the fireplace with a small smile. "I've got to get to my classes," he called toward Snape's bedroom where the man had disappeared.
It was so long between his exclamation and Severus' head popping around the doorframe, he wasn't sure if the man heard him or had chosen to ignore him.
Remus nodded absently and made his way toward the door. It was strange. All of the angst and horror of the past weeks were gone and a sense of normalcy was now odd. A flush of panic that Severus would distance himself again, ignoring the strange friendship they'd built was leaving a frost in his gut.
He sighed deeply and pulled the door open.
"Lupin," Snape stopped him in the hall. The wolf glanced back at him over his shoulder and turned around. Severus gazed steadily at him for a heartbeat before smirking. "There's a new bottle of brandy in my cupboard should you need to drown out the ineptitude of the student body later this evening."
Remus smiled, feeling far more relieved than he looked. "Thank you, Severus. I may just have to take you up on that."
The potions master nodded tersely and backed into his room, shutting the door with a solid thud.
Lupin smiled at the Slytherins on his way back up into the warmth of the upper levels of Hogwart's. Perhaps normalcy would work out just fine.
Severus hadn't been settled into his chair with a short glass of brandy for much longer than fifteen minutes when his fireplace flared and Albus's disembodied head floated among the coals.
"Ah, Severus, good to see you on your feet! Do you mind?"
The potions master sighed softly and waved obligingly toward his rooms. Within a matter of moments the Headmaster stepped through the green flames and shook ash from his robe hem.
The Headmaster conjured a squishy chair and sat down. "How are you feeling?"
Severus snorted and took a sip from his glass. "Well enough."
"You look," Albus studied him a moment, eyes bright, "back to your self. I take it there are still mysteries about your illness."
"It would seem so." Snape set his glass down and folded his hands in his lap. "Things to be pursued at a later time."
"Of course, so long as you are well," Albus trailed off, waving a hand dismissively.
A small bubble of silence fell but before long Severus shifted in his seat and gave the Headmaster a contemplative look. "Albus..."
"There has been some distressing news while you've been unconscious," Dumbledore interrupted smoothly. "It seems an emissary's son was found dead in a small abandoned village in the barren hills of Iceland. No one is sure why he was there, and there hasn't been enough evidence to narrow down a list of suspects. It seems the boy was unliked."
"How unfortunate," Severus mumbled, casting a wary glance at the Headmaster's face. Albus had a short, smug look about him that told Snape that he knew well enough what had happened, even if Snape never told him the truth. And he knew the aged wizard preferred it that way.
"Quite," Dumbledore agreed. "Tragic really, the poor young man had his tongue torn out. Though it did appear to have happened previous to the murder." The Headmaster fixed him with a semi-sharp stare. "They found animal prints around the boy's body. Some aurors wanted to believe there had been a werewolf attack."
"In Iceland? Preposterous," Severus lied smoothly, even curling his lip and snorting in derision.
Albus smiled and nodded his agreement. "It is what I told them as well. How unfortunate, however, that you were unconscious when they arrived to question your whereabouts, Severus. It seemed they had traced the magic to a wand that had been in your mother's estate."
Snape stiffened. "Yes, how unfortunate."
"Of course, with you being ill and unresponsive they easily let it be. Especially after they were shown the remnants of your matriarchal manor."
"I imagine they were not pleased to find it had burnt decades ago," Severus smirked to himself, even as a bit of him pinched in pain at the thought.
"Well, I must say it was hard for them to make the point stick." Albus checked the clock over Severus' mantle and let out a small 'oh.' "Forgive me Severus, but I must be going, I have an appointment with Madame Crochet in five minutes."
"Of course," Severus stood with him, being marginally polite as he walked the two steps to the fireplace with the Headmaster. "Time to darn your socks again is it?"
"Yes!" Albus smiled wide, obviously pleased at the prospect of spending an afternoon with a mound of holey socks. The Headmaster turned, pinching a bit of floo powder in one hand. "I am glad you are back among us and healthy, Severus."
"As am I," Snape said dryly.
"Oh, and if Remus happens to mention it, I've found his wand, it seems he had misplaced it." Albus cast him a stern–yet still amused–eye. "He may fetch it from my office when he likes. Take it as a lesson, wands are precious and unique. You both may want to make sure yours are taken special care of."
Severus nodded jerkily. Albus had given him good warning and an order. He bid the Headmaster good day and turned to his bedroom. He came back to the fireplace with his spare slim wand in hand. He turned it over in his palms before tossing it into the flames.
It burnt in brilliant shades of gold and emerald.
"I owe you a lilac bush for that, Mother. Be sure of that," Severus muttered as the rest crumbled to embers.
That evening Severus emerged from the dungeon to the Great Hall for dinner. Students whispered and pointed, or gaped and scrabbled out of the way. Severus sneered at the lot of them, throwing plenty of glares and silent promises of pain as he went.
He couldn't exactly blame them, he had not been teaching classes for nearly two weeks and none of them had any idea why. Let them gossip, it would be far less dangerous and would pass within a weeks time. Especially once he began to teach again and flay them for their back-sliding and general stupidity.
"Good evening, Professor," Minerva nodded to him as he sat. "Good to see you out and about."
"Thank you Minerva," Severus nodded stiffly. He poured a generous amount of wine into his goblet and swallowed twice.
"Drinking already, you must be feeling better," Remus grinned as he sat down.
"I am sick of everyone being 'pleased' at my living. Save the platitudes, and spare me." Snape grumbled, taking very little to eat and picking at it.
"I wasn't about to," Remus huffed. "In fact, I was about to say that you looked dreadful and perhaps should hide that shameful face. It's making it hard for me to eat."
Severus prickled and prepared to lit into Lupin, but the wolf couldn't hold his straight face and laughed outright. He grunted and fumed in silence instead.
"Albus has something of yours," He replied quietly, eyes aflame. "It seems you left it somewhere carelessly."
The wolf paled but sighed and touched his chest briefly. "Thank God he has it," he whispered under his breath. "I returned for it and thought I would be hung by my tail within the week."
"Careless as you were, I would not bother to worry. All ends have been tied, even our... mutual acquaintance will be satisfied."
"Good," Remus smiled and filled his plate.
They ate, Remus more completely than Snape–as usual. It was nearing eight and most of the students had long since returned to their common rooms. Severus dropped his fork and winced.
"Are you alright?"
Snape cleared his throat and drank the remains of his glass. "I'm afraid I must recant my offer, Lupin. It seems another acquaintance would like my assistance. Probably about his missing boy," he muttered the last very quietly.
"Already?" Remus breathed.
Severus quirked an eyebrow and cast him a plain look. "I'm surprised it's been this long." He stood from his seat, "If you'll excuse me."
Remus watched him stalk from the room, robes billowing about his legs, and disappear.
Albus seemed to materialize from nowhere and was suddenly in Severus' vacated seat. "He is much like a dried rose, isn't he Remus?"
"Pardon?" Lupin sputtered, pointing toward where Snape had disappeared moments ago. "We are speaking of Severus?"
"Yes," Albus nodded. "You see, dried roses have a unique appearance, not always pleasing to the eye. They were once, perhaps, beautiful and alive, thriving; but they are stuck a shell of what they once were. All that was lovely and healthy for them taken has been taken away. They are left half-decayed in a world that they aren't truly a part of anymore."
"I don't like what you're saying," Remus frowned.
"Because it sounds true," Albus smiled sadly. "It takes a rare person to appreciate what a dried rose can be. Unfortunately, Severus has not been handled with care as most preserved things should be. He's been breaking into fragments and crumbling for years. It will be inevitable that he is crushed completely beneath the weights he carries."
Remus nodded, eyes downcast. "You do realize that you are one of those weights, Albus?"
"As I have ever been," The Headmaster said sadly. He patted Remus' shoulder and stood. "It's good that he has found someone to appreciate him, Remus."
Lupin chuffed and watched Dumbledore walk toward the side exit. He stood from his seat and called over, halting the headmaster in his steps. "If he is a dead rose, Albus, what does that make me?"
The Headmaster didn't answer, only smiled gently and waved as he left.