Title: Home's the Farthest Way
Date: June 24, 2005
Acknowledgements: Thanks to beta readers Patti, Michelle and Liz.
Author's Note: Okay, here it is, THE LAST CHAPTER. What you've all been waiting for. The Happy Ending. Within (I hope) a PG-13 rating. Hope you enjoy.
She awoke to the sound of running water in the bathroom. Bright light shone through the window. Morning.
The sound of water stopped, and soon after, Snape came in with the first healing potion of the day.
"This one will not put you to sleep," he said, holding the mug out to her. "Though I can give you a sedative if you feel you need one."
She took it. "I feel a little better. Physically." Mentally was another thing, but she didn't say that.
"The bathroom is free," Snape said. "When you've showered, there's some breakfast waiting."
He left the room, and she swallowed her potion, then got up and showered. There was a fresh nightshirt waiting, and she pulled it over her head. She noticed a dressing gown left for her on the door when she came out into the hall. Black, of course. She pulled it on, and shuffled out to the sitting room, which had changed a bit. Snape had transfigured one of the chairs into a sofa; he must have slept there last night, though he was sitting in the remaining chair.
She sat on the sofa. Breakfast was out on the coffee table, plates already filled. Mostly very bland food, she noted. How did the House Elves know she'd moved here? She was hungry and she had no trouble eating everything on her plate. She saw Snape watching her, with something like approval on his face.
"So," she said, "any more news? Have you spoken with anyone?"
Snape nodded. "Yesterday, and this morning." He seemed to be considering. He feels he has to be diplomatic with me, thought Lupin. Which means he's going to tell me things I won't want to hear.
"I spoke with Albus," Snape said. "He's very concerned about you. He and I discussed . . . several things. He agrees that it's best that you stay with me. Indefinitely."
I don't think I could handle that, Lupin thought. It's not so bad right now, I'm too tired, too exhausted. But I will be well, soon. To be around him, all the time, it would be more than I could bear. But she couldn't think of any excuse, any way to tell him she couldn't stay with him.
Snape re-filled her teacup and passed it to her. "This flat is definitely too small for the two of us, you'll agree. When you're better, I'd like you to go out with me and see that house I was telling you about. It's still available. If it suits you, I can get it. Or we could look further."
"You don't need my approval to get a place of your own," Lupin said.
"We may as well consider this a permanent arrangement. As you said, Baron could elude capture for years. And he has a grudge against you." Snape settled back in his chair. "Besides, it's safer for me as well. There are those who resent my role in the last war who might decide to take revenge against me. It is better for both of us to have someone else, watching."
"I suppose so." The words came out of Lupin's mouth mechanically. She took a swallow of tea and stared into her cup. He's awfully casual about living with a woman, she thought, and her heart fell even further. All the more proof that he doesn't think of me as such. Well, how could he?
I'll have to tell him the truth, she thought.
"I have also taken the liberty of ordering you some clothing," Snape said. "Madame Malkin's sent over a device that took measurements, while you were asleep. They'll be sending over some things for you to try on. When you feel better, we'll go to Ollivanders and get you a wand."
"Madame Malkin's and Ollivanders," Lupin said out loud. That was expensive. "It will take me a long time to pay you back."
"We'll talk about that later," Snape said. "Don't worry about it."
Lupin set her teacup down. "All right," she said. But it's not all right, not at all. She felt resentment rising in her, and she said, almost without realizing it, "And what did they think at Madame Malkin's, when you ordered a set of lady's clothing?"
Snape grew very still for a moment, but only for a moment. He turned to look directly into her eyes. "I told the saleswitch that we were affianced," he said, casually.
Lupin blinked. "You said what?" She meant to say it in a normal tone, but the words came out in a faint squeak.
"I said we were affianced," he said. He wore his blankest, most innocent expression. "We are, aren't we? After all, I just fought for you. I believe there are precedents, allowing me to claim your hand."
Lupin's mouth opened, but nothing came out.
"I spoke with Albus about the legalities," Snape went on. "He has the power to perform the ceremony itself, whenever we're ready. I personally would prefer to keep it to just the two of us, though I suppose you will want some kind of celebration. Or if you don't, all your friends will."
Lupin's mouth still hung open. She felt dizzy, and she could feel herself turning pale. I can't think of what to say. I can't think of ANYTHING. This is too many shocks in too few days.
Snape flushed and he looked down. "I am sorry, Remus. This is not how I planned to go about this. I did not count on Baron. I know you are not ready to hear this. But circumstances being what they are . . ."
Lupin shook her head, as if to clear it. "It's . . . it's certainly not what I expected."
Snape went still for a moment. Then he sighed, got up from his chair, and moved to sit next to her on the sofa. "I believe tradition demands that these kinds of things be said on bended knee," he said. "But I have knelt before too many people in my life. And I don't think you want that. So I will sit beside you, instead. As an equal, and a friend."
"We make a good team, you and I," he went on. "We work well together. We compensate for each other's deficiencies." He raised an eyebrow. "I personally prefer a more traditional domestic arrangement. I will certainly earn enough to support us both, so there is no need for you to concern yourself with earning a paycheck." At the sight of Lupin's frown, he said, "If you object to living off of what I earn, ask yourself, do you think Molly Weasley does not contribute equally in her marriage? Even if she is not working at a job outside the home?"
"No, of course not," Lupin said, automatically.
"Then I don't want any nonsense about you not sharing the money I bring in," he said. "I would prefer to turn over the domestic responsibilities to you completely, and those are considerable, even with the help of House Elves. And I would welcome your assistance in running the business end of the potions work - dealing with people, and students. You would be far better at that than I am. And you can still work with Moody on any consulting for the Aurors. But what I earn is ours, not mine. That is my contribution. You will contribute in other ways, and they are even more important, to me. Never forget that."
Lupin's head was spinning.
"Nor do I want to hear any more complaining from you about how you always have to be taken care of," Snape said. "As far as I am concerned, you'll be taking care of me."
Her eyebrows shot up, and she had to smile at that. He was almost smiling, too – well, as much as he ever smiled. His eyes were bright. I don't think I've ever seen him with quite that look on his face before, she thought.
She unconsciously picked up her teacup, and tried to sip, but it was empty. Only the jumble of tea leaves at the bottom.
My future is in my own hands.
It's what I want. I'm just too tired. Why couldn't this have happened a few days ago?
She looked at him, at his dear, homely face. His cold mask had slipped, just a little. There was warmth there, and something flickering in his eyes. He's laughing at me. He knows he has the upper hand, and he's enjoying it. Controlling bastard.
She fell against his shoulder, and started to sob quietly.
Snape had enough sense to pull her into his lap, rock her gently, and say, "I'm so sorry, Remus. It will be all right. You'll see."
They were just finishing up breakfast the next day - Snape sat in his chair, Lupin sat on the sofa, the blankets and pillows Snape had used to sleep there last night neatly folded and stowed away - when there was a banging at the window. Snape looked up, nodded in satisfaction, and went to open it. Three very large owls flew inside and set down a number of boxes. Ornate lettering read "Madame Malkin's Robes For All Occasions."
"That's rather a lot," Lupin said, dubiously, as Snape closed the window after the owls when they'd flown away.
"I'll just take these back to the bedroom for you," he said, picking up the boxes, and ignoring her comment. "You can try them on when you feel up to it."
Which would be today, she thought. Full moon was tonight, and they both knew what that meant. She would become better throughout the day as moonrise approached, and tomorrow, she should be completely well. Neither of them had said out loud what that meant, but there was an unspoken anticipation between them.
Not that anyone else could probably tell, Lupin thought. At least, not looking at Snape, who was as distant and proper as ever.
Snape insisted on cleaning up after breakfast, without her help. He didn't exactly shoo her back into the bedroom, but his meaning was clear. Oh well, she'd have to face it sooner or later. And anyway, she was ready to get out of nightshirts and dressing gowns.
The boxes were laid out on the bed, shipping strings undone, but otherwise unopened. She lifted the lids on each, and unfolded rustling tissue paper to reveal beautiful piles of fabric in rich colors. She would definitely not look like a scruffy professor in these. She felt a sudden, deep longing for her old patched cloak and robes, her comfortable friends. So different from these glamorous strangers.
She held things up to get a good look at them. These were the robes of an elegant, well-to-do woman of good taste. Nothing extravagant or gaudy, the lines were simple and understated. Minerva would approve. But they were expensive – the material was excellent quality, and even holding them up, she could feel the drape and weight.
Much too fine for me, she thought. The idea of adorning her body seemed so ridiculous. This is more appropriate for someone young and beautiful. Not this middle-aged carcass of mine.
She could protest. But she was too tired. And he knew that, didn't he? He'd just look at her, and then say it was time for a healing potion, which he was using to divert her these past few days, she noticed.
There were undergarments as well. Silkier and much lacier than those she'd had before. And they fit, so she couldn't send them back on that account. She took a look at herself in the mirror, and flushed just looking at what she saw.
But if I were still a man, and had the funds, I'd have loved to see my wife in something like this.
There were even some very lovely women's nightgowns, nothing like the more masculine nightshirts she'd been wearing. Had he seen any of this when he placed the order, she wondered. The very idea of Snape picking out women's clothing, particularly the more intimate garments, made her laugh. No, probably not. Snape was even less likely to be knowledgeable about female clothing than she had been, as a man. He'd probably just said he needed to equip a lady with everything, and negotiated a sum. Madame Malkin's was known for elegance and good taste; it would have been safe to leave things in their hands.
Well, she thought, I will insist that he get things equally nice for himself then. I'll get them for him. Severus had already said he wanted to turn the bills and such over to her. Division of labor and all. She would not be powerless in this relationship, not by a long shot, and he did need taking care of.
She put on robes of soft brown that were fine for everyday wear, and went back out to the sitting room.
Snape looked up as she came in. He didn't exactly smile, and she couldn't say that his eyes lit up, either, but he seemed pleased. She found her annoyance melting away at the sight of him, and her eyes flickered down, then up again, and a shy smile appeared on her face. I'm doing it, she thought. He gave me that look, and I responded, instinctively. Male and female.
"Do you approve?" she asked, holding out the skirts of the robes.
"Very much," he said.
"Then I'll keep it," she said, sitting down on the sofa next to his chair. "Thank you, Severus."
He frowned, and looked down.
She stayed dressed all that day, though she did nap during both the morning and afternoon, lying stretched out on the sofa. Snape read aloud to her, or simply read quietly to himself while she slept.
She was hungry again, finally. Getting well. The House Elves seemed to know it, because they stopped bringing soup and dry toast, and brought more substantial things for lunch and dinner that day. She and Snape stretched dinner out for a long time that evening, talking, eating slowly.
After dinner, she found an old sheet, and began to cover the sofa with it. Snape looked at her disapprovingly, but she said, firmly, "When I'm a wolf, I like the sofa. It's what I'm used to, and the clean up is easier."
Snape continued to frown.
"It's what we've always done," she said. "I'll feel very strange if I'm in the bed and you're on the sofa tonight." She smiled and touched his hand.
He froze, and looked at her fingers against his for a long moment. He seemed to consider, and then nodded his head in acquiescence. "All right," he said, picking up an end of the sheet to help her.
They finished, and she went back to the bedroom, where she undressed. All her new finery had been stowed in a wardrobe, and she put the things she was wearing in with the others, until she stood naked.
She pulled on a cloak, and walked back to the sitting room, where Snape sat on the sofa, waiting. Not in his chair, but that was also normal. At full moon, we sit on the sofa together, and I am comforted by his presence.
She sat down beside him and waited, watching the light dimming in the window. The moon was already up, it was only the last rays of the sun that were overriding it. She could feel it, as the sun disk slipped over the horizon, and she stood up and went to the middle of the room.
She could feel the change coming on her, and had a moment of panic. I haven't taken the Wolfsbane potion, what will happen? What if the cure doesn't work? Maybe something happened when it went wrong - maybe it would only work that once.
Her fear must have shown in her face, because she felt Snape's hand on her shoulder as he moved to stand behind her. She touched his hand with hers, but only for an instant, as she fell forward, and the change took her.
And, of course, the cure worked, and only her body changed around her, her mind remained hers. No terrible surge of rage and madness possessing her. No pain in the change itself. Just her body growing around her, the surge of power and strength in her wolf muscles, the tickling as hair sprouted from her skin. And the odd sensation of having a tail.
She collapsed onto the floor, suddenly weak. The change took a lot out her, though she could feel the healing powers kicking in. Snape knelt beside her, pulling off the cloak. She looked into his face, and licked his cheek. He ran his fingers along the top of her wolf head, and down under her chin, and she leaned her head into his hand.
He helped her up onto the sofa, then sat beside her. He had offered to take her out, to the beach, or a grassy field, the lawns of Hogwarts or the lake, but she hadn't felt up to it. Maybe tomorrow, but tonight, they would stay in. As they'd done for so many times, over the last three years, Snape would read quietly on the sofa while Lupin curled up next to him. Lupin would fall asleep, and Snape would retire to the bedroom until the next morning.
She curled up, and leaned her head against his thigh, while he picked up his book and read, holding the book in one hand, rubbing her ears with his other, until she fell asleep.
But it was still early, and Snape kept reading, his free hand on her head. He glanced at her every so often, watching her great sides go up and down as she breathed. She was smaller as a female than she had been as a male, but she was still enormous, far more massive than she was in her human body. But Snape was quite used to the sight now. If he'd ever had thoughts about sitting easily next to a monster, they'd died long ago. The idea of Lupin being a monster was impossible.
And it happened. She'd eased her nose onto his lap, while asleep. Lupin always did, whenever she fell asleep early and Snape stayed beside her. If Snape stayed much longer, she'd inch her way further until her entire head lay in his lap, and then she'd try to follow with as much of the rest of her as would fit. There had been that embarrassing time, the very first night he'd stayed at Lupin's, when Snape had fallen asleep on the sofa, and had awakened the next morning with Lupin lying on top of him, to the distress of them both.
Snape kept reading, feeling her head creeping further. He ran his fingers deep into her soft fur and stroked her muzzle, and she made happy murmuring sounds in her throat.
She was inching up his chest when he decided it was late enough, and he was tired. He put his book down and looked at her, the great, shaggy wolf's face, eyes closed, breathing easily. Just a great big dog, really. He slid down a little, to get more comfortable, moving carefully so as not to wake her, though that was probably not necessary. Lupin, in recovery mode, would sleep like the dead until morning.
He called out a command to extinguish the lamp, leaving them in darkness. He wrapped his arms around her, and Lupin snuggled happily against him, making a little whimpering noise.
It wasn't comfortable sleeping on the sofa, but he could manage for one night. Tomorrow, he would insist on the bed.
She was aware of the first rays of dawn, and her body collapsing back into its human shape.
I feel well, she thought. Nothing like being badly wounded to make you appreciate feeling whole again.
She wasn't on her own sofa, she was not in her own home. She remembered. Her home had been destroyed. She would never be going to back to it anymore, never waking up on her old sofa in the sitting room, in front of the fireplace. She felt her throat close up at that thought.
But she was never going back in the cage, either. The cage was gone.
She remembered. She was in Severus's flat, on his sofa.
Which was lumpier than a sofa ought to be.
She knew, without opening her eyes, or feeling with her hands. He had not gone back to his own bed last night, he had stayed with her. And she was lying across his chest, her head on his shoulder, only his nightshirt between them.
She could hear his heart beating. Too fast for someone who was asleep, no matter how still he lay or how quietly he breathed. He's been lying here, awake. Waiting.
She opened her eyes now, though all she could see was his chest, and, just above, his jaw and throat. It's full moon, and the wolf is in me still, she thought. She turned her face just a little, and kissed him, right above his collarbone. She felt him shiver.
"Good morning," she said.
She felt him move beneath her, to shift and stretch a little, then she heard him say "Good morning," in a low rumble. His hand came up, and he ran his fingers through her hair.
Now it was her turn to shiver, and she nuzzled at his neck. I suppose I should get off of him, she thought. I've probably been lying on top of him the whole night, he's got to be stiff at the very least. But she didn't move. And he made no motion to dislodge her.
"How are you feeling?" he asked.
"MUCH better," she said. She pushed herself up so that she could look him in the face, then leaned forward and kissed his nose. He stiffened, then relaxed.
"I'm very glad to hear it," he said, when she pulled back and looked at him.
Black eyes, looking at hers. Is he reading me? He's a Legilimens, after all. Do I care? Long pale face, thin neck rising out of his nightshirt and dressing gown. Black hair falling forward. She could see lines of silver in the black, and she reached up with one hand, to stroke his hair out of his face.
Then she leaned forward and pressed her lips against his. He froze, and she could hear him catch his breath. His lips parted beneath hers, and she let her tongue go gently into his mouth. Softness, wet, cooler than her own mouth. Morning breath, of course. But then she had werewolf breath herself. She didn't mind, and he didn't seem to, either. His hand tightened in her hair, and pushed her head against him.
When she eventually pulled away from him, he gasped. I took his breath away, she thought.
She settled against his shoulder again, and began to work on the top button of his nightshirt. "Why is it always me who's naked?" she remarked, as she undid the first button, and began on the second.
"One of the conditions of being a werewolf," he said. He was trying very hard to remain composed, but she could feel the tiny tremors in him. He wasn't unhappy, his gentle hands told her that, fingers in her hair and along her back. But he was shaking.
Are you a virgin, my friend, she wondered. It was very likely. He was almost certainly not very experienced. Well, it's not as if I have had many opportunities in my own life, she thought, and those I had were a very long time ago. Never mind being in a completely different body. He's not the only one a little frightened.
She had enough of his nightshirt undone now to expose quite a bit of his chest. Pale, white skin. She nuzzled against it, kissing him gently, and she felt a tremor run all the way through him.
He leaned down now, lifting her face and pressing his own lips against hers, and this time, it was his tongue that came into her mouth. Cool and soft. Her hand moved to run through his hair, and her body pushed against his. Just that thin bit of cloth between them.
"This sofa is a little narrow," he said, in his velvet voice, when they had pulled apart.
"It is," she said, nuzzling his ear. She gave a gentle lick with her tongue, and he shivered. He kissed her throat, then kissed her again at the base of her neck, then moved lower down. A shiver ran through Lupin all the way to her toes.
"There is a perfectly fine bed, in the other room," he murmured. "That didn't get used last night, because someone insisted on sleeping on the sofa."
"We'll have to do something about that, tonight," she said. She started to move her hands, exploring lower down.
"Yes," he said, trying not to gasp.
"Of course," she said, "the bed is all the way back there." She looked at him innocently.
He closed his eyes, and almost – ALMOST – smiled. Then he looked at her, and it was The Look, or his version of it, his black eyes staring directly into hers, a light there, a want. And she felt her eyes drop, and the smile cross her face, her cheeks flushing, her eyes flicking back up to meet his.
He rose, lifting her up in his arms. She threw her own arms around his neck as she felt herself rise in the air, and laid her head against his shoulder as he carried her down the hall, and back to his bare bedroom. We'll have to do something about that, she thought. About the furniture, all through the house. I'm the wife, I'm supposed to fix him up.
I've been fixing him for years now, after all.
He managed, a little awkwardly, to pull the covers back enough that he could lay her on the bed. She felt his weight as he moved to lie beside her, pulling the covers over them both. He's got body issues, she thought. I know he thinks he's ugly. We'll have to work on that, too.
She cuddled against him, and he kissed her forehead, then pushed her back against the pillows, and began in earnest.
He wasn't experienced, but he was so gentle, so respectful. And he was not stupid. Maturity and patience, and she was mature enough herself to value that far more than reckless abandon, particularly when it was all new and strange to her as well, in this woman's body of hers.
Later, his head lying against her breast, he said, "I never believed anyone would find joy in my touch. Not like this."
She kissed the top of his head, and stroked his hair, and said, "I love you." She felt the tremor that ran through him, and felt his arms pull tight around her, his head press against her.
He didn't say it back, she thought. He probably never will. Not in words. But he says it in other ways.
There would always be problems, she knew. He would never be easy to live with. He would never be normal.
He will always suffer from depression. He will always be difficult. He will always struggle with his own nature, his rage, his need to control. He is much better, but he will probably never be fully well. He's been through too much.
But he has survived, she thought, looking at him. That was a wonder in itself. He has more courage than anyone I know. He has withstood so much. He never gave up, enduring every horror, every agony, sustained only by the knowledge that what he was doing was right, with no hope of sharing in any reward at the end, or even gratitude. How can I not love someone like that?
He was right, she would be taking care of him. And he would take care of her.
And it was enough.
Author's Note: This is formally finished as of this chapter. I may or may not do some one-shot sequels to this. If I do, I'll put them as later chapters of this story.
I cannot thank you all enough for your support. I would never have been able to make it through all of this without it.
Plans are now to work on an original novel of my own, but who knows how I'll feel after the next book comes out. Have to pass the two years until the seventh book somehow, after all.
So here's looking forward to Half Blood Prince (making all our fics AU).