Chapter 15: Resuce

Remus lay staring at the curtain for several minutes after Lara left, trying to gather his spent composure. When she'd first put her arm around him, he'd finally understood what it was that made Severus recoil from a touch—not an aversion to the touch itself, but to the raw and fearful knowledge that the touch would end.

He felt simultaneously stronger and weaker after she left. Her visit, however brief, had been what he needed, but it also set his solitude in even sharper contrast now that she was gone.

Arthur had asked after him. The fucking nerve. Ask, but don't arse yourself with doing anything, by all means. It was almost enough to pull anger to the forefront of his emotions. Almost, but not quite.

He lay staring at the curtain until a magenta-robed Healer-in-training brought him a tray of lunch and helped him into a seated position. That was what Lara had been talking about when she said the Healers didn't think him capable of caring for himself. He'd taken to letting them do what they wanted and he'd stopped arguing. It just wasn't worth it.

After lunch, he settled back into the bed and closed his eyes, trying to go to sleep. Sleep eluded him, though, and finally he reached for the book Lara had left. A brief smile touched his lips as he saw that she had taken the time to mark his place. It wasn't that good a book, and for a mystery, the plot wasn't very complex. He thought that he would have solved the supposed mystery if his heart had been in it, but he didn't care enough to think about it. It was a distraction, and after two days of staring at the curtain, it was a welcome one.

At some point, he rolled over and stuffed his pillow behind his back so he could prop himself up a bit. He had no idea that anyone was around until something landed across his thighs, followed by a harsh and familiar voice.

"I wonder what it would be like to have nothing better to do than lie in bed reading at one o'clock on a Monday afternoon."

Remus looked up to find Severus standing at the end of his bed, arms folded across his chest, one eyebrow raised. Remus looked down at the box on his lap, then back up at Severus again.

"Allow me to rephrase. Get your arse out of that bed and get dressed unless you want me to parade you to the nearest tube station just like you are."

Remus' hand hovered over the box, then he dropped it on the floor. "Go to hell, Severus." Yesterday he had thought that he would have been pleased to hear the sarcasm and the snide remarks. Today, it was one more thing he didn't have the energy for. He returned to his book.

"I don't have time for this kind of crap, Lupin. Get up!" Severus snatched the book away from him and dropped it on the bedside table. "I have exactly one hour and ten minutes free, and I've already spent twenty minutes of it at the Ministry signing the damn paperwork. Now get out of that bed!"

"Sir, lower your voice, please." A Healer in a lime-green robe appeared behind Severus, his arms folded. "If you're going to mistreat the patients, I'll have to ask you to leave."

Severus narrowed his eyes. "Very well," he replied, waiting until the Healer was gone before turning back to Remus. "I will not say it again. Get up."

"Fuck off, Severus. I've been here almost three days. If you were in such a bloody hurry, you might have come on Saturday when you didn't have a class schedule to follow." He reached for the book again. "I'm fine where I am."

"Fine where you—" Severus sputtered for a moment, then pinched the bridge of his nose. "I don't believe this. You're not just staying here indefinitely."

"Why not?" Remus asked, not looking up from the book he wasn't reading. "I have nowhere else to go."

"I'm sure Molly would beg to differ."

"I'm not going back to that house."

There was silence, then, from the corner of his eye, Remus saw Severus moving. Severus sat on the edge of the bed and placed his hand over the book, lowering it. "Why not?" he asked.

"I'm not discussing this."

"That's my line."

"If it works for you, it should work for me."

"Very well," Severus said, waving his wand at the floor beside the bed. A chair appeared, and he sank into it. "I'll have you know that Minerva's going to have my arse on a platter if I'm not back at the school in time for my next class."

"Then go."

"I'm not leaving this hospital without you."

"Why are you here?"

Severus raised an eyebrow. "I thought I'd made that very clear already, but perhaps not. I'm here to pick you up and take you home. Or, in the event that you don't want to go home—which I don't understand, incidentally—I'm here to pick you up and take you somewhere you do want to go."

Remus sighed and folded his arms across his stomach, looking away. "Go away."

"Remus, please. Can't we have this conversation while we're on our way to wherever—"

"I'm not going anywhere with you. Just leave."

"Listen to me, you prat—"

"No, you listen to me," Remus snapped, turning his head back to Severus. "I'm terribly sorry that coming here is an inconvenience that doesn't fit nicely into your schedule. Again, I propose that if you'd been here on Saturday, that wouldn't have been a concern—"

"I don't guess I've had the chance to tell you that Dumbledore called the lot of us to task for not being in the school often enough."

"So he allowed it on a Monday afternoon, but it would have been out of the question on a weekend. Somehow, I find that hard to believe."

Severus' expression softened a bit. "Dumbledore doesn't know I'm here. He's in Switzerland, at a conference."

"Oh."

"Is that what this is about?" Remus didn't answer right away, and Severus placed a hand on his stomach. "I'm sorry," he said quietly. "I wish I had a halfway decent excuse, but I don't."

"I'd listen to the bad one."

Severus looked at him for a moment, then smirked. "I had an experience this morning that I haven't had in some years," he said. "A Howler. At lunch. From the Ministry of Magic."

"A Howler?"

"Yes. A Howler. Went off in front of two thousand, seven hundred and forty-six students, demanding to know why I hadn't responded to their correspondence. Needless to say, I didn't linger in the Great Hall very long after that. I returned to my office and opened the drawer I've been tossing my unopened post into since Thursday, and there they were—six letters from the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures requesting an immediate response. Something about a tainted batch of Wolfsbane and a formal investigation. I have an appointment on Friday to discuss this with Miss Lara Berkeley. And, since I was reading my mail for the first time in ten days, I looked through the rest of it as well. Do you know what else I found in that pile of post?"

Remus shook his head, though he thought he had an idea.

"Four letters from Molly Weasley, one from Arthur, one from Bill, all informing me that I needed to come pick a friend up from the Ministry because the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures wouldn't release your information to anyone who wasn't on your list of contacts. One letter from a former student informing me that you had been unexpectedly detained."

Severus reached for Remus' hand. "As I said, I don't even have a half-decent excuse, and I can only imagine how it must have looked that I didn't care enough to come. That I didn't think doesn't mean that I didn't care."

Thoughtless or uncaring, the end result was the same, and Remus struggled to convince himself that there was a difference.

"It doesn't take someone who is keen on human nature to know that must have hurt," Severus continued.

"It did," Remus whispered.

"I'll take responsibility for that one," Severus said. "I don't blame you if you're angry with me, but let me take you out of here at least."

"Thank you," Remus said, squeezing Severus' hand.

"Was that suitably compassionate?"

Remus chuckled in spite of himself. "Yes."

"Good." Severus reached behind him and jerked the pillow out from under Remus' head, then dropped it on his face. "Now get out of that bed and get dressed. Twenty-six minutes."

Remus scowled and lobbed the pillow at Severus. "Get out."

"Shit. I thought you were—"

"Severus?"

"What?"

"I don't need an audience."

Severus smirked, but stepped away from the bed, flicking his wand to vanish the conjured chair and drawing the curtain.

Remus dressed quickly, his legs a bit wobbly but otherwise feeling the first surge of energy he'd felt in a week. As he pulled on his shoes and knotted the laces, he felt foolish for thinking his friends would have just left him here. The euphoria lasted until he imagined walking back through the door at headquarters and facing the people he'd dismissed so easily. By the time he stepped through the curtain, his wand in his pocket and box tucked under one arm, he had sobered somewhat.

"Do you have everything?" Severus asked.

"Yes," Remus replied.

"Come on."

Remus followed him to the front desk, the last lingering vestiges of his elation fading as Severus signed the appropriate documents that meant Remus' freedom. He was given a stack of papers—copies of the documents he'd signed, pamphlets about the appropriate diet for a werewolf post-transformation, brochures on Ministry-funded housing for werewolves, a list of contacts at St. Mungo's, a packet containing instructions for cleaning the bite and a copy of the Werewolf Code of Conduct.

"Why do we need these?" Severus asked, pointing at the last two.

"Standard part of the discharge paperwork," the witch replied in a bored voice. "All werewolves get them."

Severus and Remus exchanged glances, but Remus just shook his head and reached for the stack of parchments. "Not worth the argument," he told Severus. Past experience told him it would be easier to accept the papers than to convince the witch to keep them. After all, she had a policy she was following, no doubt.

Severus shrugged and signed the last of the parchments, then handed the quill to Remus to scrawl his name on them as well. A few minutes later, they emerged onto the street, blinking in the over-bright sunlight.

"Are you still not keen on going home?" Severus asked, reaching for Remus' box.

Remus surrendered it, amazed at how exhausted he was after three days in bed. "I don't think I can face Weasleys just yet," he replied. "You really don't have to stay with me. I'll just find somewhere to—"

"Like hell you will. How does Hogwarts sound?"

Remus snorted. "From one hospital to another. Wonderful."

"You needn't stay in the hospital wing if you don't want to," Severus replied. "You're welcome to my rooms if you want them. They're a little more comfortable and quiet, at least."

He thought about it for a minute, then nodded. "All right."

"Do you think you can Apparate?"

"To Hogwarts?"

"No, Remus. To Beijing. I thought we'd take a detour for some Moo Goo Gai Pan before we went back to Hogwarts."

"Can you even get Moo Goo Gai Pan in China?"

"No idea. Do you feel up to Apparating to just outside the Apparition boundaries at Hogwarts and walking the rest of the way to the school?"

Remus hesitated.

"If you don't think you can, just say so," Severus said. "I don't want you splinching on me."

"I don't know," Remus replied.

"Come on, then," Severus said, shifting the items he was carrying to his other hand. He nodded towards an alley, and as they turned towards it, he slid an arm around Remus' back. Remus held onto him as Severus Disapparated. They emerged at the edge of the Forbidden Forest.

"You all right?" Severus asked, still providing the support of his arm.

Remus spent a moment steadying himself, glad he'd had the sense not to try that alone.

"You can always stay with Hagrid, of course," Severus said, nodding towards the hut. "I'm sure he'd—"

"Your rooms are fine," Remus interrupted. "Thanks for the hospitality."

Severus snorted. "Come on, then."

Most of the students were in class, and those who were not were too preoccupied with their studies or their friends to take notice of the Potions master helping a former Professor down to the dungeons. Remus settled into a chair in Severus' sitting room while Severus lit a fire and summoned a house-elf.

"Master Lupin is going to be here for a few hours," Severus informed the elf. "See to it that he has a meal worth eating and get him anything he wants." He turned to look at Remus. "Make yourself at home. If you want a shower or something, I'm sure the house-elves would be more than happy to do your laundry."

"Is that your subtle way of suggesting I need to bathe?"

"I wouldn't call it a subtle suggestion, no."

"Thank you," Remus said, his smile lingering for a moment.

Severus patted his shoulder. "Not at all."

When Severus left, Remus took his advice to have a shower and left his clothes with the house-elf to launder. He spent almost half an hour under the jets of warm water, attempting to scrub the memory of the last week out of his hair and off of his skin. It was no use, but by the time he gave up, he was sure he looked and smelled better.

The elf had left a fresh robe for him, and if it was a school robe, at least it was clean and in good repair. A fragrant tray of food sat on the coffee table, and Remus lifted the cover to reveal steak, potatoes, peas, two rolls that were hot enough to melt the butter, a slice of apple cake and a mug of hot butterbeer. As he took the first bite of the blessedly salty potato, Remus thought he could die a happy man if he choked on it.

He ate every scrap of food he'd been given, then stretched out on the sofa, closing his eyes. He didn't nap long before a crack! announced the return of the house-elf, with his freshly laundered clothes and a shaving kit. Remus thanked the elf and changed back into his own robe, which had been mended as well as washed, then brushed his teeth and combed his hair and generally made himself feel more human again.

He'd just settled back onto the sofa with a book he'd borrowed from Severus' shelf when someone knocked on the office door, then let themselves in.

"Do you need anything?" Severus asked as he stalked across the room, dropping a stack of parchment on his desk and retrieving another from a shelf.

"No. I'm fine, thanks."

With a wordless nod, Severus left again, and the sound of students milling in the corridors filled the room until the door shut, plunging him into silence again. He turned back to his book, but he hadn't read a page before there was another knock. No one entered this time, so Remus opened the door to find Poppy Pomfrey there. She bustled into the room, directing him to a chair.

"Imagine," she grumbled as she set an array of bottles on the coffee table. "You come in after being locked up at the Ministry for almost a week and instead of bringing you up to the infirmary where I can keep an eye on you, he puts you down here. You need to be in bed, young man." She shook her finger at Remus.

"I've been in a bed at St. Mungo's for two and a half days," Remus replied.

"Oh." Poppy paused, giving him a considering look. "Well, let's see then." She took his pulse, pressed a hand against his forehead, instructed him to take deep breaths and peered into each of his eyes. Apparently satisfied with his care to this point, she left only one bottle with him, which she told him to take before bed that night, then bustled back out of the room.

Not ten minutes after Poppy left, there was another knock at the door, and he opened it to find Minerva with a pot of tea.

"I don't have a class just now," she told him as she poured tea for them. "I thought I might come keep you company for a bit."

She stayed for half an hour, then fifteen minutes passed before Tonks came in, grinning as she flopped onto the sofa beside him and leaned against his shoulder.

"It's bloody hard keeping an eye on all those kids," she complained. "Makes me appreciate what I put my teachers through."

He laughed and ruffled her electric blue hair, pressing her head against his chest. It felt good to hold someone. She stayed for ten minutes, then announced that she had a class, changed her hair back to the strict gray bun and ran out of the room, her speed completely at odds with her disguise as a middle-aged Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.

Another twenty minutes passed, then there was another knock, this time revealing Harry, Hermione, Ron and Ginny. Remus hugged the girls and shook hands with the boys, then invited them all to sit down.

"This isn't what I would have thought Snape's rooms would have looked like," Ron commented as he looked around.

"What were you expecting?" Hermione asked. "A dungeon?"

The look on Ron's face suggested that was exactly what he was expecting. They stayed and visited for several minutes before Ginny gave Harry a nudge.

"Oh, right. We need to go. Snape said we could come but I don't want to be here when he gets back."

"Severus said that, did he?" Remus asked.

Hermione glared at Harry, then nodded. "He said we weren't to bother you for too long, though."

Remus shook his head, and reached for Hermione. "Have a good evening," he told her as he hugged her. She hugged him back fiercely, and Ginny did the same.

"Bye," Ron said, offering his hand again. Remus shook it, then extended his hand to Harry.

"Stay out of trouble," he said.

"But getting in trouble's more fun than staying out," Harry said, surprising Remus by putting a hand on his shoulder, his arm across Remus' back. "Rumor has it that it's roast chicken for dinner," he confided in a low voice. For a moment, it was almost like James was there again.

A few minutes before five, there was another knock at the door, and Remus opened it to find a student he didn't recognize. She was very young by the looks of things, and when she saw him, she took a step back, her eyes wide, then looked around.

"Where's Professor Snape?" she asked.

"He hasn't returned yet," Remus replied. "Do you want to wait for him?"

"Oh. No. I, er— Can I just leave him a message?"

"Of course," Remus replied, gesturing to the desk. The girl sat hesitantly, looking around.

"I'm sure Professor Snape won't mind if you borrow parchment and quill," Remus suggested, pointing to the quill laying on the corner of the desk and taking a sheet of parchment from the stack on the shelf.

"Thanks," she said. She bent her head over the parchment and wrote furiously for a moment, then folded the parchment and printed 'Professor Snape' on it in big, rounded letters that cramped against each other, then looked around.

"Why don't you just leave it there on the desk?" Remus said.

"Thanks," she said again, then picked up her bag. She was halfway to the door before she turned back to him. "Who are you?"

Remus chuckled. "Remus Lupin," he said, extending a hand.

"Amber Carlisle," she replied, shaking his hand. "Will you tell Professor Snape to read that? It's important."

"Is everything all right?"

She nodded. "Just ask him to read it? Please?"

"I will," Remus promised.

She smiled and let herself out. It wasn't five minutes before Severus came in.

"How was your afternoon?" he asked as he dropped another stack of parchment on the desk.

"Busy," Remus replied. "Tell me, Professor Snape, of Minerva McGonagall, Nymphadora Tonks, Hermione Granger, Ginny Weasley, Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley, and Poppy Pomfrey, how many are regular visitors to your office?"

"Minerva."

"You told Harry Potter he could come visit me here if he liked?"

"If you start, I'm—"

Remus held up a hand. "I'm not starting anything. There's a note on your desk. One of the students left it for you. Amber Carlisle, I believe?"

Severus glanced at the desk. "She's one of my second years," he explained, picking up the folded parchment. "She's also one of my best sources of information about what my dear, lovely students are up to."

"Ah," Remus said. "A tattle-tale, then."

"No, she is not a tattle-tale," Severus snapped. "She's an informant."

"If you were sixteen, would you consider her a tattle-tale or an informant?"

Severus glared at him. "I am not sixteen and neither are you. Are you staying for dinner? I expect the headmaster will be back this evening."

"I think I'd better get back to London, actually."

Severus nodded. "Oh, I have some junk for you. Wait a minute." He sat at his desk and rummaged through a drawer for a moment, then handed Remus a folder. "Information from the Ministry, including a note as to when your next appointment is."

Remus opened the folder and saw that there was, indeed, a note scrawled in Severus' hand. "Wednesday," Remus said with a sigh. "I no more than leave before I have to go back." He tucked the note into his pocket, then hoisted the folder. "Thanks."

"Not at all."

Remus was halfway to the door, but stopped and turned to look at Severus. "What does it mean when the Wolfsbane turns blue?" he asked.

Severus raised an eyebrow. "Blue?" he asked. "Is that what happened?" Remus nodded, and a closed look came across Severus' face. "It means that it wasn't stored properly. If it turned a bright blue, it was too hot. Renders it ineffective, but it isn't dangerous."

"Oh," Remus said.

"Thank you for telling me that. Interesting to know." Severus slammed the drawer shut. "Very interesting."

"Upset?"

"Quite. I don't brew that potion so that the Ministry of Magic can store it in a broom closet where it overheats and is rendered useless, thereby forcing you to be imprisoned despite my efforts." He shoved his chair away from the desk and folded his arms, scowling.

Remus dropped his things back on Severus' desk and walked around to the other side, leaning against it. "What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to start by giving Lara Berkeley a piece of my mind," Severus muttered. "Then I'm going to contact a few colleagues and encourage them to do the same." He stood, and Remus joined him. "Don't worry--you'll have your Wolfsbane next month. And it will not be blue." He glanced from Remus to the door. "Do you need assistance Apparating again?"

"I think I'm rested enough for it now, thanks."

"Oh."

"Is there something else you wanted, Severus?"

Severus looked at him for a moment, then cleared his throat. "I—er—" He took a deep breath, then started again. "I'm sorry, Remus. I'm truly sorry for my part in this. I…" He trailed off again, looking down. "I'm sorry."

Remus placed a hand on Severus' shoulder. "It's all right," he said. "I forgive you."

It was dinnertime when Remus arrived back at headquarters. He dropped his things on the desk in the drawing room, then followed his nose down to the kitchen. He had barely stepped through the door when Molly screamed.

"Remus!" She flew at him, wrapping her arms around him in a bone-crushing hug, crying and laughing as she kissed his cheeks. "We tried to come get you but that woman wouldn't tell us where you were! What happened? I've been so worried!"

"Molly… Molly," he said, trying to worm away from her. She was having none of it.

A moment later, footsteps came thundering down the stairs, and Charlie emerged at the door, wand drawn, Bill on his heels. Charlie stopped short when he saw Remus, and shoved his wand back into his pocket, an exasperated look on his face. The twins nearly ran into Bill and Charlie, and a momentary scuffle ensued.

"What's going on down there?" Arthur's voice came drifting down the stairs.

"Remus is back!" Bill yelled in return.

"Mum…" Charlie said, but Molly didn't loosen her death grip by a fraction.

"Mum. MUM! Will you let him have room to breathe?"

Molly finally let go and took a step back, dabbing at her eye now with the corner of her apron. Remus gave Charlie a grateful look, and draped an arm around Molly's shoulders.

"I was so worried about you!" Molly said, sniffling.

Remus kissed her cheek. "Thank you," he said. "I needed to hear that."

Arthur pushed his way through his sons and into the kitchen. "Splendid! What happened, Remus? We got a letter from Diana and it said we'd be able to pick you up on Saturday, but when Molly went, Lara told her she wasn't on the list."

"I had to do some fast talking to get her to tell me who was on the list," Bill offered. "Fat lot of good it did. Snape—"

"Severus was ignoring his post," Remus said, sinking into one of the chairs. "Dumbledore is in Switzerland. This has all been a monumental comedy of errors, except that it wasn't funny."

"What do you mean, he was ignoring his post?" Molly asked. "What kind of irresponsible wizard ignores his post?"

"I do," Bill muttered, scratching the back of his neck.

"You do?" Molly turned a glower on him.

"All that's ever in it is bills, and there's no point in opening it unless I have the money to pay them. I open them when I get paid."

"BILL WEASLEY!"

"I ignore mine too," Charlie offered, and Molly's head whipped towards him. Charlie shrugged. "I get busy. I'll forget about it for a week at a time."

"Hey, Fred, do we get post?"

"I dunno. Never paid attention."

Molly's head was beginning to look like a top as she attempted to glare at all four of her present sons at once.

"Never mind that," Arthur said, taking a seat beside Remus. "Molly and I do not ignore our post. Put our names on your list of contacts, will you? And Minerva's, and Tonks' and…"

"And Diana Murphy," Bill suggested. "She seemed to know exactly what she was doing when I saw her on Saturday afternoon."

"Diana has enough on her hands," Remus replied.

"I don't see why you need to put our names as contacts anyway," Molly said as she bustled back to the stove. "We're your friends. Why do you need a document stating that?"

"Because it would be too easy for someone who is not a friend to claim he was and to take advantage of him while he's at a disadvantage," Arthur pointed out. "I understand why it's a guideline. I just want to make sure that this doesn't happen again."

"Are you hungry?" Molly asked. "Dinner's almost ready."

"Yes," Remus replied. "I am." And he was, for more than just food. The other hunger was being steadily fulfilled too, though, whether the Weasleys realized it or not.


A/N: Whee! update happy

Thank you all for your reviews. I'm hoping to move this story off the backburner soon, though I'm not sure if it will happen before Christmas-- a little busy still.