Notes: Yay, it's done! I'm happy. I hope you go away pleased as well.

And to the person who reviewed today with the word "update":

HERE. :P

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One Step Closer

Part 3: First Time for Everything

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The door opened before Lupin could even rise from his chair.

"No, no, just stay there, my boy. I think we have much to discuss, and we might as well get started right away." Dumbledore sat on the couch that Snape had just vacated, giving the bewildered lycanthrope a warm smile.

"Oh, I... Albus, how did you..."

"How did I know what has happened between you and Severus? Well, he did pass me by only minutes ago... walked right past me without even a hello, muttering something or other, but you know how he is when something's on his mind. Is that tea you have there? May I help myself?"

Lupin nodded, dazed, grateful to be able to watch the headmaster pouring tea rather than having to think more about what had just occurred. But on the other hand, the question of exactly how Dumbledore had known to come to Lupin's chambers was almost equally worrying. Lupin waited until his unexpected guest had seated himself again before speaking.

"Albus, how do you know so much about this? Did you really know to distract Severus today in order for me to have a better chance of getting him to listen to me? How could you possibly-"

"Remus, there is never much that escapes my attention. I make it my business to know what is going on with my students... and with my professors. I do notice when one has been looking at the other with barely hidden longing, while realizing that the other could benefit personally from such a relationship. You understand this, don't you?"

"I suppose so... but that doesn't explain how-"

"Now, now. Can't an old man keep a few secrets? I wouldn't withhold my wisdom from the less experienced normally, but in this case I really must hold my peace." The twinkle in Dumbledore's eyes and the amusement in his voice gave absolutely nothing away. Lupin sighed in slight frustration, while attempting to shift around more comfortably in his chair.

"Alright. So, you must have come here to talk to me about Severus..." He trailed off, watching Dumbledore nod and grow more serious as he stared into his teacup, one wizened finger tracing gently along the rim.

"You must understand, Remus, that Severus is not a man who is in touch with his emotions. Both his physical and his mental health suffer from this, from what I have noticed. You may not think that he even needs any sort of love or affection in his life, and he would indeed be the first person to say he does not." The older wizard paused, then looked directly at Lupin, his eyes kind but grave. "Despite that... everyone needs these things. Even if only in very small amounts. And I feel that Severus would benefit from having someone like you providing him with a way to fulfill those basic needs."

"I see." Lupin fought back the urge to sigh again, this time in sadness, and instead folded his hands together, squeezing his fingers tight. "But are you certain it should be me? He seemed very confused about... about whether he desired other men. I've never seen him like that before. Severus is always so sure of himself... but not about this. I think it frightens him."

Dumbledore gave a slight nod, taking another sip of his tea. "It does frighten him, having a facet of himself that he doesn't quite understand. I have talked to him about it on occasion, preparing him as much as possible for when you would finally see fit to step forward and make your admiration of him known." Lupin blushed at these words, but was grateful for what the headmaster had done all the same.

"As for the issue of his sexuality... well, even if he won't admit it, I think you have nothing to worry about. After all, it might be fairly obvious that he looks at you with much more than what appears to be a passing interest."

Lupin realized his mouth was hanging open, and promptly shut it. Dumbledore chuckled. "Oh yes, in between bouts of glaring, when he can be quite sure you are not watching, I'm afraid I've caught him ogling you in a manner that leaves no doubt in my mind that he is rather interested in you. I'm not sure even he realizes he does it. But anything more than that you might wish to know, you'll simply have to ask for yourself. From him."

Dumbledore had gotten up and was walking toward the door; Lupin just stared dumbly for several moments before jumping up after him.

"Wait! Are you leaving already? Don't you have any advice, or-"

"I suggest," the older man interrupted, the twinkle and smile returning, "that you go to him now and have another little chat. There are past issues the two of you will need to work out alone, so there is really nothing else I can tell you."

"But how will I find him? He could be anywhere right now!"

"Ah, yes. I imagine he would be off brooding somewhere at this point." The headmaster turned back toward Lupin, considering. "It's Tuesday, isn't it?" He thought for awhile. "He should be atop the astronomy tower, in that case. I wish you luck. Oh, and do try to remember... there is a first time for everything."

And with another mirthful smile and wave, he simply left, leaving Lupin standing there gaping at empty space, as he had seemed to spend a lot of time doing that day already.

Sometimes, that old man comes close to being downright scary.

-

The days had grown quite warm, but the nights were still chilly this early in spring, as Lupin noticed while crossing the circular tower. Snape was there as Dumbledore had said, standing a few feet away from the ledge and looking up at the star-sprinkled night sky, arms crossed, shoulders hunched. Typical defensive Snape posture, or at least it had been when he was younger. He was either terribly lost in thought, or just cold.

Not receiving any sign that his approach had been noticed, Lupin hesitantly reached out to tap him on the shoulder.

"Severus? You alright?"

He showed no surprise, but he didn't move either. "Lupin. Hard to believe you came to find me. Thought you were a bit too weak-willed for that."

"I'm sorry."

"Sorry for what?"

"When we were in school together. The way my friends treated you, and I never stood up for what I thought was right. Sometimes you did act like a prat first... but more often they were the ones who started it for no reason. And I wish I hadn't been so afraid to lose them that I kept my mouth shut when it was really important. I've worked long and hard to improve myself."

"And this is supposed to make me like you?"

"No!" Lupin exclaimed, spreading his hands in front of him. "Of course not. Maybe it would help you to forgive me though. After all, we were just children then." When no response was forthcoming, the werewolf exhaled loudly. "Could you turn around and look at me when I'm apologizing to you, at the very least?"

Snape turned slowly; there wasn't much light to see by, but Lupin could see he wasn't angry. Just wary and on guard. The light breeze ruffled through his shoulder-length black hair, and Lupin found he couldn't force his eyes away from the sight for anything.

"Let me touch you."

No, not yet.

"You remember what happened at the willow, don't you? Of course you do. You might have killed me." Even Snape's tone was carefully guarded. Lupin shook his head.

"I remember. And I told you before, I had nothing to do with that. At the time, it was Sirius' idea of a good joke. We all did stupid things when we were young. And I really-"

"I know you had nothing to do with it."

"You... what?" Lupin's eyes widened incredulously, and he advanced a step toward Snape, who backed a step away. "I thought you spent all those years blaming me equally, and-"

"No." His tone was quiet, and Lupin leaned in closer to hear better. This time, the other man didn't move. "But I said I did, because it was convenient."

"Convenient?"

"Must you repeat me? You heard what I said," the potions master snapped irritably. When Lupin only raised his eyebrows, Snape closed his eyes, composing himself to try again. Knowing how hard this was for him, Lupin waited in patience. "I... yes, it was convenient. Convenient because it was the only way I... no, I shouldn't be saying this."

He started to turn away, but Lupin stepped up quickly, placing a steady hand on Snape's arm to stay him. "No... tell me. Neither of us is going to run away anymore, alright?" Snape's head was bent down far enough it was almost on a level with Lupin's. Realizing how close they were sent a sudden jolt of excitement squirming up through his insides.

"I want to kiss you."

No, it wasn't the time...

"It was easier to hate you by believing you were involved. Much easier than wanting you, but knowing there was never a chance for us." Snape looked embarrassed and somehow out of place admitting something so personal, and Lupin struggled with the urge to just wrap his arms around him and pull him close. That would not be what he wanted at this point. But he couldn't resist a slow, pleased smile. Snape had wanted him as well. That made all the difference in the world.

"We really were stupid as kids..."

"Speak for yourself," Snape snorted in return. Lupin stared at him, puzzled. Something about his mouth looked odd...

Snape had a wide variety of expression that were not happy, but still conveyed a sense of somewhat sadistic pleasure. There was the satisfied smirk he used when things were going exactly as he wanted them to, the malicious smirk he used when tormenting and taking points from Gryffindor, the condescending smirk he used when insinuating that you were such a useless dolt that it was a miracle, really, that you managed to remember which end of your own wand you held in your hand and which you pointed away from you. But this was different. Lupin had never seen this one before.

It took him awhile to realize that Snape was smiling. An honest, non-malignant smile.

"Does this... does this mean yes?" Lupin stuttered, unable to keep from grinning what felt like ear-to-ear. Snape scowled so fast it was hard to think he had just been doing anything but.

"Yes what."

"Er... I mean... you'll give it a chance?"

Snape's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Exactly what is in this for you?"

"Oh, I have the feeling I'll want to be there when your no doubt horribly repressed libido is finally given free rein."

Good god, no.

"It's mutual. We both get a little comfort where we need it. Equal. You like equal, right?"

"Yes..."

"Yes?"

"Yes what?"

"Yes you'll do it?"

"Yes I'll do what?"

"Yes we can... uh... date?"

"I'll do it if only to get you to shut your damned annoying mouth!" Snape growled, starting to back away again. Lupin followed, slowly, still smiling.

"So what was all that back there, about not knowing what you wanted?"

"I didn't know. And I didn't know what you really wanted either." Snape's legs hit the tower ledge and he had to stop, but Lupin continued to advance despite the warning look the other man was giving him.

"Well, you're an impressive Legilimens, from what I understand. Why didn't you find out for yourself what I really wanted?

Snape scowled even deeper, if that was at all possible, his eyes darting from side to side as though looking for escape. "I didn't want to know, I thought it might be joke in any case, why the bloody hell don't you just stay put?"

"Sorry," Lupin grinned, mere inches away from him now. He decided to forgo mentioning the fact that he was glad Snape hadn't used Legilimency, as some of his most recent thoughts had involved the length of Snape's legs and how they might look clad in women's stockings.

"You know what I am, don't you?" His voice was low again, and Lupin considered him, now solemn.

"I do. And you know what I am?"

"I'd be an idiot not to know what you are by now."

"True. As long as we both know where we stand..."

"I think we do."

There was a long silence as they just stood close to each other, close enough to feel the other's warmth, but still not touching.

"What do you want."

It was a demand, not a question, and Lupin only thought about his answer for a split second.

"You in my bed."

"You in my bed."

Shit.

But Snape only rolled his eyes. "Let's start with something simpler, shall we?"

Lupin felt his pulse pounding harder as he finally just reached out and pulled Snape close to him, thrilled with how it felt to have him try to return the embrace, albeit awkwardly. "I've dreamed of this for so long..."

"You don't dream very high, apparently."

Lupin sighed but didn't mind the sarcasm terribly; he already knew exactly what he was getting himself into with this relationship.

"Mmm." Snape finally stirred in the embrace after a time, and the werewolf pulled back to look at him questioningly. "What do you suppose Black would think of this?"

Momentarily startled by the change in topic, Lupin's mind flew to what he knew Black would have said:

"Moony, what the hell? That's SNIVELLUS. That nose, that hair, those teeth! Moony! Where's your taste gone off to? Has it left you? Or do you just need glasses? MOONY! NO!"

But Black was in Azkaban... Lupin pushed away that troubling thought and returned his attention to Snape. "Why do you ask?"

"I always assumed... you and he..."

"Me and him?"

"You and Black!"

"Sirius and me? What?"

"YOU TWO!"

"...What?"

"God damn it, Lupin, I thought you used to be buggering him! All right?"

"Er..." Lupin patted Snape's back in a calming gesture. "Sorry to be the one to break it to you, but Sirius was... well, I imagine he still is... straight."

"Straight," Snape muttered darkly. "Could have fooled me."

Lupin laughed gently. "Contrary to popular belief, not all good-looking males are gay, Severus."

"I wonder what the popular belief has to say about ugly males," Snape continued, still fuming. Slowly, Lupin reached up with both hands and cupped the taller man's face between them, his movements very deliberate as he gently caressed the pale skin beneath his fingers.

It's like trying not to scare away a wild animal.

Surpressing another chuckle at that thought, he guided Snape's face closer to his own. "I'm going to kiss you, Severus. Stop me if you must, but I know I won't be able to stop unless you shove me away in the next two seconds."

"I... don't think... that..."

"Too late," Lupin breathed against the other man's lips, before closing the slight distance between them.

It was a surprisingly sweet kiss, long but not passionate; rather a tentative exploration of each other's mouth. Lupin couldn't help slipping his tongue inside delicately, surprised at how little resistance he met, but more surprised at the way this coaxed a soft moan from Snape before he pulled away. He watched Snape's flushed and rather embarrassed face for a moment, then smiled as usual.

"I think you might need to sit down."

"I think you may be right."

"You really that unsettled, kissing your arch-enemy and all?"

"Arch-enemy? I don't think so. And kissing a grinning fool of a werewolf is nothing to be unnerved about in the face of... say... a meeting with the dark lord." Snape snorted in amusement, finding his own statement rather funny; Lupin laughed as well, linking an arm through Snape's and escorting him toward the stairs.

"Does that mean I'm off the list?"

"List? What the hell are you on about now?"

"Nothing, nothing. So, my place or yours?"

Never thought I'd be saying those words to Severus Snape.

But now he knew, as the days' events had shown him, that there really was a first time for everything.

THE END

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Thank you, thank you, to all my kind reviewers, and people who've read this story but not reviewed, and liked it anyway, and etc. etc. I hope I can continue to write fun crap in the future. Bwahaha. XD