Disclaimer: All Harry Potter material belongs to J.K. Rowling.
Notes: Remus/Severus - some kissing, mention of past relationship. The year is 1980 or so.
Remus Lupin blinked then stared suspiciously at his half-empty scotch. Either his tolerance for alcohol had dropped impossibly low, or that man in the corner smelled like Severus. Not that he could smell the other man very clearly, the distant scent obscured by aromas of food and alcohol and the musk of so many other people – but Remus had learned to find this particular smell even through the cacophony of odors in the Great Hall at Hogwarts, and he could certainly find it in a small pub in Wales. The smell was faint – the alluring, bitter tang of damiana and the too faint warmth of honeysuckle and something new that the werewolf didn't like. Something terrible, and burning. Eyebrows drawing together, he chanced to lift his head and stare into the shadows, wondering if Severus was alone. Wondering what he would do if he was. The shadows did not give way, but Remus couldn't hear any noise, and he did want to know why Severus smelled of charring. Or roasting. Remus' nose wrinkled at the stench as he crept warily closer, entirely abandoning his scotch and his sanity. James and Sirius would kill him if they saw him approaching Snape, Remus knew, but thinking of them reminded him of why he had come to the bar in the first place.
For a best friend, he certainly spent most of his time ruining Remus' life. First the Shrieking Shack, and the scent that Remus had memorized lingered in the tunnel still, in an agonizing blend with blood and fear and disbelief. Severus' scent, from the night Sirius had tried to kill him. And now – now his friend suspected him of going to the other side. Sirius had yet to accuse him, but he'd smelled of believed betrayal at the evening's Order meeting and hadn't said a word to Remus. Hadn't thought the werewolf could read him so easily. Foolish, blind Sirius.
Remus wished he'd finished his drink and maybe ordered another to drown his own betrayal at being so quickly disowned, but it was too late for that and he was already standing directly in front of a man who might have been Severus. At least, he might have been Severus once. The acrid odor of burning made Remus dizzy, and the impossibly long, tangled hair – but for its ebony coloring – bore little resemblance to the soft tresses the young Gryffindor had loved to run his fingers through. The wizard's face was obscured by his matted hair and by the darkness, and Remus could not avoid inhaling the fumes of drunkenness. He shook his head sadly: this was not Severus. His nose had betrayed him, just as much as his dearest friends. Sighing regretfully – louder than he'd intended – he turned to go. There was nothing for him here.
Then the bowed head lifted and the shadows were dispelled – magical concealment, of course – and Remus' sigh turned into a gasp as he beheld a cruel parody of the face he had fallen in love with sixth year. The always thin face was gaunt, high cheekbones jutting out as though there was no more than a skull with skin pulled over it. The lips that he could still feel under his own, full and firm, were chapped and bleeding, dark and glistening with blood instead of kisses. The hawkish nose seemed even larger against the sunken face, and beetle dark eyes had become spiraling chasms that peered out from a broken countenance. Remus reached out one unwilling hand, fascinated by this stranger who had destroyed Severus' face, as drawn in by the desecration as he had once been by the beauty. The face flinched away, but slowly, reactions deadened by the glasses of whiskey that now sat empty on the table next to long, white fingers. The hands were the same, and Remus found himself admitting that perhaps it was Severus after all. They regarded each other silently for a long time, coal black eyes swallowing Remus as though he were the alcohol, recognition sharpening the purposely-dull features.
"What are you doing here?" rasped the specter finally, in a voice that lacked all the deadly sibilance that Severus had once used. But somehow the sandpaper whisper could still make Remus shiver, still make him think of two boys hidden by blooming honeysuckle and the darkness of a new moon, learning to love each other. Severus always smelled of honeysuckle blossoms to him.
He didn't know how to reply, didn't know what to say. Where have you been? Why do you look like this? Did you think of me, ever? What has made you turn to drunken oblivion for comfort? Why do you smell of burning? Do you know I loved you, then, and that is why Sirius. . .Thinking of Sirius reminded him of why he was truly there, but Remus pushed it away, focusing entirely on the wreck in front of him. "You're drunk," he replied clumsily, realizing that it had to be Severus because no one else could destroy Remus so completely, could wipe all his meaningless words away without even trying.
Severus snorted, and there was a grace in that, as there was in the thick dreadlocks that hung beside the hardened face. Severus had always embodied grace, to Remus. Even now. "Not drunk enough," came the droll, hoarse response, and Remus could hear the beautiful dark tongue of the boy he'd loved in that mangled voice. And the way his chest began to hurt made him wonder if he'd managed to stop loving that boy after all.
Probably not, he told himself, or he wouldn't have said what he did, wouldn't have offered to – "Take you home?" black eyes not sober but still suspicious, and Remus tried to breathe through his mouth. It was starting to smell like cooking flesh, and the very idea made his skin crawl. But he forgot about that as he gazed into those eyes – still so haunted behind the layers of paranoia – and thought of honeysuckle and before he knew what he was doing his rough fingers were tracing that terrible, dying face, running along cheekbones and over cracked lips.
And black eyes closed, but Severus didn't flinch or pull away, only murmured resignedly, "Whose home?" and at the unexpected surrender Remus learned that he hadn't ever stopped loving Severus, though he had persuaded himself otherwise. Sirius would hate him for this, he knew, and James followed all too often where his impulsive friend led. But they'd already condemned Remus, hadn't they?
"My house, if you like," came his soft answer, and Severus allowed his once schoolmate – once lover, once nearly his murderer – to pull him onto unsteady feet and guide him out of the bar so they could Apparate. People watched them go, but Remus wasn't paying them any attention. Severus' body felt even more emaciated than his face, just bones and skin that were so fragile against his chest. Severus had always been slender, but this – this made Remus cringe. And he wondered that the taller wizard let himself be led, for Severus had once refused to be pushed about by anyone.
Apparating was arduous, and Remus had to shift for both of them, since Severus could hardly stand. Remus didn't know if that was because the darker wizard was drunk, or because he was so thin. He Apparated them into his living room, not even considering the danger of letting someone know where he lived. All the Order members were under constant threat, and Albus kept warning them to be vigilant, but this was Severus. This was a soul he had known as his own, and loved more dearly, no matter what destruction had been wreaked upon the body.
Then that shell of a body collapsed in Remus' hold, and the werewolf tugged the lanky – but so frail! – man backwards onto the old couch, landing heavily so that they were sprawled lengthwise across the cushions with Severus on top. Grunting in surprise at the impact, Remus actually found himself rather comfortable sandwiched between the worn sofa and Severus. That and all the dust they'd dislodged was drowning out the charcoal stench that clung obstinately to Remus' guest.
Snape lifted his head from where it had fallen beside Lupin's, peering at the dark room with interest. It was shabby, Remus admitted to himself, little more than the couch and a fraying rug and a coffee table with one leg missing. Albus had lent the house to him, for his work in the Order, and it was hard not to be grateful for the war when it meant the only well paying job he might ever have. Even if the pay was an isolated house with a living room, kitchen, bedroom and of course a shack in the copse of trees at the edge of the yard. Then Remus realized those penetrating black eyes which had been scanning his room were now fixated on him. Even drunk, Severus was full of single-minded intensity.
The inebriated wizard had trouble holding his head up, and eventually let it fall again, Remus turning to look at him so that their noses nearly touched. And then callused fingers were tucking Severus' matted hair behind his ear and smoothing the lines from his face and it startled Remus to recognize the fingers as his own. He had always loved touching Severus, and dark eyes softened under the familiar caress, too thin face still etched with pain. "Why were you drinking?" Remus wondered, putting so much more into the question than mere words. Snape had been at the top of their class, had earned Potions Master less than a year after graduating – why was Hogwarts' most promising student wasting away under a werewolf's gentle touch? What had happened, that could have driven him to this?
Eyes narrowed, and Severus flinched – though because of his touch or his question, Remus didn't know. He was silent, and for a while it seemed he wouldn't say anything at all. Then he did, but it wasn't what Remus had expected. "Could you kill me?" the brittle voice questioned, and Remus hadn't known words spoken in such a faint, strength-less tone could hit him so hard.
He froze, hand still an inch from Severus' cheek, searching black eyes for the meaning behind the words. Always so much unsaid, with Severus. "What?" he asked dumbly, and the renewed smell of burning tugged at the back of his mind, demanding that he start putting jumbled and jagged pieces together to form answers he didn't want.
"Could you kill me?" the starving wizard repeated, sounding far too lucid for a drunken man, far too lucid to be asking such a terrible question – a ridiculous question, Remus insisted weakly to himself. A question he would never need to answer. And that silly, naïve determination must have shown on his face because chapped lips curled into what might have been a smile, if smiles were full of self loathing and regret and darkness. Severus had always been shrouded in darkness, and pillowed by honeysuckle.
"You're being foolish," Remus told him, cursing the slight tremble as he spoke, the uncertainty he didn't want to feel. Severus lay on top of him, light and fragile and warm, pliantly filling all the hollows in Remus' body like the shards of something long broken finally mended and whole. And Remus tried not to listen as Severus' question echoed in his head, tried to pretend that it didn't matter that he knew the answer because it would never, ever come to that.
"Tell me you could," the other wizard pleaded, hooked nose pressed to Remus', speaking softly and regaining a touch of that liquid voice the werewolf so loved. Loved. Silky black hair tickling his chest and slender, pale limbs folded around his not so long ago. Hair that was now matted into coils, falling almost to Severus' waist, arms and legs now frightfully thin, and unhealthily wan. Eyes like coal burned into him, drawing him back from the memories to the reality before him. "Tell me you could, tell me I am foolish, because I can't . . ." the urgent voice cracked and Severus stopped, averting his eyes and staring hard at Remus' chin. And the tug in Remus' mind grew more insistent, demanding that he recognize the terrible smell, demanding that he open his eyes to something beyond the man in front of him. Something beyond the bottomless black eyes whose pull he had never truly escaped.
Then Severus lifted one tapering hand – artist's hands, Remus had called them, and Severus had painted desire onto his skin – to bat Remus' still hand away, then straightening one long finger to trace along the werewolf's jaw and rub against the dimple in his chin. And the jaw tightened as Remus inhaled sharply, skin tingling where Severus' finger moved. He had forgotten how it felt to be touched by Severus. Had forgotten the electricity and the warmth, the remedy for an ache he never remembered until it was gone. All the thoughts that had been clamoring for his attention fled, and Remus was left with the overwhelming urge to soak up as much of Severus' touch as possible, pressing his face against whatever bit of skin was nearest, which happened to be Severus' own face.
Suddenly they were kissing and blessedly cool, wonderful fingers were running through Remus' hair and he was nearly sobbing with how good it felt, how nothing tasted so good as Severus even mixed with whiskey and starvation. And it was even better than it had been when they were young, better because now Remus knew the agony of losing this taste, of losing this man that he loved. Loved. Still loved. Couldn't deny that when his veins were singing and his whole body was suffused with the soft heat like the warmth of a fire, and he never wanted to stop kissing Severus, never wanted to let anything else come between them. He dared to hope that he wasn't the only one when Severus pulled back slightly, cradling Remus' cheek in one long hand, breathing in sharp sobs that brushed Remus' lips. "I can't do it," Severus cried softly, and for moment Remus' foggy mind feared he meant the kissing, but that fear was allayed when properly glistening dark lips bent back to his, banishing all his worries.
"So good," he murmured into that perfect mouth, wrapping both arms around the willowy body and wondering distantly what it was Severus couldn't do. But it wasn't important, not when he was lost in sensations, drowning in the fierce, dangerous pull of Severus, like the ocean is captured by moon. And his lover – his lover once more, his to hold in this beautiful, glorious moment – had always been amused by how vocal Remus was, how appreciative, never silent. "Sev," he panted, moaning as a thumb rubbed circles on the back of his neck, "love . . ." and he moaned again, not bothering to qualify what it was that he loved, the massage or the kisses or the man.
Then Severus wasn't kissing him, and Remus' cheeks were wet, and shuttered dark eyes were soft and shone with tears and Remus had seen Severus cry only once before, the day after Sirius had ruined everything. But he was crying now, tears welling silently in large eyes and falling onto Remus' face. Severus' lips were swollen and his face not as harsh and Remus saw that the boy had not faded so much from the man as he had thought. Without even thinking about it, he lifted his head to kiss away the tears, and Severus gave a strangled gasp at the comforting touch. And the left hand resting on the back of Remus' neck tightened imperceptibly, the protective touch achingly familiar to his skin. "I won't hurt you," Severus growled fiercely, the fading voice infused with fresh strength, and Remus frowned. He knew that Severus wouldn't hurt him – what was the other wizard talking about? "I won't let anyone hurt you." Remus recognized the vow for what it was, knew the tone Severus took when he made promises, but couldn't understand why he was making such promises, or why he was crying.
But in that moment, as he opened his mouth to ask, Remus inhaled where his nose rested half against the crook of Severus' elbow and nearly passed out from the odor of burning skin. And as his head spun, sharp, slicing fragments began to slide painfully into place. Could you kill me?. . . The familiar stench of roasting flesh, the scent that hung in the air after Rosier tried to Disapparate when Voldemort called, before they'd killed him . . .Tell me I am foolish, because I can't do it . . . The darkness that had hidden Severus, the left arm that Remus hadn't realized the man had favored, hadn't seen . . .I won't hurt you . . .Could you kill me?
And Remus almost didn't need to push Severus' sleeve up, because he knew – knew, beyond a doubt what he would find, could almost feel the swollen and painful flesh beneath the blackened skull. Oh, Severus. Beautiful, dark Severus. What have you done? He could feel the unnatural heat radiating from always cool skin, clinically aware how much pain it caused to resist the call of the Mark, even for a few moments. And Severus had clearly been resisting for much longer than that. Severus folded in on himself, too weak to pull away, to do anything but watch Remus from not quite dry eyes and wait. He made no move for his wand, and Remus knew that Severus had left himself entirely at the werewolf's mercy. It was funny how much that he knew, all of a sudden. He knew that his first thoughts should have been as an Order member, as a soldier meeting an enemy – but he was only Remus, and this was Severus. And maybe Sirius was right; to think that Remus would betray them all. "Why were you drinking?" he asked again, drawing his fingers lightly across the burning Mark. Severus winced involuntarily, the area raw and already painful, but Remus didn't stop. He wanted to dig his fingernails into it, to scratch away the flesh until there was nothing left, until the taint was purged from the pale skin. And Severus would let him try. He knew that, too, and so did not do it.
"I was supposed to –" Severus stopped, and tried again, biting his lip against the pain that Remus' touch amplified. "Rodolphus saw you with Dumbledore, and suspected you were an Order member." A swallow, a quick flicker of black eyes to meet amber, and then back down to Remus' chin. Severus seemed to have trouble breathing, the sound harsh in the silence, and for awhile there was no more explanation. "Our Lor – Voldemort," he corrected himself, "sent me to find you. To deliver you to them at the meeting tonight." And Remus stopped aggravating the trembling arm, couldn't bring himself to cause anymore pain to the anguished eyes that now defiantly met his. "I decided on a different course of action, and ended up finding you anyway." A different course of action . . .He had decided to ignore Voldemort's summons – a decision that had gotten Sirius' little brother killed less than a year ago – and his orders as well. He had decided to save Remus' life, at the almost assured cost of his own.
"Why?" he demanded. Desperate to know what had held Severus back, what had stayed his hand. If Voldemort had demanded James, he wondered, or Sirius, where would they all be tonight? And he cursed himself for wondering if Severus would've been safe, then – or even if he had brought in Remus as he had been commanded to.
Severus struggled to hold himself up, weak arms shaking under the strain, a muscle spasming in his neck. His indomitable will was losing ground to a disobedient body, and it caught Remus' heart to watch it. Shifting his weight slightly, he reached out and pulled the fragile man gently back to his chest. "Because," came the reply, as though that were all he needed to say, as though it were obvious and Remus should already know why – and perhaps he did. "Because you smell of honeysuckle," Severus clarified, breath whispering against Remus' neck. And Remus knew that shouldn't have meant anything – knew that Severus was still in danger and was still a Death eater and that they needed to get to Albus immediately. Knew that one perfect moment in the past couldn't change the present, couldn't save them when there was a war raging around them. He knew all that, but it didn't stop him from claiming chapped lips in a kiss or holding tightly onto Severus' thin frame. Maybe nothing could be changed, really – not Severus' loyalties or Sirius' accusations or his own place on the side of the Light – but it was hard not to be grateful for the war when Severus was in his house and in his embrace. Albus and Sirius and Voldemort could wait until tomorrow, because . . . because tonight, the world smelled of honeysuckle, and Remus had everything he needed in his arms.