Characters: Draco, Pansy, Snape, Remus
Summary: Draco plays a prank on Professor Lupin, but it goes wrong and Snape ends up stuck in the middle. Misunderstandings ensue.
Author's Notes: Written for the HPTradeOff exchange, for Scarysushi. Takes place in Draco's seventh year, in a not-quite-AU-yet universe where Snape and Remus are both teaching at Hogwarts again.
There had been no preceding knock when the door to the office of the Slytherin Head of House opened and Draco Malfoy walked in, his pace slow, deliberate.
Severus Snape looked up from the parchment on his desk and set his quill aside. "Mr Malfoy," he greeted, a tinge of irritation colouring his voice. "You did not knock."
"The corridor is deserted," Malfoy explained absent-mindedly as he made himself comfortable on a black armchair in front of his professor.
Snape nodded. "You seem pleased with yourself, Draco," he commented, leaning back on his seat and entwining his ten long fingers on the desk, prompting the boy to speak.
"Oh, I am," Malfoy drawled, mimicking the man's movements. His fingers knotted together with clumsiness, but a smirk spread on his face like slick oil. "As you will be, when I tell you what I just found out."
One of Snape's eyebrows rose with curiosity. "And what would that be?"
Malfoy's smirk waned. "Well," he began, his voice cracking almost imperceptibly. He averted his eyes from his professor's own narrowed gaze and stood up, walking to the nearest shelf and examining the jars on it in a way that suggested he wasn't really paying attention to their contents. "Father told me some things," he said, his face half-turned away from Snape's.
"Yes. Some things."
Snape didn't say anything else, and Malfoy shifted in the silence. "About the werewolf and his friends. And you," he added carefully. His revelation was met with more silence. "And I was thinking," he continued, his voice louder and more high-pitched, "it's time you got back at him, isn't it? Again, I mean. Laugh at him and make him burn with shame. So much that he decides to leave the school again, with any luck." He turned to face the man once again. "Teach the beast a lesson for the second time, because he obviously didn't get it the first time around if he showed up here to teach Defence again."
Snape was looking at him with a blank expression, only the twitching of his fingers betraying his tension. "Indeed," he said, his tone a clear indication that he didn't think the matter was any of the boy's business. But his eyebrows rose again, expectant.
Malfoy tilted his chin up. "I've just been to his office, and I have some information for you that you might find...useful." The smirk resurfaced on his face as he appeared to savour his next words before they left his mouth.
"Mr Malfoy, I'm afraid I'll have to talk to the Headmaster about this. Your marks are not low by any standards--quite the contrary, actually--but you disturb the class rather often and you don't let your classmates concentrate."
"It's not my fault if they are all half-wits." Malfoy stretched on his seat, showing his already-obvious disinterest.
"Not just the Gryffindors, Mr Malfoy," Professor Lupin noted, his expression one of polite concern. "Mr Goyle, too, and Mr Crabbe."
Malfoy rolled his eyes, and Lupin's head made a movement that could have easily been taken for a nod.
"I will give you one last chance to prove that you are mature enough to adjust your ways on your own."
"You're no one to tell me how mature I am," Malfoy snapped, straightening up.
"I believe I'm being reasonable in--"
The boy snorted. "I do whatever I want. Father--"
"Your father is not here at the moment, Mr Malfoy," Lupin interrupted him. He didn't raise his voice, but the previous pleasantness in it was gone. "I want everyone to have a chance to learn Defence Against the Dark Arts, and if you are too advanced for the level of the class, I'm sure we could arrange something with the Headmaster."
Malfoy stood up, shot the professor a glare that would have frozen fire and left the office without another word.
Snape knocked twice on the door in front of him.
"Come in," Lupin's voice answered from inside the office. "Ah, Severus." A smile formed on his face at the sight of his fellow co-worker.
Snape's eyes flickered over the other man's spread lips for a moment before travelling leisurely over the small room. "Lupin."
"Come, come, sit down. I was just about to make some tea. Milk or lemon?"
Lupin turned around. "In your tea?"
"It's quite early."
"Much too soon."
"Early, I mean."
"Hm. You look a bit pale, Severus. "Are you feeling all right? Should I--"
"No." Snape took a deep breath. "No."
Lupin eyed him up and down, his expression unreadable, before sitting down on the sofa next to the fireplace. "Come, sit down," he offered again, patting the ample space next to him.
Snape took a few steps forwards and turned to his side, standing right opposite the other man but leaving a couple of feet between them.
Lupin did not offer him a seat a third time. "Tell me," he said instead.
The remaining colour on Snape's face drained away, as if sucked by the other man's words.
Pansy Parkinson jumped on her seat as the door to the Slytherin common room was slammed shut.
"Did it not go well?" she asked, her tone uninterested.
"Who does he think he is?" Malfoy mumbled almost to himself as he stomped to the nearest armchair and dropped himself in it. "It's not my fault he teaches his class as if we were all retarded. I mean, not all of us are."
"You're really good at Defence, Draco."
"I definitely am. I shouldn't have to suffer through that beast's classes. His kind shouldn't be allowed to teach, really. If Father were here--"
"Empty vessels make much no-oise..." Parkinson chanted, opening a book.
"You complain a lot, but you do nothing about it."
Malfoy straightened up and leaned forwards. "What do you mean?"
"Get back at him. Make him swallow his own words. Do what you're good at, Draco."
"Humiliate him until he can't take the embarrassment anymore?" His eyes took on a dreamy look.
"It'd serve him right," she said, looking up from the book. "Maybe, with a bit of luck, he'll even resign."
"And then we won't have to stand his classes anymore."
"It has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?"
Malfoy leaned back on the armchair, frowning. "What do you think I should do, Pansy?"
Parkinson shook her head, covering her smile with the book. "You? Do you think you can do something?"
"I could! If the werewolf would look past my age, past my student status, and see the real me... See my family name..." His hands clenched into fists. "But he can't see past his nose, can he."
Parkinson chuckled. "Why don't you ask someone else to do it for you? You won't even get into trouble that way, as long as your name is not drawn into it."
"Someone else like...?"
"Why, Snape, of course." Parkinson smirked, and Malfoy's eyes lit up.
"Draco has..." Snape cleared his throat. "He has told me everything. Everything that went on here. What you've told him."
Lupin's eyes widened a fraction, observing the man in front of him. "Everything?"
Snape swallowed visibly under the assessing gaze.
"That is a crazy idea, Pansy. It'll never work."
Parkinson turned around from her place in front of the empty fireplace and fixed her eyes on Malfoy. "Why not?"
"He'll never buy into it."
"Say he came clean to you because you asked him about it."
"Why would I ask about that?"
"Because you suspected something. Say you agreed to pay attention in class--" Parkinson snorted "--if he answered your question. And he agreed. And then," she smirked, "then he had to tell you because he had promised."
"No one would do that, Pansy."
"A Gryffindor would. Trust me, Draco." She walked to the sofa and sat down next to her friend, laying a hand on his shoulder. "Tell Snape that Lupin is in love with him, and he'll humiliate that beast so much that he will end up resigning just so he won't have to show his ugly face in public again."
"You did not come to me first."
Lupin averted his eyes from the dark ones fixed on him. "Draco is an intelligent young man. I thought-- I wanted to, er, test the waters first. And if the situation called for it, I would talk to you afterwards."
"Or the Headmaster."
"He always knows what to do, and I'm afraid I can be at a loss when it comes to this sort of matters."
Snape narrowed his eyes. "I was under the impression that...well, that you and Black..." He let a wave of his hand finish the sentence for him.
"And James, yes."
Snape's eyes widened.
"But that was long ago, and even then I was no good at it, as you know."
"As I know?"
"Surely you've noticed, Severus."
"Noticed. Yes." Snape didn't seem to be aware he was talking.
"But then we grew up. James started dating Lily, Sirius started dating some other girl, and Peter...he dated a few girls, but he wasn't very happy about being, er, replaced by a couple of girls, so to speak."
Snape nodded, seemingly fascinated by the revelations.
Lupin shifted on his seat. "I trust we are in good terms?"
"Despite what Mr Malfoy told you, I mean. I do not want that to be cause of discord between us. I can understand that you don't approve of it--"
"I did not say I disapproved."
Lupin looked up, his expression betraying his disorientation.
"I..." Snape hesitated for a moment, but then he took a deep breath, closed his eyes for a moment and, when he opened them, continued more steadily. "Quite the contrary, in fact. I am...relieved by this turn of events."
"Well, I must admit it's more than that," Snape mumbled, his gaze darting to the empty fireplace to examine the uninteresting bricks there.
Lupin nodded. "Yes, I understand. Someone had to do something about this, and I'm glad I acted before it was too late. I do wonder, though, why you didn't act first."
"I was...uncertain of how it would be received."
"Hm. I don't blame you for hesitating, Severus. This is a delicate matter. Indeed, I could get into trouble if Draco were to reveal our conversation to certain people."
"We both could."
"Oh, I'm not going to mention this to anyone, Severus." Lupin smiled. "Consider it our secret."
Snape's whole appearance seemed to change then, as if he had been carrying a heavy weight and it had suddenly been lifted off of him.
"So." Lupin stood up, taking a step forward, and Snape's body tensed again.
"So," he echoed.
"Would you like to stay and have some tea?"
"I..." Snape looked into Lupin's warm eyes, his own wavering with nervousness.
"Unless you have things to do."
"Yes! I mean, yes, I have things to do. I'm afraid I can't stay. Today," he added as an afterthought.
"Pity." Lupin moved aside and walked to the door. Snape let go a long breath.
"I would like to stay," he said, the words stumbling out of his mouth.
Lupin turned around. "Really?"
"I mean it. I'm sorry I can't." He squared his shoulders. "Remus."
Lupin choked, but quickly covered it with a cough. "Well, I'm glad we cleared things up. Good evening, then," he said, holding the door open.
Snape moved past him as if the room were on fire, mumbling something that sounded like 'good evening' on his way out.
"You were great, Severus," Snape told his mirror, flashing his yellowish teeth in a smile. "A very good start, if I may say so." He chuckled. "You may, you may."
"Talking to yourself again?" his mirror asked. "Am I not interesting enough for you?"
Lupin washed the soap off his face and looked in the mirror. "What was that all about?"
"Don't ask me," his mirror replied, "I wasn't there."
Lupin, though, did not seem to be listening. "I could tell Malfoy's father what Snape really thinks of his son."
"Are those thoughts not very nice?"
"That'd piss Malfoy off," Lupin continued, ignoring his reflection, "that's for sure. Snape would be in big trouble then."
"That's not like you at all, my dear."
Lupin sighed, drying himself with a towel. "But I don't think I'd be able to do that. And I promised him I'd keep it a secret, anyway."
"Now that's more like it."
"He was acting so strange, though..." He put the towel back into place and rested his hands on the edge of the sink, leaning forwards. "He even seemed shocked when I told him I wasn't very good at keeping James and Sirius in check. I thought that was one of the reasons why he hated me."
"The man hates everyone."
"And he called me Remus."
"Maybe he is starting to feel guilty about being nasty to me when I treat him nicely. About time. I don't want any trouble with anyone."
"No one does."
"So he's finally attempting to be nice. He's not very good at it--"
"I would have never guessed."
"--but he's making the effort. He seemed very nervous about it, too."
"You're blind and deaf, my dear."
Remus looked up into his mirror, as if he hadn't noticed it was there before. "What?"
"Hasn't it occurred to you..." his reflection smirked "...that maybe he fancies you?"
"Fancies me?" Lupin snorted. "He hates me. I wonder if he even has a heart to be able to have feelings for someone else."
"Are you going to ask him out, then?"
"Don't tease. Even if... Well, I'm not blind, you know. Or deaf." He run his hand through his hair and left the bathroom. "Or stupid."